Tuesday, December 30, 2008
One such Sunday I decided to take some pictures of my journey with my camera phone. Below are some of the images and evidence that beauty can be found in the dark bleak times of winter.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
On one hand, it looks to me like you are throwing taxpayer money away at three companies that are bound to go under sooner rather than later, due to poor business practices, the current market conditions, the credit crunch, and the fact that their industry landscape has dramatically changed due to Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen's market share - or I should say, market dominance. What usually happens when another competitor puts a superior product on the market and utilizes savvier business practices when it comes to suppliers, laborers, and health insurance? Well, in a free market economy, the competition either rises to the occasion and develops a better product OR they collapse and go under.
On the other hand, one study roughly estimates that 3 million workers are directly or indirectly tied to the Detroit auto industry. That is a lot of people. A lot of people who could possibly lose their jobs if some cash isn't driven into the industry (no pun intended).
It's a difficult conundrum. For a good balanced view of the problem, click on the article link below. I believe that the article author does a good job of balancing both the pros and cons of the problem and clearly demonstrates that there is no easy answer to this very real problem.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I have a recommendation from my best friend Rebekah to read The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but she did forewarn me that it is a pretty dark, depressing book. Not sure if I should try that right before the holidays, but really, when is there ever a good time to read a depressing book? So it is Number 1 on my list to consider.
I have a book by Thomas Friedman, the noted NY Times columnist, about living green and why it is essential. I read the article that he wrote that was the precursor to this book and it really inspired me as to why the Green Revolution is the next thing that we as a generation should pursue. I enjoy reading articles written by him, but he is not a quick and easy read. Reading his stuff takes time and thought and I go into my college-reading mode, taking my time to digest, analyze, and think about what is being said along the way. I also have the book The World is Flat by him that I have not read yet, but again, it will take time to digest it.
Then there is the book, The Shack that my roommate is reading right now. I have seen some of the message boards about it on RansomedHeart.net and it seems like a good book, and an easy book to get through. I think that is just the way though that most fiction is for me - easy to get through. And especially if there is a good story to go along with it, I fly - I cannot put the book down until I finish reading the last page.
I could come up with an entire list of stuff that I want to read - in fact, if you scroll down the side of this blog, you can see one of my widgets from GoodReads, and see what books I have on my "To Get To" list. Or you can check out my Visual Bookshelf posted on Facebook for pretty much the same list, but with a couple different books listed.
Do you have any recommendations? Read anything brilliant lately? Something so good that you just could not put it down? Please let me know!
Friday, November 7, 2008
And even if you aren't in the market, just take a look at these pictures - they really are truly stunning in my opinion :).
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
1 - I was right on the economy. Fact is, being in the housing industry puts you on the forefront of what is actually happening in the American economy, and I could have told you back in August of 2006 that we were headed for troubled times. But the idiots in Washington put their heads in the sand and refused to say that the economy was in trouble - on the other hand, there was no other way for them to play it. It was a Catch 22 - if the government acknowledged that something was wrong in the economy, things would have collapsed a lot sooner than they did. It's all about politics and spin and if the spin is negative, the markets will come crashing down.
2 - I was right on the Democrats winning the White House. I must admit, I don't like it - I don't like having a Democrat in the White House. But McCain ran one of the poorest campaigns I have ever seen - what happened to him? I know he has the experience and the record and there is not a person who has served his country more faithfully than he has, but he became muzzled and the experienced statesman that he is never publicly showed itself. I also accurately called that he would have a chance if he picked Sarah Palin as his VP - she had a shining moment at her GOP convention speech, but was then quickly derailed by the media, late-night comedians, and herself. And I don't think he would have had a better shot if he had picked someone else as his Vice Presidential running mate. The public bought into Barack's message a long time ago and the Republican party shot itself in the foot with all of the corruption scandals and mishandling of the power they had. I think it is absolutely wonderful how many people turned out to vote in this election - that is amazing and incredible and right - too many men and women have sacrificed their lives to give us that right, and to not vote is to do them a dishonor and disrespect our own freedom and rights. BUT, I am just wondering how many people are going to be severely disappointed when all the changes promised don't happen. The Democrats will become drunk with their power, just like the Republicans did, and Washington will remain the way it has always been. THAT is politics and THAT is the reality of the political system that we live in. "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely".
3 - I happened to be totally right about the Giants winning the Super Bowl - which was a fluke guess, but still the correct one! Yay for the downfall of the Patriots :).
4 - I was correct about Into the Wild not winning the Best Picture, but I still maintain that it should have.
5 - I was also correct about the bright color trend continuing.
6 - I also correctly predicted that the writers strike would last into the Spring 2008 TV season, though thankfully it did end in time for new episodes of Lost to be aired - thank the Good Lord above!
