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Book Review

Periodically, an author will ask me to read their books a post a review of it.  This is a great honor and it usually means getting a book out of the deal… and I have a hard time saying “no” to a book.

Recently, Brad Berger’s team sent me a copy of  his “Unplug and Play, 50 Games that Don’t Need Charging.”

It really is a simple book with a basic premise/promise… to offer up dozens of different games that people can play together without the need for electronic devices – and in almost every case, not even a board or dice… 90% of these games can be played with nothing more high-tech than a pencil and a piece of scratch paper!

They are grouped into 6 different categories.  Inside of these categories, the games are pretty much different creative versions of a central game concept.

As a fan of families doing stuff together, and of the power of games to make us think, learn and most importantly, learn to think, I really approve of this book.

I think that is the right word, too – approve.  The book isn’t going to win a Pulitzer, (though it is pretty clever in places) but that isn’t its purpose.  You know the game sets that you can buy that have one board and you can play chess, checkers, Chinese checkers, backgammon, etc. all in one box?  This book is like that, except with about 10x the game ideas and 1/10 the preparation needed even for those – and it takes up about 8x5x 0.25 inches.

Families need to be spending time together – reading, watching movies, sure… and playing games.  It helps kid learn to deal with conflict, jealousy issues, how to deal in a healthy way with competition, strategic and tactical thinking, and more.  I think this book would be a handy guide for anyone who wants to play games with friends and family but don’t want to shell out the $30 for a single-dimensional game from the toy store.

Ok, a final note on recommending this book.  Our family has and plays games regularly – cards, dominoes, chess, and all kinds of other things.  We even play some of the games talked about in “Unplug.”  So, let me tell you what I intend to do with this copy now that I have read it and taken some ideas from it – it is going into my “Prep” materials.

Maybe this sounds odd, and, again, I am no prepper by any stretch of the word… but I do like being prepared – planning.  One of the things I have wondered about is the issue of “boredom” in a future that might be a lot different from the present.  Maybe we would work in the light and non-stop and sleep in the dark, but as a dad, I am guessing that even in a world like that, kids will get bored, and their brains would need stimulation.  This book would be a great addition to any prepper’s supply bag – and it carries a lot of bang for its size and weight – dozens of low-tech games in a small book.  Anyway, as I read it, it struck me as having additional value in that role that maybe even the author didn’t plan on.

I hope you enjoy “Unplug” and I especially hope that you will be playing games with you family.  The family that plays together, stays together, after all… or is it “prays”?  I recommend both.

http://www.amazon.com/Unplug-Play-Games-That-Charging-ebook/dp/B00IH5I3U4/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401721471&sr=1-1&keywords=unplug+and+play

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I took this from various websites, but most appreciated the first two listed below:

I used Wikipedia to help me as a “Cliff’s notes” guide some as well.

Osiris and his son, Horus are two of the most popular of the ancient religious figures linked to the account of Christ… and certainly make the most sense, given that the Hebrew people were closely linked to the Egyptians.   Unless you believe the Egyptians (who deny ever having any slave in their entire history), the Israelites spent 400 years enslaved within their culture.

It would make sense that some of the religious icons and traditions of the Egyptians culture might infect the Jewish faith and thus, eventually, the early Christians… and of course, the account of Jesus’ childhood also includes a trip down toe Egypt-land.

Also, one of the first people to make some of these kind of alleged connections was Gerald Massey, the poet, spiritualist and a non-professional Egyptologist… and his claimed connections were Horus and Christ.

Others have added Osiris into this mix as a potential connection as well, so I went ahead and told his story here as well. 

Osiris

As is typical of Egyptian and Indian myths, there are many versions of his story.

Much of what we have about Osiris was written by Plutarch who lived from AD46-120)

He became the God of the afterlife

Green skinned with Pharaoh beard

Mummy wrapped legs

Son of Geb (Earth god) and Nut (sky goddess)

Horus was his son.

He was the judge of the dead and the keeper of the source for all life.

He was called the Lord of Love and The Lord of Silence

He was killed by his brother, Set.  Being the first living thing to die, he became the god of the dead.

His wife, Isis (and sister), rejoined the broken pieces of Osiris all except the penis (it was eaten by a catfish, apparently), so she fashioned a golden one for him.  She brought him back to life just long enough to be impregnated by him.  She conceived Horus.

