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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Anne's Website

The picture on my heading and others from time to time are works of Anne Littlewolf, my spiritual twin from college. She's unveiled her website and it's really nice. Click here and take a look.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Scott Horton at his No Comment Blog. Has a six question interview with Eric Metaxas who has a new biography on Deitrich Bonhoffer (picture) entitled Bonhoffer, Pastor, Prophet, Martyr, Spy. Of all the theologians studied when I was at Wayland and later Seminary he was top of the list. When I was teaching on the unit of WWII I had my students choose a person from a long list and they had to do an oral report. Most of the students that chose the political leaders or generals went through the motions, but the ones who chose Bonhoffer were always affected and thanked me for having him on the list.
The first book of his I bought was a collection of his sermons No Rusty Swords. His thoughts resonate today as strongly as they did seventy and eighty years ago. Truly a worth man for a new biography and thanks to Horton and Metaxas for bring his name back into a generation that might have forgotten his thoughts and sacrifice in fighting against Hitler and the Nazi's. Other books by Bonhoffer: Cost of Discipleship and Letters From Prison.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

An experience

I promised 8 year old grandson here for a couple of weeks I'd take him to the golf course. 5 year old grandson wanted to go too. I thought we head out around ten this morning, but it was snowing. I took them to Mickey D's to play in the hamster tunnels and let them have happy meals. Around two in the afternoon the sun came out and it warmed up. So here I am with two kids, two putters and a bucket of balls trying to teach them how to putt. The older one got the hang of it and I let him out on the practice green. The younger one I stayed with on the taller grass just getting him to hit the ball.
Younger one wanted to see the ducks, actually they were around a hundred geese munching on the 1st and 10th tee boxes. We walked over until the geese started honking and walking away. We stood and watched them from a distance until grandson decided to growl at them and they flew off about a hundred yards. I walked them over to the pond by the clubhouse and they could see the actual ducks floating.
The sun was shining, but the wind was a little brisk. We didn't stay out long, but they had fun.
The picture is Paako Ridge golf course, which is closed this time of year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Times Story

Hat tip to Bruce for alerting me to the article. I missed it.
It's not often a small Baptist college 40 miles from the nearest known sin merits an article in the New York Times. It concerns the girl's basketball team the Hutcherson Flying Queens. You have no idea the laughs have heard every time I mention that the team was known as the Flying Queens!
This article brought back many memories:
I attended WBC (now WBU) from 1972 till graduation in 1976. 1972 was Harley Reddin's last year to coach the Queens. Talk about a retirement send off. As the article mentions he coached the team to 131 consecutive victories. What it left out was his famous last timeout comments he gave to the team a few seconds before their defeat that ended their string. To paraphrase he told them that they had held their heads high while winning and to go out and hold their heads high in defeat. I'm glad to report that at 91 he's still alive and quoted in the Times piece.
Claude Hutchinson was the millionaire oil and ranch man who sponsored the team. He flew them to their games and just before I arrived built the gymnasium for the school. I ran many miles in that building on bad weather days over the three years I ran for the team and if you know that part of the country they have many bad weather days. It had a rubberized playing court supposedly intended to minimize shin splits. When I went back for my 20th reunion it had a wood floor and that didn't seem right.
My freshman year a few of us on the track team played a pick up game with some of the Queen Bees (JV team). We got waxed. Too bad there wasn't a three point line because the first thing I learned about women's basketball (Albuquerque didn't have this as it was before Title IX) is that they can swish from the mid-court line. There is no defending them! I never made that mistake again. One ego bruising was enough.
I dated a Queen and I can remember how happy she was to be playing by Men's rules at the college level. A few weeks later I joined a basketball official's squad and had to learn high school women's rules. Talk about stupid. Three girls on each side of the half court line, they couldn't cross over, only three dribbles before a shot or pass. The seasoned officials did warn us newby's about toss ups. Guys do a vertical jump, girls swing their arms out to get momentum before a jump and many a man stayed put too long after tossing the ball up and got a fist in the groin. I made sure to back out quick. I only officiated a few women's games and didn't like them. Mostly I did 7th and 8th grade boys games. The one thing I noticed was that 7th grade girls were better than 7th grade boys. 12-13 year old boys for the most part have a hard time with coordination. 8th grade boys and 8th grade girls were pretty even. In 9th grade girls were through puberty and plateaued. 9th grade boys were four to six inches taller than the girls and much much quicker and stronger.
My sophomore year the Queens held a tournament the week before school started. They had a Thanksgiving tournament and Christmas tournament. They hosted a spring break tournament, won the WAAU national championship and played an exhibition game against the Russian touring team the week after school let out. The Russians had a girl 6'8" poor Pearl Worrell was our tallest at 6'1". My junior year they had a whole new team and were never the same after that.
There were only three top notch women's teams in the country then. Wayland, Delta State and Immaculata. We had a joke which I've heard elsewhere: There are three things which should be done in the dark; Sex, kick the can and women's basketball. Most of the teams the Queens played were horrible. They'd win by sixty or more points. It was pitiful. The coach would leave the top players in for most of the game and ride them just as hard thirty or forty points up as if they were down in points. At the time I couldn't figure this out. One of the unofficial rules of sports is that you don't run up the score. When I saw them play the other top notch teams and lose it was usually in the last few minutes where they ran out of gas and it dawned on me that he had to ride them and let them play most of the game against lesser opponents to get them ready for the few teams that could challenge them.
I only met Claude Hutchinson once. My senior year I was working in sporting goods of a Howard's department store (this was pre-Wal-Mart). He came in to buy a hunting and fishing license. Looking at his driver's license to fill out the form raised my eyebrows just a bit, and since he was over 65 the cost was 25 cents. The richest man in all of West Texas and I rang up a sale of one quarter.
Marsha Sharp was a senior my freshman year. After graduation she became an assistant coach and eventually left to take over Texas Tech's women's team winning a national championship. In many of the trips into Texas over the years we've driven through Lubbock and Marsha Sharp Avenue always catches my eye. It's not often you actually know the person a street is named after.
The article mentions that while the women were flying the men's team was riding in a bus. My first two years the cross-country and track teams traveled in a faded blue 1960 Chevrolet Suburban. We called it the Blue Goose (my sophomore year they painted it white and it became the snow goose). In back it had two facing seats with enough room to put a suitcase in the middle and we could play cards to pass the time. The seat closest to the door had a jump seat that folded up to let everyone in. We called it the rocking chair and there was always a fight over who was forced to sit on it for the trip.
We did fly my sophomore and junior years in the Hutchinson Bonanza planes to Salina Kansas for the National Cross Country championships. When we were flying back the first time coming up to Amarillo. The caprock rises up from lower plains, and I could see the small clouds between us and rising cliffs. It was beautiful. The next year we waited three hours as they tried to get one of the planes to start. They spun the propeller and sprayed ether into the carburetor and finally it started. As we were getting in I wondered if I really wanted to fly in something that obviously didn't want to work. Made it home just fine.
Bill Hardage was the coach and he flew one of the planes both times. After he retired from coaching he piloted the University's plane. He flew to San Diego three years ago to pick up a new plane for WBU. He got caught in a storm and crashed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

What is this stuff?

