Don’t Get Consumed….

Today is a weird day. It only comes once every four years. So, I thought I would put out a totally weird post that I have been holding on to for some time. It starts with a quote from a not-so-well known person.

Don’t get consumed by all the negativity in the world. Lighten up once in a while  — January 11,2012  RJ Walters

Now I’m not getting a big head here (at least not too much) by quoting myself. I just thought this should be said by someone. It just seems so easy to get totally down with all the negativity that is around us lately. If we only concentrate on that this life wouldn’t have much joy. I pride myself in thinking that Will Rogers would have said this if he were around today. Do whatever it takes to lighten up once in a while. For me that means going off the wall, like with this post, once in a while.  Other times I accomplish it by simply sticking my head in the sand. Whatever is your thing to lighten up remember to do it on a regular basis.

While I am in this weird mood I thought I would also do a self-portrait.  The long slender thing to the left of my head is a pen. Of course that is a reference to the old quote that “the pen is mightier than the sword” and it costs less than a buck; you can’t begin to buy a sword, yet alone a million dollar bomb, for that amount today 🙂

Have an off-the-wall day today  because it will be another four years before you get this day again.

The Politics of the 5%…

It seems popular now days to rally against the one-percent of the population in the U.S. that controls so much of our country’s wealth. I am one of the many who think the distribution of wealth has been skewed too far the last thirty years or so.  We need to bring back a more moralistic ratio of wealth. We need to re-establish the quickly shrinking middle class in this country and do away with the recent lopsided subsidies for the rich.

But if we take a more worldly view of our circumstance we in the U.S.  make up about 5% of the world’s population but we consume a much higher percentage of the world’s resources.

  • We use about ten time more of the world’s resources per citizen than most other countries.
  • In order to maintain our lifestyle we borrow more than any other in the world; we are spending way beyond our means.
  • We pollute the atmosphere more than any other country, although China is quickly approaching polluting more than we do.
  • We account for more than 50% of its war making machinery and sell more weapons than anyone else in the world.

So in a way when looking at it from a world standpoint all of us in the United States are like the 1% we rally so much against. For this reason there are many in the rest of the world that hold us in contempt. But, at the same time covet our lavish lifestyles. Some see us as bullies who come into their country to strip out what we need and then either leave or worse yet force some kind of “regime change” to get more.  Should the rest of the world be rallying against the 5% who are gobbling up the world’s resources for their own pleasure?

I don’t want to leave this post on such a negative point.  Yes, compared to much of the rest of the world we are greedy when it comes to our comforts but we are also gracious with it comes to our worldwide relief efforts. As is typical of everything in this world our country has a good side and a bad side. Let’s just pray that we show our good side more often. That will result in a much more peaceful world than all our nuclear bombs and our outrageous military spending can ever provide.

Where Are You John Sherman When We Need You???

 

For those of you who aren’t up on your U.S. history lessons, John Sherman was the Congressman who about one hundred years ago introduced the first major piece of legislation to rein in corporate greed. The legislation was call the Sherman Antitrust Act. Here is some of what Wikipedia says about that:

The Sherman Antitrust Act (Sherman Act,[1] July 2, 1890, ch. 647, 26 Stat. 209, 15 U.S.C. §§ 1–7) is a landmark federal statute on competition law passed by Congress in 1890. It prohibits certain business activities that reduce competition in the marketplace, and requires the United States federal government to investigate and pursue trusts, companies, and organizations suspected of being in violation. It was the first Federal statute to limit cartels and monopolies, and today still forms the basis for most antitrust litigation by the United States federal government. However, for the most part, politicians were unwilling to refer to the law until Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency (1901–1909).

As mentioned above most of the politicians of the time were very leery to use this new law against the Robber Barons of the day until ten years later when a Republican president named Theodore Roosevelt came along. It still amazes me how almost all of the anti-big-business leaders of these times were from the Republican party. Of course the Republican party is now widely known as the party of big business! When did this major shift in party allegiance happen?  I guess I will have to study up on that.

