Reaping from Keeping with my Own Peeping

For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.  (2 Thess. 3:11, 12, ESV)

As was discussed yesterday, I was convicted (by Scripture!) that any learning (especially on secular topics), does not need to be matched to any other set of sources.  I’ve basically been, well, a busybody here.  So I’ve come to terms with the idea:  Let others research their way and do the same your way.

And, bar none, I have reaped many benefits of such.  I learned things far beyond what was in the Britannica!

In days past (when encyclopedias were more valued) libraries juxtaposed them with other sources (both reference and circulating), optimizing available knowledge.  Just like today’s Google.

Remember, my perspective on technology lies both in the 20th and 21st centuries.  Some things of the latter I like, others I would rather prefer from the last century.  Believe it or not, whatever its content, any print Britannica is fine, and may even find it unnecessary to keep the online and/or the DVD forms.  Any knowledge developed over the years can easily be updated, through yes, the Web!

And, in case you were wondering, the second portion of the verse above, refers not only in self-study (an existing — and and always persisting — pastime), but an actual job (and “living,” namely, to get paid), and thus wherever God leads me.  (But remember, after all, in NT times there were no universities or degrees!). And being “quiet” about such matters is to buck up and do whatever work that you are intending to do, not dawdling to draw parallels or competition.  (Of course, in the economy, business stands and falls on competition, but that’s a different story). It also, somewhat prophetically for the 20th and 21st centuries, bears the application of keeping within your own (sub-)specialty of a field and not crossing into others.

Americans:  remember those commercials for Delta Dental several years ago?  It emphasized doing one thing and being good at it.  It’s not the exact principle of this, for I do like to explore topics unrelated to what my main area of expertise is.  But I’d keep it casual; the web (or sources like Britannica) are prime examples.


Cyber-Coveting of Knowledge

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you; and covetousness, which is idolatry.  (Col 3:5 ESV, my emphasis)

Well, even if I really enjoyed something, I still often want more.

The principal example involves encyclopedias, preferably the now-out-of-print Encyclopedia Britannica.  Also with their CD/DVD options gone, all they have is the internet.  But since I have all three of them (and the DVD and internet very similar, I have some quality info on our side.

Now here’s the catch:  In an internet dominated world, encyclopedias have been all but pulled off from reference shelves.  But I’ve been a little nosey here.  I seem to seek a equivalent pathway, tracking what elese may match a source’s content, just to see what others may see on the same topic.

Well, everyone has different research needs for the same thing.  Look at the folllowing passage from 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (ESV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and[c] we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.  But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

While money and material goods are not evil in themselves, such issues shows that Jesus, in his Parable of the Sower, “riches can be deceitful.”  This is true especially when you sell things, but that’s a different story.

Back to my situation:  Not only that everyone’s search needs are different, one’s “Googling” is none of another “Googler’s” business.  So rather than get into competititon between what sources I have and what’s available to others, it’s best just to “count your blessings” and when exploring for more, be content on that you can find, and treasure that.  Metaphorically, that is a new car among many used ones.

Also, the idolatry here is that of knowledge.  As individuals, no person is a clone concerning interest.  It won’t work, so let it be.

This does not rule out sharing knowledge with others. I can by all means benefit ohers with such a tactic.  But I can hereby say that it’s not my job to be speculate on others’ research inquiries to get the “same results.”  It’s not logical, it’s not ethical, it’s not practical, it’s not, well you get the idea, to do such “speculative searching” online

How to Make Non-Fiction Reading Productive and Fun

Most people don’t have photographic memories, so we must face it.  Nonfiction books aren’t there to be memorized verbatim.  They’re about concepts, not minute details.

Such details come in countless varieties:  names, dates, places, you name it.  Also, there are forms pertaining to particular fields.  Examples of scientific cases should be treated less seriously than the overall scientific ideas themselves.  For example, in a Britannica article on vision across the animal kingdom, I do my best to extract the key principles, using a Macintosh note taking tool.  Also, tools like highlighters (to be used only on your own printouts/copies!), are of avail.  Unimportant details, just to give examples, are such things as animals that may bear a structure or function to work in their habitat, or mathematical reasoning or equations.  My ultimate goal in researching topics of any kind  is to obtain a “take-home message” (of course, I’m typically already at home, but you most likely get the metaphor).

And some sources are just not for everybody.  Some are too easy for one, others too hard, still others not satisfying.  I typically use Britannica (and is wonderfully sufficient for me), though I am not endorsing nor condemning it and I leave it up to you to decide which are the best resources for you.

In any case, you could tediously memorize an entire unit of text, whether a paragraph, chapter, or entire book.  But I’d prefer just to understand a book or other source of info yielding a take-home message.  While the existing knowledge quantity grows, the capacity of the inquiring mind does not.  So don’t be too tenacious about learning.  It may backfire.

