Monthly Archives: March 2012

The Great Pinterest Contest Experiment

This month a group of author friends discovered Pinterest. If you don’t know, it’s a way to share pictures, basically, a digital scrapbook. I have steampunk stuff, cool scenery, Mesopotamian ancient stuff, and books by my husband and I and our author friends. Sometimes people also post links to products you might be interested in buying. It’s kind of like word of mouth in pictures. These are links to sales sites. People can click on my book pictures on Pinterest and go straight to Amazon, and other sales sites, and buy the books.

So an author group I belong to decided to see if we could generate some book sales through Pinterest. Shawn Lamb has a fantasy book series, Allon. We have a whole Pinterest board devoted to Shawn Lamb stuff. Book trailers, banners, dishes made with lamb (I especially recommend the Haggis) , and even a few extras like Princess Bride pins for fun. Please visit the board, if you’re on Pinterest, repin something that catches your eye. Then, leave a comment on the board. At the end of the month we’ll collect the names of the pinner/commentors and Shawn Lamb will have  a random drawing for a free copy of Allon 1.

Back to Books Online has "Allon" listed at number 1. http://www.backtothebooks.net/top-10-list You have a chance to win it here. Repin and leave a comment. http://www.allonbooks.com

http://pinterest.com/gtargirl/win-a-book/

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Graduate Macroeconomics of Trucking 501

We have posted around 125 blogs and the only thing I have mentioned about trucking is the places we go and occasionally something unusual like a breakdown or weather. One issue that comes up several times a week and is really the basis for how America works is the finances of the trucking industry. Both the mainstream media and politicians have vested interests in deceiving people. This is a small attempt to shed a little light on a very important subject.

Ever since the dawn of large corporations, these corporations want to use logistics to move their product from point A to point B. Logistics goes back to Ancient Greece, Rome and China. In the most basic view, logistics is the flow of control. It began as a military term and emphasizes having the right equipment and manpower at the right place and at the right time. The real control is financial. While logistics includes the people involved, the security along the way, the warehouses where the goods are stored and equipment to move the product, such as a ship, truck, train or airplane, the real issue in the flow of control. The real flow of control is money.

Sears/Kmart, Walmart, Lowes, Target, Home Depot, JC Penney and anyone else with a “big company” mentality use large contracts to ship their products. They demand large shipping companies such as JB Hunt, Schneider, Swift, Werner, etc. These large shipping companies do not bid on individual assignments or “loads.” They fight for huge multimillion-dollar contracts over a period of time, usually between 6 months and 2 years. With a signed contract in hand, they borrow money to buy the trucks, buy new trailers, hire drivers to make the runs, expand or purchase terminals and hire support staff such as planners, dispatchers and mechanics. They make this sound so good. The truth is that new contracts, unless they are for a new plant just opening, undercut someone else already doing the work. Wages are lower for the people actually doing the work. There are also more people to pay and more overhead. The people doing the actual work, that is the drivers and mechanics, are usually paid substantially less.

Not all loads in these jumbo contracts pay the same. Some are easy and pay well. Other loads are very difficult, some are dangerous and some pay very poorly. Companies working on contracts talk about “covering” loads, That means making certain that all loads are delivered, no matter what the conditions or circumstances. This is where the dangerous push to deliver “no matter what” comes from. It isn’t that a $500 load might be an hour late. It’s that the company might loss a $5 million dollar contract.

Often these difficult and dangerous loads are JIT (just-in-time) loads. That is, companies are using the US road system as their warehouse. They finish a subassembly at one plant then load it onto a truck with just enough time to make a delivery in perfect weather to another plant just as it is needed at the second plant. Any problems with weather, breakdowns or construction are not considered and become “the driver’s fault.” This kind of extreme time pressure causes an enormous increase in accidents.

To avoid most of these accidents caused by this time pressure, simply allow the driver to choose the load instead just assigning loads to the driver. This is the system now in place by Landstar.

Not only would the big companies lose control, many intermediate level jobs will no longer be needed. There is no more need for dispatchers or even terminals. Existing noncompany mechanics and drivers will make more money, creating a greater demand for waitresses, video games and whatever else drivers and mechanics want to buy. Individual “bad” loads will have to pay more, increase safety or both. Otherwise they will not be delivered. If there are not enough drivers, then competition for the existing drivers with cause rates to go up. Once rates have gone up enough, more people will want to become drivers.

Once again, the free market, if it is allowed to truly be free, will triumph over central planning. Everyone will win. Everyone, that is, except the central planners.

