Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Great Movies

I have never been one to go along with the crowd. As everyone else jumps off the cliff because all of their friends did, I sit quietly in my house, munching "healthy" snack-type food and maintaining vigilance against the aliens that are amassing themselves just outside the Andromeda galaxy waiting for their opportunity to swoop down and take over the Earth. Hah. Good times, good times. Actually, while this is only partly true, I was hanging ten on Al Gore's internetTM the other day and I stumbled upon a list of the highest grossing films of all time. This list includes:
  1. Titanic
  2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
  3. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
  4. The Dark Knight
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  6. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
  7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  8. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  9. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  10. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Perusing this list, I am sure that most folks have seen at least half of these movies. Maybe even some true theatre afficianados (not the euridite spelling of "theatre") have seen the full list. Well good for you, you are truly special. Truly special. What does it say about me that I have seen none of them on the big screen? Am I some sort of kook? While everyone else is gathered around the water cooler swapping stories and discussing the amazing special affects and dialog, I am slinking about in the shadows looking for an opportunity just to get a simple drink of water.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To-Do List

I am one of those list-maker types. A person afflicted with a sense of organization and progress tracking that I fear must border on a psychological disorder. The common terminology that is used is anal retentive, a term to characterize a person with such attention to detail that the obsession becomes an annoyance to others. The definition goes further to say that the anally retentive person develops such a routine that they eventually become a major annoyance to themselves! For me, I make a detailed to-do list when I arrive at work each morning. I work on a number of different projects that each have different deadlines, and each project has several people connected with it. I fear that without my to-do list, chaos would result. Critical project deadlines would slip past and the folks working with me would grumble and complain. In short, I would forget to do what is necessary and important for me to do.

I have included a photograph from my to-do list for yesterday. The first three items in my list are the same each day. They always read:
  • 1). Say prayers
  • 2). Work to improve
  • 3). Update thoughts log
The reminder to pray is more of a reminder to keep God central in my life as I go through my day, from start to finish, to keep my eyes and ears open to his word and his presence. My second item to improve is necessary to be sure to keep my focus on lessons that I have already learned so that I don't slide back into old patterns. To be sure that I work to put forth my best effort each day and to look for ways to do better, to be a better person, a better friend, a better father, a better worker, a better Christian. Finally, I have found it a good exercise to journal in my thoughts log a bit each day. To keep track of what has happened so that I don't grow complacent, so that I can examine what I did right each day and what I did wrong. Each listing is critical for me to be sure that I don't forget to do what is most necessary and important for me to do.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mine Field O' Poo

Over the past week, the lab where I work has been a major bustle of activity. Outside teams of experts in lawn maintenance, street sweeping, landscaping, power washing, and all manners of janitorial services, have descended upon us. The reason is that the U.S. Secretary of Energy (Steven Chu) is coming in for a visit. As James Brown is to soul, Dr. Steven Chu is to science. He is the cheese that holds the delicate nacho plate of science together. As science research at our National Laboratories and Universities relies (essentially) fully on government funding, and Dr. Chu holds the spatula for the hot grill of funding, he is, no doubt, an important man. It certainly makes sense for my laboratory to put it's best foot forward, to show it's best face, to maybe even tidy up a bit. Hence the army of folks cleaning, scrubbing, trimming, vacuuming, raking, mowing, planting, etc. Amusingly, in their zeal and fervor, I have seen folks cleaning places that no human has ever seen or would ever care to see. However, something is not quite right. They are all neglecting something pretty obvious. If I can quote Will Rogers (the man who painted all those heart-warming pictures for the Saturday Evening Post), "You can put a pretty sweater on a donkey, but it still remains a donkey, unless you kill it".

Perhaps, I need to explain what the real issue is here. The lab is infected with Canandian geese (ey). There are several brazen clusters of them randomly located around the laboratory campus. As near as I can tell, Canadian geese waddle around all day looking smug and pooping. What's worse, they are completely indiscrimate in where they leave their waste (see What Grinds My Gears VII). But with the platoon of Molly Maids that have overtaken the lab making preparations for the upcoming visit, nobody is taking care to stop the geese from making their "deposits". The entire place is like a mine field, a mine field of poo. Nobody seems particularly worried about this or has taken any notice of this (except me). Do they think that the Secretary will not notice the poo mounds as he is forced to serpentine and bob and weave to get from his car to the front door? Maybe he doesn't worry about such trivialities as he has a team of minions that carry him around in a sedan chair from place to place. While this is probably most certainly true, everyone else must wade through the debris field. What about them? Folks are so busy cleaning behind the sinks in the utility closet that they are totally oblivious to the 6-in layer of goose poo that covers the site. I think we need to kill the donkey here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Life's Journey -

