Catholics – Transcending Politics

Pope Francis I appears on the central balconyIf I may speak in generalities: American Christians mistakenly try to make all of their views fit whichever political party they prefer.

If Republican, they buy the whole package–against abortion, gay rights, affirmative action, immigration reform, gun restrictions, and new taxes, and in favor of the death penalty and a family life amendment.

If Democrat, they favor green energy, helping the poor, taxing the wealthy, reproductive rights, alternative lifestyles, marriage equality, healthcare reform, and various kinds of government intervention.

Again: generalities. I don’t know why Christians feel compelled to support the entire agenda of their preferred political party, but that’s what you usually see.

I do know a number of evangelicals whose views cross party lines. I enjoy engaging in discussions with them. It’s refreshing. They stake out their positions based FIRST on what the Bible tells them, rather than on what they hear from voices in the political world. They make up their own minds. I feel like I’m talking to THEM, instead of arguing with Sean Hannity or Lawrence O’Donnell.

But when you hold a mixture of liberal and conservative views, it makes people’s heads explode, because they can’t categorize you according to American political divisions. But, as I maintain with annoying frequency, that’s how a Christian should be. We’re not supposed to conform to the patterns of this world, political or otherwise.

With that in mind–kudos to the Catholic church. They hold “conservative” views on some issues, like sexuality, marriage, bioethics, public education, and the role of women. And they hold “liberal” views on other issues, like immigration, the death penalty, nuclear disarmament, and economic regulation. Their views exist outside of American political categories.

I don’t agree with all of the “official” Catholic views. But they take their cues from what they believe God wants, not from pundits or political platforms or what is culturally popular. I admire that.

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iPotty: an Idea Whose Time has Come

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The incredible iPotty sells for $39.99 on Amazon, but is currently out-of-stock at Amazon. Apparently, hordes of parents with iPads are also potty training their children (if a friend or coworker has a baby, I suggest you NOT borrow their iPad). The iPotty introduces toddlers to the wonderful world of multitasking–in this case, using the iPad to accomplish productive things while simultaneously learning to…you know. Children can even check Wikipedia for learning tips. Assuming your 18-month-old can read.

Before buying something, I always read the Amazon reviews. Very helpful stuff. But the comments with the iPotty took things to a whole new level, as some folks really had fun with this. Here are some reprinted comments from Amazon.

My kid Tobby is 13, but he has the mind, size, and appearance of a five-year-old so, we bought him the CTA Digital 2-in-1 iPotty because we were tired of sending him outside to do his business every time he started whining and scratching the front door. Now I don’t want to give the impression that my kid is stupid; I mean, he had the ability to learn the whining and door scratching trick from the dog, and unlike the dog he has never gone on the carpet. Okay, I can’t really be sure he hasn’t gone on the carpet because there’s been some presents left behind that contain corn and I don’t think any of our dog food has corn in it, but I digress.

I know we’re supposed to interact with our kid and teach him things, but quite honestly, it’s easier just to put him in front of the TV and let those cartoons do the educating for us. The kid goes into a zone when he’s watching TV and doesn’t say a word for hours, so he’s obviously learning a ton of stuff. When the iPad came out, I was reluctant to fork out all that cash, but once my wife and I realized the educational benefits it could have on our child, we bought it immediately. He has absolutely no idea how to operate the darn thing, but when he’s playing with the iPad it’s like we don’t even have a kid anymore. It’s pretty great. When you think about it, a kid playing with an iPad on the potty is no different than an adult reading a book. Sometimes you just need to take your mind off the task at hand and let things happen naturally. While our boy has yet to be successfully potty trained, we’re confident that — with the help of the iPotty — we’ll have this thing figured out in no time.

I bought this and tried it out to make sure it was suitable for our 11-year-old (he does things at his own pace). The problem — I tried it for too long and operant conditioned myself. Now I can’t relieve myself unless I am playing Angry Birds or watching Netflix. This is awkward at the office and at urinals in general. Also, whenever I am someplace without a wi-fi signal, I become constipated.

I bought this for myself because, let’s face it, I’m a busy lady on the “go” (pun intended!) and I don’t always have time to properly do my business when there is so much internetting to be done. Fortunately, I was blessed with a pretty minuscule frame and some freakish flexibility, so I am able to mount this sucker like a barely-oversized toddler. At first, I found myself only using time-wasting apps like Flow or Fruit Ninja. Then, as my restroom visits lengthened, I realized that we had some serious multi-tasking opportunities here. In the past week, I have edited my NaNoWriMo novel, stalked my ex-boyfriend (whose new wife, by the way, is hideous… but at least she’s tall, right, Rich?!), filled out my passport application – AND PRINTED IT! FROM MY BATHROOM! – and completed an online mobile app development class. And I’ve never been more regular! The only downside I can see is that now, every time I try to use my iPad in a non-water-closeted venue, I experience the sudden and undeniable urge to eliminate waste. It makes my normal bedtime routine pretty uncomfortable, and makes me feel weak for my Pavlovian response. I’m trying to taper off using this, but now a regular toilet just feels so high. There is a reason most of the world squats, people! It’s better for you!

