Spiritual Umbrellas

Here is an excerpt from the latest post from my faith blog:

During times of rain it is so easy to get our spiritual umbrellas out and 'protect' ourselves from the full effect of the rain. Often we will use the umbrellas of withdrawal.. of manipulation.. and of passivity to protect ourselves from the effects of the rain.

Check the rest of this post here. While there check out my thoughts on The Beatitudes.

James Dobson

Yesterday I heard the news that Dr James Dobson stepped down from his role as chairman of the Focus on the Family ministry. I have mixed emotions about Dr Dobson and his ministry and wasn't sure if I would say anything about this transition. Then I read a blog post from my cyber-friend Julie that said it all for me. Here are two excerpts from her post:
For ten years, I listened to Dobson's daily program and got much support and help in my tasks as a stay-at-home mom. I heard programs on homeschooling, Creative Memories photo albums, how to handle toddlers, ways to find joy in ordinary life, tips for keeping your marriage healthy, how to live on one income, decorating for Christmas on a budget, dealing with in-laws, recovering from an abusive childhood. I heard lectures given by some of the biggest Christian writers and speakers all without having to leave home to go to a big conference in another city. I felt encouraged in my daily life: I could do this, it wasn't too hard, I could be close to my children and keep my family together.
Dobson became enamored of the political process and the possibility of shaping policy through the muscle he'd developed in the family ministry. I was on board for the anti-abortion agenda, but I've never supported his position on gay marriage or prayer in the schools. Yet the courting of morally questionable Republicans (whose own families were hardly models of the kind of health and spirituality Focus intended to cultivate) and his increasingly shrill reaction to those in opposition made me withdraw support from Focus on the Family.
I recommend the reading of Julie's entire post. I so echo Julie's thoughts - Focus on the Family is such a mixed bag. So much of Dr Dobson's ministry has helped so many young families.. I can still remember his great video series back in the late 1970s.. he helped me to become a better husband and father. Yet the ministry of Focus has become mired down in politics and known predominantly for their anti-gay political positions.

I think that it is sad when someone so successful like Dr Dobson.. with a call to minister to families.. is diverted from that call and gets sucked into politics. What do you think?

Slumdog Millionaire | ★★★★★★★★★★

Ann and I got out for our first movie in a theater since last June.. it was a nice day in KC and, along with a great late lunch, we really enjoyed the experience.

Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of two brothers and a young girl who survived the horrors of watching their mother be murdered and then growing up in poverty in India. The movie is set against the backdrop of the popular "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" game show.. but the show has little to do with the movie.

I found the story to be a compelling one.. a gut wrenching peek into poverty.. a tale of how so many kids live in third world countries.. the movie at times broke my heart.. it still surfaces deep emotions within me.. some of the scenes were simply tragic.

At its core this flick is one about a redeeming sibling relationship and how sacrificial love triumphs over great odds. Indigenous non-actor children were used in the filming and did a great job. The music was good and the ending was an up lifting one. I recommend seeing it.. if you can handle "R" rated drama.

On a scale of 10 I give this movie ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Dirtiest US Hotels

A travel advisory from Trip Advisor listing the top (bottom?) ten dirtiest hotels (based on traveler reviews) in America:
  1. Hotel Carter, New York City, New York
  2. Continental Bayside Hotel, Miami Beach, Florida
  3. New York Inn, New York City, New York
  4. Eden Roc Motel, Wildwood, New Jersey
  5. Days Inn Cleveland Airport, Brook Park, Ohio
  6. Days Inn Airport / Stadium Tampa, Tampa, Florida
  7. Travelodge Bangor, Bangor, Maine
  8. Velda Rose Resort Hotel, Hot Springs, Arkansas
  9. Ramada Plaza Hotel JFK International Airport, Jamaica, New York
  10. Days Inn & Suites Gatlinburg, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
Fortunately, I have never stayed at any of these and have to admit that I have, generally speaking, had pretty good experiences with American hotels. At least I haven't needed a mosquito net like I did when I stayed at a hotel in China :)

Have you ever stayed at one of these hotels? Any hotel horror stories to share?

Brownback Calls Out Pelosi - Not!

The following is part of a letter that was allegedly mailed out from the office of Kansas Senator Sam Brownback.

As expected.. at the bottom of the letter you can read this:

I did a bit of checking on this.. after all Sam is one of my senators.. and found this on Politico.com:

Brownback spokesman Brian Hart told the National Catholic Reporter, “Our chief of staff ... had never seen, heard of or approved it,” suggesting the letter was entirely unauthorized.

