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Friday, December 31, 2010

The Bus Toll

© 2010 by Tom King

Taking public transit was
Supposed to be a cheaper way
To get from here to there
And from there to home,
But for the tender-hearted
There are hidden fees.

I traveled on my card
The first time through.
An experiment with the new
Cashless economic system.
Fearful the plastic wouldn't work
And me with no backup.

Between the bus and train,
I was befriended
By a fairly well-dressed fellow
Who offered to show me the way to the station.
I was grateful not to have to walk alone
In that part of town.

Didn't sleep well on the plane, though.
My companion guide to the train
Casually having mentioned.
His homelessness.
And me with no cash had muttered
Excuses why I could not help him.

Coming home he met me at the train this time,
And walked me back to the bus station.
This time the story was different.
And my name was the same as his father's.
I didn't tell him we'd met before.
That I knew his game.

I gave him twenty anyway.
On the bus I slept, short of cash.
I'd carefully planned to make the trek
And spend as little as possible.
Keeping a reserve as a reward
For my frugality.

I'm pretty sure he bought a bottle.
He'd asked me just for three or so.
The price of just enough
To warm a belly or deaden pain.
It does not matter I am under orders,
To treat with kindness, not to judge.

I sympathize with those who pay,
The extra price that lets them
Travel where the bums do not sleep
Huddled on a loading platform
Against a warm door;
Where the skilled at homelessness talk quick cons.

Do I give the taxi man the twenty bucks,
A guy working a second job to make ends meet?
Or hand it to the helpful hobo schmoozing for a drink.
Or the big-eyed kid who ran away and brags he lives his own way,
Eating from dumpsters, but managing to fast talk a free ticket to Chicago.
Mostly a night on a warm bus to somewhere else?

Maybe every other time I'll take a cab or park my car.
Next time around I could pay the extra
To encourage the self-reliant guy with kids to feed and self-respect,
And to sleep in my seat with nothing on my mind
But where I'm going
And who I'm going to see when I arrive.

Maybe the next time after that I'll save the extra.
Pass among the bums; refresh my memory
Lest I forget how close a man can be to losing all
And more directly pay the toll for sleeping
For worrying about where I'm going
And if all will be well when I arrive.

------
* I decided that since my truck was broken down, I'd take buses and trains to get to the airport. I figured I'd save myself a little money and see how well the transit system worked, my having spent a year giving advice to the government on how to make it work better. I spent about what I would have to drive myself over to the DFW airport and get a friend to park my car at his house, not because the transit system wasn't economical.  It's the hidden cost of such a trip that will get you, for it is a trip through dark places. I saw a man sleeping on a bus station loading dock in sub-freezing temperatures. I was conned by a neatly dressed homeless man who apparently makes a passable income showing people how to get from the train to the bus station and back in downtown Dallas. He has quite a convincing patter and you won't have to hear the same story twice and apparently his father had a lot of names as it's always the same as yours. If you have cash when you start and you're not completely heartless, you will part with a portion of that cash before you wend your circuitous way from stop to stop and finally arrive at your destination. The taxi guy got almost the last of it. I put the rest in my son's gas tank. I apparently, am not supposed to have any cash on me. 

Jesus said, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Precisely, why I gave the guy the twenty bucks. I figure I helped solve his worries for that one day. It's all we're asked to do.

Tom

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Importance of A Proper Tarzan Yell!

(c) excerpted from "Swimming Lessons" 2010 by Tom King

Walt Whitman said, "I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world."  Every boy ever born understands the need to sound their own personal barbaric yawp. It's the sound of all the fears and terrors, joys and passions that fill you up when you're growing up. It's yelled from rooftops, treetops, diving boards and the hill that everyone wants to be king of. My barbaric yawp was a Tarzan yell.

That would be the Johnny Weismueller-type Tarzan I am talking about! You know, that glorious full-throated “ape man” yell he used to do in those great old movies.  I spent years perfecting my own version of that yell in the tops of the huge oak trees in my back yard. I used to climb one particular oak tree every morning at 8 AM and let loose what I considered a fearsome Tarzan yell. Undoubtedly grateful that at least I had waited till eight, most of our neighbors tolerated my odd behavior with surprisingly little comment. Lottie Warren, the neighborhood busybody referred to me as “that little barbarian King boy” and wouldn’t let her nephews play at our house lest our uncivilized ways were somehow contagious to her grandsons Jackie and Woody. I used to feel sorry for them. They looked so pitiful gazing wistfully through their Aunt Lottie’s garden fence at us.


Every day, my brother and I donned plastic Army helmets shouldered wooden guns and shovels and sallied forth to dig slit trenches in Mom’s garden. They weren’t much as far as trenches go, but we managed to scratch out 6-12 inch deep ditches in the hard clay and piled up enough dirt on either side to avoid most direct hits. The trenches were essential because of the nature of our weaponry. Not satisfied merely making exploding noises or popping off the occasional cap gun, my brother and I used to lob these huge red clay dirt clods at each other in lieu of hand grenades. If you smacked them with enough force against a solid object like a rock, tree or the head of a sibling, you could make them bust apart showering the surrounding area with dirt shrapnel. The object of our brand of trench warfare was to land as many clods inside each others’ trenches as we could without getting brained ourselves. Red clay dirt clods, however, are remarkably tough things, sometimes refusing to shatter. You wanted to avoid those.

Ricochet shots, properly placed, could stun an opponent sufficiently to end the round. We always played till someone got hurt. Bleeding or a concussion usually signaled the end of the war. Now that I think about it, Old Lady Warren probably had a point about my brother and me.

Anyway, barbarian or not, I cultivated my authentic Johnny Weismuller Tarzan yell the way an opera singer works his scales. I never mastered it, but I got close enough to claim the role of Tarzan whenever the neighborhood kids played African jungle in my back yard. Of course, being able to ignore my own personal safety, while jumping from limb to limb in the top of our brittle old oak trees, helped too. By the time I reached 10 years of age, my poor mother had given up trying to keep us from killing ourselves. It got to where she wouldn’t even look out the kitchen window anymore.

And by the way, about Buster Crabbe....

The man had the most pathetic, whiney, wimp of a Tarzan squeal. If it had actually attracted lions, they'd have eaten him. None of the rest of the pretenders that played Tarzan in the movies or on TV ever quite matched up to Weismuller’s glorious Tarzan yell. Some didn't try, but just borrowed the recordings. I finally got to where I would occasionally watch a Tarzan movie that Johnny wasn’t in, but it was never the same. He was an awesome swimmer, crocodile wrestler, elephant rider and my personal role model.

I became a swimming teacher because I wanted to be like him. I discovered years later that Johnny had been an Olympic swimmer and held world records that stood for decades. He and a Hawaiian named Duke Kahanamoku revolutionized the crawl stroke and dominated their events. Johnny later played Tarzan with the breath-taking Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane. At camp, I became a lifeguard like one of my later heroes, Ronald Reagan.  I became a Red Cross swimming instructor and went on to train to become a water safety instructor trainer under Bud Bradley, legendary Texas swimming instructor who was trained by even more legendary Commodore Wilbert E. Longfellow, the man who pioneered mass swimming instruction for the Red Cross.

And I went on to teach hundreds of kids to swim like fish.

How cool is that?

Tomzan!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Decree Went Out From Caesar......

(c) 2010 by Tom King

As most of the readers of this weblog and my more political weblog "An Apocalypse Observed" know, I'm fairly opinionated on the subject of politics.  A friend made a comment today that nothing happens without God's will and therefore, he chose not to be involved in politics.

