The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Thursday, January 31, 2013

NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover Report - January 18, 2013: BIG Day Coming

 If all goes well, today, January 31, 2013, is a BIG day for the Mars Curiosity Rover. Today it will use its drill to remove material from a vein that appears to indicate water percolated down through the rock fissures over time and left these mineral deposits behind. IF the drill works as it should, and so far there's no indication that it shouldn't, then the entire suite of ten science instruments on the rover will be operating to full capacity with years of exciting exploration ahead. Stay tuned for the results.

Speaking of Mars (sorry, entertaining myself here):




If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bosc Pears and Wensleydale Cheese ... the Finer Things

Comedian Eddie Izzard is right about your average pear. It comes home green, waits around seemingly forever without ripening, and then comes gloriously ripe for ten short minutes when you've stepped out of the room, only to be a rotten pile of mush upon your return. The Bosc pear is different. It isn't the classic pear shape. It's longer and lumpier. It hasn't the classic pear skin. It's tougher and rougher and brown. It also doesn't have the classic pear tendency to go from green to overripe at warp speed. I've actually been able to eat one a day for a week ... all five purchased on the same day. They're sweet, juicy, a little crunchy, and a little firmer. Basically, they ain't beautiful but they have great personalities.

The perfect match for these rugged pears is Wensleydale cheese. Yes the cheese made famous by Wallace and Grommit. It's British, soft, crumbly, sweet with a light honey taste, and with cranberries embedded in it like little jewels, it is marvelous. It also goes very well with fruit ... especially PEARS. Imagine that. However, the Wensleydale cheese I purchased came in a small package with the warning that it must be eaten in seven days once opened. My wife and I found this no hardship at all.

So, if you want a little taste of luxury ... and want to be able to repeat it over say seven days, grab some Bosc and Wensleydale and have at it.

A word of caution: Boscs are easy to come by. The Wensleydale took some searching out. We found it in a small package at the local Acme supermarket. Rumor has it Sam's Club has it as well (probably in larger packages). It's worth the hunt.




If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Dealing with Guilt, Yours and Others: Good News from Christianity

To get down to brass tacks, at its most basic level, the term "guilt" refers to behaviors or acts that are in direct violation of moral values, codes, and laws held by the communities we live in ... and can't get away from no matter how hard we try or how insulated by technology we become. On the more subjective, squishier level, feeling guilty is caused by your own judgment or knowledge that you have crossed the line in some way. Of course, your own feeling of guilt can be a really good thing if, when contemplating some transgression or other, this feeling of looming guilt acts as your own personal Jiminy Cricket and helps you avoid that particular rules violation that you and possibly others will have trouble living with.

The Bible deals with the issue of guilt from start to finish in all its varied and thoroughly human forms. Guilt is the pestilential offshoot of sin (sin being turning away from what God wants for you and your life in order to chase something bright and sparkly that is more likely to be bad for you ... to put things on an outrageously simple and inadequate level). Guilt is a clear sign that you have alienated yourself from God. Being much more community oriented back in the biblical day than now in Western culture, one person's guilt would besmirch an entire community. So, to clear the community, and make the community right with God and thereby deflect possible negative judgment on them all, people came up with laws and priestly codes to both avoid guilt inducing behavior and to allow for appropriate responses when it occurred ... and it always occurred since we are all human (some things never change).

By the time Jesus arrived on the scene, the various laws and codes had become deeply oppressive (a guilty overreaction). Through all Jesus said and did, he liberated humanity from that guilt and code treadmill, overcoming the divide we created between ourselves and God by our sin and guilt and stated firmly that nothing we say or do (no matter how guilty) can separate us from God and God's forgiveness, which is offered to us all. If killing Jesus by nailing him to tree limbs couldn't do it, what you and I have done or will do can't either.

Of course, being a human run institution, the church didn't fully grasp the magnitude of what Jesus had said and done. The message of unconditional love and forgiveness (and right now I'll bet you're hanging caveats on that idea right now in your own mind, aren't you, come on, confess ...) morphed into a message of conditional, works-related love of God (a BIG difference). So, we returned to focusing on guilt in its many forms and blaming everybody who is guilty of ... everything.

