The Vanity of Not Wearing Glasses

When I was 18 and having difficulty seeing the pins at the bowling alley I went to the eye doc and he prescribed some groovy glasses.. I think I only wore them once a week when I bowled with my team.. those were fun days. Time passed and Uncle Sam knocked on my door giving me a great invitation to serve my country. So when I was 19 years old, I found myself in need of those glasses again.. the Army made me wear their Olive Drab version when I couldn't hit one of those faraway targets on the rifle range.

Well, I got out of basic training and never again donned those glasses.. they might be still hiding in the basement.. been years since I have seen them. About 10 years later I was tooling along at night on a trip to New Jersey to see my family and I kind of got lost.. yeah I missed a sign.. once again I went to the eye doc and got a new pair of glasses - aviator style.. I looked pretty cool. Of course these frames were only needed for night driving

Eventually I began to wear them whenever I was driving - just to be safe.. I knew I really didn't "need" them. Some time passed and one morning I forgot to take them off as I walked through the front door at work. I sat down at my desk and turned my mainframe computer monitor on.. I looked down and when I looked up I was shocked to see the crispness of the text on the monitor. I began to laugh.. it is humbling to realize that your own vanity has caused you to walk around in a fog.

Ever since that day I have worn glasses full time.. about then years ago I bought a pair of progressive lenses.. also known as no-line trifocals.. it is wild getting old. These days I take them off to watch TV but usually have them on the rest of the time. Guess my vanity has given way to my practicality.

Do folks call you four-eyes? How long have you worn glasses? Any stories?

Addict at 10

This short two minute video gives us a brief glimpse into the life of Derek Steele who took his first sip of tequila at age 8 and found himself enmeshed in the world of drugs until he got free when he was 20 years old. With the support of a 12-step program, he found God and left drugs and alcohol behind.

The publisher has offered a free copy of Derek's "Addict at 10" book to three readers. If you would like a copy just use the Contact tab at the top of this page to email me your name and mailing address. I will then forward it to the publisher and they will get the book in the mail to you at no cost. For more information about Derek's journey check out His website.

Jury finds Smoker 1/3 Responsible

According last week's Reuters article titled Florida jury awards $26.6 million to smoker's widow a "Florida jury ordered R.J. Reynolds and Philip Morris on Wednesday to pay $26.6 million to the widow of a longtime smoker who died of lung cancer". The article references a 2000 $145 billion judgment against tobacco companies that was overturned in 2006 by the Florida supreme court with the stipulation that individual cases could be tried against tobacco companies. Here is an excerpt from the piece:

The jury awarded $10 million in compensatory damages and divided the blame for Nathan Cohen's death equally at one-third for Altria Group unit Philip Morris, one third for Reynolds American unit R.J. Reynolds and one-third for Cohen himself. 
The panel also awarded $20 million in punitive damages, or $10 million for each of the two cigarette companies. That puts the total at $26.6 million, or $13.3 million for each company, if the verdict is upheld on appeal.

The idea that a jury felt that the smoker was one-third responsible for his own actions confounds me. On the surface it seems that this verdict is yet another example of blame-shifting on the part of smokers. Yet I wonder if the issue really goes to the idea that tobacco companies allegedly lace cigarettes with nicotine making them even more addictive? Even so it seems that people have known about the destructive affects of tobacco for a very long time and yet choose to smoke anyway.

I keep going back to the Thank You for Smoking movie and thinking about how strong the tobacco lobby is in DC. It seems that tobacco companies have definitely duped many people about their products and maybe enough so that lawsuits like this makes sense. I guess I am on the fence about these lawsuits - maybe the jury should have shared the responsibility equally between the individual and the industry?

What do you think? How would you have voted if you were on the jury?

The Crime of Long-Winded Blogging

I recently attended a Christian Writer's meeting and heard some great advice about blogging. Over the weekend I read a few comment from Christian publisher Michael Hyatt. Here is an excerpt from his post titled: Focus on Blog Content before Traffic:

  1. Commit to a specific number of posts per week. Frequency is more important than you think. In fact, it is second only to the quality of your content. If you are writing good stuff, most people want to hear from you. My goal is five posts per week.
  2. Determine when you will write. Everyone’s schedule is different. You might be in a season of life when you can only commit to an hour a week. Perhaps you can commit to more. But, if possible, schedule your writing time just like any other appointment. I try to write for an hour every morning before work.
  3. Keep your posts short and to the point. Blogs are not a long-form medium. Brevity is a virtue. I shoot for 400–500 words. I often go over this, but I am working to whittle my posts down. I can tell you from experience that readers will bail out or scan if your posts get too long.
  4. Make it easy to get through your posts. Lists—both bulleted and enumerated—are magic. Why? Because reading is hard work. Lists, subheads, and even quotes make your content more accessible and help people get through it. It creates a sense of forward progress.
  5. Invite reader engagement. Make it easy for them to comment. This is why I do not require people to register to comment or fill-in some silly CAPTCHA test to prove they are human. All of this just adds friction and discourages people from commenting. Yet, I rarely have a problem with spam or inappropriate comments.
I agree with these points. Concerning point #3: I especially enjoy short and to the point posts (although I have been known to ramble a bit) and often skim very long ones.. not that it is a crime or anything to write long dossiers about the evils of governments political and institutionally religious.. I am just not that interested in spending 30 minutes reading about it.. and yes.. I am a slow reader with a short attention span.

