This cartoon that speaks to me..

For some reason this cartoon by Emre Ozdemir speaks to me. I am not sure if it because I sometimes feel like I am held hostage by foreign influences that I cannot quite put my finger on or if it is something else. Maybe I resonate with the idea of being held hostage by oil companies that seem to be taking more and more of my wallet at the pump. Or maybe it is the feeling that I get when I ponder all of the secret Mideast agendas.

What, if anything, speaks to you in this cartoon?

Marxism through the Eyes of Gide

The word Marxism seem to be batted around a lot these days. I guess the word is in vogue with folks of a particular political predisposition. So I was a bit intrigued when I came a cross this snippet about French author and Nobel Prize winner André Gide:
During the 1930s, he briefly became a communist, or more precisely, a fellow traveler (he never formally joined the Communist Party). As a distinguished writer sympathizing with the cause of communism, he was invited to tour the Soviet Union as a guest of the Soviet Union of Writers. The tour disillusioned him and he subsequently became quite critical of Soviet Communism. This criticism of Communism caused him to lose socialist friends, especially when he made a clean break with it in Retour de L'U.R.S.S. in 1936.
He is quoted this way before his visit..
My faith in communism is like my faith in religion: it is a promise of salvation for mankind. If I have to lay my life down that it may succeed, I would do so without hesitation
..and this what he said after his visit to the Soviet Union:
It is impermissible under any circumstances for morals to sink as low as communism has done. No one can begin to imagine the tragedy of humanity, of morality, of religion and of freedoms in the land of communism, where man has been debased beyond belief.
It struck me how Gide embraced an ideology before he really understood it. Also struck me how he was disillusioned when he saw how that that ideology affected humanity.

I wonder how many people who, like Gide did, speak about Marxism without really understanding what it means to live in a Marxist country. I wonder if those folks would use Marxism the way that they do if they saw Marxism through the eyes of Gide after he visited the Soviet Union? Would they be quick to use the word if they were transported in time from Communist Russia in the 1930s to present day America?

I guess it might just be a matter of perspective? What do you think?

National Coffee Day :: What Do You Drink?

Today is another one of those fake holidays - this one seems to benefit places like Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and other places that not only serve the brown stuff but also sell it in bean form. I am sitting and typing on my deck and just caught a whiff of coffee from the downtown KC Folgers plant.. aaah.. nothing like the aroma of coffee in the afternoon.. or anytime. Anywho, I present you this image to commemorate the day and advertise the stuff that I have been drinking since I retired - just can't handle pure high-test anymore.

What brand and flavor are you drinking these days?

Colds, Flus and Chemo

When Ann began getting chemotherapy treatments (to combat NMO) several years ago we became a bit more sensitive to this phenomena known as flu season. The stated goal of the chemo treatments is to suppress Ann's overactive immune system and keep it from attacking her nervous system. A side effect of this therapy is that Ann is more susceptible to catching things like the flu.. which also has ill effects on Ann's body - you don't want to know what happens when that stuff attacks her body.

So in light of this I thought that.. as a public service.. I thought that I might provide a bit of education (with a tip of the hat to United Health Care) to help you answer the question that often surfaces in families this time of year: Is it a cold or the flu?

Colds rarely cause a fever or headaches, the flu almost never causes an upset stomach and "stomach flu" isn't really flu at all, but gastroenteritis (caused by a virus, bacteria or parasites from contaminated food or water). Symptoms of the flu come on suddenly and are worse than those of the common cold.

So, on a practical level, if you actually know us (i.e. live in KC) and do not see us in church do not be too alarmed for our spiritual well being. We are simply laying low for a few weeks while Ann's immune system is vulnerable to attack.

Any advice about fighting colds and flus? Do you get a flu shot?

BlackBerry PlayBook

Heard about this new iPad wannabe on TV this morning. According to the Associated Press:
The PlayBook will have a 7-inch screen, making it half the size of the iPad, and weigh about to the iPad's . And unlike the iPad, it will have two cameras, front and back. RIM didn't say what it would cost, but said it would be in the same range as the iPad, which starts at $499.

The PlayBook will be able to act as a second, larger screen for a BlackBerry phone, through a secure short-range wireless link. When the connection is severed - perhaps because the user walks away with the phone - no sensitive data like company e-mails are left on the tablet. Outside of Wi-Fi range, it will be able to pick up cellular service to access the Web by linking to a BlackBerry.
Not sure that I will be buying anything like this anytime soon but I do like the idea that it works with an existing phone - at least you will not need to purchase phone service to access the net. What do you think about it?

List Your Blog Day!

Eddie over at Calvinistic Cartoons recently asked everyone to Take Time To Join and List Your Blog. So I thought I would follow suit and give you a chance to advertise your blog a bit. If you follow my blog then simply list your blog, it's URL address and a brief description of it.
If you don't follow then please follow on my sidebar (below) before listing your blog.

60 Minutes goes all YouTube on Us!

One of my favorites newsy type of shows is 60 Minutes. I generally record it but sometimes the DVR does not get the whole show because of a sporting event like an NFL game or a PGA tournament has gone longer than expected. Such was the case last night when I missed the last fifteen minutes of the show and did not catch the whole segment on Drew Brees.
Well 60 Minutes has now rectified this for me in that they now have a YouTube channel ( that plays all of their recent shows segment by segment.
Take last night for example. You can watch:
I know that I will frequent this venue.. heading over there now to finish watching the segment on Drew Brees. Are you a 60 Minutes viewer? Will you catch segments on YouTube?

