Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trouble in the Ivory Coast

The NY Times reports on the recent political unease in the Ivory Coast. The current ruler lost an election last month, yet he has decided not to give up his power. Seems like Mr. Gbagbo really likes his Presidential perks as he defies the will of the majority of his people.

The neighboring countries are none-too-pleased, but are reluctant to use violence to remove him.

It is sad that a country of 10 million people must suffer this little man with too-much power.

btw, if you read the article, "autarchy" is the ability to be self-sufficient. This is different from "autocracy", which is the rule (of a city or state) by one person.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Saints

As a Protestant, I'm sometimes baffled at the practices of friends of Roman Catholic persuasion. The Anchoress, while looking back at her chosen saint of 2010 and looking forward to her chosen saint of 2011, includes a curious link. The link is to a website that randomly generates the name of a saint - just for you. Mine turned out to be St. Isidore, the Farmer. Interestingly, he's the Patron Saint against the death of children. He's also the Patron Saint of many other things/people/places.

So, are you curious to know who your saint will be for the coming year?

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Response to EJ Dionne

Mr. Dionne wrote an article today for one of my favorite News/Opinion websites: RealClearPolitics. He wants to remind us all that we should not "spin" the Civil War. It was about slavery first, second, and third.

My response:

The reason that the Civil War was fought was different than the reason that the Southern States left the Union.

I agree that a primary reason for the Southern States' departure was the difficulty in consensus among the States about slavery. While there were other major issues such as taxes and the role of the Federal Government (sound familiar?), "slavery" is rightly seen as a good representative "reason for secession".

The two sides fought for differing reasons, however. The South fought to put reality to their declarations - they wanted self-determination and independence from the other States (think Federal Government). The North (again, think Federal Government) fought to deny independence to the Southern States.

Make no mistake, Lincoln - if he is to be trusted - tried to arrest the exodus of States by declaring in his First Inaugural Address, "I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so."

He also stated to Horace Greeley, "If I could save the Union without freeing any slaves, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it, and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also so that."

Further, when some counties of Virginia broke away from that State, Lincoln welcomed them into the US as a slave state as West Virginia.

If Lincoln was fighting to free the slaves, he did so not on principle, but as a means to his primary end - maintain dominion over the Southern States.

I've learned that the history of slavery in the US is more complex that I originally thought. I've learned that blacks in the South sometimes owned slaves - sometimes many slaves. I've learned that whites were sometimes slaves - though not at the time of the Civil War. Complexity brings about differing opinions that ought not be derided simply as "spin". The Civil War was fought for reasons good and bad, but it is not as clear cut an issue as Mr Dionne states.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Mites and the Bees

People have, in recent years, noticed a decline in the Honeybee populations. This is regrettable because it makes the honey more expensive. Some have suggested that the trouble is caused by the ever increasing number of radio waves that we shove through the air.

This article suggests that one major source of trouble is Varroa Mites - and they might be controllable soon. It involves tinkering with their genetic code so the mites would "self-destruct". From what I can figure, it's like having an auto-immune disorder where the body attacks itself. While this is all very interesting, and hopefully the bees will win their wars, I'm pretty nervous about playing with the genetic codes of little bugs. What if they grow to be 10x their size as an unforeseen and unintended consequence?

(the red bug on the bee is the mite - on the picture above)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Guess the title for the list

The following is a list of 25 countries (in order). These came from this article. Give your guess for the title in the comments.

GDP per capita
% GDP for food
% food exports
Sri Lanka
Hong Kong
Dominican Republic

The title: Nations most at risk for a food shortage.
(triple-click the word "Nations" in the line above for the answer, but first put your guess in the comments)

150 Years Ago Today

The s(S)tate of South Carolina voted to leave the Union. Here's how it is reported: "We, the people of the State of South Carolina in convention assembled, do declare and ordain ... that the Union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of 'the United States of America,' is hereby dissolved," and SC left the country to go it alone again.

Finding out what actually happened to cause the War between the States has been a pursuit of mine over the last 11 years. At times, I've really studied hard, while other times, not so much. I'm very surprised by how much myth and misinformation is out there - and I believed. While many of the myths revolve around Abraham Lincoln, there are myths aplenty for all sides.

For the misinformation around secession, it was universally believed up until 1860 that this was legal for a state to do. A couple New England states had voted on articles of secession during the War of 1812. Other states had threatened to do the same. But it is my understanding that when it all came down to brass tacks, the Nothern States (headed by Lincoln) could not afford the expense of having South Carolina withdraw their economy. It would impact the Treasury too greatly.

But aren't most wars about money? And why would I be surprised at finding this out? Many states followed SC to their independence. This happened over the next several months - 150 years ago.

Americans' Beliefs about the Universe's Origins

40% of Americans still believe in a "Young Earth". (Think this: the earth is less than 10,000 years old. Think this: Adam and Eve living in a literal Garden of Eden.)

This represents some of the findings of a new poll conducted by Gallup. The remaining opinions were: A God-guided evolution (38%), and a godless evolution (16%). No word on the remaining 6% - maybe they believe that the universe is imaginary!

I remember back in my Teacher Training days, in my Science Education class when I presented on this subject. I pleaded with my fellow teacher-wanna-bees not to be prejudiced against the Young Earth Creationists. While I myself am not in that camp, I was at one time, and I remember the confusion and heartache of the worldviews in collision. That can be hard to take for a teenager. It wasn't received well. One tried to tie a Creationist mindset to the mindset of a Nazi. I made him regret that comment. Science teachers can be very intolerant of competing perspectives on truth. By extension, so can scientists.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holy Astronomical Collision Batman

For the first time in many hundred years, a Lunar Eclipse will match up with the Winter Solstice. (Those who write horoscopes must be going nuts!) Starting Tuesday, just after midnight, the moon will start to hide in the shadow of the Earth - full moon to no moon. It will take a few hours for the hiding to the Peek-a-boo on the other side to complete. And whatever else is happening, it promises to be cold in MN. So find a warm spot inside the house or car with some people or things to keep you awake, and you may well be able to see this "once-in-four-hundred-year event". Then, of course, you could otherwise try and get a good night's sleep.

