Friday, June 27, 2008

Changes, Challenges and Cheese

A few years ago, I read a short story that described four characters; two mice, "Sniff" and "Scurry", and two little people, miniature humans in essence, "Hem" and "Haw", live in a maze, a representation of one's environment, and look for cheese, representative of happiness and success. Initially without cheese, each group, the mice and humans paired off, travel the lengthy corridor searching for cheese. One day both groups happen upon a cheese-filled corridor in "Cheese Station C". Content with their find, the humans establish routines around their daily intake of cheese slowly becoming arrogant in the process.

One day Sniff and Scurry arrive at Cheese Station C to find no cheese left but they are not surprised. Noticing the cheese supply dwindling, they have mentally prepared for the arduous, but inevitable task of finding more cheese beforehand. Leaving Cheese Station C behind, they begin their hunt for new cheese together. Later that day, Hem and Haw arrive at Cheese Station C only to find the same thing, no cheese. Angered and annoyed, Hem demands "who moved my cheese?". Unprepared, the humans have counted on the cheese supply to be constant. After verifying that the cheese is indeed gone and ranting at the unfairness of the situation, both head home hungry. Returning the next day, Hem and Haw find the same cheeseless station. Beginning to realize the situation at hand, Haw proposes a search for new cheese, but Hem, dead set in his victimized mindset, nixes the proposal.

Meanwhile, Sniff and Scurry have found "Cheese Station N", a new supply of cheese. Back at Cheese Station C, Hem and Haw, affected by their lack of cheese, blame each other for their predicament. Hoping to change, Haw again proposes a search for new cheese. Hem however, comforted by his old routine and afraid of the unknown, again knocks down the idea. After many days in denial, including a search for cheese behind the wall of Cheese Station C, the humans remain without cheese. One day, realizing his debilitating fear, Haw begins laughing at the situation. Realizing he should move on, Haw enters the maze, but not before chiseling "If You Do Not Change, You Can Become Extinct" on the wall of Cheese Station C for his friend to ponder.

Still fearful of his trek, Haw jots "What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid?" on the wall and, after thinking about it, begins his journey. Still with worry, perhaps he has waited too long to begin his search, Haw finds some scattered cheese and continues his search. Slowly losing his denial, Haw realizes that the cheese has not suddenly disappeared, but has dwindled from continual eating, and that the older cheese was not as tasty and had been moldy. After a let down, an empty cheese station, Haw begins worrying about the unknown again. Brushing aside his fears, Haw's new mindset allows him to again enjoy life; he has even begun to smile again and is realizing "when you move beyond your fear, you feel free." After another empty cheese station, Haw decides to go back for Hem with the few bits of new cheese he has managed to find.

Uncompromising, Hem turns away the new cheese to his friend's dismay. With knowledge acquired along the way, Haw heads back into the maze. Still going deeper into the maze, impelled by bits of new cheese here and there, Haw leaves a trail of writings on the wall, hopeful that his friend will be aided by them in his search for new cheese. Still traveling, Haw one day comes across Cheese Station N. Abundant with cheese, some varieties strange to him, he has found what he is looking for. After eating, Haw reflects on his experience. Pondering a return to his old friend, Haw decides to let Hem find his own way. Finding the largest wall in Cheese Station N, he writes:

Change Happens
They Keep Moving The Cheese

Anticipate Change
Get Ready For The Cheese To Move

Monitor Change
Smell The Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old

Adapt To Change Quickly
The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, The Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese

Move With The Cheese

Enjoy Change!
Savor The Adventure And Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!

Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again & Again
They Keep Moving The Cheese.

Cautious from past experience, Haw inspects Cheese Station N daily and explores different parts of the maze to prevent complacency from setting in.

In the course of this past week, I have faced some very serious and difficult choices. My actions provided walking papers to 40% of those working in my office. Every single person affected by the layoff was a hardworking, intelligent employee. All were people that I had grown to admire and knew were very capable. It was very seriously one of the more difficult weeks in my business life.

Over the next few weeks, I will be leading the efforts to completely close my office, moving the operations to combine with an office about 16 miles away. It will be challenging for us to maintain our success with our current customers while preparing for and implementing the final stages of the move. There is a lot of work to do in both aspects of this challenge.

After the move, I will be assuming a new role, which is far more challenging than my current one. The challenge, opportunity, chance for success and chance for failure are all significantly greater than what I have been doing to this point. Instead of having objectives set for me by my superiors, my employees and my clients, I will have to make my own opportunities, generate success through my own initiative and innovation.

The allegory "who moved my cheese" will definitely mean more to my life than it ever has been to this point in my life.

Changes, Challenges and Cheese. Who knew life would boil down to the three C's???

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

All Trials can be Blessings

“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.”

~ John Heywood
Over the past couple years, I have had a few experiences. There were times when I thought they would break me beyond my ability to recover. In fact, I haven't all-together relieved myself of that thought. The journey through life is not supposed to be a stroll in the park, without bumps or bruises.

I am not nearly as amused as I should be when I consider some of the thoughts in my heart that have preceded difficulty.

Just after I was engaged to be married, I had thought I had it all. I had a good job, a beautiful wife-to-be, a new car and I was on my way to fulfilling more than one pretty significant life goal. In fact, I remember talking with a close friend about how lucky we were to be blessed with so much. It was not a month later that I had lost my job. The direction I thought I was going had abruptly changed. I continued through the troubles, we got married and I refocused my attention in an effort to maintain what I thought would make my new family comfortable and happy.

