Exit 252. Traumatized.

I haven’t been posting very regularly on this blog, and I don’t know if I ever will be again.  I could blame it on the other blog taking up more of my writing time, but now I’m not posting very regularly there either.

I feel like the events of 2019 have completely traumatized me.  I have had so many things at my house fall apart.  I have spent so much money on repairs and improvements, and many of those either didn’t do anything or just made things worse.  Any time I hear heavy wind, or water running, or even think about rain, I’m terrified that the house is going to fall apart even more.  Sometimes, when I leave the house, or when I go to bed, I double- and triple-check to make sure I didn’t leave any water running, and that the oven and stove are turned off, and lots of stuff like that.  I was almost late to work this last Friday because I kept running back inside double-checking things.

And now I got screwed out of $2600 by a company that didn’t tell me that the product they installed on my house was not completely compatible with the way my house is built.  The first time they attempted to install it, they caused more damage.  They eventually came back to fix that, but they didn’t fix all the damage they caused, and it took them about a month.  I was looking more closely at their work recently, particularly after another home repair professional pointed out that their product might cause more damage in the future.  I took a picture of their project not working as intended, sent it to my contact person with that company, and he basically said he had done enough and didn’t want to talk to me anymore, and that poor construction isn’t his fault.  So now I either cut my losses and consider the $2600 a bad investment, or I take them to court and give myself an even bigger hassle.

So, yeah, I’m a little stressed now.  I have work on top of all this.  And I’m going to be in New Mexico for five days in October, which will be awesome unless something happens to my house while I’m gone.

But I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because there are some good things happening too.  And I know that I should be trusting God to take care of me, but on the other hand I still have responsibilities that I need to deal with.

So I’m just going to write in both blogs when I feel like it.  Hopefully you guys will stick with me.  Happy last weekend of summer.

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Exit 251. An unfortunate tendency to worship fads.

Sorry for the hiatus.  Life got really busy, and I knew this next post would be a big one, and I needed time to process.  I was also writing stories for my other blog during that time.

Former pastor Joshua Harris recently made an announcement that he and his wife of almost 20 years were divorcing, and that he no longer considered himself a Christian.  While I would be sad in any case of someone renouncing the faith, this one hit me a bit more personally.

As any long-time reader of this blog knows, or as can easily be discerned from searching the archives of this blog, I have some rather strong opinions about Mr. Harris’ teaching, particularly concerning his 1997 book I Kissed Dating Goodbye.  This book, and others he wrote later, make the point that dating is un-Biblical and prepares people for breakup and divorce. Instead of spending time alone and giving into temptation and being fake with each other, Christian singles should spend time together on “group dates,” getting to know people in groups to see who they really are.  Then, eventually, through a mechanism I never understood, two of them will choose to prepare for marriage.

I became a Christian (or at least started taking what I believed seriously) about a year before this book was published.  No one ever taught me in childhood or my teen years how dating and relationships worked. I didn’t really see my parents doing coupley things very often; their relationship isn’t really like that, at least not in front of me (which is ok, there’s nothing wrong with that, everyone is different).  So after hearing a few talks at Intervarsity about not rushing into relationships and waiting until one is ready, and then learning about Harris-ism shortly after, I just assumed this was how all Christians lived. I didn’t know any better. So I really didn’t go on dates in college or my young adult years (except for a couple of awkward experiences which I thought were dates and the girl didn’t, but that’s another story for another time).

Mr. Harris’ books seem to be written for an audience of people who date frequently and even promiscuously, with selfish and un-Biblical intentions, but have now found Jesus.  (I should give the disclaimer that I never finished IKDG because I could tell about 100 pages in that it was crap, and I didn’t read any of Mr. Harris’ other works.) The main idea of IKDG seems geared toward explaining what is wrong with that aforementioned lifestyle, and replacing it with something at the other extreme that avoids the temptations therein altogether.  It seems to not even allow the possibility of the existence of someone like me, someone who wants to go on dates without having those selfish intentions.

