New group.

On Facebook, I just got invited to a group called something like “15,000,000 People for lower gas prices.”

Nope, I’m for higher gas prices.

That’s like making a group called “15,000,000 people for a planet with oxygen involved.” or “15,000,000 people for using facebook as a way to keep in touch with my friends.”

Wow.  Way to be an activist.

Digital traffic-cops.

Today I set out to download an ebook.  I was looking to get “The Shack” because I have heard much about it in recent months, and it is being harshly criticized by men and women I greatly respect, (while being lauded and praised by other men and women I greatly respect) and as a leader of college students I feel obligated to stay informed and on top of trends in pop-christianity, both good and bad. My motivation for purchasing the book is, however, not the point of this post.

I have an ebook reader on my phone that enables me to read books one handed.  It is fantastic.  I have used it to read one public domain book so far.  But that’s the problem.  Currently I can only legally download books that are public domain, as those are the only ones I can find that don’t have DRM (Digital Rights Management) encryption.  DRM is not a law, but rather a safegaurd put in place to enforce the law.  Currently the iPhone’s ebook reader is not able to read books without DRM.  So, I have the choice of obeying the law and not being able to download any current popular books, or illegally downloading those books that have been stripped of the DRM.  Nobody wins in either situation.  I break the law (or don’t read a book), the publishers don’t get paid, the writers don’t get paid, and our justice system completely fails. The only people that “win” are the criminals who get to read the book that I want.

If they had released it DRM-free, they risk losing control (what a figment of a concept) over who downloads the book.  They also lose the ability to enforce the “don’t steal” law.  But they would have made 10 bucks off of me today, and everyone else who finds themselves wanting to obey the law.  Criminals will always break the law.  No amount of legislation is going to stop them.  Guns were illegal on the campus of Virginia Tech on April 16th, 2007.  Didn’t stop the criminal from having them.  Just stopped the folks who obey the law from having guns and being able to defend themselves.

I realize that downloading an ebook and taking a gun on a campus are vastly different subjects.  But the principle remains.  When we try to police immorality by making it illegal, we only end up hurting those of us who would have obeyed the law before it was policed so carefully.  And I think it’s safe to say there are more of us who would not steal than there are theives.  In fact, I think DRM makes otherwise honest people into theives.  People who already have a handheld device that will read ebooks, but no way of legally obtaining ebooks to read on it are far more tempted to break a law they would have otherwise readily obeyed.  The red tape is choking the free market, and causing the black market to thrive.

I’m sure folks are working to enable my iPhone to work with DRM-laden ebooks.  But that misses the point.  Imagine how far programmers and developers could go if we didn’t slow them down by making them add digital traffic-cops to every piece of software and hardware?

It would work far better to just have them include a paragraph at the beginning of every ebook that explains to people how not paying for what they are reading is stealing from honest people, and ultimately will destroy the whole system.

If you need me, I’ll be reading something by Shakespeare.  It’s public domain.

My beef with Arby’s.

I swung swang swinged stopped by Arby’s on my way to church last night, and hit the drive-thru. A man’s voice greeted me and asked if I’d like to try one of their new blah blah combos. I declined and placed the first part of my order.

And that’s when it happened.

What was an enthusiastic male voice from Iowa suddenly became a tired female voice from the hills of Leicester (pronounced Lester) asking if I wanted anything else.

If they want to use recordings because they can’t find people adept enough to use their happy voices, that’s cool. But at the least they could follow through and have a voice with the same chromosome arrangement. And go ahead and record the same guy/girl asking “would you like anything else?” while you’re at it. The present arrangement only makes it more obvious to the consumer how poor your employees’ people skills are.

There’s no shortcut when quality service is what you are aiming for. Train your employees to actually sound happy, or create a work environment where they actually ARE happy. And lose the recordings. It’s insulting to find out I just answered a question that nobody actually asked.

An Open Letter to the Halloween Protest Organizer Yesterday.

I am having a hard time figuring out your target audience.  Jesus providentially didn’t have me stop at that intersection, as I’d have probably gotten out and never made it where I was going, but the signs I got a glimpse of at 40 MPH were:

Christmas = Jesus, Easter = Jesus, Halloween = ???


Avoid any appearance of evil: (didn’t catch the rest of it)

It looks to me like you are trying to convince Christians to not celebrate Halloween.  Thus making the busy intersection on Patton Avenue a less than stellar place to have the conversation.

I’d love to defend why my son is going to be dressing up (like a overly-cute giraffe) and asking the neighbors for candy this weekend, but your condescending signs that have about a 5th grade level understanding of Scripture make it difficult for me to get into the conversation.  Honestly, I have to continually check myself not to just totally blast you in this conversation.  I’m trying to love you.

Because, after all, we’re family.

I’m not mad at the participants in your little protest.  This letter is not to them.  I’m talking to the guy who organized it.  The guy who came up with (or gave the thumbs-up to) the smug, arrogant slogans on the signs, and arranged the carpool.

What is your motive, brother?  Do you want people to meet Jesus, or just become irritating religious punks?  What would be “success” for your little rally yesterday?  If people closed their doors, turned out the lights, and went to church on the only night this year that dozens of their neighbors are going to willingly ring their doorbell?  Or would success be folks pulling over to join you in your crusade against candy?

Here’s the thing.  I know that Halloween has some dubious underpinnings, and there’s a lot of occult things associated with it.  I got that.  But, to my knowledge, none of the 6-year-olds that are going to come to my house are going to head back home to sacrifice a kitten on their front lawn, or participate in a seance.  And even if they did, I could never point to my own actions as anything better.  There are two teams in this contest: (1) Bad, twisted sinners and (2) Jesus.  I’ll let you guess which team you and I are on.  For me to pretend that my not participating in the occult ritual makes me any better of a person is to totally miss the gospel.

I should further clarify.  I am OK if you feel called not to celebrate Halloween (I too was that guy once.)  What I object to is your trying to enforce what is clearly a personal conviction on others as though it were a biblical mandate, and printing signs and yelling on a street corner.  If we’d put the same amount of time, energy, and money into really engaging the non-Christians in our neighborhoods with the gospel (that Jesus has conquered sin, death, and hell on our behalf), imagine the outcome!

As for us this weekend, as long as we’ve got neighbors coming to our house, we’re going to give them candy.  And we aren’t going to skimp on it either.  We’ve got Snickers.  I’d love it if some of my non-believing neighbors’ kids were to head back home and say “That house over there gives out the best candy!”  As Christians, we ought to have the reputation of being the sweetest.  After all, our sins have been paid for by the most loving act in the history of the world.

Dear College Freshman…

There’s this myth out there that says you have the next four years to really go crazy, and live it up.  You think you’ve been given a free pass to be irresponsible, dangerous, and, well, stupid.  After all, you are only hurting yourself.  There will time to grow up later.

That’s a lie.  All you are doing by ignoring the fact that physiologically you entered adulthood 3-4 years ago is giving guys like Alex a head start.

I am not pointing fingers at you, I did the same thing.  I slinked into adulthood at about age 23, against my will.  And by age 23, Alex is probably going to pay off his mortgage.  (That’s a big loan you take out on a house, in case my vocab is outpacing you…)

See, Alex is a 16 year old who gets paid somewhere around $50 per hour (in this economy) to design websites like these.

So, in 5 years when you wake up from your slumber of registering for the easiest classes, looking for the path of least resistance out of college (like I did), don’t say you hadn’t been warned.  You’ll go get a job at a marketing agency, on the bottom level, working for a guy named Alex who is two years younger than you, and a millionaire.