Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Category Archives: Whimsy

Too close for comfort

The days are getting short, the nights cold. These are the days when folks used to gather around the Quebec heater to visit. Stoves like the one in the picture below were found in most Saskatchewan farm homes, and in most stores.  Most wood stoves still come from Quebec, for the same reason that most maple syrup comes from Quebec — that’s where the trees are.

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On a  Saturday night about 70  years ago, Dad placed the big square galvanized tub on the living room floor, Mom filled it with water heated on the stove and we had our baths.  It felt chilly in the room when I got out of the tub, so I backed up to the stove to warm up and dry myself. I backed up just a bit too far and felt a searing pain on my backside that made it inconvenient to sit down for a few days.

Suspicions of Suppression

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Image by Emslichter from Pixabay

Some years ago, a backyard mechanic on the Canadian prairies invented a new carburetor that got fantastic gas mileage with no sacrifice of performance. He drove a car equipped with this carburetor from Winnipeg to Vancouver, averaging 130 miles per gallon for the trip (or 107 miles per US gallon). Or did he drive 217 miles on the prairies using only 1 gallon of gasoline? News reports differed in their accounts.

In any case, the news reports caused a sudden drop in the stock market values of oil company stocks. One day some oil company executives showed up on the inventor’s doorstep with a suitcase full of cash and bought the plans for this wonder carburetor and all the complete and incomplete carburetors that he had built. Or was it auto industry executives? Or was it the government, fearing a loss in tax revenue? Or did thieves break into his shop and steal everything?

In any case, this invention that could have saved billions of dollars for consumers has been suppressed. Occasionally however, a car that gets fantastic gas mileage is mistakenly delivered to a customer. Fairly soon the car is recalled by the manufacturer for some supposed manufacturing defect; when it is returned to the customer, it gets normal gas mileage. Or perhaps the owner wakes up in the middle of the night and sees some men working under the hood of his car. When they realize they have been seen they quickly make their getaway. The car still drives just fine, only now it uses a whole lot more gasoline. Or perhaps the car is simply stolen in the night. This is all the work of a sinister industrial conspiracy to keep us using as much gasoline as possible.

The reality

Back in the 1930’s Charles Nelson Pogue of Winnipeg obtained patents for a carburetor that he believed would dramatically increase gas mileage. Gasoline was passed through a spiral line that was heated by the exhaust manifold. This was supposed to completely vaporize the gas before it entered the combustion chamber which would make it burn more efficiently. This process would also increase the engine temperature by about 20°, which would also enhance performance.

Mr. Pogue never claimed to have achieved the promised results. Nevertheless the story took off, fuelled by the public’s desire to believe in technological money-saving miracles and their willingness to believe conspiracy theories.

The patent for the Pogue carburetor has now expired and the plans are available for anyone who wants to experiment on their family sedan. It won’t work. The gasoline in use today needs to reach 450° F to completely vaporize. Gasoline was more volatile when Mr. Pogue invented his carburetor. Apparently there were working models built back then. They did achieve slightly better fuel mileage, at the cost of severely reduced performance.

Common sense would tell us that no auto manufacturer would find it advantageous to suppress such an invention. If one company could produce vehicles that got far better gas mileage than all their competitors, wouldn’t they jump at the opportunity?

The idea that increasing engine temperature will increase efficiency lacks some logic as well. If an internal combustion engine could be made 100% efficient, the exhaust manifold would be cold. All the energy in the fuel would be transformed into work, not heat.

Very real gains in fuel efficiency have been achieved since Mr. Pogue invented his carburetor. They have been small, incremental gains, which have slowly added up. Carburetors have been replaced by fuel injection. Engine computers manage fuel burning more efficiently. Radial tires have reduced rolling resistance. Synthetic motor oils reduce friction in the engine. Lighter, more aerodynamic vehicles require less work from the engine to move them down the road. Cars now have four or five speed transmissions, reducing fuel use at cruising speeds. Some engines are designed to allow some cylinders to cut out at cruising speeds. The latest innovation is a motor that will stop when a car stops at a traffic light and start instantly when the gas pedal is pressed.

