Oprah Mobile and the No Phone Zone Pledge

Today on her show Oprah is asking folks to take her "No Phone Zone Pledge" as displayed on her website.  Also showing on her website is the advertisement for Oprah Mobile (below left). Seemed a bit odd to me that she would promote the one and also advertise the other.

Now I do understand that Oprah is not saying that one should watch her show on their phone while driving a car. But it does seem odd to see them both displayed on the same webpage. I wonder if she would be okay with people listening to Oprah Mobile like a radio?

I do not text but I have been known to talk on my phone while driving? Not sure that I can take the pledge but maybe I will let a few more calls go to voice mail.

I will take a pledge to not view Oprah Mobile while driving. Actually I will probably not watch it at all.. will not even listen to it.

How about you? Will you take the pledge?
Do you watch Oprah on your phone?
Do you watch Oprah on TV?

The Candy Bar of Meat

The other week, while sitting over a bacon omelet and rambling on about how much I love the “bacon, egg, cheese on toast combo”, a good buddy looks across the table at me and utters a sentence I may never forget as long as I live: “Yeah, because bacon is the candy bar of meat.” -Adam McArthur

Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon. -Doug Larson

As soon as I learned what the smell of bacon was, I learned how to make it. -Rush Limbaugh

I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give. -Thomas Jefferson

The universal food of the people of Texas, both rich and poor, seems to be corn-dodger and fried bacon. -Frederick Law Olmstead

Veggie bacon?!? That sounds like a sign of the Apocalypse. -Turtle Dundee

If it can’t be fried in bacon grease, it ain’t worth cooking, let alone eating. -Southern proverb

I used to have trouble choking down the pills I have to take for controlling my cholesterol, but it’s a lot easier now that I wrap them in bacon. -Brad Simanek

Let’s see-Farmer Billy’s smoke-fed bacon, Farmer Billy’s bacon-fed bacon, Farmer Billy’s travel bacon… Mr. Simpson, if you really want to kill yourself, I also sell handguns! -Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, The Simpsons

I've long said that if I were about to be executed and were given a choice of my last meal, it would be bacon and eggs. There are few sights that appeal to me more than the streaks of lean and fat in a good side of bacon, or the lovely round of pinkish meat framed in delicate white fat that is Canadian bacon. Nothing is quite as intoxicating as the smell of bacon frying in the morning, save perhaps the smell of coffee brewing. -James Beard

We plan, we toil, we suffer -- in the hope of what? A camel-load of idol's eyes? The title deeds of Radio City? The empire of Asia? A trip to the moon? No, no, no, no. Simply to wake up just in time to smell coffee and bacon and eggs. And, again I cry, how rarely it happens! But when it does happen -- then what a moment, what a morning, what a delight! -J. B. Priestley

Beating an Apple with a Palm

In a ZDnet blog post titled Did HP save Palm with acquisition? Or did it save itself? the pros and cons (mainly pros) of the HP-Palm merger are presented. This chart breaks down some of the reason s for the merger.

I thought it interesting how they talked about HP needing Palm to compete with future iPad like devices speaking of a “Beat Apple” mentality that seems to be shared by both HP and Palm. I like the merger because I own a Palm Pre and think that their WebOS system is a really good smartphone architecture. And truthfully I also have a “Beat Apple” mentality.. unless Sprint offers me an iPhone

Endorsing Political Disloyalty

Former (George W. Bush) presidential speech writer David Frum, fired from the American Enterprise Institute for criticizing the GOP’s role on health care reform, weighed in on Florida's senate race yesterday saying:
The center right has got to hold together. We cannot afford more NY-23s. In all but the most extreme circumstances, the rule has to be that those who participate in a party contest abide by the results of that process. It’s one thing if the race is Lieberman v. Lamont, and what’s at issue is success or failure in war. I used that comparison in a tweet today, but it does not stand up to scrutiny: the differences between Crist and Rubio are much more differences in tone, temperament, and personality. Had Crist prevailed in the Florida Republican primary, he would have had every valid reason to expect Rubio to support the outcome.
The reverse should have held true.
Bottom line, Frum believes that party candidates like Lieberman and Crist should stay loyal to their party.. although he seems to be a bit fuzzy on Lieberman.

It does cause me to pause.. should Crist bow out gracefully and support Marco Rubio?
I expect that today Crist will give all sorts of reasons why he is choosing to run as an independent - possibly one reason is that he represents a different kind of republicanism.. a more moderate version.. and maybe even a flavor that will win in November when independent voters get to weigh in.

For me.. I am becoming less and less a fan of the two party system.. I think that the system has given us legislatures filled with extremely powerful career politicians who very rarely get defeated.. of course John McCain may be facing a serious republican primary challenge this year.. maybe the primary system can work.. doubtful that McCain would run as an independent.. but you never know?

So, I guess I am okay with Crist running as an independent in Florida.. even though it feels a bit strange to endorse disloyalty.. of course I have had to reevaluate my own misplaced loyalties these past few years. What do you think about loyalty? Should guys like Crist and Lieberman stay loyal to their parties even if it means they may have to get a real job?

2010 Nissan 370Z

My first recollection of these "Z" cars was the Datsun 280Z.. anyone recall an earlier model?

Not so Wheelchair Friendly

This morning Ann and I were talking and she mentioned that it had been almost four years since she has driven on the highway and three years since she has been behind the wheel of a car. Life getting around in a motorized wheelchair has certainly been an eye-opening experience for the both of us.

