Happy New Year !!

Ann and I are staying in and may not make it to midnight.
Are you staying in or going out?

Goodbye Kodachrome

Dwayne's Photo in Parsons, KS, is the last remaining photo lab in the world to process the color slide film. But today Dwayne's is closing the proverbial Kodachrome door and officially ending its processing service.

I do not miss film cameras. I love taking photos on my phone and on my digital camera. Seems like I always have a camera when I need it. What memories do you have of Kodachrome and film cameras?

In Consideration of Birds and Flowers

The subject of worry brings out all sorts of platitudes and clichés. If you tell a religious person that you are worried they might tell you to "Just trust God" and say something like "God is still on the throne". A nonreligious person might say "Don't worry. Everything will be okay". It seems that everyone has something to say about worry. Consider these quotes and my responses to them:
  • Worry starts when we project into the future. The mind searches for and examines all the angles it can find related to worst-case scenarios. -Kim Allen
    I can relate to worst case scenarios. Yet I have to admit that all of the bad stuff that has happened to me, and the ones I love, have blindsided me.. I did not see the worst case scenario.. and I did not worry about it advance.
  • Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you
    nowhere. -Glenn Turner
    I remember a retired friend telling me that it was their right to worry. I think that some folks get some kind of sense of accomplishment out of worry. Some folks get a similar feeling of accomplishment when they pray.
  • Drag your thoughts away from your troubles... by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it. -Mark Twain
    Most of the things that worry me anymore are the things that are in my face every day. The way that I deal with those things is allow my hope-filled heart to trump the thinkings of my head.. not that I am good at it or do it every time.
  • Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight. -Benjamin Franklin
    I love the way that Ben contrasts worry with sunlight. I think that sometimes folks like me who have been project managers live anticipating future problems. Reminds me that my life is something to be lived and not managed.
  • Pray and let God worry. -Martin Luther
    I think that some use prayer as a way of venting their worries and sometimes prayer becomes another way to worry. It reminds me of the scriptures that tell us to come to God when we are weary and troubled.. and of the verse that says to cast all of our care on him because he cares for us.
  • Don't worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today. -Jesus Christ
    Jesus says this after he speaks to us about how flowers and birds do not worry because God takes care of them. He speaks deeply to me and challenges me to trust in the Lord with all of my heart and challenges me to not lean on my own understanding.
I guess, when it comes down to it for me, worry is symptomatic of living from my head. In a sense I cannot really defeat worry using my brain. The only way to defeat worry is to trust the Lord with my heart. A good thought for 2011. Really, why worry about the New Year?

Do you have a favorite quote about worry? How do you deal with the worry in your life?

My 2010 Blog Retrospective

2010 has been an interesting year for me. Ann and I downsized big-time as we moved about 25 miles north from the suburbs to a loft in downtown Kansas City. Our new life in urban KC has been fun and challenging. So, here at the end of 2010, I thought that I would look back and list one post per month for 2010 that sort-of represented my thinkings:
  • January: The Erroneous Theology of Job - I like to discuss theology and ideology a lot here because of the effects they have on our lives. Sadly, theologies and ideologies often have negative impacts on us and the people that we love.
  • February: Groundhog Day Q&A - You do not need to visit here very often to know that I enjoy watching movies. My mini-movie reviews are listed one-by-one in my sidebar. But feel free to check all of them out here.
  • March: The Unknown Disease - Bringing light to Devic's Disease (NMO), the syndrome that disabled my wife's body, has been a bit rewarding. If you want to know more click the NMO image in my sidebar.
  • April: Scrooge the Libertarian - Politics and the elections have been one of my favorite topics to blog about. I feel that so much of the feedback I get is educational.
  • May: Age of Majority: 18 or 21? - I like to write about contemporary issue like this. The feedback I get on topics like this is very interesting.
  • June: I posted three times this month about my family. I remembered my first wife here, my dad's stew here and a poem written to Ann here. Family is a common theme.
  • July: But it felt like humiliation - From the beginning of my blogging days I have always found it to be a bit therapeutic to talk about the things in my life that make me feel uncomfortable. Sometimes just expressing my feelings is healing.
  • August: Images of Islamophobia - Religion, and Islam in specific, is a topic that interests me. The year has been rife with stories about reactions to the NYC Mosque and Muslims in general. Islam, Christianity and Extremism was such a post.
  • September: Do You Celebrate Fake Holidays? - I love the inane and trivia can be a lot of fun. People will often comment on posts like this but will stay away from ones of a more serious nature.. and I do love trivial stuff.
  • October: Anonymous has Questions about God - As many of you know I love to dialog about all things theological. This post came from questions that a person had in the comments of a prior post.
  • November: My Open Letter to the President - I doubt that he read my post but it does seem that he has acted in accordance with a few my requests.
  • December: Remembering Rodger - I lost my Mom and several friends this year. Two wonderful blogger friends passed away. Many celebrities died. Rodger's death reminds me how short and fragile life is.
I think that it was helpful to page through my 2010 posts.. found some common themes.. reminisced a bit as I remembered the events that caused me to blog. I'd love to hear any feedback from you on my bloggings this year. Any suggestions for me?

Tax Refund Anticipation Loans

The Treasury Department has recently ruled that H&R Block, the Kansas City based tax preparation giant, can no longer use HSBC Bank to make Tax Refund Anticipation Loans. The feds are quiet about the reasons. The action is a blow to Block. Here are a few clips from a KC Star article titled H&R Block’s refund loans cut off:
Block collects the cost of the loan and its tax preparation fee out of the refund, another popular feature of the loans, which are mostly used by lower-income filers who want their refunds as soon as possible.

Block is not expected to find another lender soon, certainly not in time for customers who seek the refund loans starting next month.

