The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bessemer Opinions Top 12 for 2008

Be sure and scroll down and read the column from today's Western Tribune.

For the second annual Bessemer Opinions Top Twelve, the editorial board had a difficult time. Remember, this top twelve is based on stories or opinions posted here, not on the top twelve events in the world. We don't get to report on everything.

The twelve are not necessarily in order of importance, rather in chrono order.


1. Dominionism and Heath Ledger

This post was important because dominionism will destroy the world as we know it (and it also had that great tribute to Heath Ledger).


2. Happy Valentine's Day

This post was about heart health and I got several emails thanking me for it. And in the post I said this:

"I have cut down on sugared drinks. Not completely, but cut back to less than half of what I used to drink. I eat a hand full of nuts every day. I'm working on adding more fruits and vegetables. My blood pressure is great. My cholesterol is borderline, and by George I am going to get it within desired range by exercise and diet (I have been on Crestor and don't like it)."

And I did. My cholesterol's (good and bad) are now well within normal ranges and I haven't taken Crestor since February!!!

3. A Plan for Bessemer

Bessemer is in dire need of a plan and people to implement plans.

4. Bessemer Development and Bessemer Beauty (and Beyond)

This was good news for Bessemer, plus, nice pictures.

5. Going to the Chapel

This post was about the ill-fated same-sex marriage rights in California. Equality will occur, however.

6. When Jesus Met a Gay Man

People either love reading about Jesus' acceptance of those who are different, or they hate being exposed to the truth about him.


7. This entire series on New Orleans counts as one story.

Lower Ninth Ward Part 1 , part 2 , part3 , part4 , part 5 , part 6 .

8. Same for this story on Troy King. And he wants to be governor? Would his "little mister" be the "First Dude" like Todd is in Alaska?

Is King going Down? , Troy King Day 4 ,Troy Day 6 and Mormon Excommunication ,Troy King and Staff ,Troy King's Response ,Troy King rumors in Tuscaloosa News

9. Oops...I mean big oops

Science is important. Endangered species are important.

10. Not just because he's my brother, but because we know there are artists, good artists, here in Western Jefferson County. We need art studios and art galleries and art events here.

Art Exhibit Update ,Washing the Dust off Your Soul

There were tons of political stories and opinions during the year, but the win on November 4 was the story of the year.

11. Yes We Did

12. My friend and neighbor's house burned. this was one of Bessemer's most recognized historic homes.

Three Things of Significance

13. OK, so I can't count. This story is # 13, but again, since people either love what I write about Jesus and the Bible or hate learning the truth, I had to include it. Plus, the marriage posts got more comments and emails than any other post during the year, I believe.

Jesus and Marriage , Marriage as Defined in the Bible .

So, there you have it, the year in a nutshell. Of course, there were lots of great pictures of flowers and animals and Olympic champions and hot guys and more...you can explore to find those.

Have a happy and safe New Year.

Western Tribune column December 31, 2008

Many of us are ushering in the New Year with hopes of a better 2009 in spite of the bad economic condition our county is in. This was evidenced by poor holiday sales at the mall and for the first time Santa’s sack full of toys was not overflowing as usual. At least he saved in energy costs as the reindeer did not have as heavy a load to pull last week.

Yet the mood of people regarding the future is still upbeat. It is becoming more evident that the current presidential administration has affected the mood of the country in negative ways that we did not even realize and that this mood is changing as the inauguration of our new president approaches.

With positive feelings about our country’s future and our own future, we might be more likely to stick to our resolutions for 2009. So let’s resolve to make Bessemer, and the world, a better place.

“Today we begin in earnest the work of making sure that the world we leave our children is just a little bit better than the one we inhabit today.” With this thought the president-elect has asked community members to come together to help shape his health care policies. Such a meeting occurred here in Bessemer on Sunday, and our suggestions have been forwarded to the transition team as requested.

But these words can serve as inspiration to all of us and about more than just health care. The economic conditions will require that each of us continue our spirit of giving and helping past the holiday season and into the New Year.

Helping your neighbor, or a stranger, does make the world a little bit better.

After the last New Year holiday I suggested that on New Year’s Eve at the stroke of midnight that we ring bells for peace rather than fire guns into the air to celebrate, but this suggestion will not solve the problem that puts Bessemer residents on edge each year, in part because those who do not believe in gravity (bullets that go up must come down) probably do not read this column.

But some of us will ring our bells anyway, with a special zeal this year, because our hope for 2009 is so strong.

Have a safe and fun New Year’s celebration and let’s make 2009 a year when hope becomes reality.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Intervention

It's not a show I watch with any regularity, but occasionally I watch Intervention.


Last night, the show featured Brittany. As the show progressed, we could tell she was from Alabama, then the Birmingham area, then North Jefferson County. Brittany was addicted to dilaudid and loretab and other things. Watch the preview at the link above.






She really didn't have a chance from birth it seems. Born 5 years after her 9 year old sister Terry was brutally raped and murdered, Brittany's mother treated her as if she were sent from God as a replacement for the child she could never let go of. Even to the point of talking to a picture of the dead girl on a regular basis and seeking advice from "Terry" before she sought advice from God.

And it was as if the other older siblings didn't even exist. Or the dad.

Anyway, if you've never watched the show, it follows an addict who has agreed to be filmed for a documentary about addiction. But really they are setting the addict up for an intervention involving family members and a trained "interventionist" with the goal of sending the addict off to a nice recovery center usually in California or Florida.

So mom drives Brittany to buy drugs, because she doesn't want her "ending up a cold case" somewhere. They show them driving in neighborhoods to drug houses.

Then this morning I see this: Meth lab busted in North Jefferson County.

Could it be that the sheriff was watching Intervention and learned the location of some drug houses? I doubt it, actually someone called in and reported the meth lab.