If I followed Harrisism exactly as written, given who I was at that age, it would have looked like this: I’d meet a girl and eventually realize, for whatever reason, that I was into her and wanted to get to know her better.  I wouldn’t say anything, because Christians don’t date and that would be inappropriate. I’d hang out when our groups of mutual friends were doing things, but I wouldn’t be able to talk to her, because I’m an introvert, and I can’t just jump into a conversation without it being awkward.  I don’t read nonverbal communication well, so I would never get to know her, so the intended effect of hanging out in groups would never happen. She would end up together with someone else, because she would never know that I was interested in her. And I would never really get to know her, because I’d never have time alone with her where I really see people for who they are, and they see me for who I am.  According to Mr. Harris, this would cause us to be selfish and not real with each other, but my personality is just the opposite. I don’t look to be selfish when I’m alone with a woman, not at all. I’m just me.

Now if you followed Harris-ism and found a spouse and you’re still together, good for you.  I’m glad it worked for you. It worked better for you than it did for Mr. Harris himself, after all.  But not everyone is like you. Not everyone relates to people in the same way. And the Bible says nothing about the process of dating itself, so you have no right to judge people who don’t approach the world of dating that way.

Also, by the way, I predicted this in 2002.  In one of my other creative projects, I shared a story in which the character really likes a girl, but she read this book that is clearly supposed to be IKDG, and won’t date because of it.  The character later gets a chance to meet the author of the book, who goes on to explain how he followed his own advice and never dated his wife before he asked her to marry him. The character asks how that works, and the author and his wife end up in a huge argument when they realize that they don’t know each other at all, because they never dated.  They divorce.

A few years ago, Mr. Harris himself renounced his writing and apologized, saying that he never intended his writing to become a set of rules, the kind of legalism that has always infected the church to some extent.  And there have even been entire communities built around recovering from Harris-ism, and a documentary made on the subject. That’s a first step. At least he is aware of how his writing affected an entire generation negatively.  But I still feel cheated out of opportunities because of this artificially created fear and restriction. The satire news site The Babylon Bee did a great article on this, about people demanding reparations for all the dates they missed out on because of Mr. Harris.  I have never felt a satire article so deeply in my soul. Granted, I wasn’t good at dating to begin with, but I feel like I missed my chance to even try because of the way so many around me were brainwashed with Mr. Harris’ teaching.

I also don’t fit in with the communities of people who have vocally rejected Harris-ism, in terms of the kind of dating they look for now.  My views fall somewhere in between theirs and pure Harris-ism, opening myself up to rejections from both sides. Many single Christians today who have rejected Harris-ism now have views at what I would call the other extreme.  They would say that Harris-ism and purity culture in general don’t value women and treat them as objects. Women should be free to explore their sexuality, because society judges women more harshly than men on these matters. The Bible doesn’t really mean what it says.  One shouldn’t idolize virginity, and everyone sins and Jesus forgives so sex isn’t really that big of a deal. I don’t believe any of that. The Bible certainly does mean what it says. Purity culture doesn’t treat women as objects, it teaches that our bodies aren’t our own because we belong to God.  Women are precious children of God, as are men. Society shouldn’t give women a free pass to be promiscuous; it should also be unacceptable, at least in Christianity, for men to be promiscuous as well (but being judgmental and gossipy isn’t ok for anyone either, of course). And the Apostle Paul specifically writes against using divine grace as a license to live a life of sin (Romans 6:1).

The biggest problem here is that Christians have an unfortunate tendency to worship fads, rather than the Almighty God Himself.  Some new Christian book, musician, celebrity pastor, whatever will come along, and all of a sudden all the churches wanting to be cool and relevant latch on to whatever this is, without even considering whether this new fad shows an appropriate level of spiritual maturity around which to build one’s life.  It should be pointed out that Mr. Harris was 22 when IKDG was published.  Fads come and go, and a few years later these people will latch on to something else. But I’ve seen many examples of former Christian celebrities renouncing their faith.

There was an episode of South Park that explored this topic, where some of the boys formed a Christian band because they thought it would be easier to get a big following as a Christian band than as a secular band.  It’s been years since I’ve seen this, but there was one scene where someone told them they needed to play a big Christian music festival. Someone said, “Just tell Christians what music to like, and they’ll buy it!” After hearing that line, I said, “That would be highly offensive if it weren’t so true.”  Christian music is full of flashes in the pan that disappear after one or two big albums.  I heard it pointed out somewhere that there are no Christian oldies or classic rock.  It’s not that uncommon to see kids born after 2000 wearing Beatles, AC/DC, or Nirvana shirts, but you never see Christian kids born after 2000 wearing Petra, Stryper, or Jars of Clay shirts, because everyone who listens to Christian music has moved on to something else (except me, occasionally; I still have a ton of Jars-of-Clay-era Christian music in my collection) (and, case in point, I still have never heard Petra or Stryper because the Christian world had already moved on from 1980s Christian music by the time I started listening to Christian music in 1996).

