Saturday, April 30, 2011

Friday, April 29, 2011

Kern-servatives (or, Why do you keep doing this to yourself, Oklahoma?)

Dear Reader, meet Oklahoma State Representative *Sally Kern. She's the wife of a local evangelical minister and a member of the OK House of Representatives from the 84th District, which includes parts of northern OKC. Kern has a history of making inflammatory statements. One in particular is her belief that the "homosexual agenda" is by far more of a threat to America than terrorism. (Because, you know, the LGBTQ community wants to make it more difficult for themselves to get equality in America).

In a recent speech from the House floor on a legislative amendment that could do away with affirmative action, Rep. Kern made comments suggesting that minorities are poor because they are lazy, and that "blacks" grow up planning on the government to take care of them:

       “We have a high percentage of blacks in prison, and that’s tragic, but are they in prison just because they are black or because they don’t want to study as hard in school? I’ve taught school, and I saw a lot of people of color who didn’t study hard because they said the government would take care of them.
She has since "apologized", citing that her comments were misspoken. But now the NAACP, the Black Legislative Caucus and Oklahoma Democratic Legislators are calling for her resignation, citing her intolerance, prejudice and blatant racism. But under the protection of a Republican controlled House, Kern is keeping her job for now. And since her most recent electoral competition was a transgendered person who in any other state (except maybe Arizona or Utah) would be a formidable candidate, the seat held by Rep. Kern is going to keep holding the same dumb ass.

Let me be clear. Racism is wrong. Generalizing prejudices are wrong. Judgmental biases are wrong. The beliefs and statements by Rep. Kerns in no way reflect the beliefs or views of all Oklahomans. Unfortunately, some Oklahomans indeed do espouse the same hate-filled and intolerant beliefs as Mrs. Kern.

What everyone else needs to do is stand beside our gay, lesbian, transgendered, African, Hispanic, female, and any other marginalized neighbor and get in line at the ballot box and get online and let Rep. Kern and her party's leadership hear a different point of view.

Here are their email addresses:
Representative Sally Kern: sallykern@okhouse.gov 
House Speaker Chris Steele: krissteele@okhouse.go
-- Addresses obtained from public resource, http://www.okhouse.gov/Members/Default.aspx 



Stay classy, Oklahoma!

* At the time of this post, Kern's personal website, http://repsallykern.com is down due to overwhelming traffic. Probably all the folks from the 84th saying  "you go girl!"""

Becksbytes Blog

Over the past few weeks I've been doing some re-tooling of the blog, and incorporating some of the add-on features made available by Google. I went ahead and started using twitter as a way to provide a regular source of updates on the blog. Check out the feed in the right sidebar.

I also added a few share & subscribe elements in case, you know - wanna help a brother out and promote my blog to your friends. And if you know my politics or religious beliefs, then you'll know who to promote it to and who to say "well, you probably won't agree with much of what he says, but he's kinda funny".

You can sign up for email updates of new posts, though I'd still really like it if you came on by the 'bytes to read up and offer comments. And if you facebook or twitter, you can share my posts to your friends too!

Speaking of sharing blogs, if you're not reading my wife's blog on parenting, recipes and general well being-itude, then you're a-missin' out! http://themultitaskingwoman.blogspot.com/

One last feature I'm debating adding to the blog is Google AdSense. It places ads in the right sidebar based on the content of the blog. So if I'm spending a lot of time raging against say, Glenn Beck - then Google would find some wacky Glenn Beck product and advertise it to the right. Then, if a confused reader clicks on it, and if that happens enough times in a month then Google gives me a shekel and a pair of boots off a hobo. What do you think? Would an ad or two in the right sidebar take away from your experience on the 'bytes?

I haven't pulled the trigger yet on AdSense only because I don't want to completely sell out and commercialize your reading experience. So for now anyway, enjoy the picture slideshow, the Tweet updates and anticipate some more of the same 'bytes reading pleasure.

Arts and crafts in okc

Here's a pic of the raku fired pottery the kids painted at the festival of the arts recently.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Burden of Proof

Today President Obama, for all intents and purposes, placed the final metaphorical nail in the 'birther' coffin. By releasing an image of a type and hand written "long-form" certificate of birth, which was verified by the Hawaii State Department of Health, the President has in effect silenced a noisy, albeit influential, minority in the national political sphere.

