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17 posts from December 2007

I failed my wife in answering her question about who to vote for in Michigan Presidential Primary on Jan.15

I really didn't have an answer when my wife asked who she should vote for in the Michigan Presidential Primary on Jan. 15.  That was a first for me. 

During my lifetime I have been asked that question hundreds of times because of my firmly-held opinions and my efforts to stay informed.  I've always had an answer where some candidate would stand out and would be deserving of support.

That's not the case this year.  During the past year I've looked carefully at each of the Republican candidates, my usual flavor, and I even looked at the Democrats to see if the time had come to cross the rubicon.  Nobody jumped up on my radar.

Super-spouse said maybe she just won't vote.  Umm . . . I'm not really comfortable with that either.

My dilemma could be resolved by making a new candidate from the existing pool.  Here are the parts of each candidate that interest me:

  • John McCain's knowledge and experience with the U.S. Congress.  Any president who wants to be successful needs to have firsthand knowledge of the House and Senate.  The president needs to appreciate their role and needs to be able to help lead them to a consensus on the major issues.
  • Fred Thompson's folksy manner.  He reminds me of Ronald Reagan with a unique ability to communicate in a way that's understandable and believable.  He's John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart all wrapped up in one package.
  • Mitt Romney's devotion to family and to personal principle.  I'm intrigued by this guy.  He seems devoted to his wife and his family.  I really admire that.  I listened to his speech on religious liberty and his reliance on his deeply held beliefs.  That seemed to connect with me.
  • Ron Paul's consistency in what he says.  Time magazine says that Paul hasn't changed the basic details of his stump speech in more than three decades.  Part of that appeals to me.
  • Joe Biden's sense of humor.  He seems to be able to laugh at himself.  He's not wound too tight.
  • John Edwards emphasis on the poor.  Too many candidates are not talking about what seems to be the growing divide between the haves and have-nots. He is. 
  • Hillary Clinton's ability to wheel and deal.  She learned from her husband how to push the levers of power in government.  That kind of knowledge is critical.  A president has to know how to change large institutions that don't want to change.
  • Mike Huckabee's ability to lead public prayer.  He reminds me of some Baptist friends who can pray at the drop of a hat.  That quality will be needed.  However, our culture is more diverse.  It would be easy to offend.
I just don't have an answer for my wife or for anybody else in Michigan about who to vote for in the presidential primary.  I will continue looking.

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What to buy baby-boomer parents: A subscription to Netflix

When our son Justin handed us a wrapped manila envelope during our Christmas present opening time, I couldn't guess that it was a subscription to Netflix, the mail-service for renting movies on DVD.

I knew about the service and I've seen the Netflix DVDs at Justin's apartment and I know that he really likes the service.  But, for whatever reason, I was never drawn to it.

However, I find myself excited about getting my first DVD in the mail today, the first National Treasure.  I've also gone through the whole process of setting up my "queue" where I've set up my choices for DVDs and the order that I want them. 

Then I explored all the choices and how they're arranged and all the other features to acquaint me with all the offerings.  I will report back.

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Denzel Washington movie "The Great Debaters" was hard to watch

I was disappointed by the size the audience at one of the first showings of "The Great Debaters" last night at Celebration Cinema in Lansing, Michigan.  Maybe a third of the seats were filled to see a movie about the roots of the fight for civil rights in this country.

It tells the story of the early life of civil rights leader James Farmer and his involvement with a debate team at Wiley College in Texas. 

The story is compelling and it sheds more light on a part of our culture that most white people don't want to talk about.  I'm no expert on what makes a movie worthy of an Academy Award.  But, in my opinion, this certainly deserves consideration.

I'm glad we went and I will certainly order on our new Netflix subscription which our son gave us for Christmas.

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Christmas reflections of a sixty-one-year-old guy in central Michigan

Here's what I've observed and experienced from this year's Christmas:

  • Where was Jesus?  You had to look for him this year, regardless of where you were.  He wasn't on the Christmas cards, at least not many of them.  He wasn't in the media.  He wasn't in the town square.  Oops, we don't have one.  He wasn't at the malls.  I didn't hear him mentioned in many conversations, including mine.  I may have wished somebody a "Merry Christmas" once or twice.
  • Jesus sighting at Our Savior--Our church has a day school which puts on a Christmas program every year.  I wonder if the kids reciting their parts and singing the Christmas Carols knew the full importance of what they were doing.  School students, from pre-schoolers to eighth grade, gave a strong witness to the birth of Jesus more than two thousand years ago.
  • Family time was a real blessing--Our son and daughter came home to celebrate Christmas.  Whenever I need a reminder of the reality and the presence of God, I look at them.  Then having my wife as a major piece of the equation just seals the fact that I'm blessed.  But, the glue that holds it all together is the knowledge that Jesus Christ is real.  Our identity and our purpose is found in him. 
  • Christmas prep should start in June--I think I have a heart problem.  I know I have a heart  problem.  If I don't prepare my heart ahead of time, Christmas Carols for me can sound like finger nails scratching on a chalkboard.  I can let the past intrude on the present.  As a child, Christmas was usually a hard time.  But, I'm no longer a child.  Maybe, I need to charge up my Christmas music on iTunes during the summer.
  • Getting closer to seeing Jesus in real time--It's intimidating to know that I have more life behind me, then I have ahead of me.  But, I believe that this life is just practice for what is to come. I can't begin to comprehend what heaven will be like.  There is an endgame and that's what I'm aiming for.
  • For Christmas 2008--the preparation needs to start right now to celebrate the reality that God came to earth as a sign of the hope that awaits all of us.  It's in that reality where I and everybody else will find the real purpose for living.  God, "I really want to feel your hope at all times and I want to spend the rest of my life sharing it."

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Trying out my new point and shoot and upload Flip Video just before Christmas

This is my attempt at using my new Flip Video, a very inexpensive digital video camera made to upload easily.  It has so many applications in so many situations.  I've had a couple of problems with it, but with the help of Justin, I'm able to use it, but not according to directions.  Here's my first effort:

Is Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edomondson starting official persecution of Christians?


Tell me this is true that you can't say the word "Christmas" at Southwestern Oklahoma State University and that it should not be written on any official holiday decorations. In post today on the blog, there are details about how Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson issued an advisory opinion to officials at the university in Weatherford telling them that the word "Christmas" cannot be used on campus in talk or in decorations.

First, is this true?

Second, would somebody at the school, be punished for using the word Christmas.  What would the penalty be?  Suspension for offending students and faculty?  Would it be a criminal offense to use the word?  Can you imagine going to jail for saying, "Merry Christmas?" 

How about "Happy Easter?"  Would that be okay to say? Who is Oklahoma's top law enforcement officer?  How do residents in Oklahoma regard him?  A joke?  Seriously?

Are there any other state AG's who have taken similar actions or who are about to?

When I go out tonight with my wife to a birthday party, I will make it a point to say "Merry Christmas."  It's too easy to forget how important those words truly are.    

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My family's "Deep, Dark, Secrets" finally being told at the end of 2007

How do you write your family Christmas letter detailing activities of the past year for you, your wife and your kids?

This year I'm writing it in Typepad as a project spread out over the next few days.  I will let my wife, my kids and others read it, then photocopy it to send to those who don't have or use a computer during the holidays.

To read it as I write it, go to the link in the top left-margin under the heading Pages and click on Deep and dark Thorp family secrets.

The writing, sending and receiving of our Christmas letter has become a family project where the snail mail version probably won't get sent out until Christmas Eve Day or the day after Christmas.

Do you like getting the year-end family reports?  What are some of the best?  The weakest?  The hard to make-it-through to the end ones?

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In mid-Michigan, Sears Snow Blower makes blizzard clean-up pretty easy

Here in Lansing, MI we got somewhere around 10" of snow that blew around pretty good.  The snow was light, but with just a shovel clean-up would have been more difficult.  My Sears snow blower made easy work of it.  It made me feel more in control of the snow.  Cleaning our sidewalks, a neighbor's and my driveway was almost fun. 

I'm ready for more.  Bring it on.

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Here's what I'm reading wi-fi from my bed on a snowy Sunday morning in Michigan

As my wife and I watch the Weather Channel and surf the web from our bed on a blizzardy Sunday morning in the heart of Michigan, here's what I'm reading:

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Would Mitt Romney accept the support of Las Vegas brothel owners?

Ron Paul was starting to appeal to me for his authentic conservatism until this doubt from a CNN interview was played with a Las Vegas brothel owner and one of his prostitutes.

The brothel owner said he was supporting Paul's candidacy for the president because of his position that folks should have the freedom to indulge their tastes in whatever.

Candidate Paul was interviewed and said he had no problem with the brothel owner's support.  That's all part of a free society.  He'll take their money.  Okay, cross him off. 

I wonder how Mitt Romney would deal with taking a brothel owner's support and campaign contributions.

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Is there a baby-boomer version of Rob Bell of Mars Hill Church in Grandville,MI ?

