Archive for August, 2006

I was prepared

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Yes, I was prepared for Ernesto, the tropical storm that hit Florida yesterday and the day before. Oh, Ernesto is again a tropical storm, and still influencing our weather. It came right over Florida, entering around the everglades and exiting around Cape Canaveral. But it did not have the predicted punch. Predictions for my area of 4-6 inches of rain with spots of up to 10″ gave way to 3-5 inches, then 2-4, etc. I got about 3/4 of an inch. Predictions of tropical force winds ended up with 8-10 mph steady winds. I think I had one gust here of near 20. Woo-Hoo.

So, I have to admit, Ernesto turned into a “non-event.” I know one friend of mine who will be exceedingly glad for this. And I am too. Well, I wanted the rain, but not any damage. Instead, though we had no damage, we had nearly no rain, too.

So now I will spend a few moments putting patio furniture back on the porch, and undoing a few other preparations I’d made. But, next time a storm threatens, I’d do the same things. It’s always best to be prepared, and I will be, every time!

Now, I must admit, I’m a bit obsessed by the weather. I have my own weather station. You can find my weather station on the web here. Additionally, my weather data is published on And I follow all sorts of weather sites, keeping an eye on the weather. Yes, I love weather, and love following it, knowing what it’s doing, what’s going on. And I have an amazing awe for the weather, as it is so hard to predict, and impossible to control. Ernesto was a nice shot to my obsession. I got to watch it grow, develop, change, and ultimately do what it wants. Kind of like life, in a way. You just can’t control some things. Thanks, Ernesto! And bye!

Religion + Politics = oil + water

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Religion and Politics should not be mixed. Religion is personal, it’s how one views the world from a spiritual perspective. Politics, on the other hand, is how one views the world from a civil perspective. That’s not to say that religious people cannot be politicians, nor to say that politicians cannot be religious.

Any person is going to be the sum total of who they are. No politician can say that their religious beliefs will not influence their political behavior, nor can any religious person say that politics has no influence on them. But to tie them together, inexorably, is, I believe, a big mistake.

Many political wars have been fought “in the name of” religion. Read about the crusades, for example. And at many times in history, religious institutions have controlled the civil area (Middle Ages, Popes, “Holy” Roman emperor–figure it out, put two and two together!).

Though you cannot separate the two, I believe that politicians who wear their religions “on their sleeve” should not be trusted. Nor, for that matter, should we trust religious leaders who align themselves with a political party. It’s just not a good mix. One will always be beholding to the other. You cannot mix the two and always serve both. Who was it that said “man cannot serve two masters?”  And who said “render to Caesar….?”  Think about it!

What the Boy Scouts teach

Monday, August 28th, 2006

There are some lessons in life that should be learned early on, so you you don’t have to learn the hard way when you’re older. One of these is taught by the Boy Scouts: “Be Prepared!” Two years ago when the first of three major hurricanes crossed central Florida, not many people were ready. As a result, before hurricane Charlie, the first one, gas was plentiful and lines were non-existent. People were not preparing. After Charlie passed through, there was no gas to be found. Those stations with gas had no power, and those stations with power ran out of gas lickety split. Same thing with bottled water, propane, generators, tarps, and the like. When the next hurricanes came through that year, we were more prepared.

Now, I must say that I was somewhat prepared for Charlie. I had plenty of water and ice, a full tank of gas, and food aplenty. Still, I have learned and am even more prepared today. I filled up my gas cans over the past month, bought a generator this spring, and generally am ready for the next hurricane, which could be any day now.

I noticed lines for gas yesterday–and that’s a good thing. People are preparing in advance, remembering what happened two years ago. The stores had water, propane, and the like out, all ready for purchase. I think we in central Florida are more ready than ever. And that’s a good thing. Keep that Boy Scout motto in mind: “be prepared!” Then act accordingly.

I am angry!