It's cold and white and messing everything up.

First snow of the season for us down in the valley. It's so nice now I'm retired not to have to worry about getting out in the mess. Wife was off today so she didn't have to brave the idiot drivers first thing in the morning. We spent the morning watching the last eight episodes of season 3 of Star Trek Voyager. It's nice to have stuff like that to cuddle under a blanket and relax.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Family Time

I guess we'd better enjoy the calm while we have it. Eldest grandson coming in on Saturday. Bruce is possibly coming with wife, daughter, son-in-law and baby next week. I think we'll have to go to one of the hotel banquet rooms for Christmas dinner as our houses can't handle that many people at once.
While I was busy adding 3,000 words to my story yesterday wife and daughter-in-law did some shopping. The tree is now fully complimented with presents.
I have wife's present hidden. Can't find time to wrap it and put it under the tree when she's not there. Maybe tomorrow.

Saw where Iran is upset because our Navy's official designation for the body of water separating them from Arabia is "The Arabian Sea" instead of the "Persian Gulf." The navy naturally apologized. Can anything get any stupider? Arabian Sea is used so the Saudi's don't get upset, and by the way, they are our allies while Iran is anything but friendly towards us. Even governments need to get a life.

Krugman had a great quote today. Concerning how AEI and the Cato Institute keep rewriting their history to change unpopular names: As Brad DeLong says: "I'll stop calling these people Orwellian when they stop using Nineteen Eighty Four as an operations manual."

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Hooray For Students

Remember Gomer Pyle USMC? His signature phrase: SURPRISE, SURPRISE, SURPRISE!

Someone with all those degrees after their names trying to figure out what works in the public schools had an original idea. Go to the horses mouth. Ask the students.
I've always been wary of evaluating individual teachers by the students. The most popular teachers are usually the ones that are the easiest graders and have the worst discipline. Hand it to Bill Gates and his foundation they seem to have rediscovered the wheel in education, something they could have found much easier if they had surveyed teachers instead of everyone wanting to blame the teachers and the unions for the mess. I've posted the entire article since it's not long. My next post will provide commentary.

What Works in the Classroom? Ask the Students

How useful are the views of public school students about their teachers?

Quite useful, according to preliminary results released on Friday from a $45 million research project that is intended to find new ways of distinguishing good teachers from bad.

Teachers whose students described them as skillful at maintaining classroom order, at focusing their instruction and at helping their charges learn from their mistakes are often the same teachers whose students learn the most in the course of a year, as measured by gains on standardized test scores, according to a progress report on the research.

Financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the two-year project involves scores of social scientists and some 3,000 teachers and their students in Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Denver; Hillsborough County, Fla., which includes Tampa; Memphis; New York; and Pittsburgh.

The research is part of the $335 million Gates Foundation effort to overhaul the personnel systems in those districts.

Statisticians began the effort last year by ranking all the teachers using a statistical method known as value-added modeling, which calculates how much each teacher has helped students learn based on changes in test scores from year to year.

Now researchers are looking for correlations between the value-added rankings and other measures of teacher effectiveness.

Research centering on surveys of students’ perceptions has produced some clear early results.

Thousands of students have filled out confidential questionnaires about the learning environment that their teachers create. After comparing the students’ ratings with teachers’ value-added scores, researchers have concluded that there is quite a bit of agreement.

Classrooms where a majority of students said they agreed with the statement, “Our class stays busy and doesn’t waste time,” tended to be led by teachers with high value-added scores, the report said.

The same was true for teachers whose students agreed with the statements, “In this class, we learn to correct our mistakes,” and, “My teacher has several good ways to explain each topic that we cover in this class.”

The questionnaires were developed by Ronald Ferguson, a Harvard researcher who has been refining student surveys for more than a decade.

Few of the nation’s 15,000 public school districts systematically question students about their classroom experiences, in contrast to American colleges, many of which collect annual student evaluations to improve instruction, Dr. Ferguson said.

“Kids know effective teaching when they experience it,” he said.

“As a nation, we’ve wasted what students know about their own classroom experiences instead of using that knowledge to inform school reform efforts.”

Until recently, teacher evaluations were little more than a formality in most school systems, with the vast majority of instructors getting top ratings, often based on a principal’s superficial impressions.

But now some 20 states are overhauling their evaluation systems, and many policymakers involved in those efforts have been asking the Gates Foundation for suggestions on what measures of teacher effectiveness to use, said Vicki L. Phillips, a director of education at the foundation.

One notable early finding, Ms. Phillips said, is that teachers who incessantly drill their students to prepare for standardized tests tend to have lower value-added learning gains than those who simply work their way methodically through the key concepts of literacy and mathematics.

Teachers whose students agreed with the statement, “We spend a lot of time in this class practicing for the state test,” tended to make smaller gains on those exams than other teachers.

“Teaching to the test makes your students do worse on the tests,” Ms. Phillips said. “It turns out all that ‘drill and kill’ isn’t helpful.”

Friday, December 10, 2010

Time Off

Wednesday worked on the book in the morning. Wife had afternoon off so we had a nice lunch with Russ from Private Buffoon. I asked him loads of questions about computers that predate 1980 as much of my story is in the 60's and 70's. All in all a pleasant conversation.
Took yesterday off to relax and recharge batteries.
Good thing I did. Today wife is off and she's been running me ragged. I need the weekend to recuperate.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Story Coming Along

  • The story's gelling. Still a lot of research and writing to go. No word from the publisher on HS.
  • I've said my piece about the tax deal over at the Captain.
  • Looking forward to eldest grandson coming in for a visit. We have plans doing the river of lights and other things while he's here. Wish we had more time with him.
  • Due respect to fellow New Mexican Don Meredith. He was QB of the Cowboys when I first started watching pro football. The Icebowl game is etched forever in my memory. He kept MNF lively for many years. I never met him, but have on occasion run into Don Perkins from those teams. He will be missed.
  • Due respect for Elizabeth Edwards. Too bad she didn't have a husband that would stand by his woman.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

What happens to the little people

Decreasing the surplus population.

From NY Times today

Arizona Strikes Again

Let us revisit the matter of pulling the plug on grandma.

You may remember the historic day in 2009 when Senator Chuck Grassley brought the issue to the fore at a town meeting in Iowa. “We should not have a government plan that will pull the plug on grandma,” he said to loud cheers...

Then all hell broke loose and the Republicans kept ranting about how “Obamacare” would put the federal government between you and your doctor and try to save money by prohibiting said doctor from using the best treatments and procedures.

All this came to mind when I was talking to Flor Felix, whose husband, Francisco, a 32-year-old truck driver with four kids, was denied a liver transplant because the Arizona Legislature had yanked funds for it out of a state Medicaid program.

As Marc Lacey reported in The Times this week, Francisco had been prepped for surgery after a friend whose wife was dying asked that he be given her liver.

