Sanity is in the Eye of the Beholder

On Saturday Jon Stewart ended his rally speech with this sentiment:
Sanity will always be and has always been in the eye of the beholder.
It reminds me of the diverse things that people have said about sanity and insanity:

Sanity is a cozy lie. -Susan Sontag

Perhaps a lunatic was simply a minority of one. -George Orwell

In all matters of opinion, our adversaries are insane. -Oscar Wilde

The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.” -Bruce Feirstein

No man is sane who does not know how to be insane on the proper occasions. -Henry Ward Beecher

“Insanity in individuals is something rare, but in groups, parties, nations and epochs it is the rule. -Friedrich Nietzsche

Sanity is a madness put to good use. -George Santayana

Too much sanity may be madness. -Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

One of the definitions of sanity is the ability to tell real from unreal. Soon we'll need a new definition. -Alvin Toffler

Wearing Masks but not the Halloween Variety

It is sometimes said that we all wear masks of one sort or another. To get past the initial protective layer and really get to know someone often takes a long time. And sometimes we really never do get a peek at the things that are under a person's mask. Consider these excerpts from an article titled The Masks We Wear:
All are us have a variety of masks that each of us wears daily. These may be the identities that have been given to us, or ones that we have assumed over time.

As long as we recognize that what we wear is a mask we all are right. But when the mask becomes the seeming reality for us, then our troubles begin. We confuse the mask with the person, and if we are consummate enough actors, so do those around us. Gradually the mask becomes a trap, and we become the mask (as the performers did in the ancient Greek plays who would utter their lines while holding a mask in front of their faces).
What do I mean by wearing such a mask? Let's say you have a job in which you don't care for your boss at all, but you still need the job and want to keep it. Whenever the boss comes around you will be polite, probably smile, and say the proper things that you know your boss wants to hear. You are wearing a mask: the mask of the compliant worker.
We may also wear masks for our spouses; children; relatives. We may wear numerous masks within the course of a single day. And yet where is the real us? It is very easy to get lost amid a closet-full of masks.
The idea of confusing the mask with the person is an intriguing one. I think that many of us have had an experience where we thought that we knew someone and discovered by something they said or did that we did not know them very well. And I think that some of us are afraid of anyone really knowing "the real us". So we embrace the mask.

I liked the reference to the Greek performers. I was recently reminded that the root meaning of the word hypocrite embodied the idea of a person acting out a role. I think that many of us simply act in ways that we think people want us to act. In a sense we wear the masks that we think people want us to wear. It is interesting to note that people do not actually want us to wear masks but that we simply think they do. I think that most of us do not want people to wear masks. Most of us really want people to be themselves and not act a role.

When I think of taking off these sorts of masks I do not think it is as simply as removing a mask held in place by adhesive. I liken it more to a mime or a clown removing the makeup that comprises the mask. In a sense the mask has to be taken off in layers and sometimes a cleansing agent is required. Being the real you sometimes takes a lot of effort and time.

Halloween Manipulation

This funny Shoebox cartoon reminds of how people will tell you anything to maniplulate you into doing what they want you to do.

And, as the cartoon indicates, the results are never what you expect them to be and are often just bad experiences.

Ever had an experience like this? Ever been manipulated into doing something you knew you shouldn't do?

Halloween Costumes at Work?

Last night the folks at The Office (TV show) all wore costumes. For the record I have never dressed up for Halloween at work.. but I have enjoyed it when others donned costumes. One of my favorites was when a fellow coworker dressed up as Dilbert. Heard this morning that sales dollars from the adult Halloween costume industry rivals kids' costumes.

I do not remember seeing adults in costume when I was growing up. I cannot even imagine my mom or dad celebrating Halloween that way. Back then we never.. I mean never.. bought our costumes. I can remember trick or treating as a hobo one year and a cowboy (using my toy guns) another year. And I think I remember once seeing a mom answering the door in a witches hat.

What did you wear when you trick or treated? Does your office support wearing costumes?

It ain't your Grandma's Drug Store..

Ever go into one of those chain Rx stores and see milk, eggs, gadgets and other things you don't need an Rx for? Walgreens (online anyway) is now selling a 7" touch-screen Android Tablet for just $100. I haven't bought much non-Rx there. What is the strangest thing you have purchased at one of these places?

Temple Grandin | ★★★★★★★★★★

I do not know if I have ever been so moved by a movie as I was in watching actress Claire Danes beautifully portray Temple Grandin. This made for TV movie might be the most inspirational one that I will ever see.

Dr Temple Grandin inspires hope in all of us. The story tells us of her battle with autism and how she amazed everyone she met - even those who made fun of her. Temple amazed me at every turn. Her genius thrilled me. Her ability to explain autism to us is amazing. In scene after scene Temple presents a picture of how each of us can turn our fears inside out.

I highly highly recommend this movie and, on a scale of ten, I give Temple Grandin ★★★★★★★★★★.

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

Ranked Choice Voting

Julie, my blogging and Facebook friend, posted this article about a different way of voting and electing. Here is a clip from it:
A simple election reform, the adoption of Ranked Choice Voting, could open up the process and allow for real choices in states across the country. Under Ranked Choice, voters don't just tick the name of one candidate and walk away. They rank the various candidates—first choice, second, third, fourth and so on. If their first choice finishes out of the running, their vote is reassigned to their second choice.
I find this voting methodology to be compelling. Applying it in hindsight might have altered the outcome of close elections. The 1992 presidential election might have gone a different way if Ross Perot's votes could have been counted by Bush. And you have to wonder how Ralph Nader's votes would have affected the outcome of the 2000 Bush v Gore contest.

Looking back, I can remember several times when there was a compelling third party candidate but voters cast ballots for a Democrat or a Republican because they did not want to "throw away their vote". I think that this system of "Ranked Choice" voting could address these situations and possibly better express the "will of the people".

What do you think? Could this kind of system work? Would you endorse it?

