Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Remarkable Combat Experience

Here's an incredible tale of hand-to-hand combat by a remarkable individual, David Bellavia. Of particular note is his well-articulated description of the emotions of combat. Truly amazing. Bellavia is one of the few living nominees for the Medal of Honor. Perhaps someday he will be honored with it.

Dreams From His Father

By in large, I don't subscribe to anything that smacks of a conspiracy theory, especially regarding President Obama. I don't have any hope that evidence will be found proving his lack of proper citizenship. That sounds silly to me, that we'd disqualify him on a technicality. I don't believe that he's secretly a Muslim or some kind of anti-American sleeper agent.

So when someone points out that he's the illegitimate son of an African socialist, I'm not overwhelmed.

But then I recall that President Obama's self-identifies as African and longed for a connection to his absent father. What does that mean, if anything at all? This article, written by a first generation West-African-American woman, suggests that it may be significant.

She suggests that President Obama's intellectual heritage is one that leans toward Marxism and socialism and not the democratic ideals of our nation. In the end, I don't know that this is very shocking or scandalous… in fact, I think that many Americans are firmly socialist in their politics, they just don't know enough to realize what that label means.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dead Batteries

If you had asked me a week ago about my cell phone, I would have said the best feature is the battery life. It runs for three or four days and recharges in just a few hours… until recently, that is.

After about 15 months, my LG EnV2's battery is now suddenly worthless. I can barely keep it alive for a day, and that's just making phone calls. I don't normally use the camera, games or the internet functions at all.

What's amusing is that the price for a replacement battery varies between a high of $60 and a low of $9 on various online stores. As near as I can tell, these are all brand new versions of the same battery.

So the question is… is $9 too low a threshold for giving up and a buying an iPhone?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pressfield Talks Tribalism

Here's one of my favorite authors, Steven Pressfield, giving a very educated series of short lectures on the issue of Tribes, especially as it pertains to Afghanistan.

It's fascinating and intelligent. If you're interested in sociology, history, or the military, you need to hear these lectures (in five brief episodes).

Distracted to Death

While Americans are mourning the loss of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, and Michael Jackson, the House is passing some of the largest taxes in American History.

When candidate Obama promised the 95% of Americans wouldn't see higher taxes, he didn't mention that you'd pay thousands of dollars in higher energy bills when he taxed the snot out of your electric company. All of this in the name of global warming climate change, which is little more than a scare tactic to push big-government, anti-business socialism.

And our idiot representatives voted (again!) without reading the bill! There should be a law against voting yes on something you haven't even read.

Collectively, we're all a bunch of brainless children who want the government to take care of us, no matter what the cost. We'll get exactly what we deserve, i.e. unaffordable, unsustainable European-style socialism.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Michael Bay Is Twelve Years Old

I read one reviewer who said that nothing's easier than driving through the plot holes of a Michael Bay film, so I won't belabor the point. But here's an interview I did with myself early this morning:

Me: So, Jared, what're you up to?

Myself: I'm driving back from watching Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.

Me: Isn't it like 3:30 in the morning?!

Myself: Yes, it was "midnight" showing. My friend Mike took me to a sold-out showing (you're the greatest, Mike!).

Me: So what was the film about?

Myself: I'm really not sure. It was a real challenge to follow what was happening to whom and why? I'm just not sure. But robots were fighting each other and military stuff was blowing up. There was a lot of that; very loud and explosive. In fact, I'd say it was about a two and half hour long explosion… with robots. Oh, and Michael Bay isn't good with geography, so just ignore any information related to an actual location; you won't need it anyway.

Me: Were the robots convincing?

Myself: Still not sure… but they were impressive. But most of the time it was a closeup of one silver robot wrestling with another silver robot and you couldn't tell which was which.

Me: Was it kid-friendly?

Myself: Not unless you like your grade-schooler cussing and lusting after half-naked coeds like a frat boy. If mom and dad are okay with exposure to that stuff, then yeah, this movie is perfect for the pre-adolescent mind. My theory is that Michael Bay is himself only about 12 or 13 years old and makes his movies with those sensibilities.