Rival tax services, however, will still be able to offer the loans through their banking partners, putting Block at a competitive disadvantage.
I have a mixed reaction to the ruling. Firstly, I think these types of loans prey on people who are either in crisis or are simply ignorant of the way that IRS returns work - refunds are usually delivered within a month.. sometimes in a few weeks. Secondly, I feel bad for Block because their competition is still able to offer these types of loans.

I have never acquired one of these loans but know of people who have. How about you?

Thinking about the snow out east..

Hoping you east coasters are warm and safe inside. My younger sister has a long driveway with two feet of snow in it.. and the snow blower broke. My older sister is travelling back to New Jersey from Erie, PA. So I am thinking about the snow and hoping you all stay safe.

Fracture | ★★★★★★★

Not sure how I missed this 2007 thriller but I am glad that I caught it a few weeks ago. Anthony Hopkins delivers a Hannibal Lector-ish portrayal of a man who kills his wife and gets off on a technicality as he manipulates an egotistical prosecutor played by Ryan Gosling. I much enjoyed the interactions between Hopkins and Gosling. I liked the way that the young attorney's ethics, morality and ego was tested but did think that some of the plot was stretched a bit thin to add a bit of romance to the storyline.

You might enjoy this movie if you enjoy a suspenseful story with a bit of courtroom drama. I recommend it and, on a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★.

Imagination, Faith and Knowledge

The Kansas City Star recently asked
Does imagination play a role in faith? Two religious leaders, a Rabbi and a Pastor, gave their answers. Here are a few clips from them:
Rabbi Levin: "Imagination does not simply play a role in faith. We could not have faith without the human imagination."

Rev. Cary: "Imagination does play a role in faith. If you can’t imagine God doing great things, wondrous things, unexpected things, impossible things, then your faith has nothing to build on; it’s limited, and so is God."
The Einstein quote above has always been a favorite.. had a poster with part of it hanging in my corporate cubicle for many years. Yet I have to admit that I have never pondered the connection between faith and imagination. Wonder what many would think if I proclaimed:
Faith is more important than knowledge.
Possibly, since I am not Einstein, people would not emblazon that on a poster with my image. Yet I think that faith, like imagination, is integral to embracing things that are not seen.. things that are yet to be. Here is the way that a spiritual Einstein put it:
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.
I wonder if people who envision a universe without God simply suffer from a lack of imagination. Perhaps those who refuse to believe in miracles simply have small imaginations. Perhaps a lack of faith is simply a lack of imagination? Or possibly an imagination that refuses to embrace the unexplainable.. the things we can't know?

Anyone really happy with their cellphone service?

Obviously AT&T and T-Mobile got the most bad marks but don't you find it odd that there are so few red dots on the chart? Looking at the "74" rating on Sprint (my carrier) I'd have to say that the ratings are fairly accurate. What number would you give your cellphone carrier?

Snowy Photography

My wife Ann took this photo a few years ago with our old Fuji camera. She may have a chance to get another like it as our Kansas City metroplex is bracing for our first major snowstorm of the season. So I thought that I would excerpt a few tips from Rachel King's article titled Five tips on photographing snowy scenes.. here are her tips in brief:
  1. Exposure: Snow is very, very bright. Just like you shouldn’t forget to bring sunscreen when going skiing, you should also prep your camera.
  2. Timing: When you take a picture can change the setting entirely.
  3. Composition: Wintertime makes for some great landscape photos. The mountains, the trees, frozen lakes and streams.
  4. Filters: With bright, white snow and if you’re lucky enough to get a fair sky, consider tacking a UV filter onto your lens to handle all of the brightness so your photos don’t end up washed-out.
  5. Safety: Snow has the magic of turning a dull spot into a winter wonderland, but it isn’t always safe either.
For the rest of Rachel's tips click here. Any other tips that you snowy photogs have?

The Longest Night

Night is descending here in Kansas City and it reminds me that tonight is the longest night of the year - at least here in the northern hemisphere. Four years ago I posted a beautiful meditation (reposted below) by Rev. Diane Hendricks. She wrote is back in 2001 and it has been a source of comfort and peace for many who struggle during this time of the year.

Longest Night Meditation

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Only it's not.
  • Not for everyone.
  • Not when there is an empty chair at the table.
  • Not when your body is ravaged with illness.
  • Not when the depression is too much to bear.
  • Not without her voice joining yours on the Christmas carols.
  • Not when you feel all alone even in a crowd.
  • Not when you are not sure you can even afford the rent or mortgage, let alone the presents.
  • Not when they are trying their best to the best of you.
  • Not when another Christmas party means he will come home drunk again.
It's the most wonderful time of the year?

No, it's not.

And trying to smile and say Merry Christmas is more than difficult. It's pretty near impossible.

C.S. Lewis once wrote:
"No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning..."
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Only it's not.
  • Not after he has died.
  • Not after the doctor gave you the news.
  • Not after they told you they would be downsizing.
  • Not after... you fill in the blank.
  • Not after September 11.
  • Not when there is so much violence and destruction in the world.
In truth, it has never been the most wonderful time of the year. Certainly not in the days surrounding that first Christmas so long ago. The story of the birth of Jesus is not to be told with a jolly voice and a merry ho-ho-ho.
It is the story of a teenage girl, pregnant with a child that is not her husband's.

It is the story of a child born in a dirty animal stall.
It is the story of a family of refugees who had to flee their homeland so that their child would not be killed.
It is the story of one sent into the world in peace who was condemned to death.
It is the story of a light sent to shine in the darkness, which the world snuffed out.
It is the story of God's never-ending, self-giving mercy which was rejected and condemned.
In the great work the Messiah, Handel quotes the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming that Jesus was "despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." One great theologian reminds us that we cannot come to the manger without acknowledging that it lays in the shadow of the cross.

It is not the most wonderful time of the year.

