Friday, November 30, 2007

the neighbor's Christmas lights 2

The next house is one that's a few blocks away from my home. I think the people who live here are big fans of Disney.

Nehemiah's wall

Archeologists believe they have found the wall mentioned by the prophet Nehemiah.
Artifacts including pottery shards and arrowheads found under the tower suggested that both the tower and the nearby wall are from the 5th century B.C., the time of Nehemiah, Mazar said this week. Scholars previously thought the wall dated to the Hasmonean period from about 142 B.C. to 37 B.C.

The findings suggest that the structure was actually part of the same city wall the Bible says Nehemiah rebuilt, Mazar said. The Book of Nehemiah gives a detailed description of construction of the walls, destroyed earlier by the Babylonians.
Here is more on this discovery.

they say evil never dies...

...but Evel has.

Step away from the cookie jar, jolly fat man

On this Christmas Eve, set out some carrot sticks and bottled water for Santa. He doesn't need any cookies.

the furor over a teddy bear

Think twice about naming anything after a "prophet."
Thousands of Islamic fanatics wielding clubs and knives are marching through the streets of Khartoum demanding the execution of teddy bear teacher Gillian Gibbons.

As the mother-of-two started a 15-day prison term, protestors left mosques across the Sudanese capital to denounce the "lenient verdict" and call for the death penalty.

depressed Indiana

There is a decent article by Shari Rudavsky of the Indianapolis Star on the state of the state's mental health, specifically the levels of depression. Rudavsky points to this study, which analyzes depression among the states.
"Ranking the States: An Analysis of Depression Across the States" was researched and written by Mental Health America and Thomson Healthcare. It looks at data from 2002-2006 and was conducted from July to November 2007. The report compares depression levels and suicide rates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia and uses the information to highlight solutions to improve states' mental health status.

Mental Health America has two goals for the report: (1) spur the development of a public health surveillance system to monitor the mental health of Americans and the specific impact of depression, and (2) to stimulate action by communities, public health professionals, federal and state policy makers, and others to address depression in their populations.

The top five least depressed states are South Dakota, Hawaii, New Jersey, Iowa, and Maryland. The five most depressed states are Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, Rhode Island, and Nevada. Indiana rates at #39.

I better get to the library

The New York Times not only lists the 100 most notable books of the year, but also the top ten books. I've only read one of the 100 books - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Have the come out with Cliff's Notes versions of these books yet?

the neighbor's Christmas lights 1

I wanted to show off some of my neighbors' creativity when it comes to decorating their homes for Christmas. Some will be good, some bad, and some absolutely outstanding. You'll have to be the judge as to which homes fall into which categories. First up is a house on my block. Although it's the largest on the block, the house is fairly modest when it comes to decorations. Some icicle lights and a couple deer, and it's done.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I guess it depends upon what your definition of "from the beginning" is.

The Clinton who has been president, as opposed to the Clinton who wants to be president, has said he was against the Iraq War "from the beginning."

"I... I like good food, ok? And... good food is... hard for a rat to find!"

Indeed, good food is hard for a rat to find. So is an Academy Award. That may change, however, since Pixar Animation Studies and the Walt Disney Company are considering promoting its rat-filled film Ratatouille as the year's best picture, not just the year's best animated picture. In the long history of the Academy Awards, only one animated picture was nominated for the top prize - 1991's Beauty and the Beast.

Under the academy’s rules, films nominated for best animated feature are automatically considered eligible for best picture. Similarly, their actors — though delivering only voice performances — are eligible for general acting nominations, though none have ever received one, and their writers and directors are similarly eligible for general awards.

But studios like Disney and DreamWorks Animation, which made Shrek, have come to fear that a push for best-picture votes, however well deserved, will pull some fans among the academy’s 6,000 voting members toward that category, while others cast a vote for animation.

Members could vote for the film in both categories. But Oscar campaigners assume that many would choose just one — a dangerous situation, given the small voting pool and the razor-thin margins that can determine a winner. Such a split could leave even a film as widely admired as Ratatouille — A. O. Scott, co-chief film critic for The New York Times, called it “a nearly flawless piece of popular art, as well as one of the most persuasive portraits of an artist ever committed to film” — without a prize.
Meanwhile a strong competitor like, say, Persepolis, about growing up in Iran, might slip into the animated winner’s circle.

Ratatouille is certainly the most charming movie of the year. I don't know if it's worthy of the top Oscar, but it should definitely be considered for the writing category. Anton Ego is one of the best characters of the year, animated or otherwise. He delivers one of the best lines in cinema - "I don't like food, I love it. If I don't love it, I don't swallow."

Indy & Batman pics

Jeff Overstreet has posted pictures related to the two 2008 movies that I will see opening weekend: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and The Dark Knight.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Roger Ebert picks the year's best films

2006, that is. He explains:
Yes, I know it's a year late, but a funny thing happened to me on the way to compiling a list of the best films of 2006. I checked into the hospital in late June 2006 and didn't get out again until spring of 2007. For a long while, I just didn't feel like watching movies. Then something revolved within me, and I was engaged in life again.

I started writing reviews of the 2006 films, starting with The Queen, and screened the Oscar nominees to make my annual predictions. Then I began doubling back to pick up as many promising titles as I could. Am I missing some pf the year's worthy entries? No doubt. But even in a good year I'm unable to see everything. And I'm still not finished with my 2006 discoveries. I'm still looking at more 2007 movies, too, and that list will run as usual in late December.

Nothing I am likely to see, however, is likely to change my conviction that the year's best film was Pan's Labyrinth.

