Thursday, April 30, 2009

Work Ethic

How far are you willing to go to complete a job? Do you stop at O.K.? How about good enough? If your attitude is to just meet a low threshold, then you can never achieve excellence. It may be menial work that gives you no pleasure. It may be that you would rather be doing something else so you rush through your work and do just enough to get by, just so nobody complains. It may be that you will get no recognition no matter how much effort you pour out. However, I would argue that a slothful approach to one's work, a poor work ethic, and a point of view where one is always seeking to cut corners, are not just poor character traits, they are wholly unbiblical attitudes. There are several relevant reminders in the book of Proverbs.

Proverbs 14:23 - "All hard work brings a profit."

Proverbs 18:9 - "One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys."

Therefore as you go about tasks in your workaday lives, keep in mind that giving your full effort is a Godly way to approach your responsibilities. Good work habits lead to success and consistency in our approach and are essential to stave off bad habits. Seek excellence in all that you do.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

You Stinking Moron

Have you ever said something under your breath in a moment of elevated tension or anxiety that did not reflect in any way who you were as a person or what you believed in? Said something that was mean-spirited and unfair and uncalled for? Maybe you were just in a surly mood to begin with or maybe something caught you totally by surprise. Akin to swearing when you hit yourself with a hammer, it just kind of comes out of you. Well, I catch myself all too often in this trap. Most often this happens when someone cuts me off in traffic or commits some other self-perceived, inconsiderate offense that affects my life. Some might say that this is just an innocent release, maybe even a victimless sin. Lately I have been trying to recognize that this is an aspect of me that needs attention and work. I find that after a deep breath or two (or five or six for an especially egregious offense), I have to say to myself quite sternly that the other person made a mistake or might have something on their mind or didn't see me. I forgive them for the offense and I ask forgiveness for my reaction. It might seem kind of silly but this little exercise does a couple of things that fosters self-improvement.
  • I realize sinful behavior on my part and seek forgiveness for it.
  • I recognize an area of myself that needs work and give it immediate attention.
  • I release frustration and negativity that sometimes can stick with me and chew me up on the inside for a couple of hours.
  • I forgive others and give them the benefit of the doubt, which helps defuse my natural inclination towards elitist tendencies.
  • I save my energy and emotions for things that matter a whole heck of a lot more.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Grind My Gears I

Do little things set you off, you know, really grind your gears? I have a seemingly unending list of things that other people do that cause me to spit and turn red and gnash my teeth. My beef today, the inspiration behind today's blog post, is with people who slow down and come to a stop well before the stop line at a red light. I am not expecting that people will aim for complete precision when stopping their vehicles at the stop line. I am not some sports-jacket-wearing commie espousing some sort of super high-tech measurement/verification system that gives severe electric shocks to those who fall even slightly outside of a predetermined threshold. No, but I do believe it is reasonable for folks to pull smoothly and rapidly up to the stop line and stop their vehicles no more than a foot or two behind the line. However, there are some folks who slow their cars down to below 5 m.p.h. at least 200 feet before the line and then turtleishously creep forward or come to a full stop after pondering their stopping point and deciding that they have good and well gone far enough on their journeys for the time being. If you are one of these "people", hear me now and hear me good. Knock it off or my hired goons (Moose and Rocco) will hunt you down and do unspeakable things to you and the air freshener in your car. Am I clear?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Free Cake

I can picture famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld asking the question in his nasally voice, clear as day, "So, what's the deal with free cake?". Where I work it seems there are lots of occasions where someone lays out free cake in the lobby or near one of the secretary's desks. Two very distinct groups then begin to emerge. One group, the spreaders, immediately drops everything they are working on to go door to door to share the news, to get the word out. It becomes to them the most important mission of their lives. They hang up on people mid conversation, they literally drop whatever is in their arms wherever they happen to be standing, they hoot like rabid owls, and they sprint out of their offices. The second group, the receivers, are the folks who take in the news. They follow exactly the same pattern as the spreaders, sprinting away from their work to get to the location of the alledged free cake. They bark and yowl repeatedly. They don't care if they have to push over the elderly or trample on babies. As they run wildly about, they begin to turn into spreaders themselves. These people, the spreaders and the receivers, are fanatical. They seem to immediately turn into zombies. They drop all decorum and lose the ability to control their bladders, all over the promise of free cake. So, what is the deal with free cake? Is it really the food product, or do they hate their work so much that they would look for any excuse to do something else? It's not even like the cake that is served is anything special. What am I not understanding?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Bumper Stickers

