The Help | ★★★★★★★★★★

I am sure that most folks have already seen this outstanding movie. In light of that fact, I thought that I might offer a few compelling lessons from it:

1) Courage: the women in this movie rocked my world. I loved the way that it only took two courageous women to initiate change.

2) Character: reminded me of how Dr King wanted his children to be judged on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.

3) Creativity: loved that the movie took license to avoid the brutality of that era. A few of the scenes were difficult but did not rob the story of beauty.

4) Compassion: deep feelings of compassion were stirred up in me as I watched the brutal and unloving ways that people of color were treated.

One of the best I have seen. On a scale of ten I give it ★★★★★★★★★★.

The Freedom Tower

About a month ago I flew into Newark, New Jersey to attend my brother's funeral. As we were preparing to land I looked out the window and caught a glimpse, similar to this one, of the Freedom Tower - New York City's tallest skyscraper. Made my heart glad.

What thoughts come to mind when you see this building rising from the ashes of September 11th?

Should we ban all things plastic?

Have you heard about the Los Angeles City Council's decision to ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores? Here is a blurb about it from CBS:

"The program would be modeled after bag bans in 48 other California cities that aim to prod consumers into using reusable bags in order to prevent plastic litter that clogs waterways, swells landfills and clutters streets.

After the ordinance is adopted, the city will require large stores to phase out plastic bags over six months, then provide free paper bags for another six months. Small retailers would have a year to phase out plastic.

After a year, retailers would be allowed to charge 10 cents for paper bags. Residents receiving government assistance would be exempt from the bag fee."

Having grown up close to the Atlantic shoreline I am sympathetic to the likes of actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus who says that a large percentage of ocean pollution is plastic. Yet I wonder if there is a way to deal with pollution without getting rid of all things plastic. What do you think?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy | ★★★★

"This gripping thriller about Cold War espionage follows an English spy as he returns to MI-6 under a cloud of suspicion"

So said the ads for the movie. Yet I found it neither gripping or thrilling. The flick was adapted from the 1974 spy novel of the same name. I found it hard to follow and thought that it suffered a bit from a lack of editing - it was like they took a ninety minute story and stretched it to two hours. Yet even with the extra time it took me a second pass through it to decipher the mishmash of characters and story lines. Felt the ending was as confusing as the rest of it.

One a scale of ten I give it ★★★★.

Thinking about Gandhi's List ...

Saw this image on Facebook this week and wondered a bit about the sentiments in it. The first thing I pondered was how prayer and God was left out of the list - I would add that myself. Secondly I wondered if Gandhi really had a list or if this is just another viral happening as many of these seem to be a bit cliché - yet maybe they were not so when Gandhi lived?

I do so love the idea about forgiving and letting go but would have liked to talk to him about what being in control meant to him. I also love the sentiments of being your true self and seeing the best in others. Perhaps life is all about seeing the true self in others as well.

Number seven on his list is one of the greatest words I know. I think that this word, to a degree, defines what it means to succeed in life. Those who give up often fail to see the fruit of their labors. Gandhi would have been an anecdote in history if he did not PERSIST.

What is it that you like and/or dislike about Gandhi's list?

Are religious voters all that different?

This chart from the Barna Group illustrates an idea that I have often wondered about. Does a person's religious beliefs really dictate their voting choices? The polling revealed by this chart seems to indicate that issues and character are the most important factors for all voters - religious and others. The exception seems to this rule seems to be in column number five - a candidate's religious faith is much more important to an evangelical Christian than for most voters. That seems accurate as this sector, generally speaking, integrates faith into every part of their lives.

What do you think? Are religious voters all that different from other voters?

A not so atheistic Liberal Decalogue

I came across the following excerpt from "The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell". This section is titled "A Liberal Decalogue". Russell, a lifelong atheist, seems to have (maybe unknowingly) lifted many of these ideas from the teachings, ministry and life of Jesus Christ. Here is the text replete with my commentary in italics.
Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
  1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
    Jesus confronted (so-called) 'intellectual' religious leaders who were absolutely certain that they were right.
  2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
    Jesus said "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known."
  3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
    Unlike the religious leaders of his day Jesus was the most radical thinker of his day and maybe of history.
  4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
    Jesus seemed to challenge authority every time he ministered.
  5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
    Jesus understood this like no other. His confrontation with authority led to his death.
  6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
    At every turn religious leaders unsuccessfully tried to suppress the teachings of Christ.
  7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
    Jesus was considered to be crazy by some of his day but he himself changed the world.
  8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
    Jesus never ran away from a debate. Religious 'intellectuals'  consistently tried to trap him.
  9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
    The truth of Christ's resurrection is the most inconvenient truth of all of history.
  10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness." || Jesus had much to say about the 'intellectual'  religious and atheistic fools of his day.
Perhaps atheist Russell was influenced by the radical thinking of Jesus Christ a bit more than he ever imagined. :)

Should Tithing Count as 'Charitable Giving?'

