Thursday, January 31, 2008

Holes in the Earth

Yesterday when I got home from work, Gentry and Lex were in the front yard playing. They both had table spoons, and were squatting over a sizeable hole in the grass.

I walked over, and peered down into the hole. They were industriously hacking at the sides and bottom of a pit roughly the size and depth of a five gallon bucket, removing the dirt, spoonful by spoonful, and piling it in the grass off to the side.

I watched them for a moment. They ignored me.

"What are you guys doing?" I finally asked them. "Digging a hole to China?" I laughed.

They stopped digging, and slowly lifted their heads and looked at each other in that "we-know-something-he-doesn't" way.

"China?" Lex said, incredulously. "No, Dad!"

"Oh," I said. "I feel stupid now. I'm sorry. Well, what are you doing then?" I asked as they got back to their digging.

They stopped again and looked up at me, exasperated.

"Dad. You can't dig to China," Gentry said.

"Sure you can! We used to when we were kids!"

Lex tossed down her spoon, and stood and looked at me in disbelief. "No," she said, "you didn't. You MIGHT have dug a hole to the southern Indian Ocean, but not to China."

"Unless," Gentry said, "you gwew up in Costa Wica or somewhewe else in South Amewica."

"Um..." I said.

Lex grabbed my hand. "Come on." She dragged me into the house, jumped on the web, and navigated to a site that shows where, exectly, you'd pop out, if you dug right through, directily through the center of the earth, and straight out the other side.

"See Dad? We're on the opposite of the earth from the Indian Ocean, south of Madagascar. If you want to get to China, you have to start in South America."

I stared at them for a moment. They looked back at me briefly, then jumped up, and ran back outside. I was so dumbfounded that I couldn't think of anything else to say.

And, for the life of me, I can't imagine what it is they want to see at the Indian Ocean.

Oh yeah: be careful if you drive through town, if you go down our street, you might have some issues trying to navigate the huge pile of dirt that's creeping out into the road.

OK; that's not true. They didn't do that. But I WAS amazed to find on this website, last night, that if we were to dig that hole that we've all talked about since we were children, we'd end up nowhere near China. Lex was right; we'd pop up somewhere in the Indian Ocean, south of Madagascar.

I'm dejected, of course. It's strange isn't it, that you live your life hearing something that is, in hindsight, no more than a myth, and the evidence is right in front of us to prove that, but we readily accept it because we hear it so often.

You see, perception truly is reality. The truth really doesn't matter all that much when it comes to relating to other people; all that matters is what they BELIEVE to be the truth. I learned that lesson early on in business for myself. We started off with nothing (I wrote about it awhile back); no money, very little experience, and no real business to speak of. Only a passion and a vision for something great.

But we determined early on that we weren't going to show anyone the reality; we were going to show them what they wanted to see. And so we built a "brand"-a corporate identity, with a professional logo, nicely printed business cards, a website, nice shirts and logos on our truck. And I walked in to meet with prospective customers, having never built a home for a customer in my life, with my head up, a juanty walk, and a self-confident attitude. I listened to their questions, answered those that I knew the answers to, and made up answers to those that I didn't. All this, while we were operating our business out of a garage.

But it sold us. People believed it; they paid us good money to build houses for them. Why? Because that's what they wanted to believe. They WANTED an energetic, excited, professional and knowledgeable builder, who emanated experience, and most of all, security.

We were wise enough to recognize what it was that people who were looking to have a home built were TRULY wishing to buy. My job wasn't only to build houses. In fact, I think that my job, as a custom home builder, was to make people feel secure. To make them feel like it really is OK to pay these folks an enormous amount of money, and have them build me a home.

I guess maybe that made me a marketer; I prefer to think my job was to develop complimentary perceptions in the minds of our prospective customers.

In hindsight, maybe I messed up. We're, obviously not in business anymore. Why? A number of reasons. But I think that part of the reason is that, the whole time I was convincing our potential customers that we were a little more than we really were, I was slowly convincing myself. The job of a GOOD marketer is to build a perception in the mind of the customer that doesn't EXCEED the reality that the enterprise can create.

You see, I started to believe myself, and forgot my limitations. And reality went out the window. Why? For the same reason my customers did; because the picture that I painted for them was the picture that I wanted to see. And everytime I painted it, it became a little more real to me. Until it WAS the reality.

And that's where it all fell apart.

It pays to remember that, no matter how many people tell you that a deep enough hole will take you to China, if you act on it, you'll end up in the Indian Ocean.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Deanna and Shane (my sister and her husband), and their two children (Taylor and Trevin) were visiting this weekend from Arizona. They went to church on Sunday morning with Mother and Dad, and on Sunday evening with us.

On Monday, we all went into Fresno, and had a day out on the town. They all went to the bowling alley to play a few games, and I went to the DMV next door to pick up our registration and tags. I finally made it over to the bowling alley-just in time to pick up my game where Lex had started it. I didn't do all that bad-111, I think. But Shawna creamed me (she always does; 135 I think?). The embarrassing thing is that Gentry got 100; he's five. I had to struggle to say ahead of him!

We ended the day with a dinner at Tahoe Joe's. A fantastic dinner (I had crab legs for the first time in my life; they were good!).

Midway through dinner, Trevin gave us a biggest laugh of the evening. He looked up on the wall above us, and noticed that a moose's head was stuck up there. He stared at it for a moment, then leaned over to me and said, "That Moose's tail got broked!"