Our conversation got me to thinking about our journey these past three years. One of the things that I ponder is how different my thinking is these days about the word "accessible" - especially when it pertains to the wheelchair variety. Here are a few things that I have learned along the way:
  • Handicapped Parking: Generally speaking parking lots have marked off parking for people in walkers. Most parking spaces designated with the wheelchair image cannot handle a van with a ramp and if there is one it is generally occupied by a sedan. Sometimes cars are parked in the striped areas making it impossible for a van to use.
  • Sidewalks: The Americans with Disabilities Act of the early 90s has greatly improved the ability of a person in a wheelchair to use sidewalks. Even so my wife has to use the street, in her chair, to get to the grocery store which is a few short blocks away.
  • Restaurants: Ann has developed an amazing phone interview process for these places. The initial response is almost always "Yes, We are accessible!" After a few questions (like "Do you have grab bars in the restrooms?") Ann will sometimes discover that the place is not wheelchair friendly. And strangely enough, even hospital restrooms are not always accessible.
  • Realtors: We have been considering a move for some time to make living a bit more accessible for Ann. Most home search websites like realtor.com have a wheelchair accessible category but the homes that show up usually are not accessible. Might have a grab bar in the tub but a wheelchair could not navigate their.
  • Traveling: Another difficulty for us. Plane travel is really not an option. Traveling long distances in our van is not easy so we generally don't do much of it.
  • Ignorance: Even in this age of enlightenment concerning disability I find that people can still talk down to people in wheelchairs. My wife is a brilliant person with a long resume of amazing work accomplishments but some still treat her like she has a mental impairment. Granted it is rare. And maybe I am overly sensitive.
I will probably think of a few other things as soon as I post. Check the comments for more. And consider this a PSA. ツ

Gossip Casters

Can anyone else relate to this? Is anyone tired of Brangelina making the "news"? I think that local news can sometimes be the worst as they often "report" about "news" from the east or west coasts. Everything negative from court room dramas to all sorts of bad behaviors seem to make the 5pm, 6pm and 10pm broadcasts - sometimes for days. Even the sports news seems to get into the extracurricular activities of football players. Maybe they just need to fill the empty air? They do seem to have a lot of it.

Que Sera, Sera

Ann's semi-annual chemo treatment is today (and also two weeks from today).. consequentially we are doing a short hospital stay. So I am walking down the hospital hallway this morning and overhear a person say something about leaving something up to "fate". Reminded me of "Que Sera, Sera" and Doris day singing the song with that annoying "Whatever Will Be, Will Be" chorus. Do you remember the song? Do you like the idea of leaving things up to "fate"?

About five years ago I wrote a blog post about faith and fatalism and examined how I sometimes confuse the two. Here is an excerpt from it:
So what exactly is the difference between true faith in God's sovereignty and a fatalistic view. I think that we can find the answer in the outcome of each. In essence faith causes us to press in, seek, and overcome - fatalism causes us to give up. Faith inspires hope in tomorrow while fatalism offers only fear. Faith affirms God's love for us ... fatalism embraces the worst of our fears.

Fatalism is very subtle because it can mask itself in very religious ways. We can mistake a sort of spiritual paralysis as "waiting on the Lord". We can be immobilized by fear and think that we are living in dependence on God ... all the while not taking risks ... not stepping out in faith ... thinking that God will move when even when our hearts are dark with fatalism.
These days.. five years later.. I still struggle with fatalism at times.. maybe being at the hospital today is a reminder of it. But.. and it is a significant but.. I struggle less because I have seen life happen and the future that I feared is not the the future that I experienced.. life has not been the one I dreamed but it is also not the one I feared. Because we did not resign ourselves to our future fate we embraced medical procedures like this chemotherapy. If we had resigned ourselves to "Whatever Will Be, Will Be" we would probably have prayed and acted differently. The results may not be different but we are.

How about you? Do you struggle with a fatalistic view of the future?

Presidential Supreme Court Justice

If you are one of the 8 brave souls who took the poll that I have been running or just want to know the answer to the question click here and let me know if you were wrong or right.. some of you were.

Do you think Bill Clinton will be the second president to sit on the high court?

Marley & Me | ★★★★★★★★

Ever wonder what it would be like if they made a really great movie about your life or mine? Well if you are like me, and are one of the very few people who have not seen this movie about two ordinary people and their dog, the news is that someone has made that movie.

Marley and Me was such a wonderful surprise. It came in the mail a few days ago.. it sat on my Netflix queue forever.. and I begrudgingly popped it into the DVD player last night.. and I was glad that I did!

The movie is all about the ordinary life of John and Jen.. we see their ups and downs.. their stereotypical nuclear family lives and how a Labrador Retriever puppy grows with them.. the movie would be a bit schmaltzy if it was not so engaging. Kids come along, employment decisions happen and their marriage is tested - just normal life stuff presented in an engaging way.

I think that the ordinariness of the movie is what drew me in - I could so relate to this young couple and the life decisions they experienced. The movie a feel-good one.. it will make you laugh and cry. If you haven't seen it I suggest that you do.

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

John, Mickey, Bill and Tiger

Got together this morning with some friends that I used to work with. The subject of Tiger Woods and his recent publicity came up in the conversation. Got me to thinking about a time when the indiscretions of politicians and sports celebrities did not make the newspapers.

