Friday, December 23, 2005

Knowledge Justification

Although this outcome does not place me in the lofty category of Einstein or Newton, it does show I at least know the basics... ;)

You Passed 8th Grade Science

Congratulations, you got 8/8 correct!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Missing Girl Heading to Yakyma Washington

Please spread the word on your blogs!!!

This girl has been missing since Monday December 19th 2005 at 0705. She was last seen walking away from Lee High School in Fairfax Virginia.

We have a new clue from one of her so called friends. She was pursuaded to leave with the abusive drug guy who is obssessed with her. They may be on a greyhound bus headed to Yakyma Washington State. We think they are on a bus that left Springfield VA. on Monday and should hit Washington later today. I'll let you know if we get her. Thank you so much for the support.

She was seen walking with a 5' 10" 19yr old male, American Indian, long black hair, dark clothes, lip piercings. He has a backpack with a sleeping roll. She was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and jeans. She has a very small silver nose piercing.

This male's name we believe to be Wayne Dixon. He very possibly could on his way to Phoenix with her. Please Please Please know she would not run away without calling and saying she is okay. She would have called her sister.

Please take the attatched flyer and post it everywhere you can and send this email to everyone you know. Thank you so very much. The number on the bottom of the flyer is for the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children. Thank you so very much!!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Empty Your Mind

This article is in response to this article on "The Roost".

A good example of this is the technician that was working on our phone system yesterday. He was attempting to troubleshoot why he could not get one of the phone jacks to work. The method he was using was merely testing if another jack was working in a variety of different ways. In his mind he was switching between the two jacks, but he was merely switching the same jack between to plugs in the phone switch.

The way I am explaining this might be losing something in the translation, but eventually another technician came along and had to explain to the first that he was not looking at the logic in his troubleshooting right. The first technician could not clear his mind enough to understand that he wasn't testing the correct jack.

When we get something set in our minds one way, it is very difficult at times to step back and rethink the situation. Religious discussions are notorious for this type of thought process. People of varying religious beliefs are so ingrained in their life-long belief systems that they find it next to impossible to accept any other line of reasoning.

Some folks swear by Fords, and some by Chevy's, still others are die hard Honda followers, and then there is the type that have Diesel's on the brain. Of course the Dodge fanatics are way out there. ;)

This mental problem is why those people who can think “outside the box” are a valuable asset to a company. A business does not need folks who are mired in their own idioms, but people who can make the mental leaps necessary to cover a larger encompassing scope.

I pride myself on having an open mind and make a real effort to listen to all points of a discussion. Like most people, I too occasionally fall victim to my own thoughts and seemingly have my own cup “spilling over”. Some people who know me ask where I find the time to read all the things that I read, or listen to talk radio, or watch the Science and Discovery channels. The fact is, this is what I enjoy, and so in my spare time it is what I do.

In the car I listen to talk radio so I can stay current on events of the world, and more importantly so I can listen to several sides of a variety of discussions. When at home, and the family has gone to bed, I work on my websites or read about whatever happens to be of interest to me at that moment. If I am in a television mood, I may do the brain-dead thing and watch a sitcom, or spend a Sunday watching things like the Science or Discovery channels.

Since I tend to stay informed on many topics, I am also very aware that many people don't read or write much these days. The older they get, many adults tend to lose their ability to read well, write well or even engage in meaningful conversations. For some reason I can't function that way. This is perhaps one reason I am working as a network administrator/engineer. In my career the industry is always changing. We literally learn new ways to do our jobs daily and have to adapt our thought processes accordingly.

Take a class on something that interests you. Read a book, any book fiction or non, but exercise your mind and work on your reading skills. When watching television, seek out the more informative channels, watch the news, or even something like an interior decorating or cooking show. The key is to watch something informative, not mentally draining. Write poetry, short stories, emails to your friends. Nobody to write to? Participate in forums on whatever website you find interesting. At the very least take up a hobby.

In addition to everything else I have mentioned, I also enjoy the LGB train that goes around our Christmas tree every year and I read magazines about Garden Railways even though I currently do not have the time or money to create one of my own. I am a scuba diver for the local water rescue team. Currently I am maintaining about 8 websites (I lose count) and helping others create web pages and sites of their own. My fish tank is something else that I enjoy, and the current crop of fish can't wait until I stop by every day to toss them their munchies. This past year has brought two dogs into our home, and I love to feed the Quail, finches and hummingbirds in the backyard.

Can I continue with my interests and what I do in my life? You bet. Sometimes it's exhausting just listing my activities, and that's not even going into what needs to be done for my three daughters with school, Girl Scouts, Volleyball, Basketball, Flute and violin lessons, etc...

It's no wonder I am getting more gray by the day.

So keep your cup at least empty enough to allow new things to pour in. Embrace life and live it by always searching for new experiences. This is why I love my “Life In A Handbasket Website”, because I get to write about a great many things and invite the world in for discussions. Unfortunately the world does not know the site exists, but that has not stopped me from writing my articles for the past several years.

The final thing is not only must you maintain enough room in your personal cup to learn new things, but you must also pursue your interests even if the odds are against you. Not many people read my articles, but I don't care. They are written as a way for me to express myself and get out in words all of the strange and random thoughts I am mulling over as I live my life.

It was Albert Einstein that said,

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Do something different, right now, today!

Friday, December 09, 2005

Wargames Are Hell

On her blog, Opinions From On High, "The Princess" brings up the observation that the gaming industry is getting more realistic as each year passes.

Does this realism truly pose a threat to our society? Should we try to "draw the line" on realism in gaming?

I thought I would share with you all my answer to her article since I think this makes for a good discussion topic. It is an industry that is not going to go away any time soon, so how you and your family deal with this access to the realistic games is a very real issue.

Tonight we watched a great mini-series, called The Triangle. It is a fictional T.V. series delving into the Bermuda Triangle Mysteries. While watching, we saw a commercial for a new X-Box 360 game. It is a WWII 1st person shooter that was so real, it left me wondering what the next step is. I am all for improving technology, but I think a line has to be drawn somewhere. If it becomes too real, then I see definite dangers with upcoming generations distinguishing the difference. Quite frankly, I’m a little scared for my son’s generation. This game was so lifelike that logically the next step would be characters so real you cannot tell that they aren’t. - The Princess

I would not like to stifle the development of technology because it is getting too good. I think the realism in the gaming world is fine. What this means, however, is just like inappropriate movies, parents must control what their children are exposed to.

Working in the computer industry I am approached all the time to “rat out” what people do online. Supervisors often want to subversively nail their employees, when what they should really be doing is supervising their people correctly. After all, if you have employees talking on the phone too much, or doodling on papers all day, or reading magazines at work, what do you do then?

This same philosophy holds for parents and children. Monitor their actions, don't buy them games of death and destruction, and attempt to prevent them from playing these at a friends house. I know, it's easier said then done.

You won't be successful all of the time, but even your actions of telling your children they cannot have these games at home because of the violent nature is something to make them pause and question why they even want to play them. Believe it or not, your concern for this type of content does rub off on them. They may think the game is cool, but they may not get the same satisfaction out of playing the game if in the back of their mind their moral compass kicks in. The same moral compass that you, as a parent, helped to program during their upbringing.

I love playing these types of games, but as I play them I am fully aware that they are simulating a horrible thing, war. My upbringing successfully impressed upon me that war is not a good thing, and during war horrible death occurs and this is not something to be enjoyed.

The feeling of trying to fight in a war type situation, however, is thrilling to most boys. The adrenaline gets pumped up and a certain excitement is found playing these games. The more realistic the better. If anything, the realism adds to the education that war is indeed hell.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Happiest Place On Earth

Last weekend our family packed our bags and headed to Southern California to attend the annual family holiday bash.

My three daughters were very surprised to discover that their aunt and uncle were taking us all to Disneyland as our Christmas present.

The last time the girls had been to Disneyland only one of them was really old enough to remember anything about the park, and the youngest did not remember a thing.

I grew up living about 7 miles East of Disneyland and have been there many times. It was a great place to take girls on a date because instead of doing something like sitting in a dark theater you could actually interact with your date socially and more quickly determine your compatibility.

Where am I going with this trip down memory lane?

Needless-to-say I had been on most of the rides so many times I knew them well. In fact my daughters were amazed, or embarrassed, when I could sing along with the entire "Enchanted Tiki Room" show.

Well, I was all prepared for the same old thing and was pleasantly surprised to discover that the Disney "Imagineers" have not been just resting on their past achievements.

It began with "The Pirates of the Caribbean" ride. There were subtle differences from when I last remember this attraction such as improved flame effects, conquistador's defending the fortress that is being attacked by the pirates and two pirates trying to drag out a large tapestry of loot.

The entire park was decorated in holiday splendor with all of the trees lit up in a multitude of colors and a gorgeous Christmas tree on "Main Street". OK, so that has not changed, but it has always made the kingdom feel all that more magical.

