Sunday, August 31, 2008

Biography - Paul Reubens

Photo by Alan Light - from the Wiki article.

Okay. I admit it. I did not watch the convention coverage on Wednesday evening, August 27, 2008. Further I admit to not watching any of the convention coverage. Oh, I watched bits and pieces here and there but I neither saw nor heard anything that held my attention.

Instead, on Wednesday at least, I watched a bio program about Paul Reubens, somewhat better known as Pee-wee Herman.

I thought it was fitting in a way.

Pee-wee Herman was not a character I enjoyed back when the character was created in the mid 1980's.

Really I knew very little about Paul Reubens either except for the rather infamous episode of impropriety that ended the run of the Pee-wee Herman character. I knew rather little about that incident but I found out there was not much to know. At the time it seemed self-destructive to me and it does now as well.

I've noticed through the years that many people who gain notable fame and notoriety at some point do things that seem reckless and self-destructive. I don't really need to provide a list as most anyone can easily think of examples both from public persons and private friends.

I thought it was interesting that I was watching the episode on the actor's 56th birthday. Pretty good planning or a really nice coincidence I think. I suppose it was planning but then again one has to discount something because of the convention.

At any rate I found Reuben's biography to be extremely interesting and really gained an entirely new appreciation for his talent and creativity.

The program noted that there was a benefit of sorts to the event that killed the Pee-wee character. That was that Reuben's was able to go on and do other work and avoid the type casting that so many others have experienced after making distinctive characters come alive for us all.

And now, some 17 years after the incident, there may be a revival of the character.

Reubens was arrested again in 2002 on a child pornography charge which was later dropped. He claimed to be a collector of vintage erotica. I lean to believing Reubens actually.

I asked myself if it was possible that Reubens purposefully and deliberatley planned and executed the 1991 incident. It has a kind of "character role" feel to me. And Reubens does not seem self-destructive to me from what little I know. But then that little is very little indeed.

Reubens does remind me of Andy Kaufman in a way. There were things he did that were such elaborate jokes. Except I do think Kaufman was self-destructive.

At any rate I think Paul Reubens has a tremedous ability to create and portray characters.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Vice Presidential Predictions - Two Down

On June 5, 2008 I predicted who the presidential candidates would choose for their running mates. I cleverly chose the title Vice President Predictions.

I wrote:

Republican - going way out on a limb here - Joe Lieberman.
On August 29, 2008 I received the following news alert:
Alaska's Gov. Sarah Palin is John McCain's choice of running mate.
So I am now officially 100% wrong in my predictions.

Who the heck is Sara Palin?

Sarah Palin, now 44, has been governor of Alaska since December 4, 2006.

She was born in Idaho but moved to Alaska when still an infant.

Wiki says she and her father regularly arose at 3 am to hunt for moose. Wait for it: before school! Holy crap!

They (Sarah and family) also ran 5 K and 10 K races. Holy crap! I finally ran 5 K (not in a race) a couple of years ago I think it was. It's a long ways.

Her nickname in high school was "Sara Barracuda" because of her intensity playing basketball. She has a BA in Journalism from the University of Idaho. She's worked briefly as a reporter and a commercial fisherwoman(?) alongside her husband. Article I read said she smashed her hand doing the fishing.

She's married to Todd who is a native Eskimo and her High school sweetheart. They eloped after college. It is reported that when they found out they needed witnesses for the ceremony they went down the street to a nursing home and recruited a couple of residents. She has two sons and three daughters.

That's 5 kids. Holy crap!

After the last one was born, just a few months ago, she was back in the office after 3 days. Holy crap!

Oh yeah - she also plays the flute and won the Miss Wasilla beauty contest (I am not making this up folks). Later she was mayor of Wasilla and that's her family home. Wasilla, AK has a population estimated at slightly under 10,000. There are some nice images on City-Data and it appears to be a rather picturesque place but considerably more rural than appeals to me at this stage of my life. There are some sex offenders there. Guess they must be everywhere. Thought maybe not in Wasilla. I was interested in the crime stats. There was a murder back in 2001. Theft is the big crime though. That category accounts more the huge percentage of all crimes there in Wasilla. I am interested in why it was so high although I have no clue.

I watched a clip of Sarah Palin speaking and I have to say I liked her style and what she said.

I also read more about her political career. She is gutsy and definitely not afraid to oppose her own party. She won election to her mayoral post even though she supported a controversial sales tax. Alaska has a strange tax structure but that's another topic. Anyway she supported the sales tax to make the town safer. Sounds like a good plan to me after reading the crime stats. She won and she had a lot of opposition from the "good old boys" the way I read the story.

She also crossed a bunch of the incumbents as well by opposing their pet projects. Alaska seems to lean to the corrupt side of things if I'm reading this stuff correctly.

She opposed the infamous bridge to nowhere. She initially supported it but later decided against providing state funds for the state's portion. Good decision I say.

She's also had her share of public controversy. Mainly from what I can tell on several occasions she fired a bunch of people. Apparently the decision was hers to make but the last one was publicly popular and supposedly her public approval fell from 90 something % to 70 something %.

She's pretty outspoken and definitely courageous in support of her convictions. She must have a tremendous amount of energy and stamina. And she must be pretty astute as well as smart.

She makes me feel like I am a sorry underachiever.

It is an exceptionally interesting choice from all perspectives.

I admit that I am quite surprised by the strength of the support for Sarah Palin amongst my conservative friends. I also admit to being surprised at the McCain campaigns political deftness in keeping the secret and then in orchestrating the announcement. If my conservative friends are any kind of indicator of similar invigoration throughout that group nationally then the McCain campaign has definitely done some good for themselves.

I still believe the election will be won or lost in the battle for the middle. Of course since I am 100% wrong about my political predictions so far then even I would not be very impressed with any new ones.

Will Palin entice over some of that middle ground? I think so and I am mainly gauging my own reaction which so far is positive.

I think it is a toss up race right now but it is still quite a while to election day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Biden's Train Ride

Senator Joe Biden, as most everyone knows by now, commutes by train from Wilmington, DE to Washington, DC.

I thought it was interesting and decided to research it a bit.

Yahoo Maps reports that the distance from Wilmington, DE to Washington, DC is 113 miles and should take slightly more than 2 hours to drive. At say 15 miles per gallon that would be about 7.5 gallons of gasoline or about $30 for fuel one way or $60 round trip. IRS allows about $.50 per mile now I think so if it were considered business then it could be deducted at some $113 per day. There would be more for parking and so on.

Amtrak reports 5 routes scheduled from Wilmington to DC each taking between 1 hour 25 minutes and 1 hour 46 minutes. There were 4 routes the other way just in case someone is curious. Amtrak has a handy program to check fares and so on. The round trip cost is between $101 and $194 depending upon times.

That, of course, does not include the subsidy. The last one I know about was $11.4 Billion in October 2007 or, the article said, $1.9 Billion per year. Oil was $90 per barrel then so I assume this will be increased. I don't know how that works out on individual routes and so on.

Regardless if I use $100 per day at 5 days per week and 50 weeks per year I get $25,000. Of course it could be twice that really.

I don't know if Senator Biden has to pay for the train or not. Maybe Senators have special train privileges or something. I doubt it but I don't know. People think I ought to get free meals from Chili's or free coffee from Starbucks because we have one on our property. But we don't get anything free and I don't really know anyone who does.

I suppose anyway you consider the issue there is pluses and minuses to commuting every day between Washington and Wilmington.

I've never been on a train though. I think I would like to try it. We have one that goes between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth and back. It is called the Heartland Flyer and it has its own website named www.hearlandflyer.com - about as imaginative as my titles. I notice they use a star as the ico. Maybe that's because it goes through Texas.

That's an image I found nof the Heartland Flyer on the gallery page of the website.

From everything I know about it - and that's from what I read and from what a few people have told me - the "flyer" designation is a real misnomer. It does not "fly" at all and often is delayed by extremely long times.

I don't know exactly what I'd do once I got to Fort Worth except wait for the train to return me home. I think you can probably find some shopping and eating opportunities there pretty close to the station. But shopping is certainly not my thing and I don't really need to do anymore eating period.

Still I think I'd like to do it sometime just so I could say I had been on a train.


Anyway I thought it was interesting about Senator Biden and his daily train commute.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New House Update

Used my new exercise room for the first time on Saturday, August 23rd. Haven't missed a day since either.

