Thinking A Dangerous Occupation

People like to believe that their beliefs have a foundation in logic and rational thought. It is comforting to believe that our actions are guided by principles that come from carefully reasoned arguments that are based upon facts.

Prior to blogging it was something that I believed to be true about myself. But blogging and experience has convinced me that this is most assuredly not true. I remember teasing the Shmata Queen about how she was short, crazy and illogical. I told her that every time she tried to think she got herself in trouble. Suffice it to say that when she finished beating me over the head with that enormous black purse I had a large bruise and a revelation.

I realized that many of my beliefs were nothing more than arbitrary choices that I had made. The logical positions that I had assumed they were based upon weren't always that. I'd like to say that from that moment on I vowed never to make a choice that wasn't based upon fact. I'd like to say that since then I have never made a decision that wasn't based upon logic, but that would be a lie.

There are a bunch of decisions that have been made because I was angry, sad or happy. Yep, I made choices based upon emotion. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. It really depends on the specifics. And I have long since accepted that some of my beliefs are based on faith or things that I can't prove scientifically. I don't care, at least I don't about most of them. Although there are probably a few that would bother me. How is that for hedging. ;)

Anyhoo, I can say that I work hard not to make serious decisions based upon emotion. I make a point of trying not to react. I am not always successful. Sometimes I see/read/experience things that make me see red or shake my head at the general stupidity of others. The tweet below did that.
I responded to it and said that I thought that it was one of the dumbest things I have ever read. She didn't reply. Can't say why. Could have been because she didn't see it or because she chose not to.

But it irks me. Irks me because it is a blatant distortion of reality and part of the attempt to delegitimize Israel. That affects me. That bothers me. I don't like the double standards. Don't appreciate those that wish to serve as apologists for the murderers of friends and family.

Some do it out of ignorance and some out of hatred. As a father I am very conscientious about teaching my children to judge people based upon their actions. It is the only fair way to make a determination about people. The only reasonable way to be.

But sometimes reason gets thrown out the window. Sometimes logic follows reason and all that is left is a potpourri of people and problems and it is anyone's guess as to what happens then.

The flotilla was wrong. Peaceful activists engage in dialogue and don't engage in violence unless they are interested in intentional provocation. The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994 makes it clear that Israel acted appropriately, but this will probably be ignored by much of the media and the world.

And so I find myself wondering what will happen in the morning. What will my children hear and how will I respond. What will I teach them. How do I prepare them for the lack of logic and the general nastiness. How do I explain the contradictions. It is a discussion that may not happen tomorrow, next month or next year, but it is coming.

I wonder.

I Don't Want To Live A Life of Fear and Denial

A man sits beneath a clear blue sky. Alone with his thoughts stares out at the still water of a swimming pool and wonders how it is he has reached this place. This moment in time in which he is supposed to revel in the joy of accomplishment and victories both past and present. He is struck the absurdity of his position and his feelings.

Some would say that he is at the top of his game. He has many things that others do not. A wife, children, dog, mortgage and a career that is filled with promise and opportunity. These are things that not everyone experiences. The thought makes him smile wistfully. Some would raise hell for referring to family as things. They would say that his problem is referring to people as things and not as people. It made him smile bigger, the suggestion that he was dehumanizing his family. Those who would suggest that clearly did not understand or know him.

Not that any of that mattered, it was more conjecture than anything else. The one thing that he was really guilty of was a propensity for day dreaming. It was a trait that was both endearing and infuriating. The visions he saw sometimes served to motivate and drive him but they could also leave him feeling quite morose about the future.

With a loud yawn he stretched his arms over his head and swung his legs over the side of the lounge chair. It was time to replenish his supply of liquid refreshment. Moments later he stood before the refrigerator and considered his options. An ample supply of soft drinks, beer and bottled water greeted him. In a moment of indecision he grabbed a few of each and headed back outside. Along the way he saw his iPod lying on an end table and snagged that as well.

Upon his return poolside he found his dog patiently waiting for him. He smiled in greeting and plopped back down upon his seat. "I'd offer you a beer but I am not sure that it is your thing," he said. Instead he leaned over and rubbed his head affectionately. In return he received a solid five minutes of tail wagging and nuzzling, proof that man's best friend wasn't offended by the lack of beer.

Several moments of silence later he reached into his pocket and pulled out his iPod and pressed play. He was rewarded with As it Goes by Billy Joel. For the second time in a short while a wistful smile passed across his face. It was the kind of song that made him wonder about whether things happened for a reason and whether people were given signs.

"In every heart there is a room
A sanctuary safe and strong
To heal the wounds from lovers past
Until a new one comes along"

Earlier that week he had heard from a past love. There had been a time not so long before when he was completely transfixed by her and could think of nothing but the life that they would lead together. Obviously it hadn't happened or he wouldn't refer to her in the past tense. He hated to admit it, but her loss left a bitter taste in his mouth. She really was one who had gotten away, but he wasn't so sure that he had.

"I spoke to you in cautious tones
You answered me with no pretense
And still I feel I said too much
My silence is my self defense"

She had figured it out long before he did, knew her heart and what it wanted. He took longer to get to that point, reticent for a host of reasons not the least of which was fear of being hurt as he had many times before.

"And every time I've held a rose
It seems I only felt the thorns
And so it goes, and so it goes
And so will you soon I suppose"

 Fear and reticence were eventually overcome and he let himself wander into her garden. It was a rebirth of sorts. A time when he rediscovered his ability to love unconditionally and took a new joy in life. Still, past experience made him wary so he continued to be a cautious man. Sometimes during quiet moments he worried that she would leave and he feared what would come of him. It was to become a self fulfilling prophecy.

Because though she loved him there reached a point in time at which she felt like their window of opportunity had passed and she reluctantly moved on. Her departure was indeed painful, but it would take many years before he understood just how hurt he was.

For he did move on with his life. He did the things that people were supposed to do. He lived the life that he thought he was supposed to be living or so he thought. Her unexpected reappearance made him question everything or maybe he had already been questioning things. Maybe all she did was serve as the spark that reignited the fire.

"But if my silence made you leave
Then that would be my worst mistake
So I will share this room with you
And you can have this heart to break"

These were words that he didn't say, things that he didn't dare share with her. Though he very much wanted to let her know that his heart had never healed and that his spirit suffered, he never said so. Never hinted at his true feelings or let on that he wished that he could turn back time. He didn't speak of these things because he couldn't.

Couldn't stand the idea that he hadn't really lived the life that he wanted. Couldn't stand to think that someone who knew him as no other did could walk into a room and cause his heart to stop. Couldn't stand to think of the consequences of letting her know these things.

For if he did speak of them, for if he uttered those words out loud there would be no going back. It would be an admission of failure on an epic level and an acknowledgment that those years past weren't truly over. It would be reopening the sort of wounds that do not always heal.

It was possible that she would listen to his words. It was possible that she would offer and understanding smile and reject him. That she would tell him that she was flattered but unable to do more than say thank you. That was far more likely than the Hollywood ending in which she declared that she never stopped loving him and rushed into his arms.

Sometimes prudence and safety were indeed the smart move to make.

