April 30, 2008

This too shall pass…

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 4:40 pm

loud strange noises,
harsh garish noises,
and light.

yet growing,
the light makes me squint,
slightly at first,
then more and more,
it is so bright!

A breeze
it is cool,
I am cold.

I wonder,
is this a new smell,
or lack of the old,
so many smells,

so much to consider,
so much to understand,
shall I…
shall I…



Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 3:23 pm

Okay, everyone else is doing it, so I’m going to talk for a minute or two and about Reverend Wright and all that he supposedly means.

First of all, I am going to say, to my favorite candidate and the person I will be voting for in November “shame on you, Barack, shame on you.” Do I know that at times you have to play the game, yes. Does that make it okay in every case? No, not in my opinion. I read a quote from Obama where he essentially said that Wrights comments were unfounded.

This actively defeats the purpose of his brilliant speech on race given a few short weeks ago. Wright is angry for a reason. He represents a group of people who are angry for a reason, and have every reason to curse the institutions that enslaved them, as well and the country that enabled this slavery. Moreover, since a significant number of people in this country today (see this post for real life examples from last week) have not let go of their bigotry, that anger is constantly being renewed. The comments may have been unsavory, inappropriate or offensive, but, be that as it may… they were constructed on a foundation of legitimacy.

Dear Bigots, racists, and other narrow minded people:

If you don’t want people speaking poorly of you, stop behaving poorly. It’s a simple process, really.


Obama was correct in his “A More Perfect Union” speech. There is an issue of bigotry and injustice and the oppressed are angry about it. The oppressed are not just black, brown, yellow or green, they are white too… and those people are a bit pissed off as well.

I get very tired of hearing people saying “if you don’t like this country, get out”. Don’t they realize what hypocrites they are being by making that statement. The point of this country is that if you don’t like something you have the right, nay, the responsibility, to say, and do, something about it. If you don’t like this country, get up off your ass and do something about it… now *that* is, or at least should be, a real American response. Talking about how great your country is and how the rest of the world should be more like the U.S., and then acting like you live in a place where freedom of speech is prohibited is just stupid.

Reverend Wright should speak up, certainly in less colorful terms*, but he should speak up. Poor under represented white immigrants should speak up, and be spoken for (perhaps by their pastors amongst others), maybe thrown their own little tea party. That’s what this country was founded on, what made it great, and can keep it that way.

* My issue with Reverend Wrights approach is this. While the anger he is expressing is legitimate, he is working and advocating a negative solution and fostering an adversarial mind set. You can acknowledge something as “wrong” without compounding the problem. In lashing out and encouraging his followers to lash out as well, he is wasting an opportunity to effect positive change, both in mind set and action. This approach is why Reverend Wright, despite being motivated by the same historical context, will never have streets named after him throughout the country. MLK had it figured out, all Reverend Wright had to do was follow that blueprint and he could have actually be a constructive force for positive change.

April 29, 2008

That’s my story…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 4:08 pm

A couple of days ago an online friend of mine entered into an online argument (taking on all comers, including, we shall later see, myself) regarding Danica Patrick’s recent “historic” racing victory.

His, quite valid, point was that she did not win the race by being a woman, or in spite of being a woman, she won the race because of her superior skill (and that of her racing team, despite what it may look like, racing is not an individual sport). As such, he opined, people should not be making a big deal, regarding gender, about the significance of her win.

He had several protracted arguments on this issue, our discussion was much shorter:

I stated my position as such:

I completely agree with your base premise, however #42 did some good things that can only be identified on a racial canvas

overcoming negative and exclusive preconceptions is a very important undertaking and *that* deserves some attention

He replied thusly:

I agree, I think we should all categorize people based on ethnicity and gender. That way we don’t have to focus on individual skill.

I countered with this:

thats not what I said :) I agree with what you are saying, but there are bigots out there that need to see it to believe it, making the convo. relevant

Our “debate” ended right there, short simple and to the point.

I bring this up, because there is another gender line potentially being crossed in L.A. and this one probably deserves some attention. Five years after Hollywood decided that it would be appropriate to have a woman on the historic Los Angeles S.W.A.T. team (they were the first such team ever assembled, in part as a result of the Watts riots), and 14 years after losing a sexual discrimination judgment for keeping Nina Acosta out of their “good old boys network”, S.W.A.T. is on the verge of having its first female member.

