Saturday, September 30, 2006

In the First Place

I just read Bernard Lewis' lecture for Hillsdale College on the history of Freedom and Justice in Islam (Sept '06 issue of Imprimis). It's fascinating how history speaks to today's situations but sad at the same time because we are so ignorant of it. It's hard to hear someone argue an opinion that seems to be so self-centered and willfully ignorant when the necessary information is readily available from a multitude of sources.

I've been actively seeking information on these topics (Middle East politics and history and what to do about it) and generally find three camps: 1) It's our own fault; we should apologize and get them to understand we mean no harm. 2) It's all their fault; let's wash our hands of them. 3) It's a complex situation but let's get involved in a solution.

I see the first position as the standard liberal position. It's far and away the most ignorant of history and human nature. I see the second as the conservative isolationist position. It's more informed yet severely short-sighted as it doesn't address the root of the problem.

The third, I believe, is President Bush's position. It appears on the surface to be naively idealistic (except to the conspiracy theorists who see an elaborate scheme behind everything). But history bears out a distant beacon of hope that a form of liberty could actually exist in that part of the world and thus introduce hope and freedom to an entire culture.

But many folks don't see it and don't want to. And that's alright. But if you're going to vote or debate or protest or get involved in any way whatsoever… go learn some history first. Read informed people like Bernard Lewis and Victor Davis Hanson before you go off half-cocked over some conspiracy theory.

Some the day the Bush presidency will be a fading memory and Dick Cheney will have still not taken over the world. Yet terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and hatred of the West will still be there because we are free and they are not. And it will stay that way until one of those two things is different.


We caught Brennan reading one of his new story books to his brothers. He had to come ask us on a particular word and then went back to Tanner and Elijah to continue story hour.

Brennan couldn't read a month ago.

Brennan's biggest hitch is that he's a perfectionist. He'll sometimes pretend not to know at all if he isn't absolutely certain. Nevertheless he's an enthusiastic learner and a very good boy.

Friday, September 29, 2006

It's All About Freedom

On Wednesday I posted a number of statements of belief. Only one so far has received any raised eyebrows or objections (including comments offline). I stated that:

I believe that Western Civilization has been superior to every other civilization in history. It has largely been the only place in the world where individuals could own property, have a say in government, and practice their faith freely. In times when the West has not been this way, it's been like the rest of the world.

This kind of sounds like saying, "my country is the bestest country in the whole wide world!" But it's a lot more specific. More than just blind patriotism (i.e. my country, right or wrong – something I do NOT agree with), this attempts to distinguish how different cultures are in fact different.

Certainly there are wonderful people in culturally rich places, and I'm obliged to say so. But most cultures do not understand individuals (including women, the poor, and foreigners) to have intrinsic value as taught by Judeo-Christian values. Bigotry is native to the human condition and it has been rare in human history that outsiders were given a chance. But it's not a coindidence that the West has risen above this several times to lead the world in human rights and benevolent work. It's also no coincidence that the world's immigrants flow largely in one direction – toward the West.

Most cultures also do not have a native sense of personal property and political rights, as understood by the ancient Greeks and Romans. The default throughout the world is to yield these rights to a particular class or individual, be it the government, political party, king, warlord, or priesthood. The average citizen in most cultures in most of history wasn't a citizen, but little more than a slave and peon to other people who controlled his or her fate.

Again, it's not that Western Civilization has always been true to these principles and it's not that the people themselves (or the natural resources) are superior. But the culture is. In spite of the flaws and evils in our culture, it is still based on and promotes freedom. And that part is good.

Yet people today say that Western Civilization is not good, or at least they're embarrassed to admit it. Many believe we are the greatest evil in the world. They also say we are "imposing" democracy on other countries, as if despotism was morally equal to freedom and tyranny was an equally valid option to liberty. I heard someone say the other day (crudely) that you don't fight a war to make peace. Really?! Have you never heard of the Revolutionary War or the Civil War or World War 2? Liberty has only ever been preserved by resisting those who would take it.

What kind of person must you be to think that the freedom for millions of people is not worth it? And how naive must you be to think that the freedom of millions will not affect the cultural root of terrorism in the Middle East?


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Scholar and a Gentleman?