When my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, I considered what I had to be a little less than what I thought was perfect but we were in good order. I had a job - not the best job but it was an income - we were living in a nice townhouse and had a pretty good life. I remember thinking about what was going on and how blessed I was at the time. Only weeks later, I was faced with a pregnant wife and no job. I made a blunder that I should probably have not made, calling my boss childish. Well, he was no longer my boss after that experience. I thought I would have a new job quickly. My time of unemployment lasted a bit longer than I thought it would. I took nearly three months to find a new job.

There were probably a couple more times in my life that I considered everything in my life to be pretty perfect only to have the rug pulled out from under me but nothing compared to what happened just a couple years ago. I had my house and we had just finished putting in the fence around the backyard. The family was very much pleased with not having to go out and walk the dog every hour or so. With the fence, we just opened the back door and she was out on her own. This sounds rather lazy but I guess that is the way we are. Things were going pretty peachy, to say the least. I remember thinking to myself how blessed the family had truly been.

January 13, 2006, I was layed-off from the position I had held for nearly 10 years. I honestly thought the new job would be just around the corner. The severance pay would certainly be more like a bonus than something on which I would need to live. Six months later, we were out of time and I still hadn't found a new job. I was blessed to get through this in one piece, without loosing anything of significance. We had our house and the car still. A year later, I started a new job with a company in Elgin, IL. I thought the job was the answer to all my prayers but life didn't start to get easier. In fact, it was harder to live this life than it was to be unemployed. I was living away from my family during the week and only seeing them on weekends. The weekends were obviously too short and the weeks were likewise too long. Only a month into the new job and I was confronted with something that had never been a part of my career - pornography. Someone is going to print it. It had always been someone else. Part of what we did in this place was certain aspects of the Playboy marketing campaigns. Part of what made my job was to ensure the quality aspect of the projects before the jobs were released out on proof or sent out to the presses. I started really dreading my job. Not only was I living three hours from my family during the week but I was having to deal with the side of the printing industry that I truly loathed. Our trials were not over or even at their worse.

My wife was sick. She had been sick for a very long time but we hadn't thought of a way to address the problems. Three months into employment with the new organization, insurance kicked in and She was off to the doctor. Oh my but life seemed to get worse when I thought it could not possibly take such a turn. I worried about many things during those months. I worried about my family and each of the girls individually. I worried about my wife as she was dealing with her health problems nearly alone. Except for the telephone and email, we were not there for each other during the week. Weekends were times of spending together and neither of us were too terribly interested in spending that time worried about the health or financial problems that were mounting. Medical bills were not something we were going to let ourselves think about. It was all about getting through the health problems and not about anything else.

After a hospital stay and recovery, we were informed that my wife was on the mend. This was a blessing. What could have been a whole lot worse, wasn't. However, I was still traveling to Chicago during the week and only home on the weekends. While in Chicago I was forced to look at and approve art that did not treat sacred those gifts our God endowed on us. I started looking for an alternative.

I was called to California for a job interview. We thought this was an answer to a terribly difficult situation. And upon returning to work the next week, I gave notice to my employer. I could not continue working with the circumstances as they were. Only two days after giving notice, I was offered the position in California. It was going to be hard to get my family out to California but we were going to be together again.

Selling the house was not easy and what equity I thought we had was sucked away by an ailing economy and housing market. Months after starting the new job, the house finally sold at a loss and my family was on their way to California and we were to be reunited for the first time in over a year.

Experiences. When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed... Experiences.
“If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;

“If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can’t you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

“The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

Doctrine & Covenants 122:5-8
Experiences. Trials. Blessings. You've heard it said, "if it doesn't kill you, it makes you stronger." I've felt that I was about to be broken more than once over the past two years. I haven't broken yet. I will not break. I will not give up. I'd think we're close to overcoming these the more difficult years of my life but I do not wish to have such hopes dashed. I can see that we're on the cusp of change. I can see that my experiences over the past few years have changed me, made me a different man. I am certain that I am different. Am I better for it? Am I stronger?

Friday, June 20, 2008


“Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam...

“And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva... So tweasure your wuv. . . ”

~ The Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride (1997)

One of the best scenes in the whole movie, the Princess Bride was a well written screen play. Lately, a lot of attention has been pressed toward marriage. Seriously, heterosexuals haven't done a superior job of holding this sacred rite very sacred. What is the statistic now? Something like 50% of all marriages end in divorce, the rest in death?

OK, here's an actual statistic. It depends on to whom you speak or more appropriately which study you decide to read. 50% percent of first, 67% of second and 74% of third marriages end in divorce, according to one study done by Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri. This might be high. I have a tendency to want to believe their numbers aren't exactly right. That is just me. Looking at these numbers, you'd have to believe that divorce is not the taboo subject it used to be. I do not agree with anyone who would judge someone for getting divorced. Luckily, or by design, I have not had to deal directly with divorce. I have friends, however, that have.

The religious right holds marriage to be a sacred partnership between a man and a woman. I believe much the same way. As I consider these things, I am morally opposed to changing what marriage is. Politics aside and without any consideration to what the government should or should not do, that is how I feel.

