Thursday, April 28, 2005

Take a bow, Yao Ming...

According to a story in today's LA Times, the ruling Communist Party named Yao Ming a model worker for this years May Day celebration. Yao Ming plays as center for the Houston Rockets. This is certainly far removed from Iron Man Wang, an oil field worker who was hailed as a hero to his country in 1960.

Iron Man Wang, Government Propaganda Poster

"It's absurd," Zhou Xiaozheng, a sociologist at People's University in Beijing, said of Yao's award. "Model workers should be ordinary people you can look up to and imitate. Yao Ming is an NBA star. That's honor enough. Besides, what he does, it's impossible for ordinary people to imitate."
Whether Yao Ming is the right man for the Communist Party's exemplar I cannot say. However, this brings to mind something that has concerned me for some time. The people we choose to be our heroes have changed over the years. Not so many years ago when you asked a child who his hero might be, the answer would most likely be an astronaut or, maybe even closer to home, a policeman or fireman. Today's children are far more likely to pick a sports or music star as their role model. Although many of today’s sports stars are good people, the lives they lead aren’t those to which ordinary people might aspire. Honestly, I want the world for my daughters but I’d rather they didn’t follow in the footsteps of most of today’s pop culture icons.

I wonder, what has changed that has caused the world's focus to move from those who are good examples of honest, hard work and/or learning to those who have been successful winning life's popularity contests.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

You might not have wondered this but...

Who was the first person to open an oyster, look at that slime and think, “boy that looks like something I should eat”?

Of course, it was probably right after they dove 30 feet below the surface of the ocean, struggled to pry it off the rocks, and barely made it to the surface without drowning. The first thought was probably something more akin to, “I don’t care that it looks like elephant snot, I went through all that for this, I’m going to eat it.”

I wonder how many of our common dishes can be traced to an event where it was eat this or die from hunger.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Improve Your Awareness

Past the seeker as he prayed came the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And seeing them... he cried, "Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?" God said, "I did do something. I made you." ~ Author Unknown
God gave us more opportunities than anyone could use in many lifetimes. We must look around ourselves and take that opportunity to help and lift our fellow man!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Outside the Box

The following questions are answered by thinking outside the box. Can you come up with the correct answers?
  1. You have a bag that is 45cm long, 18cm wide and 30cm high. If you put them in carefully one at a time, how many standard paperback books can you place in the empty bag?

  2. Why is it that a man living in Oxford can never be buried in Cambridge?

  3. Name four things that you cannot eat for breakfast.

  4. Even if you have never been to France you should be able to say what’s in the centre of Paris.

  5. 2 fathers and 2 sons go fishing. Each caught a fish but they only landed 3. How come?

  6. Heres a list of 4 words with something in common: ATOM TIMID LESSON HANDY could WILLOW join the list?

  7. How come Englishmen use more soap than Irishmen without being noticeably cleaner?

  8. To everyone’s amazement a swan was seen on the Mekong River. Where had it come from?

  9. What do the following animals all have in common: Bombay Duck, White Elephant, Guinea Pig, Silk Worm, Firefly?

  10. What’s so fragile that you break it just by naming it?
I struggled with a couple of these but when the answers were revealed I felt like I should have known. How will you do?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

My Heart is Heavy, Weighted Down

I am disturbed, disturbed and disgusted. I’ve seen so much that is good in this world but lately my attention is drawn to the lesser, the revolting, that against which I would revile.

Honestly, remember how the world responded to the tsunami in South East Asia with great speed and compassion. That, my friends, was a high point, something on which I could hang my cares and considerations – my faith in humanity. I worried that the world community might not have the stamina to apply to this great disaster but it seems that much of my worries were without cause. Sure, there is plenty of work still to be done but the world has not forgotten their less fortunate brothers, at least not in that part of the world.

What, then, can we say about those others of our brethren that are afflicted with strife? How is it that we can pat ourselves on the back with great enthusiasm when there is so much suffering in other parts of the world? The wickedness that men afflict on each other is enough to cause great pains and concern for anyone who takes a moment to look around. The Sudan, just one example of the terrible things humanity inflicts on itself. This is not nature or natural. One man kills another because of religion or race – everyone should be disturbed and revolted. This, however, is not just one man and they aren’t just killing each other. The terrible acts – oh, so terrible! Governments of the world should not stand for such indiscretions.