I do understand his feelings about politics. So much of political discourse is pointless thrashing back and forth, arguing over a point the two sides will never agree upon as in this recent discussion on Open Salon.  I knew arguing with PJ, Oahu and Mark was pointless. I did want to hear their arguments, though, just in case I had missed something new.  I hadn't.  It was the "same old, same old", "you-are-stupid-and-I-am-not" closed cell argument throughout--pointless so far as reasoned debate is concerned. Rather like the "battles" the Zulus used to have where they gathered on the battlefield, beat their chests, threw a few spears, then went home feeling all macho without anything being settled.

So why do I do it?  Hey, once in a while someone with real intelligence engages me in a reasoned and thoughtful discussion. It's nice when it happens. We may not come to an agreement, but we often learn something from it--usually that we want the same things, but differ only on how to get those things.  But in that discovery that we have the same purpose is hope for a solution to the problems we both seek to solve.

But didn't Jesus always counsel a "render unto Caesar" policy?  Yes, He did and that's my policy too. Unfortunately, simply because we render unto Caesar and keep our mouths shut, doesn't mean Caesar is going to leave us alone (see 'Good' Friday). Doing what is consistently right will inevitably bring you into conflict with those who do what consistently gains them power.


Every disciple got into trouble with some government somewhere that didn't want them to do what they were doing--converting people to Christianity. In the United States, the government is set up to be "Of the people, by the people and for the people".  This means we personally have a responsibility to be part of the governing process.  We don't shuffle that responsibility off onto kings or princes or a special ruling class, whatever the progressive Democrats and country club Republicans might believe. Our responsibility is to defend the very constitution that allows our churches to practice their beliefs freely, to convert people, to take them into membership and encourage them to live by a code of conduct.  This right and privilege does not exist in all countries. It will cease to exist here if the people allow it. 

It is true that the king's heart is in the hands of the Lord.  Nothing happens in Washington that God does not allow. That does not mean that God wanted things to happen the way they did.  Look at the history of Israel, how when they rejected God's protection, He removed his protecting hand and let terrible things happpen that broke His heart.  God allows us to choose and we have the power to make an unholy mess of the gifts God has bestowed upon us in this "land of the free".

God sometimes places his servants before the rulers of the land and bids them speak.  If God's will brings you before the powerful, you are obliged to speak the truth. This does not always end well for the speaker. Check out the history of the prophets and the disciples.  How many died at the hands of government--most dying in particularly brutal ways.  It is true that nothing happens that God does not allow.  It is also true that sometimes God allows things to happen because of what we do or do not do, because of how we choose, or because it suits His purpose. The Israelites were repeatedly allowed to be overcome by their enemies because they allowed Baal worship, pitched their kids through the fires to Molech and tolerated the hilltop shrines because they didn't want to say anything, what with the pagan worship services being so popular and all. God may have wanted a message delivered at a certain time and place. Often the death of the messenger was part of the message. There's nothing like an angry, murderous response by a king or a government to reveal the true nature of that ruling power to the people who allow themselves to be ruled by it.  When it's behavior causes its people to recoil in disgust and fear, the martyrdom of the prophet marks the end of the ruler who murdered him or her. Tough for the prophet, but a blessing to those who are freed as a consequence of his sacrifice. Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than that he die for a brother." If anyone would know about that, He would.

I'm not sure remaining silent while our own government builds shrines to Baal is the best policy if you're a Christian. Okay, I know they aren't building literal shrines to Baal, but they do seem to be making policies that threaten the free exercise of the Christian religion, free speech and free assembly. The Internet would potentially lose free speech and assembly rights if some of these policies are enacted. Proponents of so-called Net Neutrality, for instance, also openly advocate adding a government controlled "kill" switch to turn off certain "disruptive" websites, servers or networks that might, in government's opinion, harm the public.

Politicians, in my experience, are like children. If you present them with a switch, they will not be able to resist flipping it.

So, I'm just sayin'.....................that's all.

The poet Dylan Thomas wasn't talking about political speech or rights or liberties when he wrote, "Do not go gentle into that good night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light."  But he could have been. In my reading of history, the loss of liberty immediately precedes massive loss of life.

Another wise man said, "You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed for these things must take place, but the end is not yet......They will hand you over for persecution and they will kill you. You will be be hated by all nations because of My name. Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another....but the one who endures to the end will be delivered."

Sounds like the politics is going to get a bit rough, huh?

Merry Christmas to all, while I can still say it without adding a disclaimer, or being forced to pile on every other holiday greeting you can imagine in order to stay out of trouble with the authorities.

A Fearless Christmas to all and to all a good life!

Tom

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Importance of Complete Information

(c) 2010 by Tom King

A friend told me this story once. It illustrates how easily it is to change your opinion, especially if you come to know what Paul Harvey used to call "the resto of the story.


My friend was driving to the pharmacy to renew a prescription. It was snowing and slippery. Suddenly a big Cadillac bore down on him from behind, blasted his horn and swerved past him at an extremely unsafe speed.

"Blankety-blank rich people think they own the blankety-blank road. What a selfish pig!" my friend, a confirmed member of the proletariate, thought angrily.

After 10 more minutes of slogging through the snow, he arrived at the pharmacy and sure enough, there sat the big fancy Caddie, slewed across two parking spaces (one of them a handicapped space). My friend stomped up to the entrance muttering dark imprecations and with a mounting determination to give that self-centered, capitalist pig a piece of his mind if he were to run into the man inside.

As he approached the prescription counter he found a well-dressed man (obviously the Cadillac owner) who was pushing his way to the front of the line. My friend surged forward, intent on thrashing this arrogant jackass now standing at the counter with his arm around the shoulders of a frightened looking woman in a thin bathrobe holding a small child. The man shouted at the pharmacist, who quickly pulled a bottle down off the shelf and soon the woman was struggling to coax some of the medicine down the child.

It was syrup of Ipecac. My friend could see the label clearly.

As the crowd fell back, the well-dressed man explained the situation to the pharmacist. As he told the story, my friends emotional state changed almost instantly.

The woman had been on the way to the pharmacy in the snow when her small compact car had slid in the snow and run off into the ditch. Her son had broken into the refrigerator and drunk a large bottle of cold medication kept there. She called poison control and they recommended getting him some Ipecac to make him throw up as soon as possible and then to bring him on to the hospital which was some 30 minutes away. Ambulances were all out on emergencies in the snow and unavailable, so panicked, she set out on her own when the car went into the ditch in front of a large estate near the edge of town.

The man in the Cadillac had answered the door when she pounded on it.  She told the man what was happening and without another word, he pulled on a coat and loaded the mother and child in his big Caddie.  They roared off toward the nearest pharmacy, honking at couple of slow moving cars along the way to warn them as they rushed past.

As the story became clear, my friend's opinion changed instantly. By then the crowd around the counter was watching the child anxiously.

"You better take him to the restroom," the pharmacist pointed toward the back of the store. "He should be about to....."

About then the kid threw up on my friend's shoes. Somehow, my friend didn't mind even that. Tears formed in his eyes as the child, his mother and their rescuer rushed out the front door on their way to the hospital.

The pharmacist looked down at the empty bottle of Ipecac on his counter, realizing suddenly that it had not been paid for in the rush. My friend reached into his wallet and laid a ten dollar bill on the counter.

"My treat," he grinned at the druggist.

"Paper towel?" the man grinned back pointing at his shoes.

It's a good idea, before you form an opinion of someone, to get the whole story.

Tom

Friday, December 10, 2010

No Virginia, There Is No Obama Claus.....

December 8, 2010 - We received the following letters to the editor at "The Nosy News" from 10 year old Virginia.  Virginia asks hard questions.

-------------------------------

Dear Editor:

Conservatives believe in helping themselves at the expense of others; Liberals believe in helping others at the expense to themselves. Everyone knows that.  So, why don't you people believe in the Obama Claus?

