30 August 2008

Today's $200,000 Idea: Rent a Paparazzi

Every week, thousands of adults and kids rent Limos for special occasions. Whether it is sleeping on 800 count sheets for a few nights in 5 star hotels or eating $25 salads and drinking $500 champagnes, there is great demand to live like a celebrity, if only for an evening.

So, in one of a series of aperiodic postings of business ideas, how about a Rent-a-Paparazzi service? You go out for the evening and feign disgust with the horde of (okay, depending on what option you choose, two to six) photographers who hound you, following you as you try to enjoy a pleasant evening dining out, dancing, or even just grocery shopping with your new infant.

This sort of attention from obvious paparazzi ought to instantly establish you as a person of consequence, a celebrity that the folks in your vicinity really ought to recognize, if only they could remember your name or on what show they saw you.

Rent-a-Paparazzi. How anyone has previoulsy felt special without such a service is beyond me.

29 August 2008

Just Say "NO!" to Same Sex Presidencies

What follows are excerpts of an exchange of emails with my friend Damon. In fact, given that we both blog, you might even call us "e-males."

I’ve decided that since I dislike both Obama and McCain….
I’m voting for Sarah Palin.

I just like the fact that McCain is offering such a stark contrast to the same-sex ticket of Obama - Biden, giving us voters the choice of a heterosexual couple.

I agree! The presidency should be between a man and a woman. And I’m all for a constitutional amendment that keeps same-sex presidencies out of the White House!

28 August 2008

A Commitment to Extraordinary

I once had a philosophy professor who was a fascinating fellow. As a monk, he had kept a vow of silence for about a decade. By the time he was teaching us, he had things to say. I remember, at lunch, he once advised a couple of us young guys (I would have been about 18 or 19) not to ask a woman for a date – at least, not directly. Instead, he said, plan a great outing and then let her know that you’re going to do that and you’d be happy to have her along.

I’ve come to think that this is apt advice for any relationship. Work first on creating an extraordinary life, a great outing, if you will. And then invite people along. If you are going to see a beautiful sunset or painting, or walking through a great park, or eating at an extraordinary restaurant or any number of wonderful things, people will probably want to come along. They may even invite themselves. If you create a great life – one that is engaging, enjoyable, and meaningful - you’re likely to bring along others in your wake. They’ll be compelled to come along.

And even if you don’t bring along certain people on your trip to extraordinary, you still get to go to extraordinary. If you plan an extraordinary evening and get it right, it’ll be extraordinary whether or not the date you’d like to bring is with you. Given you can’t control other people, it’s probably best to make your commitment first to extraordinary. That’s not a bad environment for any relationship to unfold.

If you commit to a relationship first, you might find yourself compromising on extraordinary. and if you commit to extraordinary first, it is the rare person who - particularly if they are already in a relationship with you - won't want to come along.

27 August 2008

Most Problems Cannot Be Solved

Perhaps my favorite Peter Drucker quote is, "Most problems cannot be solved. And most problems are made irrelevant by success."

The point is, we can waste a great deal of effort in our lives trying to solve things. For instance, a business may spend a huge amount of effort to stem the erosion in market share of a product that is becoming obsolete instead of focusing that effort on creating a new product line. A person may work on correcting an annoying habit of someone they love or even to lose ten pounds rather than focus on living an extraordinary life and simply sweeping along whoever wants to come.

It's possible to put false predecessors before joy, before living life fully, before success. It might be that losing ten pounds helps you to feel happier or even to find the perfect person. It might be. It might also be that you can simply become the happier person and make the weight loss irrelevant (and perhaps even easier to attain once you are happy).

Which brings us to politics. We're facing record deficits. A huge wave of entitlement payments looms over us as baby boomers begin to retire. Wages have stagnated. It would be easy to look at the landscape spoiled by George W. and conclude that we have a great many problems to solve. But if we were to focus instead on creating new industries - industries like alternative energies, nanotechnology, teleporting, neuron manipulation for enhancing cognition, and the reinvention of education - these issues could be made irrelevant.

A commitment to become a happy adult probably doesn't involve solving all the problems of childhood.

