Friday, October 31, 2008

pumpkins at night

The girls had a great evening. Their grandparents' church hosted a trick-or-treating event, where kids were able to play games and win candy, on the grounds of a former miniature golf course. They fell asleep when we started driving around to different relatives' homes so they could show off their costumes. Sorry, Aunt Irene and Aunt Pat - we'll get to you first next year, we promise.

pumpkins by day

The jack o'lanterns for the Brownie household have been prepared, signaling our readiness for Halloween. The Sweet One enjoyed pulling out all the "guts" of the pumpkins, but The Cute One quickly became bored and moved on to other activities. The Sweet One designed the pumpkin above, and I cut it out for her.

The pumpkin on the right was inspired by one on this site, which in turn was inspired by this painting.

Reformation Day Symposium

Tim Challies has it covered.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

the top film boogeymen

Did your favorite make the list? When I was a child, I had recurring nightmares about #16. I mean, he's obviously a guy in a suit, but still. I have seen his films as an adult, and now I think he's more pitiful than scary. He's all alone in his world. There appears to be nothing else like him, or at least nothing that any "civilized" person has found. Just think about what kind of psychological damage he's experienced.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Everywhere I go... I still see optimism and hope and strength."

Did you watch Obama's 30-minute infomercial? I must confess, I didn't - a bit early for my tastes, especially since I live in the Central time zone now. I may try to watch it all some time, but I seriously doubt it. I've already voted, so it doesn't really matter.

If you missed it but want to see it, it's on Youtube.

inside the Labrot and Graham Distillery

What do they make? This.

Sarah Palin took on the old boys' club in Alaska

She did it with her family right behind her.

The big thing you have to remember about Palin is that she's a woman of her word.

Oh, yes. And, she's an expert on energy.

Also, if you're even slightly thinking about voting for Palin's opponents, and you consider yourself to be a Christian, be assured of this: a vote for Obama damns you to hell.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Momma said there'd be days like this...

Admit it. At one time in your life, you've done something comparable to this.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Mann's Chapel

Mann's Chapel, the oldest church in Vermilion County of Illinois, was built in 1857. It's famous enough to warrant a Wikipedia entry.

You may ask, what's so special about Mann's Chapel?

Let's take a closer look at the steeple, shall we?

And now, a peek inside the church:

the neighbors' Halloween decorations

Last December, I posted several pictures of different Christmas scenes that my neighbors had constructed on their property. Since so many more people are decorating their homes for Halloween, I thought I'd take several snapshots and put them up. Here's one of a very close neighbor to my in-laws:

Monday, October 20, 2008

(don't) bring your problem children to Nebraska

I met with countless children during my years as a crisis therapist for a hospital. More often than not, I thought that the kid I saw had a lot of internal struggles and problems, but would behave much better if the mother and father knew how to "parent" better. If the kid was in a better environment (i.e., if he had different parents), the problematic behaviors would be greatly diminished.

Apparently, that was thinking of the folks in the great state of Nebraska when they designed a "safe-haven" law. I mean, why else would parents leave their 16-year-old boy at a hospital designed as a "safe-haven" zone, if there weren't some behavior problems? All that will soon change, however, when Nebraska switches to only accepting children younger than 4 days old.

The new law won't take effect until January, so you can still threaten to drive your incorrigible teen to Nebraska if she doesn't shape up.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

diva with head of red

Why wait to catch up with someone at high school reunions when you can just "google" them and become a "friend"on Facebook?

You know, it's pretty surreal to surf the web, stop at Wikipedia, and uncover the scoop on someone you went to high school with. She's done some pretty interesting things these past 18 years.

General Colin Powell names his pick to be the next U.S. president

If you've paid attention to politics, Powell's endorsement really shouldn't come as a complete surprise. Yes, he's a Republican and a military man, just like John McCain. But, he's pro-choice and a self-described "fiscal conservative with a social conscience." He sees a vote for McCain as a backward step, and a vote for Obama as a leap into the future.