I absolutely hated the ending of Pan's Labyrinth, but that doesn't make Ebert's assessment any less correct. The film is truly an imaginative wonder. Of all the movie monsters I have seen, the Pale Man is the one I'd least want to meet in real life.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ten Tidbits 7

  1. How many NFL games do you see like this? The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Miami Dolphins by 3 points, but just saying that doesn't tell you the story. The score was 3-0. The Steelers didn't score those points until the 4th quarter with 17 seconds left to go.
  2. Phil Johnson believes there is no turning back from the apocalypse.
  3. Did you realize that you are shortening the timespan of the cosmos?
  4. Polls don't always say the same thing. A new poll by Zogby International shows Hillary trailing five Republican contenders in a general election matchup; the contenders are Giuliani, Romney, Thompson, McCain, and Huckabee. Gallup, however, gives the edge to the Democrats.
  5. I don't know how much a publishing company would pay for my memoirs, but the money probably wouldn't be $8 million.
  6. Abraham Piper appeals to the better angels of our Calvinism. (HT: JT)
  7. The top 10 IT disasters of all time (HT: Presurfer)
  8. Dan Kimball blogged about giving a sermon on Hell: "Not an easy thing to tackle or understand or figure out how to balance a belief in eternal hell but balancing it with the beauty of the gospel for this life and the life to come." And, yes, I have to add this: Kimball's hair is truly remarkable.
  9. Mark Daniels offers a one-stop post with links to his "How Christians Might Think About the 2008 Presidential Election" series. It's truly worthy of your time.
  10. Joe Carter's "33 Things" series is the inspiration for my "Ten Tidbits," so I am compelled to point you to this - "Thirty Three Things Special Edition," which lists the #1 item from his first 33 "33 Things."

Entertainer of the Year

British-born J.K. Rowling rose from the depths of poverty to become one of the wealthiest persons in the world. She reportedly has even more money than the English royal family, and I suppose that's saying something. How did she accomplish this? Simply put, she wrote stories that connected with people. Stories that fired the imagination, stories that cut to the heart of what is true (e.g, sometimes simply living takes a great deal of courage, family and friends are important to everyone, help can come from unexpected places), stories that caused people to stand in line for hours and dress up like it's Halloween.

Rowling has now done what few people have. She's been chosen as Entertainment Weekly's Entertainer of 2007.
J.K. Rowling is our Entertainer of the Year because she did something very, very hard, and she did it very, very well, thus pleasing hundreds of millions of children and adults very, very much. In an era of videogame consoles, online multiplayer ''environments,'' and tinier-is-better mobisodes, minisodes, and webisodes, she got people to tote around her big, fat old-fashioned printed-on-paper books as if they were the hottest new entertainment devices on the planet. Let's also credit her for one more thing.

What she spent the last 17 years creating turned out to be completely original. Several years ago, when Rowling's series started to get popular enough to attract attention from the kind of critics who don't usually grapple with popular fiction, she was practically smothered in faint praise that evolved into a low drone of condescension as time went on. Of course, the books are skillful, went the murmurs, but really, isn't this woman merely an adept pickpocket, someone who's synthesized a little bit of Tolkien and a dash of C.S. Lewis and some Lloyd Alexander and a wealth of British-boarding-school stories into a marketable but derivative new package?

No. As it turns out, the Harry Potter books are much richer than their progression from lightness to darkness, from childhood to adulthood, from the episodic simplicity of chapter-books to the heft and sweep of epic novels, and in their constant, book-by-book recalibration of what their readers were prepared to absorb, they've proven unlike anything else in a century of children's literature. Can there be any remaining doubt that Rowling meant every word when she said, some time back, that she planned every aspect of her story ''so carefully I sometimes feel as though my brain is going to explode''? The planning clearly paid off, not only in the blossoming of the books into a worldwide cross-cultural phenomenon but in the widespread declarations that greeted the July publication of volume 7, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, that Rowling had created something timeless, a tale that children would read 25 and 50 years from now.

Dr. Drug Pusher

I was reading this article in the New York Times about pharmaceutical companies hiring doctors to help sell medications. Daniel Carlat relayed his experiences visiting other doctors and talking about the anti-depressant med Effexor. He said he never lied about the data on Effexor, but he spun the info in the best possible light. He received many $750 checks for talks he gave.

The drug reps that visit hospitals and clinics don't always have a medical background. Doctors would be much more likely to prescribe a med if another doctor recommended it, so it's no surprise that med-selling physicians and psychiatrists are becoming more common. I see drug reps in our hospital lobby at least once a week; they usually bring coffee (Starbucks!) and bagels (Einsteins!) with them, beyond the usual assortment of pens, pads, and kleenex boxes.

These two paragraphs are near the article mid-section:
Naïve as I was, I found myself astonished at the level of detail that drug companies were able to acquire about doctors’ prescribing habits. I asked my reps about it; they told me that they received printouts tracking local doctors’ prescriptions every week. The process is called “prescription data-mining,” in which specialized pharmacy-information companies (like IMS Health and Verispan) buy prescription data from local pharmacies, repackage it, then sell it to pharmaceutical companies. This information is then passed on to the drug reps, who use it to tailor their drug-detailing strategies. This may include deciding which physicians to aim for, as my Wyeth reps did, but it can help sales in other ways. For example, Shahram Ahari, a former drug rep for Eli Lilly (the maker of Prozac) who is now a researcher at the University of California at San Francisco’s School of Pharmacy, said in an article in The Washington Post that as a drug rep he would use this data to find out which doctors were prescribing Prozac’s competitors, like Effexor. Then he would play up specific features of Prozac that contrasted favorably with the other drug, like the ease with which patients can get off Prozac, as compared with the hard time they can have withdrawing from Effexor.

The American Medical Association is also a key player in prescription data-mining. Pharmacies typically will not release doctors’ names to the data-mining companies, but they will release their Drug Enforcement Agency numbers. The A.M.A. licenses its file of U.S. physicians, allowing the data-mining companies to match up D.E.A. numbers to specific physicians. The A.M.A. makes millions in information-leasing money.

If the government is going to become much more involved in healthcare, which it certainly will if we have a Democratic president in 2009, the pharmaceutical companies will play a major role.

As Instapundit says, read the whole thing.

