Archive | August, 2013

Daily Download: August 29, 2013 (Will Smith wasn’t watching Miley, underrated sci-fi & shrimp boudin)

No, That Wasn’t Will Smith Reacting to Miley Cyrus — I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong.  The other day when the Miley Cyrus story broke, I posted the photo of Will Smith and his family that went viral.  I am guilty, along with lots of other people, of believing that just because Twitter says something it’s true, it must be.  That photo is a perfect case of how things can take on a life on their own on the Internet (and in the media) out of context but with the right tag line.  That photo was actually taken during Lady Gaga’s performance, and it’s actually just one of those moments where everyone in the family got a goofy look on their face all at the same time.  It’s not in response to Miley Cyrus or even anything specific.  The above link actually shows the video feed of what was going on alongside the video of the Smith family.  I hereby declare my error and announce this correction.  Sorry.

The improbable truth — Have you ever noticed that when Solomon comes to his conclusion at the end of the book of Ecclesiates in the Bible, it’s not with much fanfare?  He just makes his conclusive statement and moves on.  John Fischer has a knack for noticing these moments in Scripture and attempting to explain them.  Here’s a great real life take from John Fischer on the book of Ecclesiastes, its place in the canon of Scripture and what you can take very simply out of that moment.

What happens when the pastor of a megachurch loses his faith? — Peter Enns writes good blog titles that catch your eye.  This is one of them.  But the blog post is actually about a book that really sounds like it’s worth reading.  I’ve added it to my Amazon wishlist, so I wanted to share.

10 Websites that Teach Coding and More — I wrote about the value of teaching kids to code the other day.  Here’s another resource that 10 lists sites, paid and free, where you (or your kids) can learn to code.  Get to it.

The Five Underrated Sci-Fi Movie Masterpieces — I’m a fan of sci-fi movies.  I was intrigued to see what movies were listed in this “underrated” list.  I’ve only seen 1 of the five — “Gattaca” — and I’d agree that it was a really good movie you don’t hear much about.  I need to find the others to see what all the hubbub is all about.   I found several on Netflix, but I’ll probably have to watch them without my wife because they all sound somewhat ethereal and not very mainstream.

Seafood Boudin Recipe — I learned something new in the food world today.  I had no idea what “boudin” was or that people even make sausage from seafood.  Who knew?  I saw a reference to “shrimp boudin” on a menu, looked it up, and now I’m intrigued.  I stumbled upon the recipes linked here from Emeril Lagasse.  I probably won’t make it, but I need to try this stuff.

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Daily Download: August 27, 2013 (Teaching kids to code and schools quitting the healthy lunch program)

This 12-year-old kid learned to code on Codecademy, built 5 apps, and is speaking at SXSW — I’m all about kids learning to code as it’s a practical skill that can be used for fun or to make money in today’s marketplace, much like fixing cars was in an early day in American history. Several options are out there to learn to code, with two of the more popular options being Codeacademy and Treehouse. For a younger audience, teach the basics of computational logic through visual programming to grades 4-8 using the Tynker platform.  Also, in addition to its math and science educational content, Khan Academy has also delved into teaching the basics of computer science and programming.  The article linked above about Ethan Duggan and his apps that he has created also includes links to app-creation frameworks, including PhoneGap and Appgyver.  There are all kinds of ways to get codes into programming, but those are few to get things started.

Some school districts quit healthier lunch program — Over the past year and into this new school year, my kids have noticed the healthier fare in the school cafeteria and, while they continue to eat the school lunches, they are not thrilled with what they’re eating. My oldest, who is in sixth grade, is consistently unhappy about the lunch options, and he’s not a junk food kid by any means. I’ve encouraged him to start taking his lunch, and it’s interesting that the article says that children are stepping off lunch programs to opt out of the new menu.  And the macroeconomics of the decisions of multiple families to take their lunches has started eating into the finances of the school district lunch programs.  Beyond the economics, I hadn’t really thought about it, but there would also be a resultant educational effect on the kids who continue to opt for school lunch but don’t like the food and end up throwing it away:

“Some of the stuff we had to offer, they wouldn’t eat,” said Catlin, Ill., Superintendent Gary Lewis, whose district saw a 10 to 12 percent drop in lunch sales, translating to $30,000 lost under the program last year. “So you sit there and watch the kids, and you know they’re hungry at the end of the day, and that led to some behavior and some lack of attentiveness.”