Your Friend,

Virginia


---------------------------

Dear Virginia,

You have it all wrong. You assume that only conservatives are greedy people.  There are greedy people of both political persuasions that believe in helping themselves to other people's money (see redistribution of wealth and Ponzi schemes - which are the same thing).  In fact, Bernie Madoff, convicted of the largest Ponzi scheme in history (he defrauded his clients of billions of dollars), was a heavy donor to the Democrat party and was a major Obama supporter.

Percentage wise, conservatives actually give more to charity than any other group. They give more foreign aid annually than the federal government - it just goes to people that need it instead of to greedy warlords and corrupt third world government officials.

You say "Liberals help others at the expense of themselves."  Really? Who is it that wants to take money from the wealthy (not themselves) to fund all this giving? Liberals claim to represent the poor and downtrodden, who are, by definition, from lower income groups.  Folks with no money probably don't pay any taxes anyway.  So I have to ask myself, Virginia, from whom is all this largesse, that liberals supposedly give, going to come from?

When we give to charity directly, to our church or to people who need our help directly, all the money goes to help people in trouble, not to support a fat bureaucracy that generates more paperwork than help.

Obama Claus is, after all, a myth designed to convince us we don't need to to be generous - that someone else will do it for us.

Your Friend,

The Editor

-----------------------------

Dear Editor

My family donates hundreds of dollars and hours to our church. They haven't exactly offered to help us with my Dad's unemployment or my sister's medical bills. They did however, ask us to make an extra, "end of the year" ...donation to make sure they make budget.


I love my church and it provides me with spiritual guidance and education, but I don't quite see how it is going to help us find a job. It did teach me that I should feed the poor, comfort the hurting and help the sick, but that sounds too much like medicaid and healthcare reform.

Exactly what are we supposed to ask them to provide?

Your friend,

Virginia

-----------------------------------

Dear Virginia,

I don't know what church you belong to, but in mine, I'm actively involved in the process of deciding where the church budget should go. If you want to feed people or help people who are struggling , be part of the decision-making process when you grow up. Get on the church board. Become a deacon or volunteer to run the food pantry or soup kitchen. When you have a home of your own, give a homeless person a room till they get on their feet.

You talk about your church as "them" in the same way you talk about the government in the third person - as though both church and governments were some kind of magical god-like creatures that are supposed to fix our problems for us. The government and the church are "us", Virginia.  Both organizations are run by people with various philosophies and values systems.
The question then is, dear Virginia, "Do you trust your pastor and the church elders or the politicians and the bureaucrats." My money's on the church folks.

And "What exactly do we ask them to provide?"  The answer is, "Whatever you think your church should be providing."  It is, after all, YOUR church.

Though I think sometimes the government is helpful for stuff like this, I'm not sure they are the most efficient way to dispense charity. 

Besides, I think the Obama Claus is up to something, myself.

Your friend,

The Editor

Monday, December 06, 2010

RIP: Dandy Don


Sunday, we lost a Dallas Cowboy icon when Joseph "Dandy" Don Meredith passed away of a brain 
hemorrhage. I miss him already, even though he's kept a pretty low profile for some years now.  It was the idea that he was still there that gave me hope for the Dallas Cowboys. I've never been a regular football fan. The Cowboys are the only team I watch. If they aren't in the Super Bowl, I'm not at all interested is sitting through the game.

I guess, in order for me to enjoy a sports contest, I have to have a home town team in the game.  I'm loyal to the Texas Rangers and the Cowboys especially.  Pudge Rodriguez and Nolan Ryan are the epitome of the Texas Rangers for me.  Nolan's bull-dogging of Kansas City's Robin Ventura when he charged the mound is my "greatest moment in baseball".  Don Meredith and Bob Hayes, Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson and to a lesser extent Troy Aikmann and Emmet Smith do that for me with the Cowboys.

Meredith used to throw these long bombs to "Bullet" Bob Hayes. You could feel the despair on the opposing team if Bob managed to hang onto one of those passes.  If you had three steps on Bob Hayes, he'd still beat you to the goal line.  The way Meredith used to throw, even Bob Hayes, the fastest human in the world at the time, had trouble getting under a Meredith pass once he let loose.  He still holds the Cowboy's single game passing record which, considering he was followed by the likes of Roger Staubach and Troy Aikmann ain't no small record to hold.

Meredith placed his mark on the Cowboys.  It was the trio of Meredith, Hayes and halfback Don Perkins that led the Cowboys out of the cellar.  It was Staubach, Pearson and Tony Dorsett that made Dallas a dynasty and Troy Aikmann, Michael Irving and Emmit Smith proved the formula.

Don Meredith was severely mistreated by fans despite his heroic performances. He finished his last game with broken bones, bruises, frostbite and pneumonia and got booed out of a Dallas restaurant a few weeks later.  But that's Dallasites and Dallas people are city folks and they think you ought to be able to buy victory with a credit card. Most of us folks out in the Texas appreciate the Cowboys whatever they are doing and most of us thought Don Meredith was just "Dandy" - hence the name. After all, he was an East Texas boy, born and raised and we understood how hard he worked.

I try to avoid watching Cowboy games during the season because the 'Boys tend to lose when I watch them.  I think I give off some sort of bad ju-ju or something.  Who knows?  I may be responsible for the two Green Bay games back in the 60 when Meredith's teams lost the NFC championships in the ice. I did watch both games, after all.

The Cowboys have done much better since I started watching irregularly, though there was that whole "can't win the big one" thing, but then, that probably wasn't their fault.  I tended to break down and watch all the "big ones". 

But I usually just get by on the news highlights, though sometimes, I just can't stand it and watch anyway. Sometimes they overcome my Ju-Ju and win. But even when they lose, players like Don Meredith made it fun to watch.  Some of the plays Meredith used to run were pretty wild.  Meredith used to confuse the heck out of defenses back during his day.

Staubach later on would do the same thing.  Aikmann was more of a traditionalist, but even he showed some of the flash that made the Cowboys fun to watch.

So to Don Meredith, the Cowboy who put the "fun" in the Dallas Cowboys, I want to thank you big guy. You helped set the tone for a whole lot of good Texas football.  And sticking the occasional pin in the highly over-inflated Howard Cosell has also earned our eternal gratitude.

I'm just telling you what I think....

Tom King

  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Albert May Have Been Right

 – It Appears God Doesn't Play Dice With the Universe
by Tom King (c) 2010

In order for Albert Einstein's theory of general relativity to work, he had to force the equations a bit to fit what physicists believed about the universe at the time. To do this Einstein added a factor he called the cosmic constant represented by the Greek capital letter “lambda”. He later abandoned the idea of the cosmological constant and called it the biggest blunder of his life. Scientists have lately returned to the useful idea of the cosmological constant to explain what they are calling “dark energy”. Dark energy is the the unexplained force that is causing the increasingly rapid expansion of the universe.

Big Bang Theory predicted that the force of gravity would cause the expansion caused by the original big bang to slow and eventually reverse itself. When scientist Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University in Canberra and astrophysicist Adam Riess of Johns Hopkins surveyed distant galaxies to find out the rate at which the universe was slowing, they discovered to their immense discomfort that the speed at which the universe was expanding, in point of fact.

In the absence of a plausible reason for this expansion, the team “discovered” dark energy in 1998. Dark energy is a name for the force that is increasing the speed of expansion of the universe. Like the cosmological constant, dark energy is a name for something cosmologists don't understand. The more researchers looked at the data, the more it proved that what they were seeing was true. Something was pushing apart the universe faster and faster. A key expected consequence of the Big Bang Theory was missing in action.

Scientists, in an effort to resolve the problem, have retreated to Einstein's discarded idea that the vacuum of space has energy that acts repulsively – the cosmological constant. The multi-verse believers call it an accidental condition unique to our peculiar universe that probably doesn't exist in other parallel universes as though that somehow explains things. Either way, the point is the universe is being pushed apart at a steady rate – not too ffast and not too slow – and physicists and cosmologists don't know why.

