The difficult work of promoting peace

“If our goal is to progress beyond defamation against LGBT persons, then that means GLAAD has a sell-by date.” As well it should.

But that’s not what I really took away from this TIME article. (Go read the whole thing for some context.) It’s the last two paragraphs that really hit my ‘truth nerve’:

There’s a famous quote (most likely apocryphal) often attributed to Mother Teresa that I think applies to both the Duck Dynasty/GLAAD fiasco and the greater political context which frames it. After declining an invitation to an anti-war rally, she is said to have explained, “If you have a pro-peace rally, invite me.” Whatever the true origin of the quote, the idea is that rallying against war is pointless, but doing the difficult work of promoting peace is a better way to effect lasting and seismic changes.

In the same way, speaking out against defamation is a noble thing to do. But gracing our conversation and behavior with the compassion that is sometimes lacking from our loudest political battles – that is more than noble. It’s kind.

If both sides were pro-compassion instead of anti-the-opposition, the problem would be behind us a lot sooner.


Quick post re: the Internet Pornography petition

You’ve probably seen the petition (“Require Porn to be an ‘Opt In’ feature with Internet Service Providers rather than a standard feature’) on Facebook or Twitter.

It’s an expensive proposition that won’t work. Not only that, the idea itself is making us sick.

It won’t work

I’m an expert in how the Internet works. I’ve been taking it apart and building it for 30 years. And I can tell you, it’s impossible to filter. The Internet was made that way by design, at its most basic level. And it can’t be changed. (Just ask China.)

“Family friendly” Internet filters don’t work, and the petition even says so. No matter what filter software you install, or whatever else you use to keep some content out of your home, any ten-year-old kid or grown adult can work around it in minutes.

The idea behind it is making us sick

The idea itself puts our responsibility to our families and communities off on government and business. We’ve got to stop doing that. We’re going to die as a society if we don’t.

A social problem like pornography is our responsibility. Governments and corporations can’t handle it. They can’t do what it takes to fix it. The problem can only be fixed by citizens working person-to-person inside our families and communities. It won’t work any other way.

We have to fix the problem. By teaching our children why pornography hurts us and how to avoid it. By teaching the people who listen to us–our kids, our friends and family, our congregations, our social clubs–how to avoid or overcome it.

If pornography is a problem you’re worried about, please, please stop looking to the government for a solution to it. Educate yourself and your family on how and why to avoid it. If needed, learn how to help someone (or yourself) recover from pornography addiction.

Random notes

Of recent occurrence:

— I have managed to hide all of the social-economic-political nonsense on my Facebook and RSS feeds. Arguing over marriage, arguing over common core, promoting of socialist nonsense, promoting enforce-my-morals-on-everyone-else nonsense, “Obama is our savior” vs. “Obama is the devil”, complaining about anti-brains republicans, complaining about anti-freedom democrats, rants by pipe-dream-inspired gun banning nuts, rants by “my cold dead hands” pro-gun nuts… it’s all gone, gone! Gone, I say!

Blood pressure down; happiness level up.

Please don’t mistake this for a case of ignorance-is-bliss. I know what’s going on in the world. I just don’t need frequent reminders of it. I need to get on with moving my life forward, not being agitated by other people’s… bliss?

Roland_TD4K2— Yesterday I modified the hi-hat pedal on my electronic drum set to be easier to use. Sometimes I love the fact that I’ve taken apart and rebuilt electronic stuff all my life. Plus, this project gave me an excuse for a trip to Radio Shack for parts. (Mmmmm… new gizmo smell.)

Yes, I am learning to play the drums. On the docket right now: Nothing Else Matters by Metallica. A simple , fun, and—for me—challenging drum track. By the way: my right hand and right foot enjoy working together too much. Congrats on the team spirit, guys, but for drumming it’s better to have four independent limbs, not two or three.

