Taxes at the Pump

Just a brief afternoon note (for no good reason) about taxes on gasoline. For years I have been crossing the state line from Kansas to Missouri to buy gas because of the difference in the tax on a gallon of petrol. A few observations from the map:
  • Alaska: 26.4¢/g - the lowest tax.. no other state is close
  • California: 67.0¢/g - the highest tax
  • Hawaii: 63.5¢/g - second highest tax
  • Kansas: 43.4¢/g - haven't bought much gas there lately
  • Missouri: 35.7¢/g - why I rarely buy gas in Kansas
  • New York: 63.3¢/g - overtaxed state of my birth
Interesting to note where the blue, gold and red states are located on the map.
I feel pretty fortunate to buy gas cheaper because Missouri doesn't overtax us at the pump. Where does your state fit? Above or below average tax rates?

Shared Sacrifice

Saw an interesting interview this morning on Morning Joe with NY Times columnist Bob Herbert about his recent column titled We Owe the Troops an Exit. Here is the way that Herbert ends the piece:
One of the reasons we’re in this state of nonstop warfare is the fact that so few Americans have had any personal stake in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no draft and no direct financial hardship resulting from the wars. So we keep shipping other people’s children off to combat as if they were some sort of commodity, like coal or wheat, with no real regard for the terrible price so many have to pay, physically and psychologically.

Not only is this tragic, it is profoundly disrespectful. These are real men and women, courageous and mostly uncomplaining human beings, that we are sending into the war zones, and we owe them our most careful attention. Above all, we owe them an end to two wars that have gone on much too long.
I may not agree with everything in Herbert's column but I do agree with the idea that there is no shared sacrifice in these wars.. sadly our troops and their families bear the brunt of these wars. Truthfully, the Vietnam War was ended because of the backlash against the national draft that somewhat forced a shared sacrifice in that war.

I think that this is true in many issues of life - Americans, and people in general, do not always want shared sacrifice. We may feel sorry for people who have lost their jobs but we are not very happy when someone asks us to sacrifice our own comfort to help them out. Many times we complain about welfare programs not understanding why folks cannot just pull themselves up by their bootstraps. About that, I thought that this Facebook comment on bootstraps from my friend Brian was insightful:
"What is wrong with the pull yourself up by your own bootstraps mentality is that no man is an island. We are all dependent on each other. We, who are successful didn't get here on our own. The United States is a wonderful land of opportunity and we get to partake of the fruits of others labor that has provided us with education, a healthcare system, etc. that allows us the opportunity to thrive.

I don't have an "someone owe me something" mentality, so I'm not here to defend that. What I do have is an "I owe something back" mentality."
I liked the idea that "I owe something back".. that I have an obligation to help others in this generation, and the next, because people from this, and previous, generations have helped me. In a sense the shared sacrifices of previous generations have provided opportunities that we now currently enjoy. Maybe that it the whole point?

Can you think of sacrifices that others have shared to enable your current success?

Tapping into Frustration

I remember the unofficial mantra of the 1992 Clinton Campaign - "It's the economy stupid!"  It was an effective slogan that took hold of America when videos of then President Bush surfaced of him seeing a grocery barcode scanner for the first time. That slogan and that image tapped into a deep frustration that many Americans were experiencing. In a sense it was not the economy at all.. it was the frustration that many were feeling about the economy and the seeming ineffectiveness of the government in dealing with it.

This kind of frustration has been winning (or is that losing?) elections for a long time. My first recollection was of Jimmy Carter beating Gerald Ford - people were frustrated about Watergate and his pardon of Richard Nixon. Four years later Ronald Reagan ousted Carter - people were frustrated with his inability to deal with the Iran hostage crisis. In 1992 Bill Clinton ousted President HW Bush as people struggled with the frustration of the economy.. and third party candidate Ross Perot didn't help. Eight years later folks frustrated by the Lewinsky scandals narrowly elected George W Bush.. and 8 years after that an America frustrated by a war overseas and economic woes elected Barrack Obama.

Many outside of governmental leaders have also tapped into this frustration. Squawk Radio and Cable TV have really tapped into this frustration. The celebrity hucksters.. you know who they are.. have made millions of dollars fueling these frustrations. In a sense these folks would not be in business if it were not for our frustrations. Sadly they rarely offer antidotes other than some form of revolutionary rhetoric that instructs us to get rid of the bums in power.. as long as we keep their bums in power.

I guess what I am trying to say is that frustration may not always be the best motivator to take action. I know that I have made some bad decisions when I am frustrated.. not that they have all been bad.. it is just that, in retrospect, decisions made out of frustration are usually subject to second guessing. Maybe there are more positive ways to deal with frustration? Maybe refocusing on something positive would crank down the frustration a bit? Maybe listening to music would be a good alternative to Squawk Radio? Maybe it is time to turn off Squawk TV and watch a movie? Maybe?

Are you frustrated? What are effective ways of dealing with frustration?

The Joy of Bitterness

Ever wonder why some people seem to get a perverted sense of joy out of the negative things in life? It seems that witnessing the hardships of other makes them happy. There is a verse in the Psalms that speaks to this.. it goes like this:
Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.
It reminds me of a time in my life when I was not getting along with my boss at work. It seemed that she did not like me and was always picking on me. One day I was praying about this situation and I became aware.. aware of how much bitterness I had amassed towards her. I was cut like a sharp sword by the news. I began to pray and started to renounce with tears the bitterness that had captured me. As I prayed I asked God to fill me up with love towards my boss. And something happened - my attitude began to change and my relationship with my boss improved.

I think that bitterness is such a deceitful emotion.. the way that it grabs hold of us is so subtle.. the feelings of self-righteousness that accompany it are so powerful. Often when we are hurt or in pain we long for justice.. we want restitution for the unfair ways that we have been treated. And when justice does not seem to come we create a perverted form of justice and welcome bitterness.. and soon bitterness grows from a root to a full grown tree. Once bitterness gets a hold of us we find that it enraptures our life with perversion - and no one can share in it's perverted joy.. even though we freely share it.

I know that I don't usually go to these places here but today I wanted to share this with you because I know the perverted joy of bitterness. I still find myself having to deal with bitter thoughts towards friends and bitter feelings towards God. I wish it were not so but I have found that hardship and difficulties can still set me on a dark path of bitterness. Happily my spiritual radar is a bit more sensitive to bitterness and I find that I deal with it a bit sooner.. but it still sometimes sneaks in under the radar.

If you find yourself caught up in bitter thoughts I suggest that you do what I did.. renounce the bitterness.. call it out and repent of it.. and ask God to fill you with love. Love may not come over night.. sometimes I have prayed many times.. sometimes bitterness is cut down a branch at a time.. sometimes bitterness is defeated one loving act at a time. The good news is that the bitter tree will fall.. evil will be overcome.. as we pray.

