Monday, October 29, 2007


1984 by George Orwell

This classic story of Orwell's imagined future in 1984 written during the 1950s is a stark warning against totalitarian systems of government. In the story the government is headed by a shadowy figure titled Big Brother. This popular reference to "the man" or other monitoring organization originates in this story. The basic concept is that the ruling party monitors all aspects of a person's life through telescreens, microphones, and an elaborate spy system, among others. They create their own history and destroy all accounts which differ from their account of history.

They also invent a language called Newspeak which could be a reference to using politically correct language. Newspeak is structured to comply solely with the political philosophies of the Party and is intended to make thought which occurs contrary to this philosophy impossible. If someone tries to make claims to the contrary or engage in discussions that oppose the party it is considered "crimethink" and the person is taken away to be "fixed."

If current events or philosophies change, a complex system of forgery and reworking is in place to rewrite history so that Big Brother always makes accurate predictions, the economy is always better than it was in the past and things appear to be great on paper. In reality, people barely subsist, disease and crime is common, and life in general is much worse compared to life prior to the Revolution which occurred in the 1950s-60s in conjunction with wide spread
nuclear war. Old copies of books and newspapers are burned to eliminate any hard
copy of actual history.

There is no reality but that which the Party and Big Brother espouse. If you think outside or remember something different from the stated reality, you are considered delusional and in a minority of one. Those who persist in the belief that Big Brother is wrong, are arrested and systematically tortured and brainwashed to the point where they begin accepting the Big Brother philosophy and reality as truth.

The main character works for the Party but has doubts as to the positive benefits of the Party and its philosophy. He feels repressed and seeks out ways to fight against this overwhelming power. The first part of the book walks through his growing realization of the continuous brainwashing and creation of reality which can change at the drop of a hat.

The 2nd part adds very little to the overall plot and really could be skipped without much loss in value. It additionally contains a gratuitous amount of promiscuous behavior which serves little purpose other than an appeal to the prurient interest.

The last part of the book describes in detail the arrest, torture, and brainwashing of the protagonist. He has many logical arguments and perspectives which would likely occur to the reader fighting against the philosophy of Big Brother. This helps to make believable his eventual conversion to belief that Big Brother is good and right regardless of the reader's perspective grounded in the reality of today's thought.

1984 is quite thought provoking and serves as a good reminder that any political party or dictator with absolute power is dangerous and measures should be taken to avoid movement towards this type of system.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Serendipitous Music

This evening, while dropping some books off at the library, I learned of a classical music event put on by the Kansas City Symphony which was occurring this evening. They had a string quartet with 2 violins, a viola, and cello. It was entirely free and of top quality. The order was Spring and Autumn by Vivaldi, Salut d'Amour by Elgar, "And this is my beloved from Kismet by Borodin, Edelweiss from "The Sound of Music," the Waltz from "Serenade for Strings" by Tchaikovsky, Hobo's Blues by Simon & Grappelli, Junk Food Blues by John Whitney, and the Overture and Hallelujah chorus from Handel's "The Messiah."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Righteousness of God or the Anger of Man

I was reading the book of James recently and chapter 1 verses 19-20 popped out at me. The verses read, "My dear brothers, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." My natural human inclination is not to take circumstances that do not seem fair and equitable in a calm and peaceful manner. It is more likely that I jump to the thought of "that's not fair" and come up with 47 reasons as to why and how the other side is wrong.

God's been showing me that while this type of reaction may be the natural one, it is not of Him. It's one of those my-own-power-and-not-His type of things. There is such a thing as a righteous and holy anger and times that are appropriate for this but so many times we experience anger that have undertones of selfishness. Whether we're right or not is not the point. Instead we should focus our reactions, words, and expressions on surrendering to Him and His view on the importance of things. Put very simply, what's eternal and what's temporary?

There are numerous examples throughout the Bible of people who got done wrong but instead of dwelling on the circumstances they chose to make the best of things and bring honor to God through their actions. Jesus, David, Job, Paul, and Daniel are prominent figures who experienced such persecution. By choosing to direct their focus on God rather than the unfair situation, they remained in communion with God and did not allow others to rob them of their ultimate joy and relationship with Him.

As I face the world and the stuff of the world, I can choose "the righteous life that God desires" or the anger of man. I'm thinking God's got the better option.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Pilgrim's Progress

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Written primarily while Bunyan was in prison for preaching outside of the Church of England during the late 1600s, this allegory marks the steps of a character named Christian through a journey to the Celestial City (Heaven). Disgusted by his life of carnality in his home town, Christian sets off on a journey prompted by talking with a man named Evangelist. He goes through a variety of struggles and eventually arrives at the cross where Christ takes his burden away.