The title of this post is one that I have pondered on occasion for several years. Even so this question is one from a Christian Post article of that title. In it Nicola Menzie, a Christian Post Reporter, deals with the opinion of far left leaning comedian Bill Maher saying:
the commentator and comedian, focusing on Romney and the Mormon Church, insisted that "real charities only care about the charity" and that some churches and other seemingly well-to-do 501(c)(3) organizations, such as symphony orchestras and colleges and universities cushioned with large endowments, should not count as "charities."
Maher's opinion is countered by family wealth counselor Edward Link who says about Maher's opinion:
that eliminates libraries, that eliminates hospitals, that eliminates symphonies and museums. It eliminates churches, it eliminates animal shelters, it eliminates the overwhelming majority of nonprofit organizations in the country if you say the only legitimate charitable giving is if you're giving to somebody that's poor
Link goes on to say something that I really agree with:
I do think churches really need to think a little bit more carefully about the fact that if you're consuming 97 percent of everything that comes in just on your own organization, and your own structure and your own people, I have a little heartburn over that. I'd like to see them using a lot more of those revenues to actually reach out to people in our country or in the world who have really serious and desperate needs.
I think that, with my understanding of Jesus' charge to care for "the least of these", I would have a hard time saying that tithing should count as charitable giving. For sure many churches do seem to be charity cases (smile) but, generally speaking, I think that they often resemble a religious club more than a charitable outreach. I am okay with giving them tax-exempt status in the same way that libraries and hospitals have such status. But calling a church a charitable organization is a bit of a stretch. What do you think? Do you see donations to a church as a gift to charity.

Why not have school all year?

Are you an advocate of increasing the length of the school year? Seems like we may be one of the only countries that give our students and teachers so much time off. Wonder why we do it since the reasons for taking the summer off (i.e. farm work and no a/c in hot weather) no longer exist. Consider these points from the Year Round School Wiki:
  • 3,181 public schools in the United States today are on a year-round schedule.
  • Of the 2.3 million students enrolled in year round schools during the 2002-03 school year, 60% attend schools in California.
  • Year-round schooling has been present from the 1800s to the present first appearing in urban areas, because they were not tied to the agriculture cycle
  • The single track schedule is the most prominent of the three types. These schools do not add additional days to their school year, but instead they incorporate shorter breaks throughout the year.
  • A multitrack schedule divides students into multiple tracks so that one group goes to school while another group takes vacation.
  • The extended year schedule can act as either a single track or multitrack, but it adds 15 to 20 days to the total school year. President of the United States Barack Obama has called for school administrations to lengthen school years in order to compete with students worldwide.
  • Students who attend year-round school say that their calendars are more balanced than their peers who have a typical school calendar.
  • Students who attend year-round schools typically do as well as or slightly better in school than their peers who attend a traditionally scheduled school.
  • Studies show that even though around 50% of parents are in favor of the year-round schedule before it is implemented, almost 80% are in favor of it after the first year.
  • If schools are open for longer the operating and maintenance costs may increase up to 10 percent.
  • Research suggests year-round schools have positive effects on students who are at risk for academic problems, including those from underprivileged backgrounds and those who are poor performers in school.
  • Students with attention learning disabilities may experience difficulties with longer school days.
  • Younger elementary students who are not psychologically fully developed may not see any additional benefit to extended days.
  • Students that attend year round schooling may miss out on experiences such as summer camps.
  • Many people argue that students get bored during summer vacations, when there is much less activity and stimulation, so attending school for a year would be a benefit to them.
All of that said I think that the USA will never change in this area for this reason stated in the wiki:
"Year-round school would be changing the American custom of summer vacation, which would not be easy to do. Changing a people’s customs is never an easy thing to do and normally takes time for a population to adjust or take to a change in a major custom."
What do you think? Will America ever embrace having school all year? Is it just too hard for us to change our ways?

