Monday, January 19, 2009

Welcome, Mr. President

The news media and social networks today are filled with stories of ordinary people filled with and inspired by the promise of tomorrow -- a hope that change for this country will be arriving in the form of President Obama. I read these stories with a trepidation that exceeds simple worry. Obama, in many of these stories, is cast as our presidential knight in shining armor, a superhero, a wizard who can wave a magic wand and make our nation's ills disappear overnight. But we are not living in a fairy tale. Our country faces the harsh realities of a faltering economy, two major theaters of war, and a government power establishment that is built to resist sudden structural change.

What we need more than this noble knight is a true leader who can implore and inspire us to make the needed changes in the details of our everyday lives, helping us to realize that the change we need starts with us. We must be the ones that raise our children to be responsible and compassionate citizens. We must be the ones to make ethical decisions in the workplace. We must be the ones who demand that our government be accountable to its citizens, rich and poor. And if you listen very closely, over the din of those who would appoint President Obama as our national savior, you will hear a man -- Barack Hussein Obama -- imploring us to do just this.

As I was watching some pre-inauguration coverage earlier today, I witnessed President Obama as he spoke and met people at the National Service Luncheon in Washington, DC. After speaking about the importance of volunteer service to the crowd that filled the room, he proceed to walk around, meeting each of the hundreds who had gathered there. What struck me was the look on the faces of the young people as he made his way, asking each one of them their name, engaging them and thanking them for their service today. To a person, each face had the look of "I am a part of this, I belong. Together, we can do this."

From the point that Barack Obama rose to national prominence during the 2004 Democratic National Convention, his central theme has been togetherness. WE as a nation, WE as a group whose strength lies in its diversity of background and opinion, WE as a collective voice in the world, WE are in this together. There is no national savior, no knight perched on his trusty steed. There is simply a man whose insight, compassion and determination have inspired millions to believe that WE can make a difference in charting our nation's future.

So, tomorrow, I will stand in unison with those millions and gladly welcome Barack Obama as our new president -- a president who needs us as much as we need him.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Building Our Cupboards

I don't know what shape, volume or ingredients my life's cupboard will eventually assume, and maybe that's the wonderful mystery of it all. Maybe we don't need a plan, an answer. Perhaps the quest revolves around building our own cupboards, as we continually marvel in the beauty and creativity constructed by those whose lives we share.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Let It Be Written, Let It Be Told

Something poetic about this responsibility belonging to Dick Cheney.

16 Random Things About Me

I just ran across a interesting idea on Facebook. The spouse of one of my FB friends posted a note called "16 Random Things About Me" and although I've never met her, it was an entirely fascinating read. So much more revealing than those "answer these 20 questions" chain e-mails.

So I thought I'd give it a try...

1) I love to read garden journals. There's something so intimate in the way dedicated gardeners relate to their landscapes. It's an intimacy that leads me to feel the "underlying balance" in the world, our connection with the earth.

2) My grandmother taught me how to shop -- and to this day I've never met another guy who likes the process of shopping as much as I do. I could spend an entire day browsing stores, and not buy a thing. Bookstores and small clothing stores are my favorite. Although there is something about the lighting in today's big box stores that throws my equilibrium off and dampens the enjoyment of the quest.

3) I had an excessively nervous stomach from age 13 to 21 -- especially in social situations. Think Stan from South Park when he sees Wendy Testerburger. It plagued me up until the point my best man and I walked up out to the altar on my wedding day. The nerves disappeared, and have never returned.

4) I never had corned beef until I married my Irish wife. As a kid, the name disgusted me because I thought it was some sort of roast beef that had corn kernels infused in it.

5) I have had exceptional luck with traffic stops. I've been pulled over for violations five times in my driving life (and was admittedly guilty each time), but have never received more than a warning. The latest warning came because the officer had given my wife a ticket just an hour earlier and didn't want to hit the same family twice in one day.

6) The first election that I remember was in 1980 when Reagan was elected. For the early years of my political awareness, I was a Christian conservative. I still cannot get over the irony that I went to college at Notre Dame, and graduated somewhere far left-of-center, practically agnostic -- a political-religious attitude where I remain ensconced today. And no, my conversion was not artificially induced.

7) I have a baseball card collection in an upstairs closet that exceeds 30,000 cards -- and I haven't touched in years. Really not sure what to do with it. I missed my opportunity to sell it years ago, so I guess I'll just hang on to it and let the kid decide if it gets sold in the estate sale when I die.

8) I won the Math and Science Award in my high school for the highest cumulative math and science average over four years and took enough advance placement courses to avoid all but one math class in college -- where I majored in political science and philosophy. Now that I've finally come to realize that scientific research and reason is the key to understanding our world, I truly regret not following my early inclinations toward science.

9) There aren't many things I enjoy more than being surrounded by the people I love. But there is nothing more rewarding that those one-to-one moments with family and friends. That is when I feel I'm at my most open, expressive, generous and satisfied.

10) I'm OCD when it comes to things being in the right order -- books, CDs, you name it. I can't even fathom the number of hours I've spent trying to create classification/organization systems. It's probably why I ended up being a programmer.

11) There's something I do every year at Christmas. Once the tree is completely decorated, I turn all the lights out, slide under the tree on my back, and just stare up through the tree at the lights and ornaments. I've done it since I was a kid, and ever year I'm still in awe.