In my formative years growing up in New York City I was a huge Yankees fan and I especially idolized Mickey Mantle - the man could do no wrong in my book. I remember the day that my brother brought me to Yankee Stadium and we sat in the center field bleachers.. I loved being so close to my hero.. Mickey played center field. Growing up I always had such fond memories of those days and of Mickey. It was not until the 1990s when I learned of Mickey's issues with booze and babes.. apparently he was an earlier incarnation of Tiger.

Musing a bit.. I also think of the difference between two presidents - John Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Years after President Kennedy was shot and died in Dallas news began to come out about how he ran around with women while he was married.. but while he was president nothing was reported or even rumored about such matters. On the flip side Bill Clinton's indiscretions were front page news and, while in office, the president went through one of the most scandalous episodes ever.

I sometimes want to return to the days of John and Mickey when we were all ignorant of the failings of our political and sports heroes. I want to be able to return to the days when we measured such people by the way that they did their jobs. I long for the ability to watch Tiger sink a long clutch putt on the 18th hole and simply admire his skill as being the best in his sport. Sadly it is a longing that can no longer be fulfilled.

Now don't get me wrong - what Tiger did was wrong.. what all those guys I mentioned did was wrong. Yet I still wonder if there will ever be a time when we will be able to watch Tiger play and not think about his indiscretions. Possibly there will.. anybody out there still watching David Letterman?

The Mastery of Hardships

What is it about Helen Keller that is so compelling? I have been meditating on some of the things she said this morning and learning a bit about living a different kind of life. Consider her amazing insights about having a happy life:
"A happy life consists not in the absence, but in the mastery of hardships."
I think that the message is doubly powerful because of the vessel that spoke these words. Helen was definitely a woman who had hardships. Though she was not born blind and deaf, at nineteen months of age she came down with an illness which, though it did not last for a particularly long time, left her deaf and blind. She struggled for many years just to be able to communicate with the ones who loved her most.
"No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an unchartered land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit."

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature.
When I think about my life I look back and see an ultra-conservative who mostly lived a "safe life". The irony is that life is not safe and bad stuff happens. In hindsight I have to save that those times when I stepped out of my comfort zone were the most memorable.

I wonder - does some forms of conservatism lead to pessimism? Maybe mastering hardships is all about leaning into hope and optimism? Difficult thoughts for a guy like me who masks  pessimism with words like realism.. maybe realism is just a protection mechanism?
The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.

"It gives me a deep comforting sense that "things seen are temporal and things unseen are eternal."
Helen had an amazing thoughts on vision for a blind person. I wonder.. maybe we can only really see when our eyes are closed? Maybe we can only master the hardships of life when we have Helen Keller inner-vision? Maybe mastering hardships is learning to see past them? Maybe life is all about hope?

I so agree with Helen about keeping our eyes fixed on things eternal. I know that surviving my own hardships has involved embracing eternal concepts like hope and heaven. When my first wife passed away I was greatly comforted by the hope of heaven and believing that I would see her again. Maybe hardships only make sense from an eternal perspective?

What has helped you master hardships? Any thoughts or stories to share?

Invasion of the Post-Its!

I had to laugh when I saw this picture because it reminded me of an old coworker (also named Bob) who had a post-it todo/reminder system. According to USA Today April marks the 30th anniversary of those little yellow sticky things. I never was a huge fan. Once upon a time I used them to model data relationships. Of course I have used my share to write notes that I stuck on monitors to remind coworkers of lunch dates and other urgent matters.

Are you a post-it addict? Where were you when you used your first post-it? Any funny stories to share about them? What's your favorite color? Mine is blue.

The None-of-the-Above Party

The rise of Independents over the last five years (as witnessed by this chart) is an interesting phenomenon. According to an article in today's issue of USA Today titled Frustrated voters cut ties with Democrats, Republicans:
The nation's fastest-growing political party is "none of the above," which could be bad news for Democrats and Republicans.

As the 2010 midterm elections and the anti-tax "Tea Party" movement take shape, more Americans are registering "unaffiliated" rather than signing up with one of the two major parties.

The number of independent voters has grown faster in the past two years than Democrats and Republicans in at least 14 of the 28 states and the District of Columbia that register voters by party, according to a USA TODAY review.
A few years ago I joined the none-of-the-abovers when I refused to identify myself Republican and did not vote in a presidential primary election. Like many former Republicans I became disillusioned with GOP leaders who took the economy down the tubes by cutting taxes and not cutting spending.

I did find it interesting that the Federal deficit came in fourth in the polling of "top concerns". I guess that it makes sense that the economy and unemployment would trump the deficit but the concern about healthcare seemed a bit odd for me. I think that the economy is a catch-all category that people are concerned about but really cannot articulate why they are concerned. Unemployment on the other hand is often in our faces.. many of us know folks that are out of work.

I think that the financial concerns would have probably been top of the list a few years ago but the healthcare concern was probably manufactured last year by a lot of the negative rhetoric around the congressional reform debates. Sad that the net affect is that people are now concerned about something that they may not have been a few years ago. Heck, even I am concerned - the company that I retired from announced a few years ago that they will be reconsidering my benefits because of the new healthcare legislation.

I guess I am rambling a bit.. I get that way sometimes.. especially when I think about these weighty matters. I want to go back to the ideology of my former years.. those years when I believed that my GOP leaders were conservatives that knew how to at least balance a budget. Those years are gone.. just color me none-of-the-above.

I won't miss http:// ...

According to ZDNet the new version of the Chrome browser will no longer display the annoying http:// preface. Another reason to use Chrome.