"Men's Health" 12/07

I'm perusing through the December 2007 issue of Men's Health, the one with John Krasinski of The Office on the cover. No, I don't subscribe - it's a copy I found at work. I found some interesting bits of information in it.

  • 63 men lost 100 pounds in 10 months by replacing one meal with a protein shake made of the following ingredients: 1 cup skim milk, 2 tbsp ground flaxseed, 1 tbsp reduced-fat peanut butter, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, and 1 scoop 100% whey powder. (p. 54) Presumably the other two meals didn't consist of Big Macs and deep-dish pizza slices.
  • Those Italians seem to know something, because studies have shown garlic as a cancer fighter. (p. 50) Eat as many breadsticks at Olive Garden that you want!
  • Starbucks' walnut bran muffin has 110 more calories than its black forest ham, egg, and cheddar breakfast sandwich. (p. 80)
  • MH graded fast-food and sit-down restaurants using the following categories: total number of calories per entree, fruit and veggie side choices, and bread with 100% whole wheat. They also penalized for trans fats and multiple dessert options. The best? Chick-Fil-A and Bob Evans. The worst? Pizza Hut and Macaroni Grill. (p. 168)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

"My doctor discovered lung cancer."

Julia Carson, one of the nine Hoosiers in the U.S. House of Representatives, issued a written statement to the Indianapolis Star yesterday afternoon.
In the late summer of 2007, Congress granted me a leave of absence because of my leg infection. My wonderful doctor cured the leg, and I went into rehabilitation, planning to be back in Washington shortly.

Then the second shoe fell -- heavily. My doctor discovered lung cancer. It had gone into remission years before, but it was back with a terminal vengeance.

Therefore, I take this occasion to express my loving and literally eternal gratitude to my friends, including family, constituents and colleagues, who have given me so much love, support and trust. God bless our beloved country.
My prayers are certainly with Rep. Carson and her family at this time. She has certainly lived a rags-to-riches kind of life - read this by Matt Tully.

Update: Carson has said she will not run next year.

I love Costco

I'm not alone.

Sunday on the wagon

I always like to peruse the newspaper websites of the cities where I used to live. I feel like I'm still connected if I keep myself informed of their local stories. A silly thing, I know, but it's nice to know what's happening.

I haven't lived in Chicago in 10 years. To be fair, I actually lived in Oak Park, one of the numerous suburbs around the city. We lived a mile from the Chicago city line. Of course, whenever someone asked if I actually lived in Chicago itself, I usually respond, "Oh, no - I lived just east of the city."

I found this interesting article in the Chicago Tribune - 10 Things You Might Not Know About Famous Evangelists. The article mentions current evengalists who are in hot water over their finances, Creflo Dollar and Joyce Meyer. One of the 10 things is a story about Billy Sunday:
Billy Sunday was a ballplayer for the Chicago White Stockings who became a well-known preacher. One of his most famous sermons was called "Get on the Water Wagon." A water wagon was a vehicle used to dampen dirt roads to keep the dust down. When a person gave up alcohol, it was said that he had gotten "on the water wagon" -- a slang term that was later shortened to "on the wagon."
Added: Speaking of Chicago, it's nice to see that the Bears beat the Broncos.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Circle of Lights

Every year on the Friday following Thanksgiving, Indianapolis lights up the downtown circle (which gives the "Circle City" its nickname), creating what is purported to be the World's Tallest Christmas Tree. It's cheating a bit, since the lights aren't strung on an actual tree but the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument.

For the first time, the Brown family decided to join tens of thousands of strangers for the festive event. The chill was present but the wind was not, so we were pretty happy. We parked our van in a garage for only $1.50, a rare thing in any big city. After a quick bite to eat at Arby's, we joined the masses.

Before the lights:


The Christmas season has begun!

Friday, November 23, 2007

the Thanksgiving Meal

Since I had to work at the hospital for Thanksgiving, we stayed home instead of traveling to one of our parents' homes. Happily, my parents decided to join us for dinner, so we were still able to have family with us.

We started off with some shrimp cocktail and crackers & cheese for appetizers:

We ate the traditional meal: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams, and green bean casserole. We washed it down with pomegranate-cranberry infused ginger ale.

I forgot to take a picture of the pecan pie and the pumpkin pie. Sorry!

Oh, be careful, little hands, what you type...

Young people often behave in foolish and uncritical ways, but it's even more foolish and uncritical to blog about it.
Millions of young people could damage their future careers with the details about themselves they post on social networking websites, a watchdog warns.

The Information Commissioner's Office found more than half of those asked made most of their information public.

Some 71% of 2,000 14 to 21-year-olds said they would not want colleges or employers to do a web search on them before they had removed some material.

The commission said the young needed to be aware of their electronic footprint.

It seems the electronic footprint can be more dangerous than the carbon footprint. The more details you give, the more likely someone will take advantage of you.

Let's be careful out there.


Black Friday

Shopping, anyone?

Or, maybe not.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

what Brownie would like for Christmas

Nephew-in-law, you can have your sun-powered lamps and your ham-flavored soda, but I'd like this - the Kindle. It's currently sold out, but you can always put my name in to arrive for Christmas.

12 Days of an Indianapolis Christmas

If you live in or around Indianapolis, you should check out The site, which features articles and reviews of local atractions (restaurants, movies, theatre events, concerts), lists 12 holiday-themed events.

If you don't have much money but still want to get your cultural groove on, stop in at one of the 12 listed destinations for free.

"Schizophrenic admits knife death"

What is wrong with this headline?

Only someone with a mental illness would be labeled this way. He isn't considered a person - he's one of those scary crazy guys who did something horrifying to someone else, and so this is what he's called. I guess "Person with schizophrenia admits knife death" isn't as sexy.

If the man had diabetes, the headline would not read "Diabetic admits knife death."

If the man had luekemia, the headline would not read "Luekemic admits knife death."

But since the man has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, this is what we get.

