Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Fire!

America does NOT have a gun culture.  I like guns.  I always have.  Like Adam Lanza, I started going to a gun club with my mum when I was about 11 years old.  Like the Lanzas, we used to shoot targets.  But at our club, the object was to fire five .22 sized holes into a target a little bigger than a US quarter, at 25 metres.  It seems to me that American 'target shooting' is all about using an anti-personnel weapon to fire large calibre rounds into the 'kill zone' of a target shaped like a person.  It's not quite the same.  Not at all.

You see, America does not actually have a gun culture - America has a weapons culture.  It has an obsession with anti-personnel weaponry.  This is why comparisons to other countries with similar gun ownership are meaningless.  After each massacre, the gun lobby argues that if only someone there had been armed then they could've shot the shooter.  But arming the populace does not bring safety.  America has horrific murder levels precisely because the populace is armed.

These weapons have no place except in law enforcement and the military. America does not need all this weaponry to guarantee the people's freedom - they are not free, this weaponry has imprisoned them in fear. The weaponry must go - it is not keeping anyone safe, it is killing their children.  Keep your guns if you like, but lose the anti-personnel weapons.

In 1996, Australia banned semi-automatics. In the 18 years before, there were 13 mass shootings. Since then, there have been none.  None at all for the last 16 years.  Can you imagine that, America?

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Perspective

I do not have $2000.  But I just spent that much.  Bummer. 

Someone once told me that if you have a manufactured bed to sleep in, then you're already richer than most of the world's population.  Well, I do have that.  But that's just money.  I also have a wife and a daughter and family who love me.  I have friends who respect and value me.  I am able to help others and it brings me joy and immense satisfaction to do so.  I am rich then, in a way that money just can't buy.  Money is not my god.  God is my God.  But still I faltered when our car started to stutter and judder.  I faltered more as the bill to fix it started to rise.  Shouldn't I be immune from such things?  Shouldn't I live a charmed life?  Well, actually no.  I live in the real world, just as you do.  Wars, famine and broken cars.  In the great scheme of things, I am loved, honoured, respected, valued and cherished.  What then is a broken car?  A very small and inconsequential thing.  Sometimes you just need to see things from a better perspective.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Speed

Speed
You're not going to like this.
In London, the inner city has a congestion charge applied to road traffic - if you enter the zone, cameras record your vehicle and if you haven't pre-paid, oh dear.  They know you're there.  We have a similar thing near my home on a toll road through a new tunnel.  I saw a review of a sports car with in-built GPS that recognizes when it's on a racetrack (some racetracks have track days for the public) and switches itself into race mode by electronically changing suspension settings, fuel injection etc.  Now I'm going to string some technology together...  In Europe, large passenger coaches have speed limiters - no matter what the driver does, the coach won't go faster than its maximum legal speed.  I told you you weren't going to like this.  So...  Say every vehicle had a speed limiter that recognised where the vehicle was...  Your speed would be limited to the legal maximum wherever you were.  No more speeding tickets.  Ever.  Emergency vehicles would be exempt of course, but then their drivers are properly trained aren't they?  Seriously, why mess about with speed cameras and radar traps - just eradicate speeding altogether, the technology's already there.  No more high speed car chases through urban areas.  Less road deaths.  Even here in NZ, seven people were killed on the roads just the other weekend.  Police said excessive speed was a factor.  They needn't have died then.  What do you think?

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Empower



Free electricity.  Want some?

Fossil fuels are running out.  Nuclear fission produces nuclear waste and the holy grail of fusion is still beyond our grasp.  Wind, waves, solar and geothermal do a little but not nearly enough for most of us.  So here’s the solution - People.  That’s right, you and me.  My family lived in a house where the doorbell was an actual brass bell.  It worked brilliantly, never needed batteries and may well outlast the house.  Everyone loved it.  I have a wind-up radio that can charge my mobile phone.  In some countries if you have solar panels or small wind generators for your house you can pipe excess electricity back into the national grid and reduce your bill.  But the capital costs of these generators are high and they wouldn’t do much for most city dwellers. 
So... you know those stationary bikes at the gym?  Imagine this: you have a stationary bike in your apartment that is connected to the national grid.  You can exercise and have cheap or free electricity or you can do nothing and pay.  Your choice.  Electricity would be expensive for most but subsidised for the elderly and infirm.  Teenage obesity would phase out – not only would the kids generate a little electricity as one of their chores but there would be a minor industry offering to generate $100 of electricity for $60 cash etc.  “You want to borrow the car son?  Well it’s an electric car so you’d better get on and charge it.”  Do you go to a gym?  Bit pricey aren’t they?  Imagine if they paid you.  Do enough on the bikes, treadmills, cross trainers and rowing machines and get everything else for free.  Now there’s an idea.
Now, I realise that one stationary bike isn’t going to give completely free electricity for a family of 4 (although it might for a single apartment dweller).  What I’m aiming at is to change people’s attitude to their power consumption.  Once you make manual generation widely available, we’ll see solar or wind-up phone and ipod chargers become normal rather than the niche market they are now.  More technology will follow as demand drives development.  It’s about ownership and responsibility.  Power to the People.
Households everywhere would take less from the grid.  That lets us stretch fossil fuels a little further and buys us more time to come up with a better plan.  Since we draw less, the proportion contributed by renewables (wind, solar etc) becomes more significant and that will help drive development in those areas.  And then there’s the health angle.  Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and even depression have been linked to a sedentary lifestyle. The US alone spends $150 billion dollars each year treating medical conditions attributable to obesity.  Stationary bikes.  Two birds, one stone.  Tell me I’m wrong.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Culture

