Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Barton: To What End?

The other day, a friend of mine posted on Facebook about a group whose Bible study was shut down, and its leader arrested. The whole story was written to inspire upset about the injustice behind policing of religious expression:

Bible study leader Michael Salman is sitting in jail today after his home was raided earlier this week by more than a dozen Phoenix, Ariz. police officers and city officials. His offense? The city says people aren’t allowed to hold private Bible studies on their own property.

However, there's a lot to the story that didn't get told in that rendition. Huffington Post talks about a few of the other issues and the controversy surrounding Michael Salman's story:

The battle between Salman and his neighbors and the city of Phoenix has been years in the making, but his current jail term stems from how he used a 2,000 square-foot building on his property. According to the city, his church, the Harvest Christian Fellowship Community Church, received a permit to build a "game room" there in 2008. The permit prohibited using the building as a church, business or assembly. Nevertheless, the city cited Salman for holding worship services there in 2009 and 2010.
  According to the city, Salman regularly had gatherings of as many as 80 people, and the noise and traffic from the gatherings prompted regular complaints from neighbors.

So, there's a lot more to the story than the original article led me to believe.

I'm sick of being handed half of a story in an attempt to circumvent all reason, rally me to your cause. Which is why I was excited to see that David Barton, author of "The Jefferson Lies" taken to task by honest evangelical scholars:

     Barton's book, The Jefferson Lies, was withdrawn Thursday by Thomas Nelson, the world's largest    
    Christian publisher. It's rare enough for a publisher to withdraw a book that has already been printed;
     rarer still if the book has been on The New York Times bestseller list. Thomas Nelson spokesman Casey 
    Francis Harrell announced that the publisher had received a number of complaints that the book is 
    inaccurate. "Because of these deficiencies, we decided that it was in the best interest of our readers to 
    cease its publication and distribution," Harrell said.

At times, I have been frustrated by the Church's tendency to ignore actual scholarship, in favor of anecdotal evidence. So even if it's small, this is a nice move toward honesty and thought. Not by Barton, himself but, you get the idea. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

I Think I should Drop Off the Grid

So, I accept the idea that security is important. But, the idea of getting information of your communication monitored in a wrong place wrong time situation, is beyond the pale of safety.

It's been quoted, and quoted, and quoted, but it bears repeating,

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
Benjamin FranklinHistorical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Flying Bugs: or The Phantom Menace

Flying Bugs: One More Thing That Grinds My Gears!

gif credit: arrioch

There are a lot of things which seem to aggravate our universal sense of justice and order. Drivers who cruise ten miles down the road with their turn signal flashing, the shopper in the aisle whose cart is situated in the perfect place to make it impossible to get around without that awkward collision/ interaction, and the people who stand/ walk in the middle of the street while you’re driving through town, are just a few of the things which leave us agape...or furious.  Among the myriad things which grind our collective gears will always be “line jumpers.” When someone takes a spot in the queue which obviously wasn’t earned, the hairs on the back of our common neck stand on end. Line jumping is just one of the many reasons I hate, with a deep and burning passion, bugs that fly.

If an ant wakes up one morning and decided, “Today is a great day to crawl around Morris’s face.” That ant must then slough through the laborious task of climbing up my foot, my leg or pants, my shirt, and my neck before making it to my face or head. As I tend to have a very low tolerance for things crawling up my body, most bugs don’t make it past the ankle. Victory for me. Flying bugs don’t have the decency to make the honest trek. They’re like a person who takes a helicopter to the summit, then brags that they climbed a mountain. One second, I’m standing comfortably. The next, I’m being strafed by flies, gnats, and other winged creatures with six legs. Just because you have a pair of wings, doesn’t mean you can pass all the other hard working bugs headed toward my face.

What makes the assaults of the airborne menace so vile, is the multifaceted nature of their attacks. The bugs play havoc at the corners of your periphery. Almost a figment of your imagination, but they’re just real enough to keep you on edge. Then there’s the buzzing. It’s almost like they can teleport from ear to ear. At a distance the buzz is quiet, like a hum. But as they dive bomb the side of your face, it’s like a helicopter is about to crash into your head. Then, of course, there’s the actual attack.

It’s not enough that the bugs go soviet psy-ops on you with sight and sound. But, they take their mental war games to the next level. They land on you. Skitter around on you. And then they bite, or sting; the vicious beasts. And, despite everything your dad says, sometimes, even  if you stand very still, the stupid things take a shot at you. So, because of the misdeeds of their stinging brethren, you give every flying bug the stink eye. But it starts to get out of control and you flinch when shirt fabric touches you the wrong way. Then, you realize they really are after you. It’s a coordinated effort. And even the ones which don’t sting, bite, or otherwise induce pain directly, employ sabotage techniques, turning your own defenses against you. Craftily, the spies buzz near your eyes, causing a violent spasmodic swing which hooks your glasses, flinging them across the room. Then, while you’re distracted by the sudden loss of the gift of sight, the bug swoops in for an encore at your cheek. The resultant swat at the bug not only fails to kill it, but calls to mind, childhood tormentors. Over the throbbing of your cheek, you’d almost swear, you heard the saboteur saying, “Why are you hitting yourself?”

