Category Archives: Just for Fun

Yes: Facebook, SCOTUS, Evacuation Slide Opens Mid-Flight

imagesYes, Facebook conducted an experiment without asking permission. Yes, some of you feel violated. Yes, people should ask your permission when including you in an experiment. However, you have not closed your Facebook account as of yet. I guess you’re exercising your freedom, but hoping Facebook will not do the same?

Yes, SCTOUS made a narrow ruling in favor of small, family-owned, for-profit businesses; only some contraceptives are at issue. Yes, some of you think this allows employers to be bigoted toward women. (By this you actually mean that businesses [some of which surely will be run by women, have women on their boards, and have women customers] will be able to limit women’s freedom to have the cost of their contraceptive choices covered by the company’s health insurance.) However, you do not consider, alternatively, that the contraceptive choices of some could be forcing a business owner to pay for something for which he or she does not want to pay. Is this limiting the owner’s freedom of choice?

Yes, a flight was diverted after an evacuation slide opened mid-flight. Apparently no one on the flight screamed, “Wait! Don’t divert the flight! I have the right to fly to my destination on-time with the slide open! I paid to arrive on time! You are violating my freedom and the freedoms of all future air passengers!”

 

Related Resource: The Intolerance of Tolerance

 

Crossway’s Book Reviews – Beyond the Page

gtb_banner_ad_homeToday Crossway launched, Beyond the Page, their new book review program. Go check it out and get yourself some ebook titles from Crossway!

Holy Scandal

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“‘And you shall not commit adultery.” (Dt. 5:20)

The Lord’s Day 41 (Week 41) lesson in the Heidelberg Catechism states,

Q. What does the seventh commandment teach us?

A. That God condemns all unchastity,

and that therefore we should thoroughly detest it

and live decent and chaste lives,

within or outside of the holy state of marriage.

Q. Does God, in this commandment,
forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?

A. We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul,

and God wants both to be kept clean and holy.

That is why God forbids

all unchaste actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires,

and whatever may incite someone to them.

While sitting with my children to discuss the commandment and the catechism yesterday, I noted these words from Starr Meade:

“The catechism reminds us that God forbids adultery. A husband commits adultery when he treats a woman who isn’t his wife in the special way he should treat only his wife. A wife commits adultery when she treats a man who isn’t her husband in the special was she should only treat her husband. The catechism calls adultery ‘scandalous.’ The catechism was written hundreds of years ago. Back then, adultery was scandalous. When a married person left the marriage or turned to a new lover, everyone in the community was shocked. They all thought it was a terribly bad thing to do. Sadly, in our time, adultery is accepted. People stay married to one person for only as long as they enjoy being with that person. Then they move on to someone else, or they go back to being single.

To the people of God, adultery should still be scandalous. The people of God should still think of adultery as terribly wrong, because that’s how God thinks of it.”

Starr Meade, Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Heidelberg Catechism [Phillipsburgh, MJ: P&R Publishing, 2013]: 208.  (See also, Kevin DeYoung “Swords for the Fight Against Lust,” The Good News We Almost Forgot: Rediscovering the Gospel in a 16th Century Catechism [Chicago: Moody, 2010]: 193-197.)

We have lost the scandalous nature of scandals.

 

 

Incredibly Sweetalicious Cupcakes

picstitchAt a recent graduation celebration, I was introduced to a Sugar Cookie cupcake from Cupcakes by Lauren, a start-up cupcake company in Washington, DC. My expectations and taste buds were blown away! This is no small feat, as my family and friends will tell you, for I am a connoisseur when it comes to desserts and aficionado when it comes to cupcakes (and doughnuts)! Yet Cupcakes by Lauren has put a sweet spin on cupcakes that leaves other cupcake companies’ works tasting like boxed cake products. Only the buttercream icing from Sweet Carolina Cupcakes in Hilton Head, SC rivals the tastes of this new outfit!

The Sugar Cookie cupcake tasted like a sugar cookie with sprinkled sugar, buttercream icing, and a cookie-like texture on the top of the muffin. The rest was a moist, cookie-flavored cake! Similarly, the chocolate cupcake is a chocolate ganache-filled, double chocolate cake, with milk chocolate icing and shavings topping the cupcake.