My aim is to play it as well as this talented gal, Meytal Cohen. (Yes, that is her given name. Coincidence? Fate?). I won’t look as good while doing it, but hey… I’ll do what I can.

— We are celebrating our baby’s first birthday this weekend with an ice cream party. Next week, we celebrate mine by having Thanksgiving. As far as food celebrations go, turkey beats cow.

— I need to go morning horseback riding. I have time off next week. Who has horses and wants to take me? Pretty please?

Halloween spook(ed). Again.

I originally posted this a few years ago, and I was pretty happy with it then. It seems to fit the time of year and the tone of this blog, so I’m-a repost it for this year.  Hope you enjoy.

Halloween spook(ed)

Originally posted October 27, 2010

Admit it. If you’re a parent and you think of Halloween, at some point the paranoia will strike: Razors in apples! Poisoned candy! Child predators! It’s as if we figure our neighbors only act normal 364 days of the year, but are feverishly awaiting Halloween, so they can let out their depraved evildoer tendencies.

Fig. 1: What parents are afraid of

Fig. 1: What parents are afraid of

Sadly, this kind of fear-think is taking all the fun out of the holiday, and even making it cost more than it needs to.

Did you know that there has never, ever been a case of collected Halloween candy killing a child?

And that statistically, Halloween is one of the safest holidays when it comes to instances of child molestation?

Those and other facts in this WSJ article: ‘Stranger Danger’ and the Decline of Halloween

In the end, the question isn’t so much whether I trust my neighbors (though I do). More importantly, do I trust my 8-year-old, and the safety & smarts we’re teaching him, enough to let him go around our neighborhood trick-or-treating unsupervised with other kids his age? Yes, in fact, I do. (As long as I know the other kids he’s with aren’t dingbats, anyway.) On Halloween, kids are more likely to get hit by a car than poisoned or kidnapped. And mine is smart enough to avoid even that.

Yeah, I’d be nervous, but the payoff in terms of his self-confidence would be huge. And isn’t that what I’m supposed to be doing to help him prepare for life?

As it is, though, I have too much fun getting dressed, going around with him, hanging out with other parents, and socializing with the neighborhood to just stay inside. That said, of course I’ll be watching out for him. But I think I’m going to give him way more room to wander ahead or lag behind this year. We’ll both enjoy it way more that way.

What do you think?

Duty Calls


One of my most favorite XKCD comics

So, when did you last convince someone who has a different opinion than you, that you’re right?

Okay, maybe it’s yesterday, or last week. Rare but it happens, we’ll give you that one.

Now, how often have you convinced someone, or turned an opinion? Think about it. Once every few years?

And how much energy did you expend over those few years, just to help one or two people see one detail differently? And now answer me the following:

What difference did it make?

What’s the return on your investment, even if that investment was simply re-sharing some clever political meme or quote on Facebook?

In the grand scheme of things, or in your own life. What difference has it made? Has the world changed? Have you? Has that one person turned around and joined your cause?

Now, here’s a different idea on what to do with your time.

Instead of using up a huge amount of energy writing about, decrying, supporting, or making fun of a political or social idea… instead of trying to nudge our society’s 50/50 dichotomy in the direction you think is right… instead of worrying about what other people a thousand miles away are doing who you have no control over whatsoever…

Plant a tomato. No, seriously. Go find some dirt, and a pot. Get a tomato seed. It’s fall and heading for winter, so check out this article on wikihow for how to grow a tomato plant indoors.

While you’re at it, grow a lettuce plant. Dirt, pot, seed, wikihow. Go.

You’ll spend maybe an hour or two over the next couple of months, and end up with lettuce and tomato. And maybe some failures that taught you something you’ll always remember.

How much energy will you have put into that? More or less than the arguing that you did on Facebook? If you’re politically active, then less by a long shot.

What difference has this made? Two of the four ingredients in a BLT. So?

You took some dirt, water, and a couple of seeds and fed yourself. YOU FED YOURSELF. Do you get what that means? Do you have any idea how drastically you can change your life by taking responsibility for the ingredients for a couple of lunches?