Tanner sits in on class while Brennan does Kindergarten in homeschool. While Brennan has quickly picked up on almost everything Shannon teaches him, including learning to read, Tanner hasn't always shown much interest:

"Tanner, this is the letter e, e says eh; elephant and eskimo, eh, eh, eh. So what letter is this, Tanner?"

"I don't know."

After two or three weeks we were getting concerned that at four years old, this was just lost on Tanner and we should give up and try again next year. Then it suddenly started to click:

"Tanner, this flash card says t-u-b, what does that spell?"

"Butt! He-he-he."

Ok, we need to work on the whole left-to-right thing, but yes, tub spelled backward is but. And he realized it in mere seconds (and then giggled about it for several seconds more). Yesterday, Tanner went through 20 or more flashcards of one syllable words, sounding them out on his own and reading them correctly. Way to go, Tanner!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Things I Believe

I thought I'd sit down for a few minutes and clarify my position on what I feel is important:

  • I believe in Truth. Emotions don't get a vote when it comes to what is or is not.
  • I believe in God. The burden of proof belongs to those who deny what every child in every culture knows innately.
  • I believe this world is not an accident. Beauty, justice, unconditional love, and mercy are evidence of this, even in their scarcity.
  • I believe this world is grievously broken. But don't blame God; "broken" necessarily means it is NOT functioning as designed.
  • I believe it is not arrogance to know the location of the fire escape in a burning building and to assert it boldly. It's compassion.
  • I believe that only Jesus Christ can reconcile you to God. Only Jesus was able to satisfy Divine Justice and show God's mercy in the same act. Only Christianity addresses and answers this dilemma.
  • I believe in asking questions. Christianity is perhaps the only religion that routinely converts skeptics who investigate the facts.
  • I believe that Western Civilization has been superior to every other civilization in history. It has largely been the only place in the world where individuals could own property, have a say in government, and practice their faith freely. In times when the West has not been this way, it's been like the rest of the world.

I may expand on some of these later, but I'm hoping this will be enough to open up some dialog.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Random Thoughts 9/25/06

  • In fantasy football I'm now 3-0. My receivers (I can play up to four at a time) are Fitzgerald, Holt, Coles, Driver, and Bryant among others. I also had John Kasay kicking for me this weekend when he set the NFL record for most field goals over forty yards in a game (4).
  • What the deal with the Madden curse? The player on the cover of John Madden video game each year seems doomed to failure that same year. Check out the Snopes article on it! Now Shaun Alexander has broken his foot! The funny thing is I went out and got his backup almost a month ago for just such an occasion.
  • So is Osama bin Laden dead or not? Apparently nobody knows for sure, at least until a recording shows up that can prove he's alive.
  • Gas is now $2.00 here in KCK and still dropping. The economy in our country is as strong as it could be in almost every way that it can be measured. Yet a week ago or so there was a poll that said Americans are more concerned about the economy than anything else, including terrorism. I really wonder why? Even if it's not good for you, it's not like we have soup lines and double digit unemployment as a country. What real, hard evidence does someone have for a bad economy right now? The (falling) price of gasoline, maybe?
  • Brennan's birthday is tomorrow; he'll be six. We had a party tonight, where he received the last three plastic dinosaurs on Earth not already in his collection. He doesn't even hesitate to identify relatively obscure dinos like Kentrosaurus, Baryonyx, and Styracasaurus.
  • Maps of War has an interesting history of the Middle East in 90 seconds. It's worth a look by clicking right here. The religion of peace has this short video for you.

Half-Shaved Kitty

Every few months we try to shave our cat, Kala. When she allows it, we cut everything except her mane, boots and a tuft at the end of her tail (which is called a lion-cut, of course). This time we only managed to get her back and sides with a few swipes at her tail. Oh well, we tried.

When Kala gets a haircut, she becomes a whole new animal. She generally becomes less aloof, skittish, and hostile. She's a long way from a friendly animal but she will let the kids pet her when she's bald.

The boys think it's pretty funny when she's "naked."

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Ding, Dong…

There were reports this morning that Osama bin Laden died last month of typhoid. The US can't confirm it yet but when you're forced into hiding in remote regions of the world, dying of an infectious disease is not that far fetched.