Altoids Tin BBQ Grill

The folks at Life Hacker report that this tiny grill, made from an Altoids Sours tin, can cook a small hamburger or a cut down hot dog.

Something to consider if you are wondering what to do with that coal dust left at the bottom of your Kingsford briquettes bag.

Tailgating Memories

For about four or five years in the late 1990s I had season tickets for Kansas City Chiefs home games. And every week I tailgated with three other guys. We cooked everything from your traditional lunch fare like burgers and brats to more breakfasty food like eggs, hash-browns and sausages or steaks.

What I like most about tailgating was the camaraderie. The guys differed from year to year but the friendships deepened as we sat, sometimes shivering, around my sawed off Weber grill - I made the legs shorter so that we could sit around it with the cast iron pots and pans at just the right height. Back then I drove a red Jeep Grand Cherokee decked out with Chiefs magnets - it was our official tailgating vehicle.

Another thing that I loved about tailgating was the celebratory aspect of it all. Everyone was smiling - even before they broke the beer out.. even when it was 20 degrees and the wind was blowing. We would often walk the parking lot just to see all of the sights - Chiefs' fans are the greatest! People would arrive in customized red Chiefs buses and set up elaborate meals under big tents that often sported tall Chiefs flags on poles. You just had to love their passion for tailgating and their zeal for all things Chiefs.

I think that the night time games were the most fun. There just seemed to be a whole different excitement to being on national television. The aroma of barbecue just seemed to permeate the air. On one such occasion the owner of a chain of BBQ restaurants visited our group, saw a bottle of his sauce on the table and thanked me for using his sauce by giving me a ten dollar bill. We must have been doing some KC BBQ that night.

I've got a lot of those memories but these days I am content to catch the game on my TV - HD really isn't a bad alternative to watching the game even if the pre-game food and festivities are a bit different. I will watch and root for the Chiefs today on TV.. they have actually started the season 2-0.. but you never know.. maybe I will catch a game at Arrowhead this season.. call me if you have tickets.. with a bit of tailgating of course.

Have you ever tailgated? What did you like best? Any stories?

Starting Over

It is interesting how the things that people say can impact you in different ways. I read this F. Scott Fitzgerald quote yesterday and it got me to thinking.
"Vitality shows not only in the ability to persist, but the ability to start over."
Have you ever been faced with the challenge to start all over? Ever change jobs? Move to a new city? Get divorced? When I think about starting over I think about changes. So I thought that I might share a few of the times that I have started over and lessons that I learned along the way:
  • 1968-1970 :: Enlisted in the Army: I moved into the rude awakening called adulthood and learned that I was not as special as I believed I was - the army has that affect on people.. at first it is a humbling experience.
  • 1971 :: Got married, left the military and moved back to New York: My life completely changed in just a few months. I began to learn how to share my life with another.
  • 1972-1974 :: Started a career with AT&T, bought my first home and watched my young wife go blind: I learned that I had a strength and resilience that I had never tapped. Those years marked me in deep and significant ways.
  • 1975 - Transferred to Houston, Texas and watched my wife be healed of blindness: I learned about a spiritual realm that I had never known about.
  • 1976-1979 :: Experienced the reality of a spiritual birth and began a career in computer programming in Kansas City: I learned that God loved me and had a plan for my life - no cliché intended.
  • 1980-1989 :: My son and daughter were born; life was sweet: I learned about a love and joy that I did not know existed. Having children is such a blessed experience.
  • 1990-1994 :: My wife had heart and kidney failure, suffered for four years and passed away: I experienced something called grief and began to learn that my brain was inadequate to deal with intense pain.
  • 1995-2002 :: Experienced the joy of marriage again, retired from AT&T, began to deal with personal health problems and was laid off from EDS: I learned that middle age was a lot different than I expected and that I would have to trust God in a way that was different when I was younger and healthier.
  • 2002-2008 :: My wife was disabled by a wicked neurological disease; I left Corporate America and accepted a pastoral position: I am still learning these lessons: pain is something I need to process with my heart and not my brain; pastoring is not always about ministry and sometimes about the business of church; sometimes the needs of "the one" trumps the needs of "the many".
  • 2009-today :: I retired from the church staff and moved to a loft in downtown Kansas City: I am still learning and relearning these lessons - trusting the Lord is not a cliché.. marital communication is necessary for marital health.. mercy trumps judgment every time.. I need people in my life.. hope keeps me alive.
Thanks for hanging in there as I reminisced. I did not include many of the "start overs" of my life that included new homes, new jobs, new churches, new friends and many other new experiences. Did not include all the lessons - who could abide such a recounting? 

I think that starting over can be a blend of  both the positive and the negative.. perhaps change is never really black or white? Maybe change tests us more than we realize? Perhaps  starting over is the only way to move us out of our comfort zones.

Care to share one starting over experience with me in the comments?

Green Zone | ★★★★★★★

Watched this movie on DVD with Ann and have to admit that it was a troubling story set at the onset of the war in Iraq. It deals with the futile search in Iraq for Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). The flick centers around a Chief Warrant Officer (played by Matt Damon) who is tasked to use intelligence acquired (before war was declared) to find the WMDs. Damon's character is based in part on a real Warrant Officer's story - and I have to say that it is a very dark picture of the politics of war and one soldiers struggle to bring out the truth about WMDs. The movie has a lot adrenaline pumping action and is appropriately rated "R". But, having seen it, I do not think that I will see it again - just too dark and depressing. Even so, on a scale of 10 I give this movie ★★★★★★★.


