Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving is for Giving

I love the name "Thanksgiving" because the word is made up of "thanks" and "giving." These are two very imporant words. What I experienced more of yesterday was the giving part of the word.

At Immanuel Trinity we volunteered to help deliver meals, and serve Thanksgiving dinner to hundreds of disadvantaged people in the Fox Valley. What a great feeling one gets from pure giving. My wife Debbie and son Ryan also helped and it was a great experience for them as well. If I have faith in anything, it is in the marvelous potential of the human heart. Good hearts were seen all over the place.

I also got to show off my modest guitar playing. I played a two sets including a total of 15 songs, once in awhile telling the folks what I am thankful for. It was an exhilarating experience.

The set was as follows:

  1. I Can Only Imagine
  2. The Boxer
  3. Blue Divide
  4. Fire and Rain
  5. The Kite Song
  6. Beyond Belief*
  7. The Whippoorwill
  8. Heavenly Day
  9. Arrowhead
  10. The Courier
  11. Texas Blues
  12. Old Tennessee
  13. The Island
  14. Last Fare of the Day
  15. Lawrence, Kansas

"Beyond Belief" is a song I wrote, for my wife Debbie, about her generous nature and how lucky I am to have her by my side.

I feel I gave of myself completely, and that is the best and most unique feeling in the world :)

p.s. Have been listening to Yusuf Islam lately. He is a very interesting person with some great messages for all of us. I would urge you to listen to this man, who is a devout Muslim(formerly Cat Stevens.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Creationism is Silly and False Teachers Spread Irrationality

by Richard Dawkins

The Rome-deniers, let's imagine, are a well-organised group of nutters, implacably convinced that the Roman empire never existed. The Latin language, for all its rich literature and its romance language grandchildren, is a Victorian fabrication. The Rome-deniers are, no doubt, harmless wingnuts, more harmless than the Holocaust-deniers whom they resemble. Smile and be tolerant. But your tolerance might wear thin if you are a scholar and teacher of Roman history or literature. And what if Rome-deniers manage to infiltrate the teaching staff of an otherwise reputable school, and energetically promote their inanities to a susceptible new generation? A normally tolerant person could be forgiven for wanting to see those teachers fired. Well, that's approximately where I stand with respect to the clique of Genesis creationists who have moved in on Emmanuel College, Gateshead. What they deny is the unassailable evidence for biological evolution. The present head of the school, Nigel McQuoid, with his predecessor John Burn, wrote the following: "We agree that [schools] should teach evolution as a theory and faith position... Clearly also schools should teach the creation theory as literally depicted in Genesis. Both creation and evolution provide ways of explaining the past that are beyond direct scientific examination and verification. Ultimately, both creation and evolution are faith positions." The vice-principal, head of science, senior assessment coordinator and maths teacher, have all said something similar. Creation as literally depicted in Genesis is indeed supported by faith (and needs to be, since it is not supported by anything else, certainly not the Pope, nor the Roman or Anglican hierarchies). Evolution, on the other hand, is supported by evidence. Any science teacher who denies that the world is billions (or even millions!) of years old is teaching children a preposterous, mind-shrinking falsehood. These men disgrace the honourable profession of teacher. By comparison, real teachers, teachers who respect truth and evidence whether in science or history, have so much more to offer. Today's children are blessed with the opportunity to open their minds to the shattering wonder of their own existence, the nature of life and its remarkable provenance in a yet more remarkable universe. Teachers who help to open young minds perform a duty which is as near sacred as I will admit. Ignorant, closed-minded, false teachers who stand in their way come as close as I can reckon to committing true sacrilege.

Even Christmas Parties are Suffering These Days

(from Workforce Week Magazine)