Flying bugs suck!

gif credit:arrioch

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Riddle me This: The Undead

The "zombie apocalypse" is a favorite subject of cinema, novels, short stories, and even jokes.
(Have you heard the chant from the zombie protest: 
  Leader: What do we want?!?
Zombies: Braaaaaiiiiin...
  Leader: When do we it?!?
Zombies: Braaaaaiiiiin...)
Not the highest functioning mob in the area. But they have a knack for conversion. So, when your late neighbor shows up to pick your brain, It's open season, right? 

So, here's the question. Are your zombie assailants self-aware? When you shoot out the rotted flesh, Are they angry? Scared? Hurt? What's their level of cognitive engagement? Can a zombie choose to starve, in the face of eating a person? What are zombie ethics?

Let's start with self-aware: Yes? or No?
Photo Credit: captainmyotis

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Down with Socialism?

Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, has a hilarious way of letting public figures choke on their own words.
In his May 29th episode, he's on fire. He lets everyone have it. I recommend the whole episode, on http://www.thedailyshow.com/ . But for now, enjoy the clip, addressing the auto bailout, "Obamacare," and the NFL:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Better Boyfriend 101: Like a Sir

Better Boyfriend 101: Like a Sir
Photo Credit: PiXimus
Hello class,
Do you remember how awesome it was when the teacher had the TV sitting in front of the room when you walked in? It was like Christmas. Well today we’re going to keep the lecture short and just watch a film. We might circle around and revisit the subject in a later session. But, for today, enjoy.

As a lifelong advocate of universal respect, knowledge, and bein’ classy, it was with no small amount of humor and joy, that I was recently introduced to the meme, “Like a Sir.”  The best way to describe it, so far*, is the application of sophistication to the everyday. Sometimes “Like a Sir,” gets thrown into the most bizarre situations, like hot tubbing in a tuxedo. At others, it’s just remembering to be thoughtful and respectful in the little things, with a little extra class thrown in. So this lecture is mostly theoretical, the application part is up to you. Please take a second to share with the class how you or your significant other behaves “like a sir.” Better Boyfriend. It’s not a finish line. It’s a journey. Knowing that it's a meandering trek, the trip will probably be a little better if you make it "like a sir."

Class is adjourned...like a sir!

*As with any semiotic sign, the signified is subject to change over time.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Say, "Almost Cheese!"

So, my brother was in a hurry, and made an innocent mistake. He grabbed a pack of cheese. We were in a hurry and he wasn't really looking. Later that day, we discovered that, much like, "All that glitters is not gold," "All that is shredded and white, is not cheese." We were hanging out later that day, and he wanted to make cheese toast... the joke was on him. 
After sitting on the hot skillet the butter crackeled and the bread browned... but the shreds remained the same. They didn't melt, and they didn't brown. We turned up the heat. Then, we put the toast in the microwave. The shreds did not melt. After that, we just wanted to see what it would take. We turned up the heat, and let it ride. Nothing happened. We looked at the package, and... well I'll let you see for yourself. 

There's nothing on the package about cheese. There's nothing even on the package about dairy. And when we looked at the ingredients, there wasn't even anything about milk.  It was just a little bit un-nerving. Everything should change after that long in a microwave. But not the Italian Shreds. Aparently, there are a few more constants in the world... and we found one of them.

The listed ingredients are scarily as follows: Water, Food Starch, Partially Hydrongenated Soybean Oil, Whey, Salt, Casein and/or Caseinate, Sodium Phosphate, Sorbic Acid (as a preservative), Carrageen, Natural Flavor, Lactic Acid, Artificial Color, Powdered Cellulose to prevent caking

Even if you're not a health nut. it pays to read the label.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sharpening Your Tools

They're a lot of fun.
And, the word on the street, is that they help cognition. 

1. Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child’s name?
2. A clerk at a butcher shop stands five feet ten inches tall and wears size 13 sneakers. What does he weigh?
3. Before Mt. Everest was discovered, what was the highest mountain in the world?
For the answers, and seven other mental challenges check out the article in Forbes.com

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Republicrat (Demolican)

Photo Credit: CrescentDebris on DeviantArt

I come from a very conservative Christian family. My parents are a part of the religious right, and cast their ballots accordingly. My siblings tend to be ignorant of, or indifferent to, political going ons. I often self identify as an independent, despite voting for democrats in many of the elections in which I've participated. 

I used to be a Republican, I'm not anymore. The funniest thing about that shift, is that it had nothing to do with public policy, or rhetoric (in the traditional sense of the word), or many of the traditional markers of political ideology. It's that they were mean. 

In college, I went to a meeting of the college republicans, I didn’t really know what that entailed; but I supposed that I was one, so I went. At the meeting, the topic of conversation was a woman who was coming to the campus to talk about women’s portrayal in media, specifically advertising.  I was a little excited to hear what she had to say. The rest of the group…not so much. The focus of the meeting was this guest lecturer’s stated position on abortion. And actually, her position wasn’t on abortion. It was in defense of Planned Parenthood (which are two separate things, no matter what people say). 

So, I’m sitting in the meeting listening to the group talk about discrediting the speaker on the issue of abortion. But, not just discrediting her in the Q & A. They were talking about handing out leaflets and disrupting the entire proceeding.  I raised my hand, a superfluous gesture for a meeting such as this. They quieted and looked at me.
“What if she doesn’t talk about abortion?” I asked awkwardly.
“We’ll just force the issue.” The implied, “Duh,” at the end of that sentence, was almost audible. The group proceeded to brainstorm ways to embarrass, and fluster, and otherwise lay low the speaker. I was confused, and a little bit sad. She was coming to the school to talk about the issues surrounding women in media and advertising, real and troubling issues in the world today. But this group wanted to sabotage her presentation.

