Sunday, December 31, 2006


The Youth Group is having a lock-in tonight for New Year's Eve. It's fifteen hours of
games and movies and fun. Jay-rod planned a worship time with a devotion/sermonette and I think we'll be playing some basketball too. This should be a lot of fun.

But I'll be paying for it tomorrow.

Army Aviation

If you're an aviation buff, the U.S. Army gives you plenty to gawk at – at least if you like helicopters.

The Army is still buying AH-64 Apache gunships, having just received the 501st one. The latest version of the UH-60 Blackhawk is now in production, and the army will buy 1,200 of them, to replace older, 1980's, models. There is also a new scout helicopter, the ARH-70, and 368 of those are being bought, along with 322 UH-72A Lakotas to replace UH-1's in reserve units. Many of these purchases will take up to a decade to complete. But the army will be buying 150-200 aircraft a year over the next six years. In addition, over 1,600 helicopters are being refurbished as they are returned from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The money for these helicopters came from canceling the expensive and unnecessary Comanche scout helicopter. With advances in communication, computers, and unmanned aerial vehicles, these super-expensive helicopters became an expensive redundancy.

The U.S. Army has the largest fleet of combat helicopters (over 4,000) in the world and is the 4th largest air force in the world behind the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and Chinese Air Force.

Though I've never flown in a helicopter, I've had the pleasure of getting to sit in the cockpit of an Apache several years ago at an airshow. Other airshows have provided the chance to sit in Blackhawks, Hueys, and Chinooks and I can't wait to see the new aircraft up close and personal.


Thanks for the info!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

27,000 Hits

We reached 27,000 hits this afternoon. Thanks for reading! This is also my 777th post.

We're sneaking up on the my blog's second anniversary in about six weeks. We should be around 29,000 hits and 825 posts, give or take.

Speaking of blogs, I just got news today that a blogger in Iraq was seriously hurt. He was a soldier with the Minnesota National Guard and world-class log-rolling lumberjack. He log-rolled on ESPN and in a movie with Steve Martin and maintained a blog while in Iraq. A week before Christmas he was hit by an IED and lost his right arm below the elbow. He's in good spirits and back in the U.S. at Walter Reed Hospital and eager to return to log-rolling (his legs are fine). Please pray for his recovery.

What a Loser (9 weeks)

I'm still on target with my weight loss, losing 23 pounds in the last two months.

I've settled into a routine of playing basketball, lifting weights, and avoiding the really bad stuff. In the last two months, I haven't had a single full helping of pizza, fried chicken, cheese burgers, cheese dip and nachos, buttered popcorn, Chinese buffet, cheese dogs, regular soda, macaroni, or any of my other regular favorites. I still don't see why my cholesterol was so high…

Instead I'm eating a lot of chicken, rice, Diet Mt. Dew and Cheerios. And I'm doing fine.

I don't crave any of those foods, although it is kind of cruel when everyone else is gorging themselves and I don't have some kind of substitute to munch on. That said, I've also done real well with just a bite of something bad without desiring any more. I know a lot of people get hung up on that, but it hasn't caused me any trouble and I don't feel like I'm being restricted.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Entertainment 2006

  • The best film I saw in 2006: United 93 - if by "best" you mean an important film that ought to be watched as a civic duty. But if you're looking for the most enjoyable – I really got a kick out of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. That was a whole lot of silly fun.
  • The worst film I saw in 2006: Happy Feet – talk about bait and switch; instead of a cute penguin movie, I got an Al Gore guilt trip.
  • Films I wish I'd seen in 2006 but will have to rent in 2007 instead: Apocalypto, Children of Men, Dreamgirls, The Good Shepherd, Monster House, The Naitivity Story, Pursuit of Happyness, Rocky Balboa, Flags of Our Fathers, and Letters From Iwo Jima.
  • Films I had no intention of seeing in 2006 and may never bother with (and why): Borat (I get all the vulgar humor I need from Hollywood already, thanks), V for Vendetta (terrorists are not super heroes), An Inconvenient Truth (unbiased, just like Michael Moore), Lady in the Water (M. Night Shyamalan has still not made another movie like Sixth Sense), The Da Vinci Code (I had to read the book, no one should have to do both).
  • The best nonfiction book I read in 2006: Carnage and Culture, by Victor Davis Hanson (2001). You've never appreciated the history of Western Civilization until you've had Prof. Hanson lay it out in front of you. Fascinating.
  • The best fiction book I read in 2006: The Last Battle, by CS Lewis (1956). The final volume of the Chronicles of Narnia was the best in my opinion.
  • The worst book I had to read in 2006 as an act of public service: You guessed it, The Da Vinci Code. Not only did I not like it, but it wasn't even well written. It was on the level of a made-for-tv movie that couldn't afford technical advisors and fact-checkers. I'm still shocked that so many people thought it was so good (can you say, "first book I've read since high school"?).
  • The best TV show that actually made me want to watch something other than the news and documentaries: Heroes. I certainly find some elements objectionable, but as a comic book drama for grown-ups… wow, this show is really intelligent and well done.
  • The worst TV show: Almost everything else. I've just about given up on sitcoms and one hour dramas entirely.
  • My new favorite restaurant in 2006: Longhorn Steakhouse.
  • My new favorite game in 2006: No Limit Texas Hold'em (not for money of course - I won't gamble). This variation of poker surpasses other great card games (like Pitch, Spades, Uno, and Phase 10) by a country mile.
  • My old favorite game rediscovered: pick-up basketball at the YMCA. It's fun; I'm the token white guy that has no moves but can block out and hit the open jumper!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Honda, Heal Thyself

My bedraggled '94 Honda has decided to fix itself.

