puntiglio.com

January 31, 2009

Seven Score and Four Years ago… Today…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 5:46 pm

Seven score and four years ago our fathers redefined on this continent a nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

On this date in 1865 the House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment to the constitution, which stated, in part, “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The irony and symmetry of this anniversary, as compared to the famous words from Lincolns Gettysburg Address, are, for me, inescapable. Lincoln liberated a subset of slaves, and his address specifically stated that all men (not all people) are created equal.

Granted, for the next 100 years or so, much of America worked diligently at circumventing the 13th Amendment (and some folks are not done yet … it appears, as a nation, we’re not the quickest on the uptake). However, even a racial pessimist like myself has to acknowledge that there is a fresh breeze blowing across the country.

Today, we are moving toward an age where gender is not a barrier to success (Hillary Clinton could very easily have been our current president), and the descendants of former slaves can occupy the highest office in the land.

There have been countless landmark dates and people along this path. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Seneca Falls Convention, Rosa Parks, MLK, Lucretia Mott, the list goes on. And yes, President Lincoln certainly has a place on this list as well (along with, for example, President/Chief Justice Taft).

In less than two weeks, the nation will celebrate the bicentennial birthday of President Lincoln, today I (along with what I suspect will be a much smaller contingent) will celebrate the 144th anniversary of a journey that, for the first time, seems to actually have an attainable destination. With all due respect to Mr. Lincoln, to my way of thinking, today is more significant than February 12th. In fact, in many ways, it represents something diametrically opposed to the event for which Lincoln is so often recognized.

Just as the ironically inverted “score” would indicate…

January 27, 2009

Life’s a beach!

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 2:50 pm

I’m not sure when I fell in love with Pescadero beach, and I’m not really sure why. But I do know a one of the primary reasons I remain in love with it today:

Pescadero is never going to get tired of my bewildered wordless adulation in the face of its majesty. Pescadero accepts that I think it is perfect, embraces that perfection, realizes that is why I love it and continues being nothing but Pescadero.

It has its own identity, which I happen to love, and I believe it does as well. It does not manifest an identity for me to love.

That’s all I have to say about that…

January 26, 2009

Good morning, with any luck…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 10:47 am

Last night I watched Good Night, and Good Luck. I highly recommend this movie, it was terrific. However I want to focus on one particular line in the movie. Edward Murrow’s character was addressing an audience and said the following words about television:

But unless we get up off of our fat surpluses and recognize that television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us then television and those who look at it and work at it may see a totally different picture, too late.

This was in the opening moments of the movie, yet I was compelled to stop then and there and reply it about 5 times. Clearly Murrow was a man of vision, for he saw way back in the early days of television the bad habits and culturally damaging potential it possessed.

Even in the 50’s quality enlightening programming was being replaced with entertainment programming. What had originally been a method of communicating the news and relevant information of the time was rapidly becoming what later generations would call “The Idiot Box.”

And yet, this trend continues. Mindless television (and radio) dominates the airwaves. I am made fun of for watching PBS and listening to NPR by the same people that are extolling the virtues of Fear Factor and coughing up pay per view fees to watch UFC fights.

I’m not trying to be critical of people who appreciate other forms of entertainment (I have certainly taken in and enjoyed my fair share of mindless entertainment), but, at what point did trying to improve oneself become less “cool” than watching wanton violence or a game of truth or dare gone horribly awry?

It seems that, as a nation, we took Murrow’s famous sign off line a little too seriously and have slipped into a collective entertainment induced deep sleep.  Might I be so bold as to suggest we wake up and start being a little more responsible with how we use our time.  Perhaps schedule some educational programming into your television “budget” (or even better grab a book).

Again, I’m not advocating that people completely abandon their lighter entertainment.  Rather I’m just suggesting some balance.  If we consumed food the way we watch television (i.e. mostly fast or junk food) we would have a rather tragic national obesity problem.  Oh… wait…

Over 50 years ago, Murrow had it right. Television, more often than not does distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us. The question is, are we being distracted and insulated from the right things, or, perhaps, are we missing some important opportunities while Steve O comes up with new ways to inflict bodily harm upon himself?

January 25, 2009

My Best Friends Girl – a few thoughts (contains spoilers)

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 3:14 pm

*****This entry contains spoilers… read on only if you don’t mind, you have already seen it,or have no intention of seeing it (I recommend the third option)*****

Last night I watched what was, really, a pretty awful movie, My Best Friend’s Girl. My first question was why the hell they put Baldwin’s character in there, it only detracted from the movie. However, I don’t really want to talk about how horrible it was.

What I’d like to talk about for a minute is one of the things the movie (sort of) did right. I’d like to say again here… there are spoilers… so if you haven’t seen it and (for some strange reason) want to… stop reading now!!!

