Smartmarriages Afterparty

We’re off to the Smartmarriages conference today, just in time for the weekend event to be wrapping up. We’ll pull in about four hours or so after most everybody else has pulled out.

We’re not going for the conference part,which we’ve been to and highly recommend, but for the post-conference classes which will enable us to teach two marriage education programs. “How To Avoid Marrying A Jerk” and “PREP for Low Income Individuals.” Last year’s theme was to learn PREP and bring it back. This year’s theme is to bring back material to teach single people about marriage.

Years of experience has told us that teaching engaged people about marriage, while a great good in itself, is not optimal. If you’ve already sent out invitations and picked out china, you aren’t quite as open to an honest evaluation of your commitment and comaptibility. So, in addition to teaching that, we wanted to bring some material to bear for those who’ve been married for a few years and are looking for some brushed up skills. That’s what we did last year.

This year we want to learn and eventually teach material to young people who are still dating to help them recognize healthy relationship behavior when they see it and, even better, exhibit healthy relationship behavior themselves. “How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk,” I suspect, might just as well be called “How to Avoid Being a Jerk in Marriage.”

This is all part of the Heidi and Cody Strategic Plan to:

  • Keep our own marriage skills sharp
  • Pursue Lifelong Learning
  • Develop a future income stream that capitalizes on Heidi and Cody’s gifts.
  • Get away for a romantic, child-free recharge

It’s fun, educational, and strategic. What more could we ask? Back in a few days.

Special

“Living in forests far away from other people is not true seclusion. True seclusion is to be free from the power of likes and dislikes. It is also to be free from the mental attitude that one must be special because one is treading the path.

Those who remove themselves to far forests often feel superior to others. They think that because they are solitary they are being guided in a special way and that those who live an ordinary life can never have that experience. But that is conceit and is not help to others. The true recluse is one who is available to others, helping them with affectionate speech and personal example.

-Prajnaparamita”

A priest I admire has a habit of saying — “You are special, but not that special.” Just because you’re holy, church-y, a dedicated volunteer, a virtuous person, so what? You’re only doing what you’ve been told. You are not special because you are treading the path. You are not special because you are farther along the path than others. You are special in the way that everyone else is special — God made you. Don’t let it go to your head.

Poem: For the Thief

I stole this from Mighty Girl, lest it get lost into the digital ether one day. Thanks, Mighty Girl, for finding this poem and introducing me to a great new (to me) poet: Alison Hawthorne Deming.

For the Thief

Thank you for leaving the desk and the chair,
the books, snapshots and piano.
I’ve heard of moving van robberies—
coming home from work to percussion
of empty rooms. Thank you for
leaving the trapped air
that softens the blunt edge of my day.
What’s mine – the hum of identity—
still surrounds me,
though the electronics
are gone and the jewelry
that was too precious to wear.
Thank you for not spraying
the walls with coke or with piss.
Thank you being a professional,
tidy and quick, entering with a clean
silent cut, not wasting your time
or mine with vandalism or assault.
When my mother was robbed
the closets and drawers were dumped
on the floor. All that was stolen were
towels that had hung in her bathroom.
Her neighbors, the police said, had
lost their cookware. Better our houses
become someone’s mall than shooting range.
With my cousins, one in New York took
a knife-blade against her throat.
Another in Madrid was dragged
three blocks by her hair. Thank you
for knowing what you were here for,
for tending to your business without rage.

This poem models a level of equanimity I only wish I had.

One Smart Cockroach

I had forgotten about Don Marquis and his creation archy, a cockroach smarter than most humans, until this poem landed in my inbox. I know lots of people like warty bliggens the toad. Somedays I am him.

