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September 30, 2008

My friends call me kettle…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 5:28 pm

As much as I have railed against the bail out, in this space in the past few days, even, I have to say, at the end of the day, that the banks and Wall Street are not completely to blame.  I cannot count how many times in the past few days I have heard (form my own mouth as well as others) something along the lines of “why are we giving more of our money to the people who messed this up in the first place?”

However, the bottom line is that, as they say, it takes two to tango.  Yes, banks made unwise, in fact bad loans, however people took those loans.  How many people out there are sitting in (or packing to move out of) houses that are beyond their means?  How many people have more money on credit cards than they make in a year?  Yes, these things are only available because of bad loaning practices.  However, someone, on the borrowers side, signed for those loans and accepted that debt.

As a society, we have continued to lavish ourselves with more and more excess.  When someone (say, a banker) made “more” available to us we gobbled it up as fast as we could.

Some famous guy once wrote “neither a borrower nor lender be.”  That might be a bit of an overstatement, however, the amount of business that is done on credit today is excessive and dangerous.  We cannot, reasonably, expect a bailout (or anything else) will fix this problem if we, as individuals, are not also ready to be more accountable for our actions.

I am no more saying the average consumer is responsible for this mess as I am that all of the blame needs to fall upon Wall Street, IAG, or anyone else.  What I am saying, is that we’re all in this together.  We all created this mess, and it will not go away without everyone’s contributions.

Now this is change I can believe in!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 3:51 pm

Every now and then I get on a “how can I make the world a better place” kick.  I solicit ideas from others (online and off) and try to implement them.  Moreover, I share the ideas here and other places in the hopes that they will catch on.  I also like to tout other peoples efforts toward the same end.

For the most part these seem to be grass roots efforts, however I was pleased when I saw googles $10 million iniative (http://www.project10tothe100.com/why.html) Toward making the world a better place.  On the heels of this announcement I saw that American Express was in the final stages of its own multi-million dollar funding project (http://www.membersproject.com/).

Based on my awareness of these efforts, and knowing how much news I don’t see I’m sure there are more efforts like this going on, which gives me hope renewed.  If we keep plugging away at a grassroots level, and major companies like Google and American Express set a positive example, backed by significant financial reward (lets be honest some people need to be motivated, and even for those that do not require it… it never hurts!!), the me first parts of our culture just might be dragged (kicking and screaming???) into the same paradigm.

Now that’s something worth getting excited about on an otherwise fairly bland Tuesday morning.

Just say’n :)

September 29, 2008

You can quote me on that…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 5:12 pm

Yesterday afternoon I was reflecting on one of the little nuggets my mother left for me before she passed (actually two of them) “In three years are we going to worry about it?” and “If you’re walking on thin ice you might as well dance!”  My life has been, in many ways, a testament to her way of thinking (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse).

Of course, she was not my only influence.  From an uncle I garnered “confront unpleasantries directly”, advice that has served me without fail, when I have remembered to use it.  My Step-mother gave me what practically I have, and I would be willing to bet I’d have been in jail or on the street at least once in my life if not for her grounded approach to life.  Without my father I would never have learned that its okay not to grow up (in some ways) and I certainly would have lost much of the youth have managed to cling to well beyond its normal life expectancy.  I could go on, but you get the idea :)

Of course my life has also been influenced by forces and people outside my family.  From the teachings of great people like MLK and simple quotes like “hope is not a strategy” and “your enemy is never a villain in his own mind…” to watching women, as they taught me by example something my testosterone addled brain would never have come up with on its own… what it really is to truly be in love (and, sadly, to fall out of it); I have built my character, one sentence at a time.

Reflecting on this, I thought perhaps I should get a fresh infusion of sentences.  Especially since I have two impressionable lives that I’m going to be sending out into the world eventually.  So I put the question to my socnet, “In one sentence, what advice would you give to your child to prepare them for the world?”

Here, in no particular order are some of the responses I received.  With any luck they will resonate, collectively, with you as they do with me, and I will have accomplished something bigger than my original objective of a character refresher for my self and my two young boys :) .

(Note, I did not clean up any punctuation, etc. in these, they are *exactly* as they came to me)

********************

Never stop dreaming

keep your integrity intact

**what you focus on you attract**

be still ….and trust

Treat others how you want to be treated; remember that everyone has bad days, just like you.

Trust No-one . . . is that a sentence? LOL

someone said to me there are two things to give our kids to set them up for life… Roots and Wings…I tell my kids they can do anyhting they desire, and can get through anything.. I have tried to prove that in my life with them too

you are limited only by what you tell yourself you cannot do.

my advice? We live in a cause and effect universe. What you get comes directly from what you create. Create well, your life is your own

Choose to live.

you get out of life what you put in it

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow”

Keep an open mind, an open heart, and your throat jabbing hand at the ready. Always.

follow your bliss.

My advice? Never take for granted what you already have and NEVER wish away today for a tomorrow that may not be.

write down something you are grateful for everyday

when someone seems to cause **the big bad** emotion in you, don’t react-you can work on this one forever :-o

Be who you are….no one else

Get a damn job!

suck it up, study hard, keep your head bowed, call if you need help, first seek to understand, make your own path, & enjoy the ride

I’d say,”The two constants in life are 1) Change, but it can be dealt with and 2) I love you.” (technically one sentence, yes?) :)

********************

There you have it, some of the collective wisdom of my social network.  You’ll note that some of them are clearly non-advice, rather, humor wrapped in an answers clothing.  I elected to leave them is, because, one of the best lessons I have learned over my years on this planet is that if you can’t laugh and find humor, even in the most serious of moments, you’ve lost the war before the battle even begins.  Have a great day, and a great life!