Only it is! It is:
  • If we forget about the tinsel and the trees.
  • If we forget about the holly jolly tidings.
  • If we forget about the presents and the ornaments and the trappings.
And remember. Remember the story.
  • Mary was alone and afraid.
    But God was with her and exalted her among women.
  • Joseph was disgraced.
    But God revealed in Joseph's cause for disgrace God's plan to save the world.
  • The world was in darkness.
    But God sent the light of life to shine.
  • The lowly were imprisoned.
    But Jesus set them free.
  • The blind wandered aimlessly.
    But Christ gave them eyes to see.
  • The lame were rejected.
    But through the Holy One they were made to leap and dance.
  • The deaf were confined to the silence.
    But the song of life unstopped their ears.
  • The sorrowful grieved.
    But God wipes away our tears.
  • We were alone.
    But in Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God is with us.
  • The people rejected God.
    But God embraces us.
  • The world crucified Christ.
    But God would not allow that to be the last word, and gave us the sure hope of the resurrection.
It is the most wonderful time of the year, not because you have to be cheery and happy and merry.

But because you don't.

You can have heavy spirits and shattered dreams. Broken hearts and deep wounds.

And still God comes to be with you.
  • To comfort you.
  • To redeem you.
  • To save you.
  • To restore you.
  • To empower you.
  • To strengthen you.
  • To grant you peace.
  • To be raised for you.
  • To hold you in the communion of saints with those whom you have loved and lost.
  • To store your tears in his bottle.
  • To offer you eternal life.
It is the most wonderful time of the year.
For Christ is born.
Love has come.
God is with us!
Thanks be to the Lord our God.

Entitled Lawmakers

I think that most people really are suspicious of our leaders in congress.. news about the perks they get from lobbyists.. the pensions they receive after working for just a few years.. I mean really - who else gets these kinds of perks. Even so, this Associated Press article grossed me out even more. Here is an excerpt from it:
California lawmakers enjoy a perk that seems like a luxurious amenity in a state that has been slashing billions of dollars from its budget: taxpayer-provided cars. The state purchases cars for lawmakers to drive around their districts and the capital under a decades-old program, spending more than $5 million for the latest suite of vehicles that includes a $55,000 Cadillac sedan and a $52,000 Lexus hybrid.
It is so utterly revolting that "public servants" would act this way. I mean really, how do they sleep at night? They act like they are entitled to the perks of kings and queens. Ugh!

TCM Remembers 2010

A poignant walk down memory lane in a montage of movie folks who passed away this year.

You Don't Know Jack | ★★★★★★★

So I am sitting here wondering if I can review this excellent movie and not tip my hand on where I stand on euthanasia? Maybe? Let me know what you think.

Ann and I caught this one Saturday night at home and I was surprised at how good Al Pacino played Doctor Death. I thought that the movie was thought provoking and fair in it's representation of Jack Kevorkian and his passion to assist those suffering terminal illnesses and debilitating pain. In it you see Jack evolve from an aging doctor helping a few people die to a crusader for the right to die issue.

I recommend it and, on a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★ for acting and educational value.

$11,000,000 Christmas Tree

A 43 foot Christmas tree has been decked out with 131  gold and precious stone ornaments costing $11 million (US) and stands in the lobby of the Emirates Palace hotel, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The $11 million symbol of the season has become the latest extravagance at the hotel, which boasts its own marina, heliport and a vending machine that pops out small gold bars.

I am thinking that these folks might have more money than sense. I wonder what the security detail looks like? 10 guards a guarding 50 golden rings!!

Learning from Cancer Patients

I follow the bloggings of Therese Borchard at Beyond Blue.. she writes there about her struggles with depression and often includes some very inspirational things. Here are her 6 Things Cancer Patients Have Taught Me accompanied by my thoughts..
  1. One day at a time.
    The weight of tomorrow can sometimes be so heavy and hard to carry. I have learned, and am learning, Jesus' lesson of seeking God's kingdom today and not worrying about the future.
  2. Feel the fear and do it anyway, as psychologist Susan Jeffers says.
    Therese quotes a doctor saying "Be self-led, not symptom-led." I have experienced debilitating fear in my life.. some of my experiences have been difficult to get past. Fear has never moved my life forward but only kept me stuck. Each time I have moved past fear and acted counter to it has been a great experience.
  3. Build a strong network of support.
    Health professionals and friends have been an integral part of keeping my sanity. Hard to know what I would have done without them.
  4. Do what you love.
    Therese says "When people have a mission--when they feel a part of some greater purpose--their recovery rates are better." I so resonate. Following my passion has sometimes been hard in difficult times but I find much life there.
  5. Think positive.
    I have to admit that I am a very pragmatic person and can sometimes be a bit negative. Even so, I find that each day I awake to hope. I think that having hope will change you. It has taken my negativity and turned it into thankfulness. The bible says that "hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." I have found that to be true.
  6. Appreciation.
    Like hope, the giving of thanks will turn your life around. It will redirect your focus and cause you to see hardship in a very different light.
The holidays can sometimes be a very difficult time. Some churches hold services for people who have experienced loss during the year. I hope that Therese's thoughts help you if you are experiencing difficulty.

Remembering Job Seekers

This image, from the Shoebox blog, is a brief reminder that many folks have been out of work for a very long time.

Several of my friends have been out of work for over a year. Some have taken temporary employment until something in their field opens up.

Please join me in remembering these in prayer and hoping for an employed new year.


