Monday, October 29, 2007

Top of the Charts

I don't know why it matters, but for some strange reason, this excites me!

Hop on over to Google and type "Gods plan and bubble gum" in the search box; see who pops up on top!

Here's the link for you lazy readers...

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Worthy Cause

I received an email from Steffanie Hardesty over at Bits and Pieces a few days ago.

She leads an outreach group that goes out on weekends and connects with some of the less fortunate in their city (read the blog; some neat stories). They pray with them, bring some to church, feed them and give them blankets and clothing. An extremely worthwhile endeavor.

The Lord's work, by all accounts.

At any rate, their ministry is expending $400/month in fuel costs alone (not including various other expenses). They are looking for help.

I encourage you, readers, to help their group out.

Contact Stephanie at:

Your donations will be to a non-profit organization, so they'll be tax-deductible. Another reason to contribute!

Friday, October 26, 2007

To Clear the Air:

First, I want to make it abundantly clear that I was NEVER ashamed of my little sister. I loved my sister to death; for numerous reasons, not the least of which being that, as I was a sissy, she beat up anyone who messed with me (no lie).

The story about her actually being my orphaned cousin was simply an elaborate practical joke (that happened to play out just a little too well). In truth, I forgot that I'd told everyone that, otherwise I'd have cleared it up far earlier. It sure was funny though.

My hair, despite being hard, was actually quite attractive.

Katie's hair, because it was so large, precluded her from entering rooms that did not have double doors.

No matter what Katie and shegazelle say, I'll not believe that "that girl" only dated me because they paid her to. I'm not certain they even know who I'm talking about...

The long-time secret crush...don't get so excited Katie; I hate to tell you, but it wasn't you. I'm curious though, now that we're here: can you guys guess?

The Junior yearbook: well, the things "that girl" wrote were nice with respect to me (but kind of embarrassing; she apparently wrote them AFTER Katie got to her with her wads of cash); they WEREN'T so flattering to Katie (and a few of her gang), as I recall. I'd have to find the book to know for certain, and God only knows where it's at. I'll certainly look.

And, despite her protestations, shegazelle was VERY cool! She (and a few of her followers), as I recall, were SO cool, they opted to carry paint cans as purses to a convention one year. Only a supremely cool person could pull that off! All kidding aside, she served as a chaperon a few times (when I was dating, for an o-so-brief period, one of her friends), and I'll tell you, she (and 'Nay) made the dates! Probably why the friend decided she didn't like dating me anymore!

Mother insists I tell you all that she DID NOT force me to wear those embarrassingly unattractive camouflage, elastic, flyless pants until I was twelve. She's certain I wasn't any older than 10 1/2 when I quit wearing them. I asked her why I finally did quit wearing them. She said because I got tired of other boys laughing at my Scooby Doo briefs when I had to pull the flyless pants down in order to use the restroom. I wonder what's wrong with Scooby Doo briefs (aside from the fact that, despite NUMEROUS letters to the manufacturer, they still adamantly refuse to manufacture them in waist sizes greater than 30. I so miss them)?

Finally, this blog is meant to be mental nourishment. Much of the junk I've posted here in the last week is just that: junk; not nourishing in the least. Nevertheless, you folks seem to eat it up (just goes to show, you don't really know what fine food tastes like). SO, instead of completing and posting the second installment of the Democratic Writing story this week, I'll tell part of the "When PJ Met Shawna" story. Fair?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Saddest Report

Most of the rest of the world has probably already seen this, but I had to post it here.

Playing for Pizza-John Grisham

Rick Dockery is the stereotypical washed-up professional football player. He's warmed the benches for many a professional football team. But his wild arm under pressure has kept him from actually taking many game time snaps.

So it's a surprise to all when he (third string quarterback for the Cleveland Browns) comes off the bench in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game (against the Denver Broncos). But nobody is too worried-Cleveland's up by XX points, there are only 11 minutes left in the game, and Cleveland's defense has been able to consistently shut down Denver's offense the entire game. Even if Dockery isn't able to move the ball an inch, the defense can hold out for 11 minutes.

Nobody counted on Rick turning the Denver defense into a powerhouse offense. He proves majestic in his passing game during those 11 minutes, throwing beautiful pass after beautiful pass right into the arms of Denver defenders. At the end of the game, Cleveland fans are screaming for blood-from Dockery. He has succeeded in, as one cynical sportswriter put it, "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" in the final moments of the game, denying Cleveland a coveted championship.

