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February 28, 2009

How different are we… really?

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 3:05 am

I recall September 11th, 2001 like it was two minutes ago. Similarly I remember the numerous conversations I had in it’s aftermath vividly. One of the comments I remember most clearly was from a friend of mine who was talking about the people you could be seen falling to their demise in one of the numerous videos. It was a simple and seemingly uninspiring turn of phrase, however it how a power far beyond the loquacious sum of its linguistic parts. He said:

At first that person seems so inanimate, and it is easy to detach. But as you watch him fall, you realize he is just a normal guy like I am. He has a family, he has a life, he has hopes and dreams, he has bills and problems. He is no different than you or me, except he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and now he is falling.

This was one of the most humanizing observations I have ever heard, and it has stuck with me to this day. Reflecting on the power of that simple observation has left me in tears more than once. As I have written about before, it is very easy during our busy lives to forget that the people we cross paths with daily are not the extras in our movie, but rather the stars of their own.

Part of the reason this has stuck with me is that you do not need to be falling off a building for the lesson to apply.

Everyday, people fall.

Few are falling from burning and collapsing buildings, but they are falling nonetheless.

Sometimes, the fall is a result of actions or mistakes they themselves have made, but they are falling nonetheless.

They are falling and they are no different than you or me. They have bills and problems, they have hopes and dreams, they have lives… and those lives, to whatever degree, are shattered.

They didn’t ask to be falling, even if they did create the environment. They didn’t mean to mess up their lives, or anyone else’s, even though they may have done exactly that.

Today I’m left with an overwhelming sense of forgiveness and tenderness toward those that many do not feel deserve it. I’m not talking about murders or rapists, but people who have simply made bad choices, hurt themselves and others, and are living with the consequences of those actions.

People who are falling, people whose humanity is being lost in the bigger picture, people who are not all that different from me and you.

February 25, 2009

We talked about sex!

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 6:03 pm

First, the “raw” results… (percentages are of those who selected one or more of the provided responses and do not include write in responses)

  • 64% of my friends thought a little honey dust and a feather duster are a great way to get things going, another 45% were inspired to don a french maids costume (obviously… some were all about doing both!).
  • When it comes to nails 60% sport “sharp and ready weapons of mass stimulation”… while I don’t know who you are, specifically, I want you all to know you have won a special place in my heart for this one!
  • When I first read the 100% response rate for “In Bed” I have to admit I was a little concerned, however, given that every other response (including “In public”) received a response rate of over 50%, this fear was obviously misplaced.
  • 90% of you responded positively to “Like you mean it” and 82% prefer multiple positions… did I mention I like my friends??? :)
  • Oral was an interesting category with a clear majority (57%) preferring “both” over giving or receiving individually, giving was second and receiving a distant third.
  • With regard to teeth “Early and Often…” and “Perhaps a nibble” were dead even, being mentioned on 55% of surveys, the other two responses garnered only 1 vote between them.
  • Kissing should be done before during and after, say 100% and there is a definite leaning toward wet and sloppy over clean and neat (although neither managed a majority of the responses).
  • 70% of the responders were interested/curious in the idea of incorporating toys, while 50% had them at the ready. Noone reported being against the idea, nor did any responders feel the need to wait for the relationship to mature before they were brought into the equation.

So there you have, statistically, a composite profile of my friends (well, some of you anyway) and their sexual preferences. For the most part, it appears, that I have managed to gravitate toward people I am, at least superficially, sexually compatible with. Which was the point of this very unscientific little survey. I wanted to see how digital interaction with various people (i.e. no real visible contact, and in many cases no physical contact) in a non-sexual (for the most part) environment would effect this particular demographic amongst my friends.

On the surface, it appears that I do a better job of matching up online and via endless chatter than I do in real life meeting people on the street (bar, grocery store, work, etc.) in this particular area.

My theory, of course, is that in a more tactile environment, people interpret things through different filters. For example, at a bar I might seek out more physically attractive women, and then hope or leave to chance, that we were sexually (or otherwise) compatible.  I might even be so bold as to assume that, since she was attractive to me, she must therefore be compatible with me (an assumption which, in many cases, leads to heartache down the road… this is a road I’ve been on more than once).

