Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Two little words with such baggage! Merry Christmas means so many things. I suppose that for each person Christmas and the emotions and thoughts even the word conveys is as unique as that individual is.

I wish each of you a Merry Christmas, and hope that you are filled with the joy that knowing the Christ brings - for this is truly a reason to celebrate. Christmas is the commemoration of the day that God laid aside His majesty and was born a human in a dirty, smelly stable so that He could make a way for us to know Him. The beauty is that even today He isn't afraid to come into the dirty and smelly to save a life.

If you know the Christ of Christmas I pray that you will find time today in the midst of the bustle of our celebrations and reflect on Him. If you don't know Jesus I hope that you will meet Him today.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Home For Christmas

My Grandfather died today around lunch time. He went pretty quickly, and that is something I had always hoped for. He got to live in his home on his own right up until the end even though dementia was starting to take its toll. It is a mercy that he succumbed to something other than the dementia. I only wish that he had been able to be home when he died.

My Grandfather lived to be 88 years old. He had a good life. He was married to my Grandmother for 63 years before she died 5 years ago. I told them on their 60th anniversary that if I ever lived to be married 60 years I was going to be OLD. Even more so now.

My Grandfather taught me so much about being a man when I was growing up. He was always so virile and positive and active. He was the most manly man I have ever known - although my Uncle Jim was a close second. John Wayne had nothing on my Grandfather.

He taught me how to work and how to live. He taught me alot about marriage and relationships. I will always cherish the times that I had with him. Thank God I have those memories. I will remember all of the times that I helped him working in the bees, or putting up corn or honey. I will remember quail hunting with him and the many fishing trips that we had together. Our last fishing trip together was less than two months ago. It was the best one that I can remember in years. He had such a good time. God is so good to have given that to him - to us. God, I'm going to miss him.

Yet, in the midst of the loss that I feel right now I know beyond even the merest glimmer of a doubt that his joy is full right now. He was a Christian. He believed in Jesus Christ and had accepted His sacrifice for his sins. Today my Grandfather is with the Lord and my Grandmother and so many other saints in paradise. He is no longer plagued by weakness, but is completely whole again - whole for the first time and amazed by the things that he is beholding for the very first time. I wouldn't take him away from that now if I could. It reminds me of a really poignant song written by Steven Curtis Chapman called Going Home For Christmas. Thank God for this hope that all believers share - goodbye between those in Christ is never forever, for we will one day be reunited for all eternity.

Going Home For Christmas

Her house was where the family gathered
every Christmas eve;
A feast was set on the table and
gifts were placed beneath the tree.
Everything was picture perfect,
Grandpa would laugh and say,
That woman spends the whole year
getting ready for this day.

One year the leaves began to fall
and her health began to fade;
We moved her to a place where
they could watch her night and day.
But she kept making plans for Christmas
from her little room;
She told everyone, I’ll miss you
but I’ll be leaving soon.

I’m going home for Christmas
and I’m going home to stay;
I’m going home for Christmas
and nothing’s gonna keep me away.
I’ll be with the ones I love
to celebrate the Savior’s birth;
This gift will be worth more to me
than anything on earth.
I’m going home, home for Christmas.

All the leaves outside have fallen
to be covered by the snow;
The family comes with food and gifts
and Grandpa comes alone.
There’s a sadness in our silence
as the Christmas story’s read,
And with tears, Grandpa reminds us
of the words that Grandma said.

I’m going home for Christmas
and I’m going home to stay;
I’m going home for Christmas
and nothing’s gonna keep me away.
She’ll be face to face with Jesus
as we celebrate His birth,
And this gift will be worth more to her
than anything on earth,
‘Cause she’ll be home.

And as we sing ‘Joy to the World’
I can’t help thinking
Of the joy that’s shining in her eyes right now.
And though our hearts still ache,
we know that as we celebrate,
She’s singing with the herald angels
and heaven’s glowing on her face.

