Tuesday, February 28, 2006

No More Fast Food

Is it just me or does it feel like time is flying by this year? As I look at the calendar I can hardly believe it's already March and the start of Lent. The past few years I have given up or tried giving up certain things for lent that held a power over me. Last year it was TV and while it was difficult, I appreciated the break and began to use my time more wisely. This year I have decided that I am giving up fast food. I tried this a couple years ago and only lasted a couple weeks but I am feeling up to the task this time.

Giving up fast food should help me in two ways. First of all it should help me lose a little weight. I noticed a few weeks ago that I had put on quite a few pounds and I hope that by cutting down on my late night taco bell runs, I can get into a little bit better shape. Secondly, I am hoping to save some money. I tried keeping track of all the money I spent on food and it was discouraging. So if I can eat at home more often I should see a little extra money in my pocket.

I look forward to the next couple months as I prepare for Easter. When I look back at what God has done for me, giving up fast food is hardly difficult in comparison.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Booker T Washington Quotes

The following are some great quotes from Booker T. Washington

"Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome."

"Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company."

"Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him."

"I let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate him."

"Character, not circumstances, makes the man."

"One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him."

"There are two ways of exerting one's strength: one is pushing down, the other is pulling up."

"Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work."

"No man, who continues to add something to the material, intellectual and moral well-being of the place in which he lives, is left long without proper reward."

"The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts."

"If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else."

"There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs -- partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do do not want to lose their jobs."

"No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem. "

"No greater injury can be done to any youth than to let him feel that because he belongs to this or that race he will be advanced in life regardless of his own merits or efforts."

"Character is Power"

Footnote: These quotes were taking from the following websites: wikipedia.org and about.com

Black History Month

In lieu of Black History month I decided to do some reading on famous black Americans. There are many such leaders to choose from and though I was already familiar with their names I didn't really know a lot of specifics. During my reading I came to really appreciate Booker T Washington.

For those that are unfamiliar with him, he was born the son of a black slave but his father was white. He never knew his father and after the civil war he began studying at a school for teachers. While at that school he made an impression on Samuel Armstrong who was the school's administrator. So lasting an impression that when a group of investors decided to start a school for all blacks in the south, Armstrong recommended Washington to be in charge. The Tuskegee Institute was a big success and helped equip blacks with practical skill sets and prepared them to enter the workforce.

Because of this success, Washington became a leading educator and spokesperson in the black community. He also became a beloved figure among politicians and earned multiple trips to the whitehouse. But this success also earned him criticism among many leaders in the black community who saw Washington as a sell out to the white man. You see instead of sparking political change like they wanted, Washington wanted to create an independent working class of black people. He thought if they could work and support themselves, they wouldn't need the government to support them.

What I find so fascinating is how applicable his life and his worldview are today. One of the reasons he was able to succeed in life was because an older man believed in him and gave him an opportunity to make his life better. With the growing number of black children being born into homes without a father, today's black youth are dying for such men to invest their lives. This illustration also shows me that even though Samuel Armstrong is footnote in the history books, he still made a significant difference. Sometimes it is not what we do with our own lives but what we do to help others that makes the most lasting impressions.

The other major thing I learned was that the criticisms of Washington go to the heart of the current political debate today. Should blacks put their efforts into gaining power in government or should they focus on improving the black economy? Now I realize that many people will say we need to do both, but one of these visions will certainly take precedent. Sadly, today's black leadership still prefers government as the solution to their problems. And worse, they still prefer attacking any black leader that doesn't espouse the party line. Clarence Thomas and other conservative black leaders face the same kind of derision that Washington faced.

One final thing that intrigues me is that Washington did not teach the classical liberal arts to his students but instead focused on trade skills. He took some criticism for this as well from his fellow black leaders. In Michigan, we are currently debating what skills should be needed to graduate high school and there is a growing divide between college prep courses and career and technical courses. Maybe Washington's success will shed some light on this debate so we can determine what's best to prepare all kids for their careers.

I am glad that we have February set aside to study black history. There is a lot to learn and apply to our current day. I have certainly gained a lot of respect for and knowledge from Booker T. Washington.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Proud to be American?

