Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia Pt. 1

I just finished reading the entire Narnia series over the past month and I enjoyed the series immensely. I would definitely have to recommend the series to anyone. I am going to review several aspects of the series and therefore split my posts up on the topic. I read over 1500 pages in one month, so it had to be good.

This series was written over a period of many years by C. S. Lewis. This series is undoubtedly written for children and Lewis was inspired by one. A young girl named Lucy actually stayed with the professor during the air raids of World War II. The imagination of this girl and Lewis's desire for a good story got this series going. Now you have to be wondering why on earth a grown man would read such a story. It all started back in 4th grade when a teacher sparked an interest in me. I read them over 15 years ago and enjoyed them thoroughly. I forgot many of the details and upon hearing a second movie was coming out, I decided to reread the series.

They carry a Christian theme throughout that has been the cause of some controversy. And given the knowledge of Lewis's other books, this is quite and obvious idea. There are many other themes though that may trouble strict traditional Christians. Many themes from various mythologies are incorporated on top of the Christian base. I will expand more on these themes in a subsequent blog.

There are 2 suggested orders to read the books, the order of publication or the fictional chronology. I prefer the following chronological order:
  • The Magician's Nephew
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
  • The Horse and His Boy
  • Prince Caspian
  • The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
  • The Silver Chair
  • The Last Battle
For my money, The Horse and His Boy was the most enjoyable read while The Silver Chair was the most tedious.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ode to Fred

I am sad to see that Fred Thompson has dropped out of the race before my local primary. He had a lot to offer that I don't hear or see from other candidates. Just like him, I can't endorse anyone else right now. But here is a quote from a recent speech he made that shows what we are losing in this race.
That means remembering the fundamental, conservative principles that have unified us for over two centuries.

What are those principles?

-First, the role of the federal government is limited to the powers given to it in the Constitution
-Second, a dollar belongs in the pocket of the person who earns it, unless the government has a compelling reason why it can use it better
-Third, we don't spend money we don't have, or borrow money that our children and grandchildren will have to pay back
-And the best way to avoid war is to be stronger than our enemies. But if we’re caught in a fight, we need to win it because not doing so makes us much more likely to be attacked in the future
-Also the federal judiciary is supposed to decide cases, not set social policy -- and bad social policy at that
-And the bigger the government gets, the less competent it is to run our lives.

I hope that we can find a candidate who will stand up for these principles.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Amazing Grace

Rating: 4 out of 5

Two things really make this movie worth seeing, the original story and the supporting cast. Being in the Bible Belt, this movie was advertised as a film about the Christian song Amazing Grace. This movie was different than what I expected. It was a movie about the English slave trade and how William Wilberforce fought to end it. I did not time it this way, but it was an excellent film to consider on Martin Luther King Jr. day.

The story itself has many great struggles in it. The struggle of looking the other way for economic prosperity or doing the right thing. The struggles of the late 1700s about whether the people's voice could be heard in government. The amount of loyalty and integrity that you keep throughout your life. This movie is rated PG but I was frankly surprised by that rating afterwards. It does not just tackle the issue of slavery, but it shows you the cruel reality that many people chose to ignore. They even use the N word (although it is obviously given a very negative tone). The shear force of the true story elevates this movie immediately into high regard in my book. This is a history story that I have never heard until now, and it is one that more people should hear.

The supporting cast on this movie was superb. The main actor Ioan Gruffudd (somehow pronounced YAn Griffith) probably wasn't as appealing to me because of how he had be true to Wilberforce. The ones that really stuck out to me were Albert Finney (John Newton), Benedict Cumberbatch (William Pitt), and Michael Gambon (Lord Fox). If you are familiar with the Harry Potter movies, Gambon has been portraying Dumbledore and is quite an excellent speaker. A side item that I noticed was how well the film broke people down from their public selves to their real true inner core. One way that it accomplished that was by constantly showing how different people looked when they were not wearing the fashionable wigs from the period.

