March 30, 2011

Late start for President?

I enjoy elections. People listening to issues, democracy in action, politicians pandering, all sorts of ads being run, scandals, gotcha moments, the inability to understand sarcasm, people taking words entirely out of context... never mind.

I enjoy elections.

One thing I've noticed about the 2012 presidential election cycle is that many commentators (such as this one) note that this year, candidates are off to a late start. In fact, today it was announced that the first republican debate was moved from May to September because so few candidates had formally announced.

The problem is that people's expectations are based upon the 2008 presidential election.  It certainly is true that by this point in that election cycle, there were far more announced candidates.  However, that year both democrats and republicans had to select a nominee, as a president was not running for reelection nor was a vice president in the race for the top job.

It's an entirely a different ballgame when candidates are lining up to face a sitting president.

In 2004, we had a situation similar to this election cycle.  A president running for reelection (Bush) with it being up to the democrats to find a nominee.

Here is the announcement timeline for the major candidates in the 2004 cycle.

January 13, 2003 - Joe Lieberman

February 19, 2003 - Richard Gephardt

June 23, 2003 - Howard Dean

September 2, 2003 - John Kerry

September 16, 2003 - John Edwards

September 17, 2003 - Wesley Clark

September 22, 2003 - Carol Mosely Braun 

October 13, 2003 - Dennis Kucinich

The majority of candidates announced after Labor Day. Not before Memorial Day.

Lieberman's relatively early announcement would have been because he was Al Gore's running mate so he already had the media baggage of the questioning if he'd run for the White House.  He stated he would not run if Gore was running.  On December 16, 2002 Gore announced he wasn't going to try again so about a month later, Lieberman made his announcement. He had to make it early.

As this point, Tim Pawlenty is the one declared republican candidate who if he had one ounce of charisma, wouldn't need to use a movie trailer as an introduction. (It certainly is an excellent piece and does manage to hit every possible segment of the republican base. Every. Single. One.)

People simply need to exercise some patience. The vast majority of Americans probably don't even realize next year is a presidential election year. Candidates this time know that. Candidates in 2004 knew that.

Please stop comparing 2012 to 2008. Thanks.

March 19, 2011

One year ago (Part 1)

It is hard to believe that is has been a full year since I was sitting in a hospital room waiting for the birth of my daughter. Actually, it sometimes feels like it could have been more than a year. But what makes it feel like time has flown is seeing babies who are smaller than Leilani and remembering that she actually was that size (or smaller). It feels like she is "the" baby, but as time moves on, there are babies younger than her! Crazy, I say.

But let me take you back, nearly one year to the day. As I posted here and here last year, I was extremely ready for her to arrive. However, she seemed to be happy just swimming around inside her mother. What could we do.

Starting about March 1, about two weeks before her due date, I went to work every day not knowing whether my paternity leave vacation days would start ticking down that day or the next. I tried to wind down several projects I had going on, and for those that I didn't, I sent regular emails to the rest of the office with detailed descriptions of what and how tasks needed to be completed in the event I was going to be out of the office for an extended period. (I had worked out 2 full weeks of vacation, and then 4 weeks where I worked Tuesday through Thursday giving me 4-day weekends.)

As the days slowly progressed, and informational emails became irrelevant as I was in the office to finish out tasks anyway, it became a little tiring. I was ready to get the show on the road!

So her due date was March 13/14, and Monday, March 15, after a hope-filled weekend, I was back at work.  In fact, we attended a friend's birthday party on her due date since there were no signs of her imminent arrival.  I had already had two weeks of "no baby yet.." replies at work so another week had arrived, where we could only wait. Monday turned into Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday. By this point, my wife and I were oh so ready to have the baby. Her, especially, since she did have the more difficult role to play in this God-ordained human reproduction process.

The weather forecast for the weekend was going to be sunny in the mid-70's, the first bit of nice weather we had as the DC area emerged from the bondage of winter so we figured I take Friday off. We had to go to the doctor's office for a stress test in the afternoon to confirm everything was ok, but figured have a fun, restful weekend.

