Friday, November 26, 2010

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse

Want to read a very good book about the subject of spiritual abuse (and more importantly, how to avoid it)? I highly recommend the following: The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse

The book does an excellent job of addressing various problems which can occur within Christian churches.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Moving Experience

After 19 years of living in Chicago, I recently made a significant change in my life, by moving to Bellingham, Washington, which is just about as close to Canada as one could get without actually living there.

I don't know how long this change in location will last, since my living situation here is currently very unstable. But I didn't have a whole lot of choice in the matter. My residence at the Lawson House YMCA ended involuntarily as a result of finding myself in a situation where I'd fallen behind on rent, and where I'd found myself in eviction court.

I'd raised a significant amount of money towards the goal of paying back all the money I owed, by appealing for help from my Facebook friends. In fact, I thought that what I'd raised ought to be more than enough to satisfy the management at Lawson House. But what I didn't take into account was that Lawson House would tack on a huge charge for their legal fees. They wanted me to agree to an additional payment plan (not counting the $2,000 I was prepared and willing to pay to them) which they themselves agreed was untenable in light of the amount of money I was currently receiving on a monthly basis.

Consequently, I followed up on an invitation, by another one of my Facebook frinds, to visit him in Bellingham, Washington, in order to share my vision for the Christian Arts Initiative with Christians from his church and from the Bellingham region.

Since the $2,000 I'd raised online had not been adequate to keep Lawson House from proceeding with the eviction anyway, I decided to use that money instead to make the move to Bellingham, operating on the premise that the aforementioned Facebook friend from Bellingham would offer me hospitality long enough to enable me to procure employment and my own apartment in Washington.

I left Chicago last Wednesday morning, so I've been here for a week so far. It was a fairly enjoyable trip, considering that I was on various buses for slightly more than two solid days, without any sleep other than the sleep I got on those buses.

Staying here has certainly been more pleasant than it would have been if I'd been forced to resort to life in a homeless shelter in Chicago. Nevertheless, whenever a person procures emergency housing by appealing to another person for such help, it's a bit of a touchy situation. It's different from just coming as a visitor, because there's no certainty with regard to how long it's going to be before one is in a position to move into one's own place. There's a level of fear that the host will require that one leave before one has adequate resources with which to do so. And even if that doesn't happen, there are sometimes rough spots in such relationships, caused by different expectations pertaining to how guests and their hosts ought to behave.
I've already experienced such situations here, but God seems to be helping me and my host to get along with one another in a manner which, if not perfect, is at least sustainable for a relatively short period of time. Even so, I strongly desire to get my own place as soon as that's financially feasible for me, so I plan to do everything I can do to procure employment in the area and to begin saving money which will be sufficient for the purpose of paying the first month's rent plus a security deposit for a reasonably decent apartment which has adequate proximity to public transportation. Bellingham's public transportation is not by any means as extensive as Chicago's. It's more like the public transportation in Sioux City, Iowa, where I lived during the late seventies. But I've seen hints to the effect that I might be able to procure a basic, relatively affordable used car more easily than I might have thought, once I procure steady employment.
It's been extremely cold here in the last several days, particularly on Monday, when the weather could have been aptly characterized as brutal, and certainly as atypical for this area of the country, which is normally warmer than areas which are further east. But I will have a friend with whom to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, and for that, I am indeed thankful.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Strange Color Combination

Years ago, when I read about Blackfoot Indians (or the members of the Blackfoot Nation, for those who are more current and politically correct), I wondered what the basis of the name might be. It seemed to suggest the existence of people whose feet were black even though the rest of their bodies were not black.

I thought, "Surely that can't be right." I had never seen such people with my own eyes.

Regarding the name of the Blackfoot "Indians", Wikipedia says, "The name is said to have come from the color of the peoples’ leather shoes, or moccasins. They had typically dyed or painted the bottoms of their moccasins black, but one story claimed that the Siksika walked through ashes of prairie fires, which in turn colored the bottoms of their moccasins black."

O.K. That makes sense. But here's what's weird. A few years back, I met a resident of the building in which I lived, and in which I still live, although the other resident has subsequently moved to another building. (I still see him occasionally when riding the bus.)

If you saw him fully dressed, you'd think nothing of it. He looks like any other white man, unless you see his feet, which I did on a couple of occasions, because he lived on my floor, and I sometimes saw him, in the shared men's room, with his shoes off. They were as black as the feet of any black man I've ever met! I kid you not. And I don't mean that they looked as if they'd been artificially turned black (e.g., with tattoos). They looked completely natural.

Now, of course, I've always known that there are numerous people of mixed race. But I always thought that it only manifested itself physically by creating people whose skin color is a single color which is a middle tone (usually about the color of coffee with cream), neither "white" nor "black". A lot of people who identify themselves as "black" would actually fit that description because they have white ancestors or parents. If not for the historic "one drop rule", it would be deemed ludicrous to call them black. For instance, I've seen white people, with a good tan, who are about the same color as Halle Berry. But she still calls herself a "black" woman.

