Episode 92: Faith in the Marketplace – John Venhuizen, president of Ace Hardware

You may have heard that businesses like Chick-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby (among others) were founded by Christians, but believe it or not, Ace Hardware is run by one as well.  And Ace Hardware has never had moral controversies!

If you get a chance, listen to this roughly 40-minute podcast for details.

Source: Episode 92: Faith in the Marketplace – John Venhuizen, president of Ace Hardware

How the VHS-Beta “Format Wars” Had a Clear Winner (and Why It Matters Today)

While we did not get a Beta VCR until 1986 (and bought a VHS unit just a week into 1991, according to its invoice), Beta (also called Betamax) was almost on its deathbed when we obtained our unit.  I was born two years after the purchase of the Beta unit.  We had many old tapes, which contained items mostly from 1986 to 1990.

Believe it or not, VCRs of either format weren’t originally meant to pile up programs on tape and lay them aside for years and years.  They were simply intended to record in order to watch them later.  Once you watch them, they could be nixed by an overriding recording.

So what killed the Beta format?  In a nutshell, it was Sony’s preoccupation with perfection.  Sony invented Betamax in 1975, and was focused on getting the best picture and sound possible.  When VHS came out in 1976, it appeared to be a thriftier and more efficient option.  Beta had three speeds Beta-I (1 1/2 hr), Beta-II (3 hr), and Beta-III (4 1/2 hr).   But this was based on a later tape length.  These time periods were all shorter with the original form of Beta tape.  Beta-I was so brief that Sony decided to remove it in 1979.  Yet many units had a rear-end switch in which one could change it, but with little regard (as it was meant to be!  Now that’s a gimmick!) VHS, at its typical tape length, could be 2, 4, or 6 hours, marked as SP, LP, and SLP (aka EP).

Perhaps the biggest issue wasn’t the time that elapsed, but quality of either format.  Many people thought Beta was the leader among the two, but honestly, neither were perfect.  Head to head comparisons of the two formats.  VHS was grainier, whereas Beta had shakier colors and borders.  Beta might have had a better sound, but it could have been a draw for all I care.

Generally, people want less of a bad thing rather than more of a good thing.  Beta did the latter, as they just kept daring to defy.  VHS had a very no-nonsense approach to be good enough to satisfy the needs of customers then, and for long after (i.e., the 90’s).  Beta manufacturers just wanted more frills.

The narrator of this video, like you, may feel it was quite strange to name such an ambitious platform “beta.”   Usually, beta means “second-best.”  So could a name like “Alpha” fit the bill better?  In the late 80s Sony surrendered to VHS, so may Beta really deserved a name as such.  Also, Sony’s DVD players now also play Blu-Rays.  So was it really worth it to be the leader of a long-running rival (Beta, which in fact a few other companies made as well.)

For more on this, check the videos above.  Now that both the formats have had their demise, treat it as a little tech time travel.

Flow Chart Evangelism

I did some study of the OT book of Ezekiel. And I was extracting the theme of the Christian responsibility of “sharing the Good News.”

But an even more ingenious addition to Bible studies is the concept of flow charts. While they are a secular tool and are generally used in software development, flow charts are a reasoning aid that can helps organizing Scripture study, especially when observing multiple decisions.

Alright, back to Ezekiel. God commanded Ezekiel to warn the people of the sin they commit. Here’s the lineup:

1). No warning, no change among the people–Ezekiel will be held responsible for their judgment

2). Warning, no change–sinners will be judged, but Ezekiel is not responsible for such.

3). Warning, repentance–both Ezekiel and the public are safe.

If made into a flow chart, you can get a visual to help you grasp the idea. This is useful for me and other brothers and sisters in the Lord who are mainly visual learners. And no worries if you don’t know about flow charts. You can organize Scripture understanding when you study your Bible using any method appropriate.

Remember, I’m not trying to preach, whether about Scripture or this method of studying it. It’s just a handy guide.

Today’s Way to Research

As regular passengers on the information superhighway, we see the beauty and splendor of many things, by viewing pictures and video, learning about our natural and man made world right at our fingertips.

Unlike print reference books (e.g., encyclopedias), which are limited in scope, websites come in all shapes and sizes, as well as different levels, from stuff for children to highly scholarly works (which even many adults can’t get!)

At one time, only college students themselves had access to the much of this material. The internet has opened the floodgates of quality knowledge.

One particular source of knowledge I capitalize on is websites from actual college courses, especially scientific ones. Such sites are perfect for those who may have already out of college for many years. So go ahead, google them! Need to review (or even first learn) more basic concepts prior to them? No problem! Google them as well. Among the most common issues among readers are math in articles.