Me: So were you embarrassed to see it?

Myself: I was okay with leaving under the cover of darkness. With sunglasses. And a hoodie.

Me: Do you recommend it?

Myself: An edited version with less cursing and less slow-motion, half-naked girlfriends would be a really fun movie experience. It was so close, but NOT family friendly to the 12 and under crowd. It was a midnight showing of a PG-13 movie, yet parents were there with little kids. *sigh*

Me: Get some sleep. Thanks for the heads up.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Jon & Kate Trainwreck

I've watched most of the episodes of "Jon & Kate Plus Eight." This interesting show has morphed from a show about a dysfunctional couple with eight small children into a series of commercials and promos for other TLC shows and sponsors. But now they've hit the ratings jackpot (almost 11 million viewers last night) by announcing that Jon and Kate are divorcing.

Jon & Kate have always frustrated me with the way they've acted. Kate treats Jon like a child and Jon often acted as one. As a minister, I saw an urgent need for counseling four years ago and this only got worse with each new season. I've actually quit watching certain episodes because I couldn't stomach the sight of how these adults were treating each other.

Here's a great article about the issue from Crosswalk.com: Jon and Kate, It's Not Too Late.

In my book, if Jon is choosing to leave then he's in the wrong. He is selfishly choosing to break his marriage vows (which perhaps he's already broken if rumors are true). But if Jon has crossed the line, then Kate drove him 99% of the way there. You just can't publicly humiliate and emasculate a man like she does unapologetically. You can't talk down to him and control him and make him quit his job and take orders like that. Jon never stood up for himself until he finally stood up and divorced her.

And if I hear either of them justify their actions by saying their doing everything "for the kids," I'm going to go apoplectic. If you were thinking solely of the kids, you wouldn't have invited a television crew into your home, making yourselves a public spectacle. Now Jon and Kate are accused of exploiting their children and ruining their lives in the pursuit of fame and celebrity (and $70,000 per episode). And no matter how you cut it, a divorce is not "good" for these small children.

Random Thoughts 6/23/09

  • Father's Day was last Sunday and I'm still incredibly thankful for my Dad. I'll still feel that way next week. And the week after. No one in my life has ever been so consistently unselfish and servant-natured.
  • The TV show "Heroes" is now dead to me. Writer Bryan Fuller, who wrote the best parts of season one and season three, has left the show again. Fuller is under contract to develop new series for NBC and will not have a day-to-day involvement in "Heroes." It's too bad, there was so much potential for that show.
  • Hmmm… I think the luster is coming off our President. If he bankrupts us and fails to deal with Iran and North Korea, these numbers are going to get worse.
  • Excellent article here about why the North Koreans are so crazy. Maybe they want to get themselves bombed.
  • Did you like the HBO mini-series "Band of Brothers"? Tom Hanks and Steven Speilberg are doing a companion series called "The Pacific." It's due out in March 2010 and it looks like it'll be pretty good. So far it's shaping up to be the most expensive series ever produced for television and one of the more expensive movies made.
  • It's good working with Chris at the church office. He stays on task and works hard.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Beginning a New Chapter

Today was the first day at work with our new youth minister, Chris Coker.

We moved him into his office this morning, did some calling this afternoon, and generally helped to get his feet under him. That said, Chris is a remarkably organized and eager to work. He has given me a wonderful first impression by walking in the first day with new schedules and lesson plans already written. He even has service projects planned and a youth group t-shirt designed online. How impressive!

I feel like Chris will help bring out the administrative side of me. In some ways I'm super-organized but in other ways I procrastinate or get overwhelmed. Working with Chris ought to help me apply more structure to the work I do at the church. In ministry you really need to be a self-starter and Chris has this in spades.

Already I can see the wisdom in hiring an experienced 31-year-old youth minister vs. an inexperienced 21-year-old. Chris knows what he's doing and he's done it before. It seems like this might be a really smart move for our church family.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ad Hoc Camp Worship Teams

I want to thank our worship team from last week's camp. We had lost our two main worship leaders from previous camp seasons, which required several inexperienced volunteers to step up and fill the gap.