Getting back to the matter at hand, President Bush and followed up by President Obama bailed out the financial industry because they “were too big to fail”.  If somehow we could have resurrected John Sherman to break up this monopoly power before it became so big we possibly could have spared ourselves all the grief we have been going through as a country for the last four years. Too bad that there just doesn’t seem to be anyone in congress now with the fortitude to take on the big business interests.

But, in reality I should really be looking for someone to put the laws that were repealed in the last twenty years back in place. That is where we got into all the troubles. Within a decade of deregulating the Savings and Loan industry the 1988 meltdown occurred.  Within a decade of deregulating the banking sector the 2008 meltdown occurred.  Why can’t our representatives in government learn from history and just leave these types of things that John Sherman and those like him put in place alone? This is just an example where the Republican party seem to have the belief in the innate goodness of our corporate institutions.  Yes, with this deregulation they got government out of the way and soon inevitable self-consuming greed took over with the resulting meltdowns happening soon thereafter. When will they ever learn? But maybe the more important question is when will we the voters ever learn when to tell our elected officials it is time for them to leave?

It seems literally impossible for another Republican to take charge of these types of matters. Most of those folks are just too beholding to big business to ever try to rein them in. So, currently that leaves the Democratic party to take up the mantel. I don’t see that as much of a possibility either. Where all this “too big to fail” will end I just don’t know.

Where are you John when we need you??

But what do I know….

God’s Dwelling Place

Source: God’s Dwelling Place – QuakerQuaker.

There is no such thing as a sense of integrity that acknowledges the measure of light I have within me while at the same time ignoring the corresponding light within my neighbor. As that light is as constant within him or her as it is within me, there is no reasonable way or appropriate time to withhold the integrity my neighbor deserves as much as me. Nor are we to be honest and truthful with some and not with others because of such vain differences as race, gender, age, income, and sexual orientation. God dwells in a wide variety of places.

These words from the QuakerQuaker blog site truly inspire me. They are from David Madden who is a regular  blogger there and one I have come to quote quite often. As David says it does me no good to acknowledge God’s light in me if I am ignoring the light within my neighbor. Being what David suggests here is a very difficult thing. We all grow up and for the most part pick up our parents prejudices in life. This practice naturally tends to separate us from those around us. Most of these prejudices are founded on making us more noble (you choose the word) than our neighbor.

We must all understand that as David said, God dwells in a wide variety of places. I must quit thinking that I have the light and ignore the light in my fellow human beings who I encounter on a daily basis. A few posts ago I mentioned that I tend to now see people I don’t know with an eye of skepticism instead of  first looking for the light of God in them. I need to do a better job of rubbing this practice out my life. We are all God’s children, even those “smelly” ones we have to occasionally step over while going from here to there, and we should all treat each other as God intended. Contrary to what some of my Christian friends say, particularly the Calvinists among us, He put his light in each of us, not just a selected few. When we kill or otherwise cause the death of anyone on this earth we are extinguishing a part of God’s light before its time.

Thanks David for your enlightening words..

A Point of Perspective….

Killing someone without government permission is wrong!! 

I guess it is just a matter of how you look at things in the world. I ran across the statement above recently and was dumbstruck by it. But after thinking of it a while I realized that from a military and a capital punishment perspective this is how we justify killing the “bad guys”. If the State says its ok to kill then you are justified in doing it! This has to be the primary mentality that allows a military sniper, which by the way is the fastest growing sector of our military,  to blow someone’s head off their shoulder from a mile away and not have a guilty conscience. They have no idea as to why he is doing it!  They are just blindly taking orders. “My government told me to do it so it must be alright.”

It is pretty clear to me that God did not give our civil government, or any worldly body for that matter, such broad power to say when I should live and when I should die. That power of life including its creation and demise and everything in between resides solely in God’s hands.  I know there are a handful of quotes, mainly from the Old Testament, that some interpret as giving life and death decisions to the State. To me those are simply rationalizations for doing something someone already wants to do. I am convinced that the overwhelming words, especially those of Jesus in the new covenant, ameliorate these misinterpreted few instances.

