Monday, July 27, 2009

My Political Views: Part Two

In My Political Views: Part One, I discussed my position on same-sex marriage.

Today's topic is, in my opinion, even more controversial than same-sex marriage: Abortion.

While more controversial, I find this debate to be much more straight forward than most political issues. Some people bring womens' rights into the equation, but I just don't see how that has any effect on whether or not abortion should be legal. As you'll soon find out, I'm very much opposed to abortion, and hopefully I'll be able to provide sufficient reasoning for that.

While there are all kinds of arguments about abortion, including partial-birth abortion, birth control, and cases of rape and incest among others, there is one central issue: taking a human life. Is it the right thing to do to take a human life under certain circumstances? Let's take a look at some of these special cases a little closer:

Partial-birth abortion: This to me, is the most obviously wrong of all the different cases. I see no way to justify taking the life of a child that is completely developed and able to live outside the womb. The right to life doesn't begin when a parent decides it does, the right to life begins when life begins, and a partially-born child is clearly alive.

Birth Control: There are many forms of birth control, and while I don't know enough about the physiological workings of things like "the pill" and other contraceptives, I think that anything that prevents a pregnancy from happening is perfectly fine. Clearly the government shouldn't be banning condoms. The best way to avoid aborting a child you don't want to have is to never conceive in the first place.

This brings me to my main belief that forms my opinion on these issues: birth starts at conception. Anything preventing conception from happening is fair game, but as soon as that happens, a new life has been created, and that should not be taken lightly. This is where most of the debate (by reasonable people) takes place. Almost noone says, "Yes, it should be legal to kill a baby." Most proponents of abortion would say, "I do not believe that a life has been created at the point in a pregnancy where an abortion is taking place." I can understand that argument. If you believe that a new life has not been created until late in a pregnancy, then I can see how it would not be a morally repugnant thing to terminate that pregnancy in your mind. I do believe a life has been created though, which is why I feel so strongly about abortion of any kind being wrong.

Cases of rape and incest: This is a situation that gets brought up often by people that are pro-choice as a reason that abortion must remain legal. It is a good argument because it pulls at the heart strings of all who hear it, and it is serious enough that it demands a response from opponents. If a woman is raped, should she be allowed to terminate that pregnancy? She CLEARLY did not want this child, and there is absolutely nothing she could do to avoid it. It is a horrible situation, and one that noone would wish on their worst enemy. My response to such an argument would be, "Yes, this is a horrible thing that has happened, but that doesn't justify terminating a life." If someone murders your father or spouse, does that give you the right to retaliate by returning for vengeance? Legally, the answer is no (and I would argue morally as well). So how, then, does aborting a child that is the result of a crime cross the line into legality? The effects of both situations are incredibly difficult, and very personally damaging, but that does not mean that that the victim should retaliate (especially in the case of abortion, as the child is not the perpetrator).

Exception (and complication...)!: The only case I've heard thus far FOR abortion that I can agree with is when carrying a child puts the mother in an incredibly dangerous situation. If having a baby will kill you, the waters are muddied and decisions become incredibly difficult. There are definitely certain cases where I would find removing a child from the womb to be the right thing to do in order to save one life instead of losing two. I also understand that this is the issue that many people use as a loophole to justify any abortion they please. Yes, it may be mentally taxing and emotionally damaging to carry a child, but stress and stretch marks do not justify taking a life. Judging each situation on a case by case basis is a tall order; one that is difficult as it is expensive, and I don't think that's something I would be able to do.

So, to summarize: I find abortion wrong (and in most cases, morally reprehensible), and feel that it should be made illegal in all cases with the exception of situations where the mother is in grave physical danger. I know that this sounds cold-hearted, especially in our current culture of extreme tolerance and political correctness, but in this case, the government should be allowed to protect the rights of all human life.

