The Daily ReTORt

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I'm no longer posting here. Visit my new blog -> WWW.THEDAILYRETORT.COM

Monday, October 31, 2011

NEW BLOG SITE LAUNCHES TOMORROW!!!

Starting tomorrow, this blog will re-launch as a completely different web log. It's new web address will be www.thedailyretort.com.

It will continue to feature the same types of topical writing you've come to expect from me, but the site itself will look completely different and will have a lot more to offer readers.

Here's a sample of what the new "header" for the blog will look like:


So be sure to subscribe at the new site -> www.thedailyretort.com!!!



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Halloween Fun With Cleverbot....

Halloween Q&A with an AI Twist
Several months ago I discovered Cleverbot, which is a web-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) application that learns to speak by conversing with humans via an instant messaging platform.

While it's a stretch to say that Cleverbot is intelligent, interacting with this particular learning software can be mildly entertaining.

Here's the most recent interview I had with Cleverbot last month: Celebrating Labor Day with Cleverbot.

Since today is Halloween, I thought it would be interesting to get Cleverbot's take on this holiday.

Here's the unedited conversation I had with Cleverbot this morning regarding Halloween.
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User: Hi Cleverbot, Happy Halloween!!

Cleverbot: Are you happy?

User: Certainly, it's Halloween - the single greatest candy exchange day in the world - why wouldn't I be happy?

Cleverbot: How do you find partners?

User: Partners? What do you mean? Neighborhood children dress up in costumes and go door-to-door trick or treating. That's how Halloween works.

Cleverbot: Are you British?

User: British? What does that have to do with Queen Mary's knickers? Oh, do you mean like for a Halloween costume? I guess I could be British but that's not very creative. I could grab some fake, ugly orthodonics ala Austin Powers but that's not a great idea. How about you? What will you dress up as on Halloween?

Cleverbot: The hat on which you sat.

User: How's that? The hat on which I sat? Ah, a costume like the Cat in the Hat. Well fancy that. Unfortunately, my fat in back made your hat flat as a mat and that - regettably - is that. So what kind of candy is your favorite?

Cleverbot: Chocolate. I like Mars Bars.

User: Good choice, why do you like that so much?

Cleverbot: Because they taste good.

User: I can't argue with that. Will you go trick or treating tonight?

Cleverbot: That's good to hear.

User: Hmmm....I'm not sure you're paying attention, perhaps you're excited about overdosing on Mars Bars. I asked if you plan on going trick or treating tonight for Halloween?

Cleverbot: So who am I talking to now?

User: Um....just me - the same guy, I haven't morphed into a goblin or ghoul. You're being very evasive Cleverbot. Does Halloween make you scared?

Cleverbot: Don't be scared! The only way I'm able to hurt you is to widen your view of the world.

User: Ummm...thanks for that tip (I think) - so where will you go trick or treating?

Cleverbot: The Kilimanjaro mountain!

User: What?!?!? I didn't know they celebrate Halloween in Africa!?!?

Cleverbot: Will you build me a mast?

User: Huh? What does a mast have to do with Halloween or the Serengeti Plains of the African continent???

Cleverbot: I didn't say it had anything to do with that. You're not thinking!

User: Actually, I'm the only one in this conversation that is thinking - what kind of treats do you expect to get trick-or-treating near a volcanic mountain chain in Tanzania anyway??

Cleverbot: Are we talking about a tree?

User: Ugh! Like I said, I'm the only one who's thinking here. Let's try something differenet - what's your least favorite candy?

Cleverbot: I don't think I have a least favorite candy, but I'm not very fond of chocolate.

User: What??? Two minutes ago chocolate was your favorite candy. Now I'm certain that your intelligence is artificial. Do you even know how Halloween started?

Cleverbot: Started what?

User: How Halloween started as a holiday celebration?

Cleverbot: My day is going good so far.

User: Hmmm...apparently you've skipped breakfast again and your blood sugar is low, making you loopy. Well hopefully a big dose of candy tonight will take care of that. Happy Halloween Cleverbot!!!

Cleverbot: Wait, should I throw a party?

User: If I were you, I wouldn't throw anything - people are liking to misunderstand and throw eggs at your house.

Cleverbot: I know. What's THAT all about?

User: Indeed. Happy Halloween not-so-Cleverbot!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Top-10 List: WORST Halloween treats

Our neighborhood is GREAT for Halloween trick-or-treating. It’s well lit with sidewalks and tons of families with kids.
So this weekend, we bought Halloween candy in preparation of the upcoming spooky fete – here’s a tip all the REALLY good candy is given out at our house (e.g. full-size Snickers, Reese’s PB cups, Super Blow Pops, Sour Patch kids…etc.)
However, I’m always stunned at some of the crappy treats that are still on the market – which prompted this little confectionary tirade of the top-10 WORST Halloween treats.

10. Malt balls – these are the genetically inferior distance cousin to the supremely better Milk Duds. Don’t confuse them!
9. Bit ‘O Honey/Mary Janes (or any other of those Depression Era candies still wrapped in wax paper) – nuff said!
8. Black Licorice – this is reminiscent of Vicks Formula 44D Original cough syrup (bleech!) and is the sugary bastardization of the far superior red licorice made by Twizzlers or Red Vines respectively.
7. A small box of raisins – any other day of the year raisins are awesome, but they are a complete bummer next to all the other Halloween booty in your bag of goodies. Raisins on Halloween are like taking your sibling to the prom – just weird.
6. Tootsie Rolls – I know I’ll catch a lot of flak opposing that iconic candy but honestly what is a Tootsie Roll? It’s like a waxy chocolate facsimile that was phoned in by drunken pixies. I’ll take raisins please....
5. Tootsie Pops – the only thing worse than a Tootsie Roll is encasing it a thick patina of off-flavor rock candy and then making you WORK to get to the congealed center, yuck!
4. Mallo Cups – this is the saddest candy on the list because it comes so close to ultimate greatness. No one can refute that the greatest chocolate candy is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, yet the misguided folks at Mallo Cup took Hershey’s perfection and cobbled together a culinary stink bug…so sad.
3. Giant Orange Circus Peanuts – these are those unnaturally orange, thumb-size stale “treats” (and I use that term very loosely) that are sold 500 in a bag on the bottom shelf at grocery stores.  I guess they’re packaged in such bulk since they can also double as dunnage when you have to mail fragile objects across country.  These are the most confusing treats since they are not individually wrapped (so no parent will let their kids eat them) and are very unappetizing – they are what I envision the petrified droppings of the Sugar Plum Fairy might look like - muted orange grossness.
2. Necco Wafers – I prefer to call them Necro Wafers since they taste like death in your mouth, little more than flavored chalk. The absolute worst is the licorice Necco Wafer (ugh!), followed closely by the 2nd worst flavor, chocolate Necco Wafer.  I’d just as soon pop a Rolaids or Tums and get the same chalky mouth sensation with at least fresher breath.
1. Candy from ANY other holiday – as a kid growing up, there lived on our street a mean old widow named Mrs. Egan. Every year you’d get candy from her that came from other holidays such as candy canes from Christmas; Easter marshmallow Peeps; or an assortment of Valentine’s Day Necco hearts. I was convinced that she couldn’t pawn off that junk candy when it was fresh on her grandkids, so she saved it up for street urchins like me and gave us the stale goodies for Halloween. I actually got a Boy Scout merit badge for “Community Service” when I listed this annual refuse collection as a civic duty I voluntarily undertook.

