Interesting quote about church going

Sometimes quotes come at you from surprising sources. The following quote comes from a good movie called “Burning Bodhi” about old friends grieving the sudden death of one of their own from an aneurysm. The character was from a God-fearing community in West Virginia with a number of churches. When asked if she went to church, her reply was priceless.

“Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than hopping into a garage makes you a car.”

The profound simplicity of that statement floored me. It also reveals the act of going to church is not as altruistic for everyone as it is for a group of truly devout people. Having grown up going to not only church, but Sunday school as well, I saw all kinds of people there. Just like in general society it was a collection of imperfect people with biases, faults, and sins.

There were good lessons to be learned as well as some that were not so good. This church had an excellent youth program called “Tell it like it is,” where young people could get excited about their faith. Yet, on the flip side the church eventually split in half over an argument regarding the overt nepotism of the pastor in hiring practices. I have seen churches and synagogues have active outreach programs even starting charities to help people in need, while I have also seen churches led by ministers whose ego and greed got the best them.

Having worked with church and synagogue leaders on outreach programs to help those in need, I have witnessed both sides of the coin as well. I have met the most wonderful and kindest people who want to help, but I have also witnessed some who were there for themselves, not the people in need. The charity has to be about helping people help themselves, not doing something that makes you feel good about yourself.

I am no longer a church going Christian, so many would not even call me such. I am imperfect just like everyone else, but I do feel we should walk the talk. I do feel it is more important to help people climb a ladder out of the hole they find themselves in. I do feel we should treat people like we want to be treated with no caveats. And, if a church leader does not espouse those things, I would suggest finding a different place to worship.

Offshore wind energy in North Carolina is taking shape

In an article by Adam Wagner of the Raleigh News and Observer called “Duke Energy among companies with winning bids for NC offshore wind energy,” North Carolina’s efforts to take advantage of its windy coast is taking shape. Per Wagner, “The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s 18 round auction netted $315 million for the wind energy areas, which are roughly 20 miles off the coast.”

The bids were won by two sets of companies, Duke Energy based in Charlotte and TotalEnergies Renewables USA. “‘Investments from two developers means an increased supply chain investment and recruitment, workforce development and thousands of good paying jobs and infrastructure development that will support other North Carolina industries,’ Katharine Kollins, president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition, said in a statement.”

The Duke Energy $155 million investment will help power 375,000 homes and help Duke meet its renewable energy goals. Most of its wind investments have previously been in Texas. TotalEnergies will produce electricity for roughly the same number of homes, as its investment was a little more than Duke’s. TotalEnergies has also won a bid for a lease just off the coast of New York and New Jersey.

The US has seen most of its wind energy on land in the plain states, with Texas leading the way and other states like Iowa, Minnesota, and Oklahoma following suit. The last statistic I checked said Iowa gets 43% of its electricity from wind. Texas is around 20%, but is a much larger state. I have referenced before deceased oil tycoon T. Boone Picken’s comment on “60 Minutes” about ten years ago when he said the future of energy in the US is in wind energy. Solar energy has taken off as well, but Pickens noted how windy the plain states and coast are.

Seeing this expansion off the coast of the US is exciting. Much of the offshore wind energy development has been in the North Sea off the shores of the Scandinavian countries and Great Britain. It is good to see this occurring in areas where it can help so many. NC has roughly 10 million people, so seeing investments that could power roughly 750,000 homes (doublnig the Duke share cited), reveals the size of the impact. Adding that NC is in the top five states in solar energy and our renewable energy future is even more promising.

Friday foibles and follies

On yet another Friday the 13th, be safe and be smart. And, watch out for black cats crossing in front of you. In the spirit of the day, let me offer a few foibles and follies for your contemplation.

Per our friend Scottie’s post, it always makes sense do your homework and be prepared for whatever comes your way. Please take about two minutes to watch the video of White House secretary’s Jen Psaki’s response to a reporter question on the claim of GOP support for Senator Rick Scott’s economic plan. Trust me, it is worth the watch. See below for the link to Scottie’s post.

I apologize for a little bit of morbid humor, but it is Friday the 13th. I once read the true story of man who is about my age now being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Being married for many years, he objected to the doctor’s insistent recommendation of a more invasive surgery that would leave him impotent. He said making love with his wife was the greatest joy in his life and he pursued other procedures. After being cured for twelve years and enjoying his love life, he read the doctor passed away. The man saw the obit and smiled that he had outlived his doctor, noting to his bride, the doctor makes whoopie no more.

