"I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands."
(Psalms 143:5)

Time Well Wasted

Why you need downtime and how to spend it.

     Most people don't waste enough time. At least that's my conviction. But wasting time well is an acquired skill, because there is good wasting and there is bad wasting. Bad time wasting is the hang around/watch TV/perform random online search kind that leaves you with less life than you started with. You may be doing it right now.

      The good kind of time-wasting will actually lead you to be more connected with God and more full of life. But it's hard to engage in, because there are always more pressing matters. This isn't really wasting time, of course, but our culture makes it feel as though it is.

      There are three categories for these well-wasted times.

     1. The discipline of solitude. I used to think that solitude would involve pure, unadulterated prayer and intense spiritual activity; and because it is not, I never do solitude without a sense of wasting time. I have learned that wasting time is fundamental to solitude. People often want to know what you're supposed to do when you go into solitude. But this is the wrong question. The point of solitude is what you don't do.

      Spiritual disciplines can be categorized as practices of abstinence and practices of engagement. In abstinence I refrain from doing what I normally do. In engagement I practice what I normally do not do.

      Solitude is essentially a discipline of abstinence. In solitude I withdraw from relationships and noise and stimulation and see what there is when I am alone with God. The point of solitude is not what I do--it is what I don't do. I get away from all the voices and demands of my life and find out about what my life is like when all the distractions are removed.

      The primary gift I find in solitude is freedom. After time alone, I begin to remember that what other people think of me really matters very little. Those people all have their own lives; they will all die one day and take their applause and criticisms with them. I'm always aware of this, but in solitude I come to feel it deeply. I feel a sense of peace that I treasure. A journal may be fine for solitude, but they are not necessary. The primary thing to remember about solitude is just don't do anything.

     2. Production enhancement. The best example of this second kind of time wasting is a cow. A cow is a miracle on four legs, producing milk that fuels all kinds of people. But if you look carefully at a cow through the day, it looks remarkably unproductive. It spends hours chewing and then re-chewing. It takes less than five minutes to download the milk that it took 24 hours to produce.

      But when you're creating milk, you just can't make it go any faster. There are limits in the creativity game.

      If you are going to create, you need some time to chew the grass and stare into space.

      In my experience, the more creative people are, the more space-staring they need to do. You can make instant coffee. But milk takes time.

      For me, production-enhancement time wasting usually involves some activity that I love just for its own sake. I read history. I go to the ocean and stare at the waves. I do a crossword puzzle. I call up a friend. I put a fire in the fire pit outside. I play the piano.

     3. Musing. A third form of time-wasting is musing, or listening. Here I bring before God what I am concerned about. Often for me it involves either family or business. I am worried about one of my children. I am concerned about the work of my team.

      I spread these out before God, and then I listen. Often I will ask God at the beginning of it for wisdom regarding the next steps to take. I might write some ideas down. It will often lead to plans.

     It's important not to mix up solitude as a discipline with planning or musing. When I plan, I am hoping for an outcome. But by its nature, solitude as a practice requires letting go of all outcomes. When I am engaging in solitude I am not trying to get anything out of it; the pressure of wanting something keeps me from the very freedom God wants to give. But when I am musing over a concern, I am very much hoping for some next step to take.

      How do you waste time badly? How do you waste time well? Are you wasting time adequately? If you find yourself feeling inwardly free, if you find yourself with all the ideas you need for planning, if you find yourself in a creative ferment, then you should probably stick to your current schedule. If not, you might want to rethink how you're wasting time.

     Enough for today; time to go back to work.

Think About Heaven



5 ways your TV is slowly killing you

Too much boob tube also makes you weaker, research shows

Recent research reveals the weirder ways television is ruining your life.

By Linda Carroll

msnbc.com contributor

March 5, 2010

You've accepted the idea that TV makes you dumber. You know there are lots of more edifying things you could be doing with your time than cheering on the contestants on "Survivor."

And unless you're working out to an exercise video, you know those hours sprawled out in front of the screen are going to make you fatter -- not to mention the impact of all that junk food you've been tempted to scarf down during the commercial breaks.

But you'll be surprised to learn the host of other bad things TV can do to you.

