Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Journey Part III

Now, normally I wouldn't have used a post for such a small amount of words, except that there's a lot of meaning in these few words. I think I am now a believer. That may seem to be a small thing, but coming from someone who has been an agnostic for most (if not all) of his life it's a big step.

The one event that finally brought me around happened last Saturday. I went in to take my test to qualify for a state life insurance licence. I had prepared as much as I could. I knew I wasn't ready. I stayed up too late studying the night before. I took a practice exam and failed.

Going in that morning to take what I was sure was my first test, I was so tired I had a hard time keeping my eyes open. As I went though the test, I had way too many answers that were guesses. Long story short, I ended up passing.

Now, you can say that I was lucky, that I had a better grasp of the info than I thought. I have to disagree. The night before with the info still fresh I still failed. There had to be a higher power at work.

Where do I go from here? That's a good question. Keep checking in to find out.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Journey Part II

Time for another update. It took quite a while to get back to our meetings with Pastor Randy Skaja (I only put his name in here to see if this post will come up if I Google his name!). I am starting a new career and all of the training, introductions, classes, etc. have been taking up most of my spare time.

The biggest hurdle I seem to have is that I'm not sure what is expected of me in a spiritual sense. Am I supposed to do things, say things, or what? Pastor Randy has been a great help here. He explained that the feelings I had may not make sense for a great while, if ever. This whole religion thing is still a bit new and confusing, but I think I'm starting to understand a bit more. I am nowhere near feeling comfortable enough to call myself a Christian yet. That would be a lie to myself and an insult to other Christians.

Is Christianity for me? I don't know. I do know that it will take a lot more than a few weeks of attending church and two meetings with the Pastor to know that.

Things are settling out on the home front. This new job has me running around quite a bit lately, but it's a good thing.

Church on Sunday may be a bit interesting. While talking to Pastor Randy, he mentioned that he's seen me and has wondered what was going through my head. I explained that I'm trying to go into this with an open mind and absorb as much as possible. Now comes the problem. He told me that he should use that in a sermon. Great. Now I have no problem most of the time being singled out in a crowd. This is a little different though. I'm not sure I will know how to react. I guess I will find out!

One last thing before I end this entry. Even though you may never see this, I would like to thank Mike, Jackie, Randy, Debbie, and all the others from Crosswalk Church who have made us feel welcome and like family.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Go Guard Go

I got a new perspective on our civic duty tonight. I went to the local National Guard Armory to vote in the statewide primary. When I got there I discovered that the 108th Forward Support Company of the Wisconsin National Guard's 32nd Infantry Brigade was there preparing to head off to Texas for their training before being deployed to Iraq.

As I walked into the main hall, a majority of the solders were sitting down to their evening meal. There's no way to express the feeling I had as I walked passed all of these brave men and women who preserved my right to head over to the polls. I tried to make eye contact and smile at as many of the troops as I could. I wanted to call out a big thank you to all of them, but I would have been embarrassed to interrupt their meal.

Unfortunately, the feeling of pride that I felt at seeing all of those troops assembled, ready to head off and protect freedom and democracy, was short lived. I didn't know for sure when I showed up that they were preparing to ship out. As I headed to my car, I turned to an older lady who was also leaving. I asked if they were deploying, and she said to me that they were and, "It disgusts me".

In retrospect, I probably should have said something. I wanted to, but I didn't feel that an argument over the war in the parking lot of a unit preparing to head out was the best time or place. Her comment stuck with me though. How could you possibly be disgusted by the deployment of troops to try to secure the right that she just exercised to a place where that right was repressed for so long.

Whether you support the wars or not, it's folks like the 108th that allow others throughout the world to realize the rights and privileges that far too many in this country take for granted. Thank you to all members of the 32nd Infantry Brigade and please return to us safely.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Why are we still paying for Katrina victims??

I came across this story thanks to a Twitterer. I was shocked at first to learn that, three and a half years after the storm, we as taxpayers are still paying for those trailers and for families to be in hotel rooms. After taking a few minutes to think about it, I no longer was shocked. I'm upset with myself that I was shocked at all. Why would it be any surprise in this nation of welfare? If anyone can get something for nothing, they will grab it with both hands.

The "stimulus" bill is just the latest example in the long line of people in this country looking for something for nothing. What happened to the great American spirit? The one that was able to mobilize at the drop of a hat for a war we didn't want to enter? What about the spirit to take everything you owned and set off to resettle in an unknown wilderness?

Yes, times are tough. It's not about how you got where you are, it's about how you are going to solve your problems. Looking to the government to fix your mistakes is no answer. How many of you when you were younger didn't listen when your parents told you no. You had to do it. That's when you learned a valuable lesson.

