Quick California Thoughts

Most of the comments I’ve seen regarding the plot to put the division of California on the ballot consist of incredulity. Division of a state simply cannot happen, only certain unsavory fringe elements would ever desire it, it would never work, things like that.

I don’t think it would work either, but I have not yet looked at the economics of the arrangement. It’s simply a suspicion of mine that some of the new states may have a hard time staying afloat.

Really though, why the fuss? If people want to break away from an existing arrangement, why not allow it? Do all the other regions really have the right to tell a dissatisfied area that it is not permitted to leave?

If so, then so much for government based on consent of the people. (This isn’t believed by most in power anyway.)

There is an additional problem however. Say the referenda succeed. Say further that they win by a majority of, oh, 70%. What happens to the ones who didn’t want it? Are they to be stuck with a government they did not consent to? How is that right?

What this tells me is there is a fundamental error in the way government is conceived. Can anyone say what it is? What’s the solution?

Furry Fiesta Con Report

Those who have listened to the podcast will have already heard my thoughts, but those who choose not to listen or who would like to read a report rather than hear it may find this useful.

I attempted to leave Dallas for Houston a little after 3PM on Thursday, but before I got more than three miles from the apartment I remembered something and had to turn around and take care of it, which added at least a few minutes to the trip. It took two hours to finally get away from the Houston area (including The Woodlands) and I don’t think those 10 minutes were the entire problem, but they certainly contributed. By the time I got out of Houston I was beginning to fret because I was not sure if registration would still be open by the time I got there nearly six hours later.

It was.

They also had quite a lot working against them because as a rule I am biased against hotel conventions, finding them somewhat dull most of the time and not something I like to submit myself to. But I was quite happy with my decision to go.

Rather than give you a daily play-by-play of events, I would rather mention a few things and say what I did and did not like about them (consider this my late contribution to the similarly-themed panel at the end of the con, which I couldn’t make since I had to leave at lunch Sunday).

Registration: As alluded to, this went quite smoothly. Since I got in late there was not much of a line, so that sped things up even more. It also helped that I had the paperwork already printed and signed. What surprised me was being able to choose the badge design, which I had never encountered before and momentarily confused me.

The Hotel: My understanding is this is the first year in this particular hotel. I had no complaints about it, or anything particularly great to say about it either. I’ve been in a lot of hotels thanks to business and so they all start running together after a while. As long as the basic needs are met, I’m fine.

The Convention Space: I liked the layout. Although the convention had a lot of attendees (upwards of 1800), it didn’t seem crowded and it was not hard to navigate. Most of the main events were on a floor easy to get to.

The Elevators: Perhaps I just instinctively know the best time to go to the elevators because I never had any trouble. There was never a wait of more than about five minutes. Granted, the last day was nightmarish since everyone was trying to leave. I waited probably thirty minutes or more then.

Food: Possibly my one gripe. There were many options but they were not all easy to get to and required crossing a busy street.

Panels: I didn’t go to many this year.

Communication: This is where things were lacking. They did communicate what was needed eventually, but there was a little bit of confusion as to just what was where and when. Perhaps gag the hyena during the convention so he can’t say things?

This con had the distinction of being one where I actually knew several people attending and was making tentative plans to meet up with a few of them (not all were a success). It makes quite a difference when you know people, and it is always the determining factor in whether or not I will even try to attend. Did I enjoy this year? Without a doubt. Will I go next year? I’m not sure. I will consider it, and there was nothing that made me not want to return (unlike FWA which I have no desire to go to again no matter how much you pay me, or AC which has grown too busy and crowded for my liking).

As long as getting the time off is not a problem and I can find someone to room with, odds are good I will be back.

Thoughts on Houston

It’s been a while since the last time I wrote about where I’ve moved to, if I’ve written anything at all (can’t remember at the moment although it’s been talked about on Twitter and one-on-one for certain). So in the interests of either filling a gap in writing, or being redundant and amusing myself by talking about the same things again, here we go.

Houstonians are, as a rule, ruder than people in South Carolina. I’m not sure why that is. Could come from everyone having to live so close together.

I have yet to find an Asian restaurant that understands the concept of sweet tea.

Traffic lights mean nothing. Neither do the lanes painted onto the road.