I think that slightly more than the tail was damaged.

Check out the pics.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


I'm going to a have a little more time on my hands here for the foreseeable future, so I thought I'd branch out a bit--take up a new hobby.

I've always been fascinated by meteorology--you know, those guys who come on the radio and say things like, "A high pressure system is passing through within the next forty-eight hours, creating a low pressure, cold front, with lows in the low-highs, and highs in the high lows, and a 30% chance of precipitation, with possible early morning fog."

I have no idea what that means. I think that it means it's likely to be cold, unless it's hot; and there's a possibility of rain, unless it's dry; and there could be fog; or it might be clear.

The amazing thing is the amount of money these guys get paid to do this. They're in high demand. So, I hopped online tonight to try to see what it takes to be a meteorologist. A four year degree in meteorology or atmospheric sciences is what it takes to get an entry level spot; a high level position requires a Ph. D.

A little disappointing, in that I'm kinda wanting to embrace it as a hobby now.

The thing is, though, is that these guys aren't really all that accurate. They go through all that training, and their forecasts are still so vague that you can't really pin them down.

I'm interested in accuracy.

So, on Dad's advice, I'm going to forego the education and forget forecasting. Instead, I'm going to do weather Postcasting. It's where I'll tell you, on a periodic basis, what the weather was like yesterday.

I'll always be accurate--100%, guaranteed. And I don't have to have nearly as much education.

Let me take a crack at it now:

"Yesterday was cold, but not too cold. The high was 52 degrees; the overnight low was 37 degrees. The wind blew moderately, and there was light rainfall on and off throughout the day, but for most of the day, the sun was shining. It was a great day for a picnic! There was no fog."

What do you think?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What's It Like There?

Shawna overheard Lex and Gentry talking the other day about babies. Lex had corralled him into playing Daddy to her twins; he's amiable enough about it, as she's just as willing to jump in and be his ringside manager or his opponent--depending on his mood--when he pulls on the boxing gloves that I bought him, and turns into the defending Lightweight Champion of the World!

Lex is a little like her dad; she knows it all, and what she doesn't know, she makes up. Gentry gets a little tired of it sometimes and he'll pipe up and silence her momentarily when she pops off in that smug, superior "I'm a first-grader; you don't even GO to school" way.

But it was still a surprise when, during their baby discussion, Lex asked Gentry if he remembered being in Mommy's tummy.

"Yep," he said.

"You do?"

"Yes," he reiterated, a little exasperated, "I do."

"Well, what's it like," she questioned him.

"Well," he started, "it's WEALLY dawk in thewe. And thewe's LOTS and LOTS of bones."

Lex looked at him for a moment, a little skeptical.

"Is that true?" she asked.

"Yes, Lex. It is. That's what it's like."

"Well, what did you eat?"

Without a pause, he said, "I just ate some of evewything Mommy ate!"

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Learn & Earn

The AP reported today what may turn out to be very good news for high school students looking for work. Locally, jobs are hard to come by if you happen to be a teenager; Katrina, a close friend of our family has been looking diligently for work for the past few months, to no avail. But if the new "Learn & Earn" program being promoted by former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich (a Republican, I'm embarrassed to say), in Georgia works, perhaps she'll secure an ongoing income.

As long as she's not doing too well in school.

There's only one qualification for participating in the program: you must be underperforming in math and science.

You heard right: underperforming. As in, a C or D, or perhaps even an F. If you can demonstrate that you're doing poorly in those subjects, you qualify for participation in a program where you're paid $8 per hour to study, and assuming you increase your grade in those subjects to a B, you'll get another $115 as a bonus.

This in a state where the minimum wage is a repressed $5.85 per hour, and the average hourly income is approximately $11 per hour.

The program is aimed at boosting students' motivation to learn and attend classes. Jackie Cushman, Gingrich's daughter, and his partner in the pilot project, said, "We want to try something new. We're trying to figure out what works. Is it the answer? No. Is it a possible idea that might work? Yes."

It won't be long before a new Student's Labor Union is formed, and annual collective bargaining agreements are reached, contracting for new, higher pay rates for underperforming students.

Absurd, I know, but no more absurd that paying students--no, BRIBING students--to pay attention and to get good grades. Isn't it enough that we provide a free education for all children, through high school? Most kids even receive a free lunch, at least through elementary school. Now we're bribing them into taking advantage of the opportunities that we've extended, but they're too narrow-minded (or perhaps foolish) to take full advantage of.

Meanwhile, poor Katrina sits here in Kerman, hoping for a call back from the new Carl's Jr that'll be opening in a few weeks. Because she's out of luck; she doesn't qualify for the "Learn & Earn" program because she's actually doing well in school. She attends class, works hard, and is passing her courses.

It's not too late, though. Perhaps she can fail a few courses. $8 an hour isn't bad money!

(Here's a plug for Katrina: she's a brilliant, hard-working young lady. Email me if you have local work for her; I'll pass it along. I guarantee you, you'll be far happier than you'll be with any single graduate of the "Learn & Earn" program!)

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Curse of the Information Age

He hurries down the sidewalk, oblivious to the crowds surging around him. He carries a bulging brown leather briefcase, as he types with his thumbs on a Blackberry, and talks aloud to no one--or perhaps to the blinking gadget nestled in his right ear.

