2015 Predictions -Review

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Every year I create my predictions for the year ahead. Before I post this, I try to do my most thorough analysis of the previous year’s predictions.  Here is my analysis.

  1. Hilary Clinton will announce her candidacy for President, probably in late summer through the end of November. There will be a strong and active lead-up to this. They will also attempt to hide Bill as much as possible, at least until Summer.
    – On March 1, the Wall Street Journal announced that Hilary would announce in April.
    – She announced in a video to “supporters” on April 13th. Although, I am surprised no one noticed that she announced on the thirteenth of the month, I think the Ides of March would be more appropriate
    – Bill Clinton was noticeably quiet for almost the entire year.  At the very end of the year, he started talking again, which was really pounced on by rivals. +4 pts
  2. Republicans will announce throughout 2015. It will be a large group. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, and Rand Paul will all be really active in 2015. You’ll hear from them a lot. They will all likely run.
    – Rand Paul announced his bid for President on April 6th.
    – Ben Carson was on May 3rd.
    -Carly Fiorina was on May 4th.
    -There are a total of 17 Republicans who were in the race at one time, although 5 have since dropped out. +4 pts
  3. Who won’t run? Elizabeth Warren, and in a break with tradition…Joe Biden won’t jump in either.
    – I’m pretty proud of that one.  I was 100%. +4 pts
  4. Obama will veto lots and lots of legislation. The Democrat’s story will still be “the do-nothing Congress, that won’t work bipartisanly.” Interestingly, many Dems will vote on measures like the Keystone pipeline, but won’t vote to override the veto. Because of that, it will be surprising how few times there will even be post-veto votes. This is Democrat strategy so that the Dems can claim to have voted for issues that they never supported.
    – This is a pretty mixed bag.  Obama used 5 vetoes in 2015.  This is actually not a huge amount for a president.  However, most of Obama’s vetoes have been in 2015.  I did envisions more than that. They did vote on the Keystone Pipeline, which Obama vetoed, and Congress did not  override.  He also vetoed the Defense Authorization bill, which many Democrats voted for, but will not vote to override. Overall, the picture is more cloudy than I though it would be.  I give myself 50% on that one. +2 pts
  5. A Supreme Court vacancy will come up. Ruth Ginsburgh is looking likely to me. This will likely be tied to health-related issues. When it happens, it will happen fast.  
    – I was wrong on this one.  We’ll see what happens next year.  Maybe I was just a year off.  Either way, +0 pts.
  6. The Conservatives will get a big court win on either Benghazi, IRS bad behavior, Obamacare, Executive actions, and/or Obama’s immigration action.
    – Of course, the courts ruled very much against any logic on Obamacare, and are currently planning to hear his Executive action on immigration reform.  However, lower courts have all ruled against Obama and it is not sure that the Supreme Court will weigh in on the issue at all.  My intent was that one of these issues would go against Obama.  Because the courts have ruled favorably on Obama’s Executive actions so far (though it is not settled), I’m giving myself +2 pts.
  7. More gay marriage court action legalizing gay marriage. The Supreme Court will rule favorably to gay marriage, maybe steering clear of a sweeping legalization. Gay marriage states will increase.
    – Anyone who has not been under a rock in 2015 knows how this turned out.  Very very sadly +4 pts.
  8. Radio Shack bankrupt—and gone. ***I wrote this one down 5 days prior to the news on January 15th that Radio Shack would likely file for Chapter 11 in the first week of February. I’m not saying that it was a long shot then, but there had been no announcement.  – The previous was written as an update early in the year.  +4 pts
  9. At some point this year the Fed will increase the interest rate.
    – Squeeked this one out at the last minute, but I still get the +4 pts.
  10. The “Internet of things” will really visibly increase. This will also be due to the falling prices of Internet-connective things.
    – This one has been talked about throughout 2015 (although now referred to as IoT).  From Barbie dolls to cars, the story actually morphed throughout the year in “the hackable IoT.” + 4 pts
  11. There will be news of companies doing wacky viral-esque stunts. Some of these will be really cool (look for socially conscious stuff) and some will be massively embarrassing failures.
    -Starbucks decided to help heal the racial divide with #racetogether.  It failed miserably!  However, I think mostly because of the fact that this was so highly criticized, other companies did not follow suit.  I strongly think that if the experiment had been highly praised, there would have been a lot of this.  I give myself +2 pts.
  12. There will be a big number of attempted terrorist attacks in Europe and America. Some of these might be successful. The attacks this year in Paris are only the beginning. Europe will be the new front for a lot of Muslim violence.
    – Remember, when I was writing this in January of 2015, I was talking about different terrorist attacks than we now think of as “the Paris terrorist attacks.”  Two massive terrorist attacks in the US and Europe, as well as those in Turkey and throughout Africa and the Middle East, give me +4 pts on this.  However, let me be clear, that I take no joy in that.  Real people died, and that is a tragedy.  My predictions for the year are a game of sorts, terrorism is not a game.
  13. Iran will not follow through with its nuclear deal with the US
    – The main stream media has largely swept this under the table, but they have not followed the agreement, nor did they ever intend to.  This is what happens when you put a fool in charge of the western world. +4 pts
  14. Russia will have more military actions, possibly in Ukraine and maybe including Belarus.
    – I did not know it would be Syria, but I was undeniably correct. +4 pts
  15. A-la cart TV on the Internet will finally come to fruition, and not just with a couple of channels like HBO. Some channels will do this through their websites and some will partner with existing providers like Netfilx and Amazon.
    HBO announced on April 8th that they were offering untethered service directly to consumers.
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    – One of the even bigger moves was that Showtime, Starz, and more than a dozen others became accessible via Amazon Prime. +4 pts
  16. There will be much more talk from the Left on “income inequality,” minimum wage, the rich getting richer, especially in the first half of the year.
    – Does having a whole candidate for President count?   This is the whole presidential platform of the Democrats. If you don’t believe me, look at Hillary’s own website, but please don’t.  She’ll count you as one of the billions in America who will be voting for her. +4 pts
  17. You’ll start hearing the term “Fast-Laning,” This will be one of the words of the year. There will be a rise in no-wait services and products—many through company apps.
    – This did happen quite a bit in ’15, but you did not hear the term “fast laning,” unless you worked in the industry.  Starbucks, Subway Sandwiches, McDonalds, all have fast-laning options.  This is mostly through company apps.  Basically, all fast food restaurants have this now.  This has saved Americans minutes in the drive thru [sic] lane.  Because the term “fast-laning” did not take off, I’m only giving myself +3 pts.
  18. There will be a consumer backlash against product false claims. Companies will be held more accountable to what they say they can do.
    – I did not see this happen in 2015 in any noticeable way. +0 pts
  19. Early in the year expect a North Korean nuclear test, followed by belligerence, followed by an announced deal. All of this will take place before mid-summer.
    – At the end of Feb/ beginning of March, the US had military exercises and NK fired some missiles in response, coupled with belligerent rhetoric.  However, there was no nuclear test at all.  The North Koreans did talk about nuclear war with the West and threaten such action numerous times.  But, that happens every year. +1 pt
  20. Facebook will further monetize. Look for possible corporate deals. They will possibly develop in-Facebook shopping and/or “pay with Facebook” e-wallet technology.
    – This did not happen in 2015.  I am surprised.  I might just be a year or so off.  We’ll see.  +0 pts

