Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Resurrection and the Easter Bunny

In the midst of the Christian Holy Week, we tend to caught up in the Easter Bunny, and Easter Egg Hunts, and we forget what the week is really all about: the Passion. Just what is the Christian Holy Week about, anyway? And how did it come to be dominated by a Bunny delivering brightly colored eggs?

Maundy Thursday

The night of Maundy Thursday is the night on which Jesus was betrayed by Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane and arrested by Roman soldiers. It commemorates Jesus' Last Supper with his disciples and the institution of the Lord's Supper (Eucharist, Communion). It is called Maundy Thursday from the old Latin name for the day, Dies Mandatum, "the day of the new commandment." The new commandment being Christ's commandment that we should love one another. In many other countries, this day is known as Holy Thursday.

Good Friday

There is great debate as to how Good Friday came to be known as "Good," as it is the observance of the day upon which Christ was crucified. Some believe the term "Good" evolved from "God" or God's Friday. Others believe "good" represents the fact that the greatest tragedy in history brought about the greatest good of all time: the gift of salvation.

Easter Sunday

Easter is generally considered one of the most important holidays of the year, as a time to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus after his death by crucifixion. In the second century A.D., Christian missionaries tried to convert northern European tribes to Christianity. It is believed by some that the missionaries incorporated some pagan festivals of new life into the Easter holiday in order to make Christianity more attractive to the tribes.

In pagan times, the "Easter hare" was no ordinary animal, but a sacred companion of the old goddess of spring, Eostre. The Easter Bunny has its origin in pre-Christian fertility lore. The Hare and the Rabbit were the most fertile animals known and they served as symbols of the new life during the spring season. Since long before Jesus Christ was born, parents told their children that the magic hare would bring them presents at the spring festival. The presents were often painted eggs, as these represented the new life starting at this time of year.

The bunny was first used as a symbol of Easter in 16th century Germany. Also in Germany, children made nests of grass and placed them in their yards. They believed the Easter Bunny would fill these baskets with brightly decorated eggs during the night.

The Easter Bunny was introduced to American folklore by the German settlers who arrived in the Pennsylvania Dutch country during the 1700s.

In whatever way you recognize Easter, it is a time to remember the sacrifice made for all of us. There's no harm in participating in Easter Egg Hunts and telling children about the Easter Bunny, as long as we remember to share with them the Passion of a Man who died so that we might receive the gift of eternal life.

How do you celebrate Easter?

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Monday, March 21, 2005

The Terri Schiavo Story

For complete information on the Terri Schaivo case, visit

President Bush signed a bill into law in the wee hours of the morning today enabling the federal courts to review the case of Terri Schiavo. She had her feeding tube -- her only means of nutrition and hydration -- removed under court order three days ago through the efforts of her husband, who says he is only trying to honor her wishes not to be kept alive in such a condition.

There has been great debate over the survival of Terri Schiavo. Twice before she has had her sustenance withheld, only to be reinserted under orders from the Florida courts and Florida Governor Jeb Bush (the President's brother). This time the Florida courts have refused to hear the case further, thrusting it into the highest offices in the land.

Both Houses of Congress have interrupted a two week Easter break and returned to Washington to consider special legislation. President Bush returned from his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to be on hand to immediately sign into law any legislation that might make it through the House and the Senate.

The case of Terri Schiavo raises many questions:
  • Should a person in a "persistent vegetative state" be kept alive by artificial means when there is little to no hope of recovery?
  • Should a person have the right (and responsibility) to decide when to remove such "artificial" support and allow his/her spouse to die?
  • Should the courts become involved and assume responsibility by ordering the removal of such support?
  • Should Doctors stand up to their sworn Hippocratic oath to "first, do no harm" and fight for the survival of their patient?
  • When all else fails -- as is the case with Terri Schiavo -- should Congress and the President take action to allow the federal courts to become involved?
  • And how, now, should the federal courts respond?
There are as many answers to those questions as there are American citizens. Some, including our President, argue that we should defend life at all costs. Others argue that Terri Schiavocruel and inhumane. Still others argue that this is a highly personal situation and the Legislative and Executive branches should not be involved.

