Can you be a Christ-follower and a Republican at the same time?

A personal role-model, of sorts, of mine is Neil Peart, percussionist and writer of the progressive rock band, Rush. In a recent interview, he said:

“A realization I had lately: it is impossible to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and be a Republican. It’s philosophically absolutely opposed—if they could only think about what they were saying for a minute.” ~ Neil Peart on introverts, learning to improvise, and why people should be nicer to one another, Macleans, Monday, August 13, 2012

I disagree. Being a Christ-follower is how I choose to live my personal life… Being a Republican is how I choose to self-associate with like-minded others as we attempt to influence our government’s laws and policies.

Are there those in the GOP that aren’t as liberty-minded as I am? Of course they are! And if the party ever codifies it’s position papers to, say, make simply being a homosexual or living together illegal or seizing the assets of progressives, then I’m outta there! I’d like to see the party move in a more libertarian direction than it has been known to be, but I’m not going to start publicly castigating fellow party members when they start droning on and one when a candidate isn’t pro-life enough for them.

Ideally, I’d like to be part of the Libertarian Party, but that’s just not feasible at the moment. For one thing, many libertarians I know are incredulous at the dedication (or lack thereof) of other libertarians. It’s not a political party, in the traditional sense: Dedicated to getting candidates elected — it’s an idealogical movement: Where persons may be castigated if they are not ideologically pure enough. It becomes like herding cats — Each person taking individualism to the extreme.

Another reason is that they aren’t (at the moment) a large enough force to be reckoned with. Honestly, at the moment Libertarians (big L) are simply spoilers, ensuring that the party in the “two party system” whose ideas more closely match the Libertarian Party (which is the GOP) has votes siphoned off that would have otherwise gone to them, causing the other party (the Democrats) to win.

Who the Libertarian Party might become to the Republicans what the Republicans were to the Whigs is a topic for another discussion. I suppose what I’m saying is, a case could be made for Christians being in nearly any political party. I’d imagine that there are actually even Democrats who consider themselves to be Christian, although I don’t understand how they’d align themselves with the party. In the end, who am I to judge, either way.

Also, Peart is Canadian! Why would I expect him to understand American politics?! ;P

14 Things About Austin I’ve Learned from Living Here

In March, I will have lived in North Austin for two years. If you’ve ever lived or visited Austin, Texas, then you’ll know what I mean when I tell you it’s decidedly different from other large cities, even within Texas itself.

Here are 12 things I’ve learned while living here:

  1. Austin isn’t as nearly politically liberal or progressive as you’d might think – If I’ve heard that “Austin is the Berkeley of the South” once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. And while the Austin City Council is extremely liberal, and the area around the University of Texas and South of the river tend to be a little… “out there”, the further North you move, the more libertarian and conservative you find people. So far, the most “progressive” lunacy I’ve been forced to endure are the Austin paper and plastic bag ban, and the frequent trolling for money downtown and in Barton Creek by President Obama (and the subsequent traffic jams from shutting down traffic).
  2. Traffic and parking is terrible, nearly anywhere you go – I’m fortunate to live less than 2 miles from where I work, and a little over 5 miles from where I worship. Fortunate because, when I have to travel anywhere else, I’m guaranteed to find heavy traffic and frequent gridlock. I avoid downtown like the plague. If you visit here, either allow a lot of time to get where you’re going and/or avoid the major highways.
  3. There are some serious foodies here! – Particularly BBQ. The Austin-area is home to Franklin BBQ, The Salt Lick, County Line, Pok-e-Jo’s, Bill Miller and Rudy’s. As well, the nearby town of Lockhart is known as the “BBQ Capital of Texas”, with four BBQ pit restaurants, each with their own fierce proponents: Black’s, Chisholm Trail, Kreuz Market (pronounced ‘Krites’), and Smittys Market. And that’s just BBQ! Austin has lots of excellent restaurants (and food trucks) that prepare every conceivable type of food imaginable. Other notable restaurants/local chains include Chuy’s, Freebirds, Frank (Not Frank’s… Frank!), Kerbey Road Cafe, just to name a few.
  4. This is a fantastic place for small business and entrepreneurs, particularly tech – I think it may have started when Michael Dell began making computer systems out of room 2713 of the Dobie Center residential building when he was a student at the University of Texas.
  5. Austinites pride themselves on being different – The catch phrase de rigueur in Austin has been “Keep Austin Weird” for years, and although every passing day it becomes more and more like other large cities like Dallas, San Antonio and Houston, most residents still like to think and behave in, let’s just say, novel ways.
  6. Californians are moving here in droves, and that is not necessarily a good thing – Austin is expected to double in size in the next decade, and although people are moving to Texas from every other state in the union, Californians fleeing the overly taxed, overly regulated, imploding economy that is California (and that their politics brought about) prefer Austin because it is to Texas what Berkeley is to California. So, Californians bring three things to Texas: Traffic, increased housing prices and liberal politics.
  7. It’s pronounced “Man-chack” – There is a small town Southwest of Austin named Manchaca, and there is a road leading there named, appropriately, Manchaca Road. One would naturally be inclined to pronounce it “Man-chock-a”, but they’d be wrong. It’s pronounced “Man-chack”. Say it the wrong way and you’ll quickly be revealed as a newcomer.
  8. Lots of celebrities call Austin home – Or at least one of their homes.Nicolas Cage, Billy Bob Thornton, Willie Nelson, Sandra Bullock, Ryan Gosling, Robert Plant, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Matthew McConaughey, Lance Armstrong, Dan Rather, Mike Judge, Kyle Chandler, and Connie Britton are just some of the celebrities that call Austin home. And if you ever see one say, in Whole Foods or somewhere, do not make a big deal out of it!
  9. There are 1.5+ million bats here – I haven’t seen them at dusk, when they wake up and go hunting for flies, mosquitoes and other insects, but I know they live underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge and elsewhere. Each night, they devour 10,000 to 20,000 pounds of insects, making it safe to go outside nearly anytime and not be eaten up by those pesky mosquitoes. Austin is home to the largest urban bat colony in North America and one of the most unusual tourist attractions in the world.
  10. There are fans of the University of Texas Longhorns everywhere – Everywhere you’ll see burnt orange cloths and the longhorn symbol. Whatever you do, do not go to Plucker’s or any sport bar when there’s a UT football game on unless you’re joining the masses to cheer the team on.
  11. Everything is on an incline – Well, almost everything, but being near the edge of the Texas Hill Country, there are a lot of hills and valleys nearly everywhere you go.
  12. Everywhere you’ll look you’ll see stone and concrete walls surrounding fields of grass - Those are called “retention ponds” and they’re there to catch runoff rain water to prevent flooding. They could’ve built a sewer system, but noooo! I think it’s something to do with the soil, preventing them from building lower-level parking garages and such.
  13. Get ready to deal with panhandlers - They’re everywhere! Many of them, when you give them anything other than cash (a sandwich, socks, etc.) will scowl at you, proving that they feel they’re feeling entitled to your continuing to subsidize their addiction to alcohol and drugs. Never… nevernever give panhandlers money!
  14. Everyone eats breakfast tacos - What I would call a breakfast burrito, Austinites call breakfast tacos, and you can find them everywhere.

Austin is different from any other place I’ve ever lived, and it has a distinctive character that I really love. These are really just a few of the ones I’ve been able to identify and articulate.

Hi, I’m Charles, and I’m Fat

I’m fat. I’m not “heavy”, I’m not “big-boned”, I’m not “chunky”… I’m fat. I’m morbidly obese. I’m 6′-0″ and this morning I weighed 316.6 pounds. That equates to about 40% Body Mass Index.

No one in their right mind whats to be fat. Believe it or not, until I was in my mid-twenties, I was skinny. Rail-thin skinny! When I was a kid, my family used to call me the “human garbage disposal” because I’d polish off the leftovers. I frequently would eat entire, large pizzas in a single sitting. I drank soft drinks, ate candy, ate constantly, and never gained a pound, even if I want to!

Of course, I was a basketball player and sprinter, too, so that may have had something to do with it. I didn’t mind sports, but I hated “exercise”, and I still do.

Then, by the time I was about 25, I’d been in the restaurant business for about four years, first as a waiter, then head waiter, then manager. I was around food constantly, and as my “rank” grew, I walked around the restaurants less, but had access to comped meals when I worked. Plus, my metabolism was changing.

From about 25 to 27, I’d grown tired of management, (and who I’d be required to work under), so I went back to waiting tables. For about two years, I was a server at Chelsea Square, Ltd. (Now Blind Tiger, under different management.) Even though I was back to walking miles a week waiting tables, I was beginning to form a spare tire around my middle. I remember one fellow waiter, (I think his name was Harley?) telling me I had a good build, if I’d only start exercising more.