Heading toward the "Haunted Mansion" it was obvious that the spooks were embracing the spirit of the season with trimmings of black wreaths and scarecrows dressed as “Sandy Claws”. Coming from all around were the sounds of rewritten Christmas carols such as "Scary Bells", being sung by what sounded like the original cast of “Nightmare Before Christmas”. I figured they would continue this decoration scheme throughout the ride just placing little mementos of the movie around here and there and that would be the extent of the change.

I was wrong.

You could still see many of the “Haunted Mansion” pieces of the ride, but they did an outstanding job incorporating the “Nightmare Before Christmas” theme. I don't want to describe everything to you and ruin the sights, but it was worth the wait in line.

Disneyland now has these things called a “Fast Pass”. At some of the busier rides you can get a ticket near the ride that gives you a 1 hour window when you can return to the ride and zip past a large portion of the line. As long as you're good at planning your time, this works pretty well.

We tried this Fast Pass thing out with the “Thunder Mountain Railroad” ride. After getting the Fast Pass tickets we went to some Santa's village setup in “Big Thunder Ranch” at the Northern end of the park. They had a nice group of reindeer for the kids to see, and the restrooms there were not as crowded as any other in the park.

From there we rode the “Matterhorn” ride (is that what it's called?), which is always a hoot. My youngest was tall enough to ride everything in Disneyland, so we could all enjoy the rides without having to do the thing where one parent stays behind while the other one rides the rides.

“It's A Small World” was all decorated for Christmas, and the music inside of the ride was changed to have a Christmas flare to it. At night I think that this ride had the most lights and decorations on it then all of the other rides combined!

One of the longest lines was “Space Mountain”. Sheesh, I can remember waiting in lines this long for it back when it first opened. Apparently it has been redone and the new and improved ride is still drawing a crowd. Once you ride it you can see why. In the old days it was basically just a roller coaster in the dark, now the coaster itself did not feel like it changed much, but they added swirling star-like lights throughout and it has made it seem more fun.

We really had fun on the new “Buzz Light Year” ride as well. The neat thing about this ride was that you got to shoot little lighted targets while battling Buzz's arch enemy. There were only two laser gun things and my wife and I had our littlest one in the car with us, but luckily there was a lever for rotating the car too so I spent the time spinning us all around trying to give the ladies a better shot at the various targets. The end of this ride was great because you got to send a picture of yourself to an email account for free. I'll post our pictures here in this article a little later.

If you go to Disneyland you simply must make sure you see the fireworks show. Don't just watch them from anywhere in the park, make sure you end up at the North end of “Main Street” facing the castle. The entire show is created based on this viewing position. I don't want to give away too much, but let's just say that the fireworks show is in 360 degrees from that viewing location.

There is actually more to tell about, but I think you get the idea that we had a good time on this trip, I won't put you to sleep by elaborating any more.

Well done Disneyland, and thank you for making the Magic Kingdom fresh again for an old fan. Walt would be proud of what you have done with the place. Once again Disneyland has lived up to its motto as being “The Happiest Place On Earth”.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

'tis The Season For Whiny-butts

I was listening to Sean Hanity today and some lady from Texas called in to tell of her clandestine investigation of Walmart and Target. She went on and on about how these stores have an official policy to call the Holiday Season... Are you ready for this scary term? The “Holiday Season”.

Ooooo... How terrible. I think all Christians should immediately go out and kill all Walmart and Target managers for this horrendous crime against humanity!

Give me a break. Saying Merry Christmas does not offend me even though I don't consider myself a Christian, but neither does saying Happy Holidays. Am I missing something? What is the huge deal that Christians are demanding that the word Christmas be forced onto stores?

The more these things rear their ugly heads, the less I like organized religion. Even the leaders of Christian churches ought to be smacking these folks that are giving them a bad reputation.

Talk show hosts like Sean Hanity should not be hooked into catering to these folks either. Trying to make the Holiday Season more generic for all is not a horrible thing, and in no way insults Christians.

Nobody is telling you not to wish people Merry Christmas, or that you can't put up a Chritmas tree, or sing Christmas carols. Nobody is preventing Christians from celebrating their holiday, and quite frankly nobody cares what you do.

You don't hear the Jewish community boycotting Walmart for not saying “Happy Hanukkah”, or the Wiccans for the stores not saying “Blessed Be”.

Now I ask you honestly, if you're a Christian do you think that your faith should be employing mob tactics to enforce retailers to say Merry Christmas over Happy Holidays?

Should we go into the fact that wishing somebody Happy Holidays is saying Happy Holy Days? What's the big difference between Happy Holy Days and Merry Christmas? This sort of stuff just makes me want to scream at everyone, Bah Humbug!

Although I'm not religious, I think saying Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays is perfectly fine. This season has stood for Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward man for so long, that I personally don't think that any one religion can lay claim to this time of year.

What's wrong with Jewish people having a Christmas tree? They can still celebrate Hanukkah, having an evergreen in the living room decorated with pretty lights would not prevent that would it?

This is the time of year we should all, as the planet, stop and reflect about living in peace with one another. Those of you who don't want to live in peace with us, well, we can just kill you! (kidding, of course)

I'd really be interested in everyone's feelings on this subject. Is it just me that this “Christmas is only for one specific religion” thing seems all wrong?

Realistically, if you look at many of the aspects of what we now celebrate in the Christmas holiday, you'll discover that the majority of it all came from Pagan celebrations anyway.

Christmas has evolved into the Holiday Season, which should be enjoyed and celebrated by all of humanity, not just a chosen few. After all, if you're Christian why wouldn't you want all people of the world to enjoy this time instead of trying to ruin it by using this time to make a political and religious statement.

Shut the heck up, sip some eggnog, and enjoy the season.

Merry Christmas to all, and Happy Holidays too!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

You Turkey

Another year and another large turkey is out of the oven and ready for us to slice up and devour as the main dish for our Thanksgiving meal.

This Thanksgiving I decided to look into these tasty creatures and learn a little more about them. After all, I see them in the fields and along the roadside as I travel throughout the Northwest, and the only thing I know about them is what I have heard while I was growing up.

Some will tell you I have not yet finished growing up, and I would have to agree with them.

One thing many of you may already know, is that Benjamin Franklin lobbied to make the turkey the national bird. I can't imagine having the majestic eagle replaced by a turkey, but we were close to having the majestic turkey adorning our national symbols.

Benjamin Franklin was just one of three members of a committee that was assigned by the Continental Congress. The other two members were Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Their assignment was to come up with a design for the official national seal.

The first idea the three had designed included Lady Liberty, but congress didn't care for the design and consulted with a Philadelphia artist of the time named, William Barton. Barton came up with a new design which included a Golden Eagle. Although they liked this new design, they wanted a bird more native to America and so decided that the American Bald Eagle should be the bird.

When Benjamin Franklin heard of the choice of a Bald Eagle he is quoted as saying,

For my part, I wish the eagle had not been chosen as the representative of this country. He is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched in some dead tree where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing hawk and, when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish and is bearing it to his nest for his young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes the fish. With all this injustice, he is never in good case.

At some point Benjamin Franklin argued that the turkey was, “A much more respectable bird and a true native of America," he further stated that the turkey was a, “bird of courage" and that the turkey "would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on."

Luckily for us, congress was not convinced that the turkey should win out over the Eagle, and the rest is history.

Did you know that a male turkey is called a “Tom” and the females are called “hens”? If they hatch some little turkeys these would be called, “poults”. At sixteen weeks old a turkey is called a “fryer”, and at five to seven months old they are known as “roasters”.

I found it interesting that in ballroom dancing the “Turkey Trot” is called that because it resembles the short, jerky steps that a turkey makes when it walks.

Turkey's have great eyesight and can see about 270 degrees and can even see in color the way we can. Of course, like us, they also cannot see at night very well. Their hearing is also quite good, and between good eyesight and good hearing they tend to elude many frustrated hunters very well.

I'm uncertain from this bit of turkey trivia, but I thought I would share it with you anyway because it is somewhat amusing. Apparently turkeys have heart attacks. The story goes like this, “The United States Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys dropped dead with heart attacks.” This is interesting because many doctors recommend eating turkey in your diet to prevent heart attacks. Believe it, or not. :)

Since 1947, the National Turkey Federation has presented a live turkey and two dressed turkeys to the President. The President does not eat the live turkey. He "pardons" it and allows it to live out its days on a historical farm.

It seems that there is a myth that is perpetuated that eating turkey will make you sleepy. From what I can gather it seems eating turkey does not cause you to feel sleepy after your Thanksgiving dinner. Carbohydrates in your Thanksgiving dinner are the likely cause of your sleepiness.

