Takin' It Out For a Spin

Hey, here's a new post written on my old blog on a new computer. How's that?!

The kids (our daughter and son-in-law) surprised us with a new machine this Christmas. Our old one was very cranky, showing signs of dementia and a bad back. It had eaten a floppy drive about three years ago and had never given it back. Son-in-law found some super-duper deal on the new one and they got it.

We are very grateful and very unfamiliar with this new machine's personality, but we'll manage and, I expect, we'll become fast friends before long.


It's A Long Way To Chillicothe

I almost had the car door closed when I heard him call. I turned and he walked over.

"My name's John Phillips and I'm from Chillicothe and I'll be honest - my problem's money," is the way he began. He went on to tell me that he had tried one gas station and then another to see if any of them could help him, but no! None of the for profit establishments would give away gas! The nerve! He went on to ask if, by chance, I could help him out.

At first, I did not want to help this guy. With every fiber of my being I wanted to say no and I have a decent reason for denying him. But another voice in my head said something like, "Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you." (Matt 5:42, ESV)

And as it turns out, I had cash. I don't usually. But I gave him some money and watched him go. And I prayed.

Because I had a reason for telling him no.

You see, some time in the last few months, maybe six months ago, on the Walmart parking lot, John Phillips of Chillicothe called out to me and came over to say that, being honest, his problem was money. And that he had been to one gas station and another and they would not give him any gas. And then he asked for money. That time I said no because I did not have cash.

I'll be honest, my problem is this: When is John Phillips from Chillicothe going to get it figured out how much gas it takes to get to Springfield and back?


Day of Giving Thanks, Especially

I don't usually reprint others words in their entirety but I make an exception today. Here, lifted from the Washington Times, is George Washington's Thanksgiving proclamation from 1789.

Would that God grant the United States leaders with this kind of leadership more often.

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor - and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me "to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be - That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks - for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation - for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war - for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed - for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions - to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually - to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed - to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord - To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us - and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.


Spencer Tracy's Bad Day

A couple decades or so ago, my dad was talking to me about a Spencer Tracy movie called "Bad Day at Black Rock." I had never heard of this movie and I guess my expression told as much. He was surprised. "You've never seen 'Bad Day at Black Rock?'" he asked. I told him no. He assured me that I should see it and I think my folks had a copy which I borrowed.

I remember watching it twice, I think, and I liked it pretty well. It's not Top 50 material in all likelihood, but it's pretty good. A synopsis might go like this: a forgotten little town that hates outsiders and where something bad happened is confronted by an outsider asking about the bad thing that happened. The town 'boss' and his henchmen finally decide to deal with the outsider.

Tonight I watched it on my computer. The lovely bride and I have a Netflix account now. We signed up for the minimum plan of two DVD's per month. But the plan also allows you to watch two on your computer each month. So, with my bride at a conference, I picked a movie she wouldn't be interested in and watched it on the computer.

I really enjoyed Spencer Tracy in this role - he's the outsider and the good guy - and I liked the way it looked. There are some very pleasing and creative scenes in the movie.

Don't get in a big hurry, but if you are in the mood for "good guy saves the town from the bad guys" kind of movie, "Bad Day at Black Rock" might just be the ticket.

And my dad liked it a lot.


Burst of Blogging

Life is ebbs and flows so it's not surprising that blogging is a reflection of that. Right now I'm having an ebb or a flow. I don't know which.

Blogging isn't my job, but it is an avocation. In other words, I like it. It's just that sometimes other things I like preempts the blog.

It's not business, it's personal.

The Yankee Fan

My friend Gary is a Yankee fan. It's OK. In a country of 300 million people, a few are bound to be, well, special.

He wrote an email the other day wondering where all the comments were about the recent acorn-finding the Yanks had accomplished. We didn't see it for a day or two, but now that I know he's looking for a response, I'll oblige.

He wrote his email on the morning after the Phillies were done laying down. He says, "My office has several new bits of decor today -- all tagged with the infamous "NY". I also wore a "special" hat, a "special"shirt, and dug out my signed Matsui Yankee's bear -- in proper uniform, of course." According to some reports, Matsui will not be re-signed by the Yankees and will become a free agent. I hope Gary can find a little Red Sox uniform for his Matsui bear.

He says: "Hope your day is going as well as mine (snicker)." See, this is how Gary is. He wins. He laughs, points at the score, points at you. He wonders why everyone is slow to respond.

He notes the Congratulations have been slow in coming. "I can't even get people to answer their phones. They know it's me; they have caller I.D. Of course, I'm more than willing to leave a message, which I did in every case. I'm still waiting for return calls." See. See how he is?

He continues, "Did I mention that "27" is a good (make that great) number! What a TEAM! Okay, there I said it." Yes, yes you did.

And actually, Gary, I don't blame you for saying it. The Yankees are pretty good. I thought it would be a close Series that New York would win. I thought it would go 7, but 6 is close enough. Twenty-seven Championships is impressive. If my calculations are correct, there have been 87 championship seasons since 1923 when the Yankees won their first title. That means, having now won 27, New York accounts for about 31 percent of all the World Series titles won since. Every other team is in the Yankees' shadow.

So congrats, Gary! And it was a nice touch, too, that New York won in the first season of the new stadium.


Vacation Recap, Part 6

I almost forgot my ID and password to log on to Blogger so I could write this post. Yeah, it's been a while. I don't know that I am any busier than I was, but it seems like I am.

So, where was I? I seem to recall visiting the Field of Dreams movie site and then it was on to Minneapolis. By the way, the meal of the trip was consumed in Dyersville, Iowa, the town near Field of Dreams. A place called Country Junction. Kathy and I ordered Peppery Parmesan Chicken and we split it. It was the only time on the trip I regretted splitting a plate. Boy, was it good! A breaded and fried chicken breast topped with Swiss cheese and Parmesan dressing. I'd like to have one right now. The fries were great, too. Stop and eat here if you are ever in Dyersville.

The trip to Minneapolis was uneventful. And long. Cornfields the whole way, with gigantic windmills appearing for about an hour or so during one stretch. Did I mention that it was long? Well, it was. It was all afternoon and into early evening getting to Minneapolis . . .

. . . where we hit traffic backed up on I-35. They had one lane closed which caused the huge jam up. You never know which lane is the closed one until you get near and then you have to rely on the kindness of strangers to get in line. We found a kind stranger who let us in. And we crept up the highway until we passed the clot in the road and could then resume speed.

Kathy had driven most of the way after lunch because, as was habit by now, my leg was stiff and swollen and I was running a little temp. To quote Calvin, "Boy, am I mysterious!" (not the theologian, the cartoon)

We got to the room and I got on the bed to prop my leg up. Kathy retrieved some supper and after we ate, she decided to ride the hotel shuttle to Mall of America. This was part of our plan, though we are not really interested in malls. But everybody said, when we mentioned where we were going, "You've got to see Mall of America!" We didn't really want to spend vacation time at a mall, but we thought Friday night, with nothing else really open to see, would be the time to go for a peek. Obviously, I wasn't in any condition to go, but Kathy did. When she returned she reported that it was a big mall.

Still to come - a Catholic wedding and a presidential visit.

(End part 6)


Vacation Recap, Part 5

Wow! Five parts and I haven't even got to the good stuff yet! Surely, though, you can see the wisdom in breaking this up into more than five parts - who would want to read the whole thing at once?

Who would want to write all that at once?

Anyway, we woke up Friday morning in Homestead, Iowa, one of the Amana Colonies. It's a very interesting place and if you like crafts, homemade food and gift shops, it's a delight. We didn't spend much time there because of our itinerary, but it would be fun to go back. We did look at a mill that had opened before we left and saw lots of beautiful woolen goods as well as items from all kinds of fabric. We had to be on our way, though, because it was Field of Dreams day!

Dyersville, Iowa was where we were headed to so we could see the site of that famous film. After that, it would be on to Minneapolis, hopefully arriving in the early evening. In other words, a full day lay ahead and that's why we couldn't linger in the Amana Colonies for the shops to open.

