Thursday, August 31, 2006

Voting absentee?

If you're from Indiana and you're going to be out of town during the November 7th elections, do yourself a favor and vote absentee. You can download a pdf file of the "Application for Absentee Ballot" from the
Secretary of State's Office.

Are you eligible to vote absentee? Here are the criteria (you don't have to identify with all of them; just one!)

1. You have a specific, reasonable expectation that you will be absent from the county on Election Day during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open (6 am until 6 pm).
2. You have a disability.
3. You are at least 65 years of age.
4. You will have official election duties outside of your voting precinct.
5. You are scheduled to work at your regular place of employment during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
6. You will be confined due to illness or injury or you will be caring for an individual confined due to illness or injury during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
7. You are prevented from voting because of a religious discipline or religious holiday during the entire 12 hours that the polls are open.
8. You are a participant in the state's address confidentiality program.

Image sources: top -- | bottom --

Monday, August 28, 2006

His Grace Is Sufficient

Today my parents sent me the following letter. It was written by Chris Klicka, a mighty man of God. He tells about some of the things he has been facing lately. It's an amazing testimony!

Dear friends,
By God's grace, I am sustained by His hand everyday! Thanks so much for your continual prayers. Your prayers are being answered in powerful ways. Here is more evidence that prayer works!

This year has been marked by more decay of my bodily functions. Most notably, most of my right hand and most of my ability to walk.

I am trying to be a faithful soldier of the Lord, nonetheless, and I continue to have a strong calling and a clear mission from Him. So I constantly improvise, adapt, and overcome by the Holy Spirit's power.

All I can do is hang on to God's truth which is unchanging and immoveable. Even though this disease looks unbeatable, I know "through Christ I can do all things because He strengthens me." I am assured "greater is He who is in me than he that is in the world." I am confident that "all things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose"-----even MS and all the pain and mishaps I experience! I know absolutely that "power is perfected in weakness so I would rather boast about my weakness that Christ may be seen dwelling in me."

So I have learned to improvise every year in order to complete my God-given mission. I keep re-adjusting how I walk, sit, stand, type, and many basic functions. I am learning to write with my left hand and even do my signature.

Using the scooter has greatly expanded my horizons! I taught my children how to garden this year while sitting on the scooter, I go on scooter rides almost every day with my kids down back roads, I go to battlefields, museums, stores, and restaurants again using the scooter. It is humbling but praise God for restoring these "good things in the land of the living!"

Yet in other ways, God has healed me -------------I regained my full eyesight and ability to read clearly. God has taken away all depression and has kept my mind very sharp---------when 70% of people with MS experience brain shrinkage, losing their short term memory, and have "brain fog."

My left hand started to go----------I cried out to God with all my heart and He brought it back fully! My swimming has become better as I swim 25-30 laps a day, 5-6 times a week in my "Endless Pool." I am keeping up my muscles strong even though many of them I can't use well on land. Most amazingly, God sustained me through 4 trips in 4 weekends in a row speaking 4 to 5 times Thursday through Sunday each week. It culminated in preaching the sermon in my church the fifth weekend. I never did so much speaking in a row even when I was healthy!

But here is the rest of the story. . . the miracles of God's power along the way!
A few weeks before my trips, I was a little fearful. Could I walk on planes anymore? Would I be able to get to bathrooms? Would I be able to stand for my speeches a whole hour?

The Torn Ligament
I was praying up for my 4 speaking trips beforehand----and swimming everyday to be in maximum shape. One day I was walking out of the pool room after 30 laps and I let some kids in too early. Unknown to me, the ramp was wet and I did the splits.

I fell backwards tearing the ligament in the right knee and falling on the pool control panel. My knee was still twisting as I was screaming in pain. All I could think of after was how could I do these trips?

Every step was so painful and crawling in my bedroom at night was excruciating. Every time I stood up I yelped. The ligament, the doctor said would take 6 weeks to heal and I shouldn't walk at all. How could I make it?

Then Julie Randall, my wife's friend, invited me to healing seminar at their church. I listened to the evangelist preach from the Word about Jesus' power to heal. I felt convicted of my sin and began weeping. I went forward in my scooter to have him pray for me. A lady in the congregation said she saw "fire" on my legs and another saw "a cloud showing God's power" in me. As the preacher prayed for my healing of my torn ligament and my MS, he laid hands on me. I was afraid to stand because of the severe pain and told my wife so. Then she told me "a 12 year old girl just came up to me and the Lord told her to tell you to stand."

So I stood with no pain! My knee was healed and even though it was late at night, I walked out of the church without pain after not walking for a week!

God graciously healed my knee so I could soon go on my 4 trips to minister to about 10,000 people in his name.

I still have MS but His grace is sufficient!

The Power of His Word
As I spoke at each conference, God gave me the words to say AND enabled me to stand the whole time for each session. Also I was able to get on and off the planes. I traveled with one of my children to each state, which normally I did not do when I was healthier, and God has used that to bond our hearts closer together and give me wonderful time to train them much deeper in God's truths! God knows what is best for me and my children!

Last year, I dragged my laptop and fancy power point with me to every conference-----but the technology would always fail! So God would instead give me the words to say---His words!

This year I left my powerpoint behind and God blessed mightily again! The last trip, I tried to use my powerpoint and guess what? It was mostly blank! So I stopped and prayed for the words and He gave me a new speech. Afterward scores of people came up and told me how God changed them ----and some were saved!
Praise God------His love endures forever!
Thanks for praying me on.
IN service to our King,
Chris Klicka

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A cartload of ideologies

This has been an eventful day. I went shopping for "necessaries." When I was going around the aisles, the bleach, the toothpaste, and the canned corn just seemed so necessary! I ended up with a cart that runneth over. Even the checkout guy was chuckling: "You stocking up for next week?" As if that wasn't enough, on my way out I made a left turn instead of a right one, and I ended up out in the boonies. Fortunately, I didn't stay in the boonies long.

"Eventful?" you ask, "That ain't even a blip on my radar." Okay. The real event was QUAD DAY.

I actually stumbled into QUAD DAY. I wondered what all the balloons were for and I went closer to investigate. The QUAD was absolutely swarming with students. There were booths everywhere. There were brightly-colored paper piles everywhere. There were freebies everywhere. I joined the swarm.

Before 3 hours were up, I not only had a sunburn, I had a little more information about my campus and its surroundings. For instance, I learned that there's a school of the "Universal Mind" here on campus. From my 30-45 minute conversation with a guy manning their table, the school seems set on smushing all religions together and trying to make sense of the casserole that results. For example, all of the gods in Hinduism are interpreted by students in this school as being different parts of a person's mind. Also, lots of Jesus' teachings are right on target -- once they're properly interpreted by someone who knows.

(DISCLAIMER: I'm relying on my memory for how the thread of conversation went. Almost for sure, something is out of order below!)

At the beginning of the conversation, I was trying to understand where this guy -- and his school of thought -- were coming from. About two minutes in, I told him (his name was Rory) that I was a Christian. From that point on, he brought up a lot of different things about Jesus and the Bible.

He was very familiar with Scripture, as well as the writings of Buddhists and Hindus. It was actually easier to talk to him about spiritual matters than some of the Christians manning the booths downstream!

But while he enjoyed talking about what he believed, I had to listen carefully to catch it and understand it. I think it was when I asked him what methods he used that he brought up meditation. When I asked if he had seen any improvement since he started meditating, he respsonded enthusiastically. From what he's seen, his relationships have improved and even his health has improved. At one point he had had high blood pressure. Now, since he's been meditating, his blood pressure has evened out to the "optimal" reading of 120/80. His take on this was that stress has an incredibly negative impact on your body, but meditation is a way to counterract it.

I mentioned that when I meditated, it was always centered around something: it wasn't a blank nothingness. He said he would call that "concentrating." He went on to say that when he meditates, it's like a conversation when you're waiting for the next words of the person you're talking to. You sit there, expectantly, and then the words come. As he continued talking about this "receiving process," I asked him who exactly he was receiving from. The terms he used in his answer amounted to a "force," or "the divine."