I left work Thursday hoping that Leilani would arrive before work on Monday, but having been there and done that for the past several weekends, I wasn't too hopeful.  So we embarked on a restful weekend in preparation for parenthood.

Early Friday (the 19th) morning, before 6 a.m., I was awakened by my wife because she was having contractions. She was having them every 15 minutes or so. This was uncharted territory so I began recording on a spreadsheet the times and lengths of these contractions. Oh yes I did. We then called the midwife on call who told us to show up at their office when they opened at 8 a.m.

We were excited! Contractions had finally commenced so we picked up the ready-for-several-weeks Go Bag with stuff we'd need for the hospital and headed over to the doctor's office.  "What will being in a hospital be like?" I wondered. I have been only on the visiting end on countless occasions. We did a (unofficial) tour of the Labor and Delivery department a couple weeks prior, but this was it.  Finally.

Funny thing happened on the way, however. When we made it in, the contractions had stopped, and the midwife gave us a look of, "Oh, you new parents... are you sure you felt something happening? I don't see anything happening here..." 

Feeling somewhat deflated, she said that we should go back home, and Ruth should get some rest as he hadn't been sleeping well, especially in recent days. She advised her to take some Tylenol PM, which we picked up when we went to the grocery store, and bought food to have a nice breakfast.. at home. Because the stress test was to take place at 1 p.m., we had it done in the morning, and after confirmation that Leilani was just fine, we bought the stuff from Giant and headed home.

After a nice breakfast of eggs, turkey sausage, and pancakes, Ruth took some Tylenol PM and headed to the bedroom to get some rest. I stayed back in the kitchen to put dishes away. The sun was shining through the curtains and the warmth of the day was just beginning. The warm, relaxing weekend that seemed to have been taken away from us, was back. Disappointingly back.

However, just a minute or two after she went back to our bedroom, I heard a cry echoing down the hall and inside my head. "Ryan! I think my water just broke!" 

I had to do a double take because I had continually joked about water breaking, even before the 36-week mark. I always asked if she was sure it hadn't. I previously learned that in many cases, a woman's water doesn't naturally break, and during our morning trip to the doctor's office, I was slightly disappointed that I didn't get to have that broken water experience.

After initially thinking she was joking (very momentarily, as I ran to her aid), I saw her, now with broken water.  She came out to the living room and I immediately placed a call to the doctor's office. Now was the time! Not a minute to lose.  After spending more than 15 minutes on hold, I hung up and called again. In the meanwhile, I did hear all sorts of news about their facility instead of music, which might have made the experience a bit more dramatic. When I called back, I mentioned that Ruth's water had broken and needed to know what to do. They asked for us to return to the doctor's office.

At this point, it was around 10:30 a.m.  Our Go Bag was still in the car, and now we were off for some labor and delivery! We got back to the doctor's office and went back and met again with the very same midwife.  By this time, however, the steady stream of broken water had stopped, and after review by the midwife, she asked, "Are you sure you're water broke? I don't see anything that makes it seem like it did."...... you young parents...

We were confident that it had, and the midwife said she would look at some liquid under a microscope and that it, if it were what it needed to be, would crate a fan shape on the slide. She left, and Ruth and I waited to see what sort of amazing medical expertise was yet to unfold. Upon her return, she sheepishly said, "Looks like your water did break!"  In reply, Ruth placed her fist in the air and exlaimed, "Praise God!"

However, she said that because there were no contractions, that we should probably go back home. She said they would pick up in the very near future, but to stay home and be ready to return to the hospital when they did.  Home. Again? The thought itself was rather discouraging.

Upon further review of the chart, however, the midwife instructed us to go straight to the hospital. So finally! We were truly headed to the hospital to finally meet Leilani!

March 16, 2011

Ways to Help

The devastation in Japan is quite painful to watch.

Here are three organizations who are raising funds to help.

American Red Cross

Text REDCROSS to 90999 to give $10

The Japanese Red Cross is a highly experienced disaster relief organization with two million volunteers nationwide. Many local volunteers took immediate action following the disaster by distributing relief items, offering hot meals, clearing debris and providing medical transportation.

