Wednesday, November 25, 2015

25 Things I'm Thankful For.

What am I thankful for on this the greatest of days in 2015?

1. Indoor plumbing, since 40% of my fellow human beings don't have it.
2. Good health, right shoulder not withstanding.
3. A prosperous business.
4. A daughter with the gift of teaching, a brilliant mind, and a terrific husband.
5. A ridiculously talented son with a sharp inquisitive mind and a tender heart.
6. A wife who is beautiful and supremely skilled at life.
7. My amazingly lovable dog.
8. Technology that allows me to stay closely connected to everyone I love.
9. This blog and the opportunities it avails me to express myself.
10. Every single one of the declared candidates for President since even the horrible ones can serve as a bad example.
11. To have been born an American, inheriting effortlessly by birth what millions of others have sacrificed everything to become.
12. Baseball, in all of its unhurried beauty.
13. Music, with its power to transform.
14. Lifelong friends, only a handful of them, but each has been a blessing.
15. Humor.
16. Central air and heat.
17. Being a part of a large and loving family of brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, cousins, uncles and aunts, all of them dear to me.
18. Living in a country where I am free to write horrible things about our leaders.
19. Living in a country where my level of happiness is not dependent on which party controls the levers of power.
20. Vander Warner and others like him...accomplished and wise men of faith who have walked the walk, and shown the rest of us the way.
21. My parents, neither of whom are with us anymore, but still shine down on me from the power of their lives well-lived.
22. Advil, and Pepto-Bismol, two over the counter medications that provide the cure for what was the number one cause of death throughout the world a hundred years ago.
23. Cheese, bread and sausage, without which life would have no meaning.
24. The State of Maine from the first of June through the end of September.
25. The Ressurection. 

This Dog. That Face.


This dog. That face. It almost makes me forget what a whack-job she is. It almost makes me overlook her latest neurosis, as follows:

Back in the Spring I spent a small fortune redoing the landscaping around my house. This included the removal of two huge trees in my backyard and their replacement with a big yard full of turf, the kind that is rolled into place like carpeting. The result has been a beautiful, manicured look out back. Lucy loves the place, it is her domain. It had been our hope that by removing the trees, Lucy would grow out of her fondness for digging around their roots. The key word of that last sentence of course being "hope". There is one spot back there which is still a source of endless fascination for her, and oddly its in the exact spot where she used to dig before, near one of the old trees. There is something there that drives her to dig down just a few inches and then lick the dirt as if her life depended on it! Upon closer inspection I found a strand of dark gray, even black dirt streaked through the spot. After thirty minutes out there Lucy's tongue looks like she has eaten an entire bag of licorice.

So, being possessed of allegedly higher intellect, I decided that I would place a large decorative stone over the dreaded spot, one too heavy for her to move, whereupon, after seeing it covering her licking-hole, she merely dug around the edges of the stone and found new veins of the delicious and mysterious black gold. Now I have a dorky looking stone and an expanding hole in the ground smack dab in the middle of my beautiful manicured $10,000 dollar backyard.                                                    

Meanwhile, Lucy sleeps the deep, carefree sleep of the just. Grrrrrrrrr.......


Sunday, November 22, 2015

A Weapon or a Warm Wish?

 So it begins.  There I was minding my own business today browsing around on Facebook when I saw this picture. Apparently the owner of Schuler's bakery wants everyone to know that if they don't want to be wished a Merry Christmas, then they sure better not come in! If you don't celebrate Christmas enthusiastically, well, you are more than welcomed to get the hell out of Schuler's Bakery.

Yes, this is the time of year when some Christians get all up in the pictures about Christmas-dissing...real and imagined. The horrors are trees, seasons greetings, happy holidays, X-mas, all examples of the satanic lengths which people are willing to go to in order to put a dagger into the Christ Child. Many Christians have simply had enough...

Yes, nothing spreads Christmas cheer faster than pissing off your neighbors. "What? You don't like Merry Christmas? Well I got your Merry Christmas right here!!"

Just about the time I was about to give in to despair, I noticed that someone had written a comment on the Schuler's Bakery sign. I clicked on it and was surprised to see these words written by my wife,

       "Is this really the way to show love to your neighbor? Is a sign really necessary?      Private businesses are free to do whatever they want to do, but a sign like this just makes saying 'Merry Christmas' seem like a weapon instead of a warm wish."

I could have sat at my computer for two days and not come up with more beautiful words than these. It's one of the many reasons why I am in love with this woman... 

Belligerent, militant Christmas cheer. Is that really how we wish to be known? 