“warty bliggens the toad”

i met a toad
the other day by the name
of warty bliggens
he was sitting under
a toadstool
feeling contented
he explained that when the cosmos
was created
that toadstool was especially planned for his personal
shelter from sun and rain
thought out and prepared
for him

do not tell me
said warty bliggens
that there is not a purpose
in the universe
the thought is blasphemy

a little more
conversation revealed
that warty bliggens
considers himself to be
the centre of the said
universe
the earth exists
to grow toadstools for him
to sit under
the sun to give him light
by day and the moon
and wheeling constellations
to make beautiful
the night for the sake of
warty bliggens

to what act of yours
do you impute
this interest on the part
of the creator
of the universe
i asked him
why is it that you
are so greatly favoured

ask rather
said warty bliggens
what the universe has done to deserve me

if i were a
human being i would
not laugh
too complacently
at poor warty bliggens
for similar
absurdities
have only too often
lodged in the crinkles
of the human cerebrum

archy

— Don Marquis
From “archy and mehitabel”, 1927.

I have friend who often says, “After all, it’s all about me.” At least she’s being self-deprecating. I know plenty who harbor similar absurdities in the crinkles of their brains without irony. At some level, don’t we all?

Fathers' Day

Fathers’ Day was yesterday. My Dad was somewhere in Oklahoma, not answering his cell phone. (Check your messages, Dad.)

As with Mothers’ Day, it’s hard to expect to have adequate recognition for a year’s worth of parenting crammed into a single day. What Fathers’ Day plans can live up to those expectations? I tried to think of something I wanted to do that sounded like a Special Fathers’ Day Event, but really I didn’t want to do much more than stick close to home and hang out with the wife and kids. Heidi made the best breakfast in recent memory, we grilled steaks, we went to the pool, we played “Dance Dance Revolution.” It was a low key kind of Fathers’ Day. We just hung out together. But that’s exactly what I like to do.

I have decided that Being There is 90% of fatherhood. In mind, spirit, and body. Being There. My biggest test of Being There is when I put my kids to bed at night. We read books, sing a few songs, say prayers, and lights out. When I am in my right mind, I don’t rush through. I try to relish those moments.

But mind you, bedtime is right at the boundary between Kid Time and Adult Time. Freedom and relaxation beckon. So it is tempting to just shuffle the kiddies into bed with a minimal interaction. But Being There is what I owe my kids. Being There is what will ultimately save me as a human being. So instead of rushing though bedtime, on my good days, I take my time. Or give my time. Whichever.

I don’t know where I’d be without my wife and kids. Without them I cannot be assured that I wouldn’t be self-absorbed 24/7. Maybe without a family to live with, for, and in I would find something else to devote my life to, somethign to help me grow up. Fatherhood and marriage are saving my life. A guy should have to pay admission for such a thing. Instead all I have to do is just show up. Such a deal.

As it is

“Reality as it is becomes the right view of the meditator. Thinking of it as it is becomes the right thought. Awareness of it as it is becomes the right awareness. Concentration on it as it is becomes the right concentration. Actions of the body and speech are then aligned to reality as it is. In this way the meditator develops and is fulfilled.”

-Majjhima Nikaya

Poem: Reader-friendly Cummings

I like this poem I found at lunch. My urge when I read Cummings with all his typographical oddities is to translate each poem into the way I would read it at a reading. Below I succumb to the urge:

Lucky means finding holes where pockets aren’t.
Lucky’s to spend laughter not money.
Lucky are Breathe grow dream die love,
not Fear eat sleep kill and have.
You am lucky.
Is we lucky.
Luckier.
Luckiest.

— E. E. Cummings (New Poems #5)

Us Power

There’s this interesting story in Business Week about how technology is enabling mass collaboration and an emerging phenomenon of group intelligence:

The nearly 1 billion people online worldwide — along with their shared knowledge, social contacts, online reputations, computing power, and more — are rapidly becoming a collective force of unprecedented power. For the first time in human history, mass cooperation across time and space is suddenly economical. “There’s a fundamental shift in power happening,” says Pierre M. Omidyar, founder and chairman of the online marketplace eBay Inc. (EBAY ) “Everywhere, people are getting together and, using the Internet, disrupting whatever activities they’re involved in.”

