Thursday, May 31, 2007

1000 Blog Articles

This is my 1,000th post (that's been published). I was telling somebody yesterday that I may easily have 800 pages of material if collected into book form. This represents two and half years of daily journaling which I hope that you, the reader, have enjoyed surveying.

If you've missed stuff, I encourage you to peruse the labels or, even better, search for specific terms and see what I've written. Remember if you see something particularly noteworthy, remind me and I'll put a permanent link in the sidebar.

Zero Sum Church?

There are enough people to go around without churches needing to compete head-to-head against each other. The director of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University, Robert Wuthnow, said the basic makeup of the U.S. looks like this:

• About one in four of American adults is devoutly religious;
• one in four is secular, and
• the remaining half is mildly interested about religion.

In other words three out of four people are not committed church-goers and, thus, the Church is not a zero sum game. By "zero sum" I mean that for one to gain, another must lose an equal amount. Some folks practice church this way, effectively ignoring evangelism and depending on transfer growth. Many programs in churches are geared to appeal to those who already have a developed interest in Christ, but might be willing to upgrade. But the Church, no matter where it's located, is almost certainly sitting atop an untapped reservoir of unchurched and postchurched people, waiting to be evangelized or restored.

If every congregation sought out the lost as they're supposed to, every church could multiply and max out instead of operating at half strength.

In regard to "sheep stealing," the practice of targeting practicing Christians and luring them to your own congregation, we just don't go there. In many respects it's unethical and you're really not going to get the people the church family needs (you'll just attract more folks with consumer mentalities). Instead of stealing sheep, however, we do plant green grass. We want to create as healthy and functional a church family as possible: instead of overloading you with programs or cramming our own idiosyncrasies down your throat, we try to model genuine, earnest, and consistent Christianity. We won't necessarily wow you, but I believe we'll have a profound and lasting impact (it's the same approach I have to parenting – no flashy gimmicks, just consistency and integrity). I believe that Christians with dysfunctional church experiences (the postchurched or soon-to-be postchurched) will be drawn to this.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Progress in Iraq

When it comes to Iraq, many don't want the truth to get in the way of a good story. I'm not saying that things there are easy or even good, it's just not all doom and gloom like it's portrayed. And since the perception at home may be a bigger factor than anything else, we ought to hear both sides of the story.

Michael Yon has another post worth reading, and it's fairly short (compared to the norm). He talks about the progress in Hit, Iraq (appropriately pronounced "heat"). Hit is a Sunni city in the Anbar province, up-river from Ramadi and Fallujah that has nearly been a lost cause, until recently. Read more here and explore the rest of Yon's work. has a weekly feature called "The Weekly Fishwrap," which is a collection of articles each week with encouraging news from Iraq – basically all the stuff you don't see in the main stream media.

JD Johannes, the director of independent documentary Outside the Wire (2007), writes about how quickly things can change in Iraq.

There's lots more but time constraints prevent me from listing them now. I'll come back to this later…

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Highly Rated Barbecue

Our neighbors, the barbecue team called "A House Divided," placed in 11th out of 212 contestants for their chicken at last weekend's Great American Barbecue. Congratulations! This is the second largest barbecue contest in the country (behind the American Royal – also held in KC), so I'd expect that the last place team still made pretty good food.

Of 212 teams, "A House Divided" placed:
11th – Chicken
14th – Dessert
38th – Beans
47th – Side Dish (overall)
49th – Veggies
52nd – Potatoes
82nd – Pork Ribs
112th – Brisket
170th (tied) – Pork

It's funny… I thought the pulled pork and the ribs were the best I'd ever had, while I didn't even try the chicken – oops! But alas, the Great American Barbecue didn't ask me to be an official contest judge. Maybe they should have.


This has been an especially bad winter and spring for families with young kids. We've been sick regularly for over six months. But before we automatically blame the church nursery, I thought I should post this information from

Shared surfaces most favored by germs:
Household: Kitchen sponge, kitchen sink, toilet bowl, garbage can, refrigerator, bathroom doorknob.
Workplace: Phone receiver, desktop, keyboard, elevator button, toilet seat.
Outdoor/Public surfaces: Playground equipment, escalator handrail, shopping cart handle, picnic tables, portable toilet.

Ten things more germ-laden than the average household toilet:
• Phone receiver
• Desktop
• Computer keyboard/mouse
• Doorknob
• Escalator handrail
• Elevator button
• ATM buttons
• Shopping cart handles
• Kitchen sink
• Subway turnstile

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

"I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom."

