Florence Green

Posted February 8, 2012 by Andrew
Categories: Historical, Military

I’ve blogged about World War I veterans before, but apparently, not on this blog. After some searching, I discovered that the last time I wrote about veterans of the Great War was in March of 2007, when the last American Navy and female veterans passed away in the same week. Frank Buckles, the last living American WWI veteran, passed away in February of 2011. Claude Choules died in May of 2011. He was the last surviving combat veteran of World War I.

Today I found out that Florence Green passed away on Saturday in King’s Lynn, England. She served in the WRAF (Women’s Royal Air Force) during the last year of the war. She was a mess steward at RAF bases in Marham and Narborough, England. The WRAF had women serving as mechanics, drivers, cooks, and office clerks in order to free men to serve in combat roles, according to the British National Archives. Florence Green was 110 years old. She was the last veteran of World War I. A generation has now passed on. It’s up to us now to continue the legacy of those who served in the Great War. Soon, the same will be said of World War II. Take some time to talk to a veteran about their service. One day, they won’t have the ability to share their experiences, and it will be up to us to keep their stories alive.

Doctor Who: The Mountaintop That Is Traveling With the Doctor

Posted February 8, 2012 by Andrew
Categories: Church, Growing Up, Observations

It’s 12:19 on a Wednesday morning. I can’t sleep. I was about to pop in an episode of Doctor Who, one of my favorite shows of all time, when I remembered I had started an entry on Sunday that I never got around to completing, because I wasn’t sure where I wanted to take it. I’ve just decided to take it in both of the directions that I was considering! Here it is:

I was sitting watching Doctor Who Sunday morning, (Now you see why watching Doctor Who reminded me that this was here.) and a piece of dialogue jumped out at me. The set-up is this: Donna Noble had been caught up in a plan for an alien to use the Earth as a breeding ground for her arachnid children at the beginning of the previous season. She met the Doctor, who saved the day while introducing her to the concept of space and time travel. After their brief adventure, the Doctor went on his way, taking on a young physician named Martha Jones as his companion for the rest of the season, until she decided to return to Earth to continue her life. The following dialogue is from Series 5, Episode 2 “Partners in Crime.” This is all copyright by BBC, so hopefully they don’t shut down my blog and sue me for thousands of pounds.

Donna: Still on your own?
Doctor: Yeah. Well, no. I had this friend. Martha, she was called. Martha Jones. She was brilliant, and I destroyed half her life. But she’s fine. She’s good. She’s gone.
Donna: What about Rose?
Doctor: Still lost. I thought you were going to travel the world.
Donna: Easier said than done. It’s like I had that one day with you, and I was going to change. I was going to do so much. Then I woke up the next morning… Same old life. It’s like you were never there. And I tried… I did try. I went to Egypt. I was going to go barefoot and everything. And then it’s all bus trips and guidebooks and “Don’t drink the water” and two weeks later, you’re back home. It’s nothing like being with you.

This really stood out to me. Donna had one of those life-changing moments. She met the Doctor, who made her realize there was so much more to life than what she was living. She decided right then to change and truly experience the world around her. Then she woke up the next morning. She was in the same bed. The same alarm clock. The same morning news shows. The same cereal in the cupboard. Despite what she had seen and gone through, the rest of the world was the same.

She attempted to make the change. She made the first of the many trips she promised herself. It wasn’t what she expected, because it was exactly what she expected. In two weeks, she was back home, feeling completely let down by the experience. She chased after what she got a taste of, but she couldn’t recapture the experience, the feeling of it. Instead, she spent the next year looking for the Doctor in the hopes of finding him and traveling with him. He brought that feeling to her, and she believed that he would do it again. Of course, he does. After all, he’s the Doctor, and it’s scripted television.