The leg was pretty good when I got up and I was hopeful that recovery was well underway. However, after a few hours in the car it became clear it was getting stiff again. Even though I was getting around, I was hobbling, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't tempted to be discouraged again.

Still, we were on vacation, seeing some neat stuff and headed for a nice weekend capped off by church in a good place. What could go wrong?

Some pictures -

Driving east from Dyersville on Lansing Road brings you to a little rise and as you proceed down the other side, the view opens on your left - the Field of Dreams.

Here's one of my favorite pictures of my lovely date -

Here, emerging from the corn, is my heaven-sent bride -

"Uh, thanks, I don't think I can."

You know what I'm thinking here, don't you? Sure you do - I'm thinking this -

(End Part 5)


Is That For Here?

A previous job took me to Kingston, Jamaica a few years ago and while you could certainly find the quick service restaurants that are so prevalent here, i.e. McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, there were those of local flavor. My favorite I can't remember the name of, but it's where one could find a 'patty'. A patty is like a turnover with shredded, spiced meat inside. Delicious and very reasonably priced. I assumed these were purchased in much the same fashion as we shop the dollar menu - satisfying and inexpensive. In any case, all over the island, when you finished your order they would ask, "Is that for here, or take away?" Sometimes I said, "Take away."

Well, here's a food-related question for Central Standard readers: Ritz or Town House? And why? Tell us in Comments.

Also, for my bacon-loving friend, this sizzling report from Shepard Smith and Fox News. Click the link - it's unbelievable.


Vacation Recap, Part 4

Why, you may be wondering, would the first stop be Fulton, Mo.? Simple really. My wife has family there she hadn't seen in well over 25 years. But, now that I think about it, more explanation is in order. Let me back up a little.

The end point of our trip was Minneapolis, Minn. because we wanted to hear John Piper preach in his pulpit to his people. If you've read my blog much at all you know that Piper has ministered to us a great deal through his books, sermons and web site, desiringgod.org. We had vacation and going there was one thing we wanted to do. But how do you get there? Well, the direct route from Springfield is up to KC, catch I-35, and ride it on in to Minneapolis.

But we also had in mind that it wasn't necessary to take the direct route. If there was something interesting to see, we could stop and see. So we began to look for other sites between here and Minneapolis to enjoy. As it so happens, one of my co-workers is from Iowa and so I asked him if there was anything to see there. One thing he mentioned was the Field of Dreams movie site in Dyersville, Iowa. It's the farm where most of the action takes place, where the baseball diamond was built in the cornfield. It's still there and is open to the public. This, as you can imagine rose quickly to the top of my list. Also we heard about the Amana Colonies in Iowa. It's a cluster of small communities chock full of craft stores, gift shops and bed and breakfasts.

As we began to consider these places to visit, it was clear that heading northeast, instead of north and slightly west to KC, would be the way to go. It meant heading toward Jeff City and Fulton and on into Hannibal would be the way to catch the sites in Iowa we wanted to see. So Kathy contacted her cousin to see about a visit, which was arranged and we reserved a room in one of the Amana colonies for Thursday night and that was the plan.

As promised, pictures:

Westminster College in Fulton, the site of Winston Churchill's famous Berlin Wall speech.

A portion of the Berlin Wall now sits near the statue and the chapel.

Some ancestor(s) of Kathy's was/were involved in establishing the first Baptist church west of the Mississippi not located in St. Louis. Here is evidence of refurbishing of that building in Fulton.

We had never seen Hannibal so we wanted to stop and take a look. Here is a touristy shot of yours truly in front of Mark Twain's boyhood home and Tom Sawyer's famous fence.

After Hannibal, on to Iowa, a stay at a bed and breakfast and rest for my weary leg, completing the first day on the road.

(End Part 4)

Class and Sportsmanship

What would cause a high school football player with breakaway speed to pull up five yards short of a touchdown and take a knee after he'd outrun all the opposition? The answer has to do with sportsmanship and class in response to heart-breaking tragedy. You may have seen this story on your local news, but it's worth telling, or re-telling, as the case may be. Read about it here.


Vacation Recap, Part 3

See what happens when you don't gulp down your sausage biscuit? You go to the doctor!

We were able to get worked in, so we went on over. I told him about my hurt leg and the swelling and the fever and the lack of sleep and food. He asked about pain and I told him I didn't have any except soreness, like a cramp that happened the night before. After the exam, he surmised I injured myself somehow and that the fever was some viral thing that would work itself out.

So, I asked the $64,000 question - Could we go on the trip? He said we could, but that I should get out of the car every two hours and walk around because with my injury combined with a long car ride, I would be a risk of developing a blood clot in my leg, which wouldn't be good. But getting out the car every so often would be easy, so the trip was on!

As it was, I was feeling much better anyway. I think the juice Kathy brought me helped to perk me up and combined with the relief from seeing the doctor, I think we were pretty pumped to be on our way.

Next stop, Fulton, Mo!

Not counting all the in between stops, of course.

Pictures in Part 4!

(End Part 3)


Vacation Recap, Part 2

My complaint about the unfairness of my hurt leg occurring during vacation wasn't a prayer, at least, not in my mind. Yet almost immediately came an 'answer'.

What I understood was simple truth that I have known for a long while. My Heavenly Father knew all about my hurt leg - He wasn't surprised by it at all. It wasn't a matter of 'fairness' or my vacation. It was what my Father had allowed, therefore given, for this day and the heart of His child should accept rather than kick. So very soon my heart settled and gave up it's pity party and instead began to think more about depending on my Father Who knew all about my situation.

I rested the rest of Tuesday and Wednesday morning had another visit with the chiropractor. The leg seemed to be responding and I was grateful. That evening we had dessert with some friends at their house and then returned home. I felt a bit feverish that evening, but didn't think too much of it. I had been having some congestion and wrote it off as some allergy thing. We went to bed that night anticipating leaving for our trip on Thursday morning.

At about 2:30 or so that morning, I awoke. And I was awake. Now this is very frustrating because we were going to leave on a long car ride in just a few hours - I've got to get some sleep! I got out of bed and went to lay on the couch. I looked at TV and I tried to read, but sleep wouldn't come. Soon, my fever returned. Now I was starting to worry because I thought our trip might be in jeopardy and I didn't want that.

Between 2:30 and 6 am I may have dozed a total of half an hour. Kathy was up and I told her about it. She asked me if I was OK to drive and I said I was, I was wide awake. So we began prepping for our day. After I showered and shaved though, I was feeling a bit wobbly. As much as I didn't want to, I told Kathy about it. As we thought, we realized I hadn't eaten anything of substance since about 4:30 the day before and then we had the dessert. She said, "How about a sausage biscuit?" I agreed to that and she left to get breakfast while I rested.

When she got back, I was less than ravenous in going after the sausage biscuit, which is a very delicious item to my way of thinking. Kathy saw that and said, "I'm calling the doctor."

(End Part 2)

Resisting the Gray Twilight

One of my favorite blogs, What's Best Next, had this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

"Far better to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows not victory, not defeat."

I find myself in the "gray twilight" far more than I like.


Vacation Recap, Part 1

Earlier this month, my lovely bride and I took some vacation time and here, as promised, begins the terribly interesting recap. We had taken the 5 work days after Labor Day as vacation so, counting the weekends, we had 10 days off. The plan was to get some things done around the house and then take a four-day excursion north to see family, some attractions and end up in Minneapolis to attend Sunday morning services at John Piper's church before heading home.

On Labor Day I got up and puttered around the house a bit. A bit later, after my bride awoke and we discussed the day, I went for a walk. Before I was to the end of the street, I felt some kind of cramp or charleyhorse all down the back of my leg. It seemed to settle in my calf, which really tightened up. It was difficult to walk, but I tried to gut it out, hoping my leg would loosen up.