And after two weeks, they've done a great job!

In this picture, you can see most of my Jr. High Camp worship team: two high school guys and two moms (with baby!) leading worship in chapel (I also had a college age piano player hiding in the background).

These folks worked really hard to fill a void and their ministry helped us all so much! I'm really proud of the work they've done and I'm tremendously thankful for them.

Thanks worship team!

Asleep At Home At Last

We returned from church camp yesterday in a state of exhaustion. I immediately took an hour nap and later slept like a log through the night. Anneliese beat us all and slept 15 hours straight, though the rest of us weren't that far behind.

Church camp seemed to go really well. We had a slightly smaller number of campers this year, but I had a larger, more experienced staff than usual, so the staff-to-camper ratio was fantastic. We struggled with a series of lightning storms that beleaguered us all week but overall, the program went just as we wanted it to.

It's not unusual for me to go to bed at camp around 1am each night and get up at 6:30am. This isn't that bad, except that camp involves a lot more activity, and when I'm the dean/evangelist, a lot more stress and emotional expenditure. Five sermons and a thousand questions later, I'm pretty tuckered out.

Since returning home and getting some rest, I've been sifting through my mail and messages, trying to get my bearings and return to my normal routine. I just need to wake up first.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday's Camp Devotion

Here's the last one:

"Hearing God's Call"
by Jared Altic

When I was little boy my preacher said to me, "Jared, you're going to become a preacher some day." I wasn't impressed,"how about not?" I would mumble to myself. I wanted to be an aerospace engineer or perhaps a doctor. I had all kinds of ideas that were infinitely better than becoming a minister!

But the words of that old preacher rang in my ears for years as I grew up. By the time I was in High School, I knew I needed to make a decision about what I was going to do with my life. I felt this nagging desire in my heart. It wasn't good enough that other people would go into ministry–maybe God wanted me to go. I had lots of other options but could I be happy with any of them if I didn't do what God wanted me to do?

Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet that lived about the same time as Ezekiel. When Ezekiel and Daniel were captured and taken to Babylon, the older prophet, Jeremiah, was left behind in Jerusalem. When Jeremiah was younger God called him to serve as a prophet.

Read Jeremiah 1:4-8

Why did Jeremiah object to God wanting him to be a prophet? How did God respond?

God had a difficult mission for Jeremiah. Just as Ezekiel was told that the people would be stubborn and difficult, Jeremiah is told that his audience will fight him and resist his message.

Read Jeremiah 1:17-19

God gives us the strength to serve him. Even if we're young or if we can't speak well. If God has chosen you to speak his Word, then he'll provide what you need to get the job done. Don't resist God's call to serve him because you're frightened. Don't resist his call because you don't have enough money for college. Don't resist the Call of the Lord because your parents want you to have a different career. Pray that God will give you the courage to follow Him no matter what obstacles you encounter.

What else matters?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

No Devos Today

I forgot to ask permission to post Barry's devotions that he wrote for camp. They're quite good. But today's and tomorrow's devotions will have to be posted at a later date, perhaps when I return from camp on Friday.

By the way, I have presumably already passed 94,000 hits but I'll check for sure on Friday.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tuesday Camp Devotion

Here's Tuesday's devo:

"Where the Blame Falls"
by Jared Altic

The details are a bit fuzzy, but I'm pretty sure that a few of my ancestors were criminals and lawbreakers. There have been a few people in history with my last name that did things too shameful to be written down here. It's embarrassing and I'd hate to be linked to the shameful things they've done.

We tell people who have been abused, "It's not your fault." But many people blame themselves for the suffering. They feel ashamed and say, "It is my fault; I deserve to be mistreated." Likewise, parents sometimes blame themselves when their children commit horrible crimes, asking, "Where did I go wrong?" When a relative does something horrible it seems to taint the whole family. Can you imagine having Adolf Hitler as your uncle? Or being the sibling of a serial killer?

