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I Have A Favor To Ask…

May 11th, 2011 by Steve

Hey everyone – Can I ask you a HUGE favor?

Here’s the deal. As some of you may know, we’ve been working on a new site, BackCountryGallery.com. This site features all of my best photography work and will be getting a LOT of my attention once it launches. In fact, I’ve gradually been turning over the day to day operations of WS to our office manager, Gary, for the last year or so in preparation for this.

Anyhow, the site is CLOSE to launch. In fact, it will be active by the end of the month. So, a couple things:

First, I’d love to have you follow me on over to BackCountryGallery. Although the site isn’t active just yet, we have started an e-mail notification list and you can actually sign up for that today! You’ll get updates whenever there’s a new set of photos posted, when new calendar wallpaper is ready (the calendar wallpaper is moving from WS to the new site), plus discounts, photo tips, and more. Just head to:

www.backcountrygallery.com

Next, I need to ask you a HUGE favor.

In preparation of the launch, I’ve been entering my photos in a number of contests and have several wins already. Now, the BIG news is that the shot below  -  Dead Horse Point Lightening Strike – was chosen as a finalist in the Outdoor Photographer Magazine 2nd Annual Great Outdoors Photo Contest! I’m super excited about it – there were only 60 finalists out of approximately 10,300 entries.

(Click photo for a larger version)

As a finalist, it’s up for voting for the coveted People’s Choice Award. Outdoor Photographer sent an e-mail to all the finalists telling us to ask all of our online friends to vote. So, if you like the photo above, would you mind running on over and slappin’ a 5 start vote on ‘er?

The only catch is you have to register with the site to vote. It’s free and they really don’t ask for much information. (Although, please be patient – their site can sometimes be a touch slow)

Register:

http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/registration/register/generic-top.html

Vote:

http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/photo-contests/2nd-annual-the-great-outdoors/finalists/518881-dead-horse-point-lightning-strike.html#gal-img

Right now, it’s less than a half star off from first place, and unlike most of the photos, it hasn’t had the benefit of lots of friends, family, and online buddies stopping by to vote.

So, if you like the photo above, and have a few minutes, would you mind giving it a solid 5 star vote?

Thanks SOOOOO much – and I look forward to seeing everyone over at BackCountryGallery in the next few weeks!

~ Steve

PS – The new site features what we call “Field Notes” for each photo. Here’s the notes for the photo above:

This photo was taken at Dead Horse Point State Park during an intense afternoon of thunderstorms.

We had just been out scouting around for new location in nearby Arches National Park and had decided to come back to camp for a break when these thunderstorms really began to pop (late afternoon). By the time we arrived at the Dead Horse Point, I couldn’t get to the overlook fast enough. We scrambled down the sandstone to a spot that I had scouted out the day before and started shooting.

The conditions were tough – high winds were busting in from the canyon, we had the occasional light spray from the rain, and of course the lightening (which was actually a lot further away then it appears in the photo).

Although my son was just about screaming for me to leave (he was low and under a small recess), I kept at it until I had a shot with some lightning action. I must have shot 20 or 30 photos before this came together.

It’s funny, after I showed him the final shot he was glad we stuck around long enough to catch the lightning too.

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Spring Has Sprung?

May 3rd, 2011 by Rose

Hi Everyone!

Rose here – I know it has been a while since I’ve written a blog.  But I was thinking of everyone lately wondering how the spring season is treating everyone.

I know there are parts of the country that have had to deal with a difficult spring with  all the tornadoes that have gone through and destroyed everything.  My heart goes out to all of them.

Then there are parts of the country that don’t really get the changing of leaves, then all the snow, then a whole lot of rain then just plain old heat.

What I love about spring is that it feels like a fresh start to the year.  The dirt has been washed away by all the snow.  My flowers have bloomed as well as the bulbs that my underground animals didn’t eat.  My grass is growing and so are the weeds that need to be pulled.

I can start being outside a little instead of being inside all day long, get some fresh air and into my wood shop.  It is not heated so I do not get a lot of time out there during the winter months.  So when spring does come I end up with a list of projects that is longer then my arm.  This year I have half-finished project that I started before winter and then I just could not get it done before it got too cold.