I'm going to attempt devoting more attention at R World to painting what I see as possible, what I see as exciting. I think that our future is both more potentially exciting and positive and more potentially risky and catastrophic than most anyone seems to admit or realize. It is the possible future - a place on the far side of a great many social and technical innovations - that could be so extraordinary as to render moot the problems that so capture the attention of commentators and columnists today.

Imagine a world where our corporations have been transformed into vehicles for creating meaning and engagement at work, where abundance is a natural consequence of the design of systems that align with natural laws and personal convictions, organizations that don't dictate who we should be but, instead, facilitate the process of us defining and realizing who we could be. Imagine a world with technology that make transportation and energy issues sustainable, makes our economy less about consumption that destroys our habitat (a focus on quantity of goods) and more about engagement that defines our individuality (a focus on quality of life).

It would be unseemly for a 47 year old man to spend all his time trying to get "it" right, where "it" was being 13 and in middle school. It's best just to let some things go.

As we shake off the bad memory of the Bush years, or even many of the bad habits and issues of capitalism or even the information economy, it is best not to become too obsessed with solving the many problems that have been left to us. There is too much potential to realize, too many possibilities to explore, to let that be our focus.

26 August 2008

My Favorite Line of the Night

Tonight at the DNC, Governor Ted Strickland, of Ohio recounted Molly Ivins' quip about George H. Bush, "He was born on third base and thought he hit a triple."

Strickland said, when George W. Bush came in to office on the heels of Clinton's debt reduction and an economy that had created 22 million jobs, "George came into office on third base and then stole second."

25 August 2008

Sandi the Guest Blogger

I’ve high jacked Ron’s blog to post the 25 (of the many) reasons that I love Ron for our 25th Anniversary.

To have and to hold (the best of the promises)
Connecting spiritually
Life long learning
Life long dining adventure
Involved parenting
Laughing at yourself
Making me laugh
Saturday mornings
Beach walks
Exercising together
Reading out loud
Giving helpful feedback
Love letters
Gorgeous legs
Private road trips
Being “fordy-seven”
Being a hero to my students (and me)

Wow, that is 25 already. I barely got started! I am absolutely delighted to be with you Ron. Here’s wishing us many more years (and reasons) to be together!

I love you dearly,

Why it is So Hard to Run a Clean Campaign

The candidates promise that they'll run a clean campaign. And soon they're slinging mud at one another - accusing the other of being clueless, elitist, bungling .... something and everything.

This seems to me inevitable for the simplest of reasons: false modesty. It is, of course, a symptom of arrogance when someone decides they are qualified to be president (or governor, or). And in order to win an election, this person has to win more votes than his or her opponent. This comes from looking better than the opponent, and there are only two ways to do that: either make yourself look good or make your opponent look bad. It seems presumptuous to say too much about what a great person you are. So, you make your opponent look bad. "I may be a womanizer unable to balance a budget, but let me tell you about my opponent's pedophilia and crack addictions."

And so it goes ...

23 August 2008

Just some random thoughts at end of week

We now live in a world where the fastest man is named Bolt. It’s as if the folks at Marvel or DC Comics have taken over from Newton and Einstein, tired of simply defining blockbuster movies they are now defining our reality.

In Cancun, one of the guides asked us what the difference was between Miami and Cancun. The answer? In Cancun they speak English.

I’m delighted that Obama chose Biden as his running mate, but I have to take a shot. The good news is that Obama actually has someone old enough to offer adult supervision to his campaign and administration, to enforce things like a curfew, for instance. The bad news is that Biden is too old to stay up late enough to find out whether Obama actually observes the curfew. I shouldn't joke, though. This could not have been easy for Obama who, in order to balance the ticket, had to find an older white guy active in politics.

My notion that women in their forties and fifties are in the prime of life has gotten two more confirmations. 50 year old Madonna has launched her new tour dancing like someone half her age and 41 year-old Dara Torres is swimming away from Beijing with three silver medals. Minds as interesting as any 60 year old’s and bodies as able as any 20 year old’s. If that isn’t the prime of life I’m unclear on the concept.