There is another true story I read about an older New Jersey woman who refused to sell her coastal property to a famous developer who would later become a notorious former US president. The developer wanted her property as it was next the casino he wanted to build. To his chagrin, she denied every advance to buy her property, even the threat of lawsuit and he exhibited his famous temper. A few years later, as the casino went bankrupt, her property was still standing. And, she smiled that she had outlasted the investment.

In a news report following the housing crisis in 2007-08, one of the investment banks that went under was Bear Stearns. About a year before this occurred, a financial analyst got a meeting with the CFO of the organization as he wanted to forewarn them. The analyst saw the banks and finance companies selling mortgages to people who could “fog a mirror” as their only review. These mortgages were packaged together (called Collateralized Debt Obligations) and stamped as good risk and sold to investors by folks like Bear Stearns. The analyst told the CFO he had a model which showed Bear Stearns would go under as a result. The CFO thanked him and asked him to leave. The first fallacy was the CDOs being stamped as good risk as a lot of bad risk together does not make it good. The second fallacy is the Bear Stearns folks assumed the market would always go up, which is not a realistic assumption.

These stories may seem unrelated, but at the heart of them is to two underlying themes

– do your homework and be prepared

-if you know what you want and know the options, stand firm in your mission.

The Bear Stearns story is not an outlier as several entities either went under or had to merge during the Housing crisis. The movie called “The Big Short” based on Michael Lewis’ book and starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, et al, defines what happens when supposedly smart people don’t know what they are investing in. See link below to a summary of the movie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Short_(film)

Comedians and Congress

The very astute and funny comedian Sarah Silverman said yesterday on a segment of The View, “Why is it we hold our comedians to a higher standard than our Congressional representatives?” She was responding to the trend for comedians to come under physical attack on stage and verbal abuse online. I want you to re-read the emboldened sentence of hers and let it sink in. Why, indeed?

If that is not enough to stew on, I want you to think of recent and not so recent comments by several members of Congress with names like Taylor-Greene, Cawthorn, Jordan, Gosar, Breitbart, Gohmer, Brooks, Gaetz et al. If that were not enough, fold in comments from folks like Senators Cruz, Paul. etc. Then we have the former president’s comments which take it to an even lower level.

These comedians make their living making fun of uncomfortable topics. Do they cross the line on occasion? Absolutely. Yet, we seem to vilify them more than we do for people who are supposed to represent our better angels as elected officials. I can disagree with a policy position of an elected official and that is OK. Yet, I want them to be respectful of the office they hold.

I disagree with Democrats and Republicans on various issues. I think some Democrats tend to forget we need to pay for things, e.g. But, the names I mention above are all Republican for a reason. They have a strident manner in dealing with opposing arguments. Name calling is not an argument. Parroting conspiracy theories is not an argument. Saying truly inane things does not make you more credible.

It is not ironic that the most touted leader in the world is a former comedian. President Zelenskyy of Ukraine has stood up against the invasion of Russian troops and rallied his country against the onslaught. To be frank, Vladimir Putin did not count on that stance thinking he could steam roll Ukraine in three days. He could not have been more wrong.

When I watch shows that are news centered comedy discussions, the more astute guests tend to be comedians. To be able to make fun of something, you tend to have to know what it is and why it could be funny. In this same vein, one of the best news shows on TV is actually a comedy show – John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.” Invariably, his writers will have an in-depth discussion on issues that do not get air time elsewhere such as predatory tele-evangelists, predatory lending, predatory court fees, et al. Other new sources have actually complimented their efforts.

Since comedians seem to be more knowledgeable, maybe we should do like sports teams do. When an elected official is obviously not up to the challenge, like in a sporting event, let’s just replace him or her with a comedian. In my view, we will be far better off.

Wednesday wanderings on a spring day

It is certainly a great day to wander about, but I think I will mow the grass first. Mowing has always been a chore I don’t mind, as you can see your progress as you go. Plus, freshly cut grass has a fresh smell. Since I have a battery powered mower, I don’t have to worry about inhaling gas fumes.

As I mow or wander, I can do some good thinking. I find myself thinking about past events and friends, since some of the current day issues are puzzling at best. I read a post (it may have been Jill or Joy’s) that some celebrity said “act like a grown up” used to be an admonition to misbehaving children. Now, we have too many grown-ups that act like spoiled toddlers. Of course, when some stand firmly behind one of the biggest acting toddlers as a former and possible future presidential candidate, it truly shows how low we have fallen.