TV Watching Nostalgia

Sadly, I am old enough to remember a time when our family did not own a television. This cartoon reminded me of that day in the mid-fifties when that gigantic blonde-wooded console TV arrived in our house. Back then there were five TV stations in New York - ABC, CBS, NBC and two independent stations. Everything was black and white.. and would be until I left home in 1968 for military service. Of course nobody in my neighborhood had color TV.

Initially the TV shows I loved to watch were all on Saturday morning.. there was My Friend Flicka (Peter Graves first TV show - way before Mission Impossible).. Sky King (a show about a rancher that flew airplanes).. Roy Rogers (ever heard of Gabby Hayes?).. Gene Autry (the singing cowboy).. and the Lone Ranger (I loved this one the most). During the week my sister and I loved to watch the Mickey Mouse Club.. I remember liking the Mouseketeers and having a Mickey Mouse hat with the big ears.

On Sunday afternoons I can remember watching Shirley Temple movies.. yes, this 6 year old really loved watching her.. I did not realize how old those movies were and how old she actually was when I was watching those movies on TV. The big Sunday evening event in our house was the Ed Sullivan Show - wow, does that bring back memories of Beatlemania.. I can still hear my sister screaming at the TV.

The 1960s brought a few memorable shows.. The Twilight Zone was a favorite - my sister and I would watch it every Friday night.. American bandstand came on every weekday after school - Dick Clark never seemed to age. Sitcoms like I Love Lucy, the Dick Van Dyke Show, Dobie Gillis, the Danny Thomas Show, Leave It To Beaver, Ozzie and Harriet and Father Knows Best.. to name a few.. reflected a simpler and more naive time in America.

I think that I could go on and on regaling of life before cable TV. Life seemed simpler.. maybe the fewer channels on the TV is reflective of that simplicity? Maybe color TV and UHF stations brought a bit of complexity with them? Not that I would trade where we are today.. but it would be interesting to know what life would be like if we only had 10 TV stations.

Thanks for walking down memory lane with me. What are your earliest TV memories?

Hate Crimes

This week brought the issue of people assaulting people based on hate front and center as we all heard this story:
Michael Enright, a 21-year-old aspiring filmmaker, faces charges of attempted murder and assault as a hate crime after being accused of slashing a Manhattan cabdriver after asking him if he is Muslim.
The story brings back memories of one in Kansas from last year as the news of the murder of an abortionist began to unfold. This news also surfaced this week:
Three of the seven Long Island teenagers who admitted to being part of a gang that targeted Hispanics for violence were sentenced to seven-year prison terms Wednesday for their roles in the 2008 killing of an Ecuadorean immigrant.
The issue of hating peoples on a wholesale basis is an age old one. Even the bible tells us about the hatreds that existed between Jews and Samaritans in Jesus' day. Wars based on ethnicity have plagued the world for ages. The whole issue of prejudicial hate reminds me of an experience that I had in a public speaking class in the early 80s.

The teacher was a pretty famous acting coach from New York who was teaching our class of about 10-12 Ma Bell employees. I took him out to lunch one day at my favorite New York style deli and got to know him a bit.. as we talked I shared with him that I was taking night classes at a local bible college. When we got back to class he put me on the spot and asked me to share an impromptu sermon with the class - yeah he was a bit ornery.. many of us New Yorkers are. Here is the gist of my mini-message that day.

A verse from the Old Testament popped into my mind as soon as he asked me.. it was the one from the sixteenth chapter of first Samuel where the prophet Samuel is sent to Jesse's house to crown a new king of Israel. As the prophet sees Eliab, one of Jesse's good looking sons, he feels that he has seen Israel's next king. It is then that Samuel hears the voice of the Lord saying:
"Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."
My message to that small group of fellow employees was that we ought not look at the superficial aspects of a person like their outward appearance. To get past prejudice we must get past the externals. We must do all in our power to be like God in this.. we must try know each other at a heart level. If we do not then hate is lurking and waiting for us.

When I think of 21-year-old Michael Enright all I can feel is sad. How is it that a man this young has embraced a hate so deep? What possesses a man just starting his life to do such a vile thing? How is it that Michael has missed God's message of love? It reminds me of where hate can lead us when we embrace those hateful messages that some proclaim.

Cheesy Cyber Honking

I know that you have gotten these emails for a number of years.. you know.. those ones that end with bossy statements like:
  • If you are a real Christian then you will forward this message to everyone in your contact list.
  • If your love America then you must stand against evil.. and forward this message to everyone you know.
  • If you want to be blessed then you must forward this message back to the sender and to at least ten other people. And they must send it back to you!
These are fairly common and somewhat laughable versions of an electronic chain letter - you remember them.. warnings abounded about bad luck that would befall you if you broke the chain. The latest strain of this phenomenon has now spread to Facebook. It seems that every day I am reading something like:
  • Jesus is my Lord, my Strength, and my SAVIOR!! If you agree, press like!!!
  • Copy and paste this message in your status if you want to cure AIDS!!
I was thinking about this stuff and wondering about other forms of this phenomenon. Then I remembered the first instance of this that I probably encountered.

Honk if you love Jesus!

I can see that bumper sticker in my mind's eye and.. lol.. I am honking away!

Streaming Anxiety

Do you follow the news via an eReader? Or are you a cable news junkie? Are you on your smart/cell phone all of the time? If so consider this advice from Kim Allen:
All the news you want, whenever you want it, 24/7! Alerts on the cell phone, video clips on YouTube and streaming headlines on the desktop! And with each byte of news, it's easy to react and get pulled into events - and emotions—and tune out of our own reality.
Don't get me wrong; being informed is important. But too much too often can turn into a non stop stress report. With all that’s going on around us, it's more important than ever to maintain emotional balance and a healthy perspective.

And for us to acknowledge that we can care about what's going on without the anxiety, worry or fear sometimes brought about by over identification or attachment or information overload.

Know when it's time to turn off the news and tune back into your life.
Just something to consider as you meander into your evening's activity.

Life after Death :: but not what you think

Last month I got a new Missouri driver's license.. the first time I have not had a Kansas license since 1976.. and yes Kansas City is in Missouri. Standing there.. taking the eye exam.. getting my photo taken.. I was asked if I wanted to be an organ donor - I said yes.

According to a Google search of the news there have been 549 recent news items about organ donors. Here are a few of them from the past few days:
  • Abby DeAnda was only 17 years old when she lost her life in a tragic car accident back in 2006. Abby's father Luis DeAnda tells Action 4 News, "Through her death she was able to touch six people's lives through organ donation." The six people Abbey DeAnda saved range from age six to sixty eight.
  • If it wasn't for an organ donation from an American a 28-year old Irish man believes he would have died of heart failure. He was given a donated human aortic valve that saved his life from a donor in the U.S.
  • Two years after she died from injuries sustained in a car accident, Brook Peterson continues to benefit others in many different ways. Her transplanted organs have given three people who never met the 17-year-old a second chance at life.
  • "Amanda was an organ donor," the obituary read, "and seven people were recipients of her gift of life." Rosepapa was a very special young woman, in many ways. But for seven people, her many achievements in life pale in comparison to one action she took: She became an organ donor, making it clear that in the event of her death, her body was to be used to help others.
What is most inspirational about these stories is that these donors were young people.. young folks who seemed to have their hearts and their heads in the right place. I applaud these young folks. Sadly when I was younger I was not a donor. I had a weird fear of being dissected postmortem. With age I grew out of it.