However this year our weather has been rain, rain, and more rain.  Our grass is so tall, it is half way up to my knees.  But the problem is that our lawn is so wet that the lawn tractor will sink in and leave nasty tracks in the yard ( and to be honest that would just drive me crazy).

So with all the rain, my weeds and grass are getting tall.  But when I look out my window to the blooming flowers, it still makes me smile.

So my question to all my friends is what is spring for you, what is the weather doing at your place in this world?

I would love to hear what you have to say.

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3D TV – Still Here – Still Trying

January 11th, 2011 by Gary

We have talked about 3D TV a couple of times here on WS in the last year (here and here). Our general opinion is that 3D TV might be cool, but really has some major flaws.

In our past articles, we have talked about the drawbacks of  3D TV – the major ones being the lack of content and the need for annoying glasses.

Gary wearing 3d glasses

Gary wearing 3d glasses

Well, this year at the CES, 3D TV is still being pushed… hard. While last year they were just showing off 3D TV, this year they are trying to tackle the downsides of the idea so they can try to convince the world that 3D TV can be mainstream.

How are they doing this? Well, there are a couple ways.

First, bigger demos. To your left you will see a ridiculous picture of me wearing ridiculous 3D glasses. This picture was taken at the Panasonic 3D TV demo display. It is a huge set of bleachers with about 30 TVs hanging on the wall. As you walk into the exhibit, you are handed a set of 3D glasses and take a seat. Soon a Panasonic rep walks out and starts to give the pitch.

While last year had displays and demos, they were more about showing off the ability to watch 3D TV. This year it’s not. That brings me to the second difference.

The sales pitch this year was about the 3D Content. It’s almost as if they were saying “ok, last year we screwed up because there was no content, so we are going to make up for it this year”. They told us about all the DVD’s and all the content that was coming from satellite providers and another really big one that i couldn’t quite swallow.

3D Camcorders. Yep, just in case you don’t get any broadcasts in 3d or you don’t want to buy 3D content, you can now make your own! Just buy the 3D camcorder and shoot your home videos in 3D so you can watch them in 3D on your 3D TV that you should also buy.

Hmm… Sounds expensive.

So, I think that leads me to the point of this post.

TV makers are not giving up on 3D. By the time they are done with you, you WILL be wearing goofy 3D glasses while watching 3D content bought from your satellite provider / retail store or watching the 3D videos you shot with the 3D camera you bought along with your 3D TV. Got It? NOW GO BUY ONE.

Well, at least that the impression that I got.

Your Thoughts?

~Gary

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Move Over iPhone

January 7th, 2011 by Gary

Last year at the 2010 International CES in Las Vegas, almost everything was for iPhone. If you saw anything for cell phones, it probably had something to do with the iPhone. This includes cases, content and apps, but something was missing!

You see, the iphone is made by apple and apple doesn’t attend CES. So, while there were tons of apps and accessories for phone, the actual phone was not on display. This seemed odd to me at the time. Almost like a movie premier where the star doesn’t appear.

Well, I guess I wasn’t the only one who felt this way.

This year, the star is here and it’s not the iPhone. It’s Android. For those of you not familiar with the smart phone ecosystem, android is a smart phone platform made my google that has brought some much needed competition to apple’s “I” devices. So, while apple’s IOS is a system that only works on the iPhone, iPod touch and the iPad, Android works on anything. Any company can make a device, put android on it and sell it to people. This is why android makes more sense at a place like CES. Any one of the companies here can make an android phone or tablet. And many have this year.

While last year was missing the star, that is definitely not the case this time. Android is here in full force. There are thousands of accessories, loads of apps, nearly 100 new smart phones and tablets as far as the eye can see.

Actually… That’s what I’m here to talk about today. Tablets.

Cell phone and tablet makers are trying hard to take some market share away from apple and it is obvious. Every major phone maker is releasing a tablet this coming year to try and compete with the iPad.

On top of that, google (the makers of android) is working on a tablet only edition of android called Honeycomb. This tablet edition of android will finally allow all of these tablet makers to truly take on apple with an operating system that is made exclusively for tablets.

So now it’s official, the tablet age is upon us. Apple started the hype with the iPad and now literally hundreds of manufacturers are throwing their hat into the ring with their own android based tablets.

