Thursday, September 29, 2005

"I Looked Over Jordan, and What Did I See....?

Well, I'm signing off on blogging for the next two weeks. I'll be leaving tomorrow for a two week "study leave" that will take me half-way around the world. I'll be spending well over a week going to, visiting and then returning from the Hashimite Kingdom of Jordan. I'll be joining over 40 other Presbyterian pastors and other assorted Reformed Calvinists on a tour of what the Jordanian Tourist Board has begun touting as, "The Other Holy Land."

Petra, Jerash, Karnak, Amman, John the Baptist's baptizing spot on the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, Mt. Nebo, Medaba, Wadi Rum and more will be my daily fare for the tour.

On my way back I will spend three full days in Manhattan, hanging loose and visiting places I haven't had the time to visit before....Ground Zero (the towers were still there the last time I visited NY), Harlem, Guggenheim Museum and maybe the United Nations Building (last visited there in 1966). I might even purchase a "day of performance" discount ticket to a Broadway show (obviously, one that is not "sold out" like "Spamalot".....still, one can hope!).

When I return and catch my breath I will post some stuff about the trip including some photos.

Until then, Aloha In Jesus. I'll be back soon, Insha allah!

Hugh Hewitt Goes Mano a Mano With Brian Montopoli

On September 28th, CBS’s Brian Montopoli ran a post on a subject that he termed, “Journo-Bloggers.”

National Master-Blogger extraordinaire, Hugh Hewitt, was not amused by Montopoli’s effort (although he said “this is really funny”), especially when it came to this line:

If someone is known primarily as a blogger, even if they've published in traditional media outlets, they won't be on the list – which means people like Josh Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, and Hugh Hewitt are out. (Though Hewitt, who has a radio show, is right on the line.)
The usually effusive Hugh could only manage an almost inaudible “Egad” in response.

Not one to leave any turn unstoned, Hugh brought Montopoli onto his radio show later that afternoon for a friendly grilling.

Hugh attempted to score a quick point by challenging Brian’s definition of “Journo-Blogging.” The argument fell flat, however, since Brian had coined the term himself and was certainly free to define it in any way he wanted to, Hugh’s protestations not withstanding.

Hugh then appeared to hit home with body shot aimed at the “clear liberal bias” represented by Brian’s disproportionately liberal-leaning list of bloggers. This was followed by several jabs at Brian’s omission of several well-known conservative bloggers from his “Journo” list.

Unfortunately, this seemingly effective assault was quickly disqualified as a “low blow” when Brian explained that he had emailed Hugh asking for his input and that Hugh had failed to respond.

Hugh, stunned by the call, argued that he had not replied to the request because he did not wish to be seen as aiding and abetting anyone at CBS with anything!

At this point the referee should have simply “called the fight” on the basis of “flagrant duplicity” on the part of Hugh.

It was suddenly apparent that Hugh had given Brian the “cold shoulder” and that Brian had “counter-punched” by leaving Hugh “right on the line,” and deservedly so.

Had Hugh responded to Brian’s email I have no doubt that the article would have included Hugh (and others that Hugh might have suggested) on his “Journo-Blogging” list.

Alas, the “Public Eye” of CBS came out looking more open-minded and noble than the California State Sommelier himself.

One is reduced to uttering the only epithet worthy of this misadventure: “Egad!”

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

China Recycles Executed Prisoners Into Collagen For Facial Cosmetics

Image hosted by Photobucket.comYou know, when you have a great big country and lots and lots of people it's easy to run out of stuff that you really need.

Take China for instance. It happens all the time. Some poor bureaucrat's wife is having a bad lip day and needs some collagen-based cosmetic to boost up her lip-appeal.

Collagen, at least in China, is not a major natural resource. A quick look through any reference book will show that China has collagen mines....even in Tibet and Mongolia which ought to have at least something of value somewhere.

Collagen, unfortunately, does not reproduce. It cannot be grown in a field or even easily manufactured from industrial chemicals in a collagen factory.

Nope. The stuff comes from animals....including people. It's found in the skin, the joints, cartilage and bones.

But the Chinese are no fools. They know the score and they are environmentally sensitive, too. The most prolific animal in China is the human being. They've got a billion of 'em. Many, if not most of them are not really useful or necessary and the folks who really do matter figured out that there was an awful lot of collagen running around and going to waste.

The down side of this was when one of those unnecessary souls was shot by a firing squad and then buried. What a waste! Recycling is a big deal in China. Everything gets used and reused. So, a cosmetics outfit got the idea that it would be patriotic, profitable and ecologically beneficial to make the best of a bad situation and recycle those poor executed folks into something useful for the wives of bureaucrats.

The skin is the best source of PRCDA Grade A collagen and whatever skin is not riddled with bullet holes can be carefully harvested and reprocessed into beautiful and glamorous facial restorative cosmetic products.

The popularity of these "dead man's skin" creams and lotions proved to be so huge that word got out and people outside of China began to beg for a piece of what was making the wives of Chinese bureaucrats look so radiantly stunning, especially in the soft glow of a paper lantern.

Yahoo News reports that Chinese cosmetic products containing collagen extracted from the skin of executed prisoners have already been exported for sale to the notoriously skin-challenged people of the United Kingdom.

It is not yet clear whether those who have purchased these cosmetics are actually aware that they are smearing processed human body parts onto their lips. Could kissing really become an act of unintended cannibalism?

I will not be surprised if similar products begin showing up on the shelves of American stores in the near future. The potential market for such renewable human material is endless. I can see the TV commercials now.......

"Hey, guys, do know....suffer from sexual disfunction....not all the time, of course, but every once in a while and it's really frustrating and embarrassing? Well we have a crushed, dried and reconstituted product that will raise you from the dead quicker than a Rocky Mountain oyster......"
On second thought, maybe we all need to have second thoughts about this before we find ourselves being genetically selected and recycled to provide a healthy-looking shine to the hair of some bureaucrat's wife......

Monday, September 26, 2005

Spain Convicts Al-Qaeda Suspects for Doing What the US 9/11 Commission Said They Didn't Do!

It's hard to figure this out. When the US 9/11 Commission turned in their final report they concluded that Mohammed Atta, the ringleader for the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. had only made certain visits to Europe under certain circumstances (ie. only using his own name rather than an alias) and that he did not meet with an Iraqi agent in Prague, despite of the Czech government's insistance that he did.

Well, today Spain convicted several people of supporting Atta in helping to make the attacks both fully funded, supported and coordinated. Included in the charges is the assertion that Atta was provided with false ID (something which the 9/11 Commission discounted. One of the co-conspiritors convicted was Ramzi Binsalshibh who is important insofar as it was his testimony that convinced the 9/11 Commission that Atta had not, in fact, gone to Prague.

It seems that the Commission might want to rethink some of its conclusions in light of Spain's successful prosecution of these unreconcilable charges. Someone has got to be wrong here and it looks like the 9/11 Commission still has some explaining to do.

If Atta did, in fact, meet with an Iraqi agent in Prague as he was making final preparations for the attacks, then it raises the question....Could it be that Iraq had something to do with the 9/11 attacks after all? And why was the 9/11 Commission so eager to dismiss and discount this meeting?

OTHER NEWS: It is reported that the #2 al Qaeda operative in Iraq was killed today in a gunfight in Baghdad today. Eventually getting Zarqawi himself will not end the "insurgency," of course, but it would break the aura of invincibility that gives the lie to the radical Islamic jihadis that Allah is supporting and protecting them in this reign of terror.

As these top operators are picked off one by one they will be quickly replaced by others, equally commited and passionate but....and this is important.....not as competent. The declining quality of the communications, command, coordination, funding, linking new recruits with existing cells and the like is quickly bringing the Iraqi terrorist networking to a state of collapse.