There is a scene in the movie where Dane Cooks character asks himself (I’m sure it’s supposed to be poignantly) if he is the best man that Goldie Hawn’s… wait… that’s wrong… it the younger one… anyway… the best man for Heather Graham’s character. To quote him (talking to himself) “are you the best its ever gonna get for her.”

He concluded that, no he wasn’t, and went about destroying their relationship in order to free her to find whoever the best really was.

When I say that the movie kind of got it right it’s because I think that is a fantastic question for someone to ask themselves. Am I the best its ever going to get for my partner. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the movie completely jumped the tracks at this point.

You see, the response to “no” as an answer to that question should not be to run from the situation, but rather to embrace the it, engage the challenge of becoming everything you are capable of being and that your partner deserves. If you are not the best thing for her, find out where you are failing (the beauty of having a good partner is that they will help you find these weaknesses and fix them), and improve upon that.

The potential was there, the movie could have sent a great message (it wouldn’t have made the rest of the movie good, but the message would have been), but instead it traded down to crass “humor” and vulgarity.

Perhaps the director should have asked himself if this was the best movie his audience was ever gonna get… although, hmmm… based on how his main character reacted to the question… perhaps he did…

Five more minutes of fame… an interview! :)

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 3:51 am

With apologies to my friend Perpstu (link to her blog at the bottom… check it out!!) for taking so long to do this interview… here are her questions and my answers :)

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

You talk and write about your sons often and it is obvious that you love being a father.  I have a five-year-old son of my own. What is the best advice you can give me for raising a son in this crazy world?

One of the biggest goals I set for myself when I had my children was to expose them to as many different views as possible on critical issues. The idea was to create an open mind set by exposing them to different views and opinions.

Thus far, it seems to be working. Both of my boys tend to be thoughtful and considerate of everyone involved when they are making decisions. Obviously, they are young boys and wander off this path from time to time, but they seem to be picking up the basic took of critically evaluating situations from perspectives beyond their own.

So much of live is conflict avoidance or resolution, and so much of being successful in that is the ability to understand the person on the other side of the disagreement (both disagreement’s with others or internal disagreement’s as one grapples with life’s tough questions and situations). I’m not certain I can think of a more valuable tool I can equip them with for the lives they have in front of them.

You are an awesome blogger, funny, smart and interesting. What inspires you to write?

Writing itself has always been how I have been the most expressive. For whatever reason, I am not nearly as willing to delve deeply into my thoughts when talking. Part of that is probably because I tend to talk enough for two or three people without delving; it hardly seems fair to monopolize even more of the conversation. Further, I really enjoy constructing stories and messages with words, so it’s a bit of a labor of love.

Insofar as what inspires me to write the specific things I write about, it is completely random. Frequently when I sit down at the computer I do not have a clue what I’m going to write about and I just start jotting down random thoughts until one of them spins off and forms a life of its own as a blog entry.

Other times it might be a conversation overheard or a news piece that I don’t think has been investigated from every perspective. One of the things I try to do is open new lenses or view point on subjects that might have been cycled over a few, or perhaps many, times.

If you were being forced to leave your fair city, where would you move if money, career and family were no object?

Without reservation or hesitation I would move back to the San Francisco Bay Area. After 20 some years in Boise, I still view San Francisco as home. Every time I visit I am overwhelmed with the sense of peace and comfort I feel.

If I reached a point where retirement was an option, I would also consider Koh Samui Thailand. I have been there a couple times, including when I went there to settle my mother’s affairs when she passed away (she was on the island at the time). On that most recent trip, the island was becoming a bit commercial for my taste, so I would have to check it out before I could commit. However, if it was in the condition it was in when I first visited in 1982, I would live there in a heartbeat.

You love movies almost as much as I do. What is your favorite movie of all time? Why?

My favorite all time movie is Shakespeare in Love. Besides being a wonderful, yet simplistic Victorian love story, the movie applies a delightful twist on Shakespeare’s beloved technique of placing a play within a play. What I find particularly enticing in this version is that the primary (or at least most recognizable) play (Romeo and Juliet) is actually ensconced within the other story. This creates a wonderful sense of familiarity within the “sub-plot” as you enjoy the unfolding of the movie’s storyline.

That and it makes me happy every time I watch it! ;)

I’m coming to visit you – for 24 hours – what are we going to do in that limited time frame?

We’d start the day having breakfast at my favorite little nook, if you like Benedict, you’ll be in heaven, if not, there is surely something to please you. A few blocks down the street is my favorite used and antique book store, a store that has probably contributed 40-50% of the out of print books in my collection.

Assuming that does not take up the remaining hours in our 24 hour day ;) we take a drive up the mountain to take in the full valley view (and perhaps a run down the slopes, if you’re into that sort of thing, I’m not… but I do a good job of keeping the bar tender from getting lonely when necessary!).