Questions, comments, objections? Write a comment!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday Update (on Thursday)

I was very busy this past weekend with a trip to Sheboygan, Wisconsin to visit Tyler and the rest of the Smies clan. Any time I can spend a weekend with friends and have so much to do that I barely get to sit down is fantastic. I like lists, so here's a summary of what we did:
  • 57 (at least) holes of disc golf. Team Smies-Harvey-Bloem was triumphant in two of three rounds of 18, and only lost in the third round due to some heroic shots by Mitchell Brummel of team Medema-VanHeukelum-Brummel. That is not to say that the teams were mismatched, as one round went through three extra holes before a winner was decided, and the other two were decided by two strokes (tosses? throws? I don't know the correct terminology) or less.
  • 18 holes of actual golf on the Irish Course at Whistling Straits. Magnificent course (my new header picture was taken there) with some very challenging and exciting holes. I shot a reasonable score of 100, with a 52 on the front nine and a 48 on the back. Lots of stupid mistakes though, so there's definitely room to improve.
  • 3 games of pool ball. It's mayhem, it's torture, it's fun. Bloody toes, scrapes, and bruises could not keep us down as we fought to be the first to 21 points. I still haven't won a game in the four that I've played, but I was within a basket of winning twice this past weekend, and that's good enough for me (for now).
  • Other activities included free Pizza Ranch thanks to the Veldkamps, Church in the state park, volleyball, Burn After Reading (You think that's a Schwinn?!), Entourage during the two 6.5-hour car rides, and Johnsonville brats.

One of the better weekends I've had in a long time.

As far as my summer goals go, not a whole lot has changed.

Lots of exercise in the past week, mostly because of all of the golf/disc-golf/pool ball/volleyball in Sheboygan. I'm feeling more energetic lately, which is most likely a direct result of the increase in activity I've had over the summer.

My cooking hasn't really changed in the past week, but I have added brats to the list of food that I want to learn to cook to perfection. I bought some slightly higher quality steaks last week, and my results with those have been slightly above average (for me). Still a long way to go. I dominate pasta though... so that's good.

My technical projects have been put on hold for the most part. I don't really have any more ideas of things to do with my Arduino right now, but I'll try to get back into that at some point. I'd like to find some cheap motors that I can hook up to it just to see what I can do with that.

Devotions have gone from seldom to nearly non-existant in the last week, and I will be putting in the time this week to get those back on track.

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Political Views: Part One

As I mentioned earlier, I'm going to try to flesh out my political views on several issues. I wish I knew more about the economic issues that we deal with every day, but from what I can tell, no one has a complete handle on that stuff anyway.

My first point of discussion is same-sex marriage.

I can't claim to know all there is to know about this subject either, but I do have a point of view that I've spent quite a lot of time developing. I'm sure there will be people who agree with me and those that don't, but that's what the comments are for!

I feel that this topic can be divided into two different issues. The first is morality. Is same-sex marriage sinful? To me, this is the simple side. As a Christian, I cannot in good conscience say that I think same-sex marriage is OK. I don't think that God intended same-sex marriage for us, and he makes that sufficiently clear in the Bible.

What this doesn't mean though, is that homosexuality is any worse than other sin. Christians have no right condemning homosexuals unless they can honestly say that they do not themselves fall victim to sin themselves. I have little patience for those that put themselves above others, especially when they have their own issues to worry about first.

The other side of the topic is the legal issue. Should same-sex partners be given the same rights as other couples? This is where things get dicey, and I know I don't have it all figured out. In terms of civil rights, Everyone deserves the same rights, regardless of their sexual orientation. Other issues are more complicated. I'm not quite comfortable with the idea of homosexual couples being able to adopt children, because I think having a mother and a father is incredibly important to a child's development.

Another widely debated portion of the same-sex marriage issue is that of financial benefits for partners. It's here where my views may differ from many of those around me. In my opinion, it's not the government's place to decide whether something like this is right or wrong. Therefore, if two individuals want to enter into a relationship where they live as a married couple; sharing their resources and residence, they should be entitled to the same benefits (health insurance, etc.) regardless of their gender and sexual preference. I don't agree with the lifestyle, but I cannot in good conscience deny someone medical care or something of that sort.

I could probably go on, but that's about the extent of my opinion. It all comes down to what our government is in place to do. I don't think anyone wants a government that bases its decisions on its perception of "morality," as everyone has a slightly different opinion of what morality looks like. The role of the government is to protect our rights while allowing us to live our lives as we'd like, while providing services that individuals and corporations might not be able or willing to provide without them (interstate highways, military protection, etc.).

