Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
They just opened one in our local mall.
That's a lie; we don't have a local mall.
We do have a local stoplight. Sometimes on Friday nights, we go down to the intersection, and watch it change colors.
The mall is in Fresno, about a thirty minute drive from here. They did open an Apple store. I went in the weekend they opened, and I decided I'll never go back. In fact, we were in the mall a few weeks ago with Misti and Adam (friends of ours), and Adam, a proud iPhone owner, asked if I wanted to walk down to the Apple store with him, while the girls went to Forever 21.
I thought for a moment. Forever 21 is, in my estimation, a swap meet specializing in women's clothing. It's a too-large store, overstocked with shirts and skirts and pants and hats-and even underwear, all bargain priced (so they say). They've got rack upon rack pushed together so tightly that you have to walk sideways through the store.
And their dressing rooms are like a drive-through car wash. They've got an attendant that stands there at the entrance to the dressing rooms. She corrals those poor souls who need to try on a shirt or pants into a single file line, pushes them through as quickly as possible. She marches up and down the line of dressing room doors, barking like a drill sergeant: "Room 3: are you finished yet? You've been in there almost two minutes!"
"Um...do you have this in a size 6?" a timid voice asks from room 3.
"I'm certain we do, ma'am. But I'm not your gopher. Now hurry-it-up."
OK, that's a little extreme, I'll admit. But I wait outside while Shawna goes to try on a shirt, and I watch that woman herd those poor hopeful customers into and out of the dressing rooms, and I feel pressure. I find myself talking to myself under my breath: "Hurry Shawna, hurry! Oh my goodness! She's going towards Shawna's dressing room! She hasn't been in there THAT long, has she? Oh Lord, I hope they don't yank her out and throw her, half-dressed, out into the store. She'd be so embarrassed. Oh Shawna, please hurry!"
And the customers there! My wife aside, the vast majority of the girls that shop there are teenagers, walking around the store, glassy-eyed, some microwave computer beaming out messages, taking control of their mind, creating absurd purchasing impulses. For example, the last time I was there, I saw an African-American girl walk into the store and stop abruptly, just inside the store. Her face went slack, her eyes glazed over, and she started walking, with this lurching gait, toward the center of the store. She stopped at a display of cheeky slogan t-shirts. She pawed through them for a moment, and finally came up with the one she was looking for. She walked over to the register, and jumped into line. I was curious, so I sidled up behind her, hoping for a glimpse of the shirt. I finally saw what it said as she laid it up on the counter. "Blondes Have More Fun."
So I try not to go there anymore (especially since the last time I was there, their mind control somehow drove me to spend $183 on a royal blue, one-piece shortsuit; a bright red, waist-length pea coat; and an orange t-shirt that says "Department of Connections" on it).
You would have thought I'd jump at the Apple store. But I didn't. I chose, instead, to take Lex and Gentry to the play area. A dangerous proposition, under any circumstances (you have no idea how much pain 15 or 20 children can inflict). But definitely a better choice than Forever 21, and preferable to the Apple store.
Not because I don't like the store; I do. They've got the coolest stuff. I'd LOVE to have an iPhone myself-not that the Blackberry isn't great; it is. And, in a few days, when I publish my Christmas wish-list here, you'll find that a MacBook sits proudly in the number one spot this year.
But the Apple store: It's an intimidating place. The folks who work there are all cut out of the same bolt of cloth. They're very strange, in a cool way. Most have weird looking glasses that I'm certain they got from their aunt (who was the 1963 homecoming queen), but look incredibly stylish on them. They wear Converse, and strange tight black jeans. And they don't comb their hair.
And they scare me to death.
I occasionally sit on the edge of the fountain just outside the Apple store, and try to build up the courage to walk in. And just as I feel I'm ready, I spy the sign: "Genius Bar." What is a flabberwocking Genius Bar?!?! What do you order at a Genius Bar? I haven't the foggiest idea. Genius juice (with the wheat grass additive)?
So, instead, I sit and stare wistfully at the strange teenager, with the uncombed hair, tortoiseshell glasses, beat up Converse, and pocket protector, and watch as he explains in lofty technical terms to a swooning forty-something guy in Dockers and a blue Polo (who already has his credit card out), how the memory compression, combined with the high speed mother-sound card, and increased internal RAM storage capacity, make for a noticeably superior audio-visual experience on the new 17.1" MacBook.
And beg you who are braver than I: please, oh please, visit an Apple store near year this Christmas season, and purchase that coveted MacBook (the one with the impressive mother-sound card, memory compression to die for, and ungodly RAM capacity-all making for a heavenly computing experience).
And send it to me.
DISNEYLAND WEIGHS IN
Disney reported a few days ago that Disneyland's trademark ride, everyone's favorite, It's A Small World, will be taken offline, beginning in January, for ten months for some structural updates. What's on the punch list? Most notably, making the "ocean so wide" just a little deeper, and designing "more buoyant" boats.
