Sunday, December 27, 2015

Off With Their Heads

One hot topic that continues to crop up is the death penalty. Some states have it, and some don't. Some studies show it deters crime, and others show it doesn't. Shoot them? Hang them? Electrocute them? Give them a "killer" cocktail? There is one reason why the death penalty is so difficult, and that reason always seems to be missed.

Some say the death penalty is cruel and painful to the one being put to death. For me, I really don't give a flip whether or not it is painful to the recipient. In all honesty, the more cruel the crime, the more cruel the method. Anyone who cries that the method is too cruel needs their head examined. No one asked the victims of the crime of their preferred method of being killed.

According to WebMD, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects an individual who "has experienced or witnessed a traumatic or terrifying event in which serious physical harm occurred or was threatened." It is a "lasting consequence of traumatic ordeals that cause intense fear, helplessness, or horror, such as a sexual or physical assault, the unexpected death of a loved one, an accident, war, or natural disaster. Families of victims can also develop PTSD, as can emergency personnel and rescue workers."

There is one other group that experience PTSD, and I think that group is THE reason why the death penalty is considered cruel and unusual punishment: the individuals who have to perform the executions.

I've read that even highly-trained soldiers will "purposely" miss their targets if it won't jeopardize their mission. There are very few "American Snipers". Why? Because taking another human life is never considered the first, best solution. Just look at all the bad press the police get whenever they fire their weapons.

So what's the solution? You need to have the people who take lives every day without remorse perform the executions. Who are they? Those who work at Planned Parenthood, of course. And as a bonus, they are already supported by tax payers. Since our government refuses to defund them, let's have them do the work that they do so well.

Before you get mad, tell me: what has more human value: an unborn, innocent baby, or a convict on death row?

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Makin' a List, and Checkin' it Twice

It's December; the end of another year. One common practice is to take inventory of the past year and figure what you are thankful for, what accomplishments you've made, and what you'd like to do better. For this post, I'm going to focus on some of the "things" I'm thankful for.

First and foremost: my wife, Lisa. No finer a lady walks this earth, than the one who said "I do" to me all those years ago. We are currently in our tenth year of marriage (July 2016 will be the 10th anniversary), and the love I have for her continues to grow daily (which confuses me, since I love her NOW more than ever - so how does it seem to grow?!?) The last ten years have chronicled many a change in my life (some of which I will write about in an upcoming blog), and she has not only been here, but has encouraged me through each and every one. Never judgmental, but never afraid to "put my feet to the fire" and ask me the hard questions. I don't think I would be the man I am today without her. "I love you, Lisa".

During the year we got to experience the joy and blessings of the marriage union of two wonderful people, Shaun and Jessica, and their incredible children, Zach and Morgan. I devoted a blog to them, so I won't go into too much detail here. It's enough to say that I am so thankful they opened up their lives to us and allowed us to share in the foundations of a wonderful future.

From part of 2014 through part of 2015, I was on a sabbatical. Part of that sabbatical was a separation from what I considered "normal Christianity". You can read about that in some of my previous blogs (too many to list here). One of the side effects of being on such a sabbatical was the stepping down from the worship team at my church. (I've been a member of that team for many a year, providing bass vocals, what I call "ugly tenor" lead vocals, harmonica, and percussion accompaniment.) One of the most important parts of Christianity to me is the worship of God. No matter the form, giving your 100% attention, devotion, and expression to God is IT. Because of the sabbatical I was no longer able to "offer my gifts to the Lord", outside of in my own living room (with the stereo blaring - I'm an accompanist, after all). My friends Tony and Mike allowed me the opportunity to occasionally join them in worship on their music team. It is because of their openness, and their love of worship, that I had the opportunity to be with them during that time. I'm so thankful for that outlet. I'm hoping 2016 provides many more opportunities for such musical collaboration with them.

And lastly, I want to share how thankful I am for my father. He turned 80 years old this year, and you wouldn't know it if you met him. He is energetic and full of life. He will converse with you on almost any topic, has close friends that he spends a lot of time laughing with (which may be THE reason you wouldn't be able to guess his age), and LOVES my mother - a marriage that has lasted over 50 years (a lofty goal for any today). Some of my favorite moments have been sitting at a table, enjoying a cup of coffee, laughing and talking with this man of men. My wife and I throw him carpentry projects that he puts more effort into than most "working stiffs"; partly to keep him busy, and partly because I'm so incompetent with my hands! There is no finer man I know.

As you finish off the last of the eggnog this Christmas, make sure you take a moment to let those you love know how important they are to you. And you don't need to write a blog to do it!

Merry Christmas!


© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Science is Settled

No, the title of this blog is not intended as "click bait". In January of 2014, our own President Obama declared that the debate over climate change was settled: "Climate change is a fact."

The purpose of this particular post is not to argue for or against man-made climate change. I've done that before. What I'm hoping to convey is how important mankind may or may not be, and the impact - or lack thereof - mankind has upon the world around him.

(I follow the old-school grammar of using "he" and "him" when referencing humankind in general. I don't mean to come off as sexist. Women fit in the generalizations I will be addressing just as much.)

I was reading an article recently that was discussing man-made earthquakes. What? Really? Yes. Really. The article referenced such things as the Hoover Dam (the water pressure), years of oil and natural gas extraction, and the recent hot topic of fracking, as being influential if not directly the cause of earthquakes. Various studies have taken place over decades, with mounds and mounds of data collected concerning seismic activity. And you know what? With all of the data, with all of the experts, the decision was made: Actually, there has been no decision. There are those on both sides using the same data to make their argument. The science is NOT settled.

Of course, with climate change, with much more data from many more sources, the science is settled. At least that is what Climatologist Barack Obama said. And he's not alone. In the recent Paris Climate Summit, a bunch of climatologists (a.k.a. "politicians") got together and said that man-made climate change was settled science, and made an agreement that hopes to aggressively curb the hotbed that the earth has become (sarcasm font).