Abraham Lincoln

Brotherly Love

Graham (14 months) is really starting to show a lot of personality; he especially likes to give everyone big wet kisses. Here Tanner gets slathered by Graham's affection.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Busy Weekend Wrap Up

  • We finished our garage sale with just enough money to get the home school curriculum (I hope it's still available!). Thanks to everyone who helped in some way or another.
  • We decided not to go with Dustin to the Arena Football game tonight. We're fairly worn out and our kids have been sick off and on all week long. That said, it's hard to get a baby sitter for four young boys even when they're doing well! And it's harder to afford it once we do find one.
  • We did take the boys to the Great American Barbecue last night. On the positive side, the weather was cool and the food was incredible! We spent most of the evening at our neighbor's private party enjoying some of the best food ever. The ribs were the first ribs I've ever had that I felt were actually worth the trouble. On the negative side, the carnival was horrible and horribly expensive, which kind of ruined the fun for the boys. They were so out of sorts (and a little sick still) that we didn't even go see the hot air balloons (except at a distance). Nevertheless, we'll definitely go back (for the food) in future years, so long as our neighbor invites us.
  • Our Memorial Day weekend winds down after church tomorrow. I'll probably even work Monday, since next Friday is our 11th Anniversary.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Quotations to Remember

  • "There is no greater mistake than to suppose that platitudes, smooth words, and timid policies offer a path to safety." Winston Churchill
  • "An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile hoping it will eat him last." Winston Churchill
  • "A liberal is a man too broadminded to take his own side in a quarrel." Robert Frost
  • "How do you tell a Communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin." Ronald Reagan
  • "It isn't that Liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so much that isn't so." Ronald Reagan
  • "Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily life." John F. Kennedy
  • "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Winston Churchill
  • "Broadminded is just another way of saying a fellow's too lazy to form an opinion." Will Rogers
  • "To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society." Teddy Roosevelt

Fools Rush In

Breaking news:

KU basketball player Brandon Rush will NOT enter the NBA draft this year!

We still lost Julian Wright, who has already hired an agent, but I'm glad Rush decided not to go pro this year. There are more underclassmen and foreign players in the draft this year than there are draft picks… and that's not counting all the seniors across the nation. It's just not a good year to "get paid."

Random Movie Thoughts 5/25/07

  • Today is the 30th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode IV. Rumors of additional Star Wars movies have been officially denied this week (that would be episodes seven, eight, and nine, for those of you scoring at home), but there is an upcoming CGI series coming to TV and a live action TV series in two or three years.
  • The British are planning a big bash to celebrate James Bond. When's the party? 07/07/007, of course. I'm not a huge Bond fan myself, but GoldenEye 007 was one of the best video games ever.
  • Remember Beetlejuice? Well, a sequel is going to get made. Of course Michael Keaton won't be in it and Tim Burton won't direct it and it'll be a direct-to-video deal by the same people that brought you Dukes of Hazzard 2. I probably won't get around to seeing it either.
  • The 1980's are still all the rage. Plans are in the works for G.I. Joe and He-Man movies in addition to the Transformers movie that's about to be released. Apparently thirty-somethings are eager to fork over $10 a head for a trip down memory lane.
  • The bravest thing I've seen a director do in a movie recently: cast a major star in a role that gets killed off in the first act. In Children of Men (2006), Alfonso Cuarón killed off one of his principle actors only 23 minutes into a 2 hour movie. I really didn't see that coming.
  • The most uplifting (while still being depressing) movie I've seen recently is Pursuit of Happyness (2006). Will Smith is a great actor (nominated for an Oscar here) and this true story is truly inspiring about fatherhood, responsibility, perseverance, and pursuing your dreams.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Posts of Note

Besides fixing my blog's header, I added a little feature at the end of my sidebar. It's intended to be a list of memorable posts, perhaps a "best of" or maybe just a good representative sampling of my blog. Either way, I had a lot of trouble deciding what posts to include.

So if anybody has any suggestions for posts that ought to have their own permanent link from the sidebar let me know. You may be a better judge of these things than me.

The Law Offices of Huey, Dewey, Louie

I can imagine the Disney lawyers were nearly apoplectic after seeing this one.

It's a pretty good explanation of copyright laws, from the point of view of defending fair use. How witty is it to use clips of Disney characters to explain why the Disney corporation won't let you use Disney characters for anything?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What's Wrong with Islam

Islam is undeniably and intentionally a violent religion.

I know that it's politically incorrect to criticize anyone's belief and, counter-intuitively, the West has shied away from saying anything too negative about Islam since 9/11. But no one should be lulled by the lie that Islam is a "peaceful religion."

Violence and Holy War (jihad) are an historical and authentic part of Islam. Some may claim that Christianity, Judaism, and other religions share the same kind of history, but there's a distinction: violence in religion can be incidental, coincidental, or customary.*
  • Incidental - Violence is limited to a specific historical occasion. It may be God's will, but it is not didactic (meant to be instructive for future generations).
  • Coincidental - Violence is limited to specific individuals. It is neither God's will nor didactic.
  • Customary - Violence is intended to establish a cultural norm. It is supposedly both God's will and didactic.
The violence of the Old Testament is a good example of incidental violence. God commanded the Israelites to combat their enemies but it was limited to a specific time and place. The Crusades are often cited as proof of Christianity's violent tendencies but they are clearly an example of coincidental violence. Not only is there no New Testament teaching to support religious warfare but it was prompted by the medieval church, contrary to Biblical teachings. Islam, however, has both an historical tradition of and sundry open-ended instructions for violence against the infidels.

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor forbid what has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger [i.e., uphold Sharia], nor embrace the true faith, [even if they are] from among the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay tribute with willing submission, and feel themselves utterly subdued” (Koran 9:29).

