Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Seeing the Kingdom of God

I took the title from John 3.

There was this fellow, Nicodemus, a Pharisee, who came to Jesus at night. Nicodemus declares to Jesus that "we know you are a teacher who has come from God."

Jesus replies "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

Mostly it is the "born again" part that catches everyone's attention. It surely caught Nicodemus's. So there's been a lot of stuff written about being "born again."

But this time in my reading I have been so caught up in the idea of "seeing the Kingdom of God" and how that relates to my own life.

There was a time when I could not see the Kingdom of God. It wasn't that I would not see the Kingdom although that was true, too. But I simply could not see it. It just simply was not there.

Then something happened to me that I really cannot explain or even describe.

I can say that one moment the reality I perceived had no Kingdom of God. One moment later the only reality that existed was the Kingdom of God.

And now I can no more not see that reality anymore than I could see it before.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Snow on Redbud and Dogwood

Blizzard March 28, 2009


Redbud and Dogwood covered with snow


SnowFlinty

Friday, March 27, 2009

It Is Called Sexting

Someone sent me an email just a few days ago that had a link to an article. The title of the article was Family wants tougher laws on cincinnati.com. So I didn't know exactly what the article was about other than the headline when I clicked the link.

And the first few lines of the article were bad and detailed that a young woman had sent nude photos of herself to her boyfriend. He sent them to others and so on.

It was the 6th line and the 4th paragraph before I learned that the young woman had subsequently committed suicide.

MSNBC was more direct in the article: Her teen committed suicide over ‘sexting’.

The image from cincinnati.com is of the mother holding a photograph of her daughter.

I had heard of sexting before this. Probably because I am on the Internet so much. Used to be that was a bit unusual but I think I am actually less "connected" now than many others. The Internet has definitely become main stream.

As has texting. I just mentioned Twitter a day or so ago in another blog. It is a technology that connects texting to the Internet.

Sexting is the joining of "sex" and "texting" and there's even a Wikipedia article.

Some of us in my group of friends have discussed this whole texting and email and blogging and social networking culture in which we suddenly find ourselves. Just like writing this blog this very moment. I don't know who is going to read these words but for me, right this moment, I am only writing to myself.

Texting and email and even Facebooking is similar in that it is easy to have this feeling that we are communicating very privately - like a private journal or one on one private conversation or one to select group of friends kind of privacy.

But it is total illusion. Once that send button is touched or the submit button clicked that stream of data is no longer private at all.

We adults are supposed to be able to think things through enough that we recognize the potential outcome of our immediate action. I say "supposed to" because we all have enough trouble with it ourselves. That's not to mention mistakes like "reply all" and so on.

Teenagers and children are especially vulnerable because we now know from scientific investigation that the part of the brain that controls impulse is still undergoing physiological development at that age.

That's one thing I thought when I read the article.

But there was something else, too. I was reminded of my dad when we would watch some news program about some guy that beat up his wife or girlfriend. Dad would say "you don't hit your sister" because that was something in his family that was taught from the earliest age he remembered. This teaching that was so important to my dad and that he conveyed to me and my brother was not just about hitting. It was that men had a responsibility to women to respect them and to keep them safe.

So I thought about the boyfriend in this case. I think he had not been taught that lesson.

I suppose it is an old fashioned lesson. I think it is not out of date though.

Now I am not excusing the girl who sent the nude pictures of herself. She should not have done that. I so wish she had not taken her own life because of the consequences of that act.

But the boyfriend that did not protect her should have. He did not have to send on that image. And the girls who further sent them on should not have done so. Why did they? I really do not understand why. The more I think about it the sadder it makes me.

And then the people who looked at the picture and proceeded to judge the girl and taunt her and ridicule her should not have done that.

All these people -- and I have no idea how many -- were not extraordinarily evil people. They were just normally evil like all the rest of us. It was not the technology.

Maybe new laws will help some but I would not bet on it myself.

It is a sad story. It reinforces my belief that it is the human heart that requires changing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

President Obama and Leadership

Tuesday evening I watched President Obama's speech and subsequent press conference.

Wednesday morning I resumed my Bible study. I am now in Judges.

Now I am thinking about leadership.

There was certainly a notable lack of good leadership in Israel and the people paid dearly because of it. The Bible hides nothing but relates it all whether good or bad.

But what about our own leadership?

I liked President Obama's press conference. For one thing I like the fact that he held one. And I liked that the speech part was short and to the point. I liked that he took questions from the press corps. I thought his answers were too long although I understand the subject of our economy is exceedingly complex. I thought the questions were irritatingly shallow. I don't know if they are screened or not.

The President and I have different perspectives. I would do things differently if I were working on these problems. On the other hand I do recognize that the problems facing the country are quite severe. I think it would be unconscionable for us to do nothing. But there are probably as many "what to do" ideas as there are people. But we have one President at a time and we all participated in our system a few months ago that put Mr. Obama in office. So these are his problems now to solve.

But I am not so interested right now in his solutions as I am in his effort to lead us.

I think he has done pretty well so far.

For one thing he is setting what I consider to be a very good example.

In the press conference he did not do a lot of finger pointing. In fact he admitted there were many reasons why our current situation exists. He exercised a lot of self-control while admitting that he was indeed angry. He even said that anger and outrage were not going to solve anything. He was very serious and yet projected calm assurance and optimism.

I think one of the first things a leader has to do is set a good example. I think he has done this admirably well. It is too bad that so many on either side of the President fail to follow his example. But at least he's made a start and that's better than nothing at all.

He laid out in summary fashion the problems and briefly discussed the solutions and then gave a reason why he had made his choices. Obviously there will be many who disagree with him as he stated. So I think he projected a certain amount of wisdom in dealing with the problems.

He was encouraging but certainly not Pollyannish.

At the same time he has big goals especially about reforming health care. I, for one, cannot and will not defend the current health care system. And I say that based on my own experience with it for the last decade. As far as I am concerned the way we do things now is nearly insane. I am very willing to give some other ideas a chance.