Recent experience has taught me that to be able to assign blame, an individual would need to know the entire story of a situation, and to be able to do that one needs to be God. We mere mortals simply don't possess the faculties to follow through on every thread, every incident, every cultural norm of each and every individual involved in whatever went wrong well enough to casually assign blame. Sure we need judges and lawyers and police officers to deal with the outrageously sinful and deeply guilty. But for the everyday stuff, the average Joe or Josephine simply doesn't know enough to assign guilt and blame to others in a snap judgment. Hence, the biblical injunction against judging (As you judge, so you shall be judged). You can take that one on both the spiritual and entirely human dimension. In human terms, judge others and you'll be held to those standards you used to judge them. Sooner or later you'll be found wanting ... and judged.

Now, Christians have a way out of this dilemma. There are certain ways to treat yourself and others when dealing with guilt. These are outlined in a complicated text called the Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling. They're good guidelines well worth your consideration.
  1. It is entirely inappropriate for you to either consider yourself either flat out unforgivable (to practice "unmitigated self-condemnation" to use the DPCC's term) or peacock proud of your own morality.
  2. God in Christ has stated once and for all strongly that we have worth and are forgiven (repeat that line over and over until it starts to sink into your heart ... intellectual understanding just won't cut it here).
  3. When we accept for ourselves that we live in the context of God's love for us (powerful and unwavering love) we are freed from fear of alienation from God. To live within that love, we need to confess guilt, change our lives to avoid sin, and make up for whatever wrong we have done (you still have things you have to do).
  4. Living in the fellowship (community) of other believers (you can be one too, trust me, ... and you are invited into the community, you really are) helps to shape our values and inform our judgments and conscience, allowing us to grow responsibly in love toward God, others, and ourselves (very, very important). 
  5. Forgiven believers have a big job to do and that is forgiving others, restoring relationships that have been broken, and doing our parts to help maintain and grow our communities of faith. After all, those communities are supposed to be busy living out and proclaiming the good news message of God's forgiving love and need every forgiven believers help in doing so. Far too many are agonizing under guilt they could be freed from. 
  6. Recognize that guilt is complicated and life is muddled by the "structures of evil" to use a DPCC term I enjoy. Check out what the therapists and behavioral scientists have to say. Christians should use these professionals' insights and seek their skills when possible and appropriate to heal human brokenness. 
  7. Help the hurting whenever you can, who suffer from guilt (if it's "neurotic guilt" recommend specialists trained in helping them). Help them to take for themselves, assimilate, and share with others God's love, forgiveness, and acceptance, moving toward personal and communal wholeness. 
With all those healthy guidelines, there's plenty to do, and none of it involves finger pointing and scapegoating others. None of it involves carrying a deadly burden of guilt around with you forever that you can't see any way to clear from your shoulders. Jesus came to do that for you. Accept Jesus' actions and message of God's forgiving love, and give yourself and others a break today.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/


Saturday, January 26, 2013

NASA: Reaching for New Heights

 Here's a nice little video summation of what the United States space agency and its partners have been up to in 2012. Their budget may be too tight ... but they still get a lot accomplished. Hoping for big things in 2013!


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Called to Community ... All of Us

There are times when we are cranky and obstreperous, stubborn as old mules, and declare "I want to be alone!" We swallow the myth of the self made man and try to pull up our bootstraps all by ourselves, forgetting all the while that we did not make the boots. M. Scott Peck put it well in his book The Different Drum when he states:

We are called to power. In this individuation process we must learn how to take responsibility for ourselves. We need to develop a sense of autonomy and self-determination. ... Furthermore, we are called to wholeness. We should use what gifts or talents we are given to develop ourselves as fully as possible. ... But all this is only one side of the story. It is true that we are called to wholeness. But the reality is that we can never be completely whole in and of ourselves. We cannot be all things to ourselves and to others. ... It is true that we are created to be individually unique. Yet the reality is that we are inevitably social creatures who desperately need each other not merely for sustenance, not merely for company, but for any meaning in our lives whatsoever. These, then, are the paradoxical seeds from which community can grow. 
Recognize this important fact and go out there to find your wholeness among others in your community. In doing so you'll fulfill yourself and help create the very thing you need to be whole. You are no rock. You are no island. Myths be darned. Join the party and be whole.