I wrote earlier: "Do you remember the commercial where the guy welds shut the hood of his vehicle because it's so dependable? Well, I'm like that with my car… except I don't know how to weld… so I just pretend that I can't open it."

Well, the poor thing has reached a degree of frustration with me that's resulted in the car repairing itself. Not only is it inexplicably still running after all of the neglect it has endured but a couple of years ago the odometer quit working and now it works again. Also, I was calling the car "Blinky" because the left blinker wouldn't turn off, now just a week or so later it only clicks at me once in a while. Proving the old adage that if you ignore mechanical problems long enough, they eventually go away.

Now if only I could get the dents and rust to heal.

In all seriousness, if something ever did happen to that car, I think I'd look for midsized truck. We had a little red pickup before we the boys were born and we really miss it. Since the kids almost never ride in my car, the back seat has become somewhat unnecessary. We hate to borrow trucks from friends and family, so we might give a truck some serious consideration.

I've read a little about the Dodge Dakota, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Chevy Colorado, Ford Ranger, etc. That's about the size of truck I'll be looking at. If you have any suggestions or feedback, let me know – but I'm just in the research mode until Blinky passes away and that could be years from now.

Happy Kids

Here's some recent photos of our boys.

First up is Graham "Dust Mop" Ryker. He doesn't crawl on all fours but drags his body around, sliding across the kitchen floor at a pretty good clip. Graham is all smiles almost all of the time, the cute little critter.

And here's Elijah. He saw Mom with a camera and ran right up to her and yelled, "Cheese!" I saw her take the picture and figured it might not turn out, taken just inches away from our enthusiastic toddler, but it came out nicely.

Here's a shot of our nightly routine, with Brennan, Tanner, and Elijah jumping on me. That's about 130 pounds of giggling little boys. I collapsed to the floor and Shannon put Graham on my shoulders, pinning me down for good.

Brennan has grown increasingly confident that if he throws his body at me (from the top bunk or couch or bar stool) that I'll catch him every time. So far so good.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Post Christmas

We had a blessed Christmas this year and hope that you did as well.

The boys skipped too many naps, received too many toys, and ate too much candy, so they're a bit unruly now but we're bringing that back under control. It's tough to have grandparents and aunts and uncles and Mom and Dad lavish you with gifts and not let it go to your head. We've seen some pretty outrageous behavior the last few days and we've let it be known that it won't fly around here.

We're glad to have spent so much time with our families. It worked out well this year, with a good balance between my family, Shannon's family, time with friends, and time alone. Though we certainly could have jammed in more activity, I don't think I would change anything if we had it to do over again. It was just right.

It might have even been a blessing that Christmas Eve fell on a Sunday. Because we were committed to the church services, it limited how much we could do and broke up our weekend nicely. So we didn't have the chance to over do it with in any one part of our holidays. We never felt worn out and overly ready to just go home.

As for Church though, I'd prefer not having Christmas Eve on a Sunday, if for no other reason than the timing of it all. I'd also like to not have a head cold on a major holiday. This lingering congestion and cloudy fatigue really hit me hard Sunday morning, and became an albatross around my neck as the morning wore on. The sermon was difficult to get through (which was too bad because I felt pretty passionate about this one but didn't have the wherewithal to articulate it that morning) and I ended up leaving Sunday School early for a four hour nap back home. Yuck!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Plans

Shannon and the boys and I hope that you're having a wonderful non-specific holiday season and/or winter break. Unless you don't want it to be wonderful, and then we respect your right to not be wished well, Scrooge, and we retract all of the above with enlightened apologies.


Merry Christmas, everyone.

This Christmas we'll get to have a day at my folks spending time with family and watching KU play. We'll have a full house: Grandpa, Grandma, three kids and spouses, and nine grandkids make a total of 17. Then we have church on Sunday morning with a "Carols and Candlelight" service on Christmas Eve. Then on Christmas Day we'll open presents with the boys before Shannon's family comes over to spend the day. We're looking forward to it all.

Brennan and Tanner made paper chains with one link for every day before Christmas. Originally the chains hung from ceiling to floor. Now they're getting pretty short; and as the chains decrease the boys' anticipation increases!

God bless you this Christmas!

Baroque Music

If you're a music geek, you'll appreciate this comedian's rant against Pachelbel's Canon in D. The tune is following him everywhere to torture him and appears in such diverse places as Graduation (Vitamin C); Cryin (Aerosmith); One Tin Soldier (Original Caste); Hook (Blues Traveler); Basket Case (Green Day); Push (Matchbox 20); Good (Better than Ezra); Machinehead (Bush); With or Without You (U2); Torn (Natalie Imbruglia); Sk8ter Boi (Avril Lavigne); We're Not Gonna Take It (Twisted Sister); the theme from the TV Show Lavern & Shirley; No Woman No Cry (Bob Marley); and Let It Be (The Beatles).

