Merry Halloween

Wishing those of you in the northeast that were hit by nasty snow storms and power outages a great day of shoveled sidewalks and booted costumes!

Sometimes the day is full of tricks and you have to find a way to make your own treats!

The Lincoln Lawyer | ★★★★★★★★

This Law and Order junkie wondered how this Matthew McConaughey vehicle would measure to other courtroom dramas I have seen. I was pleasantly surprised by it and thought that the story-line was interesting and the main character acted well. I loved the tension of doing what is right and doing what is legal that this lawyer is faced with. Also thought that Ryan Phillippe did a credible job playing the evil and creepy defendant. In contrast Marisa Tomei's wife character was a bit weak and added little to the movie. Overall, I think that you might enjoy this movie if you enjoy suspenseful lawyers flicks.

On a scale of ten I give it ★★★★★★★★.

Happy 125th Lady Liberty

Love this cool pic from Lady Liberty's crown cam and how we can go here and here to get a live view of the Statue of Liberty and NY harbor. The live cameras are replete with zooming, panning and full screen abilities that were turned on Friday to celebrate Lady Liberty's 125th anniversary.

Does everything happens for a reason?

This image I copied from Facebook reminded me that I once weighed in on this question a few years ago here.

I still believe what I wrote back then that the reasons things happen to us are to give us the opportunity to mature and become more like God.

Do you think that all things happen for a reason? Explain why you do or don't.

The Rich get Richer and All is Well with the World

This graph is from a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) site titled "Trends in the Distribution of Household Income between 1979 and 2007". Here are a few observations that they make about these statistics:

CBO finds that, between 1979 and 2007, income grew by:
  • 275 percent for the top 1 percent of households,
  • 65 percent for the next 19 percent,
  • Just under 40 percent for the next 60 percent, and
  • 18 percent for the bottom 20 percent.
The share of income going to higher-income households rose, while the share going to lower-income households fell.
  • The top fifth of the population saw a 10-percentage-point increase
    in their share of after-tax income.
  • Most of that growth went to the top 1 percent of the population.
  • All other groups saw their shares decline by 2 to 3 percentage points.
Some will say that the CBO promotes class warfare. Maybe these statistics reflect a war.

Are computer voices sexist?

CNN recently published an article titled "Why computer voices are mostly female" and shed a bit of light on why female voices are chosen for technological communication in such new devices as the Apple voice-activated iPhone. Here is an enlightening clip from it:

From voice-mail systems to GPS devices to Siri and beyond, why are so many computerized voices female? One answer may lie in biology. Scientific studies have shown that people generally find women's voices more pleasing than men's. "It's much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes," said Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass. "It's a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices."
Biological and psychological research aside, is it possible that female voices are used simply because most computer geeks are male and develop products in a sexist manner? Why do you think female voices are used? And is it another example of sexism?

Am I Not Conservative Enough?

I ran across an old post by Joe Scarborough that bears the same title as this post. He wrote it in response to criticism of his flavor of conservatism. Here are a few excerpts:
My crimes against conservatism were much worse. Brent Bozell has accused me of committing the unpardonable sins of saying unflattering things about George W. Bush, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.
I wrote the book "Rome Wasn't Burnt in a Day" in 2004, and predicted if Mr. Bush and the GOP Congress didn't stop spending money at such a reckless rate, they would lose their majority and wreck the Congress.

Even though I was correct on both counts, I received a firestorm of criticism from Washington conservatives who blog on sites like Newsbusters. Their main complaint seemed to be that I was being too tough on Mr. Bush.
As I said at the time to these statist Republicans, my positions on taxes, spending and limited government have not changed one bit since the first day I walked into Congress in 1994 when I was known as a right-wing zealot.

Unfortunately, it was the Republican leadership who became more liberal with Americans' tax dollars and it was large swaths of the Washington conservative establishment who sat silently by because they enjoyed being in power so much that they never bothered to let their principles get in the way of supporting reckless GOP party bosses. Speaking truth to power was not in vogue when Republicans were in charge. That spinelessness led to a Pelosi speakership.
To win, conservatives will need instead to follow the wise practice of Ronald Reagan, who won hearts and minds of Middle America by being conservative when it came to ideology but moderate when it came to temperament.
I asked Brent to name one issue where I had changed since the first day I entered Congress in 1994. He could not. I then asked how he could no longer consider me a conservative if, in fact, I had remained more consistent over the past 15 years in my views than the entire Republican Party.