Like I said before, I hate exercise.

“Hate” isn’t really the right word. Better words might be detest… loathe… despise… abhor… find repugnant… have animus towards…

You get the idea. When I exercised then, I’d feel like someone had stolen all of my breath and I had no way to get it back. My sides would feel like someone had taken a hot poker and seared them.

Today, it’s all those things, plus now, you can add this strange pain on both sides where the thighs attach to the pelvis. Oh, and back aches.

So, anyway, at 27 years old, I join the Navy. Fair enough. For two months in December and January of 1987 and 1988, I marched around Recruit Training Command in San Diego, learning to fold clothes, do push-ups and sit-ups, and the occasional marching party. (Don’t ask.)

So, here’s the deal: I have never… nevar! been able to touch my toes. Even when I was skinny. And even though I was losing a lot of weight in boot camp (having maybe 2 minutes to eat each meal works wonders!), I still struggled with exercise. Only now, in addition to the pain, I had two Company Commanders screaming at me.

For our “Liberty Run”, or the run we had to do as a company to graduate, we had to run 1.5 miles in under 11 minutes. We were supposed to run it at a steady pace as a company (about 80 men, in formation), but halfway through, my sides began to burn and I dropped out of formation, caught my breath, then continued running. I finished the race with my Company Commander, then-ENC (SW) L.J. “Andy” Stahl, one of the gruffest, meanest, funniest old goat you’ll ever run across, chased me, waving his Commander’s sword, yelling, “Stricklin! You’d better run!”

While I served (I was discharged in 1993) I never got fat, but I was never fit or skinny ever again. In my “A” school at Combat Systems Technical School Command at Mare Island Naval Station in Vallejo, California, we were required to run from just outside our barracks to the Southern tip of “Nightmare Island” and back, I think it was once a week, I’m not certain. I don’t remember the time limit, but it was lenient enough for many of us to mostly walk the route, interrupted with the occasional jogging. There were even some a-holes who’d be among the first to finish, and they’d smoke a cigarette while they were running!

Then, once I got to the fleet, I just remember an annual physical, which because of my age was 1 mile in under 10 minutes, I think, enough for me to practically walk the entire distance, and I was in the same bracket as the Chiefs, I’d jog along with them.

But, when I got out in 1993, there were no annual PTs, no weigh-ins, no nothing. I was free to eat what I wanted, when I wanted, as much as I wanted, and exercise as little as I cared to.

Have I mentioned how much I hate to exercise?

Fast forward to today, when, depending on what day it is and what doctor you care to believe, I’m anywhere from 100 to 140 lbs overweight. In 2009, I had a minor heart attack (I didn’t even know I’d had one until months later), I have Type II Diabetes (not “officially”, but my primary doctor and I agree that I do), I take a handful of prescription meds for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, blood sugar, etc. At night, I wear a CPAP mask for sleep apnea, no doubt caused by my being fat. In short, my body is a wreck!

I’ve taken some steps recently to lose weight and get in better shape. I wear a FitBit almost 24/7 and I’m trying to get more scheduled, better sleep. I’ve hired a personal trainer who is helping me find a diet and exercise routine that works for me and doesn’t cause me to bristle too much. (I’ve already fallen off the wagon several times.  Have I mentioned how much I hate to exercise?)

I was listening to This is Your Life the other day, and one of the episodes (about 9:56 in) mentioned that for everything, but especially for projects and goals you set for yourself that you don’t necessarily enjoy, (have I mentioned that I hate to exercise?), one good way to keep yourself motivated is to write down and remind yourself of your WhyWhy you need to do the things you don’t want to do, as a means of keeping your thoughts on the goal instead of allowing yourself to be discouraged on the journey it takes to get to your goal.

So, in that vein, here is my list of why I have to exercise and eat well and lose weight:

  1. Being fit will mean I’m more physically attractive to women and more successful in dating.
  2. Being fit will translate into better, more rejuvenative sleep.
  3. Being fit will translate into more alertness.
  4. Being fit will translate into more energy during the day.
  5. I will be happier if I’m fit.
  6. I will be able to reduce or eliminate several of the prescription medications I’m forced to take now.
  7. I will likely live longer and require less hospitalization as I grow older if I am fit.
  8. My clothes will fit better if I’m fit.