Hart, who didn’t return our requests for comment, told the magazine that Brownback’s Senate staff has “reached out to both the organization responsible and the mail house [responsible for printing and distributing the letter] and directed them not to use Sam Brownback’s name, signature, likeness or representation in any way moving forward and expressed that we are not pleased with the content of the letter.”

But Brownback’s chief of staff, Glen Chambers, painted a slightly different version of events in an e-mail to Catholic Advocate founder Deal Hudson, who provided it to POLITICO.

“As I mentioned to you on the phone, I think we’ve gotten to the bottom of the confusion over the mail piece,” Chambers wrote. “Neither the senator nor I had seen the letter or were aware of it. I figured out that you did get permission to use his name on the piece from a former campaign staffer in February of last year.”
I am sure that Sam will think twice in the future when he deals with faith and prolife advocacy groups. It is a good reminder for us all that the faithful do not always act in good faith.. especially when money is involved.

The 2% Illusion

Just a few excerpts from this Wall Street Journal article having the same title as this post:
President Obama has laid out the most ambitious and expensive domestic agenda since LBJ, and now all he has to do is figure out how to pay for it. On Tuesday, he left the impression that we need merely end "tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans," and he promised that households earning less than $250,000 won't see their taxes increased by "one single dime."

This is going to be some trick. Even the most basic inspection of the IRS income tax statistics shows that raising taxes on the salaries, dividends and capital gains of those making more than $250,000 can't possibly raise enough revenue to fund Mr. Obama's new spending ambitions.
The bottom line is that Mr. Obama is selling the country on a 2% illusion. Unwinding the U.S. commitment in Iraq and allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire can't possibly pay for his agenda. Taxes on the not-so-rich will need to rise as well.
Mr. Obama is very good at portraying his agenda as nothing more than center-left pragmatism. But pragmatists don't ignore the data. And the reality is that the only way to pay for Mr. Obama's ambitions is to reach ever deeper into the pockets of the American middle class.
I sincerely wish our new president well but find myself disappointed in his approach to our nation's problems. I think that he is either out of touch with the data or willfully ignorant of it.. not sure which is worse.


Life is about timing. -Carl Lewis

Don't wait. The time will never be just right. -Napoleon Hill

Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing. -Warren Spahn

Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance. -Cowboy Proverb

The essential ingredient of politics is timing. -Pierre Elliott Trudeau

Life is all about timing... the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable... attainable. Have the patience, wait it out It's all about timing. -Stacey Charter

Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over. -Gloria Naylor

You know, sometimes, when they say you're ahead of your time, it's just a polite way of saying you have a real bad sense of timing. -George McGovern

Ash Wednesday

Today marks the first day of Lent on the Christian calendar. It is a time when many ask the "What shall I give up for Lent?" question. 

I have been thinking about it for the past week or so and think that I will fast sorrow and embrace joy. Are you fasting anything for Lent?

WWW: Cryogenics

In this edition of Weird World Wednesday, I submit to you this Associated Press article:
LOS ANGELES – A spokeswoman for Simon Cowell says reports that the "American Idol" judge wants to be frozen after death are greatly exaggerated. Cowell was making a tongue-in-cheek remark at a dinner in London two weeks ago with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and other guests, spokeswoman Lisa Dallos said Tuesday.

But the cryogenics comment that Dallos said was meant as a joke was trumpeted in a number of news reports as a serious plan by Cowell, a music industry executive and TV producer ("America's Got Talent," Britain's "The X Factor").
The subject of cryogenics is a strange one because it assumes that the human soul or spirit will freeze in time along with the human body. I mean really.. does anyone think that preserving our bodies with liquid nitrogen will save us.. maybe we have all been watching too much Star Trek.

Thanks Gary!

The other day my cyber-friend Gary offered to play around with my blog's banner.. and amazingly.. overnight.. he came up with this new banner. He is working on a few revisions.. but I liked this one so much I changed it.
-Thanks Gary.. you are one great artist!

Wall Street Regulation

This came from Dennis Moore,  my democratic congressman, today via email.. it is a part of the results of a poll that he took:

I don't know about you but the push to over-regulate Wall Street concerns me. It just feels like a simplistic knee-jerk reaction to the economic crisis that our country is experiencing. For me, I would probably go with clarifying the laws already on the books or doing nothing more.

I do not embrace a lot of the 'Obama is a socialist" squawk radio rhetoric that is floating around these days but do feel that we already have too much government and could do more with less.

One interesting note in this time of large unemployment is the idea of governmnet workers always seem to keep their jobs.. at the federal level anyway. Maybe we need to consolidate voting districts and layoff a few members of congress :)

How would you have voted on the poll question?

