Category Archives: Miscellaneous

More Has Sunk

People are suing the owners of the Costa Concordia.  Why should they have to sue?  If the owners and managers had any decency or integrity, they would be giving something to the victims or their surviving family members.

The Gingrich Problem

According to exit polls in South Carolina, more than half of the people who voted in the Republican primary describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians.  Most of those voters said that it is very important to them that a candidate share their beliefs.  Most of them voted for Newt Gingrich.

These polling data are strange.  To begin with, the only Protestant still running for the Republican nomination is Ron Paul, who is a Southern Baptist.  Gingrich is a recent convert to Roman Catholicism.  Santorum is also a Catholic.  Romney is a Mormon.  So, if South Carolina voters who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical want a candidate who shares their beliefs, Ron Paul would have been the better choice.  A few of them, apparently, made that choice, but most did not.

Of course, the more glaring problem is Gingrich’s personal life.  I won’t rehash it, as it is well known by now.  I do not understand how evangelicals in the Republican Party can overlook Gingrich’s indiscretions.  The reason that I do not understand it is that evangelicals, as a general group, were out for blood when Clinton’s affair with an intern came to light.  They wanted him impeached and found guilty and ousted.

Here’s the thing.  Everyone who was willing to overlook Clinton’s bad behavior has no business maligning Gingrich.  Likewise, everyone who wanted Clinton’s head on a platter has no business excusing Gringrich’s behavior and supporting him in the nomination process.  It is called hypocrisy and a lack of integrity.

I am speaking in generalities, which has its drawbacks.  Obviously each individual is responsible for his own actions.  I myself was against Clinton for his disgraceful conduct; therefore, I am against Gingrich.  My moral sensibilities do not change just because a candidate has a different party’s initial after his name.  In fact, a case could be made that Clinton is an overall morally superior person to Gingrich, since he has stayed married to his first wife and apparently–one can hope–has learned to be faithful to her.

It is probably unfair for nonchristians to judge Christians as a group; it is always unfair to judge individuals for the behavior of a group.  However, unbelievers will judge Christians, and the judgment will not be favorable.  As a group, the so-called Christian right acts hypocritically, excusing the sins of Republicans and hammering on the sins of Democrats.  (Of course, the same thing happens in the converse, but let’s not go there.)

Here’s the bigger problem.  Nominee Gingrich will carry a lot of baggage.  Faithful family man, Barack Obama, will be his opponent.  Not only will Gingrich’s moral failings come into play, but so will the ethics charges that were brought against him in the House of Representatives.  He might be well qualified to be President, and I believe he is, but his dirty laundry will be a huge liability.

It makes no difference to me who the Republicans nominate.  However, if they are smart and–more so–if they want to live up to their stated principles, Republicans who are evangelical will not help to nominate Gingrich, and they will not vote for him if he does get the nomination.

 

Resolutions for 2012

Here’s what I plan to do this year.  I will write updates on how I am doing.

1.  Brighten at least one person’s day or lighten at least one person’s load every single day.  Say a kind word, give a compliment, offer tangible help, provide for a need, send an encouraging note.

2.  Buy only what I truly need.  Make good use of what I have.  Get rid of excess stuff.

3.  Avoid being overly critical of everyone and everything.  Extend grace.  Exhibit compassion.

4.  Avoid conflict whenever possible, but have the courage to stand firmly against injustice.  Be neither a doormat nor a jerk.

5.  Live in a healthy manner.  Exercise a little every day.  Eat only healthy food for at least six days a week.  Drink water.  Sleep.

6.  Learn a new poem every month.

7.  Work a challenging puzzle every day.

8.  Acknowledge that my own opinions might be wrong.  Listen.  Consider other ideas sincerely.

9.  Read three chapters of the Bible every single day.

10.  Learn to cook a new dish every month.

Overcoming Fear

When I was a boy I was afraid of almost everything.  I was afraid of my parents’ friends and would run into my bedroom or stand behind my father or mother whenever their friends came for a visit.  I was afraid of clowns.  I was afraid of Santa Claus, and refused to sit on his lap.  I was afraid to stand on ledges.  I was afraid of the dark and of the creatures that I was sure were just outside in the darkness.  I was afraid to order food at a restaurant or to return merchandise that I was unsatisfied with or to ask the librarian for help in finding a book.

