You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2009.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you. You never know what you’re going to find on this page. . . .

A typical summer day in Phoenix, it’s 110-plus degrees this afternoon, and I’m sweeping leaves from the patio in the backyard. The broom I’ve got is pretty old . . . all the bristles slant heavily to one side, which means that it works pretty well in one direction but is fairly useless in the other. Honestly, it’s a piece of junk, but I’m too lazy to venture out and buy a new one.  So I toil away, being sure to turn my body rather than “backhanding” with the broom.  The sun is beating down on me, and I start to get a little dizzy from sweeping in circles. I figure heat stroke must be imminent, because my mind starts to wander in strange directions.

It occurs to me that the broom could possibly be the most primitive tool that modern man still uses on a regular basis. Think about it – it’s a bunch of straw tied to the end of a stick, essentially unchanged from the ones used by stone-age patio sweepers hundreds of thousands of years ago. I may as well be Neanderthal Man cleaning out the cave. Yeah, yeah . . . I know, the man would not be doing the sweeping in those days. . . which either makes me extremely liberated for the time, or perhaps, gay. Whatever.

But seriously, is any tool commonly used today less evolved than the lowly broom? I can’t think of one. The hammer? It’s been refined over time with advances in metallurgy and ergonomics. Ditto the ax. But the broom remains nothing more than a wad of grass on the end of a stick. It’s kind of surreal. Or maybe I just need to get out of the heat.

Today’s riddle: What came first, smoking or callousness?

On the drive in this morning, I witnessed yet another act of object rudeness and insensitivity by a smoker. Standing on the street corner, he was opening a fresh pack of smokes and, as if without a second thought, he tossed the wrapper into the air and let the breeze carry it away. I watched to see if there was any hint of concern on his face, and of course there was none.

We’ve all witnessed these folks throwing their butts all over the ground. It’s so commonplace that we feel appreciative when they at least stomp out the fire. How many times have you pulled up to a stop sign only to find someone had emptied their ashtray in the median? I mean seriously, what the hell are these people thinking? Or maybe the question ought to be – do they think at all?

One time when I was a kid, my friends and I were playing in the front yard. It was a warm summer day, and we were all barefoot on the freshly-cut grass. The grown-ups were on the porch smoking. I can’t remember if we were playing tag, or frisbee, or some other game, but I remember feeling the sudden, burning pain underfoot. I had stepped on a still-lit cigarette butt that one of the grown-ups had carelessly flicked out onto the grass.

It boggles the mind.

All the world’s a-Twitter, or so it seems. Pull up just about any website, blog or news feed, and you’re likely to find an icon inviting you to “follow me on Twitter.” I’ve yet to join the mob.

You see, the whole point of Twitter is to disseminate information (regardless of importance) to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. Indeed, when followers receive something juicy, they can re-tweet to their own followers at light-speed. One tweet becomes ten, then a hundred, then a thousand –  and pretty soon the whole world knows that you had a bran muffin for breakfast (thank you John McCain!). I can see the allure if you’re in a profession that benefits from developing and growing a loyal following. This would include PR folks, politicians, investment gurus, etc. But for the average Joe, isn’t it just an ego-trip? A good friend and colleague of mine belongs in the former category. He’s been a Tweeter (man, I keep wanting to say Twit . . .) for a while now and swears by it. He’s prodding me to join the crowd – says it’ll increase readership of my blog.

Maybe, I dunno. If the rest of you are Tweeters, I’m not (yet) aware of it. But I would like to know. . . is this something you’ve adopted into your daily life?  Am I missing the boat by staying on the fence? Should I cave and join the masses?

And if I did, would you follow me?

I woke last night to the sound of thunder, how far off I sat and wondered . . .

No, I didn’t start humming a song from 1962, but I did step outside to take it all in for a moment. A storm was brewing and it felt great. After weeks of blazing sun and balmy nights, a little rain would be nice. I climbed back into bed and fell asleep to the sound of rain tapping against the windows.

Come morning, the thunder had passed and the rain had all but given up. The ground was wet, the air was cool, the pool was a mess! I drove to work with the windows down and the a/c off for the first time in a long while. I’ve got some cleaning up to do when I get home later, but I’ll take that in trade any day. There’s something about a little rain that energizes me.

It’s going to be a great day. Cheers!

It’s no secret that I am not a fan of Sarah Palin. Well, hang on, that’s not exactly true . . . I do enjoy following her for the sheer entertainment value it provides. But politically, she and I are glaciers apart, which is why I was so impressed by something she said this week.