My favorite quote regarding McCain’s need this week to check with his staff on the number of homes he owns.
"The number of Americans who do not know how many houses they own is so small they could probably fit in a golf cart."
- John Dickerson, at Slate

What is worse, McCain’s resident blogger has twice ridiculed the “pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd.” One commentator writes, “the McCain campaign has inadvertently woken an angry nerd army.” I hardly know whether to chuckle or wince at the thought of a swarm of dice-throwing pale and angry men shaking their fists at the former POW who would be president.

And yet, McCain has recently gained on Obama in the polls.

Finally, for those of you wondering about all the effect of mingling all those amazingly fit bodies together in one place at the Olympics, you may want to read Matthew Seyd’s article, Sex and the Olympic City, in The Times. The Greeks loved the physical and their Olympics were a celebration of the body. Apparently, modern athletes continue this tradition and sex between athletes is rampant within the Olympic Village.

22 August 2008

Remodeling the Cabinet for the 21st Century

Over the centuries, we've accumulated a number of cabinet positions at the highest levels of government: secretaries of state, treasury, defense, interior, agriculture, commerce, etc.

It’s time to update the cabinet for the 21st century.

1. Secretary of Happiness
It’s time to take happiness seriously. After all, what good is progress in any other domain if it doesn’t make us happier?

2. Minister of Getting Other People To Like Us
This position would replace commerce secretary and secretary of state and add responsibilities for tourism and foreign investment. This might be the equivalent of a Wal-Mart greeter at the level of international politics.

3. Minister of Getting Other People to Fear Us
Replaces defense and homeland security secretaries, in charge of intimidating would-be enemies. As with the above position, this person might collaborate with Hollywood and it might even be a suitable position for a former movie director or producer.

4. Secretary of Simplification
In charge of producing sound bites for policy, reducing clutter in closets and garages, and eliminating unnecessary meetings within communities and organizations.

5. Chair of Genetic Redesign
Ethics, economics, and technology behind the re-creation of creation. Genetics seems an important enough domain to warrant its own cabinet position. Stalin sponsored cross-breeding of gorillas and humans at one point (fortunately, the artificial insemination of women with primate sperm failed), hoping for a better soldier. It might be worth thinking long and hard about how we ought to approach this fairly foundational topic.

6. Dude for the Radicalization of All Things Boring
Could also be a sub-dude or, rather, under-Secretary to the Secretary of Happiness. Measure of success would be the extent to which even teenagers have to admit that it is pretty cool to live here. This might be an appropriate position for a former X-Games star.

7. New Technology Facilitator
Would replace agriculture, commerce, transportation, and energy secretaries, and adds capability to help establish standards in technologies as varied as photonics, nanotechnology, neuro-devices, hydrogen, solar power, and artificial intelligence.

8. Director of Esthetics
Drives architectural standards, billboard design, fashion, art, music videos and office interiors. Helps to remind everyone that what we see makes a difference in how we think and feel.

9. Facilitator of Learning, Self-Improvement, and Innovation
Replaces secretary of education and creates an infrastructure to support people as varied as boot camp drill instructors and self-help seminar leaders. Given that learning can no longer be neatly contained into the beginning of a career, completed upon the completion of a university degree, for instance, the definition of education and the infrastructure to support it needs a radical change. It might be worth facilitating this.

10. Minister of Complexity
Position designed to set up creative tension with the secretary of simplification, also responsible for urban development, financial markets, forests and other ecosystems, romance, and extended families (essentially, everything hopelessly complex) replacing secretaries of interior, housing and urban development, and treasury and the lords of chaos.

11. Guy Who Can Find Your Cousin a Job & Get You a Raise
Replaces the labor secretary and gives you a virtual Uncle Vinnie who looks out for your best interests in labor markets, working to ensure not only work safety standards and minimum wages, but angles to get you a company car, a cubicle designed and colored like a Fisher-Price toy instead of something colored to placate psychopaths, and a job title that will impress your relatives and even strangers you meet in bars.

12. Secretary of Blogging
Or, alternatively, we could call this SOB president of cyber-world, duties to include developing and making available more sophisticated filters for spam, ensuring high scores for on-line games like World of Warcraft, and finding some way to soften the blow for reporting down days for one’s portfolio. Oh, and of course, the SOB would work with us to raise the probability of bloggers creating provocative and influential content.