There may in fact be times when one person might share the blame for the actions of another, but who is really responsible? Who should take the blame? Who should have to pay in God's eyes? According to Ezekiel 18:19, 20, the person who sins is the one who pays the consequences.

How does that make you feel to know that God doesn't blame you personally for the sins committed in your family, or town, or nation? How do you think God should treat the people who have done horrible things in your life?

Read Ezekiel 18:26-32

God wants everyone to repent; does this surprise you? If the worst sinner turns back to God (repents), then they'll live! God accomplishes this through Jesus Christ. What wonderful news! The sins of other people are not yours to pay; only your own sins will count against you. But even the very worst of these sins can be taken away too. All of our sins can be forgiven because Jesus paid the price for them.

Pray that God helps you to be as forgiving of others as He is. Read Matthew 6:14,15.

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? No one can become a Christian without repenting of the wrong things he or she has done. God offers us forgiveness if we are willing to take it, but to be free of the blame we need to repent.

Note: The reference to shameful pasts include at least two Altic women who ran brothels. There's also some references to moonshiners in Virginia. These are distant relatives with direct connection, but who knows what else is out there.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Camp Devotion

Here's today's devotion we'll be reading at church camp:

"What kind of person will you be?"
by Jared Altic

Imagine living in a time and place where no one did what what was right and almost everyone you knew did not believe in God. What kind of person would you be?

When Ezekiel was captured and taken to Babylon, he found himself surrounded by people who didn't believe in the one true God. The Jewish people were mostly unbelieving–this is why God allowed them to be captured–and the Babylonians believed in a large number of false gods. The godlessness of Babylonian society must have made it very difficult to be a good, honest person, faithful to the one true God. Ezekiel's friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were put in a particularly difficult spot.

Read Daniel 3:1-12

The king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzer, built a statue to be worshipped. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who were part of the group of officials present that day, knew that worshipping a false idol is a terrible sin. To refuse to worship the statue meant being thrown into a hot furnace used for melting metal. What would they do?

Read Daniel 3:13-30

The three young men chose to risk death, rather than sin against God. No one was there to support them or encourage them and the other people must have thought they were insane to throw their lives away! Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego believed God would rescue them, but they were also confident that they were doing the right thing, even if God did not rescue them (re-read verse 18). They were alone in what they believed but they were firm in their convictions.

Take this time to pray about the decisions you make. What does the world want you to do? What does God want for you? Pray that God will give you courage to stand for him even if you stand alone.

Friday, June 12, 2009

And That Would Be A Spade

Jon Voight calls our President a false prophet… and it's hard not to stand up and applaud.

I love the roll call here–it sounds like he's reading the names off my book shelf, or my browser history. Great speech.

Random Thoughts 6/12/09

  • We're getting ready for church camp. I love camp and the work that we do there. But at the same time, the stress involved with the administrative part of doing camp has me just about worn out. I long for the days when I could just show up and "do camp."
  • The G.I. Joe film, set to release this August, has purportedly tested as the worst film in Paramount history. The director is Stephen Sommers, who wrote and directed the The Mummy (1999) but hasn't done much since (other than five more Mummy-related films). Rumors are that Sommers was fired and locked-out of the editing room. As a childhood fan of the G.I. Joe franchise, my opinion is that the trailers for the film look unfamiliar, corny, and unwatchable. It looks like some hack came and ruined a beloved property, which makes the rumors easy to believe.
  • On a brighter film note, director Guillermo del Toro has confirmed that Hugo Weaving (Elrond), Andy Serkis (Gollum) and Ian McKellen (Gandalf) will reprise their roles in the upcoming Hobbit. The Hobbit is set to open a year from December.
  • Geek Dad suggests 10 Tips for Turning Your Kids into Trekkies.
  • Best article I've read in a long time on the decline of America: Read Mark Steyn here.
  • We're getting very close to hiring a new Youth Minister. The Elders have been working on this since last November (7 months!) but now there's lots of movement toward getting somebody in place. I won't introduce him now–it's not formally finalized yet–but I'm so happy that it looks imminent! Technically, we've never had a youth minister at WCCC, as all the former staff have taken their turns doing youth ministry part-time. But now… let's just say I'm really looking forward to it!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vote Early, Vote Often

Iran is going to have its presidential elections this week, where they'll have their pick of fanatical madmen. If Ahmedinejad gets re-elected, I fear that Israel (and any semblance of world peace) is in real trouble. Perhaps our President can help the hard-line genocidal nut jobs understand each other.