The liberals, as I understand it, have been going down a road of secularism that would never find a problem with personal choices such as abortion, marriage, gay rights, etc. As I consider these things, I am politically opposed to the government deciding for me what is moral and what is immoral. The conservatives do not hold a monopoly on attempts to put such legislation through, where the government is given moral responsibilities. liberal and conservative alike have their pet morality issues.

So, I have a significant problem on my hands. My moral beliefs conflict with my political conscience. This is not new. Abortion, to me, is abhorrent in most cases; however, how can I charge the government with deciding what is and what is not acceptable since there are no real guidelines that will make it clearly decipherable.

I believe in free agency. There is no such thing as unfettered free agency - there is always forces that influence the decision making process. I also, however, believe in responsibility and consequences. Our decisions will have consequences, good or bad. These consequences should not be mitigated through legislation, which is why I am perplexed by certain law makers who want to provide special help to those who are being hurt by the mortgage crisis. The only people who are in this situation are there because of financial decisions they should have reconsidered.

Marriage between a man and a man. Marriage between a woman and a woman. Morally, I am opposed because morally I am opposed to the relationship in the first place. Conversely, I have to wonder if it is right for the state to impose my morals on other people. I am very sensitive to others pushing their beliefs on me. Where does this leave me? If it is OK for me to impose my morality on others, then it becomes OK for others to do the same to me...

Should the State be responsible for enforcing moral values? What values are we enforcing? All laws are based in some way or another on moral values. There is no exceptions.

What is the purpose of Marriage? Does that purpose translate into the relationship a same-sex couple would have? You see, I think this is probably where the lines blur. The purposes of marriage are varied depending on who you ask. According to some, the purpose of marriage is merely a state sanctioned promise of commitment and companionship. If this is what a marriage is, then it is certainly something a same-sex couple might want. The state provides certain benefits to those who are married. I'm not going to list those benefits as I do not have space for them here. According to a report given to the Office of the General Counsel of the U.S. General Accounting Office, here are a few of the 1,138 benefits the United States government provides to legally married couples. Is the purpose of being married to gain access to these benefits? Again, if this is the case, same-sex couples could conceivably achieve this end.

What is the purpose of Marriage? “[The purpose of marriage] is to bear children and rear a family (Gospel Ideals (1953), 466–67).” If this is the purpose of marriage, the only purpose of marriage, it leaves out those who cannot bear children, which includes same-sex couples.

What is the purpose of Marriage?

I am glad that I do not have to decide this for anyone but myself. Come November, however, there is going to be a proposition on the California ballot. I will not take this lightly but I have a lot of thinking to do before I place my vote on the ballot and slip the ballot into a box on my way out of the polling station.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

Whereas, the Senate of the United States, devoutly recognizing the Supreme Authority and just Government of Almighty God, in all the affairs of men and of nations, has, by a resolution, requested the President to designate and set apart a day for National prayer and humiliation.

And whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord.

And, insomuch as we know that, by His divine law, nations like individuals are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of terrorism, which now endangers the whole of the world, may be but a punishment, inflicted upon us, for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole People? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand, which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!

It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.

Now, therefore, in compliance with the request, and fully concurring in the views of the Senate, I do, by this my proclamation, designate and set apart Thursday, the 30th. day of October, 2008, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord, and devoted to the humble discharge of the religious duties proper to that solemn occasion.

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this thirtieth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand and eight, and of the Independence of the United States the two hundred thirty-second.

By the President: George W. Bush
Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State.

Anyone arguing that our nation was not founded on these principles that today still remain apart from any other nation in the world. These principles that suggest our devotion to G-d. To argue that our country did not have a strong sense of fighting for earthly justice, an emphasis on laws, a belief in a judging, as well as a loving and forgiving, G-d. History does not support them in their arguments.

Organizations fighting for the rights of others have been demonized by both the left and the right. The left puts forth an argument that our lives should be devoid of faith, a devotion to scientific elitism places faith in the realm of superstition. The right argues against personal rights suggesting that anyone who feels differently than they are unpatriotic. Unable to support their cause against the scientific onslaught of the left, the right is left with nothing but empty vitriol.

No, the proclamation above was not or will not be released by the current President at the behest of the current Senate. This proclamation - except minor changes to bring it to bear on 2008 - was pronounced by Abraham Lincoln at the behest of the 1863 Senate.

Abraham Lincoln's party, the Republicans, does not exist as it once did. The Republicans were the ones who pushed for and won the fight against slavery. The Republicans were the party who cared more for individual rights than state's rights, who fought for these rights. Where did that party go?

Our Country was founded on very important principles, many of which are based in Judeo-Christian beliefs. We have strayed a far stride from our roots.

"It behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness."

I wonder what it would take to turn this country toward this kind of action again. I wonder if there is even a small hope for such.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Is Love the Key?

All you need is love, that is what the Beatles sang in 1967. Love is wonderful! You hear about it all the time. Just walk into a Del Taco and you'll hear some adolescent proclaiming his love for a Macho Beef Burrito or a Chicken Taco Del Carbon. The passion is enough to drive any normal person upon reaching the cashier to announce, "I'LL HAVE WHAT HE'S HAVING!" I want to love that taco as much as that guy!

