I can’t help but think that if you’d stayed a little longer, we might have avoided the Crusades. Or the Great Schism. Or that time we used the Bible to justify slavery and invoked “Manifest Destiny” to slaughter women and children. We’ve made a mess of things, Jesus, often in your name. We could use a little micromanaging.

SOURCE:From the Lectionary: An Open Letter to Jesus on this Whole Ascension Business.

The words above are from an open-letter that Rachel Held Evans posted to Jesus. I never thought of it but she is right; we could have used some more instructions than he gave us. A few more rules drilled into our dense brains certainly would have prevented a  lot of misunderstandings brought about by our interpretations.  As  a matter of fact we humans have pretty much messed up most of Jesus’ instructions of how to live our lives haven’t we? How do we set that course straight?? And don’t say we are sinners so we shouldn’t even try!  That is the ultimate cop-out…

Saturday @ NYC..

June 14, 2014

This was taken from our hotel room on Friday night here at a hotel on Times Square. Can’t imagine what tonight will be like. Walked too much today but have more tomorrow. We will tour the 911 Memorial and museum along with Central Park.  Getting too old for this stuff but figured this is our last change…

Williamsburg VA….

June 14, 2014

Being a U.S. history buff Williamsburg VA is one of my favorite places to visit. I first visited there during my senior trip in high school in 1965. Of course back then I was more interested in other things so even though it impressed me on some level it was “no big deal”. It would be over twenty years later that I thoroughly fell in love with the place. Most of the pictures below were from that visit.

Click on any of the pictures to see an expanded view.

 

2014-05-01_10-26-21Many of the world’s greatest inventions are credited to Americans, from the telephone to the computer. Anesthesia, the miracle of painless surgery, is among the greatest gifts that American medicine has given to humanity. The invention of the safety device on passenger elevators by Elisha Otis in 1852 led to the construction of skyscrapers and encouraged metropolitan growth around the world. Nylon , the first man-made synthetic fiber, invented by the du Pont company, has forever changed the lives of people around the world. The impact of Bill Gates’ MS-DOS is not even measurable. Some attribute Americans’ genius to their ability to question, to think critically and creatively.

Professor Chin Ning Yang, a Chinese American Nobel laureate in physics, related the experience of some of his students from China and Taiwan. “Professor Yang,” they would say to him, “I find it very strange that I was among the best in my class in examinations, but now that I am doing research work, the American students are much more lively, much better than I am.” Yang believes that despite the criticism of the American educational system, it produces highly creative individuals. Now Yang encourages his Asians students to explore: “You may see only vaguely what is going on, but you should not be afraid of that. That was one of the things I learned after I came to this country [America].” Indeed, it is incredible that 29 percent of Silicon Valley CEOs were born in Asia.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 435-446). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

I was proudly part of the company that started the current technological revolution by inventing the transistor. When I started college in the 1960s I was taught how the vacuum tube worked. But before very long the transistor took over and things really began to accelerate.  The 1960s and 70s was a great time for the U.S. technologically. We simply ruled the world.

Back then a couple of kids in their garages went about miniaturizing the main frame computers of IBM. They put crude devices, at least by today’s standards, on a desktop instead of requiring a massive air filtered room. I can remember when Jonas Sulk invented the polio vaccine.

I, and I image many of you, sometimes take for granted much of what we have in this country. But when we take a serious look at much of the rest of the world we come to understand America’s strengths. Creativity has been almost an exclusive American product.

“You may see only vaguely what is going on, but you should not be afraid of that. That was one of the things I learned after I came to this country [America].”

These words are at the core of the differences between America and Asia. We American were just not afraid when things became somewhat muddied.  We embraced change at almost all levels of our society. Sadly, I’m not sure that is as true any longer among a larger segment of our society. Fear, particularly the fear of change has overtaken too many of us.

 

 

2014-05-30_09-29-20Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who drafted the bill with Sanders, called the bill “a beginning — not an end — to the efforts that must be taken” to address the crisis affecting veterans’ health care….

The Senate bill, like the House measure approved Tuesday, would let veterans facing long delays for appointments or living more than 40 miles from a VA facility choose to get care from non-agency providers for the next two years. Some veterans already get outside care, but the process is cumbersome and riddled with delays, veterans and their advocates say.

SOURCE: Senate backs bill to improve health care for vets – Yahoo News.

It looks like Obamacare, that is universal healthcare is alive and healthy for at least a certain population of us.  As the article above says money is not the problem with the VA, they have all they need as part of our bloated defense budget. What they need is sound responsibility and the Medicare system can provide a large measure of that.

It is nice to know that something in the healthcare field can pass congress so easily. As long as we put it in different clothes it does fine.

Our National Anthem….