I couldn’t really wrap my head around the whole thing. The nature of the organization, I believed, was forward thinking within a political element. The chance to think within a party ideal, but with fresh eyes… I was wrong. The club spent that, and the remainder of the meetings which I attended, engaging in character assassinations, and overall meanness.

Three weeks later, I stopped attending the club meetings.
One semester later, I stopped self-identifying as a republican.
And now… I’m just floating around The Gray Area

Here's a thought: If you want to bring someone to your side of the aisle, don't be a meanie. To Anyone.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Terrify No More

With the revolutionary announcement by the president in support of the right to marry for people of every orientation I've watched another opinion explosion, as group after group, and person after person, has lined up to lambaste or laud this new chapter in the marriage policy contest. 

In Velvet Elvis, Rob Bell, asserts a truth of the life of Christ and call of the Church, "[...] the gospel is good news, especially for those who don't believe it. [And] if the gospel isn't good news for everybody, then it isn't good news for anybody." In my scrollings, I found an interesting piece which addresses a very important issue at the heart of the church response to the issue of marriage and sexualities. 

Author, speaker, and blogger Rachel Held Evans's post, How to Win a Culture War, and Lose a Generation, begins with some interesting statistics on how Christians and the Church are being perceived beyond it's walls: 
When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was “antihomosexual.” For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith. The same was true for 80 percent of young churchgoers. (The next most common negative images? : “judgmental,” “hypocritical,” and “too involved in politics.”) 

She later cites examples from her experience while speaking: 
 Some of these students would say they most identify with what groups like the Gay Christian Network term “Side A” (they believe homosexual relationships have the same value as heterosexual relations in the sight of God). Others better identify with “Side B” (they believe only male/female relationship in marriage is God’s intent for sexuality).  But every single student I have spoken with believes that the Church has mishandled its response to homosexuality. 

Please take a few minutes to read this piece, and think about what you do with your rightness or wrongness which may leave you winning a culture war and losing a generation.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Atom's Weight of Good

Does God Care If I Eat Chocolate Ice Cream? 
Losing the Church on My Path to Christ 

 Okay. I’d like to tell a little bit of my story. God and I had been introduced over and over through the years. But I don’t feel like we started getting to know one another until I was finishing up high school. Nevertheless, I was the Jesus shirt wearing kid who went to all the bible studies and stuff. 
 Just thought I should set the stage. 

 Sitting in AP Physics class senior year, killing time while our teacher was out of the room, Andrew, one of the smartest people I've met, a generally good guy, and a deeply committed atheist, with a knack for contentious talking points, was sitting on a desk up front, holding court. Ostensibly, to fill in a gap in conversation, Andrew looks over and asks me, 
“Morris, what if you’re wrong about all this God stuff?” 
 It was a question I had addressed, but not with any amount of clarity or honest introspection. And, let’s be honest…Have you? 

 So, we sat there staring across a desk. The members of the court of Andrew stared at me while I thought about the Bible, the Church, promises, commands, prayer, and a host of other things. If I was wrong? About Jesus? About God? About it all?  Then I got it. 
 Two things. 

The first, even if I’m wrong about details, I’m fairly certain I’m not missing the mark on the whole God thing. I’m pretty sure that God is around. And that God’s engagement with humanity is at least loving. 

 If I’d shared that thought with my entrenched atheist counterpart, however, it would have seemed the arrogant ranting of a short sighted person, leading to at best, a contentious debate. A round of jockeying for ideological superiority, resulting in a net gain of zero. He would still believe in un-guided chance, and I in the divine. 

 But this is the insight I shared. 
 “Andrew, If I’m wrong about God, totally confused about the existence of the divine. If you’re right, and when it’s over, all we are is dead, the life I’m living because of my faith and belief is one, of which I can be very proud.” He told me that was the best answer any Christian ever gave. 

 I wasn't really answering the question for him though. I was answering the question for me.

Photo Credit: Atom Weight

Thursday, May 3, 2012

May I Present...

So, my friend Tessa who was proposed to in a park and brilliantly immortalized on canvas, got married this past Saturday. The wedding was beautiful...AND...
The couple asked me to DJ the reception!

The closest I'd ever come to a DJ-ing gig was ten minutes of track picking for the students at CTY where I worked, the year after undergrad.
This, however, was way better, and a lot more intimidating. When I'd finished collecting possible tunes for the special day, 9 days worth of music had been amassed. And, even though there were a few points of hesitation, the bride and groom seemed pleased with my performance. And toward the end of the night, a guest of the wedding came to me and said, I was the best DJ/ MC she'd heard, and, "If I wasn't already married, I'd have you DJ my wedding." She went on to say, if her husband died, she knew who she'd call for round two.
I was flattered... A little creeped out... But flattered.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Throwback and Flash Forward

This is amazing. I used to watch Eastman Curtis on TV as a kid. I'm really glad that there are churches out there actually emulating Jesus. Leaders, thinkers, and in general, people like this, are the hope for the church.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Speech: The Thinnest of Lines

I don't know anything.
This is often my thought when advising or opining on any issue greater than myself. 
I just try to make my next question, better than my last one. 