I've never had the opportunity to see in person - let alone meet - the former secretary of state, but my wife has. During his book tour of 1995, Powell made a stop at the most essential bookstore in Dayton, Ohio - Books & Co. I knew he was coming to town and would begin signing books at 5:00 PM, but I couldn't go to meet him because I was scheduled to work from 4:00 PM to midnight that evening. My wife was able to leave her work early enough to join the line, meet the general, and get a book signed.

playing games at school doesn't mean that education isn't occurring

Creativity is essential in teaching and treating children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as this article about a school in Decatur, Georgia, makes clear.
What makes the Community School unusual is not its student body — plenty of schools around the country enroll teenagers with an autism spectrum disorder. But, like about only two dozen schools in the country, it employs a relatively new, creative and highly interactive teaching method known as D.I.R./Floortime, which is producing striking results among T.C.S.’s student body. (D.I.R. stands for developmental, individual differences, relationship-based approach.) The method is derived from the work of Stanley Greenspan, a child psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry, behavioral science and pediatrics at George Washington University, and his colleague Dr. Serena Wieder. D.I.R./Floortime can be effective with all kinds of children, whether they have developmental challenges or not. As applied by T.C.S., it is an approach that encourages students to develop their strengths and interests by working closely with one another and with their teachers. The goal for students is neurological progress through real-world engagement.

With the skyrocketing diagnoses of A.S.D.’s in recent years, parents and school systems are challenged as never before to find techniques to keep these teenagers engaged, productive and nondespairing. Boys with A.S.D. (they outnumber girls four to one) who were difficult to console, to teach, to restrain at age 4 or 8 can be nearly impossible for parents and teachers to manage and to steer at 14 and 18. While a 25-pound toddler’s tantrum is wearying, a 150-pound teenager’s tantrum is dangerous. Puberty and young adulthood take many of these young people unawares.

How best to serve this population remains a subject of debate, because autism is a “final common pathway” diagnosis, meaning children arrive here from different points of origin, are troubled by a wide variety of issues and respond to different strategies. “You meet one child with autism and, well, you’ve met one child with autism,” says Linda Brandenburg, the director of school autism services at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Maryland. Given the wide range of expression in autism and related disorders, there is no one-size-fits-all intervention. “We now know that there are several different models that seem to work — some more behavioral, some more developmental, some more eclectic,” Dr. Fred R. Volkmar, director of the Yale Child Study Center, told me. “What we really need to be doing, what the law says, is design programs around the kids rather than force kids into a program.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Don't ask Joe Biden how many letters are in the word "jobs"

"it's unclear whether she is Bushian or Reaganite. She doesn't think aloud. She just . . . says things."

Peggy Noonan on Sarah Palin:
Here is a fact of life that is also a fact of politics: You have to hold open the possibility of magic. People can come from nowhere, with modest backgrounds and short résumés, and yet be individuals of real gifts, gifts that had previously been unseen, that had been gleaming quietly under a bushel, and are suddenly revealed. Mrs. Palin came, essentially, from nowhere. But there was a man who came from nowhere, the seeming tool of a political machine, a tidy, narrow, unsophisticated senator appointed to high office and then thrust into power by a careless Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose vanity told him he would live forever. And yet that limited little man was Harry S. Truman. Of the Marshall Plan, of containment. Little Harry was big. He had magic. You have to give people time to show what they have. Because maybe they have magic too.

But we have seen Mrs. Palin on the national stage for seven weeks now, and there is little sign that she has the tools, the equipment, the knowledge or the philosophical grounding one hopes for, and expects, in a holder of high office. She is a person of great ambition, but the question remains: What is the purpose of the ambition? She wants to rise, but what for? For seven weeks I've listened to her, trying to understand if she is Bushian or Reaganite—a spender, to speak briefly, whose political decisions seem untethered to a political philosophy, and whose foreign policy is shaped by a certain emotionalism, or a conservative whose principles are rooted in philosophy, and whose foreign policy leans more toward what might be called romantic realism, and that is speak truth, know America, be America, move diplomatically, respect public opinion, and move within an awareness and appreciation of reality.
Governor Palin only has a few weeks left to show us her magic. I would suggest she use a news conference to show she can talk to reporters of different stripes, not just those who work for Fox News. What do you think, Peggy?