By contrast, without the veneer of appearance and its objectivity obscuring tendencies I tend to seek out (even unwittingly) people more fundamentally compatible with me, and leave appearance to chance.

This survey could have, I believe, been conducted regarding any category or theme, and the results would have been largely the same.  I just chose sex because, lets face it, its more fun.

There is, of course, nothing radical or new here, just a somewhat substantiated observation and a little bit of fun.

Happy hump day… and… all that we now know that means!!! ;)

February 24, 2009

A Wilde thought…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 3:29 pm

A friend of mine and I were discussing a decision she needed to make not too long ago when I noticed a repeating theme in this and other similar conversations. In short people focusing entirely on what could go wrong in either scenario. In fact, she was living through the consequences of the worst possible scenario, over and over, while grappling for her solution.

This conversation reminded me of a quote from Oscar Wilde:

Pesimist – one who, when he has the choice of two evils, chooses both.

What I told her at the time was something along the lines of: you can never be happy with your decision because you are spending all of your time paying the price for it. It’s bad enough to live with regret after the fact, but you are doing it in advance. It’s certainly not as elegant as Wilde’s version, but the point was the same.

If you mire your thoughts in the possible negatives, rather than the potential positives (or at least a decent balance of both) you are pre-destined to come away with an unsatisfying, if not miserable, experience.

Life is full of opportunities, even when things go wrong there are valuable lessons that can help you with your future decisions. More often than not, however, if you maintain the proper focus, no situation is really that bad.

Consider this…

… And then think about which of your decisions is really worth pro-actively lamenting over.

Life, with all of its choices, is exactly what you make of it. It is your view of the situation, singularly, that determines its potential. How much of that potential are you leaving untapped?

Might I suggest a walk on the Wilde side?

February 20, 2009

Alert Alert… greatest threat to America discovered in Utah… or not…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 10:32 pm

Below is an open letter to Utah State Senator Chris Buttars. Before I begin, though, here is a little background. A few days back, Sen. Buttars had the following remarks attributed to him. Remarks he does not deny, nor does he apologize for, in fact he defends himself, even after legislative censure, on the Utah Senate Blog (http://www.senatesite.com). The remarks, regarding the LGBT community:

“Probably the greatest threat to America”

Moving America “toward a society that has no morals”

That they will “destroy the foundation of American Society”

As I mentioned, the Utah Senate did censure Senator Buttars. He was stripped of his committee Chairmanship. There will be those who do not feel this was enough, as well as those who believe it went too far. However, the points I would like are not to either of those groups, but more directly and more personally to Senator Buttars.

Dear Senator Buttars,

I openly support freedom of speech. I also respect opinions that differ from my own, like those you expressed.

Once again, though, I am reminded that those who are unable to express themselves articulately, or are lacking of anything intelligent to say, are forced to communicate with crass, vitriolic or hateful language.

Senator Buttars, I would encourage you, when you don’t have anything meaningful or substantive to say, to simply step aside and make way for those who do.

Not so much because you don’t have the right to say it, because in my opinion you do, but because you make yourself and the entire Utah Legislature look bad in doing so.

A few last words to consider, words I have shared with my children many times over the years:

“just because you can do something, does not mean you should.”

Respectfully, sbj

February 17, 2009

Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 4:28 pm

Yesterday I read about a new company in Idaho that is trying to capitalize on immigration laws to raise money, create jobs and provide legal citizenship to would be immigrants. Sounds kind of good doesn’t it… everyone wins.

Lets find out more…

Here’s how the immigration regulation works. If you want to migrate to the United states and are willing to invest $500,000 in small businesses ($1,000,000 in large cities) that meet a certain criteria you can be given a green card for your efforts.

According to the article I read, there are 10,000 such green cards available each year. The fledgling company in Boise is targeting 50 investor-immigrants a year. The basic idea being to consolidate their investments into a venture portfolio targeting small start-ups that fit the requirements of the rule.