So... here's the question:

Freedom of speech?
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
That's the whole question. 
And now, some context.

Dominic Dieter, host of the morning radio show on WMMS 100.7, recently received a letter written by a father who was "concerned" about his daughter's homosexuality.
Dieter's on-air response was beyond the pale. He said: 
                              "You should get one of your friends to screw your daughter straight." 

My response shifts between blinding rage, and soul crushing depression... I lean more toward the depression, though. Not so much because I'm not angry with the person who said that, he's a small man using sensational speech to sell himself and his show. But for this man to have a show, people have to be listening to him. 

So, getting over depressed and angry, I signed the petition calling for his dismissal. Free speech goes both ways
But, at the same time, what I really want is for people to exercise the freedom to not listen to the deluded rantings of a ratings whore. 

I don't have a well formed opinion of Howard Stern, but the scene from his biopic, "Private Parts" serves as a useful example of my point. 

Researcher: The average radio listener listens for eighteen minutes a day. The average Howard Stern fan listens for - are you ready for this? - an hour and twenty minutes. 
Kenny Rushton: How could this be? 
Researcher: Answer most commonly given: "I want to see what he'll say next." 
Kenny Rushton : All right, fine. But what about the people who hate Stern? 
Researcher: Good point. The average Stern hater listens for two and a half hours a day. 
Kenny Rushton : But... if they hate him, why do they listen? 
Researcher: Most common answer: "I want to see what he'll say next." 

When it comes to media, when you listen, you empower.

If it interest you, read about the whole thing here:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Simply put, I like thinking about God. I'm a huge fan. And though, Christian, is a kind of loaded label, I think I am one, which is nice. And, what's cool, is that even if I'm totally wrong, the life I lead is one for which I can be proud.

The thing of it is, I can't always be sure of what our relationship should look like. I've tried making it look like other people's. And sometimes I've expected God to interact with me the same way as others. To largely unsatisfying ends.

Whenever I think things are getting weird between the two of us, something happens which clears the air between the two of us. Much like the distant friend who occupies your thoughts, and stops by for tea, warming your heart as well.

God stopped in today.
If you see God tomorrow, please mention, I say, hi.

Monday, April 9, 2012

God: The Early Years

One of the qualities most Evangelical Western Christians ascribe to God, is that of all knowing. But, where do we get that idea? And, what does it really mean?

Have you ever thought about the idea of God learning to be God? You’re probably thinking, “That’s crazy! God has always known how to be God. “
"But what do you mean by that?" I’d ask in response. Accepting the idea that God has been God forever, and didn’t even have to self-create, the addition of life to universe changes the tenor of creation.

The analogy that seems most fitting, is that of a well developed adult. With a job and a life, there’s a lot of order established. So, when a fully functional adult suddenly becomes a parent, the world becomes a whole new place. So, now God has all these kids running around, and I seriously have this picture of God running around going. “Stop it, we don’t bite! Finish your breakfast and go wash up, you smell like an animal. I can’t stay here watching you all day. I have a universe that I haven’t tended to since you woke up. “

You think I’m out of line right now, don’t you? It’s okay. I would too. But here’s the thing, God wasn’t bummed out ‘til after mankind hit the scene.
Genesis chapter six is one facepalm moment after another for God.
 Verse 3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.”  Right there God says, “I can’t take this forever, one twenty and you’re done.”

But less than three verses later, God has “had it up to here.” And declares a cosmic do over [stop crying, it’s in the Bible]. God is so over this human experiment, people totally suck, verse 6 The LORD regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the LORD said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” 8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

So, first God "regrets" the decision to make humans. Then we have God, resolving to destroy them, and not just people, but every animal that hadn't done a thing wrong (unless you believe that non-sentient animals are capable of rebellion). Finally we have God, changing his mind on the whole total annihilation thing when Noah comes along.

In Genesis chapter eight, God looks around at a mud covered world devoid of life, “What is that amazing smell? And what did I just do? Wow what a massive waste…I think? O.K. Maybe next time, I’ll count to three before going straight to system restore (v21). My bad, Noah. Here’s something pretty to look at while you repopulate the planet. And, even better, when I see it, I’ll remember not to wreck your planet again (9:12-16).”

In Genesis, if God changes his mind, and needs a reminder about things promised, maybe, just maybe, God is working out the transition from God of the universe, to God of Humanity. Then again, maybe not.
Illustration: frowzivitch (DeviantART)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Atheists To the Rescue

Whilst the author and I go our separate ways on the fundamental point (God vs. No God), I'm encouraged by what I dialogue like this could do for the entire range of belief systems. And how about this for a thought, the redemption part of the "creation narrative" applies to the whole of creation, and not just the church. How much more powerful would we be if we stop antagonistically pitting ourselves against the secular world, and redeemed some stuff...ya know... like Jesus did.

Kids just say it.

As a college student suffering all the illusions of immortality, I often thought of myself as a child, with all the trappings thereof. The day my friend brought me to her library of her youth, while we were on spring break of my junior year, we strolled into the children’s department. Three kids were running about playing merrily. The immediate sense of bonding was shattered when the older looking boy glanced up from their distraction, looked right into my eyes, and shouted, “GROWN UPS!!” 