And remember to always wash your hands.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Random Thoughts 9/22/06

  • 21,000 hits! Thanks for reading!
  • Gas prices are supposed to go down another 25¢ in the next two months. It's currently $2.10-2.20 around here, even better in Missouri. If it was Bush's fault the prices went up, can it be his fault for going down too?
  • Jay-rod and I are often referred to as a category - Jareds. People at church say, "Hi, Jareds, how are you doing?" Now even my son is getting into it. The other day Jay-rod and I drove seperately to meet Shannon and the boys at a gas station and Brennan asked, "How did the Jareds get here?" Shannon replied, "Those aren't "Jareds," that's your father and Ethan's daddy!"
  • No dinosaur teddy bear for you! We were going to have Brennan's birthday party at a new restaurant in the area called T-Rex. It's your typical restaurant except that it's filled with animatronic dinosaurs, including a forty foot Tyrannosaurus Rex in the lobby. This would have been the perfect spot for Brennan's party, except that it's about $30 or $35 per child. That pays for the kids meal and a stuffed dinosaur toy. But wait… You want the adults to eat? Or the toy dino to have a little T-Rex t-shirt? Or you want a birthday cake? All of that will be extra.
  • I only have three words to say about this last week's Survivor (episode two): "I love you." That was the most pathetic thing I've ever seen on Survivor.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Less Mass

I went to a Catholic funeral today and it was really interesting. Having organized and officiated several funerals myself, it was a real cross-cultural experience to see how the modern Catholic church does things. I can't honestly say that I thought it was good or helpful, but that opinion is based on what I try to teach and convey during a funeral. Rome must have a different plan.

Though not 95 theses or anything, here's a few thoughts I had afterwards:
  • The Church's name was "Our Lady of Sorrows." Hmm… ok.
  • The mass was in English and not Latin. This particular church still does Latin mass and I thought I would get to see that but it wasn't the case.
  • It's easy to forget just how many paintings and statues are in a Catholic church.
  • Nearly all of the songs were Protestant in origin. Can they do that? Amazing Grace and What a Friend We Have in Jesus, among others, were sung – it just seemed odd.
  • The service was shorter than I expected at only an hour. My funeral services generally only last 20-30 minutes, but I knew that some Catholic funerals could go a lot longer.
  • They only mentioned the name of the deceased a couple of times. I can't help but think the family felt like they were watching a procedure or ceremony go on without them in contrast to a Protestant funeral where there is far more direct address, explanation, and eulogizing.
  • The homily was delivered by the eldest priest. He's didn't seem prepared and stammered about looking for the right word. His brief (and vague) sermon was the only spontaneous moment in the whole ceremony.
  • Sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up. It became a distraction to the folks around me, accompanied with huge sighs and exaggerated groaning. I never did spot an obvious cue for when to stand but fortunately there were a few who knew when to stand and what the proper words were during the responsive parts.
  • All of the rote ceremony and ritual seemed to be a comfort to those who were obviously devout Catholics, but it rang hollow and futile to me. The priests, there were three, acted like they were on auto pilot and that didn't help.
I'm glad I went but I'm also glad that we handle funerals and grief counseling and the presentation of the Gospel, etc., etc., the way that we do.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Camp Report

We had a good church camp board meeting last night. We elected new board members and officers and I'm now the board chairman. As such, I want to tell you what we're working on.

We have some specific short term goals:
  • Define the roles of and write guidelines for the people who work at camp. We want to prevent conflict and clarify responsibilities for everyone involved.
  • Determine the requirements and qualifications for the future job of Camp Manager. This will be a paid position and a liaison between the board and the rest of the camp.
  • Clarify the role of Teen Staff members and provide a method to screen candidates.
  • Write a comprehensive Dean's Handbook.
  • Devise a plan to improve campus appearance, both short term and long term.
  • Finish work on the theme for 2006 and make proposals for 2007.

We also want to make strides in other areas of accountability and communication:
  • We need to mend fences with individuals and churches that no longer participate in the camp and recruit new camp members.
  • The ministers need to find a way to provide a doctrinal foundation for the teaching ministry of the camp, so that we are a consistant and sound source of Bible teaching.

Our next board meeting is October 17.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Camp Issues

Our church attends a church camp that I think is really worthwhile. Lives are changed there and friends are made for a lifetime. I met Shannon at that camp when we were 15 and I've been on staff there for 10 years or more. This is where I want my boys to go to church camp in coming years.