Needless to say, within hours, Rick finds himself without a job, without a hometown (Cleveland residents vow revenge, and he's ashamed to go back to his roots), and without prospects; his agent reports a suspicious number of hangups and un-returned phone messages.

Until he gets the call from his agent: he's been offered a first string quarterback position with the Panthers. A dream too good to be true! It would be his first time as First String since college!

The Parma Panthers. As in Parma, Italy. As part of the Italian professional football league: Football Americano. Starting quarterback, one of only three Americans on the team, salary of $20,000 plus an apartment for four months.

And so, with that, Rick has reached new levels of mediocrity; relegated to playing with middle-aged Italians who work as judges, restaurateurs and construction workers by day, and play football in the evening.

It's a different world from American football. None but the Americans receive a salary. The playbook is reminiscent of Rick's high school playbook. The home field is only 90 yards instead of the typical 100 (not by design; that's all the space they have available). No sponsors, and very little press coverage. And the average game has 1,000-2,000 fans (as opposed to the 80,000 Rick has been accustomed to.

But "Reek" as his teammates call him, finds that this group of footballers are the real deal. They know what being a part of a team is really all about. It's not about the paycheck for them; it's about the team, and about the team, together, winning the game.

And, in four short months playing the game at the bottom of the professional ladder, he learns more about the game, about leadership and teamwork, and most importantly, about himself, than he has in all his previous experience.

And he learns that the Super Bowl means something in Italy too. And that he is personally responsible for leading the Panthers to a Super Bowl victory. And for, perhaps, the first time in his life, he's forced to lead a team toward the big prize. The question is, does he have it in him?
It's a remarkable read; easy to read-and fast, but a great story. It's not told in typical Grisham fashion; written in the style of "Bleachers" or "A Painted House," but very well written nonetheless.

it kept me intrigued; in fact, once I picked it up and started reading, I couldn't put it down. Strongly recommended reading.

4.5 out of 5 on the MyndFood scale.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Katrina asked me to proofread her Senior Portfolio tonight (the local high school here requires each senior to create a portfolio and go through an interview, prior to graduating). She came by, and as I was looking over the various things she's included, I recalled that I'd done a portfolio myself, all those years ago. I asked Shawna where it was.

"The garage," she said.

I looked at her with trepidation. A trip to the garage: a fearful endeavor under any circumstances. Was a mere portfolio worth it?

I decided to brave it. I grabbed a bottled water, stuck a few granola bars in my pocket, found an extension cord and tied one end around my waist and the other around the garage doorknob, and kissed Shawna goodbye (our garage is-put nicely-a jungle. I hired a kid a few weeks ago to help clean it; our insurance company is still trying to work things out with his family).

I never found the portfolio. But I did come in with a Rubbermaid container containing some things that looked interesting. It had various diplomas, my college mortar board and tassel, a model "PET Milk" tanker truck (don't ask...), a copy of the December 1993 issue of Popular Mechanics, a photo of Shawna and me at a Christmas party (when she was 15-we started young; remind me, I'll tell you sometime), a map of Alaska (I have NO idea), a set of instructions for an Erector Set (the old kind-with screws and metal pieces), and an entire collection of yearbooks from junior high and high school (except for my junior year; that one was missing. I think I might have hid it somewhere because it had the embarrassing comments by that girl-the one they said they paid to date me).

So, I spent an hour or so going through old yearbooks, reliving the good times (and the uncomfortable times), remembering folks I haven't thought of in years-being young again. I looked at pictures, and remembered trips to the beach and shaving a balloon that a guy named Ernest was holding in his mouth. I remembered my stint as president of the student council, and, on a shopping trip with the treasurer and secretary, sneaking out of Costco to teach the vice-president how to drive a manual transmission.

I remembered that goofy slicked back hairdo I used to wear, and I remembered the day that, because of some contest that we lost, I had to stand and take a homemade pie in the face (the pie filling was, I think, banana pudding, sardines, anchovies and anchovy juice, cool whip, and oatmeal), and then went to a friends house to shower (the stench was unbearable). And I remember how I was SO embarrassed that I had no way to put my rock-hard, slicked back hair into place, but all of the girls kept coming up to look at my hair-kept telling me how cool it looked.