In Life's Journey + I told you that the adventure was on. My 11-year-old daughter is accompanying me on a trip to Hawaii. For me, this is a big moment. I have become accustomed to going on business trips alone. For my daughter, this is most certainly a bigger moment. A special and unique week of fun and play and adventure with her daddy. While this has all the makings of a happy and positive experience, something has been kind of tugging at my mind and my heart. I guess that I am kind of feeling that this is somehow the last big adventure that I will have with my little one. My last time with her where her innocence is as big as her imagination and her spirit. Wide eyes and giddy laughter, exuberance and squeals, her breath taken by the new sights and possibilities around each corner. The future will no longer show a daddy and his little girl, but a dad with his teenage daughter. No longer a child, but a young woman. ... Perhaps I am getting too far ahead of reality, too far ahead of the clock, but somehow my mind is twisting and turning on this frightening transition. This notion is weighing on my spirit and applying its subtle pressure. Am I as organized as I can be? Have I thought of everything? What will we do every minute of each day? How can I make this trip as special as possible? At times these thoughts can serve to drown out all of the excitement and adventure. I am left with feelings of anxiety and unease and bad temperment and depression. Ultimately, I need to focus on the reasons why I am taking my little one on this trip with me. Her smile, her laughter, our relationship. Yeah, and the gentle tugs on my sleeve accompanied by "Ohh, daddy look at this".

Friday, September 25, 2009

Life's Journey +

I go on business trips several times each year to attend conferences and workshops held at various locations around the world as part of my job as a research scientist. In the scientific community, such organized exchanges of information are an important part of the process of announcing new measurements or calculations and providing an important forum for debate and critique. I have always gone on these trips by myself, to be sure that I could spend as much time interacting with the attendees as possible. Next month, my journeys will take me to the big island of Hawaii. This trip will be my third to our 50th state, as I have been to previous conferences on Maui and Oahu. However, this trip will be very different than any other that I have ever made. I will be travelling with my young daughter. Just the two of us. Her and me. Me and her.

Her young mind and imagination are already overflowing with thoughts and plans. Swimming in every pool at the hotel, horseback riding, all the sights and smells, the food, the pineapples, jumping on the hotel beds, and maybe most importantly, getting out of school for a full week. I would like to think that she is looking forward to a special, perhaps once in a lifetime, adventure with her daddy. There is just something very special about planning a big adventure like this and looking forward to it and then living it out. My daughter has been telling her classmates and teachers at school about her trip, and I know that she is absolutely loving the attention that she is getting. It all serves to build up her level of anticipation and excitement even more.

In a blog entry from earlier this month (Life's Adventures), I wrote of a recipe for living life outside of the routine, away from the usual crutches of watching T.V., playing video games, or surfing the net. I noted that my daughter has never once said "Daddy, remember the time that we were watching T.V.?" If we are not active and passionate about making time for real adventures, life has a sinister way of quickly slipping past us, the years falling away and leaving us to wonder where the time went. We are left with regret. For once, I listened to my own ideas and the adventure is on.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

What is Sexy?

I was travelling down the road the other day when I was passed by a vehicle with a license plate that read "SEXY". When I eventually caught up to this car and looked over, I noticed to my surprise that the driver was not particularly attractive. In my younger days, I would have immediately made some derogatory comment either to myself or whoever was around me, poking fun at the person. Today such thoughts still arise and linger in my mind, but usually I can chase them away before they take root and pollute my mind. I once heard the definition of sexy as feeling comfortable in your own skin. I would guess it would include being satisfied and proud of who you are, what you are, and how you look. In fact, being so confident that you can unabashedly share yourself with your partner. You are sexy if your partner accepts the gift of you without reservation and makes you feel special and unique and fully accepted. You don't have to be good looking or have moves like an adult movie star, not even close. In fact, the sexy label on the license plate may not be some prideful boast, but a proclamation that they are exactly what they are supposed to be and that is perfectly O.K. and pleasing to them. Ultimately, that is all that matters.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Grind My Gears VIII

I suspect that most folks who know me would say that I am a fairly negative person. I would go further and own up to the fact that I am a card-carrying pessimist. With me, the glass is neither half empty or half full, some jerk clearly purchased one that is two sizes too big. I tend to observe people and look for reasons not to like them or to pick out reasons why they should have a banana inserted forcefully into their vehicle's tailpipe. However, there is one characteristic that I have observed in a lot of people that really grinds my gears. After I explain myself, I am sure that you will fully agree with me.