The Egyptians believed that the sun spent the night in the underworld and was reincarnated every morning.  Sometimes this was connected to Osiris.  So was the way that plants died and came back each year.

Sometimes, Osiris’ soul was worshipped almost distinctly from him.

He was worshipped as a fertility god, and as lord of the underworld through whom the dead live in the afterlife.  Only those who satisfied him of their goodness could gain admission.  Many prayers and spells have been found in hopes of securing his blessings.

 

Or Horus (His son)…

His story, too, is complicated and variable, as is typical of Egyptian myth.

The symbol for Horus is the Falcon – which has been worshipped in Egypt for a very long time.  He was probably originally thought of as the “Sky god”… His right eye was the sun and the left the moon and his wings the sky.

He was most often portrayed as a man with the head of a falcon.

He also became seen as the god of the East… the King was reborn each day as the sun again.  This was a common teaching about sun gods… or more often, the sun itself.

Later, another version of Horus arose, as the eye of Horus.

Horus is the son of Osiris and Isis – two gods.  One report is that he was born on the 31st day of the Egyptian month of Khoiak.

Horus had a consort, Hathor, and they had a son, Harsomptus.

Horus also had an uncle – Set.  The two vied for the throne of Osiris (see more about Osiris above) after Osiris’ death at the hands of Set (transformed into a monster)…

Set challenged Horus to a contest.  Set cheated in each event, but his mother, Isis, caught him in cheating.  Mercifully, Isis let him live.  Horus got angry with his mother, which motivated the other gods to set up one more challenge – a boat race.

Set foolishly made his boat of stone and it sank.  He turned himself into a hippo and attacked Horus, who fought him off.

The other gods sought insight from the dead Osiris, who said that Horus should be the rightful king since Set had become king through murder.  Finally the gods decided that Horus should be king.

 

http://www.laits.utexas.edu/cairo/teachers/osiris.pdf

http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/horus.htm

http://www.tektonics.org/lp/massjc.php

 

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Rebekah Rains, Paul McKenzie and I put together this prayer for our church this Mother’s Day.

We know that though Mother’s Day is a wonderful time for so many, there are also hundreds of thousands who dread church on Mother’s Day – so many have pain and hurt connected to that day and are so afraid of how the church might recognize mothers.

Who is a mother?  Who counts?  My wife and I have had 3 miscarriages, 3 biological kids, 1 adopted child, and 2 foster children, some specially claimed spiritual children and, I hope, hundreds of others impacted by us as parents for them… so how many do we have?

I remember at one of our churches, we did the “all the mothers stand up…” and the pastor would count up and mothers would sit when the number surpassed the number of children they had.

Later, my wife and I discussed how long she should have kept standing.  And we kind of decided that church needed to be more aware of real life.

Anyway,  here is the prayer and the introduction.

Intro:

Perhaps for you today is a day that is nothing but a joy to recall and celebrate.

Perhaps today is hard; maybe your relationship the very concept of “mom” is difficult at best.

Perhaps you celebrate, as your definition of what a mom is has been broadened to include those who have blessed you with the examples of God’s maternal traits, and you have learned to pass those along as well.

Perhaps every year there is an aspect of grief over a loss in your family.

Or perhaps today is simply the day you do not have to choose where to go out to eat…or you do get to, for a change.

Any woman representing the maternal aspects of the character of God is a mother.  His strong, nurturing, sacrificial, warm and compassionate traits are the cosmic standard of mothering.

All of us have at least one mom, who took the role of giving birth to us.  Most of us have hundreds or thousands of women who have been moms to us, representing those aspects of God.

We want to take advantage of the fact that our culture celebrates moms today by praying for them in a special way here…

So, Lord, we ask that you pour out your special blessings to those who represent you maternal aspects today:

God, thank you for your gift of mothers (James 1:17).

Thank you that you give us spiritual life like a mother gives us physical life (Isaiah 46:3-4).

Thank you that you won’t forget us like a mother who won’t forget the child she cares for (Isaiah 49:14-15).

Thank you that you give peace and comfort like a mother comforts a little one (Isaiah 66:12-13).

And thank you that we, like the apostle Paul, can claim spiritual mothers in our lives. (Romans 16:13).

And thank you for the all the mothers who display such truths to us (Proverbs 6:20).