And I remembered when my little sister decided to transfer to the school (it was a small private school). When I found out, I told everyone in the school that my little cousin would be starting there soon. I told them that we'd adopted her because her parents had died recently in an accident. I described in vague detail the accident, and then swore them to secrecy, as "she was very sensitive to the subject and blocks out the painful memories by calling my parents [her supposed aunt and uncle] Mom and Dad." And I remember, months after I'd forgotten that I'd told this tall tale, Nan's (that's my Sister) teacher delicately broaching the subject with Mother in some sort of conference, and Mother replying that she had NO idea what the teacher was talking about.

Homework on the locker room floor; my best friend punching me in the stomach and knocking me out (literally) in the hallway; shocking myself silly trying to suck a metal tab out of a receptacle with my mouth; joining (for some reasons still somewhat unclear to me) the schools underground women's liberation movement; and that girl-the one they (apparently) paid to date me. Many fond memories; some not so fond.

And then I began reading the comments from friends. One of my favorites started out "Paul: You stinkin' jerk!" I can see, though, my gradual progression from the quiet "Picker"-type I described last week ("Paul: Stay cool! Have a great summer! C-ya next year."), to a semi-cool guy ("Oh man, what a year! I enjoyed sharing the end of the year with you; you are a lot of fun, you know? Don't change over the summer, and DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME! I'll miss you!..."), to a seemingly well-liked guy (this was written by the girl who I secretly had a crush on all through junior high and high school; I hope she doesn't read this blog! "There is SO much to say...thanks for all the WONDERFUL are a really great guy...not many around like you...I'm going to miss you!"). All in all, makes me feel pretty good.

Although, shegazelle still wrote, "Paul: I missed your stupid remarks this year." And Katie (of Life at the Booker Household fame) still wrote "...I can't even put that it's KINDA been nice knowing you, cause it hasn't! J/K!..." I think those remarks were laced with affection...

So, I sit here, with a wistful smile on my face, remembering the times that were-at the time-a drudgery, and now seem like the good life. Makes me sound old, doesn't it? I don't feel old. But when you start saying those were the good days (especially when they included Katie and shegazelle), you're old.

Excuse the use of this utterly valueless digital real-estate to dredge up old, pleasant memories, and I hope you don't feel I've wasted too much of your time.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to get send Katie and shegazelle both a REALLY NICE email!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Brand Jesus

I read Tony Woodlief's recent commentary over at World on the Web, and was tempted to simply link to it, but I'm reminded that you, my faithful readers, don't come here for directions to my favorite purveyors of mental nourishment; you come here for MyndFood.

So, hop on over; read the article. But, first, allow me my discourse.

At the center of the controversy is an importer who has introduced a new wine-"Grapes of Galilee"-made from grapes grown near Galilee. The bottles feature paintings of Christ, and will be advertised in the Catholic Digest.

The product has garnered some measure of controversy, in that it seems to commercialize-rather, capitalize for profit-on Christ. Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research, is one of those who are ired about the product. "Jesus," he said, "chased people out of the temple for selling products in God's name. He did not put his name of the label to pump up sales."

Woodlief goes on, though, to argue, that Stetzer's comments are a bit hypocritical, in that LifeWay's catalog, according to Woodlief, are rife with similar products. Like their "Jesus IM's" t-shirt; or their "Believe God"-Spanish Edition sterling silver bracelet; or their "Jesus Died for MY SPACE in Heaven" t-shirt.

Woodlief chickens out, I think, in that he really doesn't present an argument on one side of the issue or the other; instead he simply points out that folks that live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones (although, I think it's safe to say his disdain for folks profiting in the name of God shines through pretty clearly).

As the preparer of the fine mental fare disseminated here, I have, I guess, an obligation to try to present something wholesome and edifying.

I was in our local christian bookstore a few weeks ago. The guy behind me in line struck up a conversation with me about a CD I was purchasing. Somehow the conversation turned to some product he'd seen there in the store-a kid's t-shirt (I think it said something like "My Invisible Friend Created Me"), and I made a passing comment about religion being the new big business. He gave me a blank stare; I don't think he caught my point.

To be honest, "Jesus" products leave me with a sour taste in my mouth. It started, I think, with the "WWJD" bracelets (you remember, What Would Jesus Do). They just turned me off, but, by and large, people ate them up. But my problem with the bracelets didn't really have a lot to do with the fact that they were using Jesus to make a profit (Bible publishers since Gutenberg have been doing it with much success). In fact, I'd argue Stetzers point about Jesus chasing folks out of the temple. I recall Him saying something about His house being called a "house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves." He overturned the tables, and cast them out, because they had turned His house into a marketplace, not because they were selling Jesus paraphernalia.