For the geographically-challenged: remember that Iraq and our troops are directly between Iran and Israel.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The New Wide-Screen Blog

My new template for my blog has now gone live.

*waits for applause to subside*

It's mostly the same, just wider (150 pixels or so). It has a few new features and capabilities, as my old template was encoded probably five or six years ago and lacked some more modern features. It's also free of my amateurish html hacks that held my blog together with virtual duct tape and bailing wire. The look is a little more modern and a little less Art Deco/Streamline Moderne, which I never cared for anyway.

Colbert Repor-ing from Iraq

If you're going to catch this week's episodes of "the Colbert Report" from Iraq, don't forget that you can watch them on Hulu.com for the next 30 days.

It's worth watching, I mean if you like seeing the President order a 4-star general to shave the head of television celebrity. You don't see that every day.

I don't normally watch Stephen Colbert, but he's pretty funny here and it's great that he's working the USO to do this for the troops. Someone said that this is the first American television show to be produced and air from a combat zone. Pretty cool.

A Successful Reboot of a Franchise

Dustin called me last night at 10:15–just about the only person I know who routinely calls me that late at night–to tell me he'd just watched the latest Star Trek movie.

And he liked it!

Unlike me, Dustin has not watched much Star Trek and was relatively uninitiated. But he thought it was just a really good movie. And it is! Surprisingly good.

The public agrees: the current Star Trek movie has already made more money than the last three Star Trek films.

Rep Forbes Gives a History Lesson

Is America a Christian nation, founded on Judeo-Christian values?

Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA) sets us straight.

[Thanks, Sue D.]

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

What Are You Looking At?

This is what people are watching in church these days instead of listening to the sermons.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Apple News Galore

All computers crash, get quirky, and eventually die on you. In my opinion, the Macs I've used over the last 20 years are just better quality machines, with significantly fewer problems, then the Windows machines that surround me. Designed better, built better, easier to use.

For instance, we have cheap PC in the soundbooth at church, which is relatively new but has been acting up on us. I've never had a Mac that was as unreliable at this thing. On the other hand, the PC was cheap, and fixing it will probably be pretty cheap too.

That said, the image of Macs being expensive is not entirely true anymore. Apple doesn't make cheap low-end machines. Their cheapest Macs are more mid-range, which are priced about the same as the mid-level Dell machines I see in the Dell catalog.

In the end, I'm a diehard Mac geek. So all the cool gadget news today is irresistible to me.

  • iPhones get upgraded this month. Lots of new features are included in the update, some of which have been desired since the iPhone first came out. This sinches it for me. As soon as I'm out of my Verizon contract, Shannon and I are switching to AT&T and the iPhone.
  • The current iPhone 3G is dropping to $99. These things are finally getting affordable for those of us with kids to feed. There's also a new model of iPhone being released.
  • Snow Leopard (10.6), the next Mac OS, will come out in September. I've been waiting for this one. My computers run Tiger (10.4) and I've been longing for an upgrade. This one's cheaper than usual and for customers like me it's bundled with new versions of all the other great Mac software.
  • OS X users now number 75 million, according to this mornings report from Apple, and thanks largely to the iPhone. Pretty good for a company that used to cater to only 4 or 5% of computer users in the U.S.
  • A new version of Safari (4), Apple's web browser has been released. I use a mix of Safari 3 and Firefox 3.
  • All of the laptops for Apple got improvements this week. I use a MacBook at work which I have absolutely loved. I want to make it last another year or more if possible.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Medal of Honor Documentary

If you only ever watch one thing on Hulu.com, this PBS documentary, produced by Ken Burns, would be a worthwhile use of your time. It's perhaps the best documentary on the subject of the Medal of Honor I've ever seen, and seen more than a handful. It's diverse, detailed, moving, and a superlative documentary in every way.