I think the President shows courage and perseverance to continue to reach for new solutions in the health care area.

I also like the fact that he is remaining faithful to his promises and I like that he is loyal and faithful to his staff. I think those are marks of leadership.

So at this point I think this man, Barak Obama, is showing good marks of leadership and I think he deserves the chance to put his plans into action.

Another mark of leadership is recognizing when you're wrong and adjusting course. We may have already seen some of that with this President but generally it is way too early to know.

That remains for the future. But I am encouraged so far.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Alzheimer's cost triple that of other elderly

Alzheimer's cost triple that of other elderly

This will not surprise any of us who have been involved with caring for Alzheimer's patients.

The 2004 (notice that's 5 years ago) study reports that it costs $33,007 PER PATIENT PER YEAR for those with Alzheimer's as opposed to $10,603 for those of the same age but not having Alzheimer's. This DOES NOT INCLUDE the estimated 8.5 billion hours expended by some 10 million caregivers (that's also PER YEAR).

Last year the estimate was 5.3 million people who had Alzheimer's. So dividing 8.5 billion by 5.3 million I get 1604 hours per patient or about 30 hours per week per patient. Or 8.5 billion hours by 10 million caregivers is 850 hours per caregiver per year. That's about 16 hours per week.

Or dividing 10 million caregivers by 5.3 million patients gives 1.89 caregivers per patient.

Well, I am not sure how the study counted hours and caregivers. In my case I wonder if my time should have been counted as 24 hours per day by 365 days per year for the nearly 10 years I spent taking care of dad? If I had not been there I would have had to employed someone to stay there -- actually 3 or 4 or 5 someones because you can't really make people work 24 hours a day 7 days a week. It's against the law unless it is you.

Now money wise if I figured $33,000 for Dad for 10 years that would be $330,000. I had to kind of figure this up for him. There was about $25,000 in insurance. There was maybe $7,000 in total drugs and medicine cost. The doctor only charged when he came out and that wasn't very often -- a few thousand probably except for the hospitalizations. There were 4 hospitalizations all together but none were terribly expensive. I'm guessing about $13,000. Then caregivers for respite was about $30,000. I think hospice was about $25,000. That adds up to about $100,000 and I think I might be long.

Enough numbers.

Here's an interesting quote from the article:
"All of these statistics paint a really grim picture of what's going to happen ... unless we invest in solutions" to delay or prevent the disease, Geiger said.

This week a Senate committee will hear from an independent coalition of experts that has been working on a strategy for dealing with the growing Alzheimer's population.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans have the disease; by next year nearly half a million new cases will be diagnosed, according to the Alzheimer's Association.3 million Americans have the disease; by next year nearly half a million new cases will be diagnosed, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Twitter and Facebook

Yes, I am on twitter. And I have it hooked into my Facebook account. I have been trying to understand more about social networking sites.

Twitter is the Internet interface to answer one question: "What are you doing?" Actually some people expand that to what are you thinking. The Interface though hooks the Internet to Text Messaging on your cell phone. So it lets all of us keep each other apprised nearly second by second on what we are doing and/or thinking.

I have discovered so far that I really do not do enough stuff to post even hour by hour much less second by second. And there are certain things that I do (and think) that I really do not want to share in real time.

There are some things I would just as soon not know about myself much less share with the world.

This may shock some people but I don't really care what most people are doing or thinking period. Even for those I do care about I do not really need to know it in real time.

But articles and links about Twitter have just exploded the last few weeks. Amazing really.

In studying it I have concluded that at least a few of the reasons for its success is its simplicity, singular focus, ease of use, and ability to interconnect with cell phones and other communities.

Facebook is another phenomenon. I understand it a bit better I think than Twitter. It really is a great way to find and keep in touch with friends and family. It is great to share photographs and comments and just generally do things that friends do except in an Internet way.

It is pretty easy to use and has lots of features. It seems pretty safe, too. Unlike other community sites I've used on Facebook people use their real names -- at least most do I think. Otherwise you have a hard time finding your friends and family.

It also is very easy to use and has a simple but focused purpose. But that purpose, while simple, is extraordinarily flexible to accommodate so many different things that people do.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the use of these communities for marketing and selling and other business purposes including brand promotion. I just attended an online meeting about that very topic in fact.

I am still thinking about this entire topic.

What it reminds me of is something I often hear in conversations with friends usually about businesses: "It is all about relationship." It seems too simple doesn't it? But I like to go where I feel like I am known and appreciated.

Starbucks does that by working hard to remember their customers' drinks and names. And that works fine as long as you have customers frequenting the same store on some kind of regular basis and seeing the same people.

Families have the same problem when they are geographically dispersed as so many of us are now.

I think Twitter and Facebook each attempts to help bridge that gap.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Paideia

It is an ancient Greek word (παιδεία).

Our word encyclopedia comes in part from this ancient word.

It meant to educate or instruct or pass on the culture to the young. The Wikipedia article states: "... was about training for liberty (freedom) and nobility (the beautiful). Paideia is the cultural heritage that is continued through the generations."

It was nearly 40 years ago that I read a book for some college class titled Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture Volume III: The Conflict of Cultural Ideals in the Age of Plato (Paideia, the Ideals of Greek Culture) that I first learned the word and studied its meaning.

I was reminded again of the word recently in my reading in Joshua and now in Judges. Because the generation of the nation of Israel that came into the land failed to pass on to many of their children all that God had done.

It is a problem all of us parents know too well. It is so hard to pass our own faith and ideals and cultural beliefs to our children. Mostly I think we all want to do it. And we try. And for a while it seems like we are successful until our children become teenagers and young adults. Then we wonder if they heard anything we said or watched anything we did.

Then, if we survive long enough and if we are blessed, we watch our own children come to embrace our own faith and philosophy and culture. And often by that time they have children of their own and we watch them fight to impart those same values and beliefs to another generation of our family.

It is no easier for them than it was for us. In fact it looks like it is even harder.

We listen to our children discuss their own struggles and question whether they are doing enough or doing it right.