I think do.

I can only think of one force in the universe powerful enough to be responsible for pushing apart galaxies.
Unfortunately, the scientific community has a bit of a blind spot there. Carl Sagan once complained that if God existed, he would give us irrefutable evidence of his existent. What if he has and we're just ignoring it because it's not the sort of evidence we expected?

As CS Lewis said in his classic Chronicles of Narnia, “He's not a tame lion.”

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reaching

(c) 2010 by Tom King

Reach for the sky
When the moment rambles by.
Wrap your fingers 'round a cloud
And squeeze it till the rain comes out.

Dance upon the water,
Grinning till your face hurts.
Fling some sand.
Kick a wave.

When we get old
We start to forget.
What it means
To dance on the beach

What did it mean
To wring life that way
From a handful of sky
And a forkful of sand?

I wish that I
Could remember
How to reach that high
And laugh that loud.

Perhaps if I actually
Went to the beach sometime....
.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No Reason for Heaven - the Mercenary Personality


"Heaven offers nothing that a mercenary soul can desire." -C.S. Lewis

 Writers love to break the world down into categories. There was the big 4 Humors kick where everybody was trying to determine if they were melancholy, phelgmatic, choleric or sanquine. Later a fifth type was added called the "supine". There are the Myers-Briggs classification pairs based on the work of Carl Jung- extroversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, judgement/perception. And we all probably think of ourselves as either Type A or Type B personalities.

At the risk of adding to the general confusion, I'd like to add a another way of classifying people. I'd call it mercenary vs selfless or givers versus takers or even, to put it more bluntly - good versus evil. The classification gets to motivation. It's why we think we are here on Earth.

Are we here to server ourselves and our own needs or are we here to help others. Are we on Earth to take what we can get for ourselves or to give to those who need what we have to offer? It's a pretty fundamental difference and it pretty clearly identifies who you can trust and who you can't.

Even many people who pretend to be great givers, show themselves to be mercenaries in the end. They give to cover their efforts to acquire power, possessions or influence. It is the flaw of the progressive socialist. Under cover of universal charity, the leaders of the movement frantically acquire power and influence and work tirelessly to convince people to trade their liberty for the illusion of security.

Many of the capitalist persuasion hide greed and self-serving behind a facade of protecting liberty and freedom.

Liberal versus Conservative is a false dichotomy when you come down to it. Mercenary versus selfless is a far better way to clarify the motives of an individual.

C.S. Lewis' comment that heaven has no attraction for a mercenary heart gets at the great choice each human being must make. That choice is one we make inevitably. It is the final choice that determines the great "who we will serve" question that Joshua posed to the Israelites.

You will find mercenaries among Democrats, Republicans and Libertarians. Some of them are even, until the moment of truth, true-believers in their ideology. It's why the power-hungry are found among the churches. It's why good and kind men and women are found walking the halls of power, running political parties and leading men into battle. Whatever motivation brought them there, who they are will eventually be revealed - if not to man, then to God.

The great question is who are you? What do you believe is your ultimate purpose. On that question rests the eternal puzzle. Why am I here? What should I be doing while I'm here?

If you are here yourself, enjoy your time here, grab all you can get, because this is all you get. The world means all to you and your time here is the most important thing.

If you are here for others, you do what is right, suffer patiently and take no advantage. The world is only a means to an end and what comes after is the most important thing.

As someone told Indiana Jones once, "Choose wisely!"

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Beware the Frumnious Koobface Worm!

 

Watch out for a fresh round of the Koobface worm on Facebook. You'll get a message from someone you trust that offers a link to a youtube video. It sends you to a fake youtube site.

A popup opens saying you need the latest version of Flash Player to play the video. DO NOT CLICK ON THE FAKE FLASH PLAYER LINK.


Do that and you won't get infected.  If you did click on the fake Flash Player link, you have the Koobface worm.  Here's how I cleaned it off my computer.  You can also watch a Youtube video that tells how to get rid of it.  I got to it done quickly before it brutalized my system, so all I had to do was run Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware software.  If you have had it for a while, watch the video for some extra steps you might need to take.

I cleaned it off my computer within hours. If it stays any time at all, it will harvest your name and some private info. If it stays long enough it will harvest your passwords and send it to the hacker.

Here's what I did:
  1. Go to http://support.kaspersky.com/viruses/solutions?qid=208280684 and download the TDSS Rootkit removal tool. It comes as a zip file. Save it on your desktop. Extract the file to your desktop. Don't put the TDSS Killer program in a folder on the desktop. Just extract it to the desktop.
  2. Run the tool, clean and repair following the prompts and then restart the computer.
  3. Go to http://www.norman.com/support/support_tools/58732/en and download the Norman Malware Cleanter and place it on your desktop.
  4. Run Norman Malware Cleaner and clean any installed malware from your computer. Follow the cleaning prompts and then reboot your computer.
  5. Go to CNET.com
  6. Download "Malwarebyte's Anti-Malware program (it's free).
  7. Install Anti-Malware, check for and download the latest updates and run the full scan. It will take a while. When it's done it will list the infected files.
  8. Leave the boxes checked and click on the repair link.
  9. Now go away for 15-20 minutes (don't mess with it). The program may appear to freeze. Just cut off the power and reboot when you come back.
  10. Rerun the Anti-Malware software. A scan should show you free of the worm. Check the last log file and it will show what was found and deleted.
  11. First time you open your Firefox browser, don't go anywhere. Click on Tools > Options > Advanced > Network > Settings. Then change the settings to "No Proxy" and you should be okay. This worm hijacks the proxy settings on your computer. If you don't do this, it will still redirect you to a bogus website and make your life miserable.
  12. The first time you open your I.E. browser, click on Tools > Internet Options > Connections > LAN settings. Uncheck the "Proxy Server" option and check "Automatically check settings". I had to close I.E. the first time because it wouldn't let me select Internet Options, but the second time I opened it, I was able to fix it. Don't know why - possibly because I hadn't used IE since I contracted the Koobface worm. (Doesn't "Koobface Worm" sound just like something you'd pick up on a trip to a bordertown restaurant).
Anyway, this ought to get you back up and running and keep your system clean.


IF IT DOES NOT:  GO GET ON THE "MY BLEEPING COMPUTER" WEBSITE AND SIGN UP FOR AN ACCOUNT:

They have some very knowledgeable folk on the site who can talk you through a thorough cleanup.  You may encounter recommendations to use a program called "Combofix" on other websites.  Do not use this program without getting help from the Bleeping Computer folks. It fools around with key parts of the computer's operating system and if you don't know what you are doing, you can get really screwed up.

You'll need to set up an Account on "Bleeping Computer" and post a topic for your specific problem.  There is a list of preparatory steps you'll have to take to get ready and the process may take a little time to work through.  It's either that or pay some computer tech several hundred bucks to wipe and rebuild your hard drive and you still may lose data in the process. 

One more note.  If you try to search "Koobface Worm Removal" you will get links to a lot of sites that will actually give you the Koobface worm.  Make sure you have a tool like "Web of Trust" or your anti-malware software running to warn you about untrustworthy sites. Try the above process and "Bleeping Computer" before you go stepping into that minefield.  Doing a Google search to correct a "google redirect" virus that you have on your computer is asking for a trip through the looking glass. 

Hackers who create these kinds of things are thugs and bullies and no better than the punks who used to give them wedgies back in junior high school. I personally think we should catch them and hang them publicly in the town square -- by the back of their Fruit-of-the-Looms! Just let 'em dangle there for a while! Then we should put them all on a deserted island somewhere well north of the tropics where it gets really cold in the winter. Leave them no computers or electricity - nothing but farm tools and bags of turnip seeds.

Good luck.


Tom

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

In Denial......With the Crocodiles!