It didn't and I hobbled home. Back at the house, I told Kathy about it and it was clear that my calf was swelling. I must have hurt my leg some how, but I couldn't figure what I did to it. I tried to do some work out in the driveway, but both the project and my leg frustrated me. I got on the couch and put my leg up and that was some relief.

We ran some errands later, including getting a free chicken sandwich at Chik-Fil-A, but my leg was such a bother. After we got home we decided to check and see if we could get into our chiropractor on Tuesday morning. So, not much of our plans worked out on Monday and I was hoping that the chiropractor could help.

Tuesday morning I went to the doctor and received some treatment and I felt some better. It felt like we were on track and I would soon be over this ailment. But later that afternoon, as I lay in the bed resting, I was tempted to have a pity party and ask, "Why? Why did this have to happen? It's not fair! I'm supposed to be on vacation."

(End Part 1)


Obama At Work, Plus Global Warming

Barack Obama, Sophomore. Paul Mirengoff of Powerline explains.

The dog ate all the global warming homework.

Cash for Clunkers, Tyrant Version.

Benjamin Netanyahu for President. Now, please.

Let The Chips Fall

I stood in front of a vending machine at the office today and, perusing the small number of choices, focused my attention on a particular bag of chips and asked myself, "How bad could those be?"

This is probably a pathetic approach to snacking.


Oh, And Have I Mentioned the Cardinals?

The answer is, "No." I have been remiss in touting the accomplishments of my rooting interest in baseball, but they are knocking on the door of another Central Division title and appearance in the postseason. As I write, the magic number for clinching is 4 after the 'Birds polished off a second consecutive walk-off win against the Team That Shall Not Be Named.

St. Louis' fortunes have turned dramatically this year. Here's what I noted, but didn't print, in an email to myself on June 9:

Cards have been hanging on with no visible reason for having done so-
The hot start is probably why, but reality has set in-
No offense around Pujols-
No shut down bull pen-
Swept by the Rockies and have now fallen behind the Team That Shall Not Be Named in the loss column-
Barring some dramatic change, the Cards ’09 season is listing to port-

Well, as we know, the dramatic changes occurred and it's been Katie-bar-the-door since. The Cards acquired Mark De LaRosa, Julio Lugo, Matt Holliday and John Smoltz within a matter of weeks and haven't looked back. To illustrate, St. Louis is 35-16 since acquiring Holliday and that team in Chicago couldn't keep up. Aside from the roster changes, Ryan Franklin established himself as a closer, the other relievers settled in and the starters have been, overall, very good. When the Cards are humming on all cylinders, they are tough to beat.

Playoffs here we come!


Vacation Recap Coming

Well I have certainly been out of pocket of late. Events, planned and otherwise, conspired to thwart my good blogging intentions.

My bride and I had made our plans for our vacation, work around the house, a weekend trip and just general kicked-backedness. And, for the most part, it went just as we intended.

Except for the part that didn't.

Over the next few days, we'll have a recap of all that and, maybe, a lesson out of it. Should be fun.


Customer Service The Right Way

I have been going to write about customer service for a long time now. Typically what drives me to do so (almost!) is a bad experience, or service that says to me, the customer, something like "Can't you see we're busy, go away! No, I can't help you, even though it's perfectly obvious that I can and should! I won't! Go away!"

Somehow and somewhere along the way the notion of providing customers with the service they expect in an efficient, courteous manner got jettisoned. Many times these days, if you ask for a little service, a little this or another that, the employee will look at you like you just hit his truck.

Not so at Culver's in Springfield on Wednesday evening! I had gone to pick up my bride from work and we were headed to church. Typically that means we grab something quick to eat on the way. Culver's is on the same street as her office so I stopped for a Pot Roast Sandwich Value Basket and the roast was delicious, I might add, and I headed to her office.

I got there, parked in front to observe her emergence from the building. While waiting I reached for some fries and WHAT! NO FRIES! They forgot the fries! C'mon! It's a Value Basket! Sandwich! Fries! Drink! The fried and carbonated triumvirate that rules ALL FASTFOODOM! How can you NOT get those 3 pieces together?!

My bride alighted from the office and got in the car. I told her what happened and we drove back to the restaurant. I was sure they would give us the fries, I was just there. But I expected to be treated as if it were my fault somehow. Sorry, that's just what I expected.

I couldn't have been more wrong. The young man was very sorry and said he would get our fries right away. The shift manager stuck her head out the window, apologized, and asked if she could get us some custard for our trouble! "Yes, please," we answered. When she brought the custard, I told them, in far fewer sentences, what I've just told you, that they had just performed customer service the way it should be done and that very few others do it any more!

And honestly, being able to praise their efforts made us happier than getting the custard!

Way to go, Culver's!

Fun On Thursday

The Onion News Network provides readers and viewers with what appears to be hard-hitting news reporting, except it's a joke. The network gets a little racy for my blood sometimes, so generally I only wind up there by following someone else's link.

I did that today and I suggest you do, too.


I Love It When You Talk Cubs Failure To Me

High-priced outfielder Alfonso Soriano of the Team That Shall Not Be Named in today's Chicago Tribune: "It's very disappointing, how we did on this road trip. There are a lot of games left, so I hope we have a good September, combined with St. Louis having a bad September, and see what happens. I think that's the only chance we have."

Chicago's north-siders trail the Cardinals by 8 games in the standings.

Slim and none.

Great Catch, Even If It Was A Cub

Loathe as I am to give credit to the baseball team that lurks on the north side of Chicago, I must call to your attention this defensive gem from over the weekend. I am a sucker for great outfield plays and this is remarkable. The fielder is Sam Fuld.

The kid is a gamer and if they had a roster of players with those kind of hearts, the Cardinals would not be enjoying an eight game lead right now.

I Like Dogs. Really.

I was tooling around town the other day and saw a bumper sticker that read, "My Daschund Is Smarter Than Your Honor Student." I remember when these bumper stickers first appeared. It seems like a long time ago. IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO!

I'd like to visit with this daschund that is so smart. I'm sure he or she has many interesting opinions about the current political scene, what to do about energy, the war on terror, and why the recession is lingering. I'd like to know who the daschund voted for, if he could reach the table. And if he could read the ballot. And if he can make the mark on the ballot with the stylus using his little pads.

I'd like to know where the daschund is employed and how much he makes and what he contributes to the economy. Surely a dog smarter than an honor student has some gainful employment.

Does he follow sports? How 'bout those Cardinals, eh? And is Missouri going to be strong again this year? And will the Royals ever turn it around? A dog as smart as he is surely has some ideas here.

Oh, and I'd also like to ask him who's befouling the yard and leaving the smear marks on the windows in the car.

I'll bet it's not the honor student.


Friday Night Fun

As I write, there are two lady guests of my wife's in the other room and the three of them are preparing name tags for a ladies function at church next week. The frequent laughter erupting from the dining room is enough to make a man curious. However, the Natural Order of Things says I will keep my distance. It wouldn't be a problem to go in there, but it would be, ah, . . . different.

While we are on the topic of guests of the lady persuasion, my lovely bride hosted 10 or so last Tuesday for Bible study. While they held their confab in the living room, I took the opportunity to have the oil changed. In our car. I'm not sure what the topic was the women were discussing, but when I returned, trying ever so hard to not make a disturbance, they all rose in unison when I walked in the door. I will say the notion of being in the wrong house crossed my mind. But no, they cooked up the little display for fun!

For the last thirty years, or so, I have harbored the idea that learning guitar would be a neat thing to do. And these many years later, it remains a harbored idea. There were a couple of times I nearly set sail, but alas. A few days ago I came across this video of a young man which causes me to think about starting to learn AND abandoning the idea all at once! I trust you will understand my meaning when you watch.

And, this one is amazing.

Happy Friday!


What Liberals Do

"Now that George Bush is no longer President, opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has dropped to dead last on the priorities of American leftists, like those who gathered for "netroots nation" last week. It is telling that only a few cranks, like Cindy Sheehan, haven't gotten the message that, now that Barack Obama is President, war is OK. We can all ponder, I guess, what this tells us about the Left."