No news conferences? Interviews now only with friendly journalists? You can't be president or vice president and govern in that style, as a sequestered figure. This has been Mr. Bush's style the past few years, and see where it got us. You must address America in its entirety, not as a sliver or a series of slivers but as a full and whole entity, a great nation trying to hold together. When you don't, when you play only to your little piece, you contribute to its fracturing.

In the end the Palin candidacy is a symptom and expression of a new vulgarization in American politics. It's no good, not for conservatism and not for the country. And yes, it is a mark against John McCain, against his judgment and idealism.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

"I went in there one day, and in the drawing room I found Emily reclining in the arms of a man."

Emily Dickinson had a secret lover!
It's now widely assumed that that man was Judge Otis Lord, a widower of her father's generation who proposed marriage to Dickinson late in his life and hers (she died in 1886 at the age of 56) only to be affectionately rebuffed. "Don't you know," she wrote coyly but decisively, "that you are happiest while I withhold and not confer?" Yet the notion of Emily Dickinson making out in her living room is so foreign to our conception of her that her autumnal tryst with Judge Lord has never become part of the popular lore about her.
Will you read her poetry in the same way again? Is it better to think of her as an old spinster longing for the beauty of romantic companionship but never finding it? Is it disappointing to think that she wasn't so different from all us romantic fools?

I bet that if Emily Dickinson had been a fan of '80's pop songs, this one would have been near the top of her favorites list:

Two sure signs that October is here

Every store and produce stand keeps lots of these in stock:

Royal Donut, where smiley-face iced cookies can usually be found, starts making these:

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

for those who think I wholeheartedly support Barack Obama...

... I can assure you that I don't. Mainly because of this. I just don't see how someone can claim to value a human life, and casually consent to letting people kill an unborn child.
What kind of America do we want our beloved nation to be? Barack Obama's America is one in which being human just isn't enough to warrant care and protection. It is an America where the unborn may legitimately be killed without legal restriction, even by the grisly practice of partial-birth abortion. It is an America where a baby who survives abortion is not even entitled to comfort care as she dies on a stainless steel table or in a soiled linen bin. It is a nation in which some members of the human family are regarded as inferior and others superior in fundamental dignity and rights. In Obama's America, public policy would make a mockery of the great constitutional principle of the equal protection of the law. In perhaps the most telling comment made by any candidate in either party in this election year, Senator Obama, when asked by Rick Warren when a baby gets human rights, replied: ''that question is above my pay grade.'' It was a profoundly disingenuous answer: For even at a state senator's pay grade, Obama presumed to answer that question with blind certainty. His unspoken answer then, as now, is chilling: human beings have no rights until infancy - and if they are unwanted survivors of attempted abortions, not even then.
Anybody know of a great candidate for president whose name isn't John McCain or Barack Obama? I'm open to suggestions.

MORE: JT, take it away.

I don't watch "The Office"

I know - that's practically the same thing as saying "I don't breathe oxygen" to some of you out there. It's one of those shows, like Heroes, that I'd probably enjoy if I watched it, but for some reason or 'nother, it's not on my viewing list.

Maybe I'll watch it if someone tells me that it includes lots of scenes like this:

My inner geek finds it absolutely hilarious.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

the irrationality of Bill Maher

Looks like the main star of Religulous isn't all that "rational" himself.
On Oct. 3, Mr. Maher debuts "Religulous," his documentary that attacks religious belief. He talks to Hasidic scholars, Jews for Jesus, Muslims, polygamists, Satanists, creationists, and even Rael -- prophet of the Raelians -- before telling viewers: "The plain fact is religion must die for man to live."

