Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Holiday Tree?

Washington has a new hot story. Apparently there is a question about the name of the big decorated tree that materializes every December at the U.S. Capitol.

It seems some people don’t like the name “Christmas tree’. They insist it be a ‘Holiday tree’.

Now I’m confused. If I’m not mistaken about the history of the Christmas holiday it is about celebrating the birth of Christ. Hence it seems that the name Christmas tree was arrived at in a straightforward and logical way.

So does this mean that there are folks that want to share in the holiday, but don’t understand what it is they are celebrating? Or, making even less practical sense, don’t like what they are celebrating?

Does this not strike you as being similar to a Christian going to another culture with, oh lets say a dominant Buddhist religion, butting into their religious holidays we don’t understand or agree with, then demanding they change the names of their celebration symbols to suit us?

What am I missing here? This just seems like remarkably bad manners, not to mention a case of elementary logic pushed out onto the thin limbs.

You need not be concerned however, this is a blog with a solution.

The government should not put up a Christmas tree. Seriously, government has no business being involved in a religious holiday as a government practice.

But that’s just part of the solution. First, I will have to take you on a side journey.

I have a friend that has an interesting process when dealing with his wife’s demands. When she tells him to do something he doesn’t want to do, he just smiles and says “Yes dear.” He doesn’t argue with her about why he doesn’t want to do the task. He thinks the oncoming argument is an unnecessary infringement on his energy and time.

After mumbling, “Yes dear,” he proceeds to do whatever the heck he wants to do without regard to the wife’s request. It is a form of avoidance and disinterest that drives his wife crazy, but eventually she forms an understanding that the request on her part is wasted energy too.

I’m not advocating this for your marriage. Use this inside intelligence with caution.

It does however, sound like a good strategy for dealing with holiday cultural buttinskees. Yes, I know buttinskees is not a word, but I’m betting you know what it means. Especially those of you that may be buttinskees.

Why do I care if someone insists on calling it a ‘Holiday tree’?

I don’t care. I’m going to call it a Christmas tree until the day I die, and I suggest you do the same.

The only way this demand has any power is if we accept the premise that the ridiculous demand does have power. Just chuckle at them, and say “Yes, of course.” Then call it a ‘Christmas tree. Call it that the rest of your life.

They can’t put you in jail for employing defensive behavior against rude and ridiculous people.

Not yet anyway.

Simply rob their power by ignoring them, as in “You have no power over what I call a Christmas tree.”

Just call it what it is to you. ‘A Christmas tree.’

If you even engage a small argument with these rude folks, you give them a little bit of power over your behavior and thinking. I suggest we make them devoid of power by simply staring right through their silly yapping and then ask them, “Oh by the way, have you seen all the Christmas trees around town?”

If you’re wife or husband insists on calling it a Holiday tree? Well, we already covered that in Chapter One above.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Signs of our time

I was at the Tom Thumb grocery store yesterday. Recently this store put in its very own Starbucks. I’m telling the truth. It’s inside the grocery store.

In the wisdom that comes with retail marketing Starbucks apparently negotiated four (4) parking places at the front of the store, next to the handicapped spaces. The special Starbucks parking spots have a sign that looks like this:

Speaking of specialty parking spaces, I know you have seen the folks that pull right into handicapped parking spaces, get out and walk right into the store without even a limp.

Well, Starbucks is abused the same way. On my trip there yesterday a dude in a big ford truck drove right into the Starbucks slot next to the door. Into the store he went, grabbed a shopping cart, filled it up, checked out, went to his truck and NEVER went to Starbucks at all.

Now personally I think he is just taking advantage of a silly policy on Tom Thumb’s part, but for the sake of moving along here I would like to know what you would do with this character if you were in charge at Starbucks or Tom Thumb.

I spent some time thinking about this.

Here is what I would do if I were the God of Tom Thumb.

I would hire car thieves. I would have them place the car in another spot at the extreme end of the parking lot. No note, no explanation. Let him believe the little guys in the UFO’s are jacking with him.

What would you do? Use the comment box below to share your management wisdom with the rest of us.

Yes, you may still express your opinion even if you park in those spots.

And if I were indeed the God of Tom Thumb, I would put this sign on the spots next to the door:

The End.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Fate We Believe In

I have a friend in Austin Texas that most people would label as ‘odd’ or maybe ‘peculiar’. She has never swum the main stream. She has been known to irritate folks a little because she can be quite challenging about her views.

My friend’s name is Robin. Actually she is a ‘Dr.’ now and so we call her Dr. Robin.

Sometime in the 1970’s Dr. Robin introduced me to the idea of affirmations. It was an idea as foreign to me as Czechoslovakian currency.

I found the idea of affirmations amusing.

Over the years I also developed a habit of reading Ernest Holmes, the prolific writer behind the Religious Science movement. I have many sources of inspiration in my spiritual belief system so I don’t want to confuse you that I am a strict Holmes disciple, but I find his work intriguing, intellectual and beneficial to my life.

Holmes introduced me to the concept of ‘denials’. This is the opposite of affirmations. Holmes also spoke of affirmations while writing in 1919, so I suppose Dr. Robin didn’t actually invent affirming as a self development tool.

It should follow to anyone that understands the concept of affirming, that the process of denials is a twin consideration.

I was in a track competition in Canada last July and as my 200 meter semifinal race was minutes from beginning I was overtaken by a surge of negative feeling. I felt hungry. I felt weak. I felt I was too tired. Many of the world’s best runners were there to compete and some of them were sprinkled through the lanes of my semi-final race.

I used a combination of affirming and denying before this race. I told my brain it was thinking incorrectly. I told it I was not weak, but strong. I told it I was not tired, but ready to compete. I told it hunger was completely immaterial in the present context. I felt better. I felt strong and capable.

I won the semi-final race, literally coasting to the finish line to save energy for the finals. The point to me lies not in the race victory, but that I had turned my mental state upside down by simply denying a current state of mind and affirming a new one.

This was added to my set of many personal proofs that Dr. Robin was not all wet and that Mr. Holmes was writing from an enlightened view point in 1919.

The fate we believe in we bring to pass.

This is now evident to me and has been gaining strength with me over the years.

This carries a great many implications with it. I am going to suggest to you that the process of affirming or denying is really just a rail car being pulled by a larger locomotive.

The larger concept is that a great power, a power you cannot physically see is always present and ready to make our lives better, stronger and more spiritual. We have to affirm the presence of this power.

It is a fool’s errand to be arguing for the presence of God in a blog, particularly knowing that 99% of you believe in God in the first place.

I am actually pointing you in a direction skewed from the conventional.

What I was always ready to dismiss, and I still am, are the goofy, flowery books of affirmations written to make money. I mean really, come on. I still feel that way.

The concept is way too powerful to trivialize in this fashion. You don’t need flowery affirmations aimed at some ethereal goal not belonging to you. What you need is faith in something you cannot see, faith that your own power can bring your wishes to reality.

There is a very large truth wrapped in this package. I said ‘your own power’ in the sentence above. It is also the power of the larger entity. In this thought the implication is created purposively that God and you are one, inseparable. Jesus said, “I am with you always”, and this is what I believe he meant. I am you and you are me. We only need to believe this.

