Friday, June 29, 2012

Being an Expert

A wise man once told me the definition of 'expert,' someone who lives at least a thousand miles away. (Thanks dad, I've always loved that practical wisdom!) The main reason I bring this up is the Supreme Court ruling on "Obamacare" today. Well, when it was announced Tyler Starline posted a funny meme photo about the ruling:

I read an interesting article on Google+ (that I can't find now, unfortunately) about the decision. To sum up the article it was written by a woman that was actually at the hearing to announce the decision which is a pretty cool perspective. The article talked about the presentation of their decision and how John G. Roberts actually seemed to disagree with the passing of the law but still found it to be constitutional. The crux of the matter, according to the article is that it's a tax. The government cannot, constitutionally, force people to purchase anything. However, since the law is set up so that you don't have to buy healthcare as long as you pay the tax. It's like an optional tax, that you can decide to whom you want to pay the healthcare tax. If you want to personally procure it then by all means go right ahead, if you don't want to buy it, you pay a special tax. Therefore, it's constitutional as a special tax. Much like if you don't want to buy a house you don't have to pay property taxes. Anyways, the way it was written made me think about the qualities of true experts.

My dad always made that joke (that I started out with) in reference to his time in the business world when they would hire a consultant (read: expert) to come in and give the company advice on how to resolve some problem. Well, after reading the article people continue to blast the law and talk about how unconstitutional it is, etc. etc. etc. My response to these busybodies: Really!? You're more knowledgeable than the Supreme Court Justices!? Somehow I don't think Joe Schmoe Facebooker knows more about constitutional law than the Supreme Court. If you want to continue to debate the idea and discuss the dissenting views that's one thing, but to say flat out that they're wrong is akin to claiming you're better than the real experts.

As much as I don't like it, it's here to stay (unless recalled by the senate). Write your congressman, or vote for a different one if you really want to affect change.

Alex learning to snorkel

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Language Change (among other things)

First, a word from the text I've been reading about linguistics. The second half of the first chapter is about language change. The main point being to NOT be too pessimistic or conservative towards language change, because, frankly speaking it's going to happen whether you like it or not. As I talked about in a previous post the Academies in Europe failed at preserving their respective languages, there's no way to stop it. To put it in the vernacular don't get your panties in a twist you can't do anything about the change. The problems pessimists complain about now are the same, or at least similar to the pessimists of the past, language change is nothing new. Also, there's no predicting language change; it doesn't follow patterns, it doesn't 'evolve' as evolution is generally defined. It doesn't progress or regress. There are (to some extent) predictable changes to languages, if one looks at a larger social/cultural picture, but by and large it's an ebb and flow of change not a progression.

On the topic of philosophy, I've continued on to the second in the series on the History of Philosophy.  Today's topic was the next in line from Thales on pre-Socratic philosophy. The only thing interesting (to me) was this next set of thinkers (attempted to) conceptualize the idea of the infinite. One postulated an infinite intangible 'thing' that everything comes from. The other thought of air as the infinite source of all existence. Of course, that may not seem significant but really the attempt to conceptualize the infinite(ness) is an important step in philosophy. Honestly, no matter how hard we, as humans, try we will NEVER be able to understand the infinite. Think about this concept: if evolutionary/atheistic theory is correct, the universe is infinite. There is no such thing as time, it has always gone on and will always continue. Of course, if the theistic view from the Bible is true then only God is infinite. There's no way we can conceive this; we see such a tiny picture of reality.

One last topic, I've been invited by my friend Will Haas to write a post on scotch whiskey, and he's going to reciprocate with a post on photography here. I generally prefer single malt scotch whiskey, however, there's only Glenfiddich and Glenlivet here at the on-base liquor store and I've had both of them on multiple occasions. I'm thinking about branching out and trying a blended malt and the options there are slim too. So, I need recommendations, should I go for a Johnnie Walker, or venture out to a local liquor store and see if they have other options (assuming I can read the labels). I have a Japanese friend that we went to church with in Omaha, he said that scotch whisky is popular in Japan. Of course he is from mainland Japan and things might be different here on the island. I need a good one to write up a review on.