That’s about all I can think of off the top of my head. If you can think of any more, or just want to comment on what was discussed, please leave a comment in the area below.

 

John Stricklin's WIll

I John Stricklin of the County of Hardin and State of Tennessee, planter, do make and publish this my last will and testament, hereby revoking and making void all former wills by me at any time heretofore made. And first I direct my body to be decently entered in a manner suitable to my condition in life, and as to such worldly estate as it hath pleased God to entrust me with I dispose of the same as follows. First I direct that all my debts and all my funeral expenses be paid as soon after my decease as possible out of any money I may die possessed of as may first come in the hands of my executors from any portion of my estate real or personal. Secondly I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Martha during her life the following property to wit my land containing fifty acres be the same more or less lying on the big branch a fork of Horse Creek with its buts and bounds together with all the household and kitchen furniture and all the farming utensils belonging to said plantation also one wagon and yoke of steers seventeen head of hogs one rifle gun one scythe [sic] and cradle and one set of blacksmith tools to have and to hold for her use and benefit during her natural life and at her death what is left to be equally divided between my two sons William C. Stricklin and Jesse Stricklin after paying one dollar to each of the other heirs to wit Thomas Stricklin, Jack?, John Stricklin, William B. Stricklin, Elizabeth Lance?, Dicia Dulea?, Martha Akins, Sally McCarn, Nancy Mills, Mary Stricklin, and Agatha Stricklin. I do hereby make ordain and appoint my beloved son William C. Stricklin Executor of my last will and testament. In witness whereof I John Stricklin the said testator have to this my will written on one sheet of paper set my hand and seal this 17th day of July in the year of our lord one thousand eight hundred and forty eight.

Link

I’m not a supporter of same-sex marriage, per se, but I’m not opposed to it, either. My opinion on the subject is actually pretty much the same as this 23-year old College Republican who stated, in a newspaper, that any opposition to same-sex marriage from within the GOP is based upon the Bible, not necessarily the Constitution.

As long as Conservatives within the Republican Party allow their organization to go all apoplectic every time the subject of homosexuality is uttered, then turn around into a circular firing squad, they’re never going to win elections, especially given the current political climate. I can understand taking a stand of conscience on the subject of abortion, where the subject is essentially genocide, but when it comes to who’s marrying who, I can’t see hanging the entire future of the party on that one cultural belief.

Some people have got to learn that political movements are about ideas and core values, while political parties are about winning elections. In the case of the GOP, they need to understand that the most important aspect of winning future elections is fiscal policies, while the electorate is mostly concerned about social policies. If you philosophically align yourself with Westboro Baptist Church, the KKK, and Muslims, in America, you’ve just removed yourself as a viable party with about 75% (or more) of the voting public.

And a lot of those voters are younger people, like this young woman who is threatened with being effectively kicked out of the GOP for her views. Two voting blocks were behind the election and re-election of Barrack Obama: Blacks and young people. Further alienate young people over non-issues like this and the GOP can expect to go the way of the Whigs, the politcal party it replaced.

Zombies 101

One of my favorite television shows these days is definitely AMC’s The Walking Dead, and I haven’t generally been a fan of the whole “zombie” genre, although I really liked Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later… and I am Legend. With The Walking Dead, though, I’m not really sure the writers adhere to a certain set of rules regarding how zombies behave. So, I thought I’d write a set of guidelines on the subject. Enjoy!

Things zombies can do:

  1. Zombies can hear
  2. Zombies can smell
  3. Zombies can move… slowly
  4. Zombies can grab things using their hands (if they have hands)
  5. Zombies can bite (if Michonne hasn’t already removed their jaws)
  6. Zombies can growl
  7. Zombies can move their head and limbs normally

Things zombies cannot or do not do:

  1. Zombies don’t circulate blood
  2. Zombies don’t sleep
  3. Zombies don’t run
  4. Zombies don’t jump
  5. Zombies don’t swim
  6. Zombies don’t reason
  7. Zombies don’t get tired or rest
  8. Zombies don’t lay down or sit down
  9. Zombies can’t climb (stairs, slight inclines are okay)
  10. Zombies bodies don’t regenerate on a cellular level
  11. Zombies don’t communicate with each other
  12. Zombies don’t “play dead” or in any way misrepresent anything

