Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tribes - by Seth Godin

I just read a remarkable little book - Tribes: we need you to lead us by Seth Godin. It has no chapters and is only 147 pages long. There is a new subheading approximately every page. It feels like a book of quotes and yet you feel pulled through it page after page almost as if it had a flow. Actually, it does have a flow, just not in the traditional sense. But there isn't much traditional about this book or its author.

Let me give you a flavor of the content:
  • Change isn't made by asking permission. Change is made by asking forgiveness, later.
  • It's easy to hesitate when confronted with the feeling that maybe you're getting too much attention. Great leaders are able to reflect the light onto their teams, their tribes. Great leaders don't want the attention, but they use it. They use it to unite the tribe and to reinforce its sense of purpose.
  • Challenging the status quo requires commitment, both public and private. It involves reaching out to others and putting your ideas on the line. (Or pinning your Ninety-five Theses to the church door.)
  • The factory is part of the fabric of our lives. It's there because it pays, and it's there because it's steady, and it's there because we want it. What you won't find in a factory is a motivated tribe making a difference. And what you won't find waiting outside the factory is a tribe of customers, excited about what's to come.
  • As the ability to lead a tribe becomes open to more people, it's interesting to note that those who take that opportunity (and those who succeed most often) are doing it because of what they can do for the tribe, not because of what the tribe can do for them.
  • The art of leadership is understanding what you can't compromise on.
  • Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don't need to escape from.
  • The secret of leadership is simple: Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.
  • Being charismatic doesn't make you a leader. Being a leader makes you charismatic.
This book is a call to have faith and follow your passion - your tribe will coalesce and follow you. In the last subheading, I was invited to share this book with you. Will you read it?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Life is Precious

My cousin's family lost their 18-year-old son and brother in a tragic car accident this morning. All day long since I heard the news I've been walking in a different world. I can't stop thinking about how much sorrow they must feel, even with the knowledge of God's eternal plan. It is especially difficult to wrap our perspective around life and death when someone so young is taken so suddenly - no time for goodbyes. Even when you have a firm faith that you'll be together again in eternity, this life is so...mortal. Death seems so final and painful. And since we don't know how long it will be until we pass through death's gate, it feels like it will be forever until we see our loved one again.

It is a shame that it takes a tragedy to make me seek perspective, but today I have loved my wife and sons more deeply. I will be reaching out to my cousins over the next few days and through the holidays, as the funeral services are conducted, and loving them more deeply as well. They have been so supportive of my family - always there for family events.

As I thought about the life of this 18-year-old young man, I daydreamed about sitting with him on the back deck of another cousin's house not too long ago, talking about life in general and considering what the future held in store. Like most boys that age, he came across initially with that distant attitude - kind of a shy version of James Dean. But the more we talked, the more depth I could see in his views. He had the same wonderful hopes, dreams, longings, yearnings, that all of us "boys" pass through as we go down the road toward manhood.

I like the words of John Eldredge - "...in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue." Thanks to God in Heaven for that desperate desire - it makes life wonderful.

So, to my cousin's family - I love you so much., and I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for blessing our lives every chance you get.

And to Neal - I will miss you very much. God be with us all 'til we meet again.

Monday, December 15, 2008

God Came Near

(Written by Max Lucado)

The noise and bustle began earlier than usual in the village. As night gave way to dawn, people were already on the streets. Vendors were positioning themselves on the corners of the most heavily traveled avenues. Store owners were unlocking the doors to their shops. Children were awakened by the excited barking of the street dogs and the complaints of donkeys pulling carts.

The owner of the inn had awakened earlier than most in the town. After all, the inn was full, all the beds taken. Every available mat or blanket had been put to use. Soon all the customers would be stirring and there would be a lot of work to do.

One's imagination is kindled thinking about the conversation of the innkeeper and his family at the breakfast table. Did anyone mention the arrival of the young couple the night before? Did anyone ask about their welfare? Did anyone comment on the pregnancy of the girl on the donkey? Perhaps. Perhaps someone raised the subject. But, at best, it was raised, not discussed. There was nothing that novel about them. They were, possibly, one of several families turned away that night.

Besides, who had time to talk about them when there was so much excitement in the air? Augustus did the economy a favor when he decreed that a census should be taken. Who could remember when such commerce had hit the village?

No, it is doubtful that anyone mentioned the couple's arrival or wondered about the condition of the girl. They were too busy. The day was upon them. The day's bread had to be made. The morning's chores had to be done. There was too much to do to imagine that the impossible had occurred.

God entered the world as a baby.

Yet, were someone to chance upon the sheep stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem that morning, what a peculiar scene they would behold.

The stable stinks like all stables do. The stench of urine, dung, and sheep reeks pungently in the air. The ground is hard, the hay scarce. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling and a mouse scurries across the dirt floor.

A more lowly place of birth could not exist.

Off to one side sit a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor, perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him -- so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.

Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is. He can't remember the last time he sat down. And now that the excitement has subsided a bit, now that Mary and the baby are comfortable, he leans against the wall of the stable and feels his eyes grow heavy. He still hasn't figured it all out. The mystery event puzzles him. But he hasn't the energy to wrestle with the questions. What's important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. As sleep comes he remembers the name the angel told him to use ... Jesus. "We will call him Jesus."

Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph's saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty. At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can't take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel. "His kingdom will never end."

He looks like anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being.

Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.

She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey!

This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favor of a dirty sheep pen. And the worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.

Meanwhile, the city hums. The merchants are unaware that God has visited their planet. The innkeeper would never believe that he has just sent God into the cold. And the people would scoff at anyone who told them the Messiah lay in the arms of a teenager on the outskirts of their village. They were all too busy to consider the possibility.

Those who missed His Majesty's arrival that night missed it not because of evil acts or malice; no, they missed it because they simply weren't looking.

Little has changed in the last two thousand years, has it?

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.' When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.' So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Luke 2:6-20 (NIV)

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Christmas Sweater

I just finished a great book by a guy who I admire for his unvarnished version of things. Glenn Beck is a champion of freedom. He says some crazy things, but he believes them, and he is usually right.

This book is good like a Richard Paul Evans book. I think you should read it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Freedom, Politics, Apathy, and Kingship

OK. I need to blog about this issue - it relates to why our freedoms continue to be eroded and why common people get so apathetic about politics.

First, I need to state that I don't like to be pigeon-holed into a certain category or party. It's just not that black and white. However, when I analyze my personal value system, I find that a greater number of my values align with one party platform than with the other. And since our system truly gives a political voice only to those two parties, I have tried my best to be involved in the process. I am the precinct chair in my neighborhood.

As precinct chair, I am automatically part of the Central Committee for that party in the local county. We hold quarterly meetings, always on Saturday. I don't have a problem committing my time to this end, if I believe it will make a difference.

