Saturday, December 30, 2006

David Byrne's Journal

Sometimes I just do a google search on any old thing and see what happens. Tonight I did a search on 'David Byrne' and lo and behold, found out he has is own web site: He also has a blog: David Byrne Journal

Who is David Byrne and why should you care? He was the genius behind the 1980's mega band The Talking Heads.

More so than any other 80's pop band, the Talking Heads were truly avant garde, which is what you should expect from a band made up of art students. To this very day I've never encountered a band so unique and so creative.

<>< TM

Saddam Hussein R.I.P.

Well, they won't have Saddam Hussein to kick around anymore. The former leader of Iraq was executed this morning by hanging. Here's an article about an eye witness to the execution: Exclusive: Videographer of Saddam Execution.

I actually feeling sorry for the old dude. I doubt he will rest in peace however, as he certainly seemed quite defiant to the end, no sign of repentance. At least he went out with his boots on.

Had Saddam kept his focus on Iran, instead of messing around with Kuwait and Israel (and eventually the rest of the world), he still might be with us.

<>< TM

Friday, December 29, 2006

LibraryThing : catalog your books online

Oh no, another online service that looks like fun: LibraryThing. Just like the title states, it's a service that lets you catalog your book collection online.

I built my own database for this, but I can already see the advantages of putting my book collection online, and being able to access it anywhere I can get on the internet. Just might have to test this can list up to 200 books for free, or unlimited numbers of books for just $25 USD...lifetime fee...

I just hope there's a way I can catalog my CD's and DVD's as well...

hat tip: ochuk's blog

<>< TM

raise this up!

I would like to bring your attention to a new web site: Raise this Up! It is a news/article aggregate site where users get to post or link to articles that they think would benefit a wider audience. So instead of having to go to 5,000 different internet sites to find good articles, you can do all your research at Raise This Up!

As the site is only beginning, there is very little content, so I encourage you, humble reader of my blog, to go to the Raise This Up! website, logon as a new user, and start posting any and all articles of a Christian nature that you believe would be beneficial to a wider audience.

Already, I have found one of my articles posted: "Silence. Simplicity. Solitude." If you liked it, go vote on it!

I've already submitted a couple of articles I've found on other Christian blogs, and I will continue to do so.

<>< TM

Thursday, December 28, 2006

baptists go to midnight mass

A beautiful posting by internet monk Michael Spencer about his experience going (for the first time!) to a Catholic midnight mass...somewhere in Appalachia.

Click here to read and enjoy: The iMonks Go To Midnight Mass

<>< TM

the theodicy of the jews

"How can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter?"
-Woody Allen


It amazes me every time I hear it, so I just had to write about it. That which amazes me are those Jews who lost their faith in God because of the Holocaust during World War II.

At first, it seems reasonable: why believe in a god who won't protect you? What good is a god who allows millions of your race to be killed in a systematic fashion? Why believe in a god who won't stop your people from being killed?

These are questions of theodicy ( thee-ODD-i-see) -- justifying God's goodness in the face of evil.

To some Jews, God's lack of protection of his people during WW2 is proof that he doesn't really exist. Certainly no god would allow that to happen to his people, if he were really almighty, would he?

First let me state that I'm in full agreement with all those who find the Holocaust of World War II to be an act of despicable evil. However, there were a lot of things done to a lot of people during World War II that was despicably evil. Just read a little about what the Japanese did to the Chinese (amongst others) during that same war, or what the Russians did to the Germans, or even what the Russians did to other countries. There's plenty of evil that went around to implicate just about everyone, even America and Britian to a small extent.

The reason I bring up the multitude of atrocities is to demonstrate that their was enough pain and suffering going on in Europe and Asia to make almost everyone lose faith in God; you didn't have to be Jewish to suffer at the hands of the Nazis. And yet there are many more who's faith was ultimately strengthened by the events of World War II, like the famous Dutch Holocaust survivor Corrie Ten Boom. The horrible evil of World War 2 was not sufficient to make atheists of everyone, even those who lived through it's horrors.