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Daily Download: August 26, 2013 (Michael Bloomberg advice, hipsters video & Miley Cyrus + Robin Thicke)

Michael Bloomberg’s advice for success — Michael Bloomberg is the 13th richest person in the world.  So you have to listen to him when he gives advice on how to succeed.  At the same time, he’s getting quite a bit of flack for his approach.  Some would consider his suggestions outdated, but I give it to the guy for being willing to hustle and get it done.  I’m intrigued by his “old school” work ethic as well as the criticism he’s taking.  Some people make it his way, and some people make it other ways, so I’m not going to criticize the guy for telling us to work hard, and when you’re tired of that, work hard some more.  Yes, you need to choose your priorities and make sure you’re living the life that fulfills you and achieves the goals you’ve chosen, but don’t knock the guy for being honest about what’s worked for him.

Hipster Thanksgiving — This is hilarious because I’m pretty sure I know these people in real life ….

Miley Cyrus twerks, stuns VMAs crowd — I’m cracking up at this photo of the Will and Jada Smith and their kids at the Video Music Awards on MTV during Miley Cyrus’ performance.  Apparently, Miley has decided to push her career over to the “outrageous” category and made that decision official through her VMA performance.  Don’t watch the videos of the performance unless you really want to be shocked to see Hannah Montana go a whole other direction. What a way to make news.

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In a similar vein, TIME Magazine TV critic James Poniewozik wrote sentiments on Twitter that coincide with the looks on the Smith family’s faces.

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And the looks on the faces of Rihanna and the One Direction guys are telling as well.  The whole thing has become the joke of the Internet today, including a play-by-play over at Buzzfeed called the The 15 Weirdest And Craziest Moments From Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance.

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Apparently Miley helped Twitter set some records as well, helping this year’s VMAs hit 306,100 tweets per minute, and at one point, a one-second peak of 143,199 tweets per second.

Interestingly (and I’m willing to acknowledge that my first published version of this post didn’t include this observation) the only real criticism I’ve heard of Robin Thicke in this moment is people who didn’t like his striped suit.  Maybe it’s because this was Miley’s true “coming out” moment as an explicit, over-the-top act after her early career as a cleaner Disney actress, or maybe it’s because Robin Thicke has already taken all of his heat when his video full of topless women was released, but over at Jezebel, in a post titled “Miley’s Need to Shock Was The Least Shocking Thing About It”, they’re asking why we’re only talking about Miley in this moment (as we talked about Janet Jackson after his Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” and not too much about Justin) and not bringing Robin into the criticism.  A friend pointed me over to the Jezebel questioning, which is valid here:

“Cyrus’s performance was shocking, but for reasons not being discussed. It was jarring because, as opposed to the random, half-nude models we’re used to seeing prance around Robin Thicke, we were watching a 20-year-old woman — a household name, someone we “know” — play the object in Thicke’s sexy sex dream. And as was the case during the Janet Jackson/Justin Timberlake Super Bowl fiasco of 2004, the focus has been on Miley’s performance choices and not Thicke’s compliance in them. While criticizing a woman for her actions might imply that she’s being given an agency that has been long denied, it’s not. It’s holding her to a standard not required of her companion, who got to sit back and enjoy the young ass shoved in his face. “

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Reflections on Peter Enn’s “recovering from inerrancy in the second half of life”

The blog of Peter Enns resonates with me sometimes, and his post “Recovering from inerrancy in the second half of life” hit me personally. I felt it deep inside, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain why it affected me.