I’m not sure why I was like that.  It makes me feel so wimpy to remember all of the things that I was afraid of then.  The various fears lingered as I grew older, although most of them gradually subsided.  I learned that most strangers are not going to kill me and that clowns are just people with makeup and costumes.  I learned that people in restaurants and libraries are there to help me and that they (usually) don’t mind.

One thing that helped me a lot was taking drama in school.  Even though I am still an introverted person at heart, I am not afraid of being outgoing when I need to be.  It is a role that I can play when I have to.  I know how to seem a lot bolder and a lot more confident than I really am.  At this stage of my life, I hardly know when I am acting or when the boldness and confidence are really a part of me.

One of my longest-lingering fears was the fear of confronting people.  For most of my life, I just could not do it.  I had a counselor during my mid-twenties who assigned me the task of thinking of somebody that I needed to confront and then going ahead and doing it.  I couldn’t.  I just couldn’t.  I was too concerned about everyone liking me and too apathetic to care about anything that much and too committed to keeping the peace at all cost.  The counselor dropped me as a client.  She said that if I would not do the assigned task, she could probably help me no further.

I have pretty much overcome that fear.  I have learned to be, as they say, assertive.  I still do not confront people often.  I still would rather keep the peacem if at all possible.  However, I can confront people, especially if I believe that a person or group is mistreating somebody else.  In other words, I am still not very likely to stand up for myself but very likely to stand up for somebody else. 

I think that I have overcome my fear of confrontation as a natural outgrowth of reaching middle age.  I no longer care about pleasing people for its own sake.  I no longer care if people “approve” of me or “like” me–unless they are liking me for the right reasons.  I do not care one iota about being cool.  In fact, I am very happy not to be.  I also realize that I do not want to compromise my principles or violate my conscience for the rest of my life.  Some things are worth fighting for.  Some things are worth the risk of hurting the feelings of others or of losing so-called friends.

House: Distractions, The Migraine Episode

I do not watch TV much, but I have watched two seasons of House on DVD.  It is a fun and fascinating program to watch.  However, I have a bone to pick.

In the episode called “Distractions,”  one of the plot lines is that House is trying to discredit a former classmate by proving that the other doctor’s migraine treatment doesn’t work.  House eventually takes the new drug and then induces a migraine in himself by injecting himself with nitroglycerin.  Later, Dr. Foreman gives him drugs to stop the migraine, which do not seem to work.  Eventually, House takes some kind of hallucinogenic drug (presumably LSD) that does break the migraine.

I am a bit of an amateur expert on migraine, and several things did not ring true.  I looked them up to find out for sure.  Here are some of he problems:

1.  Nitroglycerin only provokes a migraine in people who are already prone to migraine.  A person who does not have an underlying migraine disorder would not get a migraine by injecting nitroglycerin into himself.

2.  Dr. Foreman tells House that he is giving him sumatriptan “for the pain.”  Sumatriptan is not actually a pain killer.  It is a migraine abortive drug, so it stops the pain by stopping the migraine episode.  It doesn’t work for every migraineur or for every episode, but when it does work, it works within an hour or two–sometimes even quicker.

3.  Dr. Foreman tells House that he is giving him verapamil to prevent further migraine episodes.  That would never work in one dose.  Verapamil is used in migraine prevention, but it has to be taken daily and usually takes a few days to “kick in.”  If House is not already prone to episodic migraine, then there is not point in his taking verapamil, a calcium channel blocker, especially not just one time.

Even though  the writers and researchers were sloppy in this episode, it is still worth watching.  The mistakes are forgivable in light of the entertainment value.

Me and My Father

     I know that my headline is ungrammatical, but I don’t care.  It’s catchier that way.

     I glanced at myself in the mirror the other day, and I was surprised to see the face of my father staring back at me.  I have always known that I resemble my father, but the older I get the more similar I appear to him. 

     I am like him in other ways, too.  I am not competitive, although I enjoy playing games very much.  I like telling jokes, no matter how corny.  I especially enjoy word play and puns–to the point of annoying other people.  I laugh loud and long at comedy routines and at funny movies.  I am not bent on acquiring wealth or status or power.  I appreciate all things avant garde and strange.  I am firm in my opinions but tolerant of others.