And about #5 - many of you know what I think about that torturous CAPTCHA stuff

I have learned so much from your blogs. What advice would you give to a new blogger?

Palm Sunday Reflections

My earliest memories of Palm Sunday involve my recently departed mom.. she had us in church every Sunday morning at All Saints Episcopal Church on Staten Island, NY. On Palm Sunday each of us received a branch of palms that we waved around.. the palms seemed to add to the joy of the day. Easter Sunday had a different feel to it.. a bit more formal.. I usually got a new suit or sports jacket for Easter.

During my fundamentalist years Palm Sunday and Easter were really special.. the songs we sang blended in so well with the season. I have vivid memories of singing songs of resurrection - The Easter Song recorded by The 2nd Chapter of Acts was especially memorable.. listened to it again this week on YouTube.. a lot of joy in that song.

I guess I am always amazed at the picture that is painted in the gospel accounts of Jesus' last week on earth. The week began with a palm branch laden journey into the city of Jerusalem where later that week Jesus would be crucified.. the week began with praiseful exclamations of Hosanna and ended with shouts of crucification. I recently heard someone say that Jesus' early morning trial was a reflection of the condition of humanity - in a sense it was actuality humanity, rather than Christ, that was on trial that dark morning.

Of course the trial and subsequent crucification of Christ is not the end of the story. After three days and two evenings in a tomb Jesus was raised from the dead, appeared to many of his followers and now ever lives at the right hand of the Father. He, who in utter agony on the cross asked God to forgive His tormentors, today offers that same forgiveness to us.

What memories do you have of Palm Sunday and Easter? What thoughts come to mind?

Earth Hour

This combination of two images of the Sydney skyline were photographed at 8:20pm on March 28, 2008 (top) and during earth hour at 8:20pm on March 29, 2008. Thousands of lights that illuminate office buildings, public structures and monuments were switched off Saturday evening, darkening the city's iconic skyline for one hour, in an effort to publicise the effects of climate change. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne (AUSTRALIA)

According to the Earth Hour website:
On Earth Hour hundreds of millions of people, organizations, corporations and governments around the world will come together to make a bold statement about their concern for climate change by doing something quite simple—turning off their lights for one hour. In the U.S. where we are already feeling the impacts of climate change, Earth Hour sends a clear message that Americans care about this issue and want to turn the lights out on dirty air, dangerous dependency on foreign oil and costly climate change impacts, and make the switch to cleaner air, a strong economic future and a more secure nation. Participation is easy. By flipping off your lights on March 27th at 8:30 p.m. local time you will be making the switch to a cleaner, more secure nation and prosperous America.
I have to admit that I am not a big Global Warming advocate but the idea of doing something in unison with millions of others worldwide is compelling. I wonder if any March Madness folks will turn the game off in honor of the earth?

Go Cats!

The Kansas State Wildcats plays Butler Saturday afternoon at 3:30 CDT

Deadly Fast Foods

Yesterday The Daily Beast published a list they called The 40 Deadliest Fast-Food Meals. The deadliest ones caught my attention:
  • The Wendy's Baconator Triple shamefully boasts 1330 calories, 38 grams of saturated fat, 345mg of cholesterol, 3150mg of sodium and 11 grams of sugar.
  • The closest to it is the SuperSonic Cheeseburger which has 980 calories, 24 grams of saturated fat, 165mg of cholesterol, 1430mg of sodium and 13 grams of sugar. 
  • Placing last on the list is #40 the 6-piece staple of McKid meals.. yes I am speaking about McNuggets which only has 280 calories, 3 grams of saturated fat, 40mg of cholesterol, 600mg of sodium and no sugar.
I have not had one of those entrées in a very long time but sadly I do occasionally get a Taco Bell Chalupa Supreme to go.. not terribly deadly.. only 35th on the list.. but probably not something to regularly nosh on. I'm glad Stroud's fried chicken is not on the list

Do you regularly scarf down some of these deadly morsels? Which one(s)?

