Thursday, December 16, 2010

SOME RANDOM THOTS ON ORIGINAL SIN AND HUMAN DEPRAVITY

WARNING – Some of what you are about to read is considered heresy by many Christian theologians. (I don't care)


Those who study the Bible with the motive to codify its facts, themes, principles, and doctrines – theologians – have generally settled on a few basic teachings about God and people.
One of these has been named “Original Sin” after the first act of disobedience of Adam and Eve, the first people on the planet.

Related to this is the popular notion among said theologians of the spiritual/moral Total Depravity of humans. Meaning, that all people are totally and helplessly sinful, rebellious and morally bankrupt. They are incapable of thinking or doing anything good (as defined by God) and, thus, are hopelessly doomed to go to hell when they die. That is, unless God himself, intervenes in some way, with some mechanism/process/person to provide an escape. This concept includes the requirement that people are so completely unspiritual and devoid of moral will, that God must give them the impulse to recognize the workings of God, the will to repent and the faith to believe that God even exists and will do what he has promised.

These two basic concepts are supported by various and numerous scripture passages, some providing more lucid validation than others. The link between Original Sin and Total Depravity for many students of doctrine is basically that the sin of Adam and Eve changed them spiritually and, thus, their offspring and descendants, including you and me. So, stated another way, you and I are Totally Depraved because Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden of Eden 10,000 or so years ago.

This is like you being held liable for a car wreck because someone stole your grandfather's car and hit another car. Even though you were not in the car, you were related to the owner of the car and, thus, you are responsible. So, Adam and Eve messed up way back then and now you and I are Totally Depraved. Too bad. This is believed by many Christian theologians in spite of the absence of a single scripture verse that specifically supports this association.

To be clear, there are many scriptures that support and/or describe the Original Sin. And there are many scriptures that support and/or describe the Total Depravity of people. But there are no scriptures that link the two concepts. Despite this, the invisible link is commonly believed.

But I began to ponder this link of Original Sin and Total Depravity. There is no doubt that the first – or Original – sin took place. Genesis 3 describes it in detail. It even describes some of the ramifications of the act, both implied and actual. Other scriptures refer to it or are phrased as if it happened. But the Bible does not specifically state that all the descendants of Adam and Eve will be Totally Depraved – or even partially depraved. In fact, it states nothing about this. Nothing. Anywhere.

In fact, Genesis 3 clearly states that the “first” sin was not committed by Adam or Eve. It was committed by the snake, almost universally understood to be the devil. He told a lie to Eve to entice her to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. All the theologians seem to ignore this detail. If they did not, they would be referring to the sin of Adam and Eve as the Second Sin. But I digress.

How or why does the Original Sin result in my Total Depravity? It would be so if God said it was so, but he does not. This is not to say that I was (prior to my repentance and conversion) not a sinner. Or that I was not Totally Depraved. Or Partially Depraved. Or 37.925 percent Depraved. The key question is, why was I Totally Depraved? Was it because of Adam and Eve or because of something that I had done?

The Bible provides some help here. It is rich with scriptures that portray people as being sinners, sinful, rebellious, “stiff-necked”, undone, as wandering away, etc. But there are a few verses that indicate that people are not completely sinful or guilty of sin in all circumstances.

Romans 2:14-15

14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves,
15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)

Romans 5:13

13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. )

Even though both of these references are fragments of sentences, a full reading of the context of each will prove that I am interpreting them accurately.

Basically, both of these references state that guilt for sin is relative. Said another way, there are two types of sin – that which we are charged with by God (imputed), and that which we are not charged with by God. Technically, both actions are sin (the violation of a law or command or will of God). How can we sin and not be charged, you ask? Because God says so. It is when God knows that we are ignorant of a command (“law”) for that particular act/thought/emotion/motive. Morally or spiritually, innocence is simply ignorance. Here is another scripture on this concept:

James 4:17

17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

So, culpability for sin is related to knowledge of the will/commands/law of God. Still skeptical? Lets take the logical reverse of this statement and see how it reads:
“Therefore, to him who does not know to do good and does it, to him it is not sin.”

The concept holds up both ways.

How can this be? This is one way the grace – undeserved love and favor – of God overrides a spiritual/moral law of God. This makes sin relative. Not by our human measure, but in God's omnipotent view of justice mixed with love and grace. You doubt this?

Consider the following scenario: You are a saved person, doing your best to obey all the will/commands/law of God you know about. You know that you do not know all of God's commands, but are trying to obey all that you know of them. While in church service one Sunday morning, a point is mentioned during the sermon that speaks directly to you. You learn that the Bible says that a certain matter should be handled in a specific way. You know that you have not been handling this matter in this way. You realize that all this time you have been committing a sin by handling this matter in this way. You may or may not be condemned by the Spirit of God to repent, but you are urged to change the way you handle this matter from then on. This is a common scenario. It has happened to me several times. I know of many others who have had this same experience.

Some questions -
Was handling the matter in a way not prescribed by the Bible a sin?
Yes. The Spirit of God clearly pointed this out to you.
Was it a sin before the believer (you, in this case) found out about it in the church service? Yes.
Was it a sin after the believer (you, in this case) found out about it in the church service?
Yes.
Why were you not bothered by the way you handled the issue before you went to the church service?
Because you were ignorant of the Biblical command/law on the matter. You were innocent. Not willingly ignorant. You were not trying to avoid certain knowledge to ensure your ignorance/innocence. On the contrary, you were seeking to learn as much as you could about the will/commands/law of God because you loved him and wanted to please him as much as possible. Part of you welcomed this new information, even though you felt badly that you had been violating God's law/command in this area. Because of this, God did not charge you with sin in this specific area. However, from this point on, if you fail to obey this new knowledge, you will feel condemnation because God will charge you with transgression of a (now) known command. From now on, you will have to repent for violations of this command.

Some refer to this as “walking in the light” (1 John 1:7), or “progressive revelation”, or “sanctification”. It is the process of growing progressively more holy, or more like God. This comes, first by more knowledge of the law/commands of God and, through the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, the ability to obey this new knowledge. While it is more than just new knowledge, knowledge is part of walking in the light/sanctification.

Here is another way to look at this principle: God knows what every sin is. Let's say there is a total of 100 different sins any person could commit. That is all the sins any human can be guilty of. When someone comes to God to repent, they may be guilty of 50 of the 100 sins. God knows exactly what these 50 sins are, when they were committed, how often they were committed, etc. But because of the imperfect memory of this person, they can only repent of 10 of the 50. They either have forgotten that they committed some sins or they did not know that the things they did were sinful in the first place. One cannot repent of something they are not aware of. But when God forgives this person, he forgives them for all the 50 sins that he knows the person is guilty of. They now have a clean slate in the view of God. No sins. None. Zero.

But as this new Christian goes about living his/her new life, they unknowingly repeat some of the 40 sins they were forgiven of. These are not part of the 10 sins that they repented of, these are part of the 40 that they did not repent of because they did not know about or remember them. This is not because they are willingly disobedient, it is because they are ignorant of the law/commands of God in this area. Because they are ignorant/innocent of these sins, God forgives them through his grace. He does not condemn them or charge them (impute) with these other 40 sins. Yet.

Over time, as the new believer reads the Bible, goes to worship services, builds new relationships with other believers, God through the Spirit brings these other 40 sins to the attention of the new believer, one at a time, and instructs him/her to stop committing them. Not only does the Spirit of God instruct the new believer about these 40 sins, he gives them the spiritual strength to overcome them. Over time, the 40 unrepented sins will become 39 and then 38, and so on. Thus, God only charges a person with sin he/she has knowledge of, even though God knows all 100 possible sins, and the 50 sins he/she had committed, and the 40 sins he/she has not yet repented of.

It may be that a person may never repent or stop committing all the sins that God sees. Again, this is not because the person is rebellious or actively disobedient, it is just because they are ignorant of the law/commands of God in these areas. This is where the grace if God comes into play. This is why all of us need the undeserved love and favor (grace) of God, even after we are saved. The grace of God covers the sins we are not aware of.

Does this mean that people cannot live holy, as God commands?
No. But it does mean that the holiness of believers is relative, just as sin is. This issue is not whether holiness is commanded or achievable – it is clearly taught in the scriptures. The issue is, what is the nature of human holiness.
Can a human be as holy as God?
No.
Can a human live a holy life as commanded by God?
Yes. But that is not the same as being as holy as God is.

God is holy by nature, humans are not. Humans are holy by regeneration. We must be born again. But people are still subject to temptation; God is not. People are still subject to failure, temptation and sin. God is not. So, even though people can live in a holy way according to the commands of God, they are not holy by nature, as God is. Thus, holiness is relative just as sin is relative..