Underwater photography is fun!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Don't Ask Don't Tell

Yeah another topic I don't generally feel comfortable writing about for several reasons.  Mainly, I don't really care all that much about people's sexual preference and whether or not they choose to serve in the military.  However, I read an article the other day and saw a commercial on Armed Forces Network (AFN) TV this morning that angered me.

I don't generally mind stuff that I consider "reverse discrimination" like African American History month, Hispanic Heritage month etc.  I can understand some amount of memorial time for past (and to some degree) present racial inequalities, but this it TOTALLY different.  It's like sexual preference reverse discrimination.

I don't go around accosting people that profess to be homosexual with the Bible and insisting that they repent of their sins ere they die and go to hell.  I don't think that's the best way to approach the issue.  It's pretty clear both biblically and biologically that homosexuality is not natural, so people that choose that lifestyle are not going to respond to that kind of approach.  All that being said...  I can't stand militant, *insert philosophy here*...

Apparently, along with the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal the Department of Defense is now having some kind of gay pride celebration month.  This morning I was eating my breakfast and the AFN sports channel was playing (as always) and a commercial with a message from the Secretary of Defense (SECDEF), Leon Panetta, welcoming gays and members of the LBGT community into the military.  Now, I know the SECDEF says thank you to everyone serving fairly regularly, but when was the last time he said ...we appreciate all heterosexual monogamous couples serving...  Celebrate diversity in gender, race, and culture among other things, but let's not celebrate sin.

Monday, June 25, 2012

About Blog Layout

My wife (Michelle) recently commented that she couldn't read my blog because the formatting and letter color. That, coupled with the format I was using was (for no reason at all) changing the formatting to highlighted, which was completely illegible. So, in order to make my blog a little easier on the eyes and to avoid having to redo the formatting on every post, I've changed to a much simpler style. If you have any comments on readability of the text (or on the content) please let me know.

Wesley, taking a picture of his own foot while swimming


I'm sure you're reading the title of this post and groaning, I don't know many people who like grammar or even the idea of grammar but as I'm reading the first chapter of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, (I know, sounds like enthralling reading eh?) I'm trying to formulate my opinion regarding prescriptivism and descriptivism in regards to grammar.

Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) my opinion on prescriptivist versus descriptivist gramar ends with one word that can be used in many many different areas of life; balance. According to the text modern grammarians/linguists agree with me, there should be a balance of some sort between prescribing rules and describing patterns. In the past I have always fallen on the more prescriptive side of the house, and I still correct people's grammar (especially my children and sometimes my wife). However, I'm not blind nor am I an idiot. Language change happens and there's nothing we can do about it. The academies set up in several European countries (noticeably NOT in England, and NOT in the US) failed to stop language change. According to the text I'm reading even the LAW in France couldn't stop the anglicization of French so some degree. The realist in me says if they couldn't stem the tide of language change what makes me think that I can? The traditionalist (read: conservative) in me says NOOOO, language has rules and grammar for a logical reason, so that we can all understand each other and have a common framework with which to communicate.

Reading this text, and in no small way, my recent Korean review class; I've decided to try to be a little more openminded toward language change. My current postulate on the issue is such: Teach correct grammar, syntax, spelling and other language rules, and when anomalies occur when they've been accepted by the general public and are commonly understood by the general culture, accept them as language change. Then after an anomaly has become accepted by culture to the point where everyone understands it and has used it for a long time ('long time' being subjective on purpose) then incorporate it into teaching. However, that all being said there should be plenty of recorded history of language as it once was. The comprehensive dictionary, (of course limited dictionaries will have to pare down their lists of words to fit in compact volumes) for example, should NEVER take out words, words that have fallen out of common usage should simply have some kind of note stating such. I'm sure some of my ideas are already in use, especially the one about archaic words being noted as such in the dictionary, as I've seen such notations in the dictionary in the past.