Brent sputtered a while and then finally spit my crime against humanity out."You attacked Rush!!!"

Hmm. Very interesting.

As was the case for 8 long years with George W. Bush, too many people on both extremes defend partisan personalities instead of principles. Just as too many on the Left worship Barack Obama without questions, many on the right now focus more on pledging allegiance to media figures or populist personalities. The conservative movement marched in lockstep behind George W. Bush for nearly a decade and he took us over a cliff.

Forgive me if I don't do the same over the next decade.

My positions remain unchanged. I have always fought for smaller government, less federal intrusion into our lives, more personal freedoms and the end of a Wilsonian foreign policy.

If you don't think I am a true conservative because I comment on talk radio personalities when I think their approach is hurting the cause of small government conservatism, that is your right. But I will continue focusing on the issues that really matter. And I hope that my old friend Brent will have his website do the same.
Many tell me similar things about my independent style of conservatism. Some do not like the idea that I have difficulty with the temperament of so many shock jock squawk radio and TV hosts. Looking back I think that I can say with Joe that what has changed is not my positions but my moderate temperament in walking them out. I am still a conservative.

Unknown | ★★★★★★

I liked Liam Neeson's "Taken" flick so much that I think that my expectations were a bit too high for this movie. Like so many movies these days this one suffers from a lack of editing. I fast forwarded through a few of the early chase and fight scenes but I thought that the plot picked up towards the middle. Neeson plays a doctor who wakes after a car accident with his identity stolen and being chase by bad dudes. The plot develops as he attempts to reclaim his life with a help of a cab driver played by Diane Kruger. Didn't like the ending but, overall, I enjoyed "Unknown" and recommend it to you if you like suspenseful stories and movies with plot twists.

On a scale of ten I give this movie ★★★★★★.

Access my movie reviews webpage by clicking on "Movie Reviews" above.

Things I Wish I Didn't Know

My friend Barbara blogged a post with this title a few days ago and I thought that I would follow suit with a slightly different spin. Here are some things that I wish I didn't know:
  • the painful effects of Hemochromatosis on my joints;
  • how beneficial the Americans with Disabilities Act is;
  • the judgmentalism associated with a legalistic mindset;
  • how my frugal living would enable me to retire young;
  • the ins and outs of hospitals and rehab institutes;
  • how grief can be harmfully processed by some;
  • the devastating progression of Neuromyelitis Optica.
And, like Barbara opined, I wish that I was ignorant of all of this. Thanks for listening today - consider it therapy for me and empathy for you. What are some things that you wish that you did not know? Feel free to unload today and be a bit freer for the weekend.

Why I Reject Christian Universalism

Rob Bell's book "Love Wins" opened the door to a lot of conversation earlier this year when it was released. Looking back I realize that the target audience for his book was not really those who believe but those who once believed and fell away because they could not embrace some of the fundamentalist dogma that they were once taught. In Bell's book he delved into some alternate (i.e. non-traditional) views of hot topics like hell and some of his views seemed to have come from Christian Universalism.

During the spring I had several conversations about the book and, during one such talk, I spoke to a person who did not know that there was a difference between vanilla Universalism and the Christian flavor of it. I shared that my understanding of the difference is not so much in the end result.. both flavors believe that all will eventually end up with God in heaven.. but with the means by which they get there. The Christian Universalists would say (generally speaking) that Christ redeemed all on the cross. The more vanilla universalists would say that God simply loves everyone and wills them to be in heaven.

