Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tell me Thursday – the kids get ready for Christmas


For my Wordless Wednesday submission yesterday, I submitted the photo over there on the left.

Those are my kids – 13-year-old Michael and nine-year-old Brenda – posing in the sanctuary of Parkview United Methodist Church here in Benton, Ark. That photo, in fact, is the one we used for our Christmas card this year.

Yes, I’ve mentioned my kids time and time again on this blog. They’re not the subject of this post. Well, that’s kind of true. Let me explain.

Earlier this year we joined the aforementioned church. That’s a fairly big deal as I’ve spent most of my adult life going to church here and there. Finding a church where I feel comfortable is a significant event, indeed.

And I’m proud of our little Methodist church. The folks there spend a lot of time raising money for – and donating their time to – efforts that help people in this community that need it. Thanks to their efforts, a lot of families have been fed and more than a few people have received a helping hand when they’ve needed it most. And those efforts don’t stop after Christmas is over – people are in need all year round and the good people at Parkview stand ready to help out where they can.

That – in my view – is exactly what Christians ought to be doing.

At any rate, merry Christmas to all of you fine folks out there.

Oh, and make sure to click on the Yogi Yorgesson YouTube video below to really get into the Christmas spirit!

This post is part of the grand Tell Me Thursday event – a chance for Tell Me Wednesday participants to tell the story behind their posts. Click here to see the other entries or (better yet) submit something of your own.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday – Merry Christmas, Michael and Brenda…


This post is part of the famed Wordless Wednesday fun. Head on over and get involved!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Court-approved obnoxiousness

Go ahead and take a look at that abomination over to the left.

What is it? Why it's the Winter Solstice display put up on the State Capitol grounds by some group of malcontents calling themselves the Arkansas Society of Freethinkers. I do believe the group was originally called the Arkansas Society of Crybabies Who Got Their Asses Kicked too Much in High School, but that was overly long.

Now, all you have to do to be a freethinker is be an atheist. Atheists, as a matter of course, run around thinking freely while we Christians are dogma-addicted imbeciles who lack the capacity to string two original thoughts together.

At any rate, the requirements to become a freethinker in this state are incredibly low. All you have to do is declare God to be a lie and be looking to join a group of freethinkers so you can all think freely together. Oh, it also helps if you adore the idea of engaging in antics that get a good number of Arkansans pissed off at you.

At any rate, our free thinking friends tried to put up a Winter Solstice display last year on the Capitol grounds as a way to (let's just admit it) irritate people. They were allegedly trying to make a point, seemingly, about the fact the state has displayed a Nativity Scene at the Capitol for years while Christian beliefs aren't represented. Their request was turned down. It got turned down again this year, so our freethinking chums filed a lawsuit and won.

It's no surprise the group won, of course -- Secretary of State Charlie Daniels' policy on temporary displays on the Capital grounds is so vague that just about anything can be made to comply with it. The fact that something that looks like a gaudy port-a-potty now shares the limelight with a Nativity Scene is evidence of that.

It's fascinating, by the way, that freethinkers all over the place have chosen to celebrate Winter Solstice. While it might appear to be a dead, pagan holiday to some, the more cynical among us view it as a convenient kind-of-holiday to adopt by those who simply want to spite Christians. It's worth mentioning that one enterprising fellow out to make a point about the freethinkers' got permission from Daniels' office to put up a Festivus pole. Read about that by clicking here -- that display was not to be taken seriously, of course, as it wasn't intended to belittle anyone or mock religion.

So, what's on the freethinking monument to Winter Solstice? Click here and have a look to be treated to a history of Winter Solstice and quotes from a bunch of people who are defined by their comments against organized religion (Einstein would be thrilled with that -- to hell with his theory of relativity and all that, he questioned the existence of God, man!) It's particularly interesting that Bill Gates is identified as a freethinker on the display (apparently, he once said something to someone that atheists like). His company's shoddy products have caused more than a few people to take the Lord's name in vain over the years -- maybe that is actually why he's a featured freethinker on the free thinking monument to Winter Solstice and free thought.

At any rate, the monument is trashy, horrid, laughably cheap and looks like it was an art project slapped together by a disgruntled junior high kid. Regardless, it's on display at the Capitol because a federal judge rightly applied the law and ordered the state to allow it. Take that, non-freethinkers!