There are many underlying assumptions being made by those who choose disbelief which need to be clarified before we can proceed. Those who find fault with God for not preventing the Holocaust are making--consciously or unconsciously--one or more of the following assumptions:

1. God must protect his people, no matter what.

2. No Jews were spared from the pain and suffering of the Holocaust.

3. God must overrule the free will of men to choose evil actions.

4. God has never allowed the Jewish people to suffer such humiliations in the past.

5. Nothing good ever came out of the Holocaust that ultimately benefited the Jewish people.

6. The Jewish people did not deserve the persecution that they underwent.

7. The Nazis got away with their evil acts


Let's examine these assumption one by one:

1. God must protect his people no matter what.

You will not find a passage anywhere in the Bible where God gives unconditional protection to any group of people, not even the Jews. Rather, there are numerous conditions that God lays out that are necessary for him to grant you protection. (Read the five books of Moses and the prophets) And even so, that does not mean that you will be spared pain and suffering in this life. The book of Job is a prime example of this, as is the story of Joseph.

2. No Jews were spared from the pain and suffering of the Holocaust.

While millions of Jews were killed during the Holocaust, millions more were spared this evil, either because they lived in countries beyond the reach of the Nazis, or they were kept from the Nazis' persecution; often being rescued by Christians of various denominations.

3. God must over-rule the free will of men to choose evil actions.

The Hebrew scriptures clearly state than man has been given the freedom to choose good or evil, Ezekiel 33 states this clearly. God will not over-rule mens' actions, but He will at least be warn men of the consequences. If a person chooses evil, they will ultimately pay for their choice. However, God does not intervene to stop men in their initial pursuit of evil.

4. God has never allowed the Jewish people to suffer such humiliations in the past.

Because of their special relationship with God, the Jews have been under closer divine scrutiny than any other people. While God does not offer all Jews unconditional protection, he does what he can to help those who remain faithful to him despite heavy opposition and persecution. Sadly, these Jews deserving protection are often a minority of the total population. This point is well documented throughout Hebrew scriptures, and is obvious to anyone who studies the prophets and writings beyond the five books of Moses. (Yet the pattern is set even in the Torah...Noah and Lott for instance, and even the Hebrews themselves enslaved in Egypt.)

But because the covenant between God and Israel applies to all Jews who are circumcised, and not just to those who are faithful followers, the negative aspects of the covenant are in effect for those who choose not to follow the terms of the agreement. When this happens---and it's happened several times throughout Jewish history---God takes the offensive against the Jews, and has them suffer humiliating defeats against their enemies. Again, this is extremely well documented in the Hebrew scriptures, as well as secular historical texts. However, these defeats and humiliations are never allowed to go so far as to wipe all Jews off the planet.

5. Nothing good ever came out of the Holocaust that ultimately benefited the Jewish people.

It was a direct result of the Holocaust that the nation of Israel was established in 1947, by the vote of the UN. It is an event unprecedented in history: a nation coming back into existence that was wiped off the map back in the year 70 by the Roman army. While the British were none too helpful in the creation and administration of Israel, at least they made a provision for it's existence. Of course Israel has had it's issues with it's very intolerant neighbors ever since it's independence, at no time have they been able to overcome the Jewish nation, the most powerful country in the entire middle-east.

6. The Jewish people did not deserve the persecution that they underwent.

Well, this is one of those assumptions that cannot logically be made, since obviously someone, somewhere believe that is was deserved! Whether or not God himself felt it was deserved is beyond our knowledge, but given that we have a history of him taking full responsibility for the mass deaths of Jews (as well as other nations) throughout history, it would not be illogical to assume that he, in some cosmic way, can be held responsible for the Holocaust deaths. It is also logical to assume that he somehow discerned that they were, in fact, deserved. What crime or crimes the Jews committed, either individually or corporately that offended God I cannot say, but I do think that Jewish involvement in communism, both in it's creation and in it's spread, might have something to do with it, even though only a small number of Jews may have been directly involved. Certainly this was a very big part of Hitler's rationale in exterminating the Jews, as they were seen by him--and not inappropriately so--in being the instigators in the communist movement, both in Germany and in Russia. It should be remembered that Hitler hated communists even more than he hated the Jews. It is one of the strange paradoxes of history that the country where communism first took root, Russia, was just as anti-semitic, if not more so, than Germany.