..and please.. don't forget to vote at the SCOTUS poll on my sidebar..

Reverse Outsourcing

In the late 1980s I began working with Bell Laboratories headquartered in New Jersey. Our software team in Kansas City worked with several of their teams. Over the next few years I established many work relationships with immigrants from Pakistan and India who worked at the Labs on work visas. I found these new friends to be family oriented, technically savvy and very hard workers. Since that time I have worked on several projects with folks from that region and have enjoyed wonderful friendships.

About seven years ago I was working on a software engineering team here in the Kansas City area and found myself in a conference room with about 20+ others as we connected by phone to another group of 9 engineers located India. I remember looking around and realizing that I was the only US citizen in the room.. it was an eerie feeling.. it was at that time I began to understand this phenomenon of "Reverse Outsourcing".

Here are a few excerpts from a Christian Science article titled Why Indian IT companies are outsourcing – to US and subtitled "Two decades after they began running US operations from Bangalore and other cities, Indian IT companies are hiring Americans to do work that was once outsourced. What gives?":
Just as Japanese automakers began manufacturing in the United States in the 1980s, Indian outsourcing companies are locating in the US to reap similar benefits. Wipro calls it "reverse outsourcing."
Wipro and other Indian IT firms use thousands of H1-B visas, designed for skilled workers, to send Indians to work at US client sites. Wipro's CEO reportedly met with US officials, including White House economic adviser Lawrence Summers, last June to warn that proposed curbs on H1-B visas could start a trade dispute with India. Wipro's concern: a Senate bill that would require firms with more than 50 employees to have no more than half of them on skilled-worker visas. Indian firms were the top four users of H1-B visas in fiscal year 2008, with more than 10,000 visa grants.

Though proposed curbs on visas are one driver for their move, its executives say there are many reasons behind the shift. They compare themselves to Japanese automakers who, in the 1980s, began setting up shop in the US.
If this "reverse outsourcing" model works, Indian firms could be looking to expand in the US.
With unemployment in the United States hovering around ten percent I think that the curb on work visas by the congress could have mixed effects. I am thankful that companies like Wipro are creating jobs in places like Atlanta for US workers. I am concerned however that unrestricted work visas could fill many of those jobs with non-US workers - and possibly US workers could find themselves, like I did, in a conference room in Atlanta surrounded by people here on work visas.

This global economy is a dicey one. Players like Wipro offer some employment opportunities but offer them at a cost.. that cost being the insourcing of foreign workers to fill American jobs. Interesting phrase there: "American jobs".. hmmm.. why do I think these are "American jobs"? Because companies like Wipro are consulting type of firms.. like IBM and EDS.. companies who are basically guns for hire. The jobs they fill are ones that were previously filled by folks who actually worked for local companies before the work was outsourced to these consulting companies.

So I wonder where it will all go? Will the congress move to limit the numbers of work visas or will companies like Wipro influence them to keep the existing rules in place? In my gut I think that congress should limit work visas.. but I am not unbiased.. I have friends who are out of work and could fill those jobs.

What do you think about this phenomenon of "Reverse Outsourcing"?

Caption This!

An interesting picture from the Jesus Creed blog.
How did he reach the top of that board?
How would you caption it?

Unconstitutional Day of Prayer?

Last Thursday a federal judge ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional because it violates the Constitution's prohibition against the government establishment of religion. Here is an excerpt about it from a Washington Post article about it:
National Day of Prayer "goes beyond mere 'acknowledgment' of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context," U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb wrote. "In this instance, the government has taken sides on a matter that must be left to individual conscience. . . .

"I understand that many may disagree with that conclusion and some may even view it as a criticism of prayer or those who pray. That is unfortunate. A determination that the government may not endorse a religious message is not a determination that the message itself is harmful, unimportant or undeserving of dissemination. Rather, it is part of the effort 'to carry out the Founders' plan of preserving religious liberty to the fullest extent possible in a pluralistic society.""

The case was filed by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based group that challenged the constitutionality of a 1988 law giving the president authority to designate the first Thursday in May as National Day of Prayer.
I am not a regular participant in the National Day of Prayer.. I do not meet with other Christians on that day and pray.. frankly I probably do not pray any more on that day than other days.. maybe this year will be different though? I do think that it is a good idea.. the bible instructs Christians to pray for those in civil leadership. And I think that it is a good way to informally unite those who pray in a formal way.

In my opinion the judge has interpreted the establishment clause in a very biased manner. My understanding of it is that it simply says that congress shall not interfere in the practice of religion and shall not establish a national religion.. like "The Church of England". The National Day of Prayer was instituted by Congress in 1952 and in 1988 was set on the first Thursday of May. I see no reason why this legislation was unconstitutional then or now.

What do you think? Do you participate in the Day of Prayer? Do pray with others?

Change! Not the kind you are thinking about :)

A few days ago I emptied several of our coin jars into a canvas bag. Thursday Ann perused the bag and completed her collection of state quarters. Yesterday I visited the bank and was amazed when the deposit came to $80.03.

What do you do with loose change? Do you immediately recycle it or do you, like me, leave it laying around for years?

Chick Flicks and Masterpiece Theater

My reaction to this cartoon was thinking that I mostly like Chick Flicks.. as long as English period pieces like "Sense and Sensibility" are not included in the mix.
I am not a big fan of the PBS/BBC Masterpiece Theater stuff.. but I do occasionally watch because Ann loves the stuff. I do like romantic comedies though and some days even prefer them to action flicks.. relax.. it is not a regular occurrence.