Why was the world so quick to offer aid when the tsunami visited such terrible destruction yet we cannot find it in our collective consciousness to act when men violate the rights of other men?

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Monday Morning Test - On Wednesday...

More than an IQ test, this test will blow your mind. So, what did you score? I liked this test because I didn't have to enter any personal information to get there. Check it out here.


Work History

My first job was working in an orange juice factory, but I got canned....couldn't concentrate.

Then I worked in the woods as a lumberjack, but I just couldn't hack it, so they gave me the axe.

After that I tried to be a tailor, but I just wasn't suited for it, mainly because it was a so-so job.

Next I tried working in a muffler factory but that was too exhausting.

Then I tried to be a chef, figured it would add a little spice to my life, but I just didn't have the thyme.

I attempted to be a deli worker, but anyway I sliced it, I couldn't cut the mustard.

My best job was being a musician, but eventually I found I wasn't noteworthy.

I studied a long time to become a doctor, but I didn't have any patience.

Next was a job in a shoe factory; I tried but I just didn't fit in.

I became a professional fisherman, but discovered that I couldn't live on my net income.

I managed to get a good job working for a pool maintenance company, but the work was just too draining.

So then I got a job in a workout center, but they said I wasn't fit for the job.

After many years of trying to find steady work, I finally got a job as an historian, until I realized there was no future in it.

My last job was working at Starbucks, but I had to quit because it was always the same old grind.


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Moussaoui Plea Pending Determination of Sanity

U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in Alexandria is scheduled to meet with Moussaoui this week to determine if he has the mental capacity to enter a plea now, the sources said. — Jerry Markon, Washington Post Staff Writer
Not to defend the man that may have been the very center of what has become the most devastating attack on U.S. soil but how can anyone be considered sane after initiating such destruction? No, I'm not saying Moussaoui cannot be held responsible. Nor am I suggesting that because of this lack of sanity, the sentence should be anything less. I guess what troubles me is this. If you are going to insist on a certain punishment for a crime, does one's sanity really come into play?

Monday, April 18, 2005

A Senator's Response

Thank you for your message regarding the need to protect civil liberties in the midst of the fight against terrorism. I appreciate learning your thoughts about this issue.

I understand your concerns about measures that expand the authority of law enforcement, such as the Patriot Act and the National Security Intelligence Reform Act. I am committed to preserving our freedoms during war and peace. We cannot forget the lessons painfully learned from times when we sacrificed liberty in the name of security.

Congress responded promptly to the attacks on September 11th by crafting bipartisan anti-terrorism legislation called the USA Patriot Act. I supported the Patriot Act because it addressed gaps in our laws that have unnecessarily hindered law enforcement efforts against terrorists and other criminals – for example, it updated some wiretap and electronic surveillance laws that had been unchanged since the era of rotary telephones.

I recognize that the Patriot Act is far from perfect. Senator Larry Craig and I introduced the Security and Freedom Ensured (SAFE) Act to narrow its scope. This legislation would impose reasonable limits on law enforcement's authority to combat terrorism while protecting against unchecked government surveillance.

The measure does not repeal the Patriot Act, but rather makes necessary changes to it. For instance, the SAFE Act would impose reasonable limits on the FBI's authority to seize business and library records, "sneak and peak" warrants, and roving wiretaps. The FBI would still have wide-ranging authority to combat terrorism while also protecting innocent Americans from unchecked government surveillance.

The Administration continues to take steps to expand, rather than restrict, the Patriot Act. Language drafted by the Justice Department and known as Patriot Act II or the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, contains provisions that would, among other things, go beyond prosecuting terrorist acts and take the extraordinary step of empowering the government to strip U.S. citizenship from individuals who engage in lawful activities that may be seen by our government as supporting "terrorist" organizations. In addition, the proposal would create a DNA database of "suspected terrorists," mandate that arrests in cases of international terrorism be kept secret until an indictment is filed, and empower the Attorney General to deport lawful permanent U.S. residents if he believes their presence is inconsistent with our national security. While the draft has not been introduced in Congress as a bill in its entirety, portions have been proposed.

In addition, some of the provisions from the draft Patriot Act II were added to the National Security Intelligence Reform Act last year. I opposed the inclusion of these provisions and worked to include language to limit the likelihood of civil liberties violations. I am pleased that the final version of that bill included core elements of my proposal to create an independent board tasked with ensuring that the government does not violate privacy or civil liberties.