The Price is Wrong

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Mat 6:24, ESV)

Greed.  People, especially Americans, too often develop an insatiable appetite for it.  And one daytime show has always celebrated filthy lucre on American TV, for 45 years and counting.  That show is none other than “The Price is Right,” a late-morning staple on the CBS television network since 1972, which serves the US, both in the eras of radio and TV, and has been a leader in ratings (which also have a greedy connection, but that’s for another post).  It has also aired on the other two major US networks (NBC and ABC).  But their power had nothing like CBS has had.


First, when the show opens, four contestants are called to “Contestants’ Row.”  They are presented an item to bid on.  (This “bidding” is quite different than that at auctions, also for another post.)  Whoever has the highest bid among the four without going over the actual retail price.  If all four go over, they try again.  One strategy that contestants use is to bid a mere dollar, the ultimate way to avoid overbidding, which will work if the other three have overbid.  The winner of that item then is in for more, using a “pricing game.”  There are a truckload of them, but their central aim is to get prizes (two of their major prizes are cars and trips, and an occasional money game.)  There are three pricing games.  After each game, another contestant is called to fill in the missing seat.  Even if you lose, you still are entitled to “Showcase Showdown,” when you spin a wheel, which in itself can give you cash occasionally.  The wheel must not go over $1.00, but as close as possible.  The entire cycle repeats: bids, pricing games, and then the second showdown.

The “Showcase”

The climax of the game is known as the showcase.  This gives two contestants from the game (one of which is the “winner,” which I think is the one closer to the dollar in the showdowns.). The showcase is a complex of prizes, often with a theme.  When one of the two views the showcase, s/he can decide to bid or pass.  Now if you bid, the next contestant is stuck with the other prize, and you the originally designated one.  If you pass, the other contestant is stuck with your prize, and what s/he would have bid on is now yours, and you can’t get away with it.  The winner also has a privilege:  if the difference between the actual price and his or her bid is less than a certain amount, you’ll win both showcases.

So this double showcase winner, euphoric as he may be, combined with all the different prizes he has accrued, I assume he will be terribly miserable in just a few short weeks.  Alas, it’s a luck of the draw.  It’s your problem now.


You can see Satan’s cunning schemes here, can’t you?  Joy does not come from physical property.  It is part of the “fruit of the Spirit” that Christians enjoy.  Sure, you can enjoy the physical items for their purpose, but you must remember we are nothing without God.  So I think it may be time for “The Price is Right” to bid farewell (pun intended) to the airwaves.  And yes, keep a low profile in the Los Angeles metro.

If I were you and seriously couldn’t do anything but watch TV at 11:00 AM (when the Price is Right airs), try ABC’s the View, a talk show that makes controversial topics (e.g., politics) funny, or whatever NBC offers in your area.  And don’t forget cable/satellite, if you have it.  The new over-the-air “bonus” channels offer programs of all kinds (which rival cable’s heyday), often annexed to traditional stations.

Okay, I’ve Had It With Textbooks Used as Self-Study Aids!

The text on invertebrates is (physically and mentally) falling apart, not to mention my tendency against regular order in reading textbooks “for fun” as well as factors in past posts.

I’m not condemning college texts themselves.  They serve as the compass for college (or other) instruction.  But they certainly aren’t light reading, and certainly things you wouldn’t take to the beach.  Moreover, essentially being scholastic course manuals, they are to be read in order, or how your professor would organize it.  He may even add important topics not included!  But without a course to follow it?  It’s just like oil and water!

And yes, there are alternatives.  General-subject encyclopedias, like the immortal Encyclopedia Britannica as well as specialized ones (in this case, a single main subject yet geared to the lay public), let you pick and choose what you want to learn.  Confused on a topic?  Cross-reference! And with today’s Internet technology, that is a simple as a click.  Many of them, if not in print, are unfortunately either part of your county library system, or your own bill.

While textbooks, on the other hand, give a more thorough understanding of an entire subject, and do walk you through the subject in sequence, may not always provide you with the appropriate breadth and/or depth you are seeking.  From a perspective of a textbook, if you are strictly looking for a given topic, for instance, transpiration, you may be perplexed due to inadequate knowledge on plant vascular structure.  And due to the fact they intend such a book for students, the author will put substantial detail that is not-so-practical to your “average Joe”

And of course, there’s Google.  But you must be prudent, especially when it comes to the site’s domain.  “.edu” and “.gov” are the best, “.org” can be iffy (after all, Wikipedia uses such a domain), and “.com,” while generally suspicious, can have nice morsels of fact.  There are exceptions to all.

So entire textbooks may not be the best way.  But I am fervent for learning, always have been and always will be.  After all, since much of your knowledge in college becomes useless, perhaps except for a relevant course or two for your current job, you’ll likely forget most of it.

The next post will be a sequel to this.  Until then, enjoy any learning you may encounter for its process — and product.

Some Ways To Power Your Learning Potential

Here are some interesting ways that you can learn things quicker, and sharper.  Indeed, it attests to the modern theory of “neuroplasticity,” which is very comforting, for even as brain cells die (at least from what I’ve heard) they can re-route easily.  Moreover, in the real world, people young and old alike can learn by awesome tricks.

