Do You Take Coffee Breaks?

Once upon a time in Corporate America folks took coffee breaks.
Anyone out there still take a coffee break?

Happy National Coffee Day!

Celebrating the day with a 50/50 Decaf/Regular blend of Starbucks Verona!
What are you drinking to celebrate the day?

Blogging: Good for Your Mental Health?

An article titled A crossword puzzle a day may delay dementia makes the case that "doing crossword puzzles, reading, and playing cards daily may delay the rapid memory decline that occurs if people develop dementia". Good news for me and my wife.. we love to do crossword puzzles we find in magazines and newspapers as well as books from Simon and Schuster. Here are a few clips from the article:
Researchers from New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine spent five years following 488 people aged 75 to 85 who did not have dementia at the start of the study. During the study period, 101 of these people developed dementia.

At the start of the study the participants reported how often they participated in six leisure mind activities — reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, playing board or card games, having group discussions, and playing music.
The researchers then looked at the point when memory loss started accelerating rapidly and found that for every additional activity a person participated in, the onset of rapid memory loss was delayed by 0.18 years.
I wonder how many folks watch a lot of mindless TV instead of engaging their brains in stimulating activities like blogging? I wonder.. maybe engaging in stimulating blogging dialog is good for your mental health.. even if it is not so much beneficial for other parts of your body :)

The World Shrinks!

The world has certainly shrunk in the past 20 years. Jobs once done in the USA are now performed all over the earth. In his book review of Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century Edward Leamer lists what he calls three revolutionary forces in the global economy:
  1. More Unskilled Workers: The economic liberalizations in China and India and Russia and South America and on and on have added to the effective global labor markets a huge number of unskilled workers and relatively little human and physical capital.
  2. New Equipment for Knowledge Workers: The Internet and the PersonalComputer have fundamentally changed the nature of knowledge work, raising productivity, emphasizing talent and reducing the need for “helpers.”
  3. Communications Innovations: The cell-phone and the beeper and e- mail and voice-mail keep us all wired and connected 24/7, thus eliminating the borderline between time at work and time at leisure. These same communication tools, together with the Internet and virtually costless telecommunications have extended the geographic reach of suppliers, and have increased the intensity of competition for mundane work and standardized products.
Did you catch that last part.. "competition for mundane work"?  Seriously.. I think that somewhat captures the essence of this shrinking world. We are mostly not speaking about a competition to be fulfilled in exciting and interesting jobs. What we are focusing on are jobs that need to be done so that folks like you and me can have cheap stuff.

You know.. once upon a time I really didn't care that jobs were outsourced.. most of them were manufacturing jobs.. my take was a somewhat arrogant one for sure. Then the new millennium dawned and people from places like India and Pakistan were not only carrying green cards and working here in the USA..doing jobs similar to mine.. but jobs like mine were being done in places like India and Pakistan. In other words outsourcing became personal.

So what am I trying to say.. I feel that I am once again rambling.. I guess my thoughts on this shrinking world are two fold. Firstly, it is good to understand that these jobs we are fighting for are not glamorous ones. Secondly, many of us live in denial of these impacts thinking that our jobs are safe.. and we don't care all that much until it gets personal.

I do wonder where the next 20 years will take us.. maybe one day overseas doctors will be reading our eCharts, diagnosing our diseases and prescribing treatments.. today even radiologists' jobs are being done overseas these days. Never know.

Brief Summer Movie Reviews

Autumn came to us this week so I thought that I would report in brief on the movies and videos that I saw this summer.. kind of like one of those "what I did on summer vacation" things. Here they are in random order:

  Dan in Real Life


  Gran Torino

  Nights in Rodanthe

  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

  Sunshine Cleaning

  Eagle Eye

  Match Point


  Mad Hot Ballroom


  Confessions of a Shopaholic

  Get Smart


  Ghost Town




  Last Chance Harvey

  Julie and Julia
I suspect that you all may have pointed the thumb in a different direction on a few of these. A thumbs down does not mean that the movie was totally worthless (although it could mean that) and a thumbs up doesn't mean that the movie was Oscar worthy.. the thumb only indicate whether I generally had favorable memories of it.

Let me know if you saw anything this summer that is worth putting on my Netflix queue.

Violence in the Name of Religion

My cyberfriend Brian and I have been having a great conversation over at his blog around the topic of violence perpetrated in the name of religion.