What do earthquakes and climate have in common? Man's impact - or lack thereof.

On one hand Friedrich Nietzsche stated that "God is Dead". On the other Shirley MacLaine stated that "I am God." Right there is the rub: we want a world without God, so we can sit on the throne AS God. But is that possible?

My fear is not necessarily that we create earthquakes or climate change by our actions. My fear is that our actions to fix things cause more harm because unlike God, our vision is very short-sighted and we miss the long-term impact of the things we do.

I could talk about windmills and their impact upon birds, or solar panels and the amount of reflected light/heat that may be warming the atmosphere, but I'm not. I'm going to give you a little story from my home state of Ohio:

We have a lot of deer here. A lot. I've heard that it is because of all the housing and business development that the deer have been driven from their areas and now are all over the place. That may have something to do with it, but not entirely. The other reason for the deer population growth is deer population growth. For example: for two years in a row we had two fawns in either our yard or our next-door neighbor's yard. Below are pictures of three of them:

That's four additional deer in two years. My neighbor, who (along with one of his kids) is a hunter, has bagged around one a year. That means there are two more deer running around here than originally (not including the parents still running around). I know there are other hunters, but with the limits on where you can hunt (my neighborhood is off-limits, and the deer apparently KNOW that!) and the number you can actually kill, the population is exploding.

So what did the wise leaders in Ohio do? They changed the hunting laws? Nope! Not humane enough. They brought in a natural predator: coyotes.

Let's see how well that worked out.

The coyotes have NO natural predator in Ohio thinning them out. So, we are now overrun with coyotes (see my blog). But at least the deer have been thinned out, right? Nope! The coyotes would rather go after cats and small dogs than after big deer that run too fast. So now we have both: deer AND coyotes.

When it comes to man-made climate change, the thing that scares me more than the loss of oceanfront property is the damage that man MAY do by trying to fix it.

Well, at least one thing removes my fear: the science is settled.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, December 6, 2015

And You're Praying Why?!?

Part of the hoopla in the wake of last week's horrible shooting in San Bernardino, CA, surrounded the front page of the New York Daily News on December 3:

Along with the headline are Twitter posts from various politicians, calling for - or acknowledging self - prayer for the victims and their families. This has caused quite a stir on both sides of the religious / non-religious aisle.

Does God answer prayer?

Where IS God when tragedies occur?

How can God allow a person to kill so many innocents - even in the name of religion?

Do I believe God answers prayer? Yes, yes I do. Does He answer ALL prayers? No, no He doesn’t. And to be honest, I'm thrilled that He doesn't!

Several years ago I gave a talk to a men's breakfast group at church (give a man bacon, and he'll listen to anything!) where I covered such topics as time, eternity, finite and infinite, free will versus predestination, and where we and God stand on such things.  If you are interested, you can read it here, but be aware - it's a bit long. I gave an example by asking if someone had a swimming pool. I then asked that person to go home, cup his hands, and have someone pour the contents of that pool into his hands. That is an example of Finite trying to grasp Infinite. Oh, we get little droplets, but even as we think we grasp them, they simply wash away as we try to grasp more.

I bring that up, because it would be pretty awful for an infinitely omniscient (all knowing) God to have to cow-tow to the wishes and whims of finite man. I, for one, don't want a God who sits waiting for me to tell Him what to do. And if you are a man who believes God should, I want to know one thing: How is it possible for you to walk with cajones that big? (I'm talking to you, Word and Faith charismatics!)

My question is, HOW should God be "fixing this"? What, exactly, do you want God to do? (Before you answer that, read the last two paragraph above again!)

There is only one thing that I can think of for God to do, that will prevent people from killing other people. But I have to warn you: you won't like it. The only thing God can do is to eliminate your free will. Again, feel free to take (several) moments to read that post-bacon talk I gave mentioned above to understand free will and predestination.

Now, notice I didn't say for God to eliminate THEIR free will. If God were to forcibly stop ANYONE from functioning in free will, the ability for anyone to function in free will would immediately cease. You have trouble with predestination now, wait until God stops allowing even one person to function of their own accord.

In order for God to prevent people from committing such heinous crimes, He would need to eliminate free will from mankind. That means you would NO LONGER be able to function of your own volition. Like a remote-controlled car, you would only move via the DIRECT control of someone else (in this case, God.) Only then would people no longer be able to commit crimes. Or do good deeds. Or take care of their children. Or watch the Cleveland Browns win multiple Super Bowls.

Or even one . . .

One of the prayers God DOES answer is provide wisdom to those who seek it (see James 1:5 in the bible). And wisdom is something we all need.

The ability to ACT on that wisdom is another thing. Known as "free will".

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, November 29, 2015

It's broke. Time to fix it. Article #7

It's broke . . .

There is a real lack of accountability when it comes to government spending.

If you ask the average person (by that I mean those with a job, and not self-employed) what they make, they will most likely give you the net amount. If you ask them what their gross is, they wouldn't have a clue.

I too, am an average person by that criteria. But, to be honest, without actually looking it up, I couldn't tell you what I made in gross OR net. That kind of info never seems to stick in my Etch A Sketch brain.

The difference between the gross and the net on your paystub is shown as a list of deductions: (where applicable) 401(k), medical insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, AND (always applicable) a multitude of taxes: local, state, and federal.

Once upon a time, we working stiffs would get a paper paycheck, along with a paystub attached that gave you all those deductions. Then one day the paychecks went direct-deposit to your bank and the paystubs became a thing you could only see if you logged into an account online and brought them up.

So, what does this have to do with the lack of accountability when it comes to government spending? Plenty.