Life is precious and should not be quickly written off. Who among us is truly qualified to say that Terri Schiavo will never recover? Who can know if she's suffering pain or has an opinion on the matter? Who can confirm if her husband's claims of her wishes are truly correct? On all counts: no one.

But I think every one of us can reasonably make the judgment that starving to death would be extremely painful and that death is irreversible. If we're willing to fight for democracy in foreign lands, should we not first fight for the basic right to life here at home? If there is any chance of making the wrong decision, wouldn't it be best to err on the side of caution? Once Terri Schiavo is gone, she's gone forever. That doesn't sound very cautious to me.

And what of the involvement of Congress and the President? Our government was designed with a system of checks and balances for the purpose of preventing any one branch from becoming too powerful. When a small group of judges starts dictating who should live and who should die, I believe it is the constitutional duty of our Congress and our President to work together in the name of decency. That's democracy in action!<> should not be made to suffer any longer. Some argue that allowing her to starve to death is
I say, "Bravo!" to the President and those members of Congress who stood together in defense of reason; in defense of life; in defense of one woman who currently cannot defend herself.

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Since writing this, it has come to my attention that Terri Schiavo has been in her current condition for 15 years. During that time, her husband has been living with another woman for 10 years, fathered two children with this other woman, denied Terri the right to even the most basic dental care resulting in the required extraction of five teeth, refused to allow Terri to leave her hospice room or for others to visit her, and even insisted that the blinds on the windows to her room remain shut at all times!

Does this sound like someone who is just trying to respect his wife's wishes? I think it sounds like someone who is trying to eliminate his wife so he can be free to marry his lover.

What do you think?

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The Federal Judge in Tampa, Florida, has stated that he will not make an immediate ruling in the Terri Schiavo case in response to the bill President Bush signed into law today. Terri Schiavo, for now, remains on a starvation diet. The Judge did not indicate when he would rule. I guess he thinks the President's opinion is meaningless.

What do you think?

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The Federal Judge in Tampa, Florida, has refused to rule that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube be reinserted, stating that her parents had failed to establish a "substantial likelihood of success." The family is expected to appeal the case to the Federal Appeals Court in Atlanta, Georgia. Meanwhile, Terri Schiavo remains on a starvation diet.

What do you think?

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The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to rule to reinstate Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, stating that lawyers for her parents failed to prove that the case had been mishandled in the lower courts. The next step for those fighting to keep Terri alive is to appeal to the United States Supreme Court, should they even choose to hear the case. There is understandable concern that the Supreme Court will not be able to act quickly enough to save Terri's life.

Why are the courts so quick to side with Terri's unfaithful husband in condemning her to death when everyone else -- from Terri's parents to Florida Governor Jeb Bush; from a majority of the Senate and House of Representatives to the President of the United States -- so strongly feel that Terri should be allowed to live? Some have said that our elected officials have only one motivation for their involvement: politics. Whether motivated by politics or conscience, what harm can that really cause if it saves the life of an American? And what motivation can Michael Schiavo really have for seeing his wife die? What is he to gain? Certainly among his gain would be the freedom to finally marry the woman he's been living with for 10 years. I wouldn't be surprised if that's his strongest -- if not only -- motivation. I say, give him what he wants: emancipate him from his wife and from any responsibility for her. And give Terri's parents what they want: let their daughter live until God takes her.

What do you think?

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The Florida Senate today voted against a bill that would ban patients like Terri Schiavo from being denied food and water if they hadn't specifically requested such in writing (i.e. Living Will). The passing of such a bill into law would have made it illegal to continue withholding food and water from Terri Schiavo. Is everyone out to get her? Why don't they just call in Doctor Kevorkian?