That's the infrared sauna to the far left. We placed it inside one of the closets. Fits nicely there. We spend about an hour all together in there. First time is at 120 then 130 and finally 140. Really feels good.

Closest to it is my favorite machine, the elliptical. When I first got it I was in pretty bad shape both physically and emotionally. I recall going to a meeting at my first aid provider company and the admitting nurse was so concerned about me that she insisted I drink a bottle of water while she watched. My blood pressure was high and I was dehydrated and I hadn't slept in days.

I hired the agency to provide aides for respite and I bought the elliptical. When I first got it I couldn't do more than about 30 minutes at the lowest resistance which was 1. Now I work at 8 and 10 resistance and usually get 45 or 50 minutes. I drink 32 ounces of water during that workout.

Later I bought the treadmill and also taught myself to use it as well as walk and jog outside. It helps to have something different to change up workouts.

There is an adjoining bathroom to this room that has a shower. It isn't done but I can use the shower. It is a bit worse than camping. But I'm not very picky and I sweat a lot.

Progress on the house is occurring but slowly. I have learned that I am color challenged among other things. There are things I just do not care about very much. Color is one of them. Everything could be painted white or 'taupe" or some other lighter color for that matter and I wouldn't even notice. Maybe it is because I cannot really tell the difference between certain shades of color. Especially I cannot tell that a paint chip is the same or not as the color on the wall or the cabinet. Never looks the same to me.

Textures are more important to me though. I like to feel things. I really have no distinct preference except I like thinks to have a texture. I guess that means I do not like everything smooth maybe.

I care about sound a lot. Sounds bother me. I hear sounds that apparently no one else does. For instance, I kept hearing the sound of running water in the master bath area but the water was all disconnected from that area and everything having to do with water was totally destroyed so there was nothing capable of running. But to me it sounded like a waterfall. No one else could hear it. It turned out to be a leaking outside faucet. The plumber had to bust out a big hole in the brick to get to it.

I bought a washer and dryer. We spent quite a bit of time on this. Finally decided to go with a mid-priced front load set.

First I went to Home Depot because they had what I was instructed to buy which was an Emerald Green LG pair. Color is very important to Mrs. Flinty. I would have bought white left to my own choice.

LG is a manufacturer. Last time I bought my "new" washer and dryer, now 19 years ago, there was no brand called LG.

Anyway the Home Depot guy was writing up my order and they had 216 emerald green washers so that was good. But then they had ZERO dryers. I said "will you be getting some?" and he said "No, see that second column is also ZERO and that means we won't get anymore." I said "My wife will not let buy an Emerald Green washer and some other color dryer." He said "Neither will anyone else's wife." So I thanked him and left as he had no other suggestions.

Then I got on the internet and found the same color at Best Buy. I thought to myself: "Crap, I don't want to go there" because either of the two stores near me is a hassle to drive to. We're getting a new one near dad's farm but it is just now being built. But then I decided to buy them from the Internet site and it turned out to be flawless. Expensive but flawless. It is amazing to me that the accessories were as much as the units.

I still have to buy a "work surface" to go on top of the washer and dryer, too.

You can't see it in the image but the counter top is replaced and the glass tile above the splash back is new.

That's pretty much all I have to report.

Big Ass Fans

Shopping for stuff for the new house sometimes leads to interesting, new information.

We are using a lot of ceiling fans. We like them. So we've been looking at a lot of ceiling fans. So we stumbled across this company named "Big Ass Fans." You probably think I'm making this up but just click the name borrowed from the web site and you'll find them.

They have fans from 6' to 24' diameter. They began in 1999 as the HVLS Fan Company. HVLS was short for "High Volume Low Speed" but people would say "That's a big ass fan!" So they changed the name.

The company is out of Lexington, KY. I noticed on web page it said that they believed to know them was to love them.

Their newsletter is Big Ass News.

I was going to post about the fact that I am now exercising over in the new house but Big Ass Fans just seemed so much more interesting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

True Animal Magnetism?

Another interesting article touching on magnetism, albeit the non-human kind:

Deer, cattle have true animal magnetism: study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Grazing cattle and sleeping deer tend to align their bodies along the North-South axis of the Earth's magnetic field, European researchers said on Monday, giving new meaning to the phrase animal magnetism. Herdsmen and hunters have long known that cattle and sheep tend to face the same direction when grazing, but had believed they were simply positioning themselves according to prevailing winds or the sun's rays.

The article goes on to state that the researchers examined 8,510 satellite images collected (are you ready?) from Google Earth.

The article also mentions that it has been well known that birds, turtles, and a few other animals have some kind internal compass.

Also, and I did not know this, it said that humans (I am a human bean according to cornbread) who sleep north-south get more REM sleep than those who sleep east-west. How about them apples?

I think we better do a lot more studying before we start using the wireless electricity by way of magnetic fields.

On a more personal, caregiver note I dropped by the cleaners today. My better half instructed me to see "M" there because she would know what to do with the clothes my wife had entrusted to my safekeeping. She let me wash her socks the other day. I was sorting some clothes before washing and she said it almost looked like I knew what I was doing. Soon I spoke though and once again she discovered the truth. Still she did let me wash her white socks.

I had missed seeing "M" the last few times I was there. But she was there today and told me her grandma had died was why she'd been absent. Her mother had been the primary caregiver. At the end they had to place the grandmother in a nursing home. Still the family had kept someone there round-the-clock. Now the mother is blaming herself for the death because of the nursing home.

The story is a familiar one because I've heard it before. The names change but the plot is the same.

It always makes me feel the same way. I remember my own caregiving at the end of life for both my parents. So well I recall the feeling of being overwhelmed and pressured to the point of breaking. I was so close to the nursing home decision myself. Sometimes there just is no other choice.

It makes me want to comfort the caregiver I've just learned about. I wish I could remove the doubt and the guilt. But that's a process and takes time and is so very personal. It's well beyond anything I can do or say.

Doesn't have anything to do with magnetism but it was a part of my life today so thought I'd report it.

I now have clothes in three houses. I'm exercising in the new house now. The refrigerator is sitting in the middle of the living room. I put some water in it anyway. Getting closer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Intel demos wireless electricity

I read the following article on Yahoo News the other day:

Intel cuts electric cords with wireless power system
Thu Aug 21, 5:31 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) - Intel on Thursday showed off a wireless electric power system that analysts say could revolutionize modern life by freeing devices from transformers and wall outlets.

Intel chief technology officer Justin Rattner demonstrated a Wireless Energy Resonant Link as he spoke at the California firm's annual developers forum in San Francisco.

Electricity was sent wirelessly to a lamp on stage, lighting a 60 watt bulb that uses more power than a typical laptop computer.

Most importantly, the electricity was transmitted without zapping anything or anyone that got between the sending and receiving units.

"The trick with wireless power is not can you do it; it's can you do it safely and efficiently," Intel researcher Josh Smith said in an online video explaining the breakthrough.

"It turns out the human body is not affected by magnetic fields; it is affected by elective fields. So what we are doing is transmitting energy using the magnetic field not the electric field."

Examples of potential applications include airports, offices or other buildings that could be rigged to supply power to laptops, mobile telephones or other devices toted into them.

The technology could also be built into plugged in computer components, such as monitors, to enable them to broadcast power to devices left on desks or carried into rooms, according to Smith.

"Initially it eliminates chargers and eventually it eliminates batteries all together," analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group said of Intel's wireless power system.

"That is potentially a world changing event. This is the closest we've had to something being commercially available in this class."

Previous wireless power systems consisted basically of firing lightning bolts from sending to receiving units.

Smith says Intel's wireless power system is still in an early stage of development and much research remains before it can be brought to market.

Rattner spoke of technological transformations he expects by the year 2050.

"You'd like to cut the last cord," Smith said.

"It's great that we have wireless email and wireless internet and stuff like that but at the end of the day it would be nice to have wireless recharge as well."
Hmmm. Anyone but me think this might be one of those "unintended consequence ideas" in a really early stage?

I wonder if magnetic fields powerful enough to transmit power over distance are really harmless to humans. I thought the quote "It turns out the human body is not affected by magnetic fields" was interesting.

I also recall from the Alzheimer's board a lot of warnings about magnetic fields and Alzheimer's.

It would be nice to be free of batteries and electric cords though.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Vice Presidential Predictions - One Down

On June 5, 2008 I predicted who the presidential candidates would choose for their running mates. I cleverly chose the title Vice President Predictions.