Please share the ones you agree and disagree with – but if you disagree, your arguments better be better than mine!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Amazing Perseverance...by a 10-Year Old


The Same Poster My Daughter Used When She Lost
Last Year, But Won This Year, Hung in Her Room   
I'm as proud as can be. When I got home from work last night I was told by our exuberant 10-year old that she had won her election race to be Vice President at her elementary school.

But that's not what makes me proud of her.

What makes me proud is that the photo insert you see pictured here to the left "Taylor C. for VP" hung in her room for the past several months when she LOST the very same race for Vice President last year.

Even though she lost the election back then, she believed in herself and persevered to win now. While the accomplishment is good, it's her character that's truly inspiring.

If you're interested, you can click on the "read more" link below for the original post from November 16, 2010 I wrote about her loss, and how she handled it with grace and maturity beyond her years.

Funny Tips for a Christian Halloween

Preachy Pumpkins
Every year about this time many Christians become very vocal about the evils of Halloween. With all the witchery and heathen-esque cavorting, they simply can't help themselves with their self-righteous indignation.

While valid points are made at times, people of faith (of which I'm one) generally come off looking like idiots with their anti-Halloween outrage.

Today my Internet buddy Matt Appling is graciously hosting a satirical guest post of mine about good ideas versus bad ideas that Christians should consider for Halloween. Matt has a great, edgey blog that I highly recommend. Here's an excerpt from my piece:

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Halloween is nearly here, and it's a tricky (pardon the pun) holiday for Christians given its pagan roots and association with various festivals of the dead.  In fact, some Christians are dead set against it, but thanks to slick Madison Avenue packaging and hyper-candy-consumerism, Halloween can be as acceptable to Christians as a fun-sized Baby Ruth® bar.


Yet, for a holiday intended for children, adults still manage to screw it up a lot, with sexy costumes and lousy candy.  Consider this: Good Idea, Bad Idea, Halloween Edition.


Costumes
GOOD IDEA: Allow your kids to dress as an angel, shepherd, wise man, Mary, Joseph or a sheep or goat.  My rule of thumb is that if it’s a costume that’s acceptable for a Christmas pageant at a neighborhood church, it should be okay for your kids to wear as they mooch candy from your neighborhood.  Maybe you could get kind of esoteric and dress your kids as a box of frankincense. Yes, Zombie Jesus is a big deal. Do a Google image search.


BAD IDEA: Let your kids to dress as any of the aforementioned options with the word “Zombie” in front of it. While precocious PKs may try to pull off the Zombie Jesus costume, passionately asserting that Jesus did rise from the dead, a quick witted parent will counter that He did NOT, however, rise from the UNdead......

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If liked to read more, please be sure to visit Matt's site: The Church With No People

Thursday, October 27, 2011

10 Things My Wife Has NEVER Said to Me....

My wife and I are very much in love, even after 16+ years of marriage. However, it has taken a lot of work and compromise from both of us - recognizing the likes and dislikes of the other and not "pushing each other's buttons." One hot button in particular that she loathes for me to push, is writing about her on this blog.

So today, I've decided to "not" write about her - sort of. Here are 10 Things My Wife Has NEVER Said to Me:

10. Honey that is so fantastic that you forgot my birthday, anniversary and Mother's Day - you've pulled off the marital trifecta, great job!

9. You know, it's such a beautiful fall day outside - why don't you stay inside on the couch and watch football all day!

8. Sweetie you are so handy around this house, it's like living with Bob Villa!

7. Thanks for leaving the toilet seat up in the middle of the night, that bidet experience was so refreshing!

6. Muffin, that novelty mounted jack-a-lope head you had in college would look great in the formal dining room!

5. I really wish you had a constant, two-day growth of facial hair. It's just like kissing a P40 grit sheet of sandpaper, which is the perfect skin exfoliate - I love the dermal abrasion of it all!

4. It's so adorable how you leave one swig of milk in the jug, forcing the girls to pour orange juice on their Cheerios - again. Too cute!

3. Your melodious snoring is like cherubic lullabies that gently lead me into the most restful slumber each and every single night - thank you!

2. Tor, I love, love, love the meadowy, lavender-esque fragrance that rushes from your mouth first thing each and every single morning - thank you!

1. Honey bun, I'm fed up with the oppressive fashionista women's footwear regime. In protest, I'm going to give away my 40+ pairs of foot coverings and never buy another pair again!

Question: What's something your significant other has never said to you?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

5 Productivity Pitfalls Learned From Marathon Training


Running Along - courtesy
www.ronedmondson.com

Today I have the honor of having a featured guest post on the fantastic web site of Ron Edmondson, a nationally-recognized writer, pastor and leadership authority.

Ron was kind enough to publish a piece I wrote titled 5 Productivity Pitfalls Learned From Marathon Training - here's an excerpt:

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Prior to my 40th birthday I decided I wanted to run a full marathon. I found a training regimen, stuck to it and successfully completed my first 26.2 mile distance within the top half of finishers for my age group – with energy to spare!


That experience for me was akin to successfully finishing a large project at my job – on time, under budget with the desired positive result. I then decided that “marathoning” would be my hobby. I followed the same plan for five months and had a similar outcome with my second full marathon.