According to Disney, in recent years, the ride has increasingly been shut down by overweight boats bottoming out. The culprit? The politically correct Disney spokesperson pointed out that, perhaps it has to do with the build up of material in the bottom of the flume due to countless repairs over the years. But the truth of the matter probably has more to do with the fact that the average male adult rider's weight has risen, since 1960, from 166 pounds to 191 pounds. The average woman has jumped from 140 pounds to 164 pounds. On average, a 25 pound jump.
In short, we're overloading the boats. And the boats are getting stuck. So now Disney is going to have to modify the ride.
How long, do you think, before Disney begins charging a premium for admission of overweight guests? Rather, would that be appropriate?
Consider this: I am not substantially overweight (the body mass index says that I could lose a few pounds, but just a few). Shawna is most definitely not overweight. Nor are either Lex or Gentry. Yet, the next time we go to Disneyland, some portion of our admission will go to cover these modifications.
Why? Should we (who are considered "fit") be forced to subsidize modifications made to accommodate overweight folks? Don't get me wrong: I've got nothing against the overweight; some of my best friends and family members are overweight (and I spend a few painful years grossly overweight), so I'm not picking at "fluffy" folks. But I'm not sure that I'm happy about subsidizing their lifestyle.
BECK SNUBS THE KIDS
Reuters reported today that soccer star, David Beckham (whose wife, as you might recall from a prior post, is the only Valley Girl I know of to have come from Britain), arriving at a hotel in Sydney Australia, snubs a group of young cancer survivors who'd gathered to meet him.
To read the story, you'd think that Beckham was a heartless jerk, who couldn't care less about the poor kids who've survived cancer.
When asked about it in a press conference a few moments later, Beckham said, "I would never have done that. Never have done, never will do. I'm more than willing to meet them wherever they want and at whatever time that they want." Apparently, he simply did not see them.
I have to ask myself, why is this news? Further, does it warrant front-page billing on Yahoo.com? Most importantly, though, I find it curious that the media is so quick to crucify Beckham in headlines. I recall a few years ago, singer Elton John, presenting an award to a young actor in Cannes, France, got upset when a reporter interrupted him, and yelled, "I'm talking . . . you *expletive*
I don't think it's any conspiracy; don't get me wrong. And I don't particularly like or care about Beckham. I just don't understand why this is news; nor do I understand the selective rationale of those who publish the news.
Barry Bonds was indicted a few weeks ago on charges of perjury. The indictment stated that he'd lied, while under oath, to a federal grand jury in 2003 when questioned regarding his use of performance enhancing drugs (steroids). He repeatedly stated that he'd not been provided with, nor had he used, known performance enhancing drugs or lotions.
Apparently, the grand jury has found evidence to the contrary. If convicted of all five counts against him, he faces a combined maximum of 30 years in prison.
Why does our justice system care whether Barry Bonds (or any other athlete, for that matter) uses performance enhancing drugs? We allow them to use performance enhancing shoes and performance enhancing bats. They have performance enhancing mitts and performance enhancing braces and wraps. They drink performance enhancing water, and eat performance enhancing meals. They do performance enhancing exercise and stay performance enhancingly fit.
My point? Consider this: in 1908, the major league batting average was about .245; in 2004, it was about .269. Between 1900 and 1920, there were 13 occasions in which the major league home run leader had fewer than 10 home runs for the entire season; in 1998, Mark McGuire hit 70 home runs in a single season. Why? Because, over time, professional baseball players have learned how to "enhance" their performance. And it's a good thing. We SHOULD learn how to be better at what we do (including playing baseball).
But somewhere, someone decided that creams or drugs, as a performance enhancer, shouldn't be accepted. Further, they determined that if someone used them, they should be charged as a criminal. Why? I honestly don't know. What I DO know is that the justice system spends far too much time and money on things that the American public has no problem taking care of on it's own.
The simple laws of economics say that if there's no demand for a good or service, it's price will plummet. I read somewhere that, even before he was indicted, Bond's was let go by the San Francisco Giants. Why? Because he wasn't selling anymore. Somehow the baseball loving public made known that they weren't interested in buying Bonds anymore; he had no value to them. And the powers-that-are at Giants headquarters listened (because that's what they do).
So why, I ask, does the criminal justice system care? The public has spoken; they've said they don't approve. And teams will listen. There will always (I'm sure) be a few outlaws. But by and large, most players (I'd guess) aren't going to jeopardize their "deal" to "enhance" their performance through means that we, the buyers, don't approve of.
So let baseball be.
Thursday, November 22, 2007
I searched around on the net, and found some interesting statistics. According to a fascinating site I found, three-quarters of households considered "poor" in America own a car. 97% of poor households in this country have a color television. Forty-three percent of poor Americans actually own their own home.
Walk down any street in any crowded city here in the US: how many naked, starving children do you see? In fact, how often do you find a starving adult? And what of the homeless? Most cities have shelters where even the most destitute among us can eat a warm meal, bathe and sleep in a warm bed (or at least on a cot).