Most of us in the Christian culture have been taught to believe first in God then the power of affirming has been brought to our attention via the flowery affirmation books that speak in “Thous” and “Most Heavenly Fathers.”

Try it a different way. Affirm what you want in your own language, without the goofy books. Many will accuse me of blasphemy when I encourage you to believe that you are God when you affirm the good or deny the evil. I encourage you nonetheless. When you have achieved success you will have found God in a very pure form.

Affirm what you want. Deny what you do not want and find the power that belongs to you the same as it belongs to God. You see, it is being shared with you if you will accept the power and responsibility. It is God’s gift to you, the ability to own his power. Find it along the path that leads you there more naturally.

Never try to sell it at the bookstore and never search for it there.

It is an intellectual peasant’s faulty and hollow pursuit.

Find it your way, in your language, and it will be altogether more powerful and sustaining. It has to exist in your soul, not on the page of a book.

The fate we believe in we bring to pass.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Competitive Shopping

I bet you noticed the news video of people literally fighting over shopping specials yesterday. The folks were lined up at the doors waiting for the chance to sprint into the store and snag their prize before the other competitors at the door.

I have always been a ‘jock’. In high school we were made fun of by the ‘non-jocks’.

They had something stuck in their craw about jocks. I still don’t understand it. There is a popular cultural myth, prolonged by teenager targeted movies, where the jocks are evil and mean to the other kids in the school. My instincts tell me it is the jock mockers making movies in our culture and they just have not matured yet. I have never gotten this cultural thing assimilated into a comfortable place in my brain. The jocks I hung with never persecuted other kids. The adult jocks I hang with don’t persecute other people. Kids that were non-jocks hung out with us all the time. I must have gone to a different school than the one portrayed in the movies.

Much ado about nothing I think, but in the interest of continuing the cultural myth; my own observation.

I’m sure I recognized some of the non-jock mockers in the video I saw of competing shoppers yesterday. Some fell down; some were literally crawling back into the fight. Some were staggering in exhaustion halfway up the aisles. Arms were raised to register blows and one woman could not be interviewed since she could not intake the necessary oxygen, depleted in the fury of battle, and talk at the same time.

Which brings me to this; the mockers are competing for what they think will make them happy. Same as the jocks they fervently insist on mocking. So from the jocks to the mockers I offer the following advice.

If you are going to compete, for goodness sake get into competitive shape. Learn how to run, elbow, and fight. Yesterdays’ display of falling to the floor, reflexes so slow that you couldn’t put a notebook computer away when it sits right in front of you is a disgraceful display of competitive shopping. Shape up and quit being such a pitiful excuse for a competitive shopper. A solid effort by an Iraqi shopper hardened by tougher shopping conditions would kick your butt into Egypt.

I feel purged now, my very first blog rant!

Different subject now.

I was made aware of the fact that I am a bit eccentric in a sort of amusing fashion.

I was describing an acquaintance of mine to another ‘couple acquaintance’ as being a little bit eccentric. The couple was staring at me with amusement and then broke into hearty laughter simultaneously.

Naturally, I asked ‘what’?

The reply: “Like you’re NOT eccentric!”

Later. I’ll see you on the highway to eccentricity. I think it’s somewhere in Texas. I like it there.

Friday, November 25, 2005

From my sources

What are you doing here? Don’t you know it’s a holiday weekend?

Well, OK, I did get a little news in yesterday from my vast network of sources.


I had a report from a New Orleans source that the ‘south rising again revolt’ will have to be postponed by the local rednecks until next year. Apparently the ‘south will rise again’ headquarters lost its facilities and all of the confederate flags and bumper stickers were destroyed in the Katrina storm. According to a spokesman the organization does not believe it can actually overthrow the government this year, “We are in a weakened position without the flags,” he said. One of the group’s members suggested using Yugoslavian flags and telling the public that they were redesigned confederate flags. The idea was shelved however because the organization’s capital funds had been exhausted buying a fake inspection sticker for the pick-up truck.

A friend that recently bought a new high definition television, widely known as ‘HD – TV’, tells me that there is still only crap on television but the crap is much sharper now.

A government funded study, to be released next month, reports that gambling losers in Las Vegas suffer unhappiness after gambling to a greater degree than winners. This is useful according to the Federal Trade Commission. Officials are considering adding a warning sticker to all gaming tables, reading “Warning – Losing while gambling at this table can result in personal disappointment.”

Finally, I have been made aware of a recent heart health study. To date the results have not been released. According to the researchers, taking two aspirin with a fifth of bourbon reduces a person’s awareness that they are experiencing a heart attack.


OK, OK, I know, give me a break; I’m still coasting through the holiday.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Reaching down

On Thanksgiving it seems appropriate to have a story of giving. It is a story of thanks for the human spirit that will always reach down to help others.

You have probably been to La Guardia Airport in New York City. Its namesake, Fiorello LaGuardia is the star of the story. The story is reprinted in full from its original source.

La Guardia, Fiorello (1882-1947)

US politician and Mayor of New York (1933-45), nicknamed the “Little Flower.” A popular figure, he introduced labor safeguard schemes and improved housing in the city. He was director of the US Office of Civilian Defense (1941-42) and director-general of UNRRA.

(Bennett Cerf records an occasion on which La Guardia was presiding at the police court)

“One bitter cold day they brought a trembling old man before him, charged with stealing a loaf of bread. His family, he said, was starving. ‘I’ve got to punish you,’ declared La Guardia. ‘The law makes no exception. I can do nothing but sentence you to a fine of ten dollars.’

“But the Little Flower was reaching into his pocket as he added, ‘Well, here’s the ten dollars to pay your fine. And now I remit the fine.’ He tossed a ten dollar bill into his hat. ‘Furthermore, he declared, ‘I’m going to fine everybody in this courtroom fifty cents for living in a town where a man has to steal bread in order to eat. Mr. Bailiff, collect the fines and give them to the defendant!’ The hat was passed and an incredulous old man, with a light of heaven in his eyes, left the courtroom with a stake of forty seven dollars and fifty cents.”

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Brain Research

New studies indicate that the onset of Alzheimer’s in men has a previously undiscovered and remarkable source. After extensive testing and surveying of principal life styles in male Alzheimer’s victims a causal factor has been isolated.

According to researchers the disease in men is likely produced by brain damage resulting from men having to answer successive multiple questions posed by women.

The idea that brain cells can actually be altered by a series of questions unbroken by direct statements was first postulated by a thrice divorced scientist in California. He noticed that his daughters had begun to end statements with the characteristic inflection of a question. For example the statement “Dad, I am going to the mall.” Had been repackaged as “Dad I am, like, going to the mall, you know?” This was confusing to the scientist in that he had no ready answer for what sounded like a question, but appeared upon additional examination to be a statement.

According to the research presented by the scientist, the breaking point appears to be 7 successive questions. After engaging the brain in answering 7 questions in a row the male brain cellular material undergoes a negative alteration. The researchers stress that the number of questions can exceed 7 or actual alteration of cells can occur prior to 7 depending on the emotional complexity of the question and the irritation level of the women asking the question. The researchers stressed that 7 straight questions represent the mean figure.