As he steps off the curb, an arm shoots out, and pulls him back--just as a bright yellow taxi speeds through the space he would have occupied had his benefactor not stopped him. He barely notices. He means to thank the guy, but the light changes, and the guy moves off across the street before he can "Uh-huh...uh-huh..." his way out of the conversation with the contraption in his ear.

Twenty minutes later, he sits in his red leather desk chair, phone to his ear, absently mumbling, "um hmm...ya...m hmm..." every few seconds as he types an email. His Blackberry buzzes; he picks it up, stares at it for a moment, and types something.

"Uh huh..." he says to the person on the telephone.

You've seen the guy before. Perhaps he's even you. He's certainly me (occasionally). The lexicon of the language of success begins with the word "multitask". It's a quality, to be sure; it's a must-have if you want your resume to warrant a second look.

Today's successful executive...scratch that; today's successful businessperson...nope, scratch that too; today's successful employee...uh uh; that's not quite right either. You fill in the blank: executive, businessperson, employee, mechanic, student, parent--they all fit. Today's successful individual is expected to multitask his way to success.

I'm reminded of a guy I saw once in the drivers seat of a car stopped next to me at a red light. He was a businessman, presumably on his way to work. He had his pop-tart on a napkin up on the dash, as he held his cell phone between his shoulder and ear, and shaved with an electric razor. I remember watching him in adulation, thinking that a guy who could juggle all of that while at a red light, must truly be a star performer, a success bar none. I aspired to that level of professional greatness.

I now believe I've arrived. I'm disenchanted.

A recent report entitled "Information Overload: We Have Met The Enemy and He is Us", published by Basex, a leading business research firm and expert in "Collaborative Business Environments", asks the question, "How much information can any one person manage at a given time?"

The answer to that question, it contends, or rather, how accurately companies can answer that question when it comes to their employees' activities, may, in fact, prove critical in ensuring their long-term success.

We have entered the technology age, where every desk has a computer and a telephone; where everyone (including some of my daughter's first-grade classmates) has a cell phone; where Internet is found not only in offices and homes, but in Starbucks', airports and McDonald's; where you can not only talk on your mobile phone, but email, text-message, and even listen to music and podcasts on it. This is, of course, progress; because each of these devices, each medium or mode of transmitting information, enables the "knowledge workplace", a critical earmark of any successful company hoping to compete in the fast-paced "knowledge economy", and wishing to attract top-tier "knowledge workers".

And so we, in the business realm, do our best to adequately equip our army of faithful "knowledge workers". We stream the highest speed Internet connection directly to their desk. We drop in a telephone system (replete with voicemail, call-forwarding and dial-in message retrieval features), and place a phone on every desk. We outfit them with Blackberry's and PDA's. And then we send them out to battle.

And for all our enormous investment in those, the essentials of "knowledge working", have they, our select group of knowledge workers, contributed any additional value? According to Basex, this brave new world of information at your fingertips has brought an unexpected side-effect. According to the report, their research has shown that knowledge workers have a tendency to address information immediately; they fail to differentiate between urgent, and time-insensitive information. Thus, when an email pops up, they have a tendency to drop whatever they happen to be working on, and read and respond-regardless the urgency of the original message. When the phone rings, they abandon their urgent task, and jump to answer.

The net result, though, is that we knowledge workers tend to get distracted often through the course of a typical workday. Emails, text messages and phone calls, bombarding us from all directions, tend to cause our attention to bounce about like a ping-pong ball, rarely allowing us even a few uninterrupted moments to focus on completing a single task. Consequently, according to the Basex report, interruptions of this sort now take up approximately 28% of the average knowledge workers' day. This translates into 28 billion lost man-hours per annum in the United States alone. Assuming an average wage of $21/hour, this adds up to a total cost of $588 billion to companies in the United States, per year, all attributable to the advances brought to us by the age of information.

Yes, multitasking is ineffective. And the more you multitask, the less you get done. Lest you think yourself an exception to the rule, consider this: in 2005, Glenn Wilson of the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London gave an IQ test to a group of people who were to do nothing but take the test. He then gave the same test to a group of people who, while taking the test, were distracted by emails and ringing telephones. The results showed that the group who weren't distracted at all, who focused entirely on the task at hand, scored, on the average, ten (10) points higher than the group who had the distraction of ringing phones, and emails.

He then gave the test to a third group. This group was allowed to take the test uninterrupted, but only after having smoked marijuana. This group scored, on the average, six (6) points higher than the group who was continuously interrupted (and only four (4) points lower than the focus group). The evidence strongly suggests that the lack of focus brought about by the constant distractions that come with this age of information has a tendency to detract from the quality of work product produced. In fact, we might be better suited in taking away our employee's cell phones and laptops, and simply allowing them to smoke a bit of marijuana before work (Disclaimer: don't try this at home folks-please! The ideas and concepts contained herein are NOT the author's--particularly if you go try it and get in trouble by your parents).

What to do, then? Few companies can afford the productivity of their employees to be consistently crippled by 28%. That's a large enough percentage to drain many companies, especially in labor intensive sectors. It's impractical to yank out our networks and Internet, to cancel our mobile phone contracts, and turn off our email servers. No, technology isn't the problem. The problem lies within us.