However, my time doesn't appear to make a big difference. At least not yet. There is a leadership structure in place that always attempts to consolidate support and reduce dissension. This is antithetical to freedom. In the political process, our voices must be heard if we expect to live free.

I intend to continue to attend these meetings, and try to make a difference. But here are a few things of note to those who care:
  • I don't like to be manipulated
  • I don't like back-patting sessions - they are a waste of time
  • I believe that the marketplace of ideas is amazingly beautiful, even though it is messy
  • Poor leaders who lack self-confidence try to eliminate opposing ideas
  • Great leaders love the powerful insights that come from opposing viewpoints
  • Saying one thing and doing the opposite makes you a liar
  • When liars, poor leaders, manipulators, and back-patters find ways to stay in power, people become apathetic

Neither party embodies the value systems of the American populace. A great disenfranchisement is taking place. We are experiencing the seeds of a revolution in this country. While there is much apathy, more and more people that I visit with are educating themselves, preparing themselves for something that they feel is coming. John Adams once said:

The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.

I am continually praying that this new revolution will not result in bloodshed, like so many revolutions of the past, and that it will result in greater freedom rather than greater bondage. I feel very optimistic that better days are ahead of us. I don't think that it is productive to sit back and wring our hands and worry away each day. To borrow a phrase that I've heard a lot in the past few years:

A true statesman is someone who sees the world as it is and how it ought to be, and inserts himself in the middle to make the change.

I hope you join in my sentiment that each one of us is a King or Queen in a great Renaissance of Kings, not in the sense of the Monarchs in your history books, but each man and woman realizing that they are Divine, and a rightful leader in their homes, neighborhoods, communities, states, and countries. I envision a day in the not-so-distant future when more of us live by the true principles of kingship, and live our best life, reaching out to those around us to teach, improve, understand, succor, and sustain. Can you join me?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Blogging can be dangerous

Unfortunately, bloggers are the most common journalists to end up imprisoned for their activities. Apparently rulers know the power of ideas!

More bloggers put behind bars

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Babes in Toyland

My oldest son is in a play this Christmas season - December 1-22. I saw the show on opening night - it was fantastic. First, the venue is pretty cool. It is the Empress Theatre in historic Magna. It seats about 180 patrons in the round. This is community theatre - nobody gets paid - but you wouldn't know it from the quality of the acting. Even the costumes and set are pretty good.

The show is totally new - it borrows a few character names and songs from the original, but has a new story and mostly new songs. It is definitely great family fun.

If you're in the area and looking for a good Christmas venue, I would recommend this show. Call ahead and reserve your tickets:

(801) 347-7373
9104 West 2700 South

The show runs Monday through Saturday through December 22; it is double cast and my son is in the MWF cast. Tickets are $9 Monday-Thursday and $11 Friday-Saturday.

Viva la Performing Arts!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dirt Roads

Monday my friend and I were out getting some mountain therapy involving trucks and guns.

Freedom and Responsibility learned from the Pilgrims

I often reinforce my philosophies of freedom through the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). I just read a marvelous article there entitled Our First Thanksgiving.

Some excerpts from the article:
On Thanksgiving Day we are asked to remember what Edmund Burke, in one of the most eloquent phrases to be found in all literature, described as that "little speck, scarce visible in the mass of national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body" -- the tiny vessel, more accurately to be described as a "cockleshell," the Mayflower, and its hundred passengers, men, women, and children, who sailed on her.Twelve years earlier, in 1608, they had fled from religious persecution in England and established a new home in Holland. Despite the warm welcome extended by the Dutch, as contrasted with the persecutions they had endured in England, their love for their homeland impelled them to seek English soil on which to raise their children, English soil on which they would be free to worship God in their own way. Finally, the Pilgrims landed, as we all know, on Plymouth Rock in the middle of December 1620, and on Christmas Day, in the words of Governor William Bradford, they "began to erect the first house for common use to receive them and their goods." So was established the first English colony in New England.

Three years later, when the plentiful harvest of 1623 had been gathered in, the Pilgrims "set apart a day of thanksgiving." But what of the intervening years?.....

This Thanksgiving Day, let us, each in his own way, humbly ask forgiveness for the degree to which we have all violated the great “seminal principle,” either directly, or through tolerating its violation by others. Then, this Thanksgiving Day, let us highly resolve to dedicate our lives, as individuals, to “planting for our own particular,” rather than living as parasites on the productive energy of others; let us dedicate our lives to a renewed application of the ideal of individual freedom and individual responsibility, which our Pilgrim forebears learned at such sacrifice, and which they passed down to us as our most precious heritage.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Bridge at Andau

I just read James Michener's book The Bridge at Andau, written in 1957, a few months after the Soviets crushed the Hungarian uprising against their occupation.

After years of war and struggle and one year of Nazi occupation, Hungarians had opened their doors to Soviet Russia and initially embraced the ideals of communism. However, over the next twelve years the average Hungarian became aware of what a fraud communism was, at least the Soviet brand of it.

The ugliest face of this awful life was the AVO, or the "party." The worst elements of the Hungarian population were elevated to positions of power and authority over the rest of the population, and the result was a culture of fear, scarcity, and terror.

A glorious revolution began in October 1956 as a people temporarily overthrew their oppressors. Students, factory workers, young married people, intellectuals, soldiers, and children fought tanks with their bare hands and primitive weapons and temporarily won. Five sweet days of freedom followed, with pleas to the UN, the USA, and the rest of the free world to help prevent the Soviets from returning in force.

Their pleas were met by silence and inaction, and Soviet tanks, airplanes, and other heavy weaponry rolled into Budapest on a Sunday morning in November 1956. The city was utterly laid waste. Efforts at resistance continued for some time, and the ragged resistance fighters had remarkable success considering their resources, but eventually the overwhelming odds caused them to cease fighting and fade back into the fabric of society.

Nearly 200,000 Hungarians subsequently fled, mostly through Austria, many of them across a rickety wooden footbridge near the Austrian village of Andau. Michener writes, "It was an American diplomat, exhausted from days of work during the crisis, who best described the Hungarian. Limply he cried, 'When this pressure lets up, I want just one thing. A transfusion of Hungarian blood. I want to feel like a man again.'"

The story of this people breaks my heart, and at the same time, gives me great courage and conviction that evil can never triumph over good, and that the human spirit can face overwhelming trials and survive. If you are reading this post, I strongly encourage you to read this book.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

People, not guns, are the carriers of good, evil

My good friend writes a column in a local newspaper:

With so many areas of the economy lagging, it appears that the retailers of guns and ammo may be looking at record fourth quarter sales this year. Fears of a renewed ban on so-called assault weapons under a Democratic administration have prompted a fear-based buying frenzy on those models most likely to be restricted. Such fears are not entirely unfounded as a ban is indeed likely during Barack Obama’s presidency, but before rushing out to make a panic purchase, we should consider the role these particular firearms serve in a civilized society.