Miraculous Sweetest Sixteen Story

This evening Frank Martin will coach his Kansas State Wildcats against Xavier in Salt Lake City as both teams seek to advance to the Final Four in the NCAA Basketball Tournament. According to this KC Star article, titled A real Manhattan miracle: Frank Martin recalls his brush with death, Coach Martin owes his life to a bit of divine intervention. Here are a few clips from the article:

Frank Martin fell ill in 2006 shortly after he arrived in Manhattan, Kan., to be one of Bob Huggins’ assistant coaches.
From his hospital bed, Martin had insisted that his wife return home to be there for their daughter’s first birthday. He had assured Anya he would be fine if she went. But when she turned on her cell phone a day later, the frantic voice said otherwise.

“He called back in complete tears, saying, ‘They just told me I’m going to die,’ ” Anya said.
Information about what was happening to him trickled in. He had ulcers, and they had penetrated his intestinal wall. There was an infection. His pancreatic numbers were warped. His pancreas could fail. He was facing organ failure. His temperature was now 105.

The bad news kept coming.

His liver had shut down. He’d contracted pneumonia.

“There were a lot of moments,” he said, “where I didn’t think I was coming through the other side.”

Then they told him he had pancreatic cancer.
A horrifying diagnosis, all but a death sentence, would mean Martin would not become the Wildcats’ head coach when Huggins left for West Virginia. He would not hear the taunts that his promotion was a joke and a farce. He would not prove everyone wrong, would not lead his team to Oklahoma City four years later as a legitimate Final Four contender, would not see his little girl start to grow up, watch his son in Miami become a man or ever know he was destined to have another son.
It was in the midst of this grief that Joe Perez-Jones, Martin’s uncle and godfather — the man who helped raise Martin after his father left home — stepped from the hospital room into the hallway. Behind him, Martin’s body trembled, his temperature had roared to 105 degrees and his skin had turned a deep, sickly yellow.

To this day, Perez-Jones does not know if the woman was an actual nurse or an angel of God. What he feels certain of is she represented a miracle.
“This small Asian nurse came up to me,” Perez-Jones said. “And she says, ‘Father, we need to go in and pray for whoever’s in there. Who is in there?’

“It’s my nephew and godson,” he remembered saying. “But I’m not a father.”

“Oh, yes, you are,” the woman said. “In God’s eyes.”

Perez-Jones cannot tell this without crying.

The woman had a plan: She would get on her knees before Martin and pray. Perez-Jones would lay his hands on his nephew. And their faith would save him.

Frank Martin does not remember what followed. He only knows that one moment he was waiting for death and a few days later he had a second chance at life. Perez-Jones does not know if what followed was an emotional reaction, a metaphysical miracle or perhaps both. Martin’s wife and mother couldn’t tell you how the man they loved was saved.

Only one thing is certain: What happened in that room would alter the course of Martin’s life by teaching him to love life, put work in perspective and become the kind of man — the kind who knows what a second chance feels like — to bring a lesser miracle to Kansas State’s basketball program.

Robert Culp, 1930-2010

Sad news about another iconic TV actor. Culp died today of a heart attack as he was taking a walk. I loved to watch his "I Spy" TV show back when it aired back in the 60s. Culp and costar Bill Cosby had good chemistry and I was really into the whole James Bond spy stuff.

Please join me in asking God to comfort the Culp family at this time of sadness and loss.

Name Calling

It seemed that growing up in New York was replete with informality.. foremost of which was the names we called each other. In my family: Father was Daddy; Mother was Mommy; William was Billy; Edith was Eydie; Robert was Bobby.. and then there was Nancy.. her name already ended with a phonetic "E". Around the neighborhood: Thomas was Tommy; Nicholas was Nicky; Leonard was Lenny; John was Johnny.. and then of course there was Ray and Al. I think that these names paled compared to what we saw back then on TV- there was:
  • Beaver and Lumpy on Leave it to Beaver;
  • Potsie, Chachi and Fonzie on Happy Days;
  • Opie, Gomer and Goober on The Andy Griffith Show;
  • Hoss and Little Joe on Bonanza;
  • Bud and Princess on Father Knows Best;
  • Meathead and Dingbat on All in the Family;
  • Radar and Hot-Lips on M*A*S*H;
  • Rerun and Raj on What's Happening!!
Don't see many names like these on television anymore. Sometimes names can be pretty mean. In the six grade I got a buzz-cut and for years I had to live with the "Eggy" moniker - that one really made me feel bad. Sometimes names are simply terms of endearment - they are pretty special and can evoke sweet memories.

Do you remember any names that stand out? Maybe I missed some on TV?

Bleeping Politician

US Vice President Joe Biden's bleeped out comment to President Obama yesterday once again reminded me of the crassness of the dialog in the world these days. Interesting how I have not heard anyone rebuke the Vice President.