     It’s not bad being like my dad–either in my appearance or in other ways.  It is spooky in some ways, but overall I am comfortable with it.  It’s not like I consciously chose either to be like him or to be unlike him.  Genes and exposure do what they do.  I am what I am, and it just happens to be that I am to some extent a chip off the ol’ block.

     I’m thankful that Dad is not too bad a block to have been chipped from.

Dealing With Sin

Christians are notorious for dealing with sin in all the wrong ways.  There is always a tendency to deal with it too leniently or too harshly.  Sometimes a Christian deals with his or her own sins too leniently and with the sins of others too harshly.  Occasionally it’s the other way around.  A certain Christian might carry a heavy burden of guilt for his or her sins but be overly lenient on the sins of others.

A proper way to deal with sin is to take it seriously but not to treat it too harshly.  What does that mean?

1. Acknowledge that a certain sin–or that sin in general–is wrong and bad.  Don’t say, “It doesn’t really matter.”  It does matter–to God and often to other people who suffer from a person’s sin.

2.  Don’t minimize it.  Don’t say, “It’s not SO bad.”  All sin is bad and wrong, and in one way every sin is equally bad and equally wrong.  Every sin, even the “small” ones, is a failure to meet the standard set by God.   Jesus said, “Be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  There is no point in saying that you are better than other people, since you are certainly not as good as God, and He is the standard.

3. Realize that committing one sin is as bad as committing all of them.  In the First Epistle of John it says that whoever is guilty of breaking one of God’s commandments is as guilty as a person who breaks them all.  So even if you have not murdered or stolen anything, you are just as guilty of disobeying God’s law as the people who have.

4.  Besides, it is likely that you have murdered or stolen in your heart.  Jesus said that if you have hatred or unresolved anger in your heart, it is as though you committed murder against the target.  I’m sure that makes most of us murderers.  If you covet what somebody else has, you have stolen it in your heart.  You are guilty of the sin of greed and selfishness.

5.  Recognize that all of the teachings on sin in the Bible leave us utterly helpless and hopeless on our own.  That’s why the Gospel is “Good News”–it’s literal meaning in Greek.  It is good news, because what we are utterly unable to do–redeem ourselves and atone for our own sins–Jesus did for us.  We cannot be perfect, but Jesus can make us perfect.  We cannot be sinless, but He declares us innocent of all sin.

6.  So, own up to your sin. Don’t blame somebody else or try to excuse or justify it.  There is not use in trying to hide it from God.  He knows what you did, so you might as well confess it to Him.  If the sin harms others, then confess it to them and make restitution if you can.

7.  Realize that being a sinner makes a person the same as everyone else.  You are no worse or better than anyone else, in the grand scheme of things.  Nor is your neighbor, ultimately, better or worse than you.  All of us are guilty of sin–some more dramatic or consequential than others.  Nevertheless, not one of us can claim to be without sin.  We cannot cast the first stone.  We cannot try to take the speck out of our neighbor’s eye, because that beam in our own eye blocks our view.

8.  When someone else sins, we should be ready to forgive and restore that person.  We should remember that we are guilty of our own sins and could end up guilty of the same sin as the one that our brother has committed.  We mustn’t stand proudly before God and say, “I thank you that I am not like that person.”

9.  Jesus died on the cross to somehow take away the penalty of sin.  One version of it is that He paid the price that we owed.  Another is that He took our punishment.  Another is that He demonstrated perfect repentance, even though He had nothing to repent of.  Whichever way it is, because of His death on the cross, we can be free from the eternal consequences of sin.  It really is good news. 

10.  We should realize that every sinner, no matter how bad, may receive Christ’s offer of forgiveness and salvation.  No one is good enough to merit God’s favor, and nobody is bad enough to disqualify.  In fact, only bad people (which really means everybody) are qualified for grace, since the good people (of which there are none) do not need it.  Jesus said that only the sick need a doctor.

So, we should be hard, but not too hard on our own sins.  We should be lenient, but not too lenient on the sins of others.  If we are the sinner, we should confess our sin and make restitution and receive God’s forgiveness.  If somebody else is the sinner, we should forgive and restore that person.

Occupy Wall Street–My View

What do they want?

They don’t like Wall Street?  It is just a street–with buildings on it.