But I'm concerned about the way things are behind the scenes. Nothing seems to be progressing and we're steadily losing the support of both individual volunteers and supporting churches – mostly due to burnout, inter-personal conflicts, and lack of leadership. The students don't see this but the staff does. The pool of ministers that want to help is shrinking and it's difficult getting them to come back. As great as the programming is at the camp, the organization itself seems to be slowly sinking.

I fear two things: first, that the camp will slowly go under if we don't do something; and second, that it may be too late to do anything about it.

My instinct as a minister is to continue to try to work with what we've got. Let's make things work and find a place where everyone can fit in. But I find myself repeatedly pleading with people to "stick with it" and "give it another chance," sometimes unsuccessfully. Someday, we're going to run out of help.

Personally, I want to stick it out until the bitter end (which I hope never comes). But I can't help but feel a responsibility to prevent this happening in the first place; to refocus the faithful back on the task at hand and to put an end to the factors that are causing division. The problem is that it sounds like a suicide mission: if it's already too late, the guy that tries to take the helm in the end looks like the one who drove the ship aground. If it's not too late, it still could involve hurting people who are at the root of the problem. And I don't want to make enemies; I want to live at peace with everyone, as much as it depends on me.

It sure feels like nothing will happen. Nothing will be fixed. No one will be confronted. And nothing will be salvaged. I'm feel like it's a lose/lose situation and I'm just sick about it.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Papal Fallibility

The Pope made a statement that I wish he would take back: his apology to Muslims.

I read the Pope's speech and all he did was quote an excerpt of a famous conversation about Islam from the fourteenth century. He didn't say anything wrong, he cited the opinions of other people from ages past in the context of another topic entirely – and these things are historical facts. Now millions of Muslims want him dead. Al Qaeda has condemned him and says he and West are "doomed."

Muslim populations have shown themselves to be extraordinarily thin-skinned. At the slightest hint of an insult, they fire back with hate-speech and murderous threats that far outweigh the original (perceived) insult. Now a Catholic Nun has been murdered in retaliation.

The Pope did nothing wrong. And I feel the wrong side has apologized.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Random Thoughts 9/15/06

  • Al Gore was born March 31, 1948, about nine months after the "UFO crash" in Roswell, New Mexico. That makes me giggle – and explains a lot.
  • Reason #128 Why I Don't Eat Spinach: I'm trying to avoid E. Coli… no really, that's my reason.
  • Venezuela's Hugo Chavez believes we blew up the World Trade Center ourselves. I hope all of the conspiracy theorists out there enjoy the company they're in. Such as…
  • …Sean Penn, who thinks Bush is a fascist. Sean Penn doesn't seem to know what fascism is. If Bush is trying to take over the world, or take away our rights, or whatever, he's doing a poor job and needs to hurry up. Six years and all he has is a temporary Patriot Act?
  • Gas is down quite a bit. The best price in the nation today was in Branson, Missouri at $1.85. Why isn't this a bigger deal in the news?
  • KU lost tonight to Toledo in overtime. That's right, Toledo. They have a school. With a football team. That beat KU. They were 0-2 before tonight. Good grief. Fortunately KU head coach Mark Mangino has a big fat wallet to cushion the blow.
  • The weather lately has been absolutely gorgeous – cool and clear September days. But my allergies have been the worst in years. All I want to do is sit about six inches from an air conditioner blowing full blast. Open windows and cool summer breezes are the bane of my existence right now.
  • Did you notice that on Survivor: Diversity Island, 13 out of 20 contestants come from California? The other 7 all hail from the East Coast (NYC, DC, etc).

Back On Track

I have my laptop back!

Waiting for me were over 200 emails. Please be patient while I work my way through them.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Survivor, Racist Island?

Another season of Survivor begins tonight and this one begins under a cloud of tacky controversy. They are dividing the contestants by race – White, Black, Asian, and Latino. This is just begging to offensive in every way.

But it also has gotten the attention of potential audiences and I'm guessing that once the typical viewer starts watching a show like Survivor, they get hooked and stay with it. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see the race issue disappear within a few episodes; it may just be a hook.

That said, I may not be blogging on it weekly like last season. But I did find time to read a great book criticizing Machiavelli – it turns out the ends don't always justify the means. Who knew?