I wonder if there is a lottery drawing on Tuesday, I read that that was supposed to be my lucky day!

More here, but you'll have to slog through a short interview with a Wiccan.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I don't know if you can see the graph on the right very well. The title is Revenues. In purple: Private Contributions 28%, in blue: Health Center Income 37%, in green: Government Grants 33%, in red: other 2%. Source.

This is the revenue stream recently reported by Planned Parenthood for their year 2008-2009.

$363.2 million is the amount received in government grants - and it represents a full third of all the funds they took in for their year. A full $55.8 million was spent on "Public Policy & Others" (think political lobbying). (p.29)

If you read through the report, there are many references to politicians who have supported and / or contributed to PP. To me, it begs this question: Why are they so involved with government's (think "taxpayer's", think "your") money if they want government to stay out of their lives and choices?

More reading and commentary: here

Thursday, December 16, 2010

7 Desires

In finding the previous video ("Where's the Line to See Jesus?"), I came across a Christian substitute for YouTube. They call it Godtube. Of course, I looked for Mark Heard videos. He was an early advocate for MTV and made a music video when it first came on the TV. (I don't think he'd like where it has ended up....)

Anyway, my search found a man that I know. He is Mark Lasaar. He gives a long presentation about the new book that he and his wife wrote. If you have a spare half-hour, it is worth the listen.

Celebrating Christmas

I'm not thrilled with Christian Music Videos. Just give me the song.

But I heard a song in the car this morning - and it is the only way I could really post about it.

I was witnessed to a few days ago by some JWs (Jehovah's Witnesses). I love talking with them (seriously, I do). The latest of their AWAKE magazines rails against Christmas. So that was the issue for discussion. Of course, we had plenty in common - against consumerism and the advertising. They went further and attacked the roots of planned celebrations altogether. Strangely, I defended our practice of celebrating Christmas - by trying to illustrate that Christmas at our house was really focused on the birth of Jesus first and foremost. Now, I have to put my hand to the plow and make sure it happens that way as best I can. I have some ideas, but would welcome suggestions.

  1. Sing Christmas songs as a family
  2. Read the Bible / Nativity stories

Friday, December 10, 2010

'Tis a crying shame

I'm not one who much relishes visiting relics. Heck, I didn't get misty-eyed trooping around Israel for a month. (Walking the same paths that Jesus and David walked - oh well.)

The other day, in the United Kingdom, someone hacked down a thorn bush that was thought to be especially holy. As the story goes, Joseph of Arimethia brought not only the Holy Grail, but Jesus' staff to this spot in Glastonbury. Joseph stuck the staff into the ground and the staff became the thorn bush that has attracted visitors and pilgrims ever since. There was a time when Oliver Cromwell (400 years ago) had the bush cut down, but it was not destroyed - and was eventually replanted.

It's too bad that the perpetrators had to destroy such a thing so important to so many others.

(Still no definitive word about the grail. But some people have been looking. Here and here.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, Grace

Happy Birthday to you, Grace. You're one year old today. Enjoy you're day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How can we win?

Some fighters boastfully declare that they can defeat their foe with one arm tied behind their backs. As our troops are fighting in Afghanistan, it seems that the people on our side are trying to tie both arms behind the back. From the Washington Examiner, the military has instituted a "Catch and Release" policy for Taliban fighters - the opponents. Makes me wonder what we are doing there? And why are we fighting if not to win?

I'm glad science is looking into this . . .

It has just been brought to light an important study in the Social Sciences. A study in human behavior out of Sweden as it relates to Chess. Yes, chess.

You can view the abstract and download the study here.

Basically, it says that the study concluded that male chess players took riskier strategies when playing against attractive female players. The reverse was not, in fact, the case. That came out of nowhere - completely unexpected.

I do wonder if these conclusions may be applied to Cribbage.

Who do you think funded this landmark and important study?

Monday, November 29, 2010

I knew something was wrong with me

I have a disorder. Now, I haven't been medically tested, but I'm sure my family members would corroborate: Selective Eating Disorder. (If only my parents would have known . . . .)

There are some things that I dislike due to taste. Some things I dislike due to texture. Most are due to both. Usually centers around food that is quite good for me (think veggies), but also includes most food from the water (fish, scallops, etc.)

People around me have wondered what was wrong with me. "Why don't you like this food? Everyone likes kimchi!" "Oh no. Don't pass the beans to Tim. He hates them."

At least my story isn't like this man's story. I'm glad I have only a few, fairly minor disorders.

Could I apply for 'Disability' with this?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Quantitative Easing - Explained

Wow! Ever wonder about what the Federal Reserve is up to? (and why Ron Paul hates them so much.)

This should explain alot.

Enjoy! This video has almost 3 million views on YouTube!

The Tea Party - Explained

If you love animation (without the action) and computer voices (with no inflection) and politics, you might like this. Apart from those, this 9 minute dialog is a good summary of what the Tea Party is about.

It seems to represent many of the things I believe politically - thought I'm more extreme on the abortion position. (I'm a single-issue voter, except for all the other issues.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Politics aside, this man has a backbone of steel

Just to set this up, the speaker is introduced in some general assembly of the European Union governing body. His position is clear, he is against the Euro and he is against the European Union. (He is British.) But he stands and speaks to these European leaders to their faces, and condemns them for making millions poor (in many ways) so that these leaders can have their dreams fulfilled of a unified Europe. To their faces. Reminds me of Polycarp.

Read transcript here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Root Canal anyone?

I can think of any number of reason why I want to avoid a root canal. It will hurt, it will take time I don't have, will take money I don't have, and etc. Joseph Mercola explains another reason why these should be avoided:

I never thought of it that way - that "root canal" procedures simply keep dead body material in the body to decay and harbor infection.

Read his entire article with a Q&A here.