That’ll dispel your illusions of eternal youth.

But, that set me onto another of my best bad ideas. I'm just going to start taking some kid under the age of 6 out with me wherever I go. And, in exchange for free ice cream, the kid will just blurt things out about the people around me, that I don't have the heart/ stomach/ gall to say.  Like when you're walking around the store, and "that person" is taking up, just enough of the aisle that you can't really get around, and not paying the slightest bit of attention to you. You try to make eye contact, but it seems like they're trying to dodge your gaze. My kid can just say, "Why does that lady/ man have the cart, right in the middle of the walkway?" And I know what you're thinking, "What little kid uses the word 'walkway?'" I would specially train my sugar needy acolyte to use at least one head turning word per criticism. That way, the victim is both abashed AND confused, giving us more time to effect our escape. 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Over here!! Look at me!!

Hey Friends,
  If you enjoy my meandering thoughts on blogspot, swing by and check out my quick busts of wit on my facebook page.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

More Than a Day

More Than a Day

I have a special place in my heart for February 29, or Leap Day, or as it is most obscurely known Sadie Hawkins Day. Well not technically Sadie Hawkins day, for that is the invention sprung forth from the Li'l Abner comic strip, but it's equivalent, a day during which women may freely ask a man's hand in marriage and the refusal comes with a fine ranging from one pound, up through a new dress. While it is an amusing history, or folklore, my fondness for the day stems thusly. 
     In college I was in a music group we traveled about hither and yon' singing and such.  In my first year, both in college and the group, we had an engagement on February 29th which lasted the better part of the day. Having never given much thought to leap years in general, and being entirely ignorant of Sadie Hawkins day, I was highly amused to hear of the "tradition" associated with the holiday. We spent much of our down time thinking of scenarios and ways to get out of the whole matter, laughing and joking about the nature of a day allocated to the marriage rite. 
    The entire day was a pleasant affair, and upon our arrival home I was struck by the fact that I would never, likely, spend another Leap, Sadie Hawkins, February 29th with this group of people, and that the jokes we told are so inside that their only any good once every four years, and by then they're forgotten. By the time the calender synchronization came along again, we would be gone in all of our separate directions, and may not give leap day a nod. But I took this opportunity to give her one more nod.

Here's to you Sadie Hawkins
Here's to you Erin
Here's to Undivided Heart.

Through Sickness Into Health (Part 2)

MoTheThird vs. The Flu

To those people curious about the state of my recovery from the flu, etc. with which my girlfriend has been plagued now for ten days. I would characterize myself as being at about 75-80% of normal functionality. A noticeable deviation, but one which, I don't imagine will last much longer. Through a regiment of three to four Emergen-C: Immune Plus packets per day, many handfuls  of almonds, spinach, and Honey Nut Quaker Oatmeal Squares, about a gallon of water, two blankets, a heater, 007, Life (the TV show), Day and NyQuil, and unshakable confidence,plus one Amp and five cups of coffee to make it through a long day yesterday. I'm at the door of health. If I thought the system was foolproof or even universally applicable, I would share the minutiae. And perhaps someday, I'll prove it to be awesome and transferable. But since, most people don't have the latitude to spend a day or so in my intense recovery model, it doesn't really matter anyway.  

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Through Sickness Into Health

I can be cocky at times. Not for the most part mind you. Not about everything. But, I think that knowing that you’re good, is just as big a part of being self aware as knowing where you leave major room for improvement. And, knowledge without action is a lot like a rocking chair. It’s fun to have, but it doesn’t really get you anywhere. And I like going places.

I’m good at a fair number of things, awesome at others. I’m good at singing. I’m awesome at quoting movies. Euchre is on the line. Two things I’m awesome at are pulling “all-nighters” and the recovery of my own health. Today, I was exceptionally tired, and when I went to grab a short nap, I realized that I was achy. Tired, and achy? Two good indicators of illness’s onset.  It’s only fair, my girlfriend was in the midst of a rather lengthy battle with the flu, plus (perhaps), some seasonal interference.

So, I’ve been saying all day, and to anyone who knew I was sick, how great I am at recovery. So, I figure it’s only fair that I demonstrate that odd skill. My G/F has been sick for a few hours short of a week. I’ve claimed that I’ll be back in working order in 48hours- 72tops. So, what say, we track my progress.

MoTheThird vs. The Flu

Day One

Emergen-C: Immune Plus
Bolthouse Farms: C-Boost
One bottle Vicks NyQuil: Cold and Flu
One bottle DayQuil
Raw Baby Spinach

  James Bond (the Daniel Craig ones)
  Life (Starring Damien Lewis)

Game on

Feeling achy and otherwise listless, I sucked down a little DayQuil, to finish my obligations and worked on a C-Boost (not a big fan of mango, but it has a proven track record, so bottoms up) during lunch. Back at home, I set up shop. Almonds, water, Emergen-C, and NyQuil, all went down in round one. I popped in Casino Royale and slept through the better part of it. I caught the parkour chase, and the big tournament finish, and the gun battle at the end. I also had the misfortune of being awake for the torture scene. But, mostly I just watched the inside of my eyelids.

Round two is about to start. Another dose of NyQuil, another C-Boost, a massive glass of water, a good sized fistful of almonds, The Quantum of Solace, and good dose of baby spinach, and I should be eyelid watching once more.  If not, Detective Crews will usher me back to sleep.

