He Makes A Good Point…

As most of my readers know, I work at a church as a youth minister. Since my church is not particularly large (about 200 members), we have a pretty small staff—the preaching minister, a (part-time) secretary, and myself.

This means that while my primary focus is working with the teens, it is by no means the only thing I do—I preach once a month, I’m in charge of the church website, I do a variety of special projects, and I also work each week on the church bulletin.

For the bulletin, I only have to write one page (for the teens), but I do layout and editing for six of the eight pages. Occasionally, this task proves to be a great source of humor.

Today, I was proofreading an article which dealt with the importance of being an active member of the church, rather than someone who just showed up for worship and never got involved.

The author made the point that work is actually good for us—it keeps our minds and bodies active and also gives us incentive in life. In fact, as the author pointed out:

“Statistics indicate that the mortality rate increases following retirement.”
Seriously? You mean, people tend to die at a quicker rate following retirement? I always assumed that had something to do with the fact that people retire when they’re, well, older, and older people tend to die at a quicker rate than younger people do.

Really, I understand the point the guy was trying to make, but what a laughable statement.

Even better is the fact that I’ve read this quote before, because we’ve used this article already. A better editor might point this out and choose something else, but I thought it was just too good to pass up.

Life of Pi

I’ve been reading quite a bit lately, and I’m getting behind in reporting on the stuff I’ve enjoyed.

After The Ministry of Fear, I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. I had heard some good things about it, and knew that it had won some award, so I decided to give it a try.

Life of Pi is not a Christian book, but it is religious—the main character, Pi Patel, actually considers himself to be Hindu, Christian and Muslim at the same time. Martel doesn’t really explain how that is possible, and actually, doesn’t explain much of anything in the book, but he does offer some stellar insights on religion, philosophy, and the story of life through the tale of a boy fighting for his survival while stuck on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:
On the relationship between zoos and religion:
“I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.”
As I mentioned before, Pi is deeply religious. His thoughts on agnosticism:
“I’ll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted to doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.”
On the importance of ending things well:
“What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell…It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse.”
Life of Pi concludes with a couple of sharp plot twists that leave the reader wondering what has really happened, but even more importantly, questioning whether knowing what really happened is even all that important:
“The world isn’t just the way it is. It’s also how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story? I know what you want. You want a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently. You want a flat story. An immobile story. A dry, yeastless factuality.”
If you’re interested in survival stories, animals, Indian culture, religion or philosophy, I recommend Life of Pi. It provides a healthy dose of each.


A Change Ahead?

For a while now, I’ve been thinking about moving The Doc File to another blogging service.

There are things about Blogger that I like a lot: it’s free, it’s very customizable, and the Blogger people are always working to improve things and make it better.

What really kills me about Blogger though is how terrible its templates are. By my count there are only 16 templates to choose from (with color variations of each), and most of those are very similar to each other (so it’s more like having about five templates).

As I said earlier, one of the nice things about Blogger is that you can customize a template to the way you want it. I’ve tweaked the HTML code of my blog considerably to produce the current results, but at the end of the day, there are things about my blog that I really don’t like and I’m not nearly good enough with HTML to fix them.

The main feature I would like on my blog is page management (at least, that’s what WordPress calls it), which would enable my blog to contain separate sections, and make it more of a website and less of a blog.

For example, currently, in order to have an “About Me” section, I have to write a post, and then link to it in my sidebar. I’d much prefer for it to be a separate page rather than a blog post, and for it to appear in a navigational bar (this may not seem like a big deal to you, but to a person with some obsessive-compulsive tendencies like myself, it is).

So the simple solution would seem to be switching to WordPress, which has better templates and several which support page management.

But, while WordPress is free in its most basic form, if you want to do any real customization (other than just switching the picture in your header), you have to pay money, which I don’t necessarily mind, but I’d like to know exactly what I’d have to pay in order to get what I want.

And apparently, there’s a distinction between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, and that doesn’t make this process any easier for me.