I am not saying that someone cannot use this kind of swearing in private.. not that I think it is a good idea.. but really.. can't keep a lid on it before a national audience? Give me a break!

iPad Alternatives

Yeah, I guess we all knew that Apple's announcement of a new kind of computing device would provoke other manufacturers to create similar geeky things. According to this review there are at least 9 PC tablet alternatives coming out. Here is one that I found interesting:

Notion Ink Adam: This 10-inch iPad challenger will be available this summer (hopefully). Starting at $327 (with the most expensive version priced at $800), the Adam tablet is built around nVidia's Tegra 2 processor and operates on Android technology. It features a rear-facing trackpad, USB and HDMI ports, and 3G. The tablet offers multitasking (a feature the iPad notably lacks) and its Android platform offers users access to an app store, the Android market, that is a rival to Apple's. In addition, the screen supports multitouch.

I think that these tablet type devices have been out for a while but have not seen much popularity until the iPad announcement which also may have been a reaction to the popularity of Amazon's Kindle Reader and the Barnes and Noble Nook.

What is your opinion? How much would you be willing to spend on a tablet/reader type of device? I think that I will be interested when the price is around $200.

Healthcare Bill: Cheers and Jeers

  • Preexisting conditions will be covered;
  • Expands coverage to 32 million Americans who are currently uninsured;
  • People will not have to declare bankruptcy for medical reasons;
  • Children covered by parents through age 26.
  • Back-room deals made to get the bill passed;
  • Mandated insurance premiums or fines for folks not wanting coverage;
  • Increase in taxes (I am opposed to expanded taxation - even for the rich);
  • $500 billion in Medicare cuts over the next decade.
Not an exhaustive list.. just a few after-thoughts. What are your cheers and jeers?

Stale Hope

Jill Hollis is one of the most inspirational people I know. Her posts at the Altered blog are written with such amazing transparency and vulnerability. I sometime cannot read what she writes without crying.. Jill is so brutally honest about her struggles dealing with the impacts of ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) on her life and the life of her family.. she inspires me and challenges me to press on in faith during the hard times. So it is with great joy that I am sharing the art and writing of her daughter Megan.. she is definitely her mother's child.

“stale hope”

mom asked me to write a little about what this piece means/ what it's about/ where it came from in my brain. so i'll try my best. i use art as extreme catharsis and it's more important that i get a bit of the intended emotion out of my body and into a visual form than it is for the viewer to understand the exact thought and heart process i went through during the visual form's creation.

that being said, this piece is about the compartmentalization of emotional pain. each of the boxes represents the pain that i've tried to tuck away neatly into the corners of my brain. but, pain is never neat and tidy, regardless of how much you will it to be so. i started out with all white materials: wipes, packaging materials, dental floss and others—to demonstrate just how hard i tried to keep the pain at bay and sterile from infecting the rest of my life. all of those materials relate back to mom in ways that i understand and i know are important. each box is actually an enclosed pocket (with the exception of the second column from the right; those pockets open in the middle), and inside each pocket is a packet of coffee grinds. the coffee is the pain. the staining is the pain seeping through.

most of the work i do deals with dealing with mom dying—but not in a completely literal way. she's been itching to post a picture of what i do, and when i gave her permission to post the above photo, she was speechless, for just a moment. which has probably only happened 3 times in her life.

anyway, to reiterate: i've explained what the piece is about to me, and why i made it. my only hope is that each viewer has an emotional response on some level to what he or she sees.

Endorsing An Indefinite Moratorium

In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declared that homosexuality was not a disease simply by changing the 81-word definition of sexual deviance in its own reference manual. Since that time, and probably many years before that, Christians have wrestled with the subject of homosexuality and how to treat homosexuals.

A while back I read a great blog post titled An Evangelical Approach to Homosexuality - A Proposal. In this piece Derek proposes "an indefinite moratorium on pronouncements of the morality or immorality of homosexuality" saying that we need to "put that on hold for something much more important". Derek goes on to give us this advice:
Regardless of where we stand on the rightness or the wrongness of being gay, I think we should all realize that none of that matters much when people are dying. We need to change our priorities and focus on the critical issue of communicating love and acceptance to these people. Communicating it to a fault, communicating it so completely that we are "misunderstood" and get a "bad reputation," because that is exactly what Jesus did. I want to hear sermons only on how we should love and welcome gay people into our churches, and I want those sermons to be completely unbalanced.