We have too many that forget there is a responsibility that comes with our liberties. When my freedom to do things could be harmful to your freedoms, then we must cease or reconsider those actions. The opposite should be true. It reminds me of the caution to the newly launched Spiderman, when his grandfather said “with great power comes great responsibility.” Our freedoms to do things that are not permissible in some countries is a great power. Yet, we must honor it, nurture it, protect it for all.

Some have taken reaction to actual or perceived offenses to an awful degree. Just because someone disagrees with you, does not entitle you to hurt, threaten or kill the other person. Full stop. Just because you cannot tolerate failure, does not entitle you to turn over the chess board, throw a tantrum, claim cheating or instigate an attack on a branch of government. Full stop. Just because you are in a position of authority does not entitle you to ignore the people you represent. A good leader listens to others. A foolish one does not. Full stop.

There are many old lessons that are getting ignored these days. A key one is if someone has to tell you how great he or she is, then maybe we should look a little deeper as to why he or she is having to tell us such. When a colleague was complaining about being removed from marketing to a prospective client, unsuccessfully over several years, he said “I have known John for twenty years.” The thought running through my head was “And, he has known you.”

Whether you are religious or not, in many religious texts is some variation of Jesus’ golden rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. Let’s be responsible to each other. Let’s be civil in our discourse. Let’s protect their freedoms like they were our own. Let’s try not to be blowhards and listen to each other. Spiderman’s grandpa has a good lesson for us all.

Tuesday’s gone

The tragic southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd sang a mournful ballad penned by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant called “Tuesdays’ gone.” Here are the first two stanzas and chorus about love lost.

“Train roll on
On down the line, won’t you
Please take me far away

Now I feel the wind blow
Outside my door, means I’m
I’m leaving my woman at home, Lordy

Tuesday’s gone with the wind
Oh, my baby’s gone, with the wind

The tragic part is the band suffered a plane crash which killed their lead singer and co-writer of this song, Ronnie Van Zant and two others band members. Here is quick summary from Rolling Stone. “The legacy began some 41 (now fifty) years ago in Jacksonville, Florida, and halted for a decade by the 1977 plane crash that killed three band members, including Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines. Since then, the band tragically lost Allen Collins, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Hughie Thomasson, yet Lynyrd Skynyrd rocks on with original member Gary Rossington…”

Lynryd Skynyrd was a talented group of musicians who brought a blues feel to rock and roll. They chose a tailored name of a coach at their high school who tormented them named Leonard Skinner. They covered other songs such as “T for Texas” by Jimmie Rodgers and “Call me the breeze” by J.J. Cale and blended their own music into the mix, most notably “Freebird,” “Sweet home Alabama,” and my favorite, “Simple man.” They were one of the few bands to open for the Rolling Stones that got as many cheers as the main band.

Unfortunately, their megahits – “Freebird” and “Sweet home Alabama” get overplayed at the expense of a large volume of great work. If I picked one song to highlight the band, it would be “Call me the breeze.” Cale has written many great songs covered by artists like Eric Clapton. If you prefer ballads, listen to “Tuesday’s gone” and “Simple man.”

So, if you are unfamiliar with them, give Lynyrd Skynyrd a listen. If you are, please enjoy.

Recent history lessons

After seeing the border wall with Mexico touted by more than a few candidates as a campaign issue, I felt a recent history lesson would help the focus. Both parties have failed to address fixes to our immigration system over the years, but the “build that wall” issue is one touted as the major solution dating back to the famous escalator ride by a former president to announce his candidacy. The following is a letter I sent to my newspaper.

As campaigners speak of the border crisis as a major issue, we should remember our history. In June 2013, a bipartisan group of eight Senators helped pass a pretty good immigration bill in the Senate by a vote of 68-32. Yet, Speaker John Boehner refused to bring it to a vote in the House as not resolving the issue was better politically for his party. This led to President Obama’s executive order on DACA as the House would not act.

A few years later, President Trump agreed to a deal of $25 billion for his wall and to allow DACA to become law one morning with Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin. By that afternoon, Graham and Durbin arrived for the big announcement only to find the more hard core Senators convinced Trump not doing anything would be better politically. Mind you the wall was his #1 issue, but he reneged on his deal.

We can solve problems only if we act instead of beating on our chests saying we will.

Documentary on Sheryl Crow is worth the watch

Latifah Muhammed in “Billboard Magazine” wrote the following summary piece about the excellent new documentary from Showtime about the life and career of singer/ songwriter and producer Sheryl Crow.