(Any stories to share on this topic, Amy?)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Music to My Eyes

An early Mark Heard song: Appalachian Melody

Appalachian melody drifting softly down
Instruments of gold and red and brown
Do not need no dulcimer or banjo-fiddle sound
For right now I'll watch these leaves come down

How peculiar liking old dead leaves against the sky
There is something more than meets the eye
Funny how I sit and watch these leaves come down from high
But these things are music to my eyes

Such a pretty song I see, have I been beguiled
This day is not imagination's child
Every time the leaves come down I've just got to smile
For they sing a melody so mild

But these things are music to my eyes


Mark didn't write a song about winter as I recall.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I can't understand this . . .

A couple from Apple Valley, MN has posted an online poll and asked people to vote on it. It is open until Dec. 7, so if you have an opinion . . . . Here's the thing, they are pregnant. And the poll question is: "Should we give birth or have an abortion?". Though I haven't read it on their site explicitly, I'm presuming that they will go with the majority vote. Currently, it's 4-1 give birth.

Assuming that the child is born, how could they look this kid in the eye and tell them the story of the poll and then assume that the child still feels loved by them? That they are asking others to make a decision for them does not remove them from responsibility. Yet, with that (huge) responsibility, they are trusting people whom they don't even know with this.

Is life this "throw-awayable"?

Read the Star-Trib article here.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Worst Miss . . . EVER

And they call this the "Beautiful Game".

The long Election night

My election drama has just taken another turn. Yesterday, the GOP has filed a motion with the MN Supreme Court in hopes to bring some more sunshine on the recent election - specifically the Governor's race. The two contestants in question are quite close and a recount is in order. But before that happens, the GOP wants there to be a reconciliation of the numbers.

Here's what that means: At the end of the voting day, the election judges have to match up the number of ballots that they've given out with the number of ballots that are in the ballot box. If they are different, then they need to find out why. Two years ago, there were more ballots in ballot boxes than ballots given out by election judges. Hmmmm. There was also a recount there. The GOP wants to bring the light of day to this process. They claim that in MN Election Law, the reconciliation of the numbers must include a counting of the number of the signatures in the registration books. So the GOP sent out calls for Election Judges who worked at precincts where this kind of reconciliation was not done. I responded. I signed an a paper saying so. My testimony is included in the motion sent to the Supreme Court.

When the GOP CC'd me, they suggested that members of the press may wish for comment from me. Yikes!

I will keep further comment about what I think of this move to myself until this phase is over.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Well . . . at least its free!

There are a lot of free things in the world. Of course, most free things are not without strings. Today, I just signed up to get a pair of scissors - free. Here. How great is that! Of course, the email in my Spam box will be filling up twice as fast now!

Then, every once in a while, you come across something completely free - any strings that might have been attached are cut. You could have a free vasectomy. That's right, everyone could travel to Denver to get themselves infertile - well, half of everyone.

Everything is free. If only I could find someone to get me a free lunch.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Do I know you?

One of the "blog-roll" lists that I have on the right side is Post-Secrets. It is a blog that posts secrets, confessions, thanksgivings, confusions, and wonderings. As a person for whom life is sometimes confusing, and for whom people sometimes seem so alien, this website can be really therapeutic. Of course, it is all done without names - and very often faces are blurred - to protect identities.

So when I see a Post-Secret that I can apply to someone I know, I congratulate myself on figuring out who (among the gazillions who have sent these in) belongs to this one. Like the one above . . . .

Why was it that I visited this blog in the first place?

Disclaimer: this website is not for children.

(click on the picture to see a larger version)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh! What to do?

I have long been skeptical of the notion that the US should give financial gifts to other countries (ie. Foreign AID). It seems to me to be an unwarranted intrusion into another country's internal political dynamics. It tends to prop up up dictators, basically (all in the name of 'keeping the peace').

Now we get word that Humanitarian AID is having disastrous unintended consequences for the recipient countries. Case in point, Ethiopia. Remember "We Are The World" back in the mid-1980's? The song-spinners asked us to give money to help the poor and starving in Ethiopia. While we saw that people were indeed starving, we didn't see that there was a war going on - and that the AID prolonged the war and ultimately brought a repressive dictator to power. This dictator is still in power and he is still repressing his own people.

The starving children of Ethiopia were not the victims of drought, as most people believed at the time. They were the victims of politics. The government of the time was using famine as an instrument of war, and the rebels were more interested in defeating the government than in feeding famine victims. As William Easterly, a leading aid skeptic, puts it, “It’s not the rains, it’s the rulers.” Political famines attract the food aid industry, with the consequence that governments or rebel groups are able to feed their own armies and divert resources to buy more weapons. Humanitarian aid in conflict zones is always problematic. It helps the bad guys as well as the innocent.
I guess, in a way, I feel duped. In another way, I feel like people exploited my intentions and sympathies for their own gain. And in another way, it's just sad that evil people make it difficult to help others. Oh! What would Jesus do?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Coming Dec 10th

Got your tickets yet?

The Politics of Circumcision

Circumcision - male circumcision - in state of San Francisco.

There is a petition going around in the San Fransisco which would make it a misdemeanor (a crime with possible jail time) to circumcise a male under the age of 18. Of course, it is just a petition. Even if enough people sign the petition, it would still need to be voted on. Even so, just goes to show that San Francisco is on the 'bleeding edge' of government regulation. Just recently, they banned Happy Meals (that is, toys included in meal packages to entice children to purchase insufficiently healthy foods - like Joe Camel on cigarette cartons).

But the question remains concerning circumcision - is it a good idea? I'd presume to know what the Jewish community's reaction to this is. What are the health concerns?

The National Institute of Health seems to think it is a good idea because it tends to limit the transmission of AIDS (reducing chances of transmission by up to 65%!). This is especially interesting to people who worry about AIDS in Africa. The circumcision campaigns in that continent are even developing new tools to help in this delicate procedure.

There are also dissenters. (See here for longer paper on the issue.)

Regardless of the health question, in the end, who decides if circumcision is right for the child? Are we wanting the government to make such determinations?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Corrections to the story of David

Over the last weekend, the children's choir at our church was given a lesson with some kind of helpful, moral point. To use a negative illustration, the teacher used David. The focus of the story about David was his relationship with Bathsheba.