How about you? Are you a donor? Has someone you know been helped by organ donor?

Blogging as a Business?

Just when you thought that it was safe to put an ad on your blog Philly wants to get in on the action. Consider this clip from a CNN Money article:
The weekly Philadelphia City Paper kicked off the kerfuffle with an article spotlighting several small-scale bloggers who were startled to receive letters from the city demanding that they shell out up to $300 for a license allowing them to operate a local business. One of the recipients had raked in a whopping profit of $11 over two years from his blog. ... That's how the Philly bloggers landed on the city's radar: Those who followed the law and reported their blog's revenue to the IRS triggered tripwires set up to find local businesses operating without licenses.
Now I do not have ads on any of my blogs but I am not in favor of antics like this one. I do think that the blogger needs to claim that $11 as income.. I guess.. do the advertisers report the costs? Anywho.. I think that the overwhelming (99%) percentage of bloggers are not small business owners and should not be subject to Philly-like fees.

What is your perspective on blog ads and Philly fees? Do you have them on your blog?

Images of Islamophobia

Thanks to Time Magazine I just added a new word to my vocabulary and to my online spell checker - Islamophobia. And, as usual, I thought that I might try to put a bit of context to the term by asking my friend Wiki:
Islamophobia is prejudice against Islam or Muslims. The term seems to date back to the "late" 1980s, but came into common usage after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. In 1997, the British Runnymede Trust defined Islamophobia as the "dread or hatred of Islam and therefore, to the fear and dislike of all Muslims," stating that it also refers to the practice of discriminating against Muslims by excluding them from the economic, social, and public life of the nation. It includes the perception that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion. 
I thought that it was interesting that Time recently asked the question "Is America Islamophobic?" on their cover when I think that, to some degree, Time contributes a bit to the phenomenon when they put images on their covers that showcase the Islamophobic stereotype. I think that these outrageous images of women being mutilated, Sunnis hating Shi'ites, and Muslim terrorists promulgate Islamophobia because the other side of Islam is not showcased.

I understand that "bad news" sells newspapers and magazines.. and maybe fear mongering does as well. But I have to ask - Are we Islamophobic? Are you Islamophobic? I am not! In the mid-2000s I worked for a wonderful Muslim guy and saw a different side of Islam than the ones painted on magazine covers. I also worked around several Muslims. I was impressed by their dedication to prayer, their humor and their friendly demeanor.. and I enjoyed working around them.

Maybe that is the way that America will one day be less Islamophobic.. if we are really that way. Maybe one day we will come in contact with neighbors or coworkers who worship Allah and we will see Islam in a different way. Maybe putting a face to Islam is the only way we will ever be able to get past the stereotypes? Maybe that is the only way to embrace an Islamic reality that is not created by Time magazine?

A Caregivers Poem

Another day passes - It goes by so very fast...
The hours, the days, another week...
Her care unselfishly given, the mold is cast...
But sometimes, this body feels so weak.

Why did this illness strike her, I ask... why this particular time?
Sweet face of my wife in pain, I see...Is her payment due?!
Do I care enough? Give back to her! I am in my prime!!
My head hangs low, the color tone, it turns the deepest blue...

Family photos neatly placed on bedroom wall,
They reach out to brighten up her day...
Don't give up... my sweet love, don't take the hopeless fall!
Our family and children so many, we surely all will pray.

The only one who really knows?!
My moods and all that I am...
His name we call him sweet Jesus, his face in heaven glows,
He's our friend; EVERYDAY... We'll reach out to touch his hand!!

by bill weller - - dedicated to my precious and wonderful wife, Carla Jayne Weller who was diagnosed with NMO one year ago 8/6/2010.

I first posted about Bill and Carla Weller back in March. Carla is afflicted by NMO.. the same neurological disease that my wife Ann has. I so relate to Bill's sentiments expressed in this poem. You can follow the Weller's journey at Carla's blog.

New York is Persecuting Bagel Noshers!

Anyone who really knows me knows how much I love poppyseed bagels from Einstein Brothers - I consider those round things, with a schmear of lite Strawberry cream cheese, to be a bit of heaven on earth. So my interest was peaked when I heard of this story from New York (the home of all things bagel and onetime home of Bob) about how bagels are now being taxed. Here is a Wall Street Journal clip on the subject:
In New York, the sale of whole bagels isn't subject to sales tax. But the tax does apply to "sliced or prepared bagels (with cream cheese or other toppings)," according to the state Department of Taxation and Finance. And if the bagel is eaten in the store, even if it's never been touched by a knife, it's also taxed. ... One source of confusion is that the rule isn't spelled out in the tax code. And while sliced bagels are subject to sales tax, a sliced loaf of bread at a bakery isn't, according to tax officials.
Is this a crazy story or what? Speaks to the litigious nature of our governments. When I read stuff like this I am reminded that most politicians are lawyers. This part of the law certainly seems to support the lawyers full employment act.

Mostly this would not affect me too much these days as I generally pick up bagels and eat them at home.. and I do not get them sliced.. and Einstein Brothers do not have stores in New York.. and I live in Kansas City.

What does this story say to you about the law? And are you a lover of all things bagel?

Absolute Relativism

Have you noticed my sidebar image these days? I love how "Nothing is Written in Stone" is actually written into the stone. Ever heard someone say "Everything is Relative" or "There are No Absolutes"? Sure you have. Ever think about those statements.. about how they are 'Absolute' statements on 'Relativism'? You kind of think that someone might say it like this "Maybe Everything is Relative" or "There may be No Absolutes". Pretty funny when you think about it? I think that God must be laughing.. or maybe He is crying?

I do think that many things in life are relative though. It almost has to be because we all have such different histories and experience life so differently. Sadly we sometimes condemn thoughts that are different than ours simply because a person's thought processes has developed differently than ours. We see this played out before our eyes almost every day as people making sweeping, and yet narrow, judgments on things that believe to be absolute truth and things they believe to be untrue.

On the flip-side I think that it is dangerous to embrace a world where there are no absolutes. A world such as this finds ways to explain away senseless killings in the name of a great cause.. as if the end ever justifies the means. This kind of a world seems to find ways to belittle and judge people who believe in absolutisms. A hedonistic ideology, where anything goes, is reflective of a world that embraces the idea that we are not our brother's keeper and loving our neighbor is optional. With that I give you one (of many) absolute that I embrace from the bible found in the book of first Corinthians:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Love is an absolute necessity in our world. Sad that some see it as optional.