My office at work is situated on a hallway with something like a dozen doors on either side. Several times each day I find myself trailing behind someone walking down this hallway. Some people walk straight down the corridor minding their own business. However, others (and these are the folks that I am ranting about) have to bob their pointy little heads back and forth and stare into each and every open door. Some of these "people" actually seem to pause in front of each door and stare in for an uncomfortably long period before moving on to haunt the next person. When I am sitting in my office and one of these looky-loos invades my space with their intruding and concentration-busting stares, my response is to jump from my chair, wild eyed and pounding my desk, and tell them to take a dang picture as it will actually last longer. This tends to make them go skittering off into the shadows, until the next time they make their way past my office. It would be one thing if I was putting on some sort of a show in there, maybe doing a medley of show tunes, or pantomiming Act 2, Scene 3 from Romiette and Julio from Bill Shakespeare. However, typically, I am not. So, does anyone not believe these folks should be hit over the head with a rubber chicken?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Need ... II

I want to explore a bit my relationship with God, in particular, how to keep my relationship with him fresh and exciting. I want to avoid falling into routines, doing things out of habit or without a sense of that first spark of accepting him. I want to understand what I need.

The reality is that I fear that I am becoming more and more of a Sunday-only Christian. A Sunday-only Christian is someone who only puts on his religious clothes for the hour of the Sunday sermon. They cannot be recognized as a Christian or having a relationship with God at any other time. The spark that they should feel all throughout the week has been lost. The new car smell is gone. Whenever I sense that this is what I am becoming, it fills me with anger. I have known the Lord's workings directly in my life. I have witnessed his miraculous hand on me more than a few times. Why am I so lazy, so forgetful, so weak? Is it because I don't have all that I want in life? Is it because things don't always go my way? Perhaps my issues are some form of blame, or of petty protest. Maybe is it because a few of the folks that I was closest to in my church moved away and left me feeling less connected?

Whatever is going on, I need ...
  • to find a way to shed myself of the shackles of listlessness;
  • to rekindle my relationship with God on a regular basis;
  • to replace business as usual with consistent rediscovery;
  • to seize his gift of life on a daily basis;
  • to find ways to keep myself energized;
  • to return to my regular spiritual disciplines;
  • to surround myself with Godly people and develop strong relationships with them;
  • to remember He is the reason for it all;
  • to keep central the fact that He is the way, the truth, and the life.
(Part 2 of 2)

Monday, September 21, 2009

I Need ... I

I want to explore a bit my relationship with God, in particular, how to keep my relationship with him fresh and exciting. I want to avoid falling into routines, doing things out of habit or without a sense of that first spark of accepting him. I want to understand what I need.

Ahhh that new car smell. It pulls us in and reminds us of what we have in our new car. It invigorates us and makes us go the extra mile in caring for what we have. Eventually, the odor begins to fade away and we become forgetful, even unappreciative. Little things that we used to do early on, like vacuuming the interior or washing the exterior, are done less and less frequently. These tasks move subtly from being something we enjoy to a vexing, time-consuming chore. Eventually we stop trying altogether and we just go on with our lives.

Lately I have felt a sense of this relational decline in my walk with God. When we had just started out together, everything was new and fresh. Giving of my time and energy and money and attention was very much a joy. Sitting down with the Bible and carefully reading it for the first time. Volunteering with my church. Beginning to understand my relationship with the most high God. Initially, they all very much had that new car smell. There were moments in the early days where I could be by myself reading scripture and I felt that I was not alone. The Holy Spirit was right there helping me to see things that I never could have otherwise. I remember the tingling feelings of excitement during my volunteer times. I was there for the right reasons and I got as much out of those times as I put in. I loved interacting with God's people, building relationships and learning what it meant to be a Christian. All too often now I find myself dreading my volunteer times. The newness is gone, replaced with feelings of "not again" or "I don't want to". Excitement has been replaced by drudgery and routine. I have even noticed that in my quiet times of study or prayer, I feel more and more alone. The more this sense pervades me, the more that feelings of apathy and doubt course through my veins. I must figure out what I need to do.

(Part 1 of 2)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Paradise Lost

We had joy we had fun we had seasons in the sun ...