What is your definition of a "Chick Flick"?

Tax Stats for Tax Day

Per Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

"Middle-income Americans are now paying federal taxes at or near historically low levels".

"A family of four in the exact middle of the income spectrum will pay only 4.6 percent of its income in federal income taxes this year, according to [the]Tax Policy Center. This is the second-lowest percentage in the past 50 years."

Of course the trend on the graph does seem to be rising for the past few years.

Mustache Stimulus Package

This AP article reports that the St. Louis-based American Mustache Institute, a mustache advocacy group, thinks that it's time that mustached Americans got in on the stimulus money to pay for trimming instruments, wax, combs and mirrors.

Seemed like a good post for Tax Day!

Phantom of the Opera Workstation

CNet reports: Bruce Rosenbaum of Massachusetts home restoration firm ModVic literally pulled out all the stops when he built this baroque workstation out of a demolished church's organ. He gutted the pump and innards, replacing them with three monitors, a 3GHz AMD Phenom II X4 945 processor running Windows 7 Ultimate, 3GB of RAM, a 1TB HD, and lots of other goodies. Decorative features include old kerosene coach lamps (converted to electric), antique crystal door knobs that light up, and a working clock that looks like a steam gauge. The old-fashioned keyboard is a completely rebuilt Logitech PC keyboard fitted with solid-glass Royal typewriter keys from the early 1900s. Special brass keys were created for keys that didn't exist then, such as the Esc key and function keys.

Scrooge the Libertarian

As I reflected about yesterday's post, Libertarians and the Poor, I kept thinking about Ebenezer Scrooge, that character from Charles Dicken's "A Christmas Carol". Here are a few of his Libertarian thoughts about the poor. This first exchange is with a man asking to donate to a fund that would help the poor:
First Collector: At this festive time of year, Mr. Scrooge, it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the poor and destitute.
Ebenezer: Are there no prisons?
First Collector: Plenty of prisons.
Ebenezer: And the union workhouses - are they still in operation?
First Collector: They are. I wish I could say they were not.
Ebenezer: Oh, from what you said at first I was afraid that something had happened to stop them in their useful course. I'm very glad to hear it.
Interesting how Scrooge felt that prisons and workhouses were a good place to care for the poor in his community. I think that this is not so subtle attitude of some Libertarians. This conversation with his dead partner, Jacob Marley, speaks to where Scrooge's heart is:
Ebenezer: But it was only that you were an honest man of business!
Jacob Marley: BUSINESS? Mankind was my business! Their common welfare was my business!
From the grave Marley speaks to Scrooge's obligations to others. When I think about that I remember Cain's response to God after he murdered his brother: "Am I my brother's keeper?" The answer was yes then and I think that it still is. Here is the view that Scrooge had about getting off for holidays:
Ebenezer: I suppose you'll be wanting the whole day tomorrow.
Bob Cratchit: If quite convenient, sir.
Ebenezer: Every Christmas you say the same thing. And every Christmas it's just as inconvenient as the Christmas before. Good night.
Maybe this is the attitude that employers would have if it were not for unions? Possibly we would all be working six or seven day work weeks? Amazing how Scrooge begrudged Cratchit a day off with his family. Possibly these passages tell us why:
Spirit of Christmas Past: And as your business prospered, Ebenezer Scrooge, a golden idol took possession of your heart, as Alice said it would.

Ebenezer Scrooge: What reason have you got to be merry? You're poor enough.
Fred: What reason have you got to be miserable? You're rich enough.
Ebenezer Scrooge: There is no such thing as rich enough; only poor enough.
Maybe that is a picture of where many corporations have gone - after the golden idol at the cost of their loyal Bob Cratchit employees. Maybe our modern day Scrooge CEOs also believe that, for themselves anyway, "There is no such thing as rich enough"?

I do hope that one day Libertarian type folks learn the lessons that Dickens' story did and one day with say with Scrooge:
I will start anew. I will make amends and I will make quite certain that the story ends on a note of hope on a strong amen and I'll thank the world and remember when was able to begin again!
Now before you get too mad at me.. especially if you have Libertarian leanings.. remember that the point I am trying to make is that we have an obligation to love our neighbors and care for those who are not as fortunate as we are. I long for the day that the private sector puts governmental welfare programs out of business. Until then lets not be Scrooges. ツ

Libertarians and the Poor

Television personality John Stossel recently opined about his political views saying that he was "stuck" with the term "Libertarian". Here are a few clips from his article:
I used to be a Kennedy-style "liberal." Then I wised up. Now I'm a libertarian.
We know that conservatives want government to conserve traditional values. They say they're for limited government, but they're pro-drug war, pro-immigration restriction and anti-abortion, and they often support "nation-building."

And so-called liberals? They tend to be anti-gun and pro-choice on abortion. They favor big, powerful government -- they say -- to make life kinder for people.

By contrast, libertarians want government to leave people alone -- in both the economic and personal spheres. Leave us free to pursue our hopes and dreams, as long as we don't hurt anybody else.

Ironically, that used to be called "liberal," which has the same root as "liberty."
When I first explained libertarianism to my wife, she said: "That's cruel! What about the poor and the weak? Let them starve?"

I recently asked some prominent libertarians that question, including Jeffrey Miron, who teaches economics at Harvard.

"It might in some cases be a little cruel," Miron said. "But it means you're not taking from people who've worked hard to earn their income (in order) to give it to people who have not worked hard."

