puntiglio.com

December 31, 2008

Mighty Mike McGee…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 5:48 am

If you know me from online, you have probably heard me, at some point, talk about Mike McGee and how much I enjoy his work. Today I’d like to share a couple of his poems with you. The first one, “I’m Not, But If I Were,” is to me, in many ways, an adult version of The Little Engine That Could… for the more discerning mental pallet (that is not meant to disparage that little engine at all, but, sometimes, I like my life lessons in grown up packages).

http://media.libsyn.com/media/mikemcgee/07_Intro_Im_Not_But_If_I_Were.mp3 (yes, it is an audio file you have to download, believe me when I say it’s worth it)

Every time I listen to that poem I cannot help but be motivated to continue and even rededicate my quest to be the best I can be. I am driven to “sharpen my saw” as the phrase goes.

At the same time I am reminded that I already am the best I can be, that I grow with my potential and at this moment in time, I am pure Soren perfection. I’m like Jack Handy with an attitude and a cool goatee.

The other poem is more personal, it is called Tonight and it is, to me, one of the most moving pieces I have ever enjoyed. This poem is where my adoration of Mike McGee began, and undoubtedly where it will continue to flourish.

http://puntiglio.com/blog/tonight.mp3 (yep, more audio)

There is, simultaneously, power and urgency in those words. An assertion of his feelings along with a longing for reciprocation and the complete and total satisfaction that comes from the simple act of holding someone… “like an apple holds it seeds.”

I hope you enjoy these poems; they mean a lot to me and over the years have become a significant part of the person I am striving to become.

PS If you visit MikeMcGee.net you can enjoy Mikes blog, download other great clips and more… you might want to check it out

December 30, 2008

I love little reminders…

Over the last month, largely because of my sisters urging which preceded an influx of family and then friend “pressure” (in the best sense of the word) I have been dragged (at first kicking and screaming, now just kicking… in more of a “love tap” sort of way) into the world of Facebook.

I have linked up with friends and family from around the country and to a lesser degree, the world, and as much as I hate to admit it, I have not hated it. However, what it has really done it serve as a reminder. Today I added a friend from Kansas, the first thing I did, of course, was to check out her profile. Here is her most recent update:

My Kiva family just made another payment on their loan. I’m really proud of them!

Her Kiva family! In case you are not familiar with http://www.kiva.org it is a service that allows individuals to give loans to other individuals in need. Specifically, entrepreneurs in developing countries around the world so that they can (to quote the website) “lift themselves out of poverty.”

Kiva is a great cause, and, I’m once again impressed and endeared to this particular friend; however, on a broader scale, I am reminded that you become what you surround yourself with and, I am probably on the path of becoming a pretty good person, based on the friends I have chosen over the past couple of years.

I have surrounded myself with some pretty spectacular people; people with amazing value systems and warm and giving hearts. I’m a very lucky person to have such friends and appreciative of my friend in Kansas for (inadvertently) reminding me of this.

That is all, over and out! J

And what from my wandering mind should appear…

Filed under: A life worth living,Just life,Observations — sbj @ 1:39 am

It is interesting how the dominoes fall once the first one is pushed. Even more interesting is how often the person doing the pushing has no idea there are other dominoes behind the object on which they are exerting force.

Completely oblivious to the chain reaction ahead, they take what appears to be a relatively insignificant step. Sometimes that domino is a physical action, but sometimes it is more of a concept piece.

When a core belief is shaken, it can completely break a person. At the very least it tends to send them down a voyage of self discovery that is both dark and painful. Rarely do people know how much of their lives are built around these foundational beliefs until the perceived security they provide comes tumbling down.

You’ve heard stories about this before, athletes that assume all of their self worth is tied up in their ability to hit a baseball, shoot a basketball or throw a football. Then their path to success is cut short, either by injury, or the simple fact that they overestimated their own abilities. At this point many of these people break. They do not renew their efforts in a new field, they simply quit.

You see the same thing in business, and love. Often this breakage is so severe that it leads to suicide. A person takes their own life because the life they have constructed around a particular belief (either in themselves or something else) has proven itself to be folly.

It is easy to do, I know because I am familiar with disappointment, both in people and in situations. I built my life around the basic premise that people are good and given the option, do good things. Over and over again, I was let down; and over and over again, I convinced myself that these were the exceptions that made the rule.

Finally, I accepted that fact that the majority of the people out there are not good, at least not in the way I am defining it here. For this conversation what I mean by good is that they are more selfless than selfish. Sadly, on that benchmark, the human race has failed me, and my core belief system.

On a positive note, however, this is a foundational crack I was able to roll with fairly easily (sort of like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny). I have adapted my approach to life and am moving ahead with a greater sense of purpose than I had before. You see I view this as a fixable crack, and I’m out to be part of the fixing process.

I have experienced other cracks recently that have not been so easy to accommodate. Nothing devastating on a suicidal scale, but certainly a 9.5 on the wow-now-I-have-to-question-everything-about-this-o-meter. I have had to reevaluate my opinions of myself and the value I add to those around me. I have had to reevaluate my choices in friends, partners and alliances (yes, in this case those are all very different things).

I have had to assess my strategic advantages and weaknesses as well as my barriers to competition and my overall value proposition. I have balanced my personal budget (monetarily as well as emotionally, etc.) and I have made plans to eliminate redundancies and take advantage of economies of scale. In short, I have had to rebuild my personal business plan.

In the days to come those around me will see a leaner more efficient me. One more grounded with a new or refined sense of fundamental values. It’s a little sad that sometimes it takes a rather significant event to refocus your efforts; however, there is a phrase that goes “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

Right now… I’m feeling very, very strong…

December 29, 2008

Finding my Childlike Wonder

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 2:40 pm

Whew! I finally have internet again!

So, now you will all be blessed with the final installment of guest blogging for the holiday!  Today’s piece (originally scheduled for Saturday) come to you from one of the first people I forged any kind of real relationship with online, Devyl.  You can read and learn more about her on her blog http://devylgyrl.com… enjoy! :)

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When I was a child, I was also an adult. My parents divorced when I was a baby, and my mother remarried when I was a young child. My stepfather, although a good man in many ways, was also abusive. I learned early on that although I had toys, it was better not to play with them … because even if I walked away to go use the little girls room, I would get in trouble for them being out. I also learned that he expected me to do every single household chore with him, and I had my own chores besides.

By the time I was 10, I was cooling, cleaning, and doing most of the lawnwork by myself. I had to vacuum and rake the lawn daily (we had pine trees – they made a MESS!). I was also responsible for cleaning up after dinner. By the time I was 13, I was also responsible for my sister’s (and later my brother’s too) room, and I was responsible for ensuring the homework was done before my parents got home.

You would think, with everything that I had to do daily, the evenings would be completely free … they were not. Instead, there were more chores. We had the cleanest house in the state, by far. Especially since my stepfather is a perfectionist, and if the job was not done right, I was screamed at and spanked until it was completed to his standards.

