Saturday, March 28, 2009

Most Sincerely Dead

No, it's not the Wizard of Oz. But it's close.

The Daily Mail (UK) reported March 22, 2009, on a man whose father had died.

A son got so fed up with hospital staff sending letters to his dead father that he took the ashes to an appointment.

Andrew Wild, 44, received more than 20 reminders asking his father Peter to attend kidney clinics at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire – despite repeatedly telling them he had died in 2007 – so he took the urn to one of his own appointments.

He said: ‘The consultant asked how I was feeling. I said I was OK, then produced dad’s ashes and asked, “But what can you do for him?”

You gotta love it!

The hospital has since apologized.

And just in case you think it only happens with socialized medicine, I heard a story a couple months ago of something similar happening here.

The woman's father-in-law passed away, and the family divided up the various tasks. Her job was to notify all the utilities and insurance and other companies that sent him bills. It all went fine until she called the phone company. They requested a copy of the death certificate, which she faxed to them, and they assured her that it would be taken care of.

A month later, she and her grandkids stopped at Dad's house for something. The granddaughter picked up the phone and announced that it worked. So the lady called the phone company later from home to get Dad's service stopped.

"I'm sorry, but we can't cancel phone service unless the customer himself calls to cancel."

"Well, he's dead. He won't be calling."

"Let me put you through to a supervisor."

So she explained the situation to the supervisor, who said, "I'm sorry, but we can't cancel phone service unless the customer himself calls to cancel."

"HE'S DEAD! I'm just trying to help you, so you're not trying to collect money from someone who won't be paying."

"You know, it's a black mark against his credit if he doesn't pay his bills."

She gave up. They'll figure it out eventually.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Obama Wrote to Chirac

President Obama's gaffes keep piling up. The guy is just not ready for prime time.

The latest came via the Teleprompter's blog, where TOTUS linked to this March 19, 2009, article in Le Figaro (France).

Le président américain vient d'adresser une lettre «très sympathique » à Jacques Chirac, selon l'expression de ce dernier. «Je suis certain que nous pourrons au cours des quatre années à venir collaborer ensemble dans un esprit de paix et d'amitié afin de construire un monde plus sûr» , écrit le successeur de George W. Bush au prédécesseur de Nicolas Sarkozy. En évoquant le mot de « paix», Obama rend un hommage implicite à l'action de l'ancien président français qui s'était opposé à la guerre en Irak. Une intervention américaine contre laquelle le futur président américain s'était opposé comme sénateur, lors du vote au Congrès.

Translation (loosely):

The American President just addressed a letter "very kindly" to Jacques Chirac, according to a statement by the latter. "I am certain that we will be able over the course of these four years to collaborate together in a spirit of peace and amity in order to build a more safe world," wrote the successor of George W. Bush to the predecesseur of Nicolas Sarkozy. In evoking the word, "peace," Obama gave implicit hommage to the action of the old French President who was opposed to the war in Iraq. An American intervention against which the future American President was opposed to when a Senator, at the time of the vote in Congress.

So now our Gaffe-meister-in-Chief is seen as a screw-up in the Left's beloved France. When will it end?

TOTUS had this to add to his comments about the Chirac/Sarkozy faux-pas:

Now you know why we seemed so unprepared for our meeting two weeks ago with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Great Britain. We were expecting Tony Blair, and had all this really cool personalized stuff for him, but we couldn't very well give those gifts to Brown. It would've been rude, so we just gave him crap from the Smithsonian gift shop.


And Mark Steyn's comments at The Corner at National Review Online Friday referred to another of Obama's mistakes (by way of Hillary's State Department) when he discussed Obama's recorded message to Iran:

Michael, I wouldn't worry so much about President Obama's video message to Teheran. It almost certainly won't work in Iranian VCRs.

Alternatively, if the State Department's Russian outreach is anything to go by, the attempt to sign off with "Have a nice day!" in Farsi will inevitably turn out to mean "I ran into Ayatollah Khamenei and his catamite in the leather bar".

The words, "President Biden," are starting to sound only half-bad these days. Maybe Obama will abdicate...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Obama's Teleprompter Has a Blog

President Obama takes his teleprompter everywhere. It went with him on vacation to Hawaii.

It danced with him at the inaugural balls.

And now that the Teleprompter of the United States (TOTUS) has gained some media attention, it has turned its head to the blogging world. And he's doing a great job.