Watch "Medal of Honor" at Hulu.com. Running time: 1 hr 26 min.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

More Weird Al

I was riding in a small pickup truck down a narrow mountain street in Baguio City, Philippines, looking through the missionary's cassette tape selection.

"What's this? Weird Al Yankovic?"

The missionary looked stunned for a moment, recovered, and then gave me a 20-minute lecture on the genius that is Weird Al. Weird Al is obviously not only a comedy genius but a musical genius as well.

Years later, I completely agree.

Here's a great Star Wars parody to the tune of "American Pie."

But this is one of my favorites in the too-close-to-home category.

[Thanks Dustin]

Random Thoughts 6/4/09

  • Tetris, the Russian-designed video game, turns 25 on Saturday.
  • Saturday (June 6) is also the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings.
  • Hulu may begin charging for its content. Hulu.com has been a great resource for watching old and new television shows and even catching an occasional movie for free. Shannon and I have caught episodes of shows that were preempted for severe weather reports or that we just missed for some reason or another.
  • Our President is embarrassing – and he's supposed to be the smart, professorial one – he said the U.S. is "one of the largest Muslim nations in the world." Really?! We're barely in the top-40. Right now, about 1% of Americans are Muslim and countries such as France, China, Russia, Germany, and the Philippines all have more muslims. As the Weekly Standard notes, "Actually, if you look at the number of Jewish Americans, we'd be the largest Jewish country in the world after Israel. And America is the largest Christian country in the world. This context might be useful to the president as he tries to help the Muslim world better understand the United States."
  • Two popular fads that I don't think have enough life in them to warrant signing up: Twitter and Facebook.
  • Sony gave yet another impressive tech demonstration. Their motion-control demo was really something.
  • Today is the 20th anniverasary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Thousands of Chinese students protesting for democracy were killed by the government.

Needing a Nap

I need a nap. In fact, I've felt like I needed a nap every day this week. I feel like I'm sleeping well, but almost every afternoon I'm left groggy and nodding off as I work.

VBS is this week and we've had a lot to do at home but I still don't feel like I should be so sleepy. Maybe I'm just getting old…

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Beam Me Up

Shannon and I went to the theater for our anniversary and saw Star Trek

…and it was really good.

I'm stunned. I just didn't think the franchise had it anymore. There have been so many mediocre Star Trek movies, but this one might be as good as Wrath of Khan or First Contact. It's that good.

I love that they didn't hit the reset button at the end of the movie. Star Trek has often been guilty of undoing the consequences of the show's plot with some contrived plot device. This movie blows up an important planet and leaves it that way. Wow.

I also love that they did manage to reset the whole franchise with an excellent explanation of how and why. Surprisingly, there will be absolutely no continuity conflict with anything they want to do now in future films; very clever.

The new cast is nearly perfect (better than the original?). The special effects were superb. The humor was great. Star Trek is a good movie.

Monday, June 01, 2009

93,000 Hits

Thanks for reading. We've reached 93,000 hits.

I hope you enjoy the (random?) links to past blog posts. They're supposed to be relevant links but…

Happy 13th Anniversary

To my beautiful wife: Thank you for 13 wonderful years. You're the only woman I've ever loved.

PS - Sorry we ended up at McDonald's last night but, hey, we have five kids.

Two Wrongs

The infamous abortion doctor George Tiller, of Wichita, was murdered yesterday.

And believe it or not, this is bad news to the pro-life movement.

Tiller was infamous for his late-term abortions, which are little more than infanticide. But by murdering him, the pro-life cause may be seriously set back. The goal is to convince our society that abortion is a terrible, terrible evil in the world. Instead, a more tangible evil – the murderous gunman who assassinated Tiller in a church – is on display and the pro-life crowd will likely be associated with this violence in the minds of many.

This kind of violence could actually lead to more abortions during the administration of a pro-abortion president.

Murder is wrong. It's wrong when it happens in the abortion clinics of Kansas, just as it was wrong on Sunday in Wichita.