According to behavioral experts the new studies are loaded with cultural implications. Professor Cynthia Johnson of the Institute for Brain Function said that women can accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s in their mate by simply asking successive questions, in excess of 7 in a row on a daily basis, as is already their custom. On the other hand, they can prevent this horrible disease by being careful to insert a statement between their normal patterns of multiple questions. She added that the study raises many, many questions that require answers.

Professor John Runoff at the Southern Strategic Command Center of the U.S. Air Force is currently trying to determine if the research will help explain why males traditionally run faster than females. Runoff postulates, in the absence of research, that it is possible that men are able to run faster in order to ‘outrun the persistent questioning’ of the female gender. In Runoff’s thinking this would represent an evolutionary refinement necessary in saving brain tissue. He added his research is being bogged down by the questions posed by Professor Johnson of the Institute for Brain Function.

Dr. Philip Hearmore of the American Academy for Hearing Research indicated that the new findings have repercussions for his work. According to Hearmore, the incidence of deafness among his male patients may be a faked impairment. “These men may be engaging in a defensive behavior designed to slow the death of their brains” he said.

Dr. Hearmore declined to answer additional questions.

Nancy Reagan, when contacted, asked why I was calling, and would it require any travel or social arrangements on her part. She also asked about fees and if her caregivers could also respond and if the phone call was on a cell phone or a land line. When informed it was a cell phone she asked which service provider I was using and if I was happy with their service. I began to feel confused and I confessed to her that I had forgotten why I called.

After proofreading this post my wife asked, "Why do you make this stuff up, aren't you afraid you will offend someone, or get them confused?"

That counts as three questions!

Gotta run! Maybe fast. See ya.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It's quiet here

It’s 1 am on what I consider Monday evening, but I suppose it is technically Tuesday morning.

I don’t know why I’m not sleepy; it just happens once in a while. It is remarkably quiet in my house. It’s the kind of quiet that feels as if it is just visiting and won’t be able to stay long. Often this kind of quiet is totally absent from our urban world. The days are filled with meetings and talk, the evenings with the television and attendant family noise.

This evening reminds me of the midnight shifts I would work on weekends as a police officer. A lot of those nights would be quiet like this, the kind of quiet that seems almost odd. I would pull the police car over in a parking lot, roll down the windows and listen to crickets and an occasional dog barking somewhere off in the distance. There was an occasional radio call to a unit somewhere in another part of town, but mostly just a pleasant quietness.

I was always conscious that the dispatcher could just as suddenly send me on a mission that involved anything but quiet, but the quiet was more often the rule than the exception on those shifts.

The quiet is soon to be broken. Thanksgiving is sitting on the horizon waiting for its chance to visit us again. It will come to my house and it will bring my family home and place them all together for a little while. The quiet will be broken by all the talk, me playing with my grandson, by football on television, and the girls talking about shopping and cooking and the kids.

I like Thanksgiving. It has purity to it. It feels as if it is celebrated for the correct reasons. And for the most part it’s central message remains unstained by commercialism.

I also like quiet.

Given the choice I would choose Thanksgiving and its noise every time though.

I’m hoping you have family and friends, kids, turkey, dressing, football and shopping on your horizon.

If not, well just come on over here because we will have plenty to share with you.

But, it's quiet right now. It's 1:15 am. There is a lone dog voice somewhere down the block.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Fire that is Evil

I was reading through a book of speeches recently. The content between the covers of the book is a compilation of historic speeches dating as far into our history as 400BC and running up to the decade of the 1960’s.

The recurrent theme throughout the speeches is oratory about the war of good versus evil.

That will come as no surprise to students of world history and world affairs. It is just as unlikely that it would be a surprise to those without the benefit of that education.

Good versus evil is the main plot driver of action movies, the typical western novel and it dominates today’s headlines. There is often confusion between the sides about which side is wearing which uniform. We abhor the random violence of terrorism while they define the rest of the world as infidels.

These battles have gone on for all of recorded history. The logical question that follows that statement like a wagon behind a horse would be, “Are we forever sentenced to this struggle?” Will the grandchildren of our grandchildren’s grandchildren engage the same evil on a forever existent battlefield? Will a present day terrorist simply have a different name yet wear the same evil cloak?

I have an opinion on this issue, and I trust you are not surprised.

For several years now I have been forming an opinion that fear is the base emotion that fuels this struggle between good and evil.

Philosophical types will propose that good cannot exist without evil, that one defines the other and that they live in a mutually sustaining relationship. My view is that while that theory is popular, not to mention ancient, it presupposes that something we have not achieved or not experienced cannot exist because we have not known it as a reality.

Another way of saying this is that the theory of mutual reliance; good can only be defined if evil exists alongside it, depends upon our need to accept the world exclusively under the terms of our current understanding or experience.

This might well be the same type of presupposition as believing the earth is flat because we cannot see it curve from the bow of the ancient sailing vessel.

I believe fear is the fuel beneath the fire that is evil. Hitler used fear as a tool. Can it be legitimately argued that fear is not the predominate tool in the terrorists’ tool kit?

When I fear something I naturally do not like that thing. Only the mentally deranged could be said to truly like or love something that they know should be feared. (Those old girlfriends or boyfriends don’t count on this one)

When we fear something we set out to remove it from our world or avoid it altogether. It could be argued that the more passive of us would seek to avoid rather than confront, but God imbued the human race with aggression, for survival reasons I suspect, and we often stand and fight, or attack the things we fear.

I would propose to you that only by removing fear from our lives will we eradicate evil. There is probably something more to remove as well, but we should begin with fear.

Yes, I believe good can exist without needing to be defined by the presence of evil.

I believe the roots of evil are in fear, not money, and that the roots of good are in the absence of fear. I do believe greed is in the mix of the stew labeled evil, but not the principal ingredient.

The great challenge before us is that we are each responsible for removing our individual fear of our world and even fear of death itself, no one else can do it for us, and indeed it could be a very long war.

The book of speeches I told you about contains the final speech of Socrates prior to his execution. He had been tried and sentenced for not believing in his eras accepted gods and for corrupting Athenian youth with his oratory. During this final speech he mocks his enemies that are about to execute him.

He mocks them by making it clear that they cannot instill fear in him and therefore will ultimately be defeated. His prophesy to them is that they will have to ultimately pay the price for their evil and ‘fear’ of him, but that he will go to death as an honorable man without fear. Portions of his speech are reprinted below.

A portion of Socrates speech

But this is not difficult, O Athenians, to escape death. It is much more difficult to avoid depravity, for it runs swifter than death. And now I, being slow and aged, am overtaken by the slower of the two; but my accusers, being strong and active, have been overtaken by the swifter wickedness. And now I depart, condemned by you to death; but, they condemned by truth, as guilty of iniquity and injustice. And I abide my sentence and so do they. These things, perhaps, ought so to be, and I think they are for the best.

In the next place, I desire to predict to you who have condemned me, what will be your fate, for I am now in the condition in which men most frequently prophesy, namely when they are about to die. I say then to you, O Athenians, who have condemned me to death that immediately after my death a punishment will overtake you far more severe by Jupiter, than that which you have inflicted on me.