You'll encounter this passion just about anywhere you go. At Seven-Eleven, you'll meet the postal employee on his break, "I love this drink and you can get it in 64 ounces!!!"

On the way into McDonald's you'll inevitably see the family with three kids hurrying into the store. It is so cute to hear a three year old say "I love hamburgers!" Even the argument he is having with his big sister about whether Chicken McNuggets are better than hamburgers is interlaced with proclamations of love. "Yeah, but I love chicken nuggets!"

Walking through any mall in America you might hear, "I love how that outfit looks on you!"

Such fervor is not limited to the adolescent or child here and there. People of all ages express grand enthusiasm. Perfect examples are visible while stuck in traffic. Just look at the bumper stickers. Bumper stickers proclaim affection for everything under the sun from Dogs and Cats to countries, states and cities. There all there! People are all about their hobbies too! Talk with someone about their newly purchased home and you'll certainly hear something like, "I love my house!"

"I love dogs!"

"I love scuba diving!"

"I love New York, California!"

If love is all you need, it must be something far more important than a passion for a dog, burrito or the mountains.
"When Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment to 'love one another; as I have loved you,' (John 13:34), He gave to them the grand key to happiness in this life and glory in the next.

"Love is the greatest of all the commandments--all others hang upon it. It is our focus as followers of the living Christ. It is the one trait that, if developed, will most improve our lives."

~ Joseph B. Wirthlin, "The Great Commandment," Ensign, Nov. 2007, 30-31
The love that will lead us to true happiness is far more than passion. The English language is something else. We have a single word that can express a passion for one thing while also being the strongest tie to another. I love the English language!

Charity is the answer. Our concerns for our fellow man should be strong enough to motivate our every action. Developing that love for our fellow man, developing our ability to act on honest concern for others' wellbeing is the foundation for true happiness. Putting our own comfort and desires aside, making them subordinate to the needs of others will lead us to that great place and improve our lives significantly.

I love the idea! Honestly, the fissure that spans between what we know we should do and what we do can be significant. We're not going to be perfect. Tomorrow we can promise to do better than we did today. That is where we go from here.

If we all had honest concern for our neighbors, there would be no crime. If we all had charity for our fellow human beings, the world would truly be a better place. People would take care of those unable to care for themselves - we'd all benefit. Selfishness would be a thing of the past.

I do love a good hamburger, though. All this talk about Del Taco has me thinking about lunch, too. I love their burritos and the nachos are a darn good alternative to fries. Of course, there are few places that can rival Del Taco's french fries... I love that place! I share that love with whomever I can too. We can love Del Taco together!

Friday, June 13, 2008

And I Maintained Complete Control of All My Faculties

Birthdays are the days we all charish. We like to spend the time with our loved ones, those who will not make too much fun at your expense. I was lucky tonight! We went to El Cholo in La Habra, California. After I thought dinner was done and we were about to head out, I was surprised by a little dessert, an incredably rousing redition of Happy Birthday, and a sombraro.

Many people went out of their way to help the day be special. I truly appreciated every bit of it, too. I'd like to express that appreciation to all.

Thank you!

Do you suffer from Triskaidekaphobia

A couple years ago, I was laid off on a Friday the 13th. This was after I worked hard trying to convince my daughters that there was no reason to consider Friday the 13th special in any way, shape, or form. Today is special, though. It is my birthday. In honor of myself, I thought I would list a few things that have happened on 13 June through out history.

1525 - Martin Luther marries Katharina von Bora, against the celibacy rule decreed by the Roman Catholic Church for priests and nuns.

1774 - Rhode Island becomes the first of Britain's North American colonies to ban the importation of slaves.

1777 - American Revolutionary War: Marquis de Lafayette lands near Charleston, South Carolina, in order to help the Continental Congress to train its army.

1798 - Mission San Luis Rey de Francia is founded.

1805 - Lewis and Clark Expedition: scouting ahead of the expedition, Meriwether Lewis and four companions sight the Great Falls of the Missouri River.

1893 - Grover Cleveland undergoes secret, successful surgery to remove a large, cancerous portion of his jaw; operation not revealed to US public until 1917, nine years after the president's death.

1898 - Yukon Territory is formed, with Dawson chosen as its capital.

1927 - Aviator Charles Lindbergh receives a ticker-tape parade down 5th Avenue in New York City.

1934 - Adolf Hitler and Mussolini meet in Venice, Italy; Mussolini later describes the German dictator as "a silly little monkey".

1935 - In one of the biggest upsets in championship boxing, the 10 to 1 underdog James J. Braddock defeats Max Baer in Long Island City, New York, and becomes the heavyweight champion of the world.

1942 - The United States opens its Office of War Information.

1955 - Mir Mine, the first diamond mine in the USSR, is discovered.

1955 - Mir Mine, the first diamond mine in the USSR, is discovered.

1956 - Real Madrid wins the inaugural European Champion Clubs' Cup final, defeating Stade de Reims 4-3 at the Parc des Princes, Paris.

1966 - The United States Supreme Court rules in Miranda v. Arizona that the police must inform suspects of their rights before questioning them.

1966 - The Birth of a new child.

1967 - U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson nominates Solicitor-General Thurgood Marshall to become the first black justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

1970 - "The Long and Winding Road" becomes the Beatles' last Number 1 song.