I find it amazing that all of those songs use the same chords and, listening to them on iTunes, some of them are shamelessly using the exact same melodies. That's so funny! I'm not sure if I should be offended that the Beatles and U2 "borrowed" a public domain melody or be pleasantly surprised that Twisted Sister and Bob Marley knew who Pachelbel is.


Sensitive Ears Warning: It's really funny, but I'm not going to post it directly on my blog because the comedian uses three bad words in the five minute video. There's not any seriously foul language – in fact it's nothing I haven't heard church people slip and say – but I'm not going to host a video that uses bad words gratuitously. So now you've been warned, I don't condone it, and you can skip it if you choose.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Learn From History

Thank you Mr. Zucker for this little reminder:

The Big Cheese

We took Tanner to Chuck-e-Cheese in Topeka yesterday for his fifth birthday. The food and entertainment are best appreciated by the seven-and-under crowd, but that's the point I suppose. Tanner and company loved it. Our four boys, the cousins on Shannon's side of the family, and a few others were there.

As usual, Tanner was very gracious when opening his presents. He was thankful and seemed genuinely flattered that the attention was on him. I'm so impressed with this kid's sweet nature; I hope he allows it remain in the forefront (and rub off on his brothers). It would break my heart to see him grow cynical and self-centered as he gets older.

Tanner was especially pleased to find a new rodent to add to his collection. This one is a grey mouse named Cheddar, a sibling to Pellet and Cheeser.

Here's Tanner with one of his friends, Sydney. They were happy to see each other.

But not everyone was there for the socializing. Elijah put away several pieces of pizza and cake, some fudge, a cupcake, and a handful of cookies. He washed it down with a soda or two while everyone else was busy with skeeball and video games.

The boys earned about 680 tickets which we traded in for some markers for Tanner and a couple of plastic bugs for one of his friends, Ethan, who had as many tickets as the rest of the kids combined.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Falling Apart

I got down in the back yesterday. My lower back was sore Saturday and Sunday morning, but by Sunday evening I was nearly incapacitated. It still hurts like crazy if I do anything other than sitting or standing perfectly still.

Shannon thinks it's funny and compare the groans and whimpers I'm making with the bell on a pet collar. "Hey kids, where's Daddy?"


"There he is!"

And what upsets me most is that I just finished with several months at the chiropractor. I don't think I have the patience or the desire to the spend the money on more visits there. Grrrr…

And my car is matching me step for step! I've renamed my '94 Honda "Blinky." The left blinker won't turn off. It just clicks at me incessantly. It's probably only a fuse but I can't bend over right now to change it.

My car's ills are mostly my fault though. Do you remember the commercial where the guy welds shut the hood of his vehicle because it's so dependable? Well, I'm like that with my car… except I don't know how to weld… so I just pretend that I can't open it. Either way, I don't do much to it and it gets me around. That's the way a car shoud be… if it would just stop clicking!

Pants on Fire

At what point do you confront an habitual liar?

He doesn't seem to realize that lies don't last forever. A lie has a short lifespan and dies more quickly than you'd think. It comes unraveled and spills over the top; it's impossible to keep a lie going for any great length of time before suspicion begins to grow.

But the suspicious listeners are seldom forward enough to confront the liar directly. Thus the liar assumes that he's successfully pulled off another one. Emboldened, the liar continues to lie without being confronted.

But the liar is losing whether he knows it or not – he's losing credibility. After enough lies are found out, the "boy-who-cried-wolf factor" kicks in and the liar loses credibility. Even if he desperately needs to be believed, no one believes him anymore.

Wouldn't it be better to confront the person before it gets that far? To let them know that they're only hurting themselves? It would be uncomfortable and possibly damning, but an habitual liar is doing far more damage than they know.

Tanner's Birthday

Our sweet Tanner turns five today.

Kids are generally pretty selfish. They don't share easily and throw fits if they don't get more now. But Tanner is our breath of fresh air. If you give him three items, he just assumes the other two are for Brennan and Eli. If you give him one present, he's generally surprised to be getting a second one too. He's almost always generous, selfless, and compassionate.

He'll never understand how much his parents appreciate that.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Letting the Plot Thicken

So I was watching television a few weeks back and this movie trailer came on. It looked like movie of the week from the Sci-fi channel, made with the second-hand costumes from the Lord of the Rings and the special effects from someone's laptop. It turns out that this swords and dragons adventure is based on a recent novel, Eragon, written by a 17 year-old kid.

Really? I was a creative and bookish kid whose interest in stories and communication has only grown as an adult. I communicate stories and history every week and read a lot of classic literature (my elbow is actually resting on a copy of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice as I write this). I would even like to be an author, of both fiction and non-fiction, in the future. But at 30, I just don't think I'm there yet.

My theory about young people (and adolscents especially): they always think they are far more advanced than they really are. But teenage angst is almost always overshadowed by the realities of life just a few years later. Death, disappointment, love, commitment, betrayal, etc. are all things that need to be experienced and reflected upon. We need perspective to be able to interpret life wisely, a perspective that most teenagers just don't have quite yet.