The Olympics have been a complete bust for America this year. I really don't care that we haven't won the most medals but what I do care about is how selfish and annoying our top athletes have been. Has there ever been a worse winner than that Shani Davis? Doesn't he realize that he could have been a marketing star for being the first black athlete to win a gold medal in the winter olympics? Instead he is a jerk in the interview after he wins the gold and before that he held out of the team competition which potentially cost the US a medal. Thankfully, because nobody cares about speedskating we can all forget about him at least until NBC reminds us of him again four years from now.

Then there is Lyndsey Jacobellis who was going to win the gold in snowboarding but decided to show off and ended up falling and only taking the silver. That event signifies the mentality of today's athlete perfectly. All flash and no substance. The worst part of her stupid stunt was that I was starting to enjoy the snowboard racing but she ruined it.

There is also Bode Miller who I thought was a good skier but apparently he sucks because he hasn't won a thing this year. I guess he should try skiing sober in the next olympics. Before the games started I had hoped to cheer against him everytime he raced but he lost so often that I stopped caring.

Finally, there is Mike Modano from that successful 1-4-1 hockey team. First he complained that he had to book his own flights and hotel rooms. Yeah, I can see how difficult that could be and how that might impact your performance. Then he calls out his coach for calling a timeout in the final game and says that he thought the team played pretty well. Apparently, they didn't play not well enough to win and this with a roster of professional NHL players. No wonder nobody watches the NHL. Then to top it all off he decides to skip the final team meeting and fly home. Good riddance.

Whatever happened to American heroes in the olympics? If this crop of losers is the best we have to offer, I am not proud to be American.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Is Bush Stupid?

Let me preface by saying that I really like President Bush. I voted for him twice and respect him for being a man of principle even when a majority of people disagree with him. Unfortunately, this one of the times which I agree with the majority who have concerns over the recent transaction to turn operation of several of our ports over to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Last week, under a secret agreement with the administration, the company called Dubai Ports World purchased the rights to operate the ports in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia for $6.8 billion. Previously, the ports were run by the London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. which is a publicly traded company. Dubai Ports is solely controlled by the UAE government. Thus, this transaction essentially turns over control of our major ports along the east coast to an Arab country.

The Department of Homeland Security has made repeated statements in the past on the need to improve security among our ports. So why are we simply handing the keys to one our most vulnerable access points to a potential enemy? There are stories coming out daily regarding the UAE's ties to terrorism including Osama Bin Laden. Now I have no idea how serious these accusations are but it doesn't take much of a leap to assume that they could be true. Arab countries have a long history of at least giving aid and comfort to terrorist regimes if not outright supporting them.

When Congress found out about this deal, many politicians from both sides of the aisle became alarmed. But what was Bush's response? Instead of determining that he made a mistake and backing away from the agreement, he has dug in and decided to hold his ground. He has even gone on the attack against those who oppose the deal as being anti-Arab. Well yes Mr. President I am anti-Arab in the sense that I don't trust Arab countries with our national security and I have a difficult time understanding why you would trust them. What has the UAE done in the past to earn our trust?

And while this is a policy error, it is an even larger public relations and political debacle. Bush's one strong point is protecting our homeland from terrorism. People might not like him personally or agree with his domestic agenda but they do trust him when it comes to the war on terror. Now all of the sudden that trust has been shattered by a deal that doesn't appear to benefit anyone other the UAE. Bush gets nothing out of this deal accept ceding the high ground on security issues to people like Hilary Clinton. This is exactly the opportunity she needed to flank Bush from the right and finally make herself look like a moderate.

I hope that Bush's ego or at least his advisors finally come to their senses and see this as the losing proposition that it truly is. It took several weeks for him to abandon Harriet Miers but eventually he saw the writing on the wall and we ended up with a very good judge in Alito. Maybe he can salvage this situation as well but by the looks of it, Bush is looking to fight a battle he cannot and should not win.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The book on dating

I have often thought of publishing a book on dating. Using examples from my own dating experiences it would be a mix of genres including biography, comedy, philosophy and horror. But before I start writing,I need a title. The following is a list of potential titles for my book.