I wrote:

I think there is a good chance that Bill Richardson will be the Democrat candidate.
On Saturday, August 23, 2008, Senator Obama chose Senator Joe Biden to be his running mate.

So I was wrong - way wrong.

I think Senator Biden looks presidential though. He can really talk. He is very smart. He does have a lot of experience being a Senator as well as in most important practical areas. He is older. He has had personal tragedy and is tested in that way. Certainly he brings something to the table that helps the Obama candidacy. He should be a good attack dog and Senator Obama lacks in that category.

Still there is no executive experience - all senate game so far. And I think Senator Biden says more words to less effect than just about anyone I've ever observed. He is a bit of a loose cannon sometimes. His attacks sometime seem petty and arrogant. And his own words about Senator Obama will be used against them both.

I think there are a lot of people, including me, who view this decision negatively as it pertains to Mr. Obama's election. Why? I think mainly because it emphasizes Senator Obama's judgment and decision making process and strength of character. I believe the winner will be the candidate who can win the middle including those independents of both parties and the unaffiliated independents as well.

What those of us in this middle group want is someone who will govern from the middle and who will keep things civil and respectful and actually address the important issues of our time. We are not against all government but we also distrust elaborate programs. We want more constraint on using our military but we don't want to surrender our country either.

Biden is nearly as liberal as Obama and is definitely a partisan. We suspect his selection was a political decision. We are also suspicious that Senator Obama failed to hold onto his fundamental convictions.

But I may be as wrong about this as I was about the choice itself.

One down, one to go.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hummingbird

I walked outside just in time to see a hummingbird leave the feeder. He left because of me of course.

So I thought maybe if I just waited very, very still that he might return to the feeder. I already had my camera in hand.

It was probably under five minutes when I saw him approach the feeder.

I wondered if I could get any kind of decent image. The light was terrible as I was in the shadow of a tree and the Sun was moving lower directly in front of me.

And these little guys are so fast. In the image his wings are obviously moving so rapidly that my camera just doesn't catch the action.

But I pointed the camera, focused as best I could, and fired the shutter and caught him mid-flight.

I was about 5 or 6 feet from the feeder although it is hard to tell that.

He was very, very easily spooked and intensely sensitive to any movement around him. So, I was practically holding my breath to not scare him off.

I was amazed that I actually had him in my view finder when he landed on the feeder and was not hovering. That's pretty rare in my experience.

He's rather a large hummingbird I think. He's very green although you can't really tell it from the picture. The lighting was just not cooperating with me.

These images were taken so quickly even though it is taking me nearly forever to tell the story. Maybe a picture is worth more than 1000 words in this case. A lot more actually but I don't really have the vocabulary to even begin to express my pleasure and feelings of awe and amazement experienced while watching this tiny, remarkable creature.

It is even more difficult to see in this final image but he is eating from one of the "petals" of the feeder. I think I've never before seen this happen.

I have watched hummingbirds feed before but it seems to me the bird never landed to feed.

By this time I was even wondering to myself if this little bird was actually a hummingbird.

About that time he took off again and any doubt was dispelled by the hovering and remarkable speed and agility. This one seems a little large for a hummingbird compared to others I've seen.

I researched it a bit. As nearly as I can tell there aren't that many known hummingbirds found in Oklahoma. Whatbird.com has an expert search program that I tried. The result was a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. That is indeed one of the four known hummingbirds to visit my state. The other three do not seem to fit.

So I think it most likely is a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird although honestly I cannot say whether or not there was any red coloring on his throat.

And thank you very much Mr. Hummingbird for visiting my feeder.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Monarch Butterfly Migration

Every August I observe the glorious Monarchs on their way south to Mexico.

My first sighting this year was August 21st. It is 11 months since my dad's death on this date. I was with my son and my brother this morning and we briefly remembered the event of his passing.

It was later when I had returned home that I saw this beauty. And I recalled again what day it was and I thought it was entirely appropriate.

I think this is a female but I am not as interested in taxonomy as I am in the poetic beauty of the creature and the heroic bravery of the individual Monarchs as they make the migration.

I look at an individual butterfly and they are so delicate and fragile with paper thin wings that I wonder in amazement that they can fly from plant to plant much less hundreds of miles to the tropical forests of Mexico.

It seems to me I became aware of them sometime in my early adulthood. They were there before of course whether I knew about them or not. And while I cannot recall the year I do remember the occasion.

It was in the middle or latter part of August and I came home to see them. In the front yard there was this Mulberry tree. It, along with all other bushes and plants, was covered with living Monarchs. They covered the grass there were so many and it was that way over our entire neighborhood.

My neighbors, or the ones that could, were all outside and we were all standing there together with our mouths open and our minds lost in amazement at the sight of so many Monarchs.

Most Monarchs live only a couple of months. But beginning in August the generation that is born then enters a non-reproductive stage and those live seven or more months. That's enough time for them to make the trip to the warmer places of Mexico where they spend the winter.

It is an amazing journey for a creature whose wing span measures 4 inches or less.

When I saw my first one today I ran to the car and found my camera and was so fortunate to get an image. Then I stood there quietly and watched and soon I had seen several.

Maybe this year I will get to see many all at once like I did 30 years ago.

One or many though they are such beautiful, wonderful creatures.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Greatest Moral Failure

On August 16, 2008 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, CA, there was an event hosted by Pastor Rick Warren wherein he interviewed presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.

I found text copies of transcripts here as well as the Certified Final Transcript in PDF (it is 87 pages, 195 Kb).

The second question asked Senator Obama was "What would be, looking back over your life -- everybody's got wings, nobody's perfect -- would be the greatest moral failure in your life and what would be the greatest moral failure of America?"

Just for sake of comparison the second question asked Senator McCain was "What's been your greatest moral failure and what has been the -- what do you think is the greatest moral failure of America?"

Senator Obama's answer was (quoting):

Well, in my own life, I'd break it up in stages. I had a difficult youth. My father wasn't in the house. I've written about this. You know, there were times where I experimented with drugs and I drank in my teenage years. And what I trace this to is a certain selfishness on my part. I was so obsessed with me and, you know, the reasons that I might be dissatisfied that I couldn't focus on other people. And, you know, I think the process for me of growing up was to recognize that it's not about me, it's about (... interrupted ...) It's about -- absolutely. So -- so -- but look, the -- when I -- when I find myself taking the wrong step, I think a lot of the times it's because I'm trying to protect myself instead of trying to do God's work.

I think America's greatest moral failure in my lifetime has been that we -- we still don't abide by that -- that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.
Senator McCain's answer (quoting):
My greatest moral failing, and I have been a very imperfect person, is the failure of my first marriage. It's my greatest moral failure.

I think America's greatest moral failure has been throughout our existence, perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self-interest, although we've been the best at it of anybody in the world.
This is a difficult question for me. And it is not for lack of possibilities because I have a rich and varied assortment of moral failures from which to choose. I have even more if I include sins of omission as well as sins of commission. I have way more than that if I include thoughts and intentions of my heart.

I admire McCain's answer. No hem hawing around. Just said it right out - something specific, too.

I know what mine is: I got out of being drafted by getting into the National Guard. That's mine.

It isn't difficult for me to find the one thing that bothers me most. It is just difficult for me to admit to it even now after 38 years have passed.

I played all sorts of games with myself to find another failure. But they were surely games that I was inventing trying to justify myself in some way or another. Like back then I had a more practical moral code, i.e., if I wanted to do it then it was good. So it wasn't really a moral failure. Well, that is just B.S. because even then I knew it was wrong. You can tell if you would just as soon not have people you love know about it.

I have plenty of others that I would like to keep to myself. Some are pretty bad. But the thing that bothers me the most is getting in the Guard. And the Guard was and is a very good institution.

I agree with McCain that the United States has often failed to reach high enough. I think that is not the greatest moral failing though.

I suspect it is our failure to understand the essentials of our own culture and then to transmit that understanding to our heirs. Maybe I'm wrong though.

Looks like soon I'll be able to post about how wrong I was about vice-presidential candidates. Obama is supposed to make an announcement this week. Doesn't look good for my pick for him. We'll see.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I've Been Reading Again 3

The Lake House by James Patterson

This is a sequel to a previous Patterson book I just finished and mentioned in this post. I debated quite a bit with myself before I ordered this title. Because on the Amazon site more than half of the reader reviews were 1 star. That's pretty bad for a James Patterson effort. So it gave me pause.