Yeah, it's true. It's easy for me to say. I'm a pure extrovert. But even you introverts need a small community sometimes to be whole. A little, carefully picked community that understands you and allows you to go off to read and plan alone as you need to but welcomes you back when you are ready.

And when you're out there, be kind and gentle to others. Put up with their foibles and eccentricities. Those facets help make them interesting and lively, creating an unexpected and never dull community. To help you do so, always keep in mind that others are doing the same with you.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Friday, January 25, 2013

Chosen by God and What that Means: Good News from Christianity

Way back in the last millennia, author and Christian theologian Henri J.M. Nouwen was asked by his friends from other faiths or without faith to write an introductory guide to Christianity that would explain to them why he believed as ardently in Jesus Christ as he did. Nouwen took up the challenge and produced Life of the Beloved. I wanted to spend a few minutes providing for you quotes on what it means to be chosen by God ... and what it does not. I think Henri Nouwen has it right ... and so many who choose to create dividing lines and litmus tests do not.

Here is what Nouwen says about being chosen (well, part of what he says), pp. 53-54:

So, I do believe deeply that, in order to live a spiritual life, we have to claim for ourselves that we are "taken" or "chosen." Let me try to expand a bit on these words. When I know that I am chosen, I know that I have been seen as a special person. Someone has noticed me in my uniqueness and has expressed a desire to know me, to come closer to me, to love me. When I write to you that, as the Beloved, we are God's chosen ones, I mean that we have been seen by God from all eternity and seen as unique, special, precious beings. It is very hard for me to express well the depth of meaning the word "chosen" has for me, but I hope you are willing to listen to me from within. From all eternity, long before you were born and became a part of history, you existed in God's heart. ... The eyes of love had seen you as precious, as of infinite beauty, as of eternal life. 

Now, remember, Henri Nouwen is writing for people outside of his own Christian faith. See the inclusion here? Let's explore what the author says being chosen is not on pages 54-56 in his own words:

We touch here a great spiritual mystery: To be chosen does not mean that others are rejected. It is very hard to conceive of this in a competitive world such as ours. ... To be chosen as the Beloved of God is something radically different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. Instead of rejecting others as less valuable, it accepts others in their own uniqueness. It is not a competitive choice, but a compassionate choice. 

Henri Nouwen goes on to state that often in our competitive society, when we feel we haven't been chosen and others have it leads us to "... aggression, violence, and war." The author states we must not give up that word "chosen" to the world that would use it in this way. Instead, "You must hold on to the truth that you are the chosen one. That truth is the bedrock on which you can build a life as the Beloved (p. 56)."

As one theologian who has spent a lifetime studying Jesus states (and who is Jewish), she believes that Jesus' statement that he is the way, truth, and life, and that none come to God except through him is a statement of Jesus' ownership of the right to choose who gets to God and she asserts that she rests in the strong belief that Jesus is a far more generous judge than any human. Keep that close to you the next time someone uses John 3:16 as a litmus test against you or those you know and love.

You are chosen, you are beloved, will you accept that? Can you? It isn't easy.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/




Thursday, January 24, 2013

One Congressman's Response to Gun Control Concerns

Not long ago, I wrote my Congressman with concerns that something be done legislatively to control gun violence in the United States, following the President's executive orders. I give him kudos for his rapid and polite response (both much appreciated). The language is respectful and carefully couched. It seems to me it could be interpreted in a variety of ways depending on your perspective. I offer it up as a small notation in the ongoing dialogue on this subject following the Sandy Hook massacre. The fourth paragraph appears the crux of the matter to me, in case your time is limited.


Thank you for your contacting me regarding your thoughts on gun control.  I appreciate the opportunity to respond. 

