Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hey, it's Election Season!

It's that time of season again where we let millionaires in the governing class make us hate each other over issues that almost certainly don't impact our day to day lives.

In an effort to help me, my friends like to share articles from places like the Daily Kos, Conservative Daily, Think Progress, National Review, Huffington Post and World Net Daily.  I will read them on occasion, but rarely find anything helpful.  Both left and right produce mountains of nonsense.

The articles prior to election day affirm what the person who is sharing it assures me is the truth and a point of view I had not considered.  But in general, these articles are nothing more than thinly veiled idealogical tripe that tries to illustrate how dumb the other guys are.

When the election is all over I have friends and sometimes family who don't talk to each other anymore...some in the SAME political party!  And for what?

Over the years I've made many social media mistakes but have grown into following a few guidelines which have made me a happier person around election time.

  1. My friends are friends for a reason.  If they have a political view that is different than mine, I consider that honest and intelligent people can disagree.  If you have dishonest and unintelligent friends...well hey...can't help you there.
  2. I consider that my friends probably want the same things I do, but have chosen a different political route to obtain it.  It's not always true, but at least I give it a thought.
  3. I try to have fruitful political conversations AWAY from the elections.  Political opinions are formed in the off-season and acted upon during voting time.
  4. I'm sometimes a jerk, but I try to admit it and take correction with some humility.  A couple of years ago I said something where a friend simply responded, "You're better than that comment."  He was right, and thus proved himself a more valuable friend than I ever imagined!
  5. If your side doesn't win, just remember that it rarely makes a difference.  Anti-war leaders bomb foreigners, anti-tax politicians raise taxes and both sides deliberately keep hot button issues broken to make you mad enough to vote on election day.  Politicians like it when you're worked up and mad...but your friends don't.
  6. Vow to keep your friends through the election no matter what.  If you can't do that, you may as well just unfriend them now and save both of you the grief.
We can do this, right?

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Libertarian Moment

I've read on many political websites, including this piece in The Atlantic about a so-called Libertarian Moment.  While this piece in the Atlantic is quite good, most articles are generally filled with grave concern, whether it's a policy analysis essay from National Review or Mother Jones.  When I'm done with the article I'm filled with concern also.  My concern is that the article views Libertarians as simply naive, low rent tea party types that should simply move to Somalia if they wanted to see what life would be like if they got their way.  In other words, the comic book version.

If there is a Libertarian Moment in this country, I don't want it to be wasted.  A wasted moment would look like a series of prolong battles over government spending.  I see the moment vaporizing in exaggerated scares about meager budget cuts on the spectrum of school lunch programs, to so-called essential weapons programs. There is no appetite in this country to cut spending.  Everybody on both sides of the aisle love all kinds welfare and warfare.

I think there needs to be great progress made  in some key areas to roll back the excess of government overreach.  But while beltway articles are warning that your roads, clean water and schools will be at risk, I see this 'moment' as having the most amount of impact on our civil liberties.

Yes, the boring civil liberties.  The need for overreach into so many areas would deteriorate if the laws of this country protected the most vulnerable minority in the nation:  The individual.

This Libertarian Moment could occur easily through a coalition of both parties and could see actual legislation on the desk of the next president within a few years.  We could see the lives of citizens all over the country transformed by the ability to more freely choose things like who to marry, where to go to school, where to peacefully live, how to spend your recreational time no matter what color your skin is, who to enter into contracts with, and what firearms you can own and carry.

The effort to restore civil liberties to ALL individuals in this country would go much further to addressing the overreach of government in this country than chopping away at NPR or reducing the amount of increases afforded to your favorite rent seeking lobbyist group.

Maybe it should be called the 'Civil Libertarian Moment'.  As a nation, we may end up broke, but at least we'd have the dignity of human rights to help us pick up the pieces again.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Libertarians in Public

On occasion I will run into other libertarians in public.  It's awkward.

You'd think for a libertarian it would be exciting to meet someone who shares the same worldview as you and you'd greet each other with a warm handshake...but you'd be wrong.   The fact is that most libertarians I meet don't share the same worldview I do.  I'm also not real big into much of the subculture.  I don't believe in foolish conspiracy theories and I'm not an activist.  For me it boils down to working hard and honestly, giving generously, and where still legal (and sometimes illegal) to do so, I pay my own way.  I can do more and do less and people on all sides of an issue can criticize me but it doesn't bother me.  I try to make a real difference where I can and I make sure the only person I want to control is myself.

