Buyer's Remorse

Buyer's remorse is the feeling of regret after a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of higher value items such as a car or house. It may stem from a sense of not wishing to be wrong, of guilt over extravagance or from feeling that one has been persuaded by a salesman - at least that is what the wiki says about it.

Sometimes, as this Shoebox cartoon indicates, decisions, even important ones, cannot be reversed.. and we are faced with learning and adapting in the aftermath of those decisions. Mostly I think about cars when I think about this phenomenon - have I told you about my oil-consuming VW Rabbit? Any decisions or purchases that you are remorseful about?

Dag Hammarskjöld

This week Sue shared a prayer from Dag Hammarskjöld at the Daily Prayer blog. It brought back memories of Junior High social studies.. seems like I had to remember his name for a test. Here are a few facts from the Wiki on Dag:
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld (1905-1961) was a Swedish diplomat, economist and author and was the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. He served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in September 1961. He is the only person to have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously. Hammarskjöld remains the only U.N. Secretary-General to die in office. U.S. President John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjöld “the greatest statesman of our century.”
Here are a few things that he once said:

Do not seek death. Death will find you. But seek the road which makes death a fulfillment.

Never for the sake of peace and quiet deny your convictions.

Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again.

It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity.

"Freedom from fear" could be said to sum up the whole philosophy of human rights.

Is life so wretched? Isn't it rather your hands which are too small, your vision which is muddled? You are the one who must grow up.

Friendship needs no words - it is solitude delivered from the anguish of loneliness.

God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.

In the last analysis, it is our conception of death which decides our answers to all the questions that life puts to us.

Follow Me.. not so much anymore.

This cartoon reminded me that I don't tweet much these days and read tweets even less.

When I first got my Twitter account (I think it was last year) I tweeted and read tweets all of the time.. so it often is with new toys.

How about you? Do you twitter? What do you like about it?

Rubio Spending Cuts

It is so rare that "The Party of No" gets some good press. This week Florida senatorial candidate Marco Rubio offered a few ideas worth noting. Here are a few points from his
12 Simple Ways To Cut Spending:
  1. Reduce The Size Of The Federal Bureaucracy. To get spending under control, we must cut the size of the government workforce. To begin, we should freeze federal civilian workforce pay for one year and bring the pay scale back in line with market rates. In addition, we should reduce its’ size to 2008 levels. To accomplish this without disrupting critical government services, we should implement a policy of only hiring just one civilian employee for every two that leave government.
  2. Ban All Earmarks. We should ban earmarks as Sen. Jim DeMint proposed in Congress this year. This could save $15-20 billion annually and stop Congress from using pork barrel projects to buy votes for things like the health care bill.
  3. Pass A Constitutional Amendment Requiring Congress To Balance The Budget. A balanced budget amendment will force Congress to make cuts by eliminating spending, not raising taxes. If the Florida Legislature and almost every state in America is required by their state constitution to pass a balanced budget each year, so should Washington and Congress.
  4. Put A “Check-Off” Box On The Federal Tax Form Allowing Taxpayers To Designate 10 Percent Of Their Existing Tax Bill To Go Toward Paying Down The National Debt. In the Senate, Marco will support proposals that would allow individuals and businesses to check-off an amount, up to 10 percent of their existing tax bill, to be dedicated to retiring the national debt. Congress would have to match the amount contributed by taxpayers from taxes they already owe with spending cuts. If not, a Gramm-Rudman style across-the-board reduction would occur, exempting certain critical spending such as Social Security and defense. This would help Congress to prioritize spending.
  5. Give The President The Line-Item Veto. Marco believes the President should have the authority to make line-item vetoes to the federal budget. If most state governors have the power to veto unnecessary individual spending, so should the President.
  6. Reform Entitlement Programs. Over the next 75 years, the present value of the total shortfall in Social Security and Medicare will exceed $45 trillion. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are going broke and will bankrupt our country. Benefits for those currently receiving them or those approaching retirement should not and will not change. But the truth is that for those who are younger, the programs will need to change or they will no longer exist when they themselves approach retirement age.
While we may not all agree on these ideas to cut spending, it is nice to see a current candidate for the senate with a proposal to that would help balance the budget.

Are Small Business Owners Wealthy Fat Cats?

For years I have friends and others tell me that the majority of people who would be affected by a tax on the rich are small business owners. In response to Stephen Hayes comments (of a similar nature) on "This Week", the ABC Sunday morning news show, Politifact said:
It's certainly more politically palatable to urge lower taxes for mom-and-pop business owners than for Wall Street fat cats. But is it true that most of the rich are small business owners?
It's impossible to know how many of these high earners are what most people think of as small business owners. One indication, however, might be if these wealthy taxpayers reported that most of their income was from this business-type income. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center analyzed IRS data in March 2009, looking to see how many wealthy tax filers could say that half of their income or more came from business income. The center found that, among the wealthiest filers -- the top 1 percent -- only 25 percent earned more than half their income from business-type income. The percentages for non-wage income were even smaller among taxpayers earning less.
There's one final point we want to clarify here for our readers, because we've been asked about this before: If you are a small business owner yourself, you would have to be a whiz running a very profitable small business to get hit with a tax increase under the plan Obama supports. You would have to report total income of more than $200,000 (or $250,000 for couples) after all your business expenses were deducted. You may remember this being a key point during the Joe the Plumber debate during the 2008 campaign when Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher said to then candidate Obama, "I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes 250 to 280 thousand dollars a year. Your new tax plan's going to tax me more, isn't it?" Back then, the Tax Policy Center analyzed all taxpayers, of any income level, who report these types of business income. They found only about 2 percent of them would see tax increases if the government increased the rates on the top earners. So the vast majority of possible small business owners would not see a tax increase if the Bush tax cuts expire for those in the top incomes.
I think that there is a concerted effort to categorize wealthy fat cats as the small business owners who provide jobs for people. Not sure that I agree. I am thankful for the small business owners that I personally know. Most of them do not drive expensive cars or live lavish lifestyles. So I guess I agree with Politifact and don't buy the idea that the richest folks in our country are small business owners.