This gives me 58 out of a possible 80 points, or 72.5%.  Getting a C is not bad for a pre-test. -Ryan

Squeegees and Lyrebirds

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I have a wide, white squeegee* in my shower.  Occasionally, although not often enough for me to avoid feeling guilty, I will remember to use this squeegee to get the water off of my shower tiles after bathing.  I suppose that this is intended to keep the shower clean and mildew free, but that isn’t really why I have the squeegee at all.

My grandfather had a similar squeegee in his shower when I was a kid.  The shower was small, but had large mint green tiles.  Nothing else matched that color in the bathroom.  I always wondered if he had the shower done all in green as some secret surprise in an otherwise bland earth-toned bathroom.  People would use the restroom and never know the wonderful secret that lurked hidden behind that frosted glass door.  But I suppose in reality, the shower had always been that color and was just not updated some time before my birth when the bathroom had been remodeled.

I remember when I was a child, old enough to not only take baths but still young enough to be instructed on shower basics, my Granddad told me the importance of the squeegee, and showed me how to use it.  He used meticulously placed downward strokes, with even pressure through the whole motion with the care that my grandfather used in almost everything he did.  It made that beautiful shhthwhack sound that every squeegee makes.  It is a pleasing sound, maybe just to me, but I suspect everyone likes it.

That is why I always have had one in my shower, I suppose.  All because my little brain tape recorder was fed the instruction that after a shower the tile must be dried, and that every shower must contain a squeegee.  When I am in a hotel I often feel a little bit robbed when I don’t see one in the shower.  I don’t know why.  It is obviously the maid’s job to clean it, and that is far more often than anyone’s home shower would get any such attention at all.

I got to thinking about this kind of thing recently while visiting a really odd church on some anonymous Sunday morning.  Some of the people were friendly enough, but the service had a lot of weird things that nobody explained.  They weren’t weird in a cultish way, but in some cultural expressions that they didn’t bother explaining.  It was like celebrating Christmas with a family other than your own, and at dinner they serve Hot Pockets.  Even though it seems really odd, but you feel too shy to ask.

Anyway, during the church service I saw a mid-twenties aged man in the front row.  He had one son with him, probably about 5 years old.  The man got down on his knees in worship and his son knelt quickly down next to him.  The man raised one hand in worship then two, and the son followed suit each time.  The child kept his head pointed toward his dad the whole time so that he wouldn’t miss even some small motion.

He was learning how to worship, and some day 30 years from now, he’ll be in the front row of the church on his knees and he won’t know why, other than that this is the best way to worship God.  It will be stuck in his little recorder, part of his functional DNA, and he also won’t understand why some other dude only worships in the back bobbing his head.

There is this bird in Australia called the Lyrebird.  It is different than the birds that congregate outside my window and wake me up in the morning.  Each spring morning I hear the chip-chirp-cheeee of the Warblers repeatedly until I either submit to the headache or wake up and shower.  But that is the only song that they know.  They do it repeatedly throughout their lives.  They are programmed to sing that.