Most folks have no idea how much they are sending to the government each pay period. Out of sight, out of mind. Because of this, the HOW money is spent by our government becomes less impactful. Don't think so? Remember back in 2009, when President Obama's stimulus spending was kicking into gear? When asked, some people thought it was "Obama's money". They had little-to-no idea that the money being shuffled around was coming from their paychecks, or of someone close to them.

Because of this lack of connectivity, people have very little understanding of WHY the government shouldn't be spending money on whatever sounds good. Your grandma was right: money DOESN'T grow on trees!

Like I say in the bio of my blog, I am socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. What does that mean? I'm okay with the government providing social services to better society, but they had better be financially sound (a.k.a. "in the black") when they do it. And we are NOT financially sound. How much is the deficit? Remember when the multi-trillion dollar deficit was trumpeted on the news? Do you have any idea what it is now? Take a look. And WHY isn't it cried about anymore?

Because it is gone! No more debt! It was completely wiped away with "Obama's money".

(Okay, I kid, I kid!!)

So, what's the solution? You are not going to like this (but the self-employed people already know what I'm going to say): Eliminate automatic deductions of payroll taxes. Make people write the checks.

Do it for one year. Each payday make people have to pull out their checkbooks and write a check to EACH of their governments (federal, state, AND local). And, since it is normally taken off the top, make them write the checks FIRST! BEFORE they put gas in their car, or food on their table, or pay for the roof over their heads. Write it first.

Only then will people feel the impact of what they send to their governments, and only then will they force their representatives to be a little more responsible with "YOUR NAME's money".

. . . time to fix it!

© Emittravel 2015

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thanksgiving Day

This day can be considered a dress rehearsal for New Year's Eve, when we look at the year that has passed, and what we want to change in the coming. And yet, unlike the day of streamers and noise makers, with its false hopes of self bootstrap lifting, THIS day is a focus of what we are thankful for, and in light of the joys and in spite of the hardships, we still give thanks.

Below is a poem I wrote a few years ago in preparation of that year's curtain call. May the sentiments expressed grace your own heart, as you pause and give thanks. If you believe in God, by whatever name you know Him/Her by, give thanks. If you don't, than turn to those close to you - or reach out to those not so close - and give thanks. And maybe a little grace. -j.p. © Emittravel 2015

Tidings glad
In midst of sorrows
Comfort given
When all seems lost

Looking forward
Glancing backwards
Bending knee
Before the cross

Seeking mercy
Deserving nothing
Arms outstretched
Towards One who's true

Giving thanks
Deep in hardship
A cry for grace
It comes from You

Joy unspoken
Shouts of praise
Tears of cleansing
Purpose to pray

Peace in remembrance
Hope for the future
A life in renewal
Each Thanksgiving Day

J.P. Wiegand
© Emittravel 2012

Sunday, November 15, 2015

No, No; Thank YOU!!

After writing my last post, "Yeah, But What's In It For Me?", I got to thinking about the hazards of that mentality. If you didn't read that one, you may want to take a moment. I'll wait.

If someone is always looking at what they can get FROM God, the very nature of their faith needs to be examined. They need to assess what kind, if any, of a relationship they have with God.

One of the main differences touted between Christianity and other faiths is of relationship. In Christianity, relationship with God is not based on you DOING anything to get approval from God. It is based on the acceptance of what God has done. You don't have to go anywhere, recite certain prayers at certain times of the day, or get your karma in line for God to love you. He simply does. "For God so loved the world, that He gave . . . "

That there is enough to love Him in return.

But, if your relationship with God is based on what you can get FROM Him, then you are in for a lot of heartache and struggle.

As I said, I became a Charismatic in the early 1990s. And during that time since, I've seen many movements roll through the Charismatic church. Prosperity and Healing seem to be two of the majors.

The problem is, if Prosperity is your focus, what happens to your relationship with God if things aren't so prosperous? If your job disappears, or your business collapses, or your retirement investments take a hit?

Or if Healing is your thing, what happens when you find yourself battling a three-week long cold, or cancer, or the death of a loved one - too young / too soon?

I'll tell you what happens. You will either beat yourself up over your lack of faith, or, if things are bad enough, you will question the validity of faith in God itself. Many a "born-again atheist" started as a church goer who found faith in God to be wanting. "I prayed and He didn't answer my prayer."

How would you feel if the only reason your spouse loved you was for what you provided? From the weddings I've been to, it's been "for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health". I have never heard, "for the paycheck you bring home", or, "the mind-bending orgasms you give me".

Sometimes it feels like the Christianity we sell is a bill of goods. I've heard it so many times that a person had found themselves at such a low point in their life, that the only direction to look was up. It was then that they "found Jesus". Then all of a sudden, they found they no longer needed the cigarettes, or the drugs, or the alcohol, or the whatever. God delivered them from the crap in their life and now they are walking in joy, health, and (being a tither) prosperity. This is called having a good testimony. But what if life just happens? What if you still struggle with your addictions after becoming a Christian? What if your employment (or lack thereof) situation doesn't improve? Guilt. Or you simply find yourself doubting your conversion experience.

What should one do? Focus on loving God for the who, not the what. That way, in spite of the "richer or poorer" or "sickness or health", you will enjoy a lifetime of "marital bliss".

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Yeah, But What's In It For Me?

When my wife and I got together, we came from two different Christian backgrounds. She, a practicing Roman Catholic, and me, a Charismatic Protestant (a.k.a. "Non-Denominational"). Over the years, and many breakfast conversations, the differences have become more and more apparent. Now I grew up Catholic, so I knew where she was coming from. She, on the other hand, had minimal Charismatic experience, especially of the Protestant variety. Since the Charismatic movement had much development in the Catholic church though, she wasn't completely lost.

A notable difference between Catholic and Charismatic churches is their view of community and growth. If you look around, you will notice that there are Catholic churches around, but none too close to each other. There are usually only one or two in a specific geographic area. Charismatic churches, on the other hand, can be found practically across the street from each other. Again, the difference is based on their view of community and growth.