13. Secretary for Life
Replaces health and human services secretary and focuses on keeping us well by vetoing subsidies for products like corn syrup and ensuring funding for P.E. classes, and is measured by increases in median life expectancy.

14. Defender of Liberty
This will complete the set, giving us cabinet positions for life, liberty and happiness. It is this, after all, that we began fighting for in 1776. This position would work to ensure privacy and various freedoms to include rights of assembly, religion, speech, pet ownership, and freedom from silly regulations originating from the Secretary of Esthetics and the Radical Dude.

Thanks to Jennifer, whose comments and follow up to the Biden?! post prompted the idea of not just a cabinet position that we bloggers could hold (she also pointed out that it that the acronym would be SOB), but a full slate for the 21st century.

Obama and McCain's advisors are welcome to contact me for further details. Now that Obama has taken my advice on Biden as VP, perhaps he'll welcome these humble suggestions for a slight remodeling of the cabinet.

21 August 2008


He had already dropped out of the race by the time that we Californians held our primary, but I voted for Joe Biden anyway. He won my vote because he talks like a real person and was the first Senator who bothered to point out that Iraq was not working out so well and then the first Senator to suggest a plausible alternative to shooting all the bad guys until no Iraqis were left standing.

Biden is no saint and his willingness to talk openly has gotten him into trouble. But his judgment seems sound and the man has a good sense of foreign affairs.

About five months ago, I took one of those on-line tests to determine which of the candidates best matched my own views and positions. I've done this in past elections and then, the highest ranking candidate would match my own views by about 60 or 70%. Obama matched mine 100%, which I actually found frightening.

The prospect of an Obama-Biden ticket pleases me nearly as much as the prospect of an Obama-Lama ticket. This is me with my fingers crossed.

20 August 2008

Good Soldier

A good soldier is like a good gun. He doesn't ask questions about where he is pointed, he just moves in that direction. A leader, by contrast, is all about asking questions - ensuring that the gun is pointed in the right direction and extremely hesitant to ever pull the trigger. You don't want a soldier who debates for months about following orders. You do want a leader who knows when to debate for months about issuing orders.

McCain's criticism of Obama's opposition to the war shows that he's not ready to be a leader. If Obama were running for general, it would be fair to criticize him for questioning our need to go to war in the first place. He is not. Obama is running for president. As such, he should be completely willing to question any use of our soldiers.

McCain, by contrast, has not seemed to show himself able to question the war. If he were still in the military, this would be admirable (I guess). Given that he's asking us to make him president, this just makes him scary. He might be a good soldier. There is nothing about his stance on the war that suggests that he'd be a good president.

18 August 2008

Your Faithful Correspondent and Blog Author Reports from Cancun

Here, in no particular order, are pictures and commentary from our family vacation in Cancun.

This is the reason for the trip - my favorite wife. After 25 years, I'm beginning to think that perhaps hers is not just a passing a fancy. Like the rest of us, she enjoyed this ancient Mayan tool designed to lower blood pressure.

The adults formerly known as children joined us on our anniversary adventure. They've been a fairly big part of the marriage - it only seemed right to invite them along to celebrate with us.

The Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza were really spectacular and gorgeous in spite of obvious neglect for centuries.

The Mayans were incredibly advanced - roughly on par with ancient Greeks and Romans in many areas. Their knowledge of astronomy allowed them to make a calendar that only needed to be adjusted every 52 years (instead of every 4, like our own). They were advanced in math and science, performed brain surgery and eye surgery and yet their civilization collapsed. I'm pretty sure it was because they never mastered air conditioning. It was hot in the jungle.

Within Western Civilization, advances are usually attributed to one man. Galen developed 130 of the 150 basic surgical techniques still in use today before he died in 199 AD, for instance. By contrast, it seemed that everything I was told about the Mayans was about the Mayans - not any specific genius. Here, though, is evidence left behind by the unnamed genius of tic tac toe. Even though he gave his opponent twice as many turns, "O" (as we'll call him) still won this game, immortalized in stone.

