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Archive for April, 2010

I took a couple of days off this week.  Just a little decompression time after working six days a week for the last three weeks.
I picked up a copy of “Avatar” and a copy of “The Shoes of the Fisherman“.  The first was a sci-fi movie which came out a few months back and was meant to transform the movie experience (because it was filmed and shown in 3D).  My DVD is not 3D, but I believe I enjoyed it more on the regular screen (TV) than I did at the theater.  Of course, the size was not as good, but the movie itself was more watchable for me – without the glasses or the distraction of flat 3D.
The second movie I watched was Fisherman, and it was (is) terrific.  It was movie of the year when it came out back in the 60’s.  It starred Anthony Quinn as a Russian archbishop who becomes Pope and who then turns around and pledges the wealth of the Church to help the starving Chinese.  This movie continues to touch me.  It leaves me wondering why our “real” Church can’t be more like Hollywood.  Why can’t the Church risk all it’s material wealth to help humanity?  I look at AIDS, starvation around the world, and so many other things the Church could do – not solve, but help with – and I have to ask why and why not?
I just finished the twelfth book in the Dresden Files series: “Changes” by Jim Butcher (2010©).  Dresden is a wizard who lives in Chicago.  This book is about him trying to assist a little girl who is to be sacrificed by some baddies.  There is a lot more to the story, but to say much more is to reveal good chunks of the story.  In any case, it is a good, fast, entertaining read and I highly recommend it.
Family Notes:
Today I spent a couple of hours looking at colleges with Sarah.  She has pretty good grades so she’s looking at some pretty elite schools: Princeton, Harvard, Duke, Penn, Stanford and Bowdoin.  Not really schools I would consider, but if she were to get in, I’d really try to see how we could help her.  Hil, of course, wants Sarah to go to DVC for two years to keep the cost down.
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Today Hil and I went to our normal Sunday Mass.  The priest’s talk was about the current crisis in the Church and how we (the Church) should face it.  Basically, he would like us to understand that it did / does happen (sexual abuse by priests and other ministers’), that it is not related to homosexuality, and that it can only be addressed in a spirit of forgiveness and open communication.
I have always had problems with the Church as an institution.  I believe that it has a role to play in acting as an institutional representation of God here on earth.  But, and this is a large reservation, I believe the Church has a long and well documented history of financial, religious and now sexual abuse.  I believe the number of participants in these crimes against children are both few in number and few in percentage.  This does not, however, absolve the Church as an institution from dealing with the terrible facts (and consequences) of the actions of these few.
The Church must institute a policy of zero tolerance of child abuse.  It must assist in the criminal (and civil) prosecution of any priests, ministers or other persons in religious authority.  Where the accusations are found to be untrue, the Church must actively work to clear the person’s reputation.  But where the accusations are true, the Church must stand in defense of the innocent (the children) and not hide, defend or shield the guilty.  Any senior person who does so (attempts to hide the guilty) is equally guilty (both criminally and civilly) – in my opinion – and should be equally punished.  They (the senior person) should resign their position immediately and turn themselves over to the police in the jurisdiction where the original crimes were committed.
Pedophilia is a crime.  Hiding a crime is conspiracy and makes you an accomplice to all future criminal acts.
On a lighter subject, today I finished reading “The Complete Book of Running”  (1977©) by James F. Fixx.  This was a tremendous book!!  It was as well written as “Born To Run” and in many ways is almost a precursor to it.  I believe the author makes some errors based on his personal experience – the recommendation of running shoes – for instance, but on the whole, the entire book is a valuable resource which I look forward to re-reading and just using as a reference every now and then.
There is one paragraph I would like to quote at length.  It has to do with why people run (why I, in particular, run): “Most people who have considered the matter have, I believe, posed the wrong question.  They have asked why running produces such extraordinary effects.  Putting the question that way elicits a certain kind of answer, and I think it is the wrong one.  My suspicion is that the effects of running are not extraordinary at all, but quite ordinary.  It is the other states, all other feelings, that are peculiar, for they are an abnegation of the way you and I are intended to feel.  As runners, I think we reach directly back along the endless chain of history.  We experience what we would have felt had we lived ten thousand years ago, eating fruits, nuts and vegetables, and keeping our hearts and lungs and muscles fit by constant movement.  We are reasserting, as modern man seldom does, our kinship with ancient man, and even with the wild beasts that preceded him.  This, I think, is our remarkable secret, one we share every time we go running.”
This is so close to the idea of man as the running predator, it is amazing to me it is not more widely recognized – particularly as Fixx’s book is over 30 years old!!
In politics, there was a summit to try to forge an international agreement on the gathering, controlling, and disposal of old nuclear material.  The main objective being to prevent it from slipping into the hands of “terrorists” who would use it to construct bombs.  I think there is – remains – this assumed belief the Muslims are out to get us (the free western world).  I personally believe we have more to worry about from internal terrorists (Timothy McVeigh types), than we will ever have to worry about from externals.  I believe the constant encouragement of hatred towards our government by right-wing extremists) is a major factor in my worries.
It strikes me as ironic that the right places so much more “faith” in the Declaration of Independence than they do the Constitution of the United States.  The government they so despise is summed up (and formed) by three simple words at the start of the Preamble: “We the People…”
If they are so frustrated by a government which doesn’t listen to them, every couple of years they have an opportunity to make their voices heard – the opportunity is called an “Election”.
The simple fact is, we just held one – and the right lost!!  Now we (progressives) need to continue to push for the change we desperately need.  Financial reform.  Corporate re-regulation.  Getting our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.  True universal, single payer health care.  And, most importantly for the future of this nation – free, universal, cradle-to-grave education!!
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Saturday morning I was supposed to go in to work some overtime.  I went out to the car and started it up.  As I was backing it out, I heard some crunching sounds.  As I got clear of the driveway I had two passing thoughts: it sure is cold in here and the back window sure is clear this morning.  (Usually, when the weather is cold the  back window is frosted over.)  Once the car was in the street, I noticed a black patch on my driveway.  Of course, your first thought is, “Great, the oil has dumped all over the drive!”
Then it all comes together and you realize your back window has been shattered.
Bashed in rear window