After a whipping up a quick late lunch, perhaps a little stir fry – beef and broccoli or something, we’d head over to a friends house to play some games. Might be Scene-it, might be more of a board game like Cranium or Scategories.

Around 7 we’d excuse ourselves to catch the Knock’em Dead dinner theater presentation of… whatever they are showing, it won’t matter, it’s always good and the experience is phenomenal!

I may not be much of a tour guide, but we’d have fun and eat well!!

You have to link back to the original post (http://immoralmatriarch.com/questionsagain) and my post (http://poppingbubbles.wordpress.com/2009/01/11/interview-with-the-insomniac/) and include the following in your post:


Want to be part of it? Follow these instructions:
1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

January 21, 2009

Hail to the Chief!

Filed under: Election 08,Observations,obama — sbj @ 2:40 am

Monday a friend of mine had a conversation in which she said something to the effect of “I’m so glad Obama is going to be sworn in tomorrow, and the fact that he is a black man is just the icing on the cake.” To which one of her acquaintances responded with vitriol and accused her, in essence, of racism (I don’t use the term “reverse racism” to me racism and bigotry is racism and bigotry, no matter which way it is flowing) and hypocrisy.

She and I discussed the matter a little bit and while I agreed that the other individual was way out of line and mistaken, I also had a caution for her. The issue, of course, is that a statement that implies it is significant that a black person can accomplish something can also serve to reinforce the belief and stereotype that it is remarkable or amazing for a black person to do what white people have been doing for the past 200+ years.

While it is historic that we have the first African-American president, it is not historic because Obama has elevated himself to some great level. It is not historic because a black man has transcended the limitation of his race. Rather, it is historic because the general public has finally accepted the long standing, yet heretofore unacknowledged, fact that the best person for the job might not always be a white guy.

In his speech today, Obama indirectly alluded to this very fact when he did not talk about his personal accomplishment, but rather that of the country. A country, which just a few short decades ago would not have served him coffee in many of its restaurants, but on November 4th of this year, elected him as its President.

Today was a landmark day for minorities, the message resonates loud and clear: the glass ceiling can be broken; the barriers of ignorance, prejudice and bigotry can be overcome.  The competent, can in fact, aspire to the heights to which they are qualified. No longer held back by the fictitious binds of perception, they are free to be everything they are capable of being.

Today was also a landmark day for the majority, no longer are we required to carry the burden of living in a society dominated by ignorance and intolerance. Certainly bigotry still exists, however, the number of open minds in our society has reached the critical mass required to make a difference.

Today the personification of that difference, that evolution, that change took the Presidential oath of office in Washington DC. The manifestation of the intersection of two opposing but interconnected journeys (the “black” quest for recognition and the “white” journey toward tolerance) is Barack Obama, a man I’m proud to call my President.

January 20, 2009

An open thank you note to… everyone!

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 6:38 pm

I just want to thank everyone who made this possible. This is one of the best days of my life…

January 17, 2009

Thats all I have to say about that…

Filed under: Just life — sbj @ 1:33 am

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January 16, 2009

Rain drops keep fall’n on my head… (except when they don’t)

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 1:27 am

I’m beginning to wonder if I have run completely out of interesting or original ideas… its been a week or so since I have had anything of substance to say. I find myself wondering what brings this on, where it comes from and why, when it goes, I always have 8 or 9 things to say at once.

When I was young and dating, we called this the raindrop phenomenon. When single and looking for someone to date, nothing; however, as soon as I managed to hook up with someone and begin to form any kind of bond whatsoever, the flood gates would fling open and women would come out of the woodwork. Raindrops freshly imported from the phrase “when it rains it pours.”

It occurred to me, just now as I am writing, that perhaps my issue is that I’m waiting for things to come out of the woodwork. Maybe, what I need to do is strike out on a woodwork voyage, a quest to seek out those elusive sprites that lurk deep within the metaphorical cherry wood, mahogany, and ebony; waiting to flow forth at the least opportune time!

That is what I am doing, I now realize, with this piece you are reading. I simply opened my laptop and started typing about the fact that I could not write, forcing the action on myself. I’m hoping it will work for the blog; however, to be honest, I have a larger vision.

I’m going to delve into every bit of woodwork I can find… nooks and crannies as well. Wherever you are hiding, little raindrops, I will find and engage you. And if I happen upon a coven of you so that I am once again overwhelmed by several of you at once… at least it will be on my terms. The rest of the time, though, I’m hoping my pursuit will provide the consistency I have been seeking for so long.

That’s the deal. No more waiting, it’s time to quest, voyage and explore.

Worst case scenario, I get a little wet…

January 14, 2009

Looking for a gift idea for the Obama fan in your life?

