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Wednesday, June 29, 2016


I have to confess that the whole writing gig has gotten difficult of late.  One of the most glaring reasons was a recently completed graduate course that just seemed to tax my limits in more ways that one.  I know, "boo hoo", "#firstworldproblems", "suck it up buttercup", etc.  I get it.

Anyway, I'll also confess that there is a lot these days that's simply disheartening and mentally taxing.

I actually have two things I want to write about, but I just don't have the mental energy to pull either off at the moment.  That makes me just a tad bit disappointed in myself.  In fact, it's fair to call this posting a "posting for the sake of a posting", although as I write it I have no idea where it may go, so who knows?  The sad reality is that while I edit (a lot) for typos (but yet still have plenty), in fact, 98% of what's written in every posting of mine is a stream of consciousness anyway.  Yes, this is how my mind works.  Except it has far fewer typos.

One bit of bright news is that my school gig will be on hiatus for two months or so, and I'm likely changing my overall plan for the home stretch of my graduate education.  My original plan was do-able, but I simply hate, at age 52, feeling stressed and tired...and that plan would have left me even more stressed and tired.  I'm still graduating next year, but the actual specifics will be changing ever so much.  Heck, at this stage I'm just in it for the resume stuffing anyway.

Another bit of bright news?  I'm starting to catch up on some reading for fun and am enjoying a great book.
(from Amazon)

The author, Nadia Bolz-Weber, writes like a cross between Bishop Sheen and Hunter S. Thompson.  Highly recommended.

Coming up is a few days worth of vacation; nothing fancy, just some time with my wife's wonderful family and some hiking.  Maybe even some writing.  I'm hoping for a continued mental step-down from the latest incarnation of school and some additional focus on the right things.

I'll wind this posting down with something from The Onion that made me genuinely laugh out loud.

(from THIS page)

On a related note:  While stopping at a convenience store today, I saw a car with a bumper sticker that basically said that the Confederate battle flag wasn't a symbol of racism and slavery.  I stared at it for a moment and thought to myself, "Hey, he may be right...actually, it's mostly just a symbol of treason".  I was tempted to wait for Cletus to come out of the store from buying his chewing tobacco, in order to have a intellectually stimulating debate about the topic, but I thought better of it, as I'd likely need to explain what "treason" meant (and I didn't want to get shot by some hillbilly with more ammo than IQ points).

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ingredients of Being a Functional Dad

I've approached being a Dad much in the same way that I approach cooking:  I do my best, I experiment a lot, and I basically hope for the best.  In the case of both cooking and being a Dad, that last part basically amounts to whether or not someone gets killed in the process.

Now I've never received anywhere near any formal training in how to be a Dad (or cooking).  I simply had no one close to me growing up to provide an example, but as I've probably noted on this blog every year since 2008, I did have a good example of what not to do.  That can be pretty powerful.  

Also, note my use of the word "functional".  I don't want to say "great" or even "good", as those are subjective terms.  I've made many mistakes in the Dad department.  What's more, I do think that sometimes being a "good" or "great" Dad may make you pretty darn unpopular in the process, at least over the short-term (a span of time that I think is measured in years by the way).