Taliban Blogging

About once a week I hear a TV "journalist" speak of the ill influences of the "bloggers". Just hearing the word blogger on TV gets my attention. Most of our local TV stations all have blogs - even if they just discuss the weather. Yet a few of these "professionals" do seem to have an axe to grind when it comes to people who do not get paid to blog.

This morning my curiosity got the best of me when this title showed up in my Google Reader: Catholic bloggers aim to purge dissenters. Here are a few tidbits:
A new breed of theological conservatives has taken to blogs and YouTube to say the church isn't Catholic enough. Enraged by dissent that they believe has gone unchecked for decades, and unafraid to say so in the starkest language, these activists are naming names and unsettling the church.
"We're no more engaged in a witch hunt than a doctor excising a cancer is engaged in a witch hunt," said Michael Voris of and St. Michael's Media. "We're just shining a spotlight on people who are Catholics who do not live the faith."
John Allen, Vatican analyst for the National Catholic Reporter, has dubbed this trend "Taliban Catholicism."
That phrase, "Taliban Catholicism" caught my attention. I wondered what would motivate a person to use that terminology. Why would someone use such a pejorative term in describing people who do not agree with them? Then I reread it and realized that the person works for a newspaper. Small wonder that a person working for a dying medium would be threatened by bloggers. In my opinion blogging has changed the game.

And for those folks who object and say that blogging is just a source of misinformation and confusion, I counter and say that people are a lot smarter than the news folks give us credit for. Too long have the professionals looked down their noses at the people they write for. We are not unintelligent. We understand the biases you bring to your reporting.

And to clarify, bloggers are not journalists - we do not want to be. We are often opinion writers. We are folks who actually entertain feedback and dialog about what we write.

So I am wondering? Have you heard anyone on TV or radio speaking ill of "the bloggers"?

Memory Stick Miracle

Sometimes people surprise us. Sometimes even thieves do the unexpected. Consider this from a report titled Swedish professor rejoices over laptop thief's memory stick miracle:
The professor, who wished to remain anonymous, is one of the most successful in his field, according to the newspaper.

Having recently had surgery, the professor could not be bothered to drop off his backpack in his apartment before first going to the laundry room.

He instead left the bag behind a door in the stairwell, thinking it would be safe for a few minutes.

But when he returned a short time later, the bag was missing, along with the computer, keys, calendar and other documents inside.

The professor was most upset by the loss of his calendar.

"It is my life. I have documented everything in it that has happened in the last 10 years and beyond," he told the newspaper.

He then called the police to report the incident and blocked the credit cards which were also in the bag.

But when he went down to the stairwell a short time later, he couldn't believe his eyes.

"The backpack was there again. With all the papers, calendar and credit cards. It was just the computer that was missing," he explained.
Now if this isn't an amazing turn of events in itself consider this:
About a week after the theft, the professor returned home to find an envelope containing a USB memory stick which had been taken along with the computer.

The professor was shocked to discover the thief had copied all the documents and personal files from his laptop to the memory storage device, a process which likely took hours.
I do wonder what motive the thief had for stealing the professor's computer? And what would cause him to risk returning the backpack to the scene of the crime? And why would he further risk capture by delivering the memory stick to the professor's apartment?

Puzzling questions. Anyone care to offer an answer? I am simply stumped.

Peter Paul Accounting

This cartoon reminds me of the financial juggling acts that get so many folks in trouble. Here is a bit of history on the saying:

The expression refers to times before the Reformation when Church taxes had to be paid to St. Paul's church in London and to St. Peter's church in Rome; originally it referred to neglecting the Peter tax in order to have money to pay the Paul tax.

My thinking is that the core issue is debt. The fewer Pauls that you owe will probably result in fewer Peters that you will rob.

What is this cartoon saying?

ASBO Jesus is a funny blog. I think that his cartoons communicate on many levels. So I am wondering what different messages do you think he is communicating in the above cartoon?

Money Versus Wealth

I stole the title of this post from an old (1997) Yes Magazine article that my friend Dan recommend to me this morning as we enjoyed some coffee (actually Dan had hot tea), food and conversation. Here are a few excerpts from the article:
... money is not wealth. Wealth is something that has real value in meeting our needs and fulfilling our wants. Modern money is only a number on a piece of paper or an electronic trace in a computer that by social convention gives its holder a claimon real wealth. In our confusion we concentrate on the money to the neglect of those things that actually sustain a good life.
It is striking how difficult our very language makes it to express the critical difference between money and real wealth. Picture yourself alone on a desert island with nothing to sustain yourself but a large trunk filled with bundles of hundred dollar bills. The point becomes immediately clear.

During a visit to Malaysia some years ago I met the minister responsible for forestry. In explaining Malaysia's forestry policy he observed that the country would be better off once its forests were cleared away and the money from the sale was stashed in banks earning interest. The financial returns would be greater. The image flashed through my mind of a barren and lifeless world populated only by banks with their computers faithfully and endlessly compounding the interest on the profits from timber sales.
I recommend the whole article to you. You can read it here. A few points worth repeating:
  • Wealth, unlike money, has real value in meeting our real needs. I think that wealth is so much more than an accumulation of things. Actually, people who have very little money often have a lot of the things that money simply cannot buy - like love, peace and happiness.
  • Wealth is not found in banks but in every day life. The richness of friendships and fellowship are a part of real wealth. Enjoying my time with Dan this morning is a simple yet profound example of the richness that we can bring each other when we listen to and really hear another human being.
Can't Buy Me Love was the title of a 60s Beatles song and an 80s teen flick. The title hints a bit at this tension between money and real wealth and the idea that the best things in life are free. As I reflect on my life I certainly endorse that idea. I feel that I have been blessed with this kind of wealth that money cannot buy and robbers cannot steal.

How about you? How do you define wealth? Are you a wealthy person?

