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Daily Download: October 8, 2013 (Obamacare sticker shock, Reid’s refusals, Mid East gay death penalty, nuclear fusion)

Obamacare’s winners and losers in Bay Area — Here’s a good representative article of the sticker shock that some are now feeling now that Obamacare is officially in effect. Some with preexisting conditions are seeing some relief in their premiums, while some who are healthy with no preexisting conditions are seeing an increase, and it seems the difference is primarily based on where they live and how much they make per year with those living in nicer areas and making more money being the ones seeing premium increases. (Can anyone say “class warfare”?)

The story recounts a self-employed father of 4 whose annual family premiums went up by over $10,000. He says that he was laughing at the Republicans in Congress until he got his insurance bill in the mail, and now he suddenly realizes that the Affordable Care Act wasn’t intended to be affordable for him.  Another whose rates went up gave this classic Obamacare quote:

“Of course, I want people to have health care.  I just didn’t realize I would be the one who was going to pay for it personally.”

In the article, the woman who has previously had breast cancer has seen her insurance rates fluctuate from $317 in 2005 to $1,298 in 2013. Her new rate is now $795. She’s the protagonist in this article, closing out the story by citing the benefits of the new law and encouraging optimism:

“Obamacare is a huge step in the right direction for those of us without employer coverage,” she said, adding that she hopes everyone will “join in and make this new legislation a success for all.”

Can it be a “success for all”? According to the article, the new law will “often” make “some” policies more expensive because it limits out-of-pocket expenses to $6,350 annually for an individual and $12,700 for a family. In addition, the law restricts the minimum and maximum premiums that people can be charged based on their age. Before the new law, a 64-year-old could be charged almost five times more than a 21-year-old, which one would assume makes sense because a 64-year-old is more likely to have health problems. But, beginning Jan. 1, the difference will be a 3-1 ratio, although 64-year-olds didn’t get any healthier overnight. I’m just concerned that these increased costs aren’t sustainable long-term, especially as our population ages.

GOP congressman: We stumbled into war over Obamacare — An anonymous GOP congressman lays out what happened to cause the fight over Obamacare and the ultimate federal government shutdown, showing that it was really caused by Harry Reid’s refusal to negotiate on anything offered on anything by Boehner.  While Boehner takes the blame in the press, the article seems to show that the real fight started because Reid was surprised by the strength of Ted Cruz’s campaign against Obamacare, and Reid in turn sought to embarrass Boehner before his GOP conference, ultimately leading both sides to dig in. The congressman makes a good analogy using the Battle of Gettysburg and how neither side intended to have a battle but instead stumbled into a pretty intense and historic moment.

Gulf states to introduce medical testing on travelers to ‘detect’ gay people and stop them from entering the country — I’m really curious what kind of medical test these Middle Eastern Gulf states are developing to detect homosexuality and how intrusive it is. Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) member countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – outlaw homosexual acts.  I’m surprised to learn that it’s illegal to be gay in 78 countries, with lesbianism banned in 49 countries. Even more, 5 countries will sentence gay people to the death penalty  – Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Mauritania. Since 1979, Iran has executed more than 4,000 people for committing homosexual acts. In Sudan, the death penalty is issued to men after their third offense, but women may be stoned after their first offense of a lesbian act, or if not, they’ll be given thousands of lashes. Mauritania will stone publicly anyone caught in an “unnatural act”.

Nuclear fusion milestone passed at US lab — This is a big deal. Nuclear fusion would revolutionize the energy industry, but it’s been elusive for so long. It’s great to hear that a US-based lab is leading the way in developing nuclear fusion technology.

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Daily Download: October 3, 2013 (Light sabers, Sinead O’Connor)

Star Wars light sabers finally invented — My boys have had a collaborative vision to invent light sabers, but they haven’t advanced very far in their attempts.  Fortunately, it appears that another team of scientists has also been working on the problem of bringing light particles into a mass that can be self-contained and do a little intergalactic damage.  And who says we don’t have scientific priorities in the United States?  This science is coming out of Harvard and MIT, thank you very much.  Says Harvard physics professor Mikhail Lukin:

Most of the properties of light we know about originate from the fact that photons are massless and do not interact.  What we have done is create a special type of medium in which photons interact with each other so strongly that they act as though they have mass, and bind together to form molecules.  It’s not an in-apt analogy to compare this to lightsabers. When these photons interact with each other, they’re pushing against and deflect each other. The physics of what’s happening in these molecules is similar to what we see in the movies.

Hopefully they’ll have the technology completely figured out in time for light sabers to be the Christmas gift of choice the year the new Star Wars Episode VII comes out.  Maybe they could even create a miniature version for inclusion in LEGO Star Wars sets.