And it is a cold fact of history that communism as a political movement has been the most evil force of the 20th century, greatly eclipsing the atrocities of the Nazis by a wide margin.

7. The Nazis got away with their evil acts.

Well, they didn't, not by a long shot. If we can logically and biblically "blame" God for the deaths of the Jews at the hands of the Nazi's, then we can also logically credit God for putting a stop to the Holocaust, and to the Nazis themselves. It is a fact of history that the Nazis obviously failed in their effort to exterminate the Jews, a failure so complete that the Jewish people gained far more from the Holocaust than they lost: they got their old country back. Would the Jews be better off if there were no Israel? There are a few Noam Chomsky type self-hating Jews out there who might want to try to make that argument, but it's obvious that a clear majority of Jews are very, very happy that there is, once again, a Jewish nation on the face of the earth...perhaps the greatest miracle of the 20th century, if not world history.

The connection of the Holocaust to the creation of Israel is a fact of history, a fact so irksome to modern day Jew-haters that they would prefer to deny the existence of the Holocaust in order to deny the right of the nation of Israel to exist.


There may be good reasons for giving up your faith in God, but through rational examination of the evidence, the historical fact of the Holocaust cannot be one of them. If anything, it may paradoxically serve as more evidence for the existence of a God who favors the Jews!

<>< TM

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

shut up and be a good american, please....

Alabama DJ Roy Wood Jr. pretends to be from the Social Security Administration in this call to a very unhappy woman who is about to find out that her Social Security benefit is about to be reduced to offset the costs of helping the hurricane Katrina victims.

Click "My Check" to play the call.

WARNING: Language not suitable for minors. (But definitely suitable for miners.)


<>< TM

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

silence. simplicity. solitude.

"We in the "developed" world seem to have many auditory strategies that insulate us from the presence of silence, simplicity, and solitude. When I return to Western culture after time in desert, mountain or forest, I discover how we have filled our world with a multiplicity of noises, a symphony of forgetfulness that keeps our won thoughts and realizations, feelings and intuitions out of audible range." --Joan Halifax: The Fruitful Darkness

"We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature--trees, flowers, grass--grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence...we need silence to be able to touch souls." --Mother Teresa

source: the Quote Lady

I find myself nodding in agreement with both these quotes, especially the first one. It is difficult to explain to those who haven't experienced it, but coming out of a time of intentional, wonderful silence back into the "real" world, is like going from the Garden of Eden to a scrap yard. We have grown so used to the noise all around us, when we intentionally step away from it all, and then step back into it, it's a wonder that we aren't all insane.

Come to think of it, I'm not so certain many of us truly are sane.

I do not make New Years resolutions, nor do I make resolutions of any kind, as I found that any sort of vow I make usually ends up in failure any way. Some of the wisest words ever spoken were when Jesus told his followers "Let your yes be "yes" and your no, no....anything beyond that is from the Devil." (Matthew 5:37) In other words, just do what you know you should, and stop doing that which is harmful, no need to get religious about it.

As strange as it seems, Jesus was probably the most irreligious person who ever lived, even more so than the Buddha or Socrates. It's absolutely stunning how we have turned his simple precepts into a circus of religious devotions. But then again, we human beings like that sort of thing, don't we? Buddha and Socrates faired no better.

While I'm not quite sure I would call them resolutions, I do plan to put into effect the three cardinal virtues of the spiritual life, effective immediately. Those three cardinal virtues being silence, simplicity, and everything.

SILENCE: This is more than just keeping my own mouth shut, but keeping other voices to a minimum as well, including those that come from radio and TV. I guess that's why I love reading and the Internet so much of that sort of activity can be done in silence (with the exception of YouTube and iTunes of course...) Most of the pain and suffering in my life has come--and does come--from people who can't shut up.