From Powerline.

Backdoor Nationalization

"The White House has suggested it would settle for health care cooperatives instead of the public option. Don't drink the Kool-Aid. This arrangement will be nothing more than the public option in disguise."

You can read the whole thing.

And, no, don't drink the Ko-Op Kool-Aid.


Thank God for Expository Preaching

My favorite pastor who is not my pastor, John Piper, on expository preaching:

"It is astonishing to me how many pastors apparently don’t believe in pursuing the joy of their people in this way. Evidently they think it doesn’t work. I’m sure there are many reasons for this abandonment of biblical exposition.

"God’s truth followed by faithful, Spirit-anointed exposition, leads to great joy, which is the strength of God’s people. So give the sense, brothers. Give the sense!"

I am thankful to God for my pastor, Doug Shivers, and his commitment to 'giving the sense' through expository preaching.

Yes, It's Still Too Early

I began handicapping the GOP presidential field a few months ago based on my personal preference and the likelihood (in my view) that the candidate will run. I update it when a candidate does or says something that may change my perception of them.

I have mentioned before that I have been anticipating supporting Newt Gingrich in the next presidential campaign. He’s smart, he’s experienced, he’s conservative. I wouldn't have any qualms about supporting him and would be pleased to cast a vote for him.

But, even at this embryonic stage in a presidential campaign, there is a guy that is making waves and he may soon change my mind. It is Gov. Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota. Pawlenty has governed a liberal state quite successfully as a conservative. He’s smart, he knows the issues and talks about them plainly. And, having watched him twice on CSPAN, he’s got some charisma, a little more pep than Gingrich (and a lot more than Romney), and that’s important.

Here's a couple of thoughts on health care from an article in Politico:

“Medicaid is essentially bankrupt, Medicare is essentially bankrupt, why the heck would we give the federal government another entitlement program to manage?” asked Pawlenty.

“We had people, leaders in the Republican Party and conservative movement, saying we couldn’t talk about health care,” the Republican governor said. “Are you kidding me? There is no other pocket book issue that directly affects people as much as this.”

Smart, clear-eyed, plain-spoken. Keep your eye on Pawlenty.


Friday Night Coffee Break

Have you noticed all the coffee shops? Well, sure you have! And, not only that, you have a thought about coffee. I know you do because, these days, it seems, no one is permitted to be coffee neutral.

Apparently, it’s important to choose sides and offerings such as “I like coffee”, “I love coffee!”, or “COFFEE!!!” are examples of opinion on one side. On the other side are declarations like, “I don’t care for coffee”, “I can’t STAND coffee”, and, an oldie but a goodie, “I don’t like coffee, but I like the way it smells”. The two sides generally do not come to blows, but declaring which group you identify with is expected in polite company.

Here at Central Standard I have weighed in on the issue before and, in the interest of full disclosure, I am pro-coffee, but I don’t really drink it. I drink frozen (or iced) mochas. (All the hard-core coffeeheads just guffawed.) Mochas are, essentially, chocolate milk with a little coffee added to tamp down the sweetness a bit. Edgy Chocolate Milk, you might say.

Well you can imagine my interest in an article I found called, “Iced Coffee? No Sweat”. As it turns out, it’s not about mochas at all, but coffee – specifically iced coffee. Interesting. The article touts the joys of iced coffee brewed cold, not hot, and goes on to explain how one can prepare it, and it really is easy. The author tells of learning about cold-brewed coffee from a man who, while on vacation in the Caribbean, refused to drink iced coffee brewed hot. It’s a fun story.

Also catching my eye was this item by Owen Strachan via Justin Taylor. Strachan skewers some of his evangelical/reformed brethren over their coffee pretensions. He describes his peers as “youngish, theologically oriented, book-loving, culturally plugged in, ironically inclined”.

He continues,
“What you find on many websites is some kind of description like this: “I love reformed theology, U2, anything by Steven Soderbergh, and a fresh cup of joe. . . Here’s the thing about this situation: there’s nothing ironic or unique about liking coffee. We all like coffee. Coffee is good. Made well, it’s really good. It’s kind of like saying you like bread. “Anything by Piper, Band of Horses, and Pepperidge Farm rocks my world.” Everyone likes bread. And everyone likes coffee."
He does not stop:
"So, reformed hipster/progressive/student/master-of-irony, next time you consider charting your particular coffee-related beverage of choice, next time you wear it as a distinctive identity marker, remember: everyone else likes coffee. Work harder on the goatee pattern, find another brand of undiscovered denim, dig even deeper in the alternative music shop to lay hands on the truly avant-garde musical act, because your love for coffee–it ain’t getting you there.”

Funny I think.


Editorial Note

Recently I had posted a photo of our president that had been altered to make him look like Heath Ledger’s Joker from the movie The Dark Knight. I removed the image after someone I am close to was offended by it. This friend reminded me that I have a responsibility as a Christian to act in a manner which is appropriate. And while I still believe that Obama’s agenda is destructive and should be opposed by all; and that satire is an effective weapon, particularly when the object thinks so highly of himself, I probably crossed the line. I am sorry.

So I took the photo down and replaced it with the chastised puppy.

A good post in a similar vein from Justin Taylor’s Between Two Worlds.


True, But For Whom?

While waiting to find out if I would participate in our participatory form of government today, I was plowing through a book I brought along. As it turns out, there was less waiting and more participating than I had anticipated, but I did get the chance to note an interesting bit from the book.

The book is Tony Dungy's "Uncommon" which was given to me at Father's Day. Dungy begins Chapter 10 with a quote from William Shakespeare's Hamlet.

Now, I readily admit that, when it comes to Shakespeare, I am an ignoramus. I recognize some quotes that I hear from time to time, but not because I am actually familiar with the work. I recognize them because many have become part of the cultural fabric. Cultural Fabric, incidentally, can be purchased by the yard and is much cheaper in places like Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Austin, TX.

(Yes, the guy who knows nothing of Shakespeare IS making jokes about others lacking culture. But just ask yourself, where else are you going to find this kind of breath-taking irony at such low prices?)

The quote is this:

This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

When I read this, I was flabbergasted. A little bit, anyway. Here, as I already mentioned, is a quote that I've heard before. That is, I've heard the "to thine own self be true" part. Usually on a TV show or in a movie is where I hear it and is usually deployed to justify some self-centered act. In other words, "you won't be happy unless you look out for Number One." But what I saw here, for the first time, was that the familiar part was nestled in a larger thought, roughly, be honest with yourself and you will be honest with others. At least that's how I understand it.

It is such a stark difference in meaning! "To thine own self be true", standing alone is an end in itself; "to thy own self be true" as a part of the larger quote is a means to an end. The former has self as its focus and latter has others as the focus.

The two meanings could not be more different.

Note: I have confessed my ignorance about Shakespeare and so I may have misunderstood him here. I'm willing to be corrected, if I have missed it. Let me know in Comments.


Get More Jewelry With the Tickets

I read Dave Barry every week.

If you don't know (heavens! who doesn't know?) Barry is a columnist for the Miami Herald and he writes humor. In my view he is must reading. He is what I want to be when I grow up.

His column this week concerned the travails of brides-to-be during the run-up to the wedding. This amounts to planning and planning and planning with the intent being to have a day that is not "RUINED, RUINED, RUINED!" And it all has to be done by the bride, of course.

"Well, what about the groom?", you ask. Helpfully, Barry explains:

And don't tell me that the groom can help. Please. The groom is useless. Statistically speaking, something like 92 percent of all grooms are male. If you let males plan weddings, you're going to wind up with Skee Ball at the reception.

My first reaction, "What a GREAT idea!!! Man! What a blast!" And I thought that any man who read that column had basically the same reaction. "Who wouldn't go for Skee Ball at the reception?"

Actually, I think we know who.


Card Index is Down

I always thought the Index Card was one of man’s great achievements. That and the Bic pen, crystal, blue, medium point, but I digress.