We have spent so much time being "balanced" in the other direction, so much time worrying about "giving the wrong impression" that it is time to shift our lopsided boat the other way. Because as long as our priority is in looking moral rather than in showing compassion and grace to those on the outside, we simply do not have the priorities of Jesus. And when we do not reflect Christ, we are giving the wrong impression. So let's change that.
I so agree with what Derek has written.. ostracizing and excommunicating homosexuals is so un-Jesus. About a year ago I heard a pastor, after teaching about how we should love everyone, instruct his congregation saying something like this:
Now don't come away from this saying that it is okay to hate the sin as long as you love the sinner. I mean how would you like it if I came up to you after the service saying how much I love you but I hate your gluttony? Or if I said I really love you but wish that you weren't such a gossip?
Hating someone's sin can be such a cop-out and such a way to rationalize being unloving. If we love people then we will act in loving ways even if it makes us theologically uncomfortable. So I am asking you - will you join Derek's moratorium on pronouncements of the morality or immorality of homosexuality? I have decide to join. Hope you will too.

Healthcare Bill Ramblings

This chart may not be 100% accurate but I think that it is representative of the concerns that many of us have about involving the bureaucratic federal government into this area.

Congress is scheduled to vote this weekend on the 2,700 page healthcare bill. President Obama has postponed his trip abroad to stay home and twist arms.. a lot of Blue Dog Democrats on the fence.. I think that this arm-twisting is such an example of how the politics of Washington, DC has not changed much since the prez was sworn in a little over a year ago.. sad that arms need to be twisted and power-plays are ruling the day.. especially when these folks are saying that the majority of Americans want this bill.

To help us understand the content of those 2,700 pages PolitiFact yesterday published a piece called Top 10 facts to know about health care reform. Following is the list in brief:
  1. The plan is not a government takeover of health care like in Canada or Britain.
  2. Insurance companies will be regulated more heavily.
  3. Everyone will have to have health insurance or pay a fine, a requirement known as the individual mandate.
  4. Employers will not be required to buy insurance for their employees, but large employers may be subject to fines if they don't provide insurance.
  5. The vast majority of people will not see significant declines in premiums.
  6. The plan might or might not bend the curve on health spending.
  7. The government-run Medicare program will keep paying medical bills for seniors, but it will begin implementing cost controls on health care providers, mostly through penalties and incentives.
  8. Medicaid, a joint federal-state program for the poor, will cover all of the poor, instead of just a few groups the way it currently does.
  9. The government won't pay for elective abortions.
  10. No one is proposing new benefits for illegal immigrants.
If you want more detail you can read the expanded version here.  My issue in large is not the reform of healthcare.. I think insurance companies need more oversight.. but the power-play that is on display this week in DC. In my opinion something this big needs more of an overwhelming consensus rather than an eked out majority.

As far as the bill goes I am concerned about #3 above - how will this one be enforced? How much will a person who has lost their job be fined? There does seem to be caps on premiums - gotta wonder how these numbers will be calculated? And I am wondering what kind of assistance will be given to folks out of work in this area - will Medicaid cover them?

I have a lot of questions and basically think that a bill of this magnitude will be tweaked for many years.. it seems like a full employment act for government bureaucrats. What do you think? Do you think the bill will be ramrodded through this weekend. I predict it will not.

Who needs Stale Coffee?

About 15 years ago my fiancée Ann bought me my first coffee grinder. Since that time I have experimented with all sorts of coffee blends. Recently I tried a nasty blend of Millstone French Roast. These days I buy the stuff pictured below. My good friends at Dunn Brothers recently emailed me and reminded me that I no longer grind my own beans. Here are their tips for maintaining coffee freshness:
  • Extend the life of your fresh coffee as far as possible by storing it in a light-proof and air-tight container. Coffee is a fresh product and tastes best when kept that way.
  • When you buy fresh coffee, put it in the container and seal it up when you're not using it.
  • Say no to freezer burn! Please don't disrespect your coffee by storing it in your refrigerator or freezer.  Cold temperature is not necessary to retain coffee freshness.
  • Whole beans will retain their quality longer.  Once coffee beans are ground, flavor carrying oils start to degrade and can eventually go bad.
  • Try to buy as much as you will drink in about one week. Then, when you go to buy more, you'll be restocking with fresher coffee that has been roasted more recently.
They end by saying "It's OK to be a little greedy about the freshness of your coffee."
I agree.. who needs stale coffee? Even if I buy it pre-ground

What are you drinking these days? Do you grind your own beans?

Fess Parker, 1924-2010

The star of the 1950s Davy Crockett TV show died today.. the second TV actor of that era to pass away this week. I so loved that show.. I even had a coonskin hat and a rubber Bowie knife.. lets see.. did Crockett have a Bowie knife.. hmmm.. I think that was a different TV show. Such was the TV programming of my childhood - all black and white.. Westerns were so popular back then.. I guess cop and detectives shows have taken over for that genre. Parker also starred in the Daniel Boone TV show in the 1960s which I did not watch - I was a teenager then and way too cool to watch it.