And now she’s home for Christmas
and now she’s home to stay;
She’s home for Christmas,
and nothin’ could’ve kept her away.
She’ll be face to face with Jesus,
as we celebrate His birth,
And this gift will be worth more to her
than anything on earth.
She’s home, she’s home for Christmas.
She is home, she’s home for Christmas.

Steven Curtis Chapman

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good News!

My Grandfather seems to be doing much better. Thank you for the prayers, but by all means do not stop praying for him. He still has a long way to go before they will release him from the hospital. I am hoping and praying that he will be able to be home in time for Christmas. Ambitious? Yes, but is anything impossible for God? Absolutely NOT!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Moving Forward

Well, I have been making some great progress this week. I discovered a website that is chocked full of tutorials that will help me to fill in the gaps in the knowledge that I have. These gaps it turns out were big enough to drive a C-5 through! However, I am glad that I am learning this material and even more glad to have discovered this web resource.

Right now I am working my way through the html tutorials. So far, I have learned how to do the things that Blogger has automated, but I have also learned how to tell you that the temperature is a brisk 36° and I can tell you that 3² = 9.

I have learned some other fun tricks too. For instance, I have learned how to justify a paragraph. I will endeavor to type long enough for this to be evident by the way that this paragraph displays. I sure hope this is long enough.

I Can Also Now Do Headers

And I have also learned how to use anchors to do lots of fun things. For instance, I can give you the link to the website I have been using to learn this stuff by clicking HERE. Yes, I am sure that you are all thoroughly bored impressed. Well it is a very good site where I can learn html, xhtml, xml, css, javascript, sql and lots of other useful stuff.

It is astonishing how many people publish stuff to the internet without any editing whatsoever. I am amazed at some of the things that I have read that were written by obviously intelligent people who didn't know the difference between there, their, and they're. I used to be a big advocate of supporting the validity of usage in language, but if things continue at the pace they are going now, in 50 years what passes for written English will be unintelligible to people born before 1980. It is darn close now. I consider it a failing of the modern educational system. In trying to keep from hurting Johnny or Betty's feelings by forcing them to learn how to write, we simply let them go with the flow. This dumbing down has to stop.

I just read Dickens' A Christmas Carol for the first time and I dare say that there are very few 12th graders who would have been able to understand it - yet in Dickens' day his writings were very widely read even by children. How far we have fallen! Granted, I would have liked to have a copy of Cliff's Notes to have understood the references to cultural things that I didn't understand.

It has been an interesting week. My 88-year-old Grandfather has had a very rough time of it. He fell repeatedly last week and managed to crack his skull. On top of that he had a heart attack. On top of that he lost a lot of blood from bruising from his falls. On top of that he has dementia. When I saw him on Saturday he looked like he had been in a bar fight. He has been in the hospital since Friday. He is one tough customer. Still kicking. I doubt that I'd still be hanging on if I'd been through all that. But he has always been tough. When he was 13 his appendix ruptured and he survived that somehow. (When he was 13 it was 1932. No antibiotics - especially for a sharecropper's son in po-dunk Salisbury, NC.) I was in the midst of a Church Christmas party when I got the news.

So that is what is going on in my world at the moment. Most everything is revolving around getting the education (Thank God it is free!) that I need to build the website. Now to persevere on... Your prayers are appreciated.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Man, Christmas Time Is Busy!

I'm sorry I have been absent again. I have some really good stuff to write about, but I just haven't had the time. I am sponsoring a Christmas party/community outreach at my house tomorrow night, and it has been a major undertaking. Saturday I should be able to get caught up - at least some if I am not in a catatonic state.

I am still working on the website. I think that I am actually starting to figure out how this thing works. Of course, STARTING is the operative word here. I did find a good free template and have been fiddling around with it. I think that I know where to look to change colors and stuff like that. Now all I need to figure out is how to load new modules to Joomla. It is always something.