SOLITUDE: I absolutely LOVE solitude! Being alone is the most awesome spiritual experience available to man, as long as he can stand himself. If you can't stand yourself, then you are in desperate need of solitude. The thing we most fear is being alone with ourselves. Once that fear is overcome, we soon find, to our utter surprise and amazement, that being alone means never having to be alone, for it is when you are alone that you can most sense the presence of God. It is also in aloneness where you can most come to a self-understanding and even a self-appreciation that will not happen through any other means.

SIMPLICITY: Perhaps the most difficult of the three, especially in this modern world. I am fortunate to work with many senior citizens and retirees, and looking at the world through their eyes, I'm amazed at the magnitude of complexity our lives have taken on in the past thirty to forty years, mostly do to the information revolution, along with electronics. For all the good electronics have done, the world is a far, far, far more complex place than it ever has been, and it's not getting any better. Rather than simplify, with each advance in technology, the world becomes even more complex, in an exponential fashion. There's no going back, except via intention.

One bizarre thing I did this year--and this from a person who has been fascinated by computers and electronics for thirty years--I went back to keeping a hand-written balance of my checking account, rather than using Quicken or Microsoft Money. Why have I done such a old-fashioned thing? Because I'm really getting fed up with some of the aspects of the software industry, and their practices. I don't find keeping my accounts on computer to be very beneficial at all. If I need to, I can still access my balance and transactions via the internet, which is very useful.

I've also purchased a bunch of used 35mm camera equipment, and hope to use that more throughout the years, and leave my digital camera in the bag. I don't care if I do have to pay to develop the pictures, there is something about film and film cameras that charms me in a way digital cameras never can, and this from an early adapter of digital cameras.

Next to go: my debit card. Though debit cards have certainly made things very, very simple to a certain extent, I'm not sure it has made things better.

And that's the strange paradox about simplicity: sometimes the hard way is actually the simple way, and the simple way (i.e. "easy") is actually the hard way.

And so the mantra of "silence, simplicity and solitude" will be mine, not just throughout 2007, but most likely until the end of my days.

<>< TM

i hate the ipod


I have iTunes on my PC and laptop, because it was free software. I've downloaded a total of perhaps 50 songs from iTunes over the past two years, mainly because I did not want to buy an entire CD's to get one or two favorite songs. But I do not want an iPod, not now, probably not ever.

Why so negative towards the humble iPod? Simple: It's an over-priced peice of junk. And the iTunes are also, each and every song, overpriced pieces of junk. But let me tell you what I really think...

I set up an iPod for a relative, and was shocked to see that the two gigabyte model was really only a 1.7 gigabyte model. In other words, Apple rounds up when they advertise these things. What's a mere 0.3 gigabyes? Well, measured in songs, about 40 songs worth of space missing, or enough for a small video or movie clip.

For reasons of appearance, the iPod battery is built-in, unremovable. Batteries always go bad, always. Hence, when the battery does go bad on the iPod, it becomes a truly worthless piece of junk, especially since this will probably happen soon after your very short warrenty expires.

And let's talk accessories...the cheapest set of speakers I could find for the iPod, including a little docking port, was $70.00. I can get speakers of equal or better quality for my PC or laptop for a mere $20.00 to $25.00. What's the difference? My PC and laptop don't need a licensing agreement from Apple to have external speakers.

You can get a "universal dock" for your iPod, for just a mere $39 USD, that will allow your iPod to connect to any stereo that uses RCA jacks, or a TV that has an "S-video" input. But what do you get when you buy a "universal dock?" Basically a piece of plastic that acts like a stand for your iPod. If you actually want cables to connect your iPod dock to your TV, stereo, electrical supply or computer....that's all extra. And if you want a remote control for your iPod, that's extra too. By the time you get a "universal dock" a cable, and a remote control, you've spent an extra $100 just to listen to poor quality songs from your stereo system.

But worse than even the iPod are the iTunes. If there were any service that deserves the slogan "pay more and get less" it would be iTunes. Why do I say that? Because for $0.99 USD per song, you get a track that sounds like it's being played over AM radio. In other words, the audio quality sucks. The worst CD in my collection sounds better than the best iTune. I buy iTunes for convenience, not sound quality, and due to the poor sound quality I own no more than 50 songs from iTunes that I've purchased in the past two years. (In contrast to the hundreds of songs I've purchased during the same time through buying CD's and DVD's.) If the iTune price were more like $0.39 a song or less, I wouldn't complain....but paying more than CD prices for AM radio quality just doesn't cut it for me.

