Friday, May 30, 2008

This may be risky

If you are a reader of my blog who is a member, was a member, or is interested in or has some connection to the Churches of Christ of the American Restoration Movement, then click here and tell me if this is worth it.

Achtung Baby

What is the cost of paying attention to something that has no value or something that you do not care about?

What is the cost of doing this frequently?

I have a problem. I am curious and interested in many, many things. That's not the problem. The problem is that I have a hard time getting over my initial fascination with something such that it is eventually discarded. It just lingers in my emotional space. It take up space on my psychological hard drive.

I have a hard time prioritizing what it is that I care about. I think that it is safe to say that I actually care about fewer things than I am interested in. It is also safe to say that I have hard time differentiating between care and interest.

How do you make decisions about what to pay attention to and how do you actually pull it off?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What Happened

I find the story of Scott McClellan (Bush's former press Secretary) to be a fascinating and sobering one. His new book, What Happened, is not the story I am talking about, per se. The story I am talking about is the story of a man wrapped in a story.

It seems to me that McClellan wants to be a good man and tries to be a good man by way of the virtue of trust. Trust is essential in relationships, as I have made mention of before, but without wisdom, trust is vulnerable to be the means by which someone is led down a road a great evil. Trust is vulnerable to the story it finds itself in.

McClellan made the case with Meredith Viera on the Today Show that he was essentially within a story, a narrative which was powerful and convincing. As I listened to him explain what it was like to be within that story - to be part of that story - I had compassion on him. He was so into the story that his trust of the narrative, his trust of the storytellers themselves really, clouded his judgment. In an effort to be good by way of trust, he found, upon further reflection, that he was actually evil by way of trust.

Naive? A dupe? Maybe, but I think it is more complex than that. He is trying to be a good man in the best way he knows. The story he kept hearing, the storytellers he kept listening to, were so believable that he believed them. Not believing them meant violating his own virtue. Not exactly a good place to be in.

He appears to be coming clean in this book. But I just don't think he is outside of the story. Oh, he may be outside of the Bush story, but he is now entangled in another unwholesome story. The publishing business has a narrative as well. I think he is trying to be good by telling his story, finally, but I believe the publishing narrative has sucked him in. He said on national TV that his publisher is not profit motivated. His publisher is his new storyteller. They most likely wrapped his book deal in all kinds of virtuous language. McClellan is doing good in the wrong direction once again.

But I have compassion for him because I must now reflect on the stories being told to me and who the storytellers are that I listen to. McClellan's story is everyone's story. Is there anyone who knows truth so clearly, so perfectly, so unbiased that they can bypass the way a story is told? Can anyone control for the bias of the storyteller? Can we even identify the storytellers in our lives - or do we just know things and know truth? I don't do this very well if at all. Do you?

This world is a place where at least a few truths exists and there is an onslaught of lies being told about the truth. Almost everything we hear, see, and experience is a story being told by a stroyteller. We are not only wrapped in layers and layers of narratives, we are writing a bit of our own, but probably less than we think we are.

Courage and wisdom are the keys to writing a truly honest narrative as opposed to parroting the narratives packaged by the storytellers out there.

I pray for this kind of courage and wisdom.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Identity Development

A few months ago, I was walking in a very ordinary place for me to be walking, a place which has become quite familir to me over the past couple years. Only on this one specific time when I walked through this place, a unique thought entered my mind. It went like this:

"The purpose of my life is to heal and to heal."

Written, this statement looks like it has a grammar problem. It does not. The first "to heal" is the purpose I am moved to which is to heal up my wounds. I am to rest and take care of myself. I am to confront/embrace/carry/transform the grief which lingers two years after my father's death. I am to explore limits, but carefully. I am to acknowledge the self-defeating messages stuffed in the cracks of my life and expose them. I am to walk when I don't believe I can. I am to find my loneliness and give it a friend. I have much healing to do.

The second "to heal" has to do with my relationship with other people. I am to find ways to help others do what I am doing. In fact, I am to do my healing with other wounded people. My healing helps their healing and their healing helps my healing. I am to heal with healing people.