PS HUGE thanks to everyone who participated!!!

PPS If you have anything to add, please do… the more advice the better!!!

September 27, 2008

Choice? Not an issue in this election…

Filed under: Election 08,Observations — sbj @ 7:30 pm

Last night, while watching the post debate coverage, the question was emailed in by a CNN viewer “Why did Biden get a chance to respond and Palin did not”.  The response was something to the effect of, “we tried to get her on the show but she was not made available, we’re still hoping she will be available in the future”. Anderson Cooper, on the air, responded “I wouldn’t hold my breath.”

This is the sad state of the situation.  The vice-presidential candidate is a running and public joke because of her “witness protection” status when it comes to the media.  To be clear, I’m not saying she is merely being criticized by the media pundits, or lampooned by spoof news broadcasts like the Daily show.  Rather, I’m pointing out that during serious news coverage, by a respected news team, she was a joke.

According to one source, Biden has made 89 media appearances, and Palin 3.  Honestly I do not know if those numbers are correct or not, but I do know they cannot be that far off base.

I find it more than objectionable that the Republican party would suggest I vote for a ticket that includes a guy who, based on average life expectancy has a 50/50 chance of making it through his second term, and a successor who I am not being allowed to form an opinion about because she is being cloistered.  I could certainly be persuaded to vote for someone who is 72 years of age, however, not unless I have some level of confidence in their running mate.  Palin, as a joke on the CNN set, is not inspiring that kind of confidence.

I know the story about Palin not speaking to the media is not new news. However, I think it is noteworthy when someone like Anderson Cooper, not to his audience, but as an aside to another anchor, is willing to reduce her potential on air presence to a casual, dismissive, sarcastic quip.

I am voting for Obama, not McCain, to me the issues are clear.  However, there is still a critical mass of people who are undecided.  Increasingly, the margin between Obama and McCain is widening, and the Palin situation is a significant part of this.  I am for Obama, but I’d much rather he win a fair fight, then back into the presidency because of the foibles of the other party.

I really hope that the powers that be within the Republican party come to their senses and give the American people a real option rather than Hobson’s choice on November 4th.

September 26, 2008

It’s your bed… so, snuggle up and deal with it…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 10:01 pm

Over the past two days I have read at least three articles opining that a pro basketball player (Monta Ellis) who violated his contract and seriously injured himself on a scooter (yeah, a scooter… not a motorcycle… a scooter) should not have his contract voided, nor should he even be fined.  The reasoning is that he is the face of the franchise (The Golden State Warriors) and they cannot afford to start over just when things are starting to look good.  In other words, because of who he is, he should not pay the price that anyone else on his team would pay for his actions.

Over the past week I have read countless stories opining that AIG and other financial market players who violated the basic tenants of finance (and common sense) and seriously injured the entire US economy should be bailed out.  The reasoning is that AIG’s reach is so broad and extensive.  In other words, because of who they are, they should not pay the price that anyone else in the free market system would pay for their actions.

Neither scenario sits very well with me.

Mr Ellis, I really enjoying watching you play, I am a big fan, however, I think you need to pay the same fine that anyone else on the team would have to pay.  If that sets the Warriors back 5 years (or more) because you pout about it… well… they shouldn’t have drafted a cry baby who breaks the rules. I believe one of the attributes we are supposed to value and take pride in is integrity.  We all make mistakes, its how we deal with them that matters.

Mr Paulson (et. al.), I really enjoy watching your market wheel and deal, I’m a big fan (in fact I participate), however I think you need to enforce the same rules on everyone.  If a bunch of  market big shots have to merge or fold up shop… well… they shouldn’t have invested in shady unstable mortgages and other bubble investments that most sophomore economy students know are beyond the scope of acceptable risk.  I believe one of the attributes we are supposed to value and take pride in is personal accountability.  We all make mistakes, its how we deal with them that matters.

If it were not your home team, or your country’s economy, would you really support the (lack of) accountability and integrity demonstrated in these scenarios?  Or would you, like many, find them lacking?  I’d rather take my chances on my team not winning as many games, or even my country going through a larger recession, than continue to support them knowing they lacked these cornerstone qualities.

Yes, I know toeing the line will be inconvenient, uncomfortable, and viewed by some as outright untenable.  However, at the end of the day, when it’s just me and my conscience, I like the idea of knowing I did the right thing… regardless of what it may have cost me in inconvenience and discomfort.  Ultimately, for me, that makes the untenable quite reasonable.

September 25, 2008

Something you can do for your country, and your progeny…

Filed under: Environment,Make the world better,Observations — sbj @ 4:07 pm

By Tomorrow, Congress will decide if they intend to extend or let expire (at the end of 2008) the clean air tax credits (AKA Production Tax Credit or PTC). The PTC is a per-kilowatt-hour tax credit for electricity generated by qualified energy resources. It gets adjusted for inflation, but it is in the area of 2 cents per kWh (currently 2.1). The credit can be taken for the first 10 years of production, so, in essence, it is a financial boost to get renewable energy facilities up and running, but not a indefinite tax benefit.  This is a bi-partisan bill that made it easily through the Senate with support from both sides of the isle.

Since the process of extending the PTC began it has been allowed to expire three times. Each time with a significant reduction in new installations (for wind alone: 2000 – 93% drop in installation; 2002 – 73%; 2004 – 77%; estimates for 2009 if the PTC is not extended are in the area of 90%).

What does this mean, financially? The raw numbers (as calculated by Navagant Consulting in February of this year) are 116,000 jobs and $19 Billion in clean energy investment between wind and solar for the year 2009. Of course, just like the interest in your savings account, these numbers grow exponentially over the years due to the lost year (or more) of “principle investment.”