What do you think? The whole taxing philosophy aside, do you know small business owners that would be considered a a part of the elite wealthy in our country? Politifact seems to think that it is a mixed bag at best.

No Reservations | ★★★★★★★★

Every once in a while something surprises you. So it was with this heartwarming story of a single gal caught up in her own world that had a life-changing event - her sister died and she now was the guardian of her niece. The story was an object lesson in what can happen when you are forced to give up control of your life and consequentially find a better one. The lead character Kate, played wonderfully by Catherine Zeta-Jones, seems to find herself pushed in each situation to give up control of her apartment, her job, her emotions and her life.. and eventually her heart.

I loved watching Kate struggle.. this recovering control freak could relate to her struggle.. it is hard to let go of the things that have for so long contributed to your sense of order. It was wonderful to see Kate open her heart to her niece Zoe and eventually let go of the life she had for the life they both needed. I love it when that happens.

I thought that the interactions with Kate and the new chef, played by Aaron Eckhart, were both playful and gave a further glimpse into Kate's fear of losing control. I thought that the movie had a great ending and I came away from it happy. Not bad for an old (2007) movie that somehow got past my radar for a few years. I have absolutely no reservations in recommending it to you. On a scale of 10 I give this movie ★★★★★★★★

Dan, Cory, Howard, Mark and Me

Months back a friend told me that I was a good writer.. I corrected her and told her that I was a blogger not a writer. To prove this I provided six sample KB blog posts to this writing analysis site and got the results on the left.. Dan and Cory showed up twice.

Not that I am opposed to being compared to these famous writers.. it is just that blogging.. in my opinion.. is a lot different than writing novels. Guess I wouldn't put myself in that category or even that of a journalist.

How would you describe your blogging? Do you aspire to be a novelist or journalist? Or do you, like me, just blog to engage in ideas and learn.. and, of course, to have fun? Please let me know why you blog and if you have any blog goals.

ADA: Blessed Legislation

People in wheelchairs form the letters ADA in commemoration of the
20th anniversary of the passing of the Americans With Disabilities Act
Dodger Stadium sits in the background, Sunday, July 25, 2010,
Los AngelesThey later set a Guinness World Record for the
highest number of people in wheelchairs moving in a line.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is hard to really communicate the impact of this wonderful legislation.. difficult because it is so very hard to see the world through the eyes of a disabled person. My first wife Ellen, who was blind for three years, put it this way - you can wear a blind fold for a week and you cannot really understand what it means to be blind because you know in your mind that the blindfold will eventually come off and you will see again. Not so for a blind person.

This month marks also marks the beginning of the fourth year of my wife Ann's disability. Three years ago she began a series of three neurological episodes that left her with a wheelchair disability. Each day Ann continues to amaze me with a resolve that humbles me and an attitude that wows me.

Life in a wheelchair is very difficult. But it would be so very much more difficult if it were not for the accessible bathrooms, mandated curb cuts and many other provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Our nation is blessed to have a government that rose up to help disabled persons.

Unwritten Rules that Rule our Lives

I remember a few years ago sitting around the table with the church staff drinking coffee and the topic of driving behaviors came up - specifically what the right protocol was when a lane was closed and merging was required. Most of the crew said (pretty strongly) that the RULE was to merge as soon as you became aware of the merger.. a few others said that they did not see the big deal in merging at the last possible moment - that was the quicker way to go for them.

Thinking about this reminds me of how we all have our rules - written and unwritten. Here are a few of the rules that I have adopted over the years:
  • Park in a place where my car will not get dinged. Not sure when I started this rule but I think that I have always been a bit fussy with my cars.
  • Sit on the aisle in church. Unknown when this one began. I sometimes spoke during the service so maybe that is when I began it. Or maybe I was just paranoid. :)
  • Don't talk during movies.. and don't talk to me during one.. unless it is on DVD and can be paused.. even then I am not all that happy about it.
  • Be open and honest with people.. some can't handle the vulnerability.. be vulnerable anyway.. some can handle it.
  • Don't jaywalk.. wait for the signal.. it may develop patience.. not that it has done that for me.. sadly I sometimes break this rule.
  • Be on time. I am not as rigid on this one as I used to be.. the old rule was always get there early.. these days I am just happy to be on time.
  • Use decent English when writing and speaking.. sometimes I purposefully break this rule.. but mostly I follow it.. mostly.
  • Don't give out info over the phone. I get way to many calls from telemarketers and survey takers. Don't ask me what I do with the recorded phone spammers.
  • Life is too short for bad coffee. Years ago before Starbucks got popular I started grinding my own beans. These days I don't grind but I drink good coffee.
I am sure I could come up with more if I tried.. these rules area already depressing enough. And in case you were wondering.. I think that everyone should wait until the last minute to merge into traffic.. it is the only way to level the playing (driving?) field.