I am committed to defending our country while protecting our civil liberties and our principles of freedom and justice. As Congress revisits this issue and considers additional anti-terrorism legislation, we must take care to preserve these important ideals. Thanks again for your message.


Richard J. Durbin
United States Senator


P.S. If you are ever visiting Washington, please feel free to join Senator Obama and me at our weekly constituent coffee. When the Senate is in session, we provide coffee and donuts every Thursday at 8:30 a.m. as we hear what is on the minds of Illinoisans and respond to your questions. We would welcome your participation. Please call my D.C. office for more details.

I am happy to hear from the my senator regarding my concerns about the powers given to our government through the patriot act and other congressional efforts that have precipitated out of the terror attacts of September 11, 2001.

All Americans should understand the serious nature of these things and insist that their legislators work to protect our rights.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Don't Tread on Montana

So, Montana joins four other states condeming the Patriot Act. I've contended from the outset that those who heralded the need for such a law didn't understand the constitution or did not believe as our forefathers.
"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." — Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1791.

"They that can give up Essential Liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." — Benjamin Franklin
The most incredulous arguments for the passage of the Patriot Act pertain to these things. More specifically, arguing that we should be willing to give up certain rights in an effort to gain certain safety.

All Americans should be concerned about the rights we have resigned through the passage of this Act of Congress. Each of us should be concerned enough to contact our Senator/Congressman and let them know that we cannot stand for the cause that supports the Patriot Act.

No, our government is not currently a tyranny but there is precious little preventing it from becoming such.
“As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances there is a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of the change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.” — Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

SENIOR CITIZENS - The Nations Leading Carriers of Aids

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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Islamic Relations a Key?

I'm not a Catholic but I've been interested in the events that are unfolding around the death of the pope. I don't think I'd be completely honest if I said different. So, when I've seen news papers and heard news stories either on TV or the Radio that focus on the selection of a new pope, these stories tend to grab my interest.

Today, while I was reading through the internet about various and sundry topics a certain headline caught my attention. Now, the story itself was a short one but the headline seemed to be of greater importance than the author or editor seemed to believe. The headline read Islamic relations key Vatican topic. I wonder, really, how much import can one religion place on the position of another when selecting a leader. If you do believe, indeed, that this man is in a position closest to God, who are we to dictate to him?

I guess that two of the forerunners in the contest for pope - if you wish to call it a contest - have differing views on how the church's position on Islam should be.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Vatican's doctrinal enforcer, is believed to favor evangelization of Muslims, while Cardinal Angelo Scola, the archbishop of Venice, is believed to favor conciliation and dialogue. Both men are viewed as papal contenders.
Though I am not certain that evangelization is the appropriate position to take toward any other religious group, I am still left to my quandry. Does a man have a right to dictate to God how His Church should treat others?

Friday, April 08, 2005

How Far Would You Go to Obtain Virtual Property?

Truly, the notion of virtual property fascinates me immensely. I work through one of these role playing games and by virtue of that effort, I gain certain properties that have no worth in any real way but are quite valuable in-game. In real life, if I decide to sell something I’ve earned, I can do it. A garage sale, an on-line auction or through an ad in the paper, I can market the item and sell it as long as another person is willing to pay the amount I consider fair. But even with that there are certain limitations set by the government and other regulating agencies.

As reported in the BBC News, a Chinese man stabbed and killed another Shanghai gamer for a virtual sword in the game Legends of Mir 3. The sword, a dragon saber, is one of the more powerful weapons available in the game. Also, according to the news story, China does not have laws governing the sale of or protecting the possession of virtual property. On the other hand, Korea does. This is news to me – how can you govern this stuff?

Blizzard takes a dim view of people selling items from World of Warcraft for real cash – it is punishable by deletion of the player’s account under the terms and conditions of the EULA. Though Blizzard are probably the most militant of the MMORPG providers, some games not only allow the sale of items for real cash, but actively encourage it. There even gaming stock exchanges that allow you to trade virtual currencies from the games for real cash.

This story is quite shocking to me but I guess if a kid will kill another for his shoes, I should not be too surprised when such actions are taken for virtual property as well.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

New President and Co-Vice Presidents for Iraq

"This is the new Iraq," said Hachim Hassani, the assembly's recently elected speaker, "where a Kurdish citizen is elected president of the country and a sitting Arab president will become his deputy. What more could the world want from us?" — Edmund Sanders, Times Staff Writer

Well, many people are looking at these events and thinking that we've begun down the road to Iraqi democracy. Others are thinking that it can never happen and that we need to pull out and leave Iraq to the whims of those left behind. How long has it been since we invaded Iraq and deposed their dictator? Two years + a couple weeks hasn't been long enough to provide the new government the foundation necessary.