This is newsworthy, because she is a woman, and I will not apologize for saying so. Today, in 2008, there are still pockets of ignorance and denial throughout our country and throughout the world. Enclaves of the callow and bastions of bigotry where certain genders, races, religions (etc.) are considered inferior until proven equal. As I pointed out to my friend, while a person being a woman does not make her any more or less qualified for the job; and while gender, in and of itself, should not be newsworthy, the message that women can do the job, and do it well, still is. Preconceived exclusivity based on antiquated and obviously mistaken notions simply does not have a place in our world. Accomplishments therefore need to be broadcast, shouted and exhorted until this simple truth transforms itself into common knowledge.

That’s my story, and I’m stick’n to it.

April 26, 2008

I’m just say’n…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 6:48 pm


How can I make the world better? (first edition)

Filed under: Make the world better,Observations — sbj @ 5:33 pm

For the past couple of weeks, in a variety of venues, I have started my day by telling people I am working on ways to improve the world and asking if they had any suggestions. The variety of the answers has been remarkable. It probably goes without saying that I have not been able to honor every request (especially ones put out to social media sites), but it has been fun reading, listening and implementing (some of) them. I think I will continue this practice for a while and from time to time write about a few of the requests and how they went. Please feel free to comment if you have any suggestions!

Here are a couple of the suggestions thus far:

From Twitter I received the request to “perhaps you could assault religion as the evil it is?” I was not able to completely comply on this one (I have issues with a lot of organized religion stands for and does, but not religion as a whole). But, I did produce this blog

Is that blog going to change the world, no. But, if it makes a couple of people think, and opens their minds a bit… that could be the start of a positive transformation. I’ll settle for that :)

Via email I received the following request: “Work on shifting the daily negativity in our society toward positivity”. After responding “that will never work ;) ” I got busy!!! The first thing I did was rekindle my own interest in a project that was supposed to get off the ground a month ago, with any luck it will be rolling within the next couple of weeks. Here is a teaser from the “about” page:

Many people think of gratitude as something that comes at the end of a process. Sort of an “end of the day” emotion. Certainly there are elements in our societal training that condition us to believe that we need something to be grateful for, in order to be grateful. What we would like to suggest to you is that gratitude is the fertile soil from which accomplishment blooms. Gratitude is, in fact, the “beginning of the day”.

I then launched Operation Constant Compliment ™ my own personal challenge to myself to extend no less than one compliment per hour that I am awake every day. So far I am well ahead of the curve, and it feels fantastic!!!! Look for more on this effort soon :)

Last Tuesday morning, I stopped at a light by a man with a card board sign (I’m sure you can imagine the rest of the picture). I thought he might have some insight, so involved him in my process. His response surprised me:

“If you want to make the world a better place, you’d better not give me money. However, you should give me a ride, and be prepared to spend a little.”

This was interesting enough for me to take him up on his (rather cryptic) suggestion. He hopped in, and we headed out. We went exactly one block and he said turn left, so I did, in to the Albertson’s parking lot. He then marched me up to the customer service counter and instructed them that we needed a gift certificate in the amount of… At this point he looked at me for a number, and I replied (somewhat to my own surprise) $100. I had just had a very good night playing poker and was already of the mind that I should share some of my good fortune, however I did not anticipate donating that large a sum of money, especially since at this point I was not exactly sure where the money was even going to go. From there we hopped back into the truck and headed out. He navigated me to a shelter in downtown Boise and asked if I had a problem with him making the donation. A request I quickly concented to. About five minutes later he came back to the car, and offered me the receipt, so I would know he had actually given it to the shelter, I declined. I took him to breakfast, dropped him off and headed back to work.

Did this make the world better… I’m not sure. But I’m sure it had to have had a positive effect on the volunteers at that particular shelter, seeing one of their “patrons” giving back when he had the chance. I know it gave me an infusion of hope.

I think that is enough for today, you get the idea. Again, please share any ideas you have… I’m wide open to suggestion and excited, dedicated and motivated to do as much as I can!!!

April 25, 2008

This is a teaser…

Filed under: A life worth living,Cool stuff,Observations — sbj @ 5:03 pm

About something completely new. Come back here or follow me on Twitter for more details.

Many people think of gratitude as something that comes at the end of a process. Sort of an “end of the day” emotion. Certainly there are elements in our societal training that condition us to believe that we need something to be grateful for, in order to be grateful. What we would like to suggest to you is that gratitude is the fertile soil from which accomplishment blooms. Gratitude is, in fact, the “beginning of the day”.

