Ferrous Wheel

image of a ferrous wheel - a Ferris wheel made of iron (Fe) and a non-ferrous wheel - a Ferris wheel made of aluminum (Al), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn), tungsten (W), mercury (Hg), and silver (Ag).

Next up, a ferrets wheel. Or maybe a Paris wheel.

only the gold and the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin and the lead,

Numbers 31:22

Crying Wolf

There once was an IT manager who tended the computers at a business on the outskirts of town. He was bored, because things were running just fine.

To amuse himself, he sent out a company-wide email that said “Critical Security Issue: all employees must change their passwords immediately. Every password must be at least 8 characters long and contain at least one uppercase letter, one lowercase letter, and one number.”

The employees scrambled to comply with the new directive. To those who asked if it was critical because passwords had been stolen or compromised, he replied with a laugh, “It is in keeping with industry best practice!”

“Don’t cry ‘critical security issue’ if it’s not critical,” the employees said as they slammed the door behind them.


The next week, the IT manager was bored again.

To amuse himself, he sent out a company-wide email that said “Critical Security Issue: All employees must use Internet Explorer only. Any other browsers (Firefox, Chrome, and others) will be automatically uninstalled.”

The employees scrambled to comply with the new directive, and to understand it. To those who asked if it was critical, he replied with a laugh, “It’s in the best interest of the corporate network to reduce security holes.”

“Don’t cry ‘critical security issue’ if it’s not critical,” the employees said as they slammed the door behind them. “And why choose IE as the preferred, no – required, browser if the goal is to reduce security flaws?” they employees wondered, to no avail.


The next week, someone outside the company had posted financial documents that were not yet published, and the IT manager could see there was a lot of unusual network activity occurring.

The IT sent out an urgent company-wide email that said “Critical Security Issue: All employees must disconnect their computers from the network due to a security breach.”

The employees didn’t even see the email, since they had all setup a filtering rule in their email software so that anything from the IT manager went straight into the virtual trash can.

The IT manager noticed there was no effect on the network activity, so he shut down the servers and took everyone offline. The employees, being the resourceful creatures that they were, enabled their phones’ internet sharing capabilities and worked off that, or left for a coffee shop, or went home and worked remotely – all the while keeping their work laptops connected to the internet. The IT manager sat helplessly as all the company secrets flowed into the public.


The next day, the big shots called the IT manager into their offices, wanting to know why all their files were gone.
“Didn’t you read my email about logging off yesterday?”
“No, your emails full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
“But that one yesterday was important.”
“Corporate policy states that email communication must be professional and accurate. Labeling everything as ‘critical security issue’ doesn’t strike us as accurate.”

Since the company had to spend a lot of money on the subsequent damage control and lawyers, it didn’t have enough room in the budget for the IT manager. He was laid off, but eventually found a job as a headline writer for a major news outlet.

The End.

He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.

John 10:12

Parenting Caution

Kids learn language easily. The parent asks “Do you want to eat?” and, soon after, food appears. The child learns that eat or food means the end of his hunger.

Same thing with drink and his thirst. And so on.

But then there are some more complex or vague concepts that they don’t always catch. Sometimes, the parent needs to explain what he means. Otherwise, the child’s way of learning language – associating a feeling or result with the word or phrase uttered just before that – might not work.

For example, the phrase Be Careful.

As a parent, you should never say that phrase. Instead, say something specific. What, exactly, do you want your child to do or not do?

Here is an illustration of why be careful is ineffective.

image of a parent saying be careful and the child hearing what you are doing is fun

If you, as a parent, always say “Be careful!” when your risk-loving child is about to do something risky, he will interpret that phrase as meaning “what you are about to do is fun and thrilling!”.

Heed instruction and be wise, And do not neglect it.

Proverbs 8:33

Vacation Recap, Minnesota, Part II

Day 4

Church in the morning, then some downtime inside due to rain.

photo of a rain-soaked window look out at a lake

I think the boys watched some car racing on TV and read.

After lunch though, the sun came back out and the boys went fishing.

photo of boys fishing off a dock

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Vacation Recap, Minnesota, Part I

We took a long weekend to visit relatives in central Minnesota.

Day 1

Get to Chicago. Nothing fancy here.

Stayed at a Hyatt Place because I thought Hyatts were supposed to be nice. It was okay, but we we not impressed. In fact, we were so unimpressed that we cancelled our reservation for the trip back. There wasn’t anything necessarily wrong, other than the carpet in our room looked dirty.

