Monthly Archives: June 2013

Despicable People

Gollum The Lord of the Rings

Gollum
The Lord of the Rings

There have always been evil people. Nero. Genghis Khan. You know the type.

But there are some people who defy description when it comes to being devious.

Like the guy who decided to put the candy at eye (and hand level) for kids sitting in the grocery buggy seat.

The evil genius who decided that towels in public restrooms should be dispensed so that you have to tug on the paper towel with soggy hands.

The fiend who decided that the lever on some cars used to shift gears would control the wipers on others.

The American publisher who decided that news articles would not occupy a single page but would be continued on page 10.

So be careful – you never know what they’ll come up with next.

Personal Manna

Just a quick note tonight – it’s been a busy week and I’m tired.

Long ago I knew I’d never be wealthy; I’d never have a yacht, nor a mansion.  In the past I’ve driven a 1972 Ford Pinto that was held together with Bondo and today I drive a 2007 Ford Focus which is five years newer than my wife’s minivan.

However, I have no complaints.  God has always seen to it that I have what I need and then some.

My kids are in a good school system.  My roof is new and my air conditioner works.  When something breaks I can get it fixed.  If I want something a little special for me or someone in the family, I can get it.

I feel like the Israelites.  I have manna and quail to satisfy me.  I can’t store it up, but each day what I need is given to me as a blessing.

I look at His generosity as a reason to take a moment throughout the day to say, “Hi, God,” or, “Thanks!” and “I love You!”  I believe He deserves to have me acknowledge His blessings throughout my day.

Just like He blesses me throughout every day.

It’s Legal

Supreme-Court

There has been a lot of angst about recent court decisions and legislative actions. Mainly these address things that some people do not approve of being legalized.

Same sex marriage.

Marijuana.

Abortion.

Whatever.

There’s a huge difference between legal and right.

It’s legal to create phony offshore corporations in order to avoid paying taxes. It’s legal to sell clothing made in prison-like sweatshops in Bangladesh. It’s legal to sell iPods made in Chinese factories in which the workers must work 18 hour days and live in company dormitories so they can be awakened at any hour of the day or night when Apple wants to try something new.

God gave us a free will to choose what is right and pleasing to Him. He didn’t restrict our ability to decide; He told us what He wants and then lets us decide on our own. We don’t always decide wisely (remember the apple thing in the Garden of Eden?)

I suspect that He won’t be impressed with our legal loopholes or our skillful splitting of hairs. He’s going to expect us to have done what was right.

It may be legal to ignore the poor, but we do so at our peril. It may be legal to seek revenge for our enemies, but Jesus instructed us to pray for them instead.

Jesus challenged us to be perfect, just as the Father is perfect.

We (starting with me) area long way from perfect, but we can try to do what is right.

Vampires

bela

FoxNews had a feature on its website today about “Blood Sucking Monsters in the US.”

Spoiler Alert – Several of them are not actually in the US, with the possible exception of a few zoos. (Don’t you hate things labeled “Spoiler Alert”?)

One of the examples was the Vampire Finch.

I’m not making that up.

That’s just plain wrong, like the killer rabbit in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

If only I had the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch, I’d feel safer.

Gangsters

The_Sopranos_wallpaper-

With the death of James Gandolfini and the latest attempt to find Jimmy Hoffa, CNN had an article examining why we like gangsters [link]. There’s the Godfather and the Sopranos on one hand and “Gangsta” on the other. (Curiously, Word 2013’s spell checker accepted “gangsta” as written.)

I wonder what the world would be like if we were fascinated instead by people who demonstrated strong moral character and positive values.

Summer Reading

It’s summertime and the kids are busily ignoring their summer reading lists, which is a pity because there are so many interesting things out there to read. Here’s what I’ve been reading lately – in alphabetical order to keep it fair. (I left out the ham radio and Arduino microcomputer books at my wife’s suggestion.)

Chasing Francis: A Pilgrim’s Tale by Ian Morgan Cron. This is a novel, but one with a spiritual message. Chase Falson, an evangelical pastor, tries to regain his spiritual health and to his surprise ends up tracing the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright. An in-depth examination of Scientology. This book starts with a biography of L. Ron Hubbard and continues through the development of the organization. Hint: Don’t ask Tom Cruise to autograph your copy.

