Saturday, January 26, 2008

Power Companies

I have been very dissatisfied with my power company lately. If you remember from a previous post, I was able to decrease the total wattage needed to light our house from 1610 watts to 364 watts and I eliminated all forms of phantom power. So far, I have noticed zero change in our monthly power bill. Our power bill for the month of November was around $80. I was excited to get our power bill in December because we were gone for 10 days visiting friends and family in the Midwest. We used our heat sparingly in the 20 days we were home, so I thought our December bill would be at least 33% less than November. However, when I got the bill, it was $96.

This means that one of two things is happening: the cost of power is rising at a rapid pace, or, the power company is charging me what they think I owe and not basing it on actual usage. I am inclined to think the latter, and it ticks me off.

I am annoyed with power companies because of their monopoly. It is next to impossible to function in our modern society without them. Even more frustrating is that there is no way to "prove" that the power you are using is less than what they are charging you for. Sure, there is that meter, but how do we know that it is actually connected to anything? It could just be programmed to randomly go up based on the profit needs of the power company. The whole thing is a conspiracy if you ask me.

If I had free time, I would figure out a system where thousands of hamsters running in little wheels could provide the power we need. Since I do not have this free time, I will just add power companies to my list to pacify my rage.

1. Wearing a cell phone on your hip
2. The idea that a nice smile is the "normal" way to pose for a photograph
3. People who cut to the front of a traffic back-up when they know they need to get over
4. Local TV Newspeople
5. Confirmational Reactionist
6. Wearing a blue tooth headset as a fashion accessory
7. Putting Bullethole stickers on your car
8. Placing a fake baseball on your car that gives the allusion that it has shattered your window
9. People who litter
10. Ignorcycles
11. Bumper stickers
12. Cheesy Church Signs
13. The player introduction part of Jeopardy!
14. Power Companies

Good to Great

Lately, I have been trying to mix up what I read so I am not constantly immersing myself in Christian literature. "Good to Great" by Jim Collins is a book that has gotten a lot of press over the past few years, so I thought I would read it to see what I could learn.

Essentially, the book was a report of an extensive research study that was done on certain companies. The crux of the research compared similar companies where one consistently beat the market even in economic downturns while its competitor did not thrive. The research attempted to tease out why some companies did so well while their competitors did not. I thought that the book provided some interesting results from the study.

First of all, it is important to note that the book defined "great" as consistently making a lot of money. This mentality is problematic for the Church and Christianity, but I thought that the practices that led to greatness could be applicable.

Collins and his research team found that great companies had what they called "Level 5 Leaders." Surprisingly, level five leaders are not these outrageous personalities who carry the company through sheer innovation and motivation. The study found that companies who had these types of leaders experienced significant problems once these leaders left the company. Actually, level five leaders are quiet, humble people who lead simple lifestyles. They are extremely disciplined and full of integrity, and their sole mission is the improvement of the organization, not personal glorification. I think the Church would do well to look for Level 5 leaders as opposed to a pastor with a flashy personality.

Another aspect of great companies was a "culture of discipline." This culture is connected to having level five leaders. In a culture of discipline, motivation is not necessary because people understand their roles and do them consistently with excellence. Once again, the Church would do well to develop a culture of discipline in their mission of meeting the needs of the community.

All in all, it was a solid book with a lot of insights on how to improve oneself and one's community.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Life Will Be Great in 2008!

First of all, happy 1 year anniversary to this blog. It was about this time last year that I started doing this crazy thing. At times it has been a burden, but I enjoy having this outlet to be creative and a record to look back and remember what I have been doing and thinking.

To those of you who actually read my blog, I apologize that the posts have been few and far between. I used to have a job where I averaged 4 hours a day to work on stuff like my blog. Now I am lucky if I have 4 minutes to check my personal email. This, combined with the fact that Laura and I do not have internet access at home, means little to no blog activity. I cannot make any promises that this will get better in the future.

I thought I would give a quick post on what I am looking forward to in 2008. Below is my list:

  • Laura Graduating in May with her Masters – For the first time in our marriage, neither one of us will be in grad school. It has been especially hard on Laura, so I am thrilled that she will be passing this major milestone.
  • Moving back to DurhamI hate how much Laura and I drive, so I am excited to move back to Durham, where my work and the majority of my social life reside.
  • Weddings – My buddy Erik is getting married in April, and my sister Nicole is getting married in June. I am a groomsman in Erik’s wedding and I am doing the ceremony for Nicole’s. It should be a great time!
  • Maberry baby? – Settle down everyone, it has not happened yet, and it will depend on a number of circumstances as to whether or not it will happen.
Here is to a great 2008!

Saving Women

Not everyone gets to read a book written by someone they work with, but I had that opportunity in reading “Saving Women” by Laceye Warner. Laceye is the Academic Dean at Duke Divinity School, and is my supervisor and co-worker. Having said that, I guess I better be careful about what I say in this review!

In all seriousness, “Saving Women” was a solid piece of academic work. It sought to recover the voice of several women of the 19th and 20th centuries who made a major impact in the area of Christian evangelism. These women are often overlooked in recalling those who have gone before to make a significant contribution to the evangelistic work in America. This was true for me, as I only knew one of the women (Frances Willard) reviewed in the book. As someone who has a mother in the ministry, I am at least somewhat aware that women are often left out of these types of conversations, and I think works like this one are necessary to bring equality and a truthful balance.

One theme I noticed was that almost all of the women in the book had a connection to the holiness movement of the late 19th/early 20th century. It was out of this movement that the Church of the Nazarene was formed. It reminded me that I am proud to be a part of continuing movement that, while it certainly is far from perfect, has at least created some space for women to have a voice. Moving forward, it is my hope that books like “Saving Women” will not be necessary for highlighting the vital contributions of women to the work of building God’s Kingdom because the work of women will be equally recognized. Interestingly enough, it is books like “Saving Women” that help to pave the way.

The White Man's Burden

The White Man’s Burden” by Williams Easterly is basically a counterargument to “The End of Poverty” by Jeffrey Sachs. In the book, Easterly argues that there have been two great tragedies among humanity – the first is that extreme poverty has taken place in a world where some have more than enough. The other great tragedy is that the attempts of West to eliminate this poverty have not worked, in fact, things may be getting worse.

Easterly divides the people seeking a solution to this problem of poverty into two categories: Planners and Searchers. Planners are people like Jeffrey Sachs, who sit behind desks and come up with these elaborate and expensive plans to fix complex problems. Easterly spends the majority of the book outlining why these big “plans” to eliminate poverty will not work and gives several examples of this.

The alternative for Easterly is the other group, called Searchers. Searchers, instead of developing big plans from afar, are seeking ways to partner with people in poverty and figuring out things on the ground. Searchers are those who seek organic solutions to the specific problems of a specific context.

In the end, I think I tended to side with Easterly in the way to move forward with this problem of poverty. However, I finished the book just as confused as ever about this issue. It just seems to be so big and so complex. Moreover, I feel so isolated from poverty due to my living context where everyone else seems to have so much. In my life, I have noticed that the issue of poverty tends to be overwhelming to the point of paralysis, but I know in my heart that this is not right. I think, like Easterly suggests, the way forward is to start small and start somewhere specific. The problem of poverty is not going away overnight, but it might get better for specific groups in specific places.