Still, it ate away at him. He didn't want to live a life of fear and denial. He didn't want to go through the days of his life wondering what would have happened. He didn't want to live a lie. It dawned upon him that was part of the problem.

He was no longer convinced that his current life was the one that he was supposed to be living. Maybe his discontent was evidence of something that had been building in his subconscious. Maybe he wasn't supposed to be with either of these women, past or present. Maybe this was just about pushing him to take the first step in a new journey.

Too many maybes and not enough definites, that was the real problem. But as he told his children many times that was life. There were very few certainties other than change would be a consistent part of it all. Nodding his head at his own wisdom he opened a beer and took a long swig.

A decision had been made. He wouldn't say anything to anyone. There wasn't any rush to make any changes and that was good. It was clear to him that he needed to think some more about it all as both a man and a father.

Perhaps this was nothing more than one of those little blips that people experience and perhaps it wasn't. Time would tell. He would figure it out because that is what he did.

Still, he was haunted by the final section of the song and it's somewhat prophetic nature:

"And this is why my eyes are closed
It's just as well for all I've seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows

So I would choose to be with you
As if the choice were mine to make
But you can make decisions too
And you can have this heart to break

And so it goes, and so it goes
And you're the only one who knows"

It hit so very close to home, this song. So close that he found himself wondering again about it all. Another swig of beer was followed by a giant shrug. Life was an adventure that was worth living. Who could say what would happen. If nothing else it would make for a good story.

Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #13

2010 is the year of the daddy blogger and as such it is time again for the Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience. Here we are in week 13 of our ongoing journey throughout the daddy blogosphere. A collection of thoughts and ideas that are produced and reproduced by the male of the species.

Our Identical Twins...: Dylan and Kennedy are 11 months old!!
Bald Guy in Plaid Pants: Rodents, Pea Pods, New Room, Etc.
ARTSIPOP: Down But Not Out
Jack: Dear Angry Mommy Blogger
A Not So Conventional Father: Flippin' Cute Kids
Jesus Has Two Daddies:Fatherhood Friday: A big kid at heart, but a senior citizen in body
Mocha Dad: Mocha Dad and Moms: Lessons in Parenting
Hands To War: How To Become A Trophy Husband
NY Dad: Don’t I know you from somewhere…
Sex and The Single Dad: Ten Things That Make Me Happy
The Daddy Files:Pregnant = Scary 
Clark Kent's Lunchbox:Why Don't He Write? (Or Read)
And Triplets Make Six:Lovie Lookalike
Life of A New Dad: War is Hell
Real Men Drive Minivans:Road Trip!
Dad's Unplugged:Dads Unplugged
Natural Papa:Manly Skill: Become an Authentic Man
A Twisted Christian Dad:Lesson Unlearned
SAHD in Lansing:Tuesday’s 10 – Five good reads by & for Dads plus five on my to-read list
DadToday:A Divine (Dry!) Night
Dadwagon:A Week on the Wagon: Change Is the Only Constant 
The Father Factor: Where do you go with parenting questions?
Almighty Dad: Tanning and Tanning Beds: Don’t be an Idiot 
A Blogger and a Father: I Will Not Buy Pampers Diapers Anymore
Luke, I am Your Father:Relax...I do it!
The Mommy Daddy: Sugar Monkey
The Daddy Yo Blog:My Children, My Dearest
Cooking With Too Much Salt:Conversations you can’t win – Part 5 
HockeymanDad:Day of Birthdays

If you like what you see here then please consider becoming a fan of the blog. Have additional questions/comments? Send me an email at talktojacknow-at-gmail-dot-com.

Prior Editions:

Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience
Festival of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part 2
Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part III
Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part 4
Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part 5
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #6
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #7
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #8
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #9
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #10
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #11
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #12

Twitter's Follow Friday- The Rules You Need To Know

Download now or listen on posterous
16 Ezekiel 25_17.m4a (1615 KB)
The Best Part of each Friday is when I log on to Twitter and see 52 links to posts about the rules for using social media. Many of these posts are written by self proclaimed Social Media experts who claim to make their living by advising businesses and people on their social media strategy. Color me dubious but I don't think that most of these experts are earning a living through their social media work.

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe more than a few people have managed to capitalize on the social media gold rush. Maybe some of these experts have figured out a way to leverage the interest into something that pays. It wouldn't be the first time that I have been wrong, but judging by the ongoing posts by mommy bloggers about a desire to be paid for their work there is little evidence to suggest that I am.

It is probably unfair to poke fun at those who designate themselves as Social Media Experts but I almost can't help myself. What sort of qualifications does it take to become an expert in the nascent field of Social Media. Are universities offering a B.S. in Social Media. Can you earn a masters or a doctorate. Maybe you can. Maybe I should google it and see what happens. A little research is often the difference between a blogger who has credibility and those who do not.

But we'll save that discussion for a different day. Instead let's talk about Follow Friday and whether it serves a purpose or not. As indicated by its moniker Follow Friday is a weekly event on Twitter. In theory it is a way for your followers to find new people to follow courtesy of the recommendation that you offer by promoting them in your twitter stream. The real question is whether the theory translates into a practical and useful application.

During the past year or so I have read a number of posts by people who think that it doesn't work anymore. The central tenet of their complaint is that Follow Friday has turned into a time in which people churn out lists of names without supplying a reason why people should follow them. I can't say that I completely disagree with it. Sometimes when I review my stream it is nothing but names.

I am not pressed for time that works for me. I'll click on a name and review their profile to see if they're someone that I might be interested in following. But given a choice I'd much rather see a reason for following than just a name next to the Follow Friday hashtag. The extra effort lends more weight to your recommendation. It makes it a little bit more credible and enhances the likelihood that I'll follow them.
But I wouldn't say that this is a rule for using Twitter because I see Twitter the way that see most social media. There are no rules to refer to. At best there are guidelines that you can follow or to use tired business jargon, Best Practices.

For me it all comes back to a question of whether I am making effective use of Twitter and other social media tools as they relate to my personal goals. I am not sure that the current practice of tweeting lists of people for Follow Friday is doing that for me. It has some use for building a communal feeling among the daddy bloggers, but beyond that I am skeptical.

What do you think?

Dear Angry Mommy Blogger

Dear Angry Mommy Blogger,

Hello. It is your good friend Jack writing to you from his little corner of cyberspace. I am here to tell you that my heart bleeds for you, poor little mommy blogger.

You, the overworked and under appreciated renaissance woman deserve better than you have received. For the past year or so you have worked really hard to build a blog that you can use to get free crap to giveaway to your readers. You have gone to parties, conferences and conventions and worked really, really, really hard to be nice to the mean girls as well as the nice ones.

Every day you devote hours to your blog. And you do that in between changing diapers, driving carpool, cooking dinner, telling stories about how crazy your mother-in-law is or swapping stories about the stupid things your husband does.

But in spite of your best efforts you aren't given the respect that you so rightly deserve. The brands want you to work for free. They send you press releases and ask you to write about their products/clients without any sort of compensation. That is the kind of stuff that you did when you were a new blogger and didn't know better. Back in those days you were happy to get any sort of attention from a brand. It made your heart sing to get that email from the PR person. You remember the one. It made you feel appreciated and acknowledged.