The Razzies

In response to last nights Oscar awards I thought that I'd post the:

Worst Picture: The Love Guru  (A Paramount Release)

Worst Supporting Actress: Paris Hilton REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA

Worst Supporting Actor: Pierce Brosnan MAMMA MIA!

Worst Screen Couple: Paris Hilton    
and either

Worst Prequel,Remake, Rip-off or Sequel
(Combined Category for 2008):

Worst Director: Uwe Boll 

Worst Screenplay: The Love Guru
Written by Mike Myers & Graham Gordy

Worst Career Achievement: Uwe Boll

I can only speak to Pierce Brosnan's pitiful performance in MAMMA MIA!.. of course I blame casting and not 007 for that one.. and I thought the Indiana Jones sequel was okay. Anybody disagree with these "awards"?

Pragmatic Conservatism

A few thoughts from Beau Weston on what it means to be a centrist, a liberal and a conservative:
A centrist wants to promote what is best for society, tolerate what is good enough, and prevent what is harmful.

Conservatives want to promote what is best for society, and prevent everything else.

Liberals want to promote all options (except the truly dangerous ones) as equally good.

If your first reaction to this is, “Who is to say what is best?” you are a probably a liberal.

If your first reaction to this is, “Why settle for mediocrity?” you are probably a conservative.
I guess I am a bit of a pragmatic conservative. I think the pragmatist in me causes me to express my conservative ideology in ways that seem to be realistic and practical. Sometimes this looks more like the leanings of a centrist but I don't think that I would qualify under Weston's definition.

PS22 Chorus

The PS22 elementary school in Brooklyn, New York has a great group of about 60 young (5th grade) singers. In this video they sing Coldplay's Viva la Vida.. I love to watch them sing!

Bob Likes and Needs..

This past week my Facebook friends Matt and Karen have invited me to Google and list "Bob likes" and "Bob needs". Here are the rules and my results.

Type into Google "______ needs" or "______ likes" with quotation marks, putting your name in the blank. Type in the first 10 "_____ needs" type statements you find.

Bob needs:
  1. a date (not.. I like Ann);
  2. chocolate (maybe later);
  3. an IRL assistant (huh?);
  4. help! (no joke about this one!);
  5. your help! (I am on Paypal :));
  6. a home (maybe a big one in California);
  7. a life (I used to have one);
  8. you (true words);
  9. to go (after I finish this);
  10. to repair his little dump truck (wish I had a truck).
Bob likes:
  1. his cupcake (but likes bagels better);
  2. to wear dirty underwear (no comment);
  3. to nibble your neck (well maybe not yours);
  4. to "touch" his co-stars (that grosses me out);
  5. his ladies to be "mental" (well I did marry a math major);
  6. to Google himself (I have Googled Kansas Bob before);
  7. to take pictures with his Treo (I may get one soon);
  8. on LinkedIn (not! don't like it);
  9. to exercise and works out often (I wish);
  10. to party (not so much any more).
Okay.. your turn.. go to Google and report back with your results!

Practical Agnosticism

I was 17 years old and sat in Philosophy 101 (or some class like that) at my neighborhood Community College when the professor introduced me to the Big Bang theory. From what I can recall he said something like this:
Since we really can't scientifically explain the origins of the universe then lets just say that there was a "Prime Mover" that started it all.. and let's call that "God".
Now that really made an impression on this impressionable teenage boy and for the next 10 years gave me cause to be a practical agnostic. Interesting enough I still went to the Episcopal Church with my mom every week. It really didn't bother me to go because I still believed in God.. just not a personal God.. not a God that heard prayers.. not a God that really made any difference.. just this "Prime Mover" that got things going.

Years later when I was 27 I came in contact with a different "God".. you can read that story here.. but until that weekend I lived a life of practical agnosticism. Unlike many agnostics, who simply say "I do not know if there is a God", I believed there was a God (albeit a Prime Mover sort of deity). This belief in God did not however make any difference in the way that I lived my life. When my first wife went blind when I was 22 years old I did not pray.. why would I do that.. Prime Movers don't hear or answer prayers. I can remember crying about my wife's blindness.. I was in a boatload of pain.. but had no one in my life to talk to.. I spent most of my evenings with six of my best friends.. their last names were the same - Budweiser.

I think that many people share my story.. even ones who call themselves "Christian". They look around and see the logic in the idea that something or someone intelligent had to have designed it all but cannot come to grips with the idea that this entity is still involved with the creation. They see all of the pain and heartache in the world and in their lives and cannot come to grips with a God that is still involved. They exclude this kind of "God" because it just doesn't make sense to their heads.