As I dawdle in getting ready for church this morning, I read this Time story about Rob Bell, the founding pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grandville,MI.  Interesting.

He packs an old shopping center with more than 11,000 young worshippers every week.  When starting Mars Hill, Bell was urged over and over again to give people the real thing.  I take that to mean showing how life is lived as a Christian in the real world.

What effect is this young pastor having?  Are his congregants living out their faith in and around the Grand Rapids area?

Who's the Rob Bell of the baby-boomer set of which I am a member?

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I did listen to Mitt Romney's speech on religious liberty and here's my thoughts

I am trying to sort through my thoughts about Mitt Romney and his speech on religious liberty.  I clearly remember his dad--George Romney--when he was governor of Michigan.  My thoughts about  the younger Romney's speech are in my political blog--Politics Through Michigan Eyes:

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My reaction to Romney's speech about being a Mormon and my reaction to some of the candidates

In a continued effort to compartmentalize my life, I'm sharing some thoughts on various political items in my other blog, Politics Through Michigan Eyes:

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Detroit Free Press series on the life and death of 7-year-old Ricky Holland seems disappointing at first blush

I've read the first two parts of the Detroit Free Press series by reporter Jack Kresnak about the life and death of 7-year-old Ricky Holland who lived just a few miles east of Lansing with his adopted parents, Tim and Lisa Holland.

My first reaction is disappointment.  I'm looking for answers about how this could happen. Almost instinctively my head seems to focus at the state of Michigan and it's foster care and child protection services system.  But, then I reflect about what Kresnak writes and have to change my conclusion.

The story, first, has to be about the people who murdered him, his adoptive parents.  They did it.  There needs to be understanding about how people could be driven to that point.  As hard and as tiring it is to read, we must be able to understand how this happens.

But, so far in his series, I see a tacit acknowledgment that the state's child protection system has big wholes and he doesn't write about those.  My question would be whether the state is powerless to be effective when parent's lives are askew and when their kids are at-risk.  Perhaps, parents who fit this description can too easily slip by the gaze of protection workers and others.

There's still part of me that wants to know how the system worked or didn't work in the Ricky Holland case.  This is worthy of Jack's attention to detail.  The Michigan Legislature should provide this kind of oversight, but they don't and they show no motivation to do it.

What's the answer? 

I have no idea.

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A MUST READ: Detroit Free Press' Jack Kresnak writes major series on what happened to murdered 7-year-old Ricky Holland

I just spotted this beginning of a series of stories about the life and death of 7-year-old Ricky Holland who was murdered by his parents in a rural area just west of Lansing, MI.  It's written by the Detroit Free Press's Jack Kresnak, an investigative reporter who specializes in reporting about child abuse and neglect.

In Michigan and wherever else it happens, child abuse and neglect is a cancer that must be dealt with.  It's an issue that the state has struggled with.

I will start reading this shortly, but I felt it was important to just start getting the word out.  There needs to be a conversation in the blogosphere about this.

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Future of our city could hang on the shoulders of Steve Serkaian and his efforts to sell the Lansing School District

You don't have to go far to hear parental concern about the schools in our city.  Their fears are telling them they need to put their kids in nearby school districts.  Some actually move to do it and others use the state's schools of choice program.

The Lansing School District has lost more than 4,000 students in the past ten years and the numbers keep climbing.  The perception that our public schools are inadequate is just a given for many.  A continued exodus to other schools will precipitate  a continued decline in the city's desirability as a place to live.

Enter Steve Serkaian, the school district's new head of public relations.  His job is to change the negative perception, according to the Lansing State Journal.  He's a long time public relations professional who cut his teeth as a flak for the Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives.  Since then he has had and continues to operate his open public relations firm.

Tomorrow during their services, city churches should pray for Steve and pray that he's able to help local residents see the positive side of our public schools.  There are many who say that these schools just suffer from a bad wrap.  Maybe so.

My question:  Has he read the Cluetrain Manifesto and does he understand how the marketplace for products, services and ideas has changed.  Consumers don't want to be sold to.  They want to be part of a conversation.  And they are looking for transparency where negative situations and happenings are not spun into something they are not.

Does he know about web 2.0 and social media and understand how they can be used to build a community of support for the school system?

I live in the city and I don't plan on moving.  So, I have a vested interest in seeing our schools are successful.  That also means that Steve must be successful.

He needs a group of laypeople to gather round him and provide him support.  That needs to radiate down to the students, their teachers and all the administration folks. 

Lansing's a great place to live.  If it's to have viability, then its public schools must reverse the flow of students.

Anybody disagree?

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