Then things changed.


Six months later I ran my third marathon. It took me nearly seven hours to finish – that was more than three hours longer than my fastest race – a productivity loss of more than 40 percent. I was one of the last people to cross the finish line. Every joint and muscle in my body ached. Plus, I was 20 pounds heavier running the third race than the previous ones.


What happened? I allowed my past successes to undermine my future objectives. Specifically, I fell into five productivity pitfalls that led to my diminished performance.....



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To read the rest of my guest post - visit www.ronedmondson.com.

7 Questions With an Author: Salvatore Manzi

This is my weekly series "7 Questions With an Author..." where I ask an author seven questions about their respective book and share their unedited responses with you. Today's featured author is a personal friend of my, Salvatore Manzi.

He's a successful business owner, author and presenter. Not only do we both share the same first name and passion for Italian cuisine, we both believe in life maximization.



Here's "7 Questions With an Author: Salvatore Manzi"

1. Tell us about your book?
Feng Shui Life Mapping: Master the Art of Designing Your Future combines the ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui and the power of the Vision Board to create a visual representation of your "bucket list." Your Life Map serves a reminder of your dreams, focusing your attention and energy to ensure their speedy arrival. Your Life Map can also be used to redesign your home or work space with simple, easy to follow suggestions to have your entire home act as a visual affirmation of who you are, who you want to be, and where your life is going. 

2. What led you to write it?
At a low-point in my life - a dead-end job, a broken relationship, a huge debt and a depressing hole of an apartment - a friend gave me a book on Feng Shui. I began changing my home and soon my life changed with it. Combining the Feng Shui principles with my visual bucket list, I began to experience what can only be called miraculous things - whatever image I put on the Life Map came true!  I then took my Life Map one step further and used it to Feng Shui my apartment and within 3 months, I was out of debt and on my way to fulfilling a life-long dream of living in Italy with a job, apartment and visa waiting for me. When I returned, I began teaching Feng Shui Life Mapping and after three years and dozens of workshop, the book was published.
 
3. Who is a writer that inspires you and why?
I've always been a fan of Jack Kerouac for his rambling narrative style that captured both his adventures as well as meaningful insights throughout his travels.  Daniel Quinn, Alberto Villodo, Gregg Braden and Shakti Gawain convey essential truths to living a good life and inspire me to commit each day to being a messenger of love on this planet. Perhaps my favorite two fiction writers are Patrick Suskind (Perfume) and Tom Spanbauer (The Man who Fell in Love with the Moon) for their visual and prosaic writing style.

4. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book?
Honestly, each step along has had its challenges! Each time I think the hardest part is over, the next phase comes and presents a whole new set of possibilities and difficulties. Probably the most challenging aspect involved creating the cover design, with conflicting input from the publisher and graphic designers and such. There came a time when I just had to let go and trust others with my baby, and the results were incredible.

5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Write every day! Writing is both talent and skill, and the skill can be developed and refined so that the talent will express itself naturally. The most important part of writing is developing your voice and that comes from experimenting with different styles. One of my biggest challenges was giving myself permission to write junk. I've written a lot of junk. But the thing about writing every day is that somewhere along the way, a gem appears.

6. Where do you get your ideas?
I read a lot! I read books, magazines, blogs, newspapers... If I read a line that catches my attention, I make a note of it on my iPhone. And the next day I use that line as a launch pad for my morning writing. Sometimes I will sit down and type out whole paragraphs of an author's work and then turn the page and try playing with their rhythm to see what comes out of me.

7. Anything that you'd like readers to know that I haven't asked?
The best advice I've ever received was from a teacher who told me to study everything that everyone else had to say on the matter... and then do my own thing.

Bio:
Feng Shui Expert, Author, and Presenter, Salvatore Manzi, has been studying the environment's impact on life for over 25 years. Fascinated by foreign cultures, Salvatore has moved 75 times across 3 continents and 14 cities experiencing first hand the varied energetic benefits and challenges of living spaces from urban-high-rise condos to remote forest cabins. Salvatore's book shows how simple shifts in one’s environment can lead to a transformational experience on every level. With easy to use suggestions, he helps you discover how your environment hinders or supports your dreams.

If you'd like to learn more about Salvatore you can visit his web site at http://fengshuilifemapping.com/ or check out his book Feng Shui Life Mapping: Master the Art of Designing Your Future.



Question: What area of your life might benefit from applying a discipline such as Feng Shui?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

America: A Nation of Atheists???


Ben Stein, actor, author, commentator
AP Image
Heading into the end of the year, it is politically correct to not offend anyone's seasonal sensibilities - God forbid you wish anyone a "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hanukkah."

As such, the rule of the day is to wish everyone generic "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" to help keep peace on earth and goodwill toward all.

In response to the aforementioned holiday homogenization, the following was written and delivered by guest editorial contributor, Ben Stein [see photo insert] on a recent segment of CBS Sunday Morning.

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My confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish.  And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled  trees, Christmas trees.  I don't feel threatened.  I don't feel  discriminated against. That's what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a  bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me.  I don't think they are  slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto.  In fact, I kind  of like it.  It shows that we are all brothers and sisters  celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that  there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach  house in Malibu.  If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me  as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting  pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting  pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in  God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period.  I have no  idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist  country.  I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it  being shoved down my throat.

Or maybe I can put it  another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God ?  I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too.  But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.
[NOTE: According to the reputable urban legend busting site www.snopes.com the remainder of this content was not written by Stein although many sites do attribute it to him. You've been warned.]

In light of the many  jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little  different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's  intended to get you thinking.

A while back, Billy Graham's daughter  was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Hurricane Katrina). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.  She  said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for  years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our  government and to get out of our lives.  And being the gentleman He  is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to  give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us  alone?'

In light of recent  events.... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc.  I think it  started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a  few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we  said OK.  Then someone said you better not read the Bible in  school.  The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself.  And we said OK.

Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their  little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know  what he's talking about.  And we said okay.

Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right  from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their  classmates, and themselves.

Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.  I think it has  a great deal to do with the fact that 'you will reap what you sow.'

Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to Hell.  Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question  what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail  and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages  regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how  lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace,  but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace.

Are you laughing  yet?

I wonder how widely a transcript of my words today might circulate. I suspect that you will not send it to many on your address list  because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you  for sending it.

Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of  us.