As concerns mount about damage to nuclear power plants in the north, the Japanese Red Cross is also focused on supporting the 200,000 people who have been evacuated from the exclusion zone. Many of the Japanese Red Cross branch offices have trained nuclear decontamination teams and equipment, including special tents for decontamination which can be used to support a government response. A specialist medical team at the Nagasaki Red Cross hospital is on standby, ready to receive patients if people become ill as a result of radiation poisoning. Other hospitals in the area are monitoring radiation levels to protect the patients they are currently treating.

At public shelters and throughout the country, local volunteers are handing out relief items, including more than 65,000 blankets which are of great comfort to the displaced, many of whom had been sleeping outdoors, in their vehicles and wherever else they can find space since the earthquake.

“There is a real concern for the elderly, who are extremely vulnerable to hypothermia,” said Meltzer. “Japan is a country with a high proportion of seniors, and the Red Cross will be doing all it can to support them through this dreadful experience.”

More than 100 medical teams, made up of more than 700 people, including doctors and nurses have been providing assistance in the most affected areas through mobile medical clinics. Trained nurses with the Japanese Red Cross are also offering psychosocial support to traumatized survivors. 

Donate online.

Adventist Development and Relief Agency

Working together with local authorities, ADRA Japan provided hot meals in an evacuation center in the Miyagino Ward of Sendai City where approximately 300 displaced people are living and 1,300 spend the night.

ADRA Japan continues coordinating with the Japanese Department of Social Services (DSS) and anticipates involvement in managing and coordinating evacuation centers in the affected area. ADRA is preparing to accommodate 1,000 evacuees, coordinating the procurement of food, non-food items and equipment, and transportation.

Do Something Now

Our partner is already on the ground, joining with local churches/believers to provide emergency relief and aid to people affected by the deadly quake and massive wave by distributing food, water, blankets, hygiene supplies and other aid to those who have lost so much. And for many, everything.

Initial goal: $10,000. Currently at $11,239

March 10, 2011

No Weather, No Time

When I was but a boy, I desired to know the weather and the time. The weather so that I could dress appropriately for school. (Oh, the days when wearing shorts on weekdays was a normal occurrence). The time, whenever I wanted to set the clock on the microwave, VCR, or my watch I never wore down to the exact second of the correct time.

There was no internet option. "So what must one do?," I ask to a possibly dumbfounded reader. If you had already missed the local news weather report or your father had placed the day's copy of the Washington Post somewhere around the house nowhere to be found, what could one do?

Luckily Bell Atlantic offered a service - just call their weather line or their time line and you can hear the latest weather report OR the exact time in 10 second increments. I called the lines ALL THE TIME. When Bell Atlantic turned into Verizon I was worried that they'd do away with both of them but was relieved to know they survived. But then, when information became readily available at the click of a mouse in the broadband always connected era (as dialing up to the internet to find out the weather was far more effort than calling the weather line), I no longer called.

I had a weather app on my BlackBerry which helped getting ready for work in the morning easier. However, several months ago after I retired said BlackBerry and downgraded to a regular cell phone, I began calling the weather line again.  There were some new fun weathermen who provided fun historical facts about the day and weather. It was like a nice walk down memory lane.

This morning, however, I have been saddened to learn that this service will be discontinued in June. Why, Why? I ask you. Why. Why.

March 8, 2011

Pools Without Water

Many, many years ago, there was a group of people who made swimming pools. They made great pools. Many people flocked to these swimming pools they built and found refreshment from the blistering sun and relief from the toil of their lives with a simple dip.

The swimming pools were designed in all sorts of ways- some rustic, some modern, some square, some circle. But they all, at the end of the day, provided a structured foundation where water could be filled (and stay) for the benefit of all who wanted to partake.

The pool builders, as the years went by, wanted to make sure their pools were even better, so they made all sorts of new shapes and styles. They worked extremely hard on making sure the foundation was strong and beautiful. And they accomplished it. As the years went by, new generations of pool builders came and went, and many pools were scattered throughout the land.  Over time, however, the pools were still structurally sound, but the pool builders just put in a little less water. Their kids used just a little less, and theirs still a little less.