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 8:57 pm

Here is a gift idea for the Obama-maniac on your shopping list… (assuming you have either an Obama-maniac or a shoppig list). The CD/DVD includes the following:

FULL ALBUM TRACK LIST:
**“It’s A New Day” Will.I.Am
“The Dream Is Real” The Tony Rich Project
“All About The Love Again” Stevie Wonder
“Cant Stop” Ozomatli
“Peace Be Upon Us” Sheryl Crow
“There’s Hope” India.Arie
**“God Is In The People” Melissa Etheridge
“Change” Lenny Kravitz
“Dreamworld” Robin Thicke
**“Pure Imagination (2009 version)“ Maroon 5
**“Hush” Usher
“Born For This” BeBe Winans
“What Light” Wilco
“Shed A Little Light” James Taylor
“The Star Spangled Banner” Jennifer Hudson
Bonus Tracks:
**“Eternity  (David Foster Live Strings Mix)“ Lionel Richie
“Grapevine Fires” Death Cab For Cutie
“Changes” Common
**DENOTES INCLUSION OF EXCERPTS FROM BARACK OBAMA SPEECHES
DVD TRACK LIST –

BARACK OBAMA SPEECHES

“Announcement for President” February 10, 2007 – Springfield, IL
“Iowa Jefferson Jackson Dinner” November 10, 2007 – Des Moines, IA
“Iowa Caucus Victory Speech” January 3, 2008 – Des Moines, IA
“New Hampshire Primary Speech” January 8, 2008 – Nashua, NH
“A More Perfect Union” March 18, 2008 – Philadelphia, PA
“A World That Stands As One” July 24, 2008 – Berlin, Germany
“The American Promise” August 28, 2008 – Denver, CO
“Election Night Victory Speech” November 4, 2008 – Chicago, IL

There is no moral in this one… just some info you might find interesting… I did :)   I love that India Arie made the list!!

January 12, 2009

Crooked Politicians (a guest blog)

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 2:10 am

So a friend of mine says to me, this afternoon, you should have known me 20 years ago, you would have loved me then.  Since she is younger than me, and in no way suffering from any effects of age, I inquired as to why.  At which point she read me the following, which I instantly asked permission to use as a guest blog.  She agreed, and so here we are:

The people of our country consistently complain about the dishonesty and lack of standards that plague our government. However, we fail to realize one very important fact: a politician is a representative of the people. They are a reflection of ourselves; our views on government, our basic values, lifestyles and personalities.

 

Wait! you say. Politicians are corrupt, they lie and break promises, they hide behind pumped up images that are nothing more than characters designed to get them into office. I agree. But I challenge you to ask yourself this: is the American public any different? Are we all the honest, upstanding, moralistic individuals we represent ourselves to be? Or are our politicians representing us better than we’d like to admit?

 

These “crooked” politicians are merely doing what we demand of them. They bend their basic beliefs to satisfy the average voter who threatens to withhold his vote unless his views are represented. Our politicians are thus forced to rationalize issues in order to maintain a beneficial stance in the government. They find themselves caught between the proverbial rock and hard place: they either remain in office and try to maintain a balance of right and wrong or they step down and open the door to a radical who really IS corrupt and actually believes in the immorality that his constituents demand.

 

Before we attack our leaders, perhaps we should examine ourselves. Only then will we realize the true source of corruption and deceit.

So, yes, it was written nearly 20 years ago, however I don’t think its going out on too much of a limb to see that it still applies today.  She’s right, of course, I swooned from start to finish.  I hope you enjoyed it as well.

(she has requested that I not share her name, so she shall remain nameless.  But tell me this is not someone who should have a blog!!)

January 11, 2009

I’ve joined a new social network!

Filed under: Just life,Observations,goofy — sbj @ 7:00 pm

Its called RedBox.

For those of you who do not know how it works, RedBox had placed moviekiosks all over the place in locations where people might be inclined to make an impulse movie purchase.  I usually get sucked in at Albertsons, some people follow the light at Mcdonalds, etc.  Movies are only a buck a night, and if you join their mailing list, they text message you a free movie every Monday, Free Movie Monday is now an official term in my house!

The cool part, though, is not the cheap (or free) movies, nor is it the convenience of location.  The cool part is waiting in line… yeah, I said it!  And, that… is my new social network!

While waiting we discuss what movies we have watched, give eachother movie reviews and provide “if you liked that, you’ll love this” services. Since I usually grab my movies at the grocery store when I’m shoping for food for the family, the demographic at the line tends to match mine.  There are usually more women, a “hazard” of being a single father, but other than that… more or less the same type of person.  So our interests tend to match up and we frequently have plenty to talk about.