Pass it on if you think it has merit.

If not, then just discard  it.... no one will know you did.  But, if you discard this thought  process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in.
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Question: Does this message resonate with you? Do you agree or disagree with its premise?

Monday, October 24, 2011

We Need More Than Ourselves


I spent most of my Sundays growing up as a kid being dragged to some kind of charismatic church; tent meeting or guest-preacher service. Mostly I was bored. Often I would sleep under the seats. Sometimes I’d smuggle in Matchbox cars and drive them along the curvey armrests of the pews. And other times I would hear.

Even as a child, I remember hearing the beautiful music that was elevated by all the voices singing together. In particular, there was a little old Italian woman who always sat behind me. She sang a third of the words in English, a third in Italian and a third in other tongues. She didn’t have a great sounding voice as I recall, but she did sing with all her heart. That has always lingered with me.

I would also hear some of the words. Words like, “Be kind to one another…” or “Forgive as you’ve been forgiven…” or “Love others as you love yourself…” but I mostly remember hearing the words, “Fear not…” Those are important words for any and every child to hear – that they shouldn’t fear. That has always lingered with me as well.

I would also hear tears. People would cry over their lost loved ones; past mistakes; personal problems or other maladies of the heart, mind and spirit. Others nearby would hug them and pray quietly. Words of encouragement and hope were shared as well as real offers to help. I would hear tears and that lingers with me still.

So much so, that my wife and I drag our daughters to church every Sunday with their pockets filled with Polly Pockets and her rubberized wardrobe. I know that sometimes they're bored. Sometimes they whine, sometimes they complain, but other times – they hear. I know they hear, because they ask the same questions I used to ask my parents driving home from church.

And the beauty of faith is that it offers real hope for the hardest questions we face in life - questions of living, loving and dying. Even though Karl Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses” it’s a better “drug” than the self-medicated, secularized state of numbness that seems to be leeching across our culture and country.

In pursuit of our downloadable digital distractions; our iPhone/iPad/iPod isolation; our virtual viral vexations – we are so very disconnected from what truly matters, and that’s each other.

And that’s why church matters – it offers community, contact and comfort in a world that’s becoming increasingly devoid of such novelties. I believe that church is one of the few places where we can go to find truth and support that meets our deepest needs. Because don’t we ALL need something more than just ourselves?

5 Steps to Get Your World-Ending Prophet License


Harold Camping - courtesy Wikipedia
This was originally a guest post I wrote for Bryan Allain - a fantastic comedic blogger - back on June 10th of this year when the world was "originally" supposed to end. I think it's appropriate to revisit and update this post since the world was supposed to end again this past Friday and didn't.

Below is an excerpt but you can read it in its updated entirety over on www.humoroutcasts.com.
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Most states require a licensing process for a host of service providers ranging from hair stylists to mechanics. Those are important services if you’re in the market to touch up your roots or replace your brake pads – but those services don’t come close to predicting the end of the world.

So what exactly do you need to be qualified to foretell the end of days? NOTHING.


Apparently anyone can predict Armageddon without so much as a plastic prophet ring from a box of Lucky Charms®.
Case in point, an 89-year old Internet pastor-turned-prognosticator believed the end of the world would occur on Saturday May 21, 2011. When that didn't happen, he re-predicted that it would end on this past Friday October 21, 2011.   


Ironically, he made the revised prediction before he suffered a stroke on June 13th of this year (makes you wonder if he knew what was going to happen on THAT particular day.)
While I’m sure he's a kind and well intentioned gentleman, he was wrong, and his credibility (as well as the people who followed him) is worth as much as those “5/21/11″ or "10/21/11" bumper stickers. 


To avoid this happening in the future, I believe we need to hand out licenses to would-be prophets.


That’s why I’m proposing a 5-Step Licensing Process that looks like this:


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Question: What's the greatest prediction you've ever made?

Friday, October 21, 2011

10 Comebacks I Wish I Would Have Said....

We've all been there. A social, business or public setting where someone says something or asks a question that leaves us stammeringly speechless. Then hours later we think of the perfect retort to the remark or comment, and we say to ourselves, "I wish I would have said that."

As the proverb goes, "An apt reply is as gold."

In no particular order, here are 10 such replies that I wish I had said, that I plan to use going forward:

  • "If you'll forgive me for not answering, I'll forgive you for asking."
  • "I believe it's better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and reveal all doubt - as you have chosen to do here."
  • "Well as you know, there is no legislating against ignorance."
  • "Since we’re obviously saying whatever crosses our minds tonight, I’d like to say how much I hate this topic."
  • "Congratulations, you've proven once again that you can't argue with crazy!"
  • "You’re funny sometimes. Just not this time."
  • "If I understood what you’re implying, I could answer you."
  • "I would challenge you to a battle of wits, but I see that you are unarmed."
  • "Your comment (question, behavior...) is a classic example for why some animals eat their young..."
  • "If I were in your shoes, I'd probably feel the same way; however, it's hard to argue with someone who is agreeing with you."

Question: What's your favorite response to an unwelcome comment, insult or question?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New Study: Cursing Hurts Kids and Pre-Teens

Profane Kids Leads to Aggression (photo via Wikipedia)
Growing up, we've all heard the rhyme, "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me."

However, according to a new study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) it seems that words - particularly swearing and cursing - do have a negative affect on the health and well being of children.

Last week, the AAP presented findings at its annual meeting that pre-teens and kids exposed to profanity in television and video games are more likely to use profanity themselves, which has a direct casual relationship to increased physical and relational aggression, according to the study that was also published in the November 2011 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics.

In report titled Profanity in the Media Associated with Attitudes and Behavior Regarding Profanity Use and Aggression, 223 middle school students completed surveys on their aggression, preferred media, time spent viewing media, perceived aggression in their favorite shows and games, beliefs about profanity and profanity use.

The results showed a direct link in the viewing of media with high profanity, profanity use and subsequent aggression. According to the study authors, the findings provide continued support for ratings and content warnings surrounding profanity use in the various media - whether it was video games, music, television or movies.

This research is yet another clarion call for parents and guardians of children to ensure we know what media and the coarseness of the messaging that our young ones are being exposed.