Thanks for reading and for checking to see what I have to say. It is nice to know that folks actually read my ramblings! Fresh stuff for you this weekend if at all possible! Thanks for your patience.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I'd Like To See You Blame This On Global Warming

Quake Hits Bali Climate Conference
"An earthquake on Friday rattled Indonesia's resort island of Bali, where thousands of people were gathering for a U.N. climate change conference. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries."
Hmmm. Wonder how they will blame that on global warming? I am so over this stupidity. I still say that they signs all point to Divine displeasure, but to properly respond to something like that requires prayer and fasting and not a two-week jaunt and a world class resort.

I read another report today about some heathen in Australia who thinks there ought to be an international cap on the number of children a family can have. Those who have more would be taxed for the future pollution the little buggers will be creating, those who have less will get tax breaks. Not quite as Machiavellian as the Chinese, but the same general idea. People, if you are feeling guilty for being a human being, try turning to God, don't try to singlehandedly wipe out the species! Talk about a darkened mind.

The crazy thing is that from what I see in the Bible, God is more than willing to rescue mankind if they will only repent of their denial of Him. That is one thing that I don't expect the folks in Bali to do.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I Just Love This Headline

Hot Air Emitted by Climate Summit Equals 20,000 Cars

That really just about says it all. The delegates traveling to this summit are basically hot air balloons.

More nuttiness from the article:

"The delegates each will produce an average 4.07 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, to reach the resort island..."

In today's world of modern communication is there a valid reason why they couldn't have had a big teleconference? Oh, yeah, no resort.

``It's very hard for the public to understand that you come together with so many people to a very distant place and cause a lot of emissions, and at the same time talk about emission reductions,'' Artur Runge-Metzger, head of climate strategy for the European Commission, said yesterday in an interview in Bali, adding that he had offset his own emissions.

Well, duh! That's because it makes no sense at all! It proves that either the whole thing is a sham or that the people hosting and attending this summit really aren't serious about personally suffering any inconvenience or discomfort for the sake of saving the planet.

Here's the way the Socialist/Elitist/Liberal mind works: the sacrifices are for the little people to make, but the big, important people deserve these perks because of all the pressures they are under making sure the proles toe the line. Do you think that any of the world leaders supporting this fallacy are riding around in electric cars or taking a bike or, God-forbid a subway instead? No. Do you think they will suddenly change if they manage to get these stupid treaties passed? Don't be stupid.

They are now and always will be riding around in the biggest gas-guzzler that they can get their hands on. Meanwhile you and me and all the other peons will lose half our trunk to grain storage to power our new kangaroo powered carts. (Horses produce too much methane.)

Here's another doozy from the article.

Carbon dioxide is the main greenhouse gas responsible for the higher temperatures that are causing a surge in sea levels and an increased risk of droughts and floods, according to UN reports.

Rising sea levels? Last I checked, Florida was still there. Lies, lies, lies. Hell will be full of bureaucrats.

Only liberals could take a fairytale and create a bureaucracy.

A Positive Story About the War

Hi, all. Yesterday I was up to my eyes in an Advent blog, but I did find an interesting article for you over at Bear Creek Ledger. You and I know that there is a dearth of news items about positive things being done by our troops in Iraq. Well here is one that shows how a soldier took it upon himself to do something that is making a big difference in how he and his unit are being received.

Nashville Native Learns Arabic To Help With Mission in Iraq

Perhaps there is something Christians can learn from this soldier. Maybe if we try to "learn the language" of the lost around us we'll have more success in helping them to find the truth.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

More Enviro-asininity

Just when you think you have read the dumbest thing ever someone goes and sets a new mark:

In a campaign that has spread like wildfire across the Internet, a group of Israeli environmentalists is encouraging Jews around the world to light at least one less candle this Hanukkah to help the environment.