Across the U.S., companies are canceling annual end-of-the-year holiday bashes to cut costs, or in some cases just to blend in with the rest of a world that’s too worried about money to feel like a party. The trend is having a ripple effect on caterers and event coordinators. This year, the Grinch may not have stolen Christmas, but he definitely took the Christmas party.Across the nation, companies are canceling annual end-of-the-year holiday bashes to cut costs, or in some cases just to blend in with the rest of a world that’s too worried about money to feel like a party. The trend is having a ripple effect on caterers and event coordinators who say that calls canceling parties have spiked in the past few weeks.
Two annual holiday-party surveys back up anecdotal evidence that a record number of companies have dropped holiday parties this year—more even than in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist bombings—while others are scaling back how much they spend, what they serve or how many people they invite.
In its survey of 100 companies, outplacement consultant Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. found that 23 percent of companies elected not to host a holiday party this year, compared with only 10 percent in 2007. New York executive search firm Battalia Winston Amrop found in its survey of 108 firms that 19 percent will forgo a party this year, the highest percentage in the poll’s 20-year history.
And in a separate study of more than 1,200 executives by Towers Perrin, 58 percent of all organizations polled acknowledge they are somewhat or very likely to scale back this year’s holiday party and other employee events to save money.
“People are scared,” Battalia CEO Dale Winston said. “We do this survey because it’s a way of calibrating the mood of the country, and we’re just not in a celebratory mood.”
Investment banks and financial institutions rocked by the mortgage industry crisis were some of the first to cancel celebrations, including Barclays and Morgan Stanley.
Barclays will sponsor parties for employees’ children at several locations internationally, but it canceled other celebrations. Company executives issued a memo to employees stating that given the upheaval in the financial industry and in light of its Lehman Brothers acquisition, “it is not appropriate for us to do anything that might be seen as inappropriate by any of our stakeholders.”Publishing, news and entertainment companies dealing with tanking revenues and earnings have put the kibosh on once-lavish celebrations, including Viacom, ABC News and Hearst.
Holiday parties at Viacom were the stuff of legend, but this year, the media conglomerate that owns cable TV networks MTV, VH1, BET and CMT canceled all year-end festivities. Instead, employees will get two extra paid vacation days between December 22 and January 1. Kelly McAndrew, a Viacom corporate communications vice president, wouldn’t discuss whether trading parties for time off will save the company money. McAndrew said only, “This is what we think is right for our company at this time.”
The celebratory downsizing doesn’t end with finance and media companies. Enterprise Rent-A-Car, hit with a triple whammy of credit, energy and auto industry woes, put the brakes on the year-end party it normally hosts for 2,000 St. Louis corporate headquarters employees and their spouses on a weekend night at a downtown hotel. After 200 corporate staff members were laid off in late October, having a party just didn’t seem right, said Ned Maniscalco, an Enterprise spokesman.
Adidas Group also canceled annual holiday parties at multiple locations internationally as part of broader cost-cutting measures that include a hiring freeze and less business travel. The Germany-based global sportswear giant did its partying earlier in the year, with a picnic for 1,000 employees and their families June 7 to kick off the Euro 2008 soccer championship and a two-day, all- expense-paid trip to the Summer Olympics in Beijing for 1,000 Chinese employees, said Anne Putz, a corporate spokeswoman.
As companies rein in party spending, it’s affecting caterers, hotels and event planners at what is typically the biggest party season of the year. At Tavern on the Green, the historic restaurant and banquet facility in New York’s Central Park, clients are postponing, cutting out luxuries such as seafood displays, or canceling altogether, including one longtime client that canceled a party for 1,000. In years past, the facility would have been booked solid for December. This year, “We have some holes we’d love to fill,” said spokeswoman Shelley Clark.
Even companies that aren’t in bad shape are forgoing extravagant affairs. Nobody wants to be the next American International Group, which was excoriated for sending executives to an opulent spa retreat days after receiving a federal bailout.
“If the company is laying off people, celebrating in some over-the-top way would be insane,” said John Challenger, CEO at Challenger, Gray & Christmas. It’s appropriate, however, to bring employees together in some fashion to thank them for their hard work and long hours, he said.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some Pictures from my Life

Stephen's Group Home

The Group Home Neighborhood

Beautiful Tree in our Neighborhood

Stephen's Thanksgiving on Sunday

The Family
For more family pictures, go to

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Jeff's Hilarious Top Ten List

Top Ten Skits on SNL that Would've Won Palin the Election
  1. Doing affirmations with Al Franken's Stuart Smalley
  2. A heated argument with the Church Lady
  3. A loose associations contest with Emily Letella
  4. Getting constant and unending noogies from Bill Murray
  5. Wearing a conehead with John McCain and singing in French
  6. Trying to Imitate Belushi in a rendition of "Samurai Republican."
  7. Singing White Skinhead Christmas with Bing Crosby
  8. Having pizza and getting drunk with Father Sarducci
  9. Playing bad acoustic guitar with Adam Sandler
  10. Seen "palling around" with Wild and Crazy Martin and Aykroid

