Monthly Archives: July 2009

Microsoft Scores with its Laptop Hunter Ads


I’m a Mac guy. Have been since 1988. I’m not a fan of Microsoft…though I’m using a MS keyboard, and they do make the best mice. And I can’t do without MS Office. And I use Expression Media all the time. But I digress.

Apple’s TV ads become cultural phenomena–the Think Different campaign, the snazzy iPod dancing ads, and those wonderful Mac vs. PC ads. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s ads usually fall flat. Can you remember any Microsoft ad campaign of previous years? No, there’s nothing memorable.

But these Laptop Hunter ads–I think they’re good. And they seem to be effective. The way they mention Apple, and downplay the need to be “cool,” hits the chord just right. The original “Lauren” ad is still the best.

So while I really hate complimenting Microsoft, I must say: you’ve got it right this time. (But the Mac/PC ads still blow you away.)

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Trivia about Why Americans Keep Getting Fatter

The July 20 New Yorker has a great article by Elizabeth Kolbert called “XXXL.” It’s actually a review of books about obesity and over-eating. Here are some interesting tidbits:

  • Three National Health studies done in the 1960s and 1970s showed that the number of overweight Americans was around 25%. It nudged up slightly with each survey. But in a study in the 1980s, the figure shot up to 33%. 
  • Today, men average 17 pounds heavier than in the 1970s. For women: 19 pounds heavier. The number of overweight children (ages 6-11) has doubled, and the number of overweight teens has tripled. 
  • The typical revolving door has increased from 10 feet to 12 feet, to accommodate obese people. 
  • The weight gain costs airline companies a quarter-billion dollars in extra fuel costs. 
  • Soft drinks account for 7% of all calories consumed by Americans. If the average  American stopped drinking soft drinks and only drank water, he would lost 15 pounds. 
  • “Eatertainment” is a term used in the food industry to describe food which mix the big three–fat, sugar, and salt–in ways to produce the most calories. 
  • A small order of McDonald’s fries has 230 calories, a large order 500 calories. 
  • Supersizing has been a huge hit in selling more junk food. 
  • Although Americans were the first to fatten up, we’re not alone. The proportion of overweight adults is higher in Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Malta, and Slovakia. And obesity is on the rise in Asia, Africa, and South America. 
  • People just above the poverty level seem to be gaining weight the most rapidly. 
  • Some ailments linked to excess weight: Type 2 diabetes, coronary disease, hypertension, various cancers, gallstones, osteoarthritis. 
  • Overweight Americans cost the medical system $90 billion a year. 
  • US corporations spend $55 billion a year building food processing and distribution centers in other countries. So “globescity” is only going to continue rising. 

For the record, I just returned from the gym.

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Sean Hannity Uses the Bible, Sort Of

Last night, while on the eliptical at the YMCA, I watched Sean Hannity’s program. Actually, I kept switching back and forth between Hannity and Larry King (on CNN), but King’s show was about Michael Jackson, and I’m a bit tired of that.

Anyway, twice before going to a break Hannity said, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Obviously taken from John 14:1. I wondered, What’s with that? Because the rest of the verse says, “You believe in God. Believe also in me.” So…is this what he was saying?

“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me, Sean Hannity.” 

Whatever he was trying to say, I wish he’d stop. It’s a biblical reference out of context.

He’s already using Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” totally out of context. That song is really about a woman’s battle with domestic abuse and how she eventually escaped from it–her independence day. It has nothing to do with patriotism, as Hannity’s usage implies.

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A Great Billy Jean Impersonation

My brother Rick, on his blog, told about Tim Gilleand, the worship leader at Rick’s church in South Bend, Ind. Tim does Michael Jackson impersonations, and he’s really good. Here’s a Youtube clip of him doing “Billy Jean.” Not bad for a white guy. (But then, Michael Jackson was…oh, never mind.)

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Learning to Run Again…and Liking It This Time

I always hated running. I never had much stamina. When I played high school basketball and the coach made us run laps, I usually straggled in close to last. In 11th grade, in California, I had the great misfortunate that the new junior varsity coach was also the cross country coach. He’d send us out on lengthy runs through the neighborhoods surrounding the school, and I could be counted on to trail the pack. Coach Ross Gentry was his name. Cursed be it. 

But of late, I’ve started running, and I enjoy it. “Of late” being April of this year. I decided it’d be nice to work up to a 5K race, and was shamed into the idea by the fact that our pastor’s wife had just run a 5K race. But I knew the first step would be managing to run a quarter mile without collapsing. I started running–run an eighth of a mile, then walk, then run again–and I found it fun. But I quickly realized I had done something to my ankle. That something turned out to be a stress fracture. I am terribly fragile. 

I stopped running for a month. And then, when the ailment persisted, I saw a specialist, who confirmed it was a stress fracture. BUT, he said I could still run. The stress fracture would heal, as long as I ran in moderation. He repeated that when I saw him again last Friday.

So since early June, I’ve been running maybe a couple times a week. I did a mile and a half, and then a mile and three-quarters this past Saturday. And I really enjoy it. Why? Why did I hate running as a teenager, and now I find it satisfying? What makes the difference? The difference can be summed up in one word:


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Books: Two by Charles Willeford


This weekend I finished two books by Charles Willeford. Both are worth recommending.

