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1413067_water_newThough it’s almost February, it’s never too late to get started on something new. It only takes one day to start becoming the person you want to be and today could be that day. There are a million things you can do, but my advice is this: Start simple. Don’t plan so much that you overwhelm yourself and fail, take baby steps.

It goes back to the old adage: How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

  1. Spend More Time in the Sun

Too many of us rely on supplements and food for our Vitamin D needs. We also hear about skin cancer, and how we don’t want to tan. However, the sun has gotten a bad rap as of late. It is the original source of Vitamin D and studies show that being in the sun makes you less stressed, and feel more free. Take some time to lie out in the sun this summer.

  1. Fast

The best thing I did for my health in the past year was begin to skip breakfast. More and more studies show that those who eat their meals within and “eating window” (typically between 4 – 8 hours).  You don’t have to fast every day, but fasting can really be good for the body. Think of it as your reset button. It allows the body  a period of being able to regulate itself and get back in a form of ketogenesis.

  1. Read

Do this more often. It is better for you than almost any other hobby or activity. Even reading comic books actively engages the brain and makes you smarter and less likely to have brain disorders later in life.

  1. Learn a New Language

It’s not as hard as you think, and it can be done in a lot less time than you think. The benefits of learning new language are immeasurable, and will automatically make you look smarter (which is what everyone wants) you can go the route of something like Rosetta Stone, but it’s easier to learn other ways, as your developed brain is better at learning languages now than when you were a child.

Change is vital, improvement the logical form of change.
~ James Cash Penney

The Books of 2012

CaptureThe Books of 2012

Every year, and I suggest every reader do this, I keep track of every book I read and the page number. Mostly for my own edification, but I like to try and beat my page count every year. I don’t count books with pictures. (I’m fond of graphic novels) 2012 was a decent year, I read 33 books for a total of 11,428 pages.  I’m glad to say I’m on track to easily beat that this year.  Without further introduction here is the list that was 2012.

  1. 77 Shadow Street Dean Koontz

 

I am pleased to say that Dean Koontz, one of my favorite authors (top 3 all time) is one author I can say I’ve read everything. Including his out of print paperbacks when he wrote some science fiction stuff.  He once said he would never reprint those, I hope he changes his mind.  Anyway,  this book, was entertaining, though it reminded me of Dragon Tears which is an amazing book.

  1. A Separate Peace  John Knowles

Classic number one this year. This book is perfect if you’re a guy. You can relate to the central character very well, and though a lot of the “war tones” are lost on kids who read it now, it remains relatable in context of boyhood to manhood.

  1. Bethany’s Sin Robert McCammon

 

Entertaining short read, a horror novel of mediocre proportion and entertainment.

  1. Boy’s Life  Robert McCammon

The best book I read this past year. An amazing adventure set in the time everyone yearns for:  That time where you’re not quite a child and not quite an adult. This book is beautiful and poignant.

  1. Burglars Can’t be Choosers Lawrence Block

 

I don’t take many trips into the realm of mystery. However Block makes it entertaining with his snarky burglar and easy writing. These books you can polish off in a day, and you know it was a day not wasted.

  1. Cold Days Jim Butcher

If you’ve never read The Dresden Files you’re really missing something special.

  1. Cowards Glenn Beck

 

Not the best political book I’ve read, but not the worst.

  1. Dreadful Tales Richard Laymon

If there is one author I wish was still alive it would be Richard Laymon. He didn’t live long enough and didn’t write enough. You’ll get a thrill with anything he’s written.  These short tales of horror are no different.

  1. The Great Gatspy F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

I was surprised how much I liked this book. Not only was the writing perfect and flowing like a jazz song, but the lessons to be learned from the characters can benefit a lot of people today, including the cast of Jersey Shore.

  1. Guide to The Presidents Steven Hayward

This past year I wanted to learn more about each president. So I did.

  1. Odd Apocalypse Dean Koontz

 

A great addition to the Odd series by Koontz.  Though I’m sure not intentional, when it comes to this series the odd ones in the series are better than the even numbered ones.

  1. Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky

I was surprised by this book too.  I try to read the book if I know I’m going to see the movie, and the book surprised me with poignant charm and wit.