It's been said that "Jihad is not a defensive movement. It's offensive in nature and the historical norm." But in our self-loathing culture, Christianity is condemned for the Crusades while its authoritative text, the Bible, is ignored. Meanwhile, Islam is acquitted as the religion of peace, while the long history of Islamic Conquest is ignored.

*Victor Davis Hanson is the scholar I first heard make this distinction, which I've condensed here and re-labeled.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Planting a Header

I finally procrastinated long enough for the technology to surpass my ignorance.

I added a picture to my header that I was working on last year. But my HTML knowledge (actually the CSS stuff) wasn't sufficient to make it work correctly. So this week when blogger finally made adding a picture to your header as simple as dragging and dropping… I was there!

I just had to resize, though I'm not satisfied with the placement, and there you go! As I learn more (by which I mean as Blogger becomes more powerful) I'll tweak it here and there.

Old Tape

I was watching a show last night where they showed messages from service members overseas, telling their loved ones hello and such. I was shocked, however, when I recognized one of them. Army specialist J.R. Salzman (1/34 Minnesota NG) is a blogger who was injured by an IED in Iraq about six months ago, resulting in the amputation of his right arm and injuring his left arm also.

Not only was Salzman kind of famous for competing in a lumberjack's log-rolling competition on ESPN and in the movies, but he has become well known for blogging through his combat tour, injury, and recovery at Walter Reed.

And now six months later, here he is on my TV screen, fully intact, saying that "everything's fine" in Iraq. Yikes, no it's not. I had a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach, desiring to warn the young man that he would soon be grievously injured but was helpless to change something that happened last December.

The show I was watching was new on the Military Channel and I'd like to think that these personal messages are not all recycled from last year (or earlier?), but to air old tape of a somewhat famous soldier who is now a well known amputee saying he was "fine" seems most unfortunate. In fact, it's kind of macabre. Shouldn't somebody make sure that the messages to loved ones that get aired aren't from a soldier who has been killed or injured?

Monday, May 21, 2007

37,000 Hits

We passed 37,000 hits this afternoon. The traffic has slowed just a bit in recent weeks but I still think it's doing well for a personal blog of some guy in Kansas.

Since April, I've had hits from 30 countries. Greece and Morocco are recent additions to that list. I wish I had been tracking international visitors since the beginning in 2005 but I didn't know that I would have any!

I'll probably pass 1000 posts sometime later this week or early next week. I'm getting close.

Busy Weekend

Normally we don't do anything special on Memorial Day weekend (or Labor Day for that matter). But it looks like we'll be extra busy this year.

To start with, we're having a garage sale Thursday through Saturday, 8am to 3pm. All junk and worthless debris must go! We have an opportunity to buy the boys' home school curriculum at a fraction of the normal cost, so we have to raise a few hundred dollars ASAP. Shannon said she will not do a multi-family free for all but that she would accept items to be donated for the cause!

Friday evening after the garage sale we have the opportunity to go visit our neighbors at the Great American Barbecue, where they are competitors. And by "visit" I mean eat ourselves silly. It's fairly cheap and gives us a chance to spend time with our neighbors and other friends. The boys enjoyed the play area last year and we'll get to see the hot air balloons again.

Saturday evening after the garage sale we're planning to go to an Arena Football game. Kansas City is playing Los Angeles and Dustin is getting some free tickets. We're hoping to convince our wives that this can be "fun." And it will be!

Someone You Should Know Radio

It's not unusual for me to listen to the radio in the background while I work, but some radio shows capture your attention more than others.

"Someone You Should Know" is an internet radio show that will stop you in your tracks. Usually just a few minutes long, these stories of modern day military heroes are some of the most inspiring that I've ever heard.

You can find "Someone You Should Know" at Pundit Review and listen to the archives of past shows here. The radio show is based on a series of blog articles by the same title over at

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Story of a Hero

Tonight on the History Channel I watched Act of Honor, a documentary about Marine Sgt. Rafael Peralta. Peralta died in Fallujah, Iraq when he covered a grenade with his own body.

Peralta was an immigrant to the U.S. from Mexico. Before the battle he wrote a letter to his younger brother, Ricardo, telling him, "'be proud of me, bro...and be proud of being a U.S. citizen." The documentary told an inspiring story.

Peralta is under consideration for the Medal of Honor, only two of which have been given for service in Iraq. Both were awarded posthumously, the most recent to another Marine who also covered a grenade with his body.

Unsolicited Advice

Iran has suggested that the U.S. withdraw our troops from Iraq because we're causing terrorism to happen.

Um… no.

Iran is causing terrorism to happen by sending actual terrorists, EFP bombs, and IED training to Iraq in order to stir up sectarian strife, from which Iran can benefit while America loses face. And isn't it a little disingenuous for a state sponsor of terrorism to meet with us on security issues? While Iran sits to talk with us about peace in Iraq, they still sponsor such contributions to civilization as Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Mujahedin-e-Khalq, as well as their own Revolutionary Guard and intelligence forces.

I really do hope the moderate parties in Iran can gain more power and rein in the Iranian radicals. But until religious nuts like the Apocalypse-beckoning Ahmadinejad is no longer in power, Iran is completely untrustworthy.