Our country is currently overly dependent on foreign energy supplies. This one of the major issues of our current presidential elections, and an ugly shadow that looms over our society as a whole. We have fought wars over oil and, so long as our dependency is in place, will have commitments to foreign nations that handcuff our ability to conduct business and form foreign policy freely and without restriction.

Our world is currently feeling the effects of global warming. Regardless of whether you think it is a mostly man made phenomenon or is a natural cycle that we are only magnifying with our green house gas emissions; there is no dispute over the fact that our current energy practices are having a measurable effect on the environment.

Renewable energy sources like wind and solar can dramatically reduce both foreign energy dependence and green house gas emissions. Both are completely renewable, and freely available within our own borders. The new wind installations in 2007 alone (which, by the way, represented 35% of the nations new electrical capacity for that year) provide enough energy to power the equivalent of 1.5 millions U.S. homes.

This is a growing, thriving industry, with the potential to not only power our homes, but prevent us from continuing to be beholden to nations who do not share our beliefs and ideologies while simultaneously helping to ensure a stable environmental future for our children and grand-children.

Its hard to imagine the downside to extending the PTC, however, the numbers are very clear about the dangers of allowing it to expire; increased unemployment rates, and an economy further dragged down by stunted investment.

So what can you do? You can write your Legislators and tell them how important the PTC extension is to you and your country. It will only take a minute, because you can go to this site (http://capwiz.com/windenergy/home) Enter your zip code and send a letter to all of your federal elected officials at once. Even better, I have acquired a sample letter (below). You can copy and paste it into the box, use portions of it in a letter of your own creation, or, of course, ignore it and simply do your own thing.

Whatever avenue you choose, however, please write them today. The time to act is now, tomorrow will, literally, be too late.

Sample letter:

Dear Congressperson,

I am writing to urge your affirmative vote in the passage of H.R. 6049, The Renewable Energy and Job Creation Act of 2008.  This bi-partisan bill allows for the continued growth of renewable energy in the U.S. and clears a path for a cleaner, energy independent future. The Senate overwhelmingly passed this resolution and now it’s up to the House to relay the message to renewable energy industries and the world that we want clean energy, green jobs and thriving rural economies.

Without the extension of the Production Tax Credit for renewable energy, development and construction will come to a halt. This not only hurts industry, but it also increases our dependence on greenhouse gas emitting energy sources and foreign fuel. As our appetite for energy grows, so must our dedication to clean, secure energy sources.

In addition, the renewable energy industry benefits the American economy by creating jobs in manufacturing, construction and engineering. Local taxes invigorate rural economies already struggling to stay afloat. Farmers and ranchers receive royalty payments on their land, while still engaging in their livelihoods. In these tumultuous times, renewable energy is a constant; energy does not fluctuate in cost due to volatile fuel prices.

Please, take the time to speak with your fellow Representatives in support of H.R. 6049. The people want renewable energy, and this is your chance to see that we receive it.

Sincerely,

September 24, 2008

Free Sarah Palin…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 6:41 pm

I am not voting for John McCain, part of that is because of his choice of VP.  However:

I’m just say’n

What once was Chattel is now Cattle???

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 4:16 pm

It seems that every morning radio station (targeting kiddies anyway) has picked up the PETA breast milk story.  This morning I was blessed with a call describing the many new flavors that might be available. For example you might be able to feast on “chesty cheesecake” or “nipple fudge ripple”… according to radio station callers.

For those of you who missed it, here is the short version of the story:

Peta has suggested to Ben and Jerry’s that they replace all or some of the cows milk in their ice cream with human breast milk.  This would provide legitimate health benefits to humans and eliminate (some of) the arguably unethical treatment of cattle (I don’t think that anyone can argue that being pregnant the majority of your life would have to suck).

The longer version, direct from the source, can be found on PETA’s web site (http://www.peta.org/mc/NewsItem.asp?id=11993), where they posted both the letter to Ben and Jerry’s, along with a brief explanation for writing it.

I’m going to start by saying that, as stated, there are no real fundamental flaws in their reasoning.  All research indicates that cows milk is not as good for humans as human milk, in fact far worse.  The cycle required to meet the nations dairy needs is, does, in fact, lead to the horrible treatment of cattle.  And, finally, there is a precedent (on an incredibly small scale) established by the Swiss restaurant owner who is purchasing human milk and using it in his sauces already.

Having said all of that, I cannot wrap my head around a concept that, to me, would seem to set woman back decades, if not centuries when all was said and done.  A small restaurant in Switzerland can certainly obtain enough breast milk for its purposes by purchasing from local mothers willing to donate.  But a company like Ben & Jerry’s would need a heard (yeah, I said it!!!) of women, being milked around the clock to maintain it production levels.  Pregnant women, I might add… a heard of repeatedly (honestly I’m not sure how long women can continue to produce milk after being pregnant… I know they can go around 2 years though) impregnated women.

If this is unethical treatment of cattle, how is it ethical treatment of humans?  What message are we sending to women?

Well, your fought your way into the work place, and we “gave you”* the vote, but, now we think it’d be better to go back to (literally and figuratively) “milking you” for all you are worth.

The image I’m left with is the one from the Matrix, the scene where we see all the human cocoons.  The little pods where humans are housed while being drained of their life’s energy to feed their controllers.  That specific image, as a practical example of the suggested solution,  is obviously extreme, but I’m not sure that, as a metaphor, it is all that over the top.

While PETA’s position makes sense on certain levels, I really think they missed one of the major considerations in this proposal.  Congruent with their mission, vision and values; I would expect PETA to consider the wisdom (or lack there of) in domesticating one species (female humans) to benefit another (female cattle).