  1. Power vs. Force David Hawkins

 

Interesting, though it almost seems like someone was trying to sell me a bridge with this one.

  1. Real Marriage Mark Driscoll

A great primer for a young couple just starting out or an older couple wanting to continue their journey in a Godly marriage.

  1. Room Emma Donoghue

 

The viewpoint of this book is the most interesting thing. Told from the perspective of a five year old boy everything that is threatening takes on an innocent quality, even when dealing with suffering in the book.

  1. Rose Madder Stephen King

Not the greatest King book, though the story kept you hooked the ending was horrible, making the rest of the book a muddled mess.

  1. Skulduggery Pleasant Derek Landy

 

A teen series about a girl who finds out her Uncle consorted with a detective who is also a skeleton.  I don’t think I will finish this one.

  1. Snow Country Yasunari Kawabata

A beautiful book of early 20th century Japan.  If nothing else read this book for the stunning visualizations and descriptions

  1. Stories for Nighttime and some for Day Ben Loory

 

Odd, but entertaining.

  1. Swan Song Robert McCammon

One of the best post-apocalyptic books I’ve read in a long time.

  1. The Burglar in the Closet Lawrence Block

 

The second in the aforementioned series. Rodenbarr continues his shenanigans and gets into more trouble just trying to be an innocent burglar.

  1. The Gunslinger Stephen King

This was a reread, but I’m still counting it because this is my list and I’m the boss. The first book to the greatest series of all time.

  1. The Light Between the Oceans M. L. Stedman

 

One of the best books on choices and redemption I’ve read.

  1. The Midnight Lair Richard Laymon

A fun spelunking adventure with caves and tourists…and cannibals.

  1. The Prisoner of Heaven Carlos Zafon

 

A sequel to Angels Game which is a sequel to Shadow of the Wind. Though all of these books can be read stand alone. Should have stuck with Shadow of the Wind, it doesn’t need sequels.

  1. The Shining Stephen King

Great book and such an entertaining read. After reading this book I can no longer stand the movie.  (Though is it now Okay to admit that no one actually likes Stanley Kubrick?)

  1. The Stepford Wives Ira Levin

 

Ira Levin is an author who gets to the point. All of his books are short and to the point. They are also thrilling.

  1. The Twelve Justin Cronin

The second in Cronins’ The Passage series, the book was entertaining enough, but as with most trilogies you need a second book to get to the third.

  1. The Weird Sisters Eleanor Brown

 

I would have enjoyed this book more if I were a girl and had a sister. The reason I wanted to read it was the Shakespeare angle. If you’re a woman or have a sister you’ll really enjoy this book.

  1. The Wind Through the Keyhole Stephen King

It’s in The Dark Tower series, how is this not a good book?

  1. Untitled Julie Kaewert

 

A fun mystery about books and murder.

  1. The Brief and Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz

An amazing book. Not only will you admire the characters, but you’ll learn a lot of history in the process.

  1. Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War H. W. Crocker

 

A good primer for those who want to  know more about the battles and commanders.

“I was reading the dictionary, I thought it was a poem about everything”

~ Steven Wright

655092_football_5Everyone loves this time of year, when the winter is upon us, and great football teams battle for the top spot as “world champions” As it were here are my championship predictions, everyone else is wrong except me.

Championship Games:

49ers V Falcons

This is going to be the closest game of the week with both teams fighting hard for every point. It’s also going to be a game that offense decides, so expect it to be high scoring. In the end however, there is going to be a very disappointed Atlanta.

49ers: 35  Falcons: 30

Ravens V Patriots

The Ravens were unbelievable in Denver. The key word being Unbelievable*. That being said it won’t happen again, Not in New England. Not against Belicheck. Not with Brady’s arm. My dark horse prediction for that game is it’s not going to be that close as it has been in years’ past.

Ravens: 17 Patriots: 28

Which of course brings on the big game February 3rd.

49ers V Patriots Ravens

Expect this game to be very close. with the 49ers being as explosive as they have been, with a quarterback who can pass and run, expect the 49ers to narrowly pull this one out. If the defense for the Niners can keep pressure on Flacco they will win by more.

49ers: 28 Ravens: 25

bpA short primer for defending yourself in a gun control debate.