My problem with the whole movement is that it's a pacifier; it's a "feel-good" mechanism. That's, I think, what has really built this whole industry-that you can go get a cheeky "Jesus" t-shirt, and feel good about yourself. Wear a "WWJD" bracelet, and project "I'm a christian" to those that see it, and you feel alright. Tell folks about your space in Heaven via your apparel, and feel certain that you've got one reserved. And really, none of that has anything to do with Christianity, God or Heaven.

You see, you can be a christian, talk with God, even make it to Heaven, without having the t-shirt and without wearing the branded jewelry. None of that has any real impact whatsoever. I'll tell you, if I thought I could fool God into thinking I was an A-OK guy just by wearing one of His t-shirts, I'd have a wardrobe full of them; I need all the help I can get. But, as the Good Word says, you and I look on the outside, but God looks at the heart. He doesn't really care whether we wear Jesus on our clothing or not; He does, on the other hand, care if we project Jesus with our lives.

But read the article; come to your own conclusions. Ask yourself this, though, the next time you go to pull your "Jesus Is My Homeboy" t-shirt out of the closet: does Jesus have one of these shirts with my name on it?

I Think You Like my Story

Thank you to everyone who read, and gave constructive feedback on my "Democratic Writing" project (the first installment of which I published here a few weeks ago).

I've had a number of people ask when the next installment is forthcoming-apparently someone found the story entertaining thus far. I am working on it-I think I'll have it publishable here within the week. I'll warn you now: it's a bit of a departure from the story line thus far, but it'll all come together, I promise. It seems as though, at first blush, I didn't take into account any of your input; I promise you, I have. But your collective thoughts provided a bit of a twist to the original story line that I'd envisioned, and I needed to build some foundation in order to incorporate them.

For a brief description of the project (for those who've not been paying attention), read my original description. If you've not read the first installment, do so within the next week or so.

As always, thanks for dining with me!

The Reason for the Season

We took the kids to a cornfield maze the other evening. The thing was far more difficult than I'd imagined; it took us nearly an hour to get through. At one point, we were so lost that we hunkered down, and decided to rough it out until dawn. I fashioned a makeshift tent out of my sweatshirt, and was trying to cook a few ears of corn with the heat from my cell phone battery. Luckily, a lady in a yellow jacket came by, and showed us the way out.

A good thing, too; corn leaves would have made for very abrasive toilet paper.

We finally found our way out, packed into the car, and drove away. On our way out, the kids spotted a small house (about the size of a playhouse), that sits up on a pole, so that it can be seen from the freeway. The house is adorned with Christmas lights; it serves as an advertisement for the Christmas trees that they sell at the farm there during the Christmas season.

At any rate, as we were driving out, I heard Gentry's breath catch.

"Lexis," he said, whispering in awe. "Lookit! That's Santa Claus's house!" he said.

"Oh, yeah! It is!" Lex said.

"Daddy," Gentry said, "do you know what we just saw? We saw Santa's house!"

"You did?" I asked. "You mean that little house with the Christmas Lights?"

"Yes," Gentry said. "That's Santa's house!"

"Where does he keep all the toys in there, do you think," I asked them.

They thought for a moment. "It's magic," Lex said.

"Nuh-uh!" Bubs said, a little loudly. "He keeps those in his big bag that he cawwies."

"And then he comes at Christmas and brings us our presents," Lex proclaimed excitedly. "He comes down our fireplace!" she said.

"Our fireplace," I asked? "You mean chimney. How does he fit down there, do you think?"

They were silent for a few moments. We've never really pushed the idea of a Santa with our kids, but we've not been adamant about insisting that he doesn't exist either. The conversation was shaping up into the "does-Santa-really-exist" conversation that so many parents dread. I was curious to see how traumatic the realization would be.

"If he comes down our chimney, how does he get back up it," Lex asked?

"No," Bubs said. "He doesn't come down ouw chimminee. He lives in ouw fiyapwace," he said.

"He doesn't live in our fireplace, Bubs," Lexis argued. "Check when we get home. He's not there. Maybe he lives on our roof!"

"Our roof, huh?" I asked. "We must be pretty special, don't you think, for him to choose to live on our roof."

"No-" Lex started.

"Yes he-" Gentry piped up at the same time. "Lexis! Let me talk! I wanna tell you guys somethin!"

"Well hurry then," she told him, exasperated.

"Santa Claus lives on the woof of that house at the cownfield maze! He bwings ouw pwesents down ouw fiweplace at Chwistmas. And....and....and..."