Thanksgiving 2007

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, especially to the family and friends who stop by this little blog. We truly have much for which to be thankful this year. It's a work day for me, since hospitals have yet to close in recognition of holidays. My parents are coming and will enjoy a Thanksigiving dinner this evening, so that will be very nice.

Last year I posted several links to Thanksgiving-related articles and sites, so I thought I'd do the same for this year.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Since Hillary was elected in '08, Christian persecution in America has gotten even worse than we predicted."

I don't want to see a Clinton II presidency, but I greatly doubt it will be like this. Alarmism to the extreme, indeed.

the buck stops there

Oh, my. Former press secretary Scott McClellan has written a book which contains, among other things, an apparent admission of misleading.
In an excerpt from his forthcoming book, McClellan recount the 2003 news conference in which he told reporters that aides Karl Rove and I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were "not involved" in the leak involving operative Valerie Plame.

"There was one problem. It was not true," McClellan writes, according to a brief excerpt released Monday. "I had unknowingly passed along false information. And five of the highest-ranking officials in the administration were involved in my doing so: Rove, Libby, the vice president, the president's chief of staff and the president himself."

Whenever I hear about a he-said/she-said situation (and all its variables), especially in regards to whether or not a specific event occurred, I want to ask: who stands to benefit more from giving false statements?

I imagine my Democratic friends will rush to vilify Wilson/Plame and demonize Bush & Co., and my Republican friends will attack McClellan.

Overstreet on "His Dark Materials"

This is quite probably the most thoughtful, well-written piece - by Jeffrey Overstreet and from a Christian worldview - about the "His Dark Materials" trilogy and the upcoming film The Golden Compass that I have encountered so far.

What does Overstreet suggest Christians should do?
  • Educate yourselves. And equip your kids with questions… lenses, so to speak… that will expose the problems in these stories.
  • Respond with grace and love. And truth.
  • Admit that, yes, Christians have committed grave sins in the name of Christ, and that those shameful misrepresentations of the gospel have made many people fearful of, and even repulsed by, the church. But Christians have been called to serve the oppressed, proclaim freedom for the captives, bring healing to the sick, to seek justice, to love mercy, to walk humbly, and to bring good news of “great joy.” And by God’s grace, many are living out that calling. They paint quite a different picture than what Pullman has painted.
  • Encourage the artists and storytellers in your church. If you see talent and imagination, provide resources and opportunities for those artists. We don’t want visionaries abandoning the church because they are tired of being misunderstood or having their talents exploited for the sake of evangelism.
  • Do not get hysterical, mount massive boycotts, or behave in ways that the Magisterium in Pullman’s books would behave. You’ll just make Pullman’s stories more persuasive, and you’ll confirm for the culture around us that Christians only really get excited when they’re condemning something.
  • Finally… pray for Philip Pullman, and pray about the influence of his work. Pullman is just a man who, somewhere along the way, got a very bad impression of the church.I also cannot help but note a detail from biographies published online: Pullman’s father died in a plane crash in the 1950s, when Pullman was only seven years old. I don’t know if that had anything to do with his view of God… but I do know that many of the men I know who have struggled with the idea of a loving, caring, benevolent god are those whose fathers abandoned them or died while they were young. Boys without fathers often grow up with deep resentment, and having no focus for that pain, they target God.I want to be careful here: I am not explaining Pullman to you, because I don’t know him. But that detail made me stop and think about how little I know about his experiences and motivations. Shouldn’t I be praying for him instead of condemning him? Shouldn’t I be looking for ways to show love and respect to the man, even as I look for ways to expose the flaws in his work? Pullman’s not likely to reconsider his notions about God if those who believe in God organize a full-scale assault against him and his work.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

No raindrops on roses, no pink satin sashes

Oprah, America's premier giver, showcased her 2007 favorite things on today's show. The biggest prize to the audience in Macon, Georgia? A side-by-side refrigerator with built-in HDTV. I can't afford that, but I think I'll be picking up that Josh Groban Christmas CD.

Also, how cheeky is it to list your own book among your favorite things?

Best Christian Albums 2007? I had no idea...

Back in my high school and college days, I listened to a lot of Contemporary Christian Music, or CCM for short. (I could discuss my 8th grade obsession with Southern Gospel music, but let's not go there, okay?) My tape/CD collection was very diverse within the CCM world, ranging from First Call to Russ Taff to Petra to the Cathedrals (see? It was hard to let Southern Gospel go...) I had posters of Amy Grant, 2nd Chapter of Acts and Glad on my college dorm room wall. I happily attended concerts at my college when Larnelle Harris, Steve Green and 4Him came to town. I drove out of town to see White Heart and Steven Curtis Chapman. I didn't subscribe but I read CCM Magazine. It seemed I couldn't get enough.

For some reason, my love for CCM began to dissipate following my college years. I can't pinpoint exactly what happened, except to say that I just grew older. I don't mean to be flippant or glib when I say that, but it's really what happened. I didn't completely grow out of listening to that kind of music, because I still listen to Christian radio stations when I was driving somewhere. I guess I felt that the majority of that type of music produced between, say, 1995 and 2005, didn't really speak to me or where I was at spiritually. It seemed too happy - too peppy - too much Ain't it grand to be a Christian, ain't it grand. And I just didn't feel that way most of the time. Where were the songs that expressed doubt, that really cut to the heart, that exposed the pain in life that comes to everyone regardless of their faith? Maybe those songs were there all along, but I missed them somehow.

Christianity Today has listed what the editors believe to be the best Christian albums in 2007. Honestly, I don't know any of these people. I've heard some of their names before, like Derek Webb and David Crowder Band, but I can't honestly say I know their music. I guess I've heard some of their songs on the local Christian radio station in Indianapolis, but it's hard to listen to music and drive (which is the only time I really listen to the radio) and talk to The Wife and tell the screaming kids to calm down all at the same time.

I'm willing to make a return, though. I want my daughters to listen to other music besides the latest boy band (you know they will come back again - they always do) or mini-skirted starlet.