Random act of violence by some jerk…

And so you start the process – call the police, call the insurance, call the shop…  The police say it appears to be a random act of vandalism.  The shop says call Safelite.  The insurance says it’ll be a $100 deductible.  So, I’m out my overtime, my $100, and I have to take a day of leave off to get the window replaced.
The good news is I met a nice repairman – Reggie (from Safelite).  He was very professional and seems to have done a great job.  It’s too bad you have to have something bad happen in order to meet good folks.
I took advantage of the time to read “The Score Takes Care of Itself“, written by Bill Walsh with Steve Jamison and Craig Walsh.  After reading several books on running, it was nice to read about a different sport (football) and about management and leadership.  The book is sub-titled: “My Philosophy of Leadership“.  The book is copywrite in 2009 and must have come out shortly after Walsh’s death.
I found it to be a VERY fast read and a very interesting one as well.  Of course, being a 49ers fan, it would be hard not to like it.  Walsh discusses some players and some game situations, but mostly he is talking about what he believes it takes to be a great leader.  Namely: personal expertise in the subject matter, a dedication to teaching and communication, and a commitment to a specifically defined and explicitly communicated standard of performance (strive for excellence and improvement).
The following excerpt is from early in the book and is Walsh’s definition of his Standard of Performance:
Exhibit a ferocious and intelligently applied work ethic directed at continual improvement; demonstrate respect for each person in the organization and the work he or she does; be deeply committed to learning and teaching, which means increasing my own expertise; be fair; demonstrate character; honor the direct connection between details and improvement, and relentlessly seek the latter; show self-control, especially where it counts most — under pressure; demonstrate and prize loyalty; use positive language and have a positive attitude; take pride in my effort as an entity separate from the result of that effort; be willing to go the extra distance for the organization; deal appropriately with victory and defeat, adulation and humiliation (don’t get crazy with victory nor dysfunctional with loss); promote internal communication that is both open and substantive (especially under stress); seek poise in myself and those I lead; put the team’s welfare and priorities ahead of my own; maintain an ongoing level of concentration and focus that is abnormally high; and make sacrifice and commitment the organization’s trademark.
At another point he says, passion, expertise, communication and persistence are the key’s to great teaching and great leadership.  It would be hard to disagree with anything said in the book.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in management or leadership.  It’s also a great read for any 49er fan seeking insight into our glory days.
Yesterday was Easter Sunday. We all got together (Mom, Carm & Art, Sean and Junior, and Hil, Sarah and me) for lunch at Fresh Choice to celebrate Mom’s and Carm’s birthdays.  It was a great time and we all had a laugh.  Afterwards we all came back to our house to hang out and have a cup of tea or coffee.
Sometimes the simplest family get-togethers are the best…
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