I would love to hear one absolute that you hold dear.. just one please.

Meet the How-To-Geek

The How-To-Geek is one of favorite geeky blogs. The Geek regularly posts interesting hints and tips for a variety of computerish topics. His how-tos cover a wide range of geeky topics from pretty straightforward tips about Windows 7 and Office to more advanced topics like tweaking operating systems like LINUX and UBUNTU. Here is a sampling of his geeky bloggings:
  • Desktop Fun: Final Fantasy 7 Wallpaper Collection
  • How to Give Facebook a Pink Theme Instead of Blue
  • How to Convert .flac Files into 192Kb MP3 Files
  • If Windows 7 Was Distributed on Floppy Disks
  • Send or Receive Emails in Gmail on Your Schedule With Boomerang
  • Beginner Geek: Scan Files for Viruses Before Using Them
  • How to Add Tabbed Documents to Microsoft Word
  • Secure Computing: Create Scheduled Scans With Spybot Search & Destroy
  • How to Reinstall Windows Media Player in Windows 7 to Solve Problems
I suggest that you subscribe to his site if you are interested in learning a bit about the geeky side of life.. or if you just want to search his site for answers to your geeky troubles.

And with that Geek Week comes to an end. I have enjoyed doing a themed week. Any themes that you might enjoy? Let me know and maybe I will do another theme week.

Liquid Pencils and Erasable Pens

Geek Week would not be complete if I did not add something about a new invention like this Sharpie Liquid Pencil. Here is the scoop:
Sharpie's Liquid Pencil writes smoothly like a pen, but uses liquid graphite that can be easily erased, at least for the first day after writing.
It is scheduled to be released next month for about $2 a pencil. Would you buy it? I think that I will.. I need something to spice up my crossword puzzle activities.

But if you want an erasable pen you might like this 42 second video..

Geeky Movie Theater

As previously posted Ann and I saw Inception at a cool new AMC Theater here in town.
I loved the place for a few reasons:

Firstly, we did not have to sit three feet from the screen like we do at most theaters we have frequented in the past. As you can see from this photo of Ann watching the previews, the wheelchair designated section was at the top of the seating area. I really enjoyed not being so close to the movie. Theater owners take note! We have now been to the other side and like what we saw.

Secondly, the viewing was unobstructed, the sound was great and the seat effects were very cool - even the wheelchair areas shook with the movie. We both enjoyed being part of the flick. Not sure how this would play out if the movie was a more sedate one.

Lastly, the place served real food and drinks. They have a restaurant incorporated into their space with a decent kitchen. We did not try this feature but may in the future.

All in all it was a great experience. The AMC Mainstreet Theater is a part of the new downtown Power and Light District so you can frequent one of the great eating spots after the movie. Maybe next time we will try a 3D flick? Have you been to any of these newer theaters lately? Any good or bad experiences you'd like to share?


Reviewing this SciFi thriller seems a great way to cap off Geek Week here on the blog. Ann and I actually went out to the movies to see this one.. I will post a few great pics of the new AMC Theater we viewed it in later today. I really liked Inception.. Ann did too but not as much as I did.

The movie is all about dreams and a gadget that somehow enables high-tech-dream-geeks to enter other folks dreams.. I did say it was science fiction didn't I? Of course the dream technology is just a ruse to the real question of the movie - can one person with a plan corrupt and change the thinking of another through their dreams.

I thought that the movie was a non-stop action packed thrill ride with several pauses that helped us understand what was going on.. but not in a way that made the story about the geeky stuff.. just enough to help us from getting confused. I liked the ending and thought that it flowed well with the overall theme of the movie. I also liked the main character (played by Leo DiCaprio) and his battle with guilt and his desire for his life to be normal - who cannot relate to wanting some normalcy in your life?

On a scale of 10 I give this movie ★★★★★★★★.. you will agree if you are a geek.

Laptop Slavery

As Geek Week on the blog moves forward I offer you another ZDNet article. This one is titled Students beware: Heavy laptop usage leads to bad posture, physical pain. In it Sean Portnoy shares these thoughts:
Feel like a slave to your laptop? That “addiction” can hurt you in ways beyond affecting your social life. According to a new report from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, heavy use of a notebook computer can lead to any number of physical ailments, including headaches, muscle soreness in your neck and back, and — no surprise here — carpal tunnel syndrome.

The researchers suggest that because laptops are built with unified body construction, users are left with few ways to work with them that would reduce the risk of long-term physical pain. Hunching down to see your screen can lead to bad posture, and nerve damage to your wrists can come from awkward placement of your hands while typing on cramped keyboards.
Sean follows up these thoughts with tired old recommendations like:
  • using correct posture when you type (i.e. get a good chair and as your mother used to say - "Sit up straight!");
  • buying external keyboards/monitors - which negate many benefits of using a laptop;
  • taking breaks and drinking a lot of water - both don't seem good ideas for students in a classroom setting.
I do think that Sean got it right when he spoke about being a slave to our laptops. Not that I would know anything about such servitude. I know that I am free of its control.

Are you a slave to your PC or Mac? What do you do to get/keep free of it's hold?

Will Apple become the new Microsoft?

Geek Week day 4 brings us this XDNet article titled Apple really is becoming Microsoft.
Here are a few excerpts from it describing experiences at the Apple Store::
Once we got our Genius at the Apple store he ran their canned diagnostics on the phone, told her there was nothing wrong, and that the problem, if there was one, must be due to a bad application.
Somewhat incredulously I joking replied “it’s the old Windows repair solution; wipe the OS and reinstall everything from scratch.” In return I got a blank look and the comment “Just reset everything to the factory defaults.” Apparently the irony of the recommended solution was lost on our Genius.
Now I don’t know how many of you have 19 year old daughters (or are the 19 year old daughter) but my daughter runs her life on her iPhone. She has dozens, if not hundreds, of contacts stored on her phone,so re-entering all that data would not be a trivial task, nor does she have a hard copy backup of all that contact information, so she would have had to get all the data off the phone before she could begin the recommended process to repair it. So this was looking to be a daunting task for her and she was less than amused.
Yes, this does sound like a scenario I encountered years ago when dealing with older versions of Microsoft DOS and Windows. I do wonder.. as Apple gets bigger.. albeit insignificant in the computer world compared to MS Gates.. will Apple lose some of its hipness and coolness as they are forced to deal with the public more? Will episodes like the one with the faulty reception on the new iPhone 4 change the perception that many have of Apple. Will Apple become the new Microsoft? Time will tell. What do you think?

Blogging by Email

As Geek Week continues here on the blog I thought that I might reflect a bit on the idea of using spammed-up email as a way to blog. Now I am not really speaking to the viral forwards that we all get.. annoying as they are they rarely come with personal thoughts from the forwarder. What I am speaking about is folks who write a blog-type post in an email message then BCC the note to everyone they know.
I know of several individuals and ministries that do this.
My advice for such as these is simple: Get a Blog!