Finally we gain enough perspective to realize our own parents must have similarly struggled and their parents before them and on back in time.

Every new generation has to grapple with what values they will uphold and fight to preserve. The outcome is never certain either.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Safari hole exploited in seconds at security conference

Read this on CNET the other day: Safari hole exploited in seconds at security conference.

This fellow, Charlie Miller, hacked a new, fully patched MacBook at the CanSecWest security conference called "Pwn2Own," which is hacker slang for gaining control of a computer. The contest was held in Vancouver.

Took him 10 seconds this year. Last year he did it under 2 minutes. So much for improved Apple security I guess. Actually it was a browser (Safari) exploit.

He can't tell us how he did it under the rules but he told Apple beforehand. He is quoted as saying they were happy to learn about the exploit. Somehow I am a little doubtful about how gleeful they were.

I think he won the computer, too.

Apple wasn't lonely for long though because later another guy hacked a Sony Vaio using exploits he had discovered in IE8, Safari, and Firefox. He won $15,000 and the computer.

I have IE8 installed by the way. It is good. I particularly like the scrolling and the speed. However, it did lock up once. My Firefox does that regularly though.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

US births break record; 40 pct out-of-wedlock


US births break record; 40 pct out-of-wedlock

I read this on Yahoo the other day (well, March 18 to be precise).

The graph rather impressively shows that in 2007 we had more births than even in the post World War II decade.

The article states: "On average, a U.S. woman has 2.1 babies in her lifetime. That's the "magic number" required for a population to replace itself."

Of course, I thought of my Harry Dent post because he said the same thing about the 2.1 babies per children. I had it "per family" but it makes more sense "per woman" until men start having more babies anyway. Which leads to an entirely new line of thinking about how the family should follow women given their singular ability. But I'll leave that line to another day.

The article further states that 2007 was probably the 2nd year of a "boomlet" and I suppose if it goes on as long as the other one it grows up into a "boom."

I wonder what the recession does to birth rates? First answer that comes to mind is that it should decline because of uncertain financial means. But I bet it goes up. We humans seem to use most any occasion as a reason to procreate and I suspect recession is just as good as a power blackout. (Thinking that people will be more alone with each other and not going out as much maybe?)

Friday, March 20, 2009

Whose side are you on?

Joshua 5:13-15 - The Message
13 And then this, while Joshua was there near Jericho: He looked up and saw right in front of him a man standing, holding his drawn sword. Joshua stepped up to him and said, "Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies'?"

14 He said, "Neither. I'm commander of God's army. I've just arrived." Joshua fell, face to the ground, and worshiped. He asked, "What orders does my Master have for his servant?"

15 God's army commander ordered Joshua, "Take your sandals off your feet. The place you are standing is holy."

Joshua did it.

I've been reading in Joshua lately. This passage jumped out at me.

Many scholars believe this is a Christophany, an early appearance of Christ before the incarnation.

But what strikes me is that He says He is on neither side.

That should be very sobering for all of us because it is so easy for us to think of things in terms of "our side" and "the other side" and to assume that The Lord will be on ours. That's how Joshua was thinking apparently. And I'm not criticizing him either because that's how I usually think myself.

Joshua definitely got the response right though.

I want to ask that same question: What orders does my Master have for me and then I want to carry them out.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Gay-Marriage Solution: End Marriage?

A Gay-Marriage Solution: End Marriage?
By MICHAEL A. LINDENBERGER

I read the article on Yahoo. It arises from an article by two professors at Pepperdine University.

Basically their argument is that there are a good many religious sacraments and rituals that are commonly practiced by adherents of various faiths that have no place in the law of the land. Examples of such sacraments given include Jewish bar mitzvah, Catholic confirmation, and baptism.

Marriage, alone, has both religious sacrament and legal status.

So the professors propose that we simply do away with legal marriage and leave it entirely to the religious groups who value it.

They (the profs) recognize that we would have to create a new kind of legal entity to replace marriage. The Yahoo article mentions a certificate of family or civil union. But really it could be named anything other than marriage to remove the religious meaning.

Whatever it would be called would be available equally to all couples who wanted to so engage each other.

And it would, of course, not preclude those who wanted to also avail themselves of religious marriage in whatever faith of choice. Well, I suppose also it would have to be membership in good standing of whatever faith of choice.

I've thought of this myself as a reasonable solution to the current controversy. It seems rather a good and fair choice to me. After all a lot of people who marry really do not care about the religious basis I think. Or at least as practiced it does not seem so to me.

According to the Yahoo article it has gained some momentum.

I wonder if we are ready to lose the marriage label for civil unions? I don't have much attachment to the civil version myself.

It also poses some interesting issues. For instance you could terminate the legal contract of marriage. But what about the religious contract? Or what if one or both individuals left the original church fellowship? And that's not to mention denominations and world wide religions and so on.

Still I think the idea has considerable merit.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

American Legion Versus The White House

Update: The Administration backed off this proposal March 18, 2009



I could not believe this when I was first told about it. I find this terribly upsetting. There are several articles around but I think this one from The American Legion Our Voice page is good so I chose it.

It seems to me that if we ask our military personnel to serve and while they are serving they become injured; then, at the very lest we owe them appropriate medical care.

This idea of pushing this obligation onto the private insurers seems unconscionable as well as impractical.

Legion to White House: Don't Bill Our Heroes


Our Voice The American LegionLegion to White House: Don't Bill Our Heroes
By administrator
Created Mar 16 2009 - 9:51pm


WASHINGTON, DC (March 16, 2009) – The leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization says he is “deeply disappointed and concerned” after a meeting with President Obama today to discuss a proposal to force private insurance companies to pay for the treatment of military veterans who have suffered service-connected disabilities and injuries. The Obama administration recently revealed a plan to require private insurance carriers to reimburse the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in such cases.

“It became apparent during our discussion today that the President intends to move forward with this unreasonable plan,” said Commander David K. Rehbein of The American Legion. “He says he is looking to generate $540-million by this method, but refused to hear arguments about the moral and government-avowed obligations that would be compromised by it.”