As he went into further depth about his beliefs, it sounded like he was selecting from a buffet of religions. (Hmmm... I like how Hindu's fixed this, but then this Christian dish isn't bad, either.) I don't mean to malign him or mock him in any way, but that's how I perceived what he was telling me. I asked him what he thought about Jesus. He said that he understood him to be fully a person. He did have a lot of respect for Jesus, but it was just as one student to another, more advanced student. The analogy he used was of a 3rd grader (himself) looking up at a college student (Jesus). Jesus just had the enlightenment gig down a little better than any of us do. He gives us hope that we too can attain godhood. To back up this claim, he mentioned that we are capable of creating like God did -- because "we were made in his image." When I asked what we're capable of creating, he pointed to the Budda statue sitting on their table. Someone had to come up with the idea, plan it, and execute it. They created it. Of course, the ability came from God, he said.

He mentioned a "unifying principle" -- which was God, he said. As he went along, I tried to sum up what he was saying and ask, "Is that what you believe?" At this point, I asked him, "Do you think all the religions are just different means to the same end?" He seemed to affirm that, so I asked him, "Then why do the various religions disagree?" His answer (which seemed to answer a different question that what I asked) was that people feel insecure in their beliefs, and one way people try to feel more secure is by converting the people around them. That way, there ends up being a group that believes the same thing. Now, he qualified, there are some people -- probably in every religion -- that are so pure that they don't need to convert others. They feel perfectly secure by themselves.

The conversation went up and down several hills after that. I asked him if he had ever read anything by C.S. Lewis. He said he hadn't, but he'd heard of "The Chronicles of Narnia." The other guy working at the booth piped in and said he'd read the Problem of Pain, and had at least started Mere Christianity. #2's statement to the other guy (#1) was, "He's not preachy." I laughed and said, "No, he's not preachy!"

I told him about C.S. Lewis' idea of the Tao: that God gave each person a basic understanding of the rightness and wrongness of things. That's why some of the basic tenets of religions are the same. But where things diverge is when people start adding their own stuff to God's truth. When I said that, he didn't say anything. He just listened.

I asked him, "But what about Jesus' claim to be God?" His answer was that Jesus didn't claim to be God -- he claimed to be the Son of Man. (Now, of course, verses like "I and the Father are one" pop into my head, but they didn't pop in then! I didn't argue the point -- I just asked what he thought about it). I asked him about Jesus' statement, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Basically, his answer to that was that Jesus points us on our way to enlightenment. He seemed to respect Jesus to a point, but only to a point. It's important to follow Jesus' teachings, but you don't really need to be that close to Jesus. When I asked "Why did Jesus die?" he said that it was probably because people felt threatened by what he was teaching -- but anyway, it was his life that was important, not his death. I told him what I believed: that Jesus lived his entire life knowing that he would die on the cross. I told him I believed that Jesus came to take away the punishment for sin -- that Jesus knew each one of us had sinned, and that through His death, we could be made free.

When I asked him about the resurrection, he couldn't have been less interested. It didn't seem to matter to him whether Jesus was raised from the dead or not. I told him (and he listened politely) that as I saw it, that's what made Jesus different: it proved that God had the power to raise Jesus from the dead -- and to raise me, too!

I asked him if there was anything that was definitely "wrong." He said that anytime we violate things like the Ten Commandments, we slow down our development. He explained some research at some school by neurobiologists that supposedly showed unusual brain activity in people who were meditating. Somehow the person knew when a thought was "bad," and it registered on their brain wave chart, or something like that. He compared this life as to a series of tests, where we decide which way we'll go. I asked him if there was a Final. He said it came at the end of your life, when you evaluated all the things you had done, and you assessed all the karma you had to make up for. Then you set up your next life. (This sounded distressingly like registering for classes online: you know what you need, and you set it up). When he had explained all this, I asked, "So the punishment is slowing your development?" He agreed with that.

When I asked him about the verse mentioning it's for a man once to die, then after that the judgment, he seemed to believe this fit in perfectly with reincarnation.
In fact, he told me that up until the time of Constatine, there were Christian writings that described Jesus' teachings on reincarnation. It was just when leaders got the idea that "If we convince people they only get once chance they'll shape up for this life" that they limited the canonized books to what we have today, and all of the early teachings on reincarnation were discarded. He said there are still remnants of these teachings in the New Testament, in a parable he couldn't recall just then.

He told me about the first person (I think the person was involved in Zorastrocism) who supposedly coined the idea of Heaven and Hell. The student himself did tell me that he believes you can experience heaven and hell on earth. Once he felt like he was better off dead because of the pain he experienced (that was his Hell experienced). Another time he was so encouraged that he felt like smiling at everyone around him (that was his Heaven experience).

(Thinking back on it, I could have said that just because we can taste Heaven or taste Hell here, it doesn't detract from the reality of these places somewhere besides earth).

Here toward the end, I found myself asking less questions and telling him more about my beliefs. He would always listen politely, but he never asked me to explain my ideas any more fully. Probably he had heard it all before.

But I didn't want to go away from that conversation without having at least reminded him of Jesus. I tried to inject Scripture into the conversation, because that's what has living power (through Christ). My words aren't powerful, but Scripture is!

The most disturbing thing he said, though, was what his future plans were. Not only does he plan on getting his Doctor of Divinity, and possibly joining it with a psychology degree. He plans on working in daycares (as he's already started doing). He wants to work with kids before their innate curiousity is tainted.

Maybe he understands something many of us Christians don't: If you truly want to spread your beliefs, a great place to start is with the children.

This was my longest and most detailed conversation. I also talked to the preacher from a Presbyterian "church" in town. First, I'd asked a worker at the Presbyterian tent what their flag meant. It showed an American flag with rainbow stripes instead of the alternating red and white stripes. I had some idea what the flag stood for, but I decided to "play it dumb" in order to give them the benefit of the doubt, and in order to hear their response. The first woman I talked to smiled and said it stood for an openness to LBGT students who might be uncomfortable in other "churches." I asked her if the church taught about what Jesus taught, and she said it did. Then I asked if the church taught that Jesus taught against homosexuality (isn't that convuluted!). She seemed taken aback, and said that of course Jesus had never taught any such thing! When I asked if there were any special programs for homosexuals at their church, she referred me to the "pastor."

This was a middle-aged woman. She was enthusiastic about my questions, and went out of her way to show me how welcoming her church was to homosexuals and other students. Evidently a fear years back the Presbyterian church officially came up with a policy of "More Light" which welcomes LGBT people. When she first mentioned the name, I thought it was spelled "More Lite," -- having a lower Biblical content.

Anyway, she shook my hand, gave me a bunch of papers to read, and dismissed herself.

My last controversial conversation (the gab with the hobby fish gentlemen doesn't fall in this category) was with the students involved in the "Montage," a literary and artistic journal published by students. Before they knew I was a graduate student, they invited me to sign up to write or edit the next edition. They talked amongst themselves: evidently, they rejected "good ideas written badly." One person asked, "What about bad ideas written well?" Another person, who seemed to be head honcho, answered and gave the impression that he really didn't care what someone's message really was. I asked him: "Isn't that kind of a shallow approach? What about the fact that 'ideas have consequences?' " A little bit later I asked him if this was going to be their first journal or if there were others. The head honcho picked up a previous edition and flipped through it to show me what had been done before. The first thing I saw was an indecent picture. The guy next to me turned away and made noises like he was shocked or amused, I couldn't tell which. I told the head honcho, "I'd be embarrassed to print that." The guy with the book said, "Very little embarrasses me." Another student stepped up defensively: "We didn't print that. That was a previous edition." Evidently some previous editor had set up the picture herself with a time-lapse. I told the undergrads around the table that I was very glad they wouldn't print anything like that, and I'd look for the next edition near the end of the this semester.

