Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas! Not much more to say as long as you remember that this holiday is not about consumerism, the economy, or anything secular. It is about the birth of the baby Jesus and the spirit of giving that was so much a part of his ministry here on earth. So yes, give and take joy in it. And take joy in receiving. Just remember that Christ is at the center of this holiday. It is his birth that we are celebrating.

For now good night.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Orange Bowl

So this is it. Iowa faces Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl on January 4. I confess to knowing zero about GT, but from what little I've found on the internet they seem to regard defense as "optional". That's good news for the Hawkeyes with their sometimes sputtering offense but reliably stout defense. I'm sure I'll be reading a lot more about this in the coming weeks, but if that formula holds it means a win and a top ten national ranking in January. Go Hawks! For now good night.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


The Hawks are 10-2 after a heartbreaking loss against Northwestern when quarterback Ricky Stanzi, the undisputed team leader, went down with a high ankle sprain. Then came an oh so close and yet so far overtime loss at Ohio State with redshirt freshman quarterback James Vandenberg displaying a strong arm that bodes well for the future. The final game of the regular season was against Minnesota for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy, which is a bronze pig honoring a live one bet between the two governors on the game early in the last century in case you're wondering. With Vandenberg at quarterback again, the Hawks weren't able to produce much offense but won because of one of the gutsiest defensive games I've ever seen them play.

I've said it before, but this isn't the most talented Hawkeye team Kirk Ferentz has coached. The 2002 team was better, but this team never quits. And that equals great coaching which equals a season I'll remember for a very long time. I don't know this for a fact, but I can easily imagine them chanting "Refuse to lose!" in their pregame huddle.

So now we wait for the bowl selection show on Sunday, December 6. What will it be? The Fiesta Bowl? The Orange Bowl? Or the Capital One Bowl? Both the Fiesta and Orange are BCS bowls; and if Iowa isn't invited to one of them, I guarantee there will be Hawk fans yelling "We was robbed!" all over Iowa. I'll join in, but our rival in this politicized process is Penn State. They have a much larger fan base and thus potentially a larger TV audience. On the other hand, the last time Iowa played in the Orange Bowl, they were allotted 30,000 tickets. 40,000 fans showed up. So enough of the politics. Despite the so called rankings, it's really all politics. Let's adopt some sort of college football playoff system as do all other college football divisions, not to mention NCAA basketball.

Enough of the rant. I hope for a Fiesta or Orange Bowl bid. I'm kicking myself for not asking those nights off from work. If one of those games happens, I'll just have to tape it and watch when I get home. We'll see where the Hawks go on Sunday.

For now, good night.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

9 and oh man did my heart just stop?

Oh man, I just don't know what to say about this Iowa football team. What can I say after four third quarter interceptions almost had me convinced that the streak was going to end? But then to come back in the fourth quarter to win by 18 points? Fittingly, the 1979-1980 Iowa basketball team that went to the final four was honored before today's game. That team went through ups and downs but made it to the final four.

I see great things ahead for the Hawks. Whether that's the national championship game on Jan 7 (doubtful), the Rose Bowl on Jan 1 (fingers crossed), or a prestigious Jan 1 bowl game (no doubt); I just wish they'd give me a game that didn't sink me to the lowest of the lows only to bring me back to the highest of the highs. My heart can't take it.

For now good night.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Go Hawks!

If you're not a sports fan, feel free to ignore this post; but ...

The Iowa Hawkeyes football team is now 3 and 0, and they've been improving every week. The victory yesterday over the University of Arizona was impressive, especially on defense, although the first offensive drive of the game for a touchdown was also a good sign. In addition, running back by committee seems to be working out with two separate 100 yard rushers in the last two games.

Next week comes Penn State, a ranked team, at Penn State, in an extremely hostile environment. I'm hoping for a win, but that will require continued improvement on offense especially from quarterback Rick Stanzi. Not only that, it will require a continuation and even a stepping up of "the six seconds of hell" that defensive coordinator Norm Parker exhorted his players to inflict on Arizona yesterday.