And thank you for providing many moms of the gospel whom we count as a blessing from you (Mark 10:29-30).

May you bless them and keep them, make your face shine upon them, and give them your peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

We ask your special blessing on all mothers:

We thank you for mothers… In the trenches, seeking to create Christ followers by rocking, changing diapers, Band-Aids… giving medicine, listening, loving, hoping, giving keys and curfews, planning weddings, holding grandchildren and great grandchildren – theirs and others – and praying and praying and praying.

So we pray for them too…

We lift up today the

Birth mothers who gave up their children,

Mothers whose children have died,

Mothers who have had miscarriages or adoptions that fell through,

Mothers of aborted babies,

Future mothers in the midst of the challenges of infertility,

Pregnant mothers,

Mothers waiting for adoption,

Moms of many and moms of one,

Foster moms,

Step moms,

Spiritual moms,

Single moms,

Moms who have broken relationships with their children…

Our mothers.  My mothers… my mother.

In Jesus’ name… Amen

 

 

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There is childcare available – very inexpensive, for those who register… including for special needs kids!  Check out www.hopefor100.org.

 

East Texas Family Conference

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I want to evaluate these books that are considered “Post Apocalyptic” literature… from more than one angle.  From one angle as a book… good read, etc… From the other angle, as a guidebook for being prepared for catastrophe in our society.  I have found over the years that fiction and narrative can be great trainers for us!  Sometimes, fiction can offer more insight into human psychology than non-fiction can, and I think this topic is largely a psychological one.  These are in no particular order.

The Stand – Stephen King.

Great examination of the effect on mankind when a military grade disease is released, killing 98% of the world’s population.  The first 1/3 of the book  is great… as the disease spreads and people have to deal with that. As with most of his books, though, the Deus Ex Machina is pretty rampant by the end.  Not much of a guidebook.

Book: B+, Handbook: B

The Postman – David Brin

In a post-government world, what happens when someone finds a postman’s uniform? (the movie is a poor replacement for the book, even though the book has an ending that stretches any sense of believability.)  With the exception of that ending, I really liked this book.  Had some guidebook value, but not tons.

Book: B, Handbook: B+

The World without Us – Alan Weisman

What would the process of nature reclaiming the world of man look like?  This is a great book about biology and fascinating about engineering, but not really about a post apocalyptic situation… but would be a vital read for anyone writing one!  Only guidebook value is as prep for what is going to happen in cities if electricity and intervention cease.

Book: B+, Handbook A-

World War Z – Max Brooks

The best Zombie war book I have ever read.  This is overall, an amazing read.  Told from the perspective of an investigative reporter.  Some great stuff in this one.  Some rough language… not for kids.  A fast read too.

Book A, Handbook C+

Lucifer’s Hammer – Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven

This book examines the West coast after a comet has struck.  I think this, among most of the rest, offers one of the best insights in preparing for this kind of disaster.  I felt like it was of the most realistic and painful to read.  It is odd to think we are so close, always, to essentially living in a medieval world again.

Book: B+, Handbook: A+

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

Fast paced, urgent, and addictive.  Interesting commentary on society’s addiction to entertainment, as well.  Nothing redemptive in this book, though, and you have to be ready for a brutally violent book.  It isn’t the typical post-A book either – more of a commentary on what society could become someday, but no help as a prep book.

Book: A-, Handbook: D

77 Days – Ray Gorham

A man must walk from Houston to Montana to be reunited with his family after a sudden EMP attack.  Great stuff in this book.  The protagonist seems to be a little hesitant to defend himself to me, but otherwise this books feels believable… a decent guide book too.  High scores.

Book: B+, Handbook: A

I am Legend – Richard Matheson

A novelette that takes a new look at vampirism.  It has a creative ending and a realistic look at the psychology of being alone in the world… but it skips past the process of an epidemic taking over.  The movie bears little resemblance to the book, but I think is good in its own right.

Book: B+, Handbook: C-

The Strain Trilogy – Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Vampire books.  The first one is fascinating from both a vampire and post-apocalyptic disease perspective… I liked it a lot.  However, after book one, book two is weaker from both perspectives.  Book three is a waste.  I was pretty disappointed.

Book (Book 1: A, Book 3: F), Handbook: C

The Walk – Lee Goldberg

A man must walk across LA after the big one, to reach his underappreciated family… I feel like this is more of a coming-of-age book for a middle aged male to become a man than a true post-A book.  The language is really rough – way over-done… I don’t really recommend it.

