March 31, 2008

A mile in their shoes …

Filed under: A life worth living,Just life,Observations — sbj @ 6:07 pm

There is an old phrase, I think it was at first Native American that goes something like this:

Never judge a person, until you have walked a mile in their shoes.

I also believe the original was moccasins, but that, of course, is not the point.  I had an interesting experience this weekend, starting on Friday afternoon, to be specific, which has brought this particular phrase to mind.

I found myself unable to speak without an excruciating amount of pain.  As a result I took the afternoon off and went home where I would not be forced to talk and, in theory, could heal in peace.

Around 2:30 my son came home from his friends house (it was spring break last week) and the first test of my muteness was at hand.  We sailed through this, my son and I.  He would talk (of course) and I would type what I had to say to him in WordPerfect.  My son was a champ and very patient, thanks buddy!!  It helped that I type most of the day at work and even more socially, so he did not have to wait too long for the words to form on the page.

After that it began to get more interesting.  We went to a movie Friday afternoon (what better way to enjoy time together while not talking!!).  He did the ordering, I did the paying, and the clerk took his role of looking at us strangely very seriously, especially when I tipped my cap to him in thanks.  Oh well, it was just a teen anyway, right?  Off we went to have our tickets torn, another teen was at the station so I prepared to get odd looks again.  Instead I got anger (not to my face, but in comments after I had passed) about how I was “too good” to speak to them.  I did smile, and I did tip my cap.  Hmmm.

We then decided to grab a bite to eat.  We chose the Chinese place adjacent to the theater for our meal (the food was fantastic).  More strange, inquisitive looks as we began the “conversation”.  The lad ordered for me, because he knew what I wanted, I paid, smiled and tipped my hat again (apparently this does not carry the same meaning it once did).  In return I got an awkward look and a smile.  To her credit, our waitress recovered between then and when the food arrived, and was outstanding the rest of the way, giving no indication that anyone even remotely different was at the table.  But, there was still that first bit of “introduction”.

We then headed home, my son had an overnight with a friend, I had a date with my kitchen and laundry room (yep, two dates in one night… that’s how I roll!!!).  Fast forward to lunch on Saturday, again eating out… cause… I’m made of money I guess. We decide to go to a restaurant that is a family favorite, we probably eat here at least twice a month, frequently more often than that.  We sit down and the waitress takes our order, once again, my son doing the dirty work, me smiling and nodding (no cap to tip today… that experiment failed!).  She instantly begins to ignore me, talking only to my son, and doing so in a very raised voice, the purpose of which I have yet to identify.  She does not ask me if my food is okay, just asks him if everything is okay.  At one point in my “conversation” with my son, I am making a point to him using sweeping motions with my arms and she literally ran over to ask (him) if everything was okay with me.  Complete panic on her face.  When paying, more anger from the clerk at the register at my lack of words, despite profuse smiling and nodding.  Hmmm.

We then went to the Vitamin Shoppe (I love them, so I’m going to mention them by name) to pick up some meds, stuff to fix my mouth.  To save time, and perhaps shift the attention back to myself, I took out my phone and wrote a text message “can you help me find XXXXX, please” and handed the phone across the counter for them to read.  The young lady behind the counter sprung into action, clearly overjoyed to be helping.  She took me directly to the product, showed me which was the best of the brands (did not say the words, just looked me in the face and mouthed them) and took her leave of me.  Clearly she is experienced in dealing with the hearing impaired.  When I checked out, she used sign language to thank me.  She was absolutely fantastic, she was respectful, enthusiastic and helpful.  Her diagnosis was wrong (that or my assumption that she assumed me to be deaf was wrong), but that was not important.

However, I still had to “deal with” the fact that I was not treated like just anyone off the street.  I received “special treatment”, and by this point in my weekend, I did not want it.  I had been receiving “special treatment” in one form or another all weekend.  There were puzzled looks (probably the most honest and worthy of appreciation), angry looks, helpful looks and looks of pity.  There were so many looks, and actions, that by Saturday afternoon all I wanted to do was go home, grab a book and not leave the house until I was back to talking normally again.  This all took place in a span of roughly 24 hours, of which I slept for seven, was alone at home for eight, and in a movie theater for two.  In other words, in seven hours of “exposure” I had been significantly effected by the way I was treated.