1. TV makes you deader. - TV-viewing is a pretty deadly pastime, research suggests. No matter how much time you spend in the gym, every hour you spend in front of the TV increases your risk of dying from heart disease, according to a recent report in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association. Australian researchers studied 8,800 adult men and women for an average of six years and found that every hour spent in front of the TV translated into an 11 percent increase in the risk of death from any cause, a 9 percent increase in the risk of death from cancer and an 18 percent increase in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. So, compared to people who watched less than two hours of TV a day, those who watched four or more hours a day had a 46 percent higher risk of death from any cause and an 80 percent higher risk of death due to cardiovascular disease. And that was true even among people who didn't smoke, were thin, ate healthy diets and had low blood pressure and cholesterol.

2. TV makes you drunker. - TV may make you drink more. When it comes to drinking, we're apparently very susceptible to what we see on TV, according to a report published in Alcohol and Alcoholism. To discover whether what we view actually affects drinking habits, researchers rounded up 80 male university students between the ages of 18 and 29 and plunked them down in a bar-like setting where the students were allowed to watch movies and commercials on TV. The researchers found that men who watched films and commercials in which alcohol was prominently featured immediately reached for a glass of beer or wine and drank an average of 1.5 glasses more than those who watched films and commercials in which alcohol played a less prominent role.

3. TV can make your kid pregnant. - Teens who watched a lot of TV that included sexual content were twice as likely to get pregnant, according to a study published in Pediatrics. Once a year for three years, Rand Corporation researchers surveyed 1,461 youngsters -- ages 12 to 17 at the beginning of the study -- about TV-viewing habits and sexual behavior. Boys were asked if they had ever gotten a girl pregnant and girls were asked if they had ever been pregnant. To get a handle on how much sexually charged TV kids were watching, the researchers asked teens if and how often they viewed 23 specific programs.

4. TV weakens your bones. - Hours spent watching TV can set a kid up for later problems with brittle bones, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics. Until we hit 25 or so, we accumulate bone in a kind of savings account. The more bone we build when we're younger, the less likely we are to develop the brittle-bone disease osteoporosis.

To see whether TV watching might impact kids' bone growth, researchers followed 214 3-year-olds for four years. The children's height and weight were checked every four months, along with their activity levels. At each checkup, parents were asked about their kids' TV-viewing habits. The more TV kids watched, the less bone they grew, regardless of how active they were at other times.

5. TV makes you less engaging. - A recent study found that when the TV is on -- even if it's just in the background -- parents interact less with their kids. To learn more about TV's effects, researchers brought 51 infants and toddlers, each accompanied by a parent, to a university child study center, according to the report published Child Development. Parents and kids were observed for half an hour in a playroom without a TV and then for a half hour with the TV tuned to an adult program such as "Jeopardy!" When the TV was on, parents spent about 20 percent less time talking to their children. And when parents did pay attention to their kids, the quality of the interactions was lower: With a program on in the background, parents were less active, attentive and responsive to their youngsters.

The Atlantic

A Detention Bill You Ought to Read More Carefully


By Marc Ambinder

Why is the national security community treating the "Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010," introduced by Sens. John McCain and Joseph Lieberman on Thursday as a standard proposal, as a simple response to the administration's choices in the aftermath of the Christmas Day bombing attempt? A close reading of the bill suggests it would allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens without trial indefinitely in the U.S. based on suspected activity. Read the bill here, and then read the summarized points after the jump.

According to the summary, the bill sets out a comprehensive policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are believed to have engaged in hostilities against the United States by requiring these individuals to be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value and not provided with a Miranda warning.

(There is no distinction between U.S. persons--visa holders or citizens--and non-U.S. persons.)

It would require these "belligerents" to be coded as "high-value detainee[s]" to be held in military custody and interrogated for their intelligence value by a High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team established by the president. (The H.I.G., of course, was established to bring a sophisticated interrogation capacity to the federal justice system.)

Any suspected unprivileged enemy belligerents considered a "high-value detainee" shall not be provided with a Miranda warning.

The bill asks the President to determine criteria for designating an individual as a "high-value detainee" if he/she: (1) poses a threat of an attack on civilians or civilian facilities within the U.S. or U.S. facilities abroad; (2) poses a threat to U.S. military personnel or U.S. military facilities; (3) potential intelligence value; (4) is a member of al Qaeda or a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda or (5) such other matters as the President considers appropriate. The President must submit the regulations and guidance to the appropriate committees of Congress no later than 60 days after enactment.

To the extent possible, the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team must make a preliminary determination whether the detainee is an unprivileged enemy belligerent within 48 hours of taking detainee into custody.

The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team must submit its determination to the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General after consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General make a final determination and report the determination to the President and the appropriate committees of Congress. In the case of any disagreement between the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, the President will make the determination.