Mistakes happen. We all make them. What are people going to learn when the government bails them out whenever they have a hardship? All they will learn is that they are not accountable for their actions.

Because they can!

I've been thinking about the "stimulus" bill that's about to be rammed down our throats. I think I know why the Democrats were so quick to push this crap through. It's not because they can, as everyone seems to think. It's because they think we won't remember. Sadly, I think they are right.

There are pundits and political junkies on both sides who will remember this spending bill of course, but the general public, for the most part, will not. Sure, a few at risk Senators and Representatives will probably lose their seats in two years, but when the general election comes around in 2012, very few in the general population will remember this and hold Obama responsible.

Not a great revelation, I know. It's an accurate one none the less. We, as a people, have a embarrassingly short memory. Even something as tragic as the attacks on September 11th has begun to disappear from the memory of the general public.

How did we get this way? I'm not sure that you can point to one certain event, but the increasingly fast pace that most of the public leads these days is for sure one of the biggest causes. People in this country today have little time to think, much less remember anything.

The biggest issue we have is, how do we change it? The Democrats, in their rush to get this bill passed, have done the conservative people in this country a great service. More of the general public is waking up to what exactly is going on. It's not a solution. There a lot of Obama supporters who believe that everything will be milk and honey now that he's President. But it's a start.

I think we need to give up the fight on this one. It's over. What's a few dozen billion when we are talking about trillions? I think the right leaning people will be better served by letting Obama stagger his way through some more high profile issues. Let's see how well he fares when Iran, North Korea, Hammas, and other baddies throughout the world start their sabre rattling. It seems that he's undercutting the power of his SecState already. Let's see how well that works out when the Middle East is one spark away from an explosion.

Ultimately, I would love to see Obama fall flat on his face. Unfortunately, I don't know if we can survive that.

Why the Blackhawks scare me

As you may have guessed from the other entry on my blog, I am a San Jose Sharks fan. I have followed the Sharks since I started following hockey. This year has been amazing so far and I cannot see what is stopping the Sharks from finally getting the Cup.

Of course the Red Wings are going to be tough. The defending champions are still solid enough to make it back to the Cup Finals despite Chris Osgood's struggles. The team that is really getting me nervous though is the Blackhawks.

Everyone who follows hockey knows about the talent the 'Hawks have in Patrick Kane, Jonathan Towes, Patrick Sharp, and Brian Campbell. It's the others that are making it more and more likely that the 'Hawks are serious contenders this year. Martin Havlat is on pace for his best point production since the 03-04 season, which was his career high. Kris Versteeg is having a breakout season in his first full NHL campaign. Dave Bolland is on pace to have more goals this year than he had points last year.

The biggest, and probably most underrated key is the 36 year old Nikolai Khabibulin. Khabibulin has been nothing short of amazing this year. He has become the #1 netminder in Chicago since Cristobal Huet's struggles earlier on this year. Without Khabibulin, the 'Hawks are more than likely back with the pack that's fighting for the 6-8 spots in the West. Instead, they are firmly in the 4 spot, 7 points ahead of their current first round opponent Anaheim. With a mere 11 points separating 5th from 15th in the West, this can (and will) change on a daily basis.

Do the 'Hawks have what it takes to make a deep run? That's the $64,000 question. Barring any major injuries between now and April, I can't see them not making it out of the first round. Minnesota has had trouble with their offense at times this year, Dallas has the worst PP% and second worst PK% of the current top 8 teams in the West, and Vancouver's fortunes rest on the Sedins and Luongo. Anaheim seems to be the only real threat that the 'Hawks could face, but their schedule could work against them. 13 of their final 25 games are against current playoff teams. Of those other 12, 7 are against teams who are currently three points of less from a playoff spot.

Assuming Detroit and Calgary hold their spots and get out of the first round, that would leave a Sharks/'Hawks second round matchup. On paper, the Sharks look to be the stronger team, but as they always like to say, the games aren't played on paper. Let's go position by position and stack the two teams up.

Goaltender is a wash. Nabokov and Boucher are pretty even with Huet and Khabibulin. I know that other Sharks fans won't see it that way, but it's true. When push comes to shove, both teams have two goaltenders that they can count on to make the big save at key points in the game.

On the blueline, I would have to give the slight edge to San Jose. Blake and Boyle have been the rockstars for the Sharks all season. Vlasic and Erhoff have been solid and Murray always has the other teams forwards playing with their heads up. For Chicago, Campbell is the stud that the Sharks traded for at the deadline last year. Keith and Seabrook are becoming elite D-Men in the NHL. Cam Barker is doing his best to win the Calder this year as well. Where the Sharks get the edge though is the depth. In the playoffs, coaches love to have 7 or 8 defensemen to fall back on. The play of Staubitz and Joslin this year for the Sharks give them the depth options that cup winning teams need.

