Who We Are . . .

Welp . . . it happened again on Friday. Another lunatic decided to end a bunch of lives and permanently alter even more while chipping away at our general sense of comfort and security (and by "our" I mean the whole world at this point). And I guess the question is . . . who are we?

And I mean that in a million different ways . . . who are we? What do we stand for? What do we care about? How do we handle disagreements? How do we handle stress? Who moved my cheese? Can I wear these shoes after Labor Day? Does any of this matter anyway?

Did we ever have a unified approach? Were "we" ever a population that could be simply explained or that had common values? Simple answer - no. We never were. But I think we used to be closer to that idyllic version of "we" in that we used to at least pretend to have the greater good at heart when things went screwy. Sure, sure . . . it was all lip service and we've not always been the nicest kids on the playground (Japanese internment camps, turning away boats of Jews during the Holocaust, slavery, suffrage fights, racism, xenophobia, ethnocentrism, the only nation in the world to drop "the bomb" on another nation, etc. etc. etc.) but as a society and culture we would collectively gasp when the cue was there and we'd put aside petty differences and acknowledge wrongs and woes (ignoring that the confederate flag still flies in America (I'm trying to make a point here, forgive me.)).

But I look at the things happening the last few weeks and we're truly breaking down. Paris lead to cries of outrage and horror. Refugees should be refused, Muslims should be tracked, we should be afraid - that is what our leaders and candidates for President were shouting. Then something of smaller scale but equal "wrongedness" happens here (the neighboring state for Kansans like me) and everyone stays quiet. I've not seen a single Facebook avatar with the Colorado flag super-imposed on the smiling face of the dummy running the account. And our leaders who were full of vitrol and fire, noting that this recent crisis doesn't fit their narrative or the agendas of their constituents/base just say . . . nothing.

And don't make this about Christianity (there was no Jesus in that gunman's actions) or abortion (there are disputes on if the right to choose was even in the motivations) or gun control (most early reports show the gunman to be not "all there") or the price of tea at the supermarket. To do any of that is to further schism who "we" are.

Here's what we should be doing . . . staying resolved that to take a gun and shoot twelve (killing three) is not okay. Ever. EVER. Here's what we should be doing . . . isolating our agendas around abortion from our agendas around shooting strangers who just happened to "be there". Here's what we should be doing . . . demanding leadership from those either aspiring to be or elected to lead.

Instead we had people too focused on Black Friday and football games and holiday weekends to even stop and acknowledge this thing happened - and that it ended the lives of people just trying to live their lives and have a Friday. We fill our heads and hearts with noise because maybe things are too real and too stressful without the white noise to drown it all out.

If we can quiet all the noise . . . if we can focus on the real issue or issues (I'm presuming - and might be proven wrong - this is an issue of a mentally unwell person acting in horrible ways) we can start to have a real conversation and we can figure out who we are; what we care about, what we will tolerate, what we won't accept, how we can be better, how we can get back to being a country the world admires full of citizens worthy of the honor of being Americans.

Who are we?



My Hanukkah Wish List . . .

It is "Black Friday" (insert raucous round of applause here). I'm going to work most of today and spend the balance with my recovering squishy face) and dreaming of a more ambitious, money-spending self. While Hanukkah is not the all-encompassing gift bonanza that Christmas commonly is (most American Jews will agree with you that this lesser festival's rising popularity is more about our kids keeping up with the Jones kids than anything else). I do enjoy a nice Hanukkah gift from SLF and my parents (and my intern who is apparently dropping much gelt this year).

To that end, I've put together my eight wishes (one per day) for this Hanukkah. Get out your checkbooks, folks.

1) Purdy Smells - I have stopped wearing fragrances. I'm not sure why I stopped entirely but my body wash, shampoo, and deodorant are all scent free and I don't use any colognes or oils any more. I need to get some of that good stink back in my life. The question is simply where to start.

2) A Dutch Oven - No. Not the type where you pull the blankets real tight and let one rip while your bed mate slumbers . . . the kind you use to cook things inside fires and on hot beds of coal. We're grilling a lot lately and I don't want winter to end that. Cobblers and soups and casseroles, here we come.

3) A Beehive Kit - Colony collapse literally, truly keeps me up (some, rare) nights and I'm not sure if we have enough flowers and other sources of nutrition to keep the little guys happy (we're going to plant a bunch of flowers and plants in the spring) but I have to do something about our bee population. Shhhhh. They are not allowed within city limits.

4) Bow and Many Arrows - I am going to be shooting by early 2016 and have spent way, way too much time picking out my equipment for indoor/outdoor target shooting so I just need to actually, you know, BUY the equipment at this point. And then join the archery club so I can go there and shoot vs. risk killing the neighbor dogs with errant (I SWEAR it was an accident) releases.

5) Chromecast Audio - We own TWO Chromecast units (for the TV) and use them when we can't stream things through our Roku but I love the idea of the audio-only option so I can make my (several) sets of killer speakers easily accessible from anywhere in the house (to be heard throughout the house) from my phone, tablet, or laptop. Genius. And for $35 - cheap genius.