Fortunately you are better educated now about the game and understand how it works. A virtual eternity has passed since then and now you know that someone tried to take advantage of you. Your mother taught you better than that, you don't put out for free. You didn't do it in high school and you sure as hell aren't going to do it now.

You have seen the banners floating around other blogger's sites and you know that they aren't better than yours. You know that if they can do it so can you. So you tightened your belt, arched your back and joined some of your sister mommy bloggers in raising your voices in outrage. This abuse is going to end and soon, because if it doesn't those brands will be sorry.

You won't stand for emails that address you as blogger any indication that the writer hasn't read your about me page and three other recent posts. Don't those PR people read. Can't they understand that women make major purchasing decisions, that moms are a mighty force in the world.

What? What is that you say? You have never heard of me. You don't know me, have never heard of Jack and can't understand why I have taken a rude and sarcastic tone. Why I am shocked I tell you. Outraged that you haven't any clue who I am. My poor fragile male ego is destroyed.

But before I climb back under my computer desk let me throw a few things out at you, free advice/commentary. There is a very low barrier to entry in blogging. You don't have to spend money on hosting, themes or domain names to get into it. All you need is an internet connection.

The field is cluttered, noisy and more crowded than the most popular concert you have ever been to. And to make matters worse the shrinking attention spans of people has made it even harder to get their attention, let alone keep it.

If you want to survive and thrive in this environment you need more than luck and hope. You need to remember that it is a marathon not a sprint. You need to remember that it takes time to build a business and that is ok. Because most bloggers don't last. Most give up relatively quickly.

So if you can hold on, if you can sustain your effort over the long haul you will benefit from it. And you need to remember that doesn't necessarily mean that you will ever earn enough to support your family from blogging. But you might. Or you might reach a point where it generates enough monthly income to pay for a few extras, to cover gas and groceries.

I know, you aren't really interested in hearing me lecture you. Have no desire for a man to come fix the problem or to offer solutions. You have a husband/brother or father to do that. So I suppose that I'll go back to being my cranky, curmudgeonly self  at one of the daddy blogger's joints.

It has been a while since we shared a beer, bitched about being nagged at and rolled our eyes at being forced to see chick flicks like Sex and the City 2.

Mnemonic- Nifty Memory Tricks

Main Entry: 1mne·mon·ic
Etymology: Greek mnēmonikos, from mnēmōn mindful, from mimnēskesthai to remember — more at mind
Date: 1753
1 : assisting or intended to assist memory; also : of or relating to mnemonics
2 : of or relating to memory

Some of the math geeks might be familiar with the mnemonic devices surrounding Pi. Wolfram Mathworld has a collection called Pi Worldplay that are kind of cool. For example:

"How I want a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics" The number of letters in each word relates to each of the first 15 digits in Pi (3.14159265358979).

Some other examples of mnemonics:

Order of taxonomy in biology:
(Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species)
Kids Prefer Cheese Over Fried Green Spinach.

Order of geological time periods:
(Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous, Permian, Triassic, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Paleocene, Eocene, Oligocene, Miocene, Pliocene, Pleistocene, Recent)
Cows Often Sit Down Carefully. Perhaps Their Joints Creak?
Persistent Early Oiling Might Prevent Painful Rheumatism.

I had one that I learned in school for remembering the planets

"My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas." That translated to Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

Of course now the damn astronomers have screwed that up by saying that Pluto isn't a planet. Damn them, next thing you know they'll say that Goofy isn't a dog.

And who can forget Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally. What a lovely way to remember the order of operations:

If you have any that you wish to share please feel free to add them in the comments.

Music for the morning

Just a few tunes to get your morning moving.
Download now or listen on posterous
1-09 Mess Around.m4a (4835 KB)

Old Comments- A Few Notes

I am beginning to think that the Smoke Monster has eaten/killed/destroyed whatever and whomever is working upon the comment situation here. Or should I say that DISQUS hasn't figured out yet why my old comments haven't been imported into their system.

It is more than a little frustrating that weeks later I am still waiting for the old comments to be imported, but since I like their commenting system better than blogger I'll have to wait a little bit longer and see what happens. AllI ask is that it happens before moshiach comes. ;)

The Traveling Jack Show- I Hate Flying

Flying reminds me a bit of hanging out with an old girlfriend. There are moments where I stare at you and wonder why we ever broke up. You're beautiful. You're sexy and you're a lot of fun. We start to talk and the conversation just flows.

For a while I start to wonder why we broke up. Maybe it wasn't you, maybe it was me. But gradually I find evidence of the things that I didn't like and the shine starts to fade a bit. When you laugh you snort. When we were going out I thought that it was cute, but at the end it made me crazy.

I notice a few other details that irritate me and slowly I remember why it is that we don't see each other anymore.

That sort of describes my feelings about flying. There was a time when I loved it. It used to be special and exciting. It was an experience that I look forward to, but not anymore. Now it is a task.

Next month Traveling Jack hits the road again. Got places to go and people to see. And it means that I am stuck flying again, an experience that I just don't like anymore. It is really too bad, because I used to really enjoy it. There was something magical about it. I stepped onto the plane in one city and a short time later I'd find myself walking in some exotic city with different sights, sounds and smells than I was used to.

I loved that. Loved going somewhere new and experiencing new things. I suppose that hasn't really changed, it is just the process of getting there and it is a process. Cramped seats, fees for luggage, food and strict rules about carry-on luggage are all part of it.

That doesn't take into account the long lines at security and the prep work that is required to go through it. At the airport I empty my pockets into ziplock bags that I stuff into my backpack. I try to wear shoes that are easy to take on and off. My laptop is carefully pulled out of its case and gently placed into a bin so that the TSA can verify that it is an ordinary computer.

Sometimes the line doesn't move quickly and I find that upon clearing it I have to make a mad dash for the gate. It doesn't matter that I got the airport two hours before my flight was supposed to take off. I am late and that damn plane isn't going to wait.

So I make like OJ in one of those old Hertz commercials and I fly down the terminal and race onto the plane. Fight my way down the aisle to my seat and discover that all of the overhead bins are filled. A flight attendant takes my bag and stows it. I sit down, secure my seat belt and remember that I have to use the bathroom...desperately.

I would have used it before I stepped on board but security tripped me up. Now I am on board and I have to be careful. Thanks to past events and current security standards I can't race down the aisle to the bathroom or I risk creating a problem. It is too close to take off and I don't want to argue with the flight attendant because it doesn't take much for them to flag me as being problematic. That kind of scarlet letter leads to all sorts of time spent talking with people I don't really want to see.

It is not because I have anything to hide, I don't. But it is just a major hassle and who knows, there could be some sort of fine involved. Flying is expensive, no need to add more costs to it.

So I'll sit in my seat and squirm. I'll sit and hope that the plane isn't delayed and that I won't be prevented from hitting the head by beverage service. Good old beverage service one of the few things that they don't charge for, but they will. Because it is just a matter of time before they tell us that it costs an additional $25 bucks to breathe the recycled air we all share.

And while I squirm in my seat and hope that my dysfunctional digestive system cooperates I'll hope that I am not placed next to screaming children, men who are 6'5 or larger and the lady who can't stop talking about things that I don't care about.