Suddenly, I was very glad I couldn't participate as a graduate student. I didn't want anything to do with it. Even if I joined the editing board, chances were decisions on submissions were made by vote. I might join something and then have no real say on what happened with it. But my name would still be associated with it.

Anyway, those were some of the more disturbing things that happened today.
As I told my mom and dad: I keep wondering what Jesus would have done there.
What would He have said?

Jesus did have a presence there at the QUAD: there were at least 10 different booths that were staffed by Christians and encouraging other Christians to get involved. That was definitely encouraging. I hope that these groups (but really the students who join them) can help students on this campus TASTE and SEE that the LORD IS GOOD.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I am a firewoman. Was.

The vast part of today was spent figuring out classes to register in. I
know what you might be thinking -- how hard can that be? My question
exactly. I kept finding cool classes, but then the time or the prereq's
didn't work out! So now I'm finally set -- with 3 chemistry classes and one
biophysics class. At one point I was so desperate that I started looking in
nutrition classes. But then I realized that I'd have to explain to some
advisor sometime why I took "The Nutrition of Noodles" or something like
that (they don't have that class yet, but it MIGHT be coming soon).

I didn't like the mental picture of an advisor's disapproving stare. So I
avoided the nutrition classes. I would have taken statisics, but TIME put a
stop to it!!!

Ah well- enough of that! It's bringing up bad memories.

TODAY was firetraining day. Imagine this: the Main Quad on campus (a friendly, grassy plain in the shape of a rectangle) has a fire safety demo set up. One woman mans the remotely-controlled propane fire. Two firemen stand amid a sea of fire extinguishers. 77 students are separated into two groups of 38 1/2 students each. A propane flame starts ferociously. A
student yells "Call the Fire Department!" and in slow motion pulls the pin
on their fire extinguisher. They aim the nozzle and squeeze the handles
together. Approaching the raging fire, they sweep the flame with the stream
of CO2. A gushing noise fills the air. As the CO2 begins to run low, the
pitch climbs higher and higher. But the flame has flickered out. And yet
another catastrophe has been avoided.

Each of us got to try our hand at being fire heroes. So there was a total
of 77 fires put out today. I, being the eminently qualified person that I
am, failed the aim the nozzle and approached the flame with the nozzle
pointed down at the ground. At first I wondered what was wrong, and then I
could hardly help laughing at my own stupidity. One girl managed to put out
a fire while holding her purse under one arm. Several guys wore flipflops
the whole time!

Of course, a group this big doing something this interesting is hard to pass
up. I turned around about halfway through the training and saw a dad, mom,
and little girl watching the whole thing with eyes wide-open. I think they
were wondering what in the world we were doing. The grad student next to me
turned to them and said, "It's the chemistry department." That explained
the whole thing to the parents. They nodded their heads slowly, knowingly.
I half expected them to touch their heads and sympathize with our strange
mental state. Only the daughter stood transfixed for several additional

(I think I told some of you this already). At one point, two innocent bystanders strolled up to our group. The one guy was content to watch, but the other guy marched up and took a fire extinguisher. He pulled the pin, and with a completely straight face attacked the fire and put it out. Then he and his friend went on their merry little way. The guy who just watched keeps laughing, and they both talk in a language I've never heard before. I'd like to have known what they were saying.

All in all, it was the highlight of the whole TA training day.

Picture reference: Fire

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

When You Say "Yes"

When you read something this good, you have to share it -
especially when it's your sister writing it! And no, I'm not biased.

Louisiana Missions Trip • July 29 - August 8, 2006

My answer was “Yes!!” to the question mom asked me Saturday, July 29. My Aunt Carla and her two youngest were going on a missions trip down to Louisiana to help degut houses from last year’s Katrina victims. The team was wanting more people to go, and asked if I was going. Me, not knowing what my mother had up her sleeves, said no. A little sad that I was not able to go and serve, I started eating my food. Knowing that one day later on in life I would be able to go on a missions trip made me happier.

Then my mother asked me to come over and talk. So being a little angel that I am ( just joking, I’m not all I’m cracked up to be :-) ) Iwent and talked to mom. The question surprised me a little, but my mother had always been known to do things at the spur of the moment.She asked that question that would change my perspective on how I see life. “Tida,” mom said, “would you like to go with your Aunt and the two cousins (that's all she had to say) and the rest of the team to Louisiana??” O yeah, you talk about smile, I was jumping off the walls!! I was so happy I didn’t even eat the rest of my food. So here was my second missions trip and I really didn’t know much about it -- COOL!! Of course there was always the paper to tell you what to bring and so on. Well I can say I didn’t have some of it. But I was so happy to go on this trip I didn’t really care. "It's just going to be a week or so I thought."

On the way down we “played” cards. I say “played” because we had a guy who kept putting cards up his “sleeves” more like in his hat or shorts. He just about got beat up by three girls on the way down for cheating. Other than that, it really was fun just get to know each one of the member of the team. Travis and Sarah Brown are wonderful people. Travis drove the 12 hour trip to Louisiana.

When Sarah told us that “we are almost to Jacksonville,” I’m thinking “Louisiana,here we come, in a van that I hope will make it there.” I was telling some of the other teens, “if the van breaks down, I’ll become one of those ‘touch and be healed’ preachers” and lay hands on the poor van, which was chugging along like it was about to kick the bucket. Then there it was: our destination. By now it was already Sunday and we had gotten the van there in one piece, so we hoped. It was past bedtime and I was so out of it I laughed so hard about who knows what, that I started crying and I couldn’t breathe and I thought I was going to die of laughing. What a headline that would be: “Girl age 18, cause of death: was not able to breathe due to the fact that she was laughing too hard.” Anyways back to the trip.

Sunday after church we had a “chance” to visit New Orleans. I did not say honor because I did not like it at all. The food was good, but the place itself was just the closest to Sodom and Gomorrah I will ever want to come to. Every store was filled with trash. O, I take that back, one store was just hats. I got a hat for Joel there, but all the other stores were, well, trash. I know I sound harsh but if a guy thinks that joking about my Savior's death is funny, let me tell you. I don’t think its funny one bit. Ok, I’ll get off my soap box. To just sum up: New Orleans is just plain trash.

“You will be working in houses where people have not come back ‘til now, so don’t go in dark places of the house by yourself. Something might get you.” Well that got my attention. I looked at Erin (my cousin) and she and I said, “Ok lets not get eaten by some weird animal.” The things they were telling me were a little, well, nerve-racking,
but I’m cool with that. So thinking of the worst, I went to bed that night on one of those blowup mattress with Erin and went to sleep. We woke up on the floor and I was attacked (I mean ATTACKED) by some weird alien bugs in my bed in the middle of the night. OK, so it really wasn’t aliens, but I looked like a yellow legged person who also could not move her arms because she had used it for a bed that night.

So the week started and we were off to our first house. We just had to finish this house by pulling out the rest of the nails, the wash, drier, toilet, tub, closet and the stuff in the closet that was flowing with cockroaches the size of Texas. OK, maybe not that big, but they are bigger than Indiana bugs. It was not a piece of cake, but it only was a two day job. So happy!! The next two houses we did were with other groups of people from all over the US.

The last house we did was never, ever touched. Yes, “the house of stuff.” The warning "never to go in to dark places alone" came back to me. Erin was the brave soul to go and pull the drapes down as I watched for "weird animals." Back to the house. It was owned by an older couple who liked to gamble. (Well, the wife did anyways. She won $5,000 once. That explains a lot). The gentleman was more on the tame side of the two. He told us teens we should never start smoking, which his wife does and says it bad for you. She offered a cigar to me and I said, “Well, yes, I am 18, but if I had the chance to ever do it I never would start.” To which she said, “You are good to not want to smoke. It's a hard habit to stop once you start.”