At any rate, this was something altogether different. It was as if they'd surgically performed a foot transplant. Either that, or the guy had used the same kinds of chemical treatments and/or dyes that were used by John Howard Griffin, the author of "Black Like Me".

The second idea seems more plausible than the first one, but even if it was possible to do such a thing in a manner which only affected certain parts of one's body, it's hard to imagine why anyone would deliberately do so to his or her own body, especially if other people almost never saw the body parts in question. So I have to assume that his feet were just naturally black.

Did I ever ask him what the explanation might be? Are you kidding? Talk about an awkward question to ask! So I was left to ponder the mystery.

Has anyone else out there seen or heard of such a thing? Is there a name for the phenomenon?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Facebook Just Crashed

It appears that Facebook is currently experiencing some very serious problems which prevent account holders from even being able to access most of the features of their accounts. Bummer!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

God Has No Grandchildren

One of the trickiest aspects of evangelism is explaining to unbelievers who have been harmed by people they've met in various churches that they shouldn't assume that church folks are necessarily genuine followers of Christ. That's not to say that true Christians don't ever sin against other people, but that isn't always the explanation for such things.

A lot of folks consider themselves to be Christians just because they "grew up in the church".

In some cases, no one ever even bothered to present the salvation message to them, because they grew up believing that anyone who's been baptized as an infant is automatically a Christian (which is just one of the reasons I oppose the practice of infant baptism, although I know that the folks who do that usually mean well).

We even have pastors and other spiritual "leaders" who have never repented of their sins or accepted Christ as lord and savior! Maybe they went to Bible school or seminary just to please their parents. Practically every church-related school can tell stories about certain students who were known for partying and for blatantly disobeying God when their parents weren't around.

That's one reason I am disinclined to treat pastors as if they are somehow infallible on account of their job titles. When a pastor or someone else from a particular church blatantly claims that church leaders are beyond criticism (as I've seen at multiple churches here in the Chicago area), I take that as my cue to continue my search for a church led by a truly godly person.

Some would call me a "church hopper" on account of that fact, but I'd rather be a church hopper than a mindless syncophant who has abdicated my biblical responsibility to test the spirits.

A position of church authority is a stewardship, not a blank check for a pastor to do whatever the pastor wishes to do. The Bible says (Luke 12:42-48) that people who abuse positions of church authority will be cut in half and assigned a place with the unbelievers!

People who fail to speak out against abusive pastors are enablers, as surely as they would be if they failed to speak out against other types of sin. They will be held accountable for their silence on Judgment Day. So frankly, I don't care if someone chooses to slander me on account of the person's inability to recognize a prophetic voice. What God thinks about me on that day is the only thing which ultimately matters.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Do Not Disturb Sign

I'm posting this article (on a very temporary basis) as an easy means of enabling me to easily send a file to a local copy shop (by means of a link) so that I can print it in color on card stock (since the printers I currently at the Harold Washington Library don't enable one to print in color or on special types of papers or card stock), without knowing whether or not sending such files as e-mail attachments is an option.

Here's the link.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Boy in The Barrel

There are those who identify themselves as "pro-choice" because they freely acknowledge that there is a lack of complete consensus about when human life begins. Since such a consensus is lacking, they seem to believe that it's purely a matter of personal choice, and that one choice is as good as another.

I freely acknowledge that such a consensus is lacking if one is talking about the nebulous concept of "personhood" (although it is an utterly disingenuous and falsifiable claim if one is talking about biological life of the type which is genetically different from the parents of the fetus), but I disagree with the premise that since there is no perfect consensus, there therefore is no fundamental principle which would enable us to resolve the dilemma of what should and shouldn't be allowed.

Simply put, I believe that when there is a doubt about whether or not one is involved in the deliberate destruction of an innocent human being, one owes life the benefit of the doubt.

I tell a story I like to call "The Boy in the Barrel". One day, a man on his day off was out in his rural back yard, shooting at empty barrels just to kill time. (This was back in the days before video games and other diversions!) After an hour or so, his wife called him in for lunch.

He decided to resume his shooting after lunch, but just as he was raising his high powered rifle in order to take another shot, a man from next door ran into his yard and loudly shouted for him to stop. Puzzled, the man with the gun asked why he should do so. His neighbor said, "I know that you think that what you're doing is just innocent fun. But what you don't know is that while you were eating lunch, a neighbor boy wandered into your yard and decided for some inexplicable reason to climb into that barrel you're aiming at. If you shoot now, you will most likely seriously injure or kill that boy."