Read Barack Obama's Teleprompter's blog here (and be sure to check out the comments too).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Sleepwalking Dog

My daughter sent this to me after a friend of hers sent it to her. Classic.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Binary Nature of the Brain

I've noticed something about the human brain--mine, at least. In matters of self-control, the brain is binary. It's either on or off. It's either yes or no. There's no such thing as middle ground.

We have a tendency to think our controls are analog, from too many years spent turning the volume knob on the radio up or down. Smokers think they can cut back. Alcoholics think they can handle just one drink. People who struggle with weight think they can have an extra snack "just this once."

It's as though we picture our mental control board as being covered by dials. When we go on a diet, we turn down the Junk Food Dial all the way to OFF, and there it stays, and as long as we keep it there, the weight comes off.

But then we start feeling in control as we reach our target, and we give ourselves permission to have a tiny, harmless indulgence. We turn the dial to the first position up from OFF, secure in the knowledge that we'll be fine.

What we don't understand, however, is that the brain is not analog. Behind what we think is the control board, lie the real controls: toggle switches. Back when we started the diet and turned the dial all the way down, it flipped the switch to the OFF position. We no longer had permission to cheat with our eating.

But when we turned that dial to the '1' position, the toggle switched ON. Permission granted. All systems GO. If you've fought the fat battle before, you know what happened next.

When my mom and I were on our trip, we did a great job of eating right and keeping our weight from getting out of hand, the way weight can when you travel. But sometime after I got back home, I turned up the dial a tiny bit, and--because I was mostly careful--very, very slowly, I gained weight. Enough that some of my clothes didn't fit right anymore.

So about six weeks ago, I embarked on a diet program with supplements (nothing dangerous) and an eating-right plan and a workout plan (that I usually ignore). I turned the Eating switch to OFF (aka, Diet Mode) and began obediently following the food part of the plan.

About a week into it, my daughter brought me one of those tiny squares of dark chocolate, about three-quarters of an inch across. She prefers milk chocolate, and dark is my favorite, so that's why she gave it to me. But I left it on the counter, unwilling to eat it, and not even tempted to break my diet for it, except that she was disappointed that I didn't eat her gift right away. What to do?

After giving it some thought, I told my daughter that the chocolate would be my reward for losing ten pounds. It's been sitting on the counter, next to my supplements and food plan/recipe book, ever since.

Until today.

Yes, today I finally hit -10 lbs., and tonight I had that piece of chocolate in four leisurely bites with a cup of tea.

I think my decision to use the chocolate as a reward for a finite event is enough to keep my brain from flipping ON the Chocolate Permission switch. At least, I certainly hope it is. And it helps that there's no other chocolate in the house.

So tomorrow I should be back with the program, obediently OFF for all the edible perils that lurk in the world around me. But only time will tell...

Dolphins Blow Bubble Rings (Australia) reported Friday on Sea World's latest dolphin discovery. There are no new pink dolphins. Instead, the dolphins have a new game.

SEAWORLD in the US has revealed incredible footage of dolphins blowing bubble rings from their blowholes. The creatures can be seen entertaining crowds at SeaWorld Orlando's Dolphin Cove by creating the bubbles and then spinning them with their noses.

The dolphins also bite the bubble rings to make them smaller and then use eddies to patch them back together.

One of the females can pop out a perfectly formed ring, before she swims through it like a hoop.

SeaWorld trainers said they discovered the underwater show three months ago when they were showing around VIP guests.

"I caught myself going to the glass and just sitting and staring. I couldn't even talk," one trainer said.

"It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen."

Enjoy the video:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Obama Changes Terms of War

The AP reported today that the Obama Administration is changing terminology.

The Obama administration said Friday that it is abandoning one of President George W. Bush's key phrases in the war on terrorism: enemy combatant. The Justice Department said in legal filings that it will no longer use the term to justify holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

But that won't change much for the detainees at the U.S. naval base in Cuba _ Obama still asserts the military's authority to hold them.

That's fine. He can call them whatever he wants, and the longer he keeps them in Gitmo, the better.

What concerns me, however, is this paragraph farther down in the article:

There are some changes in legal principles in Obama's stance. The Justice Department said authority to hold detainees comes from Congress and the international laws of war, not from the president's own wartime power as Bush had argued.

This is a sea change. A polar shift. A quantum leap.