That's a tall order. While I'm hoping for an upset, I won't be terribly dismayed at a loss as long as the Hawks play hard and never give up. Knowing how Kirk Ferentz coaches, I expect nothing less. Go Hawks!

For now good night.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Epic Cedar Rapids flood of 2008 revisited

It's now been over a year since the epic flood of 2008 devastated Cedar Rapids, and I have decidedly mixed emotions. On the one hand downtown businesses are slowly coming back. The flood victims I know personally are either back in their homes or have found other permanent housing. The word is that 50% of homes have been at least partly rehabilitated, and my church has played a small part in that. All of that offers reason for hope.

On the other hand all you have to do is drive through a neighborhood near the Cedar River to see that my city has a long way to go. Alongside businesses that have come back and homes that have been restored, there are houses and businesses that have been abandoned. I have to wonder if they are ever coming back. Every day I say a prayer for those who have been affected by the flood. They probably number in the hundreds if not thousands.

Then there are the public buildings including the historic Paramount Theater with its massive pipe organ and my beloved downtown public library which still doesn't have a permanent home. While the Paramount will be rebuilt in place, the library will be built on a new site. As I predicted, the new site is a contentious subject. All are either in downtown or very near it. As long as it's within bicycle riding distance for the kids who I hope you will use it most, I don't really care. As much as I love the library as an adult, I vividly remember loving it even more as a kid.

And in the end, I've been trying to reread "Epic Surge", a book of photos with text, that was published by the Cedar Rapids Gazette in late 2008 or early 2009. When it first came out the memories were still fresh, and I breezed through it. The photos were impactful but they weren't that far removed from the present. Now a year later they have become painful. Two guys watching helplessly as the flood rushes down their street. Downtown under water. The library flooded up to the roof. It's just hard. I only wish that I had ordered 6 or 7 of these books from the Gazette so that I could send them to family and friends. We are still struggling and need your support.

For now, good night.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What I'm reading

Just finished reading "Dreams from my Father" by Barack Obama. Whatever you think of our President, I highly recommend this book. I think the combination of his community organizing on the south side of Chicago and his subsequent trip to Kenya to connect with long lost family have shaped him in ways that perhaps only his wife knows in full.

Whether you agree or disagree with his policies, this book provides some insight into what makes him tick. So read it. Now. 8-)

For now, good night.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson's death is a very sad thing. There is no doubt that he was a very talented singer, dancer, and overall entertainer. But now that the memorial service is over can we please be relieved of the wall to wall coverage? Listen up. He was not a cultural icon. John Lennon was a cultural icon. John and Bobby Kennedy were cultural icons. Martin Luther King was a cultural icon as was Abraham Lincoln. They changed or at least attempted to change our culture in ways that were meant to move our society forward.

Michael Jackson, on the other hand, was a celebrity icon or perhaps I should say an icon of celebrity. He stopped making music and became famous simply for being famous, thus opening the road for the likes of Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton and their ilk. What a step down that is for us. I know people who never read a newspaper and don't have a clue about what's going on in the world, but they devour the celebrity magazines and avidly watch the E channel on cable. How very sad that is.

For now, good night.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More about Iran

Sigh, despite word that another street protest took place today, the news from Iran has become opaque. The theocracy seems to have succeeded in suppressing the revolt, at least for now. The question is, what is happening behind the scenes within the theocracy? That's where things become opaque. Is there a power struggle within the theocracy between reactionary and somewhat more liberal mullahs as some events seem to indicate? If so, how will that play out?

Iran is only slightly less isolated than North Korea, and as a result no one really knows. The one thing that seems clear is that the horse is out of the barn, and it's too late to close the door. Whatever the outcome, I believe that the theocracy will have to find a way to deal with the reformers. The theocracy has the absolute power granted them by the Iranian constitution. The reformers have the power of the protesters who came out by the hundreds of thousands and are still there, despite the suppression. And so the question again becomes, how will this play out?

Will the theocracy manage to co-opt the reformers? Will the reformers gain enough support within the theocracy to force a new election and perhaps even oust Ayatollah Khameini? There are way more questions than answers. That is he nature of opacity.

