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May 30, 2007

A Travesty of Justice - The Dawn Rowan Saga

The Australian Government has just spent $500,000 to bring David Hicks home from Guantanamo Bay after a trial which itself was a travesty of justice. But this is 'peanuts' compared to the millions of taxpayers' money wasted on prosecuting an innocent woman, Dawn Rowan. See http://dawnrowansaga.blogspot.com/.

She won a long-running case against the SA and Commonwealth Governments - and now they're pursuing her for costs, which will bankrupt her - and not only has she been declared innocent all through 21 years, she has been found to be the victim of some rather questionable actions by the state!

For a more detailed telling of the story, see the report from Channel 7's Today Tonight program by going to the front page of
http://jmm.aaa.net.au.

Rowland Croucher of John Mark Ministries is prepared to answer any questions you mightahave about this sorry saga and misuse of government power. Feel free to contact him:
(rccroucheroptusnet.com.au).

Posted by gary at 09:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2007

Losing the Second Generation

We in the West are in angst about the 'lost generations' in church - generally in the age of 30-55; people who have left the church of their parents, many having abandoned the faith altogether. We have a noted rise in alternative spiritualities, which are often grounded in ancient practices.

The Religion Report of May 16 spends some time analysing the shift away from Catholicism in Central America, a report coinciding with the Pope's visit. While the ratio of priests to Catholics is about 1 to 7000, in evangelical churches it is 1 to 300, going some way to explaining the drift from Catholicism to evangelical and charismatic churches. But that's not the whole story. Michelle Crowther reports:

But the Catholic church's great exodus is not only at the hands of its competitors. In pockets of Latin America, the debate is no longer between different faiths. Many of those who leave choose no organised spiritual alternative. In Guatemala for example, polls since 1990 show about 12% of citizens citing no religious affiliation at all. And in Mexico, 43% of second-generation evangelicals have no affiliation with the church. This is a very important reality check for those Christians who imagine that the future vitality for Christian churches in the 21st century, lies in the developing world. Even in the global south, the trend towards European style secularism is beginning to appear. If 43% of second generation evangelicals have no religious affiliation, it may be that the drift towards these sects is just a staging post on the way towards no religion. If they're being born again in Mexico City, it's into a new life of liberalism.

Which gives pause for thought. Is there something about the charismatic/evangelical commitment to the present/immediacy of God that does not sustain? Catholic rites and practices are steeped in ancient tradition... practices and images embedded in daily life. But while the charismatic/evangelical tradition has perhaps countered some of the 'deadness' which often permeates such ritualistic approaches, one wonders whether the roots have been jettisoned also. What is it that sustains faith? What rituals and images bring us back to our centre? That the second generation charismatics/evangelicals abandon at such a rate suggests the roots are shallow... it parallels the well-travelled "back door" of the church in the West. People don't find it sustaining for the long term.

We might want to point our fingers at the wider culture and indicate that it's a type of spiritual ADHD, consistent with the constant clamour for something new, yet that is often the paradigm of worship and spirituality we have embraced... focussed towards "our needs" at the surface level, but apparently missing something at the deeper.

I am one who finds ritual and repetition to be boring after a short period of time. I gave up on a highly liturgical worship after enjoying it for the first couple of weeks because knowing what was coming, both in words and actions, did not help me engage. Yet I acknowledge the place for ritual and repetition, for the disciplines of the faith which bring us back to the same place and remind us of - and tend to - our roots.

This is a continuing challenge. The Mexican experience highlights a reality we have known in the West, bringing it into stark relief. Where to from here?

Posted by gary at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2007

US baby gets gun permit

This beggars belief... from the ABC

He can barely walk or talk, but 11-month-old "Bubba" Ludwig is already a fully paid up member of America's firearms fraternity, with a 12-gauge Beretta shotgun and a gun permit to his name.

The shotgun was a gift from his grandfather who bought it as an heirloom for his grandson when the infant was just two-weeks-old.

The gun permit came courtesy of the Illinois state authorities last month.

Even in a country with fervent gun advocates, news of an infant owning a gun has made headlines in US newspapers.

The toddler's father, also named Howard Ludwig, applied for a Firearm Owner's Identification Card (FOID) for his son, never imagining that he would actually get one.

"I filled in the form, saying he was two feet, three inches, 20 pounds, and I included a photo of him," said Mr Ludwig, who is a columnist for the Daily Southtown, a suburban Chicago newspaper.