Full House

Shannon is taking care of six kids five years old and younger – our four and two loaners. Our friends dropped off Sydney (5) and Silas (3) to stay with us this week while they are out of town. Sydney and Brennan are on the same day of the same curriculum in their home school work, so it works out nicely for them to do school together.

It's really weird to have a little girl in the house. This morning she asked "how rigorous" our day would be. She didn't want to get her clothes unnecessarily dirty. She's a talker and her "little girl" point of view is just so far removed from where our boys orbit. Even our most sensitive boys don't relate to things like a little girl does. Fascinating.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Apple came out with a some new iPod MP3 players yesterday including their smallest ever, the new Shuffle, which is basically a small belt clip and nothing else. It only weighs half an ounce and it's only a smidge bigger than a large postage stamp. You could forget you're carrying that thing!

It all reminded me of this funny parody commercial that I saw last year.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

11 Things People Care About

Newt Gingrich (yeah that guy) wrote an interesting article last week about what he says Republicans should be running on. He specifies these 11 because they have popular support. You can read the whole article here, but I'll give you the rundown:

1. Make English the Official language.
2. Control the Borders.
3. Keep God in the Pledge of Allegiance.
4. Require a Voter ID card.
5. Abolish the Death Tax.
6. Protect Property Rights.
7. Become Energy Independent.
8. Control Spending/Balance the Budget.
9. Make Teachers Accountable.
10. Defend America from Terrorism.
11. Focus on Iran/North Korea.

I can't say that I agree with his reasoning on every point, but overall I see a lot of wisdom here. The one item that I think would have the largest and most immediate impact is the Voter ID card. It would put a serious dent in voter fraud and allow our system to work effectively. The other items might actually happen if our elections are not tampered with (which I suspect might be happening with illegal aliens, felons, dead people, pets, etc. all being reported voting, not to mention the people who get bussed from poll to poll voting repeatedly).

The teacher accountability issue, in my opinion, is only part of the problem. Do teachers need to be competent and accountable? Sure. But a lot of qualified teachers do the best job they can do. It's the administration, the school board, and the system in general that need to be challenged. Let the money follow the student (in the form of vouchers) and let parents choose and plain old competition will fix a lot of problems that bureaucracy could never fix. Incompetent teachers would be weeded out naturally and good teachers would be in high demand and merit more pay because their performance would be directly connected to the school's success as in institution. True, the old socialists won't like it very much – "it's too capitalistic and we're trying to inculcate Marxism here!" – but it would work.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Without My Right Arm

This is killing me. My laptop is still away being repaired (today makes one week). It had an internal design flaw that affected a tiny minority of machines and I was (un)lucky enough to be the owner of one of those machines. I had no idea how much communication, research, productivity, and organization flows through that computer.

I should have it back late Monday or Tuesday and at that point I'll start my upgrade on the blog. The option is available to me now but I need some of the tools on that machine to do it right. Many of the changes will be cosmetic or only important to me as the author. But some things, like labels (a way to categorize posts and find related ones), will change the way you'll navigate around my blog.

Flags of Our Fathers

Clint Eastwood has directed a World War 2 movie that will be released soon called Flags of our Fathers. It shows the events and aftermath of the battle for Iwo Jima and the famous flag raising there, on Mt. Suribachi. It's based on the book of the same title by James Bradley.

Flags of our Fathers opens in late October and will followed by a companion film, from the Japanese perspective. The Japanese film, now titled Letters from Iwo Jima, is not a sequal per se but a seperate point of view about the same topic. It should be fascinating.

You can learn more about Iwo Jima by clicking the first link above and see a trailer for the movie by clicking the second link.

For those of you who appreciated the Band of Brothers mini-series, Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are producing a similar ten-part mini-series called The Pacific about that part of World War 2 to air on HBO in 2009 (two and half years; they're only in pre-production now). It will have some of the same writers, producers and directors as Band of Brothers, and is expected to use some material from another WW2 James Bradley book, Flyboys.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

By Roof-ferral Only

The roofing guys were great, they went out of their way to do several extra things for us, including roofing the lean-to on the back of my garage for free and re-aligning my satellite dish. I'd highly recommend them. They were fast, precise, affordable, honest, cleaned up after themselves and were all legal citizens of this country. All high marks in my book.