Brittany's story will be aired again today at 12:00. But they show them over and over, so I'm sure you can catch it sometime in January.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Health Care Discussion...Mental Illness

The Obama-Biden Transition Team has asked individuals from across the country to host Community Health Care Discussions during the last two weeks of the year as a way to hear what everyday Americans are saying about Health Care in our country.

I hosted such a meeting last night, to which were invited several Bessemer neighbors as well as health professionals including a nurse manager in mental health, the Dean of the School of Public Health at UAB and a faculty member from the School of Health Professions at UAB. I purposely kept the number of people low to insure that everyone would have a chance to take part in the discussion.

I will be sending a report to the Transition Team which can be used in crafting policy for the new administration.

But here are a couple of things we learned. It's not news that the "system" is broken, but the degree to which it is broken and the ways in which this affects patient care was surprising.

One problem had to do with insurance coding and billing and how this affects a doctor's scheduling.

It boils down to: you make an appointment to see a doctor about problem A, and before your scheduled appointment time you develop problem B. When you arrive for your appointment the doctor refuses to address problem B and requires that you schedule another appointment, which may be two weeks or more down the road. What this does to the health of America is it keeps this person (or lots of people, assuming this is happening all over) sick or in pain for an additional two weeks. Or, of course, their condition could worsen.

In other words, the "Health system" is contributing to a "sick nation." It is contributing to people being off from work. It is costing Americans more.

And that is just one of the problems.

The other issue we discussed was mental illness and how stigma affects the treatment people receive. The stigma associated with mental illness can result in people ignoring symptoms or pretending they don't exist, and avoiding treatment.

Mental illness stigma exists for several reasons. One is that mental illness is thought by some to be the result of a choice or action of the individual and is perceived to be on a different level than physical illness. In reality, mental illnesses are complex and are due to physical changes in the brain, with or without a genetic component.

Mental illness should be treated with the same degree of recognition and respect as physical illnesses. The American Public should be educated about mental illnesses, and not from commercials on TV about drugs used to treat them. Doctors as well, should be educated and should focus on the mental health of their patients as well as their physical health.

Depression, for example, affects people's ability to work in a huge way, yet often physicians ignore or don't take the time to question patients in order to pick up signs that there may be a problem.

Then there is this: 1 in 5 young Americans have a personality disorder, according to a recent study. But less than 25% get treatment.

These disorders include obsessive or compulsive tendencies (different from OCD) and anti-social disorders (which can lead to violence) and paranoid behaviors, all of which can interfere with day to day functioning. That's 1 in 5 of our future leaders.

Mental health parity is the first step in reducing the stigma associated with mental illness.

Parity would require insurance plans to treat mental health patients on par with those who have physical ailments. No more higher copays or deductibles for the mental health treatments. No more limits on visits to the doctor that differ from the caps for other patients.

A mental health parity bill was tacked on to the big bailout passed in October, but that bill is not complete and parity involves more than just payments, it also involves doctor's attitudes and education. But...it's a start.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas...Drama

Merry Christmas.

I hope yours was a great as ours. Of course, what's Christmas without a little drama. Minutes after arriving home from Christmas dinner at my brother's house, my daughter called to tell me she and my son were minutes from the house,returning from Christmas in Tennessee. That was my clue to get their wrapped presents out and under the tree and all, and then we heard the crash. A wreck in front of the house. Again! The kids? We rushed outside calling 911 and were relieved to see it was not them. But a distraught young woman and her kids, 2 toddlers, were crying. She held one, used our phone to try to call her mom, and I knelt down and held the other, little girl, close as she pulled her jacket up over her head to avoid seeing her car, the police lights and to drown out the sirens. She had the green light, the mom said.

No serious injuries, but a ruined Christmas for sure. My son and daughter got home during the confusion, and after all was calm we went inside and celebrated Christmas... those ribbons and bows I wrote about yesterday. After all that, we heard another crash. A car had hit the damaged car, giving a matching torn up front quarter and broken headlight to the one on the opposite side. "I didn't see the car. I didn't have my lights on," I heard him say as I was going out the door. The police were still there finishing up the first accident. I bet they had fun with that one.

The Birmingham News ran a story about our Christmas Trees on Christmas Day. It was the "Obama Tree" that got their attention. Part of the story is printed online.

In addition there is supposed to be a "gallery" of pictures online, but it's not there. Maybe they will post it later, if so, I will paste a link.

Here is the entire story, as printed in the paper.

Every year, Joe Openshaw fills his home with themed Christmas trees, including a patriotic tree trimmed in silver ornaments; red, white and blue icicles; and soft blue lights.

But when U.S. Sen. Barack Obama cinched the presidential election in November, Openshaw, 54, decided to give this year's patriotic tree a twist.

In addition to the regular trimmings, the tree also holds Obama campaign buttons; pictures of Obama and the Obama family that Openshaw's daughter, Marlow, printed off of the computer, laminated and adorned with ribbons; and a ticket Openshaw and partner, Bobby Prince, received to stand on stage with supporters and Michelle Obama as she made a speech in Las Vegas on Nov. 3. Nearby, are newspapers touting Obama's win, and small replicas of the Statute of Liberty and Santa Claus in American colors.

The "Tribute Tree to Our President-elect," which stands in Openshaw's 18-year-old son Daniel's bedroom, won't come down until after Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration.

"It makes me think about what our country has said to the world and to ourselves. It represents a great change," said Openshaw, a retired veterinarian.

Openshaw said he knows that Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, but the Obama tree is just another way to further celebrate.

"Christmas is fun. I have an enjoyment of it, and it gives other people enjoyment ,too," he said.

Celebrating Christmas with more than one tree has long been a family tradition. When Openshaw aw much younger, his mother had Christmas trees in the dining room, living room and den of their Vestavia home.

As he got older and started living on his own, he began putting a Christmas tree in different rooms of his own home.

Besides the patriotic tree, Openshaw has 10 other trees in his 1895 Bessemer home this year.