For awhile I had a Gary Johnson bumper sticker on my car that would identify me as a libertarian.  It wasn't exactly Gaydar for freedom lovers, it was subtle.  It caused most of my meetings with other libertarians to occur while stopped at stop lights on our favorite government roads.

The interaction would start with a honk or just simply yelling out the window.  Startled, I'd turn down my stereo and roll down the window to hear a jumble of key points which tipped off why the person was yelling at me.  It would go something like:

"Hey, [indistinguishable]   the government [indistinguishable] are you kidding me? [traffic noise] That's bullshit and another thing [more background noise] none of their damned business!"

Twenty years of playing electric guitar and concerts without proper hearing protection have drowned out most of what is being said but I get the general idea.  I'm not even sure I agree with much of it completely but I'm in no position to touch on nuances.  I return a thumbs up and they wave back.  I roll up my window and continue on my way.

I live in the Seattle area and most of my friends are progressives.  Political affiliation does not impact my friendships and I hope sincerely they never will.  During any political discussion they often look at me like I am speaking a different language.  Even after years they're always quick to ask me "But then who would build the roads?"  I'm always nice and pretend that I've not considered that before and that it's not just a punchline to jokes told by other libertarians.  Maybe they should ask instead, "Then how would you ever meet other libertarians?"

I would have to admit, they would have a good point.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

RIP Mr. Cat - An odd cat story

Mr. Cat (Cat Too) came to live with us while my mom was in the hospital and then became a permanent member of the family after she passed away.

The story of this cat is a bit odd and worth telling.

My mom had a cat for several years who was her best companion.  My mom owned one cat but only fell just short of being a crazy cat lady.  She was crazy for THIS cat.  His name was Mr. Cat.  In 2004 my mom was so disgusted with the lack of choices in the presidential race that she began a campaign for people to write in her cat.  Buttons and bumper stickers followed and before long several people in her neck of the woods were throwing their votes away on a large orange tabby cat.  I remember the conversation I had while joking with my mom:

Me:  I suppose he wouldn't do that well in the debates.

Mom:  What makes you say that?

Me:  He'd be asked about the war in Iraq and he'd just lick his butt.

Mom:  How is that any different than watching Kerry or Bush?

Bumper sticker from failed 2004 Mr. Cat for President campaign
That cat, that mom loved so much, got sick and died.  She was heartbroken.  Stack and stacks of notes and cards from people piled up on the table by her chair demonstrating how many people knew how much that cat meant to an old handicapped woman who lived by herself.

My brother was so concerned and rushed my mom to consider getting a new cat.  She didn't want one but my brother insisted.  I thought it was too soon but my mom went along with it and the next weekend they went together to a cat adoption place and my mom couldn't believe her eyes.  She saw Mr. Cat.  She took him home.

She called me that night and told me that she brought a cat home.  I thought my brother may have over-encouraged her to get one but she went on and on about how I would not believe that this new cat was exactly like the cat she loved so much.  I was skeptical and a bit worried that she was grieving so much that she was actually delusional.

A happy and healthy Cat Too taken last Fall

I went over to her house to mow the lawn and do other various household chores and of course to see this cat.  See was right; I was stunned.  He was the same size, body type and weight of her other cat.  He was large and had a big nose like her old cat.

"What are you going to name him?"  I asked.

"Mr. Cat 2" was her response.

"Oh that's original, just put a number two after him.  That's a lot to live up to"  I responded.

"No, Cat Too" she said as if I was stupid.

"Okay, whatever."

My mom always knew that the two cats were not the same cat but sometimes the reality of it blurred.  It wasn't long before she just called him "Mr. Cat" and the sadness of losing her first cat disappeared.  In other words my brother's dumb plan worked.

Cat Too with Skull and Cross Bone name tag.  Chairman Meow in the background.
Two months ago Cat Too got sick.  He battled some sort of cancer that had begun a tumor on his liver.  My brother and my older son didn't want him to be sick because they feared losing a connection to my mom all over again.  I spent all night with Cat Too two nights ago as he had difficulty moving and had stopped eating.  I didn't want him to suffer any longer so a family meeting was called.

Being a parent in these situations is so hard.  You can take care of it so many ways and not be wrong.  I wanted both my sons to have a full understanding of what was going on.  They both agreed they didn't want him to suffer anymore either.  As my 8 year old son said "We have no good choices.  We can only try to make right ones."

I've been criticized before in these situations. My older son was only 3 when our first cat, Chesty died and he wanted to help me bury him.  "How could you?" and "I can't believe you did that" was a common response to how it was handled.  My son still remembers that day and cherishes it as a dutiful and loving gesture to a pet.  History will judge me for how I handled it...but if things turn out well I'm going to shove it back in history's face.

