Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Kwanzaa? Really?

For me, learning is fun. When anyone, any time, anywhere, asks anything, I like to know the answer. Therefore, I read often. My mind is an eclectic mix of all types of information that I can hardly help but offer in various amounts (ranging from snippet to discourse -- depending upon how much I've studied the topic in question). For some unknown reason, this year I decided to educate myself on the "holiday" celebrated in the U.S. called Kwanzaa.

Prior to doing any research on the subject, I thought Kwanzaa was a holiday created by African Americans to celebrate Christ's birth from an "African Heritage" viewpoint. I was wrong -- in fact, if I were to graph how far off I was with a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game, my pin would definitely be in another county or state, perhaps even off-planet. So now that I'm slightly more educated than I was last week, I thought I'd put thoughts to... er... blog and educate anyone else that happens to be interested. DISCLAIMER: if you don't like my opinions, if you are blinded by what you consider to be "your civic duty," OR if your "open mind" only refers to viewpoints you agree with -- too bad. I call them like I find them.

First, a little about the "father" of Kwanzaa: Dr. Maulana Karenga. Born Ronald McKinley Everett, he first changed his name to Ron Ndabezitha Everett-Karenga (ndabezitha is Zulu for "your majesty" and karenga is Swahili for "nationalist"). Later, when Karenga founded the "US Organization" (United Slaves Organization, or US) he shortened his name to Maulana Karenga (maulana is Swahili for "master teacher" or "lord").

I'm no psychologist or psychiatrist, but generally, when I find out someone has changed their name (except in the case of changing one's last name at marriage), a big warning bell goes off in my head:
Why?
Are they selling something?
What are they hiding?
If they aren't hiding something specific, then what are they trying to deceive others about?

No surprise then to find a criminal record that included jail time. Convicted of sexual assault and torturing his own (female) followers would definitely keep him off most individual's list of people to emulate, except that he's s'posed to be this exceptionally enlightened torch-bearer for civil rights, so -- he got a free pass on that one. Never mind that he jammed a flowing garden hose in these girls' mouths, put one's toe in a vise, stuck a hot soldering iron in the other one's mouth (after he burned her face with it). Yes, definitely a pillar of the community.

Next, I thought it expedient to look at the good Doctor's educational credentials. He was a professor of black studies at California State University (Long Beach) when he created Kwanzaa in 1966 (years later, he chaired the department -- after serving time for sexual assault!!). Curious as to just what exactly a "professor of black studies" would be teaching, I dug a little deeper. It seems Dr. Karenga was doing what today is commonly called "community organizing" -- but in order to differentiate him from the masses (since he was the head honcho) the more politically correct way to phrase his work would be so say he "led" a "black freedom movement" or a "cultural black nationalist group" in the 60s. If you didn't use one of these PC terms, Dr. Karenga might sound too much like a thug, and we wouldn't want to besmirch his less-than-stellar reputation.

You see, I also discovered that his "movement" wasn't your run-of-the-mill garden-club-variety group of peace-loving-children-of-the-60s. "US" (sometimes called "Organization US") was so violent, that when they had a disagreement with the Black Panthers -- US resolved the issue to their satisfaction -- by offing 2 Black Panthers! Evidently, for all their militant radicalism, the Black Panthers didn't quite live down to the low standards of US Organization.

In looking for any other sociological "problem areas" in his life, character, and actions, I discovered he met Malcolm X in California a few years before Malcolm's assassination. Just how important Malcolm X was to Dr. K can be found in his own words:
"Malcolm was the major African American thinker that influenced me in terms of nationalism and Pan-Africanism."
The "Why" and "How" of the purpose of "US" is simply put, in his own words:
"...I founded it [US], as the sons and daughters of Malcolm, and as an heir to his legacy."
What a legacy. I should point out however, that when he was released from prison in the mid-70s, he "re-established" US Organization. Unfortunately, it was not for the better. Instead, he infused his newly acquired Marxist views, with his already suspect thuggish tendencies. I can only hope that the movement doesn't continue to add to its legacy in future generations of melding the worst of all the world has to offer.

In closing, I did read thru the seven tenets of Kwanzaa -- twice. At first glance (before I knew anything about the man) they seemed to be OK, the type of rather bland statements usually proffered by politicians attempting to retain their seat at election time. Once I understood his background, philosophy, and ideals I reread the same seven tenets. Although thinly-disguised, the Marxist ideals of community activism, collectivism, and blind adherence to those in leadership clearly shone thru.

For my part, even if a "Happy Kwanzaa" is offered, I'm done wishing anyone anything but a "Merry Christmas" and a "Happy New Year." They were sufficient for hundreds of years, and I personally don't want to be misunderstood to be promoting those degenerate ideals for which he stood.






PS -- If you'd like to know more, I found numerous links to Karenga and Kwanzaa with Google. Two of the shorter, more informative were the following:

newsbusters.org/blogs/warner-todd-huston/2008/12/23/kwanzaa-created-rapist-torturer

wikipedia.org/wiki/Maulana_Karenga

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bitten by Reality

My wife goes to these ladies' meetings; they're usually every two to five weeks apart. I'm not really sure what they do there? Perhaps just talk with all the other ladies from our church with no men or children to interrupt?

Needless to say, ladies' meetings are great for her, and a challenge for me. Tonight's meeting did have a great added bonus though: cookie exchange! She's only been home a few hours, so I have yet to sample all of the cookies she's brought back, but I'm sure I will have done so by tomorrow evening.

The opposite side of the coin is the dark side. I get to watch all of the children by myself. Don't get me wrong, I love kids. We did, after all, have FOUR of the little buggers.) =) The problem is the age of said children, and the resulting responsibilities corresponding to each.

Five is a great age. I can play with Little Bear, tickle him until he can't walk, stand, or even talk, sword fight, play with his LEGO blocks, and all sorts of other fun things. Very few draw-backs with this age.

Three is also a "fun" age, the kids are old enough to play with, reason with, and generally have a lot of fun. It does occasionally have its downsides though. Like when one three-year-old "pokes" the other, or takes the chair, crayon, or toy the other wanted, or (heaven forbid) doesn't get the correct spoon at dinner-time! The resulting drama that unfolds normally rivals the best "All My Children" could ever hope to offer. Sometimes I wonder how much I could make rewriting dinner-time drama and selling it to the major soaps.

The real kicker, however, is not the five year old, the twin three year olds, or even the fact that I watch them, alone, for two to four hours. What gets me are the stomach-churning capabilities of our five month old. What, you may ask, can a five month old do that bothers my stomach? plenty. For starters, just seeing the mixture of cereal and peas I fed her for dinner hasn't changed all that much the second time around usually does it. Actually, color doesn't matter quite as much as stench.

I can handle gunshots, blood, guts, broken bones, death, and any number of other things that would turn anyone's stomach. The problem for me lies in bodily excretions, from either end.

Anyone that tells you women are inferior to men... is a full-blown liar, or has never had to juggle the responsibilities of several small children, the phone, and a simultaneous diaper change. Thankfully, tonight I did have the five year old, and he likes to help. I had him hang on to each of Little Squirt's hands while I cleaned the other end. No finger-painting allowed on my watch you know.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Thug-Politics at Their Worst -- Again

Relatives have asked many times if we will ever move to Chicago (where much of my Mom's family lives) or southern Illinois (where some of Mom's family and much of Dad's lives) to be "closer to my family." Southern Illinois would be nice, but the thug-politics of the Illinois/Chicago machine has no appeal for me. While disappointed, I wasn't overly surprised by this morning's headline:
    Ill. Gov. Arrested in Obama Successor Probe
    By MIKE ROBINSON, Associated Press Writer -- 11:21 am
    Federal authorities arrested Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich Tuesday on charges that he brazenly conspired to sell or trade the Senate seat left vacant by President-elect Barack Obama to the highest bidder.

    (The article continues if you click the link, but the gist of it is contained in the first paragraph.)
This makes me think my previous post needs to be expanded... not only federal House and Senate members need mandatory standardized testing, but all politicians in large cities, state, and federal positions. Maybe even submit to and pass yearly polygraph-linked ethics tests as well.

I hope most Americans going into politics today are NOT doing so soley for the money, power, influence, and a chance at a free get-out-of-jail card when they break the law -- although, I have yet to be proven wrong.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Dumb People on the Loose

I frequent Yahoo's Odd News section. I love to see what the crazies are doing, as well as what the "normal" people like me are doing to defend themselves against the encroaching mobs. (As the British Royal Observer Corps' motto says, "Fore-warned is fore-armed.")

I ran across this article yesterday. Too bad I passed up that elective in fencing:
    Man uses candy cane to subdue attacker with knife
    Wed Dec 3, 5:53 pm ET

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A man using a candy cane lawn ornament fended off a knife-wielding neighbor who had been attacking holiday guests at a Sacramento home. Police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong said the man used the two-foot-tall plastic ornament to subdue the attacker until officers arrived.

    He said the 49-year-old suspect became intoxicated, went over to a neighbor's home on Thanksgiving and began waving a kitchen knife at people gathered on the lawn.

    He cut several peoples' clothing before one of them decided to fight back.