I have a decent size CD collection, and every CD I own can be played on every CD player made, with no restrictions. Shoot, I can even play them on PC's and DVD's players. But just try to play your little iTune in an MP3 player or software program that's not from Apple: it won't work. So I'm stuck playing my little iTunes on my PC, on my iTunes sofware, and that's it. There are some CD and DVD players out there that can play MP3's....but Apple's iTunes are not real MP3's....they are a propriatrary audio format only supported by Apple hardware and software. Hence, it's the most restrictive music format in existance, not that I would want to play iTunes on a hi-fi stereo anyway....ouch!

On a positive note, I do believe that the iPod's design and implementation to be one of the best ever in American industrial history. I also think iTunes is a fabulous way to conduct informal music research. But these good points do not outweigh the bad.

So from my point of view, the whole iPod thing is just another in a long line of consumer electronic fads, one that will get old just like the rest of them, unless they start slashing those iTune prices, and let gadgets other than those with the Apple name on them play that iTtune. (I'd also like to see an improvement in the sound quality, but that might be asking for too much.)

<>< TM

IE7 bad, firefox 2 good

  Posted by Picasa
Update to a better browser: Firefox 2.0

I've been using both Firefox and Microsoft's Internet Explorer 6 as web browsers. I like Firefox for it's functionality,speed and security, and I liked Explorer 6 for it's ability to correctly display all the web pages I go to, as well as being the only browser that will work correctly with Microsoft web pages and update services (no surprise there!). Depending on my need I used either one.

Microsoft recently unvieled Explorer 7, which has the same tabbed browsing feature as found in Firefox. I thought that I would finally be able to just use one browser for all my internet needs, and leave the other behind. Well, I was wrong.

So rather than having Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) meet all my needs, it may never be used again. The reason: it locks up...and the first time it locked my entire system!

In the space of 24 hours, I had IE7 twice lock-up on me while exploring different web sites. The little browser totally froze-up, becoming completely unusable. I've never had this problem with Firefox, nor Internet Explorer 6. The first time it locked up, it locked up the entire PC and operating system, which is a problem I've never experienced before with any other software program I own. Both times the lock occured, IE7 was the only application running.

The last time IE7 locked up, I checked my system monitor, and saw that the CPU was being used at 100% capacity! Yet nothing was happening with the browser, it was completely non-responsive. Normally when you see a situation where the only application you're running has locked-up solid, and your CPU is pegged at 100%, then you might have what is commonly known in the programming world as an infinite loop: a computer instrution gets carried out over, and over and over, because the software programmer forgot to provide the instruction an "exit" for when it finishes it's instruction. So it just carries it out again, and again, and again....

Usually infinite loops are created by beginning programmers, or those who are working on very complex systems where a programmer may only be working on one tiny piece of the system, and not be aware of the other pieces and how they interact. I doubt any of the programmers working on IE 7 are beginners, which leaves me to think that the loop was casued by system complexity and a poor testing procedure for the finished product.

Hence, no more IE 7 for me. Instead, I'm using Firefox 2 as my browser from this point forward. I don't have enough time in this life to be messing with unstable, unusuable software. I will be keeping IE 7 around for software update purposes, especially since Microsoft software updates don't like Firefox. But beyond software updates, IE 7 is not going to be used very much on my PC.

Microsoft had an excellent opportunity to become the dominant PC web browser again, but instead, due to a poorly tested product, they will be sending the masses off to Firefox.

<>< TM

the jingle bells house

one last time...the "jingle bells" house:

Yes, I do believe this one takes the cake.

<>< TM

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!


Photo courtesy of the 2nd annual Chicago Tribune "Scared of Santa" contest. The one pictured above won first place!

<>< TM Posted by Picasa

blame it on scrooge

Ebenezer Scrooge as played by the great British actor Alister Sim. The best Scrooge ever.