There was a place for everything, and everything was in place. We had downtime, but I usually chose to read, something I was not allowed to do while my parents watched tv, while we were in the car, or when we had company. I was not allowed to use the phone, have friends over (I can count maybe 6 times my entire childhood that I had a friend at my house: only twice for sleepovers), pick out my own clothes, style my hair (I had to brush it and let it go – no water, hairspray, moose, or any other form of help … and I was not allowed to pull it into a ponytail to contain the wildness either), wear jeans to school, use makeup, or wear jewelry.

This is not to say my childhood was all bad: I have a lot of good memories. I have a lot of GREAT memories in fact. My sister, on the other hand, who was never spanked or abused (he literally called her little princess) was so traumatized by the abuse our baby brother and I endured, has blocked out her ENTIRE childhood. This was true even before our brother died when he was 16. I find this horrendously depressing, because despite the bad, there was a lot of good in our lives, and now she has very few memories of our brother … she only remembers the teen years, when they were bickering more than getting along. Those memories, of course, make her sad.

I tell you all of this not for your sympathy … but to preface the actual reason for the blog post. Now, I’ll get more to the point!

I have always had a hard time letting loose and having fun. I am a happy person, and I see the good in a lot of things. I find myself, though, unable to find the simple JOY in things. I cannot wrestle with 10 kids and enjoy it – I worry about whether they’ll get hurt. I cannot watch cartoons (except Disney/Pixar type movies): I do not like them. I cannot stand when I child talks back to an adult – even if I know they are allowed to by their parents, or they are joking, or there is a cameraderie between them. It literally makes my blood pressure rise.

I love kids and I love getting down and dirty and playing with them – outside in the mud, inside wrestling around, etc. The problem is, once I say I’m done: I am DONE. If they keep coming back for more, I get angry. My nieces and nephews and my Tween have gotten pretty good at understanding this. Other kids get upset when I walk away. I *can* be fun … but the kids call me their “Funnest mean Aunt EVER!” because “She loves us and plays with us, but she yells too!” I have come to accept that they will see me this way because they know me well, they love me despite myself, and they ALWAYS run to the door to greet me.

Christmas this year was going to be especially hard. I’ve had the worst year, financially, than I have had … ever. I took a huge pay cut to work where I am working right now because I love the people and wanted a job. Not many other people were (or are) hiring in my area (or really, in any area right now). The pay decrease meant I had to cut out a lot of the “fun” things my Tween and I are used to doing (once a month, we would go out to dinner and a movie, or we’d get season passes to the local water park and go every week, or we’d take weekend trips to nearby family and friends just to get away from home). We are both feeling the crunch of not having that freedom.

Two weeks before Christmas, my boss told me that they had cut back on everything imaginable – going as far as to not keep adding new stock in the store, but only ordering parts when our customers pay for them first – but that despite all the cutbacks, money had run dry. Unless business picked up in a major way, I was being released as of the 30th of the month. My Tween and I immediately took back the clothes and books we had gotten her for Christmas (she was along for most of the picking-out, although she wasn’t sure if she was getting all, or part, of what she pointed out at the time), along with things we had bought our friends and family.

My friends – both here in town and from the social websites I frequent – banded together in groups and set about to ensuring Tween and I had the Christmas they felt we deserved. One of my friends bought her the three books she’d been wanting (and that I could not afford to purchase, at $20 a piece!), another group of friends sent gift cards for her Wii (the gift her father promised to send but didn’t), along with other gift cards to stores she likes. My BFF and her sister and mother bought a few things to make me feel good (a couple of necklaces, a sweater, a pair of earrings), my daughter’s grandmother finally came through on the digital camera she had been promised for her birthday (it was wrapped in “Happy Birthday” paper, but we put it under the tree anyway) and Tween and I had an AMAZING Christmas despite all the stress before-hand. Tween still believes in Santa Claus, despite her age and all the flack she gets from her friends. My friends far and wide are absolutely wonderful, and I could not have asked for a better group of people to have in my life.

My friend “A”, who is also my roommate, had bought her family a trampoline for their Santa gift this year. When I was heading to bed, she headed outside to put it together. I was not going to let her struggle alone, so despite the lack of sleep I have had (my BFF’s baby is in the hospital, and I have been with her or with her kids every night for the last two weeks), I headed outside a few minutes later. Her brother, M, came out to help too, so the three of us worked diligently in the dark with only one dim flashlight and a porch light that did not reach the actual yard. It was fun, and it was warm outside (we’re talkin 75 degrees, people! Awesome!), so we were laughing and joking and having a good time. M went to bed as soon as the actual trampoline was put together, and left A and I to do the lacing of the net to the trampoline. It took another hour or so, and by the time we were done, we knew it was almost dawn. We decided we deserved to test out the trampoline first, since we were the ones who missed out on sleep to put it together (and we couldn’t tell the kids that because Santa brought the gift).

For the first time in my life, I got on a trampoline. I am 33 years old. When I was a child, I was not allowed on them because they were dangerous. As an adult, I just never found a reason to get on one. At five a.m. on Christmas morning, I had the best hour of fun with my friend A, giggling, bouncing, jumping, playing games, and laying on a trampoline. I had found the joy in fun.

This may not seem like a big deal to you. And honestly, most people who know me would not think it was a big deal either. After all, I laugh a alot. I have fun. I love my life, no matter how hard it becomes. I am a happy person, all around. I have moments of giddyness and fun, I have silly moments, I have crazy-silly-fun moments. I *do* have fun, and the people who know me know this well.

My friend “A” recognized the joy before I did. She looked at me and said “Thank you.” I knew what she meant right away – normally I would have been worried about the kids getting hurt and asking her five million questions, or worrying about the damage the trampoline could do to the yard, since we’re renting, or I would have gone to bed as soon as it was done, instead of staying outside and playing with her. Normally, even if I had stayed outside with her, I would have either watched her, or jumped a few times and called it done.

I had found the joy in taking a few minutes with my friend to find my child-like wonder again … and to enjoy a few child-like moments, completely worry-free. We had spent a full hour on the trampoline, giggling like schoolgirls, whispering about waking the neighbors with our noisiness, then bursting out in gales of laughter because we didn’t care. We reached beyond the anger and frustration we had towards each other over the last few months and dug deep inside ourselves to forgive completely, and enjoy the moment. Our friendship is once again complete.

This is a huge milestone for me … as it was for our friendship. We have been great friends for a long time, but we have a lot of disagreements on how to handle things: I tend to be a lot like my parents (minus the abuse portion of their parenting handbook) and she tends to be a “take it as it comes” type parent: very responsible, but a lot of fun.

I doubt that my friend Soren, who prides himself in finding the joy in life and being a “big kid,” has many other friends like me … but if you happen to be reading this blog … and you happen to recognize a little bit of yourself in my descriptions of myself … take a few moments out of life and try to find the joy. Not just the happiness … happiness is easy to find. Dig a little deeper and find the joy.