On a cognitive level I am yet one of those people.. but my heart was changed some 33 years ago and my spiritual eyes were opened to a God who came to earth and poured His life out for me. Pain and heartache still don't make sense to my head.. I still hurt when people I love so much suffer so much.. but somehow I have been given the ability to filter this pain through my heart instead of my head. And when I am crying the most I find myself remembering that beautiful Man who died for me.. and everything is different.

I am no longer a practical agnostic.

Tulips on Troost

An inspirational 5 minute video about beautiful urban renewal!

Fundamentalist Evolutionism

An interesting chart from The Economist showing, by country, the acceptance of Darwin's evolutionary theory. I wonder what the numbers would look like if those yellow bars were divided into atheistic and theistic evolution?

A while back I was reading a Christianity Today article titled The Evolution of Darwin and came across this story within the story:

The story is told in Adrian Desmond and James Moore's authoritative biography, Darwin: The Life of a Tormented Evolutionist. When Darwin's daughter Annie died at age 10, Darwin came to hate the God he blamed for this. This was in 1851, eight years before Darwin released Origin of Species.

Around the time of Annie's death, Darwin also wrote that if Christianity were true, then it would follow that his grandfather Erasmus Darwin and many of his closest family friends would be in hell. Darwin found this utterly unacceptable, given that these men were wise and kind and generous. Darwin's rejection of God was less an act of unbelief than a rebellion against the kind of God posited by Christianity. A God who would allow a young girl to die and good people to go to hell was not anyone whom Darwin wanted to worship.
This story reminded me of the many people that I have come across in my life that blame God for their misfortunes in life because of their fundamentalist belief that God causes everything that happens in the world.. good and bad.. sweet spring rain or Hurricane Katrina.

I used to hold this simplistic and fundamentalist view.. the idea that God is a divine puppet-master and we are but His marionettes.. visions of a heavenly Vito Corleone pulling the strings behind the scenes. The end of such a view is one that paints God as a powerful being that causes both good and evil.

I have evolved (smile) and now believe that both suffering and torment (both before and after death) comes from within creation and not from the Creator (however He chose to create). I think that it is a flawed view of God that blames Him for the premature death of 10 year old girls and the idea that He sends good people to hell. But if you hold to this narrow and fundamentalist leaning view then it is a small wonder that you will try to explain creation apart from God.. fundamentalist evolutionism is just a derivative of fundamentalist atheism.


If I captioned this cartoon I would probably use the word "superficiality" somewhere in the caption. I think that few of us really "know" each other.. it took me the longest time to get to know my neighbor's names.. I still can't remember one of them - and I shared coffee with him last August.

People tell me that folks 'knew' each other back in the old days.. but I doubt that they really 'knew' each other. I think that our success oriented culture makes it hard for folks to drop their guard and let people in.. this is especially true for men. I think that women probably know each other better we guys do.. but I am not sure.

What do you think keeps us on superficial levels of relationship?

Sin Taxes

In today's edition of the Kansas City Star I read this comment about the increase in taxes on cigarettes to cover uninsured children:
“We don’t understand how cigarettes should be paying for children’s health care,” said Rhonda Bowles, manager of the Tobacco House, a smoke shop in North Kansas City.

“Here we thought we had a smoker in the White House, someone on our side,” Bowles said, referring to President Barack Obama’s history of cigarette smoking.
This got me to thinking about how government often excessively taxes items like liquor and cigarettes but does not tax other "sins" like gambling (anyone buy a Lotto ticket lately?), gluttony (yes, some do want to tax junk food) and greed (how would they tax that?).

Do you think that it is right to tax cigarettes because of the burden that smoking puts on our health care costs? If so do you also support other sin taxes? One could argue that the cost of gambling on society is a large and provable one.. and there seems to be a somewhat direct correlation between junk food and bad health. Should things be taxed higher for the good of the nation?

I think that this kind of taxation is a slippery slope. While I do not smoke, and I see the rationale in elevated taxes on smokers, I have to admit that I see a bit of hypocrisy in these kind of taxes. If our government believes what the Surgeon General says about smoking then why not just shut down the tobacco industry. If they cannot then let the free market determine the fate of that industry by increasing health insurance premiums and medical costs for people who smoke.

Gotta wonder.. using this rationale.. what will they tax next? Potato chips? Pork rinds? Soft drinks? Bacon (oh no, not that!)?

I mean really, why does the government have to 'fix' this with taxes?

If Microsoft Made Cars

Another funny that showed up recently in my email inbox..

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated:
'If GM had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25.00 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon.'
In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release stating: If GM had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics:
  1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash... Twice a day.
  2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
  3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.
  4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
  5. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five percent of the roads.
  6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single 'This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation' warning light.
  7. The airbag system would ask 'Are you sure?' before deploying.
  8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously lifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
  9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
  10. You'd have to press the 'Start' button to turn the engine off.
On the flipside.. aren't you glad that GM doesn't make laptops.. you know we would be paying a lot of money to run DOS :)

And I didn't take time to check this out because, even if it is false, I think that it is funny.