It's already started - the pundits have hit the airwaves busily trying to explain how the Tea Party effect really wasn't what it looked like and that it was merely a repudiation of Democrats or savvy political maneuvering by Republicans or something; anything but a sincere manifestation of the public will. They talk about us as though we were cattle to be herded by cowboy politicians; as though we were the sheep in some sheep dog contest and not independent thinking people.   Sadly, I hear some of the old line Republicans still trying to minimize what happened in this past election. Too many veteran politicians, Democrat or Republican, see themselves as having all this well-earned political "expertise". Their expertise is viewed as essential to proper government. Their expertise defines them.

So, like the proverbial man that "all he has is a hammer", they see every problem as a political nail to be driven with the particular hammer that they clutch tightly in their tiny little hands.


The very idea that, solving the country's problems may require other tools and other craftsmen, cannot occur to them. That sort of solution would require the "experienced" politician to willingly step aside - something utterly unthinkable to an old-line politico.

The sad truth is, politicians too long in Washington, soon join the great game of politics. They learn the rules, the nuances of play and how to keep score. Once they're hooked on the game, they are useless for real work.

I'm just telling you what I think.

Tom

Friday, November 05, 2010

The Pot and the Kettles - A Parable

Once upon a time there was a great iron stew pot that sat on the edge of the village in the camp of the outcasts. You see it was an iron rule in the village that only the eldest child in each family could inherit the wealth of the family.  In the old days, each house kept an iron kettle on the hearth of each great house. These kettles became the symbols for the bounty kept and bestowed by the house and the kettle
was passed on from fathers to sons as the symbol of the transfer of the new house master's hereditary rights and privileges.  

Children who were not able to inherit, became servants in the village.  Those, whose temperaments were unsuited to servitude, left the village to live in the camp of the outcasts.  Those who lived in the camp soon learned skills they needed to survive and taught others in the camp to do so.  They gleaned the leftovers from the surrounding fields after the harvests, saved the seeds and soon planted fields of their own around the camp, trading their goods for livestock and land.  They taught each other crafts and skills needed to survive and to give the newly outcast something useful to contribute to the camp.  Some new outcasts brought skills with them that they had learned in the village. They worked hard and soon, the camp of the outcasts grew to a vibrant community that rivaled and in many ways exceeded the village in size and wealth.

The iron stew pot, at first, was where the outcasts shared the food they were able to find and where they took their meals together.  Later it became the place where the outcasts pooled a tithe of all their goods and purchased weapons to defend their camp, organizing a defense force and electing a sheriff, a judge and mayor of their own.

In the village, the lords of the great houses with their armies of servants laughed at the pretensions of the outcasts. They exploited their servants; labors and amassed huge fortunes until the burden the great house masters necessarily placed on their servants became so onerous that the servants rebelled. The rebellions in some cases were crushed; in others the houses changed hands and a new master took control.  A very vew houses fell into the hands of the servants who copied the outcasts in reordering their houses. Some of the most tyrannical masters picked fights with other houses in the village in order to distract their servants from their unhappiness and to bind their loyalties to their own houses through outside conflict.  While the village lord and masters hacked away at each other, the outcasts grew in power and wealth until the outcast camp was greater than all the village houses.

When chaos in the village became unbearable, some of the great houses invited the outcasts to send their soldiers to quell the violence.  After things settled down and the outcasts had helped repair the damage, the houses reluctantly formed a village council and invited the outcasts to sit on it.

Years passed. The outcasts helped provide security for the village as well as the outcast camp. The council met and fussed and fumed and tried to cling to what they perceived as their ancients rights and privileges. They finally organized a special council to determine why people were not happy in the villages.  They brought their kettles to the special council as a symbol of their ancient power.  The outcasts brought their great iron stew pot.  Because it was larger than all the kettles, the village houses complained that the outcasts should get a smaller pot or leave it at home so as not to upset the village house masters.

So they left the pot at home when they went to the meetings.

The special council then complained that the outcasts were not playing fair and that they had too much wealth and too much power and blamed it on their having a larger pot.  Some of the biggest troublemakers among the village house masters accused the outcasts of being somehow responsible for all the problems in the village.  The special council voted finally to issue a decree condemning the outcasts for having a bigger pot and demanded that the pot be given to the special council as a symbol of the council's superior position.  They further decreed that the outcasts should get a decent sized kettle like everybody else.

They all felt better then.

Some of the outcasts wanted to give away their pot, buy a more modest kettle and rejoin the village, hoping the villagers would all like them again.

The rest of the outcasts went, "You've got to be kidding!" and promptly ignored the decree and the silly people among them who cared anything at all about the special council's decree.  They tossed out a few of the troublesome goofs in the camp council who had neogtiated the terms of the decree with the special council in the first place.

Then everybody went back to work and a whole bunch of smart villagers, sick of the mess in the village, defected to the outcast camp bringing their energy, wealth and skills with them... 

Or at least that's how it ought to end.....

(c) 2010 by Tom King                                      .

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

California Declares for Governor Moonbeam!



California has definitely proved it is the land of fantasy.  As business and people who actually want to work for a living by choice flee the land of pixie dust politics, the rats rejoice as the ship goes down. The only thing that would have made it perfect would be if Prop 19 had passed.  The resulting mass immigration of pot-heads would have been spectacular and sent the state into an even more massive downward spiral, if such a thing can be imagined.

If you have recently fled to Texas from California, welcome.  You have found your weblog in Texas!

I'm just sayin'

Tom King - Tyler, TX

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Unhorsing Your Knight


My niece posted one of those snarky female comments about men the other day on Facebook.  The quote read, "Every Girl Is Entitled To A Knight In Shining Armor, Mine Just Took A Wrong Turn, Got Lost, And Is Too Stubborn To Ask For Directions."

Wow, it has been almost 24 hours since I heard a variant of the "men won't ask for directions" complaint from a woman. I feel compelled to respond, if only to warn my niece of the danger inherant in blithely accepting that a man's reluctance to seek directions from some stranger is necessarily a bad thing.

This female obsession with her Knight in Shining Armor's asking for directions reveals a profound misunderstanding of the nature of the male of the species. This misunderstanding, I believe, has lead women to a classic psychological double bind where their men are concern.

First women seem to want strong, capable hero-type guys as their mates.

Then, they want them to ask for directions, help with the dishes without being asked and spend long hours talking about feelings.

And women everywhere are now sayin, "Yes, exactly!"

Men everywhere are rolling their eyes and picking up the TV guide to see if there's a Thursday night football game on this week.

Let me explain something. We knights in shining armor don't ask for directions because we know where we are! We're right here. Finding the place we're going is the whole point of the quest. The journey is the worthier part. Give us time to find our own way, girls. You'll like us much better if you do.


Have you ever noticed that the first thing women complain about after they get their husbands successfully domesticated is that they have become boring? Teach us to ask for directions and next thing you know we're couch potatoes, taking our cues from television. After that, we don't go anywhere that no one has gone before. We no longer do anything unless it's safe.

For a young man, life is a grand adventure stretching before him.  There are worlds to conquer, mountains to climb, damsels to rescue!

Pack up your knight's armor and domesticate him at your own risk ladies.  He may be easier to handle, but he'll also be a lot more dull!
 
I could be wrong...but I don't think so.
 
Tom King
.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What Pain Teaches You

I've been having all kinds of fun the past 4 weeks.  Saturday night, my kidneys decided shucking off one 7mm kidney stone wasn't enough.  I was driving my wife to her sister's house and halfway between Tyler and Cleburne in the middle of the night a second stone decides to shake itself loose.  I managed to make it as far as my in-law's house and they drove me on to the hospital in Cleburne. I felt like I was going to die before I got there. Worst kidney stone yet!

So now I've got a 9mm stone on the left side that wants to move and it's going to be back to the urologist to have it blown up.

There's nothing quite so amusing as having rocks blasted apart inside your kidneys, I'm here to tell you.