How do you merge? What unwritten rules rule your life? Share at least one of them.

Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni is one of the most amazing people that I have never met. Her endurance and overcoming attitude often leaves me filled with awe. Here is the wiki on Joni:

A diving accident in 1967 left Tada hospitalized and paralyzed (as a quadriplegic; unable to use her hands or legs). After two years of rehabilitation and in a wheelchair, Tada began working to help others in similar situations. Tada wrote of her experiences in her international best-selling autobiography, Joni, which has been distributed in many languages, and which was made into a feature film of the same name.

During her two years of rehabilitation, Joni learned how to paint with a brush between her teeth, and has sold a lot of her artwork. Joni's art is what initially catapulted her into national prominence.. it is amazing what she does holding a brush between her teeth. It is equally amazing the things that come out of her mouth. Here are a few things that Joni has said:

Even though I have rough moments in my wheelchair, for the most part I consider my paralysis a gift. Just as Jesus exchanged the meaning of the Cross from a symbol of torture to one of hope and salvation, He gives me the grace to do the same with my chair. If a cross can become a blessing, so can a wheelchair. The wheelchair, in a sense, is behind me now. The despair is over. There are now other crosses to bear, other "wheelchairs" in my life to be exchanged into gifts.

Sometimes God allows what he hates to accomplish what he loves.

Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desparate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching,

Contentment ... has an internal quietness of heart that gladly submits to God in all circumstances.

The fact that disabled people hang in there does something for Christians. It's not about being an inspiration for others, it more than that.... it's a mystery. God somehow strengthens others by their faithfulness. They may feel like a burden to others, but God thinks the opposite. He thinks its necessary for others to take care of the disabled... they do more for one's spiritual well being than can be imagined.

Made in Our Image

I usually don't embellish my theological bents here and I tend to shy away from theological debate on this blog.. but today I am thinking about how we tend to make God in our own image. This photo shows how religious people sometimes portray an image of an angry God to the world.. even to children.

I must confess that I certainly have an image of God. Generally speaking my theology.. weird as it is.. has become one where I try to filter views, religious and otherwise, through the life and teachings of the Jesus we find in the gospels.. not always neat and tidy though it may be. And I guess the cornerstone (not sure that word is even accurate to describe it) of my thinking is encapsulated in the third chapter of John's gospel where Jesus says:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Now I understand that the bible and the gospel is more than just these three sentences spoken by Jesus so many years ago. Yet I believe that they help to condense my thinking down to the idea that God loves us so we should in return love Him and love the ones that he loves. In a sense these sentences solidify for me the image of God in my mind as a loving Father who has created children in His image with the ability to simply return His love to Him and to others.

So I thought that I might takes a few minutes and briefly comment on the image of God that some people and a few religions embrace:
Angry God: I think that this is the deity that many people, like my friend Brian, were taught in their childhood. In some strange theistic dichotomy God is presented as one who loves you so much that you need to be afraid of him.. especially if you "sin". Hell, sin and the wrath of God are front and center when this image is presented.

Holy God: This image is a bit different than the previous one. God is still sometimes presented as angry but more of an "angry at sin" rather than "angry at you". The issue here is still the preoccupation with sin and judgment.

Exclusive God: This image is found in different forms in the religious world. Some theologies ascribe to the idea that God created some to be exclusively predestined to heaven and some to hell and torment. Some believe that if you are not one of us then your destiny is one filled with fire and brimstone. In these scenarios both God and His followers are exclusive entities.

Enabling God: This is the image that basically says that God is too nice to allow anyone to suffer.. of course this thinking always adds "after they die".. obviously most people are allowed to suffer before they die. This view presents God as a weak Father who in the end will do anything to ensure that His children do not suffer. The view of man in this scenario is one of the saddest. I have opined a bit on this previously in a post titled Divine Pets.

Absent God: This image is the closest thing to atheism or agnosticism that I can think of. It is the idea that God once created the world then took off into the vast regions of the universe and is no where to be found. Don't pray to this entity because He won't answer and is not interested in us.

The Man Upstairs: If ever there was a God made in our image it is this one. Basically this view says that God is one of us.. He thinks like us.. He judges like us.. His view of fairness is similar to mine.. or yours. This is the image that placates folks who rarely think about God and live lives devoid of anything spiritual.

Santa Clause God: This is the image embraced by many narcissistic leaning folks who believe that God exists to answer their prayers and to lavish them with good things. This thinking believes strongly in the promises of God when it is to their benefit to do so. I once wrote about this phenomenon with regard to healing here.
Well I think that I have covered enough to make someone mad at me. Of course these ideas are faulted.. like me they are not perfect.. these images are, in a sense, the images that I have about those images.