And I wonder, how do the surrender-monkeys here at home feel when they find themselves agreeing with terrorists about what is best for America to do? Of course these folks are usually too ignorant or distracted to appreciate fine nuances like this.

[Sorry for the rant; topics like this drive me crazy.]

Friday, May 18, 2007

Random Immigration Thoughts

There's a new immigration bill which looks like it might get through. And though many of its supporters seem well intentioned, and many of us have wanted something to get done, I have trouble supporting a bill that confers rights but only hopes for enforcement of all the new rules. Haven't we already done the amnesty thing and it didn't work? Oh well…

Here's a few of my immigration concerns:

  • Don't give new legal rights, of any sort, to aliens who have broken the law. Once rights are given, it's almost impossible in our court system to take them away. Also beware of interest groups and politicians who are grooming new voting blocks.
  • Secure the borders first. Legal immigrants who come in the front door are (and always will be) welcome, so don't punish the ones with integrity and reward the unethical.
  • Don't create more bureaucracy or more laws to enforce. We have too much government and too many laws we don't enforce already.
  • It's un-American to create a permanent underclass just so we can buy things cheap. Didn't we fight a Civil War over similar issues?
  • This is largely a Mexican problem. I like Mexico itself but the corrupt, Napoleonic cartel that runs that country is the reason we're in this situation. Can you say "regime change?"
  • The emphasis needs to be on assimilation to the American culture. The country is a democratic, capitalist nation of citizen landowners. We have a Judeo-Christian foundation (largely Protestant) that has written its laws and defined its struggles in the English language. Everyone is welcome to join us. No one is welcome to undo us.

TV Show Reality

TV schedules for next fall were released this week and we can see several dynamics at work in the television business. Some issues are old battles finding new solutions and some are new phenomena brought on by the internet and other emerging technologies.

Serial vs. Episodic
TV shows where one episode leads to the next (serial) are more difficult for viewers to follow than those in which each episode is a self-contained unit (episodic). It's human nature to give up on shows if you missed a part of the story, and this has caused networks to steer away from airing this type of show (soap operas being the most notable exception). Reruns used to fill the gaps somewhat but now the Internet and TiVo are making it easy to catch every bit of your favorite show, encouraging networks to give the serial drama a chance. 24 and Heroes are examples of serial dramas.

Scripted vs. Reality
With the expectation of a writers' strike next year, any show with a script may be held for ransom. Thus networks are hedging against this with a glut of reality TV shows, now that they have the tools (game shows and other unscripted fare) to do TV largely without writers. The writers, on the other hand, know that some scripted shows are truly irreplaceable and sooner or later the networks will have to give in. However, in my opinion most writers are replaceable and every other person in LA is trying to sell a script. If the networks were able to bring in scabs during the strike, not only would it be almost unnoticeable to the audience, script writing might actually improve.

Formulaic vs. Avant-garde
Next year will include all of the Law and Orders, CSIs, and ERs you could ever want. Not only are there multiple iterations of these shows, but many of the new one hour dramas are virtual clones of the older shows. But cops, lawyers, and doctors have been the recipe for TV drama success for decades now, with precious few exceptions, for a good reason – it's far and away the easiest way to explore human conflict. Shows like Lost and Heroes are usually difficult and expensive to produce, making them rare… and rarely successful.

Notable Renewals:
24 (Fox) – After encountering every conceivable type of terrorist attack, the next season of 24 is supposedly going to be "different." Hmm… I've been told I would like this show, maybe I should start watching.
Battlestar Galactica (Sci-Fi) – Knowing how to go out on top, Galactica's fourth season will be its final season. If true, this would be a rare example of a show ending for artistic and dramatic reasons instead of for financial reasons.
Heroes (NBC) – Heroes, yet another show that breaks from convention, gets a second season to capitalize on it's outstanding success. It will also have a six episode spin-off, Heroes: Origins.
Lost (ABC) – I don't watch Lost, for those who do, I've heard they're finally going to start giving you the answers you've been pining away for with three more seasons of 16 episodes each, ending in 2010.
Scrubs (NBC) – One more season for NBC's successful but neglected comedy. In fact, the seventh season was almost sold to another network before NBC finally pulled the trigger.
Survivor (CBS) – Next season Survivor will be in China instead of a tropical island. Cool!
The Unit (CBS) – This is my guilty pleasure. I'm just such a hopeless military nut, starved for a positive portrayal of those who serve. This show hasn't always been great but I'm really rooting for it to mature and succeed.
And finally every possible version of CSI, Law and Order, and ER has been renewed – Jay-rod calls the CSI shows by their dominant color: Grey, Yellow, and Blue. You have to have some way to tell them apart.

Notable Cancellations:
Drive (Fox) – Poor Nathan Fillion, we hardly ever get to know you before your shows get canceled.
Extreme Makeover (ABC) – I'm kind of glad this show is gone. I was always worried for people who were so emotionally dependent on changing their outward appearance. Self-worth and acceptance shouldn't come from physical appearances.
Jericho (CBS) – Cancellation is the punishment for taking an interesting premise and failing to deliver. The next time you do a show about Kansas town, don't populate it with Southern Californians.
Stargate SG-1 (Sci-Fi) – The longest running science fiction show is finally over… almost. Two more movies are already in the can and some of the cast and crew will migrate over to Stargate Atlantis.