  • Sheryl CrowSheryl CrowAmerican musician, singer, songwriter, and actress

“Directed by Amy Scott, Sheryl, features a mix of new interviews with Crow, behind-the-scenes footage on the road and in her studio and never before seen archival footage spanning 20 years of touring along with appearances from Keith Richards, Laura Dern, Joe Walsh, Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile and more.

From battling sexism to depression, perfectionism, cancer, and the price of fame, Sheryl pulls back the curtain on the Grammy-winner incredibly story. The documentary made its world premiere at SXSW in March.”

Her story is one of persistence and perseverance. She kept knocking on doors until someone finally gave her a chance. And, once she got there, she had to persevere to keep her records and performances at a high level, while battling the other life challenges many face as well as few of her own due to being in front of cameras and microphones.

Not to give too much away, Crow and others are quite candid about some of the mistakes and hardships she faced. She also is open about how her albums and songs got produced, tapping resources she met along the way. For example, I was unaware she was on tour with Michael Jackson as his co-singer during the infamous Pepsi tour. There she met her best friend and manager Scooter Weintraub, who would be by her side on her future journey.

She tells us of her bouts with sexual harassment, where she was advised to grin and bear it, she tells of how difficult it is and was for a woman to get produced, she tells of backlash by using a poor choice of words in an interview with David Letterman, she tells of how she battled depression and even suicidal thoughts, she tells of her bouts with cancer, and she tells of her mother’s encouragement to adopt two young boys (Levi and Wyatt) to start a family.

The most powerful part of the story is when she speaks of hitting rock bottom with her depression. She notes she DOES NOT remember penning or recording this song called “The Weather Channel,” which she included on an album. She performed it in the documentary with just her acoustic guitar. She notes she must have written it as she included Winston Churchill’s reference of “black dog” to his depression. Here are the first few lines.

“Sunny morning
You can hear it
Siren’s warning
There is weather on both sides
And I know it’s coming
Just like before
There’s a black dog
That scratches my door
He’s been growling my name saying
You better get to running”

Her songs are milestones for many women (and men), even young ones who were born after some of the songs were penned. She was stunned that young girls and boys knew her songs word for word at concerts. Her hits are many, but a quick list of the top ones includes:

“All I wanna do” – Her first hit based on a poem by Wyn Cooper

“Soak up the sun” – written on a plane by her friend Jeff Trott

“My favorite mistake”

“If it makes you happy” – an anthem which builds to a huge audience chorus

“Strong enough” – she sings a duet with Stevie Nicks in the documentary which is excellent

“Leaving Las Vegas” – in a nervous interview, she did not give credit to the primary author of this song and she got backlash for it

“A change would do you good”

Crow still inspires many today. The interviews with stars, producers, family and friends reveal how well she is thought of. Give it a watch, even if not a huge fan. It is worth the effort to see someone speak so candidly about her ups and downs.

Serious-minded people

Let me start out with the following firm belief of mine. I wish others who think winning at any cost gives politicians a free pass, would heed this belief of mine. I am not in favor of name calling, but I would say if people in or running for office want to be taken seriously, they need to be serious-minded with their comments. Saying obvious untrue things is not a step down that path. Full stop.

I am not naive enough to think politicians will stop lying altogether. To get elected, they will continue to overstate or even invent their role when good things happen and understate or blame the other side when bad things happen. And, if things aren’t too bad, many will even tell you it is bad to drum up fear. If things aren’t good enough, they will search for ways to make them even better sounding.

What bothers me greatly is when I see elected officials say or write things I know are not true, and even worse, many likely know it is not true as well. When I see such tales being told, it leaves me with two options to believe – either they really do not know they are saying untrue things or they are purposefully lying. Some politicians, like the former president, are so untruthful, they may not know where the truth stops and lying begins. As my colleague used to say in a voicemail greeting, “Always tell the truth, as you don’t have to remember as much.”

Unfortunately, we have allowed politics to become such a zero-sum game, meaning “I must win and you must lose,” we lose sight of the bigger picture. If nothing gets done or things get done to further the causes of a strident or well-heeled few and not a greater good, we all end up losing. When we make issues of import political, dividing people into two camps to play these inane zero-sum games, we all lose.