Contrast that with any of a number of third-world nations. The summer before I began college, I spent some time on a missions trip to the Ivory Coast. I recall walking down unpaved streets in one of the major cities, watching as parents sent their naked, malnourished children up to the "white Americans" to beg for food or money. I remember one guy who was traveling with us felt particularly sorry for a young lady, and gave her $30. She collapsed the ground crying. We moved on. Later that evening, when we arrived back at the home where we were staying, that young lady was waiting out front. Confused, we asked the guide what was going on. He conversed for a few moments with the young lady, then came back to us, furious.
"What did you do?" he asked, angrily. "She will not leave now because you have bought her. You cannot give these people that much money. She believes she is to be your wife now," he told my traveling companion, who'd thought he was merely blessing a poor soul. "You must go explain to her that you do not want her," he went on. "Otherwise, you will never be rid of her. Because you gave her so much, she now belongs to you."
As I recall, the average annual wage of the citizens of that poor country was somewhere in the neighborhood of $300 American. A small apartment (considered condemnable, by our standards) would rent out for around $1200 per month in that same country. Thus, many of the residents of the city we stayed in lived in cardboard boxes or makeshift wood huts. They died of maladies that, to us, seem everyday or commonplace, easily curable, but to them, are deadly for lack of money to pay for decent health care. Their children steal to eat, or worse, sell themselves to feed their families. And when you show a bit of kindness to them, out of pity, they offer themselves-their entire life-to you in return, for a simple act of mercy.
But we, who are so blessed, so incredibly fortunate-we set aside a day, a "special" day, a day for "thanksgiving." The rest of the year, I guess, we worry and fret and complain, griping about "gender inequity" and "the glass ceiling" and struggling "paycheck to paycheck" and rising fuel costs. We live our lives frustrated and unhappy because we just don't have it as good as we feel we should.
But, oh: on that one day, we sure are thankful. So thankful, in fact, that we take a day off work, and overindulge in good food, deserts, football on television, and sleep.
Oh, and just before we eat, we take thirty seconds to thank God for His blessings.
I'm not discouraging Thanksgiving; on the contrary, it's admirable that somebody, somewhere saw fit to take time out to truly give thanks for our blessings. But I AM encouraging making it a real day of Thanksgiving; or, rather, making it a lifestyle.
Remember that even the least among us lives far above the vast majority in the world.
God, never let me forget, and help me to LIVE a LIFE of thanksgiving.
Have a fantastic holiday, and remember the reason for the day.
Monday, November 19, 2007
"That was the sheriff's office."
"What'd they want," I asked, barely awake.
"They asked to talk to you."
"Oh," I said, hoping beyond hope that they'd at least have the decency to wait until morning to come pick me up for whatever crime I'd committed.
"I told them that you weren't available."
Apparently she wanted them to wait until morning too.
"They said they found your car."
"WHAT?!?!" I asked, wide awake now. "Which car?"
"The Honda," she said. We've only had the thing three weeks or so. Thing was, it was right out front when I'd fallen asleep a few hours earlier. If I'd thought for a moment, I'd have realized that it couldn't be that car; we haven't yet registered it in our name.
"I asked them which Honda, 'cuz ours is still out front," she said. "They said it's a '96 green Honda Accord."
We sold that three years ago. To a girl who goes to church with us.
"Oh," I said. "Let's go back to sleep."
"I told them we haven't owned that car for awhile," she said. "They asked if I was sure. I told them that I was pretty sure. They said they'd get back to us."
You'd think law enforcement would have access to current Department of Motor Vehicles records.
She text messaged the girl who now owns the car. She replied a few minutes later that the car was fine. It hadn't been stolen; she'd left it in the church parking lot the evening before, and our diligent law enforcement agency "found" it for her a few hours later. They drove down to the church parking lot and picked it up, safe and intact, at 2:30 in the morning.
I told Shawna to come back to bed; she was standing at the bedroom window staring out at our cars, as if they were in increased danger. She came to bed; she lay there shaking-adrenaline pumping, for a few minutes. I fell asleep. This sleep wasn't dark and dreamless.
In the dream, I was reading a newspaper story that quoted me. The quote was something like:
"Ah don't rahtly know, t'be awnest witcha. Ah reckon that they'll get some of thar money-ah shore do hope so."
The story then pointed out, apparently to support the reporters' supposition that I'm unlearned and ignorant, that I did not know what colors were in the US flag; nor did I know that California and Mexico each had their own flag.
I woke up in a sweat, cursing Donald Trump vehemently (well, I sort of silently cursed him, minus expletives, as I don't curse).
The newspaper story was chronicling the rise and fall of the business that I'd been a partner in-well, really, it was chronicling the fall because that's what sells papers (and, perhaps, because it was my dream, and thoughts of that fall are what eat away at my sanity, day after day). It was telling about a project that we'd worked on, the project that was to be our crowning achievement. And it was telling how we'd ran out of money, and had to walk away from the project. It was telling the story of how we'd had to pursue legal action against the developer, who promised to pay us. And it was telling the story of thirty or so homeowners with partially completed homes, left in the lurch when that same developer who owed us money, filed bankruptcy, leaving them without the means to finish their homes.