7 - I am right about the troops not being pulled out of Iraq until at least 2010. Though Obama has promised a total immediate withdrawal, the reality of the situation will not allow this to be feasible until at least 2 years into his presidency.
8- Though, this prediction came just a week ago, I did correctly predict that gas prices would fall to $1.99 on the eve of the election (Karen G can back me up on this one!), and, guess what! They did! Anyone who tells me that the oil companies do not fix their prices and do not control the politics in Washington (dad) needs to then explain to me the coincidence of the dramatic drop in gas prices during the election. I mean seriously - $1.99 gas - when was the last time that we saw $1.99 gas!? 2005? I don't care that the "market" has all of the sudden seen such a dramatic slip in demand. You tell me that the market has seen a slip in demand when prices are back to $4 next summer. I don't see a slip in demand - there is still plenty of traffic on 66 and 495 and even around the little town of Warrenton - more traffic in fact! Maybe the bubble of Northern Virginia keeps me from seeing the decline in demand, but I just don't see it. No, the conspiracy theorist in me says that the politics of oil run SO much deeper than any of us really know, and that there is more going on behind the scene. And in fact, if the gas prices were to accurately reflect the price of oil on the market, I believe that the prices should be even lower than they are.
9 - I correctly predicted that I would be moving this year! I am really excited about this - I have been keeping it kind of under wraps, but I recently found out that I will be moving (still in Warrenton, back to where I originally started 2 years ago), but I will be living on my own, which will be something completely new and exciting. I have never lived completely on my own and I'm excited/nervous to see what this new arrangement has in store for me.
And finally, number 10 - I correctly predicted that our new business venture, Signature WoodCrafters would be successful. Being involved with this start-up has been one of the hardest things I have ever worked on. Every day is a battle for survival, which is capitalism at its core. I have always tried to work hard and do my best at whatever I'm given to do, but until the work itself is a day to day struggle for survival, I have found out that I didn't know what it truly meant to work hard. It is not easy and is a battle day in and day out. Though we will probably only break even this year with this venture, that is still a victory, because I don't know many start-ups that have turned a profit in their first year, considering the massive advertising costs needed to get your name into the market. BUT, as hard as it has been, I don't know if I would trade this year for anything else. It has been exciting, taxing, draining, thrilling, hard, and totally worth being involved in. It has helped saved the rest of my coworkers' jobs, has given our company a new source of revenue, and taught me a ton - I really couldn't ask for more. I am really lucky to have the opportunities that I have at my company.
So, I ask for all of my legions of readers (all 2 of you :)) to forgive me for applauding myself and bragging about making some correct predictions about this year. And the fact that I hedged all of my bets by originally predicting that none of my predictions would come true, should negate everything that I have congratulated myself on :). And I will return back to my humble self and say with all sincere humility that it is just luck that I gave an accurate read on this stuff. To truly test my clairvoyance, I will have to accurately predict social, political, and international trends for at least two years in a row. And then if that happens, I will proudly take on Professor Larry Sabato's recently relinquished mantle of the "most accurate political prognosticator" :).
Friday, October 31, 2008
I found it so ironic that the officiating during the World Series was about on par with the officiating that I see day in and day out for two months during the summer - absolutely terrible. We expect perfection from umpires, who are only human in the end, and hate it when they blow calls. There is no other game that has such subjective officiating, especially in terms of calling strikes or balls, and that in and of itself makes the game that much more dramatic. The strike zones of the officials in Philadelphia were ridiculous - the Rays' pitchers totally were hosed by the calls that the umpires made and that wasn't cool. It should have been a much tighter series than it was, but all being said, with the exception of the blowout of Game 4, each game was only decided by one or two runs - which speaks to the level of quality baseball being played by both teams.
I wish the Rays had found a way, but that Cole Hamels was lights out. And I love it when I see a well-pitched game. I wish Cole Hamels had pitched a complete game in the Series, much like Josh Beckett did when he was on the Marlins against the Yankees five years ago (seriously - five years - ugh, I'm so old).
It does make me sad that baseball is over - though it truly was over for me at the beginning of August. The end of baseball is always the harbinger of my Seasonal Affectiveness Disorder kicking in for the cold months, dark nights, and limited light of the day. At least spring training is not too far away. :)
Thursday, October 23, 2008
*PS - this video should work - apologies for the last link - ABC must have taken the video off of YouTube...
