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.

Procedure

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.

Conclusion/Advice

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.

Glorifying God in All Fields of Work

Before I discuss this question, I must admit at a church I attended in the summer of 2015 had an incredible (and indelible) sermon series.  It was right on target for my career situation, both then and now.

Overall, it discussed the truth of work and keeping away from having too ambitious of an attitude toward it.  In other words, if someone wishes to “change the world,” a hope for such a breakthrough is totally in God’s hands.  Thus, the likelihood of such a change tends to be slim.  So, we must think in terms of “baby steps,” no matter what our careers entail.

The bottom line is whatever you do, you should do it to God’s glory, and with the spirit of Christian love.  This applies to all careers, from truck drivers to doctors.  (This does not mean you should deal strictly with Christians, because, likewise, their salvation is personal.)

Fast forward 2 years for the meat and potatoes.  While I am (and have been) a Biology major hopeful, I recently thought there was no jobs that fit the bill.  Well, things have changed, and things are looking brighter.

That radical change of heart concerned the various positions of cell and molecular biology, the dominant field today.  Previously, I was cynical toward that, since I thought such research was an excuse to prolong life as well as to eradicate certain diseases, and hence make the world more “worldly.”  (Of course, on earth, just because we cure everything that exists doesn’t make death any less inevitable.)

But the good side of such scientific progress is that 1) extension of the average life expectancy gives time more for better Gospel reception 2) it won’t make anything more “sacred” to target the “worldliness” mentioned above; of course, this earth is worldly by definition, and people may or may not receive the Gospel (this depends on God’s will) 3)  Over the past few centuries we have made great strides, so why stop them now?  Such serious diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer are apparently far more formidable than such ailments like polio, measles, etc., which can be addressed by certain vaccines and similar barriers.  Not to mention, all this is done for the good of people like me and you, as Phil 2:3, 4 advocates, whether as a true biologist, a biology technician, or similar occupation.

So, should I pursue such a career?  Well, in any case, the Bible is the central source of wisdom for Christians, and that is my guide.  Prayer is welcome as well, from wherever your neck of the woods may be.

No matter what your job is, as long as it is done to God’s glory, renders work as worship.  AMEN

The Worth of One’s Knowledge Base

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.  (Prov 1:7, ESV)

Unbelievers, while being just as able as believers to obtain knowledge, do not thoroughly understand what something means in the long run.  Based on this, Christians have a higher purpose for this, as cited in Phil 2:4 (ESV):

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Fundamentally, we can all use our knowledge bases for the common good, and to advance the kingdom of God.  Whatever your area of expertise is, there is somewhere you can fulfill the needs and demands of whom you serve.

On a personal level, knowledge compounds and inter-plays with previously learned knowledge prior to the newer information.  Whether its a mere pronunciation difference or a topic that builds on something you learned 20 years ago (making for a great review LOL), knowledge is always useful to some extent.

But first of all, let’s discuss what this thing called “wisdom.”  Basically, it is living within God’s parameters of earthly existence to survive and thrive.  This is not the same as actual “earthly” wisdom.  James describes the difference like this:

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13-18)

“Heavenly” wisdom comes only through the Holy Spirit, through prayer, Scripture reading, preaching, and other means of grace.  Thus Christians have a fuller awareness of doing what is best as their clock on earth ticks.

And as in all things, moderation.  Ecclesiastes (a Biblical wisdom book, which, like Proverbs, is attributed to Solomon) illustrates when you should draw the line on certain things, such as pleasure, work, and learning.  Yes, we share this terrestrial ball.  But not forever.  So while you should enjoy things on this earth, don’t get too absorbed in them.  For example, Eccl. 12:12 puts secular study like this:

Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Learning is good, and is something we do whether we like it or not.  But if you study with selfish ambition, that is basically folly.  Yet when done in moderation (as with all your tasks), understanding our natural world (or any other area(s) of knowledge) can bear great benefit.  By the way, since Solomon’s time, “books” have met their rival distant cousin: the Internet.  Gutenberg sure helped, though.

Wow, now we have made a bridge between a number of areas of thought!  Would you like to buy it?  (It’s far cheaper than Brooklyn’s for sure!)

Teach What You’ve Just Learned

At CCP, I am doing a public speaking class.  While I am near flunking this course, I have learned some valuable tips and tricks to use to present facts, for the good of both speaker and listener.

When I endeavor to learn material with substantial, if not overwhelming, detail (for example, stuff from Cronodon), a few reads and especially a pleasant “lecture” with a friend, can power learning.

  1.  Read the material until you have a “working” comprehension of the material.
  2. Copy various ideas, whether small details or major facts, onto index cards.
  3. Practice a little by speaking, first in your own mind, then to your listener(s)

It is also good to test yourself on your newly-acquired knowledge.  So by teaching others and testing yourself on this material, you’ll get a grasp on whatever information that is second to none!