“It was good news when we heard the liver matched,” Flor said. “The doctor said: ‘Everything’s going well. We’re going to proceed with the surgery.’ ”

But Francisco, who has hepatitis C, had lost his health insurance when he had to stop working and had gotten coverage under the state Medicaid program. And Gov. Jan Brewer had signed a law eliminating Medicaid coverage of certain kinds of transplants as a cost-cutting measure. Flor said the next words she got from the doctor were: “You need to bring $200,000 as a deposit for the hospital.”

Francisco was summarily discharged. The Arizona state government, which is totally controlled by Republicans, got between him and his doctor.

“The state only has so much money and we can only provide so many optional kinds of care. Those were one of the options that we had taken liberty to discard,” said Governor Brewer,

Felix was one of 98 people in the transplant pipeline when the law went into effect. Arizona claims cutting them off will save $4.5 million this year. Advocates have called on Governor Brewer to use some of the state’s $185 million in federal stimulus funds to restart the procedures. Brewer, who opposed the stimulus, says all the money is gravely needed for other projects. Which she will not name.

The best possible spin to put on all this is that it was a terrible mistake. The chairman of the Arizona House Appropriations Committee, John Kavanagh, says that the lawmakers got bad information from the state Medicaid experts, who said that the transplants weren’t effective. “Based on the information I’ve received, it looks like most of them should be reinstated and we hope to do that in January,” he said.

Ironically, trying to answer questions like this is one of the great goals of the Obama health care law. “What it promises to do is attack the vast reservoirs of ignorance about relative benefits of different ways of treating different diseases to see which is most effective,” said Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution. Although, as Aaron carefully pointed out, the law steers clear of any mention of cost effectiveness. This is because Republicans in the House and Senate kept howling about death panels and plug-pulling.

But try to imagine what the Republicans would have said if someone in the Obama administration proposed cutting off liver transplants for Medicare recipients. We heard a lot from John McCain during the health care debate about how reform would restrict Medicare services. We have not heard a word yet on how McCain feels about the Arizona transplant issue. His office did not respond to inquiries about whether he approves his state’s pulling the plug on a 32-year-old father.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

123 per day

Reality Zone has a guest post that is sobering. 123 people die every day in this country that would have lived if they only had health coverage.
Our country is truly become the Tin Man. If we only had a heart.
Over 40,000 people have died this year (and it's not over yet) due to lack of health coverage. You've got yours Tea Party to hell with the little people.
Where's Jeb Bush? He spent millions in legal fees and medical costs professing the sanctity of life for a woman in a constant vegitative state. He held emergency legislative meetings to pass laws for keep her heart beating. Where's his sanctity of life for the others who had a chance at a meaningful life but were a dollar or two short?
Did all those seniors who lobbied against extending medicare for everyone (single payer system) not understand that when these 40,000 die, they stop working and don't pay anymore into the social security fund you're living on?
We are all connected here, no on is an island anymore. When people have their houses foreclosed on and lose their jobs it effects 99% of the population's standard of living. When this many people were dying from automobile accidents legislation was passed to make cars safer. Laws were passed to punish drunk drivers. Automobile accident victims had value. Why don't these 40,000? As the lady said in RZ's blog, they don't get mentioned on the news. Die in a car crash they have pictures of you car on the ten o'clock news. Die from an infected tooth because you couldn't afford to see a dentist, who cares.
Ebeneezer Scrooge is now in charge of all political parties. "Let them die and decrease the surplus population."

Nose to the grindstone

This week I've been back in the office of the lawfirm, but I'm working on my novel. My friend has graciously let me use it so I can get some work done. He has a trial coming up, but doesn't know when he'll be needing my help. Law moves slow and a trial date hasn't been set.
It's good to be out of the house and all its distrations. I'm getting thousands of words added every day. Still no word from the publisher I've sent the other novel to, so I might have to start looking for another one. I won't be using Publish America unless I absolutely have to.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sunday Question 3

How much do you decorate for Christmas?

A. The whole enchilada: Outside the house lit up like a flood light, christmas tree, stockings, wreaths, etc.

B. Medium: Some lights outside, tree and stockings.

C. Light: Just indoors

D. Zilch: as little as possible

I'm a medium sort of guy. The other guys can run up a huge light bill.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Have a safe weekend

Well wishes to all my readers for a fun and safe weekend.
Wife and I are planning to see the Harry Potter movie sometime this weekend. The kids are going to see it while we watch the grandkids. Other than that we're staying away from the crazies battling for goods that will be half the price in a few weeks.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crossed Fingers

I've sent off my manuscript of Human Sacrifices to a publisher that deals mostly in e-books. Now I'm waiting to hear back from them.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In Need of Prayer

My friend Russ and his wife are in need of prayer. Please be kind a leave a comment of support on his blog.

Sunday Question 2

What 5 songs that if you hear them you can't get out of your mind?

Mine are:

5. Amazing Grace

4. Are You Lonesome Tonight - Elvis

3. Mrs. Brown You've Got a Lovely Daughter - Herman's Hermits

2. Do You Hear The People Sing? - From Les Miserables

1. Oobla Dee Oobla Da - The Beatles This one drives me crazy!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday Question

Name five of your favorite Manly Men from TV, past or present.

1. Magnum - Magnum PI

2. Kirk - Original Star Trek

3. The Fonz - Happy Days

4. Michael Weston - Burn Notice

5. Grisham - CSI

Now it's up to my readers to comment and leave yours.

First Impressions

A few months ago I was given a book to read as a part of my legal assistance job. The book was about the importance of opening statements in trials. Hollywood seems to think trials are won in closings, but this books premise was that trials are won in opening statements.
The theory behind the premise is that people usually make up their minds quickly no matter how objective they claim to be, and that once a person has made up his/her mind concerning guilt or non-guilt it becomes very difficult to change their minds.
This was preamble as a way to explain why the general public seems to be so gullible on certain issues and why control of the main stream media is so important to dupe the general public into starting wars and voting against their economic interests. When the truth comes out it doesn't matter for the general population their minds are made up, don't confuse them with facts.
Children grow up in religous schools being told that evolution is a hoax and the world was created in six, twenty-four hour days. It becomes very hard to change their minds on the subject after that. The media declares climate change to be a hoax and the rubes eat it up no matter how much evidence to the contrary.
Thought control doesn't take brute force, just quick lies told as truth. How else do you explain the demogogues that have our governments by the throat.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Foul fortnight

I've finally feeling human. Had a cold for the last two weeks. I'd start feeling good for a day and then it would rebound. Yesterday was the first day I didn't feel like a zombie. I need to get back to working on my newest novel I didn't have the energy to do any typing, but a few plot points have popped into my head.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Boardwalk Bossism

HBO has been running a mini-series ostensibly about prohibition and gangsterism, but what I've seen so far is a political boss who gets into the rum running business. That gangsters are in embryo form at this point in the story line.
There's this great scene where boss Thomson has given money and a job to a widow, whose husband he had killed, and she asks him what he wants in return. He looks at her and says, "I want you to vote Republican."
As evil and corrupt as bossism was it was based on a quid pro quo. The boss found people jobs, places to live, health care, etc. It was chump change compared to the money they got from the kick backs and bribes their guaranteed votes garnered. The secret ballot helped end most of the excesses of bossism. The New Deal's social safety net took a lot of what the bosses doled out in favors to benefit everyone. But when all was said and done the people who sold their vote to the boss got something in return. Maybe it wasn't much, but it was better than nothing.
Today bosses don't have to help the people. They deceive them by advertising. They don't have to mingle with the little people, buy up all the media outlets, get your message out and make a fortune in campaign spending from both sides at the same time.
As horrible as it was for the Supremes to open the cash drawers of corporations on political spending, the real democratic disaster was when the FCC dropped restrictions on who could own more than a small percentage of radio and TV stations. We no longer have local Boss Thompsons. King Rupert Murdock rules America, lock stock and entertainment.