By the way, I happen to be an adult college student myself, and hopefully want to transfer from community college to a university soon. I plan to study Biology there, and probably will know quite a bit.

Also, a disclaimer: keep Wikipedia use to a minimum. Many writers are unqualified in their topics. While Wikipedia allows easy cross-reference power among pages, it is often more noble to scour the web to get more genuine information.

As for domains, I’m not going to belabor the quality (or lack thereof) of each one. You probably know that stuff from other sources. Judge for yourself.

And finally, glorify God in all you learn. Of course, if perhaps God is calling you to more schooling, consider it. Otherwise you have a globe of knowledge at your fingertips. And of course, people have different standards of intellectual satiety, so the web will serve to satisfy that easily.

And don’t forget regular Scripture study! That leads to better discernment on seeing what is true or not. Secular knowledge alone is not enough, we need wisdom from God to focus on what we’re geared to and what we aren’t.

Anyway, keep exploring our world in whatever areas of knowledge you please (and is possible) before God calls you home. Then you’ll see God for who He really is, and the exact truth that human endeavors have approximated!

May God bless your googling!

Late-Summer Delights

The sands are trickling down on the summer of 2018 hourglass, and we soon rotate the glass around for another autumnal round. I took a walk to my town’s park with a friend, and I made a video along the way.

I shot this walking down a street in Pottstown, PA, USA.  Pardon poor audio, I suffer from a dry mouth sometimes, causing speech issues.

Years ago, late August meant the peak of summer activities, i.e., our family vacation in South Carolina. I eventually became skeptical if it was truly summer or not, based on leaves that have changed, and was preoccupied with different factors that could cause it. Yet the same leaf dumping can happen in points before then.

But I think we should let God drive nature in its own course. Instead of attacking this drop of leaves here and there as a threat, we should view it in its beauty as a dress rehearsal for the true autumnal presentation. After all, autumn is a glorious season using superficial signs (the colors of these leaves) showing a deeper reality of laying aside unnecessary things.

A botanical process is equivalent to this: the tree needs the leaves’ nutrients from what it can use for the next season’s growth; the remainder is junk to the plant. But remember, even their decomposition will benefit the plant.  Similarly, better things from there will pop up in life.

And of course, crops must be harvested so the cycle goes on. Life is all about cycles. They keep it running.

Mushrooms next to a tree.

But this warm evening was lovely, and enjoyable just to observe nature and enjoy the nice breeze.

Black-eyed Susan, a common flower in late summer and early autumn.

Anyway, enjoy this tail end of summer. The dog days aren’t done yet. (Wag). But they will soon. When they are, then start your fall cleaning.

Leave Our Mitochondria Alone!

The very things that run your body may easily become stolen property.

This cunning biotechnology scheme, known as mitochondrial replacement therapy (MRT), currently only legal in the UK, is absolutely out of bounds. Even though you’re not messing with the “majority” (nuclear) DNA, genes are genes, and this mitochondrial “minority” DNA needs to stay put.

These genes are, of course, designed to make cell energy possible. (A brief reminder from HS biology: mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, and supply energy to the cells using oxygen and nutrients, which is the very reason we eat and breathe.) And what good is a organism without energy anyway?

Indeed, when mitochondrial DNA is mutated, can lead to such ailments as blindness and seizures. But putting a foreign mitochondrion into a cell, whether it is truly genetically engineering or not, is still playing God, like much of biology is now.

Details can be found in the above article, and I have some supplemental info from my own keen understanding of Biology! Between the head of the sperm and its tail, there is a middle axis of mitochondria. However, the nucleus is contained strictly in the head of the sperm cell. (I read this in McGraw-Hill’s Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, an excellent work on STEM topics.) The female egg cell is a more typically structured cell, so it is more likely to pass its mitochondria to the next generation. But even if the offspring is disabled due to a faulty mitochondrial genome, it is God’s will.

Let’s eliminate eugenics!

Jigsaw Geography

Jigsaw Geography
In December 2017, I completed an old puzzle obtained from a thrift store, mapping things out, literally.

Geography is hard to define accurately yet concisely.  Of course, maps are at its very heart.  But making maps is the business of cartographers.  Likewise geologists, not geographers, study the earth proper, and thus is a whole different domain with its own specialization.  Yet another field, demography, concerns populations and their statistically detailed properties.  For example, this is important for a country’s census.  “Geography” could merely mean how close things are from one another.  However you define it, people at least conceptually know it means.