But isn't it wrong for people to suffer in a rich country?

"The number of people who will suffer is likely to be very small. Private charity ... will provide support for the vast majority who would be poor in the absence of some kind of support. When government does it, it creates an air of entitlement that leads to more demand for redistribution, till everyone becomes a ward of the state."
Boaz indicts the welfare state for the untold harm it's done in the name of the poor.

"What we find is a system that traps people into dependency. ... You should be asking advocates of that system, 'Why don't you care about the poor?'"

I agree. It appears that when government sets out to solve a problem, not only does it violate our freedom, it also accomplishes the opposite of what it set out to do.
I found these thoughts to be helpful in understanding the Libertarian point of view. I wish I could have been there with Stossel to ask him about other areas that the government has poked its nose into like slavery, women's rights, anti-trust laws, civil rights, banking protections and other governmental intrusions into our "freedoms".

That said I have to say that I really do not have any answers. On one hand I am frustrated by the expansion of government and the abuses of entitlements by some.. on the other hand I am old enough to remember the stories of the soup lines in the post Wall Street crash years.. it seems that the government was a bit more Libertarian before the crash. But maybe Libertarians are okay with soup lines. I am not. I guess that is why I am a Centrist.

Any Libertarians out there? Any thoughts about the role of government and soup lines?

Religion, Ideology and the Court

On Friday the last Protestant on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens, announced his retirement (about time - he turns 90 next week) and once again opened up all sorts of speculation on who President Obama would nominate to fill his seat. A USA Today article titled "Does the U.S. Supreme Court need another Protestant?" posits that we cannot make these assumptions about judges and their brand of religion:
  • That everyone lives -- and judges rule -- in accord with that brand.
  • That even if they were formed in one childhood faith, they haven't come to see the world, or that religion differently
  • That they will -- or will not -- impose their personal faith views on the entire nation with their rulings.
The article specifically addresses the difference on the court between Roman Catholics (there are six of them) saying:
"Justices Sotomayor and Antonin Scalia are both Catholic but their interpretation of living the faith -- social justice emphasis on the left or traditionalist on the right -- seems quite different."
I guess I understand that.. generally speaking Christians do not walk in lock-step agreement on many issues that the courts face. Even if a protestant would be nominated their religion would probably not be a predictable reflection of their views. So maybe religion is a mute point? Maybe it should be? Maybe the focus should be on the qualifications instead of their religion or ideology?

Yes - I am dreaming. Of course ideology will be a big part of the selection. Interesting though.. Justice Stevens was thought to be a conservative leaning jurist when he was selected by (republican) President Ford. And justices Kennedy and O'Connor were thought to be more conservative when (republican) President Reagan nominated them to the high court. It is difficult to know how a person will act based purely on their ideology or religion.

What do you think? Should ideology or religion be a factor in selecting a judge?

Too Old for Idol

The age limit for American Idol reality TV is 29 - everyone knows that entertainers must be young.. oh wait.. wasn't there someone named Susan Boyle last year who wowed the world singing on Britain's Got Talent? Seems that her YouTube videos have over 100 million views. And wasn't there another contestant on that same TV show named Paul Potts who was no spring chicken himself? His video got about 70 million views. There is just something about a person who does not give up! With that I give you a few other folks that were too old for Idol:

Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as "Grandma Moses", began painting in her seventies after abandoning a career in embroidery because of arthritis. President Truman presented her with the Women's National Press Club trophy Award for outstanding accomplishment in art in 1949. On her 100th birthday in 1960, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller proclaimed the day "Grandma Moses Day" in her honor. In November 2006, her work Sugaring Off (1943), became her highest selling work at $1.2 million.

Harland David Sanders, better known as Colonel Sanders, had the construction of a new road put his restaurant out of business in 1967. He took to franchising Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants, starting at age 65, using $105 from his first Social Security check to fund visits to potential franchisees.

Margaret Mitchell is reported to have begun writing Gone With the Wind in her 30s while bedridden with a broken ankle. Her husband, John Marsh, brought home historical books from the public library to amuse her while she recuperated. After she supposedly read all the historical books in the library, he told her, "Peggy, if you want another book, why don't you write your own?"

Mohandas Gandhi, in his 50s, led nationwide campaigns to ease poverty, expand women's rights, build religious and ethnic amity, end untouchability, and increase economic self-reliance. In his 70s he launched the Quit India civil disobedience movement demanding immediate independence for India.

Mother Teresa in her 30s began quietly ministering to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying in India.. this labor of love lasted for over 45 years. She has been honored by all sorts of civil, governmental and religious groups all over the world. Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity continued to expand, and at the time of her death it was operating 610 missions in 123 countries, including hospices and homes for people with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis, soup kitchens, children's and family counselling programs, orphanages, and schools.

Come Back Tomorrow

You may delay, but time will not. -Benjamin Franklin

Someday is not a day of the week. -Unknown

How soon 'not now' becomes 'never'. -Martin Luther

Procrastination is the thief of time. -Edward Young

Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow. -Mark Twain

What may be done at any time will be done at no time.
-Scottish Proverb

If it weren't for the last minute, I wouldn't get anything done. -Unknown

Procrastination is opportunity's natural assassin. -Victor Kiam

Tomorrow is often the busiest day of the week. -Spanish Proverb

Only Robinson Crusoe had everything done by Friday. -Unknown

Procrastination is the art of keeping up with yesterday. -Don Marquis

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. -William James

On Flossing, Brushing and AHA Moments

This picture reminds me of an "aha" moment I had about 10 years ago sitting in a dental hygienist's chair. For the last few years I had been doing a cleaning three times a year (instead of two) because of plaque issues on my front teeth.. and I was glad that my plaque didn't seem as hard to clean since I had gone to more frequent cleaning.. the cleaning of my teeth had become a torturous experience replete with those nasty pick-like dental instruments and sometimes a bit of bleeding.

