True North and South; True East and West

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This story goes back a few years. I work downtown, and was using the bus to commute back and forth from work (now I use both bike and bus). My bus stop was half a mile from my office, east to west.

In Kansas City, MO, all the numbered streets run east-west, the numbering starting at the river, and numbering up from there. Streets north of the river have north in their name; south of the river streets have no north or south, just a plain number name.

It was a hot summer day and I was walking along the south side of the street, east to west, to catch the shadows off the north sides of the buildings.

Except, the shadows were coming from the south sides of the buildings, covering the north sides of the streets.

I tried to figure out why that was, how it could be? I never resolved it at the time.

One of my conjectures was about the Tropic of Cancer. The earth moves on its axis through the seasons. The furthest north it moves is the Tropic of Cancer; the furthest south it moves is the Tropic of Capricorn. If we were below the tropic of Cancer, there would be a time when the sun could come from the north. But we are far north of the Tropic of Cancer, so it couldn’t be that.

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It wasn’t until recently that I was looking at a map of downtown, and found one that was oriented so north-south was perfect up-down and east-west was side to side. That was when I noticed something: the streets don’t seem to run true east-west. The directions of the streets I was walking are off askew. Not that they seem to skew the right direction all the times to explain all the shadows I see, but it is finally a start.

But it does prove a point about assumptions and what we know to be true. The streets run east-west. That is a general rule, but it tells us nothing about any specific street.

I suppose the same thing could be true about any generalizations.Talk people. Gender, race, religion, etc., we “know” something about them, as groups, but it doesn’t guarantee we know anything about a particular individual. Generalizations are helpful, but most dangerous when we are most certain about what we know.

So the next time you see a shadow on the wrong side — remember the danger of assumptions — and confidence in the things you know are true.

Whispering Hope

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This song was taken quickly into the church, though it isn’t deep enough theologically to fit into the 100 hymns everyone should know. There really isn’t anything deeply theological anywhere.

But it has a nice melody, even if a little expansive.  Need a lot of support, which isn’t that easy to do while playing and singing.

1

Soft as the voice of an angel, Breathing a lesson unheard….

Hope with a gentle persuasion Whispers her comforting word….

Wait, till the darkness is over Wait, till teh tempest is done…

Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, After the shower is gone.

Chorus

Whispering Hope, Oh how welcome thy voice…

Making my heart … In its sorrow rejoice.

Whispering Hope, Oh how welcome thy voice…

Making my heart … In its sorrow rejoice.

2

If in the dusk of the twilight, Dim be the region afar …

Will not the deepening darkness Brighten the glimmering star?

Then when the night is upon us Why should the heart sink away .

When the dark midnight is over Watch for the breaking of day…

Chorus

A Blast of the Past #13 — Go West, Young Man!

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These Blast of the Past post hit a geographic divide — the move from New York State to Missouri. And there are no pictures of that.

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What I recall is Betsy’s folks coming to New York for the birth of Carly, and then her father coming two months later to help with the move. We loaded everything in the U-Haul and then her father drove it back alone, while Betsy, Carly and I drove ourselves in her car (mine having given up the ghost about a year before).

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Our trip was uneventful, or full of a lot of small events. We stopped often — at least every two hours to feed Carly, change her, etc. The U-Haul, on the other hand, gave Betsy’s dad a little more fun. The U-Haul broke down somewhere on the trip (Ohio?) and U-Haul helped unload and reload it into a new truck (though it wasn’t packed as nice, and a few items ended up damage). But we, and all our stuff, made it to Missouri while Carly was just 2 months, old.

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This is where the pictures start.

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The arrival was a flurry of unpacking the U-Haul with no place to put the stuff. The ensuing months were a continual process of moving the stuff from one place to another — all within the same house.

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When we first arrived we stayed in Betsy’s old room at her folks, and Betsy’s grandparents were living downstairs. Over the next few months her grandparents moved back to Michigan and we reassembled our stuff in their downstairs apartment.

Mother's Day 1997, Tryst Park, Kearney, MO. Mother's Day 1997, Tryst Park, Kearney, MO.

During this time is when Betsy started taking care of her niece Sofia during the day, and the slew of pictures of the two cousins playing together begins.

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I’ll have the salad — with a side of fries

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I’ve always wondered why fast food places don’t have combo deals for salads.  Why can’t you order a salad with a soda and side of fries?

One of the things I have observed while eating at fast food places is often the number of times that a man and a woman will place an order, one will order the burger, the other the salad, but many times it is the man who orders the salad. Yet the menus obviously seem designed with the idea that it is the woman who will be wanting the salad.