So we got started on the garage first. Thinking it would be a half day job, we opened up the garage and, well, never mind about the half day. The garage had stuff that had the couple saying, “I have not seen this in years.” Sweet couple, but a lot of stuff. Some of it wasn’t even out of its plastic wrap. We wanted to get the house as done as possible before we headed home Sunday (or so we thought). Our van was in the shop on Thursday and the guy said they could not find anything wrong with it. So on Saturday night Travis said he would go over and lay hands on the guy and the van. He was joking, but he did tell the guy to just put the van back together and we will drive it ‘til it dies. Tuesday at 4 in the morning we headed off for home.

By God’s grace and mercy, the van never acted up. Erin and I thought it was God’s plan for us to be in Louisiana two days longer.

Remember: next time you have the opportunity to serve, let your answer be “Yes!!” You will never know what you might get to learn through it all.

Picture reference: 1
"A cleaned house near Royal and Flood streets in Holy Cross neighborhood. New Orleans, Louisiana, January 21, 2006."
From a website showing pictures of the destruction.

A Great Illustration

Say what thou whilst: a book is bettered by beautiful illuminations -- ahem -- illustrations. Liketh thou this?

It beath from, and beholding it moveth me into another dimension: that of imaginations.

I shouldn't have been surprised... but I was

I shouldn’t have been surprised… but I was.

The first sign of what was to come was a speaker’s topic. The keynote speaker at a retreat to be hosted by my school will speak on "Adventures in Gender: The Emergence of Transgender Medicine."

Then, yesterday, I saw a flier in a computer lab offering a great credit card offer. If I signed up to join a group called “AMSA,” I could apply for a credit card and receive a free copy of a “Netter Anatomy Atlas.” I thought – sure, I’ll do that! It was when I went to the AMSA website to sign up for the credit card this afternoon that I started seeing the face of AMSA. For one thing, they offer discounts on "Straight but Not Narrow" pins, which feature a pink equilateral triangle. I decided not to order the credit card, after all.

The AMSA website also listed “Health Concerns of the LGBT Community.” Various disorders are listed. For HIV, the authors explain:
“while no longer the primary population effected[sic] by HIV, HIV/AIDS continues to have a profound effect both physically and psychologically on this community. HIV transmission up to 3-5 times higher when other STDs are present. CDC identified Youth (ages 13-24) as the most likely group to contract an STD, with 30% of new HIV infections reported as MSM.”

Instead of asking the question, “Might these unnatural behaviors be increasing our risk of contracting these diseases,” those who prepared the list point their finger at physicians who are uncomfortable with LGBT patients. The following list is from the AMSA website:

Homophobia is a Health Hazard.
Quality of care is affected.
Education and training regarding LGBT health needs is inadequate.
Communication and disclosure of sexual orientation are significant issues.
Never assume Sexual Behavior based on Sexual Orientation.
Never assume Sexual Orientation based on Sexual Behavior.
Physician discomfort around issues of sexuality is evidenced by the fact that studies indicate that only 11% to 37% of primary care physicians routinely take a sexual history from new adult patients.
Stigma is compounded for the LGBT Community as studies indicate only 18% to 49% of LGBT patients disclose their Sexual Orientation to their physician.
Be aware of these issues so that you can provide the best care possible to your patients regardless of Sexual Orientation!

The website showed that homosexual men have an increased chance of becoming infected with Hepatitis A or B, and/or developing an eating disorder; that transgendered patients can still have health issues associated with their original gender; and that other members of the LGBT “community” are confronted with increased chances of developing other health problems.
After all of this, these “alternative lifestyles” are not questioned: their medical health care providers are questioned. Obviously, a spike in health disorders in only one portion of the population must result from inadequate medical attention – unless that population consists of smokers.

Again, yesterday I saw two entire pages in the orientation handbook devoted to "Queer Medical Students." I’ve included footnotes in the form of asterisks (*) that show my response to what I was reading:

Queer Medical Students (QMS) is a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied students, faculty and staff at the College of Medicine, School of Nursing and Medical Scholars program.

This organization was started several ears ago by two activist medical students. Our name reflects this origin, reclaiming a term once considered derogatory. However, despite our expressed mission of education and activism, it is out high priority to maintain the privacy of those who contact us. We often provide confidential referral to gay community resources... for those who are questioning or coming out as medical students. It is our goal to improve the medical field for LGBT physicians and other care providers as well as for LGBT patients.

Some of our recent activities and member projects include: attendance at statewide and national gay and lesbian medical conferences, brining in speakers for lunch time talks, and the usual cookouts, road trips, discussions, pot lucks and happy hours.*

For more information about upcoming events, or to be added to our email list, please contact… Your confidentiality will be protected form the rest of the list if you so request.

The second page has a list of FAQ’s. I’ve included a few of these here:

What is AMSA?
The American Medical Student Association is the largest, independent medical student organization in the country. Currently, AMSA is focusing our energy on three key areas: increasing diversity in medicine, promoting medical student well-being and working toward providing health care for everyone.

What does AMSA do?
AMSA leads initiatives both locally and nationally in medical education, public health, student and patient advocacy, health policy and global health. We have a long history of political activism in Washington as well as at the local level. Here at our chapter, we have projects ranging from bringing in speakers to participating in a candle light vigil for the uninsured.**

What do I get if I join?
Lots of benefits! We have a brand new online career development program, a credit card (no annual fee, $15 credit and HIV disability insurance option), a free Netter Anatomy Atlas*** (believe me, this is one of the most important books you’ll use your M1 year!) a great magazine called The New Physician, a student loan program and lots more.

Why should I be a national member if I can just participate locally?
…Our National Convention, in Washington DC in March, will be the most fun you’ll have in medical school. Past speakers have included numerous Surgeon Generals, Marion Wright Edelman and Patch Adams.

What is the difference between the AMA and AMSA?
AMSA actually started as the student branch of the AMA but split off in the late 1960’s went the AMA opposed the creation of Medicare**** and failed to provide support to the civil rights movement and the community health movement. Students have a much stronger voice in AMSA and we are the largest, completely student-led,***** medical student organization n the country.

What is AMSA’s policy on Residency Work Hours?
AMSA supports the reduction in hours as long as patient care is not compromised. We have other very exciting policies regarding issues such as physician-assisted suicide, sexuality, complementary and alternative medicine, and Reproductive rights. If you want to change or add a policy, you can write a resolution to be voted upon at he national convention in the House of Delegates.

*I believe “happy hour” means “drinking hour.”

**So this group has a candle light vigil for the uninsured. How does that actually help the uninsured in this country, let alone those in another country without access to such luxuries as CVS or the ER?

***If I’d known the credit card came with an HIV disability insurance option, I wouldn’t have been so quick to sign up for it!

****Wow! I didn’t know the AMA opposed the creation of Medicare!

*****And look where their leadership is carrying them.

The AMSA (American Medical Student Association) website can be accessed here.

What do you think… maybe next year, once I’m a part of the CMDA or Grad IV group, I could ask to have 2 pages devoted to one or both of those groups inserted into the student orientation manual. Hmmm…

Finally, even if I was fully supportive of the AMSA, I would be confused by their message. For example, do the terms “sexual orientation” and “sexual behavior” have any definite meaning? Also, isn’t the point of atransgender operation to actually switch someone from male to female, or vice versa? Then wouldn’t it be the height of rudeness to mention prostrate cancer to a person made “female” surgically?

The other day a good friend of mine, a nurse, came up to me and started talking about transgender medicine. She had heard about the speaker who was coming to speak on campus, and she knew I didn’t want to attend the lecture. She mentioned that some people are born “half” female and half male – one of her patients had been. I think she wanted me to be a little bit more sensitive in my view of transgender medicine.

So if I stopped and asked the question – Why am I not in sympathy with transgender medicine? – I have to answer by saying that when people reject God’s plan for their lives, there’s always consequences to live with.

Today we talk about “a match made in Heaven.” The first match that was made in Heaven was between Adam and Eve, the only people who ever knew what it was like to be perfect on earth. As I was reading this morning, “God created man in His own image… male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

God gave them an identity: male or female. If God gave them this, then why should be in sympathy with those who would 1) deny the existence of a God, 2) reject the importance of such an identity given by God, 3) try to reverse their God-given identity?