First and foremost, the term “assault weapons” is a purely pejorative description of firearms that are self-loading; meaning that they fire exactly one shot each time the trigger is pulled. They may share certain cosmetic features with the select-fire assault rifles used by the military, but the intent of the user and not merely the looks of a firearm are what determine whether it is being used for good or evil purposes.

If, as some suggest, these firearms are only good for “killing large amounts of innocent people” then we should ask if that is what we expect of our police or military to whom they are issued. If their real purpose is to protect innocent life from the lethally aggressive behavior of men bent on doing harm to others, then that need is just as real for the law-abiding citizen who doesn’t have the option of radioing for backup when danger appears. Standard capacity magazines are preferable to reduced capacity magazine for this same reason.

When confronted with multiple armed aggressors, a military-style self-loading rifle in the hands of an individual with the will to use it provides the best tool for solving a life-threatening situation. Unfortunately, statists have historically recognized that these firearms are also the preferred tools for resisting tyranny by affording a degree of parity with the sort of force the state’s agents are capable of projecting. Hence, they tend to view gun control as a means to the end of people control.

A powerful lesson can be gleaned from studying the genocides of the 20th Century in which out of control governments claimed the lives of nearly 170 million non-military individuals which were first carefully disarmed by gun control laws. This does not suggest that gun control causes genocide, but clearly shows that genocide can only occur when a targeted population is first rendered incapable of resisting. Col. Jeff Cooper said it best, “The rifle…may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but…they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.”

In this regard, a military-style self-loading rifle in the hands of the law abiding citizen is much more akin to a life preserver than an instrument of evil. Whether we face stormy seas ahead or not, a life preserver is worth having on hand at all times. High quality training in how to use one correctly could prove quite useful. Consider this the next time “assault weapons” are being demonized.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Walter Williams agrees with me (of course)

Walter Williams' article this morning comes to the same conclusions that I did a few days ago in my last entry - Capitalism is getting unfairly blamed for the current crisis. He also thinks you're crazy if you believe this fairy tale. We haven't really had laissez-faire economics in this country, so how could they be to blame for the crisis? What activities do you engage in every day that are not somehow affected by a government regulation of some sort?

How about brushing your teeth? Well, the government says that we need flourine in our water to help keep our teeth hard, because apparently we can't be trusted to brush our own teeth.

How about going to the bathroom? Well, the government is concerned about how much water is wasted with each flush, so they've limited the tank capacity and regulated the water per flush for the toilets we buy.

Eating breakfast? Well, you can't be drinking that raw milk - it's dangerous.

Getting out of bed? Driving to work? Drinking a cup of tea? Making a phone call? Burning some brush in your back yard? Raising chickens in your back yard? Parking your car on the grass so you can wash it? Fixing your damaged mailbox? Protecting yourself from people who might do you harm? Don't worry, because the government has great concern for you, and they will make rules to protect you from yourself. I feel so much better.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Free Markets or Regulation

Am I naive, ignorant, or stupid?

Or is it possible that I am right and the masses are stampeding like buffalo toward an unseen cliff where they will meet their financial doom?

Let me be clear - I think you are nuts if you believe that we are seeing a demonstration of the failures of the free market. What free market? We haven't had a free market since before the American Civil War. Some special interest or lobby has been steadily influencing those with power to regulate literally every facet of our lives since that time.

A truly free market system is chaotic and messy, but tends to find an equilibrium between stability and chaos. Let's say you start a top spinning on a table - it wobbles and rotates gracefully but chaotically, until you reach in and bump it. Then it wobbles erratically, maybe corrects itself, or maybe falls down. If you bump it again and again, it definitely falls down. The same is true of a system like an economy. (I admit, my analogy doesn't account for the top finally spinning down and falling over, but it is simply an analogy - let's pretend the top doesn't lose energy and continues spinning infinitely.)

Here's an article that gives additional insight into my thinking:

So let's wake up! Some new flavor of intervention or regulation cannot possibly fix the problems we are currently experiencing. We need to remember that freedom means just that - FREEDOM! Not just freedom of speech or religion, but freedom of the markets. Freedom to buy and sell without intervention. Freedom to truly own private property and do what you want with it. Freedom to protect your life and property against plunder. FREEDOM!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Federal Red Tape -or- My Version of How We Got Here

Professionally, I am a project manager for a large natural gas interstate transportation company. I am managing two projects: Colorado Hub Connection and Sundance Trail Expansion.

Colorado Hub is a new 27.5-mile 24-inch diameter pipeline bringing gas supplies out of the Piceance Basin in Colorado to my company's existing mainline in Colorado, so that the gas can flow to various markets. Sundance Trail is an expansion of my company's existing pipeline system - it entails adding 16 miles of new 30-inch pipeline parallel to our existing pipeline south of Opal, Wyoming, and adding new compression to our compressor station at Vernal, Utah. Colorado Hub is scheduled to be built in 2009, and Sundance Trail is scheduled to be built in 2010.

My company is regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and larger projects like these require a certificate from FERC. The process for receiving a certificate is long and tedious, because it basically requires coordination with lots of government agencies as well as private landowners and the public in general. In theory, the efforts of all parties involved are coordinated and the project proceeds forward smoothly. In practice, it rarely works that way.

For example, during an important stage of the process recently in Colorado, the BLM came in at the eleventh hour and shifted 180 degrees from their support of our project, at least in one section of the proposed route. Now I have team members jumping through all kinds of hoops to design a new alternative. We are spending literally millions of dollars to satisfy the whims of a regulator, and in the end, I don't believe the public is any better served than had we been able to stick with our original route.

This is one shining example of how we got where we are today. Our lives are overly regulated. Too much power is given to government agencies. And the end result is that end consumers and taxpayers pay way too much for the end product that they receive.

Let me make one thing clear - I am a conservationist. When we were routing this pipeline and designing it, we took careful consideration of plant and animal species, habitat protection, and general resource protection. In fact, as I look at other projects built in the same area in recent years, I know that our project will be more environmentally friendly than any of them. In spite of that, however, we are forced to jump through unnecessary hoops. I see this system as fundamentally flawed - it contributes to greater inefficiency and hurts everyone.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Glenn Beck's Take on the Present Crisis

From a couple of Glenn Beck's recent discussions, I have copied the following excerpts. I feel amazingly calm when I consider the possible scenarios in front of us. I think Glenn is, most of all, asking all of us to open our minds to the possibility that really crazy things could happen in the coming days, weeks, months, years. Americans are generally optimistic people, and we want to think that the economy will correct itself, that things will work out, but I agree with Glenn - we need to consider what it might look like if things really turn crazy, and take practical steps to be prepared. More than anything, we should study what freedom means, so that if things come apart, we can help put them back together in a fashion that leaves us free to live the lives that God intended us to live. Now for the excerpts:

"the people who caused this fire are the same ones who are now telling us that they know best how to put it out and a reason not to believe their current promises."