As you may know, in the aftermath of the school shootings in Newtown, CT, Vice President Joe Biden was charged with leading a task force including members of advocacy groups, teachers, elected officials, and sports and wildlife conservationists to prepare recommendations for President Obama on how to reduce gun violence. 

On January 16th, President Obama unveiled this broad package of measures that range from legislative proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips to Executive Orders to improve incentives for states to contribute records to federal background check systems established under existing law.  I look forward to the President bringing these plans to Congress where I hope to have an open and honest discussion with my House colleagues and constituents about how to protect the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens while, at the same time, preventing those who lack the ability and competency to responsibly use firearms from obtaining and using them to harm innocent victims. 

Let me make it explicitly clear that my policy positions and votes on legislation are driven and determined by what I believe will be in the best interests of the over 700,000 constituents who I represent in the Sixth Congressional District of Pennsylvania.  Our constituency is made up of individuals with a diverse range of opinions and beliefs on all issues, including polarizing and sensitive topics such as gun control, and it is my responsibility to take into consideration all of these thoughts and opinions before making any final decision as to how I will vote on legislation. With that being said, during my tenure in Congress, I have supported legislation to preserve and protect the constitutional rights of our citizens, including those rights provided under the Second Amendment.  However, as is the case with every bill that comes to the House floor, I will evaluate each piece of legislation and weigh the costs, benefits and expected impact of such legislation against the concerns and views of my constituents and one's Second Amendment right to bear arms. Thank you for contacting me regarding this important issue. 

Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to you or your family in the future. With kind regards, I am

Sincerely,

Jim GerlachMember of Congress

So, how do you read the response from your perspective?


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Teen Show Concerning School Violence

Last weekend, the local community theater staged a teen production of the 1999 William Mastrosimone play "Bang, Bang You're Dead." Loosely based on the 1998 Thurstone High School, Springfield, Oregon, case in which a student murders his parents and 27 classmates in a shooting spree, the play grapples with the issues surrounding school shootings. It is intended to be preformed by teens, for teens. The play emphasizes how bullying leads to violence. It is a powerful message presented simply, intended to be easy to produce on very simple sets. It is sadly an enduring message not at all dated by events today. If you are looking for a proven play that provides a powerful message straight to a targeted audience, this is the play for you and your school or community theater. It takes some nerve to produce, but it is well worth it. It is my understanding that the play is available free for those who are interested in using it to deliver an anti-bullying, anti-violence message. Those who saw it last Saturday were deeply moved. Tissues were made available in the back of the theater and they were widely used. The teens who saw the show and those who performed in it received the intended message. So did everyone else. In this highly charged environment, where much of the debate has been reduced to silly slogans and absurd name calling (bullying???), here is a clear message to inject into the "conversation." 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

White Flour: Clownish Joy Overcoming Hatred

 Here's the power of humor and love over hatred and violence. A little clowning goes a long, long way. Remember, it was only the court jester (if he was very good at his job) who could tell the king that what he proposed was foolish at best. Truth to power through humor. Here's a small piece of an article entitled "Joy in Evangelism" that appeared in Witness magazine in 2009 and puts things into perspective for Christians today:

Jesus Christ has been called by some twentieth century scholars, in admiration, the greatest fool of all and has been equated with a clown. This may sound blasphemous at first glance; however, these scholars assert that like the clown, and especially the medieval court jester, Jesus refused to be restrained by the traditions or customs of his day. Like that court jester, Jesus also spoke out against those truly foolish customs, traditions, and behaviors to which we are prone. In an age when his people were under military occupation and seeking a conquering king as their Messiah, Jesus taught that one must follow a path of peace, turning the other cheek rather than striking back. In a materialistic age, Jesus told his followers they must stop worrying about personal possessions. While others of his day treated women as possessions and objects, Jesus raised women up as equals. In an era that sneered at the poor and the outcast, Jesus sided with these denigrated peoples and asserted that they are the true salt of the earth and light of the world, quite foolishly according to common wisdom. 