Colbert's Own Brand of Mental Illness Unleashed

NEW YORK (AP) — The permanently suit-clad Stephen Colbert has traded in his pinstripes for a cardigan sweater, red turtleneck and furry boots.
Following the tradition of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby, Colbert hosts his own holiday special in "A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All." The hour-long special airs Sunday at 10 p.m. EST on Comedy Central, and will on Tuesday be released as a DVD, complete with a Yule log of burning books.
Clearly in the Christmas spirit, at the first mention of old holiday specials, Colbert launches into renditions of Williams' "Little Altar Boy" and Crosby and David Bowie's "Little Drummer Boy."
The latter was the inspiration for a duet between Colbert and Willie Nelson, who appears — in one of the more bizarre numbers — as a tiny wise man in a miniature nativity scene.
"This is just some good fun to watch during your eggnog-induced dementia," Colbert joked in an interview Wednesday.
The special finds Colbert far from his "Colbert Report" set in an obviously made-for-TV room of a mountain cabin dressed for Christmas. Hanging by the fireplace are two stockings, one labeled "Stephen," the other "Colbert."
While he's snowed in and a bear lurks outside, Colbert is visited by Nelson, Toby Keith, Jon Stewart, John Legend, Feist and Elvis Costello to sing Christmas songs that were penned by "Daily Show" executive producer David Javerbaum and composed by Adam Schlesinger.
"I had a clear, clear command to everyone involved: 'No cynicism,'" said Colbert. "We're not mocking Christmas specials. We're doing MY Christmas special. And that was the aesthetic we tried to bring into it. Like, we're really doing this. I want people to see this every year."
The special was originally planned for last Christmas but was delayed a year when Colbert became swamped during his brief run for president in the South Carolina primary. Instead, the special was taped mostly over a three-week period in August.
The 44-year-old comedian, who lives in New Jersey with his wife and three children, is a practicing Catholic who has taught Sunday school at his church. The special concludes on a positive note, with Colbert and Costello singing that "there are much worse things" than believing in Christmas.
Costume pieces from the special are being auctioned to benefit Feeding America, and a percentage of the DVD proceeds will also go to the charity.
Conservative pundits, of course, were the basis of Colbert's character — and there is some allusion to the "war on Christmas" that various commentators have waged in recent years.
But while Colbert still remains in character, the special is ultimately mostly free of politics. During the nonstop campaign, Colbert looked forward to the special like a "gift box," completely removed from the election.
"See, no politics," said Colbert proudly, as if proving his versatility.
Though fodder from the campaign was a boon to "The Report," Colbert says he feels greater freedom now that the election is over.
"I've actually had a better time than I've had in a long time," he said about the last few weeks. "I was strapped to someone else's galloping horse. There was no escaping how fast the news was changing. We were completely in a responsive comedy."
But there is nothing reactive about the unique "A Colbert Christmas."
"I'm so proud that we made something that is sincerely strange," said Colbert, "but also strangely sincere."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Keith Olbermann, Deepak Chopra and Jesus

Watch this Keith Olbermann. It's a very passionate speech. He's not afraid to criticize America, and the direction she should be going in.

In other notes:

I'm reading a book by Deepak Chopra called "The Third Jesus." The argument is that Jesus the man was misintepreted and that his message has been twisted since his time. Chopra argues that what Jesus called all of us to do would be radical, and most have not followed through except for a handful like Gandhi, MLK, etc. He asked us to love our enemies, which is too abstract for us to understand. Gandhi proclaimed passive resistance and non violence, closer to what I think Christ was saying. Easy to preach this stuff, almost impossible to live by.

I highly recommend this book for almost everyone. My lay minister Tim and I plan to discuss the book tonight at our restaurant we call "The Greek Place." Next time you stop at a book store, glance at the introduction, you may be surprised at how bright Chopra is. The jury is still out to whether he truly respects science though. He would be a GREAT guest on "Point of Inquiry." Will, what do you think of Chopra?