The caruncle is a red-pink fleshy growth on the head and upper neck of the turkey. Turkeys have a long, red, fleshy area called a snood that grows from the forehead over the bill. The fleshy growth under a turkey’s throat is called a wattle.

How many of you have heard that turkey's are so stupid that they will drown if they look up when it rains? Apparently this is not really true. These types of tales may have come up because baby turkeys are very vulnerable when they still have their down on them and not yet fully feathered. Many baby turkeys that are not protected in a downpour will die from being wet and from exposure, but not from drowning.

Although turkey's spend most of their day feeding on the ground, they actually fly up into trees to spend their nights a little safer from nocturnal predators.

Turkey's are also pretty quick. The can fly short distances at about 55 miles per hour, and can run at speeds up to 25 miles per hour on the ground. Domesticated turkey's, however, can no longer fly.

Now you know some of the more interesting things about the turkey. Enjoy your Thanksgiving meal feeling a little better about your knowledge of the main course.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

And The Winner Is...

I watched the American Music Awards tonight, which is not normally something I would do, but the shows I normally watch were not on. Besides, I saw in the commercials that some great acts were going to perform, so I thought it would be a nice change this evening.

For some reason I felt somewhat disappointed most of the night.

The first almost embarrassing thing was watching Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff trying to perform on stage in front of amazing musical talent. I must admit that I have enjoyed songs in the past by both of these ladies, but for some reason they just did not seem to have the entertainer power that is expected to perform for the superstars of the industry.

As I watched each of these ladies perform it felt like I was watching television and movie stars trying to compete with some tough competition in the world of music. They just did not seem to have the star quality when it comes to musical entertainment.

I really loved seeing Cyndi Lauper on stage. Personally I think that Cyndi Lauper has such a unique voice and singing talent that I wish she would do more original work. Last year I bought a new album by Cyndi but it was a studio album and was just a collection of recycled songs. This type of album almost never turns out well. It’s tough to make existing songs new again, but sometimes it can be pulled off.

One example of a recycled song done right is from the group SheDaisy. Their Christmas album was great, and I think their version of “Deck the Halls” is one of the better renditions of that song I have ever heard. The voices of SheDaisy sound heavenly together, and the interesting composition of that song just worked well.

Will Smith won an award tonight, and I don’t know what it is about Will Smith, but I really like his music. Now he’s an example of a multi-talented person who does well in television, movies and music. The difference between him and Hilary or Lindsay, is that he can pull it off. I’m sure the ladies have worked hard, but Will is smokin’ and it’s hard for anyone to match his versatility. I’m always ecstatic when I see he has released a new album.

Women are fantastic to look at, and I’ll ogle them right along with everyone else when they wear skimpy clothing. Heck, there’s nothing like a hot day on the beach watching beautiful ladies walk by in a variety of bikinis. Why do some women think that award shows are the time to come out on stage virtually topless? Is this necessary?

Well, yes I do like to see their barely restrained fun bags, but I fail to see the purpose behind exposing themselves on national television. People who know me already can attest to the fact that beautiful woman always get noticed by me. I’m lucky to have married a beautiful woman. During an awards show, however, let’s keep the morsels in their stay-fresh wrappers so they don’t dry out from all of the hot lights.

Another highlight of the night was watching the Eurythmics perform, and learning the group is back together. They said they have just released a collection of their previous hits, but let’s hope they still have it in them to crank out a few new songs and reclaim their following. I know I’ll be waiting for any new material from them with anticipation. After watching them on stage, I think they still have the strength to belt out the tunes.

The highlight of the evening was supposed to be the Rolling Stones. They were introduced as Rock and Roll royalty, and on that point I don’t disagree. As far as classic rock and rollers go, the Rolling Stones can certainly hold their own. It’s precisely because of this lofty position that I was somewhat disturbed by their live performance from Salt Lake City Utah.

The first song they sang was not very good, and then they dusted off one of their tried and true songs and it sounded like crap. With their typical scary looks, and this dismal showing, it was an anticlimactic ending for the show. I’m sure it was the fact that not only was it a live show, but it was also being watched on television. Hopefully their new CD will have a better sound then their live stage performance did.

That’s it, my thoughts on what I spent my night doing. Of course I managed to do a little work on my websites (very little between commercials), and even write this revue of the American Music Awards. In the end, I now know why I seldom watch these types of shows. It ran for too long, and in the end felt like a huge waste of my evening.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Intelligent Design - Still Going

This article is in response to a discussion going on at The Roost.

Ah, back to the ID thing again are we? ;)

I certainly don’t deny that many supporters of ID do so because of their religious beliefs.

Who else would support ID if not for religious folks?

What interests me most about intelligent design is whether or not we could tell if some intelligent force has influenced the development of life on earth. That is where the critics of intelligent design tend to bother me. Rather than addressing if we could know, or how we could know they seem on the whole to be demanding that it is impossible that it could have happened. I think the meta questions of how we could know are important even if it didn’t happen and the refussal to even address those questions strikes me as being profoundly anti-scientific.

The question of whether or not some intelligent force has influenced the development of life on Earth is indeed interesting, it's just not science, it's metaphysics. It raises questions that cannot be explained by science, therefore, these are not scientific questions.

Many religious folks are trying their darnedest to move ID into the scientific community. I would think that if any remote ounce of ID were based on scientific facts that they would bring this to the table in their argument. Since we have never seen any such data, it pretty much means there isn't any to be found. Not yet at least.

If ID is not provable to be a science-based study, then it should remain out of the scientific community, and yes, that means our children's science books. Trying to force scientists to add ID into their books does not make it science, it makes followers of ID very questionable.

Go study ID and ask your questions all you want to. Who's stopping you? When you get something worthwhile, come back and talk to us. Until the time comes when you bring real scientific evidence to the table about ID, stop trying to shove this man-made fairytale down our children's throats and passing it off for real science.

Although the questions that the possibility of ID brings to the discussion are interesting, I choose not to waste my time with them because I don't feel they are relevant any more then trying to prove the existence of the Galactic Chicken or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Our time on this Earth is limited, and spending time studying mythological pursuits seems to be a waste when so many other things need to be studied.

Spending your time studying cures for diseases is a more lofty use of your time then memorizing every phrase of a book based on tales to scare unbelievers. Heck, just using that time to spend with my daughters is infinitely more appealing then wondering how Moses parted the Red Sea.

I'm not saying people should not study the idea of ID if that's what floats their boat, I just don't want it forced onto others. It seems throughout history many religions have tried to force themselves on others. We're currently knee-deep in a war for that very reason.

In the past entire cities have been destroyed right down to the women, children and animals because people did not believe how others thought they should believe. By forcing your belief system into our schools and government you are following in the footsteps of others that have come before you. The argument that ID belongs in our science classes is nothing short of attempted brainwashing.

Christians have been freaking out recently because people are trying to make this country more generic when it comes to religion, and Christians are afraid they will lose their foothold as the dominant religion. They are in a state of panic because apparently allowing others to practice their religious beliefs, or at least stepping aside so others have a chance to worship how they like, is a bad thing.

All religions function by trying to make themselves desirable for followers to join. It's all about marketing. When competition comes along then historically religions pull out all the stops to prevent their flocks from dwindling.

Here's a question for you to ponder. If Christians are secure in their belief and know that it is the only path we should follow through life, why do they try so hard to remain in our government and schools? Why not just be content to worship in their churches and not try so hard to force their way into society as a whole? Because like any organization they need numbers to retain power. Small numbers mean less of an influence on just about everything.

Religion is a business. They collect money, buy property, and find loopholes to operate “in the black”. Without a steady source of income, their flock, they will shrivel up and waste away. Sure you will go to Hell if you don't give to your church, but what they really mean is that if you don't give they will disappear, not you.

Want to climb up on your soapbox and beat the drums of how ID should be allowed into our school science classes now? Go ahead, but you'd better bring something more substantial to your discussion other then the question of “whether or not we could tell if some intelligent force has influenced the development of life on earth“.

My two cents in the grand scheme of life on Earth. :)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Boycott Christmas!

This year the United States has undergone a barrage of criticism for favoring the Christian religion over many others. In our schools there is the constant battle to place Intelligent Design into our science books. Some states were more successful at blocking this ignorant attempt then others.

The pledge is taking flack for the words “Under God”, and seems like this one will not go away until the highest court in the land makes a ruling.

Hang on now, because the monotheists are going after retailers next!

It seems a group called the, “Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights” has rallied the troops for a boycott against Wal-Mart because they feel that,

Wal-Mart discriminates in its treatment of Christmas

On their website Catholic League president Bill Donohue happily remarks that,

...I e-mailed Dan Fogleman, Senior Manager of Public Relations, letting him know the following: ‘Now that Wal-Mart is standing by its position, I hope you’re ready for our next move. Don’t forget, we have the next six weeks to pull out all the stops, and we will.’