Professor Calvin and his students are both correct and overly protective of the concept of the moral depravity of people. Their fear, it seems, is that someone will (incorrectly) read in the scriptures and/or believe that some people can, by their own moral strength and will, do enough good, in either quantity or magnitude, to earn eternal salvation with God. Thus, the Calvinists exaggerate the magnitude of human moral depravity beyond what is pictured by the scriptures.

I understand their concerns and sympathize with them to some degree. But I will not tie my logic, and my theology, into unscriptural knots defending a principle that the scriptures do not support to the same degree.

To say that humans are capable of doing some good is not the same as saying that humans are capable of earning sufficient merit in the view of God for salvation from sin. There are numerous and clear scriptures that specifically disallow this. Given the strong scriptural antagonism for salvation by works, the fear of this concept should not be reason to distort the doctrine of human Depravity.

So, the sins of Adam and Eve did not cause the moral/spiritual depravity of all people, just their own. People caused their own depravity by their own acts of sin. And, conversely, even though people are capable doing some good, this in no way allows then sufficient merit to earn salvation from sin and entrance into God's heaven for eternity.

Class dismissed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thots on Lonely

It is Saturday evening.

My life is good.
It mostly has been good.
Good meaning, few problems.
My health has, and is, good.
My wealth is sufficient for my modest needs and virtually all of my wants.
Not bragging here, just saying.
These blessings are because God has been good to me.

But tonight, for no reason that I can discern, I am feeling lonely.
Very alone.
Feeling no connection to anyone.
All the people I know and love seem so very far away.

It is a feeling that comes to visit me from time to time.
Maybe it is my hormone time or something.
No matter.
I am feeling it tonight.
Strongly.

I remember nights like this 11 years ago when I was still married.
She was at one end of the house (or gone) and I was at the other (or gone to visit some friends).
She was struggling to figure out how to live with a man she did not like and who did not like her.
I was wondering if anything was ever going to change between us, knowing she did not like me (she told me this plainly with her mouth very calmly one day).
I had no feelings of “love” for her any more.
Ultimately, I got tired of waiting for something to happen.
I suppose I should have given the relationship more than 30 years to work itself out.
But I did not know what else to do.
The answers to my prayers seemed to be delayed longer than I could wait for.

The key thought that moved me out of that situation was that I would/could not be more lonely if I lived by myself.
And it turned out to be true.
I suspected that there would be nights like this.
And it has proven true.
And tonight is one of them.

The words of a song come to mind.....

“This is for all the lonely people
thinking that life has passed them by
Don't give up
until you drink from the silver cup
And ride that highway in the sky”

I don't think of this song much.

I don't normally mope around.
This is a relatively rare event.
This is partly my fault.
I am not a social person.
Most of the time I like to be alone just living my little life.
But I don't hate people.

But I also know that I am not like most people.
I see things differently.
I believe differently.
I think differently.
Some of the things I see are things some other people do not see at all.
Some of these things are visual, physical things, but many other things I see are patterns of behavior or spiritual in nature.
I am not saying I am better than other people, I am just different.

I have felt this all of my life since I was in grade school.
In my teen years I was typical in that I tried to fit in the my pubescent peers.
But I found that it was easier to just be aloof.
I did not catch on to many of their fads and customs.
And, even then, I saw the emptiness of much of it.

I know that I could call someone now and connect with them.
But I also know that they will only be a voice on the other end of a phone line.
A disembodied electronic reproduction of the voice of the real person.
And they will be busy living their life which I will have interrupted to force them talk to me.
Interrupting the routine that kept them from connecting with me on their own.
And in the end, it will only magnify the distance between us.
It will only demonstrate how very far apart we really are.
So I won't.

I also know that tomorrow I will feel differently.
This mood will pass.
If only because I will be preoccupied with other things.
And all of this mopey dreary stuff will just be a faint memory.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thots on Dirty Words....

As I was raking my leaves today in my front yard, a high-decibel argument erupted several houses down the street. I stopped to listen to be sure that no physical violence was taking place.
Apparently, the incident involved strictly verbal weapons.
As one teenage person walked away from the residence he yelled the supreme expletive to announce his disapproval and disrespect for those left behind.

This provoked a brief thought process within me.
It is interesting, amusing, and bothersome that in our society, the most common term to express one's most supreme negative feelings regarding a person or situation is an obscene term for sexual intercourse.
Sexual intercourse is, contrariwise, generally regarded by this same society as one of the most pleasurable, if not THE most pleasurable experiences one can partake in (right up there with eating).
Is this not odd to you?
It is to me.

So how is it that many in this society take a word that, though crudely and monosyllabicly, describes one of the most pleasant activities a person can engage in, and turn it into the penultimate descriptor of the most unpleasant?
It is totally illogical.
And, no doubt, confusing to the space aliens among us.

Which leads one to ponder, what would be a more logical expletive or phrase to express one's disapproval of another person or situation?
What word does the Esperanto language use? (Esperanto was a language invented by L.L. Zamenhof, a diplomat, to allow precise grades of agreement or disagreement in diplomatic negotiations.)
I don't know; I do not speak Esperanto.

Most of my thoughts on negative opinions revolve around kinds of refuse or excretive bodily functions.
Which quickly takes us to another popular – and equally offensive term – common in our society.
While this word is generally more appropriate to the expression of negative feelings/opinion, it's all-to-common usage often overstates the degree of alignment with the actual situation.
Overuse of a term dilutes its effectiveness.
I am still working on this.

Perhaps the most logical and descriptive negative phrase was created by Coco, the gorilla who was taught sign language for scientific research.
When asked by her trainer (in sign language) what she thought of the male gorilla that had been sent in to (hopefully) mate with her, she described him as a “devil-toilet”.
Fortunately, the male did not know sign language, so, other than being physically rebuffed, his monkey ego remained largely intact because he did not know the degree of his projected mate's rejection.

I continue to ponder this....
.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

What is the basis of morality?

The United States is at a point in its history where it will continue to be a great nation or decline into a nation among nations and eventually be taken over by another nation.
But by then, there will not be much left to take.
This could happen in the next 10 years or within the next 50.

While this issue appears to be political, it is not.
The political manifestations we are seeing are only symptoms of its underlying source.
The true foundation of this struggle is moral and, ultimately, spiritual.

Some people will argue that we are, indeed, in a moral struggle, but see Christianity as a cause of the problem, rather than a solution.
To them, a “rational morality” (my term) needs to be the basis for all government policy, societal customs and economic policy.
They have been working to this end in this country for over 100 years.
And one of the prime tenets of this new morality is the suppression or removal of all things Christian.

Standing against this “rational morality” is the Christian community.
It is a community more in name than in organization or structure.
The one thing that nearly all groups and individuals which align themselves with this side of the debate have in common is division.
Very few of them have a working relationship with more than a few of the other members of the community.
The reasons for this rampant division can be summarized in two terms – doctrine or methods.

Some groups may “believe the right things” but put them into practice in ways that some other groups disapprove of.
Other groups do not believe the “right things” in the Bible, and thus, are not truly “Christian” to some degree or another, in the eyes of some other groups.
And those groups that emphasize “correct” doctrine, are accused of being “Bible thumpers”, closed minded, bigoted and divisive, by some of the other more liberal groups.
From this diverse expanse of views, some groups cannot even agree that there is a moral crisis.
Others are so distressed as to be almost to the point of despair of any remedy.

Those who support the “rational morality” have their own issues in that they have no single basis for their standard of “morality”.
They do not have – or need – a Bible.
This leads to a rather messy – and even conflicting - variety of standards on which to base their moral codes.
This is less of an issue for them than it is for the Christians, because the rationalists do not have to claim allegiance or conformity with a pre-established code.
They have the convenience of moral relativism to make some, if not many, of their pronouncements fit various untidy circumstances.
Christians, after all, have to adhere to some degree, to the person and/or teachings of Jesus Christ to claim the title.

But Christians, have a serious problem.
If we cannot comfortably accept the fact that God is the creator of the universe, in spite of constant “scientific” claims to the contrary, we have a problem.
It is a moral and spiritual problem.
If God is not the creator, as his book says he is, then, who is he?
And if God is not our creator, what else is he not?
And if the spiritual principles that were the foundation of the Old Testament law and the New Testament are no longer valid, what, then, is the basis of our moral conduct?
What do we use to guage right and wrong?
Are we individually responsible to God, or not?
(This question is, in fact, the basis for all rebellion, sin, and alternate moral codes.)

If some “Christians” cannot bring themselves to accept the Bible as the basis of their morality, they are destined to ride the same slippery slope of moral relativism as their opponents.
(And if a person cannot subscribe to all of the Bible, what is it that makes them “a Christian”?)