When a Catholic church has become too large for its current location to support, they will either move to a location with more property, or more likely, the diocese will start another Catholic church in a nearby, but different, neighborhood. The reason for this is that each Catholic church is designed to meet the needs of that particular community. If and when that church reaches a point where it is unable to effectively meet those needs, another church is required - usually close enough to assist with those needs, but far enough away to reach a separate community as well.

Charismatic churches, on the other hand, tend to be more growth focused. They go from one program to the next, always looking for what brings in the most people. And to assist with this, "successful" Charismatic churches hold seminars and publish books on what they have done to reach such phenomenal growth. So, they are always trying the "newest thing", and usually, at the expense of reaching the needs of the community in which they are located.

Understand, the reason for the difference is that charismatics, by definition, are "What's in it for me?" people. The word "charismatic" comes from the word "charis", meaning "gifts". Unlike their neighbors, the Pentecostals, whose focus tends to be the Holy Spirit (see "Pentecost" in the beginning of the book of Acts in the bible), Charismatics focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In other words, what can they get from the Holy Spirit.

Through the years, charismatics have danced with different "movements": Word & Faith, Prosperity, Healing, etc. All of which have been focused on getting FROM God. Along with this hunger for what they can get, comes the nickname "Cruise-a-matics"; as they jump from church to church, seminar to seminar, event to event, always looking for where the Spirit is "moving". They stand in long lines at the altar with hopes that the minister with the "gift" can bestow it on them by laying their hands upon them.

Before you get upset with me, understand that I've been in the Charismatic movement since the early 1990s. I know of what I speak.

Because of this, Charismatic churches struggle with attendance, as they find people come in the front and leave out the side; going to where the worship is better, or the pastor is more gifted, or they "preach the word". Also, the congregations are made up of people from all over; many driving many miles to attend a particular church. This results in a disconnect between the church and the local community, as the attendees have very little to connect them once the service ends.

If you don't believe me, take a look at the church bulletins of your local Catholic and Charismatic churches. The Catholic one tends to be pages long, with staples holding it together, filled with community needs, reflections, names of the sick to pray for, births, weddings, funerals, and social opportunities. The Charismatic one tends to be one sheet of paper, folded a few times, with one whole section to take notes during the sermon.

What's the solution? The only thing that comes to mind is for people to stop looking at what they can get FROM God. A way to do that is to not spend so much time thanking God for what He has given, but instead thanking God for WHO He is.
God loves us without condition. I'm sure that's the kind of love He would like in return.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's All About the Money

Have you ever felt that history is always doomed to repeat itself? I say, "doomed", but not necessarily in the way that means the history itself is bad, nor its repetition.

Here in the "high in the middle" and "round on both ends" state (Ohio . . . Get it?), we have two items on the ballot for the November election that deal with the controversial issue of legalizing marijuana.

Before you faze me out and move to the next blog on your RSS feed, please understand that I'm not arguing one way or another for or against the legalization of marijuana. My focus is more in line with the first sentence of this article: the repetition of history.

Here in Ohio, whether or not to allow casinos was a topic for quite a few elections. EVENTUALLY, the populace broke down and the casinos became legal. Soon, we saw nothing but prostitution, drugs, and a CSI spin off show haunting our communities. Actually, in the town of my birth, the casino brought in enough tax revenue to start a street renovation project that, so far, has cost the town NOTHING out of its own pockets. Oh, and so far, not a negative has been found.

If you look at the promised tax revenue for the schools, you can have a complaint, but you can't blame the casinos. Just like the revenue provided through the State Lottery, the state has reduced the budgets of the schools due to the "other" source of income. In other words, the money received was offset by reductions of a similar amount. So, blame the government, not the casinos.

The number one reason marijuana is becoming legal throughout our great nation is for the same reason: tax revenue. Period. And like the casinos before it, marijuana will EVENTUALLY become legal in the state of Ohio. History WILL repeat itself. Maybe it will happen this coming election. Maybe it will take a few more. But it WILL happen.

Ohio will live up to its "high in the middle" nom de plume.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mamma's Little Baby Loves Clambake, Clambake

I'm an October baby. One of the best things about that is that it is a month that ends in the letter "R". Why is that significant? Because any month that ends in an "R" is good for clambakes. So my wife likes to celebrate my birthday by having a clambake. And I have to tell you, I LOVE it!

This clambake turned out much better than the one we had two years ago (last year's went off without a hitch). I woke up the day of the clambake and was so sick I could barely get out of bed. Ended up having to call all the invitees and cancel. My wife was in the kitchen cooking up 100 small neck and 100 large neck clams, and making soup stock out of it all.

This year's went pretty well. We picked up the clams (18 dozen small neck) from a place called The Farmhouse Food's Fish Market in Maple Heights (Ohio). I mention this so that anyone in the area will know that there is a fantastic place to pick up seafood. If you are not in the area, check out their website to see if there is a location by you. This was our first year purchasing from them. Guarantee it won't be the last one either. Out of 18 dozen clams, I know of only three clams that didn't open. The meal was delicious (thanks to my wife's cooking, of course!)

(Okay, that ends the unpaid and unsolicited commercial.)

Adding the fixin's

The initial headcount for the clambake was 13, but due to circumstances beyond anyone's control, that number turned into eight. Initially, we figured for those who would most probably eat clams (9) two dozen each. Along with the clams we had barbequed chicken, corn on the cob, sweet potatoes, coleslaw, macaroni salad, potato salad, and bread for the meal. We also had a number of items for snacking prior to the meal, and a whole bunch of desserts for afterwards (including my birthday cake: dark chocolate angel food cake).

Some of the invitees don't eat clams, and there was one allergic to fish. Fortunately, the chicken, corn, and sweet potatoes were cooked separately, so everyone was happy.