Coming soon, my views on other important issues.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday Progress Report

Due to my realization, albeit slow, that my blog looks incredibly boring, I'm going to try to use some more formatting in my posts to spice it up just a little bit. Someday I may get around to personalizing the entire page, but who knows. Hopefully this breaks up the monotony a little bit.

Great week. Besides things still being a little (read: excruciatingly) slow around the office, I've been finding things to do.
  • Friday I took a "personal day" of sorts. I didn't take the day off from work, but I went to my parents' house afterwards and just hung around by myself all night. The rest of my family is in Nicaragua on a mission trip, so I was home alone. I watched a movie and some Late Night with Conan O'Brien, ate some snacks, and slept for nine hours.
  • Saturday I woke up at what I thought would be 9 o'clock, but I quickly realized it was 10:40. Not wanting to waste the day, I got out of bed, hung around, made some lunch, and watched another movie. I then moved on to some disc golfing, and some other things.
  • Sunday was fantastic. Started the day out with a nice 10 mile bike ride and followed it up with a trip to the beach in the afternoon. I love meeting new people, and had a blast tossing around a frisbee and playing some pretty intense beach volleyball.

Devotions

My devotions have taken a hit in the last week, as I've kept myself busy (not an excuse) right up until bedtime and put them off several times. It's frustrating because it's something I know I need, but I'm not getting as much out of them as I think I should be. I don't feel like I'm learning much, but I need to stick with it. I should probably be making time during a different part of the day to work on that instead of bedtime, but I'm not sure when that would be. Suggestions, hints, or critiques are welcome, as I'm a bit lost in this area.

Just be real

Lately I've been realizing more and more that I do a fantastic job of putting up a facade to show people that I've got it all together. Yada yada, you've heard that speech before, but it's been getting to me a little bit. I'm horrible at being open and honest with people most of the time. I do a lot better job of listening to other people talk about themselves than talking about myself and what's going on in my head, and that's unfortunate. It's something I'm going to try to work on, so hold me to that if you're someone that I talk to on any sort of regular basis. It's not that I'm a different person than people see from the outside, I just don't share as much as I probably should.

Personal project

Over the past few days I spent some time working on a personal project that I think will help out a bunch of people. By "help out" I mean: provide an efficient timewaster, and by "a bunch of people" I mean: statistics nerds who also have a strong love for Michigan Football.

If you know me at all, you probably know I spend a lot of time on mgoblog.com. I tend to show it to people that have limited or no interest in Michigan Football and I usually get a sideways glance and an, "Ok Paul... that's cool..." Anyway, after each game there's a summary of the entire game with analysis of each and every play that took place over the course of the game. I decided that it would be cool to put it into some sort of database that would let you search through that data using any criteria you'd like. I did this, and I documented it on mgoblog here. The Access database is linked to on there, so if you feel inclined to check it out, feel free!

The best part is that while I did the leg-work of getting the data into a manageable format, other blog users who are much better at using/managing databases are using my database and improving upon it to hopefully get something web-based and easy to use for average-joe-fan. Can't wait to see where that goes.

Upcoming events

Lots to be excited about here in the near future:

  • I still need to see Bruno. This is a must. Can't wait.
  • Road trip to Wisconsin '09 takes place this coming weekend. I can't wait for golf, disc golf, pool ball, authentic Johnsonville brats, Pizza Ranch (I hope), and good company. It will be bliss, and it will be hard to get in the car and drive home afterwards.
  • Entourage is back. The first episode was good, but it set up a lot of things that I'm excited for. It's probably not good to be genuinely excited for what's going to happen in a TV show, but it is what it is, get off my back.
  • A friend of mine, has put up a list of songs that drip with the sweet sweet essence of summer. It's long and eclectic, but it's music you probably wouldn't run across on the radio for the most part. Links to each "set" are here, here, here, here, and here. (They're zip files, and can be played immediately upon extraction.) I highly recommend them, and I'm excited to continue working through them myself.

That is all.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wednesday Progress Report

Not much time for discussion; I'm just going to run through the numbers quickly.