Proofiness: How You’re Being Fooled be the Numbers by Charles Seife. We try to make sense of the world around us, so it’s easy to believe people who present information backed up by plausible sounding numbers. Six out of ten people (97%) will benefit from this book. (Thanks to Beth Ann for the suggestion.)

St. Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton. I read a blurb on cnn.com in which Ian Morgan Cron, an Episcopal priest, told how this book had helped him during a crisis of faith. He then went on to write Chasing Francis (above).

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss. An examination of the food industry’s use of flavor and factors such as “mouthiness” drive our food choices – and their bottom line.

The Human Division by John Scalzi. The latest installment in the “Old Man’s War was written so each chapter is a separate story, and the chapters were released individually on-line prior to the book’s publication.

Bon Appetit

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

onair

Decisions, those forks in the road that determine the future are always interesting. Some decisions are individual, while others are a group process. Whole books have been written about how to make good decisions, but what I find interesting is how people behave after they reach a decision. There are basically three choices.

Once a decision is made, you are committed to making it work.

You wonder what would have happened if you had made a different choice.

(Usually after a group decision) You can be unhappy with the outcome and spend the next four years listening to talk radio.

Coupling

gibson11

What is it that makes two people a “Couple”?

Usually a casual date may be referred to as a couple, such as “the couple at the next table” but a Couple acknowledges something more significant. After thinking about it for a while, I decided that when two people present themselves to other as a Couple that is the deciding factor. It’s similar to the old concept of common-law marriage; if you tell the world you’re a married couple, you are.

Some people enter into serial Coupleships. A person may have a dating relationship, be engaged, or married on a sequential basis. Relationships may be with different partners. Sadly, a person may be married to one individual, but be Coupled to someone else.

The ideal, in my mind, are two people who are committed to each other and to their relationship at a higher level than they present to others. The best example might be the married Couple who are truly bound together, well aware of each other’s imperfections who still share the good, the bad and the ugly. Their private commitment is to love and support one another without question and without limit.

How are some Couples able to achieve this? I think they cheat and have a Couple of three. They tend to have a relationship in which God is the center through which their love and commitment to one another flows. They love God first, and happily take a close second place. In this way, God is neither a distraction nor a competitor, but an integral part of their relationship. Since God’s love is perfect, iIf their love for one another is linked to and modeled on God’s love, it I no longer merely a worldly love, but one that aspires to otherworldy.

In Sickness and in Health

SONY DSC

I haven’t written much this week because we’ve had a few medical issues around here. Three were planned, but there was at least one middle-of-the-night exciting surprise. The kids needed to get one last viral ailment before school let out and the dog showed that although he’s very lovable, he’s equally stupid. So five trips to various hospitals, including a veterinarian one, one to the doc-in-a-box, several to various doctors’ offices later, it’s now the weekend.

When I was younger, like most guys (I can’t speak for the female of the species) I saw love in terms of a commitment to “climb the highest mountains and swim the deepest seas.” Now that I’m older and have acquired s modicum of wisdom, I see things differently.

I made my marriage vows to my wife before God. However those vows grew to include not only the two of us but the whole family. “In sickness (and in health”) seems to be more aimed at the kids than each other. Likewise, “for richer or for poorer” – well let’s just say that much of our material wealth has been invested in our children.

“All my worldly goods with thee I share” – when I can’t find a tool, or that ten dollar bill that I had in my wallet, or the nail clippers, or whatever (and the list is impressive) it’s far more likely that one of the kids has borrowed/absconded/taken title to it than my wife.

But what a wonderful life. God, in his wisdom, has given me countless opportunities to share that I otherwise wouldn’t have had. He’s blessed me with a closeness such that if sharing is not completely effortless it is at least totally natural.

Fathers’ Day is tomorrow. Let’s first thank Our Heavenly Father on this day. (Isn’t it quite appropriate that both Mothers’ and Fathers’ days are on Sundays?)

Then, as a father, I want to thank Him for blessing me with my family.