In the midst of all the clatter surrounding the town hall meetings on health care reform, Sarah Palin has publicly denounced the prevailing GOP tactic of disruption, harassment, and shout-downs. This from CNN:

Posting once again on her Facebook page — the former Alaska governor’s recent soapbox of choice — Palin on Sunday called on critics of the health care plan to turn down the volume.

“There are many disturbing details in the current bill that Washington is trying to rush through Congress, but we must stick to a discussion of the issues and not get sidetracked by tactics that can be accused of leading to intimidation or harassment,” Palin wrote. 

“Such tactics diminish our nation’s civil discourse which we need now more than ever because the fine print in this outrageous health care proposal must be understood clearly and not get lost in conscientious voters’ passion to want to make elected officials hear what we are saying,” Palin wrote. “Let’s not give the proponents of nationalized health care any reason to criticize us.”

Wow. Reasonable and sensible? I was stunned. Even if I disagree with her stance on the issue, I can applaud her for taking a stand against these ridiculous shouting tactics.  Brava! Time will tell if the GOP leadership and lobbyists will heed the call.

I remember the day vividly. I’d been following the stock price for Ford Motor Co. for several months during the chaos that surrounded the market crash last fall. Our government was preparing to pull the trigger on the largest bail-out in our nation’s history.  The prospects for GM were grim at best, and Chrysler didn’t look much better. Ford had been caught up in the turmoil, and nobody could say with any confidence whether it would survive either.

Ford’s stock price that afternoon: $1.28 per share.

It was risky, to be sure. If Ford went belly-up, or accepted a government buy-out, the stock could end up worthless.  But on the other hand, for less than I’d pay for a cup of coffee at Starbucks, I could own a piece of one of America’s greatest companies.

I wanted it. I pulled up my online brokerage account to see what we could do. I was nervous . . . my hands were literally shaking at the keyboard. I’d made some good calls before, doubling down on one stock that had tanked and reaping handsome rewards. I’d also placed a couple of well-timed sell-orders. The problem is, I’d also made a couple of poor choices, the economy was on the verge of global collapse, and I was seriously gun-shy. I called my wife to get a second opinion. She said it was up to me (I hate it when she does that!)

Ultimately, I chickened out and did not buy the stock. Since that time, I’ve watched the price climb steadily. Today’s closing price: $8.44 per share. That’s a 659% gain in about 8 months.

Peter Lynch, world-famous stock picker, used to talk about the 10-bagger, a stock that increases in value tenfold, typically over many years. He said that a person only needs to find a few of those in their lifetime to become financially secure. Sure would be nice to have a do-over on this one.

Daughters,” the hit song by John Mayer, touches on the enduring scars that a broken home can leave on a little girl’s heart and psyche, and how those scars can impact the girl’s own relationships as an adult. It’s a moving piece, and worthy of a good listen. But as much as I love the song, I think it stops just short of revealing a more subtle lesson. 

If we are lucky in life, we’re treated to a healthy sampling of what I like to call “a-ha” moments – a sudden clarity or understanding of something on a new and deeper level. One day, many years ago, I got a whopper.

My wife and I were having one of our frequent conversations about raising kids. The topic this time was patience, discipline, and unconditional love. I don’t recall the particulars of what led to the discussion, but I suspect that I had some harsh words with my little girl, made an angry face, and allowed her to walk away in tears. No doubt it was another one of those situations when, as a young father, I felt at a loss to handle things differently. That’s when I was given an amazing gift.

She explained to me that, as her father, I am (by default) my little girl’s vision of what a man is supposed to be. Everything that I say and do shapes the way that she sees herself, and her place in the world. It establishes a baseline for what is normal in relationships. If I am loving, patient, gentle and caring, then those behaviors will become ingrained and “set the bar” for how she will expect to be treated by the boys and men in her life. On the other hand, the girl who grows up in a harsh and abusive setting will expect and tolerate the same treatment from others – boyfriends, her husband, etc. She will forfeit respect and dignity, and never know real love.

It was a sobering thought. The light bulb went on. This new awareness enabled me to look at things through a different lens, and since that day, I’ve never lost sight of my most important role as a father. I will be eternally grateful for learning this lesson early, before any harm could be done. My little girl is now a teenager, and for her, just about every day brings new challenges. It’s not always easy, but from what I can see, I think she’s going to make it.