Sunday, August 26, 2012

Dreams from MY Father...

"That's One Small Step for [a] Man..."

The first step on the Moon. NASA Image.

"...One Giant Leap for Mankind." -- Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong is gone. The first man to step onto another heavenly body has stepped into Eternity. I remember that July in 1969, gathering with the family around the television to watch the first blurry images as Armstrong and Buzz Aldren walked on the lunar surface.

I grew up in a NASA family. Dad had met Mom at Glenn L. Martin's Middle River Plant in Baltimore building and testing seaplanes for the war. Dad married his chief number cruncher and went on to start his own structural testing lab. In the early 'Sixties, he joined the space agency, doing work that greatly increased the reliability of spacecraft. His partner in much of this work was a hansome Turkish engineer named Ali.

NASA, in its wisdom, sent Dad and Ali to advise the European space agencies... landing them in Paris during the push for Algerian separation. As tanks rolled through the Parisian streets, Dad made his way through the city with a man many suspected was an Algerian! Those were interesting times.

Dad and Ali were good friends. We entertained Ali at our house, Mom carefully avoiding the foods that would be offensive to his Muslim culture. Indeed, NASA brought together great minds from a host of diverse backgrounds. A cast of thousands developed the technology that put the man from Wapakoneta, Ohio on the Moon. Here was the true brilliance of NASA; the terrible technology of Peenemünde was turned on its head as Wernher von Braun now led its mission to take human aspirations to the stars.

From the national anxiety created by Sputnik, the designers of NASA brilliantly shifted the technology advances necessary for our defense from the Army Missle Agency to a civilian agency. John F. Kennedy raised humanities collective aspirations with his charge to: "put a man on the Moon in this decade, and return him safely to Earth."

When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the Moon, the world watched. That moment seemed to welcome a new era of human progress.

Neil Armstrong's official NASA portrait. Nasa Image.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XXXV

The Mind of Mitt...

When Mitt Romney chose running mate Paul Ryan he sent a clear message that he was going to roll up his sleeves and work on real solutions using real numbers. Ryan, who earned the respect of many on both sides of the aisle, including Clinton advisor Erskine Bowles, who opines: "Have any of you all met Paul Ryan? I'm telling you this guy is amazing. He is honest; he is straightforward; he is sincere; and the budget he came forward with is just like Paul Ryan. It is a sensible, straightforward, honest, serious budget." [1]. Clinton himself is overheard consulting with Ryan on Medicare reform (1:50 minutes into the tape footnoted here) [2].

Ryan's Blueprint for American Renewal [3] is precisely the kind of document a real CEO, intent on real solutions, would ask for. The man who saved the Salt Lake City Olympics and grew companies while working at Bain Capital clearly wants to show up in January ready to govern.

Despite efforts to paint him as an elitist and 'out of touch' with the average American, Romney is more like the businessman next door than the media makes him out to be. The 'other' weekly news magazine this week presents: "The Mind of Mitt." We think that is a mind worth knowing. Consider his opinion of the people he will lead:

"... The American people are the greatest people in the world. What makes America the greatest nation in the world is the heart of the American people: hardworking, innovative, risk-taking, God-loving, family-oriented American people." -- Mitt Romney

The Son of Michigan Governor George Romney, Mitt saw his Father fight for civil rights and was introduced early to public life. In 1984 he started Bain Capital with ten employees on a shoestring budget, originally focusing on venture capital. It wasn't until 1986 that their big investment to turn Staples into a super-sized company happened. Romney knew what it was like to make a car last longer, make a payroll and stretch a budget. Those who long to see sound business principles applied to government will be pleased.

His Latter Day Saints upbringing taught him to see the Faith Community as essential to meeting the needs of the community and he's no 'Jack-Mormon' when it comes to tithing... the much sought-after tax returns show a healthy percentage of charitable giving and show that he is living off of the results of some good investments (13% would be a reasonable rate for income from investments... the base having been earned under a rate closer to 40%, perhaps). Romney understands the need to protect Religious liberty and individual initiative in the mission to revitalize America.

Television trucks stretch their masts heavenward in Ashland, Virginia.

The Mind of Barack Hussein Obama

"We know very little about him" was the oft-repeated phrase in the MSM about our current President. That is lazy research in the minds of those of us on THYME's highly overrated staff. Dreams from My Father was available for them to read! Had they looked into it they would have seen a man who's roots and upbringing would have been quite unfamiliar to most of us [4].