But the Lyrebird doesn’t do things that way.  He takes the sounds of other birds in his forest and repeats them, weaving them all into his own little song.  He mimics them perfectly.  If he hears a chain saw or a camera, he does those sounds too.  You’d swear it was the real thing.  All these sounds put together into a song.  It is the life of the forest in one medley-remix.  The camera and chainsaw aren’t that melodious by themselves, but the Lyrebird makes it melodious.

I hope I’m kind of like that Lyrebird.  When I swim I think about the time as a child that my dad explained to me how sound travels faster in water than in air.  When I cook I repeat actions I learned long ago from my mom and grandma.  And there is a squeegee in my shower.  I want to believe it is my beautiful song with my own spin on the melody.  I don’t want to be just a Warbler, repeating the same thing endlessly.  I think we are pretty inventive as people, but in a beautiful way, we’re often just repeating the forest sounds of our youth. -Ryan

*I have recently discovered that “squeegee” is a very fun word to spell
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Insensitivity

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I worked in management for Sears throughout college.  It was a good job that treated me well and gave me a great opportunity to build a business management resume that has benefited me throughout my whole adult life.  But that was a very different Sears that I have seen over the last 10 years.

Last week, I was on lunch and decided to pull up a YouTube video of Chris Tomlin (a Christian worship music artist) singing a song I’d hurt at church the weekend prior.  As most of us know, YouTube regularly plays videos of sponsored content (a.k.a ads) before your chosen video.  It is part of the monetization that Google brings to all of its products.  When a company pays for an ad to run, they specify all of the criteria that will determine who sees the video.  This includes thing like the geographic location of the watcher, the viewer’s history, and the specific thing searched for, as well as everything in between.  I’m simplifying the process, but it is nearly infinitely customizable, ensuring that the only people who see your video are the exact people you want to see it.

So, I search for Chris Tomlin and the title of the worship song (I don’t remember right now exactly which song it was) and I click on the video.  Before my video starts to play, this is the ad I see (feel free not to watch the whole thing):

I skipped the ad when it gave me a chance and watched my worship video, but the more I thought about it the more upset I became.  I can’t think of a YouTube history on my account that would have been pertinent or anything else that makes sense…unless either they were putting that out to everyone, or they were specifically targeting people watching worship videos.

So, I took to Twitter, incredulous that Sears would be so insensitive.  The screenshot from my Tweet, and Sears’ response not long after, are below.

Sears Tweet

It is 2014,  know.  I am not surprised by a company supporting homosexual marriage.  I don’t like it, but I know it happens.  I don’t support the homosexual mafia attacking companies like Chik-fil-a simply because their CEO said that he believes a marriage is between a man and a woman.  But most of all, I can’t support the incredible rudeness of a company deliberately attacking the morality of Christians in this way.  Whether their Tweet to me was an automatic response to mine or not, it doesn’t matter.

I’m not one to start a boycott and get worked up over anything secular.  I think that secular complies not guided by Christians will not act Christian.  However, companies that deliberately attack Christians is another story altogether.

You know why they do it?  They do it because they know that they will insult us and treat us disrespectfully in whatever ways they choose, and we will buy their products just the same.  We might post a Facebook complaint and feel like we accomplished something, but as soon as the next sale comes along, we will open up our wallets again.

For me, it stops here.  I have drawn a line in the sand.  I have a lot of Craftsman tools and a Sears credit card.  I’m canceling the card and have bought my last tool from them.

—-

Incidentally, if you want the story behind the video (which I actually haven’t seen in its entirety), Sears sponsored a float in the recent Chicago homosexual parade.  On that float they had 4 homosexual couples getting “married” and this video was celebrating that.

Next time you buy a Sears product, know that is where some of your money is going.  If you support that, then great.  If you don’t, you are supporting it anyway with your money.

 

A Child, a knife

 

A child, a knife, yet another life and another cut down
I heard it on the news this morning
In the car
on the way
to work
—a news report.

Some child had gone to school and in the place where other children learn and play
he had done the unspeakable

And now there are kids in stretchers
and hospital rooms
Life cut short at the end of an angry knife
Innocence ended with a sharp pain
that doesn’t end as quickly as a wound will heal

Now come the questions
The endless clacking of TV jaws
plastic as the sets from which they’re watched
and maybe great law-makers will all shake hands
And do their canned jams from grandstands
Only using the tragedy to prove their existence justified

And just do something

Anything
to prevent

“If only one child…”
“Please we must…”
“But this would’ve saved”

And a million “why’s”
Not the kind that the saddened families will ask
But a “why” that ends in a “why” or a lie
In the end
It’s just for cameras

and appearances
and for…
and for…

Another law may pass
or it won’t

Doesn’t matter
for the truth is
The truth.  If it matters to such as these
That these great tragedies
are what they are—evil.

There is no Why other than a troubled kid
Some dysfunction or anger, or social, or blah-blah
He was one of us—although he wasn’t
at least, we’ll say

It wasn’t the knife
or the gun
or the bomb
or the fist, or bat, or rock
It
is
just evil

That–the plastic jaws leave unsaid
For then we’d have to face the evil in us
the evil we let be and grow and fester
infect

We would stare into the mirror
and our evil would stare back at us

Arms

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Dear Friend,

I recently have read several of your posts on Facebook questioning our Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.  In your last post, you mentioned that you were confused as to its meaning, and that “it seemed to refer to circumstances that no longer apply.”  I know that you have a different perspective on the situation than I do, being from the United Kingdom.  I hope that in this posted response I can clear some of that confusion up for you.