The main detractor for me on this film was the way in which they told the story. The first half of the movie is constantly moving back and forth from the present(1797) to years prior. Everyone looks relatively the same so at certain points you are confused at whether or not you are watching a memory. Overall, the historical story and superb acting win out on this movie.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

An Alternative Choice

This week has been a hard week for Dallas. Our Cowboys, who we hoped in the summer would make the playoffs, did not win the Super Bowl. In fact, they didn't even win a single playoff game. For most of my life, football has been 3rd on list of sports to follow. For professional teams it always was ordered Texas Rangers, Dallas Mavericks, and then the Dallas Cowboys. The Dallas Stars made a brief run up the charts in 99 and 2000, but that was short lived. This year I got caught up in Cowboys mania and they hopped over the disappointing Mavericks. Now though, they are back down to their normal third.

I say all of that to set up the fact that I did not watch the playoff game last Sunday. In fact, I didn't listen to much of it. Now most of the city was enthralled with the game. I was in fact curious. However, it was the weekend and my wife was craving my attention. This is a dilemma for men everywhere, and one that I think we too often choose incorrectly. I decided for one day, to give up my sports and spend time with her. I could have done this bitterly and with many snide comments, but I think I kept them to a minimum. Our afternoon involved the oh so exciting grocery shopping and other errands. In between shops I caught snippets of the game. While we were driving to get some chips and salsa for dinner, I decided to turn off the radio for a bit and just drive. We drove in silence for probably 10 minutes holding hands and it was pleasant to say the least. When I got to the restaurant and the nostril-clearing salsa, I saw on the television that the Cowboys were about to throw away the game in the 4th quarter. On my way back to the car I had an epiphany that I was so glad that I had not stressed about the game, but rather enjoyed so much just sitting in silence with her. Coincidentally, the next morning I flipped to I John and read chapter 2 verses 15-17
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
I think for once I chose the right thing, and I am really happy that it was the Cowboys and not the Rangers in the playoffs. I needed a warm up round.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Overdoing It

The NBA has outdone itself again. They are going to replay the last 51.9 seconds of a Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks game. The scoring table said Shaquille O'Neal had fouled out with 6 fouls at this point when in fact it was only his 5th. This is the first time since 1982 that the NBA has replayed a game.

This has to be one of the weirdest decisions that David Stern has made. I think this is in response to the whole referee fiasco of last year. The game must be fair and determined by play only! Now if you have ever played sports, then I know that you have been involved in bad calls. You either correct them immediately or you more likely just move on. These calls usually tend to balance out over the long run. The thing that you do not do is continue on and then weeks later redo part of the game. This is unheard of by me. Basketball more than almost any other current sport is all about momentum. Teams constantly go on a 12 point run and then give up a 12 point run. It's all about the energy and emotions and being in the groove. So abstracting out a minute portion of the game to replay at a different time makes no sense whatsoever. I know the boys in Vegas are going to love this scenario.

Bad call commish...

Friday, January 04, 2008

What I look for in a Candidate

This is part 1 of a potential series of posts. Today I am going to explain the values that I look for in a presidential candidate and the issues that I am keenly interested in. Over the next few days I am going to do research on each of the candidates and report back which candidates match up with each item and then tally up who matches the most. I am an issues voter more than a good vibe voter, so you will see my points slanted that direction. Also note that I plan on actually researching each candidates info from first hand sources (i.e. each candidates websites) rather than what I heard some radio commentator say the candidate believes. I also think that past record is important. In looking at that, you can tell if a person is just saying something to get elected or actually believes something. Without further ado, the issues in random order:
  • Tax Policy It is hard for me to believe that anyone who receives a paycheck does not want tax reform. There is a ton of money taken out of each paycheck. I like lower taxes and am all for them. I think we need several things including simplifying the tax code and drastically reducing or eliminating the IRS. The tax policy is not investor friendly and lends itself to punishing those who attain success. Down with the taxes!