At first I say, “Right On.” I’m a bottom-up, participatory kind of guy. And the second author that came to my mind reading this article was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. This sounds right down his alley. In fact, the connection is so obvious it’s kind of tired.

But the first author I thought of was Charles Dickens and his disdain for crowds and mobs. He often portrayed mobs as tyrannical and irrational. Indeed, how do we use this incredibly powerful technology in a way that that does not amplify groupthink and reject the inspired eccentric geniuses that have sparked humanity’s progress over the centuries? We need to preserve room for the dissenters, the deviants, and the iconoclasts even as We The People claim the world for collaboration and cooperation.

I’d love to see the world singing in perfect harmony. But without a bit of dissonance now and then, you have little more than elevator music.

Chipless RFID

An Israeli company called InkSure has reported approval of a patent for a conductive printable ink that can be used to produce “chipless RFID.” The goal price per chip for RFID has been five cents a piece. This technology can produce “printed” RFIDs five for a penny. Essentially, this development will allow for “every stick of gum and condom packet on the planet” to be tracked. We’re talking about an order of magnitude leap in RFID capability if InkSure pans out.

Okay, so we (may) have this fancy new technology. Now what messes will we create because we don’t really have the plan to deal with it? Or, more likely, what effect will this technology have because the people who do have a plan probably aren’t the ones you want to have a plan? Privacy advocates should be very alarmed. Marketers and spies should be giddy.

For starters, will radio frequency blockers (soon to be a growth industry) become illegal under some version of the Patriot Act? Will it be illegal for your neighbor to obtain an RFID scanner and determine the contents of your home? Will police need a warrant to use one? Will the container industry boom? I can see privacy-minded folks immediately emptying contents of store-bought packaging into their own generic containers. The mind boggles at the implications of universal RFID.

Such a technology has great potential benefit as well. I just wonder who’s asking the questions that need to be asked. And who’s providing the answers.

Me, I’m sort of resigned to the fact that in my lifetime privacy will go away as we know it. Just like retirement and America’s superpower status.

Vanity Slides make the first Blog on TV

So, we have this DVR which is the irresistible force that pulls me in the opposite direction of my personal GTD efforts each evening.

We also have set it to record, among many other shows, Two and a Half Men. I can’t say exactly why, except that Charlie Sheen is pretty funny in this series if you can ignore the fact that he’s basically playing himself. A womanizing Charlie Sheen on a madcap sitcom is kind of amusing, a womanizing Charlie Sheen in real life is kind of sad. But it’s a sitcom, not real life. And I like John Cryer.

Anyway, I noticed one night that a slide with a bunch of enigmatic writing on it showed for a split second as the Two and a Half Men credits were rolling. And, well, me — moth, enigmatic writing — flame. I had to check it out. Now we’ve taken to freezing this frame after every show so we can read director Chuck Lorre’s Vanity Slide. Apparently Chuck’s been waiting for us to catch on since he’s got all of the vanity slides he’s ever shown, including the ones shown at the end of his other show Dharma and Greg, stored on his very own vanity slide website.

Chuck is a witty guy and the cards read like a blog. Chuck Lorre may very well be the first TV Blogger. Granted he has a rare platform from which he can TV Blog, but still. Isn’t this some kind of cultural first?

You know the guy with a new hammer thinks everything looks like a nail. And my latest new hammer is Michel de Certeau’s “Practice of Everyday Life”. And I say Chuck Lorre is a nail.

de Certeau talks early on in his book about how culture is defined not so much by the products — books, movies, magazines, plays, TV Shows — that are provided for our consumption, but the ways in which we as “consumers” appropriate, adapt, and subvert them to fit our own needs. We use “tactics” to exploit cracks and crevices in the structures of production, taking advantages of oppotunities to exert our individual power and express ourselves. Many Lifehacks ( a concept now in vogue) are in this spirit…

(You think my words sound pretentious? You should try to read de Certeau’s over the top academic prose.)

… anyway, Chuck Lorre has done exactly that. He’s found a little crack in the TV production machine and he has appropriated it in order to express himself. More power to him, I say.