Again, on the surface, this seems like a win-win deal… what’s not to like.

Well, I’ll tell you what I don’t like, I don’t like the idea of selling citizenship. What ever happened to bring us your poor, whatever happened to the huddled masses et. al.? We are not supposed to be a private club catering to the world’s deepest pockets, we are supposed to be a free and open society where the American dream (remember that?) can be attained by anyone. The actual words that can be read at the Statue of Liberty, once the primary port of entry to these United States:

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send there, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

I understand that 10,000 green cards is a small portion of what is given away each year, and that many of the talented immigrants that would take this fast and easy route would not immigrate if they had to go through the normal avenues. In other words, forcing everyone through the same immigration process would coe at the cost of some financial opportunities. This does not assuage my trepidation.  Call me old fashioned, but I do not believe that financial opportunity should trump principles, character and integrity.

And upon further reflection, in my opinion, it gets worse. History teaches us (over and over again) that when a nation (regardless of size and influence) shifts from producing goods to producing services, that nation is not long for this world (at least not as a nation of any significance).

By targeting, essentially, non-producing immigrants (i.e. wealthy investors v. hungry enthusiastic workers) who will be creating jobs primarily in the service sector (how many small tech startups actually produce a tangible product) we are deepening the imbalance that is already present in our society.

This whole thing worries me. We are acting in conflict with our stated core values, we are expanding a trend that has led to the demise of almost every great nation in history (that did not meet its end via conquest). It’s not so worrisome that I feel the need to start a movement against it or anything. However, I do think this company, what it is doing, and the immigration policy behind it is worth some serious reflection.

I’m just say’n…

February 13, 2009

The choice is yours…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 9:27 pm

This is from one of my books, The Hedonism Handbook. Technically I should be putting this on the bookshelf, but I already have (here http://www.puntiglio.com/bookshelf/?p=14).  What I want to share with you in a selection that, really, stands by itself… so well in fact that that is exactly what I’m going to let it do.  Other than this one thing… you should read this book :)

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

As the morphine drips slowly through the tubes and the blurry, smiling faces of family, friends and muumuu-clad compatriots smile lovingly upon you, there will come a moment in which it all becomes vividly, unquestionably in inescapably clear.  You were in the driver’s seat all along.  The choices that you made determined your path, the opportunities were always there and the ultimate direction of your life was in your own hands the entire time.

When the grand game finally comes to an end, there is nothing more disappointing than the crushing realization that you never reached for the golden ring.  Missed opportunities, self-delusion and misplaced priorities came crashing down like shards of broken glass, reminding you of what might have been.  To look back over the course of your life and to know that your days were wasted chasing after illusions and trying to impress some imaginary figure of authority who was never really there to begin with is to understand the gravity of regret.

But a sad ending is not inevitable.  Regret need not accompany you to the other side.  If you still have enough strength to lift the amusing and sensibly-priced book you now hold before you, then you still have the strength to change.  Life is but a series of decisions, and you can decide right now to embrace the joys of leisure and pleasure that are rightfully yours.  You can decide to follow you bliss and allow pleasure to be your guiding light.  Hedonism is not a dirty word, nor is it an irresponsible philosophy.  It is good, it is practical and it will enrich your life immeasurably.  So before the dire day of reckoning arrives, take a moment to imagine yourself onstage for the final curtain call, and imagine what your answers will be in the final deathbed review.  How did you live?

I… love… this…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 6:12 pm

And The Men
by Tony Hoagland

And The Men

want back in:
all the Dougs and the Michaels, the Darnells, the Erics and Josés,
they’re standing by the off-ramp of the interstate
holding up cardboard signs that say WILL WORK FOR RELATIONSHIP.

Their love-mobiles are rusty.
Their Shaggin’ Wagons are up on cinderblocks.
They’re reading self-help books and practicing abstinence,
taking out Personals ads that say
     ”Good listener would like to meet lesbian ladies,
          for purposes of friendship only.”

In short, they’ve changed their minds, the men:
they want another shot at the collaborative enterprise.
Want to do fifty-fifty housework and childcare;
They want commitment renewal weekends and couples therapy.