Nevertheless, stories of the suppressed 200 mpg carburetor refuse to die. Other supposedly suppressed inventions include incandescent light bulbs that never burn out, 100,000 mile tires and cancer cures. I confess to being an unreformed sceptic concerning these claims.

And then there are all the products that have not been suppressed. Every few months there is a new product or diet plan that promises quick and easy weight loss. I really wish there was a pill that would help me lose weight without any inconvenience to my flesh, even if it was a little hard on the wallet. Perhaps it is time to abandon that forlorn hope and try a little self-denial.

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Image by jun0126 from Pixabay

There are countless over the counter health care products. Some are helpful, some are not, some are just scams, some are harmful. How can a person tell the difference? Many medical doctors are well informed on vitamins and herbal remedies. My wife cannot take any of the nsaids (non steroid anti-inflammatory drugs). Her doctor advised her to use glucosamine. It is slower acting, but does not have any of the side effects of the nsaids. Not all over the counter products are so safe. At the very least, do not conceal from your doctor what you are taking.

There are health care products on the market that are based on the mystical beliefs of Eastern religions or other belief systems that are incompatible with Christian faith. These things need to be avoided like the plague.

There are products being heavily promoted for which the manufacturer claims benefits that cannot be verified by anyone else. If something is based on genuine science, other researchers will be able to reproduce the results. Anything else is junk science.

Some people have gotten hooked by the promises of new money making schemes, only to find they were really money losing schemes. Any business idea that promises big profits from a small investment and little work should arouse our suspicion. Real life doesn’t tend to work that way.

Why are we so gullible?

Everybody likes a bargain. We are all concerned about maintaining our health. Innovative ways of making a little extra cash get our attention. But it would serve us well to develop a healthy scepticism about products or schemes that promise some almost miraculous breakthrough in technology or health care. Especially if there are whispers that the government, or industry, or the medical profession, doesn’t want us to know about it.

© Bob Goodnough, first published in Business Bulletin in 2009

When did you reach adulthood?

If a man is not a Socialist at 20 be has no heart, but if he remains one at 30 he has no head.
-Anselme Barbie, 1828-1887; mistakenly attributed to countless others.

In my youth I stressed freedom, and in my old age I stress order. I have made the great discovery that liberty is a product of order.
-Will Durant

The latter part of a man’s life is taken up in curing the follies, prejudices and false opinions he had contracted in the former.
-Jonathan Swift

Research has found that teens process information with the amygdala, the emotional part of the brain. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that responds to situations with an awareness of long-term consequences. The rational part of the brain isn’t fully developed until age 25 or so.
-adapted from the website of the University of Rochester Medical Center

© Bob Goodnough, November 16, 2019

We try to do too much

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Image by gentlegiant27153 from Pixabay

Trying to save the planet leaves us frustrated, angry, bitter and in despair.

Trying to compel other people turn to Jesus will do the same thing.

These jobs are too big for us; leave them to God.

We can be kind to others because of the love of God n our hearts.

We can respond peacefully to other people’s anger.

We can forgive others when they do us wrong.

We can tell of our own failures and how God forgave us.

We can praise God openly for what He has done for us.

We can explain how trusting Jesus enables us to live with hope.

These are little things, but they do more to make the world a better place than any of the big things we may try to do.

© Bob Goodnough

The world is a mess

• The world is a mess.
• Most of the mess was caused by people who thought they were mending it.
• We are no wiser than they were.
• We are not good people.
• We can’t mend the world because it is made up of people just like us.
• We need to be mended.
• If we could be mended the world would be a better place.
• Only God can do that.
• We don’t want to hear about God.
• That is what is wrong with the world.

© Bob Goodnough

Quotes on life and writing

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Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another, and his humblest hour is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it.
-J. M. Barrie

 

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Image by engin akyurt from Pixabay

My little notebooks were beginnings —  they were the ground into which I dropped the seed. I would work in this way when I was out in the crowds, then put the stuff together at home.
-Walt Whitman

You don’t know the wind

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Image by ptra from Pixabay

The title comes from a line in an art book published 25 years ago, titled If you’re not from the prairie . . . The art is by Henry Ripplinger and the poetic text by David Bouchard. Together they evoke childhood in rural Saskatchewan just as I remember it.