The most important factor in future television programming is the drop in viewers. Last year, 44% of American households were watching the four big networks during prime time. 25 years ago that number was 83%. TiVo, cable networks, the internet, video games, and who knows what is limiting the number of people watching the commercials on major networks. Without the commercials, there's no money to finance the shows we enjoy. This alone will dramatically change television in coming years.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Respect and Appreciation

This Saturday, May 19, is Armed Forces Day. Make sure you tell those who are serving (or have served) how much you appreciate their sacrifices for your freedom.

I'm Not So Sure 5/17/07

I'm not so sure that:

Absolute silence is required during a golf swing.

I'm not doubting for a moment that golf requires great concentration. I also don't question that having somebody suddenly ambush your concentration while trying to do a complicated and precise maneuver is cruel (though sometimes funny). But are golfers really so fragile that they need absolute silence in order to concentrate? Surely not.

I'm not a golfer but I have stood at the foul line with hundreds of people screaming and waving at me while I attempted a crucial free throw. I've also stood on a football field filled with a cacophony of screaming, yelling, encoded instructions and marching bands, amidst the threat of very real violence, and I've still managed to make complicated reads and decisions. And every Sunday I make complex oral arguments, largely from memory, while babies cry, cell phones are answered, noses are picked, and musical chairs are played. But when I'm really concentrating, most distractions get blocked out.

Our world is increasingly noisy and distraction-filled, while simultaneously getting more and more demanding. Just driving down the highway while reading signs, listening to the radio, fending off your phone, and negotiating traffic has become an exercise in chaos management. And yet it's the golfer who needs everyone around him to hush?!

I think the operative word here is "need." The golfer doesn't need quiet. I think he wants it. Who wouldn't like the world of distractions to hush for a moment while we concentrate? If not for the culture of golf and the golfer's obvious preference, I don't see why the spectators at a golf tournament couldn't show up with noise makers and megaphones. Most of us could manage to block it out like we do every other day.

But isn't it nice, at least at the golf course, that we don't have to?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Random Thoughts 5/16/07

  • I hear our Church's co-ed softball team obliterated the competition last night by twenty points or more and our men's team came from behind and won 17-8. Our guys (and ladies) are pretty good and have a lot of fun. Never mind the minor league "ringer" we have on the team.
  • We had a good meeting at the church camp last night. It'll be tough getting everything ready in time but we have a work day Saturday and I feel good about it. I'm the dean of the Junior High week and Jay-rod is the dean of Senior High.
  • The first regular season NFL game in England (Dolphins vs. Giants) sold 40,000 tickets in the first 90 minutes they were available. I guess I didn't figure Londoners to be all that excited about American football. The NFL is actually considering options like having each team play a 17th game at an international venue. That kind of ruins all of the records, schedules and everything else about the NFL season that is almost perfect already, but it will apparently rake in the cash.
  • Texas representative and presidential hopeful Ron Paul just sank his own boat when he suggested last night that we brought 9/11 on ourselves. He's anti-Iraq and anti-War on Terror for all the wrong reasons and comes off as an naive isolationist (though technically a non-interventionist). It's too bad too, because the man has some other worthwhile positions, like the abolition of the IRS and border fences. Hey a guy can dream, can't he?
  • Friends of ours are moving into their first house this weekend. It's exciting to see folks get something that they've been waiting for. Hopefully everything works out okay.
  • I love the new QT convenience store down the road from the church. It's new and clean and has all the options: gas, sodas, hotdogs, slushies, frozen treats, and a loan officer. With gas at $3.15 a gallon, that last part comes in handy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

General Values

Have I mentioned how much I respect Michael Yon's writing (the independent photo-journalist in Iraq)? Have I mentioned how much I respect General Petraeus (the commanding general in the sandbox)?

Well I couldn't read fast enough when Yon decided to write specifically on the topic of Petraeus and his stand for moral values in the war zone:

One of the reasons I trust General Petraeus is he just comes right out and says what needs to be said. The letter which he sent to our forces serving in Iraq (posted below) is a case in point. The letter is more important than it might appear on first glance…

…We are making progress but the odds are still against us. We cannot take chances or play fast and loose with our own values. In addition to something immoral occurring, it could be the final straw for this war. All it would take is a weak leader behaving immorally, or a tired leader not recognizing the stress level of his soldiers and reacting accordingly, and we might have the proverbial straw that breaks this camel’s back.

This letter from General Petraeus deserves the widest possible dissemination. It should be published widely, and posted on every headquarters wall, and read aloud by every troop in Iraq and Afghanistan. We can pummel al Qaeda and other terrorists mercilessly and grind them into the dirt, but we cannot afford to turn local populations against us while we do it…

The local populations that I'm most concerned about are the ones in America, which sometimes seem ready to believe that evil America is the real problem and our soldiers are the bad guys. The last thing we need is another Abu Ghraib to reinforce that delusion. Read the whole dispatch (with photos) here.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Go Brigade!

I got a call yesterday afternoon from my friend, Mike B., who asked, "do you want to go to the Arena Football Game tonight?" For free? Why that's just in my price range!

