Vampires In Contemporary Culture

Back in February, I wrote a post asking what the deal is with the current cultural obsession with vampires. Since them, I’ve seen elements of Twilight pop up in some interesting places. Oh, come on, where else could this come from?

First up, we have “teen wolves” running around a San Antonio high school. I’m sure they’re in others, but I have a link to a story about them in San Antonio. This is in the school district I graduated from. It’s apparently harmless. Just a wolf pack that doesn’t consider it a gang. I’m sure it will eventually evolve some rituals or initiation and cause trouble for the community, if the culture doesn’t come up with something else for teens to obsess over first. I hope they don’t have to shave their chests and oil up to join the wolf pack.

Next up, from TruTV, some 21 year old, drunk and dirty and caught trying to break into a drug store at 3 AM. So what’s the big deal? I’ve seen enough “World’s Dumbest” to know there’s nothing special about that. But this drunk 21 year old claimed to be a 100 year old, immortal vampire. He threatened to kill one officer and his family. He wanted to eat the kidney of a female officer.

Why Is Charity Often Connected to Greed?

I just had somebody come to my door. We were finishing up dinner, and I was throwing some trash away. I fixed the storm door and screen, so we had the front door open to let air in through the screen. I saw somebody standing there.

He called to me, so I walked up. I talked through the screen. I don't like solicitors. I don't buy anything from my door. I don't donate money from my door. When I give, I like to make sure that what I give actually gets to the cause it was given to.

The pitched started with something about a chance to win $5000. Then it turned to something about winning a trip to Europe. Been there, done that. I was born in Spain. That comes up every time I have a discussion about my security clearance. "You were born in Spain? Are you sure you're a citizen?" "Yeah, that's why I've had a security clearance for the last 18 years. Nothing gets by you, does it?"

I exchanged a little friendly banter over how cool Europe is, and how great it would be to take my wife. Then I cut it off by explaining my situation, and how I'm not putting money out for anything but essentials right now. Then it all came down to "You don't have one dollar to give to Children's Hospital?"

As I have no way of knowing whether my $1 would actually benefit any children at Children's Hospital, I said sorry, but no. Not right now.

I'm curious why charity works that way. If you need money for a cause, why not just ask? Why does it always have to be connected to $5000 raffles and trips to Europe? Is the best way to get people to part with money to appeal to their sense of greed?

I also think of other questions. Is Children's Hospital a for profit or non-profit? If it's a for profit, why are people on my doorstep asking for donations to "benefit" Children's Hospital? Is the donation for an ancillary program? This is why I won't donate money from my doorstep. I can't get my questions answered.

It's never worked on me. I don't care much about winning anything. OK, I've won a few books the last couple of months from blog giveaways. That's been helpful. I entered to win an iPad in a couple of places. I didn't win. But for the most part, I don't care if I win. I'd rather earn the money and pay for it myself. I've already explained how I refuse to buy lottery tickets.

I can only imagine what would happen if churches started doing this. Give out raffle tickets and draw one out of the collection plate after the offering has been taken. Winner gets $1000. Would that raise the amount of the offering? It would probably keep people around after service to see if their ticket was drawn. I'd probably leave a church that did that. I hope most of you would too. But I'm interested if that would have an affect on the offering.

So I guess it comes down to the question: are you more likely to give money to a charity if you have a chance to win something? I'm not saying it's wrong. Maybe it does result in higher donations. I've never checked into it. All I'm saying is it doesn't work on me. 

Book Review: Wild At Heart by John Eldredge

John Eldredge updated Wild At Heart for 2010. It was first written in 2001.

I first read the book in 2007. I taught a class on the book at my church for the fall quarter of 2008.

The book is written from a Christian perspective. With his wife, John Eldredge wrote a version of the book for women called Captivating. For non-Christian readers, I don’t believe the book was overly evangelistic. You may find it helpful.

The premise of Wild At Heart is that the church, as it exists today, teaches men that their ultimate aim as Christian men is to be “really nice guys”. Secular society doesn’t do much better, as it seeks to feminize and emasculate men. John Eldredge makes his case that Adam was created in the wilderness, then brought into the Garden, where Eve was taken from his rib. This means that man has something wild in his heart, and he spends his life trying to recapture it. John says that every man has 3 needs:

  1. A Battle to Fight
  2. An Adventure to Live
  3. A Beauty to Rescue

He also says that every man asks the same question: “Do I have what it takes?” Every many also carries a wound, usually inflicted by his father (or the lack of a present father). He often looks to the wrong places for the answer to his question. His mother cannot answer it, nor can his wife. Seeking the answer from these can cause more harm.

He then lays out the enemy, the strategy, the beauty, and the adventure, and urges the reader to write the next chapter.

John Eldredge uses movies and literature for illustrations for his point.

Many reviewers complain that the book is little more than an urge to be over-macho, with its constant references to mountain climbing and horseback riding. John Eldredge claims that is not the point, but some readers can’t get past it. I personally have no urge to climb a mountain or camp or hike through bear-infested woods armed with only a whistle. Every time I think about how cool a Jeep looks, I have to remind myself how horrible they drive. But I found the book helpful in some ways.