Now I am not against what they do but find email technology to be a poor way to communicate ideas because of the one-way nature of its form. Of course one can respond directly to the originator of the blogged email but the comment rarely goes any further. It is similar to some of the famous people blogs who do not care to debate the contents of their writings in the public square. In truth these more resemble sermons than bloggings.

A lot of these currently end up in my spam box. What fate awaits them at your inbox?

The Geek Squad vs God Squad Debate

Midweek at my Week of Geek brings us a report from a weird article titled
Where Do You Stand On The Geek Squad vs. God Squad Debate?
For at least two years, a priest in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, had been rolling the streets of his town in a VW Beetle with the words "God Squad" stenciled on its door in a design reminiscent of the logo seen on Best Buy's Geek Squad vehicles. Now the priest's car is unadorned after the retail chain got wind of his wheels and issued a cease and desist order. To avoid running afoul of Best Buy's legal team, the priest removed the logo.
I gotta say that this just seems like a case of corporate bullying. I mean really, does anyone support the steal-from-the-geek-poor-and-give-to-the-corporate-rich guys? Those incompetents are not even members of Chuck's Nerd Herd. I vote to let him keep the decal.

What would you do if you were Best Buy? Would you fight them to keep the decal?

Captcha: Not Needed to Prevent Spam Comments

Geek week continues with a brief post about Blogger's latest feature:

Here is a brief note that goes along with this image:
Blogger now filters comments that are likely spam comments to a Spam Inbox, much like the spam folder in your email. When someone leaves a comment on your blog, it will be reviewed against our spam detector, and comments that are identified as possible spam will be sent to your blog's Spam Inbox.
I applaud the geeks at Blogger.. it is working for all of my blogs. I hope that bloggers will now remove that annoying word verification and stop torturing their readers/commenters with it.

When does a gadget become a necessity?

Continuing my geeky theme week, a while back I came across an article in the Kansas City Star titled Federal program buys cell phones for the poor. Here are a few excerpts from it:
“When does a luxury become an absolute bare necessity?”

Roughly one in 10 American households qualifies for a direct phone subsidy. In a fast-growing number of states, including Missouri, that equates to a free cell phone.

It is both news and history — the extension of longstanding telephone subsidies for the poor, and cell carriers taking advantage of virtually guaranteed profits.
Geeky cell phone technology aside, I have to admit that the first question really caught my attention. For years many of us heard of all the abuses in government welfare including stories replete with food stamp purchases of cigarettes and booze. Thinking about a federal program that buys cell phones for the less fortunate pushes the envelope a bit further. It begs the question of what is a need and what is not. And just when I seem to have it nailed down I read something like this:
Those who work with the poor say a cell phone may be the difference between landing a job or not, hearing from a child’s teacher, or being able to call for an ambulance.

“When somebody is trying to get a job and keep their life together,” said John Hornbeck of Episcopal Community Services in Kansas City, “having some kind of telephone contact becomes absolutely essential.”
That spins this issue in a different direction for me. I wonder though if this rationalization really holds water. Is a telephone an absolute necessity to obtain employment? Maybe it is. If so then a the cost of cell phone is probably a cheaper vehicle than a land line. It does get you to wondering about how we have embedded technology into our culture. Employers need a phone number. Schools need one too. Credit card companies and businesses also ask for that 10 digit number. Maybe a phone number is no longer a luxury? Maybe this gadget is critical to living in the USA? What do you think?

Geeky Gadgets We Can't Live Without

Continuing todays Geek theme I give you 10 high-tech gadgets I can live without..
and my responses of course
  1. The most annoying techno-gadget ever, AKA the cell phone
    - Sometimes I long for the days when I had a simple cell (not smart) phone.
  2. Electronic leashes, AKA the pager
    - Anyone actually wear those things anymore?
  3. Slower-than-your-desktop-computer computers, AKA the laptop
    - Laptops are plenty fast for me.
  4. Virtual spies, AKA the Web cam
    - I think that mine is off.
  5. Undercover agents, AKA RFID chips
    - Scary what the article says about them.
  6. Wandering vacuums, AKA the Roomba
    - Reminds me of a funny SNL skit.
  7. Alice in Wonderland books, AKA the e-book reader
    - I am bending on this one. Maybe next years when HP does one?
  8. Make-believe baseball, AKA virtual sports
    - I do not have a Wii.
  9. The embarrasser, AKA the speakerphone
    - Brings back many memories of Corporate America.
  10. Please excuse my typos keyboard, AKA the virtual or miniature keyboard
    - Cannot believe how much I use my itty bitty keyboard.
Check out why this guy feels that way.. and remember.. these are his thoughts not mine!
Any of these geeky gadgets that you would like to live without? Or can't live without?

Earning Geek Cred

Yes, I have this t-shirt.. and have actually worn it a few times! Sometimes it is a healthy thing to begin your week by laughing at yourself. In that vein I offer you a few funny items from
a list of 15 things you can do to earn geek cred:
  • Give the Vulcan live long and prosper sign
    - I have been able since the original show.
  • Make a geeky fashion statement
    - The t-shirt.. need more proof?
  • Take a geeky vacation
    - My wife wouldn't do it.
  • Read and watch The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    - Have seen them all.. just once though.
  • Read at least one comic book
    - Have not read one in a while.. but I do read geeky blogs.
  • Take up a geeky hobby
    - Don't ask me about my preoccupation with computers.
  • Be ready to defend your choice of OS
    - Ask me about UNIX sometime.
  • Explain a geeky topic to a non-geek
    - Ask me about UNIX sometime.
  • Know your geek vocab words
    - I have been speaking geek since the 70s.
So how much of a geek are you? Care to share? Might get you some Geek Cred.

Disciplined Optimism

Consider this intro to a great piece titled How to Be an Optimist (Without Being an Idiot):
It’s easy to mock an optimist, isn’t it? Those who hope for the best are scorned as “Pollyannas.” Bart Simpson mocks Lisa’s idealism. Lou Grant mocked Mary Richards in the newsroom. Voltaire enjoys many a knowing smile at the expense of his Candide.

Yet optimism is one of the key strategies for overcoming fear, anxiety, frustration and skepticism in order to make a small business thrive, argue Clate Mask and Scott Martineau in their new book, Conquer the Chaos: How to Grow a Successful Small Business (Wiley, 2010).

The key, however, is to practice not unbridled, idealistic, romantic notions of cheerfully annoying optimism, but rather to practice “disciplined optimism.”

“Disciplined optimism,” Clate and Scott say, inspires you to maintain confidence and get to work removing whatever obstacle is in your way. It allows you to own the problem, and do something about it, because you have a sense that doing so gets you closer to your ultimate goal.

