Thursday, April 21, 2016

Faith is Voluntary

In English we get a bit confused sometimes because we have two words, belief and faith, for the same thing. Especially because we also use the word "faith" to mean a religious institution. Lost in the vocabulary confusion is the idea that the definition of a religion is believing in and worshiping a superhuman power. Did you see that those are both verbs? Action verbs, in fact? Things you can do or not do and so the products of free will.

Because you can believe or not believe, worship or not worship, faith is a choice. Any claim that a faith can be "involuntary" is anti-faith. If you can't freely choose to believe and worship, you are trapped in a "mind prison"* and have no ability to exercise faith.

Recent efforts in some strains of Islam to approve and promote death to apostates from Islam is destructive of Islam itself. The first pillar of Islam is faith. A shahada, declaration of faith and trust in Allah, is empty words if not freely chosen. The coercion of a death sentence basically takes away free choice. God doesn't want slaves; he wants faithful servants.

Those who preach death to apostates are destroying Islam as a religion. Those who love Islam need to stand up for it being voluntary. Until they do so, they can't expect those who value real faith to respect Islam. All its practices (esp. obvious ones like the hijab) will seem like trappings of slavery as long as Islam is difficult to leave. Indeed, the western world cannot respect Islam if it resembles slavery, for the western world has abandoned slavery almost entirely over the past three centuries.

Asserting the voluntary nature of Islam would also help decrease sectarian violence within Islam, for different sects often consider each other apostates worthy of death, which tends to make peace harder to restore. Christianity had its period of forced religiosity. It led to horrible conflicts and injustices, and the result is that many in Europe and European-influenced countries turn away from God altogether. I hope the Islamic world can learn from Europe's past and abandon coercion in matters of faith.

* As opposed to Sherlock's "mind palace."

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Restaurant Food Serving Sizes

A decade or so ago, while living in the Philippines, I noticed that serving sizes were much smaller than in the USA. I recall approx. 8 and 12 oz beverage cups being quite common. Filipinos would laugh at how one of the first culture shock moments they experienced upon visiting the USA was the enormous soda pop cups that they would be given at fast food restaurants.

Why do we have such huge plates of food and huge bottomless mugs of beverages at restaurants in the USA? I think it's because food is cheaper than labor here.

The Philippines has a high rate of population growth; its primary product seems to be its people, who go abroad as maids, nurses, teachers, seafarers, nannies, and manual laborers to the US, UK, and Middle East. Security guards and salespeople abound at commercial establishments. While one can sometimes feel at a US store that it's impossible to find an employee, in the Philippines we were once nearly mobbed by around ten salespeople anxious to sell us bedsheets in which we had expressed some interest.

When labor is relatively cheap, employers can more easily dip into their margins to hire more employees to attract customers with better service. But when food is inexpensive compared to labor costs--such as where there is high minimum pay and employment taxes--restaurant operators can more easily offer generous serving portions to try to entice customers.

I know I'm not an economist, but this article made me think that my idea is not silly. They're going to automate parts of McDonald's food production at a new restaurant in the Midwest but still hire many employees, and a new attraction will be "all-you-can-eat fries." That doesn't sound necessary or healthy to me. However, while potatoes, salt, and oil aren't free, they probably cost a lot less than new kiosks and employees whose minimum wage is likely to go up in the near future. Without customers, there's no way to pay labor and automation costs, so increasing food amounts beyond that offered by the competition is a logical way to try to stay afloat financially.

I like fries, I really do. But I also like not feeling guilty after eating an extra large serving of them. I'm OK with small portions of oil-drenched starches.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Water Crazy

Dd4 is driving us crazy with all her water play in the bathroom. The counter is always wet, and there are almost always containers of water with toys in them sitting next to the sink. Today, she put some toilet paper in the sink water and plugged up the drain!

My husband is converting an old crib into a water table for her. It will have three plastic bins set in the table part, and she will also have pieces of PVC pipe and a couple of spiral/chute water toys to play with. Now if the weather would just cooperate--we had a snow storm yesterday--the water play could go on outside. I know I'll be having to wash muddy, wet clothes every day from water table time, but at least the bathroom won't always be wet in places where it should be dry.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Germs

On top of the miscarriage, I've had a cold. I suspect it was RSV, since the toddler picked it up first, and it's been lingering and slowly going through the whole family. Due to pregnancy, I had a weakened immune system, so now my cold has turned into bronchitis. On the bright side, I can give myself full doses of Sudafed now that I know there is no baby to be harmed by it.

For the past 1.5 weeks, my husband has also been dealing with a large abscess on the back of his neck. It started as a small, red lump, but then it grew and became so painful it woke him up at night. It had to be lanced, and then the abscess had to be packed (a small strip of cloth is put into the abscess to help it drain) every day. It's finally closed up now, and he is finishing his course of antibiotics. 

Antibiotics are such a wonderful thing. If only we had good antivirals. I hope I live to see humanity triumph over colds and influenza.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Bad news

At the ER last night, the ultrasound scan and the HCG levels were appropriate for a five-week pregnancy. I was over 8 weeks. I think it was likely another blighted ovum miscarriage, the second of my life. Sad, to be sure. But not as tragic as my sister's loss last year. Reproduction is not a sure thing. And now with Zika virus threatening, I'm not sure I even want to try again in a few months. I have five wonderful children, and I count my little blessings every day (especially when going somewhere in the car...I don't want to leave one behind :) ).

Monday, April 4, 2016

First an up, then a down

Last time I posted good news. Now I get to post worrisome news. Life is just like that, and it's best to expect it rather than run around screaming about unfairness.

I started bleeding this evening. I'm 8 weeks, 1 day pregnant. Bleeding is how my first pregnancy ended around 13 years ago. Such experiences give me so much new vocabulary. For example, tonight I learned what a "subchorionic hemorrhage" is. Hopefully, it's the cause for my present bleeding. I did play on the slides at the park with dd4 this evening, so I might have done something to cause a hemorrhage. I'll call the OB's office in the morning.