They are: a Victorian tree in the library, a pink tree with pink ornaments in a hallway; a 1950's aluminum tree in the office; two Santa-themed trees with over 200 Santa ornaments positioned in front of two upstairs windows; a "skinny" tree with gold and burgundy ornaments in the dining room; a red miniature tree in the kitchen; an elf tree in the den; a three-foot tall Norfolk pine tree with multiple silk balls in a back upstairs area; and an 11-foot tall tree decked out with family and vintage ornaments in the parlor.

The family's Christmas decor also includes wreaths, a collection of Santa salt and pepper shakers, reindeer and garland. In the library is a 1917 picture of Openshaw's father's first Christmas tree, and on display in the parlor is a Christmas Card that his father gave his mother before he was born.

"I love it. I love having my house full of Christmas in every room," said Marlow Openshaw, 22. "If he stopped decorating, it wouldn't feel like Christmas anymore."

She especially liked the Obama tree, which she's not shy about protecting.

"My best friend told me she was going to put a McCain ornament on there. I told her you go ahead and do that and we'll see how long it stays." she said.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve...Western Tribune Column December 24 2008


When you think about it, Christmas Eve is a much more interesting day than Christmas...assuming one is not immersed in last minute shopping. There's anticipation, there's reflection, there's wonder.

Anyway, here's my column from the Western Tribune on this Christmas Eve:

We hear a lot about the “magic of Christmas,” but by Christmas Day much of the magic is gone. For many families that celebrate Christmas the day begins in a whirlwind of ribbons and bows as kids rip open presents, and ends driving home from Grandma’s exhausted and full of ham and coconut cake.

There is nothing magic about that. It’s fun and it’s heartwarming, but not magic.

No, the magic has already happened, and like good magic, you don’t see it. In fact, magic may be the wrong word to describe it. “Wonder” is a better word to describe Christmas Eve.

For children, they know the next day will be full of surprise, and they go to bed full of wonder, listening for sleigh bells and the patter of feet on the roof, a sound that any other night of the year would result in a 911 call.

For adults there is a bit of scurrying to do after children go to bed, but then it’s time to relax and wonder.

With or without spiked eggnog, this can be done by lowering the lights and staring at the Christmas tree, reminiscing about our childhood Christmases or thinking about loved ones who for one reason or another will not be here to celebrate with us.

Others might sit outside and stare at the heavens and wonder how shepherds might have reacted long ago on a cold night when a star seemed to explode in the sky.

That same night Mary’s heart and mind were certainly full of wonder as the pains of her labor began.

She knew that her baby would be precious, as all mothers do, but she had been told with certain authority that her child would reign over a kingdom that has no end. Can you imagine?

As Joseph held his baby son, he had to wonder what his role would be, how a simple man like himself could raise a king, how he could be a father to the son of God, when the child was not even of his flesh. We would all put greater effort into raising our children if we took to heart what Joseph did.

The wonder of Christmas, that a baby could change the world. A glorious light has dawned indeed. That’s something worth wondering about.











Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Getting Serious About Christmas

Check out Lipscomb Bohemian, a new blog by a visitor to Bessemer Opinions that will feature art and relevant topics.

Speaking of Lipscomb, their Christmas parade was Saturday. Here are a couple of pics...








Fairfield was generous enough to allow Santa to ride on their truck.






Christmas and war just don't go together, although, as it seems, there is always a war going on at Christmastime. I was listening to Reg's Coffee House in the car Sunday and heard a song.

I’ve missed Reg for a year or two, and was happy to rediscover him on Live100.5, the best (only) "adult alternative" (whatever that means) station in the area. Listen here (after a couple of clicks and advertisements).

Anyway, Brett Dennen, wrote this song a few years ago, and Reg said he wishes a holiday season would pass without him being able to play this song, but…not this year.
The Holidays Are Here (and We're Still At War)





Or, the "Shot live by YouTube" version (lyrics are easier to understand):





Why does it seem that a song written a few years ago is still so relevant today? The problems are all still here.

My favorite Southern Baptist preacher, James Evans, wrote this prayer several years ago. Like the song, the themes of this prayer are just as meaningful today as when it was written. It hangs in my house, and has appeared in at least one state newspaper already this year.

Yuletide Prayer

Lord, first of all, thank you for the careful and creative way in which you have designed this world. You have made this planet a marvelous place, filled with life and beauty. It is a privilege to recognize that we humans are a part of your amazing invention.

Having said that, it is necessary to also say we are sorry. We are sorry for our poor stewardship of the Earth. We have not been very careful with the air and the water. We have also not been very careful with certain forms of life. We have acted as if ours was the only existence that matters. Apparently we forgot what Jesus said about you and the sparrows.

We have also not been very good stewards of the resources which sustain life. Many of us living in the developed nations have become a highly acquisitive people. It's almost as if we believe that the purpose of our humanity is to get our hands on as much stuff as possible. There are many who look to their earthly treasures as the true source of their security and meaning. You used the word idolatry to describe that kind of thinking.

Sadly, our pursuit of things has also created a dismal state of affairs in our relations with each other. We've got it all backwards from what you intended. Instead of loving people, as you taught, we use people to get what we want. Instead using things to make life better, we love things and cling to them as if they were life itself.
This tragic reversal has had dire consequences. Our greedy consumption has created a world of poverty for millions -- as our wealth grows, so does their poverty. And we keep fighting one bloody war after another, taking the lives of your children, trying to protect our stuff.

In fact, that touches on one of our most difficult problems -- our love of violence. We treat violence in our culture as if it were a sacred rite. We believe in violence. We cherish it, we celebrate it. We teach it to our children as if we were passing along a spiritual heritage. We have endowed violence with a trust and a hope that should be reserved for you.

We believe violence can conquer evil. We believe violence can make peace. We believe violence can end violence. You would think that 50,000 years of human experience would convince us otherwise, but not yet.