As long as there are cars, explosives and people willing to blow themselves up there will be acts of terrorism directed against US troops and Iraqis. But the acts will become increasingly random and desparate as the experienced, trained and respected leadership continues to fall by the wayside.

I am hopeful that slowly but surely we are still making progress in creating a safe and sane Iraq. In any case, we should be glad that there is one less person willing and able and eager to blow up worshiping Muslims, bomb women and children and behead infidels.

Orchids In Bloom

Well, it's happened again. More orchids in our garden. Here's the latest. Enjoy. We are!

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Today's Anti-War Protest In Washington D.C.: How Many? & Does That Really Matter?

Calculating how many protesters marched in the Washington D.C. anti-war demonstratiion today does not appear to be a simple matter.

Associated Press, whose article appears on the FoxNews, and CNN web pages state that,
"Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey, noting that organizers had hoped to draw 100,000 people, said, 'I think they probably hit that.'"
The Washington Post, on the other hand, estimated even more:
Police (estimated) the count to about 150,000.
The organizers themselves are quoted in the Washington Post:
Protest organizers estimated a crowd of about 200,000 rallied at the Ellipse, then marched around the White House and along Pennsylvania Avenue

Al Jazeera, on the other hand had this to say:
Bill Hackwell, a spokesman for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER) the coalition that organised the march along with another advocacy group, United for Peace and Justice....estimated that 100,000 people attended the demonstration, though that number could not be independently verified.
Reuters stated that:
More than 100,000 protesters flooded Washington on Saturday.
This, in spite of the fact that Al Jazeera (see above) had previously quoted Reuters as follows:
Reuters reported that police on the scene put the figure at roughly
USA Today simply said "thousands" but did add:
Organizers estimated that 100,000 people turned out for the demonstration, but police at the scene put the number much lower, from 10,000 to 20,000.
From bloggers who attended we have

-Kris, of Reflections of a Libertarian Republican, who seems to agree with the 100,000 figure and does not hesitate to describe
....the massive scale of the rally....
-Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit quotes emailer Brandon Marx as saying:
100,000? On C-Span I'm seeing a couple thousand tops.
-Michelle Malkin, who has posted many photos she took at the rally, does not even attempt to give an estimate (this might indicate that there were more people there than she would like to admit).

My, oh My! What are we to make of this? I guess that we can safely say that somewhere between 10,000-200,000 anti-war, anti-lotsofotherstuff demonstrators demonstrated in Washington D.C. today.

My take on it is this: Forget the numbers. Liberals tried to mock and deride the so-called "Million Man March" by claiming that fewer than 1 million people actually showed up. This is another example of being "on stupid."

Conservatives should not waste everyone's time on the number's debate but focus on the obvious facts:

1. Lots and lots and lots of people showed up in D.C. today to publically express their opposition to our nation's involvement in Iraq and to roundlyt criticize President Bush for his policy decisions. The anti-thisandthat may not have been as focussed on these matters as the organizers might have hoped, but those two criticisms were the clear intent of the rally.

2. Not too many people came out for the "counter-demonstration." This in and of itself does not mean much. After all, USA Today reports that people were standing 12-deep during today's parade in Oceanside, California, to welcome back 11,000 Marines in the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based at nearby Camp Pendleton.

3. While the protests today (not surprisingly) offered more heat than light on the subjects of the demonstration, they did indicate a genuine movement afoot. Whether this movement is derided as simply being nothing more of the "usual suspects" or not will not really matter either. As long as there is a national perception of a gathering groundswell of American opposition to the Iraqi War, it will not really matter what was said, who said it or even how many people actually were there.

4. Today's demonstration in Washington D.C. did, in fact, project an image that will most certainly be perceived as a gathering groundswell of American opposition to the Iraqi War.

5. Today's demonstration will most certainly signal the green light for further national and international demonstrations of this kind.

6. This will have the effect of strengthening the resolve of those following the (sometimes symbolic) leadership of Al Qaeda internationally and with Zarqawi in Iraq more particularly.

7. It will also weaken the national and international perception of the Republican Party's political strength in both the White House and in Congress.

I believe that the political strength of the Republican Party is not, in reality, seriously threatened by the anti-war movers and shakers. The Republican Base in the United States is not based on emotion (as is the Democratic Base) but on principles, and not simply on one policy matter (such as the Iraqi War) alone.

It is ironic that this demonstration comes at the very moment that the people of Afghanistan and Iraq are poised to take some of the most significant steps towards self-government, independence and genuine freedom in their respective histories.

One can only wonder what effect today's demonstration might have on those who will be voting in those two places.

I can only wonder whether those protesting today are actually hoping that the American & Coalition efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan will fall apart and descend into chaos?

I fear that the answer to this must unfortunately be "Yes." At least among those who have planned and organized the event.

Unlike a similar time in our nation's history, when the anti-war movement helped to destroy two presidents (LBJ & Nixon) and undercut whatever success had been achieved in the war against communist agression in Vietnam, we have a President who will not be swayed by the chantings and slogans of a crowd, no matter how large it may appear to be.

We shall soon see whether Republican politicians in Washington will stand by President Bush or start to waffle and hedge their bets.

I can almost guarantee that those who stand their ground will be reelected and those who waffle will be swept aside in the coming bi-elections next year.

Just as they did in the last election cycle I believe that the American people, while not enthusiastic about the American sacrifices in Iraq & Afganistan, will continue to see these, and other policies and far better than any alternatives that the Democrats are likely to offer.

Americans know that we have come a very long way and have accomplished a great deal in a very short time in the Middle East. They will not want to abandon such an important venture when the third lap of the mile race is almost completed.

It is, of course, in my political opinion, a race worth finishing.

....No matter how many people showed up in Washington D.C. today.

Update: BBC demonstrates the difficulty in estimating crowd size with this little gem concerning the parallel anti-war demonstration in London today:

British police said around 10,000 people took to the streets in London, although organisers put the figure at nearer 100,000

12-Year Old's Suicide Over Two-Cents In India

A twelve-year girl committed suicide after her impoverished mother refused to give her 1 rupee (worth 2 cents) to buy lunch at school.
India's Telegraph newspaper said Sania was tempted by the sight of classmates eating puffed rice and oil cakes.

Ms Bewar told the newspaper: "I did not give her the money as I did not have it. I snapped at her when she insisted on it."

Friday, September 23, 2005

Rita Sings a Familiar Song

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No Knees or Banjo for Rita

Poor Louisiana. Two massive hurricanes in less than a month.

Rita, like her older sister, Katrina, is, like most kid sisters, just sorta tagging along, wandering just a bit but keeping close enough behind so as to be in the same general area.

Unfortunately tonight, that "same general area" happens to be Louisiana.

Tonight, through the wind, I could faintly hear these words:

.....I'm goin' to Louisiana, my true love for to see.... rained so hard the day I left.....
.....Oh, Susanna, oh don't you cry for me....
Rita, I doubt very much that we will cry "for" you. I am much more confident that we will be crying "because" of you for a very long time.

For once in my life I am tempted to say, "Why don't you just go somewhere and dry up!"

BBC: All the News That's Fit to Bend

A BBC headline today reads, "Israel launches Gaza air strike."

"What?" you say. "Why would Israel violate its agreement with the Palestinian Authority? Why is Israel so eager to break the peace?"

Well, I suppose the answer to these questions ought to be found in the small print, underneath the headline where we read:
Israel launches its first air strike on Gaza since its withdrawal...
Well, there you have it. It would appear that this unprovoked attack may well be the first of many, after all, this is only the "first" since the withdrawal. But what was the point of the attack? What was Israel's motivation for this violent incursion into Gaza?

Oh......even further down in the small print....what do we find?