Book: F, Handbook: D

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank

This book is badly out of date about a lot of things, but at the same time that is one of the more shocking aspects of it – seeing how things have changed.  Though I think a full blown nuclear war btw the US and Russia are unlikely at this point (that is the plot in this one).  However, some great survival ideas and concepts are found here.. and it is well written – I recommend.  It makes you want to stock up on salt, that is for sure!

Book: A-, Handbook: A

Survivors – James Wesley Rawles

This book is written by an overtly Christian author setting a scenario of total financial collapse in the USA.  The author is also the host of the survivalblog.com website that offers what the media calls “preppers” all kinds of information and ideas for how to survive similar circumstances.  As an advice book, this is one of the best.  I learned about the silver in pre-1965 quarters from this book, for example.

Book: B, Handbook: A+

One Second After – William R Forstchen

This is another book that examines the results of an EMP burst.  In many ways, this one is almost a “preppers” handbook.  However, I enjoyed the character development as well… and found it believable.  Read it… High marks for this one.

Book: B+, Handbook: A+

The Day After Tomorrow – Allan Folsom

This is one of the more frightening books in that it feels real and like a potential.  It is based on a theory that weather systems stretch like a rubber band and then suddenly snap back… warmer and warmer, then snap into an ice age.  Not much prep advice beyond don’t live in the north.  It is more of a scientific treatise.

Book: A, Handbook: (for this specific event) B

Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton

This is a great conversation about the effect of a military virus run loose.  It is a great book – Crichton’s best, in my opinion… but the societal impact is less the focus of the book than the scientific response.

Book: A, Handbook: C

The Restoration Novels – Terri Blackstock

I didn’t get to read these, but my wife did, and she loved them… and started her thinking of the possibility of needing to be prepared in case of a cataclysm of some kind, when something like an EMP pulse happens.  It certainly has some good guidebook ideas as well.

Book: ?  Handbook: A-

The Jakarta Pandemic – Steven Konkoly

This one is scary bc it feels so real.  The language is pretty rough, but otherwise, this is a great book.  Oddly, like so many post-Apoc books, it ends with a kind of mano-y- mano scenario, but until then, the narrative creates a realistic sense of what might happen in a deadly flu pandemic.  Good ideas.

Book: B+, Handbook: A

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I checked various websites – including the CDC – and compiled a list of preparation materials.

Preparation List

Be prepared to take kids out of school… and to be prepared to have another option in case childcare or schools are shut down.

Be prepared for banking and credit services to be down… so you may need to use cash as things escalate into crisis.

Public places may quickly become unsafe, especially in large cities.  Even being just a few days ahead of the masses can be huge… but if you have to go into public places, be cautious, especially if it is an epidemic.  Have an option other than public transportation.

Create a Family communication plan.  The chances of being all together when you realize the time has come to act is unlikely.  Cell service may be interrupted.  Know where you will meet.  Know where you will leave notes in case you get separated.

Stock at least two weeks of water and non-perishable food items.

Water:  According to ready.gov you need about a gallon of water per person per day.  You can survive on less for a long time, but that is best.  That is quite a bit!  In my family of 7, it’s 35 gallons a week.  Though, if you have access to another source of water, you can purchase or make some pretty good filters for that water.  Further, bleach, purification tablets, and boiling (a rolling boil for 2 minutes) can also make water much more safe.  Very little natural source water is safe without purification in the US.

Food:   if you knew for sure that you were going to need food for the next two weeks, starting today, this might be easy.  Dry cereal, canned foods, peanut butter, cans of juice, dried fruit, etc are all good choices.  However, most of even these expire in weeks, or in the case of canned good – about a year.  Another option to consider is MRE’s (meals ready to eat) which typically last about 5 years safely.  Maybe best of all is Freeze dried food, which can last for as long as 25 years.  And, honey lasts essentially forever ;-)

You will need to take into account preparation of the food – you will need a way to heat most foods… avoid eating raw meats in particular.

And you may need to stock up on some salt for multiple purposes.

Other supplies:

Medical needs: (obviously all prescription meds that are life-and-death – I would think at least two months of these would be a good idea if you can convince your doctor to do it.)  medicine for fevers, pain relief, anti-diarrheal etc.