That is why Christmas is so important. The birth of Jesus represents the supreme effort on your part to reshape our flawed humanity back into your own image. If we would only accept as true the things Jesus had to say to us, what a different world this might be.

Somewhere along the way this Christmas we will hear the words of the prophet Isaiah: "A child shall lead them." We are drawn to the innocence of the nativity with a sense of wonder and longing. We believe that Jesus is that child.

But he cannot lead us if we do not follow. And he cannot change us so long as we insist on having things our own way.

Help us this year to finally admit that our way is not working and for once, just for once, try doing things his way.

Amen

Monday, December 22, 2008

Science and Sexuality

I have a few thoughts about sexuality and science. A person who comments on this blog keeps trying to say that there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is anything but a choice.

Let’s start with some visual evidence:

Here are Roy and Silo, the most famous gay penguins.


Homosexuality is well documented in penguins and other animals.

Do oysters make a choice?

While not saying that an oyster is gay, they do change gender once or more times during their lifetime. (And, as an aside, as the article asks, how hungry did someone have to be to eat the first oyster?)

Back to the subject. The oysters aren't gay, but they are an example of the sexual diversity that exists among the animal kingdom.


Reproductive diversity in the animal kingdom is present in seahorses as well. Again while not addressing sexuality, the fact that the male gives birth reminds us that among animals, fish in this case, things are not so simple. Watch the male having babies.



Let's see. Same sex behaviour is observed in over 1500 animal species. I won't post a video of every species, but this video contains images from a documentary, "Out In Nature: Homosexual Behaviour in the Animal Kingdom".




Now lets move to human research. Here is the first sentence and the last sentence of an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, by Dick Swaab (PNAS July 29, 2008 vol. 105 no. 30 10273-10274).

Current evidence indicates that sexual differentiation of the human brain occurs during fetal and neonatal development and programs our gender identity—our feeling of being male or female and our sexual orientation as hetero-, homo-, or bisexual.
...

...

Neurobiological research related to sexual orientation in humans is only just gathering momentum, but the evidence already shows that humans have a vast array of brain differences, not only in relation to gender, but also in relation to sexual orientation.

This is but one paper from recent research that explores human sexuality from a scientific standpoint. The paper (as most scientific papers do) asserts that more research is needed, and of course, this is happening.

I only wanted to give an example showing there is evidence, contrary to what the commenter said, that sexual orientation is not a choice.

Non-human animals don't really have the option of choosing. Or do they? If you say yes, then that gives them a quality that once was reserved for humans. It makes us just a little more close to the rest of the animal kingdom than some Christian conservatives would like. But if they don't have a choice, then it must be science that is making them behave in the ways they do.

I could go on and on about science, but that is enough for now.

Research is in our favor. Science is in our favor.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Getting Close

And I will start my shopping today.

Here are some Santa's from around the house. All done by local (or local at the time) artists.

I drew the design for this one.
This Santa has that classic, "gotcha covered" look.


This is Santa with a rocking horse, by my friend Phyllis.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm Pleased About the Inauguration

It really doesn't bother me that Rick Warren will be giving the invocation at Obama's inauguration because Alabama native Joseph Lowery will get the last word, giving the benediction. Rev. Joseph Lowery is a gay rights and a gay marriage advocate.



His remarks at Coretta Scott King's funeral (remember, Coretta was a strong, strong supporter of gay equality, and assured us that Martin would have been as well), show us that he does not mince words. He might fire some of those remarks at the bigotry that we still see in America, bigotry that is against the newest target, the gays.

Dmac says it well at Oxdown Gazette.

Rick Warren would be running with his tail between his legs if Joe Lowery and he got in a debate.

Oh, and in spite of what I said, I respect Rick Warren. I agree with him on a lot of things. He has inspired a lot of people, including my daughter who read his book (and somehow ended up with two copies). He's just a little mis-guided sometimes.

Marriage as Defined in the Bible

Since when does creating a "Team of Rivals" include asking the pastor who purposely tried to make you look foolish, to pray at your inauguration?

Rick Warren is either a smart slimeball or senseless moron, and that's just based on his responses in this YouTube video.







First, he is right, divorce is a greater threat to the American family than same-sex marriage. But he spins statistics to say that most marriages are successful. He says in reality most marriages are successful, even though people say more than half the marriages end in divorce. And they do, he just doesn't count the second and third marriages which end in divorce 61% and 75% of the time, respectively.

Anyway, after comparing same sex marriage to brother-sister marriage, old guy-young girl marriage and polygamy, he talks about the re-definition of marriage, which has been defined for 5000 years, he says.

Ok, go back 5000 years, Rick. Around that time, Abraham included in his marriage having sex with and impregnating his wife's Egyptian maid, Hagar. As it says in the New American Standard Version of the Bible, "Abram's wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife." Gen 16:3. Great example of traditional marriage.

Who's Your Daddy?

Not long after, Lot's wife became a pillar of salt (think about that next time you season your green beans). Lot returned to his cave man roots (Gen 19: 30) and his daughters got him drunk and partied with him, and each had a baby boy.

Yeah Rick, marriage 5000 years ago is really something to hold on to.

Then there's that whole "sister, half sister, wife" thing Abraham goes into with Abimelech (Gen 20), and men fathering children by their concubines as part of their traditional marriage (Gen 22).

Next up is Esau, the hairy guy, who must have been a real stud. First he married Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah the daughter of Anah, and also Basemath (his cousin). (Gen 36)

So these are examples of marriage when the relationship was being defined. Polygamy, incest and concubines. And that is just Genesis. Marriage has be re-defined so many times it's ridiculous.

Oh, and many conservatives are upset with Rick Warren also because they see him as an opportunist and don't like his broadening of the evangelical agenda. (Re-defining the evangelical agenda).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Western Tribune Column December 17 2008

(Read more about and see pictures of Masdar here.)