...after Palestinian militants hit an Israeli town.
Huh? What? You mean to say that Palestinian militants attacked Israel first? They attacked a town inside of Israel? Israel was responding to being attacked first?

Then why in the world didn't the headline read:

Palestinian Militants Attack Israeli Town
Palestinian militants flagrantly violated the cease-fire agreement today as rockets were sent flying from Gaza into a civilian residential area inside of Israel. As is usual in such circumstances, Israel responded with and air strike in Gaza, targeting known centers of militant activity.

That is really what happened. That is the real story. But the BBC apparently wanted everyone who glanced or skimmed the headlines to believe that Israel had acted badly today. Why?

The grotesque irony of this misleading headline (which seemingly blames Israel for the day's violence) is that the photograph displayed directly below it shows the smoke rising from an explosion in Gaza during a celebration parade marking the israeli pullout last week. Apparently a truck in the parade, loaded with militants and at least two large rockets on display, blew up while surrounded by large crowds of parade watchers.

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The death toll from the explosion is presently 15, including numerous children. Many other people were injured, some seriously.

I searched in vain for any headline that read:

Weapons Explosion Kills 15 During Palestinian Parade--Children Are Among the Dead

So, in summary, let's see.....the two biggest stories of the day are:

1. Palestinian militants attack Israel in violation of the mutually agreed cease-fire; and,

2. At least 15 Palestinians are killed by a weapons explosion during a parade in Gaza.

Yet the headline reads:

Israel Launches Gaza Air Strike

Oh, those Brits....always pulling one's leg!

Two Separate Deaths--God's Will? A Christian Reflection

Two stories in today's news:
Boxer Leavander Johnson died today of complications resulting from a brain hemorrage. The boxer was injured during a featured fight at the MGM-Grand Hotel in Las Vegas last Saturday night. His promoter, Lou Dibella, was quoted as saying, "...this was not a situation where anyone failed Leavander Johnson. It was just God's will. It's a sport that's inherently dangerous."

Don Maurice Airline, 24, of Metairie, Louisiana, who evacuated to Texas and then to Tennessee to escape hurricane Katrina, was found dead in Chattanooga, less than a mile from the Red Cross shelter he had been staying at. He had been shot in the head five times. The motive may have been to rob him of his relief money. At the time of his death he was preparing to move to a motel. He was also scheduled to begin work at a new job tomorrow. His mother, Sheila Airline said, "This is how God had it planned. He was evacuated out of the storm and out of the storm he gets killed."
Tragedy brings emotional trauma and confusion to those effected by it. Always. Every time. It is our natural inclination to seek meaning in such events, to find a purpose that can give some measure of value to the loss.

It is sad, indeed, to be in a position to say, as anti-Iraq war mother Cindy Shehan asserts, that her son "died for nothing."

When the tragedy involves death, something deep within us desparately cries out, "No! He must have died for something!" But what is that "something?"

One of the two people quoted at the beginning of this post lost a client/friend/business partner. The other lost a son. Both, almost instinctively, turned to God for the anwer to the question, "Why?"

"It happened," they seem to say. "Therefore it must have been God's will."

This sentiment seems to bring a sort of comfort to many people during such an ordeal. But the idea is not a very deep one and begins to unravel rather quickly if it is looked at very closely.

Could it be that the death of Leavander Johnson or that of Don Maurice Airline was the unalterable result of God's eternal edict? Was it etched in stone that each of these men should die in this manner from the day that they were conceived?

If this is what Leavander's promoter means; or if this is what Don Maurice's mother means; then what does this mean?

A quick glance at he Bible...

To continue reading this post in its entirety, click here

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Loopy Afghan Election Clause Just Might Give the Wrong Idea......

It's called simply, "The Assassination Clause."

As Afghanistan prepares to hold its first free parliamentary elections in thirty years this coming weekend it remains a complete mystery as to who will win and who will lose the hundreds of contested seats.

One thing, however, is clear. If the winner of an election has the bad luck to find themselves assassinated they needn't worry about how their replacement will be chosen or even who it would be.

A BBC report tells us that some concern has been expressed

.....about what has come to be known here as the assassination clause - it allows losing candidates to take the place of the winners if they happen to be killed.
Yep. Sounds good on paper, doesn't it. If the person the people choose to lead them is killed just go ahead and replace him with the person the people voted to reject.

You don't suppose the losers will be tempted to give this clause a shot, do you? (Oops, bad choice of word).

Somehow, when Jesus said that "the last will be first and the first will be last" I do not think he had the parliamentary elections in Afghanistan in mind.

Palestinian Authority Issues "Peace" Stamp Featuring "Guess-Who?"

Yep, folks, the Palestinian Authority has done it again. In its inexorable and insatiable search for peace in the Middle East it has issued a set of postage stamps bearing two of the most celebrated peacemakers of our time: Yasser Arafat and French President Jacques Chirac.
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Freedom-loving people throughout the world will want to snap up these collector's items right away. No doubt the people of Iraq, about to vote on a national constitution written and endorsed by a freely elected, representative Parliament, will be especially exited to see Chirac honored in this manner.

Surely, there must be somewhere, someplace, some home or hovel in Iraq that proudly displays a photo of Jacques Chirac on the wall.

Other than the French consulate, I mean.

Hamas Turns Gaza Synogogue Into Weapons Museum

Despots and slimeballs love to take other folks' religious shrines and defile them. The Romans, after capturing Jerusalem in 70 AD sacrificed a pig in the Jewish Temple before dismantling it stone by stone. In Africa and the Middle East, thousands of Christian churches have been converted into mosques. When I was in the old USSR, Kazan Cathedral in Leningrad (a city now called by its historic name, St. Petersburg) had been transformed into a Museum of Atheism. Another former church was being used as a sports and recreation facility.

Now that the Palestinian Authority has taken charge of Gaza (sure they have) Hamas has apparently decided that blowing up abandoned synagogues is not enough and a waste of good buildings besides. Today they announced that they were going to convert a synagogue into a........well, read the story for yourself:
WASHINGTON - Emboldened by Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza and part of the West Bank, Hamas yesterday announced its plan to turn a synagogue in Netzarim into a museum that would display weapons employed by the terrorist group’s members against Israeli civilians.
Oh, sure these folks want peace. Where in Israel do we find a museum dedicated to displaying the weapons that kill Palestinians? Where, even once, have we seen the Israeli occupying army defile a single Muslim mosque in the West Bank or Gaza?

Armed Palestinians, on the other hand, thought nothing of seizing the Church of the Nativity in Bethlelem some years ago, holding the Christian leadership hostage, peeing and deficating inside the church and using pages torn from Bibles as toilet paper.

Hamas again and again has demonstrated that it is a vile, hateful and evil organization that views the death of Jewish women and children as something to celebrate. It is fascist in its intolerance of others and offers nothing but death and destruction for those who follow its path to hell.

It does not matter in the least what Hamas members have suffered in the past. Nothing.....I mean absolutely nothing, nothing, nothing, can justify their consuming, murderous, hate-driven, genocidal behavior towards the Jewish people.

"Oh," say their apologists, "but look at all the good they are doing to provide supplemental financial support for the poor, the educational programs they support, the medical clinics, the social organization of the oppressed. The people love them and follow them because Hamas alone supports them in their misery."

Bunk! Hamas cares about the "refugees" and other Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank only insofar as they can be used and manipulated to further Hamas' plans to destroy Israel and kill every Jew they can find.

Any Palestinian who does not support Hamas or, even worse, publically questions their influence, power, presence and behavior, is in danger of being accused of being a Jewish sympathizer and then murdered or executed.

The Palestinian people are cowed in the same way that the German people were cowed under the iron boots of the Nazi SS.

One can only wonder what Hamas would do if it gained full access to East Jerusalem as the Palestinian Authority continues to demand.