The end of the summer season has left me feeling a bit down, a bit blue. In my neck of the woods, summer typically tends to linger a bit, somehow defying the rigid callings of the calendar page, lazily and nonchalantly drifting from August well into September. It is such a regular occurrence, that one usually doesn't even notice the wonderful gift. In fact, it becomes the expected. However, this year, summer ended rather abruptly. On August 31 it was 95 degrees and sunny, you could make out the twang of a Jimmy Buffet tune drifting along on the waves of heat. It was the epitome of a summer day. Lemonade and ice cream and fresh strawberries. Sandals and suntan lotion and bathing suits. How we looked forward to playing and relaxing in the pool. We knew it would end eventually as the seasons always turn over. However, this year it left us way too soon, before we even had time to prepare ourselves. On September 1 the skies were overcast, the temperatures struggled to get into the mid-70s. The daylight that used to creep away at 9:00 p.m. in blissful surrender was now stolen away from us by 7:00 p.m.. The empty streets taken over by rumbling yellow buses. Now my mind looks forward and senses the inevitable winter battles that lie ahead. The all too brief periods of daylight, the bitter cold, and the snow. In the summer time, my efforts are to open the house up to the outdoors, to bring the wonderful sights and smells inside to me. In the winter, the struggle is to seal the world outside. So, I am feeling melancholy, the kind of feeling of down that something has been lost, and there is nothing that you can do about it. You just wish you had a bit more time.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Tabloid Fodder

Being of sound mind, I must state for the public record that I have the musical tastes of a 14-year-old girl. I attest to making this statement freely and of my own accord. I stress that I am not under or subject to duress, fraud, or undue influence. You must understand that it is necessary for me to come out of the closet on this issue before I was exposed, humiliated, or subject to extortion. My secret had become an anchor around my neck, pulling me down. It kept me awake at night, huddled in the corner in a state of moist panic, just waiting for "them" to come and find me. Shame, wagging of fingers, clucking of tongues. My friends ultimately turning their backs on me. I could see the headlines in all the major papers as clear as day:

Leading scientist listens to bubble gum pop!

I'm sure there would be scandalous accusations in all the tabloids. The fact that my musical tastes were such a shocking revelation would lead the paparazzi to dredge up all sorts of other half-baked truths. You could imagine tales of rampant bed wetting and extensive cosmetic surgery and saline implants, along with fabricated stories of my going to bed before 9:00 p.m. on Friday nights!

Given this, I wanted to come clean and provide you with a list of the last 10 CDs that I have listened to in hopes that the truth will come out. Only when you have let the truth wash over you in its full brillance, will you come to see that the rumors of my wimpiness are greatly exaggerated, or not.
  • Never Gone - Backstreet Boys
  • Unbreakable - Backstreet Boys
  • Say You Will - Fleetwood Mac
  • Bad for Good - Scorpions
  • Greatest Hits - BeeGees
  • In Time (Best of) - R.E.M.
  • Tusk - Fleetwood Mac
  • Walking on a Wire - Lowen and Navarro
  • Around the Sun - R.E.M.
  • Greatest Hits - Night Ranger

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Laughing Sheep

Let's start today's happy little blog with a short quiz. I realize that it is back to school time, but I promise you that this is but a trifling coincidence. Now, back to my important and scientific quiz. What sound does a sheep make? .... Good. My guess is that all you scored quite highly on the sheep-o-meter. In fact, you all seemed to have aced this test. Perfect score. How predictable. How sad. As for me, I still have a mind of my own, thank you very much. I do not need people thinking for me and telling me what to say and how to feel and, well, when to laugh. My beef today is with the television laugh track. This "system" was invented by one Charley Douglass who felt that live audiences could not be relied upon to laugh at the correct moment. Actually the original notion was to make folks at home feel like they were in the presence of others. I guess it was a social service so that the home viewer did not feel so all alone. It initially helped to prevent people at home from watching television programming during the civil war in their "long johns" if you catch my drift. Eventually network executives got their greasy little hands on the device (insert evil, maniacal laughter here). They decided to use this innocent device, initially dubbed the "sweetener", to make their bland, cookie-cutter shows seem more humorous than they actually were. The herd of sheep watching the programs bought the plot hook, line, and mutton chop. In fact, in laboratory testing, the same television program viewed by two different sample audiences, one version without the laugh track and one with the laugh track, was found to be 32% funnier with the canned laughter included. If this statistic is accurate, and who can tell because I just made it up, then it is clear that people are indeed reeking of bovinity. The thing that I can't understand is this. If the laugh track shenanigans are added to make you feel like you are watching the program live in the studio, how come there was a laugh track added to my classic Scooby Doo cartoons? I repeat, I am not a sheep. I will decide when to laugh, to guffaw, to slap my knee, to grab my ribs, and to fall on the floor wincing and writhing in pain and confusion.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


I understand that most folks live very busy lives. What with spending 12 to 15 hours each day watching T.V., purposefully not using their vehicle's turn signals, and causing me to wait in long lines at the grocery checkout, there ain't hardly no time left over fer anything else. Important activities, like say, looking up the definition of a word in the dictionary, get pushed out. Folks are far too busy and occupied with their work-a-day lives that some things must wait. Does it matter that it's only a small four-letter word? .... Hmmm? .... From your silence, obviously not. Well, let me do us all a public service and pull out one single relevant word and examine it in the style of Webster.

sale [seyl] - noun; a special disposal of goods, as at reduced prices.