Tribune column

When will America begin to take the energy crisis seriously? It looked like we were beginning when gas was hovering around $4.00 a gallon. People began to drive less, to run multiple errands at a time and to carpool. Average miles driven decreased significantly, and the consumption of energy in the form of gasoline dropped.

Now that gasoline prices have fallen our old habits are beginning to return.

In other countries energy conservation is ahead of us. Way ahead. For instance, in Abu Dhabi the leaders believe that petroleum is a thing of the past. They are building a city named Masdar, which is Arabic for “source.”

Masdar, will be a zero-waste, zero-carbon city, powered mostly by sunlight, which is plentiful in the desert.

The city will house 50,000 residents and 40,000 commuters. There will be 65 million square feet of office space.

Cars will be banned within the city limits. Garages are available outside of the city for parking, and electric transportation pods will transport people throughout the city.

Wastewater will be used to irrigate fields that grow biofuels.

In many aspects it is easier to build a city like this from scratch rather than convert and existing city. But American planners should look closely at the innovations in Masdar as new developments are proposed.

Green building technology is on the rise on our country. While individuals may be slow to adapt new habits regarding energy usage, architects are realizing more and more the advantages of designing from a conservation and renewable standpoint.

Construction costs may be a few percentage points higher with green technology, but we must realize that the dollars spent on construction are not the only costs associated with building. In fact, even future savings in energy costs (which can offset construction costs) are not all that should be considered.

The simple fact that we are using less of the earth’s precious resources should make small increases in price more acceptable. Some resources really are limited, in spite of what some politicians may want you to believe.

The leaders of oil rich Abu Dhabi are convinced that the world will wean itself from oil and we should join them. We can either face the end of the petroleum era on our terms, or allow it to force us into a crisis much worse than what we just went through. The choice is ours.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Langford Crowding the Dockets

Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford is asking for more time to prepare for his conspiracy trial, because his lawyers need to do some reading. I'm sure the judge will grant more time, as Langford's attorneys claim they have more than a million pages to read.

That's good because Langford's other case in Federal court is moving ahead. Judge Karen Bowdre denied Langford's request that the case filed by Central Alabama Pride be dismissed. Central Alabama Pride will be able to amend its complaints to address the deficiencies alleged by Langford.

Langford is being represented by Liberty Counsel, out of Orlando, Florida (but with offices in Virginia and ties to Liberty University and the Thomas Road Baptist Church crowd).

Why would Langford not use his local attorneys?

Two thoughts.

1. His local attorneys want nothing to do with the case because they understand that Langford was bullheaded in denying the same rights to Central Alabama Pride that he allows other groups, and that Birmingham is an inclusive city as evidenced by the resolution the council passed last year and that Langford was not being "inclusive."

2. Liberty counsel provides pro bono legal assistance in the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of human life and the traditional family according to their website. Somehow this case falls under that. But "pro bono?" Maybe Langford couldn't get Bill Blount to pony up for these expenses. I don't know.

Liberty Counsel is endorsed, on their website, at the bottom of the page I linked to, by dead people. James Kennedy, Bill Bright and Jerry Falwell are all dead, but give glowing endorsements. This is indicative of their dead ideas and backward thinking, I guess.

Hey watch the London Gay Men's Chorus "Coming Out at Christmas."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Angels

I am not going to be creative today. Someone already has. My friend Homer noted that some are calling for banning gay marriage because it isn't mentioned in the Bible. So he posted this:

Things not mentioned in the bible that aren't banned. Vanilla, parsnips, Austria, Pepto-Bismol, Lil Kim, movies, Gilligan's Island, keyboards, Ipods, gall bladders, Puff, Joey, Mama Cat, saguaro cacti, Sheryl Crow, Mormon magic underpants, Saturn, post-nasal drip, gorillas, celiac disease, the Jesuit Order, Tucson, flypaper, maple syrup, Patti LaBelle singing Moulin Rouge, armadillos, kangeroo meat, Michelle Obama, Lost, AM radio, testicular cancer, double penetration, ice skating, jumbo jets, the internet, California, pizza, gas stoves, tractors, Orangina, Eastenders, kitty litter, cotton candy, candy thermometers, suspension bridges, scuba gear, Jake Dakota, Daniel Zueras, hematomas, Secret deodorant, plasma tvs, North America, actresses portraying Anne Boleyn, blood type AB+, mohawks, Mike Huckabee, and my blog.

But gay marriage must be banned because it isn't mentioned in the bible.

Makes perfect f***ing sense to me.

OK. I have a couple of questions. In the Bible, angels are said to be "genderless". But they are often referred to as male, like in Genesis or like Gabriel. But at Christmas time, every angel you see is female.


There is a story behind these angels (actually part of a pair). I bought them years ago, used them once on the mantel. Put them away with the Christmas decor. Every year since I have searched for them, opening every box and looking in every trunk in the attic and the basement, and could not find them. I mean, they are like two or three feet tall, hard to miss.

This year, there they were, in a box of Christmas stuff that we use every year.

There's ghosts in this house I tell ya. Strange things happen.

But if biblical angels are referred to as male, why do we not see angels depicted like this?



Or this?

Who wouldn't want angels like these "myspace angels" watching over?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Three Things of Significance

Three things of great significance happened Saturday. Other things happened that are important as well. Barack Obama named a cabinet member. Joe Biden got a dog. Auburn named a coach. But these three things hit close to home, not in order of importance.

1. I graduated from UAB.
2. We had our Christmas Party.
3. My neighbor’s house burned to the ground.

1. I earned a Masters degree in Public Health, with an A in every course. I’m not trying to brag, but that is the best set of grades of all three of my degrees. What does the future hold? We will see.

2. We served up a bunch of Cajun food and desserts and raised several hundred dollars in gifts and money for two needy families. The final tally is not in, as we are still collecting donations through Monday, December 15.