1971 - Vietnam War: The New York Times begins publication of the Pentagon Papers.

1977 - Convicted Martin Luther King Jr. assassin James Earl Ray is recaptured after escaping from prison three days before.

1978 - Israeli Defense Forces withdraw from Lebanon.

1981 - At the Trooping the Colour ceremony in London, a teenager, Marcus Sarjeant, fires six blank shots at Queen Elizabeth II.

1982 - Fahd becomes King of Saudi Arabia upon the death of his brother, Khalid.

1983 - Pioneer 10 becomes the first man-made object to leave the solar system.

1994 - A jury in Anchorage, Alaska, blames recklessness by Exxon and Captain Joseph Hazelwood for the Exxon Valdez disaster, allowing victims of the oil spill to seek $15 billion in damages

1995 - French president Jacques Chirac announces the resumption of nuclear tests in French Polynesia.

1996 - The Montana Freemen surrender after an 81-day standoff with FBI agents.

1997 - A jury sentences Timothy McVeigh to the death for his part in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

2000 - President Kim Dae Jung of South Korea meets Kim Jong-il, leader of North Korea, for the beginning of the first ever inter-Korea summit, in the northern capital of Pyongyang.

2000 - Italy pardons Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill Pope John Paul II in 1981.

2002 - The United States of America withdraws from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

2005 - A jury in Santa Maria, California acquits pop singer Michael Jackson of molesting 13-year-old Gavin Arvizo at his Neverland Ranch.

I share a birth date with the following individuals:

* 823 - Charles the Bald, Holy Roman Emperor and King of the West Franks (d. 877)
* 1649 - Adrien Baillet, French scholar and critic (d. 1706)
* 1752 - Fanny Burney, English novelist and diarist (d. 1840)
* 1763 - José Bonifácio de Andrade e Silva, Brazilian statesman (d. 1838)
* 1773 - Thomas Young, English scientist (d. 1829)
* 1775 - Antoni Radziwiłł, Polish politician (d. 1833)
* 1786 - Winfield Scott, U.S. general (d. 1866)
* 1822 - Carl Schmidt, German chemist (d. 1884)
* 1831 - James Clerk Maxwell, Scottish physicist (d. 1879)
* 1864 - Rudolf Kjellén, Swedish political scientist (d. 1922)
* 1864 - Dwight B. Waldo, American educator and historian (d. 1939)
* 1863 - Lady Lucy Duff Gordon, English fashion designer (d. 1935)
* 1865 - William Butler Yeats, Irish writer, Nobel laureate (d. 1937)
* 1870 - Jules Bordet, Belgian immunologist and microbiologist, Nobel laureate (d. 1961)
* 1876 - William Sealey Gosset, English chemist, statistician (d. 1937)
* 1884 - Anton Drexler, founder of the German Worker's Party (d. 1942)
* 1884 - Gerald Gardner, British occultist (d. 1964)
* 1884 - Etienne Gilson, French philosopher (d. 1978)
* 1887 - Bruno Frank, German author (d. 1945)
* 1888 - Fernando Pessoa, Portuguese poet (d. 1935)
* 1892 - Basil Rathbone, English actor (d. 1967)
* 1893 - Dorothy L. Sayers, English author (d. 1957)
* 1894 - Dr. Leo Kanner, Austrian-American physician (d. 1981)
* 1894 - Jacques Henri Lartigue, French photographer (d. 1986)
* 1897 - Paavo Nurmi, Finnish runner (d. 1973)
* 1899 - Carlos Chávez, Mexican composer (d. 1978)
* 1901 - Tage Erlander, Prime Minister of Sweden (d. 1985)
* 1903 - Harold 'Red' Grange, American football player (d. 1991)
* 1906 - Bruno de Finetti, Italian mathematician (d. 1985)
* 1910 - Mary Whitehouse, British campaigner (d. 2001)
* 1910 - Gonzalo Torrente Ballester, Galician writer (d. 1999)
* 1910 - Mary Wickes, American actress (d. 1995)
* 1911 - Luis Alvarez, American physicist, Nobel laureate (d. 1988)
* 1911 - Erwin Müller, German-born physicist (d. 1977)
* 1912 - Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau, French Canadian poet (d. 1943)
* 1913 - Etienne Leroux, major Afrikaans author.
* 1915 - Don Budge, American tennis player (d. 2000)
* 1917 - Teddy Turner, comedian (d. 1992)
* 1918 - Ben Johnson, American actor (d. 1996)
* 1918 - Helmut Lent, German night fighter pilot (d. 1944)
* 1924 - Percy Rodriguez, Canadian actor (d. 2007)
* 1926 - Paul Lynde, American actor (d. 1982)
* 1928 - John Forbes Nash, American mathematician, Nobel laureate
* 1929 - Alan Civil, English French horn player (d. 1989)
* 1930 - Ryszard Kukliński, Polish colonel (d. 2004)
* 1931 - Irvin D. Yalom , psychotherapist,Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University
* 1933 - Tom King, British politician
* 1933 - Erich Ribbeck, German football soccer trainer
* 1934 - Lady Annabel Goldsmith, English socialite
* 1935 - Christo, Bulgarian artist
* 1935 - Jeanne-Claude Denat de Guillebonnt, French artist
* 1935 - Samak Sundaravej, Thai Prime Minister
* 1939 - Tom Cheek, American baseball player (d. 2005)
* 1940 - Bobby Freeman, American soul singer
* 1941 - Esther Ofarim, Israeli singer
* 1941 - Marcel Lachemann, American baseball player
* 1943 - Malcolm McDowell, English actor
* 1944 - Ban Ki-moon, the current U.N. Secretary General
* 1945 - Whitley Strieber, American author
* 1947 - A. G. Lafley, American executive director
* 1948 - Garnet Bailey, Canadian ice hockey player and executive (d. 2001)
* 1948 - Joe Roth, American executive, producer and film director
* 1949 - Dennis Locorriere, American singer and guitarist (Dr. Hook & The Medicine Show)
* 1950 - Michael Stark, Australian actor
* 1950 - Gerd Zewe, German footballer
* 1951 - Richard Thomas, American actor
* 1951 - Stellan Skarsgård, Swedish actor
* 1952 - Tony Bruno, American talkshow host
* 1953 - Tim Allen, American comedian and actor
* 1954 - Andrzej Lepper, Polish politician
* 1954 - Rita Cadillac, Brazilian dancer
* 1955 - Alan Hansen, Scottish football pundit
* 1959 - Steve Georganas, Australian politician
* 1959 - Lance Kinsey, Canadian actor
* 1961 - Anders Järryd, Swedish tennis player
* 1962 - Ally Sheedy, American actress
* 1962 - Glenn Michibata, Canadian professional tennis player
* 1962 - Davey Hamilton, American racing driver
* 1963 - Bettina Bunge, German tennis player
* 1963 - Paul De Lisle, American musician (Smash Mouth)
* 1964 - Katherine Lucy Bridget Burke, English actress
* 1964 - Christian Wilhelm Berger, Romanian composer
* 1965 - Lukas Ligeti, Austrian composer and drummer
* 1965 - Infanta Cristina, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca
* 1965 - Lisa Vidal, American actress
* 1966 - Grigori Perelman, Russian mathematician
* 1966 - Naoki Hattori, Japanese racing driver
* 1968 - David Gray, British musician
* 1968 - Denise Pearson, British singer (Five Star)
* 1968 - Fabio Baldato, Italyan cyclist
* 1969 - Svetlana Krivelyova, Russian athlete
* 1969 - Søren Nystrøm Rasted
* 1970 - Chris Cairns, New Zealand cricketer
* 1970 - Rivers Cuomo, American musician (Weezer)
* 1970 - Mikael Ljungberg, Swedish wrestler (d. 2004)
* 1972 - Natalie MacMaster, Canadian musician
* 1973 - Sam Adams, American football player
* 1973 - Mattias Hellberg, Swedish musician (The Hellacopters)
* 1973 - Ville Laihiala, Finnish musician (Sentenced, Poisonblack)
* 1973 - Kasia Kowalska, Polish pop rock singer
* 1974 - Selma Björnsdóttir, Icelandic singer
* 1974 - Steve-O, American television personality
* 1974 - Brande Roderick, American actress
* 1974 - Takahiro Sakurai, Japanese voice actor
* 1974 - Valeri Bure, Russian ice hockey player
* 1975 - Ante Covic, Australian footballer
* 1975 - Johannes Grenzfurthner, Austrian artist, writer, curator and director
* 1975 - Riccardo Scimeca, English footballer
* 1976 - Kym Marsh, English singer, actress, & T.V. presenter
* 1976 - Jason 'J' Brown, English Singer
* 1977 - Alaura Eden, American porn actress
* 1978 - Ethan Embry, American actor
* 1978 - Mathis Künzler, Swiss actor
* 1978 - Jason Michael Carroll, Country musician
* 1978 - Mikako Ichikawa, Japanese actress and model
* 1979 - Nila Håkedal, Norwegian beach volleyball player
* 1980 - Darius Vassell, English footballer
* 1980 - Florent Malouda, French footballer
* 1980 - Markus Winkelhock, German racing driver
* 1980 - Sarah Connor, German singer
* 1981 - Chris Evans, American actor
* 1981 - David Madden, 4th-ranked Jeopardy! champion of all-time
* 1982 - Kenenisa Bekele, Ethiopian athlete
* 1983 - Matt Allison, British racing driver
* 1983 - Jason Spezza Canadian Hockey Player
* 1984 - Nery Castillo, Mexican-Uruguayan footballer
* 1985 - Raz-B, American singer (B2K)
* 1985 - Danny Syvret, Canadian ice hockey player
* 1985 - Filipe Albuquerque, Portuguese racing driver
* 1986 - Kat Dennings, American actress
* 1986 - Ashley Olsen, American actress
* 1986 - Mary-Kate Olsen, American actress
* 1989 - Lisa Tucker, American singer
* 1990 - Aaron Johnson, British actor

I read a few things today about midlife crisis. I guess the common consensus is that it does not exist. Most people who think they are suffering from the malady are generally in the midst of other turmoil or life stresses and are only attributing their problems to midlife crisis. Something more about midlife crisis: such experiences will generally lead to making positive changes to adjust for those aspects of life that are not as desirable.

People who lived before the late 1800s perceived Friday the 13th as a day of special misfortune, no evidence has been found to prove it. It's a fact that no one has been able to document the existence of such beliefs prior to the 19th century.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Racism or is it something else?