Friday, August 25th, 2006

It’s true. I am angry….  I’m mad as hell…. It has to be so, because I read it. It seems that Men’s Health magazine used a bunch of statistics from the CDC, the FBI, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics to come up with an “angry” rating for the largest cities in the USA, and Orlando ranked #1 as the angriest city in the county. And, to top it off, all five of the Florida cities that were rated were in the top 12, making Florida the angriest state, too. Wow, at least we have a claim to something besides Mickey Mouse!

Why are we so angry? Hell if I know. But I sure see the evidence of it, and that alone makes me angry. A few days ago, two elderly women were taking an early morning walk in their gated community. A hit-and-run driver hit both of them killing one and seriously injuring the other. And left the scene, left them to die. And one of them did. Fortunately the cops caught the bastard. I can only hope he resisted a bit, and that he gets a cellmate that will call him “honey-child.” And then this morning, a bicylist was hit and killed, a young lady out for an early morning ride, and the driver took off, leaving her to die. That makes me mad as hell. I hope they find the bastard and beat the living crap out of him/her. See, I’m angry!  No wonder Orlando wins the contest!

I guess being angry, and living in an angry city, isn’t always a bad thing. But still, there is too much anger all around me. I see it on the roads, every day. I hear it in conversations at work, all the time.  Frustration turns to anger. Why are we so frustrated? I think no one is listening. No one listens to our frustration. Our frustration builds. It turns into anger. Boy, I sure hope someone is listening to me here in my blog, so my frustration does not turn into anger. Maybe it’s too late, the Men’s Health article already has me angry!

Making Lemonade

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

I like lemondade. But I don’t make it often. Or at least I should say, I don’t make it often enough!  No, I’m not talking literally about the drink, I’m talking about making the best of situations in life. As in the adage “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

I think news media has a lot to do with the lack of lemonade in our lives. You read daily about people who have a bad situation, and do not make the best of it. Most often, they just sue someone, or complain, or protest. Take that nut-case, what’s-her-name, the crazy lady who lost a son in Iraq. Rather than work for good, she protests, draws attention to herself, criticizes, but has nothing contructive to say. There’s an article in the local paper today. Basically a tragic situation where a security guard shot and killed an innocent kid. Is the mother making lemonade–the best of–the situation? No, she’s suing the apartment complex. That will go a far way in bringing her son back, won’t it??

Where do we get this idea that money is the cure for everything? It is not! The best things in life may not be free, but they don’t have to cost money. They may, however, cost blood, sweat, and tears. Take the case of John Walsh of “America’s Most Wanted” fame. His son was tragically murdered. Did Walsh sit back and cry? Did he protest at city hall for not having enough police? Did he sue someone, anyone? No! He took the lemons life gave him and he made lemonade! He made a difference. He wanted to make sure others did not have to go through what he did, and he has accomplished that, many, many times over. And he did this without once suing, or protesting, or marching about it. He took action, positive action. Yes, I suppose he has attained some fame and fortune because of this, but that’s not what he set out to seek. He set out to make a difference, and he did–and life has rewarded him greatly for this.
So, I must say that I have to agree with the old adage, “If life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  If you don’t, you’ll just become an old sourpuss like that lady, the nut case, what’s-her-name. If you do make lemonade, you can change the world, or at least a little part of it, and change it for the better. We need more people focusing on changing the world, and less people focused on self-importance.

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

Did Saddam have it right?

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

First of all, the answer is a resounding “no!”  But what question am I answering? I read more reports on Saddam Hussein’s second trial. His warplanes gassed a whole bunch of people. Definitely not right, definitely not cool, definitely WRONG WRONG WRONG. But why? He had trouble maintaining order.  He was a cruel dictator that could only maintain order by terror.