First of all, as we get into this topic, we need to address two separate, yet interconnected issues.  The first, is why this was written into our constitution in the first place by our founding fathers and what they might have intended in this guarantee.  After understanding that, then we can be safe to try answering the question of whether there is still a purpose to this guarantee, and what might happen if we decided to remove it.

It is important to note that one cannot really understand the continued purpose of the Second Amendment if one doesn’t grasp its original meaning.  Also, if the founders were wise in putting that right into our Constitution, that doesn’t mean it is wise to leave it there.  On the other hand, if those circumstances still exist for us, then maybe we are wise to continue this right.

Why did our founders include a constitutional right to bear arms?

The US Constitution is an old document.  It is no Magna Carta, but it certainly wasn’t written in MS Word.  The world of pre-1776 was a place of kings and dictators, where it was assumed that governments were meant to be led by single autocratic leaders.  Much of the western world also used out-of-context scripture to point toward God ordaining this situation.

It easily followed from this mindset that the God-ordained king could give life, and take it away, that in fact, the rights of a people were given them by the king himself.  Thus, when the king decided that all people were to be members of the Church of England that is what the people had to do.  Or if the ruler wanted to tax you, or put troops in your home there was simply no other recourse.  He was the king.

In 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was written, it gave voice to the writings of philosophers like John Locke and Thomas Hobbes.  When they wrote the words “…all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights…” what the founders were saying was that rights came not from any earthly ruler or document, but were given to each of us by God, Himself upon our birth.”  We are given the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that no ruler or government could take them away.

That is where we usually stop in our reading of this famous document, but when we do, we miss something really important.

See, the first sentence of the Declaration gives its thesis.  Paraphrased, it says that when in history a people decide that they need to be separate from another and form their own government, there better be a good reason and it should be given.

After this, is the famous section about God-given rights and the government’s purpose of securing and protecting them.  But, when a government isn’t doing that job properly, it is the “right of the people to alter or abolish” that government.  This is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly, but it is one of those unalienable rights of all mankind.

Our founders thought that the ability to protect yourself without relying on the government, to tell the government “no” when it was attempting to usurp your own rights, and to even destroy that government when necessary were all things that the government could never take away from our people.

One of the writers of the Second Amendment said, “What is the militia? It is the whole people. To disarm the people is the best and most effectual way to enslave them.” (George Mason, co-author of the 2nd Amendment, 1788).  Other founders statements agree with that.  There is no scholarly doubt that the “militia” written in the text means the unorganized people themselves.

This makes sense when you read the wording of the amendment.  It has also been our greatest source of national security.  No one has ever invaded the US homeland.  Why?  It is because no army could disarm the people.  As the Japanese said, every blade of grass would hide a man with a rifle.  Or as Lincoln said, “All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasuries of the world, save ours, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or a step on Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.”

The Second Amendment had nothing to do with hunting, and it also has no problem with weapons that held increasing firepower, and a violent society (remember, one of our founders died in a gun fight with one of our past Vice Presidents).  Whether or not the Second Amendment should remain is the focus of my next blog.  It is a different topic altogether.

Now, not many people will talk about these aspects of the Second Amendment, mostly because it sounds like advocating violent revolution of the government.  But remember, all of this was set in place not necessarily so that people could overthrow the government, but that the founders thought the right of self-defense and self-determination were one of those rights no government ever had any mandate to ever take away.

My next post will cover the question of whether or not the Second Amendment should be continued.–Ryan

 

Apprentice

 

In a recent series of car commercials, a husband and wife enter a dealership and the sales person asks what kind of car they’re after.  “Exciting,” “Sensible,” the husband and wife respectively say at the same time, seeming to contradict one another.  The husband looks like a kid in a candy store, but the wife looks annoyed.  The saleswoman says that they can have both of these things if they buy the advertised model.

A subsequent commercial in the same line, shows the husband being asked a question by the saleswoman.  The husband’s eyes roll up and he sounds out a long, frozen “uhhhh…,” seeming to go into spinning pinwheel mode.  The wife says, “That’s ok.  I call this my me time!”

This type of characterization isn’t a rare phenomenon on Television.  In almost every ad you see, men fall into one of only a couple categories.  There is the eternal teenager you typically see in beer commercials, only interested in sex, cars, and alcohol.  You’ll see the idiot dad, totally incapable of making any intelligent choices for his family or his own wellbeing.  You’ll also meet the manly-man who basically just thinks about sports constantly.  There are countless other media versions of these characters, often referred to by the term “mook.”

If we were to be fair, not every male character on TV is like this.  Urban men are typically shown as more well-rounded, and there even are a few good dads mostly in car commercials, but the message when a female partner is present is very consistently clear: men are stupid, sex-obsessed, goofy creatures who are good for comedy relief, but need a woman around so they don’t accidentally kill themselves.

It has not always been this way.  Women used to be the target of the jokes, the weaker partner in need of guidance.  Certainly, no one would suggest that the Ward Cleaver version of reality is something that should be foisted on the public in this day and age.  Clearing the air of many years of sexism against women may seem to mean that men should now be the ones in the social doghouse.