Sinéad O’Connor’s open letter to Miley Cyrus — I’ve posted quite a bit about this Miley Cyrus image change.  I’m intrigued by it and the business behind it.  Many are acting like this is a personal problem without recognizing the business strategy behind it, and the combination and merging of the personal and business in this situation is what keeps me thinking about it.  Sinead O’Connor is thinking about it as well now that Miley said in a Rolling Stone interview that her look and the “Wrecking Ball” video took inspiration from Sinead O’Connor’s own look and her “Nothing Compares 2 U” video.  Sinead wrote a compelling open letter to Miley, and she doesn’t pull any punches in laying out her iconic angst toward this executives who run the music industry.  Having lived  a life of making waves  in the music industry, Sinead writes from experience, and her advice is worth the read for all women, but particularly those in entertainment.

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Daily Download: Sept. 19, 2013 (Faith/science books, Miley’s Wrecking Ball, apologetics tension, New Zealand sky)

Some Brutally Frank Relationship Advice from a 98-Year-Old Woman — For starters, this interview is taken from “Dana Adam Shapiro’s You Can Be Right (Or You Can Be Married), a by-turns funny, wise, harrowing, and heartbreaking collection of interviews with divorcees,” so don’t expect her to be telling stories of her perfect, loving marriage of 60 years. And the representative quote from the article is:

“First of all, you have to be sexually compatible. That’s very important. If anyone tells you different, they’re nuts.”

That’s a glimpse of where this is going, but it’s a very entertaining read knowing that it’s coming from a 98-year-old woman. And if you avoid reading the advice of people who aren’t coming from a Judeo-Christian worldview, I’d skip this read. As one friend noted, you won’t be reading this advice in Christianity today.

Faith Outside the Bubble — Speaking of Christianity Today, a friend pointed me to this review of the book The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith by Matthew Lee Anderson. The subtitle of the review is “Christians who question their beliefs deserve better than defensive slogans and cliches,” which is a great quote in general. Reviewer Alister McGrath notes:

Anderson cuts to the quick, avoiding scholarly detachment and academic jargon. A series of well-chosen examples allows him to probe why we are reluctant to engage questions, while at the same time illuminating how such questions can enrich faith. We need to do more to help Christians—especially those attending college—to internalize their faith, gain a proper confidence in its roots, and learn to express this in gracious responses to the questions they will inevitably encounter.

I’ve always been a fan of Christian apologetics, helping defending the faith to challenge, and I even was once working on an institutional Certificate of Christian Apologetics offered from Biola University. Over the years, though, I’ve found apologetics, while having value, can also chop questions off at the knees and can actually stunt the growth of those who simply trust the apologist instead of working through the challenges and questions for themselves. Apologetics, as important as it is from an intellectual point of view, can lead many to pat answers instead of honest questions and relationships with those who really want to own the answers. There must be a balance. McGrath, who is known as an apologist, notes in his review that the straight apologetics approach:

neglects the crucial relational aspects of faith. More problematically, it also encourages people simply to learn the answers, without having internalized the deep logic of Christianity. Anderson worries—with good reason—that a faith that knows the answers, but doesn’t understand the questions, is both superficial and vulnerable.

Although the book is directed to pastors, I may have to check it out. McGrath wraps up his review:

Anderson is right to point out that the current emphasis on “dialogue”—particularly within emerging church circles—can stand in tension with a commitment to truth. But it doesn’t need to. I wish the book had included more on the role of dialogue as a form of apologetics or a means of spiritual development. And I would have liked more on the role of friendship as a way of helping us to cope with doubt, of deepening our appreciation of aspects of our faith, and as a context for exploring disagreements without provoking division.

But on the whole, this wide-ranging and well-written book does a fine job of opening up the place of questioning in the Christian life. Anderson has insightfully explored how questioning can be a legitimate form of intellectual inquiry, and a means of growing in faith. Further questions remain, not least about how to convert these ideas into pastoral practices. But it’s a great handshake to begin a conversation.

Origins, Faith, the Bible and Science — I’ve been engulfed in a very engaging conversation with friends about the origins of the universe and how to mesh Genesis and science. How important is it, as a follower of Jesus, to believe that the earth was formed in six 24-hour periods? Some would have you believe it’s vital. Others are fine with an Old Earth view that includes God and his handiwork. I’m intrigued at how much energy is spent in the Christian world on these question. Some have really made a believer’s views of Genesis 1 & 2 a litmus test of faith, and I’m not so sure it’s as vital as it’s made out to be. I once was a very solid Young Earth believer in the idea of six 24-hour days, but I’ve backed off that in recent years. I can heartily make all the arguments for the shorter period, but I’m no longer as certain as I once was when I look at the scientific discussions on the matter, and I’m admittedly disenchanted with the sometimes adamant evangelical tone that can demand a certain belief. Is this type of hyperfocus on certain pet issues really what Jesus came and died for? I’m really struggling with that question because in some circles, they really hammer on this topic.