For now, good night.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday: Updates on Iran’s Disputed Election - The Lede Blog -

The drama in Iran continues. I highly recommend the Lede Blog from the New york Times for keeping up with events. Although it is from the Times, it offers a wide variety of posts from mainstream media as well as blog and Twitter posts from Iranians both inside and outside Iran. A great resource for continuing news from Iran.
Friday: Updates on Iran’s Disputed Election - The Lede Blog -

Now for my take on things. In Friday prayers Ayatollah Khameini explicitly proclaimed Ahmadineajad the winner of the presidential election. In this he is taking a calculated risk. Can he intimidate the reformists into stopping their protests through threats of arrest and violence? Can the protesters continue their peaceful marches in the numbers and for the time necessary to overcome those threats? I liked a quote from Mahatma Ghandi that an Iranian posted recently.

"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they fight you. Then you win."

I am even now offering up a prayer that the above quote will turn out to be as true for Iran as it did for the people of India near the end of Ghandi's life.

For now, good night.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Some random thoughts, with a point

A cynic says, expect the worst. That way you're never disappointed. Okay, but you'll never be truly happy either.

An optimist says, expect the best. It's bound to happen if only you work for it. While more to my liking, this philosophy sets you up for disappointment.

This is not, however, an either/or proposition. Somewhere in the middle lies what I call pragmatic optimism. I say, work for the best but be prepared for the worst. That way you're never disappointed and are often pleasantly surprised.

If you don't like questions though, pragmatic optimism may not be for you. In that light, consider the presidential "election" in Iran. The optimist in me says that young people taking to the streets to protest this fraud of an election might be able to affect real change. My pessimistic self says that the theocracy, i.e. Ayatollah Khameini and the other conservative mullahs, who have a firm grip on power in Iran, will never give up that power.

Sadly, this all puts me in mind of Tianamen Square in China. While China's Communist party is not a theocracy, I believe that Iran has learned a lesson from China. If Iran can give its people a measure of economic freedom it can get away with brutal suppression of democratic rights.

Now for my pragmatic side. If they are to succeed, pro democracy forces must wage a long struggle. Ironically, they may have to wage a Palestinian like Intafada. Our penchant for instant gratification will not be satisfied. If the movement is not suppressed it will take years.

Which brings me to my questions. Unlike China, Iran is not a nuclear power, yet. They obviously want to be a regional power like Saudi Arabia and Israel and I would say the dominant regional power. The odds of Israel putting up with that? I would say none.

The more hopeful if sad question is whether the pro democracy movement in Iran can maintain their momentum. That is the biggest question of all.

For now good night.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

My home town newspaper

Like newspapers all across the country, my home town newspaper, the Cedar Rapids Gazette, has been restructuring in the effort to survive in this economy as well as in the digital age. People have been laid off. Much content has been moved to the web. The actual paper itself has become more compact both in size and content. I was a bit apprehensive about all this as the changes rolled out, but I have to say that in some ways the Gazette has become a better paper. While coverage of national and international news is worse, local and regional stories have become more in depth. That is a good thing. The Gazette is fundamentally a local and regional newspaper with a readership around 200,000, and I think grabbing readers with stories that affect them is a good strategy.

Now the question becomes whether that strategy will work. I surely hope so. There is nothing like waking up in the morning, putting the coffee on, scanning the headlines while the coffee brews, and then settling in to read the paper from front to back with a fresh brewed cup of coffee at hand. That, folks is my morning ritual. If I had to sit down in front of the computer to get my morning news fix it just wouldn't be the same.

For now good night.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Memorial Day

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. Originally known as Remembrance Day it started as a way to honor veterans of the Civil War, both north and south. In cities, towns, and villages across the nation there were parades and solemn processions to decorate the graves of veterans of not only the Civil War but also the Mexican American War and the Revolutionary War. It became a tradition that was observed on May 30th of every year. It wasn't until after WWII that Congress created it as a three day weekend on the fourth Monday in May, and it became the unofficial beginning of summer. It morphed into an occasion for back yard barbecues, camping trips, and family get togethers. No problem with that here. Fun and family are both important.