In the last year, pretty hardline positions and accusations against others’ views of inerrancy were central in the accusations that led to a painful church split that included my leaving my church home of 13 years to start over. In that situation, there was little willingness to discuss the nuances of the inerrancy debate or the qualifiers that go into the scholarly discussions of inerrancy that educate our use of the word in the American church. So-called “inerrancy” became a litmus test and a god and a substitute for other unspoken grievances without any discussion to define the word honestly or acknowledge all the baggage that was being dragged along by the accusers and hidden behind the word. The Enns blog post recounts the story of a friend of Enns’ and his friend’s difficult journey away from the inerrantist view. Enns notes:

“My friend, now past normal retirement age, left his former subculture 25 years ago and, in the throes of midlife, built a new career for himself. He’s been very happy, and he has also been active in a very-not-evangelical-or-inerrantist-inner-city church. He’s moved on and he’s just fine. “

I echo Enns in noting that, “My point isn’t to talk about inerrancy here.” There is no pointing fingers intended here. I’m simply working through some thoughts on the way to another place.

Some people will expend significant amounts of energy to declare the boundaries of the Christian faith and then declare others outside those boundaries, making declarations, sometimes publicly and repetitively, to castigate (in “love”?) a person who self-identifies as a follower of Jesus but who has been deemed by the declarer to actually be outside the boundaries of Christianity (as defined by the declarer). There are whole enclaves of evangelical thought and culture that seem driven to point out who’s not “really” a Christian or a true believer or follower or Christ because of this or that view or this or that behavior.

But one thing I’ve realized in the past year or so is that the spectrum of Christian faith is broad, even when those who like to draw the boundaries aren’t willing to admit it. Everyone has different opinions as to where the boundaries are, even within faith communities that supposedly believe the same thing. You’ll find that the nuances of human spirit and belief create quite a diversity of thought in the world of faith. And, granted, some boundaries that define Christianity are more clear than others. (And, yes, there are actually boundaries where what you’re talking about or practicing is no longer the Christian faith and has become something else, but from what I’ve seen, the actual boundaries are nowhere as objective as many make them out to be.)

Here are some observations from the last year or so: Those pursuing Christianity tend to agree that there is an absolute, definable and knowable Truth, and we find that Truth in the person of Jesus Christ, who actually lived, died and rose from the dead, and who serves as the perfect image of the unseen God. And we worship that Jesus and that God as divine. Those pursuing Christianity also tend to agree that the Bible talks about the Holy Spirit and its convicting and teaching ways that somehow supernaturally impact our thought processes and challenge and change us into something we weren’t before, usually at both a spiritual and personal level.

But I quote Enn’s discussion about his friend above because I’m coming to this place of realizing that you ultimately need to be settled in your own heart — you need to be “just fine” with where you are — that you are listening to and following God in an honest and authentic fashion, with a teachable heart, pursuing the teachings we find in the Bible in the best way you know how. The challenge for some, though, is acknowledging that there is a ton of interpretation that goes into how each of us works through those teachings and giving grace to those who are “just fine” with a different interpretation.

Our best place when we don’t agree with someone else’s views is to give grace to the one who sees it differently while seeking God’s grace for us so that we change our own mind if we’re wrong. I find that the intellectual debate is fun and can be hearty and passionate, but we evangelicals often go too far in cutting people off at the knees when we do disagree. And, unfortunately, from what I’ve seen recently, we evangelicals often then go out and declare to our friends who we (hope) agree with us about how wrong the other person is, disparaging them in the most concerned tones we can conjure while often exaggerating the opposing views to make sure we get agreement from those listening. (We’ve all done it out of our own pride and self-interest, and it’s important to admit that we have all been hypocrites at one time or another in that moment.)