    Police said the man with the knife was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. The guest who took up the candy cane was not arrested because police determined he acted in self-defense.
The drunk was only arrested on "suspicion of assault" even though "He cut several peoples' clothing" -- Wow. I'm surprised they didn't go ahead and arrest the victim for carrying a concealed candy cane.

This morning I found another story worth repeating:
    Aussies mull breath-test before voting
    Thu Dec 4, 1:38 am ET

    CANBERRA (Reuters) – Politicians in Australia's most populous state could be breath-tested for alcohol before voting on laws after a series of late-night incidents that have embarrassed the center-left government.

    New South Wales state lawmaker Andrew Fraser resigned from his conservative opposition frontbench role after shoving a female colleague in the wake of Christmas party celebrations.

    "Breath test this mob," said a front page headline in Sydney's mass-selling Daily Telegraph newspaper. State police minister Matt Brown was dumped from his portfolio in September after allegedly "dirty" dancing in his underwear over the chest of a female colleague after a drunken post-budget office party.

    Conservative Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said he would support alcohol breath tests for drunkenness for lawmakers before they entered parliament, while Green MPs John Kaye and Lee Rhiannon also backed the plan, along with the parliament's speaker.

    "Honestly, if you are going to have breathalyzers for people driving cranes you should have breathalyzers for people writing laws," Kaye told the Telegraph.

I wonder what would happen if we here the U.S. implemented across-the-board monthly drug testing as well as yearly standardized achievement testing for every member of the House and Senate? Maybe our resulting laws would make more sense.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Weird People

I frequent Yahoo's Odd News section. I love to see what the crazies are doing, as well as what the "normal" people like me are doing to defend themselves against the encroaching mobs. (As the British Royal Observer Corps' motto says, "Fore-warned is fore-armed.") I ran across this article yesterday. Too bad I passed up that elective in fencing:
    Man uses candy cane to subdue attacker with knife
    Wed Dec 3, 5:53 pm ET

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. – A man using a candy cane lawn ornament fended off a knife-wielding neighbor who had been attacking holiday guests at a Sacramento home. Police spokesman Sgt. Norm Leong said the man used the two-foot-tall plastic ornament to subdue the attacker until officers arrived.

    He said the 49-year-old suspect became intoxicated, went over to a neighbor's home on Thanksgiving and began waving a kitchen knife at people gathered on the lawn.

    He cut several peoples' clothing before one of them decided to fight back.

    Police said the man with the knife was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon. The guest who took up the candy cane was not arrested because police determined he acted in self-defense.

So the crazy was only arrested on "suspicion of assault" even though "He cut several peoples' clothing" -- Wow. I'm surprised they didn't go ahead and arrest the victim for carrying a concealed candy cane.

Then this morning I found another story worth repeating:
    Aussies mull breath-test before voting
    Thu Dec 4, 1:38 am ET

    CANBERRA (Reuters) – Politicians in Australia's most populous state could be breath-tested for alcohol before voting on laws after a series of late-night incidents that have embarrassed the center-left government.

    New South Wales state lawmaker Andrew Fraser resigned from his conservative opposition frontbench role after shoving a female colleague in the wake of Christmas party celebrations.

    "Breath test this mob," said a front page headline in Sydney's mass-selling Daily Telegraph newspaper. State police minister Matt Brown was dumped from his portfolio in September after allegedly "dirty" dancing in his underwear over the chest of a female colleague after a drunken post-budget office party.

    Conservative Opposition Leader Barry O'Farrell said he would support alcohol breath tests for drunkenness for lawmakers before they entered parliament, while Green MPs John Kaye and Lee Rhiannon also backed the plan, along with the parliament's speaker.

    "Honestly, if you are going to have breathalyzers for people driving cranes you should have breathalyzers for people writing laws," Kaye told the Telegraph.

I think we here the U.S. should implement across the board drug testing as well as standardized achievement testing for every member of the House and Senate. Maybe our laws would make more sense

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving-ish

Found a blog with a warped sense of history that appeals to me. The title is The History Bluff and their funny Thanksgiving post is the Top 10 Things the Pilgrims Were Thankful For.

I liked most of them, but felt inspired to write my own. Here's my list of
The Top Twelve Things for which I would be thankful if I were a Pilgrim:
12. Grandma wouldn't insist on everyone watching the entire Macy's parade, as well as the pre- and post-show commentary with her. (No offense intended if you enjoy it; I always wanted to read my book without getting scolded during the talking heads, marching Shriners, and juggling clowns.)
11. No Black Friday sales' rush (we had sales 2 weeks ago that were better than the sales I saw today).
10. No television show, "Survivor" on which to compete. (It would be too easy anyway; they lived the real deal.)
9. No Simon Cowell (or hundreds of non-singers abusing my National Anthem).
8. The number of participants in the new world's first talent show would be no longer than the Mayflower's Passenger list.
7. Wouldn't have to prepare a corresponding all-vegetarian menu.
6. The side dishes of giblets, as well as fish-eye soup, were down on the Indian's end of the table.
5. Ties optional for the men; hose optional for the women.
4. After dinner folk elegies performed by the famous country trio: Cotton, Stills, & Mather.
3. Wouldn't have to watch William Bradford clog -- on "Prancing with the Puritans."
2. There wouldn't be any question about whether the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses were going to come knocking and interrupt dinner.
1. Everyone thought it was "normal" to ask God to bless the food they were about to eat and thank Him for their abundant blessings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Silly Children

I enjoy children. They have a view of the world that is, on one hand, overly simplistic, but, on the other, is intensely practical. My children have said some things lately that have kept me in stitches.

Nearly every Tuesday night, our church has "Gospel Night" in which the adults go visiting, the girls have a "Charm class" (which is really a craft/dessert-making-class), and the boys have "Karate for Christ" (actually a blend of 4 arts, but we didn't want any of the "stigma" aspects of MMA associated with our church). (By "stigma" aspects I mean: we really don't want droves of "TapOut" mentality teens, just kids wanting to be able to defend themselves).

A week ago Tuesday my family sat down to dinner (prior to Gospel Night). It was Little Bear's turn to pray, and he has been doing a great job for several months now. For some reason, he ended his prayer with (mind you, this prayer is for our dinner), "And please help no one to get killed at Gospel Night." My wife and I snickered quietly, but nearly lost it. It was even funnier when half an hour later, AT Gospel Night, he volunteered to pray and said almost the exact same thing! Other than muscle, joint, and bone soreness from practice, no one's been hurt in any way at Gospel Night, so we don't know why he prayed that prayer -- we do know it was funny to hear.

Also during Gospel Night, just Little Bear's prayer, Sugee walked into the auditorium (late), saw a friend (whose name rhymes wigh her own), raised both her hands in a "ta-da" manner, and said, "_______'s here!" Everyone except my wife thought Sugee said her own name rather than the friend's -- that was good for a 15 second show-stopper.

Our littlest one (4 months old already) wants to grow up and is very strong-willed: she does not like a pacifier, she hates to lie down (unless she's sleepy), if we put her in a reclined seat (bouncy chair) she will try to sit up, and if you hold her hands, she'll do everything she can to walk or jump. This morning little Bright Eyes was put in a baby car similar to this picture -- later, she started fussing. When I found her, all I could see was the top of her head! It seems she had been put into the car with both legs in one leg-hole, been standing the entire time, and finally (after a half an hour!) slipped down to a sitting position deep inside the seat area. We laughed, but she was so mad (thankfully, my wife was the one to put her in the car, so I wasn't in trouble, this time).

Lastly, we have Tank; he says a lot of funny things. My current favorite is his prized red race car: "Lightning TheClean."

I had hoped to write several other things they've said or done lately, but since I made the mistake of attempting to save them all up for one post, most have slipped my mind. In the future, I think I'll need to write smaller posts -- as they happen.

Monday, November 17, 2008

TMI (Yet Still: TLI) in the News

As a young kid, I wanted to be just like my dad: a welder in the Air Force (the realities of the profession changed that desire). As I got older, I dreamed of one day becoming an astronaut or a fighter pilot (but I need glasses). Throughout high school and college I had several other aspirations, all similar: military-intelligence-related. None of which ended up happening.

I've "worked" for the same church since I got out of college, doing different things "on the side." I started by doing small business consulting. Have helped various businees with their incorporation, basic business set-up, implementing records management protocols, automating office work, employee searches, business reorganization, training, and retraining employees. I also still enjoy doing the kind of work that paid for my college education: construction, maintenance, and remodeling. Have done all types of work on houses, apartments, condos, businesses, & churches (from roof, to attic, to ceilings, down to walls, floors, foundations, and everything in between). If I have a preference in my employment, I enjoy doing computer consulting the most. Have built & repaired computers, done systems analysis, network analysis, website analysis, web design, logo design, built & managed websites, as well as trained employees to use applications software (some new software, but usually train them to use the software they already have more efficiently). When other work was slow, I've done other, totally-unrelated work: sold jewelry, driven & delivered vehicles, worked security, even transported hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of cash, documents, and jewelry (locally and domestically; never did international transport). I might someday be able to work for someone else, but I've been self-employed for so long that I enjoy my freedom and the variety of things I'm able to do.