The word Americolatry comes from Timothy Dalrymple's blog where he asks "Are Conservative Christians Worshiping America?" - you can check out his thoughts here. I actually borrowed the blog title from Scot McKnight who is discussing this on his blog. Here are two of Dalrymple's questions that I would like to consider today:
  1. When does patriotism pass over into idolatry?
  2. What are the healthy (if there are any) and unhealthy ways of mixing politics and religion?
I love these questions. Firstly, I think that it is good to say that religious people should be involved in the political process - we should pray for our country and our leaders.. we should vote and participate in whatever way that the Lord leads us to do.

Secondly, I think that we must realize that, for Christians anyway, our US citizenship is secondary to our heavenly citizenship. A word like Americolatry (i.e. the worship of America) comes into play when we confuse and intermingle citizenships. Something like this can really get weird when religious folks gather (physically or virtually) together attempting to coalesce around moral and civil issues in ways similar to the ways that they coalesce around theological issues.

Lastly, I think that religious people must not cower or be intimidated by nonreligious folks who try to discourage them from participating in civil and political ways with rhetoric like "the separation of church and state". Religious people have a lot to offer our country and should not be discouraged from being involved.

How would you answer Dalrymple's questions? Is Americolatry a valid concern?

Autumn Thoughts

At 10:09 this evening Autumn will have officially come to Kansas City. Unlike Spring, it's equinoctial counterpart, this is the season when the days become shorter and the nights longer. Autumn is a nice time of year weather-wise but I have to admit that the thought of the ever-increasing coldness of the weather replete with sweaters and coats does not excite me - I am more of a warm weather kind of guy. Here are three of the things that I like about Autumn in not particular order:
  • Football: Despite their many years of abysmal play I still enjoy watching the KC Chiefs play. I am not a college football guy so football only takes up time on Sundays.
  • Fall Foliage: The bright and beautiful colors of autumn are amazing here in the Kansas City area. I love to simply watch the leaves change colors.. each new day seems to bring new colors.
  • Cooler Weather: This has been a very hot summer. The cooler temps are a welcome respite from the heat - for a while anyways.
What do you like about Autumn? Do folks in the southwest know when the season changes?

Congress shall make no law..

According to the wiki, the Bill of Rights is the name by which the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution are known. Thought that I would take a few minutes to list and comment on them amendment by amendment.. right by right.. not that I have anything new or insightful to offer.. just thought it might help me to do it.
  1. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    The original concern seemed to be keeping the government out of religion. These days the focus seems to be more about keeping religion out of government.

  2. A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

    Pro-gun folks often do not like the Militia part of this right. I am not against people owning hunting rifles and even handguns. I do not favor citizens owning automatic weapons.. the designation of weapon seems to indicate a problem.

  3. No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

    Not sure what the background of this is but there seems to be a concern about the abuse of power by the government. This may not be as much of a concern these days but the threat is still there when the Kansas City, Kansas government used "eminent domain" to seize control of private property for a NASCAR racetrack.

  4. The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

    Search and seizure of private property further addresses the concerns of the founders that citizens should be protected against the government. I wonder what the founders would think about the Patriot Act?

  5. No person shall be held to answer for any capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

    Again the Militia is mentioned.. I might have to research that a bit more. I love the way that our founders protected citizens against self incrimination and double jeopardy. Interesting how the seizure of private property is mentioned again.

  6. In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.

    I think that the founders never imagined the current day quagmire of legislative processes when the penned "the right to a speedy and public trial". It is an aspect of our court system that is troubling.. seems that it sometimes takes years for an accused person to receive justice.

  7. In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

    The right to stand before your peers in court speaks to the desire to limit judgments to the professionals. It speaks loudly to the belief that everyday people are qualified to make these determinations of guilt and innocence.

  8. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

    The protection against cruel and unusual punishment keeps over-jealous jurists from inflicting fines and imprisonments that are not appropriate to the crime. Interesting how the right protects people that have broken the law.

  9. The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    The founders seem to have understood that these ten rights were not complete. The additional amendments to the constitution seems to bear this out.

  10. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

    There seems to be a concern that the federal government would expand and usurp powers that not only states, but individual citizens themselves, should retain. This speaks to me about the need to reduce bureaucracy in government.
In summation I think that these rights provide a wonderful delineation and limitation of the powers of government. Reading these gives me a wonderful picture of what the founders wanted for our government. It speaks to me about their desire to have a limited government that was focused more about the rights of people than their leaders.

What popped out for you when you read the Bill of Rights?

George Washington Carver

My friend Jeff recently posted George Washington Carver's virtues on Facebook. Got me to browsing around on Wikipedia. Following are a few wiki clips.
Dr. Carver viewed faith in Jesus as a means of destroying both barriers of racial disharmony and social stratification. He was as concerned with his students' character development as he was with their intellectual development. He even compiled a list of eight cardinal virtues for his students to emulate and strive toward:
  1. Be clean both inside and outside.
  2. Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
  3. Lose, if need be, without squealing.
  4. Win without bragging.
  5. Always be considerate of women, children and old people.
  6. Be too brave to lie.
  7. Be too generous to cheat.
  8. Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.
Unconventional in respect to both his scientific method and his ambition as a teacher, he inspired as much criticism as he did praise. Dr. Carver expressed this sentiment in response to this phenomenon: "When you do the common things in life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world."
I especially liked the thought provoking way that Carver expressed his virtues. They embody a morality that I can relate to. Numbers 6 and 7 especially speak to me. And I love the quote.


Many moons ago Paul Harvey used to hawk Kava on his radio show as my friend Roger and I carpooled to work. Here are a few thoughts on the subject from my old friend Roger:
I honestly cannot tell the difference between Kava and any other instant coffee. No doubt some people can, so it must be just me and my unsophisticated philistine taste.