I do not usually review restaurants but I think that I may begin to do so. This post is my first entry into the world of the culinary arts. Here is a blurb from the Eggtc. website:
The friendly staff’s 100 years combined experience prepares and serves only the freshest and finest gourmet breakfasts and appetizing lunches sure to please any palate.
The eggtc. Coffee Bar features prime Costa Rican blends, and Latte, Espresso, Cappuccino, and Café au Lait note a few of our gourmet delicacies prepared hot or iced.
Several folks over the years have suggested this place to me so I was quite anxious to try it this morning with my friend Kirk. One of the main attractions was a place that served a full breakfast menu and premium coffee. Here are a few of my thoughts:
  • Coffee: My first action of the morning was returning my watered down coffee and asking the waitress to give me another mug - I thought that I had simply got a bad pot.. no such luck.. the coffee was on par with Folgers or Maxwell House even though it was a locally made brand. If you like watered down weak coffee then this might fill the bill for you.
  • Potatoes: I am not sure how it is possible to call yourself a breakfast place and not serve hash-browns. Instead they served these little cubed "breakfast potatoes" - yuk! Even I do hash-browns at home - it is just not that hard.
  • French Toast: I did  not see any reason to try the eggs (even though egg is a part of their name) since they did not offer browns. So instead I ordered the French Toast. I tried the sourdough version which was excellent but thought that the raisin version might have been a good choice as well.
  • Bacon: As many of you who read hear know, I love bacon even though I try to restrict my intake of it. I found the bacon here to be pretty good but a bit (not a lot) undercooked. There were three strips and it did have a good taste. I shared a half piece with Kirk.
  • Breakfast Burrito: Kirk said that he enjoyed it but I wonder how filling it was as he ate my third slice of French Toast.
  • Accessibility: The restaurant would have been a bit challenging to negotiate in a wheelchair as the aisles were very narrow. The restrooms (at least the mens) was very large and wheelchair accessible.
Judging by the many people standing around waiting for a seat this morning I think that my review is not in line with many who attend this wildly popular place. Even so, I felt that the place was a bit mediocre.. consequentially I give it a thumbs down.

PS 22 heading to the Oscars

Kudos to PS 22, my hometown elementary school! They are headed to Los Angeles to perform at the Academy Awards ceremony on February 27th. Enjoy this great holiday video shot in the auditorium that I once sang in.. no solos.. just the normal assembly sing-a-thons.

Tips about Tips

Saw this post titled How to Tip Properly During the Holidays at the Lifehacker site.
Here are holiday tipping recommendations from Kiplinger Magazine:
  • Cleaning people: The cost of one visit.
  • Newspaper delivery people: $10 to $30.
  • Babysitters: The cost of one or two babysitter jobs.
  • Your child's teacher: A thoughtful gift.
  • Personal trainer: The cost of a session.
  • Trash Collectors: $10 to $30 each
  • Favorite nursing-home worker: A personal gift.
  • Hairstylists: The cost of one visit.
  • Dog walker: A week's pay.
I think that the newspaper delivery folks and my barber may be the only one that affect me - and I like their suggestions. I have to admit that I never did tip trash collectors and did not give gifts to teachers passed the early elementary grades.. and did not have a steady babysitter when my kids were young.

Thinking about tipping always reminds me of the preacher who said something like this about tipping in restaurants:
If you do not plan to be generous with your tip then please do not pray before you eat. We do not need any more examples of cheap and stingy Christians.
Over the years those words have guided me to be more generous in dealing with people - whether they know I am a Christian or not. It is always a good idea to be generous.

What do you think of the Kiplinger tipping amounts listed? Too high? Too low?

The National World War I Museum

This week Ann and I visited this great Kansas City attraction. I thought of writing about it then remembered that I had posted these thoughts from my friend Kirk three years ago. His report says it all:
It was spectacular! I highly recommend it. They have transformed that whole park and made the Memorial Tower and the museum the focal point. You can tell as soon as you approach the gate. Seems very popular too; the street was lined with cars. The layout of the museum is circular. I started with the twelve minute intro movie. The first half of the circle is dedicated to the time between 1914-17 when everyone BUT the U.S. was fighting the war. That was very eye opening to me; at first I kept noticing "America" was missing from all the displays. In my ignorance, I just figured it was a demonstration of our great humility. Then my eyes opened to the fact that we didn't enter the war until 1917. The second half is dedicated to that time and half-way through they have a huge screen with a dramatic fifteen minute presentation slash diorama showing the transition. It was impressive. I decided to break at that point and go up in the tower for a great view of the city. Only waited a few seconds to get the elevator to the top. Returned to the museum and hurried through the second half expecting to save it for another visit, maybe next year. You could do it in less than two hours.
Thanks Kirk! You can virtually visit them at their website for more information. I highly recommend that you give it a try if you are ever in the Kansas City area.. and please let us know if you do - maybe we will take the trip with you.

The Gift and Saving of Life

I got my three gallon pin today - would have been more if they would have taken my blood these past 12 years. Thinking about it, I remember that weekday back in 1976 when a coworker challenged me to give blood at the annual blood drive at work. I tried to blow him off but he would not relent. So I begrudgingly gave a unit of blood that week and for some reason I continued to give.

Now don't get me wrong - giving blood is not fun.. they do stick a needle in your arm. But giving blood is one of the most rewarding things that a person can do. I suggest that you Google your neighborhood blood bank and just walk in. It will help your community and will bless you as well. Just consider these images from the KC blood bank. People need your help - they need your blood.

And if you need a bit of inspiration consider this story..

Many years ago, when I worked as a volunteer at Stanford Hospital, I got to know a little girl named Liz who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, "Yes, I'll do it if it will save Liz."

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as we all did, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, "Will I start to die right away?"

Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood.

Dirty Little IT Secrets

I started my career in the world of IT (Information Technology) in 1976 as a computer programmer and spent almost 30 years designing software for a living. And now that I think of it, along the way we called it DP (Data Processing), IM (Information Management), MIS (Management Information Systems) and other things that slip my mind.