  • Immigration Living in Texas I know that this is a sensitive topic. I know that immigrants do many jobs that we wouldn't dream of looking at. I know that many immigrants work very very hard. I also know that people we don't want sneak into our country as well. I am for several steps. First, securing our borders and stopping those who want to sneak in. This has to be the first step. Second, reviewing and redoing our legal immigration policy to encourage law abiding people to come here and prosper. As for those who are here illegally, I am not sure what to do. But I can't imagine kicking them all out at this point. We have to find a way to integrate them into our society.

  • War in Iraq I think at this point debating who did or did not support going in originally and to how much extent is sort of a moot point. Several candidates have taken so many sides that I don't know what to make of it. What I am interested in is how they will handle the situation going forward. I will first admit that I am a fan of General Petraeus. I do not think that this war has been managed perfectly, but I think that he is doing an excellent job at this stage. I really hope that the next president will finish the job over there. I personally think that the next president will, no matter what he or she says. To leave too soon will create the biggest mess ever and almost certainly cause more harm than the national poll numbers matter on the subject. I want a president who will look for solutions to the issues and finish the job.

  • Free Markets vs Big Government This is a big pet peeve of mine. I really think that government is too big and that it meddles too much in our lives. This includes business, regulations, and other laws. The bureaucracy is huge and part of the reason that our budget is not under control.

  • Moral Issues This one is a huge one for most people. I am most certainly pro life. I am also a follower of Christ. So I fall that direction on moral issues as much as I can. To me this category comes down to the word character. I know that we aren't going to have a perfect person in the office, nor do I expect it. But I certainly hope for someone who will earnestly try to do the right thing.

  • Conviction I am looking for a leader that takes the right stand whether or not the polls support him or her. This means not flip-flopping on issues. Now that term has become synonymous in recent years with certain people, but I am not singling them out. I want a leader who will stick to their guns when it isn't easy.

  • Experience I for one don't want a Washington outsider that many people claim to be. I think being an outsider has distinct disadvantages. Connections are huge in the beltway and get things done. This does not mean that I want a lobbyist for president, but I don't want a greenhorn either. I think that governors are qualified, but other than that, you need to be involved in Washington somehow. With that, I want experience that the candidate is proud of and that has been consistent. This experience needs to show a pattern of staying on the right side of issues.

  • Budget Reform and Earmarks Here's an idea for the government: SPEND LESS. This would be my battle cry as a candidate. We often talk about tax cut or tax hikes and we are always worried about the budget. This happens in my own household. There are two options when you have a budget problem: make more or spend less. I choose spend less. Some politicians will have you believe that we just need to raise taxes on this or that class, but I say no. I think that it is time to figure out what we really need, and what we can do without. I am sure that this sounds oh so lovely, but I think that it really necessary. Our nation, just like its people, has a problem with overextending its debt. I am looking for a fiscally responsible leader. I also want earmarks done away with or at least regulated better. Congressmen are constantly stuffing bills with pork after the bill has been voted on running up our bill. This spending can be and should be eliminated.

  • Judicial Appointments I really appreciate judges that make decisions based upon what the law says. This is not what they think the law should say, but what it actually says. I want a president who will appoint judges that do not legislate from the bench. Say what you will about Bush 43, but his appointment of John Roberts to chief justice was one of his best decisions. I hope that our next president can appoint judges in that mold.

  • Energy Policy and the Environment I live in the grand state of Texas, the home of the Texas T. I have worked at two different oil companies as an intern. I can say from my limited experience that there was no evil conspiracy at either to destroy the earth or rip off the world. I actually found that some of the most environmentally conscience people I have ever met worked for the companies. Also, my grandpa runs a solar energy company so I know all of the great benefits of it as well. My view is this: First off, I do not think that the world is on the brink of disaster. I have done some study on the subject. It is a very hard subject to study by the way because of the excess of passionate diatribe that clouds the cold hard facts. Having said that, I don't think that we really treat the planet that well, or at least don't put much thought into how we treat it. We are making great strides towards being much more fuel efficient across all sorts of technologies. Besides coal and oil being used better, solar, wind, and a host of other nifty ideas for harvesting energy have come a long ways. I am a nerd who followed the Ansari X prize. This is an ideal model in my opinion for spurring innovation. I really hope that more of our federal budget can be spent to make us extremely efficient. The other side of the coin is that American's just pollute, even the environmentally sound. I am not sure how to egg people on to do less, but I am not sure that the government should be all that involved in the process.