"We have faced tough times before. We fought the Nazis in World War II, defeated communism in the Cold War and Americans fought each other to keep our country together in our own Civil War. These tough times require us to educate ourselves and help others understand what has brought us to this point and the grave consequences of what will happen if we let this continue-that is our fight."

"We are on the edge of a giant abyss that could swallow not only our economy but the freedoms and security we have enjoyed for over 200 years. Believe it or not, I don’t think that this letter captures the urgency that I feel, but I didn’t want to include wild speculation because I can’t see into the future but I wanted to give you a sense of the Perfect Storm that I have talked about and how the pressures that our economy and country face at this time are once again placing our "lives, fortunes and sacred honor" at stake."

"Please ponder and pray about what I’ve said and then pass these email letters along to as many people as possible so they can prepare themselves and their families. Then, the more people there will be to help us overcome fear and desperation."

"There is good news. We can prepare ourselves and our family for what’s coming and work to prevent the worst from happening. We have to focus on value and values. Those things that our parent and their parents lived but somehow too many of us have forgotten. But that’s for my next letter to you."

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Apple Art

No. 2's apple man

Redeeming Authentic Manhood

I have just read a life-changing book that has contributed significantly to my perspective on true manhood: Healing the Masculine Soul by Gordon Dalbey.

Two years ago I read Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and noticed that Eldredge referenced this book as his inspiration, so I knew that I would need to read it eventually. I was not disappointed.

I have also read other works along the same vein - Boyhood and Beyond, Raising a Modern-Day Knight, Bringing Up Boys, etc. The general tenor is the same - men suffer from a wound that dates back to boyhood and need to overcome significant external and internal pressures to redeem true manhood.

I loved this book and highly recommend it to anybody.

I will throw out the disclaimer that it is written from a very mainstream Christian perspective. I am a Latter-day Saint Christian, and I know many fellow LDS folks who won't see past Dalbey's doctrinal perspectives - the same is true for Eldredge. But if that is your position, then you have missed the point of their works, and you will miss the tremendous benefit of their discussion.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My New CNG Car

OK - I've finally done it. I've been thinking about it for awhile, and last week I bought a bi-fuel Chevrolet Cavalier (it runs on unleaded or natural gas.) Of course, I run almost exclusively on natural gas. My justifications are as follows:

  1. $3.60/gallon vs. $0.87/gge (gallon equivalent)
  2. almost no emissions from natural gas compared to gasoline
  3. I'm no longer contributing to the profit margins of people who finance terrorists
I wish more people would do the same, but there are a lot of excuses that I hear. Let me weigh in on a few of them, and try to provide my reasons why they are weak excuses:
  1. Natural gas refueling stations are not very plentiful - no, but they will be when a lot more of us drive natural gas vehicles, and besides, I only have to go about 3 minutes out of my way to fill up
  2. My natural gas tank doesn't hold as much fuel as a gasoline tank, so I have to fill up more often - true, but back to #1, it's not that far out of your way, and aren't the benefits worth a few extra minutes every few days?
  3. It's dangerous to have a pressurized tank of CNG in my trunk - this is just not true, as it is designed with appropriate pressure relief - your non-pressurized gasoline tank is more of a danger than the CNG cylinder
  4. I don't have much selection of makes and models that use CNG - true, but the more people start buying these things, the better the selection will be - besides, for your commuter, is it really that big a deal what you drive? This Cavalier is a great, clean car, and fun to drive
So take a look at the options, give it some thought, and if the right opportunity comes up, join the CNG club with me. When you look at your natural gas receipt and it says $4.89 for a complete fill-up, you won't regret your decision.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I found this on a friend's blog, and thought it might generate some interesting thoughts...

  1. As a comment on my blog, leave one memory that you and I had together. It doesn't matter if you knew me a little or a lot, anything you remember!

  2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. It's actually pretty cool (and funny) to see the responses. If you leave a memory about me, I'll assume you're playing the game and I'll come to your blog and leave one about you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Helena Handbasket

I flew into Helena, MT for several days of document and drawing review for one of my large projects. The environmental consultant that is helping my company has an office here. Four co-workers also flew in with me for the review. Long hours of reading and editing technical documents is a lot of fun (lol).

As a side benefit, I have a brother that works in Helena, so I get to spend a bit of time with him during the off hours. This morning early we hiked to the top of Mt. Helena. It's about 2000 ft above the valley floor.

Considering the hot temperatures at home, the climate here is very nice. It's slightly brisk in the morning and evening, and just perfect all day long...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Vampire Hunt and Back-Seat Madness

It's summer vacation time and we just had a good one - to the town of Forks made famous by the bestseller "Twilight." We had a family reunion near Mt. Saint Helens in Washington, and then we extended the trip by continuing west to the Olympic Peninsula. Now that we've been home several days, I can say that it was a good trip - there were moments during the long drives that I was ready for blood (I can say that since the book is about Vampires.) We fill every seat in the minivan, and the back seat mischief and problems had me at the edge of insanity a couple of times.

The boys like camping, so I think we got a lot of "mileage" out of this trip with them. (We actually camped four nights and spent three in motels.) We had two tents, and it helps to separate a couple of the boys off into the second tent. We all slept quite well, considering. I still prefer our Tempurpedic mattress at home.

As my lovely wife pointed out in her blog, we have a special nostalgic feeling for the Olympic Peninsula, as we spent some time in the area during our engagement. The dense forests of tall evergreens, the heavy undergrowth, and the rugged beaches with rock monoliths and literally thousands of tons of driftwood littering the shore - it's a scene from a fantasy. We have talked about moving up that way, but it might lose the nostalgia if it became too familiar.

We had a blast at several beaches. This is no Caribbean paradise, however. It has a completely different feel. The water is icy cold, the beach is not made up of perfect white sand, etc. But it is paradise for little boys who like to see cool chunks of driftwood, hop out onto rugged rocks in the water, look at sea critters in the tide pools, examine dead crabs along the beach, etc. They were surprisingly "immune" to the water temperature, although I have an image engrained in my mind of #3 crawling through a warmer patch of sand after he got particularly cold. He looked like Robinson Crusoe. Too bad I didn't capture that on film...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Haircut #2

My Queen had her hair lopped off today as well - I haven't seen it yet in person as I'm still in the office, but she sent me this photo. I think it looks really cute. A mother of five young princes certainly has every right to enjoy her hair shorter, anyway. The youngest one likes to pull it when it is long. I gave up years ago on pressuring her to keep it long because it was "prettier." She can do what she wants with it, and she's still the "bomb."