April 24, 2008

My Challenge to You…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 4:48 pm

This post is going to piss some people. Those of you who sometimes get upset by my posts, especially when they have something to do with religion (you know who you are)… flee. Run away now, and do not look back.


I think religion is losing its strangle hold on it’s role of opiate for the masses. As the guidance system for the nations morals, the compass of our conscience, and, in some peoples view, the primary impediment to logical, rational and free thinking, spirituality is starting to fail.

A growing number of people are publicly renouncing traditional faith based religions. Atheists, Wiccans, and Agnostics are just a couple of examples of alternatives to the study and adherence to the conduct code found in the Bible.

However, most people seem to need some sort of authority, so were does that leave us? Who is the rising star in the game of providing meaning and purpose to the lives of insecure and uninspired humans. Certainly something has to fill this role.

World, meet the media… media, this is the world.

Ah, I see you two know each other.

There is a critical and growing mass of our society that relies on the media (and by that I mean all media, newspapers, movies, tv, radio… all of it) to set their moral compass. Relying on what todays “expert” tells them are good policies, good morals and good codes of conduct.

- in 2002 USAToday reported “that about 90% of parents say TV programs are getting worse every year because of bad language and adult themes in shows that air from 8-10pm”

- A 2004 study published in Pediatrics magazine showed that, basically, kids with a higher exposure to TV were almost twice as likely then kids with a lower exposure to initiate sexual intercourse.

- By the age of 18 a typical US youth will have seen 16,000 simulated murders and 200,000 acts of violence. – American Psychiatric Association

- The average youth living in the US watches TV 25 hours a week and plays computer games an additional 7 hours – American Psychiatric Association

- Children younger than 8 “cannot uniformly discriminate between real life and fantasy/entertainment… they quickly learn that violence is an acceptable solution to resolving even complex problems, particularly if the agressor is the hero”. – American Academy of Pediatrics

You get the idea, I could go on for hours.

So, we, as a society are moving away from a stable, established and static set of guidelines, toward an ever changing, more violent and more sexual model. I’m trying to reconcile how I feel about this.

Clearly, those stats up there do not point toward an improving society. However, for society to improve, don’t we need to be dynamic rather than static? From my perspective, we do, and that is the root of my problem with most forms of religion today.

Mind you, I am not against spirituality, in fact I am a big fan. However, organized religion seems to be lacking in the very spirituality it is supposed to be built upon. What I get from my experiences with organized religion is a set of fear based marching orders (sounds kind of like a Bush Government, doesn’t it) on how to live my life. Marching orders even the churches in question do not seen to do a very good job of adhering to.

There are certainly exceptions, but this is what my general experiences have been. This continued experience, which I cannot help but think is shared by a growing number of people, is a large part of why I think the media is garnering the momentum it is in todays society. If you create a vacuum of leadership and inspiration, someone or something is going to fill that void. The more sensational that something, the more readily it is going to be accepted. It doesn’t get much more sensational than the ever devolving nature of public media.

There are some good answers out there and my challenge to you is to go out and find them. Turn off the TV, stop going to zombie movies (how many of them do you really need to see, seriously; watch I am Legend and then quit on a high note!), and stop listening to degrading, sexist, violent music. Find a cause you believe in. Find balanced news or commentary to rally around. Find yourself.

Decide to be a force for, and an example of, “good”… and then do it. You don’t need TV, or a Bible, for that.

April 23, 2008

How my son made me a better person this week…

Filed under: A life worth living,Observations — sbj @ 3:14 pm

Last Thursday my son came to me and asked if we could go to a program about displaced children in Africa. Obviously (I think obviously????) I would have moved heaven and earth to make this happen, fortunately, I didn’t have to, it just came together quite nicely. The program was last night and it was really good.

The organization is called Invisible Children and the cause is worthy.

They have made a series of documentary movies (one of which, Black is for Sunday, was shown last night) and have hosted or encouraged “displace me” rallies, where people displace themselves for a night in solidarity with the displacement villages in Africa. Through these projects they have generated a significant amount of awareness and actually nudged congress into action. At one of their “displace me” rallies, a synchronized rally nationwide, over 75,000 people participated.

However, the project that really struck me was their bracelet project. This is progress in action. They have created jobs, income and (moderate) stability for part of the displaced population. The bracelets are made in Uganda, in the displacement camps by the residents. The profits of their sale here in the United States, and in other countries as well, go directly back to the displacement camps for schools and food. Recently they started a line of purses as well (the bracelets are available online, the purses are not… yet).