  • Foreign Policy I might be different than some in my way of thinking, but I am not quite the expansionist that others may be. That means that I really want to take care of the home front first. A biblical thought on the subject might be taking the plank out of my eye before the speck in yours. I think that there is a lot that needs fixing here in our own place before we stick our necks out to fix others. This is not a state of illusion where I pretend that our world is perfect and ignore problems. Rather, it is a mindset that our citizens come first and that we should take care of them above other nations. I would love a more domestic policy than perhaps we have had of late that tackles the big issues of our nation, not everyone else's.

  • Homeland Security Having now worked in the real world for several years, I am beginning to understand the effect that bureaucracy can have on solving real problems. And I am not complementing the system. I am quite excited to see that we have taken steps to remove walls and get people the information they need to do their jobs. I am not super excited about seceding all of my rights in the process, but I realize that something has to be given up in order to obtain higher security. I general fall on the law enforcement side of the argument, but that assumes that they are inherently good. Since I am not totally disillusioned, I realize that we need reasonable checks in place for the process. So this is one of my less passionate issues, but one that should still matter.

  • Poverty and Education I group these two items together because I think that they are tightly coupled. Education is the key to getting out of poverty. I am not a big fan of no child left behind. I think many people have hashed that one out. If there ever was a program that I would expand in the government, it would be student loans. I think first off that we are not a poor country, but that those who are less fortunate can pull themselves up quite quickly via education.

  • Social Security
  • Being a young lad of 25, I personally have absolutely no hope of ever seeing a social security check. This is not necessarily a bad thing because that knowledge has motivated me to prepare on my own. I wish however that some of that money taken out of my paycheck could actually go to my own retirement account. A lot of people have plans for fixing social security, I want one that slowly takes the government out of my pocketbook.

I just realized that I just wrote a chapter in a book that is way too long. Therefore I will leave my explanations at that and explain further on specific issues if prodded.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The New Year is looking up

The sports world in Dallas is on an upswing right now. Bolstered by the return of the Cowboys, 2008 looks to be a good year.

With a first round bye, we are set to win our playoff game in years. This is by far our best team in quite some time and the offense will most likely explode in January. We have been beat up and injured in December and the extra week off should really boost our team. Look for Romo to keep showing off the ice water that runs through his veins. Look for Marion Barber to emerge as the running leader of this team and stiff arm the competition. And look for whichever receiver that the defense forgets to cover (TO, Terry Glenn, Jason Witten, or even Patrick Crayton) to become a local hero. Demarcus Ware is going to trounce the other team as well. To the right is our office mascot. The tortoise is an adaptation of the Marion Barber stiff arm. Because of course, that is what we do to the competition.

This has been a weird season for the boys so far. However, after listening to last night's trouncing of the Golden State Spoilers, I think they might be coming together finally. While not performing well, this team has stepped up for some big games and I think that Avery will have them playing quite fluidly come playoff time. Watch out for the Brandon Bass squad. If Dirk gets his head straight, this team could take off really quick.

Being a long term Rangers fan, I am excited about the next year. According to Baseball America we have improved our farm system from 28th to 4th in the league. That is a big jump. We no longer have to put all of our hopes in 2 or 3 prospects. This bodes well for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. Now I know that won't get most fans excited, but I am all about doing things the right way. I have lived through the era where we brought in every old has been that the league could offer. I am ready to have some home grown talent. Meanwhile, I think that the lineup that they will put out in Arlington will actually be decent. I think the outfield looks a lot better. The main concern as usual is pitching, but I am not over eager and ready to sell the farm for this year. So lets hope players like Taylor Teagarden and others develop further this year.