Thursday, 29 August 2013

40 years ago: Egypt and Libya announce their intention to unite in a single state

On August 29, 1973, Egyptian President Anwar el-Sadat and Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar el-Gaddafi announced the "birth of a new unified Arab state." The declaration, however, made it clear that actual unification would come gradually, although Col. Gaddafi had supported immediate full union. If you're not old enough to remember--or, if like this blogger, you're old enough, but still don't remember union between Egypt and Libya--that's because it never, as Howard Cosell would say, eventuated.

Egypt, Libya, and Syria had comprised the Federation of Arab Republics since 1971. 38 days after the August 29 announcement, Egyptian and Syrian forces invaded Israel to begin the Yom Kippur War. Col. Gaddafi was reportedly infuriated that Egypt and Syria had planned the war without consulting him and was further angered when Egypt agreed to peace talks rather than pushing for total victory (the fact that Israel was getting the better of the war may have had something to do with Egypt's willingness to negotiate). The breach in relations between the Egyptian and Libyan leaders eventually reached the point that Col. Gaddafi called for the overthrow of Mr. Sadat.

On January 11, 1974, Col. Gaddafi and Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba met on the Tunisian island of Djerba and signed the Djerba Declaration, committing the two countries to unite in a single state to be known as the Arab Islamic Republic. Mr. Bourguiba soon reconsidered his decision to unite with Libya, and the union lasted no more than a month, if that; the date of dissolution is uncertain, and some say that Mr. Bourguiba changed his mind after only a day or so.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Take me out to the ball game funeral

In 1979 the television situation comedy series WKRP in Cincinnati aired an episode titled Commercial Break in which the radio station produced a commercial--featuring a snappy, upbeat jingle--for a funeral home. The program was ahead of its time; in 2013 a professional baseball team has decided to offer a free funeral to the winner of a contest as part of a commercial tie-in to a funeral home. I agree with their choice for the winner, but I prefer the old-fashioned kind of baseball promotion that Bill Veeck used to have--such as sending a midget up to bat.

From the same team that brought you the "urinal gaming system," as reported by Precious Petty of the Lehigh Valley Express-Times, August 20, 2013:

Most funeral directors will tell you that the best time to discuss after-death arrangements is well before a loved one passes away.

That's why Kevin Reichel, of Reichel Funeral Home in Northampton, agreed to sponsor the Lehigh Valley IronPigs' "Celebration of Life" tonight at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown. He wanted to start a conversation.

It would seem that Reichel succeeded.

News that the IronPigs would award a free funeral to one essay contest entrant grabbed national headlines. Fans who showed up to watch the Pigs play the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders were abuzz about the atypical giveaway.

Steve Paul, who's battling Lou Gehrig's disease, penned the winning essay. Doctors in June diagnosed the Freemansburg man with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. The news got him to thinking about his mortality, and he decided to enter the contest.

The 64-year-old said he wrote and rewrote the essay four or five times before submitting it...

...Paul, who uses a wheelchair, said it's a relief to know that his family won't have to worry about shouldering the financial burden of his funeral. But now that he has the prize in hand, Paul hopes to put off using it for as long as possible...

...Entrants submitted essays describing their ideal funeral and explaining why they deserved a free sendoff. The contest drew more than 50 essays from people looking to score a funeral worth nearly $10,000...

...A few entrants aimed to put the "fun" in funeral and called for memorial services held at Coca-Cola Park's home plate or to be attended by the IronPigs starting lineup, Reichel said. Other essayists, like Paul, struck a serious tone.

"It has been fun and crazy and goofy and that's part of what our fans have come to expect, but after the winner's announced, I think it'll be a new kind of story," Landes said before the IronPigs named Paul.

"People are going to be really appreciative of the Reichel Funeral Home and what they've done for this family," he said.

Paul's prize includes a casket, embalming or cremation, hearse, headstone, flowers and a funeral or memorial service. Reichel said his services are valued at $7,500. Northampton Memorial is pitching in with a headstone worth up to $1,500 and RichMar Florist is donating $300 in flowers...

Thursday, 22 August 2013

The most unwelcome invention of 2013: the "urinal gaming system"

I'm sick and tired of sports events and leagues being used to promote trendy and politically-correct charities and causes. In recent years the Canadian Football League season has been commandeered during the month of October by the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, with teams wearing pink uniforms for selected games (I'd like to see what would happen if a player balked at supporting the cause). Now a guy can't even go to the men's room at a baseball game without being exposed to a moralizing lecture about his health.

The Lehigh Valley IronPigs of the International League are the AAA farm team of the National League's Philadelphia Phillies. The IronPigs play their home games at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania. As reported by Jon Schaeffer of the IronPigs on March 26, 2013:

(Allentown, PA) - Coca-Cola Park will be the first sports venue in the world to feature a brand new revolutionary "Urinal Gaming System", allowing fans to interact with the world's only truly hands-free urinal game controller, when the Lehigh Valley IronPigs open their 2013 season this April. The p-controlled video game systems will be featured within all men's restrooms at Coca-Cola Park and are exclusively presented by Lehigh Valley Health Network.

"These games are sure to make a huge splash," exclaimed IronPigs General Manager Kurt Landes. "Our fans are always looking for the next big thing and these 'X-Stream games' are another example of our commitment to providing an unparalleled entertainment experience in all aspects of Coca-Cola Park, including our restrooms."