My son and I bought bracelets while we were there, my son also, independently, made a sizable donation without an associated purchase and is calling a “rival” area school this week to see if he can participate in their “displace me” rally this Friday. All in all, this was an evening well spent.

Please, check out the web site. I know not everyone reading this is able to give money or buy a bracelet, but if you have a blog, and are inspired by what you see these kids doing, write about it, the power of your message is very valuable. I get roughly 120-150 unique visitors a day on my blog, if I can get 5 of them to write about this, I can (using tried and true viral marketing tactics, probably touch over 1000 people by the end of the day, that is my objective.

I don’t ask for much in my blog, but I am asking for something here… will you help?

April 22, 2008

Extraordinary Popular Delusions…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 9:54 pm

Over the weekend a friend of mine wrote a blog post about her experience working a volunteer booth. I am going to focus on a small portion of it. During the conversation they began discussing who they would vote for in the upcoming Presidential election. The man she was speaking to indicated that he would vote for McCain, since they had at least casually agreed on most of their conversation to that point this seemed a little strange to my friend, so she inquired as to why. This was his response:

“Cuz I’m not gonna vote for a nigger or a chick”

Later, when the inappropriate use of those words was pointed out, he tried the old Called-On-The-Carpet-Two-Step (TM) of trying to flip the situation by accusing her of judging him based on his words. He went on to say that (paraphrased in her words) “that was stupid, words have power and should be used”.

Before I go on, let me make the simple point that I take exception to his basic premise, on many levels. Here is a short non-inclusive list, for your convenience:

1. While words do have power, that does not necessarily mean they should be used. Fire is very powerful, and as we all know from elementary school, should not be used in a crowded theater if there is, in fact, no fire.

2. The power contained in words is not created equal. Actually, that’s not true, the power is created equal, however what we do with words, as a society, changes all of that. Nigger has undergone such a conversion. While “cute” and convenient in the face of a 5’2″ (that is a guess, I do not know how tall she actually is) white person, I can ensure you he would not have used that word around me and my rather large black friends. He is choosing his spot to use a word and using a false argument (or at lease one that he would not have the courage to stand behind in the face of a more hostile audience) to support his actions when he was called on it.

3. When used to advance yourself (or a group you belong to) or set back another (or a group they belong to) it is not called “power” it is called “oppression”.

Lets take a minute and talk about the “power” of his chosen words.

The word “chick”, in this usage, is dismissive and invalidating. Regardless of whether you take the literal connotative meaning (a cute, young, helpless thing) or the offhanded categorical connotative meaning (an insignificant, unqualified, lesser person) what you are getting is a heavy dose of disrespect. Fortunately for him, women are so accustomed to this type of abuse that the fight, for the most part, has been taken out of them. Similarly, even “enlightened” men are so desensitized by centuries of this verbal proliferation of dismissal that they do not notice it, let alone act upon it.

Black folk, well, they have not quite come around to “our” way of thinking just yet. Say nigger in front of the wrong person, and you can absolutely count on dialing 911 for someone in the very near future. “Enlightened” people are also not so desensitized in this area, and will certainly, at the very least, speak out against such things.

So, in this case, the power of his words are defined by his audience, not by the words themselves. They have, depending on circumstance, the ability to intimidate and alienate, or the ability to avail him to the stitching services of a good doctor. I, personally would not call either of those “powerful” in a positive sense, but, I prefer to use my powers for good, not evil… so my mind set may be a bit different than the person of whom we are speaking.

Of course, for him, either reaction puts him in the winners circle, when you evaluate the big picture. If the woman recoils, retreats, or acquiesces she is further solidifying the “chick” stereotype he is advancing. If a man (or woman) of color lashes out against him, he, again, gets support in perpetuating the stereotype he is alleging. He may lose either battle, but in doing so, makes progress in the war.

As for the individual making these comments, I believe he was trying to fire a preventative shot across the bow. Trying to create an atmosphere where inferred commonalities create a state of mental cohesion and eliminate the need for actual discourse on the issues or qualifications surrounding the candidates he was attempting to dismiss. If you can get someone to quickly consent to your position by way of agreeing to an unrelated (and in this case invalid) sentiment, you can continue on with your conclusion unfettered (see “The Patriot Act” for a very effective example of this on a much larger scale).

It is unfortunate that, in the year 2008, we still are dealing with these nuances of bigotry in our everyday lives.