The 30-year-old also had his son "sign" the application form, by putting a pen in his hand and letting him write a squiggle on the paper.

"I was expecting to get a letter back telling me I was an idiot. So when I got his FOID card (permit) back I was shocked. I couldn't believe it."

In Illinois, all firearms owners must apply for a permit, or FOID, in order to legally own a firearm or ammunition but there are no age restrictions on applicants, although anyone under 21 has to get the written consent of a parent or legal guardian, according to the Illinois State Police website.

For now, the shotgun is under lock and key at the home of Howard Ludwig senior.

Grandpa Ludwig plans to keep the shotgun under wraps until "Bubba" or Howard David Ludwig gets to be a teenager, at which point he plans to take the boy out trap hunting, family members said.

- AFP

Posted by gary at 12:12 PM | Comments (2)

May 16, 2007

Missing Value

I recently wrote about the appearance of violin virtuoso Joshua Bell in a largely-unnoticed 'busking' performance in a subway station in Washington DC. Over 1100 people walked by a man who commands over $1000 a minute at Boston's Symphony hall, barely noticing or acknowledging the beauty they hear. I've managed to track down a video of the event.

It still prompts me to wonder how much beauty and grace escapes our notice each day.

Posted by gary at 03:19 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2007

Quantum Changes

There are so many "givens" which in recent years have become negotiables that we are continually forced to rethink our assumptions. Does today's reporting of LG's production of a 'thin and bendable viewing panel' signal the beginning of the end for paper as we know it? Maybe the paperless office is finally on the way!

It does, however, pose a challenge for writing the shopping list and sticking it in your back pocket!

Posted by gary at 04:57 PM | Comments (0)

Changing Planes

This puts a very different perspective on being asked to change planes...

Posted by gary at 02:08 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2007

The Shape of Worship Music

Revhead has moved and redesigned his on-line persona. On this new site I found reference to this thoughtful article on the shape of worship music in the church from Brian McLaren. The letter is adapted from an article which first appeared in Worship Leader Magazine.

Greetings, fellow songwriters, fellow worshippers, fellow leaders in worship, fellow musician/artists, and fellow followers of Jesus:
For the last few years, I have been privileged to be “on the road” a lot, speaking mostly with young emerging leaders. I suppose I was asked to speak to them because of some over-forty quota system, and also because many emerging leaders are grappling with the issue of postmodernity, an issue I lost most of my hair grappling with myself - and about which I have written some books. Back home, I am a pastor serving a church that has committed itself to enter the postmodern transition and deal with its issues boldly and confidently. I say “boldly and confidently” knowing that there are as yet no maps to guide a church in this adventure - so we have no real idea where we’re going except that we’re trying to follow Jesus. I guess we feel very much like the children of Israel having left the Egypt of modernity and crossed the Sea into the unknown wilderness - we’re trusting that a God-sent cloud-pillar and fire-cloud will guide us by day and night.
One of the side benefits of travel - as a musician myself, I have truly enjoyed hearing dozens of worship bands and worship leaders, and spending literally hours at almost every event being led in worship. There are many observations and affirmations I could imagine sharing with you who are worship leaders. There are so many encouraging trends, along with a few persistent problems. But one observation stands out. It is actually a request more than an observation: a request for the songwriters among us to explore and then lead us into some new lyrical/spiritual territory.