Many I’ve run across don’t seem to realize there is a world outside Texas. (Is this a problem endemic to Texas?)

The lack of income tax is more than compensated for by the higher sales tax and cost of living.

So far I haven’t said anything positive about Houston, and it’s a policy of mine to at least try to find something positive to say when I have a list of negatives, to at least pretend to have balance.

Unfortunately I can’t think of anything worth liking about this place. My plan from the beginning was to be here short-term, but it may end up being shorter-term than even I anticipated.

Leading the Flock Astray

I have been attending a particular church in the area on a sort of “trial basis,” because the statement of faith showed some promise as well as a couple areas of concern, but I was not certain if the areas of concern fell in the nonnegotiable zone or if there was room for discussion about them. (See my older post about this for an example of what I look for.)

The pastor never gave a straight answer, which was cause enough for concern, but I dutifully collected more data to have a better understanding of just where the problem was and if it could be addressed. It was not until after visiting a small group and listening to the sermon on Sunday that I was able to fully comprehend the problem. All the fragments of concern joined together to form a clear demonstration of the problem.

Not wanting to reach an immature conclusion (although I already had a good idea), I emailed the pastor seeking clarification on something said during the sermon. He made an obvious blunder and I wanted to make sure I understood correctly. Why rail against something that was not in fact wrong, but was a simple misunderstanding?

The email exchange showed quite a lot. This pastor was immediately defensive, did not use the Scriptures, and chose instead to attack my character as well as those of others who have opposed him recently. Not once did he provide an explanation for his position, insisting only that the Bible was clear (it wasn’t), and ended dialogue by telling me that I missed the point of the illustration (it wasn’t an illustration) and that if I’d like to learn, they’d be glad to teach me.

In other words, I was to fall in line and preemptively agree to the correctness of his position before moving forward. He is the one with all the answers and cannot be wrong and should never be challenged, however gently.

This is a perversion of the attitude a pastor should have. Yes, they are the spiritual authority and yes, they should be able to help you find the answer if they do not know it themselves, but they are also fallible. They are not and cannot be the ultimate authority.

The proper attitude of a pastor should be one of a trusted leader and guide who encourages his flock to fact-check what he says. As the pastor at my old church said (and probably still says), “Always read and know the words for yourself, because someone someday may lie to you.”

Post-Christmas Thoughts

(This was scribbled in the back of my notebook while I was restless during church on Sunday. That will explain most of the discordant thoughts.)

It is a few days after Christmas when this is traditionally celebrated (at least by most Protestants) but I can appeal to the twelve days of Christmas tradition and say my notes are still timely.

It was long ago that the coming of the redeemer was announced. Some will tell you that God declared it in the garden shortly before evicting the first man and woman from it. He said there would be a descendant of Eve who would crush the serpent’s head. Ever since that day, the darkest in the history of mankind, the adversary had been at work trying to thwart God’s plans. He persuaded man to sin and polluted the human race (possibly physically as well as spiritually), and was inconvenienced by the Flood. He was soon back to work, first with the people at Babel before singling out one man’s descendants to harass for centuries to come, as he learned that from this family would come the one who could stop him. It was not for hundreds of years though that it finally happened.

And when it did, would it not have caught many by surprise? God humbled himself and took on the human flesh and entered his creation. He came into his own, but his own did not recognize him or receive him. They were looking for someone else, someone more impressive who could lead an army and bring deliverance. He did bring deliverance, but again, it was not the type they expected.

The next surprise was in how the deliverance was carried out. The devil figured out who the Messiah was (this was not kept secret by any means) and tried to make him fall, and of course he did not succeed. He then decided to kill him.

And he was playing right into God’s hands, because he’d planned this from the beginning. That set the stage for the next shock, when the Messiah rose from the dead.

God has not agreed to carry out his plans in the way we expect. How might he do it in the future?

Thoughts on the Season

Advent is easily my favorite time of the year. I can’t quite explain it, but for many years it has been, with Thanksgiving a very close second. It helps that I start preparing myself for this season immediately following a day for the giving of thanks, and besides, Christ coming to free us from sin is quite a lot to be thankful for.

Then there’s the matter of our own materialistic culture failing to find a means to monetize either season to the extent they have others. Indeed, stores all but ignore Thanksgiving in their rush to get people to spend for Christmas. (I choose not to mention the travesty that is “Black Friday,” or the new abomination of starting from the time of thanks in order to satisfy some greed.)

