Dr. Forbush Thinks

Look at the world through the eyes of Dr. Forbush. He leads you through politics, religion and science asking questions and attempting to answer them....

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Location: California, United States

Thursday, May 31, 2007


The conservative political organizations have been organized in the past to pick particular topics and issues and concentrate on them until it appears that everyone is talking about the topic or issue. This agenda pops up all over the radio dial and all over the blogosphere. The opposition to the right then is forced to argue the submitted agenda and in return they lose some time that could be devoted to pushing their own agenda.

Today on the way to work I turned on Rush Limbaugh and heard him talking about “fairness.” Earlier in the morning I read a column by George Will entitled “The Case for Conservatism.” George Will also talks about the liberal idea of fairness.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Progressives would be talking about fairness. After all, the history of progress has been a succession of triumphs over the ruling class resulting in making my opportunities for the lower class, thus creating a middle class of people that have some opportunities that were once reserved for the ruling class. Peasants gradually won the ability to own land, vote and take part in politics. Each of these bits of progress gradually making life more fair for more people.

The common theme between these two presentation of the “facts” is that fairness is the antithesis of freedom. The conservatives want freedom and the liberals want fairness. In light of the piece that I wrote yesterday on values, I would suggest that both of these things are values, and they are not necessarily exclusive of each other.

Freedom is a wonderful concept, but my freedom ends at the tip of your nose is the common succinctly put limitation on our freedoms. And, juxtaposing these two values as exclusive rights makes us see into the mind of a conservative. It is quite clear that laws that limit a member of the upper class from taking advantage of a member of the lower class limits the freedom of the upper class person and limits the freedom of the lower class person. In this way, it is quite clear why George Will and Rush Limbaugh both see this issue the way that they do.

So, the question is not whether we value freedom or fairness for the poor. Because this argument suggests that the common man would lose his freedom if we make laws requiring fairness being applied to the poor and working class. But, the freedom that is being taken away is the freedom to exploit these people.

In reality freedom is not a universal value that the conservatives will fight to the death over. This is clear when we look at the USA Patriot Act that severely limited the average person’s freedom. But the limitation of our freedom in this case was in an effort to protect property of the wealthy. So, the two values in question became the value of property and the value of freedom. And, as I pointed out in yesterday’s piece, the question isn’t whether freedom or property were important values, but whether property should be placed above freedom in priority.

The point here is that these issues are continuously brought to the debate and the options are offered to us as if there is a black and white answer to the question - Is it freedom or fairness? But, the answer is not one or the other, but a priority between the two. Conservatives win if people believe that liberals are against freedom. But, if progressives can point out that fairness for more is just a continuation of the progressive movement which results in more freedom for more people in the long run. Even if it takes freedom away from those who have made their riches on raping the poor.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I have been thinking about the general concept of “values” since the moral majority and the religious right brought the issue of values from religion into politics. The word “values” is a catch all word that describes something that the can be nebulously described as “a good thing we can all agree on.” But, what a society or culture finds value in is not a clear and uniform idea that should be allowed to be thrown around unquestioned.

In fact, even the ideas that we might be able to produce off the top of our heads which embody the grand examples of “values” turn out not to be so cut and dry when we think of them in detail. We all value quite a number of things, but the priority in which we value them turns out to be even more important than the fact that we value them. We value our lives and we value our children’s lives. But, what priority do we put on those two values when we are asked to choose between the two?

If we examine the current political bifurcation the religious right will tell us that the issue is in the culture wars. The culture wars are about “values.” And, the religious right will tell us that one important value is life. The religious right proceeds to focus on the issue of abortion, as the center of the war on life as a value.

But, the truth of the matter is life is not the issue. The argument is not about whether one side of the argument values life, and the other side of the argument does not value life. No, everyone and their dog values life. In fact, many people on the left may be found who value life above and beyond many of those on the right. There are vegetarians on the left who value all animal life. There are anti-war protestors that value the lives of our military and the lives of the enemy that they are shooting at. The real truth is that life is not a debatable issue, we all value life in general. The real question turns out to be - who’s life do we value more than whom else’s life?

Similarly, on the left there are people who worry about our environment. The environment is valued by these people. But, if one was to ask the question - Do you think that we should preserve our environment? - we wouldn’t find many people who would answer no to that question. The environment provides us with the resources that we need to live at all. But, many people find it easy to put a price on the environment. Cheap energy and cheap labor saving devices and cheap entertainment are the price we pay, and many people believe that the price is worth the cost.

The issue of “values” is not really about what we value, but it is about the priority of our values. And, we will never change each other’s minds if we continue to argue about who’s values are important and who’s values are unimportant. Instead we need to discuss and order our priorities.

In a way, this is what we do when we make the laws. We make exceptions for some, which in effect gives these people higher priority. We rule in the case of people’s right effecting other people’s rights and the ruling gives us the priority of the law, and the priority of those values.

For example, when the law determines that the right to walk around naked outside is overruled by the right of someone not to inadvertently see someone walk around naked outside we value lack of nudity over free expression. Our societal values are reflected in our laws.

The reality of the situation is that many of the priorities that the previous generations have written into our laws no longer reflect our current priorities. We no longer have a higher priority on virginity than the well being of our sisters and nieces. We still value waiting until the time is right. But, we no longer think that a woman should be stoned to death for being raped. We now value the woman’s life above her virginity.

The priority of our values is an old question that was being asked by the holy man of ancient history. Perhaps this is why Jesus was sure to proclaim the love of God above all other laws. Jesus was already sorting the values by priority. He said love of God was number 1, and love of your neighbor was number two. Of course we aren’t all Christian nor do we all believe in any particular God at all. So, it is quite obvious that our culture can not have the same priority of values as Jesus told us too.
Thing about values is that we can have values that we all agree upon and we can also have individual values that we can place in our personal order. And, as long as our personal values don’t conflict with the values of society, then we will get along just fine. But, when we change our personal priorities with the societal priorities, then we are in trouble. We can change the value of the priorities that are not written in law, but we can not change the laws unless we go through the law making process.

An easy example of this is the priority we place on work. In some societies it is believed that work is something that needs to be done for society to function properly. In some societies, if you make it to work and put in some time, then you will be paid for what you do, but life is more important than work in general. If a worker were to wake up at noon eat lunch and make it to work by 2:00 PM they would be treated differently in the two societies. That worker might likely find himself fired if he lived in society one, while it could be just a regular work day in society two. When a worker from society two moves to society one, he is bound to take his personal priority system and discover the harsh reality of the new society.

The point that I am trying to make with this post is that the priority of our values is the key to making our society function. But, most of us never discuss this important aspect of our culture. Perhaps this lack of discussion is due to our assumption that we all share similar orders of priority in our values. Perhaps the lack of discussion is due to the complex nature of this task. Perhaps we never really think about the order of our own priorities in enough detail. Or, perhaps we just hijack someone else’s priority list and we don’t bother to consider any other priority, because our personal feelings, wants and desires are filled into the blank slate when we feel the urge. The priority of our values have been given to us through many different and most likely random channels. We understand the priority of our values from our parents, our teachers, our leaders and our preachers. But we also set the priorities of our values from our experience, our friends and our desires. Very few of us ever take the time and effort to compare different values and debate their priorities.