From the list above, you can probably guess I have a lot of different interests. I'm also constantly reading. I prefer to get my news from the internet than from the nightly newscasts for several reasons: I only see the stories of interest to me, if I decide I'm not interested, I move to the next, and because I'm reading rather than listening to a news anchor, I can get through the information faster. The problem with reading the news is so many headlines pique my curiosity. Anything that refers to my interests (current or past), people I know, places I've lived, places my friends live, things I've done, and anything I've ever wanted to do -- all of those articles grab my attention.

One of this morning's articles is a great example: Astronauts prepare to unpack Endeavour's cargo. The headline alone was a show-stopper for me. After I clicked the link I was a bit under-whelmed. I don't think the first sentence was meant to be funny, but I couldn't help laugh at it anyway. "Astronauts aboard the international space station and the newly arrived shuttle Endeavour planned Monday to start unpacking a new toilet and a contraption that purifies urine and sweat into drinkable water at the orbiting outpost." (Note to self: be glad you did not become an astronaut.)

Some of the rest of the article was interesting, but it highlighted a discouraging trend I've noticed in online news: since there are no space constraints (as there are in printed newspapers), news editors are no longer requiring journalists to edit articles as well as they have had to in the past. Rather than keeping the inanity in their stories to bare minimum, reporters seem to revel in it.

I read blogs and editorials for fun and opinion; if they ramble, I expect it. However, from a purely "Journalistic" perspective, I prefer comprehensive, concise detail in my news stories. I'll admit, this particular article was not as bad as many I've read, but Mike Schneider (the Associated Press Writer that filed this Houston-based story) could have written the same article in half the space and kept my attention more closely.

Having TLI (Too-Little-Information) of importance, and TMI (Too-Much-Information) that's frivolous seems to reflect my disappointment with the entire Presidential election-season that just ended. (Also, in the future, I hope they don't last two years; two years of fluff in the news was frustrating.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Poll Comments: Blog Reading

I finally updated the code behind the blog and found all the cool stuff; it's still pretty easy to update. Adding new widget-type stuff is easier, and I like the ease of spatial-editing too.

One of the cool things is the polling capability. I'm sure there isn't any danger of me rivaling Zogby, but I wasn't particularly sure just how I wanted to start it. I gave it some time and came up with this one:

"What do you look for in an "interesting" blog?
---------------------------------------------
Blogs about the lives of my friends or family.
Opinions with which I generally agree.
Opinions about which I can debate.
Finding "pointers," shortcuts, tips, and ideas that educate, or make my life easier.
Cutting edge technical information.
The latest fashion info, trends, and celebrity gossip.
Hobby- and craft-specific info.
I just love to surf from blog to blog reading about other people's lives.
Other: (comment here -- on this post)

The only two problems I have with the ability to poll readers are the inability to add comments to each poll, and the inability to put in a poll as a blog posting (that could be accessible for vote-casting indefinitely). Other than that, I like it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Troubling Things

During the last election there were many that said Bush "stole" the election due to the fact he won only by electoral votes. I know how the electoral college works; Obama won it on votes, and unless the electoral college breaks precedent, next year Obama will be voted in as the next President.

How the electoral college works doesn't "trouble" me a bit, what has been troublesome this year is having listened to several people relate how easy it was to register more than once (everyone one I heard interviewed said they were voting for Obama). Now I'm hearing people also voted more than once. Take, for example, this fine upstanding citizen (Ron Jones) of Philadelphia who stated he "decided to come back and vote a couple times."
video
(This video was copied from YouTube.)
Hopefully, he just misspoke? Perhaps he meant he came back several times until the lines weren't long? but after listening to it 5 times, it still didn't sound that way to me.

Last month I was unhappy to see a precursor of the Youth Brigades Obama has touted. (If you haven't seen it, watch it on YouTube, or message me for the video.)
Seriously, who in their right mind would allow their child to be involved in any group that encouraged them to march around in a quasi-military outfit spouting political rhetoric purporting adoration of their anointed leader? When I watched that video I was immediately hit with visions of Hitler's Brown Shirts.

Then last night I was extremely upset to see this video of a teacher "brow beating" her class into submission to conform to her personal opinion:
video
(This video was also copied from YouTube, and no, I haven't any clue what language the people at the beginning are speaking, nor can I read the subtitles.)
What irked me most was her statement "I can support whomever I want to support, as long as I don't, uh, browbeat another person for the candidate they supported..." (In my not-so-humble-opinion, she is surely pushing the envelope.)

As a side note, I find it strange that most videos of this "type" (the anti-obama type) are not remaining online very long. They seem to have been "reported as offensive" by so many people that YouTube has pulled them down: de facto censorship -- by the masses. (As I find videos I may want to share or watch a second time I have begun saving them to my computer.)

I don't like conspiracy theories, I generally find them so far-fetched as to be amusing, annoying, and too "incite-ful" to be worth wasting time on. However, I have found at least one thing every day that is illegal, bordering on illegal or just out-right troubling. Is anyone else finding (at bare minimum) one thing -- every day -- since the election happened as well? Am I paranoid? perhaps crazy? or does it look really look like "1984" is a possibility?

In closing, I'm least concerned about dying (yeah sure, go ahead, threaten me with heaven). I'm also not "worried" by whomever is "in control" in America from anything other than a political or economic standpoint (I do, however, like to see my kids eating regularly). Nor am I particularly concerned about the rapid introduction of radical, communistic mandates by the soon-to-be new government. I think what concerns me most is the apathy of the general populace regarding what is "right" and "wrong" (i.e. legal vs. illegal) and why it is "OK" to stifle, hide, or attempt to stamp out altogether the ideas of conservatives -- be they fiscal, social, or political conservatives. But -- it's "unconscionable" to even mention a single irregularity when discussing a left-wing viewpoint -- whether they're slightly progressive, liberally socialistic, or full-bore "hyper-radical communists" (the "lunatic fringe").

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Day of Infamy

"For the first time in my life, I am truly ashamed of my country."
This was the first thought that crossed my mind as I happened to turn on the television last night (just in time to hear McCain's concession speech live). I rarely watch election returns; I prefer to spend the time with my family (and get the full story when all the results are tallied).

In explaining my position, I think it's imperative I first relate the things about our nation that do not cause shame:

I am not ashamed that we elected a black American; that isn't relevant to being a President. (FWIW, I did vote for Alan Keyes in a past election, but I feel the color of someone's skin doesn't determine how well they can, or cannot do any task.)

I am not ashamed that we elected the first illegitimate President in the history of the U.S.A.; disappointed for his personal loss, but that too is not relevant to being the President. (It is, however, a good example for others.)

I am not ashamed that we elected a Democrat; we've done that before.

I am not ashamed that we elected a liberal; of the Presidential candidates running this year, I knew whomever won the election would be hard-pressed to label themselves "conservative."

I am not ashamed that we did not elect a fiscal conservative; it's been a long time since we've seen one of those in the White House.

I am not ashamed that we elected a pro-abortion candidate to the Presidency; disappointed yes, but we've seen this done this before.

I am not ashamed that we just elected the most inexperienced President in the history of our great nation; again, disappointed, but someone must hold that dubious distinction.

In fact, I am not even ashamed that the President-elect cut his political teeth in the Chicago arena of thug-politics-at-its-worst; disappointed yes, but we've had thug-politician Presidents in the past.

So what, you may wonder is so shameful that I would make this statement?

There are a number of minor reasons; I'll relate two of those before the crux of my statement.

First, I'm ashamed so many voters focused on a candidate's personal polish & appearance, reading ability, and continuous recitation of platitudes (all shallow extraneous traits) to the exclusion of personal experience, full disclosure of all aspects of personal history & character, and values.

Secondly, I'm ashamed that a US Senator could go to Africa (at U.S. tax-payers' expense), campaign for a Communist Muslim (wanna-be dictator) in support of sharia law (one that incited riots and instructed his supporters commit murder when he lost), and not be required to answer for his actions. Not as a Senator, not when he became a Presidential candidate, not as President Elect, and even highly unlikely he will ever be held accountable for his actions as President.

Both of these minor reasons don't surprise me as much as I would think they should. Bill Clinton's appearance on the national political scene was Obama's "polish precedent" and guide. As for the "corruption precedent," it is rampant at the highest level of government in every nation I've studied.

What I'm primarily ashamed of is the fact that for the very first time in the history of the U.S.A. a majority of the voting public has eagerly embraced a radical, activist communist.* The United States of America experienced a meteoric rise to greatness -- becoming the greatest nation on earth -- in less than two hundred years via support of capitalism -- rejecting communism. Yes, we have had Presidents in the past that embraced both socialistic and communistic ideals, but none so blatant as our coming President.

I have no hopes that the next four years will strengthen our nation in any lasting economic or political manner (one possible exception is faith - Americans have historically turned closest to God in times of crisis). I can only hope that for the next four years Obama remains so focused on reelection that he steers the course of liberal Democrat, or at least no further than moderate (perhaps even survivable) socialism. Whatever the course, I pray it isn't so radical it crashes our economy, corrupts our citizens, dismantles our morality, shackles the freedoms enjoyed by our churches, or harms our nation in an irreparable manner.

