Thursday, August 30, 2007

The Jury

New reader Doug K., faithful friend and mentor, sent me a link to the pic below. It seemed apropos.

The jury members are: Back row, L to R-Scooby Doo, Goofy, Underdog, Astro (from the Jetsons). Front row, L to R-Snoopy, Droopy, Grim (from Mother Goose and Grimm, the comic strip), and Ren (from the Ren and Stimpy cartoon).

MyndFood Definition Cards

I've ordered MyndFood definition cards! I'd like to give you, faithful partakers of this fine mental fare, the opportunity to spread the word. So, if you'd like me to send you a handful of the cards (see below), send me an email (using the link in the right hand sidebar) with your name and address, and I'll mail you some!

Thanks for being such faithful readers! I want you to know that I absolutely LOVE doing this, and it thrills me to know that I'm providing you, my readers, with real food for thought (sometimes, admittedly, it's junkfood-but hey, at least there's a variety, right?).


Wednesday, August 29, 2007


The other evening, Gentry swallowed a magnet. One of those small, round magnetic metal balls-they're a part of some toy kit with parts that the kids creatively stick together, and make plastic and magnet sculptures. In Gentry's case, they're usually either guns or swords (proof positive that he is, in fact, all boy), although the other day he DID ask for my advice on how to create a jail (he wanted one large enough to hold ALL of Alexis' Barbie dolls).

Shawna was, understandably, worried (about the magnet, not the jail; apparently Lex's Barbies are all rich and famous, and can afford Michael Vick's and OJ Simpson's attorneys, so the prison stay was short lived). She thought about taking Gentry in for an X-ray or CT scan, to find out where exactly the magnet was in his system, but the cost of those tests is astronomical.

So I installed a metal toilet.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Unlikely Inspiration

Occasionally I am inspired by the most unlikely of people. Often they're people who, at first blush, we tend to ignore or dismiss outright (perhaps even laugh at and make fun of). I recently met one of these inspiring people.

Allow me to introduce you to Vinnie.

Vinnie (as some of you know) is a young man who, some evenings, shows up at the park where we take our children to expend the day's unspent energy. Vinnie makes the rounds most nights: he checks the sprinklers (for what-I can't say); he climbs up on the equipment and bangs around on it with his closed fist (my guess is that he's checking to make sure it remains secure); he crisscrosses the grassy area checking for puddles (when he finds one, he stops, cocks his head to one side, grimaces, then stomps through it-to determine it's depth, I'd guess); and he climbs underneath each and every park bench, inspecting the various nuts and bolts (to ensure they're secure is my bet).

The other night, we talked to him for a while, and he began to talk with us about his "career"-or, more aptly, his various careers. Because, you see, according to him, he not only works part time for the city parks and recreation department, he also works in maintenance for the local school district, in addition to working as a part-time firefighter! And-oh yeah: he also drives a school bus part time!

Now, I have to say, it was obvious right away that Vinnie wasn't telling the whole truth. First, he's obviously far too young to have graduated from the fire academy and worked as a firefighter for any measure of time (in fact, I just found out that he attends the local high school). Further, no human on the planet could possibly work the schedule that he must work in order to maintain these parallel careers! Yet he spoke so knowledgeably about each of them. When asked, he spouted off the ENTIRE chain of command at the fire department (including the impending retirement of the chief-a fact which I didn't know about, but later verified); he explained-in detail-how the fire department schedule works-and, I must say, it's very complex. I couldn't explain it to you now if my life depended on it; he talked to us about the various school sites he works at, the requisite duties there, and the various individuals responsible for each. He even told us the number of the bus that he drives.

I think now, though, I have the whole picture (although I'm filling in some sketchy areas). Vinnie has some sort of minor handicap. I'm not completely clear as to the nature of the handicap-but it's not really important.

He DOES in fact work, as a student volunteer, at the school (helping out with various odds and ends on the school ground). Apparently, he also volunteers at the City; the City maintenance workers allow him to take care of minor tasks. I'm not sure the nature of his interaction with the fire department.

But here's my point: I was going through tonight, trying to cheer myself (as I've had a particularly difficult couple of days), and I came across a previous post here on MyndFood (a quote of the week, sent to me by Katrina; thank you again Katrina-I needed the quote this evening). And I realized something. You see, we'd laughed Vinnie's exploits off as bean-dreams, as the wishful delusions of a dreamer. And, in a way, without realizing it, I think we'd done exactly what Mark Twain, with that quote, was warning us to steer clear of: that is, we'd belittled his ambitions.

And after today-after reading the quote again, and after the day that I've had, I came realize something: Vinnie might not be all that he says he is, and he might not do all that he says he does. But Vinnie definitely has strong, firm ambitions. Somewhere he's decided that whatever handicap he might have is irrelevant. And regardless what people say, despite any criticism he has to bear, in the face of the patronizing smirks-he has set his course, and he'll not be discouraged, nor will he be dissuaded. You can't help but admire that. And to belittle those ambitions would only serve to make me small.

And I've realized something else. If Vinnie, in the face of that adversity, can set his chin, and simply continue pushing toward his dream, who am I to feel sorry for myself? In spite of my perceived inadequacies, regardless what people say or think about me, even when there are those who say "you aren't capable; you can't do it," when they say your prior failures preclude you from any success-regardless all that, I'll continue climbing. I'll continue striving for my dream.

Because if I gave up now, I'd simply be taking another bitter walk down that long, dark hallway-to the room that holds broken dreams. And I'm not content to add another piece to that collection.

So thank you Vinnie for the unlikely inspiration. You've given me the courage (and proven a perfect picture of tenacity) to push on.

Sharp Edges

This sign, for some strange reason, speaks to me. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

There Just Aren't Enough Fingers

I've had a particularly rough evening, and I'm the type who, when I'm down, really need some affirmation from those around me-I need to know that they really love me.

So, a few moments ago, Gentry decided it was time for him to go to bed (Lex went to sleep awhile ago, while I was on the telephone). He asked for me to come tuck him in.

I went in the room, tucked him in, hugged him and prayed for him-told God how thankful I was for him and his sister.

He hugged me back-mightily. And said, "Dad, I love you."

"I love you too Bubs; more than you can imagine," I said.

He said, "I love you more than this many," and held up all ten fingers. "I love you as many as if I had a finger here, and here, and here, and here, and everywhere!" as he ticked off the spaces in between his fingers. "I love you more than if I had fingers from the floor to the roof!"

And I remembered that I really do have all I need.

And you know what? I sit here, looking at my open hands, and know that I love them all (Shawna, Lex and Gentry) "more than this many." In fact, if I had fingers enough to fill the room, floor to ceiling, it still wouldn't be enough.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


I've been, I'll admit, dragging my feet. I've been obsessing because, to be honest, I'm torn.