The index card is a great size, three inches by five inches. We call them 3 by 5 cards. One slips into your pocket because of it’s handy size. Yet it’s sturdy enough to survive a day’s work - in the pocket, out of the pocket, back in, now out.

There’s enough room to write a To Do List, or a grocery list, or an outline of a short presentation. Longer presentation? No problem, add a card. Or two. Jot a note to yourself, or to someone else. Or draw something.

You can file them. They make boxes just for that, for filing. You can preserve your lists, notes, drawings and whatnot. What a great invention, that sturdy little card.

Or it was.

Have you seen what they’ve done to index cards? They are ruined! They aren’t card stock anymore, at least not that I’ve found! They are like paper! Thin, rough, BAD PAPER!! I came across these so-called index cards a few weeks ago and I hate them! So I returned to the store to find better ones. I searched for some indication of the weight or thickness of the stock, but I couldn’t find any. And you just can’t tell how good they are in the wrapper, they are bundled up so tight. They look good, but it’s deceptive.

I found some in a two-pack from Oxford and I bought them. I thought, “They are from Oxford, a reputable brand in the office supply world. They’re probably OK!” But, NO! They are terrible! Thin, papery, lousy slips of paper with lines. Call them lined scraps of 3 by 5 paper. They are not worthy of the name, “Index Card.”

I am bereft.

So, I'm appealing for help. If you know of a manufacturer still making Index Cards worthy of the name, please tell me.


Double Take

"You know, Fay, in every baseball game I see something I've never seen before." - Roger Craig

I am not sure if I know if this is true for me, but I am closer to believing it than I've ever been. More often than not I will notice something in a ballgame I've never noticed before.

Did you see the double play in the Royals game last night? The one "started" by Sidney Ponson? I will give you the link, but first, the description.

The Rays had runners at first and third. The Rays batter, Zobrist, scorched a line drive that hit Ponson and went to the Royals second baseman on the fly, one out. Both runners had left their bases when the ball was hit, so Callaspo tried to double off the runner at first, but the throw hit him in the back as he retreated to first base. First baseman picks up the ball and throws across the diamond to get the runner from third who had actually crossed the plate and couldn't get back in time, completing the double play. Two hit players, two outs. Crazy.

I had never seen anything like this before. Take a look.

The quote at the top is from former player and manager, Roger Craig, from a book by former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent. The book is entitled, "The Last Commissioner."



Wait! You're telling me a government program is out of money?

Hope and Change, Cardinal Style

I haven't had much to say about the Cardinals lately. Thank you for pointing out that I haven't said much about ANYTHING lately.

In any case, St. Louis upgraded their lineup significantly over the last few weeks. They have acquired Mark DeRosa, Julio Lugo and Matt Holliday and that's a lot of firepower infused into a lineup that was pretty pedestrian and lucky to be near the top of the division.

As it is, the owners should be commended for loosening the purse strings a tad so that these bats could be added. It's gratifying to see them recognize the opportunity that lies ahead for the club and authorize some moves to improve the Cards chances.

I watched two of the games over the last weekend with the Phillies and even though St. Louis got beat handily in both of the games, there still was the sense the club could come back. That wasn't true 3 weeks ago. Then, a five-run deficit would require you to turn off the TV and go do something else. This week, a five-run deficit is drama you don't want to miss.

Who's The Villain?

I heard today that Nancy Pelosi, technically still the Speaker of the House, said that insurance companies are "villains." This is her contribution to the national debate concerning health care.

Is she certain of this? Where did she get this information? A CIA briefing?

Insurance companies aren't villains. Pelosi is lying or misinformed (CIA?). They offer a service for a fee. Sometimes there's a lot of red tape and sometimes they don't pay as much as you'd like. But generally, most of us are glad about the insurance we have when we've got a bill to pay. And, right now, it's still my choice to get insurance or not. And which doctor I see is still up to me.

All that will change if Pelosi and Obama get their way on health care.

Here's the article about Pelosi. Her behavior is offensive.


Quiz Time

Who said the following?

"We may have to find some marvelous middle ground between capitalism and communism," (you know, like socialism, for example)

"the first priority of the new order must be a revision of the educational system to . . . guarantee that each of our citizens will have equal resources to share in the decisions of the democracy, and a fair share of the economic pie."

"we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government" and that "Americans will have to yield up some of our sovereignty."

So, who was it?

Was it our president, Mr. Obama?

Or his friend Bill Ayers?

Or Comrade Pelosi from the People's Republic of San Francisco?

Or how about McGovern or Humphrey or Kennedy or Clinton?

Nope. None of these.

It was your beloved Uncle Walter Cronkite.


Fantastic Friday Facts

My number one son blogs occasionally and when he does, it usually has something to do with Graphic Arts, which he studies at school. His latest post pays tribute to Roger Federer's record-setting 15th Grand Slam title. He includes a bit of art that he created to commemorate the event. I think he did a great job! The post in it's entirety, if you want.

Bob Ryan is one of America's best sports writers and he weighed in on the classic match between Federer and Andy Roddick for the Wimbledon championship last weekend. It's a good article, with a terrific ending, which I give you now -

But, wow, what we had seen! There are times when it doesn't matter of the sport you're watching is your sport. All that matters is that you are a true fan of sport, and if you are, you don't have to be told when you are bearing witness to both legitimate greatness and history. And what does this say about Federer? This is two years in a row he has been involved in an epic match that will go down in the annals of his sport as among the very best ever staged. He is great, and he brings out greatness in others. On Sunday we were all reminded why we are sports fans. For the umpteenth time, I say that I am truly sorry for those among us who aren't.

Ryan says the truth here. Sports aren't everything, but they've never really pretended to be (it's people who foul that part up). Most games, like most days, are ordinary. But every once in a while you get something like Federer-Roddick for the championship and when you do, you are glad for the chance to see the extraordinary.

P.S. You want an application? OK, if you wander by the TV set and Albert Pujols is batting, stop and watch. Most of the time, you will see something you have seen before. But every once in a while, more often than most guys, Albert will do something special. He has, for example, four grand slam home runs this year. I think I've seen three of them. He's amazing with the bases loaded.


Obama and Biden - Hype and Charade

The economy is still wretched after Dr. Obama's prescribed stimulus. Joe Biden, the effervescent Veep said today that the economy was worse than they thought. Maybe, when they described the economy during the election campaign as the worst since the Great Depression, they were just lying. Maybe.

From Investor's Business Daily: Of $157.8 billion "made available" under the stimulus, only $56.3 billion has been paid out — or 7% of the total $787 billion. And according to ex-Treasury Department economist Bruce Bartlett, "just 11% of the the discretionary spending on highways, mass transit, energy efficiency and other programs involving direct government purchases will have been spent by the end of this fiscal year."

Based on this, there are only two possible conclusions: One, the stimulus has been the most inept public waste of money in history. Or two, it was a cynical attempt by the Democrats to vastly expand the scope of government during a time of crisis. Or maybe it's both.

Probably both. Oh, and they want to do another stimulus, too. Brilliant!

Read it all, if you want.


Two Movies For You

My bride and I watched a movie called "Last Chance Harvey" last night. She liked the movie overall, but felt it lacked certain elements that would draw the viewer emotionally, like other romantic-comedies do. I can see why she says that, but I liked the movie very much. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson star. I liked many of the sets and the cinematography was great, I think. Shots inside Heathrow and along the Thames particularly stand out.

I say see it.

"Last Chance Harvey" was distributed by a company called Overture Films and they put out another film we saw not too long ago, called "The Visitor". It too is filmed differently, paced differently than major studio films. Maybe it has a more 'independent' feel. In any case, it too, is a good movie, though very different.

I say see it, too.

Here are the trailers, "Last Chance Harvey" and "The Visitor".

Remember when they were called 'previews'?


It Occurs To Me

It occurs to me that bazooka is a very funny word. Try to use it in a sentence today.

Pray For The Hondurans

I have not followed the events in Honduras closely, but I have the gist of what's going on. The good people there threw out the thug who used to be the leader of the country after he defied their Congress and Supreme Court. In other words, the people wouldn't let a dictator rule them and instead, preferred democracy.