At this point in our history, we are outside Eden. Because we are outside Eden, because our sin has deformed our world, birth defects do occur. Some people are physically and/or genetically neither female or male. Yet seeing the confusion that occurs in such a case, why open yourself up to that kind of questioning on purpose?

Even though the world is no longer perfect, we can choose to look for and preserve the many remnants of God’s perfect plan. One of those remnants which is still overwhelming evident is male or female identity. Instead of joining those who would destroy this identity, I will remember God’s gift and remind others of what God has given them.

The other option is what George Gilder terms “Sexual Suicide.”

Picture reference: 1

Psalm 139

For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.
O LORD, you have searched me
       and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
       you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
       you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
       you know it completely, O LORD.
You hem me in—behind and before;
       you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
       too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
       Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
       if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
       if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
       your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
       and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
       the night will shine like the day,
       for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
       you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
       your works are wonderful,
       I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
       when I was made in the secret place.
       When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
       All the days ordained for me
       were written in your book
       before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
       How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
       they would outnumber the grains of sand.
       When I awake,
       I am still with you.
If only you would slay the wicked, O God!
       Away from me, you bloodthirsty men!
They speak of you with evil intent;
       your adversaries misuse your name.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD,
       and abhor those who rise up against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
       I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
       test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
       and lead me in the way everlasting.

Picture Reference: 1
Scripture Reference: 2

Monday, August 14, 2006

Dangerously Armed -- with a dull pencil

I'm reproducing here a letter I just sent to my parents. But first, there's an incredible image of a pencil lead:

Reference: SEM image

Well, hey there!
Good talking to you on the phone!
I'm so very, very glad I don't have any tests tomorrow.
Though, I will tell you, my rate of P.Chem comprehension seemed to increase as the time before the exam decreased. Even though last night I was pretty much tanked and had to crash on my bed, this morning I didn't want to put the PChem book down and go brush my teeth -- stuff was finally making sense!

The Adamson book helped explain the big picture better, I found. It also seemed more organized by showing equations specific for adiabatic, isothermal, and other processes in lists.

It helped to have both books, though. Levine likes to present details and usually does a good job, but sometimes he gets bogged down!

So now I just hope I passed! AHHHHHHH! 'Cause if I didn't, then Adamson and Levine and I will have to become much better friends.

Thank you VERY, VERY much for praying for me! Once I was planted in my seat and clutching my dull pencils, with bloodshot eyes (not really) watching the minute hand on the clock, waiting for the test to start, I started added up all the things that could have kept me from taking the test. I could have overslept, I could have had problems with my bike, I could have gotten run over by the MTA bus... and that's only a few possibilites!

Love you!!!!!!!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Did you drop that quote?

Here's some further comments on my brother's blog from August 11, 2006. I've indicated his direct quotes by placing them slash marks around them://.

//You seem to like Ann Coulter so much, let's talk about her. Does she have some good points? Sure. Does any person other than extreme right wing individuals listen to her? No, because she's incredibly caustic and (frankly) annoying at times.
If you just want to make fun of and ridicule people that (in your mind) are going straight to hell, then be my guest. //

Eli, Eli, Eli! Please read her book "Godless" before you pass judgement on her. I read it a few weeks ago, and I found it to be simply amazing. Plus, it's not just extreme right-wing individuals who read her books. "Godless" topped the New York Times Bestseller List -- so unless it's just conservatives that are buying and reading books nowadays, more than a few liberals must have bought copies and read some of her book!
Plus, TIME magazine printed an interview with Ann Coulter (it's here). There are specific pages and quotes cited by the interviewer, John Cloud. So someone at TIME magazine must have at least browsed the book to find quotes to ask Ann about.
Some see Ann as an angry person, incessantly lashing out at others. Actually, I think she has a very well developed sense of irony. Here's a sample of her writing:

Cybercast News Service: What do liberal environmentalists have against toilets that use water?
Ann Coulter: They admire the living situation of the earthworm and believe humans should emulate it.
Cybercast News Service: Do you think Democrats will ever nominate a presidential candidate who's considered pro-life?
Ann Coulter: Sure, right after they invent a time machine and nominate a Democrat who can be trusted on national defense.

//However, because many liberals try and incorporate at least a speck of reason into their arguments, it's much less painful to listen to them.//

I don't usually find liberals' statements to be particularly reasonable. Instead of lumping liberals into a pile and speaking of them generically, I'm going to share some quotes from popular Democratic politicians (past & present):
"We must stop thinking of the individual and start thinking about what is best for society." Hillary Clinton, in 1993 (quoted here).

Madeline Albright had this to say (the "time since" refers to her swearing in as Clinton's Secretary of State):
"In the time since, I have clearly not pleased everyone, but I have made an impression on a few. A national publication named me one of the world's twenty-five most intriguing people--along with a cloned sheep. Slobodan Milosevic's press referred to me as "elderly, but dangerous." And some fourth graders in Minnesota put me in their wax museum along with Moses and Dr. Seuss." (Albright, Madeleine Korbel "Women in American Foreign Policy" SAIS Review - Volume 20, Number 2, Summer-Fall 2000, pp. 65-70, available here)

A few years ago, one Czech man asked Madeline Albright this question at a book signing:
"Although I am not Jewish, myself, I strongly support Israel as being the civilization that is in the vanguard of the global war on terrorism. Madam Secretary, in light of all that has happened since the beginning of the current Intifada in 2000, do you regret having had a role in inviting Yasir Arafat to the White House? "

You can read her answer here.

This next section shows the evolution of Madeline Albright's views on Iraq. Listen closely. She made these statements during a November 12, 1998 interview with Margaret Warner). This was just before Operation Desert Fox (a military bombstrike that took place December 16 ,1998 through December 19 ,1998 under Clinton).
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: "We are not just desirous of bombing for the sake of bombing, but the purpose here is to make sure that he does not have that weapons of mass destruction capability, and the thing to remember, Margaret, is at the end of the Gulf War, as part of a cease-fire agreement, he agreed to dismantle all his weapons of mass destruction. That was the deal he made, and like everything else, he violates his deal."

"Well, let me say, we were - when we came into office, we were left with Saddam Hussein in power. That is how the Gulf War ended, and the decision was made at that stage, and I have said and I will repeat that we would look forward to working with a post-Saddam regime, and we are going to be working even more actively with the opposition groups -- Congress has passed a law, the president has signed, that we will be working with them in terms of organizing and assisting, then get themselves organized, and we, as I've said, look forward to working with a post-Saddam regime that will not violate the human rights of the Iraqi people or threaten their neighbors."

"So we care a lot more about the Iraqi people than Saddam Hussein does, and he is the one who is ruining their lives, and this, again, is one of these things where Saddam Hussein and Tariq Aziz just kind of pass the blame off to somebody else. The sole responsibility for the condition of the Iraqi people rests with their dictator, Saddam Hussein. "

Clinton, Albright, Berger and other liberal notables have been known to decry Hussein's development of Weapons of Mass Destruction. A few of their quotes (from the preIraq war days) are collected here.)

So what did liberals say after that?
"We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country. "
(Al Gore, on September 23, 2002 -- see the link above).

What is Madeline Albright saying now?
"And so the United States duly went to war against Iraq, despite having convinced only four members of the UN Security Council to back the action."

So, Madame Secretary only supports US action in Iraq when Clinton is at the helm, as in Operation Desert Fox? Oh no. There's another option, as presented in From Albright's article Bridges, Bombs, or Bluster? in Foreign Affairs, September/October 2003:
"Moreover, I remain convinced that had Al Gore been elected president, and had the attacks of September 11 still happened, the United States and NATO would have gone to war in Afghanistan together, then deployed forces all around that country and stayed to rebuild it. Democrats, after all, confess support for nation building, and also believe in finishing the jobs we start. I also believe the United States and NATO together would have remained focused on fighting al Qaeda and would not have pretended -- and certainly would not have been allowed to get away with pretending -- that the ongoing failure to capture Osama bin Laden did not matter. As for Saddam, I believe the Gore team would have read the intelligence information about his activities differently and concluded that a war against Iraq, although justifiable, was not essential in the short term to protect U.S. security. A policy of containment would have been sufficient while the administration pursued the criminals who had murdered thousands on American soil."

