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about me quick thoughts

When the Way In is the Way Out

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When I was a little bitty dude growing up in Ohio, I was very inquisitive. I asked lots of questions, and my mom answered most of them. One day while we were out driving somewhere, I saw a sign that said “No Outlet.”

“What does ‘No Outlet’ mean?” I asked.

“It means there’s no place to plug in your coffee pot,” she responded.

My mom and dad both laughed and then explained that it meant the same thing as “Dead End.” From then on whenever any of us saw a “No Outlet” sign, someone was sure to comment, “No place to plug in your coffee pot.” It became a standing joke.

That was more than 50 years ago.

I got to thinking that if “Dead End” and “No Outlet” were really interchangeable, then one would surely have supplanted the other over those 50 years. It stands to reason that if they mean the same thing, one must be newer or somehow more preferred than the other. It would slowly but inexorably overtake the older, less preferred sign. Personally, I favored “No Outlet” as the more preferred sign. It seemed newer and less likely to remind drivers of death.

After 50 years, however, I still see both signs. Sometimes there’s a “Dead End” sign, and sometimes there’s a “No Outlet” sign. This led me to reflect that the signs must differ in some way. Maybe the signs have different applications depending on the circumstances or environment.

In fact, a quick search turned up just such a difference encoded in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, a publication used by street and road engineers to decide what kind of signs and traffic control devices to use for various situations. According to the Manual, the DEAD END sign may be used at the entrance of a single road or street that terminates in a dead end or cul-de-sac, while the NO OUTLET sign may be used at the entrance to a road or road network from which there is no other exit. So, technically, the “No Outlet” sign has wider applicability, since it could always replace a “Dead End” sign. But the “Dead End” sign could not always replace a “No Outlet” sign since it always applies to a single road.

Dead end implies the possibility of a living end, which also formed a phrase from my childhood. When Mom encountered some surprising innovation, she might say, “Well, ain’t that the living end.” It was on par with, “What will they think of next” or even just, “Wow!” I suppose most roads lead to a living end, but only a few lead to dead ends. That tends to give one a fairly positive outlook on the universe. Even if you make a wrong turn, you can turn back and get out the same way you got in. You can change direction and be fairly certain of reaching a living end instead of a dead end.

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fun joy luck novelty pleasure quick thoughts surprise theology

Shower Thoughts: Joy by Surprise

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It is a curious paradox that the pleasures we plan most carefully to recreate give us less joy than the serendipitous pleasures that overtake us. I think this provides a clue for how God thinks about happiness. Not only are we surprised by joy, but the surprise increases the joy. This is why “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'” (Revelation 21:5 NIV).

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abuse of power America current events politics quick thoughts

Thoughts on The Mueller Report

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I’ve been reading The Mueller Report about the investigation into matters related to Russian interference in the 2016 election. There are two volumes. Volume 1 deals with crimes related to Russian interference in our elections. It details incidents and evidence that supports charges against various individuals and entities for tampering with our elections. None of those charged are Americans or members of President Trump’s campaign or administration. It also deals with incidents and evidence of crimes discovered in the course of the investigation, in particular lying to Congress and lying to the FBI concerning an ongoing investigation. Several members of Trump’s campaign and administration were charged. Nevertheless, the investigation did not find evidence of collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russian-backed organizations or individuals who interfered in our elections. There were a couple of questionable incidents, but it was not clear that any laws were violated.

Volume 2, which I have not yet finished, deals with the President’s efforts to end the investigation. I will need more time to discuss it, so I will only say now that it does not exonerate the President. Far from it.

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