So I am sitting there getting my teeth cleaned by a new hygienist and she starts to quiz me about my dental hygiene routine.. hey.. where is my regular hygienist.. she doesn't ask me embarrassing questions. So I retreat into my Jedi persona and speak to her about how I brush all the time.. she interrupts me and asks sometime like "So how often do you floss?" I brush off her remarks and say something like "I try to floss regularly." She then says "If you would just floss every day you would not have to get your teeth cleaned so often."

I was busted and my ego was bruised a bit. I was wanting my old hygienist - where was she anyway? I mean who is this gal anyway? She didn't know me! I think I mumbled something back to her about "trying harder" - but I could not shake her advice.. she had spoken truth to me.. I had heard it before but for some reason I "heard it" this time.

The aftermath was that I began a simple regimen of flossing every day.. it just takes a few minutes.. and amazingly I went back to teeth cleaning twice a year.. and the cleaning came without pain.. the cleanings were amazingly quick and the hygienist usually told me how great my teeth looked.

Have you ever had an "aha" moment? Ever "hear" something that you had been told many times and for some reason believed it? I wonder if that was what Jesus was speaking to when he spoke about people having ears to hear? Not that He was a big believer in flossing.

Gas Station BBQ

Kansas City Barbeque is somewhat world renown and I think that it is without equal. And yes I know that folks from the south may disagree.. I do like the varieties offered in Memphis and South Carolina.. their pulled pork sandwiches are some of my favorites. Yet I must say that KC ribs and brisket are matchless in the world of BBQ.

Two of my favorite places to nosh on ribs and such in the KC Metroplex are located in gas stations. The best of the bunch is Oklahoma Joe's.. and yes.. I get the irony that the best KC BBQ has another state in it's name but Joe's was born in KC. Here is a bit of their story:
Oklahoma Joe’s life began on the KC Barbeque Society competition circuit in the early 90’s as the Slaughterhouse Five, a team of barbeque enthusiasts who got together to cook at weekend championships around the Midwest and the South. The team won so many awards that by 1996, they opened a restaurant. The name itself came from the BBQers friendship, and later partnership, with Joe Jon Davidson, the founder and owner of Oklahoma Joe's Smoker Company. Compared with Kansas City institutions like the circa-1920 Arthur Bryant’s, Joe's is a modern place, using state-of-the-art smokers that cook meat with a combination of natural gas and wood. They offer a wide variety of barbeque and traditional accompaniments. 
If you get to the KC area (please let me know if you do) Joe's is definitely one of the places to visit.. but get their early - the line is out of the door if you get their late.

Do they have barbeque where you live? Are you jealous of folks in Kansas City?

What is America's Longest War?

If you are one of the 15 brave souls who took the poll that I have been running or just want to know the answer to the question click here and let me know if you were wrong or right.. some of you were.

Put Out to Pasture

Found this article about a TV personality that was laid off at 40 and thought that I would opine a bit about it. Here is the way that the article begins:
Dr. Sean Kenniff has had quite a colorful life. He was one of the five finalists on season 1 of the CBS show Survivor, a respected neurologist, and best known to South Florida viewers as our medical reporter at CBS4 News. Until, like so many caught up in the result of a bad economy, Dr. Sean was laid off.

"On my way home that day, driving with my termination papers and of course reevaluating your life, I saw the cows and for the first time I understood them," 40-year-old Sean told CBS4's Lisa Petrillo.

"They were fenced in and powerless over every aspect of their life. That's just how I felt. I'd been pastured, fenced in and powerless over the circumstances."
I have several friends out of work.. the economy is kicking our collective butts these days.
I can resonate a bit with my unemployed friends. I remember the feelings I had when I was laid off in my early 50s.. got pretty hard on me after a while.. after 15 months I found work again.. it was a good feeling to work again.. but the process was really tough on me.. after a while I really did feel like I was put out to pasture. This instruction for 50+ job-seekers from Monster.com, the job-search website, gets me thinking:
The sad truth is, says Osborne, "in our youth culture, it doesn't hurt to appear younger." That means updating your wardrobe and, if you're overweight, shedding those extra pounds.
An interesting comment.. makes me want to go all Just for Men and do my hair dark brown.. and maybe go out and buy some pants-on-the-ground trousers. Actually it makes me a bit sad to think that "looking young" is an asset for some employers. Gotta wonder if this is just an American phenomenon or if these kinds of attitudes exist in other non-western parts of the world - I once heard that Asian cultures esteem older folks.. wonder if it is true?

What do you think? Is ageism a problem in all industries or just with some employers?