What is a Weasel?

Over the past week or so I have focused on some folks in our culture pointing out people on Wall Street,  Sports Street and Church Street who (IMO) have behaved like weasels.
A few of you have commented saying:
Bob, what do you have against these cute little weasels? They have a bad rap. They are clever and sneaky for self preservation.

I think there are weasels is every organization and I won't make excuses for them.

I do have trouble getting behind a post labeling people as weasels whether they be sports figures or pastors.

I'm very "weasely" in a lot of my behavior.

None of us are very admirable when the things we wish to hide are laid bare.
So I thought that I would check this idea of what it means to be a weasel using the dictionary. Here are a few excerpts:
  • a cunning, sneaky person.
  • a person regarded as sneaky or treacherous.
  • a naive user, one who deliberately or accidentally does things that are stupid or ill-advised. Roughly synonymous with loser.
  • to evade an obligation, duty, or the like
In this context I might be a bit off in my characterizations of some I have labeled as weasels. Perhaps, like many of us, some of these have exhibited weasel like behavior as characterized by those last two bullets.

Unfortunately, I think that the first two bullets are applicable to some that I have bestowed the weasel label on. There are those in our culture that not only sometimes act like a weasel but live their lives like a weasel consistently displaying sneaky and treacherous behavior.. and some of these are in high profile positions.

And I have to say that.. from what I know of you.. you all are not weasels.. but.. like me.. you may sometimes do things that are stupid or ill-advised - in that sense I guess that we all exibit weasel like behavior at times :)

Praying the Psalms

I invite you to join me over at Daily Prayer. I have begun praying through the Psalms and would love to have you pray with me.

Religious Weasels

Alex blogs about an article at Christianity Today that reports that pastors at the National Pastors Convention in San Diego are angry with their congregations. Here is an excerpt from it:
For most pastors that anger is directed at stupid lay people, stubborn church boards, or indifferent church bureaucrats.
Not a lot of tender comments about the sheep that these shepherds are responsible for. Lots of desire for transforming the world, becoming a missional outpost, and enough social justicing to make mainline liberals drool with envy. But not much tender love for those people, as Willimon put it, whom Jesus loves and calls into community with him.
My first reaction was to comment this way to Alex:

This really speaks to the dysfunctional atmosphere in churches.. to Pastoral Entitlement and maybe why these folks stray.
I have to wonder.. when I read such drivel.. if God is a part of this kind of religious dysfunction.. and if he has really 'called' some of these folks to pastoral ministry.

I am also wondering if I will get much response to this post. I sensed that my post labeling a few sports heroes as weasels was not very popular.

Maybe I should say that folks are just acting like weasels but that they are really great people who have made some mistakes. Maybe the weasel like behavior is an aberrant manifestation of their environment. Maybe I need to blame the "system" or the "culture".. or maybe I need to be a bit more compassionate. I am just so tired of making excuses.

Happy Valentines Day

Double Tragedy

Beverly Eckert (pictured) died this morning when Continental Express Flight 3407 crashed into a Buffalo, NY neighborhood. Her husband, Sean Rooney was killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, and she was the co-chairperson of the group Voices of September 11th.

Please remember her family and friends in prayer.

Buy American

I was reading today about the tightrope that President Obama is walking between his promise to labor folks who want a strong "Buy American" provision in the stimulus plan and U.S. trade partners and companies with significant overseas exports who don't want that kind of language.

It reminded me of a meeting I had in Corporate America about four years ago. I sat in a conference room in the heart of America (i.e. Kansas) filled with about 20 of my teammates. We were participating in a call with about nine software developers in India. As I looked around the room I became aware of something odd - I was the only US citizen in the room.. it was a very odd feeling.

As I reflected on this I started to think about the irony of it all. We were in the process of shipping our work to an IBM group in India and the people facilitating the outsourcing effort were mostly people with green cards who immigrated from India. It helped me to come to grips with the fact that Corporate America was not only exporting our work overseas but also importing cheap labor from other countries.

I guess the moral of the story.. if there is one.. is that.. in my opinion.. we desperately need a government that will advocate for the American worker. I liked Obama's "Buy American" language during his presidential campaign. Lets hope that his words are more than rhetoric. It is about time that American workers had a friend in Washington.

Søren Kierkegaard

According to the wiki: Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a prolific 19th century Danish philosopher and theologian. Much of his work deals with religious themes such as faith in God, the institution of the Christian Church, Christian ethics and theology, and the emotions and feelings of individuals when faced with life choices. Here are a few of his more interesting quotes..