Maybe if we as a community began to discuss our priorities of our values and justify our ordering we could come to a consensus on were these priorities lie within our society. Maybe if we justify our positions we could learn where stumbling blocks and problems block the way. Maybe if we could get the major values defined and ordered we could understand where other priorities should be placed and our perspective would be increased.

Just to get the ball rolling I’ll offer my first stab at this:

1) The survival of our planet.

We all live on this planet, and if it were gone, or destroyed we would not have any place else to live.

2) The survival of life.

Life needs the planet, the planet can evolve life again.

3) The survival of our society.

I would like to use society in a global term, which would include all of the nations of the world. I would sacrifice the survival of our society to allow the planet to survive, because maybe society could once again evolve, but only if the planet still existed.

4) The security of our local region.

The priority of our local region of the planet is more important than the survival of a region that my friends, relatives, family and neighbors don’t occupy. I would sacrifice someone else’s region to save the entire society or planet if I needed to make a choice. The security of other regions often results in security of our own region.

5) The survival of our regional local life - People, plants and animals.

We need life to grow the food we eat, to form the society.

6) The survival of agriculture.

How else could we sustain our society?

7) The survival of my personal culture
8) The survival of other cultures

Go ahead, fill in the blanks, there are lots of them….


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Probability in Politics

Rasmussen Reports has an interesting study out on the candidates base support and potential support.

What they did was ask the questions - Would you definitely vote for the candidate? And Would you definitely vote against the candidate?

This type of survey actually gleans an important number - the potential support from those undecided. For example, Hillary has a base support of 28%. So, come Hell or high water she would get 28% if her name is on the ticket. That means that she has to win an additional 22% from the undecided pool to have a majority and beat any other candidate. Obviously if it wasn’t for the Electoral College Al Gore won the popular vote, and would have been president, so this assumption isn’t cut and dry. But, at least we can see what each candidate is up against. In the case of Hillary, 47% said that they would definitely vote against her, so out of the potential 25% available Hillary needs to win 22%, or 22/25 = 88% of the available currently undecided vote. That seems to be a huge mountain to climb.

But, if we look at Barack instead, he currently has a base of 33% and therefore needs 17% out of a potential 29% undecided to hit the magic 50% mark. And 17/29 = 59% of the undecided vote. And, John Edwards with a base support of 27% only need to win 61% of his undecided vote to win that magic 50%.

On the other side of the aisle McCain and Giuliani need 64% of his undecided, While Romney needs 70% of his undecided. Only Fred Thompson has as good a chance as Barack Obama with a need to win 58% of his undecided group. But Fred isn’t even running.

With all things being equal I would venture to guess that winning half of the people who are undecided is pretty even money. And, every point above 50% requires some convincing. So, based on these numbers, Barack needs to do the least amount of convincing compared to Hillary who needs to do the most. And, if Democrats don’t care which Democrat that they want in the White House, they should begin to support Barack Obama or even John Edwards ahead of Hillary Clinton. And, if the Democrats want the easiest candidate to run against they should start rooting for Mitt Romney, or even Newt Gingrich who even surpasses Hillary with a need to win 91% of his undecided group in order to reach that 50% mark.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


Exercise is never easy. Lying in front of the TV, pool or beach - that is easy.

The only thing worse than motivating yourself to exercise is trying to motivate yourself to exercise when you are sore. After my first triathlon last weekend I woke up the following morning to a stiff back, aching quads and cramping calves. I must have pushed myself or some of my muscles a bit further than I was accustomed.

My normal routine is to wake up, go work out come home and get ready for work. Having this routine almost unbroken for three years allowed me to become fit and trim, and now I am worried that breaking the routine will lead to the slippery slope of lying in bed sleeping and waking up at a reasonable time.

So, as I lay in bed Monday morning contemplating whether I should go work out I began to rationalize. I postulated that I had just done a two-hour triathlon the day before. I did deserve a break, didn’t I? But my paranoid side suggested that it might take me several days to get over the soreness. Shouldn’t I move in order to work out some of the kinks and cramps? Well, after a few minutes I came up with a compromise. I would go work out, but I would do an easy pace and work out the kinks and cramps. I was fooling myself with this disillusion because I knew that once I entered the water I would begin to push myself a little harder and the workout would be more than I had talked myself into.

Motivation always seems to be a major hurdle. Even when I know that I enjoy running now I always dread that first mile in a run. Recently I have begun augmenting my exercise routine with running at work a few times a week. I began by running a 10K on Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunchtime. But, lunch is the hottest time of the day, so I kept making excuses and putting off running until it would be too late to have enough time to run and shower and get back to work. So, I talked myself into running after work instead. This way the sun needs to set before it is too late to go running. But, the most annoying thing about all this is that I have to fool myself into starting the run.

Once I get through that first mile I am ready willing and able to do 5 more without a problem.

Yesterday I was still a bit sore from the race, so I had to convince myself that it would be a good thing to run a 10K after work. It was Tuesday and I normally run after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Once again I started to beg for mercy because of my sore legs. They weren't nearly as sore as they were the day before, but somehow I thought that I would be able to talk myself out of running. But, 5:00 rolled around and I quickly grabbed my running stuff and got ready to run before I had enough time to talk myself out of it.

The route that I run has some unconventional points were I take splits in order to estimate how fast I am running. This is important because I know that if I take my pace out to quickly I will eventually need to give up and slow down. I am in pretty good shape now, so I don’t need to walk, but I do need to slow down to a 10 minute per mile pace if I take it out to fast.

Yesterday I ran the first 1.75 miles in 14:00 minutes even. That is an 8 minute per mile pace, which is a bit slow for me now, but I was sore and I was just working out the kinks and cramps from the race. I knew that an 8 minute per mile pace was just under 50 minutes for 6.2 miles or a 10K. So, I talked myself into keeping that pace so I could at least run a 50 minute 10K. But I thought that I could pick up the pace ever so slightly so that I could create a safety cushion of a few seconds just in case I got tired toward the end of the run. This is just another psychological method to get me to push myself a bit harder. And, sure enough I saw that my next 1.75 miles was 13:28, which was about a 7:42 minutes per mile pace. I felt pretty good, much of my soreness was a thing of the past. After this point I have a couple of short legs that usually take me 3:10 to 3:30 to do depending on my motivation and attitude. I don’t usually push these so much. I do, however, try to pick up speed from mile 4.5 to mile 6. These are two legs of .75 miles each. I try to go fast on the first one, then I try to negative split the last one. Then I coast to the end of the run, the last 0.2 miles.

I ran 5:41 for the first 0.75 leg and I beat it with a 5:29 for the second leg. I finished with a 47:42 even with waiting a couple of seconds for cars so that I could cross the street at the end. So, I guess I was able to run under the 50-minute challenge.

The weird thing about this entire escapade are the mind games that I continue to play with myself in order to motivate myself to run a little bit faster. I would feel defeated if I were to say that I was going to run under 48 minutes before I even started to run. I would talk myself into the difficulty of not being able to do 47 anything, even though I have run sub-47 10Ks before. Keeping the pace is important, because if I run too fast, 6:30 minute per mile I would not be able to keep up the pace for the entire 10K. I would quickly lose my motivation if I became exhausted from running too fast.