As I peruse through the list, I can't tell if the music on these albums is good, bad, or somewhere in the middle. What do you think? Have you listened to them? Are there albums out there better than the ones listed here?
  1. Mike Farris, Salvation in Lights
  2. Caedmon's Call, Overdressed
  3. Sara Groves, Tell Me What You Know
  4. Jeremy Casella, Recovery
  5. Jeff Caylor, Okay
  6. Switchfoot, Oh! Gravity
  7. Adam Watts, Sleeping Fire
  8. David Crowder Band, Remedy
  9. Mavis Staples, We'll Never Turn Back
  10. Relient K, Five Score and Seven Years Ago
  11. Derek Webb, The Ringing Bell
  12. The Heat, Need to Breath

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Five Kinds of Christians

Helen Lee reports on a recent survey which concludes there are five different kinds of Christians.

Active Christians (19%)
  • Believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ
  • Committed churchgoers
  • Bible readers
  • Accept leadership positions
  • Invest in personal faith development through the church
  • Feel obligated to share faith; 79% do so.
Professing Christians (20%)
  • Believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ
  • Focus on personal relationship with God and Jesus
  • Similar beliefs to Active Christians, different actions
  • Less involved in church, both attending and serving
  • Less commitment to Bible reading or sharing faith
Liturgical Christians (16%)
  • Predominantly Catholic and Lutheran
  • Regular churchgoers
  • High level of spiritual activity, mostly expressed by serving in church and/or community
  • Recognize authority of the church
Private Christians (24%)
  • Largest and youngest segment
  • Believe in God and doing good things
  • Own a Bible, but don't read it
  • Spiritual interest, but not within church context
  • Only about a third attend church at all
  • Almost none are church leaders
Cultural Christians (21%)
  • Little outward religious behavior or attitudes
  • God aware, but little personal involvement with God
  • Do not view Jesus as essential to salvation
  • Affirm many ways to God
  • Favor universality theology

kos on kos

It doesn't get more self-referential than this.

I guess it doesn't hurt to push your magazine article on your own blog. People from all political persuasions have done this time and again. I'm not meaning to pick on Markos particularly because of his politics - we are members of the same party, after all. I just find the self-referencing extremely amusing, especially considering that he's taking a part of his own article and blogging about it.


This is the funniest political ad out there now:

Challies' 2007 picks

Tim Challies has listed his recommended books for 2007. Naturally I don't agree with everything that he writes, but what he writes - and recommends - is certainly worth your time.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Is Dolly's creator becoming prolife?

If he isn't, then he at least is developing a belief that the world of science must include a sense of morality.
The Scottish scientist who created Dolly the sheep more than a decade ago said he is abandoning the cloning technique that he pioneered, according to an interview published Saturday.

Ian Wilmut, who led the team that created Dolly in 1996, told The Daily Telegraph that he is abandoning cloning to pursue a new technique that can create stem cells without an embryo.

Wilmut's announcement could mark the end of therapeutic cloning, in which DNA is inserted into an unfertilized egg, an embryo is produced and stem cells are harvested, the newspaper said. Tens of millions of dollars have been spent
worldwide on therapeutic cloning research in the past decade, but nobody has made it work in humans.

Wilmut believes a rival method pioneered in Japan that creates stem cells from fragments of skin is better for growing tissue that can be used to treat people who are paralyzed or have illnesses ranging from diabetes to Parkinson's disease.

He said the Japanese method does not require human eggs, making it "easier to accept socially" than his Dolly method, known as "nuclear transfer." The Japanese method removes the need to destroy embryos — an action many people oppose and that has become a major stumbling block for funding and regulating research. (USA

More: Dolly Dad Dumps Cloning, Doesn't Discourage Democrats

Friday, November 16, 2007

As you walk on by, will you call my name?

There are very few vocalists in the music scene that I can listen to and think, Man, I wish I sounded like him. This song, however, causes me to think that every single time I hear it.

Reds sadness

Sounds of mourning can be heard from Cincinnati and Reds' fans all over the world today. Joe Nuxhall, who pitched for the Reds before becoming a radio broadcaster for their games, has died. The Reds' website has a tribute page to Nuxhall.

Ten Tidbits 6

  1. USA Today has what appears to be images of Abraham Lincoln on his way to deliver his three minute address in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
  2. The sun is no longer (at this time, anyway) the largest single object in the solar system. A comet is. (HT: Betsy's Page)
  3. Even a three-year-old can be a Calvinist.
  4. Alan Kurschner believes there are five good reasons to own a gospel synopsis.
  5. There's never been a better year for gift cards. Are you going to buy them? (HT: In the Agora)
  6. Justin Buzzard reports on Rob Bell's "the gods aren't angry" tour when it stopped in San Francisco. From the pictures, it doesn't look like Bell wore any flowers in his hair.
  7. Think twice before you order a cake from Wal-Mart.
  8. Pay close attention when you're flipping the breakfast pancakes. If you see an image on Jesus and Mary, you could get $338 for the pancake on Ebay. I made waffles for my girls last night, but alas, no images.
  9. If you haven't heard, I've got a new nephew. Here are the pics.
  10. Shirt Woot offers a new T-shirt daily for $10. You have to be quick, though - today's shirt is already sold-out.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

the fall season

I took a very brisk walk today, bringing my camera along. I saw a tree still holding on...

...a tree that's given up...

...and a child's autumnal paradise.

This is under the pine tree in my front yard

Somehow I don't think it's a truffle...

The alligators might not like new neighbors

Matthew Yglesias, who is usually somewhat sharp, appears to be fairly ignorant about the state of Florida when he ponders Miami expansion.

There's something pretty cool about the shape of the Miami-related sprawl when you pull it out to an appropriate distance. I'd been interested to know what, if anything, is legally or practically preventing the city from just expanding further and further west if anyone happens to know.