Good Night and Good Luck

I just received an excellent link (originally from Nancy D.) to what I think is Keith Olbermann's best soliloquy yet. He is talking about California's vote to deligitimize gay marriage (or Proposition 8.) The act amends the state constitution and specifies that a marriage must be between a man and a woman. To watch this clip is the hear the passion of Edward R. Murrow all over again and to see first hand the power of morality journalism can engender:

Hope you enjoyed the clip. Let's have faith that the people will decide the right answer. My mother also sent an excellent article by Leonard Pitts on the same subject which shall be shown in its entirety right here:

Some blacks forgot sting of discrimination

Sometimes, progress carries an asterisk.
That's as good a summary as any of a sad irony from last week's historic election. You will recall one of the major storylines of that day was the fact that, in helping make Barack Obama the nation's first black president, African Americans struck a blow against a history that has taught us all too well how it feels to be demeaned and denied. Unfortunately, while they were striking that blow, some black folks chose to demean and deny someone else.
Last week, you see, California voters passed an initiative denying recognition to same-sex marriages. This overturned an earlier ruling from the state Supreme Court legalizing those unions. The vote was hardly a surprise; surely there is nothing in politics easier than to rouse a majority of voters against the ''threat'' of gay people being treated like people.
But African Americans were crucial to the passage of the bill, supporting it by a margin of better than two to one. To anyone familiar with the deep strain of social conservatism that runs through the black electorate, this is not surprising either. It is, however, starkly disappointing. Moreover, it leaves me wondering for the umpteenth time how people who have known so much of oppression can turn around and oppress.
Yes, I know. I can hear some black folk yelling at me from here, wanting me to know it's not the same, what gays have gone through and what black people did, wanting me to know they acted from sound principles and strong values. It is justification and rationalization, and I've heard it all before. I wish they would explain to me how they can, with a straight face, use arguments against gay people that were first tested and perfected against us.
When, for instance, they use an obscure passage from the Bible to claim God has ordained the mistreatment of gays, don't they hear an echo of white people using that Bible to claim God ordained the mistreatment of blacks?
When they rail against homosexuality as ''unnatural,'' don't they remember when that word was used to describe abolition, interracial marriage and school integration?
When they say they'd have no trouble with gay people if they would just stop ''flaunting'' their sexuality, doesn't it bring to mind all those good ol' boys who said they had no problem with ''Nigras'' so long as they stayed in their place?
No, the black experience and the gay experience are not equivalent. Gay people were not the victims of mass kidnap or mass enslavement.
No war was required to strike the shackles from their limbs.
But that's not the same as saying blacks and gays have nothing in common. On the contrary, gay people, like black people, know what it's like to be left out, lied about, scapegoated, discriminated against, held up, beat down, denied a job, a loan or a life. And, too, they know how it feels to sit there and watch other people vote upon your very humanity, just as if those other people had a right. So beg pardon, but black people should know better. I feel the same when Jews are racist, or gays anti-Semitic. Those who bear scars from intolerance should be the last to practice it.
Sadly, we are sometimes the first. That tells you something about how seductive a thing intolerance is, how difficult it can be to resist the serpent whisper that says it's OK to ridicule and marginalize those people over there because they look funny, or talk funny, worship funny or love funny. So in the end, we struggle with the same imperative as from ages ago: to overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. But if last week's vote taught us nothing else, it taught us that persistence plus faith equals change.
And we shall overcome.

It's time to get out the guitar and sing "We Shall Overcome" loudly and clearly. the fight isn't over yet. Intolerance is still alive and well.

Have a good weekend everyone. Get ready for the ride of our lives with Barack at the helm.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Greg Mars Hits the Blogosphere

A man who I would count as one of my top ten friends in life has written a new blog. I highly recommend the new blog from Greg Mars. His writing is fresh, incisive and insightful and he has a very unique perspective on life---not to mention a great sense of humor. Greg is one of the few people who could make me laugh until I cried. Greg worked with me in the radio business in Amery many years ago. He had a show called "The Mars Cafe"--a very well respected show with faithful listeners(including my brother in law Craig) We had show called "Sportschat" where we had a lot of fun--and that is an understatement. Favorite memories--doing the radio show from a barber's chair, seeing how much gum Greg could chew and still do the weather, broadcasting from my house and having to pause because my wife was mowing the lawn in the background, and oh yeah...Greg having fun playing a tape over and over of me swallowing a fly while doing baseball play by play. That was quite a blooper. :) Greg's creativity is boundless and I'm sure it will be reflected in his blog. Welcome to the blogosphere Greg, and I heartily recommend my blog friends to take in the Mars Cafe experience on It's worth your while. I promise you.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Getting Ready to Give Thanks

As I prepare for my guitar playing at Immanuel Trinity Church on Thanksgiving I am coming up with a song list. I plan to also talk about what I'm thankful for, interspersing my comments between the songs.