This week, I read a post by Ed Cyzweski asking “Can Christians Be Unified If We Don’t Want the Same Thing?” There were some challenging and compelling questions in that post, and I encourage you to read it if you’ve gotten this far into my thoughts here. The post challenged my thinking on how to help create an atmosphere where people can pursue their faith with open hearts and open hands, seeking Christ and asking questions without being beat up for things that they may come across and, at least for some time, sit on and think through and talk through that may be outside the mainstream of thought within our subculture.

Human life is a progression of thoughts and moments, constantly shifting and moving. We humans are never set in stone, and our beliefs and actions are only reflections of our place in life at that moment, often shifting at a moment’s notice if enough changes. But we too often judge people based on their beliefs or actions at any given moment, and we project that judgment forward as if it will always be who they are. That kind of judgment doesn’t take into consideration the human experience. We have to give people space to work through ideas and sift through actions and beliefs so they develop and grow while acknowledging that their thoughts and beliefs aren’t permanent and may change over time.

Cyzweski says something that connects with who I want to be: “Living in the truth of the Gospel means I’m committed to removing the boundaries that others think the Gospel compels them to build.” That quote captured the swarm of ideas that I’ve been working through for months now, and it helped seal in my heart that I want to be that person who’s helping tear down sometimes false, sometimes unnecessary and sometimes completely arbitrary fences in the Christian experience that block people from truly connecting with Christ. And I want to offer the grace to people that helps them find Christ and hear God’s voice and live in the joyous interaction with the Holy Spirit that changes people and makes them truly new.

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Daily Download: August 22, 2013 (Ancient spices / Yahoo overtaking Google / consciousness & awareness)

6,100-year-old crock pot has earliest evidence of food spicing — The oldest evidence to date of humans spicing their food has been found in a Denmark and Germany. The spice is a garlic mustard seed, and the evidence shows that the seeds were finely crushed to create the flavoring. The researchers involved in the discovery actually reformulated the spice mix and tried it for themselves, and they said that it still tastes good.

Yahoo! Overtakes Google In US Web Traffic — How interesting! For the first time in over 2 years, Yahoo sites have had more pageviews than Google sites. Interestingly, that ranking doesn’t take into consideration search engine usage, which is dominated by Google, or mobile services, but it also doesn’t include traffic from Tumblr, which has huge pageviews and was recently acquired by Yahoo. From my own personal experience, Google killing off its Google Reader and Google Notebook and announcing that it’s killing off its iGoogle landing page are pushing people to other platforms for those services. And, if you haven’t noticed, I was using Google Blogger service for this blog, but yesterday I shifted it over to the WordPress service because Blogger has some idiosyncrasies that were driving me crazy. I love Google’s services, but their strategy and branding is odd right now.

How Consciousness Works — Excuse the pun, but this is truly mind-boggling information. Neuroscientist Michael Graziano walks through his theories of consciousness, attention and awareness. The basic concept is that we have a constantly updating model in our brains of ourselves and the world around us. The model of “ourselves” is consciousness and the model of “the world around us” is awareness. That model, like a military commander’s map of his battle units in relation to the enemy’s, is updating our relation to things and people around us, is attributing our response to those things (emotions, thought processes, whatever) but is also attributing perceived responses of the other things around us, such as our perceptions of what other people are feeling at the moment. And our brain is updating this model with a vast number of calculations about a vast number of objects at any given moment while also giving us the ability to zoom in and focus on certain specific elements, becoming more intimately and specifically aware of the things we’re focusing on at any given moment. He then rolls into theories of false awareness when you hear voices in your head or when someone believes a squirrel is in their head and how the brain process all such items. It’s an engrossing theory, and then the comments continue on in critiquing and discussion these concepts.