3. This house was known throughout Bessemer as one of the premier historical homes. Known as the G. H. Stevenson House in the South Bessemer Inventory, the home belonged to Glenn Shadix who moved back to Bessemer about a year ago. Saturday it burned. Glenn thankfully was not in the house when the fire started, and is physically OK. The cause has not been determined.

Here is a picture of the fire in progress.




Here is what remains.

Here are some pictures taken after the fire. From indoors...you are not supposed to see the sky.
Still smoldering Sunday...the BFD returned.
The Bessemer Historical Homeowners Association members have you in our thoughts and prayers, Glenn.

Bessemer mourns the loss of this beautiful home and for Glenn, of the loss of so much of his personal belongings.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Help the Foundry

The fire in Bessemer destroyed a warehouse where The Foundry stores items destined for their SuperThrift Outlet.

Bill Heintz wrote on his blog that "We are thankful to be a part of such a compassionate and generous community." I agree.

But The Foundry could use your help now. If you want to help, go here to donate.

Newsweek Makes the Case

Well, finally a mainstream publication gets it right on same sex marriage and the Bible and has the ba…, gumption to print it. Newsweek article.




Newsweek created a firestorm however. I heard about this the other day on local AM talk radio. I am sure the hosts (Dominick Brascia and friends) had not read the article, they just automatically condemned the magazine, the author and anyone else associated with it.

Anyway, please do not comment on this unless you read the article.

Also on Newsweek is their Readback, where the response to the article is presented.

The main argument presented against the article and against same sex marriage is that it is wrong because...it is wrong. Nothing factual, nothing to refute the argument that the author makes. In fact, like Dominick, I suspect the comments were made by people who had not even read the article. I know people like this, I wrote a long letter once to a dear friend explaining my beliefs about sexuality and the Bible, and she wrote back that she began reading the letter but stopped after realizing the position I was taking (before she actually read what I was really saying).

American hearts are being changed since the passage of California’s Prop 8. I’m almost glad it passed, now, because it brought the debate into the streets and into the living rooms across the country. More people are learning about the hardship gay couples have in hospital visitation, estate matters, child rearing and more.

Now we have an article in one of the three major news magazines. The passage of Prop 8 sped up the recognition of same sex marriage in America, no doubt.

There still will be a fight, but it just got easier.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fire in Bessemer

When I left home tonight to go to the Public Building Authority meeting the air smelled funny. Something was burning.
It was a building at Fourth Avenue and 2oth Street, the building housing Gibson Sheet Metal. It was hard to tell where the fire started, it could have been in the building in the center of the block that The Foundry uses for storage. At the other end of the block is a building I think owned by the development board, and it was empty, I am told.

Here are a couple of pictures, taken with my phone.




Lots of water going on this fire. Two streams (help me Wayne, what's the right terminology?) from the ladder truck, one from the back of a truck, and one from the ground.

UAB Employee Sending Hate Mail?

Be careful who you hate. Or at least, how you hate.

A UAB employee used UAB email to send "hate speech" against gays to Join the Impact calling gays "freaks" and a "scourge of the earth", and "responsible for everything wrong in this sorry world."

Everything? So gays are responsible for the terrorist attack in India? Gays are responsible for a confused woman putting a baby in a duffel bag and leaving it abandoned on a street? Gays are responsible for a narcissistic governor attempting to sell a senate seat?

How about recognizing that gays are responsible for some of the good in our world? For instance, Alan Turing , the British mathematician who cracked the code of the German navy during WWII and is considered by some the founder of computer science. Gay. There are plenty of others.

Jonathan Quinn of Central Alabama Pride points out that taxpayer dollars are paying for the sender's email account.

ABC 33/40 Video

Sure, people can have whatever beliefs they want, and we do believe in free speech, but using your business email to spread your feelings is a no-no.

Here are some pictures of Christmas.

A Christmas Cactus


A Peppermint Fountain

A Prancing Reindeer

Fresh From the Oven


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bessemer Responders Earning Their Keep

Be sure to read my Western Tribune column from this week's paper. It's about education. It's posted just below this.

There is just too much "stuff" going on in Bessemer. Police and emergency workers are staying busy.

A murder on Granville Avenue Saturday morning. Johnathan Devon Woods was killed. A man has been charged with this murder. Police say it was a "domestic" situation but details were not released.

Walter Moore is missing. His car was found at Cedar Hill Cemetery with a window blown out and blood in the car. Police are treating it as a murder. Moore's mother, Ruby Moore, says her other children are getting anonymous calls saying Walter's body is in a creek nearby.

Kimberly Davis apparently ran off the road Monday night and into a swollen creek and drowned. Actually the cause of death was not listed, I just assume she drowned. This is not the first person to die along Morgan road in this manner. Shouldn't there be guard rails or something?

A live baby was found in a duffel bag. At least this one has a happy ending, but really, this is both bad and good news. The baby, a boy less than a month old, is alive and doing well. Powell Dabbs found the bag and baby across the street from his home near Grace Lutheran Church in Bessemer. Dabbs is a grandfather, and you can tell he comes from a different era. He was reluctant to touch the baby, "I didn't even handle my babies when they were little," he said. These days, dads are as much caregivers as moms. Well, except for breast feeding. Anyway, we are thankful that Mr. Dabbs had some mail to take to the mailbox yesterday.

What will be the news of today in Bessemer?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Western Tribune Column December 10, 2008

Education


There is little doubt that our country will move forward over the next few years, and I certainly hope that Bessemer does as well. One area that must continue to improve is education.

Education is the key to personal advancement in our society. Unfortunately, disparity in education in our state is commonplace, and educators in less advantaged situations have to be creative in their attempts to level the field.

U. S. News and World Report recently released their list of America’s best leaders, and topping the list was Freeman Hrabowski III, an African American from Birmingham who took part in the Children’s Crusade march for civil rights in 1963.

He was arrested, he was spat on by Bull Conner, he spent five nights in jail, but he learned from the experience that “the more we expect of children, the more they can do.”

