Posts in Thought Tools

Don’t Go Bananas

June 7th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 12 comments

Our bodies need potassium to help maintain normal blood pressure and heart function.  The good news is that a banana supplies about 10% of the potassium we need each day.  The bad news: potassium is toxic.  Potassium poisoning is called hyperkalemia, not a pleasant condition.  Before throwing out all your bananas, read on.

Tenure made it possible for university professors to teach without fear of being fired regardless of prevailing politics.  Making it impossible to terminate a teacher seemed a good idea.  Yet, tenure has allowed professors to indoctrinate students with their own prejudices and beliefs rather than teach them.  Some tenured professors also get sloppy about teaching, seeing no need to engage with their material or students.

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Ace the Interview

June 3rd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

Finding a terrific job is not easy.  One way to ruin your chances is by projecting over-confidence. While employers certainly want to know what you can do for them, being too full of yourself will turn off most interviewers. Strangely enough, in one of the few job interviews in Scripture, the prospective employee seems to display exactly this wrong attitude—yet he gets the job! I am talking, of course, about Joseph. Understanding his behavior will provide us with some specific strategies for interviews and meetings.

After failing to find satisfying interpretations to his two disturbing dreams, Pharaoh recounted them to Joseph. (Genesis 41:8 & 15) Joseph then explained how the dreams foretold seven years of economic abundance followed by seven years of famine.  Astonishingly, he then offers unsolicited advice.  Joseph suggests that Pharaoh hire a wise administrator (implying that he himself is the ideal candidate) to supervise the economy.

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Jethro’s Connection Contribution

May 29th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 7 comments

When the English novelist, Charles Dickens, visited a prison outside of Philadelphia in 1842, he witnessed prisoners being held in solitary confinement.  He wrote that most people are incapable of recognizing the full extent of the torture and agony of being incarcerated alone.  He insisted that the mental torture of solitary confinement was far worse than any torture that could be inflicted upon the body.

In this, Dickens was agreeing with the Bible’s insistence on everyone’s need for human connection.

We’re all familiar with the 187 chapters into which Archbishop Langton divided the text of the Five Books of Moses in the 13th century.  Less well known are the 54 original divisions called sidras, each containing a few chapters and each named according to a word appearing early in the sidra that conveys the main theme of the sidra.  Uncovering the connection between the sidra’s theme and its name is always interesting.

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Pebbles and Panoramas

May 20th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

My children constantly fascinate me when we hike in breathtakingly beautiful British Columbia during the summer. Some of them visibly thrill to the vast vistas and magnificent landscapes revealed as we crest a hill.  Others seem oblivious to the large scale spectacles but will stoop to pick up a pebble which can absorb their attention for twenty minutes.  Similarly, when boating, one child gazes endlessly at the wave pattern stretching to the horizon.  Meanwhile, her sister lies on her tummy on the edge of a dock peering down at a school of tiny fish darting around as if being signaled by an invisible choreographer. 

We learn much from the patterns of larger arrangements such as the earth’s upheavals that created the mountain ranges and the erosive forces that carved majestic canyons.  However it is just as important to understand the microscopic forces that help atoms to form molecules and the characteristics that shape those tiny molecules into complex substances.

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Young and Foolish, Old and Grumpy?

May 15th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

With apologies to all senior citizens, (a civilized sobriquet if there ever was one) I am going to ask you a question:

What is the one word in English literature that occurs more frequently than any other directly after the words “crotchety,” “curmudgeonly,” or “cranky”?  If you answered “old” you are quite correct.  You’ll nearly always read “the crotchety old woman” or “that curmudgeonly old man”.  I am certainly not suggesting that all senior citizens are crabby or cantankerous but apparently enough are to have earned the connection.

Apart from being a warning to us all to avoid acquiring those unpleasing characteristics as we age, it also raises a question.  What in heaven’s name was in God’s mind with this verse:

You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the old;
you shall fear your God: I am the Lord.
(Leviticus 19:32)

Other than managing to survive for six (seven, eight, nine? Fill in the number of your choice) decades or more, what exactly has an ill-tempered old man done to deserve such respect?  Therein lies an important insight from ancient Jewish wisdom.  An old person might indeed be a bit grumpy and grouchy but he or she has seen a bit of life.  If nothing else, the elderly have experienced more of life than people in their twenties.  Why does that qualify them for such a level of respect?

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They’re Keeping You Down

May 6th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 10 comments

Recently, I enjoyed the pleasure and privilege of leading a Passover Seder.  Around the room sat a most stimulating group of enthusiastic participants.  I began by explaining that rule number one at the Seder is that everything we do has contemporary significance.  For example, when a therapist talks a client back through her childhood, it is not to wallow in nostalgia.  No, it is for the purpose of revisiting the past to better understand the present in order to improve tomorrow.   In the same way, we are not commemorating the Exodus and deliverance from Egyptian slavery.  No, we are reliving that 3,330 year-old torment for the purpose of making changes in our lives today and thereby improving tomorrow.