Alright, enough with the syrupy sweet, touchy-feely sentimentality about Thanksgiving specifically and the Holidays in general. When you're about to get visited by your adult kids, and a wild man retriever puppy, it's, and lots of it!

First, all the linens in their old bedrooms have to be washed. Then while doing that you're reminded that the mattress in Kaitlin's old room really is shot and needs to be replaced. Cha-Ching*

Then there's the grave concern about just how much of the fall-themed decorations should remain out and just how much of the Christmas knickknackery should be brought out for the kids. Now, to many of you, this may seem like a silly, pseudo-problem, but in my house, this is dreadfully serious business. See, while they are home we must decorate the tree. Our kids must be allowed to fight over who's turn it is to put the angle on the top. Well, it just wouldn't be proper to do this with nothing but cornucopias all over the place, would it? Oh, and our 15 year old tree up in the attic has finally bitten the dust so we had to buy a new nine footer to replace it. Cha-Ching.

With such a fabulously handsome new faux tree with even more handsome faux pine cones, new lights must be purchased. Cha-Ching.

 Pam..."Honey, listen....hear that?
Me..."Hear what?
Pam: "That whooshing sound! Sounds like the air conditioner filters need to be replaced."

I open up the grate and see the words...Replace October 10, 2015. I SAY..."You're right, a couple of days old, these are..." My wife possesses bionic ears capable of hearing the elevated heart beats of squirrels trapped in the attic of neighbors three houses down! Cha-Ching.

Grass needs to be cut. Leaves must be gotten up, after paying a guy $300 bucks to get up the first deluge a couple of weeks ago. Department 56 houses must be hauled out and set up.

Good thing I've got some Percocet left over from my shoulder surgery. I have a feeling I'm gonna need it.

* it has occurred to me that my use of the phrase "Cha-Ching" might be potentially triggering to any Asian readers. Please note that the phrase was used to denote the sound that a cash register makes, NOT as a derogatory reference to people of Chinese extraction.

Friday, November 20, 2015

What Do We REALLY Care About?

Some of my blogs lately have been about very heavy concerns, from the slaughter in Paris to the geo-political and ethical minefield which is the Syrian refugee crisis. From the looks of my Facebook feed, these issues have had a powerful and divisive effect on my readers. Well, it's Friday, and pass time for a blog that I believe has the potential to bring us all together. After all, like President Obama, I want to be a uniter, not a divider. 

So, a couple of days ago, in the midst of the dreadfully serious refugee crisis, with the blood of the innocents barely dry, I passed through my den at 7:30 in the morning, glanced at the television and saw a frame full of Matt Lauer with a gravely earnest expression on his face. He was interviewing someone and looked to be in the midst of asking a profoundly serious question. I paused. Perhaps he had scored a sit-down with the President and was grilling him on his ill-timed "ISIS is contained" line. Or maybe somehow Lauer had managed to win an interview with the reclusive leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Babhdadi. But then my television screen was filled with the cocky face of Charlie Sheen announcing to the world that he has the HIV virus. Moreover, he had had sexual relations with upwards of 500 woman over the past four years without sharing with them this cogent fact. Now he was being blackmailed by a bevy of porn stars and other B-list actresses none too happy about his medical condition. The world is in flames and the suits at NBC thought it wise to air this interview. 

Where to begin? First, let it be known that I wouldn't wish the HIV virus on my worst enemy. On the other hand, who among us is surprised by the news that Charlie Sheen has it? 500 different sexual partners in the last four years? Let that sink in for a moment. That's a new conquest every three days! If it is true that one does, in fact, reap what one sows then Charlie has reaped the whirlwind. But what bothers me is...why does anyone care???? Listen, if it were Tom Hanks, maybe you've got a story. Or if it were discovered that Sylvester Stallone was gay, maybe you've got a story. But...Charlie Sheen?

Most of the time I feel blessed beyond measure to be an American. But honestly, there are other times when I think that we are a wholly unserious people, mired in celebrity worship and too easily attracted to decadence. Thanks a lot Today Show. Thanks for reminding me that no matter that western civilization is crumbling under our feet, you guys never take your eye off of what we really care about.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Syrian Refugees. What To Do?

As of this writing, 31 Governors have notified the President that their states will not accept any new refugees from Syria, in light of the recent attacks in Paris. These Governors have been hailed by some for trying to insure the safety of their citizens, and vilified by others for giving in to fear and xenophobia.
The issue of what to do with the millions of refugees fleeing the years old civil war in Syria is a complex problem with humanitarian as well as geo-political ramifications. However many may want to reduce it to a simple case of fear vs. compassion, the facts of this issue are much more intricate and include more mundane concerns like politics

Also as of this writing, in all the years of the bloody Syrian civil war, so far the countries in the region who share a common heritage, faith and language with most of the refugees...countries like the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, have taken in approximately...ZERO of their Muslim bothers and sisters in the hour of their greatest need. This, despite the fact that each of these countries has plenty of money and the expertise required to resettle them. Although this unfortunate fact certainly doesn't absolve the rest of the world from an obligation to do something to help, it surely should raise a few eyebrows as to...why?