So with that in mind I thought that I might proffer a few thoughts on Christian Universalism. Please keep in mind that my thinking is still evolving on some of these points.
  1. Firstly, I must say that I do not embrace it. The idea that unrepentant mass murderers will one day share a pot of tea with those that they murdered appalls me. The keyword here is unrepentant. I do believe in forgiveness, even for repentant mass murderers, but I think that we err when we lump the repentant in with the unrepentant.
  2. My view of Eternal Conscious Torment (Hell) is that.. as in the life that began when one is born.. torment always comes from within creation.. I do not believe that God torments anyone.. allowing torment or suffering is totally different that inflicting it.
  3. I reject the idea that some of them espouse concerning a purgatory type of post death life where people are given a second chance. That view depends on the idea that time, as we know it today, will continue after we die. More on that here.
  4. I question the idea (promulgated by the ancient Greeks) that all men are immortal. Now this gets me in trouble with all sorts of people and I have to say that I am not really dogmatic on this subject. Even so I do wonder if people who are not spiritually born here on earth possess anything that survives death. More on that here.
  5. I reject the idea that people are simply divine pets with no ability to really know God in a meaningful way. I think that man is created in the image of God and part of the dignity of our creation (unlike any other animal) is our ability to, by faith, know God this side of the grave. The emphasis here is a relationship with God before we die.
  6. In contrast Christian Universalism portrays God as a pet owner with an unrelenting purpose to be with His pets forever.. nothing His pets do can change His resolve.. He loves them unconditionally and does not care what they think about anything - including Himself, His Son's sacrifice and the afterlife. More on that here.
  7. Lastly, this approach is certainly the most generous of all orthodoxies toward atheists, agnostics and unbelievers in general. Yet this view makes a mockery of all sincere people who strive to follow God today by saying that things like love and faith have no eternal value except that they allow us to all get along better here on earth.
If you notice I have tried to stay away from arguing verses of the bible. I have found that line of dialog usually never goes anywhere because there are scriptures on both sides of the issues and they are generally interpreted from a personal theological perspective.

With that in mind I would appreciate any feedback that you might have but I have to say that I am probably not up to wrangling scripture verses as that tends to get contentious. Yet I would like to understand this issue better and invite you to share your views here.

The World Series comes to Missouri

This funny Shoebox cartoon reminds me that tonight the Texas Rangers come to St Louis in the first game of the World Series. I am pulling for the Cardinals  but cannot say that I will faithfully watch every game of the series.

Are you a fan? Will you be watching the series?

The Safety of His People Trumps Priestly Protection

Kansas City has been rocked lately by the news that our Roman Catholic Bishop, Robert Finn, was indicted by a Grand Jury for failing to report suspected child abuse. It saddens me that such behavior is still going on after all of the scandals reported in other dioceses.

John Meacham writes about this in his Time Magazine article titled A Prelate In The Dock which is subtitled "Why the faithful can take solace in the indictment of a Catholic Bishop". Here are a few excerpts from his piece:
There is some hope at the moment that perhaps the Roman Catholic Church in the United States may learn to appreciate that God may be more interested in the safety of his people than the protection of his abusive priests. For too long the Catholic hierarchy has seemed to value the reputation of the Church over the well-being of the church, a word derived from the Greek meaning “gathering” or “assembly.” Put another way, the people of God precede the institution of religious authority, order, and institutions.
Now, at last, there is news that suggests at least one bishop of the church will face a reckoning with responsibility. The Roman Catholic bishop of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri, Robert W. Finn, has been indicted for failing to report suspected child abuse after allowing five months to elapse before informing authorities that child pornography had been discovered on the laptop of a priest with access to children. Finn has thus become the highest-ranking Roman Catholic official to be held criminally liable for appearing to protect his priests.
I pray that the Vatican will move swiftly in this case to act righteously and, at least temporarily, remove Bishop Finn from his position. If it does then I think that everyone, especially we in the Kansas City metro area, will understand that the Roman Catholic Church is taking these matters of priestly child abuse seriously.

Home Answering Machine or Voicemail?

I just left a message for a friend on her home answering machine.. at least I think it was an answering machine.. it could have been on one of those services like at&t Call Notes. I used to have voicemail on my home phone but always had problems knowing when I had a message because, unlike my answering machine, there was no audible or visible notification that I had a message. These days services like Google Voice give you the option of receiving a transliterated text or email message when you have a message in your voicemail inbox. Yet this option is not available for land lines.
Do you have a home land line with voicemail?

