Presidential Haiku Prediction 7

11/3/2008, 4:08 pm -- by | No Comments

Today’s spam subject:
“McCane kicks Obama’s butt”
Can you say “Bradley“?

Spam Subject Line of the Day

10/30/2008, 11:15 am -- by | No Comments

McCane kicks Obama’s butt

Spam Subject Line of the Day

10/16/2008, 12:10 pm -- by | No Comments

Why to wait?

Spam Subject Line of the Day

10/1/2008, 12:38 pm -- by | No Comments

“Make your fat friends envy you”

Spam Subject Line of the Day…

09/28/2008, 9:26 pm -- by | No Comments

“Your chemist wants to know if you are interested in bad health”

Why We Believe: Vol. 10

09/23/2008, 1:00 pm -- by | No Comments

At long last, on this, his 30th birthday — we present Josh’s testimony, the latest in our testimony series.

Of all the things for which I have to be thankful in this life, there is one unparalleled: the faith of my parents. What would prove to be the very foundation of my own life, my earliest understanding of God, that He is and who He is, was rooted not in the fact that my parents told me about Him (although they certainly did that), but in that they live their lives as though He is an absolute certainty.

Not that I never doubted. I distinctly remember when I was about four years old, wondering if the whole thing was a conspiracy. Those books in the back of the pew could be made up, and my parents could be in on it. Even my childish mind soon came to the conclusion that the thought that God does not exist is far more preposterous than the thought that He does.

Not that I fully understood. I was told that church was God\’s house, but I wasn\’t sure where He was, since I\’d been all over that building and never once run into Him. I finally figured He must spend most of His time in my mother\’s office, the one room I wasn\’t allowed to enter. I passed by the door with great reverence.

But I knew that God could make His dwelling in my heart, if I accepted the gift of His Son. And so, as a little boy, I said the sinner\’s prayer, and that little boy received salvation.

Of course, that little boy isn\’t here anymore. He\’s been gone for some time now.

I was 16 the first time I realized that I took my faith for granted, that the God of salvation accepted by a young boy would have to be accepted by a young man. As my understanding increased, as my person matured, as my life changed altogether, I would have to decide anew for whom that life was going to be lived.

The Lord continued to place people in my life to give me the love, encouragement, and instruction I needed to point me to Him, to keep growing, to keep surrendering. The fellowship of believers has reflected Him to me, and I am privileged to be a part of that fellowship, to reflect Him to others.

And so I seek after the Lord, and I find Him faithful. I seek His will, and He directs me, He sustains me, He supplies my needs. I stumble, and He restores me. I walk with Him today, and by His grace I will walk with Him tomorrow.

One Hundred Words (34)

09/18/2008, 11:00 am -- by | No Comments

It’s not that I think I’m anything great. Honestly, I’m not here to brag. But sometimes, I put my pants on both legs at the same time. I did it just this morning.

It’s not even that hard, if you’re sitting down. In fact, I find it easier than if I were to put them on one leg at a time while standing up. On they went, both legs at once, without a thought nor scarcely any effort.

But again, I’m nothing special. Please believe me. I put my jacket on one arm at a time, just like anyone else.


Always a Bright Side

09/9/2008, 9:11 pm -- by | No Comments

Today I had to drive to New Jersey to pick up some dentures (don’t ask). Anyway, on my drive, I saw a billboard for a website: Of course, I was interested. Unfortunately, I didn’t have Internet access. Fortunately, I was driving a car, so I could handle the situation myself.

One Hundred Words (2)

05/16/2008, 9:00 am -- by | No Comments

In the spirit of Proverbs 10:19, our newest regular feature will be a series of posts of 100 words — or fewer. Comments under ten words!

My favorite new ad campaign is Quizno’s response to Subway’s haunting “Five Dollar Footlong.” The ads consist of people eyeing a five dollar bill before eagerly devouring it. The visual is quite hilarious, but my favorite part is the words on the bottom of the screen:

“Dramatization. Do not attempt.”

Really??? Have we gotten to the point where we have to tell people we’re just kidding and they shouldn’t eat their money? Of course, if someone wasn’t warned, and did try it, and (of course) then sued, well, at least we’d have no problem quantifying the loss.


Best of Josh — The Newest American Hero

03/7/2008, 11:00 am -- by | No Comments

Originally published July 6, 2007.

This year, for the first time, I watched the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Contest. It wasn’t so much an intentional decision as it was happenstance — I turned on the TV just as it was coming on.