I would like to thank my “Christmas Angels” once again … because without them, this would have been a very stressful and disappointing Christmas. My Tween and I do not base our happiness on “things,” but Christmas and Birthdays are the only two times she receives “things” from me. In return, she donates items (things she no longer uses, no longer wants, or she has made) to a local charity or group who distributes them elsewhere. My “Christmas Angels” brought the magic into this year’s Christmas … and it is partially due to their generosity, love, and friendship that I was able to find a little joy and child-like wonder for myself.

I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year. May your 2009 be filled with the joy of learning, the joy of laughter, the joy of love, and especially the joy of LIFE.

xoxo
Devyl
http://devylgyrl.com

December 26, 2008

Elephants on Parade?

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 8:16 am

The second installment of “Guest Blogger Week” comes from one of my newer friends from Las Vegas.  I did my first guest blog gig on her site and love reading what she has to say.  Here is her blog’s link http://fearandparenting.wordpress.com. Be sure to check her out!

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“Just because I’m paranoid, doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get me.”

The last few months, I’ve been walking around with a pit in my stomach.

I just can’t seem to shake it.

It’s a sense that someone’s about to pull the rug out from under me.

There’s a knock on my door and a Trojan horse is on the other side.

I hear whispers in the cafeteria and I’m looking for the toilet paper on my shoe, hoping that’s the worst that can happen.

I don’t like it. It makes me into a person I don’t like to be. Paranoid. Jumpy. Worried. Anxious.

Not fun, that’s for sure.

It reminds me of my senior year in high school. I had been adopted by a small cluster of girls when I transfered midway through my junior year. We weren’t popular, but we were smart and had our talents. We went through some tough, but all-too-typical teenage times. Boyfriends. Parents. Fitting in. Standing out. Standing up on our own. We were good friends. Friends that I thought would last.

Until the last week of school. We had been spending more and more time away from each other. I was busy with my end-of-year music concerts. They were absorbed by their yearbook and newspaper deadlines. College entrance applications loomed.

I went out to my ’68 VW bug after school one day and discovered that it had been vandalized. Scrawled across my windows in shoe polish were profanities and vulgarities that I won’t repeat here. Under the windshield was a note – from my friends – screaming their hate for me. Not for what I had done or not done. But for me.

I was shocked and mortified. I drove my car home and cleaned it as quickly as I could before my parents could see it. I didn’t want to try to explain what had happened, because I didn’t understand it myself.

I still don’t. I never will.

At one point, I realized I could keep holding onto this confusion, trying to make some sense of it. Or, I could  let it go. Forgive my old friends (who never apologized or explained) and move on.

Eventually, I did come across one of them. We were getting married about the same time and I saw her name on a wedding registry site. I contacted her through a quick e-mail. I asked how she was doing and wished her well on her impending nuptials. She thanked me and we exchanged a few pleasantries, ignoring the elephant in the room. It was okay. I could live with that elephant.

I don’t know if I like the elephant that I’m staring at now. I don’t even know if it’s real.

I think something I may have written on my blog this year may have hurt people who I know and love. I worry that they may have taken my comments as being directed toward them specifically, when the reality is, my angst was aimed at a nameless, faceless mob.  I wish that their love and respect for me would have led them to confront me directly rather than to harbor hurt and to create distance.

But then again, there my not be an offense. There may not be an issue. Or, there is an issue and it may not be what I think it is.

I just wish I could shake it or deal with it. I can’t stand unresolved crap like this. I hate uninvitied elephants in my room.

December 24, 2008

When Greed moves in to your neighborhood, can Misery be far behind.

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 3:51 pm

I am off to California for Christmas!!  But fear not, in my stead I have lined up a fantastic group of guest bloggers!

The first is my friend Kat who blogs regularly on her own blog http://www.askatknits.wordpress.com.  You should check it out! :)

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I am thrilled to be a “guest blogger” for my friend Soren, although with this post he may be regretting that he accepted my offer to share my thoughts with you while he is enjoying vacation. Please do not lambaste him for my post – these thoughts do not reflect the thoughts or opinions of the blog owner.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day, the topic of the mortgage industry came up, and my friend thought right now would be the perfect time to refinance or buy a home. The conversation then went to the foreclosure crisis that is sweeping across America. On paper and in theory a solution looks all too easy – after all the government stepped in to help those troubled homeowners with HOPE for the Homeless, right? The plan was to help over 400,000 homeowners who were “upside down” in their homes by writing down the mortgage and refinancing thereby helping them remain in their homes. The reality is HOPE for the Homeowner has not helped one single homeowner thus far. That reality is hitting very close to home as well, I can drive through my neighborhood and see dozens of vacant foreclosed homes. Some blocks have multiple houses on each side of the street! My guess is that you have the same empty homes in the neighborhoods around you as well. So, what went so horribly wrong that loosing your house has become such a rampant epidemic in the neighborhoods we live in?

I have some theories on that and I want to share them with you – it is not pleasant but sometimes the truth is not.

The truth of the matter is that people purchased homes that they had no business purchasing, pure and simple. The idea of homeownership is a good one, but unfortunately – it is not for everyone. The lending industry made it possible for a person with a pulse to purchase a home with no money down. With a mere $500 in the transaction, any idiot could buy a home. Yes, you are reading that correctly. I will not even get into the transactions where the buyer walked away from the table with a check for a couple of grand. The Real Estate industries, who for the most part work solely on commission for income, convinced us that homeownership was the “American Dream” and we bought it – completely.

What followed was an influx of buyers on to the market that had no preparation for their foray into acquiring their slice of the American Dream – and like sheep led to the slaughter they rushed ahead in ignorance.

Follow along the journey with me as I hope to share with you how we got into the disaster we are in as a nation today.

For years, there have been two different methods of purchasing homes – conventional and government. I am sure you know the players – playing for Team Conventional was Fannie Mae and her brother Freddie Mac. They, for the most part, made mortgages available to the general public at reasonable rates with some, and in my humble opinion, with some requirements that were easy to meet. You needed to have some money down – at least 5%, you needed to have verifiable income, and you needed to have established, good credit.

Weighing in for the Government Team were FHA and her cousin VA. FHA was the perfect choice for first time homebuyers with little money to put down on a home, with no or a limited credit history, or with what those in the industry would call “bruised credit.” The rates were a bit higher than conventional financing, but the risk was greater and with no penalty for refinancing early, it made sense for borrowers to use this as a tool to obtain homeownership. VA provided similar benefits for those incredible people who have served in a branch of the armed services.

For years, these options were available to everyone who wanted to buy a home. In addition, they were highly successful – there were few foreclosures at all.

Then Greed showed up to the party and changed all the rules, putting us on the path for disaster that we have been traveling on for some years now.

Using the above lender criteria, there would be a segment of people who would not quality for homeownership. However, Greed said they should be and looked for ways to change the system.

Before long Greed had infected both Fannie and Freddie with options for borrowers who could not previously qualify for loans under the more rigid criteria. You needed no money down to buy a home. There were even loans that the underwriters began to call “Liar Loans” because no documentation was required to qualify the borrower. Say it and sign your name and you can have the money! It got to the point that a borrower truly only needed a pulse to purchase a home and nothing else.