It makes me grouchy all this worrying. So I try to get it out of my system by writing about it, sharing my weakness with you. I'll admit that I make a point of checking out the other passengers because though I really don't worry about terrorism I won't sit idly by. I can assure you that if I encounter someone hinky I am not afraid to do something about it. Or maybe it is because I am afraid that I am willing to.

What does it say about me that I have decided that I won't think twice about pummeling someone who jeopardizes the safety and well being of those on the flight. Blame some of it on an overactive imagination. Some of the anger can be attributed to airlines who let their planes be used as missiles, received billions of dollars from the taxpayers and still charge us more while providing less.

All I want to do is sit down, take out my laptop or iPod and zone out. If there is WiFi I'll surf the net and try to regale you with tales of the trip from 30,000 feet above. Or I'll listen to my music and ask Ray Charles and company to help me relax.

And let's not forget that I am not on the same flight as the kids and their mother. Memories of a different flight stick with me. A flight that made an emergency landing because of engine trouble. A flight that  wasn't on, but my ten month old son was.

It all worked out, the ten month old boy is almost ten years old now, but the experience stuck with me. Primarily because my family was at risk and I couldn't do anything about it. As a man that is galling in ways that I can't explain other than to say that it is sort of a primal thing. Part of my job is to protect my family and I wasn't there.

But though I remember that day I don't really think of it often. It all worked out and I really am good about not focusing on things that I can't control. I know, the blog makes it appear otherwise, but...

Really, the biggest issue for me is anticipation. I feeling like I have the sword of Damocles over my head. I hate waiting. I am much better at dealing with things head on.

Anyhoo, I am excited about the other pieces of the trip. Looking forward to spending time with family. Got a niece and nephews to play with and more. And if things work out the way I hope, a post about my time at Cooperstown. Yes, I am going to try and hit the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And now if you'll excuse me I need to pack for something else.

Other Posts about Flying

I don't Like Flying Anymore
Cruising At 34,000 Feet
Deciphering Frequent Flier Programs
All My Bags Are Packed
Airplane Trouble? Kill a Goat
Flying The Unfriendly Skies
Crying Child Forces Family From Plane
The Land of Lost Luggage
Airlines Continue To Rob The Public
The Joys of Flying Commercial Airlines 
What If The Plane Crashes
Traveling Jack's Plane Made It 

Wednesday Wrap Up

Here is a quick selection of recent posts from the blog:

My Penis Died
What Really Happens in School
Lost Continued- Unanswered Questions
Jack Looks Stupid on Video- One Hour Photo
Take a Walk on The Wild Side
Learn Something New Each Day- LOST Edition
The Lost Series Finale
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #12
You "Do" For Family

My Penis Died

I wrote this five years ago, but thanks to a recent discussion with my son I decided to unveil it again. New posts are forthcoming.

My oh my do I love my son. He consistently makes me smile and laugh, with the intermittent bouts of screaming. He is a miniature version of myself, smaller. smarter and with more energy. The Pentium to my 386.

Today he had me close to doubled over with laughter on a couple of occasions. He called me into his room because he was very excited about something. I moseyed on in and he said to me:

"Abba, my penis died."
"Oh, I see. How did it die," I asked.

"First it was really big and it was standing up. And then it became soft and fell down," He replied.
"So let me ask you a question. Were you touching it before it got really small."

"Yes, first I did a thing to it like this and then after a while it died."
"Ok, I see. Let me tell you a few things about how your penis works and let's see if that works for you."

"Ok abba."

A little time passes and he comes to find me to ask me a new question.

"Abba, what happens to your penis when you die?"

Ok, this is a variation on the theme of death that I had already covered. This I should be able to handle. And then it occurred to me that at 4.5 he takes much of what he is told literally so I paused for a moment to consider how to answer the question. As I paused he asked me a new question.

"Abba, do you feel ok?"

I smiled and said that I did and asked why he asked that question.

"Because you make a funny face when you are thinking hard."

Boy, the child is observant and smart. I was about to offer answers to both questions when I was saved by a new thought. He wanted to watch Scooby Doo and I consented. In part because I hadn't come up with a satisfactory answer to his question of what happens to your penis when you die.

It is not that I am stumped, but as I mentioned I want to be careful in my answer because he is literal in his understanding of some things. This is the boy who looked at the Mary Poppins DVD, saw Dick Van Dyke's face covered in soot and called him the black man. Actually he asked me about the black man in Mary Poppins and for a moment I was stumped because I couldn't think of a single character who wasn't white.

I am waiting for the day in which my daughter asks me these kinds of questions. Of course if at 4.5 she talks to me about a dead penis someone is going to find out that I can float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

What Really Happens in School

Well I'm an axe grinder Piledriver
Mother says that I never never mind her
Got no brains I'm insane
Teacher says that I'm one big pain
I'm like a laser 6-streamin' razor
I got a mouth like an alligator
I want it louder
More power
I'm gonna rock ya till it strikes the hour

Bang your head! Metal Health'll drive you mad
Band your head! Metal Health'll drive you mad
Metal Health- Quiet Riot 

My children go to one of them high falutin' fancy private schools where we pay a boatload of money so that little Johnny and Sally can receive a better education than they would in a public school. We do it because education is of paramount importance. We do it because no matter what happens to you in life your education cannot be taken from you.

I make a point of being around the school. The teachers and administrators know me by name. Parents of the other students know me and my children know that I am an active participant in their education. Not just because I show up at school but because I am involved with their homework too.

But I am not involved solely because it is a private school. I am involved because I believe that a parent is obligated to help their children with their education. I am involved because I think that a school that doesn't have an active parent teacher association is on a path to failure.

There is nothing profound about that. Most children would rather play than work, that is not a secret. Active participation by parents helps to minimize the amount of screwing around that goes on versus learning.

So I do what I can to be around and to be involved. And I make a point to always attend events like the open house we went to last night. I like Open House because you see concrete examples of the learning that has been taking place. Art work, science projects and more are on display. In some respects I prefer it to parent/teacher conferences.

I prefer it because at the Open House you gain more insight into the progress of all of the students. You get a chance to see what the teacher has been doing with everyone as well as your child. There is merit in that.

Don't get me wrong, conferences are important. I like your child, but I love my child more. So I want the individual report. I want to hear first hand from the teacher about their strengths and weaknesses. But I never forget that teachers have to protect themselves too. So I sometimes wonder what they intentionally omit from the conference.

Open house helps to shed some additional light on things. It is not perfect. I don't expect to learn what really happens in school from it, but I do expect to learn a little bit more about it.

And I really do enjoy visiting the art/science fair to see which students actually did the work versus those that received special help from adults. Because let's be honest about it, some of the more sophisticated projects weren't done by an 8/9 year old. They weren't done by the 12 year-olds either.

That is not to say that you won't find the exceptional student who can do it, but they are the exception and not the rule.

I Want To Create

Take a Walk on The Wild Side

Your name is Johnny and you have been in love with June for so many years you can't remember what it was like before her.  The two of you had a whirlwind romance that took you both by surprise. It was unexpected and unlooked for, but deeply appreciated.