 

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Daily Download: August 21, 2013 (Paglia on Hillary / Apologetics deals / Birth of a star)

Camille Paglia: “It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton is our party’s best chance” — Camilla Paglia unloads on Hillary Clinton’s experience in an interview on Salon.com as she says it’s time to move on from baby boomer candidates and openly dreams of a 40something governor with actual executive experience to step into the fray of presidential politics and become the next hope of the Democratic party:

As a registered Democrat, I am praying for a credible presidential candidate to emerge from the younger tier of politicians in their late 40s. A governor with executive experience would be ideal. It’s time to put my baby-boom generation out to pasture! We’ve had our day and managed to muck up a hell of a lot. It remains baffling how anyone would think that Hillary Clinton (born the same year as me) is our party’s best chance. She has more sooty baggage than a 90-car freight train. And what exactly has she ever accomplished — beyond bullishly covering for her philandering husband? She’s certainly busy, busy and ever on the move — with the tunnel-vision workaholism of someone trying to blot out uncomfortable private thoughts.

I for one think it was a very big deal that our ambassador was murdered in Benghazi. In saying “I take responsibility” for it as secretary of state, Hillary should have resigned immediately. The weak response by the Obama administration to that tragedy has given a huge opening to Republicans in the next presidential election. The impression has been amply given that Benghazi was treated as a public relations matter to massage rather than as the major and outrageous attack on the U.S. that it was.

Throughout history, ambassadors have always been symbolic incarnations of the sovereignty of their nations and the dignity of their leaders. It’s even a key motif in “King Lear.” As far as I’m concerned, Hillary disqualified herself for the presidency in that fist-pounding moment at a congressional hearing when she said, “What difference does it make what we knew and when we knew it, Senator?” Democrats have got to shake off the Clinton albatross and find new blood.

20+ Apologetics Books on Kindle from $0.99 TO $2.99 — I’m into Christian apologetics, which is the study of the evidences, proofs and facts that support the Christian faith, and I even once started the process of getting a certificate in apologetics studies from Biola University, but then my life got crazy with having kids and running a business.  But, for those of you who are into apologetics as well, there are few things better than a good book to read.  This link is to a list of apologetics books you can get on your Kindle for cheap.  Have fun!

The birth of a star, captured in stunning photographic detail — Astronomers have captured photos of the development of a star called Herbig-Haro 46/47 that is located in the southern constellation of Vela, 1,400 light-years from Earth. The photos reveal massive jets of gas, such as carbon monoxide and ionized oxygen, shooting away from the forming star at speeds of up to about 621,000 mph. According to Hector Acre, an associate professor at Yale University who is studying this star formation, newly forming stars send out large jets of gas, even as they pull gas and other matter toward them in the process of their formation.

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Daily Download: August 20, 2013 (Christian unity / caffeinated Christians / undercutting Amazon)

Can Christians Be Unified If We Don’t Want the Same Thing? — Interesting personal journey blog post that was sent to me overnight after I made a frustrated Facebook post about the backbiting, insulting, insinuating, slandering, demeaning, misquoting and maligning that goes on in the evangelical Christian culture towards fellow believers who don’t believe quite like you do.  Someone referred to it as “friendly fire” jokingly, and I understand that, but it’s sure not friendly.  It’s a fear of being wrong that causes you to hold onto your “right” so hard that you have to tear down anyone else inside the Christian camp who has a different view of things.  It boggles me how rampant it is.  The great quote I took out of this article is:

I have committed myself to Jesus and to living the kind of life he modeled and talked about in the Bible. I am fully convinced that it is true. And because I believe it is true, I will live my life erasing boundaries and reaching out to anyone, and I mean anyone, who will listen to the story of Jesus.
Living in the truth of the Gospel means I’m committed to removing the boundaries that others think the Gospel compels them to build.

Interestingly, his ultimate point is to question whether we can even have “unity” in the evangelical world when there are two different crowds who are seeking after different seemingly different results.  It’s a fair question, but I really hope the true answer is in the negative.

Wanted: More caffeinated Christians — In a similar but more motivational way, I post this article from John Fischer.  I can honestly say that John Fischer has likely had more influence on my thinking over the past 25 years than any other Christian author during the time.  These days, N.T. Wright is coming in a close second, but Fischer has been influencing me since my junior or senior year of high school back at Bolivar High.  In this article he notes an Australia study that looked at the thought processes of those drinking caffeinated coffee and those drinking decaf, and the study came to this conclusion:

[C]affeine makes people more open to logical argument, even when it runs counter to their previously held opinions. The caffeine group, across the board, tested out as being consistently more open-minded than the decaf group.

