The Masses

I have a frustrating dilemma. I want to see the world as a good place where people are, unfortunately, suffering, and many of the world’s problems can be fixed with better communication and the gospel. But at the same time, I think that The Masses are selfish, uneducated, and cruel. So sometimes I have trouble deciding if at any given moment I’ll want to save the world or let The Masses ruin their lives.

At work we run credit checks on potential customers. What happens is that the representative who is at the customer’s house will call us and give information like the customer’s name, address, phone number, and birthdate. The program we use is set up to automatically verify addresses to make sure they are real, but first the street name and house number must be correct.

A few days ago, a representative called and gave me an address on “Leh-BAA-none Avenue” in Illinois. She then spelled it for me: L-E-B-A-N-O-N. I asked her to clarify that it was not LeBannon or something of the sort. “No,” she replied, “It’s Leh-BAA-none. L-E-B-A-N-O-N.”

“Um…could that be…Lebanon? Like the country?” I asked.

Long pause. “Leb…eh…non… Leb…uh…non… Yeah, I guess it could be!” she said cheerfully.

The sad thing was that later in the day a different representative (this time male) called with a Lebanon Avenue in another city and pronounced it Lay-BAN-un. As part of the pre-installation survey we ask customers to confirm that we have the correct address on file for them, and it did indeed turn out to be Lebanon. Like the country. Both times.


Carcasses strewn everywhere

That got your attention, didn’t it?

Ok, the carcasses were actually very small wooden people-shaped things (except the Romgi got a decapitated one somehow). We played a fun new game last night and actually had company over! This was a big deal. Perhaps even more amazing: the apartment looked clean!

But we have found fellow Arrested Development fans – married fans, at that. A lot of the people here at work like the show but they are enjoying the single life and don’t really care to spend time with “old folk” who go to bed before ten. I remember those days…but I can’t say that being married and going to bed at ten is in any way a bad thing.

At any rate, I may have liked Carcassonne but I’m still wary of Se^lers of Wherever. That will take some convincing.

Until then, I’ve cleaned up the carcasses and put them back in their box.


Weekly World News

Lest you think that I’m changing direction of my blog from Mika-esque to Mika-profound…

Weekly World News is not being published anymore!!

This is a very bad thing. In case you don’t know, Weekly World News is a periodical full of off-the-wall “true” stories (it proclaims itself to be The World’s Only Reliable Newspaper), like “Mother Nature Endorses Al Gore for President!” The Romgi (thanks, ‘sposita, for the new name) and I used to pick up a copy at the grocery store every few months for entertainment.

But according to MSNBC.com, WWN will publish its last issue in August, and after that it will no longer be available in newsstands.

Mourn with us!


Shades of gray

Today at work, half of the office was locked, so the customer service department is sharing the call center cubicle space. One of their coworkers called in because she’s having a baby in a couple weeks and isn’t feeling well today; this started a discussion amongst them about babies in general. A German woman told them all about how in Germany they’ll pay you 150 euros for each German child you produce, and give you 3 years’ maternity leave with complete job assurance for both mother and father. From there the customer service employees began praising Germany for being so “cool” and talking about how they all want to move to Germany to find a spouse. Jarom remarked to the call center employees on our side of the divider that Germany is not the only country to provide incentives for having children, and many countries – including the U.S. – will cover much of the cost of child-bearing for poor families.

Our fellow call center representative remarked that this is a mistake, because it produces a whole new generation of couch potatoes.

I have quite a few disagreements with her statement. First is the assumption that poor people intentionally have children in order to get government assistance. Of course I can’t argue that no one does that; I’m sure there are some people who do. But research has proven that many families who receive financial aid are more likely to work hard in order to raise their standard of living and get off welfare. When provided with some degree of hope, the poor take the opportunities presented to them and try to improve their circumstances. In one of my classes last semester the teacher mentioned that specific types of welfare have been shown to decrease the average number of children per family.

Disagreement #2 is that poor people in general are lazy. I think this is part of the idea that the poor are suffering from their own bad choices and lack of work ethic. And it always comes back to Mosiah 4:17-19.

“Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God. For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?”

Whether or not the poor are there because of their own mistakes is not for us to decide. We have a responsibility to help them no matter what. I do think that we’re also obligated to carefully plan and carry out effective ways of helping, and maybe that’s the big argument against welfare in America. But it still seems foolish to me to believe that everyone successful has succeeded solely by their own merits, and everyone poor has failed solely by their own lack of merits. It’s too black and white.

I guess that’s the end of my disagreement list, but it certainly got me riled up. It’s disappointing to find that people are so critical and disdainful of those who are less fortunate and who need our compassion, not our contempt.

Comments welcome. (As always.) I’m not very good at arguing my point, so feel free to bring up inconsistencies, things you disagree with, and so on.


Blink

by Malcolm Gladwell

I realized after I got this book for my birthday that I’d seen one of Gladwell’s other books, The Tipping Point. I only had a chance to read the back, but it sounded interesting. And if Blink is any indication, Gladwell is a capable author who communicates his ideas well.

Blink explains how our brains are designed to process information rapidly, behind the scenes, and this often results in an unconscious change in our actions before we notice or can explain the behavior. This is often termed intuition. Gladwell presents many arguments for the value of “rapid cognition,” although he does warn of the dangers of always listening to initial thoughts. Altogether Blink is worth reading, and I’d like to read some of Gladwell’s other works.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

by J.K. Rowling

I don’t want to give anything away, but I will say that this is a great ending to one of the best series I’ve ever read. Rowling does an amazing job of tying everything together, and I’m still impressed by how carefully she thought the whole thing out. Seriously, it’s fantastic.

Only, now what do we do? Harry Potter is over…

Jarom is cool #5

I love Jarom because…he’s been reading the Harry Potter books all week so that I have someone on hand to discuss Book 7 with.