Of course, if you've read this far, there is a very good chance that you are thinking, "That's great, J.P. But why a blog post about a clambake?" There is a good reason: My wife and I can go to the store and purchase clams, or to a restaurant and order a clambake, any time of the year (that has a month ending in an "R"). There is something SPECIAL about sharing such a meal with family and friends. Meals like these are celebrations: not just because of tying it to my birthday, but because when you have something that you love so deeply, experiencing it with those you want to be with only magnifies the enjoyment.

So grab a calendar and take a look at the month. If it ends in an "R", partake in a clambake. Better yet, invite those close to you, grab a mug of clam broth, and celebrate!

Dead soldiers! My wife will boil them and add them to her garden.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Road Run-Over

I love my morning drive to work. Even on Mondays. I know, that's hard to believe. I love what I do for work, so going there is not an issue. And since I drive back roads to work, the commute is sweet too.

Like I said, I love my morning drive to work. Normally, it is a time for me to listen to podcasts. There are a couple of them that I reserve for the car ride, since it is there that I can devote a certain portion of my consciousness to listening. Unlike when I'm at work or home, where I find I'm DOING things that take more of my grey matter. You'd think that driving should take at least as much, but when you drive the same route over and over and over, there is a certain amount of "auto pilot" that engages.

For the most part, driving to work is an almost sedentary event.

Until one morning in particular:

I was driving to work on the 15th of October, the day after my birthday, south on Broadview Rd. I was going through Richfield, when a dog ran across the road (west to east). It missed the front passenger tire of the Jeep, but went under. I know I made contact with it (I could feel it bounce on the undercarriage). I stopped, put on the four-way lights, and backed up to where I thought I had hit it.

It was not only in the ditch, but it was still alive. It slowly turned its head, baring its teeth. I grabbed my cellphone, asked Cortana to show me the closest police departments (I never know WHERE I am), and called the Richfield police.

I gave them my name and told them I hit a dog. I told them it was like a short-haired German Shepherd, but I really don't know dogs. (I had a Papillion at one time in my life, and could recognize them instantly when they showed up in TV commercials, but asides from my boy, Butterfly, I am pretty clueless when it came to breeds.) They said they would send an officer, and if it was okay with me, to wait.

The police officer pulled up behind me with his flashers and I got out to meet him. He could tell I was a bit shook up. I walked him over to the other side of the road and pointed.

The officer said that, if it makes me feel any better, it wasn't a dog, so I didn't hit someone's pet. I hit a wild coyote. "Great," I said, "I killed Wile E. Coyote." He said that there are so many wild animals running around, that they call his police car the "Deer Killer". He asked about damage to the Jeep, but I assured him there wasn't any. It bounced off the skid plates under the vehicle. He was going to shoot it (not only was it still alive, it had turned around in the ditch) and then take care of the body.

Knowing that I didn't kill someone's pet made me feel a little better, but not much. Needless to say, I drove the rest of the way to work in silence.

My "shrine" at work:

I'm so sorry, Wile.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, October 11, 2015

I'm Bushed: Have We Ben Trumped?

As I sit and write, the GOP Primary race is in full swing. They've already put us through a few debates, and dominated both the airwaves and social media (not to mention both our inboxes and mailboxes). The Dems had a slow start, but don't worry: we'll be pretty tired of both groups of putzes before this is all over.  And look: it is only October of 2015. We have a whole year more of these political shenanigans to go.

(I just read the above to my wife, and she said to "tell me how you really feel!")

Is it just me, or does it seem that the political race starts earlier and earlier every cycle. Pretty soon, right after the President gets sworn in, he/she will hop on Air Force One and hit the campaign trail for the next one.

Who suffers? We the People. That's who. Politicians are so full of themselves, with a lapdog "mainstream" media touting their every breath, that they think that the only thing us regular folks do is think, talk, and s**t politics.

Hate to break it to you "saviors of the people", but most of the time, we don't give a flyin' flip about you folks.

My wife and I were at a breakfast place this morning, with the corner television showing CNN, FOX, MSNBC, or some other useless channel giving us play-by-plays of the current goings on in Washington. I thought it funny. All the Instagram pics I've seen of this country's founding fathers showed them wearing white wigs. According to the cable "news" channel, every current "father" sports their OWN grey hair. This country seems to be run by a bunch of old, mostly white guys, who need a double-shot of "Just for Men".

Let me focus on the title of this post: "I'm Bushed: Have We Ben Trumped?"

The GOP has never missed an opportunity to flip the barrel of that gun around and "BLAM!!" Why, oh why, do they start their Primary race so early? The only Democrat I even heard running at the time was Hillary Clinton. Some would say we need the time to weed out the useless. Wouldn't that give us NOBODY? Last I looked, President Obama is no longer an incumbent. Don’t the Democrats need to do the same thing? But they started MUCH later.

Hey, GOP. Let me 'splain it to you. When you start so early, all you do is give the candidates time to screw up over and over and over and . . . And more than that, once the Democrats get in gear, you've given them PLENTY of fodder to work with.

And candidates. Keep in mind that a political race resembles a horse race. My wife and I love to watch the Kentucky Derby. (Yeah, check out those hats!)

From what I've seen, horses that start off in first place rarely finish in first place. The winning horse usually paces at CLOSE to the front and doesn't break out to the lead until the FINAL stretch. If they don't, they usually "wear out" well before they ever get there.

That's what happens to you. We get so tired of you shmoes that the person in the back looks so good by voting day.

Take this advice for what it's worth (you know, not a thing): Wait it out until the final couple of weeks before the Primary. THEN get in the race. C'mon! You don't NEED campaign contributions to run your campaigns (can you say, "One Percenters"?) You can fund them yourselves. And the best part is, you don't give the opposition anything to use against you. Who says that the media needs time to vet you? Oh yeah, the media. Sorry.