I thought that I would expand the dialog here asking if you agree with these statements:
  • Violence perpetrated against people for breaking a religious (not a moral) rule is not a good thing.

  • Legitimate expressions of religion promote love for other people and false religious expressions advocate animosity towards others.
I am interested in hearing your thoughts about the role of religious rules in a government and what you think about countries that have (or even once had) theocratic rule. Should religion be used to justify violent behavior in punishing the violation of a religious (not a moral) rule?

Redneck Lion

From my e-mail inbox.. the owner in South Carolina was tired of thugs breaking into his shop so he came up with this idea..

The Bureaucracy of Health Insurance

This NY Times article titled Insurers Fight Speech-Impairment Remedy tells the story of a 48 year old mom who has ALS and a son with Downs Syndrome. These few clips from the piece give us a glimpse into why health insurance needs to be reformed in our country.

Kara Lynn has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., which has attacked the muscles around her mouth and throat, removing her ability to speak. A couple of years ago, she spent more than $8,000 to buy a computer, approved by Medicare, that turns typed words into speech that her family, friends and doctors can hear.

Under government insurance requirements, the maker of the PC, which ran ordinary Microsoft Windows software, had to block any nonspeech functions, like sending e-mail or browsing the Web.

Dismayed by the PC’s limitations and clunky design, Ms. Lynn turned to a $300 iPhone 3G from Apple running $150 text-to-speech software. Ms. Lynn, who is 48 and lives in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said it worked better and let her “wear her voice” around her neck while snuggling with her 5-year-old son, Aiden, who has Down syndrome.

Medicare and private health insurers decline to cover cheap devices like iPhones and netbook PCs that can help the speech-impaired, despite their usefulness and lower cost. (read more here)
You can see a photo of Kara and her son at the top of the article.. it is a moving photo.. more than ever it makes me want real reform in health insurance.

Ideological Fundamentalism

My friend Brian recently posted that there is usually Two Sides to Every Story.. I encourage you to check it out.. Brian is a great writer. I responded to his post saying:
"These days terms like conservative and liberal are representative of ideological fundamentalism. It is why I have been identifying more with moderation or centrism."
To that point here is a definition of Fundamentalism that I agree with:

"strict adherence to any set of basic ideas or principles"
Now usually this pejorative word (i.e. Fundamentalism) is used to marginalize and cubbyhole religious people who generally lean to the extreme right leanings of religion. I submit to you that many folks who hold extreme left leaning religious and ideological views are Fundamentalists as well. Their views are often as narrow as the conservative ones that they decry.

The journey from Fundamentalism has not been a straight or easy one for me. I think the first journey was a religious one where I began to embrace the ideas of grace and love from a different perspective. I had always been able to give the Greek definitions of those words but seldom manifested them in my life.. I was a hard judgmental human being. I recounted this journey from Charismatic Fundamentalism here.

The journey from Ideological Fundamentalism was a bit different. I remember in the 1990s calling Bill Clinton evil and gloating when the Monica Lewinsky scandal brought him down.. sad days for sure. My journey to Ideological Moderation or Centrism oddly came via the Blogosphere. As I dialoged with liberals I found much common ground in the conversation. I also found that there is a wide diversity of thought in the world of conservatism.. we all did not walk in locked steps. Depending on the issue I found myself comfortable in both camps.. and I was so enjoying the stimulation that this more moderate journey was bringing me.. I was learning a lot and growing as a human being.

Well, I think that I am rambling a bit and don't really have a lot more to offer on the topic. I invite you to join the conversation. Do you think Ideological Fundamentalism is an issue in the country that you live? Do you think that people on the extreme ends of the ideological spectrum can ever work together? Or are folks simply too deeply entrenched in their ideology to have a productive conversation with folks with opposing ideologies?