1. I cooked quite a lot this past week actually. I did some grilling, which turned out above average for me. Burgers and brats are fantastic, and my next order of business is to learn to do them with some interesting twists. I need to take a stroll down the spices aisle at Meijer sometime and poke around. I also made another steak yesterday. This one was slightly undercooked, but still an improvement over my first two attempts. Next time I buy meat I'm going to bump it up a notch... once I figure out what the notch above sizzler steaks is. Pasta is still by far the easiest thing for me to make, but I need to learn how to make it taste like Pasta-Roni while from scratch. Lots of goals, but I'm improving, and that's the whole point, right?

2. Lots of movement for me in the last week as well. I was dogsitting Wednesday through Sunday, so I had some time to play around with the dog and stay active. I also hit up Maple Hill's driving range, along with a full round of golf at the Rec Center. I played a couple rounds of disc golf to round out my low impact leisure activities for the week. More importantly for my health, I went on bike rides Sunday and today totaling about 16 miles. Not an incredibly large number, but I can definitely feel it in my legs. Gotta keep trying to do that as often as I can.

3. My technology goals have taken a turn from embedded software (sortof) to pure software. I'm playing around with a platform called Adobe Flex, which allows easy creation of Flash-like applications. I've been spending some time on that at work because a) there's not really much else for me to do right now and b) it might be useful there eventually. I'm also working on a pet project to try to parse HTML (specifically a large table) into custom XML, and then hopefully figure out how to load that into a database of some sort. I started on this today, and I've already made some pretty significant progress. It's more complicated than I would have imagined, but nothing my rudimentary C++ skills can't handle.

4. Devos have been good. I'm still chugging away towards my goal of reading the New Testament. I've missed a couple of days recently, so there's definitely room for improvement on that side of things. There's also room for me to work on internalizing everything. I don't always pay as much attention to what I'm reading as I should because I'm just trying to get it done. There's something to be said for taking the time to do the reading, but if I'm not actually taking it in, it doesn't mean much.

I'm realizing that this format is getting a bit bland, and it's probably not all that interesting to most people, so I'm hopefully going to try to shake things up a bit here pretty soon. I'll try to come up with some sort of weekly feature that might be a bit more appealing than my list of "check out what I did this past week" for you readers (all 2 or so of you).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Commands

I claimed in my last post that I was planning on trying to update occasionally with thoughts on my devotional readings. That hasn't really panned out thus far, mostly because I usually read pretty late at night and I don't feel like spending the time on it before bed. Tonight I'm getting an early jump on sleep though, so I can carve out some time.

Several of the last few passages that I've read have been from I Corinthians, Titus, I Peter, and Ephesians. These books are letters, and are full of different commands from the author to his audience. Among them are mandates to be loving, to be pure, and even to disallow women from speaking in Churches. It's passages like these that make me wish I could sit down with a pastor or religion professor or some sort of expert on the Bible and find out exactly what is being asked of modern Christians.

Some commands are easy (in concept). Love. Fair enough. I am supposed to love God and my neighbor. I can live with that. I will fall short of the perfect standard given me, but I can make an honest effort and I can usually figure out what loving God or my neighbor involves.

Other commands are a little trickier. Be pure. Hmm. What exactly does this mean? (You'll notice that this command evokes more questions than statements from me.) I'll admit this is something I've struggled greatly with this for a long time, and I've spent countless nights in prayer trying to figure out how to improve in this area of my life. Lines and boundaries are implied, but not defined concretely. There are black and white areas, but between them is a huge no-mans-land of gray inbetween. How far is too far? What types of media should we be subjecting ourselves to? What should be permissible in conversation? What types of language are acceptable? (See? Questions.)

I think the area of purity is one where God utilizes our conscience. We are given a sense of right and wrong, and we also have the ability to develop it as we grow. Our conscience is able to, or should be able to, tell us when we're toeing the line and when we've jumped across altogether. Sometimes it's just a little nudge that says, "Maybe I shouldn't have said that." Other times it grabs you by the brain stem and squeezes until you hear a buzzer going off in your mind indicating, "Wow, I really shouldn't be doing this right now." Tuning your conscience is harder than it sounds, and it's even harder to act on the messages it's giving you, but it might just be your only method of determining right from wrong.