Having predicted this much to those of you who have condemned me, I take my leave of you.

By the way, I would like to hear your opinion on these posts. I know you are reading because I get the statistics from Google. You are passing the page around since there are many more readers than the number I have told about the blog. I really thank you for sharing, but more than that I would love to hear your comments, con and pro. (You can comment on posts at the bottom of the post)

Sunday, November 20, 2005


One of the ways I pass my time and use my energy is competing in masters’ track and field. Like most special interest areas of our lives, it has its own set of conventions and ideals, a distinct culture and a colorful cast of characters. This past year, while competing at the World Masters Games in Canada, I was able to spend some time in conversation with track and field legend Bill Collins.

I had admired Bill and his reputation for many years, joining a legion of folks that think very highly of him.

While in Canada I experienced the good fortune of somehow twisting his arm into being my personal coach. He is a demanding coach. My tired body is beginning to understand the requirements of working toward my best possible performance.

I may end up embarrassing Coach Collins a little here, but he needs to know that many people in our sport want to be ‘like Bill’.

Why? I personally think it is more than the World and American records and what seems as if it is the most remarkable run of excellence in the sport in recent memory.

Bill has a warm manner of respectfulness about him. A sense that those of us that chase him down the track with persistence yet always fail to catch him, are deserving of his respect, his time and his attention. It is a very special quality and I admire it.

In Canada it seemed that every athlete in the stadium stopped by to meet him and talk with him. I was amazed at his unfailing good cheer and politeness, even while he was trying to prepare for a race.
Legends are important to our culture. Legendary individuals cannot be copied or replaced; the definition itself precludes the possibility.

Today is my coach’s birthday. The following anecdote about Louis Armstrong has been printed in different places over time and is retold below in recognition of Bill’s birthday.
Louis Armstrong was once asked whether he objected to the impressions of him frequently given by other singers and comedians. “Not really,” he replied, shrugging his shoulders.
“A lotta cats copy the Mona Lisa, but people still line up to see the original.”

Happy Birthday Coach Collins

Saturday, November 19, 2005

There Oughta be a Law

Fred waited patiently in line at the will call window at the ballpark. This was going to be a fantastic evening at Ameriquest Field in Arlington. The Rangers were playing the Yankees and the game was being broadcast nationwide on television over ESPN.

His ticket for the game had been purchased months before when he realized it was a nationally televised game. His seat was on the very first row behind home plate just slightly to the umpires right of home plate.

When Fred reached his seat the Yankees were taking the field for the bottom half of the first inning. He hated that he was slightly late, but the traffic had been heavier than he expected.

The camera positions were also slightly different than he had expected. There was a camera at the end of the first base dugout. He noticed a second camera in the mezzanine level of the third base side, but of course the camera of most importance to Fred was the center field camera mounted at the right side of Greene’s Hill approximately 435 feet from home plate. That was the camera that mattered.

He felt his heart begin to race. His fingers were trembling as he punched the numbers into his cell phone. He was calling his best friend George, and of course George was expecting him.

“Hey George, I’m here dude, this seat is awesome. Tell me dude, where is the camera pointing right now?” When he knew it was pointing toward home plate, at least according to George, Fred jumped to his feet and began waving furiously with his right hand. He was virtually hopping up and down while waving until George told him that the camera had switched to the pitchers face.

“Now”, George had screamed into the phone the instant the producer switched back to the center field camera. “Now Fred, now” he yelled. Fred once again stood up and waved and waved and hopped up and down.

Fred never saw the police coming down the aisle. He was too busy waving to the camera, the important center field camera that would allow him to tell all of his friends he had been on national television.

After the handcuffs were on, the police escorted Fred to a holding cell within the ballpark to await his transfer to the city jail.

Much to Fred’s surprise and dismay, the police told him that the city’s ‘Committee for Suppression of Dumb-Ass Behavior in a Public Place’ had that very morning passed the ordinance that dealt with his antics.

‘Crap’ was the only expression Fred could think up and that’s what he said to the police. “Crap”. Then after some very serious thought, he added “If only I had bought a ticket for the Orioles series earlier this year. One of those games was televised too!”

Friday, November 18, 2005

Heads or Tails?

Isn’t ‘corporate speak’ a funny thing? I confess there are times it is altogether annoying, but for the most part if we can keep a sense of humor then it is mostly just funny.

When I was climbing the corporate ladder in my mid 30’s I was sometimes given the assignment of ‘writing’ things for the company. I feel confident I created my own healthy share of corporate speak in the process. I prefer to view it now as having contributed to the corporate humor baseline.

Yesterday I received an email from a large Dallas architectural firm. I hope they don’t read my blog.

The email was announcing the first meeting for a new project. This was referred to as a ‘kick-off’ meeting.

I am a consultant to the architect on the project and so I will be in attendance at mid field with the referees and other captains for the coin-toss. I guess that’s why they invited me, and sometimes I’m pretty lucky so maybe I’ll get to call heads or tails.

I read through the information they sent me and discovered the most important thing; the AGENDA!

Here it is:
1. Introduction of Team
2. Process and Schedule Overview
3. Variables that affect the Process
4. Vision Session
5. Required information
6. Open Discussion

I am anxiously awaiting the date for this meeting now. I had scheduled an eye exam for the week before, but it looks like I will be getting a free one at the ‘kick-off’ meeting during the ‘vision session’.

Now that is a full service architectural firm!

Now I Get It…….maybe

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Recess in Heaven

The sky was a remarkable blue yesterday. The wind was blowing from the north and it had a November bite that made one unsure if they might need long sleeves.

My work day was slow and I was looking forward to my workout at the stadium at noon.

My track coach had prescribed a stadium step workout. Running up the steps repetitively, looking for fall strength that would lead to spring and summer speed on the track.

When I arrived I was alone. Standing in the stands I could see the neighboring Catholic Church in the near distance. On certain hours it offers up a bell tower chorus that always feels like a personal visit from God.

A training partner had emailed that he could not make the workout because of a series of meetings at work.

I began the labor of running the steps, reminding myself that it was necessary work. The strength gained would translate to speed in the racing season.

From seemingly nowhere my training partner appeared. He was like a friendly smiling ghost, moving toward me with nonchalance. He had ditched his meetings. The sun seemed brighter.

He ran the next series with me, my final ascent for the day. Then he began his own assault on the steps without me. I returned to the track below. I was missing something important on this November day. I had not sprinted since my last track meet in September. All of the workouts since then had been designed for strength conditioning to prepare for the competitions of next year.

I sprinted down the track for about 50 meters with the old familiar effort, speed returning the best it could in my weary legs. I wanted more.

My friend called from the stands. “Are you going to do more of those?”

He joined me on the artificial turf of the football field below.

I took off my shoes to run in my socks.

He tossed his gloves to the field.

We sprinted.

Down the field.

Fulfilling the need.

Taming the beast that prowled inside.

We did it again and again.

Over and over.

Side by side.

Doing exactly what we would do if it were recess in heaven.

My friend had to go back to work.

We thanked one another and said goodbye.

After he left I put on my shoes and walked to the center of the field. I stared into the blue sky above. The north breeze was a perfect temperature, the sun shone steadily and happily.