So, the question then becomes, what should be the proper response of the United States government with regards to the humanitarian disaster which is the Syrian refuge? Yesterday, social media was awash in comparisons between this crisis and the Jewish refugees during WWII. For many reasons, I believe this to be a specious argument. First, there weren't any Jews running around machine gunning innocent civilians in restaurants and concert halls in the 1930's, no Jewish state proclaiming a caliphate over the lands of other countries, slaughtering anyone in their path either. Although the vast majority of the Syrians fleeing the war zone are not a party to this ideology, to pretend that amoung them aren't many who are is to be foolishly naive.

We are assured by our government that it can and will fully vet every Syrian it brings into the country. But I don't believe it is either giving in to fear, or displaying paranoia to question their optimism on this score. When they call the Syrian government to follow up on a refugee's background, who is it that actually picks up the phone? An employee of Bashir Assad, the man who's vile administration is responsible for the stream of refugees to begin with??

But, for sake of my argument, let's assume that I am right and that the vetting process is inadequate. Consequently, for every 10,000 Syrian refugees we allow into the country, there are 10 jihadists, a failure rate of only .001%. Is that an acceptable level of risk? According to many of my Christian friends the answer is yes. Scripture is chocked full of commands to treat the foreigner among us with love and compassion. Sure, there is risk involved, but there is risk in practically any noble endeavor. If the failure rate in my example were to rise to 5%, inviting in 500 jihadists, would that level of risk change the equation? I'm speaking theoretically here, since I truly don't know the answer.

Getting back to these Governors. I suppose it's easy to accuse them of pandering to the fear of their constituents, or even trying to embarrass the President with a cynical display of politics. But, regardless of your view on this issue, the number one job of any government is to protect it's citizenry. If a Governor were to agree to take in a couple thousand refugees and just one of them walked into a busy shopping mall and gunned down a couple hundred people, that Governor would go to his political and actual grave with the blood of innocents on his hand. 

Then there's the subject of money. It is estimated by experts that it will cost the United States government approximately $64,000 to care for each refugee it accepts for the first year they are here. This figure includes the cost of health care, resettlement costs, food stamps and other welfare payments, etc.. This, compared to the annual cost of roughly $5400 to provide for them in a neighboring state refugee center in Jordan or Kuwait. (You would think that Kuwait might show a little gratitude in this regard by helping facilitate such a center. We did free them from Sadaam's occupation, after all). Some might say that this more cost effective approach effectively skirts our responsibility by farming it out, in much the same way as Christians farm out our missions responsibility by writing checks instead of going ourselves. Perhaps. But others might suggest that piling on ever more debt by spending money we have to print is neither compassionate or effective.

I find myself stuck in a classic bind. I am held fast between two strong emotions. My heart goes out to innocent people, and the vast majority of those risking life and limb to get the hell out of a war zone are just that...innocent. But my head knows that we have an enemy out there who is hell bent on killing us, and will not hesitate to take advantage of our openness and compassion to do just that...kill us. 

At the moment if I could ask Jesus anything... I would ask him what he meant when he told us to be, "as wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Million Questions

As is often the case in life, when it comes to the War on Terror, I have many more questions than answers. The events of the past three or four days have left me with even more questions. Perhaps the reason I don't know the answers is that I don't know all the facts, and the reason I don't know all the facts is because they are being withheld from me by our military planners and intellengence organizations. Be that as it may, here are a few of them...

When the French government, responding to the barbaric attack on its citizens decided to launch a bombing raid on ISIS targets, it is reported that they hit a "well known jihadist training camp and ammunition dump"

1.Why was ISIS allowed to operate a jihadist training camp and ammunition dump in broad daylight? 
2. If this location was so well known, how come it wasn't taken out months ago?
3. Have we not enjoyed total air superiority in this fight since its earliest days?
4. If so, what has been preventing us from taking a well known training center and ammunition dump out?

For the first time since the war with ISIS began, allied air forces finally attacked a nearly 3 mile long convoy of oil trucks transporting petroleum products from ISIS controlled Syria. This, despite the knowledge that the sale of black market oil is the number one source of financing for the ISIS organization.