Together you built a secret world and learned about love on a level that most people never reach. You shared your thoughts, hopes and dreams. You laughed and learned together, held hands and walked through a land of magic. For a long while you were the kind of couple that people described as being disgustingly happy.

For years you ruled your kingdom alongside your queen. It was both magical and mystical. You loved June so damn fiercely that it hurt to be apart from her. You called her your air as she did you. When she told you that no one else could take better care of you than she you smiled and your heart swelled with joy. It was impossible not to smile because you knew that it was true.

So you took her in your arms and promised her the same. You told her that you would love and honor her. You promised to cherish her and protect her. And you did, protect her. There are more than a few occasions upon which you were called upon to ride out the castle gates and meet those who wished her ill.

You didn't care what the situation was or how badly the odds might be stacked against you. If June was threatened you were going to meet the challenge head on and do what was required to remove the danger. It wasn't always easy for her to let you go.

It wasn't just because she worried about Johnny's safety but because of her own independence. June had never needed to rely upon another to take care of her problems. Her approval of Johnny's actions were a testament to how deeply she loved him.

But life happens and things changed. One day Johnny and June left the castle and rode out into the forest. They stood beneath a moonlit sky and held hands. Their quiet moment was interrupted by howling. Johnny looked up and found several pairs of eyes staring back at him. Wolves. Not a wolf, but wolves.

You weren't fazed by the presence of the wolves, not with June standing next to you. You didn't worry about your own safety all you cared about was protecting your queen.  So you told her to get on the horse and ride for the safety of the castle walls. And when she protested you told her to stop fighting and to get the hell out.

Grudgingly she mounted your horse and began to ride. Less than a moment later you had your arms wrapped around the body of a wolf. And as you struggled to break his neck the rest of the pack attacked. Rolling in the dirt you wondered if she could hear your screams and hoped not.

Later on you would find yourself lying bloodied and bruised upon the forest floor. There was no sign of the wolves and you had no memory of what had happened to them. So you picked yourself up and wandered back towards the castle. Anxious to see June you maintained a quick pace and it wasn't long before you arrived.

Only this time the castle gates were not open, nor did trumpets blare to herald your return. Instead you were met by silence. The castle was empty. June was gone and there wasn't any sort of note to indicate where, when or why.

It would take time but eventually you would learn that she had moved on to another place. So you'd set out to go meet her there, it never occurring to you that your queen had intentionally moved. It took a long time to get to the new place, but you did find it. And when you did you discovered that June wasn't interested in speaking with you.

You'd come to learn that things had happened and changes had come along with those things. June would tell you that she wasn't going to spend time with you. But because you are Johnny you'd refuse to give up. You'd tell her that you didn't believe her. You'd tell her that you were certain she was still your girl and that she was still in love with you.

You'd tell her that you knew she was pushing you away and that you thought that she was acting like an idiot. But you'd find that you couldn't do much about it because sometimes people have to do things on their own. So you decided to wait. You'd make it clear to June that you still loved her. You'd try and take a long term approach and wait because you were convinced that it wasn't done.

And in the darker moments you'd question your behavior and wonder if you were a fool. But there were also moments where you were certain that you weren't. Love isn't rational and it doesn't work based upon logic.  So you'd wait because you remembered the secret world and knew that she did too. You'd wait and watch for the sign that maybe it wasn't all in vain.

Who knew that one kiss could change two lives so dramatically.

Learn Something New Each Day- LOST Edition

It has become a cliche of sorts to teach your children to try and learn something new each day. It is the kind of thing that some people say without any real regard for what it means. It is not so different from people who ask how you are doing but are truly uninterested in your response.

I am not one of those people. I don't say that to make myself look good but because I don't ask you how you are doing unless I want to know. I am a grouchy old man who doesn't care whether you like me or not. Social pleasantries are for the kind and dimwitted. Unfortunately I am merely dimwitted and bereft of the kindness gene.

Anyhoo, the series finale for LOST has come and gone and though it didn't hit the mark that I hoped that it would it did serve as a good teaching tool for myself. I expect that it will help me to achieve some of my goals.

I am a guy who dreams of being a minstrel or bard, a traveling storyteller who can spin a good yarn and then sing a song or two about life. Now I may never become the bard, but I think that I can become the published author. I have a few books living inside my head. I have a few screenplays too. They need to be written. They need to be turned into something tangible that doesn't exist solely in the province of my dreams.

One of the tools that I am using to help me take them from fantasy to reality is this blog. I write a lot of fiction, quite a bit of which is never published here. I rarely edit it and more often than not I compose it on the fly.

The finale made me realize that I have to rework my approach. The finale fell short because it left too many questions unanswered and because they took the easy way out. I don't want to do that. I want to be better. So if I want to avoid falling into those traps I think that I am going to have to create an outline and or mental map of what I want to happen.

I need to spend some time developing the characters and the challenges they face. It is a little bit foreign to me to do so. I really do prefer to work things the way that I always have. But then again if you do things the same way every time than you should expect to get the same results.

It is a lesson that I have already shared with my kids. Now it is time for their dad to do a better job of living it.

The Lost Series Finale

It is a few minutes after 1 A.M and Jack the vampire boy is wide awake and thinking about the LOST series finale. I watched every episode of that show from start to finish. I wouldn't identify myself as one of the hardcore fans who followed it with religious adoration, but I was a regular.

A regular who very much enjoyed the series and found many of the episodes to be outstanding. Not just outstanding but intriguing. They did what a good show is supposed to do, they drew me in and made me feel. They engaged my mind and made me ask questions about what was happening. In that respect I am sure that I was quite similar to millions of other fans.

So while I was sorry to see the show end I was pleased to have the opportunity to have those questions answered. As the the final episodes ticked away I grew more interested and more intrigued by what the finale would share with us.

And I prayed that it wouldn't fall into the same trap as The Sopranos Finale. Ok, it is an exaggeration to say that I prayed for something better, but I was hopeful that the writers would find a way to end it that left some of the magic intact.

Unfortunately it fell just short of the mark. It was great until the final ten minutes and then the writers succumbed to the easy way out. That ending was far too predictable and quite unsatisfying. To me it wasn't much different from a thousand episodes of Gilligan's Island.

Every week the castaways would discover a way to get off of the island and every week their escape/rescue would be foiled by Gilligan making some bumble headed mistake. I wanted more out of it. As a writer and a fan I wanted more, but I didn't get it.

Granted I recognize that it is not always easy to take a story and thread the needle the way this one needed to be threaded. My own fiction is riddled with inconsistencies, cliches and weak plot lines that could use polishing and development. One of my concerns with writing a book is that I don't fall into that cesspool of ridiculous writing.

But then again I am not paid a very healthy salary to work as a writer. I like to think that if I was I could do better. I like to think that I would have found a way not to take the easy way out. I like to think that I wouldn't have opted for the choice that they made.

Or so I think. I am sure that many others will consider the finale to be a masterpiece. They won't be bothered as I am or concerned because it didn't answer as many questions as I would have liked.

In any case I am appreciative of the time and effort that cast and crew put in. They did a good job of entertaining us and that is worth more than a little.

Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #12

2010 is the year of the daddy blogger and as such it is time again for the Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience. Here we are in week 12 of our ongoing journey throughout the daddy blogosphere. A collection of thoughts and ideas that are produced and reproduced by the male of the species.