And yes.. I think that I am becoming more of a "glass half-full" kind of guy

History on the Run

A lot has been said about the "Main Stream Media" and about the bias' (both left and right) in the press. Thought I'd share a few defining quotes about journalism. Let me know if you have a different perspective on what journalism is and how you protect yourself from being swayed by media bias.. not to say that we aren't all swayed a bit by what we read, see and hear :)

Journalism: writing characterized by a direct presentation of facts or description of events without an attempt at interpretation; writing designed to appeal to current popular taste or public interest. -Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Journalism is in fact history on the run. -Thomas Griffith

Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine. -Walter Cronkite

The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything. Except what is worth knowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-like habits, supplies their demands. -Oscar Wilde

I hope we never live to see the day when a thing is as bad as some of our newspapers make it. -Will Rogers

Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air. -Henry Anatole Grunwald

We journalists make it a point to know very little about an extremely wide variety of topics; this is how we stay objective. -Dave Barry

Journalism largely consists of saying "Lord Jones is Dead" to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive. -G. K. Chesterton

Rock journalism is people who can't write interviewing people who can't talk for people who can't read. -Frank Zappa

Talk Like A Pirate Day

Aaaargh! How will you celebrate? Leave your comment in Piratese :)

Christian Spam

HT: ASBO Jesus. Click on the picture to enlarge!

E-Cigarettes: Bad for Your Health

File this under "Now I have heard everything"!

Mary Travers, 1936-2009

Mary Travers, of Peter, Paul & Mary fame, died yesterday at 72 in Danbury, Connecticut after a long battle with leukemia. She joined forces with Peter Yarrow and Noel Paul Stookey in the early 1960s. They had some great songs like "If I Had a Hammer", "Lemon Tree" and "Puff (The Magic Dragon.)"

I will always remember her when I hear "Leaving on a Jet Plane".. it was one of my favorites growing up in the 60s. May God comfort Mary's friends and family during this time of mourning.

WWW: Dumpster Gross Out

In this edition of Weird World Wednesday, I submit to you a clip from a Wichita Eagle article titled Kansas couple's trash bin tryst takes wrong turn:

A tender moment in a trash bin went all wrong for a couple who found themselves being held up at pocket knifepoint. Police said two 44-year-olds had climbed into a dumpster to be alone just after 6 p.m. Saturday when two men interrupted them and demanded their belongings. Officers said the man and woman were engaged in "an intimate moment" when they were robbed of their shoes, jewelry and the man's wallet.
I do not know which is weirder.. this article or the guy in the photo bathing in a dumpster hot tub. Color me grossed out.

Two Sides of Name Calling

Over the past few days I have had a great dialog with a Facebook friend.. it all started when I responded to an article titled Charlatan-in-Chief by Thomas Sowell on National Review Online that he had linked to. I commented:
"Wish we could debate health care without all of the name calling."
He responded saying:

"There's nothing per se wrong with name calling. E.g. Matt 3:7"
What ensued was a debate over the biblical justification for calling someone names. I won't bore you with the details but will say that I ended the discussion saying that life has taught me that the distance between hate and name-calling is not that far. And that we would just have to agree to disagree.

So I am wondering what you think about this whole idea of calling people names. Folks in the British Parliament seem to be comfortable with it.. heck, I have seen videos of government bodies in other countries actually duking it out in meetings.

Do you think that name-calling is a legit expression of debate? Is it something that you are comfortable with on a one-on-one basis with people you know or do you just name-call the people on TV who you have never met?

Frankly I think that most people who are calling public figures names probably do not do it to people they actually know. Gotta wonder why they feel comfortable doing it one way but not the other. What do you think?

Eagle Eye | ★★★★★★★★

This movie sat on my Netflix queue for weeks and kept getting bumped lower on it with every new release that came out.. last Friday it hit the top of the queue.. so we watched it.. and boy are we glad that we did :)

Eagle Eye is a great suspense-action-thriller that has you wondering just what the heck is going on throughout the first half of the movie. When the pieces start coming together you get sucked into the plot even more.

I was surprised that Ann enjoyed the flick so much because she usually shies away from adrenaline pumping movies. If you are up for a bit of a thrill ride I think you will enjoy Eagle Eye.

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

One-In-A-Million Shot!

Saw this amazing shot yesterday on TV.
He won the next point to win the match!

Agreeably Disagreeing

I like the way that this image (click on it to enlarge it) shows how discussions and debates can sometimes degenerate. I think that no one wins when discussions go this way.. for sure one party may "win" but the cost of their victory is often the destruction of trust and the undermining of future communications. Here are a few notable quotes about disagreements:

If you have learned how to disagree without being disagreeable, then you have discovered the secret of getting along -- whether it be business, family relations, or life itself. -Bernard Meltzer

Guard against the prestige of great names; see that your judgments are your own; and do not shrink from disagreement; no trusting without testing. -John Dalberg Acton

Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress. -Mahatma Gandhi

Just as war is freedom's cost, disagreement is freedom's privilege. -Bill Clinton

When we are debating an issue, loyalty means giving me your honest opinion, whether you think I'll like it or not. Disagreement, at this stage, stimulates me. But once a decision has been made, the debate ends. From that point on, loyalty means executing the decision as if it were your own. -Colin Powell
I am hoping that our country can move forward and find a way to disagree without being disagreeable.. but I don't see much evidence of it.. both sides are calling folks liars and seem comfortable operating on the bottom level of the triangle.