If Christianity is going to stay culturally relevant, we’re going to have to move away from this mentality of fad-following and start following Jesus instead.  It sounds simple, but one would be surprised. We’re also going to have to get away from this mentality of legalism. Sure, there are some absolutes in the Bible, but putting too many narrow rules on exactly what one should and shouldn’t do to honor God draws one’s eyes away from God and toward the pride in oneself for following the rules, as well as idolizing those who follow the rules.  And as for Mr. Harris saying he isn’t a Christian anymore, that’s between him and God. We should be praying for him.

So is it too late for me?  By the time I realized that Harris-ism was not the only way to honor God with one’s relationships and sexuality, it felt like I was in a place where there were no single Christians left my age.  So I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve been through some stuff since then, and I don’t even know for sure what I’m looking for anymore. But being angry and demanding reparations, as the Babylon Bee article said, isn’t going to help at all.  

Exit 250. Indecisive.

I had an interesting thought today.  I’ve always thought of myself as indecisive regarding things like making plans with people, what movie to watch, where to eat, what to do in the first place, things along those lines.  I have a hard time deciding these kinds of things when I make plans with friends.

But I realized recently that this is not indecision at all.  Most of the time, I know exactly where I want to eat and everything else.  The reason I have trouble choosing is because of conversations like this. It happened again just recently:

Me: Where do you want to eat?
Other person: I don’t care.
Me: Is there anything you’re really in the mood for in particular?
Other: Not really.
Me: Any special favorite place you really want to go?
Other: Not really.
Me: Is there anything you DON’T feel like eating?
Other: No. I’m hungry. I can eat anything right now.
Me: Any specific type of food you’ve really been feeling like?
Other: Not really.  I like everything.  You pick something.
Me: Well, then what about [insert name of restaurant here]?
Other: No, I don’t like that.

How do you expect me to be able to make decisions when so many of them are met with this kind of opposition?  Just be honest. If there’s something you don’t like, tell me; it would make everything easier.

P.S.  I wrote this on Friday, August 2.  Coincidentally, the Dilbert comic for Saturday, August 3, dealt with this exact same topic.

P.S.  There is a certain recent development in the life of a well-known Christian pastor which I feel like I need to write about here, considering how often I have written about my tumultuous relationship with this man’s works.  That seems like it would have been a better post for a milestone number like #250.  But I had a busy week, I missed posting last week, and I need something easy this week.  I’ll get to the other thing soon in a later post. 

Exit 249. I like consistency.

The TV show The Goldbergs is one of the most relatable shows to me in the history of television.  The show is about growing up in the 1980s with a crazy family.  That was my life (except that we’re not an East Coast Jewish family).  The show’s creator, Adam F. Goldberg, is the same age as me, and he basically just wrote a sitcom based on his actual family and childhood friends.  Many of the episodes’ stories themselves are based on true stories.  (“Adam” and all other names in this writing related to The Goldbergs will refer to the characters, not the actual persons on whom they are based, since this distinction may be relevant at times.)

By now, I’ve seen almost every episode from all six seasons (so far) of the show.  Every now and then, though, I’ll turn on Goldbergs reruns and see one that I haven’t seen before.  That happened a few weeks ago, with an episode from season 3.  One of the recurring story lines throughout season 1 involves the preteen Adam’s interest in a girl named Dana, who becomes his first girlfriend.  At the end of season 2, Dana tells Adam that she and her family are moving across the country because her dad got a job out of the area.  The beginning of season 3 finds Adam and Dana in eighth grade and attempting a long distance relationship (which in the 1980s could only be done with expensive long distance telephone calls).

Dana comes to visit a few times that year.  In this episode, the one which I saw for the first time recently, Adam is excited for Dana’s impending visit; he prepares to do all the things that they loved to do together before she moved, including going to a Weird Al Yankovic concert.  (Yankovic himself guest stars, wearing his hair as he did in the 80s.)  But Dana is unenthusiastic about doing all of those things.  Adam and Dana realize that they have grown apart as they have grown up, and they break up at the end of the episode.