Because being a man was finally too sad—
In spite of the perks, the lifetime membership benefits.
And it got old,
telling the joke about the hooker and the priest

at the company barbeque, praising the vintage of the beer and
     punching the shoulders of a bud
          in a little overflow of homosocial bonhomie—
Always holding the fear inside
          like a tipsy glass of water—

Now they’re ready to talk, really talk about their feelings,
in fact they’re ready to make you sick with revelations of
     their vulnerability—
A pool of testosterone is spreading from around their feet,
it’s draining out of them like radiator fluid,
like history, like an experiment that failed.

So here they come on their hands and knees, the men:
Here they come. They’re really beaten. No tricks this time.
     No fine print.
Please, they’re begging you. Look out.

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

A friend sent me this… thanks friend! :)

If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would I? It depends…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 4:35 pm

I am a moral relativist, there I said it. In fact, contrary to popular belief which states I shouldn’t be, I’m proud to be one. I believe that frequently circumstances dictate moral decisions moreso than a strict code of “ethics”.

In fact, it could be (and has been) suggested that, by definition, any moral decision is relative to its surroundings, and no set of rules should be applied to any moral dilemma.

This, of course, runs contrary to the opinions of my friends who are moral objectivists. This fact, to me, supports my theory even more. The friends I speak of are people for which I have great respect. They are very successful in life, both in the sense of personal accomplishment, and in the area of doing well by others. They are, by most, if not all measures, good people.

I consider myself to be a good person, further I know several other moral relativists who are very good people by the same standards listed above. Yet these two groups operate on a completely different playing field. To the relativists, the objectivists are too rigid and unforgiving; to the objectivists, the relativists lack conviction… and yet the end results are largely the same.

Why? I would suggest because of relativity. There is, in fact, more than one right path to a good result and your environment, upbringing etc. is going to affect which path you take.

This should not be confused with a “the ends justify the means” position. I do not condone people making clearly poor choices (clearly as defined as obvious in their particular environment as well as mine) in order to achieve the results they desire. Further, I allow for growth and enlightenment. In fact, my belief system is constructed to encourage it as every decision is made on a case by case basis.

In other words, just because “everyone” in the late 1700’s thought slavery was okay, that does not mean that slavery was a morally viable or defensible position (first of all, clearly, not everyone held that mindset, only the oppressors did, and not even all within that “society” agreed).

Moral Relativism requires a constant and thoughtful examination of situations as they arise, not a follow the leader bandwagon approach. An open minded evaluation of slavery would (and did). over time, eradicate the practice.

Typically, in today’s vernacular, being labeled a moral relativist is considered a bad thing. The meaning has been contorted into something akin to “you can justify anything you want.” I do not accept this judgment nor this definition. I am an active and determined relativist and stand by the moniker. It means I think, evaluate, and make decisions based on careful evaluation of the relevant facts for each particular case in its own environment. It takes a lot of extra work, but to me that work is worth it.

I’m a moral relativist, and I’m proud of it.

Do you know your limits?

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 4:15 am

I stumbled on an interesting set of statistics not too long ago, which has started me thinking:

“Nearly one out of four Americans [believe] that using violence to get what they want is acceptable” (The European Dream, p.32).

Forty-three percent of Americans think torture is sometimes justified, according to a PEW Poll (Associated Press, Aug. 19, 2004).

“Nearly 900,000 children were abused or neglected in 2002, the last year for which such data are available” (USA Today, Dec. 21, 2004).

Placed in that order, and allowing your mind to make some connections that may or may not exist in the real world, this does not paint a pretty picture. The general trend seems to point to a direct relationship between child abuse/neglect and a society that supports, to whatever degree, the use of violence to accomplish its objectives.

When a person hurts someone we love, the instant reaction, frequently, is to try to (or at least offer to) physically harm that person (even if the original offense was not physical in nature). I have caught myself saying “do you want me to beat them up” to people who are upset before. Mostly, I say this in jest, however, the message is still being put out there.