Personally, I welcome the competition. I think the iPad is a great device (more on that in another post), but it could always get better. I have now used an iPad and an android tablet. At this point, the android offering is not 100% solid. The apps are not always “tablet optimized” and you can tell that the android version being used is made for phones. Luckily, this will change soon once honeycomb is released.

On the other hand, there are going to be a lot of choices in android tablets. Just from what I’ve seen at this years CES, there could be more than plenty of options.

So, let me ask you. Would you use a tablet? Have you used an iPad or android device? Android tablet?

With all of the options coming available, it looks like tablets are the next big thing. It also looks like prices could come down with all of the competition.

~Gary

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Resolution, Schmesalution

January 1st, 2011 by Steve

Know what I dread about this time of year?

Could it be the hordes of shoppers, traffic, and credit card bills?  Could it be the huge lines at the return counter the day after Christmas?  Well, what about that lousy fruitcake I got from Gary (who’s incidentally not getting a raise this year)?

Answer -  none of the above.

Nope what really chaps my merry ass is the incessant question everyone seems to ask, “Hey Steve, what’s your New Year’s resolution?”

Of course, before I answer, the questioner typically enlightens me by continuing, “Personally, I’m going to lose 50 lbs, run a marathon, earn $500,000 dollars selling T-shirts with funny slogans, get a new car, go to Disney World, wash the cat, break the world record for spit-ball distance blowing, run for president, end world hunger, and finally talk to the doctor about that embarrassing itch.”

So, with an air of smug superiority that can only come from a person who has just set a bunch of goals but hasn’t lifted a finger to start a single one, they challenge, “So, what are YOU gonna do? huh? huh?”

My answer?

I tell them, “Simple – I’m keeping the resolution I set years ago never to make another resolution.”

This is usually greeting by a perplexed look, followed shortly by an eye roll, then finished off with the word “slacker” muttered under their breath as they walk away.

And the truth is, next year at this time, I’m probably the only guy left standing that’s actually accomplished what he set out to do on the first of January. :)

Why no resolution for me? I look at it this way – If a goal is important enough to warrant my time, energy, and enthusiasm, it’s important enough to start it when it occurs to me that it might be a good idea. On the other hand, if there’s a goal I can put off to an arbitrary date on a calendar before I start working towards its achievement, then it’s probably not all that important after all.

I think that’s why the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions fail, sometimes epically. The goals people set tend to be more of a feel-good wish list than something they are actually willing to put the effort into accomplishing. That, and since everyone else is doing it, they figure they probably should too.

To me, a real goal has to be something I TRULY want to achieve – deep down. Not just something I felt compelled to do simply because the calendar rolled over to another year and the rest of the gang is playing along.

So,  join me this year and make your final New Year’s Resolution – never to make another one. From now on, when you want to accomplish something in your life, just start doing it – regardless of the date. Works for me :)

Happy New Year,

~Steve

PS – Agree? Disagree? Think I should be committed? Post your comments below!

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Another Rotten Apple

September 3rd, 2010 by Mike

Apple has done it again. Yesterday, in a room so full of superiority you’d need a chainsaw to cut through it, they rolled out a bunch of new crap. I say crap only because I didn’t really care about most of it, with the exception of the new iTunes 10. iTunes 10 includes something that really peaked my interest: Ping. To sum it up, Ping is essentially a Facebook for music. I was pretty excited about this, and so I waited patiently for iTunes 10 to be available for download.

12:03 AM
I’m tired, about to sleep, but I decide to check iTunes.com one last time, just to see if 10 is available for download. It is, finally! I download it, install it, restart the computer. Didn’t take long, maybe 15 minutes total from start to finish.

12:19 AM
Ah, iTunes 10, freshly installed on my computer. It looks nice, very sleek. And there it is, the “Ping” button, just below the iTunes Store button. I click it, and wait for the world of social music to explode onto my computer screen. “Enter your Apple ID and password.” Ah, no problem, so I put one together in just a few minutes. Excellent, now I”m ready to roll. “Your Apple ID has not used the iTunes Store before, please review your information.” Uh, ok? I was planning on using Ping, not the store. I go ahead and click Review. “Please read our terms and conditions.” Check. “Please enter your billing information, including credit card and billing address.” Whaaat? Wait a minute, I’m not buying anything now. I just want to access Ping! I’m itching to write some album reviews and share them with friends. Ugh, whatever, I’ll probably buy some music anyway. I enter my information.