But the question one might ask would be, “does this constant characterization of manhood affect society?” It does.  It affects the way men see themselves, the point and purpose of manhood, and the women and children in our society as a result.

When I was 4 years old, my mother and I went out to wash the car one Saturday afternoon, a small moppy-head child,  a woman in 70’s clothes, and a yellow ’76 Corolla with fake wood paneling on the sides.  I had just seen an episode of Sesame Street in which a fireman stood on ladder spraying water.  He had the walkie-talkie up to his mouth and was repeating “the fire’s out!  The fire’s Out!”  I can still hear it in my head.

Guess what I did from the back bumper of my mom’s car while holding the garden hose that day?  Yep, you guessed it.

When I was a little older, I tried to re-enact a scene from Superman, and broke a glass vase.

I once made a grappling hook, and tried to climb a tree after watching the A-team.  That one hurt, and I landed on dog poop.

A few months ago, I saw the latest James Bond and ran around my house shooting my Nerf gun.  I’m not ADHD, and I’m not a child-like goofball.  Although, I would never claim to be average, in this sense, I am pretty normal.

Knowing that guys are geared this way, who is surprised when adolescents want to buy Axe Body Spray after seeing a commercial with 4 attractive girls walking in on a guy showering after he uses their product?  I don’t wonder what those teenaged boys are thinking.

I hear women complain sometimes that the men in their life act more like teen boys.  They want to play video games instead of getting jobs, drink too much and don’t care about the problems they create when they are drunk, and don’t think through their actions.  Some of this is more than the complaints of women who are surprised that men aren’t acting like women.  Some of it is true.

This is also not something that is new in society (with the exception of the video game part).  It is a weakness of manhood to fall prey to these problems, but it is growing worse.

Everyone, men and women, need mentors, and heroes: people to model themselves after.  Humans often learn much more by watching people they admire than by simply reading how to books.  Youtube is a great example of this.  It is easier to watch someone do something while teaching you how to do it, than simply reading a tutorial.  Likewise, while Youtube is a great tool for teaching how to change the water pump on an ’08 Sentra, it is far less adequate at teaching a guy how to be an auto mechanic than actually hanging out with an a seasoned professional mechanic while they work together.

Men are particularly, naturally geared that way.  We learn better by kinesthetic practice even more significantly than women do.  Society has known this for thousands of years.  To make a boy into a blacksmith, he spent every day with a master blacksmith.  A young knight spent went about daily carrying the knight’s equipment.  This process was not by accident.

Now, we have decided to largely abandon that process at least until the young man has reached his 20’s.  But that doesn’t mean that the natural process has stopped.  The boys still learn by watching and copying the behavior of the men they admire.

I am convinced that this is one of the main reasons for the explosion in the numbers of young men getting tattoos, especially in urban settings.  Watch basketball or football for more than ten minutes, and you will see men inked from head to toe.  Young men who see sports stars as some of their greatest heroes, especially when fatherless homes have become normative, will copy what they see.  Most of them won’t become sports stars themselves, but unfortunately their tattoos will make them largely unemployable.  The cycle will continue.

If we are to fix our society, we must break this cycle.  Men who are available and successful must make time to mentor young boys who don’t have this at home.  Families, particularly urban and poorer one’s without fathers in the home, must highly manage the messages being seen by their boys.

The commercials and programs will change accordingly.  The consistent whining about the content of programming and music lyrics won’t help.  These things are pure capitalism.  I am not defending it, but it is a market, like it or not.  If you don’t like the shows on TV, stop watching them.  If you don’t like the characterization of a commercial, don’t buy the product.  No matter what we do, we can no longer afford to be media abusers, like crack addicts continually returning to the poison that is killing us.

The only reason they show that type of programming is because it works and makes the companies money.  When that changes, the media will adjust.  The remote control is in your hands.  The future of our society is not as easy as a channel to change, but they are undeniably linked.  We are not passive observers of media, it is affecting us.  The time has come to do something about it.

Election Blue – part 2

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the seriesElection Blue

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If Christians together with Republicans are to stand as this “last best hope of freedom in the world,” then we must do some reformulating.  Some might suggest that we moderate our message and make compromises in order to have party be more palatable to more people.  Politics is indeed an art of compromise.  But there are very fundamental things that we can never compromise without forsaking the yoke of our character, those values that we pledge our lives to.

But, if we cannot change that which is essential to our identity, and necessary for the survival of the republic, then are we to do nothing but huddle and pray?  Are we to build large bunkers, or think as I was about which country to run to?  The answer is no.  But, there are a few realities that we must face, those that the Democrats know and believe to be forever in their favor.

1. America is not a Christian nation.  Sure, there is a plurality that still attends church, but all the numbers indicate that both church attendance and Christian identification are massively atrophying.  But more importantly than that, is the fact that the influence of the Bible and faith in Christ in even those regularly attending church has become largely an afterthought.  Unfortunately, most Christians’ are functionally biblically illiterate.

It has baffled many Republicans that large segments of our society who claim Christian affiliation vote completely contrary to their religious principles, at least on social issues.  This is partly because voting is often seen as independent of the exercise of religion, the idea that the Democrats have the edge in issues of economic “justice,” and also because of ignorance of politics beyond a cultural dogma of voter affiliation.