While you are under no obligation to link, tweet or engage in any sort of promotion about the festival it is greatly appreciated when you do. And now on with the show.That's it for now. This shouldn't be considered a complete list of the many fine daddy bloggers, but it does provide a small glimpse into our world.

" one way or another all men are mad. Many are mad for money...Love is a can grow to a frenzy of despair ... All the whole list of desires, predilections, aversions, ambitions, passions, cares, griefs, regrets, remorses, are incipience madness, and ready to grow, spread and consume, when the occasion comes. There are no healthy minds, and nothing saves any man but accident--the accident of not having his malady put to the supreme test.
One of the commonest forms of madness is the desire to be noticed, the pleasure derived from being noticed. Perhaps it is not merely common, but universal."
- "The Memorable Assassination"  Mark Twain

Almighty Dad: Sometimes Your Kid Just Wants a Hug: Give it to Him
Random Thoughts:If You Died, Who Would Take Care Of Your Children
Clark Kent's Lunchbox: My Urologist Is The Smoke Monster
Dad Revolution:Tips for summer outings with a baby or toddler
Howefitz Blog:An Idiot’s Guide To Australia (Plus, A Sweet as Sugar Milk Contest)
A Dad's Heart:"The Evolution of Dad" -- A Review
Undaddy: No one is available to take your call
Daddy Files: My Son, The Devil 
Random Thoughts: The Rules of Blogging- How To Make Money Part 1
NY Dad: Spring Cleaning
And Triplets Make Six: 15-Lovie
Dadwagon: A Week on the Wagon: Sherlock Holmes Edition 
Cute Monster: Empire Strikes Back 30th Anniversar...
Rebel Dad: Odds and Ends (and Turnabout)
Dad-o-Matic: Cast of Dads #19: U CAN Touch This
Luke, I am Your Father: Working the Heavy Bag
Wrath66: When BBG! Says, "Jump!"
Ed@Home Dad: Saturday Storytime 3 (The Frog Princess
DC Urban Dad:I suck
Real Men Drive Minivans:Orange we glad scurvy’s not an issue
Mocha Dad: Art Imitates Life
Busy Dad:Oh Baby Girl!
Techydad: Aloha Friday: Cooking with Kids
SAHD in Lansing:Fatherhood Friday: World Cup Fantasy Tournament for Charity
SAHDPDX: Throw Back: Fake it until you make it
The Father Life:[LUDWIG@HOME] A Guy’s Guide to Breastfeeding
Musings From the Big Pink: Death Of A Vacation
Us and Them: Don't Stick Your Finger In There!
Why is Daddy Crying:Heroes
Diary Of A new Dad: Week Twenty: Over the hill
Busy D-E: The Church Heckler: Strangers With Toys
Being Michael's Daddy:Quest For Food
Dear Mr. Man: One Word Wednesday
Smonk You:You were wrong Mr. Smith...boys do cry
The Daddy Yo Blog:Letter to Caleb: Happy Birthday Son!

If you like what you see here then please consider becoming a fan of the blog. Have additional questions/comments? Send me an email at talktojacknow-at-gmail-dot-com.

Prior Editions:

Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience
Festival of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part 2
Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part III
Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part 4
Festival Of The Fathers- A Blog Experience Part 5
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #6
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #7
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #8
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #9
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #10
Festival of Fathers- A Blog Experience #11

The Best of Jewish/Israeli Blogosphere

The Rebbetzin's Husband has put together a great carnival for your reading pleasure. Go read Haveil Havalim 268 - The Victoria Day Edition!

You "Do" For Family

"When you get an exasperating letter what happens? If you are young, you answer it promptly, instantly--and mail the thing you have written. At forty what do you do? By that time you have found out that a letter written in passion is a mistake in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred."
- Mark Twain, a Biography

"An old, cold letter ....makes you wonder how you could ever have got into such a rage about nothing."
- Mark Twain, a Biography

My paternal grandfather is certainly one of my heroes.  In a month it will be four years since he died and I miss him as much now as I ever have. It is still strange to me that he has already missed out on sharing so many monumental events. It is sometimes hard to hear my daughter say that she doesn't remember him at all.

If you show her his picture she can tell you who he is but nothing more than that. Neither of the kids have a clear understanding of just how much influence he had upon my life and why I hold on so tightly to the memories. That is ok, I don't expect it of them.

Lately I have been thinking about him more frequently. Much of that can be attributed to various events that have taken place, some good and some bad. But all of them enough to merit my wanting to talk to him about it. It would be nice to share some of the good things and to get his advice on the trickier items.

I don't have to close my eyes to hear him tell me that it is not smart to let your temper make decisions for you or that you can't screw an old head on young shoulders. Not hard for me to remember him teaching me how to throw a punch or that putting a roll of quarters in your fist is an effective way to add a little kick to your punch.

Grandpa was a character of the first order and a man who understood that sometimes you "do" for family. It is a lesson that I am passing along to my children. They need to understand that "doing" for your family is something that isn't always an option. Things happen and sometimes you adjust your schedule to take care of your siblings, parents, cousins or uncles.

We have conversations about this, the children and I. We talk about what helping out means and why it doesn't always make sense to throw money at a problem. We talk about how actions are important and what that means.

My daughter says that she is not afraid because she knows that I will protect her. Her big brother corrects her and says that "dad will protect everyone, including his parents and sisters." It leads into a back and forth between the two of them about what I will do and whether I would kill people who want to hurt the family.

For a moment I am silent, grateful that they feel this support. Grateful that they announce that they will do the same for me, but not until I really old, maybe in my fifties.

Sitting alongside them I wonder if I need to say more about it. I don't really like this talk about killing. They are right about one thing, I am the guy who will protect them. Jump in front of the bus, run into a burning building or take a bullet. To quote Superchicken, I knew the job was dangerous when I took it.

Of course I'll do it. Just ask my sisters and then tell you that I have spent the last 39 years looking out for them, whether they wanted it or not. Grandpa and my dad bear some of the responsibility for that. Now I can't help it, it is innate this desire to watch out for them.

But it is hard not to feel a little bit badly about this. She is short of six and he is almost ten and they are aware that there are bad people. Before we go to crowded places we have the conversation about being careful to stay together. I rarely say anything about bad things happening. I just say that I don't want them to get lost, but invariably one of them will mention not wanting bad people to take them.

It is a sad commentary, their awareness. Fortunately they don't walk around exhibiting signs of paranoia or fear. They aren't afraid to go out in public, just cautious about who, when and where. Not such a bad thing.

The telephone rings and I answer. I hear my son say that "dad is angry." My daughter agrees and tries to ask me what is going on. My sister is on the line telling me about a situation she is involved in. I am not angry with her and I am not about to share the story with my kids. It is none of their business and there is no reason for them to be involved.

I give my sister some advice and offer further assistance if she needs it. It surprises me a little bit that the kids picked up on my anger so quickly. I ask them what they saw and they tell me that I did that thing with my eyes. I am not entirely sure what that means, but they say that whenever they see it they know that someone is in trouble.