So, any WordPress, blogging, or general computer experts out there want to give me some advice?


Obama And Abortion, Or, Where Intellectual Consistency Takes You

I’m not a Barack Obama fan.

I do like some things about him: I think he makes good speeches; the fact that his middle name is Hussein doesn’t really bother me, and I think the name Obama actually sounds pretty cool; the way he talks about hope and change (always rather vaguely) is enticing; I think it would be really cool to have a black president.

On the other hand, I don’t like how he pretends to be a moderate. I don’t like how he claims to be shocked by the recent statements of a religious figure who he’s known well for twenty years. Cool posters aside, I don’t like how he talks about change and doing things differently, and then seems eerily similar to any other politician trying to win a campaign.

Most of all, I don’t like his stance on abortion.

I’ve known that Obama was Pro-Choice for a long time, but got a better idea of his views after reading this article, which describes Obama’s opposition (as an Illinois State Senator) to the Born Alive Infants Bill:

State and federal versions of this bill became an issue earlier this decade because of “induced labor abortion.” This is usually performed on a baby with Down’s Syndrome or another problem discovered on the cusp of viability. A doctor medicates the mother to cause premature labor. Babies surviving labor are left untreated to die.

Jill Stanek, who was a nurse at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Ill., testified in the U.S. Congress in 2000 and 2001 about how “induced labor abortions” were handled at her hospital. “One night,” she said in testimony entered into the Congressional Record, “a nursing co-worker was taking an aborted Down's Syndrome baby who was born alive to our Soiled Utility Room because his parents did not want to hold him, and she did not have the time to hold him. I couldn't bear the thought of this suffering child lying alone in a Soiled Utility Room, so I cradled and rocked him for the 45 minutes that he lived.”

In 2001, Illinois state Sen. Patrick O’Malley introduced three bills to help such babies. One required a second physician to be present at the abortion to determine if a surviving baby was viable. Another gave the parents or a public guardian the right to sue to protect the baby’s rights. A third, almost identical to the federal Born Alive Infant Protection Act President Bush signed in 2002, simply said a “homo sapiens” wholly emerged from his mother with a “beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord or definite movement of voluntary muscles” should be treated as a “‘person,’ ‘human being,’ ‘child’ and ‘individual.’”

Stanek testified about these bills in the Illinois Senate Judiciary Committee, where Obama served. She told me this week he was “unfazed” by her story of holding the baby who survived an induced labor abortion.
The article goes on to describe how Obama was the only Illinois State Senator to oppose the legislation, an opposition he explained by saying:
“Whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the Equal Protection Clause or the other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a—a child, a 9-month old—child that was delivered to term. That determination then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it—it would essentially bar abortions, because the Equal Protection Clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an anti-abortion statute.”
One thing I can respect about Obama is that he is at least intellectually consistent. He realizes that if it’s okay to kill a fetus in the womb, it must also be okay to kill that same fetus if it survives birth.

The problem with that consistency is where it takes you. It took Jill Stanek to a Soiled Utility Room where she cradled a living, breathing human child until it died.

Of course, that seems appalling, but as long as you define human life in terms of viability, or in terms of whether or not it is wanted, that’s where you end up.


The Strange Connection Of Lincoln And Kennedy

Conspiracy theories and unexplained events sometimes interest me, unless they happen to be…stupid.

I’ve read the following historical coincidences before on the internet, but I received it just this morning in email form:

History Mystery

Have a history teacher explain this—if they can.

Abraham Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846.
John F. Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946.

Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860
John F. Kennedy was elected President in 1960.

Both were particularly concerned with civil rights.
Both wives lost their children while living in the White House.
Both Presidents were shot on a Friday
Both Presidents were shot in the head

Now it gets really weird.

Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy.
Kennedy’s Secretary was named Lincoln .

Both were assassinated by Southerners.
Both were succeeded by Southerners named Johnson.

Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was born in 1808.
Lyndon Johnson, who succeeded Kennedy, was born in 1908.

