Blocking unsolicited calls on Skype for Business

I hate cold sales calls or emails. All of these end up on a block list. If I want your service, I’ll initiate the contact.

Skype for Business lacks a native call-blocking functionality. Here’s a workaround, if you also use Outlook.

How to block spam callers

Follow these steps:

  1. Open Outlook.
  2. Create a new contact and fill in these fields:
    1. Full Name: Blocked Contact (xxx-xxx-xxxx) where xxx-xxx-xxxx is the phone number of the spam caller. That format is my preference, not a strict requirement. It’s also fine to use (xxx) xxx-xxxx, although that format has little meaning anymore since the area code is never optional when dialing numbers.
    2. Email: where xxx is a unique number. I simply increment that number from the prior spam caller’s contact record.
    3. Business (in the Phone numbers section): xxx-xxx-xxxx, which is the phone number of the spam caller.
  3. Hit the contact’s Save & Close button.
  4. If you get a Duplicate Contact Detected dialog, it’s because a crude Outlook feature suspects this contact may duplicate another one. It may happen because the name and email address data on each blocked-caller contact is similar. Select Add new contact, then press Update.
  5. Open Skype for Business.
  6. Search on the phone number of the blocked caller.
  7. You’ll get two results: the phone number itself and the Outlook contact, named Blocked Contact (xxx-xxx-xxxx). Right-click on the Outlook contact and select Change Privacy Relationship > Blocked Contacts.

Now the caller will usually be sent directly to your voice mail!

Why “usually”? Sometimes Skype for Business is slow to associate a caller with a blocked contact, so you may get some rings before the caller is sent to voice mail.

Bad FC 40 and up soccer team

I am putting together Bad FC, a 40 and up soccer team to play in the North Texas Premier Soccer Association‘s summer league. I plan for it to continue in the fall season.

We’re not bad. We’re Bad!

Details on summer season

  • Dates: June 27 through August 8 (no play on July 4 weekend)
  • Number of games: 6
  • Dates and times of games: One game each Sunday, at 9 AM, 10:30 AM, 12 PM, 1:30 PM, 6 PM, or 7:30 PM. Dates/times may be different for make ups (rainouts).
  • Game length: 30 minute halves (halves are 45 minutes during regular fall and spring seasons)
  • Game locations: Most games, possibly all, will be at NTPSA’s Premier Park in Balch Springs (map). Why? Cities close their fields for the summer. However, if some are available, we may have games in The Colony, Carrollton, and Richardson.
  • Practices: We may have 1 or 2 highly optional practices before the season begins.
  • Age cutoff: Must be at least 40 years old by June 27, 2021.
  • Gender eligibility: Men and women can play. (NTPSA is traditionally a men’s league, but it is open to men and women.)
  • Roster size: 25. I plan to fill it completely! Old fogeys have a lot going on, so we need a full roster to assure enough players at each game.
  • Registration fee: $92 (plus an extra $25 if you have never played in NTPSA before; pays for your North Texas Soccer registration). This covers:
    • $35 payable to NTPSA (season fee)
    • $22 to cover referee fees for 6 games ($55 per game per team)
    • $10 to cover equipment that every team must have on hand (1 net, $98, and 2 corner flags, $39; we must also supply a ball, but I prefer to just use one of our personal balls each game; this equipment will be passed on to the fall Bad FC 40+ team)
    • $25 for a jersey (I’ll coordinate order, will shoot for better material than plain t-shirts)
    • Some contingency funds (exact amount depends on how many players we get)

Payments will be due once we are confident we have assembled a team.

Transparency: Payments with be made to me. I will hold funds in trust for the team and be transparent with accounting. Leftover funds will be transferred to the fall-season Bad FC 40+ team.

Email me at if interested. Give me your phone number, too. We will use GroupMe communications and game coordination.

The Rise of Liberalism in the United Methodist Church

Between my undergraduate years in the late 1990s and his death in the late 2010s, I got to know John Wesley Hardt, a bishop in the United Methodist Church.

He knew my grandmother. She was the secretary to the United Methodist district superintendent while John was pastor at First United Methodist Church of Beaumont, Texas. The district superintendent’s office was at this church.

I didn’t really dig into theological or church-organizational matters with him as much as I should have. My role in his life was mostly to help him with technology issues. I experienced him as a wise man who bore years of reflection and experience.

Once he shared a Sunday school lesson with me, titled “The Rise of Liberalism in the UMC”. Some errors are original, other are probably where I missed a problem with OCR of his original text. Here it is:

Let me thank you for giving me a topic which has required more than ordinary study and preparation which I have found most stimulating and challenging. I have talked with David Watson and understand that today’s topic is to provide the background for David’s presentation next Sunday on Post Liberal Theology. While I am honored by your invitation to lead this discussion today, I can only offer my personal observations, and I am sure that anyone else would put a different slant on the topic than you are likely to get from my remarks.

First let us begin with a call to clarify the definition of liberalism. It is my personal conviction that the popular understanding of terms liberal and conservative is a tragic distortion. If you listen to the talk show hosts on radio, you get the idea that liberal is a dirty word. As I have listened to some of the angry voices, I have decided that most of the persons have no basic convictions themselves but are simply entertainers who have been hired to build up an audience and they are willing to use any means to agitate and inflame an audience. One of the several persons whom I have consulted in preparing this lesson is my son who is a history teacher and published author of curriculum materials, and his observation was this: “in the current climate one side has been able to define and determine the terms of the debate” which has resulted in a total abandonment of the meaning of the words Liberal and Conservative that you will find in the dictionary.

So early on I began to look at the dictionary and discovered that the root meaning of the term liberal may be traced to the Roman god Liber, who was known as the God of growth. From this root meaning, several pages of the dictionary are taken to list the variety of meanings that have been derived from this grand idea: liberal arts and concepts of freedom include an attitude that involves growth and change leading to words like generous, bounteous, openhanded may be found in various connotations of the term liberal. One meaning that especially appealed to me was “to grow up”. The meaning of “Liberal” may be contrasted with such concepts stingy, mean, bigoted, grudging.

The word conservative has equally positive associations such as conserving or preserving the institutions and values which have built upon the lessons of the past.

To trace the rise of liberalism I would suggest that we go back to 1776 and the Declaration of Independence which advanced the radical idea that human society could be organized without the domination of rulers who would carry on the autocratic reign of kings that would become role models for dictators who would become the enemies of mankind in the 20th century. The old kingdoms of Europe would go through revolutions to replace the old power structures of Europe, and some of those visions of freedom and liberal patterns of government would become unfortunate detours that produced both dictators and Communist governments. Historians remind us that today the government of the United States of America is now the oldest continuous government on the face of the earth that has not undergone some kind of radical revolution.

At the same time this political and social experiment was beginning in America, the Methodist church was organized as the first religious denomination to be organized in the New World. By the middle of the 19th century at the time of the war between the states, which some southerners call it rather than a civil war, the Methodist Church was the largest and most representative religious body within the nation, and historians have described Methodism as the most typical “American religion”.

The study of this reality is now attracting the attention of historians who are not Methodists, and one such writer Nathan Hatch based at Notre Dame university has written in a most illuminating manner in this manner. Toward the end of the 19th century the visions of Utopia captured the imagination of many Americans. [Aren: It is behind why my Cambre ancestors came to the USA.] The YMCA and the YWCA along with the student volunteer movement brought a vision of making this world into God’s Kingdom on earth. When my parents went to college early in the 20th century they were swept up by a popular phrase: “The Evangelization of the World in our Generation.” So the doctrines and theology of Methodism became a reflection of the culture of that time.

By strange coincidence in the midst of this reflection I picked up a little book published in 1947 two years after end of World War II. Written by Bernard Iddings Bell, and entitled, ” A Man Can Live” let me share a few lines from the Foreword:

“On December 31, 1899 my father called his young children together. I had entered high school that year … he reminded us that a new century would begin the next morning, and that we should be thankful that we would live in a century when science and education would eliminate the major enemies of mankind. We could expect to conquer disease and the world would be too enlightened to ever engage in war again.”

With that kind of utopian visions, when war did come it was fought to “make the world safe for democracy”, and the dream of a League of Nations would guarantee a peaceful future. This spirit of idealism might be traced in two landmark constitutional amendments: the 18th Amendment which envisioned a time when society would be free from the demons of drugs and alcohol, and the 20th amendment which for the first time guaranteed women the right to vote. A decade earlier the Methodist Episcopal Church had included in its Book of Discipline, a Social Creed in 1908 for the first time. It was in that kind of social and cultural climate that the Methodist church began to build theological schools for the training of pastors. Would you believe that my generation was the first, after World War II when the normal expectation for Methodist preachers included seminary training? Prior to World War II only a minority of Methodist preachers went to seminary.

The premier Methodist seminary was in Boston, and late in the 19th century the most influential teacher there was a man by the name of Borden Parker Bowne, and he organized Christian doctrine around a philosophy of Personalism, and most of the teachers in other Methodist seminaries studied at Boston. That influence was quite evident when I entered seminary in 1942, and our basic text for studying doctrine was written by a Boston successor to Bowne by the name of Edgar Sheffield Brightman.

The study of the scriptures developed a pattern which was called Biblical criticism: lower criticism was devoted to a word by word analysis of the meaning of the scripture, and higher criticism was devoted to the background of each book in the Bible: who wrote it? When was it written? To whom was it written? And the interpretation attempted to recapture something of the meaning which it had when it was first written. This might be called a very hasty and brief description of the Rise of Liberalism.

Most universities would have focused upon what was sometimes called “a liberal education”. Within college curriculums, a broad based variety of disciplines was termed “liberal arts” in contrast to the specialized studies of narrow professional or exclusive systems of study.

The proliferation of translations of the Bible across the 20th century might be considered one of the fruits of this general progressive understanding of religion, along with the rapidly developing ecumenical movement which brought most mainline denominations into more and more common ventures.

When the dreams of an almost utopian paradise were shattered by the great depression, and the horrors of World War II and the holocaust, it became obvious that something was missing from the promises of this liberal progressive dream. The reality of human sin and evil forced thoughtful people to reconsider the realities of any dream of heaven on earth. The theological movement that began to offer a different interpretation of the human condition was called “”neo-orthodoxy” with Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Paul Tillich, and Reinhold Neibuhr were among the most prominent spokesmen. With this emerging and changing world view, Albert Outler arrived at SMU, and the center of Methodist theological study began to shift from the Boston power base to Harvard, Yale, and seminaries at Duke, Emory and SMU. You will hear more of this next Sunday from David Watson as he talks about Post Liberal Theology. The influence of Outler at SMU was most widely recognized when in 1972 after the merger with the EUB denomination, a theological understanding was written in our Book of Discipline which was called the quadrilateral, with Methodist doctrine founded upon Scripture, reason, tradition and experience. In 1988 that understanding was modified to make it clear that our doctrines are based upon one basic source, the Bible to be confirmed by tradition, tested by reason and confirmed by experience.

As already indicated it is my observation that religion in America may be understood as something of a reflection of the culture in which we live and when any one interpretation becomes the primary understanding, there will be inevitable and very understandable reactions. This is what we have witnessed in the latter half of the 20th century as the Liberal spirit of the 19th century and early part of the 20th century has been confronted by the reactionary groups which are now all around us in organizations such as the Good News Movement, The Confessing Movement or the Institute for Religion and Democracy. Each of these movements owes it origin to some reaction against the over zealous social and liberal power blocs which have attempted to define the church in narrow terms that ignored some of the traditional and time honored values of the Christian faith.

Every generation is given its own peculiar and unique challenges. The lessons of history are so quickly forgotten. A great Spanish philosopher, Santyana, was credited with saying: “Those who refuse to learn the lessons of the past are condemned to repeat them.”

Many of the beloved hymns came out of the dreams of this visionary period of the church. The great missionary hymns, We’ve a Story to tell to the Nations, I love to tell the story of Jesus and his love. When I was a youth the theme song for many a youth conference was “Are ye able said, the Master?” written by Earl Marlatt who after retiring from Boston, came to teach at SMU. In more mature years I came to realize that as challenging as I found that hymn in my youth, the emphasis was wrong. For the question, Are ye able, must be answered, not “WE are able” But “He is Able” Some great texts from the New Testament make it clear that our hope is not in what we may do but in what Jesus Christ may do through us. In Timothy Paul offers his testimony, concerning death: “He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” And in Ephesians the focus is the great benediction: “Unto Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to Him be glory in the Church and in Christ Jesus, throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.”

So let us reclaim the positive meaning of liberal and conservative and find a healthy balance between the partnership between the human and the Divine. While Liberalism may have over rated what human kind might accomplish, the Biblical story of creation makes it clear that God’s crowning creation was the creation of creature “made in the image and likeness of the Creator:” and” He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we can ask or think.”

John Wesley Hardt
First UMC
May 8, 2004

Texas’s group-size limits are also repealed

Yesterday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that Texas is generally dropping COVID-related restrictions. He did this with executive order GA-34.

While not well publicized, this also repeals the group-size limits. Outside of defined exceptions (churches, etc.) and in some rural areas, Texans weren’t permitted to congregate in groups larger than 10.

GA-34 “rescinds” GA-17, GA-25, GA-29, and GA-31. Searching those on the word group, none of those reference group-size limits.

However, GA-34 “supersedes” GA-32. I am not clear why the word was changed from “rescind” to “supersede”, but they both appear to mean that GA-32 is no longer in effect. Regardless, GA-32 had language about group-size limits:

…people shall not be in groups larger than 10 and shall maintain six feet of social distancing from those not in their group

Texas Governor Abbott’s Executive Order GA-32, Oct. 7, 2020

GA-32 “supersedes” GA-30, which had the same group-size language. GA-30 supersedes GA-28, which had the same group-size language. GA-28 supersedes GA-26, which also has group-size limit language. GA-26 supersedes GA-23, which does not have group-size language, so GA-26 probably started that thread of group-size limits.

Checking the remaining EOs not mentioned above and issued since GA-08 (list of Texas Governor’s EOs), a search on “group” on each reveals that only the first COVID-related EO from March 13, 2020, GA-08, had a group-size limit. It was superseded by GA-14, from March 31, which did not include group-size limits.

Therefore, it appears Texas had a general, ten-person group-size limit from March 13, 2020 (GA-08) through March 31, 2020 (end of GA-08) and again starting June 3, 2020 (GA-26). With GA-34, Texas has no group-size limit starting March 10, 2021.

Email is still the #1 marketing and communication channel

The “death of email” fad is over a decade old. It is wrong. Email is still key to marketing and communications (marcom).

“Death of email” supposes people move to other platforms. The “other platforms” part isn’t wrong. Social media platforms barely existed a decade ago, and now they are widely used. The “move” part is what’s wrong.

Email is effective

Email’s first strength: it reaches more people than any other platform.

If you search on this, two facts emerge:

  • Email is by far the #1 tool, measured by percent of people using it.
  • The pandemic has significantly increased email utilization.

Effective email communications should be a marcom starting point.

Other platforms

Email’s other strength: it’s a single platform.

Think about social media: some are on Facebook, some are on Twitter, some are on Instagram, some are on other platforms. Effective marcom on social media requires you to cross-post to several platforms. That’s a chore!

Other platforms can be secondary

For all important communications, email should be primary. That means what you need to communicate, or a link to this information, must be in an email. Other platforms must be secondary.

Want to also convey information over Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, etc.? Go for it! Just be consistent and thorough with what you do. If a social media platform’s users become satisfied with communications over it, they may pay less attention to emails.


Targeted or non-important communications? Do what makes most sense. A geofenced communication to find prospects may make sense exclusively on social media.

What about communities that are simply part of a social-media platform, such as Facebook groups? In that case, using social media as the primary or even exclusive communications tools could make sense.

Finally, your organization may have a practice of using selected platforms for communications. For communicating with affiliates, exclusive use of the selected platforms could be fine. This assumes enough of your affiliates are willing to watch for information on that platform.


Email is the dominant communication platform. Allegations of change have been hoaxes.

For typical marketing and communications, email-first should be the rule. If it’s important, it must be in an email. Other platforms are generally best for complementing emails.