Oh, and there is one more way a political race is like a horse race: you always have to watch where you step!

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Stacks o' Greenbacks

The company I work for is making a change in their payroll system effective January 2016. They are switching from an every-other-week format to a twice-a-month format (Bi-monthly? Semi-monthly? Split-infinitives-monthly? Gah!!). The new format moves us from 26 pays a year to 24. The company says this will help streamline the company's financials, and it makes sense.

The new cycle puts the pays on the 15th and 30th of the month. No, that doesn't mean that we only get paid once in February (Shhh - don't tell them! They might not have thought of that!) If the 15th or 30th (or in February's case, there isn't a 30th) falls on a weekend or holiday, the pay will hit the bank on the previous business day. So, if the 15th is a Sunday, the pay shows up on Friday the 13th ("Feelin' lucky? Punk?" - Dirty Harry).

I haven't seen that pay cycle since I was in the Navy. Back then the 15th and 30th were coveted days on the ship. Usually by the 16th, many of my shipmates were already broke (Pick a card - any card, or more accurately, "Texas Lose 'Em"). Not me. I was already establishing my life's philosophy of "I don't like kids. I don't play games. Get off my lawn!!" So card games - even for money - didn't interest me.

One of the more popular budgeting systems today uses an envelope system for handling money. You make an envelope for every possible expense, using cash as your primary purchasing method, and put the budgeted amount in each envelope. When I was in the Navy, I had my own envelope system. I would take the majority of my pay and have it sent home to a savings account. This was way before direct deposit systems were commonplace like they are today. So, the majority went home, and I received the remainder in singles. Yep. One dollar bills. The dispersing clerk hated me!

The first thing I'd do is set up the number of envelopes needed to get me from the 31st (or 1st, if there wasn't a 31st) to the 14th, or the 16th to the 29th; marking each envelope with the date in pencil (I was cheap and just erased the date and reused the same envelopes over and over and over). I'd take the money to my bunk, spread the envelopes out, and divide the singles among the envelopes. I then only used the money in each day's envelope for that day. If I didn't spend it all, I would take that envelope's contents and divide it among the remaining envelopes. Whatever was leftover at the end was added to that next pay and was spread out again.

The above may seem a bit overkill, but you gotta realize that I was one of the few with cash in my pocket - even if it was a sweet, sweet stack of George Washingtons. Where my shipmates tended to have less money at the end of the pay period, I'd have more.

I'm not too sure if such a system would work today. I don't get an allowance, and my wife and I share one "pot". But, if you are single, you may want to think about such a system for yourself. The other benefit was the large sum I had in the bank when I got home. Out of sight, out of mind.

Now the real question: Do you have change for a twenty?

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

What's the Big Ideal?

I have a friend who "leaks". Let me explain.

This weekend my wife and I attended the wedding of a wonderful couple: Shaun and Jessica. Lisa and I have known Shaun for a number of years. Shaun and I go back to before Lisa and I got together (over ten years ago). We've shared both times of joy and times of pain. The "highlights" and the "lowlights". Shaun is an "ideal" man. He is tall, handsome, has great hair, is physically fit, plays sports, and works hard. And he "leaks".

At one of our Memorial Day picnics, Shaun came with Jessica. Jessica. Talk about an angel. Jessica is sweet, gentle, funny, beautiful (she has the most amazing eyes), caring, and is in love with Shaun. And Shaun is in love with Jessica. Did I mention he "leaks"?

I said Shaun was the "ideal" man. In the eyes of society, he is. In my eyes, he is that and much more. Shaun is one of those rare men who is not afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve. When he is happy, he smiles so big it looks like his face would break. When he is angry, you instinctively know to give him space. And when he is in sorrow, he is not afraid to cry. And it is that unashamed ability to shed tears that makes him more than the "ideal".

What is it about tears? Why do we cry? I heard it said that the reason we do is because we are experiencing an emotion so tremendous that our very being can't contain it. And we "leak".

When the doors opened and Jessica stepped into the church, Shaun's face showed his awe, his love, and all the pent-up emotions that came to fruition at that moment.

And he "leaked".

Shaun and Jessica: May you walk each day unashamed of who you are and who you are together: never hiding what's in your hearts. May you continue to love each other with all of your beings with such intensity that those moments come when words fail. And you simply "leak". God bless you, my friends.


© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The Big Five-Oh

Back in August I received my first birthday card of the year. Now, two important points: One, my birthday wasn't for two months, and two, it was from AARP.

The only birthday I've ever had "difficulty" with was my thirtieth. I don't know why. I remember turning to my father and saying, "Remember when you were my age, you had me." He quickly replied, "Don't remind me." My father and I are almost exactly thirty years apart. So, that was a one-time joke.

Thirty was tough. At that point I was out of school, had served in the Navy, and was married (to my ex). We had a house, bills, and a barely paycheck-to-paycheck lifestyle. I guess when I looked at it, I didn't really have much to look forward to, and a lot to look back upon. I didn't have any regrets, just a sense of loss for the big life changes that seemed to have passed.

Forty was no big deal. Just another birthday come and gone. It's supposed to be the year of "over the hill" gifts (at least that was what I see in the local Hallmark store), but I didn't feel any different. I've mentioned before that I don't really see time as having passed, since I’m always looking at the world through the same "port holes".

This year? This year I get on the AARP mailing list. Great (that's sarcasm, in case you missed it). This year I can seriously consider that more of my life has passed than is before me. The chances of reaching 100 get better and better each year (I think there are more centenarians around today than in all of recorded history), but the chances of this guy reaching it aren't as likely.

(I just read the above to my wife, because I'm a bit stuck on where to go from here. She asked a good question: "Why?" My parents are both "up there" in age, and are both doing great. They are beating the odds gracefully. So, maybe my chances are better than I thought. I have SUCH a good wife!)