So I was amused when I saw this post titled 10 dirty little secrets you should know about working in IT. Here are a few of their secrets and my comments:
  • The pay in IT is good compared to many other professions, but since they pay you well, they often think they own you.
    I can definitely relate to this.. even so, I have to admit that I have heard more about this than I have experienced.
  • It will be your fault when users make silly errors.
    The older I got the more that I understood that this comes with the territory. On the flip side I found that if I would listen then I would learn so much from the people I designed software for.
  • Certifications won’t always help you become a better technologist, but they can help you land a better job or a pay raise.
    I am smiling because I am remembering the pre-Y2k days when IT folks were in high demand. The resumes that came across my desk were sometimes quite outrageous.
  • You’ll spend far more time babysitting old technologies than implementing new ones.
    I remember writing software in the 70s and 80s that did not handle the century change. Back then we always said that the software would be long gone before the year 2000. Boy, were we wrong!
  • Veteran IT professionals are often the biggest roadblock to implementing new technologies.
    I so wish that this was a lie but I have seen many folks who resisted new technologies because they would have to relearn the newer programming languages or design methodologies. I remember being one of them in 1994.
I think that many of these secrets can be encapsulated in one word - change. Unfortunately the issues around that word are not restricted to IT folks. If you disagree then I suggest that you watch what happens the next time Facebook introduces new features.

Smokin' Til Kingdom Come

Kirk, one of my real life friends and Facebook buddy, posted this image today and I just had to share it with you. It is simply hard to imagine something more delectable than this treat.

And don't you just love a BBQ cooking pit crew with the name of "Disciples of the Eternal Flame"? If I am not mistaken I think that these folks might be United Methodists.

Kansas City is known as a center for BBQ - there is a great place for ribs and burnt ends just a few blocks from my place. Ann and I enjoyed some takeout from there last week. And the sweet potato fries were great.

What kinds of food is your city or area know for?

The Wealth Gap

The buzz all over our country these days is about the extension of the so-called Bush Tax Cuts for the ultra-rich.. well actually just those individuals making over $250,000 a year.

Last week Politifact.com substantiated this statement that Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders made on November 30th:
"Mr. President, in the year 2007, the top 1 percent of all income earners in the United States made 23.5 percent of all income," Sanders said. "The top 1 percent earned 23.5 percent of all income--more than the entire bottom 50 percent."
Now I am not a fan of class warfare.. which this statement.. even though it may be true.. seems to reek of. But if you want to further examine the wealth gap I suggest that you check out the charts in an article titled 15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Wealth And Inequality In America - the old adage of the rich getting richer while the poor gets poorer seems to be truer every day.

I am challenged all of the time because I mostly agree with the idea that there are inequities in our system and there seems to be a bias against the poor. Yet when I see the wealthiest amongst us take the Giving Pledge I wonder if my thinking is more about something else? PJ O'Rourke said this back in 1997 - it challenges me but I am not sure that it persuades me.
"If we don't want the world's wealth to be controlled by people with money then the alternative is to have the world's wealth controlled by people with guns. ... We should quit thinking about the "wealth gap" and start thinking about wealth. Wealth is good. Everybody knows that about his own wealth. If you got rich it would be a great thing. You'd improve your life. You'd improve your family's life. You'd purchase education, travel, knowledge about the world. You'd invest in wise and worthwhile things. You'd give money to noble causes. You'd help your friends and neighbors. Your life would be better if you got rich. The lives of the people around you would be better if you got rich. Your wealth is good. So why isn't everybody else's wealth good, too? Wealth is good when many people have it. It's good when few people have it."
Yet I do wonder about the ways that the wealth of the rich has been obtained. I wonder if the philanthropy of the rich is sometimes an effort to atone for the ways that they got their wealth. We do not need to look back too far to understand how the ultra-rich mistreated workers in their quest to make a buck. Even today there seems to be a giant divide in the ways that corporate execs are compensated and the average wages of corporate workers.

Again, I can see both sides of this issue. Can you? Any thoughts about the wealth gap?

Not as Smart as Sharks

“Sharks are as tough as those football fans who take their shirts off during games in Chicago in January, only more intelligent.” -Dave Barry

“If a man watches three football games in a row, he should be declared legally dead.”
-Erma Bombeck

“We are inclined to think that if we watch a football game or a baseball game, we have taken part in it.” -John Fitzgerald Kennedy

“An atheist is a guy who watches a Nôtre Dame-SMU football game and doesn't care who wins.”
-Dwight David Eisenhower

Exodus | ★★★★★

For years I have wanted to watch this movie but kept putting it on the back burner - it sat on my Netflix queue for a long time. Maybe it was the almost four hour length or possibly the serious nature of the movie - not sure. Last weekend Ann and I settled in for a long night of viewing.

Firstly, even though it was not completely factual (the script was developed to tell the story), I thought that the movie was a bit educational. It tells the story of post World War II Jews that lived in limbo until the nation of Israel was established in 1948. I thought that it spoke much to the attitudes of all peoples involved in the resettlement of the Jews to Palestine - Jew, Arab and Gentile alike.

Secondly, I think that the movie was made in the image of many epics of that film era. I felt that it was unnecessarily long and a bit tedious in many places. If I edited it today I think that I would have kept everything until the ship, named Exodus, landed in Palestine. After that I would have narrowed the focus quite a bit and left out the somewhat obligatory romantic interactions of the star actors, Paul Newman and Eva Marie Saint. I would have entirely cut the whole imprisonment and escape scenes - it simply did not add to the story.

Lastly, I think that the movie would have been quite different if it was made today. It seemed odd to me to watch Gentile actors in the roles of Jewish people.. but I do think that was pretty common in Hollywood in those days. I also wonder what the action scenes would look like if shot today.. not sure that the newer technology would add much to the movie.

So, I guess I was glad to see the movie - sort of. You might find the movie interesting if you are interested in this aspect of history. One a scale of ten I give Exodus ★★★★★.

Friday Fun with Yoda

I am a bit under the weather today so I give you this image from the Shoebox blog along with a few Friday questions and my answers.

Q) Do you plan to Carol this year?
A)  Only in my shower. :)

Q) Would you go to see Star Wars VII?
A)  I'd probably wait for it on DVD.

Q) Have you mailed Christmas cards yet?
A)  Hoping to mail them this weekend.

Q) What is your favorite Christmas Carol?
A)  O Holy Night

Q) Your favorite Christmas memory?
A)  Watching my kids open presents.