President Obama, as Commander in Chief, has the constitutional duty to prosecute war and command the military. And yet he as just abdicated his authority over the captives of war to the US Congress and international law. This is unconstitutional, and it's a dangerous precedent to set, because it puts the safety and the sovereignty of the USA in the hands either of idiot politicians or those of nations that don't have our best interest at heart. Neither of these should be allowed to be in a position to hamstring our military's ability to prosecute a war.

Let's hope this new policy is challenged and is thoroughly discredited by the US Supreme Court.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Justice Investigates Sheriff Who Enforces Law

CNSNews reported today that President Obama's Justice Department is investigating a law enforcement official for enforcing immigration law.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has launched an investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Arizona following requests by congressional Democrats and allegations by liberal activists that the department has violated the civil rights of illegal aliens.

Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), and Robert Scott (D-Va.) requested the investigation, and activists groups such as National Day Laborer Organizer Network and ACORN launched petition drives and rallies in support of the probe.

The investigation focuses on Sheriff Joe Arpaio and dozens of officers under his command who were trained through the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS), which partners federal and local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws. (The Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement division is known popularly as ICE.)

Justice officials sent a letter to Sheriff Arpaio, which included the following:

"The investigation will focus on alleged patterns or practices of discriminatory police practices and unconstitutional searches and seizures conducted by the MCSO, and on allegations of national origin discrimination, including failure to provide meaningful access to MCSO services for limited English proficient (LEP) individuals."

So... what really is the problem these "activists" and Congressmen have with Sheriff Arpaio? It's that he's been effective against illegal immigrants in his county.

In an August 2008 press release, Arpaio's office detailed those results.

"While the Sheriff’s illegal immigration and human smuggling operations conducted on the streets and roadways here have netted nearly 2,300 arrests, another very successful effort to locate illegal aliens has been quietly happening inside Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jails," the release said.

It continues: "Despite the growing criticism of the Sheriff’s illegal immigration fight by some valley politicians and activists, Sheriff Arpaio says 60 detention officers trained by ICE officials have conducted over 106,000 interviews and investigations of inmates booked into jail since April of 2007.

"In those 18 months, 16,000 inmates were determined to be illegal aliens. Either they have already been deported or will be deported after being tried and/or serving their sentences for crimes committed in the valley. The work being done be Arpaio’s detention staff is a likely contributor to the recent reduction in crime in the valley,” the press release added.

"That number of 16,000 represents a full one-third (1/3) of all inmates in the United States who have had holds placed on them after being identified by jail or prison officials as illegal aliens."

The press release goes on to say that 20 percent of inmates in the Maricopa County Jail are illegal aliens and that of those, 2,000 illegal aliens - 70 percent - were arrested for felony crimes.

It's a little tough to organize day laborers when the illegal alien day laborers have been deported or thrown in jail. How can they get funding in Maricopa County when there's no one left there to help?

Pro-illegal immigration activists don't like the enforcement of immigration law, and Sheriff Arpaio is the best-known enforcer of the law. They'll take him down if they possibly can, even if that means leaving all those felons on the streets in Arizona and the rest of our country. It's just too bad for the law-abiding citizens if the crime rates go back up as a result.

I'd slam President Obama for his lax policies on illegal immigration, but unfortunately John McCain probably wouldn't have been any better. He and GW Bush gave nothing more than lip-service to closing the border and only caved in to public outrage on the issue when they were forced to. Frankly, I'm surprised the ICE program of training local law enforcement officers for the task was even implemented. But since it's here and Arpaio's deputies have been trained, we need to let them do their jobs without Justice Department harrassment.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Pink Dolphin in Louisiana

Photo credit: CATERS NEWS

The Telegraph (UK) reported Thursday on the new tourist attraction in Louisiana.

The world's only pink Bottlenose dolphin which was discovered in an inland lake in Louisiana, USA, has become such an attraction that conservationists have warned tourists to leave it alone.

Charter boat captain Erik Rue, 42, photographed the animal, which is actually an albino, when he began studying it after the mammal first surfaced in Lake Calcasieu, an inland saltwater estuary, north of the Gulf of Mexico in southwestern USA.

Capt Rue originally saw the dolphin, which also has reddish eyes, swimming with a pod of four other dolphins, with one appearing to be its mother which never left its side.

He said: "I just happened to see a little pod of dolphins, and I noticed one that was a little lighter.

"It was absolutely stunningly pink.

