Friday, April 30, 2010

Every Day Is A Gift!

Don’t take today for granted.

Appreciate your blessings, especially those you’ve forgotten you have.

It’s not trite to breathe the clean air, smell the spring flowers, and observe the innocence of a child.

Take a fresh look at the wonders that surround you. Take time to be thankful for them.

Every fleeting moment is precious. Every fleeting moment is to be lived – and loved.

Allow yourself to be moved by the beauty of everyday things.

Look with new eyes at the people you love and who love you.

Don’t take today for granted.

Every Day is a Gift!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Why Am I Not Surprised?

Why am I not surprised that:

Arizona has made it legal to be a police state.

Oklahoma has made it more difficult to get an abortion.

Goldman Sachs sees no wrong in robbing its clients.

Suicide bombers kill innocent people every day. Every day.

Republican Senators are unified in their opposition to – everything.

Operators of deathtrap coalmines claim they are committed to worker safety.

Another British footballer is hauled into court for misbehaving.

Another American footballer is hauled into court for misbehaving.

Politicians say we need financial regulation and vote against it.

Politicians say we need an energy policy and vote against it.

Politicians say we need an immigration policy and vote against it.

Politicians don’t keep their promises.

Lobbyists are spending billions – billions – to thwart the public interest.

Politicians are raising billions – billions – to assure we reelect them to do nothing.

Tea Partiers (and most of the rest of us) don’t trust their government.

Many Afghans prefer the Taliban to NATO forces.

The Saudis threaten to behead a guy they say is a sorcerer.

Prisoners kept in solitary confinement for years behave badly when set free.

Ryanair in Ireland says it is going charge for the privilege of taking a pee on their planes.

Drone attacks kill civilians.

The Catholic Church is slow to stop their priests from abusing children.

Need I go on?

Have a nice day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

South Park

I have been a South Park fan for years. Sometimes their narrative and satire misses the mark, but more often than not they are wonderfully irreverent and right on target. But not this time.

Last week to commemorate their 200th episode they did Part 1 of a two part series featuring people they have lampooned in the past – Tom Cruise, Barbra Streisand, Moses, Jesus, Buddha, and more. A key part of the story line involved bringing Muhammad to South Park. A serious challenge since Islam forbids showing the prophet. They resolved the dilemma by keeping him hidden in a U-Haul trailer and finally bringing him out in a bear costume.

For me this was a cop out that didn’t work. I wasn’t offended, since it’s irrelevant to me whether the prophet is depicted or not. I just thought it was a bit of silliness that wasn’t amusing. Either keep him totally hidden or show the guy. Don’t try to skirt the issue.

When I watched the show I did think Muhammad in a bear costume would surely upset many Muslims. So I wasn’t surprised to read that a group called Revolution Muslim posted a note on their web site saying that South Park’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone had “insulted” the prophet. They went on to say: “We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid, and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.” You may recall that van Gogh was the Dutch filmmaker killed by an Islamic militant after making a film about the abuse of Muslim women.

It sure as hell sounded like a threat to me, their protestation to the contrary notwithstanding. And one I would take seriously if I were Parker or Stone. So – what would they do with Part 2 of this story? It aired Wed. and was ridiculous.

Apparently the South Park producers did some self-censorship. And then Comedy Central made more changes. For the TV audience it was impossible to determine who did what. The result were vertical black boxes where I assume Muhammad would have appeared (with or without a bear costume?) had he been there and numerous bleeps which I assume would have been people saying the name “Muhammad” had we been allowed to hear what was bleeped out.

Parker and Stone said the episode was supposed to end with a speech about intimidation and fear. “It didn’t mention Muhammad at all but it got bleeped too.”

In the end there are no winners. The point of the show was lost. Comedy Central ran scared. The Muslims are upset. And we viewers are left wondering.

Three cheers for free speech!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Message #4 - Stop Spinning Your Wheels!

This is the fourth in a series of messages:

Have you noticed how often you feel like you’re stuck in a vicious circle? Caught in a chain of events in which the solution of one problem creates a new more difficult problem?

A friend of mine has a slightly different take:

If you want to keep on getting what you’re getting

Keep on doing what you’re doing.

And an old Chinese proverb tells us:

If we don’t change our direction,

We are likely to end up where we are headed.

The French say “the more things change the more they stay the same.” (Yes, I know, they say it in French – “plus ca change, etc.”)

It seems that everybody’s got something to say on this subject. The end result? Everybody’s spinning their wheels talking about people spinning their wheels. And the wheels keep spinning. Stop Spinning Your Wheels!

How can you break a vicious circle? Begin by simplifying the phenomenon. This will be Spinning Your Wheels 101. The Advanced Course can wait. Later you can deal with new problems that may arise or changing the direction you’re headed or changing anything else. For now, let’s stay with what my friend said: what you’re doing isn’t working. Yet you keep doing it.