Faith is certainly not a central factor in their philosophy. They will kill a fellow Muslim without a thought and blow them up on Israeli buses along with Jewish children.

The Bible tells us that "Pride goeth before a fall." Pride will prevent Hamas and its supporters from ever accepting anything less than the total and complete elimination of the nation of Israel from the face of the earth. Pride will prevent Hamas from ever accepting or agreeing to any compromise "peace settlement."

Pride has already brought about the demise and fall of the once proud, productive and peaceful people of Palestine. Wherever they have gone, to the West Bank (then Western Jordan) after the newly established nation of Israel defeated their resistance, to Jordan itself after the 1972 Yom Kippur War, into southern Lebanon following the disaster known as Black September, and now, once again, back to the West Bank and Gaza, the so-called Palestinian "leaders" of every stripe and color have brought nothing but death, despair and destruction to their people.

Even if Israel should call it quits, forsake the "land of promise" and move every Jew in the Middle East to South America, does anyone really think that Hamas or the Palestinian Authority or al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade or al Qaeda or Fatah would ever improve on what Israel has done with the land it has nurtured and developed over the past 75 years or so? Does anyone truly believe that the foundational values, vision and ethics of these people could bring anything but a total breakdown of everything good and beautiful that Israel has planted in the Middle East?

Hamas and its kind offer the world and their own people nothing.

Except, perhaps, the awe-inspiring achievement of converting a Jewish house of worship into a weapons museum.


Belated Note On Bob Denver aka Maynard G. Krebs

Image hosted by Photobucket.comAs some know, television legend Bob Denver died September 6 after a struggle with cancer. His death was obscured by the necessary coverage of the post-Katrina disaster.

Denver was famous for his role as Gilligan, the hapless, bumbling but sincere crew member of the doomed sailboat, "Minnow." Gilligan, along with six other shpwrecked shipmates, spent several years on "Gilligan's Isle," somehow able to be marooned and yet watched by millions of TV fans at the same time.

For me, however, Denver was never really Gilligan (who apparently did not have a first name....unless Gilligan was his first name....then again, he might have had a first name....). No, for me Bob Denver was and will always be Maynard G. Krebs, beatnik sidekick and friend to Dobie Gillis.

Maynard's empty-headed, drop-out incarnation of 'cool' left an indelible impression on me.

From Maynard I learned the art of satire.

From Maynard I learned that even nice guys can be complete idiots and that complete idiots can be nice guys.

From Maynard I was later able to understand that hippies were more often than not, simply empty-headed, drop-out beatniks on drugs but without the 'cool.'

From Maynard I learned that, in contrast to Dobie, there is more to life than girls.

From Maynard I learned that trying to grow a beard without good facial hair was something that belonged only on a TV comedy series.

From Maynard I learned that going to school, studying hard and continuing on through college was the best possible way of avoiding turning out like Maynard.

From Maynard I learned that, if Dobie and Maynard could be friends, then I could be friends with just about anybody!

From Maynard I learned that, if I ever had a son, I would never name him Maynard.

Bob made me smile. You helped me to "grow up" and gave me genuine insight into the adolescent and adult world I was preparing to enter.

Bob Denver.....all evidence to the contrary, you never set sail on the "Minnow;" you never were stranded on a desert island; you were never rescued and returned to the civilized world; you were never Gilligan.

Bob were Maynard G. Krebs. You are Maynard G. Krebs. You will always be Maynard G. Krebs. You will always wear the baggy torn sweatshirt; you will always carry your bongos; and you will always, eternally shriek whenever you hear the word, "work."

I have no need to say "farewell".....because you have never left.


It's on the radio. It's on the TV. It's in the newpapers. It's on the internet. It will be in national magazines. For all I know, it's already reached the Moon and Mars!


Point 1: Tyra Banks needs to get a life.
Point 2: Who cares?
Point 3: People who care about this need to get a life.
Point 4: Who is Tyra Banks?
Point 5: See Point 2.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No Real Story Except Hurricane Rita

Image hosted by Photobucket.comIf there is another story that takes a headline away from Hurricane Rita during the next week it will probably need to be something close to being as important as the Second Coming of Jesus!

Today, Rita became the 3rd most powerful Atlantic hurricane on record...a Category 5 with sustained winds of 175 miles per hour.

If I were on the Central Gulf Coast of Texas or even in Houston today, I would be packing my bags and heading for New Mexico, Oklahoma or even Louisiana as quickly as possible.

According to one story, scientific weather watchers on the barrier islands near Padre Island, who had settled into observation areas especially built to house them during hurricane observations, have already abandoned their positions and fled inland to places very far away.

Modern North American civilization has had very little experience with storms of this magnitude. It is uncertain what will actually happen should it remain a category 5 hurricane when it whips through or near Galveston late Friday night. One speculation is that the mighty Galveston seawall will successfully defend against the initial storm surge (although vast amounts of water will spill over the top) but a "back-side" storm surge from the unprotected back of Galveston Island could probably result in great damage and massive flooding.

Houston is also a mystery. Much, if not most of the central city is at virtual sea level, linked to the Gulf of Mexico by a shipping channel. Heavy rains several years ago flooded much of the city and the coming rain, channel surge, hurricane winds and miscellaneous tornados could render the city almost as uninhabitable as New Orleans in the next several days.

It is hard to imagine that the costliest natural disaster in United States history could be followed by an even costlier one within a matter of weeks.

The oil industry is also at great risk. The number of oil refineries in the Galveston/Houston area is three times greater that in the areas impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Approximately 1/4 of our nation's refining capabilities are located in the projected path of Rita.

It is ironic that the state (Texas) and the city (Houston) that extended the warmest and most gracious hospitality to tens of thousands of evacuees from New Orleans may now find themselves in the position of seeking aid, comfort and refuge from others.

If Jesus' Golden Rule has any true reciprocity built into it, then the generosity that Texas has shown to its neighbors ought to be repaid many times over by us all.

One can only pray that God, in his mercy, will see fit to spare these folks and our nation the awful tragedy that now looms so darkly, moving inexorably forward upon the face of the deep.

Perhaps, in our pride and our arrogance, we, as a nation, need to be knocked to our knees at least this one time more before we actually "get it" which I mean that we understand that the technologically sophisticated "Tower of Babel" which we have built in our attempt to be like God is as vulnerable as the Empire's "Death Star" and as fragile as the "Titanic."

America, despite its greatness, is not the measure of the world.

Apart from God himself, the measure of the world for at least the next few days will be a hurricane named Rita.

Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.

Good News Drama As Crippled Airliner Makes Spectacular Landing In Los Angeles

Image hosted by Photobucket.comA JetBlue passenger jet heading from Burbank to New York City suffered a jammed front landing gear immediately after take-off today. After three hours of burning off fuel (both for safety and to lighten the airplane) the pilot made a textbook landing. The nose gear did not straighten out but remained in place even after the tires had disintegrated. Sparks flew and flamed but the plane came to a safe stop and all passengers were removed without incident.

You can watch the video of the landing (and I think you should) by clicking on the (FoxNews) link above and then clicking where it says, "video."

One odd note is that JetBlue carries live television feeds on its on-board screens. The passengers were able to watch the local news coverage of their situation as they circled. I do not yet know if the screens were turned off during the actual landing or not. Given the fact that the oxygen masked dropped down and the passengers were ordered to enter the "braced" position, I should doubt that anyone on that plane was considering the possibility of channel surfing at that moment.

Praise and glory to the pilots on that plane who clearly knew what needed to be done and, more importantly, knew how to do it successfully!

Sad Story--Strange Link

The story is a sad one. But, when I saw the link, my first thought was that it referred to something that could be displayed at Ripley's Believe It or Not!