I can honestly say that I’m not anxious about turning fifty. I’m loving where life has taken me, and am looking forward to the trip ahead. There are many twists and turns, hills and valleys, and highways and byways to experience. There is so much to look forward to, and I'm prepared to revel in all that life brings.

Now, if only AARP would leave me alone!

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Future is Now

In 1987, Alex Murphy was taking criminals "dead or alive" in "Robocop". I remember watching it for the first time (oh yeah, many times over the years) and seeing the scene in the Detroit police department locker room where both men and women were in various stages of undress (and no, I'm NOT posting a pic). The reason the scene got my attention, outside of the women in various stages of undress (I admit, I AM a straight male), was that both sexes were oblivious to the fact that the opposite sex was there in various stages of undress. I'll say that again: they were oblivious to the fact. It was normal. Just another day. And I wondered: what would it take to get us from "here" to "there"?

What I mean by "here" is a society that still has difficulty with male and female equality in all of its various forms (think "equal pay", for example), dress codes that determine the length of a woman's skirt and whether or not a man wears a necktie, and what gender "Pat" is.

Then one day it hit me. I finally figured out that unknown bridge: transgenderism.

Transgender people are throwing all kinds of confusion into "normal" society. Recently, an elementary school hit the news because a boy, who has determined himself to be a girl, has decided that she didn't want to use the teachers' or unisex bathroom, but decided to use the girls' bathroom. Both students and parents were up in arms, and the school made the statement that students are to use bathrooms that match their "plumbing" (my word, not theirs). I know of a business where an employee who presents himself as female, wants to use the ladies restroom as well. That business determined that if the employee is presenting himself/herself as a certain gender, they are able to use the bathroom that coincides with said gender. Part of the decision was based on the fact that the toilets are in stalls with doors, and the urinals have dividers (and I have never seen, in all my 49+ years, another male attempt to look past the divider - ever!): no one sees anyone in any form of undress. And does anyone really care the gender of the person at the next sink washing their hands? Hell, I'm just happy when people wash their hands. Of course, that business hasn't determined locker room/shower room use, but they will have to address it soon.

Having the opposite sex "invade" your bathroom is nothing new. Anyone who has been to a concert at the former Richfield Coliseum (I saw my first concert, Billy Joel - from A Piano Man to An Innocent Man - at that coliseum) has seen women skip the long lines for the ladies' room and grab a stall in the men's room. We guys noticed, but again, the stalls had doors. But now, that "invasion" is starting to become the "norm". (I noticed that I use a lot of quotation marks in my blogs. I wonder what the significance of "that" is . . . )

So for good or ill, trans genders are here to stay, so society needs to adjust.

According to an article by Jocelyne Zablit, "a California elementary school has become one of the first in the country to phase out gendered bathrooms". They are not adding a unisex bathroom; they are getting rid of those male and female silhouette-signed bathrooms.

Society is beginning to adjust.

Ally McBeal was the first to address a unisex bathroom (that I'm aware of), and that was back in the late 1990s. It was a novel idea that became a mainstay in the course of the series. And as has been said, good fiction soon becomes fact.

So, the future is now. We are slowly setting aside our long-held "hang ups" (there are those damn quotation marks again) and are beginning to allow the natural progression of society to become whatever it decides to be. And I think that is a good thing.

First unisex bathrooms, and next: silver jumpsuits!


(The above video is a clip from the 2002 Simon Wells film, "The Time Machine". That's right, Simon Wells: the great-grandson of H.G. Wells, the author of the book of the same name.)

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Stuff My Brain Says #75

Flip Wilson is famous for the line, "The Devil made me do it". Many Christians also believe the devil talks to them. I believe God speaks to us via His Holy Spirit. The devil, not having a similar representation of himself, does not speak to us in the same manner. The devil is neither omniscient, omnipotent, nor omnipresent. Most of those "negative" voices we hear are our own, influenced by our fallen nature and sin. Others are memories of things spoken to us by people from our past.

Christians need to stop giving the devil more power than he already has. That may be useful to fire up a congregation to throw more in the offering plate, but it's not valid.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Enough About Me. What do YOU Think About Me?

So, here's the real question: Why do we think we are invincible?

This is part three of a three-part series that focuses on the selfishness so prevalent in the human condition. (Please see "Down in Front!" and "The Invincibles".) My question is, why DO we think ourselves invincible?

(I'm going to refer to the bible in this article. Just so those who haven't been reading my blog regularly are aware, I've recently finished a sabbatical. During the sabbatical I had come to the personal conclusion that the bible is not THE word of God, but contains the word of God, and therefore should be treated more like a guide book than law.)

The bible mentions that God has placed "eternity in our hearts" (Ecclesiastes 3:1). What does that mean? We all have this concept of existence, and we have no concept of "not". Let me put it this way: have you ever contemplated what it would mean to NOT exist? To have no consciousness? "But J.P., that happens every time I go to sleep." Actually, you still have a form of consciousness, most commonly known as "unconscious". Unconscious is to be "under conscious" - below that of full consciousness - not without conscious. During sleep we even dream (whether or not you remember them).

You cannot NOT exist in your mind. You cannot recall existence before you were aware of it, nor can you comprehend the concept of not existing. Atheists may claim that we cease to exist upon death, but they themselves cannot comprehend not existing! It has been considered that those in comas are still aware of their environments, even though they are incapable of interacting with that environment.

I’m hitting 50 this year. The big 'ol half a century. But to be honest, I don't see myself as aging. Why? Because I still look through the same port holes (my eyes - former Navy guy). I'm still surprised every time I see my nieces (amazing how they've grown!). Why? Because, I haven't changed. Oh, I can look in the mirror and see that the years have passed, but again, the bible mentions that it's like a man who looks in a mirror and after turning away quickly forgets what he saw (James 1:23, 24). Since we are always looking through our eyes, and not at ourselves WITH our eyes, we forget the changes that time has wrought. And I'm not even going to mention the grey hair that the dark towel collects when I trim my beard!