**NOTE: I realize some would attempt to take me to task on the variance of "socialism" and "communism" as they relate to Obama. However, the beliefs I've heard outlined by the now President-elect barely skirt the edge of Socialism even when tempered by his pseudo-moderate public image. Therefore, I've elected to call this spade a spade.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Early Voting, Vote Prep, & Another Oddity

Every year there seems to be a bigger hype about early voting than the previous year. I think voting is one of the most important things one can do as a citizen, but I don't early vote, nor do I like early voting. If it were up to me, I would abolish early voting and instead have two days of voting (Monday and Tuesday), a longer lead time to send out absentee ballots (for those overseas - domestic voters would have no change), and theater-wide electronic voting (for our overseas troops) that could be electronically beamed back to the U.S.A. on election day.

There are several reasons I dislike early voting as it now is: the long lines are key, also, the fact that some item may be revealed about a candidate in the last few days (thus, negating support for a candidate by a voter) is another. This is not to say I would not vote early; if there were any chance of me missing an opportunity to vote on election day, I would probably vote early rather than fill out an absentee ballot.

One of the main reasons I don't early vote is due to the fact that few of the voter guides I read are completed prior to election day. Which means, unless I want to do all of the research on all of the candidates myself, I'm voting in ignorance. This year, in particular, voting in ignorance could have been bad.

In the past I have voted by issues first, and then, if there weren't any issues of interest to me, I would vote for whatever Independent or Republican I liked the most. (Typically, Democrats in south Florida are left-wing Liberals, Tree Huggers, or Socialists, none of which appeals to me. Also, most of the Republicans and Independents promote conservative or libertarian values, both of which appeal to me.)

One of the local races I can vote in this year has proved to be an exception. There are three people running, none are Libertarians or Republicans. The incumbent is a liberal Democrat -- I haven't voted for her since I moved to south Florida (14 years ago). One of the two challengers is an avowed, hard-line Socialist; people with those political leanings disgust me, so I'll definitely not be voting for him. The other challenger is listed as an "Independent." I initially thought she was a Libertarian, but her endorsements seemed a bit odd. After further investigation, I realized she is a hard-line, far left, socialistic environmentalist! Two Socialists and one liberal Democrat in one race!

As you can probably guess, I'll be voting for the liberal Democrat. This particular race brought to mind a passage of scripture:
Jeremiah 12:7-11 "I have forsaken mine house, I have left mine heritage; I have given the dearly beloved of my soul into the hand of her enemies. Mine heritage is unto me as a lion in the forest; it crieth out against me: therefore have I hated it. Mine heritage is unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her; come ye, assemble all the beasts of the field, come to devour. Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. They have made it desolate, and being desolate it mourneth unto me; the whole land is made desolate, because no man layeth it to heart."

In closing, I talked to an individual last week that had an interesting, albeit jaundiced, view of politics in the U.S.A. It was this individual's contention that for those who are Believers voting is:
1. irrelevant (because "God's Will" will be done anyway),
2. unnecessary (because it is "of the government"), and
3. sinful (because we really shouldn't be involved in any part of government).

I disagreed. Voting is a right afforded to all citizens of this country. If I, as a citizen of this country, choose not to exercise a right, then that is my privilege. If however, I, as a citizen of heaven choose not to exercise a right that could enable me to have a positive influence on my community, or have a Godly testimony to others in my community, or could improve my ability to witness to those around me (by not allowing those into office who seek to curtail my rights as a Believer), then I am committing sins of omission, negligence, apathy, and irresponsibility. I really hope my explanation didn't offend that individual, but I was extremely disappointed by the naiveté of that opinion.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Matter of Trust

As I've stated in the past I'm not overly impressed with all aspects of either candidate, I WILL, however, be voting for the candidate that is (and has been) the most transparent in all aspects of their political career, their education, their long-term associations, and future aspirations.

I cannot conceive of anyone entrusting the office of President to any person that is unwilling to unveil their entire life to public scrutiny. Whomever assumes the office of President of the USA will be "in charge" of the world's only remaining superpower. That is a HUGE amount of responsibility and MUST NOT be taken lightly. One of these 2 men (McCain or Obama) is going to be left holding ALL the keys to ALL the "locks" that hold back the most advanced military in the history of the world. I would NOT give a set of car keys to ANY person that I could not trust explicitly, nor should anyone with any semblance of common sense vote to elect a commander-in-chief that has yet to demonstrate any degree of integrity. Additionally, I refuse to vote "present" by voting for some impossible-to-elect 3rd-party individual merely to show my disapproval for both major parties and "teach them a lesson" (whomever "them" happens to be at the moment). That type of "teaching" is never teaching, it is the selfish, irresponsible, and highly arrogant antics that stem from prideful immaturity.

With so much at stake this election, anyone not voting for the candidate that will most closely follow the principles that brought our country TO greatness, is not only voting to take our country FROM greatness, but is also voting FOR the destruction of all we have, all we hold dear, and all that is unique to us as Americans. I realize that this "destruction" may, or may not happen in the next four years, but each individual that fills a term as President leaves a mark (for better or for worse) on our nation.

As a Believer I'm required by God to be a good steward of everything with which HE has entrusted me; my citizenship in this nation is one of those blessings. As a citizen, I am responsible to exercise my right to vote, and as a voter, I am responsible to do what is best (long-term) for my country.

In conclusion, I think the words of Sir Francis Bacon sum it up the best, "Hope is a good breakfast, but it is a bad supper."

Political posts from the past

I've decided to delete my "other" blog (which is even less used than this one) and combine it with this one. Since there were only two major articles on the other blog, I've combined them here in one post. On rereading my post from February, I was surprised how relevant it still seems.

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Why are race, gender and religion the focus?
6 February 2008


Are the people in the media un-educated? or are they attempting to entertain too many middle-schoolers that have no real interest in politics but revel in gossip? For months I’ve heard various and sundry newscasters gush about Obama’s skin color and Hillary’s gender while lambasting Huckabee and Romney for their choice of religion. [Editor's note: The media gushed happily about Hillary's gender, yet have bashed Palin for hers - not to worry, they're unbiased.]

To put it bluntly: WHO CARES!!! Am I the only one that realizes no one in their right mind should vote for ANY current- or ex-members of Congress to run this country? especially inexperienced junior Senators?

Hello!! Morons of the media (and anyone else that doesn’t have half a brain) legislators (i.e. Congress people) are good at running their mouth, period. Most of them have never had to make anything work!! A few of them CAN get things done, yet most of them have spent an entire career doing NOTHING worthwhile. They have no any positive impact on our economy, our social values, or our environment, yet they proffer their “extensive experience” (of doing nothing) as reason to vote for them as administrators? and instead of intelligent commentary, the media slobbers all over itself trying to make news of non-news-worthy events?

All these people in Congress pass more and more laws every year and expect some administrator (i.e. President) to get it done… or delegate someone to get it done. They expect all of us to pay for their “lofty idealism” which in reality is nothing more than pompous self-aggrandizement. I see all of this ridiculous pork-barrel spending that should be eliminated, yet, those in Congress have guaranteed incomes... no worries about recession for them... no strikes or lockouts... they vote for their own raises whenever they feel any economic pinch. They’re virtual demi-gods in their own minds.

Then whenever any one of them wants to throw their hat in the ring as a "candidate" for President the media frenzy locks onto inane details and TOTALLY IGNORES what is genuinely important to running as a viable Presidential candidate.

Expecting a legislator to be a good administrator is like appointing a homeless person to run HUD as a publicity stunt: yes, the homeless may have many ideas on affordable housing, but they have no clue of the complexity of day-to-day issues and operations of administering the business. And if they get their fingers too deep into management, it’s all going to come crashing down.

An acquaintance told me Hillary is "experienced" because she’s "been there." If that is the case, then show me see the volunteer willing to be the first surgery patient of the hospital janitor — he's "been there" and has watched at least 2 minutes of every surgery for the last 8 years. We all know that wouldn't happen anytime soon. Furthermore, if she had "been there" then how did Bill have so much time on his hands to chase (& catch) skirts? As a Senator, she has never pushed through one major piece of legislation (I don't think she's even gotten any minor legislation through). She was a do-nothing on all the boards she sat on. The only "experience" she can claim is being married to an ex-President. If that is all that's needed to run this country, I’d rather vote for Laura Bush, at least she was nice enough to read books to little kids.

Another person told me they liked Obama’s message of "Hope." That’s stupid: hope is what you need when your child is missing in the jungle and someone else is doing the search and rescue work. I don’t want hope, I want intelligence, I want administrative experience, and I want fiscal responsibility. The only thing Obama offers beside dark skin is an aura of mystery. No one knows anything about him or his political aspirations, other than the fact he wants to be President. I googled his church and read the statement of faith... that has got to be one of the most racist, anti-American churches I’ve ever heard of!! If they haven't changed it yet, you can read it yourself right here: http://www.tucc.org/about.htm [Editor's note: They have since rewritten this page, but it can still be found on the "Internet Archive" website right here. It is difficult to read unless you highlight it with your mouse first.]