Rescuers find man with wife's body

Why I Read the News

Image hosted by Photobucket.comI love a good story. I like surprise twists in a plot. I like new and colorful characters. I like not knowing what happens next and then watching things reveal themselves piece by piece like tesserae in an archaeological dig.

Great literature does this very well and, as a creation of the human imagination, it captures the essence of life as we experience it every day, with all of its comedy and tragedy.

But literature is simply a recreation of the real thing, which is the daily reality of the history of our life and of the history of our world being created each day before our eyes.

For many people, the daily drama of their own lives provides more than enough to satisfy their need for excitement. Television shows, movies and books fill in most of the rest.

For myself, the news of the world provides a large-scale drama that far exceeds the finest product of the most creative expression of human imagination.

History, both human and cosmic, fascinates me because it transcends me. It is the context in which I live and move and have my being. Personally, I am little more than a very minor sub-plot in the story line. Sometimes a minor sub-plot, like Rosencranz & Guildenstern in Hamlet, can become somewhat interesting in their own right. But the greater story in which they exist is what ultimately gives them meaning and purpose.

The daily news of my life, on every scale, gives meaning and purpose to my life as well.

Keeping up with the news enlarges my world and, in a mysterious sort of way, enlarges me as a result.

The accuracy of the news that I read or watch each day is also very important, for I want my reality to be grounded in....well....reality!...and reality is nothing less than truth itself. If my understanding of the world around me is based on lies and half-truths then the context of my life and the meaning and purpose I derive from it will be false as well.

Deep down inside of me is a place, or a voice, or a hunger that compels me to believe that the news of the day, even that on a cosmic scale, is still too small to satisfy. There is, there must be a reality, a truth, that transcends time and space and, in its turn, gives meaning and purpose to it all.

This I believe to be a transcendent or super"natural" world....what is often called the "spiritual" world. As a Christian I believe that "God" (who transcends even the "spiritual") has revealed a few key pieces of this otherwise hidden reality to me.

The most important piece of this reality that God has revealed (meaning it came to us, we didn't "figure it out" or "make it up") is the person of Jesus Christ. This is the man who said, "I and the Father are one." "He who has seen me has seen the Father." "I am the way, the truth and the life." "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free." This is the man who died on a cross, but transcended death.

Because I believe and trust in Jesus Christ, I am compelled to believe that God is good, loving, just, merciful and sovereign (meaning having final authority over all things). I believe that I live and move and have my being ultimately in God, and not just in this world.

The meaning and purpose of my life, although obscured by the complexities and confusions of the created world, are revealed, clarified and validated only in a true knowledge of God.

This is why I find the Bible to be so compelling. For the Bible is, indeed, "The Greatest Story Ever Told." It provides the larger context for the news of the day. It provides the larger context for the daily unfolding of my own life. It does, in fact, allow me to "read the signs of the times" in a way that is consistent and well as motivating.

The drama of my personal life is grounded in: 1. Loving God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength; and, 2. Loving my neighbor as myself.

The fact that the world is a place of violent conflict and a place where love of God and love of neighbor is rarely encouraged makes living this sort of life a difficult and challenging one. But I have learned to take the good with the bad. I accept the presence of evil and of good. And I have learned to stand firm on the side of God's goodness, love, mercy, justice and power.

I know my place in the world.

I may not know what will come next in the story, but, because God has given us a "sneak preview," I do know how the story will end: Those who seek to live out God's purpose in their lives in the manner revealed to us by Jesus will, in the end, receive what they seek. On that day I will at last be satisfied.

And that is why I read the news.

Beachcombing Mystery

Image hosted by Photobucket.comWhile collecting puka shells ("puka" is the Hawaiian word for "hole" hence a piece of shell with a natural hole in it used for stringing necklaces, bracelets, etc.) on Sunset Beach (North Shore Oahu) I came across these little pieces of battered aluminum. I have speculated that they are the remains of aluminum cans, beach chair frames, etc. If you have ever found stuff like it please let me know. If you have a theory of your own as to where it comes from, let me know that, too.

In any case, they look almost exactly like gold nuggest....minus the gold!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Simon Wiesenthal--Rest In Peace

For many, he was an avenging angel, relentlessly tracking down Nazis and others who collaborated in attempting to turn the "final solution" into a reality during WW II. For others he was a fraudulent charlatan, forging drawings, concocting "sightings" of Nazi fugitives and claiming credit for successes achieved by others.

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The man was Simon Wiesenthal who died today in Vienna, Austria, at the age of 98.

Far beyond any of his own achievements, Wiesenthal became the international symbol of conscience seeking justice in the wake of the war crimes committed against Jews during the Third Reich.

Besides his renown for tracking down individual Nazi criminals around the world, Wiesenthal's greatest success may have been the massive documentation of Nazi crimes and the men who committed them that he compiled after the War.

Wiesenthal's obituary in today's New York Times is both a cogent and concise compilation of his life, his achievements, his disappointments, his renown and the complexity of his character.

For the Nazi apologists who deny that the holocaust actually took place, Wiesenthal became the symbol of what they considered to be Jewish deception and lies.

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"Simon Weisenthal accuses the 'bad' Nazis" (note swastika in corner)

He was both hated and feared, as well as respected and honored. It is said that he even took a bit of pride in hearing how former Nazi fugitives would threaten one another by saying that they might tip Wiesenthal off as to someone's whereabouts.

To his eternal credit, Weisenthal collected criminal evidence while it still was there to be collected and virtually created an international demand for justice following the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. He was a lone and controversial voice throughout his life. It is beyond any doubt whatsoever that, without the efforts of Simon Weisenthal, a good many men who had collaborated with evil would have lived out their lives in peace when, in fact, they had no right to do so.

The NY Times obituary ends with this wonderful paragraph:
He was often asked why he had become a searcher of Nazi criminals instead of resuming a profitable career in architecture. He gave one questioner this response: "You're a religious man. You believe in God and life after death. I also believe. When we come to the other world and meet the millions of Jews who died in the camps and they ask us, 'What have you done?' there will be many answers. You will say, 'I became a jeweler.' Another will say, 'I smuggled coffee and American cigarettes.' Still another will say, 'I built houses,' but I will say, 'I didn't forget you.' "
I trust that many will join with me is promising that, in a similar way, we will not forget Simon Weisenthal.

Why Idiots Leave So Few Offspring

This photo, courtesy of CNN and taken in the Florida Keys as Hurricane Rita passed by today, tells you everything you need to know.

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Aussie Alchoholic Acronym Angers Aborigines

Can you tell the difference between "ALCO" and "ACLO"? Perhaps you can, but a police vest manufacturer in Australia and the Aboriginal Community Liaison Officers they were made for apparently can't! At least that's the news from "Down Under" via BBC. Read it here and then double-check check what's on that sweat shirt you've been wearing.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Political Cartoon Captures Roberts Hearing Perfectly

I'm not normally a big fan of Honolulu Advertiser's political cartoonist Dick Adair. I have on several occasions threatened to drop my subscription in response to some of his mean and partisan attacks on President Bush and the war in Iraq.

Even so, he is a good cartoonist and, more often than I would like to give him credit for, comes up with a winning visual encapsulation of a news story.

Today was one of his good days. This cartoon captures the essence of the Senate Judicial Committee hearing on his appointment to the US Supreme Court as Chief Justice. As the cartoon shows, the Democrats keep throwing but they rarely, if ever, hit anything.

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Patriotic Iraqi Cow Takes on Al Qaeda Single-Handed

A post by Phil & Becky forwards the story of an Iraqi cow found chewing on PE-4 (plastic explosives) with blasting caps stuck into it.

The speculation on whether the cow was a hero or a co-conspirator proves that there is still a sense of humor among our troops serving over there. Read the story and smile.

ht: Mudville Gazette

Being Thankful Is Good For You--But Who Do You Say "Thanks" to?