The authors define disciplined optimism as “faith you will prevail plus discipline to confront the brutal facts.” In other words, disciplined optimists do something about the little black rain cloud over their heads—they erect a very large umbrella, say—while blind optimists simply sit in the muddy puddle and cheerfully wish for the rain to stop (and then get wet and chilled and distraught when it doesn’t).
I liked the idea of being a disciplined optimist.. it has a better sound and attitude than the moniker I sometimes describe myself with - a realist.. which is really a lightened version of a pessimist. I agree that sometimes optimism get a bad rap and sometimes comes across as unbridled, idealistic and romantic.. hard to embrace that kind of optimism when you are going through a rough time. Yet the idea of believing the best about your future while doing everything you know to do in the present is a very healthy form of optimism.

Are you an optimist? Does their definition change your thinking about optimism?

Biopics: Amelia ★★★★★ | The Last Station ★★★★★

Do you ever wonder what it would like if Hollywood made a movie of your life or maybe just a few years of it? Who would play "you" in it? How would it come across? Would it be boring? Would you "tell all"? Would your friends be surprised when they saw it? Would you prefer it to be made after you die? These are some of the things I wonder about when I watch these biopics on film. Ann and I recently watched two such movies on DVD.

Amelia is about the life and mysterious disappearance of 1930s fly-girl Amelia Earhart. I thought that the movie was a bit tedious and slow in places. I enjoyed learning about her and the somewhat flamboyant life that she lived. I talked with Ann's 94 year old mom about her and she reminisced about Amelia's fame and how she inspired young gals like her. Amelia Earhart was amazing when you consider that she was the second person, and first woman, to solo across the Atlantic Ocean.. and just five years after Lindbergh did it. I liked Hilary Swank's portrayal of Amelia but I am a bit lukewarm on this biopic.. hence, on a scale of 10 I give this movie ★★★★★

The Last Station is a movie about the last year of Leo Tolstoy's life. In it the filmmakers give us a glimpse into his struggle to balance fame and a desire to live a simple life free of materialism. I thought it to be a bit "educational" as I did not know anything about his life and was surprised to learn about the Tolstoyan Movement.. an idea that embraced brotherly love and pacifism but denounced wealth and sex. I found the story to be a bit sad because of the way that ideology but a wedge between Tolstoy and his wife. The movie was rated R because of an unneeded bedroom scene. Overall I thought that the movie dragged and was overly dramatic. Hence, on a scale of 10 I also give this movie ★★★★★

If they biopicked Kansas Bob I might see Hunter Parrish playing a young Bob and Edward Norton the older Bob. I imagine it would be a very exciting motion picture only rivaled by such inspirational flicks like Revenge of the Nerds and its many sequels.. after all I am one of those geeky nerdly types.. Bill Gates success gave me hope.

Your favorite biopic? Chariots of Fire is mine. What would a movie of your life be like?

Infomercials and Telethons: Do they really work?

Reading Lee Grady's thoughts on Christian fundraising this morning got me to thinking about the whole idea of TV telethons and raising funds for charitable organizations. In his article Lee compares many of the crazy Christian telethons with those of organizations like the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) network. Here are a few of his observations:
During the PBS telethon I wondered why Christian networks couldn't simply offer music, books or other premiums instead of resorting to the typical arm-twisting and tear-jerking that we've come to expect. We need an overhaul in this area. Somebody needs to lead the way in pioneering a new style of on-air fundraising that doesn't treat people like brainless zombies.
I so agree with Lee about the style of fundraising but I do wonder if telethons really work. On one hand it seems that organizations like PBS would be a bit crazy to hold as many as they do if it they did not achieve their objectives.. yet the one they did recently during a Roy Orbison documentary was a bit annoying.. seems like these things might turn folks off. I guess telethons just don't do much for me. If I had thought about it I would have DVRed the show and fast forwarded through the PBS pitch-talk.

Several years ago I asked a similar question about the MDA Labor Day telethons (read it here) and had a bit of a mixed response. I guess the issue boils down to how people donate to charitable causes. I know that the telethon for Haiti (in response to the earthquake) was huge - but it seems that responding to a crisis might be a bit different than planned giving to great charitable or religious works.

Still, it boggles my mind how, in this world of digital video recording and mega-TV-selections, things like telethons and infomercials even work. Anymore I don't even watch commercials.. except the Super Bowl ones. Like the cartoon above indicates - people have alternatives to watching hockey.. and infomercials ..and telethons.. and such.

What do you think about TV infomercials and telethons? Do they compel you to buy or give?

When Christians Get it Wrong

Adam Hamilton, the pastor of the church that Ann and I attend, recently wrote a book with the same title as this post. The book is based on a great series of sermons Adam taught in January of last year. Last week he wrote an opinion piece on the Washington Post website responding to Anne Rice's recent comments about Christianity. I liked what Adam had to say.. it is consistent with what he regularly teaches. Here is the piece in full:

Don't reject Christianity because of Christians
By Adam Hamilton

When I was a child my mother used to make fish sticks for supper a couple of times a month. This was seafood night at the Hamilton house. Over time I came to despise those little crunchy sticks I got it in my mind that I was not a seafood person. It wasn't until I was 38 when I was nearly forced to try swordfish steak and salmon at the Bristol restaurant in Kansas City that my eyes (and taste buds!) were opened and I came to realize that fish sticks were just barely seafood.

On July 28 bestselling author Anne Rice announced on her Facebook page that she was quitting Christianity and would no longer be "Christian" but that she was still a follower of Christ. Anne went on to give the reasons why she was renouncing Christianity. She noted that she refuses to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti birth control, anti-Democrat, anti-secular humanist, anti-science and anti-life.

I appreciate Anne's frustration. I believe it is shared by tens of millions of people in America, including a growing number of young adults. They could add quite a few more reasons for rejecting "Christianity" to Anne's list. But I'd like to suggest that Anne might be rejecting seafood in the name of fish sticks. She is rejecting a particular expression of the Christian faith. Even in her own (or formerly her own) Catholic tradition, tens of millions of Christians and thousands of congregations refuse to be anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-science, anti...

Once, I had a parishioner write me after an encounter with a particularly obnoxious Christian saying, "Pastor Adam, from this day on I will no longer call myself a Christian. I don't want to be associated with people like this man. I don't want others to think I see the world like he sees it. I am a follower of Jesus, but I don't want to be known as a Christian any more." In response I wrote, "Please, don't let this man define what it means to be a Christian. We desperately need to show the world that there is another way to be Christian!"

There are many churches whose members welcome and love gays and lesbians, whose congregations speak up for the rights and value of women, who see science as a form of liturgy expressing the glory of God, and where Democrats and Republicans sit side by side as followers of Christ. They are not perfect, but they are followers of Christ, living in community and seeking to change the world.

For years my friends would tell me not to reject seafood simply because I didn't like fish sticks. It took me 30 years to figure this out. I hope it doesn't take Anne as long.