Some people say “God told me to kill.”  “God told me to do it”  This kind of justification has happened many time throughout our history starting with the Holy Wars and continuing in each generation including recently where President Bush said God told him to invade Iraq which resulted in more than 100,000 deaths. They say things like “God is on our side so therefore it is alright to kill the person who sees things differently than I do”.

Shame on us for subverting God’s word for such a destructive purpose…

Cracking the code: Why yuor barin can raed tihs

Source: The Body Odd – Cracking the code: Why yuor barin can raed tihs.

For emaxlpe, it deson’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod aepapr, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm.

It is funny how we can read this above sort of thing. It is even funnier how I can read my own handwriting a day or more after I have written it.

We use context to pre-activate the areas of our brains that correspond to what we expect next, she explained. For example, brain scans reveal that if we hear a sound that leads us to strongly suspect another sound is on the way, the brain acts as if we’re already hearing the second sound. Similarly, if we see a certain collection of letters or words, our brains jump to conclusions about what comes next. “We use context to help us perceive,” Kutas said. 

I am deaf and I often times have to rely on what people commonly call “lip reading” to try to figure out what is going on.  In the context of this post I want to tell you a little about this topic and how it relates to the source article.  First of all the more accurate term is “speechreading” as it is more than just watching lips. It is watching body language, expressions, and most importantly context.  Many words appear the same when trying to speechread. One group of words that appear the same on the lips are “buy”, “my”, “pie” or letters b m and p. So, when I see the lips purse for a b, m, or p I have no idea which is being spoken without trying to put the word in context. With these types of problems in mind a deaf person trying to figure out what is being said is simply a guessing game. For even the most fluent speechreaders, I am certainly not one of them, only about one-third of the words are gleaned by actually seeing them on the lips. The rest have to be guessed by taking the context of what the topic is.

Context is everything in speechreading and being able to read the gibberish at the start of this post is the same thing. When words are taken out of context speechreading becomes almost impossible for anyone.  I have no problems speechreading someone who asks me how I am or if I like a particular thing in front of me. But when they come to me asking about how IBM did in yesterday’s stock market I very likely will give them a glazed look.

I am a wordsmith. I struggle to find just the right way to say something in all of my posts. So, having to fill in a 66% gap in a discussion comes difficult to me. The other thing about speechreading is that it is a very tiring thing. It takes total concentration and then some to accomplish it even at a rudimentary level. After a few minutes of filling in the gaps I just get too tired to do it anymore, at least with any degree of success.

I am tired just thinking about all this stuff so I will stop here… 🙂

Public workers’ time-buying perk costs states…

Source:  Public workers’ time-buying perk costs states – USATODAY.com.

Here we go again with short-term gains with long-term consequences. It seems that public employees in twenty-one States can give their boss (meaning us taxpayers) pennys on the dollar now and reap much larger benefits later. Here are some words from the above article:

The practice, called buying “air time,” lets state, municipal and school employees pay to add up to five years to their work history so they are eligible to retire and collect a lifetime pension. Workers already eligible for retirement can buy extra years to boost a pension by up to 25%…

The New Hampshire Legislature barred air time in 2007 after finding it was costing the retirement system $25 million to $40 million. “It allowed a lot of people to game the system,” says state Rep. Kenneth Hawkins. “That’s part of the reason we’re $3.7 billion underfunded.”

Most recognize that pension funds, both public and private, are at a tipping point especially during the last decade of a very stagnant economy. At least New Hampshire has barred this practice. If it doesn’t happen in the private sector why does it continue in the public sector? Of course the answer to that is the politicians who control these things won’t be around when the time-buying rooster comes to roost. The money is helpful in balancing budgets now but will be deadly down the road when all these increased benefits have to be paid off.

You can’t blame the public employees who take advantage of this scheme. They see a good thing and use it. I probably would too if it had been offered to me. I’m sure it brings in a lot more money than sticking it into the current stock market. We need to get some public officials who will treat our money  with the same respect that they treat theirs.  It seems that too many of these yahoos just treat it as if we taxpayers were and unlimited piggy bank meant to be raided.

But what do I know….

‘Star Wars’ universe getting a lot bigger…

‘Star Wars’ universe getting a lot bigger – USATODAY.com.

