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December 26, 2007

My call to arms…

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations — sbj @ 6:52 pm

As the snow falls and blots out the residue of another day,
as the snow melts and carries that history away,
as the snow complies its brilliance into a gleaming vision of hope,
I watch, consider, compile and cope.

I am told (or perhaps I read, or both) that the Christmas season is the time of the year when there are the most suicides, the time when depression runs rampant. People with noone to be with or nowhere to go, people feeling incomplete or inferior, people who’s life’s value is defined by the company they keep on Christmas or New Years.

What is the difference between them and I,
how is it they cavort, play and live upon high,
where is the reward for all that I do,
why must I anguish and crawl til I’m through?

I have never experienced this feeling, even on years like this one, where I am alone on Christmas day. I have the advantage of having a loving family and loving and caring friends. I know that I am loved, and that my life adds value to others, even when I am not with them. I have never experienced this feeling, however I can imagine where it comes from.

The hours are long and the toil is hard,
its my lot in life, no regrets, with regard,
everyone has their crosses to bear,
in life and in love, joy and misery share.

I have been told that entitlement is a luxury reserved for the rich (not unlike insanity). That in order to feel you deserve something, you must first lament the loss of it. I think that seeing something is quite enough to covet it, and from coveting can come a sense of entitlement. I think where entitlement meets poverty, one finds truly desperate people.

I’m knocking and pounding, someone please let me in,
the wind blows so hard, I’ve no shield o’er my skin,
it is dark, it is cold, there are bad things about,
there is compassion from noone, for those down and out?

Desperation…the more I think about it, this is what I really would like to eradicate from the world. If I could find a way to infuse some glimmer of hope in all of those who feel that their lives were not worth living, to make them believe in that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, that would be a life worth living.

That is my objective. Other (more qualified) people can cure cancer, I intend to give patients hope that there are people working for that cure and that they will eventually find that cure. Other (more qualified) people can solve the worlds hunger problems, I intend to try to give people hope that answers are on the way. Other (perhaps less qualified????) people can forge a world peace, I intend to remind people that there are those that care and are trying to stop the violence.

That, and I’m going to continue to volunteer as well, because it is personally rewarding to me!!! :)

December 24, 2007

From a friends blog…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 5:07 pm

Before I start, yes, I said a friend. In fact a friend of over 15 years. So, while I heartily disagree with what she has to say on some issues, none of this is meant with disrespect, just disagreement.

This is the quoted entry:

T. Bubba Bechtel, a part-time City Councilman from Midland , TX , was asked on a local live radio talk show the other day just what he thought of the allegations of torture of the Iraqi prisoners. His reply prompted his ejection from the studio, but to thunderous applause from the audience.

“If hooking up an Iraqi prisoner’s balls to a car’s battery cables will save one MARINE life, then I have just two things to say”:”Red is positive”"Black is negative”

I will start by saying that I completely understand the emotional sentiment that would cause someone to make that statement. However, a little history, I believe, is in order.

We (and by we, I mean the US, NATO, the UN, etc.) crack down on war criminals and people who violate the geneva convention et. al. for a reason. The world has a history of inhumane treatment of POW’s. A history that we have found to be intolerable, which is why we have the rules and regulations we have for the treatment of incarcerated people.

These rules exist because we do not want to think of our children, behind enemy lines, being tortured. We do not want anyone offering up the excuse “we needed the information to save lives” to justify doing horrible things to our sons and daughters.

That door swings both ways.

If the above quote were reversed, and some Saudi, French, Malaysian, or English diplomat said “If hooking up a American prisoners balls to a battery would save the life of one of our soldiers…” (you know the rest), would that not be a call to arms? Would that not be a sign of savagery, brutality and lack of civility? If so, then why is it okay, or, moreover, something to rally around, when one of our diplomats makes the statement?

I’ve said this before, we are supposed to be the good guys. We are supposed to set the example, even if it means taking some painful hits. That is what integrity is supposed to be about. That is the stuff of heros and legendary figures. That is what I tell my 7 and 12 year old boys is so great about our country and why they should have national pride. We are supposed to be the good guys.

What do I tell them when they read quotes like this? How do I defend my country to my children when the assault on the very principles on which it was created comes from within? How do I justify the assault being perpetuated by my own friends in the form of blog posts and emails?