Evading Taxes by Renouncing Citizenship? Really?

I think that, for some, being a citizen of the United States is all about greedy entitlement and has little to do with being a responsible member of our society. Sadly it seems that the richer you are the more ways that you have to hide your income from paying taxes - and some go even farther. Consider what David Gerwitz writes in his ZDNet article titled
"Why Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin is a schmuck". Here are a few excerpts:
"Writing this article without profanity has been almost physically impossible. But we’re a family site, here at ZDNet, so I’ll just let you insert whatever invectives come to mind.

In this case, I’m talking about Eduardo Saverin, co-founder of Facebook, who — in order to avoid paying taxes on his multi-billion dollar IPO windfall — is renouncing his United States citizenship.

There’s a truth about life that’s often difficult to accept. Justice doesn’t always happen. Some people, usually because of their great wealth, get away with doing reprehensible things. It’s not fair, and it’s not right, but it’s what happens."
"What he’s done is played a system and gained tremendously for it. A case could be made that that’s fair. One of the first things they teach you in B-school is to pay the least amount of taxes you can within the bounds of the law, and even the IRS accepts this as a reasonable strategy.

But going so far as to renounce the incredible gift of citizenship we gave to this man, and by doing so, saved him from kidnap gangs in his native country — that’s below reprehensible.

Justice would be to take away his stock benefits if he renounces his citizenship. Justice would be to block him from raking in all that cash if he’s not willing to pay his fair share. But justice doesn't work that way.

Instead, Saverin is running away to Singapore, a very small country with a very low crime rate."
"By not paying his fair share of taxes in the United States, he’s essentially stealing from all of the rest of us taxpayers who supported his education and his business venture. If it weren’t legal, it’d be a crime."
I think that people like Saverin and people who hide their money offshore give wealthy people a bad name. Thankfully the USA is filled with generous philanthropists who do wonderful charitable things with their money. And in that I rejoice.

Can wrestling be a form of prayer?

Ever get mad at God and tell him so? Ever have a really difficult conversation with the Almighty? Or are you one who stuffs your feelings and harbor resentment towards the Father? Navigating life's trials and heartaches can sometimes alienate us from God but I think that these things can bring us close to him if we bring our pain to him in prayer. Therese Borchard excerpts Ronald Rolheiser's book, “Forgotten Among the Lilies”, this way:
God wants to be wrestled with. As Rabbi Heschel points out, ever since the days when Abraham argued with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jacob wrestled with the angel, those close to God have also occasionally engaged in similar arguments.

The refusal to accept the harshness of God’s ways in the name of his love is an authentic form of prayer. Indeed the prophets and saints were not always in the habit of simply saying, “Thy will be done.”

They often fought, challenged, squirmed and begged as a way of saying “Thy will be changed!” I suspect that they did sometimes annul divine plans. God wants to be struggled with, especially if we have been living in his house for a while. Why? Why would he want this? How can wrestling be a form of prayer?

Wrestling can be a form of prayer precisely because it can be a form of love. People who live together in love for a long time must resolve many tensions. There is constant wrestling, much anger and occasional bitterness. But the struggling together, if persevered in, always leads to new depth in love.
I love that last sentence. In my own life prayer has turned resentment inside out as I have wrestled with God. I think that there is something sacred in this kind of transparent and gut-wrenching prayer. As we speak to God in frank terms we acknowledge his sovereignty and tell him that we want his understanding. And in a very real sense we often find a place where negative emotions and feelings are released into the hands of God as we wrestle with him.

Blogger has gone Captcha Crazy!

Just a quick rant about the new Blogger captcha experience - see image left.
Never thought I would long for the old days when I only had to decipher and type five or six letters (instead of a dozen squirrely ones) to make a short comment on a blog. Come on folks. Take captcha off for a bit and see if you really get all that much spam. I get none because, in part, I do not allow anonymous commenters.

Celebrating Jon Will

If you want a life-affirming message on this Mother's Day I suggest that you read George Will's story about his son Jon who turned 40 this past week. There is so much inspiration in this story about a baby born with Down's Syndrome. I will skip George's insightful and compelling commentary on genetic testing and how 90% of unborn Down's babies are aborted and go to the last few paragraphs of his article ...

Judging by Jon, the world would be improved by more people with Down syndrome, who are quite nice, as humans go. It is said we are all born brave, trusting and greedy, and remain greedy. People with Down syndrome must remain brave in order to navigate society’s complexities. They have no choice but to be trusting because, with limited understanding, and limited abilities to communicate misunderstanding, they, like Blanche DuBois in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” always depend on the kindness of strangers. Judging by Jon’s experience, they almost always receive it.