1. And you thought your lovelife was bad?

2. All theory, no practice

3. The good, the bad and the ugly

4. A series of unfortunate events

5. I love you Jeff, But..........

6. I'm just not that into you

7. Cobb's Law. How everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.

8. Dating debacles, disasters and other boondoggles.

9. I'm not gay; I am just bad with women

10. What was I thinking?

11. Dating kissed me goodbye

12. Much ado about nothing

13. Celibacy; the gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving

14. You've got no mail

15. So why aren't you married yet? And other annoying comments made by married people

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Olympics

With apologies to my friend Todd who participated in the Olympics, I have come to the conclusion that I don't enjoy watching the games anymore. Some people are already buzzing about how cool it will be to wacth the winter games this year but I just don't get it. It seems to me that if you enjoy professional or major college sports that the olympics pale in comparison.

First of all I hate the TV coverage of the games. It's ludicrous that into today's 24 year global market that they show the games edited and tape delayed. Nothing ruins a sporting event more than chopping it up over several nights or showing it hours after most people have read about the winner on the Internet. I also detest the awful human interest stories. I really don't care if a the swedish skier grew up in poverty and had to ski up hill both ways to school. So what? Save the lame stories for the lifetime network.

The second problem with the olympics is that they are only every four years and feature sports that are not exactly mainstream. How many other times during the year do we watch skiing or curling. Even there marque sport of Ice Hockey is only the 4th or 5th most popular sport in America. It is hard to become passionate followers of these sports because we only see them every fours years or so. I couldn't tell you a single person on the bobsled team or a single speed skater. Why then should I turn on my TV and root for them? What made the Steelers victory so special last week were the previous 30 years of following that team. I have been through the ups and downs and identify with them. I cannot say the same thing about the olympics.

Finally, since the end of the cold war there is no enemy to cheer against. Beating China doesn't necessarily inspire the same hostility as beating the Russians once did. In fact, this year the only person I am rooting against is Bode Miller because he is such a pompass donkey. It's just not quite the same as when I was growing up. I remember beating the russians in hockey in 1980. Those were good times, but until Al Queda suits up a team we will not have an enemy worth rooting against.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Why the left pisses me off

The other day President Bush attended the funeral of Correta Scott King, the widow of Martin Luther King. During the funeral instead of honoring her, the Bush haters could not resist the opportunity to take cheap political shots at Bush on such topics as wiretapping, weapons of mass destruction and hurricane Katrina. It's amazing how strong their hatred is that they choose to make such untimely and inappropriate remarks. Why can't they simply praise a woman for her work in civil rights without making a political statement. Funerals are not the time or the place for such extreme partisan rhetoric. And if they wanted to talk about civil rights why not mention that Bush has appointed more blacks to high level roles in his administration than any previous president including Clinton and Carter.

But since they brought these issues up, I feel compelled to respond to their attacks. First of all, they try to make the moral comparison between Kennedy spying on Martin Luther King and Bush listening in on terrorist conversations. These are two distinct incidents with one being indefensible and the other completely defensible. The democrats spied on King and his wife because they feared his power in domestic politics and wanted to gather information to discredit him. That is not something the federal government should be doing and they deserve to be shamed for that black mark in our history. But that was not done by the Bush administration but by the Kennedys. Where is the hatred for Kennedy?

Bush on the other hand has authorized listening to phone conservations between Americans and known terrorists groups. According to the left you would think that he is authorizing listening to yours and mine conversations but that is not the case unless you are talking to terrorists. I know I am not and have nothing to hide so why the fuss? What's really happening here is that when we capture terrorists we often find cell phones and phone numbers. The CIA wiretaps these numbers to track and spy on terrorists but they have to do it quickly before of news leaks on CNN about the capture. At that point, the enemy will dump their cell phones and the information becomes useless. Sometimes, this can happen in the span of a couple hours and that is why the Bush administration does not want to wait and get court ordered approval.

What confounds me is why so many people are so upset by this practice. Our government has a duty to protect us from foreign enemies and that is precisely what they are doing. Shouldn't the democrats reserve their moral outrage for things that are truly frightening like say Iran getting nuclear weapons or Muslims rioting in the streets over cartoons. Now those are things Americans should be passionately opposing. But instead all left seems to care about is hating George Bush.

The second issue brought up at the funeral was the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This issue is about to take a turn in the President's direction. I have been a firm believer that these weapons did exist in Iraq before the war and I am amazed that we have not yet found them. I realize that only Bush and I share this same conviction but I just heard on the radio that tapes of Saddam Hussein speaking about his weapons are about to be released to the public. Apparently these tapes were discovered in one of Hussein's palaces but they were not listened to originally. On the tapes, he supposedly discusses his weapons of mass destruction program and how to hide them from inspectors. Currently, the tapes are being reviewed by the Congressional intelligence committee. Then on February 17 they are going to be released to the public at an intelligence summit in Washington DC to be verified by third parties for their authenticity.