Matt, it's a little something called the Everglades National Park.

are you there? hello??

People. Of the last 26 posts, I've received only one comment. ONE. Now, I know there are people coming through here, because Sitemeters tells me that my little site is currently averaging 50 people a day. I have several family members and a friend in Raleigh who stop by faithfully, but they haven't left any comments and I'm beginning to worry about them.

Am I going to have to bring out Miss Snider, my second grade teacher, to deal with ya'll?

Please do not question the customer's sanity

Here's a poster of approved and forbidden words for workers at a Chinese clothing store.

(Warning: There is one little word that would not be uttered - or in this case, typed - at this site, so proceed with caution.)

no apologies for apologetics

Mark D. Roberts, who really should be on your blogroll (why isn't he on yours, Dusty?), has a post in which he links to four apologetics sites.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

the theology of the Democratic Party

Once again, Dr. Dean's ignorance is showing.
"This country is not a theocracy," Dean said. "There are fundamental differences between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party believes that everybody in this room ought to be comfortable being an American Jew, not just an American; that there are no bars to heaven for anybody; that we are not a one-religion nation; and that no child or member of a football team ought to be able to cringe at the last line of a prayer before going onto the field."

I'm sure that he was wanting to say that the Democratic Party is open to people of all faiths, and that no certain religion is specifically excluded. But he fails to acknowledge that Christianity is indeed an exclusive religion: the only way to God the Father is through Jesus the Son.

Clinton a la Kübler-Ross

Can the stages of death & dying be applied to the Clintons? Perhaps.

"Project Runway 4"

The fourth season of the runaway hit from the Bravo channel debuts tonight at 10:00 PM EST. I first saw the show towards the end of the first season, and I've been a faithful fan since. I was pleased to see Chloe Dao win the second season, and sad to see Uli Herzner lose the third season. Heidi Klum returns as host, along with mentor Tim Gunn and judges Nina Garcia and Michael Kors.

It's hard to explain... no, actually it is simple to explain why I like PR. I guess it's for the same reason that I initially liked Survivor: the mix of personalities, the competitiveness, the prison-like setting, and the sometimes shocking exits. I've given up on Survivor lately because it seems to be the same thing repeatedly, and I hope that's not what's going to happen with PR. I'm also intrigued by the glimpses into the fashion industry: how the dresses are constructed, how the designers find inspiration, how critiques are made, etc. How many reality shows are out there which have contestants who are required to have an actual talent (in this case, the ability to construct beautiful, wearable clothing)?

Robin Givhan at WaPo wonders if the show is becoming too predictable (which is fairly common for reality shows, especially competitive ones, that have multiple seasons):
The competitors wear their eccentricities on their sleeves. They are audaciously odd-looking or self-consciously hip. Siriano's hair is styled in an asymmetrical cut that looks as if it were executed with a pair of gardening shears. Carmen Webber -- that's Carmen A. Webber if you're nasty! -- wears her hair in a Flock of Seagulls meets Angela Davis blown-out, cornrowed, not-quite 'fro. The heavily tattooed Sweet P has her nickname inked on one arm and her alter ego "Mean P" on the other. And don't we all know that "Mean P" will be making an appearance before this season is over?

All of that makes the contestants visually interesting, which makes good television, but none of this inspires immediate confidence in their taste level.

Most problematic, however, is that by the first episode, too many of the competitors have settled into well-worn archetypes. Were these 15 men and women chosen because they have such instantly familiar personalities? When the cameras are off, does Siriano really embody every single fashion cliche? Or do these players adjust their personalities to fit a preconceived ideal? In short, who exactly is having a crisis of authenticity: the show's producers or the cast?
Winning Project Runway doesn't necessarily bring instant acclaim. Just ask Jeffrey Sebalia, season three's winner.

Added: Play the game!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

can there be only one explanation?

If you watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, then you should know the scene where Gandalf makes his escape from the tower of the treacherous chief wizard Saruman. Saruman has joined himself with the dark lord Sauron, who wants to rule over all Middle Earth. Gandalf went to Saruman expecting to find a friend and instead met the enemy. Just before Gandalf jumps to freedom atop a giant eagle, he tells Saruman, "There is only one Lord of the Ring, only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power."

I guess the same is true when discussing the origin of the universe.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

melatonin matters & more

DNA research has truly yielded extraordinary results. It was only a few years ago that the human genome was coded. Now, research seems to show that race isn't merely a matter of the epidermis.
... new research is exploring the remaining fraction to explain differences between people of different continental origins.

Scientists, for instance, have recently identified small changes in DNA that account for the pale skin of Europeans, the tendency of Asians to sweat less and West Africans’ resistance to certain diseases.

At the same time, genetic information is slipping out of the laboratory and into everyday life, carrying with it the inescapable message that people of different races have different DNA. Ancestry tests tell customers what percentage of their genes are from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. The heart-disease drug BiDil is marketed exclusively to African-Americans, who seem genetically predisposed to respond to it. Jews are offered prenatal tests for genetic disorders rarely found in other ethnic groups.

Though we may be different, we have still been fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) by God.

don't be afraid to lose if you want to win

I can't say that I like all his politics, but the man knows how to give a good speech. He did so at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He recently did it again:

a strong argument for atheism

This. It's just stunning, really. I'm just... stunned.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

of Christ & culture

Tullian Tchividjian has suggested 20 books to read pertaining to Christ, Christians and culture.
... I would like to offer some direction regarding what I would consider some must-read books that can help us think through these issues biblically. No one will agree with all of the content in these books. In fact, some of these books represent opposing perspectives on how Christians should relate to the culture around them. But all of these books will help you develop your own conclusions.

The only one I have on Tchividjian's list is Nancy Pearcey's Total Truth, which I haven't actually had the chance to read thoroughly. I think I'll find the time to do so, and maybe check out some of the other books.

(HT: Justin Taylor)

I'm an actor, but what I really want to do is direct.