The main guy said he doesn't advertise much and gets his work by referral only, so here you go:

C & H Roofing
1718 North 142nd St.
Basehor, Ks 66007
(913) 724-2209

NFL Kickoff

For those of you who play fantasy football (Uncle Steve), here's who's on my team: Matt Hasselbeck, Kevin Jones, Ronnie Brown, Donald Driver, Larry Fitzgerald, Torry Holt, and John Kasay are my starters. I also have Jake Plummer, Brett Favre, Michael Clayton, and some several backups and projects.

My brother Dustin has the entire starting lineup of the Cincinnati Bengals and Marc Bulger.

20,000 Hits


20,000 Hits!

Thanks for reading my blog. Hopefully the redesign will be ready within the next few weeks (I was hoping to unveil it before we reached this milestone).

Fiddling on the Roof

The roofers knocked my satellite dish out of allignment while replacing the shingles on my roof and now we can't receive most of our tv channels (the local ones come in a little bit). I called DirecTV and they said it would be $70 and almost two weeks before they could fix it. Great. Did I mention the NFL season starts tonight?

I'm going to go have a word with the roofers before they leave…

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Ruffs

The roofers have been at our house the last couple of days replacing the roof that was damaged by the hailstorm last Spring. The boys haven't napped much the last couple of days – imagine wearing a wooden bucket on your head while someone pounds on it. But we think we'll be pleased with the final results as it may the last roof that we put on this house (assuming the shingles actually last 30 years).

They also are re-roofing our dumpy little garage. It turns out that five layers of shingles on a rickety old, hodgepodge outbuilding isn't good for it (or legal).

The church is also getting it's roof repaired this week from a Spring storm. We've had a temporary patch all summer on the section of roof ripped off our santuary. Now it's finally getting replaced.

I was talking to Jay-rod about these roofs and he kept repeating the word "roof" each time I said it. Speaking my native Kansan dialect, "roof" comes out a little more like "ruff." Mr. College Education kept correcting me until I noticed the difference. Tarnations, ain't that pert near annoyin'?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The New Zero?

It looks like we may sell our newest and greatest fighter plane, the F-22A Raptor, to Japan. It's long been thought the Raptor was too advanced and too sensitive to export. But there are a few countries out there (Australia, the UK, and Japan for example) that can be trusted not to reveal our secrets, sort of.

The version of the Raptor that we would export would first get a frontal lobotomy. All of the sensitive computer programs would be removed and the buyer would have to come up with their own flight and weapons control software. With just a few other alterations, our allies could get their hands on the hottest manned aircraft out there.

Of course some will object:
The Washington-based Project on Government Oversight and other groups also oppose foreign Raptor sales on philosophical grounds. Jennifer Gore, a POGO spokeswoman, said selling advanced weapons overseas increases defense costs for U.S. taxpayers over the long term.

"We sell F-15s to foreign governments and they become the standard so we build F-22s," she said. "If we sell them overseas, then they'll become the standard and we'll build something else. That may be good for Lockheed --- but it's not good for U.S. taxpayers."

That's wrong because of a false assumption: we build the F-22 because the Russians build the Su-30 and the Europeans build the Eurofighter, planes that are equal to or superior to our F-15 Eagles. It's because of foreign competition that we are obligated to continue development of these weapons in order to stay ahead. You can blame the Russians and the French for the F-22's existence, thank you. Besides, the five or six countries that fly the F-15 Eagle are close allies with the US. The F-15 simply did not cause the F-22.

By selling the F-22A to our allies the Raptor becomes cheaper for everyone. First, more planes mean that the development costs are divided up so that each Raptor costs less money overall. Second, countries like South Korea and Japan are already spending $75+ million each on upgraded F-15s. Though the F-22 is more expensive per plane ($130 million), you don't need as many, so a country like Japan could actually save money longterm – good for taxpayers on both sides of the Pacific.

I'd like to see Japan and Australia each get a squadron or two of Raptors. That could mean an impenetrable line of air superiority from Alaska to Australia – keeping any aggressors in Asia bottled up for the next few decades – and that's good for everyone.

Church Nursery Travel Brochure

Life is good in the church nursery. You watch Veggietales, sit on laps, play, nap, and more – all of this with a continental breakfast and free diaper change!

In this photo we see Elijah, a tourist from Kansas, meeting an actual member of the Brazilian Soccer team. Celebrity encounters like this are not uncommon in the nursery.