Who can forget Charles Dickens wonderful Christmas classic "Christmas Carol." Perhaps the most famous of all Christmas fables; it is the story of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who loved money more than anything else, and made sure he kept all of it to himself.

But Scrooge is confronted about his cold hearted greed by the ghost of his long dead business partner, Jacob Marley. He is shown what a horrible awful life he's had since making money his idol, and how his miserable ways have caused pain and suffering to others, either intentionally or unintentionally.

So after an evening of being haunted by ghosts, Ebenezer Scrooge wakes up Christmas morning, a new man! The new, generous to a fault Ebezeer Scrooge then goes about London showering money and gifts upon everyone he finds. So the mean old scrooge becomes a happy, generous soul.

What could possibly wrong with such a story? And how can this most famous of Christmas fables be at the root of all the crass Christmas commercialism and gift giving that permeates America like a fog, and even has infected other countries and nations as well?

Well, there is an unintended consquence to the story of Scrooge.

The main thesis at the heart of the Christmas Carol is that everyone hates a greedy, cold-hearted snob, and everyone loves a generous, warm-heartted soul...and who doesn't? So we have it beaten into our heads, from the time we are small children, that greediness is bad, and generosity is good. Not a bad message in general....but then the Christmas Carol has forever linked this lesson to one particular day of the year: Christmas.

Scrooge had something at his disposal that many of us don't: a large cash reserve, big bank accounts, and lucrative investments; in other words, he was very well off. With no children or wife, he had far more money than he knew what to do with. So going off and buying presents for half of London wasn't such a big deal for Mr. Scrooge, as he certainly seemed to have the assets to do it.

But for those of us who identify more with Mr. Scrooge's underpaid and overworked book keeper, Bob Cratchit, zooming off grand gifts to friends and relatives on Christmas--even if we just limit ourselves to just those people--can be a rather daunting task.

It becomes even more complicated when you factor in that all the most desirable gifts, even those for children, are seldom less than $100 each. No, a nice selection of Hot Wheels cars or a Barbie Doll just doesn't make the cut: it has to be a Nintendo or Sony or Microsaft gaming system, with at least a few games to go with it. And if not a gaming system, then Apple's goofey little iPod is the gift of choice--a small, simple one starting at $150 and going up from there.

In other words, Christmas is EXPENSIVE, even when limited to just those few people in our most immediate family. But then who wants to be a Scooge and only get someone a nice card and a simple toy from Wal-Mart? No, it has to be big and splashy, and he has to be "cool." And if we spend too much money in the process, so be it. Better to spend too much and be thought generous then spend too lttle and thought to be a Scrooge.

Now of course there are those who really don't care that they are thought of as Scrooges, for they like money as much as Ebenezer. But most of us would rather not be associated with that image, if we can possibly help it. And thanks to VISA and MasterCard, we can help it.

I don't believe it's the ever criticized "crass commmercilism" of Christmas that has many of us in a spending spree frenzy, but rather a vicious mental fear injected into us by a 19th century British author who was only trying to preach on the virture of generosity. And so generous we will be, and we will be to a fault! Of course the makers of consumer goods know this as well, and have capitalized on this handsomely. And who can blame them? They are only giving us what we want: cool, expensive Christmas gifts.

I personally would like to see more emphasis on the poor and needy during Christmas, as well as all year long...and I dont' mean just songs about world hunger sung by spoiled rock stars. I mean just some simple, common effort to contribute to the Salvation Army, or to CARE, or some such organization that works to alleviate the suffering of others.....those who are truly needy.

I also don't have any problem getting kids toys for Christmas. I wish there were better toys than what we currently have, but then that might be too much to ask for; sometimes something as simple as a football or a nice doll can be the best sort of present. Keep it simple and fun.

To be perfectly honest, the "commercialism" of Christmas doesn't bother me personally, I actually rather enjoy it. But even so, it's easy to get carried away with the point you are giving away gifts with money you won't have until March. I'm certainly guilty of it, and try as I might, I don't get better over time.