I rarely see bumper stickers on expensive cars. This is probably because this form of protest is the prattle of the middle and lower classes who feel that their edgy bumper sticker is their only means of true self-expression, the only way that they can "stick" it to the man. It could also be that people are really only using bumper stickers to cover up areas of their car where the paint is peeling or there is a scrape or ding, a problem less prevelant on newer models. I took a walking tour of my parking lot at work and jotted down the bumper stickers that I came across. Enjoy.
  • "Gated community" - an oxymoron?
  • Support our troops
  • Jon Stewart for president '08
  • Bush and Cheney, kiss my Ashcroft
  • There is no Planet B
  • Got sushi?
  • W'04
  • Had enough? Vote democrat
  • Proud parent of an honor roll student
  • The trouble with pickles

Friday, April 24, 2009

Slave to the Bean

I wrote a blog a couple of months ago on Addictions and the powerful hold they can have on our lives. That blog was written from a personal point of view as I was considering behaviors and thoughts from my own life. I have continued to think about this topic, and one thing that I have come to understand is that feeding our addictions does not satiate us or fill some need once and for all. It only leads to stronger urges and stronger callings. Addictions cannot be fed and then put on the shelf for a while. I was reminded of this from a good friend of mine who is a real slave to the bean. He is always toting around a huge mug of coffee. He knows the exact location of every Starbucks in every town that he visits. He will not even attempt to function without ensuring that his java source is secure. The trouble is that every time I see him, he is struggling to stay awake and alert. In every meeting we are in together, he cannot keep his eyes open for more than 10 minutes. He looks exhausted all the time. His efforts to stay awake almost look painful. The more he feeds his coffee addiction, the worse he seems to get. Romancing the bean or whatever it is we think we need to function, to get by, to survive, is a pump that cannot be primed, a pail that cannot be filled, a fire that cannot be quenched. Ultimately it will come to dominate our life and define who we are.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spiritual Sugar

Today's entry comes from Francis De Sales. Francis lived back in the late 1500s and early 1600s and was the bishop of Geneva. Because of his position and views and extensive writings, he became known as one of the "doctors of the Western Church". Let his words wash over you. Relax and enjoy. (Repeat reading if necessary and as needed.)

Sugar sweetens green fruit and in ripe fruit corrects whatever is crude and unwholesome. Now devotion is true spiritual sugar for it removes bitterness from discipline and anything harmful from our consolations. From the poor it takes away discontent, care from the rich, grief from the oppressed, pride from the exalted, melancholy from the solitary, and facturedness from those who live in society.

It serves with equal benefit as fire in winter and dew in summer. It knows how to use prosperity and how to endure want. It makes both honor and contempt useful to us. It accepts pleasure and pain with a heart that is nearly always the same, and it fills us with a marvelous sweetness.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Position Perks

A perk is an incidental benefit associated with one's position or station. An added bit of gravy if you will. Sometimes a perk is an unexpected bonus that makes us feel special. Other times we feel that we are entitled to these bones, that we have been through the trenches, paid our dues, beared the loads. Sometimes I wonder about the message companies are sending with their perks. I called the bank the other day and was put on hold for an inconveniently long time. When I mentioned this to my perky operator, she give me a new telephone number to call, for the bank's "premier" customers. Basically because I had enough money in the bank or did enough business with the bank, I was entitled to call into a special line to avoid the waits of the average Joe. I was viewed as more important to the bank, and the bank offered me this perk as a token of their appreciation. However, the message that I heard was that they thought I was more important. But why should the average Joe have to wait an inconveniently long time on the phone just because they fall below some arbitrary threshold defined by the bank? I would like to think that the bank considers all of their depositors valuable and important and worthy, regardless of how much money they have in the bank, regardless of what telephone line they dial in on. Of course this entreaty, this hope, extends to more than just our friends in the banking industry, but to our entire world community. The golden rule applies, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Figiggly Transplant Test