Two things that have enhanced Jon’s life are the Washington subway system, which opened in 1976, and the Washington Nationals baseball team, which arrived in 2005. He navigates the subway expertly, riding it to the Nationals ballpark, where he enters the clubhouse a few hours before game time and does a chore or two. The players, who have climbed to the pinnacle of a steep athletic pyramid, know that although hard work got them there, they have extraordinary aptitudes because they are winners of life’s lottery. Major leaguers, all of whom understand what it is to be gifted, have been uniformly and extraordinarily welcoming to Jon, who is not. Except he is, in a way. He has the gift of serenity, in this sense:

The eldest of four siblings, he has seen two brothers and a sister surpass him in size, and acquire cars and college educations. He, however, with an underdeveloped entitlement mentality, has been equable about life’s sometimes careless allocation of equity. Perhaps this is partly because, given the nature of Down syndrome, neither he nor his parents have any tormenting sense of what might have been. Down syndrome did not alter the trajectory of his life; Jon was Jon from conception on.

This year Jon will spend his birthday where every year he spends 81 spring, summer and autumn days and evenings, at Nationals Park, in his seat behind the home team’s dugout. The Phillies will be in town, and Jon will be wishing them ruination, just another man, beer in hand, among equals in the republic of baseball.

J. Edgar | ★★★★★★★

Sometimes a movie is a bit more than the plot or the acting. For sure both were pretty good in J. Edgar. Yet the man seemed to trump everything else in this movie. Seeing how J. Edgar Hoover centralized fingerprints and other information nationally was so impressive. The portrayal of how he envisioned a federal organization that would fight crime and enforce the law caused me to appreciate his genius. His methodology seems to be the basis of current day crime scene investigations. The flick does not hide his many imperfections but seems to faithfully tell his story - cross dressing and all.

I recommend J. Edgar and, on a scale of ten, I give it ★★★★★★★

The Blessing of Memory

"Never memorize something that you can look up." -Einstein

Saw this image and quote this morning and was reminded how much I used to memorize scripture. Verses that I once committed to memory often come back to me at the most opportune times. Funny the way that God uses these things to speak to us.

Even so, generally speaking, I resonate with what Einstein says in this quote. Perhaps it speaks to the idea that we should retain the historical big picture and not be as concerned with the dates and times of the past? What things have you committed to memory?

The Password Protection Act of 2012

The issue of employee privacy has been recently challenged by over-zealous employers wanting access to employee's social networking accounts. I really do not understand these folks or why the government needs to be involved. Consider this to this excerpt from a ZDNet article:
A group of Democrats today introduced legislation in both the House and Senate to prevent employers from forcing employees and job applicants into sharing information from their personal social networking accounts. In other words, Maryland may soon not be the only state that has banned employers demanding access to Facebook accounts. The Password Protection Act of 2012 (PPA) would also prevent employers from accessing information on any computer that isn’t owned or controlled by an employee, including private e-mail accounts, photo sharing sites, and smartphones.
Do you agree with employers or do you agree with the ACLU that "employers have no business snooping on their employees’ Facebook pages, private email accounts and smart phones"?

The Conservative Stereotype

I am a conservative leaning person yet I struggle with the ways that conservatives have been stereotyped in our country. So my interest was peaked when I saw a Frank Luntz Washington Post article titled Five myths about conservative voters. Here are the myths from the piece along with my comments ...
  1. Conservatives care most about the size of government. || I tend to disagree with Luntz that "conservatives don’t want a reduced government so much as one that works better and wastes less". Conservatives do think that the government is bloated and in need of reduction. I do agree with him that conservatives (as well as liberals) want a government that is more accountable.
  2. Conservatives want to deport all illegal immigrants. || I agree with Luntz when he says conservatives: embrace legal immigration; believe that there should be an eventual path to earned legal status; want effective border control.
  3. They worship Wall Street. || I agree that "conservatives are highly critical of Wall Street and wholeheartedly celebrate Main Street. The business leaders that conservatives respect most are entrepreneurs, not chief executives; conservatives value small-business owners above big bankers."
  4. Conservatives want to slash Social Security and Medicare. || Luntz makes a good point when he says "When it comes to government retirement programs, conservatives are pragmatic, not ideological." In my thinking conservatism is a blend of ideology and pragmatism. We want conservative solutions that can actually work.
  5. Conservatives don’t care about inequality. || I agree with Luntz when he paints the liberal and conservative divide this way: "Conservatives want to increase opportunity, giving everyone the freedom and tools to prosper, so that the poor may someday become rich. Liberals want to redistribute income, making the rich — quite simply — less rich." The key word for conservatives is opportunity not entitlement.
In this election year the press will continue to stereotype both sides of the political aisle. As with most stereotypes, the myths proffered by them only serve to continue the confusion and misunderstandings. Perhaps more articles like this one will one day help to foster communication? Can you think of other ways that conservatives are stereotyped?