Fortunately for me I decided to ignore the negatives and order the book anyway. And I enjoyed it as much as I did reading the first one.

I honestly don't understand the complaints about this book. There is considerable difference to me in the plot and I thought there were several interesting twists. Patterson moves the story along in his normally quick manner and there are very few boring paragraphs.

There's plenty of stuff to make one think about our brave new world, too.

The story resumes where that first book stopped. Kit and Frannie lose a custody battle for the bird children who all go to live with their "natural" parents - which is really a misnomer. There's a little bit about how hard it is for the children to be different in school and some rather believable but detestable exploitation by the natural parents.

Early on it is revealed there's another medical facility and another evil doctor doing evil things to people in the name of scientific progress for the benefit of humanity.

It is not difficult at all for me to believe that there may well be such medical experimentation taking place now or at least planned. I am continually surprised by how quickly so many people are willing to forfeit individual rights of others for the benefit of society.

The amazing thing to me about the United States is that we have so much individual freedom.

The evil doc eventually tries to capture Max and Matthew. They escape and flee to Frannie and eventually Kit is involved.

I have to admit that some of the descriptions of stuff being done to individuals is so sickening that I had to take a break from it.

I haven't decided if I will acquire the 4 books that follow this. Patterson wrote them especially for a teenager audience I am told. I can understand why, too.

But I have about 3 different books underway right now so I think I'll try to catch up a bit.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Grocery Shopping and Sunday Dinner

I was assigned the task of picking up my step-daughter and then going grocery hunting (I mean shopping) for my mother-in-law.

I thought I'd get a jump on things so I met my step-daughter and picked up the list while she was getting her hair coiffed thanks to her mommy.

Mother-in-law is a brand-conscious shopper and I knew that so I tried to be rather careful. I even called her dear daughter for some elaboration about certain list entries.

Buying for someone else from a list is challenging. I recall that. Making a list for someone else is challenging, too. The problem is that the person who makes the list knows what it is that is desired. The person reading the list has to guess.

Some things on the list I thought I understood. For instance, Pinto Beans, was one item I had no question about. I found the canned bean aisle and put a couple of cans in my cart. No problem. Milk I knew from prior experience had to be a particular brand at a different store and I arranged for a two store hunt, something I would surely not do for myself. Bacon I did not know about but I just chose what I would have purchased for myself. After all how different can bacon be?

Other items weren't so clear to me. For instance, what does "chicken" actually mean? Rump roast turns out to be not quite sufficient for the variety of rump roasts actually present at our store. Or L. H. cheese was too abbreviated for me. My wife explained it meant Long Horn cheese. Well, let me tell you there is no cheese at our store labeled merely "Long Horn."

Speaking of which I learned that "long horn" cheese refers to a process more than it does a type. It is when you pour the cheese into a long cylinder - like about 18 inches - and let it cure and then you cut it into rounds and half-rounds. I didn't know that.

I am certain everyone can imagine where this post is going eventually.

I finished all shopping and picked up step-daughter at nearly the exact time. Drove to mother-in-law's home and unloaded all those sacks.

About 1/2 of what I bought was wrong.

Pinto beans apparently should elicit images of dried beans first rather than canned ones. Bacon can be purchased in an overwhelming variety of brands and I chose poorly. I could go on and on here but I suppose I've made the point.

But I am a glass half-full kind of guy so I think it was pretty good getting 1/2 right.

After church on Sunday we were invited to mother-in-law's home for dinner. Had to stop on the way and pick up a "snickers" cake. Step-daughter jokingly told me not to mess this up, referring of course to my less than perfect shopping experience of the previous day. The store was out of snickers cake naturally. We decided to not tell mother-in-law but just put the cake we bought on the cabinet and see what happened. She said "you got the wrong cake!"

The cornbread was not quite done when we arrived but was in the oven cooking. Boy the house was alive with the wonderful fragrances of food! Made everyone of us salivate as soon as we entered.

The cousins had a big reunion and I took a few pictures and finally everyone got their plates and filled them: roast, potatoes, carrots, onions, gravy, cornbread, beans, tea, and cake.

There is just something about a big family dinner like this that makes me nostalgic but also wonderfully happy all at the same time.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Fastest Land Animals

So the other night we were watching the Olympics on TV, kind of. I mean the TV was on and tuned to the channel showing the Olympics, and we were all in the room at the same time. Is this actually watching TV though?

Anyway, the men's 100 meter event was being televised at the time. I think I've seen it since so I have no idea when it actually happened. So someone asked me what the speed would be in miles per hour. I am asked because for some reason I am supposed to either know this kind of stuff or be able to figure it out. On the other hand if the toilet needs fixing then it would be someone else who was asked. We all have our specialties you see.

But I can figure out stuff like miles per hour. I rounded the time off to 10 seconds for 100 meters. Hopefully Mr. Bolt will forgive me for rounding his 9.69 seconds to 10 but 10 is just a lot easier to work with when one has no calculator and when one has achieved 60 years. Often .31 seconds is not so terribly important unless a gold medal is at stake.

One hour is 60 minutes and one minute is 60 seconds; so, that means that one hour is 3600 seconds. Mr. Bolt ran for 10 seconds and traveled 100 meters. So if I multiply 10 seconds by 360 I would have an hour. I multiply the distance by 360 at the same time to keep everything equal and that gives me 36,000 meters. See why I chose to stay with 10 and 100?

Someone, during my calculating, said that it would be impossible for Mr. Bolt to keep that pace for an hour. While I agree that is likely true it doesn't really change the problem.

Okay, so how many miles is 36,000 meters? I had to do this rather laboriously in my head when I was in front of my audience. I only remember that one meter is about 39 inches. One mile is 1760 yards. So to get meters I have to multiply my 1760 by 3 inches. But I already know that 1760 yards multiplied by 3 is 5280. Because I know that 5280 feet is a mile. Ha ha - even crazy to me! So 5280 inches I divide my 36 inches per yard and I do it in my head just really fast and approximate and get 150 which I then subtract from my 1760 which gives me 1610. So basically for me in my head a mile is about 1610 meters. Then I have to divide 1610 into 36000 which is about 22.

But now that I am blogging, well, Google is my friend. Type into the Google search box "36000 m in miles" and touch enter and the answer reported almost immediately is "36 000 meters = 22.3693629 miles."

So Mr. Bolt, who had just set the world record for 100 meters, ran at a rate of 22.37 miles per hour. My answer, sans GOOG, was pretty close.

Then someone said well how does that compare with a horse?

I found this handy table thanks to GOOG (cool name Home Work Spot):
http://www.homeworkspot.com/ask/fastestanimals.htm

Fastest Land Animals

Animal Speed
(miles per hour)
Cheetah 70
Pronghorn Antelope 61
Wildebeest 50
Lion 50
Thomson's Gazelle 50
Quarterhorse 47.5
Elk 45
Cape Hunting Dog 45
Coyote 43
Gray Fox 42
Hyena 40
Zebra 40
Mongolian Wild Ass 40
Greyhound 39.35
Whippet 35.5
Rabbit (domestic) 35
Mule Deer 35
Jackal 35
Reindeer 32
Giraffe 32
White-Tailed Deer 30
Wart Hog 30
Grizzly Bear 30
Cat (domestic) 30
Human 27.89
Elephant 25
Black Mamba Snake 20
Six-Lined Race Runner 18
Wild Turkey 15
Squirrel 12
Pig (domestic) 11
Chicken 9
Spider (Tegenaria atrica) 1.17
Giant Tortoise 0.17
Three-Toed Sloth 0.15
Garden Snail 0.03

Horses are about twice as fast as Mr. Bolt and they are a whole lot faster than I am.

I was interested to note that the Grizzly Bear is considerably faster than Mr. Bolt as well. I already knew this but seeing the difference in numerical form is intriguing.

Made me think of the old joke about the two guys in the woods that meet the bear and one begins to run away and the other guy says "you can't outrun a bear" and the runner says "I don't have to outrun the bear, just you."

Another interesting thing is that chickens and pigs are slower than humans and yet if you've ever tried to catch either that is hard to believe.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Snake in the Oat Bin

I didn't have my camera and I was preoccupied thinking about other things than taking pictures of the snake. And that was even before I saw the snake. I was really preoccupied afterwards.