It is not within my realm to accomplish anything fully prior to beginning to help others begin accomplishing their goals, their healing. I must be doing it myself in order to be doing it with them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I don't like gas at $4.00 a gallon as much as the next person. I am also going to be the one who admits that I do not understand the complexities of market forces as it relates to resource scarcity. So, anything I say here is not to be taken as fact or even informed hypothesizing. This is more or less supposing and chasing a what if.

So, let's consider that China and India are consuming more oil there are refining strains. Let's also assume that the idea that carbon emmissions are actually hurting the earth is being taken seriously be more and more politicians - even George Bush. Let's also assume that it is possible that George Bush understands how power mechanisms work, especially within a market system.

OK, with all of that in place, is it possible that Bush has seen a "win-win" for all parties involved (or maybe himself) as it relates to the oil industry?

There are many who take on the view that the solution to high gas prices is high gas prices. Moral or environmental arguments do not work as quickly or as broadly as economic motivation. Pocket book arguments (raise gas prices) is more convincing than any of these other arguments.

Let's assume Bush recognizes the power mechanism of economic motivation and allows prices to rise by not putting any real pressure on the supply side of oil (fake requests to Saudis for more oil), not actively promiting new exploration, having no energy policy, allowing oil companies to ride on the tail of oil speculators to artificially inflate oil prices, and at the same time throw out stimulus money which will only go right back into the oil industry.

At the same time as Bush is actively and passively asstintg oil prices to rise, he can talk green and promote new technologies. He can act on both sides of the issue. He can say "we're addicted to oil" as if that were bad and then help fill oil industry leader's pockets.

So for Bush it is win-win. If high gas prices are the cure for high gas prices because they motivate conservation and new non-oil dependent technologies, Bush can take credit for promoting new technology and green living. If, however, high gas prices do not promote new technology, Bush and sit back with his oil buddies taking in their congratulations for the boon.

Since Bush's approval rating couldn't get any lower than it is already, from his perspective, there is nothing to lose.

OK, that is oil for dummies. Any thoughts?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Minnehaha Falls

This is Minnehaha Falls. It is located in a huge park inside the Minneapolis city limits. Minnehaha Creek flows from Lake Minnetonka (a Minneapolis suburb) to the Mississippi River, the border of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Now, how many major cities can boast a waterfall of this magnitude within its city limits? This is just the kind of thing that keeps Minnesotans in Minnesota. It is such a great place to be.

The park was packed today. The smell of chicken, hamburger, and bratwurst smoking on the grills filled the air. People gathered around picnic tables, laughing and smiling, glad they were not at work or attending to daily problems. The aroma, enticing, whetted our appetites for our own grilling activites, which were a few hours away.

There is an area below the falls and down the creek a little ways that widens and shallows enough to wade in and play in. This is also the place where there is an annual baptismal service for Solomon's Porch. It is a really cool venue for such an event.
The kids loved the creek and played in it.
Today was a good day. Nature. Family. Play.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

AI: George Michael

Well, I picked the wrong David as the AI winner. Curses! Oh well, anyway, Good Luck David Cook. Congrats!

My favorite part of the show was George Michael. He sang which is by far his best and most thoughtful and critical songs - Praying for Time.

Although he appeared to have some earpiece trouble and didn't sing it his best (though his voice still sounds like him unlike Barry Gibb's train wreck last year), he still has a sense about him that there could be redemption for him. He has had so much trouble in his life, much of his own making. I imagine that this is man who suffers from his own demons and yet rallies with tremendous courage. I like that he is making an attempted comback. There is sensitive kind of heroism about this man.

You see, when George Michael tries, he has an incredible sense of contriteness, justice and, raw honesty. Certainly his Listen Without Prejudice album tops all others. I was glad to see him sing his best and most thoughtful song in front of his biggest audience ever. He brought Paula to tears (arguably not really a good measure for anything) and showed that he may still have a soul.

If you click on the Amazon MP3 button on the top of the right sidebar you can get a flavor for the best of George Michael's best music. Below are some lyrics that give me some hope. You could intepret them as the prayer of a man broken before God.