The number of people buying homes increased drastically, which artificially drove the price of homes up.

With all this going on Risk, a player who heretofore had been ignored, began to exact the toll on the unsuspecting borrower by slowly and steadily raising the interest rates on the loans – increasing payments sometimes as often as every 6 months. Before long, the borrowers with the riskiest profiles began to loose their homes to the foreclosure process. In addition, a housing market that was beginning to slow down showed the reduction in prices of homes.

Then the economy began to slow, adding further stress to an already ill housing market.

Interest rates continued to increase steadily and the next level of at risk borrowers found themselves pulled into the whirlpool of foreclosure. This increased the amount of houses on the market, further reducing the value of all the homes to the detriment of us all.

Now, suddenly the last tier of homebuyers found themselves treading water to stay out of the downward spiral. Yet, they had an added factor that the prior victims did not have – their homes that had lost twenty percent, or more, of its value – were worth less than what they owed! For example, if they purchased a home for $100,000 – suddenly it was only worth $80,000. What was to keep them from walking away from these homes – they had little or no investment and if they were in an adjustable rate product, they had rising house payments. They had no desire to be upside down in their homes, so they just walked away.

This crisis is effecting us all in that is has further depressed an already sagging economy and will continue to do so until the bottom has been reached. The result will be around for years to come as these vacant homes fill the market in the days and years to come.

What can we learn from this debacle?

Well, how about for starters that you cannot get something for nothing. If you want something, you need to invest in it. It then has more value. There also need to be measurable rules and guidelines for lending. The government players I talk about above have not loosened their standards in their lending criteria and their names are noticeably missing from the headlines. It is not because they are not lending – far from it, they are still making loans, doing it quietly, and with conviction. They have put the emphasis where it should be, on responsible homeownership. A ripe marketplace with an abundance of realistically priced inventory awaits the borrower that qualifies.

My fear is that we will not learn anything from this at all; I heard today that the banks whom we all bailed out do not want to be accountable for the funds they have received. That very lack of accountability is exactly how we all got into the housing issue in the first place. I believe that wisdom allows a person to learn from others mistakes without having it directly experience it. Wisdom also understands that sometimes saying “no” is not a punishment but rather a blessing. My wish is that we can all become wise quickly and stem the rising flood.

Thanks for letting me share with all of you, and a bigger thanks to Soren for allowing me to do so on his blog!

December 22, 2008

What is it worth?

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 8:22 pm

I expect this one will be short, as there is really not much to say on this topic. However, I feel it is significant enough to write about anyway.

I’m pretty sure I have written before about how much I dislike it when someone who is in a position of righteousness relinquishes that position by compromising themselves. As ridiculous as it seems, people do it all the time.

Another, different but related, affliction of the human condition that irks me to no end (especially when I do it) is getting mad at someone because they are mad at you. This is troulesome whether they are legitimately mad at you or not.

If their anger is not valid, then you are in the afore mentioned position of righteousness and only risk compromising yourself by getting overly emotional and reacting from such a place. People, even those in the right, say and do stupid things (wrong things) when they are angry, and you open the door to this by reacting this way.

If their anger is legitimate then you are accomplishing nothing but delaying or even destroying the healing process by building up your defenses. Now is the time to accept the responsibility for whatever you have done to anger the other person, take ownership of it and work toward reconciliation.

People are emotional, all of us are, and we are going to react to things emotionally. However, if you work at it a little, while you cannot easily prevent that first wave of emotion, what you can do is learn to take a deep breath (or 50) and bring your blood pressure back down and your thought processes up before you respond out loud.

I believe some call this being the bigger person. Others call it being smarter than the situation. Call it what you will, the bottom line is this… reacting to a reaction is pointless and almost universally destructive.

… not to mention often ruining a perfectly righteous position.

December 19, 2008

Captain Caveman!!!

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 7:00 am

When I opened the morning paper today and saw the headline about millions of Chinese living in caves, I have to admit my little do-gooder-liberal-rage-against-the-machine-elitist-democrat mouth started watering.  What human oppression “goodness” could I rail against today.  What bastion of western excess was causing this atrocity and what flavor of latté was I, along with my fellow gluttons, drinking as these people trudged off to fill their water buckets up from a shark infested river (yes they have shark’s in Chinese rivers if I’m trying to make a case about how bad their lives are ;) ) three miles away (up hill… both ways).

Twenty Million people living in caves, this was a bleeding heart’s (wait for it…) gold mine!!!

Imagine my shock and horror when I found out that these folks liked living in their caves.  They liked watching cable tv in their caves.  They liked sleeping in their beds, washing their dishes (and doing other things indoor plumbing allows) in their caves.  The liked being safe from nearly all forms of natural disasters (including earthquakes) in their caves.   And, of course, they liked not paying for their caves, or to heat their caves in the winter, or to cool them in the summer.

… I am now looking into caves.

More importantly, however, I’m looking into my judgment system.  For the second time in a week that is less than half over, I find myself having jumped to a place of subjective perspective without first considering the facts of the situation before me.

And it’s not as simple as it looks.  It’s not just that I assumed they had no running water, or electricity or… whatever.  It’s that I assumed that if you live in a cave, you are, by definition, suffering and oppressed.

Reality check… that’s not true.  For the people in this article, it was a choice.  They wanted to live in a cave, and after looking at it with an open mind, I understand why.  The only real drawback when compared to a modern house is the lack of windows.  In every other measurable way, the cave appears to be not only equal but superior.

The point is, I guess, that just because something is different than how we would do it.  Just because we cannot imagine how something might be reasonable or acceptable does not mean it is untenable.

I’ve always believed this, but, in true bigoted fashion, I’ve limited this belief to things I could understand or at least relate to.  Since I could not rationalize or understand living in caves as being a good thing, I assumed the worst of it… my ignorance made me judgmental.

So now I’m back to trying to figure out what kind of latté I was drinking when I failed in my gluttonous and insensitive western way to recognize that just because you are not doing things my way, does not mean you are doing them wrong…

Double half caff triple white Russian strawberry Belgian waffle mocha latté… shaken, not stirred, please… hold the cream… I’m on a diet…

December 18, 2008

An Epiphany by any other name, would smell as sweet…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — sbj @ 6:05 pm

Earlier an online friend of mine posted this video and asked people what they thought of it.

My instant response consisted of three thoughts, which I shared:

1. Adorable

2. Despite #1 I have concerns about exposure and theme related issues (appropriateness, in a word)

3. We are looking at a weapons grade manizer in 15 years.

I, of course, passed the video on to other friends, asking them their opinion and the words of one of them struck me. An excerpt from our chat is below.

ya know I just want to raise my kids in peace
and have them live in a world that makes sense to me
unfortunately, I don’t have that, I can’t have that
and, I suppose those parents just want to raise their daughter in peace
and have her live in a world that makes sense to them
and, unfortunately, I suppose, *I* take that from them
…

I feel so oppressive, and so oppressed

I was instantly captivated by this. Here was a person, who earlier in the conversation was close to railing on those parents, acknowledging and embracing the basic human reality of perspective. Acknowledging and embracing an opinion, which could not have been further from her own if it had been constructed with that end in mind, as being valid.