The most roundly heard cry from this group was for Obama to release his "original long-form birth certificate". An intriguing thing for sure, because as I recall I do not own my "original" birth certificate, but rather an authorized copy of it. I would argue that most Americans have in their possession not their original document, but some facsimile or copy thereof. Because if the document I possess were to be destroyed in say, a house fire, I can get another authorized copy from the state of my birth - just as Obama has done. To produce the actual original document with the real original ink marks would be a national security concern I would think.  

It's nice to be the one holding the right cards, and for folks who truly believed that Mr. Obama was not a legal U.S. citizen, (and therefore not eligible to be President) today's news must come as a huge, defeating shock. Or like conspiracy website World Net Daily's Joseph Farah took it:

 "it raises as many questions as it answers"
What? What does that even mean? Is there a contest that I'm not aware of to see who can be the most cryptic, mysterious and vague? It's an official state document not a pirate treasure map or a letter written with disappearing ink. The point of birth records is to be as boring and uninteresting as possible, so that there's no confusion or mix up in the birth room. If these records were meant to be mysterious they'd have code words all over them and weird symbols and shapes.

I've viewed the image of the document. You should check it out. It's clear cut.  There are typed dates, handwritten signatures of doctors, it says Hawaii, Oahu, or Honolulu on it about 7 times. I'm no expert on "Comparative Birth Certificates from U.S. Island States Circa the 1960's", but It doesn't seem to raise many (if any) questions.

If anything, Obama, in releasing this image of this form is attempting to help the country move past this obsession and on to more important issues. Like ending wars or fixing the income gap. Like increasing American ingenuity. Like calling out presidential hopeful Donald Trump on his promise to release his financial records:

"Maybe I’m going to do the tax returns when Obama does his birth certificate…I’d love to give my tax returns.  I may tie my tax returns into Obama’s birth certificate"
Trump said that to ABC's George Stephanopoulos last week.

Ok Donald, the burden of proof is in your court. Prove to us that you've paid all your taxes for the last 10 years. Prove to us that you've consistently managed your finances responsibly. Prove to us that you've built a financial house that is solvent, profitable, fair and up to date with tax filings, payments and records.

Oh, and throw in proof that you don't wear a toupee, or don't have a massive bald spot under that ridiculous comb over. That's what we all want to know - can we have a president who wears a comb-over?

Friday, April 22, 2011

"Good" Friday?

Today is the Christian holy day of Good Friday.

Actually, there's only about 1.5 hours left in good Friday for me here in CST. It's the day that Christians mark the crucifixion of Jesus. Some religious people in the Philippines take it pretty seriously with several people actually having nails driven through their hands in a reenactment of the crucifixion scene. Talk about devout! I didn't even make it 1 week into my Lent caffeine fast let alone get literally nailed to a cross.

But to recall in our own minds and imagine such a torture scene hardly makes me want to call it "good". The creation stories refer to the newly organized and materialized ground, water and sky as "good" because from them life was brought forth. So to me, such a violent murder as a crucifixion is hard to call "good".

In our constant attempts to rush to the ending of all things, (stories, movies, songs, meals, trips) and move on to the next activity, I think that people of faith often forget what really goes on between the Gethsemane Prayer and the Empty Tomb. We're so ready to sing "Christ the Lord is risen today" that we jump at any chance to evade the reality of the violence, indifference and murder that took place on that sabbath eve.

I remember Good Friday once being called "black Friday" because of the sorrow and sadness one was to feel at the death of Jesus. One of the churches I grew up in draped the sanctuary cross with a black cloak on Maundy Thursday as a reminder of the darkest of times during that week. Now, "black Friday" is a consumers fantasy for great bargains on LCD's and kids toys. And the holy day is marred with the joy of the empty tomb to come.

One of the great clarion calls of recent evangelicalism in America is "It's Friday, but Sunday's comin'". I get it, our hope is in the resurrection of Jesus - his defeat over death. Sunday is Easter and Christians are if anything "Easter People". I get that. And not that I'm all about blood-atonement theory because I'm definitely not. But I do think there is something to be gained by refraining from jumping from the Hosanna's of Palm Sunday to the Hallelujah's of Easter morn.

Yes, Jesus dies. This we know - for the bible tells me so. If Jesus doesn't die in this story, then there is no resurrection and thus no Easter. For us, Jesus has to die so that we can get to Easter and forget about death and violence and the marginalized. We can claim victory from the jaws of death for ourselves, and stop trying to remember the plight of the transient neighbor. Finally I get to go back to indifference because Jesus. Saved. Me.