The founders of the Green Hanukkah campaign found that every candle that burns completely produces 15 grams of carbon dioxide. If an estimated one million Israeli households light for eight days, they said, it would do significant damage to the atmosphere.
Oh my gosh! 15 g of carbon! What WILL we do?! Does it feel warmer to you? I think I feel warmer.

If you are really concerned about carbon emissions, why not just forgo the menorah? While we are at it, perhaps we should each hold our breath for one minute in every five. But darn it, that doesn't really reduce carbon dioxide emissions 'cause we just bottle up all that CO2 in our lungs before we breathe it out.

When are these people going to realize that humans cannot live without producing CO2? We require external heat to cook and to keep us warm in the winter. We make it when we breathe. Animals make it when they breathe. CO2 is a part of life. Plants need it to photosynthesize. WARMING TRENDS ARE NOT CAUSED BY SO-CALLED GREENHOUSE GASSES!

In response to the enviro-ninnies:

United Torah Judaism MK Avraham Ravitz called the environmentalists "crazy people who are playing with the minds of innocent Jewish people." He said the campaign would only convince people who do not light candles anyway.

"They should encourage people to light one less cigarette instead," Ravitz said
My favorite quote from THIS ARTICLE was, "Tikkun olam [fixing the world] must be done by adding more light and not by adding more darkness." A truer statement could not be made. Happy Hanukkah!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

No Excuse For This

"Donnell Williams had just gotten out of the bath tub, wearing only a towel around his waist, when he turned the corner to see guns pointing right at him."

Police officers had broken into his home to respond to a false alarm about a shooting.

"I ain't never been so scared," said Williams.

They had no idea at the time the call wasn't real and that Williams is hearing impaired. Without his hearing aid he is basically deaf.

"I kept going to my ear yelling that I was scared. I can't hear! I can't hear!"

Officers were worried about their own safety because at the time it appeared Williams was refusing to obey their commands to show his hands. That's when they shot him with a Taser.

What a bunch of over-eager, Barney Fifes.

Once the facts were all sorted out, officers repeatedly apologized to Williams. Police wish it never happened, but with the information they had at the time, their choices were limited.

Yeah, I'll bet they do wish it never happened, and I bet they hope they don't get sued. They deserve to. With the information they had at the time their choices were limited? Hmmm. Lets review the information they had. Reported shooting. They forcibly entered the man's home. They encounter a man wrapped in a towel, shocked to see them, who points to his ear saying, "I can't hear! I can't hear!" Somehow from that set of data, I don't see how you come up with "Taze him, bro!" What did they think, that he was hiding a pistol up his bottom?

"Do I wish there would have been some way they were notified in advance this gentleman was hearing impaired? I certainly do. No one is happy with the way it worked out," said (Deputy Chief Robert) Lee.

Um. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but the victim's own testimony was that he told the police he couldn't hear repeatedly. Should he have had a doctor's note? Perhaps he could have stored it with the pistol.

Williams was not hurt in the incident. Police say the shooting call came from a cell phone but they still don't know who made it or why.

The case is being reviewed by the department.

I'll bet Mr. Williams would beg to differ that he wasn't hurt. You can read the rest of the article HERE (although I have basically quoted the whole thing.)

I understand that the police have a tough job and they live on adrenalin, but I have personally run into yahoos like this. If they are that afraid, they might want to think about another line of work. They should have to make restitution to Mr. Williams.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Words Have A Way Of Coming Back To Haunt You

"The truth is, Barack Obama doesn't need lectures in political courage from someone who followed George Bush to war in Iraq, gave him the benefit of the doubt on Iran, supported NAFTA and opposed ethanol until she decided to run for president."
- Bill Burton (Barack Obama spokesman)
I'm guessing the Republicans can hardly wait to take a whack at this statement.

Glass Houses...