Please feel free to join in the fun and share your answers in the comments section.

Death by Second Hand Smoke

I have not really thought much about this topic in a long time. The area that I live in has enacted laws prohibiting smoking in public places like restaurants and offices. So I was surprised when I read an Associated Press article that began by saying:
Secondhand smoke kills more than 600,000 people worldwide every year, according to a new study.

In the first look at the global impact of secondhand smoking, researchers analyzed data from 2004 for 192 countries. They found 40 percent of children and more than 30 percent of non-smoking men and women regularly breathe in secondhand smoke.

Scientists then estimated that passive smoking causes about 379,000 deaths from heart disease, 165,000 deaths from lower respiratory disease, 36,900 deaths from asthma and 21,400 deaths from lung cancer a year. Altogether, those account for about 1 percent of the world's deaths.
I am not sure how you reacted to this but I am pretty appalled when I think about the impact on helpless children - the image above turns my stomach. My thinking, that kids are exposed to it in their homes, is somewhat substantiated by this part of the article:
Children whose parents smoke have a higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, pneumonia, bronchitis and asthma. Their lungs may also grow more slowly than kids whose parents don't smoke.

Peruga and colleagues found the highest numbers of people exposed to secondhand smoke are in Europe and Asia. The lowest rates of exposure were in the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean and Africa.
Hard to know what can be done except possibly educate parents and law makers about the ill effects of second hand smoke on children and other non-smokers. I think that education has been the force that helped create bans on smoking in public places in our area.

What do you think? Are their such laws where you live? Do you think there should be?

Taking Great Vacation Pics

With Christmas just a few weeks away I thought that it might be helpful to get a few tips on using our digital cameras. I have to admit that I need some help.. I have a hard time getting motivated to carry the camera and then actually use it. So here are 5 Tips for Taking Great Vacation Photos from the Mostly Lisa blog.. with a few of my thoughts as well..
  1. Pack the right gear.
    Now that may not really apply to folks like me who gave up the telephoto lenses and tripods for the simplicity of point and shoot pocket cameras.. but if you have more than one camera..
  2. Bring extra memory cards & batteries
    I do usually carry extra batteries.. I also carry a AA battery charger too.. and I do have a small memory card that I have never used.. yet if you plan to max out your card..
  3. Capture the story
    Now that is a really great idea. I like the thought of developing (no pun intended) a script of sorts so that you can easily retell your vacation story. Suggest you try Lisa's blog for more info.
  4. Capture the entire scene
    I think that it is so easy to focus on the minutiae and forget to get the big picture. Sometimes the best pictures are the big ones.
  5. Don’t forget to get in the picture too!
    I love how easy it is.. and it seems to be getting easier.. to take photos of yourself. I also think that it is a good idea to get the assistance of strangers to take a pic of everyone.
I will add a number six to the mix and say that it is helpful to bring along a laptop so that you can make a copy of your memory card and possibly upload some of your vacation pics to one of the online photo album sites. I suggest that you visit Lisa's blog for great pics and more picture taking ideas.. especially if you are vacationing over the holidays.

How about you? are you the family photographer? Any suggestions for taking great pics?

The Psychology of Partisanship

An editorial piece, titled The Partisan Mind, by Ross Douthat in the New York Times asks the question "How potent is the psychology of partisanship?" Here is a passage from it:
Up to a point, American politics reflects abiding philosophical divisions. But people who follow politics closely — whether voters, activists or pundits — are often partisans first and ideologues second. Instead of assessing every policy on the merits, we tend to reverse-engineer the arguments required to justify whatever our own side happens to be doing. Our ideological convictions may be real enough, but our deepest conviction is often that the other guys can’t be trusted.

How potent is the psychology of partisanship? Potent enough to influence not only policy views, but our perception of broader realities as well. A majority of Democrats spent the late 1980s convinced that inflation had risen under Ronald Reagan, when it had really dropped precipitously. In 1996, a majority of Republicans claimed that the deficit had increased under Bill Clinton, when it had steadily shrunk instead. Late in the Bush presidency, Republicans were twice as likely as similarly situated Democrats to tell pollsters that the economy was performing well. In every case, the external facts mattered less than how the person being polled felt about the party in power.
I can so relate to having this kind of mindset. I remember the days when I thought that Saint, I mean President, Ronald Reagan could do no wrong and the Democrats were evil. I remember the shocked look on a coworkers face when I pronounced that President Clinton was evil. And I remember starting to wake up when President GW Bush invaded Iraq. Something happened that day to open my eyes to my own partisanship.

I am with Douthat when he writes about assessing every policy on the merits. I know that I will probably be wrong on some issues but I do not want to be wrong because I am wearing partisan blinders. I may be a bit delusional in saying this but I long for a day when people in our country see through the manipulation of partisanship.

Remembering Rodger

On Saturday I got an email from the eldest son of a old friend saying that my old friend Rodger had passed away that morning. It is hard to put my thoughts and emotions together well enough to share a few memories but here goes.

I first met Rodger in 1976 and we quickly realized that we were two different people that were cut from the same cloth. He and I were both Christians and loved the bible so much. My earliest memories of our times together involved discussing the scriptures and finding how much we had in common. Rodger was a Southern Baptist and I was a Pentecostal but we both shared such a love for the Lord. Even still, we had a running joke about his love for the King James Bible - don't think I will ever be able to read that translation and not think of him.

In 1977 Rodger started a weekly bible study at work that would span the next ten years. One of our running jokes with each other was how long it took us to read and study the book of Romans together - it took our group over a year to go through it one verse at a time.. we naively thought it might take a few months. Over the years our bible study would read and discuss many books in this fashion.

In the early years our families would occasionally get together but as the years progressed our times were mainly spent sharing fellowship over lunch with each other. Our times were so rich as we shared deeply about our joys and struggles. When my wife Ellen had a heart attack, and my life fell apart, Rodger always seemed to know the right things to say. His prayerful strength seemed to uphold me at times. I remember the day when he visited me after Ellen died and we sat on my deck - the world seemed okay because my friend was there. Rodger had that affect on me.

