Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

It may be a bit early to be discussing resolutions for 2009, but how about an assessment of those made for 2008?

New Year's resolutions are not something I have generally done. In fact, goals are not something I've generally done. Somehow, the establishment of specific, written, shared goals has always seemed to be setting myself up for failure. I apply the same philosophy when I drive on vacation. If I don't know where I'm going, I can't possibly get lost.

Glenda has urged me for years to be better at setting and tracking goals. She's not alone. Over the years Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Dr. Wayne Dyer and the vendors of dozens of organization and accomplishment systems have told me the same as have my cherished mentors and spiritual advisers. For the most part, I have steadfastly resisted such well-meaning pressure.

This writing is inspired because yesterday, searching for some arcane item, I came across my 2008 resolutions. I did make resolutions. I even wrote them down. My 2008 resolutions were expressed in two simple words: WRITE and CONNECT. I had even set up a notebook complete with calendar to track my progress.

By CONNECT I meant to communicate more regularly and more effectively with family, friends and business relations. My resolution states, "Call siblings and children weekly. Contact three business associates each work day: 1 new prospect, 1 current client, 1 past client." Doesn't sound too demanding, does it?

By WRITE I meant to write thoughts or impressions daily, including a summary of what I had done each day to implement my resolutions. I had hoped that the simple fact of journalling would improve my writing skills and motivate me to write even more.

So the question becomes: How did I do? (Followed almost instantly by, "Who cares?") At the risk of displeasing anyone who has read this far, I'll ignore the second question for now. In an attempt to make an honest evaluation of my 2008 resolutions, I believe that there is both progress and failure. Progress in that I have done SOME of what I resolved. Failure in that I have not done well at all I resolved. For instance, the notebook has daily written entries all the way through January 3, 2008! Then nothing, so: failure. But this blog started late in the year, and I think it should count for something. So, not a total failure. On the communications front I would have to say probably even less successful. I've not been disciplined about picking up the telephone (an instrument that I loathe.) Communication with business associates has been haphazard and reactive rather than proactive. But not a total failure either, as I have done better than in the past, calling siblings quite a few times over the year and having meaningful communications with my children more often.

Resolutions. They surely are not EZ! How did you do in 2008? Do you have big plans for 2009?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thankful for lost productivity?

The Thanksgiving Day holiday is only three days away. Or maybe less, for some. This morning I noticed that my early commute to work was very easy. Traffic was nearly sparse. Looking from my office window, I see the parking lot, below, is about half-full at mid-morning. Our building's sandwich shop has a sign posted, "Closed Tuesday, Nov. 25 through Friday, Nov. 28." Fellow passengers on the office elevator were deep in a discussion about getting away from work early today with travel plans that will consume the rest of the week. My company's offices will be closed Thursday and Friday.

All of this has me wondering about the impact of the holiday on our national productivity and how that will affect our already-stressed economy. Some pundits on the air waves this past week have been claiming that worker wages have not kept pace with increases in productivity for quite a few years. Perhaps a reduction in productivity will help? No, probably not.

I have no idea how the current chaos is going to play out. I don't think anyone does. We have not seen deflation in my life time. Inflation, yes; stagflation, yes; but not deflation. I do think that it is safe to say that a great number of people are going to suffer some degree of difficulty and, perhaps, most of us will suffer a decrease in our standard of living before the economy stabilizes and comes out of what appears to be a tail-spin. Certainly, in the economy, nothing is EZ!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Just a lazy weekend.

The wife and I went to a live presentation of Michael Feldman's radio show, What'd Ya Know? Saturday morning at Trinity University's Laurie Auditorium. We had to be seated by 9:30 and Glenda wanted breakfast out first, so we had to get up rather early. To make up for that we took a nap after lunch and then did essentially nothing all evening. We did watch, again, The Curse of the Were Rabbit from DVD, but you can't really call that doing anything.

Today I slept in while Glenda went to church. I did not even get up until after 1PM. Now it's 6PM and I'm still in my PJs. Yep, lazy, lazy, lazy.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

If I don't get my way, I'll throw a tantrum.

Okay, gay rights activists. I think I get it. You are feeling officially oppressed, denied your rights, cheated. You fought in the courts and have won some battles and lost some battles. Now you have had a victory in the courts snatched from you by the hands of the voters. It must be discouraging. So, as human nature dictates, you are looking for someone to blame. First you blamed the blacks. Then you blamed the Hispanics. Now you are blaming the Mormons.

You fought a fair fight in a democracy and you lost. You failed to build a winning majority in the electorate. Maybe you were out maneuvered. Perhaps you were outspent. Perhaps your political lies were not as believable as the other side's political lies.

You say they lied about elementary school children being taught to accept a homosexual lifestyle. If that is a lie, why is "Heather has Two Mommies" promoted to elementary school children?