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Haircut

Well, it was time, due to the warming weather and the impracticality of the long curly hair, to cut it off. I began by shaving the beard and 'stache earlier in the day, and here I am sitting in the haircut chair - my wife is going to do the deed.

I really can't believe how long it has grown. I look a little too much like an 80's rock star or Weird Al Yankovich.

Well, we're committed now. My little flower has got the number four comb attached to the razor and she's attacking the 'fro with glee. Look at that crazy mop! It's going to get a lot easier to take care of now.

This is the mullet - there's absolutely no way that I'm going to keep it, but it sure looks great for a photo. Once again, welcome back to high school. I pulled it into a pony tail for a second - wow, we're really styling now.

We're headed back to the land of conservative hairstyles. She's done with the number four, and now she's taking the scissors to the top to taper things a bit. Notice how long her hair is - she also wants to get a pretty serious haircut very soon. Sometimes a little change is fun - you know, shake things up a bit.

Well, we're done with the cut and here is all my hair. What should I do with it? It's not quite long enough for "locks for love" so I guess I'll just throw it away. Funny how powerful a little hair can be.

And finally the self portrait in the bathroom mirror after the shower. I just dropped ten years in 30 minutes. And now nobody needs to worry about the dangers posed to my immortal soul by the evils of long hair.

And here is another picture of my little Mrs. She has something in mind about shoulder length - I gave up a long time ago maintaining that she should keep it long - she's beautiful just the same and it's fun for her to play around with different styles. Besides, it's hard with five young boys to maintain long hair, and it's always getting in the way.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Chicken Tractor

We have increased our ability to engage in backyard farming - this is a "chicken tractor" that I built this week. It has wheels on one end - you lift the other end and roll it to a new spot on the lawn. It has a man-door at one end and an egg-gathering door on the other end. Chickens are great for keeping the bugs down, and they produce great fertilizer for the grass. We jsut have to remember to roll the tractor off of the grass the nights before the sprinklers come on! We have three little Bantams and two Auracanas. We also have some Rhode Island Reds, but they live one block over at a neighbor's house. The boys like the birds - we have to convince the oldest that he doesn't need to check in on them every fifteen minutes.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Pirate Name...

Dale's Pirate Name Is...

Captain Wicked Willie

Philosophical Musings on Hair

We hit the low 90's in temperature this week. Today was cool and rainy, but those warm days earlier in the week reminded me that the hair can't last much longer. It's been almost three months since the perm, so the 'fro has settled down a bit, but this mop is crazy when I'm outside in the wind. I'm running outside almost daily, training for a long-distance event in June. Long hair just doesn't work for a runner.

To set the stage for my following remarks, remember that I am a committed Latter-day Saint (Mormon). I go to church weekly, attend the temple, and serve in a leadership calling. Most of all, I love my Savior Jesus Christ.

Now, I find it obvious that personal grooming is a cultural issue, not a doctrinal or salvational issue. Current cultural perceptions about what constitutes clean grooming grow first out of the backlash to transcendentalism and all of its liberal connections. Short hair on men as a more standard practice (at least in the last few hundred years) began in the late 19th century (before that short hair was often connected to your status as a slave or servant). It probably peaked in the first half of the 20th century. Then you had the cultural revolution in the recent past, and tattoes, pearcings, promiscuity, drug use, etc. are often connected to a more rough personal grooming, and especially long hair and facial hair. Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, didn't have facial hair, but had relatively long hair by the standards of today's church leaders. Following Joseph Smith, all the presidents of the LDS Church had facial hair of various styles until David O. McKay cleaned it up a bit. Today's unwritten standard, not just in the LDS Church, but in other faiths and the business culture as well, is a clean cut image. Anytime a Church leader has asked a member to cut their hair, it was probably because of how easy it is to associate it with immoral behavior or at least non-conformity, whether or not the member actually was engaging in such behavior. Twenty years ago, it was common for Stake Presidents and Bishops to ask members to cut their hair – now it is much less common. And the only places I am aware of it being written down are in the missionaries' rulebook and BYU's honor code (which has also relaxed a little over the last couple of decades.) Will it be culturally acceptable once again, and perhaps even commonplace, for men in the Church to have long hair and beards? It is conceivable.

However, I have observed some sad tendencies toward judgment in other people through this exercise in hairstyling silliness. Most people are indifferent, and see it for what it is (just a fun little whim.) But some surprising comments have reached my ears, some directly and some through the rumor mill. It seems that looking like I do raises concerns in the minds of some small-minded people about the welfare of my immortal soul.

So, I'll probably cut it short again in the next few days, but it will be due to my own personal preferences and practicality, not due to submission to other people's unwarranted concern. But I will always live with the memory of the poison of judgmentalism, and maybe I'll be less likely to jump to conclusions about others based on superficial evidence.

Texas CPS and the FLDS

I have put this post off for too long - last night I had a lively discussion with several friends, and I believe we all concluded that Texas chose the wrong approach to dealing with their concerns over the beliefs and practices of the FLDS people at the YFZ ranch. Since we believe so strongly in freedom, and lament the fact that we have seen our freedoms slowly erode since the inception of the United States of America, we should speak out openly when we see further erosions of those freedoms. This is a clear case of the ends not justifying the means. Whether or not you agree with the religious beliefs and social customs of a group of people, you still must respect their rights as humans. There should be overwhelming evidence of a crime, and that crime should then be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. In the absence of clear evidence, we are walking on thin ice to take the types of measures that Texas CPS officials took. You have to ask yourself - What country do we live in?
Today's article might be a step in the right direction, but Texas and the FLDS have a long, painful, highly expensive legal battle ahead of them. And, due to legal precedent and common sense, Texas will lose badly, even if it has to go all the way to the Supreme Court, and will look foolish in the eyes of the nation.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hard Hat Hairy

Work took me to the field a couple of weeks ago, and since it was an industrial plant and a lot of construction was going on, we were required to wear hard hat, safety glasses, coveralls, etc.

One of my coworkers was truly impressed with the fro under the hard hat, so he snapped a picture.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spokane and Coeur d'Alene

Business issues took me to Spokane for two days this week, so I took an opportunity to spend one night in Coeur d'Alene at a resort condo. As I drove to the resort, I pulled off to take a scenic hike at a place called Mineral Ridge. It was pretty cloudy, but I enjoyed being in the mountains. I think it was about 2-3 miles of trail...

The resort itself was under construction - they are adding some new buildings - but the setting was really nice. I had a report to read and edit, and a presentation to put the polishing touches on, so it was nice to be in such a serene setting. (It would be dishonest not to mention that I finished off the evening watching Apocalypto - wow, what a movie!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Welcome Back Kotter

Remember this one? In the office they are saying I look like Kotter - I don't see a tremendous resemblance, but whatever...