I chose this image from Google image search because when I saw the snake it was up high on the steel wall of the oat bin. It is from the website, Screaminghawk(© Photo(s) by Tim Vechter, http://www.westol.com/~towhee/redtail.htm). About Screaminghawk is interesting, too.

It was (is) a black rat snake. He (I am making him a Mr. for now?) was dark gray, nearly black, but a pattern was also visible even in the dimming light. Really the snake was very pretty and I would have enjoyed observing it more had it not been in the bin.

This is the oat bin. I took the image.

Gives one a little pause about going inside the bin and scooping up the oats.

But the horses were hungry and they enjoy eating the oats and I kind of enjoy watching them enjoy eating the oats, too.

I could see the "track" in the oats where Mr. Rat Snake had been before acquiring his position on the wall of the bin. I would appreciate Mr. Snake more if he would do a better job of eating the mice and rats that eat the oats.

My "excellent, wonderful" step-son did the honors of climbing in said bin and scooping up the oats while Mr. Rat Snake watched from above. I stood at the door and watched the snake from a very respectful distance. His mother tells me that said step-son always liked snakes.

We have a lot of people here in Oklahoma who enjoy snakes, especially the rattlesnake kind. We have roundups of them and people actually go out and capture them in bags and then do something to get the venom. Yes, you can find rattlesnake on some restaurant menus and, no, I don't know what it tastes like and have no desire to find out.

I told one close friend who is one of the above described snake lovers about my snake. He asked "did it have a little white patch on its chin?" I looked at him like he was crazy and said "I wasn't really looking that closely at his chin." Chin close to a snake is not something I really want to do.

Undoubtedly this posting will do wonders to increase the readership of my blog. Another of our blogger friends gets visitors hunting for, shall we say "racier", terms having to do with more adult themes. Not me though. I get people interested in snakes and spiders. That search term alone is responsible for an amazing number of visitors to my blog.

You'd think I'd get someone interested in birds or Alzheimer's or caregiving or porches or even a few of the other subjects I've written about now in more than a year's worth of rather useless posts. But no I get people interested in snakes and spiders.

Speaking of snakes and spiders I took this image of what I consider a very beautiful insect. You can't really tell from this photo but it is about three-quarters of an inch long and kind of fuzzy. The orange is much brighter than the disappointingly dull image indicates.

I've heard them called Cow Killers or Cow Ants. I think they are more commonly called Velvet Ants.

But she isn't an ant at all. Not that there would be anything wrong with being an ant mind you.

She is female and she is a wasp. She eats pollen. She has a really painful sting and she can do it over and over again. In fact her sting is said to be so painful it could kill a cow and that's supposedly the way the cow killer name came about. But it's not true and her kind does not kill cows.

There are an estimated 5,000 species of this beautiful wasp worldwide. I read that the earliest known specimens were found preserved in amber in the Dominican Republic. That made me think of Jurassic Park of course.

Our Monkey Face Owl is still staying in the barn, too.

He doesn't seem to mind me too much now when I stop by to check on him.

The image is hard to get because it is so dark up there where he is. He is in the very highest part of the barn right up against the roof. I messed with the filter on the image program to try to make him a bit more visible. This isn't so good though.

Some of us (not me though) think he is really spooky looking. I love him and really appreciate the opportunity to see him. I haven't seen the Great Horned Owls lately so not sure whether they've moved on or not.

The moon was so beautiful on the night of the 15th. I took a digital image but it just did not capture the beauty of the moon.

The moon light was sufficiently bright to let me see a great deal around me. Then the moon was framed between several old trees as I drove back down to our home.

The temperature was very nice and there was no wind.

I stopped and tried to capture a bit of the moment digitally. But all you see here is black with a little point of light.

Still I decided to include the image because maybe in another year I'll read this again and it will help me recall the feeling of the glorious moment.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Divisiveness

It seems to me that there is an increasing trend towards separation in our society over any number of things.

I think the most common are politics and religion. Some would argue race but it seems to me that race is lower down. Some might argue income or wealth but those also seem further down the ladder to me as well.

The expansion of the Internet has made it harder to know someone's race or sexual orientation or income or wealth. Hasn't made it harder for people to make assumptions though.

Jackson Browne apparently is only interested in listeners to his music that are not conservative. I am certain his camp would argue the suit is not political but that would be with a wink to those they like and a nod to those they detest. (I adapted wink and nod for my own purposes thank you very much.) That's another trend for people to "spin" things and avoid saying whatever they really mean. It is quite an art actually.

We humans have always been divided, of course, about most things. Sometimes we unify around something and even then it usually isn't 100% of us.

So it isn't really a new trend I suppose but only new in the sense that there are different ways to divide from each other.

It strikes me strange that given the opportunity we find for ways to separate rather than ways to unite. Yet we talk a lot about uniting. What we mean is that the other guy should swim on over here where we are.

My stepdaughter is in town and we are having a wonderful time. It is so good to see her again and to enjoy her company. And her mother is so happy to be reunited with her daughter. Their relationship is just truly wonderful to behold to me.

The opposite of divisive.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Intelligence Quotient, IQ

Intelligence quotient is also known as IQ.

Something made me wonder about the distribution of IQ scores so I did some Internet research.

Actually Internet research is pretty good and it is very fast. There's an old saying I remember that nearly everything involves quality, time, and cost. You can get good stuff cheaply but not quickly. You can get good stuff quickly but not cheaply. And so on. Probably applies to Internet research.

Maybe it was some advertising I saw on Yahoo or someplace that stated that George W. Bush's IQ was 125 and wanted you to click to get your own IQ. Or maybe it was that someone asked me what mine was and I said I didn't really know.

As far as I know I never took an IQ test that was labeled an IQ test or at least I do not recall the event. I do remember once some kid in grade school telling me that we had been tested and my IQ was really high. But why would a fellow grade school student know my IQ anyway?

I know for a fact that I was never as "smart" as I thought I was. For that matter I wasn't as smart as my teachers thought either. I know for another fact that I am not nearly as "smart" now as I once was, at leas in certain ways. On the other hand I think I am "smarter" now that I once was in other ways and I think those other ways are more important actually.

So Intelligence Quotient is a quotient as is made clear by the definition. Quotient is the result of dividing one number by another number. Intelligence Quotient is defined then as someone's mental age multiplied by 100 and divided by their chronological age.

I think this interesting. I know my chronological age which is 60. Well if my mental age is 60 then my IQ is 100. If my mental age is 81 then my IQ is 135. If my mental age is 87 then my IQ is 145. All of this is predicated on the idea that mental age older than chronological age is "smarter."

This might make sense with children. But does it make sense for someone my age? I am pretty doubtful I am going to learn a lot more testable stuff in the next 20 or 30 years.

Actually I think the whole IQ deal is nuts. I'm pretty certain I've said as much in my blogging somewhere because I feel pretty strongly about it.

One of the older results charts had this:

  • Over 140 - Genius or near genius
  • 120 - 140 - Very superior intelligence
  • 110 - 119 - Superior intelligence
  • 90 - 109 - Normal or average intelligence
  • 80 - 89 - Dullness
  • 70 - 79 - Borderline deficiency
  • Under 70 - Definite feeble-mindedness
I can say for certain that most people I know would rather be considered superior than deficient.

The smartest guy I found was a physicist named Kim Ung-yong who apparently has a verified IQ of 210. On that same list I noticed Sharon Stone's name appeared with an IQ of 154. Many of the really smart people of the past were estimated to have IQ's in the 130 to 190 range.

Several places I surfed tried to get me to take an IQ test but they all wanted too much information and I am way more paranoid than I used to be even if I am not brighter. But does knowing what river is the widest river in the world; or, what you get when you mix purple and blue together; or, who the 16th president of the United States; or, any number of other questions like that really mean you're smarter than someone else?

What about knowing how to plant a seed and make something grow or how to find water in that widest desert or how to really do a good job sweeping a parking lot? I know some folks who are well off the IQ scales that can't sweep anything very well.

I don't like labeling people and I especially dislike labeling children.

Stepping off the soap box.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Killdeer

On of my favorite birds and we seem to have many.
Which is surprising since they lay their eggs on the
ground. If you (or anything else) approach the nest they
act like their wings are hurt or something and run off
trying to get you to follow them away from the nest.