Robin Hood | ★★★★★★★

I liked this movie but was surprised that it was a prequel to the legend and every other movie bearing the same name. It was no surprise that Russell Crowe played the lead in somewhat of a Gladiatorish manner.

I thought that the story gave a bit of historicity to the tale - it told the story of how Robin went from serving in King Richard's Crusade to becoming an enemy of King John. Cate Blanchett played well off Crowe as Marian. I liked the way that Ridley Scott painted a tale of a warrior who became a man of conscience. He did a good job in contrasting good, evil and the abuse of power.

I recommend it to anyone who liked Gladiator or Braveheart. On a scale of 10, I give it ★★★★★★★

Voting against the Person but for the Principle?

This election season seems a bit different to me. The idealism that seemed to permeate this season just two years ago seems to be gone. Messages of hope and can do politics are no where to be found. All we seem to hear is mud-slinging and ad-attacks. Many of these ads insult my intelligence. About this season of votes and elections, WC Fields once commented:
"I never vote for anyone; I always vote against."
Sadly, I find myself in this strange place of not feeling great about either senatorial candidate in Missouri. They both are seasoned (read that career) politicians who have been spraying slop on each other in their TV ads for months. Most of the folks I talk to here in KC are pretty sick of it. So I wonder if I will vote for the proverbial lesser of two evils in this race.. hmmm.. even though WC might approve, I have never liked voting that way. Times like these remind me of what President John Quincy Adams once said:
“Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost.”
So I am wondering if I can vote against a person and still vote for principle. I think that I can. I think that voting against a senator that is at odds with my principles is probably a good thing.. even when I am not thrilled about the person that I would be voting for. Maybe voting for principle doesn't always mean voting for a candidate you like? Maybe this is the way that many people vote these days. I guess we will have to wait a few weeks to see how it goes?

Tom Bosley, 1927-2010

It is hard to think about Happy Days, Murder She Wrote or Father Dowling Mysteries and not remember what a great character actor Tom Bosley was. I have great memories of watching him in all of those shows.

Please join me in remembering his family and friends in prayer. Also join me in praying for a cure for cancer.

Driverless Google Cars

Anybody concerned about these cars rolling around their streets? Here is the Google blurb:
Our automated cars use video cameras, radar sensors and a laser range finder to “see” other traffic, as well as detailed maps (which we collect using manually driven vehicles) to navigate the road ahead. This is all made possible by Google’s data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain.
I think that the jury is out on this one for me. What do you think about cars without drivers?

Why Geeks Hate IE

Last December I downloaded the Google Chrome browser, along with a boatload of extensions, just to check it out and go back to using Firefox.. within a day I switched and Chrome has been my default browser ever since. I find Chrome to be much faster and the extensions do everything I need.

I have not used IE for a long time so I was interested in the How-To-Geek's recent post titled Why Do So Many Geeks Hate Internet Explorer? Here are a few of his points:
  • Microsoft Stopped Trying: By the time Microsoft released Internet Explorer 6 in 2001, complete with lots of new features for web developers, since there was no competition and they had a 95% market share, Microsoft just stopped trying—seriously, they did nothing for 5 years even after Firefox was released and geeks started migrating left and right
  • Microsoft-Specific Features: The whole problem with Microsoft’s innovation is that much of it was done in ways that didn’t follow the web standards—this wasn’t as big of a problem when Internet Explorer was the only game in town, but once Firefox and Webkit came around and started following the standards correctly, suddenly it became a huge problem for web developers.
  • Security Holes and Crashing: Since Microsoft decided they didn’t need to try anymore, and they didn’t keep up with the competition from Firefox and other browsers, bugs and security holes just cropped up left and right—really terrible ones, too.
The geek ends by saying that he thinks that IE9 will bring Microsoft back into the  browser game. I am not so sure it will - for me anyways. I am happy using Chrome.

Life as a River

This picture is one that I took from my deck a while back. If you look close you can see the Missouri River flowing by. This afternoon I am writing from my wife Ann's hospital room as droplets of chemo drip into her veins. Sometimes these things stress me out but today I am thinking about this interesting quote that I read this morning credited to a fictional character named Wayne Malloy:

    "Life is like a river, kid. You gotta go where it takes you."

It reminds me so much of that time almost 8 years ago when my world was falling apart as Ann lay paralyzed from the waist down in our cruise ship on the Caribbean. I was totally stressed and in the middle of crisis when God began to quietly speak to me about flowing with Him in life and not trying to control my life. As I sit here I am once again reminded that my life is not a project to be managed but a journey to be traveled. An adventure to be experienced. And along the way I see God at work when I open my inner eyes to his activity.

Barbara Billingsley, 1914-2010

These images speak to me. I grew up on "Leave it to Beaver" and have such fond memories of the show and of Barbara Billingsley. The show represented a different time in the world.. a bit more innocent I think.

Today I remember Barbara's legacy and ask God to comfort her friends and family.

Survey Says!

This image reminds me about how silly surveys and polls can be. Actually the word "survey" reminds me of Richard Dawson shouting "survey says" on the "Family Feud" TV game show - some of the survey answers were surprising.

I think that it could be said that you can prove anything with one of these vehicles. Politicians cite them when they are in agreement with their actions. Pundits use polls to predict the outcomes of elections - seems like I see a different one each day on TV during this campaign season. And I think the temptation for folks in leadership is to take polls and surveys to heart and follow the polls instead of their deeply held convictions.

I think that we all wrestle with what other people think of us and what we do. Sad to say that many of us are people pleasers. It almost seems like a good thing at times. Yet I think that walking this path will lead to dark places.. being a people pleaser has led me to dark places.

Years ago so much of my life was consumed with keeping up the appearance of a spiritual man. Sadly, I spent years playing the role that I thought people wanted me to play. I think that I did it to be accepted and, in doing so, I kowtowed to the court of public opinion. I was not too much different than some of the politicians who do similar things.