The puzzle, has some neat odds and ends, perhaps due to its age.  That gets interesting.  This map depicts various defunct state borders (or lack thereof!). Among those are the Soviet Union (USSR), Czechoslovakia, East & West Germany, Yugoslavia, and yes, Korea!  Given that, the undivided Korea attests to this map being designed (but probably not made) before 1950.

Moreover, within continents, it was regionally divided (and beyond).  You can see historical changes in this when compared against maps of older or newer publication.

And, if you know (at least the basics of) geology, throw that info in there.  The Pacific “ring of fire,” along its shores, allows heavy duty mountainous activity, including volcanic forms.  Among these mountain ranges and belts (i.e., compounds of ranges) include the Andes of South America, some smaller ranges in Mexico/Central America, the Rockies of the US and Canada, etc. And their windward slopes, which catch the ocean’s moisture, are far more fertile than the opposite slope, or the leeward.

Farewell VCRs

I’m actually glad VCRs are near extinction. And I share several reasons why.

1). They were bitter enough in their early days.

In 1975, Japanese electronics mogul Sony introduced one of the two major formats of VCRs, known as Betamax or simply “Beta.” The next year, a rival Japanese company, JVC, came out with the VHS format, which had longer tape length but allegedly inferior presentation quality. For over a decade after, these two VCR platforms fought in a “format war!” There were sundry reasons for the defeat of the “better” Beta in the mid to late 80s, but the victorious VHS remained a staple for the rest of the century.

2). They take TV out of the moment.

So, if you owned a VHS (or Beta) unit, you would have your own copy of a show, movie, sports event, etc.

Now, if you watched it, isn’t that enough? You got the plot, so you can simply move on.

For example, I watched every episode of a sitcom, WKRP in Cincinnati (which happened to air in the throes of the Format War!). And having experienced the episode, even if memories of it are fading, that’s enough. Using a DVD, I also will treat a similar classic, Welcome Back, Kotter, as a once and done thing.

We can cherish positive memories all we want, but we must also experience the time we are in. God did, after all, give us a memory.

3) Copyright and Piracy

Copyright is the right held by a creator of intellectual property (i.e., his/her works of writing, art, music, etc.) to allow use at his or her discretion. Trademarks are an excellent example, yet they can very easily get in the wrong hands. Remember the last time applying Scotch tape, had a Kodak moment, or ate a Spam sandwich? These are all cliched trademarks, and the third has a second, not so tasty meaning in email inboxes (need I say more?). In parts of the American South, all soft drinks are generically “Cokes.”

Now, when you have a VHS tape that you have recorded off the TV, it is likely that, say, a thrift store, will deny sale of such. Televised sports events will sprinkle warnings against recording the event, without obtaining consent by the applicable league (and who wants to bother doing that?)

Piracy, or the distribution (typically with profit but not always) of copies of another’s intellectual property, has both moral and legal consequences. Morally, you are breaking the 8th commandment (stealing), because this property isn’t really yours. And while prison and fines for such crimes usually slip by, God put our governments in place and by obeying them, we glorify Him.

All those in favor of putting videotapes behind them, say aye!

Sweden, Think Twice About The Refugees

Sweden is apparently not “Swedish” enough for these Mideastern refugees from Iraq and Syria. While Sweden is known for its peaceful, progressive attitude toward foreigners, they are not assilimilating them as they would. They feel less Swedish than the ethnic Swedes, which makes perfect sense.So maybe Sweden is being counterintuitive. IMHO, these Islamic, Mideastern jihadists are better off uprooting from Sweden and heading either back home or elsewhere in Europe. Because Sweden, like almost all European countries, has a long history of its identity as a ethnic nation, not a “melting pot” like the US. Here in the USA, we lump most European peoples as simply whites.Yet assimilation is inevitable, so it is what it is. (Even if you love the beautiful blonde women of the ethnic Swedish population.). The teachings of genetics tell us that dark dominates fair, though the fair can pop out sometimes in later generations.

But for Americans, this shows a good example of why we emphasize legal immigration procedures.

See why world news matters? in my country of the USA, the news media stresses domestic matters. We need more global awareness. Thank you, BBC!

Mr. Rogers, Neighbor Extraordinaire

Mr. Rogers, while a Presbyterian minister, didn’t discuss religious topics on his show, but he invited kids across the country to be their “neighbor.” Yet if you can subtly observe, Christians like Rogers are actually engaging in Jesus’ Great Commission! Mr. Rogers showed a robust example of kindness and typical Christian love nationwide over the airwaves without descent into proselytism. And this “neighbor” concept may be derived from the very parable of the Good Samaritan, when Jesus defined as one who shows mercy to another, regardless of religion, etc.A link to some of his best achievements. Rogers ended his show in 2001 and died in 2004.Rest In Peace, neighbor.