Reason #264 Best Buy is Evil:

I need a SATA cable to hook up a new (to me) hard drive to the motherboard of a new (to me) computer. It looks something like this:

SATA cable

I found them online from a reputable retailer for $1.99 each. I bought two. The retailer has a First Class USPS shipping option that only cost me $2, so for $6 I have two cables on my way from North Carolina.

I stopped at my local Best Buy over the lunch hour to see what they have, and sure enough, they have a SATA cable in stock. (Probably the only place in town that does.) Their price: $19.99.

I rest my case.

The Church Search, Week 4 Preview

This week our plans have us heading to Maranatha Bible Church. We know the Maranatha pastor and youth pastor and their families – good folks all around. From their website I see that Pastor Aaron is working through a series in Isaiah, which should be interesting. 10:15 AM on Sunday. Always tough to go someplace new, but a little easier when there’s familiar faces.

Oh, the other place I’m familiar with Maranatha from: church softball. Guess there might be a few more familiar faces there than I was originally thinking.

As usual, I’ll do some analysis/review on Sunday or Monday.

Book Review: How Would Jesus Vote? by D. James Kennedy

cover artHave you heard that there’s an election coming up soon? So has WaterBrook Publishing, apparently, because they timed this blog review giveaway to fall just before the 2008 presidential election. Which brings me today to review How Would Jesus Vote? A Christian Perspective on the Issues, written by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe. Kennedy was the senior minister at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and Newcombe is a television producer for Coral Ridge and a frequent co-author. I will admit to being skeptical about the book when I was invited to do the review; in general I feel that the “Religious Right” has done far more harm to the name of Christ than it has accomplished with its political machinations over the past 20 years. But I figured it was worth a read.

Chapter One of HWJV? asks, appropriately enough, would Jesus even have His followers vote at all? Unsurprisingly, it concludes that yes, He would, based primarily on the “render unto Caesar” command in Luke 20. Taking it even a step further, the authors claim that it is primarily the Christians’ fault that America’s morality has taken a downturn in the past century; if only Christians had been more involved politically, they say, and been more effective at “legislating our morality”, things would be much different today.

Part Two of HWJV? addresses “The Issues”, devoting a chapters to:

  • Matters of life and death (Abortion, stem cells, suicide, euthanasia)
  • The Death Penalty
  • War – can it ever be justified?
  • Education and the schools
  • Economic Concerns
  • Health-care issues
  • The environment and climate change
  • Immigration and racial predjudice
  • Protection of marriage
  • Judicial Activism

This is a pretty fair swath of topics that surround most elections, and I was looking forward to having them dealt with in a thoughtful manner. I was quite disappointed, then, to read the chapters and find that they are little more than a regurgitation of the “Religious Right” talking points that you would hear from Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, or any similar religious conservative political group. Some examples:

  • After telling us in Chapter 3 that he will never tell folks who he’s voting for, Dr. Kennedy says in Chapter 4 that he “cannot support [a] person” who is “for the pro-choice position”, saying that “this one issue of life trumps all others”. Doesn’t leave much question who he’s supporting now, does it?
  • After saying, though, that the “issue of life trumps all others”, he goes on to conclude that the death penalty is an appropriate deterrent for crime and that “only by misunderstanding the Bible… could one conclude that Jesus would oppose the death penalty.”
  • In the chapter on education, the authors detail the decline of the public education system in America and stunningly conclude that “as long as God continues to be barred from our public schools, the public-education system will continue to falter.”
  • On health-care, the authors conclude that Jesus would “be concerned” about the plight of the uninsured, but that He would not favor government involvement in health care, not only because of government inefficiency, but also because it would “impose an anti-Christian ethic, such as forcing abortions on handicapped unborn children or forcing euthanasia on the weak”.
  • On the environment, I’ll give them credit for a slightly more nuanced position than I would’ve expected; the authors say that it’s important we care for our environment, but suggest that there are more practical ways to do that than the massive programs proposed to stop “global warming”.
  • On immigration, the authors pull a fair number of examples from the Old Testament claiming that God had Israel deal with two groups of immigrants differently, treating those who came to adapt and become Israelites as Israelites, while opposing those who came in as “aliens”.
  • On judicial activism, the authors speak harshly against the Senate that railroaded Robert Bork and tried to destroy Clarence Thomas, but in the end conclude that they can’t say “whether Jesus would prefer judges who hold strictly to the constitution”.

One of the most disturbing things to be in HWJV? was the way the authors mangled Scripture interpretations in support of their views. No place was this more evident than in the chapter on the economy and taxes. After arguing the standard Republican platform (that big businesses are good because they create jobs, and that it’s damaging to tax them more heavily) for the better part of the chapter, they then stunningly support this by quoting Matthew 23:11: “The greatest among you will be your servant.” So, they say, look at Henry Ford as an example. He was a great, rich man, but in doing so he enriched the lives, and thus served, many others.