So, go out and play the fool for peace, the clown for justice, and the gentle wit for all who need our help. You may be surprised how much you accomplish.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Monday, January 21, 2013

Simple Acts of Service for a Day of Service and Always

This was written on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Day of Service, and Inauguration Day, 2013--a day of peaceful transitions and loving service. If you have to work or haven't planned to be part of any large service to others today (or any day, why limit ourselves), please consider the following. In an effort to be of service to others (to everyone you meet in fact) try living by the "fruit of the Spirit" as described in Galatians 5: By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. For those unfamiliar with Christianity, the Spirit is the Holy Spirit of God. When we live a Spirit filled life, we live by these attributes ... or we "grow" these fruit to continue the metaphor. That's all you need to know. Try serving others by expressing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control with your family, your friends, your coworkers, your clients, the strangers you pass on the street, with everyone you meet. Consider each and every person an opportunity to serve up one of these fruit in abundance. 

1 Corinthians 13 offers up some guidance on what love is and what loves does and doesn't do in case you need to get the imagination fired ... and note that love is first among the listed fruit: Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Examples of simple acts of service include those little touches of civility: holding a door for someone, wishing someone a good morning (afternoon, evening, day, whatever it is) and if they respond with a brittle "Is it???" you smile and say something kind like "I'm upright and taking nourishment, so in my book, yes this is a good day." Keep your eyes and ears open for opportunities to serve and I'm sure they'll pop up for you. Of course, this may mean getting out of the house today, going somewhere public, hobnobbing with the folks in your community. Give it a shot. You can do it. You have valuable service to offer today. 

If you want a prop to help you serve, try this. Gather up a few items around the house that are in good shape but nobody uses, or purchase a few helpful small items at the drug store (or dollar store) and put them in your car (I was recently given two chemical hand warmers that back in my archaeology days would have been wonderfully useful but today not so much). If you see someone in need of the kind of item you're carrying (make that item pretty general use and you increase your pool), offer it to them in a friendly way (not creepy friendly but genuinely friendly) and see if you don't improve someone's day. The mailman was happy to get the hand warmers as it was a winter's day and he had to keep one hand bare to handle the mail efficiently. 

In these small ways you get to serve others and make the world a little better place. Do that every day and who knows where it will lead you? Once a thing becomes a habit it tends to grow in you ... like ripening fruit (sorry, couldn't resist), and once small projects can become much larger and take unexpected turns. 

Those of you who live in cities have the opportunity to make the greatest impacts. In archaeology we called this diffusion. Ideas first took hold in cities and then diffused out into the countryside around them. So your kindness in town today may diffuse out a whole lot farther than you think. 

Have a blessed day of service, today and every day. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

ISS Update: Robonaut 2

Robonaut 2 update, telling of the progress Robonaut 2 is making and what "strides" it is expected to make in the years ahead. There's more to come ... and it's taken significant cooperation.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Curiosity Rover Report (Jan. 18, 2013): Curiosity Finds Calcium-Rich Dep...

Curiouser and curiouser. Curiosity finds more signs of free flowing water playing a role in Mars' distant past.


If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Friday, January 18, 2013

When Your Nook Won't Shop ... A Solution

Just before Christmas, my first generation Nook stopped shopping from home. I'd press the shop icon on that colorful little strip at the bottom of the Nook, it would begin to go to the Barnes and Nobles site ... and then switch back to its opening screen, much to my annoyance.

The timing seemed a little suspicious too, with all those bright and shiny next gen Nooks looking for homes under Christmas trees. But I'm not the conspiracy minded sort, so I asked the Nook reps at our local B&N what the deal was. They told me it was a computer glitch and that they had a patch for it. Just bring that Nook in and we'll fix it up. They added, when you bring it in, hit the shop button first and make sure it will go to shop then. People have been having problems shopping from home, but not from the store, not if its the problem we think it is.