1.      Guns kill people…

This mantra (which is not as popular as it used to be) was one used to say why guns were bad. They were designed to kill people (or things) and this makes them inherently evil. Actually, this makes the perfect for defense and inherently neutral. Did you hear about the gun with a will of its own who broke into that ladies house and killed her? Neither did I. A gun, much like any other inanimate object is nothing more than a tool wieldy by a human with good or evil intentions. Guns are objects, they are not good or evil, they are tools.

2.      If we had more gun laws fewer people would die…

Guns are like shark attacks: There aren’t that many of them, but you hear about every single one. There is some inherent financial logic in gun control. If you reduce A you also reduce B. Though this makes work for your personal financial and fitness budgets this does not work for guns. The only thing gun laws do is make it harder for those who follow the law to get one. How many criminals have broken a law?  All of them. Will more gun laws make them think twice? Nope. We can also save lives by having fewer bathtubs, electrical outlets and ladders so people don’t have accidents. Also, if we had banned planes 9/11 wouldn’t have happened.

3.      No one needs to own an “assault weapon”…

No one needs to own a Ferrari either. Assault weapons are just bigger guns. There isn’t anything different about them. More crimes are committed with handguns anyway. We should be able to own assault weapons to protect ourselves, and our families. Whether that’s from criminals or an oppressive government does not matter. An armed society is a polite society.

4.      If “those people didn’t have access to guns those mass shootings wouldn’t have happened…

Ultimately it comes down this: where do we throw the blame?  Who is to be held accountable for this?  In a society where we have to be tolerant of everything it’s amazing what we become intolerant of. The beginning of a mass murder doesn’t start with picking up a gun; it starts with a person making a conscience choice to do something evil. We’re all capable of it, and we all fight our own temptations and sin. However, we can’t point that out in our society; another’s choice isn’t right or wrong it’s just “different”. That’s a good thing. We love being diverse and cultural. If we’re intolerant (gun owners excluded) we are sinful. We don’t dare say that there may be a moral standard that we are held to whether we like it or not.

Murder doesn’t come from the barrel of a gun, but the chambers of the human heart.

“After a shooting spree, they always want to take the guns away from the people who didn’t do it. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to live in a society where the only people allowed guns are the police and the military.”

~ William S. Burroughs

The Age of Technology

It’s not easy to dismiss the age of technology and the effect it has upon our economy. There are so many answers and perspectives to this question, but every right answer will have elements of these four core truths:

1. Our economy relies upon technology more than ever before.

We’ve come a long way from hiding dollar bills in bed sheets. When we look at our savings and bank accounts we look to the computer or an ATM for numbers on a screen. We know if we can buy that new couch because the LCD screen says we can. tangible money has been replaced by a system of magnetic strips and transactions done with Zeros and Ones. Rarely do we hear about large sums of money in cash form. One could argue this started with the advent of checks. It was more “convenient” than cash. Now we can swipe a card, or why even take your credit cards, do it from your phone.  Send money by way of third parties like Paypal. Our monetary system has become something less tangible and more intangible. Billions of dollars aren’t stacks of cash in a warehouse they’re numbers on a computer screen, that carry the same weight as those stacks of cash.

2. The 90′s and the Age of Technology

When we think of the 90′s we think of the success we had with an economy. We can debate all day why the economy was as good as it was, but looking back it had nothing to do with Clinton and everything to do with technology. Yahoo was the dominant search engine. People who saw dark purple walls thought of a search engine able to brings you vast sums of knowledge at your fingertips. Who knew that only a couple of years later, they would be pushed by the wayside for even more dominant technologies. Google was a startup, it kind of became a big deal. Microsoft, had it’s hayday  pushing the boundries of computers. You could carry a phone around with you, then the phone got smaller, then you could send people short messages instead of calling them, then you could check your email, wait email?  The Post Office would begin to die. The 90′s were the foreshadowing of today. Just think that children born today will think of these technologies as ubiquitous. However that’s far from the truth. What isn’t far from the truth is the growth of technology – it’s been anything but linear.