During the middle of their "nyah, nyah, nyah" celebration, the predictable happened -- an Arkansas legislator filed a resolution objecting to the court ruling allowing the freethinkers to put up a display that openly mocks Christianity. Now the freethinkers have both the privilege of annoying people and being able to do what they do best -- collectively whining about a mean ole society that wants to deny them the ability to think freely and be all individualistic-like.

Here's the thing -- I absolutely hate it when Christians run around bashing people over the heads with their beliefs. It's obnoxious and, at times, does more harm than good -- people who aren't religious don't want to hear about how they're going to hell and will feel much better if they fall into the "converted" camp.

Similarly, it's obnoxious when atheists run around howling about how nonreligious they are. By sticking a hideous display up on the Capitol grounds, they're doing just that and annoying people, to boot. Apparently, it's not enough for the Society members to get together and free think into the wee hours of the morning -- they've got to go out of their way to pester people with their enlightened ways, too.

Want some respect, freethinkers? Take your trashy display down and go home. Y'all may be right in a legal sense, but you've managed to turn a lot of people who may have been neutral to whatever you're up to solidly against your free thinking group. The only thing you've proven is that you folks are a collective nuisance.

Twisted Sister -- “Oh Come all ye Faithful”

Why? Because I think it’s funny (the band just turned “We’re Not Gonna Take It” into a Christmas song and it actually works – that’s comedy). Enjoy, and merry Christmas!

Come join Music Monday and share your songs with us. One simple rule, leave ONLY the actual post link here. You can grab this code at LJL Please note these links are STRICTLY for Music Monday participants only. All others will be deleted without prejudice.

PS: Because of spamming purposes, the linky will be closed on Thursday of each week at midnight, Malaysian Time. Thank you!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Best Christmas presents ever


So I went and posted something yesterday about how much I hate those plastic, see-through candy canes full of M&M’s.

People used to give me those things in spite of the fact that I’ve always resented them.

Well, that all seemed a bit whiny to be posted this close to Christmas. Hey, Christmas is supposed to be fun and light, right? I can take up my crusade against M&M’s and the fascists who fling them at us another day.

During this time of year, however, we ought to be thinking of something a bit more positive. To that end, I’m going to mention some of the best Christmas presents I’ve received through the years.

First up is a plastic, pedal car Jaguar I got when I was five-years-old (it was much like the one pictured above, only red). I absolutely loved that thing and pedaled it all through my neighborhood when I was but a lad. Sadly, I outgrew it, got a Schwinn Stingray bicycle and haven’t seen my beloved plastic Jaguar in over 30 years.

That was the Christmas of 1975. The following year, I got another  treasured gift – a Wolverine Race-o-Rama pinball machine. In theRaceORama pinball mid 1970s, what was cooler than owning your very own, standup pinball machine?

There wasn’t a whole lot that was cooler than that, folks. I played that thing until I flat wore it out. It took a few years to tear up the pinball machine, but I managed it – playing with a fairly complicated toy on an almost daily basis will wear one out, seemingly. Truth be told, I wish I still had one of those things around the house.

About the only thing cooler than a pinball machine in the 1970s was,  of course, an Atari VCS (later Atari2600wood4dubbed the Atari 2600). My parents absolutely hated the idea of having one of those around the house. They were worried it might tear up the television or turn me into a video game-playing zombie.

Oh, I begged my parents for one of those starting in about 1978 when a friend of mine got one for Christmas – it was the Sears version of the 2600 and, as such, came packaged with Target Fun (the Sears-branded version of Atari’s Air-Sea Battle). The notion that you could buy new cartridges and play different games on the thing was intriguing, particularly since the only real video games available for homes prior to the Atari were various versions of Pong – you got one, hardwired system and a bunch of black and white variations of a very simple game.

All of my begging fell on deaf ears, sadly. Well, it fell on deaf ears until the Christmas of 1980 when I finally got an Atari. I was the happiest kid in town and wasted countless hours playing Asteroids, Space Invaders, Activision’s Tennis and a slew of other games.