I am a Star Wars junkie, I freely admit it. I find it fascinating to take a peak of a possible future scenario that doesn’t end with us polluting the world beyond livability. I enjoy movies like “Soylent Green” and “Mad Max” but would rather believe we have a rosier future than they portray. Call me a wild-eyed dreamer if you want; I really don’t care.

I have recently watched all the Star Wars movies in high def and I usually see an episode of “The Next Generation” or one of the other TV series at least once a week. The article above is about new video games with a Star Trek theme. I am not into video games. I’m not sure if someone who, like me, is deaf can really use them to any degrees. I’m sure there are no caption options in them. Maybe that is a good thing. I probably have too many hobbies as it is without getting into that one.

I have also been entranced by the new Tron movie. It is playing on Direct TV lately and I have probably watched at least parts of it on half-dozen different times in the last few weeks.  My mind just loves to speculate on various scenarios of our possible future. I guess I am just a “What If..” person with a wild imagination. Or maybe I am just a kid who never grew up….

Another Flash in the Pan….

I see the Republicans have yet another “front-runner”! This time it is Rick Santorum. This makes every one of the eight or so wannabes that has moved to the front of the pack. But when that happens they soon seem to fizzle out like a flash in the pan. They get on the front burner of public attention and the heat becomes too much for them. Maybe Mr. Santorum will be different but I kind of doubt it.  He has his flaws just like all the rest of them. The Republicans want the “perfect” candidate, at least according to their convoluted standards, to beat President Obama in the fall. Nothing else matters to them than to get that guy out of the Oval Office.  They will do anything and I mean anything to make that happen. But their version of the perfect candidate seems to be someone who is teetering on the very right fringe of their party. How did they manage to kidnap a previously viable institution?

But their total focus on getting someone out is the major problem. They don’t have any agenda for themselves other than removing the present holder and shutting down the government. Somehow I guess they see the totally innate goodness of man and are convinced that if we just leave everyone to their own goodness everything will be fine. Some call me naive but I think their approach is the epitome of naive.  I see way too much selfishness in the world around me to leave everyone to do whatever they want. I see too much greed to hope that the rich will somehow all become great humanitarians if only we let them do their thing.

They see a world without Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and all the watchdog agencies to reign in our dark sides.  If they should actually gain the Oval Office I see massive problems envelope us. The safety net would simply disappear and be replaced by a deep dark pit. The Christian idea of being our brother’s keeper will be replaced by “everyone for themselves”.

Of course the latest “front-runner” also seems to want to turn our country into a WASP theocracy. At least his version of that. He, like all the flashes before him, thinks that his view of the world will solve all our problems.  Several polls now show that if Mr. Santorum is the nominee he will not carry his home state of Pennsylvania.  So those most familiar with him don’t think he is up to the job? Why would I, or most anyone else, want to vote for him with that being the case?

Book Review – Letters from a Skeptic

In my three year journey of studying current day Christian organizations I read many books that inspired me. So, in the coming weeks I will be re-blogging some of the posts from my blog at RedLetterLiving.net . I will limit these posts to just things that inspired me in this area. I will NOT be revisiting things that let me down. Here is the first review of a book by Gregory Boyd. He is indeed a profound writer on things pertaining to Christ.

<<<Post from August 13, 2009>>>:

I just finished the book Letters from a Skeptic by Greg Boyd and I must say I was profoundly moved by the contents. The book is essentially a series of letters between Dr. Boyd, who was once an atheist, but now a noted theologian and his unbelieving father Ed. The letters took place over a two-year period and covered many items that are basic concerns that skeptics have about Christianity. It is not my intent to discuss any details of the book. I will leave that for you to discover yourself. Coming to Christ from the extreme skeptic side myself I had many of the same objections to Christianity as mentioned in the father’s letters. Unfortunately I didn’t have the advantage of a son who is a world-renowned theologian to help me wade through them. It took me much more than two years to finally get over my stubbornness and allow the Holy Spirit into my heart.

I am just going to give you some teasers on the type of subjects covered:

  • Why has Christianity done so much harm?
  • Why did God create Satan?
  • Why does God make believing him so difficult?
  • Why are there so many differing interpretation of the Bible?
  • How could an all-loving God torture people in an eternal hell?

