#Amazon Breaks the (on) Hold, with #Audible


Save us from the Music. Save us! I have avoided Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga, and Miley Cyrus these 41 years. Then I’m put “On Hold: held, like a fragile flower in the hands of a child, to be loved, to be admired. To be crushed.

Paypal, Ebay, and even my doctor’s office are against me. Like the Dark Eye of Sauron against a band of hobbits, the Music Holds power over us. With whispers the likes of Bieber, Gaga, and Cyrus, it calls: “You. Will. Listen.”

The Music holds power, the hold music. It calls to me. It whispers to me, lies to me. #It.Makes.Me.Stupid. I was thinking about…about…something, but then I was held, and held, and…waffles run camouflage in underwear string cheese.

That’s me. #GettingStupid.

#Amazon, save me! Ten-gadzillion hours of hold #Audible audio, and you leave me to Bieber? A billion minutes of content, and you let me go stupid, humming “I didn’t think you would let me down that easy…”? What year is it, 1982?

One day to hear, “The following is an excerpt from the new novel by….well, by anybody not a lyricist of idiocy: ‘I had been now thirteen days on shore, and had been eleven times on board the ship, in which time I had brought away all that one pair of hands could well be supposed capable to bring; though I believe verily, had the calm weather held.’” 

Here, I’ve now waited with Robinson Crusoe on the shores of a wild country under calm weather while his ship sinks, instead of torn apart by waves of music stupid intent on making me utterly unintelligible or, perhaps, just confused enough to pay whatever fee or fine is levied against me: “What? Why did I call? I don’t remember…maybe just to give you more money. TakeMyMoney. Take.All.My.Money.” 

This: “Press 1 if you would like to continue listening to excerpts from this book. Press 2 if you would like to hear an excerpt from another book. Press three…”

Instead of this: “Baby, baby, baaaaby. Baby, Baby, Baaaaby!”

This: “If you have enjoyed this excerpt and want to purchase the book, press *9 now to have an audible representative call you back.”

Instead of this: “Don’t call me. Leave me alone. Not gonna answer my phone…”

#Amazon, you could save me: my time, my unduly levied fines, my sanity. #Amazon, it’s time to act. No more music. Put us on hold to the sound of narration.

Besides, hearing “You Can’t Always get What You Want” when on hold with you is, frankly, not the message you want to be sending.

Joel Hathaway



Before you Say “I Do,” Check Your Gun and Bullet-Points At the Door (Forever!)

In a short story titled “A Touch of Petulance” Ray Bradbury tells the story of a newlywed man who meets a version of himself from 25 years in the future. The older version of himself tells him that he’ll kill his wife in 25 years, that she’ll drive him insane with her petty whining. In the end, the older version gives the young man a gun wrapped in crumpled up newspaper, and leaves. The young man goes inside to his new wife and Bradbury writes, “Her voice. Wasn’t there just the tiniest touch of petulance there?”

Murder by Bullet-Point
None of us is likely to meet ourselves from the future, but all of us have the chance of ruining our marriages. Few use bullets, but most of us are prone to compile a bullet-point list of concerns and complaints. For most, it starts small: a rather innocuous list of benign suggestions for change. We suppose humility open to correction in others that we often lack in ourselves, granting to the perspective of the outsider, all the while remaining blind to our own offensive ways.

Over time, the bullet-points become bullets: verbal demands fired uncaringly at the recipient of our promises of constant faith and abiding love. Suggestion become expectation. Requests become requirement, and there is at least truth if not love. We forget that the most important change is incremental.

The Marriage IPO
Marriage isn’t an IPO, though I think we expect it to be. With Initial Public Offerings (IPO) of a company, we hope to buy in before the boom. Get a piece of Facebook or Twitter. Marriage is more like a start-up company. IPOs are about filings and disclosure and the promise of initiatives. Start-up companies are about funding, development, promotion, and placement. IPOs are those companies that have proven they can do it, at least for now. Start-up companies are those that will demand a lot of work, take a lot of time, and—even then—might not survive.

But like Yoda said, “Always emotion is the future.” Those start-up companies that enter IPO usually—not always, but usually—have been sustained by the passion of commitment and the certainty that what they have to offer is worth the sleepless nights, the anxious days, the uncertain funding, the setbacks, and conflicts, and the disappointments.

People say, “Christian’s shouldn’t be so down on marriage. They should be those who talk most about the blessings of marriage.” Yes, marriage is a blessing, the way an IPO is a blessing after years of hard work. There are payoffs at every level: from “out of the garage” to “buying the Washington Post.” But if you enter marriage expecting an IPO value pop instead of a start-up, you’ll never make it. You’ll never work to make it work.

Traveling in Time
So take a time-travel trip and find that start-up guy saying “I do” and ask him what’s on the bullet-point list. Scour your mind and intentions to discern what you’ve added to it. And when it’s complete—totally, completely, complete down to the nail clippings and the harry tub and the dirty dishes and socks—throw it away. There are divine powers at work in the strongest marriages, but many unspiritual people have had successful marriages. It requires checking your gun at the door, and your bullet-points too.