Sometimes the stupidest, most inane things, whether they be in the form of images or written words, can brighten your day and leave you smiling. They can be the best medicine for you. Now admittedly, I have the "humor intelligence" (or humor I.Q. if you will) of a ten-year old boy. I realize that you may not appreciate this fact about me, given that I am usually suave and sophisticated and spouting scientifical-sounding blather. However, I tend to break up in giddy laughter when someone says "duty" or makes an inadvertent potty reference. I like television shows like South Park and Family Guy. They don't require me to think or ask a string of questions late in the episode like "Who is that guy again? Is he the one from earlier? But I thought he was killed by the butler." Some of the silly shows that I watch just make me giggle and brighten my mood. So, today I wanted to post an inane picture from a Family Guy episode where Peter has been hired by the local Walmart (or Walmart-like store) where his daughter is his supervisor. In this scene, he is parading around wearing toilet plungers on his man boobs while saying "It's a little chilly in here, I hope nobody notices". Now if this image doesn't get you to laughing, then I would suggest that you need a transplant of your Figiggly gland (trust me, I'm a doctor you know).

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Solicitor

Over the years I have fielded many phone calls from folks trying to solicit me for funds. I cannot tell you too much about what they were calling about because, frankly, I tune these folks out immediately when I understand why they are calling. I have always viewed this type of phone call as an intrusion, an unwelcome interruption. Stop calling here. Take my number off your list. Go away. I am sure that I was rude and curt and surly. Something about people asking me to give away my money, for any cause or fund, has always brought out something dark in me. I viewed these people as scum, as beggars, as the lowest of the low. The other day in church I was sitting next to someone who was a fairly new attendee. At Waters Edge Church, we happened to be in a fund raising period for our new church building, a series entitled "The Big Dream". The young man leaned over to me during the service and asked me if this church was "always trying to get your money". It then kind of dawned on me that so many worthy institutions, from food banks, to community programs, to children's services, to churches, rely almost totally on volunteers and donations from people, people just like me! Do you think that the volunteers who place those calls actually enjoy this work? I bet that there are plenty of folks like me who have hung up on them or treated them like pariahs (or worse). I should think that after just a few hours on the job they would come to realize that they have to deal with plenty of jerks like me, but they put up with it for those generous few who listen and understand and will support their cause. It has taken me a long while to get to this point, to see how I was acting, how I was treating these people. Even if you don't sign up to give to these folks, at least give them some respect and some kindness and some encouragement.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I Am None of Them

Now there's a man I admire. He always seems to be the person that everyone else gravitates toward. He seems to know everyone and everyone seems to know him. He has a style and charisma that makes you want to be accepted by him, somehow adopted into his inner circle. The other day, I came up behind him as he was focussed on a problem that had him perplexed. I said hello, trying not to appear nervous or awkward. He looked at me with his brow wrinkled and said "David, these budget codes are a real pain". I muttered something to acknowledge his point. He went on, "You know Darren, I have been at this for more than 10 years and I still can't figure this stuff out.". He paused to shift some papers around and then added "Donald, do you have to deal with this crap in your department?". He then appeared to have just figured something out, and he turned to me and shook my hand and said "Dale, thanks so much, you've been a great help.". He then gathered his stuff and hurried off without another look in my direction. I had not done or said anything, and to my knowledge neither had David, Darren, Donald, or Dale, whoever they were. I was standing there alone. Moments ago I thought this guy was it. Now I can't remember for the life of me what I saw in him. I went back to work. A important life lesson learned about the dangers of looking too much for approval from others and letting them define your self image.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Red Car Stranger

There it was, phew, I thought I had lost him. That red car, the man in the cowboy hat. It had been so long now, maybe more than 200 miles together. I did not want to lose sight of him after all we had been through together. Of course I didn't know this person, never even spoken to him. So how come I feel this connection with the stranger in the red car? O.K., so we have been on the same stretch of highway within a few hundred feet of each other for a couple of hours. Why do I sense this association? Why do I keep checking my mirrors or changing lanes when he does?