And it was making me out to be the dummy who charged in like a fool, and caused the whole house of cards to collapse.
I can't recall, but I'd guess that if I'd searched for the byline on that newspaper story, it would have had my name in it. After all, it was my dream wasn't it?
But then, I'm telling the last chapter first, aren't I?
It really started back in 2002 when Dad, my brother-in-law and I went into business for ourselves. In hindsight it was foolhardy, if not downright stupid. We were each in debt personally, and none of us had any cash (about $4,000 to our names-collectively). Nor did we have any business (that is, we had no customers).
Dad had carried a California General Contractor's license for a little over twenty years, and had quite a bit of on-and-off building experience. We'd talked, half-jokingly, for a number of years, of starting our own home-building business, but had never progressed past the talking point. Then, suddenly, circumstances changed, and the stars were suddenly aligned. So we made the plunge.
Our first job was, strangely enough, installing linoleum on the top of four cash register stands in a newly remodeled grocery store. We bid it at $700. It cost us $900 to get a professional to come in and fix our mistakes.
Our second job was to tile a shower. We got smart and charged what the job was worth this time-$900. Three full weekends later, the shower was tiled (to a tile bill of about $400-leaving $500 to cover our combined labor for three weekends; as best I can figure, it worked out to about $4.50/hour for each of us). That paid for our new logo and business cards.
We were in business!
We picked up a remodel job in a nearby city. The homeowner wanted to remove a number of walls, install a brand new kitchen (maple cabinetry, granite counters, recessed lighting-the "Architectural Digest" package). We quoted somewhere around $17,000. I think, in hindsight, if we'd finished the project, the cabinetry alone would have cost us $17,000. We didn't, though. Somewhere between removing the various walls, and installing a 38' long engineering beam in the ceiling, with ceiling and walls exposed, insulation removed, and electrical wires hanging like spaghetti from the ceiling (all to the tune of about $6,000 worth of billing-unpaid), the owner found out that his bank loan wasn't going to happen. He had a total of $11,000 to complete this project that we'd already started, and he decided he didn't want to pay us the $6,000 that we'd not yet billed.
This was my introduction to the world of small business. Small business, in my experience, is not glamorous; it's not even very fun most of the time. It's hand-to-mouth; you eat what you make. You sometimes chase checks to the bank. You borrow a nice suit and tie, and a respectable vehicle, from a friend, so that you can present a decent image to some prospective customer who likely wouldn't pay you a dime if they knew that your checking account had $27 in it. You meet customers at their home-and tell them it's a "value-added" service, when in reality, it's because your office doubles as your garage.
And when a customer decides he doesn't want to pay you for work you've already completed, you come home, and realize that you have two children who probably won't eat tomorrow if you don't get some money from someone. So you call that customer, and you grit your teeth, and you, in the steeliest tone you can muster, explain all the state contractor's codes, and the various penalties for non-payment, and you reference all the court cases you can find (and some that you've made up, to boot) in which non-paying customers are punished severely by our prudent justice system. And you explain how, if there's not a check waiting first thing in the morning, you'll drive down to the building department, and tell them about this guy who's doing a major remodel without a building permit.
And then you hate yourself. But you cry and laugh all the same as you hang up the phone, because he tells you, with fear and resignation in his voice, that first thing in the morning, there'll be a check waiting.
I slept well that night, for the first time in a few months. Our first real payday was tomorrow; tomorrow it would all begin to pay off.
We laughed and joked on the way to pick up the check. Just as he'd said, the check was waiting. We took it to the bank, hoping there were funds to cover it. It was good. We almost laughed out loud standing there in the bank.
For the first time since we'd opened the business checking account, we sat down that night to do the books with smiles on our faces.
We jumped in, mentally tallying up our individual paychecks. We joked as we organized various receipts and invoices. Then we started tallying them up. By the time the Accounts Payable were fully tallied, none of us were smiling. Mother, I think, might have been crying softly. It didn't leave more than $400 or so to go around. Our first paycheck since we'd been in business, and the three of us (no other real income between us, to speak of) had to find a way to split $400.
"Paul, what are we going to do?" Mother asked Dad, as I recall.
"God will take care of us Becky," he told her. "He always has."
And He did. He always has.
There's more to the story; I'll tell it, perhaps, over the next few weeks. It really is an interesting story. And while I KNOW it doesn't seem to relate AT ALL with my dream from last night, it will all come together-including why I don't like Donald Trump. But I realize now that I'd have avoided a little heartache if, in all my reading, I'd spent some time reading the best business book ever written:
"But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first getting estimates and then checking to see if there is enough money to pay the bills? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of funds. And then how everyone would laugh at you! They would say, `There's the person who started that building and ran out of money before it was finished!'
-Luke 14:28-30 (NLT)
I imagine a few people laughed at us and said things like, "There are those guys who started that construction project, and lost money on it! They've not had a paycheck in four months!" I know that, lying in bed that sleepless night, after learning that I would have to scramble to find some cash, I berated myself. I lay there, heart beating a hole in my chest, fear holding the sleep at bay, wondering how Shawna could still love me, how she could ever stay with a person who couldn't adequately provide for his family.