On the way home, after singing during 3 Sunday morning services, I debriefed with Anjali about the story told about David. The presenter/teacher was probably 23 years old, and his audience was somewhere between 5 and 11 years old. This was one of the reasons that he told the story why he did. But understand this, David did not fall in love with Bathsheba when he committed adultery. This is what is called "lust". He wanted to share privacy parts (a term our family uses). He was the king and he would not be denied. Had very little to do with love.

David was very sorry for what he had done. Well, lets see. Probably took 45 days or more to determine that Bathsheba was pregnant. He tried to get Uriah back home to sleep with her. That didn't work, so David hatched the plan to kill him. All these attempts to keep away from the blame took more time. It wasn't until Nathan confronted him that he owned up and showed sorrow for what he had done. Sure, he was sorry, but make no mistake, he first went to great lengths to cover it up.

The baby died as a result of David's sin because God wanted to punish David. While this is actually in the text, the one who actually got hurt the most was, of course, the baby. No mention of the baby.

What do we do when Bible stories are told and they don't match the Bible? Even if the teacher's lesson is a good one, I'm going to encourage Anjali and Mark to rely on the text as much as possible.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Evolution of Empathy - the video

Hold on to your hats!

A Castle for sale

There is presently a castle for sale in France - not far from Paris. (I hear it even has French-style gardens.) Really, all that is needed to complete its refurbishment is a Princess and a Prince. The price is negotiable, though the negotiating starts at just under 5M euros. What could be nicer than to wile away the time in a castle of your own? And whoever said "Spare the rod - spoil the child" never had a dungeon at their disposal for alternatives to the rod. Anyway, it'd be worth a try.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Oh the depths from which we have risen!

A very old board game, The Game of Goose, was a wonder to the people of the Middle-Ages. It had everything one could want: dice, geese, mazes, prisons, and a race to the finish.

As this author describes it, it wasn't merely a child's game. Many adults loved the game. Fortunes were won and lost on this game. (I write this with a smirk on my face) It had the all the excitement of a game of Candyland without the colorful pictures!

Here for more.

(image from

The voice of God - ouch


I cannot add to this outstanding essay.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

An impostor Apple Pie

Strange where links take one when the gray cells get jumpy. Here's the story...

Monica Gaudio posted a very interesting (short) piece on the history of apple pies. It included a couple ancient apple pie recipes. (Takers anyone? they look tasty.) This was back in 2005.

Evidently, a good portion of the article was lifted and reprinted (with all the Old English spellings replaced my Modern English spellings) by a CookBook publisher. Wow! Someone told Monica about it - and an interesting story has developed out of it.

It is really curious to me in just how many areas of peoples' lives that fellow humans can try to loot or otherwise take advantage of.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Can't take it with you

There are many billboards in my driving area that ask the question: What do you dream of? Of course, the answer that they are looking for is: Money. They are ads for the lottery.

Out of Canada comes a story of an elderly couple who won just such a lottery - then gave it all away. They said that the money was a "big headache".

Makes one wondering what they were doing with the lottery ticket in the first place.

Seeing God

It seems like my posts, one after another, have little to do with the post that came previously. Here's another seemingly random post - I'll comment on the election later - hopefully soon - as I also hope the recount ends soon.

When I've got a few spare seconds and some jumpy grey cells, looking at the side links of "PowerLine" or "The Anchoress" often calm my cells. One post from The Anchoress caught my attention. She was responding to, or simply affirming a short article by Shu-Fy H. Pongnon. The article was a reflection about what color God's skin was.

Here's a selection about her moment of transformation:
It was the moment I realized that nothing I believed about how God looks ever mattered. It was like St. Paul trying to convince the disciples that, "Hey, what we're doing here is totally different! We're not Jews following Jesus. We're Christians!" Get the difference? God had given me a new vocabulary, and a new set of eyes, that wasn't tied to the hot-button issues of terra firma. It was more than what the eye could see.
I've often thought that the passage in 2 Cor 5 about being a new creation has much more to do with the mind than the soul. The new creation is largely about a new perspective.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
It is a short essay - you can read it here. It's worth your time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Tomorrow is the vote

Yikes! I'm an Election Judge. Pray for me.

I've been very disturbed by the rules and loopholes in the laws for voting in MN. As long as someone will say they have "personal knowledge" that you are a resident in that voting area then you can vote there. If you are willing to lie about it, you can be a non-American citizen and vote in this manner.

I'd like my vote to count instead of being negated by someone who was not supposed to be voting. As an Election Judge, it is my sworn duty to prevent fraud in the part of the election I'm overseeing. With tensions and passions about the election running so high, I hope things are done with honesty and integrity, so at the end, we are at least pleased with the process.

Alas, I'm not confident. But I'm glad I'm going to be in a position where I can make a difference and do my part.

Thank you for your prayers.


Happy Binary Day!

There's only a few left in our expected lifetimes. Enjoy them while you can.

(There's another couple coming up next week.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

If Only . . . (science post)

It has been discovered that fulvalene diruthium (Ruthium is element #44 - and quite rare). Umm, let me start again.

It has been discovered that this rare molecule has a wondrous property - it can store heat! What does that mean? Everything can store heat! True, but this is different. This molecule can store heat and lock it away - the heat doesn't "bleed away". The heat is locked away chemically and stored in the chemical bonds as the heat changes those bonds. Then, to unleash that heat, a simple nudge is required and the heat is released.

So when winter comes to MN - and it will very soon - I could call my parents and ask them to send some of that Florida heat up to Minneapolis. If they had some of this stuff, they could just set it out in the sun for awhile, bottle it up, and send it to me. Oh joy.

Regretably, the Ruthium is quite rare. It is found along with Platinum. (Smart people would take the platinum and leave the Ruthium.) It is also a byproduct of the nuclear fission of Uranium. So it could be 'mined' from spent fuel rods.

Even so, it is exciting to have such a 'game-changing' technology possibly close at hand.

Poverty in America

for a larger look (sorry its so small), look here.

interactive image from

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Parody can be lots of fun

This one makes fun of Senator Boxer from CA.