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Filed under Current Issues, Politics, Travel, Humor, Everyday observations

An Unbelievable Intersection of Lives

Deep in the Heart

This is the third contemporary romance I have read recently, and the second by a Christian writer. Normally I don’t read this genre because the stories tend to focus on the self-centered “sufferings” of a heroine who doesn’t have any real sufferings. I have been blessed, however, to find two out of three gems in the genre.

You know Maggie Montgomery has seen real trouble from the very beginning. But you also know she’s learned to “pray without ceasing” in the most down to earth sense. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is “The Nanny” with tacked-on Christianity. This is no comedy. Grab your box of tissues and follow Maggie through her stunning discoveries and what people discover about her, themselves, and her God. Who becomes her only real friend? Someone who’s totally off-limits. Who does she teach to pray? Not just the sweet little four-year-old boy she cares for. Whose lives does she change? Almost the entire rest of the cast of the book.

I thought the scenes at church were a little strange. They never met a single church member. Didn’t even shake hands with the pastor or say his name. Some of the sermon illustrations were application rather than strictly correct interpretation, but the points made were easy to understand. The focus was on Maggie’s living faith, and that shined clear. Romantic tension seesaws through everything, but was a little repetitive in the way was portrayed sometimes.

The characters were well-rounded, even the secondary ones. Plenty of internal and external conflicts keep the reader going and guessing. It’s an excellent read with a resolution of so much more than just the impossible romance.

Image of Staci Stallings

 

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Ultimate Evil?

Our youngest son, an Army Sergeant, sent us a link to the Kony2012 video about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony that’s been viewed more than 100 million times on the Internet. This was the first we had heard of this particular video. The film was in production in November 2011 so we are not so very “out of it” not to have heard of it before now.

The premise of the Jason Russell video seems to paint Kony as an ultimate evil. The documentarian formed a friendship with an African boy who fled his village and family to live in a dormitory to escape kidnapping by this madman. He also brings in his own young son and seems to be promising to make the world a safe place for children by getting Kony arrested.

Kony did great evil in Uganda. Boys were forced to kill their own parents and mutilate others who would not support him. Evidence of these killings and mutilation are in the film. It also shows the sad conditions in the dormitory were the boy refugees live.

More than one Ugandan group claims this video should be pulled because it distorts the issues surrounding Kony. Angelina Jolie claims the real criminals are the US-backed established government of Uganda, though the video promotes continuing US support. Others call for Jolie’s execution as a traitor. It is a highly polarizing issue. We know that much for certain.

It is clear that Kony is now in hiding, no longer even in Uganda. He has 300 or fewer kidnapped child soldiers still under his influence. Ugandans who saw the film hurtled objects at the screen in protest. They say it is a picture of Uganda that is out of date and does not do justice to the victims of this evil. They claim it portrays a white man as the only one who can come to the rescue of black people.

The filmmaker protests that if anything like this ever happened in New Jersey it would be taken care of immediately, but that we are ignoring the situation in Africa. Gang initiations, intimidations and virtual abductions, in New Jersey and elsewhere, are not “being taken care of,” so this is not a valid argument. The film, however, has done a good work in raising awareness of a serious problem in Africa, even if it has done it imperfectly.

But the real point is that this is occurring all over the world in different circumstances. Girls are sold as sex slaves in Thailand. Female babies are aborted, killed and abandoned in China under a one-child per family system. Women in Muslim countries are stoned and both sexes murdered for dissent. Human beings become drug test guinea pigs in psychiatric studies when their real “sickness” or “crime” is disagreeing with their country’s government.

Kony is evil. But he is only one of many people who kidnaps, murders and pillages. Murders under communism’s leaders worldwide probably defy numbering at this point. Stalin, Pol Pot, Hugo Chavez, Ho Chi Mihn, Mao, Lenin, Marx, Khmer Rouge, and the list goes on. Why are these and contemporary murderers ignored in favor of this one evil?

As Bastiat says in his “The Law, “To understand the problem is to know the solution.” Kony was not the world’s first warlord, nor will he be the last. Many predict that as soon as he is removed, someone else will take his place. Slavery has been around for thousands of years and will still be here when we are no longer alive. The problem is that evil men use the law for plunder. This attracts more evil men to positions of power. When the law is only used for justice, not plunder, then evil men will not desire political office because they cannot profit from it.

