06 March 2017

In which I no longer resemble Kevin James (or the lies we tell ourselves)

I bet most of you have heard of the idea that we all have a doppelganger. For some people, mine was Kevin James:


My reaction to this comparison usually followed a pattern:
1. It's because he's funny, right? Because I'm funny?!?
2. We kind of have similar hair?

Eventually I would accept the real reason- We were both kind of fat. But it was the friendly kind of fat, the jovial sort, well-distributed and just part of the package.

Just before Isaac was born, in March 2010, I went to the gym and decided to check my weight on the scale. I was waiting behind a former Gator quarterback, a pretty lean guy who, at 6'3", tipped the scales at 217 or so. I stood on the scale and saw 267 lbs.

I had become very relaxed in my exercise (I wasn't) and eating (I was), and it showed. Call it sympathy weight during the pregnancy, or laziness, but I was not taking good care of myself. I hadn't really admitted this yet, because I had become very good at lying to myself. My shirt is too small? Must have shrunk in the laundry. My knees hurt when I run? Old age comes to us all. This is a small sample of the kind of things that I would tell myself, rather than make difficult and necessary choices about my health. The photo below is from February 2010:


I was ready to make some changes, and started by running a few times each week, usually short distances. I didn't change my diet very much, but by August I implemented a program of eating and exercise (explained here in a February 2011 post). I had made a lot of progress over that year, and at that time was hoping to get below 200 lbs. By June of 2011 I had gotten there, and set a new goal of 195 and then 190. It took me quite a while to hit it "officially," but I did so in May 2015.

So I set a new goal, 185, and I'm still working on it. I can now say that I've lost 80 lbs since the day in March 2010 when I saw 267 on that scale. My goal is more than a weight number, even though those numbers still have a lot of power for me. I'm trying to get faster, stronger, and leaner.

I weigh myself every day, twice a day, though I only record my weight on Mondays and Fridays. I enter all of my meals in MyFitnessPal. I workout at least 5 times a week and love to track my activity on my Garmin watch. I'm more relaxed about my diet than I was 5 years ago, but I'm also trying to make better choices with my diet, not just focusing on the calorie number (though focus I do).

The lesson for me has been to protect myself from self-deception. The scale provides an objective measurement. By measuring and recording, the self-comforting (false) narrative that can be so tempting and easy to form dies in its infancy. More than anything, this has been the key to my ability to maintain and improve my health.

In addition to this (healthy) obsession, other things have changed for me:
  • I don't instantly start perspiring when I walk to my car in July- this is a big deal for this proud Floridian.
  • I have more energy- One of the things that inspired these changes was my desire to be a more energetic father to my kids. I also want to model a healthy lifestyle that might help them make better choices.
  • I'm a runner- It took me years to accept that the term applied to me. I have run a mile in less than 7 minutes twice, including this morning. Considering my 5th grade soccer coach called me "Slow Joe," I take real pride in this.
  • I feel good about how I look. It would be nice if it didn't matter, but it does (to me). 
I still see room to improve, and I don't think this desire goes away. In his wonderful little book on improvement, Dan Sullivan explains that we often focus on the Gap between where we are and where we want to be. By recording my progress and reflecting on it periodically I can see the progress I've made and focus on that, instead of just focusing on where I wish I was.

This might be the last thing I want to share this evening. Making improvements in my physical self has had an effect on my professional, emotional, and spiritual selves. It started by realizing that I wasn't happy where I was, and by stepping on a scale, giving myself the objective truth about why. 

Then I started moving.

26 February 2017

Movie Groovy

Many of my friends know this, but I once harbored ambitions of becoming a film director. For a number of reasons I took a different path. The bottom line is that I realized I was someone who just really liked movies.

I used to follow the Oscar race very closely, but it has less personal significance than it used to. The ceremony itself is pretty bloated, and I don't find the self-congratulatory aspects very compelling. But I do have some opinions this year.

Of the 9 best picture nominees, I've seen Arrival, Hidden Figures, and La-La Land.

I thought Arrival was a great movie. Very thought-provoking, beautifully shot. It stayed with me and was very emotionally resonant. Original and unexpected, and I would be happy if it won.