Waiting (Reprise)

Well there ain't no point in moving on
Until you've got somewhere to go
And the road that I have walked upon
Well it filled my pockets
And emptied out my soul

All those insecurities
That have held me down for so long
I can't say i've found a cure for these
But at least i know them
So they're not so strong

You look for your dreams in heaven
But what the hell are you supposed to do
When they come true?
Well there's one year of my life in the songs
And some of them are about you

Now i know there's no way i can write those wrongs
Believe meI would not lie you've hurt my pride
And I guess there's a road without you
But you once said
There's a way back for every man
So here i am
Don't people change, here i am

Is it too late to try again

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

AI: Archuletta

Below is my April 4th prediction for AI. I think I nailed it.

Apr 4th, 2008 at 12:30 am
Archeleta wins, but David Cook will be more famous a year from now.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Reflections On Trust

I am sure that most people would agree that trust is a very important part of a relationship. Whether it be between romantic partners, friends, parents and children, or individuals and organiztions, trust is essential for good relational functioning. Good communication, closeness, knoweldge of the other, and kindness are all important as well. But I think trust is different.

In relationships, trust acts more like an operating system than a regular piece of software. If trust "crashes," everything else is not going to work right if it works at all. Trust is integrated into every other aspect of a relationship. Without it, the other aspects of the relationship, the other relationship software, does not run.

Thus, I believe trust is more important, more basic, more foundational than any other relationship quality.

Any thoughts on trust in relationships by the geniuses?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Gonzalez The Mighty Norwegian

When I tell people that I am part Mexican, there is little surprise. I have dark hair, brown eyes, and brown skin (I tan pretty easy).

And yet when I tell people that I am Norwegian, there is usually a snicker. It is the kind of snicker that one gets when they are intentionally saying something that is untrue for ironic effect. The truth is that I am not any more Mexican than I am Norwegian or German. Sure, I get it that my Danish and Czech is not so obvious as I have less Dane and Czech blood than the others. But because my name is Gonzalez and I have darker features than most really White people, it is humorous to many people when I say that I am more European than I am Mexican, even though to say anything else would be false.

I have learned how to blow off, roll with, or dodge just about any comment, snicker, or response (outside of that one violent response I may talk about in another post) that comes my way. I have been socialized through two generations on my fathers side of the family on how to be an attempted-White and from countless generations on my mother's side of the family on how to be White.

I am the Whitest Mexican there is. And yet there are these times when I feel like I am not afforded a category - White or Mexican. There is no Whitican or Mexiwhite. And furthermore, I do not want such words to be invented. They sound weird. The need for such words seems whiny and victimy to me. I guess there is a word called, Tex-Mex, but it refers to food and Texas. Anyway, I just want to say that I find it interesting how powerful the soical construction of cultural identity is.

My grandfather intentionally tried to eliminate all Mexican culture from his family. My father made no effect to bring any Mexican culture into my family of origin such that I thought I was White with an accidental Mexican surname. And still it is funny to people that I am Norgian.

Don' get me wrong, I laugh with them and don't let this cultural idenity thing act as the central operating princinple of my life. At the same time, even in the third generation of the Whitizination of the Gonzalez family, all it takes is one look at me and my name and all of the "effort" means nothing.

Can anyone relate? I would love to hear what you are thinking.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Not Technically ANCOVA

I am up to my ears in a take home statistics exam. It has taken 5 hours to answer five questions. I am only half done.

You know that you are in way too deep when you read in your notes that "due to the interaction of this and that variable, the model is not technically an ANCOVA model." What's worse is that I think I know what that means.

OK, back to the grind.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Coolness For Dummies

There is a time in every father's life when his children no longer consider him cool. I have arrived.

I am coaching my son's 6-7 year old, coach pitch baseball team. Today was the first practice. This is a co-ed league, so this team is half girls and half boys. I did some groundball practice with the girls. My ten-year-old, approaching-adolescence-faster-than-she-should-be, too-smart-for-her-own-good daughter was watching from behind the backstop.

As I threw some groundballs to these girls, I was encouraging them playfully ("the ball is not the boss of you" and "go to the ball because the ball won't find you") and in batting practice I told them that "the ball has no feelings, so you can hit it as hard as you want."

After the practice I was having a drink of water in the kitchen and my 10 year old daughter says, "Dad, you were kind of cheesy with those girls in practice today."

"Hey," I said in defence, "I am cool to six year olds."

"Yes," she agreed with a sarcastic tone, "like you learned that in 'coolness for Dummies.'"

What can be said against that?