12:45 AM
“The billing information is incorrect. It does not match the information your bank has on record.” This has become the anthem of my night. I check my card number, exp. date, security code… multiple times. Check. Check. Check….

I use variations of my address. Both my address when my card was first issued, and my current one. I even have a bank statement in front of me. I make sure I have the same zip code. Same message, over and over. My this time I’m frustrated. I want to get some decent rest. Ohio State has their season opener tomorrow night after all, and I want to be well rested for that (oh, and work too I guess).

Now, I realize that I’m most likely still entering something wrong. For some reason there are about 50 ways to write up an address, and you need to get it just right to work. Go to the bank, get the right one confirmed… no big deal. No, the big deal is why in the hell Apple wants my credit card BEFORE I decide to make any purchases. In fact, my original plan was to use Ping only, and not really buy any music (never had card problems with Amazon MP3, by the way). The way they are approaching things, it’s similar to me walking into Best Buy and the guy at the front requiring me to swipe my credit card before I can even look at anything. Maybe it’s just me, but this hardly makes sense? Am I right?

-Mike

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Laser guns?

August 27th, 2010 by Gary

Just earlier today it was announced that the pentathlon would stop using air pistols and start using laser guns. This change will be in effect for the 2012 Olympics.

Now, I am not going to pretend to know a lot about the sport, but I think i have a pretty good grasp on the differences between a laser gun and an air pistol.

I think this is one of those situations where technology has gone too far. When it comes to sports, it’s important to keep the event true to its original design. Now, I will assume that the pentathlon started by using REAL guns instead of air guns.

I understand that people running around shooting live rounds may be considered dangerous if not controlled correctly, but I just can’t wrap my head around people calling air pistols unsafe.

COME ON PEOPLE!!!!

I don’t know about you, but I have been shot with a BB gun. It stings, but it didn’t kill me. I think that’s probably the outcome you would find if someone in a crowd also got shot with the air pistol.

Plus, the people handling these pistols aren’t exactly beginners. They are Olympians! They know how to handle the thing.

Here’s another article about this. It has a video where the pentathlon chief  is explaining how some countries don’t like the air pistols and that’s why they are switching to laser guns.

Now am I just being a “gun loving American” here? Or is this completely nuts?

On top of all of this, I can’t help but think that there would be a difference between an air pistol and a laser gun. Is there a recoil on the laser pistol? Can wind speed effect a laser pistol?

Doesn’t using a laser make this sport quite a bit easier?

What do you think? Does switching from air pistols to laser pistols seem like a bad decision, or am I completely wrong here?

~Gary

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3D TV – Just A Fad?

August 20th, 2010 by Gary

So, just in case you’ve been living under a rock, I’ll start out by explaining what the heck I’m talking about.

Recently, it seems like everything is in 3D. Have you noticed? There are 3D movies, 3D TV shows, 3D Sports broadcasts etc. Well, that’s all well and good, but there’s one problem with this whole thing.

In order to watch 3D content in your home, you need a TV that supports it.

That’s right. Just after you thought you were done upgrading all of your TVs to support HD, something new comes out.

These 3D TVs are the new thing, and according to the tech news and TV production companies, it’s here to stay.

Well, I think its stupid. (Yeah, I just came out and said it).

Are you kidding me? I do not want to have to wear special 3d glasses to watch TV. Plus, I already wear prescription glasses, how am I supposed to wear 3d glasses and be able to see the TV at the same time?

Now, that I’ve explained and griped, let me get to the rest.

I have a conspiracy theory and I think it’s a good one. Doesn’t it seem a little convenient that once HD TV sales begin to saturate the market, the TV manufacturers come up with a new reason for you to buy a TV? Personally, I don’t completely understand why it requires a special TV to display 3D content. Can’t they just broadcast it in 3d and then you can just wear the glasses to make it work?

Now, I’m sure there is some very technical reason for having to get a “3d enabled” TV, but don’t you think there should be a way to work around that? One that, I don’t know, doesn’t require you to buy a new tv for over $1000?

Plus, I cannot be convinced that over the next few years, everyone will be sitting around their TVs wearing nerdy 3d glasses to watch Football. Just picture that for a minute. A room full of people watching the big game, all wearing special 3d glasses that they brought from home. LOL.