But I had a revelation today.

Michael Vick, Atlanta Falcons quarterback, said, via his attorney on Monday, that he will plead guilty to federal charges of conspiracy associated with an illegal dogfighting operation that Vick participated in. Allegedly, Vick operated a Kennel-"Bad Newz Kennels"-from his multi-million dollar Virginia home. Vick is purported to have provided the operating and gambling funding for the operation. He's also said to have organized fights-in which dogs were often forced to fight to their death. Others indicted implicated him as an active participant in the euthanization of at least eight dogs (deemed unfit to fight), by strangling or drowning. Government agents who raided the home are said to have found, among other paraphernalia, muzzles, whips, cages, shocking devices, and "rape stands" (to which overly aggressive dogs were strapped and forced to breed).

I asked a few colleagues, off-hand, what they thought-if they felt Vick deserved a second chance. And I've got a broad range of responses. And I've read a number of stories on the internet, and they run the gamut too. It seems the jury is still out on this one-and I think I know why.

Let me ask you: what is the sole purpose of a professional football player? It's NOT to win. It's not even, really, to do a great job at his position. It's, simply stated, to attract fans to their games (as well as to the television to WATCH their games). There are various methods of accomplishing this-including winning, doing a fantastic job as a quarterback, and even by acting outrageously on the field (like Terrell Owens)-but at the end of the day, what matters is attracting fans.

You see, football is all about economics. We've sat here for the last few days, waiting for a "sign" from the owners and managers of the Falcons, or even for some sort of statement from other coaches, managers or owners. But the reality is, they're waiting for a sign from US. Because (this is my big insight) WE are the ones who decide whether or not Vick gets a second chance.

Some of you, partakers of this healthy, yet sumptuous, fare called MyndFood, have voted on my most recent poll. Of those who actually know who Vick is, the majority of you (around 60%) don't feel Vick deserves a second chance. It surprises me, actually, that the percentage isn't higher (for those who've followed this in the news, you know the public outcry has been HUGE). Which is ironic-considering the fact that, in 1998, Leonard Little, St. Louis Rams defensive end was driving, intoxicated, and caused an automobile accident, killing another motorist. He received a slap on the hand-90 days in jail, four years of probation, and 1000 hours of community service.

In 2004 he was again arrested for driving under the influence. He was acquitted of drunk driving, but was convicted of speeding.

He signed, in 2006, a three year contract extension with the Rams.

Which brings me around to my point. Do I think Vick deserves a second chance? Yes. Everyone deserves a second chance (and perhaps a third, fourth, fifth, twelfth...). Will he get one? Absolutely! If there's profit to be had (and it's not a bad thing folks-don't get me wrong), he'll be hired again in a heartbeat. That is, there will be 32 coaches, General Managers and owners out there WILLING to give him a second chance-but will only put their money where their mouth is if YOU, the voting public, will accept him, and support their team.

But I'm not sure if you will. Why? I can't say. Hypocritical, to say the least, considering Leonard Little's experience. But then, we Americans, have a skewed perspective. I asked a gentleman, in passing, whether or not Vick deserved a second chance and he said, "Absolutely not!" I asked him why not. He said because animals and children are helpless beings, and he feels no sympathy for Vick.

Apparently drivers killed when in vehicles that are hit by drunken drivers are NOT helpless. Do you see? It has nothing to do with animals being helpless, it has to do with the fact that we're desensitized-motorists killed by drunken drivers have become "normal" news fodder, and it doesn't affect us any more. On the other hand, drowned dogs and rape stands-that shocks and incenses us! No second chances!

I'm not asking you to change your stance. If you truly feel he's lost all value to society, and can never regain any status as a productive member of an NFL team, fine; I respect your opinion. But I AM asking you to re-evaluate your reasoning. If it's simply because you're shocked and dismayed, then think again.

I, for one, hope to see him on the field again.

By the way Michael: if you happen to be reading this, I think your best chance is with the Raiders...

Please Fix Your Links!

Those of you who have linked to my old blog address from your site or blog, please repair your links as soon as possible!

The new address is:

Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt

And now you can too!

Visit the MyndFood store on the net! There's also a permanent link in the right hand sidebar.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Why We Love Dilbert

An actual excerpt (virtually word-for-word) from a recent business conversation:

"The current corporate initiative is to achieve bottom line improvement, to a 'far-exceeds' level, across the diagonal, with no more than a thirty percent breakage. The question is, 'how sustainable is that'? We have created the diagnonal, and built in a thirty-percent breakage factor, but are now four months into the fiscal year, and have already exceeded our breakage. We've re-aligned our Ci assets, and have determined that the best course of action will be to incorporate FMEA's, along with various Poke Yoke and 5-S projects into the deck in order to recapture as much as possible."



I was over at Sand in The Gears today, and he had a short post that linked to what has, in five short minutes, become my favorite blog in the blogosphere.

I added it to my list on the right, but I strongly suggest a visit.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

I'm Sorry, But I Have to go to Bed

I should be in Boise Idaho tonight.

I'm NOT-but I SHOULD be. Instead, I'm sitting in the very last hotel room available in Beaverton, Oregon. That's right-Beaverton, Oregon. Because the flight I was scheduled to be on was cancelled at the last minute. I complained to the gate agent about the cancelled flight, started in on some diatribe about poor management, about it being inexcusable.

He listened politely, and when I finally tired, he said, "Mechanical Problems." He told me though that, he understood where I was coming from, and after hearing me out, they were going to make an exception. If they could find a pilot, they'd make the flight-with only me aboard. I declined.

At any rate, it's been one of "those days." Apparently, the only excitement these guys ever see is when flights get cancelled, so they maximize the thrill-by getting as creative as possible in helping to create the passenger's "alternate itinerary." He enthusiastically began to search the flights, and I must say, if creativity was his goal, he's a champion. I don't recall exactly, but I think his first plan had me flying from Sacramento to Phoenix, with a 17 minute layover, then a flight from Phoenix to Seattle; Seattle to Boise (arriving Thursday evening, I think). The good news was that the airline would cover all of my meals (they gave me meal vouchers-worth $16), as well as hotel stays (they gave me a card to fill out and send in with receipts; the title on the card-I swear I'm not making this up-is, "Does Anyone Actually Read These Things?"). I declined (as I have meetings at 7 AM tomorrow just outside of Boise).

The agent finally tired, and grudgingly agreed to put us on a flight into Portland. I jumped on the phone, frantically searching for a hotel, only to find there are multiple conventions in town this week, and the closest hotel room was "10 miles away," in Beaverton; not too bad. I arrived-and promptly found out that Californians are to Oregonians as Americans are to the French. A gentlemen (who looked like he was from Berkeley; tie-dyed shirt, khaki shorts; long-hair; Birkenstocks), cordially asked if I was from Oregon. I said no, that I was from Central California. He froze, got a very angry look on his face and glared. I asked if that was a bad thing. He said, "Yes. Very bad."