I lifted a products listing from Cupcakes by Lauren. Below are pictures of a handful of the products. Sugar Cookie and the quintuple chocolate (“Urk’s Ridiculously Chocolate Cupcake”) are my favorities! My wife loved the Toasted Coconut and Snicker Doodle cupcakes. My children found the Red Velvet cupcakes to be out of this world!

Cupcakes by Lauren is local to the DC-No. Va.-Balt.-Annapolis region. Call for pricing and catering information. Contact Cupcakes by Lauren via lmgilliam01@yahoo.com or 202-627-0038.

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John Piper: When Words Are Wind

Earlier this month, the Solid Joys app posted a devotional from Desiring God dating back to thoughts from John Piper from 1983. They are just as good in 2013 as they were thirty years ago. “When Words are Wind:”

Job 6:26

Do you think that you can reprove words,
when the speech of a despairing man is wind?

In grief and pain and despair people often say things they otherwise would not say. They paint reality with darker strokes than they will paint it tomorrow when the sun comes up. They sing in minor keys and talk as though that is the only music. They see clouds only and speak as if there were no sky.

They say, “Where is God?” Or: “There is no use to go on.” Or: “Nothing makes any sense.” Or: There’s no hope for me.” Or: “If God were good this couldn’t have happened.”

What shall we do with these words?

Job says that we do not need to reprove them. These words are wind, or literally “for the wind.” They will be quickly blown away. There will come a turn in circumstances and the despairing person will waken from the dark night and regret hasty words.

Therefore, the point is, let us not spend our time and energy reproving such words. They will be blown away of themselves on the wind. One need not clip the leaves in autumn. It is a wasted effort. They will soon blow off of themselves.

O how quickly we are given to defending God, or sometimes the truth, from words that are only for the wind. If we had discernment we could tell the difference between the words with roots and the words blowing in the wind.

There are words with roots in deep error and deep evil. But not all grey words get their color from a black heart. Some are colored mainly by the pain, the despair. What you hear is not the deepest thing within. There is something real within where they come from. But it is temporary—like a passing infection—real, painful, but not the true person.

Let us learn to discern whether the words spoken against us or against God or against the truth are merely for the wind—spoken not from the soul, but from the sore. If they are for the wind, let us wait in silence and not reprove. Restoring the soul not reproving the sore is the aim of our love.

Learning to listen to the soul,

Pastor John

When You Are Wronged – Psalm 26

Today christianity.com posted my, “When You Are Wronged,” a brief look at Psalm 26. I am grateful for their ministry and graciousness toward me.

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Vindication is something we all desire, because injustices are committed toward us in this life. On a lesser scale it could be a simple spat between spouses in which the one accuses the other of moving an item, when the other has evidence of things being very different. On a larger scale it could be that family promises were not kept, or lies and cover-ups had the wrong person thrown out of school, found innocent a criminal who harmed your loved one, or cost you an unwarranted demotion at work.

In Psalm 26, one reads, “Vindicate Me, O Lord.” The word translated as “vindication” has judgmentat its core. David is praying, “Judge me, O Lord. Look at the wicked and me, see that I have lived a life of integrity and depended on you without wavering.” David’s prayer reveals three things:

1.      When you call for vindication, make sure integrity is your foundation (1-3).

The basis by which David cries for vindication makes no reference to the wrongdoing of anyone else. David starts (and he will end) in the mirror. “Lord, I have integrity; I am wholly dependent on you.”

The Hebrew terms behind “heart” and “mind” are words for “kidneys” and “heart.” In the Hebrew mind, the kidneys (or innards) were the organ driving us in the way we would describe the “heart” of emotions and motive, and the “heart” was more what we would describe as the place of thinking and will. David says in effect, “Look at my heart and mind with your all-penetrating eyes and see that I am whole and holy.”

Typically, when we pray for vindication, we act like children on the schoolyard who have been hurt and run to the teacher: “He hit me! Get him!” “She called me a bad name! Take her recess away! Do it in front of me so I can have the satisfaction of seeing her humbled!”

In that cry to the authority we want three things: Judgment that sets the scales right, vengeance against the enemy, and a public display that we are right. David wants a fourth thing: Judgment of the one requesting vindication. To make that call of vindication, you must know that you yourself are a person of integrity before God and not just correct in the current situation.

2.      When you claim your own justification, you should be prepared to meet strict standards of Divine evaluation (4-8).

David offers four areas of life for God to judge. First he offers truth (26:4). Men of falsehood (vanity) are not part of his company. Neither does he keep company with “hypocrites”—people who keep their activities covered so others cannot see what they are doing. David is saying that he keeps the 9th Commandment’s prohibition against false witness.

Second, David offers righteousness (26:5). When evildoers gathered for their form of “worship” (for “assembly” is a cultic term related to worship), David had complete disdain for their dishonoring authority, murdering, adultery, and stealing. He keeps the 5th-8th and 10th Commandments.

Third, David offers purity in worship (26:6). David thinks of integrity in terms of the 1st through 4thCommandments—those that deal with loving God with one’s whole heart, soul, strength, and mind. He understands that love for our neighbor flows from our love for God. You cannot be a person of integrity – wholeness before God, and not simply before men – if you treat everyone decently but do not acknowledge God’s standards for coming to God. No idolater or atheist could pray, “Vindicate me” to God and hope for anything short of his wrath for all eternity, for the judgment would reveal wickedness even in the motives of his service toward humanity.

Fourth, David offers himself as a devoted worshipper (26:8). David is a Sabbath-keeper who loves God! It is not the house of the Lord that David loves, but the resident of the house—God and his glory! “Measure me by this,” says David!

This poses a dilemma for all of us: Not one of us perfectly keeps the Commandments. We stand without hope of vindication before our enemies, because we cannot say, “Lord, get them but ignore me,” for this would not be just for a holy God.

What hope is there for we who need both vindication and the righteousness that God requires?

3.      When you cry out for separation, remember that it is the Lord’s grace that brings redemption (9-12).

God will sweep away the souls of sinners, including the bloodthirsty, who can be manipulated by bribes and have evil devices to carry out their schemes. They can threaten your life, but their own lives are at stake before the Almighty Judge and King.

David, even as one claiming to have absolute integrity, still knows that he will be found short and could be swept away into the torrents of eternal damnation. So he makes pleas to avoid the judgment of the wicked: “Redeem me and be gracious to me”

God is not under obligation to rescue David, and he ultimately cannot present his integrity as sufficient to avoid the wrath of a perfect God. So what is David’s hope? God, by your grace, redeem me! This is exactly what God does for us in Christ.

Christ comes in the perfect righteousness of God: Complete in truth, righteousness, purity in worship, and devotion in worship to God. God condemned Christ in place of our condemnation, crucifying him to his death on the Cross.

God offers us eternal life through Christ’s righteousness as the only one righteous enough to beat death, as demonstrated in his resurrection from the dead. God offers to redeem us by grace—a gift to us, not something we earn. We receive this gift by believing in Christ. When, therefore, we are in need of vindication, we keep trusting this same Christ.

Eric C. Redmond is Executive Pastoral Assistant and Bible Professor in Residence at New Canaan Baptist Church in Washington, DC. Follow him on Twitter @EricCRedmond

The Magic of Belle Isle is Outstanding!

I just finished watching The Magic of Belle Isle via On Demand. It is an outstanding movie! It is extremely well written, and Morgan Freeman and Virginia Madsen are sure to be nominated for Best Actor and Best Actress for both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards. I will not give the storyline away (or some of Morgan Freeman’s great lines), but the movie concerns the power of the story of others’ lives to change our perspectives on our lives (or change the next page of the story of our lives). Do not wait to see it in theaters!  It is worth seeing On Demand on Amazon Instant Video.

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Update:  After going over the movie again with my wife and in my own private thoughts, I think Virginia Madsen will get a nod for Best Supporting Actress. She did not have a large enough role to gain a Best Actress nomination. Also, after viewing this movie, some might be concerned about what appears to be the blurring of the lines between imagination and reality. I would disagree that this is what the movie is doing; the multiple references to “my life” indicate this.

Corpses

No more shall there be in it
an infant who lives but a few days,
or an old man who does not fill out his days,
for the young man shall die a hundred years old,
and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed.

(Isaiah 65:20 ESV)

In anticipation of preaching through Isaiah 65:17-25 next Sunday, I provide this comment from Calvin:

Here it ought also to be observed, that blessings either of soul or body are found only in the kingdom of Christ, that is, in the Church, apart from which there is nothing but cursing. Hence it follows that all who have no share in that kingdom are wretched and unhappy; and, however fresh and vigorous they may appear to be, they are, nevertheless, in the sight of God, rotten and stinking corpses.

John Calvin, commentary on Isaiah 65:20

 

St. John’s Annapolis Saturday Seminars for 2012 Announced – Celebrating 75 Years

St. John’s College in Annapolis recently posted their Saturday Seminars offerings for 2012. I try to get to one of these annually, as my schedule permits, for the St. John’s way of learning is very enriching. Care to join me? (Read more about St. John’s in Roger H. Matin’s, Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again.)   From the St. John’s College website:

Annapolis
Saturday Seminars

Experience the great books educational program at St. John’s College—by participating in a Saturday Seminar sponsored by the Friends of St. John’s College. These seminars attract about 200 participants from varied ages and walks of life, who gather for coffee and donuts before joining groups of 18-20 for one of a dozen seminars.

St. John’s faculty members, called tutors, choose the  readings—classic works drawn from the St. John’s program—and will conduct seminars on each.  Choose one of the topics listed, read the assigned text in advance, and then join with others on seminar day in a discussion of the work. No previous knowledge of the subject or author is required. No outside research on the topic is expected. Seminar participants are responsible for their own text.

Sign-up here for e-mail updates about future seminars. Questions? Contact Alice Chambers at 410-295-5544 or alice.chambers@sjca.edu.

Special 75th Anniversuary of the St. John’s Program

Celebrating 75 Years with the Great Books 
St. John’s College is best known for its “New Program”—the school’s all-required curriculum centered around the reading and discussion of the great books of Western civilization. Although this program was instituted in 1937, St. John’s traces its origins to 1696, when it opened as King William’s School—what was then called a free school and would now be called a grammar or prep school. King William’s School became St. John’s College in 1784 when St. John’s was chartered by the State of Maryland. For the next 150 years, St. John’s had educational and financial highs and lows until the 1929 stock market crash threatened to close the college for good.

In 1937, in an eleventh-hour effort to save St. John’s, the college’s board hired Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan, two academics with revolutionary educational ideas, to completely revamp the curriculum, and the pair implemented the New Program. Seventy-five years later, the New Program still thrives, as does St. John’s College, known as one of the country’s most intellectual colleges.

Registration

To register for the February, 2012 Saturday Seminar, download the paper registration form. Seminars will be filled first-come, first-served. Early registration is recommended. There is a registration fee of $40 per person for each seminar.  All registrations must be accompanied by payments to hold your space. To register, please complete and return this registration form  with credit card information or a check payable to St. John’s College to Saturday Seminars, Community Programs Office, St. John’s College, P.O. Box 2800, Annapolis, MD 21404. Online registration will be available after December 15. Phone registrations will not be accepted until after February 10.  For questions contact Alice Chambers in Community Programs at alice.chambers@sjca.edu or 410 295-5544.

SCHEDULE FOR THE DAY

In commemoration of the 75th year of the establishment of the  St. John’s Program,  “Saturday Seminars” will focus only on the great books of Western civilization that all St. John’s students read as part of their required curriculum.

Saturday, February 25, 2012 (snow date Saturday March 3, 2012)

9:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m.          Registration and continental breakfast
Francis Scott Key Lobby, Mellon Hall

9:30- 10:00 a.m.
                   Special 75th anniversary of the New Program
Tutor David Townsend: Introduction to a St. John’s Seminar
President Chris Nelson: “The Value and Relevance of a Liberal                                                     Education”
Conversation Room, Mellon Hall

10:15 – 11:45a.m. Seminars in Mellon Hall classrooms. Room assignments given on check-in.

For directions around campus, please see our campus map.

Saturday Seminars Offerings and Tutors for February 25, 2012 (snow date March 3)

In commemoration of the 75th year of the establishment of the  St. John’s Program,  “Saturday Seminars” will focus only on the great books of Western civilization that all St. John’s students read as part of their required curriculum.

Aristotle, Metaphysics  “Theta
Tutor Matthew Linck

In Book Theta of the Metaphsyics, Aristotle develops the vocabulary of energeia and dynamis in relation to the question of being qua being. This account also sheds light on the use of these terms in works such as the Physics and Ethics.  Many works by Aristotle, as well as Euclid, Lavoisier, and Harvey are read by St. John’s students in their first year.

Augustine, Confessions Books I – VIII
Tutor Michael Brogan

Sometimes described as the West’s first autobiography, Augustine’s Confessions combines impassioned, prayerful reflection on the restless human heart with probing inquiries into everything from the meaning of evil to the nature of time. We will read the first eight books, in which Augustine describes the wandering path leading from his infancy and misspent youth in North Africa to his conversion to Christianity at the age of 31.   Second Year students all read the Confessions.

Bacon, Novum Organum
Tutor Debbie Axelrod

In the first part of the book, Bacon offers his critical analysis of the ways in which thinking people mislead themselves, not only in spite of, but, often, because of their best efforts. In the second part of the book, Bacon provides an example of his new method, which is intended to minimize the shortcomings of human reason, in order to further the project of ‘obeying nature in order to control her’ for the benefit of all people.  This work is read by second year students as well as Copernicus,  Descartes, and Pascal.

Bible, Gospel of Matthew
Tutor William Braithwaite

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says he comes to fulfill the law and the prophets.  We’ll explore what this claim means, as a way of understanding what’s “new” in the New Testament and why Jesus teaches in Parables.  Students between their freshman and sophomore years usually read the Bible over the summer.  Many parts of the Old and New Testaments are discussed  in the Sophomore seminars at St. John’s- as a text to be examined-  rather than a basis for faith.

Epictetus, Discourses and Handbook
Tutor Louis Petrich

The Discourses and Handbook of Epictetus, a first-century A.D. Roman philosopher, provide an excellent introduction to the way of life and thought known as “stoicism.”  Participants in this seminar will investigate how the practice of stoicism is supposed to lead to freedom and tranquility.  Is this practice attractive and attainable by 21st-century Americans?  We will discuss Discourses  (I 29; II 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 16, 18, 22, 26; III 5, 12, 13, 15, 18; IV 2) and Handbook 1-27.  These two works are examined by students in their second year following Virgil’s Aeneid and some of Plutarch’s Lives.

Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling
Tutor Michael Grenke

In Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard explores the meaning of faith.   In the opening chapters, Kierkegaard focuses on the exemplary man of faith, Abraham, and offers four different versions of the story of Abraham and Isaac as a means of considering the problem of faith.  The discussion will focus on “Exordium” and “Eulogy on Abraham.”   The preferred text is the Princeton University Press, pp.9 – 23.  Kierkegaard, along with Darwin, Hegel, Marx, and Freud are read in the Fourth year program of seminars.

Moliere, The Misanthrope
Tutor Marilyn Higuera

In this 17th century comedy of manners, Alceste, the protagonist and “misanthrope” challenges the social conventions of the time.  He penetrates the devastating hypocrisy of daily discourse and hungers for more sincerity in human relationships.  Despite his disgust with mankind, he – rather ironically – falls in love with a vivacious , popular flirt.   His pursuit of this coquette involves him in much foolishness and finally results in a desire to be completely isolated from society.  The play provokes a criticque both of “manners” and of a moralizing superiority to them.  Moliere’s “The Misanthrope” is a third year author for Johnnies who are also studying French that year.

Nietzsche, “Use and Disadvantages of History for Life”
Tutor Lise Van Boxel

In this selection from Untimely Meditations, Nietzsche criticizes the modern mode of education, which aims to stuff all of the objective facts of history into the minds of students.  He argues not only that such objectivity is impossible, but also—and more importantly—that this indiscriminate fact-stuffing ruins students’ souls.  He offers an alternative form of education that aims at a kind of soul-craft rather than a meaningless accumulation of so-called facts. Neitzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil as well as The Birth of Tragedy are discussed in the senior year.

Plato, The Apology of Socrates
Tutor Chris Nelson

Facing indictment on charges of impiety and of corruption of the youth of Athens, Socrates must defend himself in front of the Athenians.  Unlike other Platonic dialogues, this is more of a monologue, as Plato gives us Socrates’ defense of an examined life.  Beginning students at St. John’s, while learning ancient Greek, all read Plato’s surviving works- mostly in translation- but they try their hand at some in the original.

Shakespeare, Othello 
Tutor David Townsend

Love, jealousy, innocence, betrayal, revenge, hate, murder, political corruptions, the good, the bad and the ugly.   This play reaches into the dark soul of the human spirit to inquire whether the good are at the mercy of the duplicitous and debased.   Could this tragedy have been avoided?   Can anyone who loves well loves wisely?  In addition to a variety of Shakespeare’s histories, tragedies, and comedies, St. John’s sophomores read the bard’s sonnets along with poems by Donne, Marvell, and other 16th and 17th poets.

Sophocles, Oedipus Rex
Tutor Gabriel Pihas

Sophocles’ tragedy reflects on a number of fundamental themes, the possibility of human freedom, the division between public and private life, and the possibility of human greatness.  As well, it is one of the most flawlessly conceived of all Greek tragedies.  First year students read the ancient playwrites Aeschylus and Euripides in addition to the Oedipus trilogy of Sophocles.

Swift, Gulliver’s Travels Part IV
Tutor Michael Dink

In Part IV, “A Voyage to the Country of the Houyhnhnms,”   the last of his four voyages, the shipwreck prone Gulliver finds himself among a society of rational horses, called Houyhnhnms, who live a materially and culturally simple life, virtually free of conflict, guided entirely by reason.  After living with them for some time, he comes to admire them deeply, and finds his estimation of himself and his fellow human beings profoundly transformed, for the worse.  Swift’s tale raises questions about virtue and vice, admiration, self-esteem, contempt and loathing, as well as about the sufficiency of the guidance of reason.  While Cervantes’, Don Quixote leads off the junior year, other novels including Eliot’s  Middlemarchand  Swift’s  Gulliver’s Travels are read also for seminars that year.

Thucydides , “The Melian Dialogue”
Tutor Anita Kronsberg

In  The History of the Peloponnesian War, the discussion will be on Book V, the Sixteenth Year Year of the war,  “The Melian Dialogue.”   The suggested text is *The Landmark Thucydides, Free Press, 1996: (5.84-5.116), pages 350-357. Thucydides,  reconstructs the negotiation between the leaders of Melos, an island that was neutral in the war between Athens and Sparta, and the Athenian envoys who arrived there with an overwhelming force in the sixteenth year of that war.  The Athenians took the position that “the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must,” while the Melians argued that it was in Athens’ long term interest not to violate a principle that protected both parties: “namely, the privilege of being allowed in danger to invoke what is fair and right…”  This short passage is widely studied by statesmen and military leaders and is considered a crucial reading for liberally educated citizens.  Since program books are read more or less in chronological order, Thucydides ancient history of the Peloponnesian War is read in the First year, following  Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey.

Sean Made My Wife Happy: Help Make Sean Happy

This is Sean. He is not mad. He is happy. Sean made me happy. Sean helped my wife. My wife has a new ride. It is pre-owned with low miles and a great financing rate. Sean made this deal to make my wife happy. That makes me happy. Sean works for Honda of Bowie in Bowie, MD. If you need a good deal on a ride, and you live in the Washington, DC – area, see Sean. Sean will try to make you a good deal without hassle. He will find a good price for your trade-in too — even one as old and the one I had. Sean will work to make you happy. Tell him I sent you. Talk to Sean about the Two Ways to Live so Sean really can be happy.

Thank you, Sean! You made my wife happy. Thank you also dad and mom, and friends who live in states south and southwest of Maryland who helped me to go to Sean to make my wife happy.

See Sean. He makes people happy. I am happy.