Did you catch the subtlety here? A sale is an event where, from time to time, a vendor or purveyor of goods, reduces the amount they normally charge for items they are selling. It's not a sale just because you put up a sign in your store window but never actually lower any prices. There is one store in my area that is notoriously sickening with their advertisements. Each week they claim that they are having their biggest sale ever!! (Note the exclamation marks here.) The "sale" signs in the store windows are faded as they have been in place since the start of "talkies" in the movie houses. Now I don't want to name any names (Haynes Furniture), but this practice is dubious at best. Certainly it is misleading. Fraudulent? Well, O.K.. They make you want to retch? Hmmm, I think we get the picture. Now that I have educated you on the meaning of the word "sale", I trust that we won't have any more slip-ups. Remember, I will be watching.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Oldies Station

Music was such a big part of my life growing up. I would spent hours each day listening to my small transistor AM radio. I remember looking forward to spending a few hours every Saturday with Casey Kasem's and his American Top 40 program. He would play us through the most popular songs in the country week by week. Nowadays, I rarely listen to the radio any more. I turn it on for my drive into work and listen to one of those "zoo" morning shows that includes no music. My daughter has a small stereo that I bought her, but I don't think that she has ever used it. It sits in her room amassing dust and neglect. I guess that this is part of the change in our culture. The influence of technology. The next step. Listening to the radio has been replaced by Wii or Playstation or XBox or computer games. An explosion of television channels where there are always airings of cartoons or kid shows. I guess that most kids find these outlets more stimulating to their visual minds than sitting around singing to the tunes. I kind of think that this is a bit of a shame. Music can be so uplifting and touching. It can perfectly express our emotions, wherever they happen to appear in the spectrum on any given day, at any given moment. When I hear one of those old songs from my childhood, I am taken away to a different place, if only for a moment.

I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away

Monday, September 14, 2009


I got a call the other day from someone from my past. Someone who was a central part of my life, who shaped me and defined me, who helped to set my priorities in proper order, who brought excitement and adventure into a once dormant existence. Through circumstances and time, this relationship crumbled into dust, an ugly and bitter remnant of what was once something beautiful and special and unique and promising. The reflections from that time have now essentially faded to black. Visions and mannerisms and moments that were once firmly planted in my mind, I now struggle to recall. What remains are pale shadows with no depth or clarity. Sights and sounds and tastes and smells once so strong and vibrant and heady, have dissolved into the aether. They were very important to me for many years. The call was brief and caught me off guard. After I hung up the phone, I sat and thought about human relationships. How quickly and quietly the crop tends to rotate. I lingered on this one in particular. For some reason, I remembered a joke that we used to share and smiled to myself. The voice now distant and a bit unfamiliar, still had the power to stir my mind. To make me look back and to make me look forward. To make me see what was real and what was fantasy. A voice from the past that, perhaps, wasn't so distant after all. But, alas, for every beginning there is an end. For every hello there is a goodbye.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I was trying to explain to him a somewhat technical point. The white board filled up with colorful ink, equations and pictures and symbols. It was crucial information that needed to be transferred so that he could understand how to properly calibrate his detector. This was an important aspect of his thesis project. As I was working my way through the dance, I began to sense that something was different. There was definitely something in the air. A noticeable phase change. The usually astute questions and probing rapidly diminished and then abruptly stopped altogether. Did I move too fast? Did I make too many assumptions or take too grand a step and lose my young charge somewhere along the way? This was certainly not like him. Not like him in the least. I looked up from my work and noticed the back of his head as he ran out of the room. I heard a muffled, excuse me ... perhaps a slight whimper. I stood there in my office all alone. I was totally confused, even a little bit put out. After a moment, I managed to collect myself and sat down at my computer and once again became engrossed in my work. At some time later, my attention was broken by a gentle rapping on my door. I looked up to see my student sheepishly staring down at the floor. After a somewhat awkward pause he admitted that he had to go to the bathroom, badly. Another momentary silence followed. Then, could you please start from the beginning?

There is an important life lesson here. We can appear to the world to be fully engaged and part of life, but if we are distracted on the inside, all of this beauty and majesty can go right past us and be lost. Take the time to clear the cobwebs and distractions from your mind so that you don't miss a thing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Girly Moped

There are folks out in the world who look like idiots or buffoons but just don't care. They are who they are. Quirky, eccentric, unusual. It's all good. Somehow their oddities are acceptable and cute and funny, part of the counterculture that makes them who they are. There are also folks out there who look like Captain Dorkface from the planet Poofendoof, but in their own minds they believe they are Rico Suave. I want to assure you that there is an important difference between these two classes of individuals. One group deserves our ridicule. We are laughing at them, not with them.