Many actors have said that line, and countless more have thought it. There are even a few - Kevin Costner, Mel Gibson, and Clint Eastwood easily come to mind - who have won Oscar glory when they crossed the line from actor to director. Ben Affleck is the latest to join this club, directing Gone Baby Gone (which is getting early Oscar buzz).

Politicians do it too, apparently. Remember when Hillary kicked off her campaign by saying she was "starting a conversation?" It looks now like she also wants to direct where the conversation is going.

What was the question?
The tape of the event shows that the question and answer went as follows:

Question: "As a young person, I'm worried about the long-term effects of global warming How does your plan combat climate change?

Clinton: "Well, you should be worried. You know, I find as I travel around Iowa that it's usually young people that ask me about global warming."

This seems to be a question that might be asked legitimately by someone, especially in an age when it's cool to be concerned about the environment. I really don't understand why her campaign staffers thought this question should be asked by a plant, unless they were concerned no one else would ask it.

Update: Again?

Friday, November 9, 2007

GodBlogCon 2007

Scriptorium Daily has a roundup of the presentations given at this year's GodBlogCon.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sullivan on Clintons

Every once and again, Andrew Sullivan writes a well-reasoned post with legitimate questions, this time about the Clintons' second presidency.
With the Clintons, we are not dealing with a normal candidacy. They are a power-couple, a team that cannot be understood in isolation from each other, a couple whose private and public lives have long been fused in a mutual pursuit of power. We need to know what the actual, power-sharing deal was from 1992 - 2000, and we deserve to know what the deal will be if they return to power. This need not hurt her candidacy. Many people understandably admire her husband's skills and would be happy to see them used in the service of his country. But his marital and familial relationship to a future president - and the existence of secret or special power - means we need to know exactly what we are being asked to support. This is not a monarchy yet.
Make no mistake - Bill will have a role to play in the White House that is far beyond the traditional spousal role. He won't be just hosting parties and visiting elementary schools.

Update: In another post --
But if you think we would be electing a normal presidential candidate in Hillary Clinton, as opposed to a co-dependent, scandal-drawn power-couple with almost no accountability within their marriage, let alone outside it, then you're welcome to your delusions.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

2007 [weblog] awards

Have you voted? Polls close tomorrow (Thursday, November 8) at 5:00 PM EST (2:00 PM PST). Go now.

Some of my picks:

I'd like some agar-agar with a side of xanthan gum

Chemists aren't only found in the lab these days - they are also in the kitchen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Indy the bystander?

As much as I love this film, I have to admit the arguments made here are very compelling. That being considered, Indiana Jones is a beloved character because of his commitment to doing the right thing, no matter the outcome. Oh, and he also kicks some serious [supply your own word here].

no votin', no cry

Last year I wrote about my shame over not being able to vote in the elections. This year, I'm once again not voting, but for entirely different reasons.
  1. The only real race in my little town, a unique suburb of Indianapolis, is the mayor's race. I moved here a year ago, and I know nothing about what the current mayor stands for or what his challanger stands for because I haven't had the time to check into it. I only know that the current mayor is a Republican, and the challenger is a Democrat. Though I am a Democrat, I hardly vote down the party line, and I refuse to do so in this case.
  2. I have no idea where the polling place is located. I tried to find it, but the voter registration website acted like I didn't exist.

What about you? Are you voting?

Is waterboarding torture?

Joe Carter thinks so, and I agree.

Added: Joe has even more to say.

a Senate committee investigates several church "ministries"

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the ranking member of the Senate Finance committee, is investigating several major church-based ministries known for their leaders' lavish lifestyles and prosperity teachings.

"Recent articles and news reports regarding possible misuse of donations made to religious organizations have caused some concern for the Finance Committee," Grassley wrote to the ministries in letters asking for detailed financial records. (Source)

Let's look at the list of people and see how many have been affiliated with or seen on TBN, shall we?

compasses may be golden, but silence isn't

Who would have thought that this would be the lingering controversy surrounding the Colts-Patriots game?

Added: As disappointing as the loss was, it proved that the Pats are indeed vulnerable. I doubt that they will escape this year with no losses, but perhaps. Even if they have a 16-0 record, it will be clouded by their scandalous behavior of spying on other teams.

Facebook's popularity

Is it becoming more popular than porn? Bill Tancer at Time thinks it is:
It seems that social-networking sites have not only usurped porn in popularity, but they've also gobbled up time Gen Y-ers used to spend on traditional e-mail and IM. When you can reach all of your friends through Facebook or MySpace, there's little reason to spend time in your old-school inbox. So, if social networking is becoming e-mail 2.0, then perhaps Microsoft's recent $240 million dollar payout for such a small stake in Facebook isn't that ridiculous.

"The Golden Compass"

The cinematic version of the book The Golden Compass is getting increasing attention in the Christian blogosphere, mainly because of its supposed anti-Catholic, anti-God themes. (I wouldn't know for sure since I haven't read the book, but I'm willing to take people's word on it.) I have read a report that the anti-God theme from the book has been toned down for the film, but of course that remains to be seen.

Here are a few links to people discussing the film:
Whatever themes are present are surely not enough to "shake" the faith of seemingly impressionable minds. If there are such powerful themes present, then how strong can that faith truly be?
(Please note that merely linking to a site doesn't express complete agreement with the site.)

Monday, November 5, 2007

Do you hear what I hear?

It's that time of year again. No, the holidays aren't here just yet, although the stores and malls would like you to think they are. It's the time for Christmas albums to be released. Christianity Today has a roundup for the 2007 CD's. I'll definitely pick up Josh Groban.

the curse has a face

King Tut has been revealed.
King Tut's buck-toothed face was unveiled Sunday for the first time in public — more than 3,000 years after the youngest and most famous pharaoh to rule ancient Egypt was shrouded in linen and buried in his golden underground tomb.

Archeologists carefully lifted thae fragile mummy out of a quartz sarcophagus decorated with stone-carved protective goddesses, momentarily pulling aside a beige covering to reveal a leathery black body.