Convicted murders and rapists, when they are sentenced to death, are “getting what they deserve.” Innocent civilians, however, are often included in this category if they happen to live next door to a suspected terrorist in a war torn country.

I feel its just a little too easy to justify violence in our society. I’ve done my song and dance about video games and movies before, so I’m not going to repeat all of that; however, I do think the matter deserves some serious consideration.

Clearly many of these are subjective or moral choices, as individual as the person making them. I do not pretend to have the right answers for everyone about when force is a valid response. I only have my own ideas and the surrounding set of principles.

People who work in stressful or emergency situations practice, drill and rehears for the worst possible situations so that they know exactly how they will respond when faced with those circumstances.  They know what they will face (whether it may be fear, conviction or some other factor), they reconcile how they must deal with it, and they prepare.  When the moment comes, they know what to do and they are familiar with every possible iteration of the situation.

I have to wonder, though, how many people have actually gone through the process of understanding their own violence thresholds. Do you know, from careful introspection, in precisely what situations you think violence is okay, and in which it is not?

If not, it is entirely possible that you can fall into what I believe is an increasingly expanding group of people who excuse violence at a level that they do not really support, simply because they are ignorant to their own value system at the moment of choice.

To me, this is the real “desensitizing” effect of the violence we are exposed to on a regular basis. It’s not so much that we don’t care, the problem is that we don’t even know if, or too what extent, we care about things.

That, or 900,000 children were abused or neglected by people with a sound working knowledge of their own value system, a value system that supports child abuse. Personally, I find that a little hard to believe.

If you scorn it, they will come…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 12:26 am

Rapidly approaching is Valentines day, which means rapidly appearing are the “Valentines Day Sucks Party” signs. These signs show up at bars, and, to the best of my knowledge, only at bars. Coincidence… I think not.

“Sucking” equals drinking, romance, not so much so. Drinking equals money for bars. The strategy is pretty simple, attract a group of angry or emotionally jilted people and make money hand over fist getting them drunk. As an aside: slutty and carnal equals drinking as well, so you can count on most of those bars not actively denigrating the holiday to be pimp’n and ho’n their way to profit.

The reality is, however, that Valentine’s Day does not suck, Love does not suck, happiness does not suck and (spoiler alert) even being virtuous… does not suck. An individual person’s love life might suck at the moment, most likely because of poor or rushed choices, but love does not. Love, romantic or otherwise, is about as good as it gets, actually.

In fact, I think the biggest thing love has going against it, is how good it is. It makes us desperate for it, which forces those poor or rushed decisions I mentioned earlier. People, typically (and increasingly, I believe) lack the patience and objectivity to see beyond attraction and seek actual connection. As such they rush headlong into anything that might be love, get hurt, and wind up supporting their local bar on February 14th.

I may or may not be drinking on Valentines day, and, at this late date, I’m almost certain I will not be out on the town celebrating my undying love for anyone in particular. However, I will be appreciating the people I love (and have loved), and will be anticipating the future loves that have not yet been revealed to me.

I have matured enough to know that any angst I have felt in the past toward celebrations of love has come from my own poor choices, unfortunate circumstances, or people of compromised character. Love itself has nothing to do with it, and I’m not about to go join the denial crowd in pretending that it does.

So sorry, local bar, you are not going to get my support for your hedonistic hate fest, I’m happy to report that I’ve got better things to do (well, I don’t, but I do, but I don’t… but I do :) ).

February 12, 2009

Today was a good day…

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 5:18 pm

February 12, 1809 was a pretty big day, historically speaking. Two men were born on that day, 200 years ago, both of whom left an indelible imprint on our world today. Ironically, though their paths were remarkably different, their lives complimented each other far more than anyone alive in their time might have imagined.

Charles Darwin, of course, is known for his theory on evolution. Whether you accept and embrace it as an alternative to creation or not, the basic concept of beings constantly changing and (perhaps) improving can be seen throughout history, and on a more subtle level even in our day to day lives. Evolution does exist… regardless of its place in theological conversations.