Hidden Figures is a truly wonderful story. Great performances and solid execution. It doesn't feel like a special movie in the sense that it is very conventional in its storytelling and style. It deserves the level of commercial sucess it has attained. It is unlikely to win, but the importance of the story, and the timing, would justify a win.

I loved La-La Land. It's not a perfect movie but it deeply affected me. Before we left to go home I had added the soundtrack on Apple Music so Lacy and I could listen on the way home. Occasionally I play the long epilogue track and the feeling that came with those scenes returns.

I shouldn't have enjoyed it as much as I did. I enjoy musicals, but it's not my favorite genre. It has a bittersweet ending, with characters making choices I would not have made. But it felt real, while very much a modern kind of fantasy. It even made me more fond of Los Angeles, which is an accomplishment,

It has been criticized lately, which often happens when popular entertainment doesn't achieve the level of importance that the cognizenti would prefer.

It is likely to win. There may be better films among the other nominees. Not having seen them, I'll root for the fools who dream.

30 January 2017

Huddled Masses

I haven't written about politics here since Fidel Castro died, and haven't touched domestic politics since just after the election. Partly I was tired of it and given the strong feelings on left and right, I didn't want to alienate anyone. At heart, I'm a diplomat. I'm not afraid of conflict, but I find it counterproductive. It's a lot harder to find compromise, and I like a challenge.

I want to look at Trump's immigration order in a few ways. My feelings on the subject can be mirrored by an excellent column by Walter Russell Mead and Nicholas Gallagher. A small excerpt:

Not since Franklin D. Roosevelt has an American President done anything so cruel and bigoted. And only Barack Obama has exhibited this degree of callous indifference to the suffering of the Syrian people. President Trump signed an executive order on Friday suspending the admission of refugees from Syria indefinitely, suspending the U.S. refugee program for 120 days, and restricting immigration from parts of the Muslim world. Implementation failures—chaos and screw-ups at various airports as low-level officials wrestled with what the new order meant—compounded the callousness.  
The timing was far from auspicious. Friday was Holocaust Memorial Day, and the symbolism was too great to ignore. On Twitter, the account @Stl_Manifest, which tweeted one at a time the stories of the European Jewish refugees whose ship was turned away from the United States in 1939, and most of whose passengers later perished in the Holocaust, gained over 40,000 followers in a day and sparked commentary in outlets from Vox to USA Today. This history—that at the time of greatest need America’s “golden door” was slammed firmly shut—must haunt anyone who cares about basic human decency. Unfortunately, at a time when urgent problems around the world demand serious and searching thought, many people seem more interested in hang-wringing and virtue-signaling than in taking the time to think through refugee and migration policy. 
The real story of immigration and restriction, as opposed to the dumbed-down and sentimentalized hazy myths that pass for history in our impoverished national discourse, could not be more relevant to our times.
Mead and Gallagher's entire article is worth your time. It deconstructs a complex problem, and the sentence I highlighted is critical: "The dumbed-down and sentimentalized hazy myths that pass for history..."

