The Veebot

According to this MSN article: "If you’ve ever left the doctor’s office looking like a pin cushion thanks to a zillion failed attempts to draw blood, you’ll love this robotic phlebotomist. If, however, you’d be terrified of a needle-wielding robot, you might think it’s a very bad idea. Called the Veebot, this contraption uses infrared light, a camera and ultrasound to pick the perfect vein, check it for blood flow and whammo, it gets the job done. The brainiacs behind this healthcare gizmo say it successfully chooses the best vein around 83 percent of the time, and if it can boost that rate up to 90 percent they’ll launch clinical trials."

Here Comes the Boom | ★★★★★★★

I did not think that I would like this movie so much. It is about a teacher that rises to the occasion when budget cutbacks threaten his high school's music program. Kevin James is great in this role of an uninspired teacher who moonlights as a mixed martial arts fighter. The story is fairly predictable but here is what I liked about it:

    •  Showed how one person with passion can make a difference;
    •  Wholesome story that attracts young boys who like martial arts;
    •  Nice mix of humor and inspiration - good physical comedy;
    •  The moral message of doing the right thing came through;
    •  Great interactions between a caring teacher and his students;
    •  Good family movie to watch and discuss with the kids.

A nice mix of Rocky and Mr Holland's Opus. I think that I smiled and laughed though most of the movie. I liked it and, on a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

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

Concerning Life, Temptation, High Living, Bad News, Facts ...

Here are a few quotes that I have read recently followed by my comments ...

"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards." -Soren Kierkegaard
This speaks to me of the value of learning from experience but not allowing
the past to cripple the future.
"What some people mistake for the high cost of living is really the cost of high living." -Doug Larson
Using credit to live beyond our means seems to be a plague in America.
"Nothing travels faster than the speed of light with the possible exception of bad news,
which obeys its own special laws." -Douglas Adams
Sqwalk radio and television seems to have made bad news and gossip a sick epidemic.
"The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it." -Oscar Wilde
I could not disagree with this more. Giving in to temptation will never defeat it.
"Facts are the enemy of truth." -Miguel de Cervantes
Sometimes it seems that way. Reminds me that one can be right and not be righteous.

Facebook Contrarianism

"A contrarian is a person who takes up a contrary position, especially a position that is opposed to that of the majority, regardless of how unpopular it may be."

I wonder if this word, contrarian, somewhat describes the way that many folks interact on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. I can relate to acting that way on occasion - my FB friends probably think it to be too many occasions.

That said, I wonder if you think that a contrarian is a welcome presence in your world or do you run when you see one? Are you the type of person who wants to always hangout with folks that have similar views or are you open to hearing views that are contrary to the ones that you hold? I vote for the latter. ツ

Solo Rx Pizza Bad Movie Hodgepodge

The folks at This Side of the Pond have a meme called Wednesday Hodgepodge. Here is my entry for today ...
  1. July 24th is Amelia Earhart Day. Earhart was the first female to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. What's something you've recently accomplished solo?

    Assuming that the question does not mean blogging or grocery shopping ...
    I did recently water the plants.

  2. What's one product you use that never ever fails?

    Not that they "never fail" but I am thankful for the prescription and over-the-counter drugs that alleviates the arthritic pain in my wrists and ankles.

  3. Have you found your place in the world? Where is it?

    My "place in the world" seems to change each decade. What I know to be true is that my place is defined by roles like husband, father, friend and follower of Jesus.

  4. Worst movie you ever saw?

    There are a few movies: Atlas Shrugged, The Amazing Spiderman, Religulous and Sea Wife all share that dishonor. Click on my "Movies" link above to know why.

  5. What's the last fun thing you did?

    Shared a birthday meal with my beautiful wife last night.

  6. The month of July is named for Roman Emperor Julius Caesar...ever been to Rome?
    What's your favorite Italian dish?

    Never been to Italy. I would name pizza as my favorite Italian Dish but everyone knows that pizza was born in New York City.

  7. What is one piece of advice you'd offer new mom Kate Middleton?

    I would advise her and her family to live in America.

  8. Insert your own random thought here.

    My wife Ann had a birthday yesterday. She continues to be my best friend and truest inspiration. I wish her many many more years of happiness and joy.
Thanks for stopping by. Got any hodgepodge to share?

Happy Birthday to the other Kansas Bob

Today I cede my Kansas Bob moniker to the other Bob from Kansas!