Things I’m not sure if they can do or not:

  1. Can zombies see?
  2. Can zombies feel? (touch, not emotions)
  3. Do zombies salivate, chew and/or swallow?

All these observations lead me to these conclusions and questions:

  • There has to be some sort of low-level brain function, otherwise they could not move, smell, hear or know when to grab or bite.
  • If zombies can chew and swallow what they bite, then they must salivate and be able to digest their “food”. And if they’re able to digest food, then they would need to defecate and urinate. And since you don’t see stains on the fronts and backs or their clothes, I’d assume that they cannot salivate, chew, swallow or digest their food.
  • If they cannot do the most basic function of eating, they must simply be biting their victims and tearing their flesh and muscles, and then letting them fall away.
  • If they are able to swallow, but do not digest food, then their stomachs are becoming full. If that’s the case, would they still feed? What would happen if they did?
  • I maintain that the walker that bit Hershel violated rules 14, 15 and 19, so this is a case where the writers screwed up.
  • If their bodies don’t heal (rule 17), then eventually the flesh and muscles will decay, the ligaments holding the bones together will wear down and the body will fall apart. If that’s the case, their numbers will begin to dwindle after a few months (years?)
  • Rule 8 is critical. If zombies don’t circulate blood, how do they infect their victims? Also, when the body falls apart and the skull is simply laying there on the ground, will the brain continue to function, or will it shrivel up and die?
  • If everyone has the virus within them, does that mean that if Rick, say, simply died of non zombie-related causes, would he become a walker anyway? If that’s the case, why did it suddenly start happening now?

Other questions cross my mind when I’m watching The Walking Dead, like:

  • Even though it’s rural Georgia (presumably North of Atlanta), why doesn’t anyone think to go find a Walmart or a Sears somewhere? They’d have guns, ammo, clothes, medicine, tires and other car-repair equipment, building supplies and some non-perishable food.
  • If the group has been living in these conditions for months, wouldn’t the beards be longer? Wouldn’t the arm-pits and leg hair be longer? Wouldn’t they all be stinking? Presumably people’s teeth will be rotting out soon, because no one’s brushing their teeth.
  • What about women’s menstrual cycles? I know women survived for thousands of years without tampons and pads, but how would Maggie and the others deal with the problem?
  • If couples like Glenn and Maggie are having sex, are they considering what they’ll do if the woman becomes pregnant, or are they using condoms?
  • If the zombie apocalypse comes, and public utility workers either flee or turn, will the plumbing still work? I assume the electricity will not, but I’m not so sure about the water.
  • How did the group get inside the prison? Presumably the guards had the building locked down, wouldn’t you think?
  • Why don’t you hear more people praying or talking about God? This is Georgia, after all. Some people would be praying, others would be questioning why God would allow this to happen.
  • Where do people urinate and defecate? Especially inside the cell block? When the prisoners were in the kitchen they did their “business” in the refrigerator, but that may have been because there was no bathroom in the kitchen area. If the plumbing still works, then a bathroom would be preferable, but if it does, wouldn’t it have working sinks at least, allowing everyone to wash themselves?
  • I assume that, given the makeup of the groups, that no obese people, blind people, deaf people, mentally or physically-handicapped people or people with medical conditions that require medications (Type I Diabetes, asthmatics, people needing dialysis, etc.) haven’t survived. Neither have most children and teenagers.
  • Why doesn’t anyone listen to a radio? Surely there’s someone, somewhere, who’s trying to find out if there’s life elsewhere.
  • If you snapped a zombie’s neck, it wouldn’t “die”, but would it be able to walk?
  • Wouldn’t the second floor and above, or an island be the best places to be safe?

Yes, I know The Walking Dead is fictional and I’m supposed to suspend my disbelief, but stories should be cohesive and logical, to the best of their ability. That said, there aren’t a huge number of flaws in the show thus far.

I resolve to blog more in 2013

Since today is New Year’s Day, it’s traditional to announce some sort of personal resolutions to adhere to in the coming new year. This year, I think the only resolution that I’m really going to make (publicly) is that I resolve to blog more.

Exactly how much more, I’m not sure. I doubt I’ll be able to blog every day, but I’m hoping for three times a week with a goal of once a week, at least.

Also, I’ll be making my posts concerning faith and politics private, so if you’re interested in an invitation to see those, just contact me somehow. (I also plan on adding a contact form soon.)