Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Coupla-few Points

A powerful article on the Campus Rape Myth, worth reading in its entirety: I welcome analytical support and/or refutation.

Have I mentioned my admiration for Thomas Sowell? He really is articulate and reasoned; his current article concerns the New York Times, pretty much the antithesis of "articulate and reasoned" (well, okay, the NYT is occasionally articulate but increasingly rarely well-reasoned).

From the "Duh!" Files: Materialism Damaging to Children and Teens Out of Touch with cultural history.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Going in to work today, everyone around me was dressed in black (I was in brown and blue). The ubiquity of black was pretty amazing--the only variation I saw on my entire walk was one woman in a grey houndstooth overcoat. Weird.

My beggar acquaintance was, indeed, not at his post. I was reminded of an old newspaper vendor I used to pass (and when I say "old," I mean a hard-life, 80+ kind of old...). Of course, when he stopped showing up, it could mean but one thing... Like the old man Bill Murray kept trying to save in Groundhog Day.

And thinking of THAT reminded me of a neighbor I used to visit--an elderly (85+) gentleman, hungry for visitors. I would show up with a daughter or two, we would drink Gallo jug wine (I believe him to have been an alcoholic), talk about World War II (he still had the rifle--and the scar--he had taken from a Japanese soldier...the hard way). He was against war, but otherwise a jolly fellow.

Very sad one day when I was passing his house (which, according to him, he had bought for a song in the Depression when he was a successful salesman) and the decrepit siding had been removed and, clearly, the house was being renovated. Some day, I too will pass that way. I got the shivers. That said, I expect company then: my acquaintance had but two children--overeducated and affluent, neither had chosen to have children so, no grandchildren for my neighbor. That was an influence in my decision to expand my family (of course, the real decision lay with the wife, but you know what I mean).

Spent an interesting weekend with some houseguests--real "go getters," very driven, hard-working (constantly plugged in, taking calls, blackberrying...very annoying); I am concerned for their child (but choose not to expand on that for fear that anonymous bosh may not always be so). I continue to believe my wife and I are doing the right thing--even after my friend and his wife grilled us with regard to our philosophies (I merely point to the results which are, so far, so good). I remain...unconflicted. You should be too.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Movin' On

Today was the last day on the street for one of my favorite beggars. I have passed him for years--maybe as many as ten--on my way to work. I have seen him in rain, snow, sleet; his cheeriness ever undimmed by the weather. He would nod to me, wish me a good morning; if I had run (i.e., if I was running past him) he would ask how it went; on days when I wasn't running he would ask after my health.

I have always found it interesting to observe others' reactions to his goodwill. Most folks simply ignored him, perhaps out of fear or embarrassment, who knows? Some nodded, some returned his greetings, some gave him money. I never gave him a dime, but today, on his last day, I shook his hand.

As I approached his morning spot (he has an evening spot elsewhere in the city), I overheard someone ahead of me wishing him well on his "last day." I kept moving, then stopped, turned around and went back.

"Did I hear something about 'last day?'"

"Yessir; today's ma last day. I'm movin' into a house [in a nearby sub-section of the city]. And I start a computer class next week, too; heh!"

"How long have you been out here? I mean, how long have I seen you."

[Pause; eyes rolling skyward] "I dunno. Years? Long time. I dunno."

"Well. Congratulations then." [Handshake.] "Really. I think you'll do well, I really do."

"Thank you, sir. It's been a long time, long time. I'll still come out now and again. I hafta pay for my supplies and things for my computer class."

"All right then, so, not good-bye, but farewell and we'll see you again."

"Yessir, no doubt sir."

As I returned to my pedestrian commute, I thought, again, "What is a man?" [the actual quote is “Without guilt / What is a man? An animal, isn't he? / A wolf forgiven at his meat, / A beetle innocent in his copulation.”]