As far as "race" goes — it’s blown all out of proportion. Why is someone that is 1/2 Caucasian and 1/2 anything else never called "white" if they have any color in their skin?? I’ve got several kinds of Native American in me, but I ran for office no one would call me the first "Native American" to run for office. Pointing to the fact that Obama may be the first black President is ridiculous, not only is he not "all black" but the genetic difference between, white, black, brown, & any other "color" is only about 4% on the DNA level! He’s got the most blackness of any candidate so far? whoop-dee-doo-daa. If I were to rate my friends of color based on the shade of their skin, I’d (rightly) be called a bigot; Obama and the media have done it and they state they’re pointing out diversity? They are not pointing out diversity, they are MAKING diversity: a mean-spirited, aggressive diversity which does nothing more than place a false barrier between darker skinned people and lighter skinned people; as if someone's brain can be "black," "white," "red," or "yellow" — ignorant media people.

Moving on, one of the local talk-radio guys keeps talking about how McCain is a "great war hero" and could represent the Republican Party well. His arguments rest mainly om McCain’s ex-POW status and because he isn’t afraid to "cross the aisle" to get things done. I for one, think the war-hero/political prisoner card has been played way too many times. Every other person I’ve known that’s gone to war (I’ve known many) does not like to flaunt the fact that they had to kill people, or that they were tortured, or whatever it was they had to do. (Let me be very clear: I do highly respect the fact that he was willing to go, and the character he showed in staying when he could have come home early.) What annoys me is when McCain revels in the "war hero" attention... when he signed up he knew that could be a part of the job. And the only "aisle crossing" I’ve seen him do is in direct opposition to core conservative values of the Republican party... then rather than crossing the aisle and coming right back, he seems to want to pitch a tent and camp out over there. If he’d stab his own party in the back for personal political gain, I surely would not want that kind of person in the White House. Politically, he seems to stand somewhere between moderate (I think they called them Blue Dogs in Reagan's day) and semi-liberal Democrat; he just wears the Republican hat so people take him seriously when he bashes other Republicans.

Some of my friends tell me how great Ron Paul is, while others think he’s completely loony. Yes, he has a few good ideas, but some of his other ideas would cripple our nation economically (gold standard would mean we pay all our debts in gold... but we currently don’t have enough gold, that's why we’re in debt) as well as put us at a military disadvantage internationally (eliminating the CIA... the only federal agency mandated to gather intel overseas... not to mention, most political and military intel is drawn from there). He’s already run as a "bona fide" Libertarian candidate in the past, but he’s running as a Republican now to try to validate himself as a candidate? If you’re really a Libertarian, why would you lie to the American public? One of my biggest peeves with him is his bigotry. Yes, bigotry: as late as the 80s and 90s he was allowing white supremacists to write articles in his newsletters... but he claims not to have any knowledge of that — in HIS newsletter? suuure. I think if I published a newsletter I’d instruct the editor on submission guidelines and get (at bare minimum) a list of the articles to be published... PRIOR to the publication date — of course, I’m no doctor.

Then there’s Huckabee. People complain he was a minister, but — hello — he gave that up... and even if he didn’t, he belongs to exactly the same denomination (even from the same state) of Baptists that Bill Clinton did — and no one had a problem with Clinton's religion. I DO have a problem with Huckabee outspending every other governor of Arkansas in history: outspending the next 3 closest "big spenders" combined. Also have a problem with him releasing more criminals than the combined total of 16 separate states that are near Arkansas: 16 states to his 1, and he put more criminals back on the streets — Oh yeah, that’s SO safe, I'm "inspired" by him — inspired to buy a gun to protect myself if he gets anywhere near Pennsylvania Avenue. He also claims to be a Republican, but his record refutes more core values than McCain’s — he too is a "de facto" Democrat. If no one else in America noticed, at least the NEA did — he’s the only Republican candidate I’ve ever heard of to be endorsed by them.

And lastly, we have Romney. Everyone is bent on destroying him, but I’m not 100% sure why. I really don’t like that he’s a mormon, but that’s not politically relevant, so throw that argument out. He’s been independent, and he’s now Republican, but no matter what he "is," "was," or "claims to be," he WAS elected governor of one of the most liberal Democratic-run states in the union. If he could get elected there, then he is really a Democrat. At least he did do some good things there, and he alone (of ALL the candidates that are still in it) has prolonged administrative experience in times of economic adversity.

We only have ONE OF SIX candidates with extensive administrative experience, and that is NOT IMPORTANT to the media??? They need to be fired.

I think my biggest peeve with this election is we really only have one party running for office. Yes I know, Ron Paul is Libertarian, but technically, Libertarianism is a subcategory of Liberalism. (i.e. The end result is the same, but the processes to get there aren’t: a few ideas are radically different, but it’s still not conservatism.) All the other candidates that are still in the running are either self-professed Liberal Democrats (in fact, Obama and Clinton respectively were the 1st and 16th most liberal senators in 2007), or de facto Democrats running as Republicans. They’re too "conservative" for the far left, but too liberal to mesh well with middle-of-the-road conservatives. Their political ideas only serve to muddy the divide between left and right. The most "conservative" of the pseudo-Republicans that are currently running for office are no more than 25 years worth of "leftward drift" policy behind the "liberal Democrats" that are currently running as Democrats. Either no one in the media is intelligent enough to notice and point this out, or they are more concerned with making news than reporting it. (I could write several posts on this, but the short version is: there seems to be a "leftward drift" in both conservatism and liberalism. As Liberalism becomes more "liberal" Conservatism follows behind. How far behind varies issue-by-issue, but in most cases seems to stay approximately 15 to 35 years apart, so that values today viewed as "liberal" will in the near future be hailed as "conservative.")


Yes, I am Caucasian; yes, I am male; and yes, I do go to church regularly, but who in their right mind is really so IGNORANT as to express race, gender, or religion as more important than extensive administrative experience?!?! We are preparing to vote for the leader of the free world! Yet the stories proffered to pique our interest in the political realm are less intelligent than what my 5 year old son thinks up? How did we get so many dumb people in the USA? How did so many get into media? How in the world can so many "sheeple" citizens listen to this drivel and be swayed by it? I thought we were living in the greatest country in the world, but if this election cycle is a true indicator, the "great" people that inhabited our country must be gradually moving out... or dying off.


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The Idolization of Politics
9 October 2008


I am not a fan of "politics" as currently practiced in the USA. The fact that someone was able to get elected to the House of Representatives or the US Senate does not automatically defer "experience" on that individual. "Experience" is gained by years of doing, not by an election, not by speaking about doing, not by blood-lines, and not by the "old-boy" network. Furthermore, when considering "experience" it is vitally important that the experience gained is fully manifested and represented to the public in a manner that is open and truthful, rather than highlighting some aspects of said experience and downplaying other aspects (in most cases, half of the truth is less truthful than an out-right lie).

It seems to me that McCain’s "experience in crossing the aisle" has as many (if not more) cons as it does pros. I would prefer to know a seated President has rock-solid convictions and will do what is legally and ethically right regardless of media-generated public opinion polls, than to have a President that folds up his (or her) convictions and packs them away for the sake of unity — via compromise. McCain’s early (Reagan-era) Senatorial experience is in many respects, admirable, while much of his recent experience is at best mediocre, and some is positively horrendous. The "McCain-__________" bills of the last few years are the most-obvious example. I won’t beat those dead horses here, but suffice it to say, at the times-of-passage most of those bills seemed (to me) to be no more than political posturing. This year's Presidential race has verified my original opinions. There is much I dislike about McCain, some things I could tolerate if he were President, and much I absolutely abhor. It is disheartening to see he is the "best candidate" that the Republican Party could agree upon this year. [Editor's note: my opinion of his judgment was greatly improved by his pick for Vice President. I would not mind her filling his role should something happen to him. Biden on the other hand? hate to say it, but I'd rather have Hillary than Biden.]

Similarly, the Democrat Party's choice of Obama as their representative is sad; however, in that case, it is worse than just "sad" — closer to unimaginably pathetic. Obama is a different breed of candidate altogether; one that is (thankfully) rare in our system of government (although, I fear that from this election forward, candidates like him will become more prevalent). Other than a law degree, there was no experience in his past to qualify him to be elected to the Illinois State Senate. Other than his experience as an Illinois State Senator, he has nothing in his past to qualify him to run (let alone be elected) to the US Senate. Which leaves us at his current bid for President: there is no fundamental knowledge base in his past from which he can draw to make intelligent, informed decisions as a President. To put it bluntly, all of his "experience" is illegitimate: it is based strictly on his skin color, dress, demeanor, and speaking ability. Obama has become the "American Idol Candidate" for President.

If I were to take the next few years of my life to earn a law degree and then run for the Florida State Senate, it would be nearly impossible for me to get elected. Even if I could find deep pockets to back me, and even though I would have more life experience, business experience, and political experience than he had when first elected, it just would not happen. I cannot understand why people waive the need for experience when a candidate’s skin color happens to be in the minority of the populace. "People of color" are not any more or less intelligent than the typical "WASP" living in the USA. The fact that an individual’s skin color is different shouldn’t mean they need more "help" — if that were the case, then that would mean all "people of color" are inferior. I reject all reasoning that stems from the opinion that any race is inferior to another. The genetics underneath our skin are no different from any other "race" of humans. Prejudice of any kind (positive or negative) based on skin color is arrogant, ridiculous, and immature.