And for their freedom-affirming actions, the entire rest of the world opposes them. From Investor's Business Daily:

"Nations aren't usually put to the fearsome test to "live free or die." But Hondurans are accepting it as the world pressures them to reseat a potential dictator in office. They aren't bending."

The Obama Administration, echoing the socialist/communist dictators it admires, has called for the restoration of the former dictator. Socialism is as socialism does.

Fortunately, the people of Honduras are holding firm. From IBD again:

"Hondurans, some 80% of whom approve of the Court action. "Everyone here is celebrating," a business leader told Latin Finance."

It wasn't too long ago that America came to the aid of countries which fought for democracy against totalitarian rule.

We don't see that from Obama.


Trivializing Life and Death

Fair warning - this will be a long post. I have a lot on my mind and I am going to dump it here, all in one spot, in the hope that there will be some thread running through the jumble, some fiber that gives cohesion to the lump. So, if you've no stomach for a long ramble, you may wish to move on.

Thursday was a day that many will remember for a while because two famous people died. Here in the USA, when famous people die, we all get into the act as if we were somehow personally affected by the life and times and demise of the deceased celebrity. This is balderdash of course, but that doesn't stop us from searching for a roller coaster that our emotions can ride, while we lament the passing of someone we have no actual emotional connection to.

Why do we do this? If there is no connection to the deceased, why do we pine and stare? Have we so conditioned ourselves to not feel much of anything (or not allowed ourselves time to feel something) that we will turn on the tube for a little vicarious grieving because it might be nice to just feel a little something right now? I don't know.

But the passing of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson were merely a link in a chain of events for me, only the tip of the iceberg and, as the metaphor implies, there's a whole lot more going on under the surface so, let's get to it, shall we? And I'll warn you again, this will be long. I really haven't even started yet. You may be excused, if you wish. Put your dishes in the sink.

I suppose the chain of events began over last weekend when South Carolina's governor, a guy named Sanford, went AWOL. As the days unfolded, we learned he was in Argentina with his mistress, but we only found this out after a couple of days of lies.

I began to think about the mess Sanford was (is) in and how it is a mess of his own making. He cheated and lied and abused the trust placed in him by a spouse, by sons, and by citizen voters. And I wondered how sick it would feel to be to be in his shoes, presenting a facade of faithfulness by lying.

The next link in the chain was the shooting death of a football coach in Iowa. Here, unlike our celebrities, is a man that hardly anyone outside of a few counties in Iowa knew of. We heard of his death only because of the brutal, criminal way in which it occurred. The one consolation was that we learned that Coach Thomas had trusted Christ for salvation. We thank God for that.

Hard on the heels of this event was a personal upheaval in my home. I had overlooked a credit card bill. And this is not the first time. And I was going to have to own up to my fault by talking to my bride about it because the bill was in her name. I went through hours of anxiety over this, wishing there was a way to not have to confess my wrong. My integrity was on the line.

What came next was a blog post at Desiring God. Pastor John Piper, a man of integrity, wrote about an experience when he was not so gracious in answering a question and then he proceeded to explain what his answer should have been. And, Oh! What a statement!

He was responding to a question about why he doesn't watch a lot of movies and doesn't own a TV. Here is part of what he said: "I think relevance in preaching hangs very little on watching movies, and I think that much exposure to sensuality, banality, and God-absent entertainment does more to deaden our capacities for joy in Jesus than it does to make us spiritually powerful in the lives of the living dead. Sources of spiritual power—which are what we desperately need—are not in the cinema."

And some more: "But leave sex aside (as if that were possible for fifteen minutes on TV). It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ. Television takes us almost constantly in the opposite direction, lowering, shrinking, and deadening our capacities for worshiping Christ."

I think this is what is at the heart of my experience this week. Some very real and serious things happened this week, but it was the trivia that was emphasised.

Thursday afternoon, we had a book study at work and the topic of integrity came up. Sound familiar? It did to me.

Then on the drive home from work I got the first word on Michael Jackson and at home the confirmation (from the TV!) that he died. Later I read these words from Justin Taylor's blog, quoting Andrew Sullivan: "There are two things to say about him. He was a musical genius; and he was an abused child. By abuse, I do not mean sexual abuse; I mean he was used brutally and callously for money, and clearly imprisoned by a tyrannical father. He had no real childhood and spent much of his later life struggling to get one. He was spiritually and psychologically raped at a very early age - and never recovered. Watching him change his race, his age, and almost his gender, you saw a tortured soul seeking what the rest of us take for granted: a normal life. But he had no compass to find one; no real friends to support and advise him; and money and fame imprisoned him in the delusions of narcissism and self-indulgence. Of course, he bears responsibility for his bizarre life. But the damage done to him by his own family and then by all those motivated more by money and power than by faith and love was irreparable in the end. He died a while ago. He remained for so long a walking human shell."

And: "I grieve for him; but I also grieve for the culture that created and destroyed him. That culture is ours' and it is a lethal and brutal one: with fame and celebrity as its core values, with money as its sole motive, it chewed this child up and spat him out."

As I suggested earlier, I think Piper came close to nailing what has been going on in my heart this past week and the news events served to draw it to the surface so I could see it. The recurring theme? Real stuff versus trivia, I think.

Governor Sanford threw away the real and vital for an affair; Coach Thomas, brutally slain, knew Christ and impacted the lives of the boys he coached; I had to 'man up' and own my irresponsible act; Piper called me to not deaden my soul, but to nourish it; an entire nation went on hold because two people they didn't really know died; and Sullivan's comments on Jackson, who lived an unreal life because the real was denied him.

All of this piled together left me desiring real things and not temporary trivial things. I do not want my capacity for joy in Jesus to be deadened because if it is, then I am reduced to finding joy elsewhere, like on TV.

I hope this is not a lesson that fades soon.


Coach Thomas Knew Christ

A high school football coach in Iowa, Ed Thomas, who toiled in relative anonymity was shot to death today in a school weight room. A former player is being held as a suspect.

As terrible as this story is, we are heartened by the news that Coach Thomas was born again, according to this post at Justin Taylor's 'Between Two Worlds'.


New Layout. Maybe.

All my regular readers may have noticed an addition to the column on the right - a political cartoon. Undoubtedly, you also notice that it does not fit correctly. I've tried removing it and putting it back, but no luck.

The place where I got it, Investor's Business Daily, had a Blogger (my host) button, as well as buttons for other blog hosts. I think it should fit, but it does not.

So, I'm going to scout around for a new layout, or template for the blog. Perhaps a different style will fit better.

I really want to keep the cartoon. So much is going on in the world and here at home and I want it to be commented on and I don't really have the time to do it all justice.

Obama is a disaster, but it needs to be shown for what it is, not just some amateur blogger whacking the dude. So Ramirez' cartoon will help us.

So stay tuned - there may be a new look soon.


Better Than Gold, Fathers

Good for the souls of Fathers, and Mothers, on this day, or any other.

7 The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:7-11, ESV


Fantastic Friday Facts (or Fun, Depending)

While at Hammons Field tonight (AA Baseball, Springfield Cards vs. NW Arkansas Naturals), I saw Albert Pujols (on TV) get a single to left in Kansas City to drive in two runs and pass Ken Boyer on the Cardinals all-time total bases list. I was looking at a TV because my bride was in line to buy a bottle of water.

Because the people who run stadiums these days assume that everyone in attendance is ADD and isn't at the ballpark for just the ballgame (Imagine!), and there MUST BE FEVERISH ACTIVITY EACH AND EVERY WAKING MOMENT, I read on the scoreboard that the man with the most Academy Award wins was Walter Elias Disney. Elias. I had no idea.

There was a time when trivia questions on the video board at a baseball game were actually related to baseball.

There was a time when (and not so long ago) there were no video boards at major league baseball stadiums, much less minor league stadiums.

