Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Good day today

This morning, I attended a Thanksgiving picnic with my wife for my little boy’s preschool class. Tomorrow, we will go to my little girl’s Thanksgiving program and feast at the elementary. Little kids are so cute…when they listen to what you say. The work week is almost over and I am looking forward to spending some time with my family. Oh, did I mention that my wife and I are off to Las Vegas on Saturday to meet Billy Corgan and see the Smashing Pumpkins? It will be cool. Pictures to follow.

To my supa-hot loyal reader, Happy Thanksgiving and put a little extra cranberry on for me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Motorists should be Pedestrians

We’ve all said ‘They shouldn’t be allowed to drive’. The typical scenario is one where someone with either a shizzy or really nice car performs a lateral maneuver that is not in the legal sense i.e. cut you off, short-stop, bumper riding, etc. If you are a level-headed person with good self control, you probably reposition yourself to be in a safe spot on the roadway. But the rest of us want to slam on the brakes, honk the horn, ride their tail, or at least give ‘em the bird; sometimes we do and others we don’t. On a short walk during lunch, I was almost run over on either side of an intersection as I crossed the street. I was in the crosswalk, had the right-of-way, and even made eye contact with the turning drivers before proceeding onto the asphalt. It didn’t matter. It was a close call on both occasions.

I thought about who would do such a thing. I don’t care what kind of driver you might be, but watch out for pedestrians! Just for fun, I decided to go through a few of the driving characteristics I associate with certain vehicles on the road. Feel free to comment if you agree or believe that I am mistaken.

The geriatric ‘I’m a heart attack away from a 5-car pileup’. The vehicle is nice, new, big and most importantly…slow. It is all that you can do to get around these poor souls as they putter down the street to the senior center for that bingo rematch that they’ve been looking forward to.

My truck is badass and there’s nothing you can do about it. These tend to be of the Chevy, Ford, or Dodge types with high ground clearance, balls hanging from the hitch, oversized tires, and window decals of that little boy pissing on the trademark of the other truck companies. They rumble down the street not noticing all the little cars driving around them; all the while throwing gravel and dirt onto the hoods and windshields of everyone else on the freeway.

The ‘I drive a minivan or SUV so as to endanger more passengers at any given time’. They have a third row that is always filled with little persons screaming down the road. The drivers tend to be a bit frazzled and distracted by all the noise coming from inside the vehicle as to notice that other cars exist. Blinkers are something they use in drivers ed; a head check is what I do to make sure my makeup and hair still look good. ‘Proud Parent of a (insert your favorite school here) Honor Roll Student’ bumper sticker is a must.

I would be a NASCAR driver, but they won’t let this tricked out sh*t on the track. The late-model sports car with more money sunk in aftermarket performance accessories than the car originally cost. You know it’s true because the brand names of all the gear is plastered all over the front quarter-panels of the cars. You can hear their exhaust from a block away. Again blinkers are so passé and we are all just keeping them from their next speeding ticket; so get out of the way!

This is just the beginning of what could be a very large list. But more importantly than what I think about people based on what kind of car they drive is how they actually drive. So heads up, phone down, and drive.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bruce Dickinson says he's got a fever

As the elections came to a close I was sad, in more than one way. But mostly it was because Saturday Night Live would no longer be doing the Thursday Update shows. I was getting used to having the political satire on a semi-weekly basis. Political discussions were heated both in my personal and professional lives. But this show added some much needed jest at the whole process. Now, I’m not knocking our democratic method of electing officials in the least, but rather that people get so ‘into it’ for a matter of a few months and then return to being ‘neutral’. I can’t stand that mentality; that’s another post all together.

So, mourning my twice weekly SNL fix, I went in search of my favorite past skits. By the way, did you know that Amy Poehler will not be back after her maternity leave? Yep, unless they get her to come back like Tina Fey, we will no longer be seeing Hillary Clinton on the late night. Anyway. Both my wife and I are big Will Ferrell fans and Christopher Walken fans. So what better way to culminate those two favorites than a parody skit of an episode of Behind the Music: Blue Oyster Cult. Click HERE to see it. The best line is…’I’ve got a fever; and the only prescription is more cowbell.’ So, watch and laugh a little. Life is too short.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What is beauty?

Beauty is simple; unadulterated nature as it is. Everything and everyone has beauty if you take the time to find it.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Please, Sir, I want some more...