Willeford, who died in 1988, is a very interesting writer. He was a tank commander during WW2, and won the Silver and Bronze stars and a purple heart. As a writer, he didn’t plot things out before starting. Rather, he got the seed of an idea and started writing without really knowing where he was going.

I’ve read four books by Willeford now, and all are totally different.

  • The Burnt Orange Conspiracy (1971).
  • Pick-Up (1967).
  • Miami Blues (1984).
  • Cockfighter (1972).

In “Miami Blues,” his most well-known book, he created the character Hoke Mosely, a police detective. He wrote several other novels starring Mosely, and I’ll need to read them, because I like him a lot. And the Miami locale adds all kinds of color. 

“Cockfighter” is narrated first-person by Frank Mansfield, a well-known chicken-fighter in the south. This book will tell you all you could ever want to know about cockfighting–all the tricks and techniques, how to train and feed chickens–really, everything. And you probably don’t want to know anything about cockfighting. 

A few years before, Mansfield shot off his mouth and, as a result, ended up losing his chance for a championship. Angry at himself, he took a vow of silence: he wouldn’t talk until he won that championship as the best cockfighter in the south. So throughout the book, the main character doesn’t talk–only points, gestures, and scribbles notes. But this being first-person, we’re privy to Mansfield’s thoughts. Everyone else thinks he just lost his voice somehow; they don’t realize he’s voluntarily not talking. This makes the book extra interesting.

Mansfield starts out down on his luck, and must build back up to pursue the championship. Think of the movie “Tin Cup,” but in the world of illegal cockfighting. As I read, I thought of the underworld of dogfighting in which Michael Vick was enmeshed. Both are cruel worlds. 

Because of the detail, the atmospherics, I’ll remember “Cockfighter” long after the plot of “Miami Blues” fades away. But I’ll be reading more about Hoke Mosely.

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Misconceptions about Iran’s Nuclear Weapon Program

In the first chapter of “The Inheritance,” David Sanger talks about Iran’s nuclear program and sheds light on some misconceptions we have.

In 2003 a secret US intelligence report concluded that Iran had suspended work on designing a nuclear weapon. It leaked to the public, and it undercut the Bush Administration’s call for sanctions against Iran. Why were we contemplating military action against Iran when they had halted their program? Other countries already felt we had misled them about Iraq (which we had), so there was no trust factor. Instead, they wondered if we were on the verge of another Iraq. 

But that was misleading. Sanger notes that designing the bomb is the easy part. It can be done late in the process, and done quickly. The hard part is gathering the parts needed (like centrifuges) and enriching enough uranium (which can be part of the civil nuclear energy program). “The Iranians,” Sanger wrote, “had halted their work on the final step, the physical construction of the weapon.” 

It’s like accumulating all the ingredients to make a cake. You just don’t figure out the specifics of the recipe–how much of this, how much of that, what temperature to bake at–until you’re ready to start. An experienced cook can figure out that part quickly.

Japan doesn’t have nuclear weapons, and they aren’t trying to develop them. But everyone agrees they could probably do it overnight if they wanted to. They have everything they need (especially the technical expertise). 

That’s where Iran may be. The info about Iran suspending their weapon design program is misleading.

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Johnny Cash Impersonates Elvis

Thanks to Matt McKeown for pointing out this wonderful Youtube clip.

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Sean Hannity is Such an Idiot

I downloaded the speech Obama gave in Russia to that graduating class and read it during lunch today. I was really impressed. I’m sure some right-wingers think Obama should have made strong statements about human rights to put the Russians in their place, but that would have been totally inappropriate. Instead, he presented to the students a very healthy worldview which showed how Russia’s interests line up with those of the United States. It was very well done.

Then tonight, I caught the tail end of Sean Hannity. He was taking individual lines out of the speech, twisting them around, and finding fault. It takes no intellect to do that, which is why Hannity can manage it so well. The typical grade schooler can take a line out of context and criticize it. That’s child’s play. I’m sure I could do it with the Sermon on the Mount. 

You must take speeches of this nature in their entirety. Likewise with the Cairo speech, which I heard live and thought was magnificent. But I’m sure Hannity picked it apart that night. It’s a petty, intellectually dishonest game. (Olberman does the same thing to things Republicans say.)

Hannity ended by making a comment like this: “It’s my view that you don’t negotiate with evil. You defeat it.”

Now THAT’S scary. That’s the Dick Cheney doctrine. So instead of talking to Russia–and North Korea, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, China, etc.–the United States should DEFEAT them? Like, go to war? And people listen to this crap and go “Amen! Tell it, Sean!”??????

More importantly, is this the way a “one nation under God” settles disagreements with other countries? Does Jesus advocate aggression, military or otherwise, as the primary way to deal with your enemies? As Christians, we have a responsibility to discern the mind of God when it comes to citizenship. Rush and Sean give me zero insights into that.

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Hear Me Talk about Web Writing

Last September I did a seminar at the MinistryCOM conference on “Writing for the Web.” That session is now available for purchase and download at $9.95. Seems a bit steep for 90 minutes of ignorant spouting, but hey. Actually, it was a lot of fun and I had good interaction from people. If you’re involved in local church communications, there are lots of other workshops you can download.

I’ll attend MinistryCOM in September, when the conference meets in Chicago (the closest it’s been so far to Fort Wayne).

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