"Surprisingly, it does not appear to be drastically affected by the environment or sunlight as might be expected considering its condition, although it tends to remain below the surface a little more than the others in the pod."

Regina Asmutis-Silvia, senior biologist with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, said: "I have never seen a dolphin coloured in this way in all my career.

"Albinism is a genetic trait and it unclear as to the type of albinism this animal inherited."

I had no idea there were multiple types of albinism. When I was about 10, some family friends had a little girl who was albino, and she was adorable with her prescription sunglasses she had to wear all the time. That was well before Edgar Winter became famous, and while his coloring was the same as hers, he was not adorable.

The San Diego Zoo has an albino python that's been in the Reptile House in a big corner enclosure for years. It's not pink, but white with yellow markings.

Wikipedia has an article on albinism that explains the different types, but it's so technical that (keep in mind I love learning about the human body) my eyes glazed over. Read it right before nap time.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Global Warming vs. Reality

Global warming is back in the news. Yet, in spite of the alarmists' cries of, "Resistance is futile!" it looks like the skeptics are winning. At least, that's what Nature is telling us.

Peter C. Glover's February 23, 2009, article in American Thinker addresses the question of global warming.

There's nothing more the climate alarmist media loves than a 'melting Arctic' ice cap story. So why not stories from the far larger expanse of ice that is the 'melting' Antarctic? Well it might have something to do with the fact that the Antarctic ice grew to record levels in 2007 - and continues to grow.

Climate scientist Dr Ben Herman, past director of the Institute of Atmospheric Physics and former head of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona, notes that for the media, "What happens in the Arctic may be an indicator of what will happen in the rest of the world. How about what happens in the Antarctic then? Since its ice area has been increasing, is this also an indicator of what might be happening in the rest of the world?" The FACT is that the majority of Antarctica has cooled over the past 50 years and ice coverage has grown to record levels. Take the well-publicized collapse of a 160 square mile block of the Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica in March 2008. For the alarmist media this was conclusive proof of the dramatic global warming effects. The Los Angeles Times ran, 'Antarctica Collapse' referring to the "rapid melt of the Wilkins Shelf". The Sydney Morning Herald ran 'Ice Shelf Hangs By a Thread' and the Salon online news site had the absurd headline 'Bye-bye Antarctica?' But Joseph D'Aleo, first Director of Meteorology at The Weather Channel and Chief Meteorologist at Weather Services International, was more prosaic. On his IceCap website, D'Aleo wrote that the collapse was the equivalent, given the enormity of Antarctica, of "an icicle falling from a snow and ice covered roof." He added, "The latest satellite images and reports suggest the ice has already refrozen around the broken pieces. In fact the ice is returning so fast, it is running an amazing 60 percent ahead of last year when it set a new record." Noting the ludicrous media hype, D`Aleo laments, "Yet the world is left with the false impression Antarctica's ice sheet is also starting to disappear."

In December 2006, Dr Duncan Wingham, Professor of Climate Physics at University College London and Director for Polar Observation and Modelling, presented evidence that showed "Antarctic thinning was no more common than thickening". Wingham and his colleagues found that 72 percent of the Antarctica ice sheet was growing at the rate of 5 millimetres per year. Most significantly, Dr Wingham commits media heresy when he states: "That makes Antarctica a sink, not a source, of ocean water. According to their best estimates, Antarctica will 'lower global sea levels by 0.08 mm' per year." Sacrilege.

Yes, you say, but what about the melting Arctic? That's real, isn't it?

During October and November 2008 the extent of Arctic ice was 28.7 percent greater than during the same period in 2007. According to data published by the International Arctic Research Center (IARC/JAXA) October 2008 saw "the fastest ever growth" of Arctic Sea ice since records began.

A NASA study published in the peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters in October 2007 had already noted that thinning Arctic ice was more likely the result of "unusual winds" that had blown "older thicker" ice into warmer southern waters. In other words, the Arctic warming experienced more recently could well be the result of the unusual strength of winds, not man-made warming.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center's own figures, world sea ice in April 2008 reached "unprecedented" levels for the month of April. The World Meteorlogical Organization (WMO) went to declare 2008 the coolest since 2000.

Moreover, the WMO reports that the fall in the global mean temperature since 1998 is not just affecting the polar ice caps either, it is also affecting glaciers elsewhere.