As I was riding the final bit to the hospital Saturday, I had a very intense conversation with God about Him cutting back on the pain a little.  I don't know whether the pain would have been worse had I not prayed.  I can hardly imagine it could have been worse, but you never know.

Thank God for pain medication and I mean that literally.  I don't know how people survived such things in the past. It would account for the shortened lifespans of our forebears I expect.

God says if we are truly His children, He will send us trials that will show that your faith is genuine. Peter (I Peter 1:7) described it as being "tested as fire tests and purifies gold".  It is a serious thing to take the name of Christ as a Christian.  It is NOT a social group, though many of us practice it as though it were.  If you are a Christian you may expect trials.  Some are about teaching you.  Some trials merely use you as a tool to accomplish God's will. Trials are not always primarily about you.  You may learn something from any tribulation, it is true, but sometimes, God places you somewhere or allows something to fall heavily on you in order to help someone else find his way to God.

And sometimes, trials happen to reveal to you that all is not as you think they are.  Sometimes they reveal to us that God is far more in control than we ever suspected.  I found that out when I lost one son.  I discovered he was, in fact, a finer young man than I had known.  Recently, I've found that my remaining son has strength and depth of character that I should have realized he had, but that in midst of my own personal trials, I had somehow missed.  I found that my daughter has wisdom far beyond her years and that my wife is a stronger soul than, even I had imagined.  I am blessed to have them all.

As the world winds down, Christians and Christian families will have to learn to hold together, despite everything the world throws at them. We will have to learn how to give without counting the cost.  We will have to learn to lift up our brothers in their hour of need and to not be too proud to allow others to lift us up in our own hour of trial.

We will need to learn to pray together, work together and to believe in each other no matter what the enemy throws at us.  May God go with each of you in your journey home.

Tom King

Sunday, October 03, 2010

The Page, the Canvas, the Clay and the Silent Room

by Tom King © 2010

The really difficult thing for an artist or an artisan is to confront the blank medium of his or her chosen craft, whether it's the blank page, the unpainted canvas, the shapeless lump of clay or the silent room into which the music must be poured. Many of our greatest artists report that they face those empty voids with anxiety, frustration and sometimes downright terror.

I think this happens when the writer, painter, sculptor or musician comes to believe his art is somehow tied to his worth as a human being. There have, indeed, been some amazing works of art that have been wrought by tortured souls looking to validate their existence on this Earth – no doubt of that. I just have to wonder, though, whether these particular works of art are powerful because of their innate beautiful, or whether we simply can't take our eyes from them in the same way we cannot turn our eyes from the scene of a train wreck or plane crash.

There are works of “art” that come from these blank canvases and empty sheets of paper that, when read or viewed, have a powerful effect upon you. But if that effect is to sicken your soul so that you experience the twisted emotions, anger or misery of the artist, I rather wonder whether the piece is actually great or merely powerful. Greatness and power are not the same thing, though our post-modern culture has convinced itself that they are.

How many movies feature the word “powerful” in the list of descriptors on the poster. How much art or literature is called “powerful” and are therefore celebrated as “great”. Adolph Hitler's “Mein Kampf” is a powerful work of literature and though we are not prepared (yet) to call it a “great work” it could, by today's standards be considered “great”. The book did have a powerful impact on the world stage. The critics of the day did find the book worthy of admiration. I found a 30's era college literature book in a flea market once that included the complete text of Hitler's opus with laudatory comments regarding the book's “power”. The hideous import of the Fuhrer's masterpiece received little attention from the intelligentsia. It was the power of the thing that captivated and held them in thrall.

For me, the blank page represents an opportunity to draw attention to what is good in the world. Such writing is called “sentimental” and “maudlin” by the post-modernist critics.

For me, the blank canvas is a chance to find beauty in even mundane places. Such art is called “prosaic” and “predictable” by the critics.

For me, the silent room and the musical instrument in the hands of an artist are an open channel through which something good and free and fine and sweet may flow and lift us and carry us away. The critics dismiss such music as "pedestrian".

Art which lifts up goodness and honor and those great values can be powerful. On the other hand, art which is powerful may lift up evil and misery and corruption for the admiration of all. Such art should not be considered good to my way of thinking.

Politics is an art they say and I believe it holds true. A leader spends his time upon the world stage and works his or her art through the wielding of power – either power which has been bestowed upon him or her or power which has been seized or won. They say that such power corrupts. Well, I don't fully believe that. Corrupt power corrupts – yes! Power, sought, for its own sake, I maintain, is already corrupt. There are those among our leaders, who attempt in their time in the political arena, to create things of beauty and goodness using the power they have as a tool.

Once you have written your constitution, your law or created some great public work, you then have two choices. You can let go of that power, content that you have done well and let your work speak and act for itself. If that work was meant for good, it will have a power for good, long after you have faded into the background, ridden off into the sunset or settled gracefully into your rocking chair on the back porch.

Or you can cling to that power, even if it's only the vestiges of that power. You can fritter endlessly over your “legacy” and hover over your work long after it is done and you should have retired gracefully from the stage. Power corrupts indeed – especially if you don't know how to let it go.*

Just one man's opinion.....

Tom King

* I can think of 5 powerful men off the top of my head who are perfect examples of this – both ways.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why Hospitals Should Restrict Certain TV Channels

I don't know which is worse, passing a kidney stone or having to watch Keith Olbermann and not being able to turn him off.

While waiting for them to come wheel me into surgery, I accidentally rolled over onto the TV remote by my hospital bed and turned the TV channel onto MSNBC. Normally, I would have quickly flipped the channel over (under the 5 second rule) but in my morphine addled state, I couldn't find the button to change the channel or turn him off.  After 5 seconds, I began to get nauseous, developed cramps and blood shot out of my eyes.  My kidney stone was dancing like Charro on meth-amphetamines.

I finally managed to punch the call button for the nurse. I remember screaming at her to flip the channel.  I think I finally volunteered for an emergency lobotomy (a request they fortunately did not take seriously).  My nurse put on ear protectors (no dummy that one) slipped into the room, while avoiding making eye contact with the screen and pulled the plug.  I don't remember anything after that till I woke up from the surgery.

Sheila slept through it all, though she later reported having a nightmare in which an evil pygmy with bug eyes and a whiny voice extracted her brain through her nose with a sharpened stick.

All kidding aside, though, there should be some kind of warning label that MSNBC has to flash on the screen when that man is on the air.  I came onto him late one night and was just curious about what all the fuss was about (they get you that way - you know). It was the most painful thing I've ever had the misfortune to listen to. Thank goodness I had that kidney stone pain to distract me.  Man, if you were to go to sleep with him playing in your head, it could cost you some serious brain cells. That's all I saying.

Tom

Hey, do you suppose we could get a class action lawsuit against MSNBC for all the brain damage he's caused.  I mean all those folks on the left claim we're brain-damaged anyway.  We could blame it on Keith Olbermann. Even if they could find someone to testify that they've been watching Keith for years without damage, all they'd have to do would be ask them a few questions.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Laughing at the Devil - The Art of Riding Out the Storm While Maintaining a Sense of Humor


Over the past four years my relatively stable life has been pitched into the dumper in exchange for an emotional, financial and spiritual roller coaster ride (mostly downhill). Generally roller coaster rides are fun, but in them is an element of terror too. I've often wondered why we risk being flung about in a tiny cart on thin rails at 50 or 60 miles an hour and pay for the privilege.  If something goes wrong, the consequences are not pretty. We don't know who's doing the maintenance on any particular roller coaster and we don't have a 100% assurance that everything will come out okay at the end.  Yet we have faith in those unknown maintenance people to look out for our safety.

Like most folks, I will likely as not, continue to cue up in the hot sun for my turn at the ride - at least, so long as my spine will endure the shock.