Florida Governor Jeb Bush announced today that a neurologist reviewing Terri Schiavo in response to allegations of abuse and neglect has determined that she may have been misdiagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state and is actually in a "minimally conscious state." Governor Bush has asked a state court to allow him to put Terri Schiavo into protective custody. Terri's parents plan to continue pursuit of their appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

What are your thoughts?

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The United States Supreme Court turned down the motion by Terri Schiavo's parents Thursday to reinsert her feeding tube. In addition, Florida Governor Jeb Bush's request to place Terri in protective custody was denied by a Florida state court.



The parents of Terri Schiavo have now lost nearly 30 legal opinions in both federal and state courts. After their last legal defeat, the family's spiritual adviser has said that they want supporters outside their daughter's hospice to go home. They no longer plan to grant any interviews to the media. Doctors do not expect Terri Schiavo to live beyond next Friday.



Once again, only fifteen hours after announcing that they would allow the parents of Terri Schiavo to file for a new hearing to consider reinserting Terri 's feeding tube, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has refused to rehear the case with the full panel of twelve members. This on the tail of Jesse Jackson meeting with the Schindlers and urging (unsuccessfully) Florida legislators to open a new vote on a bill that would make it illegal to deprive a patient in Terri's condition of food and water.

Terri Schiavo has been without food and water for twelve days, and according to medical professionals will probably die any day. What would possess the courts to pour more salt on the wound by allowing the Schindlers to apply for a new hearing only to quickly dismiss it out of hand? Have they no compassion for the pain and suffering they feel watching their daughter slowly die?

Enough is enough! As wrong as it is for the courts to order Terri's death by starvation, to continually raise the hopes of the family only to dash them against the rocks is utterly inexcusable!


CBS News reports that Terri Schiavo has started to have rapid breathing, a sign of deterioration. She is near kidney failure. Some experts say that if Terri's feeding tube were reinserted now, it would do more harm than good because her body would not be able to absorb the nutrients. Reinserting the tube at this point is just as likely to hasten Terri's death as it is to prolong her life by hours or days (at most).

Please keep Terri Schiavo and her family in your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Customers Who Abuse the System

I'm a Retail Store Manager, though I won't name the Retailer. I've been in retail for several years, with several different companies, and I've seen lots of abuse, and the biggest abusers by far are the customers.

Example: Today a customer called me about returning an automotive accessory. The conversation went something like this.

CUSTOMER: Are you the Store Manager?
Joe: Yes, I am.
CUSTOMER: Can you tell me what your return policy is?
Joe: What's the product?
CUSTOMER: {he described the item, which was an electrical automotive accessory}
Joe: Generally, most products have a 30-day return policy if you have the receipt, the box, all accessories, and it hasn't been installed.
CUSTOMER: I have the receipt, but no box.
Joe: Has it been installed?
Joe: Then it normally wouldn't be returnable even if you had the box.
CUSTOMER: What if it's defective?
Joe: Then I'd be happy to exchange it, but I'd have to keep the new box and any missing accessories to return it to the manufacturer for credit.
CUSTOMER: Can I just exchange it for something else in the store?
Joe: Unfortunately, without the box I can't resell it or send it back for credit. The only thing I could do is throw it in the dumpster, and that'd be like throwing away the $160 you paid for it. I'm sorry, I can't give you a refund without the box, but I'd be happy to exchange it.
CUSTOMER: The problem is, I got pulled over because of it, and the police told me if they caught me with it on my car again they'd have to impound my car. I didn't know they were that illegal.
Joe: That would be your responsibility to check before you install it. {the box was clearly labeled OFF-ROAD USE ONLY}
CUSTOMER: So I can't return it?
Joe: No, sir. I'll be happy to exchange it, though, and if you don't want to reinstall it, maybe you can sell it on eBay to someone in a state where they aren’t illegal.
CUSTOMER: Do you have any more in stock?
Joe: If you can hold a moment, I'll go check.