If we cannot depend on the Bible to be essentially the word of God, then we are wasting our time pondering Christianity.
We might as well sell all the church buildings and hit the links, the lakes or the couch in front of the big flat-screen.
By “essentially” I mean, its fundamental basis, logic, facts, principles, and concepts accurately present what God intended for people to know.
I know there are some minor errors in the texts here and there, like the two accounts in Acts, of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, and others.
There are some differences between some older texts and newer texts.
But these errors/differences do not materially alter the important facts or principles of the document as a whole.

And if moral relativism is not a valid basis for our morality, then moral absolutism must be.
There is no other choice.
And if moral absolutism is THE basis for our morality, then we need to make peace with the Bible.
We need to put to rest our doubts and concerns about some parts of it, and its inconvenient precepts that cramp our worldly, selfish living practices.

The natural state of people on this earth is chaos suppressed by totalitarian power.
People are naturally rebellious against restraint.
The entire history of the world can be summarized in a cyclical pattern of,
1 general social/economic chaos,
2 gradual local consolidation of political/military power (manifested as social/economic influence and voluntary or forced allegiance/conquest),
3 larger military conquests/subjection,
4 rebellion,
5 go back to number 1.

It is only the enforced rule of law that causes people to build stable societies.
Even then, enforced rule of law only restrains about 80-90 percent of the people.
Of this minority, about 10 percent commit occasional minor robbery, damage to the property of others, or assault on others.
The remaining 10 percent prey regularly, if not constantly, on the other law-abiding citizens, stealing anything they can, damaging property, and assaulting or killing anyone they can/need to.
These in this last group are essentially outcasts of the society at large and have little or no interest in conformity.
This group is either killed or isolated from the rest of society in confined living facilities.

The main group of our society chooses to conform, more or less, to our Christian-based moral code.
The two minority groups conform even less or not at all to the general moral standards of the society at large.

The founders of the United States recognized that a stable society required the willing cooperation of its citizens to survive.
For this to work, each citizen had to subscribe to a common fundamental philosophical perspective.
For the early nation this foundational perspective was Christianity.
There were several variations of belief throughout the colonies and early states.
But nearly all of them accepted the Bible as the basis for their moral code.
Some more strictly than others, but still, it was the basis for their society.
And the local, state, and national economies were based on this same foundation.

Why are the new moralists trying to change the United States?
Why do they not just move to some other country that already operates the way they think we should?
It surely would be easier for them.

I think it is because they are impressed with the massive wealth of the United States.
Some of them may not even realize this.
They think they can harness this gigantic wealth-producing machine and mold it in a way that it will finance the massive expense of their “moral” economy, government and society.
But that is the flaw in their thinking.

The incredible wealth-producing machine of the American economy works precisely because it is unencumbered by the innumerable constraints of other, more “moral” nations.
To impose the same constraints on the American economy that other nations put on their mechanisms of commerce would produce the same lumbering, near-stagnant economy here.
These new moralists do not understand this.

The new moralists also need a “moral” cause to fight for.
This is their substitute spirituality.
They have no moral tradition to defend.
They have no reason to exist.
They have no spiritual foundation.
For them, Vishnu is as valid as Buddah (but not Jesus Christ)

So they see the ills of society as being caused by Christianity, rightly or wrongly applied.
The economic ills of America are caused by the greed of businessmen.
Since the basis of the free enterprise system is the individualism promoted by Christianity, the free enterprise system must be brought under the control of the new morality also.

To put their plan in place will produce the same massive governmental economic/social dependencies that we see in England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Greece.
And when they find that such social/economic/governmental arrangements are unsustainable, we will experience the same financial crisis we are seeing in these other nations.

And yet, while we write of social, economic, and governmental policies, these are only the symptoms of the underlying moral foundation.
We must return to our common moral foundation – the Bible.
The basis for a national moral concensis is individual moral integrety.
Every one of us must behave ourself.
All the time.
The measure for our morality must be the Bible.
This may not work for Mexico.
Or Canada.
Or Greece.
Or Iraq.
But it must be for the United States of America.
If not, we are doomed for collaps.

So, where are you?
Is the Bible your sole basis for your moral standards?
Do you believe God is our creator, just as the book says?
Is your conduct in conformity with what is written in the Bible?
If not, how do you justify your conduct to God?
We are saved by grace, not by works, but that is not an excuse for sloppy, disobedient living.

In God we trust.
.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Thots on the Hurting

It is Sunday evening.
Church is over.
I am home dealing with the after-church letdown.
For years, I have often felt a bit sad or pensive after church on Sunday evenings.
I am not sure why.
It could be because I have been in heavenly places, being challenged by the word and Spirit of God.
Mindful of fresh insights into the workings of God.
Encouraged to control myself more diligently so as to conform more fully to the will of God in the coming days.
And knowing that I must face the devil and his society tomorrow.
Maybe it is some of all of this.
No matter, here is that feeling again.

Tonight, I am aware that there are people hurting.
Right now.
All around me.
While we were in church doing our usual churchy thing there are thousands sitting home hurting.
Needing God but too ignorant or angry or afraid to seek him.
Dealing with problems, mostly because of the selfish actions of other people.
Or themselves.
Or with circumstances that seem overwhelming.
With children who are rebelling for reasons that are unclear.

There are women – wives, mothers – who are hurting because of selfish, unfaithful men.
Or they have their own demons or passions that they cannot contain.
And they are dealing with the repercussions.
And the guilt.

There is the military wife who has just lost her husband in battle.
She was dealing with the separation and looking forward to his coming home.
But not this way.
In a box.
She is angry and frustrated.
While she has seen some of her friends and neighbors suffer marriage problems and divorce, she and her husband were working through their problems.
She felt like they were doing well, and was looking forward to working on their relationship more when he got back.
Not now.
And she asks, why?
Why him?
Why now?
If that bullet had only been six inches farther to the left or right....
Why was it not so?
How could a loving God.....?

There are others, dealing with their problems by hiding in chemicals.
Some use alcohol.
Others use pills.
Still others use needles.
I cannot even relate to these people even though I have known some.
I do not know where to begin to help these people.

And here I sit, warm, cozy, comfortable, without any real problems.
And God has said, who will go?
And on one level I say, here am I.
But we both know I am scared and doubtful and hesitant.
So, while I am so aware of the needs around me tonight, I am also useless as an instrument for God to use.
All I can do I pray in intercession for these nameless people.
None of whom I really know (at least I don't think I know any of them).

And so I have prayed.
Prayed for the invisible hurting who are all around me.
They may be in the house next door, or across the street, or just two doors down.
Who knows?
I prayed that somehow God would minister to them.
That somehow he would arrest their thoughts.
That he would somehow comfort them.
That he would cause them to think of him or Jesus or some church.
Or to think of someone they know that could tell them about Jesus.
How he can heal the broken hearted.
How he can make a dreary life new.
How he can save them from sin, and sinning.

I know this is true but sometimes I doubt it myself.
There seems to be so few that have any interest in things spiritual these days.
I wonder if anyone even cares about heaven or hell anymore.
I do.
Some at church do.
But not even everyone at church seems to care sometimes.
Or at least, care as much as I think they ought to.
Only about half of the people who come on Sunday morning come Sunday night.
Why?
And I wonder what they see when they look at me.
Do I seem to care about spiritual things as much as they think I should?
And what does God think of me?
Is all he sees is a scared little old man?

In God we trust.
.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

RANDOM THOTS

I have had a few thoughts lately that I expected to become worthy of a blog post.
But, alas, that has not happened.
So, in the interest of keeping this blog alive, I will post these random thoughts just for the sake of public information.
Knowing that once I publish them, the world will take notice and will follow the trends that I create.

CARS

It may come as a surprise to some but I pay attention to the automobile business.
I follow who owns what companies, who builds what cars, what cars are selling the most (or not), etc.
I also form opinions about automobile styling.
So here are my latest pontifications on automobiles.....

Best looking cars - almost any built by Hyundai or Kia (really)
The 2011 Sonota is the best looking sedan I have seen in years.
The 2011 Kia Optima is a close second (basically the same car underneath).
I like the new Kia Sportage and its cousin the Hyundai Tucson.
I like the soon-to-come 2012 Ford Focus hatchback.
Can't wait to see one in person.
Regarding styling, Honda HAD some of the best looking cars around.
No more.
They have lost their way.
Toyota - the same.
Though, in Toyota's defense, they never have had any nice-looking cars after the early Celecas.
Instead, Toyota has one of the ugliest cars on the planet - the Scion xB (B as in BOX).
This is followed by everything made by Mazda in the last three years or so.
What were they thinking?