2. Racial division in our society has rapidly become the biggest elephant in the room.  Though it may not be true, Republicans hate women and minorities.  Perception is reality.  One of the 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing is that truth doesn’t matter at all; perceived truth matters a great deal.  For the moment we have lost that battle.  Correcting and owning this narrative will determine any future for our party.

3. Socialists, Progressively, Liberals, (pick your poison) own all areas of cultural input in our society.  The media is completely covered by Liberalism, except for Fox, which though it has massive viewership, is maligned by everyone else.  Hollywood…I don’t need to say more.  Academia, Philosophy, the music industry are monopolized, and on and on it goes.  The only area that is not covered by them is religion.  That is why it is a battleground, and why Conservative religious leaders are repeatedly pressured to keep their mouths shut.  Liberal religious leaders are freely allowed to spout their political directives to their congregations.

Liberals know an important rule of sales, the person who asks the questions owns the conversation.  The entertainment industry questions the society, just as the media asks questions of the people they are interviewing.  Also, it goes almost without saying that the people with the cameras and microphones will have the loudest voices.

Conservatives have really sought to own the blogosphere, and they pretty well do.  But the only people who are reading Conservatives blogs are the people who already agree.  Other areas of the internet are even more hostile to Republicanism.  But the internet is a niceh media.  Anyone can put up a blog, and likewise is accessed primarily by like-minded people.  Further, George Soros and his machine have invested many millions in taking over these areas of communication.  It is a very public and fully funded goal of Liberals to completely take over all media.

This is possibly the greatest loss for Republicans, and the greatest opportunity for growth.  The good news is that we have virtually no ground to lose.  This is our Inchon landing moment.  We must be just as strategic and bold  as the Liberals.  We must place Republicans in these areas of the media piece by piece.  We must take over the conversation, not by fighting or by creating alternative media forms, but by moving into important roles in the media.  This will not happen overnight, just as the battle wasn’t lost overnight.

4.  American education in almost all areas, but specifically in areas of civics, has crumbled.  This is not a problem for Republicans, or Democrats.  It is a problem for the future of this country, Red and Blue.  Liberals wouldn’t like to admit this, but poor education does benefit their cause.  While the loudest voices for increased funding of our public education system emanates from the Liberal side, this does not equate to making fixing our education problem a priority.

If this were true, they would be proponents of programs like school vouchers, single sex education, and homeschooling, all of which have consistently been proven to out perform our current models.  But, they do not support these programs.  Instead, they support more tax money for the current programs, which makes the teachers’ unions happy.

Of course, no one really wants people to stay ignorant, at least I would hope not.  However, the least educated and the highest levels of education are both the biggest Liberal voting blocks, for entirely different reasons.  Those who are well educated without Liberal indoctrination, especially in areas of history and civics have a much more Republican voting record.

In Part 3 of this series, I’d like to address some of my ideas for how to address these issues. -Ryan

The Wall

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I decided to undertake a massive project this summer, which we now affectionately call the Great Wall of Ryan.  My house sits on the top of a little hill, which is a pretty novel thing in North Texas.  This means that in every direction, the ground slopes down and away from my house, like a little rollercoaster for any topsoil.  The only defense I have found for this problem in my front yard is to build a massive retaining wall near the street.

In preparation for this project, about two years ago I imported a large amount of dirt into the front of my yard.  Then about a year and a half ago, we were able to swing a deal for a whole lot more soil, which was also dumped on top of the existing pile.  And there it sat, for over a year.  It was embarrassing.  My neighbors would occasionally comment.  I was afraid I would get a brick thrown through my front window, but I was handicapped by work projects that I could not walk away from.

This summer I finally got the time, and I dedicated my life to making this wall.  And what a wall it is!  Nearly 120 feet long, in its two sections framing my yard, and just under 4 feet at the tallest, it is a giant monument to hard work and dedication.  And I built it all by myself…with lots and lots of help.

While to my neighbors, the most important thing is that the former Prairie Dog Farm in front of my house now actually adds to the aesthetic of my block, the biggest lesson to me was the kind help that my hard-working friends put into the project without asking for anything in return.   And the lessons I learned this summer, alongside teenagers and grown men while building this wall, are what is most worth mentioning here.

Much of the summer played out this way: I would start working relatively early in the morning, mostly to avoid the heat.  Then I would call to, or answer a call from one of the teenagers I know, who said he was “bored,” and “do you need some help today?”  I would pick the teen up and drive him to my house.  We would then work until lunch (which I’d provide), go back at it, and often bust our tails till evening.  Many times, we would also feed them dinner before taking them home.

Not a single teen sat in the yard and complained.  Not one 13 through 18 year old said, “It’s too hot!” as we worked in 105 degree sun.  None of them avoided me the rest of the summer.

What I did hear a lot of were things like, “Wow, this is so much fun.  I’ve never done anything like this before,” and “Hey, call me when you need more help.”  They always thanked me as I dropped them off back at home filthy from digging, looking like some Depression era dust farmer.