Already, the focus on Trump's order has overshadowed what Mead and Gallagher call "Obama's feckless foreign policy." Obama often lamented the bad economy that he inherited from George W. Bush. Trump inherited a messy and ineffectual Syria policy that was well-explained in this piece by Rany Jazayerli. An excerpt:
One talking point we’re hearing a lot during Obama’s final days as president is that he avoided a scandal throughout his eight years in office, something no two-term president has been able to say going back to Eisenhower. I respectfully disagree. Nearly six years ago, unarmed, peaceful civilian protesters took to the streets in towns throughout Syria, as they had in Tunisia, and Libya, and Egypt, and Bahrain, as a generation of young Arabs exposed to democratic ideas through satellite television and the internet stood up to demand their inalienable rights from the tyrants who had oppressed them for generations. Within weeks of each other, peaceful protesters had overthrown dictators in Tunisia — a nation that stands today as arguably the most democratic the modern Arab world has seen — and Egypt, where in 2012 free and fair elections produced the first democratically appointed ruler in the country’s 5,000-year history before the nation backslid into autocracy again two years later. 
But in the other countries, protesters asking for ballots were met with bullets, and nowhere more so than in Syria by the Assad regime. Unarmed civilians were gunned down, or arrested and tortured before being killed, which led to more protests and more anger, which led to more killing, which led to civilians trying to defend themselves by any means necessary, which led to a full-on armed rebellion. Rebels of diverse religious and ideological backgrounds were united in opposing a tyrannical dictatorship that compensated for its lack of popular support with military firepower. Hundreds of killings become thousands, thousands became tens of thousands, the vast majority perpetrated by the Assad regime. 
And in the face of these killings, and despite considerable support from both sides of the aisle to do something to alleviate the slow-burning slaughter, President Obama chose to basically stand pat. (There have been diplomatic efforts; a trickle of weapons was sent by the CIA to moderate rebels after long delays and with many preconditions; in 2015, a plan to train up to around 5,000 rebels was scrapped after training about five — yes, five.) And no change in the facts on the ground would change his mind. Not the use of chemical weapons to kill more than 1,400 civilians, including many children. Not a death toll that reached almost half a million nearly a year ago. Not the wholesale destruction of cities that now resemble Dresden in 1945. Not the fact that 11 million Syrians — out of a total prewar population of 23 million — have been forced out of their homes. Not the fact that the Syrian apocalypse now ranks as the greatest humanitarian disaster the world has seen since World War II.
This is what Trump inherited. I disagree with his policy on this matter, but I can't deny that there is a problem. Mead and Gallagher address this in their piece:
This country needs a serious and humane immigration and refugee policy that is both enlightened and sustainable. We didn’t have it under Obama; we are unlikely to have it under Trump. Despite deporting hundreds of thousands of illegals, Obama never embraced the cause of defending America’s borders or regulating immigration in ways that clearly reassured marginalized American communities that the U.S. government was first and foremost committed to their welfare and to the defense of their way of life. And he never took responsibility for the ways in which his own repeated errors of judgment about the Middle East contributed to the mass refugee flows that he then tried to guilt-trip Americans into accommodating. Dumb cosmopolitanism leads to dumb nationalist reaction. The Obama years led to the Trump win—even as W’s years led to Obama. 
Bad foreign policy, not bad immigration policy, was the primary American contribution to the global disasters of the 1940s, the Holocaust very much included. This is also true today, and the need for an enlightened but grounded nationalism, as opposed to unicorn-hunting cosmopolitanism and braggadocious jingoism, is as strong and as urgent as it has ever been—but appears as much out of reach as it was in the 1930s. 
And so here we are: steering erratically into stormy waters, haunted by the cries of the refugees and the dispossessed, squabbling among ourselves as the clouds grow darker overhead. Not since the 1930s has the world, or American foreign policy, been in this much trouble. We are growing more angry and more bitter even as the need for clear thought and wise action grows.
There is a middle ground, and as Mead and Gallagher point out, it is not where we are going.Even if you think Trump's plan was a good move, the implementation was amateur-hour, and employed the same poor tactic (issuance of executive orders) that Obama was criticized for using. Human feeling aside, for someone with such limited political capital, Trump seems to be using it very poorly.

Finally, some thoughts from Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert. Adams has done a fantastic job of explaining why Trump was so effective at persuading people to support his candidacy. His take on Trump's approach to governance is worth your time.

 A final thought, from a leader of my church:

26 November 2016

He's Dead

I ate corn flakes with sugar tonight. I did it to remember my abuelitos (grandparents). I don't think that they ever ate corn flakes with sugar, but whenever I was at their house, that was my standard breakfast. And because their home was the only place I ever ate it, it seemed fitting to do it tonight. I wonder how they would have felt today.

This blog exists because I love the Spanish language and culture. I love Spanish because it is part of my heritage, as the son of a Cuban exile. I started an email list to share Spanish phrases with friends in 2002. It has been a long time since I have done a Spanish phrase, but the cause of liberty for Cuba has never been far from my heart.