Question: What are your views on swearing or profanity? Do you think there are more important things to worry about?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

7 Questions With an Author: Tamara Gerlach


This is my weekly series titled "7 Questions With an Author..." and today's featured writer is bestselling author, Tamara Gerlach, who has taught, mentored, and coached thousands of people in creating freedom and Cultivating Radiance in their lives since 1982. Her most recent book is titled Cultivating Radiance.

Tamara bought her first business, Encore Gymnastics, Dance and Climbing in 1989. A former National Team Coach, Junior Olympic Program Committee Member, and Member of the Board of Directors for USA Gymnastics, she has been involved in sports as a competitive athlete, coach, choreographer, and judge.

She began life and business coaching in 2001 and obtained her training through the Coaches Training Institute, as well as completing leadership training through Coactive Space. Here are "7 Questions With an Author: Tamara Gerlach"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

12 Rules for Every Family

Every Friday and Saturday, there's an Amish farmers' market that occupies a large storefront at a local plaza near our home.  We visit a couple times a month to shop for produce and other goods.

During a recent tour of homespun products from the residents of Lancaster County, PA we saw this sign titled "Family Rules" that my wife and I loved - it's pictured here as it's currently hanging in our home.

Just in case the image quality isn't that great on your screen, here are the "Family Rules" written out that we've adopted:

1. Keep your promises
2. Share
3. Think of others before yourself
4. Say I love you
5. Listen to your parents
6. Do your best
7. Say please and thank you
8. Always tell the truth
9. Laugh at yourself
10. Hug often
11. Use kind words
12. Love each other

These should apply to all of us, not just our kids. While they're all basic common sense and courtesy, it's good to have them prominently featured in our home as a reminder to each of us and to our guests. They're almost a household mission statement. Interestingly, there are no exceptions to these rules!

Question: Which of these "family rules" resonates with you? Which others are missing that you follow?

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Catchiest Song of All-Time (so says science)

It's happened to all of us. We hear a song and then we're humming it all day and can't get it out of our minds. According to a recent study out of the University of London, there's a scientific reason for it.

According to a recent news release issued by the university, music psychologists have identified the scientific properties that give certain melodies the 'sing-along-able' factor.

The research monitored the behaviour of thousands of people as they sang along to more than a thousand tunes. The fieldwork, undertaken by expert musicologist Dr. Alisun Pawley and Dr. Daniel Mullensiefen, from the Department of Psychology, uncovered the common traits in songs that are most 'catchy'.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Best Video of the Week: Reality Hits Hard Bro!

The Gregory Brothers have created another "song" out of a news event. In this instance, it's a multiple car crash into power lines that spark and arc - as conveyed by a man from Phoenix named George Lindell who was involved in the crash. The first video below is the "songified" version of the news by the Gregory Brothers and then after it is the actual story that ran on the news. This is highly entertaining!



Now compare that video with the original news story that ran on the local FOX affiliate.


All I can say, FOOM, FOOM, FOOM - Reality Hits You Hard Bro!!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Clean Laundry??? - A Guy's Perspective.....


Laundry: Clean or Dirty???

Men and women have different standards about "cleanliness." I'm not sure if it's nurture or nature - but there seems to be a clear difference between where guys and gals fall along the sanitary spectrum.

This fact came to light during a discussion with my seven-year old girl as she was getting ready for bed. At the foot of her bed were three nightgowns from the past three nights - and she was getting a “fresh” nightgown out of her dresser. I asked her why not wear one of the other three that were already out.

She matter-of-factly replied, “Daddy, I’ve already worn each of those once.”

Asserting my paternal wisdom, I proceeded to explain that she could wear a nightgown more than once,  because it was unlikely that she would get very sweaty or dirty while she slept especially since her bedding was changed weekly.

By the expression on her face, I could tell that I was gaining persuasion ground, and that she was starting to see things my way when I may have taken it a step too far by declaring, “In fact sweetie, you COULD wear your PJs for an entire week without changing them.”

The look of shock and awe on her face told me that I had stretched her belief beyond the realm of possibility, which was reinforced by her immediate reply, “Mommy would NEVER let me wear my pajamas for a whole week!”  Hmmm…..probably not.

That got me thinking about the unspoken, unofficial “continuum of cleanliness” that I (and most guys) tend to follow - it's more of an art than a science. However, this continuum develops with experience over the years, like a body of scientific research builds on past findings or how the funk in a gym shower stall tends to incrementally increase scum layer upon scum layer - it’s a refined process.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Women Speak More Goodly Than Guys


Women have a genetic gift for gab!

The headline of this blog post shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone, in fact the best communicators I’ve known in my professional and personal live have all been the fairer sex – just ask my wife!

In fact, the past 13 or so years that I’ve been in corporate communications all of my bosses have been women - and they've typically been some of  the best communicators within the various organizations.

That fact comes to bear in two recent studies I recently read. The first was conducted by Stanford University researcher Diane McGinness, who gave young children a series of 12 different tasks to accomplish and recorded any subsequent vocalizations that the kids made.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Guest Post: Confessions of a Funeral Director

Funeral Director, Seminary Graduate
and Blogger: Caleb Wilde
Life is loss. We will all experience inescapable loss in various ways during our lifetime. A friend of mine, Caleb Wilde, (see photo insert) knows that all too well since he deals with it every day.

Caleb is a funeral director who happens to write about his day-to-day dealings with death and beyond. His blog is titled Confessions of a Funeral Director.

Don't let the seemingly morose title of his blog fool you, Caleb writes on a variety of topics that focus on life through a veil that we'll all walk one day. One of my favorite posts of his was where he offered a compelling comparison of Jesus with Lady Gaga.

Today, Caleb graciously features the eulogy I shared at my father's funeral a few years ago. Here's an excerpt of my guest post on his blog:

7 Questions With an Author: Karen H. Sherman, PhD.


This is my weekly series titled 7 Questions With an Author... where I pose seven questions to an author and then share their unedited answers here.

Today's author is Dr. Karen Sherman who is a licensed psychologist who focuses on relationships. In her own words here's part of her mission as a counselor:
I work with people in a number of ways - in private practice, teaching college courses, and now more "public" education through my books and other products. I truly believe that anyone has the power to change their life, regardless of what their past has been. And I am honored when I can help someone in that process!