5. What, in God's name, have we been waiting for? An engraved invitation?? 

In an attempt to answer question #5 above, a Pentagon spokesman said that we had been worried about collateral damage that might have been visited upon non-combatants, so much so that even this attack was preceeded with the dropping of warning leaflets.

6. Umm...WHAT? 
7. You mean like the ones the terrorists dropped before the Paris massacre?

I'm thinking that if you've got a three mile long convoy of tanker trucks carrying oil purchased directly from ISIS, the drivers of these trucks know exactly what they are doing and are no more non-combatants than were civilian Nazi sympathizers in Paris who ratted out members of the French Resistance in WWII. So, while we are busy losing sleep over collateral damage, ISIS is allowed to rake in 50 million a day in revenue, with which they can train jihadists (in the open) and send them to the streets of Paris to murder French citizens. This is the strangest war...EVER.

Oh,and whoever it was at the Pentagon who made the decision to wait to go after these convoys until after the Paris attacks....thanks. Thanks a lot for managing to make Donald Trump look smart, since he's been publicly calling for us to attack their oil supplies and choke off that income stream for months now. Thanks. That was really helpful.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Universal Values??

"Once again we've seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians. This is an attack not just on Paris, it's an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share."

As the atrocity in Paris was still ongoing, President Obama took to the podium in the west wing of the White House to make a statement. He looked exhausted and besieged. The quote above was the key takeaway from his remarks. It is a sentiment that one hears often after these types of terrorist attacks from politicians from both sides of the aisle. It is also blatantly false.

I am old school enough to think it unwise and unpatriotic to use the event of a terrorist attack to score points against your political opponents, so let me emphasize here that this has nothing to do with our President. Rather, it is a what I see as a deadly flaw in our collective political thinking when it comes to the very nature of the existential conflict in which we find ourselves. To the President and anyone else who agrees with the sentiments above I ask this simple question...

Please list for me exactly the universal values which you believe that all of humanity shares?

More specifically, which universal values do we share with ISIS?

Western civilization is in the midst of a death struggle with radical Islamic jihadists for the precise reason that we do not share the same values. Nothing could be more self-evidently true. When your enemy can throw a seemingly unending supply of volunteers into the fight who eagerly await their chance to martyr themselves, we can't even rely on the universal value of the desire for self preservation. And yet, after every Paris, a tide of self-loathing Western elitists scramble to the nearest microphone to contextualize the evil, eager to place their own free countries into the dock along with the terrorists. It is maddening and utterly predictable.

What way forward? I have no idea. Confronting and defeating a belief system like radical Islamist jihad has no simple solution, no painless remedy. But a good place to start would be to rid ourself of the dangerous and naive notion that all of humanity shares universal values. To use such imprecise language may make us feel better by creating safe spaces in our mindsbut in the real world it is a dangerous delusion.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

First Thoughts on Paris

I sat down on the sofa with my iPad on the coffee table in front of me, my cell phone in my hand and the television turned on, switching between Shepard Smith and Anderson Cooper. The news was coming fast and furious from Paris, a multi-pronged attack on soft civilian targets in one of the world's greatest cities. I sat there for two hours trying to make sense of the senseless. Here are my initial reactions and observations.

My first Facebook post was a bit too snarky, a quip about it being unlikely that the perpetrators would turn out to be a band of "terrorizing Episcopalians." But seriously, what honest, thinking person didn't think it was an attack by radical Islamists?

It's amazing how a cowardly attack on the free people of Paris can transform you into a French patriot in about five minutes.

Every time something like this happens, there is always someone who jumps up and screams, "Yeah, but just two days ago 150 Hulu tribesmen were killed by Tutzi tribesmen in Mozambique and nobody cares! That proves the west is RACIST!!" No, it proves that you are a blithering idiot. 

In general, whenever I hear a talking head reacting to the massacre of defenseless free citizens with the phrase, "Yes, but..." I stop listening. When the blood of innocents is still flowing, it's not time to trot out your moral equivalence talking points.

On the other hand, the very second that confirmation comes that ISIS is behind the attack, you can practically feel the heat being generated by hands gleefully being rubbed together over at the Weekly Standard. The answer to every terrorist atrocity isn't, "Let's send American soldiers to the Middle East again!"

Remember when some of our sillier politicians were telling us how the biggest threat to our National Security was....climate change?

Hearing a French President declare that France is about to wage a war that will be "pitiless" is a very un-French sounding phrase. I truly wonder what that will look like.

I find myself fighting...hard...against my first and perhaps most human instinct...revenge. I've grown very weary of seeing free citizens slaughtered in the streets of good and great cities by remorseless killers yelling Arabic phrases. Part of me says, "Ok want to see paradise, game on!"