My two sons placed a wreath on Cat  Too's grave
We held a funeral for Mr. Cat as he was buried in our side yard just a few feet from Chesty.  We all cried.  We suffered real loss this weekend.  More than just a cat but another connection to my mom who meant so much to all of us.  Thank you Cat Too for bringing my mom so much happiness when she needed it most.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

How MLK made me explain what a check was

I've been on record in my life as an opponent of this holiday.  I had my stupid reasons.

We have President's Day and Veteran's Day and all sorts of days which are primarily banking holidays and opportunities to look over sale ads.  Now, as a father I have to address these holidays.  I can't just let them pass by, because schools use these holidays to discuss important benchmarks in history.  I play a huge role in what my sons will understand about all of these subjects.

My older son, now in 2nd grade, knows about "the dream."  He understands how weird and irrational segregation and racial discrimination sound.  They are the tri-corn hat of social opinion...old and funny looking...even ridiculous.  Understanding this is a major win and I don't take it for granted.

But for us who get there anything else to learn?  We have friends that are other races.  We recognize bigoted comments when we hear them and we're proud that we can be friendly to people who don't look like us.  I was really surprised when I listened to the whole speech.  There was way more I learned and still need to learn.

I sat down with my sons and we listened to the entire speech.  The dream, while magnificent and memorable, was such a small part of the speech.  What Dr. King spoke a great deal about was freedom.

Dr. King went back 100 years to point out that "the Negro still is not free." and then further back to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and drew attention to their "magnificent words" as a promise to our "Republic" of freedom for all men.  The language he chose, in modern context,  would no doubt cause The New York Times to wonder out loud if he was a secret member of the John Birch Society...wait I said modern....uh...Tea Party.  That's better. 

Dr. King said that the signatures at the bottom of these founding documents were like signing a promissory note that the country would provide the protection of these unalienable rights.  While black Americans were attempting to cash the check and finding out that the check wasn't any good...always hopeful, Dr. King declared that "We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation."

Wow, a check.  I'm not completely sure my son has seen me write a check.  I had to explain to my 2nd grader what a check was...and that bad check amounted to a broken promise.  We went on further to discuss that in every generation someone tries to cash a freedom check only to find out there's nothing for them either.  

Now I'm sure to some of you this is old news.  Maybe you've given more thought to Dr. King's words than I have.  You'll have to pardon me though, I'm slowly growing into it and becoming more aware with each year.

There's a lot in this speech and I think next year we'll take a little time to discuss maybe the hardest part of the speech (for me anyway)...responding to injustice from the "high plane of dignity and discipline." 

Beyond the dream there are instructive words for anyone seeking justice.  There is advice that anyone seeking freedom can use.  Even if someday we completely stomp out bigotry and racial intolerance there will forever be some important takeaways from this wonderful speech. 

I will use the holiday as an excuse to talk about it every year.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 - The year I mopped up

I've been so busy that blogs have been few and far between so there must be a ton of stuff to write about regarding the calendar year.  There isn't.  No major highlights really...just a lot of maintenance.

I spent the prior year taking care of an estate, mourning the loss of my mother, dealing with family, training up two creative boys, working a more-than-full-time job and published a book.  I could point to a 'thing' that was accomplished at every highlight last year.  But not in 2013.  This is the year I swept up sawdust, mopped up muddy footprints and knocked down cobwebs.  This was not nearly as fun to write about but this is what life often is in the age of crafting the image of living well.

I worked a lot this year.  I had many 50+ hour weeks working on things and at the end of the year I made a little less than I did the year before.  I made a little less than I did in 2009.  This should be enough evidence for you to imagine at least one thing I'll be doing in 2014.  

I got my reading schedule back with my kids.  It's been a transition now that they occupy the same bedroom and I've struggled to find reading time before bed that will keep their attention.  I decided to read above both of their levels and just let them listen to me destroy great literature with my own poor reading level.  We read The Golden Key by George MacDonald and I was amazed how they sat and listened to 19th Century prose.  We found ourselves discussing the story and unveiling the meaning of seldom used words and expressions.  We read poetry and talked about beautiful words that are used deliberately as if each one was carefully placed.  They listened.  

On my 7 year old son's Spring Break I took him to San Diego.  Why?  He wanted to see great sailing ships and we did.  Lots of them.  We toured the harbor and crawled around every ship we had time to see.