KB BBQ Awards

It was almost 35 years ago.. I believe it was the first week of August in 1976 when I first tasted and fell in love with Kansas City barbeque. Since that time I have tasted this world famous phenomenon at countless different KC venues. I have seen a few of these joints close.. one in particular I was sad to see go. Kansas City has so many great BBQ joints. With this in mind I now humbly announce the winners of the KB BBQ Awards:
  • Best Pork Ribs: Ribs are at the heart of KC BBQ.. and when I say ribs I mean pork ribs.. and none of that Saint Louis cut stuff.. or Chili's Baby Back variety. The winner in this category is Gates Barbeque. My friend Bob thinks their ribs are to die for - they are very good and the very first ones I tasted in our city.
  • Best Beef Ribs: Usually I am not much in favor of the beef version of this fare. The exception is the Crown Prime Beef Ribs at Jack Stack Barbeque. These ribs are outrageously good and oh so tender.
  • Best Burnt Ends: These are the blackened, somewhat charred pieces of brisket ends that cannot be sliced. Sometimes these tasty morsels are too charred or too tough. The ones at Winslow's Barbeque (just down the street from my loft) are the best in KC. They are succulent, tender and quite delicious.
  • Best Brisket: I love a good smoked brisket.. especially in a sandwich.. it is one of my favorite lunches. I could go with several different BBQ joints but I think I will settle in on Brobeck's Barbeque. Their beef is always tender and tasty.
  • Best Pulled Pork: The Carolina Pulled Pork topped with slaw and Bubba Sauce may not be true KC BBQ but this sandwich served at Oklahoma Joe's Barbeque is one of my favorite sandwiches in the world. And no it is not related to that state just to our south.. the owners of the place are true KC area cookers. I opined about them  here.
  • Best Sauce: Since that fateful day in August 1976 I have been a sucker for Gates BBQ sauce. All year long a bottle of the sauce sits in my refrigerator. It is a tomato based sauce with the perfect blend of spices and heat.
  • Best BBQ Beans: No contest here. Jack Stack Barbeque (who used to be Smokestack BBQ) has the best beans in town. They are smoky and full of bits of BBQ pieces. I have loved these for many years.
  • Best Overall BBQ Experience: If you have never been to Kansas City and want to experience the full BBQ experience you must try Arthur Bryants BBQ. It is reminiscent of what it must have been like eating BBQ in KC 50+ years ago. I wrote about it here. The cartoon about was published in the KC Star the day after Arthur passed away.
Honorable mentions for Kansas City barbeque joints are Zarda Barbeque and Hayward's Barbecue. They were once pretty good barbeque spots but alas it has been a long time since I have frequented their establishments. And I must give a posthumous award to Jake Edwards' Barbeque - no longer in business but they once had the best burnt ends in town.

How about you? Ever had KC barbeque? Any favorites here or where you live?

Remembering the Eagle

Yesterday marked the 41st anniversary of the moon landing. To celebrate that day.. albeit a day late.. I offer you these Neil Armstrong quotes:

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.

That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.

I believe every human has a finite number of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine.

It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.

I was elated, ecstatic and extremely surprised that we were successful.

The one thing I regret was that my work required an enormous amount of my time, and a lot of travel.

Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon. July 1969 AD. We came in peace for all mankind.

I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks, but for the ledger of our daily work.

I fully expected that, by the end of the century, we would have achieved substantially more than we actually did.

What were you doing the day Neil walked on the moon? I was at a USO Club in El Paso.

Stuck in the Past

This image from the very creative blog of GlennZ.. thanks Gary for the link to Glenn.. reminds me of a few things: the "Back to the Future" movie; how a picture can paint a thoughtful image (even when it is funny); and how easy it can be to get stuck in the past.

About that last thought - ever get stuck in the past? I have.

Some people have fears about the future.. some dread the present.. and some like me sometimes find themselves stuck in the past. It is so easy when things are dark and sad to think about times gone by and want to go back. Of course all of us time travelers always want to have control over that proverbial time machine.. there are times that we simply would not want to revisit. I guess the message is that the past like the present and the future is a mixed bag of pains and joys. So maybe it is best that we learn to live in the present and find the hidden joys in the phenomenon that is called today.

What Steve Jobs was talking about last week..

Just like it is in Real Estate.. location is everything for the new iPhone

HT: Cagle

The Burqa Dilemma

This afternoon I stood behind a woman wearing a hijab in Walmart. It reminded me of this piece, titled France bans the veil - culture war in Europe, by Micha J. Stone. In the short article he frames the debate over whether women in France should be allowed to wear a full-face Islamic veil like this:
The issue is fascinating, and poses a true dilemma. On one hand the government should not be telling people what to wear. Dress is a potent expression of personal identity, it is very much like speech. To prohibit or restrict such expression is repugnant to anyone who values liberty.

Yet on the other hand it is hard to see covering of the face as anything but a tool of sexual repression hiding behind religion. Indeed, the burqa is a most obnoxious display of religious oppression, and it speaks to the ugly misogyny embedded in so much of middle eastern culture. Or so say the heart and mind of an American.

Is the repulsion and disgust with the veil merely Western prejudice? Or is it a rational response to the unacceptable dehumanization of the female? It is a question worth considering.
I am not sure where the above photo was taken or who believes that a burqa liberates a woman. This debate intrigues me but mostly I agree with the Western perspective that sees it as a form of repression hiding behind religion. In a more practical vein I think that a person should always show their face for things like drivers licenses.

What do you think of the French law? Should burqas be outlawed? What is your reasoning?

Invictus | ★★★★★★★★★

I am not sure what I can say about this great movie that would really do it justice. Here is the Netflix writeup on it:
In this drama based on real-life events, director Clint Eastwood tells the story of what happened after the end of apartheid when newly elected president Nelson Mandela used the 1995 World Cup rugby matches to unite his people in South Africa.
I think that this dialog from the movie gives you a sense of it:
Brenda Mazibuko: You're risking your political capital, you're risking your future as our leader.
Nelson Mandela: The day I am afraid to do that is the day I am no longer fit to lead.