Reliable witnesses have told us that it would be like this in these last days.  Though we have long expected it, still the intensity of it has been a surprise now that it's really come at last.

Has anyone been surprised at the raw anger that Christians have faced in the news media, the blogosphere and in what we once thought of as "polite" society? Even comedians have brutalized Christian belief and practice in the name of humor and the "comment" section of on-line commentaries and news stories are rife with frighteningly intense and vicious diatribes against believers.  Even some of the very people to whom we have shown the greatest love, kindness, patience and longsuffering, have turned on us with a vitriol that is nothing short of stunning.

I had a conversation with someone the other day, who was having trouble getting around the fact that a loved one was behaving in a way that he could not understand. We laughed about it; tried to make excuses for the person. We even made jokes about  it.

So why do we laugh about something that makes us so sad? I think it's because in these "end of the roller coaster ride" days, stuff like this comes at us so hard and fast anymore that if we didn't laugh, the alternative would be to weep all the time. It's like the folks coming off the roller coaster when it's over who, having been frightened out of their wits, and find themselves laughing at themselves for their earlier terror.

If, like me and roller coaster riders everywhere, you operate on the belief that everything is going to turn out okay in the end (see Romans 8:28, if you're a Christian believer), then after a while, you recognize that the increasing trials, troubles and assaults on your peace and security, that we've all endured of late, are nothing but a last desperate attempt to knock you from your seat in the coaster tram by a "designer" with nasty intentions.  If you can just be frightened enough to jump over the side, he wins.


Martin Luther once said, "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." Sir Thomas More wrote, "The devil... the proud spirit.. cannot endure to be mocked." Lucifer must be having a right old unhappy go of it right now, because the primary targets of his machinations have begun to figure out what's going on - and we've begun to laugh at him.

Lately, I talk to a lot of Christians who have begun to see clearly why so many troubles are coming at us all at once. Not only that, but we see clearly who is behind it. It's gotten laughable. It becomes a comedy routine when it gets that bad.  There you are, unemployed, broke, your loved ones seemingly turning against you, your dog's hair all falling out and headed for that interview for that janitorial job you probably won't get because you're old and gimpy kneed.  It's 105 degrees outside, 99% humidity and your air conditioner has failed.  Then, at that very moment the car radiator starts blowing steam, you run out of gas, and discover you have no money with you AND your cell phone has been shut off.  At that point, if you truly believe in God, you sit back in your seat, throw back your head and laugh.  THEN YOU START WALKING!


"Is that all you've got?" I grin. "I'm supposed to curse God and die over a little 5 mile walk in the hot sun, some public humiliation and a lost janitorial job? Ha!  I know what you're up to and it won't work. Kill me if you want to, I really won't mind.  It'll be restful.  I am not afraid of you!"

If we really believe that God saves us, we're coming upon a time when our belief in eternal life and our faith that God has our salvation well in hand will be surely tested. It will be hard for those of us who harbor a sneaking suspicion that this life is all there is and that God's promises are nothing more than a mass delusion, opiate of the people, psychological crutch with no basis in fact.  It should come as no surprise when we see some of our number leaping over the side, unable to take it anymore.

Meanwhile, some of us will be laughing, not at the loss of our comrades, of course, but at the pathetically transparent attempts by the devil to make our heart's fail with fear.

I recently found out that someone had been saying some terrible things about me. At first, my reaction was to work up into a rage over it.  "Why how could.....I mean......after I....I will never....."  You know the kind of thing that I wanted to say.

Then, I laughed.

I remember once how Ronald Reagan, in a presidential debate, responded to distortions of his record by his opponent.  "There you go again..."  he laughed.  It wasn't so much what he said, it was that bemused chuckle that people remember. It was so powerful a thing to do that nobody remembers the point Jimmy Carter was trying to make.  It wasn't so much the words Reagan said as the way he chuckled when he said them that disarmed his opponent.

I said to myself, "No.  You don't win.  I will not be the kind of nasty vindictive person Satan wants me to become in response to this. I will not seek revenge, Instead, I will declare a holy war.  I will fight my jihad with the tools of love, patience, generosity and  faith - the only weapons of war a Christian soldier is allowed. I will become a better, stronger person after this, not a worse one.  I will overcome my enemies with kindness and love. I will forgo the hollow pleasure of vengeance for the eternal pleasure of life everlasting."

(insert hearty chuckle here)

Tom

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Look Who Showed Up to Greet the Troops Coming Home

This was the scene at DFW when troops flew in from Iraq the other day.  They had two surprise visitors waiting for them at the gate.....



Wanna guess who was out playing golf?

That's all I'm going to say.

Tom

Monday, August 30, 2010

Isn't God On Our Side?


At the Restoring Honor Rally in Washington Saturday, Glenn Beck said that God is not on your side. Instead, he challenged his audience to "Put yourself in a position where you are on His side." This confused some folks.  After all, isn't God on our side if we are doing right?

I think Glenn Beck was absolutely right. I know what he meant.  God doesn't pick sides. He loves everyone equally.  He is "no respecter of persons".  God wants to be on everyone's side.

The question really is not whether God selects your side to favor. The question is whether you choose to be on God's side and give up the idea that your side even belongs to you.  It doesn't, you know. The great issue of our day comes down to good versus evil?  Do we follow God's leading? Do we hand our lives over to him to mold us and make us into decent, kind and free people or do we rebel?  Obedience or rebellion to God are the only two choices. There is no neutral third choice.

In fact, if you have a "side" that you think belongs to you, then it's not very likely that that side is God's side is it? Mine or God's? That's the real choice isn't it?  Am I on God's side or my side? After all, when you think about it, the devil's side is the penultimate "MY SIDE".  It's the side of self-interest, self-promotion, self-first. If you are on "My Side", then the Devil is on your side.  Good luck with that. You may want to reconsider who your allies are there.

I'm just telling you what I think.

Tom King - Tyler, TX

*Image (c) Yahoo News

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Division of Labor

And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."  
- I Corinthians 12:21 NASB

My Sweet Baboo gave me a job yesterday.  She's decided to take up clipping coupons and wants some labels for the book and since I "know so much about computers", she assumed I would be just the bloke for the job.
She is, of course, absolutely right.

In a trice I whipped up a mail-merged page of labels for the old photo album that she is recycling for the purpose. I used Microsoft Word and created a PDF file with it which I printed, not only for her, but also posted for the use of my readers on my Howdy Ya Dewit website.  She has an old dayplanner she'd rather use, but I'll need to buy some plastic pocket pages for it.  Once I do get the new pages, I'll get out my Adobe Pagemaker and jazz up the labels even more with border and pictures and make it all cute.  She'll just have to remind me to buy the pages about 65 times. I think a grocery coupon book is a wonderful idea.

BUT DON'T ASK ME TO KEEP UP WITH THE THING!

I've learned that each of us has things we are good at and things which we are not good at.  If you keep asking someone to do something they just aren't good at, you are setting yourself up for lots of disappointment and frustration.  I, unfortunately, have the attention span of a jackrabbit on a date.  I could never keep up with clipping coupons, although once I spent an hour doing it and saved us something like $40 at the grocery store.

Not likely to ever happen again, though. Move on, folks.  Nothing else to see here.

That's why I have a garage full of projects I haven't got started on yet.  One day, I'll get a bug to do one and the time (which I don't have much of these days) and I'll get out there and build the six inch telescope, the box dulcimer, the canoe rack and cookie tin banjo I've been collecting parts for.  My how-to weblog is a monument to my trips to the shade tree to try and figure out how to make something myself or repair something on the cheap because I can't afford to buy it at the store.

Actually, I enjoy making things and my ambition is to build myself a greenhouse and a big workshop out back for the purpose. My wife's ambition is for me to get all my crap out of the garage.