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
To set this up properly, I must give a little background. Each art gallery (and there are a ton in Charleston!) had restaurants come and cater some hors d'everues and offer free libations (water and wine). You could consume as much or as little as you liked and view the different offerings of the artists in Charleston. I also think the hope on the artists' part is that you consume enough of the libations offered that while loosening up your tongue, it also has the same effect on your wallet. Some of the art galleries actually had the artists present so that you could speak to them about their work, which was very, very neat. Some of the pieces of art are more interesting than others, some more generic beach scenes. There were a few that I really responded to with their movement and colors. I kind of like to feel my art more than look at it, if that makes any sense. That is why I love modern art, like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. But none of the art that I saw in the first two galleries we visited even came close to that experience. But then we visited the third gallery.
Oh. My. Goodness.
First, as we start in to the gallery, walking up the stairs to it, the artist was there leading some people out and walked with us up to the gallery. Then as we get in to the gallery, it didn't take long to realize that it was actually the guy's apartment as well as his gallery. And then he started speaking. I have never felt so off balance my entire life. This guy was so passionate, so into his work, so into the creation process of his art work. He apparently has taken 4 years of his life to decode the four elementals to invent a new creation process with oils and acrylics that he can manipulate to his will and make them into whatever he desires. I am still trying to quite figure out what that means, but it was pretty intense from his description. And the art is absolutely beautiful - I am in love with it. He said that you wouldn't find anything else like it in Charleston, and he was right - I did not see anything that remotely resembled his work in any of the other galleries. But he spoke so fast, so passionately, and fired questions at all three of us without pause, that my brain felt like it was always three steps behind whatever he was saying. He called my feet "paws" while remarking on my chipped purple toe nail polish. He talked about balance and elements and movement and "pop" and my head was spinning and it was Africa hot in his apartment and I was so confused and then we were saying our goodbyes, got his card, and walked out into the relatively cool Charleston air. If you think of every stereotype there is for an artist this guy fit it, but he was so amazing.
He may be my soulmate, but like the 150% percent soulmate of the artistic, creative part of my soul. I don't think he would do anything for the part of my soul that loves sports and baseball (the best game in the world Josh Hayden). But it was a crazy experience and I loved/was confused by every minute of it. I don't know his name - the name on his card is Iamikan, but I just can't believe that that is his real name. But whoever he is, he made quite an impression, I am in love with his hella-expensive art, and I hope that I get to talk to him again some day.
Speaking of the sports part of my soul, the current LCS playoff series just confirms that there really is not a more exciting or dramatic game than a well-played baseball game. You just can't beat it. I am firmly on the Rays bandwagon and hope they beat the flippin' tar out of the cursed and hated Red Sox. Go Rays!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
Are you wondering why we have to spend $700 billion dollars of tax money to bail out private companies and save the entire global economy? Read THIS ARTICLE, from the New York Times written all the way back in 1999. Kind of a self-fulfilling prophesy, looking back, isn't it? And just think - the more agencies and private companies that the government involves itself in, the more times this exact same scenario will be played out...
Friday, September 19, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I wish I knew - but the problem of a free market economy and capitalism is that these downward spirals happen and sometimes take a while to get out of. This is not the Great Depression - we don't have breadlines for the majority of the nation yet.
This article is one of the best that I have read while trying to sift through the various news media outlets to find out the truth about what is going on. It details why we are in the mess that we are in, and why this is not going to be over anytime soon unfortunately. And also why no politician is going to be able to fix this problem, despite their promises of "regulation" (because Sarbanes-Oxley works soooo well...riiightt). No, unfortunately, the way that this problem is going to be fixed is banks need to start giving out loans again (but only to those who are fiscally responsible - ie, buy and pay what they truly can afford!), commodity prices and inflation need to go down, the dollar needs to strengthen, and the drop in pricing for houses needs to bottom out.
And while we are blaming the housing industry/market, let's also throw some of that blame onto Alan Greenspan during his reign at the Fed that allowed these interest rates to increase inflation above the average American's wage, and make borrowing money (ie, "credit") easier than it should have been for that American. So those people buying the McMansions (that are now foreclosing in droves), 4 luxury cars, and sending their kids to private school were overextending themselves after all, and now can't pay their bills and thus are sending Wall Street into turmoil, because they can't pay back the amount of debt they owe and have to foreclose and the banks have to write down that debt. Coupled with the fact that someone decided it would be great to make some money off of the amount of debt that someone else owes, we find ourselves in a "credit crisis". Yeah, that was a brilliant idea - make money off of negative money - that'll work! Because eventually that money will be paid off right, and since it is accumulating interest, that lump sum will be worth even more? Turns out nope - they actually couldn't pay back the loan, because they never had the money in the first place - and YET someone approved them for a loan. And then it gets all technical with the types of loans given out - adjustable interest percentage rates mortgages or interest only loans, where none of the principal was being paid down, and the loan money kept going up and up - and Wall Street placed bets on that, never foreseeing that the assets that people were banking on (their homes) were NEVER WORTH THAT MUCH!
