Thursday, December 31, 2009

December 31

I know--it's the last post of 2009 and it should probably be something meaningful. Maybe a little look back at the year or a hopeful look to the future. But what I'm thinking right now is that in just about 7 weeks pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Spring Training Camp and the Great American Pastime will once again be underway.

Here is a little winter warm-up to whet your appetite. Grab a bag of peanuts or box of Cracker Jacks, your favorite cold beverage and maybe grill a hot dog. Then sit back and enjoy...

Happy New Year!
John <><

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Did You Know...

...that in the mid 1500's, French politician, Jean Nicot served as an ambassador to Portugal? It was there that he was introduced to a plant heralded for its medicinal value. Nicot sent this plant (a member of the nightshade family) to France where it was declared to be the Queen's herb. Jean Nicot was duly rewarded for his find by being appointed as Lord of Villemain. He also gave his name to the plant genus, Nicotiana tabacum, which we know simply as tobacco.

Along with the nicotine found in tobacco, other nightshade plants have toxic chemicals or hallucinogenic properties.. The Nightshade family of plants include henbane, mandrake, and jimson weed. Also in the nightshade family are tomatoes, red and green bell peppers, chili peppers and eggplant.

Now you know.

John <><

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Best of 2009

One of the other blogs that I frequent recently ran a "Best of 2009" by picking one favorite post from each month. I was re-reading some of my old posts and thought that I would do the same. Although these are reruns, some of you haven't been reading for that long so they may be new to you. I hope that they will bring a smile to your face, encouragement to your heart and give you something to ponder.

I do want to thank you for dropping by from time to time and reading my thoughts and occasional rants. I appreciate your comments--both here at Out of My Hat and on my Facebook notes. I hope that December of 2010 finds all of us in a happier, healthier place. I have no doubts that the coming year will be filled with both challenges and blessings. I wish you well and encourage you through the tough times and heartaches and hope that your blessings will be many.

All the best,

John <><

January--Monday Morning Observations
February--Ten Honest Things About John
March--Another Favorite Bible Story
April--Day of Silence, Day of Truth
May--It's Not About the $$Money$$
June--A Better Sermon
July--Jesus Camp Revisited
August--Pinch-hit Homerun
September--We're Number 37!
October--Random Thoughts
November--Price vs. Value
December--From a Heathen and a Pagan

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Old News--at least to Air Traffic Controllers

This story ran last week. There was video on ABC (video link in the story). Maybe you saw it. Maybe you were outraged by the wasteful spending. It came as no surprise to those of us that are Air Traffic Controllers. It was pretty much "business as usual" in the FAA. It really didn't take long for the culture to swing from working together for aviation safety (during the Clinton Administration) to the FAA dictatorship of the Bush Administration. It appears as if the FAA Management culture will take a little more time to swing back towards working together for the good of aviation during the current Administration. We do have a labor contract--at the order of the President. But getting to do what you want without accountability is a difficult thing to give up and I have a feeling it is going to be a long time before controllers place any trust in those that manage the agency.

Overall, I'd have to say that we have a pretty good management team at Springfield, MO. That's not to say that they don't have their moments of cranial rectosis, but they are usually decent enough to deal with. It was interesting that they immediately tagged NATCA (the controller's union) as the whistle blower that informed ABC News of the story. It may have been somebody from NATCA, but with an employee satisfaction ranking of 214 out of 216 government agencies there are a lot of potential whistle blowers in FAA land. NATCA members only make up about a tenth of FAA employees. There is also the nagging thing about the general public being fed up with government waste. The information could have come from a hotel employee or from a non-union member controller.

The good news is that there is hope for the future. In spite of the poor planning to properly staff air traffic facilities in the FAA, they are now being more creative in training new controllers. If you look at the graph at the end of the article, you'll see that the road ahead is a long one. I hope that our new Administrator will look to the controllers for help in shaping the system and continuing to keep the US skies the safest in the world.

I don't want to make too much of the ABC story. Like the one manager said, "What are you gonna do?" It's what we deal with on a daily basis. I can tell you this--for the most part (hey, every occupation has its weak links), the men and women that I know in the business of ATC are the very best. They work their butts off to make sure that you get to where you are going in a safe, orderly and expeditious manner.

So keep flying. The guys in the ABC story aren't the ones working the airplanes!


Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

It's just a little bit past the hour of midnight on Christmas morning. There is a mixture of freezing rain and snow falling on the Ozarks of Southwest Missouri and all will wake up to a white Christmas. Santa is making his rounds and will be returning to the North Pole for another year.
In a few hours, kids will be waking up, presents will be exchanged, families will celebrate the holiday in many ways and with many traditions. I hope that your family tradition includes remembering the birth of our Savior, Jesus.

This is one of my favorite newer Christmas songs. I hope that you enjoy it, too.

Merry Christmas

John <><

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

From a Heathen and a Pagan

A recent post on another blog labeled me as an idolater. It was said that that I am an anti-Christian, a part of the Christian counter culture and that I have a devil's worldview. Even the Christianity of those that examined me as a Deacon candidate was called into question.

I said that so that you would know why this is a fitting song to wish you a Merry Christmas. I happen to be a Jackson Browne fan and had the opportunity (many years ago) to see him in concert. It sounds as if he's also worn the labels of anti-Christian, idolater, heathen and pagan.

Merry Christmas from a "heathen and a pagan on the side of the rebel Jesus."

John <><

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Just in Time for Christmas!

Okay, I know that yesterday's post and this one aren't really considered "writing" a blog but more like just making a post. Nevertheless, it is what it is and a timely discovery for the Christmas season.

Read the article here.

John <><

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Morning Musings

It's a cold and blustery day in the Ozarks. I'm reading a few blogs and enjoying my second cup of coffee after a much needed 6+ hours of sleep.

Weather forecasts give us a chance for some snow today but since they also have a fairly wide margin for error...well, I seriously doubt it. Wouldn't you just love to have a job that you could manage to be right so little and still have a justifiable reason for your errors?

I haven't felt much like writing lately. Perhaps I just need to challenge myself to put something out on a daily basis. I'm not quite mentally prepared for that just yet, but I can see that it may be coming to that in the near future. I've started on a couple of different posts in the past week but thought that I may have covered the material in previous rants. Sure enough, a quick search of previous posts showed that I had already made my rants and covered the points so I just scrapped the idea of re-posting.

I seem to be in a bit of a creative funk--not really into reading, definitely not into writing, wanting to work on some new magic but not working on anything new, spending too much time on the computer doing nothing but playing games or watching stupid videos--you get the idea. I think that I've let others bring me down a bit. That is an unusual thing for me. I guess I've let my negative guard down and it's allowed their garbage to creep into my attitude and mood.

I'm going to give myself until Christmas to to come out of it. Then I'll get busy with getting on with living and getting back to the happy, joyous John that you all know and ... well, that you all know (in a virtual sort of way). I'm sure that the coming days will be grand as we inch closer to Christmas Day. They will be busy, to be sure. Just keep things from getting too busy to remember that God loves you so much that He sent His son, Jesus, to provide a way for you to get to heaven.

Christian friends, be kind to everybody that wishes you "Happy Holidays!" and remember that just because you participate in their way of celebrating Christmas (parties, presents, decorations, Santa Claus, etc.), is no reason to expect that they'll participate in your celebration of the birth of the Christ-child.

To my non-Christian readers--I hope that the season finds you well and celebrating with family, friends and loved ones. I hope that there is a realization that there is a God that created you and loves you. He has given you a great Gift. Please don't leave it under the tree unopened again this year.

To all: Merry Christmas!

John <><

Monday, December 14, 2009

Did You Know...

As our elected reprehensitives (thank you Bilbo) debate the grand health care reform bill, we keep hearing about the magic number of 60 to keep one side from filibustering to keep the bill from coming to a vote.

The term filibuster is from the Danish word vrijbuiter and means free (vrij) booty (buit). Free booty is not a party call for college boys to invade the girls dormitories and sorority houses; it's a pirating term used when buccaneers raided the West Indies and Spanish-American coast during the 1600's. The word filtered through the French as filibuster and through Spanish as filibustero. In English, filibuster came to mean somebody waging war (an irregular battle) for personal gain. Today we know it as a way for a senator to ramble about anything at all (an irregular tactic) to delay debate and keep a bill from coming to a vote.

By the way, the words senator and senile share the same Latin root senex, which means "an old man." In the Roman Empire, they had a bit more respect for the elder statesman of the Senate than our current Senators deserve.