But it turns out that the late-night comic is no icon of rationality himself. In fact, he is a fervent advocate of pseudoscience. The night before his performance on Conan O'Brien, Mr. Maher told David Letterman -- a quintuple bypass survivor -- to stop taking the pills that his doctor had prescribed for him. He proudly stated that he didn't accept Western medicine. On his HBO show in 2005, Mr. Maher said: "I don't believe in vaccination. . . . Another theory that I think is flawed, that we go by the Louis Pasteur [germ] theory." He has told CNN's Larry King that he won't take aspirin because he believes it is lethal and that he doesn't even believe the Salk vaccine eradicated polio.

Anti-religionists such as Mr. Maher bring to mind the assertion of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown character that all atheists, secularists, humanists and rationalists are susceptible to superstition: "It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can't see things as they are."

Cedarville is growing

Despite past controversies (or perhaps because of them?), Cedarville University continues to expand. Ten new majors and five new minors will be added to the curriculum next fall.

Communication Arts
  • Journalism
  • Intercultural communication
  • Comprehensive communication
  • Media communication
  • Organizational communication
  • Political communication

Exercise and Sports Science

  • Allied health
  • Sport management (minor)

Language and Literature

  • Asian studies (minor)
  • French (minor)

Music, Art and Worship

  • Worship

Science and Mathematics

  • Chemistry Education
  • Environmental science
  • Actuarial science (minor)

For a history of Cedarville University, go here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Palin abused her power

While the Alaska governor was busy questioning Senator Obama's "associations," she was being questioned about her own activities. The report is out:
Gov. Sarah Palin abused the powers of her office by pressuring subordinates to try to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired, an investigation by the Alaska Legislature has concluded. The inquiry found, however, that she was within her right to dismiss her public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, who was the trooper’s boss.
And this is someone whom the evangelical community is supposed to embrace wholeheartedly? If you're going to ask people to look closely at the actions of others, you better have your own house in order. Twigs and logs in the eye, and all that.

Yes We Carve

What will your pumpkins look like at the end of the month? Perhaps this place can give you some good ideas. Or you could check out here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Quote for the Day

"It's the supreme art of the devil that he can make the law out of the gospel. If I can hold on to the distinction between law and gospel, I can say to him any and every time that he should kiss my backside... Once I debate about what I have done and left undone, I am finished. But if I reply on the basis of the gospel, 'The forgiveness of sins covers it all,' I have won."

Martin Luther

Thursday, October 9, 2008

To: the "lurker" pastor who has known me for the past 17 years

Yeah. You know who you are. You should visit here, because it's for you and all the guys like you, including our mutual friends in Naptown. After you've been there, come back here and let your very first comment on this blog be to tell me what you think.

AND: Read this, too.

True Woman

My mother-in-law is attending the True Woman Conference in Chicago this weekend. Tim Challies will be live-blogging. With speakers such as John Piper, Janet Parshall, and Joni Eareckson Tada, the conference should be an intriguing event. You can't sign up now to attend since all tickets have been sold, but the conference will be streamed live on the web.

Monday, October 6, 2008

does height make a difference when it comes to the presidency?

This chart shows that America tends to vote for the man who is taller and/or heavier. The more there is of a man, the more America likes him for the presidency. I guess it's better for us to have a president who has enough weight to make a difference when he throws it around.

You do realize who the taller man is in this election cycle, don't you?

Friday, October 3, 2008

No, we didn't ask for your opinion about the debate, Roger...

...but I'm always glad to read it.

Film reviews for "Religulous"

Bill Maher's film Religulous is being touted as a comical-serious examination of the beliefs and practices of religion, with particular attention paid to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. According to the film's site, Maher is "known for his astute analytical skills, irreverent wit and commitment to never pulling a punch." You can go here for the film trailer.

Maher's subject in Religulous, and it's a useful one, is religion as it is actually practiced in the suburbs, the country and the streets. He's an agnostic, not an atheist. His goal is to proclaim doubt about the mysteries that surround our mortality (such as what happens at death), and thus promote rationalism. He leaves certainty to true believers. He doesn't ponder what faith can do except summon a vision of the afterlife or provide an alternative to nothingness for the jailed or destitute.