Somehow I just cannot reconcile this robbing Peter to pay Paul (or Ben or Jerry) mentality as being a valid solution to PETA’s problem.  Further, I am amazed that a woman appears to have written the letter.  Trading the moniker of chattel, for the role of cattle just doesn’t strike me as being perfectly aligned with the feminist ideal.

Of course, who am I to talk… in this brave new world, I’d be veal…

* “gave you” is in quotes because I don’t think when you “give” someone something they should have had in the first place, it can be called a gift… sort of like “giving” slaves their freedom, its an oxymoron

September 23, 2008

A few thoughts on Michael Moore’s Slacker Uprising…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 9:55 pm

There is a fellow from the U.K. that I frequently debate with online.  He is a proud and avowed neo-con and I am everything that is left after you remove neo-con values :) His name is Edward, although online he goes by Beaman (his web site http://www.penmeapoem.com/bio/).  I bring him up because he came to mind several times today while I was watching the internet release of Michael Moore’s new movie Slacker Uprising (http://www.slackeruprising.com).

Why would this particular voice for most of what I don’t believe in come to mind while I was watching someone I am nearly completely aligned with?  Well, that’s where this whole thing gets a bit more interesting.

For as much as I disagree with Beaman, and his world views, I admire his approach.  He is reasoned, polite and he actually listens to what you have to say before he dismisses your thoughts (that is a joke, he may respectfully disagree; but he is seldom, if ever, dismissive).  In short, despite our many (MANY) disagreements, I respect him.

By contrast, I don’t know if I have ever disagreed with the approach of someone I otherwise fundamentally agree with, as much as I do that of Mr. Moore.  I believe, if we were to line up our issues side by side, with the possible exception of abortion, he and I would be in 100% agreement.  I cannot think of a single statement of belief that he has made that I disagree with.  However, in his vehement over-generalizations, I am unable to find any common ground.

If you read my blog often, you know of one of my favorite quotes.

“Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes.  Keep this in mind; it may offer a way to make him your friend.” -Robert Heinlein

Moore seems to lose track of this notion even as he “welcomes” Republicans to his presentations.  Speaking in generalizations about policy and showing clips of Republican “protestors” stumbling over their words expressing why they are rallying against Moore’s presence.

Watching Slacker Uprising this afternoon I felt myself wanting to alternately cheer Moore and usher him off stage (so that he did not do further damage to the cause).  Not all Republicans are “deviant’s”, Michael, no mater how funny that makes the punch line in your gay marriage joke (which was quite funny, despite the over-generalization, but that is the problem).  You do not need to make all of the republican demonstrators look like idiots, some of them are quite intelligent and just happen to disagree with you.

I admire Michael Moore.  I watch his movies, I quote him, and I marvel at his ability to ferret out a subtle point or reveal a story. However, my respect for him is eroded with each sweeping “us and them” generalization.  In short, Michael Moore, to me, is doing to Republicans, what he would decry “Dubba” for doing to Islam (AKA “Evil Doers”) et. al.

This is particularly vexing to me, because I think he has the power and the position to be a very meaningful instrument of positive change.  A position he is, to whatever degree, abdicating with his approach.  I do not believe the left needs a “Rush” or a “Sean Hannity.” Further, I do not believe that Michael Moore’s vast talent should be wasted trying to fill that role.  I expect more (dare I say… better?) from the people that carry the torch for the same causes that I do.  For the people I would have be a role model for my children.

The paradoxical dichotomy between Mr. Beaman and Mr. Moore is fascinating to me.  Both men garner my respect in areas that the other leaves me wanting.  But ultimately, I think, while disagreeing with him, I’d listen to more of what Edward has to say than Michael; and I’m left thinking I’d have a better chance of being heard with him as well, even if we couldn’t agree less with what one another was saying.

September 19, 2008

We’ve got spirit, yes we do! We’ve got spirit, hey $#@!& you!!!

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 2:39 pm

Yesterday, while listening to the offensive (kiddie) radio station, they did it again!  The local college is playing a pac-10 school (Oregon, a pretty big deal around here) this weekend.  One of the DJ’s has a friend who is married to the Oregon coach (or something like that).  Through this friendship, they managed to obtain the coaches personal cell phone number.

What they think is a good idea, is to have listeners call in, connect to his phone and leave “Go Bronco” messages on his phone (or directly to him if he answers).  To me this smacks of poor taste abd bad form all around.

Putting the (very valid) privacy issues aside for a minute, how exactly is this going to effect the relationships involved?  Is the marriage going to suffer for her having created this situation?  Is the friendship going to suffer for how he exploited the information?  Is this something you would like to see repeated in your line of work?  For example, if you are a manager at an Albertson’s (grocery store) would you like a dozen (or more) calls on your cell phone saying “Wal-Mart rules!!!”  Would this really add value to your day?

I really wish the DJ’s at the kiddie station would act more like the adults they are supposed to be, rather than acting down to their demographic.  Set an example, rather than trying to be cool, or whatever it is they think they are being.

I’m just say’n

September 18, 2008

If you have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all…

Filed under: Observations,obama — sbj @ 4:53 pm

I found myself criticizing Gov. Palin last night for not answering questions (again).  Honestly, it has become a bit of a nightly activity for me, since I have yet to actually hear the woman answer a question directly.

However, in the midst of this criticism, I stopped myself and asked why this might be, at which point it occurred to me… there is little or no value to be gained by answering a question while running for office in this election.

If you give a substantive answer to a question, your response will be contorted by everyone in the media from Larry King to (my beloved) John Stewart.  You will be made fun of.  Your meaningful answer will instantly become a reason not to elect you, evidence of your ignorance, or simply the folly of your mindset.

