Welcome to Off on a Tangent, the online repository where I share my creative endeavors with the world. Inside you will find fiction, news, commentary, poetry, music, and more that I have produced over the years and am still producing today. I am always open to feedback, so please don't hesitate to contact me or leave a comment and share your thoughts!

On Thanksgiving

November 25th, 2010

The traditional story of the ‘first Thanksgiving’ takes place in 1621 at the Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. Puritan Christian pilgrims were celebrating their new-found ability to cultivate the land and survive the winter—techniques taught to them by the Wampanoag Indians in the region. Their primary teacher was an American Indian named Tisquantum, or ‘Squanto,’ who was fluent in English and (bet you didn’t know this) a Catholic.

Squanto had been kidnapped in 1614 by John Hunt, an Englishman (of John Smith’s crew) who intended to sell him and others into slavery in Spain. Local Franciscan friars rescued the Indians and instructed them in the Christian faith. Squanto, during his time with the friars, chose to be Baptized in full communion with the Catholic Church. He then traveled to England and became ever-more fluent in the language before returning to Massachusetts in 1619. The pilgrims arrived on the Mayflower about one year later and, finding no support from their own countrymen in the region—secular opportunists like the aforementioned Smith and Hunt—they relied on Squanto, who moved in with the pilgrims and helped them to survive the harsh New England winter. After a year, having successfully established themselves in the new land, the Puritan pilgrims joined together with the Wampanoag to give thanks to God.

By 1622, Squanto (like many of his countrymen) had succumbed to European diseases for which he had no immunity. He died a Christian, begging Gov. William Bradford of Mayflower Colony (likely one of my ancestors) to pray for him that he might go to heaven. Because of the Christian brotherhood between Squanto and his people and the Puritan pilgrims, exemplified in the Thanksgiving celebration, there was peace between American Indians and Europeans in New England for over fifty years. Read the rest of this entry »

N. Korea Attacks; S. Returns Fire

November 23rd, 2010

North Korea launched an artillery attack on a South Korean island this morning, in direct contravention of the 1953 Armistice Agreement that effectively ended the Korean War. South Korea returned fire and fighting continued for approximately one hour. Reports indicate at least two South Korean military deaths and at least fifteen civilian injures. The attack occurred during or immediately after a South Korean military exercise on the island.

The North unilaterally declared in 2009 that it would no longer abide by the 1953 Armistice. This attack marks another troubling episode in almost two years of North Korean brinkmanship, including a nuclear weapons test, various other provocations, and a torpedo attack on a South Korean Navy ship. Thus far, these and other acts of war perpetrated by the North have been met without serious military response from South Korea or its allies.

It is unclear at this time whether this new act of belligerence will be met with anything more than diplomatic condemnations and continuation of existing sanctions. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak stated, “The provocation this time can be regarded as an invasion of South Korean territory.… Enormous retaliation is going to be necessary to make North Korea incapable of provoking us again.”

North Korean officials, speaking through state-owned media, have placed blame on South Korea (with little or no further explanation), saying that Seoul has led the Korean peninsula to the brink of war.

Website 22 In Development

November 19th, 2010

It’s hard to believe, but the current version of my site (v21) launched in May 7, 2009. I did minor updates on December 20, 2009 and July 4, 2010 bringing the version to its current v21.2, and have made some tweaks around the edges, but all-in-all the site looks about the same today as it has for over 18 months. (As always, you can see what almost all previous versions of the site looked like on the Retro Websites page.)

Anyway,  it’s time to start planning the next version: Website 22.

I’ve already done my mock-ups and designs, so I have a pretty good idea of how it’s going to look, but I haven’t done much implementation work on it yet. What that means is that you should share any thoughts or comments you have about the site now. I’m always open to (constructive) criticism, so please let me know what you think of the site and what I can do better. Your feedback will very likely influence the final product.

When I launched Website 20, the first version on the WordPress blogging and content management system, I derived a lot of my code from the default WordPress template at the time and combined it with a lot of custom code I’d written for previous sites (on Joomla). In Website 21 I re-factored basically all of my code and bolted on some new WordPress functionality as it became available (like their new menu system), but most of the WordPress-derived bits just came over un-changed from the previous version. My main technical goal for v22 is to re-sync with the WordPress default template code, but I’ll also continue improving and streamlining my custom stuff.

I’m also going to be changing how the mobile site works a bit.… More details on that after I figure out exactly what I’m doing ;-). And there will be a brand new Easter Egg, so if you haven’t found the one that’s out there now (and has been there since version 20) you should hurry up.

Secure in Our Persons

November 15th, 2010

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…” – United States Constitution, 4th Amendment.

Before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, airport security was a private matter. It was somewhat regulated by the government, but the scans themselves were performed by private companies under the auspices of the airlines. The requirement that you submit to a security screening to fly was essentially a private requirement established by a private company as a prerequisite for your utilizing that private company’s services. The Bill of Rights, which limits government authorities, simply doesn’t apply to what private companies do. Airport screeners had an incredible amount of leeway, as long as they didn’t assault you or otherwise break the law.

In the aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. federal government nationalized our transportation security system and established the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). TSA took over airport security across the country and, at least initially, little changed other than what company/organization name was on the screeners’ uniforms. There was an important legal change, however, that is too often overlooked. TSA screeners and screening procedures must now adhere to Constitutional limits on government authority. Airport screeners are not private entities representing private companies anymore; they are government agents that answer to you and me. Read the rest of this entry »

God Bless Our Veterans

November 11th, 2010

Today is Veterans Day in the United States. Beginning in 1919 as ‘Armistice Day’ in celebration of the end of World War I, the holiday expanded after World War II to celebrate all veterans. (At right is a 1982 photo of World War I veteran Joseph Ambrose holding the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War.)

You may or may not agree with all the times the United States has used military force in the world, but it takes real guts for somebody to volunteer to go wherever their country sends them and lay their life on the line. As the Facebook meme going around today says, “a veteran is someone, who at one point in their life, wrote a blank check payable to the United States of America for an amount up to, and including, their life.” That is no small sacrifice—it’s a lot more than the vast majority of us are willing to do.

Consider whether there is any cause you are willing to die for. Are you willing to die for your faith? For your country? For your family?

The men and women of our military have said they are willing to die for you, and any cause you (through your duly elected President and Congress) consider worthy. Even if you personally disagree with some (or even all) of the times we’ve put our military to use, the men and women who are willing to go where they are sent and do what they are asked without complaint—in simple, obedient service of their country—are among the finest men and women on Earth.

Thank you, veterans. God bless you.