Much of my reservations on this topic stem from our future generations' becoming even worse than we are at forgetting our traditions and history. I feel that we, as a global society, are constantly losing touch with our history. The pervasive thought (seemingly worldwide) is that newer is better and older is worse. A funny quote that I've only heard in the children's cartoon movie The Incredibles, one of the final scenes two old men are talking:

"See that?"
"That's the way to do it, that's old school."
"Yeah, no school like the old school."

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Morality and Marriage

It's an interesting paradox that I chose to name my blog "Life Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness" because many people would use that quote to defend homosexual marriage.  I read an interesting opinion piece from The New York Times about how the author changed his opinion about gay marriage.  Accordingly I thought I'd take a crack at the topic.  I know it's a hot topic that gets people up-in-arms quite quickly.

My first thought when reading that opinion piece was that many of the points the writer made were actually great arguments against gay marriage.  I.e. "...children have the right, insofar as society makes it possible, to know and to be cared for by the two parents who brought them into this world. I didn’t just dream up this notion: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which came into force in 1990, guarantees children this right."  I have also been reading a small pamphlet about what the Bible says about various social issues.  The chapter on gay marriage what written by Answers in Genesis' Ken Ham.  A respected author that I admire.  His comments on the subject were, not surprisingly, rooted in the Genesis account and started off with the old atheists' attempt at casting doubt on the Genesis story about Cain and Able; "Where did Cain get his wife?"  While that might not really seem to be connected to the issue (other than the question is about marriage) he easily turns question around and links the issue of gay marriage with a much deeper issue of morality.

I used to say something to the effect of; if our country/culture which is built on freedom defines marriage as any person with any other person then as the majority decides, so be it.  So as that New York Times opinion article is titled, I have also changed my view on gay marriage.  Of course my opinion has changed in the opposite direction, I now feel that, as a nation we should resist the loss of morality as evidenced in the acceptance of gay marriage.  I'm not going to go on any rampage and protest or join the crazies from Westboro Baptist Church (which by the way if you've never looked into it, is actually very politically motivated).  It's still a biblical mandate to love one another and to show God's love but I do not accept gay marriage at all.

There are many other arguments against gay marriage including a very simple biological argument that says, two people of the same gender cannot reproduce, therefore it is not natural that two such people should have that type of relationship.  There's another, albeit less viable argument that says, children raised in same gender homes have developmental problems.  The main problem with that argument is that it hasn't been completely proven to be true.

So, I'm going to stick to my guns on this issue.  God decides what is right and wrong, and has clearly stated that homosexuality and gay marriage is wrong.  Therefore it is wrong and should be abhorred.  Any trip down the road towards a loss of morality only leads to a more debased culture/society and eventually a breakdown in society itself.  Without a moral standard, a clear statement of right versus wrong, all reasons and foundations for rule of law are worthless.  Without the rule of law society breaks down and there's nothing but anarchy. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Health and Fitness

Do you ever feel old?  I feel old today.  I've had a sore foot all day and a sore knee all day, it seems like age has hit me harder today that usual.  I know I'm not the most healthy person, I don't diet (other than the see-food diet) and I'm not really in shape (though round is a shape).  That being said I do try to workout and I enjoy running and my Saturday bike rides are fun.  It seems like my diet must really be the main problem in taking off weight.

According to a rough BMI calculator (height to weight ratio) I'm obese.  It's tough because I love food, and I continually eat too much food.  I workout, probably more than the average person, I workout with out unit physical training sessions three days a week, then on Saturday mornings I go for a bike ride with a pretty fast club.  Then on Sunday morning I run with a local group that runs (fairly slowly) between 6-8.5 miles.  Oh, on top of that I spend one or two nights hitting my heavy punching bag for 6-8 rounds alternating jump rope and hitting the bag with various styles.

WHY then can't I seem to lose any weight!?  Why does it seem like my body is breaking down.  I'm not old!  I think it's time to buckle down and change my diet.

Does anyone else have this type of problem?  I can't be the only one that exercises but still can't lose weight.  It seems like in the past I've never had a problem with weight, not that I ate any healthier just that I worked out enough that it didn't seem to matter what I ate.  Now it seems that no matter how much I workout I can't lose weight consistently.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Invitation, Et. Al.