Surviving through Laughter

"Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it." -Bill Cosby

I sometimes think that I would have gone crazy years ago if were not for the presence of humor in my life. One of the gifts I have discovered in my life is the ability to find humor even in the saddest of times. My wife often remarks how I laugh out loud at TV shows (even the so-called dramatic ones) - sometimes the writers of these shows paint life in ways that really amuse and resonate with me. I think that stories we relate to can be the most humorous.

I love this image of Jesus laughing. A few weeks ago one of the folks at our Thursday night small group brought up the idea of Jesus kidding around with his disciples and poking fun at them. She suggested that perhaps he was smiling when he chided them for the lack of their faith. I love that image of the Lord. It stands in stark contrast to the scowling Jesus that is often presented at the movies. It also gives us permission to lighten up about faith.

What makes you laugh out loud? How has humor helped you get through difficult times?

Teaching from the the Heresy Hot Seat

I first heard Carl Medearis teach about nine years ago. Love listening to his stories of interacting with Muslims during his many years of missional ministry in the Middle East. So my interest was peaked when his post, Heresy at Wheaton, came across my RSS reader a while back. Love these points that Carl makes when a couple of Wheaton students put him on the heresy hot seat:
  1. I will and do readily admit that I don’t know everything and I’m likely to be wrong about some things. So cut some slack you heresy hounds. You’re probably right. There! How’s that?
  2. I like to play with the use of words – as you all know. I think “getting saved” is not a bad phrase, just not as helpful as “beginning a life of following Jesus.” These two men, and many of my critics, are so used to hearing certain phrases spoken in a certain sequence, that if you mess that up – well, you must be teaching heresy. Let’s be sure we’re critiquing the heart of the matter, rather than judging the words used to describe the matter.
  3. Hunting heretics doesn't seem to be particularly scriptural and for sure isn’t very helpful to the clear commands of Christ – to love your neighbor and your brother (not to mention, your enemies).
  4. The arrogance that heresy hunters manifest is disturbing at best. It suggest that the one has figured out full and final revealed truth, and the other hasn't. Throughout the years I've seen several examples of the one who preached most powerfully against a certain sin, be the one who fell into that sin. Not loving may be the greatest heresy of all.
I agree with Carl's points (really, who wouldn't?) and especially this last admonition in his article:

To the two Wheaton students – may God bless you in your passionate search for truth. May it be full of all of life’s joys and bumps that will form you into the gracious and godly men you want to be. And to the other heresy-hunters out there….as well-meaning as you are: Get another Job. One that bears fruit.

Jim Thorpe, Amateur and Professional Athletes

Jacobus Franciscus "Jim" Thorpe (Sac and Fox (Sauk) from Oklahoma: Wa-Tho-Huk) (1888-1953) was an American athlete. Considered one of the most versatile athletes in modern sports, he won Olympic gold medals in the pentathlon and decathlon, played American football collegiately and professionally, and also played professional baseball and basketball. He subsequently lost his Olympic titles when it was found he was paid for playing two seasons of minor league baseball before competing in the games (thus violating the amateur status rules). He, like Jesse Owens, found life to be difficult after the Olympics. After his professional sports career ended, Thorpe lived in abject poverty. He worked several odd jobs, struggled with alcoholism and lived out the last years of his life in failing health.

In 1983, thirty years after his death, his medals were restored. Jim Thorpe was named the greatest athlete of the first half of the twentieth century by the Associated Press (AP), in 1950. He ranked third on the AP list of athletes of the century in 1999. I thought about Jim Thorpe when I watched NBA players like Lebron James, Ming Yao and Kobe Bryant play Olympic basketball several years ago. It's been 16 years since the distinction between "amateur" and "professional" was deleted from the Olympic charter. Sad how it took the Olympics so long to come to grips with this amateur and professional thing but I am glad they finally did. Apart from the amount of compensation, do you see a difference between the pros and the amateurs? Is their really a distinction between them?