People may not be aware of this, but the PR folks who publicize these combative court cases for TV shows scour the cases around the country and find cases they can blow up into a big deal. Some of the cases present themselves as they bubble up, but some are found and honed for this purpose. Politics has become the same way. The PR people scour the country for news they can make into wedge issues. This is why many of us have never heard of an issue until it is presented to us with a bow that this is a huge problem.

So, once the wedge issue is created, the sides form and the lying begins in earnest. And, once the lying gets into the minds and keystrokes of others, it is extremely hard to erase that mindset. This is why we must be assertive in calling out untruths. In short, people who are in your tribe will believe BS if it makes the other side look bad.

This is misinformation and disinformation. This is right out of “1984” where the term “doublespeak” was created by George Orwell. But, let’s call it plainly what it is – lying.

When a US Senator says you can catch AIDs from the COVID vaccine, then when confronted says it may be true, that is lying.

When a former president says at least a dozen times that the tariffs imposed on China will be paid for by China (being refuted each time by economists that consumers pay the cost of tariffs), that is lying.

When a now US Congressman says he was not told by his wrestlers when he coached that the university doctor was fondling them as he did with over a thousand athletes (many after he was told), when six of his wrestlers said they did on the record, that is lying.

When a former president says you can keep your own doctor to sell the roll out of the new healthcare plan, that is lying.

When a former president says COVID is a hoax, or it will all go away soon when people start dying, while placing people in danger and ignoring what he is being told, that is lying.

When a US Congresswoman says a prominent Jewish family is using lasers from space to cause wildfires and profit from them, that is lying.

When a former president says he did not have sexual relations with his intern when he obviously did, that is lying.

When a former president hires over 1,000 attorneys before an election, naysays the process beforehand, and does his part to make it harder for people to vote by mail, then says the election was stolen from him an assertion he has failed miserably at proving, that is lying.

We need to hold our elected officials to account. We are owed the truth. And, when they don’t tell us the truth, we need to take action by voting for someone else. We need serious-minded people. The truth matters.

Alignment

One thing that impresses me about good writers who have complex series of novels or shows is their ability to keep track of the various histories and relationships of all of their characters and story lines. My guess is the better ones take the time to document the biographies and relationships, so as not to betray the trust of the reader or watcher. I am certain mistakes happen, but it is good to see the effort.

The writers for a TV series called “Young Sheldon” have done their utmost to make sure the show is in alignment with its predecessor, “The Big Bang Theory.” For those who do not watch either show, “The Big Bang Theory” is about four highly intelligent university professors who befriend a beautiful and sarcastic neighbor who lives across the hall from two of them. Other stars are added as the men start getting more serious girlfriends and wives. But, the show is about relationships.

Sheldon, played by Jim Parsons, is the brightest yet most eccentric of an eccentric bunch. Parsons played him so well, he won several Emmy’s for the role. Due to his eccentricities, the show “Young Sheldon” was crafted to tell his story. With Parsons narrating the prequel which stars Iain Armitage as the younger version, we learn how Sheldon developed some of his habits, both endearing and frustrating. Since in the first show, we see guest appearances from the adult siblings and older mother, the prequel is good about remembering each character’s development and what the older Sheldon shared about them.

Sheldon has a twin sister, who is every bit as sarcastic as his future neighbor. He has an older brother who his jealous of the attention Sheldon gets yet is the typical teenage male. And, the scientific genius even as a boy has a mother who not only is a church goer, she works at the church. His father is a football coach, but we know already he will not be around much longer due to a storyline from “The Big Bang Theory” told of Sheldon losing his father as a young teen. The one character we did not hear much about in the first show is his grandma, who came in the second season of “Young Sheldon.”

The small things, though, are what make the alignment live. The older Sheldon loved trains, so we see the young Sheldon out in the garage with his trains. We learn why Sheldon uses terms like “bazinga” when playing a practical joke or why he uses the word “coitus” instead of sex, as it is less offensive. Don’t ask. The older Sheldon loves contractual agreements, so we see how that developed. And, of course, we see his mother singing “Soft Kitty, warm kitty” when Sheldon does not feel well and why he offers a hot beverage to anyone who is down in the dumps.

My wife and I enjoyed the first show immensely. I am a sucker for shows about relationships, especially the quirky ones. No one is more quirky than Sheldon, but what endears him is he has a good heart that is revealed from time to time. And, we adore the prequel as well, with the young Sheldon every bit as funny as the older one. Yet, what makes it live in alignment is the narration by the older Sheldon, with the occasional guest commentary by one of the other actors on the first show.

Do you like the shows? What are some others you care for?