Let me provide an example so that you can appreciate the gist of my nub. I was driving down the road the other day and was passed by a person on a European moto-scooter. This scooter looked like it should have been an accessory for the Barbie Dream House collection. Frilly and girly and cartoonish. A spectacle to be sure. The problem was compounded by the appearance of the person riding said scooter. It was someone who was trying to come across as a street tough. Dressed in a leather jacket, German army helmet, cool shades, and western-style American blue jeans. He even completed the look with several days of beard growth. It reminded me of the words of a critic of the "band" NKOTB. One of the members of this pre-pubescent boy band took on the persona of a tough guy. The critic described him as a motorcycle guy in a moped band. Someone who was trying to act out a particular role, but in the wrong play. Trying to be a square peg, but faced with nothing but round holes. Now, I am not one to criticize or look down on folks who bring something new to the table, but sometimes folks try so hard to be something that they are not that I have no choice but to gesture and laugh.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Routine Routine

What happens when the routine is suddenly not the routine? Do you just go on with your life as if nothing happened, as if it t'weren't nothin'? Do you remain in good spirits? Happy? Positive? If you answered yes to any of these, let me help you back to your spaceship so that you can find your way back to planet Brylcreem where you came from. As for me, I find that I usually have a fit, mutter unintelligibly, throw things, stomp my feet, and, on occasion, I have been known to spit fire. Let me get into a few specific examples from my own life so that you can appreciate the type of situation to which I am alluding.

1). You are getting into your car, an operation that you navigate successfully about a dozen times per day, when you bang the side of your head on the door for some unexplainable reason.

2). You are munching away on your gum, when inexplicably, your mind decides that you have a sudden taste for flesh and you chomp down hard into your cheek.

3). You are walking along a busy and quantifiably flat sidewalk in a very conspicuous part of town when you trip over an invisibility and find yourself looking up at the clouds.

How can operations such as these, ones that we have practiced time and again, suddenly go so wrong? This topic, which sociologists have considered studying for years, might even make for an exciting new series on the Discovery Channel.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Divine Moment

My Community Group just started the book Seizing Your Divine Moment by Erwin Raphael McManus. The book in a nutshell is about recognizing the moments where God calls you to take on life, where he has prepared important opportunities for us that we should act on. So far, I am just a few chapters into the book and am just getting a sense of McManus' style and approach. I do look forward to the journey ahead. I found myself chuckling a bit reading some of the praise blurbs on the book jacket from their chosen panel of outside experts. Some of them are crazily over the top. "Erwin McManus has penned a book of such magnitude it will be a catalyst for every believer's faith." I'm quite certain that the book is not all that. Other blurbs are littered with exclamation points! I think they tend to overuse them! It's just a book! However, I did flag a number of lines in the first chapter that spoke to me that I thought appropriate to share with you as relevant.

1). Jesus calls us to live a life of unimaginable adventure. It begins the moment we choose to follow Him. It is no less than to pass from existence to life.

2). Even with a time machine you cannot change the past, so change the future.

3). We've come to see the world through still frames, when in reality life is in constant motion.

4). How we view God dramatically affects the persons we become. How we understand God to work radically affects the life we live in God. The subtle shift from following Jesus to receiving Jesus is significant.

5). One of the reasons that we are unprepared for the moment before us is that we're stuck in a moment behind us.

6). One moment in the past continues to haunt every moment of your life. A moment in your history that steals from you all the moments in the future. Is there a moment you keep reliving again and again? To relive the past is to relinquish the future. If you are willing to let go of the past, then you are ready to step into the future. When you choose to remain stuck in a moment, you become incapable of seizing your divine moments.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


I worry about my little girl a lot; I guess I always have. I think about her safety and well-being all the time. These thoughts don't subside even when she is sitting right next to me. I'm certain that sometimes I border on the side of being overprotective. Some parents have the attitude that you have to let children be children, that they have to be given the chance to try things and make mistakes so that they can learn how to cope and survive and get by. This description does not fit me in any way. The sound of my daughter crying or the sight of tears rolling down her cheeks have always torn at my heart and spurred me to increase my vigilance. I can watch my daughter playing a simple game and my mind starts to visualize all of the ways that she could get injured. I know that these thoughts are remote possibilities, unrealistic, and maybe even unhealthy. There have been plenty of times when they have gotten in the way of letting her live and experience important lessons or moments. I realize that I need to be more sensible and practical and realistic when it comes to how I protect her.