Mixed Bag

We're stuck with another governor veto, but only lost one congressional seat. I'm sure she'll invite the mouthpiece from Alaska to hunt wolves from helicopters down here to piss off environmentalists.
Hats off to Russ Sype for working tirelessly for Martin Heinrich the past two elections as a volunteer on the technical side.
Jimmy Carter in his interview with Bill Maher last week said he thought if the Republicans take control of House they'd have to start being responsible. I thing he's been a great former president a wonderful humanitarian, but is a lousy politician and even worse historian. Since 1994 the last thing the Reptilians have been is responsible. They have made an art of blaming everyone else for their mess and this election is another prime example. As Paul Krugman says, "It's always heads they win, tails you lose."

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

At Last

At last the political ads will be over. The crying begins. Watching anything but network TV tonight to avoid all the dipsticks chattering away about nothing.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Oh to be Val Kilmer

While trying to get over the cold this weekend I watched a lot of late night TV. Caught a movie entitled Double Identity with Val Kilmer and this lovely lady. Shazaam is she gorgeous. New Mexico resident, Val Kilmer is my age which means he's old enough to be her father. It must be nice to be an actor and still rate beautiful women like this as a love interest. Maybe that's why Hollywood keeps casting older actors with the twenty-somethings: so old farts like me can dream...
I forsee many more movies with this heart stopper.

Catching Up

  • I've been down with a cold for the last four days; hate the fever/chill thing. Finally feeling human.
  • This fall is a total bust favorite teamwise. Cowboys and Broncos are awful, Lobos not only can't win they lose by thirty or more points a game, and it looks like the Rangers are on the ropes in the World Series.
  • The last is kind of unusual. With the Dukes and now Isotopes being the AAA team of the Dodgers that's my usual MLB team, but the lone summer I lived in Fort Worth and was a security guard on the night shift listening to Ranger games helped make the night pass quicker. All I can hope for now is that they win tonight's game and send it back to SF.
  • Bush 41 was looking rather feeble when Jr. threw out the opening pitch yesterday. I don't think he's up to sky diving on his birthday anymore. Interesting that they sat behind the dugout to watch the game with the proletariate instead of rubbing shoulders with the hoi paloi in a luxury box.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hollywood Sweethearts 4

Once upon a time there was a silly night time soap opera named Dallas. The first season introduced me to two of the most gorgeous women alive. Forget Charlie's Angels, this show had the really hot women. Morgan Fairchild (left) as Jenna Wade and Victoria Prinicpal (right) as Pamela Ewing. Poor Patrick Duffy as Bobby who had the enviable task of choosing one over the other. The second season Morgan Fairchild was gone and Priscilla Presley would take on the role of Jenna Wade. To me the show lost a lot of its steam when the really hot blonde left.

Friday, October 22, 2010


Excerpts from School Law:

Teachers have no First Amendment free-speech protection for curricular decisions they make in the classroom, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday.

A little known fact is that the Bill of Rights only applies to the government's criminal power. Employers are not bound by them. Still when the government is the employer courts used to have a tendency to favor applying them to employees. It seems that is a thing of the past. Free speech is a part of a blanket right teachers are trying to keep known as Academic Freedom. The courts have put the last nail in the coffin on that.

The decision came in the case of an Ohio teacher whose contract was not renewed in 2002 after community controversy over reading selections she assigned to her high school English classes. These included Siddhartha , by Herman Hesse, and a unit on book censorship in which the teacher allowed students to pick books from a list of frequently challenged works, and some students chose Heather Has Two Mommies, by Leslea Newman.

What is not disputed is that these books were a part of the state adopted curriculum. The fact that parents were upset with what was assigned and the student's choices, why is their beef with the teacher and not the state curriculum committee?

"When a teacher teaches, the school system does not regulate that speech as much as it hires that speech," Sutton wrote, borrowing language from a 7th Circuit decision in a similar case. "Expression is a teacher's stock in trade, the commodity she sells to her employer in exchange for a salary. And if it is the school board that hires that speech, it can surely regulate the content of what is or is not expressed, what is expressed in other words on its behalf."

Ok judge, got the message, teach the curriculum we give you, but if parents complain you're on your own. School boards have the right to throw a teacher under the bus. Nice to make it sound better in legalese.

Is anyone in their right mind wanting to enter this profession anymore? How are we going to educate our children when the politicians, courts, parents and students have all the power and the ones with all the responsibility are treated like trash?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hollywood Sweetheart 3

Natalie Wood
Was there ever a starlet that could mesmerize by simply walking down a hallway?
Splendor in the Grass, West Side Story, This Property is Condemned, Gypsy, Love With a Perfect Stranger.
The list of fantastic movies where she graced the screen and our hearts with her presence is almost endless.
Her beauty was forever etched in my memory in Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice. Overall a dreadful movie, boring beginning, stupid quasi avante garde philosophy about being free spirits, and lame ending. There's the one scene where Natalie walks down a hallway in white turtle neck and mini skirt and I melted. Lately it's the movie has been on premium channels and I watched it again. Oh fast forward is a blessing in this movie. That scene is still as hot today as it was over forty years ago.
A life so tragically cut short.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Balloon Pictures

Here are some of the balloons that flew over the house during the balloon fiesta.

Hollywood Sweethearts 2

My heart went pitter patter for Diane Keaton in the movie Looking For Mr. Goodbar. Sexy, beautiful, smart, funny, loved working with deaf kids; too bad she liked picking up one night stands. The movie had a great cast: Richard Gere, Brian Denehy, Tuesday Weld, Richard Kiley, Levar Burton. It's not the type of movie grinnygranny appreciates because of the nudity. After I saw the movie I wanted to marry a woman just like Diane Keaton.
I know she got an oscar that year for Annie Hall, but would anyone be so pathetic that they'd want to watch Woody Allen whine non stop a second time?
I'm glad she's kept on with her career and has lately made some excellent movies; First Wive's Club, Something's Gotta Give, and others. I still find her very sexy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hollywood Sweethearts 1

The first woman I remember captivating me with her beauty was Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast At Tiffany's.
I was eight years old and didn't understand the nature Holly's line of work. I picked up the romance between her and George Peppard's character. Years later when it came out on TV I was older and had a fuller understanding of the story, but it didn't make me think any less of Ms Hepburn or Holly Golightly.
I also remember the music. Moon River is such a beautiful song that coming up fifty years later I still catch myself whistling it from time to time.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fiesta's Finished

This year we had a spectacular Balloon Fiesta. Ten days of clear calm days. Maybe once in a decade we get a stretch like this. We stopped trying to fight our way to the balloon park years ago, too much hassle. We also stopped taking picures as balloons come over our house pretty much year round.
Last Monday I dropped wifey at work and went to play with the gaggle. I turned off Academy onto San Mateo and the sky was full of balloon looking close enough that if they were apples I could reach out and pick them. Quit a sight. As I drove on Paseo to Paradise Hills a bunch of balloons were in a vacant lot inflating for one of their competitions. When I got to the golf course a couple flew over while we were getting ready to tee off.
Saturday we had our own little fiesta behind the house. The wind pattern we northeast pushing them southwest. Right over our house. Normally we get the balloon companies that sell rides taking off from Rio Rancho that come over and land on the mesa behind us not the ones from the fiesta. We recognized some of the balloons that had been on TV taking off landing behind us. There must have been a dozen of them. I took three rolls of film and am having them developed. I'll have some of them posted in a few days.