One hears a lot of complaints about lame music, trite lyrics, theological shallowness, etc., etc., in the world of contemporary Christian music. Some of these complaints come from people who secretly wish we would go back to singing hymns, like they did back in the -50’s (18- or 19-, your pick). I am not interested in complaining, and I have little interest in the -50’s (except maybe the 2050’s).
No, here’s what I’m after: Many of us believe that we are entering (or well into) a significant theological/cultural/spiritual transition period, very possibly as significant historically as the reformation period, when the medieval world gave way to the modern world. Now, as the modern gives way to the postmodern world, we should expect to see a revolution in theology (in the end, helping us be more Biblical, more spiritual, more effective in our mission - and, please God, more clear about what our mission is). But here’s the rub.
In the modern world, theology was done by scholars, and was expressed in books and lectures. In the postmodern world, many of us believe that the theologians will have to leave the library more often and mix with the rest of us. And the best of them will join hands and hearts with the poets, musicians, filmmakers, actors, architects, interior and landscape designers, dancers, sculptors, painters, novelists, photographers, web designers, and every other artistic brother and sister possible - not only to communicate a postmodern, Christian theology - but also to discern it, discover it. Because one major shift of this transition is the shift from left-brain to whole-brain, from reductionistic, analytic rationalism to a broader theological holism - a theology that works in mind and heart, understanding and imagination, proposition and image, clarity and mystery, explanation and narrative, exposition and artistic expression.
Our songwriters could play a key spiritual role in the rooting of this more holistic theology in our people.
But sadly, as I have sat in scores of venues listening (and usually participating in) extended times of worship around the country, I have sensed that our song lyrics are too seldom leading us into this new territory. They are in some ways holding us back. Please, please, don’t hear this as criticism, but as a suggestion – “a gentle but heartfelt request” – for change.
Let me make this specific: To many of our lyrics are embarrassingly personalistic, about Jesus and me. Personal intimacy with God is such a wonderful step above a cold, abstract, wooden recitation of dogma. But it isn’t the whole story. In fact - this might shock you - it isn’t, in the emerging new postmodern world, necessarily the main point of the story. A popular worship song I’ve heard in many venues in the last few years (and which we sing at Cedar Ridge, where I pastor) says that worship is “all about You, Jesus,” but apart from that line, it really feels like worship, and Christianity in general, has become “all about me, me, me.”
If you doubt what I’m saying, listen next time you’re singing in worship. It’s about how Jesus forgives me, embraces me, makes me feel his presence, strengthens me, forgives me, holds me close, touches me, revives me, etc., etc. Now this is all fine. But if an extraterrestrial outsider from Mars were to observe us, I think he would say either a) that these people are all mildly dysfunctional and need a lot of hug therapy (which is ironic, because they are among the most affluent in the world, having been blessed in every way more than any group in history), or b) that they don’t give a rip about the rest of the world, that their religion/spirituality makes them as selfish as any non-Christian, but just in spiritual things rather than material ones. (That last sentence may be worth another read.)
I don’t think either of these indictments are as true as they would sound to a Martian observer; rather, I think that we songwriters keep writing songs like these because we think that’s what people want and need. The scary thing is that even though I don’t think these indictments are completely true - they could become more true unless we take some corrective action and look for a better balance.
It’s embarrassing to admit, but some of us are thinking right now, “If spiritual songwriting is not about deep, personal intimacy with God, what else is there?”
Let me offer a list of Biblical themes I think we would do well to explore in our lyrics:
1. You’ll be surprised to hear me say “eschatology” first - and let me assure you that I don’t mean putting the latest apocalyptic novel to music. (Please! No! Not that!) By eschatology (which means study of the end or goal towards which the universe moves), I mean the Biblical vision of God’s future which is pulling us toward itself. For many of you, raised like me in late-modern eschatologies, you’ll be surprised to hear that there is a whole new approach to eschatology emerging (led by some theologians like Walter Brueggeman, Jurgen Moltmann, and the “theologians of hope”). This approach doesn’t indulge in “modern” charts or shaky predictions. Rather, it bathes itself in the Biblical poetry of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Revelation - poetry which, when it enters us, plants in us a vision of a world very much different from and better than ours. And when this hope grows and takes root in us, we become agents of it. What joy I can imagine being expressed in songs that capture the spirit of Isaiah 9:2-7, 25:6-9, 35:1-10, 58:5-14! Who will write those songs?
They need to be written, because people need hope. They need a vision of a good future. They need to have in their imaginations images of the celebration, peace justice, and wholeness towards which our dismal, conflicted, polluted, and fragmented world must move. This is much, much bigger than songs about me being in heaven. It’s not about clouds and ethereal, other-worldly imagery. Dig into those passages, songwriters - and let your heart be inspired to write songs of hope, songs of vision, songs that lodge in our hearts a dream of the future that has been too long forgotten - the dream of God’s kingdom coming, and God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.
2. You may be equally surprised to hear me suggest that we need songs of mission. Many of us believe that a new, larger sense of mission (not just missions, and not just evangelism, but mission - participating in the mission of God, the kingdom of God, which is so much bigger and grander than our little schemes of organizational self-aggrandizement) is the key element needed as we move into the postmodern world.
This strikes at the heart of our consumeristic culture, which is “all about me, all about me, me, me.” Jesus came not to be served, but to serve - and as he was sent, so he sent us into the world. The very heart of our identity as the church in the new emerging theology is not that w are the people who have been chosen to be blessed, saved, rescued, and blessed some more. This is a half-truth heresy that our songs are in danger of spreading and rooting more and more in our people - inadvertently, of course. No, the heart of our identity as the church in the new emerging theology is that we are the people who have been blessed (as was Abraham) to be a blessing, blessed so that we may convey blessing to the world.