The Commander, clearly angered as he emerged from the session said, “This reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate ‘… to care for him who shall have borne the battle…’ given that the United States government sent members of the armed forces into harm’s way, and not private insurance companies. I say again that The American Legion does not and will not support any plan that seeks to bill a veteran for treatment of a service connected disability at the very agency that was created to treat the unique need of America’s veterans!”

Commander Rehbein was among a group of senior officials from veterans service organizations joining the President, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki and Steven Kosiak, the overseer of defense spending at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The group’s early afternoon conversation at The White House was precipitated by a letter of protest presented to the President earlier this month. The letter, co-signed by Commander Rehbein and the heads of ten colleague organizations, read, in part, “ There is simply no logical explanation for billing a veteran’s personal insurance for care that the VA has a responsibility to provide. While we understand the fiscal difficulties this country faces right now, placing the burden of those fiscal problems on the men and women who have already sacrificed a great deal for this country is unconscionable.”

Commander Rehbein reiterated points made last week in testimony to both House and Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committees. It was stated then that The American Legion believes that the reimbursement plan would be inconsistent with the mandate that VA treat service-connected injuries and disabilities given that the United States government sends members of the armed forces into harm’s way, and not private insurance companies. The proposed requirement for these companies to reimburse the VA would not only be unfair, says the Legion, but would have an adverse impact on service-connected disabled veterans and their families. The Legion argues that, depending on the severity of the medical conditions involved, maximum insurance coverage limits could be reached through treatment of the veteran’s condition alone. That would leave the rest of the family without health care benefits. The Legion also points out that many health insurance companies require deductibles to be paid before any benefits are covered.

Additionally, the Legion is concerned that private insurance premiums would be elevated to cover service-connected disabled veterans and their families, especially if the veterans are self-employed or employed in small businesses unable to negotiate more favorable across-the-board insurance policy pricing. The American Legion also believes that some employers, especially small businesses, would be reluctant to hire veterans with service-connected disabilities due to the negative impact their employment might have on obtaining and financing company health care benefits.

“I got the distinct impression that the only hope of this plan not being enacted,” said Commander Rehbein, “is for an alternative plan to be developed that would generate the desired $540-million in revenue. The American Legion has long advocated for Medicare reimbursement to VA for the treatment of veterans. This, we believe, would more easily meet the President’s financial goal. We will present that idea in an anticipated conference call with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel in the near future.

“I only hope the administration will really listen to us then. This matter has far more serious ramifications than the President is imagining,” concluded the Commander.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Alzheimer's Test

New test can detect early Alzheimer's: study
By Julie Steenhuysen Julie Steenhuysen – Mon Mar 16, 1:53 pm ET

This article was on Yahoo on Monday, March 16, 2008.

This test measures the amount of the tau protein and the concentration of the amyloid beta42 polypeptide. Leslie Shaw of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, whose study appears in the Annals of Neurology.

He said these two measures accurately predicted which patients with memory problems would develop Alzheimer's disease in 87 percent of the cases. The test also ruled out the disease in 95.2 percent of the volunteers.


That's pretty good news.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stem Cell Research, Brave New World

Thanks to the Wikipedia article for the image of a colony of embryonic stem cells, from the H9 cell line

President Obama on Monday, March 9, 2009 authorized government funding to support research on stem cells newly harvested from human embryos.

Embryonic stem cells come from an early stage human embryo called a blastocyst, a stage reached 4 to 5 days after fertilization. Initially there are 50 to 150 individual cells.

Human embryonic stem cells were "discovered" in 1998 by privately funded researchers. In 1999 President Clinton authorized federal funding as long as no human embryos were destroyed. In 2001 President Bush restricted research to existing stem cell lines. President Obama rescinded the previous administration's rules.

President Obama also signed the appropriations bill on March 11 which explicitly bans research that might injure, destroy, or place at risk any human embryos.

Ethically I certainly understand the concern.

I suspect it will open a door best left closed.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Newspapers

Monitor shifts from print to Web-based strategy
In 2009, the Monitor will become the first nationally circulated newspaper to replace its daily print edition with its website; the 100 year-old news organization will also offer subscribers weekly print and daily e-mail editions.
The changes at CSMonitor begin in April.

There are so many other newspapers that are closing or filing for bankruptcy protection. There are articles all over about the plight of newspapers in general and specifically:
  1. How Newspapers Must Change to Survive at ABC News, March 13, 2009
  2. Seattle Times still standing, but for how long?
  3. Rocky Mountain News Publishes Final Edition (Feb 27)
  4. Public Largely Unconcerned Over Fate Of Newspapers
  5. Are Newspapers Doomed?
  6. The 10 Most Endangered Newspapers in America
  7. How to Save Your Newspaper
The 4th article is particularly interesting because it reports on a Pew Research poll that concluded that 2/3 of Americans did not care if their local newspaper closed. I also found it interesting that more Democrats than Republicans would miss their local papers.

The 6th article in Time is by Douglas McIntyre. As you might not be surprised to learn his article has garnered a good deal of other critical articles about him and his thoughts. The last article has an interesting tidbit that newspaper readership is actually up. It is just that revenues are not up and costs are.

My own local newspaper announced a significant layoff last year. Since then there have been more retirements and many, many changes. And mostly I know about the changes to the electronic versions because I almost never look at the old paper version.

I do have a Kindle subscription to my local newspaper and read it "cover-to-cover" so-to-speak every morning. It costs me $5.99 per month. That's $.20 per day about.

I wonder if we will lose more newspapers?
Does it matter?
Who, if anyone, will produce news content?
Does it matter?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

MIT Battery - Gerbrand Ceder

On the March 12, 2009 Yahoo Tech News I read the article: New Lithium Battery Could Take Seconds to Charge (PC Magazine).

The article originates on MIT's site: Re-engineered battery material could lead to rapid recharging of many devices where I found the image.