I used to drive back and forth between Ohio and Virginia about once a month. I did this for about 7 or 8 years. The trip was a killer. About 450 miles. About 7.5 hours. I used to tell folks that the trip was about half an hour longer than my patience. Every now and then I would notice a fellow traveler who stayed in contact with me for more than a couple of hours. Maybe because the trip was so long and I was looking for anything to break it up, to distract my mind from the tedium, that I would form this unspoken bond with the other driver. I would not be surprised to learn that the other driver did not even know of my presence. Funny, there was always this momentary sense of loss when the relationship came to an end. One of us reached our destination or was forced to make a pit stop. However, I think it is natural for us to want to forge bonds with others as we move along the long roads of life. Just like with the stranger in the red car, it helps to make the journey a little easier.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Mighty Pen

The other day I noticed a ballpoint pen laying in the gutter. It had been run over by a car and one end of the plastic housing was shattered. The cap was nowhere to be seen. This once mighty pen had been reduced to a piece of forgotten, worthless, and unappreciated trash. You could probably purchase a bag
with a dozen of these pens for a couple of dollars at Walmart. However, this pen gave me pause to think about our attitudes and how we approach our modern times. I think people, for the most part, take the technology in the world around them for granted. They just expect it to be there, but they give no thanks in return. They feel that they are entitled to it just because of the age in which we all live. There is no appreciation, no awe, no wonder.

Just 50 years ago, the ballpoint pen was not in our vocabulary. 100 years ago it was only considered as some futuristic dream. However, this humble, broken, and forgotten ballpoint pen had gone through a very long journey to get to where it ended up. A journey that tells so much about man. The long and involved manufacturing process shows just what a clever and industrious and smart species we are. It's absolutely amazing to think of just how much work went into this making this object.

1). Making the ink in a modern industrial plant.
2). Forming the metal parts with casts and dies in a mass-production assembly line.
3). Extracting the raw materials from the Earth to form and process the tungsten-carbide balls.
4). Molding the plastic parts via extrusion and injection-molding techniques in a modern manufacturing facility.
5). Assembly of the components and filling of the ink.
6). Adding decorative labels and designs via computer-controlled machines.
7). Packing and shipping of the pens to the retail outlets.

These pens were formed from parts made in a number of super high-tech factories after extracting the oil-based products from deep in the Earth to make the plastic components and after extracting the metals from underground mines and forming the precise alloys. The number of people who operate the oil rigs, the refineries, the mines, the factories, and the retail stores is too many to count. All to make the humble, broken, and forgotten ballpoint pen.

The fact that we can hold this seemingly simple object in our hands and not appreciate all of this history says much about who we are. Much about the times that we live in. Much about us as people. All at once it reveals the greatness of humans and their faults. Indeed, the pen is mightier than the sword.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Here Comes Da Judge

I work in a position where part of my job is to judge the performance and abilities of those that I work with, from students to postdoctoral researchers to technicians. I am responsible for filling out their performance evaluations at the end of each year or to write assessment letters (so-called letters of recommendation) for them. This position as judge is an important responsibility that I take very seriously. I actually enjoy preparing these letters for individuals that I know are hard working, efficient, dedicated, and bright. I understand this helps them get considered for jobs to which they apply or to help them get the promotions that they are after. In fact, these letters are quite easy to prepare. What is more difficult is having to write a letter or prepare an evaluation for someone who is not particularly bright or clever at their work. I fall into a dangerous trap in dealing with this type of person. When I feel that someone is not above threshold (i.e. rated good or excellent at their work), I tend to lose respect for them as a person. Based on the fact that they are not particularly good at their job, I write them off entirely as worthless. Try as I might to get past this, to work on this area of myself, I have not seemed to make any progress. What's a judge to do?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I Disagree