I do have reason for hope, because the general mood and disposition of the country is moving away from those expressed by this individual.

I do have reason for hope, because people like my friend will stand resolute in the face of this type of subtle violence and act without validating the stereotypes it seeks to reinforce.

I do have reason for hope, because we actually have a nigger and a chick running neck and neck to be the Democratic presidential candidate, and they both have a very legitimate chance of winning the November general election.

Those, would be words with power…

Social marketing of blogs…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 9:35 pm

There is an interesting social experiment going on over here. The premise is that the author of that web site will be interviewing one blogger from each state and, of course, in doing so generate traffic for that persons blog, while providing insight and varied perspectives on blogging for their readers.

Needless to say, a big part of that traffic will be the traffic driven to the interview site by links on the interviewee web sites, so in effect this site is facilitating a traffic sharing consotium as well as providing any traffic it is able to generate on its own. Having seen the power of this type of traffic sharing effort before, I’m going to give it a whirl and see how much traction it provides.

Wish me luck kids, I’m going in!!!

April 20, 2008

What would you fight for?

Filed under: A life worth living,Cool stuff,Observations — sbj @ 3:20 am

About eight years ago my family and I were hanging out at my parents house playing a game. I do not remember the name of the game, and it does not really matter because we were not playing it correctly. Our method involved reading the questions from the game and then taking turns answering them out loud to the group. Eventually the following question was posed:

If you were in the middle of an ugly contentious divorce, what one thing would you fight for until the bitter end.

I wish I could write something to improve on this story, something to add some depth or meaning. However, the truth be known, my grandfather told it best, with his simple two word answer, the first time around… “My wife”.

April 19, 2008

There is something about a snowflake

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 5:14 pm

There is something about a snowflake…

As it falls, it lacks the urgency or rush of a drop of rain.  Its path is not linear nor does it feel compelled to move along once it reaches earth.  The snowflake ambles, glides, and eases down to the earth.

Once in the company of its brethren, the snowflake is a social creature quite pleased with the idea of hanging out and waiting for the sun to come along and encourage it to get back to its travels.

People play *in* the rain, by contrast, people play *with* the snow.  Snowflakes are participatory, they like to be involved.  Whether they are lending themselves to provide protective services in the form of a snow wall or an igloo, entertainment services encouraging children of all ages to careen out of control on home made toboggan runs, or demonstrating their usefulness as a reentry vehicle in the midst of a snowball fight, snowflakes are in the action, not just around it.

Despite these extroverted tendencies, however, a snowflakes time with us is always fleeting.  Extremely sensitive to heat, snowflakes play and exists best in a colder climate.  As things heat up, we see less and less of this oh so casual white water.

There is something about a snowflake… that’s a lot like me…

April 18, 2008

A Walk in the Park…

Filed under: A life worth living,Cool stuff,Observations — sbj @ 7:32 pm

Today at lunch, I went for a short walk.

This walk took me, diagonally, through the little park in front of Idaho’s Capitol building. The park is about 1/4 of a block by 1/4 of a block. Here is what happened to me on that short constitutional.

As I entered the park, to my left was a young woman with three elementary school aged girls:

Girl: … She was just mean.

Woman: Well, you girls will just have to be the bigger people and not react to or behave like that.

Immediately past them, and to my right was a young couple (her clearly breaking from an office job, he clearly having brought the children down to meet her for lunch) enjoying a picnic lunch on a quilt (yeah, a real quilt… who has those handy anymore!).

Further into the park was a group of school children playing, laughing and playing games I have long since forgotten the names of, but I still believe, in my head, that I could compete! Put me in coach, I’m ready to play (after a few warm up stretches, a brief jog and a large dose of electrolytes)!!!

Beyond them are two women, probably mid-thirties early forties (but who can really tell ages anymore). They are dressed entirely in business attire, except for the baseball mitts on their hands and the softball darting back and forth between them.

As I prepare to leave the park, I run into an ex boyfriend of and ex best friend, neither of which I have seen in at least 15 years. We talk for about 20 minutes, catching up on many many years.

I guess you could say… I took a long walk, through a small park…

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 4:13 pm

I guess this is my week to jump into other peoples battles. On Twitter, last night, there was an extended “debate” about the pro’s and cons of sending mail off to the troops overseas. More specifically about a letter writing campaign designed to create pen pals for troops.