//They're used to identifying "truth" by having it spoonfed to them by someone else. If they blindly believe what their pastor/president/pundit tells them, why shouldn't they believe the words of someone on television as well? //

The term "spoonfed" reminds me of the mainstream media. How many people simply digest and regurgitate the views they've heard on CNN or ABC? How many people think critically about the views and or biases of Barbara Walters or even Oprah? Yes, conservatives can be gullible. But gullibility is not exclusively a conservative ailment.

//Exactly. But as I pointed out before, liberals (at least most of the ones I've had contact with) are raised with a mentality geared toward questioning/dissatisfaction with the status quo. Conservatives, on the other hand, are trained from day one to just accept truth as it's handed to them and not ask questions. //

If liberals are so dissatisfied with the status quo, then why is Ted Kennedy such a vehement defender of Roe vs. Wade? Why is welfare coddled and a failing public school system bolstered by liberals?

Well, I classify myself as a conservative, and I have a question for you:
Which book would you rather read?

Picture References: 1 & 2.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

What do you believe?

Here's my response to my brother's recent blogs on the reliability of Scripture, etc. You can see his blogs at Steel Snow Flake
For further information on this topic, see Answers to Questions, a collection of evidence supporting the inspiration of Scripture.

"Why couldn't Mary Jo have been driving the car? Why couldn't she have let me off, and driven to the ferry herself and made a wrong turn?" (Senator Ted Kennedy, speaking of Mary Jo Kopechne, victim at Chappaquiddick, Saturday July 19, 1969)

It's obvious why Senator Kennedy would want his version of the Chappaquiddick story to be told. He wanted to show himself in the best light possible. But what did the Disciples have to gain by making up a story about Christ's Resurrection? And if they really were revising the facts, why wouldn't they airbrush their own images, as Senator Kennedy did? Why would Matthew leave in the fact that he used to be a tax collector?

How can we know these eyewitness accounts are reliable? Josh McDowell answers this question by saying:

"The early Church generally taught that the first Gospel composed was that of Matthew, which would place us still closer to the time of Christ. This evidence leads us to believe that the first three Gospels were all composed within 30 years from the time these events occurred, a time when unfriendly eyewitnesses were still living who could contradict their testimony if was not accurate."

So maybe the Jewish eyewitnesses would have raised an uproar if Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John had added too many glamorous things in about themselves. But what caused them to leave in embarrassing accounts that no non-disciple would have known? Why do the Gospel writers tell about Peter and the rooster crowing?

Instead of belaboring the point further, I'll just summarize why I hold the Bible as my ultimate source of truth (these reasons are by no means unique to me):

1) The Gospels harmonize; they complement one another, and yet have different vocabularies and approaches, indicating a variety of authors who saw and described the same thing.
2) Archaeological finds and many extrabiblical accounts are consistent with Biblical writings. The historical setting revealed in Scripture is consistent with what we've found out through digs and studying ancient literature. (For example, John 19:23 reads "When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom."
(For extrabiblical accounts which describe Jesus, see this link.)

3) Scripture portrays its writers as ordinary men; it even includes their sins and "foibles." There is no evidence that it whitewashes history.

Even Jesus' clothes confirm the area that he lived in: "Most garments of the region were made of woven strips of material that were about eight inches wide and included decorative braids from two to four inches wide. The garments could be disassembled and the strips of cloth were frequently recycled. A single garment might hold sections of many different dates. However, in Damascus and Bethlehem cloth was woven on wider looms, some Damascene being 40 inches wide. Traditional Bethlehem cloth is striped like pyjama material. [5] It would thus appear that Jesus' " seamless robe " was made of cloth from either Bethlehem or Damascus. " (Reference.

On the other hand, if I begin to doubt the scriptures, what do I stand to gain? If I begin to doubt that Jesus' birth was prophesied thousands of years ahead of time, if I begin to doubt that He really was born to a Jewish virgin, if I begin to doubt His death, His resurrection, or His role in inspiring the Scripture, what do I stand to gain?

"Freedom" from following what Jesus said.

An article entitled "Does Jesus Exist" (which is at this link) states: "Jesus alone is the way to Eternal Life, Salvation, and union with God. But aren't such beliefs rather bigoted and narrow-minded? Quite the contrary, Jesus and His life and teachings are absolutely universal, open to all men, and are anything but "narrow-minded" or "bigoted."

It goes on: "Why did the religious leaders of His Own people reject Him?
Jesus' message that all the people had to do was to simply "love god with all their heart, and love their neighbor as themselves" (Matthew 22:37-39), liberated them from the dictatorial stranglehold and contrl that their religious leaders held over them."

2 Peter 1:12-21
�12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

�16 We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." [a]18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

�19 And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

(Picture Credit: Iris

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Wakeup Call

Friday, August 4, 2006. Kokomo, Indiana. The speaker flips to a new powerpoint slide. A man dressed in a snazzy suit is shown. He’s holding a cup. The speaker asks the audience if they know who this is. Young voices yell out, “Bishop!” Not a single older person knows who the cup-holding man is. That’s the problem, the speaker points out. Parents don’t know how their children are being programmed.

It’s the second annual “Back To School Explosion” sponsored by the Carver Community Center. I’m one of the few white faces in a room filled with parents and their children. The speaker is Leroy Robinson, our special speaker from Indianapolis. This man’s message is timely and direct. I scramble for an envelope to take down quotes.

He starts out by chiding the audience for flocking to the back of the room instead of filling in the front-row seats. “We’re still going to the back of the bus, the back of the classroom.” Then Mr. Robinson specifically tells parents to set the example for their kids.

He goes on,”A computer only operates on what’s been programmed inside it.” The picture on the screen is of a chip overlapping centered on a young man’s head. Mr. Robinson points out that “The chip inside your head -- your brain -- is being programmed every minute every day.”

“How many of you believe knowledge is power?” To prove that he believes it, the speaker explains that before he goes into a town to speak, he does research on it. Based on what he had read about Kokomo and what he had seen in it, he makes a few observations and suggestions. He motions with his hand: “There’s no stop sign in this direction.” Outside the Carver Center, when a child walks out from the double doors, he has to cross a street that has no stop sign for the cars coming in his direction. While this sign needed to be addressed, there was at least one sign at the Carver Center that he does like. It’s the one posted in the gym, the one that discourages sloppy pant-wearing. It reads, “No sagging.”

The next slide is titled “The Cultural Acquisition Process” showed some of the influences that “program” kids. These influences include ethnicity, health, sexuality, race, the Arts, electronic media, neighborhood, church, and religion. Mr. Robinson explains a child’s behavior, saying, “However he acts, he’s been programmed to do certain things.”

Then the examples start coming. They aren’t pleasant, but they do prove his point. For example, cigarette companies have learned how to tailor their ads to target a specific audience. “Young black kids like things that shine. They like diamonds.” The picture he shows is a shimmering blue background behind a glistening picture of a -- cigarette pack.

Besides the pictures that appeal to young people, there’s the people they identify with, or yearn to be like. The speaker flips to a new powerpoint slide. A man dressed in a snazzy suit is shown. He’s holding a cup. The speaker asks the audience if they know who this is. Young voices yell out, “Bishop!” Not a single older person knows who the cup-holding man is. That’s the problem, the speaker points out. Parents don’t know how their children are being programmed.