Now that the housing bubble has burst and continues to plunge, and continues to be exasperated by Wall Street's lack of foresight, we the consumer will continue to suffer, because the commodities that we need to go down (energy, inflation, agriculture) continue to the do the opposite - they go up, weakening our dollar and deflate the purchasing power of the average American because companies have to raise their prices in order to account for the cost of commodities going up.
It is making me nervous that the government continues to bail out these companies on Wall Street (at least some of my money is being used to save some people's jobs and livelihoods though), because the government has moved into uncharted waters in terms of involvement on Wall Street. I am not a fan of "big" government, but in this era of socialist democracy, I guess there is not a way to avoid it. But when I hear stories of how two government workers had to be hired in order to do another government worker's job because she was such a mess and yet was never fired - it brings a sick feeling to my stomach (and that is a true story).
And while people continue to buy IPods, Blackberries, and Rock Band 2, you can't say that we have reached Great Depression levels - sure, we are in a recession, but while people continue to buy "stuff" that is, in the end, non-essential to their existence, there is still some faith to be had in our economy. And there doesn't seem to be a shortage of work (just go to Monster.com, or careerbuilder.com) just yet, so again, there are reasons to remain confident and not hide in the bunker yet - or stuff all your cash under your mattress.
Friday, September 12, 2008
So in between the stories that people are fascinated with like Hurricane Ike, the VMAs, Obama, and Sarah Palin, I really hope and wish that this situation would be treated more seriously and with more tact in the diplomatic realm than it currently is being treated with. Russia is not to be taken lightly!
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
First, to provide some background, I have been doing a lot of reading this year on the nature of spiritual discipline and what it means to walk with God. John Ortberg's book, The Life You've Always Wanted:Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People and Love Beyond Reason, John Eldredge's book that I just finished, Walking With God, are three books that I deliberately delved into because this is a topic that I have been trying to understand throughout the year. I enjoy Ortberg and Eldredge and I think that they both have great things to say, and it was actually through one of Ortberg's books that I came across Dallas Willard's, as Ortberg references it as the source of inspiration for his The Life You've Always Wanted. I, being a history student at heart, decided to go straight to the primary source and read this book (primary sources being the hallmark of research for history majors :)).
Also, I usually try to read with a critical view, questioning what the author is saying. But sometimes, I cannot help but agree with everything that an author is saying and this book is one of those. I have been consistently blown away, not only by the content of what is being said, but also how it is being said. Willard is a beautiful writer on top of a being a brilliant thinker. I am only about 30 pages into the book as I have to slow myself down to really read and digest what he is saying - he is one of "those" kind of authors, much like C.S. Lewis. If I was underlining this book, it would probably be one of my books that had about every line underlined.
I want to share one of the passages that I read today because of how it struck me. I think there is truth in this, because I see it in my own life - otherwise, I wouldn't be reading about spiritual disciplines!
...But we seem hard put to understand that what is true of the foundations is no less true of the superstructure. The surrender of myself to Him is inseparable from the giving up of my body to Him in such a way that it can serve both Him and me as a common abode, as John 14:23, 1 Corinthians 6:15-20, and Ephesians 2:22 testify. The vitality and power of Christianity is lost when we fail to integrate our bodies into its practice by intelligent, conscious choice and steadfasat intent. It is with our bodies we receive the new life that comes as we enter His Kingdom.
It can't be any other way. If salvation is to affect our lives, it can do so only by affecting our bodies. If we are to participate in the reign of God, it can only be by our actions. And our actions are physical - we live only in the processes of our bodies. To withhold our bodies from religion is to exclude religion from our lives. Our life is a bodily life, even though that life is one that can be fulfilled solely in union with God.
Spirituality in human beings is not an extra or "superior" mode of existence. It's not a hidden stream of separate reality, a separate life running parallel to our bodily existence. It does not consist of special "inward" acts even though it has an inner aspect. It is, rather, a relationship of our embodied selves to God that has the natural and irrepressable effect of making us alive to the Kingdom of God - here and now in the material world.
When our presentation of the gospel fails to do justice to this basic truth about the nature of human personality, Christianity inevitably becomes alienated from our actual everyday existence. All that remains for it are a few "special" acts to be engaged in on rare occassions. The church then is forced to occupy itself only with these special acts and occassions. Through what is in reality an astonishing lack of faith, the church removes itself from the substance of life. Powerless over life, then, it stands to one side, and God is left without a dwelling place through which He could effectively occupy the world in the manner He intends.