My friends and I have shared lots of articles and book titles with each other, and I’m trying to find time to fit them all in, but I figured I’d share a few links of you’re on this journey yourself. The conversation started based on the article “A Defense of Six-Day Creation” as juxtaposed against Peter Enns’ book Evolution of Adam, The: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins. I’ve read much on the topic over the last 20 years or so, but my reading list is suddenly multiplying. Thanks to Amazon.com and its ability to recommend books that might be worth your reading when you’re looking at a subject, as well as some personal recommendations from the group based on books we’ve read or are reading, we’ve come up with the following aspirational reading list on the subject:

I can’t specifically recommend any of these books, but I haven’t read any of them yet, but they come out of personal conversations and Amazon results, so take them as you will. I’ve created an Amazon list to track books on the subject that I find. If you want to jump in and read as well, go for it. It’s sometimes a very technical topic that is routinely oversimplified on both sides, and we all want to understand it a little better. If you’re in the same boat, I hope this list jumpstarts your study.

Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball — Last week I made the case to a friend that Miley Cyrus knows exactly what she’s doing. This isn’t Britney Spears, Lindsey Lohan or Justin Bieber acting out their wonder years because they didn’t get to be children. Miley Cyrus, whose career has been quietly tapering away as the former Hannah Montana, is taking a calculated risk that she’s about to make a ton of money and climb the mountain of fame. I would argue that this moment in her career is as calculated as anything Justin Timberlake has executed in his rise to fame. She’s taking the reigns of her career and shapeshifting into the Madonna of this decade. She is in the midst of a tightly choreographed career change, surrounded my agents, managers, and handlers who are helping her pull it off. No one was really noticing until her VMA appearance with Robin Thicke but that was the kickoff of the main event. Between that VMA grandstanding and her very naked and suggestive Wrecking Ball music video, Miley is making the move, and it’s no mistake. As this insider article notes:

Miley Cyrus is incredibly smart, she’s manipulating the clueless … to increase her fame, to drive her record to number one, and she’s executed beautifully.

To me, it’s obvious that this isn’t personal to her. It’s business, and she’s aggressively making her way in the entertainment business. Agree or not, she will get rich and famous off this for a while. No, that’s not the point of life, but that is one of the resounding and persistent themes of show biz, and she’s in show biz. I’m glad Mr. Lefsetz agrees with me.

Amazing New Zealand night sky time-lapse video — My mom sent me this link to an article about a photographer who has focused on time-lapse sky photography in New Zealand. Apparently, you can really see the sky in New Zealand. The photographer notes that sitting out under the stars and creating these images over long periods of time has become a spiritual experience for him. After watching the video, I can understand why.

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Daily Download: Sept. 12, 2013 (The Pope and atheists / “Boy World” / Mass hysteria from Facebook)

Pope Francis assures atheists: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven – For a Pope, Pope Francis is really putting himself out there. In an open letter to founder of a newspaper, the Pope wrote:

“You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”

The response is being referred to as “him seeking to have a more meaningful dialogue with the world.” Even the party who asked the question noted that the Pope’s comments were “further evidence of his ability and desire to overcome barriers in dialogue with all.”  I don’t foresee other critics being so kind.

‘Boys Have Deep Emotional Lives’ — Rosalind Wiseman, writter of Queen Bees and Wannabes and Mean Girls has now tackled the world of boys with her latest book, Masterminds and Wingmen: Helping Our Boys Cope with Schoolyard Power, Locker-Room Tests, Girlfriends, and the New Rules of Boy World.  I have 3 boys, all of whom I’m trying to help develop into men of character and wisdom, physical and mental strength, who are closely connected with God, the people around them, and their world.  Here’s an interview with Wiseman about today’s world of boys (which seems much like the world of boys I knew back in my younger days).  It sounds like the book might be worth the read.

What Witchcraft Is Facebook? — Could Facebook cause events of mass hysteria much like the one attributed to Salem, Massachusetts during the witch trials? Could you “catch” a disease and really believe you have it simply because others are posting about it on Facebook? Sociologist Robert Bartholomew thinks it may already be happening and that we may soon see epidemics of physical symptoms (primarily in girls) where the contagion is actually a mass hysteria propogated by social media.

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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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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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