Converting an Indifferent Abortion Culture

Dustin Siggins recently posted something titled "Time To Change Pro-Life Tactics?" where he lists things that he would change in the approach that pro-lifers take in America. He says that it is all about "converting a culture that is largely indifferent regarding abortion". Here are a few excerpts from his article with a few of my comments:
  • Stop using Biblical arguments to debate abortion.
    It is wonderful to be motivated by faith and words from the bible but it is not always profitable to quote scripture to people who do not embrace our values.
  • Do a better job of educating people about responsible sexual activity prior to becoming pregnant and having an abortion.
    Not sure that people really need more information - even teens understand.
    I might suggest that the abundance of abortion facilities that are used for after-the-fact birth control contributes to irresponsible behaviors.
  • Indiscriminately throwing up images of dead babies and similar tactics as employed by Randall Terry will cause most people to simply turn and look in the other direction.
    Sadly religious hate speech and outrageous imagery seems to have an audience and folks often gravitate to the incendiary words of religious leaders.
  • Stop making abortion about women vs. children. Both are victims when it comes to abortion.
    Often, in the case of incest and rape, women are victims. Yet, more often than not, abortions are done for the convenience of the mother with little regard for the baby.
I suggest that you read the whole article here. I have been pro-life for almost forty years. I long to see us embrace an approach that really makes a difference. I long to see the a change in America where babies are not dismissed as fetuses. Do you resonate with Siggins? What do you think pro-lifers should do to advance the cause of life?

Laughing In Transit

A few funny geriatric observations from my email inbox ...

I have been in many places, but I've never been in Cahoots. Apparently, you can't go alone. You have to be in Cahoots with someone.

I've also never been in Cognito. I hear no one recognizes you there.

I have, however, been in Sane. They don't have an airport; you have to be driven there. I have made several trips there, thanks to my friends, family and work.

I would like to go to Conclusions, but you have to jump, and I'm not too much on physical activity anymore.

I have also been in Doubt. That is a sad place to go, and I try not to visit there too often.

I've been in Flexible, but only when it was very important to stand firm.

Sometimes I'm in Capable, and I go there more often as I'm getting older.

One of my favorite places to be is in Suspense! It really gets the adrenalin flowing and pumps up the old heart! At my age I need all the stimuli I can get!

I may have been in Continent, and I don't remember what country I was in. It's an age thing.

Remembering Bill

Today would have been my brother Bill's 71st birthday. He passed away last week after waging a hard fought battle against cancer. This picture was taken a few years ago outside of his home in New Jersey - it was always hard to get him to smile.. this is as close as we got that day. Here are a few things that I will always remember about my older brother.

My first recollection of Bill was sharing a bedroom with him when I was very young. He was eight years older than me and I always idolized him. When I was a young boy he taught me to play baseball. I remember a day when he took me to one of his sandlot games.. he and his friends included me.. I remember hitting a ball and running the bases. I always felt like Bill wanted me in his life.

Bill was a huge National League baseball fan. He was upset when the Dodgers and the Giants left town in 1957 but got happy when the Mets came to town in 1962.. and even happier when the Jets landed in NYC a few years later. Though he hated the Bronx Bombers he brought me to my first New York Yankees game where I we sat close to my childhood hero, Mickey Mantle, in centerfield. Bill also brought me to Mets games as well. Being with him made me feel special.

I asked my older sister what she thought of when she thought about Bill. She said the phrase "He did it his way" came to mind. I so agree. Bill was a New York original and seemed to have found a way to stay true to who he was all of his life. Sometimes it got him in trouble but, more often than not, people respected his genuineness and authenticity.

He so loved his family. He was devastated when his wife Fran passed away two years ago after forty plus years of marriage. His grown sons and daughter are great people with great families. I could see a bit of Bill and Fran in their eyes and the eyes of their children last week when I was with them in New Jersey. The love they all shared for their father and for each other was so obvious and so precious. It was a meaningful moment for me to share with them.

Lastly I will remember how much my big brother was like our dad. Unlike me he was good with cars - he got that from dad. But like me he had a love for our families. The last time I talked with Bill I came away with a sense of how much my brother loved me. In closing I simply ask you to pray for Bill's family out east.. and his kid brother in Kansas City.