Perhaps the US should have taken a clue from his actions before we invaded Iraq. I agree, getting rid of Saddam was the right thing to do. Dismantling his weapons programs, his genocide programs, and his reign of terror–all good things to do, and I’m glad he did them. But we should have known how hard it would be to wrest that country from the religious division it’s had (Shiite vs. Sunni vs. Kurd, etc.). We should have known that trying to bring democracy to people who don’t really want it would be a tough sell.

My thoughts: after outsing Saddam, we should have left the various factions alone to fight it out. Would that be very humanitarian? No. But then again, there are things going on in other places in the world that are not humanitarian either (such as Africa).

We should have toppled Saddam, and let the country do what it wanted to do–fight each other. Let the United Nations try to fix it–they are impotent most other places, why not give them a grand center stage in which to fail, which I sure they would have.

Yes, we should have removed Saddam and ended the ties to terrorism. But, we should have bugged out aftewards and let the country do what it wants to do, which is apparently kill each other. At least, they’d be killing each other and not our soldiers. And they’d have been so busy killing each other that they’d have no time or resources to support terrorism. It’s a lost opportunity…we could have “won” in Iraq, if only we’d taken the clue that Saddam gave us…..

If it acts like a crook…..

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Just when I thought I’d leave the issue of religion, I get a chance to mix it with politics. A local state senator was recently found guilty of grand theft, a felony, because he had some people from his office work on his reelection campaign while being paid on the state dollar. Sounds like a crook to me, smells like a crook, and a jury found that he is a crook.

Now a dozen area ministers are supporting this crook. They say he didn’t get a fair trial because he’s black. I got news for you: a jury of peers found a crook and convicted him. Just because you’re supposedly religious, that makes you an expert? What a bunch of bullcrap. Let’s place the damned “race card,” huh? Well, Siplin (the state senator) is a crook. I guess maybe he thinks he should get away with it solely because he’s black, and a bunch of so-called ministers seem to agree. Shame on them. They are certainly not ment of god, but self-serving bastards!

Call a crook a crook, it does not matter his color. I don’t care if he’s black, white, yellow, or green. He’s a crook, convicted, and that’s that.

By the way, another local official was recently removed for similar offenses….he used county workers to repair his house. No one’s calling his indictment unfair….oh, wait, he’s white…it does not count.

Shame on anyone for playing the “race card.” And double, triple shame when it’s so-called ministers. They only minister to their own self interests and are a disgrace to honest, god-fearing and god-serving people everywhere.

Gary Siplin, admit what the jury said, “you’re a crook.” Be penitent. Realize you’ve been convicted because you’re guilty, not because you’re black. Repent. Be contrite. Be apologetic. Be saved. As for the other so-called ministers who “support” you, they know the road their headed on, and it’s not one of salvation….

Come, look at me!

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

Too often, organized religion is too….well, it’s too organized. Big business, as I said yesterday. “Let’s build a new church because we’re so big. Bigger is better, right? So if my church is growing, that must be a sign of how good we are, how religious we are. Look at us! Now we’re really growing, a really huge group of religious people. We need a bigger building. And, let’s make it real fancy, to show how religious we are.”

I can think right offhand of two, no, make that three, large “churches” here in the orlando area that are really huge complexes. Yes, filled with people on a Sunday. And, yes, filled with good and decent people, people who are religious, who are devout. And these are good people…they’ve found a house of worship that fills there needs. And that house of worship demands things of them. It demands bigger and better buildings, bigger and better programs and services, bigger and better preachers, until that “house of worship” has grown to become a big business itself. Why, I’ll be they have financial planners and accountants on staff, too.

That’s great. But it’s not really what spirituality is all about, I think. Spirituality is what a person does in their own mind, in their own little part of the world. A person can go to church on Sunday and get great comfort from it. But a person can also stay home and “pray” in their own way, and be just as spiritual. No, maybe even more spiritual, because at home they are fitting into their perpective of god and spirituality, and not having to adapt to someone else’s model.