One day, a pool builder noted that for many, many years, the pools that they had been building had no water in them. They built structurally sound, beautiful pools, but there was no water in them.  He went to his fellow pool builders and said, "Hey, did you know these things are supposed to have water in them?"

The other pool builders said in reply, "Oh we know. It rains sometimes and the rain gathers. And the water stays, for several days sometimes."

March 6, 2011

Crazy organization

I spend a lot of time on a computer. At work, at home. Much time online. I mean, what else is there to do on a computer except surf the internet, right?

Because of this browsing, I was thrilled when I discovered programs that would sync your bookmarks on your web browsers no matter what computer you are on. So I could save something I found online at work and when I got home, have it readily available.

I prefer to have all files on my computer organized insanely well so that I can easily access any file I'd ever actually need or possibly need creating a folders and subfolders and subsubfolders for ease of access. I mock and/or judge anyone who chooses not to do the same.

I have utilized this same system to organize my web bookmarks. Over the years.  Years. Forgetting about the vast majority of them, and simply using Google to obtain information that I had previously obtained and saved for future reference.

Today I have been deleting folders and subfolders in their entirety.  Organizations whose websites I wanted to save because I liked them (who I've since "Liked" on Facebook and am connected to anyway), or news articles that were important at the time, but are no longer.

Many of the websites are no longer active, or links are no longer valid.   Saving links seems to be less valuable than they once did with the significant development of internet search capabilities.

I currently have several hundred random web pages saved and over the course of the day, or next few days, or weeks or something, I will lose the vast vast majority of them.  I am currently figuring out what type of bookmarks to actually save. When I do, they will still be organized in folders, subfolders, and subsubfolders. Not to worry.

March 5, 2011

In the midst of revolution

In times of such commotion as the present, while the passions of men are worked up to an uncommon pitch, there is a great danger of fatal extremes. The same state of the passions which fits the multitude, who have not a sufficient stock of reason and knowledge to guide them, for opposition to tyranny and oppression, very naturally leads them to a contempt and disrespect of all authority. The due medium is hardly to be found among the more intelligent. It is almost impossible among the unthinking populace. When the minds of these are loosened from their attachment to ancient establishments and courses, they seem to grow giddy and are apt more or less to run into anarchy.

- Alexander Hamilton
in a letter to John Jay, November 26, 1775

March 4, 2011

Slave by John MacArthur (Review)

Some of the best discoveries in life are the things that have been staring you directly in the face but you just never realized it. As a reader of scripture, it is easy when one comes across passages talking about how people are God’s possession, or that someone is a slave of Christ and come away with it with a very, “Ok, so I am God’s property… what else” understanding of what is being said. John McArthur, in his phenomenal book, Slave: The Hidden Truth About Your Identity in Christ, tells us this concept is huge in understanding who we are in our relationship to God. In fact, this is the most commonly used image used in all of scripture, but you just didn’t know it. Don’t worry. McArthur explains it and explains it well.

I could describe this book with three words: scripture, history, and research. This is not a devotional book, nor is it filled with personal anecdotes of entertaining life stories to help the author convey a message. Rather, it simply is a footnoted exploration of a single word, sharing instances in scripture and providing historical and cultural context so that we, in our modern American understanding of slavery can be balanced with what slavery meant back when the authors of scripture wrote, though still not a sunshine and gumdrops life by any means.

While very researched, when you finish reading the book you do not come away with the sense you just endured someone’s term paper. There is a great balance Biblical examples, stories of historical figures, and examination of the word.

This book is like seeing, in person, for the first time a famous work of art or sculpture. You think you are familiar enough with it, but then you get a curator who has studied it greatly. He or she stands beside you telling you about it, walking you step by step closer to examine its fine details. Then has you back up, shows it to you from a different angle, and then you step in closer to examine it again, until you see it from all sides. At the end, your understanding of what you once knew is enhanced exponentially, and the sheer beauty of the work is magnified.

This book helps you greater realize what an awesome God we serve.

Five stars (out of 5).

I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Thomas Nelson.