And so, I procrastinated. So much to do and so little time. The new year rolled around and finally I gathered up my Nook, took it into the store and found a different rep behind the Nook book counter. First, I dutifully tried to shop from B&N itself, and yes, the Nook went right into shop mode. Then I took my Nook and my story to the current rep. She told me there was no such patch that she knew of. She had me check my settings and sure enough, my first gen Nook's program was up to date, That's version 1.7.0 in case you're wondering, and yes it was. Then she told me to go home and try a simple solution that left me feeling just a little bit foolish. It's so simple you see.

So, if your trusty first generation Nook decides not to shop for you at home any more, here's what you do. You turn it off, like you would any misbehaving computer. Then you turn it on again. Then you try to shop ... and you can. Simple as that. Really.

Life works to keep us humble sometimes.

Oh, by the way, if that doesn't work, I'm told the best time to contact tech support is before 11 AM at 1-800-THE-BOOK




If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What if ET is out there?: Seth Shostak at TEDxSanJoseCA 2012

Here's an exciting prediction for the next 20 years, a short enough time to be fairly sure most of us will be here to see if it comes true. It is truly amazing what this says about our technological rate of increase if nothing else. Now, there could be a crimp in this if ET has a Prime Directive, Seth.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

Our Violent Heritage Makes Itself Known Today

Back in 1974 W. Eugene Hollon had his book Frontier Violence: Another Look published and somewhere between 1977 and 1981 I read it for my history major. It stuck with me. He states that our violent origins color what we do and who we are today. I believe you see this in the current gun debate and the massacres that have occurred. On page vii of the Preface, he states:
America has always had a violent past, and the frontier in a way has stood for this country at its most violent. Without exception, the history of every Western state is replete with lawlessness, from the arrival of the early Mountain Men to the appearance of the twentieth century Minutemen. In between we find a wide range of individual types--claim jumpers, miners, cowboys, cattle rustlers, Indian haters, Border ruffians, Mexican banditti, mule skinners, railroad workers, highwaymen, racial bigots of various colors, professional outlaws, homicidal maniacs, and hired gunslingers. Each group had more than a speaking acquaintance with violence, for the rough life on the frontier prior to 1900 produced scant recognition of the law as law.
This was a common theme on Gunsmoke for those who remember the radio and TV shows. From week to week, Matt Dillon solved problems of aggressive outlaws with his six gun and ... gun smoke. As a result, Hollon states (a result of frontier violence and not a TV series/radio show, just to be clear):
...our folklore tends to support the image of Americans as tough, aggressive, and unafraid--real go-getters who tamed the wild frontier and never lost a war. ... Success depends upon aggressiveness, whether on the football field, in the used-car lot, or behind the desk of the Oval office of the White House. This may be why the frontier outlaw has endured so long in literature and legend. He went out and got what he wanted with his own two hands, frequently by violent means. His deeds, real and imaginary, have served as a culturally valid metaphor of how we have viewed ourselves. (p. x)

As a result, we have our modern gun culture and solve all too many of our problems today with gun smoke and smoking rhetoric to support our gun toting ways. Hollon states on page 122:

Modern American society is violent, not simply because guns are available. The slogan of the National Rifle Association, "guns don't kill, people do," is as oversimplified as the assertion by Congressman John M. Murphy that "gun nuts think their weapons are an extension of their penises." In any case, thanks to our pioneer heritage, the casual wearing or possession of hand guns long after the traditional dangers of the frontier have disappeared makes easier the job of settling personal problems. It also contributes to homicidal violence.

I believe Hollon's remarks on page 114 sum up our current situation just as well today as it did the situation in 1974, which is depressing in many ways:

Violence has always functioned in America, in forms varying from the crude to the sophisticated. It has been a regular force for changing the status quo, as well as for preserving it. And almost everything that has been said about it in relation to our frontier heritage contains large elements of truth. Like its symbolic representative--the American cowboy--the frontier has been the source of much of our strength as well as our dilemma. It has lent respectability to certain kinds of violence and provided excuses for various groups--including the government--to parade their barbarities as righteousness.

Don't allow our government and our people to continue to be enslaved by our violent past. Work for reduction to gun violence today ... and always.