Fischer then makes the argument (and it appears has written a book on the topic) that Christians today could really learn from this concept:

All of this applies, across the board, to being a vital Christian in the marketplace. Being able to connect with others, looking for touchpoints of truth, putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, being able to come to where someone else is instead of always asking them to come to us, are all ways of establishing relationships with unbelievers
Unbelievers today are largely expecting our minds as Christians to already be made up. Let’s surprise them.

Again, John Fischer has hit the nail on the head. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Problem for Bezos: Mall Becoming Cheaper Than Amazon — Whoa!  I never would have guessed this one!  For a basket of 30 items at Bed, Bath & Beyond, the cart was 6.5% less than those items would have cost on Amazon.com.  And if you include the 20% off coupons the Bed, Bath & Beyond sends out, the price gap spreads to 25%.  I’ve always found Bed, Bath & Beyond expensive, so I’m surprised by this new.  Also, Overstock.com has said it will undercut Amazon book prices by 10%, but then Amazon said it would match the Overstock.com price.  Who knew the brick and mortar market could catch up to Amazon in price?  Now if they’d just ship everything to me in 2 days!

Pastor to burn 2,998 Korans on 9/11  — And in other news, another evangelical has way too much time on his hands ….  and sadly enough, he’s actually a Missouri native.

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What a difference a year makes!

As we’ve just wrapped up the first week of school and had a great experience as we roll into our first full year in the Nixa school district, it hit me this weekend how things have changed significantly over the last year.

A year ago, we had just sold our house in Ozark and had moved into the Springfield school district to prepare to build.  We were living in a rental house and integrating our kids into the Springfield schools that we anticipated they would be in once we built our house.  The rental was a true blessing of a house that covered our needs and worked for the time being although it had minimal outside space (we really need to go to a park to get real outside time), and it had a grumpy old neighbor who wasn’t the most friendly guy and was really hung up on his boundary lines and his space and made it clear from day one that he had no patience for kids (while wearing his “World’s Greatest Dad” t-shirt on Father’s Day).  That being said, we really enjoyed the Springfield school district while there, and oddly enough, I really enjoyed actually living inside the Springfield city limits.

Looking back on that time, though, we were so transitional and between moments in our life as a family.  Since that time, we’ve bought our property in Nixa, we’ve shifted schools, we’ve shifted our life out of Springfield and back into Christian County, and it hasn’t been an easy process.  We’ve gone through six months of remodeling our new home and settling into the new way of living in a different house with different systems and a different flow of life.  It’s been crazy, but it’s come to a really good place that just feels right.  As we’ve wrapped up this remodel time in our new house, we’re so excited about where we are, both in the property and the feeling of our home and as a family as school has started with a good outlook.

Also toss into that timeline that at this time last year, we never would have expected that the church we’d invested our lives in for over a dozen years would split. What a major disruption of so many lives, including ours, has taken place in the last year of time!  Our church body went for months in limbo as it seemed like the different factions might be able to reconcile and bring it all back together, but then things just began to slide apart.  Since Amy and I were both heavily involved at church and I was in leadership, we were stuck right in the middle of it all.  And then there was the aftermath of negativity that now slowly seems to be dissipating, even though you still hear of backbiting and slanderous accusations (even today I heard one!) that have no merit and no grounding in facts.  But since then, Amy and I have had the honor of being part of the group of people who have collaborated together to start a new and dynamic church that has taken off in ways we would have never imagined and has been a place of hope and Christ-expression for many people who were beginning to give up on church.