What if you were to, the next time you sit down at the desk to focus on something, turn off the email program, or ignore incoming voice messages until some designated time later in the day? What if you were to turn the cell phone on silent, and place it in a desk drawer until the current project is finished? What if you were to ignore text messages until a specified time during the day? Could you then retain most of the valuable benefits of this information age, yet refrain from participating in the great information overload drain?

But then, you run the risk of ignoring a bit of time-sensitive information that might actually increase efficiency, were it known. And that's a risk that, psychologically, we're unwilling to take, to our collective detriment.

In short, information overload has forced us, if we ever hope to conquer it, to face the fact that we, as working individuals, have a problem with dealing with multiple concurrent flows of information. It drags down our productivity, but we can't seem to stop ourselves from allowing it to continue. If we are to ever reclaim that lost territory, that $588 billion per year, we're going to have to discipline ourselves into maintaining focus, even in the face of an avalanche of information.

This increased personal discipline will, I believe, be crucial in laying the groundwork for long-term success. In the absence of a focused knowledge workforce, and with the perpetual advent of new information technologies, we'll continue to see diminishing returns from our employees.

It's been this way, though, for all of recorded history. Each time a brave explorer pushed into uncharted territories, he was faced, at some point in his quest, with an obstacle that challenged his will to explore the new land. But the truly great recognize the obstacle, and work through or around it, still striving for their prize. The advances possible in this, the Information Age, are great. Enormous potential lies, largely untapped, in harnessing the full power of the knowledge economy. But it can, too, be our downfall.

Our charge is simply to discipline ourselves, and to maintain focus. In doing so, we'll most effectively channel all of the potential power at our very fingertips.

The Basex report is downloadable by clicking this link:

Woodlief Again

In my mind, you can only quote or reference the work of some other writer so many times before readers begin either to suspect you're besotted with the oft-quoted mentor, or that you haven't a solitary thought or idea that you can claim wholly as your own.

Or, perhaps it simply means the quoted writer (in this case, the venerable Tony Woodlief, who's popping up here oftener and oftener) has leaped that final hurdle upon which we, the writing masses, all set our sights. That hurdle is a huge one, but one which, when cleared, bridges the vast divide between the world that I (as a writer), along with most other writers out here in the blogosphere, occupy, and that lofty and respected realm of the truly legitimate, and much-read, writers. My world is one in which the time I spend writing a piece, I suspect, generally exceeds the sum-total time spent by all of you, my dear readers, actually reading it (particularly when it's as complex, and mind-numbing as this one). That other world--the one that I've got my sights set on, and which is, I think, now occupied by Mr. Woodlief--is one where we, the multitude of faithful readers, await each new word with bated breath and eager anticipation; and each piece is treasured, almost as a work of art, something to gaze on and ponder as a thing of beauty.

But I digress.

I don't know how I missed it, but a week or so ago Mr. Woodlief posted, over at Sand in the Gears, an utterly fantastic essay that perfectly describes today's political climate-and in doing so, exposes why so many of us can scarcely listen to, or watch, more than five minutes of political diatribe on the news without turning the dial to TBN or public broadcasting's special on "The Role of the Dulcimer in 19th Century Ozark Folk Music."

I was talking to a few teenagers the other day about the upcoming elections. One is not yet old enough to vote, but will be by the November General Election. She was excited about voting, and was asking who I intended on voting for, and what I thought of Hillary and Obama and Giuliani. She said that she thought she was a moderate, based on some survey she'd taken in a class at school (although, I can't see how; she's the most idealistic, "the-world-is-entirely-black-and-white", person I know. In my experience, people like that can't ever seem to find any middle ground). But the thing that amazed me is that she, having never before voted, having had little or no personal experience in politics, or with the repulsive wrangling of politicians, knew how she was supposed to act. She had all the facial expressions and cynical statements down pat. We talked about political stances, and particular platforms of various candidates, and she did plenty of eye-rolling, and made the appropriate sarcastic comments--all intended to convey an overwhelming distrust of, and general dissatisfaction with, politicians and their ilk.

How is it that a seventeen year-old teenager, who's had no political interaction whatsoever, intuitively understands that our political process is a joke, nothing to be proud of, something to be cynical about? That's the sad truth that Woodlief depicts so well in his post.

Go over and read it. It's thought provoking (if nothing else); and if my recent posting is all the mental nourishment you're getting of late, you need a little pick-me-up!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Quote of the Week

"...we are a nation besotted with our rights, and fearful of our responsibilities."

-Tony Woodlief (in his recent post, entitled "The Future of the American Idea"--which I STRONGLY suggest you go read).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I read a sports news story today about a teenage girl who was booed by fans at an Indianapolis vs. San Diego playoff game last week when she went on the field to accept an award. The girl, Anna Grant, of Stratham N.H., is a diehard New England Patriots fan. The Patriots are the Indianapolis Colts' longtime rival--and the San Diego Chargers opponent in next Sunday's playoff game. She was wearing a Patriots jersey when she went out on the field to accept the award.

And she was booed.

The story goes on to say that Patriots' owner, Robert Kraft, has invited Anna and her to the playoff game on Sunday, as guests of honor. Anna will be on the field at kickoff (and will, I'm sure, receive an ovation from the crowd).

Kraft said, "Why should a champion be booed? She won an intensive competition. She's supposed to be honored."