Anyway, here are ingredients that I think make for being a functional Dad.
  1. Be Present.  Just showing up is most of the battle.  Showing up at school.  At basketball games.  At plays.  There is no substitute for actually being there.
  2. Have a Moral Compass (and follow it).  Morality is a tough concept these days, but I do think it's essential to actually have some sense of a moral compass to pass along to your children.  The key here is that you have to "walk the talk"; simply spouting off values is meaningless unless you actually live them.
  3. Be Kind.  Teach your children to be kind to others, as far too many parents don't. 
  4. Teach Respect.  This starts with respecting your wife/partner, even when that may be difficult, and even when your wife/partner may not respect you.
  5. Take Responsibility.  Don't pass the buck.  If you make a mistake, own up to it.  Humility is best taught by example.
  6. Model Intellectual Curiosity and the Value of Life-Long Learning.  Buy and read books.  Go the library.  Watch and talk about the news with your children.  Teach them that learning just doesn't happen from September to June.
  7. Have a Sense of Humor.  I think that laughing makes you far more human and situations far easier to handle.
  8. Teach the Value of Money.  It's tough in a society that pushes so much consumption on young people but teach your children to make good spending decisions.  
  9. Always Take the Long View.  Sacrificing important long-term life lessons for short-term calm is a brutal mistake.  I use the word "brutal" because that's what life can be sometimes, and parents (especially Dads) need to help their children learn important survival skills.
  10. Call Bull$hit to Teach Critical Thinking Skills.  What I mean is to tell your children when something (in the world, in the news, in their lives) simply doesn't pass the smell test.  For me, part of that was in traditional gender roles.  Yes, since I have three daughters, I understood that there are "girl" things, but I also wanted them to cast a critical eye on things that some might consider being "boy" things.  I wanted my daughters to be able to change a flat tire, for example.  Conversely, I think all boys should be able to cook, sew a button or two and wash/iron clothes.
  11. Value the Arts.  Encourage your children to be creative, in any way(s) that make them happy.  I think that every child should, for example, be given the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument.  If you're like me, that interest might not last so long, but it's the opportunity that matters most. 
  12. Independence.  Lastly, and maybe most importantly, teach your children that you as a parent have an end-game for them, namely independence.  An important goal of parenting should be to make you, as a parent, no longer needed.  
As a Dad, I can now look back on three daughters who are all out of college (well one is working on an advanced degree) and working.  How great is that?  There are things that, if I had a functional time machine, I would go back in time and do differently, but time machines don't exist and I firmly believe that ruminating on past mistakes is nothing short of an enormous waste of time anyway.  Regardless, a "belated due to graduate research paper" Happy Father's Day to one and all.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sunday, June 12th

I spent today doing three things: Writing, writing and writing (I have a research paper due next Sunday). In between writing stints, I kept abreast of the terrible events that occurred in Orlando early this morning. The thought of some many people being cut down like grass under a mower is disheartening, at best. There will be a time to unpack all of this over the days, weeks and months to come, but until then I'm just left with one thought: To not allow this to make me fall into anger. I'm reminded of something said by Dr. King...

If anything, the events in Orlando point to the fact that we need less violence and hate in the world. Whatever comes of this, it's my hope that we're better...not a result.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Our Parents Lied to Us: Monsters are Real (Rape Culture Edition)

There's been a lot spoken and written over the past week or so about the results of a certain rape trail in California.  I'm not going to even try to get into the details of the case, as for my purposes they don't really matter.  One thing though that has come up, especially in virtual circles, is the notion of a "rape culture".

Now I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person, at least when it comes to certain things.  However, none of those smarts seem to help me when it comes to the whole "rape culture" thing.  I do don't understand it, and in all honesty I don't want to even make the effort at understanding it.  Why?  I think it comes down to this:  I find violence against anyone for the mere purpose of personal gratification to be incredibly repugnant.  If you do that, you forfeit your claim to being a human f&^king being in my book.  Now I could study the concept, but that would make me no more learned, no more informed, no more a better person.  I would simply be left intellectually soiled, with even less hope for our species.

I'll take it even one step further:  I don't know if there is a culture of rape.  I do know that there is a culture in this country of lofting athletes and athletics up in ways that beguile their actual purpose in society, namely just entertainment.  Now if someone wants to grow their physical abilities as a matter of personal development, well then I think that's great.  But getting paid a million dollars to do that...or...getting a pass on rightful jail time for a horrid criminal act just because you do that...well I'm sorry, but no.  No entertainer, be he/she a reality television star or star quarterback or a Stanford University swimmer, deserves those kinds of outcomes.  They simply don't, and as I see it, part of the problem in our society today is that far too many are blind to how ridiculous our priorities have become.  When we loft these people up to supra-human heights, is there any wonder that some may actually act like the rest of us are, well, below them (at best)?