My worries don't just limit themselves to physical injury. I want to be there to shield her from all of the turmoils in life that I know weigh on her. Doctor's appointments, oral reports and exams at school, living in two different households. Of course, I understand that to learn to deal with the trials of life, she needs to teach herself how to minimize stress and how to put things into perspective. She must learn to do things on her own so that she can grow into an independent and successful adult. However, just because I am cognitively aware of all these points, doesn't necessarily translate into my giving her the space she needs or removing the cloying shield of armor that I oftentimes try to erect.

However, sometimes, just when I start to forget, she lets me know that she is growing up and is doing just fine without my meddling and worrying. I had been assuming all summer long that she was dreading going back to school this fall. Ever since she started going to school full time, she has never looked forward to facing the end of summer vacation. There was always strong trepidation thinking about going back to the classroom. This year I started once again to build up the fortress of protection and worry regarding the start of school and she told me with a hug, "Daddy I'm kind of excited about going back to school this year."

I will end this blog entry with a link to a blog entry from my wonderful friend Paul that is so beautiful it makes me cry. His post, called "Pulling back", is so relevant and appropriate to my thoughts here. (Paul I miss you and our time together.)

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

Folks, hope you enjoy your day off (or your day on if you are working like me). Blessings to all of you.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Domino Effect

Have you ever killed another human being? Wow, that's a question that kind of hangs out there, isn't it? If this kind of makes you catch your breath, let me ask the question in a slightly different vein. Have you ever been responsible for the death of another? I suspect that most folks reading these words would answer immediately and unequivocally with NO! I recognize that you might find questions of this sort shrill and "out there" and inappropriate, but I have been thinking about my own answers to questions of this sort. Now I'm not confessing to the Folsom Prison Blues here (I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die). No, I'm pondering questions of this sort more from the perspective of a six degrees of separation kind of thing. The interest that I have today is in how our decisions and choices unintentionally affect the lives of others in the world.

To make my point less obtuse, let's consider the following scenario. You have an airline reservation to go on a business trip. At the last minute your plans change, so you cancel your reservation. Now, the opening that you just created allows another person a seat on the flight. If this plane then crashes due to mechanical problems, then you, in some sense, are directly responsible for the death of the person who filled the vacancy you created. I am sure now that you understand my view point here, you could dream up any number of hypothetical scenarios where a decision that you make could directly or indirectly put into motion a time line where someone could be killed where you have culpability. If the cause and effect are several steps disconnected (you affect X who then affects Y who then affects Z), you would never even be aware of the impact of your initial decision. While this type of domino cascade effect is perhaps a bit macabre, it still is kind of interesting to consider.

Friday, September 4, 2009

I Shot the Sheriff

I have a proposal, one that I know most people will not agree with, but I think it is important to at least consider. What if we changed our laws such that elected officials who are convicted of breaking the law received double the punishment that anyone else would receive? I have long believed that elected office, whether the position is president, sheriff, or county comptroller, puts these people in a special position of trust and confidence. They need to set a pristine example at all times. There needs to be appropriate oversight and measures in place to avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety. If they are convicted of breaking the trust of their office, breaking the promises to their constituents, then they should pay a steep price. It is said that power corrupts, and I think that we witness far too many examples of this each night on the evening news. I would even guess that doubling the penalties for crimes committed by our elected officials would do little to curb their frequency or their severity, or to curb the gall, the attitude, or the feelings of entitlement that these people exhibit. That lust for power and control and recognition is a powerful drug. A single whiff can turn people away from what they know in their hearts is proper and right and legal. However, the imposed penalties would at least send the appropriate message that the public trust is not something to be betrayed lightly.

In this same vein of thought, have you ever noticed that when public officials are arrested they tend to kick and scream and fight with a ferocity and intensity rarely seen in other segments of the population? They never stand up, publicly admit their transgressions, and accept their punishment. They curse and scream and fight and act like monsters. They threaten and squirm and come out looking like greasy little hoodlums. What really shakes the foundations of my understanding is that these same tyrants typically get away with their misdeeds, even in the face of overwhelming evidence, and continue on in their office. They rarely change course in their behavior, with the exception of working to ensure their criminal activities are more covert.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Summer Vacation

A standard homework assignment given to children when they return to school at the beginning of September is to prepare an essay on what they did during their summer vacation. While I am not a young kid any more, I thought that I would try my hand at sharing with you how I spent my summer with my young daughter. As an essay is a predictable and standard form, I follow a slightly less hackneyed approach in delivering my report.

S - Swimming - Afternoons spent frolicking in the pool with our own games of fun and silliness: volleyball, I sink you save me, dumb bunny/dumb seal, diving competitions, fountain displays.