The church bells began to ring.

I smiled inside.

Heaven does visit earth.

We just have to open our arms.

Wish for a friend.

Then do what you would do if it were recess in heaven.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Unburdened by Conscience

The president was giving a speech last week about war issues and he used the memorable phrase ‘unburdened by conscience’ in describing terrorists and their actions. While I have vowed not to discuss politics here, I must say that I do believe that the terrorists in the world are doing evil things.

That evil makes this a cultural discussion and I want you to read it in that fashion.

Many speechwriters are artists when they are weaving big ideas together. Peggy Noonan is one of my personal favorites. They form words and ideas that interpret a world sometimes so large and complex that we have difficulty conceiving of the simpler ideas and values that surround it all. When they are at their best, the great speechwriters are capable of condensing the mess into a simpler whole and thereby they often steer history itself.

The phrase ‘unburdened by conscience’ galloped around inside my head to an extent that I quit listening to the speech, jotted the phrase down and then continued to admire it.

Where is the meeting point between a good conscience and a lack thereof? Can the meeting point between the two be identified? All of us have felt the stabs of a troubled conscience. That nagging feeling of knowing what we have done is wrong.

Most of us resolve our troubled conscience. We confess, apologize or repent in order to absolve our conscience, or in the negative we create a rationalization that we have been wrong about letting it bother us. We try to push our behavior uphill on the conscience scale.

The rational answer to the question I am posing about where the clear conscience intersects with the bad conscience is that if it is bad in your head, then it is real, and by default exists on the negative end of your personal scale. It exists on the scale of ‘bad conscience’ simply because you feel the pain produced from poor behavior. Only your personal mental black magic can slide it back up the scale to the good side.

Is this what has happened to a terrorist that will willingly kill innocent babies, children, women, everything and everyone in pursuit of global religious domination and extinction of the ‘conveniently labeled’ infidels?

Have they felt their conscience and then willingly pushed the bad feeling uphill on the scale to where they believe what they are doing now lies on the good part of the scale?

I think this is what happens.

I believe they have a conscience. Unless God is planning on a recall of faulty humans, assembled without consciences, then I think they must have one.

Why is this important?

It is important because I am telling you that we do not have a group of people without a conscience; the default position implied by the speechwriter and our president. What we have is a radical religious group that has taken the pain of conscience that it feels and is trying to slide it up the ‘this is OK’ side of the scale.

There are days I believe bombs are too good for them. There are days like this one when I think they are merely wandering in the woods without a moral compass.

When your loved ones die at their hands, the first option is an easy choice. If, like me, your family and friends have remained untouched physically, then you can hope to be more philosophical.

I am suggesting here that we are attacking the wrong things in this fight for peace from terrorism. I, for one, am weary of the Donkey vs. Elephant ranting and ravings that inevitably kill useful action and positive agreement like a raging fire destroys trees in a dry forest.

I do not believe George Bush is an idiot or a liar. I do not believe John Kerry is a coward or a wimp. I’m insulted by all those that want me to believe either position. The job is hard for anyone, and I will remind you of an old saying whose acquaintance we have all made about ‘walking a mile in someone else’s shoes’.

What we need in this war is an effective jury of religious peers for these terrorists. These peers need to convince their wayward that their destructive behavior and killing of innocent people cannot be pushed uphill on the conscience scale.

All of us need to join the fight to condemn their actions. There should be a global campaign of scorn and ridicule brought to the doorstep of these people. We must assault the faulty conscience that is surely there.

Mr. Bush’s speechwriter coined a powerful and interesting phrase ‘unburdened by conscience’. It is effective language. The writer may even agree with me that the conscience is there, but remains unburdened. That distinction makes the phrase even more powerful and agreeable.

They have a conscience, it may well be unburdened, but they have one. We need to resuscitate it with global judgment, bringing a worldwide negative reaction that pushes their conscience back down the scale into the zone it belongs, returning their God given understanding of what is clearly wrong.

The abetting Muslim and Middle Eastern nations, cleric and citizen alike, are as guilty as the terrorists if they cannot find the decency to join the rest of the world in doing so. At this point they have made it a habit to close their eyes, hearts and minds to these barbaric atrocities.

President Bush famously said “You are either with us or you are against us,” speaking on behalf of the United States.

I personally like his gunslinger attitude. Sadly, I think his attitude is acceptable for rallying his nation, but not specifically functional in a war against a terrorists’ confused conscience.

I think God is not a gunslinger, and I hear him calling worldwide in a far more clarion voice, trying to be heard over the noise and the bodies of his innocent yet fallen children, “Are you with me or against me?”

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

End of the Walk

The story of Tucker Carlson and the demise of the bow ties was a set up story. I really wanted to talk about something that was on my mind for which the bow tie story sets the stage.

I should apologize to Mr. Carlson first. He has never done anything to offend me, he just happens to wear bow ties.

The idea that people, even his wife, will not know who he is allows me to segue into a more serious discussion of external v. internal factors in our lives

The life represented by Tucker is one that creates a bond between his external appearance and his definition of self. I know I am often guilty of this. The obvious examples for so many of us are the new car, the dream home, the vacations and the social rankings that go with it.

Some philosophical types go off on ranting benders about the need to abandon all material things and the spiritual requirement to go sit on a mountaintop alone.

That’s all very romantic and/or spiritual, but most mountaintops can be become quite cold and windy and Starbucks isn’t there. Not yet anyway. Give them time.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think clearly about my internal values without coffee.

I was walking down a sidewalk in my neighborhood yesterday and I remembered a long ago talk I had with a young baseball student. It was a discussion that occurred as a result of the young man’s mother asking me to talk to him about what she felt were some inappropriate things in his life.

I did this dutifully only to find out later that the mom was not particularly happy about my candor in the discussion with her son. The problem was that I had once been a 16 year old boy and fully understood her son’s behavior and feelings. Quite frankly, mom was clueless; she just wanted her way in the boy’s life.

The discussion was wide ranging but the central theme I gave him was that he should imagine a sidewalk that took him to wherever it was he desired to go in life. I asked him to imagine that the distractions off the sidewalk, whatever they might be, were sometimes suitable to go visit and experience, but that ultimately he had to return to the sidewalk if he wanted to get where he was going. If he could bring these distraction to his sidewalk that was alright, but returning to the sidewalk was very important. I also asked him to imagine a distraction that took him so far off the sidewalk that he could no longer find his way back.

I went on to tell him that his imaginary sidewalk represented the interior beliefs that formed his understanding of who he is. The sidewalk represented truth, honor, love, respect, a faith in a power larger than him and I even threw in the Golden Rule for a dash of dramatic effect.

Many times things take us away from our core beliefs. The distractions might even be as tempting as the lovely 18 year old female distraction was to my young 16 year old ballplayer. I thought him quite a fortunate young man, but well that’s another blog for another day.

I wanted him to understand that there would always be distractions, for any of us, but if he stayed close enough to his sidewalk he could always find his way home.

This is similar to the idea that if we venture into the wilderness it would be far better to have a compass than all of the fancy hiking clothes money can buy.