Anna said, when she was asked how she felt about being booed: "It didn't bother me at all...I was kinda waiting for it." And who wouldn't? It surprises me, frankly, that this is news. I live in California, home of the Oakland Raiders. And while I've never been to a football game, and know very little about it, I'm told that if you show up at the Raiders stadium in some other teams' apparel (particularly if that team is one of their rivals), you'll be booed. Or worse. In fact, I've heard of clothing being torn off, food and beer thrown, and people even beaten and injured.

The point is, I always thought that it was a way of life: show up at a game in rival team apparel, you're booed (for the record, I'm not advocating harming fan's of rival teams at all). Kraft made an interesting comment. He said that, "Jealousy and envy come in the more you win and people say, 'Give someone else a chance and let someone else do it'."

I certainly HOPE that sentiment isn't what prompted the boo's at last weeks game. But if it is, I'm curious: how long until we begin to regulate the number of wins a professional sport team can have before they HAVE to lose? We do it already, frankly, in so many other areas of life.

Consider this: in our country (in others as well, I believe), we have a progressive tax rate. That is, there are "tax brackets." And as your income ratchets up into a new "bracket", that portion of your income is taxed more steeply (that is, the first $50,000 may be taxed at a hypothitical rate of 15%; the next $40,000 is taxed at, perhaps, 22%; the next $100,000 at 31%, and so on). This, effectively, punishes the more successful among us.

There are numerous examples of this-too numerous to mention. Socialized healthcare; citizenship (it appears as though, in this country, you do better across the board if you're here illegally); education.

Or rather, consider this: how many times have you seen a news story where an immensely wealthy, successful businessperson is referred to in a positive light? Generally, the implication is one of corporate greed.

The point is, we, as a society don't like it when others are successful. When someone's on the bottom of the pile, we mollycoddle them, pat them on the back and provide moral support, tell them that it'll all be OK.

But then, it's easy to do that, because pity for the "less-fortunate" feeds our general sense of human superiority. It makes us, at some embarrassing deep, dark level, feel good when others are in circumstances inferior to ours.

But when someone climbs to the top, and we have to look up to see them, it tears at the base emotion--it makes us feel that we've not lived up to some expectation.

Ah! There's the real issue. To see someone else at the top (particularly when they've climbed over us to reach it), we feel as though we've not met our OWN expectations. And there's nothing more painful than disappointing ourselves. Because we know ourselves, and we know what we're capable of. And if we have any self-respect at all, we know that we had more to give--and we didn't give it.

And we can't accept ourselves. So we resent that guy who gave that little bit more (and perhaps we even try to tear them down).

You've probably done it a time or two; we all have--don't feel bad. But I've noticed something. I have an intense desire to win. I want to reach the top in everything I do. So I study winners. And I try to mimic their attributes.

And something that I've noticed of winners is that when they lose, they look at the guy that won, and figure out why. And they do it themselves the next time. They mimic him; they don't resent him, and try to yank him out of the spot.

They use him--and his experiences--as a rung on the ladder to the top.

The hardest part is that winning, invariably, requires repressing that natural human reaction. How much more productive, in general, would we be as a society if we were all to approach losing in this way?

And how much happier would you be if you wasted no energy on resenting the winner, and instead applied that energy to understanding the reasons WHY you lost, and doing it differently next time?

Try it.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Booker Babies

Hop on over to "Life At The Booker Household" and extend your congratulations to Katie and Phillip. They're going to have another baby!

For those who don't recall, Katie was a classmate of mine in high school. We were friends for a while, but towards the end of my high school career, we spent some time on the Student Council together; that time strained our friendship. The vice-president and I carried the entire weight of the council's overwhelming responsibilities on our shoulders, while Katie and her student council co-hort (Brooke), spent their days visiting ballrooms and tasting pastries (for our end-of-year formal), buying chocolate-chocolate chip muffins at Costco (for the snack bar), and having girl's sleepovers (with their gaggle of giggling female followers).

She was, though, a lovely young lady, as you can tell from the pictures below:

At any rate, stop over and say congratulations!

OH! By the way-I've figured out the kiss (if you don't know what I'm talking about, scroll down a bit once you get to her blog. There's a picture there of Phillip planting a suspiciously terror-free kiss on Katie's lips). I was befuddled on first seeing this, as Phillip actually seems to be enjoying this, but I think I've figured it out: the look is one of relief (as in, "Man! She FINALLY stopped talking!").

I'm, of course, kidding about all of this! Katie is one of my truest, long-term friends still around from those days, and Shawna and I are truly happy for both her and Phillip!

Congratulations you guys! And thank you SO MUCH for joining us this Christmas! We LOVED having you! We'll do it again next year (if we didn't scare Phillip off with those kisses)!

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Earlier 2day k8t commented my lst pst. She said "...and ur pencil isn't moving."


Itz a word n the new language that ppl txt in. Itz lik english, but itz full of abbreviations.

N fact, has an entire page devoted 2 "Text Messaging". Itz full of the abbreviations that txters use, the acronyms and emoticons that they use.

Lik "lol" and "kewl"; "neone" and "pls"; "probly" and "brb". (In English--and in order--those are "laugh out loud", "cool", "anyone", "please", "probably" and "be right back").

But my point is that txting has chnged the ntire english lnguage. Ppl rite n this shortened version of the lnguage. They lve out lttrs, n use numbrs 2 tak the plce of ltrs. They dnt capitalize lettrs.