I am a man of now, a man of convenience and innovation. I can’t begin to imagine the world before the introduction of many of the modern comforts that we enjoy. But at what point to we say enough is enough? Innovation and convenience are double edged swords; they accompany higher efficiencies for less effort and the possibility of more free-time as a result. But with these ‘conveniences’ comes an implied responsibility to employ your resulting free-time with worthwhile activities.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have attended a few instructor led classes at a local fitness center with my wife. First, let it be known that she is hard core! I have survived all the classes, but she attends these on a weekly basis and completes all the routines as directed; me not so much; so, you know who the ‘cardio-nancy’ in our family is. Any physical activity is good for your heart and beneficial to your muscles and bones and should be encouraged. Not everyone has to go to the gym to exercise, but it is a sole-purpose destination designated to being healthy; outdoor activities and home workouts can also be an enjoyable.

Americans used to be more active when cars, microwaves, laptops, one-stop-shopping grocery stores, cell phones, and the internet did not exist. People would get their exercise by working and doing the things that were required to get on in life. We have become such a service oriented nation that the average person can either have most things done for you or do it without getting up from your computer. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. But what have we become because of it? Americans are fat! The National Center for Health Statistics [1] released a study that we are all going to die prematurely. Well not all of us, just more than 66%. That is the percent of Americans aged 20 – 74 that are either overweight or obese. This represents more than a 10% increase over the previous 15 years. Based on the 2000 US Census, that translates to 187 million people, 90 million of which are clinically obese!

Innovation and laziness have brought us here. Fast food in general is a good concept. I know that there are times when it is already dinner time and we have not made anything and the go-to is a stop at one of our favorite fast food joints. It is the regular indulgence (daily or more than once a day) of these foods that tends to have more damaging effects. These foods tend to be higher in fat and sodium and lower in useable vitamin and mineral content; couple that with cable and satellite television with their hundreds of channels of American Idol and Dancing with the Stars reruns and you have a disaster. There is no longer any reason to leave the couch.

I also know that this is a sensitive topic. I believe that people should be able to do what they want (within reason) and have their own opinions accordingly. But it just seems with all the problems with insurance companies, hospital bureaucracy, and prescription costs that a little physical activity and some consumption restraint could alleviate some of those issues and improve ones quality of life. I for one do not like the direction that the graphs are going and it’s time to make a change; for you or your significant other, family, and friends.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Country Tis of Thee...

As a citizen of the United States of America, I am indebted to those who choose to protect our country and way of life in the armed forces. Military service is a sacrifice, especially in times of global conflict. The manner in which these men and women perform their duties is something to wonder at. It comes down to good training and trust.

Having spent a considerable amount of time outside the States, I am appreciative of the freedoms that we enjoy and the general safety that I feel here. It is not the same in many parts of the world. Remember this the next time you see a Vet on the side of the road. They may have been drafted or possibly enlisted but the effects of war are the same on both of them. I don't think that any of us can go through the type of experiences that our soldiers do and be the same afterwards. To the brave men and women of past, present, and future service...I salute you!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

How Tall Are You?

I just finished The Measure of a Man by Sidney Poitier. I have to admit that I have only seen probably two of his films, but know his name very well. Out front, I loved the book! There was a lot of historical information about him and his family that I found interesting as well as his take on success, life in Hollywood, and being a father, husband, and man. This is a great book to read and, as the sub-title suggests, is a book that ignites one’s mind to ponder and question their accomplishments and experiences in a realistic light. I would like to cite a few of my favorite quotes from the book.

‘In the school of hard knocks, politics was a name for the way white folks arranged things to their own advantage.’

‘Of all my father’s teachings, the most enduring was the one about the true measure of a man. That true measure was how well he provided for his children…’

‘Compassion for other human beings has to extend to the society that’s been grinding the powerless under its heel. The more civilized the society becomes, the more humane it becomes; the more it can see its own humanity, the more it sees the ways in which its humanity has been behaving inhumanly.’

‘It may sound perfunctory, or simplistic, or even naïve, but I think it’s fair and useful to observe that there are wonderful things about our species.’

‘It often takes a near-death experience…to make us realize how simple life is, how few the essentials really are. We love; we work; we raise our families. Those are the areas of significance in our individual lives. And love and work and family are the legacy we leave behind when our little moment in the sun is gone.’

‘…I developed a belief system that was fraught with danger. I had come to believe that the hard work of good, honest, fair-minded people with a passionate commitment to justice would bring about a world in which a life of dignity for all would be the rule. A world in which opportunities to pursue fulfillment would be limited only by the outer margins of one’s individual ability. I had come to believe that problems of race, ethnicity, color, education, sexual preference, class, and poverty, and the attendant afflictions left in their wake to plague the modern world in their names, would be successfully resolved through the efforts of those same good honest, fair-minded people. A new progressive force with insight and cohesion was in the making, thought I. The ills of my generation would ultimately be addressed. Frictions would be tamed, tensions neutralized, and out of the hearts and minds of good men and women would come the way to a better future—one in which we would all lend a hand at weaving the strong cultural threads of our social diversity into a more caring, a more human, community. Bullshit!’