I'm old enough to remember this show as well. That's a little scary.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More Fun at the Fixer-Upper

The apartment remodel is continuing, although progress is slow and a bit agonizing at times. The floors are coming along well, and I had professionals look at the HVAC and cabinets - quotes should come back to me within a day or two. There are always lots of details to keep track of. The biggest challenge is that it's an existing, older home, so you've got to work around what you've got. Yesterday I replaced a leaky hose bib. The really nice thing about it is that I know that each thing I do leaves it better than it was before. I may be a bit optimistic, but I'd like to be showing it to prospective renters in April for May occupancy.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

My Wonderful Aunt

We received notice that an Aunt of mine has been sent home with hospice after a tough battle with cancer. I can only imagine what she and her immediate family are going through. They are some of the most positive people I have ever known, especially my Aunt and Uncle. She has suffered through several physical challenges over the years, and yet I have never known her to be negative or cross. Tired, maybe, but never ornery. And my uncle is just a marvelous person, witty, loving, and sharing. Their children (my cousins) were always some of our favorite visitors when I was little. I know my life is better because I know them. Our hearts are with them, even if we are several states away, and our thoughts and prayers turn to them frequently.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rex Vallis gets Curly Hair

Well, my Queen and her friend performed some magic on my hair Friday night, and this is the end result. Since then, ten minutes don't pass before somebody does an about face to comment on it. It's really easy to do my hair - I simply shower and towel dry - I put a little gel in it if I want it to be more tame, otherwise, I run a hair pick through and it's an all-out fro. I'm looking for some paisley shirts and bell bottoms to go with the 'do.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Money (and Time) Pit

We acquired a rental property about 40 miles south of us one year ago. Originally, it was all wrapped up in one deal where we provided the financing, received a chunk of cash up front, and saw a minor amount of cash flow each month, with no involvement on our part - we leased it to an outfit who took responsibility for taking care of the place, getting renters in, etc, etc. Well, they defaulted on the terms of the lease and so we had to take the property back and terminate the lease agreement. It is an up-down duplex, with a tenant living in the upstairs, but the downstairs is not currently liveable. So, I am pretending to be the general contractor and having the whole thing re-done. It's been educational so far. I have a long way to go. More to come...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Amazing Harmonica

This is worth your time...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Snowy Valentines' Day

Well, we got pounded again. I would guess around 9-10 inches, with deeper drifts next to the fence or other large objects. It started around 2 PM yesterday, and ended sometime in the night. It was very heavy and wet, and the ground was warm to start with, so it was very difficult to move. I finished about 8:30 this morning with the front driveway and sidewalks - about an hour of snow removal, even with the help of my neighbor and his snowblower. This first picture is Prince #4, to give perspective of the drifting on top of the little white car.

Next we have two pictures of the entire front yard, again with #4 for perspective. We had a really warm spell for several days prior, and the big piles had nearly melted, but now it looks like it did before the melt. I drove down the street and decided that it would be unwise to try to make it to work. I have a perfectly good wireless connection here at the house.

Take a look at the cornices off the edge of the roof. Clearly the wind has played a role in this storm. Unbelievably, it is only at 121% of "normal" as reported by KSL. Of course, we still have at least four more weeks of winter according to Punxatawney Phil (reported February 2nd). I haven't been skiing at all this year, but I'm sure the resorts are just loving these snow totals - 136" of base reported at Alta, and 74" at Steamboat.

Monday, February 11, 2008

World Trends

I just finished the book Mind Set! by John Naisbitt. He is the author of Megatrends, among other things. He has a unique and highly successful method for observing large-scale trends and predicting how they will play out in the future. All of his predictions in Megatrends came to fruition.

This book (written in 2006) is about how our mindsets play into what we see in the world around us. By having the right mindsets, we improve our chances of understanding the world around us and anticipating how the world will be shaped in our immediate future. This can help us in our decision-making.

Part I lists eleven mindsets:
  1. While many things change, most things remain constant
  2. The future is embedded in the present
  3. Focus on the score of the game
  4. Understanding how powerful it is not to have to be right
  5. See the future as a picture puzzle
  6. Don't get so far ahead of the parade that people don't know you're in it
  7. Resistance to change falls if benefits are real
  8. Things that we expect to happen always happen more slowly
  9. You don't get results by solving problems but by exploiting opportunities
  10. Don't add unless you subtract
  11. Don't forget the ecology of technology

Part II gives some insights into five trends for the future:
  1. A visual culture is taking over the world - visual communication has overtaken written communication as the most common form of spreading information or ideas
  2. The influence of nation-states is diminishing as economic domains become more predominant
  3. Nations that adapt to economic domain centrality will lead the world (China) - economic domain centrality encourages entrepreneurship and encourages growth (Adam Smith model)
  4. Nations that fail to adapt to economic domain centrality will decline unless they redirect (Europe, USA) - this is because you cannot simultaneously maintain economic supremacy and promote social welfare (in the Marxian sense) without overly regulating entrepreneurship and thereby discouraging growth
  5. Success in the future will be built by opportunity feeders, not problem solvers

Incidentally, I read the book because of a class that I attended this weekend at George Wythe College - we discussed the five trends and spoke about current events.

I loved the book - I fully intend to keep track of John Naisbitt in the future. He is easy to read and makes a lot of sense. I recommend it for people who are hungry for modern cultural understanding.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Liberalism is a Religion

I just finished listening to an audiobook entitled Godless - The Church of Liberalism by Ann Coulter. She is one of the most vocal opponents of liberalism around today, and she is regularly vilified by her liberal opponents.

I had never read anything by her before, and decided that I needed to hear for myself. I have friends who spend a lot of time on talk radio and cable news shows, so I've heard their opinions, but I was a little surprised by what I heard.

I don't espouse the liberal agenda - I tend to agree with the opinions expressed by Coulter - but the method that she employs is extremely abrasive. She will not win any converts, build any bridges, or solve any problems with this method. She will succeed in further polarizing an already highly polarized debate.

So - enough about the tone of her book - the content was very clear and challenging. Ann makes the point that liberals attack Judeo-Christian religious tradition while in the same breath their belief system has all the same attributes as a religion, namely:
  • Holy Sacraments - Abortion
  • Canon - Roe v. Wade
  • Clergy - public school teachers
  • Churches - public schools prohibiting prayer and handing out free condoms
  • Doctrine of Infallibility - absolute moral authority of spokesmen (Cindy Sheehan, Max Cleland, etc.)
  • Cosmology - humans are the result of an accident
  • Creation Myth - Darwin's theory of evolution

She spends the most time on evolution - she calls its proponents "Darwiniacs" - and exposes it as a story without any true scientific backing. I especially enjoyed the many scandals, frauds, and hoaxes that have been played out upon mankind in order to show "evidence" to back the theory of evolution - she outlines them all and explains their history, and shows how the doctrine of infallibility seems to insulate Darwinism from any criticism.