Catch you in the a.m.

P.S. This movie was awesome...I think.
I was a kid when I saw it.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Do You Have These In a Nine?

Footwear. From strapped-in sandals, to strappy stilettos, every foot gets adorned a different way for each different scenario. I have a friend with enough shoes to not repeat once in an average month. Amazingly enough, this is a significant scaling down from the hundred plus pairs that she had, not so long ago. In contrast, another friend regularly goes without shoes, even amidst the winter frost. It helps her feel connected to the earth, she asserts. Which, I guess, is a good thing? In winter, I’m mostly just thankful for my woolen socks. 

As ubiquitous and sometimes flatly ignored as footwear is, when it is on, it garners a lot of thought in the getting ready process, and some really strong opinions in conversation. I should know. I have them. I really love nice shoes. As a child I wanted a pair of shoes that sparkled with the shine of military dress uniforms. I relentlessly polished my Sunday shoes never accepting the fact that maximum shine is limited based on the design of the shoes. The media also contributed to my shoe afinity. I had a pair of black and white saddle shoes that I wore with pride, because they looked just like the ones that Bert from Sesame Street rocked.

In later years, my attachment moved from solely asthetic, to functional as well. I had a pair of ratty cowboy boots which I wore relentlessly, not just because I liked their look, which I did. Mostly I kept them on because I could almost instantly build up a good sized static electricity shock when I wore them. And if that's not function, I don't know what is. I just wish I would have listened when I was told that maybe I shouldn’t tuck my pants into my boots. Cowboy chic is not the chic for me.

I’ve had some odd mishaps with shoes and fire, as well. Including one long cold day at camp sitting by the fire at the end of the night, in which staring at the fire with my outstretched legs, resulted in my smoking and bubbled up soles. I guess the smoke wasn’t an optical illusion after all. Or when, after stumbling into an enormous ice puddle, I suspended my hiking boots over the wood stove to dry, and returned to find three mysterious singe marks on the boot and no other sign of trauma. I never figured that one out. 

My strongest stance on footwear is best expressed in the words of the comic Demetri Martin, “When you get dressed, you’re really making a statement. Like, if you put on flip-flops you’re saying, ‘I hope I don’t get chased today.’” I understand the appeal of going shoeless, really I do. But a flip-flop on its best day,  chafes between your toes, and requires an odd looking walk just to maintain the position of the shoe, relative to the ground and your foot. While I won’t be wearing flip-flops anytime soon, if you and I are hanging out together, and you’re wearing them, I’ll be as happy as a clam. ‘Cause, no matter how you protest, I can run faster in my sneakers than you can in your flip-flops…or barefoot. So, if it hits the fan, I’ll be the one to tell the tale. But I’ll tell everyone, that you went out, a flippy-floppy hero.

Walk on. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

If it wasn't for sports...

Walking through the ordinary parking lot on an ordinary day, I was startled to notice that someone had parked an explosive device in the nearby space. I felt obligated to take a picture to have an account of what happened when the dust finally settled. Thankfully, I left before what I'm sure was a horrible blast. I'm just praying that someone survived.

Note: Identifying markings have been removed to protect the 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Gold Star For Church People

Dear The Church,
    Thanks for seeing a real problem, and taking real action. 

Slightly antagonistic, as always, 

but a touch more optimistic,


The new Christian abolition movement

By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
Greensboro, North Carolina (CNN) —The truck-stop hooker is no Julia Roberts, the trucker in the cab with her no Richard Gere, and this truck stop off the highway could not be any farther from Beverly Hills, the staging ground for “Pretty Woman.”
The woman sports baggy shorts, a white T-shirt and frizzy hair. Her fat middle-aged pimp sits in a beat up red Honda, watching as his “lot lizard” moves from truck to truck, in broad daylight.  If this pimp has a cane it is for substance, not style.
She moves through the parking lot, occasionally opening a cab’s passenger-side door and climbing in.
The trucker and hooker disappear in the back for 10 minutes.
Danielle Mitchell watches from the other end of the parking lot and shakes her head.
“We know from talking to other victims and other agencies that girls are taken to truck stops and they’re actually traded,” she says, sitting in her car, a shiny silver sport utility vehicle, keeping a healthy 50-yard distance from the pimp.
Mitchell is North Carolina human trafficking manager for World Relief.  World Relief is a Christian nonprofit attached to the National Association of Evangelicals and is best known for its efforts to combat global hunger and respond to disasters around the world.
Please continue reading their exciting story at

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What's in a Name? Labeling

The other day, my girlfriend was writing in her journal about the way that people label one another. It was an interesting topic and we were sharing on the subject later that day, and about what it does to those who label and are labeled. So, what follows is part musings from her journal, which she graciously shared with me, observations from life and whatnot, and then, of course, my own wit and wisdom(?)

*For my non-spiritual readers: I hope that beyond the god stuff, you can find some value in the thoughts on what labeling is, and what it does to the victim of the label and the person labeling.

~For my readers of various faith traditions: I can only assume you have applicable lessons and warnings in your teachings. Extrapolate as needed.