‘All that blood on Wild Kingdom—we accept it in the animal world. In our world we say “It’s a dog eat dog,” and it sounds like a bad thing; but we talk about the “food chain” on the Serengeti Plain and give it civilized acceptability with polished terms like zoology.’

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Time to Vote!

Cast your ballot! I did, and I hope he wins.

Monday, November 3, 2008

A Day in the Life or a Life in the Day?

I’m sure that we have all wondered what it would be like to be someone else or at least be in their situation. I think it is human nature to be curious about all the ‘what could be’ scenarios that surround us. This ability to ‘place’ ourselves hypothetically in other people’s shoes makes us better, in my opinion. In some primitive roundabout way, it makes us sympathize with, or criticize, others.

When I hear that somebody has just won the $200+ million dollar Powerball I think ‘wow’. And I will be the first to admit that, if I have nothing else to think about, I do take a few and consider ‘what would I do’. It doesn’t help that the some of the guys I work with are constantly testing their odds and remind me of how sad it would be if I was the only one who had to come back to work the next day; I am not convinced. But seriously, I have thought about whom I would provide financial assistance to immediately and what long-term projects I would like to start; I would like to start a full-ride scholarship program for inner-city school kids that would require volunteering at other inner-city schools as a condition of acceptance. Young kids need role models, and who better to inspire than one of their own. Kids are most inspired by people they actually interact with: parents, teachers, leaders, friends. I would personally oversee the selection and monitoring process; to see the progress that these young people can make if given the opportunities. I would travel with my wife to parts of the world that need help; the AIDS victims in South Africa; refugees of Darfur; exploited children in India and others. I would start a well-funded foundation that would seek to make available a cure/remedy for the disease that plagues those I love the most. All of these things sound, and probably are, noble and philanthropic. But make no mistake that I would see places that I never could have dreamed possible and do things that I only saw in books as a child.

Every time that I see a 60 Minutes or 20/20 special about atrocities committed against children, it really touches me. Even before I had kids, I was always very sensitive to justice/fairness and especially how it relates to children. I feel for the parents, family, and friends of those little ones. I feel rage toward those who dare disrupt their lives; compassion for the emptiness that exists were a child once was; sorrow for the child who will never experience and those he/she would have come in contact with. It has become more ‘real’, if that’s possible, now that I have kids. I ask myself ‘what would I do’ and ‘how would we survive’.

Now I’m getting all philosophical. But really, it is nice to think of all the things that could be if only. But would you rather hope for a day in the life of someone else or live your life every day? Peace to my readers and don’t forget to vote!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Is the Glass Half-empty or Half-full?

Optimism and pessimism are intriguing concepts. On the one hand, you have a perspective that is looking up; believing that good things can and do happen; to steal a famous advertising slogan “Good things come to those who wait”. The opposite perspective is one of looking backwards; searching for flaws and weaknesses; an understanding that reality is hard, gritty, and no respecter of persons regardless of gender, social status, or luck.

I don’t consider myself either an optimist or a pessimist. However, I have gone through periods of my life where those who know me would characterize me as one or the other. Normally, I tend to error on the side of reality; pessimism I mean. It’s not that I can’t or don’t have goals, look for the good, or hope for things to happen even on a long shot; because I do. It’s just that from a young age I learned the hard truth of disappointment and what that can do to you; I didn’t like that feeling. Consequently, I found myself expecting or assuming status quo or worse. If you stop to think about it, the pessimists view is a safe one. If things go wrong or poorly, you experience just what you thought would occur. And if things go fine or even great, then you are more than satisfied. It is the being of no disappointment. Now granted, I can see the cracks in this state of thinking (is that pessimism again?), and it does not dominate the way that I look at things today.

I have kids; they make me look at things again, and again, and again. The odd thing is that for as many times as I look at these things their interpretation can be different each time. It truly is remarkable a child’s ability to perceive things differently; outside of the set of norms or conditions that we are so used to. This is why it is said that the innovation of tomorrow already exists in the minds of kids today. The older we get the more confined and predictable our thoughts and opinions. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is limiting. But you can always find substance in things; meaningful or even humorous. For example, look at the picture below. Some farmer pulled these vegetables from the ground and sent them to market with the rest of the crop; nothing out of the ordinary. Then someone found them and put them together and it’s funny.
So, the next time that someone asks you whether the glass is half-empty or half-full just remember that it is still half no matter how you look at it; both perspectives have their benefits.