He then continues on his journey and has to fight an apocalyptic dragon known as Apollyon who wants him to return to his former life then attempts to kill him. Christian uses the sword of the Spirit (aka the Bible) to combat the dragon and continues on his journey. He also goes through the valley of the shadow of death.

A friend that he meets along the way is named Faithful and travels with him a while until they reach the town of Vanity Fair. It is here where their steadfastness and commitment to their faith and striving for the Celestial City causes an uproar amongst the citizens of the city. Christian and Faithful are imprisoned and then Faithful is burned at the stake sending him on to the presence of Christ early.

Christian escapes and continues in his journey while picking up another companion named Hopeful. They encounter people such as Flatterer who leads them astray, the giant Despair, Atheist, and countless other such characters who's actions are described by their names.

Eventually, Christian and Hopeful arrive in the Celestial City and are welcomed in by the King. As I read this passage, it made me think of finishing a race in which the crowd is lining the passageway and cheering the runners on to the finish. It was a neat mental picture of coming home to Heaven having finished the race.

The book provides good insight as to both the Christian life as well as that of people in the world and the various struggles, encounters, and types of people one comes into contact with throughout life. At times, the book was heavy on philosophy and could have used a bit more action rather than long discourse. Though I believe I've seen children's versions of this story, this original version was certainly written for the advanced high school or college level student.

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Well, I made my first sales on eBay. All told with shipping, postage, and gas spent driving to the post office, I may have netted out a profit of a few dollars. However, it did provide for a good learning experience and gave me a better idea of how to do things if I sell something in the future. I also sold a DVD on eBay's partner site

In some ways I like better. An item can be listed indefinitely and an insertion fee is not required. With eBay the item is only listed for 1 week and you pay a minimum of $0.20 as an insertion fee plus a host of other small fees if you use gallery pictures or take advantage of other options.

When the actual sale occurs, eBay is a bit cheaper charging a commission of around 5% of the final sales price. charges around 15% so is a bit steeper from that standpoint.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Fair Tax Book

The FairTax Book by Neal Boortz and John Linder

In this book, Boortz and Linder discuss the abolishment of the income tax. Under this system, wages would not be taxed at all. As an alternative to raise revenue for the government, they propose a national sales tax. The goal is revenue neutral so that same amount of revenue would be collected to run the government.

This would allow the individual to choose when they paid tax. So those who save and invest money rather than spending all of it, would come out much better.

The proposed sales tax rate would be around 23%. While this may sound high, one should keep in mind that no tax would have been withheld from his or her paycheck. For example, say that the average household income for America which is approximately $40,000 a year were not taxed. This would mean the Joneses get to take home all $40,000 of that hard earned income. As it stands today, they are probably only taking home around $32,000 assuming a 20% income tax rate and not considering state, Social Security, or Medicare taxes.

As a component of the national sales tax, they propose that a certain poverty level determination of say $10,000 which would be considered the bare minimum for a person to survive on and each person would receive a "prebate" of $2,300 per year paid in monthly installments. This would significantly help those on the low end of the income spectrum and actually result in additional money to spend on essentials such as food, clothing, and housing. It would also avoid the potential disparities which could occur with a food exemption if the wealthy purchased steak and lobster or other such expensive food items.

Additionally, it would take many of the inefficiencies out of the current system in that each time there is a touch on producing a good or service, income tax is charged. For example, when you buy a loaf of bread, the business who produced the seeds, the farmer who grew the wheat, the mill, the bakery, the trucking company, and the grocery store all pay income tax on their portion of the bread production. By taking the income tax away, the loaf of bread would subsequently be much cheaper (estimated around 25%) from the reduction of built in income tax for a product. (This assumes that businesses will not pay income tax. There would be many rules set up to prevent people setting up "businesses" to evade taxes.)

The Fair Tax also has the benefit of helping prevent tax evasion. Under the current system, there are millions upon millions of dollars of unreported income every year which are not taxed. This could occur in anything from illegal trades such as selling drugs on the street to the legal trades of wait staff or any industry in which cash is used to pay for goods or services but not reported. Every time these dollars were spent by the individuals, however, they would be taxed so this revenue which is currently lost would be collected.

It would additionally get rid of the estimated $265 billion spent annually to comply with the tax code. This is not to mention the 100s of thousands of hours that would be freed up to engage in more productive and enjoyable pursuits.

Economists estimate that in the first year of its implementation the economy would grow by 10.5%. Foreign companies would also have incentive to build factories in the U.S. to take advantage of the eliminated inherent cost included as mentioned in the bread example.

I think that this is a really great idea and hope that it is implemented one day. To learn more about it and see if your congressperson supports it or not, go to Now, go email your representatives and senators right now to voice your support. Do it. :-)

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