...This failure has nothing to do with the usual divisions between Christians, such as that between Protestant and Catholic or between liberal and conservative or between charismatic and non-charismatic, for the failure is shared on all sides. It stems from something the various parties must have in common. They all fail to foster those bodily behaviors of faith that would make concrete human existence vitally complete - taking them as a part of the total life in the Kingdom of God. Just as we mentioned in the opening of this chapter, we've somehow encouraged a separation of our faith from everyday life. We've relegated God's life in us to special times and places and states of mind. And we've become so used to this style of life, that we are hardly aware of it. When we think of "taking Christ into the workplace" or "keeping Christ in the home," we are making our faith into a set of special acts. The "specialness" of such acts just underscores the point - that being a Christian, being Christ's, isn't thought of as a normal part of life.
~ Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines, pgs. 30-32
I don't think I have ever really thought of the body as taking part in my
salvation. I have heard the Great Commandment, "Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, your mind, your body, and your soul", but I don't think I have really understood, or even given much thought to, how to love God with my body. How do you really worship the Lord with your body? So, in reading this, something clicked deep inside of me - light bulbs went off - and I am beginning to get it. I am very interested to discover what other hard truths lie ahead - but I believe that it will be worth it.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
"Something I read years ago by C.S. Lewis in the The Weight of Glory has proven helpful to me time and time again, and may rescue us in the very moment of awakened desire I am describing. Lewis is trying to show us that what God uses to awaken desire is not necessarily what we long for. The things 'in which we we though the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things...are good images of what we desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself, they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself.' They are not what we are longing for."
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the Hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance; perservance, character; and character, hope. And HOPE DOES NOT DISAPPOINT US, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us."
Friday, August 29, 2008
First to add a caveat and be honest, I hate politics and am very disillusioned by it (thanks to my stellar UVA education). Whether it is broken, needs fixed, etc, etc, doesn't really matter, because in the end the people in power are going to do what they want to do and the little person doesn't really have much say, and that won't change ("Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely").
That being said, I also dislike both candidates for this election. I don't care for either of them and wasn't excited by either candidate. Obama is interesting in the fact that it is historic to have an African-American man run for president (thank you David Palmer). But his message of "change" is just empty to me because I don't really like the kind of change he is proposing AND it's not like he will get half of the things "changed" that he wants to. Universal health care does sound great (with many pitfalls here and there), but I will be shocked if this country ever gets to that point, because of the kind of economic system that we run and exist in (plus, do we really want our government running the health care system?). A complete reduction of American forces in Iraq would be a huge mistake, in my opinion, and further destabilize a region known for its instability. And I don't really think he would help the economy.
I don't know what McCain plans to do either - I didn't want him to be the Republican nominee (I am a Mike Huckabee fan). Plus I didn't think he stood a chance to win when he won the nomination in April, unless he picked the Alaska governor for his VP, this lady who was making waves out there - only then did I think that maybe he would have a chance.
And he flippin' did. Seriously??
That is guts. To pick a pretty unknown candidate who has one of the most dramatic politcal stories in recent history takes guts. She is totally unknown to Washington and the national scene. The media is of course scrambling and looking for every little thing they can find about Palin and her family and stories are popping up every hour, but I don't care. McCain picking Palin as his VP made me interested again in this election and I might actually watch her speech tonight on network TV, something I have not done this entire election. And the fact that people are saying she doesn't have enough experience to be a VP, I find hilarious, since Obama has, until this pick, been touting the fact that he hasn't been taken by Washington because of his "newcomer" status. (And don't people find it funny that now both camps have basically switched attacks, with the Democrats now crying that Palin doesn't have enough experience, while the Republicans say that she does, when just a week before it was the opposite with Republicans saying that Obama doesn't have enough experience and the Democrats saying that he does?)
Anyway, I give McCain credit for a brilliant pick and for making me excited about this election. I am mightily impressed, which is very hard for politicians to do for me these days.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
"History is a vast early warning system" ~ Norman Cousins
This is one of my favorite quotes because of the truth that it belies. History is a vast early warning system and it would ease my worries and fears if I truly believed that the people who were in power understood this concept. But the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia this month, coupled with the signing of a missile defense treaty by Poland and the United States yesterday, has me questioning if we are going to see the eruption of another European war, if not another World War.
Why would I think that the conflict between Georgia and Russia could erupt into something broader and more deadly, especially with a ceasefire in place that is supposed to go into effect tomorrow? Because of a little book I read ages ago called The Guns of August by Barbra Tuchman, which is about the start of the First World War. This book succintly relates the story of how escalating tensions, state and ethnic nationalistic pride, and state alliances, all combined to begin "The Great War", who's affect we still see in events today. The stubborn attitudes of the leaders in power resulted in one of the most horrifying events in history and wiped out a generation of people - all because of...what? Was it for freedom? Was it to spread "democracy"? It was for territorial gains, for world supremacy, for dominion of one state over another, or the survival of a state against the forces of other states.