I quickly moved on-only to, just moments later, while walking through the baggage claim area, find the same tie-dyed guy standing with a woman, long, straight hair with a braid on the side, wearing a tie-dyed gypsy skirt and a headband (I'm not making this up folks). He was pointing at me, glaring, and whispering in the woman's ear. When I got within hearing range, he said something about "stinkin Californians," about how we're the reason real estate is so expensive here. "I've lived here thirty years," he said, "and you arrogant people come here and jack up the home prices!"

"Um. I don't live here sir. I've never bought-or even TRIED to buy any real estate here! How could I have anything to do with your escalating property values?" He grumbled and shuffled off, dragging the woman behind him.

I've told everyone else I've met here that I'm from Arizona.

So, now, I'm lying in a hotel room (10 miles away-but an $89 each way taxi ride-from the airport), readying myself for bed, because I have to wake at the ungodly hour of 4 AM (typically, I'm going to sleep at that hour).

Which is why I don't have the time or the energy to post tonight. I'm sorry.

Interesting Feedback

I'm traveling (unfortunately); but life goes on-even when we travel!

I've received a number of interesting comments in the past few days regarding the MySpace "issue." If you're not up to speed on the conversation, I encourage you to read my original post, as well as the follow-up post. Then comment. It's a VERY hot topic, obviously, and I really enjoy the discussion.

I readily admit that, at times, I'm wrong (all together now: GASP!). And, I MAY be wrong here! Or, perhaps my stance needs tempering. I don't know. Fill me in-especially you MySpace users!

Yes, folks-it's true! I'm now legit!

The new url of this blog is:

For some period of time (I have no idea how long), the huge computers humming along somewhere in Seattle will continue to direct traffic from the old url ( to the new site, but don't depend on that too long.

Bookmark the site (with the new address), then open up your email program, and email it to at least five of your favorite people!

Thanks for reading!

I'm On Technorati!

Technorati Profile

Monday, August 20, 2007

Peddling Fear

I don't pay much attention to the goings-on in the political arena. Not that I don't care-I do. I'm reasonably well-informed, I vote, and I do my part to "lobby" for those issues I feel warrant my lobby.

But I realized today that, over the past year or so, I've made a subconscious decision to ignore, and otherwise disregard, politicians, their political wranglings, and virtually all of the political pundits (including columnists, writers, talk-show hosts, and-yes, even bloggers) who nip about at the heals of politicians, looking for their scrap of meat to take away from the table, and lord over.

I was on the Internet, and somehow found my way to Arianna Huffington's blog. For those of you who've not read it, I encourage you to continue ignoring it. Not because it's rubbish-some of what she (or the various other writers there) write is actually decent. But it's overwhelmingly depressing. I found myself on the blog, and began to read the top post, and found my spirits plummeting. So I clicked the "back" button on my browser, and tried another; same result. After about four or five tries, I came to a post that perfectly explains how I feel. The post title: "When Did the Future Go From Being a Promise to Being a Threat?" I'll be honest with you: I didn't even get past the title.

Because the title says it all. I had this realization: politicians feel the desperate need to validate themselves (and the work they do). So they peddle the theory that they are there to "hold the line" against the various forces-both natural and man-made-that are working to degrade our environment. They sell the idea that we need them, or else life, as we now know it, will cease to exist. We need them-to ensure our children can grow up, comfortable, educated and well taken care of. We need them-to protect us from enemies-real and imagined, here and abroad. We need them-to make sure we don't get sick or overweight; and if we do, to make us well and help us lose weight. We need them-to take care of our children when we go to work, and our parents when they can't remember what toilet paper is used for. We need them-to take care of us if we lose our job, or simply choose not to work. And we need them-to manipulate those things needing manipulation-so that we don't all lose money in the stock market. We need them, we need them, we need them...

And we're lulled into a state of dependence. But more frightening than that is that politics becomes a sort of drug. Because, at some point, we start believing this rubbish. And we find ourselves afraid of the what the future might hold. And then some politician somewhere says the right things, soothes the right nerves, and we breathe a collective sigh of relief, and subconsciously thank our lucky stars that we no longer have to worry about that; it's under control!

What a pathetic cycle. And I guess that I've, subconsciously, elected to break it's hold on my life.

Perhaps you should try it.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

To Think: We Used to Want to Fill Our Gas Tanks With Water!

PepsiCo recently released a statement that, due to increasing pressure from the environmental and political communities, they will begin including the words "Public Water Source" on their bottled water labels. For those of you who don't grasp the significance (don't feel bad: without the explanation, It's sufficiently obscure that, if I didn't know the entire story, I likely wouldn't catch the point either), it means that the water in the bottle is plain old tap water.

That's right-tap water.

Now they do something to it I guess. I don't entirely understand the process, but it's tantamount to putting a charcoal filter on the hose bibb in the front yard, then filling up plastic bottles with the water, and selling it-for $1.29 per bottle!

I did some rough calculating, and, at $1.29/20 oz. bottle, the retail price for that bottled water is $8.25/gallon. I filled up my car this afternoon with premium (high-octane) gasoline, and paid exactly $3.05/gallon-and it pained me.

I find it fascinating that the American public is so fixated on rising fuel prices as a socio-political issue. I'd guess that in the last week, I've heard or read about escalating fuel prices at least six times. And, I challenge you: bring up "big oil" in a conversation with a large group of people, and see if there isn't at least one or two people who don't start ranting about corporate thievery, and government being in the pocket of the oil companies. And you know what? I don't relish the thought of paying $3.05/gallon for gas. I drive quite a bit, and I have to admit: it hits the old pocketbook. But I do think that we, as a society, have lost perspective. Because, think about it: how much must it cost to deliver that single gallon of premuim gasoline to me? I'm definitely no expert, but consider for a moment: the fixed costs associated with drilling wells, installing pumping equipment, and storage tanks. Then the costs of filling barrels with crude oil, loading it on tankers bound for the United States (from some middle-eastern country, I presume), and then shipping it here. Then finally off-loading it, refining it, putting it into a tanker truck, trucking it here to Kerman, and filling the tank here at my local gas station. And, let's not forget the cost of running the equipment to pump the fuel from the tank to my car, the fixed costs associated with running the gas station, and the variable costs (like the ignorant guy with the ring in his nose who acts like I'm bothering him if I run in to ask for a receipt, because the little screen on the pump says "Paper out. See cashier"). Oh, and don't forget the .36 cents per gallon the goes to our county, state and federal government.