There are always moments in life, these mountaintop moments, when you feel lifted up and excited and changed. The problem is, you go up the mountain, but you can’t live there. You can see all there is around you from the top of a mountain. You can see your options for where to go, what to see, what to do, but when you get to the top of the mountain, you have to make that choice of what to do and then do it. You can go back the way you came or you can strike out in a completely different direction. Once you’ve reached the top of the mountain, though, there’s no higher to go. You have to go back down. Worst of all, if you try to stay on top of that mountain, it will sink beneath your feet until you feel like that mountain you once climbed is now only a hill, and the amazing feeling that you had from being on it is a mere fraction of what it had been.

Donna never had a chance to stay on the mountain. The Doctor never stays, except for the seasons that the Time Lords had stranded him on Earth as punishment for breaking their laws. He always moves on after each adventure. He climbs a mountain and then searches for the next one to climb. That’s where his experience on the show differs from real life: he never has to deal with coming back down off the mountain. There are no consequences for his constant search for adventure. Donna did have to come back down. Egypt was supposed to be her next mountain, but the tour buses and safety guidelines and tourists and trash and everything else made certain that no matter what, she would not be able to get the same experience she had before. It was predetermined and planned. She needed the mountain, but she got a hill. She was so let down that she gave up on the search for the mountain and instead searched for the Doctor to take her away to his next mountain. No matter what adventure she found, she had to come home to bills and laundry, the two things that the Doctor and his companions never seem to have to deal with.

If she used the mountain as an opportunity to find a new, sustainable purpose in life, Donna would have profited greatly from her time with the Doctor. Instead she immediately began to look for the next mountain.

The reason that segment of the show stood out to me was because I had seen a lot of information about a church Youth conference in the past few weeks. The first thing I saw was on the blog of another Youth leader. He talked about taking over the position at a new church, and the kids kept asking about going to an event that they went to every year. He took a group. They had that mountaintop experience. The kids were fully energized and involved and devoted the entire time they were there. There were group sessions where the kids talked about their lives, and a number of the kids brought up things that they should be seeking professional help with. Because of the emotion of the event and the encouragement of everyone else, they delved deep into their souls and the psyches. Unfortunately, there was not anybody there equipped to properly handle some of the things that were coming out, and the kids opened up major issues that would need long-term professional guidance to deal with but without anything in place to help them once the weekend event was over.

It sounded like it was a true mountaintop experience, but then the event ended. Everyone came back home, and the Youth program continued as normal. The kids all wanted to know why every Youth meeting wasn’t like the event, and questioned their faith when they didn’t have that feeling every day. This Youth leader wasn’t alone. There were comments from Youth leaders across the country discussing dealing with the same thing. The events never prepared the kids to come back down the mountain. They were great for invigorating faith while the kids were there, but there was no direction when they came back to the real world of their families and school and chores and sitting in their Youth groups discussing life and faith without rock bands and emotionally charged speeches. Everything expressed at the event was that faith was always the mountaintop. At the event, there are no friends making poor life choices and trying to get you to make them, too. There are no deaths of people you know. The kids are in a sterile, isolated world, which is wonderful while it lasts. Unfortunately, you can’t live on the top of the mountain. You have to come back down to where you have to make hard choices and deal with bad things happening, or even harder sometimes, nothing happening. The event never prepared the kids.

As I was reading what these other Youth leaders had to say, I thought back to the time I went to the Presbyterian Youth Triennium in 1998. It’s a week-long assembly of Presbyterian youth from around the world. I was going into my senior year of high school. I had an amazing time. I had my first “girlfriend.” She was from Canada, and yes, she was real. We discussed life and faith in small groups. We heard emotionally charged speeches. There was rock-like music (as well as goofy music and legitimate, traditional church music). I don’t remember ever feeling the shock of suddenly being off the mountain though. I can think of a few reasons for this.

A  day before the end, I broke my toe while playing volleyball. I missed about a third of a day’s worth of activities. Because of that, I experienced more than just the joy and excitement of the event. I also experienced pain and loss. Because of the broken toe, I couldn’t meet the “girlfriend” when I was supposed to because I was in the first aid station. We were going to exchange information to keep in touch after it all ended. (Remember, this was before Facebook and AIM and ICQ were popular, so we couldn’t just look each other up when we got home.) I worried for the rest of the time I was there and the trip back that she would think I was a horrible person. Knowing what I know now about teenagers, she probably did at the time and has since completely forgotten that I exist. Still, I had things bringing me down from that mountaintop while I was still there.