From his Indonesian school years to his apprenticeship to Frank Marshall Davis, from his friendship with Bill Ayers to his sitting under the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, it is clear that Obama's vision for America is far different from that most of us cherish. In Fact, his upbringing has some unusual moments [5]. Consider the time when his Stepfather Lolo introduces him to the towering statue of "Hanuman, the undefeated demon fighting monkey god." It is clear that young Barack, in the words of Glenn Beck: "didn't go to many Fourth of July picnics... didn't hear a lot of John Phillips Sousa music." Here's Mr. Beck [click to listen] playing the quote from Dreams from My Father. Militant Anticolonialsm, Black Liberation Theology and Marxist thought are all too evident. James Cone (promoter of Black Liberation Theology, Marxism couched in Christian terminology) has undoubtedly had a greater infuence than James Madison in the worldview formation of our current President.

Dinesh D’Souza [click to read] has provided a lot of good research into the background and mind of the President. His 2010 work: The Roots of Obama's Rage is the basis for the film: 2016: Obama's America. Born in Mumbai, India, D’Souza came to the U.S. as an exchange student and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth College in 1983. From there he went on to work in the Reagan White House as a policy analyst. Today he is President of King's College in New York.

Mitt Romney introduces Paul Ryan in Ashland, Virginia on August 11.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XXXIV

Your PHONE isn't Changing the World...
...but YOU Can Use it to Change the World!

There's no smartphone app for courtesy... Richmond Times-Dispatch.

This week the 'other' weekly news magazine is featuring The Wireless Issue [click to read] and touting 'Ten Ways Your Phone is Changing the World.' Cool!, but humans have been creating new ways to do things since the Garden of Eden and the new phones, pads, tablets and apps are but the latest iteration of Divinely inspired creativity.

Samuel Morse typed out "What hath G-d wrought." when he first activated the telegraph. Alexander Graham Bell simply blurted "Mr. Watson, come here, I need you." into the newly created telephone. (To be fair, Bell had just spilled some acid, and... er... needed Mr. Watson)! They were pioneers in communications, to be sure, but they were not the first pioneers.

Smoke signals, flags, semaphores all helped people to connect. Marconi took us wireless with the radio (albeit one-way). The internet took us to another level. Vannevar Bush, an engineer who graduated from Tufts College in Massachussetts, actually developed the principles underlying modern hypertext research.

In 1945, thirty years before the invention of the personal computer and 30 years before the creation of the internet, Bush wtote: "As We May Think."  In it he first presented his idea for a Memex machine: "designed to help people sort through the enormous amount of published information available throughout the world." His article described a Memex as a "device in which an individual stores his books, records and communications and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility. It is an enlarged intimate supplement to his memory."

Tim Berners-Lee is actually credited with creating the internet, based on the work of many people in the private sector and in government. Al Gore didn't build it... it's probably all  Bush's fault.

Technology: Triumph or Terror

We know that Hitler and the National Socialists developed the Volkswagen and the ICBM. The fruits of man's creativity can be used for great good... or great evil.

Pastor Chuck Balsamo, of Stuarts Draft, Virginia has on his phone message: "Hello, World Changer!" Indeed he is using the medium to mentor many in the doing of great good! In the 1960's, new technologies were developed as NASA raced to put a man on the Moon. The technology later found its way into a host of "spin-offs" such as artificial hips. What we DO with technology is the bulk of the story.

Alexander Graham Bell, Inventor.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XXIIIa Special Edition

At the 'Center of the Universe' with Romney and Ryan

Ashland, Virginia proudly bills itself as the 'Center of the Universe.' Former mayor Dick Gillis came up with the slogan in the 1980s:  "...supposedly because it was close to the mountains, the beach, Richmond, and D.C. It is right along the railroad line and it is a college town: home to Randolph-Macon University." Travel writer Peter Greenberg took issue with the claim and advised his readers not to go there. Enjoying a fine dinner with my lovely wife at Ashland's Trackside Grill, I have to conclude that this is Mr. Greenberg's loss! Ashland is a lovely place!

Mitt Romney meets the crowd in Ashland...

...along with Vice Presidential candidate, Paul Ryan.

Ann Romney warmly greets supporters.