Early on in the movie, Maher makes a trip to Raleigh, North Carolina. Good choice. It's actually one of my favorite places to visit. But the Raleigh that Maher visits in the movie looks nothing like the Raleigh I know. His entire visit seemed to consist of a trip to a tiny chapel at a truck stop where a few truckers meet for church. They obviously didn't know who Maher was, or what his shtick was, and they quickly become offended when he peppered them with questions about the credibility of the gospel they passionately believe in. Watching that scene, I had only one thought in my head: If you want to pick on someone your own elitist intellectual size, Duke University Divinity School is right down the road!

And that incident more or less sums up the problem with this movie. There is plenty to satirize about religion. There is plenty to debate about religion. But Maher spends time offending those believers of all faiths who are easily offended or fearful and never engages with believers who aren't afraid of clever banter, witty one-liners, and cheap shots. Not only is there not much sport in that, but, come to find out, there's really not much entertainment value in it, either.

Religulous will not inspire any person of faith to give up their beliefs, of course -- and whether you see that as a demonstration of unyielding devotion or unthinking dogma will, again, depend on your point of view -- but Maher and Charles, to their credit, seem to be focusing their film more at challenging non-believers than believers. Maher's big finish for Religulous is tonally very similar to the way he closes out his HBO show Real Time -- a stern, serious discussion that follows the jokes like serving broccoli after dessert -- where Maher's line of argument is that non-believers need to step up, speak out and be heard to try and change the course of public opinion, that religious 'moderates' need to see their behavior as dangerous, enabling complicity that helps empower radical elements which cannot go unnoticed or unchallenged in an age where, as Maher puts it, "We learned to precipitate mass death before we got over the neurological disorder of wishing for it." And Maher also -- in his own words, in his own way -- conveys the conflict felt by every non-believer who would like to believe in a just, kind and loving god but can't. Religulous is full of contradictions -- it's a funny film about some depressing things, it's a lighthearted tour through terrorism, injustice and intolerance. But those contradiction and challenges are, ultimately, what make the film linger uneasily in your mind, reaching past comedy and confrontation to challenge the audience with a fierce and forceful prayer that there might be no god.

You don't need to believe in God to take issue with Bill Maher's Religulous, a quasi-documentary that mocks religion as ridiculous, crazy, even dangerous. It's a nasty, condescending, small-minded film, self-amused and ultimately self-defeating. Its only accomplishment is to make atheists look bad - and in this political climate they didn't need Maher's help with that.

In the end, Maher reveals his serious intent, to put forth the idea that not just fundamentalism but religion in all forms is a danger to the survival of civilization. Agree or not, that's a serious idea, but the obnoxious interviews and the zany treatment undercut it. Certainly, if his intent was to persuade anyone of his view, well, fat chance of that. (If anything, Maher is obnoxious enough to make people want to get religion.) In the moment, the message of "Religulous" is that everybody who believes in God is stupid, cowardly or intellectually dishonest. That's a sentiment better expressed in a single wisecrack, not a feature-length documentary.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Biden & Palin

The Vice Presidential Debate of 2008 has come and gone, and it wasn't as painful as everyone feared it might be. Palin spoke in coherent sentences, and Biden didn't make any ridiculous statements. Okay, Karl Rove and Sean Hannity thought Biden made ridiculous statements, but that's neither here nor there and both candidates had difficulty staying completely factual.

I'd say Biden technically won the debate, but Palin gained some ground that had been lost after her interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric. The polls have shown that Obama has a lead over McCain, so we will have to see if this debate made any kind of difference. Palin showed she has substance, but we have a month to go before we know how that translates into votes.

Go here for a transcript.

Don't Vote!

Seriously. You should make all your decisions based upon what Forrest Whitaker, Jennifer Aniston, and Jonah Hill tell you. I mean, you're reading about them in OK and US Weekly anyways, right?