And that doesn't even include profit!

Not knowing the exact costs of each of these, I can't say for sure, but my guess is that there's very little left for Mr. Exxon, or Mr. Valero. The long and short of it is, while it's painful, and seems excessive, the price tag doesn't seem so exorbitant that the only conclusion that we can draw is that the oil companies are robbing us blind. My guess is that they're making a reasonable margin, all things considered.

Let's contrast this with Aquafina. Put charcoal filter on hose bibb, buy a bunch of plastic bottles with Aquafina labels, fill up bottles, put cap on, load them up into a truck, and haul to Fastrip in Kerman. Ok, I'm oversimplifying the process, I know. It's more complex than that, I admit. But it's still just water! Which costs virtually nothing!

But, that's not really the point of this post. There's an economic theory that is foundational at the company I work for. It's based on the idea that we are entrusted with certain economic resources, to do with as we see fit. Those economic resources are the product of human effort (that is, the mental and physical energies that we exert as human beings generate those economic resources). Thus, the imprudent (or innefficient) use of economic resources is tantamount to the wasting-or taking-of human life. Which leads me to my point: when I realize that I pay $8.25/gallon for bottled water, which does absolutely nothing (but slate my thirst), yet I pay only $3.05/gallon for fuel-which in turn allows me to travel (thereby, conceptually at least, enabling me to work, and generate further economic resources), it becomes apparent to me that, in purchasing bottled water, I am being exceptionally wasteful, which is tantamount to murder (that is, I'm simply throwing away the "energy" that was used to generate those funds that I've used to purchase the water). Think about it for a moment: water provides no energy, no nutrients, and really, very little enjoyment. There is really no substantive benefit, economic or otherwise associated with drinking water (filtered or non-filtered). And, in fact, I recall a story recently where a woman, participating in some radio station contest (trying to win a gaming console), died after drinking three gallons of water. So, not only does water not provide any benefit, it can kill you!

That's an extreme example, to be sure, but you get my point! Gasoline, comparitively (despite our protestations regarding the price of the stuff), is a bargain! Think about it: for just over a third the price of bottled water (which does nothing), you get the ability to travel (along with as many folks as you can fit in your vehicle), somewhere between 17-34 miles!

Which brings me around to my real point: I'm not going to boycott or rant against the bottled water industry. They're just filling a desire or need in the market. That's the market economy at work. But I WILL chastise you, intelligent readers, for wasting economic resources (and, in turn, human life) by purchasing bottled water!

You're better off buying Diet Pepsi.


My most recent poll has expired, and I have to say, I was somewhat surprised by the results. Approximately 70% of you felt that MySpace was either completely bad (nothing good about it), or largely negative, although perhaps having a few decent uses. Only 10% of you felt that it was either mostly positive, with only a few negative aspects, or completely wonderful.

Which begs the question: did I convince you? Because I just checked, and there are, currently, just over 301 million people in the United States. According to the MySpace website, as of today, there were just under 197 million MySpace profiles in the US. Meaning that approximately 2/3 of Americans are MySpace users.

So, I ask again, did I persuade you, my readers (because the averages aren't working out here! Over 2/3 of you said MySpace=Bad!)? There are, I admit, alternatives. It could be that some of you, my readers, are being hypocritical (in that you are MySpace users, but here, in my world, it didn't really make sense to vote "MySpace is all that and a bag of chips" and give me something exciting to talk about in a future blog post).

Or, it could be that you, my faithful readers, don't really represent an accurate cross-section of the American public. I tend to like that option. Here's why: if, in fact, my readership doesn't represent a comprehensive sampling of the American public, it means the makeup of that group is skewed (that is, given the broader population, my blog is attracting more of one type of person, and fewer of another; does that make sense?). Assuming that, I have to ask myself, what type of person am I attracting? I think the answer to that question is quite obvious, given my original MySpace post (if you haven't read it, do so now; it'll get your blood flowing-especially if you happen to be an "anonymous" MySpace user). I'm attracting wholesome, well-rounded, and intelligent (given many of your comments) readers; readers who know how to think logically, can form a structured, cohesive, solid argument, and participate in an informed discussion about a variety of topics. And I'm attracting very few shallow MySpace users (not-again, I repeat-NOT that ALL MySpace users are shallow; again, please read the original post. It's just apparent that very few of those who voted in the poll were so blind as to vote that the MySpace was just peachy. Almost ALL OF YOU recognized, at the VERY LEAST, that it should be used in moderation). Yes, my readership, on average, tends to trend above the mean! You're a pretty sharp group!

Which pleases me immensely! MyndFood, as proven by my readers' responses to my MySpace poll, tends to attract the more intelligent members of the human race (with minor exception, of course). Who could ask for anything more?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Flying Will Never Be The Same!

Virgin America, the American incarnation of Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic (award-winning, and actually profitable, airline), rolled out service here in the US last week. The new airline, based out of San Francisco, promises a flying experience that is...well...different. There's really no other way to describe it, to be quite honest!

I spent some time at their website, exploring the VA Difference, and I have to say, for all intents and purposes, it's quite different! It's a cross between the interior of a Mercedes-Benz S-class, a super-stretch limosine (read "mood lighting"-I'm not kidding you), an Apple store, trendy salon, chic upscale juice bar (yeah, they've got a mini-bar), a masseuse, and the flight-deck of some futuristic spaceship that you'd see on Star Wars. As Boing Boing, tech blogger puts it in a recent blog post (she was invited to fly on the inaguraul flight), the "cabin interior feels like a big happy iPod." And, to see the pictures, I've got to agree.

The interesting thing is their pricing. One would expect the Virgin Atlantic experience to be to flying as the iPhone is to mobile phones (that is, overpriced, yet still enormously in demand). I did a quick search. I submitted a test itinerary to both VA and AA for a trip from San Francisco to New York City (round trip), departing September 19 (my birthday folks; an excellent time to make good use of my Amazon Wishlist), and returning exactly one week later. The prices were exactly the same! $258, round-trip! Amazing!

My prediction is that, assuming Virgin America can stay on schedule (without the embarrassing technical hiccups experienced recently by so many other major airlines), and assuming they can keep their pricing reasonably competitive, they'll emerge as the leading domestic airline here in the US. Keep an eye on them!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Totally Major?

And in other, equally important news: Yahoo's new news site, OMG! reported today that Victoria Beckham, the former Posh Spice (of Spice Girls fame; you remember them don't you?), and wife of Los Angeles Galaxy soccer star, David Beckham, said today of their new Beverly Hills home: "I am loving our new house. It is totally major!"

I think that speaks for itself, doesn't it?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Out of Control!

Unbelievable, don't you think? It's a true story! She's a blogger (as am I), and apparently uses her new iPhone to post to her blog, as well as for email, text messaging (30,000 last month!!!), and-oh yeah, old fashioned talking!