When I got home, I started band camp the next day. (Yes, even with a broken toe. I re-broke it many times through the fall.) I was with my closest school friends again from 8 in the morning until 5 or 9 at night for the next two weeks. It was almost like being on top of another mountain, except I had my toe and 95 degree weather and the bee tree to keep it from being perfect experience.

I’d also like to think that what they told us at Triennium helped with it, too. We talked about life. We talked about going back to our churches, with the quietly sitting and organ music. We heard and talked about going back to school and friends and dealing with things in a more realistic manner than just being told to make the right choices. We did role-playing and actually made things difficult on each other. There was a mountaintop for nearly the entire time I was there, but I felt prepared to go back to life and the real world. I had direction and felt refreshed to take it.

From what I’ve read, that is what is missing from many of these Youth-geared events. The organizers know exactly how to bring kids to the top of the mountain, but then they leave them there. There’s no direction for making it back down the mountain or into whatever lies next.

Before I saw that blog entry, I had never heard about that event. It turns out that it’s an annual event held in multiple cities across the country. I read the blogs of a few other Youth leaders, who all said similar things and had similar experiences with other similar events. About a week after I read that first blog entry about the event, I got an email from my church. The church had received an invitation for our Youth to attend this event in a city about six hours away.

I decided to take a look at the information that was on their website. After a couple of hours of reading testimonials and hearing their promotional information, I decided to just let it sit in my inbox. That’s my equivalent to placing the Ark of the Covenant in a government warehouse or donating anything to a museum. Nothing they had waylaid my concerns, and several things brought up even more concerns than I originally had.

I want the kids in my Youth Group to have mountaintop experiences, but I want to make sure that when they do, they’re experiences that leave them with a good idea of how to get back down and live their lives. Life isn’t just one mountain after another. This isn’t Doctor Who, and I don’t want my kids to be Donna Noble. It can be hard enough for teenagers to be Christian without throwing that at them!

Be nice to me. I gave blood today.

Posted February 3, 2012 by Andrew
Categories: Church, Philanthropy, Work

I gave blood today. If you’re squeamish, you may wish to just read the parts in red.

Everything went as usual, although I declined the free ice cream. I’d really like to actually drop some weight! There were two people ahead of me, so I sat and waited for at least an era, if not an eon. I just sat and texted my best friend a couple of times while waiting. Eventually, they called me to come back for the testing. They asked me for my name, my address, my birth date, my name, my birth date, my social security number, my phone number, my address, my name, my birth date, my social security number and my name. Completely serious. I’m not exaggerating at all. They took my temperature (98.1 degrees), my pulse (84 bpm), and my blood pressure (118/64). At that point, the worker taking my numbers pulled out a plastic screen and covered the computer with a cloth. I asked when they started using the shields. (I hadn’t given blood since last March, so I didn’t know how many blood drives it had been through.) She told me that it was new. We started joking around about her needing protection from me and what did I have to protect myself. Finally she pricked my finger. Blood shot all over the screen. Turns out there’s a very good use for it! She said she had never seen that happen before. I figured it would be a quick donation! My iron was good. All I had to do was answer the questions on the computer. I confirmed that I wasn’t pregnant and was ready to donate!