My beggar acquaintance is a man, his perseverance and/or his stoicism make him so. His (apparent) alcoholism or, for all I know, his drug use does not necessarily take that away from him. I do not consider him a victim; I do not think he considers himself as such--or, if so, he does not overtly blame society for his condition.

What is a man? Is a man one who soldiers on, despite conditions or circumstances?

Why do I do what I do? Because I need to do so, for my family. Without family, I would be doing...something else (I guarantee you).

Aside: I am reading Unhooked, with Unprotected on order; why? Because as a father I have a duty to my daughters, to protect, provide, listen, and guide. That is my duty, and I assume it willingly, without question or (real) complaint. I am grateful that I have a duty--it reduces confusion and mental meandering.

I am glad for my beggar associate: I wish him well, bear him no ill will for his choices, and would like to see him succeed. Perhaps next time I will engage him in further discussion; it has been about 10 years, after all, that I have known (of) him.

Y'all have a great day today: figure out your duty, and do it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Latest Thoughts

Deleted last night's post--don't post when you're tipsy.

So...spent today at an indoor cooperative playspace. Got to thinking about race relations.  My youngest clothes-lined a dark-skinned Indian girl (not that that matters) and I made her apologize.  Got to noticing the racial make-up of the group (I live in an highly-educated, reasonably affluent area): lots of Asians (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean; not too many Vietnamese or other South Asians, so far as I can tell), LOTS of Indian/Pakistani families...  

So, I was wondering why I (white middle-class educated male) feel ZERO tension/animosity toward/from Asian/India/Pakistani families...  I wonder if it is all "expectations management."  That is: my child clotheslined an Indian girl--I made her apologize and give up the Tiny Tikes car she was after... No harm done.

But... but... but when I see an AA mom, I am pre-disposed to worry about any "racial overtones," that is, I am CONDITIONED to be overly concerned with how SHE might perceive things--much to the detriment of the other party (in my opinion).

Does this make sense yet?

My point is that those who simply assimilate into society (and by this I do NOT  mean assimilate into white culture--rather, AMERICAN culture, which, in my opinion, is not color specific) enjoy success--are accepted immediately, no question, no problem.

Those with chips on their shoulders... not so much.

So, I looked around the room: LOTS of Asian/Indian familes... ONE African-American mom.  Hmm...

I'm tellin' ya: I'm rootin' for Obama.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dusting Off the Archives: An Old Email

[ed. note: an email written to an early mentor after bumping into him on the street after a twenty-year hiatus; only a few details have been obscured...]


This story could have any number of beginnings, so I will choose one if not at random at least nearly arbitrarily.

My father still breathes, or at least his body does. The man that inhabited that body left long ago--evaporated, dried up, disintegrated. The years of untended mini-strokes ate up his brain.

I was staying [up North], just out of the military. For some [ex-patriated] limbo evading various US agencies and memories), my father had reappeared in a flophouse [a couple of hours away]. (Later, as an interesting intellectual aside, it turnedout that the owner of the flophouse was the mother of one of my early loves, a girl who had, ironically, also joined the military.)

I visited my father at his job, a security guard at a discount sporting goods store. I asked him if he was hungry; he said that he would go on break in a few minutes. We went outside for a bite and a smoke (no, I do not smoke, but the army had taught me to share). After a few minutes of small talk he asked, "[Hieronymus]? Is that you?" I asked if he was in the habit of taking lunch with strangers. He replied that he took life as it came.

My father joined me and some compatriots in our "house of men" in DC; a waystation for exiting soldiers on their way to the next phase of their lives (one joined the ministry; one became a tool-and-die salesman; one is an anti-establishmentt real-estate mogul; I am what I am). From there, he accompanied me to graduate school. During the fall of my second year, I returned from class one day to find him strewn across the floor. I picked him up, put him in my car, and took him to the hospital. He had suffered a major stroke.