I want to be like the born-again Scrooge, not the miserly, old Scrooge. I do admit that that stupid Christmas Carol still haunts me, and that the ghosts of Christmas float around in my subconscious, looking for any possible signs of greed or cold heartedness. To keep them at bay, I give, give, give...certainly more than what is logical or necessary. Mr Spock would not be happy with me. I can see him now: "Spending more money on Christmas presents then your current weekly income is not logical." But sadly the spectre of Mr. Spock in my subconscious is outnumbered by the Dicken's Christmas ghosts, three to one. (Four to one if you count Marley...)

So this year, like all the past years, I've been generous to a fault, especially with member of my own family. And you know what? I don't regret it for a minute.

Still, I blame it on Scrooge.


<>< TM

Friday, December 22, 2006

all I want for Christmas

Well, it's almost time for Mr. S. Claus to begin making his rounds. Not wanting to be left out of this season of giving, I am posting my own small, modest Christmas wish list for all the world to see. I've already forwarded this list to the North Pole, so there's no need for anyone to actually buy me any of these gift ideas. I have no doubt that I'll be finding them under the tree come the morn of December 25th.

Department 56 Coca-Cola Delivery Truck....$20 USD

1. From those wonderful people at Department 56, maker of fine ceramic buildings, I would like their fine ceramic Coca-Cola delivery truck (part# 56.59428). I have a Dept. 56 Christmas display I've put up this year, and this would be an excellent edition to my Christmas village. I already have the Dept. 56 Coca-Cola Soda Fountain.

Lionel Chicago Great Western flat car and truck trailer....$55 USD

2. Once the greatest Christmas toy company of them all, yet still around after all these years: Lionel. From them I would like this limited-edition Chicago Great Western flat car with matching trailer (part# 6-26310). I have a soft spot in my heart for the old Chicago Great Western, a railroad that was merged out of existance in the mid 60's, and was quickly forgotten about. However, part of the old mainline was converted into a nice bike trail that goes from St. Charles to Sycamore, Illinois. The CGW was famous for originating the now familar "piggy-back" service where a truck-trailer was loaded on a flat-car for delivery, saving wear and tear on the truck and driver.

"Flames of War" USA Armored Rifle Platoon with 5 M3 Half-Tracks....$65 USD

What would be a Christmas without a miniature re-inactment of the famous battles of World War II? Far be it from me to ignore this well loved Christmas tradition. So from New Zealand's own Flames of War gaming company, I would like their box set of a U.S. Army armored rifle platoon, complete with five M3 half-tracks (part# UBX01). I'm currently working on a 1500 point USA armored rifle company for use in the Flames of War gaming system, and three of these armored rifle platoons are going to be the core of this force. I will also have some T19 105mm howitzers, and M3 75mm motor gun carriages, all based on the M3 half-track. My inspiration for this half-track army comes from the well known 1970 film Kelly's Heroes. I just hope I don't ever have to play against someone with Tiger tanks...

CD Box Set "Ultimate Christmas Cocktails"....$30 USD

4. I love Christmas music of all kinds, especially compilation albums. Here is one that is on the top of my list for 2006: the "Ulimate Christmas Cocktails" 3 CD box set. All the old greats can be heard on this collection, including Lena Horne, Lou Rawls, Sammy Davis Jr., Bing Crosby and Johny Mercer, to name a few. A must-have for any Christmas music collection.

That's it! A simple, modest list to be sure.

<>< TM

Thursday, December 21, 2006

you might need one of these... get through the holiday season. It's the "Family Survival Kit."

<>< TM

The Christian Hero

Over at the Catholic Analysis blog, Oswald Sobrino has a wonderful essay about the essence of a Christian hero: The Christian Hero v. the Pagan Hero

His thesis: a Christian hero suffers for what is right and just, no matter the cost. He does not seek glory in this life, but in the next.

I highly recommended the Catholic Analysis blog, and encourage you to visit it often, whether you are Catholic or not. While Sobrino is unapolagetically Catholic, his writings apply to the wider of world of Christianity as well.

<>< TM

Pachabel Played and a Pachabel Rant

Two riffs on Pachabel's "Canon"

1. Pachabel played...on guitar... (awesome!)

2. Pachabel rant... (funny!)

<>< TM

Jesus goes shopping...

