Saturday, April 28, 2007

"Chick Book" Report

I have never been too concerned about having my manhood questioned. Instrumentally I may play the flute, but I also play the Sousaphone. So, with that defensive statement in place, I offer the following review of the recent works of Nicholas Sparks. If the name is familiar, but you can't quite place it, some of his books have made it into movies: The Wedding, Message in a Bottle, and The Notebook. Last Summer I read these three books. In the past 60 days I have consumed another 4. Here is my report.

If you don't like the Lifetime Channel you won't care much for Nicholas Sparks. Pretty much every book is built around a romantic couple and death. If, however, you are a husband who has tired of self-help books and marriage seminars as teaching tools for being a more romantic partner, these books could infuse you with a mental stimulation that non-fiction sometimes fails to create.

Personally, I am both embarrassed and annoyed when a movie or book brings me to the point or past the point of tears. (I know, I know. I shouldn't be embarrassed.) Be forewarned that if you are possessed of any heart at all, you will not get through any of these books without tearing up.

The folks who buy movie rights were correct in taking The Wedding to the screen. I still think this was his best work to date. However, The Notebook is a two Kleenex Box book. It should come as no surprise that I find his writing very compelling, the characters real and endearing.
Many of the books have a Christian message that suggests Sparks is not only a believer, but wants the message of Christ to be spread. Contrast that with a recurring plot line of sex on the first date. The good news is that he doesn't linger on the sexual aspect or give details.

Under this blogs book review rating system, the works of Nicholas Sparks are Buy In Paperback.

A Thought-provoking Poem

Thoughts for Harry Reid
By Tarzana Joe

Would Rockne be remembered
If the towel he had tossed?
Forget about the Gipper, boys
This game’s already lost.

Would Lincoln be a hero
And on pennies be embossed
If he announced that, after Shiloh
This Union, friends, is lost.

Would Caesar have surrendered
Before the Rubicon was crossed?
Did Ulysses pull the plug
When his barque was tempest-tossed?

Would Perry’s flag be flying
Would hist’ry gip a rip
If, on it, he embroidered
“Do give up the ship!”

If we’d been bowed by setbacks
Or our opponents’ fury
Nothing would have happened
On the deck of the Missouri

So in the battle of our lifetime
If I can be the chooser
I’d rather keep on fighting
Than declare myself the loser.

HT: Hugh Hewitt

Happiness? Joy? Bah! Humbug!

Several weeks ago I posted on Happiness vs Joy. It didn't result in much discussion (Ok. No one commented.) This was a bit surprising in a blog,, where 20 comments is the average. At some level the issues of happiness, joy, contentment, anxiety, angst, fear are at the very heart of the human condition. Wired magazine has a brief essay this month which adds a bit of flavor to the issue from the pharm side of things. I recommend this 3 minute read. But here's an excerpt:

From a distance, pleasure without fear or desire sounds pretty good. But in your grasp, it starts to feel less like paradise and more like soma. A species that shuts out adversity does not survive very long in a Darwinian universe. In the short term, humans with happy-making neural implants would cease to be interesting. Quenching feelings of hardship also means never feeling desire or want. Unpleasant as those emotions can be, they're also the basis for ambition and creativity. "Happy people are not ambitious," Greenfield says. "They do not build civilizations."
One could argue that there is no inherent goodness in building civilization, and I have had some commenters on this and other blogs who feel all this need to grow and build is not the best for human kind. The Jesus People certainly would contend that the constant grasping for material improvement is not of God. Many environmentalists clearly would like to see a return to simpler times.

Now enters the age of Pharma. The article points out that we may be on our way to being able to use various drugs or other tools to completely control our moods. We certainly have taken a number of very large steps down that path with various anti-depressants, anti-anxiety products, ADD and ADHD solutions, and "muscle relaxents." On the surface and case-by-case one has a hard time saying to the chronically depressed person, "You'll get over it," when a couple of tiny pills will give them so much peace. But as a species, is this approach wise?

Taking it directly into the God realm, there is a small and shrinking percentage of the Christian community who proclaim the sufficiency of Christ. This is similar to the Christian Scientist Claim of no medical intervention. However, do we begin to see their point as we move down the slippery slope. (Or should we say slippery designer babies, gene alteration, or enhancement drugs.) Should we draw a line? Where?

The article concludes with this interesting thought:

Maybe it's no coincidence that some of the happy-making stuff is manufactured in those countries. It's reminiscent of the scenario laid out by another prescient thinker, H. G. Wells. In his book The Time Machine, Wells wrote about a world where the happy, indolent elite — the Eloi — are served by industrious outsiders called Morlocks. The Eloi are also the hardworking Morlocks' food. Grim stuff. And also the exact opposite of what Jefferson was trying to tee up for Americans. Maybe he knew that if you have too much happiness, you don't get life and liberty.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Laser TV's and Projection Cell Phones

Several new approaches to TV are on the way, but leading the pack in the over 40" category is Laser TV. Claims are that these TV's will be half as thick, half the weight, half the cost, and use 25% of the energy of existing large screen LCD and Plasma TV's. Did I mention that these will also have a much better picture? Other sources say that LCD TV's in this size range will be coming down by half by Christmas at the same time the Laser TV's are supposed to be hitting stores, worldwide.

In some ways more interesting is that the same technology is being tested on cell phones to allow users to project images onto any surface. This could create a serious portable TV. We can be sure that if it works, it will cause some kind of cancer.

Some more detail here and here.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dream House - Major League Style

I used to day dream when I was a kid. Just ask my teachers. Among other things I dreamed of owning a mansion, and while much of the details escape me today, I clearly recall that my dream home was to have a bowling lane in the basement. Today I know that my immagination was far too limited.