Which brings me to my other thought. Why are there no salad combo meals? If you order a salad, you also have to order a drink seperate.  And you don’t get a side with a salad. Oh, yes, McDonald’s has started where you can order the burger meal, and substitute a side salad for the french fries. What was a nice option. Once again, it was probably intending women to order the salad, but at least in my couple, I have been the one to order the side salad.

Now, as a guy, I’ve had this desire sometimes to order the salad, but I also wanted fries and a drink. But because that puts the cost way up, I’ve gotten just the salad and the drink. Why is a salad so different than a burger on the menu? Why not create salad combo meals? You can have a salad with a drink and side of fries. Just a thought…

#9: His Loving-Kindness

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 (Part of a series singing through the hymnbook I grew up with: Great Hymns of the Faith)

1

Awake, my soul, to joyful lays, And sing thy great Redeemer’s praise;

He justly claims a song from me – His loving-kindness, O how free!

Loving-kindness, loving-kindness, His loving-kindness, O how free!

2

He saw me ruined by the fall, Yet loved me notwithstanding all;

He saved me from my lost estate – His loving-kindness, O how great!

Loving-kindness, loving-kindness, His loving kindness, O how great!

3

Tho num’rous hosts of mighty foes’ Tho earth and hell my way oppose,

He safely leads my soul along – His loving-kindness, O how strong!

Loving-kindness, loving-kindness, His loving-kindness, O how strong!

4

When trouble, like a gloomy cloud’ Has gathered think and thundered loud,

He near my soul has always stood – His loving-kindness, O how good!

Loving-kindness, loving-kindness, His loving-kindness, O how good!

UPDATE ON DINING PLAN:

So here is today’s chart.  Note, this is the first time we went to different venues for a meal.

 

LUNCH Restaurant Entree Price Side Price Total
Jonathan The Chicken Shack Classic Wings Hot $6.59 Fries $4.99 $11.58
Betsy The Chicken Shack Chicken Tenders $7.99 Cookies $3.79 $11.78
Carly The Chicken Shack Classic Wings BBG $6.59 Cookies $3.79 $10.38
Nathan The Chicken Shack Boneless Wings Barbecue $7.99 Cookies $3.79 $11.78
Total $45.52
Grand Total 533.03

Dinner Restaurant Entree Price Side Price Total
Jonathan Pizza Pier Cheese Pizza $5.59 Cookies $3.79 $9.38
Betsy Auntie Anne’s Original Pretzel $5.59 Sweet Glaze $1.29 $6.88
Carly Pizza Pier Cheese Pizza $5.59 Cheese Pizza $5.59 $11.18
Nathan Pizza Pier Pepperoni Pizza $5.59 Bread Sticks $4.99 $10.58
Total $38.02
Grand Total 571.05

Corporate Challenge Kick Off vs. Park Food

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According to the Kansas City Corporate Challenge Facebook page, there are 30,827 participants signed up for the challenge this year.  Several thousand of them flowed into and out of the stadium for the KCCC Kickoff Walk and block party.

It was quite a festival atmosphere. Many companies had tents and food available for their people to enjoy. Many of them had loudspeakers with music pounding out everyone around them. If you roamed the grounds you could find several groups that were passing out trinkets and other giveaway items.

I attended, as I have for the past several years, with my wife and kids. We all participated in the walk, and then partook of the food at my company’s tent. Ours was standard picnic fare: hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie tray, potato salad, baked beans, chips, cookies, soda. Other companies had more elaborate fare, others even simpler.

What I find interesting is the way the corporations dedicate resources and get together to sponsor and encourage this sort of fitness and camaraderie through this competitive event. This doesn’t directly profit the bottom line, but the corporations see the benefit to the community they live in, the benefit to their employees, and the loyalty of their employees to the corporation, when they support this.

I’m always there when my company wants to offer free food. But Friday was a modest quandary.  Because Worlds of Fun was open 6-11 p.m., and we have paid for the All Season Dining Plan. But after eating hot dogs and hamburgers at 5 p.m., how interested were we in partaking of the dining plan the same evening?

Well, it took us until 8 p.m. to head over to the park, take in a few rides — the lines were shorter than on Saturday and Sunday — and then use the dining plan for and end-of-evening Pizza snack around 9 p.m. The weather was pleasant though slightly cool. Ideal for a park evening. See below for my dining plan summary.