So as 2010 gets underway and a third of the Senate and the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election, choose your candidate carefully. The Latin word candidatus originally meant "dressed in white." Politicians seeking office made sure that their togas were immaculate to make the best possible impression. The word now means one seeking office. You may recognize the same root found in candle and incandescent.

...And now you know.

John <><

Friday, December 11, 2009

Just Thinking

Tomorrow is the monthly meeting for our Christian Writer's group. The December meeting is one set aside for members to share some of their seasonal writing. I'm going to go with the writing in a previous post pretty much as it was written here.

But I've been thinking about Christmas...the first Christmas. I've been wondering about the trip that Joseph and Mary made to Bethlehem. The thing that is bothering me is that they tried to find a place to stay in the inn. Wasn't this Joseph's home?

I think that maybe Joseph's family refused to let them stay at home because Mary was pregnant with an illegitimate child. I wonder how difficult life was for Mary and Joseph and their young child. I wonder if Jesus was made fun of as a child because of his questionable parentage. I wonder if Mary had to endure knowing that people talked about her behind her back. I wonder how difficult it was to be known as "that kind of a girl" or how Joseph was treated because of the girl that he married. Did it cost him some business? Did it cost him community status?

There are a couple of references that show how people thought of the family. Mark 6:3 says: "Where did this man get these things?" they asked. "What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! 3Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
The reference here to Mary's son is indicative that it was known that Joseph wasn't the father and that the father was unknown.

John 8:41 says, ..."We are not illegitimate children," they protested. "The only Father we have is God himself."
It's as if the leaders are saying, "We are not the illegitimate ones. You are."

Being obedient to God is not easy. It wasn't easy for Mary. It wasn't easy for Joseph. And it wasn't easy for Jesus. (By the way, don't expect it to be easy for you, either.)

And so Joseph and Mary find themselves unwelcome in Joseph's hometown and without a place to stay. In an act of complete humility, Jesus is born in a stable. God is among us. He dwells as a man among men. He provides the fulfillment of His promise of a Redeemer, and Jesus is born to die as the Ultimate Sacrifice.

How ever you tell the story this Christmas season--tell the story.

Merry Christmas

John <><

Sunday, December 06, 2009

The Importance of a Dad

I am currently reading a book called Apologetics For a New Generation. In the third chapter I ran across some interesting statistics from three different studies. I have known that the influence of a father figure is important to the proper development of our kids, but these studies really suggest that the role of a dad is far greater than I imagined.

The studies were done after the tragic killings at Columbine High School. The first, commissioned by Columbia University, was to see if family structure had any impact on drug and alcohol use and if that played a part in the tendency toward violent behavior. Here are a few of the findings:

* In a single-parent home where the mother is the head of the home, a child is 30 percent more likely to become involved in drugs, alcohol and violence.

* In a two-parent biological home, but where there is a fairly poor relationship with the father, a child is 68 percent likely to become involved in drugs, alcohol and violence.

* In a two-parent biological home where the child has a good to excellent relationship with the father, a child is less than 6 percent likely to become involved in drugs, alcohol or violence.

Family structure and relationships within the family produce the likelihood of certain behaviors.

Another study was commissioned by the FBI to see if there was a profile that could help teachers, administrators and police to identify potential shooters. It's called the Classroom Avenger profile. The study of 17 previous school shooters found that they shared three main characteristics. They were all white, middle class and came from homes where the father was absent, distant or not involved in the parenting process.

The final study that was mentioned was commissioned by Johns Hopkins to identify contributing factors to five diseases or conditions--mental illness, hypertension, malignant tumors, heart disease and suicide. After 30 years of studying 1,377 subjects, they found only one common link among these conditions--a lack of closeness to ones parents, especially the father. Stress is the key. Those that grow up in a loving, nurturing home are better able to deal with stress. The relationships in their families, especially with fathers, equip them to handle the stresses that can cause these debilitating conditions!

I found these things to be interesting and worth sharing.

By the way, I love being a dad (most days).

John <><

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Great Toys!

I saw this while doing a little bit of Christmas shopping. The label says "Hall of Fame Toy Pack." These toys--Crayola Crayons (8 color pack), a Duncan Butterfly Yo-yo, Silly Putty and a Slinky--most definitely belong in the Toy Hall of Fame!

John <><