As I’ve said before, I’ve had a hard time dealing with this kind of thing happening in my own life.  I like consistency.  I didn’t really have a group of friends in childhood, and when I finally got one late in high school, we all dispersed and moved away soon after, and I lost touch with most of them.  And I’m going through it again.  The group of friends I’ve spent the most time with over the last several years is shrinking.  Many of the others have grown up, gotten married, had children, and in various other ways taken on new adult lives, leaving them less time for game nights with friends or staying up ridiculously late.  Some have jobs that limit their social time.  (I have a job, but I manage to make socializing happen anyway, to some extent.  That’s probably why I’m tired all the time.)  Others have drifted out of my social circle for numerous other reasons.  And some people have moved away; I have had an unusually large number of friends move away in 2019, or plan to do so soon.

Why is all of this happening?  Some of it is just a natural part of life.  People grow and change, and their friendships and relationships change as a result of this, much like the story of Adam Goldberg and Dana.  This might not be what I want, but sometimes there’s just no way to stop it.

Or maybe, just maybe, God is clearing out my life to prepare me for something new.  Maybe I myself will be moving out of the area as well.  (God answered a prayer about that in the negative a few months ago, and I have no plans to move at this point, but who knows what will happen in the long term.)  Maybe I will become involved in a time-consuming way at my little 10-person church, as we find ways to grow.  Maybe there will be a new activity or a new relationship or a new hobby of some sort, or something I can’t even imagine right now.  Or maybe I’ll just make new friends, or for some reason shift my priorities to one of the other social circles of which I am on the periphery.  Not much I can do about it.  I just have to figure out which parts of my life to hold on to and which to let go of, and not stay stuck in the grieving phase when parts of my life are ripped from me through no fault of my own.

Exit 248. A Shakespearean sonnet made entirely of 20th and 21st century song lyrics.

I throw my hands up in the air sometimes,
You know I wish that I had Jessie’s girl;
There ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb,
Ain’t no companion like a blue eyed merle.
I’ve seen a little, but it ain’t enough,
We’d take a limousine ‘cause it costs more;
A full commitment’s what I’m thinking of,
And I can see the perfect sky is torn.
You got me ticking, going to blow my top,
I’ve got a pocket full of Kryptonite;
Pulsating to the back beat, Blitzkrieg Bop,
Yeah, I don’t wanna lose your love tonight.
Nobody likes you when you’re twenty-three,
That’s why I hang my hat in Tennessee.

Author’s note: Years ago, I noticed for some odd reason (this is how my brain works sometimes) that “You know I wish that I had Jessie’s girl” was iambic pentameter.  I heard Jessie’s Girl last week and started thinking about other song lyrics that could be considered iambic pentameter, which gave me the idea for this project.  So I listened to a lot of music on shuffle and thought of a lot of well known songs, and this is what I came up with.

Some of the rhymes aren’t perfect, I know.  It should also be noted that I found a lot of lyrics which, sadly, are missing the first unstressed syllable, like “everybody wants to rule the world” or “hurry boy, she’s waiting there for you,” so they don’t appear in this project even though those are among the best songs ever.  I also had a lot of unused lines that didn’t rhyme or didn’t fit very well, so if I keep listening for lyrics that might fit this pattern, I might write another one of these someday.

And if you don’t recognize the songs, every line is clickable.  Most of them are very well known, although from a wide variety of genres and eras, but a couple of them are more obscure.

Exit 247. Because I have freedom.

I didn’t post last weekend like I usually do.  And I almost never post on a Thursday.  I have a few notes scribbled on a paper with future topics for this blog.  But I’m not writing about any of that.

Today is July 4, Independence Day in the United States.  (Well… it’s pretty late as I’m writing this, and it’s already July 5 in most time zones in the world, but whatever.)  On this date in 1776, a group of representatives led by Thomas Jefferson signed a document claiming that the British Crown had abused its power, and that the American colonies had the God-given right to free themselves from this tyranny and establish a new government.

Normally this is one of my favorite holidays of the year.  Because ‘Merica, that’s why.  We get to barbecue and light stuff on fire and make things explode and celebrate freedom and bald eagles and being awesome.

But this year I just wasn’t feeling it.

I’m not making a political statement.  This isn’t about any opinions on the state of freedom in our country, or whether or not the Constitution is still being followed, or because of the current President or Governor, or because of who didn’t become the current President or Governor.  This is just about me being tired and worn out.