They don’t like corporate greed?  Then boycott the corporations that are the greediest.  Turn public opinion against them, so that everyone will stop trading with those corporations.

What good does hanging out in a park do?  Oh, well, they do have signs. . . .

They don’t like banks?  What do they want the banks to do–pass out all their available cash and close down? 

By the way, how many of them are wearing Nike shoes?  How many are communicating with iPhones?  How many of them got to the protest in planes, trains, and automobiles?

They don’t like rich people?  Everything around them–everything that is making their protest possible without terrible discomfort–was provided one way or another by rich people.

They prefer poverty?  If you don’t like wealth, it is the only alternative.  However, if they love poverty, then why did their kitchen staff complain about the homeless people and squatters who were coming over to the park for free food?

They’re against economic inequality?  Is that something that you can really change?  Can you take a truly poor person–a person with little talent and little motivation and somehow make him equal to a person with tons of natural ability and tons of drive?  You could give person A a one-time million-dollar grant, and he will probably be poor at the end of a few years.  You could take away all of person B’s money, and he will probably become wealthy again in the same time frame.  That’s just how it works.  I’ve seen it in my own family.

In between are people who are just average, just getting by or maybe what my parents call “comfortable.”  That seems normal to me and the way it always will be.

They don’t like government bailouts?  Neither do I.  They should join the Tea Party.  They should vote for Ron Paul.  They should protest at the Capitol in Washington, D. C.

They’re just angry?  That’s not very productive.  Going out and accomplishing something is a better idea.  Why not open a bank that trades fairly?  Why not put people up for election that agree with them, so that laws can get changed?  Why not find more ways of earning more money and being content with it?

Do they even have consistent objectives?  Some have expressed concerns about crime and the need for more police onsite.  Others have expressed concerns about being shut down and are paranoid to see police around.  Some want to re-enact Woodstock and just get stoned and listen to music.  Others want to send a serious message, although I’m not sure what it is.

Things About Me

     My great-uncle once gave me a silver dollar.  I am not sure what happened to it.  I think I deposited it in my savings account when I was a teenager.  I wish I had it today.

     I also wish that I had some of the comic books that I gave away.  I know that a lot of them would have great value today.

     And my stamp collection.  I gave it to my stepsister when I grew bored with it.  I wish that I hadn’t.  Believe it or not, my stepsister is now my stepmother.  Yes, my father married his own stepdaughter, and she is younger than I.  It’s so weird.

     I have never jumped out of an airplane.  I have dreamed about doing it, but I am absolutely certain that I could never actually do it.  I will not even ride most roller coasters.  I won’t even stand at the edge of a balcony, even if there is a sturdy railing.

     I have never forgotten and will never forget that my parents love me.  They were not perfect, but they loved me.  Their unconditional, continuous love is the greatest gift that they ever gave me.

     I show love by paying compliments.  I do it that way because that is how I like to be shown love.  Supposedly everyone has a love language, but I think that as long as you show love in some way or other, it is appreciated.  My wife prefers a firm hug or other physical gestures.  I know to show her love that way, which is one reason my marriage is strong.

     If you were to come to my house for a visit, we would probably stay up late, talking.  If you don’t like to talk for a long time, then I would probably suggest playing cards, watching a movie, or having a sing-along.  I would provide a great meal and plenty of snacks and beverages to entice you to stay.

     I do not believe that any particular Christian denomination is the only right one.  I have worshiped at various times in Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Orthodox, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Assembly of God, Lutheran, Nazarene, Southern Baptist, Grace Brethren, United Pentecostal, American Baptist, Episcopal, and Church of God churches and others besides. 

     On my last birthday I realized that I have almost certainly lived more than half my life.  I am 48, and I doubt that I’ll make it to 96.  My wife asked me if I would really like to live for 48 more years.  Good question!  It think that I would rather not.

     My taste in music is more varied than that of anyone that I know.  On my mp3 player contains operatic arias, African American gospel music, Sousa marches, jazz songs, Irish folk music, hymns, Broadway musical songs, piano sonatas, 1960′s rock songs, renaissance lute music, Gregorian and Ambrosian chant, modern worship songs, big band numbers, and several other types of music.

Taking a Break

I do not know when or if I will post again.  I am involved in a family crisis.  My son has gotten into trouble at school, and it is fairly serious.  I am too busy and too emotionally spent to write anything here.