Heat – if you live in an area that has cold conditions, or if you think conditions might change, you should keep in mind fire, blankets, sleeping bags, etc.

Others:  can opener (manual) garbage bags, vitamins, thermometer, cleansing supplies, soap, alcohol cleansers,  fire starters, gas for grills, batteries, flashlights, portable radio (hand cranked or solar powered are good), good knives and tools.

Next levels would include firearms, ammo, a generator… and then things can go on as far as you want to be taken…  but that is beyond my interests…

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Epidemic/Pandemic

And epidemic is what you get when the number of people infected by a disease rises well beyond what is expected and impacts all levels of a community.  When that epidemic covers a much larger geographical area, or becomes worldwide, it is called a pandemic.

Pandemics were essentially impossible for most of human history, since rarely would an infected person be able to travel.  However, now,  people traavel outside of their immediate community fast enough to spread a disease.  It was hard to find a great and certain answer to this, but the most convincing answers were that 1.73 million passengers on domestic flights in the US every day in 2010, and some estimate 4.5 million per day around the world.  One site claims that 3 million leave the US each day, but did not mention how many come in…  In 2012, TSA claimed 1.88 million people a day in the US go through security checks.

This means that any disease (particularly a virus) that gains a foothold in a foreign country can be transported here, or anywhere else before the infected person might even show symptoms.

flu virus

If the nation where the infection begins is a fairly closed news outlet, like China, or many of the Muslim Theocracies, the infection could be ingrained and spreading before anyone knew to respond.  This has happened in the recent past… like with the Avian flu and H1N1.

Influenza is a particularly dangerous virus because it is almost always good at spreading from person to person.

Fortunately, especially in 1st world nations, though the flu spread to vast numbers of people, none of the recent strains have been very lethal where treatment was possible.

There have been about 3 influenza pandemics in each century for the last 300 years.  In about the last 100 years, one of the scary ones to look back on was the flu of the late 1890s and into the early 1900’s… called “The Spanish Flu”.  In those years, an estimated 30-50 million apparently died… 675,000 of which were Americans! (about the same as died in the entire Civil War).

images-1

Those are some scary numbers, for sure and fortunately, we have not had another outbreak like that since then, at least not here.  However, outbreaks have not been rare and deaths in the millions worldwide.  Recent outbreaks that have hit since the Spanish flu include:

1956 1-4 million deaths worldwide

1968  1 million deaths worldwide (33k in the US)

2009 (H1N1) 280k deaths worldwide.

The CDC estimates (http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/estimates_2009_h1n1.htm) that in the year of April 2009 – April 2010, there were between 43 million and 89 million cases of H1N1 in the US… 195k-403k hospitalizations, and between 8,870-18,300 deaths!  H1N1 was apparently fairly good and transferring from person to person, but not particularly lethal.

Though there are effective anti-viral treatments, they are easily overwhelmed in cases like this.   In the case of another major outbreak… or even just an impressive one… likely much commerce and retail would either sell out or shut down.  What happens when people are encouraged by the CDC to “stock up” for a few weeks in the case an a pandemic?

I know that here in Tyler, when we know we are having a cold snap (anything below 32 degrees F), the grocery stores sell out of things!  I would assume that most stores would be packed with people (some of whom could be carrying the virus, incidentally) and sold out in hours.

Most stores today run with scientific efficiency.  They “store” little at the “stores” beyond what they can expect to sell in the immediate future.  Even one or two days of delayed shipments and they could be almost empty, even with normal shopping numbers… imagine the effect of that in a crisis when people need to hunker down and stay home for a week or two – so they try to stock up!  Combine those and get a mess.  Especially if the truckers are trying to stay home to avoid getting sick.  Have a scary enough outbreak and I assume they would.

Conclusion?  Here is another motivation to have some supplies on hand.  Enough to provide for you family (and maybe some neighbors) for a few weeks.  Most likely, by then, the pandemic will have largely passed (even if it leaves a path of death behind it) and your family will have helped reduce rather than help encourage the panic and consequences of the epidemic.

Once again, though the chances of this kind of pandemic in the US is debated, and very unlikely any given year, it has happened before and our society is in many ways less vulnerable to the flu, but more vulnerable to the shut downs it could create… less vulnerable to the disease itself, but more able to spread it quickly.

Planning, not panic.  Preparedness, not paranoia.

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