I guess this reveals how shallow this feeling of thanks truly is in the American psyche. Merely another symptom of the deeper problem I have preached on before; if you have known me long enough, you know my thoughts.

Anyway, Advent. The focus for me is not so much on his first coming, but in anticipation of his second. At least, this is true at the beginning, when the traditional emphasis is on hope and prophecy. Just as the nation of Israel waited for their coming Messiah for centuries, so now we anticipate his coming as king, when he will set all to right and be worshiped. Evil’s grip on this world will finally be broken, and the curse will meet its end.

It’s a time for reflection. Are you prepared for that day? The world was not then, and it is not now. Do not be like the world, but be ready and do God’s work.

Secret Santa

The Wagz crew is organizing a Secret Santa-type thing just in time for Christmas. This is especially good for those of you in the US who will soon be dealing with the insanity that is Black Friday, unless you’re usually wise enough to avoid all that.

However, this year you have a reason to go out! If you go to the WagzTail Secret Santa page, you will see a sign-up option in the menu on the right-hand side. Go ahead and fill that out, and then start looking for a gift! When you’re ready to send it, we’ll tell you who to send it to.

You don’t have to be a regular listener to participate in this. You don’t have to have listened at all! It’s open to anyone who wants to participate, provided one has a mailing address.

Here’s the link again, in case you missed it in the post: santa.wagztail.com

New Way to Stalk Me

There’s a new way to stalk me, for those so inclined. A few days ago I created a Google+ page for Levi, since I like that network much more than Facebook and had been thinking about adding Levi there anyway. So the other day I created a page (not profile) for him.

You can find the link as the newest addition to the “Find Me” tab. If you’re on Google+, feel free to add me there.

Moving and Starting Over

I suppose it is time for another “life update.” As of a couple weeks ago I am employed again, and as of two days ago I am living in Houston. This is not where I expected to end up (and indeed if you look at what I was hoping for three months ago, and where God placed me instead, you will see that there is little matching), but God knows what He intends and my job is to follow His lead.

In a way this is a good thing. Those of you who have been speaking with me for a while know that upstate South Carolina, despite liking the climate and landscape, was miserable for me. Work was a constant stress, especially from April until July, and after being there for two years I could still say I had no friends in the area. True, I had acquaintances at church and was beginning to get along okay with some locals, but there were no relationships deep or significant enough to call real “friendships.” Alongside this, because I have moved every year since 2006 and have had little chance to “settle” for a while, I ended up falling back to online contacts because I knew that even if I moved, they would still be with me, so I devoted more time than I probably should have to those friends I have online.

This has gone on for years.

But when I was driving through Spartanburg to drop off my cable box and router, and a few times going to church in the past month, I passed through parts of town I had never visited in two years. I did not know what was on the east side of town. I did not visit the downtown library until six weeks ago. I never stopped by to see what the downtown square had to offer.

In a way this could be viewed as two years of wasting opportunities.

This is not going to happen in Houston. In a way, moving this far out here will be a good thing, because I know no one and have no one nearby, so I will be forced to get to know people in order to function at a minimum and enjoy it here. The last two years were squandered. The next two, three, or however many, will not be. I have been given a chance to start over and do not want to lose it.

Culture Shock

Culture shock can manifest itself in the oddest of places. I have lived in the South all my life, so I am used to the Carolinian/Georgian way of doing things, but for the most part I don’t feel too out-of-place when travelling. Some of this is due to the effect of modernization on different societies (when I landed in Bogota I wasn’t sure if I’d left Atlanta). I don’t even feel out of place in Toronto, although this time around I did notice a few more differences I did not quite pick up on at first.

Visiting Texas for an interview was another matter entirely. The entire trip was a reminder that I was far from home in unfamiliar territory. Even though I am used to life near the ocean, and have worked at a plant on a river, there was much different. I did not figure out the feeder roads while I was there, nor was I sure what to make of the menus at restaurants (missing items I am familiar with), and the way of life I observed during my brief stay there was different enough to make me feel uncomfortable.

What are the odds that I would have more trouble adjusting to a town in “my own” region rather than one on the other side of the continent? Apparently rather high.