I want to explore that a little bit more. Matthew 23 is a chapter in which Jesus chastises the Pharisees and religious leaders for their pride, ambition, and hypocrisy. In context:

8″But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.[b] 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

– Matt 23:8-12, NIV

That’s right, the authors picked a single verse from a chapter in which Jesus is telling us that the values of the kingdom are inverted, that status and position don’t matter, but that humility and servanthood do… and they use that single verse to try to prove that God would have us reduce taxes on “big business”, because those rich are doing us all a service. Did they completely miss the irony here?

I had hopes for How Would Jesus Vote?, hopes that it would be a thoughtful consideration of the issues, a step beyond the talking points that are rehashed on the radio and the blogosphere every day, hopes that the authors would acknowledge and consider that there are Christians, deeply devout, serious, thoughtful Christians, who disagree with nearly every “Religious Right” tenet. Instead the book turned out to be just more of the same stuff we hear every election cycle from those would would have us believe the lie, as Derek Webb wrote, that “Jesus was a white, middle-class Republican”.

The link to Amazon is included here because it’s part of the reviewing agreement; however, I’d suggest you spend your money and time on some other, more thoughtful book.

[How Would Jesus Vote? on]

Gilbert & Sullivan & an embarassing admission

During an online conversation with Lydia this morning I was chiding for her unfamiliarity with Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Three Little Maids from School Are We”. Just to get everyone on the same page, here it is:

But then I got to thinking about my familiarity with Gilbert & Sullivan, which leads me to an embarrassing admission: most of my familiarity with the music of Gilbert & Sullivan comes from two sources: the movie Chariots of Fire, and the “Cape Feare” episode of The Simpsons.

In Chariots of Fire, as I recall, one of the main characters is interested in an actress who is playing one of the three little maids in The Mikado. There’s also a scene when the olympic team is traveling on the ship and they’re singing Gilbert & Sullivan songs around the piano. (The scene always sticks in my mind because the audio is just off – the piano chord sounds a split-second before the actor’s hand hits the keys.)

In The Simpsons, the villain Sideshow Bob tracks down the Simpson family (who were living on a houseboat in a witness relocation program), ties up the parents, and is just about to kill Bart. Bart stalls Sideshow Bob by challenging him to sing the entire score of The Pirates of Penzance H.M.S. Pinafore (thanks for the correction, Jamie!). Bob can’t resist the challenge and so sings and sings and sings while the boat floats down the river, into town, and to the authorities.

I really should take some time to become more familiar with these guys.

[Edit: I found a good version of the Simpsons’ scene.]

They are soon gone, and we fly away

It always seems to be the bitter, cold, rainy days. Yesterday morning I took my familiar perch behind the piano at Noelridge as an aging group of family and friends gathered to remember the life of a dear lady who passed away last week. Save for a few grandchildren present, at age 31 I was easily the youngest person in the room, and my position at the piano gave me forty minutes’ opportunity to study the faces of those assembled.

It was a wrinkled and care-worn group gathered yesterday; five pews filled with family grieving a loss forseen for some time now during battles with cancer, a dozen more pews of friends, each remembering happier times. Fairlene was remembered as a “feisty” woman whose love for family and desire to serve could be seen in the faces of her sons as they sang “Amazing Grace”, and in the pulpit that she and her husband hand-crafted for the church sanctuary. Her death was in many ways a sorrow – as deaths always are – but in many ways a relief; Fairlene is now free from her pain and suffering and is rejoicing in the presence of God.

As I looked around the room I saw faces that reminded me of other similar gatherings. There in the back was Dave, who sat in the same front row grieving a wife lost to cancer seven years ago. A row nearer sat Wanda, remembering her husband who has been with the Lord for several years now. Each one came in quietly, shared the sorrow and memories, sang the hymns of trust and assurance, and then bundled up to face the bitter wind at the grave site.

My schedule forced me to make an exit at this point, but I knew how the day would continue. Soon they would return to the church for the lunch awaiting them in the basement fellowship hall, and as the sandwiches, salads, jellos, and desserts were eaten the quietness of grief would slowly be replaced by the happier babble of life, the telling of stories, the shrieking of small children, the laughter at the memory of times past. And this, too, is life. Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.

This morning the sky was clear as the sun came up, and it gave a hint of hope to the cold air. Fairlene’s hopes were fulfilled on Thursday night as she left us to be with her Savior. In the words of the psalmist that were read yesterday: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away.” We can though, like Fairlene, have hope in the God who has been our dwelling place in all generations.