In my searching though I found an even earlier MIT article from 2006: MIT powers up new battery for hybrid cars. This article has more information about how the new battery actually works.

Gerbrand Ceder is the Richard P. Simmons Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT and the lead researcher.

The big thing about this battery is that it can be recharged very rapidly, as much as 1000 times faster than recharging a conventional Lithium battery. Interestingly in the 2006 article the battery is reportedly capable of 10 times faster charging. So I guess in three years the researchers improved the performance by two orders of magnitude. Pretty good I'd say.

However, there is no need to wait for one of these things because Ceder is quoted as saying the battery might "... make it to the marketplace within two to three years."

In thinking about it I wish we didn't have so many different batteries. I wish we didn't have so many chargers, too. And I wish we didn't have to pretty nearly have a power strip for every power outlet.

I did wonder when I read the article though if this would not lead to a pretty good increase in productivity because I think there are a whole lot of folks spending a whole lot of time charging batteries if we are any indication.

On a completely different subject ninety-two years ago today my dad was born.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Post-Christian United States?

I noticed two stories about religion on Yahoo's news front page on Tuesday, March 10, 2009.

The second one carried the title: Survey sees a drift away from religion in America. That article goes on to discuss the results of the American Religious Self-Identification Survey (ARIS). The first line is 'Christianity's hold on many Americans is slipping, losing out not to other faiths but to "no faith."'

The first article I noticed was in the Opinion section of Yahoo which I often disregard. But I guess it was the headline that grabbed my attention: The Coming Evangelical Collapse by Michael Spencer. Since I am one of the group that self-identifies as evangelical I am always interested in its collapse.

The Yahoo link points to the Yahoo article which is taken from The Christian Science Monitor. That article is a piece from a more extensive post by Michael Spencer on his blog, InternetMonk.com. (Cool name for a blog I thought.)

His blog post is The Coming Evangelical Collapse (as if you could not guess).

I found it to be a thoughtful and easily read piece. It stirred up a lot of interest around the old Internet ending up on The Drudge Report among other high traffic sites.

I liked Spencer's blog so much that I've added it to my own blog roll. I will definitely follow his blog for a while at least.

The ARIS survey is interesting to me for several reasons in addition to the fact that more people identify with no religion. One is that 76% of us identify ourselves as Christian but fewer than 70% of us express belief in a personal God. Some 34% of us describe ourselves as born again which is largely understood to be the same as evangelical.

That born again (or evangelical) group also has the oldest of us comparatively with "old" meaning over 50 years of age. This goes along I suspect with the general aging of our population.

Spencer says that within 10 years evangelicals will be halved in number and that many of the ministries that now exist will cease to function or be changed so drastically as to be unidentifiable. Further he believes that there will be rising anti-Christian intolerance that will be startling in both quantity and quality.

He then proceeds to mention seven (7) reasons he believes this will occur: identification with political conservatism; failure to pass on our beliefs to our offspring; current church structure; inability to withstand secularism; good will become bad and viceversa; lack of confidence in Scripture; and, inability to raise money.

I found the comments on Spencer's blog to be as interesting or more so than his article. I am interested particularly in the comments of those who identify themselves as non-Christians and who have such negative opinions about evangelicals.

I agree with much of Spencer's statements about evangelicals. And I definitely can imagine the results he predicts. Whether they happen or not I have no idea.

But really I think we already are in a post-Christian era in the United States. I say this because even among those who claim to be born again there is such widespread difference of opinion as to make any kind of unity nearly impossible. More importantly I think there is so much ignorance of Scripture that wearing the Christian label really means very little in terms of practice. So while there may still be numerical majority by a significant degree I think in fact we have already reached the place where non-Christian influence is more important in most areas of life.

Clearly the Republican party is disassociating itself from the Christian evangelical community and the Democratic party was never interested in the first place. The RNC chairman, for instance, is publicly pro-choice. The recent decision to fund more experimentation on human stem cells is surely another sign of deteriorating influence. Certainly it seems likely that the evangelical view of marriage will be overturned as well.

It is very interesting to me to contemplate what the United States will look like if we become increasingly non-Christian and more secular.

I suspect there will be more restrictions on the tax status of churches, particularly the evangelical mega-Churches. I think there will eventually be a removal of references to God at nearly every public level including currency and the pledge and nearly all aspects of government.

I would not be surprised that evolution is mandated to be taught exclusively as truth in private schools and home schools as well as public. I think education will be increasingly critical of historical Christian influence. I suspect home schooling will be eventually abolished or so hampered as to make it impractical. I would neither be surprised to see new churches disallowed unless they meet certain standards such as repudiating certain doctrines and embracing others.

Sharing one's faith is likely to be more and more discouraged in all venues and labeled as proselytizing or cultural terrorism.

I think these things are not so far fetched.

There already is emotional persuasion to forgo some Christian ideas. Really it is not so hard to imagine that escalating to physical persuasion as well. And it will be excused I think by pointing to the supposed bad that Christians have inflicted on the advancement of culture.

It is not so easy to tolerate ridicule for whatever reasons. There are plenty of people who view themselves as victims of Christianity that would happily turn the table. In that event there surely will be many who will choose to embrace some other religion, or none, rather than remain. That's especially true as the hostility increases.

So there will probably be fewer and smaller evangelical churches. I wonder what will happen to all the church buildings? I wonder if other religions will modify them for themselves?

If the number of evangelicals is halved there is surely no need for as many big ones as there are now.

I wonder if there will be blatant discrimination in the private workplace and government, too? I wonder if there will be a kind of religious don't ask don't tell policy first?

No, it does not seem that implausible.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Tipping, Windmills, and Recession

I was thinking about the practice of tipping - you know, when you give additional money for a service performed.

At restaurants I always tip. Even if the service is lousy I usually tip. I think it may be because I've known a few people who were servers at restaurants and I know how much they depended upon tips. So I tip at restaurants.

But this is a little different.

Starbucks is a place I go nearly every morning. Usually I go inside. And usually it is about the same time of day and I usually order the same thing. So every morning I see the same people and I've learned their names.