They say you lied when you aired a TV ad depicting two Mormon missionaries brutalizing a lesbian couple and defacing their property. Really? Has anything vaguely like this happened in the last 150 years or so?

Lies happen in politics. Sad but true. The electorate gets to choose whose lies are closest to either (1) What they want to believe, or (2) the truth. Get over it and get on with your work.

One thing is for sure: Oppression, violence, and threats against other citizens will not win you any votes. Don't physically attack 69-year old women who come out to exercise their right to disagree with you. I sincerely hope that the persons guilty of attacking Phyllis Burgess are apprehended and tried for committing a heinous hate crime. Destruction of the property of organized religions will not play out well in the courts of public opinion. Peaceful protests; community outreach; voter outreach; lobbying; -- these are all time-tested ways of righting perceived wrongs.

My advice, keep working in the courts and with the electorate. Stop desecrating houses of worship. If you want rights and freedom, you must respect others rights and freedoms.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A family-friendly TSA? What a concept!

Today CNN reports that the TSA is going to add "family-friendly" lanes to all major airport security operations. These lanes are to allow families and those with special needs to process through security at a less-frenzied pace, and are to be staffed with officers who can help with the extra screening. I suppose that moving those needing extra time to a different lane may even make it easier and quicker for everyone else.

This is an interesting concept, sounds service-oriented, and I'm anxious to see the implementation. In the CNN article, much reference was made to liquids in quantities larger than 3 ounces; a "special need" for infants and some adults. Specifically mentioned was insulin and contact lens fluid.

I wonder if they will find the ability to gracefully handle other special needs.

By physical necessity, my wife wears a leg brace which is an integral part of her left shoe. She cannot remove this brace/shoe combination standing up unless she has assistance. This past February (2008), we were returning home from a family funeral in Las Vegas. As we approached the first security point, boarding pass and ID out and ready, the TSA officer told my wife that she must remove her shoes (the tone of voice and attitude of the TSA officer are subjective matters and could be misinterpreted so I'll not comment on them here, except to note that I did not find the tone especially cheery.) My wife replied that she would be happy to remove her shoes but needed a place to sit to do so. At that point, all hell broke loose. The seated female TSA officer jumped to her feet, shouted and directed that there was no place to sit, the shoes must be removed, and accused my wife of refusing to comply with her order to remove the shoes. My wife, mouth agape, speechless, looked shell-shocked, so I made the mistake of speaking up. In the most polite manner I could muster I said, "Excuse me, officer. She wears a leg brace and can’t remove the shoes without sitting." For my polite explanation the female TSA officer forcefully told me to shut-up and that if she heard one more word from me, I would be placed under arrest. I was ordered through the security line, leaving my wife behind. I'm ashamed to admit I was so cowed that I complied.

After clearing security, I sat, gathering my belongings and my wits, and pondering who I could call for help. After about 10 minutes, another female TSA officer approached me and asked if was the husband, to which I responded in the affirmative. This officer said that she had intervened in my wife's behalf and had taken steps to get her a chair and to get her through security. She then stated that she fully expected to be fired for her actions. I wish I knew her name so that we could publically praise her. Just then my wife appeared on the "clean" side of security. We both thanked the second officer for her compassionate help and then were on our way to our flight.

[Warning: Satire Alert, Level Yellow.] Thanks, TSA, for keeping us safe from medical prosthetics. Thanks McCarren Airport and Southwest Airlines for allowing your security point to make such a strong impression on the travelling public. A big thanks to the belligerent female officer (well, I guess I am commenting on her attitude after all) for using your position of authority to so completely degrade and humiliate us in public while trampling all over the Federal ADA rules in the process. [End Satire Alert.] I wish I knew that officer's name, too.

Here's a sincere public thanks to the second TSA officer who stuck out her neck to help and to truly protect a citizen, and to all of the TSA officers who perform a difficult job while respecting the time and humanity of the travelers.

There is never anything as EZ as it should be.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A quote from the Heritage Foundation: "For thousands of years [some] societies have considered marriage to be a relationship between a man and woman that forms the cornerstone of a family..." (http://www.heritage.org/Research/Family/bg2201.cfm)

And some have not.

The fact that our church leadership encouraged citizens of California to vote in favor of proposition 8 leads me to believe that legitimization of same-sex marriage is not in the best interests of our society. I trust our leaders. I certainly do not wish to ever see any private or religious organization in the United States forced to perform marriage ceremonies that run counter to their beliefs. However, I have two points of argument with the Heritage Foundation and others on this point as they present it at the site linked above; in other words playing on their turf and under their rules:

Point 1: In the 1950's every white right-wing organization, from the Baptists to the Klan, used exactly these same arguments to fight the legalization of mixed-race marriages -- that doing so would "destroy traditional marriage and families in America." It would place an undue burden on those that disagree and would bring a catastrophic end to religious freedom. Since that time our nation's tax policies have hurt traditional marriage and religious freedoms much more than bi-racial marriage.