Presidential candidates, fortunately, ignore Greenberg's advice and this made for a great trip for my lovely wife and myself. In fact, SHE even suggested it when she saw the campaign stop mentioned in the Times-Dispatch. When we signed up we did not imagine how historic the day would be! True, Sarah Palin had made a campaign stop four years ago at Homemades by Suzanne, another Ashland eatery, but we had little reason to suspect history would repeat itself.

Driving along Interstate 64 that morning, we turned on the news and learned that Paul Ryan of Wisconsin had indeed joined the ticket... being introduced at the USS Wisconsin in Norfolk! In a packed auditorium at Randolph Macon, the mood was electric! Ryan's straightforward effort to tackle the Federal Budget [click to read] uniquely qualifies him for the work that lies ahead. Ryan and his family joined the Romneys in Ashland, making the day one to remember!



Thursday, August 9, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XXXIII

What We Can Learn from Mars

The 'other' news magazine this week muses: What We Can Learn from a Robot 154 Million Miles Away [click to read]. THYME asks: "What can we learn from a novel set 154 million miles away that hits close to home?"

I first discovered The Martian Chronicles in my youth, looking for anything about space, rockets, astronauts and worlds unknown. What I didn't realize when I picked up Bradbury's famous work, was where it would take me.

Written in 1950, the Martian Chronicles carries the darkest fears of a world dominated by the Cold War into a 'future history.' The devastation of Hiroshima and Nagisaki was still in recent memory as the West faced off with a nuclear Russia. Against this background the exploration and colonization of Mars takes place. The meeting of Earthlings and Martians eerily mirrors the meeting of Europeans with Native Americans in the colonization of the New World. Eventually the Native Martians succomb to Chicken Pox, a clear allusion to the animal borne pathogens that killed Native Americans in our own history.

 In a 1950's vision of 'green technology,' scientists begin to plant trees and other vegitation to transform the atmosphere of Mars. Eventually the oxygen level is raised, making settlement possible. This settlement strangely resembles the American Midwest in appearance. A trip to Mars begins to resemble a journey to Kansas! The original novel even contained references to American racism. At one point all the African-Americans are preparing to move to Mars, but the reference was later was eliminated from the 2006 William Morrow/Harper Collins, and the 2001 DoubleDay Science Fiction reprinting of The Martian Chronicles.

There was once a museum that had aquired a fine Etruscan horse sculpture in the Nineteenth Century. A hundred years later, a noted art scholar declared it a brilliant forgery. When asked how he came to that conclusion, the expert stated: "The artist has brilliantly copied everything he knows about the Etruscan period... and everything he DOESN'T know about the Nineteenth Century!" Here is where Bradbury's novel is brilliant. Chronicles describes everything Bradbury knows about history mingled artfully with everything he didn't know about his own era.

In the novel the worst of our Cold War fears are realized. Almost everyone returns to Earth and nuclear Armageddon takes place. In an eery passage, the household robots of a vaporized family in Allendale, California dutifully put out breakfast every morning and clean the table afterwards... continuing to serve though their masters are gone. The limits of their programming does not allow them to see the vaporized sillouettes of the family, (a clear allusion to Hiroshima,) in the wall of the house.

The final story in the Chronicles is that of a man who takes his family to Mars in a rocket that was meant to be used in the conflict. He burns his old tax records and papers, destroys the rocket and eschews a 'misguided way of life.' Promising to show his sons a Martian, he takes them to one of the canals where they gaze on their own reflections. They are the new Martians.

I was born a year after Chronicles was first published. The Cold War was clearly a dominant feature of those years. We took the Cuban missle crisis seriously. A trip to the county fair would often include visiting a display on how to build a home fallout shelter. Dad would always interrupt our morbid curiosity about such things and sweep us along to the livestock and the tractors. Still the point was well taken that the world was a dangerous place. When the missle ships turned away from Cuba, our entire class cheered.

Chronicles resonated with the world where I lived and provided a unique mirror in which it could be observed.

Image taken by Curiosity of the Martian Landscape. NASA/JPL Image.


The First Thing We See is Imago Dei

A Celebration of the Beautiful Variety of Humankind

There is that innocent moment when children simply see children. Source: Unknown

The musical: South Pacific takes place in the madness of a world at war. It is a time when thousands are dying and a time of cold-blooded genocide. Sadly, we have not been able to see a time when cold-blooded killing has been ended. In the musical, Lieutenant Cable sings this song:

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!