They know my name but that is not unusual at my Starbucks. They know an amazing number of the names of the customers that come in about the same time that I am there. Usually I am there about an hour. That's how long it takes me to read the paper. It arrives electronically on my Kindle 2 and I read all of the stories except the sports section. So while I am reading the paper I am watching and listening and it amazes me how many people are known by either their name or their drink. Usually it is by name and drink. That would disqualify me from working at a Starbucks.

It is pleasant for me sitting at Starbucks and drinking my coffee and reading my paper and listening to the music as well as the conversations of both the customers and the staff. It is one of those places where you can go and be alone and yet have company at the same time so you don't feel lonely.

I used to do that very thing when I was caregiving. It was the place I went just before I returned home on Saturday mornings to take up my caregiver role again. I never really understood why I enjoyed it so much back then.

A few weeks ago one of the Baristas that I knew by name and had visited regularly was missing. I asked about her because she had shared with me that she was getting a Kindle 2. She took another job because her pay had been reduced by Starbucks corporate. I understand the need for the company to do that and I do not criticize them for it at all. I've had to make such decisions myself. Sometimes it is hard to know what to do and even harder to do it.

But that's when I decided to increase my tips.

It was my small, personal plan to fight the recession.

I recognize it is a mostly futile and foolish gesture on my part. I am Don QuiFlinty tilting at my own windmills.

After all what can one little guy adding a little to his tips do against the worst recession in 80 years compared to the trillions of dollars being spent by the government.

Not much I am sure.

But it makes me feel a little better every time I put a little more money in that Starbucks tip jar.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oklahoma Alzheimer’s patients can help test new drug

Oklahoma Alzheimer’s patients can help test new drug

Article in The Oklahoman by Susan Simpson - March 10, 2009

The web site for the study is http://www.icarastudy.com/

The drug is called Bapineuzumab, or Bapi. It is supposed to fight beta amyloid formation.

About 2,050 participants, 50 to 88, are being enrolled at some 200 sites across the US and Canada for the 83 week long study. Your patient has a 40% chance of getting a placebo. You have to attend 15 study events and have 6 infusions.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oklahoma Turkey


I don't see this every day. In fact I have seen turkeys only a few times out here. I was driving on the pasture road heading back home from the horses when I saw them out my driver's side window. They were on the side of the street across from me.

So I took this with my iPhone camera. If you look closely you can see two turkey hens through the wire fence.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Shazam!

The other day I was with my son and brother in Starbucks. We were sitting at this little table drinking our coffees and music was playing in the background as usual.

There were also quite a few other people there including the several members of the Starbucks' crew. So there was a lot of noise besides the background music.

So my son pulls out his iPhone and selects this application and holds it up a little ways off the table. I said "What are you doing?" and he replied "shhhhh!" and turned the iPhone towards me so I could see the screen.

It pretty much looked like the image except that thing in the middle was moving and I think at the top was the message "sending" or maybe "analyzing" or maybe I saw both. And then the screen changed so that all of the information about the song that was playing was shown right on the iPhone screen.

I said, incredulously, "You mean that app sampled the music and was able to identify the song and artist?" He answered affirmatively although the smile on his face made any answer redundant.

I have to say that I was very much impressed. I think that's very good programming.

I since installed the program on my own iPhone. It is free. I have used it a few times. I wanted to use it while I was driving the other day but decided I needed to pay more attention to driving than Shazam!

There is a web site that further explains the application.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Surprise Opossum

Image courtesy of Wiki - Opossum Article

We have one horse, Jet, in the horse hospital at our Vet's office in Norman. We have another horse that somehow got all bruised up the other day in a separate corral.

All these people who talk about how we should return to using horses instead of cars have never owned horses.

Saturday morning I stopped by the corral to check on the hurt horse. She was pretty good.

But then I noticed that I had left the lids off the trash cans where I keep a small amount of oats and sweet feed for the horses. So I walked over to put the tops on the cans. The nearest one to me was the oats can and I put its top back on.

Then I moved over to the sweet feed can. As I bent over to get the lid I looked down into can. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! There was an opossum down at the bottom of the can just happily eating his (or her) little self into contentment.

I was startled and jerked myself upright. At first I didn't know what it was down there. Fortunately it was an opossum and not a skunk or raccoon or rat or some other varmint.

But I had to get him out of the can so I figured since he got in there maybe he could get out by himself. So I kicked the can. That spooked the horses who ran around a bit and then came back over to see what the heck I was doing. They are a curious lot.

But friend opossum was unconcerned.

So I turned the can over on its side which made the open top point towards the horses. Mr. opossum took this opportunity to scurry out of the trash can. He went directly towards the horses. That spooked them again of course.

And the spooked horses spooked the opossum who turned around and ran towards me. And that spooked me and I jumped back except there wasn't any place to go.

But that scared the opossum and he ran down the side of the barn and the last I saw of him he was tearing across the horse lot into the pasture.

For one thing I am really glad no one was taking pictures because I was not at my most courageous.

Another thing I wondered though was whether this opossum had not been taught to play opossum. Because he never did.

And that's my surprise opossum story.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Thoughts on Deuteronomy

I've been reading in Deuteronomy since the first of March.

Usually I read on my iPhone using the Mantis Bible application and Peterson's The Message Bible version.

A couple of things have stood out for me so far that I thought it might be worth a blog entry.

Deuteronomy 9 is where I find the first thing I want to mention (emphasis mine):
But when God pushes them out ahead of you, don't start thinking to yourselves, "It's because of all the good I've done that God has brought me in here to dispossess these nations."
That's a little something that all of us who believe in Jesus Christ should keep in mind. It is easy to lose that perspective though. We have something good happen to us and it is really easy to take the credit for it.

I am certain I've read this passage many times before but that admonition really leaps out at me this time around.

Deuteronomy 15 is the second thing:
At the end of every seventh year, cancel all debts. This is the procedure: Everyone who has lent money to a neighbor writes it off. You must not press your neighbor or his brother for payment: All-Debts-Are-Canceled—God says so. You may collect payment from foreigners, but whatever you have lent to your fellow Israelite you must write off.