The man with the gun was conflicted. He'd seen no boy in his yard, and he remembered a time long ago when his neighbor had even lied to him. Nevertheless, it was a chance he dared not take. If there was even the slightest chance that he might be killing an innocent human being in the process of resuming his barrel shooting, he would regret that decision for the rest of his days. So he lowered his gun, walked over to the barrel and looked inside. Sure enough, there was the boy, just as his neighbor had claimed. He breathed a sigh of relief, thankful that he'd listened to his neighbor.

My point? Due to the gravity attached to the act of taking a human life, the burden of proof belongs to those who would argue that a particular action will most definitely NOT take an innocent human life. It does not belong to those who would disagree. If pro-choicers can't even agree about where to draw the line about when human life or "personhood" first begins, whereas most pro-lifers believe that the moment of conception is where one should draw the line, then the logical place to draw the line (for all people with consciences) is the moment of conception.

The above line of argumentation, by the way, does not rely on religious doctrine in any way, shape or form for its legitimacy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Financial Update as of 8/23/2010

As you know if you read my blog post from last Friday, I didn't get the unemployment insurance check (via direct deposit) which should have been deposited in my bank account on that day. So this morning, I checked with the bank, hoping that it would have been deposited over the weekend or this morning. No such luck. I was beginning to feel really desperate, inasmuch as I had a total of $7, consisting of $1 and change in my pockets, plus $6 in my bank account.

The 7 day CTA bus pass I'd bought last week hadn't yet expired (although it did later in the day), so I went out to the IDES office at 3500 W. Grand once again, to see if I could figure out what was going on, and to try to expedite the deposit. But when I got there, all they could tell me was that their records showed that the money had been deposited, just as they'd told me on Friday. They couldn't do a "trace" on the payment until Wednesday, when I'd have to go back to their office in order to initiate that process. Even if their trace did show that the payment had failed to go through, they still would have to issue a new payment, and it seemed likely to me that I wouldn't get that payment until Thursday or Friday at the earliest.

Needless to say, the return bus trip was not pleasant, because I couldn't for the life of me figure out how I was supposed to buy food (and pay for the round trip I'd need to make there on the bus on Wednesday) with just $7 to my name. (Plus, if I'd withdrawn everything from the bank, they'd have considered that I was closing the account, which I very much needed in order to receive future IDES payments!)

I decided to visit the bank once again and see if by some remote chance the $118 I was expecting had been deposited in the last several hours subsequent to my first visit to the bank. As it turned out, IDES had indeed made a deposit, but they'd deposited $108, not the $118 I'd been told would be my weekly benefit.

At least I have a bit of money with which to pay for food for a little while. But it would seem that the phrase "a day late and a dollar short" should be updated, in my case, to "four days late and ten dollars short". It's bad enough that they're expecting me to live on $118 a week (or to live on that amount for two weeks, since I won't get another IDES payment until September 3, assuming that things go more smoothly the second time around). On top of that, I will now have to revisit the IDES office in order to show them the bank statement which documents the fact that their payment was $10 short.

Being poor really stinks.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Financial Update as of 8/21/2010

In my last post, I shared some very specific details pertaining to my urgent need for financial help. I then placed a link to that blog post on my Facebook page.

Two people responded to that post. One person offered practical help, in the amount of $200 sent by wire to my bank account. (What a blessing!) The second person offered implied promises of help, but as far as I can tell, she did nothing of any consequence. She did say that she'd pray for me, but given the fact that her lengthy e-mails to me seemed to suggest that her real agenda was to find fault with me and with my manner of communications, I feel that it's reasonable to question whether or not she even did that. And while I certainly need prayers, prayers alone will not pay my bills.

Oh, well. When one is as transparent as I was in that blog post, that's to be expected, I suppose. But when one is as desperate for help as I've been lately, it's annoying to have to respond to such people, hoping that one is not wasting one's time in doing so.

Not long after posting my previous blog article, I bumped into a guy in my building who had worked on the census team with me. He said that I should visit the IDES office again and present them with evidence (in the form of pay stubs I'd received) of my having received income from the census. So I did that last week.

It turns out that when I applied for those benefits the first time, they hadn't yet received financial information from the census bureau, despite the fact that I'd applied for benefits fairly late in the game. That's why they'd initially made a determination that I wasn't entitled to any benefits.

This wasn't just an issue with the census bureau, by the way. IDES had received such information pertaining to my previous job with Screenz Computing Center, but only for the first quarter, not for the second quarter. And it had been at least four months since I'd quit that job. That should have been more than enough time, it seems to me, but apparently not.

The guy I spoke with last week checked his computer, and it turned out that they'd subsequently received new information from both jobs, and that I was now eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. So he updated their information regarding my application, and told me to go online in order to set up a direct deposit arrangement, and to call in for certification for benefits on Wednesday, all of which I did. He told me I should have my first payment on Friday. That turned out to be incorrect, probably because some banks are faster than others in terms of posting their payments. Consequently, I've really been scraping by this weekend, with only a few dollars left! But I have reason (based on my second visit to that office on Friday) to believe that there will be money in my account when I check on Monday. I pray that I'm right about that.