For many of us, the worship exists for the church. It is like a strip mine, and people are mined out of it to build the church, which is what really matters. In the new emerging postmodern theology and spirituality, that image is terrible. It mirrors the raping and plundering of the environment by our modern industrial enterprises. In it, the church is another industry, taking and taking for its own profit. How different is the image of the church as the apostolic community, sent into the world as Christ’s hands, feet, eyes, smile, heart. We need songs that celebrate this missional dimension - good songs, and many!
For inspiration, we have to again go back to Scripture, and read the prophets, and the gospels, and engage their heart for the poor, the needy, the broken. Shouldn’t these themes be expressed in song? Don’t they deserve that dignity? As I write, I am struck by this thought: perhaps we have so over-emphasized the role of songs in worship - to the exclusion of many other liturgical options (poetry, historic prayers, silence, meditative reading, etc.) -- that we have forgotten the role of song in teaching. Remember Colossians 3, where Paul talks about singing the teachings of Christ to one another in songs of the spirit?
3. You may be equally surprised to hear me recommend that we re-discover historic Christian spirituality and express it in our lyrics. As Robert Webber, Thomas Odin, Sally Morgenthaler, and others are teaching us, there is a wealth of historic spiritual writings, including many beautiful prayers that are crying for translation into contemporary song. Every era in history has rich resources to offer, from the Patristic period to the Celtic period to the Puritan period. On every page of Thomas á Kempis, in every prayer of the great medieval saints, there is inspiration waiting for us - and when we look at the repetitive and formulaic lyrics that millions of Christians are singing (because that’s what we’re writing, folks), the missed opportunity is heartbreaking. These “alien voices” will stretch our hearts and enrich them immeasurably - and eventually, these voices will become the voices of friends, of brothers and sisters, because that is what they are - if we invite the into our worship through songs
4. You will likely be less surprised to hear me say that we need songs that are simply about God - songs giving God the spotlight, so to speak, for God as God, God’s character, God’s glory, not just for the great job God is doing at making me feel good. And similarly, we need songs that celebrate what God does for the world - the whole world - not just for me, or us. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read the Psalms, because they love to celebrate what the Lord does for the whole earth, not just the people of Israel. Many of the songs we need will also celebrate God as Creator - an important theme in Scripture, but not for most of our churches. We have lacked a good creation theology in the modern era, and we need songwriters/artists and theologians to join together in the emerging culture to celebrate God as God of creation, not only 15 billion years ago (or whenever) but today, now - the God who knows the sparrows that fall, whose glory still flashes in the lightning bolt, whose kindness still falls like the morning dew, whose mysteries are still imaged in the depths of the ocean and the vast expanse of the night sky.
5. I should also mention songs of lament. The Bible is full of songs that wail, the blues but even bluer, songs that feel the agonizing distance between what we hope for and what we have, what we could be and what we are, what we believe and what we see and feel. The honesty is disturbing, and the songs of lament don’t always end with a happy Hallmark-Card-Precious-Moments cliché to try to fix the pain. Sometimes I think we’re too happy: the only way to become happier is to become sadder, by feeling the pain of the chronically ill, the desperately poor, the mentally ill, the lonely, the aged and forgotten, the oppressed minority, the widow and orphan. This pain should find its way into song, and these songs should find their way into our churches. The bitter will make the sweet all the sweeter; without the bitter, the sweet can become cloying and too many of our churches feel, I think, like Candyland. Is it too much to ask that we be more honest? Since doubt is part of our lives, since pain and waiting and as-yet unresolved disappointment are part of our lives, can’t these things be reflected in the songs of our communities? Doesn’t endless singing about celebration lose its vitality (and even its credibility) if we don’t also sing about the struggle?
While I’m at it, may I offer a few stylistic observations and requests - again, not trying to be critical, but trying to be helpful, and to offer ways which you, with your gifts, can better serve the church and our mission in these transitional times? I’ll offer them in the form of some questions.
First, may I suggest that we fully and finally get over King James English in our new lyrics, even if we choose to retain it in our old? Enough said.
Second, may I suggest that we be careful about using gratuitous Biblical language - Zion, Israel, go forth, on high, etc., etc.? If there is a good reason to use such language - in other words, if we are using it intentionally, not just for a “spiritual feel,” then fine. Otherwise, if we can find contemporary language and imagery that would communicate more crisply, poignantly, immediately, and deeply to people who don’t already have a lot of pew time - then let’s use it, in the spirit of I Corinthians 14, where intelligibility to the spiritual seeker is a gospel virtue.
Third, may I suggest that in an era of Columbines and Islamic fundamentalism, we be careful about the language of jihad and holy war I suppose there is a time and place for that, but I don’t think this is it. We all need a strong dose of Anabaptist peace right about now, in my opinion.
Fourth, musically, am I the only one wishing for more rhythmic variety? Why is it that I a being blessed so much by creative drummers and percussionists wherever I go?
Fifth, can our worship leaders enrich the musical experience by reading Scripture, great prayers of the historic church, creeds, confessions, and poems over musical backgrounds? You may not like rap music, but it’s trying to tell us something about the abiding power of the spoken word, the well-chosen spoken word that is. (We have far too many less-than-well-chosen spoken words already, I think you’ll agree.)
And finally, can our lyricists start reading more good poetry, good prose, so they can be sensitized to the powers of language, the grace of a well-turned phrase, the delight of a freshly discovered image, the prick or punch or caress or jolt that is possible if we wrestle a little harder and stretch a little farther for the word that really wants to be said from deep within us? Sadly, while many of our songs have better and better music, but the lyrics still feel like “cliché train” - one linked to another, with a sickening recycling of plastic language and paper triteness.
Isn’t our God, our mission, our community worthy of more lyrical quality than we are offering so far?
Thanks for considering these things. I hope this will be the beginning of an important and ongoing conversation.
Your fellow servant,
Brian McLaren