U - Unwinding - Relaxing in our own yard, laying on our couch talking and being silly, reading adventure stories and fairy books, shopping for goodies for our house.

M - Marvelous meals - Grilled cheese sandwiches and sour pickles, spagetti and garlic bread, quesadillas with special dipping sauce, homemade pizza, corn on the cob.

M - Munching snacks - Nachos, chip bowls, ice cream treats, and most assuredly, cheese sticks.

E - Enjoying ourselves - trips to the lab, playing Mario Wii games, indoor balloon volleyball, watching our shows (Wipeout, iCarly, True Jackson, Mythbusters, Spongebob), games of pig on our own basketball court, visits with friends, volunteering at church, Busch Gardens and Water Country.

R - Restaurants - 3 Amigos, Chili's, Olive Garden, Subway, Domino's.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Life's Adventures

When it comes to figuring out what my daughter and I will do on our days together, I must admit that I lack imagination. Whether due to laziness, apathy, fatigue, or even lack of appropriate brain pathways, I find it all too easy to surrender to activities like playing video games or watching T.V.. However, the other day after we had watched our upteenth straight episode of SpongeBob Squarepants, it dawned on me that in our time together, the moments that my daughter will remember most are those where the real adventures took place. Our trip to Hawaii, our trips to the zoo or aquarium, the walks that we went on together, the times when we visited with friends, the times we volunteered together. I know this because in her entire life she has never once uttered "Daddy, remember the time that we were watching television?". This kind of spurred me to crank up the adventure knob a couple of notches. Thoughts of laziness, apathy, and fatigue really do represent the path of least effort when it comes to deciding what to do each day. Planning is something that, by definition, needs to be done in advance. It will take some time and some effort. Fun, adventurous activities do not have to involve spending huge amounts of money. My daughter and I like to go on walks together and talk about all of the important things in her life. They are times to laugh and forget our worries. To forge bonds of trust and love. To be silly and make up games along the way. I know that she cherishes these times because she remembers them. I have come to understand that monotony, even fun-filled monotony (like watching T.V. or playing computer games) can be sinister. Weeks and months and years can elapse so quickly, so insidiously. It seems that the spinning of the clock hands goes the slowest when we are out in the world living life, living the adventure. Laughing and talking and engaging our minds. I need to be continuously reminded of this so that I can get the most out of this life and give the most to my daughter.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Labeling someone as a "loser" is probably just about the biggest insult that I can imagine lobbing at someone. If it isn't at the top of the list, it certainly is right up there. Nobody likes to lose, to be bested, to give an inch in the face of fair and honest competition. Certainly in many arenas, we must concede defeat because we are outmatched. Sometimes this occurs because we are not fully prepared or because other contenders are more skilled or gifted. Of course, worse than losing once in a while, is a sustained pattern of losing or even a perceived sense that someone fails most of the time.

However, those of you who are parents, especially those with younger children, purposefully lose to them nearly all of the time. Not because we are inferior or less prepared or weaker. It is because we want to build up the confidence and self-esteem of our little ones. We have seen how their independence and self-assuredness grow when they best us in board games or video games or physical contests. For normally aggressive and competitive adults, we lose and still bask and revel in our victorious moment. Our spirits are filled to overflowing witnessing the brightened glow in our children. Our behavior is a clear indication of selfless love, of putting the needs of others before our own innate selfish desires. I find it amusing how this instinct diminishes as our children get older and we feel the need to reestablish our dominance. Our attitude seemingly becomes one of "I'll show you who is the alpha human around here". While this is partly true, our increased intensity as our children get older is probably appropriate so that they don't get a false sense of their abilities heading out into the "real" world. They need to develop appropriate humility and appreciation of others.

While all of this is interesting to me and I have lots of other thoughts rumbling around my mind, the real idea kernel behind today's blog post on losing is the few individuals in my life to whom I absolutely abhor losing. The scale of the "battle" does not matter, grand or trivial. I find that in all such engagements with these combatants, I want to crush their spirits into the dust. I want them to suffer. I want to upset their attitudes and peace of mind. I want to win. I need to win. Thankfully, however, the number of individuals on this list are very few in number. I honestly hope that I can come to grips with my attitude and eliminate such lists from my mind entirely. I fully understand that my attitude toward these individuals is based on over-compensating for injuries that they have inflicted on me in the past. The fact that such a list exists in my mind at all boils down to forgiveness, or more appropriately, a lack of forgiveness. I have such a distaste for these individuals because I have not properly dealt with those past wounds. However, the simple act of forgiveness is a crucial and necessary step on the road to healing and moving on and living a Godly life.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But, if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins, Matthew 6:14-15