Mr. Robinson starts explaining just who Bishop is. Not only does he always carry a cup with him, he also loves using the word “pimp.” Because of his songs, many of the young boys who listen to him have started saying they want to be p----, even if they don’t know what the word means. Mr. Robinson polls the audience again. He wants to know who saw Bishop with “two females on dogchains walking down the red carpet. Who saw it?” He pauses and young hands fly up everywhere. “All the kids saw it.”

He describes the “Bishop’s” influence: because it’s cool “our young women want to be called ‘p---tresses’ or ‘p---ettes.’” The guy’s even marketed a drink called “P--- Juice.” Mr. Robinson’s response is characteristic: “They have been programmed. We have to fight that programming.” Why does he feel so strongly on this point? “Our kids are being programmed for destruction.”

(I’ve been scrawling notes on the back of the envelope. At this point I have to turn the envelope over and regroup.)

Mr. Robinson is speaking quickly and forcefully. From this point on he continues giving parents a picture of what their children are being exposed to. He also tells them how they can begin to counteract it. “As an educator, you have to get their attention. Put a picture of Snoop up there and they pay attention.” When a nasty TV image comes up “[y]ou watch it with them and teach them.”

Sometimes the images that are programming kids are obviously tasteless. Other times the message is more of an undercurrent. The image on the slide is a Reebok ad. Michael Jordan and three other famous, black role models are pictured. The curious thing is the poor quality of the pictures. They’re all black and white headshots -- mugshots, really. Mr. Robinson asks, “What would somebody with 40-50 million dollars want a mug shot? It’s a subliminal message.”

Mr. Robinson refers to an idea from the Carver Center’s namesake, George Washington Carver: “Our people have been programmed [so] that you don’t have to show them the back door. They’ll find [it].”

Another subliminal message is in a clothing advertisement. It shows a young man working in what appears to be a basement drug lab. But he’s not laboring over any cocaine. He’s wrapping clothes in kilo packages. Even though companies use this kind of advertising, parents still support them by buying their products. “You buy it for them,” he tells the parents.

He quotes an African proverb: “It takes a village to raise a child.” But today, “many kids don’t have their parents.” “I told you earlier that information is power. We don’t have the power because we don’t have the information.”

If it’s not parents, then other people have influence with kids. One of these people is King James. The picture of him on the slide shows a proud man sitting on a throne covered by lion skins. The opulent red of the background enhances his lush appearance.

(Picture credit:

Mr. Robinson explains that King James uses twisted religious symbology to push his message. “King James” wants to rule kids, but Mr. Robinson says, “Don’t let the basketball players be your leaders. Yeah, he’s a good basketball player... He ain’t no king.” He also pointed out that other than kings like King Tut, “learn your African history -- there are no kings.”

Another source of bondage is in the form of video games. He says, “You play 6 hours a day. You should be good!” If you take the same time you spend on video games and do anything else, you’ll get good at that. His suggestions: “Read a book, do some homework, Do some studying.”

Speaking directly to the parents and kids listening he went on. After looking at the numbers in Kokomo, he concluded, “You’re not doing too well.”

Then he flips back to video games. This time he shows a slide with images from two very popular video games: Grand Theft Auto and Halo 2. He concentrates on Grand Theft Auto. “What is in this game to make is so popular? The more blood you get, the more violent you get, it’s more popular.”

Mr. Robinson describes the kids who play by saying, “They’ve become desensitized. The pain we felt for our fellow men -- we don’t feel it anymore.”

The solution is simple: “We need to reprogram.” The slide Mr. Robinson puts up next is “Programming for your Future Success.” The practical steps he gives start out are:
1) Find your passion
2) Uncover your natural talents and abilities
3) Earn a good education
4) Meet different kinds of people.
The steps went on into reading different kinds of books and volunteering. As he said, “You’re never too young to volunteer.”

Mr. Robinson isn’t just sounding a horn and expecting other people to do what he hasn’t done. As he says, “God has inundated each person with so many different talents and gifts.” That’s not the problem. The problem is that “[w]e never have the ability to nurture” those talents.) Mr. Robinson has found his mission. He says: “I have a job to do. I’m on a mission. I talk to our people across the nation.”

And as he talks, he addresses controversial, complex problems. “Down at the Black Expo, some people got shot. It was our people doing the shooting.” This man does not point his finger at society, government programs, or government officials. He says, “Our kids are acting up. Who’s fault is it? It’s not the mayor’s... it’s ours.”

The “Blueprint for Success” that he gave included these components: vision, self-discipline, responsibility, and positive communication. Parents can play a significant role. “We need to work with our kids, to identify their talents” instead of forcing them into a mold.

The time to act is now. After interviewing successful people, Mr. Robinson compiled a list of “seven things that we can teach our young people”:
1) Organization
2) Time Management
3) Self Discipline
4) Responsibility
5) Note-Taking Skills
6) Open Communication
7) Test-Taking Skills.

He’s advising: “Parents, make your home a learning environment.” This could be done by setting a regular study time, picking a study area, keeping a planner, and having needed school supplies.”

The home environment isn’t the only place that impacts a child’s education. The school environment also affects the school’s performance.

He asks “Who is responsible for your THOUGHTS, ...your ACTIONS, ...your SUCCESS, ...your PROGRAMMING? Program your thoughts for success.” There are alternatives, but they’re not pretty. “If you think like a thug, you’ll become a thug... Who you become is who you surround yourself with.”

By this point in the speech, some of the kids are growing restless. Some are milling around and even leaving the room. He stops midthought, and observes, “This is how our kids are in the classroom. Why do I have to fight with you to teach you?” He goes on, “We have a crisis in our families. Are families aren’t staying together.” Mr. Robinson points out that while “our people” have around a 65% divorce rate, the overall picture for American couples is a 53% divorce rate. The thing to do is this: “We have to get back to the ‘It takes a village’ concept.”

Mr. Robinson goes on, “My kids are doing well. They’re on the honor roll.” But -- there’s more to the story. Chances are there’s more than just your kids at the local school. You need to care about your neighbor’s kids as well as your, because “as soon as you turn your back, who’s he hurting? My kid.”

As an educator Mr. Robinson has seen some of the areas that need to be strengthened in the school. “Too few African Americans are in AP classes... The majority of Gifted and Talented classes are filled with white faces. The majority of remedial classes are filled with Hispanic, Latino, low-income, and African-American faces.” Speaking about the AP and Gifted and Talented classes, he said, “It’s our responsibility to get those kids in those classes.”

There’s different approaches to achieve that same result. One approach was recently taken by the NBA. Kids won’t go directly to the NBA. Instead, they will complete at least one year of college before being handed the ball. This encourages kids to do better in school ‘cause it’s not just getting into the big leagues; it’s about getting into school.” While the NBA is doing its part, parents need to pitch in too. Understandably, every parent believes “Every kid is good. My kid’s the best.” But if that idea’s taken too far, then it no longer is healthy for the kid himself! At a sporting event Mr. Robinson recently attended, “The parents were out of control.”

Is it possible that our emphasis is in the wrong spot? Mr. Robinson delivers a report card of sorts: ”Indiana: we’re ranked just about last in graduation rates. If they’re last, where are our kids at?” He refers to a handout that all of us have received. In the 2005 ISTEP scores for 3rd grade language arts, 58% of black students passed while 85% of Asians, 80% of whites, and 73% of multiracial students passed.

In the 6th grade Language Arts section, for African-American students the figures were 48% passed; 52% failed. This was while 56% of Hispanic students were passing, 77% of white students were passing, and 71% of multiracial students were passing. “Hispanics who speak English as a second language... are doing better than our kids.” He goes on: “Many of them don’t speak English at home.” In spite of this, the passing rate of Hispanic students was nearly twice that of African-American students.

Then: “In every city, in every state across America our kids are last.” “I’m not blaming it on the schools; I’m not blaming it on the teachers; I’m blaming it on us.” “We have to help ourselves.”

To see where his audience’s involvement level is, he starts asking a few questions. “How many of you went to your last school board meeting?” He pauses and scans the room. “I see one and a half hands.” He advises all the parents that “You can’t just go when you have a problem.” To really develop the relationships you need, he says to go in and volunteer, and then teachers and school administrators will respect you.