So can a 17 year-old write like CS Lewis or JRR Tolkien (or JK Rowling for that matter)? Almost certainly not. Writing and story-telling is based on understanding the human experience. The best an intelligent young person can do is skillfully re-arrange what other great writers have produced.

As one reviewer writes:

If no one has told you yet, Eragon is one of the greatest stories ever told. Seriously. The story is absolutely amazing, a classic tale full of archetypes, intrigue and magic. You see, it’s about this young, blond farmboy, who has been mysteriously left with his uncle by his mother - who discovers that he is the last of specially chosen group of warriors. Those warriors, long ago, were betrayed by one of their own and slaughtered – leaving only the betrayer (now the king of a vast empire), an old Hermit, and the young boy, to carry on the traditions. The hermit takes the young boy under his wing and begins to train him in the ways of magic and they set out on a mission to venture to a rebel base which struggles against the empire – and along the way he picks up a young rogue and together they have to save a princess from a dark fortress. I'm not making this up!

Um… haven't we seen this before? It turns out that Eragon doesn't just look like a ripoff of the Lord of the Rings, but it has stolen its plot, point by point, directly from Star Wars (Episode IV to be exact). Other people have noted strong similarities to the Neverending Story, Shrek, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the Dragon Riders of Pern. How's that for variety?

To be fair, I've heard that the book, weighing in at almost 600 pages, is leaps and bounds better than the movie, but it was still written by a very precocious teenager. Lewis and Tolkien were both experienced scholars and veterans of the trenches of World War 1. Even Rowlings, whose story telling is not as advanced as the others was a divorced single mom, who struggled to make ends meet. But the author of Eragon is just a smart kid that graduated high school early and whose parents published his book.

I hope that if you haven't read the books written by Lewis and Tolkien that you would give them a shot. These are true classics of modern English literature that capture the heart and sweep the reader into fantastic adventures.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I watch my boys and wonder if I'm seeing glimpses of their future personalities. Some of them make you smile, others make you shake your head, but it's fascinating to watch them.

  • Brennan has developed a sentimental side. He hasn't been much for stuffed animals – that's Tanner's area – but lately he always takes "Monk" to bed at night. Monk is a stuffed monkey that I had at his age, the only one I kept from childhood.
  • Tanner is fashion tone-deaf. That sweet kid can't find two articles of clothing that match, even on accident. Dress shirts and sweat pants, a striped tube sock with an ankle sock, a stocking cap with a tank top, and always a minimum of at least four colors… he just doesn't get it. Or doesn't care.
  • Brennan on the other hand has become extremely self-conscious of his appearance. He combs his hair every morning; he matches his clothes. He likes to lean against something with his hands in his pockets and cock an eyebrow, and says, "Hey, how's it goin'?" And he's six.
  • Elijah has this thing he does now where he furrows his brow and points a pudgy little finger at you and growls, "It's not yours." He likes to get on to people and set them straight if he perceives an injustice. Of course at two and a half, he's a little inconsistent with those judgment calls.
  • The son who is most selfless and generous: Tanner, by a country mile. He doesn't like to be the center of attention and gets nervous in front of a camera, but would give you the mismatched shirt off his back.
  • The most photogenic: Brennan, followed by Graham. Brennan even has a prepackaged smile that he can just turn on instantly like a politician.
  • The most attitude: Elijah, but he is two and a half. Tanner's also a little foul right out of bed; both of these guys need a little space until they get going.
  • The most intellectual: Brennan. He's already a nerd after my own heart.
  • The most charming: Elijah, when he's not in a foul mood, that is. But Elijah's charisma is more on the self-serving end of things where Tanner is just endearing.
  • The most likely to smile: baby Graham. He's already surpassed the often serious Brennan.
  • The most easily upset: Brennan, followed by Elijah. They have an over-developed sense of justice. These guys are going to be cops or preachers or judges, just watch.
  • The most artistic: Tanner. He's got an eye for space and proportion (unless it's clothing).
  • The most spoiled: Graham, he's the baby!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Random Aviation Thoughts 12/13/06