At this time last year, Amy had just had foot surgery and was barely healing and onto a scooter, so I was buying school supplies and going to school meetings, and her mom was living with us to help out as the school year started.  During the course of the last year, she had the same surgery on the other foot, and we did the whole process a second time right as the church situation was blowing up and also then with recovery continuing on into the time we were moving to the Nixa property.  Those two foot surgeries really took focus as a couple and as a family, and it’s good to have them behind us.  They were such milestones in such a tumultuous year, and I’m glad we’re past them.

I was making breakfast this past weekend for the kids, making my Daddy Waffles, and it just hit me that we’re past all that.  We now live in a new home (to us) with a new flow of life in a new school district in a new town and participating in a new church.  “He makes all things new!”  I know that phrase means much more in a Biblical context, but it’s been a year of lots of challenges and quite a bit of stress and pain, both physically (through the foot surgeries) and emotionally (through the challenges of both school and church that have taken place), and it really hit me as poignant in this moment of new.

As this year has progressed, we’ve made new friends and new alliances and have begun eating at new restaurants and frequenting new parts of town and thinking about the world a little differently.  He truly does make all things new, and we’ve felt the refreshing of his Spirit come over us in the last little while as we’ve found a moment to take a breath and realize that we’re in a completely different place and in a completely different life than we were a year ago.  And, as I cooked breakfast, I realized how important it was to realize that and to memorialize that moment of accepting the change that God brings into our lives as He shifts us to where He wants us to be.  And I took a moment to appreciate the evidence of God working in our lives as a family and as individuals as He continues to daily make us new in that more spiritual way.

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Daily Download: August 16, 2013 (Scientology compound / suicide website / nifty maps / pool noodles)

Scientology’s ‘alien space cathedral and spaceship landing pad’ built in the New Mexico desert — This is cool!  Scientology apparently has a complex in New Mexico that includes a mile-long landing strip, purportedly for alien (or humas coming from space) landings, massive circles and diamonds etched in the ground to make sure the aliens (or humans returning to Earth after a nuclear catastrophe) can find the place, and a 3-story house built into a mountainside that supposedly has chambers and tunnels into the mountain for the safe keeping of L. Ron Hubbard’s writings.  That’s full blown sci fi movie material!  These Scientologists have great toys and parties and complexes!  Where do they come up with the money to do all of this and maintain it all?  My understanding of Scientology is that it’s very money-driven, but how many people have the cash to dump into their religion to build desert complexes like this and pay the staff to maintain them?  I wonder how much the custodian of this New Mexico complex gets paid to run a super-secret, end-times enclave.

Former Kansas City Star sports journalist creates website to explain his suicide — In what appears to be a first, someone has created an entire website to explain their suicide.  Sports journalist Martin Manley, who left the Kansas City Star in early 2012, killed himself Thursday on his 60th birthday in front of a police station.  Even more surreal than that, the website seems to point to a $200,000 treasure of his remaining gold and silver coins buried in an Overland Park, Kansas botanical garden, identified by GPS coordinates on his suicide website. Investigation has since shown the this treasure of coins was actually given away last year.  In the site, where he explains “Why suicide?” he notes that he doesn’t have any health issues driving the suicide, and under the “Health” link, he goes deep into his health history to show that he doesn’t have any major health issues.  But one report notes that he was “suffering from grapheme-color synesthesia and his mind was deteriorating rapidly”, although  he has a page about his synesthesia but doesn’t seem to have any concern about it beyond novelty.  I think the “mind was deteriorating rapidly” is actually a separate thought from the synesthesia discussion, as he discusses that he has memory problems but they don’t seem related to the synesthesia.  Regardless, the site he created to commemorate and explain his life and his ultimate suicide (there is also a mirror site — the site in general seems to have some issues and certain pages are inaccessible, and I can’t access a few of the pages on the main site or the mirror) has been prepaid for 5 years and is a pretty intriguing read, walking through his life story but also simply working through personal facts about himself that he finds worth remembering, even down to discussions of gun control, 9/11 conspiracies, his traffic ticket history, the benefits of living in Johnson County, Kansas and more.