If you look closely, you'll notice three pillars in the foreground that look amazingly life like. It wasn't just the Greeks and Renaissance Italians who mastered sculpture.

Do you suppose it is a blogger thing to talk too much - even when someone is trying to take your picture?

Sandi and I cheated on our marriage: we took our anniversary trip about 2 weeks early.

I think that Jordan may have spent more time in the hammock than she did in her room.

I got my first ever manicure. I'm pretty sure that the cure didn't take, though, as just hours later I was happily back in our room watching an action movie and wondering aloud about where a person might find ribs at this resort.

We enjoyed the snorkeling, the sun, the excessive relaxation and getting our pictures taken next to ancient ruins that made us feel young by contrast. And we're glad to be back in San Diego. (And by "we," I mean my family who did not have a mere 14 hours at home before heading back to the airport to fly across the country to work with a client.)

Back from Vacation

Sandi and I celebrated our 25th a few weeks early and went to Cancun with the adults formerly known as our children, just returning last night. Details will follow.

(I do suspect that if I were to blog regularly from a hammock, my posts would likely have a kinder, gentler tone.)

15 August 2008

Me-Tube - Musings, Part 4 in a series

YouTube has become a part of the culture. Now it is time for derivatives.

Me-Tube - videos of people trying desperately to keep up with trends and celebrities.

Out-Tube - Outing men who are trying to hide their sexual orientation from family and friends.

Inner-Tube - a series of quiet videos designed for the introspective viewer.

Eu-Tube? - videos of Roman tragedies

You-Two! - videos of couples who are "so in love" that they make their friends feel like retching.

You-Boob - could either work as a video of pratfalls from clowns or a collection of topless vignettes.

Jew-Too! - Jews share funny or poignant events that everyone relates to.

Boob-Tube - summer fashion videos

Glue-Tubed - riveting drama that plays out through a series of cliff-hangers.

Groove-Tubed - psychedelic and hippie videos, a celebration of the late sixties and early seventies.

Ewe-Tube - videos of grazing sheep

Eww!-Tube - Videos of gross behavior and dangerous stunts.

[Co-created with help from Sandi.]

13 August 2008

Heaven or Hell - Musings, part 3 in a series

Eternity is not something that starts after you die. That is the afterlife. Eternity is something that’s already going on. It was going on before you were born and will be going on after you die. If you think about heaven or hell, you are talking about what you’re already experiencing, a place you are already in. It’s easy to wait for purgatory, to simply wait for heaven or hell to come to us. But that’s the problem with these eternal things. We can’t out-wait them. That just isn’t going to happen. You’ll be stuck in purgatory forever waiting for heaven or hell to come to you. They’re not moving. Ever.


It’s not just that the system is against individualism. It’s just that individuals are so difficult to accommodate, so difficult to fit into mass production and standard processes.

It’s easy to pick on the Catholic Church, so I will. Mass is aptly named because we’re talking about an intensely personal spiritual experience that we’re trying to extend from a few mystics to the masses. This is both futile and necessary. It is how civilization proceeds: the work or creation of a genius becomes the tool of a common person. Newton and Leibniz invent calculus in one century and a few centuries later, it is a required subject for children in the early throes of relational passions, young adults distracted by libidinous impulse. Mass is an attempt to broaden an intensely personal experience.


I suppose everyone has some measure of discomfort with any religion in which they find fellowship. Where we find community isn’t necessarily where we find all our answers or even answers we like or that make sense to us. The people who accept us aren’t always the people who provide answers we can accept.

11 August 2008

Work or Play - Musings, Part 2 in a series

She wanted to work on her relationship with him, which was a pity, really, because it kind of missed the point. She was playful and if she wanted the relationship to thrive she wouldn’t work on it – she’d engage him in play. He had enough work during the week and didn’t need to couple that with working on his relationship. If she hadn’t tried so hard to work on her relationship, she might have seen this.