Forward is what scares me. At first glance you would give the edge to San Jose hands down. However, the Sharks third line has been a work in progress ever since Torrey Mitchell broke his leg in training camp. Roenick's shoulder injury hasn't helped either. Cheechoo seems to be the only consistent performer there, and now that Goc will be possibly missing time with an injury, the shuffling continues. Time is running out on the Sharks to get a solid third line together and playing on the same page before the playoffs.

If the 'Hawks get more production and quality minutes out of their third line, they will win the series. It pains me to say that, but I have to be objective here. If the Sharks can find the magic formula for their third line in time, a Western Conference Final matchup with Detroit looks possible. If not, another second round exit looms again.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Child abuse needs to be a capital offense

This is getting out of hand. It seems that the more stories I read, the worse it gets. Apparently these people are either too stupid to understand that causing harm to a child of any age is not acceptable or the punishments are not too harsh to worry about.

Case 1

I have two kids. My kids, like all kids, have needed to be punished at some time. This freak apparently can't understand that a 13 month old cannot be beaten by a grown "man". I did not find details of the case, but I can assume that is what he will be claiming.

Case 2

Not only should this mental giant be charged, but the parents of the child as well. As a parent, you have to know the person you are leaving your child with these days. I'm sure this guy had shown in the past that he could not handle children. At 10 weeks, there is a short list of reasons that a child cries. If you don't know what those are, or unable to fix those issues, you have no business anywhere near an infant.

Case 3 Warning - This case is very disturbing

This one is by far the worst I have heard in some time. There were so many people who dropped the ball on this one, I don't know were to start. This is something you don't come up with on the spur of the moment. Why the husband didn't notice a change in his wife's behavior is beyond me. Why the other daughter mentioned didn't turn her mother in is unreal. Where was the husband in this instance too? Is it just me, or does it sound like that, from the 4 year old's description, this isn't the first time this happened?

Apparently jail time is just not enough for these people. Child abuse needs to become a federal capital offence. If you cause great bodily harm to a child, you head to death row. Period. These cases will continue to get worse and worse unless we do something about it. We can't hand out licences for childbearing, so we need to make the punishment for mistreating children as severe as possible.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nothing up my sleeve....Presto!

It appears that Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, aka the Great Doylini, has decided to wait until February 17th to unveil the budget proposal he has come up with. He claims that he is waiting to get a clearer idea how much federal money the state will be getting. We all know what that means. We have seen it before.

Most recently the Great Doylini used his line item veto power (a power not even the President has!) to steal money from the transportation fund to "balance" the budget. He has also blown other windfalls to "balance" the budget. What really gets on my nerves is that the voters in this state never call him on this magic trick.

Spending one time money to get out of a spending issue never works. Never has. What's the most irritating is that the politicians in this state will continue to do is as long as they are voted back into power after these tricks.

I suppose that it's not entirely his fault. The teacher's union here has polluted his mind with questionable math. It goes like this. Say, for example, in year A the schools receive $1 million for a certain program. In year B they ask for $1.5 million. If the government says that they can't give that much in year B and offer $1.2 million. The union will scream to the papers that the government wants to cut $300,000 out of the budget for that program, when in fact they are receiving a $200,000 increase. I suppose after 5 years of math corruption he might be given a break. Maybe.

I suppose that I should take a bit of solice in the fact that it is possible that this will be the last magical budget we will have to go through. Doyle has yet to announce whether he will run in 2010 and there are some rumors that he is a candidate for a couple of ambassadorships.

Wisconsin will not be able to come out of it's recession until we get a fiscal conservative running things in Madison. I'm afraid to say that the only way that will happen is if Doyle leaves on his terms, because if left to the voters he won't be leaving at all.

If they lean any farther left, they'll fall over

A few things struck me funny when I read this story in the Helena Independent Register. Apparently there is a group that feels that the media, including a Montana public radio station, do not lean far enough to the left.

Members of the Helena Peace Seekers feel that the programming on Helena's public radio and TV stations do not accurately report the news. I tend to agree that public radio and TV has a decided slant, but it isn't to the right.

Now, I know that Montana is a "Red" state, but come on. This sounds like a thinly veiled attempt at imposing the fairness doctrine without saying it. They will deny it, but there were a few quotes that tipped me off.

“The better informed the public is, the more well-functioning the democracy will be,” Boland said on Tuesday, “Information is power. It means people make better decisions in their political life. You have to trust that if you believe in democracy.”