Joe: Yes, sir, and I can hold it for you if you can tell me when you'll be in.
CUSTOMER: It'll be late tonight or tomorrow.

Case closed, right? Wrong! I received a phone call from my Corporate Office because the customer had called them. I explained the situation and concluded by saying, "Unless someone above store level tells me to, I'm not going to refund it."
I then sent an email to my boss explaining the situation and my stance. He seemed to indicate agreement. Later, the customer called me again. That call went something like this.

CUSTOMER: Can you tell me the website of the manufacturer? I'm going to see if they can send me a box so I can return it.
Joe: {I gave him the web address, deciding that if he was going to go to the effort to get a box, I would allow him to return it and send it back for defective credit.} Let me know if they'll be sending you one and I can extend the return period.

Case closed now? NO! A short time later I received a message from my boss instructing me to call the customer and offer him an in-store credit.

I called the customer with the pretense of checking on whether he was able to get a box sent to him by the manufacturer. That call went something like this.

Joe: I'm calling to see if you were able to get the manufacturer to send you a box.
CUSTOMER: Well, I talked to the District Manager, and he's supposed to call the manufacturer to see if they can make an exception this one time, then he's supposed to call me back.
Joe: Okay. I'll talk to him and find out what we can do for you, then either he or I will call you back.

Of course, by this time I was fuming! This is how idiot customers abuse the system. This is why you – the customer – constantly pay more and more for the same product: the retailer's loss is built in to future price increases.

It seems the "in-store credit" is every retailer’s answer to customer complaints. A stupid customer (and they aren't all stupid) makes a stupid buying decision. He later has buyer's remorse and tries to return the item broken, without a box, without a receipt, or several months after purchase (I've seen as much as a year and a half). Store Associates try to do what's reasonable and refuse the return. The customer complains. Store Management supports the Associate and refuses the return. The customer calls or emails the Corporate Office with whatever lies they think will get them what they want. And they get it in the form of an in-store credit.

Does this sound like you? Someone you know? Or have you been in my place in a similar situation?

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Product Review: Palm Zire 72

I've been a PDA user for several years, from electronic organizers by Sharp and Casio, to the short-lived Diamond Mako by Psion, to several Palm handhelds (m100, m105, m125, m130, Zire 71). I even had a little fun with an old Palm Pilot 5000 before sending it to Palm for a $50 rebate. I am now the happy user of a Palm Zire 72 that Wife surprisingly (she hates them) gave me for Christmas, and I believe I have a pretty good basis for comparison.

Priced at about $300, the Zire 72 is Palm's top-of-the-line product for the personal user. Entry-level models include the Zire 21 and Zire 31, and business user models include the entire Tungsten line. I find the Zire 72 to be adequate for most of my personal and business needs.

The Zire 72 is packed with features, many of which you won't find in comparably priced handhelds.
  • 32Mb of internal memory: a little less than you see in many handhelds these days, but more than adequate for the average consumer.
  • SD/MMC Expansion Slot: a reasonably priced 128Mb or 256Mb expansion card (sold separately) more than compensates for any shortcoming in internal memory.
  • 1280 x 960 Hi-Resolution color display: crystal-clear images in full color -- it's the best looking display I've had in a handheld yet.
  • Bluetooth Wireless Connectivity: I haven't been able to test-drive Bluetooth yet because my handheld is more state-of-the-art than my PC and cell phone, but I'm looking forward to giving it a try.
  • Voice Memo: a handy little feature when you need it, you can even email a Voice Memo in WAV format directly from the handheld via Wireless Infrared Modem (sold separately), Bluetooth, or Hotsync with a PC.
  • 1.2 Megapixel Digital Camera with Video/Audio Capture: an upgrade from the Zire 71 Digital Camera, this little gem of a feature is invaluable to a new father like me. Good quality JPEG images can be effortlessly sent to friends and family or stored on your PC, and Video Capture is Windows Media compatible for playback on any PC as well as instant playback on the handheld.
  • MP3 Audio: ditch that iPod and play your favorite tunes using the built-in speaker or external headphones.