But that’s what turned my wife against the hotel. In the morning, just before we were checking out, she stopped at the front desk to let them know the carpet looked bad. The guy at the front desk told her two things: “That’s not the room you were assigned at booking.” and “If you had let us know earlier, we could have given you a different room.” He was defensive and hostile, which is a bad tone for someone in the hospitality industry. The main reason why we felt like switching hotels was his first statement. He never asked for her name or room number, and he never touched his computer. How did he know what room we were in and what room we were originally assigned? He didn’t. He was just trying excuses.

Day 2

Leaving Chicago took longer than expected. I-90 was under construction for all of Illinois, so instead of going around 70 MPH, we spent our morning going 40 MPH. For about 50 miles. They didn’t have enough crews and equipment to work on 50 miles of road at once. Rather than break the huge job into manageable sections and close only as much road as they can work on at once, they shifted traffic over, tore up all 50 miles of road, and now are rebuilding the road – presumably waiting to reopen any lanes until the whole thing is done.

We were going to stop for lunch in Eau Claire, but we made worse time than we had expected so we stopped for lunch in Wisconsin Dells – Buffalo Phil’s, which the kids had fondly remembered from our trip there a few years ago.
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Summer Book Thingy, 2014

Summer is about over, which means my window for reading books is closed. So it is time for me to review the books I read and let you know what I thought of them.

Here they are, approximately in the order that I read them. Note: I noticed that all the books published before the year 2000 had authors with initials: G.K., C.S., H.G. I don’t know what that signifies, but it was interesting.

  • Tentacle by Roland Smith
    This was an incomplete book – it needs the rest of the trilogy to be satisfying.

    It is book 2 of a trilogy. To put it another way, it is the middle section of one long story that has been split into 3 books for marketing purposes.

    I read it because Alpha checked it out of the library and I wanted to know what he was reading.

    The book looks to be a sea monster type of book, for the book cover shows a huge tentacle reaching out of the ocean. It seemed to convey “horror story” with that illustration, so I approached the book warily.

    The cover was slightly misleading, as the story involves the search for the giant squid, not a squid who terrorizes boats and beach-goers.

    The story was fine, although the beginning part mentions a severed human head. I thought that was a bit rough for a 4th/5th grader to be reading, but then I considered it a bit more:

    Would I have any problem if he were reading Treasure Island instead?
    No, no problem.
    Could I reasonably expect there might be a severed head in that story, or maybe other depictions of harm?
    Yes, that would not be out of place.
    So then, “severed head” is okay in classic literature but not okay in newer stories?
    Yes, I suppose so.

    So in the end, I had to admit to myself that it should not be a problem.

    I’d say 3rd grade on up is fine for this series. But if your child is interested in this series, try the old Tom Swift series first.

  • Peak by Roland Smith
    Apparently my son was on a Roland Smith kick, because he checked this one out too. So I read it.

    It was an engaging story, but with some questionable items.

    The phrase “I was conceived” occurred near the beginning of the story. Why it’s in the book is one thing, why the mom of the 14-year-old in the story felt the need to tell him where he was conceived is another matter. Not everyone needs to know everything there is to know.

    I guess that was my biggest issue with the book. Most of the rest of it was about mountain climbing.

    Also, do any protagonist kids in any current books come from intact families?

    Ages 10 and up.

  • Why Gender Matters by Dr. Leonard Sax
    The only non-fiction book in my list. If you are involved in parenting or education, you should read this book. There are a couple of chapters that could be skipped, but the chapter titles are clear enough so that you won’t be surprised by the content.

    Really, you should read this book.

    Not a book for kids.

  • The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
    Ah, the final installment of the Flavia de Luce series.

    Of the 6 books in the series, this was one of the better-told stories.

    That being said, I noted a couple. One, the book mentions that glass is a liquid. Two, the book mentions dripping coming from melting dry ice.

    It is a common misperception that glass is a liquid. In any other type of book, I could gloss over that. But this is a book whose protagonist is an expert chemist. Maybe Mr. Bradley wrote the book too authentically, using the prevailing knowledge of the day (1950s) rather than today.

    And as far as dry ice melting and dripping, that’s even worse for a book that describes chemistry so well. Maybe Mr. Bradley meant that when the dry ice warmed, the objects it was keeping frozen started to thaw and water dripped from them. Because dry ice doesn’t melt. It sublimes. Or sublimates. Goes straight from solid to gas.

    The book has a solid ending, a definite conclusion. It leaves a crack open for another series, but just barely.