I agree with those who do not want our troops in harms way. I agree with those who want our troops to come home. On the other hand, I want the Iraqi people to have every opportunity to have the freedoms I enjoy. I think if we look at history to see how long it takes to build a stable democracy, the perspective might provide some relief for those who consider two years too long.

After winning the Independence War, how long did it take to elect George Washington as the United States' "first" president? Although I do not remember covering this in my U.S. History classes, I'll give most the benefit of the doubt. The following review will be solely for my benefit.

The Declaration of Independence was signed by John Hancock on July 4, 1776 - the others followed suite in August of that same year. Amidst military mayhem (the loss of the Southern States to the British, former Continental Congress President Henry Middleton swearing his allegiance to the King, and Benedict Arnold burning Richmond after accepting a general’s commission in the British Army) the States managed to rally and finally ratify the first constitution in 1781 – The Articles of Confederation. The United States was established as a Perpetual Union just in time as our friends and foes alike accepted the unanimously ratified Articles of Confederation as evidence of one united country. Almost immediately France threw her military might behind General Washington enabling the decisive Victory at Yorktown. The United States had won the war but stability would not be hers, not yet.

In 1781, despite winning Independence militarily, we had an almost helpless unicameral (single branch) government that nearly failed to administer the governmental affairs of the United States. The monetary system nearly collapsed and by the summer of 1783 Pennsylvania Soldiers mutinied holding the entire United States in Congress Assembled its president Elias Boudinot hostage in Independence Hall. President Arthur St. Clair and Col. Alexander Hamilton worked together to get the mutineers to back down and the released congress fled, reconvening in Princeton where they were protected by the New Jersey militia.

Widespread injustices penetrated the courts, taxes, voting and intrastate duties and laws through 1786. Most considered dissolving the Perpetual Union of the United States of America. In 1786, the Annapolis Convention to revise the Articles of Confederation collapsed and a citizen insurgence known as Shays’ Rebellion flared up. Shays’ Rebellion was not put down until March 1787.

The military provided the protection the United States in Congress Assembled needed to gather and revise the Articles of Confederation in Philadelphia in May 1787. This time, George Washington accepted the Presidency of the Constitutional Convention. That convention produced an entirely new plan for the Federal Government – The United States Constitution. This new government was finally established in 1789 a full thirteen years after independence was declared in 1776.

Considering our own history, most people are expecting significantly more from Afghanistan and Iraq than what our forefathers accomplished. I think we need to continue to help these young governments grow and strengthen without losing hope or sight of the great cause for which they are struggling. Bring our troops home but not before it is time and these new governments can support themselves.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Xbox 360 positioning itself for Japan Market

“If the current lineup [of games] in development for the next-generation Xbox was revealed,” Okamoto said in the interview, “it would not only surprise users, but the entire industry. There probably wouldn’t be anyone [in Japan] that would still be uninterested in buying the next-generation Xbox when they see the lineup.” He called the still-under-wraps list “a powerful fleet of Japanese designers” — Hirohiko Niizumi @ GameSpot, 04/04/05 06:34 PM PST

Japan has always remained a very difficult market for Microsoft’s Xbox to penetrate. It looks like Microsoft is trying to do something that will ensure their success in the world’s largest electronic entertainment market – only time will tell whether the strategy will work.

I must admit that I've been a fan of the Xbox for some time and am looking forward to the work for which these developers show promise.

Monday, April 04, 2005

IPE v. Green Peace

35 members of Green Peace rushed into the International Petroleum Exchange and found that their protest wouldn't go as expected when the Traders reacted violently. The Times Online reported about this incident on Febrary 17 but I didn't read it until this morning.

It made me wonder, to what point are we allowed to react violently without having to accept the consequences for our actions. The report describes how many of the protestors found themselves wounded and that they were physically forced out of the Petroleum Exchange but says nothing about what might have happened to those who applied the force.

Even in circumstances as these, those who responded to the protest with violence should have to stand and be accountable.

Friday, April 01, 2005

April Fool's Day

I was saddened by the lack of any really good April Fool's Jokes...

Am I so uninvolved as to have nothing on my mind but a sudden absence of practical jokes? Maybe I am...