Warlords exist because there are personal gains. When the opportunity for personal gain is cut off and justice is enforced, then the invisible children around the world will no longer be kidnapped.

The purpose of the law is to enforce justice. Kony is just one small example of a worldwide crisis of the breakdown of law and government. To agitate for the removal of a single warlord will accomplish nothing, though the warlords and others like them need to be removed. The profit motive, the rewards for perverting justice, must be removed.

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“This Is Not a Small Thing!”

McKenzie

McKenzie Worthington is a desperate woman. She lives in a world of such wealth and privilege she has never even had to spoon food onto her own plate. She is willing to give it all up. Temporarily, at least. Someone must rescue her sister from a truly terrifying marriage in the wilds of frontier Montana, but McKenzie has no reason to hope for her family’s help.

McKenzie grew up in the comfort of Boston high society but she has known heartache. The “perfect” man jilted her for her best friend. She struggles to trust and love in a world of the proper and dutiful. There’s no example of open love or personal sacrifice or pain.

A mail order marriage doesn’t seem “binding.” Marriage is only for convenience and comfort. She travels to Montana only to find to a man who might help her find her sister. Zach Sawyer, however, teaches her the difference between her social customs and empty religion back home and the real God and His Word straight from his father’s worn-out Bible. He teaches her honor, duty and real sacrifice.

This story contains gems of greatness. McKenzie’s first dinner in Zach’s home had stunning potential to show how ill-equipped McKenzie would be. But, while we get description of Boston life, down to the wallpaper patterns, there is little of the hardness of life in Montana. Vague references to learning to cook didn’t satisfy.

When Zach cries out to God about the difference between a wife’s small shortcomings and the “big thing” McKenzie has done to him, it is another gem of greatness in the book.

Over all, though, it was a sweet, gentle lesson in replacing what the world teaches us about family, duty and what’s “proper” with truth, honesty and love based on God and His Word.

Image of Penny Zeller

About the author of the Montana Skies Series
Penny Zeller

Penny Zeller is the author of The Montana Skies Series from Whitaker House, known for her down-to-earth prose and creativity in conveying spiritual truths with clarity and humor. On her blog, “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” she addresses the challenges and joys of day-to-day family life from her perspective as a stay-at-home Wyoming wife and mother.

Penny has loved to write since childhood, but it was in 2000 she dedicated her writing skills to God, making a commitment to use her talents to inspire others with stories centered on God’s love. Her Montana Skies Series: McKenzie (2009), Kaydie (2010) and Hailee (2011), her first in the historic romance genre, have been well-received by readers and critics alike.

Her previous books include: Hollyhocks (Booklocker 2003), written for children with food allergies; Wyoming Treasures (Medallion Books 2005), a living history of the region with interviews of residents who had lived through the depression, World War II and other significant events. Her 2008 book from Beacon Hill, 77 Ways Your Family Can Make a Difference, put her in the national spotlight with speaking engagements, radio, and television interviews, including syndicated programs on the ABC Family Channel, CBN, and LESEA Networks.

Penny’s articles have appeared in Woman’s World, Brio, MomSense (official MOPS magazine), Victory in Grace, ePregnancy, Grit, Woman’s Touch, Vibrant Life, Village Family Magazine, Teenage Christian Magazine, Hopscotch, Idaho Magazine, On the Line, and many more.

Penny is active in her community and church, leading a Bible study and women’s prayer group, and regularly volunteering at her daughters’ school. She co-organized a local group designed to provide fellowship among local women, “Sisters in Christ Community Girls Night Out,” and enjoys canoeing, gardening, and playing volleyball with her family and friends.

Website: http://www.pennyzeller.com Blog: http://www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com

For review copies or to schedule an interview, please contact Cathy Hickling,
800-444-448 ext. 283, chickling@whitakerhouse.com.

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The Law by Claude Frédéric Bastiat

(originally published in French in 1850)

Over 99% of everything ever written is not worth reading. Of those higher quality works which contribute to spiritual growth, more than 99% of those are only worth reading once. A tiny number are worthy of a second or third look. The Law, a tiny book of less than 50 pages, falls into the rarest of categories. Read and reread until its principles become part of you. It should be a textbook in schools. And it is free as an e-book! Unlike a normal book review, this little more than a collection of quotes.

“The law perverted! The law- and, in its wake, all the collective forces of the nation.The law, I say, not only diverted from its proper direction, but made to pursue one entirely contrary!”