Their call is exactly like "kill deer" and that's why they
have that name I suppose.
(Wiki supplied the image for me - easier that way)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Perseid Meteor Shower

I'm writing now at 10:00 pm on Monday, Aug 11th.

The early morning hours of August 12th is supposed to be the peak viewing for the Perseid meteor shower this year.

It's been underway since July 17 and will end about August 24.

I checked on the evening of the 11th and there was nothing to be seen except clouds and we still have at least a 20% chance of rain overnight. We had 3.5" of rain here last night and more over at my old house. I'm going to get up really early in the morning and check it out again.

The name comes from the appearance that the source of the meteors is the constellation, Perseus. Perseus is the Greek hero that slew Medusa.

I've been watching the Perseids since about 1974 as far as I can recall at least. I probably saw them before then but didn't know they were the Perseids. Does that count? I'm in good company though because they've been observed for at least 2,000 years but by other names.

Supposed to be able to see about 60 per hour during the peak but I've never seen that many.

I remember 1974 because it was the 2nd year after we'd moved to Oklahoma City. I had purchased 2 chaise lounge lawn chairs so we could watch for meteors while reclining. Thoughtful huh? My son was about 3 years and 10 months and his sister was only about 16 months.

I am pretty certain I had awakened everyone about 4:00 am and we all were out in the back yard on those lawn chairs. As I recall we saw some meteors but we weren't out there too long.

I'll post again after I get up really early in the morning.

12:45 am - Aug 12th - nothing but clouds - the cat thought I was crazy for opening the garage door and she also thought I should feed her.

2:45 am - Aug 12th - I was smarter this time and looked out the window and saw nothing but clouds.

5:30 am - Aug 12th - Clouds- will try again in 24 hours and then I will post.

3;30 pm - Aug 12th - checked forecast - mostly clear tonight - will give it a try.

11:00 pm - Aug 12th - not mostly clear here - found 3 stars barely

2:00 am - Aug 13th - nary a meteor to be seen because of clouds

Always next year.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I've Been Reading Again 2

Under Orders by Dick Francis

I began reading Dick Francis several years ago. His wife, Mary, died in 2000 and I am pretty sure it was well afterwards when I began reading his novels. He was recommended to me as someone who was interesting but also did not resort to the overuse of violence, sex, and profanity. I did not read him in any particular order but I did enjoy his books very much.

Mary was also his writing partner and he did not write again after her death until Under Orders was published in 2006. Some of Francis' fans believe that Mary was more responsible for the books than her husband and they believe Under Orders reflects her absence in a negative way.

I am more sympathetic and I enjoyed the book. For one thing Dick Francis was born in 1920 so when Mary died he was 80 years old. and they were together a long time. I think people need to be more understanding of what it is like to lose someone you've been close to for a long time. And by the way when you're 85 or 86 life is different than when you were 40 or 30.

As a mater of fact life is pretty different when you're 60.

I know I am overly defensive about Francis and it has to do with my own caregiving of elderly parents. But that's the way it is.

Another thing is that Dick left school when he was 15 to become a jockey. His wife had a degree in English and worked for a publisher. Anyone who thinks that writing novels is a solitary occupation is just silly. They were a team and disrupting a team is - well - disruptive. The work product of their partnership made life enjoyable for a lot of us. That's a lot more than a lot of people can say.

This book is about a retired jockey, Sid Halley, who because of an injury left the horse racing business and became a private investigator. Suddenly he has a couple of murders that he has to solve while his live-in girlfriend is nearly killed and he is almost killed towards the end of the story. I thought it was a good read.

It's not great literature but I enjoyed it a lot. And I was very happy to see Dick back writing even at 86. He has 40 novels or more to his credit. I like him. More power to him.
The Shack by William P. Young
I am outside the inner circles of most everything now. Actually I never was in an inner circle. So that's why I didn't know this book was all the buzz in some circles. My daughter told me about it though and she enjoyed it very much and then it was available for Kindle so I bought it.

It starts out with some harsh stuff. The protagonist, Mack, is a child of a mean drunk father. Mack confides in a church counselor that he didn't stop his father from beating his mother. But the church person doesn't maintain the confidence and when Mack gets home he is beaten for a week. Later he poisons his father and leaves. That's pretty tough.

But Mack marries and has children of his own and at the beginning of the book they are on a camping trip. The youngest daughter, Missy, is kidnapped and declared dead by virtue of her bloody dress being found in a shack in the woods.

Four years later Mack receives a note in his mailbox from "Papa" which is his wife's name for God. The not invites Mack to come to that shack for a visit.

I decided this book should have its own blog entry.
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch
I posted about this separately.
Dead Heat by Dick Francis and Felix Francis
This is brand new. In fact it isn't supposed to be released until September 2, 2008. But I have a Kindle so I already have it. This is quite a departure from racing although there is some and there are horses. But the hero is a chef and he really gets into a lot of trouble.

I enjoyed the book immensely. I am quite certain there will be complaints about some of the detailed accounts of food and one thing or another but I personally found those narratives to be interesting rather than tedious.

There is a particular section in the book where the hero's new love interest describes what it is like playing in an orchestra and a few pages later defends playing the viola over a violin. I thought this was just particularly well done.

Felix is Dick's son apparently and I gather a former physics teacher. I like that of course.
The Blessing Way by Tony Hillerman
This is apparently Hillerman's first novel and was published 38 years ago in 1970. I decided I needed to branch out a bit and just chose this title. The story is a murder mystery set in the culture of the Navajo people.

I enjoyed it a great deal. I might read some more titles. They are just over $5 on my Kindle so pretty inexpensive (I'm trying to be budget conscious - ha ha!)

This professor type who studies Navajo witches hears about some possible witch activity and sets off with another professor buddy to check it out. Of course he gets involved in the action pretty soon and his buddy gets whacked. There's a girl, too, and pretty good action. He's saved in the end by the local law and order man who is kind of a co-hero in my view.

Good read.
When the Wind Blows by James Patterson
Another blogger (YASTM) had posted about this book. I got it for my Kindle for $3.99. I just checked though and they've raised the price to $6.39!! It is funny that saving $2.40 would make me so happy - nearly like I had done something.

This one was published in 2000 according to Amazon's blurb but I've also read it was first published in 1998. I don't care that much so I'm not researching more. The Kindle version is more recent of course but not sure how they count that. I hadn't read it even though I do read Patterson but I'm more into his Alex Cross stories.

This is a kind of science fiction thriller murder mystery. Seems as though there's a girl that can fly thanks to genetic monkey business (cool use of words don't you think?). And there's a bunch of murders and a rebel FBI guy and a beautiful woman - and - well you can see it has all the right elements.

And Patterson can tell a good story, too.

This book was sufficiently successful to launch a series for younger readers.

I can see why.

The book is a good mystery but it also deals with very important and very current issues. I have very little doubt that genetic engineering on humans will be done if it hasn't already.

Some of the very old stories about Atlantis include what might be called genetic engineering or bio-engineering maybe. I recall a movie once where creatures had been engineered by Atlanteans that had the strength of bulls but bodies of men.

Something similar would not surprise me very much.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Relationship or doctrine?

Which is more important to you?

Some people answer that question with "doctrine" although they don't usually answer the question verbally but with action. Well to be fair the question isn't usually asked in that way either. What happens is some situation occurs and it becomes apparent to everyone you know that you hold a particular view and suddenly some people simply don't have anything to do with you anymore.

Now some of those same people if asked the question directly would say "relationship" but when faced with a real-life situation their actions speak louder than words.

It doesn't even have to be a total philosophy or religion or belief system. You can agree with some people on 99.99% of stuff or even more and disagree with them on one tiny little fraction of something or other and they'll leave you in the dust.

I know this from both personal observation and personal experience. Several times it has happened to me where someone I considered a good friend abandoned our relationship over some issue or another about which we failed to share to common agreement.

Funny thing is I guess I still consider them friends even though I've not heard from them in years. I bet they don't consider me a friend though.

I am definitely someone who would answer "relationship" is most important to me whether by deed or word. In fact I've been told I am too loyal and it might be true.

At the same time I feel no compulsion to change my belief about something or other either.

It's pretty much impossible to think you might be wrong about something you think you are right about. That's true for all sides of course.

I think it is frequently true that each side has something right about whatever is in dispute. Even if the something is a grain of sand in the desert. But not always.

I've been absolutely, totally wrong. I have been absolutely, totally right. And I've been somewhere in between.