That's the good news. The bad news is that they awarded only $118 a week to me in the way of benefits. That's considerably less than they awarded to me last time when I applied for unemployment insurance benefits. If that were my only income source, it would be enough to pay my current monthly rent, but only barely. I'd most assuredly be reliant on DHS (the Illinois Department of Human Services) for food stamps. And that wouldn't help me at all with other necessary expenses, such as clothing, phone bills for my cell phone, and transportation related to my job search. More troubling is the fact that it wouldn't even come close to helping me to get caught up on the rent I already owe to Lawson House YMCA.

Also, the payment I'm currently expecting is only for one week, not two, thanks to the fact that IDES has a "waiting week" when one first starts getting benefits. Payments only come once every two weeks, so it's really going to be touch and go for a while, I suspect.

I do have one small additional source of income, but it still isn't enough to meet all of my living expenses while simultaneously enabling me to get caught up fairly quickly in terms of the back rent I owe. (And unless I'm mistaken, the payments pertaining to that additional source of income are currently late, which means that I'm going to have to nag that person, once again, to get caught up on her payments to me.) So the bottom line is that I still need financial help, or (if worse comes to worst) someone willing to offer temporary housing to me in the event that I am unable to satisfy Lawson House YMCA and in the event that they should evict me.

I've been in worse spots before in terms of back rent, and God has provided for me in the form of help which might be regarded as semi-miraculous, so I am trying to remind myself that such things can happen, and not to lose courage. But such things still do not come easily to me, so I could use both your support and your practical help, whatever that help might be.

Monday, August 09, 2010


Over the years, I've experienced several crises in terms of my finances, and this is one of those times. In some respects, this is the worst one yet. I currently have no income (since the census bureau stopped handing assignments to my group of NRFU enumerators), I owe rent for both July and August (approximately $900 total), I have a negative bank balance of almost $200, and to top it off, I just received notice from IDES (Illinois Department of Employment Security) that my application for unemployment insurance benefits has resulted in a "benefit" of exactly zero dollars. Plus, the bank is currently charging me an overdraft fee of about $32 per item. (They have a feature which allows one "credit" for overdrafts of up to $250, but I've pretty much used up that option at this point.) I do still have a few dollars in my wallet, but that may not even last until the end of this week. I also have a few canned foods, but again, those will be gone before you know it.

I therefore solicit your prayers, and (if feasible) any material help you might care to offer. I'm pretty close to the end of my rope. and my depression over the situation is almost palpable. I've been a Christian since 1969, but things like this still put a huge amount of stress on me. I do not want to have to move into a homeless shelter, or to have to throw my numerous books, personal writings, etc. into a dumpster because I have no place other than my room at the Lawson House YMCA in which to store them.

Mark W. Pettigrew
Lawson House YMCA
30 W. Chicago Avenue, Room 1212
Chicago, IL 60654

The above is the information which appears on my checks, except for the zip code. (It hadn't yet been changed by USPS from 60610 to 60654 when those checks were printed.)

For anyone wishing to wire money directly to my bank account:

My Bank Account Information:
North Community Bank
3639 N. Broadway
Chicago, IL 60613
Account Number: 11-13-007262-0222
Routing Number: 071001533

It might seem imprudent for me to post this personal financial information online, but I've been helped this way once before (by a fellow Christian from Australia!), and I checked first with my bank manager to see if the information could be abused by someone wanting to rip me off by taking money out of my account. I was told that I'd have to authorize any such withdrawals in writing. Directly wiring money would negate the need for a check or money order to clear.

I know some of you are also hurting for money, but every little bit helps. If you can't help materially, I would nevertheless appreciate your prayers.

For those of you who don't know me very well, I think you'll get a better feel for whether or not I am trustworthy by reading my many blog posts here at I can also furnish references, and I'll try to honestly answer any questions you might have to the best of my ability.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Importance of Album Cover Design

Recently, I learned by reading a fellow believer's blog post, that Roby Duke, a talented Christian musician from the West Coast, passed away several years ago. I left a comment there, but I'm not 100% sure that it actually went through because of some funky aspects of how Blogger responded when I attempted to post the message. So I figured that I'd store it here just as backup in case it didn't go through; and I also figured that I might as well post it here, too, since it pertained to my belief in the importance of good graphic design for packaging of Christian books, CDs, etc. Here's the comment I left there:

You write, "I got the opportunity to design his album covers including 'Blue Eyed Soul', 'Down to Business' and the CD re-release of his 1st album 'Not the Same'. It was an honor and a blast to be part of that. If ever there is a greatest Hits album, sign me up!"

Friday, July 02, 2010

Born Again? Or Burned Again? Try Both.