Other non-baseball trivia from the video board (sheesh) - approximately 25 percent of the people in the world live on $200 a year, or less. We paid $3.00 for a bottle of water tonight, or roughly one and a half percent of somebody's income this year. Is it wrong? Or just different?

My friend Tim, whom I introduced here, has a funny basketball story I asked him to write, which he did at his blog. I link it there acknowledging his favorite team, the LA Lakers, who just won their 15th NBA title. Enjoy.


Something I Forgot To Say

I had meant to get this on yesterday but you can probably tell by the way I began that I didn't. You can also guess that I'm doing it this minute. All that remains is for you to know what I was going to say and I could quit right now.

Alas. You all are bright, but until you start writing in 'Comments' about things I haven't posted yet, I suppose I'll continue to tell you stuff as if you don't know it yet.

And, what I was going to write isn't really worth this three paragraph song and dance we've just gone through, but here it is. Coming into today's game with Detroit, St. Louis' Albert Pujols was four Total Bases shy of fifth place on the Cardinals' Career list for Total Bases. He had 3007 coming into today and trailed Ken Boyer who had 3011.

I just looked at the box score and the game is still in progress, but Albert has a homer which gives him the four total bases to tie Boyer, so the next hit he gets will break the tie. Enos Slaughter is in fourth place with 3138. In first place is, of course, Stan Musial with 6134.

It'll be a while before Pujols, or anyone else gets there.


Blue Bloods

Two lengthy sports seasons wrapped up over the last few days and some mention of it is probably due from one who follows sports as I do.

So, there it was.

Now, to the really cool part, the uniform colors.

Friday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins, wearing black and gold, won the seventh and deciding game in the Stanley Cup series, defeating the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 in Motown.

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Lakers, in their famous purple and gold captured the NBA championship by defeating Orlando's Magic in Florida.

Now, what do these two teams have in common? They both used to wear blue - and not just any blue, mind you, but what some might call baby blue or what I like to call Carolina blue. In fact they both had a combination of Carolina blue and a darker blue as a trim color. This, in my view, is one of the best combinations of colors going. Other teams using it would be the University of North Carolina (of course), the Royals (occasionally), Toronto Blue Jays (occasionally) and Tennessee Titans, off the top of my head.

The Lakers, who began in Minneapolis, began with the blue scheme, probably to coincide with their nickname which was suggestive of all the lakes in Minnesota. "Ten Thousand Lakes" the license plate used to say. They moved to LA about 1960 and switched to the gold and purple look in the middle of the decade.

The Penguins formed as part of NHL expansion in 1967 and also had the blue uniforms. They switched to black and gold in the early 70's which matched the other two pro teams in the Steel City, baseball's Pirates and football's Steelers. They do break out a blue sweater for 'throw back' days and it looks cool.



I want to say thanks to all the folks who made the 25th anniversary of my marriage to my lovely bride such a happy day.

Honorable recognition goes to a couple of folks. First, to my son-in-law's parents. Dale and Liane, who are potters in Hardy, Arkansas, made a beautiful pitcher which I surprised my wife with. It is engraved with our wedding date and is a lovely pale green color. There is a story behind giving my wife a pitcher. I won't go into all the details, but it would be enough to say that a pitcher is graceful and pours itself out for the good of others - like my bride!

Also receiving recognition is the Hall family, and more specifically, the multi-talented head of this tribe who, aside from his ability to have you in stitches within 15 seconds of greeting him, is apparently gifted at making little videos for mass consumption on You Tube. Thanks, Tim, for putting us on You Tube! By the way, he occasionally blogs here. Pressure's on, Tim. I have a vast audience of probably nearly 10 people.

To my daughter and aforementioned son-in-law, thanks for the cupcakes which spelled 'Happy 25th Anniversary'. I think we still have a 'p' and an 'h' and maybe one or two others left.

And to Pixar, thanks for making 'UP', which concluded our evening! It was a lot of fun!

Finally, to my lovely bride. You are, quite simply, the best. I wrote these words in the letter I gave you with the pitcher - It is a difficult thing to find words that give the right amount of beauty and weight to 25 years of marriage – and it’s all the more difficult for the grace, growth and depth we’ve been shown together - and without sounding arrogant, it's true. Twenty-five years is hard to quantify, but I will say this: It could not have happened without the Lord and I'm grateful that you and I both know that. And, it would not have been possible with anyone but you!


A Little Detective Work

Where I work I sit in proximity to designers and one of them, in particular, I've a good rapport with and he and I talk about comics and design and theology and culture and kids and whatnot.

Well, today he was looking at some comic art as I walked by and it grabbed my eye and we 'ooohed' and 'aaahed' over some very nice looking images.

Oh, you'd like to see one? I'm glad you asked.
Here's my favorite -

What we have here, of course, is Batman on the cover of Detective Comics #27 from 1939.

But what is not so obvious (to some, perhaps) is that this IS NOT the way Detective Comics #27 appeared back then. The artist here is a man named Gabriel Hardman and my friend at work could give you all kinds of technical reasons why Hardman's work is praiseworthy.

Me - I can only tell you I like the way it looks and it reminds me of work I saw as a kid.

More of Hardman's work can be seen at this link.

Bob Kane, the creator of Batman (with important help from Bill Finger), drew the cover for the ORIGINAL publication and it was, as usual, in color.

So how did the original 1939 comic book look? You ask such great questions!

Here you go -

Immediately, you are struck by the color - it is so vibrant! And honestly, black and red and yellow is one of my favorite combinations to look at, for what that's worth.

There are some other details, though, that you should note.
Batman is more 'modern' looking on the Hardman version - notice the difference in the angle and length of the bat ears, for example. The older Batman wore a glove that was more ordinary rather than the stylish ones we've come to know in later years.
The biggest difference of all, however, and what, probably, makes the Hardman cover so fun is the villains. On the original, Kane drew some ordinary, garden-variety thugs. This was the first-ever appearance of Batman (or 'The Bat-Man', as the opening panel has it) in a comic book, so the lineup of familiar foes for Batman had not been developed.
Hardman, though, replaces those anonymous hoods with familiar characters - Riddler, Penguin, and, thrashing in the Caped Crusader's arms (don't you love it!), the Joker.
What fun!


A Happy Meeting

I ran into an old friend last night and we had a great time. We met at a new place downtown that's been there a few months, but I had not been there yet.

You know when this happens, you haven't seen them in a long while, but you pick up right where you left off? That's how this was. We didn't miss a beat.

Have we changed over the years? Sure, but I recognized my friend right away. Little things that were said, the things that made us laugh and smile were still the same.

And the time just flew! I sat back and soaked up the fun of our renewed friendship. And it was extra special to share the experience with my son and son-in-law. They were aware of the friendship, but had never really met before.

I guess we spent two hours together - just me and Jim.

And Scott.

And Leonard.

And Chekov and Sulu and Uhura.

And Spock.

I can't wait to see them again.


It Occurs To Me: Tugs, Tootsies, and Burritos

It occurs to me that, in the iconic images category, tugboats get no respect.

It occurs to me that Tootsie Rolls are the skim milk of the chocolate world.

It occurs to me that the reason I like to order a burrito with barbacoa at Chipotle is because I like to say, "barbacoa."


The Telemarketer Always Rings

Well, well, well! It was a Red-Letter Day at my house today! A telemarketer hung up on ME! There's a man bites dog story!

My afternoon was filled with phone calls today, which is not usually the case. My lovely bride and I were trying to coordinate supper menu and timing as it's always close on Wednesdays because she arrives home about 20 minutes before we must leave to get to church on time. There was also a call from a friend who wouldn't be at church, but a friend of hers would be and she was sort of new and would my bride greet her and make sure she was put at ease. Another call saying that a man from our church was at the hospital and needed a ride and could we arrange that?

On top of all that, I got a call from a group taking a survey (READ: we have an opinion and we'd like to question you in a way that looks good for us) about highway safety in our state. It turns out they only had ONE question and it was about Missouri repealing the motorcycle helmet law. I said I had no opinion.