While these tapes don't necessarily tell us where the weapons are currently, they certainly lend merit to the idea that they existed at one time. What will be interesting is whether this information will make its way to the mainstream media or whether they will bury it because it doesn't fit their agenda of Bush Lied-People Died. When the news of these tapes do break, remember you read about it here first.

Finally, one short comment on Katrina. The democrats want to make a racial issue out of this which I find morally repugnant. Not only do I detest using other people's suffering to score political points, but they are just plain wrong on the facts. Now I can't speak to New Orleans but I can speak to my own experience in Mississippi. And from what I saw the Hurricane attacked all races of people indiscriminately. Katrina didn't care if her victims were white or black and neither did the response and rescue teams. I noticed in the area where I volunteered that a majority of the victims were white. I am sure in other areas that were hit by the storm that a majority of people were black. So what? They were all victims of the same storm. I wish the politicians would move on from arguing over whose fault the storm was and what color the vitcims were and start working on rebuilding the neighborhoods that were affected.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Love Monkey

I have discovered my new favorite TV show. It's called Love Monkey and stars Tom Cavanaugh who used to star as Ed. I watched it last night and what I like about it is how they make the single life look so appealing. Most of the main characters are hip, single and in their 30's living in NY. They all have cool professional jobs. Despite their careers the four main guys in the show still find time to hang out and play basketball. How cool is that? That is the life I like to portray as a young hip single person myself.

The main character is interesteing because although he is successful and confident he still seems like one of the guys. He has a relationship with two women on the show and both are captivating. One woman he works with and is attracted to but he is still awkward around her. Who can't relate to that? The other is his gal pal who is dating some other guy. I find myself relating to that situation more and more.

Overall it's a good show with good music and a compelling vision of what it should be like as a single person.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The persecuted church

Sunday morning my pastor preached from the book of 1 Peter. It was a good sermon about having hope and peace during times of persecution. The Christians of that day were being persecuted by the Roman empire and many lost their lives. This got me to thinking whether or not we face persecution in America. I know many people today who do think Christians in America today face persecution but frankly I just don't see it that way.

Most of what drives the debate on this issue is the political and cultural war that is being waged against Christianity. I agree that the secular left is trying to purge anything Christian from the public culture. I know lots of Christians who get so upset about these cultural issues but don't have the same zeal for Christ in their personal lives. They would rather complain about the lack of prayers in the public schools than pray every morning themselves. And while cultural and political issues are important I don't know if they are tantamount to persecution. These trials certainly don't rise to the level that our fellow Christians experienced throughout history or in even in other parts of the world today. I recently read an article that more Christians were martyred for their faith last century than in all the other centuries combined. That's a pretty staggering statistic but almost all of the killings were in foreign countries. In fact, I cannot think of one documented incident in which a person in America has either been killed, beaten or threatened because of their faith in Jesus.

What we consider persecution( no school prayer, banning the display of the 10 commandments, calling Christmas vacation Holiday vacation instead) doesn't really seem to measure what is happening in other parts of the world. Comparatively, we have it pretty easy here and I wonder what impact the lack of persecution has had on the American church.

There is an historical argument that supposes persecution is good for the Christian faith because it weeds out those who are not sincere and because it shows just how committed true Christians are to the cause of Christ. Tertullian, an early church father once said the blood of martyrs is the seed of the church. Historically, when the church has been persecuted, they have seen it's numbers and it's spiritual fervor increase. Conversely when the church was in power and not being persecuted, the church has experienced corruption and complacency.

What's interesting is that while the church's influence in the west is fading, the church appears to be flourishing across the globe especially in Asia, Africa and south America. Whether this growth is tied to persecution or not I don't know but I do think there is some merit to that theory. On the flip side could the reason the church is struggling in America be because we have become too lukewarm and comfortable? Has the church become so inoffensive that we don't merit a passionate attack from our critics? Maybe if we are not facing trials we are not living out our faith as strongly as we should? Can the church truly live at peace with those who do not share our beliefs?