It's nice to see that throughout the centuries the fanatical Catholics have not lost their touch. It's a nice “Holiday Season” message when the head of a group for “Religious and Civil Rights” threatens a store because they are not mentioning their religion more then other religions.

Like a Catholic criminal, Mr. Donohue makes his demands,

We want a) an apology for insulting Christians by effectively banning Christmas and b) a withdrawal of its insane statement regarding the origins of Christmas and c) a revision on its website.

In another article on their site entitled, “CHRISTMAS CENSORS ALREADY AT WORK”, Mr. Donohue takes issue with San Diego changing Christmas Programs to Winter Programs enable diverse communities to participate without feeling left out or marginalized

What's wrong with this approach? Wait a minute, it would mean that Christians are not dominating the “holiday season” in Sand Diego schools.

Call out the Knights of Columbus!

Hey I have an idea, why don't we just back up the historical clock and burn everyone who would dare call the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas the “Holiday Season”! After all, it worked in the past, it should work now. Kill everyone who is not Catholic.

The title of this organization is a scam. They are not for Religious and Civil Rights of anyone but themselves, they seem to be for Catholic rights above everyone else.

This attitude of attacking everyone, whether physically, financially or psychologically, who does not believe the way you do is exactly why Christians are losing their foothold with the younger people.

Maybe the Dictators of the world have it right and we should not educate our children because they will become smart and realize that fanatical religious zealots can no longer dictate how we live our lives. The harder they try, the farther away they are pushing their potential sheep.

I have nothing against Christians celebrating the “holiday season” any way they choose, except when they start threatening others with demands.

This attack on Wal-Mart might make Mr. Donohue feel all puffy, like his organization actually won something because Wal-Mart did not want to go into one of their busiest seasons fighting with religious organizations, but it simply makes his organization look truly sad.

The plain truth is that the entire society is not Christian, and should not have to be bullied by organizations like these into celebrating Christmas. There is absolutely nothing wrong with calling this time the “Holiday Season”. It leaves nobody out, and does not harm anyone for doing so.

We celebrate Christmas at my house, and I am not so insecure in my belief that I have to attack my Buddhist, Jewish, or Wiccan friends, because I am scared that they may some day take over the world.

With an organization claiming “Religious and Civil Rights” why don't you start practicing what you preach?

You should be demanding the term “Holiday Season” so that Christians can celebrate side-by-side with everyone else. Keep up your current course of action of trying to force your agenda on others and perhaps someday you may find that Catholic children might be pressured into pledging their allegiance to Odin.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Rose Colored Glasses

This article was written in response to a post from Opinions From On High

Sometimes I have found that these observations can be skewed from the perspective of the observer.

My sister has the opinion that I am the angel in the family and everyone picks on her, but this is far from the case. To this day I think she realizes this to not be completely true, but she still harbors these feelings for no apparent reason.

As your mother's child, you are viewing life through the eyes and observations of your mother. As such, you empathize with your mothers situation because you have been raised to view things as she does. Don't claim to be your own person and able to view things completely objective, because it can't happen. You're in the thick of it and therefore unqualified to make objective observations about you're own family. The only way to find out truly how things are would be to see a psychologist who can examine the situation from an outside perspective.

(I'm in no way qualified to comment on this area either, yet I always seem to have opinions and can't keep silent about them. So take what I say as the ravings of a madman, for who knows if the commentary I type out is right or wrong? Now, back to our program...)

This same thought process can then be applied to you as well. You being the “evil one” is your own perspective. Many people feel “picked on”, or even that they cannot do anything right in the eyes of their parents. Many people have shields in place and they perceive everything as an affront to them personally.

I operate under my own rulebook, primarily that I don't give a crap what people think about me (to a point). There was a quote from someplace that I don't recall about people cannot do anything to you that you don't allow. Meaning? That if you think you are being treated like the evil child then you are letting people do this to you.

When someone treats me poorly, or makes some snide comment that might offend a weaker person, I let it roll off of me “like water off a duck”. Do you remember the saying as a child that, “I'm rubber and your glue, what you say bounces off me and sticks to you”? There is a lot of wisdom in many old sayings.

I also explained to my daughters the saying that, “It takes two to tango.” Any time there is an argument between two people, whether family, coworkers, or strangers, it always takes two people. A commercial on television where one person is wearing some jell-based shoe inserts, and no matter what happens to them they are cool with it because they are “Jellin'”, is what I am talking about. There is a radio version of this commercial where a waitress dumps coffee in a guys lap, and “even though there is considerable redness and swellin'”, he's still OK because he's jellin'.

Through the years I have known folks that feel picked on, or can't gracefully exit from an argument, or maybe even dwell on things and can't release the negative thoughts effectively. I have tried to help people to see life as I do, but it's a difficult thing to pass along. Everyone has grown up with their own minds, and I'm not smart enough to know how our individual minds work. It's easy for me to say, just ignore an insult, or forget about a family spat that happened yesterday, but it's another thing for you to actually be able to do that for yourself.

Can I toss yet another colloquialism in here?

Rule #1: Don't sweat the small stuff.
Rule #2: It's all small stuff.

Never get so wrapped up in what other people think that it affects you emotionally and you should find yourself to no longer be the “evil child”, but the child that is now doing her own thing, standing firm on her beliefs and with her family, and to hell with what anyone else thinks of her. You're no longer anyone's mental play thing. If a poorly phrased comment is made by someone, ignore it and move along. Don't argue, don't “cop and attitude”, and most of all don't dwell on it. Just act like “there's nothing to see here, move along...”

By not acknowledging the attempted assault on your psyche, you remove the power the assault has on you, and effectively defending yourself against further annoyances caused by the assault. Instead, let it roll off you, and think about something more pleasant like your children, or the upcoming holidays.

Another quote I love to whip out in articles like this is the one from the Kung Fu television series, “If I worry, will the future change?” The moral here is that keeping things inside and dwelling on them will serve no purpose other then to destroy you from the inside. Cast out the bad thoughts and move along in your happy place. :)

If you find yourself upset because something happened between you an another person, the best way to feel better is to swallow your pride and apologize. You don't have to admit the other person is right, just that you're sorry for getting upset about the topic the disagreement was over.

There is nothing harder in the world, it seems, then to apologize to someone else, especially if that person has some authority over you such as a boss or parent. In the end, when the apology is accepted (or frankly even if it isn't), I know you will feel better for having made the effort.

Focus on the good and happy things, and ignore and remove the negative things that make you grumpy. Would you like to buy some rose colored glasses?

Friday, November 04, 2005

You Gotta Have Faith. Or Do You?

This article has been written in response to an on-going discussion on The Roost.

I look at faith as a type of trust relationship. If I have faith, then I am trusting in something. I have faith that the sun will rise yet again tomorrow. I trust the nature of the star to continue to burn as it always has, yet I also know that it is equally in its nature to one day burn out. Hopefully I will not be here to witness this event.

When I look at religion, I do not trust religious leaders, or tomes written a very long time ago. I do not have faith in something I view as being created to placate or rule others with fear and retribution. For the same reason the majority of us no longer worship the sun for fear it will not rise again, or perform sacrifices so that our crops will grow this season.

Faith in God is truly a blind faith because there is not a definite logic behind the trust relationship. Just because someone believes in Thor because they have witnessed the thunder claps on a stormy night as proof of his existence, still does not make him real. It's a perception and a delusion, not a reality.

Looking at a blade of grass and marveling at its complexities then drawing the conclusion that some intelligence had to have created it is simply based in faith, and that's it. Digging up artifacts created by others who believed in the same fantasy's still do not make them real. Unearthing statues of Athena does not make her any more a real goddess then finding old scrolls of lost Bible stories.

One of the few religions that can be argued as having a decent stake in reality is Buddhism. I'm not a Buddhist, but they teach real lessons about real things. They teach about human nature, and nature itself. They are not about scaring their followers into their teachings by fantastical stories of Hell and fallen angels.

This is why Christianity is beginning to lose its grip on the population of this planet. Their teachings are scary fairy tales, and people are beginning to seriously doubt teachings that were handed down from their parents. The issue about the pledge is extremely important to Christians because this has been a great brain-washing tool for them, and they are about to lose it.

I was raised Christian, went to Sunday school, and learned the golden rules. As I got older things did not seem to make sense to me. I began to feel like something was wrong with me because I just didn't get this whole God thing. Trying to “heal” myself, I approached the leaders of our church asking some deep questions about my religion, God, and whatever I could think of. This was a huge turning point in my life because many of the replies were that there were no answers, it just came down to faith.

My doctor doesn't get away with that line of reasoning with me, and the people running my life and my children's lives are not going to float that one by me either. People can get upset and feel like I am being harsh to their belief all they want to. The plain fact is, I will not trust a religion.