Motivation is such a delicate balance. No wonder people have such a difficult time sticking to an exercise program. No one is easily motivated to go out and inflict pain on themselves. Even if they do feel better afterward. Climbing that mountain only because it is there only works for some people. For most people they would rather turn on the TV and watch a video made by someone else who actually did the hard work and actually did climb the mountain.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Party Line

Diversity is rigeur du jour in the Democrat Party. I say rigeur, because it has become a rigid standard to not only accept diversity, but also to encourage diversity.

When people think of home one aspect of home that comes to mind is the comfort of being familiar with ones surroundings. At home one knows where things are. At home one knows what to expect. At home familiarity is a comfort and peculiarity is feared. A stranger in your home could be shot in self defense. Strange sounds may mean that something is failing or breaking.

For some, diversity in culture demands accepting something strange and unfamiliar. Seeing people behave in strange and diverse ways pushes the unfamiliar out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Imagine that you had a wagon load of Gypsies living in your street. Or, maybe its Uncle Eddie in his RV. Who lives in the street? Strangers in a strange land. They do things out of the ordinary, and maybe they are a little odd. Why are there laws against people living in the street? Do these people hurt anyone? Even if they did, there are laws against hurting people; why do we need an extra law making living in the street against the law? It is because of fear - the fear of strangers and strange things. Everyone fears things that they believe to be different and unusual. At some point strange becomes frightening.

Fear of the unknown is in conflict with the safety of knowing and understanding. People seek comfort and safety and they fear the danger of the unknown. So, how can the Democrats make diversity feel safe? By its very nature diversity is different and strange. There are different cultures and different lifestyles that seem to threaten those who don’t understand the cultures and lifestyles. And, when those who fear the unknown begin to panic, that panic frightens those who haven’t been thinking about the differences.

The Democrats and those who support diversity have come to an understanding that different ideas are a fertile ground for new innovation. Questioning what has become rigid in the culture is easy for someone who comes from outside the culture. It might be frightening to some, new ways of doing the same old thing leads to better ideas.

When Democrats go through the process of creating a party platform they ask for suggestions from all of the diverse groups that make up the party. Discussion and study result in new and perhaps for some strange ways of looking at the world. Different ideas are debated in public and the general public votes on the issues. Democrats have debates that cover a range of issues and the final tally tells us which ideas the public supports. This is how democracy is supposed to work.

Lately, however, the Republicans have shown the fear side of the equation. At the Republican presidential debates Ron Paul became determined to set himself apart from the rest of the pack. This makes a lot of sense, because if you are an unknown candidate seeking public support your number one way to stand out is to make a controversial statement. The Republican Party has a very strong sense of conformity. Republicans fear things that are out of the ordinary, because they find comfort in the familiar. We see this on other issues as well, particularly the immigration issue. Most Republicans fear immigrants because they don’t understand them. Republicans believe that when two cultures are different one must be right and the other must be wrong.

For conservatives tradition is safe, comforting and familiar. For conservatives new ideas are strange and different which means that they should be feared.

So, how does a democracy deal with a political party that finds innovation a threat? In America the Republican Party goes through the motions of being accepting new ideas. But, in reality there is a script in which every Republican follows. There is slight latitude, those things that are considered acceptable diversity. The range is limited enough to present a belief that there is a diversity, but the range is limited to protect those that find diversity a bit too frightening.

A the recent Republican presidential debates, however, one candidate stepped out from behind the predetermined script. Ron Paul told the truth, at least the way that he sees it. He saw things different than the majority of Republicans at the debate. He broke that familiar taboo of the Republican Party and he suggested that America may have done something to provoke the attack of 9/11/2001. This was unfamiliar and unheard of among the Republican faithful. America is always right and the others that we don’t understand are most often wrong.

So, what have the Republican leaders suggested? They have suggested that Ron Paul, is not really a Republican and he shouldn’t be allowed to be part of the debates. Ron Paul brought a new idea to the table, and many Republicans are calling for him to be disciplined. That is a bit different than discussing the new idea and having the majority vote on the person espousing the idea. Instead, the Republicans are afraid that the idea might be transferred to another candidate like a virus in a sneeze. The whole Party might be infected and who knows what will happen. It is unfamiliar and scary. New ideas need to be stopped. Nip it in the bud, is the Republican Party line. Be safe or be sorry.

Remember that anyone in America can run for president, which is what makes America great. They just can’t do it in the Republican Party. Ron Paul doesn’t agree 100% with the Republican Party platform, but he agrees with even less of the Democrat Party platform. If he wants to be president his only realistic chance would be to run on the Republican Party ticket. Once again it seems like the Republican Party says one thing, but it doesn’t believe what it says. In other words, if someone is closer to the Republican Party than the Democrat Party but they don’t publicly agree with the dogma of the party they could be asked to go find another political party. Now, doesn’t that give you that warm comfortable feeling of safety and security?


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

My First Triathlon

Who signed me up for this crazy thing?

Those were my thoughts when I was running the first mile of the run portion of the triathlon that I just completed yesterday. The first mile of any run always seems to be the worst. I don’t know why that is, but once I get past that first mile my body seems to adapt to the torture that I am demanding from it. So, as always, after that first mile I knew that I could finish the race and become a triathlete.

The morning seemed to be a little cool. I began to worry. Actually my worrying began the night before. Would I remember everything that I needed for this crazy race? I first checked over my bike. The bike was twenty years old, a mountain bike and certainly not the best machine for my adventure. But, I wasn’t going to win the race, after all it was only my first triathlon. I knew that I could do reasonably well in the swimming portion. I also knew that I could do 7:30 minutes/mile in the run, when I was well rested. But, I had no idea what I could do in the bike section. And, it really didn’t matter. I just wanted to try and finish this race, because it seemed to be a challenge that I might be capable of taking and completing.

Two of my children decided that they would wake up early and brave the trip to root me on. I treated them to fresh early morning doughnuts as a reward for their support. We were on the road for the short trip at 6:00 AM. The race was to begin at 7:30, and I really didn’t want to wait around in the cool morning for too long before the race was to start. Timing was everything. I didn’t want to get there to early, and I didn’t want to get there too late. There was an issue with parking. There was an issue with getting marked with numbers and setting up the bike and gear. How long could it take? How early did I really need to get there? I just took a stab in the dark and I guessed just about right.

I knew that my age group was scheduled to take off at 7:55. But, I hadn’t planned on the idea that the transition area would be closed before the actual start of the race. This took away my spare time cushion that I had calculated into my plan. But, as it turned out, I didn’t need the cushion, because everything went fairly smoothly. The only problem that I had was the lack of knowledge on how to set things up in advance. I didn’t know how to attach the number to my bike. And, when I saw that someone had used cable ties to strap the number on I was dismayed to discover that I hadn’t any cable ties. The experienced triathlete told me that he picked them up when he got his packet and pins. But, where was the registration table. Good thing that I had already picked up my packet, because I couldn’t see the registration table anywhere. “They must have taken it down already, since that packet pick up time had passed,” I thought to myself. I asked a few of the volunteers where the cable ties were, but they had no idea what I was talking about. In fact, I was beginning to get nervous, so I didn’t realize that I should have just asked where the packet pick up area was. I found a volunteer that was willing to run around and ask the right people until I was pointed to the registration table that seemed to be hidden behind the toilet area, from my perspective.