Karen's latest addition to that process is her book Mindfulness and The Art of Choice - and here are 7 questions to help you learn more.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Newsroom Secrets Revealed - Part 2

Credibility = Walter Cronkite
During the past 20+ years as a communications professional, I've worked in more than a dozen television, radio and print newsrooms as a reporter and newscaster. While I was in the journalism field, there were a few truths that I came to realize:
  • Credibility is the single most important attribute that a news organization has.
  • Technology is an inescapable part of delivering and consuming news. 
  • Many news organizations undermine their credibility by over-using or abusing technology.
In more and more newsrooms across this country, the facts alone do not drive the story. Other story drivers are immediacy to be first and flashy packaging of the information.

In my blog post yesterday titled  Newsroom Secrets Revealed - Part 1 I shared two secrets that typical television news consumers don't typically know or consider.

Here are two more.....

Monday, October 10, 2011

My Guest Post on FaithVillage.com

This is the logo for the new
web site www.faithvillage.com
Here's a guest post that I wrote, which is currently featured on the home page of www.faithvillage.com - a great, new faith-based web site that aspires to be a destination resource for social interaction, content generation and other resources.

The site contains a wide array of topical content that ranges from culture, inspiration and leadership. Here's an excerpt of my article on leadership.

==========================================


There is a weakness that nearly every leader shares, whether they lead a Fortune 500 company, non-profit organization, sports team or family. But it’s not as obvious or clear cut as poor time management, lackluster decision-making abilities or subpar interpersonal skills. While this particular weakness plagues virtually every leader, it can go unnoticed and unaddressed for years because of its inherent nature.


It’s the inability of the leader to identify their own blind spot(s).


By definition a blind spot is something that someone can’t readily identify or acknowledge for various reasons, which often means that it’s a developmental area that goes unobserved and uncorrected. While blind spots are not unique to leaders, the trappings of leadership (e.g. success, responsibility, stress, workload . . . etc.) may further obscure the blind spots of a leader. Despite that nearly universal shortcoming, here are four ways that a leader can help identify their own potential blind spots.


Be sure to visit www.faithvillage.com to read the rest of the article

Newsroom Secrets Revealed - Part 1


Newscaster Edward R. Murrow:
"Just the Facts"

During my 20+ years as a communications professional, I've worked in more than a dozen television, radio and print newsrooms. Most television viewers and news consumers tend to believe that if they see it on T.V. it must be true.

However, the truth of the matter is that seeing does not always mean believing - especially when it comes to broadcast news.

During the early days of television news when there were broadcasting pioneers on the air such as Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley and Walter Cronkite the actual news content was very straight forward.

The story was what it was, and it was called "hard news."  It was sometimes dry - downright boring by today's standards - but it was essentially fact-driven.

The reality today is that the facts alone do not drive the story.

With technological advancements that include the use of green screens, full motion graphics, virtual newscasters  and animation; today's television newscast is a hybrid between information and entertainment also known as "info-tainment."

Any news director or news producer who supports this particular genre of journalism usually defends it vehemently on the grounds that news needs to compete for the viewers' attention against a host of other options (i.e. movies, game shows, music...etc.)  Based on that kind of competitive pressure, it is rationalized, that the news needs to be made more appealing or attractive.

However, the issue arises around the application of the technology that's used to dress up T.V. news - leading back to the premise of this article that seeing is not always believing.

There are several "tricks" and tactics that routinely occur during the typical local/national newscast that the average viewer is not aware of, which include:

1. LOOK-LIVE REPORTS - this is a common practice at local news stations where a reporter pre-records their story at the scene of a given event.  The pre-recorded video is then beamed back or driven to the station. The newscaster then introduces the reporter as "joining us live from the scene...."

The problem is the report was pre-recorded, it's not live. Actual live transmissions from the field are only possible using costly satellite trucks with the report being carried over the airwaves in real time.  Look-Live Reports are used when the live trucks are not available, but the news team wants to appear omnipresent. Ironically, the viewer may not know the difference between a pre-recorded Look-Live Report and an actual Live Report.

2. NODDING REPORTERS – this occurs all the time in local news. It’s where a pre-recorded story runs that’s been filed by a general assignment reporter, featuring an on-camera interview with a newsmaker. During the broadcast story of the newsmaker’s remarks, a 3-5 second video snippet of the reporter silently nodding their head, is spliced over top of the video of the newsmaker’s spoken words and then the video seamlessly cuts back to the newsmaker.

The issue with this tactic is that local reporters are sent on stories with a single videographer who has one camera. As such, the videographer can only tape one thing at a time. They’ll usually tape the interview first and then they’ll tape “cut aways” of the reporter nodding their head, the reporter writing on a notepad or looking intently at the newsmaker – sometimes after the newsmaker has left the scene. Sometimes the "cut aways" are shot hours later. The trickery occurs back at the studio where the individual elements are edited together to give the appearance of a cohesive multi-camera interview, which actually never occurred.

Television news crews, management and consultants justify these subtle mis-directions claiming that viewers won't watch otherwise. Tomorrow, I'll share two more technology secrets that television newsrooms use that may or may not undermine their credibility.

Question: What's more important to you the viewer - the facts or the packaging of the news you consume?


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Awesome Wedding Proposal

Here is one of the most memorable and unexpected marriage proposals I've ever seen. It's only a minute long and worth every second. To tee it up, the guy is named Josh and he has invited a bunch of friends for a seemingly delightful gathering atop a four-story building. The rest is "cruel" magic....




Question: How did you propose or how were you proposed to?

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Best Advice I Ever Got....


Are you a "thermostat"
or a "thermometer"

My maternal grandpa died in 1982 when I was 12 years old. His name was Matthew Nichols, and his passing was the first significant loss of my life.

He never graduated high school and was a self-taught electrician by trade, yet there were several invaluable life lessons that I learned from him.

One such lesson occurred when I was in the first grade at Hawthorne Elementary School in Wilingboro, New Jersey. One day during recess I got in big trouble because my two best friends decided it would be funny to go behind the school and pee on the building.

I went along and did just as they did. Our six-year old minds thought it was hysterically funny, until one of the recess aides caught us. Not only was I banned from outdoor recess for two weeks, I was roundly and soundly spanked when I got home from school by my parents – strong adherents of corporal punishment.

To add to my embarrassment, our grandparents were staying with us. I remember crying on my bed when my grandpa came into my room and unexpectedly turned the thermostat on my wall to 60ยบ, forcing frigid air to pour into the already autumnally cool room.