For the record I am not advocating seeking out persecution or martyrdom. But I do wonder if the church wouldn't be stronger in the face of more adversity. I welcome feedback on this important issue.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Where were Bradshaw and Montana?

Before last night's game they introduced the previous superbowl MVP's. It was a cool ceremony especially when Franco Harris whipped out his terrible towel and waived it for the crowd. But two MVP's were markedly absent. The first was Terry Bradshaw. I know that he has had a rift with the Steelers in the past but he still should have been there. He stated he wanted to spend the game with his family. If that's true I guess I can respect that but I bet if Fox was showing was the game he would have been there. However, worse than Bradshaw's excuse is Montana deciding to skip the event because the NFL wouldn't pay him $100,000 appearance fee. What a jerk. The NFL enabled him to earn millions of dollars and he can't give one evening back to the game. How selfish can one person be? No wonder I always rooted against the 49ers back then.

One last note on someone else who missed the game last night. Seattle's coach Mike Holmgren's wife and daughter were in Africa on some type of relief mission. Despite not checking the calendar ahead of time to prevent the scheduling conflict, they had a real reason to miss the superbowl.

Oh what a night

Wow. So this is what it feels like to win the big one. After two decades of waiting it is sweet to enjoy the Steelers victory. It is also cool to send the Bus out on a high note. He is a class act and we are going to miss him next year.

As for the game itself, it basically came down to who made the big plays and the Steelers were able to capitalize when they had to. I have already heard from one Seahawk fan that they got robbed by the refs but the refs didn't miss two field goals, throw an interception in the red zone, mismanage the clock at the end of both halfs, give up a 75 yard TD, and didn't give up a third and 28 to set up the first TD. Yes the pass interferrence in the end zone was a bad call but that isn't what won or lost the game. And while Ben played his worst game in months he did make some big plays with his legs and showed pocket presence. Despite the bad numbers he still became the youngest QB to win the superbowl and that's pretty impressive. Oh and how good is Hines Ward? To think he held out in training camp but all's well that ends well.

The only bad part about tonight is that the season is over. There is no more football until August and that seems like a long time away. The memories of tonights championship will have to endure until next fall.

Oh for all you people who watched the game for the commercials here is a link to watch them again. Personally, I thought the secret fridge was the best one.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Nervous Energy

Two and a half hours til kick off and I am stir crazy. I even finished cleaning my bathroom hoping that would kill some of the down time because I don't know what else to do with myself. I have been watching NFL films of the previous Superbowls with the Steelers. I still remember Superbowl 13 and 14 but the memories are pretty vague as I was only 6 but I remember I couldn't fall asleep after the game when they beat the Rams. My Mom let me stay up until the 11 news to see the highlights. (This was pre ESPN) What's funny is that my Mom is not a big sports fan mostly in retaliation to my stepdad's obsession with the subject. But she is a Pittsburgh girl and those roots run deep and she's been rooting for the Steelers this year. Tonight I am going to their house to watch the game with the rest of my family and small group of friends. I hope I can relax and enjoy both the game and the company but most likely I will be a nervous wreck pacing, yelling, sighing and tossing my terrible towel at the TV. And that will be before the game even starts. Okay, I gotta go. I don't want to miss the snacks before the game. My final prediction is Steelers 38 Seahawks 24.

Friday, February 03, 2006

First Friday

Today I went to my first mass in a long time. My buddy Tom from work invited me and I decided it might be fun. I have been learning a lot about catholicism and wanted to experience a service firsthand. It was a little intimidating not knowing all the prayers and songs by memory but I still enjoyed it. It's a lot of rituals and tradition but those things are good if those practicing understand the meaning behind the practices.

Today they celebrated St. Blaise who was a bishop around 300 AD. He was healer of animals and healed a child. He later died a martyr. It was also first friday which is a tradition in the catholic church of taking mass the first friday of every month in remembrence of Christ's death on Good Friday. This is not a tradition we have in the protestant church but I think it's good to remember what Christ did for us once a month. I also like the idea of having mass at noon so you can go on your lunch break.

One thing I like most about being protestant, is the freedom to experience other styles of worship. God is so much larger than any particular brand or denomination of Christianity and each one plays a role in presenting the true picture of his fullness. Who knows, maybe I will go to mass on First Friday from now on.