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Love thy neighbor

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 12.03.04 PMI am fortunate enough to live in a unique neighborhood. Surrounded on all sides by cookie cutter houses in cookie cutter subdivisions, ours is one of the last places in this growing area to offer acreage lots. As an added bonus, our neighborhood is essentially one giant, looping road. There is only one way in and one way out. There are no street lights, no sidewalks and no MUDs (Municipal Utility District). Each house has its own well and septic system. Many of our neighbors have horses. Some even have goats and chickens. I’ve had several friends tell me they’ve driven past my neighborhood for years and never knew it existed. It’s truly country living smack dab in the middle of suburbia. We like it that way. It’s what drew us here in the first place.

For the most part, we look out for one another. I once had a new exterminator come to my house when I wasn’t home only to be greeted by my next door neighbor holding a shotgun in one hand and his cell phone in the other. After I assured my neighbor I was expecting the bug guy at my house but was running late, apologies were made and the exterminator said he would come back later. He probably needed a fresh pair of underwear. Like I said, we look out for one another. Most of the time.

We don’t get many new neighbors because people who move here typically don’t leave, but over the past couple of years the last of the empty lots have been sold and new families have moved in. One such family decided to shoot fireworks at around 9:30 pm last Saturday night. Someone called the cops on them.

What followed was an angry email shared via a community email system typically used to alert those of us on the distribution list of upcoming neighborhood events, missing dogs and neighborhood break ins.

Our new neighbor was upset that someone called the police rather than talking to them directly. She said that since there is no ordinance prohibiting them from shooting fireworks, whoever called the police had no right to do so. And she’s correct. I suppose you can shoot fireworks anytime, not just on New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July. She went on to say that she has 4 young children and if any of us calls the cops, it should be to report people driving too fast through the neighborhood and endangering the lives of kids playing. Again, she has a point. People (mostly teenagers) drive too fast through this neighborhood and it’s probably no small miracle that no one has been hit save for a few squirrels–no big loss.

I heard the fireworks. For me, it was little more than a mild annoyance. It never occurred to me to call the police because like she said, there’s no law against it. Then again, I was just hanging out watching TV after a fairly uneventful day. I don’t own a dog who is deathly afraid of loud noises, nor do I have very young children that are in bed by 8:00 pm. But I have neighbors who do. Neighbors who know that on the days just prior to and proceeding New Year’s Eve and the Fourth of July there will be fireworks, and will therefore need to be prepared to quiet young children and keep their skittish dogs penned up.

I don’t know who called the police. Maybe it was someone who thought the fireworks were gunshots–that was my first reaction. Or maybe it was someone whose dog freaked out and ran off. There was another community email the same day asking if anyone had seen a yellow lab who had escaped Saturday night. I feel badly for the new neighbors. I’m sure they came to this neighborhood seeking refuge from suburbia; a place where there’s a little more breathing room and people mind their own business.

From a strictly legal perspective, the new neighbor was in the right. I don’t think anyone should have called the police. I suppose they could have done what most of us did–shrug it off. But if unexpected fireworks bother you so much, the neighborly thing, the stand-up thing to do is to pay a visit to whomever is setting them off. It’s a small neighborhood, it wouldn’t take long to find them.

As I see it, the real problem isn’t people shooting fireworks or other people calling the cops.

The real problem is that we’re so completely wrapped up in what we’re entitled to–whether it’s the right to shoot off fireworks or the right to a quiet Saturday night–that we care precious little about how our actions affect anyone else. We’ve lost our sense of community because we’ve become empathy-impaired. It’s all about us. Is it any wonder that we are raising a generation of men and women who, when given an opportunity to express elation for teamwork and excellence facing adversity, we instead get a temper tantrum worthy of a spoiled toddler?:

(And yeah, I get that it was the heat of the moment. But please. Show a little class.)

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Fed up with the Feds

image from

image from

“Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal. On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.” — Daniel Schrag, White House Climate Adviser

(In case you’re unfamiliar with Daniel Schrag, he is Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, Director of the University Center for the Environment, and Director of the Laboratory for Geochemical Oceanography at Harvard University. Educated at UC Berkeley and Yale.)

No sir, you Ivy League Educated Utopian Egghead, what’s needed is for you to appreciate that there are hard working Americans whose entire lives and communities are dependent upon the coal industry.

What you need to understand is that while the federal government seeks to crush energy production methods you deem unclean with unattainable environmental standards no other country in the world even comes close to, what you’re really doing is declaring a war on jobs.

Coal mine in China (from

Coal mine in China (from

You’re declaring war on the ability for hard working men to provide for their families the only way they know how; the way their daddies and their granddaddies did. And while you may disdain their lack of education or that they would actually choose to work in a coal mine rather than sit in an office all day, who the hell are you to decide how another human being chooses to live their life?

“There are a lot of generations that live in these communities, where your mom and your dad live here, your grandparents live here, your aunts and uncles, and all of them may be in a different form of the coal mining business, but when it goes, the community is gone, because people are going to have to leave to find work.