Nelson Mandela: Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.

Etienne Feyder: When does he take a break?
Staff Member: He says he rested enough in prison.

Nelson Mandela: The Rainbow Nation starts here. Reconciliation starts here. Forgiveness starts here too.
I found myself watching this movie and longing for such a leader as Nelson Mandela to arise in America. I got to wondering if law school might be an inferior path (to 27 years in prison) to national leadership. There were several awe-inspiring scenes in the movie that left me speechless. The actions and words of Nelson Mandela simply inspired me. The movie seemed to make me a believer in great leaders again.

I have never been a fan of the Invictus poem by William Ernest Henley. A few years ago I posted An Answer to Invictus. This movie gave me a new view of the poem. Mr Mandela speaks of how this poem inspired him in prison to keep on going. When he quotes it saying.. "It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my fate - I am the captain of my soul.".. you understand that he is speaking about how he chose to forgive his oppressors. It gave me a whole new perspective on the poem.

The acting in the movie was stellar. Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon were both Oscar nominated. I loved the way that their characters interacted and how Mandela took a simple thing like Rugby and saw how it could be used to mend the schism in a broken country.

That said I have to say that the movie was a bit indulgent and could have been edited down about 15 minutes.. the Rugby games went on a bit long.. the movie was over two hours in length. Apart from that I thought that Invictus was a great movie and highly recommend it. I think that it would be a great movie to watch with a group and discuss after.

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

Political Correctness Rant

What is it about rules.. be they ten or six.. that so attract people? Is it all about the need for order that many of us have? It seems that the government comes up with new rules (i.e. laws) every day.. driving rules.. divorce rules.. tax rules.. employer rules.. rules everywhere you look.. and don't ask me about religious rules.

In light of that I thought that I might rant a bit about the rules on the above image.. not sure where this will go.. nothing prepared.. just a few off the cuff remarks about this politically correct (PC) list of rules..
  1. Level Playing Fields: Fairness seems to permeate political correctness. I certainly am all in favor of treating people fairly but it seems that some PC overcompensates.
  2. Public Schools: Why do we have to drag our kids into all of the PC? I am not saying that we should not be inclusive but why can't we just stick to the basics?
  3. Spirituality: I am so tired of people saying they are spiritual but not religious.. give it a rest already. Most of us see through it. 
  4. Choice: It seems that life.. at least here in America.. has become an issue of relative morality. Things like abortion have sadly become for some an issue of choice.
  5. Hypocrisy: Don't you just love how hypocrites call other people hypocrites? Come on! None of us live what we preach. I find this to be a PC cop-out.
Number six is a good way to end this PC commandment list - political correctness is an unending treadmill.. or maybe it is a hamster wheel.. once folks get on it they seem to just spin around a bit until they get tired and see the shallowness of it.

Have you ever witnessed political correctness? What is your favorite PC rule? 


It seems that even in biblical times parents were trying to best each other with bumper stickers

What do you think it is about us that wants to out do each other? Is it simply pride? Maybe a bumper sticker bragging about your kid is not all that bad? Guess it depends on the child and how they respond to this kind of pressure? I guess the question involves motivation. Of course I have never been a bumper sticker kind of guy.

The dictionary defines one-upsmanship as the art or practice of outdoing or keeping one jump ahead of a friend or competitor.

Interesting how it says the art or practice - does seem that some of us take it to something resembling a dark art. I recall many times when one-upsmanship has gotten the best of me.. and sometimes it has involved my children.. not sure why I saw their achievements as an extension of mine? I remember a time when I lied to an ex-coworker about my achievements at my new job.. so sad what I am capable of.. it seems that this kind of attitude can take me to some darks places.

Years ago there was this "keeping up with the Joneses" phrase that was popular.. if I you bought a 19" TV then I had to buy a 21" one just to one-up you.. sad how that whole thing morphed into something as bizarre as the things we see these days. Sadly this type of stuff can bleed into things like our pain.. not sure that I have ever said it out loud but I have sometimes thought "That's nothing.. let me tell you about my pain" when someone was sharing their pain with me. It is sad because this kind of one-upsmanship shuts down compassion and hinders our empathy for the one in pain.

I don't want to be a one-upper any more. I hope that you don't either.

The Dark Side of Titles

I remember visiting Bell Labs in New Jersey in the late 80s.. before our organization was merged into theirs.. and what struck me was the many 8x12 framed photos of Distinguished Members of the Technical Staff that lined the halls.. being a tech-head.. especially the ilk that held a patent.. was an issue of honor in those hallowed halls.

I wonder what it is about titles that so attract human beings? Several years ago I wrote a post titled On Rabbis, Monsignors & Pastors where I talked about being creeped out when folks called me "Pastor Bob". But I have to say that early in my life I aspired to titles such as "Distinguished Member" or "Manager".. albeit no one ever called my boss Manager Joe.

The preoccupation with titles is certainly not limited to the religious or technical ranks. In the medical field we call people "Doctor".. in legal circles some are referred to as "Your Honor".. we honor political leaders using terms like "Madam Secretary" or "Mister President".. in the military all officers, commissioned and non, are addressed by their rank.. and don't ask me about the titles of Honorary British Knights and Dames.. it is all a weird phenomenon. Of course we cannot forget our most important titles - mom and dad.. grandma and grandpa.