One method is known as the mnemonic.  For example, “HOMES” represents the Great Lakes of North America (i.e., Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior).  Another is “Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally,” namely, the order of math operations, comprising parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction.  Mnemonics are everywhere, and can even be cleverly invented.

Moreover, an even more powerful memory trick is to associate concepts using a “bridge.”  This is known as associative learning, and the method is known as conditioning.  In fact, this can be used just as appropriately (and perhaps more so) on behavioral research.  You may have heard of Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov’s immortal experiment on the dog that connected a two-step process into one (i.e., the dog no longer needs the powdered meat for a salivation response, as it has been overridden by a bell, which was earlier rung almost simultaneously, and now the bell is sufficient).

To place this concept in the human race, I will give you a few facts I know by using this method (and perhaps any close kin):

-Muhammad, the top Islamic prophet, was born in AD 570.  I know this thanks to a Pennsylvania telephone area code.  See?  That’s the power of associationfor Muhammad had nothing to do with phones or Pennsylvania.
-The very date (May 18th) of writing this post in 1980 was when the first “true” eruption of Washington State’s Mt. St. Helens.  Its dress rehearsal, a steam eruption, was actually on my birthday (March 27th) that same year.  (I was not born until 1988, not to mention I live on the US East Coast).
-When dialing phone numbers (and to help memorize them), I dissect them into the three parts:  area code, exchange (the first three digits of the phone number proper), and the last four digits, a number of ways can be useful (no pun intended).  Among them are the geometric pattern your finger traverses on the keypad, or comparing actual numeric details such as digit order, etc.  Of course, this is the case only in the US, Canada, and most Caribbean islands.
-Same thing with any scholastic procedure, whether through the grades, in college, grad school, whatever, one level is preparing you for the next, often known as a prerequisite.

There are also many reverse cases, wherein knowledge learned elsewhere may have a golden opportunity for application.  Especially in fiction.

-A few years ago, on the long-running American TV crime drama “CSI:  Crime Scene Investigation” (2000-2015)  In one scene of an episode I noticed the mention of an opening in the rear eye socket.  This right there, shows you that you’ll never know when an application of a previous fact may sneak out at you.
The Genesis Code, a novel I am trying to read but have been displaced from (as it is with many books) involves a Roman Catholic office in the Vatican, which is a remnant of the atrocious Inquisition many centuries ago.
Eaters of the Dead, by the late, great Michael Crichton concerns Arab encounters with the Swedish Vikings.  (Crichton’s overall style is quite compatible with the scientifically-conscious, including me.)

One more comment I should make is that even if you are encountering the same facts you have before, with knowledge input between then and now, it can truly enrich the original knowledge.  Yet, more than anything else, this dynamic concerns Christians and the Bible, especially because its intent is more than information, but transformation.  In other words, not just knowledge, but wisdom.

I could go on and on, but, long story short, using your existing knowledge, you can easily enrich and compound on it.  And as everyone’s situation is different (e.g., intelligence, age, areas of expertise), be kind to help others depending on their needs.  This includes controlling breadth and depth to keep them interested.

“Long live MacGyver”

Reference Nostalgia

Generations before the Millennials may remember striving diligently through library materials, such as encyclopedias, atlases, almanacs, etc., especially for school projects.  Unfortunately, this diligence has surrendered to convenience.  The wave came first through computer software, then through the internet.  And as many have tried to “surf” the web, rip tides are inevitable.

Let’s start with Google.  It has been synonymous for quite sometime with searching the web.  Or maybe even searching, period.  In any case, let the searcher beware.

And now you have an “encyclopedia,” known as Wikipedia, which, being a public entity in which people try to look things up, there is little or no assurance of scholarly backup.  Sure, the sources in the references may be scholarly.  And there are varying differences of technicality among Wikipedia articles.  But the contributors (read:  writers) are responsible for what goes in and out of it (along with a few “bots”).  And, whether you consider it a blessing or a curse, articles constantly change!

Alas, I must confess, I am prone to using Wikipedia myself.  Therefore, I want to avoid preaching about it, but just follow your heart.  Besides, in scholastic situations, instructors advise their students not to use it (or any encyclopedia) for projects assigned.

Ok, moving on.  Yesterday I felt I had the dilemma of keeping either the print set (1981, though most content seems to been written in, say, the early 70s), and the more modern computer program (2012). But since they work as a team, there really was no “dilemma” to begin with!  Some libraries, in fact, may retain multiple editions of a reference source.  Though in the 21st century, many libraries have purged much of their reference material.

And there is much potential in that.  Back to Google (or any of its rivals, e.g. Bing), you can get even more content.  Or if you prefer print, consult a number of references.  Or even websites!  See, there is a good element to the web.  It just requires wisdom.

Until you’re satisfied with a topic, the more references, the merrier.  Think of them as a team, whether separate works and/or different editions of one work. And if you’re totally puzzled in one source, try another.  Variety is the spice of life, as they say.