My focus, when sharing the story with my children will be that the studio did the right thing, ejecting him without delay. Thus proving that all is not lost, and there remain some stewards of the tenants on which this country was founded.. However, when you consider how this quote has propagated through the internet, word of mouth, etc. I think it is safe to say… the damage has already been done.

I am quite sure someone, somewhere is reading this and saying to themselves that I am being a hypocrite. That, based on our bill of rights, this man should be able to say whatever he wants, it is just his opinion. To that, I have these four words to say “Clear and Present Danger”. There is a reason you are not allowed, even in this “home of the free”, to yell out “fire” in a crowded theater (unless there really is a fire, of course). For that same reason, Mr Bechtel should act like the elected official he is, and choose his words and messages more carefully. And for that reason, I have to say, while I respect my friend, I think her action here is hurting the country she loves so much.

Now that I have said my piece, I will point out that there is no councilman by that name, it is the stage name of a comedian who did use the quote in a routine.  it was a spin off of the 1990′s line about a monkey and finding a cure for AIDS more from Snopes here.

December 21, 2007

Volunteer work…

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations — sbj @ 9:40 pm

Just an observation or two about some of the people I work with in my volunteer life.

Not too long ago I started volunteering my time to do phone tech support to the residents of several Eastern Idaho Senior Centers. The project director goes no more than two days without emailing me, ever. He sends me updates and pictures from his visits to various facilities. He sends me stories of how much people (not even just residents but people in the communities, including one Mayor that I know of… or should I say, that now knows of me) people appreciate what I am doing.

It is really a pleasure to work with someone so engaged in what he is doing. It certainly has on effect on me and my desire to be even more involved.

Thanks John, it’s great working with you as well!

As the years go bye…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 2:57 pm

The distance between my hands and feet, as I put my socks on, continues to grow…

December 20, 2007

Go New Jersey!!!!

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 11:13 pm

Disclaimer: this is a topic I am very opinionated on. I know it is controversial, I recognize that their are two sides to the argument and that both sides have valid arguments. I realize that my opinion is exactly that, an opinion, and I respect anyone that has a rational constructive opinion that disagrees with mine. That having been said:

Go New Jersey!!!!! This week New Jersey signed into law a measure that abolishes the death penalty in the state. There are 8 men in particular who will benefit from this law, the current residents of New Jerseys death row. Of course, the state has not executed anyone since 1963, so I’m not so sure how intimidated those folks were anyway ;)

I do feel compassion for the families of victims, who now will certainly feel victimized again. However, I do not believe in “an eye for an eye”, so while I feel compassion, I do not think they are just in their desires for that type of “justice”. Further, I do not feel enough compassion to change my base opinion that no person, who is not making a life or death decision (i.e. self defense), should take the life of another human.

This does not mean I would not want to tear limb from limb anyone who killed a member of my family. Having that desire, however, does not make it the right thing to do.

Currently it can be said that the last execution in the United States was September 25th (in Texas, of course), I think it would be very cool if the same thing could be said in 50 years. I know better, but a guy can dream, right????

Pay it forward (literally)…

Filed under: A life worth living,Cool stuff,Observations — sbj @ 10:34 pm

State Bank and Trust, in Fargo N.D. is taking the concept to heart. Every full time employee is being given $1,000 and every part time employee is being given $500 to use on people in need. they cannot use it for themselves, friends, or family. The initiative will total $502,000 in donation from the bank via the employees.

Employees can handle the donation on their own, pool resources with other employees, or even other organizations. Again, the only restriction is that the money be put toward people in need. Employees are also being asked to capture their good deed on video if possible.

Just how cool would the world be if more companies (or people) handled themselves this way?

This goes way beyond donating the money. It gets people involved in the process of giving that would not be otherwise. It makes them personally interested in the results of their donations, thus making them more likely to do it again later after feeling the positive personal results of giving. In general, it helps makes people better.

Here’s to you Michael Solberg (COO at the bank) and the rest of the banks board… collectively, you get it!!

Just a goofy post…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 10:19 pm

Statistically speaking, Queen Elizabeth II is moving up the rankings. At about noon today (EST) she passed Queen Victoria as the oldest ever Monarch. She is fourth overall in length of reign, behind Henry III, George III and Victoria (she would pass Victoria in 2015).

That’s it, no twists or turns, just useless information :) Do with it what you will. If nothing else I guess it might be conversation starter at your next dinner party.

Baseball and preformancing enhancing drugs…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 7:39 pm

What a shame. This all effects me and my generation more than others, of course. Most of our “era” is now tainted. Most of the players we grew up idolizing and comparing to the greatest of all times (in some cases even favorably) are now in question. Even if they were not identified in the Mitchell report, they are part of that era and not above reproach. What a shame.

Having said that (I can hear the collective “here it comes” now), I’m not sure I can support the thing Mr. Schilling is saying in the media (he has called for Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, amongst others to renounce their personal awards if they cannot prove their innocence). We still do live in a country where the burden of proof is upon the accuser, not the accused. I do not see it being Rogers responsibility to prove he is innocent, I see it as begin baseballs responsibility to prove his guilt.

If we abandon this tenant of our society for baseball players, and assume them guilty, is this not a slippery slope (if not a full blown gateway) to applying the same approach to other accused criminals (Git’mo, anyone?)?

I would agree with anyone who suggested that someone found guilty of using performance enhancing substances be stripped of their awards and accomplishments. To me that is only fair to the people who played by the rules. However, until someone proves wrongdoing, the basic rights we hold so dear in this country should be no less in effect.

So, as much as I *THINK* Barry took steroids (and did so knowingly) I still feel he is innocent until proven guilty. Okay okay, I think he needs to be treated like he is innocent until proven guilty, big difference there :)

December 18, 2007

When the worlds nations roll their coins…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 8:22 pm

90 countries and international organizations got together last week and had a “bake off” (oops, “bake *sale*”… sorry General Mills, please don’t sue me!!!) to raise money for Palestine. Over the next three years the pledges totaled $7.4 billion ($2.9 for 2008, $550 Million of which was pledged by the United States) over the next three years.

The total eclipsed the $5.6 billion that Palestine was hoping to receive. According to Condoleezza Rice:

“This conference is literally the government’s last hope to avoid bankruptcy”

Given that this falls on the heels of the first significant peace talks in 7 years between Israel and Palestine, perhaps we can look forward to an era of progress and oncoming peace in the middle east.

One can hope, anyway, right?

Hamas and Israel still have quite a bit to say about it. it is considered common knowledge amongst people involved that without Israel easing physical and administrative restrictions on movement the financial aide will not be enough. Hamas, has also muddied the waters by calling the conference a “declaration of war against the Hamas Government”.

Oh well, I, for one, and holding out hope. $7.4 Billion dollars over three years is a lot of quarters!!!

Hidden agenda?

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 8:00 pm

Probably not, but it would be clever.

In Ranco Cordova Ca this holiday season, people are getting pulled over by police for simply driving down the street and observing all of the rules of the road.  Motorists that are not breaking the law, in any way, are being “cited” with $5 Starbucks gift cards.  Local businesses donated the money for the cards, a quote:

They raised a substantial amounf ot money, they’ll be pulling over a lot of people”

This also seems like a great way to do a little “probable cause” work.  Certainly some people will see those lights and beat feet, because of outstanding warrants, etc.  It’s a win win scenario!!! 

It does, however, cast some doubt on the tried and true “drive really safely and they will not catch you” strategy for avoiding a DUI (this is my favorite part, I might add!)

December 17, 2007

When compliments and insults collide…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 9:47 pm

I was reading an op-ed today and the author was making (trying to make??) a very strong point that it was inappropriate to call Obama “clean and articulate” because you might as well tack on “for a black man” and insult an entire demographic group. Further, the writer alleged, this was a clear cut case of the accuser being a racist.

I find this particular trap to be most vexing. Unfortunately, I can see where it came from, and it is truly sad that someone can (somewhat) justifiably reach this mind set. Having said that, I think it is time we get past that way of thinking. It is similar to telling someone they look great, and having them come back with something like “what are you saying I normally look like?!?!?”.

I’m left to wonder if our society really is this insecure or externally motivated. Do you really need to be told you are always beautiful, in order to be told you look beautiful today? If so, are you not actually looking quite average today? Or worse, are you not creating an environment where every compliment or positive word must be viewed with skepticism and where every statement must have a 5 minute preface, or disclaimer, in order not to offend?

I have written before about the sensationalism in our culture, and how it is destroying, if nothing else, our language. To me, this is a continuation of that saga. If something is good, call it good, and be happy that it is. Do not call something great unless it is; and there is no reason in the world to use words like gi-normous and spek-fabu-credi-some in a serious sentence. They are funny, and can be used for comic relief, but seriously people, we have “good”, “better” and “best” for a reason.

I am going to need weeks to recover from toiling over my keyboard (uphill, both ways) against all odds in order to produce this magni-credible, uber-insightful tome. If, however, this was one ten-millionth as life-changing for you as it was for me, then it will have been worth every pain-staking minute… because your derived pleasure, if spread evenly across the mass of humanity, would put a smile on the face of every person on earth*.

*Apologies to President Lincoln for the theft and alteration of his prose, he did nothing to deserve it.  But you have to appreciate the irony!!

Fun and games – for a cause!

Filed under: A life worth living,Cool stuff — sbj @ 7:03 pm

Here is a cool way to have some fun, improve your vocabulary, and help out others… all for free (well, for a little bit of your time)

http://www.freerice.com

This site features a multiple choice quiz where you are presented with a vocabulary word and given 4 options as to what it means.  Select the correct answer and you get another (okay, if you get the wrong answer you get another one as well).  In either case, advertisers make a donation of rice to needy people in the world, so everyone wins (you win, because if you do not know what the word means, they tell you after you make your guess).

I have only played once, for about 5 minutes, so I do not even know if my score of 39 is good or not.  But it was fun and I will do it once or twice a day!

Movie Review – I am Legend

Filed under: Movie Reviews — sbj @ 6:26 pm

First and foremost, of course, this is a zombie flick (can we be done with that trend now?)… so there are lots of scary things that go bump in the night. These particular zombies actually go bump *only* at night… which is kind of convenient.

As much as I hate to say it… did not find Will Smiths acting chops to be at full swing in this one (this doe not mean he was bad… just not as good as he has been). Of course, if you are a woman (or a guy of a certain persuasion) the workout scene I’m sure would be inspirational!

The story did more along and there really was not much wasted film, which was great. It was one of those rare movies that was probably very close to the perfect length.I also really enjoyed how the story developed and ended. You were left, several times in the story thinking this is a flawed hero, not some superman here to save all of humanity (in this case, it appears, all of humanity being himself), but a regular (okay exceptional in some ways, but still regular, if you know what I mean) guy in an bad situation, making the best of it. He is human and real and made mistakes, and I appreciated that.

Good movie 5 of 6 (but remember, it is still a zombie flick!)

December 14, 2007

Just a little post about someone doing a good thing…

Filed under: A life worth living — sbj @ 3:28 pm

Working together in Durham N.C. a rescue mission and a local dentist have started up a dental program for the homeless. Jim Eaker was volunteering at the mission when he noticed the general lack of dental care available for its patrons. The Mission did the plumbing and other work required to set up an office and local dentists donated 30,000 worth of dental equipment. Eaker now donates his time monthly in the new office and is encouraging other area dentists to do the same.

December 13, 2007

Holiday Cheer…

Filed under: A life worth living,Cool stuff,Observations — sbj @ 4:23 pm

Here is a little compendium of stories about people doing cool things:

In New Jersey someone (or some group of people) is decorating the highway. It started out with two ornaments hung on roadside trees just before Thanksgiving, and has gradually grown day by day to a fully decorated stretch of freeway.

There are two things I absolutely love about that story. First of all, the idea of someone spending their time (and money) decorating public places for everyone to enjoy is very pleasant. Secondly, the name of the town is “Little Egg Harbor Township”… you can’t make this stuff up!!!

A non-descript man in PA made a rather sizable donation to the salvation army kettle on Monday (yes, Monday again… I’m obsessed!!!). By sizable, I mean thirty (yep 30) $100 bills.

The volunteer on the scene said he has seen the mad donate before but has no idea who he is. Imagine that, a $3000 donation, completely anonymous, not tax write offs, not credit or accolades, no nothings. Here’s to you Mr. Jeans and flannel shirt… you get it!!!

Finally (and this is not holiday, but it is just too cool for words), there is the story of a young women who has visited over 20 countries since she first started traveling at the age of 17. That trip was to Haiti, to volunteer on a humanitarian project. Since that time she has not stopped traveling or giving of herself (over 18 different international development projects in over 22 different countries). I would try to cover it all, but I do not have the room to do so here. Read more about her here. Do not skip over this article… the woman is amazing!

All I can say is “you must be the change you want to see in the world”. Here’s to you Danielle Babin, you *ARE* that!!!!!

Good news, bad news…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 3:57 pm

The good news: In 1997 (10 years ago for those of you keeping score at home) the United States, along with 170 other countries, began dismantling their stores of chemical weapons. At chemical destruction facilities across the nation (and on tiny atolls just off the coast of Hawaii) workers are working literally around the clock, even on holidays, toward the objective of eradicating our chemical weapons stores.

The bad news: Yes, you read it right, they are still working. I know this because Monday December 10th (the same day Al Gore received his Nobel Peace Prize… I’m sure you remember that little rant from yesterday) the Army announced, with pride, that they had accomplished a 50% reduction in chemical weapons stores. Yep, fifty percent, half way there, you read that right. By 2017, according to the US Army press realease, we will achieve 90%.

This is a quote “Reaching the 50 percent destruction milestone is a major step in achieving the final goal of 100 percent destruction of the countries chemical weapons material”. My original thought was, 50% is an “F” in any school I have ever attended, hardly a major step. However, having given it a little rational thought, the people working around the clock today cannot be blamed for the buildup that took place in a previous generation, so that observation is not fair on my part.

But I will say this, when we are 10 years into the process, which we now know is only half way done, of destroying our own chemical weapons stores, aren’t we being a wee bit hypocritical in laying the lance into other countries we do not feel are cleaning up their act fast enough? I’m just say’n…

December 12, 2007

Blast from my past…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 11:20 pm

When I was in college in the bay area, one of my favorite things to do was to pay for the person behind me whenever I crossed one of the bridges.  Boy have I been outdone!!!

In PA yesterday (Dec 11th) a woman going through the line at Starbucks paid for the person behind her in line.  He proceeded to pay for the person behind him, and it went on.  For 2 hours and over 100 cars everyone paid for the person behind them in line.  Nice game of follow the leader there.

Oh the irony…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 10:46 pm

In the year 2000 two men ran for the President of the United State. One of them, lets call him candidate “A”, received 51.0 million votes (48.4%) and the other, we’ll call him candidate “B” received 50.5 million votes (47.9%). On Monday, candidate “A” was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. On Monday, candidate “B”, received his morning briefing on the two wars he has presided over for the last several years.

Quote the contrast, kinda makes you wonder what the world would be like if the man the people elected President had actually made it to the White House, doesn’t it?

December 11, 2007

A young man (or two) give back…

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations — sbj @ 10:37 pm

Every year (okay, most years) my son, who’s birthday is in early January, follows the lead of most kids and makes wishes for what he wants for Christmas.  The story gets interesting when it comes to people asking him what he wants for his birthday.  His reply this year, as it has been more years than not since he could talk, was “Money or gift certificates that I can donate to the needy”.  Needless to say, it makes me proud every time.

This story is not about my son (its just a cool way to get to talk about him a little bit), however, it makes a pretty good intro to this piece about a young man who, at 14, is making a difference by giving back to those who helped him when he needed it. 

He was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was a young boy and received a make-a-wish foundation gift, a roping arena in his backyard.  Since his tumor went into remission, he has raised over $7,500 (enough to help two other children) for the make-a-wish foundation by holding events in his new arena.  Further, he hopes to double that amount with an event this weekend.

Here’s to you Garrett Stewart, you get it!

One more for this morning…

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations,Poker — sbj @ 3:08 pm

I’m on a roll with the “feel good” stuff :)

This is where I’d like to see my poker career going.

A major tournament was just completed in Russia, won by a guy from Melbourne.  First prize, a braclet of course, and $205,000.  he took home the bracelet, and the title of course, but left the $250,000 behind as a donation to Russian orphanages. 

Here’s to you Tony Gouga, you now have a fan in me.

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