We went down to Kemper Arena and watched the Kansas City Brigade demolish the Utah Blaze, 60-41. It's funny to think of it but the game wasn't even that close, as the half time score was 40-7. The Brigade, now 6-4, is doing really well and have shown themselves to have a stingy defense and a solid offense that actually runs a little as well as passes. The new kicker is from Pitt State and one of the defensive backs was from K-State. Former NFL tight end Boo Williams is also one of their better players.

The official attendance last night was 13,655 but that's far from reality. At kickoff Kemper was embarrassingly vacant with more than 90% of the seats empty. For a long time Mike and I were the only ones in our section (and our tickets were free), though eventually the lower sections filled in with people descending from the upper level. You might convince me that 50% of the seats (many of the lower seats and some of the upper level seats) eventually had someone sitting in them, but Kemper's expanded capacity is around 19,000 and that means fewer than 10,000 were actually at the game.

It's a shame that the Brigade are doing well and so few people are seeing their success. Oh well, perhaps the attendance will be better when the new Sprint Center opens. I know I can't wait to go there!

The Sprint Center is supposed to be the new home of the Brigade and is looking for other tenants as well. The NHL and NBA are both interested in sending teams here. The Penguins almost made a deal but it didn't work out and rumor has it the three NBA teams, including the Clippers, are interested. Indoor soccer might also return.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Under Coercion

Graham decided that it wasn't completely fair that he is sometimes left out of the activities that his older brothers get to enjoy.

So he decided to make a "point."

Watch out! After this attack, morning cartoons will never be the same.

Apparently the older boys could be made to understand Graham's point of view. Just like how Grandpa pulled them with the lawn mower, Graham will get to take a ride as well.

And here we go with Spider-Man (Brennan) in the driver's seat, Elijah providing ballast, and Graham in tow.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Time with Grandpa

Brennan, Elijah, and Tanner took a ride around the yard with Grandpa yesterday afternoon. He drives them all over the property and they begged for more. They enjoy him so much.

Not to be left out, Graham got to wear Grandpa's hat when they came back inside. He wasn't real sure what to think of it.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

He'll Be Bock

The Terminator meets Jesus.

Okay, I know this is really dumb but I couldn't stop myself from chuckling. What makes it really clever is portraying Jesus the way they do, as the exasperated straight man to the absurd Terminator. Funny stuff.

Random Thoughts 5/10/07

  • Brennan and Tanner brought home flowers for their mother from church last night. They were watering the flowers when Brennan said, "Flowers smell really good… even if they're real."
  • Sorry for not blogging yesterday, but I really can only blog in my spare time. I spend several hours a day studying or writing or doing "office stuff" which often affords me the opportunity to blog for a few minutes here and a few minutes there. I also blog at night while watching the news or before going to bed. But some days are just too busy and stressful to get anything written down.
  • I'm taking the day off today and we're planning to visit my mom, who's recovering from surgery. It's been over a week since we've seen her and we miss her. Shannon will bring her legendary enchiladas and my grandma Jean will be there as well. It looks to be a pleasant day.
  • Michael Yon is the best photo-journalist in Iraq hands down. He releases dispatches on his website which are extremely well written with lots of photographs. His report titled "Gates of Fire" (from August 2005) might be some of the most incredible battlefield journalism I've ever read and is rumored to be the subject of a future Bruce Willis movie project.
  • We're approaching the end of our Wednesday Family Night schedule at church. There's only one month of classes left before we break for six weeks. I finished teaching my course last night – a nine month, verse-by-verse, survey of the Minor Prophets (that's actually more interesting than it sounds). To finish out the month, we'll be watching Nooma videos. If you've not seen a Nooma video, then you won't want to miss this.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Pave the Rain Forest, Part 2

Here are a few suggestions that are supposed to "save the environment." Some are good, some are silly. I'm just amused at the arrogance that thinks our little actions affect the global climate.

  • Plant trees. I like trees. Trees are always a good thing, right? Well, maybe not…
  • Cut down trees. Some scientists recently advocated clearing northern forests which absorb heat that would otherwise be reflected by snow.
  • Use less toilet paper. Thanks Sheryl Crow for making Rosie O'Donnell talk about using toilet paper. Like we needed that mental image.
  • Don't mow your yard. I'm all over this one, except some experts say you should use an un-powered push mower. No thanks!
  • Don't eat meat or animal products. Cows, I guess, are not low-emission and cow flatulence is supposedly a serious danger to the planet. But if God didn't want us to eat animals, then why did he make them out of meat?
  • Don't fly on airplanes or drive SUVs. Unless you're someone important, that is. The chosen ones can go ahead and use private jets and limousines while demanding that you ride a bicycle. Can you say double standards?
  • Don't encourage third world development. Those folks are better off with their noble Stone Age lifestyle than our dirty, polluting Western ways.
  • Don't have babies. Some scientists want families to be limited to two children or less. But the replacement rate is 2.1 children per woman. The U.S. is right at 2.1 but most European countries are shrinking away with only 1 or 1.5 children per woman while countries like Somalia, Yemen, and Afghanistan are producing 6+ children per woman. Nevertheless, Western babies supposedly count as worse because they will do more damage.
  • Reduce your carbon footprint. CO2 is not quite the poison it's made out to be. More CO2 is good news for plant life; trees "breathe" it. CO2 is also not the greenhouse gas we need to be concerned about – water vapor traps many times more heat than CO2 ever will. And finally, mankind is not the largest producer of CO2. Animal life and volcanoes have produced much more.
  • Vote for secular progressive socialists. They'll save the Earth! Or at least they'll tell you how to live your life until it gets saved… however long that takes.