First off, the invitation.  If any of you are bloggers and would like to write up an entry for my blog or are interested in me writing up an entry for your blog, please let me know.  I'm not technically an "expert" in anything really, but I do have an interest in a variety of topics.

Secondly the 'et. al.' I started up studying some philosophy today, by listening to a podcast. The podcast is the 'History of Philosophy' and it starts off with the ancient pre-Socratic philosopher Thales with the subtitle: Everything is Full of Gods.  I'm not going to bore you with the details as it was kind of dry.  The podcast covers the history of western philosophy starting with Thales through as one continuous narrative to modern philosophy.  I still haven't found a good philosophy text though I'm leaning towards finding one that is NOT about the history of philosophy since I'm already listening to this podcast.

Though it's indiscernable to you, I just took an hour-long interlude to play a volleyball game since they were short on players.

Unfortunately there's nothing to update on the rewrite of the language book.  I've tried to contact the author and the publishing company to no avail so far.  Hopefully I hear back soon.

Don't have any photos relating to this topic so here's just a random one, they have AWESOME slides here on island:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Big Government

This isn't one of my usual topics but a friend of mine asked me to write an editorial for his page concerning big government, term limits etc.  Which, as I said, isn't one of my typical topics but I've been thinking about these issues for a long time and even read some other blog/editorial sources about these topics lately so here goes.

The problem of big government is much more convoluted that just having too many laws, not having term limits, governmental corruption etc.  I have a fairly unique perspective, being in the military and a student of foreign language and culture.  Additionally, I am currently living overseas and thereby accountable to not only US laws but local law, Status of Forces Agreements and military regulations.  So, I have the perspective of being accountable to more laws and regulations than the average person.

One of the recent blogs on this topic that I've read lately was from NPR's regular feature 13.7 Cosmos and Culture the most telling quote in the 18 June post: "Laws Of Unintended Consequence: A Warning To Policymakers."

"A law may be passed with noble intentions. but its uses inevitably stray far from its original purpose.  As the legal system evolves dynamically, laws come to serve as adjacent possible niches, typically for the benefit of the powerful and to the detriment of the powerless.  The more numerous the laws, and the heavier the sanctions, the greater the opportunity for persecution of the innocent."

Also, in a recent posting from Natural News concerning the recently proposed ban on large sodas in NYC.  The most obvious outcome from such a forward proposal is that if the government can outlaw something so personal as how much soda one drinks what else can they outlaw?  Where does the personal-life-invasion stop?  My personal thoughts on this issue actually take a different turn.  I personally think that instead of healthcare/welfare reform, we should consider health/welfare abolition.  The logic goes like this; if the government is responsible for your personal welfare then the government has every right to tell you how to live your life.

Take seatbelt laws...  NOT wearing your seatbelt (while a dumb idea, that I don't subscribe to at all) is an inherently personal decision that doesn't hurt anyone else if you don't wear your seatbelt.  Because all liberty stops when one's actions infringe on someone else's rights.  (E.g. you're free to drink alcohol, and free to drive, just not both at the same time because when one combines the two it often infringes on other's right to live, i.e. a car accident that more often than not leaves the drunk driver alive.)  So, if the government is responsible for your health, read: governmental healthcare, then the government can enforce whatever health restrictions it wants.  If there's no such thing as government provided healthcare/welfare then the government will have no (logical) right to tell you how to be healthy.