There are “regulars” people I have seen at least 3 or 4 times in the past month as well as a steady flow of new folks I would never have met if not for the RedBox queue.   Each providing insight that I wouldn’t have exposure to in my normal group of friends (the regulars on things they know about me and my taste and the strangers bringing fresh perspectives).

Just like any good social network RedBox comes with it’s own etiquite.  If someone is ust returning, they always move directly to the head of the line (its polite, plus, they might be returning the movie you want to rent!).  If someone is returning and renting, but they have a movie someone in front of them wants to rent, they get a free pass as well (same principles apply).  Friends don’t let friends watch bad movies, if someone knows they movie is a bomb, they speak up, why waiste a buck right?

Yep, RedBox is my new social network but don’t worry all my twitter, facebook, and goodreads friends… at a dollar a movie, I don’t mind missing parts to spend time socializing online.  Afterall, if I want to watch it again… I get to go back to RedBox!!!

Snopes tested, Puntiglio approved…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 4:45 am

I received this in my email tonight, I rarely just repost something like this, but to me this one is worth it.  Because I’m me, though, I will share a story from my life after…

A Violinist in the Metro


A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule

A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.

A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again Clearly he was late for work.

The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.

In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.

Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats average $100.

This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of an social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?

One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other things are we missing?

As promised, from my life…

When I was around 10 or so, I used to walk to my grandmothers house with my mother and my sister.  One day my sister and I were running ahead, racing as fast as possible to get to grandma’s house (and, to be honest, her swimming pool).

We were not allowed out of moms sight, so we had to stop at each corner and wait (very impatiently!!!).  We were waiting at one such corner when mom walked up smiling and showed us the money she had found lying in the middle of the sidewalk we had just scampered down as fast as we could (I cannot remember what denomination it was not, but it was paper money in the early 70′s so you do the math… it was a fortune to a 10 year old!!).

Her lesson, of course, was quite simple.  Go at your own pace and do your own thing.  But, don’t get so obsessed in what you are doing that you forget to pay attention to what is around you.  One day it might be money, one day it might be an incredible sunset, or a tiny spider on a flower, but life is always throwing amazing things at you… so keep your eyes (and minds) open!

January 10, 2009

Tell it to the hand…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 6:04 pm

I was reminded yesterday of the line in the movie She’s the Man that goes like this “Girls with asses like mine do not talk to boys with faces like yours.” My reaction to a line like that: sorry, sweet cheeks, you just took yourself out of the talking (or anything else) pool. Your ass is as moot as you are.

I’m sure, during the primitive mating ritual we call single life, all things being equal, how pretty you are or how dynamic you ass is, probably make a difference to many guys (as a guys six pack, rear and guns make a difference to many women). However, ultimately, they do not matter and if you indicate early in the game you plan on counting on them to make a difference for you… well you have just saved me (or any other reasonable fellow) a lot of time.

Further, you need to consider a few facts about most guys out there. You see, if said guys are being honest, they will tell you that your bust size, junk-in-trunk-quotient, and dazzling good looks are only relevant if they are actually available to the dazzlee . If you are attached to someone else, or he is attached to someone else (in a real and committed sense) your looks and wiles are about as useful to him as a spare pare of your pumps.

By contrast, your sense of humor, your intelligence, and your value system will matter, even to a committed person (as well they should). I spend countless hours with my best friend at the Legislature for one reason only. She improves me as a person. She has views on the world that I have not yet explored and is not afraid to voice them. She has a better vocabulary than I do and is not afraid to share it with me. She engages my mind and as such I spend every minute I can with her.

I know society conditions women to think that their value is stored in their undergarments; however, the reality of the matter is that society is pulling a great big whammy and far too many women are falling for it. While superficial features may be good marketing, the sales, customer service, and customer retention departments are all located in the head and heart.

I’m sure this is not insight to most of my readers, which sort of begs the question of why I’m posting it. Bottom line, I just needed to get it off my chest.

January 9, 2009

An open letter to Russia…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 2:20 am

Dearest Russia,

Are you fucking kidding me???!!??!?!?

Okay, I got that out of my system. Moving on…

Are you fucking kidding me?????

Hmm, perhaps there was a little left in there after all. Sorry, this time I’m really moving on, I promise…

I would like to start by saying that as a card (read: passport) carrying member of the Democratic/Capitalist/Freedom loving nation of The United States of America I recognize your privilege and right to do whatever you want with whatever resources you may control. Supply and demand is the cornerstone of most solid business models and if you have the supply it is certainly up to you when, how and if you satisfy the demand.

Having said all of that, I would encourage you to reverse your Wednesday decision to shut down natural gas shipments to, well, what I believe is most of Europe (I only glanced at the map of effected countries, it might not actually be most, but its close enough for government work).

Not because I think you are being a bully and I disapprove (this is the case, but it is not the reason I want you to focus upon).