Call Me Senator from RightChange on Vimeo.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Shocking Video

A video, well done I might add, has been made to promote the "Yes" vote in Colorado on the ballot Amendment 62. The vote is coming up in less than 2 weeks.

Did I say that the video was shocking?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I'm sorry ... I didn't know.

In my mid-week Bible study, we were studying the passage in 1Pet where Peter mentions that one, having suffered in their body, were done with sin.

We thought that the suffering in the body would focus the attention so as to put the desires for sin to the side - the pain has a way of focusing the mind. But where is it in the world where Christians are suffering for Christ?

I cannot suffer for them. That is their curse and blessing. Yet, I can think of them, remember them, be inspired by them, . . . and pray for them. Maybe, in some way, their suffering can make a difference for good in me. And in turn, that difference may be good for others. May it help to focus me than I also might be done with sin.

In Afghanistan, and why we are there

My wife has been talking recently about stories she's read about the improvement in society when girls get an education - even a minimal amount of formal training. This is all well and good and very important.

But, when we encounter cultures that intentionally oppress ladies, and keep females from their natural positions of power (shared with the males), not only do we get a lack of education for the women, we get a cultures worthy of extinction.

Church Joke

Last Sunday, we had a guest preacher. He was from Focus On The Family, and he spoke about having "Perfect Peace". Of course there were 3 points. But the part most memorable was the joke he told.

Ole and Leena loved to go to the State Fair. So every year, they would get their picnic basket, pile into their car, and drive to St. Paul for the fair. And every year, Ole would look longingly at the Helicopter Ride. He would bring it up with Leena, saying "I've wanted to go on that Helicopter Ride for many years now. Maybe this is the year." To which Leena replied, "Yes. It appears to be a fine ride. However, it costs $50. And $50 is $50." And Ole inevitable responded with, "Oh you're probably right."

This went on year after year, until one year when Ole was feeling particularly elderly. He said, "Leena, I may not get another chance to go on this Helicopter Ride. I'd really like to go on this ride before I cross over Jordon." Leena replied sympatherically, "Yes, Ole. We're getting older. But $50 is $50, don't you know."

Now the pilot of the Helicopter Ride overheard the conversation, and wanting to gain another fair offered them a deal. "You will get to take the Helicopter Ride for free - you keep the $50. But, if during the ride you make any kind of sound, you pay me $50." Ole looked at Leena. Leena looked at Ole. They both thought, "Just think how much we could save! $50! And $50 is $50." They agreed.

Up in the sky, the pilot tried every dip, turn bend, roll, daredevil maneuver he could to get the couple in the back to cry out. But they did not. As the pilot was returning to the ground for a landing, he said, "I'm really surprised! I thought I could get you to say something. I tried every trick that I know to scare you, but you kept your peace. You don't have to pay me the money for the ride." To which Ole replied, "You know, when Leena fell out, I thought of saying something. But, you know, $50 is $50."

The rest of the sermon had something to do about "Remember, Rest, and R______". But I had already heard the funnest part.

Monday, October 18, 2010

NIKE would hate this!

A prof. at Liberty University (brings to mind Jerry Falwell) is trying to start a small movement in barefoot lifestyle. His message: Shoes are bad.

He teaches Biology at LU, so he has a good knowledge basis to ground is radical ideas. But he goes further than talking about this "ped"-demic (ha ha, I made that up myself), he goes barefoot everywhere he can. He used to teach barefoot, though that lasted only a semester. He goes to restaurants barefoot. He practices shoeless shopping. He has run 10-mile races with nary a sock.

I'm not sure this is for me as I have flat feet and cannot stand hard surfaces in bare feet for very long. Maybe its not for everyone.

Read the full article here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

"It is a gift to be able to shock..."

This quote comes at the end of a sad reflection on some aspects of our culture. The author, David Mills, watched a few minutes of the MTV spin-off, VH1.

What really caught my attention was the suggestion of being back in Jr. High - and reliving that kind of trauma. Yet so much of what I saw on TV (back when I had a TV) had a sense of "abuse" to it - just like Jr. High. It reminds of a story by Ray Bradbury called "The Playground".

One of the ways that the media have attracted audiences is using "shock". "You won't believe the shocking new revelation about _______." But Mills suggests that the ability to shock is a gift. Maybe the shock comes in the form of a Compassion International video showing starving people in terrible need. Maybe the shock comes in the picture of a rotting body found on a field of war. But these have a point - a challenge to better ourselves and the lives of those around us. Using (overusing!) shocking behavior and abusive language for a laugh or for ratings is not a positive direction for us.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Intelligent Sounding Words that substitute for something ... inglorious

(My apologies ahead of time for the British humor).

There are plenty of aspects of life that are uncomfortable - so we give these things a name shield us from the raw encounter with what it is about.

"modernist" is code name for _______.
"choice" is code name for ________.
"passed on" is code name for _______.
"very droll" is code name for _______.
"tax" is code name for _______.
"undocumented worker" is code name for ______.

Can you think of more?

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Moving to Post-Season

So now that the regular season has come to a close, here's how my predictions have come true (and not).

My Predictions:
American League Division Winners
East: NY Yankees 95-67
Central: Minnesota 91-71
West: Texas 88-74
Wild Card: Tampa Bay: 88-74

National League Division Winners
East: Philadelphia 94-68
Central: St. Louis 98-64
West: LA Dodgers 90-72
Wild Card: Houston: 92-70

What actually happened:
American League Division Winners
East: Tampa Bay: 96-66
Central: Minnesota 94-68
West: Texas 90-72
Wild Card: NY Yankees 95-67

National League Division Winners
East: Philadelphia 97-65
Central: Cincinnati 91-71
West: San Fransisco 92-70
Wild Card: Atlanta 91-71

I called 3 of the 6 division winners and 4 of the 6 playoff teams. Not bad. The Yankees were the only team that I correctly picked the record.
Let the playoffs begin. And may the Twins win.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Taking back the neighborhood

There is a story coming out of Chicago where an older lady shot a 12-yr old boy. The boy is charged with a crime while the lady is not! Evidently, he had been the leader of a small troop of boys that bullied and harassed many homeowners in the area. This lady had been specifically singled out for special torment, however. In any case, lots of bricks through windows and setting fires on peoples' property. Well she fought back! Here's to you, Margaret Matthews.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Keeping Promises - or not making them to begin with

On our recent vacation to South Dakota, we stopped at a National Park - the MinuteMan Missle Park in Philip, SD. This was something that I wanted to see. Having expressed that, Amy made sure that we stopped. Where we stopped, there wasn't much to see. They did have a video about the Cold war, and the role that the MM Missle 2 played in it. While I was talking with one of the Park Rangers, Butch Davis (pictured here), Anjali was filling out a packet of info/games to be an "Junior Park Ranger". The rest of the family was done while I continued to talk to Butch.