I woke up early this morning and noticed the headline that Castro had died. I tweeted the following:

I have been thinking about Castro a lot today. I think that this Miami Herald obituary does an excellent job of exploring Castro's life without pretending that he was a good person.

He was not.

Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, made one of the worst comments on Castro's death that I have read:
It is with deep sorrow that I learned today of the death of Cuba’s longest serving President.Fidel Castro was a larger than life leader who served his people for almost half a century. A legendary revolutionary and orator, Mr. Castro made significant improvements to the education and healthcare of his island nation.While a controversial figure, both Mr. Castro’s supporters and detractors recognized his tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people who had a deep and lasting affection for “el Comandante”.I know my father was very proud to call him a friend and I had the opportunity to meet Fidel when my father passed away. It was also a real honour to meet his three sons and his brother President Raúl Castro during my recent visit to Cuba.On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to the family, friends and many, many supporters of Mr. Castro. We join the people of Cuba today in mourning the loss of this remarkable leader.
To say that Castro "served his people" as "Cuba's longest serving president" is a mind-numbingly stupid comment. As the Herald explained (emphasis added):
Millions cheered Fidel Castro on the day he entered Havana. Millions more fled the communist dictator’s repressive police state, leaving behind their possessions, their families, the island they loved and often their very lives. It’s part of the paradox of Castro that many people belonged to both groups.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/fidel-castro-en/article117186483.html#storylink=cpy
He was not an elected leader but:
He also was a ruthless dictator, the Maximum Leader who reneged on his promise of free elections, executed thousands of opponents, imprisoned tens of thousands, installed a Communist regime and made his island a pawn in the Cold War. His alliance with the Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in 1962.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/fidel-castro-en/article117186483.html#storylink=cpy
Castro did not have "dedication and love for the Cuban people," unless they adhered to:
"...an undemocratic government that represses nearly all forms of political dissent,” the independent group Human Rights Watch observed in 2008. “Cubans are systematically denied basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, privacy, movement, and due process of law.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/fidel-castro-en/article117186483.html#storylink=cpy
I'll conclude with some thoughts from the Wall Street Journal:
Castro’s Cuba exists today as a reminder of the worst of the 20th-century when dictators invoked socialist ideals to hammer human beings into nails for the state. Too many Western fellow-travelers indulged its fantasies as long as they didn’t have to live there. Perhaps the influence of Cuba’s exiles will be able, over time, to reseed the message of liberty on the island. But freedom starts by seeing clearly the human suffering that Fidel Castro wrought.

13 November 2016

My Answer

I've been thinking a lot about the turmoil that has followed the election. I've spoken to friends and others, some who are overjoyed and some who are deeply dismayed, and I've felt distressed by the divide. I have not felt either extreme. I'm very intrigued by the positive disruption that Trump may provide and also concerned about some of his proposals, but I don't feel fear or anger or joy. Maybe that's because I picked "none of the above" when the time came to vote. As I wrote the other day, I had accepted that either Trump or Clinton would win, with me supporting neither.


While in Church today, I read these words shared by a former leader of my Church, President Howard Hunter. He related a well-known story from the life of Jesus:
On one occasion while Jesus was teaching the people, a certain lawyer approached him and posed this question: “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus, the master teacher, replied to the man, who obviously was well-versed in the law, with a counter-question, “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” 
The man replied with resolute summary the two great commandments: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”
With approval Christ responded, “This do, and thou shalt live” (Luke 10:25–28).
I recognize that the fortunate circumstances of my life have provided me with many advantages and freed me from many worries. But that truth does not limit the truth of Christ's words to that lawyer (and all of us). My duty and honor is to love God, and to love my fellow man and woman. This leaves no room for hate or anger. To love is an activity that does not permit such emotional multitasking.

So that's my personal answer to this mess, and the standard against which I will judge my actions.

12 November 2016

Arrival

I tend to trust film critic reviews, at least in the aggregate. While I willingly suspend disbelief at the movies, and as a result may be more forgiving than many, when a film has positive reviews I often agree. For this reason, I was looking forward to seeing Arrival.

I was not disappointed. From a technical standpoint it was really well done. There are very good performances from the actors and it is visually enthralling. It is conceptually similar to another recent film that I really enjoyed, but is better. I don't want to say anymore that might give too much away.