I have been a bad parent.  Occasionally.  Mistakes.  Bad decisions.  I've always stayed within the bounds of what is culturally acceptable though, just like these parents.  [If you can't be bothered with a 9min clip, watch a few seconds from 3:42, you'll get the idea].  So, by the judgement of the majority, these parents are doing no wrong.  But my spirit is riled.  What is acceptable to them is abhorrent to me.  Am I imposing my own Judeo-Christian worldview on their ancient culture?  Should I just leave them to it?  Are their children different to ours?  Somehow immune from trauma as their parents assert?

Our culture defines us.  It gives us pre-conceived ideas of how things should be, and how they should not.  But culture is not static. Some of what is common today would horrify our great-grandparents.  What is acceptable is fluid, and changes over time.  We decide what is 'right' largely based on what everyone around us is doing.  Just like these parents.  No foul then?  Or are there true objective standards that we should all live by, irrespective of geography and culture, outside of space and time?  I believe that there are.  I believe that there are moral absolutes written into the very fabric of the universe.

What about you?  Do you define right and wrong by the culture around you?  Do you think some things are kind of wrong but it's ok to do them because everyone else is doing it?  What if you moved to Cambodia?

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Share

Clicking 'Like' on Facebook does not make you a humanitarian. 
Or so a thread I got involved with last week said.  I tend to agree.  At least in part. Kony2012, the now viral doco calling for the arrest of Joseph Kony, has been getting alot of flack.  Some people complain that the charity behind it spends too much on administration and so they give them nothing.  Some people object that part of the campaign calls for fly-posting and so they do nothing.  Many I am sure won't bother to sit through a 30min youtube clip - the internet has trashed our attention spans.  Actually, I usually don't myself, but this time I did, and so should you, if you haven't already.  If you didn't know, Joseph Kony, according to some authorities, is the world's most wanted man.

So what do you do when a clip like that comes your way?  Ignore it? Watch it?  Share it?  Give to the charity?  Sign the petition?  Email a politician?  Join a demonstration?

I am reminded of being constantly harangued by beggars when I lived in London.  It was known that some did it as a fulltime job, dressing and acting the part and earned more than I did.   But which were conmen and which were worthy?  An old Bible teacher of mine had great advice:  "You will find that if you ignore pleas for help, there will be a hardening of your heart, increasing each time.  So when you travel, carry a pocketful of low denomination coins and give to everyone who asks you."  I guess that the worthy would benefit from a few pence, whereas the professionals wouldn't cover their expenses.  So can we apply this to social media?  Do we even care?  Well, if a clip like Kony2012 drops into your newsfeed, watch it.  Consider donating a few bucks to the charity.  Research them first if you like.  Sign the pledge.  At least share the clip with friends - if you do nothing more, maybe some of them will. 


Kony2012 is about raising awareness, and as more people have joined the call for action, the US government has been moved to act where it had refused before.  So the internet campaign is working, actually making a real difference in the world.  Does clicking 'Like' make you a humanitarian?  Not really.  But clicking 'share' just might.  What do you think?

Friday, 24 February 2012

Metamorphosis

It’s Monarch butterfly season here. We have 2 swan plants outside, covered in big, fat, stripy caterpillars. My daughter inspects them every day. We have 5 chrysalises at the moment, with another 2 set to form at any time. In about a week we’ll see the first of the beautiful, black, orange and white butterflies emerge.

The video above is full of metamorphosis. Ignorance to comprehension, complacency to distress, dream to nightmare, despair to hope. Make your own list. Overarching it all is Jacob’s own transformation. A modern-day slave trader, Jacob treads the path of John Newton, who underwent the same metamorphosis more than 200 years before him. As with Newton, God is working a miracle in Jacob. But God does not wave a magic wand. There is a rebirth, but then a process of transformation that runs the entire rest of your life. It isn’t all plain sailing. People you thought would help you, don’t. You see setbacks. You let yourself down sometimes. Jacob is still working out his salvation with fear and trembling. As am I. But through it all God is present and He never, ever gives up. Amazing grace.