I think that the dark side of titles comes to bear when we lose ourselves in those titles.. when we see them as more permanent than they really are.. when our identities become wrapped up in what we do rather than who we are. An extension of this darkness is the way that people react to our titles. For some strange reason people seem to want to refer to people by their titles. My wife's family referred to her aunt as "Sister" because she was a nun and her cousin as "Father" because he is a priest.

Now don't get me wrong.. I am not against honoring others for their achievements.. and in professional settings it may be very appropriate to address a person using their title. It just gets a bit weird when titles are used in social settings. When a religious leader is referred to as "Pastor" or "Father" in such a setting is seems to contradict Jesus' instructions. The same seems to apply when other professional titles bleed into social settings.

I will end by saying that I may be way off on this one. Perhaps the desire to be known by a title is not as dark as I am making it? Maybe it is a bit more normal than I think that it is? It could be that most of these titles are simply terms of endearment? I would be interested in what you all think about this. Please comment if you think of other titles that I have not listed. While you are thinking.. just call me Grandpa.. it is my favorite title.. if you need to refer to me by a title.

Apple, iPhones, at&t and Lawyers

Ever wonder how cellphone manufacturers like Apple and cellphone service providers like at&t have become so legally enmeshed? Apparently a judge in California doesn't understand it as well and has allowed a class action lawsuit to proceed against Apple and at&t.

I have always been miffed about the marriage of phones to service. I get that no one wants to spend megabucks on a small phone. I also get that phone companies make megabucks off cellphone service. I also get that at&t may not have the best network but you have to admit that they seem to have a great legal department.. those guys wrapped up that iPhone for many years.. and at&t has reaped mega bucks because they did. Not much more from me.. just an afternoon rant.

Bureaucracy and Pygmies

This morning I heard a report that only a fraction of the U.S. pledge of $1.2 billion in direct aid to Haiti has reached its destination. Such a sad commentary about bureaucracies and how they impede charitable efforts such as this one. Interesting that bureaucracies were initially representative of something good. David Osborne and Ted Gaebler point out in their book "Reinventing Government":
"It is hard to imagine today, but a hundred years ago bureaucracy meant something positive. It connoted a rational, efficient method of organization – something to take the place of the arbitrary exercise of power by authoritarian regimes. Bureaucracy brought the same logic to government work that the assembly line brought to the factory. With the hierarchical authority and functional a specialization, they made possible the efficient undertaking of large complex tasks."
That makes sense to me. It seems that such logic should be brought to bear once again to our modern day bureaucracies. Here are a few ideas about them and my thoughts:
“Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy.” -Franz Kafka
I think that.. as many Tea Partiers espouse.. a governmental revolution is needed again.. yet.. as Kafka indicates.. another bureaucracy would probably arise. Just think of the GOP's 1994 Contract with America and how, in less than a decade, Republicans became spendaholics far removed from those folks elected in 1994.
“Bureaucracy is a giant mechanism operated by pygmies.” -Honore de Balzac
I think that this hits to the heart of the issue. A sense of hopelessness results when the system becomes bigger that the people who work in it. I feel that it is the way that many people view the government. And sadly many other entities, both secular and religious, reflect this sentiment of bureaucracy and pygmies.
“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.” -Thomas Sowell
This quote speaks to the sickness involved when the focus is taken off the objectives. I think that this might be the case in Haiti. Perhaps bureaucratic organizations have taken their eye off the suffering people of Haiti. Lets hope that, at least in this case, ways are found to bypass bureaucratic red tape and get aid to Haitians.

Ever been part of an effective bureaucracy? Or caught up in bureaucratic red tape?

This just made me smile..

..a tip of the hat to the folks at the Shoebox Blog.

Nelson Mandela

Ann and I watched Invictus last night.. more on that at a later date.. and what impressed me the most was the man that the movie centered on. Here are a few words from the Wiki:
In 1962 Nelson Mandela was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to life in prison. Mandela served 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela led his party in the negotiations that led to multi-racial democracy in 1994. As president from 1994 to 1999, he frequently gave priority to reconciliation. In South Africa, Mandela is often known as Madiba, an honorary title adopted by elders of Mandela's clan. Mandela has received more than 250 awards over four decades, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.
To honor him I thought that I would post a few of the things that this great man has said:

If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.

I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself.

I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses.

There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.

Geezer Bailouts

In a brief article describing the almost three-to-one ratio of entitlement programs to security/defense spending PolitiFact says:
If you add together mandatory programs and the net interest, then divide that by the amount spent on security programs, the ratio is 2.93 ... Here are some caveats. The appropriated security programs category includes the nuclear weapons portion of the Energy Department, the Department of Homeland Security, portions of the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of State and other international programs. Defense programs account for about 80 percent of the total, but not the entire amount.

Meanwhile, if you total up the budget for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid -- the three big entitlements most familiar to Americans -- it accounts for about two-thirds of the budget for mandatory programs. The "other mandatory programs" category includes such things as veterans' benefits.
I think that most folks think of assistance to the poor when they hear the word entitlement. According to this things that people pay into all of their life (i.e. Social Security and Medicare) and benefits that military veterans have earned are considered entitlements as well as things like Medicaid and unemployment benefits.

Makes me think about folks who complain about all those people getting government entitlements and bailouts. You have to wonder if they will accept the entitlements when they turn 65. I do wonder about these geezer bailouts though.. wonder if these entitlements will be available in four years when I am eligible.