THE DEATH PENALTY

Easy segway, right?
It occurred to me the other day that there is no logic is sentencing a criminal to life in prison.
Basically, his/her punishment for committing his/her crime is a cozy heated and air conditioned room, three free meals each day, free health care, for the rest of his/her life.
That punishment costs the rest of us about $30,000 a year.
40 years @ $30,000 = $1,200,000.
That is a million dollars to babysit this bum.
Multiply that times several thousand prisoners and you have a few billion dollars tossed in the toilet.

Alternate suggestion - KILL THEM.
In fact, there should be no prisoners in the state or federal penal hotels with a sentence longer than 30 years.
All the rest of these long-term lifers need to be gently and quietly put out of our misery.

The logic is simple.
Look at our society as a large version of a small, local community; like a small rural town.
The citizens at some point decided that they needed to hire one of themselves to watch out for all the rest of them on a full-time basis.
If one or two of the local folks got out of line (meaning, violating the rules/customs of behavior accepted by the majority of the group), the local, full-time appointee would have the authority to arrest the violators and restrict their interactions with the community.
For most violations, a few days in the community interaction restriction facility (jail) would be enough to inspire the violators to modify their behavior to the satisfaction of the community at large.

But every once in a while, somebody does something really nasty/destructive/harmful such that a slap on the wrist is not considered sufficient punishment by the community.
In this case the violator deserves more severe/lengthy restrictions from future interactions with said community.
Thus, the community has the right to protect itself from all future interactions with such an individual by killing him/her.
As our nation has matured, it has drifted away from some of this basic logic of punishment for criminals.
We need to get some of it back.

We need to kill a few thousand criminals in this country who are of no value to themselves, to our society, and are living off of our dime.
It is time to cut the budget.

Un-Christian, you say?
You reap what you sow, Bubba.

And there is another class of criminal all too common in this country - repeat offenders.
I have a simple solution for these anti-social individuals, too.
Kill them.
My solution is simple - Three Strikes And You're Dead.

The third conviction for ANYTHING gets you a free ticket to your very own hole in the dirt.
If a person proves that they cannot conform to the values and customs of their neighbors then they need to be removed from society - permanently.

Rapists need to be eliminated.
Child molesters need to be eliminated.
Petty thieves need to be eliminated.
This will greatly reduce our crime rate and jail population.
And it is cheap.

In God We Trust.
.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Another Fun Run

It appears that I just cannot stop running.
As I have stated many times - I love to run.
LOVE it.
If I could stand it, physically, I would run every day.
Note the "if" above.

I am fully aware that I am violating a rule of running promoted by nearly all running coaches.
Run every two or three days to maintain your cardiovascular fitness.
Running less often can cause injuries as well as sub-par performance.
I don't run often enough.
And I don't warm up (contrary to what the running magazines say...)
And I have never been injured from/while running.
But I know that I ignore the professional's advice at my risk, so I am careful.
Especially at the beginning of a run.

My running course of choice lately is mile three and half of mile four of the six mile Cotton Row course, which contains two of the steepest hills of the course.
Most of this territory is along the first, or bottom mile of Bankhead parkway.
It proved to be adequate again this morning.

I had been toying with running this route again for a couple of weeks.
Last week I wimped out for some reason now forgotten.
I usually leave my options open on Saturday morning when I wake up, just to keep from feeling like I have failed in some way, if I do not choose to run.

Today was different.
I woke up ready.
As I was getting ready, I noticed my right ankle was hurting as I put weight on it.
Not good.
This was the same foot that shut down my walk last Tuesday near the beginning of mile three.
So even though this pain was a one or two on a ten scale, I was wary.

Thus, mentally prepared for a physical catastrophe, I motored off to my course of choice in the early dawn darkness.
The temperature was a near-perfect 65 degrees and the sky was mostly clear with a few thin stratus clouds and no wind.

I parked the car, got out, and walked to Pratt Avenue (about 75 feet) and started trotting.
No foot/ankle pain. (grins...)
But this is no guarantee of a trouble-free party.
Remember the ankle problem during Tuesday morning's walk did not present itself until mile three.
With all of this parked safely in my brain, up the increasing incline of Pratt I went.

It was dark, and I took my time.
There are several street lights along this road (though there is about a half mile of near darkness), but they do not always reveal drop-offs, bumps or unevenness on the chosen path.
So, I ran carefully, picking up my feet a tad more to prevent stumbles.

I managed to keep my breathing in my comfort range all the way up Bankhead, which pleased me.
Even so, I was glad to make the right turn onto Tollgate which is essentially flat.
It was here that I encountered five male runners coming at me.
They seemed to be in their mid-late twenties and were talking and having a good time.
We exchanged monosyllabic greetings and kept going our respective directions.
After a quarter mile or so I came to Mountainwood - the dreaded hill.
At this point I stopped running and walked down this very steep road - all 600 feet of it.
As you regular readers may recall, the bottom half of this street is as steep as the roof of a house (about 15 degrees) and is paved with grooved concrete instead asphalt.
Anyway, I walked to the bottom, turned around and started back up the hill.
Still no foot/ankle problems.

I walked up the first half of The Hill, then began running again, as has been my habit for several years on this patch of American real estate, where the pavement changes from concrete to asphalt, and the pitch changes from 15 degrees to about 10.
Back up on Toll Gate I was looking forward to the flat/downhill jog.

It was during the journey down Bankhead that my mind drifted (a sure sign of a great run) and I began to ponder something, which now I cannot recall.
The last running-related thing I remember thinking about was the long, straight downhill sidewalk ahead of me, and the next running-related thing I remember was coming to the end of the long downhill straight and going around the long curve and wondering how I got here so fast.

Near the bottom of Bankhead Parkway is a painted marker indicating the end of mile four of the Cotton Row course.
The sky was lighter now and I was looking for it just for fun.
But as I glanced over to my left to locate the marker, I saw a lady runner.
She was trotting silently along the uphill lane of the road, her brown pony tail wagging behind her head.
Even though I was running downhill, she had caught up to me and was passing me.
As I divided my attention between the sidewalk in front of me and her, I noticed she had excellent running form.
No sissy-girl half-strides for this mama, her strides were eating up the real estate in big gulps.
I was impressed.
Any pain in my right foot/ankle was far from my mind.


At the bottom of the hill, Bankhead changes pitch and becomes Pratt Avenue.
The gentle decline (now) of Pratt is one of my favorite patches of pavement on the planet to run on.
Often I can pad along this quarter-mile route in full abandon almost as if I am floating.
This was not to be this morning.

As I moved from the sidewalk to the road, as is my habit here, I was about 20 feet behind Miss brown ponytail.
After a few seconds she pealed off to the right and turned onto a side street.
I don't know if that was her plan or if I made her nervous, but she left the party.
So I had Pratt to myself.
Not.

Then came the cars and trucks.
I don't know what was going on but a lot of people had to be up on Monte Sano early this morning.
So I had to spend about half of my time running in the gravel next to Pratt instead of running ON Pratt.
*$%^&*

Anyway, I turned off of Pratt and stopped reluctantly near my car and walked a few hundred feet to cool down.
I would have loved to go farther.
But that was not the plan and would have required some logistical/time problems.
This would have to be good enough.
I had a great run.
And no foot/ankle pain.

In God we trust.
.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Apple Update

My new (to me) computer arrived in good condition.
I plugged in 6 cables, pressed the power button and "foof" the computer came slowly alive.
After a few set-up questions I was/am fully functional.

There are a few new things to get used to, but no major hiccups (yet).
More later....

END OF THE LINUX EXPERIMENT

As I type this, on my trusty desktop loaded with SuseLinux, my new computer is riding around Huntsville in a big, brown truck.
It will be delivered today sometime after 5.
The new machine will mark the end of my Linux experiment.
It lasted three years and seven months.
But I am tired of bumping into software obstacles every few weeks.

I have mixed feelings about this move and the reasons for it.
I am happy to move to an established product that is almost universally recognized as well designed and of high quality and performance.
I am confident that it will perform all the tasks that I need (plus a few that I do not need but will enjoy).
That being said, the negative side of this move is its cost, variously estimated to be from 25% to 50% higher than other products of equal capability, features, etc.
Also, some techies have criticized this manufacturer for making products that are not as advanced or up to date, hardware-wise, as some others.
I am aware of both criticisms and have weighed them out carefully before arriving at my decision.
I have never been one to jump to the newest, latest, most technologically advanced toys.
Especially since I have seen the price vs age chart on technology product.
I struggled with the cost issue.
But in the end, I bit the monetary bullet because of the cost/hassle of the alternative.

That alternative is a security nightmare.
Loaded with lines of poorly written code and full of patches and software band-aids.
That operating system is made by a company that I distrust, dislike, and have no respect for.
I have used their products before, and could again, if forced to.
At this point I still have a choice.
So have exercised my choice in the direction that I have not taken before.