Glaciologist Bruce Molnia of the US Geological Survey said, "In mid-June, I was surprised to see snow still at sea level in Prince William Sound." He adds "On the Juneau Icefield, there was still 20 feet of new snow on the surface in late July. At Bering Glacier, a landslide I am studying did not become snow free until early August." In short, 2008 was the first time since record began that Alaskan glaciers did not shrink during the summer months.

In late November 2008, reports from Norway showed that Alaska's glacier experience was being replicated there too. Hallgeir Elvehoy of the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) reported that the magnitude of glacial growth appears to have been underway for two years. Glacier growth has also been reported from Canada and New Zealand.

Still, the global warming alarmists insist that their message is true. We must Do Something to save the planet from becoming awash in glacial meltage, they say. Sadly, President Obama is listening to the alarmists and not to the truth.

Random Church Thoughts

I skipped Sunday School class at 8:30 today. When I showed up for the 10:00 service, some of my fellow classmates thought I forgot to change my clock, but I hadn't.

I'm getting a cold. It started Friday night just enough to make me take a Sudafed before I went to my friend's son's house to play Settlers of Catan (which I didn't win, as usual). The Sudafed kept my nose under control, but then my cold moved to my throat and hurt enough yesterday that I checked my tonsils by looking in the mirror and by feeling them from the outside, but the size was normal. By last night, my cold was settling into my nose more and moving to my lungs, with the scratchy throat as the extra bonus.

So I didn't sleep well last night. That added to the time change and my extra-long time journalling from my Bible reading which kept me up later than usual, and I just couldn't bring myself to get up in time for Sunday School.

At church, I had to warn my friends about my incipient pestilence before they could hug me, along the lines of lepers shouting, "Unclean!" So I got a bunch of air-hugs this week, which is fine, because it's the thought that counts.

During the service, we got to see the Evangelism Linebacker video. That was fun. And I caught a whiff of somebody's perfume every now and then. It was the same scent I smelled many years ago when I visited the women's restroom at Scripps Aquarium in La Jolla and they perfumed the restroom to make it smell better. I think they officially call it "vanilla," but it doesn't quite have the right combination to make it really smell like vanilla. Instead, it smells exactly like Play-Doh. Whichever poor woman was wearing it today probaly has no idea.

Because of my scratchy throat, I sang with the men for most of the songs, and our minister preached about the conversion of Saul on the Damascus Road (kind of like Jesus as the Evangelism Linebacker to Saul), and then he told the story of John Newton and his conversion to Christianity. And as our minister talked, I remembered one of my favorite parts of the movie, Amazing Grace (which I watched again last week on a big-screen TV when I was dog-sitting for friends), when John Newton says, "Although my memory's fading, I remember two things very clearly. I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior." The thought brought tears to my eyes and made it hard to sing (of course) Amazing Grace, Chris Tomlin's version.

There are times, like this morning, when I'm tempted to skip church altogether and just stay under the covers in bed. But each time I refuse to give in, like this morning, I'm glad I refused. Not because anything incredible happened, but just because it feels good. I described it this way back in 2006, when I was preparing for a trip to Poland:

[N]early every church [that I visited in Poland when I was there in 1997] had a Bible verse painted or mounted on the front wall. My favorite front-wall verse (because I could both pronounce it and figure out what it meant) was this one:

Lecz moim, śćeśćem być blisko Boga. (I probably didn't spell that "s" word right because there are multiple ways to spell the same sounds, and I'm working from memory.) It means, "But for me, it is good to be near God."

In September when I go to Poland, it will also be good to be near the people of God.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Photography 101 - Lesson 8

This is the final lesson.

Play with the light.

Sunlight. Candlelight. Moonlight. Whatever light you find. Play with it. Break "the rules" about it. Light is the oxygen that keeps photography alive.

On our cruise ship last year, this was one of the swimming pools for the kids. While I stood in the shade, I shot this toward the sun as it lit up the spray of water from the fountains.

At Old Sturbridge Village, I didn't know the picture would turn out like this when I took it. I just wanted to get a shot of someone carding the wool. But the final result reminded me of Georges De La Tour's painting of St. Joseph as a carpenter. Direct sunlight through a window in an otherwise-unlit room creates a mood...

Try sunlight through colored glass, or through colored liquids in glass.

And give photographing the sun a whirl, seen here hiding behind the St. Louis Gateway Arch.