Hrabowski went on to receive a Ph.D. in education and is now the president of the University of Maryland – Baltimore County.

One of the first issues he tackled was against the subculture in which those who make good grades in school are “selling out” or “acting white.” I have learned from school personnel in Bessemer that this attitude is present among some in their classes. They learn this in their homes, I am told.

Fortunately, not all young people are being influenced in this way. They realize that good grades are not “selling out”, rather they are “investing in” one’s future. Rather than “acting white” they are “acting smart,” because good grades get you into college, and a college education gets you a good job. And a good job gets you health insurance and secures your future.

Hrabrowski has turned UMBC in to a math and science pipeline by drawing on minority and low-income students who might otherwise be left behind. And he did this while holding those students to the same high standards as others. His students met and exceeded those standards.

In Bessemer we will have a new superintendent along with a new high school.

Our superintendent, and the educators in our system, should increase their efforts in inspiring young people, just as Hrabowski has done.

Bessemer education has made great strides over the last few years.

If you expect more, you get more, Hrabowski learned, so from our educators, we will expect more.

Bessemer Data and Christmas Prep

Data released by the U. S. Census Bureau reveals several things in Bessemer that need to change. Story from Birmingham News.

Percent of families with children that are headed by female with no husband. Bessemer 57%, highest in the county (Birmingham is 53%, next is Homewood with 22%). I think the research shows that children do better with 2 parents (regardless of gender). However, I think there are plenty of children from one parent households that are doing fine. It has to do more with the parenting skills than the number of parents involved.

Inadequate parenting may reflect in the next stat. Percent of those 25 or older with less than high school education. Again, Bessemer is the worst in the county, at 21.1%. (Birmingham 19.1, Alabaster 9.8) And percent with Bachelor's degree or greater, Bessemer 10.3% , again, lowest in the county.

Education in Bessemer is improving, although the school board might not believe that. After all they fired a successful Superintendent recently.

Anyway, tomorrow's column in The Western Tribune is about education in Bessemer, but you will have to wait to read it.

In the meantime, here is what is keeping me busy.



This is a Sugar and Spice Cake, and once it is frosted no one will notice that one of the layers is uneven. Lemon-Coconut Cake, Best Carrot Cake and Red Velvet Pound Cake are some of the others I am making this week.

Spending so much time in the kitchen, I had to put a Christmas tree in there.


Is this red and green enough?





Blue eyed Black Santa is watching over some of the Salt and Pepper shakers in our collection.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Christmas at the Castle

First, let me congratulate Alabama on their season. I know I am an Auburn fan, but Alabama deserves a little praise for going 12-0 before losing to Florida in the SEC championship game.

Florida is hard to beat. The last two times Auburn played Florida, oh wait, we beat them!!!! Twice!!!!

20-17 in 2007 and 27 - 17 in 2006. Maybe St. Nick should have watched the old tapes of Auburn and Florida to see how to stop Tim Tebow and the Gators. Oh well, that's history.

And I know, Bama will be going to the Sugar Bowl on New Years and Auburn's sitting at home watching. Maybe I can get a trip to New Orleans out of the deal.

Saturday night friends of "The Castle" in Bessemer were treated to a show, thanks to Jonathon and Kyle. Lavish decorations throughout the house and a stage over the pool added to the already grand atmosphere of the place. Several hundred people watched performers brave the cold and...perform... on the stage. No one fell in the water, no one got burned when fire ringed the pool (that was planned).

Here a a few pictures. The quality is poor, I was using my phone because I left the camera in the car and was not about to leave my place by one of the heaters around the pool.







Within a few days maybe there will be a video of the performers. If so, you know where to find it.
Thanks guys for hosting a great party.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tuberville

If I had taken the time to go upstairs and plug in a few extension cords, the picture I posted of the house would have looked better. Like this.





The trees upstairs were there already. The candles in the window to the right were prompted by readers.

Lights on the eaves and gables was also suggested, but that would involve a tall ladder. It's not that I don't have a tall ladder, its that I don't do tall ladders. Hanging the 5 wreaths (there is one on the side as well) is about as high as I go.

Tuberville

I have purposely remained silent on the Tommy Tuberville situation and still we don't have all the answers. Sportscasters are saying it doesn't add up. But here is what I think.

Regardless of why Tommy left, and in spite of any bad feelings, Auburn will have a new coach soon. Fans and students will rally around the new guy, and next year will be an emotionally charged year.

Alabama better enjoy their 1 game winning streak against Auburn.

I understand about losing to Alabama. After all, I spent 9 years at Auburn and after my freshman year victory (Punt Bama Punt), my next 8 years saw losses to Alabama (part of Bama's 9 year win streak). So during my "formative" years I learned that the world does not end with a loss to Alabama.

But I also learned that a win (17-16) lives forever (thanks in part to YouTube).


Warrrrrr Eagle!!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas in Bessemer

Be sure to read my Western Tribune Column from this week, which follows this.

This is new. Bessemer officials must be trying to keep me happy. Christmas decorations on the light poles like you might see downtown, on Dartmouth Avenue! This "flake" is at our corner. Think they are trying to tell me something?


This candy cane is at the other end of our block.


Here are some pictures of our house at night, with garland and bows on the fence. Do you think we need lights on the chimney?


It would make a good spooky house, don't you think? We do have a ghost, and a ghost hunter type person brought an instrument here once to take some readings.


But if you start mixing ghosts and Christmas, you end up with a Nightmare Before Christmas setting, which is appropriate since my neighbor Glenn Shadix had a role in that movie. Visit his site and read Glenn's interview about The Nightmare Before Christmas 10th Anniversary.

December in Bessemer means grand parties, and Christmas here is always merry. Fabulously so.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Western Tribune Column December 3 2008

Here is this weeks column from The Western Tribune.