Point 2--and this is, for me, is the biggy: The Heritage Foundation, and anyone else using these same arguments, playing by these same rules, in my opinion has totally forfeited the right of using the protection of religious freedoms as an argument to oppose same-sex marriage. Why do I say this? Because they have steadfastly refused, over and over again, to support religious freedoms dealing with marriage unless the religious beliefs in question were THEIR OWN. I'm sorry, but I will not allow them to claim religious freedom as a reason unless they are 100% [...100%...] willing to allow that same degree of religious freedom to everyone else. It goes like this in a first-person presentation: Since my religion defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman, I claim the right of religious freedom to support that definition of marriage. However, since your religion defines marriage as a union of one woman and seventeen men, I also accord you the right of religious freedom to support that definition of marriage. Oh, and since his religion defines marriage as a union of three men and a chicken, I also accord him the right of religious freedom to support that definition of marriage. If religious freedom is the justification for opposing same-sex marriage (and what other reason is there?) then the opponents of same-sex marriage who claim the religious freedom justification must be willing to extend that same right to people who hold other religious beliefs. Where was the Heritage Foundation when it was time to step forward and protect the religious beliefs of the FLDS? Who raised a hand to keep children with mothers and keep fathers in homes? Where is the real support of religious freedom relating to marriage and family life?

Certainly the Heritage Foundation and other supporters of legally defining marriage as between one man and one woman have every right to express and to publicize their views. My friends who hold a religious belief in polyamory share that same right or there can be no such thing as religious freedom. What the Heritage Foundation is calling for is the protection of freedoms for their religious beliefs. In the words of Voltaire, "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

Friday, November 7, 2008

I would be dead if...

If I had left home 5 seconds earlier, or
If I had ridden a bit faster, or
If I didn't have excellent brakes, or
If the road had been slippery from rain, or...

There are too many "ifs" to consider. The key thing is that a lady in a big, black Toyota Land Cruiser changed lanes to her left into the space within that lane that I was occupying on my V-Twin. God gave her eyes and Toyota gave her mirrors. She used neither. I could see her face clearly in her left outside mirror, her eyes straight ahead, her left hand flitting with her brunette bangs. She may have signaled; I could not see her car's lights from my position. My reaction was thankfully not dulled. I hit the horn and brakes, hard, simultaneously. My aftermarket air horn is loud, 118 dB, the manufacturer claims. She heard and her eyes widened as she jerked the Toyota right, nearly clipping a car she had intended to pass in her lane change. Then, realizing that my emergency braking gave her clearance, she jerked back left and accelerated ahead of me.

The incident was over, not really such a close call, and so quick my heart hardly had time to race. Had she bothered to look in her left mirror before she made her move, she would have seen me. Like so many drivers, she did not bother to look. This brings me to two points about motorcycle riding:

(1) Assuming the motorcyclist is awake and sober, the other drivers on the road are the most dangerous part of the ride; and

(2) The motorcyclist MUST be defensive. I taught my sons, when they wanted to ride, that they were likely to get hurt, and when they did it would be their fault. Had the lady hit me, the law and my survivor's lawyer may have claimed it to be her fault. But I put myself there. Defensive driving may not always save the day, but as a motorcyclist, I have to take the responsibility for my own safety. I sure cannot count on other drivers to do that.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Managing expectations - or why you can't REALLY have that new jewelry I promised you last night!

Ya gotta love American Politics. This morning, I heard announced that the Obama transition team has a special group whose job it is to "manage expectations" of the public. Meaning, I interpret, to explain why they will be disappointed but should be happy anyway. Meaning, I interpret, their job is to explain to the American public why the Obama administration will not be able to fulfill the promises of the Obama campaign. So it was, so it is, so it shall always be.

The American public's expectations are only one challenge facing the new administration. The expectations of a Democrat Party-controlled legislature may be even a greater challenge. President Obama will have to control the legislature and not let them run rough-shod over the Constitution and common sense if he wishes to secure a second term. And that, surely, is the number one goal of the new administration's first term.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The morning after

It seems inconceivable that I not write something today. Some right-leaning friends see yesterday's election and Obama win as the beginning of the end of the world. While I am far from being a far-left liberal myself, I just don't see it that way. Mr. Obama is our newly elected president. He is not our new king or dictator. On issues I agree with or disagree with, he will have to work with congress and will have opposition. The democratic party does not have a firewall, and even if they did, they are rarely monolithic. Take environmental rules that may discourage the use of clean coal. That may (or may not) be Obama's plan, but how is he going to get the representatives of Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Montana on board?

I find myself fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I guess that makes me a Libertarian. I don't generally do bumper stickers, yet I've got a Kinky Friedman and a Constitution Voter (ACLU) sticker on my white truck. I will disagree with much the new administration will try to do, but I have a hard time imagining that I will disagree with more than I have been disagreeing with over the last 8 years.