It claims to use “premium” coffee beans, and I have no doubt that it does. It is unique in that it is “reduced acid”. Claims range from 50 to 90% less acid than regular coffee.

I am quite opinionated about stomach acid, having studied the subject in college, but perhaps it is suffice to say that the stomach naturally produces acid. (“Hydrochloric acid is a solution of hydrogen chloride (HCl) in water, that is a highly corrosive, strong mineral acid with many industrial uses. It is found naturally in gastric acid.”) The stomach needs acid to work properly. The acid found in a cup of coffee is just a drop in the bucket compared to stomach acid.

One objection I have to Kava is that the acid is removed using potassium hydroxide. (Potassium hydroxide is an inorganic compound with the formula KOH. Its common name is caustic potash.) I believe natural coffee, made by God, with all its acid, is quite alright with me. I say the same for oranges, lemonade, etc. Agricultural scientist and chemist frequently like to tamper with natural foods, and the results are not always beneficial. So will Kava with its caustic potash harm you? Most probably not, but I will continue to use my Italian instant espresso.

There is no charge for this evaluation.
From what I remember.. and I am going back 30+ years.. Kava used to be some nasty tasting stuff.. but to be fair I think that all instant coffee is nasty. I posted a NY Daily News review about Starbucks Via here.. I have since tried and have been disappointed by Via.

Are you a coffee person? Ever tried Kava or Starbucks Via?

Arrr!! Talk Like a Pirate Today!

Today is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. For those Buccaneer-Americans out there here is a pirate-ese version of the Pledge as translated here.

Aye, "i pledge allegiance t' the flag o' the United States o' America, and t' the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indi'isible, with liberty and justice for all." Gar, Where can I find a bottle o'rum?

Arrr, have a great day and please lea'e a pirate-ese comment. Aye.

It is still the Economy

I think that this Nate Beeler cartoon speaks to the reason that many will be voting GOP in November.

The Democrats got in power fours years ago for some of the same reasons that the GOP is poised to seize the leadership in congress.

Lets hope they do better.

Watching Beck

Due in no small part to the feedback that I got from friends who attended the Glenn Beck rally on August 28th, and a series of emails that I exchanged with a dear old friend, I decided to try watching the Glenn Beck Show on Fox for a week. I recorded the show on my DVR and watched after it was on. Here are a few observations from my week with Beck:
  • He is not paranoid but does at times come across that way.
  • He seems sincere in his belief that America is headed in the wrong direction.
  • He uses words like Socialism and Marxism to describe the government.
  • He seems to think gold is something people should be buying.
  • He reminds me of some of the Pentecostal preachers that I have listened to.
  • He communicates in a snarky fashion - kind of like the Ziggy above.
  • He preaches a dogmatic and narrow blend of faith and patriotism.
  • He mocks things that people have written about him in trashy tabloids.
  • He appeals to people who are very angry with the government.
  • He blasts both Republicans and Democrats.. especially progressives.
  • He rarely has guests and prefers to preach his way through his show.
I may be wrong on these as I only watched for a week. I will not continue to watch as Beck simply does not appeal to me but I do now understand why some love to watch his show.

Have you watched Beck? What one thing do you like or dislike the most about his show?

Living from the Authentic You

This afternoon's post comes from Kim Allen. If you have difficulty with the word "heart" you may be a bit more comfortable substituting "innermost being" (ala John 7:38) for heart.

Without thinking about it, point to yourself.

Most of us point to the center of the chest, the area around the heart. Maybe we point to the heart rather than the head because the heart represents the core of who we are. And it's what we mean when we say: In my heart I know; I spoke from my heart; I put my heart into it. All metaphors for the 'authentic you' that transcend language and culture!

Being true to your heart is being true to yourself. A heart-focused life adds more meaning, rejuvenates the spirit and creates a greater sense of well-being. Is it any wonder we all live for the moments our hearts come alive?

A good first step is to sort through all the 'shoulds, coulds, and woulds' that can get in the way of hearing what your heart wants you to know:
  • What matters most to you?
  • What's important to you in your professional and personal life?
  • What motivates you to do what you do?
Listen and let your heart be your guide.

Edison2: The E85 Very Light and Simple Car

Here are a few clips from the writeup at the Edison2 website:

Edison2 pursues efficiency through the absolute virtues of low weight and low aerodynamic drag. Although we anticipated developing a hybrid or electric vehicle – hence our name, Edison2 – our studies on efficiency led us away from the significant added weight of batteries needed for an electric or hybrid drive to a one-cylinder, 250cc internal combustion engine fueled by E85.
Our approach to solving the United States’ energy dependence comes from looking at the big picture and not being distracted by the politically fashionable trends. A very light and aerodynamic car is more efficient than a heavier one with more drag, no matter what type of power source is used.

Letters to Juliet | ★★★★★★★

Ann and I caught this romantic comedy on DVD last night and we both enjoyed the experience. The movie is about two women, one young (played by Amanda Seyfried) and the other much older (Vanessa Redgrave stole the show), and their fears and longings around love.

It was a really sweet story that told about the timelessness and nature of love. It was a chick flick for sure and was a bit slow in places but I felt that the message and wholesomeness of the movie trumped those parts.. and the Italian scenery was absolutely stunning.

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

Sometimes "like" does not always mean like..

Got these and a few other Facebook funnies from my nephew this morning..

For those of you FB people out there - ever notice how "like" does not always indicate agreement with what someone has posted? Although I imagine Booth liked knowing the whereabouts of President Lincoln. Sometimes I click "like" just to be a part of the comment thread without having to comment. Sometimes I wish Blogger had this feature - let me know if it does. I might "like" some of your posts if it does.. not that I don't already like them.