As it turned out I had just enough time to attach my number to my bike and realize that I had forgotten my “transition shoes” that we had been told to bring before I needed to get out of the transition area. I sent my kids back to the car to get the shoes while I stripped down to my bathing suit. I was a bit startled to see that over 95% of the athletes had donned their wet suits. I had swum from Alcatraz last year in 55 degree water for nearly 40 minutes, so I thought that a quick dip in 65-70 degree water wouldn’t be a big deal. The swim was 0.75 miles, therefore I guessed that I would be in the water swimming for about twenty minutes. But, the sight of all those wet suits made me fear getting into the water too early. If I wasn’t putting any effort in, then the water might cool me down too quickly before I even got started.

The kids showed up with my shoes and a towel as well. That turned out to be perfect. The idea for this year’s race was to swim around several buoys and back to the boat ramp where the race began. Therefore, placing shoes and a towel at the exit from the water would allow me to dry off a bit as I ran the 300 rocky yards from the water to the transition area. Many people brought flip-flops for this short segment of the race, but I brought beach shoes, which seemed to work just fine. I set the shoes and towel in a place that I hoped to remember when I finished the swim.

I made my way down toward the water and waited until they told us that my age group should enter the water and get ready for the race. I hoped to put off entering the water for as long as possible, because I though the water might be a bit chilly. I watched the first waves of the race first enter the water, wait for the start and then take off when a loud cannon was shot off.

Then I finally made my way into the water, which I was surprised to find was a very comfortable temperature. Now I knew for certain that these guys were nuts for wearing wetsuits in this water. I was so pleased. Unfortunately I couldn’t make out the first buoy that we had to circle. The sun was shining on the water directly in the direction of that mythical buoy. But, I had seen it while I was standing on shore, so I knew that it was real. So, I figured that I would just swim in that direction and occasionally look up to see if I was still headed in the right direction.

The cannon went off, I started my watch and I was off. There were bodies everywhere. I kept looking for some free water to swim in. And, as I swam forward I continued to find people and pass them by. The swimmers had been given bathing caps that corresponded to age group. My age group had yellow. But there was a whole range of colors from the various age groups. There was a buffer time of five minutes between each wave of triathletes. The result was to spread the athletes out, but also allow you to see some of the other people that you are competing against. As I swam the course, however, I continued to run into people the entire time. I passed many of the swimmers in my age group, but I could never get to the front of the pack, because the swimmers from the packs ahead of me fell behind into our group. The only thing that I noticed was that I was passing swimmers with different colored caps by the time that I exited the water. As I walked out of the water I took my split time on my watch, because the official split time was actually at the top of the boat ramp at the entrance to the transition area. I saw that I had 19:30 for 1320 yards, which was a bit slower than what I do in the pool, but with all the people that I had to swim around I thought that it was a fairly good time.

I put my beach shoes on grabbed my towel and dried off as I ran up the ramp. I entered the transition area and dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. I put on my bike helmet and swigged some sports drink. I didn’t really need it, but I worried that I might be sorry if I didn’t drink anything along the way. I had a drink bottle filled and mounted on my bike. It really wasn’t that hot, so I wasn’t too worried.

Now, the biking portion of the race was the most unfamiliar to me. I had done a race called a Paddle-Wheel when this bike was new, about twenty years ago. So, I had done a race with the bike once before. But, the race was fairly short and this time I had to ride 16 miles. I guessed that it would take me about an hour. I hoped that I could do it faster, but I really didn’t have a clue as to how fast I could ride 16 miles on this bike.

In addition to writing your race number on each upper arm, they also wrote your age on your calf. This was interesting, because it allowed me to see who was passing me by in the bike section of this race. Actually, it got to be quite annoying toward the end of this segment when more and more people in my age group continued to pass me by. I finished this section in 1 hour and 2 minutes, which was an average speed of 15.5 miles per hour. Obviously I have some work to do to improve here. But, I wasn’t surprised; I expected this.

I shed the albatross that hung around my neck and took off out the gate of the transition area. I was certainly hopeful that I could do a bit better with the running. Unfortunately the biking had caused some of my muscles to become sore. I began to get some cramps in my lower quads and calves. I worried that this could go wrong if I wasn’t careful. And, that first mile was when I began to doubt whether I could make the rest of the race. I pushed on, trying to stretch each stride all the way. And, as happens many times on the first mile of a run, it was the worst part of the five miles. As I passed the 1-mile mark the cramps had been reduced to a dull pain. I stretched my stride and picked up some speed. I began to pass some of those bikers that had passed me by in the bike ride portion of the race. I always get a more positive feeling when I pass people than when they pass me.

Then it happened. My shoe came untied. I hate it when that happens. I had forgotten to double bow knot my shoes, and I had to stop, and tie my shoe. And when I did a runner passed me by. It only took me five seconds to tie my shoe, but in that five seconds I was passed and it annoyed me. And, as I started running again I renewed my earlier pace. And I discovered that the person who passed me by had virtually the same pace that I was running. This runner wasn’t in my age group, so it didn’t matter much, but having someone with a good pace just in front of you sometimes helps to maintain a good pace. So I followed her all the way to the finish line with a fairly good pace, passing people all along the way.

I finished the race with an overall time of about 2 hours and 7 minutes. I didn’t get the official time, and I actually forgot to stop my watch when I crossed the finish line. The overall experience was very good. I wasn’t tired or sore initially, but as the kids and I walked around the festival area those muscles that were cramping continued to be sore and occasionally cramp up.

I took the conservative approach to this first race. I didn’t take any segment out as fast as I know that I could. The swimming part may have been the closest to an all out effort, but I really wasn’t even winded when I finished it. On the other hand, my muscles certainly felt the cycling section. My 8 minute/mile running pace was slower than my 7:30 minute/mile top pace, but it was certainly respectful considering that I had just swum and ridden for 1 hour and 20 minutes before I even started running.

This first triathlon was a major hurdle for me. But, now that I have done it I look forward to the next challenge, whatever that might be.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Friday, May 18, 2007


You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.

This old adage is the frustration of having experience and not being able to transfer that experience to our children. A parent can talk until they are blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean that their teenaged children will listen or even care about what we have to tell them. They have their own experience and they certainly don’t need to be told about someone else’s experience from some ancient time and place.

To be fair, I didn’t always listen to my parents when I was a teenager either. I can remember disagreements and fights over our views of the world. I knew how life was, and they only knew how it once was. I now understand how my parents sought to protect me, but I also know that their protection usually interfered with my exploration of the world.

I now have teenaged children who are equally excited about exploring the world and learning about what it has to offer. This simple act of exploration has inherent risks with that exploration. For example, my son might be determined to learn what he can about the military and be lead forward to join the military, fight in Iraq and even be killed. Similarly he could be determined to explore the drug culture, the gangster world or other equally dangerous places. We fear that our children may be taken advantage of, but we also know if we don’t let them go out and explore they will never rise to their full potential.

Investment managers always explain that greater risk often results in higher yields. The stock market has a higher potential and also a higher risk to your investment than the safe investment of assured interest on a bank deposit. Similarly, I believe, that allowing our children to explore the world will result in higher returns of useful experience. Even mistakes and failures will result in useful experience. But, as we all know, some risks are just not worth taking.