My life changed when I began to live from my heart instead of my brain. The brain sees what is needed.. what people are expecting.. and does everything needed to meet those skewed needs. The heart is not preoccupied with such things.. it cuts through all of the rationalizations and embraces a wisdom about how we should live.

I guess my message for this Sunday morning is don't listen to the polls. Stop reading the surveys. Reject the rationalizations and embrace the wisdom that God has deposited deep within you. And if you are lacking wisdom simply ask for it. For me that wisdom came when God captured me and gave me a new heart. I pray this for you today.

Under-promise and Over-deliver

Integrity is such an overused word - especially in religious circles. I like this image - it communicates to me how integrity can act like a compass in our lives. Following the direction of this compass always seems like a good idea. I loved how this statement from Kim Allen caught my attention in her recent article on integrity:
Enduring sales people know it's much smarter to under-promise and over-deliver. Being the best doesn't come from the hype. Rather, it's borne out of the ability to offer genuine care and service and to satisfy, on a sustainable basis, those who come to trust and rely on who we are and what we do.
I think that people take notice of both kinds of people - the ones mention above and  those who over-promise and under-deliver. It seems a rarity these days to find a person that you can take at their word. I think that some folks are really sincere in what they say and promise but simply lack the ability to follow through on their commitments. Did I say commitment? I must have meant good intentions.

The Generic Promise

These days there is a place on my doctor's prescription pad to indicate that a generic can be substituted for the real deal. And if one is available I usually get the generic. This is also true of over the counter drugs - I usually buy the generic brands as well.

Even technology has generics. Consider the generic iPed pictured above along side of an iPad - the iPed sells for about one sixth of the price of an iPad. Guess that is the point - we buy generics because of the promise of similar quality for a fraction of the price. But I think that you have to be careful with these promises - pretty obvious from this picture which is the more expensive iPad. In case you can't tell, the one on the left is the iPed.

Of course it is probably unfair to say that an iPed is a "generic" iPad as they are most likely manufactured to different specifications. Knock-off is probably a better term. Sometimes knock-offs come with promises like generics but often they are just cheap imitations that bear little resemblance to the original product. I think that mostly you really get what you pay for in this area. But probably not so with generic drugs - I think?!

What has been your experience with generics? Do they deliver on their promises?

Bore Holes for Malawi

Today is Blog Action Day 2010 and the focus is on Water. Here is a blurb from their site:
Right now, almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water. That’s one in eight of us who are subject to preventable disease and even death because of something that many of us take for granted.

Access to clean water is not just a human rights issue. It’s an environmental issue. An animal welfare issue. A sustainability issue. Water is a global issue, and it affects all of us.
My brief post this morning on the subject is from Adam Hamilton, the senior pastor of the church I attend. Adam visited the Republic of Malawi in southeast Africa in August and told about the plight of folks there to find clean drinking water. Following are a few photos that he took and some things he shared with us.
"I'm writing this e-mail from Lilongwe, Malawi. As you read this I am traveling with my family and a team from Resurrection to several villages an hour north of the Lilongwe. We're meeting with church and community leaders as we consider what God may be calling us to do in mission in Malawi for the coming year."
The women of this village walk 15 minutes with buckets to retrieve drinking and cooking water from this stream - the water is unsafe to drink and makes the children sick. The hope of this village is for a "bore hole" - a well with safe drinking water like this one (below) that serves as many as 7,000 people from the surrounding area.
"There are villages here where the women awake at 3:00 am to begin the walk with their 5 gallon buckets to where there is safe, clean drinking water for their family. The wells (they call them "bore holes") cost roughly $8,000 to drill. We'll look at sites where they hope we might consider helping the churches to provide wells and water for their villages."
Adam has shared more about this need at church and it looks like the church will be partnering with churches in Malawi to build water wells. It blows me away how so much of humanity has to drink unhealthy water. I pray that efforts to bring these "bore holes" to Malawi and other places will have much success.

Cosby does Groucho

Growing up I watched Groucho Marx doing a game show called "You Bet Your Life". This two part video of Bill Cosby doing a new version of the show had me literally laughing out loud.


The video reminds me a bit of the hilarious Abbot and Costello "Who's on First" routine.

Low Flow Regulators

So I bought this Waterpik shower head (pictured) a few days ago and didn't think it offered much in the way of water pressure. Then I read the instructions.. hey.. it only took a few days.. and found that it came with a low flow regulator washer. Once I removed that little rascal I experienced a great high pressure shower. I still have a low flow regulator though - some call it a faucet.

Have you ever struggled with flow issues?  Ever have issues with flowing with life and the people around you. I wonder if we sometimes need to simply remove those things that seem to constrain our flow of life? I find that things like legalism can restrict our life flow. Often our life flow can be inhibited by the judgmentalism of other people.. and sometimes by our own judgmentalism. I think that fear, shame, blame, hate and all sorts of phobias can limit the way we live and keep us from living life to the fullest.

Unlike the low flow washer in my shower head it is sometimes not so simple to remove these regulators from our lives. Have you ever struggled with life flow regulators? Any thoughts?


“Sometimes thinking too much can destroy your momentum.” -Tom Watson

“The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.” -Frances E. Willard

“If you have the guts to keep making mistakes, your wisdom and intelligence leap forward with huge momentum.”
-Holly Near

“Momentum? Momentum is the next day's starting pitcher.” -Earl Weaver

“If you're coasting, you're either losing momentum or else you're headed downhill.”
-Joan Welsh

“If your position is everywhere, your momentum is zero.” -William N. Lipscomb, Jr.

