Life as a House

It is hard to give up dreams held so long. It is hard being “stuck.”

Building my own house has been a lifelong dream for me. It goes back longer than any of my other dreams. It began when I was about 8, probably when I first learned that my grandfather had designed his house (see “A glimpse into the life of Abraham Harder“). I have drawn many house plans over the years. As I matured and became interested in energy efficiency and seismic safety the designs became more mature. I almost got one design built ­– for my parents ­– but they ended up building a customized “kit” house. It has now been years since my last drawings.

It is hard to continue designing my dreams when it looks like they are unlikely to come to fruition. It is hard to give up dreams held so long. It is hard being “stuck.”

My wife spends a lot of time with Beca Lewis (see, One of Beca’s tenets is that it is the qualities of dreams that are most important. You may not achieve the actual dream, but if you pursue the qualities in it that are important to you, you may find yourself satisfied with different dreams, new dreams – a “shift” in perspective. So, on a recent long drive to Utah to visit my daughter’s family, my wife suggested I make a list of qualities that building my house represents for me, and putting that list in the order of importance. It is difficult for me to get to the deep feelings, but eventually we had an ordered list of ten qualities (for me) of building a house: Creativity, accomplishment, adventure, beauty, personal, exciting, intellectually stimulating, satisfaction, application of knowledge, hands-on.

After I finished the list, I realized that these are all also “life qualities” for me. These are qualities that could be on my list for my “dream job” or my desire to make a difference in our world. And, I immediately remembered back to the movie I saw many years ago “Life as a House.” The movie was about many things, but what stands out for me now, is one man’s desire to accomplish a dream, even though he is not going to be able to enjoy the fruit of that dream. In the end, he left it to his son to finish the house and give it away to a stranger. (If that piques your interest, rent the movie; it is available on Amazon and Netflix.)

Will I leave my dreams for someone else to finish? Or will they even care? Sometimes, when I speak of my dreams and frustrations, my son says he will carry them on. I remind him that these are my dreams, and don’t need to be his. I write and speak of things that matter. What other dreams can matter to me enough to supplant this dream? I get satisfaction and see beauty traveling to new or old places. I get intellectual stimulation and apply knowledge researching and writing the articles you may see on this website. But, creativity and accomplishment are at the top of the list. And for me, accomplishment means finishing something that is important – that matters to me. There are so many things that for various reasons have gone unfinished in my life. They don’t all matter that much, but the need for accomplishment is there – and it matters to me.

Looking back now, I realize that “peace,” “hope” and “joy” are not on that list, although I would put them on a list of “life qualities.”

Peace is a difficult quality for me. As a person who needs to be active, to achieve, to accomplish, in order to be satisfied, it is hard to be at peace with myself. Before my life is over, I hope that I can achieve the peace that comes with satisfaction that what I accomplished was sufficient.

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Fake news or false news?

The prevalence of “fake news” on the internet has been a hot topic recently. We often take for granted what we read in newspapers or hear on radio or TV. Is it really any better?

Fake news or false news?

Ken Piper, June 7, 2017

The prevalence of “fake news” on the internet has been a hot topic recently. We have learned to be wary of so-called news that we read on the internet, as we are with sensationalist tabloid stories. However, we often take for granted what we read in newspapers or magazines, or hear on the radio or television. Is it really any better? “If it’s on TV, it must be true!”

Over the years, I have noticed that the news I read in newspapers or news magazines is full of factual errors. Nearly every article that is about something I know, is wrong in some way. Radio and television news is the same, not just minor details, but major omissions and factual errors. In some cases, it is apparently because the writer and the editor are not subject matter experts. I notice this in scientific or technical articles in subject areas with which I am familiar. In other cases, it is factual errors about an event that has happened, or about a person I know. This may be because of misinformation the writer received and didn’t verify, false assumptions about the who and what of an event, or just plain sloppy reporting. The editors often make this worse by giving the article a title that contradicts the information in the article itself.

Let me emphasize, this is almost every news report that is about something that I know absolutely! So, what does this mean about everything else in the news – the articles on something I don’t already know about? Without having done a public survey of news accuracy, I can only assume that all news is chock-full of falsehoods – why would it be limited to my areas of expertise?

Is this fake news or false news? If it is intentionally wrong, with the purpose of misleading the reader, as is the case in many internet articles or tabloids sold at the grocery store checkout counter, then it is obviously fake news. If it is honest mistakes, even from sloppy reporting, it is false news. What if it is dissemination of information by someone who is seen as an expert, or claims to be an expert, but is not?

Bill Nye the “Science Guy” comes to mind. He seems to know a lot about science (could be his writers), but he is not really a scientist and besides, can’t be an expert in all the areas of science he talks about. He was a mechanical engineer, and Wikipedia (correctly, in my view) labels him a “science communicator.” So, when he says something that is either factually wrong, or presents something as a certainty that is still under debate, is that fake news or false news?

The president regularly tweets about “fake news.” In some cases it may be fake news; more commonly it is probably false news, or just something he doesn’t agree with. When a political party pays people to agitate at an adversary’s campaign rally, is that fake news? The event really happened, but the real news is that it was a fake protest.

Can we even trust peer-reviewed scientific journals? As scientists have become advocates for their personal beliefs, it is becoming obvious that the reviewers and editors are often becoming censors of things they don’t agree with or that don’t fit their social agenda. Because of this, some researchers are advocating self-publishing on the internet as a way around the problem. But without the prestige of a known journal, it is hard to get anyone to even find your work on the internet, let alone bother to read it.

So, how can we know the truth about anything? We can’t trust the news, and maybe not even the scientific literature, so should we just not read or listen to it? Many people only watch news channels that fit their political point of view. So, they are missing out on opposing viewpoints. Maybe it doesn’t matter. If they can’t get really true news, false news is the best they can get and they don’t trust the other stations anyway. After all, they are just “fake news.”