It’s been a rough week.  I did some physically exhausting yard work Monday, and I had an emotionally trying experience that I’d rather not say any more about yesterday.  And no one invited me to anything this year ahead of time.  I got an invitation to a small barbecue at the last minute, and I went, but I didn’t stick around to watch fireworks.  I was home and in for the night before the fireworks started.

This isn’t normal for me.  I love fireworks.  I didn’t grow up watching fireworks, so for me, there is still some childlike excitement attached to fireworks.  But I just feel like being alone tonight.

And that’s ok.

It’s ok to be sad and alone sometimes.  I can skip fireworks for a year.  Because I have freedom.  Because ‘Merica, that’s why.  God bless America.

I hope all of you had a happy and safe Fourth of July.  And for those of you in countries where this isn’t a holiday, I hope you had a wonderful day as well.

Exit 246. A memorial service for someone I didn’t know.

Today I attended a memorial service for someone I didn’t know.

Now, before you get creeped out, this isn’t some story about wedding crashing, except for funerals instead.  Do people do that?  It seems wrong.

The deceased was my pastor’s father.  I knew him in the sense that I saw him at church every week.  He wasn’t a stranger.  I said hi to him every week, and we exchanged pleasantries.

But at the service today, looking at pictures of him in childhood, in the Army, at his wedding, and with family, I realized that I never knew who he really was.  I only met him a couple years ago, late in his life, after Alzheimer’s disease had greatly affected his mind and his personality.

Please don’t wait until it’s too late to spend time with your loved ones and tell them how you feel.  Get to know the people around you before it’s too late.  I know there was nothing I could have done differently in this situation; it isn’t like I knew at some point in the past that there would be a man out there somewhere who would become part of my life later on, but he would have Alzheimer’s before I would meet him unless I did something about it.  I don’t have a time machine.

All of this kind of sounds like a cliche.  But it’s true.  And this isn’t the first time that someone passed before I got a chance to really know him, and that other time I could have done something about it.  In that case, it was someone I knew from dancing, who was well known in many of the partner dance communities in the area.  He was an innocent bystander in a drive-by shooting in 2012, and no suspect was ever caught, as far as I know.  We were acquaintances and surface-level friends, but I didn’t know him well.  Part of this was because his lifestyle was very different from mine.  Part of this was because another much closer friend of mine had a falling out with this guy before I knew either one of them, so I had heard stories about that guy colored by that perspective.  At his memorial service, I heard a lot of stories from people who had known him better than I had, and I realized that there were many sides to this man that I never knew or would have expected.

Of course, it’s hard to get to know everyone.  There are many people I cross paths with every day.  Some of them are toxic personalities that I’m better off not being in regular contact with.  But maybe there is someone out there whom I need to reach out to before it’s too late.  And maybe there’s someone like that for you too.  Until then, I can know that my pastor’s father is with Jesus, and someday I’ll see him again and get to know who he really is.

Exit 245. Intentionally written to be confusing.

Every few months, a meme circulates asking people to solve this math problem (or one like it):

6 ÷ 2(1 + 2)

People begin arguing over what the answer actually is, with most people saying (for this problem) either 1 or 9.  They insult people with the other answer, because apparently that’s what people do on the Internet.  And several of my friends tag me every time this goes around, either to resolve an argument or just to read what people are saying.

The correct answer is 9, but I’ll come back to that later.  The issue is that this problem is intentionally written to be confusing.

I find the whole thing annoying.  For one thing, this is something that we were supposed to learn somewhere around sixth grade.  Apparently, we as teachers and educators aren’t doing our job if adults’ mathematics skills have atrophied to the point that no one can do a simple yet fundamental problem from sixth grade.  So, naturally, everyone tags their friend with the college degree in mathematics (me) to resolve a sixth grade problem.  I wonder, do these same people tag their friends with degrees in English when they forget to spell a word?  Do they tag their friends with degrees in music theory when they don’t remember the name of a song?  I’m writing this so that when this meme goes around again, I won’t have to type a long response; I can just share this link.

Anyway, Order of Operations says this (paraphrased, my own words):  First, resolve expressions in parentheses and other grouping symbols.  Then resolve exponents.  Then evaluate multiplication and division from left to right.  Then evaluate addition and subtraction from left to right.  This was somewhat of an arbitrary distinction, but mathematicians and others in related fields have done it this way for centuries, and an organized set of rules needs to exist in order for most problems to have a well-defined solution (for example, whether you follow these rules or not determines whether the answer to the above problem is 9 or 1 or something else entirely).  Math books and teachers often abbreviate this rule with the acronym “PEMDAS,” which stands for Parentheses, Exponents, Multiply and Divide, Add and Subtract.