I read the blog of a fellow parent a while back. He was worried about his son’s decision to enter the military. The military is certainly a risky investment. The experience of discipline and the benefit of learning new skills are quite beneficial for personal development. I have seen people turned around and transformed by military experience. I have also known the damage done by the military to people who had once been whole both mentally and physically. The military certainly falls into the category of high risk with a potential of high return.

At this time my son is not interested in a career in the military. If he were, I know that I wouldn’t be able to talk him out of it.

The problem is that my son has developed a liking to a girl. This in and of itself is not a problem. The problem is that this girl is having a “bad” influence on my son. She is a member of another church. She has invited and my son has accepted her invitation to this church. Well, this actually makes sense to me, based on the way that we have restricted his social life. He is not allowed to go out on dates, but he is allowed to go to “activities.” This is normal for teens of his age. If I was in his place I would have been attending the school dances instead, but he has chosen to follow the object of his desire to church.

Well, as it turns out the church that he is attending is quite conservative. They prayed for the dearly departed Jerry Falwell at the last meeting. They are teaching him how to reconcile the differences between the two creation stories in the Bible in order to understand that there is no contradiction in the Bible. These things may be harmless, but they could also lead him into a life of blind following and non-questioning that I deathly fear as a parent. I want my children to continue to question and wonder, search and discover. I worry that my son may fall for a preacher that claims to have all the answers. With all the answers, why would someone question anything?

For the most part it seems to me that things could be worse. My son could be exposing himself to a multitude of other health risks that are quite obviously dangerous. But as a protective parent to some degree I also worry about his spiritual health. I want him to be exposed to different ways of thinking about the world, but I worry about him losing his objectivity and curiosity. In a way spiritual health might be more of a risk than physical health in some cases. And, if we think of cults like Jim Jones’ The People's Temple, spirituality can also effect mental and physical health in very dangerous ways. I would even venture to guess that there are people who believe that being a member of the “wrong” religion would like to eternal damnation.

So, as a parent who cares about the well being of my son, what should I do? Should I treat his pursuit of this girl into the conservative church as a learning experience and pray that the risk is worth the potential gain. I can pray that he can see through the preacher and take what he says with a grain of salt. Or, should I confront my son after every meeting and ask him what he has heard so that I can argue with the preacher through the head of my son? Or, should I just not worry and pray that things work out the way that God intended them to work out?

Raising an open-minded child means that they must be exposed to things that you disagree with. They must see the good and the bad and be able to judge the difference. I can understand why conservatives might not like their children to be exposed to the vast array of possibilities in the world, because they might not choose what they hope that they would choose. If their children learn about sex they might think about sex. And, we all know that thinking about sex is a sin to some.

An open-minded person is certainly a high reward, but exposure to the world is the risk that we as parent must take in order to raise one. I believe that the risk is worth the potential return on investment.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What is Corruption?

Any dictionary will offer multiple definitions of the word corrupt. Both as a verb or as a noun you are not likely to find any definition that someone would wish to live up to. “Marked by immorality and perversion; depraved,” is one entry in the Yahoo dictionary.

“Venal; dishonest,” “To destroy or subvert the honesty or integrity of,” “To ruin morally; pervert,” are some of the others.

However, the term corruption in the context of politics is defined more specifically. Wikipedia goes into some extensive detail on the subject.

I know that many out there don’t believe Wikipedia, because of its liberal leanings. So, I went over to Conservapedia to get the low down on the Conservative’s point of view on political corruption. Apparently they haven’t heard about political corruption yet. This could be because the conservatives are currently the Party of Corruption, therefore it serves their interest to ignore it.

It used to be a hall mark of our great democracy in the United States that we only had minor feats of corruption on the level of individual politicians. For the most part, the United States was noted for their easy and efficient flow of the economy because of its lack of corruption. Third World countries on the other had were noted for their tedious and labor intensive economic systems where every palm along the way needed to be greased before anything could be done. It was like a tax at every station along a route, making every transaction impossibly expensive. Only those in the system could benefit, while all others were taxed by the corruption.

Favoritism was one of the major symptom of corruption. And, many governments have slowly fought corruption to the point of economic good times. Europe, Japan, and a few other systems have almost completely broken the hold of corruption. Even Mexico and Brazil have made progress. And, one of the reasons for this progress has been the peer pressure exerted on those with problems by those with smaller problems. The United States had used its position at the World Bank to impress this issue on those that it deemed weaker and unable to break this damaging cycle.

So, it seems ironic to me that the United States would support a person like Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank after being caught in an obviously intentional corrupt action of favoritism. We have such little credibility as it is. How are we going to be able to look at some of these third world countries and there corrupt leaders and tell them to straighten up and fly right? We certainly could not have Paul Wolfowitz do it. We could not use the example of our non-corrupt actions as a proof that a non-corrupt economy functions better than a corrupt one. And, the long we allow Paul Wolfowitz to remain in that position the less credibility we will have.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Friday, May 11, 2007

Not Invincible

Logically I know that no one is immortal. Personally, I know that I am not invincible. But, sometimes something gets into your head and you do something that your rational self would never let you do. Then after the inevitable disaster strikes you realize how stupid you were for not listening to yourself.

Well, this happened to me about a month ago, in grand form. I have been too embarrassed to write about it, but now I have come to look back on it and laugh.

When the kids were off from school for Easter break we decided to take in some family activities. We did things that we love to do, but generally have a hard time finding that time to do them. We went to the beach at low tide and hunted in the tide pools for starfish, sea urchins and other interesting sea life. We went to the Art Museum to admire the talent and imagination that humanity has to offer. And, we went ice-skating.

I actually hadn’t been ice-skating for about ten years. The last time we went the kids that we did have were very young and unstable on the ice. I spent most of my time holding them up and pulling them around the rink. Now, however, I had teenaged children and a new body that could do some of the things I couldn’t have imagined doing ten years ago when I was over weight and out of shape.

As our family emerged out on the ice most of us were quite wobbly. One of my daughters had more experience out on the ice than the rest of us, because she had spent a few hours at a birthday party held at a skating rink. I slowly began to remember my balance, starting and stopping skills. I actually hadn’t done a lot of ice skating as a youngster. However, I did my share of roller-skating throughout the years, so the ice wasn’t completely new to me.

As I became more stable I began to try some of the things that I had done when I was in High School. I slowly increased my speed and I started to skate backward around the rink. I was being a responsible adult among a sea of kids, until a couple of teenaged hockey players came out on the ice in their pads and helmets. They began practicing some speed drills and quick stops. Unfortunately I began to watch them more carefully and it looked like it might be a lot of fun.

I began to do some quick starts and stops. Of course, as I increased my speed I became wobbly once again. I practiced this a little, but I kept adding speed. I hadn’t fallen, so I figured that I wasn’t too far off the mark After all, how can you improve if you don’t reach for your limits. This rationalization made sense to my brain that was already critically warped by speed.