There is zero need to be religious. We can get together and enjoy other's company and support without having to believe in an all-powerful being. Religion offers little other then making us feel guilty and unworthy. Religion has been the root cause of bloodshed throughout our history and it is still going on today. This is why I have turned my back on religion and turned toward reality.

A movie I find interesting is “The Matrix”. In it we find that people have been blindly following something that wasn't real because they were content.

There are times when I feel like Neo when he was brought out of the world based on faith, and into reality. I am still surrounded by a large number of people who are content in their belief, and that's really OK with me.

I do think that religion is used as a crutch because people want to believe that there is something more then their own mortality. They want to believe that their loved ones are in heaven waiting for them to arrive, because it eases the pain of the loss. Most importantly, they want to feel like they belong, and church provides this womb where they can feel secure and protected.

I'm certain that many of you will read this and become very offended that I would say such things, but it is my belief just as you have your belief.

For the most part Christians, and the various off-shoots of Christianity, are wonderful people. I do not hate Christians, nor most people that follow various religions. I think there is room enough on our fantastic planet for everyone and what they choose to believe in. Where I draw the line are those beliefs designed to harm others. The second your belief system turns into hate, and the desire to wipe out those who do not believe as you do, then your time on Earth has expired and you must go.

Christians, Buddhists, Wiccans, Native Americans, whatever can all live together in peace, and so far seem to be making a good attempt.

This article is not about harshing your world, insulting your religion, or calling you names. It is about what I believe and why I believe how I do. You may find it a twisted misguided belief, and you could possibly be correct. In light of that, I welcome any sane discussion on the thoughts that I have shared with you through these words. Come equipped with your wits, and share your view on what I have written.

Have I made you think?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

What Serenity Character Are You?

Yet another quiz found on Justus For All.

You scored as Capt. Mal Reynolds. The Captain. You are the captain of the ship, so the crew are your responsibility. You just want to do the job, get paid and keep flying. Why is that always so hard?

Capt. Mal Reynolds


The Operative


Zoe Alleyne Washburne


Simon Tam


Hoban 'Wash' Washburne


Inara Serra


Jayne Cobb


Shepherd Derrial Book


River Tam


Kaylee Frye


Which Serenity character are you?
created with

What Religion Do You Fit In With?

I noticed this over on Justus For All and could not resist.

No real shock on the outcome. Take the quiz and see what you really think.

Thanks Dave!

You fit in with:

Your ideals mostly resemble those of an Atheist. You have very little faith and you are very focused on intellectual endeavors. You value objective proof over intuition or subjective thoughts. You enjoy talking about ideas and tend to have a lot of in depth conversations with people.

40% scientific.
80% reason-oriented.

Take this quiz at

Monday, October 31, 2005

Honor The Witches

Throughout history and intertwined in various forms among a variety of cultures, there has been the persona of what we now think of as a Witch. Put aside, for a while, the fact that modern witches are trying to reinvent the label into a new religion, and let's take a trip back through time and try to explain how the present day fairytale type of witch began.

During this ride I will not be digging into the origins of the word witch, or trying to document any sort of historical details to prove that witches are some ancient religion. I'll save that for the Wiccan sites and those who are interested in the claims that present day witches are descended from something greater. What I am offering is a rational thought process of how we arrived at viewing the fairytale witch the way we do.

Many years ago, before Christianity reared its head, there were people like medicine-men and other village wise men and women that cared for the sick and the general health of the people living in their particular cultural niche. These people often had a great deal of knowledge about the surrounding plants and about the human physiology. This information was handed down generation after generation and served to help others survive in this harsh world.

Often, the healers of a village or tribe mixed in with their healing herbs and potions stories about supernatural things. Nobody can know for sure if these people truly believed in the tales they spun, or if it was just window dressing to add to the psychological healing powers of their craft. Even today positive attitudes of both patient and doctor are huge factors in the success of many medical treatments.

It's safe to say that some stories got more out of control then others, and some healers probably claimed all manner of special abilities as handed down to them from some unseen power. In a tribe or village this would definitely place these folks in awe of the others, not realizing that their “powers” merely came from their knowledge of natural cures.

Unfortunately these claims of power and stories of mystical abilities were to be the very weapon that would later be used against them.

As civilizations grew, and became something more then small tribes or villages, people began organizing together and various gangs became more powerful then others. Power is the driving force during human history, and people are very clever in how they obtain power and use it for their own needs.

One gang, we know them today as Christians, were trying to gain more power, but were having trouble convincing others that their way was the only path people should be following. One of the more difficult stumbling blocks were the wise-men and women of the various villages. The village healers probably saw these new religious gangs for what they were, a threat on their way of life.

Within the village these healers held a lot of influence over their “flock” and the new religious gangs could not seem to be making headway into many villages. Since Christianity was not against making things up to get themselves established, they branded these healers as gaining their power from evil and Satan.

The same stereotypes were employed then as we see today. The church went after these people by ridiculing their age and appearance. The vision of what we know a fairytale witch today is simply the remarks of a power-hungry religion to frighten their followers from having anything to do with the healers that they used to rely on.

Think about the description of a village healer woman. Old, walks with a cane, ugly (of course), seen living with her cats and using her broom to sweep off her porch and her house. The church called these woman hags, or crones, and claimed their cats were used for their wicked spells which came from the devil himself. It did not take long for people to begin to believe that these healers were obviously getting their knowledge from some evil source, because they knew too much and could heal people in impossible ways.

Witches are not evil, and in fact they were probably hero's of many villages and should be hailed as the mothers of humanity. They are the early healers who kept their villages healthy, and were the first doctors. I'm certain that much of our medical research and practices today can owe their thanks to these wise women of our past.

Sure it's fun to dress up on Halloween as a witch, a hag, an old crone, and pretend to be the things that were used to scare uneducated people of our past. I would ask that as you enjoy a little escape from reality and have fun with the spirit of Halloween, stop and think about the true origin of witches. They were mothers and grandmothers and intelligent healers of their village who probably worked tirelessly to make sure that disease and medical problems did not do too much damage to the people who entrusted their well-being to them.

My own mother goes out of her way to care for others, and helps wherever she can. I can't help but think that in a village of long ago she might have also been a healer. It sickens me to think that because of a few pompous power-hungry religious types she would then be marked as a witch, taken from her home, and burned at the stake. Her crime? Helping others with her knowledge of medicine and caring for the weaker people of the village.

From this point on, Halloween will be the day my family will honor the women who were labeled as witches. These women did not deserve the label that was given to them, or the treatment by the church that went along with the misnomer. Enjoy the festivities and the fairytale witch, but do not confuse the symbol with the reality.

Happy Halloween, and thanks to all of the witches who made it possible!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Home Sweet Home (Fiction)

It was the home of her dreams. A large wooden two-story house built in the 1800’s. Well maintained, the inside of the house had large exposed beams that supported the natural wood ceiling.

In the entryway was a beautiful chandelier, a few feet behind that was an awesome looking beam of well-polished wood. Adding to all of the wood in the ceiling was the wood flooring which complemented the entire home with a deep, rich color that has been painstakingly polished to a fine sheen.

Susan had just moved in with her two children, and most of the boxes had been unpacked, with the empties broken down in a neat pile in the detached garage. She had bought some large rugs before placing her furniture in many of the rooms because she didn’t want to mare the nice flooring.

The house stood in the center of a five-acre plot of land, with gorgeous trees surrounding the extensive lush grass lawns. The garden out back was expansive with a variety of plants of all kinds. A fountain dominated the center of the garden, with three tiers and statuary of fish spitting water encircling the main pool.

Susan’s children, Julie and William enjoyed their new home. Between the house, and the yard outside, they had a seemingly endless amount of space with which to play and explore.

Julie was 12 and already thinking she was an adult. She had outgrown little girl things she would tell Susan, yet she was not ready to toss out her collection of teddy bears and other assorted dolls. William was 5 and still a handful. Living with two females he would constantly get rowdy, and do the things that all boys his age like to do, but most of the time it was no use. William often spent time alone in the grounds around their new home playing army men, cars, or thinking up other adventurous things.

The family would not be complete without their two dogs. Casper, a West Highland Terrier, is white with a touch of beige along his back. Casper’s personality is that of someone who plays dumb, yet in reality is very intelligent. He’ll play and roll around looking silly, yet when someone is speaking he’ll listen intently and apparently can understand a wide vocabulary. Boo, on the other hand, is a black Scottish Terrier and has a stubborn streak that goes along nicely with his terrier ancestry. Boo enjoys the dominant role over his brother, but when Casper is tired of letting Boo be the bully, he puts him in his place quickly.

Together they would get into trouble digging in the garden and stealing anything that is lying around. In fact, it’s not unusual for the family to find many of their belongings out in the yard. One obsession Boo has is his love of the family’s socks. It seems that if there is sock anywhere on the floor in the house Boo would find it and take it outside. Most people wonder where their socks go, this family always knows exactly who to blame. They gave up trying to reprimand the stubborn terrier, so they make a better effort remembering to place their socks in the laundry baskets in their rooms.