Heard that he, like Peter Graves, was married for a very long time. Today is Parker's wife's 84th birthday. Please join me in asking for God's comfort and peace for her and their family.

Love Happens | ★★★★★★★★

Ever see a movie and be utterly surprised? Sometimes movies are so not what you thought that they would be. This movie was one of those movies - I mean Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart hooking up in a romantic comedy.. I thought I smelled a formula for sure.. but I was surprised!

There is definitely love happening but this journey of love takes no "normal" route.. not that there is ever a normal journey when love is in the air. I love the way that the movie deals with a man who appears to be an expert in dealing with grief.. he is celebrated for helping many people negotiate the difficult path and confront their terrifying emotions.

But as the story unfolds we see the picture of a very broken man - someone who himself is stuck in grief.. a man who helps others but cannot help himself. Then along comes this compelling woman who helps him deal with the brokenness of his life. I loved the complexity of the story and how it portrays the aftermath of death.  I think that it would be a good movie to show in a grief recovery group because it shows many facets of the grieving process - and it has a pretty good ending.

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

Advice for the Reporters that cover Tiger

I am hoping that this headline is heeded more by the "news" folks then the golfer.

The Trials of Staten Island Chuck

Staten Island Chuck munches on a sweet potato
as a jury of pre-school youngsters weighs
the final verdict on his spring prediction.
According to this article:
"Chuck predicted an early spring and he's been taking what we call a beating in the court of public opinion," Mitchell said. "A couple of snow storms, biting the mayor last year; he's really been taking a shellacking." According to Peter Laline, general curator at the Zoo and a "groundhog whisperer," there have been 26 days of temperatures over 40 degrees since his prediction and 15 days under 40 degrees.

Songs We Sang in Assembly

I remember the days when I was in elementary school at PS 22 on Staten Island - that lonely island borough of the great city that is called New York. I remember around this time of the year we would sing "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" in the school auditorium to celebrate St Patrick's Day. It was a simpler time back then.. right and wrong were so much clearer to me back then. We would all wear green that day.. except of course my Italian American friends who would wear purple - I am smiling just remembering those shirts and their proud ethnic attitudes.

You see, that was a time when television was in it's infancy.. there was no global understanding and connectedness.. our world was those who we interacted with on a day-to-day basis.. our classmates and the kids on the block.. and we all seemed to have an ethnic heritage - mine was Welsh/Irish.. John, Nick and Tom had an Italian ancestry.. Ray had a Puerto Rican one.. Ronnie was African American.. Steve was Polish.. we were different but the same.

Another ghastly thing we did back then was to sing the "The Easter Parade" song when we were assembled together.. I don't think anyone really liked singing these songs.. at least the boys didn't.. but we all sang the songs. I even remember singing "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and the anthems from the different branches of the service - my favorite was the Marine Corps song where we sang something about Caissons rolling along. I also remember singing our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.. I so loved singing that one even back then.

Not sure what it was about that time that brings back warm memories.. certainly all was not right - we kids did not understand the ramifications of forcing our Jewish classmates (or any child for that matter) to sing Christian songs or saying the Lord's prayer - it is good that schools no longer do those things. Yet I do sometimes wish that my grandchildren could go back to PS 22 with me even if just for a day and sing that Marine Corps Anthem with me in assembly.. I think that they would enjoy it.

Did you sing songs in elementary school? What was your most/least favorite?

Taxing Sugar? What a Joke!

Recently a state representative sent me an email message titled "A request for feedback".. sigh.. these folks just never learn do they? Here is the way that he ended his note:
The tax to which I am referring is described in Senate Bill 567. The legislation proposes a tax on sugar drinks such as soda pop or soft drinks and fruit or vegetable beverages containing 10% or less natural fruit or vegetable juice. The tax would be equal to one cent (1¢) per teaspoon of sugar contained in the drink or approximately ten cents (10¢) on a 12 ounce can or bottle of soda. It would be levied much like the gallonage tax placed on liquor, that is, the tax would be placed on the product at the distributor – before the beverage is forwarded to the retailer. It is projected to raise approximately $90 million a year, which would be a significant step toward meeting the shortfall.

I would appreciate your constructive feedback. If a tax on soda is not palpable, then what alternatives do you suggest? What other sources of revenue are you willing to support?
Sigh again.. asking somebody like me to bless a new tax.. he certainly does not know me. Here is the way that I responded:
Thank you for inviting me to provide feedback on this issue. I do not support hiking taxes at all and especially taxing sugar products. I suggest that you take a look at the salary and compensation structure for state employees/representatives and make cuts there. This Bureau of Labor Statistics comparison indicates that government on average pays more than the private sector for similar jobs ($40k/yearly more on average for health, pension and other benefits). It is time for legislators to get serious about cutting these kinds of expenses and bringing them in line with the private sector.
Seems that once upon a time in America folks revolted because of a tax on tea - maybe we need a new "Sugar Party" to protest this tax.. anybody interested?