A quote Natural News sums this up quite well; "Be on red alert any time you hear, 'We're from the government, and we're here to protect you from yourself.'  These are quite possibly the twelve most dangerous words ever uttered in America. Because from this illogical and liberty-crushing premise, the government can justify any and all invasions of your privacy."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Language Learning Book Idea

I think I might want to start writing a book.  What do you think?  I really don't want to write a completely new book per se, I want to update a book that I read a few years ago that has, in some ways, been out of date for years even a few years ago when I read it.  It's called How to Learn Any Language; Quickly, Easily, Inexpensively, Enjoyably and On Your Own.  I read the book several years ago and I recently listened to an interesting podcast about language learning and it inspired me to look more into it.  Looking back a the book I realized (again) that though some of the things mentioned in the book are terribly out of date, e.g. mentions of numerous tape players including portable ones (as if they are a new development).  So I think I'd like to take on the tremendous job of rewriting the book with updated ideas like CDs, .mp3 formats, podcasts etc.  The over-arching ideas in the book are wonderful, hence the reason I'd like to update the text.  That and I think the author's ideas/methods are overlooked by many linguists and I'd like to get the ideas from the text out into the world.

There are so many obstacles to my idea...

One, I SUCK at finishing things: I started putting my wife's family cookbook into eBook format with the program iBooks Author, yeah not done yet.  I also started writing a beginner music textbook, also not done yet.  Granted, the cookbook and textbook were pretty much spur of the moment ideas that I didn't really plan out.  Of course so far this one is too!

Second, I have NO IDEA where to start!  I know that one of the most important things I should knock out first is contacting the original author and getting his permission to do this project.  I also need to get permission from the publishing company (if there is one) to do the update also.  I need to find a publishing output also, though I'm pretty sure the iBook Author program has a publishing option built into the application.

Third, I don't really know if I'm qualified to write a book even an update to a book.  I know it doesn't technically require any expertise to write a book but I'd like all the work I plan to put into this to do someone somewhere some good.

It reads: "Heaven (or Sky) Park" (the name of the park)
I don't particularly have any language-related photos, so I'll just post one from my trip to Korea: (yes, that was our "Adventure Dog," that I lost in Italy on my last trip to the desert)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Another Great Day

I know, I'm killing you all by constantly recounting my frequent trips to the beach but I just have to give a quick run down of my day...

This morning I went for the longest bike ride I've ever done in my life, 34.7mi all over the southern part of the island.  Then we ran some errands, got some stuff to prepare for the impending typhoon.  Then leftovers for lunch, and then left for the beach.  We just had to, the weather was too nice!  Did lots of snorkeling and just kind of sat in the ocean.  Alex is doing a great job learning how to swim and snorkel.  The rest of the day has been relatively uneventful now we're watching one of the Narnia Chronicles movies.

Back to what I was talking about the other day.  Philosophy...  I know enthralling subject matter eh?  I've found several books on the Korean book website, though still haven't sorted out the address issue so I can purchase any of them.  Found a pleasant assortment of podcasts to subscribe to about philosophy.  I love podcasts unfortunately I never seem to find enough time in my day to watch/listen to all the ones to which I've subscribed.  Still haven't found an English philosophy book but even as I write this I'm going to start searching all the ebook options I have for a good introductory philosophy book.

We didn't take any photos of our trip to the beach today but of course we have many from previous trips so here you go.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Ahhh the Beach

Well, as an update on the philosophy study...  I haven't done ANYTHING!  Ha!  Well, that's not entirely true, the online Korean eBook store that I have been in contact with because I can't input my APO address because they don't have the APO AP option for the state, emailed me back about my inquiry.  Of course it took me about 30 minutes to craft a reply (I'm too OCD and have to have everything spelled correctly and I don't want to look stupid misspelling easy Korean words).

Anyways, on to more important things!  We had a nice day today, my Korean classmates and teacher all came over to our house and we grilled out and sat around chatting.  It was funny to talk to the teacher in Korean and every once in a while Rob Marion would talk about/in Japanese.  Of course Michelle doesn't speak either language so we'd have to translate some for her.  Then once everyone was gone we went to the beach.

We LOVE the beach, we'd pretty much live there if we could.  I spent nearly two full hours in the water.  The most important thing of all though, Alex (our older son), started swimming!  Michelle has been working with him on floating on his back.  Usually she always supports him for a few seconds then lets go to get him used to floating on his own.  Well, today he just started floating on his back all on his own, then he started swimming.  Of course it looked a little like drowning but he was definitely moving forward and then when he was floating on his back he started doing the backstroke all by himself without being prompted.  He wasn't scared to put his face in the water with or without his mask.  Wesley then joined in and tried using the snorkel and mask.  With Michelle's help he tried using the mask and snorkel for a while, but according to the lifeguard snorkeling isn't allowed in the swimming area.