One reviewer mentioned that this story was welcome given the tumult of the last week. I can't disagree. Even in the absence of that, there is real human truth in it that would be welcome at any time.

Several hours later, I continue to contemplate it and the deep feeling it prompted. It is a great piece of work, a meaningful expression of the power of storytelling. It's worth your time.

08 November 2016

Perspective

I'm watching early returns, and it's fascinating. At this point, there is a lot of time left and electoral history still favors Clinton. But what if Trump wins- what does it mean?

I didn't vote for Trump or Clinton, and by doing so I indicated a willingness to accept either candidate, while voicing my distaste for both. From the beginning (you can ask my family to verify) I have never feared either candidate. I have been concerned about certain implications, such as the Supreme Court under Clinton or a number of things under Trump, but I have never felt that our country was doomed in either case.

I have little patience for those who will attribute a Trump win, if it happens, to racism. There is an element of this behind some of his support, but it is so myopic to claim it can be attributed solely to that.

A Trump loss could be attributed to the failure of his message.

A Clinton loss should be attributed to the same failing.

Please avoid the urge to paint almost half of your fellow citizens by any broad brush. Don't rely on knee jerk analyses by people blinded by their own prejudice (and I'm speaking of both parties).

Whatever happens tonight, I continue to believe in a brighter tomorrow.

21 October 2016

Counting Votes

By this time, many of us are extremely tired of politics. The level of election fatigue we are experiencing is unprecedented. I've seen people take Facebook breaks, or wish they could mute everything political. I understand this feeling, but I have a different take on it. These feelings present a real opportunity. If enough of us are tired of the way this election has been handled, we should engage MORE, not LESS. Otherwise we will be back in the same situation in four years.

I understand why some would choose to support Clinton or Trump. I believe that you can make a moral and ethical case for why each candidate is the right choice. It really comes down to how you weight different priorities. For many Republicans, Trump represents the best option for preventing a Democratic takeover of the Supreme Court. For many Democrats, Hillary Clinton has the experience, credentials, and temperament to serve as President, representing many of the beliefs that are central to the party.

I happen to have different criteria than either of these positions, and as a result cannot support Trump or Clinton. So what do I intend to do on election day?

I will vote.

Since I find both of these candidates unacceptable, I think it is important to register my distaste with an officially counted vote for President. This limits my choices to one of several small party candidates or a registered write-in candidate. Up-and-coming candidate Evan McMullin is not an option because he is not a registered write-in candidate in Florida.

I will probably vote for Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party. I understand that this is a protest vote and that Johnson has no chance of winning. The Libertarian Party is a bit of a trainwreck, so this is not expressing my new party affiliation. However, my vote does need a home, and this is where it will probably go.

This brings us to an argument that we see often. Expressed by both Democrats and Republicans, it goes something like this:

"The winner will be either Clinton or Trump, so a vote for anyone other than Trump helps Clinton and a vote for anyone other than Clinton helps Trump."

I will vote for someone other than Trump or Clinton, understanding and accepting the statement above as fact. I don't think there is any reasonable scenario where Trump or Clinton is not president. Is it very likely that my vote, as someone who has voted Republican in every presidential election since I registered to vote, will help Hillary Clinton? It is.

But that does not mean that I should vote for Donald Trump.

The Republican Party has traditionally been a fair reflection of many of my political views. But the party is not my religion, it's politicians are not prophets, and its platform is not my doctrine. And during this electoral season, especially with Trump as nominee, the Party has moved away from me (and as a result, me from it).

I owe nothing to the Republican Party. I certainly owe nothing to Donald Trump. My vote is not something to be blindly bestowed on whichever candidate my party selects. The candidates job is to win that vote, through a combination of policy and demonstrated leadership. And neither major candidate as done so. I would be happy to discuss my specific concerns with anyone, but that's not the main purpose of this post.

As I said in an earlier post, I do not want Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States. But I am willing to accept that occurring if it means that a more effective and representative party emerges. For that to happen, Donald Trump has to lose, and badly. He will have himself to blame.