She knew. She could tell what was going through my mind. She pulled me close and held me. And I cried, ashamed of myself. And she told me not to worry, that she loved me, and that it would all be OK.
And it was.
-to be continued...
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Apparently, their research has shown that hip fat contains polyunsaturated fatty acids, which contribute greatly to the development of the fetus' brain. They found that children's scores on cognition tests are correlated to their mothers hip-to-waist ration, an indicator of the amount of fat stored on the hips.
I'm digging around here, but I can't seem to find any photographs of Mother, pre-PJ, so I can't say for certain whether or not I'm intelligent. I certainly hope that I am.
On that note, though; my personal research has proven that there CAN be exception, in that Shawna has NEVER had an ounce of extra fat on her hips (or anywhere else for that matter; it's frustrating, I ain't gonna lie to ya). But our children are both still extremely intelligent.
I contemplated this phenomenon for quite a while this evening, and I think I've figured it out.
Those of you who know me know that, during the time Shawna was pregnant with both Lex and Gentry, I was...obese-NO; fat-uh uh; robust-umm...; large-weeell; fluffy-YES! Shawna, on the other hand, was perpetually slim and svelte, despite our unborn children's best efforts to nearly break all known birth-weight records (well, not quite; but they WERE relatively large!). Now, though, I'm a bit slimmer. I now realize that there was a divine purpose in it! I, personally (by virtue of the polyunsaturated fatty acids I stored in my hips-as well as my stomach, butt and face), contributed to the high intelligence of both my children!
I'm quite proud!
I'm sure glad God made me fat! Gave me something to pass on to future generations!
Monday, November 12, 2007
How does one exhibit the qualities or spirit of Christ when someone they love is hurting? Is it possible for a person, striving to be a Christian, to reach into the human body and heal a failing liver? How can one, from a distance, provide strength and support for a husband sitting in a hospital room, waiting for word on the status of a liver transplant for his 24 year-old wife? How does one, knowing a friend is bowing under the burden, do as Galatians said, and "...bear one another's burdens..."?
Exodus chapter 17 tells the story of Israel doing battle with the Amalekites:
And it came to pass, when Moses held up his
hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek
prevailed. But Moses' hands [were] heavy; and they took a stone, and put
[it] under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the
one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady
until the going down of the sun.
I can't be present physically, but perhaps, from a distance, I can do as Aaron and Hur did, and hold up the hands of those whom we love, who are under such an unimaginable load, through prayer.
And in doing so, I think perhaps we'll have done what we can to truly exhibit the spirit of Jesus. For as John 13 says:
By this shall all [men] know that ye are my
disciples, if ye have love one to another.
And what better way to show our love, than to bear the burden of another?
Visit the blog updating all on progress. And, please, wherever you are, regardless your spiritual background, take a moment and pray for Bethani and Brian Roam.
"jesus clears the temple on a skateboard"
I'm half inclined to think someone is just messing with me!
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Came across this neat blog this evening-similar to indexed, but a little more wordy (and perhaps a little less abstract). Still chock full of meaning though.
Where else can you find lists like this Disney World itinerary, or this list of boyfriend criteria, or this list of pros and con's as to whether or not to "ask her out," or this unique to-do list, or this list of things to do once the teaching stint is up, or the to-do list of an intent teetotaler, or even this neat list of catchy cliches.
An altogether great place to visit on the web, especially when you need some perspective.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Cameron, when asked by a friend, while at a social function, if he'd like to meet Moss, enthusiastically said yes. The politician, nerves aflutter, could think of nothing to say, so began to ask about her experience with recent flooding in her hometown. After a few moments of conversation regarding the floods, and damage to Moss' home (and those in her neighborhood), Moss said, "God, you sound like a really useful guy, can I have your phone number?"
"I went back to my table and said 'The good news is, I met Kate Moss and she wanted my telephone number'," Cameron told chat show host Michael Parkinson on ITV television on Friday.
"The bad news is I think she thinks I'm something to do with drainage."
The story implied that perhaps Moss should be embarrassed. I, for one, am proud of her.
Shawna, the other day, was pulled into some conversation about politics. She leaned over to me and asked, "Are we Democrats or Republicans?" I imagine that were Vice President Cheney-or perhaps even President Bush-to walk into a private party we were attending, Shawna would ask to see their invitation; she simply pays no attention to politics, and has no intention of educating herself in matters political.
I only wish there were more like Shawna and Kate Moss.
Let me ask you this: would you be inclined to elect Britney Spears to some high public office? One of the Olsen twins? Or Lindsey Lohan, Michael Jackson, Mel Gibson, Nick Nolte, Michael Richards or Owen Wilson? All have demonstrated recently some troubling behavior. It seems that in showbiz, there's no shortage of folks who are on the fringe, "acting out," living on the edge. Does Hollywood attract these folks? Or does it create them? I'd contend it's the latter. Plenty of good people step into the Hollywood fame-making machine, only to come out the back side unrecognizably bent, a far cry from anything remotely resembling socially acceptable.