I did not really appreciate how much of a great leader Bob Dole was when he was my senator. I was such a mess.

Congrats to him on reaching 90!

Live long and prosper Kansas Bob!

Purgatory, Twitter and Timelessness

This week a CNet story reported that Roman Catholics could: "Cut your time in purgatory by following pope on Twitter". Reminded me of the many conversations that I have had about the timeless nature of existence after life. My view is that anything (i.e. spirit or soul) that survives death will not be limited to the confines of time. It seems to me that time is something that is part of the physical universe and, as such, does not factor into a post-death spiritual world. So the thinking that one can spend "time" in a penitential place called purgatory (or whatever you want to call it) seems to be based on the HUGE assumption that time exists after we die.

If time does exist however, then it seems like heaven will not be as many of us imagine it to be. If time exists in heaven then surely God will not exist there differently than He does in our present day. For if God exists in a time bounded heaven then it would mean that He has chosen to exist inside of something that he has created. Yes, this can make our theological heads spin. But it is something we should consider when we ponder purgatory. ツ

What is Justice?

This week was filled with all sorts of opinions about the recently decided jury case in Florida. Many folks have opined strongly and lengthy about the case. Some felt that justice was done and others thought it was not. The case reminds me that laws and legal systems do not always achieve justice. Here is a comment that I wrote on Heather Koop's post titled: "Will There Be Monsters in Heaven?"
I think that our thoughts of vengeance are rooted in our skewed human view of justice. Justice is not found in retribution against the monsters but in the acts that restore such devils and make them saints.
A few years ago I spent three years weekly visiting a prison in Kansas and three years monthly visiting a jail in Kansas City. My one observation was that justice was only being accomplished in those places when the lives of the men there were being changed for the better. Justice looked more like contrition and repentance than about penalization. Apart from that, I do not think that justice really exists behind bars. My hope is that one day such justice will be more prevalent.

Red 2 | ★★★★★★★

Last night Ann and I caught an early screening of this movie at our nearby cinema. My first reaction is: if you liked Red, you will enjoy Red 2. The same cast of characters (sans Morgan Freeman) is back and the plot (though it was a bit contrived) was snappy, fun and kept you engaged. In a sense Red 2 (like Red) is a spoof on action-packed spy movies. Your imagination and sense of credulity is stretched a bit as over-the-hill retired-geezer-spies take on much younger die-hard type of enemies and prevail - sort of.

It was apparent by the laugh-out-loud reactions of the audience that this flick was packed with funny moments. John Malkovich's facial expressions cracked me up and the interactions between him and Bruce Willis had me smiling. All in all, I liked Red 2 and would recommend it to geezers like me who enjoy a bit of over the top action in a funny movie.
On a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★.

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

Shadowlands | ★★★★★★★★☆☆

I remember watching this movie a few months after my first wife died. It is the story of CS Lewis and his courtship and eventual marriage to Joy Davidman. I like the writings of Lewis and just watched it to have 'something to do' as my kids were doing sleepovers with friends.

The plot drew me in and then crushed me as I realized it was a movie about grieving and pain. As I watched Lewis grieve, I was confronted with my own grief. Here is an excerpt from the movie:
Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore: only the life I have lived. Twice in that life I've been given the choice: as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety, the man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal.
I so relate to that statement. Even so it is strange to envision a happiness that involves pain. Here is another quote from the movie:
That's not why I pray, Harry. I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God, it changes me.
I wish that I did not understand in excruciating detail what it means to be changed by this kind of prayer. Shadowlands is a great movie. I recommend it to you. On a scale of ten, give it ★★★★★★★★☆☆.

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

The Selfie

I am thinking that I have simply been too shielded from Social Media - is that possible for a guy who has been blogging since 2004? I say that because I have never (to my ancient recollection anyways) heard of the term "selfie". Here is how The Guardian newspaper describes it.
It starts with a certain angle: a smartphone tilted at 45 degrees just above your eyeline is generally deemed the most forgiving. Then a light source: the flattering beam of a backlit window or a bursting supernova of flash reflected in a bathroom mirror, as preparations are under way for a night out. The pose is important. Knowing self-awareness is conveyed by the slight raise of an eyebrow, the sideways smile that says you're not taking it too seriously. A doe-eyed stare and mussed-up hair denotes natural beauty, as if you've just woken up and can't help looking like this. Sexiness is suggested by sucked-in cheeks, pouting lips, a nonchalant cock of the head and a hint of bare flesh just below the clavicle. Snap! Afterwards, a flattering filter is applied. Outlines are blurred, colours are softened, a sepia tint soaks through to imply a simpler era of vinyl records and VW camper vans.