A Healthcare Mystery

thinkprogress.org

thinkprogress.org

W-a-a-a-y back in November 2010 I wrote one of my early blogs about the healthcare business model [link]. Recently there have been numerous discussions as to how hospitals operate like Fortune 500 companies. Executive compensation in the 7 figures are not unheard of. Malpractice suits are met by countersuits by hospitals to tie everything up in court or win by attrition. Pittsburgh is even challenging one hospital chain’s “not for profit” status.

The discussion is probably overdue.

Which leads me to today’s question…

“Why is it that if you call a hospital and ask how much a particular procedure will cost, they can’t tell you. However, when you go to that same hospital for the procedure, they know to the penny what your co-pay will be and expect to be paid before they begin the procedure.”

Curious, ain’t it?

The Dark Side

smith 1

Once again Smithsonian Magazine comes through with a thought provoking article, “Welcome to the Dark Side” by Ron Rosenbaum in the June 2013 issue. The article is about Lisa Randall, a Cosmologist – which is more or less like the mixture of a physicist and mathematician on super-steroids. Dr. Randall is a tenured professor at Harvard, and is working with things that Star Trek writers could never imagine.

smith 2

Dr.. Lisa Randall

The most interesting part of her theory is that of all the universe, we can only observe 4%. The other 96% we can’t see, measure or mathematically extrapolate. This 96% is so-called “dark matter.”

Here’s a totally unscientific question — “Could the afterlife; heaven and possibly hell be occupying the majority of the universe? Could they be in the part we cannot see?

Just a thought.

Help Wanted – Philosophers

Plato_Silanion_Musei_Capitolini_MC1377

Why don’t we have many philosophers anymore? Perhaps it’s because thinking is no longer a treasured process.

Where are today’s Socrates and Platos?

Too many people want to listen to others who mirror their own beliefs. Liberals want to listen to liberals and conservatives want to listen to conservatives.

A philosopher, on the other hand, wants to hear different perspectives on an idea and then ponder what the benefits and detriments to that idea are. This si why freedom of speech and freedom of the press are so important – to ensure we are aware of the opposing view.

Imagine if we as a species preferred to think rather than accept a 15 second sound bite as sufficient.

Imagine how interesting our conversations would be.

Imagine how our government would be.

I’m going to go and ponder that for a while.

Celebrity

sac

 

And, ye’ verily, they prayed to the god “Celebrity” and asked for its favor. Sacrifices offered in the first half of the twentieth century included the swallowing of goldfish and the sitting upon of flagpoles for many days. And the god Celebrity was pleased and sent his minions from the newspapers and the newsreel photographers to minister to the faithful. And, lo, this begot flappers, wingtip shoes and rumble seats, and they gathered at places called “Speakeasies,” dancing the Charleston with wild abandon to loud Jazz music. So, the god Celebrity gave them radio.

The faithful faced hard times with many economic hardships, and they turned to their radios and their moving pictures for comfort, and with Prohibition gone, they communed with the spirits of Gin and Whiskey. The girt their loins in zoot suits and wore saddle shoes, dancing the Jitterbug with wild abandon to Big Band music. The god Celebrity was pleased and gave them television.

Celebrity grew in his hunger and his demand for sacrifice, so in the latter part of the twentieth century it caused the faithful to burn weeds and inhale the aroma, causing the people to giggle uncontrollably and crave sweet morsels to satisfy the “munchies.” The faithful bedecked themselves in tie dyed shirts, bell bottomed jeans and love beads and gathered at places like “Woodstock,” dancing with wild abandon to loud rock and roll music. Still Celebrity demanded more.

The faithful then donned clothing of polyester double-knit and shoes with high platforms and heels. They coated the inside of their nose with white powder, which made them feel small, and gathered at places like “Studio 54,” dancing with wild abandon to loud disco music. Celebrity then gave them cable, with 24 hour coverage of things both great and small.

And lo today, many people still seek the favor of the god “Celebrity” doing all manner of things to please him. They perform various intimate acts and post them to YouTube. They send pictures of themselves unclothed through their cell phones. They dress with their pants around their knees and their boxer shorts displayed and dance with wild abandon to hip hop music.

And their god, Celebrity laughs. And it demands more.