Take for example, Barack Obama’s suggestion that meaningful change in oil dependence and cost could be achieved by properly filling the air in your tires.  The immediate response from McCain was to ridicule this plan on the first public stage he could find.  Something to the effect of… we are trying to deal with an energy crisis and Obama wants you to check your tires (insert raucous laughter here)

This is a fact, it is solid strategy, it is something each of us can and should be doing, and it represents a 2% efficiency increase (this is a conservative estimate, Time magazine cites experts claiming 3%, and another 4% for regular maintenance, another component of Obama’s suggestion) in our gas mileage.  What is 2% of our annual national expenditures on gas?  Well in 2005, as a nation, we used roughly 386 million gallons of gas a day.  At the bargain basement price of $3.00 a gallon (and assuming that only half of the gas consumed was in motor vehicles… obviously a *very* conservative estimate) that would be a savings of $10,000,000 a day, or $3.65 billion a year (the full savings, using the non-conservative estimates found in Time would be the neighborhood of $25 billion a year… if you don’t feel like being as generous with the numbers as I am being).

Not so funny anymore, is it?

Obama was no better in response.  Instead of reiterating his position clearly, adding needed context and sticking to his guns, he elected to go on a tirade about what McCain said and tack on a comment along the lines of “it’s like they take pride in being ignorant.”

This is how most meaningful responses are being handled.  You are better off to give a bland non-answer and give the other side nothing to attack you on (other than the fact that you do not answer questions), and so a Gov Palin, the a-political politician, is born.

I watched footage of Obama last night, saying “in the McCain camp [the old boys network] is called a staff meeting” because McCain said he wants to change the old boys system and reform Washington.  Senator, with all due respect (and there is a lot of respect here, I’m voting for the man) instead of slinging insults (witty though they may be) how about sticking to your own platform of change.  Believe me… the media will handle calling the obvious contradiction to light… and they will do it with flair… and video, etc.

It is infuriating that I cannot blame Gov Palin (completely) for choosing the (horrible) path she has taken.  It is maddening that our media lampooning and societal thirst for failure in others, rather than success in ourselves, have created an environment where real issues are not, in fact cannot be discussed during an election for the highest office in the land.

What I want to see are candidates that seek to elevate their own position in the polls by actually boosting their own credentials, rather than trying to simply bring the other candidate down, and media coverage that supports this type of campaign.  I want to be able to decide who the best candidate is, not try to eliminate the worst.

Who’s with me?

I missed the bus!!

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 3:00 pm

Those benches they have on the sidewalks across town… the ones that I used to think were bus stops… aren’t.  Well, I should be specific, in Boise they are not.  I’m sure they are in most places; however, in Boise, they are 100% marketing.

I know this because I missed one bus, and had to get instructions from the driver of the second to cross the street in order to make it!  Live and learn I guess… but I’m still trying to figure out how this makes sense.

September 17, 2008

Save the date…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 2:17 pm

This morning on the radio (I was blessed again with the teen station), the conversation was dating age.  One of the DJ’s was saying they let their daughter date at a young age (say 13) the other maintained that he would not let his daughter (if he had one) date until she was 16.  I was with the second guy for a while… until he said that his reasoning was because he wanted her to have a license, be able to handle her own transportation and use her own gas, not his or her moms.  Huh?

We have told both of our boys that an acceptable dating age is 16.  This is a guideline, not a hard fast rule, since, in actuality, they will be allowed to date when they have demonstrated the type of responsibility that is required by someone undertaking this practice whether this is 16, 15, or 18.

Things like the ability forgo temptation and appreciate delayed gratification will need to be demonstrated.  They will also need to have a decent understanding of the fundamental, emotional differences between boys and girls.  Part of the evaluation also lies in how they choose their friends, if the choice is entirely about who is the most fun, rather then about quality of character, then they are not making the kind of choices that are conducive to a healthy dating environment, etc.

Obviously, my boys, like myself and everyone else who has ever dated, will make mistakes.  However, I believe that some of these can be reduced by being armed with an understanding of things beyond the birds and bees before then begin the dating process.

So I’m curious, how “old” will your children be before they are allowed to date?  What do you intend to arm them with before they do?

September 16, 2008

Pro-Life?? Pro-Choice?? Pro-dialog!!

Filed under: Abortion,Observations — sbj @ 7:21 pm

This is going to be the first of a series on the issue of abortion (and related issues).  Before I begin, I should point out that the intent of this series is not to state a position on abortion (although myself and others may do that along the way in the course of writing about the issues), nor it is intended to sway anyone one way or another on the issue.

What I would like to try to accomplish is to bring the debate down a few decibels, and start a discussion of the myriad of issues surrounding this one keystone debate.  What I’m looking to accomplish is a bit of an evolution in theme.  I’d like to start by trying to find a common ground on which dialog can be exchanged between people on both sides of the issue, in a reasonably peaceful and non-confrontational manner.  From there, I’d like to explore and discuss some of the more complex issues surrounding it.

I am looking for other views and opinions on this, I do not want it to be a singular voice by any stretch, so if you are interested in guest blogging on this issue, please let me know either by comment or more directly, if you know me from a social network.  There will be some guidelines.  Specifically, no inflammatory or accusatory language.  I have no problem with anyone stating their views on the topic, so long as they are couched in a non-prescriptive or judgmental way and the writer maintains a respectful perspective to opposing views.

I’d like to start the conversation by sharing an observation I have made over time and a lot (and by that I mean a *LOT*) of conversations on this topic.   Typically, and by that I mean in about 90% of the conversations I have had, this difference between pro-choice and pro-life is about three months on a calendar.