Here cousin Clara and Graham catch a live show on the nursery main floor. Both comedies and tragedies are presented, often simultaneously and often depending on your point of view.

Not only is the nursery a great entertainment destination, it's also a perfect romantic getaway for you and your sweetheart. Here two tourists enjoy a snack while taking in the view of our lovely parking lot.

Blogging Upgrade

I'm still waiting for Blogger to allow me to upgrade my blog. I'm intending to change the look of my blog a little and add some new features (like category labels for instance). I have an idea to use some original photography and I'm also still trying to settle on a color palette (greens and oranges aren't my favorite but they do go well together). If you have any suggestions let me know.

But for now I have to wait while Blogger, which is owned by Google, works out the kinks. They said a month ago it would be days not weeks. We'll see.

P.S. Did you notice I changed my photo for the first time in 18 months?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Mac on the Mend

I guess I'm one in a million. My new MacBook laptop has a rare logic board problem that causes it to shutdown suddenly (and often). The technicians at the Apple Store down on the Plaza had only heard of it happening one other time and I'd only found a few examples of this on the internet, but lucky me…

So they took my MacBook today, wrapped him in plastic and put him in the ICU where they'll operate to replace his brain. The logic board replacement will cost $1000 (covered by the warranty) but the emotional toll is much more severe. This trauma is all too soon after the untimely demise of my last laptop (I had to put him down this summer – Macs are so loyal – it was like shooting Old Yeller). Your cards and phone calls are appreciated. MacBook will be out of commission for most of the week and so I'll be out of email contact during that time and blogging exclusively on trusty old eMac… as soon as I clean the peanut butter and jelly off the screen.

Thank a Soldier

We took the boys to walk around the Legends (our local outdoor mall-type place) today. I spotted a soldier in uniform at one of the shops and told the boys that we ought to go over and thank him. I noticed a unit patch on his right arm (meaning he'd probably been overseas), so I told the boys that he'd probably been away from his own family fighting bad guys to keep us safe.

Brennan was a little shy but as we approached him he exuded friendliness and kindness. A major in the Army, he crouched down to the boys' level as I prompted them to say something. Brennan kind of hesitated but Tanner stepped right up and said in the sweetest voice, "Thank you for being such a good soldier." I think he really appreciated it (his wife and daughters were visibly touched by the gesture).

Both boys shook his hand and Brennan said, "Bye bye soldier!" as we left. Then we bumped into him and his family again just a moment later and he admired our four boys, noting that he had all girls. I wish I'd caught his name but I was so stumped by the obscure unit patches he wore that I forgot to read his name. I couldn't even find the patches on the internet – probably some obscure ADA or intelligence unit.

Around here we mostly see the Command and General Staff College patch (a chevron with three lamps) or the 35th Infanty Division patch (kind of a wheel looking thing). And of course everybody knows the famous ones like the 1st Infantry Divison patch (the big red 1) and the 101st Airborne patch (the screaming eagle), but there are a lot of patches out there that belong to National Guard units and independent brigades that don't see the light of day much – except that these soldiers are deploying in the War on Terror.

May God bless them and bring them home safe. And may God bless the kind major we met today.

Friday, September 01, 2006

School Reform

I thought I might repost this:

I should clarify: It's not the teachers (at least not the good ones), it's the system. The teachers union hurts our kids by protecting ineffective teachers. The system hurts our kids by not making schools compete – in fact, the most poorly run schools may get even more money (like KC MO).

I'm actually not for everyone homeschooling; I'm for my family homeschooling. Different options are right for different families. But let's not fool ourselves, there's a problem with American public schools – the longer kids are in our public schools, the further they fall behind.

I hope public schools change, and change soon. If dramatic reforms were made (like abolishing the federal Dept. of Ed. and forcing the NEA to the margins) I would send my kids to public schools. I know several great teachers (and some administrators too) that would be better off in a different system. I've heard too many demoralized teacher that just don't try anymore to fight the system.

How does it change? Let the money follow the kids. Allow parents to choose where their kids go to school. Public, private, religious, home, whatever. The schools that fail will be rejected in favor of schools that produce results (or specialize in certain areas). Our colleges work on a similar system and we have the best universities in the world. Some are public and some are private and some are online but only the competitive ones survive.