Sikh Children. Photo: The Beckett Fund

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Creative Mandate of Bezalel and Oholiab

Exodus 35 and 36, Skill, Ability and Knowledge
This is the Second in a Series [click to read]

Xaver Wilhelmy's Design for a memorial at the World Trade Center site in New York. The memorial features a 3000 pipe organ to give a voice to everyone who's voice was lost on that terrible day. Rendering by Bob Kirchman

Xaver Wilhelmy's design for a pipe organ enclosure for St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Davis West Virginia. Model by Bob Kirchman and Laney Riley.

Bezalel and Oholiab

"Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills —  to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them skilled workers and designers.

So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.”

Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary." -- Exodus 35:30 - 36:3

In Genesis, G-d invited mankind into the studio to name His creation. Mankind was also given the mandate to 'replenish' creation. When G-d chose to work through a specific people as part of his purpose, he again invited those He had created into His work. Bezalel and Oholiab are specifically mentioned by name. Bezalel, it says, is filled with the "Spirit of G-d, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills." Clearly G-d is the giver of artistic gifts. Bezalel and Oholiab both are given the ability to teach by G-d. In the Tabernacle, G-d has these artisans construct the space that He will occupy!

The cubic Sanctuary, the Ark, the tools, fabrics and furnishings were all inspired designs executed by inspired artisans. The Presence of G-d would transform Israel, but Israel participated in building the place for the Presence! Later this same scheme would be repeated in stone and cedarwood for the Temple of Solomon. That form would be repeated in the rebuilt Temple of Zerubbabel's day. The Prophet Haggai again called the people to the work of G-d. Haggai ends his writings looking to a time when G-d will establish His throne in Heaven and on Earth.

In Isaiah 60 and Revelation 21, 22 we see the reign of G-d established and a New Heaven and New Earth. The form of Jerusalem described in Revelation is a cube large enough to encompass all of mankind! Here is restoration of fellowship with G-d and a return to that close fellowship seen in Genesis before the fall. Today the artist who has faith is uniquely equipped -- and called to the building of the Kingdom of Heaven! We possess a mandate to replenish the Earth, to use our gifts in the building of that which G-d is bringing about.

Consider the mission of The Culture House in Kansas City, Missouri. Janie B. Cheaney of World Magazine describes it like this: "an arts organization... that brings a Christian ethos of excellence for the sake of others and cultural leadership for its students." Founded by Jeremiah Enna, the Culture House offers programs in visual arts, dance and theatre... all from a perspective of submitting these gifts to G-d's purpose. In a recent production: Underground, the theatre group tackled the issue of slavery.

The popular narritive often approaches this narritive from the perspective that "America is evil." Underground's prooducers said instead: "we wanted to show America overcoming evil." Stressing the role of the Church in abolishing slavery, their narrative became: "G-d is the Hero!" In the Centuries past, faith was the inspiration for building great cathedrals and transformative movements in culture. Alvin Schmidt documents much of this in his book: Under the Influence. It is no stretch to conclude that much of our present tolerance for diversity springs from the influence of faith.

In the writings of Moses there are specific protections given to aliens living among the Israelites. In Genesis 12:3 G-d says to Abraham: "...all peoples on Earth will be blessed through you," giving a unique insight into the Divine Heart. The line of David includes Rahab (the woman of Jerico who hid the spies) and Ruth the Moabite. Moses himself had a Cushite wife (she was black). In Isaiah 60 we hear G-d's Heart speak:

"Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn." -- Isaiah 60:1-3

"Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you. Though in anger I struck you, in favor I will show you compassion. Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that people may bring you the wealth of the nations -- their kings led in triumphal procession. For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined. The glory of Lebanon will come to you, the juniper, the fir and the cypress together, to adorn my sanctuary; and I will glorify the place for my feet. The children of your oppressors will come bowing before you; all who despise you will bow down at your feet and will call you the City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel." -- Isaiah 60:10-14

Looking forward to G-d's transformative work, the artist of faith has a unique place and unique giftings to speak into his or her world.

Mr. Wilhelmy worked out the placement of wind chests and pipes using the model built by the Kirchman Studio.