I already knew some of the backstory leading up to the event. Kobayashi, the longtime Japanese champion of the event (by large margins, for several years running) was being challenged by American Joey Chestnut, who had broken the world record in another contest a few weeks back. News then leaked of a Kobayashi jaw injury and possible withdrawal, leading many to wonder if he was ducking competition or preparing excuses. Kobayashi apparently then had acupuncture and showed up ready to compete.

As the event began and these two men raced to a lead on the rest of the field at a record-setting pace, I had a hard time watching. I’m a bit squeamish by nature and the contortions of the human body necessary to consume a hot dog and bun every eleven seconds are perverse to observe. At the same time it was riveting — I couldn’t stop watching.

I focused mainly on the graphic that continually updated the score, averting my eyes from a direct view of such significant self-abuse. After what seemed like an interminable period of forced gluttony, Chestnut had built a lead of five hotdogs and seemed to be in control. Then I looked at the clock and saw there were more than eight minutes remaining. Twelve minutes is a long time to eat without stopping.

The drama built until, with less than a minute left, Kobayashi had come back to tie, and the two men matched each other dog for horrible dog. But then, in the closing seconds, Kobayashi suffered a “reversal.” I’ll spare you too many details, but must mention that this great competitor continued to try to reverse this reversal, even after the bell had sounded and spitting seemed a far more desirable option. After the judges consulted instant replay — I almost wish I was kidding — Kobayashi was given a small penalty and Chestnut was officially victorious, 66 to 63. Both men shattered the previous contest record of 53½, as well as the former world record of 59½.

But perhaps the best part of the entire spectacle was the announcing. Regarding Joey Chestnut, one announcer remarked, “You Google ‘American hero’ tomorrow, you’re going to get Abe Lincoln, possibly Neil Armstrong, Taylor Hicks, and of course this man — Joey Chestnut.”

That’s right. American heroes — the man some consider the greatest American president, the first man on the moon, the American Idol winner from two seasons ago, and a guy with great control of his upper abdominal muscles. That about covers it. (Incidentally, actually Googling ‘American hero’ yields results for the TV show The Greatest American Hero, Ronald Reagan, and of course, G.I. Joe).

Aside from repeatedly calling Chestnut an American hero — even before the contest was over — and referring to his triumph as the greatest moment in the history of American sport, the announcers really kept things in perspective. But it was all part of the extravaganza, and as Joey Chestnut stood there smiling and sweating, stomach roiling, draped in our flag and basking in the adoration, I couldn’t help but find the whole thing uniquely, absurdly, and comically liberating.

All Hail the Giants

02/15/2008, 3:30 pm -- by | 3 Comments

Not that New Yorkers need another excuse to litter, but they sure do love a ticker tape parade. And I love the Giants, so as a current New York City resident, there was no way I was missing last week’s first-ever victory parade for them, after the greatest Super Bowl of all time.

That morning when I got to the platform of the Staten Island Railroad, I was excited to see a father and his sons wearing jerseys — a few Staten Islanders heading over for the parade with me, I thought. I was completely unprepared for what happened next. The train pulled up and was wall-to-wall blue.

I crammed my Phil Simms in by the door and rode to the Ferry Terminal, which was also completely packed. The boat arrived and we poured on. The energy was palpable. I looked around and saw Mannings, Strahans, Jacobses, and throwback Bavarros, Taylors, and Carsons. I even saw an entire family in throwbacks, mostly Taylors and Simmses, with the father randomly wearing a Jim Burt. Since most people don’t wear center jerseys, I spoke up.

“Jim Burt. Now that’s an old school fan.”

He smiled and simply said, “Jim Burt.” Looking back now, I actually think he might have been introducing himself. He was the right size and age. I have no idea where Jim Burt lives now and am far too lazy to do research that would ruin a perfectly good story. As a matter of fact, forget I said anything. I met Jim Burt on the ferry.

As the Manhattan skyline came into view, the whole boat broke into chants of “Let’s go, Giants (clap, clap, clap clap clap).” As we docked, the stampede barely waited for the ramps to be put in place before bursting through.

As I emerged into lower Manhattan, I quickly realized today would be unlike any other. Everyone was happy. Everyone loved each other. Everyone was a Giants fan.

Of course, the thing about New Yorkers is that their jubilance sounds a whole lot like everyone else’s hostility. The chants of “Let’s go, Giants,” very quickly gave way to chants of “18 and 1,” and “Boston sucks.” And those are the ones I can print.