Why Do Folks Embrace Conspiracy Theories?

An article titled Four reasons why people believe in conspiracy theories offers four traits of those who embrace conspiracy theories:
  • patternicity, or a tendency to find meaningful patterns in random noise;
  • agenticity, or the bent to believe the world is controlled by invisible intentional agent;
  • confirmation bias, or the seeking and finding of confirmatory evidence for what we already believe;
  • hindsight bias, or tailoring after-the-fact explanations to what we already know happened.
I once belonged to a church that spoke pejoratively about groups like the Freemasons, the Trilateral Commission and the Illuminati.. these groups were seen as last day representatives of that Babylonian system loosely described in the biblical book of Revelation. That second bullet point titled agenticity is reflective of that kind of thinking.

Yesterday we celebrated the eighth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.. there are even theories about that attack.. some even irresponsibly linking President Bush to the attacks. These days other theories abound.. Congressional Representative Paul Broun believes that President Obama Obama already has or will have the three things he needs to make himself a dictator: a national police force, gun control and control over the press.

I could go on but I think that you get the idea. Some folks are predisposed to believe that Elvis is still alive and are energized when they hear reports of someone seeing him at the neighborhood gas station. Others are energized by conspiracy theories around the JFK assassination or the Moon Landing. Good to understand that some simply have those traits listed above.. and it is on the rest of us to let sanity rule the day.

Why do you think people embrace conspiracy theories? Any examples?

I Will Never Forget

Growing up in NYC I can remember a time before the World Trade Center was there and the tallest building was the Empire State Building. It is odd to think that what once is now no longer stands because of hatred. Here are a few things I will never forget:
  • Evil is in this world and rears its ugly head when we least expect it.
  • No one is safe from terrorism.. terrorists know no boundaries.
  • Religious fanaticism can be deadly.. some theologies are evil.
  • The response to evil can surprise you.. we are stronger than we think.
  • Young soldiers are still risking all for our freedom.
  • The war on terror goes on even if politicians call it something else.
  • We must never ever give in.. we must never ever forget.
Just a few random thoughts as I wake this morning and remember that terrible day eight years ago. What is it that you will never forget?

What Geeks are Saying..

Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower. -Steve Jobs

It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. -Bill Gates

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. -Albert Einstein

Celebrating to the Nines

Saw these unusual news items today about this numerically redundant day:
  • Wedding officials in Las Vegas are expecting a marathon set of nuptials and vow renewals anticipating it to be of the busiest days of the year.
  • The New York City Clerk's office said 200 couples had wed by midday at its refurbished marriage bureau -- about four times the Wednesday average. 
  • Nine couples in Hollywood spent 99 cents each to get married at a 99 Cents Only store on Sunset Boulevard.
Did you do anything to celebrate this ninth day of the ninth month of the ninth year?

Electric Tesla: 2¢ a Mile

The new Tesla Roadster does zero to 60 in under four seconds, goes over 200 miles on a charge and costs about 2¢ a mile to run. Of course is does cost about $100k :)

Killer Robots

The US Army hosted a Robotics Rodeo last week at Fort Hood in Texas challenging the robotics industry to help fill combat needs.

The Viper, pictured left, climbs 12-inch stairs and wades through mud, snow, and sand.

Robotic weapons seem to be a good use for war. What do you think?