We each have our purpose.  If I can help you in 5 minutes or so, I'm your guy.  If you want me to remember to do something later, drop me 3 or 4 e-mails and whack me upside the head about an hour before I'm supposed to have it done.

Or you can tell Sheila and she'll worry about it every day until she makes me get it done.

We each have our functions and as the Apostle Paul said, "The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don't need you.'"  Well, the eye actually can say that and probably will before it's over, but that don't make it so.
I'm great if an airplane drops on your house or your septic tank explodes or you need to wrestle a water buffalo out of your pantry.  Sheila can not only show you how to cook, bake or clean anything you can imagine, but will have it pretty well cooked, baked or cleaned by the time she gets through explaining it to you. I play the guitar so most people can tolerate it (except my immediate family members who think its funny to moan and hold their ears every time I pick the thing up).  Sheila doesn't play. She rehearses over and over until its perfect.  She's the one you invite to perform special music at the church. I'm the one you stick with song service every week and a backup band of 5 or 10 kids who may or may not actually play the instruments they are holding at the time.  Beautiful music or joyful noise - pick your body part!

I'm just tellin' ya' what I think.

Tom

Friday, August 20, 2010

Credit Where Credit is Due

The Thorny Issue of Authorship on the Internet

Someone posted a humor bit on Facebook this morning that was very, very funny. It was also presented without the name of the original author and was somewhat modified from his original work. The piece was a barely disguised rip-off of W. Bruce Cameron's 1997 copyrighted piece "The Chili Judge". Bruce (left), a noted humor columnist, is also the author of "8 Simple Rules for Dating my Daughter" the column and later book that was turned into the John Ritter sitcom of the same name. You can read the original version of his lesser known ode to chili here:




The Chili Judge
Copyright 1997 by W. Bruce Cameron
http://www.wbrucecameron.com/

I've had two or three humor or parody pieces of my own ripped off without a byline credit or my copyright notice, so it bothers me when someone swipes something like this without crediting the author and rewrites it without permission.

Some people do credit me when I spot the parody piece and write to remind them that I wrote it. Problem is, the thing is posted all over the place and circulates in e-mails by the millions, so I have no control over the work anymore. You may have read it yourself - "Lou Costello Buys a Computer" It was written as a skit, so now there are even several video versions of the piece all over Youtube. Cameron's Chili Judge also has a video version rewritten in some places, but in several places paragraphs were lifted whole from Cameron's column.


It would be nice if someone would do a little 5 minutes of author research before deciding the "funny fairy" musta wrote it and placed it in the public domain for them to automatically use as they see fit.

I realize it's a compliment to the author that someone thought the piece was good enough to steal, but a compliment, that doesn't mention who it is that you are complimenting, isn't really very complimentary.

I allow anyone who asks to use the Lou Costello/Computer skit freely. It's included in at least one book I know of where the book's author asked me to allow her to use it to illustrate a point.

I was pleased to grant the rights to her - no charge. She very kindly included my byline, copyright notice and web address.

The people who post funny stuff like this may not credit the author. We authors have little or no control over that.  An author probably won't sue you for compulsively passing his or her work along to ten friends in the next 20 minutes so that you don't have bad luck or people won't think you don't love Jesus.

But if you decide to send something you found funny and enjoyable to several hundred friends, it would be polite to check who the original author is and at least give them credit or ask if you can send a link to the author's posting of the original piece.

Like this guy did: http://www.wanderings.net/notebook/Main/ChiliCookOff


or this one:  http://www.chilicookin.com/humor.htm

I'm just sayin'

Tom

P.S.  And don't assume the person who sent something funny to you actually wrote it. People take credit for things they didn't do all the time (see Wikipedia under "President" or "Congress").
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Monday, August 16, 2010

Men in the Valley

It ain't gonna be no smooth ride if you're doing the right thing.

Brett and Kay McKay wrote a fascinating piece on the “Art of Manliness” weblog entitled “The Seasons of a Man's Life”. The article points out that the lives of men seldom go along on a steady upward track. At best it is a slowly ascending series of peaks and valleys. However much our spouses desire it, our fortunes rise and fall like a roller coaster. Often the great men among us—those who actually accomplish something significant in this life—pass through what King David called the “Valley of the Shadow of Death”.

David knew about those valleys. So too did men like Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan. Throughout history, any man who sought to do good, to accomplish some noble purpose has faced a Valley Forge winter as did George Washington, a wilderness time as Elijah did or betrayal and slavery, sold away to Egypt by his own brothers as Joseph was.

Satan does not like brave or good men. He wages war upon them without respite. Men who seem to live a charmed life—one of steady accomplishment and certain rise to power—often wind up having tell-all books written about them after they are gone, explaining what rotters they “really” were all along. Give me a man, however, who has accomplished something selfless and good for his fellow man and I will show you someone misunderstood, persecuted or tried to the limit of his endurance at some point in his life.

Many of these brave men die in the midst of one of these trips through the “Valley”, never knowing the full effect of their courageous actions. The men like Crockett, Travis and Bowie who died at the Alamo never saw their brothers in arms strike down the very Mexican Army that slaughtered them. Never saw their friends and neighbors, outnumbered 2 to 1 or better, charging across the field beside the San Jacinto River shouting “Remember the Alamo” and winning for Texas it’s freedom from tyranny.

Nathan Hale understood a bit of it when standing on the gallows, a rope around his neck, he told the executioner he regretted he had but one life to give for his country. He never saw the end of the revolution and the nation that would rise out of it to bless the world.

I’ve told here the story of Col. John Boyd, who always told his Air Force Tactical Fighter School cadets they could “do something” or “be somebody”. Choose to be somebody and you take the road to promotion, money, power and rank. Choose to do something and you will face persecution, obstacles and loss of position. Choose to be somebody and you will lie, betray, cheat and compromise. Choose to do something and you retain your integrity, remain loyal to your friends and you just may accomplish something worthwhile with your life.

Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you even unto the end of the world.” The end of your personal world may be the gallows as it was for Nathan Hale, early forced retirement as it was for John Boyd or financial ruin as it was for Oskar Schindler, the man who saved the lives of so many Jews and exhausted his fortune during the holocaust because it was the right thing to do.


When Samuel chose the unlikeliest son of Jesse as the future king of Israel, he said of David, “Man looks upon the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart." I look forward in heaven to enjoying the company of real men. It seems there are so few honorable men here on this sad little planet. If there were not so, how much better off would this world be?

Tom King

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Daisy's Brown Eyes Shining

by Tom King (c) 2010



She ate my sock again today
A gesture that was meant with true affection.
Brown eyes looked up at me for sign
That I approved what lovingly was meant.

And when I barked in my gruff style
She cut those dark brown shining eyes at me
A sadder thing I will not see
A dog's regret for unintended crimes.



(c) 2010 by Tom King - All Rights Reserved

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Handbag-Fu: Grandma Gets Militant

It's pretty tough to make me laugh on a day like today has been, but this sweet little old lady put me on the floor.  Watch for the air bag deployment.  Boo-ya!

Can you imagine the guy in the car below trying to sue her, especially with a video of the incident available.  A Texas Jury would have put his Yuppie butt in the klink for honking at her and decided he'd got his just deserts with an airbag to the face.

No kidding, we have no sense of humor about tormenting elderly women around here.  A Cleburne, Texas judge once put a high school star football player in jail for that kind of thing. The kid was out jogging and flipped off a little old English teacher at a stop sign and said something ugly. She called the cops, half of whom had been in her English class back when they were in high school and they still call her Mrs. Baker - respectfully. The dispatcher rolled two cars and they picked this kid up before he got home. He spent the next 3 days lying around a jail cell in sweatpants waiting for the Judge to get around to arraigning him. Frightening little old ladies is one of those thing's that is just beyond the pale in Texas.  

In the video below, however, the guy gets what he deserves!