And I am interested in what you think. Does anyone support this kind of taxation?

Beware the Ides of March

In honor of that famous line penned by William Shakespeare in his play, Julius Caesar.. and to commemorate this season of basketball madness.. I thought I might share a few quotes:
With rushing winds and gloomy skies The dark and stubborn Winter dies: Far-off, unseen, Spring faintly cries, Bidding her earliest child arise; March! -Bayard Taylor

Up from the sea, the wild north wind is blowing Under the sky's gray arch; Smiling I watch the shaken elm boughs, knowing It is the wind of March. -William Wordsworth

All in the wild March-morning I heard the angels call; It was when the moon was setting, and the dark was over all; The trees began to whisper, and the wind began to roll, And in the wild March-morning I heard them call my soul. -Lord Alfred Tennyson
I am a big fan of March because it signifies the end of snowy winter and the prelude to mild spring here in Kansas.. and of course our Kansas Jayhawks are seeded number one

What is March like where you live? What do you think of when you ponder the month?

Peter Graves, 1926-2010

Jim Phelps, that wonderfully acted Mission Impossible character played by Peter Graves, passed away yesterday. I so loved Mission Impossible and the way that Graves played Phelps.

But I first remember watching Peter Graves in the 1950s TV show Fury where he played a rancher/father.. the show was the equine version of Lassie (the famous dog program). Brings back memories of more innocent times on TV. Please join me in asking God to comfort the Graves family at this difficult time.

At least we have the Jayhawks!

KU players celebrate their 72-64 victory over K-State last night to claim the Big 12 Men's championship.
Most of us in the Kansas City area love KU (except for those pesky K State and Mizzou fans) because they are the closest thing we have to a winning team. It has been a really long drought for Kansas City "professional" teams. Both the (I think they are still playing "professional" football) Chiefs and the (at least they have $1 hot-dog games) Royals are no match for the KU Jayhawks when it comes to a winning team.. albeit KU does not support an official "professional" team.. yeah.. I think they are amateurs

Redemptive Bloggings

Many of you know about my other blog.. I don't write there as much as I do here but I would love for you to read some of what I write there. Here are a few links to some of my recent writings:

Listening to Your Emotions: A few thoughts about how we should listen to, but not follow, our emotions.

I like Providence more than Sovereignty: I like Providence - it comforts and blesses me to know that He is there during the difficult times that His sovereignty permits.

Following where You Do Not Wish to Go: Sometimes life happens and we find ourselves in a place where we never dreamed we would be.. and we struggle.

Masks of God: I love the idea that we are the masks that God wears as He interfaces with people in the world.

On Judging Sinners: A few thoughts about the tension that exists amongst religious folks and sincere people of faith as they interact with folks outside of their faith tradition.

The Unknown Disease

This video was very hard for me to watch because it mirrors my family's journey quite a bit. My wife Ann also has Neuro-Myelitis Optica (NMO) Syndrome (also called Devics Disease). The onset and progression was different than what Carla experienced in the video but some of the paralytic effects are very similar. I can so relate to this journey of hospital relapses, physical therapy and doctor visits. My prayers go out for Bill and Carla Weller.. asking God to give them miraculous grace.. and to give all of us a cure for NMO.

Sound Bite Reporting

This short video, complements of the folks at, is an example of their attempt to report the news using multiple sources that have differing views. I have watched several of their videos and find their reporting to be an interesting approach to sound bite reporting.. but I am not sure that I need more sound bites - my blog, after all, is full of them

What do you think of news shows that offer the news in edited sound bites? Helpful or not?

Hotel of Cards

From the folks at

Bryan Berg from the U.S. poses with a replica of the Venetian Macao and adjacent constructions built from freestanding playing cards at the Venetian Macao resort hotel in Macau March 10, 2010. Berg broke his own Guinness World of Records for the largest house of freestanding playing cards on Wednesday after a 44-day attempt by using 218,792 cards to build the project, which measures 10.5 meters (34 feet) long, three meters (10 feet) tall and weighs more than 272 kilograms (600 pounds). Picture taken through glass window.