If you enjoyed Adam's thoughts, and have a about forty minutes, you might want to check out his interview with a local talk radio host where he comments on his new book and answers questions from listeners on all sorts of issues. You can download the podcast here.

Weeping for Our Wounded

Another interesting bit of information from the Sunday morning news shows was this offered by General Peter Chiarelli in his interview on "This Week with Christiane Amanpour" -
About 106,000 soldiers had "a prescription of three weeks or more" for pain, depression or anxiety medication. ... A portion of those 106,000 soldiers that I told you are on some kind of pain medication, it has nothing to do with a behavior health issue. There are soldiers who have been on two, three, four deployments, hucking a rucksack filled with equipment that may weigh 70 to 80 pounds at 8,000 feet, and they've got a knee injury or a leg injury that is painful. Probably should stay home and get operated on, but they go back for the second deployment, and they're on some kind of a pain medication. We have soldiers who suck it up all the time and hide from their leaders when they're hurt.
According to a Politifact online piece:
Chiarelli was referring to information in the Army's Health Promotion, Risk Reduction, and Suicide Prevention Report, released Aug. 5, 2010. This seemed like an important issue to explore further.

The report explains that historically, the Army's suicide rate has been much lower than the civilian population's. But the Army's rate began increasing in 2004 and surpassed the national average in 2008. That year, the suicide rate in the Army was 20.2 per 100,000, compared with a typical civilian rate of 19.2. This increase prompted the study.
I do not know what your reaction is. For me, my heart is weeping for our wounded.

The Law of Unintended Consequences

My mind often wanders into strange territories. For some weird reason this idea of unintended consequences captivated my gray matter this morning. Not sure that there is anything legal about this law.. it is more on par with Murphy's Law.. I opined about that last year. Here is a definition from the wiki:
The law of unintended consequences is an adage or idiomatic warning that an intervention in a complex system always creates unanticipated and often undesirable outcomes. Akin to Murphy's law, it is commonly used as a wry or humorous warning against the hubristic belief that humans can fully control the world around them.
Here are a few of their examples of how this law sometimes plays out:
Kudzu, introduced as an ornamental plant and later used to prevent erosion in earthworks, has become a major problem in the Southeastern United States. Kudzu has displaced native plants, and has effectively taken over significant portions of land

Prohibition in the 1920s United States, originally enacted to suppress the alcohol trade, drove many small-time alcohol suppliers out of business and consolidated the hold of large-scale organized crime over the illegal alcohol industry. Since alcohol was still popular, criminal organizations producing alcohol were well funded and hence also increased their other activities. The War on Drugs, intended to suppress the illegal drug trade, has likewise consolidated the hold of organized drug cartels over the illegal drug industry
I remember visiting my dad in Mississippi and seeing Kudzu for the first time.. talk about in-your-face unintended consequences! When I think about prohibition.. and no I was not around when it was enacted.. I think about how people can have the best motives and still reap unintended results. Consider these examples:
  • Medicare and Social Security: Baby Boomers may eventually bring unintended consequences full bore on these programs.
  • Iraqi War: In the beginning who would have thought that this would end up to be more of a nation building effort than a war?
  • Offshore Oil Wells: Yikes! All of us watched in horror as billions of gallons of oil gushed into those beautiful gulf waters.
  • Drug Side Effects: Even when they are listed in the fine print these things surprise us. Makes me wonder about the stuff not listed.
  • Bell System Breakup: Who could have envisioned a day when AT&T (now at&t) would once again be servicing residential land lines?
  • Afghanistan: Ever seen Charlie Wilson's war? Our covert efforts in this country have definitely had unintended consequences.
I hesitate to bring up this years' massive healthcare reform but I do wonder how insurance companies will capitalize on it and give us results that we did not predict.

One great personal story is one that happened when Ann and I were married in 1995. I do not think that either of us ever imagined the joy that we would experience watching Toby, Ann's Border Collie, and Whitey, my Westie, chasing each other around the house and in the yard. My heart still smiles when I remember how they played and lived with other for the next 10+ years. Sometimes you just can't predict these kinds of things!

What examples of this phenomenon come to your mind? Any personal stories?

Marriage and Civil Unions: Is there a Difference?

Each week I set my DVR to record several Sunday Morning Talk shows and then I usually watch them in the afternoon or evening.. sometimes later in the week. Last night I was particularly impressed by the interview by Chris Wallace, FOX News Sunday anchor, with Ted Olson. Ted is the conservative lawyer who argued the case in California that persuaded a judge to overturn an amendment to the California constitution and allow gay marriages. Here is a seven minute segment from the interview:

The whole thing begs the question that I have proposed in the title of this post. I think that, in a sense, a civil government can only sanction civil unions. When the government is involved it is involved in only the legalities of a union between two individuals. It seems that marriage is something much more than a legal union between two adults. I think that marriage has to be more. Sadly in our culture it is not. Many people enter into marriage with a civil union mindset.. the idea of a contract rather than a covenant.

So perhaps.. and this is pure opinion here.. the difference between a government sanctioned civil union and a God sanctioned marriage is the difference between a contract and a covenant. A contract is a human idea.. a covenant is a divine idea. A civil union contract involves two parties while a marriage covenant involves three. There seems to be a difference in the two even when people act like there is not.

So in the case of gay marriage it seems that the government would be well served to consider the legal and contractual aspects of the civil union. Apart from that I think the government would be well advised to steer clear of the covenantal aspects of marriage.

What do you think? How would you answer the question?

Is Love Sometimes Foolish or Gullible?

I came across this story on a Scot McKnight post and just had to share it:
This line from Paul, that love always believes or believes all things (or always), reminds me of an incredible short story by Isaac Bashevis Singer (I.B. Singer) called "Gimpel the Fool." You can read it in The Collected Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer (you can read it online here).

Everyone in Gimpel's village, Frampol, takes Gimpel for a fool because he takes everyone at their word. His wife cheats on him so his children are not really his own, though he believes they are; he believes his wife when he says the man Gimpel saw in the bed was in his dreams. Even the local rabbi gets in on the act of making Gimpel the fool by playing with words. Gimpel comes off in this story as rejected by all, completely filled with integrity and grace and belief, and in the end he is the one who is vindicated.

In a world of slippery words and treacherous lies, Gimpel's rugged commitment to trust the words of others stands out as a unique and solitary person. Better to be the fool who trusts than to participate in evil for a moment. Something like that is an element of this story.
Here is the question that Scot asks at the end of his post:
How does one practice what Paul says when he says "love believes all things/always"?
My perception is that Paul is saying that love involves believing the best of people.. always giving them the benefit of the doubt.. and forgiving people all of the time. But love is not foolish or gullible.. love is wise and discerning.. we continue to love despite the actions of others but we do not enable bad behavior in the name of love.

What do you think? How would you answer Scot's question?

