Archive for September, 2008

The Service Project

Our church is going through somewhat of an identity crisis. I love my church! For me it is like a family, incorporating both the good and bad, the annoying and encouraging, the supporting and questioning aspects of any family dynamic. Probably my most favorite thing about our church is that we openly agree to disagree on many topics. This means that we are not a homogenous group. We are varied in almost every way; age group, economic status, political persuasion, environmental concerns. We coud be more ethinically diverse, but perhaps this is also a feature of our community which is also not very ethinically diverse. This has always surprised me, as I view our broader community very open, and I would assume all groups would feel welcome, but I thinks this points to other issues about self observation that deserves it’s own post in the future.

Our identity crisis revolves mostly around who we want to be in the future. We are a somewhat small and tight knit group. And for every person who wants to broaden that circle and reach out to others and bring them into the group, there is another person fearful that “new” people will change the group dynamic and we will lose what makes us special and therefore tight knit.

I personally view the situation as an opportunity to share more of our loving kindness with others and grow the tight knit group. That more people to love won’t fundamentally change who we are.

There is a strong pull on us to reach out to our community and be of service to others. And to that end a group of us is launching a new opportunity this coming month to do just that. It is called The Service Project and the intent is come together and perfom acts of service to our community. A brief outline of what we are:

“Communal, interactive, alive, integral, dependent, alive, changing, exploring, asking, leading, learning, listening.

What we plan to do:

Create a place and times, to come together to worship, learn, service, reach out, create, share and support.

Ideas about how we can do this:

Monthly worship comprised of sensory, media, interactive tangible sharing.
Monthly service projects around such ideas as supporting the NA group at CCSV, reaching out to community via art and music and other means, developing the property for uses such as a prayer labyrinth and/or stations of the cross, ministering at Beach Flats and Elm Street Mission.
And your ideas.”

So our journey starts now. I will check in with you all on regular basis and let you know how our experiment goes. Pray for us. I hope we can inspire others to not be afraid of change and open their hearts to expanding the family circle.

Update: I forgot the most important part, our scriptual basis:

“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but it is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:12

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One Year Later

Monkey Push the Button

Monkey Push the Button

I launched my second ever blog one year ago this week. It was fun to look back and see what I hoped for my blog. It read:

Here is my blog wishlist:

1. Update every day, or at least 5 days a week.

2. Become brave enough to let my friends read my blog eventually.

3. Get a really cool design going. I like pretty things to look at, especially if they are green.

4. Be relevant or at least coherent, or better yet a good speller with a decent vocabulary.

5. Become brave enough to let my family read my blog and still have them respect me in the morning.

6. Remember my login and password.

And here is how I have done:

1. Well I don’t update every day or even 5 days a week but since July of this year I have been pretty good at getting something new up at least once a week.

2. I did become brave enough to share my blog with my family and friends (although not my in laws as our politics are about as polar opposite as you can be). And I only became brave enough in the last month as I get more and more excited about the election.

3. Well no cool design yet. I am torn between learning how to design something myself or asking one of my highly talented professional friends to make me look cool. Maybe I will acheive this by next year.

4. Well I think I am relevant at least lately in light of the impending election. The spelling and vocab are okay, although I sometimes have to go back and edit my post a day after it goes up.

5. I think my family and friends respect me, but perhaps you have to ask them.

6. And most important of all, I have remembered by password. Hooray, although this has more to do with managing my email accounts better than my memory. But the good thing is, I am accessing my blog often.

I thought it might be appropriate to make a new list of goals for the coming year so here goes.

1. Branch out to more topics, I am fired up about the election, but then what?

2. Attract more regular visitors. Although this week has been amazing. My blog is the first google listing for the search ‘Is Barack Obama qualified?’ What and honor and a trip.

3. Get a new design (see above)

4. Read other peoples blogs, maybe even susbribe to a few.

5. Continue to post regularly and remember my password. These two goals are really related.

So wish me luck and please let me know what you think of things so far and what you would like to see in the future.

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The Debate: Who Won?

The televised debated

The televised debated

In my continuing quest to pay close attention to the most historic election in this country (at least in my lifetime) I listened to most of the debate this evening on my way home from work. I missed maybe the last 15 minutes because I was meeting my girlfriends for our monthly wine and cheese and chocolate gathering. I really need to blog about that more often, maybe when the election is over I can get back to a more balanced approach to my blog. Anyway, I listened as hard as I could, while driving the great slalom course known as Hwy 17. And here is my scoring.

Question One: Where do you stand on the financial recovery tonight?

Results: Although Jim Lehrer was trying his very best to get McCain and Obama to engage each other, they both did an outstanding job to sticking to their respective campaign’s talking points and didn’t really reveal any new information.

My opinion: A tie, no real statements made in this round.

Question two: Are there fundamental differences between you on your approach to lead the country out of this financial crisis?

Results: McCain’s focus is on shutting down earmarks and Obama’s focus is on tax cuts for working families, closing tax loopholes for corporations and rewarding US companies for creating jobs in the US.