Saturday, October 09, 2010

New Deal Reality

Something Krugman said today triggered a thought.
After the Asian financial crisis of 1997-1998, it was often said that a key barrier to recovery was the uncertain state of property rights: so much debt had been run up during the boom, and there had been so many defaults in the bust, that it was no longer clear who owned anything. Plus, these countries lacked clear legal procedures, and in general suffered from insufficient rule of law. All this was said, of course, in a tone of superiority: we Americans had solved such problems. Bold face mine.

Teaching U.S. history and economics for many years the general thought about the Great Depression of the 1930's is that Hoover did nothing, FDR tried all kinds of things, but that it didn't end until WWII started. A number of the different textbooks said the same thing that the Republicans fussed that FDR was doing too much and to let "the market" correct itself, and the progressives like Huey P. Long, fussed that he wasn't doing enough. Sound familiar?
So what about the New Deal was effective?
To answer, it wasn't in stimulating the economy. The success of the New Deal was in creating a social safety net in welfare, unemployment insurance, social security and the regulation of business.
Half of FDR accomplished is working. The elderly are not being thrown under the bus yet. Their social security hasn't been raided, but give the reptilian party time and they will. Dubbya gave it his college try and got burned, but that was before the Tea Party started bringing the crazies out.
For sixty years the real success of the New Deal was the regulation of the financial community. Banks were banks, not investment firms. Wall Street couldn't make money both ways on stocks, so there was no reason to start rumors or panics to make money off a falling market.
Then Saint Reagan came to power with the mantra of getting the government off businesses backs. He deregulated the Savings and Loan industry burdening the taxpayers with a trillion dollars in bad loans to absorb when their orgy of bad loans came due. The New Deal kicked in and the mess was quickly handled and cleaned up, but the public didn't learn its lesson that deregulation was bad. Bill Clinton is just as responsible for the mess we are in as Dubbya because he's the one who signed the bill allowing wall street to profit off a falling market. Dubbya and a republican congress effectively killed all the regulations the New Deal put in place to protect the general public from getting ripped off by the banksters.
Another stimulus package will help like the last one helped some, but they are band aides only. To stop the financial bleeding we need a congress willing to stand up to the crooks running wall street and restore the rule of law in the financial sector. There can be no order in our country and society until there is order in our financial institutions. As long as banks can steal people's homes and can't show they have the right to foreclosure there is no justice.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Open Letter 1

First Letter. Second letter is at Captain's Log.

A friend of the court brief in favor of the plaintiff's in the case currently before the Supreme Court concerning demonstrations at funerals by a religious group claiming that their son or daughter died in the two wars we've been fighting for 10 years. The protesting group, a fundamentalist church from Kansas, claim that America's allowing homosexuals to live instead of being stoned to death as proscribed in scripture is the cause of America being at war resulting in these deaths.
A demonstration at such a time when the family is grieving and are at their weakest emotionally is cruel, mean spirited, in bad taste, bad mannered, and in all things considered civil repulsive. The question before the Supreme's is: does this behavior fall under protected free speech?

First and foremost, a little 9th grade civics. Although the Bill of Rights is written in absolute language, they are not absolute. ie knowingly telling a lie about someone is slander and writing that lie is libel and civil laws apply allowing for lawsuits over damages; as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes noted in a previous ruling that "Yelling 'fire' falsely in a crowded auditorium" can be construed as attempted murder and if someone is trampled to death as a result could be prosecuted as murder.
Another restriction on free speech falls under the term "fighting words," if someone says something that so offends and angers another person that offended person has the right to strike the other person and the assault would be considered justified. Punching someone in the nose for saying something disparaging about you mother, wife, sister, favorite sports team can legally be thought of as a reasonable action under the circumstances. Hey don't mess with my Cowboys!

Secondly, the right to assemble peaceably is also restricted. When a women's group wanted to protest the Master's tournament in Augusta, Georgia, it was ruled that the city had the right to require the demonstration be in a location out of sight of the course. From that precedent George W. Bush made sure any and all demonstrations protesting his military, prisoner of war, and economic policies were similarly removed from his view. The basis of the ruling was that the municipalities had the right to protect the citizenry of an unruly behavior or traffic inconvenience that could result from such demonstrations. The basis for this ruling was parade permits which most towns and city's have as ordinances.
Lastly is the "reasonable person test" as the basis for almost all interpretations of law.
Since a reasonable person could assume that someone protesting a non-causal relationship between a loved one's ultimate sacrifice for their country and the religious group wishing to get in the spotlight for claiming it was because of "Gay Rights," the said demonstration would anger and offend the grieving party both for besmirching and demeaning their loss and their sense of civic duty and patriotism concerning that loss; constituting the demonstration as "fighting words," and this could result in an altercation between the parties possibly leading to bloodshed.
The demonstrating party would not be denied their constitutional right of free speech or assembly if the municipality or cemetery, particularly a national cemetery placed a restriction on the demonstration by requiring it be held outside the vision of the grieving party. This would include major thoroughfares giving access and egress.

BTW, this reasoning could also be applied to abortion clinics. With bombings and doctor assassinations this is certainly reasonable. Recently a father threatened to kill a protester if he accosted his daughter one more time. He was arrested for verbal assault. I would love to be a legal assistant for his defense attorney. Maybe we could add some civility on this issue as well if this ruling opens up the possibility of civil action against those trying to cram their morality down everyone else's throats.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Shades of Marcus Crassus

Point 1: Marcus Crassus was the wealthiest man in Rome in his day. One of the ways he amassed his wealth was by training a group of slaves to efficiently put out house fires. He had someone start the fire, as the family ran out of the house and were looking at everything burning, he'd approach the man and offer him a low price on the house. The pater familias or head of the house about to lose everything would accept his offer and then he'd signal his men to put out the fire. With a few small repairs he'd then sell the house and make a rather tidy profit.

Point 2: Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered in New York City in 1969 while around 40 of her neighbors stood at their windows and watched and did nothing, not even phoning the police. Psychologists now have a name for this: it's calle by-stander syndrome. In effect everyone thinks the other guy is going to call or do something and at the same time morbid curiosity and voyeurism take over.