    My problem with the ending was that
    Spoiler Alert
    people other than Flavia solved the mystery just ahead of her. In the other books, Flavia solved the mystery first and then we got a chapter or so of her explaining to the investigators how she did it.

    In this case, the investigators and police solve it (Flavia does too, independently, but not before the others) but we never get an explanation of how they solved it. We know how Flavia solved it, because that was described in the story. Oh well.
    End Spoiler Alert

    Not a book for kids. Teens maybe.

  • The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
    I had heard great things about this book, so I started with high expectations (not Great Expectations, as that would be confusing). And perhaps that’s why I found this book disappointing.

    I didn’t have a problem with the writing or with most of the story. It was the ending chapters that lost me. They didn’t make sense. I mean I understood the words I was reading and what was happening, but I got the impression it was an allegory for Something Deep and Profound and I wasn’t catching on like I should. In other words, it ceased to be entertaining and began being confusing.

    And then, at the very end, it was all for naught.

    I don’t know – high school and up?

  • Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis
    I had heard great things about this book, so I started with high expectations (not Great Expectations, as that would be confusing). And perhaps that’s why I found this book disappointing.

    I didn’t have a problem with the writing or with most of the story. It was the ending chapters that lost me. They didn’t make sense. I mean I understood the words I was reading and what was happening, but I got the impression it was an allegory for Something Deep and Profound and I wasn’t catching on like I should. In other words, it ceased to be entertaining and began being confusing.

    Yes, I copied and pasted this review from the previous review. Because they both had the same effect on me. My recommendation is to read Book 1 of Till We Have Faces and skip Book 2. If you’ve seen the musical Into the Woods, it’s like that. Watch the first half, and leave at intermission – you’ll be much happier that way.

  • War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
    I read this only because Alpha picked it up at a book sale and was reading it. Being a classic, it should have been fine for him, so I didn’t read it until after he did. He liked it so much he went to the library and checked out a collection of 7 books by H.G. Wells.

    There are some depictions of violence and mayhem, so ages 10 and up maybe, depending on your child’s sensitivities. Do not give this book to a child who is prone to nightmares. But Alpha has never complained of having nightmares I guess we’re good.

  • The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
    Based on some reviews of this book and what I remember of the previews of the movie that was made some years back, I was expecting this one to be a bit more terrifying than War of the Worlds.

    But it was not.

    The descriptions of violence are a little more graphic, but they involve animals instead of humans, so the overall squeamishness level is about the same.

    If your child can handle War of the Worlds, he can handle this book.

But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed,

2 Peter 2:12

Parenting Advice

I recall some of the parenting advice I read before I had kids. One particular piece of advice was “Make your kids feel more involved in the family by allowing them to make some decisions.

At first glance, it seemed reasonable enough: let them make some unimportant decisions, such as what color shirt to wear, etc. and they’ll be happier. I don’t know if people are still dispensing that advice, as I haven’t been paying attention to the baby and toddler stuff much anymore.

It might work for some people, but be very careful with it. Limit the decisions.

Your job as a parent is to be in charge.

Your child’s job is not to be in charge.

Who is in charge? The person making the decisions. Each decision you let your child make reduces your authority. That is not what you want.

And the more decisions the child makes, the more decision the child expects to get to make. Do you as a parent want the child to think that he gets to provide his input on any decision or matter? If you go overboard on allowing your child to make decisions, you will be frustrated by a child who thinks that everything is negotiable.

You don’t want to turn your adult child out into the world with no decision-making experience, so I’m not saying never ask for your child’s input. But start it when they are ready for responsibility, maybe late grade school. Otherwise you’ll be arguing with your kids. “Alright, 8:00, time for bed.” “But I want to go to bed at 9:00.” “I didn’t ask what you wanted, I said it’s bedtime.” Oh, but you did ask what he wanted. Maybe not this time, but many times before. He is used to your asking what he wants, why should this decision be any different?

When the child is young, explain why he gets to make this decision. “Okay, it’s your birthday, so you get to choose the dessert.” That way he knows that his getting to make a decision is a special event, not a common occurrence.

Going back to the original premise: if kids don’t get to make decisions, then how will they feel like they belong in the family?

By being part of the family.

By doing things the family does.

By having things expected of him.

By having parents who care for him.

Which child is going to feel more involved in the family: the one who gets to decide what he has for dinner that night, or the one whose parent reads him a book at bedtime?

Spend time with your child, have conversations with your child, do things with your child. But don’t feel like you need to abdicate your decision making to him.

Listen, my son, and be wise, And direct your heart in the way.

Proverbs 23:19