The good news, being grateful is good for you.

The bad news, USA Weekend doesn't get it.

Here is the little "blurb" in yesterdays national Sunday paper magazine:
Say Thanks. Research shows that people who remind themselves every day of the things they're grateful for are happier, sleep better and exercise more than those who don't.
What's missing? Who are you supposed to say "Thanks" to?

I would wager that virtually everyone who reminds themselves "every day of the things they're grateful for" say "thank you" to God.

Without someone to say "thanks" to, gratitude simply degenerates into an attitude of "I sure feel lucky!"

USA Weekend reminds me of the old saying by G.K. Chesterton:
The worst moment for the atheist is when he realizes he's thankful and has no one to thank.

Click here if you want to read an old Christian comment on the subject.

NY Times Skewers Media Inaccuracies In Katrina Coverage

Tomorrow's New York Times will carry an article by David Carr entitled, "More Horrible Than Truth: News Reports."

The article concerns the rumors, hearsay and urban legends that grew out of the post-Katrina chaos in New Orleans and found their way, often with "attribution," into radio, television, print and internet media.

The central point of Carr's article is this:
Victims, officials and reporters all took one of the most horrific events in American history and made it worse than it actually was.
Where were all the rapes? None have yet been substantiated (although two attempted rapes have been documented). Where is the 7 year old girl who was raped and had her throat slit? Where are all of the murders in the Convention Center (none) and the Super Dome (one)?

Yes, a police officer was shot. Yes, a National Guard soldier was shot in the leg. Yes, some idiot did take a shot at a rescue helicopter and, yes, police from Gretna, La., did in fact turn back hundreds of fleeing refugees.

The situation was not helped by outbursts such as these from New Orleans Police Chief Eddie Compass and Mayor C. Ray Nagin on the September 6 "Oprah." Compass on the Super Dome: "We had little babies in there, some of the little babies getting raped." Mayor C. Ray Nagin concurred: "They have people standing out there, have been in that frickin' Superdome for five days watching dead bodies, watching hooligans killing people, raping people."

Fox News and MSNBC are also cited for allowing on-site reporters to broadcast unconfirmed reports live on national broadcasts. After one outburst, Fox News' John Gibson was honest enough to concede, "we have yet to confirm a lot of that."

Even bloggers are cited as spreading false reports and giving them legitimacy.

It is hard, however, to find fault with any news source that uses direct quotes from Police Chiefs, Mayors and National Guard troops as story material. If media cannot assume that these folks know what they are talking about, who should they consider to be a reliable source?

In any case, there were, throughout the entire ordeal, places where folks could go to get the unadulterated facts. In the on-line world, bloggers such as Michelle Malkin, Irish Trojan Blog, Right Wing Nut House, etc., provided detailed and breaking news direct from a variety of sources, leaving it up to the discerning reader to determine what was wheat and what was chaff.

Carr's closing words express the feelings of many of us who were both tantalized and frustrated by the media's hyperbole:
Even now, the real, actual events in New Orleans in the past three weeks surpass the imagination. Who needs urban myths when the reality was so brutal?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

North Korea Agrees to Give Up Nuclear Weapons Program

A joint statement from the six-nation multi-national negotiation team has announced an agreement in which North Korea will abandon its nuclear weapons program. In exchange, the United States has promised that it has no nuclear weapons in South Korea and does not intend to invade North Korea. According to the agreement North Korea's energy needs would be suplimented by electrical power from South Korea and further discussions will include the possibility of the procurement of a light-water nuclear reactor.

I am absolutely amazed by this announcement which seems to come almost out of nowhere. The past months have seen virtually no movement and no meetings taking place at all. It is only in the past month that formal contacts had been renewed.

In any case, the agreement is a stunning victory for President Bush, who has consistently stood by his demand for multi-national rather than bi-lateral negotiations as had been demaded by North Korea.

The world is slowly, slowly realizing that George W. Bush is the real deal. What you see is what you get. When he says something, he means it. No double talk. No prevarications. No, "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' means."

When a country, like the United States, can negotiate from a position of strength, it can, and should, set the perameters for the negotiations. President Bush has done this and has done it very effectively.

People have criticized him for being "stubborn" or "inflexible" or even "naive" because of this habit of saying what he means and meaning what he says. Other nations, who are used to saying much without meaning anything at all, or saying one thing while meaning another, have been baffled, bewildered and threatened by Bush's lack of international sophistication in this subject. For them, Bush is completely unintelligible.

Now, however, both the President's domestic international critics will have to take notice and accept the cold reality that George W. Bush does really "carry a big stick" and knows how to use it.

With North Korea out of the nuclear arms race, the eyes of the world will no focus even more on the brazen and undisguised efforts of Iran to develope its own nuclear weapons program.

Until now, the possibility of strangling that program short of a military attack seemed highly doubtful. But the position on the field has changed dramatically today and Iran is in a much weaker position that it was before. Bush's success with North Korea, and his success in working with six nations to close the deal will most certainly put pressure on Iran's European "allies" to rethink the appeasement strategy.

I have no doubt that soon, the United Nations will be confronted by a formal proposal to impose international economic and diplomatic sanctions on Iran. It is unlikely that, even if such a proposal should be passed, that Iran would call it quits. Unless there are some impressive diplomatic moves by other Muslim nations to "persuade" Iran to change its mind, I fear that the military option will loom larger in the coming months.

Iran will become increasingly isolated during this period and, with its back against the wall, will have to decide whether, in the long term, the possibility of possessing nuclear weapons outweighs the possibility of the total breakdown of its political structure as a result of a strangled economy.

These are dangerous times. But, by God's grace, less so today than yesterday.

ht: Captain Ed

Qur'an--Sura 42:25 & 40 vs. Ayatollah Khomeini

Ayatollah Khomeini:
Even if Salmon Rushdie repents and becomes the most pious man of all time, it is incumbant upon every Muslim to employ everything he has, his life and his wealth, to send him to hell.
Qur'an--Sura 42:25 & 40

And He (Allah) it is Who accepts repentance from His servants and pardons the evil deeds and He knows what you do

He who forgiveth, and is reconciled unto his enemy, shall receive his
reward from God; for he loveth not the unjust doers.

Hmmm..... Maybe I took something out of context here......

Joke of the Day

Following worship and Sunday School today, Charlie told me this.....As the pastor began her sermon, she looked out at the congregation and asked, "Why are we here today?" Getting no answer she asked again, "Why are we here today?" A woman in the back stood up and said, "Because we aren't all there?"

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The "Other" Israeli Security Wall at Rafah, Gaza

As I posted yesterday, Hamas has breached the wall between Gaza and Egypt, allowing a massive surge of Palestinians to cross back and forth along the border area near the town of Rafah.

This wall has an interesting history.

Israel began building it in 2002 to prevent exactly the sort of thing that happened this week....the cross-border transfer of weapons and munitions.

In 2003, supposedly to increase security and establish a clear line of sight, Israel began demolishing over 940 homes (leaving an estimated 13,000 Palestinians homeless) in order to widen the open area between the border and the homes. It was during this demolition that the American activist Rachel Corrie was killed when she laid down in front of bulldozer and was crushed.

The map (seen below) shows the extant of the wall and its proposed expansion. Note that the border between Egypt and Gaza is only 7 miles in length.

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Click to enlarge

The irony of the wall is that, although it was built by Israel and has been christened "The Apartheid Wall" by pro-Palestinian supporters, now that Israel has left Gaza, both Egypt and the Palestinian Authority are trying to preserve it!

Hamas, of course, and al-Qaeda, al Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, etc, would like to see it torn down but, the wall that once provided security for Israel is now viewed by President Abbas as a useful control for keeping the integrity of the border intact.