They had moved into the new home in the fall. The leaves were changing now and the wind would pick up more often in the evenings. Never owning such a large home, or one this old and mostly wood, they where having trouble getting used to the creaks and other noises the home made as the temperature would cool, and the house would adjust accordingly.

When they first heard the sounds, they would check upstairs and all over because they thought someone was walking around upstairs. As the nights continued to cool, the sounds would stop and all would be quiet. Susan realized that every home had its sounds, and that’s part of what gave the house its character. They would just have to get used to the different sounds of this home.

One evening they were all sitting in front of the fireplace downstairs when they heard barking coming from upstairs. When they went to see what was going on, Boo was in the children’s bathroom barking at the bathtub. Even though this is where Casper and Boo get cleaned, Susan had never seen him bark at the bathtub before. When they had gone into the hallway and yelled at him through the open bathroom door to stop, he just sat there barking at the tub. Eventually, he tired of this game and went off to search for more socks no doubt.

At night, the dogs would rotate sleeping in all of their rooms. It seemed like a random pattern. Some nights they chose Susan, some nights Julie, and some nights William. On occasion, they would go to sleep in one room, and end up in another room before morning.

One particular night Susan woke up to growling. She could not see what dog was in her room, and could not remember the dogs ever growling before. Scared to think a strange dog had somehow got in their home, or maybe a wild animal, she slowly sat up until she could see over the edge of her bed.

It was a full moon outside, and she could see around the room clearly. The only thing she saw was Boo, that crazy dog was apparently growling at her nightstand. Fearing Boo had cornered and animal in her bedroom, she got out of bed on the opposite side and went and turned on her lights. When the lights came on, Boo came up to her wagging his tail, apparently forgetting about whatever critter he had cornered by the nightstand.

Susan searched her room but found no reason that could have made Boo growl like that. Could her wacky dog be sleepwalking? She wondered if dogs imagine things, or are afraid of the dark. Maybe he just saw a shadow of the outside tree on the wall and was defending his master from the tree monster. She smiled at the thought of her brave protector defending her from the shadows. She told the wagging fur ball that he was a good boy for defending her. Boo chased his tail around a few times, and then curled up near the same nightstand he was growling at, and went to sleep.

Julie came home from school with a homework project one day. She was to do a research paper on some historical thing in their hometown. Susan asked Julie if she thought doing her research paper about their new home would be a good idea. It would be great to find out if there was any history right where they were living. The next day they planned to visit the local library and city records building to see if they could find enough information for Julie’s homework.

As they were discussing Julie’s project, Susan heard William say, “Boo, what are you looking at?” When Susan went into the entryway she saw Boo sitting on the floor just staring up at the large beam. William was looking too, but looked confused. He asked Susan what Boo was looking at, and Susan could see nothing there. They tried to distract Boo with a treat, which he gladly accepted, but then went back to stare at the same beam.

As was his way, he eventually got bored of what he was doing, or thought he was doing, and went about the house looking for Casper to see what he was doing while he had been beam staring.

Boo quickly tracked Casper down at their food dish and proceeded to annoy him until a chase around the house began. This sprint around the slippery floors would continue for a few minutes while they tried to get as many carpets curled up as they could, trying to get traction on them and avoiding the furniture during their mad dash from room to room.

Halloween night, after an exhausting trick or treat trip around the huge neighborhood, the kids were in bed and Susan was cleaning up the candy bowl and blowing out some candles before she was going to turn in.

Suddenly, she heard a commotion in William’s room. It sounded like a dogfight, but Casper was downstairs with her. Must be Boo again, that dog could find trouble in an empty room she thought. She went into her son’s room as Julie was coming out of her bedroom to see what all of the commotion was about.

Susan saw William in his bed with a scared look on his face and Boo was going nuts growling and barking beside his bed. Susan found the light switch, flipped it to on, and Boo immediately stopped his insanity. Boo trotted up to Susan wagging his tail, and Julie bent over to pet him and ask him what he was doing while Susan ignored Boo and went to console William.

After getting her son calmed down, she brought Boo and Casper into her room to sleep that night since William was still a little freaked out at Boo’s psychotic crazy dance near his bed.

The next morning the family went to town so Julie could do research on their new home. They began at the city building and found a listing of previous owners. This was exciting; now with these new leads they could look up information at the library and see if any of these people were famous, or made a newsworthy impact in the area.

It was not long before getting to the library that Susan found a newspaper article about the previous owners of the home. The homeowners just before Susan bought the home had left town after the man of the house received a promotion in another state.

The research continued without much interesting to be found until she stumbled across news on the original family that built the home.

In a newspaper article Susan discovered a horrible history for their home. It seems that on October 31st in 1813, the builder of the home went crazy and killed his family. The body of his wife was found in their bed in the master bedroom, one of their children was found drowned in the bathtub, and another in the kid’s room. After killing his family, the man was apparently so distraught that he then took his own life by hanging himself from the heavy beam in the entryway.

That night Susan, her children, Boo and Casper spent the night in a hotel room in town. The next morning, Susan called a realtor and put her house up for sale. She didn’t know what Boo saw in that house, but one thing was certain, Boo was experiencing a lot more then they were in the house.

To this day Boo will still sit and stare at a blank wall, or bark and growl at seemingly nothing. Susan and her children have found a nice new home in a new development, and Boo’s episodes have tapered off to the occasional instance of strange activity. Every time Boo watches absolutely nothing at all, Susan gets the chills wondering what her trusty companion sees that she does not.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Mind In The Gutter

It was fairly nice in Spokane this past weekend. The sun was out and it was one of those rare weekends where I didn't have any obligations with the family or other outside activities.

This late in the season nice days can be deceiving, and the inevitable foul weather will be arriving before we know it.

Our yard trashcan was full from pulling out a bush, and there are pine needles and leaves falling which meant soon it would be time to rake the yard and haul out the fall droppings.

This was when my mind went to the gutter.

My house has a lot of rain gutters (what did you think I meant?), so every year just before the snow hits I go through the ritual of climbing up and down a ladder with my rubber coated work gloves, and clean the sludge of leaves, pine needles, and dirt out of my gutters.

We have lived in our current home for three years now, and in that time I have never had a ladder that would reach the very top roof, and from the looks of the gutters up there, the lady that owned the home before us didn't either. This summer we actually had a nice crop of weeds growing in what looked more like a window flower box then a gutter.

Ladders that could reach that high up, and support me at 250 lbs, are not cheap. My wife and I have felt it was not really in the budget to spend approximately $200 far a ladder. Friends and family have mentioned that the cost of repairing water damage that could happen from clogged gutters was far worse of a prospect.

On top of my gutter problem, our kitchen has a high vaulted ceiling with recessed flood lights. Without a tall ladder, I have been unable to reach the uppermost two floodlights and they were both burnt out.

I tried buying one of those new-fangled light bulb changers on a pole. Sounds good in theory doesn't it?

The floodlight removal tip seemed to grab the floodlight alright, but when I unscrewed it I could not get it out of the housing and just pulled the housing out of the ceiling. Then, of course, the fancy tool was stuck up within the housing and dangling from the ceiling. I screwed the bulb back in to gain some more room between the housing and the light and finally got the tool out. Argh!!!

Eventually I was able to yank the time-saving device out of the housing, with the bulb mocking me and still in place.

The second bulb was not as cooperative, and I could not get the tool around the floodlight because that housing was too close to the side of the bulb. Now this was becoming a tool from hell sent to task me, but I had a thought! This demonic device had a suction cup that, in theory, could be used to suction onto a bulb and extract it that way.

Thinking I was finally outsmarting this torturous tool, I screwed on the suction cup attachment, and once again attacked the first infernal bulb. The suction cup made contact, and I gave it a little push as everyone knows you must do to properly get a suction cup to work.

Suddenly there was a loud “POP!”, and I just managed to drop my gaze to floor as I took a shower in glass from the now obliterated floodlight. My wife and Mother-in-law were watching my dismal display as a handyman, and my wife had only one thing to say after watching me bathe in glass fragments.

“Go buy the ladder.”

With that I returned the bulb changing nightmare to Home Depot, and bought a ladder.

At first I was just going to buy a 24' fiberglass extension ladder that could support 300 pounds. Then I began looking at my other options. What I finally decided on was a “Gorilla” ladder, which is pretty nice. It can support my fat butt (up to 300 lbs like the fiberglass extension ladder) and extend to 21' in addition to folding into a multiple-height step-ladder.

When I got it home the first thing I did was fold it into the step ladder, raise it to the needed height, and finally fix those dang floodlights. One of them apparently had not been changed in a long while because it was a bugger to unscrew, and the other one was now just a metal piece that used to be attached to some glass.