This is not true of everyone, and is a very simplistic way of putting it, I admit.  However, what I’m looking for is something foundational that we can all agree upon and work up from in the conversation.

So what does that mean?  It means that most people agree that it is fundamentally wrong to take a life and that, to do so, you need to have a pretty compelling reason.  Most people also believe a person (male or female) should have the right to make any and all decisions regarding their own body, provided that the decision does not create a clear and present danger to others.  In other words, we all almost all both pro-choice and pro-life.  What we do not agree upon is when there is another valid life in the equation.

Is there another life to consider at conception, some would say yes.  Does that life begin with a heartbeat, others would agree with this.  There are those who would go as far as the second tri-mester.  In general, though, it is at this point on the time line (where ever that point is for you) that abortion becomes a matter of life rather than a matter of choice.

With this observation in mind, I’m wondering how many people would feel comfortable saying that they are, on a very basic and generalized level (i.e. not yet considering special cases), okay with abortion prior to this point and against it after this point.  Again, at this juncture we are not discussing what this point should be, or judging anyone on where they place it on the time line.  I’m just asking if this is a way of thinking you would be able to agree to as a baseline for other conversations?

For me, it works, for others I have had the conversation with, it works… how about you?

September 12, 2008

I am the sub-prime mortgage lender of my own personality

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 9:20 pm

I was reading an article in my local paper when it hit me,  email has ruined my life!!  Okay, it hasn’t ruined my life, but it has changed it in a way that I cannot easily reverse.  In the same way that air travel has made the world smaller (i.e made it much easier for more people to see so much more of the world), email has made the worlds population “smaller” (i.e. made it much easier for people to know much more of the world).

Because of email, and related web based technologies, I have “friends” all over the world.  Further the amount of communication that I conduct with all of these friends is staggering.  I maintain “relationships”, exchange favors, services, and ideas with hundreds of people, something that never could have been done prior to email.

In the article I was reading, the author made the decision to give up email from Memorial day until Labor day.  He set up an auto responder on his email client to let people know he was “offline” and gave them his cell phone in order to contact him.  He then set aside a couple of hours a morning to return phone calls.  Before long this ballooned into several hours a day.

I can see how this could happen.  If I had to maintain the relationships I have via the phone, I would do nothing else.  And at that, I would still leave the majority of the people I regularly communicate in the cold.

Part of this is because of the number of one to many communication methods I use.  Email, Twitter, my blog, even MySpace allow me to communicate the details of my life, or my opinions on things, to a large number of people at the same time.  Those who want to reply tend to do so publically, and this facilitates the next round of the conversation, without having to address each point of view individually, or, more to the point, repeatedly. As such I can stay in touch, on a rather personal level, with my nearly 1000 online “friends” without drastically effecting my day.

But what would happen if I were to lose the internet, or even one of my communication components?  What if I had to maintain all of my email correspondence, or my Twitter conversations via phone or post.  In a nut shell, I couldn’t.  I have created a sort of interpersonal South Sea Bubble.  I am dependant on transient technology to maintain the relationships I have forged.  In other words, if I had to maintain these relationship without email, or Twitter, et. al. I simply could not do it.  I am socially overextended.  I am the Enron, or sub-prime mortgage lender of my own personality.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  When I was young and in Catholic high school, one of my priests said one of the most meaningful things that has been said to me.  “If, at the end of your life, you are able to count five (5) good friends that you have, then you have lived a blessed life.”  The point, of course, being that people will come and go in your life, but very few people will stick around and be truly good friends.

So, does having 1000+ “friends” help in the process of finding my “five?”  Does it increase my odds of having more than five? Or, does it, perhaps, decrease my odds, as I am too spread out and not really cultivating true friendships.  The one to many communications allow me to become “close” to many people at one time, and the subsequent interactions allow me to continue that dialog, again with a large number of people at once.  However, I have to wonder what I’m losing by not having the one on one interaction.

This is all the fault, of course, of email, with its intoxicating simplicity and efficiency… certainly my obsessive compulsive, ADD addled personality has nothing to do with it!

What really scares me is that I’m in the middle of writing an article about how inefficient email is, in its current usage. It goes on to talk about how we need to be using the right applications for the right purposes, to maximize our productivity.

If my interpersonal life is inefficient now, lord help me when I start getting it “right”!

May I have your attention in the boarding area…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — sbj @ 5:08 pm

About two weeks ago I went on a business trip to Louisville.  In my free time (by free time, I mean in one sitting when I just sat down and typed until I was out of time)I started just rambling in WordPerfect.  Now, if you elect to subject yourself, you will be exposed to those ramblings…

Today I had to pay $!5 to check my bag (my one and only bag) for my trip.  Seriously, did anyone at the airlines think about that one before they did it.  They are going to lose their shorts on this one.  Gate delays alone are going to cost them more than they earn as people jockey for position and overhead space.  I watched a woman on the flight today walk back and forth three times looking for bin space for her *suitcase* that she elected to take on board.  Eventually she had to gate check it, and, you guessed it… hold up the plane to pay for it.  It is even more frustrating when you consider that this gas tax fee is a targeted fee.  Rather than spreading the additional cost of fuel evenly amongst travelers, the people showing up early and mongering overhead space are rewarded financially for not checking their bags.  Business or short term travelers are rewarded over vacationing or longer term travelers.  This is true despite the fact that in many cases the business travelers have just as much baggage, they just carried it on and inconvenienced the rest of us by taking up twice as much overhead space as they should have (because their bag has to be stowed sideways.  Very frustrating and you can bet this is not the only writing I will be doing on this subject.  In fact I think I will set up a very easy way for the general public to express their dismay to all of the airlines at once via email… there is a little project I think I can get behind.