  • Hey Justin, this post is for you. You mentioned that you read my blog for the occasional airplane news so here you go.
  • Some folks want to rename Kansas City's airport after Buck O'Neil. KCI would become the John "Buck" O'Neil International Airport. I assume the three letter code for Kansas City would remain "MCI" and continue to confuse travelers for years yet to come (the airport was originally named "Mid-Continent International," you couldn't use call letters starting with a K because of the FCC, and now the IATA doesn't want to change navigational charts).
  • The Marines are thrilled with their new tilt-rotor aircraft, the V-22, which takes off like a helicopter and then flies like an airplane. The question is where do you use them first? On board a ship? In the horn of Africa or Iraq? One Marine general said, "if U.S. forces wanted to reinforce units near the Syrian border [of Iraq] with 180 troops from Al Asad air base, 70 miles away, the mission could be done in 17 minutes with eight V-22s, he said. It would take 3.5 hours to do the same mission using 12 CH-46 helicopters, which fly closer to harm’s way at lower altitudes."
  • The first UH-72A Lakota has been delivered to the Army and I can't wait to see one of these things up close. It's a cool little light utility helicopter for transport and medevac situations made in Columbus, Georgia. And the name choice (Army rotorcraft are named for American Indian tribes) is excellent as well.
  • F-35 Lightning finished taxi testing yesterday, the final step before its first flight. Taxi testing means that they raced the plane up and down the runway at 127 mph… but didn't take off. The prototype of the F-35 flew quite a bit but this is the actual modified production model, the real thing, and will fly sometime in the near future. This plane is the ultimate in sci-fi bells and whistles, even though most people will think of it as the F-22's little brother. The pilot can see "through" the body of the plane and the instruments are on one large touchscreen panel where you can slide the altimeter out of the way or move your radar screen from the left side to the right side. One version of the plane will be able to hover and then go supersonic in the same mission (never been done before). It can do everything the F-22A can do (on a smaller scale), except that there will be thousands of them. And this will probably be the eventual replacement for the Thunderbirds' F-16s coming to a airshow near you (in 15 or 20 years).
  • Donald Rumsfeld (and hopefully his replacement Gates) appears to be done with Key West. The 1948 Key West Agreement says the Navy would be allowed to conduct air operations as necessary for a naval campaign, the Army would be allowed to retain aviation assets for reconnaissance and medical evacuation purposes, and the Air Force basically gets everything else that flies. But the truth is that Army Special Forces, Army logistics, and Army close air support and observation (like the old OV-10 Broncos and the new UAVs) need their own dedicated air assets. The Air Force, of course, doesn't want to lose control of anything with wings, yet it is rapidly expanding it's mission into outer space and cyberspace. If Rumsfeld gets his way, the Army will get to fly its own fixed wing aircraft to move supplies and troops, while the Air Force continues to fly fighter planes and bombers and spy satellites.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I'd Buy a Mac Too

James Allchin, the longtime Windows development Chief wrote an email a couple of years ago to Steve Ballmer (Microsoft's CEO) and Bill Gates. He wrote "that the software vendor had “lost sight” of customers’ needs and said he would buy a Mac if he wasn’t working for Microsoft. "

Ouch. This is the guy who's in charge of developing the next Windows operating system, Vista!

The email was presented as evidence in an antitrust trail where Microsoft overcharged the state of Iowa for computer software. A lot of the evidence in these trials is the email archive of Microsoft executives, including Allchin, who advised his own employees to not keep any email past 30 days.

Another interesting tidbit is the job description for Bill Gates’ personal technical assistant, whose primary duty was to make sure no permanent record of Gates’ e-mail existed. Nice.

Oh, and good luck with that Zune thing.

Warm Like Before, Part 2

I recently posted an article quoting a scientist testifying before Congress about the hysteria over global climate change that doesn't match the actual research. In that article was a reference to a certain misleading graph that's meant to scare people:

"In 1999, Michael Mann and his colleagues published a reconstruction of past temperature in which the Medieval Warm Period simply vanished. This unique estimate became known as the "hockey stick," because of the shape of the temperature graph."

Well, I thought I'd show you a picture of that same doctored graph.

Kind of inconvenient for the audience to find out they're being fed misleading information, isn't it?

Just this week, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reduced its estimate of human affect on global warming by 25 percent and lowered its prediction of how much sea levels will rise by half. What?! What kind of science changes it's numbers by HALF? Certainly not one that public policy should be based on.

The UN also reported that cow flatulence caused more global warming than all forms of transportation put together. This might lead you to believe that people will now put things in perspective but I'll bet that it will hurt American beef and dairy farmers first. Hopefully, if the UN tries to limit the number of cattle you can own, they'll send the same people that check North Korea and Iran for nuclear weapons – you should be able to hide Bessie in the front yard without any worries!

I was watching a documentary last night on the recurrence of ice ages. Instead of worrying about the temperature going up two or three degrees, history suggests that we ought to worry about it going down ten or twenty. Volcanic eruptions, ocean current changes, and orbital fluctuations might cause big freezes that could last for several years and would seriously hurt civilization.

So all we have to do is keep volcanoes from erupting and make sure the orbit of planet Earth doesn't fluctuate. No problem…

Monday, December 11, 2006

Random Thoughts 12/11/06

  • Do you need something to keep you busy? Try Origami! Crease pattern Origami (in which the paper has pre-drawn lines on which to fold) is increasing in popularity and, as sculpting goes, it's a lot less messy than a potter's wheel. They'll have to add a 25th hour of the day before I have time to learn but, until then, check out websites like Robert J. Lang's Origami and be impressed!
  • Blogger is finally wrapping up the beta development stage. I'm hoping that as they finish up I'll have more opportunity to redecorate – I've wanted to change the design for awhile but I've been reluctant to do it the hard way if it's not necessary.
  • I heard today that 80% of a glass of water is snowmelt. Beautiful, pristine snowfall on a mountain top melted and flowed into a river which eventually led to your tap water. I've also heard that the last drink in a can of soda is mostly backwash. Let's see if you can finish that can of Diet Coke now.
  • Is there any form of anti-Semitism worse than denying the Holocaust, as endorsed by Iran's government in a conference there this week? It's one thing to be ignorant of history, it's another thing to be actively ignoring the evidence. My grandfather was among the millions of witnesses in Europe in 1945 who saw the evidence of these atrocities. Hours of film and countless photographs exist as well as the testimony of involved parties from both sides. What more can you possibly need? I guess it just goes to show you that if someone doesn't want to believe, nothing will convince them.
  • Thank you Kofi Annan, as you retire as Secretary General of the UN. Thanks for doing nothing about the death of millions of Africans in the Sudan and Rwanda and Liberia. Thanks for letting Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il, and every other thug get away with whatever they want. Thanks for the oil-for-food scandal, the largest corruption scandal in the history of the world. Thanks for making UN peacekeepers the most irrelevant soldiers in the world. And finally thanks for blaming it all on the United States before you retire. Kofi Annan, what a guy.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