There was the 13 year old who begged me to let him come, after his brother had helped.  We spent the day driving stakes and putting up line-levels to set the height of the project.  I had to force him to wear sunscreen and drink water.  He laughed the whole time, and wondered why I only let him put in some of the stakes.  Mostly, he wanted to use my axe and a few other sharp tools to try and cut a log.  I let him.

I also spent many days with the 16 year old who practically lived at my house.  He stayed in our guest bedroom on the weekends, not because there was something horrible at home, but because he wanted to work.  This teen doesn’t even attend my church or youth group.  His family is from a different country, and they sent him here alone for High School.  He approached my front yard project like it was food, and he a starving man.

We were cutting some blocks for the curving corners of the wall, a task that takes forever and I really dislike, when he asked for a turn at the saw.  I showed him how to operate the angle grinder with its sharp diamond blade, and he went to cutting.  When he finished, I was astonished at the quality cut he made.  It wasn’t quite as good as what I could do, but it was an amazing first attempt.  I told him so.

From that moment, he wanted to cut every single block.  He spent hours making perfect cuts and angles, which were eventually far better than the work that I could do.  I told him that he was good at it, and he became a master at it.  He later told me that it was actually his least favorite thing to do, even though he was always the one who asked to do it.  He did it because he was proud and accomplished.

But this was far different from what parents and teachers have been telling me about teen guys.  Huge numbers of teenage boys are getting barely passing grades in Junior High and High school, and are deciding not to go to college at all.  They aren’t doing this to chase after wild dreams in art, music, sports, or to travel the world.  Instead they are staying home and sitting in front of the X-Box until their parents force them to get a job.  In fact, according to a government official in the State of Washington recently, “Teen males, 16- to 19-year-olds, have an unemployment rate of about 40 percent. That is certainly something unique to this recession.”[1]

So why did I experience such a difference in the guys I was working with?  Why were they sweating in 100+ degree temperatures and not complaining?  Why were they thanking me at the end of an 8-hour day instead of demanding payment?

I think it is because they were engaging in something that is hard-wired into guys, and part of what manhood is about.  They were out building something, working with their hands, and accomplishing a project.  They were doing something they were being told not only that they could do, but also that they were good at.  They were also seeing immediate results of their labor.  When you shovel a pile of rocks for an hour, after that hour the rocks are no longer there.

But the narrative for success that we are telling our young men does not involve those elements.  What we tell them is to be quiet and listen in school, which many of them are naturally not any good at.  They also need to invest in things that they won’t see any results of for many years.

This is told to teenagers in High School career programs, and as a threat to keep them studying hard.  “I mean, you don’t want to not get into college and have to be a construction worker for the rest of your life, do you?”  You can almost hear the sad trombone play in the background.  But that threat doesn’t appear to be working on many of these boys anymore.  Now more than ever, their response to this question is “I don’t care.”

That response says far more than most people realize.  “I don’t care” isn’t a complaint.  “I don’t care” isn’t a cry for help.  It isn’t something you can argue past or even fix through stern lecturing.  “I don’t care” really means, “I have lost hope, and I don’t think anything I do will actually matter.  So, I’ve given up.”  It is a crisis beyond education and employment.  Our men are in a crisis of hope, and a lack of hope makes a person’s heart sick.  Sick hearts don’t produce healthy lives.

They lose hope when they aren’t involved in things that they see as making any lasting difference in the world.  They lose hope when we hold up feminine qualities as good, while simultaneous saying both that any good male qualities are expressed equally through women, and that most male qualities are actually negative.  They lose hope when they have no true heroes that express virtuous male qualities.  Why should they have hope?

The message is, “Just be a like the good girls.  Sit down and be quiet.  Try not to be such a boy.”

In our church’s youth ministry, one of the things that we instill in our leadership team is that our job is not to fill buckets, but to light fires.  This means that we don’t want to just teach students not to “smoke, drink, or chew, or date people who do.” Instead we want them to know mostly that God built them to do great things, that He put destiny in their hearts, and has an awesome future planned for them.

The only way for them to really see this completely fulfilled in their lives is to be in close relationship with the God who created them and loves them dearly. When they fall in love with that God, they will want to know how He wants them to live their lives and will want to live according to that.  Expecting them to follow His rules for any other reason is like expecting people watching a soccer game on TV to also not use their hands during the match.  The spectators are not on the field and haven’t committed themselves to the game, so why would they commit to following its rules.

So we believe that when the teenagers fall in love with Jesus, and commit themselves to Him, then they will want to passionately follow what He tells them He cares about.  They will try to do less of the things that hurt that relationship, and more of the things that deepen it.  Their actions will be fueled by the passion inside, not just from some list of dos and don’ts.

Remember High School Algebra?  At some point in the semester a student raised his hand (it was almost always a boy) and asked the teacher, “When will I ever use this in real life?”  Our boys are asking that question of almost everything, and our response is to tell them to be quiet and let us put more in their buckets.  It is obvious that as a society, we aren’t lighting our boy’s fires.  We are just trying to fill their buckets, and they are responding accordingly.

So back to the wall…

What happened this summer is that a bunch of boys got to invest their time in activities that are inherently manly (yes, there are other manly qualities that don’t involve shoveling).  They built things that will hopefully last far into the future, and they saw immediate fruit from their labor.  They got to work with an adult man who not only cared about them, but also modeled certain qualities, and told them that what they were doing was good and important.  And they were also told that they were good at what they were doing, and were thanked for their help.