All of this is the work of an instant. Then, with a single tap, you are ready to upload: to Twitter, to Facebook, to Instagram, each likeness accompanied by a self-referential hashtag. Your image is retweeted and tagged and shared. Your screen fills with thumbs-up signs and heart-shaped emoticons. You are "liked" several times over. You feel a shiver of – what, exactly? Approbation? Reassurance? Existential calm? Whatever it is, it's addictive. Soon, you repeat the whole process, trying out a different pose. Again and again, you offer yourself up for public consumption.
I do not think that I have ever taken a selfie but maybe I should? How about you? Have you ever taken one?

Hopelessness died. Courage was born.

Yesterday Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban, spoke to at the United Nations. It was a great 16 minute speech from a truly inspirational young lady. Here is an excerpt from it.
"Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. And my dreams are the same. Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I am here to speak for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all the terrorists and extremists.

I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there was a gun in my hand and he was standing in front of me, I would not shoot him. This is the compassion I have learned from Mohamed, the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha. This the legacy of change I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of nonviolence that I have learned from Gandhi, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother. This is what my soul is telling me: be peaceful and love everyone."
I recommend that you watch her speech in full here. It represents the very best of our future.

Should Seminarians be forbidden Student Loans?

My friend Bill blogged yesterday about a seminary that has changed their policy about student loans. Here is their statement about it:
“It is the formal position of City Seminary of Sacramento to forbid students to incur debt for the purpose of paying tuition expenses. While those embarking upon secular business careers may reasonably expect to repay student debt out of future earnings growth, such an expectation is inappropriate for a graduate who may well be called upon to serve in a poor or even poverty-stricken field of ministry. In keeping with this conviction, the Board of Governors endeavors to provide sufficient tuition scholarship aid so that no qualified student is denied a theological education for financial reasons.”
I am not sure how to respond. My first reaction is to cheer such a decision. I do wonder how student debt drives ministers to make foolish decisions just to make ends meet.

Goodbye Copper

Saw an interesting story this week about how phone companies are abandoning their old copper phone lines. Here is the beginning of the story from the Associated Press:
Robert Post misses his phone line. Post, 85, has a pacemaker that needs to be checked once a month by phone. But the copper wiring that once connected his home to the rest of the world is gone, and the phone company refuses to restore it.

In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy pushed the sea over Post’s neighborhood in Mantoloking, N.J., leaving hundreds of homes wrecked, and one floating in the bay. The homes on this sandy spit of land along the Jersey Shore are being rebuilt, but Verizon doesn’t want to replace washed-away lines and waterlogged underground cables. Phone lines are outdated, the company said.
With the advent of cell phones, Skype and other internet communications I can understand this change. Even so, for this onetime Ma Bell employee, I will miss the simplicity that the copper lines brought us. With copper you did not need the power to be operational to make a call. With copper all you needed was a few wires and a handset. Alas, a time gone by. Goodbye copper. You served us well for over a century.

Tesla Invention Quiz

Today is the 157th anniversary of the birth of inventor Nikola Tesla.

Which of these were not invented by him?
  1. Robotics
  2. Remote Control
  3. Refrigeration
  4. Electric Motors
  5. Radio
  6. Neon Lights
  7. X-Rays
  8. Lasers
Check your guesses answers here and let me know how you did. ツ

Ever worn Overalls?

Thomas Edison once said "The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work."  I have to admit that I have never worn overalls but I think that Edison reminds me of a time when hard work and industry were valued differently than they are today. I saw that change in the 1970s when people clichéd about working smarter not harder - that statement seemed to subtly disparage the value of the kind of work done in overalls. I like the way that David Brooks begins his column titled "Religion and Inequality" ...

About a century ago, Walter Judd was a 17-year-old boy hoping to go to college at the University of Nebraska. His father pulled him aside and told him that, though the family had happily paid for Judd’s two sisters to go to college, Judd himself would get no money for tuition or room and board. His father explained that he thought his son might one day go on to become a fine doctor, but he had also seen loose tendencies. Some hard manual labor during college would straighten him out.