So, the correct answer as written is 9, and this is why:

6 ÷ 2(1 + 2)
Do what is in parentheses first: 6 ÷ 2(3)
Multiply and divide from left to right.  As you read from left to right, 6 divided by 2 comes first, and that equals 3, so now the problem is 3(3).
This equals 9.

There are several common incorrect interpretations of these rules which lead to the arguments.  Before I continue, it should be pointed out that the disagreement has nothing to do with “Common Core” or “new math” or anything like that.  The Common Core State Standards say nothing about changing the order of operations from what it has been for centuries.

Misinterpretation #1:

6 ÷ 2(1 + 2)
Do what is in parentheses first: 6 ÷ 2(3)
2(3) still has parentheses in it, so do it before the division: 6 ÷ 6
This equals 1.

The rule, and the fundamental concept of what parentheses are, is that what is INSIDE the parentheses is done first.  Parentheses go AROUND the operation that needs to be done first (or out of order).  The parentheses are not AROUND the multiplying by 2, so the fact that 2 is next to the parentheses has nothing to do with changing the usual order.

Misinterpretation #2: “I typed it into my calculator and it said 1.”  Your calculator was programmed by a human being who apparently interpreted the rules differently from someone who got 9 as the answer.  I have actually seen photographic evidence that some calculators give 1 as the answer and some give 9.  Calculators will do whatever their users and programmers tell them to.

Misinterpretation #3: In my observations, this one is the most common.  The issue here is a lack of understanding of the acronym PEMDAS:

6 ÷ 2(1 + 2)
P: Parentheses first: 6 ÷ 2(3)
E: there are no exponents.
M: Multiplication comes next, so do 2 times 3.  6 ÷ 6
D: Division comes next, and 6 divided by 6 is 1.
A, S: there is no addition or subtraction, so the problem is done, and the answer is 1.

As I explained above, multiplication and division are evaluated on the same step; it is not correct to evaluate all of the multiplication and then all of the division.  Addition and subtraction work the same way.  Evaluating all of the multiplication, then all of the division, then all of the addition, and finally all of the subtraction introduces other problems as well.  Multiplication and division have to be evaluated on the same step, because every division can be changed to a multiplication using fractions (e.g., 6 divided by 2 is the same as 6 times ½).  Addition and subtraction have to be evaluated on the same step, because every subtraction can be changed to an addition using negative numbers (e.g., 6 minus 4 is the same as 6 plus -4).

More than once, I have pointed out this error to people, and the response is something like “then my teacher/textbook/etc. taught it wrong, because I’m doing what I learned.”  Now that is possible; I have seen teachers inadvertently teach incorrect subject matter.  A more likely explanation, however, is that the person making this statement either never learned it properly or remembered it wrong.  One who only remembers the acronym PEMDAS and what the letters stand for, with no context, would be very likely to make this error, because they follow the order of the letters.  The rules for order of operations written as complete English sentences say something very different.

For this reason, I have often encouraged students to write “P-E-MD-AS” to emphasize that some of the operations have equal predence.  I have also started to hear some students in middle school say that their elementary teachers told them not to just memorize “PEMDAS,” probably for this reason.  And that is what good teachers should be doing, teaching students to understand rather than just memorize out of context.

Misinterpretation #4: “Multiplication without a times sign, just writing two numbers or letters next to each other, creates an ‘implied grouping,'” which would then make the work identical to misinterpretation #1 above.  In a simpler example of this thinking, these people would say that “10 ÷ xy” would mean to divide 10 by whatever you get when you multiply x by y, instead of to follow PEMDAS strictly and divide 10 by x first, then multiply this answer by y.

I find this hardest to argue against.  Although the order of operations rules say nothing of this implied grouping, it doesn’t always look right.  I read “10 ÷ xy,” and my first thought would be to find out what xy is, and then divide 10 by this answer.  This violates PEMDAS, but maybe it looks right because x and y are written more closely together.  There is mathematical precedent for this implied grouping as well; to find the cosine of 3x, one usually writes “cos 3x,” and this is almost universally interpreted as the cosine of 3x, rather than whatever the cosine of 3 is, multiplied by x.

Ultimately, there is a simple solution to this issue of implied grouping: be like every mathematician ever, and every high school and college textbook, and don’t use the ÷ symbol in the first place.  Many people don’t remember math beyond elementary school and buttons on a calculator, so they may have forgotten that in more advanced math, division is usually written as a fraction. So now, if division is written as a fraction, it can be made extremely clear which order of operations the author of the problem intended, and the so-called implied grouping becomes an expression within the numerator or denominator, which is grouped explicitly by the fraction bar.

And if you are typing instead of writing by hand, use an extra set of parentheses to make sure that your intended order is clear.  In other words, even though the answer to the original problem is 9, it is written in a way as to be intentionally ambiguous.  So stop arguing about it and do something more productive with your time.

Exit 244. Sunshine blogger award.

I had nothing to write about this week. Conveniently enough, Charlene at Curiosity & Confession nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Thank you! That means I get to answer a bunch of questions about myself, and then nominate people to answer different questions about themselves.  I know I’ve gotten nominated for a few of these before.  I don’t remember if I’ve done this exact one, but the questions are different every time, so it doesn’t matter.

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/or on your blog.
  • Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.
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These are the questions I got from Charlene. There were 12 of them, even though there were supposed to be 11, so you get a bonus question.

Where do you get your news? Mostly from the website for the major newspaper in my area.

If your job gave you a surprise paid three days off, what would you do those three days? I’m a teacher, so I have long periods of not having to go to work on a regular basis. But if it happened unexpectedly, I’d spend at least one day sitting around the house being lazy and catching up on cleaning. And if my friends were doing anything spontaneous, I’d be a lot more likely to go along with it than I normally am on a weeknight. Maybe I’d take a day trip to eat at an In-N-Out Burger I’ve never been to before (I’ve been to 116 different locations). But anything more adventurous would require a lot of advance planning and mentally getting myself ready, not something I can handle in three days.

What is something that you resent paying for? Other people’s abortions, via my tax dollars. (Please don’t argue about abortion or politics in my comments. A question was asked, and I answered it.)

What is the most expensive thing you have broken? A few women’s hearts. I’m not good at having the conversation when someone is into me and I’m not really into them like that. However, I’ve been on the receiving end of those conversations far more often than the giving end.

What was cool when you were younger, but is not cool now? Vanilla Ice. When I was 14 years and 2 months old, he was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I had outgrown him and his music by the time I was 14 years and 3 months old.

What is something that no matter how evolved we become will always be popular? Breathing. Breathing has been in style since prehistoric times. Either that or the Rolling Stones, since they’ve already been popular for over half a century.

Who do you go out of your way to be nice to? Going out of my way to be nice is kind of my default. However, if you’re openly angry about how much you hate people with my beliefs and opinions, then I’m going to go out of my way to ignore you as much as possible.

Who was your craziest/ most interesting teacher? What grade did they teach? I’ve had a lot of crazy and interesting teachers.  And this is a hard one to answer, because I’ve had a lot of favorite teachers for reasons that “crazy” and “interesting” don’t describe.  (I could say that I’m my own craziest teacher, because I’m sure a lot of my students would say I’m crazy and interesting, but that’s a cop-out.)  The first one who comes to mind was my PE teacher in 9th grade, because of the nicknames he would give some students (for example, there was a kid who always wore a blue hoodie, not sure if it was gang related or not, but this teacher always called him “Little Blue Riding Hood”).  He also made up names for some of the activities we would play; the flag football class championship was called the Toilet Bowl, and when we would have to run two miles on the day before a long holiday, it was called the Turkey Trot (Thanksgiving), the Reindeer Romp (Christmas), and the Bunny Hop (spring break, which included Easter).  I think those are the right names.  I wrote more about him, including a hilarious quote, a few years ago when he passed away.

What are some red flags to watch out for in your daily life? People who say they care about you but are always too busy for you, especially if said people are significant others.

If you could move one character to play in a different movie, what character would it been and to what movie/show? Barry Goldberg on Beavis and Butthead. That could be interesting…
Barry: “And so I pass into Hyperspace, Maybe you can follow me
Where I will be starting my own rap colony”
Butthead: ” “Uhhhh… this guy sucks.”

What actor/actress plays the same role in almost every movie or show they do? Jack Black comes to mind. He’s really good at that one role.

What protagonist from book or movie would make the worst roommate or spouse? There was this one character, I don’t remember what movie he was from, where he would interrogate his roommate every time his roommate had a new woman in his life, and lecture him about Christian purity and how great it is not to kiss until your wedding day (the roommates were both adults, it should be pointed out). And sometimes he would wander around the house talking to himself about how messy and immature his roommate is (the roommate found out because the guy didn’t realize his roommate was home). He told his roommate on numerous occasions that he was immature and weak in his Christian faith because he played video games, and how he was wasting his time by having friends who weren’t Christians and not was actively trying to convert them. I can’t remember… what movie was that from?… oh wait, it wasn’t a movie, IT WAS REAL LIFE.

I don’t like nominating people for these, so if you want to be nominated, go ahead and do this. 🙂 And if you are nominated, leave a comment below so people can go check out your blog. The rest of you, go check out some new blogs in the comments.  Seriously, don’t forget that part, because that’s the point of these blog awards.

My questions for you:

  • What place would you most like to visit right now, if neither time nor money were a factor?
  • What is the farthest away from home you’ve ever been?
  • What is the longest you’ve ever waited in line, and what was it for?
  • What is the weirdest or most noteworthy story you have about how you met one of your friends?
  • What is something you liked to eat as a kid, but you don’t like anymore?
  • If you could bring back one discontinued product, what would it be?
  • What was your least favorite thing about school?
  • If you could change one law/rule/etc. that applies to you, what would it be?
  • Who is your celebrity crush?
  • If you could change your name, what would you change it to?  And if you like your name the way it is, why?
  • What’s that band/singer/musician that you’re a fan of, but you’re kind of embarrassed to admit it? Come on, everyone has one.

Exit 243. I had been thinking about doing the same thing.

Recently, a friend of mine who has been known to read this blog sometimes shared an article from the San Francisco Chronicle in which she was quoted.  The article tells the stories of people who, through DNA testing, discovered that they had previously unknown biological relatives.  I would imagine that such a discovery would bring up a lot of very complicated emotional reactions.  My friend (who gave me permission to share this article) now has positive relationships with multiple newly discovered half-siblings.  But not every one of these kinds of situations has resulted in a happy ending.

One of the other people quoted in this article (not my friend) mentioned having been contacted by a cousin that she had just recently discovered the existence of.  The article says that this woman thought that her new relatives “seemed like decent people,” but she unfriended her newly discovered cousin on Facebook and cut off all contact after discovering that her cousin was a supporter of President Donald Trump.  My first reaction was that this woman was being shockingly closed-minded and petty.  Cutting off family and loved ones, and questioning whether or not they are decent people, because of whom they voted for just seems wrong.

But then I realized that I had been thinking about doing the same thing.

I have some views that are not shared by many of the people in my social circles.  A certain such issue has been in the national media quite a bit lately, and I have been seeing many angry Facebook and Instagram posts on this issue.  The thought has crossed my mind that I need to do a mass unfriending on those sites, because I’m tired of hearing all this crap and feeling like the whole world is against me.  But if I were do that, aren’t I being just as petty and closed-minded as the woman in the article whose response bothered me?  Isn’t it healthy to be exposed to different points of view?

Yes and no.

What is healthy is having a fair and respectful discussion on these issues.  What is healthy is understanding where those who disagree with you come from, and why they believe what they do.  And a few of my friends have been genuinely attempting to do this when they share controversial posts.  I have no intention of cutting off contact with any of these.  But others are clearly not interested in learning about the opposite side.  They might be trying to rally and encourage their own side, or they might be trying to piss off or intimidate the opposition.  But reading that kind of thing, especially when it comes with an incorrect characterization of why I stand for what I do, tends to just make me unproductively angry.  I will acknowledge, though, that I probably have some misconceptions about their side’s motivations as well.

Should I be cutting off contact?  Should I be trying to engage these people in discussions?  I think that’s something I’ll have to decide for myself on a case-by-case basis, keeping both their intentions and mine in mind.  It should also be noted that many of the people involved I was never extremely close with, and I never see or talk to anymore, because of changing social circles or (in some cases) the other people having moved away.  I feel less bad about removing those people from social media as compared with people I see on a regular basis.  Also, it should be noted that Facebook offers the option of “unfollowing,” where someone’s posts do not show up in your feed but you stay friends and you can still see their posts if you look for them.  Instagram offers no such option as far as I can tell, but I wish it did.

So I haven’t undertaken a mass unfriending or unfollowing yet.  And it’s not something I need to decide right now.  I’ll burn that bridge when I come to it.