He starts reading off unfamiliar names. He starts asking if anyone recognizes those names. There’s not much of a stir in the crowd -- 3 people in all recognize at least one name. He points out that these are the local school board members’ names.

Now that all of the parents have been in the hot seat, Mr. Robinson advises them to pass it on. “Ask your kids a question a day -- per period.” Now he opens the floor for others to ask him questions.

(Now, near the end of the talk I have scribbled on both sides of my envelope, on its flaps, and on the inside. I reach for his a handout titled, “Getting Involved in Your Child’s Education.” Mercifully, the back sheet is blank. I start writing a summary of the Q&A)

Question #1: I keep hearing the N-word. Why do we hear that N-word?

“It’s now a word of acceptance.”

Question #2: “Can you touch on why some people think it’s a shameful thing to be smart?”

Mr. Robinson answers the question with another question: “How many of you saw Akeelah and the Bee?” (The lady next to me says quietly, “It didn’t come to Kokomo.”) When only a few people raise their hands, Mr. Robinson suggests that the Carver Center organize a public showing. He gives a quick sketch of what Akeelah did. She was a smart girl. But when her friends mocked her, “she started acting dumb.”

According to Mr. Robinson, too many times we’ve glamorized the wrong thing. While so many of the wrong things are praised and admired in the spotlight, “academic performance is somewhere over -- there.” Kids don’t see role models in academia. They don’t want to be teachers. But, as he sees it, “It’s so much better to be a teacher than a rapper or a basketball player.”

Question #3 “How do you address tutoring?”

“If you’re in Title-1 programs at your school, we have free tutoring on the computer.” Not only is the tutoring “free to you,” but a Dell computer worth $600 is, too.

But tutoring the kids is only the first step. “What we’ve found is that if there’s no follow-through at home, it’s going to be very difficult.” Now, when Mr. Robinsons speaks, he speaks directly to the moms and dads. “I want the the parents... It’s the parents we must reach.”

Remaining questions include “What is No Child Left Behind”?

Mr. Robinson refers this lady to The idea behind No Child Left Behind is to “raise the standards for all of America’s kids: put the pressure on the schools or we’ll close you down.” According to Mr. Robinson, despite good intentions, “It’s funded wrong. It puts the pressure on superintendents and principals. You can’t tell us to get up to par and not give me the resources to do it.”
My thoughts: Mr. Robinson helped explain so many things during his talk. He is is right on target with his assessment of “p----ology.” A few years ago I was doing facepainting at a trailerpark. For a while my question was, “What do you want me to paint on your face?” After a while I had to start limiting what I would do to rainbows, balloons, and animals. Too many of the kids were asking me to paint “P---” on their faces. This was from little boys less than 10 years old. At the time, I had no idea where they were getting the word from, let alone the desire to be labeled by it. But now I know.

According to the Indiana Department of Education, 58% of those in 10th grade in Indiana are passing both the English and the Math sections of the ISTEP. If you click on that previous link, you’ll see a graph that compares the passing percentages of kids in grades 3-10. Highschoolers in grade 10 are less likely to pass both sections of the ISTEP than anyone in any other grade. Is this really the legacy Suellen Reed (heads of the IN Dept. of Education) wants?

But that’s just looking at one state, and at general percentages. How are African-Americans faring on a national scale? In 2004, African-Americans were at a 50.2% graduation rate. That was in contrast to the overall national average of a 68% graduation rate. As a side note, in 2004, “[s]ix states (Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida) graduate under 25% of students with special needs.”

Where are the parents?

For more on LeBron King James (dubbed “The Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated), see this link.

See the U.S. Dept. of Education website at

See the IN Dept. of Education website at
For loads of data on Indiana, see this link.
For a list of Indiana’s ISTEP passing percentages by ethnic group and grade, see Percentages

See the No Child Left Behind website at

See for some information on national graduation percentages.

See Locating the Dropout Crisis:Which High Schools Produce the Nation’s Dropouts? Where Are They Located? Who Attends Them? for an important study conducted by Robert Balfanz and Nettie Legters, researchers at Johns Hopkins’ Center for Social Organization of Schools.

See Rescuing Society’s Dropouts by Sandra Shea.

(Note: some of the percentages had been updated between the time Mr. Robinson’s handout was printed and I checked the IN Dept. of Education’s website. I updated the article above to reflect the changes on the IN Dept. of Education’s website.)

News for Today

Here are two news items that have started me thinking:

(1) From a Voice of the Martyr's email Update (see

A Christian girl has gone into hiding in Pakistan to escape Muslim in-laws who beat and raped her for fleeing her forced marriage and refusing to practice Islam. Asya Khadim, 15, won a divorce from her abusive Muslim husband in February and sought shelter with a local aid organization to avoid reprisal attacks. Khadim had been married to Tanveer Qadir for almost 13 months when her mother filed the divorce case on her behalf in January 2006. "They tried to force me to read the Koran," the Christian girl told Compass. "My husband beat me every day for two months because I refused." Khadim's case highlights ongoing national debate over the controversial Hudood Ordinances that some say encourage domestic violence against women. Under this law, a woman who has been raped must produce four Muslim male witnesses to prove the allegations. According to the Peace Council of Pakistan, at least 50 percent of women who report rape are jailed and accused of adultery.

Pray God will comfort Asya Khadim and keep her safe. Pray our omnipotent Father will put a stop to the Hudood Ordinances. Pray our God of love will remove Muslim authorities' hearts of stone and give them hearts of flesh.

When I read this, the sentence that stuck out to me was this one: "Under this law, a woman who has been raped must produce four Muslim male witnesses to prove the allegations." This is state-sanctioned opression, rooted in sin, symbolized by the burqa, and carried out by people consistent with their Allah-inspired religion.

(Photo credit: The burqua is from

(2) My summary from an email sent to my dad:

During the months of August and September, Mars will be the closest it has been for at least 5,000 years. That's a scant 34,649,589 miles! The Red Planet will be closest to our own planet at 12:30 AM on August 27, 2006. Its magnitude will be -2.9 and its width will be 25.11 arc seconds. Aren't you glad you'll have a front row seat on Planet Earth?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Preschool Determinism?

This may warm the cockles of your heart. But then again, it might not.
I'm talking about a recent study from Berkeley -- "Nursery School Personality and Political Orientation Two Decades Later."
One of my mom's friends brought it to her attention, and I thought I'd pass on the favor. The full text can be found at: Determinism? The study was carried out by Jack Block and Jeanne H. Block.

Here's a quote from the abstract: "Preschool children who 20 years later were relatively liberal were characterized as: developing close relationships, self-reliant, energetic, somewhat dominating, relatively under-controlled, and resilient. Preschool children subsequently relatively conservative at age 23 were described as: feeling easily victimized, easily offended, indecisive, fearful, rigid, inhibited, and relatively over-controlled and vulnerable."

For the sake of levity, let's assume that the findings of this study are completely verifiable. If this was the case, I'd be blown away by the complete reversal in a liberal's attitude. At 3, they are "self-reliant." At 23, they look to the government to protect them and provide for them. At 3, they are "energetic" and "resilient." At 23 they advocate peacekeeping forces in various countries and U.S. military surrender and immediate withdrawal in Iraq.

By 23, many liberals have learned to characterize themselves and others as victims ("Bush lied, kids died,"); they have learned to take offense at the wit of writers such as Ann Coulter; they have become indecisive, wavering between lipservice to patriotism and support of appeasement policies; fearful of imminent man-induced global warming; rigidly supportive of their abortion "sacrament"; inhibited by their defense of evolution; and vulnerable to the truth.

BTW -- if you'd rather not read this article, I suggest "Godless" by Ann Coulter, and "None Dare Call in Education" by John Stormer.

Note the depiction of one person in red, and another in blue. The grey person can only be assumed to be an independent.
(Picture credit: