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November 20, 2014

All I want for Christmas…

I’ve decided if I can’t beat them, I’ll join them. Since “everyone” is ramping up for Christmas already; despite the fact that it’s still November and Thanksgiving is a full week away I figure I might as well try to do something constructive with the momentum. So here is my Christmas list (fully inclusive of all of my desires for this year).

1. Stop the bigotry, hate, derision, and fear. Break free of the onerous trappings of ignorance and embrace others for what they truly are… people, just like you and I, trying to move through and make the best of their lives.

That’s it… that’s all. Ready go!

This starts with stereotyping, and I’m not even thinking about “little black sambo,” the drunken indian, or the nerdy socially awkward (but super smart) Asian (or any of the other myriad of examples where minorities are marginalized by the generalities we cast upon them). No, today I’l focused a little closer to home (at least for me)… this has popped up on my facebook timeline four or five times over the last 24 hours:

Now, based on the tried and (arguably not) true axiom that “it’s okay if we say it to/about ourselves,” I should be okay going through the machinations of figuring out my redneck elf name. It’s all in good fun, and I’m not making fun of anyone but myself.

Except… I am. In reality this effects everyone. First and most directly, of course, it effects any and all “white” people who see it. Beyond that, though, it effects literally everyone… in so many ways. Once I get comfortable disparaging myself or those who are like me, the bar (of resistance) is lowered when it comes to grouping other people (and subsequently, potentially stereotyping them as well). I am tacitly approving of a society based on inclusion (and therefore also exclusion)… a culture of “us and them,” rather than “we.”

This type of thing is the toughest to get away from as well. Because it seems harmless, and self-effacing/deprecating, so why should anyone else be offended. The thing is, not offending someone (even though, perhaps it should) doesn’t mean what you have said or done is right; or, more importantly, best.

We don’t need to live in a divisive, unkind world. But if we are going to try to exist another way, it will take effort… including giving up some of our creature comforts like making fun of ourselves (and others) in a mean spirited way.

So there is it. my Christmas wish for 2014. And, since I am certainly guilty of doing this myself, I’ll go ahead and double down and make it my New Years resolution while I’m at it.

PS: Not judging anyone who did this and/or had fun doing so. This sort of thing is absolutely a societal norm in our culture and noone should be belittled for taking part in it. I just have a vision for what I believe is a better world for my children and their children to grow up in… and it starts with treating each other (and ourselves) better than we currently do.

July 29, 2013

And another thing… (Trayvon Martin thoughts, cont.)

murder

I do not mean to be insensitive to the Martin Family (or any of Trayvon’s other loved ones), nor do I mean to offend anyone who has taken up or adopted his plight but I am concerned about the singular attention this case has been given and the exclusion of so many other stories and other families who are suffering no less than his.

Over the past two years (for which we have statistics ’10 and ’11) there are an average of 42 homicides a day (roughly 30,000 over that time, 22,000 of which were by gunshot). Which means that during the jury deliberation portion of the trial alone (16 hours) 28 people would have been murdered (if the averages were maintained during that time).

That’s 28 people neither you or I (in all likelihood) will ever know the names of, or the circumstances of their demise. That’s also 28 people who are no less dead than Trayvon, with families no less torn apart than his.

We know that only 10% of homicides victims are under the age of 18, so maybe that makes it a bit more palatable that only 3 children murdered while those deliberations took place. The same source (the U.S. Bureau of Justice) tells us that 48.1% of those murdered are black… so that gets us close to only one murdered black child during that time.

Perhaps that child was Darious Simmons, or Nazia Banks or perhaps it was one of the several hundred other black youths that I was able to find that had been shot to death within the last year or so – none of whom I have heard of (including those in this tribute to the 108 Chicago area children killed in 2012)

My point is that while Martin, his family (along and Zimmerman et. al.) have become (certainly unwilling) celebrities, the circumstances of this tragedy continue to repeat themselves each and every day. So, while I think it is great that there is a growth in national awareness that is coming from the Trayvon Martin case, I fear that the wrong conversations are being had.

All of the conversations are important, but, this case has gone on long enough… lets start talking about Darious now. Lets discuss Nazia (and Kentan, and Porshe, and Sergio… and… and… and so many others from the Chicago list… all 15 or younger), then lets get over the racial aspect and talk about Latino children, and white children and every single child that is in harms way.

42 people a day (30 of them murdered with a firearm, for the record – and before the NRA apologists get into the act, these are homicide numbers, suicides etc. have already been baked out of the equation)…and yet for over a year our nation (and news media) was gripped by the drama generated by just one of these cases.

Trayvon Martin has become the face of the problem, the personification of it, and as such, I fear that when the news about him dies down… so will the associated (and very important) conversations. Put another way, the reality of young black people (or people of any age or color for that matter) being murdered will continue but the national awareness will not because our focus will have moved from the ongoing issue to a temporarily sensationalized example of it.

If we are not careful, the tragedy of February 26th may be re-doubled because we miss out on the chance to talk about the entire forest due to our interest in this particular tree.

July 16, 2013

Trayvon Martin (no fancy titles today)

I’ll start with a disalaimer, I did not start following the Trayvon Martin case closely until this weekend… so I am absolutely a johnny-come-lately on this issue. However, that does not mean I do not have things to share. The very first thing I saw this morning (on my computer) was this:

And with that, for the first time since February 26th of last year I felt good about something related to this case. Far to often we focus on who did what wrong and how should we hold them accountable for it. Few and far between are the conversations about what could have been done better and how can we learn to conduct ourselves better in the future as a result of this instance.

Even when we do see the latter, it is usually in the form of “slut-shaming” (perhaps we could call it “slum-shaming” in the case of a hooded teen walking alone on the streets at night?). You know the routine, “what did you expect to have happen wearing those clothes?” “I wouldn’t let my son walk around in the dead of night looking all gangster and stuff” etc. etc. etc.; ignoring the fact that the victim, by definition, does not commit the crime.

At this point I’m going to take a moment to point out that I do not know what happened that night in Florida. Based on the small sample of evidence I have heard from the trial and my limited knowledge of Florida law, I probably would have had a tough time convicting Zimmerman on the charges brought before the court. However, that should not imply in any way that I consider him innocent. I do not “stand with” Florida’s “Stand your ground” laws. For a more detailed look at my views written by someone other than me, check out this piece. His opinions mirror mine to the point that I’m willing to just let them speak for me.

Getting back to my point, what was so nice about the tweet above (if we were to look at it in specific reference to this situation) was that it focused on what could be done different not by the kid in the hoodie, but by the guy who shot him. Even better though, is that it can be applied to any situation where someone in Zimmerman’s shoes encounters someone in Martin’s. Further, and this is the best part, it is a blueprint for life even if you aren’t a volunteer neighborhood watchman on patroll, or even if you don’t run into a kid in a hoodie who you feel might be a touch menacing.

I love this because it says you can be a good person anytime you like. You (probably) do it all the time when you hold open a door for someone else or let them scootch in front of you in traffic when they don’t even have the right of way (what madness is this!!!). This simply encourages is raising the bar a little and doing it when it really matters.

I love this because whether you think George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin in cold blood, got caught up in the moment and foolishly took his life in a bit of a rage, or truly was justifiably fearful of his life and acted in self-defense… this advice still works and is a blueprint that would have (most likely) prevented the entire event from occurring.

I love this because, well, I want to live in a world where people hear a result like the Trayvon Martin verdict and respond with “how cool would it have been if he had offered him a ride instead.” Today, I didn’t have to pretend or wish… it was the first thing I saw (on my computer) when I woke up. And while that won’t bring Martin back or allow Zimmerman to undo his actions, it might just give some other people who have not faced their Feburary 26th yet a little perspective when they do… perspective which might save the life (or lives) of the next Trayvon Martin(s).

July 10, 2013

This is why we can’t (or shouldn’t) have nice things…

Filed under: Environment,Observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 10:26 pm

A few weeks ago I took (public) umbrage with the faux-fact based facebook post:

My issue with it was (and remains) the distorted use of facts taken out of context (not to mention the poor methodology and small sample size of the actual study cited). Rearing it’s face again, the over simplification and reduction to a few choice, targeted words of a complex topic so that is is digestible and easy to repeat for the ignorant masses.

Note: I am not saying everyone who read or repeated this post is ignorant… I am simply talking about the objectives of its creators

If that notions offends you, I’m sorry… but unless you read the entire study (I did, for the record) you really shouldn’t be quoting it… let alone passing on someone else’s quote from it. Bottom line, you don’t understand it and shouldn’t be passing it off as fact (or anything else for that matter).

But this is just background for what I want to talk about today. More of the same to be sure, but on this one I can actually chime in with my opinion. You see, on most issues, like abortion, because I work for a non-partisan office, I cannot share my views (which has made for some interesting reading of some of the comments I have received… as people have assumed quite incorrectly what side of the fence I am on regarding some issues and railed against “people like me” when in fact “people like me” are “people like them” since we share the same view).

Alas, once again, I digress…

Today I saw this juicy tidbit on Facebook (take note of the highlighted text and the circled link in the image):

As I am prone to do before commenting, sharing, or even liking something on Facebook, I clicked on the available link (the one circled in the image above) to read the background and detailed information about the post. So, imagine my surprise when I read, less than half way through the article, the following:

It is a very natural process and scientists say it should not be tied directly to the very real climate changes that are also affecting this part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

You read that right… in the article referenced by the post stating “the time for half measures is over — we need climate action now” we are told in no uncertain terms that what we are reading about is “very natural” and that it shouldn’t be linked to climate changes.

Seriously, people???!?!??!?!??!?!?

This is particularly galling to me because I happen to believe in “Global Warming” and happen to agree with the folks that think we are creating our own extinction event on carbon emission at a time. And I don’t even care (…gasp…) how it effect profits (profits are of little concern to a uninhabited world, IMO). In other words… I completely agree with the message, and want to be able to re-post this. But I can’t, because it is rubbish (with regard to global warming… it’s still interesting from a purely scientific standpoint).

Simple minds are easily swayed, and I realize the path to political success is paved with mass ideological conscription. However, I can’t help feeling that with every Facebook post and Pinterest pin (of this ilk), we are chipping away our national intelligence quotient. And I’m not sure that’s a price worth paying to acquire a vote, or even an election, here and there. Democracy (representative or not) is based on an informed electorate casting informed responsible votes. When was the last time we could say that was the case for the majority of our voters? When was the last time we were even trending in that direction?

I don’t think the propaganda machines are going to stop any time soon (there is too much money and power to be accumulated), so it’s up to us, the “consumers” of this drivel to do our part. Read the underlying stories, research the so called facts, and most important… call people out on false or misleading statements (even, as is the case with the ice berg above) it runs contrary to your point of view.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson

May 22, 2013

Tiger and Sergio Sitt’n in a Tree… (or Grown Children Acting like Little Adults)

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 9:12 pm

I’ll preface this by saying that I buy the sincerity and believe genuine Sergio Garcia’s apology. I completely believe that his comment was not meant with malice of forethought and that his regret was both (at least nearly) instant and overwhelming. If I’m wrong about that, you might want to print this and use it to kick start your fire-pit because what follows has little value if that is not true…

For you non-golfers (or golf news followers) out there, here is the mini version of the events in question:

  • Tiger Woods grabs a club a little early (while Sergio Garcia is still swinging). Sergio, distracted by the crowd responding hits a bad shot and glares at Tiger
  • Sergio, interviewed after the round alludes to the fact that Tiger may have done it on purpose and comments on how tiger is not “the nicest guy in the world”
  • tiger counters with something like “it’s no surprise he is whining about something” (Sergio has a reputation for looking outside himself for explanations for his less than stellar moments)
  • For the remainder of the last two weeks the media has consistently kept the story alive seeking (and getting) comments from either golfer whenever possible
  • This reaches its zenith when Sergio, sarcastically asked if he would entertain Tiger for dinner during the next tournament they played together in, responded (in jest) affirmatively… including disclosing the menu for the soiree… “fried chicken” (oops)

Now, if you’ve ever read any consecutive string of my posts containing more than three or four posts, you know my position on reaffirming stereotypes (you know this because I won’t shut up about it). If you have never read anything else I have written, in short, I think it is one of the leading causes of racial, gender, and most (if not all) other types of bias, inequality and bigotry. Therefore, the following will probably come as a bit of a surprise to many of you.

While I certainly do not condone Sergios comment or any other similar comment by anyone, I also do not condemn him to the ranks of racist, villain, or bigot as so much of the media and general public has done.

Why, you might ask, the sudden “tolerance” for this sort of outburst? I’ll tell you…

Because, while for the past two weeks Tiger and Sergio (at the encouragement and to the delight of the media) have acted like petulant children having a spat, for the last 24 hours or so, after Sergio’s Kentucky-Fried F*%# up, both of our protagonists (I’d call them antagonists, but I think that’s the media in this story) have risen above the muck and mire and conducted themselves like self-respecting adults.

tigernsergio

Starting with Sergio, he issued a (relatively) instant apology. He didn’t follow the standard “I’m sorry to anyone I might have offended with my remark that didn’t mean what you thought it meant” script (well, he did that… but he did more… I’ll continue), but instead stepped up to the plate in a very personal way to take accountability for his transgression. He called himself and his actions “stupid,” he said he felt “sick about it,” he tried to call Tiger (through is agent) despite both him and Tiger saying over the past two weeks that no reconciliation was going to happen. Sergio has spent the past two weeks trying to paint himself as a victim (many would say he has spent his entire career doing this). This week, when excuses and deflections would have best served him, he eschewed them and stood tall in the face of his egregious error. This is admirable, and is the most valuable lesson I can see coming out of this whole fiasco.

Tiger, for his part, (correctly) refused to diminish the effects or importance of this type of racial stereotyping:

While acknowledging Sergio’s earnest effort to demonstrate his regret (read: his apology):

And finally, directing the attention of everyone where it really should have been for the past few weeks (which, if it had been, would have prevented this unfortunate incident from every happening):

That last point really resonates with me. If the media had just let this story die, and not poked and prodded each golfer at every chance for another pissy soundbite, Sergio would never have been in position to make his blundering buffoonish remark.

Again, I’m not excusing the remark, however I do refuse to ignore the circumstances leading up to it. If you let (condone/encourage) people to act like children for weeks on end, someone is going to say something colossally stupid. I’m willing to go out on a limb and say this is nearly universally true. I can’t even have an extended argument with a loved one without saying something I regret, and yet we are somehow shocked when two rivals with no love lost between them wind up resorting to sordid personal attacks? Sorry friends, but Sergio is not the only “stupid” one in this story (although, he is the only one who has admitted as much about himself).

Which brings me back to my big takeaway from this. My hope is that people will look at Sergio’s response and see how a person can (and arguably should) respond to a huge mistake and bout of monumental irresponsibility. Further, that they will look at Tigers retort and see the importance of acknowledging the real issues these situations represent while also recognizing regret and a sincere effort at apology, and finally moving on from there without taking the baggage of the situation along with you.

The media doesn’t appear to have changed it’s tack and I’ve seen no sign – based on reading comments from a few online articles (never a pleasant task) – that the general public has had it’s appetite for conflict curbed. However, from Sergio and Tiger, I have seen actual responsible adult behavior. I find some level of comfort in that, and a real life example I can use the next time I’m giving my “it’s not the messes you get yourself into; it’s how you handle them that defines you” speech to my children (or myself).

April 23, 2013

Five technologies that every PTA/PTO (parent teacher organization) should consider using…

In addition to annoying half of the internet with my views on various social topics, I spend some of my time serving as the President of the parent (although we call it “community”) organization at my youngest sons school. I have held some sort of position at my children’s school PTA/PTO/parent/community organizations for the past nine years.

Given that my day job is that of IT grunt, I naturally have pushed these organizations to try out the newest, coolest, and (even occasionally) the most effective technologies available to enhance our service offerings and efficiency.

Over the last few years a handful of technologies have distinguished themselves in my eyes, so I thought I’d pass them on in case someone else is just starting down this path.

1. VolunteerSpot: My son’s school is a charter which is K-9 (will be K-12 in 3 years when the current 9th graders get to their senior year). The students are divided into two physical locations half way across town from one another. Every month the Community Network hosts a teacher appreciation lunch at each school. We typically do soups (2 regular, one vegetarian) and salads (2) with some bread (3) and desserts (3). We also have someone provide bowles, spoons, forks, napkins etc. as well as recruiting a set up and cleanup crew. We provide this for roughly 30 teachers per school. Enter VolunteerSpot. Each month I go in and set up the event complete with all of the roles that need to be filled. One week before the event I send out an email to the class that is providing the lunch that month (we rotate through the classes each month to try to distribute the load as evenly as possible) and then I sit back and watch the magic. Usually the majority of the spots are filled within 48 hours and I almost never have to send out a second solicitation. We never have too much food, too much of a particular item, or a shortage of anything (i.e. vegetarian soup). Whats more the VolunteerSpot system automatically sends out reminder emails to each volunteer prior to the event and has the ability to shoot out thank you notes to all of the volunteers as well. And… if that’s not enough, at tax time it sends the volunteers a summary of their activities in case they want to include them on their tax returns. All for the very reasonable price of free. I consider this online service (or something similar to it) to be an absolute must for planning and managing events.

2. MailChimp: If you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you can send up to 12,000 emails per month for the (once again) low low price of free. We’ve used MailChimp for monthly newsletters (formatted in HTML for a professional look), soliciting volunteers for events and more. You can group your recipients (say by grade or availability to volunteer during the day, etc.), track your mailings effectiveness, and avoid being blocked by spam filters. MailChimp does pretty much everything that its more well know “big brother” ConstantContact does and for most folks there is no need to use the pay version. This is another service that I couldn’t imagine running a parent organization without.

3. SurveyMonkey: Yes, it is another service named after a banana eater… I don’t make the news (or the names) I just report it! SurveyMonkey is another free web based solution I find invaluable. it is, as you might imagine software set up to survey your members on how you are doing, what they might want to see happen in the future… or pretty much anything you might want to know more information about. The free version is limited to 10 questions, but based on being able to lay them out in a grid (i.e. rank the following 10 things on a scale of 1 to 10) you can really ask far more than 10 questions. This is especially true given that each question also allows for a free form comment box that can be used to solicit more information. You are limited to 100 respondents, so remember keep that in mind as you are sending out your questionnaires.

Note: at this point the list become a little more flavored toward my taste. There are options to these last two if you are not inclined toward using them.

4. Evernote: Evernote is a free web based data collection service. What we have done is convert all of our manuals, forms, instructions, etc. into Evernote. All of the documentation for our organization is in one place. Additionally we use the Evernote web clipper to capture useful articles and sources of information that might be useful to the group in the future. Evernote has sort of become our brain. The end goal is to have a living “document” that can change and expand over the years as the organization does… collecting out institutional knowledge. If every member of the current organization were to leave the school after this year, in theory another group of parents could step in and keep the ball rolling fairly effortlessly based on the collected information in our Evernote account.

5. Facebook: It’s unlikely you found this blog if you don’t know what Facebook is, but here is a quick rundown on why we use it. One of our main goals as an organization is to maintain a communications thread across the entire school – to parents, students, and faculty/staff, Facebook is the closest thing to “common ground” we have found. Clearly we don’t get everyone with Facebook, but given the push nature and the cross demographic reach, it is our go to application for communications. Obviously we still email (see #2 above) but for quick communication blasts or to broaden the base (via the viral effect of social media) of who sees what we are trying to communicate Facebook is the answer.

While they may not be every answer to everyone, these five services, coupled with a generic web based email address for the organization (we use gmail, but any service would be fine) that can be used as the common login for all of them, should allow your organization to hit the ground running from a technology standpoint. This should allow you to focus on other things, like how to avoid writing sentences as “run on” as my last one! ;)

April 14, 2013

Sexpliotation, is it really that big a deal… you tell me. (somewhat unsafe for work)

Filed under: Observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — sbj @ 5:07 am

“What’s wrong with caring what you look like/wanting to look your best all the time/being pretty.” I have been asked some variation of this question literally dozens of times since I posted “Putting your worst foot forward” on Thursday.

As I stated in my responses to these comments, I don’t have a problem with any of those things. In fact, I think doing your best is an admirable (and, if you want to be successful, mandatory) thing to do. However, as I pointed out to my good friend who has a sister who is (according to her) widely considered the “pretty, smart one” vs. her description of herself as the “helpful, quiet one”…

And there, in the final paragraph, is the rub. Women today are ranked first and foremost by their looks, and if you don’t “get it done” from an attraction standpoint in that area, you are instantly a second class citizen (you aren’t hopeless… but the deck is definitely stacked against you). Further, lets say you do make the grade. Lets say you are attractive… even “hot”… what happens then?