Yet another reason I love my brother…

Lately I’ve had a quote from Chuck (a rather fun TV show on NBC Mondays) set as my IM status message. (Oh, it’s also at the top of my blog header.) In the show, Chuck complains that it’d never work to have a relationship with his hot love interest Sarah, because she’s a CIA agent, and he says he’d try calling her, and she wouldn’t be available because she’d be “off somewhere in Paraguay quelling revolution with a fork…” I loved it. What a great line.

So it’s been my IM status for a week or so now. And every time Ryan starts a chat, he starts it out this way: “viva! viva! viva!”. (The first time he followed up with “fork that!” 🙂 )

For Ryan, I have but three words, and I’ll even make ’em Spanish: ¡Si se puede!

Observations from the weekend

  • Your house doesn’t have to be amazingly clean to invite friends over.
  • Even if it was amazingly clean when the night starts, it won’t be when it ends. Not with 4 kids playing for three hours.
  • That’s OK. You can always clean up again.
  • Good food + good conversation = a great time.
  • Hearing friends’ back stories is fantastic.
  • When your friends read your blog, you have to try to remember which stories you’ve already blogged and thus shouldn’t re-tell.
  • We should do this more often.

The Church Search, Week 3

After deciding early in the week that Cedar Valley Bible was off our short list, we spent a lot of time talking about where we might go next. We know the other place we definitely want to try out is Maranatha Bible Church, so we tentatively decided last night that we’d head there this morning.

Then last night Laura decided she didn’t want to sleep. From 3:00 until 5:00 she was awake in our room at least four times. Needless to say, Becky and I didn’t get a lot of sleep. Finally Laura went to sleep and slept in until 8:00. As I write this at 9:15, Becky is still sleeping. Given that we’d need to leave the house in 30 minutes to get to Maranatha on time, I think we’ll be cashing it in this morning and giving it another shot next week. Part of me feels guilty for not getting to church; the other part of me is happy that we have the freedom to just rest when we need to. God is good.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

OK, so a lot of you have probably seen this already, but it’s too funny not to post.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

SARAH PALIN: Before it got to the other side, I shot the chicken, cleaned and dressed it, and had chicken burgers for lunch.

BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

JOHN MC CAIN: My friends, that chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken to cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure right from Day One that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road. But then, this really isn’t about me.

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don’t really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road, or not. The chicken is either against us, or for us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where’s my gun?

COLIN POWELL: Now to the left of the screen, you can clearly see the satellite image of the chicken crossing the road.

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken. What is your definition of chicken?

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken’s intentions. I am not for it now and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white? We need some black chickens.

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken doesn’t realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he’s acting by not taking on his current problems before adding new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross this road so bad. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I’m going to give this chicken a car so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he’s guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer’s Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I’ve not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn’t ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn’t that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heart- warming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

JOHN LENNON: Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing roads together, in peace.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken 2008, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents, and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken 2008. This new platform is much more stable and will never crash or need to be rebooted.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

Time for some piano music

I switched over from my usual podcasts and indie rock this morning to give some iPod love to a genre I’ve ignored far too much as of late: classical piano. To be more specific: Bach and Chopin. What a fantastic way to start the morning.

Now, I’ve spent innumerable hours over the past 20+ years with my backside on a piano bench and my fingers hacking away at some composer or another. And ever since I was a kid, let’s face it, I did a lot of hacking. Sure, I had assigned pieces that I was supposed to practice every day. But more often than not what I’d do is just play through those pieces once or twice, then put them down and move on to something far too hard for me, say, a Rachmaninoff piano concerto or a Chopin Ballade or something by Debussy. The weeks when I actually did practice my lesson, my teacher was always blown away by my progress. I wonder at times how well I would’ve progressed if I’d practice like he expected.

When you have small children, though, the amount of time available for you to practice the piano goes down quite a bit. First, they take up your time directly. Second, they go to sleep early and playing the piano would wake them up. So I haven’t done a lot of practicing in the past few years. Occasionally I’d pull out a book and hack through a little bit of Rachmaninoff, but that has been about it. If I get a chance to sit down at a piano somewhere else, I usually just improvise for a while, though it has been frightening just how much I remember of Beethoven Sonatas and Bach Fugues that I learned back in high school.

The other night I sat down at the piano after dinner and actually practiced a new piece. Rachmaninoff’s Polichinelle Op. 3 No. 4, if you really care. (You can hear Rachmaninoff himself perform it on YouTube.) It’s difficult enough that I can’t just sight read through it at full speed, but not so difficult that I get disheartened trying to practice. I am hoping that I can actually put a little time into it, commit it to memory, and eventually have something new to play on occasion, rather than just murdering a section from Chopin’s Ballade #1 like I usually do.

How I do love my piano music.