Whatever you're doing where ever you are I hope you're having as much fun as we have on the beach. This picture wasn't taken today but it is of Wes getting the hang of snorkeling.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


I may have missed my calling in life...

I read an article about East-Asian philosophy and how it's generally ignored by western philosophers.  Of course that got me on a trek to find a book on Korean philosophy written in Korean.  I still haven't succeeded but I will keep searching till I find one.  I kind of wish I had studied philosophy in school.  Of course now that I'm looking into East-Asian philosophy I see how lacking my understanding of western philosophy is.  I took a class on ethics in college and that only whet my appetite for understanding philosophy.

Honestly I don't really know where to start.  I really want to take a class on philosophy especially eastern philosophy.  I think I might try finding an iTunes U channel on philosophy.  I also need to find a good philosophy book, I've kind of gone digital when it comes to reading (don't get me wrong, I love the feel of a good paperbound book sometimes but eBooks are just so convenient.

I don't usually ask for comments... but anyone reading this have any ideas/suggestions for good teach-yourself philosophy books/sources?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Call Guinness Book of World Records!

I have officially blogged two days in a row!

You want to know what's on my mind today?  Well, if you're reading this I assume you care...  I HATE copyright law.  No offense if any of you work in that field I'm sure you can look yourself in the mirror every night after putting in a hard day's work squelching creative thought.  I'm exaggerating of course, but seriously.  The reason I've been thinking about this all day is an article we read (in Korean cir 2010) about the Korean version of ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) suing Starbucks for not paying royalties.  The defense (according to the article) was that they had a contract with the American copyright company which is where the music came from so there shouldn't be any issue.  Well, apparently the court ruled in favor of the copyright company.

Then after reading the article I looked into some other examples in the US.  Apparently I was previously mistaken.  I thought that as long as you didn't have a certain number of people attend you could charge admission without having to pay royalties.  According to some of the web forums I've researched basically boil down to: if you buy a movie or song for private home use, you cannot show, watch or listen to that entertainment with anyone but your own family.  Which is disconcerting because we just bought an awesome home projector/home entertainment system and we were hoping to host many a fun movie night in our home.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Some Recent Developments

I just finished reading a blog about blogging and felt the inspiration to take up blogging some again.  I liked the suggestions there EXCEPT the one about devoting time to blogging.  I don't have the time to blog twice a day!  I do read dozens of blogs a day and I should definitely incorporate more photographs in my blog but here I am just writing what I've been thinking about.

My wife and I just  finished the movie Act of Valor.  It was decent, better than the rotten tomato ratings.  The reviews were pretty straightforward, it was mostly a recruiting movie for the SEALs.

In general though life here in Okinawa has been, simply put, AWESOME!  We go to the beach regularly, we're trying to get signed up for SCUBA lessons, I run with a nice local run club, and I've ridden once with a road-biking club.  If you don't like swimming or spending time outdoors I can kind of understand not liking living here but in general no one should ever complain about living here.

Saturday, June 2, 2012


I know I don't post very often and I wish I could, but to be honest I generally don't have anything cool to talk about.

Finally I have made it to probably the best assignment I could have.  I'm now living on the island of Okinawa.  It's pretty much a sub-tropical paradise that I've loved every minute of.  My family has also had a great time so far.  We go to the beach all the time, I've joined a small running club and biking club.  The weather here is pretty much awesome almost all the time.  It rains more than back in Omaha, Monterey or Ohio, but even the rain is pleasant.  We've gone snorkeling a few times and look forward to many more times as the water around here is wonderful.  Michelle and I are also going to try to get into a SCUBA class also.  Basically the ocean is always calling and I want to answer its call.

In general the next few years are going to be some of the best I've had.