12) I would love to play an instrument well. Listening to music is a great passion of mine, but I don't think I have the natural talent nor patience to transform from a consumer into a creator. My utter lack of rhythm is likely the major deterrent, though.

13) In my opinion, the greatest flaw in my character is a tendency to mentally drift when listening to a conversation/subject that doesn't engage me. I'm either thinking about something completely different or anticipating how I'm going to contribute instead of really paying attention to the current speaker.

14) I'm a political junkie. Through and through. I can even watch CSPAN for extended periods.

15) I don't like the smell of animals in human residences. In a barn, it's almost natural. In a house, yuck.

16) Information is my friend. Whether it's the latest sports scores, global news, or what's happening in your life, I love to know. Ignorance creates this disabling sense of insecurity in me that I try to avoid at all costs. I think that's why I've basically become one with the 'net. If I need an answer, it most likely has it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Crisis in the Senate

Thought I'd share a little piece from Jon Stewart. Some great lines, and a very disturbing section on the man who would be junior Senator from Illinois (if Harry Reid caves in).

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

You Didn't Descend from Primates, You Are a Primate

Last fall, I read Richard Dawkins God Delusion on the recommendation of a friend. For those unfamiliar with Dawkins, he's the world's most famous (infamous to some) athiest. Many of the concepts that Dawkwins presents in his work were fascinating, and I hope to blog at length about them in the future.

I ran across a related item tonight, that I'd thought I'd share.

Hitting Home

One of the last places I'd expect to get a little tug of the heart strings is over at, but a headline caught my eye as I was voting for Baby Mangini as the Sports Human of the Year. It was a link to an article titled If You Can, Everyone Go See Your Grandmothers, Right Now.

For some reason, this article brought me right back to my maternal grandmother -- a great woman who I had a spectacular relationship with for most of my childhood and early adult years. I always felt like we had a special bond, ever since the time she spent caring for me when my mother recovered from hip surgery when I was an infant.

I stilll remember fondly hopping on the city bus down at the corner and doing a quick scan to see my grandmother's smiling face; she'd get on near her house and I'd get on near mine. We'd take the bus downtown and spend the day shopping. Of course, she's always slip some money in my pocket on the way there. Yes, for those of you who've referred to my 'Martha' ways, it's likely my grandmother's influence.

I always admired my grandmother's steadfast nature, and one of my life's major regrets is that I let family politics rob me of sharing her final decade. So, take the advice of the article, and, if you can, go see your grandmother, right now.

Cleaning the Slate?

Since the rest of the American media seems inept to present some balance in coverage of the Gaza invasion, leave it to John Stewart.

Monday, January 5, 2009

First Day Back

The first day back to work in almost two weeks was rather uneventful, although productive. I've never been a good "relaxer" so the return to the grindstone was a welcome respite from the holiday down time. It was, as they say, good to be back -- in a place with clear goals and measurable outcomes. Call me a workaholic if you must, but that's simply how I'm wired.

Did get a chance to read an article by King Abdullah of Jordan written in 1947 regarding the Palestine question. Certainly raises some interesting questions and ideas in light of the ongoing Israeli incursion into Gaza.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Ready or Not, Here I Come

I sit here 15 minutes from my self-imposed weeknight bedtime, after a night of working on a web project I should have started long ago -- a victim of short staffing and its relative quiet in a world very squeaky wheels. This project, along with many others, looms large on my immediate and long-term horizon. But I find myself wondering what my year will hold, good and bad.

If pressed to reveal my wondering, I'd admit the following things will occupy my thoughts and actions in the coming year (in no particular order of significance):
  • Developing better work habits and strategies to more efficiently and effectively turn out real products.
  • Digging deep within myself to find the "good father" -- something that I know will require finding a way to subjugate an overarching selfishness that influences me far too often.
  • Following the new Obama administration with keen interest as it struggles to meet the challenges of a failing economy and a furthering intractability of conflict in the Middle East.
  • Surgically removing the time-wasting activities in my life so that I can spend more quality time with my family and friends while still meeting the real and unavoidable responsibilities in my life.
  • Focusing on being there for those priceless, irreplaceable friends without whom my life is unfulfilled.
  • Being serious about developing a healthy lifestyle -- both physical and mental.
  • Engaging those around me in serious discussion about real issues, without regard for political correctness or stepped-on toes. A time has come when we can no longer ignore "big issues" and need to work together to find solutions.
And there we have it, I'm three minutes late for that appointment with my pillow. Good night, my friends.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Resisting the F5 Urge

If I were to track my laptop keystrokes, I think the F5 key would certainly rank as one of the most used. Even I would likely be surprised -- perhaps disgusted -- by the amount of time that I've spent hitting F5 to refresh my Facebook news feed or to see if there are new postings on Reddit and other news sites. And on most occasions, I'm left unsatisfied because F5 failed to bring me anything significantly new.

Just a few days ago, as our family went around the room declaring our new year's resolutions, I promised to wake up and go to bed each with my back feeling both flexible and healthy. And while satisfying that promise will require a good bit of exercise and the discipline to get up out of my office chair on a regular basis, I think resisting the F5 urge may truly be the key to honoring this year's resolution.
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