A word of caution about photographing the sun. Do not look at it. For this photo, I glanced through the viewfinder at my composition quickly, then looked away and took the picture. I don't think it hurts the camera to do this--I haven't noticed any ill effects in my photos.

Bonus Lesson:

Train your eyes.

As you go through your daily life, look around you and mentally compose photos you could take. Sometimes when I walk under a tree, I look up to see if the shape and direction of the branches would make a good picture. Usually, they wouldn't, but I keep looking.

If you're having trouble seeing photos, consider carrying an empty frame from a 35mm slide and looking through that at the world around you.

Is there an old farmhouse lit up by the afternoon sun, while a dark storm is approaching from behind it? Is there a shoe, scuffed and alone on a long stretch of empty road? Is the late afternoon sunlight sparkling on fresh snow? Are there weathered, aged hands resting on a Bible or on the soft curls of a toddler? Teach your eyes to see these things and even seek them out. Let yourself want to find the images that deserve to be matted and framed and hung on the wall in a place of honor.

Get closer. Use the Rule of Thirds. Look for diagonals and curves. Frame your pictures and find patterns. Change your perspective and play with the light. Look at the world with a photographer's eye, and soon we'll be ooh-ing your pictures too.


Take pictures in three different lighting situations. If you like some of your shots and want to share, post them on your blog and leave a comment here with the link.

Previous Lessons:

Photography 101 - Lesson 1 and Homework

Digital Photography 101 - Quickie Version

Digital Photography 101 - Update

Photography 101 - Lesson 2

Photography 101 - Lesson 3

Photography 101 - Lesson 4

Photography 101 - Lesson 5

Photography 101 - Lesson 6

Photography 101 - Lesson 7

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Hawaii's Health Insurance Lesson

This news is a month old, but ChuckL's post on Irresponsibility brings what's been happening in Hawaii right back to the forefront.

Carrie Lukas, in her January 30, 2009, TownHall column, talked about the consequences of government programs that have the best of intentions.

When President Obama signs the "Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009," (which passed the Senate by a vote of 66-32 last night) he will take the country on the first of what are likely to be several steps during his Administration toward "universal" health insurance.

Those who already have quality healthcare may assume that this debate really doesn't have much to do with them. After all, as a candidate, President Obama promised "if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes." Yet Americans should consider the dynamic that would occur as the government provides more and more publicly subsidized insurance options.

The experience of Hawaii in launching the first state-based "universal" child health insurance program is instructive. The program was created in hopes of helping the island state's uninsured children (estimated to number between 3,500 and 16,000) by providing free health insurance coverage and access to doctor's visits for just a $7 co-pay.

What lawmakers soon learned was that it isn't just the existing pool of uninsured who wants to take advantage of a free government alternative; many parents dropped their private coverage in order to qualify for the government-funded plan. A staggering 85 percent of those who enrolled previously had health insurance. Dr. Kenny Fink, an administrator at Hawaii's Department of Human Services, summed up what was happening: "People who were already able to afford healthcare began to stop paying for it so they could get it for free. I don't believe that was the intent of the program." Just seven months after the program's launch, government officials decided to shut it down.

The problem is, when "help for the uninsured" (or whatever they decide to call it) goes national and people start dropping insurance, they won't be shutting the program down. They'll just make it universal, paid for by the government, which this administration seems to believe has an endless supply of money to spend.

It's the same as the irresponsible-home"owner" foreclosure bailout making responsible people wish their morals were low enough to let them stop paying their mortgages, so the government can step in and throw some money their way. Why be forced to pay twice for something you can get for free?

Obama's policies are enough to make the good people who voted for him hang their heads in shame.

Photo source: Doug Ross

Sleeping With Your Girlfriend

Frank Turek's column at TownHall yesterday had a great look at the state of religion in the minds of many people.

My friend David has a knack for cutting through the smokescreens people throw up when they’re trying to avoid making commitments, be they commitments to God or to other people. Last week, with one comment, he blew away all the smoke that a young agnostic was hiding behind. It was a demonstration of tremendous insight, and it required some courage to say.

For several weeks David was teaching through a series on Christian apologetics, which involves providing evidence for the truth of Christianity. In addition to the biblical mandate to provide such evidence, David thought it would be wise to do so because 75 percent of Christian youth stop attending church after age 18. Many of them abandon the church because they’re bombarded by secularism in college and they’ve never been taught any of the sound evidence that supports Christianity.