I actually do several "green" things: I try to save energy, fuel, and water. I recycle. I conserve. I waste not and want not. But I do these things because I want to be responsible and save money. I don't want to leave a mess for someone else to clean up. Instead I want to exercise good stewardship of God's creation. It's the reasonable thing to do.

Booster Seats at the Table of Adult Discourse

I nearly drove off the road when I heard about a recent Rasmussen poll that said 35% of Democrats believe President Bush knew about 9/11 before it happened. Another 26% weren't sure! I'm not real good at math but isn't that 61% of Democrats that are wearing tinfoil hats?

I'm appalled! I knew there were occasional conspiracy theorists out there. And I also know that Democrat vitriol and hatred for the President is completely unreasonable and unchecked. But I can't believe that there are tens of millions of adults that have so completely checked out of a reasonable discussion of the facts. Are they so cross-eyed with hostility that they can actually believe George Bush murdered or willingly allowed the murder of thousands of Americans?

I'm stunned.

Running with Lemmings

Here's a brief test of your knowledge of global warming. If you're frustrated at why some folks don't seem overly alarmed, then take this quiz and read the answers; it will help you understand.

But let's say that you won't accept this alternative view – the peer pressure is keeping you on the alarmist bandwagon. If you've swallowed the "humans are ruining the planet" bait hook, line, and sinker, then let me explain why I take issue with it.

Radical environmentalism has become a religion. It has a god, orthodoxy and heresy, prophets, sins, and a looming apocalypse. They've even begun selling indulgences (carbon credits). It's a weird self-loathing, pantheistic concoction but it's a religion nevertheless. Eco-evangelist Al Gore called global warming a "spiritual crisis" just this week. Gore's 1992 book was subtitled, "Ecology and the Human Spirit."

Any philosophy or religion that is so militantly bound by dogma will be a danger to our liberties. It will seep into the lives of every person, punishing us for our sins and insisting on our devotion.

Sorry but the science isn't there. Global warming is caused by the sun and other factors outside of our control and the planet has been steadily warming since the dawn of recorded history. Warming has been "normal" for some 5,000 years; it keeps the glaciers from covering the continent again. It's the next ice age we should be concerned about.

The facts show that warming in the last few decades has been negligible and the temperature has changed more dramatically, both hotter and cooler, in periods of history when the human population had little or no effect on global climate. Humans just don't play a major role on the global stage, so why make costly decisions without proof?

A lot of people want and/or need a global warming emergency, apart from any facts. Man-made climate catastrophe is a cause to rally around. In its name, private property can be seized, taxes and fines can be levied, and behavior can be controlled. Bureaucrats can view global warming as job security. Scientists can secure funding and esteem by toeing the line of orthodoxy. Celebrities and politicians can ride to the rescue of the masses by stirring up and then appealing to their fears. Socialists can subvert capitalism, democracy, and civil liberties in the name of the greater good. Other countries can endorse the solution knowing it is going to hurt America first and foremost.

[Thanks Jim R. for the heads up on the quiz.]

Monday, May 07, 2007

36,000 Hits

We passed 36,000 hits this afternoon, thanks for reading.

I'm also closing in on 1,000 posts, a milestone I'll probably pass by the end of the month or in early June.

The blog has also had visits from twenty-five different countries since April. India and Estonia were the most recent additions to the list today.

The traffic has slowed down a touch this last week or two but I'm glad you've stopped by to read the latest and hope you've enjoyed my ramblings. And thanks especially for posting comments – it makes everything so much more interactive.

My Four Amigos

The other day I taped Three Amigos (1986), a silly comedy I hadn't seen in several years but had renewed interest in because I had recently watched Seven Samurai (1954). Click here to read my comments on that classic movie.

The version I had taped was well-edited for content and I felt safe watching while the boys ran around. And sure enough they sat down and liked it! The boys are still at the stage where they hide their faces during a kiss, but they love the slapstick comedy. Tanner especially liked the musical scene with the animals and the scene with the singing bush and invisible swordsman. It was an unplanned occurrence of something I intend to do a lot in coming years, the "Altic Film School."

As the boys become mature enough, I'll introduce them to classic cinema (and literature). With all the mindless fluff out there they'll probably watch, there are certain movies (and books) that I want them to be exposed to and will watch with them. While they're young it will include classics like The Wizard of Oz (1939), The Sound of Music (1965), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), George C. Scott's version of A Christmas Carol (1984), and others. We tried a few months ago to get the boys to watch Treasure Island (1950) but they didn't like it near as much as the animated Treasure Planet (2002). Go figure.