3. The Biggest Companies in The World are technology companies

Apple

Google

Amazon

People may think of the guys online, or the company that makes computers and ways of accessing the internet, but it’s deeper than that. When you talk about the biggest companies in the world you can add car companies, oil manufacturers and medical centers. Technology doesn’t come just in the form of the personal computer. It comes in the form of many different things. The car manufacturer can carve an engine from a single block of aluminum using technology, and make no mistakes while doing it. Oil manufacturers can asses the best places to drill and have new ways of drilling because of technology. Doctors can operate on patients without even being in the same state because of technology. Not only that, but all of these companies have benefited in other ways from technology. They make fewer mistakes, they hit more goals, their able to make cheaper, better quality products. Technology is not limited to those who sell you your computer or how you search the web, it is a broad net that stretches over your entire life changing the way you drive to the way you shave.

4. Technology as Warfare

Imagine Kennedy making a speech to the American people explaining that our biggest threats may not be nuclear, they may be technological. People would think he’s talking about advanced warplanes or missiles. This isn’t the case. Technological warfare is a very real and scary thing. In some respect, it happens every day, people have their identities stolen. However the far more pernicious kinds are something much worse. From crashing whole economic infrastructures to crashing servers for pertinent information. Anyone can access this kind of technology. With the advent of things like the deep web, governments everywhere need to prepare for the new threat of technological warfare. However, this kind of warfare comes not only from how it can cripple, but from how it can be taken away. From EMP’s that can dismantle a countries economy in seconds. No access to the outside world. Imagine being in the world but not a part of it. This, like most great things, is the price we pay for technology, and there will always be those seeking to keep us safe, against those who wish to do us harm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love the summer Olympics. There is nothing better than, with all of our differences, coming together to cheer for our team. There is only one team: Team USA. Everyone is cheering them on, and the heartache and glory is palpable even from halfway across the world.  For the next couple of weeks people from all over will be cheering in their living rooms for America’s team.

There will always be those, sadly, who choose to find something wrong with the Olympics. Most of the flak is aimed at the sponsors like McDonalds and Coke. There are those of us who make the arguments that sponsors like McDonalds and Coke should not be sponsors of arguably, the most athletic competition in the world.  These naysayers will say that these kinds of sponsors make it okay for people to eat food that is bad for them or put bad things in their bodies. They say that these kinds of sponsors, do not “accurately represent” the fit and athletics state of the finely tuned machines that are our athletes. These people are short-sighted and miss the point of what a “sponsor” of the Olympics means.

Who is to say what’s unhealthy?  We know it’s not fat. Some will tell you that to be healthy you should be eating a lot more red meat. This article is not about that. Also, do these people know what kinds of food some of the athletes eat? Consider the swimmers who spend a lot of time in a pool that is cooler than their own body temperatures. These athletes need to eat more than the average, athletic person, or they will lose too much weight. Michael Phelps eats over 12,000 calories a day, and it’s not because he burns that much, it’s because of the temperature of the water.  Do you think he can get to twelve thousand calories a day eating salads?  That’s a lot of lettuce.

However, the real reason these people are wrong is because they fail to realize that being a sponsor of the Olympics isn’t about whether food is healthy. It’s about supporting our country. These companies don’t sponsor the Olympics solely for marketing. They sponsor because they, like us want to cheer the home team. They want to share in the glory of the Olympic win. They want to show support for their country and the athletes that have given their lives and bodies to be the perfect competitors. It’s not for the sponsor but for the athletes. These sponsors are passionate about our athletes and support everything they do. They are proud to support the United States. Dow Chemical is an Olympic sponsor too, and that’s bad for you if you eat it.

The true nature of the Olympics is that for those couple of weeks it’s not about Me it’s about Us. As a country, coming together to support those who would compete against the world. Those proud enough to play for a country that offers freedom and encouragement not just for us, but for the world. The rest of the world doesn’t tune in just to watch their team, they tune it to watch the United States, other countries, and our sponsors know that watching team USA is a beacon of hope for what true freedom can do to a country – it creates hope and courage, as personified perfectly in our athletes.

“Better to pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

~ James Joyce

*Warning* Minor Movie Spoilers

Richard Weaver once wrote, “One may be accused here of oversimplifying the historical process, but I take the view that conscious policies of men and governments are not mere rationalizations of what has been brought about by unaccountable forces. They are rather deductions from our most basic ideas of human destiny, and they have a great, though not unobstructed, power to determine our course”.