Apparently, despite the fact the the data plan that iPhone owners are on is an unlimited use data plan (meaning that you can text, email, surf the web or blog as much as you want-at no additional cost), AT&T lists every single data transfer on the bill-with a big $0.00 next to it! Absurd! Honestly-doesn't it just make you wonder sometimes?

Hugo Chavez-Unlikely Champion

Erick Erickson, city-councilman elect for the city of Macon Georgia (where some of my favorite people live), posted today, on his blog, Confessions of a Political Junkie, a YouTube clip of him being interviewed on the Brit Hume show. I urge each of you to go watch the clip.

It seems that the mayor of his fair city has taken a public stance in support for Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela. You'll note that Hugo Chavez is a self-proclaimed "hater" of America, the American President, and all things American. The mayor, C. Jack Ellis, has apparently sent a letter to Mr. Chavez-a letter of solidarity, pledging his backing a support of the dictator. Mr. Ellis praised Chavez for "reaching out" and subsidizing the cost of heating fuel for some low-income American residents, calling Chavez a, "champion for the common man."

This Chavez, who has vocally pledged support to Iran and Cuba (communist regimes, and in some cases, posing a serious threat to America and it's citizens), and who has publicly called President Bush "the devil,"-this Chavez, according to Ellis, is a "champion for the common man."

Where's the public outcry here? I'm appalled, frankly. Politics aside, regardless your political affiliation, if you have any love for America, and what it stands for, this simply has to floor you! It's unspeakable!

Because this "champion for the common man" has not only publicly trashed America, and all we, as Americans stand for, he has maintained a dictatorial regime of corruption that has broken the proverbial backs of the Venezuelan people. Chavez has taken all powers of state into his own hands, eliminated virtually all oversight, and what remains amounts to no more than a farce. Transparency International, an independent group based in Berlin, in their annual Corruption Perceptions Index, ranked Chavez led Venezuela 130th out of 150 countries surveyed, in terms of political corruption. Chavez, in the last few years, has appointed two brothers, a cousin, his father and two other close relatives to lucrative political posts, tightening his grip of power in key political and economic arenas.

And the effects of his blatant disregard for humanity, and corrupt leadership, are evident. Since Chavez took office, murder rates in Venezuela have tripled. Police have been implicated in many of the more gruesome and violent crimes. The United Nations (who have little use, but occasionally publish interesting and accurate statistics) reported that, in 2005, Venezuela had the highest number of deaths by gunfire, per capita, of any nation in the World. The Heritage Foundation ranked Venezuela 152 out of 157 nations ranked on their annual ranking of economic freedom. They are, for all intents and purposes, economically repressed. The Venezuelan National Statistics Institute released data in 2005 showing that, as of that year, poverty had actually increased by 10% since Chavez had taken power-to a whopping 53% of the population!

In short, this man is no champion of the common man. He's a calculating, conniving political vulture, who cares for nothing other than fulfilling his personal ambitions. The most distressing thing, I think, is that the citizens of Macon were so blinded by Ellis' personlity or charisma, that they failed to see whatever skewed political bent existed there that has allowed him to speak out in this way! It's a travesty, and I urge you to visit Erickson's site, comment on his blog expressing your support for him, and for his stance, asking him to express to his mayor-and to the people of Macon, that Mr. Ellis DOES NOT speak for America!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Avid reader that I am, I decided, today, to set up a Wishlist on I have begun populating it, but it will, I'm sure, take me a few weeks to get the thing totally up-to-date. The link is at the bottom of the sidebar on this page.

I strongly urge each of you to visit, purchase an item from the list, and have it direct shipped to my home (the address is shown at checkout). Feel free to email the wishlist url to your friends who are not yet MyndFood readers.

Liz Claiborne?!?!?!

Best Buy Co Inc. announced yesterday, according to a story, that they will, beginning in October, debut a line of women's bags and accessory cases designed and manufactured by Liz Claiborne, a well-renowned designer of women's high-end clothing and accessories. According to the story:

Julie Gilbert, Best Buy's senior vice president of training and its Win with Women program, told the paper, "It's a very prominent brand with wide appeal. Where you'll see us go is into other labels that you would typically see as you walk down Fifth Avenue."

The story went on to say that "Best Buy did not immediately return a call seeking comment." Not surprising. Their press department probably closed up shop and went home early-humiliated and embarrassed.

I have to say, I'm curious: first, how did someone as disconnected as Julie Gilbert must be rise to the level of Vice President of Training? Best Buy selling women's high-end handbags is tantamount to Victoria's Secret debuting a bargain line of electric hand tools!

Imagine this, gents:

Wife: "Oh! Honey, let's go into Linens-n-Things!"

Husband: "Uh-Uh! I'm gonna wait in the car."

Wife: "Well, did you know that they now have a line of fishing paraphernalia and hunting equipment?"

Husband: "Oh my goodness! Well let's go in baby! Come get me when you're done!"

I don't think so. For a number of reasons. First, you "manly" men-I don't care HOW much you like hunting or fishing, or how cool you think power tools are, you're not going to go willingly into Linens-n-Things, and happily browse through the fishing lures, while across the aisle, a dignified fifty-something woman browses through the 200 thread count, Egyptian cotton, California King bed sheet sets (one fitted, one top sheet, two king pillowcases). You're not going to rush into Victoria's Secret and compare handsaws and roto-hammers while a gaggle of nineteen year-old college girls (who can't seem to get out an entire sentence without saying "like" or "Oh my God!" at least three times) paws through the "5 Pair for $25" cotton panty table. Nor are you, ladies, going to rush into Best Buy looking for designer handbags, while across the aisle an accountant discusses the pros and cons of non-pixelated LCD vs. wide-perspective, high-intensity, VFD screens, and the diminishing pixel quality in flatscreens with a diagonal size of greater than 42".

But it's more than just that. Ladies, you'd feel, I'll bet, really uncomfortable in Linens-n-Things with that guy shopping the fishing lures and shotgun ammo across the aisle from you. And you'd feel awkward in Victoria's Secret, picking out underclothes with an overweight, sweaty plumber, in an "I'm With Stupid" T-shirt, arguing the merits of a 24V drillset vs. an 18V drillset, out loud, with himself-right across the aisle from you. They're separate worlds. They don't belong together.

And who's going to assist those refined, middle-aged, middle-to-upper class women, in pantsuits and high heels, who come in to browse the exclusive selection of Liz Claiborne bags? Some nineteen year-old guy named Andrew, who has stringy hair down to his shoulders, Airwalk sneakers, a silver post through his right nostril, and thinks GED is a band? Nope. Not going to happen.