During the next few weeks we will all be deluged with requests for donations to charitable organizations that do much of their fundraising during the holiday season. Americans don’t mind giving as we always respond in big ways following national disasters and requests from big name groups with hopes that our dollars actually find their way to meet the needs of those in despair.

But there are needy people closer to home, and we don’t always have to depend on others to put our resources to good use. A pastor in Decatur, Alabama, who found that his church had taken in more money than they knew what to do with, distributed the money back to the members in envelopes with instruction to use it to bless someone else.

Some members pooled their money and many added to the amount in the envelope. One couple that lives in a neighborhood where people are struggling used their money to repair bicycles and buy safety helmets for neighborhood boys.

Many of us realize that doing for others results in rewards for the doer as well as the recipient. This “pay it forward” philosophy was promoted by Oprah Winfrey a couple of years ago when she gave audience members $1000 and a video camera with instructions to record how they helped make someone else’s life better.

Most of us don’t have $1000 to spare this season, but we do have neighbors or community members in need. We all know of people whose lives are affected because of circumstance, and giving to assist those in need is a holiday tradition.

On the other hand, many of us don’t even know our neighbors, so let’s start by making an effort to meet those who live nearby. If there is someone in need, talk to your more fortunate neighbors and see if you can come up with a way to assist.


You might not be able to afford to pay their utility bill, but you might be able to install weather stripping or insulate their pipes to reduce their utility costs. Or paint their porch, or rake their yard.

Most importantly, don’t confine this type of giving to the holiday season. Neighborly assistance can be a year round project. It will improve lives as well as neighborhoods.


It might even make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

People of the Year, Gay Edition

Various "end of year" lists and announcements of "people of the year" are being released. Here's a few.


The Out 100, an annual list of the 100 most influential GLBT people, names Cheyenne Jackson as its entertainer of the year. Wow.


I've recognized Cheyenne's, uh, talent, before, here. Xanadu is no longer running, but I hope Jackson is in something when we go to New York in 2009. Wow.

Most recently he starred in Broadway's hilarious surprise hit Xanadu, which closed in September after 513 performances ("That's 512 more than anyone thought we'd do," he says).

Wow. (I realize I am repeating myself, but...)

The Advocate included Thomas Beatie and Wanda Sykes among their persons of the year.

Wanda Sykes has long supported gays, and recently we learned that she is one. She let the world know after the passage of Prop 8 in California. Here she is at a rally in Las Vegas after Prop 8 passed (I knew we should have stayed longer), where she talks about her own same sex marriage and the importance of marriage rights across the country, not just in California. Thank you Wanda.




Thomas Beatie has had a baby and is now pregnant again. Reaction to the latest pregnancy was met with a yawn, of sorts, as people have begun to understand a little more about transgender people and the "shock" value of a pregnant man wanes.

Thomas was not the first or only transgender man to have a baby. Here Barbara Walters discusses the subject. This video is part 4 of a 5 part series. The other 4 can be found here .




In Part 5, the Beaties talk about family response to their pregnancy, and make an announcement.


Again, congratulations Thomas and Nancy.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Jefferson County Line Up

Information in this post comes from these stories in the Birmingham News.

We live in a county that has elected criminals to its County Commission. Well, maybe they weren't criminals before they ran for office. Maybe. But Jeff Germany, Chris McNair, Mary Buckelew, Gary White and now Larry Langford were all commissioners between 1986 and 2006.
Jeff Germany, convicted in 2006 of using social service programs to get taxpayer money for personal gain.

Chris McNair, convicted in 2006 of bribery and conspiracy tied to the sewer rebuilding program.

Mary Buckelew, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in sewer deal, after receiving Salvatore Ferragamo shoes and a handbag worth $1500, a $1400 spa treatment and $1119 more in items from the Italian designer store.

Gary White, convicted in 2008 of conspiracy and bribery tied to sewer program. His conviction was set aside and he is awaiting new trial.*

Larry Langford, indicted for bribery, conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns in 2008.

* I personally think White's charges were politically motivated (Why Gary White Was Prosecuted). But still, five former County Commissioners, one of which is now the Mayor of the largest shrinking city in the state.

Why do the people of this county elect so many crooks? Or do they elect good people who can not resist the temptations set before them after they enter public life?

Various city and state officials have commented about what effect this will have on Birmingham's near and distant future. Can a county teetering on bankruptcy and stacking up felons like cordwood attract entrepreneurs and business investors to locate in its largest city?

Many writers in Jefferson County, including me, find it difficult to avoid cynicism about this because we pay for the Rolexes and Ferragamo shoes every time we flush the toilet. To accept bribes at the expense of the people who elected you shows what you really think of those people.
Langford is such a hypocrite, urging inner city parents not to buy expensive clothes for their kids, and wearing a Rolex watch to his "Sackcloth and Ashes" show. He said he learned a lesson as a child after being beat with an electric cord by his mother and taken to juvy by his stepfather to be shown what happens to boys that steal after he was caught stealing money to buy oatmeal cookies.

Maybe its time for a few more lashes with the electric cord.

And maybe its time we look for different leadership qualities in those we elect to public office.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Langford in the Pokey

Update: Alice Martin held a press conference regarding the Larry Langford arrest, where she named conspiracy, bribery, fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns as the charges. 101 counts.

Langford, Al LaPierre and Bill Blount of Blount Parrish were indicted.

Expensive clothes, an $11,000 Rolex watch, having your loans/personal debts paid off.

Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford had been arrested and is being held at the Federal Courthouse. Story

We knew that the chickens would come home to roost for Larry , maybe others will be charged as well. Oh, Al Lapierre has also been indicted and will be surrendering today, but I mean others...in...uh...well, let's just wait and see.

The indictments are sealed, so no details of the charges have been released.

Langford already has this case in Federal court to be concerned about. He was sued by Central Alabama Pride over the rainbow flag flap after the 2008 Pride celebration.

Do you think the mayor is dancing now? (The weather forecast in this video is not for today).