Smiling at them both I tell them that I wasn't angry, just concerned. They tell me that they think I was angry. I respond and tell them that I try not to make any decisions when I am angry because giving in to your temper can help you make bad choices.

The matter is handled and we move onto other things. Later that night I'll think about it all and wonder if I should have spent more time talking with them again about why it is important to help family. Alone with my thoughts I ponder and consider it.

And just before I slip into unconsciousness I think that this is another one of those grandpa moments. Would have been nice to speak with him about it. Can't say that I would have done anything differently, but that's ok. Sometimes all you want is that friendly ear.

The Rules of Blogging- How To Make Money Part 1

If you are an "I don't like authority" kind of person like me than blogging is a wonderful place to be. Enjoy your freedom and revel in it. Engage it with the sort of passion you devote to whatever or whomever you love and watch your life change. Soon you'll be rolling in millions. People will flock to your blog and advertisers will beg you to promote their products.

Really, it is true. If you roll with the mommy bloggers they'll tell you the same thing. They'll share posts about not selling yourself short and how you deserve to be paid for your efforts. That makes a lot of sense, doesn't it- the idea of being paid for your services.

The rub is that many of you don't deserve a dime. You don't offer anything of significant value to an advertiser. I know, that is really harsh and not at all charitable. But from a business perspective it is reality. Perhaps a cold and unpleasant reality but reality nonetheless.

The good news is that you don't need an M.B.A. or a J.D. to understand why a business does or doesn't need you. You don't really need to read posts by social media experts to figure out that businesses want to reach as many eyeballs of their target demographic for as little money as possible.

They want to position themselves alongside thought leaders who can influence their target demographic to purchase their products and services. So while it is nice to know that you have a loyal readership of 12 and can provide them with access to this highly influential group it is unlikely to be of interest.

No one cares that you predict that within six months the Matilda Hornsucker blog will quadruple in size. You simply aren't big enough to get their attention. You could be 100 times bigger and still fall short of what they are looking for.

I suppose that I should mention that the ubiquitous they I am referring to are the companies that are spending millions of dollars on their online ad campaign because there are quite a few who do so. Is it just me or do you get a tingly sensation in your hands just thinking about that. It is easy to imagine that a company that has a multimillion dollar ad budget would have no problem kicking over a few shekels to you.

Really, why couldn't they spend a measly $5,000 a month on your blog. It is such a small percentage of their budget they wouldn't notice. Ah, but they do notice more often than you realize.

The smart companies track their ad dollars far more closely than you might realize. They have people on their marketing team and their ad agencies that are paid monitor these things. They want to know what their ROI is. They want data that they can use to show to their bosses and or shareholders. Data that demonstrates that advertising drives leads that convert into sales. They want data that demonstrates that their advertising provides their brand with a positive public perception.

What that means is that there is work tied into that measly $5k we just discussed. Someone has to follow those dollars. Someone has a spreadsheet that they use to track these expenditures. And the last thing that they want to do is have to account for a poor performance.

So they are careful in where they put those dollars. That means that if you want to get a piece of the pie you are going to have to provide them with data that they can use to support including your blog on the buy. That means that you are likely competing with bigger sites that have constructed media kits that serve as the proof.

Those kits contain demographic information that is likely more detailed than what you have to offer. I have never seen a personal blog that has a serious media kit. I suppose that it is possible, but I have my doubts.

This is part of why blog networks developed. The power of many versus the power of one. Remember this is about reaching eyeballs. If you run a network and can offer access to millions of eyeballs it is easier to overcome some of the difficulties in not having real demographics to present.

I say real demographics because I am a skeptic about them. Much of that information is generated from user surveys and other sources that I question the validity of, but that is a different topic.

This is part of the reason why so many media kits supplement their user data with general stats about users. On the mommy blogger side you can guarantee that they are going to make some sort of claim about what role women play in shopping for various items. Another example of broad claims is saying that 3 out of 5 dentists recommend a particular product. But again, I don't want to get caught up in that.

Some of you might try to overcome some of these objections by offering a free campaign. In concept it seems like a reasonable way to start a relationship. Dear Mr. Advertiser I am so confident that your campaign will do well I am willing to give to you for free.

That is a rough way to go for a host of reasons. Some advertisers won't do it because free doesn't remove their obligation to track the campaign. The work still exists and they'd rather not get involved unless they are comfortable that they'll benefit.

But it is also rough because you severely limit your ability to negotiate future ad buys. It is really hard to get people to pay more the second time around. Most ad buyers will work to get a better deal the second time around.

This brings us back to the bloggers who say that everyone needs to start somewhere. Many of them never think beyond that first sponsor. They don't think about the situation we addressed above, nor do they realize that their actions impact the rest of us in the blogosphere. You could make a crude comparison between this and sex.

If you put out for anyone who asks they don't have a reason to go elsewhere and they probably won't respect you in the morning.

One could argue that two of the biggest problems are the low barrier to entry and the minimal financial investment. People are far less cautious spending throwaway cash than they are with more significant investments.

So let's go back the original discussion about being paid what you are worth. I really do support that. I'd rather see bloggers get paid for their efforts. But I am also a realist and very few deserve a dime, at least from the perspective of the business.

Lest anyone say that I am picking on the mommy bloggers let me say that I feel the same way about the dads. Although the good news for us fathers is that the field is not nearly as cluttered. It is easier to distinguish yourself and stand out from the crowd.

Even so, we are still subject to the same rules as listed above.

Just a couple more comments and then it is on to more exciting ventures.

1) If you spend time reading these types of posts it sounds like a million pitches are being sent out. I don't believe it. Quite a few of these bloggers are inflating numbers and or omitting the part in which they pitched the agency/brand.

2) Very few bloggers make real money from selling ads or any sort of sponsorship on their blogs. If they are doing well it pays for some groceries or gas but not much beyond that.

3) If you don't love to blog and aren't making money or receiving really cool products for your use you are unlikely to last for any length of time. There are probably better uses for your time.

I still dislike the blog with integrity buttons. If you have to use that on your blog than maybe you have an issue that needs to be dealt with. Be transparent in your posts and make sure that your disclosure policy is visible and you'll have fewer problems.

Anyway, that is all I have got for you right now.

If You Died, Who Would Take Care Of Your Children

This may be a recycled post but it is an incredibly important topic and something that hasn't been resolved in my home. Last year two friends died leaving behind more than two widowers- they left four children. Four children lost their mothers- a stark reminder that things happen.

So again I find myself confronting this issue, trying to figure out what should happen if the worst came about. Somewhat coincidentally I stumbled onto Bruce Feiler's book, or should I say a review of it and well, here I am.

Tonight I am going to go lie in bed and try to figure out what to do. Tonight I'll close my eyes and consider who I can ask and who I want to look out for the children. It is so very hard because no one will love or take care of them in the same manner as their parents, but that cannot prevent us from making hard choices.

Anyway, the text below is from the original post. Not much has changed since then, not necessarily because of lack of effort either, but that is a different tale.
If you ever want to kill a conversation. If you ever want to change the tone into something more somber and muted ask a parent if they have made plans for where the children would live if something happened to them.

It is a frightening topic. It is a hard topic. It is uncomfortable to consider what would happen to your children if they were to lose their parents. It is painful to think about a future in which you do not participate.