And, finally, what about guys like me? I'm the antithesis of a "manly" man. I don't like to get dirty; I know nothing about working on engines or motors; my idea of "roughing it" is staying in the Marriott instead of the Four Seasons; I detest firearms, and don't know that I could kill an animal if I had to; I am terrible at virtually every sport (in fact, in fourth grade, when they picked baseball teams, they picked a guy in a wheelchair before they picked me); and I play the piano. All in all, not incredibly manly. So Best Buy is one of the few places that I can go with the guys and browse through things that are interesting to me-and feel manly doing it! And it's flat wrong that they're going to ruin that for me! It's a man place!

In my mind, "Win with Women" is synonymous with "Alienate Men." I'm sorry, but it just feels weird. And I don't know if I'll be able to go in there, and feel the same level of excitement, knowing that they're playing Barbra Streisand song on the Musak across the aisle.

How about you, dear readers? Do you feel the same? Is this a terrible faux pas on Best Buy's part? Or am I in the minority?

Monday, August 13, 2007

First Grade

Lex started first grade today.

She loved it. I knew she would. Nothing interests her more than growing. I'm not talking about the typical "I-wish-I-were-a-big-girl-so-I-could-[fill in the blank here]" frustrations that many kids experience. She has that drive-the desire to achieve, to conquer, to be at the top of the hill. And it doesn't matter what the hill is-she's willing to start climbing (with the exception, perhaps, of cleaning her perpetually messy bedroom)!

Don't get me wrong-I don't mean to immortalize my six-year-old daughter! She's not superhuman by any means. In fact, for all her drive, intelligence and wisdom, she is perhaps one of the most stubborn individuals I've ever encountered. She gets it from her late great-grandmother, I think.

For example, the other evening she made one of her friends cry-apparently she was "talking about" her friend, and her friend, understandably, was hurt by it. So her friend went, crying quietly, to her mother, who happens to be Shawna's close friend. Of course Shawna, being the good parent she is, found out that Lex had been "talking about" her friend, and commenced to explain to Lex that this was innapropriate behavior, and that it was hurtful. Lex stood stoicly and listened to the entire lecture with a grim look on her face. Her lecture finished, Shawna asked Lex if she understood. Lex, of course, said yes. And so Shawna told Lex that she needed to apologize to her friend. Lex said no. Shawna urged her, again, to apologize. Lex reassured us both that she had NO intention of apologizing (those of you who know Alexis know what I'm talking about). At this point, an exasperated Shawna turned to me for help. I urged Lex to apologize. She flatly refused. And so, finally, I urged again-this time with a bit of an "ultimatum." You see I've learned that even stubborn six-year-olds can be pragmatic! She apologized.

My point, though, is this: she's a kid, just like every other six year-old. She's got her flaws-believe me! But she also has the drive to achieve something! And that-that keeps me going! Because, you see, nothing would make me happier than to provide her and Gentry a foundation-a springboard-that will enable them to reach just a bit higher in their life quest. Anything I achieve, I do-NOT to leave it to them, but to give them something to stand on so that they can reach fruit that's just a little too high for me to reach!

And she'll do it! Watch and see!

Congratulations Lex! I love you!

Quote of the Week

Wow! I haven't posted in a few days, and I get back, and log on to find that the blogosphere hasn't imploded without me! I'm flabbergasted! I'll have to resign myself to the fact that I've not yet impacted society to any substantive degree. Oh well. I'll keep trying!

That said, faithful reader Katrina sent me a quote that warrants Quote of the Week status. In fact, I think I have to say, those of you who are interested in being truly, eternally great-write this down; post it on your office wall, and never forget it.

"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great!"

-Mark Twain

Truly a timeless quote! Thank you Katrina!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Climbing Up The Mountain

Wow. I wish our choir practices were like this! Love this song. For those of you readers who aren't familiar with Pentecostal church services, you might want to sit down!

Special thanks to regular reader Elden for sending me the link!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Mirrors and Haircuts

On Tuesday night, Gentry gave himself a haircut.

It's painfully evident now that, at four-years old, he's not yet developed the requisite skill to be particularly effective at giving himself a quality haircut. In fact, I have to say, it looks downright terrible.

Needless to say, we had a heart-to-heart discussion, and we've decided that he's not going to try to cut his own hair again.

But, tonight, as Shawna and I were making dinner (more Shawna than I), I asked Gentry why he cut his hair.

He ignored me. So I asked again.

"I don wanna talk about it," he said.

"No. I want to know," I said. "Tell me why you did it."

"I weally don wanna talk about it," he said.

"No, bubs: I want you to tell me."

"Well, I only did it 'cuz Lexis made me do it," he said.

I thought about it for a moment. He took the pause in conversation as an opportunity: "Do you wanna tell me 'bout youw day?" he asked.

And, of course, I had to laugh. But it also struck me as so typical. You see, we're born with a strong sense of self-preservation. Nobody has to teach us-it's natural. But, I think that sometimes it takes over, and blinds us a bit-as it did with Gentry. I'm sure that his sister didn't force him to cut his hair. I'm also fairly certain that he really doesn't care all that much about my day. He simply is trying to protect himself from what he knows WILL NOT be a "positive" conversation with dad. And so, he tries to change the subject, and he even throws his sister under the wheels of the bus in a blatant attempt to divert attention.

I think that the management of that instinctual self-preservation is, in part, what enables us to be successful. Because success is, really, a product of facing our failures, and conquering them. And that self-preservation sometimes blinds us-we're so busy trying to divert attention, or cast blame elsewhere, that we forget to face the problem, fix it, and then conquer it. And for that, we get mired down in that same failure, and fall into the same familiar pit, over and over again. I was reminded of it this weekend as Shawna and I listened to "The Total Money Makeover" that shegazelle writes about. Dave Ramsey, the author, makes a statement early on. He says that (I paraphrase) your money problems are not a product of your spouse, children, employer or friends. To see the person who really bears all the responsibility, you've got to go find a mirror.

The good thing about mirrors is that, often, in looking, you're painfully reminded of your failures-as Gentry will be for a few weeks I'm sure!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Money Makeovers

A friend of ours recently opened an eating establishment. I strongly urge you to visit-as the food is extremely healthy, and is, ultimately, quite tasty! In fact, I've got to say, in many ways, the food there is quite a bit better than the grub you'll find here-as I have a tendency to prepare whatever suits my fancy at the moment, with little thought to how wholesome it might prove for you, my diners!

Yes, that's right, our friend, Shegazelle has recently cast out into the blogosphere, whipping up healthy, hearty mindfare that will-I promise-prove filling and satisfying, if you just give it a chance!