As I settled into the best vantage point I could find, waiting for the parade to begin, someone across the street pulled out a football and threw it across. People cheered as the ball went back and forth. Then someone with a weak arm came up short; the ball landed between the barricades.

And we booed him mercilessly.

Finally, the parade began, and everyone pressed forward to see, cheering our passing heroes. Between floats of players there were open-top buses of team employees and players’ families, leaving plenty of time for chants of “Who are you?,” or “Call me,” when a bus full of attractive women went by.

My favorite moment came when a random guy rode by, holding up a sign that said “Let’s go Defence!” He tried to get the crowd to start chanting it with him, which almost worked, until it was overpowered by chants of “You can’t spell,” as he hurriedly hid the sign away.

In my section we talked with joy and reverence about this team and that game, while of course still finding time to bash Tiki Barber. I told my friends that I went to the parade alone, but that wasn’t true. I went with a million of my brothers and sisters, and I have never been happier to be in New York.

Best of Bweinh! — My Best Teacher

11/29/2007, 2:30 pm -- by | No Comments

Originally published May 18.

It seems a bit strange to think of him as my best teacher. There were certainly times when his style left me cringing. But in a way, coming through our clashes in style with my affection for his teaching still intact, is what confirms for me that he was my best.

He taught me freshman high school geometry, and he was certainly brilliant, and a bit eccentric. We walked in the first day to be greeted by a video camera. We each took our place, one at a time, front and center, said our first and last names, and he called out a row and seat from his memorized seating chart.

When my turn came, I dutifully called out, “Joshua Jones.”

“Joshua Douglas Jones?”

“Yeah.” I was puzzled. How many Josh Joneses were in this class anyway?

It turned out he just really liked my middle name, and rarely referred to me by any moniker that didn’t include some version of it. Joshua Douglas, Mr. Douglas, even J.D. Jones. It’s the kind of thing that in high school will simultaneously embarrass you and endear someone to you.

More importantly, he was a man with a passion for teaching that came through in everything he did. He was the teacher who used any object lesson or memory device, no matter how goofy. He would stretch you by making you figure things out rather than just telling you all the answers. He gave plenty of extra credit, for everything from solving the toughest problem first to memorizing pi to 100 places — even for bringing in comic strips referring to geometric properties. One time he brought in a box of donuts and gave them out, one by one, to the students who correctly solved that day’s class problems quickest. As someone who possesses both a quickness in problem solving and a strong love of donuts, this was my ideal form of education.

There was only one real problem — the man believed very strongly in homework, at least an hour’s worth per night. I, on the other hand, would eventually be labeled by him as “philosophically opposed” to it. That may have given my ninth grade ideology a bit too much credit, but the fact remained: I didn’t do most of the assignments. This would have posed a problem, except I was absolutely killing all his tests and quizzes, including those of the pop variety that occurred at least a couple times per week. I wasn’t unprepared for class, or failing to learn — I just prepared and learned in my own quicker, more efficient manner.

And so, eventually, as an educator, this posed a problem for him.

For a while he tried to break me, assigning quiz values to random homework assignments. I figured out a way to anticipate the most likely culprits, ensuring those were done. Then he tried to get me to come in after school before my bus arrived to do the assignments before going home. I found reasons to be unavailable. The only thing I truly feared was public humiliation in front of my classmates, but he was too good a man to apply anything more than the gentlest of pressures in the class setting, despite my unlucky seat directly beneath his lecturing perch.

As the year progressed and I continued to outperform most of my fellow students in class while ignoring most of his assignments out of class, he began to soften. Finally, one day another teacher came in and he asked her in front of the class, “Is there a point to forcing a student to do homework assignments if they can learn the material without it? What is the purpose of homework?”

I don’t remember her answer. I don’t think he even really wanted one. I knew he was talking to me.

I got through the year, grades intact. The next year his homework policy was changed to allow students to turn in their assignments with items omitted if the students deemed them redundant or unnecessary.

If I’ve had one problem with institutional education, it’s been that too many people, students and teachers alike, forget that the point of the whole exercise is learning. He didn’t. He let me learn to my full ability.

I never really thanked him.

Say Cheese

10/12/2007, 5:00 pm -- by | No Comments

Those who know me well will know that I don’t curse. Even those who know me only a bit will notice this about me fairly early on. In high school, I found this simple fact spoke volumes to classmates and furthered my witness.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t have substitute words that I’m all too happy to voice in moments of frustration, words that my mother’s delicate sensibilities would still deem a bit coarse.