As a card-carrying member of the academic sector, my mind and thought patterns have been honed to follow a certain logical, truth-seeking methodology. I try to approach discussion and debate armed more with facts than emotion. However, this is certainly not how the world at large operates, where I have seen vast communities focus instead on crazy half-truths, arbitrary cultural rituals, and random acts of ignorance and stupidity than on the common good. I can rattle off a number of obvious examples, such as the Jews and Palestinians, the Democrats and Republicans, the North and South Koreans. It's like at the end of our president's state-of-the-union address, they always have these high-falutin' politicians from each party give their take on what we just heard. The first will say that the speech was an unqualified success, that the president could not have been more right, that he is, in fact, a god. The second will say, in terms just as strong and passionate, that the speech was a total flop that showed just how wrong and misguided this president is, and that it goes to show that he is, in fact, the devil incarnate. One side says it's black and the other side says it's white. Clearly there is no way both sides can be correct. The arguments are not logical, not sensible. Still these points of view continue on and nobody steps outside of the scene and evaluates what the truth actually is. The point is that people see what they want to see, they see things from their own highly biased point of view.

The story is not any different between individuals involved in a dispute. There is very little common ground and typically none is sought after. One person claims the other is selfish and hurtful and wrong. The other person claims exactly the same thing. Both cannot be right, but both can be, and most likely are, wrong. In a dispute where passions run very high and inner peace is hard to find, we must step back, step outside of the situation and seek the truth. While I certainly do not have all the answers, and at times, I have none, I can offer one piece of useful advice. It is better to end the "discussion" before your uncontrolled emotions take over and hurtful and hateful words are uttered. They only serve to inflame an already difficult situation and never help bring peaceful resolution. Find some space to gather your thoughts, to check your emotions, and to consider both sides of the argument before re-engaging.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What's in a Name?

It's getting out of hand, people stopping me on the street, in the supermarket, at the mall, basically everywhere. They all have one question on the tip of their tongue. "Dan, where did you come up with name Return to Zero for your award-winning blog?" Man, if I had a nickel for every time that I fielded that question I'd have exactly zero cents. O.K., so nobody has actually asked me this question, but I can sense that you all want, nay pine, to know. The title came to me when I was moving back to Virginia a few years ago to restart my life. I kind of felt that everything that I had accumulated in my life to that point had been completely taken away from me, and I had to go all the way back to the beginning, hence "Return to Zero". The entire chalkboard of my life had been completely erased. My blog name also is based on a band headed by ex-Boston members Brad Delp and Barry Goudreau. A fitting name they chose after such promise was shown and such high expectations were built after Boston's first two albums, after which that band kind of fell apart. Return to Zero is not necessarily a name chosen based on positive feelings and hope for the future. It is really a name of lament and despair in some sense. All that I have known and counted on and believed in is gone, and here I am with nothing, starting all over again, at a time in my life when things should be much further along. Return to Zero certainly marked a turning point in my life, but, of course, which way I go, where I end up, and whether I find some inner peace again is still a complete unknown.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

10 Hate Love

10 Things I Hate
  1. Being wrapped up in a blanket like a jelly roll and unable to move.
  2. Personal conflicts.
  3. When my body doesn't do what I want it to do or what I think it should be able to do.
  4. When I miss opportunities.
  5. Working hard on a project only to find that I made a mistake somewhere and having to start again.
  6. Rejection.
  7. Having some important news but nobody to share it with.
  8. Being late to an appointment or meeting.
  9. Being stuck in traffic with no possibility of escape.
  10. Goodbyes.

10 Things I Love
  1. Hugs and kisses from my daughter.
  2. A day at work where I feel at the end that I have earned my kibble.
  3. Feeling wholly appreciated.
  4. A really good meal.
  5. Being in charge of a successful and visible project.
  6. Laughing until my sides hurt.
  7. An evening spent together with friends.
  8. The look on my daughter's face when she spots me from across the room.
  9. Having someone to talk to when I am in need.
  10. Being in love and having the feelings returned in full.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Barbie the Chip