I wonder what a real life example of a FB "like" might be? You know.. a way to keep in the loop without really having to be a part of the conversation - the proverbial fly on the wall as the closed room debate is happening.. a kind of peeping (or listening) Tom.

I think that I can relate to this kind of voyeurism. Television and movies often gives us a way to passively observe the inner goings on of people and their issues.. reality shows especially feed this weird part us.. detective shows help us to vicariously solve crimes.. and sometimes soap opera-ish shows (in both TV and cinema genres) captivate our romantic (and sometimes erotic) fantasies allowing us to passively be involved.

I think that we sometimes "like" things that are not good for us. Can you relate?

Geezer Jamboree

Saw this image on Eddie's blog today. I remember all but one of these TV shows.. don't really remember Corky.

And, when I was a kid, I was not interested in Tales of Wells Fargo or Wagon Train. I did so love Annie Oakley, Lassie, Rin-Tin-Tin, Howdy Doody, Lassie and all of those cartoon.. especially Mighty Mouse.

Are you old enough to remember any of these?

Do You Celebrate Fake Holidays?

I got an email note this weekend about the "National Day of Encouragement".. the message was from a greeting card company and included an invitation to send a free e-card to encourage someone. On the surface this seemed to be a nice thing to do until I get to their website and am inundated with advertisements and come ons. I started thinking about these "holidays" and began to wonder how many of these "days" we have on the calendar - here is a list of the US "days" for this year:
  • Jan 1 - New Year's Day
  • Jan 18 - Martin Luther King Day
  • Feb 1 - National Freedom Day 
  • Feb 14 - Chinese New Year
  • Feb 14 - Valentine's Day
  • Feb 15 - Presidents' Day
  • Feb 16 - Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras 
  • Feb 17 - Ash Wednesday
  • Mar 30 - First day of Passover 
  • Apr 2 - Good Friday
  • Apr 4 - Easter Sunday 
  • Apr 6 - Last day of Passover
  • Apr 15 - Tax Day 
  • May 1 - Law Day 
  • May 1 - Loyalty Day 
  • May 6 - National Day of Prayer
  • May 9 - Mother's Day
  • May 14 - Kansas Bob Day
  • May 15 - Armed Forces Day 
  • May 15 - Peace Officers Memorial Day 
  • May 21 - National Defense Transportation Day 
  • May 22 - National Maritime Day
  • May 31 - Memorial Day
  • Jun 20 - Father's Day
  • Jul 4 - Independence Day
  • Jul 25 - Parents' Day
  • Aug 11 - Ramadan begins
  • Aug 19 - National Aviation Day
  • Sep 6 - Labor Day
  • Sep 9 - Rosh Hashana
  • Sep 10  - End of Ramadan
  • Sep 11 - Carl Garner Federal Lands Cleanup Day 
  • Sep 11 - Patriot Day 
  • Sep 12 - National Grandparents Day
  • Sep 12 - National Day of Encouragement
  • Sep 17 - Constitution Day and Citizenship Day 
  • Sep 17 - National POW/MIA Recognition Day 
  • Sep 18 - Yom Kippur
  • Sep 19 - International Talk Like a Pirate Day
  • Sep 26 - Gold Star Mother's Day
  • Sep 29 - National Coffee Day
  • Oct 4 - Child Health Day
  • Oct 11 - Columbus Day
  • Oct 15 - White Cane Safety Day
  • Oct 31 - Halloween
  • Nov 2 - Election Day
  • Nov 11 - Veterans Day
  • Nov 25 - Thanksgiving Day
  • Dec 7 - Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 
  • Dec 17 - Pan American Aviation Day 
  • Dec 17 - Wright Brothers Day
  • Dec 24 - Christmas Eve
  • Dec 25 - Christmas Day
  • Dec 31 - New Year's Eve
I lost count - over 50 "days" on the list.. and I did not list the first days of the seasons or Daylight Savings Time. What would we do if all of those days were legitimate holidays? Methinks I would never get any snail mail.. and bank employees would be at the beach all of the time.. but KC based Hallmark Cards would have so many more opportunities to peddle their beautiful enveloped folded cardboard gems - wonder what would the card look like for "Carl Garner Federal Lands Cleanup Day"?

Did I miss your favorite "day"? Did you see the bogus "day" that I added to the list?
How many of these "days" do you consider "fake" holidays? How many do you celebrate?
How many would you expect an employer to give you time off to celebrate?

Pig in a Poke

I came across a phrase this morning and wondered about it's origins.. here it is:
Pig-in-a-poke is an idiom that refers to a confidence trick originating in the Late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce but cats were not. The scheme entailed the sale of a suckling pig in a poke (bag). The wriggling bag would actually contain a cat (not particularly prized as a source of meat) that was sold to the victim in an unopened bag. A common colloquial expression in the English language, to buy a pig in a poke is to make a risky purchase without inspecting the item beforehand. The phrase can also be applied to accepting an idea or plan without a full understanding of its basis.
Have you ever been conned in this way? Thinking that you were buying a Cadillac and getting a Chevy? Or even worse believing a lie that was just "too good to be true"? I think that most of have in our lifetimes - a 1979 oil-eating VW Rabbit comes to mind for me.. and don't ask me about that 1985 Plymouth minivan money pit.

These kinds of images cause me to ponder ways that I have been duped intellectually and emotionally. Sometimes an ideology, philosophy, or even a theology just seems too good to be true.. and usually they are. But I think what is worse is the way that delude and con ourselves. These bagged-cats seem to the be cruelest of all.. and sometimes it is years before we understand that they are not what we thought they were at all.

