Do I Really Want Diapers?

diapers

Just on a whim, I began the day by going to Amazon and doing a search on “diapers.” I’m curious to see how many diaper ads appear on web pages I peruse during the day.

Sure enough, ads for diapers have been calling for my attention all day. Here’s what turned up on a BBC page.

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The Anonymous Missionaries

couple-asia580

Earlier this week, a very impressive young couple visited the UB National Office in Huntington, Ind. They are preparing for missionary service in an “undisclosed” (as we say) country on the other side of the world, where they will train church leaders to be more effective in their work. The husband is the son of a former United Brethren pastor. As a staff, we laid hands on them and prayed for them.

As the denominational communications director, I would love to tell our constituency more about this couple–what they will be doing and where. But for security reasons, they don’t want their names or photos appearing anywhere on the internet–websites, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Such is the case with a growing number of United Brethren missionaries who serve in “restricted access” countries. Some of the most exciting stories I hear come from these missionaries…but frustratingly, I can’t report on them. The most I can do is say, these people are out there, they are dedicated, they serve in potentially hostile situations, and they could use your prayers. God knows who they are.

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The Messy Mind

Two bumper stickers on the 1970s-era wood paneling in my office.

Two bumper stickers on the 1970s-era wood paneling in my office.

New studies affirm that an untidy work environment can make people more creative. This is music to my ears.

In one study, people were put in a room and given some choices. People in a tidy room tended to make more conventional choices, while people in a messy room gravitated toward more novel choices.

In another study, people in these two different environments were asked to come up with unconventional uses for ping pong balls. The two groups came up with the same number of ideas, but the ideas from the messy-room people were deemed substantially more creative.

This sentence from an article helped explain how tidiness inhibits creativity: “If you keep all your tools in the tool shed and all your kitchen utensils in the kitchen, you might never think of using a kitchen utensil as a tool or vice-versa.”

My office is typically untidy, but there comes a point where even I can’t take it, and I spend much of a day cleaning up and pitching stuff. Like, three times a year. I consider this burst of orderliness more efficient than spending time every day maintaining order. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

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Worst Case

My new Durango displays my tire pressure. With the cold, my tires were under-inflated. The on-board computer told me to add a few pounds of pressure, so I did. But air hoses are not an exact science. Now, say the computer, I’m a couple pounds over. I’m not sure a couple pounds really matters. Nevertheless, I asked Google if over-inflating tires is a bad thing.

A couple persons gave “the worst that can happen” answers–uneven tire wear, a blow-out. Then someone gave this answer: “The worst that can happen: you die taking others with you.”

Okay, I’ll let out some air.

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Let the World Know

BusinessWeek has a fascinating article about the organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctos Without Borders). It says the organization was begun by doctors who served with the Red Cross in Nigeria during the Biafran war. Those doctors wanted to speak out about what they considered to be genocide, but the Red Cross wouldn’t let them. So they started their own organization which would make it a core value to speak out in such situation.

The article says, “If MSF members encountered violations of human rights, they were not, as the [Red Cross] encouraged in Nigeria in 1970, to exercise ‘discretion.’ They were to raise hell and make sure the world knew about it.”

I love that!

Kaci Hickox, the nurse who was quarantined after returning from Sierra Leone, where she treated Ebola patients, worked with Doctors Without Borders. Considering the ruckus she raised, sounds like she was a perfect fit.

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Rosetta vs. the Dallas Cowboys

Landing the Rosetta spacecraft on a speeding comet is a pretty extraordinary thing. Rosetta has been traveling for 10 years. Who figures this stuff out, getting Rosetta and the comet in the same place at the same time?

Rosetta cost $1.4 billion. The website Vox points out that that is less than half of what was spent on the midterm election. It’s just a little bit more than the cost of the Dallas Cowboys stadium.

India sent a craft on a 10-month, 420 million mile journey, which put it in orbit around Mars. The cost: $750 million. By comparison, the movie “Gravity” cost $100 million.

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The Shamefulness of Voter Suppression

I continue to be outraged at the ways Republicans try to prevent Democrats from voting. It’s called voter suppression, and it’s normally aimed at poor people and ethnic minorities. I find it totally shameful. And un-American. I cannot possibly champion democracy while also trying to prevent people from voting. The two don’t go together.

Now, I don’t have a problem with voter IDs. Though instances of voter fraud are extremely rare, the idea is valid. But Republicans have taken voter suppression way beyond that. A wide range of tactics are being used in local and state elections to make it more difficult for poor people and minorities to vote.

Here are some of the tactics being used.