I walked over to the table/bed, conveniently located next to the radio, and sat down. After a couple of minutes, someone came over to get me ready. I lay down, and they did their thing. I recognized one of the people waiting to give blood from my church. I tried to call over to him a couple of times, but he didn’t respond. Once I was stuck, I could tell the blood was really moving. After a couple of minutes, I could tell that my arm was getting a little numb. A couple minutes later, my feet started tingling. Then I was done.  They unhooked me. From being jabbed to filling the bag only took me about 4 and a half minutes. Most of that time, “Bad Romance by Lady Gaga was playing by my ear. (I didn’t want to deprive you of the experience I had while giving!) It was a new personal record, although I wasn’t too anxious to break my old one. I lay there for a little while and waited for my brain to become fully-functioning again. You see, I tend to get light-headed after giving blood, although I didn’t have any problems the last two times. Also, the last two times, I took 10-15 minutes to spill my blood. The nice lady who had brought me a couple cups of juice helped me over to the recovery table by holding the elbow from which I had just given blood. When I sat down at the recovery table, I was able to get the attention of the person from my church. We talked for a few minutes about skiing, and then he was called back for his testing.

I enjoyed a nice bowl of potato soup, a cookie and a brownie. (I turned down the ice cream, but I still deserved some sort of reward!) Once if had finished these, I was ready to head out the door and back to work. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any of the “Be nice to me. I gave blood today” stickers. I really hope I get through the rest of the day without having any clients come into the office!

I’d like to thank Grammar Girl for helping me out with the “lays.” No matter how hard I try, I never seem to get the tenses right for “lie” and “lay!”

ACLU et al v. North Central Regional Library

Posted February 3, 2012 by Andrew
Categories: News

The ACLU is getting involved in a lawsuit against a library in Washington because it blocked access to online porn. The ACLU believes that the blocking of porn has infringed upon the 1st Amendment rights of the library users, or specifically, three library users. One is a college student, who says the access was needed for a school assignment, and another is a professional photographer, who wanted to look at art galleries. Nothing was said about the third in the articles that I’ve seen.

Let’s start with the 1st Amendment. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” There is no law being proposed. The library does get public funding, but they’re also required to follow the law. I’m pretty sure that allowing people to look up pornography on the public computers would likely result in children walking by and seeing. (The article, to which I linked, mentions such instances, which occurred in another library, in the tenth paragraph.) Perhaps it doesn’t in Washington, but I would think that such an event would constitute “corruption of a minor.” I would also imagine that if the library didn’t take steps to prevent it, it would be open to suit for damages in court for such an event, if it was pressed.

One of the library’s directors was quoted as saying “We believe having pornography in public places hurts our ability to accomplish our mission.” The library’s website claims “The Mission of the North Central Regional Library is to promote reading and lifelong learning.” I can see a couple of ways that allowing pornography on the public computers could hinder this mission. The first is that parents could start restricting their children’s access to the library in order to prevent them from seeing someone else’s internet usage. Further, potential lawsuits against the library due to the library creating a system that allows children to easily be exposed to pornography could severely limit the library’s budget and ability to function.

I’m all for free speech. I’m not in favor of censorship, even if I object to the material. This is not a case of anybody’s right to say something or assemble has been violated. This is a case where an institution, looking out for its own well-being, stated that certain information cannot be obtained on its premises. A library wouldn’t be sued for not carrying Penthouse (Sorry. No link.) in its periodicals, and it shouldn’t be sued for not allowing access to certain materials.

Civic Minded

Posted February 2, 2012 by Andrew
Categories: News

Heather Peters has won her case against Honda in small claims court in California. There was a class action suit taken against Honda over the MPG that Honda customers were getting from their Civic Hybrids. The cars were advertised as getting 50 miles per gallon, but people were averaging only 30 miles per gallon. That’s roughly the same as a regular Honda Civic, which costs thousands less. The class action suit will award $100-200 to each member of the class. Peters was awarded $9,867, just shy of the $10,000 maximum award in California small claims court.

What’s my point? I guess I don’t really have one. I had just been curious about how this case would turn out. It really doesn’t effect me. I drive a 13 year-old, GM truck and get about 23-27 MPG while apparently dripping oil. I’m a much greater  environmental hazard that any Civic driver. I just like to keep up on these things for when I finally have to break down and get a new vehicle.

For what it’s worth, Honda has modified their fuel efficiency for the new 2012 model of Civic Hybrid. It now only claims 44 MPG.