"Bubba! Are you going to finish, or are you just going to keep saying 'and' forever?" Lex interrupted.

"LEXIS!! I'm telling you a stowy! Be quiet!"

"Well, HURRY UP," she answered.

He paused for a moment. "K. I'm done"

"Good," Lex said. "Santa doesn't live at that house at the maze or on our roof. Remember, Christmas is about Jesus' birthday!"

I was so pleased! She'd come to the realization all on her own. My chest swelled; I smiled, and grabbed Shawna's hand, so thankful that our wholesome parenting was paying off.

"So what does that mean, Alexis," I asked.

"Well, it means that Santa Claus must live on JESUS' roof!"

I give up.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Voting for Dummies

A cool site that Joel Maxwell referenced on his blog a few days ago.

It truly is voting for dummies (or, at least for those who have a hard time sorting through the various platforms).

I'm almost embarrassed to tell you who I'm supposed to support...

That Boy Ain't Right!

I was not a normal boy.

Shawna and the kids spent the time that I was traveling with her family. Gentry's fifth birthday is next month, but since Shawna's family won't be around, they threw him a small party. He got what he wanted. I was walking back to the hotel from dinner (alone), and my cell phone buzzed. It was a picture; of Gentry-standing on his new "skatebowd" a big toothy smile on his face. Shawna was concerned she said, because he was "already getting dangerous" on it. I asked what she meant.

"Well, he's already trying to stand up on it!"

Isn't that what you're supposed to do with a skateboard?

At any rate, I drove to meet them at the tail end of my business trip, and spent a day there with the family before coming home. A group of us went out for the evening, and Gentry, having received the thing he most wanted, moved on to loftier goals.

"Dad, you know what I want fow my birfday," he asked?

"No, Bubs; what do you want?"

"I want a gun."

"Bubba, you already have way too many guns. Let's get creative this birthday," I said. "Let's get you something different."

"No, Daddy," he exclaimed. "Not THAT kinda gun! I want a WEAL gun!"

"A real gun, Bubs? You've got to be kidding me!"

"Pwease, Daddy? I WEALLY want a weal gun fow my birfday."

Papa Marc and Uncle Casey (both Soldier of Fortune type gun aficionados) just laughed.

I never wanted a real gun growing up. I think it concerned my parents, because they bought me one when I was twelve or thirteen. I took it shooting once. I sold it four or five years later. I never had a skateboard either. I was scared of skateboards.

In fact, in hindsight, I was, at best, an eccentric boy; at worst, strange. I only had three real friends as a child. One really quiet guy who was also in band; a really smart girl (who was, in fourth grade, about 5' 10", and maybe 200 lbs); and a guy who lived across the street from me (he was about five years older than me, but was only a grade ahead of me); he was the only one who ever came over to visit, but looking back, it seems that he only came over to let out some pent up anger. Once a week or so, he'd come by under the pretense of playing, and he'd end up grinding my face in the grass for a good 15-20 minutes (until Mother came running out and made him stop). It was a testament to either my long suffering compassion-or my stupidity-that I never turned him away; week after week, he came and beat me up.

In hindsight, I think the lack of friends might have been due to the camouflage, elastic-waisted home-made pants that I wore until I was 12 or so (they had no fly-I don't think Mother knew how to sew in a zipper, so I had to pull them down to use the restroom). They were decidedly uncool (although I didn't know it at the time). Or maybe it was due to the fact that I was good at almost nothing. When choosing teams for baseball, they'd choose the kid in a wheelchair before they chose me. I could NEVER do a pull-up or a push-up (still can't, to be honest).

I couldn't even cuss well. I got sent home (and almost suspended) from school once for cussing a kid out. His name was Jesus (pronounced "hay-soos"). I found out how it was spelled, and started calling him Jesus (pronounced like the one from Nazareth). He must not have been a Christian, because he said a few choice words (none of which, honestly, I knew); I said a few of my own right back; then he hit me. I fell down and started crying. He stood over me, looking down at me incredulously, not sure what to do.

The teacher marched us both to the principals office. He heard Jesus' side of the story first, then called me in, and asked if I'd called him any bad names. I started crying and said yes. He looked at me, disappointed, picked up the telephone, and called Mother. She came and picked me up, furious. She ranted the whole way home. When we finally got home, I sat down at the kitchen table. She sat across from me.

"PJ," she said, "what did you say to that kid?"

"I called him a stupid jerk," I told her.

"Besides that."

"Nothing Mom," I said. "That's all I said!"