"So you decide which makes more sense: Entrust our country to someone who is ready on day one ... or to put America in the hands of someone with little national or international experience, who started running for president the day he arrived in the U.S. Senate,"

- Senator Hillary Clinton
I always heard that those living in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. Seems to me that the pot is calling the kettle black. Of course, she could be getting good mileage from that statement. It applies equally well to John Edwards and Barack Obama (not to mention herself.)

Congratulations and Condolances

Congratulations to the people of Venezuela who told Hugo Chavez to stick his Socialist/Marxist Constitutional amendments in his ear. Bravo to you for standing up for freedom and democracy. I will admonish you to not give up. Chavez won't give up. He'll keep pushing for the changes that will allow him to set himself up as the new Joseph Stalin to your country. Be strong and courageous!

Condolences to the people of Russia who seem to be slipping back under the heel of totalitarianism. I predicted months ago that Vladimir Putin would not leave office at the end of his term, and my suspicions seem well founded. I pity you truly, for I have no confidence that the voting results in Russia are valid. If they are then you deserve no pity. Freedom has a cost. I feel certain that you cannot have forgotten already!

My charge to the people of America: observe and learn.

Sorry I've Been Away

Sorry I haven't posted in a couple of days. I'm sure that you are all glad to know that they didn't keep me in the jail on Friday. Things have been a little nutty around here. Alot has been going on since Friday.

I guess I'll start with my trip to the Alexander County Correctional Facility. The prison is new. I think that they just opened it within the past couple of years. It was my first time to go into a prison. It was a pretty strange experience at first. Fortunately we didn't have to go too far to get to the prison's furniture plant.

It was an amazing operation. There within the prison was a fully operational furniture plant. It had new high quality equipment and everyone was busily working at their assigned tasks. We got a full tour of the facility. I was very impressed with the quality of the workmanship and the materials that they were using. The vast majority of the pieces that they were making were solid wood. They even use dovetail joints in the construction of the drawers. The spray booths were awesome. It was a very well appointed facility. Next door was an upholstery plant. The inmates working there were assembling and upholstering office chairs.

In my discussions with the administrators there I learned that the prisoners that work in the unit are extremely conscientious - many working harder and with a better attitude than people on the outside working in the same jobs. I asked Randy (one of the administrators) what he attributed that to and after some thought he told me that for most of the guys working in the plant this was the first job that they had ever held and the first thing that they could point to with any pride at all. I also learned that the inmates have to go through a hiring process to get into the program. They have to apply and be interviewed just like they would for a "real" job.

At this stage in the inmates' incarceration most of them aren't given the job hunting training that they will need later, but as they get closer to their release dates this training will be given. I learned a couple of other things about the program that I wish could be addressed. One involves the procurement practices. At present NC is a low bid state which means that the materials that they are purchasing could come from anywhere. I wish they had it set up to be more favorable to NC businesses. I also wish that the operations could expand so that the products made by the inmates could be sold to a wider market. At present these goods can only be sold to the government and not-for-profit organizations like churches, etc. I realize that with the loss of manufacturing jobs in the state this could be some unwelcome competition, but with a little thought I believe that it is a problem that could be overcome.

When you realize that North Carolina's entire Correction Enterprises is totally self-sufficient due to the revenue generated by these products, and when you realize that the recidivism of the inmates involved in the program is 35% lower than the state average, it is hard to understand why anyone would not want to expand the scope of this operation and its market to gainfully employ every inmate whose behavior would allow them to participate. I can envision a scenario that would be profitable to domestic industry and provide enough revenue to make the prisons themselves self-sufficient. It would also generate enough revenue to fund restitution for the inmates and generate a nest-egg that would allow them to get off to a good start when they re-enter society. I'm guessing recidivism numbers would plummet.

You really wouldn't believe all of the products made through Correction enterprises. They make everything from stainless steel serving lines to full color outdoor banners. And if their rules were a little different they could make even more products. So that was my trip to jail.