Can you relate? Ever been conned into buying something? Ever con yourself?

Scripture Worship

This week a pastor in Florida cancelled his plans to burn a Quran on the anniversary of the September 11 bombings. Muslims all over the world were incensed at the thought of this Christian guy burning their holy scriptures. For some strange reason it got me to thinking about a guy that I once knew in my fundie years that would not allow a book or anything else to be placed on top of his bible - he revered the bible in a way similar to Muslims.

Not so with all Christians though. While most of us revere the words written in the bible we do not actually worship the bible to the point that we are ready to raise arms when it is defaced - actually many of us write in our bibles with highlighters, pens and pencils. Last year the US military burned donated bibles in Afghanistan because the Afghan government, and our military, did not want Christian soldiers giving them out. From what I remember the event did not cause a stir amongst Christians.

Four years ago I offered these thoughts on Bibliolatry from Michael Spencer, the recently deceased Internet Monk:
What I heard as a young man was Bibliolatry. It’s a word that conservatives hate to hear, but we must hear it. The Bible is ours for dozens of good, God-inspired, Christ-exalting reasons. But we can exalt the Bible in the wrong way. We can go too far.
My “turning point” helped me to find the Bible as the Word that presents the Living Word, God’s mediator, given for us and for our salvation: Jesus Christ. I learned to listen for the difference between Jesus Christ and Holy Scripture, and to not equate God and His written word in ways that abuse both God and those who love scripture.
My friend John and I have had many discussions over the term "bibliolatry" in part because John is offended by the term. It is not my point here to enter into a debate about the word but to rather say that religious people can be easily offended by the way that their scripture is being treated. The recent reactions to the Quran burnings is just one example of this.

Sometimes our views of our holy writings can create a bit of a sensitive edge in us. And sometimes it doesn't take much to offend us. And if you are wondering about my view of scripture - here it is - I doubt that it will surprise many of you.

How about you? Did it offend you when the military burned bibles last year? Did the reactions of some to the Quran burning threat surprise you?

More than the Skyline changed..

This image hangs framed in my dining area. One of the sweetest memories I have growing up in New York City is the view of the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. Growing up, I lived on Staten Island and, for a few years, went to Brooklyn Technical High School, a magnet type of engineering school. I have vivid memories of seeing Lady Liberty as I traveled to school each day (I took a bus, ferry and subway) and think that she represents some of the best things about America.

Today we remember those who died on this day nine years ago. The New York skyline changed that day and the view from Liberty Island is different. Yet a change even deeper happened in New York City and America that day. Since that day our country has been different. More than the skyline changed that day.

My hope today is that we would once again remember the words engraved on the base of Lady Liberty.. these are the words from a poem by Emma Lazarus that are written there:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

My hope is that our nation will continue to reflect the words and essence of that poem.

10 Surprising Things

Sue, my Daily Prayer blogging partner, tagged me yesterday and asked me to share ten surprising things about Bob. I hesitate to list these as I am a pretty boring person but in the spirit of Friday fun I give you my list:
  1. I was a little guy growing up and was bullied a bit.
  2. I love to shoot pool - been doing it for 50 years.
  3. I managed a Nike missile launching site before I turned 21.
  4. I took a bus, ferry boat and subway to high school.
  5. I was a radical member of a New York labor union.
  6. My first wife was healed of blindness in a church.
  7. I smuggled bibles into China in 1987.
  8. I regularly spoke extemporaneously in church in my thirties.
  9. I left a software career to help pastor a church.
  10. I recently left the suburbs to live in a downtown KC loft.
Not sure who among you would like to be tagged so I will tag everyone. Feel free to list one or more things about you that might surprise me in the comments. Or accept the tag and post something at your place and let me know if you do. And have a Happy Friday!!

100 ways to do it wrong..

This image speaks to me about failure. Maybe it is because of those days when I loved to play Minesweeper. Or maybe it is because I resonate with failing even when I have given my all and worked harder than I ever have. Sometimes failure is simply is not a failing. Sometimes we have to fail, and fail hard, to re-imagine what success looks like. Here are a few folks who seemed to know something about failure.

I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." -Thomas Alva Edison

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” - Colin Powell

"A man can fail many times, but he isn't a failure until he begins to blame somebody else." - John Burroughs

"A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing." - George Bernard Shaw

"The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure." - Sven Goran Eriksson

"My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet." - Mahatma Gandhi

"I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong." - Ben Franklin

"Failure is a detour, not a dead-end street." - Zig Ziglar

The One World Illusion

Last month Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a former member of the Dutch parliament, and author of "Nomad: From Islam to America—A Personal Journey through the Clash of Civilizations," wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal titled How to Win the Clash of Civilizations. In the article Ms Ali describes the clash in this fashion:
What do the controversies around the proposed mosque near Ground Zero, the eviction of American missionaries from Morocco earlier this year, the minaret ban in Switzerland last year, and the recent burka ban in France have in common? All four are framed in the Western media as issues of religious tolerance. But that is not their essence. Fundamentally, they are all symptoms of what the late Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington called the "Clash of Civilizations," particularly the clash between Islam and the West.

Huntington's argument is worth summarizing briefly for those who now only remember his striking title. The essential building block of the post-Cold War world, he wrote, are seven or eight historical civilizations of which the Western, the Muslim and the Confucian are the most important.