 

Dinner Restaurant Entree Price Side Price Total
Jonathan Pizzo Pizza Pepperoni Pizza $5.59 Cookies $3.79 $9.38
Betsy NA NA NA NA NA NA
Carly Pizzo Pizza Cheese Pizza $5.59 Bread Sticks $4.99 $10.58
Nathan Pizzo Pizza Pepperoni Pizza $5.59 Cookies $3.79 $9.38
Total $29.34
GRAND TOTAL $373.27

UPDATE: Here are the tables and numbers from the Saturday dining plan usage. Note, that based on the amount of money we played for the plans, and the total number of meals eaten, the current cost-per-meal is now $7.85.

 

LUNCH Restaurant Entree Price Side Price Total
Jonathan Battle Creek Barbeque Pulled Pork Sandwich $10.59 Fries $4.99 $15.58
Betsy Battle Creek Barbeque Shredded Chicked Sandwich $9.99 Baked Beans $3.79 $13.78
Carly Battle Creek Barbeque Brisket Sandwich $11.29 Fries $4.99 $16.28
Nathan Battle Creek Barbeque Brisket Sandwich $11.29 Mac ‘N Cheese $3.79 $15.08
Total $60.72
Grand Total 433.99

Dinner Restaurant Entree Price Side Price Total
Jonathan Coasters Chicken BLT $7.59 French Fries $4.99 $12.58
Betsy Coasters Cheeseburger $7.59 Onion Rings $5.59 $13.18
Carly Coasters Chicken BLT $7.59 Onion Rings $5.59 $13.18
Nathan Coasters Chicken Tenders $8.99 Onion Rings $5.59 $14.58
Total $53.52
Grand Total 487.51

TED Ideas Worth Spreading*

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What is the saying? — The best thing since sliced bread? It could be the skeptic in me, but anytime I hear people talking about something and how great it is, and it seems to have a cultish following, it raises my skepticism.

Such is my impression of the movement known as TED. There is a lot of stuff that seems good and worthwhile, and even noble about the things they talk about and the things they do. But when so many people fall on the bandwagon the way I have seen it in certain circles, it begins to make me wonder.

For example, in one of my online master’s classes, I was part of a group that needed to put together a powerpoint presentation on a certain subject. We had much of the content together, but were looking for a good video clip to be an introductory tag. I came up with something related — a clip from an old movie, entertaining, humorous — but the rest of the group didn’t even seem to acknowledge my suggestion.

Instead they started obsessing about this TED talk clip someone had found. After all, as one said, “if it is TED, it has to be good.” But when I watched it I was bored to tears. I had Betsy watch it. She agreed. This great TED presentation was a fairly non-charismatic speaker doing a poor reading of his powerpoint presentation, instead of giving us something stimulating and interesting. And yet the other class members seemed to think it was “the greatest thing since sliced bread.”

I’m not sure how we eventually decided not to use it. But we eventually went for something even shorter and hokily PC.

So what exactly is TED? I picked up the below description from its website:

Our organization

TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

Our Mission: Spread ideas

TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world. On TED.com, we’re building a clearinghouse of free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers — and a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other, both online and at TED and TEDx events around the world, all year long.

In fact, everything we do — from our TED Talks videos to the projects sparked by the TED Prize, from the global TEDx community to the TED-Ed lesson series — is driven by this goal: How can we best spread great ideas?

TED is owned by a nonprofit, nonpartisan foundation. Our agenda is to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation.

I find it interesting to combine technology, entertainment and design. It isn’t a bad idea. And the goal to spread great ideas is worthy as well. If TED is truly an organization that brings people together to share and discuss ideas, to generate conversation and more great thoughts, then it should be promoted. And in many ways and places it is.

But like I discovered in my master’s class, there is a potential darker side to the group – or at least the way people use and perceive it. Being TED gives you an imprinture in some people’s minds. Being TED means it is the right idea. Some people are ready to believe, not discuss and consider, TED ideas.

TED can become a place for right think, a sort of group think, as people start reinforcing each other’s ideas instead of challenging them. If this type of mentality is allowed to continue it can be a place that forces out other ideas, and becomes a school of the “politically correct”, or perhaps “scientifically correct” thought.

“Scientifically correct” seems innocuous, until you do a study of science, and realize how often science has been wrong, and it took the persistence of one person or small group to show the error.

So, my challenge is, TED has a lot of great stuff, but don’t start treating TED talks as holy writ. Ideally the talks should encourage us to think, and to challenge their premises. They should advance our thinking, not curtail it.