Go back to a time when you got stuck in snow or mud. No big problem, right? Just give it a little more gas and you’ll be on your way. So you do. Your wheels spin and you stay stuck. Hum! Accelerate a little more. That should do it. Your wheels spin faster. Not only are you still stuck, you’re in a deeper hole than you were before.

We’re not talking about some mystical, arcane experience that rarely happens here. We’re talking about your life. This has happened to you. You can relate to what I’m talking about. And if you haven’t been stuck in snow or mud, you’ve been stuck in something else. You’ve tried spinning your wheels and it didn’t work. So you spun them harder. Remember?

It might have been in a relationship that was in trouble. It might have been with a boss or colleague at work. It might have been in school. Or on the playground. Or dealing with your parents. Or all of the above.

If spinning your wheels doesn’t work, then what? Here’s the bad news: There’s no magic bullet. There’s no one method for getting unstuck. Anyone who tries to sell you on the notion that she has the answer is blowing smoke. Avoid the one-size-fits-all approach.

You want to climb up a mountain. At the bottom you see a trail headed up. This looks good, so off you go. Before long you reach an impassable stream. Ooops! You turn around and look for another trail. You find one and take it. After a while you come to a chasm that you can’t cross. Double Ooops!! Eventually, if you search long enough you’ll probably find a way to the top. But the hit or miss method is a frustrating, wasteful way to live your life. It’s another example of spinning your wheels – and then spinning them some more.

If you had been able to look down from the top of the mountain before you began your trek you’d have seen many different ways to make the climb. Some would be better than others, but you’d be able to avoid the dead ends.

Now don’t get literal on me here. I know that you can’t beam yourself up to the top and look over the terrain in advance. And I know there’s no guarantee you’ll find the best trail on the first try. But I also know that you don’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over again, expecting they’ll give you different results. They won’t. Like my friend said, if you keep on doing what you’re doing you’ll keep on getting what you’re getting.

There’s another possibility, and that’s the good news.

What happened when spinning your wheels made your problem worse? Eventually you decided you had to try something else. You got people to push you out of the muck. You called a tow truck. You managed to get your car rocking back and forth and with just a little acceleration got traction.

Try communicating differently to the person with whom you have a relationship problem. Try seeing it from the other person’s point of view. Try assuming that maybe, just maybe, that guy knows what he’s talking about. Consider the possibility that the umpire was right when he called your player out.

Stop being a stubborn, self-righteous asshole.

Stop Spinning Your Wheels!

Friday, April 16, 2010

In Case You Missed The News

The Shabab, Somalia’s most powerful Islamist insurgent group, outlawed school bells in a town after deciding they sounded like church bells and conflicted with Islam.

The Pope said Christians need to repent.

Legislators in Wisconsin are considering a bill to select the state’s official microbe. There’s only one contender: the bacterium used to make cheddar and jack cheese.

Also in Wisconsin, a U.S. District Court ruled that National Prayer Day is unconstitutional since it violates the separation of church and state.

The Obamas earned $5.5 million in 2009.

The Creators of South Park are putting together a Broadway musical called “The Book of Mormon.” It will feature the exploits of two missionaries who go to Uganda.

The Israelis have banned iPad imports. They say they will consume too much capacity on their wireless networks.

A vast swirl of plastic garbage stretching over thousands of square miles has been found in the Atlantic. It is similar to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” found a decade ago.

Have a nice day!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Get Over It!

I’m a white guy. I’m part of a racial minority here in San Francisco. Not a problem. I’m part of a racial minority on this planet. Also not a problem. Soon I’ll be a part of a racial minority in this country. Not a problem for me. BIG problem for a lot of white people, although they don’t talk about it too much.

Today is a big day for Tea Partiers, because today is the day our income tax is due. So it’s a good excuse to rant and rave about how bad the government is. Readers of this blog will know I’m often not enthusiastic about the government either. But to align myself with this group of mostly white social conservatives isn’t the manner in which I want to protest.

There are two turds in their punchbowl. One is race. The other is power. And they’re related. The idea that this beloved country of ours, ruled from the beginning by white men, is being turned over to the ‘others’ is more than many of my fellow citizens can take.

Get over it people. Your day has passed. You can squeal and holler, but it ain’t gonna change. And you know what? When the others take charge they will take care of their own just as you have. You can bring your guns and religion to this battlefield and make it nasty, but in the end you’ll lose.

I think all this is terrific. It’s enough to make me hopeful for the future. You betcha!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ten Possibilities

One of the great people I’ve been privileged to know is Chester Bowles. I can’t imagine a better mentor, role model and friend. For a summary of his life check him out on Wikipedia.