..and to MICHIGAN AVENUE no less! It's good to know the Son of God has such good taste.

<>< TM

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

i'm a christ follower

I'm a Christ Follower...

A cute little parody of two types of Christians. Which one are you?

Just watch it...

(If you liked this one, go check out the others in this series posted on YouTube)

<>< TM

heavy duty philosophy and theology

The fine folks at Apollos blog/database are compiling a one-stop shopping center for all your theological and philosophical needs. Best of all, the price is FREE! Lots of good lectures and resources, but be warned that this is highly acedemic (re: boring) stuff, and is not for those looking for some light reading.

But if you are in dire need of philosophical or theological stimulation, I highly recommend the Apollos blog/database/web site/stimulation center.

<>< TM

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

He only wanted to learn how to drive forward

I don't know what the big deal here a guy with a Muslim sounding name only wants to learn how to drive a tractor-trailer forward (no backing up please), and he also wants a hazardous material permit, pronto. Sounds quite normal to me, I'm sure there were no terrorist asperations in his motives... "NEW YORK: Mohammed Yusef Mullawala wanted a license to transport hazardous materials and to learn how to drive commercial tractor trailers. There was nothing unusual about that, until he told his teacher that he only wanted to learn how to drive forward, and he wanted to learn fast."

Perhaps backing up is against his religion...

<>< TM

The World We Know Is Ending

Here is writer Mark Steyn at his best: The World We Know Is Ending

His thesis: there is a huge demographic shift occuring in our world, that benefits those who want to destroy the West...however, they certainly don't need to waste the effort of actually destroying us, since the West is doing a great job destroying itself.

Read the article and weep.

<>< TM

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

My Response to the conclusions of the Iraq Study Group

The following speech was given by Winston Churchill to students of his old school during a brief visit in 1941, soon after the end of the famous "Battle of Britian."

I quote it in full now, as my personal repsonse to the conclusions of the Iraq Study Group.

In the speech, Churchill references the following verse added to the school song:

"Not less we praise in darker days
The leader of our nation,
And Churchill's name shall win acclaim
From each new generation.
For you have power in danger's hour
Our freedom to defend, Sir!
Though long the fight we know that right
Will triumph in the end, Sir!"

Winston Churchill's Never Give In Speech:

Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

Almost a year has passed since I came down here at your Head Master's kind invitation in order to cheer myself and cheer the hearts of a few of my friends by singing some of our own songs.

The ten months that have passed have seen very terrible catastrophic events in the world--ups and downs, misfortunes-- but can anyone sitting here this afternoon, this October afternoon, not feel deeply thankful for what has happened in the time that has passed and for the very great improvement in the position of our country and of our home?

Why, when I was here last time we were quite alone, desperately alone, and we had been so for five or six months. We were poorly armed. We are not so poorly armed today; but then we were very poorly armed. We had the unmeasured menace of the enemy and their air attack still beating upon us, and you yourselves had had experience of this attack; and I expect you are beginning to feel impatient that there has been this long lull with nothing particular turning up!

But we must learn to be equally good at what is short and sharp and what is long and tough. It is generally said that the British are often better at the last. They do not expect to move from crisis to crisis; they do not always expect that each day will bring up some noble chance of war; but when they very slowly make up their minds that the thing has to be done and the job put through and finished, then, even if it takes months - if it takes years - they do it.

Another lesson I think we may take, just throwing our minds back to our meeting here ten months ago and now, is that appearances are often very deceptive, and as Kipling well says, we must ' with Triumph and Disaster. And treat those two impostors just the same."

You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination.

But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period--I am addressing myself to the School--surely from this period of ten months, this is the lesson:

Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated.

Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.

You sang here a verse of a School Song: you sang that extra verse written in my honor, which I was very greatly complimented by and which you have repeated today. But there is one word in it I want to alter - I wanted to do so last year, but I did not venture to. It is the line: "Not less we praise in darker days."

I have obtained the Head Master's permission to alter darker to sterner. "Not less we praise in sterner days."

Do not let us speak of darker days: let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days; these are great days--the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race.

Well said Mr. Churchill, well said.

<>< TM