She looked at me for a moment, then started laughing. She picked up the phone and called the principal. They had a good laugh, then she loaded me into the car, and took me back to school.

And I've never enjoyed playing outside; you get dirty playing outside, and I have always hated to be dirty. In fact, I have, almost since I was Gentry's age, showered at least twice per day (sometimes thrice). I did ask for a BB gun when I was 8 or 9. My parents got excited (hoping, I think, that this was a sign that their son might, in fact, be normal). They got me the gun. I took it out one Saturday, and accidentally shot a bird. I cried. I never shot the gun again.

In fourth grade, kids stopped calling me PJ or Paul and started calling me Picker (because they caught me picking my nose one day in class; a habit that I still enjoy from time to time). But, interestingly enough, that was the grade that kids actually started hanging around me. The two coolest guys in the school suddenly were my best friends (at least in class). It took me a year or so to figure it out, but I eventually realized that their sudden friendship coincided with the earliest group projects. I was their willing intellectual slave; it bought me some measure of admiration (although they still called me Picker).

I saw one of those guys a few months ago. He's a mechanic; lives in an apartment; drives an old beat up car, and is struggling financially. He still calls me Picker.

None of the girls ever wanted to date me. In fact, I didn't have a girlfriend until my senior year in high school. I'm half convinced, to this day, that a few of my friends might have paid her to date me for a few weeks because they felt sorry for me (Katie: is that the case?).

Early on, I was oblivious to my abnormalcy. It didn't phase me. But about the time my name was changed to "Picker" I began to realize that I wasn't well liked; I wasn't popular-in fact I wasn't unpopular; to most, I simply didn't exist. It started to bother me. By that point, though, I simply didn't know how to be cool; I was so far removed from the norm that the idea of my fitting in was almost laughable.

I'm sure I cried quite a few tears to Mother and Dad, and I'm sure they watched, pained, as I fell flat on my face socially time and again. I've never asked. But I look back now, and I'm thankful that I wasn't cool. Most (though not all) of the cool people are now living lives of mediocrity. Once the wave of "coolness" deposited them on the beach of real-life, they realized they couldn't actually walk on their own.

So, there's a part of me that's relieved that Gentry wants a gun for his birthday. I hope that he's a little more normal that I was (I think he is). Not too normal though! I don't want him to be lulled into thinking that his social status as a kid will carry him through to success as an adult. I want to make sure that he can walk when it's time to walk.

So, we make him wear camouflage, elastic-waisted, flyless pants.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Monday, October 15, 2007

Honey, I'm Home!

I'm back.

Didn't seem to miss me too much, did you?

I know that the posting has been sparse; two real reasons. First, I've been incredibly busy the last two weeks. Not working on anything top-secret, but working nonetheless, and the donations from you MyndFood readers have been down recently, so I'm loathe to depend too heavily on your financial support.

Second, though, as I mentioned in a previous post, I've been traveling; alone, without the family. Which I hate. I tried to write while I was gone, but I found myself sitting in front of a blank computer screen, in a deep funk, unable to think of anything substantive. I actually put finger to keyboard a number of times, but ended up trashing the junk I produced. The veritable equivalent to grits-tasteless and without any substance whatsoever.

But, as I said, I'm back. The blogosphere has limped along in my absence (surprisingly-and somewhat disappointingly). Alas, I have yet to make the impact that I aspire to.

I'll keep trying.

Until then, thanks for sticking with me!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Keeping Peace

The Nobel Foundation announced on Friday the winner-or, rather, winners-of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. This year's laureates, Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), shared the prize as well as the $1.5 Million purse, for their respective "efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change."

The peace-keeping business is waning, I'd guess, based on this slim justification for this seemingly prestigious award.

I searched around a bit on the internet, and found an archive listing all of the winners of the award, year-by-year, as well as what they won for. 1901, Jean Henri Dunant, the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross, initiator of the Geneva Convention, shared the prize. 1906, Theodore Roosevelt won the prize for a peace treaty he drafted between Russia and Japan. 1912, Elihu Root won for a number of significant arbitration agreements he brokered. 1919, Woodrow Wilson, US President, won for the founding of the League of Nations. Various other similar winners.

Most notably, perhaps, is the absence of a winner many years. 1914-1916, 1918, 1923-1924, 1928, 1932, 1939-1943, 1948, 1955-1956, 1966-1967, and finally, 1972. Apparently, in the abesnce of a suitable nominee, the award is not a mandate, for in each of these years, the award was not awarded, and the funds were redeposited into the special award fund.