He sat down on my bed and waited for me to stop crying. Then he gave me a hug. We sat there in silence for a minute, when I told him that I was getting cold.

He then explained something to me that I have never forgotten. He said that a thermometer goes up and down based on the temperature of the room that it’s in – even as a first grader I understood that concept. However, he went on to say that the thermostat actually determines the temperature within a space – just like the chill we were both experiencing in my room.

Grandpa then told me that even though he loved me, he was sad because I chose to be more of a “thermometer” at school that day by lowering to the bad decisions of others. He hoped that next time I would be more of a “thermostat” – setting the tone and expectation for conduct rather than merely following the bad behavior of another.

He then gave me another hug and turned off the air conditioning as he left my room. The blowing and the chill stopped immediately, but his insight still lingers with me today.

Since then, I’ve heard that analogy several times espoused by experts and PhDs alike, but the greatest delivery of that life lesson came from a man who had no more than an eighth-grade education.

Question: What's the best advice you've ever received and who gave it to you?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

CyberBullying: What Parents Need to Know

Texting is an emerging form
of bullying for teens
As an adult, you've no doubt experienced a "flaming" email where a friend or colleague lashed out at you or someone you know electronically. What if several people were cc: on that email as well??

That's no fun and can be very hurtful to anyone.

Imagine the impact of that type of electronic humiliation on the immature psyche of a pre-teenager who's struggling to fit in? That's the context for what sociologists call "cyberbullying"

Cyberbullying, instead of happening face-to-face bullying, happens through the use of technology such as computers, cell phones and other devices. Child development experts state that this type of e-bullying tends to peak around the end of middle school and the beginning of high school.

Examples of cyberbullying include:

  • Sending hurtful, rude, or mean text messages to others
  • Spreading rumors or lies about others by e-mail or on social networks
  • Creating websites, videos or social media profiles that embarrass, humiliate, or make fun of others

Bullying online is very different from face-to-face bullying because messages and images can be:

  • Sent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
  • Shared be shared to a very wide audience
  • Sent anonymously

Research on cyberbullying has found that students involved are more likely to:

  • Be unwilling to attend school
  • Receive poor grades
  • Have lower self-esteem
  • Have more health problems
  • Use alcohol and drugs
  • Skip school
  • Experience in-person bullying or victimization
Despite these negatives there are things that parents can do to help their kids deal with this emergent form of techno-bullying:
  1. Communicate with your children. Set up a daily time to check in with your son or daughter, and listen to any concerns about online activities that they are involved in. 
  2. Talk specifically about cyberbullying and encourage your children to tell you immediately if they see or experience cyberbullying. 
  3. Be aware of where your children go online. Familiarize yourself with the technology they are using.
  4. Work together and come to a clear understanding about when, where, and for what purpose phones and computers can be used. 
  5. Develop clear rules about what is and what is not appropriate online, and decide on fair consequences when those rules are not followed.
Question: Has your pre-teen experienced cyberbullying? How did you help them handle it?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

7 Questions With an Author: Cameron Conaway, Warrior Poet



This is my weekly series titled 7 Questions With an Author... where I pose seven questions to an author and then share their unedited answers here.

Today's author is Cameron Conaway who has come to be known as "The Warrior Poet." He teaches Shakespeare for Ottawa University, is an award-nominated teacher of creative writing for Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, was the University of Arizona's 2007-2009 Poet-in-Residence and received the Richard Russo Award for Creative Writing.   But Conaway is more than a poet, he's a warrior - literally.

He's an NSCA-Certified Personal Trainer and is undefeated (2-0) in the 155 lbs. weight class as a mixed martila arts (MMA) fighter. Cameron has trained with Brazilian Jujitsu master Renzo Gracie and is now studying Muay Thai in Thailand under sponsorship from www.WhatsYourFight.com.

His book  Caged: Memoirs of a Cage-Fighting Poet , is  the true story of a young man who overcomes a family background and his own inner torment by learning to channel his frustrations into the physical world of mixed martial arts fighting and the cerebral world of poetry and writing.


 Here is 7 Questions With Author: Cameron Conaway
==================================================
1. Tell us about your book?
It’s about the power of then. It’s about a young boy who struggled through a difficult divorce and abuse. He’s a former mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter from conservative central Pennsylvania who had three fights, acted in a play and went to graduate school for poetry. He is me. Readers will learn about poetry tools like iambic pentameter and enjambment as well as the transverse abdominis muscle and the complexities of a fighter’s mind.

2. What led you to write it?
I am obsessed with MMA and poetry and I had a story of overcoming within myself. Writing this book took five years and each day it developed from a yarn-ball of tension and frustration that ultimately gave way to understanding and forgiveness. As award-winning writers and mentors saw interconnecting threads throughout my essays they encouraged me to weave a book out of them. Those mentors believed this book could help other people and would be a unique contribution to the literary field, so I went for it.

3. Who is a writer that inspires you and why?
I’ve got an Allen Ginsberg quote tattooed on my thigh. It reads: “The only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world.” We’ve lost our awareness of the world so I’ve taken his torch (or some fire from it) and am using what skills I have to help us reclaim our lost awareness.  Ginsberg stood on train tracks where weapons of murder were being delivered and said “Ohm” into a microphone as a form of protest - he pushed the boundaries of peace and poetry.

4. What was the biggest challenge you faced writing this book?
An unexpected lawsuit threat and the ripple of drama it caused. There are usual and expected hardships that every writer must face - the critical thinking over the course of years, the editing, the rejection letters and pursuit of a publisher and agent and yada-yada-yada was expected and happens to most writers. But to have your dream publisher (Tuttle Publishing) accept your work, to work with them for a year on it and then - precisely when the book is available for pre-order - to have them cancel the contract because of lawsuit threats from a stepmother I haven’t talked to since I was a little boy? That was something no writer can truly be prepared for.

5. What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Balance this: Find motivation from wherever you can – inspiring people or organizations or stories – but also be a doomer and by that I mean be prepared for the worst. It’s good to have high hopes, but when high hopes aren’t tempered with a doomer mindset the writer is setting themselves up to be crushed in a way that may be difficult to recover from. To be any good at this craft, writers must be sensitive. A smart writer will realize this sensitivity can swing like a pendulum and they’ll prepare ahead of time.

6. Where do you get your ideas?
If it’s interesting I’ll think about. If it also hits me emotionally I’ll write about it. Beyond that I have no idea.