N u dnt realize it ntil u start txtin a lot, but wen u do, u start ritin evrything u rite in this new language. N the thing is, ppl understand it. Skools dnt hav classes 2 teach the lnguage; theres no txtbook that has the vocab; but itz amazing--ppl get it. In fact, if uve evr txted b4, u probly totally understand evrythng i'm riting. N fact, evn if u haven't txted b4, u probly understand wut i'm sayin.

Which begs the ?--is there ne value 2 bein grammatically correct? Can i rite ne thing i wnt 2, w/out bein grammatically correct, n u'll understand?

Or--mayb txtin is ruining the english lnguage. R we dumbing dwn ppl by sending txt msgs that r written n this shrthand?

I no y ppl do it; they do it cuz they r tryin to sav time. Fone keypads only hav 10 keys-not enuf 4 the ntire alfabet. So fone designers put 3 ltrs on each key-which means that u havta punch the nums up 2 3 times 2 get the rite ltr (4 example, 2 type the word "nice", u'd havta type "6-4-4-4-2-2-2-3-3"). Obviously, it taks alot of keystrokes 2 get a sngle wrd n, so txters hav taken 2 shrtening their words.

Here's my thot on it: n an effort 2 b mor efficient, we mak our fones capable of snding the written word. But it taks 2 much time 2 rite grammatically correct, so ppl shrten the wrds. Agin, n an effort to b efficient.

The logical conclusion: the quest for efficiency often requires a substantial tradeoff-namely, in terms of accuracy. My question: is it worth it?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Faces You Can Trust

I heard on the news yesterday that Republican presidential candidate John McCain made a very "conservative" remark at a campaign rally.

Fresh off his primary win in New Hampshire, he must have been feeling his oats when he said, as a example of "outrageous pork barrel" spending, that:

"A few years ago we spent $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. I don't know if that's a paternity issue or a criminal issue."

I thought it was just cheeky enough to qualify McCain as a legitimate Presidential contender. That is, until I read a blurb at that indicates that the bill that McCain refers to was a budgetary bill--that he voted FOR!

That settles it; he's DEFINITELY qualified to be President!

Now that's sad, isn't it? That we half-joke that if you're a liar (or at least a partial-truth teller) then you're qualified to be President of the United States? But then, perhaps that's not all that inaccurate. How would you define the word "politics"? I have a colleague who says that politics is (and I paraphrase): saying the things you need to say in order to get what you want. It fits. If McCain hopes to land the Presidential nomination, then he's going to have to mix in just the right amount of "fiscal conservatism"; it helps if it's laced with a little humor.

Speaking of politics, reported earlier this week that Hillary Clinton, while at an event in a coffee shop in Portsmouth N.H., was asked by an undecided woman voter, "How do you get out the door every day? I mean, as a woman, I know how hard it is to get out of the house and get ready. Who does your hair?" Hillary chuckled and cracked a few jokes. Then she paused, and in a breaking voice, eyes red, she began. "I just don't want to see us fall backward as a nation. I mean, this is very personal for me. Not just political. I see what's happening. We have to reverse it." She went on, as tears began to well in her eyes, to say that "some people think elections are a game: who's up or who's down. It's about our country. It's about our kid's future."

And with that, a new comeback kid was born. Hillary, still recovering from the severe blow dealt her in the Iowa primaries (third; behind Barack Obama and John Edwards), and facing a pre-election day poll that put her seven points behind Obama in the New Hampshire primary, was in desperate need of a boost. The pundits said it was her downfall, that a Presidential candidate was expected to be strong, resilient, able to face the stresses of the campaign trail, ever smiling, never faltering. The pundits were wrong.

Wednesday morning brought a brand-new day for Hillary, a day filled with hope and promise, as the day prior, voters had turned out in droves to support her, keeping her dream alive (at least for one more primary), and giving her the win in New Hampshire.

It gave me hope, for a moment, that voters in America are still compassionate enough to reward a Presidential candidate who isn't afraid to show some emotion, even in the face of stark criticism. In fact, my opinion of Hillary ratcheted up just a bit after hearing that she cried.

Until a day or two later, when I heard a quote by the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. He said, on MSNBC, that he was suspicious of her tears. "They have to be looked at very, very carefully in light of Katrina," he said, "in light of other things Mrs. Clinton did not cry for."

I was floored. And I feel betrayed. Because she DIDN'T cry over Katrina (at least not publicly). I don't know that she cried over 9/11 in public. And she didn't, as I recall, cry in public over her husbands' dalliances while he held office.

But then, as the Rev. Jackson said, those instances didn't pose the enormous opportunity she seized last week at that coffee shop. So perhaps she wasn't being genuine. Or, perhaps the tears were for those dreams that tottered precariously on that edge of shattered.

And so I ask, are these our candidates? Is this the best we have to offer? I don't say that to degrade them--they're likely all very nice people. But you have to be suspicious of someone who wants the job so bad, that they'll calculate and manipulate, stretch and bend the truth, just to squeeze out a few extra, crucial votes.

One of these (or, one of the numerous others in the mix, most just like these), will be your next President, fellow Americans.

I think that, at this point, the best we can hope for is a vote-locked legislature that can't muster up enough votes in any direction to pass any law of any substance--good or bad. Dormancy and inaction are far safer than the damage a self-absorbed politician with no agenda other than to get his name in the history book might do.

As for me? I think that I'm going to write in Shawna for President. She has to deal with Lex and Gentry, and most of all, ME, every single day. She's not afraid of anything.