As they get older (much older), war movies and serious dramas will be included as well as more difficult literature. I'm already collecting a good library of Shakespeare, JRR Tolkien, and CS Lewis with them in mind.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Seis De Mayo

Normally, I'm all about Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that celebrates a French defeat. But this year, I'm in a Francophile kind of mood. You see, election day in France is May 6 and the French are likely to elect Nicolas Sarkozy to be their leader.

Why, you ask, does this matter? Because Sarkozy is the pro-American, right-winger. I didn't know such a thing even existed there! Now I'll grant that being the most right-wing Frenchman is kind of like being the tallest dwarf… but I'll take what I can get. Sarkozy's conservatism is so unusual there that the French consider him liberal while the secular-progressives they call conservatives. Go figure.

Vote Sarkozy!

Viva la France!

Half the Woman She Used to Be

My mom is finally on her way home (3pm Saturday) from surgery. At one point we thought she was coming home Thursday, so Shannon and I actually canceled our plans to visit her in Omaha (in addition to good hospitals they also have a great zoo to visit). But then she got delayed and then delayed a second time and now on Saturday afternoon the doctor is finally letting her go home.

Please continue to pray for her as she continues her recovery.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friend Day '07

Our church is having Friend Day this Sunday, when we encourage the whole congregation to invite people to church on this specific day.

Although inviting people to church is a responsibility Christians should always feel, marking out one specific day seems to help. We usually spend three to five weeks planning and talking about evangelism each year in preparation for Friend Day and the attention to the issue helps.

And Friend Day itself is different. Sort of. We try to be sensitive to our guests without being "seeker-sensitive." The phrase "seeker-sensitive" has had a bad rap in years past because some churches have meant they were going to cut out the seemingly "offensive" parts of the service, i.e. the long sermons, the offerings, communion, etc.

But we're not going to engage in bait-and-switch. We'll have communion and offering and a 30-35 minute sermon and everything that we normally do. However, the content of the sermon and worship and prayer, etc. are going to be somewhat more user-friendly. We understand that on a typical Sunday, we use more Christian jargon and explore more complex issues than a typical un-churched person would be used to. We'll try to accommodate that.

So please invite someone to church on Sunday. Bring them with you and prepare to follow up with them afterwards. Communicate with me about who you brought and whether they would be interested in coming again. Find out if they have questions and let me know if I can help.

Whatever you do, don't chicken out!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Excelling at Excellence

I read an interesting little article today about why some professionals excel at what they do, while others only do the minimum or perform poorly. In a nutshell, excellence is a lot more accessible than you may think.

It comes down to three points:

1. Be consistent. Consistency is the watchword for most of life. From our jobs to our parenting, doing the right thing over and over again has a tremendous effect and will set you apart from those only do the right thing some of the time.
2. Do the basics well. Don't get enamored with shortcuts and gadgets, rather focus on the fundamentals. Isn't this what our coach always told us in youth sports? The same is true in all of life.
3. Don't major in the minors. Don't get hung up on keeping track of information that doesn't matter and no one cares about. In every job, there are a few key things that need to be known and lots of numbers that really don't matter on a day-to-day basis.

[Thanks for the heads up, Jim R.]

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Grandma's Homecoming

***EDIT: We just got word that Mom won't be home until Friday at the earliest. They're having trouble with pain management and need to check if anything serious is happening.***

My mom had surgery Tuesday in Omaha and they're sending her home tomorrow (Thursday). I would appreciate your continued prayers for her. This was a major follow up surgery with quite an extended recovery.

We had secretly planned to visit her in the hospital at the end of the week, but I guess we'll scratch those plans and just harass her at home in Platte City.

Numbers Three and Four

I thought I should post some pictures of the two little guys, Elijah and Graham. I use "little" in a relative sense, as Eli especially thunders through the house like a ton of bricks.

Watch out Batman! Graham has started walking this week, which has given him a lot more options during playtime including superhero costumes. Unfortunately masks are still a bit confusing and evil big brother, Brennan, isn't going to help.

Here's Graham getting ready to plant a header on the living room floor. The leather couch gets kind of slick with all of that drool.

Elijah does lay down for naps… at least once in a while. That's a frilled dinosaur standing next to him (thanks Dean and Cathy) and the ubiquitous cup of apple juice tucked under his arm.

We'll have to wash those hands for sure now. Even before Graham started walking he had a strange fascination with shoes. Give that kid a flip-flop and he'll play for hours. Of course he also gets fixated on drinking straws (sans drink) as well which can keep him completely occupied on jaunts around town.

Elijah and Mom look at a new birthday toy. Elijah's third birthday was last Saturday and we took him to McDonald's for a party. I know you have to fight the crowd there but a McDonald's birthday is still so much easier than at home.

Here's another shot of Eli enjoying his birthday. The little girl in the background (wearing pink) also had a birthday party the at the same time, making for a very loud and crowded evening.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Hug a Commie '07

I almost forgot that today was May Day (thanks for the reminder BlackFive). Like I've said before, if illegal aliens, leftists, communists, anarchists, and organized crime are all for it, how can it be wrong?

Right on cue, the protesters were out today, holding signs with the image of communist revolutionary Che Guevara, demanding open borders and the end to capitalism and democracy in general.

So in response I thought I'd remind you of the sharp wit of