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Made in China…but Not for a Chinese Company

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You own gobs of products made in China. But can you name one Chinese brand? According to one survey, 94% of Americans can’t.

There’s Lenova, the consumer electronics company. And tech people are probably familiar with Baidu, the Chinese counterpart to Google. But that’s about it.

The graphic above shows the top 50 Chinese brands. I’ve only heard of a couple of them. But then, they exist in a market of 1.4 billion people, so there’s not much need to reach out to someone living in Indiana.

But Chinese people are well aware of non-Chinese brands (Apple, Microsoft, western auto companies, fashion brands, etc.), and with their newfound wealth, are fixated on brands as status symbols. Not that Americans would ever think of doing that.

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No Relief for Squeezed Travelers

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Delta Airlines has designed smaller bathrooms which enable them to cram four more seats onto their 737-900 planes. Always in search of ways to make their customers happy. I’m sure they also increased the amount of overhead carry-on storage.

Eventually, I predict, airlines will entirely eliminate restrooms. You’ll use an app and wifi to remotely eliminate waste, sending it directly from your body to a waste bin in the bowels of the plane. No more of this hardwired nonsense.

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The Indestructible Chuck Norris

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I recently discovered the world of Chuck Norris jokes. There are many websites devoted to them (just search for “Chuck Norris jokes”). Not really jokes. Rather, statements about his awesomeness. His omnipotence. Here are some of my favorites.

  • When the Boogeyman goes to sleep at night he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.
  • Chuck Norris’ tears cure cancer. Too bad he has never cried.
  • Chuck Norris can blow bubbles with beef jerky.
  • Chuck Norris once roundhouse kicked someone so hard that his foot broke the speed of light, went back in time, and killed Amelia Earhart while she was flying over the Pacific Ocean.
  • Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks don’t really kill people. They wipe out their entire existence from the space-time continuum.
  • There are no races, only countries of people Chuck Norris has beaten to different shades of black and blue.
  • When an episode of Walker Texas Ranger was aired in France, the French surrendered to Chuck Norris just to be on the safe side.
  • Chuck Norris invented black. In fact, he invented the entire spectrum of visible light. Except pink. Tom Cruise invented pink.
  • Chuck Norris played Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun and won.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t bowl strikes, he just knocks down one pin and the other nine faint.
  • Superman wears Chuck Norris pajamas.
  • When Chuck Norris does a pushup, he isn’t lifting himself up, he’s pushing the Earth down.
  • Chuck Norris eats beef jerky and craps gunpowder. Then, he uses that gunpowder to make a bullet, which he uses to kill a cow and make more beef jerky. Some people refer to this as the “Circle of Life.”
  • Ninjas want to grow up to be just like Chuck Norris. But usually they grow up just to be killed by Chuck Norris.
  • Chuck Norris can lead a horse to water AND make it drink.
  • Chuck Norris eats black holes. They taste like chicken.
  • “Brokeback Mountain” is what Chuck Norris calls the pile of dead ninjas in his front yard.
  • The original title for Alien vs. Predator was Alien and Predator vs Chuck Norris. The film was cancelled shortly after going into preproduction. No one would pay nine dollars to see a movie fourteen seconds long.
  • The square root of Chuck Norris is pain.
  • Chuck Norris has to register every part of his body as a separate lethal weapon. His spleen is considered a concealed weapon in over 50 states.
  • They were going to release a Chuck Norris edition of Clue, but the answer always turns out to be “Chuck Norris. In The Library. With a Roundhouse Kick.”
  • Chuck Norris’ pulse is measured on the richter scale.
  • Chuck Norris can jump-start a car using jumper cables attached to his nipples.
  • Chuck Norris makes onions cry.
  • Chuck Norris doesn’t breathe, he holds air hostage
  • If Chuck Norris is running late, time slows down. It knows better.
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One Way to Get on Letterman

Kevin Ware of Louisville read the Top Ten list on David Letterman last night. This will make you grimace, but probably not as much as it made Ware grimace.