Here's a simple question. If a Uranite (a native of the planet Uranus) were to come to Earth and try to communicate with us, we probably would not be surprised to find that we had no bloody idea what he (or she or it) was trying to say. Why? The reason why is obvious, because they were communicating in a different language (unless it was an episode of Star Trek where everyone in the universe conveniently speaks english). However, even if two creatures (let's call them "people") try to converse, they may speak the same language, but still may be miles apart from understanding each other. Words and sounds and gestures can all be absolutely alien if our brains are not deciphering their full meaning. This can lead to very serious (and sometimes fatal) misunderstandings between individuals and even groups of people. I was reminded of this fact the other day in a conversation that my daughter and I were having as we drove along in the car. She was talking and I was talking, she was explaining and I was explaining, she was laughing and I sat confused as nothing should have been that funny. It was then that I realized that we were engaged in two very different conversations. I thought she was talking about "Barbie Q-tips". Barbie, the ubiquitous female ideal that adorns lots of kid-related products and fills half the toy departments of the world. Q-tips, the name-brand cotton swabs we all have in our bathrooms. It turned out that she was talking about "barbeque chips". Once I figured this out and explained to her what was going on, we both had a great laugh, with ensuing side pains and eye tearage. However, the lesson is clear and the warning is relevant and important. Simple misunderstandings and communication breakdowns lead to us leaving discussions without really understanding what the other person is saying or their reasoning. This can build up walls and distance. From time to time we need to stop and actually listen to be sure that we stand on common ground.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A Small Part

A cool but unexpected moment occurred a couple of weeks ago at the WEC six-year anniversary service. The WEC staff had put together a video montage of the past year. They showed this on the video screen before the start of lead pastor Stu Hodges' talk. It was a fun trip through the highlights at WEC for the past year, as well as the weekly theme arcs. It was also pretty cool to see that I showed up in one snippet. I had blogged that I gave a testimony about my journey to WEC (see Answer the Call I) back at Thanksgiving. I know my daughter Maddie got a kick out of seeing her daddy in the video ("Hey daddy, that's you up there!"). Pretty neat. Neater still is the chance that I had to step up for WEC and "Answer the Call". Perhaps, just perhaps, that effort helped some folks along in their journeys.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Hatfield vs. McCoy

There has been much discussion and debate and gnashing of teeth regarding prayer in public schools. I am sure that I don't have all the facts and that I don't understand all of the issues, but I am sure that I am colored by the sensational stories that show up from time to time in the popular press. It seems that public opinion of the current U.S. laws are that prayer in public schools (any institution supported by government funding) is verboten. There was this major concession that allowed for a "moment of silence", but you won't get another inch. I kind of have this picture in my mind of the Hatfields and the McCoys locked in a never-ending battle, where the Hatfields are the religious folks and the McCoys are the evil, secret society athiests (I can almost hear the hissing now). The reality is that it was religious groups that brought the lawsuits that formed our current laws. These laws only outlaw government-sponsored worship. Public school students have always had the full right to pray on their own as class schedules permit. To me, this kind of makes sense. Buddhists, Hindus, Christians, Islamists, and Jews have very different points of view as to what their children are exposed to in school, and what their children are required to recite and read and espouse. Keeping school clear of this kind of fighting and debate and controversy seems entirely appropriate to me. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that kind of summed the whole thing up, "As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in public schools".

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Far Beyond Our Level

In his message a few weeks ago, lead pastor Stu Hodges at Waters Edge Church said that as Christians, most of us are educated far beyond our level of obedience. At first, this may seem like a jab or an insult, at least it did to me. However, these words have stuck with me since I heard them. They have been rolling around my head. The point is that the mature Christian is not the person who has the highest education level, who has read the most books on spirituality, the person who has attended church the longest, the person who has been in the ministry the longest, or even the person who has the most information about Jesus. The mature Christian is one whose heart and mind and soul have been transformed so that they act like Jesus. According to Pastor Clancy Nixon, he believes that the way to tell if someone's heart is transformed is that they swiftly obey when they hear God's word. Some have termed this "missional velocity", your speed of obedience to the mission that God has for you. It is akin to how you can tell what language a person thinks in, i.e. their true native language. When they hit their thumb with a hammer, what language do they cry out in? This is how you can figure out their true self. When God calls you, do you immediately and unquestionly act? How you respond reveals your self, your true spiritual obedience.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hare Brained