  1. Heavenly Day(thankful for just being on Earth)

  2. The Beauty of the Rain(thankful for the beauty of reflection)

  3. Dove and the Waterline

  4. I Can See Clearly Now(thankful for the ability to think postively in a world full of obstacles)

  5. New Year's Day(thankful for seeing things in a brand new way and for new beginnings)

  6. Beyond Belief(thankful for my lifetime companion Debbie)

  7. Reunion Hill

  8. Grocer's Broom(thankful for hard work and restful days deserved)

  9. Over There(thankful for the miracle of children)

  10. I Had Something(thankful for the gift of spiritual yearning)

  11. The Ballad of Mary Magdalene

  12. Northbound 35

  13. Gray Green(thankful for the gift of being new parents and beholding this new child)

  14. Blue Divide

  15. Ain't No Sunshine(thankful for the companionship in marriage)

  16. Take Me Home(thankful for the peace of rustic roads)

  17. Texas Blues

  18. So Says the Whippoorwill(thankful for freedom)

  19. Lighthouse Light(thankful to that light in our souls that leads us home)

  20. This Little Light of Mine

  21. The Storms are on the Ocean

  22. Houses in the Fields (thankful for the dedication of the nation's farmers and their respect and connection to the land)

  23. Love is Our Cross to Bear(thankful for love)

  24. Ponies

  25. She's All There is to Me (thankful for the love of Debbie)

  26. I Can Only Imagine (thankful for imagination and love)

  27. I Saw My Youth Today

  28. Waiting for the Storm

  29. Arrowhead(thankful to those young men who fight and die for freedom)

  30. The Kite Song

  31. TV Light

  32. The Boxer

  33. Lawrence, Kansas(thankful to the farmers who work so hard---to Donnie and Bev)

  34. State of the Union(thankful for the courage it takes to beat a drug habit--to Tim)

  35. This Land is Your Land(thankful for the USA)

  36. The Island

  37. On a Sea of Fleur-De-Lis

  38. Senor

  39. Old Tennessee

  40. Peace Will Come(thankful for peace that comes being bathed in perfect love)

From this songlist, I will be choosing the songs I will be singing at Thanksgiving. It will be a great experience to be able to share my music and the songs I love. I look forward to meeting a lot of wonderful people and in giving what I can. It could be the most meaningful Thanksgiving of all.

The true joy in life is giving and I am learning this at a late age, but I think it is never too late.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Affirmations of Humanism: A Statement of Principles

We are committed to the application of reason and science to the understanding of the universe and to the solving of human problems.
We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence, to seek to explain the world in supernatural terms, and to look outside nature for salvation.
We believe that scientific discovery and technology can contribute to the betterment of human life.
We believe in an open and pluralistic society and that democracy is the best guarantee of protecting human rights from authoritarian elites and repressive majorities.
We are committed to the principle of the separation of church and state.
We cultivate the arts of negotiation and compromise as a means of resolving differences and achieving mutual understanding.
We are concerned with securing justice and fairness in society and with eliminating discrimination and intolerance.
We believe in supporting the disadvantaged and the handicapped so that they will be able to help themselves.
We attempt to transcend divisive parochial loyalties based on race, religion, gender, nationality, creed, class, sexual orientation, or ethnicity, and strive to work together for the common good of humanity.
We want to protect and enhance the earth, to preserve it for future generations, and to avoid inflicting needless suffering on other species.
We believe in enjoying life here and now and in developing our creative talents to their fullest.
We believe in the cultivation of moral excellence.
We respect the right to privacy. Mature adults should be allowed to fulfill their aspirations, to express their sexual preferences, to exercise reproductive freedom, to have access to comprehensive and informed health-care, and to die with dignity.
We believe in the common moral decencies: altruism, integrity, honesty, truthfulness, responsibility. Humanist ethics is amenable to critical, rational guidance. There are normative standards that we discover together. Moral principles are tested by their consequences.
We are deeply concerned with the moral education of our children. We want to nourish reason and compassion.
We are engaged by the arts no less than by the sciences.
We are citizens of the universe and are excited by discoveries still to be made in the cosmos.
We are skeptical of untested claims to knowledge, and we are open to novel ideas and seek new departures in our thinking.
We affirm humanism as a realistic alternative to theologies of despair and ideologies of violence and as a source of rich personal significance and genuine satisfaction in the service to others.
We believe in optimism rather than pessimism, hope rather than despair, learning in the place of dogma, truth instead of ignorance, joy rather than guilt or sin, tolerance in the place of fear, love instead of hatred, compassion over selfishness, beauty instead of ugliness, and reason rather than blind faith or irrationality.
We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Persistent Myth about Secular Humanism