When I first became a Christian in 1969, and for quite a few years thereafter, I was so gung ho about my faith and about church-related activities that my father (who had earlier preached from two separate pulpits for a total of six years) accused me of fanaticism. Of course, part of that was motivated by the fact that he had begun to abandon his own faith in Christ, as demonstrated by the fact that he committed several sins which no pastor should ever commit, including adultery and alcohol abuse. Still, it says something about my attitude towards church at that time, I think.

Unfortunately, even though I remain committed to Christ (as seen by various attempts of mine to serve God with my diverse talents), a series of extremely unpleasant incidents in various churches has had the effect over the years of making me ambivalent when it comes to the Christian church. I know that my transparency and honesty about such matters has the potential to make it harder for me to find support for the ministry to which I believe that I've been called, but I've already had my fill of hypocrisy, and as I see it, pretending to be something one is not is a form of hypocrisy. I don't claim to be perfect, but I do try not to be a hypocrite; and when I perceive what appears to be hypocrisy on the part of Christian leaders with whom I am in communication, I am rarely inclined to bite my tongue, although I do try to temper my judgment with mercy.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

It Takes All Kinds

Earlier tonight, at the Internet cafe where I currently work, I had a strange encounter with a customer who seemed to have issues with the manner in which I was dealing with his account with our company. Or at least, that was my perception. So when he turned to the guy who'd come into the cafe and whispered something which seemed to be directly related to me, I figured that he had whispered that he thought I was incompetent. I said so, and he said nothing at the time to refute the idea.

It turns out that I was wrong. Hilariously wrong.

He called the store just now to say that I'd misconstrued his intentions. He said that he'd actually whispered to his friend because he'd noticed the fact that I had a particularly hairy chest (presumably because he saw a very small amount of hair peeking out of the top of my T-shirt). He had called to tell me that he was turned on by men with hairy chests! He therefore wanted to know if I'd just like to "hang out" sometime. And when he used the phrase "hang out," I suspect that he meant the phrase literally.

I declined his invitation, but I didn't want to cause problems for my employer or to blow the incident out of proportion, so I was polite about the manner in which I did so.

Is that how gay guys proposition men in whom they have an interest? I have no idea. I'm most definitely not gay, which he would know if he'd ever read this blog. In fact, this is the first time anyone has ever expressed that type of interest in me directly, although I do recall one other instance in which a guy told me that he thought I was attractive, in that lispy way that gay men often use in order to make their intentions fairly clear without actually coming out and saying what's on their minds. On that first occasion, and on this one as well, I think that I handled the situation gracefully, in a manner which made it clear that I didn't swing that way, without acting as if I felt threatened. To act that way would be to confirm the false stereotype about people who oppose homosexuality, which is the idea that we do so because we feel that our masculinity is somehow threatened by the perverse inclinations of others. That would be every bit as irrational as it is to think (as many gays and gay apologists do) that people are incapable of controlling their sexual thoughts and actions. One irrationality doesn't justify another.

I thought that it was particularly funny that tonight's caller was turned on by my hairy chest. (Imagine what he'd think if he saw my very hirsute back, arms, etc.) Why funny? Because there seems to be a sizable part of the population, both male and female, which thinks that anyone with a hairy chest, back, etc. must be a brute with the intelligence and social skills of a large ape.

My, how things have changed in that regard! When I was an adolescent and young teenager, in the early and mid seventies, getting a hairy chest was seen as a positive thing. It meant that one was becoming a real man and leaving childhood behind. During the disco era, it was even fashionable for men with hairy chests to ostenstatiously display those chests, which were often adorned with gold chains and pendants. (Burt Reynolds was particularly well known for that look!)

That was much more logical than the current fashion, it seems to me. But now there are people who look down on men who don't look like prepubescent children. People even sell an electric groomer, with an extremely long handle, precisely so that men whose genetics have not "blessed" them with hairlessness can conform to other people's ridiculous expectations.

It's nice that there is someone out there who recognizes how ridiculous those expectations are. Now if I could just find an intelligent, reasonably attractive single WOMAN who has similar insight, and who wouldn't hold it against me that I'm also bald, with bad teeth attributable to years of lack of money with which to pay for adequate regular dental care. But frankly, at age 53 (soon to be 54), I'm not holding my breath. I've come to accept the fact that it's highly improbable that I'll ever have any sexual partner, regardless of gender; and while I admit that that thought has sometimes caused me to experience a certain amount of frustration and depression (inasmuch as I am by no means asexual), I've also come to accept that my value as a human being is independent of whether or not I conform to other people's expectations in terms of what constitutes so-called normalcy. After all, there are now a lot of people who seem to think that it's "normal" for men to have sex with as many women (or men, or people of both genders) as possible, without any regard for the possible consequences. Personally, though, I'd rather be deprived than depraved.