Truth

I often “write in my head,” developing an idea so that when I sit down at the keyboard I at least have a conceptual idea as to what I’m going to write. This is one of those blogs. Unfortunately, I may have done such a thorough job of thinking it through that I actually believed I did write it. I looked through the recent archives and didn’t see it.

So, if this is, in fact a repeat, I apologize.

thinker

In the first “Indiana Jones” movie, Indy advised his archeology students that they will be seeking fact. If they wish to seek truth, they should be in a philosophy class.

I often accept the two terms as similar, if not identical, but I’d like to propose that they are quite different in several aspects. Initially I looked at truth as being subjective; like beauty it is in the eye of the beholder. On the other hand, I accepted fact as an objective, provable, absolute datum that actually exists.

But then I got thinking. Facts are objective, but being objective only means that there is a finite measurement. Such measurements may be precise without being accurate. Saying someone is six foot tall really means that they are somewhere near that height. The measurement of their height is dependent upon the accuracy of the measurement and of the measuring device. To further complicate things, height can vary slightly throughout the day – did you ever have to adjust your rearview mirrors on the drive home after a particularly challenging day at work?

Our most precise measuring tools are not necessarily accurate. The meter (the metric measurement, not some type of gauge) was initially thought to be one ten millionth the distance from the equator to the North Pole, but it has been redefined several times. Currently it is defined as “the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 of a second.” I don’t know about you, but I have trouble picturing that.

We’ve been measuring time in hours and minutes for centuries. However, we’ve had to adjust the calendar by weeks, and of course with leap years. Even so, as our measurements become more precise, we have to add leap seconds every few years.

So facts aren’t what they are cracked up to be.

On the other hand, truth is something we know to be true without the ability to prove it. We know it’s true that there is a God. We can’t prove it as a fact, but we accept it as the truth.

It’s probably why Jesus called himself “the Way, the Truth and the Light.”

Emergency Preparations

hurr

It’s now June, so Hurricane Season is officially upon us, although if you live in Oklahoma, and your calendar wasn’t blown away with the rest of your house, you might not be impressed.

They say that the best way to prepare for a disaster is to have a plan. On the other hand, they also say that all plans become ineffective once the first incident occurs. Believe it or not, this is not contradictory. In many cases, the planning process is what’s important.

At our house we have emergency supplies from flashlights to dog food. There’s a battery operated television and a generator sufficient to power the refrigerators, the microwave and a window air conditioner. There’s also extra cans of gas and bottles of drinking water, and of course the ham radio equipment.

Even with all that, tonight, I’m going to sit down with my family and discuss what we should do in the event of a storm. In that discussion, I expect that some of the things I haven’t planned for will come up. Even more importantly, everyone will have a better understanding of what we plan to do so when the plan falls apart, there’s a better chance at arriving at a successful alternative.

Two Worlds

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen

I know I don’t usually post twice in a day; I have enough trouble thinking of things to post on a semi-daily basis. However this week was challenging for several family medical reasons – fortunately everyone’s fine but it was distracting.

As I get older, I feel somewhat less connected to this world. It’s nothing bad like thinking I’m dying. It’s more like having the best of two worlds.

For example – tonight I cooked outside; one of my mental distractions. I cook for people I love, and I enjoy the process. We had corn, artichokes, a little eggplant and yellow squash followed by pork chops. It all turned out well. The kids (briefly) helped clean up then disappeared.

I found myself scrubbing frying pans in the sink, whistling “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen and finding nothing incongruous to it.

That’s the benefit of growing older.

(Baby we were born to scrub?)

People See What They Want to See

We’ve all read about the JC Penney teapot that “looks like Hitler.”

I guess it’s no more of a stretch of the imagination than seeing the constellations of stars as people and creatures.

Then there are the people who see Jesus in a potato chip or Mary, His mother, on a piece of toast.

The ancients believed that their gods and legends were real, so they naturally expected to see evidence of them in the sky.

On the other hand, I suspect that no self-respecting (or even non self-respecting) neo-Nazi group would subliminally communicate via a teapot – especially from a main stream retailer.

Some people see the failings and shortfalls of others, and the differences that divide us. Others see potential and opportunity and how we share a common future.

Jesus saw the potential among the fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes and lepers. Others saw their low social status, their failings and their sinfulness.

What do you see?