And for these reasons I find this year's award curious. Actually, I find the recent shift in the apparent award criteria interesting. This year, Gore and the IPCC won for disseminating greater knowledge abour man-made climate change. I've heard it said that a butterfly flapping it's wings in Jakarta has some minor affect on the airflow here in California. It's apparent to all, I think, that we as human beings have some sort of affect on the environment, and, given my butterfly example, probably have some sort of impact on climate change. The question is, really, how substantial an impact? But that's not the point of this post.

Early prize winners won for actually doing something-for peace brokered as a results of their efforts. They won because they achieved results. Conversely, the winners this year won for their "efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change." First, what does man-made climate change have to do with peace? Further, since when do we give major awards for "efforts to build-up and disseminate knowledge"?

This trend, though, is further evidenced by other recent awards. In 2006 Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank won for their "efforts to create economic and social development from below." In 2001 the United Nations and Kofi Annan won-for no noted reason. Various other recent awards for either the winners' "efforts" or for no real reason at all.

At first blush, I assume that they're struggling to find real "peace-brokers" to award the prize to. But, on second thought, I think, in reality, the Nobel Foundation leadership has been subtly corrupted. And, instead of actually lauding those who make headway in the pursuit of peace, they're using the prestige of their award to make a political point. In this case: to add their significant, yet unspoken, support to the global-warming cause.

A sad thing, too, when a prestigious, time-honored institution gives way to political pressure, and uses their name and reputation to lend support to a political perspective.

If you ask me, the prize should have went to Shawna. Conflict in the Middle East is child's play in comparison to keeping peace between Lex and Gentry.

The Story of Ben Winkler

Always love passing on a good "rising above your circumstances" story.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Business Travel

I'm traveling again. On business. Which, I've decided, I detest.

No offense to my colleagues who happen to read MyndFood; I don't dislike what I do at all, and I enjoy all of you that I work with. But business, in my (admittedly jaded) estimation, is 20% actual productive activity, and 80% people trying to uncover some obscure problem in order to justify their existence (or in the absence of an actual problem, inventing some new, revolutionary business concept that then-due to it's conspicuous absence within the organization in question-becomes a problem).

Hear me out-please.

I'm at a two-day seminar. I know what I paid for the seminar (it wasn't inexpensive, by any measure), and at the price I paid, multiplied by the number of attendees (thirty, give or take), the seminar tuition alone cost the attending companies about $100K. Add to that the cost of a hotel stay for two nights ($179 a night-a bargain, to be sure), parking ($15 to self-park; $20 for valet-per night, that is), and travel (I'd guess $600 per person, on average), you could probably tack on another $40 to the total pricetag of the seminar. Not to mention the opportunity cost associated with 30 or so highly paid professionals sitting in a room on the coast of California for two full days. Assuming the average person in the room makes $130K per year, that would add up to somewhere in the neighborhood of another $45,000.

For a grand total cost of around $185,000.

Money well-spent if there's anything to be gained by participating.

But, invariably, I receive a flyer for some seminar, read through it, get excited, and register. I attend, and find myself agreeing-wholeheartedly-with almost everything they have to say. But also realizing that they're not really telling me anything I didn't already know. Not that I'm some business prodigy. The reality is, when you parse it all down, the basics of business are pretty intuitive. It doesn't take a genius to get the concepts right.

But common sense and intuition don't sell. So intellectuals (admittedly, very bright, competent and talented people) go out, wrap their suble flair around a common sense concept, develop a Powerpoint presentation, throw out business buzzwords, and charge a fortune to speak about them.

And then people like me come, nod their heads, smile, and go back, enthused, and make some sort of (hopefully positive) change.

Do you see, though? They're not really instructors; there's nothing there to instruct. They're cheerleaders. They exist to get us (the business community) excited about some concept, to get us enthused and pump us up, make us believe we can affect positive change (or, make us believe that we NEED to change-whether we do or not-THEN make us believe we can do it).

But, alas, I freely admit that I'm jaded and dejected. Because I sit here in a beautiful hotel room, overlooking a magnificent golf course, a stone's throw from a gorgeous beach-alone. You see, I'm projecting. There's probably some truth to that whole diatribe, but the simple fact is, I am of the firm opinion that the enjoyment in life is found in sharing experiences with those you love. Happiness doesn't exist in my world unless I have someone to share it with.

So, a beautiful hotel, the ocean, and even the opportunity to learn-none of them have any interest to me.