It may have been a good thing that I had to wait a bit for the Atari. My original system died years ago, but I’ve got two working ones at my house and about 200 cartridges to go with them. By the way, head on over to Atari Age sometime – people are still making and releasing Atari games and will probably be doing so for some time. Long live Atari, huh?coco1

By 1981, computers were all the rage and I wanted one. My parents  got me a TRS-80 Color Computer (CoCo) as they had read that the Microsoft BASIC in those things was the programming language of choice. They were right and I spent hours making up programs for that TRS-80 or copying them out of magazines and books catering to Color Computer fans.

The system was more than a bit primitive – you got an eight-bit, Motorola 6809E CPU that ran at about 1 MHz (that speed could be doubled with a simple command line or programming instruction, however). Most owners hooked them up to their television sets and stored programs on a convention cassette tape (yeah, reading programs was as fun as it sounds).

Regardless, I had a lot of fun learning to program on that thing and owned a lot of games that were loaded in to the computer’s cartridge slot (the famed ROM port that made the CoCo very expandable. The computer came with 16 kilobytes of RAM but I ordered a set of 64 kilobyte chips and soldered them in the system. Two years later, the CoCo went in the closet because I had a more sophisticated machine.

ibm_pcYes, for the Christmas of 1983 I received an IBM-PC. Believe it or not,  that system cost my parents $4,200. What did you get for that price? One 360 kilobyte, 5.25” floppy drive; PC-DOS 1.1, with Microsoft’s advanced BASIC,  EasyWriter (the word processor); an Epson 9-pin, dot matrix printer; 128 kilobytes of RAM; a color monitor; a color graphics adapter; and a big, clicky keyboard.

The IBM-PC was the big deal back then and Big Blue really stuck it to consumers. A box of 10 floppy discs cost $100 at the time (how insane in that?) and anything with an IBM label on it cost and arm and a leg. It seems some people thought the PC represented the wave of the future – it turns out they were right.

I used that system all the way through high school and left it with my  parents when I went to college. TheMaleMachineWhy? Mom used the computer for her office and – understandably – wanted to keep it. So I turned traitor and got an Apple //e in 1987. The funny thing there is that my parents gave me a choice – I could either get a 1981 Pontiac Firebird I had my eyes on (I dubbed the vehicle the “Male Machine” because it was more than a bit over the top and I thought that was cool) or take their 1981 Cutlass Brougham and an Apple //e. I went for the Oldsmobile and the computer. I still regret that a bit, even though the Apple served me well in college.

Oh, there have been some other great gifts through the years – a set of golf clubs from my parents when I was in college, a quilt my grandmother made when I was in law school and a good number of other dandy presents. I still get great gifts but they meant considerably more to me when I was a kid.

Why? When you’re a kid, you can’t just run out and buy whatever you want – you have to ask you parents for things and hope they pick them up for you. When you’re an adult making a decent living, you can pretty well spoil yourself by picking up items you want when you want them.

Hopefully, some of the gifts I’m giving my kids these days will be as fondly remembered as the ones I received for Christmas all those years ago.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The worst Christmas presents on the planet?


The thing that’s horrible about being a kid is that people make assumptions that may or may not be correct.

Take Christmas, for example.

“Oh, it’s Christmas,” people will say. “Kids love chocolate. What could be better than a cheap, plastic tube full of M&M’s?”

That line of thought, apparently, led to people giving me horrible tubes of NastyCandy® during my childhood. Yes, I’d often wind up with one of those plastic tubes full of rancid milk chocolate covered with the same candy shell that is sprayed on Drixoral tablets.

The chocolate mess that’s in the tube may carry the Hershey’s or M&M’s label. It really doesn’t matter – it’s all pretty much the same filthy slop.

I well remember the first time I got one of those things. I was about four-years-old and was pretty happy to have a huge tube full of red and green candies. In my young mind, color meant flavor when it came to candy. Red could be anything from cherry to peppermint while green could be anything from a cool lime to a pleasant mint.

So I ate one of the candies (it was either red or green – can’t remember). It tasted like cheap chocolate covered by a hard, sugary shell. I ate one of the other color and it tasted like – cheap chocolate covered by a hard, sugary shell. There was absolutely no difference between the two colors. Yes, I had been given a tube of lies.

I’ve hated M&M’s ever since.