“It is not because men have made laws, that personality, liberty, and property exist. On the contrary, it is because personality, liberty, and property exist beforehand, that men make laws. What then, is law? As I have said elsewhere, it is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.”

“God has bestowed upon every one of us the right to defend his person, his liberty, and his property…”

“The law has been perverted through the influence of two very different causes – bare egotism and false philanthropy.”

“Now, labor being in itself a pain, and man being naturally inclined to avoid pain, if follows, and history proves it, that wherever plunder is less burdensome than labor, it prevails; and neither religion nor morality can, in this case, prevent it from prevailing.”

“When does plunder cease, then? When it becomes less burdensome and more dangerous than labor.”

“It would be impossible, therefore, to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this – the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder.”

“The delusion of the day is to enrich all classes at the expense of each other; it is to generalize plunder under pretence of organizing it. Now, legal plunder may be exercised in an infinite multitude of ways.”

“…the true solution, so much sought after of the social problem, is contained in these simple words – LAW IS ORGANIZED JUSTICE.”

“Here I am encountering the most popular prejudice of our time. It is not considered enough that law should be just, it must be philanthropic.” “This is the fascination side of socialism.”

“The Socialists say, since the law organizes justice, why should it not organize labor, instruction, and religion? Why? Because it could not organize labor, instruction, and religion, without disorganizing justice.”

Socialists “divide mankind into two parts. Men in general, except one, form the first; the politician himself forms the second, which is by far the most important.”

“Whilst mankind tends to evil, they incline to good; whilst mankind is advancing towards darkness, they are aspiring to enlightenment; whilst mankind is drawn towards vice, they are attracted by virtue.”

As Frédéric Bastiat pointed out in his 1849 The Law, when the majority of those who make a country work are convinced the Law has been subverted to the point where there is no hope, there are only two possible choices. People will either stop working seeing that the government will take the fruits of their labors or there will be armed revolt.

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What Makes Art Christian?

The Jewish culture of Jesus in the early first century was built on the Law of Moses first, the rest of the Old Testament second and finally Jewish history during the Persian, Greek and Roman periods. Rabbis emphasized memorizing the Torah first and it was a very effective system. The first culture Christians witnessed to outside the Jewish culture were Gentiles who honored, respected and understood the Old Testament, but had not converted to Judaism.

Despite some of the best education the world has ever known, both cultures had illiterates. Though even well-educated people love and learn from art, the illiterate need artwork. It is their only means to an education. Both Jews and God-fearing Gentiles understood the same symbols. The Olive Tree and the Vine symbolized Israel. A lamb, a goat or an ox symbolized the need for a sacrifice for sin. A Menorah symbolized the true temple of God in Jerusalem, because pagan temples also used altars.

Christians then reached out to slaves and cultures with no possible background in the Law and little or no education. Also, Christianity introduced new symbols not found in the Law, such as an empty cross or the two intersecting curves representing a fish. With such great possibility for confusion, standards had to be introduced and somehow enforced.

The first standards were the commandments to not make any graven image and not worship idols. Whatever was made in the way of educational art must never be misused as idolatry or misunderstood to be an idol. Another clear standard found in the Law is that all art must glorify God. Through the centuries another clear standard developed; that of using common, easy to understand symbols. A sword pointing upward means life. A sword pointing down means death. A human skull represents man’s mortality.

These clear symbols in art allow objects of art to become aids in worship. A picture of God the Father with His hands outstretched over an orb can help a worshipper to concentrate on God as creator, sustainer, upholding the universe by the word of His power, among other things. It can help us love and adore a Being far surpassing anything we can make with human hands.

But the power of Art is the very real danger of Art. Who has never heard of the sin of loving “art for art’s sake?” This is nothing more than worshipping the created thing more than the creator. It is the sin of idolatry.

One way of avoiding this sin is to put limits on the realism of the artwork. Icons are made this way. Though Icons can be quite beautiful in and of themselves, they always point to the worship of the God of our salvation.

Another method is to use a medium which intrinsically points us to God. The high vaulted ceilings of Gothic architecture or stained glass windows are two well-known examples.

Another method is to make everyday working objects Glorify God. Candlesticks, lamps, tables and chairs are all some form of art. It is up to the artist to choose to glorify God this way. Amish and Mennonite furniture are famous for being well made, simple and glorifying God.

But the most important point is that all art either glorifies God or detracts from the glory of God. Television, movies, concerts, songs, pleasure reading, personal music are all just as much art as paintings, along with operas, sculpture and fashion.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. I Corinthians 10:31

 

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