I liked several things about Linux.
I liked that it was free.
Who can argue with that?
But quite honestly, I would not have minded paying for it.
In fact, I did pay for at least two editions.

I liked its simplicity.
It did not have a lot of extra goo gaas in it.
But you could add a lot of nice little things to it, if you chose to.
It had everything that I needed. (with some exceptions, noted below)

It was rock solid and stable.
I do not recall ever having the system go nuts, give me the blue screen of death, or behave in other disagreeable manners.
That is not to say that all application software behaved similarly.
It is, in fact, the problems with application software that is at the core of my displeasure with Linux.
Almost every single application has, at one time or another, frozen, died, failed to respond, or otherwise misbehaved.
This even includes Firefox, my browser of choice.
Some applications are, at this present time, still non-functional in some small or large way.
I have worked through numerous problems that most of you would never even think about.

Once, upon loading an new update, the computer could not see my mouse.
I had to chase around on the internet message boards for a week to find the solution to the problem.
Once done it worked perfectly.
On another occasion my mouse wheel did not work.
The solution required that same internet chase.

None of the media applications come with the necessary plug-ins or codecs to process audio or video files, like mp3 or YouTube.
These have to be found and loaded separately.
No big deal, you say?
Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

Sometimes the newly-loaded files have to be manually moved to a particular file and/or folder for the application to see it and use it.
This is not unusual in computer software, but in more sophisticated systems this is done for you and you never know anything about it.
In Linux, you better know about it.

Anyway, a little over a week ago, I bumped into another need for a codec in order to view a DVD video, something snapped in me.
This is a simple, common task in home computers in the twenty-first century.
But not necessarily so in Linux.

I tried to find the needed codec and was unsuccessful in the first try.
And I began to seriously consider leaving Linux for something more sophisticated and less stressful.
So I began to look and study and compare, and price.
And I made a decision.
I looked for a used version of the newest model of my computer of choice (this time), and after four tries, bought it on eBay.

My "new" Apple Mini has just arrived and I am going to finish this and plug it in and see what happens.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Historical Day

I was just a few feet into mile three of my morning walk when my left ankle fell apart.
It went from feeling fine to crunching, grinding, ouching pain in a matter of seconds.
I tried to twist my foot this way and that to ease the pain but nothing worked.
I limped along for a couple of hundred feet hoping that things would fix themselves but this did not happen.
So I turned off my course and took a shortcut back to the homestead, cutting about a half mile off the planned route.
This is only the third or fourth time I have stopped an exercise session before the planned end.
Thus, the historic day.

I limped home, did my usual clean up, and by the time I got out of the shower, my ankle seemed fine.
Go figure.
I do not understand the frailties of the human body sometimes.(assuming I have a human body...)
I have had no problems with my left ankle all day.

My mood lately can be summed up in the following -

Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities, says the Preacher.
Vapor of vapors and futility of futilities.
All is vanity, emptiness, falsity, vainglory, frustration, striving after the wind, and pointless effort.

In God we trust.
.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hobby Lobby

After reading another blog from time to time, I am convinced that the management of Hobby Lobby is stupid.
They are stuck in the middle of the 20th century.
While most everyone else is using laser scanners, and computerized inventory methods to keep track of their inventory, Hobby Lobby is still doing manual counts and restock lists by hand.
Machine-based inventory tracking eliminates human typographical errors, column entry errors, and time-consuming physical movement and hand writing.
Bar code printers and readers have been around for 20 years or more.
It is time to catch up with the rest of the world.

The other thing they waste time and money on is restocking inventory.
As the blog notes, customers have a bad habit of moving stuff around the store.
It is the job of the clerks to put this stuff back where it belongs.
But someone at HL needs to do some more careful accounting.

If the company is paying its staff $10 per hour (which I think they do now) that equals 16 cents per minute (16.66666 to be exact).[after you add health insurance, overhead, other state and federal taxes, they are paying about 20 cents per minute or more.]
If a misplaced item costs less than 16 cents, it would be more cost effective to just throw the item away than to waste clerk wage dollars chasing around the store to put it back on its proper peg/shelf/slot.

Obviously, some inventory is worth more than 16 cents and it is worth the wage cost to put the stuff back where it belongs.
But that is definitely not true of much of the inventory in Hobby Lobby (or any craft store).
The middle ground on this issue is to collect all the misplaced stock and restock it when the clerk has free time.
But still, some stuff is not worth the cost of putting it back in its proper place.

"If I ran the zoo, said young Gerald McGroo
I'd make a few changes, that's what I'd do"

In God we trust.
.

Monday, July 26, 2010

ECONOMIC MALE BOVINE EXCRETION

The following is some baloney I found on the net today.
It is so riddled with economic misinformation that I could not let it stand.
This is just another communist-style class envy rant against capitalism.
My comments are in bold.
.................................................

"The Middle Class in America Is Radically Shrinking. Here Are the Stats to Prove it
Posted Jul 15, 2010 02:25pm EDT by Michael Snyder in Recession
From The Business Insider
Editor's note: Michael Snyder is editor of theeconomiccollapseblog.com
The 22 statistics detailed here prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the middle class is being systematically wiped out of existence in America.
The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer at a staggering rate. Once upon a time, the United States had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world, but now that is changing at a blinding pace."
.........
Here are the statistics to prove it:
•    83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people.

Is this measured as dollar value of all stocks or number of shares?
This is less alarming if we are measuring total dollar value.
It has always been true that the most wealthy own the greatest percentage of stocks.
This is nothing new.
It is also true that more Americans own stocks than ever.


•    61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007.

Is this because more Americans are making less money or because more Americans are spending more than they can afford?

•    66 percent of the income growth between 2001 and 2007 went to the top 1% of all Americans.

Is this measured by percent of income growth or by total dollars?
If this is measured by percent of income growth, then this could be a bad trend.
If this is measured by total dollars, it is not alarming.
If you make $100 dollars a week and you get a 10% raise, you get $10 more per week.
If you make $200 dollars a week and you get a 10% raise, you get $20 more per week.
Whose income grew more?
Duh, the person who was making more.
But the rate of increase was the same.


•    36 percent of Americans say that they don't contribute anything to retirement savings.

Right.
And 36 percent of Americans are under 20 years old and don't give a (beep) about retirement.
Next!


•    A staggering 43 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 saved up for retirement.

Right.
And 43 percent of Americans are under 25 years old and don't give a (beep) about retirement.
Next!


•    24 percent of American workers say that they have postponed their planned retirement age in the past year.

Sometimes this is because of personal financial difficulties.
Sometimes this is because these old geezers like their job.
Lately, this could be because the federal government is raising taxes and workers are not sure if they can afford to retire.


•    Over 1.4 million Americans filed for personal bankruptcy in 2009, which represented a 32 percent increase over 2008.

Not an unusual statistic when we have 10 percent unemployment and many people living on the edge of their income.

•    Only the top 5 percent of U.S. households have earned enough additional income to match the rise in housing costs since 1975.

We have just been through a strong housing value increase and decrease cycle caused by unrealistic federal mortgage funding requirements placed on banks.
This is an almost meaningless statistic.


•    For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.

This would be because the total value of new houses - those with outstanding mortgages - has become larger than the total value of older houses, which are mostly paid for, or have smaller unpaid balances.
Which is worth more, my 40 year old house with a $50,000 balance, or a 2 year old house with a $100,000 balance?
Duh.


•    In 1950, the ratio of the average executive's paycheck to the average worker's paycheck was about 30 to 1. Since the year 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 to 500 to one.

More communist class-envy bait.
Increased productivity has reduced the number of workers needed to build products.
Thus there are fewer line workers in relation to the number of executives.
This tilts the ratio in favor of the execs.


•    As of 2007, the bottom 80 percent of American households held about 7% of the liquid financial assets.

Depending on the definition of "liquid assets" meant here - usually cash and savings- this is not alarming in itself.
Generally, the poorer a family is, the more of their cash they must spend on everyday expenses, as opposed to a more wealthy family which can hold more of their cash as savings.


•    The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Many of the bottom 50 percent of "income earners" (not defined for us) are on government welfare, food stamps, live in government-subsidized housing, or are students flipping burgers on a part-time basis.
The federal Earned Income Tax Credit is classified as "income" and millions of low income people qualify for this benefit.
If you rent your home or apartment, you "own" less than someone who is paying the same amount as your rent on a mortgage.
Even thought they don't technically "own" their house.
For purposes of this statistic, they do.



•    Average Wall Street bonuses for 2009 were up 17 percent when compared with 2008.

Wow!
Could this be because the stock market was up 17 percent in 2009 over 2008????
More communist class-envy bait.


•    In the United States, the average federal worker now earns 60% MORE than the average worker in the private sector.