10. “What was that loud cracking sound?”
9. “I hope this doesn’t leave a bruise.”
8. “Hey look, my tibia!”
7. “Ouch.”
6. “Did it go in?”
5. “Oh boy, hospital food.”
4. “Tape it up, coach, I’m staying in.”
3. “They fired Leno?”
2. “Heat then ice? Or ice then heat?”
1. “At least my bracket’s not busted.”

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Hacking North Korea

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The hacker group Anonymous (or someone posing as Anonymous) hacked into North Korea’s Flickr site today. They posted a photo showing Kim Jong Un’s face with a pig snout, and with a Mickey Mouse drawing on his chest. Text read: “Threatening world peace with ICBMs and Nuclear weapons/Wasting money while his people starve to death.”

They also broke into the official North Korea Twitter account, and posted tweets and links which mocked Kim Jong Un.

And, they took down the North Korean news and information website at Uriminzokkiri.com (which is currently offline).

Bravo!

(The unflattering photo does not bolster The Onion’s naming of Kim as the 2012 Sexiest Man Alive, an award North Koreans apparently took seriously.)

Anonymous claimed to have “a few guys on the ground” in North Korea who used a chain of wifi repeaters to bring the uncensored internet into the country. They also claimed to use landlines to access the national Intranet.

The Exalted Leader is a bit prickly. Whoever’s in charge of his Twitter and Flickr accounts might be moving to a gulag. And maybe he’ll consider the hacking an act of war and start launching his ICBMs (which, after flying 50 miles or so, flame out and fall impotently to the bottom of the Pacific Ocean).

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Spouses (Plural) Welcome

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As Communications Director for the United Brethren in Christ denomination, I keep up on what’s being said about us on the web. A Google alert notifies me of any web references to “United Brethren.” This turns up newspaper articles, obituaries, and other relevant stuff.

Lately, I’ve been getting news about the Apostlic United Brethren, a polygamous Mormon group that separated from the Mormon Church back in the 1880s. They’re seeking approval to build a retirement community in Bluffdale, Utah.

We’re regularly confused with other “Brethren” groups (Brethren in Christ, Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Brethren), so I’m wondering if I could apply for a spot in this retirement community, and sneak my application past them by merely identifying myself as “United Brethren.”

It could work. Though Pam might have some thoughts on the matter.

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Saying Very Little in Too Many Words

snoopy_writingBecause I’ve written some books, people occasionally contact me with their own book ideas. When they tell me what the book will be about, my reaction is often, “It sounds like you have an article, not a book.”

They have enough original content for an article. For a sermon. For a workshop. For a blog post. But not for a book.

Sadly, this is true of a lot of Christian books. The author has an interesting idea, a new twist for an aspect of the Chrtistian life, but they cover it within a chapter or two. They then pad the book with stuff you’ve heard before, Generic Christianity, while making obligatory connections to the original theme.

Such was the case with a book I just finished, “Firsthand.” Another example was “Not a Fan”–a far better book than “Firsthand,” yet basically only a couple chapters’ worth of content dealing with the “fan” premise.

With some Christian books, I should just read the first two chapters and consider myself done. And since I can usually get the first chapter free as a “sample chapter” on my Nook…hmmm.

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The Persistent .05%

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I work with lots of ministers, and ministers always have a “life verse.” I think it’s a requirement for getting a ministerial license. But, I admit, I’ve never had a life verse. It has always made me feel spiritually deficient.

However, there is one verse I apply to my work more than any other, so perhaps it qualifies as a life verse. Proverbs 10:19 says, “When words are many, sin is not absent” (NIV).

As a Communications Director, my career is based on churning out words. This verse tells me, “The more words, the more chance there are mistakes.” Ain’t that the truth. You can’t crank out thousands of words every day without getting something wrong.

A very nice woman called me today to point out a mistake. She was nervous and apologetic about it, and was calling because somebody else asked her to. The idea of correcting me intimidated her, I think; she didn’t know how I would respond.

But I’m long past (most of the time) being defensive. Making errors in writing–whether mere typos or, as was the case today, factual errors–is just gonna happen. It’s been happening for over 30 years. I accept my fallibility. Probably 99.95% of what I write is clean, mistake-free. But that .05% won’t go away anytime soon.

So I told this woman the mistake was entirely mine, I apologized for it, and I promptly corrected it (you can do that with stuff on the web). No sense being prickly about it. I appreciate people pointing my mistakes, as long as they aren’t jerks about it.

And keep this in mind: whenever somebody talks a lot, or write a lot, there’s a good chance that some of it is just plain wrong. It applies to your local newspaper reporters, to TV pundits…and to your own preacher.

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