Update, Friday, January 18, 2013: As Hollon stated,  Each group had more than a speaking acquaintance with violence, for the rough life on the frontier prior to 1900 produced scant recognition of the law as law. You can see that this scant recognition of law as law remains today amongst some of our more rural lawmakers (and their law enforcement arms). Jeff Barnard of Associated Press reported that President Barack Obama's executive orders working toward controlling the gun violence in the nation (mostly dealing with insufficiencies in registration and our mental health institutions) would be entirely ignored from Mississippi to Oregon and on up to Alaska. Never mind any acts of Congress as I have my doubts about Congress acting in this matter. As examples: Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) urged his state legislators to make it illegal to enforce any executive order they deem to violate the Constitution. Tennessee Republican State Representative Joe Carr moves it should be a crime for federal agents to enforce any firearms or ammunition bans. Instead Carr wants more guns in schools. Similar proposals are stirring in Wyoming, Utah, and Alaska. At the end of the article, Barnard allows how this is unlikely to be anything more than bluster and blow, but it does illustrate Hollon's contention and show us that our violent frontier heritage and the mindset it instills remains strong among us today.

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

To All Those Who Choose To Tear Down, To Sully, To Sow Discord and Ridicule

I have been wondering why I have been drawn lately to the self-proclaimed Prince of Humbug, Mr. Phineas Taylor Barnum, at least until I ran across his wonderful book The Humbugs of the World. I stumbled across it while trying to find his lecture "The Philosophy of Humbug" as mentioned in his autobiography, Life of Barnum. And when I read the lines of pages 16 and 17, it all became clear.

I've been drawn to humbug by all the humbug in the air lately. All the spun histories and warnings of dire fates awaiting if a certain thing was done or not done put forth by "special" interest groups. I was drawn to the Prince of Humbug by all the commentators on the far right and far left opining in heated rhetoric how they are always right and their opponents are enemies of truth, justice, and the American Way. Also by all the politicians who stand on party orthodoxy and choose to ignore the needs of the people rather than stray from the party platform. No names need to be mentioned. These are all the usual suspects Louie would know well. Well, to them all I offer Mr. P.T. Barnum's assessment of who they really are in the grand scheme of things. Without further ado the curtain rises and the great man speaks:

But there is a more thorough humbug than any of these enterprises or systems [Mr. Barnum had just finished listing humbugs in every major field of human endeavor, those who misconstrue and fool for profit or amusement, for reasons dangerous or benign]. The greatest humbug of all is the man [or woman] who believes--or pretends to believe--that everything and everybody are humbugs. We sometimes meet a person who professes that there is no virtue; that every man has his price, and every woman hers; that any statement from anybody is just as likely to be false as true, and that the only way to decide which, is to consider whether truth or a lie was likely to have paid best in that particular case. Religion he thinks one of the smartest business dodges extant, a first rate investment, and by all odds the most respectable disguise that a lying or swindling business man can wear. Honor he thinks is a sham. Honesty he considers a plausible word to flourish in the eyes of the greener portion of our race, as you would hold out a cabbage leaf to coax a donkey. What people want, he thinks, is something good to eat, something good to drink, fine clothes, luxury, laziness, wealth. If you can imagine a hog's mind in a man's body--sensual, greedy, selfish, cunning, sly, coarse, yet stupid, short-sighted, unreasoning, unable to comprehend anything except what concerns the flesh, you have your man. He thinks himself philosophic and practical, a man of the world; he thinks to show knowledge and wisdom, penetration, deep acquaintance with men and things. Poor fellow! he has exposed his own nakedness. Instead of showing that others are rotten inside, he has proved that he is. He claims that it is not safe to believe others--it is perfectly safe to disbelieve him. He claims that every man will get the better of you if possible--let him alone! Selfishness, he says, is the universal rule--leave nothing to depend on his generosity or honor; trust him just as far as you can sling an elephant by the tail. A bad world, he sneers, full of deceit and nastiness--it is his own foul breath that he smells; only a thoroughly corrupt heart could suggest such vile thoughts. He sees only what suits him, as a turkey-buzzard spies only carrion, though amid the loveliest landscape. I pronounce him who thus virtually slanders his father and dishonors his mother and defiles the sanctities of home and the glory of patriotism and the merchant's honor and the martyr's grave and the saint's crown--who does not even know that every sham shows that there is a reality, and that hypocrisy is the homage that vice pays to virtue--I pronounce him--no, I do not pronounce him a humbug, the word does not apply to him. He is a fool. 
I really can't hope to add anything of any substance to what P.T. Barnum has said. I will give you this though: among these folks I place the 180 Congresspersons who voted against the hurricane Sandy disaster relief funds. Their names may be found at the following site and should be remembered: http://www.whatthefolly.com/2013/01/16/list-of-179-house-republicans-who-voted-against-the-50-billion-hurricane-sandy-relief-package/