This very thing is what I see in this conflict between Georgia and Russia - and Georgia's ties to the West are a problem. Georgia's invasion of South Ossetia is so eerily similar to Austria's invasion of Serbia after the assassination of Archduke Franz Fernindand, and Russia's response is practically the same - they went to the aid of Serb, just as they went to "aid" the South Ossetians. However, in this, I fear the South Ossetians and the other separtist region, Abkhazia, will be getting more than they bargained for. For there is also the history of the Cold War to contend with and Russia's history of invading and staying in territories - Chechnya, anyone? And Russia's response to these conflicts are brutal and without mercy.
Our eyes have long been focused on Iraq and most have forgotten about Afghanistan, though we still have troops there and the conflict in that region continues to escalate. We have been consumed, since the fall of the USSR, with the MidEast and the conflicts there, turning our eyes away from Russia and letting it basically consume itself with corruption and power. Sure there have been news reports here and there, but I believe the recent events in Eastern Europe are a genuine cause for concern and need to be dealt with seriously. And that also scares me - the almost flippant attitude that the West, and particularly, the United States, has toward this. There is a lot at stake - Russian-Chinese ties are pretty strong and yet China has embraced free market capitalism with a vengenance, tying it extremely close to the United States - a lot of tension could be caused. Russia's willingness to place weapons into the hands of states and organizations who really shouldn't have them is also a concern. There are many more factors that give me cause for concern and they are all interwoven into a tangled web of economics and state politics.
Ultimately, I hope my concern is baseless and the conflict will go away and we all can resume our obsession with the next addition to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt's multicultural family. But till then, I will be educating myself and watching this conflict with much interest - I can only hope our leaders will do the same.
Some links to other stories from different newsites:
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
Friday, August 1, 2008
Of late, one of these people has been a tiny baby who is fighting the hardest battle of her life. Little Olive Webster is such an inspiration to me, which is fitting since her parents are two of the most awesome people in this world that I know. But this little girl has gone through so many hard battles already and she does not give up. Each new challenge is met with the determination and stubbornness of a child, and she has conquered each new thing with such tenacity. I am excited to see this little girl grow up, because she is going to be one special person. She is so beautiful already and has inspired so many people with her strength - she is definitely one of my heroes these days.
A slightly different hero that I have this week, as of last night, is skateboarder Danny Way. This guy is unreal. To preface - I love the X Games. It is a competition in which people push themselves to insane limits and do the most amazing things - it is unbelievable what those guys can do. And one of my favorite events at the X Games is the Big Air competition in which these insane skateboarders stand on top of a 40ft drop, ride down the drop, make a huge leap from the drop into the ramp, drop in to the ramp, fly up to around 20ft off the ramp, do a trick, and then hopefully land it. It is ridiculous. You could not pay me a million dollars to even stand at the top of that drop-in. Last year, one of the guys, Jake Brown, had one of the "gnarliest" slams in the X Games history - he should have died. Instead, after lying still for like 15 minutes, he got up and walked away from it!
Well this year, Danny Way was the guy with the scariest fall. His fall was almost like Jake's, in that he fell as he was coming down from flying up 20ft off the ramp. He almost certainly broke his foot or ankle on the way down and probably broke some other part of his body. But the craziest thing is that after this wicked fall, not only does he get up and limp off the ramp, HE GOES BACK AND DOES IT AGAIN! AND HE LANDS IT!! I could not believe my eyes and I still cannot believe it today. He finished all of his runs and ended up coming in second in the competition (because his best friend and main competitor did an insane trick and landed it). How he finished the competition, I do not know. It was so unbelievable to watch this man push his body beyond limits that a body is not supposed to go past. His performance is a living testament to the strength of willpower.
There are many other people who throughout the week inspire and encourage me. I think that is one of the beautiful things about being in relationship with people - there are heroes and inspirations anywhere and everywhere you look and being able to recognize that is one of the greatest gifts that God has given me.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
I think about some of the people that I have encountered in my life that have a hard time being alone. From the guy who goes from relationship to relationship because he doesn't want to be lonely, to the girl who will put up with the guy who treats her horribly because she doesn't want to be lonely. I understand their battle, because I think one of the scariest things to experience is that time when you are home all by yourself, with nothing but an empty night staring ahead at you, until the hour comes when you should go to bed and all you have to look forward to is the repeat of the cycle again the next day. There is an emptiness there that reverberates in it's own silence. And even if you fill it with the noise of the television or music, the loneliness is still there, knocking on your heart.
Now, theoretically, community is supposed to alleviate this emptiness, this loneliness. And it does to a certain extent. The love and support of a real community surrounds people and provides them encouragement and support in times of pain and hardship.