26,000 Hits

We reached 26,000 hits while I was watching football this afternoon and reading (I was multi-tasking again).

Meanwhile… Shannon was out painting at Natasha's new place while the four boys were all napping – at least in theory anyway. Brennan is at the age (6) he doesn't really need a nap, but sometimes you can just tell. So I asked him to lay down in our room and he was out in five minutes. Elijah is at the other end of the spectrum, however; he always needs a nap and pretty much always resists. Such is naptime with a two year old.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Fine Dining

We had turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, etc. last night – it was kind of a delayed Thanksgiving meal. Since we didn't do a the whole Thanksgiving spread at home this year, it was kind of fun to cook that meal and enjoy it on a cold winter's evening. The boys loved it and it made the house smell fabulous.

We're having another nice meal tonight at the church. It's our second annual Deipnon event. Deipnon is Greek for "feast;" it's a formal Christmas dinner at the church for which we invite folks from outside of church. Each party decorates their own table in advance and I just went and looked at some of the tables and they're pretty impressive.

Our table even has candles this year, so we'll be able to see what we eat!

The best eating though is probably the buffet at the New Theatre Restaurant. It's a really nice dinner theatre with a five-star kitchen. The entertainment is pretty good but the food almost beyond description. Shannon and I have been a couple of times and fully intend to get season tickets when we can afford it.

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Little Time Off

Congress has set a record for the fewest days in session, convening only 93 days, with only about 70 days going to actual legislative work.

Now that could be a good thing, if it meant fewer hearings, less intrusion, and smaller government. After all, it's hard to imagine good things when Nancy Pelosi starts three weeks earlier than usual next January in order to issue subpoenas, hold hearings, and try to repeal tax cuts.

But as we know, there hasn't been smaller government the last several years. While the Congress was only working about two months out of twelve, they did find time to increase their own salaries by $3,300. And instead of filling vacancies on the court in his waning days as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Arlen Specter is going to investigate the NFL and DirecTV because he thinks everyone should have access to NFL Sunday Ticket. After all what could be more important in the world than that? It's not like we're at war or anything.

Congress does have a long history of getting involved in gratuitous causes that don't amount to a hill of beans. And it's hardly a shock to see Specter running against the grain of common sense. But the reason that the Congress hasn't been working on anything worthwhile is that this was an election year (never mind that in 2000 and 2002 Congress worked twice as many days).

So let me re-introduce a solution to both the ridiculous diversions from worthwhile legislation and the absentee problem: term limits. Limit them to twelve consecutive years, two terms for Senators and six terms for Representatives. I don't even mind if they take a term off and come back for another twelve years, there might be a Congressman once in a while that would deserve it. But term limits would mean fewer re-election campaigns and less inside-the-beltway political wrangling. And that could equal more production and less pandering.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Warm Like Before

Here's an article I found interesting about global warming. It turns out it's happened before, not all that long ago (in the last 1000 years), and nobody wants to talk about it. So instead, the public stays misinformed and ignorant of history.

David Deming, an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma and an adjunct scholar with the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), testified this morning at a special hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. The hearing examined climate change and the media. Bellow are excerpts from his prepared remarks.

"In 1995, I published a short paper in the academic journal Science. In that study, I reviewed how borehole temperature data recorded a warming of about one degree Celsius in North America over the last 100 to 150 years. The week the article appeared, I was contacted by a reporter for National Public Radio. He offered to interview me, but only if I would state that the warming was due to human activity. When I refused to do so, he hung up on me.

"I had another interesting experience around the time my paper in Science was published. I received an astonishing email from a major researcher in the area of climate change. He said, "We have to get rid of the Medieval Warm Period." "The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of unusually warm weather that began around 1000 AD and persisted until a cold period known as the "Little Ice Age" took hold in the 14th century. ... The existence of the MWP had been recognized in the scientific literature for decades. But now it was a major embarrassment to those maintaining that the 20th century warming was truly anomalous. It had to be "gotten rid of."

"In 1999, Michael Mann and his colleagues published a reconstruction of past temperature in which the MWP simply vanished. This unique estimate became known as the "hockey stick," because of the shape of the temperature graph. "Normally in science, when you have a novel result that appears to overturn previous work, you have to demonstrate why the earlier work was wrong. But the work of Mann and his colleagues was initially accepted uncritically, even though it contradicted the results of more than 100 previous studies. Other researchers have since reaffirmed that the Medieval Warm Period was both warm and global in its extent.