by Bill Cooney

Someone recently wrote to me that he didn't buy "all that secular humanist crap" I was finding myself interested in. Fair enough. But did this person venture into anything specific? As a matter of fact, he did. He wrote that secular humanists hold all philosophies and world views to be equally valid and that he disagreed strongly with this precept. The implication was clear: secular humanists possess no powers of discernment. I was surprised such an educated and intelligent person would resort to invoking so shallow a myth as to compel me to wonder what he really understood about humanism at all.Still, this was not the first time I had heard this criticism of secular humanist philosophy. I consider myself a humanist, and in no way do I subscribe to the notion that all world views have substantially equivalent validity. People who hold this view of humanists are incorrectly extrapolating from the principle that no one world view explains everything that all world views are therefore equally valid. To be more precise about what humanism does in fact avow: all world views are fallible. That is to say they are subject to - in the secular sphere - critical and rational analysis. Opposing world views are no doubt possessed of varying degrees of enlightenment, which deems them, by definition, to be of varying degrees of value.Something else this particular myth seems based upon is the notion that humanism is as rigidly dogmatic as any religion. While there are a number of stated principles humanists aspire to, it is much more accurate to characterize humanism as a method for reasoning and achieving understanding. It is not a compendium of dos and don'ts or intractable beliefs; it is a foundation for skeptical analysis and inquiry based upon rational examination. Secular humanists question the veracity of claims to possess knowledge about that which does not suffer rational examination well.Much criticism of humanism comes from the religiously inclined because of its expressed resistance to explain the world in supernatural terms. To many, the very idea of not deferring to a specific deity in constructing its ideological platform is offensive. What we humanists can't understand is why this would offend anyone. We are not offended by the choice of others to believe in a god, but to quote from Paul Kurts' Affirmations of Humanism, A Statement of Principles: "We deplore efforts to denigrate human intelligence . . . and to look outside nature for salvation."More often than not, criticism of secular humanists as undiscriminating purveyors of "anything-goes" intellectualism is a naked attempt to malign us, our intellects, and our principles. We, as much as anyone, welcome criticism so long as it is not offered as disparaging rhetoric.

Thanks Bill great post. Check out his blog on my favorites list.

BTW....a movie recommendation:

Laura Dern ("Jurassic Park", "Blue Velvet") gives a scintillating performance in "Damaged Care," the true story of Dr. Linda peeno, a woman pushed to the edge, risking her career and family to punish the ruthless companies who valued profit over human life. Trained as a doctor, Linda in medicine for a family life but after learning that a new type of medical insurance was treat in the rich at the expense of the poor for greater profits, she went all out, using her experience to testify on behalf of patients suing the insurers. The task seemed impossible. The risks too great. But if it only takes one man to build a multi-million dollar corporation, then it only takes one woman to bring it back down.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Heroes and Villains

My son Ryan brought home an assignment that led to an interesting father/son discussion the other day. Who are your heroes and villains? It got me thinking and Ryan too. Here is the quick list I came up with:

Heroes: MLK, JFK, RFK, Edward R. Murrow, Christopher Reeve, Mike Severson, Barack Obama, Mario Cuomo, Gandhi, John Gorka, Paul Wellstone, Al Gore, Richard Dawkins, Leo Buscaglia, Carl Sagan, Dan Rather, Al Franken, Wayne Dyer, Albert Einstein, Chris Matthews, my mother, father, sister, Uncle Charlie and Will and Iris.