There must be no poor people among you because God is going to bless you lavishly in this land that God, your God, is giving you as an inheritance, your very own land. But only if you listen obediently to the Voice of God.
Certainly I knew about this passage but it surely stood out this time around.

Just in case someone thought about not loaning money towards the end of the 7 years that issue was raised along with others in following verses:
When you happen on someone who's in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don't look the other way pretending you don't see him. Don't keep a tight grip on your purse. No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs. Don't count the cost. Don't listen to that selfish voice saying, "It's almost the seventh year, the year of All-Debts-Are-Canceled," and turn aside and leave your needy neighbor in the lurch, refusing to help him. He'll call God's attention to you and your blatant sin.

Give freely and spontaneously. Don't have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God, your God's, blessing in everything you do, all your work and ventures. There are always going to be poor and needy people among you. So I command you: Always be generous, open purse and hands, give to your neighbors in trouble, your poor and hurting neighbors.
I thought it was interesting.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Gifts and Memorials

"Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be" is the first part of Robert Browning's poem Rabbi Ben Ezra. It is about an actual Rabbi, Abraham ibn Ezra (1092-1167). This part is particularly well known because it is one of the final songs by John Lennon. I particularly like the version of the song by Mary Chapin Carpenter back in the mid 90's.

There is a lesser known verse:
For thence,—a paradox
Which comforts while it mocks,—
Shall life succeed in that it seems to fail:
What I aspired to be,
And was not, comforts me:
brute I might have been, but would not sink i' the scale.


That's a bit more complex and will definitely make one stop and think for a while.

It was my Valentine's Day gift from my sweetheart, Judy.

These two little guys are going out on the patio of the new house whenever we have time and the weather cooperates and Judy tells me where they go.

The frog is holding a horn and that's in honor of Judy's Saxophone playing.

The crab was my particular gift.

It is because my horoscope sign is cancer which in turn is the crab. Maybe also it is because I am crabby.

But Judy says I am more like the crab because he sometimes withdraws into his shell. I suppose it is usually when he feels threatened or maybe he just wants to be alone in there.

I had not really known this about myself until she mentioned it but it is pretty obvious to me when I think about it. Does make you wonder sometimes if there is anything to this horoscope stuff. Regardless I like my little crab a lot.

It was given in honor of the 7th anniversary of our first e-mail exchange. That might seem strange that we mark such an event but given my caregiver status at the time it is rather remarkable we were able to meet at all.

This is a gift to both of us from my daughter. It was for our new house.

We really like this and Judy chose to hang in our guest bedroom in a rather prominent place.

I think "family" is such an important part of both of our lives that such a house warming gift is just particularly appropriate for us.

I was thinking about these gifts this morning as I walked through the house and decided they were something I would blog about.

One could not say they are unique because they are mass manufactured certainly or otherwise we wouldn't have them. But they are unique in a way and they are given in honor of some particular event or occasion.

So when I look at them I not only think of the giver and the innate symbolism of the gift but the reason for the gift.

So they are cherished memorials in a way. Memorializing is important but that's a different post.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sad Stories

One day last week I read (on my Kindle 2 of course) an AP story carried in the local paper about a Minnesota man, Verne Gagne. Verne, who just turned 83 on February 25, has Alzheimer's (or possibly some other dementia) and was involved in an altercation with another resident of his facility on January 26.

The other man, Helmut Gutmann, was 97 and subsequently died on February 14 from his injuries. He also had Alzheimer's.

Mr. Gagne was a well known professional wrestler before his memory loss. Neither man remembered what happened after the altercation.

Mr. Gutmann's death was ruled a homicide but the authorities declined to charge Mr. Gagne.

One of my blogger friends posted an entry on the same day.

Here is a link to an AP story about the incident.

The very next day I read an article in our local paper about Mr. Lester Pendegraft, 94, of Norman, Oklahoma being charged with rape. Mr. Pendegraft was living in an Edmond, Oklahoma nursing home when the rape occurred. He was stopped by attendants but the family of the victim was not immediately notified. The daughter contacted a victim rights group that was able to get the police involved and charges were filed against Mr. Pendegraft.

Mr. Pendegraft was moved to a Norman nursing home where he died on Monday, March 2nd. Authorities have dropped the charges.

In the second incident the ailment of either party (I find it hard to make myself write perpetrator) is not reported. It is obvious from the report that both people were suffering from something.

I thought that no matter what Mr. Pendegraft had previously done in his life, and I do not know anything about him; and, no matter who all had loved him; and, no matter who all he had loved; that all of that would now be forever eclipsed by the record of this one act near the end of his life.

That's bad enough without even considering the very real possibility that Mr. Pendegraft, had he been in his right mind, would be terribly grieved of his own action.

My father would have been mortified had he done something like that, if he had his right mind which he did not. And make no mistake about it I think that is a very real possibility had I placed him in a nursing home. That was one of the reasons I so stubbornly refused that option in fact.

Or he could have been like either Mr. Gagne or Mr. Gutmann. Both of those men now will be remembered for something nearly incidental to their history except that one man died and another caused it.

I think I shared before that one of the fears I had with my dad was that he would be away from me and some policeman or citizen would shoot him or hurt him because of his inability to control his own actions.

I had not thought of any of these things for a good long while until I read these two articles.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Economy

I think the fundamental problem is that there is an excess of just about everything. There is too much credit and too many houses and too many cars and too many stores and too many restaurants and on and on.

In a way there is too much because we have been too successful. I had this friend once who lived in another country. We shared a few pictures and one I sent him was of my son's home. My friend wrote me back asking if all of us in Oklahoma lived so luxuriously. My son's home at the time was very nice but would not be considered luxurious by any means. But that exchange made me think about how much we take for granted about how we live.

Then there is political influence. We have a mixed economic system. There is surely market forces at play but there is also political pressure.