Note that the president himself doesn't get to make the call.


Detroit wants to save itself by shrinking

Blighted city considers plan to turn large swaths of land back into fields

Aburned out house is demolished in Detroit on Feb. 12. After decades of decline that has gutted many once-vibrant neighborhoods, Detroit is preparing a radical renewal effort on a scale never attempted in this country: returning a large swath of the city to fields or farmland, much like it was in the middle of the 19th century.

DETROIT - Detroit, the very symbol of American industrial might for most of the 20th century, is drawing up a radical renewal plan that calls for turning large swaths of this now-blighted, rusted-out city back into the fields and farmland that existed before the automobile.

Operating on a scale never before attempted in this country, the city would demolish houses in some of the most desolate sections of Detroit and move residents into stronger neighborhoods. Roughly a quarter of the 139-square-mile city could go from urban to semi-rural.

Near downtown, fruit trees and vegetable farms would replace neighborhoods that are an eerie landscape of empty buildings and vacant lots. Suburban commuters heading into the city center might pass through what looks like the countryside to get there. Surviving neighborhoods in the birthplace of the auto industry would become pockets in expanses of green.

Detroit officials first raised the idea in the 1990s, when blight was spreading. Now, with the recession plunging the city deeper into ruin, a decision on how to move forward is approaching. Mayor Dave Bing, who took office last year, is expected to unveil some details in his state-of-the-city address this month.

"Things that were unthinkable are now becoming thinkable," said James W. Hughes, dean of the School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, who is among the urban experts watching the experiment with interest. "There is now a realization that past glories are never going to be recaptured. Some people probably don't accept that, but that is the reality."

'People are afraid' - The meaning of what is afoot is now settling in across the city.

"People are afraid," said Deborah L. Younger, executive director of a group called Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation that is working to revitalize five areas of the city. "When you read that neighborhoods may no longer exist, that sends fear."

Though the will to downsize has arrived, the way to do it is unclear and fraught with problems.

Politically explosive decisions must be made about which neighborhoods should be bulldozed and which improved. Hundreds of millions of federal dollars will be needed to buy land, raze buildings and relocate residents, since this financially desperate city does not have the means to do it on its own. It isn't known how many people in the mostly black, blue-collar city might be uprooted, but it could be thousands. Some won't go willingly.

"I like the way things are right here," said David Hardin, 60, whose bungalow is one of three occupied homes on a block with dozens of empty lots near what is commonly known as City Airport. He has lived there since 1976, when every home on the street was occupied, and said he enjoys the peace and quiet.

For much of the 20th century, Detroit was an industrial powerhouse -- the city that put the nation on wheels. Factory workers lived in neighborhoods of simple single- and two-story homes and walked to work. But then the plants began to close one by one. The riots of 1967 accelerated an exodus of whites to the suburbs, and many middle-class blacks followed.

Thousands of empty houses - Now, a city of nearly 2 million in the 1950s has declined to less than half that number. On some blocks, only one or two occupied houses remain, surrounded by trash-strewn lots and vacant, burned-out homes. Scavengers have stripped anything of value from empty buildings. According to one recent estimate, Detroit has 33,500 empty houses and 91,000 vacant residential lots.

Several other declining industrial cities, such as Youngstown, Ohio, have also accepted downsizing. Since 2005, Youngstown has been tearing down a few hundred houses a year. But Detroit's plans dwarf that effort. The approximately 40 square miles of vacant property in Detroit is larger than the entire city of Youngstown.

Faced with a $300 million budget deficit and a dwindling tax base, Bing argues that the city can't continue to pay for police patrols, fire protection and other services for all areas.


Kansas City board OKs plan to close nearly half its schools

March 11

The Kansas City, Missouri, school board voted Wednesday to close 28 of the district's 61 schools.

(CNN) -- Superintendent John Covington called for the closing or consolidation of almost half of the schools in the Kansas City, Missouri, school district, and a school board voted Wednesday to approve the downsizing.

Covington calls it the "right-size" plan," but many residents say it's plain wrong.

A packed room of people watched the board make its historic move after weeks of debate and years of declining enrollment. Some parents voiced their anger, while some students cried.

"I have an 8-year-old and a 6-year-old that will be going to school with 12th graders. I find that very inappropriate. I don't feel my children will be safe," Deneicia Williams told CNN affiliate KSHB-TV.