I heard them scream "Look away!", but my eyes were drawn to the scene. The outcome would be inevitable. He just sat there, calmly reading the newspaper, resigned to the fate that he had created for himself. The air faintly reeked of carrots. The senseless deaths continue. You can help ease the pain by becoming a Save the Bunny sponsor today. If you don't step up, you must hate your children and beat your dog. There can be no other conclusion drawn.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mail-Order Brides

I have noted before the sometimes painful, curious, and interesting ads that appear on my Facebook page (see Old Man Transition from Feb. 24, 2009). Of course these ads are not randomly generated by the fine folks at Facebook, they are based on information contained in our profiles. Today's blog was motivated by a recent ad that showed up on my page for mail-order brides. Mail-order brides, are you freakin' kidding me? Is this what my profile really says about me? Reducing the courtship and relational strategery to the same method that I use to purchase cookware and dress socks? Does anybody really go down this road? This notion just screams desperation or extreme laziness or a cut-to-the-chase, skip-the-B.S. approach to life.

Mail-order brides, really? Well, I have done some painstaking reseach into the world of bride catalog shopping (courtesy of my good friends at wikipedia). Do you know that in the U.S. roughly 4000 to 6000 of these unions are made each year? Hmmm. Furthermore, studies have shown that these marriages result in a significantly lower divorce rate compared to "traditional" marriages? Oh my. Have you even thought about the fact that couples in these transactions typically do not even speak the same language? Aha! I believe we have finally stumbled upon the secret to the successful marriage. I can picture it now. "Honey, I am going to go out all night drinking with the guys and getting into whatever trouble comes my way. I will be back whenever I feel like it." "Glork?". Talk about your marital bliss.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Joy of Food

Someone I knew once said regarding his favorite dish, "It's so good you just can't help but eating it". Enjoying our food, transforming our lunches and dinners into long-remembered occasions and experiences, is one of the perks of being a human with a well-defined palette. Sour, sweet, savory, bitter, salty. Oh what wonderful combinations of tastes and textures and smells we can whip up. Just the thought of our favorites can cause our mouths to start watering in anticipation. I believe that I can almost taste these favorites if I think and imagine hard enough. I have been pondering on some of my all-time favorite dishes. These include:
  • Spaghetti and garlic bread;
  • Lasagna with meat sauce;
  • Chicken dijon served on a bed of rice;
  • Chicken marsala;
  • Stuffed pork chops;
  • Bacon and onion quiche;
  • Filet mignon wrapped in bacon and smothered in mushrooms.
I have cooked a lot of dinners in my day. One thing that I am certain of is that food always tastes better when we share it with those that we love. When I am making dinner just for myself, my feeling is, the quicker the better. I will slap something together or grab leftovers from the fridge (sometimes not even bothering to heat them up). However, when I am making dinner for my family or friends, stand back. Man can I concoct some wonderful goodies. Cooking with and for others simply transforms a chore or task necessary for survival into something so much more. So, think about some good dishes that you know how to make and dive in, prepare and enjoy them with folks you know and love.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Role Model

Charles Barkley once famously stated "I am not a role model". At the time I remember that there was a lot of clucking of tongues about how professional atheletes are supposed to be paragons of virtue as all the little children look up to them and try to emulate them. There was a lot of negative publicity directed towards Mr. Barkley and his image as an iconic bad boy was all the more solidified. At the time, I understood what he was saying to all of us through the press. He was just a professional athelete, and he did not sign up for any angel duty. He just wanted to be left alone and allowed to be himself, good or bad. Personally, I don't think that any one of us would like to have to live in the bright spotlight of attention all the time, with every move that we made analyzed and discussed and kibitzed over by finger-wagging pundits. I know for me, that I would not hold up under the bright lights. I also fear that I would be judged and labeled by my worst moments. However, with this said, I take my role as a father very seriously with regards to the example that I set for my daughter. I want her to see a stable man with good values who loves her with all his heart. A father who is always there to watch over her, support her unconditionally, protect her from harm, and to laugh and sing with her. I want my teachings and advice to be reflective of the actual life that I lead. I know that to her, I am a very important role model. I also fully understand that this is a responsibility that I must maintain and uphold even when she is not there, not watching me.