Point 3: A house burned down with the fire department refusing to do their job because the family had not paid their $75.00 fee. The talking heads on the news instead of castigating and being upset over this are actually defending the fire fighters. For video and other links on this clicke

Questions that come to mind:
A. How corrupt have we become that this could happen and it would be defended on national news outlets and those who speak for one of the two major political parties?
B. Could this be the wake up call that those who are choosing to throw their vote away (by not voting) finally get what's happening and vote even if they don't like their choice?
C. Have we as a people and a nation become so cold and callous that the Mafia mindset is now the prevailing philosophy? Mario Puzo's explanation for all the murder and mayhem in The Godfather: "It's just business."

Final thought:
Isn't deregulation fun?

Friday, October 01, 2010

Someone With A Brain

I'm now a retired teacher. Over the years I've posted ad naseum about the stupidity of evaluating a teacher based on test scores and the other imbecilities those in power have done to destroy the public schools. I have two grandchildren in public school and another one that will start in a few years. They deserve better than what our leaders are giving them.
Here's someone else who understands the carnage happening to our children's future.

Diane Ravich: This is only her conclusion, read the entire article. It's sanity at it's finest in an insane political world.

None of the current remedies now embraced by the Obama administration, the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the GOP, Davis Guggenheim, or other so-called reformers will improve education. Making war on teachers and principals is ridiculous, outrageous. None of the people at the foundations or in the policymaking circles work as hard as the average teacher, face as many challenges every day, for as little pay. None of the pundits who blithely denounce teachers would work 20 years with the hope of getting a salary (today) of $52,000.

No nation in the world—certainly not Finland—has improved its education system by belittling and firing teachers and principals.

People who know nothing about education and whose ideas have no basis in research or practice are calling the shots. Left to their own devices, they will destroy public education. They have already demoralized our nation's teachers. Eventually, their bad ideas will fail, because they are wrong.

Diane Ravitch is a historian of education and author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (Basic Books, 2010).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Who's Number 1

Wade Burleson posted a quote by John Calvin concerning women:

"As far as the external connections and social propriety are concerned, the man takes his lead from Christ, and the woman from the man, so that they do not stand on the same level, but this inequality exists ... Because he is made subject to Christ and that includes the condition that he take first place in the control of the household and its affairs. For in his home the father of the family is like a king... The man is in authority, and the woman is in subjection to him ... In I Tim. 2:12 he debars women from speaking in church altogether ... because of the pre-eminence which God has given to the man, so that he might be superior to the woman ... The woman took her origin from the man, and that therefore she has a lower standing ... The woman was created for the express purpose of greatly enriching the man's life ... Paul looks higher, viz. to the eternal law of God, which had made the female sex subject to the authority of men. Therefore all women are born to submit to the pre-eminence of the male sex ... Let the man therefore carry out his function as the head, having supremacy over her; let the woman perform her function as the body, giving help to him ... Let the woman be content in her position for subjection, and not feel indignant because she has to play second fiddle to the superior sex"(translated by John W. Frazer, Eerdmans, 1996, pp. 229ff.).

Not surprising coming from a man who had Michael Servetus burned at the stake for disagreeing with him and set up a theological police state in Geneva he thought to be heaven on Earth.

The biggest problem with the Moral Mafia is that Calvin's Commentaries are how they interpret the Bible. Earlier versions of Calvinist's hanged and burned those who disagreed with them right here in the New World. Puritans were Calvinists, and their oppressive and repugnant behavior in the 1600 and 1700's led to the first amendment's two clauses prohibiting a state sponsored church and restrictions on worship.

The chosen frozen inserted this version of Calvin's doctrine into the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message Statement: Section XVIII The Family

The husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image. The marriage relationship models the way God relates to His people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation. Bold face mine, used for emphasis.

At least in this day and age the Moral Mafia recognize equality of salvation, just not equality in marriage.

Charles Dickens had a take on this thought in his book Oliver Twist. When the orphanage director was told that he could go to jail for the theft of a locket his wife had taken, because he was by law to control his wife. The man replies: "Then the law is a bachelor."

The passive/aggressive response is: If Momma's not happy, nobody's happy.

There are only a couple of ways that Calvin's and the 2000 BFM view of a marriage can become a reality:

1. The man becomes a tyrant. There are many ways a spouse, as women can play this game too, exerts control over the other person: refusing to let the wife work outside the home, learning to drive, keeping her pregnant and raising numerous children, breaking all ties with family and friends, being jealous if she so much as looks at another person, constantly putting her down as ugly, stupid, incompetent and lastly sexual and physical abuse. If you follow Calvin and The BFM to its logical conclusion women are to be treated like children and kept dependent all their lives either by their father or husband. In essence they are property. Not all men use religion to justify being tyrants, but I don't believe God approves of this behavior because it deprives the woman of the one thing God has instilled in all humans: Free Will.

2. Brainwashing. Ever seen at the blank stare of the women taken out of polygamous cults? Homeschool young men and women to believe this is God's will, cocoon them from the rest of society and they won't know there is another way.

The Bible does have one word that describes marriage better than the dictates of Calvin. That word is "helpmeet." The couple, as single sex couples would apply here too, help meet each others needs. It's not top down in structure it's team work. Anyone who's been a parent and worked as a team with three o'clock feedings and changing diapers understands this. Someone in a marriage of men's work/women's work cannot understand first the joy of those feedings and bonding with the child while they are helpless and the love and respect a woman feels for the man helping her. If all the man's job is to bring home the bacon and her job is to take care of the kids; the love and respect is gone as she's just a servant and he's only a walking wallet.

Living with another person for forty or fifty years is bloody hard work. Making those years mostly happy and fulfilling instead of pure torture works if: The woman truly admires and respects her husband. The problem here is that this is not a "God given responsibility" it has to be earned, not demanded or taken. The only way in a long term relationship that a woman will admire and respect her husband is if he admires and respects her. It's reciprocal. Its equality not dominant/submissive or divinely imposed. They willingly meet each other's needs

Friday, September 24, 2010

In The Garage

The weather is getting cooler, but still nice with Grinnygranny at work the garage is empty so yesterday I opened up the outer door, set up the computer and tried to work on my writing. I actually got quite a bit done, but then Daniel went out to wait for the school bus and everyone in the house thought it was nice out there too and that shot down any more work. Still while the weather's this nice I'll be spending more time out there.

I have a guilty secret to confess. I've started watching Ally McBeal. When it was on the network I never bothered with it. Some of the episodes are rather blah or only have one good laugh, but the one with Barry Manilow had me laughing the whole show. Another episode was a three hanky tear jerker. It's nice that they're still around to be seen.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Jumbled Thoughts

Was given a link to this site by a friend, Astronomy picture of the day, it's awesome.

It's nice that Wade Burleson is back to blogging, though it does get him into trouble. His post here is the best explanation I've encountered that deals with Paul's statement about women being silent in the church.

It's greatly appreciated that Michael Manning has his computer back and is posting comments again. It's nice to have someone respond to what I say. He posted an interview with David M. Bailey that is interesting and heart wrenching. Our prayers go with him.

Visited Steve (attorney I work for) in the hospital yesterday, he had hip repair surgery and is going home today. All seems to be going well.