This is very likely because on the increase in federal labor union membership.
While this item is meant to make us feel sorry for the poor downtrodden masses of private sector workers, it makes me wonder why our tax dollars are being wasted on overpaid federal workers.
This tilt also comes from the fact that many private sector jobs are in the lower paying retail and service industries (store clerks, restaurants, etc.) staffed by younger workers who are still in school or just out of school.
This lowers the AVERAGE earnings of private sector workers.
The federal jobs are generally staffed by older, more educated workers who have been working longer and thus earn more money.


•    The top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago.

If this is measured in dollars then this is no shocking news.
The dollar value of everything is nearly twice as much (or more) as it was 15 years ago.
If this is measured in total value of stock owned, this is still no big deal.
More executives are "paid" with company stock and/or stock options.


•    In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.

Duh.
We are in the middle of a recession.
The average time needed to find a job always increases in recessions.
Not a good thing, but not abnormal, either.


•    More than 40 percent of Americans who actually are employed are now working in service jobs, which are often very low paying.

Perhaps true.
But many of these workers are students working part time to pay for their education.
They will only work in these jobs until they graduate and are qualified for better-paying full-time jobs.
Many other workers in these jobs are spouses working to augment their household income a little.
This is not the main income for the family.


•    or the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011.

Perhaps true.
However, as the total U.S. population increases, and the percentage of unemployed workers/poor people remains the same, the number of people on food stamps will increase.
It is also not astounding that during a recession, there are more people applying for food stamps while they are unemployed.


•    This is what American workers now must compete against: in China a garment worker makes approximately 86 cents an hour and in Cambodia a garment worker makes approximately 22 cents an hour.

Perhaps true.
But it also costs money to ship those Chinese-made and Cambodian-made products back here for sale.
BTW, there have been several strikes by Chinese auto workers demanding more money in recent months. (which they received)


•    Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years.

Perhaps true.
But could this be because many of these children are born to poor black mothers who are promiscuous and believe that having more children will allow them to receive increased federal tax benefits, increased food stamp allowances, and increased rent subsidies?
It is also because many of these children have a mother who has been abandoned or divorced by her husband and must work a lower-paying job to support her family.
This is more of a moral issue than an economic issue.


•    Despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.

Most of the wealthy are not affected by recessions.
If you have 10 million dollars and you lose half of it in a recession, does that really affect how much you spend for food this week?


•    The top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income.

And they pay 96 percent of all personal income taxes.
Your point?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sum Thots on Non-Insurance

Think about this.

Let's say you buy a new car.
Let's say it cost $20,000.
You call your insurance person and tell them you bought such-and-such new car for $20,000.
The insurance person may ask a couple of questions about options or features or horsepower, and how far you drive to work, etc.
The usual insurance questions.
Then the insurance person says that your annual insurance bill will be, say, $500.
You accept this price with the assumption that if you are involved in a collision that the insurance company will pay to fix it, or if your car is damaged badly enough that it is more cost effective to replace the car rather than repair it ("total loss" or "totaled"), the insurance company will pay you enough money to replace it.
Right?
Wrong.
Stay with me.

For the sake of simplicity, lets say that the cost to replace your new car, should it be in a collision and is damaged badly enough that it is more cost effective to replace it rather than repair it, remains the same for the rest of the year - $20,000.
So your insurance rate should remain the same for that first year of ownership.
Still with me?

Think about this -
If, while still on the dealer's lot, you finish signing your papers, jump in your brand new car, start it up and it catches fire.
You jump out of your new car and watch helplessly as it burns to a rusted metal shell on the dealer's lot.
The insurance company will likely pay you $20,000 to replace the car.
Your annual insurance cost: $500.

Let's say you have signed your papers at the car dealer, and pull out of the dealer lot in your brand new car, and are broadsided by a truck 50 feet from the dealer's driveway.
The insurance company will probably pay you $20,000 to replace your new car.
Your annual insurance cost: $500.

One year after you bought your car, you are driving along the street in front of the car dealer where you bought your car and are broadsided by a truck 50 feet from the dealer's driveway. The insurance company will pay you enough to buy a one-year-old version of your wrecked car - about $14,000 (not a new one - $20,000).
Your annual insurance cost: $500.

Five years after you bought your car, you are driving along the street in front of the car dealer where you bought your car and are broadsided by a truck 50 feet from the dealer's driveway. The insurance company will pay you enough to buy a five-year-old version of your wrecked car - about $7,000 (not a new one - $20,000).
Your annual insurance cost: $500.
Huh?
Why is this?

There are two facts about car insurance that are in play here.
1 - Your car insurance only covers the CURRENT value of your car - not replacement value.
2 - Your insurance cost never goes down, even though the value of your car changes.

The replacement values used in the examples above were based on the following figures:
It is a verifiable fact that as soon as you drive a new car off the dealer's lot, it loses about 15-20% of its new value.
At the end of the first year of ownership your new car will have lost from 25% to 35% of its new value.
At the end of five years of ownership, your new car will have lost from 60% to 65% if its new value.

So, based on the above facts about depreciation, if the value of your car goes down every year, why doesn't your (collision) insurance cost go down by the same amount?
In theory, if your insurance cost doesn't go down every year, then your insurance should cover the cost of a NEW car, of equal value to your car when it was new, no matter when you "total" your car.

In fact, you should be able to buy an insurance policy to replace your car AT ANY TIME with a new version of that same car.
The cost of this type of policy would likely increase each year because the cost of a new replacement vehicle typically increases each new model year.
But you would still be able to replace your smashed car with a new one.
But you cannot buy such an insurance policy.
They do not exist.
Why can't you buy such a policy?

The reason, as explained by my insurance agent, is customer fraud.
If some people knew that they could get a new car to replace their current older car, simply by crashing it, they would do it.
So, to reduce the likelihood of customer fraud, the insurance companies do not sell full replacement value vehicle policies.

The same is true of house insurance.
You cannot buy an insurance policy that will fully replace the CURRENT value of your house and its contents.
The example given to me was similar to this:
Say, your current house is 20 years old and currently worth $75,000. The cost to build the identical house today is $100,000.
Some people would burn their current house down in order to cause the insurance company to build a new replacement house worth $100,000.
So the insurance companies will not sell full replacement homeowners policies.
Thus, if your 20 year old house burns down, the insurance company will only pay you $75,000 to "replace" your house.
Guess who gets to pick up the difference?

Enjoy your freedoms while you still can,
You will not have them much longer.

In God we trust....
.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Another Run

I know both of you don't care about this very much.
If so, you can move on to more interesting stuff.

Ever since my walk last Saturday morning, I have been thinking about running up Bankhead Parkway again.
I made no conscious plans this past week, but had a open mind to the alternative to walking around my neighborhood.
I stayed up too late again last night - though not as late as some of the Nordstrom clan.....

So this morning, when I woke up before 5, I considered it an omen for a good chance to be with my old friend.
I have said this before, but I cannot say it enough - I love running.
I know it is irrational, but it is still a fact.
It surprises me how much I love to run.
Certainly my addiction to endorphins produced by the activity has to be part of it.

Anyway, after a face shave, I donned my running/walking costume and gathered up my after-run towels, water bottle, neck keys, hankie, and out the door I went.
As the plan always is these days, I would try to run the whole way.
If something broke, I would walk.
Either way it would be a good (= more taxing than my usual flat neighborhood course) workout.

I drove to Pratt Avenue and turned onto Grayson and parked the car.
I walked the few dozen feet back to Pratt wondering how long I would walk before I started to run.
I barely made it across the street before I started the engine.
Carefully, at first.
Small steps, not a lot of dig or thrust.
I wanted to let everything warm up a bit.
Though I was on an incline, it is more gradual on Pratt than Bankhead (for those who do not know, Pratt becomes Bankhead at the base of Monte Sano).
So, the reasoning was, just run the more gentle incline of Pratt and let that quarter mile or so be the warm-up.
And it was so.

The gradual left turn onto Bankhead Parkway included a not-so-subtle increase in grade, as well.
It was time to go to work.
I was already breathing heavily (but comfortably) and did not want to start the 3/4 mile or so hill at max VO2.
So I dialed back my pace a bit, even though the race horse in me was wanting to get on with it.

Having not run regularly in over a year (I stopped doing that after the 2009 Cotton Row Run), and run this same course over a month ago (maybe two or three), I knew I was out of shape for running to some degree.
But I knew that I could prolly do this without major problems because I had surprised myself at that last session.
So I took it easy and took the hill - about 200 feet in about a mile.