We’re begging for the right to work. That’s all we’re asking for. We’re not asking for any favors, we’re not asking for any handouts, we’re not asking for any concessions. All we’re asking for is the opportunity to work, pay taxes, provide electricity and provide for our families.” –Rocky Hackworth, Tyler Morgan Mine General Manager

It’s been several years since I’ve worked in the energy industry, but in the decade and change I worked for both major and independent oil and gas producers, never once did any VP, manager, engineer, geologist, foreman or field hand ever suggest that corners be cut when it came to environmental compliance and safety. I’m not saying it never happens, but it was my experience that every person I worked with complied with and oftentimes exceeded all state and federal laws and regulations and made damn sure everyone working there followed suit.

But that was a different time.

That was a time when the regulators were sometimes unreasonable (like the time the woman from Fisheries and Wildlife took a picture immediately following the detonation of explosives set to blast the legs off an offshore platform then instructed my boss to count the number of redfish said explosion killed–literally thousands of fish), but mostly they worked with the industry. Their job was to make sure we were exploring for, drilling and producing oil and gas in a manner responsible and respectful to the environment and property owners.

Not like today, where it seems the job of Federal regulators is to destroy the reputations and profits of the evil oil, gas and coal executives.

And if hundreds of thousands of men and women lose their jobs and their abilities to provide for their families, too bad for them.

They should have gone to work for a green energy company.

Or better yet, get a job with the federal government.

While you may think it noble to move towards your Utopian paradise, you may want to wait until you discover a green energy that’s actually viable, because wind and solar aren’t even close, no matter how many taxpayer subsidized billions you pour into them.

In the meantime, you might want to get a job outside the fantasy worlds of Washington and academia and see what the real world is all about.

Dear Hacker,

Screen shot 2013-06-20 at 12.49.51 PMIf I’m to believe the message you posted on my site to replace my regular content, you felt compelled to hack my site and many others in order to get the truth out about what’s going in Syria.

You say the news coming out of Syria is inaccurate.

You say the government is not attacking its people, but instead extremists are killing innocent civilians and using the media to create a false narrative.

You say a lot of things which may or may not be true.

But how does hacking some silly little blog in Texas help your cause? (If, in fact, you are who you say you are?)

I’ll tell you how.

It doesn’t.

If anything, it’s hurt your cause.

Had you simply left a comment explaining your predicament, I may have actually believed you; may have felt compelled to help you.

Instead, you randomly attack sites in attempt to cause as much disruption and anarchy as possible.

So basically, you’re just a punk with a computer frustrating a whole lot of people who have done absolutely nothing to you because you lack the skills to hack those who you say are hurting your cause.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your 15 minutes of fame.



P. S. — I HUGE thank you to web host David Allen who has worked tirelessly to get MANY websites up and running again, and doing so with grace and humility even when dealing with some pretty grumpy people. (BTW, if you’re one of those grumpy people, shame on you. It’s not David’s fault this happened.) Anyway, thanks so much David. You’re a class act.


image courtesy of

This post began as a much anticipated and highly procrastinated Katdishionary post. The term “assholiness” was one of several new terms I feel warrant entry into the annals of my own version of Webster’s, but I think this term deserves its own post, because I like to keep the definitions brief in Ye Olde Katdishionary. This one needs a little more of an explanation.

The term assholiness first popped into my head several months back when a few high profile Christians began to publicly berate Rob Bell’s yet to be released book Love Wins. Many were incensed that Bell had the audacity to suggest that a loving God would not send people to Hell. And while I happen to (mostly) agree with Bell’s detractors in principle, I felt some of the public discourse was downright un-Jesus-y.

For the record, I don’t think God sends anyone to Hell. That’s a choice we make for ourselves. I will also admit that I had some private conversations about the subject that were way more salty than lighty. But I resisted the urge to jump into the fray. Why? Because it’s never been my experience that you convince someone you’re right by pointing out to them publicly how wrong they are.

Honestly, how many times have you seen a situation like that turn into anything more than a pissing match?

I did write a post about it, but the point of my post wasn’t about whose team I’d be on if Rob Bell and John Piper were choosing up sides for a game of Red Rover, my point was that Rob Bell is not Jesus Christ. Neither is John Piper or Francis Chan or Billy Graham or (insert famous Christian leader here). Nor am I for that matter.

When Christians draw their theological lines in the sand, choose sides and start attacking each other, we’re not winning anyone for Christ, we’re just becoming more alienated from one another. And like it or not, if you’re a Christian, you’re part of the same Body of Christ as that fundamentalist pompous ass or that crystal-gripping tree hugging hippie that is woefully misguided and is driving you nuts. Speaking the truth in love doesn’t mean metaphorically neck punching someone with the truth and telling them you love them afterwards.

But assholiness is not a term reserved for Jesus people*. Some examples of assholiness I’ve seen come from atheists. Not all atheists, mind you, just the really angry, Christian despising kind who spend time online searching for a Christian platform where they can pick a fight. Don’t believe me? If your writing is primarily faith based in content, use the tags “atheist”, “Creationism” and “Darwin” on your next few posts and see who shows up on your blog. You may want to turn on comments moderation before you do that, the f-bomb seems to get dropped a lot.

Regardless of your faith or lack thereof, anytime our need to be right takes precedence over all else, it’s counterproductive. You may have a huge following who agree with everything you believe is wrong with that other guy, but like my friend and pastor Jeff says, when all you have in common is a common enemy, once that enemy is gone you will either lose the group or seek another enemy to fill the void.

I’m not interested in building that kind of following.

How about you?

*Jesus people is a term borrowed from my friend Jake Lee without his permission, but hopefully he won’t mind so much.