10 August 2008

Exclusive Scoop: Obama's Running Mate

There are a variety of considerations when choosing a VP running mate. Like the Bush men, you could choose a VP who so frightens people that you effectively have a guarantee against impeachment. You can balance the ticket by picking a running mate from a different region of the country. You might choose a running mate who brings to the table what you seem to lack, or one who represents a particularly important dimension of your world view. Or, in what I think is the most important consideration, you can choose a running mate whose name sounds great when paired with yours.

Using all these considerations, running them through my special R World computer, I have arrived at the VP I’m convinced will be Obama's new running mate.

The candidate I’m sure Obama will announce as his running mate will simultaneously show his sensitivity to the importance of religion, recognition that this may well be the Asian century, and a commitment to transcend national boundaries. More than that, though, the name of this running mate just sounds so cool with Barack’s.
So, here it is, my first ever scoop at R World. Look for the announcement within the month: Barack Obama is going to choose the Dalai Lama as his running mate. What could possibly sound more cool than Obama-Lama?

I’m going to begin printing campaign buttons and bumper stickers now. Submit your order before everyone finds out and the supplies run out.

[And thanks, Jordan, for the punch line to this post.]

09 August 2008

Policy Failure Is a Failure of Empathy - Musings, Part 1 in a series

It might be that all policy failure is simply a failure of empathy.

Tribes have emerged in America and it is becoming more difficult to create public policy because these tribes spill across traditional geographic boundaries. It has become more difficult to create the cohesion needed to, say, reduce poverty or create public works programs that engage people in something like the common good.

It is unlikely to occur to people who can’t relate to each other to even formulate public policy that suggests a common fate. And yet it is becoming more impossible to escape one another.

Empathy may not be an act of compassion. It may be that empathy simply shows awareness. We are all in this together.

07 August 2008

Love & the Fallacy of Economics

Bernard let out a sigh as I approached the table.

“How are you doing,” I ask rhetorically.

“Maddie is explaining to me again why my marriages have failed.”

“There is no sense in it,” Maddie said disgustedly. “In his relationships, Bernie always starts out as a romantic and ends up as an accountant.”

“I don’t even know what that means,” Bernie said.

“And that’s part of the problem,” Maddie said. To my surprise, she turned to me and said, “Didn’t you get a degree in economics, Ron?”

“Yes,” I said. “Two of them.”

“You have a PhD?” she asked.

“No, just a BA and MA,” I said.

“So explain economics to Bernie,” she crisply requested as she bit into her salad.

“Uh, okay,” I stumbled. “I guess the idea behind economics is one of opportunity costs, of tradeoffs at the margin. You can spend more money on guns or spend it on butter, and depending on which way you go, you’ll either create more or less happiness.”

“Ha!” Maddie said. “See, Bernie! That’s what you try to do.”

“What?” I asked.

“You can't make choices at the margin in a relationship,” Maddie spit out. “You either choose to be in it or not. And you do that, Bernie, at the start. You choose the woman.”

“Well, yeah,” Bernie said, obviously as confused as me. “I guess. I mean, if she’s interested.”

“But after that you turn into an accountant, Bernie. You want reciprocity at every turn. It’s like you’ve turned a relationship into a series of transactions.” And then Maddie did something really remarkable. She spoke in a full paragraph, obviously inspired by our confusion on this topic.

“This economics fallacy might be why men are so good at business and economics and so bad at relationships. You have this tendency to turn relationships into a series of transactions, doing your marginal analysis at every turn, looking for some way to get the most for the least.” She leaned into Bernard’s face and said, “Bernie, relationships are not like that. Shouldn’t be like that. If you want a real relationship, you play a different game, you work out a different equation. You give as much as you can because you realize that you want your life to be as much as it can be. You are never more than your relationships, Bernie. Don’t turn into an accountant once you find yourself in love. Love is not about cost cutting.”

I couldn’t really think of a response. Apparently, neither could Bernard.

At this point, Bernard and Maddie’s grandnephew spoke up. Delbert is about 19, as near as I can tell, but that facial jewelry and body piercing make me a little squeamish. I could not be sure about his age because I’ve never looked at Delbert for long.

“Yeah, but I think that the marginal thing is right,” he said.

“You do?” Maddie said icily.

“Yeah,” he continued, deaf to her tone. “I mean, think about kissing or making love to a woman.”