Pam asked me this morning, "If this sort of thing should happen in one of our cities, which of the Presidential candidates would you most want in the Oval Office?" Great question. After giving it some thought, I whittled it down to four that I would be Ok with, although, being "Ok" with someone is not the same thing as "enthusiastic." My four were, in no particular order, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, and Hillary Clinton...for what that's worth.

Godspeed to the people of France and free people everywhere.

Friday, November 13, 2015

A New Vocabulary

 Since the racial grievance business seems to be booming of late, especially on college campuses, it's becoming harder and harder to keep up with all the latest developments in the genre. Indeed, an entire vocabulary has sprung up, seemingly overnight, to describe a whole host of new forms of racism. While the overt racism of the past like lynchings and cross burnings and whatnot have largely faded, they have been replaced with more subtle forms of racism. As a service to my readers, I will attempt to identify some of these new words and offer definitions for those not up to speed on the cutting edge of grievance industry:

1. Micro aggression...a snub or slight, often unintentional, sometimes not, directed at a person of color by a white person.

2. Nano aggression...a snub or slight, that hasn't actually been levied yet, but one which a person of color fears may be unleashed sometime in the future.

3. Crypto aggression...a snub or slight that a person of color fears is percolating in the mind of a white person, even if it is actually never levied.

4. Trigger warnings...a warning, usually in writing, that what follows may contain words or images that might cause post-traumatic stress disorder reactions in the reader, especially if the reader is a person of color.

5. Trigger happy...a student who is a person of color who is given a passing grade on an exam he got out of having to take because of an abundance of trigger warnings.

6. Privilege...the unfair advantages bestowed at birth upon people of pallor, the able-bodied, the physically attractive, the athletic, those born into stable families, those who never have broken the law, and the large-breasted.

7. Safe spaces...a cordoned off area or room, dorm, or entire section of campus where no one of privilege is allowed to speak, or exist.

8. Racially segregated housing...the bad kind of safe space.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Be a Blessing

I was about halfway through my second semester at the University of Richmond and ready to quit. Things were not going well. I was working 25 hours a week building wooden pallets in an unairconditioned and unheated warehouse in Ashland while taking a full load of classes at UR, and the grind was wearing me out. My grades weren't good. Commuting all the way from Hanover every morning and working until nearly six every night made for a very long day. As a "townie" I was enjoying none of the raucous social life associated with the college experience, and felt isolated from most of my fellow students by a wide gulf of privilege; many of them were from wealthy, old-money New England families whose BMW convertibles made my 1966 VW Beetle look even shabbier than it actually was.

So, I was feeling very sorry for myself one Saturday morning when I walked across the church parking lot towards my Dad's tiny office to broach the subject of dropping out of school. There he was, slathering a shiny line of black ink on the squeegee of the hand cranked mimeograph machine so he could print out the church bulletins. I always loved the smell of the thing and was temporarily side tracked into helping him with the process, until I eventually spilled all of my troubles to him and informed him of my decision to quit. He kept his attention on the machine and said nothing for the longest time.

Dad had a way of making you feel like an idiot without saying anything remotely unpleasant. In my case, he acknowledged how difficult I had it, but then in a very matter-of-fact, almost kind tone of voice began reminding me that when he went to the University of Richmond, he had four children to feed, and worked the graveyard shift at Reynold's Metals six days a week and still somehow managed to stay on the Deen's list. He never considered quitting because quitting simply wasn't an option. Then he said something I have never forgotten, which I will attempt to paraphrase.

"Son, it seems to me that all you're thinking about right now is yourself and all of your problems. I suppose that's natural for someone to do when things aren't going well, but just because it might be natural doesn't mean it's a good way to live. I want you to try something for me. Every morning when you wake up, I want you to thank the Lord for giving you another day, and then ask yourself this can I be a blessing to someone today? Then, go about your day looking around, paying attention to the people around you, paying attention to the situations that you find yourself in that day, looking for a way that you can be a blessing to someone. See, no matter how bad you think you have it, there is always someone else worse off than you. We don't see them because we are always too wrapped up in ourselves we don't notice. But if you strive each and every day to pay attention to those around you, you'll discover a world of hurt out there. You might find that a kind word here, a cup of coffee there might make a world of difference not only to the people you help, but to you too. Everyday we are given our daily ration of God's clean air to breathe, and everyday we should be striving to justify our share."

Obviously, I didn't drop out of school. Once again I was saved from myself by the simple wisdom of my Dad's words. But this particular talk has stayed with me. I haven't always lived up to his advice, but on the days that I have, it has made all the difference. One of the reasons I am a Christian today is the example that my parents set for me. Dad was able to pour the truth of the Gospel into me without my even knowing it was happening. The speech he gave me that day was essentially a sermon about The Good Samaritan, without a pulpit. Dad had a way of living out his faith in practical ways without a trace of piety. He believed that if your "faith" didn't actually result in making you a better person...and a blessing to others, what good was it?