Finally for tonight, there are the commands that just make no freaking sense. Women can't talk in Church? Huh? Sorry Bible, but that just sounds like something a translator in the middle ages would have thrown in there because his wife was ragging on him to keep his eyes open and listen all throughout the sermon that morning. "See honey, it says right here in THE HOLY BIBLE that women will SHAME THEMSELVES if they talk in Church!" This is where I'd like to get the whole story, straight from the Greek, told by someone who knows what they're talking about. I don't know how this should be interpreted, but I have a hard time believing that God wants us to duct tape every female's mouth shut upon entering a sanctuary. Something to think about at least... maybe I'll do some poking around on the subject when I've got some time.

This has been good. More another time. I'd also like to try to take a few posts to get my political views out in sentence form, but I need some more time to determine exactly what my position is on most of the major topics (abortion, gay marriage, universal healthcare, etc.).

As always, feedback is encouraged. Let me know if you agree with me, or even better if you disagree completely and would like to persuade me that you're right. I'm always up for a good discussion.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Wednesday Progress Report

This past week has been great. Just a quick overview and then on to the numbered list.

First of all, Tyler was in town this weekend, which was awesome. Staying in contact with people when they're out of town isn't exactly easy, and while I think I've stayed up on the important stuff, it was great to catch up again in person. Facebook and an occasional phone call usually doesn't cut it. This is especially true for my friends that are out of town at any given time, but the same goes for my friends in town. I always wish I had more time to spend with them. (Whether that's reciprocated or not, I don't know... maybe I'm being avoided on purpose!) It's tough now, and it'll only get tougher as people start to graduate and people start to head out into the real world. Gotta make the most of it now I suppose.

I spent some time golfing this past weekend and I'm realizing that most of the problems with my game are in my head. I have a hard time concentrating, so that's something I need to practice specifically. I think if I can put in the effort to be able to focus, I'll improve by leaps and bounds. (It's not hard to improve by leaps and bounds after a 53 at Indian Trails.) My driving remains incosistent and my irons only slightly less so. My short game is fundamentally flawed, and will take a lot of work to sort out.

The List:

1. I haven't had much time to cook anything in the past week, but what I have made has been fairly decent. I can't say I've "made progress" but I've at least practiced a little bit.

2. There was more exercise for me in the last week than at any other point during the summer to this point. I'm quite pleased with how much I did, actually. Besides Seadooing, tubing, and skiing on two different occasions and walking 9 holes of golf (alright, putting that under exercise is a teensy stretch, but it's good for you right?), I went for my first bike ride of the summer on Saturday as well. It was only 6.5 miles, the loop around Reeds Lake, but it was a good start. I've got some new handlebar tape coming in the mail, hopefully today, so maybe the bright royal blue accents will entice me to take more rides.

3. I haven't touched my Arduino in the past week, but I've had quite a bit of time at work to poke around into some languages and platforms that I haven't been exposed to before. I took a look at Ruby yesterday, and just barely tried Python today. It's a little frustrating, because I don't understand all of the back-end stuff that's going on, so it's tough for me to get my PC set up to the point where I can actually use some code. Setting up SDKs and using web servers aren't exactly in my repertoire at this point, so my experience is pretty limited. The extent of my learning for any given language is usually using and assigning variables, manipulating strings, and possibly a little bit of i/o.

Sometime during the rest of this week I want to download and install Adobe Flex Builder on my personal laptop so I can try that out. It's a platform designed for creating rich web applications that can be implemented easily, so that would be interesting.

4. I missed a few days of devotions over the weekend, but started back up by reading Titus last night. It's a strange little book, in the sense that it's just a quick letter, but it makes some pretty good points. Paul gives a description of what an elder must be in the Church, and it applies to Christians in general as well:

7Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. 8Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. 9He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

That's pretty convicting for me. I don't fit that description most of the time, if ever, and it's frustrating. I need to be more proactive about being honest with myself and finding places where I fall short and deliberately putting effort in to fix them. I may or may not post about that kind of thing in the future, but we'll see.

So to wrap up, it's been a good week, and tonight I start house/dog sitting for my Aunt and Uncle, so that should be a pretty good time. Only one more day of work before the long weekend!