I compared the 2010 edition against my original 2001 edition. In the text of the book, there are some minor editing revisions. A few paragraphs have been reworded. I found a few new paragraphs in one section, and a few removed in another. The major changes include the addition of an Epilogue, “The Daily Prayer”, “A Prayer for Sexual Healing”, and the except from “The Way of the Wild Heart” has been replaced with an excerpt for “Fathered By God”. If you have the original edition, you shouldn’t need to buy the new one. I got a review copy from Thomas Nelson, the publisher. If you’d like to get free books in exchange for a review, check out Thomas Nelson’s Book Sneeze.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What Is The Difference Between Joel Osteen and a Fortune Cookie?

I'm not trying to be mean-spirited with this post. I'm linking somebody else's work. Tim Challies ate Thai food and read the fortune cookie. From Tim:

 I thought "This fortune sounds like something Joel Osteen would say." And then it struck me–there is very little difference between Joel and those fortune cookies (except that the cookies are delicious, of course).

Tim then sampled some of Joel Osteen's work, and created a 12 question quiz to compare the two. You can take the quiz on his blog. Let me know how you do in the comments. 

Why Do People Waste So Much Energy Worrying Their (fill in the blank) Makes Them Dumber?

I'm starting to think there is something wrong with me. Am I missing something?

I don't spend any time worrying that my (iPhone, Dell, netbook, nook, TV, DVR, refrigerator, washing machine, GPS, reading lamp, stand-up shower, power mirrors, RSS Reader, or whatever the heck else) is making me dumb.

None. I don't waste any energy worrying about it.

Yet I read tons of content from other people worrying that such and such is killing their brains. Consider this from The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW): Is My iPhone Making Me Dumber?

I don't get it. But I see these things as very useful tools. I enjoy them while I have them. If they all disappeared some day, I'd find a way to get by. I'd really miss my broadband Internet and air conditioning though.

Do you worry about these things making you dumb? Destroying your ability to think? Why? Do you have any objective evidence for this, or are you just following "conventional wisdom"?

The Last Barrier To Me Using Internet Explorer

Internet Explorer has come a long was over the years. Version 6 was one of the most insecure and painful web browsers I’ve ever used. I still can’t believe some organizations (like the United States Navy) still use it exclusively. As in, they actually design websites that will not work in any other browser but Internet Explorer 6. This is despite the fact that Microsoft has released 2 newer versions of the browser, both of which work a lot better.

I’ve been using IE8 a little more lately. I actually like it. It starts VERY slow. It’s one of the slower browsers to start. But once it’s running, it runs pretty well. It finally has a session manager, so if I have a lot of tabs open and have to restart my computer, I can pick up where I left off. I don’t have to set a lot of bookmarks.

But there is one thing that is stopping me from using Internet Explorer more than Google’s Chrome or Mozilla’s Firefox: this stupid dialog. I wrote that blog post more than 3 years ago, and that prompt is still a part of Internet Explorer.

If Microsoft could either get rid of that prompt, or at least let me click “Don’t ever bother me with this again”, I would probably make the jump to using IE8 a lot more often.

Are you using IE8 more than another browser?

MobileMe May Soon Be Free?

This is interesting: according to TUAW, MobileMe might be free very soon. I took a 60 day trial of MobileMe last year, during October and November. It was decent, but other than the 20 GB of "cloud" storage, it didn't offer me anything Google didn't. At least, as a Windows user. I knew a couple of Mac users who got a lot out of it. 

I ended up cancelling the trial before it ran out. I figured I'd go back someday, if I buy a Mac.

Would you try MobileMe if it went free? 

Personal MBA: Finding Time

Josh Kaufman at the Personal MBA has a post about finding time. Josh echoes my own thoughts on the issue. You don’t make time; you take it. Sometimes taking time is like hammering a square peg in a round hole, but it HAS to be forced. Have you ever been required to attend a pointless meeting? You know, the kind of meeting that is either for the glorification of self-important people? Or the kind of meeting that does nothing more than facilitate in-fighting among another group? Have you ever tried to fight to get out of that meeting to get real work done? Yeah, square peg.

Way back in 1996 when I read “10 Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management”, I learned that the statement “I don’t have time” is a lie. It really means “I value something else more than whatever you’re asking for during that time slot”. Because of that, I avoid telling people “I don’t have time”. I also avoid the feeling-hurting “I value something else more during that time slot.” I’ll sometimes say “I have to do x” or “I’m busy with x at that time”. Sometimes I’ll use the more general “I’m busy with other things”.

I try to be honest with people, without being a jerk and without using the clichéd “I don’t have time”. I also realize that my priorities can be fluid, and I will sometimes reprioritize accordingly.

I’m starting a blog post about silly things we say without really thinking about what they mean. I think “I don’t have time” is one of them.

INC Magazine: Top Business Books

INC Magazine has a list of the “Top Business Books”. I’ve actually read one of them. You can try to guess which one.

Of all the reading lists I’ve come across, INC’s is one of the least inspiring. I don’t know if it’s because the reviews are so short. They’re way too short to tell you why that particular book would be useful, at least, in my case. Seeing how these books come from 800ceoread, they’re probably for people high up in large organizations.

I have found a few useful reading lists. Joel Spolski put together a list for a software MBA curriculum his company was offering about 5 years ago. I can’t find evidence at this point that this list has been updated. I also recently blogged about the Personal MBA Reading List. A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog post about a Navy Reading List I came across.

I think reading lists are important. When I come across people I respect and admire (and want to be like), I always want to find out what books they’ve read.

Do you follow a reading list? Where do you get your ideas for books to read from?