In about 10 minutes, Anjali appears at the door with what appeared to be tears in her eyes. The adults started to swoon. Evidently, she had read the packet of info more closely, after she signed her name. Her signature said that she pledged to make all her decisions with the best in mind for the Earth. Now, she was only interested in the patch that came with "Junior Park Ranger". So now, as she thought through it all, she felt trapped. She wanted to get out of her pledge. The other Park Rangers (obviously wanting more human contact than they appeared to be getting that day) were quick to console her and tell her that the pledge didn't really mean all that. After some hugs, all was right with the world again, and Anjali went back to join Amy and Mark (as I continued to talk with Butch).

I was very proud of her for her honesty - and for her willingness to admit a mistake - and for her brokenness in a trap for which she was not prepared. Then she made it right!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Race Makeup in Twin Cities

(click here for larger picture)

Eric Fischer has created lots and lots of maps of cities and represented the people living therein by dots. One dot equals 25 people. The racial makeup of the people are represented by different colors. There are maps of other large cities in the US here (and they tend to be much more dramatic). Maybe they are instructive, but as I look at Mpls-St.Paul, I see mostly red. That means there are mostly white people in the area. The pockets of non-red are in North Minneapolis, the 35W corridor in South Minneapolis (I see my red dot mixed in there), and the 94 corridor in St. Paul.

(Thankfully, there are no dots in Lake Calhoun - especially during winter!)

(screenshot grabbed from here)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Approve This Message

Negative ONE

Bono, the U2 singer, in recent years has spearheaded a campaign to alleviate World Poverty. "Yes!" methinks. World Poverty needs some alleviating.

However, his organization has gone about fundraising in a different sort of way. He wanted the governments of rich nations to commit and give ONE percent of its budget to his organization to show that they care about starving children around the world. This is a sneaky way of fundraising - going to the top of the budget pyramid and asking there for donations while the millions at the bottom of the pyramid would supply the money. While this is might seem a simpler way to raise funds than to ask individuals it causes an unhealthy separation between the askers and the eventual givers.

Come to find out that Bono's program, titled ONE to match with its fundraising strategy, only contributed ONE POINT TWO PERCENT of its receipts to alleviate World Poverty. More than HALF of its receipts went to paying salaries!!!

... now my wounded sense of charity needs alleviating.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Clone This Guy!

I'm sad that we're losing Pawlenty as MN Governer. Maybe we can borrow this guy for awhile.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Soul of Hip Hop (Part 1)

Adler's Rule 1: Classify the book according to kind and subject matter.

The Soul of Hip Hop is non-fiction. It is a book that focuses on culture, so it falls into the category of Social Sciences. The author wrote the book to explore and explain the Hip Hop culture - specifically as it relates to spirituality and theology. We shall see if it is more "explaining" (this is the way it is) or "persuasive" (this view is the best view to take - opposed to these other views).

Monday, September 6, 2010

How to Read a Book

According to Mortimer Adler, (if you've heard his name before, it's probably in association with the Great Books list), reading a book well can be done when one follows the following rules:

  1. Classify the book according to kind and subject matter.
  2. State what the whole book is about with the utmost brevity.
  3. Enumerate its major parts in their order and relation, and outline these parts as you have outlined the whole.
  4. Define the problem or problems the author is trying to solve.
  5. Come to terms with the author by interpreting his key words.
  6. Grasp the author's leading propositions by dealing with his most important sentences.
  7. Know the author's arguments, by finding them in, or constructing them out of, sequences of sentences.
  8. Determine which of his problems the author has solved, and which he has not; and as to the latter, decide which the author knew he had failed to solve.
  9. You must be able to say, with reasonable certainty, "I understand," before you can say any one of the following things: "I agree," or "I disagree," or "I suspend judgment."
  10. When you disagree, do so reasonably, and not disputatiously or contentiously.
  11. Demonstrate that you recognize the difference between knowledge and mere personal opinion by presenting good reasons for any critical judgment you make. p.164-165
(There are 4 more rules that deal with special criteria for points of criticism. They are "Show where the author is ... uninformed, misinformed, illogical, or incomplete in analysis".)

I'm hoping to use my blog to map my reading through my brother-in-law's book. Seems daunting.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

More Words

I was given a book recently by my brother-in-law. I intend on reading it very carefully because I'm not familiar with the subject matter. However, I'm out of practice. So I'm going through a book that I read for Hermeneutics class, back in 1991. It's called, "How to Read a Book". I'm reminded of the value of understanding the meaning of the words used. Adler calls it "coming to terms", but really it is the reader's investigation into the author's words and phrases to determine their meanings and how they are used to convey information. This would be done only for the important terms (to save time).

Given my interest in words, I was pleased to reread some very insightful stuff from Adler:

... a word can have many meanings, especially an important word. If the author uses a word in one meaning, and reader reads it in another, words have passed between them, but they have not come to terms. Where there is unresolved ambiguity in communication, there is no communication, or at best communication must be incomplete. p.96
Though Humpty Dumpty would not approve, we can see this as very sensical. If our goal is clear communication.