She'd do fine, too; especially since I think the Oval Office has a multi-line telephone system!

Some FUEL Trivia Over There

There's a bit of FUEL Trivia that I posted over at FUEL Student Ministries' blog.

Hop on over; let your hair down; have a little fun!

And enjoy!

(Check us out on the web too!)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Bench

“Is there room for me, Sirs
There on your bench?
For so long I’ve admired you so!

You’re everything I’ve
Desired to be!
This life is all I care to know!”

“Who are you son and
Just how old are ya?
Too young to join the likes of us.

See we’ve been here for years
Seen much heartache and tears;
This bench, son’s, just too high to touch”

“Oh please give me a chance-
That’s all that I ask;
I won’t take too much of your time.

‘Cuz I think that you’ll find
That I’m far more than I
Look to be from the outside.”

“Son, this bench is reserved
For the chosen, the few;
Those who have proven themselves.

We’ve never seen you--
Right guys--ain’t it true?
Tell us son, what have you done?”

They sent him away
On that fateful day
Tears coursing across his face.

He boxed up his hopes
Never again spoke
Of his dream; those times; that place.

And became a fine barber,
A teacher, a farmer.
At night he sat as he recalled.

Of how he-the worlds greatest
Player just traded
His dream at one simple word

From a worn out old bench
Full of foolish old men
Who hadn’t the wisdom to know

True greatness, though packaged
Not as they’d imagined-
Was standing right there in their midst.

Oh the stories that might have
Been told of that young lad,
Had they given him only a chance.

But they cast greatness aside--
Dreams shriveled and died--
That day before that great bench.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


I'll be traveling again on business next week.

Four days this time. Far too long to be away from home. At least it's not too far this time.

And it's at the beach. But then, that doesn't matter. Because every waking minute of every single day--from 8AM until 10PM--I'll be in meetings. Meetings which I can't ditch.

As if it's not depressing enough, to have to spend almost an entire week away from home, they have to torture me by holding the meetings on a property with one of the most beautiful views in the whole nation. But I'LL be sitting inside, craning my neck, I'm sure, to try to see a wave or two break now and again, from the crowded conference room. And listening hard every time someone enters or leaves the room, trying to hear the surf and the seagulls and the wind blowing through the Cypress trees that line that part of the California coast.

To top it off, someone mentioned today that the property is "rustic." Rustic. I stayed in a rustic place once. A hotel at Disneyland, called the Grand Californian. Lovely place. I truly enjoyed it. But I had a sneaky suspicion that this rustic wasn't quite the same as that lovely, overpriced, Disney-Imagineered rustic. So I asked.

I was right.

In this case, rustic means: you're staying in a cabin (oh, by the way: it's double occupancy, so you'll be sharing a room with someone); the cabin has no outlets, no telephone, no Internet access and no television. On the other hand, they supply you with all the fish oil and polar bear skins that you need to keep the lamps lit all night and to keep warm.

OK; that part was a joke. They didn't say anything about fish oil and polar bear skins. I made that up.

They DID, though, reassure me--by pointing out that, although it's "rustic" the rooms DO have their own shower.

Let me ask you: is that really a selling pont? If you ask me, it's kind of a requirement. I'm wracking my brain here, but I can't think of a single place that I've stayed (and I've had to stay in some seedy places) that didn't have a shower in the room. Further, I can't think of a single one of those many places that were so short on positive attributes as selling points that they were reduced to saying, "In-Room Showers."

All-in-all, not entirely reassuring, particularly given that I DO NOT CAMP; I've NEVER roughed it, and I don't intend on starting.

So, no: this isn't "rustic", it's terrifying!

At least as I lie there, in my sleeping bag (late at night of course; my meeting didn't end until 10), shivering at being exposed to the frigid night air, and I realize that critters from the night have invaded our "rustic" lodge, and I call out (to no avail) to my silent roommate (who's been dragged away to a copse of Cypress trees by a Grizzly who sniffed him out because of a half-eaten Pop-Tart that he left on the ground), I can listen to the surf crash out somewhere in the dark.

I'm not prepared for this...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I Hereby Resolve

I hate new years resolutions. Usually, they're like fruitcake at Christmastime--people make them, and display them for folks to see and admire, but never really do with them what they're supposed to. Because they don't taste good.

Resolutions are typically left by the wayside by mid-January--forgotten until the next time New Year's Day comes around. Because they usually aren't easy. They generally involve us committing to something that we have a hard time with.

So I don't usually make them. Not because I don't want to do things that I have a hard time with; on the contrary, I'm intent on conquering each obstacle in my life, no matter how difficult. It's just that obstacles should be, in my opinion, faced when they arise, not ignored until the first of a new year, and THEN tackled.

But this year, I've broken my own rule, and made a few resolutions--not really because it's a new year, but because they pertain to decisions that I'm faced with now; situations and circumstances that exist in my life today.

I'll keep them to myself, with one exception-and I only tell you this one because I want your help with it.

If you've read MyndFood for any length of time, you know that I have aspirations of someday publishing (with a major publisher) fiction. In fact, my goal is that writing, someday, be my livelihood (as opposed to merely a hobby).

