On the Unexpected

Life is full of many twists and turns that reveal joys, sorrows, trials, tribulations, happiness, shock, uncertainty, honor, hope, and countless other emotions. Sometimes life delivers an unexpected surprise, and other times it is a double punch to the gut.

I recently received one of those punches that has set me back on my heels. Believe me, there are many with problems far greater than mine – but we are selfish creatures, thus see our problems in magnified light, and probably make them out to be worse than they really are.

With that as the backdrop, I’m saying this blog will be free of new posts for a while. A week, a month, more or less – I do not know – but I must concentrate on an important matter that requires time.

I hope to stay active in reading and commenting on the fine posts listed in the right column, plus others I have on my bookmarks. I enjoy learning and dialogue with others, plus having others stimulating me to think.

Thanks to everyone who stops by to read my thoughts, and special thanks to those who add their comments. So, until my next post, blessings to all of you and I hope you watch this 20-second video that says a lot.

On Connecting Egypt and Schools

With the power of instant news, we watched the events in Egypt as they happened. Whether the peaceful gathering of the masses or the few days of violence, there were and still are so many stories intertwined into this overthrow of a long-standing regime.

These two thoughts repeatedly played in my mind: the desire of people to be free and the peaceful nature of the masses – and each of these took me back to the 1960s and the way Martin Luther King treated civil rights. However, the Egyptians had something that Dr. King’s followers did not have: social media.

Some have described it tweets versus tanks. Columnist Kathleen Parker wrote these words:

Unarmed men and women inspired by tweets of freedom stared into the bullying armaments of dead ways. It was a stark image of the prolonged battle between good and evil that human apparently have been fated to fight. This time, enabled by what we casually call social media, evil finally may be outgunned.

Today, news travels faster than ever – and Revolution 2.0 has spread to other countries in the region – yet we are witnessing different behaviors by those with the tanks. Nonetheless, the events in Egypt have demonstrated social media’s power – and as this outstanding video shows, the numbers are staggering. (Sorry, this one can’t be embedded.)

Many people use social media as modern-day paparazzi to keep up with the latest news from someone they deem important. Businesses use social media to increase revenue through communication, customer service, and marketing. Many people (as me) use blogs to fuel our appetite for learning through informal means. Some corporate training departments are now incorporating social media tools. Meanwhile, can social media tools be the lightning rod to ignite public education reform? Do you really think schools entrenched in the industrial age model could react that fast?

Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 86

On the Ticket Decision
The NFL knowing the newly added seats would not be ready for the Super Bowl is one thing, but keeping quiet about it is another. Fans buy a legitimate ticket; pay for airfare, lodging, food, and other expenses; and then arrive to the game to find out they can’t get in. Heck yes these people should sue the NFL (and did) … and they should settle for big bucks.

On Short Shorts

  • Sure Christina Aguilera screwed up the national anthem’s words, but even if that didn’t happen, I didn’t enjoy her interpretation.
  • Sarah and Bristol Palin are seeking a trademark on their names. At least their won’t be any intellectual property involved.
  • Daughter Bristol is writing her memoirs. Wow … that has to be riveting.
  • As federal budget talks approach and the rhetoric heats up, keep in mind that all sides play their own version of the shell game.
  • John Avalon writes about the audience decline of the talking heads of the far right. If true, this helps confirm that they and GOP leadership are misreading the recent election results.
  • There is an iPhone app for Roman Catholics to take confession. Huh? Yep … and news enough for columnist Maureen Dowd to have a take. However, this Reuters article says nah baby nah.
  • For those interesting in addressing Social Security, read this blog conservation between columnists David Brooks and Gail Collins.

On Burn the Floor
We recently saw the travelling production of Burn the Floor. I would describe it as the following: impressive, entertaining, energetic, athletic, sexy, precise, fast-paced, and fun.

On Solutions for Washington
Sometimes the Republicans have the best idea – other times, the Democrats provide the solution. Other times, we need a blended compromise. Yet other times, we need to do something that Capitol Hill has (at least) meager ability to do – to look outside the box of party lines for a new solution.

On the PGA Season
I enjoy watching the PGA tournaments on the weekend, especially Sunday afternoon. Now that the PGA season is underway, I love this past commercial. Have a safe weekend everyone.

On A, I, and O

My paternal grandparents arrived in America on December 6, 1920. After living in different Midwestern cities, they would surprisingly settle in rural southeastern Ohio. Given that area is considered as Appalachian, it is surprising how the letters A, I, and O played a prominent role in my youth. While the closest association most people have is through pizza, spaghetti, and jello (which isn’t Italian) – mine is a bit different.