Now before anyone gets their dander up, I'm not claiming that all athletes are horrible human beings.  What I am claiming though is that we, as a society, place too much emphasis on sports in this country.  Sometimes that's benign, other times it produces wretched results.

By the way, we also see the above horrid skewing at work in our own area, when school academic programs are cut in local districts, but football programs are left intact.  That's another posting for another day.

Come to think of it, maybe the idea of a "rape culture" is really just another example, in a long line of examples, where we've allowed ourselves to be blinded by shiny objects (such as people who entertain us with their ability to run/swim/throw a ball really well) while our souls are cut out in the process.  Maybe this is less about high concepts such as culture and more about basic human dignity, the kind thrown out a window and set on fire the moment an alcoholic binge turns into the intimate and forceful violation of another.

As I said at the beginning of this posting, I don't get the idea of "rape culture", maybe because I don't need a fancy label to describe the horror of your mother or wife or daughter or sister or friend being victimized in a manner that's going to have a shelf-life long past 6 months of incarceration.  I don't need some kind of societal explanation to help me understand that which drives senseless violence of the worst sort.  The only understanding I need is that some people are just monsters, and sadly, our society all too often puts them on pedestals.  We helped make this.  Maybe, just maybe, that's "rape culture".

Sunday, June 5, 2016

27 Things I Could Be Doing (instead of completing my gradate degree)

This is all because I am getting so close to completion.  Come graduation next year I very well may, in fact, be insane.

1.  Take a class on Philosophy.

2.  Clean my upstairs office porch.

3.  Learning how to play the guitar.

4.  Learning to speak Italian.

5.  Assembling a Space 1999 Eagle Transporter scale model.

6.  Digging a new electrical line to our garage.

7.  Writing more.

8.  Learning how to edit video files.

9.  Going on a few photography mini-vacations.

10. Organizing all of my physical photographs.

11. Cleaning out and organizing all of my audio files.

12. Digitizing most of my CDs.

13. Cleaning my home office on something of a regular basis.

14. Ripping out all of the old railroad ties the former owners used for landscaping (aka Termite hotels).

15. Going for more walks with my lovely wife.

16. Reading.  For pleasure.  

17. Cleaning my truck.  More often than just once.

18. Going to the gym every freak'n day.

19. Going through what seems like 87 empty boxes in the attic.

20. Stripping wallpaper (because I really do want to ruin my sense of smell).

21. Replacing the lattice under the front porch.

22. Putting up lattice under the back deck.

23. Installing an electrical outlet on the front porch.

24. Going on a long bike ride.

25. Upgrading the downstairs desktop PC.

26. Going to church more often.

27. Actually consider interacting with other humans on a social basis.*

(*) Just kidding.  I'm not actually planning on doing that.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Rest in Peace Champ of the World

Among the things I remember most from my childhood, I count the Apollo Moon landings and seeing clips of Muhammad Ali fighting as being among the most vivid.

For the uninitiated, you have to understand that Ali was incredibly remarkable for two reasons:

1) He was a man of exceptional principles.
2) He was the very, very best at what he did.

Ali was like Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky, but with 1000% more personality.  Ali was a very smart man who just happened to beat people up for a living.  Ali was a walking contradiction that made it look like there was never any contradiction at all.

I actually once got within about 20 feet of Ali.  It was back in Louisville (KY), around 1992-1994 and I was waiting to board a plane when the Champ of the World arrived on an incoming flight.  He was a big man...bigger than I ever imagined.  He was also impeccably dressed.

In a world that lacks sincerity and real conviction (witness countless former "enemies" now endorsing Donald Trump), Ali stood out as someone who said what he meant, even when it wasn't popular.

Rest in Peace Champ.