Breaking through the barrier of not being able to talk was easy, there are dozens of solutions for that.  Breaking through the barrier constructed by the people I interacted with was a much more difficult row to hoe.  This was exactly the opposite of what I imagined the case would be. From the angry ticket tearer, to the wonderful vitamin clerk… all had taken a toll on me.

Today I woke up and went to work.  My ability to talk is not fully restored, but is to the point where I can function and speak for myself (preferably in very short bursts).  Thankfully, I do not have to live with this on a day to day basis or over a protracted period of time.  However, I have a greater respect for the people who do.  The people who have the courage to face, not the world, but the inhabitants of the world, on a day to day basis, while being without all of the “normal” tools for doing so.  I have a whole new view of what some people deal with on a daily basis, and I only took about two steps in those moccasins…

March 29, 2008

To err is human…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 3:51 pm

I have this tickle of a concern in the back of my head. I’m not sure it is valid… so I’m going to investigate it here, in front of you, as I so love to do.

A college professor of mine at Hayward (one of my favorite profs ever, I might add) once told me that too much knowledge can be a bad thing. Too much news can be a bad thing. Too much information can be a bad thing. He explained that, much like what you eat, the information you consume begins to form who you are and what you think. Too much news or information on the same topic, especially from the same source (source here being defined as the same side of an issue) becomes self inflicted propaganda.

This makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Without balanced input, you simply sink deeper and deeper into the abyss of your thought process or cause. This is what leads to what we today call “radicalism” or “fundamentalism”. In large part due to this little office hour chat, I have spent most of my life seeking out the opinions and thoughts of those opposed to my point of view on everything from mp3 players to ethnic cleansing.

As I both pontificated and listened yesterday (and this morning) I noticed something startling and a bit disturbing. I was using the same metaphor in making my case that someone on the exact opposite side of the fence was using to make theirs. Specifically a reference to Hitler, and not learning from history. I can’t think of anything that should bring you back to center faster than seeing the same argument you are using to debate for the affirmative being used as part of the case for the negative.

Enter my concern. Are we, perhaps, making so much use of Mr Hitler in our arguments that we are diluting and desensitizing what he actually did? My first reaction when I read the argument this morning was to say “that is ridiculous”, my second was to say “what, just anyone can drop Hitler in their argument and all of a sudden it is valid. Everyone knows Hitler was bad… so anything that can be linked to him must be bad as well, right?”

Shortly thereafter I realized that I had just done the same thing, and people who disagree with me probably had the same reaction to my illustration.

I am a fear monger, or at least I was in those couple of sentences. I stood on the backs of a people who were brutalized (6 million of which were killed) less than a century ago and tried to make a point about a video

Dear Israel and Jews around the world,

I am sorry, I will not use this example again unless it actually somewhat mirrors your circumstances.

Respectfully, Soren.

It is important to know history, but that does not make it appropriate to exploit history.

I stand by my point, and the importance behind it. However, my approach was “fundamentalist” in nature, something which I cry out against at every opportunity. My approach was akin to the mini-cemeteries and horrible bloody pictures that pop up every time an abortion bill is on the table. My approach was a deliberate play on emotion, and my approach was wrong.

I am really glad I saw that awful cartoon this morning. It did not resonate anything true, to me, about what its author was trying to say, however it did give me an opportunity to self reflect, which should do nothing but strengthen me for the future. In a way completely contrary to its intents, it may have made me a better person.

Google is great…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 3:50 pm

Well, its not chocolate cake, but… it did “turn out the lights” today, and I can’t think of anyone more influential in the internet space than Google… go team Google! If you are not sure what I mean by turn out the lights… check this out

March 28, 2008

Dear MP Wilder: those who do not learn from history…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 6:15 pm

Disclaimer, I have not watched the entire video in question (Fitna). I stopped about 5:40 into it (it is roughly 15 minutes long) when I reached the conclusion that it was a propaganda piece only and had no real substantive value. I’m sure someone somewhere will let me know if I missed something of value in the final 9 plus minutes.

If you are not aware, this video is causing mass riots in many middle eastern nations, in the Netherlands, and other countries as well. In a nut shell, it is a puff piece constructed to depict all of Islam as hateful, violent, and dangerous.

The first attempt at making this point is done by quoting the Koran (very loosely), saying that Islam should strike terror in those who do not believe (my own poor paraphrase, completely different words in the clip). For a moment lets pretend this is a true and accurate quote, how much different is it from “Neca eos omnes. Deus suos agnoset” or, in today’s vernacular (made popular by our own military) “kill them all, let god sort them out”. The original was handed down by the Vatican in the middle ages, not quite the same folks, but pretty much the same message. It was a perversion of King James 2 Tim. 2:19 which in part reads “the Lord knoweth them that are his”. Funny how things get lost in translation, isn’t it?

Who is the creator of this epic documentary (yep, that was sarcasm), who, in my opinion doth protest too much? A Dutch Minister of Parliment (MP) of all people. He is concerned about his country losing its identity to Muslim immigrants (sound like another country and their sudden concern over immigration reform?). Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende condemned the film, base on his opinion that it ‘equates Islam with violence. We reject that interpretation.’ Further, Dutch television also refused to play the mini-mentary. This is not a Dutch problem, it is more specific than that, so let not all go hate’n on the Dutch.

To me this all smacks of the over-generalized  propaganda Hitler used to initiate his attempted extermination of the Jewish people.  Create a villain, so that you can become a victim; at which point all of your actions can be fully justified.  I am glad to see strong condemnation coming quickly from the Dutch authorities.

The story gets even richer, though. The Danish “artist” that created the cartoons a while back that started so many riots is suing the MP because he reused the image in his video (this is where I would normally do my pot and kettle introductions).

There is a decent article on all of this in the Washington Post if you want to read more.

I would think that an MP would have the common sense not to generate worldwide riots with this kind of piece. I understand that our doctrine of clear and present danger is not part of his culture or law… but I always thought that concept was kind of common sense. Note to Mr. Wilder: if the action you are about to take might cause global riots, or your own country to become a more likely target for terrorism… perhaps you should consider abstaining from said action… Just a thought.

As a side note, as inflammatory and patently awful as Mr Wilder’s video is, I would encourage everyone, globally, to do no more than I have done; voice your protest, but not act physically on it. While striking back might provide some short term satisfaction, all it will do, at the end of the day, is propagate more of this drivel and empower more people to make the same sweeping generalizations. It’s a vicious cycle, and clearly, the likes of Mr Wilder are not going to stop instigating, so the onus is on the rest of us to be the bigger people and rise above him.

Bigot? Savior? Reformer? Candidate? … Person

Filed under: Conversations,Observations — sbj @ 3:36 pm

Last night I had an interesting conversation (if you can call about 5 sentences a conversation). The person with whom I had my brief discourse was quite fanatical in his expression, which was the primary reason I did not engage him further. However I believe I got the crux of his argument in those few short sentences. The printable part of the exchange went like this:

noahdavidsimon: oh and also all those TWITTER $%##@^%’s that have been cheering this &^*$% on. Let me spell it out for you. OBAMA=BIGOT!

Sorenj: I’d love to hear that substantiated…

noahdavidsimon: talk to Reverend Wright. Watch the tapes. 30 years of church with the guy and never spoke out. Proof! OBAMA=BIGOT (about 9 hours ago)

Sorenj: hmmm, I was expecting a bit more substance… but, thanks for answering. Have a good night…

noahdavidsimon: your cooked OBAMA! 30 years of a church run by a bigot. YOU NEVER SPOKE OUT. Here is your experience &^%$#@! (about 9 hours ago)

At that juncture I took my leave of the conversation, it was pretty clear to me it was going to result in a flame war, and not a rational one. A couple of other people did pick up the fight, however, and because of that I discovered a blog entry that absolutely blew me away (go Queen of Spain!!) . That is not, however, the point of this entry.

Here is what that little micro-confrontation forced me to do; reconcile my post from yesterday about “heavier doors” with Obama’s decades long lack of a spoken position on Rev. Wright. I think it goes without saying (but I’m going to say it anyway) that when Obama did speak out on the issue, it was nothing short of brilliant. Constructive, pro-active and solution oriented, his speech was the most meaningful and actionable missive on race that I can remember.  At no point would I think the type of guilt by association thinking at play here is remotely valid.  I also think that it is beyond ridiculous to say that Mr. Obama is a bigot.

However, there is still the previous couple of decades to consider. Was Mr. Obama, by virtue of doing and saying nothing, perpetuating and enabling the acts he now vehemently renounces? Is/was he in need of the same conversation that I had to have in the hallway with my friend? These questions led to a couple of hours of tossing, turning, and mulling.

It’s probably important to point out that I have a certain level of ignorance when it comes to this issue. It is entirely possible that Mr. Obama has renounced this type of speech from his pastor before now, and I simply am unaware. I would love to find out that is the case, so if you are reading this and know better than I… please let me know!

In the interim I think I will choose to acknowledge that, in my opinion, he had a responsibility to address this issue earlier and I wish he had done so. However, to his credit he did handle it as close to perfectly as possibly when the issue forced itself onto the scene. In doing so, it is quite possible that he positively altered the path of bigotry and race relations forever, which certainly would not have happened had he addressed it earlier without the exposure of a Presidential election.

Not a bad days work… whether it was a few years tardy or not.

A friend in need…

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 5:02 am

Okay, it might be a bit much to say a friend. But a friend of a new and trusted unacquainted, hows that. If you are in a giving mood, wander over here and read this.

I have seen first hand at various times how a random helping hand from a stranger can make all of the difference in the world.  I do not know these people, in fact they are half a world away from me, but I do know and understand their situation.  If you can relate, and if you can spare the time… please check it out… and do what you can.

March 26, 2008

Last blog today, I promise(ish)

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 11:47 pm

Last blog today, I promise(ish).

I have another issue on which I am confused, so I’m hoping writing about it will sort out my mind.  It is amazing to me how often I start one of these with no idea which side I’m on, and by the end I am completely aligned with one position or another.  No number of hours of thinking will produce the same results.  The issue I am about to discuss (with myself, at least until some of you join in) proves that, as I have been pondering it all day long.

The question is of Carbon Offsetting.  The sides are, I think, are clear… on one hand you have those of the mind that it is a valuable way of getting money into alternative resources and reducing greenhouse gasses (good things, certainly); on the other you have the folks of the mind that you are enabling businesses, governments and to a lesser degree private citizens to continue to live in excess (the most common reference being to that of the Papal Indulgences of the middle ages).

I can see the validity of both perspectives.  I guess what I believe is that there needs to be indulgences until people can work their way toward not needing them, I don’t want to see business put into bankruptcy, and I don’t want to see the carbon requirements thrown away.  At the same time I think there needs to be measurable and sustainable improvements, requiring fewer and fewer indulgences over time, until the entity no longer needs them.  Failure to maintain this slope of progress, should result in an ever increasing cost of carbon offsetting units, eventually making such offsets too expensive to indulge in.

Hmm… this writing session was not as clarifying as most, but it managed to accomplish something.  Thanks for playing along :)

A Heavier Door???

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 6:23 pm

I was walking down the hallway at work today and I hear the following “… all we really need to do is make significantly heavier doors.”  Followed by raucous laughter.  I knew one of the people in the group, so later I asked what the joke was about (the punch line was, at the very least, quite original).

It turns out that the topic was women in the workplace, what a hassle and mess that whole experiment had been, and how to reduce or eliminate them.  I just about fell out of my non-existent chair (because, I was standing at the time).

Needless to say, my friend got an earful, two actually.  The first for being part of such a discussion and the second for being stupid enough to say “hey, I didn’t say it” (that almost got him keel-hulled).

Dear friends (and non-friends open enough to listen to what I have to say)… if you laugh at a joke or “suggestion” of this nature, you might as well have said it.  You are giving that statement your full and complete public endorsement.  I understand that if something is funny you may not have a choice about reacting to it (i.e. laughing), however, you then (especially if you laughed) have a responsibility to take ownership of your reaction by stating clearly and for the record that you disagree and do not think it is acceptable.

I really hate seeing a hundred years of progress roll back in front of my eyes, get a grip people!

What would you do…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 6:02 pm

Lets say you have a large house, with a formal dining room that you almost never use.  In fact, you use it only once every couple of years.

Now lets say that a family of four, who were evicted from their last several homes for no good reason (condemned building, bankrupt landlord, whatever), talks the homeowners association into giving them your formal dining room to live in, because, well, you never use it, and they need a home.  Maybe they even lived on this plot of land in the past, before your new home was built on the property.

You take the logical step and call the home owners association, the police and anyone else you can think of, and they all tell you that you have no claim to your dining room.  Further, the police give the family weapons which allow them to control, by superior force, the dining room.

If you were in this position, what would your mind set be with regard to the family in your living room?  What would you feelings be toward the home owners association?  What about your feelings toward the police?

How do you think the nations of the Middle East feel about Israel?  How do you think they feel about the United Nations?  What about how they feel about the United States?

Do not confuse this with me supporting the idea of wiping Israel off the face of the Earth.  My point is not to make villains out of the Israelis.  In fact, out of the gate, I don’t have any problems with the Israelis at all.  They did not ask for their lot in life, they did not ask for a holocaust or the treatment they have received around the globe.  I have issues with the way they have conducted themselves (just as I do with the way the Palestinians have conducted themselves), but not issues with the Israelis themselves.  What I feel, is compassion for them.

My point in writing this is simply to illustrate the point of view from the other side in a more personally relevant way.  It is my belief that once you have an understanding of where the other side is coming from, you can identify with them, and subsequently open a dialog that might lead to a resolution.

Whether or not you agree with the interpretation above, it is no less valid in the minds of the people inhabiting that particular house, forbidden to freely use their dining room, unable to have a grievance heard, and unable to do anything on their own to effectively rectify the problem.  And that is the important part, because that is the mind set of the people that are on one side of this particular issue.

If you were in that position, what would you do, and how “radical” would your words sound?

Just something to think about, the next time a presidential candidate starts singing “bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran”, or talking about “perverse and hateful ideologies or radical Islam”.

The Senate, and Treaties, and Courts… oh my!!!!

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 3:29 pm

Two days ago I wrote about the change in the US Senate that took place back in 1912. My point was that, if the Senate no longer represented the states, but rather the general populations of the states, they should not be solely empowered to ratify treaties entered into by the president.

Who knew that the very next day we would find just how frail the Senates abilities to represent the States was. A brief history:

- In 1969 The US entered into an international treaty that guaranteed foreign nationals the right to speak to diplomats from their home countries if they were accused of a crime.

– The Constitution clearly states that Treaties are the law of the land and that “the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby”.

– In 2004, because the US had not been following the terms of this treaty, Mexico took the US to court (International court) to force representation for the 51 Mexican citizens on death row in America who had not been granted this right.

– G Dubba’s response? Pull the United States out of the part of the treaty subjecting it to the jurisdiction of the International court (nice, huh?), and order the states to comply with the treaty for the 51 people involved in the suit (I believe, in today’s lexicon, that is called “throwing them a bone”).

– Texas said “uhhh… no. You don’t get to unilaterally pull out of a treaty, and then hold us liable for what it used to say, its not fair, and we’re not going to play with you anymore… or be your best friend” (they did not use those words…well… except unilaterally…they did use that one).

This brings us to yesterday, when the Supreme Court (jesters???) Sided with Texas on this issue and stated that because the treaty did not specifically say it was binding, and because there was no associated legislation stating the treaty was binding, it wasn’t. Huh? Technically, they said that the President cannot enforce the terms of the treaty, but that seems like po-tay-to po-tah-to to me. Who exactly is supposed to be enforcing the terms of a treaty, if states fail to comply, if not the President? Lets review that bit from the constitution again:

“All Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby…”

According to that, Texas should have been handling their business on their own for the past 38 years (give or take a few months). I cannot think of a single place where being reminded of your responsibilities excuses you from them… Texas, however, seems to have found this place, in the United States Supreme Court.

And what of the other existing treaties (the dissenting opinion states there are around 70 of them) that do not have such supporting language or legislation? Did the US Supreme Court not just make the entire world less safe for US citizens traveling abroad? Can any nation take any treaty entered into by the Unites Stated seriously at this point? If the Senate ratifies a treaty, are the states not bound to it by the constitution? If not… what is the point?

I was talking with a friend of mine about this, after hearing it all he responded by saying:

I keep hoping that there is more here than I understand, and some good and meaningful purpose for all of this, however in reality, I am increasingly afraid that there isn’t

That sums up quite nicely how I feel right now… confused and afraid. Not exactly what your government is supposed to inspire in its citizens… is it?

March 25, 2008

Even at the risk of being heroes…

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations — sbj @ 5:40 pm

Sometimes in life, you have to “throw yourself under the bus” as the phrase goes. In other words, if you have strong convictions about something, you find it necessary to stand up for it, even in the face of strong opposition or ridicule. At least, this is how I was raised, and what I believe.

I was reminded of a movie quote I have always liked last week. It is from “A Man For All Seasons” and the scene involves a man explaining to his daughter why he is unable to swear allegiance to someone he does not believe in, even when he must pay personally for that conviction.

But look now. If we lived in a state where virtue was profitable… …common sense would make us saintly. But since we see that avarice, anger, pride and stupidity… …commonly profit far beyond charity, modesty, justice and thought… …perhaps we must stand fast a little… …even at the risk of being heroes.

The opportunity to embody this concept has presented itself to me many times throughout my life, and I have always tried (and sometimes failed) to rise to the occasion. One recent example of this would be my “anti-Obama” post from last week. In the face of what is widely heralded as one of the best speeches of our generation (acclaim that I agree with, by the way) I felt the need to state my feelings about one small aspect of the speech that I found troubling. I have received quite a bit of negative feedback as a result, but, I’m fine with that. First of all, it makes me feel good to think that the man I will be voting for in November has such strident supporters. Additionally, the more discussion it creates, the more it has accomplished its mission.

But I digress… there are much larger and more prominent examples of this throughout history. We do not need to go beyond the history of our relatively young country to find example after example…

In 1955 Rosa Parks began a domino effect of change in the nation and world by simply remaining in her seat and refusing to surrender it to a white passenger. Among the many results of her actions was the coming of age of a young activist named Martin Luther King during the ensuing Montgomery Bus Boycott. By standing her ground, despite the absolute certainty of personal inconvenience or harm, Rosa Parks changed the world, and is now known as the “mother of the modern day civil rights movement”

In 1848, Elizabeth Cady Stanton helped organize and hold the first Women’s Rights Convention. For that convention, she wrote a Declaration of Sentiments which in essence formalized and launched the women’s movement in this country.

Not everything needs to be a protest, battle or stand, either. Good people, doing good things, offering random acts of kindness and consideration make a difference every day. Yesterday, I linked to a great story about how the movie Pay it Forward was effecting peoples lives years after the its release. The concept was not original to that movie and is in fact credited back at least as far as Benjamin Franklin. Today, and everyday, Rachel’s Challenge fosters that legacy of hope, summed up best in the following quote from one of Rachel Scott’s high school essays:

“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion then it will start a chain reaction of the same”

All of these people, and so many others like them (i.e. Thurgood Marshall, Rodolfo Gonzales too name just two) have something in common, they stood for something. They had a belief and stuck to it, and worked to make a difference in the world.

All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men (or women) to do nothing.

What do you believe in, and how are you manifesting that belief in the world?

Beware Hondurans bearing fruit????

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 3:18 pm

In the Pacific North West, currently, there is a recall on cut cantaloupe. They are being recalled because they are giving people salmonella (so if you live in the PNW and you have some in your fridge, you might want to toss it). According to the report I read ( here) “At least 50 people in 16 states have become ill from eating cantaloupes…”

What caught my attention, however, was where the cantaloupe was coming from. It appears the fruit I buy off the shelves here in little Boise Idaho, is imported from Honduras. Who knew? I don’t have an issue with Honduran fruit, I’m sure its quite good (in fact, it appears I may be somewhat of an expert in this area, without my own knowledge), but I do think, when it comes to “fresh” fruit, that I prefer the local variety.

Now I am wondering what other things I assume are domestic products are actually imports. I was able to accept that my computer guts were coming from overseas, but I’m not so sure I’m excited about the prospect of the stuff going into my gut being an import. I’m just say’n.

March 24, 2008

Pay it Forward

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations — sbj @ 7:00 pm

One of the great things I have discovered about Twitter is that serves as a magical gateway that takes me to fabulous unexpected places. Many of the people I follow on Twitter are as a result of me poking into their blogs after seeing something entertaining they have posted on the public time line. If you have an interesting blog, I follow you… the end.

One of the folks I follow on Twitter posted the following blog entry last night:


What I really enjoyed about it, is that the subject of the blog is a movie that was released 8 years ago, but the context is still very much relevant today, something she managed to convey in both concept and by way of example.

Anyway, enough of my blathering, go read her blog… and enjoy :)

Progressive Era???

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 3:56 pm

I guess it depends on your perspective, but, at best, I think it has a 2-2 record on constitutional amendments, I’d give it 1-3.

Womens right to vote – clearly a winner

Directly elected Senate – Some (perhaps most) would call this a winner, however, they lose me here.

Income tax – Ick, aren’t there better ways to make a buck?

Prohibition – Duh

What I’m most curious about, however, is the 1911/12 decision to change the Senate from being a body that represented the States Rights to being a body that served the general populations interests, making it a glorified House of Representatives.

I can see where, due to corruption , changes needed to be made, however I do not think that the rights of the states, such a tenant of our government, should have been so completely discarded (baby, bath water… ring any bells?). I find it difficult to believe that with all of the learned men and women in Congress, noone was able to come up with some way to preserve this.

Perhaps having the state legislatures handle this was not the way to go, but couldn’t we come up with something?

Assuming for a moment that this change made sense, shouldn’t we have also taken a look at the special powers grated to the Senate. For example, only the Senate, by virtue of being representatives of the states rather than the general population, was given the power to ratify treaties entered into by the President. Within the new structure shouldn’t the House be involved in this process as well?

To me this all seems a bit piecemeal and just not completely thought out. However, I recognize I may be missing something… any one want to shed some light on this for me?

March 23, 2008

Violence in Movies, etc.

Filed under: Movie Reviews,Observations — sbj @ 6:38 pm

Maybe, just maybe I’ve been being a bit presumptuous. Perhaps there really isn’t more sensationalism in movies etc. today. Perhaps they do not feel they need to make everything bigger, stronger, faster and more lethal than in the past.

Okay, lets be honest, I never had any of those thoughts. If you have read my blog with any consistency you are aware of my issues with the growing need of our society to abuse the language to make a simple point.

But I did run across something the other day that reinforced all of these beliefs in me, so I wanted to share it with you.

Right before its release, the LA Times ran a feature on the newest Rambo movie. Included in that piece was the following chart pointing out the violence in those movies as they progressed. (side note: if you were to check the overall movie critics scores, I suspect you might find an inverse trend line, but I have not done this myself.)

Rambo Chart from LA Times

I’m pretty sure those numbers speak for themselves. It seems pretty clear to me where things are going. 2.59 people killed per minute, how is “people killed per minute” even a statistic!?!?!?  I did an informal and non-numeric based evaluation of the die hard movies the night before last, watching the first one and then the most recent release back to back… same phenomenon.

This is probably a big part of the reason I was so fond of I am Legend (my oh so brief review here).  The main character does not run around killing recklessly throughout the movie, in fact he only kills when it is necessary.  To me a movie like this is a breath of fresh air in todays society.  It’s still a zombie movie, etc. but it does a 180 degree turn on all of the trends that I have seen, not just in Hollywood but in our society as a whole.

But, hey, at least the number of scenes in which good guys are tortured is being reduced.  And the bad guys aim is getting better, thats something gotta be worth… right?

March 20, 2008

Quickie… and kinda cool…

Filed under: Cool stuff,Just life — sbj @ 12:03 am

Check this out. Something I wish I had done when I was young… now you (yes, you) can help someone else do it.


March 19, 2008

More Obama…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 5:54 pm

It has come to my attention… well… actually, a lot has come to my attention since my last post.

Most if it does not merit response.  However, the following does.

It has been suggested, and, upon further review, I am forced to agree, that my previous post does not properly convey my feelings that the speech yesterday was, in fact, a great speech.  While I still take exception to the short excerpt that I spoke out on.. on the whole I was overwhelmed with the depth of Mr. Obama’s grasp of the issue of race, and even moreso his ability to articulate it.

That is all… Soren… out!

Oh oh Obama…

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 4:05 pm

I guess it had to happen. At some point I was going to be disenchanted with Barack Obama. That comment is at the same time both an overstatement and an understatement. I am not, in fact disenchanted with him on the whole. He is still absolutely my candidate of choice, and that is not a matter of being the lesser of evils, I truly believe in this man and his potential. However, I am absolutely furious about the careless, reckless, and completely out of character (at least the character I have painted for him) comment he made in an otherwise good speech yesterday. The comment in question:

a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam

Mr. Obama, of all people, should not need to be educated in the problem of that statement. Lets ignore the somewhat debatable issue of whether Israel should even be considered one of our “stalwart allies” for the time being. It can be stated as fact that “perverse and hateful radical ideologies” are far from limited to Islam. This is a call to emotion, at best, and smacks more of fear mongering and political gamesmanship.

The low hanging fruit, of course, is to point to Oklahoma City, the Unibomber, even Columbine as examples of “terrror” from non Islamic sources. In Oklahoma City, two men, feeling powerless against what they viewed as a oppressive, omnipotent government (based on the handling of Ruby Ridge and Waco) tried to effect change in the only way they could imagine having an impact. Ted Kazinski (sp?) Was certain that the world was headed down a path of destruction based on the relentless pursuit of technology. He tried to have his voice heard in “the land of the free” but it was not. Fearful for the future of the human race, while, again, feeling powerless, he tried to force people to see the error of their ways in a desperate attempt to “save people from themselves”.

Please do not confuse this as support for these people or their actions, because, it is not. I believe completely in non-violent protest or demonstration, and could not oppose these actions more ardently. However, the point is this. What they are, each and everyone, is an extremist with perverse (and maybe even hateful, the jury is still out on that one) ideologies.

From what I can tell, based on the slice of the evidence that I have been provided, Mr. Bin Laden is also an extremist with perverse ideologies. Some of the occupants of Palestine, and other Islamic nations (yes, I consider Palestine a nation) have also taken part in extreme activities (as have the Israelis and the United States, in my opinion). The fact that they are Islamic, however, has nothing to do with that.

Being identifiable as “black” and “mulatto” and any number of other labels that come with generalities and stereotypes that do not apply to him, I would expect Mr. Obama to be more mindful his word choice.

Am I nitpicking a at minor undercurrent of his overall speech? Quite probably. However, I am staking a great deal on this man. A man I believe in greatly, a man who represents a promise to restore what this country once was, or at least what it is capable of being. In that context, I find this mistake/oversight to be egregious.

Curse you Sony Wii

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 3:54 pm

Curse you and your &^%#* “victory tune” which this morning, 16 hours after playing, I cannot get out of my head!!

A pox on you, and you game designing brethren!!!

(okay not really a pox… but… maybe a sniffle???)

March 17, 2008

A short walk, with a gem…

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 8:11 pm

After lunch today I had the pleasure of meeting Ruby Stone a 17 year veteran of the Idaho State Legislature (House of Representatives).  Ruby is not as young as she once was, and, in theory, would not be as attuned to the events going on around her.  My friend Joy and I were walking her to the State House (okay, Joy was, I just met up with them along the way and hung around for the ride).

At any rate, we were walking and talking and generally enjoying ourselves when Ruby stopped on a dime and bent over, as if to pick something up.  Both Joy and myself looked but neither of us could see what she was looking at.

What she produced was a (rather small) nail that was lying half buried in a pile of dust and dirt.  Holding the nail aloft she said “better that we pick it up than it wind up in someone’s tire”.

So much for “in theory”.

Perhaps this level of attentiveness explains why she enjoyed a 17 year run as a state Representative.   There is more than one lesson to be learned here. I hope you enjoy the voyage of discovery that this little story provides.  I know I have…

Thanks Ruby!

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