It is a discussion that you have to have. As a parent you have to take the time to consider all of the angles. If the worst happens, who gets the kids. Who do you trust to raise them. If the worst happens is there someone who can provide for them. Is there is friend or family member who you can rely upon to take care of your children.

Will they respect your wishes and impart the same values upon them that you would. And assuming that you have someone in mind that you would like to act as a surrogate parent, will they be capable of taking this responsibility on.

One of my sisters and I recently spent time talking about this. We live on opposite coasts. She is on the Frigid East and I am out here in the Sunny West. Neither one of us is likely to pick up and move any time soon so if anything happened there is a good chance that the kids would find that their worlds had been turned upside down in every possible way.

Of course this is only a hypothetical, a worst case scenario that we hope never develops into any sort of twisted reality.

But you know the old saying, people plan and G-d laughs. As we head into another new year I ask again to be given the opportunity to see my job through. At a minimum I need another 100 years or so.

I'd like to meet my great-grandchildren. Is that so much to ask for.

Elephants: The African Gentle Giants - ABC News

Midweek Musical Meanderings

It has been one hell of a week for me. There have been multiple moments of madness and madcap mania. More than a few times I have found myself staring off into space lost in thought about things that are best left unsaid.

But here we are, midway through the week and most importantly still standing in an upright position. In a few hours we'll settle in to watch the Lakers and relax. For now here is a snapshot of some of the music that helped make it manageable.

Mess Around- Ray Charles
Hit The Road Jack- Ray Charles
I Got A Woman- Ray Charles
Night Time Is The Right Time- Ray Charles
Hobo Blues- John Lee Hooker
Layla- Derek And The Dominos
Tired of Waiting- The Kinks
The Mighty Quinn- Manfred Mann
Slip Away- Clarence Carter
The Sloop John B- The Beach Boys

The Race for My Heart

A good story has a beginning, a middle and an end. It is filled with interesting characters that face and overcome challenges. A good story will make you grin, but a great story will make you smile. We're not talking about the kind of smile you give your neighbor when you pass by on the way down the driveway to collect the newspaper.

No, a great story provides you with the kind of smile that tells that world that your spirit has just been lifted and your heart is full of joy. Some people will tell you that these stories are few and far between. If you listen to them they'll convince you that the reason those stories are so impressive is because of their scarcity. They'll claim that the lack of frequency, their uncommon nature are part of what make them so special.

Not me, no sir, not I. I won't give any credence to such nonsense because I know better. Not because I am good at spinning a yarn or adept at telling tales. I know better because I have lived such moments and have an eye for identifying what is special about the seemingly ordinary.

It is a gift that was given to me at birth or so I like to claim. An ability that is not limited to myself, it is really more of a skill that can be gained and improved upon. All it takes is desire and practice. Give of yourself and you'll find that it exists for you too.

At least that is how I see it. That is the perspective that I have gained after what feels like a thousand years of riding the roller coasters of life. I have loved and lost. I have been loved. I have allowed myself to roam the fields of fire and burned because that was what was required. It wasn't always easy and there have been more than a few moments in which I have been convinced that I have earned the title of "moronic fool."

There a million different stories and reasons why. The simple and easiest explanation is to say that I suffered from Don Quixote syndrome and attacked too many windmills. Or so I told myself in moments of doubt and frustration. Some of those were hard times, dark days for myself.

They were days in which dancing in the fire brought more pain than success. Days in which I'd look in the mirror and ask myself if I was suffering from delusions of grandeur. I'd wonder why my reflection didn't step out from behind the frame and start beating me over the head with whatever object was handy.

It might have made me happier because then I could say that I was crazy, and not in the crazy like a fox way. But I wasn't crazy then and I am not crazy now. I am now and was then in complete control of my faculties. If anything I suffered from impatience and a fear of what could happen.

But the reason that I think that I am living out one of the great stories that is that I found my heart. Found her and lost her.

"Hello. How are you?
Have you been alright, through all those lonely lonely lonely lonely lonely nights
That's what I'd say. I'd tell you everything
If you'd pick up that telephone yeah yeah yeah

Hey. How you feelin?
Are you still the same?
Don't you realize the things we did, we did, were all for real, not a dream?
I just can't believe
They've all faded out of view yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah"
Telephone Line- Electric Light Orchestra

The how and why don't matter or should I say that they belong to to two people and if you have to ask then you aren't one of them. That is not to say that I won't share bits and pieces or that you can't guess. I don't say that for the purpose of encouraging you too either, but I know enough about people to know that some of you can't help it.

And to that other, well I told you a thousand years ago that where I walk thunder and lightning follow. I said that I have been forced to learn how to ride out the storms because that is just how it has been. I promised passion. I promised fire. One kiss and nothing would ever be the same.

I can't say that you gave me your heart or that I gave you mine because we already shared that. It is hokey, it is a cliche and a million other things but it is true. You know it and I know it. Don't need anyone else to approve or understand because that is not who we are.

"I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for their religion -
I have shudder'd at it.
I shudder no more.
I could be martyr'd for my religion
Love is my religion
And I could die for that.
I could die for you."
~ by John Keats ~

Some would call those mere words on a page. They'd ask for more than a few lines as proof. Or they might point out the inconsistencies and inadequacies of those who directed those words to their attention. And it might be understood why and how they do it. 

It is easier to run away from some things. Easier to hide from the spotlight and to avoid its glare. I know because I have done both. I have lived on both sides of the fence.

"You will never know true happiness
until you have truly loved,
and you will never understand
what pain really is
until you have lost it."
~ by Anonymous ~

"I'd like to run away
From you,
But if you didn't come
And find me ...
I would die."
~ by Shirley Bassey ~

There is so much truth that. Such raw honesty and such power. The joy and ecstasy of true happiness can inspire you to reach for the heights you might not otherwise seek. But the flip side can be crushing. To have such a love and lose it is heart wrenching. It will strip you bare and leave you naked and hurting far more quickly than one can imagine.

Instead of basking in the warmth of the fire you find yourself burning, screaming for someone to put out the fire. And the person you seek isn't there to quench those flames. For whatever reason they are gone, moved on to greener or different pastures.

But if you can withstand the flames and sustain yourself there is more to be found. If you maintain the presence of mind to be aware there are lessons to be learned. If you can catch your breath you can find a way to fortify your heart and to build a new foundation.

You can call that hyperbole or label it juvenile prose with an unhealthy tinge of melodrama if you'd like. Perhaps it is. I'd say that is a just a little bit to the left of such a place and that if we included some sort of line of about a phoenix raising from the ashes than your comment would be well earned.

But that is not the case and that is part of what makes this one of the great stories. Because we started a story whose end must now wait. It is case of the tortoise and the hare, this is not a sprint. This is not so different from the runners you watched above. The men who ran alongside the waves did not have a finish line in sight. They ran because that was what was required to get them to where they want to go. They understood that the finish line was somewhere down the road.

And that is how I see it. The race for my heart isn't going to be finished any time soon. But one day I will see that line and when the time is right I'll cross over it.

Pallywood Posts

 I think a bunch of the posts about Pallywood that have been written and or linked here have to be updated. Probably a bunch of bad links, k...