Furthermore, much of what Obama claims as "experience" would negate any possibility of me hiring him to fill any position. When hiring any individual for positions of power, influence, or extreme responsibility, clear references are critical. Anyone with a record of consistent ethics violations in their past (even if committed in ignorance) should be disqualified. I would like to see the institution of full background checks for all candidates for political office before they could qualify — treasonous or terrorist-supporting candidates need not apply.

Surprises are NEVER good when hiring a new employee. It amazes me that very little that has come to light regarding the past acquaintances of Obama has been adequately covered by the media. Much of my family is from the Chicago area, much of my family that is not from Chicago is from some part of Illinois (and has, in the past, been involved with "less than stellar" enterprises, and individuals). Consequently, the politics of the region was of interest to me, and I learned much of Chicago-style politics, ACORN, and Rezko long before I’d heard of Obama. Any one of those "3 strikes" would immediately put any "potential hires" in jeopardy, on probation, or in the "uninterested" pile of resumés.

I believe background information is extremely important for anyone striving for the position of President. As "President" one answers solely to "the people" — and "the people" is an abstract concept: meaningless to those with little or no personal standard of ethics. If I could not trust someone to "watch a till" I would not entrust that person to protect my family, country, and way of life.

Lastly, it appears to me that, to-date, all of the debates, venues, moderators, and questions have been designed to promote the "stage presence" of each candidate: "The Idolization of Politics." Stage presence is an extremely poor indicator of an individual’s character. A good stage presence plays to the masses; it ensures that each person hears what they want to hear, rather than the truth. It uses long empty phraseology which can be restated (at a later time) to mean totally opposite opinions and cover all discrepancies that may come to light. It is far better to focus on documented fact, evidence, and character (including the character of acquaintances) when making any important decision.

In short, "Stage Presence" is perhaps the single worst possible character trait upon which to make a decision regarding the hiring or firing of any individual for any position:
All con men have stage presence in spades.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Crash -- and Other Happenings

Just found this post (October 16) was still in unpublished draft form... publishing now, and updating (again) in the next post.

I thought I'd take a few minutes and catch up for the month. First of all, I've been assisting with a martial arts class once a week (Tuesday nights from 6.30-8.00pm EST). If I were young, dumb, and single (no offense intended if you fit into any of those categories) I'd prefer to go 3 to 5 times a week, but I do have a wife, children, a life, and an aging body that doesn't recover in 12 hours anymore... so... once a week is "enough."

On the last Tuesday of August, while I was teaching our self defense class (around 7pm), my parents were told of a live webcast. (I'd known of it, but after looking at the ominous clouds in the sky and watching lightning strike nearby several times, I'd forgone telling anyone else in the house about the webcast.) Unbeknownst to me, my neighbor (helpful soul that he is) came over and spread the word (just after I'd left).

We lost our power several times in a row that night; only for a few minutes each time, but the last was a brown-out -- which "affected my computer negatively" -- it fried an important chip ("southbridge") on the motherboard. On my system, the southbridge runs all of the things that plug into the computer -- which means, everything I plugged in did not work properly (the monitor and floppy disk drive), or did not work at all (everything else). Found it rather difficult to use a system that didn't work properly, and that couldn't have information added to it except in 1.4M pieces.

The computer was built around 2001, so the motherboard is old, but it's been upgraded pretty-well and is sufficient for my needs. I tried, but couldn't replace the motherboard with a new one (my wife wanted to buy a whole new system, until I explained we'd have to repurchase several thousand dollars worth of software to make "new computer" = "old computer").

I was able to locate some used motherboards in a Canadian computer shop and purchased two of them via eBay (1 for backup). That was wonderful, but I didn't have them yet. Canada Post logoOn a side note: I despise Canadian shipping; it is unimaginably slow (if I ever produce an illustrated Canadian/USA dictionary, the Canada Post logo will be the only thing listed under the word "slow").

After 15 days, I finally got my new motherboards and installed one. No problems with the motherboard, however, when I updated the operating system, the system glitched (of course). Something with Windows XP service pack 2 doesn't like my system -- so now I'm slowly working thru the re-update problems. Hopefully this won't take long...

Monday, September 08, 2008

Book Review: 1,000 Dollars and an Idea

My computer was incapacitated when I received this book, so I wasn't able to review it as quickly as I would have liked.

That being said, this is everything I look for in a great autobiographical (or even biographical) work.

1,000 Dollars and an Idea flows well from beginning to end (almost too well; I couldn't put it down). Wyly is a billionaire, but by no means does his book come across as "elitist." His "humble beginnings" were primitive by any American's standards, yet he didn't gloss over them or excessively flaunt them.

As an entrepreneur myself (as well as being involved in raising and managing capital), it's my opinion that every entrepreneur should read this book. (As should anyone with dreams of becoming a multi-millionaire.) The book isn't written as a "how-to-" book for billionaires, but nearly every chapter contains an idea, tip, or guide to improve one's business- and personal-life.

There was only one aspect of the book that was distasteful: rather than being informative, in 2 areas he resorted to raw advertising. First, I didn't mind reading that he follows "Christian Science" (I do not) but the prominence he gave it (and to its founder) was annoyingly distracting. The second was the entire last chapter (The Good Earth). I won't go into a point-for-point refutation here, I'd just recommend you do your own research. Having done extensive work for environmental businesses, I do have more than rudimentary knowledge of the need for environmental responsibility and can relate to the fact not enough is being done. While Wyly's description of the problems we face does raise some important issues that need to be dealt with, his overall "call for action" seems based less on reality and more on "Henny Penny," which was rather disappointing.

The epilogue returns to the style of writing I enjoyed, and my overall impression of the book is: 1,000 Dollars and an Idea is one of the few books I will be rereading at least yearly.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Book Review: FASTER, BETTER, STRONGER

Well, I've finished another book, and I doubt that I'll top this one for a long time. I've read many books on improving one's body (I have over a dozen sitting on the shelves of my library right now); this is, by far, the VERY best book on starting a fitness program, achieving wellness, improving oneself to whatever level of potential that's desired, and maintaining that high level of physical fitness. I would highly recommended Faster, Better, Stronger: 10 Scientific Secrets to a Healthier Body in 12 Weeks to everyone that is the least bit interested in their health.

There are very few "cons" about any part of this book. The only one I can think of (other than the fact that I got a pre-publication yellow-paper-covered reviewer's copy... rather than the full Monte) was the main title: Faster, Better, Stronger. It just doesn't convey the full scope of the expertise relayed in this book. The subtitle is somewhat better: 10 Scientific Secrets to a Healthier Body in 12 Weeks, but it has still taken me several minutes of explaining the book (to avid readers) to pique their interest in purchasing the book.

However, having explained the crux of the book and letting those others look at it (with my highlighting and bookmarks throughout), each has been excited about the possibility of reading it. Even my Dad wants to read this one, and other than the Bible, he rarely reads more than one book a year! After reading a few paragraphs, he said he'd be willing to PAY for this book! I don't ever remember hearing him say that about any other book.

So what, you may wonder, is "the crux" of this book? It starts by explaining the reasons behind exercising -- even the easy, common sense stuff that we all should know -- and builds from there. It explains how to tailor the sports you play to exactly what your body- and muscle-type can excel at the most. Do you have primarily "fast-twitch" or "slow-twitch" muscle fibers? Give yourself a "twitch test" to find out. Not sure how fit you are? copy the risk score sheet, look yourself up on the BMI charts, and assess your personal fitness level -- comprehensively -- including a VO2max test that will rival what you would get in a full-blown lab. Not only that, but the book will also assist you in preparing nutritious meals, planning a 12-week workout schedule, and even go so far as to make recommendations of the frequency and intensity of the exercises you should be doing for maximum improvement -- no matter what level of physical fitness you start at!

Faster, Better, Stronger should not only be required reading for EVERY high school and college coach in America, it should also be placed in EVERY library from coast to coast -- whether in elementary schools, retirement homes, or on military bases. This is a MUST read for anyone that is the least bit interested in improving their life.

Faster, Better, Stronger is a keeper -- for life!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Missions Trip

Amidst the general busy-ness and difficulties of the past few weeks, I've been remiss in my blogging. I'll attempt to rectify that this month, but if you know me even a little, you know I'm so chock-full of good intentions that I tend to run a little bit light on round-to-its.

The trip my Dad and I took to Puerto Rico (July 20-25) went well. We traveled to Ceiba, to work at a small Baptist church. This was my very first trip to the island, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Fixing a leaky (concrete) roof over the fellowship hall/school lunchroom took much of our week, but we were also able to move an air conditioner, organize some of their tools, hang chalk boards, change ballasts, build a cover for the kitchen water heater, and teach the Pastor how to not only preserve his tools in that high-humidity climate (I live in south Florida, we have a similar climate), but also how to do some of the easier maintenance around the property. (Some maintenance we were able to start, like the ballasts, but other things we had to explain and leave for him to do when he had more time.)

The weather was absolutely gorgeous; breezy all of the time. The daytime temps were on the warm side, but still cooler than S. FL (the beating sun was quite a bit more intense though), while the night-time temps were in the 60s and 70s, and we only had 2 light showers run through the entire week. The missionaries live very close to the top of a small mountain. Their balcony overlooks the city and the bay (and that helps keep the breeze from being blocked by other homes). If I lived there, I'd have a hammock and sleep outside often (being on top of the mountain, they had few mosquitoes and no-see-ems). One other bonus, it was mango season, and they have three different types of mangoes in their yard! I had 1 to 3 mangoes every day!