Even though I'm not gay, I suppose that my relative indifference to other people's opinions about me gives me something in common with people who are gay. The significant difference is that I actually care about what God thinks about the choices I make in this life. While I admittedly do so imperfectly, I therefore make an effort to think and behave accordingly.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Momentary Money Crisis

Just now, I went to the grocery store to buy some food. I tried to pay for it on my debit card, only to be told that there were insufficient funds for the purchase. I ended up leaving the two bags of groceries there and walking ASAP to the ATM to find out just what my actual balance was.

Why wouldn't I know? Well, even though the ATM is right around the corner from where I live, I often find that when I need cash, I just go to Walgreens and buy something I needed anyway (such as cereal bars for breakfast), and get $20 or $40 cash back. I'd been doing that for the past couple of weeks or so, and I therefore hadn't checked the actual balance (which Walgreens doesn't give to you on your receipt, unlike the ATM).

The last time I checked my balance via the ATM, it was to make sure that after I paid my rent, I'd still have a couple of hundred dollars in the account for food, transportation to work, etc. I thought that what I'd left over would last me until my next paycheck. And it would have, if I'd deposited the check when I got it! Or to be more accurate, if my employer had done so. The trouble is that until fairly recently, Screenz Computing Center, where I work, had been paying me via direct deposit, just as I'd requested when I'd first been hired. But then the last time I got paid, they didn't pay me like that for some reason. I thought, mistakenly, that it was just a temporary glitch, and that they'd go back to paying me via direct deposit for the next pay period. I was wrong. Apparently, they'd switched to a new payroll company, and I'm just not getting paid via direct deposit anymore, period.

I wish they'd told me that, or that my manager had mentioned that my paycheck had arrived when it did, because my paycheck for April 8 has been sitting here at work for the past two weeks, when all along I naively assumed that it had already been deposited into my account, and that I had $440 more in the account than I actually had there. I'd have realized that it hadn't been if I'd used the ATM and checked the actual balance each time, but because of the way I was getting my money from occasional trips to Walgreens, it never caught my attention.

I now have a copy of the check, for $440.35, and I'm expecting another similar check in just 3 days, on Friday (assuming that it arrives on time). But here's what stinks. I not only didn't have enough money to cover all the transactions I'd done for the past couple of weeks, but I into the negative figures in a serious way. My bank "generously" covers the actual cost of overdrafts when they're attributable to payments made to places like Walgreens. But naturally, they charge an overdraft fee when that's done. So when I finally did get around to checking the balance via their ATM (thanks to the incident at the Potash grocery store, which made me aware that there was a problem), I discovered that I was about $250 in the hole!!! I won't know until I check tomorrow, but I'm guessing that a substantial amount of that amount can be attributed to overdraft charges. Those are charges I'd never have had to pay in the first place if a.) My employer had continued to pay me via direct deposit, as agreed, and b.) My bank had taken the time to make me aware (via e-mail, phone call or whatever) of the fact that I was currently in the process of ringing up overdraft charges because I erroneously thought that there was money in the account to cover those purchases.

I don't mind taking responsibility for financial errors attributable to my negligence, but the way I see it, this was not my fault, and the bank should therefore reimburse me for those overdraft charges, or else my employer should do so because of the fact that the mistake was attributable to the failure to continue to pay me via direct deposit as he had done in the past. We'll see. I know that I am definitely going to go to the bank first thing tomorrow when they open up, and plead with them to refund any overdraft charges attributable to the aforementioned snafu. Meanwhile, it will probably be at least a couple of days before the check which I just picked up tonight clears after depositing it in the bank, and meanwhile, I'm going to need some money, since I'm down to six dollar in my wallet. So I guess that I'm going to have to do the Walgreens thing once more in order to get another $40 to last me until then. Of course, that will mean yet another overdraft fee.

Life really stinks sometimes, especially when one is just barely scraping by financially as it is. When I paid my rent last time, I was still $200 or so behind on the rent after making that payment. What I'd paid was just enough to keep me out of court temporarily. This latest incident just increases the pressure on me and the difficulty of getting caught up on my rent.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Abortion and the New Math

One of the sad effects of the 1973 legalization of abortion in America has been the introduction of a new level of tolerance for incoherent, self-contradictory rhetoric.

A great example can be found in recent news headlines from Chicago, where I've lived for the past 18 years. I'm referring to the story about James Larry, who is accused of murdering four family members by shooting them all at point blank range (ostensibly because his wife wouldn't convert to Islam).

Or was it six family members? It depends, I suppose, on how one defines family, and on whether or not one learned how to count when one was in kindergarten.

Here's a link to a relevant story written by Don Babwin and published online by the Huffington Post:

Pay particularly close attention to the second paragraph, which reads as follows:
James Larry, 32, of Madison, Wis., was charged with four counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted first-degree murder and two counts of intentional homicide of an unborn child. Officials said both his wife and teenage niece were pregnant.
I find the preceding paragraph interesting in light of the headline of the article: "Man In Custody after Rampage: Killed a Woman and Three Children".