Not because everyone has a right to warmth in the winter and a decent standard of living, which you are stripping away from a monumental number of innocent people (this is the case, but it is not the reason I want you to focus upon).

Not because your actions have probably cost numerous lives and even if you reversed it right now will certainly cost more (this is the case, but it is not the reason I want you to focus upon).

Not even because of the little school children, so cold that they (physically) cannot write and are forced to sing their lessons in class (this is the case, but it is not the reason I want you to focus upon).

No, today I want to talk to you in language you are more likely to understand and care about.

Therefore, the reason I want you to focus on is this: you are making a mockery of your nation, its principles and the global reputation you would like it to have. You are the kid who steals other kids lunch money or knocks their ice cream cones to the ground. You are the guy who shoots other men… just to watch them bleed.

In short, you are taking a situation where you were the one who was in the right, and creating a situation were you could not really look much worse if you tried. Instead of building your reputation as a world (economic and humanitarian) leader, you have created a massive humanitarian crisis, with nothing but greed to show as the cause.

In plain business terms, you will never recover with increased natural gas revenue, what you have lost in good will. No nation in Europe (or anywhere else) will soon feel safe relying on your resources, and you can be assured there are meetings everywhere your goods are purchased, the primary agenda of which is finding suitable replacements for the dependencies that are currently forcing them to be beholden to you. Open market economics 101: When business (or nations) hold meetings to figure out how to use less of your product… it is never good for business, at any level.

Every minute you allow this catastrophe to continue, you further damage your countries reputation and future economic prospects. From a strictly business standpoint, it is a nearly perfect failure.

The humanitarian situation you have created is untenable; however, you are obviously okay with that. Therefore I implore you, one business man to another, to make the good business decision and start the flow of natural gas again immediately.

Seriously… you’re making us all look bad…

Sincerely,

Soren B. Jacobsen

January 7, 2009

Robinhood or the sherriff?

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 2:58 pm

This morning I read about a proposed initiative to tax drivers by miles driven rather than by gallons of gas used. My first thought was, and I quote, “Nooooooooooooooo, there go all of the incentives for purchasing fuel efficient cars.” Why would you elect to punish responsible people for making ecologically sound decisions?

However, after further reflection, a calmer head prevailed and I realized this is a complicated issue and deserves more than a snap reaction. Fuel taxes are not “sin taxes”, they are levied specifically to fund the maintenance of the roads we drive upon. Logic, then, dictates that you should not get a discount for having a more fuel efficient car, as that does nothing toward reducing the maintenance costs of the roads on which you are driving. Okay… I get that.

The same article mentioned one of the solutions, a GPS device built into new cars, would track the mileage and even the times that the cars are driven so that a surcharge could be applied to cars that are on the road during peak hours.

Now they lost me…

I could not agree less with the notion of a surcharge for rush hour usage. To the best of my knowledge, you do not more damage to a road during rush hour than you do at four a.m. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. This makes it a “sin tax”, not a maintenance tax, and I do not agree with that.

The second thought I had was the obvious issue of privacy. The producers assure us that they will not track any of this information and nothing will be available to law enforcement; however, I’m not sure I buy it. More to the point, I’m not sure it matters if I buy it, if the public perception is that there is a privacy issue, this legislation will be tied up and protested ad nausiem.

Another major problem I see with this initiative is that it takes the tax collection away from the pump (to be fair, the GPS solution has a contingency whereby the tax is collected at the pump, a major plus for that idea) and makes it something you have to budget for. We, as Americans, historically, are not very good at this. In my mind, to be reasonable, any solution would require payment as you go for the tax, as the current system allows.

Finally, assuming we are going to use GPS, and assuming we are going to punish people for driving during rush hour, shouldn’t we adjust the tax by weight etc. Certainly a Geo Metro, or a smart car is not going to inflict the same amount of wear and tear on the road as a hummer or other SUV. If the premise for charging by the mile is to have a level and fair playing field regarding road usage and related maintenance… shouldn’t we actually level that field by rewarding the cars that are kindest to our roads and holding accountable those that are not?

At least that makes some sense to me… reward people for making good responsible decisions in a way that is directly inline with the purpose and intent of the tax. Who’s with me?

Ps. This whole piece is very off the cuff… I’d love to hear more informed and reasoned arguments and positions J

January 6, 2009

I have been interviewed :)

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 8:47 pm

I have been interviewed!  Detail on how this all came to be are below… :)

1. Why did you start your blog in the first place?

Disinterinstingly enough, I started my blog in order to stay in touch and maintain communications while my life was “falling apart” during my divorce. I wanted a way to have the “deep” conversations I wanted to have, but was unable to due to circumstance. It was never designed to be publically consumed, but, a few members of my family discovered it, and then I “made the mistake” of posting an entry on Twitter (cannot even remember why at this point) which led to more readers… and here we are. At first I was resentful of the migration to a public work… now I absolutely love the interaction with my friends and readers.