This sounds obvious and easy however in real life it is anything but that.  Especially since the culture surrounding most of us emphasizes blaming others for anything we dislike about our own lives.  The most obvious ways in which Marxism has influenced secular liberalism, the semi-official state religion of America and most of Europe, is that we have been indoctrinated to assume that problems in our lives are entirely due to race, gender or class.  We suffer harassment, injustice, or outright oppression because of the color of our skin, our gender, or the fact that we see ourselves as a ‘disadvantaged class’. 

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May I Have a Word?

April 29th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 4 comments

In January 2007, in a dazzling speech at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Steve Jobs introduced his iPhone with these words, “Every once in a while a revolutionary product comes along that changes everything…” 

On June 4th, 1940, Winston Churchill gave a speech warning of a possible Nazi invasion.  This was its climax:

“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

Just over 3,300 years ago, Moses concluded a 36-day long speech to Israel with these words:

I’m 120 years old today and can no longer go out and come in for the Lord has said to me, ‘You will not cross this Jordan.’ The Lord your God will cross before you; he will destroy these nations from before you and you shall inherit them. Joshua, he will cross over before you as the Lord has spoken.

(Deuteronomy 31:2-3)

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Find the Father

April 22nd, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 15 comments

Progressive societies tend to quickly impose restrictions on behaviors that are considered dangerous to ‘society’.  Occasionally, this goal of providing security for society is achieved at the cost of people’s freedoms but progressive voters don’t doubt that the exchange is a worthwhile one.

For instance, some people, many of them thoughtful and educated parents, choose not to vaccinate their children for various reasons.  Progressive politicians like New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, have little hesitation in imposing mandatory vaccination orders with fines of $1,000 for violators.  This sounds logical and seems to be prudent public policy. In the name of public health government trounces parents’ freedoms.

Years ago the freedoms of a private citizen to open a restaurant that allowed smoking were abrogated.  By that time, the rights of people to smoke in most public areas had long since been trampled.  How was this achieved?  By government addressing what it saw as its duty to provide health for all.  But wait, then surely government should have banned not only smoking but also mountain climbing and bungee jumping along with all other life-threatening activities?  “No,” answered big-government progressives. “While climbing and other high risk activities imperil only the participant himself,”  they insisted, “smoking jeopardizes everyone because smoke exhaled by the smoker pollutes all the air for all living things.”   Again, the greater good was achieved with a corresponding loss of freedom judged by many to be a worthy exchange.

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The Ups and Downs of Freedom

April 15th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 9 comments

During the administration of George W. Bush, I was privileged to be appointed to a presidential commission. I received a document that included something akin to the words, “power to execute the duties of this office.” Lopping off a few words, I tried to explain to my children that now, in the manner of the Lord High Executioner in Gilbert and Sullivan’s operetta, The Mikado, I had been granted the power to execute. What a difference a few words can make!

Passover, which we look forward to celebrating in a few days, is often misconstrued as a holiday celebrating freedom. Not quite. It is a holiday celebrating the overthrowing of human tyranny and slavery while accepting God’s dominion over our lives and our own responsibility to properly use the freedom we have. The first part of the equation only exists in conjunction with the second part.

In that way, Passover not only  commemorates something that happened long ago, but it is an annual opportunity to rise above our own Egypts, those circumstances that block the path to our own Divine destiny.  Egyptian slavery is the ultimate model of any oppressive force that obstructs our attempts to reach the purpose God has planned for us. Each detail of the Exodus provides us with a route to overcoming the limitations and constrictions in our own lives.

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Lather, Rinse, Repeat – Again and Again

April 8th, 2019 Posted by Thought Tools 16 comments

After two tragic airplane accidents, Boeing is in the news. Possible liability has depressed its stock price and shaved tens of billions of dollars off the company’s valuation.  I covered troubling questions of cut corners in the design of the latest generation of the 50-year-old 737 and the disturbing relationship between government and one of its largest military contractors in my podcast here.  However, today let’s look at the approximately 2,000 Boeing 737s in the air at any given time every day and the fifteen normal take-offs made by a 737 every single minute of every day. 

Before each 737 starts to taxi away from the gate, the pilot in the left seat and the first officer in the right work their way down a printed check list that each could recite by heart.  “Navigation lights” calls out one and the other glancing at the panel responds, “On.”  Then comes “Taxi Lights.”  “On.” This is followed by altimeter, radios and autopilot and the correct response for each is “Set.”  Not until the long check list has been completed does the airplane begin its pushback.

The repetitive routine could anesthetize ordinary people into robotic compliance.  But commercial pilots are not ordinary people, they’re professionals and they’ve trained themselves to view each and every run down the check list as if it was the first time.  They might have asked one another those same questions on three earlier flights that day but on the fourth, their eyes still scan each switch and gauge with the same alert focus they did on the first.  Their confirmations are still precise and accurate.

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