And there is greed and corruption and lust and all the other vices with which we humans are afflicted.

But it is a system and like all systems it seeks equilibrium.

I think we are in one of those really out of balance periods now. The excess is going to have to be absorbed and purged. Credit is undergoing rapid balancing right now. The credit producers that survive will be better. But not all will survive.

There are too many cars and too much capacity for making cars and selling cars and most everything else about cars. Change is underway. There will be fewer cars and less capacity when the process is over.

There are too many houses but the excess will be absorbed eventually. In the meantime that industry will change.

There are too many stores but soon there won't be.

It is not a pain free process. It is not an instant process either.

The government can help make things easier and even attempt to point things one way or another. I personally think that government action will not really change the process that much either for good or bad.

And personally I would just as soon not have to go through all this at all. I don't like going through tornadoes either. But they just are and I have no choice about it.

When the process is over then we will already be in the process of building new things to excess. Maybe it will be electric cars or hydrogen fuel cells or some new kind of nanotechnology material or machines or whatever. Maybe we'll have too many Kindles and Net books. I don't know what but I know we'll make too many.

And about 70 years from now we'll go through this all again. Well I won't but my grandchildren will.

That's what I think.

Israel Iran Showdown Approaching

Iran Launches Satellite in a Challenge for Obama
New York Times February 3, 2009

Binyamin Netanyahu to be Israel's next Prime Minister
Times OnLine February 20, 2009

Mullen: Iran has fissile materials for bomb
AP March 1, 2009

In a shift from the Bush administration,
President Obama is actively seeking to engage Iran on a series of
issues, from its nuclear program to Afghanistan.

Reuters March 3, 2009

This all seems pretty ominous to me.

The first article means that Iran has missiles capable of hitting western Europe and that it could deploy satellites as weapons.

Binyamin Netanyahu is likely to form a government with a harder line about Iran and nukes.

The third article seems to indicate that Iran can rather quickly have an actual nuclear weapon.

So Iran would have both a weapon and a means of delivery.

The fourth article showing the Obama administration's desire to be more friendly to Iran could make both Iran and Israel wonder about United States support for Israel in any kind of confrontation.

All in all a very dangerous set of developments.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Allergies - Red Cedar Pollen

We are in the midst of red cedar pollen allergy season here. Of course the red cedar is not actually a cedar but a juniper, Juniperus virginiana to be precise.

I am terribly allergic to the pollen of these things. Not anaphylactic shock allergic but bad enough.

If that is not bad enough the newspaper reports that the pollen is going to last until the end of March.

I can't think of any good news about this really.

There was another article in the paper the other day in one of the Metro Sections. The writer said that if you were allergic to red cedar pollen you should not live in Oklahoma. She said she had tried every remedy she could find to no avail.

I do understand the sentiment.

I think I've tried most remedy. Right now I am trying Zyrtec-D© along with Alavert© and some stuff called Chloraseptic™ Allergen Block gel. I also have NasalCrom© and Zicam Allergy swabs. These are the ones that seemed to help. The others I've already discarded entirely.

Then I have Benadryl® which is about the only thing that actually works all the time but makes me sleepy as all get out and makes me feel drugged after I finally wake up.

Now the Zyrtec-D© has pseudoephedrine hydrochloride in it as well as the cetirizine hydrochloride. The pseudoephedrine content requires me to give my driver's license and signature in order to get it. Also someone will become suspicious if I buy a whole bunch of it.

The pseudoepedrine makes my heart race some and kind of fires me up. At the same time it kind of makes me feel heavy with sleepiness across my brow. I've heard some people say they like that feeling but I'd just as soon not experience it.

I am carrying around my epi pens just in case, too.

It is funny how the pollen makes me feel. I am not always bothered by it. It comes in waves and it varies by geography. Even where I am sitting in the house makes a difference.

We cut down all the cedar trees over at the farm except one. That sucker will be gone as soon as I can arrange it's removal. It would be gone already except the guy that's going to do it suffers from the same allergy.

But out here at Judy's place the things are everywhere even though they are pretty far away.

I view them as the enemy and shout out at them when I am driving by and see them. Well, only when I am alone.

I have another season of allergies that begins in late April and lasts through a good portion of May. I don't know what it is.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rosy Scenario

I read an article the other day about President Obama's budget submission. In the article there was a snippet I found funny about the Reagan administration. It was that the highest ranking female in the administration was Rosy Scenario. I laughed when I read it.

The main point of the article is that the proposed budget is overly optimistic in estimating government revenue.

The budget estimates that revenues for 2009 will fall by 13.4% resulting in a deficit of $1.75 Trillion. That is $1,750,000,000,000.

The GDP (gross domestic product) actually shrank by 6.2% in the last quarter of 2008. The administration is estimating the economy will shrink an additional 1.2% in 2009.

Others are predicting nearly twice as much shrinkage and some even more than that.

The problem is that none of those making predictions expected the 6.2% number.

Just guessing I suspect the economy is going to retract far more in 2009 than is estimated by the administration. I also suspect the cost of the ambitious programs proposed will be more than estimated.

Moreover I really see nothing that the administration is proposing that is likely to cause the economy to grow. Taxes have to increase. Regardless who is paying the taxes there still is going to be less money left in the private sector. And there is lots more government red tape proposed which increases costs by its very nature. I honestly cannot see how this will result in more private sector jobs or greater GDP.

Another thing that I really do not understand is the health benefits program proposal. People on Medicare and Medicaid are not exactly doing great as it is. Cutting benefits to those programs and redistributing that money to those with no coverage at all seems ill conceived to me at best.

I am not exactly pessimistic yet but neither have I any optimism left.

P.S. - Paul Harvey


I read this morning that Paul Harvey died yesterday. I knew he was a bit younger than my Dad and Mom. I remember him in 1970 telling then President Nixon to get out of Vietnam. I remember when "Rest of the Story" was new. It was in 1976 according to the article I read.

Talk about optimism though: when he was 82 he signed a 10 year contract with ABC. That was in 2000. Pretty close.