Windows 7.. I liked Vista better :(

This image on the Chrome Browser Twitter page reminds me how I wasted one hundred dollars "upgrading" my laptop to Windows 7.. the OS that promised to be faster and better.. it is not faster and this week Windows 7 presented me with a blue screen of death. Simply sad.

And I do not want to hear from you Apple people

Our Debt

What do you think about when you hear the word debt? The national debt of the United States? Maybe something a bit more personal?  Most people owe something to somebody. How often to do you get an invitation to consolidate your debt or to take avantage of low interest rates. I'd venture to say that most folks have debt on their car or house - most probably owe money to some kind of financial institution. Debt is a major issue.

In light of this, have you ever wonder what Jesus meant, in the Lord's prayer, when He instructed His disciples to pray:
"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Matthew 6:12)
Interesting that Jesus uses the word "debt". These debts that we have been forgiven and which we forgive seem to be different than those we owe Mastercard. Here is the Greek word that is translated debts:
opheilēma ( ὀφείλημα) ... it means "that which is owed, a debt"
So what is Jesus talking about? A few years ago I shared about forgiveness, and this verse in specific, with about twenty guys at our local jail. I asked them these questions:
What is the debt that we owe each other?
What is the debt that we are told to forgive?
I told them that the debt is love. We were created to love both God and man - it is our debt to our Creator and to each other. For many in that jail, and I imagine many of us, love is a difficult topic. When we think about our childhood we sometimes do not think about an environment of love. Our childhood years may have been difficult ones where we did not experience love from our parents or siblings. I think that love has always been an issue. Even at the proverbial dawn of humanity the issue of love came to bear.
And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the LORD said to Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother's keeper?" He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground. (Genesis 4:8-10)
Cain did not understand his debt to his brother Abel. He did not understand that he was indeed "his brother's keeper" - he owed a debt of love to his brother ... he was created to care about Abel and be a blessing to him. So it is with us. In some sense, we become who we were created to be when we love. We are most like Jesus when we love. When we forgive our debtors we come to grips with those who should have loved us and did not. When we pray the Lord's prayer we acknowledge our debt to love God and to love each other. We also forgive (other's debt of love) in the same way that God has forgiven us our debt to love Him.

I think that the ultimate confession of love was whispered by Jesus after He was nailed to the cross:
"Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." (Luke 23:34)
Given this, how can we not forgive - how can we not pay this debt of love?

Dear Patriot

I opened my email spam folder this morning and found one of those messages from an ultra-conservative group that began with the words "Dear Patriot". Not sure what to make of that salutation.. do you think that they were referencing my three years of military service - a sure sign of patriotism.. or maybe they know that I have faithfully paid my taxes all of my life - hmmm.. maybe some would not consider that a qualification? So I have to wonder what kinds of things make a 21st century American a patriot? Here is what one person thinks:
A patriot is a good citizen and one who cares for his or her country. One who says the pledge with pride and loves their country. A patriot is one who defends its country and regards their selves and defenders to the U.S. A patriot is the one you see around your neighborhood picking up trash and doing community service!
Not a lot of help there.. wonder what they are thinking when they say "defends its country"? Could they mean that only soldiers are patriots? Here is a recent response from a soldier:
“To me, I personally feel that being a patriot is loving your country and being willing to make sacrifices to ensure it remains or becomes prosperous.”
Loving your country enough to make sacrifices? Perhaps that is what the first response meant when they spoke of picking up trash in your neighborhood? Maybe being a patriot is all about making sacrifices for your country.. certainly military service would be included.. yet I am wondering what other things would be included as a sacrifice made for your country?

What do you think? What makes a person a patriot? What sacrifices would you include?

.XXX Domains

Are you aware that some folks are advocating a new internet domain extension? The ".xxx" domain would denote websites that are explicitly pornographic. Here is a blurb about it from a NY Times piece titled For X-Rated, a Domain of Their Own:
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers on Friday agreed to move forward on a long-standing proposal from a Florida company to create a specialized dot-xxx suffix for adult entertainment Web sites. But the plan upset much of the adult entertainment industry. It joined hands with religious groups in lobbying against it, arguing that the new domains would lead to regulation and marginalization.
Are you, like me, a bit confused by this? Is there really a need for a dot-xxx suffix? Think about it? The new domain will simply be an extension of existing dot-com domains.. which by the way will still exist and still contain objectionable "material". The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is not a policing agency and will not force existing pornographic dot-com domains to convert to the new dot-xxx suffixes.

So I have to ask - what is the point? Anyone have a clue? Should I do

Main Street needs a Lobbyist

The news is rife with articles of bailouts these days. All sorts of industries are getting government assistance, tax breaks or tax incentives. This LA Times article titled Corporate welfare and California's budget deficit says:
For all the hand-wringing by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about how there's almost nothing left to cut in the state budget except services to children, the aged and the destitute, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent every year on handouts to business. That's despite the lack of evidence that some of these programs keep employers in the state, lure employers from out of state or are cost-effective in any general way. The governor is asking the Legislature to take such draconian steps as eliminating CalWORKS, the state's principal family welfare program (serving 1.1 million children), and downsizing child care and mental health programs
Seems that there are real choices to be made these days about what kind of welfare our governments will support. Consider this excerpt from a piece titled Imperium Watch: Are the Unemployed Pawns?:
And nobody has ever explained why Republicans who supported the outrageous levels of deficit the Bush administration ran up on off-budget wars and tax breaks for the rich now scream "Deficit" when people need extended benefits to keep from having to live on the street. Meanwhile, unemployment checks help the economy because they're spent quickly and close to home, in businesses that hire workers and pay taxes.
The article speaks to the hesitancy of some, who once supported corporate bailouts, to now extend unemployment benefits for people struggling to find work. It reminds me that Main Street needs a lobbyist.. Wall Street has a lot of them.. those other industries shown in the cartoon have more than their share of bribers.. I mean lobbyists. It is sad that this need exists. It is sad that money talks so loudly in governments both state and federal. It is sad that our elected officials are not our most vocal advocates.