They left feeling accomplished and good about themselves. These were boys that for a while at least, didn’t say, “I don’t care,” at all.  They seemed to care about something a great deal.  They left fired-up.


[1] Arum Kone, a regional labor economist for the Washington state Department of Employment Security, as quoted in The Spokesman-Review. February 13, 2012.

Vancouver: Chinese Tour – Part 4 (Bee Factory)

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This is Part 4 in a series about my recent tour in Canada.  Click the links if you’d like to catch up on Part 1Part 2, and Part 3 of the series.

Generally, all Chinese bus tours work the same way.  You meet each morning between 6:30 and 8, and the bus leaves for its journey.  Every 2 hours or so, the bus stops at one of those roadside restroom areas, or some sort of small sightseeing place.

Some of these small sightseeing tours were not much more than gift shops with overpriced trinkets, which the “tour guides” (not Thomas) would try to prod you into buying with grandiose explanations.  I never bought any of these.  Thomas told the Bohemians not to.  The rest of the people on the tour were spending money like rap stars makin’ it rain.

One of these “tours” that we went on was the “bee factory” as Thomas described it.  I was excited because I like bees and have always wanted to know where they were made, although I assumed Thomas actually meant it was a honey processing plant.  Either way, I have often thought about keeping bees myself, although I doubt my bedroom would be big enough for more than one or two hives.

At the Bee Factory, we were greeted by plywood cutouts that were painted like bees, the kind with little holes that you can put your face into and take a stupid tourist picture which makes you look like a bee with some genetically engineered human face.  My one regret of the whole trip was not getting a picture with me in one of those cutouts.

The Bee Factory turned out to be the best tourist trap of the entire trip.  Inside the Factory (read that, “gift shop”), the guide stood up to give us “the exciting bee experience…and afterward you can buy some bee pollen to take home to your honey.”  His talk was filled with puns, and not much else.  Basically, it was just like bee-ing (see what I did there?) in the audience of an infomercial.  I am not sure if there was anything made in this location at all, or if it was simply a gift shop.

It is easy to think of visiting these types of places as extreme rip-offs on the tour, and if you buy things there they are.  But they do serve a couple of purposes.  First, we would only actually spend about 30 minutes there, and we only visited a couple of these places.  They gave you an opportunity to stretch your legs and use the restroom.  It was better than just using public toilets on the side of the road.

Secondly, and far more valuably, they gave the Bohemians things to laugh about back on the bus.  Bee Factories turn out to be much better stories than anything else.

When I was a kid, my family took a road trip through Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.  Along the way, we stopped at The Amazing Dinosaur Experience. Billboards had warned us about the danger of missing this “once in a lifetime opportunity” for many miles, so we stopped.  It turned out to be cave that the portly owner had “covered with plaster and painted white” with a few half-fake dinosaur bones painted glow-in-the-dark and stuck under a blacklight.  We still laugh about it to this day.

The Bee Factory was that type of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. -Ryan

Vancouver: Chinese Tour – Part 2 (Cast List)

bus headerThis is Part 2 of a continuing series.  If you’d like, you can catch up and read Part 1.

During the course of the tour, I only actually got to know 3 other people’s names: Thomas, our tour guide; and Sherman and Yale (more about them later).  Most other people spoke very limited English, and I had to give them nicknames to identify them.  I didn’t do this to be mean, but mainly to keep them straight in my head.

Sitting across the aisle from me was Golf Shoes.  Knowing that she would be doing some hiking in the Rockies, she must have decided that wearing golf shoes the entire time would provide her the best traction for mountain climbing adventures.  This meant that almost everywhere she went her shoes made a click-clack noise on the sidewalk.  I never did see her walking through any open fields.

Further up the aisle were Fred and Ethel.  They were both well advanced in years, but quite peppy and adventurous.  Ethel never talked much or even acknowledged me, but was a constant source of conversation as we tried to figure out whether her jet-black hair was a wig.  It turned out that it was, although I’m not going to tell how we found that out.

Fred found me to be far more interesting than the scenery.  Almost any time I looked his direction, he was looking at me.  This didn’t bother me, actually.  I was often observing him.  He was a very cute old man and a smile was permanently etched on his face.  Every day, he looked ready to wade into the river for some fly-fishing, with his khaki fisherman’s vest and Gilligan hat.  I tried to ask him once if he wanted to fish, but he thought I was asking if he liked sushi or something.

Finally, there was Angry Asian Guy.  We didn’t interact much, except for the times when he’d throw a disapproving look in my direction.  I wasn’t quite sure what I had done to upset him.  It could have been for being the only white guy on the tour, or maybe he wasn’t getting enough dietary fiber, but I can’t really speculate.

There was one time that AAG did talk to me.  I had a camera sling bag with a small collapsible tripod lashed to the side.  It wasn’t very bulky or cumbersome, but I did have to be careful when moving through the aisle.  On the second day, as I entered the bus he loudly said “Be careful, your weapon!” as I passed.  I hadn’t come even close to hitting him with it, but my fleshly side thought about being less careful in the future.

There were others on the bus, but they took more minor roles in the events of the week.