"There is an overwhelming bias today in the media regarding the issue of global warming. In the past two years, this bias has bloomed into an irrational hysteria. Every natural disaster that occurs is now linked with global warming, no matter how tenuous or impossible the connection. As a result, the public has become vastly misinformed."

Remembering Not to Appease

Today is December 7, the 65th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. More than 2400 Americans were killed in the attack in 1941, bringing the United States into World War Two. Perhaps as many as 62 million people died during the war, including about 1 out of every 7 Soviet citizens (over 25 million) and over 400,000 Americans. This year will be the last official reunion in Hawaii of the dwindling number of Pearl Harbor veterans.

Five years ago America suffered just the second major attack on home soil in 189 years, killing about 3000 civilians. Militant Islam is overtly anti-liberty, anti-democracy, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-capitalist, anti-progressive, and anti-tolerance. They want America and Israel and Western Civilization to be destroyed.

President Bush said today that "In [the Middle East], radicals and extremists are using terror to stop the spread of freedom. And they do so because they want to spread their ideologies — their ideologies of hate — and impose their rule on this vital part of the world. And should they succeed, history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity and demand to know: What happened?"

Yet today we hear "bi-partisan" to negotiate with terror-supporting states like Syria and Iran who desire our destruction. Talks and sanctions are suggested, just like in 1941, when we were trying to negotiate with Japan right up until the time the sneak attack came.

Here are some relevant quotes from Winston Churchill nearly 70 years ago:

"There is no greater mistake than to suppose that platitudes, smooth words, and timid policies offer a path to safety."

"An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile hoping it will eat him last."

"Victory will never be found by taking the line of least resistance."

"I cannot subscribe to the idea that it might be possible to dig ourselves in and make no preparations for anything else than passive defense. It is the theory of the turtle."

"[Neville Chamberlain] was given a choice between war and dishonor. He chose dishonor and he will have war anyway."

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Our Christmas Card 2006

Here's a photo Shannon took today of our boys: Brennan (6), Elijah (2 1/2), Graham (9 months), and Tanner (5).

Here's Graham hanging out with a cheerleader, Kaitlyn. Oh sure, she's cute, but she's a Wildcat fan!

No Greater Love, Part 2

I don't normally post entire articles from other sources, but here's an interesting update to the Medal of Honor issue – the issue being that it's not being issued. Here's my previous post and thanks again to the Fayetteville Observer and the author, Joseph Kinney.

I remember so clearly how it began. I was reading e-mails when I stumbled across the story of Brian Chontosh. Doug Smith, a Pinehurst resident and good friend, had sent it to me. I read how Chontosh, a young Marine officer, had single-handedly killed dozens of Iraqi insurgents when his platoon had been ambushed. My Marine Corps pride rose with each word. I allowed myself to think that the story would end with Chontosh getting the Medal of Honor. It didn’t.

God challenges us to take up the challenge of injustice. In reading about Chontosh, I felt an injustice had been done, one I wanted to address. For the past two years, I have been writing essays about our brave soldiers, only hoping that the day would come when I could make a difference for the brave young men and women who serve this nation.

I just didn’t think I would be led to a hearing before the U.S. Congress.

Today, I will testify before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington. My statement is more than words; it is my heartfelt appreciation for every man and woman who wears the uniform. While I am advocating the Medal of Honor for a few, I am really paying tribute for all from the lowliest private to the highest-ranking general.

The hand of God has been with me through this process. I was led to friendship with many Pinehurst friends — including Richard Gesswein, Ralph Jacobson, Richard Kruse, Laud Pitt, Larry Ellis, Rudy Breighner, Dick Curl, Sam Sayers, Ron Base and so many more too numerous to mention. These individuals are all veterans with wisdom and patience.

Without question, Jack Cox, the longtime mayor of Fort Bragg, was always there with an encouraging word. God has given Jack the gift of caring and it shows throughout his life in all that he does. Jack has been in combat and knows what being a warrior is truly about. It is no accident that he has a son in Iraq today.

For the past two years, I have learned three things:

• While one person can make a difference, two or more is better. There is strength in numbers.
• The opportunity to write about service people who do so much for this country can be inspiring. I have been blessed for this effort in ways I cannot put into words.
• God matters. I have learned that the Faith of Our Fathers is so very important for me. For so long, I felt betrayed by God when he was just getting me ready for the big challenges of life.

At the hearing, I will see Pentagon leaders who are willing to wait 900 days after a young person has died saving others to grant a long-deserved Medal of Honor to family members. These Pentagon staff members actually believe that they are preserving the sanctity of the Medal of Honor by delay. I can assure you that there is not one word of information that they learned past the first week regarding the heroic action that took place. What more do they need?

The loving parents of our heroes, I dare believe, should know that their son or daughter was a hero when they are buried.

Unfortunately for the Pentagon leaders, they will have to hear me first. From me, they will hear:

The history of the Medal of Honor is such that it has been awarded in close proximity to the time of the heroic action. Numerous warriors from the War on Terror have been unfairly denied the Medal of Honor and several decisions should be reversed while consideration for others should be speeded up. It is in the interest of an effective military and proud nation that the awards process be hastened. We are a nation that has been at its best when we have had heroes to hold up to inspire and embolden this great nation.