As he promised his father when they started this correspondence Dr. Boyd tries to answer all of these and many other of his father’s questions in “non-theology terms”. Anyone who has spent any time on this blog know that in my mind is critical in interacting with non-believers. They are turned off by all the technical terms and the “it has to be true because it is in the Bible”!

The epilogue of the book literally brought me to tears. It was one of the most moving accounts of a conversion I think I have ever read. I can only imagine the joy in Pastor Boyd’s heart to see his father in his senior years finally accepting Christ’s invitation of salvation. The book was one of those that was truly hard to put down. I read it totally over a three-day period. I can’t imagine any other book that would prove to be more useful in understanding the thoughts and reasons for why people resist Christ’s invitation and the possible answers to those questions. And I have read many books in this area (apologetics). It is a must read for anyone who is seriously trying to reach out to others with God’s word.
 As a epilogue to this post I am well aware of the conflicts that some Christians, particularly Calvinists, have with Dr. Boyd’s view of what they call open theism related around man’s free will. I personally am not totally in the open theism camp but I am also not in the Calvinist camp on beliefs related to free will or few other issues for that matter. That being said, don’t let your bias in either direction prevent you from reading this book. Yes, there are some things that you might not totally agree with in the book but I truly believe the vast majority of the contents are enlightening no matter what you leaning is.

If You Can’t Be Good….

If you can’t be good, be different. – April 29, 1928  Will Rogers

Can any of us really be good for any extended period of time? I don’t think so. So, that leaves just one alternative; being different.  All of us at times want to stand out from the crowd.  None of us want to be vanilla flavored.  Teenagers in particular go to extremes to be “different”. So much so that they end up looking and acting like all their classmates. That is the ‘catch 22’ of trying to be different when you really aren’t.  If everyone wants to be different then no one is!  Most grow out of their attempts to be different.

But for some like myself being different is a just who we are. We didn’t particularly choose to be different; we are just made that way. Sometimes we wish we were not so different.  Sometimes we wish we could just go along and be part of the crowd. Being different brings on some heartaches in life as well as joys. If we don’t fall in-line with their beliefs we are excluded because some organizations will not accept anything but total compliance.  Some say we are not ‘team players’ or maybe others just call us troublemakers; we just see ourselves as ‘free thinkers’. They might say”Why”; we say “Why Not”.

And then there is the physical side of being different.  This fact separates us from those around us. They would rather be around someone like they are, not someone different like us. They are extremely uncomfortable being around someone who is different. They are white and we are not. They are hearing and we are deaf. They are seeing and we are blind. They walk and we are in a wheelchair. They have a comfortable home and we are homeless. We scare them because we are different. They just don’t know how to act when they are around us. We somehow become a threat to them.

So it ends up that this is one of Will’s harder quotes for some of us. Many of us are different from those around us. Being different is hard sometimes.

But what do I know.

Scientists invent lightest material on Earth. What now?

Source:  Scientists invent lightest material on Earth. What now? – latimes.com.

This is a fascinating article about a new material. The picture at the right says it all. It sits peacefully on top of a fluffy dandelion.  And proudly it was invented by a U.S. institution at CalTech.  I just hope that some U.S. firm can manage to take this concept into a usable stage. It seems that many of these types of things have to leave the country lately in order to find practical applications.

Being a retired engineer my mind leaps to see all the practical uses.

  • What if the majority of the weight of our cars were the inhabitants instead of the vehicle itself? Couldn’t we make a vehicle that is so energy-efficient the we could rid ourselves of our deadly dependence on non-renewable resources.
  • The basic structure of this material is much like current-day insulation. What if we could make up our living habitats out of a material that is 99.99% air?
  • The article mentions that it has battery making potential. If we could make super lightweight batteries are electric cars not then a sure-thing?

The progress of technology has been an astounding thing during my life.  We have replaced thousands of square feet of computing power down into the size of less than a fingernail. We have increased our food production per acre to many times more than it was at my birth. This list could go on and on.