Chet never became cynical. On the contrary, he would look into the future and see positive possibilities – even with seemingly impossible and intractable situations. “Look at ten things that seem hopeless,” he’d say, “and it’s likely that over the next ten years one or two of them will be solved.” Often as not he’d be right.

So here’s a list of 10 things that look hopeless. Come back in 10 years and we’ll see if Chet was right again.

1. The Israelis and Palestinians/Arabs will reach an acceptable compromise and begin living in peace.

2. Iran will no longer be a nuclear threat.

3. Partisan gridlock will no longer make the United States virtually ungovernable.

4. The Cubs will win a World Series.

5. California will have a balanced budget.

6. India and Pakistan will settle the Kashmir dispute.

7. The U.S. will have an immigration policy that is fair and non-punitive.

8. The income and educational gap between the haves and have-nots in the U.S. will be reduced.

9. England will win the World Cup.

10. The Supreme Court will not be a forum for ideology-based decisions.

Good luck to all of us.

Friday, April 09, 2010

A Great Walk

Today has been beautiful here in the city by the bay. Clear sky. No haze. In the mid-60’s. A perfect day to spend time down in the Marina alongside the water. Which we did.

We started with a stroll through the grounds of the Palace of Fine Arts. Inspired by Roman and Greek architecture, the Palace is what is left of the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition, an extravaganza that marked San Francisco’s recovery from the 1906 earthquake and fire that devastated the city.

From there we walked down to the water, past the St. Francis Yacht Club and alongside its marina. There must be something happening this weekend out in the bay. We saw sailboats and yachts from Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, and more. They gave the impression of preening themselves for a special event.

A little further along is the Golden Gate Yacht Club, home to BMW Oracle Racing, winner of the 33rd America’s Cup. We were headed out toward the end of a jetty that we’d visited many times in the past. Before today the path was dirt and rocks. But now, as if by magic, it is smooth asphalt. No need to watch your step. Attention can be paid to one of the most sensational vistas in the world.

To the west is the Golden Gate Bridge. It never fails to inspire awe. To the north Sausalito and Marin County. To the east Alcatraz and behind it Berkeley and the East Bay. To the south are the hills and City of San Francisco. Breathtaking.

At the end of the jetty is the Wave Organ, an acoustic sculpture made of granite and marble. You can walk through it, sit in it or listen to it. 25 organ pipes are embedded in the sculpture at various elevations within the site. Sound is created by the impact of waves against the pipe ends and the movement of water in and out of the pipes.

So we listened to the subtle sound of the wave organ, marveled at the beauty that surrounded us and walked back very thankful for the gift of this wonderful day.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Thoughts For Today

Final Two: Like most people I’d like to see Butler beat Duke. But after watching the semis it’s hard to see that happening.

Quake in Baja: 7.2 is big. It and more will happen here – we just don’t know when. Nothing to do but go on living life (and make sure the foundation is bolted down.)

Karzai: If you’re surprised that he is making inflammatory anti-American statements you’re not paying attention. A couple of months ago I called him a thug. Nothing has changed. The only problem is that we’ve put most of our eggs in his basket, so he’s our thug. Good luck to us.

The Vatican: They’ve mounted a PR campaign to distance the Pope from decades (centuries?) of priestly abuse. It’d be nice if this time some of the shit that’s hit the fan sticks, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

iPad: The extraordinarily positive pre-release buzz is amazing. Good for Jobs and Apple for breaking the mold. Me? I’m impressed but not standing in line. Given my current lifestyle and needs I don’t need one.

Obama: Jon Stewart says that since health care reform passed the Pres has been acting like Superman – with a frenzy of activity and announcements. Something new every day. I like it.

Footie: In my Fantasy Football game (that’s English soccer for Yanks that are behind the curve) I’ve maintained my position in the top 1.1% of the 2,301,034 teams in the competition. I’m ranked #26,013. Good for me.

Good news: Local salmon are being fished after two years without a season. I barbque wild king salmon often. I’m amazed at how something that tastes so good can be good for you.

TV Shows: There’s a current overload of good shows to watch. In addition to “Breaking Bad,” “Damages,” “The Pacific,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Justified,” “Southland,” and old favorite “Law & Order,” “The Tudors” returns this month and a new HBO show, “Treme,” promises to be good. And oh yes, I still eagerly watch “24.” I’m OK that this is the final season, but by suspending my disbelief for lo these many years I’ve really enjoyed it.

SF Police Crime Lab: Why am I not surprised that the scope of the incompetence and malfeasance at the lab continues to grow? We’re told that hundreds, maybe thousands, of current and past cases are affected. The latest? A hanger used by the lab has become home to an army of feral cats.

Finally: The Giants open the season in Houston tonight. Go Giants!