My only regret was not being able to stay longer and do more. Bright-Eyes was only a week old when I left, and I didn't like leaving my wife and the Varmints 4. (I wouldn't have gone if my M-in-law hadn't been down to help her.) Plus, not being there "leaves a hole" at church: I teach the Teen/College & Career Sunday School, run the Wednesday night kids' club (ages 3 to 12) go on the church van route (every service), sing quite a bit of the special music on Sunday mornings, keep up the grounds, and quite a bit more of the day-to-day behind-the-scenes stuff around church. Not to mention, I still need to work to keep food on our table. =) Going to Puerto Rico was quite a bit of work, but in some ways, it was also a vacation!! =)

If you get the chance, a missions trip to anywhere in the Caribbean would be a plus for you. (Provided, of course, rain doesn't pour down on you, the island you're working on doesn't get hit by a hurricane, and you don't stay in an area that the breeze is blocked.)

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Another TWO Free Books Are Coming... Soon!!

Last night, for the first time in I don't know how many months, I went to bed before midnight (think it was even before 11.30pm, but not sure). This morning I found a message on my LibraryThing profile that excited me! Here's the text:
    Congratulations. You've snagged an Early Reviewers copy of 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: How an Inspired American Entrepreneur Built a Billion-Dollar Fortune by Sam Wyly.You should get your copy in the mail shortly. The publishers ship the books directly--some are speedier than others, so please be patient!

    private comment posted by                 at 12:43 pm (EST) on Jul 1, 2008
After I checked LibraryThing, I went and checked my email -- found even MORE good news!
    Dear Matt,

    You have been selected to review Faster, Better, Stronger by Eric Heiden/Massimo Testa. Your Advanced Readers Edition should arrive at your address within 14 days via U.S. Postal Service.

    Thank you for participating in the First Look program.

    HarperCollins Publishers
                   @harpercollins.com
The only thing I like better than a good book is a good book that's FREE! and the only thing better than that... is TWO free books!! I can hardly wait!!!


In other (church) news, VBS is rapidly approaching (next Monday). This year's theme is on having a "Wild West Witness." Since I wear cowboy boots (to church, with my suit) every week anyway, I have a jump on most of the other people, but I'll still have to dig out my old saddle, my bolo tie, pocket watch, and a lariat. I might have two lariats, but I've never thrown one -- I just like western things. Today (and maybe tomorrow as well) I'm going to try to build a scale that will hold ~200 lbs per side. That's going to be tons of fun. (We need the scale to measure the offerings... which we don't expect to be very large this year, but next year [and after] we hope to grow the church and our outreach.)

Also, Varmint 4 is due 15 July 2008. The only good thing about a C-section is the ability to pick the date of delivery (provided the baby cooperates and doesn't come early). My (74 year old) neighbor thinks we should have stopped with 2 kids (kinda hard when the 2nd pregnancy was with twins) and is constantly giving me a hard time about having a 4th child. (He's even offered to buy us another TV!) Yesterday I told him it was exactly 2 more Tuesdays until our 4th Varmint is due and my wife was somewhat nervous about the upcoming surgery, but excited to finally know if we're having a girl or a boy. His comment was something along the lines of, "Why don't you just ask them to install a zipper so the next one is easier?" It took me a few seconds to see the humor, but my wife thought it was funny too.

Lastly, my favorite (only) sister is going to visiting FL in the next few weeks. She's not sure when she'll be coming over to see us, but if I had to guess I'd think she'll do all she can to make sure it's after the baby is born.

And now I'm going to come up with a few different plans for the VBS scale, then see what I have in the way of parts & supplies, then attempt to build one...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Another (Normal) Busy Day

Time is just flying by; later today (5.30pm) we'll celebrate the twins' 3rd Birthday. (It seems like they were born a few weeks ago.) Before that happens, I need to mow (about 4-6 acres), help clean up the house, watch the kids (wife is teaching a piano lesson @ 10.00am), and set up a bunch of chairs for the aforementioned party.

As the month ends (the next 2 weeks), I know a few people that would like some painting & drywall work done. Then the first full week of July (7-11) is VBS. The 2nd week of July our 4th Varmint is due (Tuesday, 15 July). The 3rd week of July (21-25) I'm scheduled to go to Puerto Rico with my Dad and help put a roof on a Christian School. And the last week of July I'm supposed to help start a Mixed Martial Arts Class -- as the teacher! (Never mind the fact that Thursday night was my second ever self-defense class.) Additionally, our new pastor has asked me to train one of our members to take over my Sunday School class (6yo-12yo boys) so that I can begin teaching the teen/college & career class. At least I'm busy enough to stay out of trouble.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day of "Infamy" (humor)

Today is officially the very first time in my life I've ever made a U-turn to get gasoline because of the low price. (Ironically, notice today's date: Friday the 13th.)

In the past, I've made U-turns for gas after realizing that I'd just passed the last gas station for several miles, or because I couldn't turn into my favorite station directly, or because I was avoiding a Chavez-sponsored station, but on the whole, I don't mind paying a penny or two a gallon more to avoid a line at the pump. I figure, 10 minutes of my time spent in line is worth more than $0.02 per gallon. Our tank only holds 25 gallons, so, at most I'd be saving all of fifty cents.

I still remember, soon after I got my license, when gas broke $1.00 per gallon, and (thankfully) it just seemed to hover around that range for years. I never would have imagined a $3.00 per gallon increase in such a short amount of time.

So, on to the story: I drove my wife's mini-van over to Mear's Automotive to see how they were doing on diagnosing the (myriad) problems plaguing my 87 Cherokee. From there, I took the (expired) tag off of it, and up to the courthouse. There I got the registration straitened out, and headed back to John's shop. (John Mears is not only the owner of the largest independent vehicle repair company in Broward county, but he's also a Believer. Needless to say, for the second reason, he gets all of my car-care business.)

In the course of driving around town... with the needle on the van's gas gauge drawing ever-nearer to the low side of the "E" I saw prices ranging from $4.11 to $4.19 per gallon -- for plain-old regular unleaded gasoline! Knowing I'd eventually have to bite the bullet and pay more than I wanted for the gas, I was holding out until the "Low Gas" idiot light came on. Just before I got back to John's shop, I saw a Marathon gas station I've never seen before. It had no line, and the sign was hard to see, but as I passed it I saw "$3.99" was posted and the station was nearly empty! Of course, the fill-up still cost over $80 dollars, but my quick U-turn and fill-up at that station saved me between $2.80 and $4.60!

I'm glad I don't drive a tractor trailer for a living, but oh for the days of $1-per-gallon gas.

PS -- as I headed home, I turned on a local talk radio station. The host received a call from a Tampa resident that had to get gas in Orlando, and the closest station to the Orlando airport was charging $5.40 for regular unleaded!! I know they're paying $9 in Europe, but $5.40 in the US?? I'm going to have to raise the rates I charge people (to cover the gas I'm using to get to work).

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Small Excitements of Life

Last Sunday night we had a game-night at church. That kept us out later than usual. When we got back to the house (around 11 pm) we got the Varmints 3 ready for bed ASAP, and dropped them right in, except for Little Bear. At 11.30pm, he decided he wanted to pray and ask Jesus to take away his sins and take him to heaven. Needless to say, Daddy was very excited!

Today (Saturday) I took the training wheels off of his bicycle. Except for the occasional starting push (on my part), he's done a great job of riding -- from the very first push. In fact, he's doing much better than I ever did. I distinctly remember riding into rose bushes (multiple times), (fenced off) flower gardens, and even (literally) up a tree. He's all proud of himself -- the neighbor's boy is 2 years older and still uses training wheels. (Although, up until a short time ago, the neighbor's boy lived in an area that was not conducive to riding bikes. He'll probably have his off shortly.)

I'm Tired of Politicians, Political Propaganda, and Media Hype

The current Presidential campaign has dragged on so long that I quit paying much attention to it... as of Florida's primary. There were so many psuedo-conservative candidates in the race, that the true conservatives had either dropped out or fallen too far behind the rest of the field, leaving me little more choice than the best remaining option. I'd much rather vote for the best candidate than the best one left. Since then, even the other "good," and "OK" options have dropped out. Currently, we have the most liberal Senator in the US, the 16th most liberal Senator, and a pseudo-Republican Senator running for President. It appears than no matter who wins, the USA loses.

All three of the candidates have serious baggage. McCain, once a Reagan-conservative, has sponsored legislation that would move our country even closer to socialism. Hillary, ugh, 4 more years of the fiasco that was the Clinton's Presidency? I hope not. Then there's Barack, and Jeremiah Wright, and Michael Pfleger, and Louis Farrakhan -- except I don't understand why the Republicans haven't dropped the hammer on the closeness of the Obama-Farrakhan ties. Perhaps they're waiting for him to be nominated as the "official" opponent with hopes that surely no one in their right mind (living in the USA) would vote for a supporter of Farrakhan?