Another line in the book says “You’ve never heard grass.” People in other parts of the country know the sound of the wind in the trees. We don’t have many of those on the prairie. I remember warm summer days in my boyhood when I would walk through the pasture and hear the sound of the grass swaying in the gentle breeze.

Another favourite Saskatchewan book is the novel Who has Seen the Wind, byW. O. Mitchell. The description of the boy listening to the sounds made by the wind in the grass is picture perfect, a beautiful example of showing, not telling.

I have travelled across Canada, seen the Pacific in the west and the Atlantic in the east. I have lived in half of the provinces and I know there is wind everywhere. Yet there is something about the wind that blows across the flat prairie with few trees to impede it that speaks to me in a way that tells me that here I am at home.

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Image by sspiehs3 from Pixabay

We don’t enjoy it when the wind blows at gale force for several days. But then, we don’t enjoy it either when it is a hot summer day, the mosquitos are around us like a cloud and there is not even a little breeze to blow them away. For better or for worse, the wind is part of what it means to be a flatlander.

  • If you’re not from the prairie . . . , © 1993 by David Bouchard and Henry Ripplinger. Published by Raincoast Books, Vancouver.
  • Who has seen the wind, © 1947 by W. O. Mitchell. Published by Macmillan of Canada, Toronto.

Picking up change

I believe it’s been five years since I last wrote about my weight loss progress, mainly because there wasn’t any progress to report. Things have gone better over the past two years and I have now lost 27 pounds (12 kg). That’s enough to get my pant size down to 36 from 40 and move me from the obese to the overweight category. I need to lose another 25 pounds to get to where I should be, which should bring me down to a 32 inch waist.

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Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Some years ago I was inspired to believe weight loss was possible by reading Calvin Nowell’s book, Start Somewhere: Losing What’s Weighing You Down From the Inside Out. In the book, he describes an incident where he saw several loose coins on the sidewalk and bent down to pick them up. As he did so, the thought came to him that he was “picking up change” and that was what he needed to do to make his weight loss effort work. Long term weight loss will not happen by taking some miracle pill or going on some miracle diet plan. It is a matter of “picking up change,” continuing to make small changes to your lifestyle that will become habits and help lose and keep off excess weight.

Corny as it sounds, “picking up change” is just what I needed to do. The changes didn’t come all at once; but every once in a while I would come to a plateau where I wasn’t losing weight anymore and I would find another change to make.

Here is a list of the changes that I have made, in the order that I made them:

1. I bought a mini trampoline, or rebounder, to use when I don’t go out for a walk.

2. I downloaded a pedometer app on my phone to track the steps I made in a day, aiming for 10,000 or more at least four days a week.

3. I cut out all between meal snacks and quit eating dessert at supper time.

4. I quit eating desserts altogether, except for meals with company.

5. I started wearing custom orthotics all the time. I had tried the cheap Dr. Scholl orthitics and for a time all was well. Then my knees started bothering me and I had to curtail my walking time. I went back to the custom orthotics and it took some months for the pain in my knees to go away. Lesson learned.

6. I started using maple syrup to sweeten my coffee. It has a lower glycemic index than sugar.

7. I stopped drinking pop. The only carbonated beverages I drink now are unsweetened Perrier water with a hint of citrus flavour.

8. I started drinking two glasses of water with every meal.

There it is, nothing miraculous, just slow and steady progress. Mostly it came down to harnessing my natural stubbornness for the cause of my health. I have two suits hanging in my closet. One is now too big and baggy to wear anymore. The other I haven’t worn for twenty years because I was too big and baggy to fit into it. I may just wear it to church tomorrow.

Requiem for the barber shop

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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

Time was when every little town had a barber, and that barber was busy ten hours a day, six days a week. For 75 cents one could get a haircut and catch up on the local news and tall tales. The day of 75 cent haircuts is long gone; barbers today, if you can find one, charge 20 dollars. The conversation is still good, though. If you can find a barber.