How many children was that, again, Mr. Babwin? Three? I think not. Read your own article again, doofus. There were six people killed altogether: One adult (the killer's wife, Tawanda Thompson), plus three children who'd already been born (named Keyshai Fields, Keleasha Larry and Jahod or Jihad Larry), plus two unborn children still residing in their mothers' wombs.

They wouldn't call them unborn children if they weren't children at all, now would they? Nor would they charge James Larry with "intentional homicide of an unborn child" if, as abortion advocates claim, the entities in question were merely lifeless "products of conception" or lumps of "fetal tissue". Why file such charges, as the Chicago police or detectives apparently did, if you don't think that the charges will stick?

This level of cognitive dissonance and Orwellian doublespeak exhibited by the aforementioned story would be hilarious if not for the fact that it's so common, even (or perhaps especially) among ostensibly serious journalists, and if not for its tragic effects on our collective reasoning abilities with regard to the fundamental principles of justice. There's something bizarre about admitting that there were six homicides altogether (all of which resulted in the filing of legal charges) and then turning around and saying that only four people were actually killed. I wish I could attribute the discrepancy to bad proofreading, but I think that something more fundamentally disturbing is going on here. In an effort to please everyone involved in the inherently divisive abortion debate, journalists end up sounding like idiots who can't even count to ten.

And why is it that James Larry gets charged with homicide if he kills an unborn child he has fathered, but if his wife had decided to kill that same unborn child by visiting a local abortion clinic, she'd have been celebrated as a "liberated" woman who was merely exercising her constitutional rights? If that isn't gender discrimination, then exactly what is?

Isn't it a bit ironic that such gender discrimination is regularly practiced and encouraged by the very people who tell us that gender discrimination is evil, or at the very least socially unacceptable? If they cannot live lives which demonstrate integrity, why should we regard them as people who have any credibility?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Kate Harding and Constance McMillen

Recent media attention was focused on a girl named Constance McMillen. Here's a link to the relevant story:
I was made aware of the issue when I read a related commentary by Kate Harding, in the March 13 issue of the Chicago Sun-Times.
In response, I sent the following Letter to the Editor at the Sun-Times:

Regarding Kate Harding's 3/13/2010 commentary ("School cancels prom to keep out lesbians"), please allow me to remind Kate of some relevant facts. First, Itawamba Agricultural High School is a private school, operated by a Christian church which has the right to operate that school in accordance with its own doctrinal precepts, whether she agrees with those doctrines or not. It's called religious freedom. Even though liberals such as Kate would just love to obliterate that particular constitutional right so that they could impose their own ideas on everyone, that right still exists nevertheless.

High schools have no constitutional obligation to allow students (whether gay or straight) to have proms at all. (A lot of conservative Protestant schools oppose dancing, so they've never had proms for anyone.) Having such an event a privilege, not a right, and while I don't doubt that the kids at that school were disappointed that they could not attend a prom, they'll survive that disappointment, just like Constance McMillen's parents will undoubtedly survive the disappointment of learning that Constance couldn't accept the fact that she'd been born a girl. Constance was almost certainly well aware of the outrageous nature of her desire to pretend to be a man while attending the prom, thereby effectively giving the finger to the church which provided the economic and administrative support whch enabled her to receive an education at that school. If her parents forced her to attend such a school in spite of her wishes to attend a school which would condone her lesbianism, then Constance's issue is with her parents, not with her school.

Gays and lesbians love to spout off about "tolerance," but their unwillingness to tolerate people who disagree with their beliefs pertaining to sexual behavior shows that their use of such seemingly benign rhetoric is deceptive. They're hypocrites and bullies, and they'll get no sympathy from me.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Sleepless in Chicago

Imagine working a 12 hour double shift at a retail job after not getting a wink of sleep the night before.

That's the position in which I currently find myself. I went to bed at midnight, which should have been early enough for me to get about 6 hours worth of sleep or so, under normal circumstances.

Unfortunately, I live in the Lawson House YMCA, on a floor where two of my closest neighbors just happen to be psychotic, unemployed individuals whose idea of fun is to talk loudly to themselves in-between the hours of midnight and 6 a.m. Since they're unemployed, they apparently think that everyone else on the floor is always as free to sleep until noon as they are.