The ladder advantage allowed me to finished the indoor light bulb task in no time, and we finally have every bulb lit up in our kitchen, and the ability to reach them should they decide to extinguish in the future.

My nice new ladder and I adjourned to the backyard where I extended it fully to make sure I could hit the roof-line. Sure enough, it would reach with room to spare. I quickly began the thankless task of digging my hands into the muck of the dirty gutters and harvesting my weed crop from the upper-reaches of my home.

As write this I am a tad sore since going up and down the ladder about 100 times has used muscles that don't normally get worked. Now I know why they have those ladder machines in the gym, so a person can stay in shape for cleaning their gutters.

The gutters are clean, the bulbs are changed, and my Home Depot quota for the “honey-do” list has been blown for the month. Up next, placing the patio chair cushions above the garage, and getting down the Halloween decorations, but I'll spare you those exciting stories unless something news-worthy occurs during the process.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Who Is Your Puppet Master?

Recently I have read a discussion that bounced back and forth about whether or not God was all powerful or powerless in this world of ours. Interesting banter to be certain, but I found it tedious and wholly traveling down a tired road.

In the end they were both arguing about what degree of power God may have. It always interests me to see people try to explain that they believe in a God on one hand, then try to explain why God has seemed to essentially backed away from humanity and left them to fend for themselves.

Could it be that there is no God? That the reason he does not intervene in the current problems of mankind, like he supposedly did in biblical times, is that he is not real but the invention of men during a time in our society where we were scared of the sun going out, or of all other manner of supernatural things?

God does not look the other way when a hurricane decimates continents, it's not a test of your faith when a loved one is raped, murdered, or dies a horrible death due to an illness. The plain fact is that he does not exist.

Even today people cling to the hope that there is something more to this world then our own mortality. They are still frightened creatures wondering what will happen to them when they pass on from this world. Surely something more is waiting for them, something glorious and wonderful to look forward to.

Heck, you have people blowing themselves up and killing hundreds and thousands of others because they believe they will be rewarded when they do this. How can you argue about the existence of your God, then condemn these people for blowing themselves up in the name of their faith as well?

What's the difference? Oh, it must be because you're belief in an all-powerful God is the correct one, and they are just whacked. What do you tell the Mormons about their beliefs and what they think will happen when they die? Are they wrong too because your belief system differs?

I think that the time for the belief in deities created out of the imagination of man is coming to an end. Perhaps judgment day is when reality hits and people learn to cope with their own mortality without using the crutch of religion. Maybe Armageddon is not the physical destruction of the Earth, but the destruction of religion as we know it today.

I can relate to the Wiccan Rede because it is simple and to the point. “An it harm none do what ye will.” Why cloud the issues with a huge book of mumbo-jumbo when the K.I.S.S. concept will do much better. Point blank, do what you'd like, just don't hurt anyone else in the process.

The Bible is an interesting book to study in the sense that it is a written tome of knowledge on how people thought back then, and what some of their beliefs were. Taken literally as the only path to follow, and that it was written by some all-knowing deity, is a huge mistake. I could write volumes on how the Bible is not truly followed by Christians today. If it were, they would be no better the the fanatical Moslem's that we're currently having to deal with.

Christians go to church faithfully singing praises to a God they know little about, reading in a book they follow very little of, and look down at others who dare to question what they believe in. Many of these people do these things because that is what their parents said they should be doing. Oh yes, and if they don't they are going to Hell.

Personally I think the world would be better off if everyone followed the Wiccan Rede. It pretty much covers everything you need, and does so eloquently.

That all being said, I like the Christian religion. I take comfort in knowing that people get together to help each other through the difficult times, teach morality, and sing songs to help lift each others spirits up and provide hope for the weaker ones in our society.

After all, as I have brought up numerous times in these writings, human beings seem to require a gang of some sort to have a feeling that they belong. It does not matter if it's a church, a traditional “gang”, a sports team, or the military. People just have a desire to be a part of something bigger then themselves.

Your belief in God follows the Wiccan Rede as long as you follow the modern path of Christianity. That is why I don't mind at all if I'm surrounded by Christians, or married to a Southern Baptist. Our two belief systems our compatible in my view. We can coexist without too many issues getting in the way.

Does this mean I'm Wiccan? Nope, I just think the Wiccan Rede makes the most sense compared to most things I have studied so far. The rest of their beliefs I don't think I can really embrace for the same reasons I am no longer a Christian. They suffer from the same delusions as Christians do, which is that of making up deities to explain various things and to give them the feeling of power and support and strength.

I think some of the strongest people are those that have the courage to stand up against all the gangs and say, “No, I'm not following you.” That is why I will not follow what you do, and I don't expect anyone to follow me. I have made up my own mind, drawn my own conclusions, based on what I have studied and learned over the years. If you are still reading this, then you should too.

Do not live your life the way you have been told to live. Do not blindly follow things you know little about. Do not make decisions based on the desire of a gang. Stand up tall, reach into your own feelings and do what you really want to do. Believe how you really want to believe, and when you do, learn all you can about the path you have chosen.

Only through an open mind, and a lot of knowledge, can you truly feel like you are in control of your own life and not merely a puppet dancing to the whim of someone manipulating your strings.

Friday, September 30, 2005

I've Got Gas

Well at least I do for now, but who knows what will happen in the future.

I drive a gas guzzling full-sized Ford 1991 Ford Bronco. Before you chastise me for sucking all of your natural resources, and polluting the air, you should know a few things. I live where half the year we battle snow and ice, so the four-wheel drive aspect is used often. The large cargo space is occupied 24x7 by all of my whitewater and scuba gear since I am on a water rescue team. Finally, I have three kids, so we use the seating capacity as well.

Believe me, when my trusty Bronco is in need of being replaced, I will be looking for a more economical and environmentally friendly vehicle. If they do not yet make one by the time I need to change what I drive, I'll do the best I can with what is available.

I heard the other day that Ford has announced that their customers are suddenly clamoring for better fuel efficiency due to the recent rise in fuel prices. Imagine that.

One of the main things that have been holding us back for so long in the alternate fuel or more economical fueled vehicles is the consumer market. Like it or not, if the demand is not there, manufacturers will not make the products. It's the way our system works.

I'm hoping that when these new cars of tomorrow hit the streets they will be scooped up quickly, with the fastest selling of them being the most fuel efficient or even alternate fuel powered ones. This will show the manufacturers what people truly want.

I think the desire for these vehicles has been around a long time, it's just the cost and capacity have been disproportionate to the advantages and the power. The manufacturers can make these fuel efficient rides a reality, as long as they can bring them to the market at a decent price point. After all, the cost-conscious person is also looking for a vehicle within the realm of reality when it comes to the price.

Wouldn't it be something to see car manufacturers suddenly in a “vehicle war” trying to beat the other guys ability to decrease gas consumption while at the same time undercutting their competitors prices? You might have thought they were doing this already, but I think they are purposely moving at a slow pace because it is more advantageous to move slowly and provide the next new model with a tad better performance, then to lay all of your secrets out and not be able to show improvement for the new model year.

The companies are only in the business of making money, not in saving the environment or our fuel reserves. We show them the direction to go by buying their products based on what we want. If we keep lining their pockets by purchasing vehicles like a Hummer to joy-ride up and down suburban neighborhoods, then we're to blame not them.

On the other hand, if we refuse to by huge Earth-rovers, and instead lean toward alternate fuel or more fuel efficient modes of transportation, then this will speak volumes to those very same manufacturers.

As a consumer we get things accomplished by handing over our hard-earned money, not by whining about pollution on some silly website. Don't drive a Hummer and complain that we need alternative fuel vehicles, go buy a Toyota Prius or a Ford Escape Hybrid when it is time for you to move on to a newer vehicle.

With any luck we are witnessing the beginning of the end for gasoline powered vehicles. Of course, they may have asked this very same question in the gasoline shortages <*cough*> of the 1970's. We get many of our products from the petroleum industry, let's stop using fossil fuels to run our cars, and save what we have left for all the other things we use fossil fuels for.

I'll be curious to see if this article is a prediction of things to come, or just one more person pretending to know what the future holds in store for us all. It's true I do own a crystal ball, but I have yet to see the future in the thing.

In the future, when someone asks if you have gas I hope they are just showing concern for your noisy bowels.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Down, Not Out

I’ve written before about the awesome power of the natural world around us. I have challenged a raging river, and was humbled. Witnessed huge fires destroying hundreds of acres of land. Watched on television as volcanoes erupted spewing their lava over peoples homes, mudslides destroy neighborhoods, a tsunami wipe out village after village, winds uproot huge majestic trees, rivers flood cities, hurricanes destroy thousands of homes, tornadoes leveling trailer parks, and yes, even rode out an earthquake while clinging to a toilet.