2. (This one’s long-winded, so bear with me) You posted recently about the odd juxtaposition of personal (and somewhat) intimate relationships over electronic media. That post you said you liked the access it gave you to a variety of people that you may not have otherwise met. Do you think those relationships are as good (or better for that matter) than the ones you could be developing with people you have met in person if you were investing your energy there (instead of online)?

Typically, I don’t invest online energy in lieu of offline energy. When I am with irl friends, for the most part, I am with them. I do shoot pictures from time to time that I post for online friends to view, but I don’t think my online life adversely affects my irl relationships. That or I’m just in denial ;) . I will say that I do, at times, enjoy and take advantage of the more fluid nature of online relationships. Because of services like Twitter and Ping.fm I am able to “maintain” my online relationships whenever I want to, rather than being limited to a social schedule of some kind. In some ways, social networks are to relationships what tivo is to television. They are both liberating and enabling. I don’t think I would spend any of the time I spend online actively socializing (I do enough of that for me already) so I think the overall effect is negligible.


3. You are obviously close to your kids. How did your relationship with your parents shape the relationship you have with your kids?

The relationships I had with my mother and father were very different.

With my mother, life was a series of challenges and learning experiences. She had a curiosity and thirst for knowledge that inspired me. A rabid reader, she could almost always be found with a book in hand (even if she was not actively reading, she’d have one in case the opportunity came up). I attribute my love of reading and constant desire to learn and understand more and more about the world around me, in large part, to her influence. Much to their dismay, my children are now the recipients of my continual “make the world a better place… and start that mission by making yourself a better person” message. I frequently have to ask myself why I keep preaching the message my mother was able to impart by example… it is entirely possible I am over working this.

My father was always very personable, fun and engaging. The consummate extrovert, he is friends with everyone. He was a hands on father when I was young, always finding time for a game of catch, or waffle ball, etc. He was also very respectful of other people, especially woman without an ounce of bigotry or prejudice in him (true of all of my parents, I’m blessed to say). As such, I tend to be far more of a hands on father, getting in the middle of the wrestling match, or the soccer game, or whatever else might be going on. I am an active participant in their lives not just another adult member of the household. I know kids also need time to play on their own, and I exercise self control to let them have it, but because of my fathers influence, left to my own devices I’d be screaming “not it” with the rest of the children.

I also need to include my step-mother in any thorough response regarding the major parental influences in my life. Although she did not get her mitts on me until half way through seventh grade, she certainly had a pronounced effect. We had chores, we had responsibilities, and she made sure we were on top of them. I was a good person before I met her; I was a responsible one when she was done. She was a task master, and yet, she also taught me how to say “I love you” out loud. She helped me root out emotions and feelings that I had never openly confronted. I expect the best of my boys, I am demanding and make sure, at all times, that they know what is expected of them. I also make sure they know I love them and care for them (to an extent that often elicits groans and “I know, dad” responses). My boys know I expect the world of them, and they know that expectation comes from the love and respect I have for them. I am able to communicate this because of my step-mother (more frequently referred to as my mom).


4. You’ve been married, had kids, been divorced. All are life altering events. Other than these obvious transitions, tell us about a defining moment in your life.

I have always been a relatively confident person; it probably came from feeling very responsible at a very young age as the older of two latch key children. However, I cannot say that I felt fully empowered or in control of my life prior to going on an Outward Bound trip in my mid-twenties. Outward Bound is an amazing program that I cannot recommend highly enough for just about everyone. You will be pushed to your limits, and beyond. You will, at some point, crack. There will be tears, if not from you, from those around you. You will be forced to face your fears (from my silly fear of walking across logs to others more legitimate fears of climbing on a wall face hundreds of feet above a rocky floor), and overcome them. You learn so much, about human interaction under stress and about your own abilities, strengths and weaknesses under stress. You are working together with people both older and younger than yourself and have to learn how to deal with factors related to these differences as well. Outward Bound was quite possibly the biggest learning experience in my life, both about people in general, and about myself.


5.  Now, for a question that all of your readers NEED to know. What’s in those apple bottoms? Boxers, briefs, or a banana hammock? Photos are optional, but greatly desired.

None of the above!!! Once the pictures are retaken, they will be posted!

Don’t forget the rules….