It was one of those rare moments of beauty when a person transcends themselves and has an epiphany, and I was fortunate enough to be there for it.

I’m not certain she would say she had such a moment, in fact she might offer that she was and is confused, torn and tormented by this dichotomy of thought. That, of course, is the epiphany. Sometimes you don’t realize the moment as it is happening, because it comes in the form of a perspective paradigm shift rather than actual awareness, but it is a breakthrough nonetheless.

In this instance my friend embraced objectivity, and all of the discomfort that comes along with it. Letting go of your judgmental side and opening yourself up to the possibilities of other people’s perspectives is not an easy business.

I certainly failed to do so to the degree I would have liked in my response.

My reaction to that video may have been right and it may have been wrong, but that is not the point. At the moment of reflection, my friend was far more open-minded and objective than I was, and I’m glad I was there to learn from it when she was…

The devil went down to Georgia… cause hell was frozen over…

Filed under: Observations,goofy — sbj @ 1:28 am

Twice in the past few days, it has snowed in Las Vegas. I have some friends who absolutely consider Vegas the ninth or tenth ring of hell (I do not agree…. But play along, please, cause this is supposed to be fun J ). So, what that means, technically, is that hell hath frozen over.

So what you say? Well, here’s what.

All those things that didn’t stand a snowballs chance in hell? Well, let’s just say it’s a good day to be a compacted frozen sphere of water in the land o demons. All those things you ever referred to as not going to happen until hell froze over… guess what… you are now going to have to be spending 10 minutes in the closet with *that person*.

It means my beloved Warriors have a REALLY good chance of sweeping the NBA championship series.

It means that I’ll eat mayonnaise, and like it.

It means that people are going to stop driving gas guzzling road hogs and get smart cars for their commuting needs… or ever take public transportation.

It means that my uncle will not only play, but win the lottery.

It means a certain someone will pay me the money they have owed me for years.

It means someone other than a white male will win the presidency (I guess we should have seen this snow coming)

It means that children will sit quietly and work earnestly and respectfully from the moment they get to school until the moment they walk out the door.

It means my meaningless silly lists not be as long as they usually ar… oops :)

Well then! Long story made short, we are now living in a land of opportunity… what “cold day in hell” things are you expecting… now that Vegas has fallen under the spell of the white witch?

December 17, 2008

I’d like to get to know you…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — sbj @ 3:59 pm

I find it interesting that some (most) of my friends and even a few members of my family do not consider online friendships legitimate ones. There is a distinction between my friends in town and those that might be in Florida, South Dakota or New Zealand.

Some of them even have “pet terms” for internet friends. To be fair, within the internet community, there is a nickname for “local friends” as well (irl – in real life), the difference is that irl has never, in my experience, been a derogatory term.

Again, not everyone is outwardly negative about my friends from my various social networks, but almost everyone seems to think they are a second class citizen to some degree. Today, I want to state emphatically that they are not.

Some of my friends that I know from no other source than the internet are amongst the best people I know. Some of these people mirror my priorities and objectives in life to a ridiculous degree that I have seldom managed to accomplish with those I have been fortunate enough to happen upon in my life’s wanderings.

And that, I believe is the key. In real life geography, education and employment often dictate who your friends are. At work or school, you have a limited sample to draw from, you make friends with those most similar to you, but you are making this choice from only a handful of options that are available to you. The rest of your irl friends are even more happenstance, running into them in a bar, a library, a grocery store, etc.

By contrast, when I join a social network, I am exposed to literally tens or hundreds of thousands of people, all of whom are wearing their personalities, values, and ambitions on their sleeves. I gravitate toward a person, not based on their physical proximity to me, but because of who they are. I’m also not hindered by such vanities as appearance, wealth or position, again, its what the person has to say that matters.

People often criticize bloggers and micro-bloggers for putting so much of their personal lives “out there” for the world to see. “Who wants to know all of that about a stranger” is something I hear all the time. “You do” is my answer to them. The same stuff that people blog, twitter or IM about comes up in polite conversation at dinner parties, grocery store lines, and office break rooms every day. When you meet someone for the first time, if you are interested in them, you get to know them.

Some say that is pandering, which if it is true, I’m fine with, because honestly I’d rather be pandered to with values, dreams and even frustrations than makeup, clothes and cologne. Irl people (including myself) prepare themselves for first contact by being visually appealing, online people prepare for first contact by being themselves.

Growing up, I heard the phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover” often enough, and yet we put more stock in a medium of selecting our friends that encourages just that approach than one that does the opposite. I’m not saying irl friends are bad, or inferior… in fact, I love my local friends and have been very lucky to find some absolute peaches in this apple cart called Boise. However, I do not value them more because I met them in person.

Just say’n…

Nothing to see here… move along…

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 3:38 am

Fair warning, this is going to be one of those really personal (not that way!!!) blogs where the author just kind of spills a bunch of stuff about himself and you’re not really sure why he felt the need to do so. There is no moral, there is no lesson, there is no victim, there is no fluff… in short… its really not like any of my blogs at all. Read on at your own risk J

I am making a movie. I decided about two weeks ago to do it, and my goal is to get it into the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. No small task. Sundance is an objective for established producers, I of course, have never shot anything more advanced than my sons football game… and that film is, in a word, horrible.

Fortunately, I don’t have to do the filming, I only have to do the interviewing (did I mention it was a documentary… you can all begin your naps now ;) ), planning, script work, legal work… well… okay, I’ve got a little work to do. However, I don’t have to do the filming, because my brother has recently started a production company and he is going to do that part for me (well, at least 2/3’s of the movie and post production, he’s not sure he’ll be able to travel when the time comes).

But I digress…

This is, obviously, a big project, a big goal and reaching for the stars… not the local ones either. However, from my perspective, the idea of me making a movie and having it screened anywhere requires metaphorical rockets, life support, re-entry vehicles etc. anyway, so, if I’m going to be using all that equipment, might as well go for the long haul, right?

Why do I think I can do this? Because it is not something I am doing for money, notoriety, fame or a future in film making. It is something I am doing because of a passion I have and a message I want to send.

Without going into too much detail at this time, the message is simply this, if you are a middle class (which particular portion of the middle class is irrelevant) kid (or upper class, of course) in the United States of America, you have been given a pretty decent shake, and you should appreciate what you have.

The amount of angst I see at my sons Jr High bothers me. Even those without angst seem to not really appreciate the opportunities being a non-destitute citizen of this country affords. For whatever reason, I have convinced myself that my concept might help them come to grips with this reality, and as such, it has become my calling.

I have almost completely abandoned poker, I spend my lunches and evenings doing research, I don’t even know when the next Duke game is (gasp!!!!!). If you notice a perceptible drop off in the quality or quantity of my writing, this will be why.