This one is my favorite. You can always tell a liberal is feeling repressed when they pull out those phrases. If conservative ideals are held back, it's always "the people have spoken".

What’s currently offered by the three stations caters to the middle and right of the political spectrum, he said. As such, it lacks balance and neglects the left, which he said hinders the democratic process.

Balance...Hmmm...Helena must not have an ABC, NBC, or CBS affiliate. They must not have access to CNN either.

Boland disagreed, suggesting that Montana PBS, Yellowstone Public Radio, and Missoula Public Radio were trying to control the message received by their audience.

It took nearly the entire article, but the accusation of conservative censorship came through. Of course, if it were a conservative accusing one of the major networks of the same thing, you can imagine the screams we would hear about that.

The entire article wasn't a total fluff piece. The quote from the director of Montana's PBS station was a good one.

“We’re traditionally accused of being left-leaning,” Pruitt said, fending off Boland’s criticism that the station caters to the middle and to the right. “When you start getting it from both sides — from the left and from the right — we start thinking we’re doing something right.”

That's what journalism is supposed to be about. In this day and age when everyone has an agenda if you are making both sides upset and nervous, you are on the correct path.

The Journey Part I

I have decided to use my blog to (among other things) chronicle my journey down the path of spirituality. Over the next weeks and months (or longer) I will make entries on what's going on and my feelings.

For this first entry, I'm going to explain my background and where I'm at now.

So far in my life, I have had little exposure to any religion at all. My maternal grandmother was Catholic and very religious. I also had a few great aunts who were nuns. Because of my grandmother, my first three years of school (K-2) were in the neighborhood Catholic school. As for my parents, unless it was for a wedding or a funeral, we never set foot inside of a church. To this day, I cannot tell you which religion my father was raised in, if any at all.

As you can imagine, when it comes to religion and spirituality, I have no experience. That doesn't mean that I have no knowledge of religion, however. I am fascinated by not only the concept of religion but the different denominations as well. My biggest hindrance is that when I have a question, I don't know how to ask without seeming to be questioning the religion itself.

My girlfriend has always been more religious than I. This had never been a problem. I understood that religion played a larger role in her life than mine. She also understood that religion was not a part of my life. I have never stood in the way of her attending church or having our daughter in church related programs. As long as our daughter wanted to do it, I was fine with it.

Recently, my girlfriend has become a born again Christian. This has caused a few hiccups in our relationship, which I will not discuss here. As a result, I have begun to explore my spirituality. I have been attending church with the rest of the family and have even met with the pastor. I am beginning to understand what it means to them to be reborn as a Christian and to give their lives to God.

Which brings me to my current dilemma and the motivation for this project. In the meeting with the pastor and in discussions with my girlfriend, I have learned that a lot of born again Christians have asked for a sign, to show Himself to them. Some have also asked for Him to show them their calling. I am confused by the fact that I may have both happening to me without asking.

Some of you may be aware of the problems in Zimbabwe right now. Most don't because this country's media has not covered it. For those that don't I have a post about is farther down in my blog. I do like to help needy causes when I can. Lately I haven't had the financial resources to do so. The strife in Zimbabwe has taken on a new meaning for me recently. I have been coming up with plans for me to help out. Not just small ways either. Grand plans that have me forming a non-profit group, gathering corporate and other donations, buying the supplies that are needed there and personally delivering them.

What is confusing to me is, is this an overflow of compassion on my part or something more? I have been trying to figure that out for the last week or so and I think I need to speak with the pastor again.

That's where I'm at now. Keep checking back. As I begin down the spiritual path, I will post updates.

Monday, February 2, 2009

I want to be in the Navy!

I'll admit that my first reaction to this story was outrage. Large employers around the country are laying off workers in droves and other large businesses are closing their doors. Now the Navy has gone out and spent 322 Million Dollars to house just under 1,900 petty officers. Is this the best way to spend our tax dollars?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that, yes it is. The US armed forces are having an unbelievably hard time holding on to talented and experienced solders and sailors. There's no way that the wages can be matched by the private sector, so the only way they can try to keep them is with the extras. This housing complex is a good way to do just that.

It may seem that the ranks that are housed here are a little low. It would be understandable for officers to be here except by the time most military members become officers, they are already working on families. The lower enlisted ranks often do not last longer than their first billet. The senior enlisted (E-4 to E-6) are the ones that we need to keep. Most PO's are considering a military career but are still young enough to want to be single for a while.

Ask any senior officer and they will tell you that the senior enlisted personnel (CPO's) are the glue that holds the unit together. If you can't retain the junior NCO's, they will never become senior NCO's.

Yes, it does seem a bit excessive for a naval housing unit but I ask you, what will be the cost to this country without a well trained and experienced military?