Whip It | ★★★★★★★★

Ann and I caught this one on DVD this week. I found it to be a great contemporary coming of age tale complete with fun roller derby action. Here are a few things that I enjoyed about it:
  • The relationships between Bliss, the lead teen played by Ellen Page, and her parents were honest and pretty endearing. I loved how the mom took Bliss' bad news - didn't scream or gloss over.. simply backed off a bit and told Bliss that she had to think about it.
  • Roller Derby rules were incorporated into the dialog in such a way that you could keep up with the action and understand what was going on. Once I understood the sport I enjoyed the action a bit more.
  • I liked the way that the movie showed the realities of being a teen. I feel that the images presented were real but also instructional. Bliss and her best friend suffered the consequences of their bad choices.
Overall I thought that this might be.. if you are feeling a bit brave.. a good flick to see with your teen. Some good discussion opportunities there. It is rated PG13 so you might want to preview before showing it to younger teens and preteens. On a scale of 10 I give this movie ★★★★★★★★

Conquering the Mountain that is Me

I ran across a quote this morning by Sir Edmund Hillary that speaks to a universal issue that humans face - the need to control our baser desires. I looked a bit further and found a few more quotes that speak to this phenomena:
It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. -Sir Edmund Hillary

You can never conquer the mountain. You can only conquer yourself.
-James Whittaker

When you heard that a mountain was moved, believe it; but when you hear that someone changed his character do not believe it.
-Arabian Proverb

You don't have enough faith," Jesus told them. "I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it would move. Nothing would be impossible. -Jesus Christ
The idea of conquering your mountain is so important to living well. So I thought that I might share a few ideas from my own life about how I have conquered me.. nothing earth shaking here.. just a few lessons I have learned along the way.. in no particular order:
  1. Identity: I remember a time when I was tempted and something rose up in me and said "No, that is not who I am"!  It was a moment when my innermost being rose up and conquered my fleshly desire. Knowing who you are at a core level is so important when you are tempted to behave badly.
  2. Inner Strength: The battle to conquer me is all about feeding, training and strengthening the real me - what the scriptures refer to as my innermost being. I can only conquer the outer me when the inner me is stronger than the outer me.
  3. Impotent Rules: My journey changed when my eyes started to open and I began to see how ineffective my rules were in dealing with pain and temptation. Rules are dependent on our mental faculties. This is problematic because the brain, and it's ability to rationalize, is often part of the problem.
  4. Listening to My Gut: When I began to understand that God had given me a new gut (i.e. innermost being) I started to listen to it more. The gut.. or conscience.. or heart.. what ever you call our moral center is something to be listened to. In a sense these are the rules that we should follow.
  5. Faith: In a very real sense faith is absolutely needed to conquer the mountain that is me. Faith is the means of transformation. Faith is at the heart of being born again.. and apart from spiritual birth the mountain that is me will not be conquered because the inner me will not have the capacity to subdue the outer me.
Not sure that I have communicated this very well. Some of this is simply not very easy to convey. And I might have crossed over from sharing to preaching on that last point. 

What lessons have you learned along the way about conquering the mountain that is you?

The Giving Pledge

Came across a website, called The Giving Pledge, today where billionaires are listed.. ones who have pledged to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Here is a note from Oracle founder and CEO Larry Ellison describing his involvement with the pledge:
Many years ago, I put virtually all of my assets into a trust with the intent of giving away at least 95% of my wealth to charitable causes. I have already given hundreds of millions of dollars to medical research and education, and I will give billions more over time. Until now, I have done this giving quietly – because I have long believed that charitable giving is a personal and private matter. So why am I going public now? Warren Buffett personally asked me to write this letter because he said I would be “setting an example” and “influencing others” to give. I hope he’s right.
About 40 billionaires have taken the pledge. Here are a few excerpts from their pledges:
Michael R. Bloomberg: “If you want to do something for your children and show how much you love them, the single best thing – by far – is to support organizations that will create a better world for them and their children. And by giving, we inspire others to give of themselves, whether their money or their time.”

Eli and Edythe Broad: “Those who have been blessed with extraordinary wealth have an opportunity, some would say a responsibility – we consider it a privilege – to give back to their communities, be they local, national or global.”

Jon and Karen Huntsman: “It has been clear to me since my earliest childhood memories that my reason for being was to help others.”

Lorry I. Lokey: “There’s an old saying about farmers putting back in to the ground via fertilizer what they take out. So it is with money. The larger the estate, the more important it is to revitalize the soil.”

David Rockefeller: “Our family continues to be united in the belief that those who have benefitted the most from our nation’s economic system have a special responsibility to give back to our society in meaningful ways.”

Ted Turner: “I’m particularly thankful for my father’s advice to set goals so high that they can’t possibly be achieved during a lifetime and to give help where help is needed most. That inspiration keeps me energized and eager to keep working hard every day on giving back and making the world a better place for generations to come.”
You can learn more about the pledge at their site. I applaud their efforts. I am impressed and challenged by their pledge. I aspire to embrace this kind of generosity.. albeit on a smaller scale. Any thoughts about the pledge or about philanthropy?

Cool Adult Stem Cell Stories

Found this AP article on the Kansas City Star website (thanks Bob for the link) today.. it is titled Adult stem cell research far ahead of embryonic and began with this great story:
A few months ago, Thomas Einhorn was treating a patient with a broken ankle that wouldn’t heal, even with multiple surgeries. So he sought help from the man’s own body.

Einhorn drew bone marrow from the man’s pelvic bone with a needle and injected that into his ankle.

Four months later, the ankle was healed. Einhorn, chairman of orthopedic surgery at Boston University Medical Center, credits so-called adult stem cells in the marrow injection. He tried it because of published research from France.
I love that story. Here is another from the article:
Another heart-related condition under study is critical limb ischemia, where blood flow to the leg is so restricted by artery blockage it causes pain and may require amputation. The goal is to encourage growth of new blood vessels by injecting stem cells into the leg.

Sherman said limb ischemia research is moving fast and the results “are very, very encouraging.”

Physician Gabriel Lasala of TCA Cellular Therapy has reported positive preliminary results. One success is Rodney Schoenhardt of Metairie, La.

Schoenhardt had already had surgery on both legs for the disease, and his surgeon was talking about amputating his left leg. Schoenhardt suffered so much pain in his left leg while standing that he used a wheelchair instead.

For Lasala’s research, Schoenhardt got 40 shots in each leg about 18 months ago, with stem cells going into his left calf and a placebo dose into the other. Soon, he said, the pain in his left leg was gone.

Schoenhardt, 58, now mows his lawn, and he remodeled his living room to fix damage from Hurricane Katrina.

“My wheelchair is in my garage, collecting dust,” he said.
Not sure what you all think about this stuff but I am pretty wowed by it. It gives me some hope for Ann's condition as the article also says that adult stem cells are being studied in people who suffer from multiple sclerosis, heart attacks and diabetes. Not too much hope for folks with neurological diseases these days - great to hear stories that inspire a bit of it.