The affirmative was taken up by @MailOurMilitary The representative for the web site EmailOurMilitary.com, a volunteer organization that matches military personnel looking for penpals with supportive people back home who want to support the troops in this way. Here is a clip from their web site:

Our troops deserve our respect, encouragement and admiration for their tireless dedication to keeping us safe and secure. As they are separated from their loved ones at home, your participation through eMail Our Military gives our troops the support they need and deserve.

Representing the negative @NoahDavidSimon an artist and outspoken advocate for, well, lots of stuff! Mr Simon posted this entry into the debate last night. Here is what I believe he is trying to say:

It would be dangerous and bad for the moral for soldiers actively serving in the field to receive mail that protests what they are doing. By extension this might put them in harms way and be costly and counterproductive toward efforts to support and bring them home.

I agree with this, in fact, I think it comes very close to being considered a “no-brainer”. Where Mr. Simon goes wrong, in my opinion, is that 1) angst and derision is not the way to communicate this message (it took considerable effort to dig through it to find what I believe to be his real message) and 2) I do not think he is taking into consideration the matching effort going into eMOM’s work.

People “apply” to correspond with troops and that is when matches are made. Extensive contact information is maintained and any inappropriate communications are reported immediately (well, they would be if there had been any; however, to-date, there have not). I know this… because I asked :)
In other words, these are not a bunch of peace mongers (no offense to peace mongers, I’m one of them) trying to tell the troops they are doing a bad thing. These are a bunch of people who really want to be supportive and provide positive, uplifting moral support for the boys and girls in the field, exactly the opposite of when Mr Simon is concerned about. While it is true that demotivated troops perform poorly, it is also true that motivated troops perform better.

Like myself, many people who do not support this war (or the “leaders” that created it) are still very supportive of our troops and want nothing more than to see them arrive home safely knowing that we had their backs the entire time they were gone… and that we will continue to support them after their return!!

I support eMailOurMilitary, it appears to be a fantastic and well thought out program. I also support protecting the troops from negative propaganda, which is what I believe Mr Simon is trying to do. I just do not see his concerns (or approach) being applicable in this case.

April 17, 2008

All I need is a programmer… a response from a non-programmer…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 9:09 pm

There is an interesting thread going on over here. The original piece (which I agree with, by and large) was about how programmers are frequently undervalued and even taken advantage of by the “business” people. Someone gets an idea and “just needs a programmer to implement it”. The authors point is that with out the programmer, there is no implementation of the idea. Further, programming is not easy, it requires great skill that these people have developed over years.

I have seen this to be true first hand. What is true of any number of “nuanced” things is also true of programming. Major League baseball pitchers are not successful because of their pitches, they are successful because of their knowledge of how to use them. There are a dozen (or more, probably many more) guys who can throw a 95 mile per hour fast ball or a killer 12 to 6 curve who never made it to the pros for every major league pitcher who did. There are hundreds of guys who can throw in the mid 80′s (I was one of them) who never even make it into a college program. The difference is that the Greg Madux’s (who’s fastball tops out in the mid eighties) and Rip Sewell (creator of the Eephus pitch which came in at under 60 miles per hour) have mastered their craft. For the same reason one stone mason can charge thousands of dollars for a project and another can only get a few hundred, good programmers are not “just” anything, except perhaps… exceptional.

Programming, like accounting, marketing, baseball, and masonry, at is basic level is not difficult. I can, and have, written programs in several languages. There are lots of great books that will tell you how to write the code to do what you want it to do. But I can assure you, you do not want me to be your programmer.

The problem is that I have one way (maybe two for some things) to solve a problem. Once the problem changes in nature, I’m back to the drawing board. An experienced programmer, by contrast, can anticipate changes and write code in innovative ways so that it is able to accommodate those changes down line. An experienced programmer can probably produced 15 or 20 ways to accomplish the thing for which I could, at best, come up with one or two solutions. They can solve that problem in this module, while creating a compatible module for another task, all the while keeping in mind the basic functionality of the core service. There is nothing two dimensional about programming, and a good programmer works in this multi-dimensional environment as well and comfortably as you and I drive our cars around town (in my case, probably better).A lead programmer is a “skill position”, just like a CEO, CFO or any other top level position. Not so much because they know what a hash or an associative array is, but because they know when, where, and how best to use them based on the situation. If you find one of these people, pay them well, share the equity of the company with them, and motivate them, just like you would a good CEO, to stay with the company.