Two ingredients you obtained without Wal-mart. Without food stamps. Without your soul being sucked dry by your job. You took a couple of seeds, and created LIFE, and then you fed your own.

Imagine what would happen if you gave up trying to convince people in the other half the world that they’re wrong, and instead spent that energy reducing how much you depend on your job or the government for your food.

Take some ownership of yourself and your future. Even if it’s just a little bit (five minute strategy!) here and there.

Improve your life, and you free yourself up to help other people improve theirs. Not by convincing them they’re on the wrong side, but by showing them how to walk away from an un-winnable argument and do something significant, like feed themselves.

Congratulations! You just changed the world!

Tax question

Since I can’t take advantage of federal services during the shutdown, I’m taking a credit of 1/365th of my 2013 taxes for each day of it.

My question is, which line on the 1040 would be appropriate? I’m thinking of putting it under “Credit for child and dependent care expenses”.

You know… since the @ssclowns in DC causing this stupidity are all acting like frigging 5-year-olds.

Overwhelm Part Deux

In my first ‘overwhelm’ post, I talked about how we use a five-minute timer strategy to get ourselves moving on big tasks when we’re paralyzed by the seemingly overwhelming. And I have to say, that little thing has made a huge difference for us.

We do consider that amazing. But as they say, that’s not all. Check this out:

After we got used to using the Five Minute Strategy for things like cleaning house, doing the bill paying, mowing the lawn, and so on, we realized something incredible:

The Five Minute Strategy doesn’t just work for projects that take time or effort, it works for everything.

A Little Bit of Everything for Dummies (book cover)

And I mean everything.

We have a mortgage and some credit card debt. We also want to have it all paid off in a matter of years, rather than decades. Like keeping the house clean, that goal seems impossible if you consider it from the whole. But translate the Five Minute Strategy from minutes into money, and it still works.

If you send an extra five bucks (skip one Starbucks or Wendy’s trip) to the credit card every month, then you’re some tiny part ahead of the game–and you feel satisfaction just like you would after doing a five minute cleaning on your living room. In fact, it feels kinda like this:

Couch cushion money!

Woot! Couch cushion bonus!

Do the extra $5 for a couple of months, and then up it to $10. (You found five bucks last month, you can do it twice this month right?) Next month, you’ll say well I put aside ten, why not fifteen? Try to increase it by $5 every month. It gets addicting.

Keep going like that, and you’ll eventually find yourself sending an extra $100 to the credit card and not even feeling any pinch. You know how you get to the end of the month and wonder where your spending cash went? Well this is the same thing, only in reverse – you have no idea how you found the money, but you can see it and you’ve done something good with it.

How freaking cool is that? (I love this kind of thing if you can’t tell.)

Giant snowball in Oxford

When the card’s paid off, take all of the money you were sending to it every month, and start sending it to the mortgage. (This is the ‘snowball’ trick you’ve probably heard of.) And keep going. A couple of years down the road, and you’re actually able to see the balance go down on your mortgage.

It also works for exercise (“I can walk a lap around the parking lot today”), eating (“I can skip dessert once this week”), getting up on time (“I can get up on time one day this week”), and even planting a garden, one plant or one square foot at a time. You can use it to build a business – five minutes here and there, eventually an hour here and there, eventually full time.

Use it now

So here’s my challenge to you: right now, write down one thing that you wish you could accomplish. Big or small. Doesn’t matter what it is. Use an example from this or the last post if you need inspiration. (I bet you don’t.)

Then figure out what the five minutes’, or five dollars’, or one small changes’ worth of that goal is.

Keep it small. If your mind revolts when you think of doing that small chunk, then make it smaller until your mind gets on board. Even if it’s “clean one dish and put it away”. That’s enough for a start.

My next goal is to put five minutes toward writing this blog every day. I’ll let you know how it goes.