And that is the connection. Lincoln was a conduit of change that enabled an evolution of thought regarding race and human rights. I am not saying, nor do I really believe, he was the great emancipator, or a great humanitarian who freed the slaves because of an undying passion for justice and equality. I think history has proven that he was not quite that man.

However, he was a man with enough passion and conviction to oversee the reunification of the Union, and the beginning of the end of slavery. He was, in my opinion, an instrument of an evolution in humanity, and evolution that continues today. To me, that makes it ironically appropriate that this bicentennial be shared between them.

Happy Birthday boys!

ps. I have put this comparison in far starker and crasser terms in the past, but out of respect and deference I’m going to leave it at this level today.

February 4, 2009

Pie Day!!!!!

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 6:46 pm

Today is what is known as Pie Day at the legislature. What that means is the homeschoolers have put their presentations together so show off how capable they are. It is in essence a lobbying effort. It is called pie day because in addition to all of the science fair type displays, there is a pie booth where homemade pie of every possible kind is free for the taking.

Today I tried butterscotch, it was delicious, yet… interesting.

However, what was fantastic about my visit were the displays.

I could have spent a week talking to the little girl who 4 months ago joined the swim team for the first time. She could not stop talking about it and her enthusiasm made me want to find my own swim team to join.

I marveled at the future city built by two 6th graders, including a hydrotube mass transit system propels “busses” around by nothing other than the current of the water being pumped through the tube.

While other were vying for pie, I engaged the student athletes in conversation, finding out that they do not feel like strangers or visitors on the brick and mortar school teams they play for, but rather as welcome community members; Football players feeling like community members, what a pleasant thing to hear.

Pie day is one of my favorite days of the year… even if they were out of the out of this world peach pie that I craved going in…

February 3, 2009

One Last Presidential Pardon???

Filed under: Observations — sbj @ 2:56 pm

I was glancing at the sports page on Yahoo this afternoon and I saw a headline that said something like “Obama sends Badminton team to Iran.” Instantly I got excited… again.

The guy I voted for was back at it!

Opening the doors of diplomacy, sending our young and bright athletes into the den of our enemy; building relationships that we have worked so hard over the past several years to destroy.

In the same spirit of togetherness that inspires the Olympics, we were reaching out. He was demonstrating respect, trust, and a spirit of unity. What I saw were the first steps of the new world I envisioned when I stepped into that voting booth on November 4th. I was elated, even in the sports page, the influence of Obama was present.

And then… I read the article…

It appears what our President was actually doing was continuing a program started by President Bush in 2005. This was not “change” arriving, this was positive diplomacy continuing, and that is important to note.

In a sea of negativity (a sea I did my best to make tumultuous by making waves wherever possible) regarding President Bush’s foreign policy, politics of fear, and insensitivity to cultures he had not embraced; he was reaching out. He was trying to build a bridge, he was demonstrating those qualities I seemed to believe were contained only in our newest President.

This is not a free pass on all of the mistakes and incidences of poor judgment that plagued the Bush administration. However, for me, it is a good reminder that assumptions can be dangerous, and that everyone should be evaluated based on all their actions and accomplishments, not just the ones that fit your particular lens.

With that in mind and on this specific issue, I salute you, President Bush. This is a great program, a great first diplomatic step, and a great legacy to leave behind, and I can assure you, when I ruminate upon your years in office, this will be a part of that reflection.

February 2, 2009

Some Days…

Filed under: Uncategorized — sbj @ 11:13 pm

Some days other people just say it better than I can, this is one of those days…

Once more
The guns roar.
Once more
The calls goes forth for men.
Again
The war begins,
Again
False slogans become a bore.
Yet no one cries:
ENOUGH! NO MORE!
Like angry dogs the human race
Loves the snarl upon its face
It loves to kill.
The pessimist says
It always will.

That I do not believe.

Some day
The savage in us will wear away.
Some day quite clearly
Men will see
How clean and happy life anc be
And how,
Like flowers planted in the sun,
We, too, can give forth blossoms,
Shared by everyone.

Some Day – Langston Hughes

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