Thanks Dad. I miss you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

"You're Fired, Cupcake!"

Today, I'll be heading back to work. Yesterday, I followed my wife's advice that I stay home and rest the shoulder for one more day. Being here all day nearly killed me...death by boredom. It took me nearly an hour to take a shower and get dressed after which, I felt like I had run a marathon. Stupid surgery.

One of the lowlights from yesterday was the chance I got to read all about what passes for student activism on the modern American Campus. The President of the University of Missouri displayed perfect cowardice by resigning his position after a handful of students demanded that he do so. The reason for their indignation had something to do with his alleged racism, demonstrated by his insignificantly hysterical reaction to an outbreak of, er, a recent number of, uh...a few curse words being uttered at students of color by a drunk white guy...or something. The tipping point came when the thirty or so black players on Missouri's football team vowed to boycott this Saturday's football game against BYU, if the President didn't step down. That would be thirty African American kids who were given full rides at the University to play a game because of their exceptional athletic skill, upset about...white privilege. Meanwhile, on the east coast in the heart of the Ivy League came the heart warming story of the Yale undergraduates brought to the edge of the abyss by the mere possibility that one of their classmates might choose an offensive Halloween costume. When their glorified room mother suggested in an email, that this sort of thing might best be handled by Yale students themselves, through stuff like face to face conversations, her continued employment at the University became the subject of much angst and recriminations. One of the students, statistically among the smartest, most gifted in the country summed up the feelings of the protesters well..."I don't feel like debating, I want someone to feel my pain!"

As I read these stories I became truly envious. Seldom do I actually wish I were twenty again. Being an adult is so much easier than trying to get started in life. But, I swear, for a minute yesterday I so wished that I was twenty again, and that I would get the chance to compete against these delicate flowers in the job market. If this is the best America can do, we are in some serious trouble. If we are producing this level of weakness and fragility, this much self-centered childishness not to mention this much contempt for the First Amendment, then this country is doomed. But I suppose this is what academia gets for teaching kids what a rotten, horrible, racist country they live in. You teach students that America is irredeemably racist, mysogonistic, homophobic and ruled by white privilege long enough, then I suppose that this is exactly how you would expect those students to eventually behave. Trouble is, if they actually find jobs after leaving their $70,000 a year safe spaces, all of the helmets and knee pads in the world aren't going to protect them from the cold hard reality that awaits them in the real world of competition, where literally no one gives a crap about your pain, and those non-existent micro-aggressions, turn into real, honest to God aggressions that begin with the words, "You're fired, Cupcake!"

Monday, November 9, 2015

Maybe Paris 2015 Really IS Our Last Chance

Even though I've been following the story since before either of them were born, my kids know more about global warming/climate change than I do. Maybe they are just more science-y than I am. Or maybe they are just less skeptical. When I read any article in Salon or The Nation about it, my mind becomes a garbled mess of charts, statistics and dire predictions of planetary chaos that make me want to go slit my wrists. On the other hand, when I read articles from National Review or Reason, I hear about murky science, Manchurian maneuvers by internationalists and statist planners whose goal it is to empower themselves, with global warming providing the vehicle with which to finally rid the world of capitalism. 

My own position is that the earth is warming, a little, and mankind probably has something to do with it. Beyond that, I'm not convinced that the various cures that have been proposed to fix the problem will A. Fix it, or B. Produce a mountain of unintended consequences that will be worse than the disease, not the least of which will be the end of national sovereignty and representative democracy. But I will admit that when you are a person who doesn't trust Big Government, that conclusion might be a bit overwrought. 

So, anyway, I bring this up because in a couple of weeks the United Nations Climate Conference will begin in Paris and it will be all over the news. Already, I've read three different stories with breathtaking headlines describing the Paris confab as humanity's last chance to do anything about global climate change before a tipping point will have been reached beyond which mankind will be doomed. In this, Paris will be in good company, since I have been told the exact same thing about several other United Nations Climate Conferences. A simple google search will produce a treasure trove of doomsday predictions in the weeks leading up to each of the previous meetings listed below. 