I am dedicated to this task, and it will certainly consume most of the nest 8 or 9 months of my life.

That’s it, over and out!

December 15, 2008

I won’t build it… cause they may come

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 6:11 pm

The other day I was asked by an online acquaintance to look over his “manifesto” and see if I could find ways to highlight the key themes and make it resonate a little more. He considered this a consulting job and was more than happy to pay me an hourly fee for my services. Having no idea what this particular piece was about (and always in need of a little extra Christmas money), I agreed to do so. Later that evening, for the first time in my life, I turned away a job, based on my personal convictions.

I have been asked to do a lot of things in my life, and, for the most part, if I commit to something, you can bet your last dollar it will be done. However, this was not something I could support. Fortunately when I declined he was very understanding (“my philosophy is not for everyone”). Further, when I told him I might want to write about it, and if I did, he would not be portrayed well, he not only said it was okay, but encouraged me to quote from his work without citation.

I’m not going to do much of that, because I do not want to propagate the negativity. However, there were a couple of lines I thought were interesting. With regard to relationships he mentions that:

… you have to create the illusion of disharmony for people to be convinced that they are in the perfect relationship. They have to actually be fighting for it, in order to consider it worth fighting for.

There is a bit of frightening reality to that statement. Not so much in the context he was using it in (ie. Intentionally creating the dysfunction), but in everyday life.

He also talks about deliberately staying “small” and not going for the big score.

I am far too selfish to be notorious.

I found this kind of interesting, and reminiscent of the joke I first heard in the movie Colors:

Young bull: lets run down there and have our way with a cow.

Old bull: No, lets walk down and have ‘em all.

There is a maturity in those words, a sense of delayed gratification that makes them a touch more insidious and dangerous, to me.

I was discussing this with a friend after the fact and she asked me, “who would want to read this?” That’s where reality really jumped up at me. Because, when you think about it, the potential audience for this stuff is legion.

The WWF (WWC, RAW, whatever they call it these days) has good guys and bad guys, and if the crowds are any indication, it seems that both sides have no shortage of supporters. More and more, movies have “fuzzy” borderline Heros, more accidentally or situationally heroic than anything else (witness movies like Riddick, for example). Often they are actually villains who, for personal gain, help the “good guys” and eventually do the right thing (even my beloved Hancock is of highly suspect character).

All of this and I have not even begun to talk about things like the occult, satanic croups, etc. The long and short of it is, there is a big market for “evil” out there. It’s growing, and it scares me a little bit.

So, I turned down this job. I told him I have far more productive things to be investing whatever talent I have in; things that do not glorify or encourage the degeneration of our society our ourselves. But it certainly got me thinking, maybe those campy cheesy “good guy” movies of days gone by are not so bad after all. Perhaps I need to give old Christopher Reeeve and superman another look. They may not be as fun or as exciting, but perhaps a little less line blurring might not be such a bad idea…

December 13, 2008

You know you wanted to know more about me…

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 8:01 am

I like my grapes best green and frozen

I like my raspberries best in sorbet from Haagen Daas

I like my baseball best when it is played with a waffle ball and bat… and family.

I like my friends best when they are laughing

I like my bus ride best in the morning when there is an air of anticipation

I like my television best… off

I like my books best when they force me to put them down and think

I like my school best when it does the same thing

I like my “boo’s” best when they are followed by “Eeek”

I like my pumpkins best when baked into a pie by my sister

I like my movies best when they result in lively debate

I like my trials and tribulations best when I learn from them

I like my job best when I get to travel and speak at conventions

I like my car best when it sits idle in the driveway for months

I like my weather best when it is about 60 degrees and windy

I like my “good mornings” best when they are followed by “sunshine”

I like my beer best when my friends are laughing

I like my jokes best when they take a minute for people to get (but they do, eventually, get them)

I like my personality best when I am listening

I like my food best with a touch of spice

I like my shoes best when they are worn down to nothing and support my memories better than my arches

I like my calphalon pots and pans best when my friends are laughing

I like my Christmas Eve’s best at Farmor and Farfar’s

I like my football games best when I watch them with my brothers, my sons and my father

I like my lunch best a little early

I like my showers best when they are entirely too hot and long for my environmental leanings

I like my pizza best with pineapples and black olives

I like my cookies best before they are baked

I like my charities best when they spend less on administration and more on the cause

I like my interactions best when they are with babies

I like my hotels best with a slightly less swanky address

I like my travel best when it is on a smaller budget and includes Youth Hostels

I like my sycophants best when they are elsewhere

I like my conversations best when I am kept honest and challenged

I like my eggs best over easy, except on a Benedict, of course

I like my milkshakes best when they are delivered with a fresh banana as a primary ingredient

I like my women best when they are more intelligent than me

I like my thoughts best when they are forced upon me by dialog or event

I like my seasons best when leaves are throwing themselves into my path to be kicked

I like my mornings best when my son jumps into bed with me

I like my no look passes best when they are thrown to *you*

I like my life best while the earth is rotating on its axis

I like my children best… of all

December 12, 2008

The Best Advice I Never Took…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 10:08 pm

Not too long ago I was reading and I stumbled upon the following passage, which I love.

You have a boss, you have a team of salespeople, you have customers, maybe vendors, you have friends, and they all have lives, problems, and situations.

Stay out of them.

At first this may not sound much like “me,” and, quite honestly, it’s not. Not only do I try to be helpful wherever I can, but I’m also nosey at times, and curious, and I often think I have the answers for everything. However, the chapter heading for the section that excerpt came from is “Resign Your Position as General Manager of the Universe,” and within that context, those words could not be more true.

Unless asked, its not my problem, responsibility, or even right to try to solve every little problem every person has. What’s more, it is very distracting to my own goals and aspirations. A couple of pages earlier in the book there is another passage:

You’re more focused on yourself than you are on your world. Or should I say the world around you. When you’re focused on yourself (i.e. how you look, what you are wearing, what other people think of you) you are diverting your “focus energy” away from your success. Focus means intense purpose, and when you waste that focus on yourself, you’re going to miss the opportunities around you. … it means you have to divert selfish and insecure for open-minded and self-confident.

The second passage reminds me of one of my favorite quotes (yes, if you read here often you have heard it before) “It’s none of my business what you think about me.” One of the most destructive things you can do in your life is getting yourself caught up in someone else’s value system. Listen, understand, and learn from them, yes, all great things to do. Try to superimpose them on your life (or vice-versa) and you are certain to crash and burn.

No matter how similar two people are, they are going to have fundamental differences from time to time (in some cases, it will be more like they have fundamental agreements from time to time ;) ). Recognizing these differences and learning from them can be very constructive, however, trying to reconcile them seldom is. The best way to serve yourself in these situations is to learn as much as possible from your friend’s position, the best way to “help” them is to allow them to do the same, stopping short of trying to assimilate them to your way of thinking.