The reason is obvious. The compass represents your inner belief system that is distinct and separate from the items external to who we actually are. It is the way we guide ourselves through life, staying on course and defining who we are, even without a bow tie.

After coffee I continue to think on all of this. I’m not certain any of us really need a vow of poverty or that we need to go sit on a mountain. As a matter of fact I believe in some way that it might even be a negative behavior. It is inaction without a balancing and culturally contributory action. It just might be too far off the sidewalk, or a first cousin to walking into the wilderness without a compass.

As 16 year olds will do, my ballplayer asked me a smart ass question. I should add that he asked with an accepting grin on his face, he wasn’t being surly, just having fun with me. He asked, “What happens when the sidewalk ends?”

I told him the sidewalk would end only when he had become the sidewalk.

He didn’t understand that part of it on that day. In time he will.

Gotta go. I’m off to look at new watches and cars!

Working on Getting It…….maybe.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bye Bye Bow Tie

The American Bow Tie Manufacturing Association announced yesterday that it is disbanding.

ABTMA President Larry Fuller said that the organization has only one manufacturing concern, Larry Fuller Bow Ties, as a member.

Fuller went on to explain that for many years the bow tie market has been going away in America, and “besides”, he said, “people have been tying them upside down for years, not realizing it.”

The ABMTA contacted bow tie wearers across the country three months ago explaining the upcoming demise of bow tie manufacturing.

This has been a particularly troubling time for Tucker Carlson.

Carlson has spent the last six months in intense sessions with his therapist the entertainment trade magazines have been reporting. Carlson confirmed that he has been discussing this grave news with his therapist.

It has also been reported that he has been negotiating with television stations in France where bow ties are still common. Negotiations have reportedly hit a snag because of the fact that Carlson does not speak French. Adding to the difficulty for his agent is the fact that the French are not interested in American politics or what Carlson has to say in any language.

Carlson indicated that his therapist is helping him fashion an internal dialogue that involves ‘the good old days’. According to Carlson he has been hammering out stories that he will tell his children and grandchildren about the good old days of wearing bow ties. This is designed to help him embrace himself as a legacy and a historian to the young.

Carlson’s wife painted a grimmer picture however. According to Mrs. Carlson, Tucker has been naming his bow ties and promising them that nothing will happen to them.

After I promised not to ask about his youthful indiscretions in college, Mr. Carlson agreed to sit down for an interview.

Me: Tucker, this must be a very dark time for you. How are you coping?

Carlson: Some days are better than others, but in my darkest moment I am most shaken by knowing something very wonderful is going to come to an end and that I have absolutely no control of the situation.

Me: Your discussions with Mr. Fuller apparently have not been successful, what is the most important thing you want to say to your fans.

Carlson: I would like to say to my fans; if you see my name underneath my image then you need to be confident it is really me, bow tie or not. I may not act the same or look the same, but you will still know it’s me by my bewildered acceptance of attacks I can’t defend against.

Me: Are you concerned that your fans won’t recognize you?

Carlson: Of course, I am. However, I’m much more concerned that my family won’t know who I am when I come home. I mean, how would you feel if your wife said, “How do I know that is really you? Tucker began to sob quietly as his words trailed off…..

Me: Boy, those were the good old days weren’t they Tucker?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

One Small Step for Man...One Giant Leap

If I told you the story below without an explanation you would likely believe that Rick was just pulling on your leg again. I’m not. This is an actual AP press release from yesterday, November 12, 2005.

Really, it’s real! Read along:

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - The Rev. Jesse Jackson called the Philadelphia Eagles' punishment of Terrell Owens "much too severe."

Jackson said in a statement released Friday that Owens could have been more professional when he publicly complained about his contract, his team and the Eagles's organization.

But Jackson said Owens' suspension without pay for four games and deactivation for the rest of the season is "much too severe for the charge" and hurts the athlete's NFL career at its height.

The civil rights activist said the level of punishment could have been warranted if Owens had been caught shaving points, selling drugs, carrying a gun or fighting fans without sufficient restraint.

"This does not warrant a one-year ban from the game," Jackson said, adding that the Eagle's should release Owens to the open market or free agency if they no longer want to associate with him.
Ralph Nader, a consumer activist and former presidential candidate, has already called for the suspension to be rescinded.

Owens was suspended last week after he said in an interview that the Eagles showed "a lack of class" for not publicly recognizing his 100th career touchdown catch, and that the team would be better off with Green Bay's Brett Favre as quarterback. He has since apologized.

And now my report about this story:

The International Council for Rational Thinking ruled yesterday on the appeals of three individual cases.

The initial ruling was on the appeal of Terrell Owens. Owens had been previously convicted of blaming everyone and everything around him for behavior appropriate to a three year old. The Council ruled that there was no new evidence to refute the conviction and that the original trial had been flawless at the judicial level. Owens punishment of being banished to an island with no reporters or cameras until he had matured was upheld. He is also not allowed to blame others for his personal behavior during this period.

The second ruling came in the case of Ralph Nader. Nader was convicted last year of making continuing baseless accusations against others. The Council ruled that the law of ’having publicly stuck your nose where it most definitely does not belong over 1, 000 times’ had been correctly adjudicated in the Nader trial. There was no exonerating evidence presented at the appeal. Nader was sentenced to go with Mr. Owens to the island. Nader, when interviewed, said there was contradictory evidence available to him but that the government had packaged the evidence in containers that were not safe for him to use, probably laced with invisible poison gas.

Late in the day the Council also ruled on the Reverend Jesse Jackson's case. Jackson’s conviction for ‘conduct detrimental to his stated cause’ was upheld by a smiling council of jurors. Apparently Jackson had threatened the council with a Freedom March to free all the black children imprisoned for being illiterate. When advised by his attorney that there were no black children imprisoned in America for being illiterate, Jackson leapt to his feet and began to sing an old Baptist Hymn, encouraging the jurors to join in. Despite the theatrics of the Reverend Jackson, his conviction was upheld and he also will be sent to the ‘media free’ island with Owens and Nader.

This reporter attempted interviews with the general public to gauge reaction to the rulings. Nationwide celebrations were ongoing however, and impeded my efforts.

Interviewed following his hearing, Jackson said the three will organize a march on the island, where the three would represent the 'holy trinity'. When advised that there would be no media coverage available, Jackson broke down in tears.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Maria and Konyo

Maria stared at the ceiling of the Nordus Center lobby. It was constructed in a series of circle forms with intermediate rafters forming spokes within the circles. Beyond the framing she could see the blue sky above Phoenix and small wisps of white clouds that dodged in and out of the rafters as they floated along, creating a constantly changing pattern of shade and shadow on the floor at her feet.

She held the spine connection searching unit in her left hand. It was a new unit which she was glad about, but she had only paid for one hour of time. The initial searches using her grandmothers code had not linked to her and the hour would soon be over.

Maria’s head was filled with a constant clatter of thoughts that collided with one another until she wasn’t really sure what subject her brain actually intended to think about and what it thought better to discard. Maria found herself watching the constant turning of the roof system in its tracking of the sun as it gathered energy for the electrical load on the Center.