The balance of power among these civilizations, he argued, is shifting. The West is declining in relative power, Islam is exploding demographically, and Asian civilizations—especially China—are economically ascendant. Huntington also said that a civilization-based world order is emerging in which states that share cultural affinities will cooperate with each other and group themselves around the leading states of their civilization.
Ms Ali goes on to speak of the current world situation:
President Obama, in his own way, is a One Worlder. In his 2009 Cairo speech, he called for a new era of understanding between America and the Muslim world. It would be a world based on "mutual respect, and . . . upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles."

The president's hope was that moderate Muslims would eagerly accept this invitation to be friends. The extremist minority—nonstate actors like al Qaeda—could then be picked off with drones.

Of course, this hasn't gone according to plan. And a perfect illustration of the futility of this approach, and the superiority of the Huntingtonian model, is the recent behavior of Turkey.

According to the One World view, Turkey is an island of Muslim moderation in a sea of extremism. Successive American presidents have urged the EU to accept Turkey as a member on this assumption. But the illusion of Turkey as the West's moderate friend in the Muslim world has been shattered.
I encourage you to read the whole article where Ms Ali describes the West's failed perception of Turkey and how "moderate" Turkey has allied itself with more extremist Muslim nations. Here is the way that she ends the piece:
Our civilization is not indestructible: It needs to be actively defended. This was perhaps Huntington's most important insight. The first step towards winning this clash of civilizations is to understand how the other side is waging it—and to rid ourselves of the One World illusion.
That phrase "One World illusion" caught my attention. For much of my early religious life I heard a lot from fundamentalist pulpits about the evils of the Babylonian "One World Order", that some see described in the biblical book of Revelation. This article and the general cultural patterns I see these days make we wonder if this "One World" interpretation is based on anything substantial or if it is more based on a Western dominated paradigm of the world.

For years I have been aware that there are distinctions in Eastern and Western thought and their approach to the world. The addition of Islam as a third approach is an interesting one because of it's influences on both Eastern and Western civilization. We do seem to be witnessing somewhat of a clash of civilizations these days that speaks to the illusion of a planet united under some sort of new world order

How do you see this phenomenon? Will we one day witness a one world civilization?

An Illegal Immigration Perspective

Cartoonist Daryl Cagle took a lot of heat for this image of the Mexican Flag. Here is a clip from from yesterday's post on his weblog:
I’ve had a crazy week since I drew a cartoon of the Mexican flag, with the eagle shot dead by a stream of machine gun bullets. The cartoon illustrates the terrible violence in Mexico. Since President Felipe Calderón announced his war on the drug cartels, over 28,000 people have been killed in a civil war that shows no sign of easing. I got a spirited, angry reaction on my blog and in e-mails from Mexican readers who objected to my “desecration of the sacred Mexican flag.”

My cartoon appeared at the same time as Calderón‘s state of the union address to Mexico’s Congress in which Calderón claimed to be making progress in the worsening drug war. Mexico’s conservative, national newspaper Reforma, and other papers in their chain, published my cartoon at the top of their front pages. The convenient timing of my cartoon “scandal” was an opportunity for Reforma to make an effective front page dig at Calderón, and soon the cartoon was picked up by almost all of the other Mexican newspapers.
In light of all of the issues around illegal immigration I thought that it my be interesting to discuss something happening on the other side of the border. I sometimes wonder if the real issues around illegal immigration has more to do with Mexico than it does the United States. I am pretty sure that, if I lived in Mexico, I would be wanting to live somewhere else. And the contrast between our government and theirs.. the level of corruption there and here.. gives significant explanation for the one-way immigration phenomena.

Labor Day Intercession

Sometimes an image like this simply snaps you back to reality. Words escape me when I think about friends like Jim, Clark, Gary, Gregg, Bill and so many others who are out of work this Labor Day.

In light of the day I will simply pray asking God to open doors of employment to those I know and those I do not. Please take a minute and intercede for those seeking jobs.

The L.E.A.D. Mantra

This image from my blog-friend Alex reminded me of a mantra that I embraced back in the late 1980s. I discovered it when meeting with Sherry, my manager and mentor. We were discussing an upcoming meeting and she told me that this was a session where we would have to leave our egos at the door. Now I am positive that Sherry was saying this for my benefit.. I had a huge ego back then (not that it is so small these days) and I needed to be reminded that I have two ears and only one mouth. Sherry on the other hand seemed to exemplify a leader who had their ego in check - I learned a lot about leadership from her.

As a result of that session I began to formulate a bit of a mantra.. it went like this: To L.E.A.D I need to Leave Ego At Door. I imagine that I seldom achieved that goal.. not sure that I really understood humility back then.. but the sentiment is a good one. Ego can be a healthy part of leadership.. it will bring a bit of positive motivation and an orientation toward goals. On the flip-side ego can take a leader to some pretty dark places where the motivating focus of life and career is self. When interacting with others it is always a good idea to leave your ego at the door.. especially when you want to lead.

I think that the things that have most helped me conquer my ego have been my failures - both in life and in career. In these things I have found humility (sometimes humiliation) and have been able to see myself through different eyes. It seems like the difficult parts of my life have most helped me to understand what it means to humble myself. In a sense humility is not an option in life - you either humble yourself or you are eventually humbled.. and often that humbling feels a bit like humiliation.

How about you? Any stories to share about the influences of ego on your life?

Stephen Hawking's Spontaneous Creation

The Twitterverse is all abuzz these days with chatter about Stephen Hawking and his new book in which he purports that the universe came to be apart from divine creation. Here is a short clip from his book as presented in a Wall Street Journal article titled Why God Did Not Create the Universe:
Many people would like us to use these coincidences as evidence of the work of God. The idea that the universe was designed to accommodate mankind appears in theologies and mythologies dating from thousands of years ago. In Western culture the Old Testament contains the idea of providential design, but the traditional Christian viewpoint was also greatly influenced by Aristotle, who believed "in an intelligent natural world that functions according to some deliberate design."