US Debt Problem Explained ...

Saw this on Facebook today and had to share it here with you.

Who amongst us (even folks with multiple credit cards) could live with such debt?

It reminds me that I need to pray more for our leaders in DC.


For 2011, Blog Action Day coincides with World Food Day, so the topic of discussion for this year is food.

For years churches and food suppliers have partnered with Harvesters in Kansas City. Here are a few words from the Harvesters web site:

Harvesters' mission is to feed hungry people today and work to end hunger tomorrow.

As this area's only food bank, Harvesters is a clearinghouse for the collection and distribution of food and related household products. We've been helping people in need since 1979 by
  • Collecting food and household products from community and industry sources
  • Distributing those products and providing nutrition services through a network of nonprofit agencies
  • Offering leadership and education programs to increase community awareness of hunger and generate solutions to alleviate hunger
Our network includes more than 620 nonprofit agencies throughout our 26-county direct service area, including emergency food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters, children’s homes, homes for the mentally disabled and shelters for battered persons. Our network provides food assistance to as many as 66,000 different people each week.

The moments our hearts come alive ...

Without thinking about it, point to yourself. You probably didn't point to your head. Rather, you pointed to the center of your chest, the area around the heart.

And the reason most of us do is evident in the way the word heart is used in just about every culture and language around the world: Follow your heart; speak from your heart; in your heart you know. All metaphors for the authentic you!

Being true to your heart is the formula for living the life you want. When there is an alignment between what's in your heart and the actions you carry out the better life seems to work. You're fulfilled, content and at peace. You feel care, appreciation, love, joy, compassion, kindness—heart-felt emotions that not only feel good, but are good for you, too. Is it any wonder we all live for the moments our hearts come alive?

If you want to manifest more of who you truly are, start by considering what you value most. What you value is at the core of who you are. Core values are the embodiment of intelligent operating principles that give meaning to life, rejuvenate spirit and create a sense of well-being. ... A change of heart changes everything.

... excerpted from Bona Fide by Kim Allen.

Why Occupy Wall Street?

This cartoon reminds me that the protests against the greed embodied by Wall Street executives is all about the rampant unemployment on Main Street. Despite the nefarious motives of some I think that these protests are a cry for help from hurting people.

Even so I do not think that anyone really has a handle on why people are protesting. Even if the marches and sit-ins originated from left-wing factions they seem to have morphed into something different all together. Why do you think people are protesting?

Just Like Heaven | ★★★★★★★★

This 2005 Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo romantic comedy really surprised me. The characters were interesting and story line engaging. There were a few messages in the movie that appealed to me:

    1) Don't let your job be your life.
    2) One must let go of the past to live.
    3) Love transcends our humanity.

I thought that the chemistry between the main characters along with some nice plots twists were good. I suggest that you rent it if you have not seen it. On a scale of ten I give this movie ★★★★★★★★.

Romney gets Two Endorsements

Last week New Jersey Governor Chris Christie declined to run for the president of the United States. Yesterday this much sought after governor endorsed one of the candidates. Here is the text of his endorsement:
“This is the most important election in generations. Whether we are able to fix our economy and get our country on the right track will have ramifications for decades. We cannot afford to continue on our current path. Mitt Romney has a life history of coming into struggling organizations and turning them around. Right now, we need someone like him in the White House to fundamentally change our economy and reverse three years of failed policies. Unlike our current president, Mitt Romney understands the economy from the inside out. Fixing the economy will not be easy, but Mitt has shown throughout his life that he has the leadership ability and expertise to lead our country toward a recovery. Republicans should recognize the importance of this election and realize that if they are serious about regaining the White House, Mitt Romney is the only candidate to back.”
I concur with the Governor Christie's take on Romney and endorse Mitt too!

Déjà Vu and You

Ever experienced déjà vu? I have. It is an eerie feeling when something happens that seems familiar or someone says something that you recall but have no memory of.