You have to link back to the original post (http://immoralmatriarch.com/questionsagain) and my post (http://fearandparenting.wordpress.com/2009/01/05/got-questions/) and include the following in your post:

Want to be part of it? Follow these instructions:
1. Leave me a comment saying, “Interview me.”
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

January 3, 2009

What it’s all about…

Filed under: A life worth living,Make the world better — sbj @ 3:33 am

Since I read this earlier tonight I have been pondering things I could say to add to the story.  Bottom line, there aren’t any, so, without fanfare or preamble… here you go.

http://sports.espn.go.com/espnmag/story?section=magazine&id=3789373

January 2, 2009

Digital calling cards…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 4:24 pm

On New Years Eve this year I sent countless text messages. As each time zone came around, I would call up my address book on my cell phone and shoot off a series of text messages wishing my friends a joyous, prosperous, and/or happy New year.

I used to call people, this year I called no one.  Yesterday I was thinking about this, and somewhat mourning the loss of personal connection and contact, and then I ran into this cartoon.

Its an old Harpers Weekly cartoon, and it is explained in some detail here (the full text of the caption is here).

In a nutshell, this phone call to text message transformation is only the newest change in personal interaction.  Common sense and a little thought, of course, make that obvious; however, to me, it is still interesting to think about.

Back in the day of calling cards and personal visits, it could be argued that one had more intimate contact with those they called upon.  However, they were geographically limited in their outreach options.  In addition to local friends and family, I sent greetings and wishes to multiple people in every US time zone.  If you count social network contacts, the list of time zones receiving my salutations grows considerably.

As with everything, there are trades to be made with progress, in this case I think I like the modern version and the variety it provides over the more traditional intimacy.  How about you?

January 1, 2009

It’s almost like I know what I’m talking about…

Filed under: Conversations,Observations — sbj @ 7:25 pm

A couple months ago while I was hanging out with a group of friends there was kind of an interesting mix of couples and single parents talking about raising children. The first (primary to the story) couple had reached their late 30’s without having any children, the second had younger children that were just reaching the age of independence, and I was in the conversation as well.

The second couple was relaying a story about how they were having trouble being the positive influence they wanted to be with their daughter. They tried to set a good example, but she continued to drift off the path they were setting for her. Not in major ways, but just making choices that they did not agree with, or thinking of herself before others.

The first couple chimed in at this point and stated how couple number two should just take charge and tell their daughter what to do, in fact demand she do so. “Lay down the law” they said (amongst other things), removing any doubt we may have had about their parental experience.

I countered with something along the lines of this:

In my experience, you are doing it exactly right. While children often do not respond instantly to the right messages when they are placed in front of them they do tend to see and digest them. Just like adults, children like to own something before actually using it. Given time, I am certain you will see the values you are planting within come to fruition. Parenting is the ultimate exercise in delayed gratification, and, if you are up to the task, the most rewarding thing you will ever do.

On Christmas Eve, this year, I was able to see this manifest itself before me with both of my boys, making it one of the best holidays of my life.

Early in the day we had the family “penny hunt” where all of the children search for change hidden throughout the house and yard. What used to be searching for pennies, has, of course, evolved into searching for coins of all shapes, sizes and denominations. I’m not saying that you could make a living at it if you searched daily… but… for a kid, its decent work if you can get it.

Later that evening we were having a round of toasts for Farfar, and my dad, while giving his toast mentioned that he was going to pass around the Santa hat and anyone who wanted to could donate something to the Stanford Children’s Hospital in Farfar’s name. During this announcement my cousin burst into tears. You see, he survived cancer in his twenties and part of his strength to battle through it came from watching those children fight the good fight.

A little later we were passing an elf hat around and each person was placing the hat on his head and saying (in as rich a Danish accent as they could muster) they’re favorite Farfar phrase or quote. During this process, the youngest (eight) asked for “the hat.” Everyone assumed he wanted to give his own Farfar quote and he was handed the elf hat.

At that point he quietly excused himself from the table, retrieved his change bag from earlier in the day and promptly began the transfer of funds. Needless to say, the idea was *not* for the children to be making donations. To the best of my knowledge, he was the only child that did(this is not a criticism of the other kids, again, it was not expected of them). I, of course, could not have been more delighted with him.

Later that evening my cousin (same one mentioned before) came up to my oldest and said “we’ve had a very good year (he and two of my other cousins are in business together) and we want to get you something you really want, so… what do you really want. We want to make it special, you name it and its yours.”

My sons response was this: “take whatever you were going to spend on me, and donate it to the Children’s Hospital.” Queue tears… roll ‘em! My cousin, of course, argued. He said the gift was for my son, something special for him. To which the teen countered that seeing my cousin so happy and moved was *exactly* what he wanted, and was special.

Both of my boys, on one of the two most bountiful days of the year (for children), put someone else before themselves. They both were selfless when the option for selfishness was available. As such, their father received the best Christmas gift he could ever imagine.

On the drive home my mind turned back to that conversation I’d had a couple months earlier, and I have to say, in this instance, I’m very glad I followed my own advice…

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