Once the dominos were all lined up there wasn’t anything that could stop me from falling down. I started out going around the end of the rink picking up speed. And there was a long straight away as I came out of it. “How fast could I go?” I thought to myself. I picked up speed and my heart began to pump. But this was a breeze for someone who could now run a 10K three times a week. Unfortunately finesse and aerobic fitness do not come in the same package. My skate began to wobble and I over corrected. My body went flying forward through the air. Fortunately no one was in front of me. I landed hard right on my elbows. And both of my elbows hurt quite a bit. I got up and looked around. Everything was blurry. Did I bang my head? Did I have brain damage? No, I just lost my glasses. I turned around and saw them lying on the ice. They were bent, but not broken, just like me. After that and some previous exertion I noticed that I had become quite warm, so I removed the jacket that I was wearing. I skated around the rink, found my wife and told her about my wipe out. I pledged to slow down and concentrate on finesse instead of speed for a while. My sore elbows emphasized that desire.

I skated around working on my backward skating and I talked to my wife. I lost my need for speed, and I was happy but my elbows continued to hurt. Some ten or fifteen minutes later my wife suddenly said, “What’s wrong with your arm?”

“I told you about the crash and burn on my elbows. Why?”

“Well, your shirt is covered in blood.”
I began to wonder how I could have cut myself. I was wearing a leather coat. So even if I hit something sharp on the ice, how could I have been cut without ripping my coat? I wondered about that as I went into the men’s room to look at the damage in the mirror. I had a gash about 0.75 inches long and about a half inch deep. I put a paper towel on it and left the men’s room. And as I watched the kids continue to skate for another 45 minutes. But my arm continued to bleed. When the public skating session was over my wife, the CERT in the family said, “It hasn’t stopped bleeding in over an hour. You need stitches.”

Of course I became embarrassed immediately. How could this small indiscretion, my need for speed, turned into a trip to the doctor? I wrestled with the concept of getting sutures for a tiny cut like this. Being on my elbow, it would continue to open every time I bent my elbow. It wouldn’t stop bleeding. Obviously there was only one solution that made sense. And, since it was now After five o’clock we opted for a trip to the urgent care.

I didn’t want the doctor to laugh at me, but I knew that when I told him what had happened she would. Maybe if a nurse checked it out first? Then he would just put a Band-Aid on it and be done. No, she just said that it looked like it might need sutures, but the doctor would decide for certain. He took my vital signs, and discovered that my pulse was 43 beats per minute. He asked me if I exercised regularly. To which I told him that I did. “But, is your pulse normally this low?”

“I have seen it this low before, but normally it is a bit higher. Maybe 50 or so.”

I was told that I needed a tetanus vaccination, which would be painful. Like I didn’t have enough pain already! But, better do what the doctor (or nurse) says. Right? Well, the doctor wasn’t quite available yet. I’d just have to wait. And, a few hours later I had two sutures in punishment for my little indiscretion. Maybe the social conservatives are right. Maybe people should be punished for their indiscretions.

No, that doesn’t make any sense.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

USA Helicopter Gunmen Kill Children in an Iraqi School

Put yourself in the shoes of an Iraqi mother. She sends her children off to school hoping and praying that they return in the afternoon. Does she fear the insurgents who might send a suicide bomber into their school? Perhaps. Does she fear that a US helicopter might open fire on the school. Maybe not before today, but after this incident she might have a change of mind.

Maybe the US is justified in opening fire on insurgents that seek refuge in the Iraqi schools. But, I’m guessing that American parents might object to Police raids on US schools, even to break up gangs and drug dealers (the scum of the Earth). America is not going to win the Public Relations war if they keep doing this! And, we should have learned by now that Guerilla wars are won by PR and not by gun fire.

US attack 'kills Iraqi children'


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Do the Math, or By the Numbers

The whole nutrition, diet, exercise, and health “problems” continues to baffle me.

For example, I continue to be amazed that I put on fifty pounds in less than twenty years. But, if you think about it that’s only a little more than two pounds per year. And, since we know that one pound of body fat is about 3500 calories. So, putting on an additional two and one half pounds in a year means that one would basically need to over eat just 8750 calories per year, or just 24 calories per day.

Twenty-four calories is almost nothing! And, since a person’s metabolism slows gradually as one ages it wouldn’t be unlikely that a person would eat the same amount of food over the years and as they age begin to put on weight.

One the other hand, twenty-four calories is almost nothing. That means that if a person would like to continue eating the same amount of food every day, then they just need to do a little bit more physical work to make up for the difference in metabolic rate. For example, walking at a brisk pace for 15 minutes would easily burn 25 calories.

But, what generally happens is more extreme than just a change in metabolic rate and the continuation of the status quo. In fact, people tend to be less physical as they age. You don’t usually see middle aged people out in the park throwing the Frisbee around. Hiking, biking, playing softball and even going for a swim tend to be things that the young tend to do more than the rest of us. So, sitting around watching TV and snacking at the same time tends to put those extra pounds on most of us.

Obviously it is easy to fall into the habit of coming home from a stressful day and flip on the TV and crash on the couch. Everything else seems to take effort. And stress tends to motivate us to take “down time.” The problem is that “down time” tends to be zero physical activity time. And, “down time” also means that we seek things that we hope will make the stress go away - things that make us feel good. Obviously when an “out-of-shape” person decides to make some effort they quickly learn that their body isn’t used to the physical stress. And, physical stress on top of daily stress tends to de-motivate many of us.

But, upping the activity level doesn’t mean that you need to start training for a marathon. Upping the activity level just means - go out and do something physical. Hiking, biking, and even gardening can help. But, by gardening I would suggest using the manual hedge clippers and manually walk around the yard pruning. Turn the soil by hand and carefully nurture your plants. Burn some calories. Just burning 50 to 100 addition calories per day will put you back on track and stop the endless weight gain.

Of course many people have slipped quite a ways down that path into the heavy weight kingdom. I know from personal experience that it isn’t hard to “suddenly” find yourself “fat” and “out of shape.” When you finally discover this you may need to do more than burn an additional 100 calories per day. And, based on how overweight you are and how fast you are willing to loose the weight, then more drastic measures are needed.

Starvation seems to be the course that many people opt for. I can understand the logic. People think that doing nothing is better than doing something. So, obviously eating nothing is easier than doing exercise. Unfortunately this logic needs to deal with the real world. Our bodies do not like starvation. Nature tells us that we need to eat. If we don’t eat, then we begin to crave food. This natural urge increases until it is satisfied. In fact, the urge may become so strong that it actually requires one to overeat before the urge is satisfied.

If we assume that a normal healthy person requires about 1500 calories per day for basic metabolic stability, then eating this amount one would not feel the urge to eat more, and one would neither gain nor lose weight. Starvation means eating substantially less than this amount, which brings on the hunger pangs and urge to eat.

Now, I personally lost my fifty pounds of fat over a period of 18 months. If one would try to loose fifty pound over 18 months, then they would need to eat less than calories required the metabolic rate for the entire 18 months. Since we know that one pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories; then 50 pounds of fat is 175,000 calories. And there are approximately 550 days in 18 months. So, that means that one would need to starve themselves by eating 320 calories less than 1500 calories every day for 18 months. Or, a person simply needs to eat about 1180 calories per day for 18 months to loose 50 pounds. But, remember that 1500 calories is actually about a hundred calories below what I was eating and gaining 2.5 pounds per year. So, 1180 calories is bound to put any normal person into starvation and craving mode. Could a normal person maintain these cravings and urges for one month let alone 18 months? And, many people are unhappy with loosing weight so slowly over a long period of time. But, in order to loose 50 pounds in six months one would need to eat 640 calories less or only 540 calories per day. For a reference point, 540 calories is about 3 sodas. Obviously no one could survive on three sodas per day, because there wouldn’t be any nutritional value in that sort of diet. But, how could anyone maintain nutrition and eat only 540 calories per day?