Two days ago I went looking for a barber in my old home town. This town is actually a city of 35,000 people. It’s two and a half hours from where I now live, so I don’t get there often. I went looking for the barber that I have known for 50 years. He’s not there any more. After a little mental calculation, I realized he was in his nineties the last time he cut my hair, about a year ago. I guess it was time for him to retire.

I found out there are two barber shops left in that city, with two elderly barbers who will also probably retire soon. That will leave the young lady who cut my hair on Wednesday. At least she is young from the perspective of my 77 years: she says she has been cutting hair for 19 years. It looks like the whole future of barber shops in that city is in her hands.

Closer to home, in a city ten times the size, I have been frequenting the same barber shop for twenty years. That barber shop used to have three chairs, three barbers. Now it is down to one chair in the front corner of a hair dressing salon. He still charges barber rates, not hair salon rates.

It seems the younger generation prefers the hair salons, where they pay twice as much for a haircut that doesn’t look any different than a haircut by a barber. I guess they consider the barber shop too lowly a place.

I’m thankful that there are still a few old-time barber shops left where an old geezer can go to get his hair trimmed, as much as he has left, and have a good chat to boot.

Silence like cancer

The fire, the wind, the earthquake beat upon the mountain like hammer blows. Elijah knew God did not speak like that. After all was silent, he heard a gentle voice. It was so soft that he could not discern the words; he went to the mouth of the cave to hear better. God spoke to him in a gentle tone, but did not beat around the bush. His first words were: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

Jesus often wrapped the truth in a story. His purpose was not to conceal the truth, but to prompt the listeners to search for the meaning, and to make it stick. We should not take the example of Jesus as an excuse to wrap the truth in obscure words which conceal rather than reveal. No one should not have to guess what we are trying to say.

When a Pharisee asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”, Jesus responded with the story we call “the good Samaritan.” The Pharisee nodded as Jesus told of the priests who had passed by without helping. That was how he saw the priests. He no doubt expected Jesus to tell how a Pharisee came along and saved the day.

Jesus shocked him to the depths of his being by making a Samaritan the hero of the story. Jews saw Samaritans as unclean people and avoided them. After telling the story, Jesus asked who had been a neighbour to the man in distress. The Pharisee could not even bring himself to pronounce the word Samaritan, but allowed that the one who helped had been the true neighbour.

Jesus’ final word, “go and do thou likewise,” was telling the Pharisee he needed to be more like the Samaritan in the story. The Pharisee got the parable’s message. We don’t know what he did with that understanding. The gospels say that most Pharisees hated Jesus, but some believed.

Our lives should be a witness of the hope that lies within us. But we cannot just be silent witnesses. If someone asks us a reason of that hope and all we can come up with is “That’s the way our church teaches,” or “That’s what it says somewhere in the Bible,” people are apt to conclude that we don’t know why we do things like we do. Could they be right?

We should be able to offer a clear testimony of the grounds of our faith. Important-sounding words are unnecessary, as is a round-about way of speaking. Simple words from the heart are more apt to touch the hearts of others.

Psalm 15:1-2 —LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth [as it is] in his heart.

The words I have inserted in italics appear in the most reliable French translations and I believe are the true meaning. It is not enough to hide the truth in our heart. We need to learn how to express it in words others can understand.

If we think it’s enough to have the truth hidden in our hearts, yet remain silent about it, that silence becomes like a cancer eating away at the truth within us. The world hears the blows of the hammers wielded by multitudes who claim to be proclaiming truth, so many kinds of supposed truth. We can’t compete with the noise, we don’t need a bigger hammer to ensure people hear our message. The truth is best told in a warm, gentle way.

Do we need to learn how to speak the truth? Truth-speaking does not need heavy words or “Christian” fairy tales to support it. If we can wrap it in a story from our own life, or one we have observed, so much the better. Let’s start now, in our homes, with fellow believers, and with those who do not believe.

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