Anyway, the immediate consequence of the long-drawn-out Presidential campaign is two-fold: 1. none of the three have had any recent executive experience, and 2. all are hoping to bring our nation ever-nearer to Socialism. This has pushed me to look much more closely than I normally would at the other races.

Locally, I've found only one decent candidate for public office, Dr. Marion Thorpe, who is opposing Alcee Hastings for the 23rd U.S. Congressional District. (Unfortunately, the 23rd isn't my district.) Having spoken with him often, I feel I know him quite well. Dr. Thorpe is a candidate that, in my opinion, would be one of very few assets to the Congress. The "Myth Debunker" blog has a May 30th post that mentions him in detail. I just wish more honest people with firm convictions (like Dr. Thorpe) were in Congress (or at least trying to get in there). I've had enough of these professional, lifetime Congress-people that are so out of touch with the realities faced in day-to-day living by "normal" Americans.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Kid-isms -- #1

The other day for dinner, my wife decided that she didn't feel like making dessert (she's 31+ weeks along with Varmint #4... I don't blame her). Instead, she brought out the family-sized applesauce jar from BJ's. When the kids finished their dinner, she started dishing out the applesauce.

The ensuing discussion was great:
---------------------------------
Little Bear: "Mommy! May I please have dessert now?"
Mommy: "You just got dessert; you have applesauce."
Little Bear: "Applesauce isn't dessert."
Mommy: "Tonight it is. If you want any dessert tonight, it's applesauce."
Little Bear: "But that's not dessert -- there's no chocolate in it!"

(At which point, I almost fell out of my chair I was laughing so hard.)

Friday, May 16, 2008

On the home stretch

I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It takes us about 6 working days to "finish" one floor. We have to cover the floors, scrape off the popcorn ceiling, float the (concrete) ceilings in flat, strip the wallpaper, cover the base board and crown molding, texture the walls, paint the walls, and finally, clean up all of our mess. Today we're starting day 2 of the 2nd to the last floor! I'll be spending the morning on stilts: scraping popcorn and sanding ceilings before being able to get down (hopefully by lunch time), when I'll finish by carrying a 20 pound box of timed-dry mud over my head for the next few hours. Hopefully, we'll even have time to paint it before quitting time.-

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Back to work... again

My neighbor and I finished remodeling our new Pastor's home around the end of March. Here it is, the end of April and I'm finally getting around to mentioning that (good thing there's no deadlines or need to rush).

If you follow golf, the Pro-Am Golf tournament was just held in Aventura, Florida, at Turnberry. I've been working in a 40 story condo on Turnberry Isle that overlooks that golf course (a yearly membership is $250,000, excluding tips). The condo's board of directors, manager, and head of maintenance have all been begging us to come work on their building since January first. They can get other people to do the work, but the others don't ever seem to be able to follow instructions, and usually they take much longer... 3 to 6 weeks to do the same job we do in 6 or 7 days (and they do it poorly).

When my neighbor and I finally finished here on the Pastor's house in March, we went down to the condo and started. They have work enough for us to stay busy for months. It is about 20 miles each way, and with gas creeping ever upward, unless we raise our rates to cover the added expense, we'll be losing money soon. The work is fairly simplistic, but it's tiring. For much of the prep days (the first 4 or 5) I work mostly on 2' high stilts. I've used my stilts as high as they go (4') and even then, it's not overly difficult, but walking for 4 to 8 hours a day on stilts is murderous on the feet, calves, and knees. When not on stilts, much of my time is spent crawling on the floor -- that's hands and knees on marble floors. I'm so ready to be finished.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Dawning of a New Era...

Sunday night we had a special service at our church. We didn't know what else to call it, so we just called it a "Welcome the Pastor" service. He invited friends and family from all over. We, as church members, invited people that normally don't come at all, or normally don't come at night. We had 86 in attendance (if you include the 5 kids in the nursery and the 2 nursery workers). The service consisted of 3 congregational hymns (accompanied by 1 piano, organ, trumpet, flute, & violin), 4 different groups (with member overlap) doing special music, a time of meeting & greeting, and the preaching service.

My first service here was the New Years' Watchnight Service of 1994. From that service until March 2008, the greatest number of people I've seen in attendance for any service has been 75 (for an Easter Sunrise Service back in the late 1990s). Any service that we see 40 to 45 in attendance is a great service for our church. This last Sunday evening approximately 35 people came because they were somehow related to the pastor, or a friend of his family. We as a church had around 50 attend... on a Sunday Evening!

I enjoy meeting visitors and talking to people (and eating, of course) which we do a lot of at the fellowships; hopefully we can schedule similar services more often.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My first REQUESTED book review

I received a copy of Off the DEEP END: The Probably Insane Idea That I Could Swim My Way Through a Midlife Crisis -- and Qualify for the Olympics by W. Hodding Carter on Thursday just before last month ended. It just so happened that the months of February and March (and now April, too) have been some of the busiest weeks I've lived -- my Pastor of 12 years has died (he's been at this church 34 years, but I've only been here the last 12). It fell to me and another guy in the church to keep all the pieces together and make sure nothing was "broken" before our new pastor was voted in. (The church ran fine before, and I realize the probability of me "ruining it" falls between "slim" and "none," but it was still of great concern to me. We did call a new Pastor to step in on Sunday evening, March 30th.) I knew I needed to read this book and review it (that IS, after all, the reason they SENT it to ME), but I wasn't sure when I'd have the time. Late Friday night (March 29th) I decided to see how the first chapter started.

Picking up Off the DEEP END turned out to have been a bad idea (since I still had a lot of work to do that weekend). The first chapter started a bit slowly, but by the time I'd reached the end, then read the title of the second chapter ("Saggy Old-Man Butt"), I was hooked. It was all I could do to put the book down when I finished the second chapter. In fact, all day Saturday (as I was attempting to finish up my work) all I could think about was finishing Carter's story. Late Saturday night (when I should have been getting ready for bed) I picked up his book once again -- and couldn't put it down until I'd finished it.

I find that I can identify quite well with the author: I'm passing my mid-thirties, but (even though they aren't very large) I haven't enjoyed discovering I'm now growing "love bumps" (which I'm told turn into "love handles" very quickly), that I've had to start purchasing my pants 1 to 2 inches larger in the waist (depending on the brand of course -- I could still squeeze into a 31" waist, but I wouldn't do it on the way to an all-you-can-eat-buffet), and that my lack of endurance is getting worse. It seems life, wife, children, and my own lack of commitment tend to erect numerous hurdles and hindrances to my desire of getting back into shape.

Of course, "my" sport was never swimming (I do love the water though), it was cross-country jogging -- and I was never anywhere near world-class competition levels (I was happy when I wasn't running J.V.), but more often I'm noticing lingering thoughts creeping around in the back of my mind: if I would just commit to the effort... my body would respond to the challenge.

Off the DEEP END offered some reassurance that I'm really not crazy, it renewed my hope in myself, and has instilled a fresh desire to quit sitting around wishing I was in better shape and make time to do it.

I know footnotes and parenthetical statements annoy some people to no end, but that is exactly the way I think (and... in case you missed it... the way I write), so I enjoyed Carter's style of writing immensely. The only thing I didn't like about the book was its length: I found myself wanting to know more -- and to be able to follow his monthly progress (or even weekly).

I was initially disappointed that the last chapter wasn't included -- actually, the very first disappointment was finding a card STAPLED TO THE FRONT COVER!! They defaced a book! But now that I've removed the staple, I've come to the point of looking forward to seeing what else is included when this finally goes to press.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Celebrating Geek-dom

I have decided that "cool-ness" isn't -- at all -- what it's cracked up to be (not that I have extensive experience in that area), and I thoroughly enjoy my eccentricities... so far.

Thursday, when I came home for lunch (I've been enjoying my job for the last few months... especially eating 3 meals a day at home) I found my wife had placed an 8½" x 11" padded yellow envelope under my plate. It seems I'd received it in the mail, but she hadn't opened it (although, let me assure you, she was dying to know what was in there). The upper left corner of the envelope (the "normal" return address address area) was totally blank. However, I did see it had been hand-addressed to me. At first, I didn't even notice the "Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill" sticker on which my name and address were written.

It seems that my membership in LibraryThing.com, and specifically, my involvement in the Early Reviewers Group has finally paid off: I received a FREE book in the mail!!! I'm sure not very many people in the world would do a little happy-dance in their chair when they find out someone sent them a free book, but I did. Of course, "free" did/does have one caveat: I have to read and review the book -- that's easy, I'm a read-a-holic. Not to mention, I always have an opinion (about everything), and finally someone is asking me to give my opinion. To top it all off, this is the first time I've even seen a book with "Advance Reading Copy. Not For Sale." emblazoned across the top of the front cover -- and they sent it to me... on purpose! Now, I just need to find the time to read the book, and write the review.

So, for any of you that bother reading my blog... now you know: I will do a happy-dance anytime someone sends me a free book and asks my opinion on it. (Although, I really can't stand things like romance novels, enviro-nut-jobs, pro-evolutionists, pro-choice (murder), horror, etc.)

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EDIT: I just logged in to write my review, and found this post... NOT published to my blog... oops.

Today is actually Tuesday, April 8th, 2008. I received the W. Hodding Carter's Off the DEEP END on Thursday, March 27th, 2008.