And what of politics? Washington is fast becoming to smart people (with Harvard law degrees), what Hollywood (or Nashville) is to beautiful (or talented) people. The quickest way to get rich and famous if you aren't drop-dead gorgeous and you can't sing a lick, is to get yourself elected to some high government office.
Because the deathly draw of fame has invaded politics. As proof, allow me to introduce President Bill Clinton, whose chief concern, as I recall, upon moving out of the White House was his "legacy,"-that is, would he be remembered?
Not convinced? Consider this; Barack Obama, United States Presidential candidate, appeared as a guest on NBC's Saturday Night Live on Saturday, November 4, 2007. But wait! Don't get too excited, you self-righteous Republicans. A few years back, Arizona Republican Senator, John McCain guest-hosted on the same show. In fact, Fred Thompson, another Republican Presidential hopeful, played a regular part on television's Law & Order.
Need more? Consider the current slate of Presidential contenders. Of them, Barack Obama, John McCain, John Edwards, Rudy Guiliani and Fred Thompson (as well as potential contenders Al Gore and Newt Gingrich) have all published at least one book. Often bringing an enormous payday to the politician-writer (like Hillary Clinton's near-record $8 Million advance).
What does all this mean? Merely that politics has turned into another venue for building fame. It's become, especially in the higher eschelons, a means to an end-at least for the politicians. Landing a top spot means recognition, respect, money and long-term security (really not all that different from landing a top role in a Hollywood blockbuster). None of these are, inherently, bad. But I'm convinced that, in the wrong hands, they can prove enormously damaging (consider President Clinton's escapades while in office, Congressman Tom Delay financial improprieties, or Senator Larry Craig's embarrassing dalliances-in an airport restroom, of all places).
It's inexplicable in my mind, but somehow, there seems to be some correlation between a rise in fame and the exhibition of morally repugnant (or at least embarrassing) behavior.
And so, somehow it seems it would almost be better if we could all be like Kate Moss or Shawna. If we didn't recognize a politician when he walked into the room-or at the very least, if we treated him just as we treat everyone else, perhaps they'd be more inclined to focus on their job instead of on advancing their own personal agendas.
On the other hand, I guess if my writing abilities alone aren't enough to see me published, I can always run for high office; I hear the book deals pay well.
Friday, November 9, 2007
Then, following a particularly biting comment by Katie, I felt a bit foolish. Really, how likely is it that someone is going to be searching for God's thoughts on bubble gum on the web? Not very.
It start me thinking though. My sitemeter has a feature that allows me to see, for those visitors who come to MyndFood via a search engine, what they were searching for. So I made a short list.
Here are a few. They're interesting to say the least; in some cases, downright hilarious!
- "what is the bubble gum cow called"
- "sleep deprivation makes you look older"
- "can you really chew spruce sap"
- "how long does dubble bubble gum last"
- "flyless briefs"
- "gum chewing is like smoking"
- "chinese food SYMBOLS"
- "jesus clears the temple t-shirt"
- "i'm very sorry, but i have to go to bed now -."
- "Paul Wetter of Wetter Construction"
- "grapes of galilee"
- "done that got that tee shirt"
- "sleep deprivation life expectancy"
Yes, folks; these are actual search terms that Net surfers have used to find MyndFood in just that past few days. I think it's a testament to the variety you'll find here, and it excites me.
It's also a little disconcerting though. I'm not quite sure how I should feel about someone searching the Net for "what is the bubble gum cow called" or "i'm very sorry, but i have to go to bed now."
At any rate, I thought you'd enjoy...
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
I don't think he's a MyndFood reader. He's far too busy doing boy things like climbing trees; making dog poop and sand soup (no, I've never tried it); riding his "scootow" or his "skatebowd"; playing with his "caws" (he doesn't really play cars; he lines them up in virtual parking lots. I think he might be destined to be either a Valet or a parking structure designer); or playing with (or drawing) guns (if the parking career doesn't work out, he'll likely choose some career requiring ownership of firearms-which scare me to death).
Having spent the last five years living in close proximity, I'm firmly convinced that character is not formed over time. It pre-exists, and is merely uncovered over time.
And so much has been uncovered already within Gentry. He has more character and personality than most educated adults I know.
I pray he never loses it.
I love you Bubs (even though you're not reading this)! Have a wonderfully boyish birthday!
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I tuned out.
Not that I don't have strongly held beliefs; I do. But, as a respected colleague says: if you have faith, no evidence is needed; if you don't have faith, no amount of evidence is sufficient. I've found that if a person is not searching, you're likely not going to help them find anything.
Something, though, caught my attention, and I tuned back in. One of my colleagues indicated that, in his mind, the Bible is subject to interpretation in that there are glaring inconsistencies with respect to the implied timeline in the Bible, that conflicts with "proven scientific fact." Perhaps, he said, much of the Bible was written simply as a "story" that represented the beliefs of the writers at the time-to some degree, based on reality, but nowhere near factually accurate.