I've started my new story, it's really raw right now, but I'm back into my imagination and it feels great.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Sad State Of The Fair

Two days the booth has been manned with few sales. My novel has been looked at but no takers. Sunday is my turn to sit or stand there as people walk by mostly trying to ignore what we're selling, books. They'll stop and look at jewelry, sit for ten or more minutes to have a cariacature made, stand in line so their kids can ride a pony for five minutes. We have children's activity books, coloring books, picture books, but the parents aren't interested. A five minute pony ride is more valuable to them than something that they can take home and use as many times as they like, but that would mean having to read to their children or get the child to put down the remote long enough to look at the book.
One of the activity books in the booth is about dinosaurs. The author decided to write a children's book about dinosaurs that was scientifically acurate. Not one person was interested as we were surrounded by children all day.
Maybe we're the dinosaurs. Books have become quaint reminders of a bygone era. Today all people do is twitter in abbreviations.
Dave coordinated the booth for three days the other nine authors were there one day, but all of our books were displayed. I didn't make a sale. What I salvaged was trading one of my books and a plastic canvas notepad that Grinnygranny makes for one of theirs.
Lisa has a picture book about Spiderwoman based on the Navajo legend. Daniel my grandson should like it.
Lee has a cookbook. He's developed a mild chile seasoning and the book comes with two 3oz tins of the spice. The recipe that caught my interest was green chile chicken lasagna. When I brought it home wife, daughter and daughter-in-law looked all through it and I think they're planning on trying some of them out.
I'd already bought the anthology that Dave has a short story in, but he sells a number of fantasy anthologies for his publisher so I got another one of those books. Auntypesty is reading it and will give it to her brother when she's done.
Right after Optimus was published I had a book signing at the Fair Plaza Hastings. A gentleman came in who bought a copy way back when. It was nice chatting with someone who has read the book, still remembers it three years later and enjoyed it. He has a manuscript and I told him to e-mail it to me. I'd do a peer review for him. I hope he does.
I gave a copy of my next novel to last month's speaker at W2W and I hope tonight if she's there she'll have kind words about it.
I watched a program about Yellowstone and what would happen if it erupted, which is does about every six hundred thousand years. It's been six hundred and fourty thousand years since the last eruption. You never know what crazy thing you come across that is the seed of inspiration. While watching the show a story came to me, and I'm planning starting on it. Tentative title: After It Hits The Fan.

Friday, September 10, 2010

State Fair

Took my books to the State Fair last night. It was crazy with everyone setting up their booths. It starts today. Ten authors have joined together for a booth. My books are there but I won't sell at the booth until Sunday. It'll take selling four books just to pay for the booth fee. With the traffic that's expected it's my best chance at good sales.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Another signing

Went back up to the Tesuque flea market. Sold two of my books and one of Anne's. Paid for the booth and gas to go up and back. I have another book signing at the State Fair this weekend. I'll only be there to sign books on Sunday, but the books will be on display Friday and Saturday. There's ten of us going in together for the booth and we all can't be there at once. I was hoping that Anne and her husband would come down, but they can't. Somehow I'll have to get some green chile up to her.

On a sadder note. Today was Don Watley's funeral, president of Albuquerque Teachers Federation for many years. He and Mom butted heads quite often when she was president of the secretaries union, but they worked together for many years trying to get decent wages and working conditions for APS employees. Seems fitting that it would be during Labor Day weekend.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Full Day

Wife took a vacation day. We did a round of golf, had a nice lunch at a Thai place. Spent a fortune replacing ink cartridges in two printers and a bunch of other stuff. We're exhausted. Getting too old for days like this.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hell Yes or No

Sharon L. Baker has an interesting article at the Huffpo today. On the question of hell, she's actually plugging her book on the subject. It's an interesting topic. In all of Christian theology this is one of the focal points and perhaps the most difficult to reconcile with Jesus focus on forgiveness and love.

This is Dr. Baker's summation:

I wonder how many other pastors pounding pulpits across the world have their parishioners running scared out of their wits and into the kingdom of God, taking out fire insurance as a precaution against the threat of hell. "Who cares?" you might say. "As long as they purchase their policy in time, who cares why they buy?" God might. God may desire to save us from the flames in order to spend eternity in loving communion, not by scaring us to death but by luring us with divine compassion, urging us gently with a caring hand, forgiving, reconciling, and calling us to do the same.

Okay, everyone who's read Dante's Inferno raise your hand. Don't be shy. Surely you had to read part of it in your World Literature class in college. Oops, no one ever actually reads what they're assigned they use Cliff Notes. I'm one of the few who I've ever encountered that's actually read all three of Dante's Divine Comedy.

Here's an even more obscure attempt of describing Hell:

A science-fiction writer drinks too much, showing off for fans at a convention, and falls out an eighth-floor window. He wakes up in a brass bottle in the vestibule of Hell, and Inferno details his adventures trying to work his way out. A lot of Dante is recalled, but these authors have more fun with the damned than Dante, and invent a few newer sins to bring the tale up-to-date, including such things as a book collector who kept hoarding beyond the capabilities of his storage, and lost priceless books to mildew, rats, and insects — a hoarder and a waster at the same time.

The one quote I remember from this book where it asks: "Who can take seriously a god who keeps his own private torture chamber?"

After I came home from Seminary and was going through a divorce I started reading everything Sci Fi. I'd read Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein in high school, but during college and grad school other than watching reruns of Star Trek this genre took a back seat. I discovered Harlan Ellison, Anne McCaffery and many other great writers. The afore mentioned book caught my eye after reading their "Earth's too fragile a basket to place all of man's eggs in." Lucifer's Hammer.

Enough preamble. My take on the theology of eternal punishment.

Christianity falls in the catagory of Ethical Religions. That's a religion with a system of rewards and punishments. The Norse concept of hell (the germanic word used for the Greek Hades and Hebrew Gehenna) was a place of eternal cold, which is why Dante has Satan encased up to his waist in ice. Understandable since the harshest environment they encounter is winter. The Hebrews being from a desert environment found the heat the worst environment imaginable so it's understandable that a place of eternal heat would be their concept of eternal punishment. Gehenna was actually the town dump of Jerusalem outside the dung gate. Since all the trash was thrown there along with the animal waste which caused high concentrations of methane gas it was a place of continual fires. When Jesus refers to the afterlife for non-believers he refers to Gehenna which could be interpreted as a place of eternal fire or being thrown out of with the trash. The concept between those two interpretations is huge: literal or symbolic?

Is hell a place of eternal fire and torment, or is it being separated from God? Evangelists find selling "get out of hell free cards" easier than the promise of heaven. The Catholic Church even sells them (Indulgences) or makes you do penance. This is what makes Christianity different from other ethical religions. The others have a clearer concept of justice. Those who lived bad lives are punished, those who lived good lives are rewarded depending on what the culture's concept of good and evil. Jesus changed the rules from good and evil to believer or non-believer. No matter how bad you were, if you are saved before death you're in. Those who lived good lives, but worship differently are punished. Where's the justice in that?

Christianity is not about Justice, it's about forgiveness. It's about mercy. It's about Love. If it was about justice everyone would go to hell, no matter how good a life they lived. Christ's main point of the sermon on the mount where he compares being angry with murder, lust with adultery.