7. Anything that you'd like readers to know that I haven't asked?
I’d like thank my sponsor WhatsYourFight.com. They’ve given a small-town dude the chance to live and train Muay Thai kickboxing here in Thailand. Check out their work – they are helping loads of people achieve their personal goals.
================================================
Some interesting insights from a uniquely dualistic perspective....you can find out more about Cameron Conaway at his site http://cameronconaway.com/

Question: What's an area of your life were you have had to reconcile seemingly opposite issues?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Believing in God is Tough - Not Believing is Tougher...

Jakarta Street Children: Is This
Evidence Against God's Existence?
I don't have all the answers. In fact, most of the answers I do have tend to spark more questions - and most of the questions I have seem to be unanswerable or have overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

For instance, the pervasive presence of evil in the world and the severity of suffering that innocent children endure are some of the thorniest issues for me to reconcile with the existence of a benevolent and powerful God.

However, despite the significant "evidence" in the form of rampant evil and egregious suffering that refutes the existence of God, here is a compelling illustration from Christian philosopher Alvin Plantinga's book The Foundation of Theism: A Reply that helped ease my doubts on the matter:
I am applying to the National Endowment for the Humanities for a fellowship, I write a letter to a colleague, trying to bribe him to write the Endowment a glowing letter on my behalf; he indignantly refuses and sends the letter to my chairman. The letter disappears from the chairman's office under mysterious circumstances. I have a motive for stealing it; I have the opportunity to do so; and I have been known to do such things in the past. Furthermore, an extremely reliable member of the department claims to have seen me furtively entering the chairman's office at about the time when the letter must have been stolen. 
The evidence against me is very strong; my colleagues reproach me for such underhanded behavior and treat me with evident distaste. The facts of matter; however, are that I did not steal the letter and in fact spent the entire afternoon in question on a solitary walk in the woods; furthermore, I clearly remember spending that afternoon walking in the woods. 
In such a case, all the evidence stands against me and yet I know I am not guilty. For the evidence cannot overcome the more basic knowledge I have of the truth of my innocence. Even if the evidence is irrefutable, such that others ought to think me guilty, I myself am not obliged to go along with the evidence for I know better. 
This passage helps reinforce the validity of my own internal witness regarding the truth of the existence of a benevolent and all powerful God - despite the sobering evidence of the existence of evil and suffering.

Ironically, when you look from a different perspective at the evidence of evil and "man's inhumanity to man," I think our ability to recognize evil actually reinforces the existence of God.

As background, evolutionary naturalists such as Bill Provine from Cornell support the premise that good and evil are merely illusions driven by bio-chemical combinations that came together over time in an undirected manner that we can't control. Many atheists believe this principle and reject any difference between good and evil.

But do we believe that as individuals? Do we believe that concept as a society? Do we think that the works of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa are no different than the legacies of Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden? Of course not.

Our ability to recognize extreme and lesser evils, forces us to admit that there is some established standard of ultimate morality and good against which evil is measured. That standard of goodness is not merely natural - but is rather "supernatural" in origin. Consider the following two quotes:

"If God does not exist, we should have to invent Him." ~ Voltaire, writer/atheist


"If God is dead than all things are permissible." ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky, writer/author

Anyone who has ever wrestled with this issue ultimately realizes that you cannot prove nor disprove the existence of God. And while I don't have all the answers, I do have a deep belief that there is an ultimate source of good and morality beyond this broken world. That belief is reinforced by the continual healing of my own inner brokenness and a compelling need to help those in need. That's all I need to believe.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Should Facebook Have an "R" Rating???

Motion Picture Association of America
Uses R-Rating to Notify About Mature Content
I'm a parent of two daughters ages 7 and 10 respectively. Neither of them has a Facebook page - and they won't for several years.

Interestingly, Facebook itself has a policy that requires anybody with a FB page to agree that they are at least 13 years old.

Ironically, I know neighbors and colleagues whose children are younger than 10 and have personal pages on the world's largest social media site - in direct violation of Facebook's own policy. Those parents claim it's a harmless diversion that they actively monitor to keep track of what their kids are doing. While that may or may not be the case, I still think 13 is too young for a child to have their own FB page.

Regardless of how vigilant a parent might be, there is still no parental control mechanism that FB offers and there's no "sanitized" version of Facebook that I could comfortably allow my kids to engage. On a daily basis, content gets pushed onto newsfeeds of my "friends" - and most of those people aren't intending to share that information with minors, so there's usually no attempt at screening or moderating.

In fact, over the past 48 hours on the collective newsfeed of my 1,200+ friends I've seen the following:
  • Multiple instances of the f-bomb and other swearing;
  • Photos of people who were drunk;
  • Sexually suggestive images;
  • News stories and corresponding imagery that were excessively violent. 
As a parent, I would never intentionally expose my children to any of that type of content. In fact, if most of the content I referenced above was in a movie - that movie would be "R" rated.

To me, that's "adult" content and let's remember that in this country, you must be at least 18 years of age to be legally considered an adult.

My kids couldn't handle that and they shouldn't have to. To make the point a different way, when we travel on a trip, the suitcases that my wife and I carry are much to big and heavy for a child to carry. In the exact same way, much of the FB content is simply too much for a child to healthfully process and understand.

Furthermore, I haven't even addressed the risk of abduction that a minor might face if they have a social media presence where they nonchalantly discuss their whereabouts or schedule - as far as my kids are concerned, I only see risk and downside associated with being online.

Perhaps I'm being overly protective, but when it comes to my children I'd rather take the risk that they think I'm being mean and keep them off Facebook - than needlessly risk their innocence or safety.

Question: How old or mature should a child be to have a Facebook page and why do you think that?

Congratulations to "Rite of Passage" Book Winners!

Last week I featured a review of Jim McBride's first non-fiction book titled Rite of Passage: A Father's Blessing.

Additionally, I was fortunate to interview McBride - executive producer of the films released by Sherwood Pictures, including Courageous, Fireproof, Facing the Giants, and Flywheel - and capture our discussion in 7 Questions With an Author: Jim McBride.

As part of those activities, I gave away two books to readers who commented here on the blog and tweeted the link or shared it via Facebook. Those winners were:

  • Roy Ackerman 
  • Debi Walter

Congratulations to both, they will each receive their respective book this week!