I found this curious. I asked him if, in his mind, the Bible, as a whole, was subject to interpretation. He said of course not.
"The important stuff, like the New Testament, is pretty literal, I think."
He had to leave soon after, as his connecting flight departs a bit earlier than mine. But as he left, a gentleman at an adjoining table chimed in. He mentioned that he couldn't help overhearing our conversation, and that something I said resonated with him.
I asked him what it was.
"You made a comment," he said, "about taking the Bible literally. You said that if one takes a portion of the Bible literally, don't they have to then accept that the entire Bible is literal.
"Modern religion," he said, "tends to treat religion as 'take the parts you like, and ignore the parts you don't' smorgasbord. I've always had a problem with that."
And therein lies the problem with most religion. Once you accept that some portion of the Bible is subject to human judgment, then you're left with the quandary of deciding which portions are applicable, and which are just "a story." And then you have to ask yourself, "who is the authority." That is, who is qualified to determine what portions of the Bible are meant to be accepted "as gospel," and which portions are just "fluff." Invariably, we turn to our own judgment-which is likely clouded by our fleshly desires and normal human inclinations.
Which makes for a "buffet" type salvation-religion that, as my new friend here in the restaurant put it, is "feel-good." A salvation that suits your lifestyle, that's not uncomfortable at all-is, in fact, convenient.
Which is a huge departure from my perception of salvation.
Not that it must always be a burden to bear. But if it were easy, if it didn't require stifling our nature, conquering our fleshly tendencies, then why is it necessary?
I don't claim to understand the Bible; I certainly don't claim to understand salvation. But I do know that, the moment I start "building my own salvation" I've defeated the purpose.
Which is the danger you face when you conclude that portions of the Bible don't apply.
Monday, November 5, 2007
I'm traveling again on business. I despise business travel; I do it as infrequently as possible (I hate being away from the family-more, I think, than they hate my being away; but, then, who'd blame them). At any rate, it's to the point now that I wake up on the morning of a business trip expecting the worst. It seemed early on that today was going to be one of those days.
The plane was an ancient commuter job-not painted; done up in that shiny steel that you can't look at when the sun's shining. As we were boarding (we boarded from a stepladder; no fancy tunnel-thingy for Fresno), I noticed strange looking rectangular pieces all over the fuselage. As I got closer, I scrutinized one of them. They were patches. Small squares of metal, about 2"x2", screwed haphazardly to the body of the airplane. All over the place. As best I can tell, the plane doubled as a fighter in World War I (or perhaps Korea), and the patches are covering bullet holes. Very strange.
At any rate, I boarded without giving it much thought. The plane wasn't large-perhaps 25 passengers. I'm certain, now, that the patches are covering bullet holes, in that I'm firmly convinced that the plane has gone down in the past. Over water. I only wish they'd reinstalled my seat cushion after the prior occupant detached it, and used it as a flotation device. I'm not kidding.
We completed boarding and buckled up, and sat waiting for the steward to batten down the hatches and shove off. And we waited. And waited. Just as we started getting restless, one of the ground crewmen climbed the ladder into the cabin, had an urgent discussion with the steward, and then stuck his head into the cockpit. Much important looking, animated discussion ensued.
They finally settled their differences, and the steward stuck his head out, and bellowed something at the rest of the ground crew. They started handing bags up to him. As he was making his way toward the rear of the cabin, I asked the guy what was going on.
"We have too much weight in the baggage compartment. We have to distribute some of the bags throughout the cabin. We also need some passengers to change seats, otherwise the plane will be out of balance."
I chuckled. "Seriously," I said. "What's going on?"
He gave me a blank stare.
I stopped laughing.
He was serious. They spread the luggage about the cabin (I'm not lying folks), made a few people move, then went back up to the front to converse. I guess it wasn't quite enough because the captain came out and asked all of us to de-board the plane, and go to the terminal and use the restroom just to see if we could shed a few more pounds (OK, I'm joking! They didn't do that! But I swear, I'm NOT making the rest of this up).
Needless to say, the entire flight, not a single person moved for fear of throwing off the fragile balance of the plane.
But, then, I digress. I arrived. Finally.
The first order of business was dinner with two of my colleagues and one of my favorite bloggers.
We had a fantastic meal at perhaps the best steakhouse in the nation (fantastic food; eat there if you ever have the chance-you'll not regret it). But I left the dinner convinced that I'm at least a lap behind everyone else on the track.
You know what I'm talking about: I'm sitting at the table attempting to participate in an enlightened business discussion with two PhD's and a lawyer. And I (who barely managed to cram four years of undergraduate business school into six) am without question not carrying my weight. Occasionally I'd interject some witty, or seemingly intelligent comment, only to watch all conversation at the table come to a screeching halt-three bewildered stares aimed directly at me. Finally, just as I'm ready to fall on my butter knife, my colleague rescues me with an uneasy chuckle, and some comment about "those Red Sox."