So, what do you think? Is 3DTV just a fad? Is it just a way to keep TV makers’ profits soaring? Or, is it here to stay?

~Gary

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Driving Me Nuts

July 8th, 2010 by Steve

Whew, it’s been awhile since I posted here, so I thought I’d drop by and say hello.

Why the long absence?

Well, I’ve been busy working on a new Internet security e-book that should be available by the end of summer, so my fingers have, shall we say, been otherwise engaged?

However, I’ve also been doing some traveling for my photography. In fact, I tend to spend about 30K worth a miles every year behind the wheel of the ‘ol Ford criss-crossing the country. So, while I don’t rack up the miles of a professional truck driver each year, I think it’s safe to say I’m at least an enthusiastic amateur, right?

So, with that in mind, I’m going to go ahead and dole out the top things that I wish everyone knew when they were driving down the interstate. I’m sure I’ll miss a few, so feel free to toss in your suggestions in the comment area. And, while I’m sure our collective tirade isn’t going to change the course of interstate traffic patterns in any meaningful way, it’ll make us feel better, right?

So, here’s my suggestions for the bad highway driver:

1. Use your cruise control. Please. I’m on my knees beggin’ you. Pretty much any car made in the last decade or two has a cruise control feature and it’s really not that hard to use and, despite what you may think, it’s not even all that scary.

I’ve actually come to the conclusion that the people who don’t use cruise control must believe that by pushing the button they relinquish total control of their vehicle and are subject to the whims of some mysterious computer lurking under their hood. Look, I promise if you activate your cruise no rogue software malfunction is going to posses your car and send you careening end over end down a steep mountain cliff.

However, you will save some gas without the constant acceleration and deceleration.

Also, you’ll avoid boiling the blood of your fellow interstate road warriors with your “left-lane leap frog” game. You know, the one that involves you speeding up, passing me, then slowing down, getting passed by me, then speeding up, passing me, then slowing down, getting passed by me – see it’s even irritating to read about it. Cruise control is your friend.

2. Learn to merge. Psst – I’m going to share a little secret that only about half the drivers out there seem privy to. If you’re merging onto the highway, you can actually USE that skinny pedal on the right to speed up or slow down so you can land your car in front of or behind other traffic! In fact, turns out you can actually vary your acceleration in order to merge! WOW! It’s really not that hard either, so go ahead and give it a try next time you’re merging onto a crowded interstate.

In fact, if you want to take it to the next level, you could even, I don’t know, actually LOOK at the traffic on the highway as you’re first getting on the ramp. I know, sounds crazy, but turns out if you toss a quick glance at the highway traffic, you can actually judge how fast you need to accelerate in order to merge! Trust me, beats the old “drive-down-the-ramp-and-hope-for-a-hole” method.

Yeah, yeah, I know you think that everyone should move over for little ‘ol you, but sometimes there’s a semi in the next lane that seems to think otherwise.

3. Stow the cell phone. Please. I know you think you can drive and talk on it at the same time, but I’ve been behind you when you had that thing plastered to your ear, and trust me, you really can’t. I’ve seen plates of spaghetti run straighter lines. At any rate, your attention is probably better spent elsewhere. You know, like keeping your speed constant, staying the heck outta of my lane, that kind of thing.

I know, I know, sometimes you have to make an important call, but come on on. Just between us, those calls to your mom about your new pudding recipe really aren’t all that pressing, are they?

OK, so what are you supposed to do if you desperately need to tell your aunt about that new quilt you just picked up a the tourist trap down the road? Well, believe it or not the highway commission has this figured out! They made these nifty little places call “rest areas” you can actually pull into, park your car, and make your call without endangering everyone else! You should try ‘em – they even have bathrooms! I hear you can even send text messages from these “rest area” places, but I haven’t tried it yet. You’ll have to let me know if it works.

I feel like I should rant a little about sending text messages and driving, but I think those folks are going to take themselves out of the gene pool soon enough anyway…

4. Stay right unless you’re passing. There’s even little signs scattered throughout the interstate system that advise as much. But, alas, there you are, tooling along in the left lane. I know, sometimes the view from there can be better (ohh, aren’t the mountains pretty!), but see that line of traffic behind you? Yeah, they aren’t going to be sending you any Christmas cards this year. Let ‘em pass.