And there is a lot of pain in this world and a lot of hardship. The book that I posted about previous to this posting, The Hot Zone, is chock full of stories of hardships that people have experienced that I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes. I cannot imagine being an Afghani child-bride beaten close to death, or a Palestinian girl blinded by a tear-gas container shot by Israeli soldiers, or the Israeli coffee shop worker who's body was burned by a suicide bomber, or what it is like to have my limbs torn apart from my body by land-mines placed near my home by militant groups in Colombia. But the thing that connects all these people is that in spite of the horrendous things that they have endured in their life, they are supported by their communities in a real way. There are people that live and walk with these people through this pain. But.
But, I still know that in spite of the communities that surround them, I am certain these people still experience a level of loneliness that connects them to me. Our basic humanity connects us and helps me to understand at a very small level what that pain must feel like.
I also think that one of the lessons that has been hard for me to learn lately is that though I love God and I know that He loves me and He blesses me with His unfailing and enduring love, loneliness still remains. And while I wonder if it will ever truly go away, I don't think that it will. We can surround ourselves with things, people, get married, have families, have friends, live in community, go to church, have our quiet times, and in the midst of all that, loneliness can still rear up it's head. I can run and keep myself incredibly busy and stressed out with life and work and friends, but I think it is all an effort to hide from loneliness. Because when I have a weekend to myself, like this past weekend, I find myself going crazy and slipping into despair.
And maybe that is where God wants me to go. Maybe He wants me to experience despair and loneliness so that He can dispel the falsehoods that surround it and remind me of the Truth of who He is. Perhaps the reason that loneliness never goes away is because I need it to remind me of where I should be looking and where I should be bringing my pain.
I don't want the people who read this to pity me or feel bad that I feel lonely, because that is not the point. The point is to recognize the pain of loneliness that lives in every person's heart is one of the things that helps make us all human and allows us to identify with any person that we meet - be it that donor in the front of the church, to the homeless person on the street who stands in the back, to the friend dealing with an unimaginable life situation, to the people half a world away experiencing a life and hardships so different from anything that we can even imagine.
May God give me the grace and self-confidence to continue to live in my loneliness and embrace it, instead of denying and masking it, so that it allows me to minister to every person that I meet. Because in the end, I know that the depth of what I feel lies also in their heart.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I cannot wait to read this book. This book is the result of Kevin Sites' journey over the course of a year to 20 different "Hot Zones" - areas in the world that are torn apart by conflict. I followed Sites and all of his stories on Yahoo and the stories that he brought to the world are so amazing. I love him, his writing, and the way he reminds us that the stories we read in the newspapers about "ethnic conflicts", or "Palestinian rebels", etc, etc, have real human faces and lives behind them.
*Update* I just started reading this book tonight and am already flying through it. This is a must read for anyone who cares about goes on in the world outside of the United States.
View all my reviews.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
I did just return from a mini-vacation from Orange Beach, AL, which was absolutely wonderful and divine, in more ways than one. It wasn't the trip I was expecting, but it is turning out, as I further reflect and digest it, to have been exactly what I needed. And I thank God for that. He truly is watching out for me, with a love beyond reason. I look forward to getting the time to share my reflections - hopefully soon!
In the meantime, if you scroll down my blog list, you'll find some of my friends and people that I think are neat have updated their sites - check them out, because they are all way cool.
Till the next posting - peace!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
You can see my initial thoughts about this travesty here, on a previous post that I wrote.
(click on the title of this posting for the article)
Monday, June 23, 2008
And maybe proves the theory that Oprah is the Anti-Christ?
Or at the least shows how Christianity, in the eyes of history and the world, has evolved from a religion that focused on others to one that now focuses on the self, with no absolutes.
Am I being too dramatic? Should I be sad? What do you think?
Thursday, June 19, 2008
You have no idea how fun this is for me - just discovered this website and its fun widget tool. This is something that I would probably wear to work - what do you think?
I would wear this during the weekend....
This is a fun, casual "going-out" look...
And I just like this look as a general summer outfit...
Post your thoughts on my style choices! :)
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
You'll see a new page element on my sidebar called a "Blog List". Turns out that Blogger was having the same thoughts as I was about broadcasting to the world some different blogs to hang out at. I like going to all the blogs listed from time to time to see what's new with both my friends and strangers, because some are inspirational, some are challenging, and they all remind me that we are each a unique individual with our own individual thoughts trying to scrape our way through our own individual lives.
I'm going to keep trying out some new things here - experimenting with videos and slideshows courtesy of Picasa and other cool techy, html-y things that I can experiment with. I don't claim to be an expert at any of this - I just love exploring all the cool, fun possibilities of Web 2.0! Also, any recommendations that anyone has for my blog, please, send them on!!