Posted by gary at 12:29 PM | Comments (0)

May 09, 2007

File Formats

I recently ditched the 2GB USB key on which I stored key files to be carried around, in favour of a pocket hard drive with a 160GB capacity. Needing files in a number of different places, and an ability to work on them in-between, the pocket drive offered greater flexibility, and was not as easy to misplace. I thought I had solved my file-portability and accessibility problems... until... I tried to move a 4.5GB file onto the pocket drive to transfer to another computer. Despite the drive indicating it had 114GB of available capacity, each time I attempted to copy the file over I encountered a message indicating insufficient space.
I tried every trick I new. I ran scandisk, chkdsk, defragged the drive, created a new folder, deleted some files, but still the same message appeared, and I remained flummoxed. Then I looked at the file structure of the disk: FAT 32. In case you didn't know there are three available formats for a drive: FAT 16, FAT 32, and NTFS. The two FAT systems carry a maximum capacity for a single file of under 4GB (2GB for Fat 16). Consequently the drive was unable to accept information in a single file which had a size in excess of the drive's capacity limits. There was only one solution: to convert the drive to NTFS.
It's an interesting word, "convert". It's home ground is in religious circles, when there is talk of someone being "converted". And in this computer world, it carries the same connotation: a converted drive was enabled to receive information which it was previously; it resorted the information it already knew to fit the new paradigm; its capacities were expanded, and the holes in its capacities were made smaller (one of the unique aspects of NTFS over FAT 32 is that it can use file clusters more efficiently, effectively increasing capacity), to mention just some of the implications of the change. It also loses the capacity to communicate with some operating and computer systems which cannot recognise NTFS (dos systems in particular), which is often an effect of conversion in the religious world too.
My greatest fear as I set out to convert the drive file systems was the loss of data altogether. Fortunately this was not the case.

Posted by gary at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2007

God is Imaginary

Discovered a series of web sites designed to debunk the christian faith. The doorway I found was the video below entitled "God is imaginary".

The author follows a series of convoluted and contrived arguments to reach the conclusion "God is imaginary". Having followed his discussions (I say 'his' because it is a male voice in the video), I can only say that I agree. If we talk of a God whose only response to prayer is "Yes", "No" or "wait", we are not talking about the God of the Bible, who is far more than a repository for wishes and who exhibits a strong history of independence. Granted, the author is relying on quotes from Christianity.com, and a number of scientific studies about prayer to back up his arguments. Yet the author fails to address the greater complexities of God's action throughout scriptures: calling people from one place to another, giving guidance, direction, even commands which come completely 'out of the frame' of a simple Yes/No/Wait paradigm. A conception of God so limited is not the god of the bible, nor the God of the Christian (or Jewish, or Islamic) faith, and I am happy to agree that such a god is imaginary. I am also happy to admit that there are christians who hold to such a notion of God... but since when has an idea been responsible for those who believe in it? In fact, I would be happy for the author to continue to debunk such absolute notions of God (which is not to say that there are no times when the simple answer to a prayer is either yes, no, or wait.)