Joel Hathaway


The Fall of Everything

Image by Steve Gooch/AP, printed at The New Yorker

The sustained gaze of glory is heavy. It is a look which finds its way into every hidden shortcoming. But the sustained gaze of destruction is equally undoing, if not more so. How would we know for certain? The integrity of most human glory is 90-proof at best, while the turmoil of tragic grief is numbing in its daily, falling interlude.

Always, the sadness is in the falling. This week, schools and homes fell in Oklahoma City. In Boston, runners and observers fell. In Denver, moviegoers fell. In Benghazi, a mission fell, and men: sons, husbands, fathers, friends. In New York City, twin towers fell. Whether storms, bombs, bullets, planes, or ideologies: the exalted brings down and leaves the fallen in its wake.

There are no tragedies that raise up, save one: the tragedy of human arrogance. All others bring low: level, collapse, crumble, crush, ruin, and fall. Always, it is the fall.

The Challenger fell. Missiles fell, on Bagdad. Bombs fell on Hiroshima. Ozymandias fell. Cesar fell, and Rome followed. Because civilizations fall too. The Phoenix falls, to ash. The stock market falls. Leaves fall. Rain falls. Hours grow late, but day dies in the west with nightfall. Music falls, quiet. Sometimes bad things fall too, like the Third Reich and the Berlin Wall. Once, theological braggarts always about the art of ontological reductionism asked Jesus about people who fell. Jesus in turn talked about a fallen tower.

But tragic things never rise up. The panorama of a vacant horizon jagged with broken rubble, the universal truth of disaster, is the ruin it leaves behind. Just look at the pictures of Tripoli or the displaced people of Oklahoma City. Someone wiser than we moderns called the unceremonious decline of humanity to moral ineptitude “the Fall.” Nobody ever called it “The Rise of Adam,” or “Humanities ascent to knowledge.” Just, The Fall.

At the new 9/11 memorial in Manhattan, a powerful unsettling fills the space. Contrasted with the heavy, open silence of the Pearl Harbor memorial and the long, dark stretch of the Vietnam War memorial, and the harrowing cuttings of men in the Korean War Memorial; the 9/11 memorial is filled with sound. The constant sound of falling water, falling and falling into the empty footprint of the towers. From there, it falls into an even smaller footprint, the vanishing-point of artwork that is hidden to watching eyes.

The falling is more than water: it is the falling of planes, of glass, steel, cement, and humanity. The sound is more than water: it is the cry of anxious lives begging for salvation, of engine afterburners, of fatherless and motherless children born into a post 9/11 world. Here, the falling never stops. Here, the noises never cease. Though the city sleep, the water never does. Darkness covers light, light darkness. But nothing stops the sound of falling.

Nothing rises up against the fall: nothing with permanence. Bridges rust. Monuments decay. Names are forgotten. Foundations expire. Records are shattered. Mountains crumble. Statues weather. Flags fade. Humanity raises them up but, always, they come back down. We seem preoccupied with what was raised and, even more, with what has fallen. Nothing rises up against the fall with permanence, save one: Resurrection.

That’s why Jesus had to be raised up. It was not enough for him to be lifted, to ascend, or be caught up. Yes, all of these things happened, but one we celebrate: that he was raised up! He couldn’t just be saved or found or renewed. Old things are renewed. Lost things are found. Valuable things are saved. But only what has fallen can be raised up again. And in a world where everything is falling, he was.

Towers will fall, but he was raised up.
Reputations will fall, but he was raised up.
Nations will fall, but he was raised up.
Dreams will fall, but he was raised up.
Tears will fall, but he was raised up.
Friends, parents, even—God NO!—children will fall, but he was raised up.

When the sustained gaze of destruction forces the most steady eyes to close, he was still raised.
So we await the Resurrection of Life, and all that has ever fallen down.

Joel Hathaway


Happy New Year, Missouri Consumers! Watch Out for that $350,000,000 Hangover!

Thanks to Senate Bill 207, Missouri consumers could find themselves losing protection of the “construction work in progress” (CWIP) law to justify utility infrastructure expanse.

SB 207 states: “Notwithstanding any provisions of chapter 386 or this chapter to the contrary, beginning August 28, 2013, an electrical corporation providing electric service may file a petition and proposed rate schedules with the commission to establish or change ISRS rate schedules that will allow for the adjustment of the electrical corporation's rates and charges to provide for the recovery of costs for eligible infrastructure system replacements and additions.”

SB 207 for Dummies
Chapter 386 has to do with the establishment and role of the Public Service Commission (PSC). The PSC is intended to regulate the rates and services of utilities. The key clause here is: “adjustments of electrical corporation’s rates…that will allow for…rates and changes to provide for…infrastructure system…additions.” Currently, under Missouri law, the CWIP prevents electricity and gas companies from taking money from consumers until new facilities come on line.

Thanks to SB 207, no longer. Now, Ameren UE can increase consumer rates now for “substations, generation plants and their components, and cyber-security, customer service, and smart-grid investments” that are not yet online (SB 207, 40-42). 