But folks, it's time to put "memory" back into Memorial Day. Tomorrow May 25 at 3:00 PM is the national moment of silence in remembrance of all our veterans who gave their lives or were injured in the service of their country. I ask you to observe that moment of silence and perhaps offer up a silent prayer for those who made this three day weekend possible as well as the deeper blessings of liberty that we all enjoy. I would include those who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan right now. To paraphrase Colin Powell, they are our next Greatest Generation.

For now good night.

Friday, May 15, 2009

I am a Christiam

I am a Christian. There, I've said something somewhat politically incorrect in polite society. I can talk about going to church on Sunday and try to behave as my faith tells me I should. But to say it out loud causes most folks to either look away or change the subject. I venture to say that's because the fundamentalist branch of Christianity has hijacked the discussion. Sorry folks, the Bible is not the literal word of God. For the most part it is allegory and parable.

So if the Bible is mostly allegory and parable you have every right to ask how I can believe in Christ's resurrection? My response is that of the original 12 disciples ten are believed to have died as martyrs. Many people, including our current vets in Iraq and Afghanistan, are willing to die for a truth they believe in. How many people do you know who would be willing to die for a lie?

The foundation of the Christian faith is the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I admit to having a problem with that. Being very much inner directed I'm comfortable with the Holy Spirit, but the Father and the Son have always seemed somewhat distant. That's why I'm recommending the book The Shack by Wm Paul Young. The book is fiction, but it brought me closer to the realization that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one, now and forever. So here's the link at

Not all Christians, including me, have our beliefs written in stone. I am a seeker. My faith is strong, but that does not mean that you may not challenge my faith. I welcome it.

For now, good night.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jury duty

Last month I got that dreaded summons for jury duty. Doubly dreaded for me because as long time readers of this blog know, I am not a morning person. I had to get up at 6:00 AM just to get to there on time. I guzzled one cup of good coffee at home and another cup of bad coffee at the court house in an effort to be at least half awake when my name was called. In short, I was a bit cranky. Then, since caffeine is a proven diuretic, I had to "hold it" until we were given a break. 8:(

Having said all that; I wasn't chosen, and I rather wish I had been. It wasn't a criminal case in which I would have been asked to decide whether someone should be imprisoned. My faith tells me to minister to the imprisoned, not to judge whether someone should be imprisoned. Rather it was a lawsuit involving a high speed car accident. No one died, and I would have been comfortable rendering a judgment in that case as best as I was able in an objective way. I know that jurors are selected randomly for a jury pool, but I wonder what happens after that. Do the lawyers have the right to screen potential jurors? If so, was I excluded because I work in health care and may have known some of the docs involved in the case? The next time that dreaded summons comes, I'll have to ask that question during orientation. I'm actually kind of looking forward to the opportunity. For now, good night.

Saturday, January 31, 2009


When I was in my twenties, thirties, and even forties my brothers and I used to joke that watching the Weather Channel was the perfect soporific. Now that I'm in my fifties, hopefully a little wiser especially after the flood last summer, I finally understand the reason the Weather Channel is so successful. Weather has an effect on all our lives. It can even change history ... see the Battle of the Bulge during WWII or Hurricane Katrina or our own flood in more recent times.

I don't watch continuously, but when local forecasters predict a major storm coming our way I do tune in to track its progress.

A seemingly trivial post but I think it says more about me maturing into late middle age, and the limited wisdom that goes with it, than anything else.

For now, good night.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

A toast: Happy New Year! May it be one hell of a lot better than the last one.

If you've been following along you have an idea of what I mean. If not: the high turnover rate on my unit at the hospital and the Flood of 2008 are among the reasons I say that.

It hasn't been all bad. In 2008 I was blessed with growing a bit closer to my family. We are separated by distance and busy lives. Keeping in touch is hard. I was also blessed with good friends, as always. Then there is my church family, and the fact that I am fairly secure in my job during these difficult times.

There's more, but still; 2008 was a tough year to say the least. I hope and pray that 2009 will be a year to remember for the good stuff that happens.

Wishing you all the best and a most Happy New Year, for now good night.

About Me

I work in health care, love books, love music, enjoy the internet, my friends, and my routine. 8-)