Labeling: Identifying, Pigeonholing, and Marginalization 

God is massive. God has created the laws of the universe, and suspended them at will. Has given us seasons, and art, self-awareness, and intellect. Jesus sat with thieves and hookers. In the twenty first century, I’m pretty sure Jesus would be dining with junkies and politicians.
We must be about God’s business. And God is in the business of attracting people.

OK. That’s awesome. But the people, who say they want to identify with Jesus, spend more time trying to label the people that they are supposed to be serving. As a society, why do we label people? Poor, rich, autistic, black, white, disabled, gifted, and on and on and on. We slap on more labels than a soup company. Sure, sometimes we do it ‘cause we’re really lazy. Calling them, “The 90 degree couple” was easier than saying, “The couple. She has super long straight hair. He has average length black hair. He wears glasses. And they both wear stern expressions.” The label helped cut to the chase.

Being in a small private Christian college, in central Pennsylvania, there was a lot of labeling angst. I’d be with a group of people and one person is trying to describe a mutual acquaintance to those assembled.
“He’s the guy, in the engineering seminar, who is super quiet… He’s sort of tall...? Always waiting in the hall before class...? He always wears UNC blue…? He’s…um…black. Yeah, him. “

So, of course, some of it is just a convenient way to identify people and things. But often, labels are used to highlight those characteristics in others which one finds undesirable, and from which one seeks to be differentiated.
“No Fat Chicks” “God Hates Fags” “I Hate Stupid People”
These glaring examples of having a label, which is born from a single characteristic, contort, grow, and consume, until the world’s identity of this person is tied inexorably to this one thing. As good people, and more so if we call ourselves people of faith, we should be careful with our language. Students with disabilities don’t' want to be labeled as their disability. Do people who are poor want to be labeled as poor or needy?  These things are circumstances, not who they are. Just like grace is hard for sin stained humans to accept, Jesus didn’t run around saying, “You wretched sinners are really lucky to have me around. You’d be pretty much screwed if I weren’t here.”

Jesus looked at these people and saw the one, single, solitary important label, “The Image of God.” And he acted on it without fail. And, as a result, crowds of people followed him, and his biggest fans were the people who were the farthest from the “perfect life” to which he called his followers. Conversely, the church ostracizes itself constantly. It’s “Us” evangelizing “Them” and this may be why people don't feel welcome because they feel defined by their circumstances like being divorced or single parenthood, poverty, or even being “unsaved.”  These things don’t define a person.

Next time you host a service meal, invite ANYONE to serve, and ANYONE to eat.
When you think of someone’s label before you think of their name, say something nice about that person.
When you’re tempted to drag someone down a “Romans Road” conversation, take a page from Jesus’s playbook. Wipe away his or her tears and say, “go and sin no more.” Then realize that you’re talking to yourself, too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Shuffle Up & Deal (Euchre)

Euchre: The Game of Jacks
If you haven’t heard of euchre, you’re not the only one. Regionally it’s largely isolated to Ohio, Michigan, upstate New York, and a random smattering of other regions. It’s not a plant. It’s not an animal. Some may argue that it’s a religion but definitely not in “that” sense of the word. It’s a card game.  One I’ve been playing since I can remember.

Throughout high school, I was a principal member in the School of Euchre, teaching those uninitiated few how to euch with the best of them. But in northern Ohio, the people who didn’t already know the drill were few and far between. In central Pennsylvania, however, during undergrad, I spent a lot of time just trying to explain what euchre is. But I made a few disciples along the way. And everybody who was to learn got sent in my direction. I figure, this should make sending them my way easier.

In person, I always like to start with square one. “Do you know the basic order of cards?” Etc. Etc. I’m going to go ahead and assume that you do, and not drag the other children through the remediation of explaining that an Ace is higher than a 9.

Starting Out
Euchre is a turn based, partner game, played with four people. If you’re familiar with, Spades, Bridge, Pinochle, or Rook, then you are ahead of the curve. If not, it basically means you sit opposite your partner and want to win hands by throwing out the highest card in the mix.

For those of us who’ve ever heard, “You’re not playing with a full deck.” Now you’re doing it on purpose. Start by dropping the cards eight and below. So, you’ve got a deck of 24 cards, dealt out in sets of twos and threes. Each player gets 5 cards with 4 cards remaining in what’s called the kitty.

Trump: A Primer
Now we have to decide on trump. When a suit is named trump, any card of that suit outranks any card of a non-trump suit. The highest ranking card in euchre is the Jack of the selected suit (referred to as the right bauer or right), then the other Jack of the same color and opposite suit (left bauer, or left). In descending order thereafter it is A, K, Q, 10, and 9. In non-trump suits (except for the next suit), the jacks are not special, and the cards of those suits rank from high to low as A, K, Q, J, 10, and 9.

Making Trump

So, the dealer turns up the top card of the kitty (The Turn Card), in the center of the table. Now it’s time to make tough choices. And the suit of that card is the first option for trump. The player to the left of the dealer is the first to decide, either “pass,” or “pick it up.” And it progresses clockwise, with the last option to the dealer. If anyone decides to make the suit of the turn card, trump then the dealer gets to keep the turn card.
If, however, no one wants the upturned card’s suit to be trump, the exposed card is turned back down, and in the same clockwise pattern, players are given the chance to call any suit as trump, except the one turned down (don’t be a jerk).