“A republican government is slow to move, yet when once in motion, its momentum becomes irresistible” -Thomas Jefferson

“Most of life is routine - dull and grubby, but routine is the momentum that keeps a man going. If you wait for inspiration you'll be standing on the corner after the parade is a mile down the street.” -Ben Nicholas

“To have no heroes is to have no aspiration, to live on the momentum of the past, to be thrown back upon routine, sensuality, and the narrow self.” -Charles Horton Cooley

“When you're that successful, things have a momentum, and at a certain point you can't really tell whether you have created the momentum or it's creating you.” -Annie Lennox


Just for fun! Which one of these nine people have not won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.. the other eight people have won all of the awards.
  • Julie Andrews
  • Mel Brooks
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Helen Hayes
  • Audrey Hepburn
  • Rita Moreno
  • Mike Nichols
  • Richard Rogers
  • Jonathan Tunick
The first one to answer correctly wins a free Blogger blog.

Anonymous has Questions about God

Someone named Anonymous left a comment with some questions on my post titled: Stephen Hawking's Spontaneous Creation. Here are the questions and my simple answers:
  • Who created god?
    God revealed Himself to Moses simply as "I Am that I Am".
    God has always existed. God is eternal. God has no beginning.
    God has no end.

  • What are the constituents of god?
    God is spirit. He is the invisible entity that created and maintains all that is visible.

  • How is god calculated? What is his mass? luminosity? size?
    God is incalculable because humans do not possess the intellect to measure God. Humanity cannot even accurately determine the weight of Saturn because it does not have a scale large enough to weigh it. Small wonder that humans cannot understand God.

  • Why did god create the universe 13.72 billion years ago and wait to tell some desert people in some insignificant planet to tell the story?
    God has been revealing himself to humanity from the beginning of existence. A person has to be blind to the beauty of a sunset or the wonder of a baby being born to willingly ignore the existence of God. From the beginning of humanity there has been an awareness of God.
Anonymous ends their comment with the following observation:
If god created the world and religion then he surely made it to retard human progress. The idea of god sounds ridiculous enough by itself.
The fundamentalism and narrowness of atheism never ceases to amaze me. Folks like Anonymous embrace a black and white interpretation of the universe and do not leave any room for the colors of life. The idea of God may seem ridiculous to some but I find the idea of God to be compelling. The existence of God and His injunctive to love others as I love myself challenges me to my very core. I cannot imagine an existence without God.

I think that my answers need some help. Please share an answer or two for Anonymous.

Happy Columbus Day

Here in the United States we celebrate the anniversary of Christopher Columbus's arrival in the Americas, specifically the Bahamas, which occurred on October 12, 1492, on the second Monday in October. Growing up in New York City I remember getting the day off each year.. of course back then we usually got the 12th off - retail chains didn't control the holiday schedule the way that they do these days. I think that banks and Wal Street are off but I doubt too many others celebrate the day. Do they celebrate it where you live?

The Yoga Debate

I have never practiced yoga and frankly am not all that familiar with it. Even so, the Christian blog-waves seem to be abuzz these days with yoga dialog since Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler blasted (on his blog) the practice of yoga by Christians saying:
When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine. Christians are called to look to Christ for all that we need and to obey Christ through obeying his Word. We are not called to escape the consciousness of this world by achieving an elevated state of consciousness, but to follow Christ in the way of faithfulness.

There is nothing wrong with physical exercise, and yoga positions in themselves are not the main issue. But these positions are teaching postures with a spiritual purpose. Consider this — if you have to meditate intensely in order to achieve or to maintain a physical posture, it is no longer merely a physical posture.

The embrace of yoga is a symptom of our postmodern spiritual confusion, and, to our shame, this confusion reaches into the church.
Some in other places say that yoga is simply a structure of stretching and exercise that does not really involve religion. Others espouse a different kind of yoga that uses Christian meditation and prayer. Others embrace a Jewish style of yoga where the Kabbalah is used.

The debate, for me anyways, is about how a person incorporates the disciplines of physical and spiritual exercise. If physical exercise incorporates the chanting of words that are not understood then I have to question the practice. But if a person is simply urged to pray or meditate on the scriptures while they stretch and exercise then I do not see a problem with it.. unless it involves the meditation on a specific religious word or phrase - in such cases I would challenge the practice as it puts the exerciser in a passive, rather than an active, state of consciousness.

How about you? Have you ever practiced yoga? What was your experience?

World Homeless Day

In honor of this day I am republishing part of my 10/13/2009 post about Marcia Merrick.

Imagine getting up at 4:20 am to make 400 peanut butter sandwiches to pass out to the homeless in your city....EVERY DAY! That is what Marcia Merrick does, every day! She provides these sandwiches to ensure that the homeless of our city have some decent food. That is not all though, she lives her life to help make other's lives better. The homeless or just starting out will come to her with their food, clothing or shelter needs and she will call on friends, community and church to help her out-again every day. She will take people to the food store or gas station and fulfill a need. She scours garage sales just to get things for the needy. She understands the homeless community and makes sure that she is not enabling bad behavior but truly helping. Although some would like to go out with Marcia on her food deliveries, she is particular with this type of help, because what she does can be dangerous. Kids from our community can get involved by coloring paper lunch sacks, and sometimes groups help Marcia--but she is the lead volunteer and most often does it alone. Marcia would not consider herself amazing---just doing what needs to be done EVERY DAY.

A Muslim questions Muslims

I have to admit, It's High Time We Muslims Confronted Our Own Hypocrisy, a column written by a Muslim and published in a Muslim Country (Pakistan), was a refreshing read. Here are just a few of the things that Anwaar Hussain said in the piece:
Anwaar Hussain
What really stumped me in Michael’s write-up was that since the beginning, according to him, it has been the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan whose rabbi has been helping the New York Muslim community in their quest. And I thought the Jews were our worst enemies.

Bang in the middle of this controversy, other dazzling news was almost drowned out. According to a Christian Science Monitor report, the hundred thousand strong Muslim community of the Italian city of Milan are pushing for building the first-ever mosque in that city. And who is their most steadfast ally in this quest? Lo and behold, it's none other than the Vatican itself. Says Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, the Catholic Church’s highest authority in Milan, “Milan civil institutions must guarantee everyone religious freedom,” and “Muslims have the right to practice their faith.”