It is in this very method of viewing life through our eyes that emphasizes the selfishness we exhibit. The only existence is ours, and the only view that matters is ours. There is a concept that says we cannot consider more than about 150 people around us as "real". Outside of that, people become an incomprehensible entity. No more "real" than those on the screens of our favorite movie theater. We may feel "sorry" for those in crisis, but it is another thing entirely to be truly "empathetic" towards them.

And since life itself is viewed only through our own eyes, it is easy to disregard the hazards experienced by others as having any impact upon us. We are "invincible".

Now, you'll have to excuse me. I need to find my cane. My leg is bothering me again.

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Invincibles

(Note: As I type this blog, there is a red squiggly line under the title. That word does not exist. As a matter of fact, neither do those it describes.)

As a continuation of last week's blog post, I wanted look a little deeper into the concept that there isn't just one "Me" generation; that many people could be described in such a manner.

Last week I focused on those individuals who arrive late to a church service and make a "show" of their entrance. That mentality goes well beyond those sacred halls. There is a selfishness that goes beyond the "I'm more important than you", and rises (or falls?) to "I’m above that".

Let me explain. People think they are indestructible. Invincible. That no matter how much evidence to the contrary, they are immune to the hazards of life. It's one thing when that mentality only affects the individual, it is another entirely when it affects those around you - even putting them in danger.

There is the guy who stands outside of the funeral home to grab a quick cigarette break, while inside there is a casket with his father who died of emphysema. "My dad died from smoking, but that won't happen to me. I know I should quit, but . . . you know."

There is the lady who drives down the freeway with her head in her lap - checking her most recent Facebook activity, or reading that oh-so-important text message, or responding to one with those emoji's that are a matter of life-altering importance to the recipient - believing that if she doesn't hold up her phone no one will know.

I would like to refer you to a recent blog post from my darling wife that talks about those "morons" (my word, not hers) who would rather focus on that little 4.7" screen, than focus through that huge piece of glass in front of them. Please take a moment to read her post and click on the video she linked to at the end. It was watching that video that helped spawn these last two posts of mine.

Apparently, it doesn't matter how much evidence is presented, or laws are passed, people will still live like they are John Travolta in a bubble, protected from the hazards that affect only those "others". The American Lung Association used to show human lungs after years of smoking on their commercials. Didn't do a damn thing. You still see people huddled around their little embers, sucking ionized radiation into their lungs, with temperatures outside that are well below freezing. Smoking only hurts the "other guy". There are commercials (like the one my wife linked to in her blog post - don't forget to read it!) showing the hazards of the driver with more than driving on the mind. Or worse, driving like they've starred in every "The Fast and the Furious" movie.

I remember a bumper sticker once that said something similar to "Please don't risk my life by driving so you can arrive someplace three minutes faster."

© Emittravel 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Down in Front!

Now that I've been attending church again (albeit, not all that frequently), I find I'm amazed at just how distracting people are. The pastor made a comment years ago that when this church started it was the perfect church . . . then the first people walked in (that was a joke - really!) One of the concessions that my wife and I agreed to was that she would attend with me (she was attending a local Catholic church while I was on my sabbatical), as long as I didn't "force" her to sit in the first row.

The first row. The dreaded, mostly empty, first row. A place I've been accustomed to planting my keister for many a year. I have never sat there with an air of "better than thou". I have sat there because I'm so easily distracted. Even back in school I'd sit in the front row. I'm the same with televisions. I actually hate dining in establishments with televisions on. Don't be surprised if I ever ask you to please turn yours off while visiting. I want to give you my undivided attention, and I'm just unable to do that with the damn thing on.

So, I'm accustomed to sitting in the front row. But now, we are in the fifth row from the front, sitting at the end of the row (I've been having a lot of on and off trouble with my knee/leg, and being able to stretch it out helps), and I find people are so annoying.

At this church, the service starts with about 20 minutes or so of (praise and worship) music, followed by a new visitor welcome, a meet and greet, the offering, and then the sermon. As I said, the service STARTS with about 20 minutes or so of music. The service doesn't start with the sermon. Do you hear me people who like to come in three-quarters of the way through the music?!? The music is part of the service. Those songs are not the trailers before the main feature. It's one thing to come in late to a movie and miss a couple of trailers. It is another thing entirely to come in after the main feature has started. I have rarely, if ever, seen anyone come in after the movie has begun. Why? Because nobody would come in late to a movie! So, why do people come in late for a church service?

I've written before about the purpose of the music at the beginning of a service. It is a time to prepare your heart and mind for God - to set aside your burdens and put yourself in a position to truly commune with Him. When people come in late, they disturb those at the end of the aisle - because they want those coveted middle seats - with "Hi!"s and "How are you!"s, taking people out of their spiritual "moment" and forcing them to give THEM attention.

(Being a couple of rows back, and being so easily distracted, I can't help but be pulled out of MY spiritual "moment" either!)

Listen! Why don't you get your ass up out of bed 15 minutes earlier so you get yourself all dolled up and get into your precious seat and not disturb other people who have come to church instead of the local golf course to commune with God. If you can't spare that extra 15 minutes of sleep, don't come in! Go and get your "slam" at the local Denny's instead.

We should get the ushers to close the doors once the service has started, and refuse to let anyone in!

Bruce Campbell, a.k.a. "the man!" in Spider-Man 2
Maybe it's just a part of the nondenominational/charismatic/Protestant mentality. I've never seen anyone ever come in late to a Catholic service. Oh, they've left early all right, just never came in late.

Or maybe if they served popcorn . . .

© Emittravel 2015