It seems the news reports each event as if they are astonished that these things happen. Are humans so naïve that they truly think that we can control the natural elements on this planet? I especially enjoy watching the world point fingers at people, or entire nations, as if they were personally responsible for the weather.

There is no mistake that these events are scary at times, unpredictable, and sometimes just plain horrific. Each cataclysmic event leaves in its wake tragic tales that will be told for years to come. The loss people feel is genuine, and the lives that are affected, numerous.

To the educated observer we truly have no control over when Mother Nature decides to take a turn for the worse. With our limited abilities we can merely try and get out of her way until the temper has subsided, and the Earth allows us the time to pick up the pieces and rebuild as best we can.

When we colonize other planets, we will then be facing the wrath of new worlds, and their strange natural occurrences. It will never end; we have to just accept it as the price we pay as residents on an ever-evolving natural body.

Luckily, the same natural world that hits us with a variety of interesting disasters has also created us. We have survived this long and progressed because we have the strength to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and start all over again. So says a song.

This does not lessen the pain of loss, it may not even make us feel any better, but it is what drives us to carry on.

Beyond our internal drive, we also have the support of those around us. As I have discussed in the past, the human race seems to thrive best on a gang mentality. In nature we call this strength in numbers. Whether your particular “gang” is the local church, your family, or another organization that you belong to, the people you associate with will help carry you through difficult times.

Our country rises up to not only help other countries around the world, but regardless of some negative news stories, we have shown that we also come to the assistance of our fellow citizens when they are down.

During this past disaster, I was also heartened to see numerous countries stand up and provide assistance to the United States. I don’t recall this happening in a large way in my lifetime. To be fair, we have mostly been able to care for ourselves through most disasters, but this time we seem to have been kicked while we were already down and still reeling from liberating a country of a madman and assisting tsunami victims.

As I see countries pulling together to help everyone who live on the planet, I know there is hope for our future. It seems more and more we are coming together as world, rather then petty squabbling nations. There are a few countries it seems who still think they live in the days where they must conquer the planet like some poorly written James Bond villain, but those are getting fewer as time passes.

Unfortunately for all the good a natural disaster brings out in people, it also seeks out the idiots of the world. People trying to prevent evacuees from entering their town, looters who are not stealing for survival, but stealing because they are thugs, politicians who use Mother Nature as an excuse to further their agendas, and disgruntled individuals that appear to be mentally deranged on their world view.

I’m pleased that the humanity, care, and love for our countrymen has overshadowed the people who are trying so hard to drag hatred into this most recent event. Cheers to those of you giving money, blood, time and supplies to the people in need.

My most exalted praise goes to those companies who immediately jumped in and provided whatever they possibly could to help the victims of Katrina. That sort of assistance blows me away, and makes me proud to be a part of this country.

As for the government, shame on you. The attempted reaction was quick, but it was too little too late. After 911 we have been assured that we were ready for another major incident, we have been led astray. If this had been a terrorist attack that affected a large city, we would look just as inept as we did for this natural emergency.

I would like to see several large warehouses of supplies in strategic parts of the country, and several teams spread out throughout the country as well. These people can be military volunteers, just like a team of volunteer fireman, who at a moments notice can be in place within hours, not days. I know our military is capable of doing this; we just need to get it done! The Red Cross already does this, but they could use a large military group of folks as well to fill in the manpower gaps.

President Bush has accepted this failure like a true leader, and I’m positive that only good will be the result. Like Rudolph Juliani said, 911 was a learning experience, and so too was this natural disaster. We got caught with our proverbial pants down, and let’s hope we don’t get caught a second time.

There are times when humans can get a little down, but as we all know, we are never out of this game called life. My heart goes out to all who have been caught up in this latest disaster. I hope you all find that this country is behind you. It won’t ever be easy, but you’re not alone.

Good luck to you all!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

A Man I Knew Died Today

A man I knew died today.

I was working late when the news came in. It was a heart attack at around noon. He was 57 years old, and just retired a month earlier.

He was a good man, who enjoyed life, people, and a good laugh.

When visiting him at his desk I was always amazed at his knowledge, and his outlook on life. He enjoyed reading, and seemed to know everything about history and religion. Because of this I often tried to coax him into joining my website so we could dive deep into discussions, but he was never much of a computer person.

On the day he retired he was given a large red rocking chair, and looked very at home sitting in it with a grin from ear to ear.

Although I have only known him for about three years, the news of his passing hit me like a 2x4 between the eyes. I liked him, enjoyed his company, and welcomed his manner as he spoke about life and living.

Someone was removed from life who really enjoyed it and there is no amount of pondering that can explain why. There is never any rhyme or reason when it comes to death. The man is gone, but his life will forever be remembered by those of us he has associated with.

The important thing is that this man was loved by many, and had touched more lives then I could explain here. I know that for the rest of my days I will always remember the brief time we had spent together locked in debate about life, the universe, and everything.

It was an honor to know this man, and to get to share in his wisdom if only for a short time. Would he have known of the impact he left in my life just from our acquaintance? Probably not, but then again, I believe it shows that how you live your life day to day can affect many people you would not even think of.

Go out into the world to work and play. Spend as much time with your family as you can, because each and every day is precious. More importantly, take a moment to remember those who have passed. Not to dwell on the sad times, but reflect on the good times. Think of them and smile. That is what they would want you to do.

A man I knew died today, and he will be missed.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Many A Winding Road

The path of life is narrow and always winding. There are so many different directions we can take, so many other paths to discover, but how do we know if we have chosen the correct one? Even though all around us we can see a large variety of places to go and things to see, our own individual path that we are traveling on remains, by its very nature, narrow.

We could turn in a new direction, perhaps following another path that looks more pleasing then one we left, but once heading down that road, we discover the path to be just as narrow in the new direction as the one we were previously heading.

Life is just a series of narrow paths, interconnecting at various crossroads so we have the opportunity to modify our own destiny. It would seem that we are forever locked into experiencing the world from the position on our chosen path. We can experience the things that are located on our path, but only watch others as they follow their chosen routes through life.

We envy professional athletes as they go for the gold, or win competition after competition in their chosen events. This is the path they have followed, but what others roads have they given up to follow their dream?

What of the medical professional who has dedicated their life to the healing of others. Many times this path has been so narrow that even a family cannot compete with the small space provided for the care of others.

Some people have jumped from path to path searching for the ultimate journey that will allow them to have everything they want. Eventually they discover that as they make the leap to the next path they have left a little of themselves behind. After each change in course their strength seems to diminish over time until they find themselves too tired to change directions and must then spend their remaining days always wondering what could have been.

What is the correct path for us?

Avoid path jumping, and stay focused on your destination. Search deep within yourself and choose the path that heads in the direction your feelings tell you to go. Your destination is where you see yourself in the future. It might be with a family, the head of your profession, or perhaps an astronaut heading to Mars.

Keep your destination firmly in your mind as you follow the path ahead. Once you know where you wish to go you will realize what direction you must take when you come to a crossroad. Resist the temptation to choose an easier path, or one that might take you someplace frivolous.

Destiny is not some mystical place that has been decided for you by whatever your belief structure may be. Destiny is the end of the journey you have chose for yourself, and where the path you are now traveling on will lead.

Do not choose a path that leads to your destruction, or one that is filled with questionable people or actions. Surround yourself with positive influences and people. Steer clear of people who are obviously on a path that will only lead them to grief and despair. Sometimes this means that you must cut the baggage loose or they will drag you down with them.

Individuals that are focused on the negatives in life can only cause you to struggle with your own ending. Break free from their dark force and once again strike out to find your destination. Place one foot in front of the other until you are moving at full speed away from the distraction. The way to help these lost souls is not to become mired in their misery, but to lead them by striking out away from them to a brighter path.

By traveling along a strong and positive path, and reaching out to the destination you have chosen, the negative people will be able to focus in on your positive energy, and use it as a lighthouse might guide a ship from destruction on a rocky reef. If they fail to follow your lead, then they are truly lost, or perhaps they may find another passing flow of energy to follow.

You cannot save people who do not wish to be saved, and you should not waste precious energy trying to do so.

This is not to say that you must be selfish, and snub those who are down and out. If you see another traveler along the side of your path in need, you can assist them without deviating from your end goal. Do not jump from your path onto another path in an attempt to reroute a person. This will only lead to you becoming ensnared onto a path that serves no purpose for you, and if you are not strong enough, there you will remain and eventually wondering where you went wrong.

See your destination, then strike out on the path of least resistance to your goal. Avoid anything that will cause you to change paths away from your destiny. Be a strong leader so that others may follow your example. Do not blindly follow others because it is inevitable that their path does not go to your destination. Never switch paths to help another. Help those who you may find along your path, but only for a short time so you do not become confused and loose your focus.

You control your own destiny, but can easily be lead astray. Life is too short to weave on and off your chosen path. Can you picture your destination? Don’t just remain here gawking, strike out toward your goal, and never look back.