I've been unemployed on a number of occasions during the past decade, but unlike the aforementioned individuals, I know that the entire world doesn't revolve around me, and I know that those particular hours are primarily designated for sleeping, or at the very least, for showing respect for one's neighbors by being reasonably quiet so that others can sleep.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Suggestion for Dan Coudreaut

I recently saw an article, in Newsweek, about Dan Coudreaut, whose job title at the McDonalds Corporation is Director of Culinary Innovation. There's also an article about him in Chicago Redeye (2/22/2010, pages 6 and 7). He's been called the most influential chef in America, inasmuch as he helps McDonald's to develop new menu items which meet that company's standards. I suppose it depends on how one defines the word "influential". If it's a matter of serving more people than almost every other restaurant or restaurant chain in the world, then the word definitely fits. But that can be a good or bad thing. When it comes to McDonald's and its effect on the health of Americans, the record is decidedly mixed.

Here's a suggestion for Dan: I think that it would be nice if McDonald's would offer a green vegetable other than iceberg lettuce.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Blogger Pages has long offered an easy way to create websites, without the need for any knowledge of HTML or other web design layout languages or web design programs, simply by design one's own blog and filling it with content. But it used to be that Blogger blogs were very different from regular websites. Specifically, Blogger blog sites really only had one page: The home page. One could move forward or back in order to read different blog posts, but one couldn't easily set up "static" web pages which were always easily accessible, in order to furnish visitors with basic information without requiring that they search the entire site in order to find that information.

Truth In Advertising

Andersonville Wine & Spirits, located just across the street from the Internet cafe for which I currently work, has signs in the window advertising the various brands of booze the store carries. Judging from one of those signs, one of those drinks appears to have the charming name of Delirium Tremens. The sign features a picture of a pink elephant on a blue background. Presumably that's a reference to the fact that Delirium Tremens is the technical name of the hallucinations suffered by alcoholics.

Since they've decided to be honest, perhaps they'll come out with a full line of alcoholic drinks named after additional symptoms of alcohol abuse, such as hangovers, ruined marriages, children abused by their drunken parents, people killed by drunken drivers, women raped by their drunken dates, and folks whose idea of a good time involves incoherent speech, disgusting personal hygiene, and frequent vomiting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thinking and Speaking

Recently I was exposed to some posters, on the subway trains and buses here in Chicago, and while the subject of those posters was ostensibly common courtesy and tolerance, it was clear to me that the real agenda was altogether different.

In response, I sent the following letter to the folks who had placed those posters:

I've seen your advertising posters, and I've visited your website.

While you're on the subject of thinking before one speaks, you might want to give some serious thought to the pejorative and frequently inaccurate nature of the "homophobic" label which is often mindlessly applied to any and all opponents of homosexuality and/or the liberal gay agenda. There are many reasons for opposition to such things, and some of those things (such as sincere beliefs about the nature of biblical revelation regarding homosexuality) have nothing whatsoever to do with fear.

You might also want to give more thought to the idea that a phobia is not just any fear. It is, more specifically, an irrational fear, according to most dictionary definitions. Some fears are both rational and justifiable (and are therefore not phobias), on account of the fact that they motivate us to take preemptive measures to protect ourselves against known dangers. We put smoke detectors in our homes because the threat of fires is a real, documented threat. While it is true that any legitimate fear can become a phobia if it's exaggerated beyond reason, a specific fear itself may nevertheless be rational and justifiable.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Some Thoughts About Suicide, Salvation and Compassion

Recently, I read a brief post at a Facebook page for one of my Facebook friends. The original post had stated that one of that person's Facebook friends was experiencing depression and "suicidal tendencies" in response to the recent death of a friend. Prayers for that person were solicited.

A guy named Pat Taylor responded as follows:

To Claire: Suicide solves nothing.. it is not an end to pain. It is not a solution, but a lie. Hang in there... please...get through this. Your friend is in good hands; the hands of a merciful and loving God. I know it's His will that you stay around for a while because people love you and you're important to them. I know the gut wrenching pain that seems to only be healed by unconsciousness. I've been there, really.... Please, the Lord desires you to stay on earth, and for good reason. If at all possible, don't doubt our Father, but call on Him.... reason with Him... He knows what's going on, and He loves you and He loves your friend who's passed on.

I was frankly curious about how Pat or anyone else could authoritatively say that suicide solved nothing.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Deceptive Nature of At Will Employment

In most job application forms used in the United States today, there is a legal clause stating that the job consists of "at will employment" which can be terminated "with or without cause" at any time, by either the employer or the employee. Sounds fair, right? After all, if the employee is free to quit at any time without cause, then why shouldn't the employer be equally free to terminate the arrangement?

Here's the trouble: Regardless of whether or not an employer had just cause for termination of the employee, it's generally assumed in the course of most job interviews (and even prior to those interviews, when potential employers are looking over job application forms to determine who to interview and who to ignore) that the employer had just cause for terminating the employee.

If the employee terminated the arrangement, on the other hand, the employee is once again assumed in most cases to be the one at fault. It's presumed, especially if the employee was only at that job for a very short time, that the employee quit the job because he was flaky and unable to commit to anything, when in fact the employer may have been a complete jerk whose abusive treatment of the employee drove the employee to quit even though the employee badly needed the job.