All joints and connections seemed to be pleased with the work at hand.
It was my breathing that was the concern.
A couple of times I flirted with the thought of stopping and walking but the runner in me and ego would have none of it.
So onward we ran.
I had to keep holding my pace down to keep my breathing at the level I wanted, though no one would fault me if I allowed my elevated respiration rate to kick in.
After all, I WAS running up a big hill.
But I wanted all things respiratory to remain nice and tidy.
And it was so.

When I got to Tollgate, I was looking forward to its relatively flat topography.
I felt good and the worst (well, most of it) was over.
By the time I reached Mountainwood Drive, I was a very happy old man.
I stopped and retied my right shoelace, which had suddenly begun to feel loose.
Then it was a walk down Mountainwood.
One of the steepest roads I have ever seen.

At the bottom, I noticed that Owens Drive had been repaved.
I wished that I was in shape to run the whole Cotton Row course again so that I could pad up the nice, new surface of Owens.
Oh well....

I turned around in the cul-de-sec and started up Mountainwood.
As has been my practice for several years of running this course, I walked up the steepest part of Mountainwood that is paved with concrete and began running when the grade leveled a little and the paving changed to asphalt.
It was a slog, but I took baby steps and just worked it a foot or so at a time.
This was not a race and I knew I was fragile (or assumed so).

It was on the return trip along Tollgate that I saw another runner.
She was almost a quarter mile away when I first noticed her.
Pale blue top, black shorts.
At that point I was not sure of the gender because of the powerful strides she was taking.
Then I saw the golden pony tail wagging side to side.
But that stride; I was impressed.
And envious.

She did not take the little short girly steps that many women do.
This lady lifted her knees almost even with her hips and took great chunks of territory with each step.
And yet, as we closed in on each other, she did not seem to be working hard (envy again - I was breathing like I was, well, running).
And it was early; only 6 or so.
And no iPod - good for her (one of the dumbest things a woman can do while running or walking).
This lady was a serious runner.
WAY out of my league.
I looked closely to see if I knew her from past races, but I could not be sure.
I waved, she said hi, then she was gone.
Do I need to say, I was impressed?
I was impressed.

I turned left onto Bankhead for the downhill jaunt.
This was the easy part, as far as breathing is concerned.
I was more concerned about joints and connective tissue at this point because of past history.
Many times in jaunts gone by, I have had foot, ankle, knee or hip issues on this very patch of road.
Part of it could attributed to the fact that I had already run three miles up hill.
But some of it had to do with the pitch of this stretch of the course.

And so it was today.
Not long after I landed on Bankhead, my left knee started whining with a sharp ouch just to the inside of my kneecap.
I wondered why; I had been trying to keep my left foot from flopping about, as it is wont to do.
I had not taken any awkward steps with my left foot, that I could recall.
So why the pain?
The question, briefly, was taken up by Running Central, is this the end of the run?
But before a vote could be taken, the pain went away.
Fffitt!
Gone.
As so many - if not all - of my running pains have done.

And on we jogged.
Happy as a dead pig in the sunshine. (as they say)
At the bottom of the hill, Bankhead became Pratt once again and I cruised onto the less steep decline, loving every moment.
This (other than every finish line) was my favorite part of this course.
The gentle decline seemed to help me to float along the road.
Breathing at this point was up into my accelerated zone, but I was less than a quarter mile from the end.
It was time to let it all out.

When I reached my car, I wanted to keep going, just as I had last time I did this.
But I stopped.
I walked to the next street to cool down, turned around and walked back to my car.
Sweaty, tired, jacked up on endorphins, I felt awesomely.

According to Map My Run, this course is 1.62 miles one way.
Close enough to three miles to suit me.

In God we trust...
.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

THOTS ON A DIMINISHED FUTURE

I have not posted much here lately.
Sorry.
I have not had much to say.

I am experiencing a lingering feeling of depression these last few months.
It is caused by three factors; 1, my diminishing physical strength and appearance, 2, the looming collapse of the American economy and our society as we have known it, and 3, the deteriorating spiritual landscape in general and that of my personal environment in particular.

I know.
Whine, whine, whine.

There is little I can do about number one.
I am getting old (as is everyone on the planet) and, in small but persistent ways, it is taking its toll on me.
I continue to do my best to fight this inevitable slide into a mass of Jello but it is discouraging sometimes.

Numbers two and three are related.
But Number two is bothersome because it seems that God has allowed or sent a strong delusion on many of the people of this nation.
The conversion of this nation into a socialist nanny state in taking place before our eyes and it seems that we are powerless to stop it.
And in the process it is bankrupting this nation.

The debt of the federal government is now about 12 trillion dollars.
An amount that challenges our ability to comprehend it.
If nothing is done to reverse our out of control government spending, we, as a nation, will be bankrupt.
And there seems to be little will among many people to reverse the runaway spending of our government.
In another five years we will be like Greece.
Bankrupt.
Inflation will explode.
The dollar will become worthless.
Food will become prohibitively expensive.
There will be no jobs because no companies will be able to hire anyone.

Number three is related to number two.
If God has sent a deceiving spirit on the land what does that bode for me and other Christians?

This takes me to a regression dialog to examine my priorities and beliefs.
This dialog takes the form of a series of questions.
Here they are:

1 Can I live as a Christian if the federal government outlaws prayer and religious expression in public places?
(for purposes of this discussion "live as a Christian" means the ability to read the Bible, pray to Yahweh/God, and obey the commandments of the Bible as I understand them.
Yes. This would not be much different that it is today.
2 Can I live as a Christian if the federal government places restrictions on my freedom of speech?
Yes. There are ways to circumvent such "restrictions" as has been done in Hitler's Germany, the Soviet Union and in China, today.
3 Can I live as a Christian if the federal government places monitors in our churches to limit the things the minister can say?
Yes. There are ways to circumvent such circumstances.
4 Can I live as a Christian if federal policies and society in general become more anti-Christian?
Yes. I may become more difficult to carry on day to day activities, but it has been done in other times and places. It can be done here.
5 Can I live as a Christian in prison?
Yes. If Paul did it, we can do it. I suspect this will be the ultimate fate of the Christian church in America if things continue as they are going.

Having said yes to all of these predicted circumstances does not mean that it will be easy or pleasant.
But God can keep us saved.

Even so Come Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20)
.

Monday, May 31, 2010

On This Day

I present some well-known words written over 150 years ago by an extraordinary man, that are appropriate for this day in which we remember those who have died to preserve and protect the freedoms and way of life we enjoy.
.......................

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.
We are met on a great battle-field of that war.
We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Josh the graduate













My last son, Joshua, graduated from college with his shiny new Masters degree last night.
We of the family and friends watched the pompous circus from the peanut gallery.
After the event the Nordstrom's and the Smith's went to a local eatery to gorge and gab.
A pleasant time was had by all (it seemed).

"Enjoy your freedom and your income quickly, both will soon be gone."

Friday, May 14, 2010

One of my favorites...

Titus 3:3-7
3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.
4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared,
5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,
6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Well, Well, Well

Hello.
It has been a while.
Sorry for the lapse.
I have been preoccupied with personal matters and have not had much to say.
Not sure how much I will have to say from here on.
But for now, here I am.

In my new workout program of the last month or so, I have reduced my weight workouts to four per week (down from six) and added three days of walking (again).
This was because I finally became tired - and perhaps over-trained - from the previous plan.
Anyway, in the new setup, Saturday is a walking day.
And today, I was feeling sort of frisky, so I decided to walk up Bankhead parkway.
This route takes me up Bankhead about 3/4 of a mile, along Tollgate Road about 1/4 mile, and then down Mountainwood Drive (about 1/10 mile).
Then turn around and go UP Mountainwood, along Tollgate, and DOWN Bankhead.
Mountainwood is VERY steep.
The bottom half is as steep as a house roof (about 12 degrees).

All of this is part of the Cotton Row course.
It was almost a year ago (11 months and 23 days, to be exact) that I last ran this course.
Anyway, I decided to walk this loop to burn a few extra calories more than my flat course around my neighborhood.
That was the plan.

As soon as I got out on Pratt Avenue (the prelude to Bankhead) I felt like running.
The morning air at 6:11 was cool and there was a nice breeze teasing the fresh, green leaves on the trees.
Great walking weather and even better running weather.

I argued with myself about this.
"It has been a year since you have run," my cautious self said. "You might break something."
"Fine," my old race horse self replied. "If it doesn't feel right we can stop."
I had nothing to prove to anyone; including myself.

To add to my distress, there were several groups of people running the Cotton Row course, no doubt practicing for the big race in three weeks.
I contented myself to walk all the way up Bankhead, along Tollgate, and down Mountainwood.
The urge to break into a jog sat on my shoulder and hissed in my ear the whole way.
It was a good workout.
The trip down would have made it a good 50 minute session.
But as I turned around at the bottom of Mountainwood, I knew what I was about to do.