Judd took the train to the university, arrived at the station at 10:30 and by 12:15 had found a job washing dishes at the cafeteria of the Y.M.C.A. He did that job every day of his first year, rising at 6 each morning, not having his first college date until the last week of the school year. Judd went on to become a doctor, a daring medical missionary and a prominent member of Congress between 1943 and 1963. The anecdote is small, but it illustrates a few things. First, that, in those days, it was possible to work your way through college doing dishes. More important, that people then were more likely to assume that jobs at the bottom of the status ladder were ennobling and that jobs at the top were morally perilous.

I like the way that Brooks goes on to say that the hard work of the working class was once the moral bedrock of our nation. Once people like Walter Judd's father understood first hand that success was meaningless without hard work. I wonder, in these get-rich times, if we can ever recover the idea that working hard is a smart and noble way to live?

Life as a Symphony

These days I see life as a beautiful and breathtaking symphony that defies all reason. In my lowest times I still find hope. In my darkest hours light seems to burst in. Sometimes life comes in with beautiful and life giving symphonic crescendos. At other times the decrescendo looms ever present. Perhaps the secret to joyous living is to simply lean back, enjoy the music and not analyze it too much.

-my response to the 'everything happens for a reason' cliché.

Endorsing Coffee Shop Etiquette

This image is one of our local coffee shop that is just a few blocks from our loft. Visiting a coffee shop is usually a great and relaxing experience. Yet sometimes not so much when worker-bees are there. I endorse the points that James Kendrick at ZDNet makes in a post titled "Coffee shop work etiquette". Here are his points with my commentary ...
  • Take phone calls outside :: nothing is more annoying than someone near to you that is breaking your morning zen by yelling at their phone.
  • Always use headphones :: not interested in your music or the latest viral video that you think is so entertaining.
  • Don't be an outlet addict :: really - you are spending way too much time at the coffee shop (or you need a new computer) if you need to plug in.
  • Befriend the baristas :: good advice. try tipping them too.
  • Do not conduct interviews in public places :: who wants to see grown people trying to impress lower level managers?
  • Keep meetings small and quiet :: sometimes it is hard to hear someone across the table from you because of all the noisy (not really) "business" that is being done.
  • Introduce yourself to other regulars :: my friend and spiritual mentor is an advocate of this kind of interaction - not that you will catch me doing it ... but feel free to talk to me.
Anything else bother you in these places? Do you have anything to add to the etiquette list?

US Presidents on Freedom

If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter. -George Washington

Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits. -Thomas Jefferson

Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves. -Abraham Lincoln

True individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made. -Franklin D. Roosevelt

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid. -Dwight D. Eisenhower

The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender, or submission. -John F. Kennedy

The Israelis have shown qualities that Americans identify with: guts, patriotism, idealism, a passion for freedom. I know. I believe that. -Richard M. Nixon

Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged. -Ronald Reagan

Everywhere that freedom stirs, let tyrants fear. -George W. Bush

We, the people, must make their task our own — to live up to the words of that Declaration of Independence, and secure liberty and opportunity for our own children, and for future generations. -Barack Obama

Yearning to Breathe Free

Today, July 4th, takes me back to my childhood home. One of the sweetest memories I have growing up in New York City is the view of the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. Growing up, I lived on Staten Island and, for a few years, went to Brooklyn Technical High School, a magnet type of engineering school. I have vivid memories of seeing Lady Liberty as I traveled to school each day (I took a bus, ferry and subway) and think that she represents some of the best things about America. A poem by Emma Lazarus is engraved on a tablet within the pedestal on which the statue stands. Here is what it says:

The New Colossus

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

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

With an immigration bill being debated in congress, please join me in praying for America ... that we would be a people who care for the poorest amongst us and shows love for the immigrant. While you are at it pray for our churches and religious groups that care for our homeless, hurting and struggling brothers and sisters. Lady Liberty would appreciate it.

Futuristic Bone Casts

I love the way that medical technology has improved our lives. This just in from CNet...

"After many centuries of splints and cumbersome plaster casts that have been the itchy and smelly bane of millions of children, adults and the aged alike, the world over, we at last bring fracture support into the 21st century," writes Evill, who just graduated from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand.

The concept would work by having the patient's arm (wrist, leg, or whatever) X-rayed and 3D-scanned. Each cast would be individualized to provide more support at the site of the injury. The whole thing looks a bit like a futuristic lace pattern. A tighter "grain" of holes goes over the injury site for more protection.

The cast is just a concept at this point, but considering how the medical world has embraced the use of 3D printers, it may not be too far off from becoming reality.