The other day I was playing basketball with a young man who knew me not at all. My first clue came when he asked me without a trace of irony if I was really Tom, creator of MySpace (some in this neighborhood think I look like him). My second clue came when I missed a lay-up.


“‘Cheese’? What’s ‘cheese’?”


“What does ‘cheese’ mean?”

“It means I lost the ball,” I told him.

He seemed a bit confused and dissatisfied with this explanation, until a short while later another errant shot brought the same exclamation. Turning to his friend he said, “Oh, I think ‘cheese’ means ‘Oh, #%@&.'”

Close enough.

The Hube

10/5/2007, 2:30 pm -- by | 1 Comment

A couple weeks ago I received a call from a student at Houghton College, working the phone lines for the Houghton Fund. She shared with me that she was a freshman and proceeded to go through her scripted routine designed to extract money from me.

One of the first psychological tricks of her routine was to ask me what my favorite memory of Houghton was. I must confess, I was caught a bit off guard. How to sum up four of the greatest years of my life thus far into one memory? I hemmed and hawed rather unimpressively, grasping at straws.

Then she moved onto her next selling point — how Houghton is still impacting students. For this portion she tried to tell me what Houghton meant to her. I tried to listen but I just kept thinking, “Wait, you’ve only been there for three weeks! And you have to call alumni and try to tell them what Houghton is? That’s hilarious!”

I decided not to share my amusement for fear of embarrassing the poor girl. She did a nice job. I made a donation.

As luck would have it, a week later I received a visit from one of my college roommates, someone I’d not seen in five years, the one and only Hubie Hostetter. I had a chance to redeem my earlier favorite memory debacle, as we sat recounting all the things we missed about Houghton.

We miss intramural sports, be it soccer, basketball, team handball, or especially inner-tube water polo. We sure didn’t win many games, but our teams always had great camaraderie, and game night was always a highlight of the week.

We miss meal times. Some people couldn’t stop complaining about the food, but it sure was nice having someone prepare me three meals a day, all I could eat, with plenty of variety. And in my mind’s eye I can still look around the table and see the familiar cast of characters.

We miss our radio show on WJSL. We often dreaded going in, unsure of what we were doing or if anyone was listening, but always came out smiling. We’d get calls from guys in the dorm and all over the county, making song requests and trying to answer the weekly trivia question.

We miss the Shen Olympics. We miss inside jokes. We miss our Bible studies. We miss learning.

Hubie was only able to stay a few hours. We just sat in my living room, catching up and looking back. I don’t think we stopped laughing the entire time.

I sure do miss that guy.

Best of Bweinh! — And a Good Day to You

07/27/2007, 9:30 am -- by | No Comments

Originally published on April 6, 2007.

A common question, even amongst those of the faith, is why Good Friday is called good. I think it’s a fair question, not because I don’t think the day is aptly named, but because I’ve started to wonder why we treat the day the way we do. I’m actually starting to think today is the most underrated of all holidays.

From a secular standpoint, today has never “caught on.” Unlike Christmas and Easter, it has no consumerist traditions to mix with its true meaning. There are no catchy greetings or songs or mascots. It’s just a day off that results in a long weekend, putting it on par with President’s Day (only without the automotive sales) or Labor Day (only without the cookout). The only thing that sets the day apart is a three-hour church service — not the greatest hook for selling candy and greeting cards.

Within the church, Good Friday has always been treated as a very somber day. This seems reasonable, since it commemorates someone’s death. Particularly since the release of the film The Passion, there is a real sense of empathy for what Christ suffered. Certainly this day is an excellent opportunity to reflect on our own need for repentance from the things we have done that put Christ in that position.

But I also think there needs to be more celebration on Good Friday. I don’t think today should just be an appendage to the impending celebration of Easter. Obviously the resurrection was cause for celebration, but so was his death. Just because they didn’t realize it 2000 years ago doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate it now. Because we know dying was his purpose, death would be conquered, and that this would set the very foundation of our faith, his death can’t only be viewed as a tragedy.

It would have been tragic if he hadn’t died.

As Paul noted, if Christ had not been raised, our faith is futile. But it was at the moment of his death that the sacrifice was made for our sins. The temple curtain was torn in two, the barrier separating us from God was removed forever, and the price had been paid for our forgiveness.

He died to give me life. I don’t take it lightly, but I do rejoice.

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