Of course, the problem with scientific studies on prayer is that there is no way to guarantee that the control group is completely without prayer. And often assessments of the relative merit of outcomes implies that to be healthy is better than to be ill, to be perfect physically is to be better regarded than a person with some physical limitations (which of course diminishes some of the greats of history), and that suffering is always completely without merit or value.

And that's not to mention the response of a colleague who indicated that his wife could well respond yes/no/wait but cannot be equated with a jug of milk.

In the end, the pejorative claims "you are a smart person" allows me to see through the smokescreen which purports to be conclusive argument.

Posted by gary at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2007

In the presence of greatness

Imagine the scenario: A world-class musician playing classical pieces of music of the quality one would ordinary pay $100 for a ticket to see, yet located in the auditorium at a railway station. This virtuoso would "busk" - play in a public space for money. What response would he receive?

This is not idle speculation. The Washington Post put the public to the test at the L'Enfant Plaza on a Friday morning in the middle of rush hour. The musician: Joshua Bell, who had in recent weeks filled Boston's Symphony Hall. And he chose to play some of the most difficult yet acclaimed classical pieces of all time. Over 1000 people would pass through the area in the 45 minutes Bell was playing. How many stopped to listen? How much money did he make?

It took three minutes for the first person to stop. Another thirty seconds to receive his first donation - a single dollar from a person rushing by. In total only seven people stopped. And a total of $32 in donations was received. What does an exercise like this suggest to us about the pace of life, about our ability to recognise beauty, our willingness to pause in the presence of greatness? Or does it say something about the way things are valued - a twist on the old chestnut "if a great muso plays great music but noone listens, are they (is it) really any good?"

How often we feel neglected. That people pass us by without taking notice, giving appropriate affirmation... We are tempted to reflect on our own value in rather darker hues as a consequence. But if over 1000 people can pass by a virtuoso playing a multi-million dollar instrument with a unique skill and passion, does that diminish the player, the instrument or the music? Or does it serve to remind us that people do not always recognise and appreciate beauty and value?

You can read a detailed account of the event and reflections upon it at The Washington Post.

If you are feeling neglected today, maybe it's not you that's at fault, but a busy world unable to perceive and affirm beauty.

Posted by gary at 05:00 PM | Comments (2)

May 02, 2007

Department Store Tactics

Some interesting insights into how department stores (and supermarkets) use strategies to part you with more money than you intended when you entered the store has been posted over at The Simple Dollar. They also provide some strategies for countering this type of marketing and manipulation. You can read the detail at the Simple Dollar, but I'll offer the headlines here:
1. Shopping carts.
2. Desirable departments are far away from the entrance.
3. The toy section is far, far, far away from the entrance.
4. Impulse-oriented items are near the checkouts.
5. The most expensive versions of a product are the ones at eye height.
6. Items that aren’t on sale are sometimes placed as though they are on sale (without saying the word “sale”).
7. Commodity items (like socks) are surrounded by non-commodity items (like shirts and jeans).
8. Slickly-packaged items alternate with less slickly-packaged items.
9. Stop, stop, stop. You only add items to your cart if you stop, right? So stores are designed to maximize the number of stops you have to make
10. Staple items are placed in the middle of aisles, nonessential and overpriced items near the end.
11. Prices are chosen to make comparison math difficult.
12. Stuff in bins isn’t always a bargain.
13. High markup items are made to look prestigious.
14. The most profitable department is usually the first one you run into.
15. Restrooms and customer services are usually right by the exit or as far from the exit as possible.

And the suggestions for taking control?
1. Don’t use a shopping cart unless you need it.
2. Make a shopping list and stick to it.
3. Look at nothing but the prices and sizes.
4. Start at the back and work towards the front.
5. Always look at the bottom shelf first.
6. Don’t stop unless you’re actively selecting an item.
7. Never go by an item twice unless absolutely necessary.
8. Carry a pocket calculator - or know how to use the one on your cell phone.
9. If you don’t know for sure that it is a good deal, don’t buy because you think it is a good deal.
10. At the checkout, rethink everything you put in your cart - and don’t hesitate to hand an item to the cashier and say you changed your mind.

Posted by gary at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2007

Guess the Google

Some of us are more lineal and logical in our thinking, others are more adept at the visual and creative. Try this little exercise and see how your brain responds to images and translates them into words and ideas.

Posted by gary at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

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