One of our church members is related to the All Star shortstop of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Jack Wilson. This morning about 40 men and boys from church traveled out to spend a couple of hours with Jack. The goal of the trip was to hear a bit about the life of a big leaguer. You know. How does a Christian avoid all the pitfalls of that life. Jack did a fine job of delivering that message and regaled us with short snippets from his career. But I think the thing we will all remember is his back yard.

About 1/3 of the yard is devoted to a full on major league infield with the latest Astro Turf to make it realistic. To the right of the field is a facility for perfect aerobics, a swimming pool. The rock waterfalls and slides probably don't have much to do with his work outs, but his kids have to love it. Off to the left is the 500 square foot training room with 40" LCD tv, and every kind of machine you could ever ask for. Just in front of this the tennis court, professional full basketball court, putting green. Oh! Did I mention the batting cage. I didn't ask, but since the batting cage was about 50 foot deep, I suspect it works well for hitting golf balls, also.

My son, Robert, was kind of hoping to be adopted, but he had to settle for the above picture and a signed baseball card.

What a Week!

I'm not sure that there has been another time in the history of this minor league blog when I've gone a week without a post. But this hasn't been any normal week. Like you, I have watched the news and contemplated its meaning, unsure that there really is any significant lesson outside of the fact that we will always have our crazies.

There is reason to think that we have gone to far in "mainstreaming" folks who might be a danger to themselves or others. I have been in the system with an employee who had hyperthyroid problems which were leading to LSD-like behavior, including threats to her life and that of her baby. She had to admit herself.

And yet, while the headlines are impressive, how do we measure the loss of those lives against the freedom of these individuals who are borderline. I tend to find myself more concerned about their personal welfare on the streets more than the occasional incident when an innocent civilian gets harmed.

We probably need changes in the way we deal with mental health issues. What do you think?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Whose House Is This Anyway?

Designed by an architecture professor at a leading
national university, this house incorporates every
"green" feature current home construction can provide.
The house contains only 4,000 square feet (4 bedrooms)
and is nestled on arid high prairie in the American
southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal
heat pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300
feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees F.)
heats the house in winter and cools it in summer. The
system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas,
and it consumes 25% of the electricity required for a
conventional heating/cooling system.

Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into
a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from
showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground
purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected
water then irrigates the land surrounding the house.
Flowers and shrubs native to the area blend the property
into the surrounding rural landscape.

For the answer, click on "comment" below.

HT: Collecting My Thoughts

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Reagan Economy Just Keeps On Buzzing Along

Do you know who Larry Kudlow is? He's that wild and crazy talk show host of Kudlow and Company. Here and elsewhere Larry provides insights into everything having to do with the economy and stocks. A couple of months ago he wrote this essay, and surprise, surprise, it has not been widely reported upon. The title: "It's the Reagan Economy, Stupid," wherein he clearly points to the things done in the Reagan years as revolutionary and producing the longest period of economic prosperity in the 20th Century.

More evidence of the Reagan-induced boom comes from Michael Cox, an economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank and co-author of the brilliant new book The Myth of Rich and Poor. Cox recently calculated that since the dawning of Reaganomics 18 years ago, the U.S. economy has slumped into recession for just 6 of the last 200 months, or a mere 3 percent of the time. That is an almost unprecedented stretch of growth considering that historically the U.S. economy has been in decline one-third of the time.

What did Reagan do that resulted in such change?

It was Reagan's supply side economic ideas -- the policy of marginal rate tax cuts, a strong dollar, trade globalization (the Gipper started NAFTA with a U.S.-Canadian free trade agreement), deregulation of key industries like energy, financial services and transportation, and a re-armed military -- all of which unleashed a great wave of entrepreneurial-technological innovation that transformed and restructured the economy, resulting in a long boom prosperity that continues to throw off economic benefits to this day.
So, what next? I predict we are already in a slower period (truckers are complaining, a leading indicator), and we will start to see increasing unemployment (we are basically at full employment now.) However, unless there is a major catastrophe, the Reagan Boom should continue on and on.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Air Show at Point Mugu

A few years ago I decided I really wanted to go to an air show. I had experienced the fly-overs at Dodger games, seen some maneuvers while driving by March AFB, and watched the SST land up in Seattle. Now I wanted the all day experience.

However, I was nervous about the traffic, where to sit, which one to attend, and all that. Then I met Bernardo. If you are a regular here, you have seen him comment from time to time. If you go over to The God vs No God Debate, you'll notice he has probably written more words on that blog than I have. But Bernardo's big passion is air shows. In fact, he has even established a web site that tells you everything you could possibly need to know about California air shows and some others around the country.

Since Bernardo is now a friend, he suggested that we (the fam) join him at the Pt. Mugu show this past weekend. It was a very, very fine day. (My wife says that it wasn't exactly her cup of tea.) In addition to watching all the great aerobatics, including Stealth and Thunderbirds, the boys got a chance to do a bit of photography using expensive cameras and huge lenses.

The results of that photo effort includes the picture at the top of the page by number one son, Brian. He is understandably proud of that effort. In the interest of equal time, however, please see Bernardo's best of the day just above.

55.6% of the Supremes Say Global Warming Is True

I'm not sure there has ever been a more political decision that this one. The EPA is given jurisdiction to determine what pollutants to monitor and control, and which ones are inconsequential, although there are guidelines in the law. 5 of the 9 members of The Court have determined that the EPA either should or at least can include "greenhouse" gasses in the list of what they regulate. Of course, these gasses are naturally present, even critical. The legislature could have added Carbon Dioxide and Methane to the list of regulated items, but they haven't. So the Supremes have voted to go on the record regarding GW (Global warming and George W.)