Because I'm alone.

I miss you...

Quote of the Week

"To eat bread without hope is still slowly to starve to death."
-Pearl S. Buck

Friday, October 5, 2007

Joel Maxwell

Joel Maxwell mentions me today in this post over at his blog.

I encourage you to stop in and pay him a visit. He has an incredibly inspiring story!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Not Fit to Mother

I read yesterday that, on Monday, a judge in Southern California, in a surprise move, awarded custody of Britney Spears' and Kevin Federline's children to Federline. Originally, the couple had shared custody, but in a surprise move, in response to a motion by Federline's attorney, the judge called a closed hearing on Monday, and revoked Spears' custody rights. Spears filed a motion, which was heard in court today, seeking a reversal of the order; the motion was denied, although the judge did allow Spears supervised visitation rights, and will reevaluate the custody situation at the end of October.

According to Reuters:

"Since her split from Federline last November, Spears has drawn a steady stream of headlines for erratic behavior that has included club-hopping without panties, shaving her head bald, raging at a car with an umbrella and checking into and out of rehab."


"Adding to her legal woes, she was charged days later with leaving the scene of an accident and driving without a valid license after police said she smashed into another car in a parking lot."

I really have absolutely no interest whatsoever in most celebrities and their various (often self-imposed) woes. But this one interested me, in that my perception was that Kevin Federline was hardly a paternal role model. How terrible a mother must Spears be for the court to revoke her custody? Obviously, given the quotes above, she's not much of a role model herself. In fact, it seems she's on a fast downward spiral.

The surprising fact, though, is that it appears that Federline might actually be a semi-decent father (that is, he's a far better parental role model than is his ex-wife). In fact, after reading a bit about Spears as a parent, I'm surprised that she even cares to have any custody whatsoever. We all, I think, recall her driving with her first child sitting on her lap (no car seat; not even a seatbelt). And the time she "dropped" her son. But those aren't the things I'm talking about.

The most telling thing I read was a note from last month, after Spears and Federline were divorced. Both of their children's birthdays were in early September. Their birthday party (Jayden's first birthday, Sean's second), on September 9, was a Cars themed family affair, with the traditional cake, ice cream and balloons. Spears though? She was attending the Video Music Awards in Las Vegas (pointless, I think, in that her chances of winning anything were, at best, slim). It says much about her, as a parent, that she chose to attend a music industry fete instead of her children's birthday party.

And what of Federline? Is he father material? I'll admit that he's probably not at the top of my list of role models. But, despite the various piercings, the tattoos, the shaved head and-Oh!-that terribly grating album, he doesn't seem to be a bad guy! He doesn't appear to-surprise-have a criminal record (more than can be said for his ex-wife); he seems to be comparatively stable (that is, he's never been in rehab-in sharp contrast to his ex-wife's two-or three-stints); he's surprisingly grounded (those who he's worked with-when he is given opportunity to work-say he's professional, enjoyable, and reasonably talented. Conversely, his ex-wife appears to think the world revolves around her); he wears underwear (or, if he doesn't, he doesn't insist on repeatedly showing the rest of us-enough said); and he actually appears to care for his children (whereas his ex-wife doesn't appear to even care to be with them-as long as Federline doesn't have them).

I may be reading much more into this than I should, but I'm of the firm opinion that, to whom much is given, much is required. Spears started her career as a no-name, naive-but principled-kid with a little talent. She skyrocketed to fame (and fortune), and has since done everything within her power to prove that money and celebrity lead to total and complete ruin. She is nice girl-turned-naughty; polite-turned-spoiled; clean living-turned-destructively addicted; demure-turned-promiscuous; bright-eyed-turned-haunted. Oh, and talented-turned-washed up.

I say all that to say this: Britney-you'll never find happiness where you're looking. The very things you're forsaking in your search are the things that will bring you what you're looking for. And, for that, I have to say, I think the judge got it right. Because, while he might not have the money, talent, career, homes or cars that Britney does, his rough-and-tumble upbringing taught him what is important. And that's all you need to be a good parent.

Figure it out, Britney, before it's too late.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

World Online

You MyndFood readers who happen to be practicing Christians: World Magazine ("Weekly news, Christian views") has debuted an online version of their magazine. I spent some time there today reading it; good stuff.

Tony Woodlief
, one of my favorite writers, will be publishing a column there on Mondays and Fridays, so it's got to be good (at least on Mondays and Fridays).

Go, check it out. Add it to your favorites.