Saturday I spent the day going through my blog archives and trying to get the labels updated on the posts that I made before such things existed. I got about halfway through the old blogs. I'll wait for another rainy day before I do the last 83.

I also had to do some cooking for two community-based Christmas parties thrown by families in my church. You can check out Conspiracy of Kindness to find out more about this. I made date balls and sausage balls for he parties. They turned out pretty good, if I do say so myself!

Saturday night was band practice for church. That is always a 2 or 2 and 1/2 hour deal. We usually go ahead and set up for the service on Saturday night, which takes 30-45 minutes depending on how many people we have to help. I had thought Saturday night would be a good time to have the practice because we could set up and actually practice with the instruments that we use on Sunday, but it really hasn't turned out that way. By the time that the week is over and we have set up all the equipment, everyone is tired and no one feels like practicing! Oh well, I was trying to save us a night. OK. I say save US a night, but it just ends up saving ME a night. I still end up going over to set up on Saturday night anyway.

Oh yes, I almost forgot, I also wrote an Advent post for the church blog over at Conspiracy of Kindness on Saturday. I can see that trying to keep up with writing an in depth devotion every day between now and Christmas isn't going to be an easy task. If you find that I'm not posting enough over here to keep you satisfied this month, go and check out the other blog. It should have new material every day.

Sunday was church, of course. We had a really good worship time I thought. I really sensed the Lord's presence on the song Consuming Fire. I believe He answered the prayer contained in that song for us Sunday morning.

There must be more than this -
O breath of God come breathe within.
There must be more than this -
Spirit of God, we wait for You.
Fill us anew we pray.
Fill us anew we pray.

Consuming Fire, fan into flame
A passion for Your name!
Spirit of God, fall in this place.
Lord, have Your way,
Lord, have Your way with us.

Come like a rushing wind;
Clothe us with power from on high.
Now set the captives free -
Leave us abandoned to Your praise.
Lord let Your glory fall!
Lord let Your glory fall!

Consuming Fire, fan into flame
A passion for Your name!
Spirit of God, fall in this place.
Lord, have Your way,
Lord, have Your way with us.

Tim Hughes © 2002 Thankyou Music CCLI # 3818569
License # 2647180
Anyway, it was a great service.

Then, just a couple of hours later, the party began. As guitar player for the StillWaters Jazz Band, I had my first gig. It was pretty fun. We were set up on the balcony of my pastor's house playing for the party goers in the living room below. We play a Dixieland New Orleans old school jazz style. It is a lot of fun and my first experience with the style. I have already begun to learn alot and I think that my playing has kicked up a notch or two since we started practicing. I'm still not BB King (a long way from it), but my horizons have definitely broadened. I actually soloed in front of people. What was funny was the solos that I felt the best about when I was practicing were the ones that I totally messed up live, and then I nailed several attempts that I made soloing on songs that I hadn't worked anything up for. Go figure. We have another gig next week.

So, that was my weekend.

Today I got back to work on the old Joomla tutorials. I finished them up and then went looking about to see what else I could find. I did find another tutorial site, but just wasn't in the mood to deal with it right now. So instead I went and looked at template sites. Well, actually site. I found a site that has some professionally designed templates that already look very similar to what I am trying to create. Why re-invent the wheel using my head as the hammer? $50 sounds pretty reasonable right about now to get something that I won't have to fiddle with very much to make it work. Of course, I am not such a great fool as to believe that this will solve all of my problems, but I do hope that it will shorten my development cycle by at least 2 weeks (more likely 2 months.) I would really like to have something marketable by the new year. More and more I realize that is probably an ambitious goal, but you have to have a target or nothing gets done. There is also a 2 hour Joomla seminar going on at the local community college on Thursday that I might check out. Based on what I've seen I can't imagine someone being able to teach me much in 2 hours, but if it is free (or at least cheap) it may be worth the time investment. Every day I'm learning something new!

So that is what's happening in my neck of the woods. Hope everything is going great in yours!