In 1995 Rodger did a scripture reading at my wedding to Ann - it meant so much to me because of our shared loved of the bible. When I retired from AT&T in 1998 we kept in contact and would still share lunch with each other. His wife Cathey died in January, 2000 and it seemed that once again we shared a grief together. I guess that is a strong message that I will always remember when I think of Rodger - how God uses another to strengthen and encourage you in your darkest hours.

I am not sure how to end.. maybe just to ask that you would say a prayer for Rodger's family and for his many friends like me. And join me in giving thanks for his life.

Extraordinary Measures | ★★★★★★★★

This movie sat on my Netflix queue for a few months.. in truth I was not looking forward to viewing. The movie surprised me. It is based on the true story of John (Brendan Fraser) and Aileen Crowley's (Keri Russell) fight to save their two young children who have a rare genetic disease, called Pompe disease (a form of Muscular Dystrophy) that had no cure.

I was inspired by the parents and the sacrifices that they made for their children as they gave up the security of high paying employment to find a cure. Harrison Ford is great in the role of a cantankerous researcher who is challenged to move his research out of the lab and into production. The children will move you and the movie bring out feelings of compassion.

I recommend this movie to you and, on a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★★.

Saturday Evening Blog Post

If you blog then you might be interested in being a part of the Saturday Evening Blog Post that is featuring favorite posts from November and December. Just click here and join in.

Divorce Insurance

I heard about this from Clark Howard on his CNN show this morning. So I googled it and found a Time Magazine article titled Divorce Insurance: Get Unhitched, Get a Payout.
Here is a clip from it:
WedLock, as it's coyly named, is a new type of casualty insurance that gives the unhappily married policyholder a payout after he or she is unhitched. It costs about $16 a month for every $1,250 of coverage. But to discourage people from signing up just prior to their divorce, policyholders must ante up for four years before the policy will pay out. It adds a premium of $250 per unit for every year the marriage survives beyond four. So if a policyholder who bought 10 units got divorced after 10 years, he or she would have handed over $19,188 and would receive a payout of $27,500.
I have to admit that this just depresses me. The idea that a person would bet against their marriage seems to simply undermine the premise of 'til death do us part'. Yet I think that people these days often go into marriage with the idea that marriage is not a forever commitment. Such thinking may be realistic but I think that it can be a self fulfilling negative proposition. Add Wedlock insurance and it becomes a lethal ideological mix.

What do you think about Divorce Insurance? Does it undermine a marriage foundation?

List Your Blog Friday!

My bloggin buddy Eddie regularly invites folks to list their blogs there.

So, if you regularly read my blog, please feel free to list your blog (along with your name, the blog URL and a blurb about it) in the comments.

Way to go Matt Cassel!

From today's Kansas City Star blog post:
It's only been 20 years, but the NFL again saw fit to name a Chiefs quarterback as its offensive player of the month. That's what the league did with Matt Cassel for November. Cassel completed 90 of 144 passes for 1,111 yards and 12 touchdowns in four November games. Those 12 touchdown passes led the league. The Chiefs went only 2-2 in those games. The last Chiefs quarterback to be so honored was Steve DeBerg, who was given the award in September 1990.
I must admit that I have not been a big fan of the Chief's $60m quarterback. He started out slow but he is making a believer of me.

Rosa Parks

55 years ago today a 42 year old African American woman was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama when she refused to obey a bus driver's order that she give up her seat to make room for a white passenger. It is an event that I can hardly get my head around. It is an event that makes me sad. According to the wiki:
Parks' act of defiance became an important symbol of the modern Civil Rights Movement and Parks became an international icon of resistance to racial segregation. She organized and collaborated with civil rights leaders, including boycott leader Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to launch him to national prominence in the civil rights movement.
I thank God for the courage of this amazing woman and honor her today as I remember these things that she once said.. some of which are difficult to read.

Each person must live their life as a model for others.

The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

I'm tired of being treated like a second-class citizen.

All I was doing was trying to get home from work.

It was not pre-arranged. It just happened that the driver made a demand and I just didn't feel like obeying his demand. I was quite tired after spending a full day working.

He pointed at me and said, 'that one won't stand up.' The two policemen came near me and only one spoke to me. He asked me if the driver had asked me to stand up? I said, 'yes.' He asked me why I didn't stand up, ... I told him I didn't think I should have to stand up. So I asked him: 'Why do you push us around?' And he told me, 'I don't know, but the law is the law and you are under arrest.

At the time I was arrested I had no idea it would turn into this. It was just a day like any other day. The only thing that made it significant was that the masses of the people joined in.

I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.

I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free.

The Compassion Deficit

A few months ago the New York Times published an article titled The Charitable-Giving Divide. Here are a few excerpts from it:
For decades, surveys have shown that upper-income Americans don’t give away as much of their money as they might and are particularly undistinguished as givers when compared with the poor, who are strikingly generous. A number of other studies have shown that lower-income Americans give proportionally more of their incomes to charity than do upper-income Americans.
His study [Paul K. Piff], written with Michael W. Kraus and published online last month by The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that lower-income people were more generous, charitable, trusting and helpful to others than were those with more wealth. They were more attuned to the needs of others and more committed generally to the values of egalitarianism.

“Upper class” people, on the other hand, clung to values that “prioritized their own need.” And, he told me this week, “wealth seems to buffer people from attending to the needs of others.” Empathy and compassion appeared to be the key ingredients in the greater generosity of those with lower incomes. And these two traits proved to be in increasingly short supply as people moved up the income spectrum.