When an author writes something down, it is up to the reader to make sense of it. This is work. However, this work will be especially difficult if the author has not been careful with her words. This laxity would make the reader's work nearly impossible. But with the assumption of the good faith and effort of the author, the burden of understanding falls on the reader - to figure out the meanings of the words and use those meanings when reading.

If I ever become a writer - maybe I should take up blogging, less time consuming - I want to give my readers clues to what my important words and phrases mean.

Anyway, on with the book...

I see a future in this . . .

VW is working on a new car - a very slight car. Strangely, it is both inexpensive and economical at the same time. It will move people (a person) without much room for groceries, and it will be easy to park. Supposedly, it's very safe.

It will be initially sold in China for the equivalent of $600! It will get over 250 mpg!

Let the future come.

More here.

More pictures here.

(image from

Monday, August 30, 2010

RIP - Michael Been

I don't know very much about Michael Been - except that he worked with Mark Heard on a number of songs. Michael Been died a few days ago - heart attack on stage in August - same as Mark.

The only song that I'm really familiar with that he wrote was made popular by Russ Taff. "I Still Believe" expresses the cry of one clinging to God through great distress.

(notice the fret-less bass)
(I'm still partial to the Russ Taff version.)

Questions, Questions

I've begun, more recently, to employ my eldest offspring to help me memorize some Bible passages. First, it was John 3:16-17. (If you see this as a set-up for meaningful discussion, BINGO!) Last Saturday, it was 2Cor 5:16-17. It was the section about being a new creation since we no longer view things and people from a worldly point-of-view. "The old has gone, the new has come."

This did begin a rather wide-ranging conversation that included some reading from Revelations 4, 5, and 6. (Not something I'd have chosen, but she wanted me to read something about heaven.) Anyway, she astounded me with her questions and observations on religion and life.

1. Do Muslims go to heaven?
2. I've noticed that people who have Christian parents become Christians and people who have Muslim parents become Muslims.
3. Do babies who die go to heaven?

When I began to address each of these, I started with: "Wow, I'm not really sure." I didn't leave it there, but repeated that "anything is possible with God". (I'm not sure she heard anything else.)

Someone is doing some good thinking in our house. And it looks like I'll be trying to memorize a few more verses here soon.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

100 years ago on August 26 . . .

Mother Theresa was born.

Happy Birthday to you.

(picture from here)

An Interview of an Uncommon Lady

Katheryn Jean Lopez interviews Mary Anne Marks. An introduction to who Mary is comes before the interview. (No need to repeat it here).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Love Your Enemy

I was confronted with this issue by a book, "Ten Things I wish Jesus Never Said", instead of Jesus. I guess Jesus and his issues (Roman occupiers, Pharisees being Pharisees, and everyday sinners doing their thing) seemed remote to me. So when Jesus talked about loving the enemies, I never really stopped to dwell on it.

There is one person. If a passing thought were to land on this person, I would wish in my heart the worst sorts of trouble. (I haven't the faintest idea if it is mutual, but that matters little.) I have taken to stop myself when such a thought comes and ask God to bless this person with every blessing that I can think of. The usual ones of health, fortune, long life, happy family, and on and on. It helps that I've committed to pray for them anyway.

What should I think if God answers my prayer? Will I be like Jonah and sulk?

Is this all preparation for me if I should meet them again?

Is the prayer some kind of "indoctrination" or "conditioning" that is supposed to change my heart to love them and really desire the best for them? Will my heart follow my prayers?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another Caption Contest

What might the baby be thinking?

(picture from here)

A somber Civil-War poem

by: Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)
    "Had he and I but met
      By some old ancient inn,
        We should have sat us down to wet
          Right many a nipperkin!

              "But ranged as infantry,
                And staring face to face,
                  I shot at him as he at me,
                    And killed him in his place.

                        "I shot him dead because --
                          Because he was my foe,
                            Just so: my foe of course he was;
                              That's clear enough; although

                                  "He thought he'd 'list, perhaps,
                                    Off-hand like -- just as I --
                                      Was out of work -- had sold his traps --
                                        No other reason why.

                                            "Yes; quaint and curious war is!
                                              You shoot a fellow down
                                                You'd treat if met where any bar is,
                                                  Or help to half-a-crown."

                                                    (poem from here) (picture from here)

                                                    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

                                                    He who hit The Shot has died. RIP Bobby Thompson

                                                    When I was younger, I followed baseball with a passion. I followed it forwards and learned about its history backwards. One of the great moments of Baseball history was The Shot Heard 'Round the World, a 3-run home run off the bat of Bobby Thompson to win the pennant for the Giants. Over time, I managed to obtain one of Bobby Thompson's baseball cards.

                                                    Bobby Thompson died on Monday. (video on linking page)

                                                    On a side note, did you notice the number of people in the stadium who were well-dressed. (Nice hats). It would be easier to count the people who weren't in their Sunday best. I'm going to my first Twins' game at Target Field tonight. (I've been to the Metrodome and Met Stadium many times before.) How should I dress? (And where will I get a fancy hat?)

                                                    Sunday, August 15, 2010

                                                    Humor done well

                                                    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
                                                    Race Card Is Maxed Out
                                                    Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

                                                    On Being a Judge

                                                    I showed up at the Powderhorn Rec Center very early - before 6AM. The janitor was fairly new - and didn't want to let us in - even after the Head Judge came and tried to talk to him. She found an unlocked door in the back and snuck in. If you remember that day in MN history, it was extremely warm. The Rec Center was air-conditioned, but our spot in the gym was not. It was over 90 degrees in there. The janitor would not open the Emergency Doors for us so we could get some degree of ventilation!

                                                    We eventually went to the lobby and the computer room. This made for a more pleasant day! Projections were for 10% of the registered people to show up to vote. We got close to 20% - at nearly 300 voters. 40 of them were newly registered voters.

                                                    Since we were a Rec Center, people came in and out who were not voters. One such person came through during a slow part of the day for us. One of the judges asked him if he was going to vote. The conversation went something like this?

                                                    Judge: Are you here to vote?
                                                    Man: No, I'm not going to vote.
                                                    Judge: Why not?
                                                    Man: I don't like the government.
                                                    Judge: How else are you going to change it if you don't vote?
                                                    Man: Doesn't matter who is in it, I dont' like the government.
                                                    Judge: It's the government. You can't escape it.