The Republican party needs to become something capable of winning presidential elections, or it needs to go away. I choose to use my vote to express that, and to me that counts for something.

07 October 2016

Reaping the Whirlwind

I wrote about why I didn't support Donald Trump back in March. That hasn't changed. I don't feel vindicated by the information that was published today about lewd comments Trump made years ago.  It is not surprising. Something like this was inevitable. So why should I feel good about being right? I find it depressing and completely predictable. And there is probably more to come.
It is too late at this point for the Republican Party to do anything about it. Elevating Pence to the top of the ticket? For what purpose? It's too late, and I'm no fan of Pence, whose acceptance of the role demonstrated poor judgement (or vain ambition). Why set him up to run in 2020? Just because he knows how to behave in public? No thanks.
2016 may well mark the end of the Republican Party as I've known it, or to the loyalty I've felt to it. This is saying something for someone who has often said he was "born Republican." Do GOP elites think that doing something drastic NOW will atone for this mess? To paraphrase a great spiritual leader, when it comes to repentance "the bandage must be as wide as the sore." The Republican Party must suffer through this to the bitter end.
I don't want Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States, but at this point she should win. And we deserve the result. I believe in our system, I believe in the Constitution. I believe in our country. I'll keep working hard, taking care of my family, and enjoying the rich relationships that continue to make life here beautiful and worthwhile. I have a lot to be grateful for.

03 October 2016

What I Believe, Part 1

I believe in Free Trade. I believe that the net benefits of free trade outweigh the costs. I think this has been demonstrated academically, and it makes intuitive sense. Pablo Fajgelbaum of the University of California, Los Angeles, and Amit Khandelwal, of Columbia University (from The Economist, and cited in this post from Tyler Cowen): 

...in an average country, people on high incomes would lose 28% of their purchasing power if borders were closed to trade. But the poorest 10% of consumers would lose 63% of their spending power, because they buy relatively more imported goods. The authors find a bias of trade in favour of poorer people in all 40 countries in their study, which included 13 developing countries. 
There is a negative impact on low-tech firms, but the firms that survive become more dynamic: 
An in-depth study of European industry by Nicholas Bloom, of Stanford University, Mirko Draca of Warwick University and John Van Reenen of the LSE found that import competition from China led to a decline in jobs and made life harder for low-tech firms in affected industries. But it also forced surviving firms to become more innovative: R&D spending, patent creation and the use of information technology all increased, as did total factor productivity. 
Neither major-party candidate in the presidential election is very supportive of free trade, with Trump being in favor of eliminating some existing trade deals like NAFTA. Mary Anastasia O'Grady explains how much of what Trump has said about NAFTA is incorrect:
Mr. Trump gave a quick nod to one genuine U.S. disadvantage during the debate when he talked about cutting U.S. corporate tax rates to spur investment at home. But his main message was that under NAFTA Mexico is “stealing” U.S. jobs. In fact, an interconnected North American economy has made U.S. manufacturing globally competitive. U.S. companies source components from Mexico and Canada and add value in innovation, design and marketing. The final outputs are among the most high-quality, low-price products in the world. U.S. automotive competitiveness is highly dependent on global free trade. According to the Mexico City-based consulting firm De la Calle, Madrazo, Mancera, 37% of the U.S.’s imported auto components came from Mexico and Canada in 2015. This sourcing from abroad is important to good-paying U.S. auto-assembly jobs. But parts also flow the other way. U.S. parts manufacturers sent 61% of their exports to Mexico and Canada in 2015. 
As a parent, I want my children to succeed. But I want this to happen in a way that prepares them for the real world, a competitive and dynamic world that owes them nothing. We don't help our industries by sheltering them from competition, and we may harm our own citizens in the process. Trade restrictions are almost always worse for American industry than it is for the industries from the countries we seek to deal with. One way to level the playing field is to stop playing favorites.