Avatar | ★★★★★★★★

Once again Ann and I were one of the last people in Western Civilization to view a blockbuster movie. In our defense Avatar has been on our Netflix queue for a long time. Most of you probably viewed it last year and can barely remember what Avatar was all about.. to refresh your memory here is the Netflix descriptor:
Disabled Marine Jake Sully travels to planet Pandora to become an avatar, ingratiate himself with the natives and help Americans mine lucrative unobtainium. But he finds himself in an interstellar conflict after falling for Na'vi warrior Neytiri.
It will be no surprise for those of you who know me as "Bob the sci-fi guy" that I really liked the movie! I liked the CGI special effects but was surprised to find the story so engaging.. it reminded me a bit of "Dances with Wolves" - the Kevin Costner flick that told of a man who was changed as he lived amongst Native Americans. I liked the spiritual part of the story as well.. even though it was much different than my spiritual story I liked that the Na'vi (the native Pandorans) understood that there was something bigger than themselves.

I did think that the corporate quest for unobtainium was a bit contrived.. on the other had.. who would have guessed that, just a few months after this movie's release, the Gulf of Mexico would be black with corporate oil.. like the quest for oil on our planet the quest for unobtainium on Pandora had a very destructive result.. both speak to the ill effects of greed on society and the planet. On a scale of 10 I give this movie ★★★★★★★★

Let Freedom Ring!

Benjamin Franklin, speaking on this day in 1776 to the signers the Declaration of Independence, said:
“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Freedom has never been cheap. Those who face down tyranny have always been courageous people. This American Independence Day is a day to take a few moments and reflect on the sacrifices of those who have given all to secure freedom and for those who yet fight for freedom all over the world.

On this day we take to heart the words of President John Adams who once wrote to his wife Abigail saying:
“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forever more.”
This American will celebrate the day with family. How will you celebrate your freedom today? If you are a free person you might want to celebrate even if you are not an American. And if you are not free today we stand with you praying for your freedom.

The Value We Ascribe to Human Beings

There is just nothing like jumping back into blogging after a few days off with a controversial topic like abortion. In May Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of Phoenix declared that a nun had excommunicated herself by advising that a seriously ill woman could have an abortion - I have been thinking about that for a bit and wondering why a bishop would publicly criticize a nun that way.

Abortion is such a dicey subject.. thinking about it reminds me of this comment that I clipped a few months ago.. don't remember where I got it but I have also been pondering it a bit:
If it still hasn't got a functioning brain, it's not really a human life. It's life (but then again, a sperm is made of live cells too, and no one considers it a person), it may even be human life (your hair is too, and cutting it is not considered murder), but it's not A human life. It's not a person.
I think that many hold similar views. To balance things out a bit, here is an excerpt from an old National Review article titled When Life Begins:
Your life began, as did the life of every other human being, when the fusion of egg and sperm produced a new, complete, living organism — an embryonic human being. You were never an ovum or a sperm cell, those were both functionally and genetically parts of other human beings — your parents. But you were once an embryo, just as you were once an adolescent, a child, an infant, and a fetus. By an internally directed process, you developed from the embryonic stage into and through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages of development and ultimately into adulthood with your determinateness, unity, and identity fully intact. You are the same being — the same human being — who once was an embryo.

It is true that each of us, in the embryonic and fetal stages of development, were dependent on our mothers, but we were not maternal body parts. Though dependent, we were distinct individual human beings. That is why physicians who treat pregnant women know that they are caring not for one patient, but for two.
The article goes on to speak to the real issues around when life begins.. I think that this goes to the heart of the abortion issue:
Why, then, do we seem so far from a consensus on questions of abortion and embryo-destructive research?

Perhaps because the debate over when human life begins has never been about the biological facts. It has been about the value we ascribe to human beings at the dawn of their lives. When we debate questions of abortion, assisted reproductive technologies, human embryonic stem cell research and human cloning, we are not really disagreeing about whether human embryos are human beings. The scientific evidence is simply too overwhelming for there to be any real debate on this point. What is at issue in these debates is the question of whether we ought to respect and defend human beings in the earliest stages of their lives.
Abortion is a very complex issue - my views on it have changed slightly over time.. but that phrase, "the value we ascribe to human beings", is a haunting one. Going back to the nun in Arizona - I do not know her but I imagine that she has a very high regard and value for human life.. and perhaps she made a prayerful decision to value the life of the mother over that of her baby?

In either case I think that abortion is probably always a decision to value one human being over another. So the question might be one that involves the criteria by which we evaluate the value we ascribe to each human being - in each case we are definitely placing a higher value on either the life of the little human being or that of the bigger human being. And sadly I think that many times that little human being is devalued because the larger human being does not want to be inconvenienced.