God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced.

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.

Life has its own hidden forces which you can only discover by living.

Love is all, it gives all, and it takes all.

Once you label me you negate me.

Trouble is the common denominator of living. It is the great equalizer.

People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.

Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.

The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.

Term Limits - Legislation Not Needed

I saw this sign at a pro-democratic website.. I doubt that they would be in favor of "re-electing no one" these days.. but I have been thinking about the idea of never voting again for an incumbent.. and wondering if that would be a way that voters could get term limits without involving the actions of incumbent legislators. It would mean that I might have to vote for a person that I did not ideologically agree with. I wonder though..
  • would it make a difference if incumbents knew that they only had one shot to make a difference?
  • if people could jettison their ideology to truly change the way that "their" government works?
  • what the affect would have on institutions like lobbying and government pensions?
How about you? Are you in favor of term limits? Would you be willing to vote out an incumbent even if you did not agree with their opponent?

Informed Ultrasound Consent

Excerpted from this USA Today / Associated Press article:
Lawmakers in 11 states are considering bills that would offer or require ultrasounds before a woman gets an abortion. The most stringent are proposed laws in Nebraska, Indiana and Texas, which would require a doctor show the ultrasound image of the fetus to the woman, despite legal challenges to a similar measure in Oklahoma.

A similar bill was proposed in Wyoming but it was defeated in a state House committee before reaching the floor.

"Many times, these are young mothers who are in vulnerable situations. And they are about to make a very grave choice." said Nebraska Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln, who introduced the ultrasound bill (LB675) there. "This is about informed consent."

Sixteen states already have laws related to abortion ultrasounds, some requiring they be performed and others requiring a woman be told where she can get a free ultrasound.
Now this is an abortion pre-requisite that I agree with.. I think that women contemplating an abortion should be required to view an ultrasound of the life growing inside of them.. what would be the harm in it?

Sports Weasels

Recently I have written about Corporate Weasels and Religious Weasels. Today I write about a different flavor of weasel.. but weasels none-the-less. This past week has been resplendent with news of two "heroes" from the world of sports that have fallen a bit. Here are a few excerpts from their "confessions":

Swimmer Michael Phelps on his three-month suspension from competitive swimming after a controversial photo surfaced depicting him allegedly smoking from a bong.
"It's not my decision. It's theirs," Phelps tells the Associated Press of USA Swimming's suspension determination. "I have nothing to say, but if that's what they want to do, that's their choice. It's something that USA Swimming came up with. It's fair. Obviously, for a mistake you should get punished."

"It was bad and stupid judgment, and something I'll always live with."
NY Yankee Alex Rodriguez on the news that broke over the weekend that he used steroids:

“When I arrived at Texas in 2001, I felt an enormous amount of pressure. I felt like I had all the weight of the world on top of me and I needed to perform, and perform at a high level every day.

“Back then it was a different culture. It was very loose. I was young. I was stupid. I was naïve. And I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worth being one of the greatest players of all time. I did take a banned substance, and for that I am very sorry and deeply regretful.”
Last week I talked about the Phelps fall with my son and said that I thought that it was simply a reflection of the times.. Michael simply "got caught" doing what many people do.. I guess you could say the same thing about A-Rod.

I have had a few days to think about it and I think that my thinking is really part of the problem. Like those I chastised for supporting the bad behavior of pastors who strayed sexually I found myself making excuses for a different kind of a weasel.

I think that we all need to stop making excuses for weasels.. be they corporate executives, religious leaders or superstars of sports. Let's send a message to these folks that we are raising the bar. If they want our patronage, admiration and viewership let them act like people worthy of that admiration.

Bob the Whiteboard

Not sure that I agree with this quiz in total when it says this about me..

You are a dreamer, a visionary, and a straight up idea person. You are very creative. Even if the things you think up are a bit wacky, they often are brilliant.
You are an adept problem solver. You are always tossing around dozens of ideas. You would make a good artist, designer, or architect. You do best when work feels like play.

For 25+ years I designed software and loved the creative aspects of what I did.. hmmm..

Take the What Office Supply Are You? quiz and let me know what it says.

Route 66 Kicks

This story is a reprint from Miata.net. It is my friend Jim's story of his trip last summer.

I packed some clothes in a a gym bag, gave my 1992 Miata a good waxing and pointed it west on Route 66 for an adventure from Kansas City to the Santa Monica pier and back again. The only constraint for this trip was that there was a two week round trip time frame. Other than that, there was no specific destination, no itinerary and no expectations other than to keep the four wheels on Old Route 66 as much as that is even possible.