The last thing you want to do at a key moment in the game is lose your starting pitcher and have to go to the bullpen…

April 16, 2008

To Arms, To Arms… The Pope is Coming!!!!

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 3:07 pm

The pope is visiting the white house today, and as a welcome he is getting… ready for this… a 21 gun salute. Yep… the pope, and 21 guns, only in America! Okay, not really only in America, the 21 gun salute is not actually an American invention (as you may well know).

The history of the 21 gun salute indicates that it is (or at least was, at some point) an act of contrition. Military vessels emptying their guns before entering ports, dropping their sails, laying down their arms etc. It is also the recognized historical way to welcome a foreign dignitary, form the same origins, making them feel safe by laying down or discharging your weapons. So I guess that makes some sense, but still, I think we could find a better way to welcome a Pope than with firearms.

Some traditions are just not worth keeping in all cases, and in my opinion this is one of them. For example, I also think it would be inappropriate to fire off 21 of our finest rounds when being visited by the leader of Japan… I think they have seen enough of our weaponry for this lifetime.

The world economy is becoming more and more global in nature. At the same time conflicts are becoming more and more localized (not that this fact stops certain nations from getting involved in local conflicts). By that, I mean you no longer have countries trying to overrun nation after nation to build an empire, more often you have countries segmenting and parts breaking away, impoverished or oppressed people revolting, or border clashes between neighboring nations. These trends indicate that we should, in general, be moving away from a military mind set and toward one of philanthropy, humanitarian service or at least one of commerce.

The default position should not be, here are our big guns which we are willing to lay down to you as a sign that we are safe. The default position should be that we are peaceful, helpful and interested in working together.

If the North and South Koreans, or India and Pakistan, or Israel and Palestine want to lay down their arms for each other, this is a solid and relevant gesture. The largest military entity in the world firing off a few rounds for the Pope, not so much so. The Pope should stand for peace and non-violence as much as anyone in the world… lets plant 21 trees, or feed 21 hungry people, or say 21 Hail Mary’s, or provide shelter for 21 homeless people, or, or, or, or… you get the idea…

Many customs and traditions are good, this one, I think, is due for a checkup.

Afterthought: I wonder if this post makes me elitist??? ;)

April 15, 2008

This is how we do it…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 11:40 pm

So… I am supposed to believe Obama is an elitist. Okay, lets say he is, what, exactly, in this case, does this mean. The accusations seem to indicate that he thinks he is better than the folks clinging to their bibles and their guns.

I cannot speak to the mans taste or affinity for firearms, but most people I talk to, on either side of the ledger, think he has stuck by, even clung to, his church. In fact, it is a common attack upon him that he stood by at that church over the years and stands by it today when he should have renounced it. Not only is he not viewing himself as better then “them”, in at least this one capacity, he is one of “them”.  Nor has he implied that having faith (or a few bullets) is a bad thing, simply that it is unfortunate that some people feel forced to find comfort because of the actions of others or the climate of the day.

I fail to see the problem with understanding how folks feel about things. I fail to see how being articulate and having the ability to identify how people react to adversity makes you elitist. I understand that it happens. I, myself, get criticized for identifying, I am called condescending and pandering, and who knows perhaps even elitist (although I have never heard that one said to my face… “pompous ass”, yes, elitist, no).

However, I have also received effusive praise from those who causes I have championed. Praise based on my understanding of their position. I have been told that I inspire hope in people who do not have enough of it to go around. Hope, because, if I can get it, and I can communicate it, perhaps others can and will as well.

What I have found, is that the people in my life who most resemble the people Obama spoke of, appreciate someone who can identify with them. This is includes relating to their strengths as well as their weaknesses, their victories as well as their defeats. If someone is to champion a cause, they must be able to understand that cause, and be able to articulate what that cause is needing and what that cause is about.

What Obama has done is demonstrate those particular talents. He has done so better, in my mind, than either of the other candidates. If that makes him elitist, well then, put me down for the elitist party. I like how they roll!

To be or not to be… That is Hillarys Question…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 10:35 pm

I read an interesting article today in which the author stated her opinion that should Hillary continue to stay in the race until the convention, rather than drop out as a growing number are encouraging her to do. I’m not going to say too much about the article here, as I commented there and I don’t want to repeat the same thing in both places (read: if you want to know what I said, go check out the article and read the comments).

Fair warning: If you do elect to go check it out, and you are not interested in peoples personal flame wars, or a study in how fast relitively intelligent conversation can spiral into inane playground banter, you might want to avoid all but the first response posts (the first posts by bother were interesting) by Mary Rose and Tony (at least I think his name was Tony).