All power to the Muslim communities in New York and Milan - and Michael Moore and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, but where does that leave ordinary Muslims like me? I'm all confused. I thought these people could never be friends with Muslims.
But that's not all I'm puzzled over. I also need to understand why in our holy land [Saudi Arabia], a country that is a role model for the Muslim world, a kind of apartheid against non-Muslims is practiced.
What really boggles my mind is when I think of what would happen if Christians were involved in a terrorist attack on one of our holy cities: would we ever, ever contemplate allowing Christians to build a church next to the attack site?
Why do we all forget the aforesaid facts when we cry out for equal rights and freedom of speech, thought and action in the West? Why don’t we demand the same in our own countries? Why do we lapse into collective silence at the persecution of minorities in our countries? Why don’t we believe in giving to others what we claim for ourselves? Why don’t we see the heartrending injustice of it all?
Is it ignorance? Is it duplicity? Is it dread of the unknown? Is it the lethal mix of all three that keeps us from being honest? Or is it plain old hypocrisy?
I applaud Mr Hussain for the attempt at engaging his fellow Muslims in this way. I am not sure that it will affect the outcome of the global discussions about Islam but I do think that he accurately points out some of the inconsistencies existing within the Islamic community.

What was your takeaway from this? Do you think his message will be heard by Muslims?

Bounded and Centered Set Paradigms

Ever heard of this whole idea of bounded and centered sets? The focus of one train of thought is to determine who is in and who is out. The other paradigm is a bit more fluid and seeks to understand the direction a person is traveling rather than in or out status.

The classic example of a bounded set is a religious one - people who think like "me" are "in" and the others are "out". In that same scenario the centered set paradigm seeks to understand which way people are going - are they moving closer to God or away from him. I think that the latter is a helpful mindset when interacting with people because it helps us, not to judge them with regard to in/out status but, encourage them to move closer to God.

I think these paradigms are applicable to other areas of life. A person with bounded set thinking is less likely to embrace change in other people because they have a historical perspective of the people that they know. Parents with this view can often have a difficult time embracing the best in children who have had behavioral problems because they have put the child in a behavioral box. On the flip-side, parents with a centered set mindset will see a child's behavior as fluid and believe the best for them. I think that people with centered set thinking see the best in people.

I have to admit that most of my life I have embraced a black and white bounded set view. These days I am learning to embrace a centered set view. Which paradigm do you most resonate with? Which do you see the most in the world around you?

The Wronged Man | ★★★★★★★★★

We all have heard stories of men imprisoned for years and years only to be proven innocent by way of DNA evidence. This made-for-TV movie is about one of those men. It is also about a paralegal.. a woman who seemed to embody the notion of justice.. a woman who fought for 15 years to obtain the release of an innocent man.. that woman (played by Julia Ormond) blew me away. The story is also about a broken legal system in Louisiana.. a system that refused, on many occasions, to give an innocent man an appeal. Lastly, the movie is about the faith of a mother who never gave up on her imprisoned son.

I recommend this moving and gut-wrenching story to you and, on a scale of 10,
I give it ★★★★★★★★★

Catch my other mini-reviews by selecting the Movies link in the menu bar above.

The Radical Center

In his recent New York Times column, titled Third Party Rising Thomas Friedman says:
"There is a revolution brewing in the country, and it is not just on the right wing but in the radical center."
I like the idea of a radical center and think that the idea of a third party rising like a Phoenix from our current day political ashes could resonate with many like me who have left the extremes of political radicalism and are seeking something else. Here are a few clips from Friedman's Column:
I continue to be astounded by the level of disgust with Washington, D.C., and our two-party system — so much so that I am ready to hazard a prediction: Barring a transformation of the Democratic and Republican Parties, there is going to be a serious third party candidate in 2012, with a serious political movement behind him or her — one definitely big enough to impact the election’s outcome.

There is a revolution brewing in the country, and it is not just on the right wing but in the radical center. I know of at least two serious groups, one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast, developing “third parties” to challenge our stagnating two-party duopoly that has been presiding over our nation’s steady incremental decline.
The best our current two parties can produce today — in the wake of the worst existential crisis in our economy and environment in a century — is suboptimal, even when one party had a huge majority. Suboptimal is O.K. for ordinary times, but these are not ordinary times. We need to stop waiting for Superman and start building a superconsensus to do the superhard stuff we must do now. Pretty good is not even close to good enough today.
We have to rip open this two-party duopoly and have it challenged by a serious third party that will talk about education reform, without worrying about offending unions; financial reform, without worrying about losing donations from Wall Street; corporate tax reductions to stimulate jobs, without worrying about offending the far left; energy and climate reform, without worrying about offending the far right and coal-state Democrats; and proper health care reform, without worrying about offending insurers and drug companies.
I agree with Friedman and especially agree with his final thought:
We need a third party on the stage of the next presidential debate to look Americans in the eye and say: “These two parties are lying to you. They can’t tell you the truth because they are each trapped in decades of special interests.
I think that the idea of a third party rising and its candidate winning the presidential vote is a long-shot for sure. Yet I do dream of a nation not ruled by special interests and able to deal with the financial issues pressing us all about. Maybe a dream is all that we need?

How about you? Would you seriously consider a third party presidential candidate?

Bell Labs

Read this article today that asked Do we need a new Bell Labs? Having worked for Bell Labs in the 90s I would answer the question with a resounding yes. Once upon a time this research arm of Ma Bell created all sorts of things.. like these listed in the article:
  • The transistor;
  • Data networking;
  • Cell phone technology;
  • Solar cells;
  • Digital switching;
  • Communications satellites;
  • The touch-tone phone;
  • Unix and C;
  • Digital signal processors.
When I visited the headquarters buildings in New Jersey I was always impressed by display of patents by the folks out there - I remember my bosses boss had his hanging over his desk. Towards the end of my tenure there the focus was more and more about only doing research on things that the company could sell and less and less on pure research. I think that is why many currently feel that a new Bell Labs is needed.