What if, in addition to no one liking the turn card, no one wants to call trump either? Well…those among the ranks of the Eucherests without the constitution for risk, would lead you to believe that the hand is a wash, and the deal just advances without play. REAL euchre players, however, always play “Stick the dealer.” This means that despite anything else, if the turn card is down, and it’s back to the dealer to call, no matter how strong or weak his or her hand is…the dealer must choose trump.

King of diamonds. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend. But, are they doing your team any favors?

Left of Dealer. First to act: Two low diamonds and a single off suited Ace. It’s a risky call. Not for the faint of heart, but mavericks would make this call, easy.
We’re going to pass this time.

Next, the partner of the dealer: Two strong trump, but no strong back up. The upshot? keeping the extra trump in the family. A different kind of risky than the first hand, but still a good call. We’ll order up our partner. “Pick it up.”
But let’s keep looking

Dealer’s right: No diamonds no aces. Not only is this not a strong calling hand, this hand pretty much sucks all around.

The dealer has the goods, this hand. With two aces and two jacks this is a balanced partner hand. This is great, because he or she now gets to add the turn card to his or her hand and discard a weaker card of his or her choosing.

So, trump is decided, and play commences.
The player on the left of the dealer leads the first trick. The suit led must be matched by the rest of the players in the hand, provided they have any (Following Suit). If they don’t, all bets are off, and they could throw trump, to try for a win, or a non-trump suit (off) which will automatically lose.

For reference purposes, the card in the middle of the table is the card which was led. The description will identify the winning card. But see if you know which card won, by looking at the pic.

The dealer leads a high and non-trump card, just the way the doctor ordered, hoping to win an early trick. Unfortunately for the leader, the dealer doesn’t have spades, with which to follow suit, and trumps in for the win.

Make it take it. The dealer wins and leads the next trick, high trump to clear out the opposition. And, since his partner called it, show where the power is. The left bauer, the second highest card in the hand goes a long way.

So, now you’ve drawn out one of your opponents trump, and discovered that your other opponent doesn’t even have any. So you’ve got that going for you. You have two aces left and your partner called it. With one opponent lacking trump, and one less heart out there (the jack of hearts became a diamond when that was called) I’m going to lead the Ace of Hearts, and hope that if the bad guy trumps, my partner trumps bigger.

No dice. I guess that call was more debatable than I’d hoped. But now the winner of the trick has only low clubs, so we’re back in the driver’s seat with our Ace of clubs.

And our partner seals the deal with the Right Bauer.

Thus, the hand ends. We’ve taken four tricks and our enemies have taken one. Now the deal advances to the left. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.


Euchre is played to ten points, marked by the counters on a six and a four. Unless you’re in Michigan, then it’s two fives. Or if you’re in upstate New York it’s a two and a three… which makes no sense whatsoever.

So we finished up the hand. All that work for? One point. Anytime a team takes a majority of the five tricks available, that team gets one point. There are a number of ways one can score additional points.

If I’d used my aces a bit better and we’d have taken all five of the tricks, then in addition to the point for the majority, we’d have earned a bonus point for being awesome.

The same is true if your opponents call and you succeed in keeping them from taking their majority (Setting, Euchering).

Going Alone
If you have an amazing hand… Something unstoppable… Or if you are absurdly cavalier, you can go “alone.” Your partner sits out and, if you take all five, it’s worth, not one… not two… but four points to our team.

Oooo…Important point on scoring. If you could follow suit, and fail to? You are guilty of reneging. If you do, it’s worth the max number of points available; so, at least two points and at most four (if the other team was going alone).

A Final Note
As you go out into the world of Euchre, some, who call themselves Euchrests will claim something called “Ace. No face.” Or “Farmer’s Hand.” These are cowardly ways out of playing a weak hand, by re dealing or claiming the kitty. If in their house, accept this with grace. Smile and nod at them. All the while, knowing that you are, by this fact alone a better Euchre player…nay…person, than your opponent. If, however, they are in your house, without hesitation, you should tell them to take that weak garbage somewhere else.

Glossary And Useful Terms Not Yet Mentioned

Bauer- The Jack in the suit of trump (right) and the jack of the opposite suit in the same color (left). The highest cards in any given hand.

Call- Declare trump after all players have passed on the turn card.

Euchred­ (also Set)- Making trump and not winning a majority of tricks; thus, giving the opponents two points.

Following Suit- Playing the suit which was led, as is required.

Hand- Five tricks upon which points are determined.

In the barn- Having 9 points.

Kitty- Four cards remaining after the hand has been dealt. The top card, of which is the turn card.

Lead- Play the first card of a trick. The player to the dealer’s left and then the winner of each subsequent trick is the leader.

Left Bauer (also Left)- The second highest card in a given hand. The jack of the opposite suit of trump. The left, despite having a different symbol than trump, is treated as though it was that suit. If it is a diamond, whilst hearts are trump, a heart led would draw it out, but not a diamonds.

Opposite (also Next)- The other suit of the same color (diamonds to hearts, clubs to spades).

Order up- Deciding trump by ordering the dealer to pick up the turn card.

Renege- Failing to follow suit, when one has the requisite suit.

Trick- When each player has thrown in their card. 5 tricks = 1 hand.

Trump- The uber suit. The lowest card in trump is higher than the highest card of any other suit.

Set- See Euchered

Stopper- A single trick won to stop the other team from taking all five tricks.

Sweep- Taking all five tricks in a hand, for two points.