I've been partaking for the past week or so, and finally went out this weekend and picked up The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. We listened to it together (at least the first half) on the way home from Shawna's family home (where we spent the weekend). We sat together late this evening, and listened to some more. We're not quite done, but we've started already! We've got the budget down pat, we've got the emergency fund setup, and we're already on our way to completing Step Two. We're even starting to "live like no one else." I've even let the lawn man go; I get to mow the lawn, starting next week.

So, my point: I encourage you-experience your own money makeover! It feels good! Bookmark Normal is Broke. I wanna be WEIRD and check back often. It's an inspiring blog, and it'll encourage you. And read the book! I have it-on CD. I'll let you borrow it (if I know and trust you)-just send me an email. But please, read it, and work the plan! How amazing would it be to start an epidimic of Money Makeovers via the Blogosphere!

Quote of the Week

"Being sorry is the highest act of selfishness, seeing
value only after discarding it."

-Doug Horton

Monday, August 6, 2007

Chasing Rainbows

I have spent a good part of my life chasing rainbows. It's what we're raised to do. Our entire upbringing as American youths is oriented toward chasing the "American Dream."

If you asked me to define, exactly, the American Dream, I'd stutter around a bit (because I want to have an answer for everything), but I'd have to, ultimately, say that, I can't say. Because it's just a little different for everyone, I think. The common theme though that seems to run through each individual definition of this, the American Dream, is success. That is, the American Dream is found at a place called "Success."

I have come to the conclusion that there is no place called "Success."

You see, I used to think that success was something that you achieved-a destination that you strove to reach. In fact, we're raised with that as our credo. It starts young-get good grades in school, and graduate from high school as valedictorian. Get accepted into the best school with full scholarship. Then get a six-figure job, buy a two-story home in the suburbs, a luxury SUV and a sporty sedan in the garage, motor home and boat parked in the extra-wide side yard. Have two perfect children, join the Rotary, take advantage of the company match on your 401(k), take your family on relaxing vacations (to Disneyworld when the kids are young; on a cruise to the Bahamas when they're teens). And, having done all this, you've achieved success.

And so I began adulthood striving mightily for that success. And I found myself consistently disappointed. Because, you see, each time I reached the location that I thought was success, I found it barren, looking markedly similar to the place I came from. The proverbial pot-of-gold at the end of a rainbow. Have you ever chased the end of a rainbow? I have. And I realized very quickly that the end of the rainbow doesn't really exist. It is merely an apparition that remains always just out of reach.

You see, I've realized that I can't achieve success. There is no number that represents financial success. No career achievement that represents professional success. No written accomplishment that I can place on my shelf, then sit back and bask in having reached the pinnacle of literary achievement. No degree, certificate or grade equates to success. Homes land and cars-none of them are accurate measures of success.

I've found that success is a journey. A quote by famed UCLA basketball coach John Wooden illustrates, I think, true success.

"Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability"

You see, success has nothing to do with achievements or what we acquire. It has everything to do with whether or not we've given it everything we've got. I try to end my day, every day, by looking back over the day, and asking myself if I truly gave my every action my all. Because, if I can truly say that I gave it my all, then I can truly say I have, at least for today, been a success.

Success is, in essence, a way of life-a never-ending journey. You can never sit back and say you've arrived.

I fear that too many of us spend far too much time chasing rainbows. Maybe it's because we don't truly understand success. Or maybe because we care less about actually being successful, and care more about others perceiving us as successful-as measured against the "American Dream"-that ever-present scoreboard. So, we buy the biggest house we can, and the most expensive car we can get financed. And go on vacations that we can't afford. We dress our children in the latest name-brand fashions. And act like we don't fight with our spouse. We hang our multiple college degrees in conspicuous places on our office walls, and get business cards printed with our highfalutin titles in oversized, bold type across the top. We push our kids, who hate the water, to achieve the quickest time on the freestyle races on the last day of swim lessons. We showcase our talents as often as we can, and make sure our friends and acquaintances are aware of our every accomplishment.

And none of it has a thing to do with success. Just elusive rainbow ends.

Have you been chasing rainbows?

Friday, August 3, 2007


Last night I heard a speaker tell the story of a man-a very wealthy man by any standard. This man has an enormous, beautiful home on the outskirts of Rome. In this lavish home he has a room-a special room. That room houses his collection-of art, literature and music.

This collection, though, is different from the typical collection of a wealthy art fan. You see, he doesn't frequent the auction houses, bidding against other wealthy patrons in an effort to acquire highly sought after, well-renowned pieces. He doesn't send art agents traipsing about the country in search of that one "hot" item. In fact, not a single piece in this collection will ever make its way-on loan or otherwise-into an exhibit at a gallery or museum.

No, the collection isn't a collection of work by his children. Nor is it some amatuer collection that is special to only this gentleman. Every piece in the collection is by a master-pieces by Renoir and Van Gogh. Writings by Shakespeare. Musical compositions by Chopin and Beethoven.

But if, for some reason, you were fortunate enough to be invited to see the rarely-seen collection, you'd be ushered into this home, down a long hallway, to a locked door that opens to a dark, windowless room. And as the gentleman inserts the key into the door to unlock it, you'd happen to glance up, and as the door creaked open, you'd see a sign mounted above the door-a sign that says "Chamber of Unfinished Dreams."

You see, each of these pieces are unique in that not a single one is complete. As that door creaked open, and light leaked in, you'd see slabs of granite-perhaps with a hand and forearm sticking oddly from the side. You'd see canvases-half painted, faces of figures without feature. You'd see musical compositions-without a final movement. Poems without the last few stanzas. Unfinished dreams.

And I realized as the speaker told the story that, somewhere inside, we each have a similar chamber. And last night, as I listened to the speaker, I hesitantly walked down that long hall, and unlocked that door, and opened it-the door to that room that I so dread looking into. Because the contents of that room represent the dreams and hopes that, over the years, I've cast off as hopelessly damaged. Dreams of business ownership-dashed due to naive business decisions. Dreams of literary greatness-discarded due to criticism from others. Dreams of financial success; of personal development and career advancement; and others-dreams that nobody even knows about, that I've ultimately cast off as hopeless. Some of them are small. Some are huge. And I stand in that room, and as my gaze passes slowly over each one, I remember that swelling, the hope, the inspiration when each of those dreams were birthed. And then I remember the painful bitterness of awakening to the realization that that I'd damaged that dream-that it could never be. And I remember the long walk to that room, opening the door, and moving things aside-making room for yet another addition to this, my own "Chamber of Unfinished Dreams."

And as I stand there in that room, and remember each of those painful visits, I realize that the room is far more cluttered now that it used to be. You see, over time, I've continued to dash dreams, and the shelves are starting to fill, and the corners are stacked with piles of once precious hopes.