Since Ann Coulter is an active voice on the political stage today (I watched her in a Q&A session on C-SPAN tonight) I recommend the reading of this book - but be warned that she won't pull any punches. Last week I saw a picture of her posted inside of one of my co-workers cubicles - he is a Democrat - and he had used a sharpie to draw horns, a pitchfork, and a pointy tail. So I guess I can add one more bullet point to my list above:
  • Devil - Ann Coulter

Friday, February 1, 2008

A Tribute to Gordon B. Hinckley

A Lot of Snow

This photo was taken this morning after I shoveled the driveway - I believe I have shoveled more snow this winter than ever before in my life. Each storm is generally only a few inches (this morning we had about 4 inches) but it just keeps piling up, with relatively little respite between storms.

After shoveling, I decided not to go into the office, since my road has not yet been plowed and I have the means of telecommuting from home. I've attended one meeting via telephone already, with one more to go a bit later. Generally speaking, if I telecommute once or twice a month, I actually get more done on those days. I can shut myself in the downstairs office and crank away at a report, attend meetings, etc. And of course make a post to the blog...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

More Time With the Boys

I am at home with four out of five of my Princes - the oldest is at Cub Scouts with our Queen.

I like spending time with them - as long as I can keep my cool and just enjoy their silly behavior, I get rewarded with an ample amount of one-on-one time and many moments of kid wisdom. These boys were sent here to teach me a few things...

This is my four-year-old; he sat and visited with me several times during the last 15 minutes. He likes to give gifts and write letters to his young friends, especially the little girl around the block. He did a good job getting ready for bed, so I am letting him stay up a few minutes longer to wind down.

Over on the right here is my two-year-old. While I was getting him ready for bed, I noticed that he sort of smelled bad. So, I suggested a quick bath, and he readily agreed. He is a very happy fellow, quite talkative, and absolutely idolizes his older brothers. There are endless reenactments of various scenes from Star Wars, Harry Potter, Spiderman, etc, and this one is always willing to accept even the most menial roles. "And the award for best supporting actor goes to..."

I came home from the office early today so that I could take my seven-year-old to the dentist. We had simultaneous appointments for check-up and cleaning, and we both came out with a clean bill of dental health. He was excited because he found a travel chess/checkers set in the box of toys behind the reception counter. After the appointment we stopped of at the library to drop off some things, and he spent a few minutes visiting with the librarian and putting a couple of things on hold. We enjoyed a nice visit about the things that matter most to him on the way to and from. I was especially impressed with his mature understanding about the death of President Hinckley (see the other post below) and what would happen in the coming days to the leadership of the church.

Now we're full-swing into the bedtime routine, and my ten-month-old is resisting the hardest. He thinks he needs to eat hourly. When they're his age, they demand a great deal of attention. He's sitting in front of me in his portable bed, peeking over the top and occasionally fussing in an attempt to convince me to get him out and play. But I'm not falling for the ploy - the Queen says he didn't have a nap today, so he should go to sleep quickly. Perhaps if I stopped clacking away on the keyboard...

I like being a Dad - and these little Princes have me convinced that there is hope in our future, in spite of the crazy world we live in.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Adams vs. Jefferson

I just finished another book, Adams vs. Jefferson, written by John Ferling. Although the author conjectured too much for my taste, he also cited many sources and laid out an excellent picture of the political and cultural climate surrounding the election of 1800. He spent a great deal of time painting an accurate picture of the decade prior to that pivotal election, and even spent a chapter or two at the end letting the reader see how things unfolded until July 4, 1826, the day both men coincidentally died.

I openly side with Thomas Jefferson in the debate that was at stake. He was a Republican, and believed in small federal government and state autonomy. It was important to have a strong check on the federal government by the individual states (a condition that barely exists if at all today.)

John Adams was a Federalist, and believed in stronger government and greater control, a strong monarch-like executive, and stronger ties with Great Britain. His positions were so unfavorable by the election of 1800 that a quarter century of Republican Presidents would follow him.

Of deep interest to me is the amazing coincidence that Jefferson and Adams died on the same day, July 4, 1826. This must have been Divine Providence. Adams and Jefferson had become friends again after about 1812, but in the public eye they were enemies. The dual death on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence erased the image of enmity, and allowed Adams, Jefferson, and Washington to become the "triumvirate" of the founding era, where they have remained for all those who study US History.

The party system emerged quite rapidly after the new government was formed. Politics had many of the same elements and quirks as it does now. The battle for the Presidency in 1800 was very bitter. Adams was so crushed when he lost that he left town on the 4 AM coach the day that Jefferson was sworn in, rather than pass the baton.

All in all, this was an excellent read - I recommend it to any student of US History or politics.

Tribute to LDS Church President Gordon Bitner Hinckley

Tonight at about 7:00 PM LDS Church President Gordon Bitner Hinckley passed away from natural causes. He was 97 years old.

I have thoroughly enjoyed our time under his inspired guidance. I can't begin to imagine the burden of responsibility that he and all others that have occupied his position bore - they certainly must have learned to call on divine help in their calling.

Since I joined the LDS Church in 1991, I have experienced the passing of three Church Presidents - Ezra Taft Benson, Howard W. Hunter, and now Gordon B. Hinckley. I would have to frankly admit that I connected with President Hinckley more than with the other two, probably just because of the length of time that he served and his disarming nature.

President Hinckley, we love you and know that you are having joyful reunions. Thank you for your tireless service!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

So Are They Funny? Judge for Yourself...

Big Water Rocket

Big water rocket 18.75 Liters - booster

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I think I may have to acquire one of these for science education in the homeschool...

Church Basketball?

Don't ask me why, but I always end up playing a game or two of church basketball every year, usually when one of the guys calls me and tells me that they might forfeit if I can't come. I played tonight, and we had to forfeit anyway because we were short by one player. So the other team loaned us three guys and we played anyway. You would think that it would have been just for fun, but somehow there is always at least one poor sport that spoils it for everyone.

In this case it was a big guy that was fairly agile for his rotundity, but constantly pushing his weight around. No problem for me - I'm small and quick and I just stay out of his way. About halfway through the game, he was bringing the ball down the court and I reached in and swiped it from him. He fumbled around with it for a half-second, and then it went out of bounds, clearly with him touching it last. The referee correctly gave my team the ball, but this guy had to argue with the referee, who just ignored him. So he decided to take matters into his own hands. He went out of his way to push me in the back two times in subsequent action, and another player on my team several more times. The referees took some notice (when they were in a position to see it), but it didn't seem to matter to this moron. We discussed it with his teammates who were playing for our team, and they agreed that he was a real downer to play with - a very poor loser and cheapshot.