“As if you do anything else with your imagination at that age,” Bernard muttered.

“You kiss her once, say, and it’s wonderful. You kiss her the tenth time and it is nice. You kiss her a hundred times and it’s almost tiresome.”

I could not help myself, staring at the bolt that went through his lip. “Some woman has kissed you a hundred times?”

“Dude,” Delbert said disgustedly. “I’m just saying. It’s a marginal thing. Love, kisses, they are a marginal thing. After awhile, you put more in but you don't get that much more out.”

I did not want to admit it aloud, but I thought the kid made a fairly decent point.

“No,” Bernard said wearily. “She’s right. Even a kiss is not a marginal thing.”

“No?” Delbert raised his eyebrows.

“A kiss might be like a meal. Sure you get full at one setting, but you get hungry again. And a favorite food is a favorite food. You long for it even more when you can recollect enjoying it in the past, when it becomes the part of layered memories. The food becomes something you love for its own sake and also for the memories it now has wrapped up in it. A kiss is like that only more so.”

“But you got tired of kissing the same woman, Uncle Bernie. Eventually it doesn’t have the same oomph, right? For a kiss to wake you up, it needs to be new woman, no? Some new technique?”

“No. The woman is everything. Technique is vastly over-rated. A new pair of lips is not the point. A kiss at its best is an expression so thick with meaning, appreciation so keen that it can never be expressed in a mere handshake or simple hug. A kiss is inevitable once you feel a particular way towards her. The mouth,” Bernard’s eyes clouded over as he stared at his drink, “the mouth is the place from which we breathe, taste the world, and express ourselves. If you’ve fallen in love with a woman, how could you not want to melt into her at that very spot, this small opening into her being? How could you not want to kiss her?”

He paused and took a sip. “You don’t manufacture this feeling by starting with a fresh pair of lips. If you simply kiss a woman – no matter how good your technique – there is no guarantee that you’ll feel this kind of adoration and desire, this pleasure of getting to be one with her, this realization of what it means to be a part of someone so splendid. She’s right, Delbert. It’s a whole thing, not a marginal thing. That is, if you want to feel whole.”

“Oh Bernie,” Maddie touched her brother’s shoulder. “There might be hope for you yet, honey.”

“You don’t think it’s too late,” asked Bernie, his big eyes and old face looking so vulnerable.

“No,” Maddie said kindly. “It’s never too late to learn how to love.”


This month, I’ll celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary with Sandi. It was 26 years ago that I first kissed her in, of all places, a Denny’s parking lot.

There has never been anything marginal about a single one of your kisses, Sandi. Thank you for loving me.

05 August 2008

I'm Amazed at My Morning Jacket

A couple of years ago, my darling daughter introduced me to My Morning Jacket. This (new?) song of theirs is straight up great rock n roll. Enjoy.

The Dangers of On-Line Shopping

Sometimes I hate on-line shopping.

Impressed by the style and functionality of the new, full-bodied swimsuits worn by so many of the Olympic swimmers, I ordered one on-line.
I think I might have gotten one of the earlier prototype versions. Something about its tendency to absorb 30 pounds of water leads me to believe that I won't actually be able to swim any faster.

Oh well. At least they threw in the hat for free.

04 August 2008

The Modern Appeal of Ancient Religions

It's no wonder that religion continues to have appeal to so many of us. Religion is more evolved than business or education.

On the long flight from San Diego to Chicago yesterday, I must have charged some serious karmic credit points. There was only one empty seat on the entire plane and it fell between me and a delightful woman who made the 4 hour flight seem to fly by. Among other things, we talked religion, her own progression through a variety of churches to her choice, about four years ago, to convert to Judaism. As we talked, I realized something curious about these ancient religions in the modern world: they are, in a very real sense, more modern than institutions like schools or corporations. This deserves explanation.

If you work at GM or IBM or 3M or anyM, you are subject to clear expectations. You'll be expected to attend meetings, work 40+ hours a week, only take vacation for, say, 3 weeks a year, etc. Yes, there are exceptions to all this, but the institution clearly defines your role and what they will give you in exchange. In this sense, the corporation is controlling. Schools have similar prescribed roles for students.