Nanny State

I found the subtitle of this book to contain interesting descriptions of the people who would like to control what we eat and drink - food fascists.. teatotaling do-gooders.. priggish moralists.. boneheaded bureaucrats.

I woke up this morning to the news that the mayor of New York City wants a new rule for the folks who receive food stamps. The mayor say that stamps should not be used to buy sugary drinks like Coke and Pepsi. Folks have also said that drinks like these should have extra taxes levied because of their effects on our health.

I am wondering how far this sort of stuff will go. What will the next food police target be? Barbecue? Yikes!

Free Speech and the Gospel of Hate

October 6, 2010 Update: I am no longer a Kansan (moved to Kansas City, MO in June). The Supreme Court heard arguments on this case today. Heard that they may consider the personal nature of these kinds of protests and weigh them against the rights afforded by the first amendment. How do you think they should rule?

Sara Phelps, shown in May 2006 in Shumway, Ill., holds signs during a protest by followers of the Rev. Fred Phelps, who claims soldiers have died because they fought for a country that condones homosexuality. (James A. Finley, Associated Press / May 19, 2006)
March 10, 2010: One of the sad things about being a Kansan is knowing that Fred Phelps is also a Kansan. Soon he will be a Kansan appearing before the Supreme Court of the United States. According to this Kansas City Star article:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case involving Fred Phelps and his Topeka congregation, whose protests at military funerals have angered families across the country.

The court said it would consider an appeal from the father of a slain Marine who hopes to reinstate a $5 million verdict against the Topeka-based Westboro Baptist Church.
“It’s freedom of speech to some,” said Snyder, whose son Matthew was killed in Iraq. “To me it’s not what my son fought for. They’re kicking people in the face when they’re already down on the ground. All I was trying to do was bury my son.”
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a church leader and daughter of Westboro founder Fred Phelps, said her sister Margie Phelps is likely to argue the church’s case before the Supreme Court. Shirley Phelps-Roper and Margie Phelps are licensed attorneys.

Phelps-Roper said it’s God’s will that the church gets to appear before the nation’s highest court. Regardless of the ruling, she said it’s a “win-win” for the publicity-hungry church.

“You know how hard we’ve worked to get in front of them?” she said. “We came to the kingdom for this hour.”
Ugh.. what can I say about this? What would I say to one of the justices if they asked me for input concerning this first amendment issue?
  • Firstly, the actions of these religious folks are the opposite of everything I think Jesus Christ represents.. they preach a gospel of hate.
  • Secondly, I believe that our nation must stand with fallen soldiers and their families in their grief and pain.. these sacrificed all for their country.
  • Lastly, I feel that there must be a direct linkage between the issue being protested and the object of the protest. Given that there is no direct linkage between fallen soldiers and the homosexuality this group protests I think that the high court should rule against Fred Phelps and his followers.
The gospel of hate needs a kick in the pants. I am hoping that the Supreme Court gives it one.  What kind of advice would you give the high court?

Employer Provided Healthcare may be a Mixed Bag

In 1998, after twenty-seven years of employment, I was lured into retirement by the promise of subsidized healthcare premiums and a cash buyout. The following years were spent working at odd jobs and contributing a bit to my retirement accounts. I have never regretted the decision to retire early. With that in mind I found interesting a piece by Reuters, that cited a poll by Towers Watson reporting:
Fifty-nine percent of workers who plan to delay their retirement cited the need to keep their healthcare coverage as a reason, while 56 percent also blamed the decline in the value of their employer-sponsored retirement plan. The majority of workers who plan to delay retirement expect they will have to work for at least three years more than originally planned.
I rarely hear opponents of nationalized healthcare speaking to this issue. In a sense workers' plans to retire are held hostage to the healthcare coverage provided by their employer. Their plans are also impacted by the declining pension plans provided by Corporate America. You have to wonder what will happen in the future when the age eligibility for government programs like Social Security and Medicare is increased from sixty-five to seventy years.

I think that more and more of us will eventually be confronted by this strange partnership of employment and healthcare benefits when we consider our retirement options. Of course some may counter with the idea that seventy is a more realistic age to hang up the spurs than sixty-five. Yet I think a few of us may be disappointed by the need to work an extra few years just to be able to have healthcare insurance.

What do you think? Is the blessing of employer provided healthcare a mixed bag?

Economic Nationalism

One of the new TV shows this fall is Outsourced, a sitcom that focuses on a call center that was moved from Kansas City to a place in India. It somewhat gets your mind off the sad topic of those Kansas Citians who lost their jobs and redirects our attention to the funny things happening in the new call center. It causes me to pause and reflect on the ways that I, and my friends, here in middle America have personally been affected by such corporate antics.

I saw a video clip of corporate mogul Donald Trump this morning about dealing with China. Trump is no dummy and understands the nature of the global economy. Here are a few things that Trump has opined on this over the past year:
I love this country, we have a great country ... but it's not really great like it used to be. Let's face it, we are no longer respected the way we used to be respected, and if we keep going like this, within 10 years China is going to overtake us easily.
I know many of the people in China. I know many of the big business people. And they’re laughing at us. They think we’re stupid and our representatives are so stupid, that they can’t even believe what they’re getting away with.

They take our money. They suck it out of us. We charge them virtually no tax and no tax, and they loan it back to us. And then they have our treasury bills. And they say, oh, gee, we have to be afraid of China because they have our treasury bills.
we have all the power, because if we ever say we’re going to tax you 50 percent for all of the things that you sell to this country, you could pay off your treasury bills in a short period of time.

And, by the way, guess what would happen? People would start making things in North Carolina and Alabama and Illinois and lots of other places where they’re all unemployed. So, we have the power
Trump espouses something that might be considered Economic Nationalism.. the idea that a nation should protect it's financial interests through the use of taxes and tariffs on imported goods. I think that a lot of folks might rally around these ideas.