Last week, after David finished a presentation refuting the “new atheists”—Dawkins, Hitchens and the like—a young man approached him and said, “I once was a Christian, but now I’m an agnostic, and I don’t think you should be doing what you’re doing.”

“What do you mean?” David asked.

“I don’t think you should be giving arguments against atheists,” the young man said. “Jesus told us to love, and it’s not loving what you’re doing.”

David said, “No, that’s not right. Jesus came with both love and tuth. Love without truth is a swampy, borderless mess. Truth is necessary. In fact, it’s unloving to keep truth from people, especially if that truth has eternal consequences.”

The young man continued to argue with David, coming up with one objection to Christianity after another, and not stopping to listen to David's replies.

So after the kid fired off another objection, David decided to end the charade and cut right to the heart. He said, “You’re raising all of these objections because you’re sleeping with your girlfriend. Am I right?”

All the blood drained from the kid’s face. He was caught. He just stood there speechless. He was rejecting God because he didn’t like God’s morality, and he was disguising it with alleged intellectual objections.

How many people are out there hating God because He tells them they shouldn't be doing what they want to do? And how many of them hide behind intellectual theological arguments vaguely reminiscent of the woman at the well (John chapter 4)?

Christians, when you find yourselves engaging in this kind of fruitless exercise with someone, it might not be a bad idea to look at what's behind it.

I'm just saying...

Monday, March 02, 2009

Photography 101 - Lesson 7

Change your perspective

Most people take almost all of their pictures from the same position: standing up. So about 95% of the pictures out there were taken with the camera held at around 5 to 6 feet off the ground. How very ordinary.

But this class is here to help you get your photos to be anything but ordinary. One way to do that is to get your camera at some other height.

This first picture was taken from a standing position when my mom and I were at the Golden Spike National Monument. It's looking down on the train's wheel and doesn't look all that wonderful.

After that picture, I remembered this lesson and crouched down to wheel height for another try:

This looks better.

At the photography workshop I attended in Washington, DC, they took us to Chinatown for a morning of picture-taking. I tried getting a shot of that lion statue across the street, framed by the top and arm of the fire hydrant, but the lion was too far away for the photo to work.

Back at the hotel at critique time, the professionals weren't any more thrilled with these pictures than I was. Until it was another guy's turn, and he had a shot of me sitting down on the sidewalk with my legs straddling the hydrant. The pro turned to me and said, "Now I'm impressed."

He still wasn't impressed with the picture, but he appreciated my willingness to get a little dirty and make myself uncomfortable for the sake of getting (or trying to) a good photo. And that's what Lesson 7 is about.

Climb up on a ladder or a park bench and look down on something instead of looking straight at it. Crouch down, kneel down, sit down, lie down, if that's what it takes to make your picture better.

You saw this spiral staircase in the Cabrillo Lighthouse in Lesson 4. In that lesson, the picture was taken from the top. When I got to the bottom of the stairs, I went inside the central space, put my back against the wall, and pointed the camera straight up. It didn't look as good as I'd hoped, so I slid down to sit on the carpet. That's when I took the picture. The doorframe and the lower end of the bannister made nice diagonals that led to the central spiral.

It wasn't easy getting back to my feet in that tiny space.

This shot got me crouched low, with one knee on the rocks for balance.

And for the mushrooms, I had to get the camera down to their level. I'm pretty sure my knees and elbows got damp.


Look up. Look down. Move away from a standing position and take pictures from a different perspective. If you like some of your shots and want to share, post them on your blog and leave a comment here with the link.

Previous Lessons:

Photography 101 - Lesson 1 and Homework

Digital Photography 101 - Quickie Version

Digital Photography 101 - Update

Photography 101 - Lesson 2

Photography 101 - Lesson 3

Photography 101 - Lesson 4

Photography 101 - Lesson 5

Photography 101 - Lesson 6

A Message to President Obama from DC Kids

Courtesy of Michelle Malkin:

My favorite line was from one of the young boys. "I am going to grow up and be a good man."

Get more information at:

March Calendar Pictures

Yes, it's that time again. A new month is suddenly upon us (OK, yesterday), leaving us swiveling our heads to find the tail end of February as it races away.

March's calendars have pictures you've seen before if you've been reading since my mom and I left for our trip. From the family calendar come these shots of Connor Prairie.

And my calendar has the swirling grain of the root-end of a piece of driftwood in Acadia National Park.

Stay tuned next month for more...