Bonn 2001
Montreal 2005
Bali 2007
Poznan 2008
Copenhagen 2009
Cancun 2010
Durban 2011
Doha 2012
Warsaw 2013
Lima 2014

And now, Paris 2015. Anyone who watches the Weather Channel knows how difficult it is to reliably predict changes in weather. So, predicting something as complicated and multifaceted as planetary climate has got to be infinitely more challenging. Consequently, maybe the alarmist rhetoric should be given a pass. If you truly believe that the earth is about to be plunged into a irreversible death spiral because of man made global warming, then you're going to have a tendency towards overheated language. But for those of us who aren't as convinced, hearing every single climate meeting over the past 20 years pitched as humanity's last chance does raise a few eyebrows. After all, if all the experts who said that Bali 2001 was our last chance were right, then Paris 2015 would be a exercise in futility, right? Thank God they were wrong, I guess.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

ACWI......attending church while injured

Four days after surgery and I am so thankful that it's Sunday. I have the greatest excuse ever for getting out of this! I will take a shower, find a clean shirt, then strap on my stylish shoulder sling/harness and make my way to church with the unbridled enthusiasm of the newly converted. I will wear the sling not because it is required as part of my therapy, but because its presence will hopefully keep the David Johnsons of the world from greeting me with a hardy pat on the back, which would launch me into a bout of public weeping that I would never live down in a million years.

Attending church while injured, ACWI for short, has many benefits, not the least of which is the fact that it provides a handy topic of conversation for those sometimes strained fellowship times. For those of you who aren't Baptists, this is when the pastor extols the congregation to "find someone you don't know and strike up an awkward, forced conversation!" With my sling, I have a built in excuse not to have to shake hands and a conversation starter:

Random stranger: So, you break your arm or something?

Me: No! This is just the latest fall fashion excessary. All the kids are wearing them these days.

Another benefit of ACWI is that it gives you a pass on the musical chairs routine common in Protestant churches nowadays. One never knows anymore when you're supposed to stand and when you're supposed to sit in church. A song will begin and at first everyone will be sitting, but after a couple of awkward measures, a few people will randomly begin standing, especially the rhythmically challenged woman down front. Pretty soon, a full fledged group think experiment breaks out and before anybody knows why, everyone is standing. I'm thinking that if I'm wearing a shoulder harness, I will be given a pass.

Perhaps the single greatest benefit of ACWI is the blanket dispensation one receives from the ubiquitous clapping that has managed to infect Baptists congregations all over the fruited plain. Every song, regardless of meaning or purpose demands a round of applause. Every attempt at humor, successful or not, is met with thunderous applause. Even the most tender and nuanced song brought forward in the most subtle and thought provoking style gets crushed by wildly inappropriate clapping. Well...not today, baby! I won't clap, for anything! Heck, I couldn't even if I wanted to...which I won't! Now that I think about it, this sling business might be the best thing that's happened to me at church since I taught a Sunday School class full of tenth grade boys. Maybe this thing actually is a fashion excessary!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Surviving the Second Day

It's always the second day after surgery that gets you. The first day, you're all psyched up and determined to conquer the thing, and you're popping the full dose of pain medicine every four hours. The second day, all residual benefits of the nerve block are gone and you realize just how terrible you feel. Taking the bandages off is nice and taking a shower is glorious, but then it dawns on you that you've got six weeks of pain ahead of you, and it's time to start backing off of the pain meds. However, my second day was made so much better by three wife, my siblings and my dog.

Pam is not a natural nurse. The sight of blood makes her lightheaded. A mere conversation about stitches makes her nauseous. But there she was yesterday morning, unpealing my bandage, taking short breaks to gather herself, all the while smiling and being about as upbeat and positive as possible under the circumstances. She took two days off from work to be with me as I have recovered, and spent that time making me delicious food and basically being the most adorable person you can imagine. But then it was time to go back to work and leave me alone for the day...with Lucy.

My dog has been baffled at my condition. She is totally freaked out by the black sling. She seems completely confused as to why I am moving so slowly, astonished that I am unwilling and unable to throw the frisbee with her. So, she has decided that her job, for the duration of this strange set of circumstances, is to stay permanently at my side at all times, staring at me for hours on end looking for any clues as to the reason for my condition. Occasionally, she will leave my presence to search for things to bring to me and drop in my lap. It's like she's thinking, "Here. Maybe this will help you snap out of it!" My second day featured the inability to sleep even though the medicine had made me groggy. So Lucy took it upon herself to demonstrate for me the sixteen different ways that she can fall asleep, just in case I had forgotten...

It's at times like these when I wonder how it is that people recover from illnesses without animals. 

Ever since the surgery on Wednesday, I have been checked on by my siblings at regular intervals. My nurse sister Linda has texted me, my big brother has called a number of times to talk baseball, a much needed diversion, and yesterday, my sister Paula came by and took me to Panera for lunch. My kids texted me all day to check up on me and in Kaitlin's case to give me a homework assignment..."well, since you'll just be lying around all day doing nothing, why don't you look up some examples of news texts that have multiple purposes? Oh, and I need them by noon!"