The linen was then replaced over Tut's narrow body so only his face and tiny feet were exposed, and the 19-year-old king, whose life and death has captivated people for nearly a century, was moved to a simple glass climate-controlled case to keep it from turning to dust.

What of the curse?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Is abortion a religious issue?

Garry Wills, author of , says it isn't.
What makes opposition to abortion the issue it is for each of the GOP presidential candidates is the fact that it is the ultimate "wedge issue" -- it is nonnegotiable. The right-to-life people hold that it is as strong a point of religion as any can be. It is religious because the Sixth Commandment (or the Fifth by Catholic count) says, "Thou shalt not kill." For evangelical Christians, in general, abortion is murder. That is why what others think, what polls say, what looks practical does not matter for them. One must oppose murder, however much rancor or controversy may ensue.

But is abortion murder? Most people think not. Evangelicals may argue that most people in Germany thought it was all right to kill Jews. But the parallel is not valid. Killing Jews was killing persons. It is not demonstrable that killing fetuses is killing persons. Not even evangelicals act as if it were. If so, a woman seeking an abortion would be the most culpable person. She is killing her own child. But the evangelical community does not call for her execution.

John Jacubczyk writes a response.

The pro-abortion crowd will do anything but examine the facts. Indeed in order to confuse the average person who must focus his or her daily life on the mundane things such a taking care of the family to getting through the rush hour traffic, the pro-abortion propagandist will dig up well-worn canards in an effort to cloud the issue.

Such were the old discredited arguments propounded by Gary Wills in his November 4, 2007 piece published by the Los Angeles Times. Wills, a dissident Catholic liberal, has made a living attacking the Church of his parents. In his article he attempts to sound intellectual, all the while presenting false, misleading bits of history along with half-truths designed to give the reader both an intellectual as well as religious reason not to care about the abortion debate.

Halloween on "SNL"

Here's a clip of the faux Democratic presidential nominees - plus a real one - at a faux Clinton Halloween party:

Friday, November 2, 2007

top conservatives & liberals

The U.K.-based Telegraph has lists of the top 100 conservatives and liberals.

The top five cons:
  1. Rudy Giuliani
  2. General David Patraeus
  3. Matt Drudge
  4. Newt Gingrich
  5. Rush Limbaugh
The top five libs:
  1. Bill Clinton
  2. Al Gore
  3. Mark Penn
  4. Hillary Clinton
  5. Nancy Pelosi

Indiana has someone in the top twenty on each list: Congressmen Mike Pence (#19) for the conservatives, Senator Evan Bayh (#10) for the liberals.

Toby Harnden explains why George W. Bush comes in at #21: "the list is about the future rather than the past."

he's coming

My niece's water broke today, and I'll soon be a great-uncle for the... oh, I've lost track by now. Go here for updates.


Update (2:30 AM on 11/3/07): A C-section! Oh, my!

Update 2 (5:00 AM): Micah's here!

Update 3 (11/7/07): Go here for photos.

as Argentina, so America?

Charles Krauthammer on what it would mean to have a president whose spouse is an ex-president:
Americans don't normally take much notice of Argentine elections. But they did notice when Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, wife of President Nestor Kirchner, was elected to succeed him last Sunday, ensuring not just a co-presidency, but the prospect of alternating presidencies as far as the eye can see.

Of course, spousal succession, while new to the United States, is hardly new to Argentina. Their tradition of wifely power begins, of course, with Eva, who despite the absence of any constitutional title, had queenly powers. The real deal, however, was Isabel, Juan Peron's next (and third and last) wife, who succeeded him as president in 1974. She was a cabaret dancer that Peron picked up in a Panamanian nightclub, the Peronist equivalent of winning the New Hampshire primary. Not surprisingly, her presidency was one of the most catastrophic in Argentine history.

The Kirchners are Peronists as well, but Cristina is no Isabelita. She is a highly accomplished person -- student activist, lawyer, senator and, by some accounts, the more formidable figure in this two-person political partnership. Sound familiar? Like Hillary Clinton, she too met her husband in law school, was instrumental in his ascent to the presidency, and had long planned with her husband an eventual alternation of power.

The Argentine example is a pretty vivid dramatization of the Clintons' intentions -- and of the cloud hovering over the current Clinton candidacy.

The problem is Bill. But not the way it is usually understood, i.e., the sex scandal waiting to happen. There is that, of course. But there are deeper, more subtle considerations that would arise even if the man -- do the thought experiment -- were as self-disciplined as Nestor Kirchner.
A husband-wife presidency is very different from a father-son presidency like the Bushes and the Adams. It's hard to think that Bill will be happy in the traditional role of the presidential spouse.

Kevin may need to call Dave Ramsey's show

I guess this goes go to show that even though you may have a lot of money, you may still have foolish spending habits. Over $100,000 a month on entertainment expenses? Sheesh...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

why do you go to Starbucks?

I go for the coffee. Some go for the experience.

the transgendered minister's delimma

I was reading this story, about the Reverend Drew Phoenix in the United Methodist church, and it got me thinking.

From the transgendered persons I've seen on television and read about in articles (I've never met any that I know of for sure), the majority - if not all - believe that they somehow were born in the wrong body, and they had to do something to change it. If Phoenix fits that profile, how could he worship a God Whom he believes made such a profound "mistake?"

about last night...

No, I'm not talking about some sleazy movie starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore (where has she gone, BTW?). I'm talking about little kids walking around, hoping to score some sweetness. I'm talking about lighted gourds.

I'm talking about a night where fairies and unicorns can coexist.

4 1/2 points

That's what the Patriots are supposed to have over the Colts in the upcoming game. Even though the Colts are (1) undefeated this season, (2) the reigning Super Bowl Champs, (3) the victors in the last Colts-Pats matchup, and (4) playing in their home stadium, the boys in blue are the underdogs.

Some explain this to me, please.