Adverse possession (from Wikipedia) — I’m simply linking to the Wikipedia page on adverse possession because it’s a novel legal topic that I explained to a friend today.  It’s one of those things that you learn about early in law school in real property law, and when it’s explained to you, you ask, “Is that really legal?”  It’s essentially the idea that if you treat someone else’s property as yours and act like you own it for a continuous 10 year period, you can get a judge to enter an order that it’s now yours.  It lines up with the concept of “squatter’s rights”, but it’s actually something that’s come up quite a bit during my legal career.  There are several elements that must be fulfilled to have a successful claim for adverse possession and it can easily fall apart if you’re not diligent in pursuing your fake rights to property that isn’t yours.   The Wikipedia entry does a good job of walking through the particulars, but if you’re looking for a fun legal topic today to learn today, check out adverse possession.

40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense of the World  — These maps are amazing.  They’re a great visual way to synthesize information and research from around the world.  I was enthralled.  Even cooler was the map of Pangea, the supercontinent made up of all other continents that was apparently  broken up by continental drift.  Back in third grade, I made the connection that the continents sure seemed like puzzle pieces, and this map is a concept of what it would look like with all the puzzle pieces put back together.

6 Silly But Clever Uses for Pool Noodles — As we start wrapping toward the end of summer, here is  a useful list of things you can do with pool noodles besides using them as pool noodles.  I like the floating drink barge idea.  But, beware, you’re going to have to cut up your pool noodles to make most of these work.

 

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Daily Download: August 15, 2013 (stunt jump death / food inspections / smart thermostats

Stunt jumper who parachuted into 2012 Olympics as James Bond has died in wing-diving accident — Stuntman Mark Sutton was killed in a jump while on location with the Swiss Alps, jumping as part of a group of the world’s top wing-diving pilots for an Epic TV event.  That’s really sad.  In wing-diving, the goal is to fly very close to the ground or a mountain side, and divers can reach speeds up to 125 mph in the process.  That’s amazing, but yes, it’s dangerous, too.  I wonder if someone’s created an iPhone game where you wing-dive.  Tiny Wings is like that, I guess.

Greene County, Missouri food inspections  — Waffle Houses — 2 of them —  top the restaurant inspections list this week with the North Glenstone store having 5 critical violations and 3 non-critical, while the East Sunshine store had 4 critical violations and 4 non-criticals.  Other big hitters on the multiple critical violations list this week are Ziggies North on North Glenstone (4 critical and 5 non-critical),  Lucy’s Chinese on East Sunshine (with 4 critical violations and 3 non-critical), Crosstown Barbecue on Division (with 3 critical and 4 non-critical) and La Hacienda on Glenstone (with 3 critical and 4 non-critical).  Also snagging multiple critical violations this week are Big Easy Grill on Sunshine, College Street Cafe, Heritage Cafeteria, Panera Bread on South National, and Steak ‘n Shake on South Glenstone.

Smart Thermostats  — I need to get a programmable thermostat at my house, and I’m intrigued by smart thermostats that are connected to your wifi, learn your temperature habits, and is controllable by your phone.  But, wow, they’re over $250!  I can get an old school 7-day programmable thermostat for about $50.  Or if I go fancy and go with a touchscreen, it’s about $65.  My friend says that a smart thermostat  “can be controlled by smartphone or laptop.  That’s nice.  On your way home from work you can turn it up or down so that it’s comfortable by the time you get home.”  Who does this?  I change my thermostat when we wake up, when we leave the house, when we get home, and when we go to bed.  Who are these people who are in constant phone contact with their thermostats, changing temperatures on the fly from their car or office?  Next, we’ll need to make sure there a Nest app for our Google Glasses so we don’t have to touch anything with our fingers to change our thermostats, making sure that we can always see the temperature in our houses on our Glasses display.  Or better yet, maybe I can just tell Siri to change my thermostat!  How fancy would that be?

 

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