And I think about others that I know. People who, over time, have added to their own chamber, time after time, as we all do. Until the chamber was so full, that they had to remodel the home that is their heart-removing walls, and pushing furniture aside, so that there was room enough in the chamber for the new additions. Until, at some point, they wake to find that their entire existence is defined by that chamber. They spend their days and nights in one small bare corner of their heart, with an entire house full of unfinished dreams. And as they sit there in that corner, that look out over the vast sea of broken, damaged hopes and dreams, and cry over them.

And then I come back to the present, and look around this-my chamber-again, and realize that there are things missing. I remember trips that I'd made to this room to make another painful deposit, and realize that those unfinished dreams aren't there anymore. Like a particulalry cherished dream of personal success in the corporate world-that I'd sat sadly there on a shelf five years ago. And then I remember another trip down that hall-and on that trip, instead of making a deposit, I dug through the clutter, and pulled out that old dream, dusted it off, and got to work on it again. And now, I rush out of the chamber, and begin to walk through the rest of the house, looking at all those revived pieces-the once damaged, hopeless dreams, that I've dusted off, and started working on again. And then I look up at the walls, and see some of the finished pieces-some of them that had once sat on those same shelves, but now rest in places of prominence. Pieces that I proudly show off to friends and acquaintances. And nobody but me knows that the finished product isn't exactly what it was originally intended to be. Because the finished work is still beautiful!

And so, with that, I go back to that dreaded door, but this time with a spring in my step. I open it, and turn the light on. And begin to take inventory, dusting off each and every one of those dreams. And I make a commitment to, starting today, one by one, take those damaged works off the shelf, and renew my work on them!

I urge you, take the same trip. The creator is usually the only one who can see the flaws in a work of love. Pull out one of those dreams that you casted off so long ago. Dust it off, put it back up on the easel. And give it your all. I guarantee you that, when you're done, it'll occupy a place of honor in your gallery of accomplishments!


I am exhausted.

You see, I've been doing a lot of rowing over the last few days. If that doesn't make sense, then I recommend you read a previous post of mine.

Recent events have caused me to go back and evaluate-to ask, how would Jesus handle the situation-from both perspectives.

And I found a passage in the Bible that really says it all, I think:

I Cor 13:4-8 (NKJV)- "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."

And I think if we were ALL to evaluate our every action against this passage of scripture, we'd definitely be the better for it. You see, love leaves no room for condemnation, anger, hate or bitterness. Love ensures that our interactions with others do not tear down, but build up. And love carries us-together-through the hard times.

The lyrics from a Hezekiah Walker song called "I Need You to Survive," are applicable, I think:

I Need you, you need me;
We're all a part of God's body.
Stand with me, agree with me;
We're all a part of God's body.

I'll pray for you, you pray for me;
I love you-I need you to survive.
I won't harm you, with words from my mouth;
I love you-I need you to survive.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

PAVE Concert-August 31

Exciting news, folks! On August 31, we've confirmed that we'll be singing at a PAVE concert in Exeter!

Check out the ad for the concert on blogger, as well as PAVE's website! They're a fantastic group-very talented and annointed, and we're excited to be a part of the concert!

Come join us on August 31!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


We live in an agricultural area, and a significant portion of my daily commute takes me through rural areas.

Today on the way home, I passed a field where they were harvesting cantaloupes. Cantaloupes are hand harvested. The field workers walk through the fields, one to each row, and pick the cantaloupes. They toss them up onto a contraption (a machine that's towed behind a tractor) that follows along behind them, where they roll down a conveyor to a group of workers who package them in boxes.

This particular field had eight or ten of these machines in it when I drove past, and I noticed that every machine had at least one flag flying over it-some as many as three. All in all, I counted a total of thirteen flags. One was an American flag. The others were the flags of Mexico, India, and some other country that I didn't recognize.

Now don't get me wrong-I'm not one of those who are adamantly opposed to seeing flags other than the old red-white-and-blue anywhere in this great nation. We're a free nation! We should be free to fly whatever flag we choose!

But I did realize something today. You see, these folks-these field workers-were probably all immigrants (legal or illegal, it's irrelevant; point is, they're immigrants). They've immigrated from Mexico, India and whatever country the other flag (that I didn't recognize) represented. But they're not immigrants in the same sense as my great-great grandparents were.

My ancestors (as I understand it) came over in the late 1800's from Germany. They endured a long-arduous boat trip-a trip on which, I imagine, a number of their fellow immigrants died. They were deposited (as were so many other immigrants during that period) on the shores of Ellis Island, and spent a day and night there in the vast halls going through the arduous process of "immigrating." Physical examinations, medical tests, verbal questioning-all designed to ensure the immigrant could effectively become a part of American society.

I stood there, at Ellis Island, a number of years ago, and found my ancestors on the wall that they have there, with the name of every immigrant to pass through engraved on it. And as I stood there, I happened to look up, and I saw Lady Liberty standing there in the background-tall, stoic, representing everything America is about, and I recall pride swelling in my chest-pride that I'm a part of this great nation. And I remember imagining my ancestors steaming into New York Harbor that day, so many years ago. I wonder if, on that day so many years ago, when they caught their first glimpse of that majestic statue as the fog began to clear, they didn't feel much the same way. I can't help but think that, as they passed through those halls at Ellis Island, and braved the rigorous examinations, they must have caught a glimpse of her through those windows, and felt that sudden swell of emotion-we call it patriotism-for all that she meant to them.

And then I contrast them-my ancestors-with the folks I saw in the cantaloupe field today, and I realized the difference. To my ancestors, America meant freedom, liberty, a chance for a new life. To them, America was the Land of Opportunity. To those folks in the field today, America is just an opportunity. For some, an opportunity to have a job so that they can send money back home to support the rest of their family. For some, an opportunity to work, and become wealthy (at least by their standards). For some, simply an opportunity to escape living in squalid conditions. And you know what? I don't begrudge any of them that. These are all excellent reasons for being here-great, and admirable, every one of them. But I work with these people, I've met them, talked to them. Most of them don't understand America, and thus don't love it. They didn't have that moment in New York Harbor-that dawning moment when America, and what it means, came into clear view through the dissipating fog. And so, to them, America is just an opportunity-and I have to hand it to them; they're taking the opportunity-and I don't begrudge them that. I only wish for those days when every person that stepped on these hallowed shores for the very first time experienced that moment of breathlessness, because this is a new way of life-something to hold tight to, to cherish.

So, no: I'm not in favor of legislation that makes it illegal to fly the flag of another country. I'm in favor of us pulling together, evaluating our great nation, righting the things that need righting, and making it, once again, a Land of Opportunity. I long for the day when I walk up to an immigrant worker in the field, and he's flying an American flag-not because he's prohibited from flying a Mexican one, but because he loves America, and all it represents!