To me it speaks to the mysteries of life and the nature of human existence. What do you think of when you hear the words déjà vu?

Religious Litmus Tests for Candidates

Sometimes I get so tired of the religious litmus tests that we have for political candidates. I was reading the text of a candidate's speech today and this section from it popped out at me:
I love the profound ceremony of the Catholic Mass, the approachability of God in the prayers of the Evangelicals, the tenderness of spirit among the Pentecostals, the confident independence of the Lutherans, the ancient traditions of the Jews, unchanged through the ages, and the commitment to frequent prayer of the Muslims.
Perhaps in this political season it would be wise to remember these words when we consider the faith traditions of the different candidates? Maybe these words could cause us to value each other and our differences? Reality check: do we really want a theocratic government?

Kung Fu Musketeer Films

The promo for the new Musketeer movie reminds me of how old stories are sometimes
re-imagined through the lens of Martial Arts screen writers. Seeing the swordsmen twirling in the air with Jackie Chan types of moves brings a smile to my face. Here are a few other movies that used Martial Arts acrobatics as a vehicle:
  • The Matrix: In some ways the exploits of Neo were subservient to his mission. Interesting how this SciFi flick gets physical. Probably would be too geeky without the high flying and spinning acrobatics.
  • James Bond Flicks: Over the years the finesse of Judo gave way to Karate brawling and the once suave super spy became a buffed out street fighter.
  • Shanghai Noon: Blatant and ludicrous exploitation of Martial Arts in an Old West setting. Reminiscent of the campy old "Kung Fu" television series.
  • V for Vendetta: Another super hero with special Martial Arts skills used to achieve idealistic goals. Have to wonder where "V" got his training.
Guys like action movies and sometimes these sorts "Arts" are used to attract them. Yet I wonder if sometimes this kind of stuff is added just to mask a poor story and so-so acting?

Utopianism is Nowhere to be Found

This week David Brooks bemoans the state of our country and the world in a New York Times oped piece titled
Where Are the Jobs? (i.e. Steve Jobs). Here are a few clips from it:
Let’s imagine that someone from the year 1970 miraculously traveled forward in time to today. You could show her one of the iPhones that Steve Jobs helped create, and she’d be thunderstruck. People back then imagined wireless communication (Dick Tracy, Star Trek), but they never imagined you could funnel an entire world’s worth of information through a pocket-sized device.

The time traveler would be vibrating with excitement. She’d want to know what other technological marvels had been invented in the past 41 years. She’d ask about space colonies on Mars, flying cars, superfast nuclear-powered airplanes, artificial organs. She’d want to know how doctors ended up curing cancer and senility.

You’d have to bring her down gently. We don’t have any of those things. Airplanes are pretty much the same now as they were then; so are cars, energy sources, appliances, houses and neighborhoods. A person born in 1900 began with horse-drawn buggies and died with men walking on the Moon, but the last few decades have seen nothing like that sort of technological advance.
If you go back and think about America’s big World’s Fairs or if you read about Bell Labs in its heyday or Silicon Valley in the 1980s or 1990s, you see people in the grip of utopian visions. They imagine absurdly perfect worlds. They feel as though they have the power to begin the world anew. These were delusions, but inspiring delusions.

This utopianism is almost nowhere to be found today.
There is something saddening about these thoughts. I remember the days when I believed that cancer and other diseases would be cured in my life time. I recall watching video clips (in my youth) of cars that would not need wheels but would ride on air and I dreamed of a magical 21st century. Mostly I thought of space travel and how we would see people walking on far off planets. Realistically some of these were pretty naive, yet it saddens me that these dreams of a Utopian existence are not talked about at all these days.

Secretariat | ★★★★★

I had high hopes for this one. A Netflix reviewer echoes my thoughts about the movie:
I guess I had higher expectations when I started to watch this. I was expecting something at least somewhat as engrossing as Seabiscuit. But -to put it bluntly- it wasn't. It was oddly self-indulgent. The movie is a series of scenes: Diane Lane striking poses with the horse, some other character striking a pose with the horse, Diane Lane making some overly-sappy passionate statement about the need to take risks, some other character making an overly-sappy passionate statement about horses and racing.
The movie was too long and needed a lot of editing.
On a scale of ten I give it ★★★★★.