June 12, 2014

2014-05-22_09-19-58

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

I don’t imagine there are many citizens of this country who don’t know the words above by heart. They are sung at the opening of most sporting events and other public meeting.  Some even know that Francis Scott Key wrote the words about the bombardment of Fort Henry in 1814. This war was officially called the War of 1812 where the British were once again trying to get their colonies in line. :)

We, like most others, are a nation who is generally defined by our wars. The War of 1812 hardly makes much notice anymore. Now to finally get on to the main topic of this post, I think it is about time for us to get a new national anthem. Maybe one that exalts our virtues as a country in the 21st century instead of our wars of the past. Maybe if we can get our minds off of all our wars we can prevent a few future ones. We shouldn’t be celebrating our wars; we should be mourning them and all the dead kids that they cause.

There are at least a hand full of very likely candidates in this area but my favorite is:

This Land Is Your Land by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me.
As I was walking that ribbon of highway
I saw above me that endless skyway
I saw below me that golden valley
This land was made for you and me.
I roamed and I rambled and I followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
While all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me.
When the sun came shining, and I was strolling
And the wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
A voice was chanting, As the fog was lifting,
This land was made for you and me.

I have heard the statistic that the people in congress who represent less than 10% of the population are the ones who are stifling most of the legislative progress needed in this country.  I am thoroughly aligned with the concept of “The tyranny of the majority” where it is necessary to prevent the majority of people from doing substantial harm to a minority group simply by their majority status. But now it seems that we must fear the “tyranny of the minority”.  Did our founding fathers intend for so few of us to have so much control? I think not…

2014-05-30_16-12-32I want to spend some time talking about some of the States. I know that geography is losing status in our school systems so I thought I had better provide you with a map here so that you can find the States I am going to talk about. This map shows some interesting statistics on its own but we won’t be talking about them here.

Most of the problem of voting inequality and therefore misrepresentation comes from the fact that the prairie States have a share of the members of congress that is way out of line with the number of people in those states. Look at Wyoming for instance. The home of Dick Cheney has one representative per 200,000 people.  My State of Indiana has one representative per 600,000 people. Why should the good people of Wyoming have three times the influence in congress that Indiana does?

This overall question has gotten me to thinking about how all these mostly empty States even became States in the first place.  Being a history buff it was fun to discover how that happened. Why, for instance, is there a North and South Dakota instead of just a Dakota? Why isn’t Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho which has a combined population of less than half of  Indiana even be three States?  It makes no sense to me.

Let’s start with the Dakotas. From what I have been able to discover the main reason there is two Dakotas instead one is because when they entered statehood they thought it would take too long for representatives to travel to the State capital if it were one State. Of course there were also some political reasons. Different groups in the territory just didn’t get along with each other. Fast forward to today and these reasons are without an ounce of merit. There is no reason not to combine them. But could that actually happen?

Ok, now on to Wyoming. This State as a population density of 6 people per square mile.  There are actually many times more cows in Wyoming than people. Since I know about Indiana I will use it for comparison. Indiana has about 71 people per square mile. Now that isn’t a lot of people,  it is actually below the average U.S. density of almost 90. Then there is New Jersey with 470.  How about we take Wyoming and put it together with Montana and Idaho. That seems like a natural grouping to me. We would come up with a total of 33 people per square mile.  I will leave it up to the folks in those three States to decide what their name would be :)

We have two basic problems with voting equality in this country. One is gerrymandering and the other is population density. Both are very solvable issues if we had the guts to actually tackle them.

 

Those Words…

June 10, 2014

2014-05-24_10-22-02We ask all Republicans to come together to defeat extremist Hollywood liberal Allison Lundergan Grimes this fall.”

SOURCE: Conservative Groups Spin a Loss in Kentucky Senate Primary – ABC News.

I see where Mitch McConnell escaped the attempted siege of the Senate Minority leader recently. The words above are part of his victory speech. Even though this quote is about politics, this post is not in that vein but instead about the loaded words some choose to use in their rhetoric.

With some people you can tell right up front what their worldview is all about with just a few words from their lips. They telegraph their underlying message with those chosen words.

Extremist Hollywood Liberal — These are three very deliberately chosen words. They indicate those “outsiders” who come in to tell us what we must do.They are “bleeding hearts” who should mind their own business and leave us alone about caring for anyone besides our immediate family.

It is kind of ironic one of the things that is admired about America the most comes from Hollywood. The other 95% of humanity outside our country can’t get enough of our Hollywood output. But to those who use the words above Hollywood is nothing to be admired but instead to be scorned.

Let me tell you something about Negroes – This one came up recently in a quote about our president. As Mr. Obama said you don’t need to hear any more from this person to know what he is going to say.

State’s Rights — State’s rights was a very common term used by Southerners during the Civil Rights period of the 1960s but continues to be used today. It basically meant let us handle our negroes as we please. Leave us alone when we make sure certain parts of our population are denied their “rights” (including access to health care). Leave us alone when we want to segregate those less than desirable people among us to the outside our midst.

Real Christian — A real Christian is someone who believes the same things as I do. Being a Christian is about being against anyone who does not totally agree with my values including my right to keep guns, and my desire to get rid of all those Muslims and Jews. You will most likely find the folks who use these words spending time under a sheet watching flaming crosses and screaming at each other about all “those” people who are invading “their” country.