No wonder people find it so hard to loose weight. Loosing 50 pounds over 18 months of starvation would be frustrating, because the rate is so slow that there is little encouragement to suffer the starvation any longer. Trying to loose the weight even faster results in even stronger urges to eat something. And, the body also craves particular nutrition, in which 540 calories per day may not easily provide. Even eating only low sugar vegetables might not be enough to overcome the cravings for carbohydrates, protein and vitamins.

However, there is another way. The way that I lost 50 pounds in 18 months was to burn an additional 345 calories per day for 18 months. At least that’s the way I figured it. I had to loose 175,000 calories worth of fat. Over 18 months that works out to 320 calories per day, like I wrote above. But, I also had to compensate for the 25 calories per day that I had been overeating. I didn’t change my diet at all. Of course I was eating fairly well, just a bit more than I should have been eating.

I did this by exercising every day for one hour come hell or high water. I simply chose to go to the gym every morning and swim for one hour. At first I was in fairly poor shape and swimming 2000 yards took the entire hour. But, as time went by I worked myself up to swimming about 4200 yards in an hour with some variations. Slowly I added running and weight lifting as well. But, my main theme was swimming - every day. Of course I missed days occasionally, for illness or family reasons. But the default was going to the gym every morning. And, after 18 months I was down to 145 pounds and a 28-inch waist. And, I never starved myself.

And, now it is an additional 18 months later. And, I am happy to say that I now weigh about 155 pounds. But I still have that 28-inch waist. But, of course weight isn’t everything. I believe that the additional 10 pounds has come from additional muscle mass that I have put on in the last 18 months. I am certainly stronger than I was 18 months ago. But, saying that I lost fifty pounds isn’t quite right any more, so I just don’t talk about it. Except right here in this blog.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Monday, May 07, 2007

Triathlon Fever

If its not one thing, then its another. I just did a crazy thing and now I am wondering if I did the right thing. Was I right or was I wrong? I can’t stop thinking about it. I acted out of a spur of the moment flash of craziness, and now I wonder if I’m going to regret it in the morning.

I did it! I signed up for a triathlon. It was serendipity. I saw a running magazine sitting on the desk. It had been sitting there for a couple of months. I thought that I might throw it away, in a half-hearted effort to straighten the room. But, I thought that I might page through it just to see if anything interesting happened to pop out at me. And, it did. The magazine had a calendar that went to the end of May, featuring some local races. And, I saw that there was a triathlon just down the road a piece in just a couple of weeks. So, I logged on to their web page and signed up for it.

Now, I am wondering if I did the right thing. I know that I can do each of the legs of the race individually. I can swim 0.75 of a mile no sweat. I normally swim 2 miles every morning. I also know that I can run 5 miles with my eyes closed. I am pretty sure that I can ride 16 miles on a bike. I nearly ran that far yesterday. But, can I do all of those things right after another without taking a break? Can I even compete in the bike section with my old beat up Schwinn Mountain Bike? And, the most important question: Why did I sign up for this crazy race?

Well, after swimming from Alcatraz last year I have been thinking about doing that again. I saw that they had a more interesting race, which is to swim from Alcatraz, then run across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. That sounded like an interesting race. But, they also have an Alcatraz triathlon. But, I wasn’t sure if I could do the bike section of the race. It always seemed like the bike section was so much further than the other pieces of the race. It always seemed like the bike ride was the race, with the swimming and running just tacked onto either end.

So, I thought that I might just do a triathlon just to assure myself that it is possible to do. The Alcatraz race is longer than the one I signed up for. I figure that if I get a taste of the triathlon idea, then I could decide which race I should do during the summer. Of course, it may turn out that the race will be sold out by the time I decide. But, in any case I’ll at least have the experience of one triathlon under my belt.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Political Heroes

Some stories are only for entertainment, and some stories are meant to teach us a lesson. At least that is what we have been lead to believe for the last fifty years or so. However, when we look for the stories that are only meant to entertain us we almost always find some thoughtful instructive lessons in those stories regardless of their entertainment purpose.

When we watch a cowboy movie we almost always enjoy the meaning when the white hats triumph over the black hats. When we watch a science fiction thriller we either learn what might happen if we are not careful or we learn what could happen if we persevere and innovate. The lessons are out there.

Every author or artist has created a stories interlaced with the lessons that he or she wishes to convey. Even if the lesson is that the Pizza Boy sometimes gets a break, the message is out there whether we agree with it or not. In fact, the point is that sometimes we might disagree with a particular message and we might shun particular stories because of our disagreement.

I can imagine many stories told by many people with messages that disagree with my world view. I believe that all people should be respected, therefore I would find a story with a message of singling out a particular group and subjecting them to mental or physical torture because they are different to be particularly repugnant. And, I could also imagine stories that teach that breaking religious laws have no consequences might be a distasteful message for those of us who are religious.

However, we are all human and we all look at the world from different perspectives. Stories teach us lessons as they inform us about these particular perspectives.

When I was very I young I was told that it was a sin to steal. Being a child I could understand that there was “good” and there was “bad,” and stealing came under the category of “bad.” But I was also told a story about a man who was so poor that he couldn’t feed his family. He lived in a town where everyone was poor and they could not afford to hire him because they were just barely feeding themselves. So, the man resorts to stealing bread from the people in the town. The man eventually creates a business and becomes a town leader and he is able to change the course of the whole town through his leadership. The message here is that sometimes doing the wrong thing may result in something good. Or put more simply the ends justifies the means. If the man had followed the rules and not stolen the food he would have died and never change the course of the town’s history. Benefiting himself, his family and his town resulted in a greater good for the greater number of people. And, many people are not happy with the message of this story.

Another author might justify the extermination of a whole group of people with some benefit resulting from this extermination. And, that message could also be interpreted as the ends justifying the means. So, obviously placing the results above the method of achieving those results is a very slippery slope indeed.

Even if you agree with the message of the man stealing to provide for his family the message may result in unintended consequences for our entire society. For example, if we send out this message we may not realize that the people across our border are only trying to survive. These people break the law to cross our border not unlike the man in the story breaks the law to feed his family. But, we should realize that it is human nature to do whatever one can to survive as an individual and also as a family. The preservation of the individual and the family will rise above any arbitrary law put in the way of survival. Even the far right survivalists know this, because they practice it themselves. And, as long as economic conditions south of our border continue to put people in survival mode we can expect that those people will not be stopped by our efforts to put laws in their way. And, when we tell stories that emphasize family values such as the man stealing to feed his family we are saying that we agree that some laws should be broken if it is justified.