He recovered, sort of, and eventually went to live with my sister and her family in Florida. They have built him his own apartment. I have visited, but as I mentioned, he is not there. Interestingly, even in his dimished state he is likely smarter than most Americans; indeed, he devours garbage bags of paperback novels and is up on current events. But the deeper man (the man that my sisters did not really know) has long since departed. The destructive, petty shell left over is...something else.

I work to take the good parts of my upbringing--and there are at least a few--and incorporate them into my own life. This is made difficult when one holds one's that family in current contempt. This section could go on for pages, but let us simply say that I and my family do not see eye to eye. I am a home-birthing, private-schooling, social-climbing, educational-elitist, Republican-leaning, progressive wacko (or something like that) in their eyes, or so it seems. On the plus side, my children are charming and curious.

I have noted several ironies over the years. At the height of the dot-com boom I was given a "free" PC (with advertising installed). Of course, I already had four or five computers at the time. The real beneficiaries of such a computer would have been the underclass; of course, they didn't have the money to buy the products advertised, advertising that made the computer "free." The company folded.

Similarly, it is known to me that if my children suffered from, say, obesity, that I would move the family to a work farm in Montana and go vegetarian--or equivalent. Ironically, the priorities that make that draconian potential possible likely precludes childhood obesity in my family. This type of irony abounds.

I met my wife when I was 16. The story is long and convoluted, but there are very few other women--perhaps zero--with whom I would be happy. This is quite comforting.

This message has quickly degenerated into unassimilated bits; allow me to start over.

For your amusement, and for background, I have attached my chronological resume. It is up to date, because I am trying to figure out where to go next. I have left [my previous firm]. My severance should last a little longer, probably not long enough, though. People talk a lot about passion; I am still trying to find my professional passion. This is made difficult, of course, by the more immediate need to pay the mortgage and various tuitions.

My time in the military was deeply satisfying. I came to understand a number of things that I had been missing. As time passes, I find that many concrete concepts simply no longer translate (e.g., duty, loyalty, honor), and thus I become reticent, and yearn for that knowledge once more. Army life is not the life for a family man, though.

So, to my questions: what is the source of Life satisfaction (a question first posed by a deeply wise--and highly decorated--Top Sergeant)? Does one really need, e.g., Zen or the absence of pride or "a life lived for others" for happiness? What makes you happy?

On a more practical note: what general aspects of your family life caused yours to (apparently) 'succeed' (however one defines that) when so many others fail?

Where is America headed? (I thought I would throw in an easy one.)

If this missive sounds morbid, it should not. Even in the midst of deep professional questioning, I am struck by the extraordinary luck and love that surrounds and sustains me. My wife, my children, my relationships with them and with some friends, the opportunities afforded and open to me--I am aware of just how fortunate I am, and I am grateful.

I meant to write you a letter, handwritten things are such a lost art. But writing--hand-writing--causes cramps and self-consciousness. Indeed, were I to receive a hand-written letter, I would not know where to store it... (of course, one loses important emails all the time). For how long is something important?

Many bitter stories are in my hands; many happy ones as well. I do not know why it was important to stop by your house (my signing up for the race was not random--not much is truly random), but I am open once again to serendipity.

I am nearing 40 This fact fascinates me. I thought I would be an adult by now. My parents were adults (although my mother now seems more a teenager in so many ways). My father could do so many things that I cannot, and the things that I can do that he could not--outside of create a functional family--seem somewhat trivial. Many things remain a mystery to me, and as I approach 40, I wonder when the veils will lift, and who will help lift them. A 40 year old does not attract as many mentors as does, say, a 20 year old. Potential is less interesting when much of it has gone unused. If one could kill Fear (or, as I have put it, if I could once again walk without Fear)...

Well, it was good to see you. I am glad that you are still with your wife, still in your house. Glad to see and hear that your children are doing good things. I was interested to hear and read of your conservation work. I would be interested to hear your own plans for the future, or any reflections you care to share with regard to young families or life transitions or goals.

Best regards,

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Soldier's Creed

I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.

I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.