This compassion deficit — the inability to empathetically relate to others’ needs — is perhaps not so surprising in a society that for decades has seen the experiential gap between the well-off and the poor (and even the middle class) significantly widen.
Given all this, it’s tempting to believe that there’s something intrinsic to the rich or the poor that explains their greater or lesser generosity and empathetic connection to others (i.e., rich people get rich because they like money more and are less distracted from their goals by the relational side of life), but Piff’s research points in a different direction. Piff found that if higher-income people were instructed to imagine themselves as lower class, they became more charitable. If they were primed by, say, watching a sympathy-eliciting video, they became more helpful to others — so much so, in fact, that the difference between their behavior and that of the low-income subjects disappeared. And fascinatingly, the inverse was true as well: when lower-income people were led to think of themselves as upper class, they actually became less altruistic.
Those words, "compassion deficit", ring true with me. I think that it is so easy to shield yourself from the suffering of others and become convinced that we are not our brother's keeper. On the flip-side I can resonate with being moved by compassion to help out and to give when I see a need.. even if it is simply a TV show or a YouTube video. I don't know about you but I do not want to live with a deficit of compassion in my life.


I originally posted this in July. With all of the hubbub in the news I thought that I'd repost.

The controversial website WikiLeaks publishes and comments on leaked documents alleging government and corporate misdeeds.

In this video founder Julian Assange talks about how the site operates, what it has accomplished and what drives him.

I think that people are a bit fascinated by whistle-blowers. Movies like this year's The Informant (see my review of it here) and others like The Insider and The Rain Maker speak to this fascination. There is just something about liars and weasels being exposed.

The video shown in this 20 minute interview is troubling and makes me want to erase it from my memory - I would rather not know about this aspect of war. That said I think that it is not a bad thing to expose the good, bad and ugly of wars, governments and corporations. Predictably Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not appear to share my view when he said:

"Mr. Assange can say whatever he likes about the greater good he thinks he and his source are doing. But the truth is they might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family."
Interesting that he does not know of any damage that has already been done.

What do you think? About the video? About WikiLeaks.org? About whistle-blowers?

Is Modesty a Lost Cause?

This past weekend the Kansas City Star, our local newspaper, posted an article titled
Is modesty a lost cause in this society?. The article featured input from a Protestant minister and a Jewish rabbi. The Rev. Holly McKissick, pastor of St. Andrew Christian Church, made this observation after telling about a very weird experience when she sat on a plane next to a couple who were sexually intimate:
Modesty is not about how we live in our own home, but how we live in public space, shared space. In that sense, modesty is about hospitality: acting in a way that makes others feel welcome, at home, comfortable. At times modesty requires that we reign in our own desires and preferences out of consideration for others. The couple on the plane were self-centered, narcissistic, inhospitable.
Here is a bit of what Rabbi Robert L. Tobin of Congregation Beth Shalom had to say about modesty:
There are certain settings — synagogue, church or mosque, for example — when certain attire would seem scandalous. We all have a line we draw, though we don’t all draw the line in the same place. The Jewish tradition teaches us to expand that sacred and respectful space beyond our sanctuaries and into our lives, dressing respectfully at all times. Some of us even wear special prayer shawls, called tzitzit, under our shirts to remind us of our obligations at all times. Yet also important — neither more nor less — is the call to wisdom that comes from genuine humility.
Firstly, I cannot imagine what it must have been like for Holly to be sitting next to that couple - pretty gross and disgusting display if you ask me. I have to admit that it is pretty indecent behavior. Yet I think that some in our culture might not find it offensive - Hollywood has convinced us that such behavior is representative of sexually "free" people.

I liked what the rabbi had to say about modesty, humility and dressing the same inside and out of your place of worship. To me it speaks of an integrated life - a life that does not draw artificial boundaries between the sacred and the secular. Of course I have also been made a bit uncomfortable by the immodest behavior of folks in religious settings.. but that could be a bit more about me than them.

Have you ever been made to feel uncomfortable by the immodest behavior of others?

4 years, 2,350 posts and 100,000 visits later

I actually started blogging in 2004 at An Eye for Redemption. I mostly wrote there about my faith experiences and focused on the redemptive aspects of pain. I don't write there much anymore but am still getting visits (47,000 and counting) on the 400+ posts there. If I get inspired I may start writing more there.

During those first few years I began to make friends in the Blogosphere and wanted to blog about more than faith and redemption. So I started KansasBob.com with the intention of simply sharing my life's experiences and my opinions in a casual but intentional fashion.
Here are a few things that I recollect about blogging here:
  • I originally called it "What About Kansas Bob" then arbitrarily shortened the name.
  • The presidential election of 2008 gave me an opportunity to share my political views. It also helped me expand my thinking about the issues as I had discussions with many of you in the comments section.
  • I shared a bit of what it was like to have a son serving on the front lines in the Iraqi war and found support in your responses to my posts.
  • I found an outlet for my love of movies and shared mini-reviews of the ones that I saw. I am not a movie critic but know what I like.
  • In 2008 I began sharing about my struggles with Ann's disability and found a place to update friends on her health. Your thoughts and prayers still encourage me.
  • I love to share the things that I learn from other places in cyberspace. I regularly find great stuff on other blogs, websites and blogs.
  • I am a geeky tinkerer and like to mess around with my blogs' format. Guess my 30 years in software is a bit reflective of my nerdliness.
  • It is fun sharing blog authorship with other people like Bill, Ed, Martha, Sue and Wanda at the Daily Prayer blog.
  • I have learned so much from folks who do not agree with me. I feel that I am more open to new ideas and a little less closed minded than I used to be.
I am still about 25 visits short of 100,000 but hope that one of you will hit it today. I so appreciate your visits, your comments and your virtual friendship. Hope that this Christmas season finds you experiencing the joy and peace associated with the coming of Christ.

Charity Navigator

Got the list below, and the explanation of it, from Charity Navigator. I think that it is always a good idea to check with a resource like them before you donate to a charity. It is hard to imagine how these CEOs sleep at night but I guess there is a rationalization for about any bad behavior. Of course even the charities that are rated high are rife with six figure salary executives - some make a half million or more.