Well, you might be suitable for uncomfortable sex in the front seat of a car (although what you are really doing is selling Axe… for men):

You might be equated to (confused with?) an airbag (for the purpose of selling luxury cars… for men):

Your sexual past might not be considered important enough to eschew you (but **only** if you were hot enough, and you were willing to be used to sell used luxury cars… for men… of course):

If you are super hot and a philanthropist, you could even be a positive force for change in the world (if you were willing to imply indirect sexual conquest/consent… for men):

Orm best yet, you could be afforded the fantastic privilege of spreading ‘em for whoever happens to spray on a touch of Tom Ford cologne (you guessed it… for men):

All of this, mind you, is for the “winners,” for women who are at the top of the ladder in the category most commonly related to their success and closely tied to their value in society… attractiveness and sexuality.

Are there other ways to be successful as a woman? Sure, you could be a tennis player for example:

But two out of the top four Google search results would be about how sexy you were or were not.

You could be a soccer player:

Three out of the top six.

You could even be one of the most powerful people in the world. However, if you decided to not wear makeup and maintain your appearance you would be talked about for having been forgetful, having given up your ambition, or both.

And there you have it. You can, as a woman, reach the the pinnacle of success – Clinton could very easily have been our last president and she was a Senator and our Secretary of State – however, if you elect to go without make-up or contacts, you are news.

The simple fact is that women today are evaluated by how good looking they are… their waist, bust and hip measurements… how they dress and present themselves… and how they interact with men. If we are being honest – and speaking in general terms – that’s pretty much it. Certainly there are exceptions, but again, taken on the whole this is the state of our society.

So I say again, while I have no issues with the attributes of “pretty,” “beautiful,” or even “hot” in and of themselves, and I certainly appreciate attractive people and things… I do have an issue with those being the primary tools for evaluating another human being. Collectively, we need to get over judging our women by their covers. If that starts by letting our guard down a little regarding how we present ourselves on a regular basis, so be it.

July 10, 2012

Blatant solicitation for input :)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 7:30 pm

This will be short and sweet. I am working on a non-profit project and have recently “designed” (you’ll understand the quotes when you look at it) a logo for it. What I’m looking for now is feedback, I’ve never really designed a logo before… any input would be great.

It’s prominantly (as in… its the only thing there :) ) posted here: Project1021.com

Thanks much!!!

sbj

November 19, 2010

And now for something we hope you’ll really like!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 4:22 am

Nope, I’m not going to pull a rabbit from my sleeve (bonus points for getting that, and how it relates to the title :) )…

Sometimes you run into a cartoon, or blog, or book, or whatever that so captures your essence (perhaps in full, perhaps just in part) that you have to share it.  I never do that… okay, I seldom do that.  Today I’m going to do that.  While minding my own business that afternoon, I ran smack dab into this:

make a wish

This may or may not resonate with you… but oh my goodness did it resonate with me.

Almost daily my fantasy life goes banana’s.

Sometimes I am suddenly being whisked off to be the starting point guard of my favorite basketball team. Except then I have to stop the fantasy to declare that I am able to play for X number of years without any injury… and then its back to the fantasy. Except then I have to stop and add a particular atribute to my game that might not be part of the standard “best point guard to ever play the game” package… and then its back to the fantasy. Until I have to add the details of my cool incentive laden contract… and then… you get the idea.

Other times I have figured out how to colonize the moon effectively (and pleasantly) and I begin to fantasize about how fantastic (and lucrative) that would be. Well, until I realize then people will want to take it from me… so I have to add defenses… and then get back to the fantasy. Well, until I realize that I don’t really want weapons that harm people in my world… so I invent cool defenses that will not harm anyone… and then get back to the fantasy.

Enough already, you get the idea!!! Except that I haven’t told you that this effects every facet of my life…not just my fantasy life. Now… on with the blog. Except that I need to point out I’m not crazy and I have a perfectly good grip on reality… I just like to let my imagination run from time to time… thats all :)

Moving on…

If you enjoyed the “comic” above, there is so much to enjoy at the blog it came from I cannot recommend enough that you check it out.  Seriously… think about it… I never do this.. except, of course, when I do.

September 21, 2010

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 4:23 pm

Sometimes, you read something and it resonates with you in a way you never expected.  Often for me, that occurs when Iam reading a passage from an old book, and it echos or mirrors concepts that exist presently. I had that experience while reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin over the weekend and coming upon the following passage.

The passage is discussing the difference in the treatment of slaves by Southern owners – who’s profit margins required considerably greater and more rapid productivity – versus those in more northerly locations.

… while the [more northern] master, content with a more gradual style of acquisition, has not those temptations to hardheartedness which always overcome frail human nature when the prospect of sudden and rapid gain is weighed in the balance, with no heaver counterpoint than the interests of the helpless and unprotected.

It can be argued (and was, over lunch, just this afternoon) whether Beacher Stowe was correct in assuming that “frail human nature” is easily overcome by evil forces such as greed, or, rather, that the frail trait of compassion is oft overcome by human nature itself (defining greed, for example, as a defining characteristic of human nature).  However what does seem inescapable is that today as much as 158 years ago, for the most part, compassion seems to only extend as far as one can comfortably reach.

Is reducing your consumption of plastic representative of compassion?  How about cutting your use of fossil fuels or embracing other ways to conserve?  Supporting renewable energy initiatives? Recycling?

I would submit to you that these are absolutely acts of compassion.  There are so many resources that are in limited supply.  Limited to the point that there is a clear end point to the resource based on current consumption trends.  Further, world populations continue to grow toward a point beyond which our planets resources (even the renewable ones) can sustain our existence.

Do the “helpless and unprotected” have to exist today to care about them, or to act in their best interests?  I do not believe so.  To me, any act of kindness toward a future generation (recycling, self-limiting the size of your family to help control over-population, etc.) is every bit as philanthropic and compassionate as one toward those in need today.

Awareness of injustices brought slavery to an end (and, at a slower pace, is advancing equality with regard to basic human rights).  Most people today are aware of, and acknowledge the importance of, equality. Perhaps, if there is more discussion and acknowledgement of the compassion, charity, and sacrifice required to meet the needs of future generations, everyone can find a similar level of urgency regarding the fate of our descendants, and the problems they now stand likely to face can be eliminated, or at least reduced, before they are even born.

(note: this is in no way to imply that no one is doing any of these things.  Many good people (in fact, you are probably one of them) are doing good things daily.  However, this fact does not change the reality that so many, particularly in business where profits are determined by efficiency etc. rather than by caring about individuals or groups of people, are not.  Slavery was, remember, a business, it was not personal; and it is in that context that the quote and my ponderings are cast.)

June 18, 2010

Good, in that Schindlers List sort of way…

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — sbj @ 11:47 pm

Last week, while perusing facebook I found the following “status” from the 14 year old daughter of a good friend of mine.  I probably would have been a bit more disturbed reading than I was, had I not known how important the fight against child abuse is to her (she has never experienced it herself, but cares very deeply about the issue and those who have become victims).

It is very good, in that Schindler’s List sort of way, which I am telling you because if you are looking for something upbeat and positive, you are not going to find it here.  Instead you are going to get a thought provoking, emotion tugging, awareness piece that is sadly probably not very far from the reality of some of our very own neighbors.

She has given me her permission to share it with you.  In fact as she has aspirations of doing some freelance work, preferably writing stories for “causes” such as this one; when I told her I wanted to re-publish it, she told me to pass along to any of my readers the offer to put something together for them… so, there you go.

Without further ado, I give you Ashes; a writer, an entrepreneur, a crusader for social justice, and, well, a 9th grader…

**********

The voice was young, juvenile; in a way, it was feminine. But the small lump of a t-shirt and jeans had a defined masculine shape, tousled hair gleaming black. The sunset’s light was weak, blotted out by the silhouette of an oak tree.

The boy standing there was approximately five years old, his clothes matching his hair. His inquisitive green eyes were level with the other child’s, if you could call it that. There were tears slowly drifting down his cheeks, dripping off his chin and hitting the soft soil beneath his bare feet.

His arms were covered in bruises, some larger and darker than others. On his left cheek, a two inch cut pulled away from the bottom of his eye and reached toward his ear, though it didn’t get far. With closer examination, it would be easy to see the scars tracing along his forehead, chin, nose, everything.

He held two flowers in his right hand; one of them was dead. It would be hard to tell that he had taken it away from the child without actually inspecting the area.

“This one’s for you, Benjamin.”

Instead of sticking the dead rose in the other child’s hand, he kept it and handed over the living one. It was thriving, freshly picked and full of bright pink coloring. His expression was almost wistful as he watched it go, but he didn’t complain. “Happy birthday, Benjamin,” he repeated.
His eyes moved from the gray child and down towards the brick that it stood on. With his lip trembling as he tried to fight back the coming tears, he closed his eyes and turned.

“Goodbye, Benjamin.”

He walked away slowly, leaving his younger brother’s tombstone behind. “It was nice seeing you, Benjamin.”

The poor boy didn’t understand that his brother was dead. He didn’t know what had happened, but he knew that his brother was gone and he was the statue standing on the stone with his hand outstretched to hold the flowers that he put there every day.

Benjamin’s brother walked back to his abusive home, the place where he got all the bruises and cuts. His father’s expression as he entered the house was one meant to terrify him, but it didn’t affect him anymore. He wasn’t scared anymore, even though he really should have been.

“It’s Benjamin’s birthday, Daddy,” he said softly.

“I don’t give a shit, Alistair,” hissed the voice of the cruel animal that Alistair was forced to call his father. “Come here. You’re not supposed to leave the house like this.”

Of course, the innocent child had hope. He’d never given up his faith in his dad, always having a soft glimmer that he wasn’t really the way he acted and that, if Alistair waited long enough, he would be blessed with a perfect father who loved him and took care of him.

Of course, he was too ignorant to realise that this would never happen. Obediently moving closer to the tall figure, he looked up almost hopefully.

He didn’t know what happened next. He never did. He knew he always ended up on the floor, like he was now. He knew that there was always pain somewhere on his body; right then, it was his face. And that wasn’t the first time that he saw blood, nor the first time that one of his eyes was blinded by it. Alistair stayed on the ground– although he was ignorant, that didn’t mean he was stupid. The last time he had gotten up, his father had gone after him and cut his cheek with a knife. That was also the only time he had gotten up; although it had been quite a while ago, his father never let the cut heal.

He felt his father’s hands wrap around his neck and he flew off the floor, rising in the air. Against every single one of his mental processes trying to stop them, his arms moved up and clawed at his father’s.

The tall man grinned, then threw Alistair at the wall.

When he hit the surface, he lingered for a second. Alistair could feel the wall absorbing the movement, managing to remain conscious even with the pain shooting through his veins. It took everything not to scream in terror, in pain, in shock.

He looked up, eyes surveying the room. His father was gone. Biting his lip to keep himself from crying again, Alistair stood and stumbled into the bathroom.

His father always left so that Alistair could fix everything, which was what he did now. He’d learned a long time ago how to clean himself up before his mum got home.

Alistair rinsed out his eye several times until it was clear, letting the tears finally come to help clean it out. His hands were gentle as he pressed a soft cloth against the blood, washing it off. Two bandaids eventually found themselves lying on his cheek, covering the cut. He never knew what to do with his bruises; that was what the excuse was for.

His father had bought this house for a reason– it had stairs. That was what Alistair always had to say. He hated lying to his mum, especially when the only reason he did was to protect the beast.

“I’m home!”

The voice was almost like music to his ears. Alistair ran out of the bathroom after he’d stuffed the cloth and bandaids in a drawer that he made sure his mum never needed to use.

“Hey, Beth! How was work?”

Alistair’s expression was one of pain at the sound of his father’s voice, but he fought past it because he didn’t want to get hurt again. He was almost glad when his mum completely ignored her husband and instead rushed towards him, thumb carefully brushing over the bandaids.

“What happened, Ali?”

He glanced over at his father, then back to his mother. “I tripped on the way back from Benjamin’s grave. It’s his birthday today.”

Beth looked down. “It is, isn’t it,” she whispered. “I’d almost forgotten.”

Alistair’s chin trembled and he let himself begin to cry. Beth picked him up and held him, kissing his forehead as she turned to face the monster. He didn’t let his father see his lips as they moved as quickly as he could make them, but he knew his mum would give it away with her expression.

She did.

Only three days later, Benjamin had two graves next to his.

May 12, 2010

Freedumb

Filed under: Observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — sbj @ 9:31 pm

The opening scene of Idiocracy has always cracked me up.  It’s that scary kind of funny though, because, it (or something like it) could actually happen.  In fact, in a different way, I kind of think it is happening.

The land of the free is in trouble… that’s trouble spelled h-y-p-e-r-b-o-l-e.  We are being “dumbed down” one grandiose, yet remarkably obscure, reference at a time. So as not to be confused with or accused of doing the same, I will explain.

Democrats are “socialists;” Republicans are “fascists,” we all “know” (meaning, we all have heard) this.  However, when pressed on the point very few people are actually able to substantiate their sweepingly general claims.  I have recently begun asking people what they mean when they say such things, and the overwhelming response is something to the effect of “it’s obvious, how can you not see it” which, of course, actually says nothing.  Or worse, they offer absolute fiction in response.

And that’s the problem…

We, as a nation, are becoming less and less informed and more and more susceptible to “fluff” and “propaganda” every day.  The more we allow simple vague concepts to form our opinion on important issues, the more vulnerable we are to being led.

Completely false or intentionally misleading email propaganda pieces are being passed around as fact, and those “facts” are being inserted into daily dialog and becoming “facts.” These emails take about 5 minutes of research to debunk with credible sources, however people continue to blindly pass them along without any vetting at all.

As dangerous (in fact probably moreso) are what I call “factional messages” (fact wrapped in fiction).  This is where a ribbon of fact is woven through a web of misinformation or speculation to create a new and completely different set if circumstances.  Because the small sample of fact can be confirmed, or may actually be common knowledge, people believe the entire construct around it to be true as well.

Further, it is apparently bad form to let someone know they are passing around a false statement.  Three times in the past month I did what I thought to be a favor for a friend.  They were forwarding information that was incorrect, so I let them know (completely with citations) what the actual facts were… with a nice note explaining how I’d certainly like to know if I was saying something that was wrong, and figured they would like the same courtesy (cause… it’s better to hear it from a friend, right?).

Nope, I was read the riot act each time.

I surveyed my social network with the following question “unofficial poll – Can you name a freedom that is uniquely present in the United States, some freedom we alone enjoy?”  From Plurk (115 friends) I received a handful of responses (more on the few responses I did get momentarily); from Facebook (117) one response; Twitter (601) and Google Buzz (31)… crickets (to be fair, I got one Gchat response that was to the twitter query, so twitter was not technically completely shut out).

Lets talk about the results I did get from that “survey.”  I’ll take them one at a time (in the order I received them), because, well there are few enough of them to do so.

  • Due Process – Due process was actually established in England.  The term was first used verbatim in a statutory version of the Magna Carta in 1354.  Due process is a right currently held in many countries.
  • The right to carry arms – This is also an English carry over, from the English BIll of Rights of 1689, and is also enjoyed in many other nations today.
  • *Freedom from adequite state-sponsored health care (this may or may not be the case, but is clearly not a serious answer)
  • *Freedom from a well-run state-funded education (ibid)
  • Freedom of religion – This has been a freedom globally, in various forms and fashions, for centuries.
  • Freedom of expression without government interference – Once again, this freedom goes back at least to the English Bill of Rights in 1689 (like the right to bear arms and others above, it may go back further, this is just the information I happen to know off hand)
  • *Asshattery (yes, that is a quote)
  • *Entitlement
  • Freedom to ask such a question – While vague, I’m pretty sure this one is meant to be freedom of speech/expression… see above, or, English Bill of Rights, 1689.
  • *For all our blustering about how “free” we are, our populace is pretty well hobbled (unless you’re rich).

Clearly, half of these responses (the ones indicated by asterisks) were sarcastic.  This is telling, in and of itself, because not a single person who contributed a wise crack balanced it with a serious response.  Note, though, that not one of the responses (at least the serious ones) are actually a correct answer to the question…. not one.

Obviously, there is nothing scientific about this survey, or its results; it is what it is, and… isn’t.

The bottom line, though, is that people are willing to fight and sacrifice for the idea of freedom*, and it appears (from the “survey” above and numerous individual conversations) a measurable portion of these folks either don’t know what “freedom” actually is or have a distorted view of how it applies to their own country.

*This is where I would say, if I were going to contribute that that which I am pontificating against, “Patriot Act anyone???” … a completely unsubstantiated pot shot at Bush et. al. based on what I know has been planted in peoples minds regarding the Patriot Act.

I’m not blaming the people… garbage in equals garbage out.  Political campaigns, advertisements and media coverage has become a blur of stereotypes and hyperbolic sound bites.  The ever decreasing attention span of the typical U.S. citizen demands executive summaries; and executive summaries lend themselves to judgmental errors.

Yesterday I saw this from Roger Ebert (yes, that Roger Ebert) on Twitter: “Josh reminds me: If we went back to what the Founding Fathers wanted, as Sarah Palin desires, she wouldn’t be able to vote.”  Funny, and, taken literally it is true; however, clearly that is not what Sarah Palin wants*, and for my money, Roger knows it; he is, I believe, deliberately using paradoxical irony to make a point.

*Did I just defend Sarah Palin… somebody shoot me now!!! (yep, that was another “softer” example, guilt by association with Sarah Palin, and if I’m guilty for being associated with her, clearly… she must be bad).

It is a funny and effective way to make a point, however, increasingly, I don’t think it is “safe.”  More and more I hear people parroting things that are clearly wrong, misleading, or simply misunderstood.  But these things are being repeated as gospel and used as foundations for reasoned debates.

The bottom line is that people are becoming less and less able to discern fact from hyperbole and in a world where buzz words and catch phrases are being propagating at an alarming rate, that has got to be a cause for concern.

I included the two passages in bold above for a reason.  Those are things I would normally be completely inclined to say while composing this blog, or in conversation.  In other words I am directing this at myself as much as anyone else.

I believe it is time to get back to factual straight shooting.  We, as a nation and as individuals have to challange ambiguity when we see or hear it, and demand information.  When the facts are not provided, we need to treat it as a personal responsibility to seek accurate answers out for ourselves.  We need to fact check, debunk, and most importantly reject propaganda.

It will be boring, and droll, and seem like a waste of time, but, when you think about what is at stake… how can it not be your top priority*.

*Yep, one more for the road – a vague intimidating yet undefined consequence meant to call you to action out of fear.

For the big finish, I would normally put another clip (or at least a reference) from idiocracy here, but, instead I will simply say this…

I believe that the more informed you are, the better prepared you are.  It’s the reason firemen do drills putting out staged fires, football teams practice all week for one game, actor rehearse their lines over and over again, etc. etc. etc.  The better prepared you are, for anything, the better you will perform when the time comes (especially if it involves facing adversity). By the same token, any coach, general, or director will tell you that the more bad or “mis” information you have, the less effective you will be.

If you are reading this blog, you have the ability to fact check and inform yourself, my advice to you (and me) is… make use of it.

******

ps… none of this is to say that the people who responded don’t know what they are talking about.  I have surrounded myself with very sharp friends.  When I was talking of the disconnect, I was more refering to the lack of response per capita than the quality fo the responses I did get :)

May 7, 2010

1.8 million divorcee’s can’t be wrong…

Filed under: Observations,Uncategorized — Tags: , , — sbj @ 3:21 pm

The other night, in a little online debate, it was thrust (repeatedly) in my face that in the past few years the number of states that have outlawed same sex marriage has gone from zero to 30.  This was somehow supposed to make me think that the idea of same sex marriage is dying painful and protracted death, and soon will be a non-issue.  It was meant to make me think the people passing those laws were right, and support continues to grow in that direction.

Kinda like the Jim Crow laws, and the Dred Scott decision did, right?

The bottom line is that legislation is passed and court cases are won far more often on the last legs of an outdated tradition than in the dawning of a new era of strength and vitality for said laws.  People don’t pass laws protecting the sanctity of anything that is healthy and strong, they pass them to protect “institutions” that are weak and vulnerable.

There is argument to be made that traditional marriage is weak in our society.  Divorce rates continue to be alarmingly high compared to pre-80′s numbers (contrary to popular belief, they do not continue to climb, per capita, and are actually lower than they were a decade or two ago – the 80′s were brutal, but we have gradually – albeit very slowly – gotten better since then).  Second, third and even fourth marriages remain common.  I know people who have had more spouses than automobiles in their life time.

Roughly 1.8 million people get divorced each year.  Through the 1930′s the ratio of marriages to divorces was about 10:1, from the 40′s through the mid 70′s it was closer to 5:1, and since then it has idled around 2:1 (which is where the statistic of half of all marriages endign in divorce comes from). With a measurable percentage of its practitioners seemingly using an “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” approach, the status of marriage as an “institution” also seems somewhat in question.

People rush headlong into marriage these days with barely a moments thought.  Consider this couple who married 17 hours after meeting at a bar in Vegas.  I’m not going to say that their marriage will fail, because, luck does happen.  However, luck should never be confused with a reason or supporting argument for a bad decision.

I have never been so “in love” as I have been *over and over again* 17, 24, 48, 72 hours into a relationship.  It is exciting, invigorating, and, frankly, most often, a load of shit (pardon my French).  Love and relationships are built over time, as trust is built, as commonalities are established, as little personality clashes are acknowledged and worked through. The bottom line is, if you want to remove luck (or as much of it as possible) from the equation, relationships require a solid foundation, and that requires time and experience (with each other).

After that, it requires commitment.  Real text book commitment.  I remember listening to marriage ceremonies when I was young and dozing or scoffing at the “this will take work” part of the ceremony.  I mean how tough can it be to spend a bunch of time with someone you love… and… get someone else to make half the money and do half the chores (and don’t even get me started about a teenagers perspective on the sex)!!!

The reality, though, is that It can be tough… very very tough. Getting beyond those rough patches requires a focus on the end game, a long term view, and a capacity for delayed gratification (something not exactly endemic in our current immediate satisfaction culture).

This is not meant to bash marriage, I am, in fact, a fan.  However, I do believe, as an “institution,” it is in dire need of repair; far more so than it is in need of protection.  We seem to have a general population that is more interested in protecting it than in making it worth protecting, and nothing good can come of that.

The fact is, marriage itself (as opposed to same-sex marriage) could wind up dying a (slow and) painful death (at least in regard to significance) from within, and, if people don’t start focusing on that, the so-called external threat is not going to matter.

(note: full disclosure, my personal beliefs regarding the marriage issue, apart from the above, are that from a legislative standpoint, all rights, privildeges etc. afforded to a multi-sex couple should be extended too a same-sex couple.  I don’t care what it is called (i.e “protecting” or “reserving” the term “marriage” is fine with me), but legally the same rights should exist.  From a spiritual standpoint, I don’t believe it is anyone’s business but the couple involved and their creator if they have beliefs that support such third party involvement :) )

March 22, 2010

This might be the funniest thing you ever see…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 8:27 pm

Do not look unless you are prepared to live the rest of your life disappointed ;)

demotivational posters

(Yes, for all those concerned I am joking, but… it is damn funny!!! :) )

December 16, 2009

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 5:27 pm

This morning, while waiting for the bus I was perusing my friends facebook updates, cause, thats what we do to keep up with some people these days (not a complaint mind you… I find facebook and other social media very useful for this).  While catching up, I found this update from a somewhat long lost friend…

“I am so proud of S*****. They were practicing a song at school and were told that they had to substitute the word “Holiday” for “Christmas” She of course refused and will not be singing for the talent show.”

This kicked off my usual inner debate on this topic, and that fascinating unilateral discussion was in full swing when I happened upon this comment (to her update) which very closely mirrors many of my own feelings on the matter (it was almost like there was an echo in my head!!!)

“For some reason, it has become acceptable to be exclusive of select holiday beliefs instead of all inclusive…quite sad….there is so much to celebrate from everywhere!”

Such a simple statement, summarizing what I was struggling to say (to myself!!!) succinctly and accurately.  In short, we are trying to fix problems who’s solutions require inclusion with exclusivity.

I do not believe our founding fathers established separation between church and state (which, technically, they didn’t do, by the way – they outlawed the creation of a state religion, but did nothing to forbid religion – i.e. prayer – from schools or state functions) in order to create intolerance or religious sterility.

Rather, I believe, this was done to allow and accept diversity; not to create a non-theistic society, but rather to create an environment in which a poli-theistic population would be able to co-exist with their neighbors and appreciate what each contributed to the proverbial great American Melting Pot.

As my friends friend said so well… “there is so much to celebrate from everywhere,” and, I might add, so much to learn as well.

So, in the midst of this holiday season, here’s a toast to Christmas and Kwanza and Chanukah and yes, even National Fruitcake Day (December 27th)!!!

Happy holidays everyone… and by that I mean Everyone!!!

December 15, 2009

Lest we remove all doubt…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 8:56 pm

Here is what I wish people would think about before the act, speak, or do anything else on the thoughts that cross their minds… “is the potential cost of being wrong greater than the potential cost of keeping you mouth shut (or not taking some other action).”  If so, keep it to yourself, at least until you know what you are talking about.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.
- Abraham Lincoln

Yesterday afternoon a person I follow on Twitter (not even someone I exchange ideas with regularly, just someone on my timeline) had a horrific experience.  Specifically, her two year old child fell into their swimming pool and drowned (her tweet said “Please pray like never before, my 2 yr old fell in the pool”).

There was, as should be expected, an outpouring of emotion.  However, there was also a rash of doubt and condemnation.  People (who know absolutely nothing about the circumstances of the drowning) blamed the mother for being inattentive, blamed Twitter and social media for essentially killing babies (the actual quite being “…twitter is evil,distracts from priorities”) and more.

One Twitter personality took things a step further, launching a personal crusade to validate the story.  Questioning, publically if this was a hoax, and stating repeatedly that if it were a real news story there would have been something in the media by now about it.  She called Florida media, she called local Florida police departments, and publically decried the lack of results from her premature stone kicking.

So, when the story did hit the media and was validated… what was the response from our crusader?

“story confirmed (no names mentioned). I have no reason to apologize 4 wanting story verified”

This brings me back to my original thought/question.  In this case, the price of being wrong (essentially calling a grieving mother a liar in public and adding that to everything else she must be going through right now – in case its not obvious), in my mind outweighs (by an order of magnitude, at least) the cost of waiting until the facts present themselves.

If this had been a hoax, there would have been weeks, months – or as long as your sordid imagination wanted – to rail against it.  No lost opportunity cost at all.

By contrast, by speaking up publically, she (and the others who did similar things) has done irreparable damage that can never be undone or taken back.

So much grief and pain, caused by a statement that could have just been kept private.  The price of being Madison Mcgraw being wrong will be felt by Shellie Ross for a very long time (probably forever).  How much would it have hurt Madison to wait a day or two and get the fact straight???

I can’t even imagine the heartache of losing one of my boys, let alone adding to that the other facets of this situation (guilt about being there when the accident happened, receiving this feedback from what you expected to be a support unit).

Personally, I think Madison does have something to apologize for… I’m not sure how much anguish you can add to a person who has lost a two year old child, but whatever it is, her callous and compassionless comments surely must have done just that.

Since she does not feel she has anything to be sorry about, however, I will take the liberty of apologizing for her, and for everyone else who felt the compulsion to ignore any faith in humanity, the potential results of their actions and any sort of due diligence.

I’m sorry, Shellie, mostly for your loss, of course, no one should be ever have to endure their children preceding them in death; but also for the treatment you received while trying to deal with all of this.

November 13, 2009

A celebration… of a death…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 6:38 pm

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the passing of my grandfather (AAKA* Farfar – http://puntiglio.com/blog/?cat=26).  I went into the day not knowing exactly what to expect. You see, 8 days prior I observed the 20th anniversary of my mothers passing (http://puntiglio.com/blog/?p=495 – why yes I do write about just about everything ;) ), and it was at all not easy, I sort of expected the same to be true for yesterday.

But it wasn’t.  As the day moved on, and my reflections deepened, I came to realize that, unlike my mother, I had closure with Farfar.  I was by his side many times over his last few months.  We spoke (and argued), shared time and space as I prepared for what was to come.

I wrote, before his death, of my life and times with him, reinforcing in my mind and in my spirit his place in my life.  I spoke with other family members about Farfar, exchanging stories, anticipating life after his passing, bonding in ways we had not in years, a particular point that hit me with great force.

Even in dying, Farfar had a unifying effect on the family.  So, by the end of the day, a day I had anticipated would be difficult and mournful, I came to realize that I was actually celebrating his anniversary.

Much like mom, I miss Farfar horribly. However, with him, I was able to say goodbye, to close the book and, willingly and knowingly, start the next chapter in my relationship with him.

Yesterday was a good day…

November 4, 2009

Its a contest!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 8:33 pm

Pandora contest… here’s the dirt!

My pandora stations are created by me selecting a specific song by a specific artist (as opposed to simply an artist).  So, the way the contest will work is this.  I will start posting the current song on a particular station I am listening too, and will continue to do so until someone has correctly identified the station (or until I start losing followers because os music spam ;) )

There will be two possible correct answers for each contest a) the artist that the station is based upon and b) the artist and song title the station is based upon.  Only one prize will be given per contest, to the first correct answer.  In other words, if the station is based on Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order… and someone blurts out New Order, the contest is over… there will be no “b” prize.  Similarly, if someone blurts out New Order Perfect Kiss, the contest will be over… with an “A” prize given out for getting the artist right and no prize or penalty for the song.

Why, you might be asking, would a person agonize over the song when the artist alone would assure vistory?  Because the prize is bigger, that’s why!!

So, lets talk about those prizes.  The “A” prize is an iTunes $15 gift cert, the “B” prize is an iTunes $25 gift cert.  You will have to be willing to provide delivery information if you win. As much as I’d like to visit all of my friends and readers… I’m not going to hand deliver :)

The contest will take place on Twitter, so if you follow me elsewhere, make sure you follow me there as well @sorenj for those of you non-Twitter friends and followers. The contest will have the hashtag #ksbj

So, that’s the deal.  I’m not exactly sure how often I will do this, and I know I will not be doing it on a regular schedule (i.e. a particular time on a particular day)… you’ll just have to keep your ears and eyes on the ground… or at least to my Twitter stream :)

If you have any questions ask them here in comments so everyone can see the question and answer :)

Good luck!

I love you…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 4:56 am

It was 1977 in Ft Collins Co., I think, I could be wrong (about the year, it was certainly Ft Collins).  It was about 2:00am (give or take an hour).  I was sound asleep, until she woke me up to see the snow.  It was amazing, so we, on a school night, went for a walk.  At the end of that walk we wound up at a city park making snow angels and playing on the usually overcrowded play ground by ourselves until sunrise (give or take an hour or two).

I remember it like it was yesterday (give or take 40 years).  The thrill of being awake and playing in the snow in the middle of the night.  Going to school the next day and telling all of the other kids what I had been doing all night.  Perfecting snow angel after snow angel; the entire playground was covered with them when we left.

I remember asking her why we were allowed to play so late on a school night, and she said something like “because it’s the first snow, and you don’t miss an opportunity like this because you might be tired the next day.”

When we were still living in California, before the move to Colorado we drove half a day to do a 7 mile run together.  When we got there, she realized she had forgotten her running shoes and nothing other than her hiking boots to run in.  She completed the race.  They sent her a certificate “women ages 25-35, wearing hiking boots – first place.” (Well, it said something like that, I don’t remember the exact words).

Ten or fifteen years later, I was in New York to run the marathon and got food poisoning the night before.  I spent the entire night before the race in the bathroom getting sick.  I believe the term for what I looked like the next morning is “death warmed over.”  I completed the race.  I got sick a couple of times on the course, and did not have a very good time, but I finished the New York Marathon.

Several times over they years people have asked me why I ran that day and my response has always been the same, “I didn’t train for all those months, and fly over 2000 miles to New Your to not run the marathon.”

After some 20 hours on a train, when we arrived in Canberra Australia, we could not find a place to stay.  She spent a good hour on the phone, calling hotel after hotel; hostel after hostel.  The whole time with two children, 14 and 11, looking to her for a solution.  I remember her coming out of the phone booth across the station from us, throwing her hands in the air above her head, making a human “Y” and singing across the station at the top of her voice “we’re gonna stay at the… Y-M-C-A” complete with all of the necessary hand gestures.

We stood together at the top fo Ayers Rock, we shared a Singapore Sling at Raffels hotel in Singapore (where the drink was invented), we shopped for Thai silk at Jim Thompsons shop in Bankok and visited Koh Samui before the rest of the world knew it existed (you had to take an overnight boat just to get there… now people fly in directly).

This woman showed me the world, and how to relentlessly grasp everything it had to offer.  From lessons learned at a random grave site in the heart of the Outback (http://puntiglio.com/blog/?p=263) to a sense of conviction I didn’t even recognize as coming from her at the time, and so much more, she made me what I am today.

Twenty years ago, today, she died on that same Thai island, peacefully in her sleep.  Gone far too soon, a mother that never lived to see her children fully blossom; but who, none the less, shaped them into the people they had no choice but to eventually become.

I am Penny Fuersts son, I carry her and her legacy within me everyday.

I love you, mom….

September 11, 2009

What We Remember…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 3:34 pm

I remember the first time I saw you, how I had to double take to be
sure my eyes had not deceived me…

I remember craving even the most accidental touch of your skin…

I remember wanting nothing in the world, in fact not even acknowledging that anything else in the world even existed until I could kiss you…

I remember not wanting to let go of our first hug…ever…

I remember saying rushed good nights too you, so that I could fall
asleep faster and be with you again tomorrow…

I remember structuring my entire day around the possibility of
catching a the slightest glimpse of you…

I also remember forgetting all of this…

- I never want to remember that again…

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