The HMS Surprise from the movie Master and Commander

We went to San Diego Zoo Safari Park and met up with my brother, who lived in Orange County, to celebrate his birthday.  In all, it was a nice time for my son.  I had fun but the kind of fun you have when a seven year old is your travelling partner.  We were gone 5 days but it felt like two weeks.  My wife continued to work so she had one less person to manage.  Not sure who had the better time.

Overcast but warm.  Better than Puget Sound in Spring

The downstairs of my house is painted.  Some kind of red and some kind of buttery cream something or other.  I'm colorblind.

I wanted to run this year and get in better shape.  This is a bit hard to do if you don't like running in the rain...and I don't.  I did run this year.  I ran over 400 miles this year.  I don't have any goals to run more.  I only limited myself based on how much time I had, not how tired I was.  My days are tightly scheduled and it doesn't take much to get something canceled.  I didn't cancel running very often.

I spent more time alone with my 3 year old son.  I did this on purpose because my older son had the benefit of alone time more often...because...well...he was alone.  Every time I could I'd take him places and we'd talk and get to know each other.  He wasn't forced to react to something his brother was doing, he just got to be himself.  I plan to do this a ton more.

Always capable but still needs a drink lid

Oh yeah...I cut about a foot and a half of hair off of my kid's melons.  I had fun sharing these before and after shots.

Rock Monkeys
Civilized Monkeys

I sat and talked one day with an older man I've known for a few years but never knew much about his life story.  His life included running away from home, riding the rails hobo style and finally joining the Marines to go fight in Korea.

While travelling around as a boy, he drew comic books which featured his hero character Tom Baron.  50 years later, his comic books were digitized straight from the pages he drew them on.  Click here to see the list of his comic books and you can click on any of the covers to see them in the digital viewer.

Seriously, sometimes you have to shut up and just listen to people.

During the Summer I was working with my 7 year old on the subject of radio, and in particular old-time-before-television radio.   He thought it sounded boring but I challenged him to write his own radio show...and he did.  He wrote four episodes of "Rory's Old Tyme Radio" which featured some of his first attempts at story telling.  I handled the grunt work of production but he worked hard to direct the structure of the scenes and sounds.  They may show up in a future project I'll be working on.  He plans to do more radio shows, but he also plans to play with his ya know.

Podcasting for me has been on hold though I've been seriously toying with the idea of creating a new show.  I have more ideas than I have time or help to achieve anything at this point but it's on my mind.  Contact me if you're interested.

I started writing projects and they are in various degrees of stoppage due to me having enough time to write but only enough energy left to stare blankly at the monitor.  I know now not to be frustrated by this, but instead turn these down times into preparation.

So that's it...I hope you enjoyed my walk down memory lane of the last calendar year.  My wish for you, as you replace your cute kitten calendars, is that you make the most of stuff, love those around you and shut up and listen on occasion.

Monday, October 14, 2013

I'm pretty sure I've always been a spaz

At dinner tonight I was talking to my older son.  He didn't finish a timed math assignment at school.  I asked him why.  He shrugged his shoulders and offered a lazy "I don't know."

Like a lot of parents, I asked the question but I already knew the answer.  I see his papers.  His mind wanders, he gets stuck on problems and can't move on.  He draws on his papers.  I know this because he's kind of a spaz.  I know what a spaz looks like.

Tonight I started going through the last remaining part of the odds and ends from my mom's house.  It wasn't her stuff, it was mine.  Stuff I just left at her house after I moved out.  Stuff I didn't have much interest in going through.

In what was once my old toy box, I found a collection of papers from high school.  Obviously for me to keep these school items for so long they must have represented my highest academic achievements up to that point.  I knew one day I would want to look back on them and see the foundational building blocks of my intellect within the College ruled lines.  Yeah, fat chance.

Most of my papers contained smatterings of completed work along side vast side margin murals.  I drew stuff...scary stuff. I wrote poems, and song lyrics.  If my work involved several pages they would include a flip-the-page animation.

My side margins were often dark and if analyzed through the filter of the 21st Century, my high school would've been in lock down with television news helicopters flying over until the day I graduated.

I was never dangerous though, I was just a spaz.

Like a time capsule, the evidence of my youth has preserved the very essence of my most awkward phases and with it I'm able to look a part of myself straight in the eye.  These papers were the true result of me moving on and leaving my nonsense behind for someone else to deal with.  Now they are my problem.

But these relics of my past are less of a problem and more of a gift.  They reminded me of who I was, what was once important to me and how I processed information.  They will help me relate more to my sons who are spazzes in their own way.  I will recognize it and have more compassion as they work it out.

I'm sure the world will be ready for my two little spazzes....but just in case, get those news helicopters ready.