She shuffled her feet, her slippers blinked back at her in a programmed musical rhythm. Her grandmother had always teased her about going nude. She told her it was extremely fortunate that she was born when she was because in the older days of earth the people were required to wear their clothes all the time, everywhere they went. Maria had always giggled at her grandmother over this. She thought maybe she was a little senile or something, repeating it over and over, but she did know that it was actually true about the old days. One evening she had tried to get Maria and her girlfriends to dress in unisuits for a party, but they were afraid the boys would make too much fun of them. She had said “Why don’t you try something different to get their attention?”

The countdown timer indicated 17 minutes left when the unit finally vibrated, signaling a connection.

Maria activated the unit to her inner ear frequency and spoke to her grandmother for the first time in over two months.

The sound of her voice always made Maria smile and it did this time as well. The frequency from Konyo, the resting place for her grandmother’s soul after it was surgically removed in 2106 was a little ragged but her grandmother was understandable.

Maria always tried to remember her grandmother’s mannerisms when she talked. That way she could imagine her stories in a more vivid way than was really possible by simply listening to her voice. She called her grandmother ‘Kiki’. It was the grandmother name given her because the adults referred to her often as being ‘coo-coo,’ but the kids had first pronounced it as ‘ki-ki’. The name had stuck.

When Kiki heard Maria’s voice she was as delighted as ever and the pitch of her voice went up as if it were her way of sending a huge hug and kiss down the frequency to Maria.

And just like it always was, Maria asked Kiki what she had been doing. Maria did this because she knew that what she was doing on earth, at least the explanation of it to her grandmother, was counter productive to Maria’s own need to explore other times and places. The historian in Maria always demanded center space and she not only wanted to know about the past on earth, she treasured the information of what life was like in Konyo. It was her window to the world of her future. Kiki knew this about Maria too.

Kiki had decided on the surgery to remove her soul when she felt that her body could no longer achieve the life her soul demanded. The decision had hurt Maria and her sister Raina, they did not want Kiki to go, but in the end their peace was made and she left earth with the unrestrained enthusiasm that never wandered far from her side.

Maria knew she would face the same decision. The time to decide when the body did not synch with her soul would come. Then Konyo would be her home too.

Kiki had begun the explanation of what she had done on this day in Konyo. She told Maria that she had chosen the year 1897 for the day. She had also chosen romance as the theme. She told Maria she wanted to know about romance in 1897 and what it felt like to be wanted by a man in a time she had not known on earth.

According to Kiki her day had begun by having to get the milk out of some cows. Maria wasn’t at all clear on this, but she didn’t interrupt. Then she said a man had come to the house assigned to her and sat on a couch beside her in the house.

After talking with the man, he invited her to go into a boat and ride across the water. Kiki’s voice increased in animation and Maria imagined all of her body language and tried to coordinate her mental images with Kiki’s voice as she told her tale about riding in the water.

She described a very still water with ripples that were created by the boat oars that the man used to propel them through the water. She described the man as having the very same face as her husband on earth, but he wore clothes, a heavy brown textured suit with a white shirt and one of the old time ties around his neck. It was a red and gold tie she said.

Kiki laughed and told Maria that she was just as naked as she ever was, but that the man didn’t seem to notice that he had all of those clothes on and that she didn’t have any at all. She also said she had to sit very still in the boat and that the man kept telling her so.

She said the man had sung a song to her and that it was a happy song about a bluebird on his shoulder. During the song he sang “It’s the truth, it’s actual.” That made her laugh because she knew she had just ordered him up for that day.

When the sun was setting behind the trees on the river, the man had kissed her. She told Maria it was not at all like union nexus kissing, and that it was the best thing that happened all day. She said it made her feel like the man loved her.

Then Kiki began to sing the song the man sang.

Zip-a-dee-doo-dah Zip-a-dee-ay
What a wonderful feeling
Feeling this way!

Oh, Mr. Bluebird on my shoulder
It’s the truth, it’s actual
Everything is satisfactual.

Maria smiled. She knew that song. She was a music history student and she knew it had been written in 1962. How could the man in 1897 know this song?

She decided not to ask Kiki that question. She knew she would find out later when she went to Konyo herself. She just smiled inside and told her grandmother that she loved her.

Copyright 2005

Friday, November 11, 2005


Yesterday’s story about “Big Cav’ John Cravens was written to allow me to talk about mediocrity. It may take me a while to get there, so bear with me.

I was in Barnes and Noble last Sunday and I sat in one of these ‘hollowed out chairs’. If you go to Barnes and Noble then you know all about these chairs.

They have been sat in so much, by so many people, that the seat cushion is virtually at the same level as the carpet below it. If you have not been to Barnes and Noble and sat in these chairs, then imagine one of those extreme sway back horses you see in cartoons. The kind that has the letter ‘U’ carved into the area where you put the saddle.

Though I am in my fifties, I consider myself an athlete and I train like one. I promise you I struggled getting out of the chair I sat in Sunday. In my own defense, my butt was somewhere south of my feet when I began the process.

The normal blogger would probably go on a rant. However, considering that I am not at all normal I decided to approach this with humor.

Barnes and Noble established a new retailing standard when they allowed us to sit down and read the books in their bookstore. Bless them for it.

But those chairs! This is where mediocrity comes in. This is mediocrity on display. It’s not the mediocrity that comes from lack of intelligence or having not gotten it right originally. It is the form of mediocrity that infects us all in our lives and endeavors. It creeps in on us. The best of organizations and individuals have to be vigilant against this particular strain of mediocrity. We think we are doing everything the best we can, even when some things that could be done better are staring us in the face or gracing our ‘big idea’ reading areas.

I work at this problem of mediocrity in my life, but it often creeps in on me unexpectedly. I promise to battle on, that is as long as I don’t get too tired or distracted.

So, let’s give Barnes and Noble the benefit of the doubt on this one.

I suggest we email photos to Barnes and Noble of all the useable, yet expendable chairs in our corporate or personal possession. From all over America we will send them photos of chairs that can be sent to them! Then we will send the chairs that are chosen! They can rotate them out of the stores on a weekly basis.

Feel free to email both posts to Barnes and Noble. Use the little envelope below the post.

(That’s what that envelope is for)

Together we shall overcome.

Honestly Barnes and Noble, we don’t care if the chairs match. We just want to get out of them without wetting our pants or the help of strangers.

By the way B-N……….I love you.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Extraction of 'Big Cav'

Fort Worth, Texas

John Cavens required the help of his fellow citizens yesterday. Fortunately for him, they were willing to use their wits and muscle to help him out of his predicament.
According to witnesses, several men, after learning of John’s predicament, formed a ‘tug-of-rope’ style line to perform the needed extraction.

John, who is known to his friends as ‘Big Cav’, had gone to Barnes and Noble in the hopes of spending a leisurely Sunday morning reading.

John, who weighs 303 pounds, explained to reporters that he had found just the right book, a special collector’s edition of batman comic books, and wanted a place to sit and read.
“I went to Barnes and Noble expecting that my day would be normal” he said. “But then I never dreamed that I wouldn’t be able to get out of a chair once I was in it.”