I survived the dreaded second day, in large part because of some wonderful people...and a devoted puppy!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Retraction

I got punked by the Internet. Yesterday morning I was sent an article by me niece that contained an excerpt from a monologue by Pat Robertson of the 700 Club. In it he suggested that gay people should be required to wear specially colored clothing to warn heterosexuals of their identity. The article came courtesy of a website named Religionlo. Most of the quotes attributed to Robertson in the article were accurate, but the the most outrageous one that was the subject of my blog was not. Accordingly to the myth-busting/fact checking website, Snopes, it was fabricated.

Frankly, the fact that I believed it was because of Mr. Robertson's history of moronic statements. Nonetheless, I should have done a bit more research on something as vile as this before writing my blog. This mistake was all on me and I apologize to anyone who read it assuming it was true. The fact that it isn't true restores a little bit of my faith in humanity.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Pink Triangle

Maybe the worst thing about having surgery is that you can't have your coffee in the morning. So, I'm sitting here on the sofa, starving to death, writing what will be my last blog for a while, since left handed typing under the influence of opiates would probably not be wise. What I need is a diversion, and my niece just provided me with one when she sent me a link to an article asking me to opine about it's content. Here's the headline...

" Pat Robertson thinks Gay People Should Wear Specially-Colored Clothes to Warn Straight People."

Wh...umm, wait, is this from the Onion? Unfortunately, no, it comes straight from one of his 700 Club monologues. My first reaction was, wait, you mean like the Nazis did to the Jews with the Star of David thing?. Maybe he's thinking they should wear pink hats, or a pink triangle patch on their otherwise fabulous shirts? I swear, some days it's all I can do to put one foot in front of the other...

Every time this wretched man opens his mouth the cause of Christ suffers a body blow. People will read this and ascribe it to all Christians. That's how things work now. The most vile and outrageous drives the news, not the millions of Christian men and women out there spreading the love and grace of Christ. But hey, they don't have a TV show and a private jet, so who cares?

Today, I have bigger fish to fry than a demented Howdy Doody lookalike. Pretty soon, I will be in an operating room surrounded by several highly skilled men and women, some of whom might be gay. But I would never know because they won't be wearing special rainbow gowns. And I couldn't possible care less, as long as they are, in fact, highly skilled and can fix my shoulder without killing me in the process. 

Mercy, what an idiot!

NOTE:  Please read my post from November 5 correcting the record on this quote that I just discovered was falsely attributed to Mr. Robertson.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Doing the Right Things Well

This is not a blog about baseball, so hang in there with me. This is a blog about one of the reasons that people fail. To illustrate, this blog will be about Kansas City Royal relief pitcher, Wade Davis.

Last night, he was called upon by his manager to record a two inning save. That he was successful should have come as a surprise to absolutely no one. In his post-season career, Mr. Davis has pitched 31 innings and given up a grand total of only 3 runs, as close to a sure thing as it gets. But what people forget about Wade Davis is that for the first five years of his career in the big leagues, he was about as ordinary as it was possible to be. 

See, from 2009 until half way through 2013 his bosses had made him a starting pitcher, and as a starter, he was the very definition of average. He made 88 starts and compiled a record of 33 wins and 33 losses with a unimpressive ERA of 4.45. Those are the kind of numbers that make for a short, undistinguished career. But then somebody suggested that maybe he should become a reliever. Suddenly, Wade Davis became the reincarnation of Cy Young. The numbers are simply off the charts.
As a relief pitcher, he has thrown 171 innings, struck out 230 batters, walked only 43, allowed a mere 71 hits, and given up a grand total of 20 runs. Those are the type of numbers that not only get you into the Hall of Fame, they start renaming streets after you! 

So, what was the difference? What transformed Wade Davis from average to phenomenal? 

Success in life isn't just about doing things well, it's about doing the right things well. Wade Davis could clearly pitch well enough to become a big league pitcher, but he didn't find real success until he found the right niche for his individually unique style of pitching. As a starter he was ordinary, as a guy who comes in to get only three of four outs, he was and is unhittable. 

I believe that everyone has at least the potential for doing great things. The fact that most people don't  is the result of settling for good enough instead of pushing for more, pushing for great. Sometimes it's laziness, more often, I think, it's just a matter of failing to find that niche, that subtle shift in focus that can transform people from good to great.

Wade Davis was going along just fine as a mediocre big league ball player when suddenly, a subtle change in his job description turned him into a star and landed him in my blog! I'm sure he'll be thrilled to check that one off his bucket list!