Is it possible that, someday, the "other" security wall that Israel is building along the West Bank border will be viewed by a Palestinian Authority as something worth preserving as well?

For all the international huffing and puffing and indignation over the building of the Gaza wall it seems that, when it comes right down to it, if Israel had not built it, the Palestinian Authority might eventually have been forced to build it itself!

What follows are a few photos of the Gaza/Egypt/Rafah Wall (which is made of steel) and the cement/chain-link wall being built along the West Bank/Israel border.

The West Bank Wall

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Sniper tower
The Gaza/Egyptian Wall at Rafah
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Part of the cleared "security zone" at Rafah

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An Israeli tank takes a peek with the Gaza Wall behind it

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Palestinians pass through a breach in the wall last week

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Egyptian troops reinforcing the wall
It's been said that "good fences make good neighbors." One can only hope that, in this case at least, it might be true.

A Donation to the Blood Bank of Hawaii

Today I donated blood. I do this every so often....not as often as I used to....but once or twice or sometimes three times each year. My blood type is 0+.

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Lots of aloha from the Blood Bank staff

I made my donation at the roving Blood-Mobile that was visiting here in Mililani today.

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Just a little finger poke

After signing in and filling out all the forms I was ushered into a little room, asked some more questions and then checked to see how my hemoglobin (Iron) was doing. This meant a little finger poke and taking a drop of blood. This is then dropped into a liquid solution. If the blood clots and drops to the bottom your hemoglobin is sufficient and safe to donate. If it does not (and this happened to me once) then you are asked to go home for 4-8 weeks and increase your iron intake before coming back.

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All sterile and ready to go

Next, you get to lie down on a comfy couch where they prep your arm with an antiseptic solution (this is washed off later, before you leave).

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A bull's eye!

Then comes the needle poke. My nurse did a grand job. It slipped in painlessly, right in the vein the first try.

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Love and life to share

The blood then moves down a plastic tube into a plastic bag. This takes 5 to 15 minutes depending on how fast your blood flows! I was one of the faster ones today, draining out my pint in 5 minutes.

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Yep, it looks red to me!

After the bag is filled, a (in my case) five small test tubes are filled up with blood for testing. They check for SARS, AIDS, Syphillus and many other blood-transmitible organisms and conditions. By the time your blood is used to help someone else, it has been rigorously tested and declared to be very, very safe.

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What I have, I give to you

After this, they make you stay put for a short while, reclining on the "couch" and drinking water or juice to re-hydrate.

When it's time to leave you are offered a snack/treat (I took a couple of cookies) and another drink.

Two months later, you can come back and do it again!

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You can read more about the Blood Bank of Hawaii at its web page

If you have never given blood before, do so. I have never had any after-effects and you probably won't either!

If you have not donated blood in a long time, set up an appointment with your local blood bank.

Someone you may or may not know will be very glad you did.
HT to the Blood-Mobile staff and for their cooperation in granting me permission to take the photos today.

Hurricane Season in Hawaii

The Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico have captured all the hurricane coverage this year and for good reason. But don't forget Hawaii! We are in a hurricane zone, too.

At the moment there are two hurricanes (Jova & Kenneth) and a tropical depression (Lidia) headed in our direction from the east.

In five or six days there is an 8% chance that Jova could come within 250 miles of Honolulu. At this point there is even less chance of being threatened by Kenneth or Lyda.

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Hurricane Jova On the Move

But....the Civil Defense is already setting up information tables at WalMarts etc. to make sure the people know what is happening and what to do to prepare for a disaster (whether natural or un-natural!).

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Hawaii really does have its act together (in contrast to Louisiana/New Orleans where we now discover there are 4 Louisiana Homeland Security officials under indictment .... LA Times story here... for the disappearance of over $60 million in disaster preparation funds, etc....and the indictments were handed down before hurricane Katrina!).

We will be sharing some information with the congregation during worship on Sunday, including handing out a brochure called "Emergency Checklist" distributed by Civil Defense with the cooperation of FEMA and the State of Hawaii. (Just a thought, why have we heard nothing of the Civil Defense presence in Louisiana/New Orleans?). We will also distribute a list of designated hurricane shelters on Oahu.

Thanks to my good friend and church Elder John, I have the entire 10+ page document for Hawaii Civil Defense re Hurricanes, etc. available for you to see here.

Also from John, here is a list of on-line sites the specialize in hurrican/storm/weather related matters:

We have not had a hurricane hit the islands since Hurricane Ikiki hit on September 11, 1992. Kauai was hit straight on with major damage sustained. Ten years later there is still plenty of evidence of damage from that storm. If one should hit Honolulu and Oahu, the entire economy of the state could easily shut down. Fortunately, we are not below sea level like New Orleans!

May God have mercy on us all.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Judge Roberts Out of the Frying Pan

Image hosted by Photobucket.comUS Supreme Court Chief Justice nominee John Roberts completed his pre-confirmation Senate Judiciary Committee grilling today.

To no one's surprise, Judge Roberts did not choke, faint, scream, swear, vow to overturn Roe v. Wade, kick a dog or strangle a single Senator.

In short, Committee Democrats were reduced to misrepresenting Major League Baseball's strike zone, croaking over "hapless toads," mispronouncing the word "Viejo" as "Viheo" and finding 1001 ways to slip the word "amigos" into a sentence.

For their part, on the other side of the aisle, Republican Senators and conservative pundits spent today biting their tongues and striving mightily to avoid using the phrase "slam dunk" in any of their public comments and interview statements.

By all accounts, including those printed in the New York Times and the Washington Post, Judge Roberts did done real good and is almost certain to be a "shoe in" when the entire Senate votes on his confirmation next week.

President Bush's next nominee, the one who will replace Sandra Day O'Conner on the High Court, will probably not have the luxury of sitting in the frying pan as Roberts did this past week.

It is absolutely, incontrovertibly, without any doubt whatsoever certain, that Democrats will throw the next nominee directly into the fire.

Then again, I could be wrong,

Niger's Prime Minister Tells the World: "Stop Sending Food To Niger"

Image hosted by Photobucket.comNiger is the poorest country in the world. According to the aid group MSF, however, over 1 million people have not received any food at all in the past six weeks.

But Niger's Prime Minister, Hama Amadou, knows that national pride is far more important to preserve than a million people or so. Accordingly, he has called for an end to the large-scale food distribution program initiated by the United Nations and other relief agencies.

A large part of the country has already harvested its crops and is already eating them, he said....Between now and the end of September the harvest will be completed. We're happy that these crops are of good quality and that the people of Niger will no longer need any food aid.
He lashed out at donor nations that had exploited the situation to make great promises of aid but had, in reality, done little and sent nothing.
Our dignity suffered. And we've seen how people exploit images to pledge aid that never arrives to those who really need it.
At least 40 people a day were dying of hunger and related diseases in just one surveyed area alone.

No doubt those dying folks are feeling much better now, knowing that their country is suddenly (& miraculously) self-sustaining, that large harvests will eliminate their hunger and that the pride and honor of their nation has been restored.

No doubt they will also return to playing polo, lounging by the pool and debating the relative merits of beluga caviar as opposed to those inferior imitations. Bon appetite!

Odd thought: I wonder what Prime Minister Amadou is having for dinner tonight?

Quote Of the Day: Hugo Chavez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been telling everyone he can grab by the lapels at the UN, that the United States is planning a military invasion of his country. He says that he has the maps, etc. to prove it, too.

In a demonsration of either his lack of wit or his lack of touch with reality, Chavez offered this bon mot:
In the event of a U.S. invasion, Chavez said the United States can "just forget" about receiving any more oil from his country.
I don't know about you, but I, for one, will find it difficult to sleep tonight with that threat hanging over my head.