Head In The Sand….

Most of my life I have prided myself of being aware of what is going on in the world. I often cite the words of Thomas Jefferson who said a democracy depends on an informed electorate.  But, much of my life has also been spent being a contrarian. I am always looking at the majority opinion on things and then looking at opposing views to see if maybe they make more sense.  Sometimes these two philosophies collide; I think that is what happened here. What I am about to say now seems to go against the very grain of my life but I am going to say it anyway.

Sometimes it is alright to stick your head in the sand

Sometimes it is just not worth the effort to stay informed about things. Sometimes for your mental health it is ok to just ignore the world.  I think that holds especially true for us seniors. We have paid our dues. Some of us have spent our lives trying to make the world a better place; trying to be our brother’s keeper. But there comes a time in our lives when it is best to let the next generation worry about such things and to head off into blissful ignorance. This seems especially true for those of us who leave no heirs behind. We don’t have to worry about our namesake’s future.

I seem to be in the beginning stages of sticking my head in the sand especially when to comes to the political realm. I no longer care to try find the truth in all the mud that is being slung about today. I just don’t care anymore.  I want to spend much of the rest of my life in some form of peace and tranquility. I don’t want to be upset day-in and day-out about what is true and what isn’t. Instead I want to spend my days planning for my next vacation. I want to spend my days doing what makes be happy.  At this time in my life I think I have earned a vacation from all the bickering in the world.

So here I am espousing the benefits of sticking your head in the sand. It is a peaceful place; not much going on down there. I realize I have to pull my head out once in a while in order to take a breath of the polluted atmosphere above the sand. But once I get my lungs full the soothing peace of the sand seems to call me again. I plan to spend more time in the sand as the coming years progress.

Meanwhile here I am back in the world jousting my personal windmills via this blog dreaming of spending a few more minutes with my head stuck in the sand….

This Life or the Afterlife??

Source: This Life or the Afterlife – QuakerQuaker.

I don’t spend much time worrying about where I will be after I die. Instead I try to spend my time just concentrating on the words of Jesus as found in my Bible.  By his words he shows us how to live a God pleasing life. Yes, in spite of what several current Christian denominations say, I believe it is possible to please God by doing, or at least trying to do, what he told us to do. God, unlike what some say, does not just view us as worthless pieces of snot who can do nothing good in our lives.  Jesus didn’t spend over thirty years on this earth simply waiting for his death; he spent it teaching us how he wants us to behave. Jesus spoke many more words about living life here on earth than he did about heaven/hell or the afterlife. Our job while we are here on earth is to do what he taught us. He will take care of everything when our life here is completed.

So, I just don’t worry much about what happens when I leave this earth. I leave that up to God. He told us not to worry about the future or fret about the past but to live in the present. So, when I ran across this blog post I was pleased to see that someone else has the same thoughts and as usual he is a Quaker. Here are some words from his post. Click the source above to see the entire post.

For Quakers, however, it’s not an entirely unreasonable theory. For starters, unlike most other religious traditions, Christian or otherwise, we spend very little time either imagining or worrying about the afterlife. We’re much more concerned with what is happening in the here and now and tend to work very earnestly towards achieving the peaceable kingdom in this life. We’re reluctant to define “God” but strive very hard to be in His/Her/Its presence. Most Quakers of my acquaintance cheerfully acknowledge that they just don’t know what happens next. No seventy-seven virgins for us or Pearly Gates, or, for that matter, hellfire and brimstone. Personally, the furthest I am prepared to go is to claim that whatever the afterlife consists of is utterly beyond the very limited comprehension of our earthbound selves, but that there is a “rightness” about it that totally transcends the picayune worries and concerns and preoccupations of our individual pre-death selves. In fact, I would be deeply disappointed if in my current very limited human state I could imagine anything close to whatever it is.

I like the words “we’re reluctant to define “God”. Many spend much time trying to imagine what heaven is going to be like or dreading hell. I don’t think I can even imagine either one and I’m not going to worry about that fact. I will leave it up to God to determine whether I measure up and where I will spend an eternity. All I can do is try to live as he taught us and put my fate in his hands.