What this bill allows is for Ameren, a key company endorsing the bill, to put expansion costs on consumers. If those plans fail, are delayed, set back, or canceled due to EPA or Federal Regulation, the loss is to consumers. If those plans succeed and are put into use, the benefit is to the stockholder. Consider Ameren’s planned and later canceled Nuclear reactor in April 2009, because “state policies are making it too difficult to finance the project.”

Ameren UE: Milking the Missouri CowAmeren UE is an $8 billion dollar company, paying 4.8% dividend on 245,367,603 shares annually. Lest someone say Ameren lost money in 2012 4Q, keep in mind that “$4.84 per share was the result of a writedown in its merchant generation business, which it intends to exit.” Furthermore, “Ameren said Wednesday that its quarterly performance was hampered by a decline in earnings at Ameren Illinois and a drop in earnings at its merchant generation unit. This was mostly offset by higher earnings at Ameren Missouri” (emphasis mine) (Yahoo! Finance, Feb 20, 2013).

Milking the Missouri Cow appears to be Ameren’s approach to business as usual. Thanks to a partnership with Missourians For A Balanced Energy Future, Ameren hopes to bypass limits put in place by CWIP law and place the burden for expansion and update on consumers. Missouri Consumer Council estimates every family will pay $125 more for projects we may or may not ever see to completion.

Supporters of the bill have a lot to say about their particular interests. In this case, those supporters include the four major investor-owned utilities in Missouri, 44 rural Cooperatives, and 37 Labor Unions. 

While in Missouri, it is Ameren UE et al against taxpayers, note the efforts of other states to shuck the cost of energy advancement or alternative energies onto taxpayers and off of the companies that stand to benefit from the expansion, thanks to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

What You Should Do Now!
While the Senate CS voted yesterday to pass SB 207, it has yet to be taken up by the entire chamber. Governor Jay Nixon has already endorsed the bill, according to the MBEF. There is still time to petition your senate representative. Here is the link to locate those elected officials.

I have written both Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt the following: Honorable Senator, I am writing to express my objection to and concern over Senate Bill 207. This bill threatens to weaken consumer protection against utility rate hikes at a time when personal and family income is under attack by increasing fuel costs, rising food costs, and increases in property taxation. I appeal to you to protect consumers’ rights by denying utility companies the ability to increase rates on planned projects under CWIP. No other state has granted such sweeping rate powers to utilities as a bypass to established law and practice. Please, for myself and my family, vote down SB 207! Sincerely….


A Quick Guide Introducting the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (And Why You Should Take It)

The Primary Reason the MBTI Remains the Most Used Personality Inventory is Becasue People Understand Themsevles Better After Taking It
There is a great deal of misunderstanding surrounding the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Some people view it as a predictor of behavior and practices. Others view it as a scale that says whether people behave or practice certain behaviors more or less. Still others expect it to predict such things as leadership style, emotional intelligence, or particular skills. And that doesn't even list the views of people who describe the MBTI as a completely flawed attempt to apply psychological typology to something irreducibly complex: human preference. None of these accurately or comprehensively capture the benefits of the MBTI for the vast majority of individuals. (click here to read more.)
Joel Hathaway


The Modern Shepherds Wondering Song

All winters are cold but not all are dark,
dark as dark as coal and ash.
Not even snow can make white
soiled footprints on the earth
guilt-stained palms, conscience seared.

Happy partings never shadow
looming conflict close at hand,
close by little, folded hands:
hands raised up to plea,
hands raised up for comfort,
comfort and joy.

They were anxious souls who waited by,
watched and waited for the dawn,
the morning star to wisdom guide.
Some relieved wrapped up--
not gifts of candy, toy, or fun--
but grief stricken children.

Others took to themselves comfortless breath
caught in the throat. Caught,
unuttered cry, unending cry.
To empty beds and unwrapped gifts
let winter's dark consume all light.
No star to go by.

Will sadness reign merry, cast all hope
beneath the veil of empty rooms,
little shoes and winter caps,
mar the Christmas yuletide in forever

Not so! For Herods near and far stretch out
with evil might and fall.
Fail and fall.
While rising high the resurrection
light a throne ascends
to highest heaven.
Welcomes little children,
"Come unto me."

'Till all undone are worthless deeds,
'till children play once more,
'till thorn-infected ground life pleads
on every human shore.

To the memory of Daniel, Rachel, Olivia, Charlotte, Josephine, Ana, Dylan, Dawn, Madeline, Catherine, Chase, Jesse, James, Grace, Anne Marie, Emilie, Jack, Noah, Caroline, Jessica, Avielle, Lauren, Mary, Victoria, Benjamin, Allison. These are the victims of a fool unworthy to be named: cast down in youth, raised up in hope.

Four Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Christmas Cards

We love Christmas cards. We are a nation of Christmas cards. Americans buy 1.6 billion cards each Christmas season (down significantly from a few years ago), according to the Greeting Card Association. But the birth of the personalized Christmas card, tethered to the ubiquitous "Holiday Newsletter," threatens to overwhelm us all with lengthy stories about Little Tommy's escapades. Highlighted by summer beach-vacation images, it can drive the most sober man to double-dip in the spiked eggnog. Here are a few pointers on getting the best out of your Christmas cards. (Click here to read more).