What brought up this issue was that at lunch the other day this fellow was talking about The Shack by William P. Young. I blogged about it under the clever name of The Shack by William P. Young [I thought of it myself].) The fellow at lunch loved the book and went on about it at some length.

Afterwards someone else mentioned that he knew a guy who held just exactly the opposite opinion of the book because he thought it presented Biblically incorrect ideas about God.

What exactly wasn't elaborated but I can guess a few things. Probably the chief complaint is the presentation og God's grandeur and glory and awesome power. Sometimes people talk about Isaiah 6 in contrast. I wrote a paper once on Isaiah 6 when I took some courses at Southern Nazarene University in Bethany, Oklahoma. It is a glorious chapter just by virtue of the writing, too.

Anyway it is the famous passage where Isaiah declares he is a man of unclean lips and a seraphim flies over and cleanses his lips with a live coal.

So a lot of people have complained that God is presented in a too human way in The Shack.

Personally I just think it is the same old question of relationship or doctrine (if you don't like doctrine just substitute philosophy or whatever you like better).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Best Friend

I have been blessed with wonderful friends.

There is one in particular though that is so very special.

This friend is a girl. She thinks I am cute she says. I find it hard to believe as I have observed myself in more than one mirror and on more than one occasion and cute seems to me a bit of a stretch for what I observe. She isn't being charitable though. She actually means it. And it makes me happy when I hear her say it even if a bit self-conscious and undeserving.

I think she's beautiful.

She likes to spend time with me and it need not be anything really special that we're doing. I like to spend time with her, too. Sometimes we don't really like doing the same stuff but we still like doing it together. The other day for instance we were in Home Depot and she was looking at stuff all over the store. I was pushing the cart. At one point it must have been apparent that I wasn't having too much fun because she asked me if I was bored. I was bored but the thing is I would rather have been there with her than anywhere else.

She knows my foibles and failures and my frailties and my deficiencies all too well. In fact I think she knows them better than I know then myself. She doesn't make allowances for them either. But she is still my friend even so and that in itself is nearly a miracle.

It is a really great thing to have such a wonderful friend. I want to be that kind of friend to her, too.

I married her.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Horses and Heat

You know I've been watching the horses lately when it has been so hot.

I stand in the shade to watch them, especially when it is above 100. In fact, I also wear my baseball cap.

But you know the horses just graze away out there in the blazing sun. Sometimes they stop grazing and they stand absolutely still and have one hoof kind of relaxed.

Did you know that horses have 205 bones and humans have 206? I thought that was strange and interesting. Horses have no muscles below the knee. And the knee of a horse is roughly equivalent to a human wrist.

Ours probably weigh about 1,100 pounds or more each. Supposedly they eat about 15 to 25 pounds per day and drink about 10 gallons of water - each one. I think ours eat a bit more than average though. Pretty staggering when you add that up for a month: 2400 pounds of food and 1200 gallons of water for our group. Eat like a horse indeed.

Anyway I learned some of that when I was trying to find out about them kind of ignoring the sun. Because if I were a horse I think I would come over and stand in the shade when it was really hot. But it must not be as bothersome to them as it is to me.

They sleep standing up usually but they lie down, too. They don't sleep all at once like we do (or some of us at least - me). But they do sleep - usually in short little spells. I read that they sleep from a few minutes to a few hours per day. They sleep better when there are other horses with them. Because they are known as prey animals and so they need to have someone on lookout duty for them. They have what is called a "stay apparatus" in their legs that allow them to just lock the legs and stay like that without using any muscles at all.

Their vision is their most important sense I read. But all senses are better than ours which I suppose isn't saying that much. Horse sense?

Never did find out about why they just stand out there in the sun though.

Friday, August 8, 2008

George Foreman Grill and theToilet Brush

(Thanks to Wiki for the George Foreman grill image - mine is packed)

One time a few years ago Dad always liked to help me clean up the kitchen. He was really good at cleaning stuff.

Anyway I had this George Foreman grill and had used it to cook something and Dad wanted to clean it up for me. So I told him to have at it and left the room to do something else.

When I returned the grill was as clean as a brand new one and sitting on the counter upside down with the lid open next to the sink. But next to it was this toilet brush.

I asked Dad if he had used the toilet brush on the grill and he said "yes."

When he left the room I cleaned it again with disinfectant and returned the toilet brush to its regular (and more natural) place.

I thought it was funny.

But I told the story to my son and from then on his entire family would never eat anything cooked on the George Foreman grill.

Even when I told them I had disinfected and, oh, by the way, the thing heats up to about 1,000 degrees, too.

Dad never thought about there being anything wrong with using a toilet brush on it. I'm not really very sure that had anything to do with Alzheimer's either.

Just another funny story.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Really Hot and Really Grateful

The other day was hot and I don't mean Paris Hilton hot either. I mean hot like burn the skin on your face when you put on your sunglasses hot. Or burn you leg on your car seat hot. Or burn you hand touching the car door handle hot.

I know it was hot because I fed the horses their oats and while they were busy eating I had to climb in the grain bin and fill the cans we have outside the corral. It was hot outside in the sun but it was a lot hotter inside the bin. The air was heavy outside and there wasn't enough wind to make a leaf move. It was hard to breathe outside. Inside the bin it was absolutely stifling and the air was even heavier especially when it was full of oat dust.

Sweat was pouring off my face and soaking through my shirt. I was attracting oat dust like a magnet draws those iron filings. Oat dust is itchy.

I put my two 5-gallon buckets inside the bin along with a 25 gallon trash can. Then I haul my butt over the panel in the door and I think to myself that this would have been a lot easier when I was 30. I fill my buckets and about 2/3 of my trash can. Dadgum trash can was almost too heavy for me lift over the panel. Pitiful.

But I found some extra strength to lift it over and set it down on the ground because I really wanted out of that bin. Getting out is harder than getting in though. It made me think I should be doing more stretching exercises and need to get more serious about losing another 20 or 30 pounds. Pitiful. One thing about it though is that you don't care if anyone sees you being clumsy looking getting out.

But once outside I still had to carry the trash can and the buckets all the way back to their place. That's no small distance.

So I was thinking about how far it was and how hot and how tired I was and that I was itchy and dirty and just generally miserable. But they weren't going to walk over there themselves and delay was making everything worse. So I decided to haul the trash can first because it is the heaviest and hardest. I grab hold of both handles and heave and start out. I made it about 1/2 way and had to set it down a minute. Usually I can make it all the way to the gate. Finally I did haul it to the gate and get it opened and set the can outside. Then I headed back for the buckets - breathing even harder, too.

Admittedly I was feeling sorry for myself - having to do all this work and all and by myself and not even my horses and blah blah. I was about half way to the gate with a bucket in each hand when it struck me. It was a thought and it had the power of a lightening bolt.

It was that I should be really happy and really grateful that I am even able to carry those buckets and that heavy can and feed those four horses and do all the other stuff I do now. Because quite a few folks couldn't do it physically and if they could they would have no opportunity because they don't have access to a farm or horses or any oats for that matter.

From then on until I was done I was just absolutely in awe of my good fortune to have both the good health and the opportunity to do what I'm doing.

I swear it seemed like everything cooled off a few degrees.

Pretty cool.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Approved by City Council

We had to change the filter on the well last Friday.

But we used the wrong filter because after my hour of really sweaty exercise Saturday morning I couldn't get any water for a shower. Of course I didn't discover this until I was standing naked in the shower.

I put on some clothes and headed for the well house because I thought maybe the valve had not been turned on to the house. But that wasn't the problem. I decided maybe I could do without a filter but I couldn't get the thing off. So finally I just drove home - irritated and sweaty.

So Monday first thing was getting water and we did - we thought. I had several intervening circumstances that kept me from my shower until late afternoon. It was 107 here according to my dash thermometer. Somewhere in Oklahoma it was 109 I noticed. That's pretty hot.

We had a Moore City Council meeting where our application for rezoning the property designated for Target would be considered. It is supposed to be a secret about Target but all the documents have a Target logo on them; so, I guess it is an open secret. So I thought I would dress up with slacks and sport coat for the occasion.

I'm really looking forward to a shower by the time I get over to the old house. Turn on the water in the shower and think to myself it isn't very much pressure. Turn the handles as far as they go. But not enough pressure to make a shower. Not enough really to fill the tub because the stream of water became increasingly weak.