The Zire 72 includes such useful software titles as:

Other readily available software titles I find useful and strongly recommend:

  • AvantGo (free) allows offline web viewing.
  • Pocket Money ($) is a fully functional financial program to track checking, savings, and credit accounts.
  • BibleReader+ (free) puts a fully searchable text of the Bible on your handheld.
  • Verichat (free to try) is compatible with most major Instant Messenger programs using a Wireless Infrared Modem or compatible cell phone.

Recommended Accessories:

  • Protect your PDA with a hard case, available from Palm, Innopocket, and others.
  • Protect the screen from scratches with stick-on screen protectors from Palm and others.
  • A second charger, car charger, or USB charger will come in handy if you use your PDA on the go as much as I do.
  • PDA Stylus Pens make it easy to keep a ballpoint pen handy at all times.
  • Wireless Infrared Keyboards are available from Palm and Belkin if you find yourself creating frequent documents on your PDA, as I do.
  • Wireless Infrared Modems from Palm and Psion help you stay in touch on the go.

Bottom line? The Palm Zire 72 is a fully featured handheld that I use more frequently than my PC. I strongly recommend it.

Got anything to add?

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Hit and Run

Today is one of those days I dread every year: license plate renewal day. Actually, that day for me was three days ago, but as always, I was late. In Indiana, no matter how many vehicles a person has registered, the renewals all come due on the same day. That can be quite hard on the bank account for a family that has two or three nice, relatively new cars.

We arrived at the license branch and received our number: 81. Now being served? 64. Not a bad wait, really. I think it took about 15 minutes for our number to be called.

First on the agenda was to have a lien removed and a new title issued on our GMC Jimmy with Wife's name added to it. It took the clerk three attempts to get this right. With me telling her the spelling of Wife's name, and spelling it out on paper as well, the clerk somehow still managed to omit an 'E'. No problem, the transaction was easily voided and rerun -- this time the clerk forgot to remove the lien from the title. STRIKE TWO! Again, simply void the transaction and rerun it. Third time's a charm, and she seemed able to properly renew both registrations without further incident. We were in and out of there in less than 45 minutes -- that has to be some kind of record for the license branch, even with the errors.

It's amazing the kind of people you see in the license branch. I guess everyone has to drive, and therefore has to have both a driver's license and license plates on his or her vehicle, but why is it always the dregs of society who choose to renew their documents on the same day as me? People come stumbling into the building in dirty clothes looking like they haven't bathed in weeks. Those who may have seen the inside of a soap package recently are the one's who venture out in public considerably underdressed, and I don't mean just for weather conditions. There really should be a law about the things some people call clothes these days.

Having left the license branch and run a few other errands, Wife and I decided to take Son to Toys 'R Us for a new Little Tikes basketball goal. He's 18 months old, and has the throwing arm of a pro (no, I am not just a biased father speaking). While we were in Toys 'R Us, one of the dregs from the license branch -- probably the adolescent with half his boxers showing who had just passed his driving test -- apparently followed us into the lot, because when we came out, we found this:
What kind of idiot would do such a thing and leave without making it right? I'd like to think no one would be so negligent, but it obviously happened, so I must be naive. Unless it was just some young, rap-listening, bass-thumping, low-pants-wearing, new-driving adolescent who's so unaware of his surroundings that he didn't even feel his car rock when he hit ours and didn't hear what must have been at least a barely audible crunch sound, even over the incessant bass booms that will certainly deafen the boy -- if not all of us -- long before the age of retirement.

It's a sad thing that this can happen in this, the greatest land of all. If only I could get my hands on the delinquent who did such a thing. But instead I have to get my hands on some touch-up paint before the weather makes this more of an unsightly mess than it already is.

What do you think?