I might be getting myself into a bit of trouble here but I have been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Because of who I am I have to wonder if I have any right to even comment. If you listen to many of those in the know, I haven't any idea what I am talking about when discussing racism. Whether that is true or not, I wanted to share my thoughts.

By luck or happenstance, Ms. Lillywhite finds herself stranded in an industrial part of town late in the evening. Her car will not start. Her cell phone has zero bars - she should have chosen AT&T or Verizon if you believe their advertisements. Her choices are to sit there and wait without knowing if anyone would be by or get out of the car and walk the few blocks to the nearest public phone - it's in a bar named Louie's. Ms. Lillywhite thought the name curious as she drove past it earlier that day, which is why she even remembered seeing it.

A block and a half from the bar, a dark shape steps out from between two buildings. Ms. Lillywhite feels the bile of fear in her throat. She steels herself and continues toward Louie's. She walks past the man. Ten paces closer to the safety of a lighted public place, she realizes the man is walking in the same direction as she is. Could he be following her or is this coincidental? The fear bubbling up in her is beginning to boil over. Ms. Lillywhite could not make out any features as she passed the man. She quickened her pace. That last block to the bar seemed to stretch on forever.

As she entered Louie's, she realized the man was following her into the bar. Inside, the lighting was better than the night outside but it was still pretty dark, dark enough to obscure Ms. Lillywhite view of most of the occupants. Her anticipation of feeling safer inside was swept away. She made her way to the bar and inquired about the phone. Ms. Lillywhite was "rescued" only 20 minutes later, when her husband walked into Louie's. While she waited, she recognized the patronage was a general mix of working class Americans. The man that followed her in was a young black man.

Angel Torres is struck down by a hit-and-run driver and lays in the street bleeding while onlookers do nothing. Well, almost nothing. Four 911 calls, imploring quick response, were made.

We like to consider ourselves more like the good Samaritan and less like the priest or Levite. This event demonstrates how truly correct the parable is. Most people seemed to find it less than compelling to help this man.

I considered this experience and thought of putting a twist into play - what if. What would the news story be if the man were black and the onlookers white - the man white and the onlookers black? What happened was terrible, truly tragic.

Back to Ms. Lillywhite. Were her fears based in racism?

James grew up in a desert community in Southern California. His best friend was the only son of migrant farm workers who found a way to gain a small grasp on the American dream. Both James and his friend were able to attend California State University San Bernardino as well. After graduation, James accepted a position with a firm in Chicago.

James' new job required he visit with families in government subsidized housing near Midway Airport. James was very uncomfortable with this assignment. The culture, the dress and the mannerisms of the people he met with were very different from what he had experienced back home.

Was James' reaction based in racism?

I detest hearing a story on the news or reading about something in the news paper when the editors decide a person's race might be pertinent to what might have made the story news worthy. This is not to say that there is never a time when race is not irrelevant. However, in most cases a man or woman, boy or girl did something or had something happen to them. Their race had nothing to do with it. Religion is handled in much the same way. There are a few religions who will be noted if the main subject of the news follows that belief. Why is it relevant?

I believe that most of the time when people are uncomfortable around others, there is not a racist slant. People in general do not care one wit about other people's genealogy - well, beyond general curiosity. I believe that most people today see everyone else around them as being the same in most respects. I also believe that we tend to migrate to others with similar backgrounds. We like to have something in common with those with whom we interact. Culture, religion, hobbies, etc. If there is common ground on which we can build a relationship, the rest is mearly formalities. Race does not play a significant role in making these relationships happen. As all generalities go, there are exceptions but in most cases I believe this is true 99.99% of the time.

Neither James nor Ms. Lillywhite are racist. Ms. Lillywhite was in a situation that mirrored everything she had been warned to avoid throughout her whole life. A dark ally and unknown identities will play on each other enough to make just about anyone uncomfortable. James was in a culture that was totally different from anything he had experienced. Once he learned more about that culture and came to understand it, his fears would be eased. If Angel Torres' story were slightly different, it would be just as tragic and the people not helping would still be under general condemnation.

I guess what my ruminations have established, at least for me, is this. In general, actions that might be perceived as racist in nature could very well have grounds in other less benign emotions. I'm not talking about the blatant racism spouted by the prognostic minority but the rest of us. Many of the problems attributed to racism, I believe would still exist in a monoethnic society, they would just have different names for these problems.

This leaves me with a single question. If it isn't racism, then how do we overcome the problem?

Monday, June 09, 2008

I believe . . .

". . . I believe in my whole race. Yellow, white, black, red, brown --in the honesty, courage, intelligence, durability . . . and goodness . . . of the overwhelming majority of my brothers and sisters everywhere on this planet. I am proud to be a human being."
~ Robert A. Heinlein
This statement was part of an interview given with Edward R. Murrow in 1952. Mrs. Virginia Heinlein read the address in 1988 when accepting NASA's Distinguished Public Service Medal, on Robert A. Heinlein's behalf. The award was posthumous. The entire address is available here:

Has our world changed much since 1952? Is it better or is it worse? Has the racism of 50 years ago gone underground, making it harder to fight? Have victims of centuries long repression lashed back with an intolerance that mimics many of the darker aspects of racism?