But last week I had one of those moments that we all face from time to time. You know, those times when you see, just ahead, a bend in the road, and everything in you tells you that, just around that bend, the going gets easy; the road smooths out, and instead of a constant uphill battle, you have a little time to coast? I came to that corner, and as I made the turn, came to a screeching stop, because the road didn't smooth out or widen; it didn't level off. It's a continuation of that same, difficult uphill grade.

And as I turned that corner, I realized that roads don't generally level out. I realized (again) that throughout life, I'm going to face uphill grinds and rough roads; but I'm also going to experience some nice easy riding from time to time. That's life, I think; an undulating, curvy path that never stops; until it does.

But the epiphany was this: I've had this dream of writing for my entire adult life, and I've just been waiting for that "right moment." I just realized that the right moment isn't going to come. It's not likely that the stars will all align, or that all the right cards will pop up. The right moment is simply when I take that first step.

But then, I'm not being completely honest with you; that's no epiphany. I've known it all along; I've experienced just enough success in my life to know that it rarely comes on the wings of good fortune. It's almost always the result of someone taking that first, fateful step into the dark unknown.

I've never taken that step because I'm afraid. I'm afraid that I'm not good enough, and that when the writing's done, we'll look back and see that I'm not a storyteller; I'm not a good writer. And that might be the case. But I can't know that until I've tried.

And so, I think I'm going to try. What's it take to publish? I guess first you have to write something that's publishable--something that I've never done. So I'm giving it a shot.

I resolve to write one page per day for all of 2008. I have a goal of producing 300 solid, well-written pages of fiction by the end of this year (that is, 300 pages of publishable--given some decent editing--material).

In fact, I've put a little thingy down at the bottom of the page to track my progress (it's a "Pages Written" tracker). Do me a favor: check it often, and keep me honest. Ask me how I'm doing, and if the fear of failure causes me to slack off (as it's done so often in the past), encourage me, criticize me or berate me-whatever it takes to get me going again.

Just help me keep this, my New Year's Resolution!

Oh, and Happy New Year!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Curfews, Custody and Contraceptives

The December 31, 2007 issue of OK! magazine reported, in it's cover story, that 16 year old Jamie Lynn Spears, sister of pop star Britney Spears, is pregnant, and that the father is her boyfriend, Casey Aldridge.

Jamie is quoted as saying that, "It was a shock for both of us, so unexpected." It's too bad that Jamie Lynn's mother (a sterling example of solid parenting) didn't educate her as to how that happens; perhaps she'd have been less surprised.

Her mother, though, is, apparently, just as surprised as Jamie Lynn and Casey. When asked what she thought she said, in part, "I didn't believe it...She's never late for her curfew." Quite a blow, to find out that a sixteen year old can get pregnant (unwittingly, of course), and STILL make it home in time for curfew!

Meanwhile, Britney, Jamie Lynn's pop-star sister, was detained this week by authorities when she refused to relinquish her two young children back into their father's care. Earlier this year, a court commissioner awarded sole custody of the two young boys to Spear's estranged husband, Kevin Federline, allowing Spears only supervised visits.

This week, Spears refused to turn over the children after one of these visits. Police were called to her home. After some observation, the children were returned, and authorities transferred Spears to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for observation. Sources on the scene speculated that Spears was thought to have been under the influence. Friday morning, court commissioner, Scott Gordon, awarded sole legal custody of the two children to Federline, and revoked Spears' visitation rights.

Jamie Lynn Spears told OK! magazine, in her interview, that she plans on raising the child in rural Louisiana--"so it can have a normal life." All things considered, it would have a better chance of a "normal life" if it were raised by wild wolves.


Duncan McNeil, Scottish Labour party leader, proposed a law, prompted by the death of a 2-year old boy who drank his parents' heroin substitute, mandating oral contraceptives for drug addicts.

McNeil said that, "people in that situation, living that chaotic lifestyle, are in no fit state to start a family."

Something to consider...

Quote of the Week

"We are all more or less an army fighting our way to our own graves, but let us do so stout of heart, smile and cheer our less fortunate brethren who are also in the trenches of life and who are not as well equipped with mates as you and I are, nor with the world's goods."

-Harry Houdini

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

We're All in This Together

Shegazelle's post of a few days ago reminded me that I'm supposed to be working on a guest post for Normal is Broke. I Wanna be WEIRD. It's not that I don't WANT to guest post-I'm perfectly content--in fact excited--to write a post about our journey to financial freedom.

It's just that our story isn't all that exciting. But I'll write it. Soon (I promise). If I have to, I'll make something up.

The kids, though, have overheard us talking about money, and our quest to be more frugal, and they periodically pitch in, without our asking.

I figured this was the case when I realized that Gentry has taken to wearing no underwear on occassion.

For example, the other morning, I woke him up, and started to dress him for the day. He pulled down his pajama pants, and there was nothing underneath.

"Gentry!" I said. "Where are your underwear?"

He just looked at me sheepishly.

I figured that he thought that, between his wearing the underwear out less frequently, and the energy savings associated with fewer laundry loads, he was contributing to the family's bottom line.

"Bubs," I told him, "as much as Mommy and Daddy appreciate your help with our finances, there are some things that you shouldn't sacrifice. This is probably one of them."

He looked at me puzzled.

"Well, we appreciate you wanting to help the family get ahead financially, but maybe we can identify a better way of doing it, huh?"

He smiled and leaned close.

"Dad," he whispered. "I'm NOT twying to help you save money! It's just that it's YOUW week to wash clothes!"