Now contrast that with churches. In the modern world, churches have no real power over members. Of course, some churches can excommunicate members, but generally members can attend services as often or as rarely as they'd like. They can observe or not observe particular injunctions (e.g., this woman will not be kosher in her diet). Members enjoy or suffer consequences of practices as they chose. Certain practices give them a better spirit or worse spirit, make them feel more complete or more empty, more loving or more resentful. What they choose to do has its own consequences and they are free to do more or less or not at all.

In this sense, religions are really more advanced, more evolved, than are more modern institutions like corporations and schools. Religion is a place where one can freely choose how and when to use the institution, a stark contrast to the corporation that prescribes exactly how and when the institution will use the individual. It is hard, if not impossible, for the modern student or employee to define and customize how he'll learn or work. Oddly, it is within these traditionally oppressive institutions that the modern person is most free to define how he'll worship.

I wonder how long it will be before the modern institutions become as advanced and evolved as this ancient one.

03 August 2008


For a brief time, mine was an outlaw blog.

A couple of days ago, I got a note from the good folks at blogspot informing me that my blog had been designated a spam blog. They warned me that they would delete the blog in about 20 days if I did not request a human review to confirm that a human writes R World. I came disconcertingly close to losing nearly two years worth of writing.

It was only a couple of weeks ago that I realized that my email traffic had dropped off precipitously because the good folks at cox had decided to randomly designate about half my mail as SPAM and hide it in an on-line folder. It took me weeks to realize what was going on and stop it. It may have taken me 20 days.

Imagine if the blog spam note had itself been designated as spam email. These two spam machines might have conspired to silence me altogether, de-blogged and de-mailed, abruptly made into an information-age eunuch by mindless algorithms.

In past centuries, censorship was enacted by church or state officials with a particular agenda, mindfully protecting us from offensive information. Today, censorship has become automatic, enacted by simple algorithms that mindlessly protect us from offensive information. It used to be bureaucrats who followed rules; now it is just rules following rules, algorithms that decide what gets through and what stays out of consciousness.

Given that machines are the new censors, I'm going to take this whole imbroglio as a compliment, proof that it was an excess of humanity that left the algorithms perplexed, offended, and convinced that I should be silenced.

Then again, I still find the whole idea of Dick Cheney being behind this thwarted attack on R World rather alluring. Knowing that I’ve made his enemies list is enough to make me feel masculine again, even when fully immersed in a bubble bath.

My buddy Eric pointed me to this article that (sort of) explained what happened to me. That Cheney is so crafty - he made it look like he wasn't just targeting me.

Hegelian Ecololgy

Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.
- Laurence J. Peter

Hegel's philosophy was probably the biggest influence on Marx's thinking. The man's notion of dialectic as the animating force of history is one that I find persuasive.

A community may be in equilibrium. The early Greeks, say, might contentedly accept societal norms like justice and the common good. Consider that status quo the thesis. And then along comes Socrates who effectively reveals to them that they can't even define ideas like justice or the common good, awakening individual conscience. Consider this the antithesis. Then, over the course of centuries of dialectic between these two, the west eventually arrives at a synthesis, a community in which individual conscience or Adam Smith's self-interest becomes the new measure of the common good. This upwards spiral of opposing forces eventually results in a resolution, a new equilibrium, that is bigger than the two opposing points, or forces. It is through this dynamic that history unfolds, according to Hegel.

I suppose that Hegel's notion is not limited to philosophical or historical progress. His description of social evolution could be modified to describe natural evolution.

A species has to adapt to its environment. And yet, every species makes up a part of some other species environment. Every species is both adapting to the environment and defining that environment. Once a species has adapted to the environment, it has changed that environment. And, of course, this is on-going as millions of species are all engaged in the same dance. Imagine the environment as the thesis and the adapting species as the antithesis; tomorrow's species and environment is the synthesis, a new, temporary equilibrium.

I find the term Hegelian ecology oddly alluring and think that it describes this dynamic of evolution - whether social or natural. It seems to almost guarantee dynamic tension, a dance of progress. It is a reminder that the thing in itself is perhaps never quite so within itself.