My companion and copilot was my best friend from high school 40 years earlier. He from Arkansas and me from Kansas. We met up and entered Route 66 in Joplin, MO.

First let me tell you a bit about the Miata. I'm the original owner. She's been a daily driver only to wander no more than a handful of times. She's never been more than about 300 miles from home. I had 110,000 miles on the car but had no real concerns about whether or not she'll make it. With a new radiator, new tires and a fresh battery...what possibly could go wrong? I had more concerns about how comfortable we'd be with driving up to 10 hours a day. I'm happy to report that we logged 4,010 miles and the Miata performed flawlessly. And with pit stops and sites to see every hour or so, we never did feel cramped.

She dodged the broken pavement of New Mexico and Arizona. She outran a thunderstorm in Oklahoma. She busted thru a dirt devil in Texas, and kept up with the freeways of L.A. Like a trooper. But the most memorable moment of the trip was falling in line with a caravan of 11 Corvettes in western Arizona on their way to a car show. Eleven Corvettes and a lone Miata chasing each other slightly over the speed limit. We had met them earlier in the day in a museum parking lot. I parked along side of them and jokingly told some of the members, "Shhhh, don't tell my car, but it thinks it's a Corvette." This gave them a laugh.

We all proceeded on our way and we wished them a nice day, but a few hours later we saw them again up ahead of us way out in the middle of nowhere Arizona. I gave them a friendly honk and fell in line to enjoy chasing them at speeds....well, who's remembering the details! I could feel my Miata grinning from headlight to headlight as we continued to pester them from the rear of the pack, as we kept up with them quite nicely. After about 10 minutes of this chasing I told my buddy that I had an overwhelming urge to pass them one by one -- which is exactly what I did. Swoosh-Swoosh, Zoom-Zoom (x 11) and I achieved my goal. I grinned my widest grin and we laughed our heads off. I for sure found my kicks on Route 66!

Later that day we saw them all parked at a diner, so we pulled in and met them once again, and we all had a good laugh. The lead driver told me, "You know at any time we could have taken your fun away from you." "Yah" I said, "but you didn't, and I thank you for that." This was the little red Miata that thought it could and then did it. They had nicknamed her the little red skateboard. We exchanged email addresses and they (to my surprise) sent me this picture that captured the moment of passing the first seven on the way to the 11th.

In addition to not veering off of Route 66, we added two more rules as we discovered the real heart of the Mother Road. First, we would never eat at chain restaurants. Second, we would only stay at the authentic 50's motels along the way. It is really refreshing to find the past is still alive...at least for the time being along this route.

Now that I've been home for a few days and will shortly go back to work, she still is sleeping peacefully in the garage. Strange, but has anyone else ever noticed that Miatas can smile in their sleep while apparently dreaming?

Ben Stein on the Economy

A few thoughts from the lawyer, writer, actor and economist written for the NY Times..

"We are more than our investments. We are more than the year-to-year or day-by-day changes in our net worth. We are what we do for charity. We are how we treat our family and friends. We are how we treat our dogs and cats. We are what we do for our community and our nation. If you had $100 million or $100,000 a year ago and now you have a lot less, you are still the same person. You are not a balance sheet, at least not one denominated in money.

Losing and making money are not moral issues so long as you are being honest. You may have a lot less money as this year ends than you did two years ago. But you are just as good or bad a person as you were then. It is a myth that money determines who you are, and if you have gotten over that myth by now, then 2008 will have been a very good year."

In another article Ben gives this advice to his 21 year old son who has just married..

"I have been pondering what advice to give them about money. What I keep coming up with is this: Do not act like typical Americans. Do not fail to save. Do not get yourself in debt up to your eyeballs. Work and take pride and honor from your work. Learn a useful skill that Americans really need, like law or plumbing or medicine or nursing. Do not expect your old Ma and Pa to always be there to take care of you. I absolutely guarantee that we will not be. Learn to be self-sufficient through your own contributions, as the saying goes.

This advice has served me well. It was propounded to me by my late father, who often said, “Be prudent.”

MY work as a freelance writer in Hollywood some time ago prepared me for extreme uncertainty. This is the most insecure existence imaginable. It mandates saving, ingenuity and nonstop work and creativity. Freelancers never have a day off. Never. They know that they can go months without a check. They absolutely have to save. They have to have five different levels of fall-back plans and financial escape hatches.

I am well past that now. Decades past. (I hope.) But the habits of thought linger, at least a bit.