"I feel like I have nothing, I have no high school legacy. I feel like I have nothing, nothing to go back to," said Prince Jones, a senior, who will be part of the final graduating class at Westport High School.

Covington proposed the "Right-Size" plan arguing that the financial future of the entire school district was at stake. The plan shutters 28 of Kansas City's 61 public schools, cuts 700 jobs and saves $50 million to help reduce a burgeoning deficit.

Some called Kansas City's measures draconian, but school districts across America, hit hard by budget cuts, have been struggling to make ends meet.

They have had to make tough choices between closures, program cuts, bus route cancellations and layoffs of teachers and staff. Schools in at least 17 states have opted for four-day weeks.

Covington said the closures were the first phase of "right-sizing" a district where enrollments have plummeted from more than 35,000 in the 1999-2000 school year to about 17,000 in 2009-10.

"Closing schools is hard, and it is tough on the community," Covington said recently in remarks posted on the superintendent's Web site.

"Closing schools and making the remaining schools much stronger academically is unquestionably the right thing to do for kids," he said. "Keeping all of the schools open with too few children in them is draining the resources we need to improve the education of all students."

But four of the nine board members disagreed with Covington.

"I deserve the right to make a rational decision based on facts, and we were never given facts about student achievement," Cokethea Hill, who voted against the closings, told KHSB.

Some members of the public showed up Wednesday to air their last-minute appeals.

"What I'm asking you today to do is to give our children justice," said Ron Hunt, a community activist.

Others worried that school closures would lead to deterioration of communities and drive residents out of the district.

"The blighting of the urban core is scandalous and shameful," said Sharon Sanders Brooks.

Covington is slated to discuss the school closings at a news conference Thursday morning.


Iceland voters reject repaying $5 billion foreign debt


UK, Dutch governments bailed out their savers hit by collapse of Icelandic banks

Under an EU directive, Iceland owes compensation to the UK, the Netherlands

Some Icelanders say that the current repayment terms are unacceptable

With around 90 percent of votes counted, just over 93 percent said no to deal

(CNN) -- Iceland's voters overwhelmingly rejected a deal to pay billions of dollars it owes to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, the Foreign Ministry said Sunday.

With around 90 percent of votes counted, just over 93 percent said no and just under 2 percent said yes. Not enough votes remain to be counted to change the result. Some 62.5 percent of Iceland's roughly 200,000 register voters cast ballots, the ministry said.

The referendum was on a law about repaying the Netherlands and UK, which helped savers in their own countries who lost money in a failed Icelandic Internet bank.

The British and Dutch governments came up with more than $5 billion for bailing out people who lost money in Icesave -- an online retail bank branch of Landsbanki. That Icelandic bank failed in October 2008, along with two other banks in the country.

Under a European Union directive, Iceland now owes compensation to Britain and the Netherlands. The Icelandic government has said it will honor its international obligations.

Iceland's parliament passed a bill authorizing a state guarantee for repayment of the funds, but President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson declined to sign it in January. He cited public disapproval, and in particular, an Internet petition signed by up to one-quarter of the electorate, as a reason for not signing the bill. He said there needed to be a national consensus in addressing the issue.

That prompted Saturday's national referendum on the law.

The Icelandic public widely disapproved of the deal, the government said in a fact sheet on the deal. "There is widespread frustration over the claim on ordinary citizens in Iceland to pay the price for the irresponsible behavior of reckless bankers," it said.

Magnus Arni Skulason, who campaigned against the bill, called the terms of the loan repayment unacceptable.

"Of course we feel empathy for those people that lost money," he said Saturday while voting was going on. "We just want to get a more reasonable agreement," he told CNN.

It is not clear what happens now that voters have said no to the loan guarantees.

The International Monetary Fund loaned Iceland $2.1 billion in November, and said repaying the money to the British and Dutch governments was a requirement of the loan.

Iceland has begun moves toward applying for European Union membership, which Britain and the Netherlands could block.

Britain spent £2.3 billion ($3.69 billion) last year to cover the losses that British savers incurred when Icelandic banks collapsed.

The Dutch government spent &euro1.3 billion ($1.87 billion) to cover bank losses in the country.

The Icelandic government said it has "clearly stated its intention to honor its international obligations and remains fully committed to implementing the bilateral loan agreements with the UK and the Netherlands."

Thomas Jefferson said in 1802:

'I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around the banks will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered...'

     Until next week...

Almondtree Productions

"My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD."
(Psalms 104:34)