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
But for some reason, in the midst of my laughter, I had the realization of just how many reality dating shows I have partaken in - The Bachelor (many seasons), The Bachelorette, Joe Millionaire, Average Joe. And I do have to admit that from time to time I will also willingly subject myself to an episode of the complete trash realm of reality dating shows - Elimidate, Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, MTV's Next. Then there are the random ones that I sometimes catch an episode or two of - Farmer Wants a Wife, Outback Jack.
Monday, June 2, 2008
The season finale of Lost was one for the ages. I can't stop thinking about it. When I get ready in the morning, I'm thinking about the finale. When I'm driving in to work, I'm thinking about Lost. When I'm at work, I'm thinking about Lost. When I'm driving on work errands, I'm thinking about the finale. I can't stop thinking about it!!
There was so much that happened that it has taken me days to process through it all and I still don't really have a clue as to what is going on. But, since this is my blog, I'm going to go ahead and throw some things out there.
John Locke being revealed as Jeremy Bentham lying in a coffin at the end of the finale, THE coffin that plagued us with questions from last year's season finale. I totally didn't see that coming. I thought that maybe it would be Ben in the coffin, but honestly I really didn't have a good guess - but I NEVER thought it would be Locke. And NOW, I'm wondering, is Locke really truly dead or is he playing some kind of Juliet (as in Romeo and Juliet) and will wake up once he gets back on the Island? Why did the Island "let" Locke die, because remember Tom said that the Island controls when you die?? Locke has a history of defying death (his premature birth, the kidney surgery, the fall from eight stories that paralyzed him, the plane crash, Ben shooting him point blank!) and so I think Locke is going to end up alive by the end of the series finale.
I also think that Locke was never supposed to the leader of the Others. I think Jacob wanted Locke to move the Island, not Ben, but Ben is so overcome with grief about the death of his daughter that he wants to do anything to get off the island, and away from his responsibilities of leading the Others. He is so hurt by what the Island has taken from him that he takes Locke's destiny from him. And I also think that Locke has been denying who he was always supposed to be - a man of science. But Locke has always wanted to be the hero, not the scientist. And I think he is so scared of being who he was meant to be, that he has always fought against it. I actually think that Jack is supposed to be the leader, if anyone is supposed to be a leader other than Ben, but Jack doesn't want to believe it and is so single-mindedly focused on getting off the island that he doesn't allow for anything else to resonate. But Jack's line of thought has mile-wide cracks running through it and we have seen how those cracks have torn him apart.
There is also the fact John Locke has changed his name to Jeremy Bentham. From one political theorist to another - one who advocates man's right to be an individual and own property(natural rights) to one who advocates utilitarianism (the greatest good for the greatest number, with the ends justifying the means). I always knew that all my education at UVA would serve me one day!
Better not be dead. That's all I have to say. And Sun's cries of desperation still haunt me. She deserves an Emmy for that performance.
I think he is dead based on other people's recaps and reports of Harold Perrineau's other projects. Which makes me sad. I feel like we got shafted by the non-resolution of Michael and Walt's characters, which were SO alleledgely important in Seasons 1 and 2. And to have at least Michael's part end the way it has, makes me feel so unsatisfied. "You can go now" - and I have a feeling that Michael didn't want to go at that point.
Miles, Charlotte, Faraday, Lapidus:
So, Faraday?? Where art thou? Did he survive the island moving? Was he in the vicinity enough to be sucked into the moving of the island?
Charlotte, so you HAVE been to the island before. How? Were you born here? Some people are throwing out the theory that you are Ben's girl friend from his Dharma days. I don't think that is right, but I might be wrong. But I just don't think she is his childhood friend. And I know there is a connection with CS Lewis, but I'm not getting it yet. I don't even really like your character yet.
Miles - you are weird, snotty, and I can't figure out what your deal is, but I think I like you.
Lapidus - love you, but I wonder what is going to happen to your character now. Should be interesting.
Desmond and Penny:
Desmond and Penny, thank you for that kiss. It was the perfect romantic kiss of long lost loves.
Sawyer and the rest of the people on the Island:
I wonder what is going to happen to you all. I have no real theories, but should be interesting to check in with our old friends, Rose, Bernard, Juliet, and Sawyer next season. I wonder if they somehow will join up with the Others.
The Oceanic Six:
Hurley talking to Mr. Ecko!!!!!!!! (One of my fav moments of the night, though I wish we had actually seen him :)). Walt returning to talk with Hurley. Claire's ghost (?) telling Kate to NOT take Aaron back to the Island. Kate slapping Jack and yelling at him. Sayid taking out a guy staking out Hurley. Sun confronting Widmore. The reveal that Sun blames Jack for Jin's "death". And then the final scene with Ben, Jack, and Jeremy Bentham/John Locke.
These are the thoughts that are running continuously on loop in my brain. Please, post any thoughts and theories in the comments section!!
(I hope you liked this Leah!)