Real American — Of course a real American means not any of those foreigner who are invading our country. It also means not those who espouse equal rights or all or those so spend so much time on so-called justice issue.

Deaf and Dumb — Of course this is one of my personal favorites.  It is among many other quotes that try to marginalize people who are different from them. If the deaf can’t understand what I am saying then they must be dumb.

All of us have to be careful when we hear any of these or similar type words.

 

 

Today I Celebrate…

June 9, 2014

2014-05-26_12-26-37Today I celebrate the anniversary of one of the major milestones in my life.  Forty four years ago as a young naive recently graduated engineer I left the Purdue University campus to take my place in the corporate world. It was a very different world back then than what it is now.

Corporate Loyalty  – I would over the years become very loyal to the company brand. I wouldn’t think of going to a competitor even if doing so would save me a few bucks.  I was proudly part of an institution that valued my contributions. The 1970s were a time of high inflation. To ameliorate that problem my company gave me some pretty serious raises during those years.  I think my salary doubled during the first six years.

Three Legged Stool – The three legged stool for companies back then was Owners – Customers – Employees. Each was given equal treatment. When company profits increased the stockholders got a hefty dividend, the employees got substantial raises, and customers saw increasing services at the same cost. Everyone benefited from the fruits of their labor.

Employees were Assets – Not only did our employer pay us to reflect our contributions, we were considered assets to them. They provided good healthcare and other benefits to show their appreciation. We were not thought of as liabilities that needed to be reduced at all costs. If you were no longer needed in one area you were provided the opportunity to move into a different part of the company.

  Pensions – If you stuck with the company for thirty or more years you would receive a pension that would allow you to live  comfortably during your senior years. They did not give you a lump sum of their choosing and shove you out the door. In addition to your fixed pension plan you could also enhance it with an additional saving plan (401k) which the company would match up to a given percentage of your contribution.

Of course as the years went by much of the above eroded into what we have today. At the beginning of the Reagan years a new masters degree program called Masters of Business Administration (MBA) which preached that employees were no longer assets but liabilities. Downsizing started happening when these new MBAs starting filling corporate offices.  The three legged stool was quickly thrown out the window in favor of treating the stockholders as kings and everyone else as serfs.

Over the last few decades these fundamental changes have resulted in the middle class disappearing from the U.S. landscape. I envy those who are just now starting out in their work lives for all the opportunities that they will have given our quickly advancing technological knowledge. Given the recent DNA and brain mapping the future is almost unlimited for these areas.  But I don’t envy them when it comes to having a secure life where you are valued  and fairly paid for your contributions.

Too bad we haven’t managed to keep the best of both worlds….

 

This is part 2 of my series based on a post by Stephen Mattson on the seven misconceptions of Christianity.

Everyone Believes the Same Thing

Beyond a basic belief of Jesus being divine, Christians hardly agree on anything. Common practices such as baptisms, communions, confession and even worship styles are hotly debated, and Christians are divided into hundreds of denominations, thousands of churches and endless communities—each passionate about their own opinions.

Christianity is made up of different cultures, ethnicities, doctrines, traditions, practices, theologians and practices—one of the most diverse religions in the entire world.

Conformity and uniformity are uncommon, and Christianity is distinguished by its variety.

There are presently over 39,000 different versions of Christianity in the world today. Except for maybe the Quakers one thing we seem to be very good at as Christians is to exclude anyone from our individual groups who might not agree with all we think is important about God. As Stephen mentions above we all have endless passions about our own opinions.

Christianity takes on different forms depending on our local cultures, traditions, and practices. Our various theologians debate, some say argue, constantly with each other about who sees the real God. Of course none of us will actually be able to see God in all his glory; it is simply impossible. Conformity is indeed a rare thing in the Christian church.

As Christians we all seem to be able to recognize at least to some degree the divinity of Christ but that seems to be where our consensus ends.

Some take the Bible as literal and total truth and without question. They say the earth is only 6,000 years old because that is how the ancestry of the Old Testament works out. They say that all the science that proves otherwise is just God trying to trick us.  Many who have this opinion hold that document even above Jesus himself. They say that Jesus’ words are no more important than any others in their Bible as they all come from God’s lips.

Some take the Bible as more of a historical text to help us understand where our roots are.

Some say that the Bible is the total message from God to us. Others say it is a starting point and many other revelations have occurred since those days.

Some say God continues to teach us things about how we are to live on this earth. Much of that  revelation is corporate wisdom given us by scientific knowledge, but some is also personal in nature.

Some say baptism requires total immersion, other say only sprinkling of water. Some say baptism itself is only ritualistic in nature and unnecessary.

Some believe in confession of sins to a clerical authority, others believe we answer to God alone.

Some say our life here is really unimportant and that getting to heaven is the most important thing. Others say our main objective is to make His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

Some say declaring we are Christians via an altar call is all that is required.  Others say how we act as Christians is what really counts.

We all believe different things and that is ok as long as we can respect that others might see things a different way. After all the only thing we are really trying to do is understand an infinitely wise God who is really way way beyond our understanding.