I received a text message from my friend in Las Vegas the other day.  I feel comfortable calling her my friend now, because of the text message.  Somehow, in my head, a text message now, in the 2000′s, carries the same weight I would have given to a letter when I was in college (we will just avoid talking about when, exactly, that was… call it a professional courtesy :) This is interesting to me, so short, impersonal, and uninformative.  And yet, there is something immediate, present and conversational about it that lends some of the same comforts and creates some of the same bonds as good old fashioned letter writing.  Sort of like micro-blogging… you don’t say nearly as much per entry, however the volume and variety creates a body of work that in some cases is far more personal and telling.  These are interesting times we live in…

I published a couple of old pieces last week, both from what I like to call the “fluffy” side of my writing.  Poetry, or simply waxing poetic about human interpersonal relations.  The responses were interesting, compared to when I first published them last year.  It appears that as a consequence of forging friendships online, where once my writing was sort of anonymous blathering’s about the human condition, it has now becomes, for some, a perceived window into my soul.  A vehicle for getting to know me better and more deeply as an individual.  While to the most astute of readers there may be some truth and gain to be garnered by taking this approach… there is also some danger for those not particularly gifted in reading between the lines and circumventing fiction on their way to facts.  Just say’n

History is an interesting thing, especially when different perspectives are considered.  There are “historical sights” all over the United States of America to celebrate our history.  There are also fairly modern houses (when compared to their neighbors) built throughout Europe that predate the birth of the united states.  And then there are the pyramids and even they are modern when you consider mans rather light footprint on the planet itself.

I received a letter from the International Bottled Water Association today.  One of the paragraphs starts out with the sentence “Imagine a world without bottled water.”  My response, of course, was… “cool!”  I don’t think that is what they had in mind.  But, until an alternative solution to plastic is implemented the plastic free world is not such a stretch.  Plastic is a petroleum product and we will be out of petroleum in the next 100 years of so (probably less). Recycling will keep that industry in place for a while longer, still… I hope they are not planning to hand down the family business to too many generations.  At the very least they may want to diversify a bit.

I like fruit, probably more than a normal person should.  If the fruit is a grape or a blueberry and is frozen, and you share (enough of them), I will probably wash your car or something equally obliging. Just something to think about when those spring rains start giving your car that mottled look.

I was having a conversation about Bristol Palin (yeah, her again) the other day when someone mentioned that, in some senses, she is just what we need.  We are lagging in population to other ideologies and that we need to repopulate faster in order to keep up.  While dismissing this as nothing more than goofy conversation, I was reminded of that scene in Idiocracy where they interview the intelligent couple who never bread and the “trailer park” couple with the rather extended family tree.  I’m guessing the Governors daughter is no slouch… so perhaps there is more there than my friend knew.

Does anyone else think John McCain over achieved in marriage?  Cindy seems very smart, articulate, attractive, and well under the minimum (let alone maximum) retirement age… Plus she has a couple of dead presidents stowed under the bed in case of a rainy day.  I am doing everything in my power to leave the overly obvious joke from that last sentence alone.. So far I’m winning the battle but I make no promises.

I have found myself thinking about yoga more and more recently.  My friends think it is because I am getting older and losing what little flexibility I once had.  They might be right, but… it could also have something to do with meeting someone with said exceptional flexibility… I am a guy after all.

I signed up for netflix a few months ago.  Thus far I have watched about 4 movies.  Part of the allure of the service was the idea of instant movie downloads.  I could watch unlimited movies on my computer anytime I wanted.  For a movie lover like me this seemed to be a bountiful land of entertainment enchantment.  To date I have watched exactly zero downloadable movies.  Hmmm… it is possibly I’m not taking full advantage of the entertainment tools available to me.

Speaking of entertainment tools… the hitachi magic wand… its not just for your girlfriend/wife anymore.  This thing can do some pretty amazing things for a guy as well…. I’ve… uh… heard… ya know… around the office and stuff… rumors… yeah… rumors.

One of the most rewarding things I have done over the years was taking an active roll in the black student union at my college.  No, I am not black, but most of my friends were, and most of the events I was interested in attending on campus were brought to the school by the black student union, so I figured it was the organization for me.  I was correct.  I learned so much in my 18 months of affiliation.  For starters I learned what it is like to be a minority and have to earn your way into a society.  Being a white male in the united states my acceptance in just about any group has always been a foregone conclusion.  Joining the black student union changed all of that.  I was an unproven outsider, worse, I was an outsider from a traditionally “hostile tribe.”  If you have never been in a position where you were truly an outsider, where you were required to prove, over and over again you belonged I encourage you to do so.  Find a community in which you will not be automatically accepted and join.  If you do not struggle to gain status, acceptance and credibility, you probably did not choose well.  While you may learn things, what you will come away with is a new understanding of human nature, an ability to put yourself in other peoples shoes that you never had before, and a better understanding of yourself and how you interact with other when you are in a position of being the majority.

Ahha… they are boarding my flight now… *poof*

September 11, 2008

What if you could write your own history?

As I look through the history of the date September 11th I am besieged with violence.  The first full Army unit landed in Viet Nam, Mormon “guerillas” killed 120 unarmed settlers, a group of socialists tried to effect peace… by starting revolutions and civil wars, and, of course, the terrorist airplane attacks of 2001.  The list goes on, I’m stopping there.

The effect goes on as well. As a result of the events of 2001, we still have troops on the field of battle in two middle eastern nations.  Young Americans are tearing apart, and in some cases giving up, their lives for the belief that they can make a difference in how much the future does or does not reflect the violent past.