My opinion: I decided that Barack Obama’s argument that empowering 95% of working families (defined as incomes below $250K annually) with tax cuts to further stimulate the economy a far more compelling argument that John McCain’s continued rewarding of the financial elites of our country. Also Obama touched on McCain health care plan which taxes employer provided insurance, which I see as one the greatest flaws in McCains proposed policies. My vote goes with Obama on this one.

Question three: As a result of whatever financial bailout plan we finally agree on, what priorities do you think you may need to give up on?

Results: Obama was not specific on which of his programs might need to wait, but when pressed he mentioned that we might need to delay spending on energy to try to and free our dependence on foreign oil. Obama also mentioned the $10 Billion a month spending on Iraq. McCain also was unspecific on programs, but when pushed mentioned a possible spending freeze on all but defense, veteran benefits and entitlement programs.

My opinion: My head literally spun when McCain said spending freeze. First off, I think some entitlement programs need less funding. Secondly I think that was a gross overstatement and we would have been much better served by having some idea of what he is for not just against. Obama all the way on this one.

Question four: Lessons on Iraq?

Results: McCain: ‘we need a better plan before we go to war.’ Obama: ‘why are we even in Iraq when Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are in Afghanistan?’

My opinion: I have thought since day one, the Iraq war was a joke and respect Obama for questioning it to this day. Go Obama.

Question four: More troops to Afghanistan?

Results: Obama said yes and as soon possible. McCain yes but we also need a new strategy.

My opinion: I felt McCain had a very intelligent and nuanced understanding of the issues in Afghanistan. I give this one to McCain.

Question five: Iran’s threat to America right now?

Results: McCain’s position is that Iran with nuclear weapons is a threat to Isreal and Iran is supplying the IED’s to Iraq that kill so many. Let’s impose ‘significant, meaningful sanctions’. Obama said the war in Iraq has strenghtened Iran and a nuclear Iran would set of a middle east arms race. We need to engage in tough direct diplomacy.

My opinion: The debate largely centered on the importance of preconditions and how we define them. McCain believes preconditions are key before any engagement and Obama views them as working out all agreements before meeting, so what is the point of meeting. I believe the greatest detrement to our country under the last 8 years of the Bush administration is the declining respect and opinion of America on the world stage. And one cause of this lack of respect is our complete mishandling of almost every foreign policy relationship we have, even with some of our closest allies. This reason alone is probably the most compelling reason I have for supporting Obama so ardently. And again on this topic I think he came out clearly on top.

At this point I missed the remainder of the debate, so my indepth analysis stops here.

My general impression (at least audibly) was that both candidates were well prepared, both stuck way too much to their talking points. McCain failed to answer the actual question or rebute far more often than Obama. And although the BBC analysis felt McCain was more forceful and perhaps more presidential sounding, and Obama too quick to compliment McCain and more nuanced. I want a more diplomatic and thoughtful person in the White House. So go on Obama, keep up the good work, and the Americans, if they are listening, they will hear you and take you there.

If want to read for yourselves the entire transcript of the debate, you can find it here:

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Suspending the Campaign due to the Financial Crisis

We know it is a sign of bad and even dangerous times when our comedians make more sense than our leaders. Take Craig Ferguson on ‘The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson’ when he points out how utterly ridiculously it is that John McCain wants to suspend his campaign and cancel or delay the scheduled Presidential debate with Barack Obama this Friday.

Now, I too, think these are serious and scary times and I want as many smart and level headed people working through all the possible solutions on this absolute nightmare of a financial crisis, and whether or not we should bail the banks out and under what supervision. But at the same time you cannot tell me that John McCain and Barack Obama cannot take a few hours out of their week to fly to Mississippi to try and convince America why we need one of them in the office to stop this madness from happening again.

Now more than ever we all need to study the issues and pick whom we feel will best lead us for the next four years. Please register to vote and go to the polls on November 4th.

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Priorities: Hackers vs. Bin Laden

Last week a hacker admitted to breaking into Sarah Palin’s personal Yahoo email account. Let’s be specific, on Wednesday September 17th a hacker posted contents of Palin’s account as chronicled here Wired article ‘Group posts email hacked from Sarah Palin’s account

David Kernell

David Kernell

On Friday September 19th FBI agents served University of Tennessee student David Kernell’s roommate with a subpoena, and returned on Saturday September 20th with a search warrant. There currently is no confirmation that David Kernell or any of his roommates are the hacker. The lastest update today from Fox News where it is noted the current status of the investigation is ongoing.

Now you think you know where I am headed with this story, but let’s be clear, I do not condone anyone hacking into anyone else’s email account. Even if they are dumb enough to use a Yahoo account for any form of official business.

No, the point of this post is to juxtapose this rapid response from the FBI regarding this breach of security with the ongoing lack of follow through, will, mandate, whatever we need to call our inability to find US enemy number one, Osama Bin Laden. I have continued to be amazed that the most powerful country on earth, the nation that has been at the forefront of technology, military excellence, and the richest nation by almost any measure, has been unable to capture or kill the one terrorist almost every US citizen agrees they would like to see eliminated.