A Letter from Jourdan Anderson to Col. PH Anderson

Posted January 31, 2012 by Andrew
Categories: Historical

I just read the most amazing letter! Okay. It’s probably not the most amazing letter ever written. There have been some truly incredible letters written in the past, but this one does deserve mention. This is one of those things that I would love to print out and share with so many people, but it would probably get me shot and/or stabbed. Fortunately, kind readers, I don’t have to worry about that from you!

The letter is from Jourdan Anderson to Col. PH Anderson. Here’s a little background. The date is 1865. The Civil War has just ended a few months before. Col. PH Anderson served in the Confederate army. He lived in Big Spring, Tennessee, where he had owned slaves. One of those slaves was Jourdan Anderson. Since the Emancipation Proclamation was declared in 1862 and stated that all slaves from places of rebellion would be freed upon presenting themselves to the Union army beginning January 1, 1863. Jourdan Anderson was declared officially free in 1864, and he had paperwork from the army’s Department of Nashville stating as much.

It seems that Col. Anderson kindly requested Jourdan and his family to return to Big Spring to work on his farm. Jourdan responded by stating that he and his family were quite happy in Ohio. His children were receiving an education. He was earning good wages (more than the army paid white enlisted men at any time during the war). He responded that he would be happy to return to the man who had held his family in slavery and tried to shoot him twice on a few conditions. He wanted to make sure that he would be paid at least as well as he was in Ohio. He wanted to be sure his children could attend a school in Big Spring. He also said that he expected back pay for the time he and his wife had spent working as slaves in return for considering Col. Anderson’s offer of employment. His calculations for his thirty-two years and his wife’s twenty years of labor would amount to $11,680 plus interest. He asked that this be forwarded to him through an attorney in Dayton, OH.

In case you’re wondering, that’s $172,026.09 plus interest adjusted for inflation according to the Consumer Price Index estimates I was able to find for 1865. I’m pretty sure that told Col. Anderson where he could stick his offer! If only I could show this letter to some of my die-hard pro-southern friends, who for some reason find a need to try to cast a positive light on slavery!

Beware the Deer

Posted January 30, 2012 by Andrew
Categories: Church, Observations, travel

This past weekend was the annual Youth ski trip. This year, we went to Winterplace in Ghent, WV. For lodging, we stayed at Pipestem State Resort Park in cottages. Pipestem is about ten or fifteen miles from Winterplace as the crow flies. It’s a forty-five minute trip as the Big Blue Bible Buggy drives, though. Still, once the sleeping accommodations were worked out, there was no complaining.

Out the back door of the boys’ cabin was a small deck about a foot and a half off the ground. Beyond the deck was a ten foot clearing, then trees. The trees only went for about 40 feet to the left half of the cabin before there was another clearing for the golf course. To the right half was the beginning of a deep, wooded ravine. Saturday morning, one of the boys went out on the deck and said there were deer. I went out to take a look, and over the next couple of minutes, a group of twelve deer started appearing from the golf course in pairs. They rummaged through the leaves looking for food and paying no mind to the fact that they were being watched. One of the boys who had come outside went back in, then came out again with a cinnamon roll. He tossed it out into the leaves. Two of the deer moved closer to the deck and started digging through the leaves to see what was dropped. We all went inside before seeing if it was found.

The next morning, I walked out onto the deck as the sun was coming up. There were three deer just past the tree line. They started moving to the right as more deer came into the trees from the golf course. When there were seven deer present, they started moving up to the edge of the clearing around the deck. They stood there staring at me. They didn’t move. They didn’t look for food through the leaves as they had the morning before. They just stared. Eventually, four more deer came off the golf course and within a few minutes, all eleven deer were standing in the trees at the very edge of the clearing, doing nothing but staring at me. After a few minutes, it got to be too much for me to handle. I went back in and shut the curtains.

I learned a very valuable lesson this weekend. Never feed the deer. You’ll just end up feeling like you’re living in a Stephen King novel.