Earlier today, an online friend pointed out that he was a volunteer at ground zero in 2001, and that he can still remember that burning smell.  He made the point that he did not need to be reminded “how important it was to remember”…  that he would, in fact, never forget.  What concerns me, what I would like to change, is what, in particular, some people are electing to remember.

I have written before about my affinity for Mothers day (in the traditional sense).  About how the holiday was created out of a desire for peace and an end to war.  It was not about placing blame, it was not about extolling the virtues of one ideology over another it was about a group of people coming together to celebrate whatever efforts could be made to prevent the horrors of war from happening again, to prevent losing more of their sons to the wanton violence of war.

Obviously, that movement has fallen prey to the retail movement and today Mothers Day is more about gifts, flowers and brunch.  However, I think there are some strong and necessary roots in the original movement.  Things that, when we take the time to “never forget” we should keep in the forefront of our minds.

What I would encourage you to do today, rather than remembering the horrors, the enemy, and the mission; is to focus some energy on making sure it does not happen again.  Do you really understand why the Vietnam war took place, why a group of Mormons would be moved to trick settlers out of their guns and then kill them, why a group of socialists seeking peace would call for civil war, and, of course, why a someone would fly an airplane into a building?  If so, what can you do, what can anyone do, to make sure it does not happen again?

Thousands of years of violence have proven that you cannot shoot your way to peace.  In fact, almost every “conquered” nation in history has come back later to be a nation that repressed others in its own way.  The cycle of violence, revenge, and repression does not work.

On this day, when most of the nation will have the tragedy of September 11th on their minds, I ask you to think carefully about what you choose remember.  Make it constructive and compassionate.

Remember how, as a nation, and as a people, we are generous… and give.

Remember how, as a nation, and as a people, we are peaceful… and make a stand for to end the wars.

Remember how, as a nation, and as a people, we are tolerant… and work to better understand what other people are experiencing.

Remember how, as a nation, and as a people, we have abundance… and share.

Remember that we are supposed to be the good guys.  We are supposed to set an example.  If you were given the opportunity to write the history book that children were studying in the year 3000, how would you write the chapter on the years you were alive?  What would we accomplish in that era?

Today, when you hear the words “always remember” or “never forget”, will your subsequent thoughts support the history you want to create for your generation?

Perhaps, with the right frame of mind, we can change the nature of the history of September 11th, and that is something noone would ever forget..

September 5, 2008

Can’t we all just get along?

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 9:39 pm

I spent a lot of time on a bus today (shuttling back and forth to Frankfort on a bus).  During this time, I thought about some of my interactions with my online community, and how they differ from those I have in real life.

One of the phrases I have heard my entire life is that “you cannot please all of the people all of the time.”  I never really got that, for the most part, when I gave my opinion on things, the vast majority of my friends agreed with me.  Sometimes quite enthusiastically.  

However, online it has been very different.  I often get disagreement form those I hang out with.  Sometimes I create dissent between people I hang out with, waring factions emerge, to put it mildly.  At times my interaction with one person (or group of people) will effect another person or group, and generate a very strong reaction.  This fascinates me because it is in no way I reflective of my normal life.

My gut instinct is to think that I do considerably more screening in real life than I do in my online existence, and associate with certain people who would never make it into my circle in real life.  But, when I evaluate each of them individually, I cannot (for the most part) find the weakness that would cause anyone to be filtered out in real life… so I’m not completely convinced of this.  

Perhaps my real life friends are more segmented.  The poker crowd is Friday and/or Sunday nights.  The book crowd is Wednesday or Thursday nights.  Family or political friends are a different night still, etc.  By contrast, my inline communities tend to be all in the same place.  When I say something meant for my political friends, my work friends hear it as well.  Of course I made friends with one group while conversing with the others… so I’m not sure about that either.

It remains a bit of a mystery to me.  Is this a problem you have (is it ever a problem)?  Do you do anything to combat it, or just let it flow?  As a relative noob in social networking circles, I find myself wondering… ?

Dear Tail, thanks for the wag. Love, Dog

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 11:04 am

I am annoyed with politics, in general (which will not keep me from involving myself, Im sure). Specifically I’m tired of political quips and fabricated causes. Bush won the 04 election on a platform of fear and promoting a war that should never have occurred in the first place. McCain is following suit by heaping accolades on a portion of that ill-conceived war (“The Surge” ™).

Seriously? So, perhaps Germany can rally around the blitzkrieg and bring the Third Reich back to power? I mean, it was a successful program in the middle of an assault on someone they should not have been at war with in the first place… and that’s what we are all about supporting, right?

This is propaganda and “wag the dog” politics at its worst. However, it does provide a clear path to 4 more years of Idiocracy, for all those willing to hop on board and take the ride.

September 4, 2008

She wore an itsy bitsy…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 2:06 pm

I am annoyed by the picture of Sarah Palin I keep seeing.  Specifically, the one of her standing pool side in (gasp) a bikini.  The gun I could do without, because of my personal convictions, but, other than that… seriously folks.  What is the big deal.  Are you of the mind every presidential (or VP) candidate never wore a swim suit in their lives?  

So I understand this… dozens of girls in bikinis (beauty pagent/girls gone wild/spring break/some random Mtv show/whatever) flaunting their bodies in order to be as sexy as possible (and sell stuff) is good; one woman hanging out at a pool (where one might, you know, swim) in a bathing suit is somehow bad, and a reason to question her qualifications on a presidential ticket?

She is a women… sometimes they wear bikinis.  There are serious political issues to discuss in this election.  If you want to criticize or support Gov. Palin, there are valid reasons for doing both.  However, a picture, with a bathing suit on… no.  

Can we please get down to the business of actual politics, please?

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