30 January, 2014

Making All Things Work Together for Good

Well, here I am, worshipping at the awesome young adult ministry that is The R.O.C.K., a portion of the Mount of Olives Church campus on the opposite side of Chrisanta Drive that's just for us. Nicole Stirling, one of the youth directors, filled in for Pastor Jim Reynen, out sick with pneumonia, and preached an awesome sermon that centered mostly on Romans 5:1-5, in which Paul told people to rejoice no matter what, even in suffering, why? Because often times, suffering tends to be blessing in disguise. I, fortunately, am a living example of that.

Back in 2003, my parents suffered from layoffs within weeks of each other. My family's combined income, overnight, was literally 65% less than it was before the double layoff. Fast forward to February 2008, and the mortgage on the house they used to own, $3000 per month previously, doubled to a staggering $6000 per month, forcing my parents to abandon that place in a short sale, which completed in June 2008.

The 9 months that followed were a nightmare. My dad of course had a second job in addition to the one he got laid off from — a night audit one at a hotel — and through it we were able to get employee discounts on hotel rooms. However, he could only get them for a week at a time, so we had to pack up everything and hop from hotel to hotel to hotel, until finally, in March 2009, my family was able to rent a townhouse.

Ah, but wait: The landlord who rented to us decided to rent-skim the place and not pay the mortgage that the rent paid for! So, it was time to move again, this time, into a 2-bedroom apartment. In July 2010, guess what? We were on the move again.

We were in that cramped apartment for a few months, when, out of the blue, my grandfather (on my dad's side of the family) had a heart attack while doing groceries and was dead before he hit the ground. What shocked us the most about the situation was that his wife — my grandmother — was in far worse shape than he was! It devastated us. Exactly a year later, of course, in the fall of 2011, my paternal grandmother also died.

A double bereavement sounds devastating, doesn't it? Ah, but wait: They had a house in a 55+ community in Murrieta worth a good $115,000, plus $58,000 in cash estate. That was enough for a down payment!

The house hunt went on and on. Of course, land $hark$ were on the move, and tried to outbid us with full-ca$h offers. Meanwhile, my parents were on the computer, looking at digital maps of houses do sale within our range in the area, and my friends and I were worshipping and praising God. While they were in their browsers at home, the unthinkable happened: A house for sale popped up on the map WHILE THEY WERE LOGGED IN, purely miraculously, and 2 hours later, our offer ended up being the first one. Guess what? It was accepted, and on November 16, 2012, the sale closed, and we were able to move into this 4-bedroom, 3-bath, 2100-square-foot miracle, with a mortgage of the same cost as the rent on the cramped apartment, all because of what normally would be a tragedy: the death of two family members.

Hopefully people who read this can also have this hope: if all you do is curse God and blame Him for hardships, remember that God is a God of love. It's the devil who creates these hardships in the first place, and this is proof that God is the one who is able to turn those hardships into blessings. So, I rest my case. This awesomeness is certainly something I am beyond glad to praise Him for.

18 January, 2014

Editorial: Forget "extremism"; Just use the term "hypocrisy" instead

Extremism. Terrorism. People cringe at the mention of these words. They bring with them feelings of anger and hatred, plots to bomb buildings and special events just for the fun of killing innocent civilians, and most importantly seem to pit members of one faith against another in modern-day crusades.

This couldn't be more true for fundamentalist sects of the three Semitic faiths — Christianity, Judaism, and Islam — especially as we dig deep into history here. 2,000 years ago, as Jesus was conducting His earthly ministry, we see how He was at odds with the rather fundamentalist Jewish leaders of the time: the scribes and Pharisees. See, if you actually looked at a Jewish woman of those days, and saw both the veil and headscarf that was required of Jews at the time, you'd actually think she was Muslim!

See, the scribes and Pharisees, being fundamentalist Jews known to have written fundamentalist books (i.e. Jubilees) as examples of their strict legalism, started using interpreters — very similar to the Supreme Court justices of today — to turn a small handful of laws written by Moses into thousands of laws that were impossible for anyone to live up to, like Muslim extremists do today, and also like al-Qaeda and the Taliban, they tended to unfairly exempt themselves from having to live up to the standards that they set. It's no wonder, therefore, why Jesus railed against them to the degree that He did in the Gospel account.

And of course, Muslim — and also Christian (I'm looking at you, Irish Republicans, Klansmen, and neo-Nazis)  and Jewish (JDL) — terrorists of today aren't much different. In all cases, they're extreme fundamentalist sects of the respective faiths that they claim to represent. Of course, in Islam that hypocrisy tends to be very obvious — people who conduct terror plots and call non-Muslims "crusaders and Zionists" by day, yet stare at pornography, run brothels, pig out, and conduct oil-soaked Ponzi schemes by night — but then again, we also see examples (such as Northern Ireland) of Christians attacking other Christians the same way — by calling each other heretics — and likewise in the Jewish case, examples like the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin carried out not by Hamas militants but by radical right-wing Jews with motives that almost resemble those that Anders Behring Breivik used to carry out the attacks in Norway.

Then again, the Muslim example is probably the single most significant of the three at describing an example of a hypocrite. The terrorists claim to be of a familiar God — the one that the Jews call Yahweh, that they call Allah, and that we Christians call the Heavenly Father — yet what they practice completely contradicts that claim. They publicly express hate, which we certainly know is hate that neither the Torah, nor Bible, nor even Quran (to a degree) endorses. They wage unsanctioned wars, wars that according to the Torah, Bible, and Quran alike are to be carried out only against pagans, never against members of their own faith or of similar faiths. Most importantly, they shout out claims of "Death to Israel", "Death to America", "Death to Zionists", and "Death to Crusaders" despite the fact that the Quran specifically refers to Jews and Christians as "people of the book" not to be messed with. Even by Muslim standards, those slogans are themselves hypocrisy, and guess what? They go to great lengths to try and persecute even the slightest dissent against Sharia as blasphemy. If that's the case, the only ones they should charge with blasphemy are themselves. Why? Because their definition of blasphemy — which is indeed a very broad one, amounting to mere dissent against the Quran and/or against Muslim leaders — is a definition that certainly includes making death threats towards members of faiths that the Quran deems illegal to be messed with, and oh, yeah, if we did the same with the Bible, it too would be blasphemous. Heck, it's almost as if they're proud to be called hypocrites, given that the very names "al-Qaeda" ("the Base" in Arabic) and "Taliban ("scholars" in Arabic) mean the exact same things in Arabic that "Parush" (most literally "set apart" — or, in a practical sense, "self-segregate" from those who don't believe, completely indicative of what Muslim terrorists also want to do in modern times) and "Sofer" mean in Hebrew.

See, people just don't listen. The parallelism between the habits of the scribes and Pharisees and those of al-Qaeda is certainly no coincidence. Yet they still conduct that very hypocrisy that Jesus railed against the scribes and Pharisees for: launching attacks, out of pure hatred, against the very people that the Quran — which they of course will defend to the death, as we've seen with reactions to Quran-burnings by Christian extremists — tells them not to touch. Not to mention, at least in private, committing the very adultery — in the form of brothel operation and porn distribution — that they say others should be stoned for. Well, this is exactly why I'm so happy to be a Christian who interprets the Bible the right way: because Jesus' teachings give me eyes to see this hypocrisy in people.

17 January, 2014

The root cause of high American unemployment: Lazy Employers

Ever wonder why the American economy has been so tight? Why there have been so few jobs out there? Many people will flat out say "It's the economy" but not tell you the underlying causes. It started out with banks screwing homeowners over with loans specifically crafted to go haywire at a certain point, leading to numerous foreclosures of homes, businesses, and business building facilities, which in turn resulted in job loss. But the recovery has been incredibly slow and cumbersome given how quickly the economy tanked. Why?

Since the economy tanked, employers have started doing the unthinkable: they first raised education requirements. People who offered simple minimum-wage jobs decided to require associate's and even bachelor's degrees just to flip burgers and stock shelves! On top of that, employers for higher-paying jobs that already required degrees like that went even further to tack on experience requirements. A bachelor's degree AND five, ten years of experience on top of the education, which alone GIVES people the experience needed? That's absurd.

Every time employers pull these greedy shenanigans, they hamper the economy's recovery tenfold. Why? Because it creates a vicious cycle. The more red tape you tack on that application, the harder and more expensive it gets for people to obtain the experience and education necessary. This in turn sends shockwaves throughout the economy, artificially deflating the demand curve for products and thus causing more employers to join this vicious bandwagon.

Politicians, of course, have tried to curb this approach. The Republicans have tried to use a top-down approach of sending stimulus to billionaires who run businesses. The Denocrats, on the other hand, have put more emphasis on handouts: free health care, vague Social Security disability laws that can be exploited by lawyers to waste the funds on temporary ailments, and government-sanctioned unemployment insurance. However, neither of these approaches are truly effective.

What handouts do, regardless of who they're given to, is make people more and more greedy and lazy. Billionaires, as we've seen with the automotive jerks, tend to greedily waste stimulus money on parties, booze, beer, and, oh yeah, luxury items instead of actually using it to create new jobs. Poor people? They tend to be conditioned to expect handouts instead of knowing that with the right money AND a purpose given to them for the money in question they can truly make a difference.

This, of course, brings us right to the only way this economy can possibly be fixed on a prompt basis: the competition approach. What does this entail? An antitrust tax. A progressive tax that of course falls hard on billionaires, yes, but falls especially hard on billionaires with known market monopolies who throw up unfair barriers to entry for competition that is able to employ more people. And of course, that tax revenue from those monopolies should be put towards an extensive small business scholarship fund. Guess what? Redistributing money from monopolies to competition, not just from the rich to the poor, allows the competition to in turn grow their business and compete with the former monopoly that was once keeping them out. More competition, of course, means a greater number of employers, and thus a greater number of people who can handle the high job demand, ultimately plummeting the unemployment rate.

See, what employers need to realize here: It's their fault that the economy hasn't recovered. It's their fault for placing red tape on the job market as a way to get around taking risks and thus wasting their entrepreneurship out of pure greed. The only way the economy will ever recover is if employers step up to the plate, take the risks that entrepreneurship entails, hire the potential employees that need hiring the most, and put more experienced staff to work training the inexperienced staff instead of minding their own business. Only then will the economy improve, and it's unfortunate that employers can't see this.

03 January, 2014

Debunking 'Scroogled' 2.0: From Chrome to Chrome OS

Shortly after my post back in November 2013 that rightfully calls Microsoft's evil Scroogled campaign plank-eyed hypocrisy, Microsoft was at it again with another attack ad campaign. This time, targeting Chromebooks... and oh yeah, it was spreading the same outdated FUD that prompted this post in April 2013, exactly 5 days after I turned 20. Since then, the packed apps category has indeed been replaced with a collection... oh, but it does indeed work just as well in Chrome OS as it does in desktop Chrome for Windows, Mac, and Linux, doesn't it? You bet:

Yup, it sure does, and it's loaded with tools that are far more powerful than what we saw last spring, not to mention growing by the minute. Of course, there's simple tools like the "Wake Up!" app I developed that ONLY have use cases on Chromebooks (oh, yeah, in case you try to attack Chrome OS power management, that too has already been debunked at my hands...), but that's not all: What about WeVideo Next?

That's right, a full video editor, with all the power of the iOS version of iMovie that I've got on my iPhone 4S (and you said real work can't be done on an iPad, let alone an iPhone -- please) which runs offline, outside the browser, in a native-like manner on a Chromebook. This alone is enough to debunk the claims of Chromebooks being a "brick" when run offline... ah, and it also debunks the claim that tools for photo and video editing analogous to Photoshop and Final Cut don't exist on Chromebooks either. They do, not just for videos but photos as well (albeit online-only in the case of full-featured Photoshop-like editors, but that's bound to change). Enter Pixlr:

And if basic Paint-like (HA! While Microsoft's office products are pretty ubiquitous, Microsoft fails terribly in the creative department) photo editors are also factored in the equation, yes, Autodesk does also have one of them, and unlike the full version of Pixlr it runs offline and outside the browser. Pixlr Touch-Up, much?

Oh, yes, and if basic HTML5 cache mode is factored into the equation as well, there's productivity tools that also work offline... albeit not outside the browser. In the form of none other than, you guessed it, Google Drive, although it seems to be broken on this Canary build of Chrome OS I'm running... oh, well. Still, however, what about Angry Birds? Yup, that's also capable of running offline.

These claims of Chrome OS being a "brick" when not connected to the Internet are ones I have certainly come to expect from the evil that is Microsoft, given that was Microsoft's first reaction when Chrome OS was first unveiled (and its source code was first made open) way back in November 2009...but as always, times have changed. The fact that they're STILL sticking to these claims even after all the change Chrome OS went through for the good of offline users is enough to make me write this, just to give everyone Microsoft is trying to deceive some updated info here that alone is enough to debunk the bogus, hypocritical campaign that is Scroogled in all its demonic, hellish glory.