As Hamlet says: "If everyone were given what they deserve, who would escape whipping?"

Here's more rhetorical questions: If after death we have spiritual bodies, what damage could physical flames do? Wouldn't the flames also be spiritutal? Does separation from God need to be physical torture or can it be mental anguish? Does faith have to be only concrete? Isn't there room for abstract thinking too?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another Year Older

Had a pretty good Birthday: Golfed with the gaggle, broke 100 (hit a 99). Had a nice steak dinner with wife, mother and daughter. At this age you kind of enjoy the simple things.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Costello Christians

I finally watched Bill Maher’s Religious. I wasn’t surprised. He’s a comedian and makes his living ridiculing whatever he sets his sights on. So does Rush Limbaugh, and most of the mouths that roar on radio or teevee. It seems poking fun at other people is what passes for legitimate debate today.

It was painful as someone of faith to watch the way he painted an entire belief system with the brush of fundamentalism or institutionalized religion. Believe it or not there are many believers that have not assassinated their intelligence to someone who rants and raves from a pulpit or considers themselves God’s elected mouthpiece and they enjoy a meaningful personal relationship with God.

It’s easy to make fun of fundies and the orthodox because they’ve taken reason out of their faith and delivered it into the hands of someone who does their thinking for them.

The mechanism used by charlatans to fleece the flock of all their money and gain political power is literalism. The Bible has to be interpreted literally, and only literally.

Today I’m coining the phrase “Costello Christians” to describe literalists. They are a laugh riot, just like Abbot and Costello’s routine Who’s On First. If you’re not familiar with this comedy classic you can google it. There are about a dozen or more U-tube versions of it.

Lou Costello tries and tries every way he can to find out who’s on first, but never makes the connection that the first baseman’s name is Who. He stays stuck in his literal understanding of the word and can’t make the leap from literal to symbolic. It’s funny because the audience knows the difference and enjoys listening or seeing someone who is that stupid.

Here’s my example of a Costello Christian:

Anyone who wants to argue or defend the idea that Jonah was swallowed by a large fish or whale. Bill Maher devotes quite a bit of his movie on the issue and both he and those he’s arguing with miss the point. The book is not about a fish anymore than Gulliver’s Travels is about Lilliputians or Yahoos. They’re allegories.

Jonah represents the Jews and Nineveh is symbolized as all the other people on the Earth. They are commanded to share their God and refuse. The symbol of the fish or whale would be the Babylonian captivity afterwards they are returned to their land. Jonah preaches and Nineveh repents and is spared destruction. The allegory here would be through Jesus the Gentiles become believers or Christians and are entitled to Heaven. At the end of the book Jonah goes up to the top of a hill to look down on the city. A large plant grows up giving him shade, but the plant dies and he is doubly miserable because the city has not been destroyed and he has no shade. This is a reference to Judaism’s refuting Christianity because they can’t stand the idea of the Goyim being in their Heaven.

The main points of Jonah are:

  1. The Jews are commanded to proclaim God to the whole world.
  2. They at first refuse and are punished until they consent.
  3. The World is spared destruction because of their belief.
  4. The Jews are upset and pout because they’ve lost their monopoly on God.

The central message of Jonah is:

God and Heaven are for everyone, not just a chosen few.

The Costello Christians want to make it about a fish and give fuel to the fire of skeptics and comedians who rightfully point out how stupid it is to interpret something written as allegory literally.

This is my interpretation of Jonah. I don’t claim it to be the official or only way to read the book. I don’t think anyone who understands it differently needs to be kicked out of the church or burned at the stake.

I wrote a post some time ago entitled “I’ve Been Fooled.” It’s still one of the most viewed posts I’ve ever written. It’s about an allegorical book and movie: The Princess Bride. I admit that while reading the book the author had me actually believing there were countries named Gilder and Florin, but I didn’t accept it at face value. I checked it out and discovered the deception. Kicked myself for being foolish enough to buy it in the first place, then marveled at how artfully the author had tricked me. It also made me realize the depth and power of the truth he was writing about in the story. As I explained how the story relates to economics to my wife she just fussed at me for ruining a good story. The beauty of a good allegory is that it can be understood on multiple levels. The power of allegory is that its theme and message can be understood without being preached at or to. You just have to exert more mental energy than most people are willing to spend today.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Quite a handful


Daniel, he has mischief written all over his face.

Monday, August 16, 2010


While waiting in the emergency room a few weeks ago I bought this book and started reading it to Mom. We had hours between times they'd do something. When Mom was finally admitted she read on it and finished it at home. Then I started reading it. It was nice having something to read while she was in the emergency room again and I was stuck out in the waiting room at a different hospital with different rules. I finished it today.

Mom wasn't too sure about it at first. She said it was slow getting into it, but turned into a fairly decent story.
I agree with her. After you wade through about a hundred pages of obscure descriptions the story becomes compelling.

The story revolves around those who are from the Otherworld, and can go between the two worlds through certain gates, but the gates can only be opened by Lawrence, the gatekeeper, and he refuses to open them because if he did an uspeakable evil would destroy everyone. Sounds like a simple premise, but the story is rather complicated which is why it takes so long for the story to get going. There is quite a bit of setting the stage so the reader can understand what's going to happen. I rate it *** out of *****.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tribute to Bill Chase

Click here and here for other Tributes to Bill Chase.

The wife makes me watch America's Got Talent. Now I don't mind Dancing with the Stars, the women have fantastic costumes, but AGT is at times like fingernails on a chalk board. Tonight something caught my ear more than a ten year old with a forty year old operatic voice.
Quick Change is a group that was guest appearing, a group that had been on the very first season of the show. They performed to Chase's Get It On. Who cares what they were doing, did you hear those trumpets?

Some history:
My senior year in high school Bruce bought two albums. Chase and Chase Ennea. We always recorded the lp's on cassette and listened to the cassettes using the lp's as masters. That way the records didn't get scratched up. When I went to college I took the two cassettes and drove my dorm mates crazy listening to them. No one has ever hit the high notes on trumpet like Bill Chase. He reached for the rafters on every song. In Ennea the song Boys and Girls Together has a rift where you think he's gone as high as possible and then effortlessly he goes up about four steps. The group had four trumpets on one song during the rift they sound like sea gulls. Tragically just as he was getting recognized the band was killed in a plane crash in 1974. There are very few people that I've come across that ever heard of him. I was pleasantly surprised when I checked on the internet for this post to find you-tube, my space and facebook sites devoted to him.
Technology changed and I converted over to cd's. Bruce boxed up the lp's and has them buried in his garage. The cassettes gathered dust. Then this summer I found a little gadget that converts cassettes and lp's to digital on your computer. A few years ago I bought a stereo that converted lp's to cd's and I'm still converting them, wife has over 50 Elvis albums alone. This summer I've been bringing the cassettes back to life and the first cassettes were the two Chase's and I've been in heaven listening to them all summer.
Funny how just as I pulled Bill Chase out of the dust bin that he'd be resurrected on a national show, even though just about everybody watching wouldn't know who they were listening to.