Osama Bin Laden

Osama Bin Laden

Now I realize full well, that there is a huge difference between tracking an amateur hacker and a seasoned terrorist but I still think it points to an interesting intersection in the security prirorties of America.

And if you have ever been the victim of a hacker attack breaking into your email, don’t expect the same response from the FBI or local law enforcement. They are busy fighting real crime.

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Alaskans Protest Against Palin


Photo courtsey of donnialda’s flickr stream.

A friend of mine sent me this email, not sure where it originated but it is an interesting story, so I will share it with you all:

Dear friends … Republican, Independent, Democrat, Undecided … I just wanted to forward this (some of you may have seen this already … I apologize). We need to recognize that not all Alaskans are for Palin, not all Illinoisians are for Obama, not all Delawarians are for Biden, nor are all Arizonians for McCain. We are a diverse country many views. Please read the text and scroll through the pictures. Thank you.W o w! Look at these pictures of a great bunch of people, carrying home-made signs…

ASK YOUR TV STATIONS WHY WE DIDN’T GET TO SEE THE BIGGEST RALLY IN ALASKA?
Enjoy….pass it on!

[The] Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was to be held outside on the lawn in front of the Loussac Library in midtown Anchorage. Home made signs were encouraged, and the idea was to make a statement that Sarah Palin does not speak for all Alaska women, or men.. I had no idea what to expect.

The rally was organized by a small group of women, talking over coffee. It made me wonder what other things have started with small groups of women talking over coffee. It’s probably an impressive list. These women hatched the plan, printed up flyers, posted them around town, and sent notices to local media outlets. One of those media outlets was KBYR radio, home of Eddie Burke, a long-time uber-conservative Anchorage talk show host. Turns out that Eddie Burke not only announced the rally, but called the people who planned to attend the rally “a bunch of socialist baby-killing maggots,” and read the home phone numbers of the organizers aloud over the air, urging listeners to call and tell them what they thought. The women, of course, received some nasty, harassing and threatening messages.

“I felt a bit apprehensive. I’d been disappointed before by the turnout at other rallies. Basically, in Anchorage, if you can get 25 people to show up at an event, it’s a success. So, I thought to myself, if we can actually get 100 people there that aren’t sent by Eddie Burke, we’ll be doing good. A real statement will have been made. I confess, I still had a mental image of 15 demonstrators surrounded by hundreds of menacing “socialist baby-killing maggot” haters.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t tailgating when I saw the crowd in front of the library or I would have ended up in somebody’s trunk.. When I got there, about 20 minutes early, the line of sign wavers stretched the full length of the library grounds, along the edge of the road, 6 or 7 people deep! I could hardly find a place to park. I nabbed one of the last spots in the library lot, and as I got out of the car and started walking, people seemed to join in from every direction, carrying signs.

Never, have I seen anything like it in my 17 and a half years living in Anchorage. The organizers had someone walk the rally with a counter, and they clicked off well over 1400 people (not including the 90 counter-demonstrators). This was the biggest political rally ever, in the history of the state. I was absolutely stunned. The second most amazing thing is how many people honked and gave the thumbs up as they drove by. And even those that didn’t honk looked wide-eyed and awe-struck at the huge crowd that was growing by the minute. This just doesn’t happen here.

Then, the infamous Eddie Burke showed up. He tried to talk to the media, and was instantly surrounded by a group of 20 people who started shouting O-BA-MA so loud he coul dn’t be heard. Then passing cars started honking in a rhythmic pattern of 3, like the Obama chant, while the crowd cheered, hooted and waved their signs high.

So, if you’ve been doing the math… Yes. The Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was significantly bigger than Palin’s rally that got all the national media coverage! So take heart, sit back, and enjoy the photo gallery. Feel free to spread the pictures around to anyone who needs to know that Sarah Palin most definitely does not speak for all Alaskans. The citizens of Alaska, who know her best, have things to say.”

See the photos here

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A World View of Our Election & The Economy

Nasa Image of the World from Space

As most of you can’t help but hear about no matter where you turn, our economy is in the midst of perhaps the most tumultous time since the Great Depression. And there is a reason the Great Depression is always capitalized, as it marked an incredibly difficult and culture defining period in our country’s great history. As our economics markets crumble around us and we are unsure of where we are headed, I sometimes like to take a step back and try to see things from a different angle.

I heard a most interesting story on PRI yesterday about our upcoming election and our economic status via the views of citizens of other countries. And if you think that this election is just about us and it shouldn’ t matter what the rest of the world thinks, I challenge you to consider who owns the US debt. In our ever changing global economy and our constant dependence on global markets for both exports and imports. And perhaps most of all our standing (or lack thereof) on the world stage when it comes to foreign policy, I believe requires us to care what the rest of world is thinking about as we face a very important election come this November.

I encourage you to listen for yourselves:

PRI's The World: The US Image Abroad

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