I got kind of a bath anyway - enough to finish dressing.

We all met at the City Hall at just before 6:30. We being me and my son and our engineer and a developer representative who both flew in from Big D. We all sat together. The meeting convened promptly at 6:30. This current group makes stuff run on time.

The minister from the First United Methodist Church gave the invocation and invited everyone to come to church. Then we all turned as a group and faced the flag of the United States and repeated the pledge of allegiance. I was taught to say "one nation under God" in one breath but apparently that must not be the style now because most everyone else said "one nation" followed by a tiny pause and then "under God." Guess it doesn't matter much how you say it.

Kind of nice actually to say the pledge of allegiance. When I was a kid in school all of us, the entire school, began the day with an invocation and then the pledge of allegiance. I don't know if that's done now or not. I remember the 1963 case where Mrs. O'Hair's Supreme Court case about prayer changed things. But I was in high school by then and I think we didn't all start the day with prayer and pledge by then. I think the Kennedy assassination eclipsed that case in any event for most of us anyway.

Our items were 5th and 6th on the agenda. The mayor read the first one. The lady in charge of planning and development spoke for a few minutes about the project. Someone offered a motion which was followed by a second. The mayor asked if anyone wanted to speak and no one did and so the vote was taken and it was unanimous for approval. And then the next item was introduced and everything happened the same way except the lady didn't have to speak again.

Our developer guy (his name is Don) had to go somewhere else so we all left and the City Manager stepped out to thank our guys for coming. I wondered if he would have stepped out for just me and my son. Probably best to not wonder about stuff like this.

So all is moving right along now for our Target store development.

Every time I drive past that empty few acres now I look at it and think to myself that this is one of the last times I will see this land that way. It is a bit sad while also being very exciting at the same time.

I'm trying to get the estate valuation finished so we can do the estate tax return. I think I may get it done this month. Another bitter sweet thing.

Talking about bitter-sweet things, I've been reading my blogs from last year.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Wildlife

In deference to Lori I wanted to get something besides birds.

I took this as I was driving to work.
We used to see deer over at Dad's and Mom's house
but there is just too much civilization over there now.
It is still exciting to glimpse the deer on the creek over here.


Wasps.
We've been pretty tolerant of each other thus far.
This nest is right above the door of my office.
I was interested in a post about wasps from Maple Corners.

Monday, August 4, 2008

MIT Energy Breakthrough?

This looks kind of interesting. It isn't a "just-around-the-corner" kind of solution but then again there's nothing else that is either when it comes to alternative fuels.

'Major discovery' from MIT primed to unleash solar revolution
Scientists mimic essence of plants' energy storage system


Anne Trafton, News Office
July 31, 2008

In a revolutionary leap that could transform solar power from a marginal, boutique alternative into a mainstream energy source, MIT researchers have overcome a major barrier to large-scale solar power: storing energy for use when the sun doesn't shine.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Toby Keith

Toby Keith is from Moore, Oklahoma where I lived with my dad and mom for so long.

Of course when I was young where we lived wasn't in any city but back in the middle 1960's all the cities around us were annexing land like fools and Moore ended up with us. We thought that was the lesser of the evils facing us at the time and there wasn't much we could do it about it anyway. I think it has proven true and our little town has grown to 50,000 inhabitants or thereabouts.

Toby wasn't born in Moore but he claims it as home and still has ties to the community. He played football in high school here and graduated from the same high school I did - except he graduated a lot later than I did and from a different location. His grandfather owned a club not far from here and that's where he first became interested in music. Anyway my point is that his family was just as much a part of Moore as was mine or anyone else that lived here.

The City of Moore just painted "Home of Toby Keith" on one of the water towers. The City Council voted on it to recognize the achievement of one of our own. They could have put my name on the water tower but no one would have known who "flintysooner" was and not to mention the dearth of accomplishments. Nearly everyone knows who Toby Keith is and why he is well known.

I kind of got into an Internet argument with some other folks over that. These other folks were upset that Toby's name was so prominently displayed on the water tower. They didn't like his music or his politics or his "redneckness" (I think I made that word up) or much of anything else about him. Somehow they felt like his name on the water tower diminished them. That thinking escapes me.

At any rate I replied and I said that we, at least a lot of us in Moore, felt that Toby was a part of us. He still has land here and many ties to the community. He narrated a little movie about Moore during our Oklahoma Centennial year last year. He did that for free. He gave our Alumni association a signed guitar that we raffled off. He did that for free, too. He helped pay for rebuilding a grade school that was destroyed in the big tornado of May3, 1999.

I don't own a single, solitary song that he's either written or performed as far as I know. I've never met the man.

But I don't have to know him or even buy his records to be proud of him for achieving what he has in his chosen field of endeavor and for remaining a part of our community here. He didn't have to do that. He chose to keep a place here among us.

That means something to me.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Shack

The Shack by William P. Young

There's a website: http://www.theshackbook.com/

I had to think some about what I wanted to write about this book.

As nearly as I can tell this book was first published for public consumption a little over a year ago. The author, William P. Young or "Willie" as he apparently prefers, writes that he originally wrote the book for his children. Willie has a blog, WindRumors, that I personally think carries a very cool name.

My daughter insisted that I read the book and I have rarely, if ever, failed to do something she's asked. She found the book very stimulating as to her own spiritual development. She also let me know that a good many others have felt the same way and, in fact, have purchased enough copies to propel it to 8th place on Amazon of all books and 1st place in several categories. There are 924 reviews as of the date of this blog entry. That's a lot.

I was interested that there were a lot of 1 star reviews for such a popular book with an overwhelming number of 5 star reviews and very few other stars. So most people that bothered to review were wildly enthusiastic but there was a smaller group that was wildly negative and relatively few in between.

It wouldn't get 5 stars from me but it wouldn't get a 1 star either. I think I would give it 3 or maybe 4.

I am very glad I read this book regardless of the stars.

The book opens with some information about the protagonist, Mack. He is a child of a "mean-drunk" father. Mack, as a child, confides in a church counselor that he didn't stop his father from beating his mother and feels guilty about it and confesses this information as a sin. But the church person doesn't maintain the confidence and when Mack gets home he is beaten for a week. Later he leaves home after poisoning all of his father's bottles of booze. He says his father died of natural causes and that leaves the reader wondering if Mack killed his father and the question is really never answered although it is resolved.

Mack grows up, marries and has children of his own and near the beginning of the book the entire family goes on a camping trip. A canoe accident causes Mack to have to save his son from drowning but distracts his attention from his youngest daughter, Missy. She, during that brief interlude, is kidnapped. Later her bloody dress is discovered in an old shack (hence the name of the book) and other evidence points to her death at the hands of a serial killer. Mack blames himself for her murder and for his failure to be able to protect her.

Four years later Mack receives a note in his mailbox from "Papa" which is his wife's name for God. The note invites Mack to come to that very same shack for a visit. Mack decides to accept the invitation but decides to go alone and makes certain his wife and family are out of town so he can avoid uncomfortable explanations.

He does go and he does meet God who appears to him in 3 persons. The person who represents God the Father is a rather large black woman. God the Son appears as Jesus, a middle-eastern Jewish carpenter. God the Holy Spirit is also present as a nearly transparent Asian woman.

I'll not provide any more details in case someone wants to read the book.

If I had to pick one word to describe the book it would be relationship.

And I think that the most useful thing that Willie has done with this book is to highlight the importance of relationship in the Christian faith.

He did it in an imaginative and interesting way, too. That's why I would have to award at least 2 or 3 stars.

The other thing that I find so useful is that his story makes one think about God in unique and somewhat uncomfortable ways. That's worth at least one more star in my opinion.

The story is not really riveting and sometimes seemed slow and tedious to me. The character development lacks for me as well. It was a bit preachy for my taste.

But I found the book to be greatly rewarding and I recommend it to anyone who is prepared to open his or her mind and think about God and relationship in a way that might be a bit unnerving.

I thought about my relationships as I read the book including my relationship with God. But more often I thought about my human relationships.

I have some really good Internet relationships. I've yet to meet a single one of my Internet friends face to face. Yet, I know them as friends and trusted confidants. If someone asked I could describe certain elements of their character. I know a surprising amount about them. And yet I know nothing either.

My appreciation for them does not rest on what they've done for me or not done. Rather it is very much based simply and entirely on this interesting relationship we all have created among us.

If you get the time then try reading The Shack.