                                                    The man didn't vote. Inside, I had huge admiration for this guy. But the Judge, also, was right. You can't escape the government. "Change the name, change the faces, but the story's still the same." While that might be true, it has some flexibility - which is why I voted.

                                                    Here's the oath the all the Election Judges took before the polls opened:

                                                    I, ______, solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will perform the duties of election judge according to law and the best of my ability and will diligently endeavor to prevent fraud, deceit and abuse in conducting this election. I will perform my duties in a fair and impartial manner and not attempt to create an advantage for my party or for any candidate.
                                                    (I've got more to say on this, but I've got to get ready for Church.)

                                                    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

                                                    To be a judge

                                                    In an hour or so, I'll hop in my car and drive to a nearby precinct where I will be an Election Judge. I have wanted to do this for some years. Frankly, I had seen that it's a very boring and tedious job (think hanging chads!) from my years as a Poll Challenger. Hours are very long (6AM to 10 PM). But something happened during the last election that nudged this to a higher priority in my mind.

                                                    Minnesota has one of the easiest set of voting rules to circumvent. If one wanted to vote, but could not do so legally, it would be very easy to so without getting caught. And, once having voted, the vote cannot be undone. (see here for example) The part that gets me is that we have a vouching system, where one registered voter can vouch for another. The other needs no proof of anything but a pulse (a slight exaggeration). This voucher can do this for up to 15 people. So if people wanted to organize a massive voting fraud - and they weren't concerned with taking oaths (you know, its all for the greater good!) - it would be quite easy to pull off. 16 people at 16 different precincts - 256 votes in place of 16.

                                                    But even one . . . even one would possibly negate my vote (or yours). I saw fraud before my eyes. I told the Election Judge that it was coming. I told the Election Judge that it was happening. I challenged it. The judge felt obliged to accept it because they took an oath. To some, an oath is a serious thing - to others, not so much.

                                                    So now I'm an Election Judge. For today, then for the more significant one in November.

                                                    Monday, August 9, 2010

                                                    Greed is Bad (for others)

                                                    Some while ago, I bemoaned that Greek beaurocrats were getting retirement benefits nearly equivalent to what they made when they actually produced (check that) worked. I said that it seemed like a nice job if you could get it, but I proclaimed it immoral as it put untold burden on future workers (check that) producers as they must continue to pay for work done years before. What was immoral was the promise to pay into the extended future (with unknown length) a wage for work that was not being done.

                                                    Now comes a story closer to home. Some police in NY (who already receive a handsome pension) are being investigated for Social Security fraud. They are claiming mental health benefits and getting thousands more per month. At the same time, they have said that they are mentally healthy and able to keep firearms for protection. Hmmm. What a shock!

                                                    (picture from NY Post)

                                                    Friday, August 6, 2010

                                                    Unleashing Teachers to Do What They Do Best

                                                    What? Another article on teachers?


                                                    But his one is about how the Teacher's Unions put kids first. (Not!)

                                                    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

                                                    People aren't wearing enough hats...

                                                    The title comes from a movie, Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life". It is spoken as an answer to the question "What is the meaning of life?" Of course, there is a great deal of discussion about this very curious answer. It is worth watching, (especially if you are about to have a baby) but is only for adults - rated R.

                                                    I've read some articles about about men's accessories - like hats. Here. It's all part of an internal conversation I'm having about being a man (as opposed to a boy). So I'm thinking of getting a real man's hat (as opposed to a sports cap).

                                                    (What do you think? Is my face shaped more like Will Smith or like Orlando Bloom - aka. Legolas? You have to see the article to answer.)

                                                    Sunday, August 1, 2010

                                                    Baseball Update - My earlier predictions

                                                    My predictions from earlier this year:

                                                    American League Division Winners
                                                    East: NY Yankees 95-67 (leading their division)
                                                    Central: Minnesota 91-71 (.5 games behind)
                                                    West: Texas 88-74 (leading their division)
                                                    Wild Card: Tampa Bay: 88-74 (leading WC race)

                                                    National League Division Winners
                                                    East: Philadelphia 94-68 (3.5 games behind)
                                                    Central: St. Louis 98-64 (leading their division)
                                                    West: LA Dodgers 90-72 (7 games behind)
                                                    Wild Card: Houston: 92-70 (15 games behind in WC)

                                                    AL Champions: Minnesota
                                                    NL Champtions: St. Louis

                                                    World Series Champions: Minnesota

                                                    I certainly know the AL better than the NL. I can see getting, possibly, 6 out of 8 correct for regular season play.

                                                    Friday, July 30, 2010

                                                    The Oracle

                                                    I was joking with Anjali that I would bring her someday to visit The Oracle. If you've seen the movie "The Matrix", then you know what I'm talking about. (If you haven't seen the movie, I'm simply referring to a person with 'hidden' knowledge.)

                                                    Alas, this Oracle has died. Her name was Helen Velonis. Actually, it's probably best to just call her a prophet (or prophetess) because everyone else calls her that. She had her ministry headquarters in tiny Lyle, MN. It was even closer to Iowa than Albert Lea, where I spent my teen years. I went to her church a few times. Once, I went to find an answer about which college God wanted me to go to. I told her that I had a question for God, though I didn't tell her the question. She told me the answer.

                                                    This is the only encounter I can point to and say "I witnessed a miracle that betrays science and statistics". Of course, everyone can point to "the song of a bird", "the birth of a child", "that neighborhood boy surviving childhood" as miracles. Sure, I can attest to that as well. But this seemed more unique, more personal.

                                                    Her Church (I think it was an elder) also tried to teach me to speak in tongues. I was not ready for it at all. I've never recovered from the confusion that began there. To this day I shrug my shoulders at the notion, neither denying it, nor affirming that I have such an ability.

                                                    I guess, in the end, I look back and see a net positive.

                                                    Rest in peace, Helen. Rest well in the arms of the one who saved you.