Steve Jobs, 1955-2011

Any way you slice it 56 just seems too young to die. As a geek I have always been inspired by the genius, innovation and imagination of people like Steve Jobs. He, and his company Apple, is to personal computing what Microsoft is to corporate computing.

I mourn the passing of Steve and pray that his family and friends will be comforted during this difficult time. In memory I share a few things Steve Jobs has said ...

Simple can be harder than complex.

You can't con people in this business. The products speak for themselves.

The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. [from a 1985 interview]

A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.

Great things in business are never done by one person, they're done by a team of people.

You have to trust in something -- your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. ... Stay hungry. Stay foolish.

Tesla Model S Sedan

This is my third post about Tesla's electric cars. I posted about their roadster here and here. The Model S (pictured left) will feature a minimum 160 mile range with a more expensive version boasting 300 miles. The base is much less than the $100k+ tag on the rodaster but is still high at $57k.
Not sure that I am ready for a total electric car. How about you?

Castles made of Sand

“And so castles made of sand fall in the sea, eventually.” -Jimi Hendrix

“Real friends are very special, but you have to be careful because sometimes you have a friend and you think they are made of rock, then suddenly you realise they're only made of sand.” -Maria Callas

“He who, having lost one ideal, refuses to give his heart and soul to another and nobler, is like a man who declines to build a house on rock because the wind and rain ruined his house on the sand.” -Constance Naden

“Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.” -Mark Twain

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” -Jesus of Nazareth

They Raise Me Up

Had lunch with a great friend this week and found myself talking about Pat Robertson's advice to a caller about what a spouse of an Alzheimer's patient should do. I told him that I thought that his advice was pragmatic but did not call me up to a higher level of living. I wondered what people would have said if Robertson had said something that inspired them to rise above their fleshly passions and embrace a higher calling to love in a sacrificial way.

It got me thinking today about the inspirational refrain from that song made famous by Josh Groban titled You Raise Me Up:
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up... To more than I can be.
When I think about this I remember people who have raised us all up by their examples. Here are a few modern day people who have inspired me and raised me up:
  • My Dad taught me by example about kindness. His legacy to me was the call to being a kind and gentle man. When I think of him I am called higher to lead a life of dignity and quiet service to my family and my friends.
  • Eustacia Cutler who said no to the professionals who advised her to institutionalize her young autistic daughter. When I think of the success of her daughter, Dr Temple Grandin, I am called to a higher level of parenting and commitment.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr who preached a different kind of reform than others who had a more violent ilk. When I think about the courageous actions of Dr King I am called to a higher level of dialog with those who disagree with me.
  • Eric Liddel who said no to powerful British officials who compelled him to violate his conscience and run in the Olympic Games on a Sunday. When I am tempted I am called higher to a higher level of conscience and conviction when I remember Eric.
  • My wife Ann who demonstrates each day to me what it means to be an overcomer. When I get weary and want to throw in the towel Ann's tenacity and discipline calls me higher and inspires me to greater love and greater faith.
These are just a few. I could name many more who inspire me to be a better human being. Who are the people that call you higher? Who are the ones that raise you up?

Saturday Evening Blog Post

If you blog then you might be interested in being a part of the Saturday Evening Blog Post that is featuring favorite posts from September. Just click here and join in.

This month I am featuring the my controversial post titled "Are all humans immortal?" Greeks say yes. I say no.

October, Cancer, Violence, Popcorn and Dogs

Did you know that October has been celebrated as National Popcorn Poppin’ Month since Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman proclaimed it in 1999. October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month and National Adopt a Dog Month. What is the purpose of awareness months?

Do you think that months such as these really raise the awareness of breast cancer and domestic violence? Two members of my family are currently fighting cancer so I hope it does. Yet is it possible that people really eat more popcorn and adopt more dogs because of months like this? Color me perplexed? Maybe I am simply immune to stuff like this?

What do you think? Does awareness months educate you or motivate you to action?