John Wilkes Booth, who assassinated Lincoln , was born in 1839.
Lee Harvey Oswald, who ass assinated Kennedy, was born in 1939.

Both assassins were known by their three names.
Both names are composed of fifteen letters.

Now hang on to your seat.

Lincoln was shot at the theater named 'Ford.'
Kennedy was shot in a car called ' Lincoln ' made by 'Ford.'

Lincoln was shot in a theater and his assassin ran and hid in a warehouse.
Kennedy was shot from a warehouse and his assassin ran and hid in a theater.

Booth and Oswald were assassinated before their trials .

And here’s the kicker...

A week before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe, Maryland
A week before Kennedy was shot, he was with Marilyn Monroe.

Creepy huh? Send this to as many people as you can, cause:
Hey, this is one history lesson most people probably will not mind reading!
If these shocking similarities have succeeded in convincing you that there’s something suspicious going on, then you should check out the snopes page on it.

When it comes to unexplained events, I’ll go with the Loch Ness Monster.


A Special Graduation Day

Congratulations are in order to my wife and brother, who today receive their diplomas after completing their respective graduate programs.

I’m actually in Searcy with my wife today, where she will receive a Master’s Degree in Reading from Harding University (that’s right—she has officially mastered a skill which you and I have just been dabbling in since Kindergarten).

This degree will enable her to be a licensed Reading Specialist in addition to being a licensed elementary school teacher, and will also increase her paycheck.

Caroline started the program when we were still in Searcy back in the Spring of 2006, but for the last two years, has taken graduate classes at Harding’s satellite campus in Bentonville while teaching school full-time. To say that I am proud of her is an understatement.

A lesser man than myself might feel ashamed that his wife is both more educated than him and makes more money than him, but me, well, I’m just thankful (besides, I can still dominate her in thumb wrestling and miniature golf).

As for my brother, he will (to my knowledge) become the first member of my family to earn a Ph.D. when he gets his special piece of paper from the University of Arkansas today.

It’s taken a few years for Jared to get through grad school because he’s always had a job or two (or maybe even three) at the same time, but I’m very proud of him as well, and he has been awarded for his diligence with a teaching position in Harding’s history department this fall.

Jared specializes in military history, and probably knows more about World War II than anyone you’ve ever met.

Of course, when it comes to a truly important subject like baseball history, he’s still lagging a bit behind his little brother.


“An Eternal Oxymoron”

Here is a very good article on the ever-growing intersection between Christianity and pop culture.

I really liked the following excerpts:

“At this point in history, American evangelicals resemble the Israelites at various dangerous moments in the Old Testament: They are blending into the surrounding heathen culture, and having ever more trouble figuring out where it ends and they begin.

It’s always been a stretch to defend Christian pop culture as the path to eternal salvation. Now, they may have to face up to the fact that it’s more like an eternal oxymoron.”
The article is only a couple of pages long, and is well worth the time it takes to read. You’ll still have plenty of time to catch Dancing With The Stars.


Bits And Pieces: 5.1.08

A few things on my mind on this windy Thursday morning:

  • I don’t like complaining about gas prices, but I noticed on the way to work this morning that it’s now $3.55 for a gallon of regular unleaded. If this continues, I might have to take drastic measures—like learning how to drive my wife’s manually-transmissioned, more fuel-efficient car.
  • So the Shaq experiment didn’t seem to work out so well with the Suns losing in the first round of the NBA Playoffs to the very team they hoped to beat with Shaq’s help, and reports suggest that Phoenix Head Coach Mike D’Antoni is on his way out. I don’t know how much I like D’Antoni, but it doesn’t seem fair for him to have to take responsibility for a busted trade that the GM and owner also signed off on.
  • After losing 3-2 to the Nationals last night in the 12th inning, the Braves are now 0-9 in 1-run games. I’m not trying to be an alarmist or anything, but that doesn’t really seem to bode well for the team. If John Smoltz actually returns to the bullpen though, maybe that will change…

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