Throughout history, the requirements for the Medal of Honor have been consistent. The president and Congress expect that the recipients have conducted themselves courageously in a manner that saves lives and can be attested to by two individuals. In World War II, it was commonplace for servicemen to receive a Medal of Honor within a week of their heroic action.

I have more than a few butterflies in my stomach as this hearing draws near. Will I be able to dive off the high board? I don’t know what will happen, but you can be sure that I will bow my head and pray for the best. And as I steady my nerves, I will envision the faces of brave kids who deserve more than what we have given them. God will do all the rest.

Joseph A. Kinney is a member of the Observer’s Community Advisory Board, which meets regularly with the editorial board to discuss local issues and contributes op-ed columns. He is a decorated Marine who lives in Pinehurst.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Random Thoughts 12/5/06

  • Are you on the list? I am. I have the power to make people fall asleep! I use my special ability every Sunday.
  • So what does the Academy do? Mel Gibson has made a movie that is unique and well done (not to mention gory and shocking, a recurring theme for Mel) in Apocalypto. Amidst all of the mediocrity, such a movie ought to be a shoe-in for Oscar nominations, except that Mel Gibson is persona non grata lately. So does the Hollywood establishment vote for the film or the filmmaker?
  • What is the one advantage to having your driveway coated in ice? Taking the trash to the curb is less like a chore and more like Olympic Curling.
  • KU has been inconsistent this first month, losing to lowly Oral Roberts while beating #1 Florida. But I was encouraged watching the win last night over USC for an entirely new reason. The Jayhawks played scary defense in the backcourt. I can't remember a game where a team so harrassed the guards and stole the ball so effectively. KU had 15 steals causing 25 turnovers. Though not quite a record, the effect it had on the game was noteworthy. There have been several recent seasons where KU had a better offense than what they have this year, but I can't remember the last great defensive team. Chalmers, Robinson, Collins, Rush, and Wright regularly take the ball away and it's a blast to watch.
  • I often receive emails claiming to keep track of who reads these emails and passes them on. Some of these are petitions wanting as many signatures as possible for some good cause, while others claim that if you forward this email to enough friends Bill Gates or somebody will send you money. Remember, there is not and never has been a way to track all of those emails and collect all of that information back in one place. The only way to do so would be a huge invasion of your privacy – they would need to know the destination and the content of every email you send. Yikes! So any kind of promotion or petition email that requires you to forward it to your friends is almost guaranteed to be a hoax or just not work.
  • Being the nerd that I am, I keep track of all the guys who play cards at my house and how many games they've won. Since June, we've had about 75 people over, some of whom come twice a week almost every week. Not only are we becoming fairly accomplished card players but we're building a lot of relationships, especially among the young men in our church (the target audience).

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Oft Warmed Cockles of My Heart

My boys melt my heart on a regular basis.

I took today off and one of our family activities was going grocery shopping. Mom was at one end of the aisle handing individual cans of food to Brennan, Tanner, and Elijah, who would each run the length of the aisle to where I waited with the cart, and then back again for another trip, relay style. The three amigos also helped us carry the groceries into the house from the van. If you can picture two year old Elijah bear-hugging a gallon of milk, you get the picture.

We guided our gaggle through the store and attracted a lot of attention, as usual. Some people give a leary look when they see us coming, but most folks smile and seem to enjoy watching the boys interact with each other and with us. It helps that these boys are usually so helpful and respectful. They say please and thank you and yes sir and no ma'am. I treasure every minute I get to spend with them.

We had a special afternoon with Brennan; Mom taught his homeschool lesson and he and I played on the computer and watched dinosaur documentaries while the others napped. He's so intelligent and increasingly articulate. What a joy.

Rubbing It In

The Navy guys couldn't let it rest after beating Army 26-14 in the annual Army-Navy football game. Parodying the Geico ads, "Ugh" has apparently graduated West Point and is now serving his nation.

We mostly have Army vets at our church (all of whom were strangely quiet about the game) However the few Navy guys couldn't help but mention their victory; the Navy is now 50-49-7 against Army all-time.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Two-Year-Olds are Bipolar

Elijah is two. That really ought to be all you need to know. One minute he's dancing around the living room full of joy, the next minute he's screaming, "No! no! no!"

Last night Eli said his first official prayer. Brennan, Tanner, Mommy and Daddy prayed before bedtime and then Elijah said, "Mommy, Daddy, Mommy, Daddy, Amen." We scooped him up and gave him kisses and tucked him into bed, the sweet little angel.

This afternoon he was possessed by Satan. He kicked and screamed in his room, beating the wall and the door, in obstinate defiance of everything his mother did. So I came home from work and sat on him (figuratively speaking) for half an hour until he finally calmed down and fell asleep. Everytime he started to get up I was right there to persuade him that napping was in his own best interest. I even brought a book and got some reading done while I was waiting. I was an immovable force that would not get worn down and wouldn't go away. So he conceded and fell asleep.

Our methods change with Eli depending on the situation but our principle remains the same: We are the parents; we always win. Not because we're getting what we want (far from it most of the time), but because we're getting what's best for him. And we'll never settle for less. We will be more stubborn. Mom and Dad always win. Period.