When a user approaches the urinal, the video console flips into gaming mode, using patented technology that detects both his presence and stream. Algorithms then allow the user to engage with the screen by aiming in different directions to test their agility and knowledge. The games are 100% intuitive and custom-built to provide a unique user interface along with an easy and seamless experience. The Urinal Gaming System was created and developed by United Kingdom-based Captive Media. For more information on Captive Media, or to see a video of the p-controlled video games, visit

Upon completion (an average of over 55 seconds according to published research), users will receive their score and a code to enter. They can then view their position on the leader board or check the website to see how they stack up with the rest of that night's competition! High scores will be displayed in real-time across various videoboard displays within Coca-Cola Park.

"Baseball fans know all about RBI, ERA and OBP," said Angelo Baccala, MD, of Lehigh Valley Urology Specialty Care and chief of Lehigh Valley Health Network's division of urology. "But when it comes to their own PSA, many men don't have a clue. We see this game as a fun and unique opportunity to remind men about the importance of prostate health."

Understanding what prostate-specific antigen (PSA) means is just a first step, Baccala said. He hopes the game will motivate more men to talk with their physician and, if appropriate, get screened. "Baseball, above all, is about team, and so is prostate health. Men should work together with their physician to devise a game plan that makes sense for them."

10 years ago: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is suspended for refusing to remove the Ten Commandments from the courthouse

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;
And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:
For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not steal.
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
Exodus 20:2-17

On August 22, 2003, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission filed a complaint with the Alabama Court of the Judiciary (COJ), effectively suspending Chief Justice Roy Moore for his refusal two days before to enforce an order from a federal judge to remove from the rotunda of the State Supreme Court building in Montgomery a rock inscribed with the Ten Commandments. The COJ ordered the rock removed, using the ridiculous argument that the display violated the separation of church and state.

American readers may decide for themselves whether the decision to order the removal of the Ten Commandments from the State Supreme Court building in Montgomery has had a beneficial effect for Alabama and the U.S.A. I think those who demand the removal of the Ten Commandments should be challenged to explain which of the commandments they find so offensive and why they find them so offensive. I suspect the commandment that most offends secularists and idolaters is the first one.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Never trust a talking teddy bear

If dogs could talk, it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one. Andy Rooney

As if there isn't enough surveillance already, now you can have a talking teddy bear that gets its information fed to him from the Internet. The potential for further invasion of privacy (it's not to hard to imagine government snooping agencies using the talking teddy to encourage children to provide information about their parents) is ominous--if they ever get it working right (see entire article cited below). As reported by Neil Tweedie in the London Daily Telegraph, August 1, 2013:

Supertoy is a teddy bear that is supposed to hold a conversation. Not a set of pre-programmed “pull the toggle on the back” statements à la Action Man, but a real chat. About anything...

...Questions posed by the bear’s owner are turned firstly from voice into text, then transmitted to a server by a mobile phone attached to the bear and equipped with a special app. The internet is trawled for an answer and the reply sent back to the bear, which speaks his mind.
I particularly like the following comment from someone identified as EnorMouse (August 2, 2013):
Let's see - opinionated, spends its time surfing the net on mobile phone, lacking the ability to evaluate the information it finds but happy to regurgitate it - I think he has invented a teenager - well once he gets it to open a couple of social media accounts anyway :-)

I've interviewed real teddy bears, and they're unanimous in their dislike and distrust of Supertoy. What Mr. Rooney said about dogs is also true of teddy bears, which is why I don't believe the talking teddy will catch on. The "billy possum" didn't sell too well, either--and it didn't talk.

Monday, 5 August 2013

50 years ago: Jesuit priest advocates public relations techniques for churches

We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer (HT: The Watchman's Bagpipes)

We've become so accustomed in recent years to seeing churches using the methods of the church growth movement and the ideas of people such as Peter Drucker to increase attendance and membership that it may come as a surprise to find out that such wasn't always the case. The following story from Associated Press appeared in The Edmonton Journal, July 20, 1963:

New York (AP)--Are public relations techniques suitable for church use?

A 385-page "yes" answer has been written by Rev. Thomas J.M. Burke, director of public relations for Jesuit missions, in a doctoral dissertation, said to be the first one on public relations for religious institutions.

"All religious groups can and should use organized public relations techniques to remove unnecessary conflict and misunderstanding among themselves and between religious groups and society at large," says Father Burke.

In his thesis, Father Burke outlines how all creeds can utilize the elements of planning and continued direction that are essential in a successful public relations campaign.

His view is this:

The basis of public relations is to persuade people. Religious groups aim at persuading people of an ethical truth they think is usable.

So, using techniques highly developed by professional public relations men can enable churches to promote religious and social values in society, communicate better with their own people and further co-operate among denominations.
Yes, all we need are public relations techniques; who needs old-fashioned methods such as relying on the Holy Spirit? While the apostle Paul tried to persuade men (II Corinthians 5:11), he did so while relying on God (II Corinthians 5:7), not on human methods of persuasion.

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. Mark 7:7

10 years ago: U.S. Episcopal Church approves first openly sodomite bishop

Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Romans 1:24-32

"He told me his name was Vicky Gene, and he caused a scene..."

On August 5, 2003, the Episcopal Church in the United States gave further evidence of its apostasy when the House of Bishops voted its approval of the church's first openly sodomite bishop, Vicky Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, two days after a similar vote by the House of Deputies (composed of clergy and laity). The approval by the House of Bishops came after two last-minute accusations about Mr. Robinson's conduct failed to survive an investigation. Mr. Robinson was married with a family, but he put the fulfillment of his homosexual lusts above his responsibilities to his wife and family, and the leaders of this so-called church didn't object.