Skip to content

Monthly Archives: February 2009

Free Food, Not Sex


The New York Times had an article today about fears today’s children have about eating ‘bad’ food. It seems that parents’ concerns about eating healthy are making their children food-obsessed and fearful. Kids are worrying about eating too much sodium and refined sugar, too many trans fats and carbohydrates. Nutritionists tell us that what kids (and most of the rest of us) need is variety and balance. Rather than avoiding particular nutrients—and let’s face it, sodium, sugar, fat, and carbs are all essential nutrients—we just need to eat a good, balanced variety. Our kids are learning that some foods are ‘good’ and some ‘bad,’ but the truth is that all food is good in appropriate amounts. The health risks from not eating or from eating obsessively are much greater than from just eating what you like.

Jesus declared all foods clean. So when it comes to the pleasures of eating, we have complete freedom. No one has to stick to a diet of carrots and fish sticks or liver and broccoli. Christians can eat pork, calamari, mushrooms, and McDonald’s cheeseburgers without fear of displeasing God—as long as they give him thanks. It seems odd that an area so full of freedom biblically should be so full of strictures and rules culturally.

It’s equally odd that in another area biblically restricted, there is so much cultural freedom. Of course, I mean  sex. We worry endlessly about the health effects of what we eat but pretend that the health risks of sexual adventuring are worth taking. If everyone suddenly began to live with the kind of sexual purity recommended in the New Testament, sexually transmitted disease would disappear in two generations. The benefits of sexual purity are obvious and would be immediate. Yet hardly anyone touts them or tries to make a public health case for encouraging sexual purity. Instead, we focus on passing laws to ban trans fats in restaurants. Our efforts to protect against the well-known risks of sexual adventuring are relatively feeble. We encourage condom use and advise people to get regular check-ups. We spend millions to find cures for diseases whose root cause is well-known and preventable. All it takes is a little change in behavior. Yet for some reason it is easier to become a vegetarian than a celibate, and though we treat vegans with bewildered awe, we think there must be something wrong with someone who is voluntarily celibate.


Name Above All Names


Almost everybody likes Jesus, even folks who hate God. Everybody wants Jesus on their side. Jesus saves. Jesus has a million friends on Facebook. Everybody loves Jesus as long as he stays in his place, doesn’t get too preachy, doesn’t try to reach anyone, doesn’t remind you of his Father. We still all would like Jesus to be king as long as he’s the kind of king who will do everything we want him to do.

Jesus is also a swear word, and somehow he acquired a middle initial: Jesus H. Christ. What’s the ‘H’ for? How should I know? Jesus means damn, means hell, means ouch. Jesus gets shortened to geez or even gee. He’s a gee whiz kid from the Land of Iz.

Jesus is the answer, but no one knows the question. Is it that question, where the answer’s 42? Or is it that question, “What am I to do?” We like Jesus ’cause he’s friendly and he heals us and he feeds us and he tells us funny stories like the one about the camel going through the needle’s eye. And he doesn’t give a damn about the pundits and the princes and the people with the power and the portly politicians who bedevil all the rest of us.

He’s a nice guy, Jesus. Sort of like you and sort of like me. He’s such a nice guy that he even lets us kill him, and he does it all to save us from the dreadful power of sin. And it’s awfully decent of him ’cause the taste of sin is sweet, and we love to feel its texture and we love it’s spicy scent. And we take a big swallow, and it goes down smooth, and it makes us warm and fuzzy—until suddenly it doesn’t. We love it to death, and it’s so hard to quit it, so it’s nice to have Jesus come and make it all better. He takes the bitter and leaves us the sweet. Oh, sweet Jesus!

What’s this we hear about every knee bowing? Every tongue confessing that Jesus is king? Oh, that comes later, so we don’t care about it. It might not even happen for all we know. So let’s eat and drink and party, for tomorrow we may die. And you don’t want to die without getting all you can. Jesus, what a life!




Bill Amend’s popular strip Foxtrot nearly always makes me smile, but last Sunday’s strip made me laugh all day. The wildly (and undeservedly) popular bestseller The Da Vinci Code introduced Fibonacci numbers to the general public. The series consists of whole numbers such that each number is the sum of the previous two. The series starts out like this:

1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, ...

Despite the simplicity of the series, there is no known method for generating the nth term in the series without generating all the intervening terms. Stranger still, the ratio between two adjacent Fibonacci numbers approaches the golden ratio as the numbers increase. The golden ratio is the ratio between two numbers a and b such that a/b = b/(a + b). A little algebra serves to show that this ratio is about:

0.618 033 988 749 894 848 204 586 834 366

Another curiosity about this number: it’s inverse is the same as adding 1 to it. Again, it’s not hard to show that if n = a/b, then 1/n = n + 1.

There’s more.

Consider any rectangle. It can be thought of as figure constructed by adding squares of different sizes together. For example, a 3 × 5 rectangle can be thought of as consisting of a 3 × 3 square, a 2 × 2 square, and two 1 × 1 squares, like this:

3 x 5 Rectangle Divided Into Squares
3 x 5 Rectangle Divided Into Squares

Now imagine a rectangle where the ratio of the length to the width is the golden ratio. If you divide it into the largest square and a left over rectangle, the remaining rectangle is still a golden rectangle. If you divide that rectangle into a largest square and a rectangle, the remaining rectangle is still a golden rectangle. So the process of dividing the rectangle into squares continues ad infinitum and at every step there is always a golden rectangle still left to be divided. It’s not hard to see why. We know that the golden ratio is given by a/b = b/(a + b). Suppose the rectangle has width b and length a + b. Then the largest square to be taken from the rectangle is b × b, leaving a rectangle with width a and length b. But the ratio of a to b is the golden ratio, hence another golden rectangle.

Since the golden ratio approximates the ration between two adjacent Fibonacci numbers, we can use it to determine the next Fibonacci number in a sequence. For example, the series above ended at 377. The next number should be about 377/0.618033… ≈ 609.999. So the next number should be 610, and we can confirm that it is by adding 233 + 377 = 610.