If you’re really spiritual, if you really are in tune with the “hereafter” or the “other world,” you don’t need to do it with a group of people and follow their form of spirituality–you can do it by yourself, in your own little world, in your own little way. Think about it!

Religion as (big) business

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

Yes, Religion is–or at least, can be–big business. Look at Judaism–it’s not only religion, but also national and ethnic identity.  And, of course, Catholicism is the poster child for religion as big business. I mean big as in huge. Really, really big. For a time in the Middle Ages, the Pope would crown the emperor. Talk about power. And think of the treasures of the Vatican. The fiscal power of the Catholic church has dwindled some, but it’s still big business.

Is religion as big business a problem? I think so. When you start running your religion as a business, you lose sight of what religion is and start focusing on making a profit, keeping yourself financially afloat, expanding by building, and the like.  Seems to me that Jesus never had a CFO (chief financial officer), never had a real estate office, never built a new church, never claimed tax-exempt status, and never, ever asked for donations (“render to Caesar…”).–all things that modern catholicism does. Unfortunately, most “big” religions have lost their heart and soul in the search to protect their basic precepts. In doing so, they have lost their way.

I think some of the most “true” religions are those that have no organization, no “elders” or bishops or hierarchy of any kind, no tax exempt status, and no churches. Perhaps we could learn a lot about the “other world” if we focused more on these religious people and/or religious experiences, rather than taking up a seat at church on Sunday and dutifully plopping a few dollars in a collection basket.

Don’t get me wrong, organized religions can do some good, and often times do make a contribution to society. They do this because they are composed of good people who are looking for–and have found–some structure in their lives. These people “belong” to a religion and it gives them a framework in which to do good works, like visiting the sick, working for charity, etc. But it’s still so “organized” that the focus becomes on the organization rather than on the spirituality that it should embody.

Is there a solution? Only each individual person can know when they examine their hearts and their beliefs. Organized religion can provide a framework for spirituality, but that same framework can be limiting–if you let it.

What is religion?

Monday, August 14th, 2006

What is religion, anyway? And why are people religious? And why can religious people belong to different groups that have such widely varying beliefs? Thing about the differenced between Catholics, Buddhists, Protestants, Jews, Hindus, and Muslims, for example? People espousing to these various beliefs can all be said to be religious, yet their beliefs can vary so much.

Religion is man’s attempt to explain something that can’t be explained in words. Most all religious have the concept of “god,” of some higher power that lies beyond what can be seen and comprehended in every day life. Most also have some sort of afterlife belief. There’s an emphasis on the “spirit world” in some way in all religions. All are trying to talk about these things. But, since this “other” world is just that–other–it cannot be talked about in ordinary words.  Thus, each religion is just a particular way of talking about basically the same things. Unfortunately, most “religious” people and their religions codify this belief, and enforce a strict set of prescriptions regarding their beliefs.

I’m not a big fan of this. I believe all religions are attempts to talk about somethign that is real, but that can’t be talked about. I believe that all religions have good parts and bad parts, that all religions have some fundamental understanding of what lies beyond, so to speak. But I also believe that all religions generally only touch upon some small aspects of what lies beyond, and then fail when they try to solidify this into some rigorous set of beliefs. It’s the codifying of religion that really invalidates it. As soon as Moses wrote down the 10 commandments, religions stepped outside of contact with what lies beyond, because people started to focus on what they had to do or not do.

Perhaps to some extent Marx did have it right. Religion gives many people somthing to hang onto as they search for meaning in life. It’s not a bad thing, religion is a good thing. But, when a person stops their own search for meaning and just blindly adopts the precepts of some set of rules and guidelines that we call an organized religion, then that person stops experiencing whatever lies beyond (call it god, or spirituality or the afterlife or whatever)–that person stops trying to reach it and understand it on their own and does it by someone else’s experience.

Thus, I am not a big fan or organized religion, mostly because they are too…well, too organized! A little less organization, and people would be free to experience life and all it entails to a deeper level. Think about it!