Look, I know that helmets reduce fatalities and head trauma and I would wear one and think everyone else ought to take that precaution. But should the state be mandating that for full grown adults who are willing to assume the risk? The intrusion troubles me. I like safety. I also like the freedom to decide for myself. I would choose to wear one. But should I make you wear one against your will?

Anyway, the other call of the afternoon was a recorded voice that announced I had won a Caribbean Vacation! The recording said I should press 9 to claim my prize.

I know what you are thinking. I thought it, too. Don't press 9. It's a scam. There may be a trip, but it sure won't be void of strings or catches or obligations. Don't do it. You are in the middle of cooking supper, you have to leave soon and it's a scam. Don't press 9.

I pressed 9. Temporary insanity is the only thing I can say because I really don't know why I did it.

In a flash some perky person offered me Congratulations (as the recorded voice had done) and she asked my name. I told her and she said, "Mike, when was the last time you had a really great vacation?" My insanity returned.

I hate this stuff and all the telemarketers are doing it. They call you by your name and act all chummy with you. They ask about the weather. Really? The weather? You called me for the weather? Hey, two words: Weather. Channel. Some of them have all this hokey, puffy complimentary stuff in their scripts like: "I know in these tough times that The American Brotherhood of War Veteran Police Sheriffs, Puppy Savers, and Flag Makers can count on a great guy like you, Mike! Am I right?"

C'mon! Don't they know that we know it's a put on and it sounds like it? They don't know me! I don't know them! Quit playing the game.

So, I said to my new friend on the phone, "Look, I'm in the middle of cooking supper right now and I don't have time for chit-chat, OK?" She hung up. My new friend hung up on me. My friend didn't bother to tell me about my trip to the Caribbean.

I know I started this post in a somewhat cheery mood for having had a telemarketer hang up on me. It seems like some sort of victory, anyway. But now that I think of it, she was my new friend and I offended her by . . . well, I'm not sure how. But, still, I've lost a friend.

Fortunately, I have all you great Central Standard readers to be my friends and to read my blog and write complimentary things in 'Comments'! Surely we can count on you to help us as in the past, right? Am I right?


Cards Fire BB's At Problem 'Pen

The house is on fire and instead of calling the fire department, you drag out your water hose and do it yourself. That doesn't seem to be a realistic response to a serious event.

The Cardinals bullpen is on fire and GM John Mozeliak opted for the garden hose instead of the fire department. Maybe he thinks he'll need them later. At this rate, he would be correct.

St. Louis made a minor league deal today in hopes of addressing a major league problem. They sent minor league outfielder Brian Barton to the Atlanta Braves for minor league pitcher Blaine Boyer. The best part of the deal is that no monograms will need to be changed.

I'm not wild about this because I'm afraid it's window dressing. The Cards say this pitcher has an awful lot of upside and it would be nice if he did. I do like the fact that Mozeliak didn't wait very long to start addressing this because it's just way too obvious we've got issues in the 'pen. But this is not the answer, unless Boyer really turns into something special. And I guess he could. But I really hope Mozeliak is not done. The bullpen is bad.

I'll say it again: if someone will offer a serviceable middle relief for Rick Ankiel, do the deal.

Don't think twice, it's alright.


It Occurs To Me

It occurs to me that if Adultery and Children Born Out of Wedlock were eradicated from the country overnight the "creative team" at the Jerry Springer and Maury Povich shows would have no ideas.

It occurs to me that Susan Boyle's entire experience on 'Britain's Got Talent' was a dream! I'm pretty late finding out about this, I think, but I've watched it three times and get tears every time.

It occurs to me that Rick Ankiel has reached his ceiling as an everyday ballplayer, he's as good as he's ever going to be. If the Cardinals could get a real second baseman or a decent reliever for him, they should make the deal and not think twice.

It occurs to me that all of Pink Floyd’s music sounds like the soundtrack for our lives after the apocalypse. Hearing their work makes me imagine a fleet of spaceships laden with our children fleeing the cataclysm and who, like the infant Clark Kent, are seeking to start life over on some new world. I can hardly think of any music that tempts me to depression more.


BLT (Bacon Left the Truck)

Pigs have bellies and apparently 'them's good eatin' '.

Actually, I had to look up pork bellies on Google and I discovered that bacon, at least in the U. S. comes from the belly of a pig. I don't know about you, but that fact sort of set me back a bit.

I do like my bacon, though, and I am not alone. So imagine how thrilling it would be to come upon a whole truckload of pork bellies, hmm? Before you get too excited, the whole truckload was in a ditch in Illinois.

That might knock some of the romance off your morning ration of pork belly.

The truck was from a company based here in Springfield, so our local NBC affiliate had coverage.

No word on where one could find a truckload of eggs, though.


3 - Robinson

This day in 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first black man to play Major League Baseball. He did so in the face of bigotry and hatred so wicked and vile that his life, at times, may have been in danger. And he did so with grace and fiery, competitive passion.

I won't try to 'out write' my betters who, every year on this day, describe with eloquence the importance of Robinson's achievement. Nor do I desire diminish any thing Robinson did. But there is a piece of the story missing. And it's missed every year on this day as MLB honors Robinson.

I'd like for us, without dimming the lights on Robinson, to shine a light on the part of the story that's annually left in the dark.

There were no black men who had ever played major league baseball. The owners, and to some degree the general managers, perpetuated a system that excluded African Americans.

How did that change? Did Robinson, after an All America career at UCLA, walk off the football field and into the Brooklyn locker room uninvited? Did he just grab the first empty uniform he could find? Did he present himself to manager Leo Durocher and tell him to put him in the lineup? In other words, did Jackie Robinson think of breaking the color barrier on his own, pick a team and show up?

No, he didn't. But the way the story is told, sometimes you might think so. The story is often told with no context. Jackie didn't do it on his own, he couldn't.

No, one of the general managers of the 16 major league teams had to stand up and say, "By God, I'll do this thing, even if nobody else does!" Jackie had to have a contract to play for a major league team. That means a team had to decide to give him one. A man had to decide.

Branch Rickey decided.

Please remember Branch Rickey, too.

If You Haven't, See 'Australia'

My lovely bride and I viewed the film 'Australia' Sunday night. Have you seen it? WOW! What a thoroughly enjoyable movie!

Visually, the film is a treat! The wide panoramic shots, the colors, the cars, clothes and buildings of the period - all of it - make the movie worth watching with the sound off. Seriously, I've given it some thought and it just might be pretty enough to watch without hearing anything.

But if you opt to hear as well as see 'Australia', you will not be disappointed because the story is terrific and the story and dialogue are strong. Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman are as colorful as the outback and full of life when on the screen, which is often. There is not a dull moment.

Oy, this is turning into a movie review, which I really didn't want to do. Ah, well.

Let's say this - I don't buy very many movies, I've probably got about a dozen, but I would think long and hard about buying this one.


Pen the Tale

I will be the first to admit I do not know much about protocol for world leaders, but that's OK because I am still not a despotic ruler nor tin horn dictator. Yet.

However, the president of the United States should know protocol or have people around him who do. Unfortunately our current president is blissfully unaware of these things. Or he doesn't give a rip. Either way, it's an embarrassment.

Now the White House staff have decided to lie about Obama's latest snafu, the bowing before the Saudi king. Apparently, U.S. presidents are not to bow before other leaders and I think that's the right way to handle it. Obama handled it the wrong way - he bowed. Only the White House is saying he didn't bow, here. And here.

Alrighty, then. Let's go to the tape. Or a still from the tape. Here in the photo of the event we see the presidential backside. Obama is bent over at the waist, his face to the ground. He is in full grovel mode, I think.

What is happening here? Remember, Gibbs says Obama is not bowing. If it's not a bow, then what is it? THAT, Central Standard readers, is what you are assigned to tell us.

What is happening? You describe it in some creative way - a poem, a limerick, a script, or a song. Perhaps a joke - well, OK, that goes without saying, but you know what I mean. Use the 'Comment' section of this post and tell us what you think is going on.

Remember, he's not bowing.