“I'm a little heavy for my height”, he explained. “But the real problem is there is a large depressed hole in the center of all of these chairs. The chair I was in had a much bigger recess than normal, and it lowered my center of gravity so much that I couldn’t get out by myself. And besides I was about to pee my pants anyway, which is why I was trying to get out in the first place. Tugging on my arms like those good people did was just too much for me to hold it.”

John told his story still wearing his saturated pants. He seemed apologetic, but felt everyone would understand that it wasn’t his fault really.

A Barnes and Noble spokesperson, Lydia James, said that all Barnes and Noble chairs have a very large ‘hollowed-out’ recess in them. “Everyone that comes to Barnes and Noble knows this,” she explained. “We have many small people that once they sit down, we can’t see anything but their heads and their feet. The problem we have is that it is the very large people like Mr. Cavens that have caused the problem by creating the large recesses in the first place. You don’t see the small people having trouble getting out, and hell, we can barely even see them in there!” Ms. James went on to say that “It is Mr. Cravens fault in fact, sort of like whining over pissing your own pants, it seems to me.” At this point a Barnes and Noble executive called her away from the phone and the interview ended.

Attorneys for Mr. Cravens later said that their client would have no further comment on the issue. They did tell this reporter that they are undertaking a systematic measuring of the recesses in the chairs and will compare their findings to weight and height data for the American public. One of the attorneys, Mark Buttons, said “The executives at Barnes and Noble have been sitting in borrowed time with this outrageous chair situation”. He added that "Many people feel the opportunity for increased income from lost change in the cushions is the motivating factor in Barnes and Noble continuing to use the worn out chairs.”

“This is by no means a closed issue” warned Mr. Buttons. “Our client has a reasonable expectation of not having his member pulled on, resulting in his wetting his own pants in public.”

Barnes and Noble declined further comment until a new spokesperson has been hired.

Contacted at his home in Florida, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said that he is far too important to go to Barnes and Noble. However, in the spirit of capitalism, he said he would have his small people go and look into the chairs for loose change.

Democratic strategist James Carville, when contacted at his home, screamed some things at me about something. However, I have no idea what he was saying. His wife, Mary Matalin, encouraged him to put the phone down before he hurt himself.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Double Transgression

My mother told me that I could not learn a thing from watching television.

She was very wrong.

For example, I learned a valuable cultural and behavioral theory from a television show yesterday.

My enlightenment occurred while watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. For you intellectuals that obeyed my mother and do not watch television, that’s an HBO show written by Larry David, the creator and writer of Seinfeld.

Larry David makes me laugh; right out loud while sitting on the couch.

The theory, according to Larry’s agent Jeff, is known as the ‘Double Transgression Theory’.

It sounds pretty important with profound psychological implications dripping off its every letter.

It goes like this:

Imagine a dog that has peed on the floor. He has been caught with his leg lifted, and is being herded to the yard to be disciplined. The dog knowing he is already in trouble snatches the plate of ham off the table on his way out. The dog is theorizing that since he is already in trouble and will have to suffer a punishment, why not get another transgression out of the way at the same time, resulting in one punishment rather than the two he would get if he snatched the ham later in the day.

Of course a dog thought of this. Who else?

I like this theory.


You may feel free to report to my mom that I haven’t called her because I have been diligently studying the cultural implications of the double transgression theory and its effects on my personal behavior when confronted with conflicting choices. That will impress her. She likes long sentences like the ones George Will invents.

But, please don’t tell her where I learned this information. She doesn’t like being wrong.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Maria and the Third Appearance

Maria had come to Phoenix to look at the world history templates once more. They were contained in the huge data bank maintained by the International History Foundation. They had moved to Phoenix from their original home in Vienna in November 2120.

This had been a godsend for Maria. The trips to Vienna for her research were expensive and she had trouble with the interpretative guidance system. The guidance system government workers had said there was nothing wrong with her ear transplant, but she knew better than to believe them with all of the scandals they had been involved in last year.

Maria had been writing her own history template for the past three years and she had reached the turn of the century when the world moved from the late 1900’s into the year 2000.

The work was laborious. The facts were always there if she took time to assemble them, but so much of that time period was difficult to understand and now she labored under a great dread that she would be considered an expert on a piece of world history that she might not fully understand herself.

The blue and green glow of the history templates left her with a slight headache after a few hours and she would have to stop reading and close her eyes. When she did this she would try to think of appropriate and creative ways to describe what she had learned while at the same time remaining true to the facts.

The problem she faced was that the world she was describing was dark and held unimaginable horrors for the people of 1999. Trying to be creative with these facts was demanding even for her considerable writing skills and she would feel overwhelmed. She thought about the need to try and bring some hope and light to the lives of these people that inhabited the templates. The fact that they lived so long ago and had now been gone so long made reaching any of them on the spine connection impossible, so she had no direct access to their individual perspective apart from speeches she would read in the templates. Maybe she could talk about their lives in a way that made their harsh reality seem to have a point to today’s history students.

There was the confusion over Jesus and Mohammed. Nations fought wars over three separate religious ideologies. Not until many years later would carbon science technologies discover that the men were one in the same, the very same son of god writing an identical message in four different languages. The texts had fallen into the hands of interpreters that craved power for material gain, and a different text had emerged from each language. This had lead to generations of destructive wars where they routinely took one another’s lives.

The people of that time had also missed the second coming in the person of Mother Teresa. They thought she was important, but somehow missed the idea altogether on what she actually represented. Her teachings after the third appearance were first fully realized by the people of China, and were now the recognized belief system in the world, but completely unknown to these people.

They were satanized by a disease known as ‘cancer’. It never occurred to them that by eliminating printer’s ink that the problem would go away. Millions of these people had died from this horrible disease with no idea how to stop it.

There were the giant prehistoric airplanes that flew 30,000 feet above the earth in a very strange attempt to escape gravity rather than merely taming it.

They had a curious way with animals. They kept the animals locked in cages, unable to communicate with them using the animal’s language. It was written that they had not a clue what the animals were saying. Research with dolphins and monkeys and the development of the tone integration systems had finally changed the way animals were treated. Only then would they leave their cages.

Maria was tired. She was overly fatigued from the work of her troublesome history template and she was hungry too.

She felt sad now at this moment, alone in Phoenix without her family. She wanted to talk with her grandmother but she knew that the only spine connection would be dominated by others at this hour of the evening.

Maria put her head down on the edge of the glowing reading tray. The beam of its colors reflected off her forehead and highlighted the edges of her hair. Her watch spoke the hour to her inner ear and she realized how late it had become.

She was too tired to go on researching these long ago sad people. She had tried not to cry all day. It was no use now as she could feel the tears wash up behind her eyes in a pressure that demanded release. The first drop from her left eye moved in a steady current across her cheek and dropped with a gentle sound onto the tray below. It glistened back at her eyes seeming to ask permission to return home.

Her ear transplant vibrated the calling signal of her genetic twin Raina. She had picked up Maria’s stress rhythm on her internal sensors and knew Maria was crying. She didn’t know why, but then Maria wasn’t really sure either. “Hello Raina,” she said, “yes, I know but I’m OK really, I just got really sad for a minute, but I’m going to go get some nutrition now and maybe try to call grandmother later. Do you want to call her with me?”

Copyright 2005