I'm not big into competitive athletics - I played ball when I was 10 or 11 for a couple of years in an organized league, and it just didn't come easily for me. Part of it was that my Dad was so intense - not like the obnoxious parents that scream at coaches and refs, but he was pretty hard on me. He probably didn't understand that it wasn't my thing. Of course, I had been the one to ask if I could play, because I had some neighbor friends who were going to play. Dad had played a lot of baseball and basketball when he was younger, and I get the picture that he understood the fundamentals pretty well.

I enjoyed playing yard hockey or scrimmage football in the yard or the field with friends, and I really enjoyed playing basketball in the neighbor's backyard, but that was entirely different than playing in an organized league where the stakes and emotions seem a little higher. It was just for fun in those settings, and I wanted it to be the same in the league play, but it just wasn't. You know, we got pretty competitive in field hockey, and got pretty bruised up sometimes, but we never went out for blood, and we respected each other.

Later on in high school, I went out for cross-country and track, preferring to push my endurance rather than bump and bruise with other egotistic numskulls in contact sports on the court or field. I used the time running to think about what mattered to me and organize my thoughts. I became fairly good, reaching a personal best of a 5:00 mile. I was competing against myself, and it was very good for my health and self-esteem. I have continued to enjoy the health benefits of this type of activity. I have run seven marathons, many half-marathons, and other races of lesser length. I have climbed many high mountains, and I love to hike and camp.

One of my favorite recent books, An Education For Our Time, by Josiah Bunting, stresses the value of contact sports. And truly, there must be something to what he is saying. For him, contact sports allow us to simulate something akin to combat in a non-life-threatening environment. Greek and Roman statesmen believed the same to be true. So did the chivalric orders of the middle ages. And almost any formal classical education contains the physical study of warfare and team sports in the curriculum.

So why does the church ball experience, or the NBA, the NFL, etc, etc, not seem to measure up to what Josiah Bunting has to say? Why does it seem like such a negative experience for me whenever the stakes are raised? And why did my dad like his own sports experiences when he was younger?

I believe that the experience that Josiah Bunting and my dad value is more difficult to find in organized athletics today. There are several elements necessary for the experience to have the same educational power that it once did.
  • The game must focus on the fundamentals. Every sport has a certain set of basic guidelines as to how it is played.
  • Players must be willing to respect the rules of the game. If a rule is broken, or a foul is committed, all agree that there are consequences.
  • The team must employ strategy and stick to their gameplan.
  • It's about teamwork, and not about the individual. Players shouldn't seek personal glory, but team success.
  • It's not all about winning. In a contest of two teams, one team comes out on top. But the other team needs to take defeat with honor. You learn as much from losing, maybe even more than winning.
  • You need to seek physical excellence from the game. It is a great opportunity to be physically agile and strong.
  • There must be integrity on the part of every participant, the players, the coaches, and the officials.
  • In the end, each participant needs to remember that it is just a game. They should be able to shake hands and congratulate each other and then return to the activities of normal life better for the experiences they have had.
I think that these types of sports can have value, but I've met many men who feel the same way I do about them - they have little or no value to their lives. And that is truly unfortunate.

As for me, I think I will avoid these experiences, for the most part, and stick to my running. For the warfare study, I'll keep paintball and shooting as a big part of my personal field of focus. And of course I will occasionally enjoy a backyard game, just like the old days.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Jackrabbit Factor

I arrived home in time to share dinner with the family and then The Queen and my oldest Prince shipped off to the church for different activities. I remained behind to shepherd the other four through dinner, some playtime, and finally bedtime. They are all in bed. The Queen and Prince aren't home yet.

The youngest sat in his chair and ate peas and carrots while I finished a book.

Today I read an amazing little book called The Jackrabbit Factor, by Leslie Householder. I was already familiar with The Secret, having purchased a copy of the DVD about a year ago. They both expound on a concept known as the Law of Attraction. The nice thing about The Jackrabbit Factor is that it is written from the perspective of a Christian. A lot of people who saw The Secret express concern that it takes God out of the equation (I don't agree with that perspective - I liked it) and so The Jackrabbit Factor can help them to understand the ideas, if they will listen.

For anybody interested, I will just refer to Leslie's website: www.thoughtsalive.com.

Happy reading!

Monday, January 21, 2008

What a Storm

Winter blew in a blizzard today - fortunately it was a holiday for many. Even so, my normal 30-minute commute became almost an hour. The most amazing thing I saw was the guy in the rear-wheel drive Trans Am, spun off on the downward sloping shoulder, one hand holding the cell phone to his ear, and the rear wheels spinning at high RPM, slush flying everywhere. Clearly not much winter driving experience there...

I have already taken my boys to the nearest large parking area to spin around and get the feel of what it takes to control a vehicle when the traction is greatly reduced - I intend to do a lot more of the same as the years go by.

Today was a very busy day at work, but a fairly good day after arriving home. The cold kept the boys from spending much time outside, but they built a clubhouse under the back deck from wood and snow. We enjoyed conversation over dinner, then moved on to Family Home Evening, which we try to remember every Monday night. There Mom shared a lesson on opening our hearts to the Savior, and the boys took time to recount what they had done throughout the day. After a couple of silly games, we enjoyed some chocolate chip cookies and moved into the bedtime routine.

All but the youngest are neatly tucked into their beds, and the house is mostly calm and quiet.

Today I read A Train to Potevka by Mike Ramsdell, who grew up in my hometown. It's an easy read - sort of a spy thriller mixed up with a story of personal redemption.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

I Am A Nerd - How About You?

I am nerdier than 98% of all people. Are you a nerd? Click here to find out!



* First used in Dr. Seuss’s book If I Ran the Zoo (1950) as the name of an imaginary animal.

And then, just to show them, I’ll sail to Katroo
And bring back an It-Kutch, a Preep and a Proo,
A Nerkle, a Nerd and a Seersucker too!

* Possibly from Mortimer Snerd, the name of Edgar Bergen’s ventriloquist dummy.
* Possibly from the acronym N.E.R.D. on the pocket protectors of employees of the company Northern Electric Research and Developments; it should be noted, however, that speculative etymologies based on acronyms are almost always false (such as “port out, starboard home” for “posh” and “to insure promptness” for “tip”) and are known as backronyms.
* Possibly a pronunciation of the word “drunk” spelled in reverse (“knurd”), used to mean a person who does not drink at parties; however, this seems somewhat contrived.

nerd (plural nerds)

1. (slang, derogatory) A person who, although having good technical or scientific skills, is introspective and introverted

* (socially unaccepted person, all are slang and derogatory) dag (Australian), dork, dweeb, geek, loser, twerp

The NerdTests' Space Quiz says I'm an Uber Space Nerd.  What kind of space nerd are you?  Click here!

NerdTests.com says I'm a Cool Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!