On Blocking Website Advertising

Ever wonder how blogging platforms (you know the ones I am talking about) can be offered free? On Saturday one of my Facebook friends said:
"yes, those ads for dating services are terribly annoying. but I have to remember that ads are why these websites are free."
Of course my initial response was to say that I would still be using Chrome Adblock - one of my favorite extensions.. I also employed it when I used the Firefox browser. I have also installed other Ad-killer Chrome extensions to hide ads in Facebook too. But it does cause me to ponder how websites would "make money" if everyone used the Ad-blocking software. That leads me to ask a few silly but thought provoking questions:
  1. How does certain big search engine companies make any money providing "free" services like pop3-email and blogging services? These services do not use advertising.
  2. Apart from mega-bloggers does anyone really make money from blogs? I personally find ads on blogs to be a bit annoying.
  3. Does the presence of advertising affect the content of what is written on blogs? Can advertising present a conflict of interest?
  4. Would you pay for access to some of your favorite blogs if they agreed to not have advertising? Do you pay for content from online news sources like the Wall Street Journal?  I would not and I do not.
Yes, I realize that this is a bit silly of a topic.. but I do wonder about these things. Do you?

You also might want to click on the image above for a discussion of the ethics of Adblock.

Intoxicating Truth

I remember seeing this image a few weeks ago and had such a great feeling about it.. reminiscent of Braveheart.. yeah.. standing for truth.. death to the infidels!

Yikes! Got a bit carried away there. Maybe it is the side effect of a "No Compromise" ideology.. we tend to get carried away.. truth can be intoxicating.

When I think about this my mind wanders to something that James says in the Bible:
Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.
I love that it says that real wisdom is characterized by getting along with others. So different than the unwise ways that "truth" is sometimes presented these days. I sometimes wonder if "truth" can be a drug for some and being "right" an addiction for folks that hold a "no compromise" ideology.

All that said I have to say that I like being right. It makes me feel good to be a man of truth - a truth speaker of sorts. Alas.. truth can be such an intoxicating drug.. especially when it means that you are wrong and I am right.. I don't like it when the tables are reversed though.

When I look back on life I come to the harsh reality that I have been wrong more than I have been right. In my life: "truth" has been more relative than I want to admit - many of my child rearing "truths" failed.. some of my theological "truths" have given way to different "truths".. life has taught me that often "truth" comes when my heart is humble and I am willing to admit that I was wrong about a "truth". Getting free of the "truth" drug has been hard - "truth" can be such an intoxicant.

The Government Gravy Train

My blog friend Shane recently shared at his place about a USA Today article titled Federal pay ahead of private industry.. here are a few clips from the article:
Federal employees earn higher average salaries than private-sector workers in more than eight out of 10 occupations, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data finds. Accountants, nurses, chemists, surveyors, cooks, clerks and janitors are among the wide range of jobs that get paid more on average in the federal government than in the private sector.

Overall, federal workers earned an average salary of $67,691 in 2008 for occupations that exist both in government and the private sector, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. The average pay for the same mix of jobs in the private sector was $60,046 in 2008, the most recent data available.

These salary figures do not include the value of health, pension and other benefits, which averaged $40,785 per federal employee in 2008 vs. $9,882 per private worker, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
Here is a sampling of the Bureau of Labor Statistics data listed in USA Today:
Airline pilot, copilot, flight engineer$93,690$120,012-$26,322
Broadcast technician$90,310$49,265$41,045
Budget analyst$73,140$65,532$7,608
Civil engineer$85,970$76,184$9,786
Computer, information systems manager$122,020$115,705$6,315
Computer support specialist$45,830$54,875-$9,045
Crane, tower operator$54,900$44,044$10,856
Dental assistant$36,170$32,069$4,101
Electrical engineer$86,400$84,653$1,747
Financial analysts$87,400$81,232$6,168
Graphic designer$70,820$46,565$24,255
Highway maintenance worker$42,720$31,376$11,344
Landscape architects$80,830$58,380$22,450
Laundry, dry-cleaning worker$33,100$19,945$13,155
Locomotive engineer$48,440$63,125-$14,685
Mechanical engineer$88,690$77,554$11,136
Office clerk$34,260$29,863$4,397
Pest control worker$48,670$33,675$14,995
Physicians, surgeons$176,050$177,102-$1,052
Physician assistant$77,770$87,783-$10,013
Procurement clerk$40,640$34,082$6,558
Public relations manager$132,410$88,241$44,169
Recreation worker$43,630$21,671$21,959
Registered nurse$74,460$63,780$10,680
Respiratory therapist$46,740$50,443-$3,703
Sheet metal worker$49,700$43,725$5,975
Guess my first reaction is to say that I am not too surprised by this. It is just another outrageous example of how our government has lost its connection to the country.

My impressions of government workers resonated with this survey when I worked as a contractor for the US Department of Agriculture. The government employees seemed to be a part of some sort of full-employment legislation - and they acted like it. I came away from my tenure at the USDA with a very dim view of government bureaucracy.. and seeing these stats does not enhance that view at all.

What are your impressions of government employee compensation? Did these stats surprise you? What do you think the disparity in health, pension and other benefits?