I walked up the first and steepest portion of Mountainwood, as I have done all the years I have run this course.
But where the pavement changes from concrete to asphalt, I started to run - as I have done all the years I have run this course.
I felt foolish, childish, and quite the daredevil.
I was surprised how easily I finished Mountainwood as I turned onto Tollgate.
It is a quarter mile of down and up of about 20 feet.
I always looked at it as a rest from the steep slog of Mountainwood.
And so it was today.

I was not pushing myself but I was surprised that nothing was complaining.
As I turned on to Bankhead for the long downhill jaunt, I could see some of the runners that had passed me when I was walking down Mountainwood a few minutes before.
And, in spite of my attempt to be cautious, the race horse in me whispered, "Catch them!"
I tried to suppress the urge, but I felt my legs add an additional 1/4 inch to each stride.
We were going see what is left in the old man....

Amazingly, to this point I had managed to keep my breathing in my comfort zone.
Fast, deep, but comfortable.
On the way down Bankhead, the attachment of some quad tendon just above my left knee started to protest it's circumstance.
The announcement was noted by Running Central, but no action was taken due to the minor nature of the signal.
Soon it was gone.
Only to be replaced by a more insistent call from my right ankle.
It wanted to make sure that I set my right foot down in a very precise, linear way.
No flopping or twisting allowed.
I got the message.
When I got the steps correct, right ankle was happy.

Bankhead is almost all downhill except for a couple of small flat or slightly uphill sections near the bottom.
Even so, I found myself pushing my pace, and breathing, to catch the other runners.
And by the time I reached the bottom of Bankhead (which then turns into Pratt) I had cut the distance between myself and the others by about half.

Pratt Avenue at this point is a magical 1/4 mile for me.
It is smooth and transitions from a slight downhill to virtually flat.
Running there has always felt like floating on air.
I have always enjoyed this part of the course, and today was no exception.
Frankly, I was amazed and delighted as how I was doing.
In spite of almost a year off, my breathing was still under control.

I was reminded - again - how much I love running.
Of course, by this time, I was jacked up on a dose of endorphins that I have not experienced in almost a year.
I would have felt great even if I had broken my leg.
I turned off of Pratt and with disappointment saw my car.

It was time to stop.
I did not want to.
The other runners were just a block away and I was reeling them in.
Assuming nothing in me broke, I was thinking I could catch them by the time we got to the Civic Center (their - and my old - starting point).
But caution prevailed.
I stopped running a few dozen yards from my car, walked past my car to the next intersection to cool down, turned around and walked back to my car.
I was a good start to the day.

I had my first physical exam in about 15 years this past week.
The interesting numbers for me was my blood pressure - 121/67.
Not bad for an old guy.

In God we trust.
(... all other ground is sinking sand...)
.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Monday, March 22, 2010

Changes...

This is the story of two people I know.
It is true.
Some details are omitted to protect their privacy.
.................................

They were an unlikely couple.
They met in 2008 at church.
It started with just polite conversation.
He was much older than she.
Almost twice her age
She was seeking someone her age, he was interested in finding someone closer to his.
So they simply spoke to each other from time to time with no intentions of going further.

But she was polite and friendly and funny.
And she found that he acted and thought much younger than his numerical age.
And the more they talked, the more they found that they were similar.
Seeing things the same way.
Thinking the same thing at the same time.
Finding the same things humorous.
They started trading emails, still not thinking that a relationship was under construction.
But is was.

Within two months they realized that "something" was happening.
Against all odds.
Against all logic.
In spite of their innocence and lack of intent.
In spite of their age difference.
They soon found themselves in love.
But they knew it could not progress beyond a certain point.

They were an unlikely couple and they knew it.
They saw the looks they got from others.
But they did not care.
They talked about it.
They laughed about it.
And enjoyed what they had, no matter how strange it looked to others.

It was sweet while it lasted.
Oh, it was so sweet.
So easy and comfortable.
They just fit.
They meshed with each other in so many ways.
On food, politics, music, religion, dieting, exercise, home decorating.
And on dozens of other little things.
They cooked together.
They prayed together.
They laughed together.
She could make him laugh.
They just fit.

He found out what it meant to have a soul mate.
He had read about such a thing.
And he believed it was possible.
But he had never experienced it.
Until now.
She was it.

And she said the same thing about him.
And it was so nice.
It amazed him because he was just being himself.
But somehow that delighted her.
Up until now, being himself had always caused a problem with the other person on some point or other.
Not this time.
He could do no wrong, it seemed.
It felt strange and, well, nice.

He learned how it felt to be loved.
(not that he had not been loved before. But somehow this was different.)
And she knew how to pet his ego.
She made him feel like a new man.
A younger man.
When he was with her, he forgot how old he was.
He felt like a kid with her.
It was like high school all over again.
Except this time he knew what was going on.

He loved her.
He loved her in every way he could.
He loved her every way he knew how.
Love was something he was never comfortable with.
He felt he was not good at it.
That he failed to express it well enough.
That he never seemed to get it right with his mate.
He was too self-centered.
But somehow, this time, he got it right.
She, somehow, brought it out of him.
And he loved her with everything he had.

And she loved him.
Even though he was much older than she.
She stopped seeing an older man and saw the kid that was still in him.
She appreciated things about him that no other woman had.
She called him her "sweet man".
No woman had ever called him that.

For his part, he could not understand how she could love him like this.
No one else ever had.
Not like this.
At first he was embarrassed and skeptical.
He wondered if he had somehow deceived her.
Or if she was just putting on an act.
No woman had ever loved him like this.
Could it really be genuine?
But as they spent more time together, he came to accept the authenticity of her feelings.
And he loved it.

In their few months together, they never argued.
They never had a disagreement.
It was not because they were on their best dating behavior and holding back.
They were way past that (if they ever did it).
It was because they were so similar in so many ways.
It was because they thought alike.
It was because they saw so many things the same way.
It was just the way they were.

They had questions, too.
Why did God bring them together?
Why?
Knowing they could not marry (the logical/emotional conclusion of such a pleasant relationship.) because of his divorce years ago.
Why did he allow them to become so connected?
He could have stopped them at a hundred different points.
But he just let them grow together.
They knew that they would probably never know.

So they just accepted the strange circumstance and let the relationship grow as much as the Bible would allow.
And they stopped where it would not permit them to go further.
They never sinned.
They never violated their understanding of the Bible.
They never tried to push the boundaries.

He honored and respected her.
She honored and respected him.
And that just made them love each other more.

But they knew the ending was inevitable.
They knew they could not go on as they were going.
The Bible put limits on how far they could progress together.
And they choose to conform to those constraints.
That meant they could not be married.
At least not until another circumstance changed.
And that was not something they could control or felt free to ask for.
(if this makes no sense to you, I understand, but I don't want to go into the details as that would delve into the privacy of some other people)

She was the one who jumped first.
He was afraid that he would have to be the one to pull the plug.
But she spared him the unpleasant task.
There were reasons why it was just not realistic to prolong an incomplete relationship any longer.
He understood.
He did not argue.
He knew she was feeling the frustration.
So she decided she had had enough.
He knew it would have to end sometime for some reason and this was as good a time and reason as any.
He did not want to see her suffer any more.

He knew it would be painful - and it is.
Like open heart surgery with a ditch digger.
So here he is hurting.
And crying.
And wanting to call her and comfort her.
And wanting to go to her and hug her and tell her it will be all right.

But he is the problem.
So the more he is with her, the more problems she will have.
Thus, he must stay away.
And let her grieve alone.

He had seen her cry too much already.
It hurt him so much to see her cry.
He wanted to do something to help her stop crying.
But he could not.
It has to end this way.
And this way hurts.
(But there is no other way to end it that does not hurt)

So now it is ended. (or ending...)
He sits and cries.
Sometimes he cries hard.
So hard his body shakes.
And then, after a minute or two, it passes and he just sits.
And stares.
And hurts.
Empty.

Miles away, she cries.
Maybe in the same way.
(He really does not want to know)
For her it is a bit different.
Life will go on.
Life has to go on.

She is still young.
There is much of life to be lived for her.
She has a career to pursue.
And time.
Time to heal,
Time to grow,
Time to change.
Hobbies, talents, skills, ministry.
Maybe she will find someone else and they will be able to be happy together.
Happily ever after and all that.
Maybe.
He wants that for her.
He wants her to have what she could not have with him.

For him, life is just about over.
Not really.
He could live another thirty years.
But emotionally, he is finished.
There will never be another woman like her for him.

For him, the remaining years of his life will be empty and boring and pointless.
He really has no interest is living anymore.
Not that he wants to kill himself.
It is just that the rest of his life will be in the shadow of this beautiful few months he shared with this delightful woman.

Who is now gone.