  • Eliminate early voting days. Minorities use early voting far more extensively than other people.
  • Reduce the number of polling places in areas with large minority communities. One Florida county, heavy with minorities, eliminated half of the poliing places.
  • Redistrict to push all of a community’s minorities into a small number of districts to dilute their voting power.
  • Divide minority districts so that minorities now find themselves grouped into districts where their votes will be outnumbered by the majority population.
  • Limit the number of places and hours where you can get a voter ID.
  • Move polling places for urban districts to suburban locations.
  • Eliminate Sunday voting (a day when African Americans vote heavily).
  • Eliminate weekend early voting altogether (days when working class people are more likely to be off work).
  • Cut back on early morning and evening voting hours (to favor professional workers over working class workers).
  • Eliminate same-day registration.
  • Eliminate absentee voting.
  • In Dade County, Florida, where voting lines in minority districts were extremely long, voters weren’t allowed to use restrooms.
  • Purge suspected felons from voting rolls. They then show up to vote, and are told them aren’t registered. In Florida, this has happened to thousands of voters. In 2000, about 50,000 persons were told they would be dropped from the rolls unless they proved their innocence. Florida has also wrongfully purged persons for being non-citizens (including a World War 2 vet).
  • The Republican legislature in Wisconsin eliminated early voting on nights and weekends.
  • In some states, in order to get a voter ID, people must provide a residential address.
  • In Republican dominated Arizona, voter registration cards and other materials were distributed with the correct date on the English language version, and a date two days later (after the election) on the Spanish language version.
  • Place unreasonable requirements on nonprofit organizations that conduct voter registration drives. (Like the League of Women Voters.)
  • Until 2008, over half of Floridians used early voting, a disproportionate number being minorities. Florida reduced early voting from 14 days to 8 days. Ohio went further, reducing early voting from 35 days to 11 days. Both states eliminated voting on the Sunday before the election; black churches have historically mobilized members to vote on that day.
  • Georgia reduced early voting from 45 to 21 days. Wisconsin cut out 16 days, West Virginia 5 days.
  • Require a photo ID, and that it be gotten from the DMV…and then reduce DMV hours leading up to the election.
  • Put voting locations for poor people in areas where they must pay for parking.
  • To cut down on young voters, who tend to vote Democratic, several states no longer allow student IDs from state universities to be used as voter ID.
  • An estimated 25% of African American’s don’t have a current government-issued photo ID.
  • Deny voting rights to ex-felons who complete their sentences. There are 5.3 million Americans, disproportionately minorities, who are former felons.
  • Require a birth certificate as proof of citizenship, and then make it difficult to get a birth certificate. Cut the hours of agencies that give out birth certificates, and also require a fee to obtain a copy of your birth certificate.
  • Disallow a birth certificate if the person spells their name differently than on the birth certificate.
  • Require a photo ID to get a birth certificate…and require a birth certificate to get a photo ID.
  • Wisconsin, Tennessee, and Texas closed DMV branch offices.
  • In the weeks leading up to an election, cut the hours of agencies that issue photo IDs.
  • Eliminating early voting increases the size of lines on election day, which makes it more difficult for working class people to take the time needed to vote.

Those are just some of the tactics Republicans are using. They DO NOT want certain people to vote. Like I said–totally shameless, and un-American.

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The Naysayers of Doom

I accidentally listened to Wolf Blitzer on the way home from work tonight. At one point, as a teaser before a break, he said something like, “Our allies have joined the fight again ISIS. But is it too late?”

And I thought, “Why couldn’t he have just said, ‘Our allies have joined the fight again ISIS. Hooray! Isn’t that good news!'”

Why can’t we pause to celebrate good news, instead of immediately looking for the downside? Is naysaying really necessary?

I imagined how Wolf Blitzer, and other cable news anchors, would have treated other major stories.

“The allies have landed at Normandy. But have we walked into Hitler’s trap? We’ll talk to our experts…after the break.”

“Smallpox has been eradicated from the earth. We’ll examine the plight of scientists who are now out of work.”

“The Cold War has come to an end. Bad news for spy novelists like John Le Carre. Can the book industry survive?”

“George Washington defeats the British at Yorktown. But do we really think we can govern ourselves? We’ll talk to several experts who say we’ll regret this.”

“Jesus has ascended to heaven. What is he running away from? We’ll ask our roundtable.”

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Myths About Taking Care of Your Car

I’m a real dunce when it comes to cars. I don’t know how they work. If a problem occurs, I can pop the hood and look at the engine with interest, but it might as well be a Star Trek warp drive. I don’t know what I’m looking for. In fact, it’ll probably take me 10 minutes to figure out how to pop the hood.

My brother, Stewart Dennie, got all the mechanical genes. My wife, Pam Dennie, is far more mechanical than I am. So this article about car-care myths was helpful to me.

I remember when I got a Toyota Corolla back in 1989 and took it in for its annual tune-up. The service guy (a friend) told me, “All you’ll ever need to do with a Toyota is occasionally replace the dome light.” That was my introduction to the tune-up myth. This article takes it much furthers.

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The Billionaires Club

A study of the world’s 2,325 billionaires developed a composite of the typical billionaire.

  • He is male, 63, and married.
  • He’s worth $3 billion.
  • He loves sports, and likes to attend high-profile sporting events.
  • He made most of his money on Wall Street during his 40s and 50s.
  • He keeps 20% of his money in cash, and 5% in real estate.
  • He owns 4 homes, each worth about $20 million.
  • Over his lifetime, he’ll give $100 million to charity–a third of it to educational institutions. That’s about 3% of their wealth. When you factor in billionaires like Gates and Buffet who give away a great deal of their wealth, it’s clear that many billionaires give very, very little away.

These billionaires control 4% of the world’s wealth.

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