I wish I could teach that work ethic to those close to me. I wish I could teach them that money is a scarce good, worth fighting for and protecting. But I very much fear that my son, more up-to-date than I am in almost every way, is more of a modern-day American than I am. To hustle and scuffle for a deal is something he cannot even imagine. To not be able to eat at any restaurant he feels like eating at is just not on his wavelength. Of course, that’s my fault. (I have learned that everything bad that happens anywhere is my fault.) And I hope to be able to leave him well enough provided for to ease his eventual transition into some form of self-sufficiency."

WWW: Bacon Belly Bomb

This edition of Weird World Wednesday is about weird food. Two local barbecue-lovin’ guys have found themselves the toast of the bacon world thanks to a recipe calling for just two main ingredients: bacon (two pounds of it) and Italian sausage (two pounds of that). The sausage is wrapped in a basket-weaved blanket of bacon, and for good measure there’s even more bacon inside. Sweet KC-style sauce, too. Click here for more pictures and info :)

Pastoral Misconduct

In light of the recent resurfacings of disgraced ex-pastor Ted Haggard on Oprah and Larry King last week I thought that these were very interesting polls. The rate of sexual misconduct among pastors is very alarming.. what is even more alarming is the percentage of people who think that it is a good idea to rehabilitate these guys and put them back in the pulpit.

A few months ago I was having breakfast with an old friend and the name of our one-time married pastor who ran off to Florida in 1993 with his girlfriend came up. My friend's response was so refreshing.. he said that the ex-pastor should just keep his mouth shut. I began to laugh as I realized the wisdom of that off-the-cuff response to my saying that I had gotten an email from the ex-pastor.

In 1997 my wife and I began attending another church and a few years later was faced with the firing of another senior pastor by the elders of the church. After moving to our new house in 2003 we began attending a church that was close to us - that senior pastor was removed by the leadership in 2005. There seemed to be a common thread in all three of these situations - no accountability to the church leadership and no humility when they were confronted.

In retrospect I hate the way that I allowed myself (yes, idealistic Bob did it to himself) to be convinced that "restoration" was the ultimate goal and responsibility that the church had in dealing with these professional (yes, they were all paid very well) pastors. Sadly, all of these men eventually returned to ministry without ever having to deal with their pride and their other issues.

The folks who voted with the 41% are really part of the problem. They create a sense of entitlement for pastors and a very unhealthy atmosphere in the church. I voted with the 21% (guess I am still too hopeful) but could be convinced to go with the 22%.

How would you have voted?


I received an email message from our new president today.. yes I am on his mailing list. Here are a few excerpts from his message:
The economic crisis is growing more serious every day, and the time for action has come.

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which will jumpstart our economy and put more than 3 million people back to work.
The stakes are too high to allow partisan politics to get in the way.

That's why I've consulted with Republicans as well as Democrats to put together a plan that will address the crisis we face.
And here is a definition that the president and his democratic cohorts in congress would do well to understand:

bi·par·ti·san: Of, consisting of, or supported by members of two parties, especially two major political parties
I have not seen this kind of approach in the bailout bill that the house passed last week.. if anything it had a bit of bipartisan opposition. I believe that the president is sincere in his desire to be bipartisan but last week's activity by Democrats in the House of Representatives was very partisan.

Lets hope.. I guess we can hope.. that their Democratic counterparts in the Senate will take the presidents message to heart and get rid of partisan politics.

Re-Elect No One!

With the recent news from New York City of how Michael Bloomberg is being allowed to run a third time and rumors that some in congress want to get rid of the two term limit on the presidency, I think that this H. L. Mencken quote is more appropriate than ever:
"The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office."
I am generally tired these days of professional politicians who have been in office for most of their lives. We need to find a way to limit their "service" to us.

Why I am Rootin for Kurt today..

The 2008 Arizona Interfaith Movement Golden Rule Character in Sports Award went to Kurt and Brenda Warner. Kurt is the quarterback for the NFC Champion Arizona Cardinals. He and his wife Brenda work together to bring a great deal to their community. As Kurt puts it in the video:

It is not what you have in life that counts but it is what you give!

World's Tallest Snowperson

From the Online Web Library: The town of Bethel, Maine, has beaten a nine-year record for the world’s largest snowperson. The previous record was held by … the town of Bethel Maine.

Here are the amazing stats:

* Height: 122'1"
* Weight: 13,000,000 lbs. of snow
* 5 foot wreaths for eyes
* 16 skis for eyelashes
* 48 ft. circumference fleece hat
* 130 ft. scarf
* 6 1/2 ft. Maine-mica snowflake pendant
* 30 ft. spruce trees for arms
* 3 truck-loader tires for buttons
* 2,000 ft. of rope hair
This ski town of about 2,400 residents already holds the record for tallest snowman, dedicated in 1999. Since then, they have been waiting for someone else to break the record. When no one rose to the challenge, the folks here decided they’d have to break the record themselves.