If you like what you read here, you can support this blog (don't let me go it alone here): You can order a copy of the children's book Michael and the New Baby directly from Old Line Publishing at: http://www.oldlinepublishing.com/bookstore-marketplace/children-s-books/michael-and-the-new-baby/

President Obama Introduces a Plan to Reduce Gun Violence

 I don't often venture into politics here as the topics are often ephemeral and of little lasting value. However, this issue of protecting our children, ourselves, and each other from gun violence is an issue that is compelling and long lasting. Here is what President Barack Obama proposes to do to protect our people ... all of us.

Now, for those who would say that this is the beginning of the erosion of the Second Amendment, I say nonsense, poppycock, hogwash, and humbug to you. There are many limitations that have been imposed that have been a proven good for society. They include: in the 1950s the FAA refused to allow citizens to obtain flying cars for private use. People still drive cars and fly private planes today. They simply cannot use a potentially dangerous hybrid. The same tired arguments the NRA trots out today were used against seatbelt laws, children's car seats, motorcycle helmets ... and the list goes on. Lives were saved by the implementation of each of these laws ... and the freedom to drive was not impinged upon. Only the right to be foolish was limited. I can live with that.

If you would like to find your Congress person and let them know how you feel about this situation, you may check this address to find out who you should write: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

If you would like to know what the President accomplished via Executive Order in regards to firearm control, check out this article by Sandi Villarreal: http://sojo.net/blogs/2013/01/16/obama-biden-announce-gun-violence-reduction-plan/ It makes for interesting reading. 

Taking Care of Those Feet with the Right Walking Shoes

In a recent quest, I was out for new walking shoes. I've preferred a particular brand for many years, a brand not to be named here as it wouldn't be fair to them necessarily, but that this year could not provide me with a nice black leather covered walking shoe that would work in the office. What they offered no longer felt right on my feet. I was ... disappointed. A trusted brand had to be left behind and hunting had to begin, hunting for the elusive new walking shoe. The wrong shoe will leave you with agony, the right shoe, bliss. I've had experience with both and wanted to avoid the former.

Being the twenty-first century, I Googled the problem and found a site of particular interest: http://www.the-fitness-walking-guide.com/best-walking-shoes.html Here they provide you with a great deal of information about feet, let you test your feet, and recommend a range of walking shoes that are probably wonderful. However, in my area, armed with this list, when I ventured forth I found none of those shoes available in any of the stores I visited. Rather than quest further, I threw up my hands and went into a local Footlocker and asked them what they'd recommend. They pointed me in the direction of Nike. I ended up with a more sports apparel style of footwear than I'd felt entirely comfortable wearing at the office, but they were a subdued gray and on sale ... so I jumped. I ended up with a very light weight and comfortable Lunarglide 3, which the salesman tactfully noted that lots of guys like me (aging) prefer for the support. He also informed me that as we age our feet change and it may not have been any failure of the unmentioned former faithful footwear company that I had to change brands. I'd like to think so. I miss their shoes but my feet are very happy in the new model.

This made me curious. A year ago, when I began my quest for exercising health via a gym, I picked up a pair of running shoes as my old walking shoes weren't cutting it. After making this purchase, I checked and sure enough, the running shoes are the Nike Air model. It looks like my feet have made their choice and in this case, where they lead, I follow.