How can you tell if you’ve lingered too long in the left lane? Cars will start buzzing by you on the right, and their drivers won’t be wearing their happy faces. In fact, you may even get a nasty glare or two.

Just remember – Getting passed on the right is God’s way of telling you to get back over.

5. Are you on a little 2 lane? Mind going the speed limit? Please? Look, I’m not asking you to break any laws here, but when I’m following you down a busy 55MPH 2 lane and you’re mindlessly bouncing along at 40MPH it gets under my skin a bit. And under the collective skin of the 50 or so drivers behind me you’ve been holding up for the last 20 miles.

Sure, you may not be in a hurry, but you’re not the only pebble on the beach. There’s a Star Trek marathon on the SciFi channel (sorry SyFy – go figure that one) and I don’t want to miss it. Gotta get my geek on.

If you really must motor along at a painfully slow pace, pull over occasionally and let the rest of the world pass.

6. Don’t pull out in right front of me, then do a # 5. Seems to happen on little country roads all the time. If you’re going to putz along, the least you could do is wait till I pass since there’s no one behind me. But NOOOOOOOOOOO – you wait till the last second to pull out, I slam on the breaks, and you cruise along at 10 MPH under the speed limit.

Oh, and of course, achieving your cruising speed is done at a rate that would embarrass even the slowest of semis.

OK, that’s about it for now. That pretty much covers my advice for would-be highway drivers. Did I miss your pet peeves? Toss ‘em into the comments section, get ‘em off your chest, and tell the world!

~Steve

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Do You Smell Something Burning?

June 25th, 2010 by Mike

Anyone driving I-75 between Dayton and Cincinnati, Ohio has seen it. Even if you haven’t, you may have heard about it in the news a couple of weeks back. I’m talking about the 6-story high King of King’s Jesus statue at the Solid Rock Church, within easy viewing distance of the interstate. You may better know it as “Big Butter Jesus” or “Touchdown Jesus” for it’s iconic butter-looking texture and arms raised, reminiscent of a football referee’s signal for a touchdown. However, on the morning of June 15, this iconic statue is no more.

Early in the morning a lightning passed through the area. Lightning struck the giant statue and burned it to the ground, leaving only a charred metal frame. The total damage, including damage to the theater (and audio equipment inside) located right next to it, are are around $700,000. Originally the statue itself cost around $250,000 to complete. It was also insured for $500,000 (figure that one out).

“Big Butter” or “Touchdown” Jesus
Touchdown Jesus

Stick Figure Jesus
Stick Figure Jesus

So what’s the plan? Rebuild the statue of course! At the tune of another $250,000 (or more, given minor inflation and sturdier construction materials), the King of Kings statue, part deux, will rise. Oh sure, you can start the cliches and analogies all you want, but just hold on to them for now. I’ll give you a couple reasons why rebuilding should stop. Now.

1.) The statue is nothing but a giant advertising tool. Given the fact this church can easily afford $250,000 shows this church has no problems with money. I’m all for churches being tax-exempt, as any place of worship should, however when a church is in the business of advertising and no longer non-profit, the IRS should really take a closer look. We make money, we pay taxes. Why should it be any different for them when they start spending their money on advertising? Which leads me to my next point…

2.) If they have the money, why not use it for something good? How about helping people out that need it, maybe sending groups down to the gulf to help out with various things (the oil spill has made us forget, but the place is still ravaged from Katrina in many places as well), setting up food kitchens, and possibly helping out the elderly in the church that may have troubles with medical bills. You know, things that churches used to (and are supposed to) do. And don’t give me that crap about “they earned it, it’s theirs to do whatever they want.” Churches don’t earn money, it’s given to them to do things like not build giant Jesus statues.

3.) Solid Rock Church’s pastor said the statue was a “beacon of hope” to others. Oh really? Flaunting your money instead of using it on something practical or meaningful is a beacon of hope? Sounds to me that the people they’re trying to reach are looking at the whole situation and laughing.

So there it is, like it or not, I don’t think this statue should be rebuilt. I even admit, I laughed a bit to myself when the whole situation happened. On a final note, anyone else find it funny and ironic that the insurance claim is going to include an “act of God” that destroyed the Jesus statue?

-Mike!

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