That is not the answer of modern science. As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.
Now I am not, as they say, a "rocket scientist" and do not possess the brain power of Professor Hawking.. but I do think that when someone uses a term like "spontaneous creation" they are in effect saying that they do not know how the universe was created. Sad that such drivel gets passed off as science.

Really, does Mr Hawking actually believe that the invisible aspects of the universe like love, hope, and other human connectedness came without divine influence? Can the transcendent nature of man accompanied by self-identity be explained away by some silly "scientific" drivel? Are humans merely a higher evolved level of animal?

Give me a break!

Sad that such postulation gets passed off as science. And if one considers that everything that is came into being in an instant of time why not even consider.. I mean even for an instant ponder.. the notion that God, who exists outside of time, created all that is visible and invisible.. and He created humans unique and apart from everything else.

In a sense God is the only rational explanation for the universe. Now I know that saying God created all things might seem a bit narrow minded but I believe that for some it is not possible for such an idea to be considered because their thinking is too dogmatically narrow. And that narrowness is often passed of as science. Give me a break.

Seinfeld on Smart Phones

Can you resonate with what Jerry is saying in this 88 second video? Have you been around people with smart phones who act like this? I like my Palm Pre smart phone but do find that I like the "smart" aspect better than the "phone" part.. it has several apps that I really like.. and the web browser is really great.. but answering a phone call is really a terrible experience. And my eyes are definitely not dilated most of the time.. at least I don't think they are. Do you have a smart phone? If so what do you like/hate most about it?

Imagination Starts Here!

Color me inspired. Folks who paint with their mouths like Jack Reich (left) wow me.

For further wowing and to read a bit about Jack please check out Jack's website.. appropriately the site is titled Imagination Starts Here.

Jury Duty Story

Is this cartoon a hoot or what? I think that it so represents the attitudes and thinkings that people bring to the jury box. With all of the legal drama stories on TV and Film I think that people bring a very wide diversity of opinions to the courtroom when they show up for jury duty. I guess that is why the lawyers sometimes take a long time to select a jury.

My Facebook friend Bill is waiting today to be picked for a Jury out in Bakersfield, California. It reminded me of the one and only time that I have been selected to actually serve on a jury. Here is my memory of my week of service in a courtroom in downtown Houston in the spring of 1976:
Jury duty started on Monday and by Tuesday we were empaneled in the courtroom where we sat hearing the evidence for a few days. From what I remember the case was about a guy that was hit by a truck owned by a fairly large company - don't ask me who they were.. don't remember. If recollection serves me right the company's insurance company did not want to pay as they felt the truck driver was not at fault.

The courtroom part was over on Wednesday and we were released to the jurors' room on Thursday morning where we began to discuss the merits of the case. From what I remember at least 11 of the 12 of us had to agree on the verdict.. one person could not hang the jury. Pretty quickly 10 had come to the decision that the truck driver was not at fault - I and one other person did not agree with the rest and would not be convinced other wise.. it is the way that we left the courthouse late Thursday.

Friday morning seemed a bit different.. jurors started saying things like "I can't get off work next week" or "My company isn't paying me for this" - and an odd shift of opinion began to occur.. by early Friday afternoon I watched all but one juror change their opinion about who was at fault in the accident. It was a very weird turn of events. By Friday afternoon we had decided against the trucker's company and we were dismissed by the judge. And no one had to come back on Monday.
I wonder how many trials are decided this way. Surely criminal cases are not. But I do wonder how many decisions by juries are rushed because of the schedules and priorities of the jurors. I know it shouldn't be that way but people can be pretty pragmatic.

Have you ever served on a jury? What are your recollections? Any lessons learned?

Funny Cars

These images from ZDNet put a smile on my face this afternoon.

Can you imagine riding in around in that chicken mobile?

Anyone have a clue about how an old guy like me would get into those bottom two cars?

What do you figure it cost to make these special mods?

Makes me remember some of those other funny cars like The General Lee, The Love Bug and The KITT Car.

Any other funny cars come to mind?

Remembering Jill

Last night heaven became a bit more glorious. My cyber-friend Jill Hollis passed away and suffers no more from ALS. Jill is free of her wheelchair and now walks and runs on the streets of heaven. To commemorate her passing I thought that I would offer a few brief thoughts about a woman that I only knew through her blog writings and a few email messages that we exchanged.

Jill was one of the most inspirational people that I have ever had the privilege and pleasure of meeting in cyberspace. Her joy in the midst of suffering sometimes overwhelmed me. Her overcoming attitude at times humbled me. While experiencing excruciating pain Jill would often write about other people.. her love and care for her family and friends was so exemplary. To give you a sense of her spirit I offer you this excerpt from her blog:
My greatest fear is not death; my greatest fear is that I will live a long time like this. My faith continues to sustain me, but it’s changed. I’ve gone from a “woo hoo” kind of faith to a deeper and more intense one. Cliff and I both strongly believe that our testimony in all of this is that you can love God (we do) and not like what you’re going through (we don’t).
Every time I visited Jill's blog I came away inspired. Her courage, genuineness and transparency were so convicting. She never sugarcoated her pain but so reflected the glory of Christ as she walked through it. Jill's life so honored God. I was blessed to be her friend.

Please remember Jill's husband Cliff and her children Megan and Joel in your prayers.