OK, it wasn't that bad. Still, though, It's obvious I'm out of my league here. I don't have the education (I was a mediocre undergraduate; I'd love an MBA, but the thought of being tied down to a classroom for two more years causes me to hyperventilate). I don't have the experience (I'm 28 years old and I've only worked for myself, and for the company I currently work for, my entire professional career). I don't have the sophistication (many of the books that they discussed I have on my bookshelf; but only to make me appear well-rounded and sophisticated. They all still have bookmarks about 1/4 the way through, and likely always will).
And I'm more certain than ever that I don't have the intellect. During these philosophical discussions, I feel like I'm running full tilt to keep up with a few guys out on a leisurely stroll.
And so, I routinely ask myself, "how did I ever get here?" It floors me. Makes me want to look around guiltily to see if anyone is watching. Not that I did anything dishonest-I didn't (I don't think). It just seems that I'm a high-school footballer playing first-string for the New England Patriots, and every time I step out on that field, I'm half afraid the coach is going to run out, put his arm around my shoulder and say, "Um, Paul; we've had this little mix-up; something to do with HR..."
But then, maybe we all feel like that from time to time.
Those experiences have always driven me-to push harder, to run faster, to devote more energy, to give more, more, more. It's something inherent in me-to rise to the occasion; to run with the fastest.
But then, on second thought, maybe it doesn't matter. Maybe this is enough. Maybe I don't need to operate on some superior intellectual plane.
I think maybe that airplane ride was the best thing that could have happened to me today. Because I'm afraid I have a tendency to push all the suitcases to one area when I feel inadequate; to devote all my energy to perfecting that one area of my life.
And I think maybe God jumped in in advance today to let me know that I need to make sure I keep things spread out.
So, on my way out tomorrow, I'm going to stop at the first store I come to, and buy a puzzle to work on with the family when I get home.
That's about as balanced as I can imagine.
The Writer's Guild represents screen writers all over the nation-east coast and west, big screen and small. They've gone to bat on behalf of the writers, refusing to sign a new contract until a few specific demands were met.
At the center of the controversy are a rather muddy set of demands (which I, admittedly don't completely understand-probably because I don't really care). It seems, though, that the writers are demanding some portion of the rights to income resulting from DVD and Internet sales. They currently receive only a small part of that income stream. They are angling for a more substantive share.
This is, according to the various news outlets carrying the story, particularly troubling in that, while most major movie studios maintain a backlog of completed scripts (giving them some flexibility in the event of a strike), various television shows do not. There's much concern over the short-term future of some key, writer intensive shows-namely the Jay Leno show and the David Letterman show. Apparently these guys rely on a whole slough of comedic writers-all of whom, beginning tomorrow, will be walking a picket line. The question: can Leno and Letterman effectively write their own stuff? Or will the shows go off-air without writers?
A concerning question to say the least. Stay tuned for future updates.
In other news:
California wildfires, to date, have destroyed approximately 493,000 acres, more than 1,780 homes; there are confirmed at least 14 fire-related death and 30 civilians and 52 firefighters were admitted to various hospitals.for observation or treatment. Authorities remain concerned that the fire will re-ignite, destroying additional property.
Saturday morning, a tragic accident (in the fog) on a local freeway ended up being over 100 cars strong, and nearly 2 miles long, as I recall. Two died, many more were injured and taken to surrounding hospitals.
The presidential election is fast approaching. The field is starting to clear up a bit, but I have to say, none of them really seem overly qualified to be President of the United States. Which means that we'll likely end up with a less-than-stellar president.
Do you ever get the feeling that we've got our priorities a little off? That we've lost our perspective? I think that's the case here. How could a story about Letterman and Leno having to write their own material pop to the top of the news feed in light of all the other things that are notably newsworthy?
It's a shame.
Friday, November 2, 2007
Hop on over, and visit FUEL Student Ministries on the web. You can also check out their blog.
It's a cutting edge student group that Shawna and I have been actively involved with (in some leadership capacity) for about 7 years. We love what we do, and are excited about the direction that the group is moving in.
Check it out. Leave a congratulatory note on the blog. Let the group know you support them (from afar)!
1. What word is usually pronounced incorrectly?
2. What gets wetter and wetter the more it dries?
3. The man who invented it doesn't want it. The man who bought it doesn't need it. The man who needs it doesn't know it. What is it?
4. A certain crime is punishable if attempted, but not if committed. What is it?
5. You use a knife to slice my head, and weep beside me when I'm dead. What am I?
6. Pronounced as one letter,
And written with three,
Two letters there are,
And two only in me.
I'm double, I'm single,
I'm black, blue, and gray,
I'm read from both ends,
And the same either way.
What am I?
7. Why is it better to have round manhole covers than square?
8. A man marries twenty women in his village, but isn't charged with polygamy. Why?
9. Your sock drawer contains ten pairs of white socks and ten pairs of black socks. If you're only allowed to take one sock from the drawer at a time and you can't see what color sock you're taking until you've taken it, how many socks do you have to take before you're guaranteed to have at least one matching pair?
10. What's the largest amount of money you can have in change and still not have change for a dollar?
11. I have two U.S. coins that add up to fifty-five cents. One is not a nickel. What coins are they?
Have fun folks!