Dialysis, Disability and Weasels

With all of the talk in the United States about reforming healthcare I thought that I would take a few minutes and share about my experience with one segment of it. In 1990 my first wife Ellen was hospitalized for 10 weeks with heart and kidney (renal) failure. It was at that time when I was introduced to the world of hemodialysis. Here are a few words about the process from the wiki:
In medicine, hemodialysis is a method for removing waste products such as creatinine and urea, as well as free water from the blood when the kidneys are in renal failure. ... The hemodialysis machine pumps the patient's blood and the dialysate through the dialyzer. ... The dialyzer is composed of thousands of tiny synthetic hollow fibers. The fiber wall acts as the semipermeable membrane. Blood flows through the fibers, dialysis solution flows around the outside the fibers, and water and wastes move between these two solutions. The cleansed blood is then returned via the circuit back to the body.
Ellen was introduced to this life-saving procedure in the hospital and had several operations to install a (sort of) permanent catheter in her upper body. This catheter was used three times a week in the dialysis process to clean her blood - the process took about four hours and was a bit of a nuisance.. albeit a lifesaving one.

Ellen eventually was released from the hospital to the care of a dialysis clinic where she received treatment three days a week in an environment similar to the above photo. Since she was weak we had to employ a specialized taxi service to transport her to and from the clinic.. the driver "Hub" was a God-send during the next four years.. he caringly and faithfully got Ellen to the clinic in his van.. I still remember him with much fondness and gratitude.

It was during this time that I was told that my insurance company would not be covering my wife's dialysis after the first year. It seems that in 1972 the US Congress created a government-sponsored entitlement for endstage renal disease. What this effectively did was transition the responsibility for insurance coverage from the private sector to Medicare. My top-dollar weaselly insurance company had been bailed out by the government and I now had to deal with Medicare for all of Ellen's medical coverage.

Looking back I am glad that Medicare was there for my wife when weaselly private insurance bailed on her. I guess this is a pretty normal phenomenon - when a person is disabled and begins to receive disability payments from Social Security medical insurance coverage is transferred from weaselly private companies to Medicare. After all we cannot expect private weaselly insurance companies to make good on their promise to cover us when things go wrong. Or maybe have we just gotten used to the conduct of weasels?

So I am wondering - Do you have any stories to share in this vein?

Michael Spencer, 1956-2010

The man that many of us knew simply as Internet Monk (iMonk for short) has passed away. In honor of his passing I post the thoughts from Chaplain Mike offered at the iMonk blog as he speaks of comforting Michael's family:
With them, we mourn his passing.

With them, our tears fall.

With them, we express gratitude that Michael is at peace and no longer suffering.

With them, we cry out to God in pain because our suffering has just increased.

With them and with all creation, we groan, awaiting the day when this sad world will be put to rights.

With them and with all the saints, we put our trust in Christ alone, crucified, buried, risen, ascended, and coming again.
I will miss Michael's writing. He was a pioneer in the Blogosphere.

The Informant! | ★★★★

Ann and I caught this Matt Damon flick last week and were a bit underwhelmed. The movie had some good twists and a bit of intrigue but I felt that it dragged at times and lacked the energy that the story could have had.

The movie is based on an actual story of a corporate executive who worked with the FBI to expose an international corporate product price-fixing scheme. I thought that the movie paled with others in this genre like The Insider.

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

Go Royals!

Yes, it does amaze me that a pitcher for one of the worst teams in major league baseball won the Cy Young award last year. And it has been a very long time since the Kansas City Royals have had a winning season.. been in the basement for as long as I can remember.

Yet on this opening day hope springs eternal for us in the KC area.. even one of the most negative TV sportscasters in town is positive about the Royals this year. So this morning I am waxing positive too and rooting for the boys in blue to turn things around and have a great season. Who are you rooting for you this baseball season?

Saint Edith Stein

According to Wikipedia, Saint Edith Stein (1891-1942) was a German-Jewish philosopher, nun, martyr, and saint of the Roman Catholic Church. Born into an observant Jewish family but an atheist by her teenage years, she converted to Christianity in 1922, was baptized into the Roman Catholic Church and was received into the Discalced Carmelite Order as a postulant in 1934. She was canonized as Saint Teresia Benedicta of the Cross (her monastic name) by Pope John Paul II in 1998; however, she is often referred to as "Saint Edith Stein".

To avoid the growing Nazi threat, her order transferred her to the Carmelite monastery at Echt in the Netherlands in 1939. Even so she was not safe in the Netherlands—the Dutch Bishops' Conference had a public statement read in all the churches of the country on July 20, 1942, condemning Nazi racism. In a retaliatory response on July 26, 1942, the Reichskomissar of the Netherlands, Arthur Seyss-Inquart, ordered the arrest of all Jewish converts, who had previously been spared. Stein and her sister Rosa, also a convert, were captured and shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp, where they were gassed on August 9, 1942 when Edith was 51. Here are a few things that Saint Edith said:

If anyone comes to me, I want to lead them to Him.

As for what concerns our relations with our fellow men, the anguish in our neighbor's soul must break all precept. All that we do is a means to an end, but love is an end in itself, because God is love.

My longing for truth was a single prayer.

One could say that in case of need, every normal and healthy woman is able to hold a position. And there is no profession which cannot be practiced by a woman.

The nation... doesn't simply need what we have. It needs what we are.

Appropriate for the Day

A fool and his money are soon elected. -Will Rogers

Showing off is the fool's idea of glory. -Bruce Lee

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction. -Albert Einstein

To the wise, life is a problem; to the fool, a solution. -Marcus Aurelius

Any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it. -Henry David Thoreau

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
-Abraham Lincoln or Mark Twain

A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.
-William Shakespeare

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.
-Benjamin Franklin or Dale Carnegie

Failure is unimportant. It takes courage to make a fool of yourself.
-Charlie Chaplin

The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." -The Bible