Friendship is love with understanding. -Ancient Proverb

Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding. -Albert Einstein

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. -Robert McCloskey

Where there is no extravagance there is no love, and where there is no love there is no understanding. -Oscar Wilde

You don't need strength to let go of something. What you really need is understanding. -Guy Finley

Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. -Carl Jung

Suing Ashcroft

This is the headline from a Washington Post article:
Court Allows Lawsuit Against Ashcroft
Former Official's Bid for Immunity In Ex-Detainee's Case Is Rejected

And here are a few clips from the article:

A Muslim man who was detained for weeks as a material witness in a terrorism case can sue former attorney general John D. Ashcroft, a federal appeals court in California ruled Friday as it rejected a bid for absolute legal immunity by the onetime Cabinet official.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit gave a green light to the case filed by Abdullah al-Kidd, a U.S. citizen who was taken into custody at a ticket counter at Washington Dulles International Airport in 2003, while he was on his way to Saudi Arabia to study Islamic law and Arabic.
Al-Kidd and his attorneys argued that Ashcroft knew or should have known that the material witness statute was being used in a sweeping and abusive manner. Ashcroft, who is being defended by the Justice Department, maintained that the case should be dismissed because he had no personal involvement in al-Kidd's detention. He also argued that as the nation's chief law enforcement officer at the time, he enjoyed broad protection from lawsuits.

But Judges Milan D. Smith Jr. and David R. Thompson disagreed, writing that Ashcroft was not entitled to absolute legal immunity and that authorities had detained al-Kidd in part to conduct an investigation of his activities, without probable cause. Judge Carlos T. Bea wrote a partial dissent. All three judges were appointed by Republican presidents.

Al-Kidd, a Muslim convert who had been a standout running back on the University of Idaho football team, was confined in a high-security cell lit 24 hours a day, according to the opinion. He was strip-searched and transported, in shackles, across three states for 16 days before a court ordered his release. Authorities could not offer evidence of criminal wrongdoing by al-Kidd, and he never testified in a court proceeding.

For more than 15 months after his release, al-Kidd was forced to live with his parents-in-law in Nevada, curtail his travel and report to a probation officer. Al-Kidd lost his job with a government contractor after being denied a security clearance. Since his arrest, he has separated from his wife, suffered emotional trauma and been unable to hold a steady job, the judges wrote.
You can read the whole article here.

I never did like the preemptive pardoning of President Nixon by President Ford back in the 1970s.. always thought that he never had to answer for his crime. In hindsight I think that it was probably "good for" the country.. of course who really knows what the impact of a presidential prosecution would have had on the nation.

So I wonder about this law suit against the former attorney general. Is Ashcroft, or for that matter any governmental official, above the law? I am reminded of what Nixon said in his interview with David Frost:

"When the President does it, that means that it's not illegal."
So.. Ashcroft aside.. I wonder.. would our leaders in DC think twice about what they do if they no longer felt that they are immune from prosecution for their administrative or legislative actions? What do you think?

President Obama and School Kids

In a KC Star piece titled Obama's speech to students an ugly political mess editorial writer Yael Abouhalkah echoes much of my sentiments over the presidents upcoming speech to the school children of our country.. here is what he said:
The Obama administration shares the blame for making his scheduled speech to K-12 students next Tuesday such an ugly mess.

Sure, the hyperpartisan reaction to it by conservatives and radio shock jocks has drawn the attention of many Americans. They are being told to oppose allowing Obama to shove his politics down their children's throats (which, by the way, isn't what's going to happen).

Now school boards and superintendents across the country are being pressured by right-wing groups to pull the plug on Obama's speech.

But Obama's education officials didn't help their cause by indicating that the speech would be a good occasion for students to outline how they could help Obama be a good president.

Or offer ways for Obama to help serve the nation.

Those suggestions -- now gone from the official website of next Tuesday's speech -- were wrongheaded.

Of course, the speech won't be about politics at all, and most people realize it.

It will be President Obama doing what he does best, trying to inspire young people to stay in school and do their best to get a good education.

Nothing wrong with that at all.

But the missteps by the Obama administration helped confuse the message.
I think that our school kids today so need some inspiration.. a lot of them dropout or are thrown out. Even our suburban KC schools have issues that require schools to have a police officer present during school hours. Lets all hope that the president's speech will help our kids.

The Case for 6 Day Mail Service

A few weeks ago President Obama compared the US Postal Service (USPS) with the likes of UPS and FedEx. Saw this cartoon today and it caused me to think about the future of the USPS.. seems like they are eliminating a lot of positions these days.. gotta wonder how long 6 day mail delivery will last.

Up until a few months ago I was an advocate for cutting mail delivery down to 5 days.. then my daughter got me a NetFlix account and now I am not so sure that is such a good idea :)

Apart from NetFlix is there really a case for 6 day mail delivery?