A – Adrianna, Angela, Gemma, Gilda, Gina, Guiletta, Nella, Olga, Vidia, and Zita.

I – Angelleti, Barsotti, Bastiani, Casci, DiPiero, Lippi, Marchi, Marzetti, Menchini, Periotti, and Rocci.

O – Basilio, Bruno, Franco, Gino, Guido, Livio, Remo, and Renzo. Of course, others had already morphed into society as Bob, Leroy, Ned, Oscar, and Paul.

My family tree follows a similar pattern.

A – Maria, Neva, Nina, Rosa, Rosanna, Rosetta, Verdiana, Vivianna, and Vivitta.

I – Andreucci, Barsi, Cecchi, Giacchini, Landi, Lucchesi, Mariani, and Pini.

O- Alvaro, Domenico, Ersilio, Enno, Francisco, Mario, Olvido, Rafaello, Rigolleto, and Turiddo.

Meanwhile, my most of my cousins and I have American names ending in consonants, and married non-Italians with consonant-ending names. Meanwhile, A, I, and O continue to live on through my maternal first cousins still living on the Mediterranean boot.

On IRAs and Congress

Bear with me, as I have to set the stage on something that has been on my mind for a long time.

In a world where too many people think of Social Security checks as retirement income, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) are a good thing. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) brought us traditional IRAs in 1974. The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 tossed Roth IRAs into the retirement planning mix. Because ERISA was primarily aimed at pension programs, various amendments through the years have given small business owners additional options as Simple IRAs and Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) IRAs.

Primarily for executives, 401k plans appeared in 1978 allowing employees to defer compensation. Various amendments through the years expanded 401k opportunities to more people. Bottom line is that multiple opportunities exist to save for the retirement years.

It’s understandable that all these accounts come with rules for the owners: rules about contribution limits, tax obligations, withdrawal procedures, and various penalties for early withdrawal. For the life of me, one rule gets under my skin.

For whatever reason (either special interest or to get someone’s vote), Congress limited IRA contributions by qualifying contributors by income. In other words, those above a certain income cannot contribute to their IRA or they can only contribute a reduced amount.

What were the Capitol Hill nimrods thinking? IRAs should be available for every American. If he chooses, Bill Gates should be able to contribute to an IRA just like Joe Schmuck. I’ll take it one step further. Every American (if they so choose) should be able to maximize contributions into both the traditional and Roth IRAs regardless of income and availability of 401k plans – Period – thus eliminating the need for if-then statements and making the law easier to understand!

Retirement plans are just another example of Congress screwing up a good idea with unnecessary regulations – Damn jackwagons.

On a Lost World

In my continuing quest to study the interface between science and theology, my need to learn more about the interpretation of the Book of Genesis led me to another series of books. Thanks to the booklist at Biologos, I started with The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, by Dr. John Walton, Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College (the school from which Billy Graham graduated).

The paperback book is short (192 pages includes notes and an index), and organized into 18 propositions – the individual themes that organizes the content. The book is easy to read and understand, thus a good read for anyone generally interested in the topic or those struggling with the science-theology conflict centering around Genesis , including pastors, science teachers, and laypeople. It serves to stimulate thinking while serving as a starting point for further study of Genesis regarding origins.

On several occasions, Dr. Walton openly challenges the meaning of “taking the Bible literally” when it comes to determining the meaning of ancient literature as Genesis. He challenges studying the text through the eyes of the modern age, including today’s knowledge of science, thus emphasizes that in order to gain a literal understanding, one must do the following:

  • Read the text in the context of the times
  • Translate words based on their use, grammar, syntax, and understanding of the times the author wrote the text
  • Determine the author’s intent and what the audience would be understand
  • Identify any significant events of the time for context

One of the key to Walton’s discussion is around the Hebrew word bara. Meaning create, Walton continually provides two meanings: to create something new (a material look), and to create order (a functional perspective). Walton also examines Hebrew words meaning day, earth, Sabbath, humanity, and a few others, and intertwines his propositions into an interesting collection.

Instead of providing specific details about Dr. Walton’s conclusions, I will simply recommend The Lost World of Genesis One for study and discussion as his perspective is interesting and engaging. Meanwhile, for me, it is on to Inspiration and Incarnation by Peter Enns.

Text’s background at Biologos

Book at Amazon