No matter where you go, people are the same. This is the credo on which many calling for tolerance found their arguments. It does not matter what color your skin, who your grandmother was or where you were born, you're still a member of the human race. We, as members of this great family, should treat each other with the respect that applies to family and friends. However, no matter where you go, there is a pride of being. I'm proud to be a member of my family. Is there something inherently wrong with being proud of your family or your roots? If you believe you are lucky to be a member of a certain group, is this insinuating that other groups aren't as good?

We know the benefits of being inclusive. Do we? Is it human nature to seek out the exclusive? Dr Seuss' Story of the Sneetches does an excellent job of depicted something that seem too common in human societies. Sneetches are a race of odd, yellow creatures who live on a beach. Some Sneetches have a star on their bellies, and in the beginning of the story the presence or absence of a star is the basis for discrimination. Sneetches who have stars on their bellies are part of the "in crowd", while Sneetches without stars are shunned and consequently mopey.

In the story, a "fix-it-up chappie" named Sylvester McMonkey McBean appears, driving a cart of strange machines. He offers the Sneetches without stars a chance to have them by going through his Star-On machine, for three dollars. The treatment is instantly popular, but this upsets the old star-bellied Sneetches, as they are in danger of losing their method for discriminating between classes of Sneetches. Then McBean tells them about his Star-Off machine, costing ten dollars. The Sneetches formerly with stars happily pay the money to have them removed in order to remain special.

However, McBean does not share the prejudices of the Sneetches, and allows the recently starred Sneetches through this machine as well. Ultimately this escalates, with the Sneetches running from one machine to the next,

"until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
whether this one was that one or that one was this one
or which one was what one... or what one was who."
This continues until the Sneetches are penniless and McBean leaves a rich man. In the end, the Sneetches learn that neither plain-belly nor star-belly Sneetches are superior, and they are able to get along and become friends.

I am proud to be a member of this human experiment. I just wonder what it will take to get enough people to understand the value in what everyone has to bring to the great buffet table we call life.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

I’m Sticking with You

Im sticking with you
cos Im made out of glue
Anything that you might do
Im gonna do too

You held up a stage coach in the rain
And Im doing the same
So youre hanging from a tree
And I made believe it was me

Im sticking with you
cos Im made out of glue
Anything that you might do
Im gonna do too

People going to the stratosphere
Soldiers fighting with the cong?

But with you by my side I can do anything
When we swing
We hang past right or wrong

Ill do anything for you
Anything you want me too
Ill do anything for you
Oohoh Im sticking with you
Oohoh Im sticking with you
Oohoh Im sticking with you

~the Velvet Underground

Some people might believe they are better off alone, that they do not need others to be fulfilled. Although I believe we are better off if we can find our own worth, I do not agree that anyone is better off alone. I am stronger because of my relationships, not weaker. My Jennifer is my strength. I might have given up a long time ago if it were not for her tenacity. I am a better man because of Jennifer. I am stronger because of her.

Many refer to their spouse as their better half. She is far more than that to me. I am not nearly half of this whole.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My Darling

• Her beautiful hair • Her striking eyes • Her intense personality • Her teasing ways • Her gentle touch • A temporary intermission from life • Her support for my dreams, hopes and desires • Her undying, unyielding compassion • her love of a good hotdog • The fire in her eyes • Her laugh makes me laugh • Her love of the hunt – thrift stores aren’t all evil • Her love of photography • She enjoys walking on the beach • Her devotion to our children • The way she “tolerates” the dogs • Her NEED to get the mail • She’s not Martha Stewart, no matter what people say • Her compassion for others • She makes up back stories when we don’t know the details • She worries about the little things • Her addiction to Ebay and Craigslist • She will fight for the little guy • She loves the gospel • Her concern for making things better • She likes candles and flowers • Every Holiday is important • She loves Christmas – it’s a super-holiday • The way she used to wake me up in the middle of the night while she was scrap booking • Her reaction when I bite her neck • She Understands my weaknesses • She is the mother of my three Daughters • The random text messages • She expects me to know • She helps me understand • her love of seafood • She can figure it out alone but lets me help anyway • She cooks to my tastes even though she likes different things • She likes pizza almost as much as I do • She appreciates my BBQ finesse • She lets me be incompetent • She likes to play board games • She is awesome at Solitaire • Her love of cheese (all cheese, not just cheddar) • She does nice things secretly • She loves grilled cheese • She cries during good movies and books • She loves to read • She tolerates my gaming addiction • She doesn’t pretend to laugh when I make a stupid joke • She flirts with me at church, in the market, at the library, while I’m trying to drive, everywhere • She let’s me drive most of the time, even though she likes driving as much or more than I do • Crème brûlée • Her hugs • She is the best person to be around when I am happy • She tolerates my bad moods • She left her family to be with me • She left her friends to be with me • The way she smells • She cares about the important things in life • She doesn’t make mountains out of mole hills • She gets my addiction to Mac Sauce and Jack’s Secret Sauce • Her sporadic but refreshing irreverence •

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

An Attitude of Gratitude

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
And you will keep singing as the days go by.

When you look at others with their lands and gold,
Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
Count your many blessings. Wealth can never buy
Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be disheartened, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God hath done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

One of my favorite hymns expresses one of the major keys to our happiness.