12 July 2016

Belonging

I wrote this a few weeks ago but neglected to upload it to Blogger. I'm traveling back to my family after a short business trip to Toronto and the thoughts feel as relevant as ever. Here goes:


A few weeks ago I listened to an interview of author Sebastain Junger by Tim Ferriss. Junger spent time talking about his new book, Tribe, which I have begun to read. In the interview, and what I've read so far of the book, Junger spends time considering the implications of how our social structures have changed, and not for the better. We lack the kind of community connections that have fostered societal accountability and unity. This lack of tribe, or community, has led to some people feeling so alienated and disconnected that they commit terrible crimes, such as mass shootings, which are truly anti-social at their very core. I am looking forward to spending more time on the book in the next few weeks.

Today's thoughts on the subject were prompted when I decided to close my eyes on a flight (we're on a family trip) and listen to some of the music from the tv show LOST. The song, "Life and Death" (actually an arrangement by Paul Cardall inspired by music from the show),  made me think about what that show was about, really, and why it was so impactful for me.

Much of our initial interest in the show (speaking of myself, Lacy, and other friends who followed it from the beginning) was in the mysteries it proposed. They were very enthralling, and answers were teased out over time in bits and pieces. Eventually, the connections and relationships between the characters were what truly sustained the show, at least for me.

For some people, the final season of the show was a waste. They devoted an entire season to off-island narratives that we came to understand were a depiction of some after-life, in-between place where people go to find the ones they love and belong with and to. It was an interesting choice, and I understand why some people were frustrated by questions left unanswered.

I thought it was perfect. As I sit here on an airplane with the most important people in my life, I feel deep gratitude for the relationships that we have. In addition to them, my other family, my good friends, and other loved ones constitute the wealth of this life. Why wouldn't that be the most real thing that mattered for the disparate characters from lost? In the end, I don't think I'll be too concerned about historical patterns in the stock market or other temporal matters. A tribe, a family, these relationships, are what remains when our loved ones leave us, and what we take when we go.

A central tenet of my faith is the eternal nature of our souls and the continuation of family relationships. It won't really matter exactly what we did together, just that we were together. And that we gave our time, our most precious commodity, our real wealth, to the people that we love.

It's tempting to focus on things that have no connection to these most important connections. I have no emotional energy to devote to the presidential race or to other similar issues, at least not at the expense of the people that I care about. It's not apathy, and it doesn't mean ignoring the need to help others. Doing so enriches our most important connections. What I mean is putting my resources where they will have the greatest impact and do the most good.

Today's random thought, brought to you by music from the tv show LOST.

01 April 2016

Line by Line

As the election season rolls on, we have to make reassessments.
Perhaps our earlier convictions are modified by events.
Republicans, facing an important election, need to consolidate support.
In this blog I have expressed unwillingness to support Donald Trump.
Looks like I was wrong.

Friends of mine may doubt my sanity, but I don't think I could vote for Hillary.
On the other hand, Trump will probably moderate a lot when he wins the nomination.
Others may doubt this, but I have to disagree.
Looking at his background, Trump is the guy to right the ship.
Seems pretty clear at this point.


31 March 2016

A Wandering Path

I was very moved by this article- http://features.texasmonthly.com/editorial/the-reckoning/. It is a lengthy profile of a woman, Claire Wilson, who was shot by sniper Marc Whitman at the University of Texas in 1966.

Her life, and how it was affected by that horrible tragedy, is full of sadness and beauty. I was especially impressed by the faith she found afterward.
As a person of faith, I'm heartened by the strength and comfort she found in seeking a relationship with  God in her life. I have tried to do the same during difficult times in my life, though I don't think my trials come close to what she has experienced.
I'm glad that I could learn her story, and in some small way mourn with her. That is the commitment I have made as a Christian, "to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort."
I pray that she can find continued hope and peace.

16 March 2016

Fear not

The outcome in today's Florida's primary was very frustrating.


I'll say what I've told my kids in the past few days:

I believe in our institutions. 
I believe in checks and balances.
I believe in goodness.
I believe the American people are more alike than it seems, especially when you strip away false dichotomies and political semantics.

No matter what happens in November, and who wins, I will go to work, exercise, enjoy my family, attend my church, and serve my community. 

I love my country. I am so fortunate to be an American, right now, today. My best days are ahead of me.