Thinking back I can remember the days when things made in Japan and China were somewhat of a joke. The words "made in Japan" were an anecdote for poor quality. The advent of brands like Sony, Panasonic, Lexus and Honda seems to have changed that perception. Many American consumers prefer these Japanese brands because of the quality associated with them.. and they are price competitive as well.

So I guess the challenge might be two-fold. Firstly American products must find a way to identify as quality items and at least match foreign products in this area. Secondly I think that there has to be a way to create a level playing field in the global marketplace. Sadly late night comics sometimes refer to the overseas child labor used to manufacture the stuff we all buy. I do not think that we can ever compete in that kind of environment.

It is kind of crazy how a company can manufacture goods on the other side of the world, and transport the stuff here, cheaper than simply making the stuff here in the USA. It speaks to me of the inequities of the global marketplace. Also speaks to me about the influence that these corporations have on the US government.

I think that many resonate with Trump's message and think that American governmental leaders should be helping American workers by leveling the playing field in the global marketplace. I would love to see the USA turn things around in this next decade. If not we will see more jobs outsourced and and less products made in the USA.

Do you know of anyone who has lost their job to workers in other countries?

Honorary Degrees

What do you think of people who are awarded honorary degrees and then feel entitled to be addressed with the "Doctor" prefix? A few years ago I created this mock newspaper article to poke a little fun at the folks who do such things.

I have to admit that it does irk me when religious people do it.. one of the local religious leaders does it.. and he got his "PHD" before his bachelors.

Ever run into one of them?

City Island | ★★★★★★★

The title of this movie gets its name the small community (located at the edge of New York City in the Bronx) where the movie was shot. My blog friend Bill recommended it. Ann and I were both impressed by it.

The movie is a gritty, yet sweet, drama about family secrets. I loved the way that Andy Garcia played the lead role in the movie - he offered a touching picture of a man who ran away from a past mistake and struggled to make things right. As the movie unfolds a great story is told about how shame sends people into hiding, how convoluted deception can be and how truth can redeem past mistakes. I recommend it, even if you are not from New York, and, on a scale of 10, I give it ★★★★★★★

Desserts spelled backwards..

Found the following note from Kim Allen in my inbox this morning. I think that it is a good reminder to get rid of the things in our lives that stress us out.

Before you can do anything about your stress, you first have to admit you have it. I know. Everybody talks about how stressed they are. But a lot of people are also convinced that there's such a thing as 'good stress' and they need it to get the job done.

But think about it. Literally, the term good stress could be considered an oxymoron: a figure of speech by which a locution produces an incongruous, seemingly self-contradictory effect, as in "cruel kindness" or "to make haste slowly".

Why so? Because, bio-chemically speaking, feeling good is very different than feeling stressed!

Positive (good!) emotions like appreciation, joy and compassion are internal energy boosters. They create a cascade of bio-chemicals that nourish your cells. They can prevent fatigue and slow down the aging process. They can regenerate and sustain you mentally, emotionally and physically.

Compare that to what happens when you're experiencing emotional stress, like worry, anger, anxiety or frustration. These negative (not so good!) emotions change the bio-chemical mix to one that can, over time, accelerate your biological aging clock, drain your emotional buoyancy and reduce physical vitality.

What's more important, saying stress is good may be preventing you from doing anything about it.

Political Runaways

The political TV ads are getting more grating by the day. Aside from all of the mudslinging, I find it odd that so many politicians are running away from their voting records.. from the stimulus and healthcare bills in particular. Gotta wonder - Why can't they just stand by their records and let the chips fall where they may?

The Number One KC Royals Fan

I first worked with Bill around 1980.. we were both programmers working on a software project for AT&T. It did not take very long to understand how much Bill loved baseball. Yesterday Jeff Neuman wrote this article, titled An Ode to a Royals Fan, regaling Bill and his devotion to the Kansas City Royals. Here are a few excerpts from the piece:
The “we” to which he refers is the Kansas City Royals. Carle has a one-half share in a pair of Royals season tickets; he goes to somewhere between 40 and 50 games a year, augmenting his allotment with individual tickets for the games he doesn’t want to miss. He has seen a lot of losses.
Bill Carle is not the average baseball fan; a former member of the national board of the Society for American Baseball Research, he is more devoted than most. His interests in the game go beyond root-root-rooting for the home team, but he is nonetheless passionate about a team that’s the embodiment of Major League Baseball’s inequities.

The size of the Kansas City television market puts a limit on the Royals’ potential revenue. They cannot charge prices comparable to what the Yankees can command for tickets. Their best hope is to put together a young team and see it develop, but that requires rare acumen and judgment.
He’s seen some good days, too, since moving to the Kansas City area in 1978: the World Series win over the Cardinals in 1985; the playoff sweep against the Yankees in 1980; the day that Brett announced his retirement, then hit the game-winning home run in extra innings. The emergence of Zack Greinke last season.

Then there are the other satisfactions: “I’ve actually had the beer man give me some free ones because I’m such a regular customer,” he says. “When you know the beer man by name, you know you’ve gone to a lot of games.”
On Sunday, Bill and his wife Valerie will be in their accustomed seats in the upper deck directly behind home plate, Section 417, Row C, Seats 1 and 2. “I always go to the last game of the season,” he told me. “I have to say goodbye to my seats. I like to sit there and think about next year.
I encourage you to read the whole article here - it is a fun read with Bill's insights on baseball, the Royals, rookies and players past and present.

Coincidentally, I went to a Royals game last night with my buddy Dan and had a blast. Really, what is not to like about baseball, hot dogs, peanuts and a pale ale? It was only the second game for me this year but reading about Bill's love for the game and the Royals makes me think I will try to make a few more games next year. But I doubt that I will go enough to know the beer man's name.

Are you a sports fan? How many games do you attend each season?