Villains: Joseph McCarthy, Hitler, Stalin, dicators of Iran and North Korea, Sarah Palin, Jeffrey Dahmer, John Gacy, Barry Bonds, Paris Hilton, Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Osama Bin Laden, Jerry Falwell, and last but not least---Ann Coulter.

Try your own heroes and villains list. You may be astounded at what you may find.

Speaking of villains, I wonder if Sarah Palin will give the presidency a shot in 2012. Another vast embarrassment for our country if she does I'm afraid.
As Leo Buscaglia would have said---love your neighbor as yourself. Didn't someone else say that too?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Music Inspirational Thoughts and More

I think I will call Mike Tollifson today. He is the man who first inspired me to play guitar.

I am very impressed to be playing my very first "gig." It is at the Thanksgiving dinner served by Immanuel Trinity Church. I will play for about an hour after delivering meals to shut in's earlier in the day. This will be a great new way to spend the holidays. Debbie and possibly son Ryan will be going over to help as well. I have 40 songs I will be chosing from and I'm excited about what reaction I may get from people at church.

This morning I am doing youtube surfing and finding some fascinating new artists which include:
Caroline Herring, Mark Geary, Laura Kemp, Emily Kurn, Peter Mayer, Jud Caswell, Ron Fetner, Terrence Martin, Stephen Hunter and a band called Bread and Roses. I also took some of the morning going through what the best songs will be for Thanksgiving. Well, the Highlander Grogg coffee tastes great and I'm ready for another day. After calling Mike and Craig today I will call Tim about going bowling today. (hope to hit 150)

Hope your weekend is full of warmth and love and caring. Even on a cool cloudy day in the 30's in Wisconsin, I plan to have a great day!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama's Hope

This is a great day to be alive. To watch Barack Obama speak at Grant Park in Chicago, was to watch history in the making. Obama has the power to get people dreaming again and to take away some of the apathy that so many have nowadays. To watch that gleam of hope in Barack's eyes, to feel that he really believes what he is saying. It makes me think anything is possible. To think that the downtrodden in our society have a voice, to think that this nation has new hope, of the type never seen before. To see people dancing in the streets of Kenya, to see the tears in Oprah's and Jesse Jackson's eyes. To see that moment, to be a witness to the true face of hope, that is a truly meaningful experience.

We have many challenges as Americans, but we now have one more reason to hope----thanks to Barack Obama.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

"Palin's Pure Stupidity" by Christopher Hitchens

In an election that has been fought on an astoundingly low cultural and intellectual level, with both candidates pretending that tax cuts can go like peaches and cream with the staggering new levels of federal deficit, and paltry charges being traded in petty ways, and with Joe the Plumber becoming the emblematic stupidity of the campaign, it didn't seem possible that things could go any lower or get any dumber. But they did last Friday, when, at a speech in Pittsburgh, Gov. Sarah Palin denounced wasteful expenditure on fruit-fly research, adding for good xenophobic and anti-elitist measure that some of this research took place "in Paris, France" and winding up with a folksy "I kid you not."

It was in 1933 that Thomas Hunt Morgan won a Nobel Prize for showing that genes are passed on by way of chromosomes. The experimental creature that he employed in the making of this great discovery was the Drosophila melanogaster, or fruit fly. Scientists of various sorts continue to find it a very useful resource, since it can be easily and plentifully "cultured" in a laboratory, has a very short generation time, and displays a great variety of mutation. This makes it useful in studying disease, and since Gov. Palin was in Pittsburgh to talk about her signature "issue" of disability and special needs, she might even have had some researcher tell her that there is a Drosophila-based center for research into autism at the University of North Carolina. The fruit fly can also be a menace to American agriculture, so any financing of research into its habits and mutations is money well-spent. It's especially ridiculous and unfortunate that the governor chose to make such a fool of herself in Pittsburgh, a great city that remade itself after the decline of coal and steel into a center of high-tech medical research.