So, give all of that, why do I continue to pester, persuade, cajole, etc.? Why do I continue to offer my advice and counsel on an unsuspecting, and often (justifiably or not) unappreciative world? Why do I continue to put an agenda of trying to change/improve the world over my own personal advancement?

Because of the passage from Goethe that contains the following words:

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse

If we treat people as they ought to be

We help them become what they

Are capable of becoming.

Somewhere between those three passages (and a few others, of course) lie the key tenants of how I have chosen to lead my life. Is it right? Is it wrong? I do not know. What I do know, is that it is the path I have chose for myself. It is what I want to accomplish… my goal and aspiration.

With that in mind, I guess I’m actually kind of accomplishing all three at the same time… in my own way, of course…

Murder Death Kill…

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

A good friend of mine suggested that I write about the latest (and I quote) “stupid suicide bombing” in Iraq. Her emphasis, as I understand it at the time, was on the stupid part of it and I was in agreement with her, until the conversation went a little deeper.

It was at this point that I realized that she meant to single out the suicide bombers as stupid, not violence in general. Part of her premise was that suicide bombers attack randomly focusing their attacks on civilians and therefore lacking the nobility of other technologies and approaches.

To be fair, she did state that she thought all violence was stupid, but that it could also be grouped and some was more stupid than others. Again, to quote, she pointed out that I was “intelligent enough” to figure out which was which.

So, against my general philosophy, that all violence is equally bad, and that it should not, in fact, be broken down into subcategories, I have decided to take a comparative look at various forms of war time violence and see what I can do about demonstrating the intelligence she is so confident resides within me.

Before I try to tackle the statistical side of this, I would like to address what I think are the two major themes in warfare. Simply put there is, typically, an aggressor and a responder. In my view, the unprovoked aggressor (the provoked aggressor, of course, is actually a responder) is always the more “stupid” of the two, since we are being forced to evaluate by degree of stupid, that is. Therefore, for example, when an invading convoy meets a resisting suicide bomber, by default, I’m going to give the greater stupid score to the convoy.

I do not discriminate, when allocating stupid points, based on the resources for waging war present in the warring factions arsenal. If you have only a pile of rocks, and you start a war you get extra value stupid points, if you only have a pile of rocks and you try to defend yourself with them, just regular stupid points… if any. Same is true if you have an atomic bomb, or any other weapons system in-between.

I also do not discriminate based on the flag you have painted on your tank (or on your rocks). If you start the conflict, without provocation or probable cause, you just hit the daily double on stupid. If you are just defending yourself, you show up as normal to none on the stupid-o-meter.

Long story made sort, if you can prove your case, “he started it” goes a long way with me. Considerably farther than the efficiency of your weapons targeting, and infinitely further than whether you took your own life along with you victims or not.

Let’s take a look at the numbers.

  • With mostly conventional weaponry in play, civilian casualties in World War I numbered nearly 10,000,000.
  • With refined technology the civilian death toll in World War II was 35 million, which was actually greater than the number of military deaths (25 million).

Fortunately as we have progressed over the years, our technology has become better and surely the civilian populations have benefited from this. I found an essay on this exact subject, here are some of the results.

Even “smart bombs” kill civilians often, and some even say that such precision bombs statistically do not reduce civilian deaths at all: in the Gulf War 3 percent of bombs were precision-guided, in 1999 in Yugoslavia 30 percent were, and in an Afghanistan air campaign in 2001 it was 70 percent, but each time the ratio of civilians killed to bombs used is higher than the last time. In the 1991 Gulf War, a flawless smart bomb hit a bomb shelter and killed 408 civilians.

Oopsie!!

But certainly Suicide bombers are far worse with their archaic methodology and devil may care attitude, lets check…

When I studied the statistics here I found some rather startling information. Did you know that over the past 2 years nearly 50% of suicide bombers killed only themselves? In Afghanistan alone over the past two years some 90 would be assassins took only their own lives. Part of the reason might be found here:

Taliban spokesman Zabiyullah Mujahed recently claimed, “We do our best in our suicide attacks to avoid civilian casualties. These are our Muslim countrymen, and we are sacrificing our blood to gain their freedom. Their lives are important to us, of course. But fighting with explosives is out of the control of human beings.” Then he made an interesting admission that speaks to other factors that might explain the Afghan suicide bombers’ failure rate. He stated, “We have a problem with making sure they attack the right targets, avoiding killing civilians.”

Hmmmmmm…

Once again, to be fair, I’m certain if we spoke to the leaders of any of the previously mentioned civilian casualty disasters (including the ones inflicted by the “good guys”… AKA us), they would share this concern for hitting their military objectives and avoiding civilians. I’m not quoting the Taliban to defend them; I’m quoting them because I found a quote easily and quickly.

An ancillary argument to all of this, of course, is that everyone who dies in war is a civilian, some just happen to be carrying weapons when they are killed and others are not. In this paradigm, of course, it is simply the weapons that kill the most people that are the stupidest, regardless of whether those victims wear a uniform or not. I actually subscribe to this theory…

The bottom line, I believe is this. All violence, all war, and all methods of conducting either are stupid. You can try to classify them by degree if you like, but I feel it is pointless and a waste of time.

  • Fire bombing the city of Dresden was stupid and wrong.
  • Dropping atomic weapons on two cities in Japan was stupid and wrong.
  • Flying airplanes into buildings in New York and Washington DC was stupid and wrong.
  • Walking into a restaurant on the last day of Eid and blowing yourself up (along with 55 others) was stupid and wrong.

In each of the above instances the assailant had, in their mind, justifiable cause for their actions. In each of the above instances the victims and their families found the actions unconscionable and deplorable. In each of the above incidents most (or all, depending in your point of view) of the victims were civilians.

I guess when it comes down to it, my friend was wrong… I’m not intelligent enough to differentiate and categorize one form of violent behavior over another… It all sucks. Which is kind of what I thought she and I were talking about from the very beginning…

December 11, 2008

A rant… abandoned…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 6:06 pm

I am angry, rather angry actually… so this may not be my most eloquent post. Just letting you know going in…

Earlier I was writing about the recent medical successes in Somalia (I’m happy about that) and noticed the relative balance in gender of students. This made me wonder what the numbers looked like in our country. I was further pleased to find that not only are they balanced, but women graduates actually outnumbered men this year. What’s more, the ratio of women to men in medical schools is currently roughly 3:2.

Just and I was hitting my blissful stride, however, I stumbled upon this comment:

women do better in school generally than men because school has become an instutitonalized nursery where people get ahead by subservience. true brilliance amongst professors remains the province of men. and if the medical and legal professions were not under the iron grip of their academic instuititons….maybe more people who would be good doctors and lawyers would join the practice rather than be kept out for no reason other than their inability to sit through years of banal, boring training, much of whih is not only useless but an expensive waste of time.

I left the spelling, punctuation, capitalization and grammar exactly as written, so that we could all properly bask, unencumbered by any false pretenses of actual literacy, in the afore mentioned “provence.”

Aside from being simplistic, defensive, bigoted rubbish, this particular bit of sophomoric vitriol manages to drag men under a bus many of us have been trying to climb out from under for years. Some of us have actually realized that women are every bit as qualified and capable as men are.