Anyway, check it out, its an interesting read, and the comments are worth a gander as well.

PS – it appears that the site in question is identifying my comments as spam for some reason, so i have put them in the comments of this post if anyone wants to read them.

When Two Sides Go To War – The Golden Rule v. An Eye for an Eye

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 6:44 pm

I read an fascinating interview today. You can find it and read it here if you like. In the interview a woman from Kuwait discusses Sharia, Islam, and the evolution of culture in Kuwait.

The interview ends with this quote, which I found particularly interesting, especially coming from a (former) Muslim:

“Muslims should learn how to treat others, as they want others to treat them. When they allow Sheikhs and Mullahs to mock Christians and Jews and dub them as apes and pigs on their pulpits before every Friday prayer, and no one dares to protest, then they should expect to see pictures of Muhammad with a bomb turbine, because this is the world image of Muslims today, whether we like it or not. And if they care to change this image they should start first by changing themselves.”

I have not, in recent recollection read a single paragraph in which I, at the same time, share so much and so little by way of agreement. On one had I agree that the isolated few who are “accurately” represented by the cartoons have earned their caricature, every bit as much as those they renounce have earned that level of discontent. However, at the same time, I also do not believe in two wrongs making a right, that if someone wrongs you, you should, in turn wrong them.

In the interview, she speaks of reactive atrocities, like chopping off the hands of thieves (to be fair, she also points out only happens in fundamentalist enclaves, like Saudi and Iran), as being barbaric. Yet, how different is the Danish cartoonist really being here. It is verbal rather than physical, certainly, but is that not just a degree of assault? He is (based on her quote) lashing out against a culture that he views as hating, and perhaps even wanting to destroy, his own.

Here is another quote from her interview (she is quoting Muhammad):

“Anybody amongst you who notices something evil should correct it with his own hands. If he is unable to do so he should correct it with his tongue. If he is unable even to do this he should at least consider it as bad in his heart for this is the lowest degree of faith.”

According to this model, since the cartoonist cannot stop the Sheikhs and Mullahs with his bare hands, he should do so verbally, which is exactly what he is doing through his cartoons. Those who are unable to create cartoons (or blogs???) should, at least, hold it within their hearts that these Sheikhs and Mullahs are bad. It is the Islamic way.

Only, it’s not. It is a perception, interpretation or derivative of a quote that is centuries old. It may represent how some feel, but it is not indicative of how all feel, and, in my opinion, that particular perception is not what the Islamic faith is (or should be) based upon at all. Having said that, I absolutely believe in my interpretation of the advice contained in The Prophets words. An interpretation I try to live by every day.

I don’t do this because of Islam, in fact, I am not a Muslim in word or practice. I do this because I think it is the right thing to do. An important distinction in my perception is that it is the right thing to do only in a positive, non-violent, non-punitive way. Most of all, I think it is the right thing to do only when there is a real “evil” force at work. If someone is walking around hitting people over the head with a baseball bat for no good reason, or molesting children, or starting wars in countries they have no business interfering with (oops, did I say that out loud??); I am going to try everything in my power to stop them. If I cannot, you better believe I am going to write about it… and then hold it in my heart that they are, indeed, bad.

However, I’m not going to do so by writing about how horrible I think they are. I’m going to do so by writing about what they should be doing. I’m going to do it by writing about how their actions are being perceived and how they effect others. I’m going to do it by writing what their mindsets might be, in an effort to help people to understand that there are NOT 1.6 billion Muslims shouting out that Jews and Christians are apes and pigs, and that the entire world population of Christians and Jews does NOT think every Arab has a bomb under his turban or her abaya (sp).

The difference between “The Golden Rule” and “An Eye for an Eye” may seem slight at times, but there is most definitely a difference. One is pro-active and positive, the other is reactive and negative.

What is particularly great about what Rabab Khaja had to say was that her message was one of positive change. It was a little prescriptive, which riles some folks, but still, it provides a constructive pathway to a better world, and that is always a good thing…

April 11, 2008

And they’re off…

Filed under: A life worth living,Just life,Observations — sbj @ 9:36 pm

Check out www.twittertravels.com, yo! A couple of youngsters setting out to travel around this country and write about it. You can follow their travels and adventures on this page… and you can even donate a buck or ten to the cause.

Come one, just click the link… you know you wanna!

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