PS: Memo to Hugo: If the United States invades Venezuela, we will control the oil...and you won't.

Hamas Blows Up Section of Gaza-Egypt Border Wall

Image hosted by Photobucket.comHamas members cleared an area along the Gaza-Egypt border Wednesday and blew a massive hole through the wall.

According to BBC, thousands of Palestinians swarmed through the breech into Egypt. Some sought to visit relatives, others to buy food and other items.

While Egypt condemned the action it did nothing to prevent it.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas declared yesterday that the Palestinian Authority had regained control over the border.

The downside of all this was brought to light on the Hugh Hewitt show today when Hugh, curious about this incident, called up his (very Conservative) American-Israeli friend, Yoni Tidi, for some insight.

Yoni claims that Hamas and al Qaeda operatives had breeched the wall to facilitate the movement of arms and explosives into Gaza from Egypt.

According to Yoni, the cost of an AK-47 rifle had dropped more than 50% in the past two days and the price of ammunition had dropped even more than that. This, he said, was clear evidence that there had been a significant influx of weapons.

I suspect that Yoni is unfortunately correct in his assessment of the motives of Hamas in this matter. I also strongly suspect that neither Abbas nor Egypt are really telling the truth when they say that they have regained control of the border.

It is in both of their interests to keep Israel distracted and destablized.

If I were a resident of Gaza I think that before too long, I would be looking back at the years of Israeli occupation and remembering them as the "good old days."

A Palestinian Needs a Bulldozer

Yesterday somewhere I read about a Palestinian man who returned to his olive orchard in Gaza after the Israeli pullout only to find that all of his trees had been knocked over and buried. He was trying to find a bulldozer so he could dig up and remove the buried trees.

This is ironic insofar as the Presbyterian Church USA (of which I am a member) is proposing to divest itself of its holdings in Caterpillar because Israel uses Caterpillar bulldozers to knock down the homes of suicide bombers and to build their "security wall."

But doesn't the attempt to hurt Caterpillar's finances affect its ability to market its product to places like "Palestine" as well as Israel? If the cost of a Caterpillar tractor or bulldozer goes up, who will it hurt more? An Israeli? or a Palestinian?

The whole point of this "divestment" concept escapes me entirely.

Then again, foolishness needs no justification.

Joke Of the Day

My wonderful wife just walked in and shared a question she had just heard on "Regis & Kelly."
If a man speaks out loud in a forest and there is no one to hear him is he still wrong?
Kelly's answer was, "Yes, of course."

My Wonderful Wife says that it was the correct answer.

What can I say?

The Readers' Digest 1-Minute Condensed Version of Senator Joe Biden's Stammering

My post title is intentionally long to make up for the interminable brevity (one minute) of Radioblogger's latest tour de force. He has strung together little clips of Senator Joe Biden's stammering during the Judge Roberts confirmation hearing this past week. If you missed the world premier of this little gem on the Hugh Hewitt show yesterday you can listen to it by clicking here.

I must confess that it makes the senior (Democratic) Senator from the state of Delaware sound like a complete idiot. That was, of course, the whole point. But the flip side of the story is that it could be done to anyone.

Back in my high school Speech & Debate class we all held a coin in our hands whenever someone would make a class presentation. If we said, "uh" or "um" or "you know" or stammered everyone would start tapping the coins on the desk. People are genuinely surprised when the coins started clicking. Why? Because we honestly do not realize our poor speech habits unless someone else points them out to us.

I learned a great deal from that class. Apparently Joe Biden never had the opportunity to take one like it.

C-Span would be far more interesting and our Congressional orations would certainly be far more interesting if we could issue coins to everyone sitting in the Capitol's public galleries (including public seating in the hearing rooms) and let them start clicking.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Sea Lions Sink 37-Foot Sailboat

Image hosted by Photobucket.comMove over Moby Dick. It's not enough now to simply ram the Pequod with your forehead. California Sea Lions have found a new way to sink a boat.

This past week, 18 Sea Lions climbed onto a 37-foot sailboat in a Newport Beach marina in Southern California. Their combined weight effectively scuttled the sailboat, sending her to the bottom faster than you can say "Capt'n Ahab."

According to the LA Times, boaters are being deafened by the barking of hundreds of swarming Sea Lions, people are being attacked, ocean fisheries are being depleted by their voracious appetites and, most frustrating of all, they have decided that they prefer to sun themselves on peoples boats.

Many inspired attempts have been made to defeat this mammalian invasion from the sea, including fiberglass whales, rubber bullets, plastic chairs tied to the side of boats. Some have even given up and resorted to sleeping pills.

The most effective repellent discovered so far is......the squirt gun, or simply splashing water on the Sea Lion's faces.
"These animals hate to get wet," said marine mammal biologist Monica DeAngelis of the National Marine Fisheries Service. "It's kind of funny."

Several years ago in Monterey, 1,500 sea lions attacked the coast, damaging or sinking over 40 boats and leaving a stench of poop on the deck, so to speak. Not to mention, apparently, a peculiar propensity to vomit.

A 24-7 coast patrol equipped with....yep....squirt guns, finally convinced the sea lions to look elsewhere for fun and entertainment to wile away those leisure hours.

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According to maritime estimates, there are now over 400,000 sea lions along the California coast with an additional 100,000-200,000 more in reserve, hiding off the coast of Baja California.

If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today I have no doubt that he would happily turn this entire matter into a lucrative summer movie blockbuster.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

My Trip to LA

I just returned from a three-day trip to Los Angeles. The main reason for the visit was to attend a meeting of the Presbytery of the Pacific, of which I am a member.

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The Sofa

Before the meeting I spent some time with Daughter #1 who moved to LA to pursue graduate studies in August. To her amusement I slept on the new sofa she purchased for her apartment. I remember sleeping on my future wife's sofa when I would visit her at her mother's apartment years ago. I remember Daughter #1 sleeping on our sofa when she has visited us from her own apartment from time to time over the past two years. Now it was my turn to sleep on her sofa! Just knowing that it was my own daughter's sofa turned it into the most comfortable and satisfying "bed" that I have slept in for a long time!

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Presbytery met at Immanuel Presbyterian Church near downtown LA. It is a gothic marvel....nearly sublime in its exhuberant excess....what some architectural history writers often refer to as a "gothic pile."

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Even so, it has been magnificently maintained and proved to be an inspiring venue for our presytery business on Tuesday night.

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Wednesday I spent at the Presbytery's annual Pastor's retreat, held (of course) at a Roman Catholic inter-faith retreat center (Mary & Joseph Retreat Center).

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The site offers a spectacular view of the city of Los Angeles from the top of Rolling Hills as it blurs into Rancho Palos Verdes above Torrance. The day was billed as a "spiritual retreat" and there was time set aside for personal reflection and meditation. A lovely, landscaped garden area enhanced this aspect of the retreat.

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I connected with some new friends and collegues in ministry and strengthened the ties that have bound me with friends that I have known since my seminary days back in the late 1970s.

All in all it was a good trip. I moved from family (Daughter #1) to family (Presbyery) without missing a beat. "We are all one in Christ Jesus."

As a bonus I enjoyed the pleasure of interesting airplane companions including the Principal of Waianae Elementary School and a rock musician (born the same year as me) from Palm Springs now living in Lahaina!

I also came home with some good ideas stolen from West Hollywood Presbyterian Church and a fresh look at some very familiar and meaningful passages of scripture.

There are good people in LA and I was privileged to have spent several days with some of them.

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View of LA at night (click to enlarge)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

9/11 Four Years Ago Today--Lest We Forget

I Remember....

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....the shock....

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....the fear....

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(Click to enlarge)
....the horror....

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....the anger....

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....the defiance....

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....and the hope....

I will not forget...