The message of the story has always been the most important part of the story for me. If the story’s message disagrees with my personal perspective, then I find the story problematic. Some stories don’t seem to make the effort to make a worthwhile or meaningful message. Some messages are trite and pointless. Even if the storytelling is interesting I loose interest if the message isn’t compelling. Sometimes I find a very poorly filmed movie to be quite intriguing when the message is compelling.
Maybe the message generated by the TV show “Heroes” is why I am so compelled to tune it in each week to this show. But, exactly what are the messages generated by this show? The obvious one would be that ordinary people can be special. Everyone wants to believe this message, so this message has broad appeal. But, the show generates more than this obvious surface message. For example, Hiro’s ability to travel through time and Isaac’s ability to see the future offer’s a message of questioning, “Are you doing what you can to make a better future?” But, there are so many characters with so many powers, and how they choose to use those powers furthers additional messages. “Should you hide your special ability so that you don’t stand out?” “What is more important, the individual or the society?” And, the always important, “Does the ends justify the means?”

The messages of the show are in the form of questions, because the show actually tries to make you think or imagine what you would do in each of these people’s situation. This is truly a sign of good storytelling, but it is good storytelling with good messaging.

The story makes it clear that learning how to do something is never easy. This meshes well with the reality that we face every day. As we acquire new technology that should make our lives a little easier we struggle to learn to use this new technology. Some of us have problems learning to set the clock on the VCR, while some of us are struggling with writing e-mail or downloading music. Still others have progressed further more quickly.

In fact, Heroes might be a metaphor for the Internet age. The special people are those who have taken to the Internet. Not all of those who use the web use the same aspects of the web. However, some people learn from those who excel at various aspects of the web and are eager to become powerful users of the web. And, others like Sylar have embraced power with a greed for more power and he has taken this new power to the extreme like the Internet hackers who continue to write and spread viruses around the web for both fun and profit. Is this a message for us today?

I particularly liked this week’s episode that showed how the future had evolved despite Hiro’s effort to change the future. But, this week’s episode also sent another message of how those with power can manipulate the American people. I haven’t read anywhere yet as to how the liberal media was using this show to parody the evil in the White House. But, I am certain that I won’t need to wait too long before I hear that accusation. After the release of Star Wars Episode III people were telling us how George Lucas must have a vendetta for the president even though George Lucas had written the story long before the Bush presidency. But, Heroes was written during this administration and post 9/11. There isn’t any question here that the intention is to send another message to the American people asking them to please wake up and consider thinking before you vote.

It is quite certain that Heroes could never be reality. We don’t watch shows like this in order to learn about reality. Instead Heroes is a story with modern everyday messages that we can use if we take the time to think about those messages. Well, actually some of these messages will seep into your sub-conscience and like the story of the man stealing the bread for his family they might make you think about what you might do in order to survive in the real world.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Patriotic Fervor

As a child I was taught to be patriotic. On a trip to Boston I came home with a three cornered hat that I was proud to wear. I loved hearing the story of Paul Revere riding through the Boston countryside warning the people to protect themselves from the evil English soldiers. I learned many stories of many American heroes from before the Revolution until the present day. Neil Armstrong was an American hero that risked his life to set foot on the Moon for our country. (…and mankind as well.)

No matter what we studied it seemed that America was the land of heroes and it couldn’t do anything wrong.

My childhood occurred throughout the turbulent 1960s, and my story of American history and my experience of real life didn’t seem to mesh quite right. At eight I made it a habit to flash the peace sign from the car, or bus where ever I went. When I went home I could be found playing “Grand Ol’ Flag” or riding around with that three cornered hat on. We waved the American flag at parades and we flashed the peace sign to everyone that passed. And we always went to church and prayed for peace in Vietnam. This was the America that I knew. But, I never saw the heroes that I knew must be out their somewhere.

Actually, the question of who the heroes were was never quite answered while I was growing up. Were the heroes the people who wanted to end the needless death in Vietnam, or were they the people who bravely fought against the Communists who would take all of our personal possessions away from us? What is more important, saving our property, or the lives of people we didn’t even know?

As a child the answer didn’t come so clearly. We were told that our country was worth fighting for, even dying for. But, our country didn’t seem to care very much for the loss of life as they carpet bombed Vietnam. When the hatred of an American general saying that the Air Force would bomb the Vietcong back to the stone age my heart believed that my country was wrong. But, how could I remain patriotic and be against the evil my country was doing in my name? Personally I found it difficult to cope with. But, I finally was able to create a bubble where the Vietnam War was caused by evil people who had taken control of our government. Obviously the strength of America was its ability to regain control when these things happened. Surely the American people would rise up and take the power away from those who were doing this. But the government was reelected in 1972 by a landslide and my hope faded away. Where were the heroes that could save America from this evil?

Well, it took another two years for the American people to see the “real” Richard M Nixon when they learned how he cheated in that election. Americans hate cheats even more than murderers, so the evil government was finally forced to fall and the American people finally prevailed. And there were American heroes that were able to bring this about. It took longer than I had hoped, but the American system proved itself.

Unfortunately I was never forced to see America as it truly is, a mixture of both good and bad. Vietnam was not the first bad thing that America had ever done. No, America is like many other countries in the world where the government can do either good or bad and get away with it. During World War II America had done quite a bit more damage than was needed both in Europe and in Asia. I think that only those living in a fantasy world where they believe that America is flawless could come to any other conclusion. Americans may believe that America always aims for the “least bad” choice, but Americans are human and these personal flaws will always lead to the possibility of even greater flaws. And, when every American is not vigilant then these flawed actions may become reality.

Obviously this only makes sense. When no one is watching the hen house the fox will get in and eat the chickens. In this metaphor the congress is played by the foxes while we the American people are the farmers. And, just like the farmers we don’t want to waste the time and effort sitting in front of a hen house doing nothing but watching. When the foxes tell us not to worry because they will watch it for us, we become fooled and happily give the watch duty to the foxes who promptly do what they want with the chickens inside. Now, if we know in advance that some of the foxes want chickens and another group just wants the eggs, which foxes should we allow full reign at the hen house? And, that seems to be what the American people have done in our situation.

As a child I was taught that patriotism was “good.” How could anyone go wrong in supporting America, because America was “good?” And, what better place to prove your patriotism than in a war? If you are patriotic then wouldn’t you be willing to sacrifice yourself for your country? Of course, you would! In fact, the more patriotic that you are, then the less likely you would be to question the motives of your country. At least this is what many people believe about patriotism.

The truth is much more complex. As I have learned, a true patriot questions. This is because a true patriot is concerned with his or her country at a personal level. A true patriot examines what his or her country does or does not do, and he or she works to make the country do what is right. A true patriot knows that the government is not the same as the country. A true patriot does what he or she can to make the country better, and that does not mean to follow the leaders blindly. When the leaders are wrong the true patriot needs to make that clear to the leaders. And truly patriotic leaders will listen to the people.

Today we have a situation where the leaders of our country have lead us down the wrong path. These leaders are convinced that the path continues on to some promised land. And our leaders believe that they are right and they have stopped listening to the people. Obviously these leaders have lost their patriotism, but they complain that the people who disagree with them have lost their patriotism. We are standing on the path and we are arguing about who is right. Is it the leader or the people? The choice is clear, go forward or find another way. And, in the slow Democratic process we may end up waiting for the next leader to be chosen before we make any more progress in the wrong direction. We are vulnerable as we stay camped out on this path, but at least we have been able to stop moving in the wrong direction.


Don't forget what Stephen Colbert said, "Reality has a well-known liberal bias."

Cross Posted @ Bring It On, tblog, Blogger and BlogSpirit