This view that, “Ideas have consequences” is nothing new. The cross we bear as a culture is failure to see past our own selfish understanding to what becomes of others (including entire generations) when we fail to realize that our ideas echo across the world, with sometimes horrible ramifications.  The best panaceas to decadent ideas are the lessons of history and culture. We see ideas like socialism in our society, and wonder why they wouldn’t be good for everyone. Then we see what ideas, taken to their truest form mean for a free people and a society. The end of socialism, in its truest form is godless entropy, as seen in the French Revolution. People fail to see past their own understandings, and what ideas, taken to their most pure form would mean for everyone.

With that being said we also have lessons from our culture.

Batman the Dark Night Rises is such a lesson. It warns of the veracity of what anarchic control such as the Occupy movement would do if carried out fully. What do the people of Occupy stand for?  The Movement stands by the facts that if the wealthy would share, everything would be fine. That the rich prey on those less fortunate, that our economic society is some kind of zero-sum game. While all of these premises are false, this very real movement fails to see the consequences their ideas can have on a society.

I cannot illustrate these points more clearly than with the new Batman movie. The villain, Bane, is the walking embodiment of what Occupy stands for. And, Anne Hathaway’s Catwoman is the allegory for the misguided hoi polloi of those who fall prey to dangerous ideas.

There is a scene early in the movie when Catwoman is dancing with Bruce Wayne. She tells him that he has no idea how the world works. Because he is rich, he does not understand the toil and hardship the rest of the populace must endure just to get by. Catwoman thinks there is no hope for her situation. She has resorted to crime, and justifies it with, “the wealthy already have too much”.  She sticks to her “Robin Hood” principles and embodies someone who deals the thin gray line between what she knows to be true, and what she wants to be true.

Then comes Bane, There are two very telling sequences in the movie that show Bane as the Occupy man he is. The first comes when he takes the Gotham Stock Exchange hostage, implementing his part of a master plan at the cost of the “rich”. But the most telling scene comes while he stands in front of a government building. As he stands in the umbrage of stone steps and columns he says he only wants to give the city back to the people. He wants everyone to have their “fair share”.  He plans to give Gotham their city back, so they can finally have what they “deserve”. The rich have no more rights as far as Bane is concerned. Though notice that the only one who gets the good end of this deal is Bane, who gets to rule over the “free” populace.

He accomplishes his scheme with violence and mayhem, and for a time his plans succeeds. Gotham becomes cut off, and anarchy rules. People can do as they please. There are no courts of corrupt lawyers and judges anymore, only a chaotic and violent form of punishment set in place by Bane himself.

As we come to see, when people get their fair share, they get less then what they had. Not only do they lose what possessions they may have, but they live in fear of violence from others.

One of the most important ideals to take away from Occupy in its truest sense is this: When people give their liberty for a shoddy form of freedom they end up not with a better society, but with a much more grim society. The film teaches that you cannot give up liberty to get liberty; you give up liberty for tyranny.

As Catwoman sees the effects of what “fair share” means she realizes how wrong she’s been. She understands that the true nature of evil comes not from the rich, but from the acquiescence of liberty for something people feel they deserve. Catwoman sees that taken to its truest sense, the Occupy movement is just as chaotic and violent as totalitarian regimes before it, and that she’s made a mistake in believing the lie.

What can break this tyranny?  Well, Batman of course, in the form of a rich, man giving what he has to those less fortunate because he has the means to do so. Batman embodies what the free market and the ideals that come with it are.

There is a young cop in the movie named Blake who can be seen as the person who believes if they work for what is true and right can make it, just like Batman. He is the embodiment of the true American spirit, which is alive today. His story in the movie tells us that it may be hard, and it may not be fair, but with the principles we have to guide us it is more than possible.

The film ultimately teaches that the only way to gain true freedom is to work for it. There is no such thing as soft tyranny, only tyranny. In the end, it’s capitalism that saves the day from Bane and Occupy. It’s those who want something, working hard to get it, not waiting for it to come to them. Batman many be able to save us from tyranny on screen, but we must do it ourselves in this life. We must stand against those who would bring down the most successful principles the world has ever seen because of a misguided cause.

Those kinds of ideas are bad ideas.

 

And all ideas have consequences.

“It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.”

~ Thomas Jefferson

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