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Saint Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

So how did this day, St. Patrick's Day, turn into a day of wearing green and drinking green beer? St. Patrick was actually and Englishman born in Wales in 385 A.D. Until the age of 16, he considered himself a pagan who had been sold into slavery by a group of Irish thugs who raided his village. His time in captivity and slavery brought him closer to God. After six years in slavery he escaped to a monastery in Gaul where he studied under the Bishop of Auxerre for 12 years. He felt called to convert pagans to Christianity, and further called to return to Ireland to do so. Patrick (who, as yet, was still not considered a saint) was so successful in winning converts that he upset the Celtic Druids and was arrested several times -- only to escape each time. He traveled throughout Ireland for 30 years doing the work of his calling before retiring. Patrick passed away on March 17, 461 A.D.

So what about the shamrock, wearing green, and drinking green beer? It is believed that Patrick used a shamrock in his sermons to represent the trinity -- how the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were three individual parts of the same union. Green beer has absolutely no root in Irish customs. In fact, it seems to be almost solely a North American custom. Why green? Because Ireland, after all, is the Emerald Isle.

Hope you have a happy one!

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Theater Review: Les Miserables

Wife and I went to see the Broadway Series presentation of Les Miserables last week at IU Auditorium. Wife was especially excited that a former High School classmate of hers was cast as Enjolras.

It was a bitter cold night in Indiana, and it didn't take long for us to find fault with the Auditorium's accommodations. Surrounded by parking lots that require an IU Parking Permit, the Auditorium's closest available patron parking was an open air parking garage a good 10 minute walk away -- which felt like 30 minutes in the windy March air. STRIKE ONE! We easily stretched that 10 minute walk to 15 for the lack of any directional guidance to the Auditorium. We could easily have seen half the campus before finding our seats in the balcony. STRIKE TWO!

It's a nice looking Auditorium inside -- it makes you feel like you're at the theater. From our front row balcony seats we had a surprisingly complete view of the large rotating stage that has no doubt seen many miles in one of the many Les Mis semis parked outside.

To the credit of all parties involved, the lights dimmed on time and the show started promptly. If only others who purchased seats in our section had arrived as promptly, there would have been no ushers stumbling in the dark with flashlights directing the inconsiderate latecomers to their seats -- flashlights that may just as well have been the stage lights swung out on the audience. Those who can't be seated before the lights go down should be corralled outside the Auditorium until the lights come back up at Intermission. FOUL TIP.

Before long things were well under way and the cast presented themselves quite well for opening night. Wife was impressed with Old Classmate's performance and quite pleased to see he's become successful. Intermission was brief and the shorter Act II began just as promptly as its considerably longer predecessor. The entire troupe presenting the show is to be commended for a job well done. IN-THE-PARK HOMERUN.

The Barbarians sitting next to us who apparently couldn't follow the action without repeatedly flashing their annoying blue flashlights and consulting their Playbills, and who later found it necessary to slip out like stealthy elephants 10 minutes before the curtain call, should have their theater privileges eternally revoked. EJECTED FROM THE GAME!

As the cast took to the stage after the show, Wife and I were both shocked and disappointed when we found ourselves among the very few who appreciated the troupe's efforts enough to show our gratitude on our feet. I guess those around us sitting on their brains were warming them up for the cold walk back to their cars. BANNED FOR LIFE!

Wife and I made the cold trek to the car agreeing that the show was enjoyable, the audience was either ungrateful or unconscious, the weather was too cold for March, and that IU Auditorium was far from our venue of choice.

Bottom Line: see the show, but see it anywhere but Bloomington!

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Ides of March


"Beware the Ides of March" has forever burdened this date with a sense of dread and foreboding. But in Roman times the expression "Ides of March" was simply the standard way of saying "March 15th." The term "Ides" comes from early Roman calendars, and simply represents the 15th of every month. Therefore, the "Ides of March" simply means "March 15th," and nothing more. Beware the Ides of March? How about the Ides of April? Tax Day. That seems to be a more dreadful date than March 15th.

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