But, I don't want to let go of the crucifixion just yet. I know how the story ends, at this point that's not as important to me - I'm fine with the resurrection, I've worked that out for myself for what I think it means. What I want to do is sit and think about what Jesus meant when he said "the poor you will always have with you". Or when he said, "when you do this, remember me". What do I learn about what this man said and did that got him killed? Am I crazy for trying to live a life like his?

Isn't it okay to pause for a meaningful length of time and truly reflect on the death of Jesus? Must we as a culture, western Christian culture - always jump so quickly and easily to the stone rolled away. Why can't we manage to loiter around the cross a little while, let the reality and responsibility sink in a bit? "Now that he's gone, what role do I play in the future??"

Yeah, Good Friday is good because it leads up to the promise of Easter. But in and of itself there's little "good" about it. Between waving palms, feasting at the passover table and the early morning empty grave, we seem to overlook one important thing. Jesus died.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Weekend Project (2)

"Project: Clubhouse" is in the final stages. Today I finished the shingles and lower deck, and mounted the swing brackets. I also added play features like a steering wheel and a "telescope". The finishing touches will come in the next few weeks. Still to do is some trim work to finish out the siding, build and attach the window grids and frames, and paint & stain the remaining pieces. I'll also build a little bench and maybe a table to go on the lower deck.


 Side Note: Plans are already being discussed on Extreme Makeover: Clubhouse Edition. There is a sandbox in the works to be attached to the lower deck (because attaching it to the upper deck would be pretty hard we decided) and a "north wing" to be built onto the adjacent maple tree to include a 2nd slide. A bike ramp is also being negotiated. 

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Then "Project: Garden 2.0" jumped up several spots on the priority list.  Funny thing- we planted carrot seeds, have carrots growing and now have bunnies eating our carrot plants! SERIOUSLY! Since I am a man of action and lies do not become me, I give you: "Raised Bed - Razed No More!" (Or "I got stabbed in the arm by wire fencing for this?":
We have lots of reusable 2x4s after taking out the yards 2nd fence. They are what I build the beds from and used for the rabbit fence posts. The plywood on the ground is left overs from the clubhouse and is a feeble attempt to keep down weeds until we get a load of mulch. Next winter I am planning a massive preventive war on the dandelions: corn gluten here we go!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

'Round the Yard

We've been pretty lucky to have had some really nice weather on the weekends for the past month or so. So much nice weather in fact, that I cannot remember the last time it rained. But that has allowed us to get some yard work done, and start some projects we've been talking about.

Come with me on a magical mystery tour 'round yonder yard.

First, on your right you'll see that we were able to finish off that pesky pear tree in the front of the house. We hacked it up real good a while back, but didn't take it all out at that time. We're gluttons for punishment I guess:

 The City of Edmond hauled off the huge pile of branches for the price of $5 a cubic yard - nice! 

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Next up you'll notice in the backyard I built some raised beds out of some old fence boards, and filled them with a nice mix of topsoil and horse manure compost:
We planted potatoes, carrots, bell peppers, bush beans and watermelon.
We'll see come mid June what we get. 

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Back in one corner that I refer to as "K9 Corral", we planted Daffodil bulbs, and they came up quick! I call this pic "Beauty and the Beast":

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Finally, in the shady but grass-less side of the yard is where the new clayhouse/swingset will be. BIG post coming up on that next week. 

So there ya have it - a few projects that we've been aworkin' on as of late. There's a front walkway plan and some retooling of the garden area in the future as well.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Crashed on the carpet





weekend project

The past weekend my parents came for a visit. Not to visit me mind you, but to visit their grandkids.
So  while they were here my dad and I started working on a backyard playset for my kids. Rather than buy a kit from a store like Lowe's, Toys'R'Us or Walmart, we chose to find a neato picture and build one ourselves to match. 
 First of several loads of lumber. This was the biggest and was delivered.


 Old & rickety fort in the background. 

 Can't tell we're related, huh. 

Not yet finished, but funny with the old plastic one there too. 

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Still to do is build and attach the stairs, finish framing out the house part, frame out pitched roof (then deck and and shingle it), hang siding board, make window grids, deck the lower part, and construct a sandbox on the side. Considering what is already accomplished, this is actually not that much work left. 

Many thanks to my dad who knows much more about this stuff than I do, though I know more now after his excellent teaching. I think I can get this wrapped up by the end of the weekend (gulp!). 


We had some birthday time too - the reason (well, one of them) for the new playground:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Birthday!

Here's Andy Jr. at a special birthday dinner. He got fireman boots!! Sweet!