In this case, it could be argued, Palin was not just being a fool in her own right but was following a demagogic lead set by the man who appointed her as his running mate. Sen. John McCain has made repeated use of an anti-waste and anti-pork ad (several times repeated and elaborated in his increasingly witless speeches) in which the expenditure of $3 million to study the DNA of grizzly bears in Montana was derided as "unbelievable." As an excellent article in the Feb. 8, 2008, Scientific American pointed out, there is no way to enforce the Endangered Species Act without getting some sort of estimate of numbers, and the best way of tracking and tracing the elusive grizzly is by setting up barbed-wire hair-snagging stations that painlessly take samples from the bears as they lumber by and then running the DNA samples through a laboratory. The cost is almost trivial compared with the importance of understanding this species, and I dare say the project will yield results in the measurement of other animal populations as well, but all McCain could do was be flippant and say that he wondered whether it was a "paternity" or "criminal" issue that the Fish and Wildlife Service was investigating. (Perhaps those really are the only things that he associates in his mind with DNA.)

With Palin, however, the contempt for science may be something a little more sinister than the bluff, empty-headed plain-man's philistinism of McCain. We never get a chance to ask her in detail about these things, but she is known to favor the teaching of creationism in schools (smuggling this crazy idea through customs in the innocent disguise of "teaching the argument," as if there was an argument), and so it is at least probable that she believes all creatures from humans to fruit flies were created just as they are now. This would make DNA or any other kind of research pointless, whether conducted in Paris or not. Projects such as sequencing the DNA of the flu virus, the better to inoculate against it, would not need to be funded. We could all expire happily in the name of God. Gov. Palin also says that she doesn't think humans are responsible for global warming; again, one would like to ask her whether, like some of her co-religionists, she is a "premillenial dispensationalist"—in other words, someone who believes that there is no point in protecting and preserving the natural world, since the end of days will soon be upon us.
Videos taken in the Assembly of God church in Wasilla, Alaska, which she used to attend, show her nodding as a preacher says that Alaska will be "one of the refuge states in the Last Days." For the uninitiated, this is a reference to a crackpot belief, widely held among those who brood on the "End Times," that some parts of the world will end at different times from others, and Alaska will be a big draw as the heavens darken on account of its wide open spaces. An article by Laurie Goodstein in the New York Times gives further gruesome details of the extreme Pentecostalism with which Palin has been associated in the past (perhaps moderating herself, at least in public, as a political career became more attractive). High points, also available on YouTube, show her being "anointed" by an African bishop who claims to cast out witches. The term used in the trade for this hysterical superstitious nonsense is "spiritual warfare," in which true Christian soldiers are trained to fight demons. Palin has spoken at "spiritual warfare" events as recently as June. And only last week the chiller from Wasilla spoke of "prayer warriors" in a radio interview with James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who said that he and his lovely wife, Shirley, had convened a prayer meeting to beseech that "God's perfect will be done on Nov. 4."
This is what the Republican Party has done to us this year: It has placed within reach of the Oval Office a woman who is a religious fanatic and a proud, boastful ignoramus. Those who despise science and learning are not anti-elitist. They are morally and intellectually slothful people who are secretly envious of the educated and the cultured. And those who prate of spiritual warfare and demons are not just "people of faith" but theocratic bullies. On Nov. 4, anyone who cares for the Constitution has a clear duty to repudiate this wickedness and stupidity.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Well it's my birthday weekend and Debbie and I are having a good day together along with the minor inconveniences of getting a 13 year-old to listen to us with respect. Tonight it is out for Chinese at my favorite place in town, then Rocky Road ice cream and cake with present opening tonight. (Gee I feel like a kid again, even though I'm 49).

Tomorrow it's a trip to visit my parents in Winnebago County. I told Mom not to fix anything or worry about another cake, that ordering out pizza is just fine. I've requested that I would like to go to a guitar store and look around for my birthday sometime. Tonight I read in church too(closet Christian, yeah we knew it all along.) Had to get some tips from friend Tim on how to read and what to say. I think I'm ready.

Tomorrow we visit Stephen at the group home. I look forward to seeing my son on my birthday and to have the whole family together. Rumor is that I will get a 48-pack of guitar picks from Stephen. The togetherness is definitely the best present though.
Other notes:
If you haven't checked out this website, please do. It is the Youngturks. The commentator is kind of like Bill Maher, telling us exactly what he thinks whether we want to hear it or not!!