I could go on, attacking this comment, but, honestly, I took a break from this and have lost the vim and vigor for such an assault. Instead I’m going to simply apologize to women in general. For the way you have been treated over the years (centuries), for the way some would still treat you today, and for those not yet ready to embrace your contributions to society.

I hope you are aware that there are many of us who do appreciate you. Your particular talents, achievements and the fact that, in simple terms, you make our world a better place in which to exist.

Thank you…

Somebody call a doctor!!!

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 5:14 pm

Because I’m tired of hearing about and talking about Pirates, I’m going to shift gears a little on the topic of Somalia. A couple of weeks ago something happened in Somalia that had not occurred in 18 years. For the first time since 1990, 20 people (12 men and 8 women) became doctors in the impoverished nation.

That’s right, it has nearly been a generation since Somalia produced a doctor within its own borders.

One of the interesting aspects of their medical program is the funding. The college is funded almost entirely by Somali doctors, with each student paying an additional $1,500 fee annually. I really like that the program’s graduates perpetuate its future.

Currently there are 256 students in the school (151 male and 105 female), which expects to graduate 24 next year (prior to the country’s civil war the University was graduating roughly 50 Doctors a year). I am encouraged by the relative balance between men and women graduating with medical degrees (in the US, by the way, Women graduates recently surpassed men, and the ratio of women to men in medical school is now 3:2).

What I’m really moved by, though, is the fact that this is one of the first major steps and accomplishments of a nation that is trying to resurrect itself from civil war, poverty and the international scrutiny of piracy. One of the bell weather indicators of a nation capable of taking care of itself is its ability to care for its own when they are sick. Somalia, for nearly two decades has been unable to provide the internal resources to do so.

Today I lift my Aquafina bottle to Somalia and the Benadir University Medical College. Good work guys and gals… keep it up!!

December 10, 2008

Five Easy Pieces…

Recently, I was asked by a friend (friend as defined as a Senior from one of the centers I do volunteer tech support for) to help him come up with a very quick list of five things to tell his estranged grandson when he visits.  He (the senior) is on his last leg as they say, and his daughter is bringing his grandson from New Jersey to visit him before he passes.  He wanted to pass on a few tips to his grandson, but because of the pressure of the situation and, to a lesser degree, his deprecated mental state, he couldn’t think of anything to say.  This was, of course, on the phone, impromptu, and brief, so he asked me for 5 tips.  Off the top of my head I gave him these…

Do not make a decision without considering how it will affect at least three other people – in other words, look for the unintended consequences. Everything you do in life effects others, keep that in mind and you can prevent a lot of heartache along the way. Frequently, when you take the time to see things from the perspective of others, you also wind up seeing that what seemed like a good thing for you really would not have worked out so well afterall.

Do not lie – this sounds simple and everyone says it, however, it’s not so much the effect on others I’m concerned about, it is the effect on you. When you lie you tell yourself that you are/were not good enough for the truth. If you do that enough, just like anything else, you will begin to believe it. Live a life worthy of the truth, and then speak honestly of it. PS it is also a bad thing to do to others.

When presented the choice between something you have done and something you haven’t, take the latter- Comfort can lead to complacency, while adventure tends to foster initiative. Further, people tend to travel in packs of interest, so if you delve into a new activity, you are likely to discover a whole new sub-culture, ripe with potential friends. I’m not saying you should never do things you know you enjoy, but make sure you carve out enough time for new things too.

Read, a lot – When you read, you do so many things that beyond simply enjoying a story. Your vocabulary is improved by reading words you do not know, or words that are used outside of the context in which you usually encounter them. Your deductive and reasoning skills are sharpened, not just in the act of anticipating where they plot will go, but in things as simple as determining what a word means in a particular context. You are also exposed to different perspectives on the world, which, if you are open to them, will help you tremendously in understanding and relating to the myriad of people you will meet throughout the course of your life.

Love – Love ridiculously. Make a fool out of yourself doing it. Express yourself in ways that your friends are sure to tease and taunt you about. Because if you do, someone will do the same for you… and you will never recover from it (in a good way, a really really good way)

Anything you’d like to add?

December 9, 2008

Tiger Woods y’all, Tiger Woods y’all, Tiger Tiger Tiger Tiger Tiger Woods y’all!!!

Filed under: Just life,Observations — sbj @ 5:05 pm

A little break to appreciate someone who, at times, defies logic and reason.

In early 2008, six (6) tournaments in, Tiger Woods was forced to forgo the reset of his season due to injury. Before we get too deep into the statistics, let’s keep that number (6) fresh in our minds. Tiger played in 6 tournaments, while the average player participated in 24. Therefore it is reasonable to assume (playing at the same pace he started with) he could have posted numbers 4 times greater then the ones he finished with. Even if he fell off in production by 25% his numbers would be three times what they were, if he played as often as the rest of the PGA players.

To the statistics:

Top 10 finishes – of the 188 tour golfers who had at least one top 10 finish over the course of the year, Tiger finished tied for 14th, with 6 top 10 finishes (AKA all of them). The co-leaders had 9 top ten’s (neither of them had a single win).

Top 3 finishes – Of the 111 tour golfers that finished in the top three at least once, Tiger placed tied for third, with 5. The co-leaders had 6. Tigers only non top 3 tournament was a 5th place finish.

Tour earnings – This is my favorite one. In 6 tournaments, Tiger finished second (2nd) in the money list for 2008 with $5.8 million. The first place golfer made $6.6 in 23 tournaments.

Average finish – First place with an average finish of 1.8 (obviously that 5th place severely impacted his average!!). Second place was 5.0 (only one tournament), the average finish of the first person with more than 1 tournament played was 17.0 and the average finish of the overall money leader was 34.2.

First place finishes – Second only to the money list, this stat is remarkable as well. Tiger woods, in one quarter the tournaments of the average tour player, won more tournaments (4 of the 6) than any other PGA golfer. More than anyone…

Tiger has also, despite missing 2 months before coming back to win the U.S. Open, while playing injured, the longest current streak of tournaments played without missing the cut.

Also in 2008, lest we think this man does nothing but strike a little white ball, Tiger initiated what I consider to be a fantastic program, the Fist Pump Challenge.

Before I go on, I must disclaim, that I am not a fan of the fist pump, period. I much prefer the Jerry Rice, simply drop the ball in the end zone and go back about your business approach to sports celebrations.

However, this is a little different. The point of the FPC is to get kids to submit essays describing their Fist Pump Moments, the times in their lives when they have achieved their best. What I love most about this is the positive reinforcement aspect of it. We spend too much time, in our culture, focusing on the negative, what we failed to do, what we failed to accomplish, etc. I love the idea of kids focusing on the positives, both in the form of writing about them, and in the form of reading the other essays (which you have to do in order to vote).

By any standard, I think it has been a banner year for Mr. Woods (even worthy of a fist pump, I suppose… if anything ever was)…

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