Xaver Wilhelmy's design for functional stained glass organ pipes embedded in a window. Rendering by Xaver Wilhelmy and Bob Kirchman

Thursday, August 2, 2012

THYME Magazine

Citizen Journalism with a Better Flavor

Volume IV, Issue XXXII

Playing 'Chicken' With the 1st Amendment

The 'other' weekly news magazine this week features "Buying the White House." Of course, they are concerned about big Republican money, overlooking of Soros money as they lament the demise, as they see it, of the 'small' donor ($5 - $10).

But the small donor is alive and well. They are the individuals who contribute to groups like Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity. They are the ones who show up for Tea Party events and are making their mark in politics, most recently in the Texas primary! They are the ones TIME is casting as irrelivant! They ARE the First Amendment today! They showed up yesterday!

Yesterday's events surrounding Chick-fil-A nationwide were not about Homosexual rights or chicken sandiches so much as about basic Human Rights as expressed in the First Amendment: Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech; and they were about the G-d given duty to be true to one's core convictions.

The crowd at Chick-fil-A in Waynesboro, Virginia.

Core Convictions and the Cost of Conviction

Every Olympic year I dust off that old classic: Chariots of Fire and watch Ian Charleson's beautiful portrayal of 1924 Olympian Eric Liddell. Liddell was the Scottish runner who's convictions about keeping the Sabbath led him to not participate in his best sprint event. He won gold in the 400 meter race and died in occupied China doing missionary work. I mourned when Charleson, who was gay, died of AIDS.

Samuel Truett Cathy is also a man of convictions. A member of the Jonesboro Baptist Church, he has taught Sunday School there fo fifty years. He, like Liddell, has strong convictions concerning the Sabbath. Beginning with his Dwarf Grill, founded in 1946, Cathy began the practice of closing his business on Sundays. At Dwarf Grill, Cathy created a chicken breast sandwich as an alternative to the ubiquitous hamburger. His Sons Dan and Bubba helped out in the grill and Dan eventually became CEO of the Chick-fil-A corporation that grew out of that first venture. Chick-fil-A still closes on Sundays.

Banned in Boston

In an interview with a Baptist news publication, Dan Cathy affirmed the company's support for families and Biblical values. Homosexual activists took Mr.Cathy's comments and created a firestorm, calling for a boycott of the chain. The Mayor of Boston issued a statement that he would bar the chain from opening stores in his city. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also said he would ban the chain.

But Michael Sherer, who writes for the 'other' weekly news magazine reports: "No evidence has been presented to suggest that Chick-fil-A discriminates against gay or lesbian customers or employees. There is nothing to suggest that the company has broken the law in any way. In his comments to the Baptist Press, Cathy did not even mention same-sex marriage. He simply said that he and his company supported traditional marriage. The only issues at play are the personal view of the owner of the restaurant chain and the philanthropic efforts of the private company."

The discussion was no longer about legitimate issues such as legal protection for non-traditional families; it became an effort to destroy a good business. Efforts to hurt Chick-fil-A ignored the chain's actual practice of treating all people with dignity and respect...a courtesy not returned by critics like Roseanne Barr, who directed a string of expletives toward the chain. Former Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee called for a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day on August First. There was an outpouring of popular support for the business. The crowds were friendly and celebrating American liberty.

But we've been dragged here before. Consider the case of the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association, a Methodist organization who own a pavilion in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. Following the Biblical beliefs they hold, they did not allow a same-sex ceremony to be performed in their pavilion. In 2007 they were stripped of their tax-exempt status by Neptune Township for that. In Massachussetts and Illinois, Catholic Adoption Agencies were forced by legislation to either close or offer services to same-sex couples, against their beliefs. They chose to close.

Closing Catholic Charities

The elimination of Religious institutions that provide an important service is tragic, particularly when same-sex couples have other alternatives available. History shows us that these institutions often stepped up to provide services when government couldn't. Consider the flood of immigrants in the Nineteenth Century. Catholic Charities were there first, providing assistance and schools.

A number of Liberal-leaning journalists and the ACLU have come to the defense of Chick-fil-A. Apparently they are well aware of the fundamental liberties at risk in this. Perhaps it is time to put aside all politics of destruction and have an honest discussion about real issues. Same-sex couples DO have legitimate concerns about legal recognition when it comes to hospital visitation, shared property and medical directives. While they should not be able to rashly legislate their views over those with Religious convictions, society must always treat all with the dignity conferred by Imago Dei.

Cars waiting to enter Chick-fil-A in Waynesboro, Virginia.