6) Donations - Give to something you care about. I care - a LOT - about my local public radio station and I care about The Arc of Sedgwick County, the local United Way, my congregation, and KPTS so I give money to all of them. You should find something you care about and give to it - in your name or the names of others, It is the gift that keeps on giving.

7) Books - I'm already building out my 2016 reading list (I'm going to get strategic about it vs. letting it fall to my whims upon finishing each book) and I love libraries but hate having to return these things I spent so much time with and I can't read on a tablet so - keep chopping down trees so I might fill my shelves with the good stuff.

8) Podcasting Equipment - I've got plans to, with a friend, go audible in 2016. It will be quite the adventure and I can't wait to get started.

What's on your wish list this holiday season?


Happy Thanksgiving . . .

Ah. Another year. SO much to be thankful for. I'mma let Sara Bareilles take care of it:



Thanksgiving Playlist . . .

Need some tunes to listen to during dinner tomorrow (and/or while just hanging out with family and friends)? Please to enjoy this two-hour jam I put together for our recent celebration with SLF's family.

Have something better in your ears? PLEASE share it. I love music suggestions.


Nervous Hours . . .

I hate waiting.

I hate not being able to make things happen.

I hate the unknown.

I hate when I'm waiting, unable to make things happen, while deep in the grips of the unknown.

Yet - here I sit. Waiting. Unable to do anything. Not knowing what is happening.

SLF, you see, is currently down the hall from me (or perhaps miles away inside this huge hospital - I'm not exactly sure which) under the false-sense-of-rest that is a general anesthetic having her body invaded by robotic devices, intravenous drips, and the deft hands of medical professionals.

And I . . . I hate it.

I worry. I obsess. I'm freaked out. I'm frightened. Oh sure, sure . . . she'll be "fine" and this is "routine" and she scheduled it months ago so she's well educated and prepared and comfortable. And I am too - if only because she is and has assured (if not instructed) me to be fine.

But I can't do anything but wait. And I can't (yet) do anything to help. And I can't know what's happening or how "fine" she is until someone in scrubs meanders down the hall - strong eye-contact the whole way - to assure (if not instruct) me that it is over and I can relax.

The only solace I have is the handful of other schlubs sitting around biding the same time and waiting for their scrub-festooned relief to approach from afar. For even in these moments - we're never really, truly "alone".

UPDATE - My Savior in Dansko clogs came early. Things are fine. All the worry, as always, for nothing. 


Teen Sexting . . .

Before you read on . . . I suggest you give this fantastic episode of the great podcast (new to me, with thanks to my friend Walker) "Note to Self" a listen. It is thirty minutes and if you have a kid between the age of 8 and 88 (the range of people who may be sexting this late in to 2015) you will likely find it interesting.

Have you listened? No, you haven't. But - whatever. You'll regret it when all you get is my hot-take on its content.

Here's the thing . . . as the podcast points out there is nothing really "different" about the rise of teen sexting. It is just kids using the means available to them to test, explore, and enjoy their bodies and sexuality while approaching these "exciting" opportunities from a place of insecurity, anxiety, and fear.

Don't agree? You should. I remember, very well, sneaking around friends' houses and looking at their parents' porn stash or swapping alcohol from my parents' liquor cabinet for dubs, of dubs, of dubs of porn on VHS tape. And that was in a room full of other adolescent boys where confusion was met with shame . . . but never eye contact.

So how is this different? I think in three "simple" ways:

  1. Kids seem to be exploring sexuality younger and younger these days.
  2. Taking and sharing nude photos of yourself - something new to this (or maybe one previous) generation of t(w)eens is a (semi) permanent thing that can't be undone.
  3. Technology and the isolation of it is even more obvious in this generation than previous ones.
So let's look at these three things individually:
  1. They are also hitting puberty and starting their sexual exploration earlier. Blame chemicals,  blame food and obesity, blame genetics, blame Canada. It is a real thing that can't be - as far as we can see - undone.
  2. To be clear it is an actual criminal offense to send and share photos of under-aged children no matter how consensual and if you happen to turn 18 (while still in high school) and you look at pictures of a classmate (much less share them) who is under 18 . . . you can go on a sexual offenders list for actual ever. Not to mention that these photos, now matter how "proud" of them you might be (lighting, angle, and filtering perfect) are no longer yours or special or intimate the minute you share them with anyone else. That is not the same with sexual acts or exploration between two, consenting, people. They can share memories and even skew the occurrence but they can't share actual evidence of it. When you take and share photos - you're essentially giving them to the world forever and ever (amen).
  3. I was a late bloomer (I've made NO bones about this and I'm not at all embarrassed by it) but I remember enjoying the act of exploring and figuring out sex with, well, actual women in the actual flesh. Sure, sure, I was over-saturated by porn for at least four decades before (I kid, slightly) but none of that was ever even sorta presented as "for" me or "by" me or "of" me. I worry that kids who get their proverbial kicks trading "selfies" (like so many binary baseball cards) will either not value the real thing as much - or at least the awkward fumbling of the early goings with a partner you don't, yet, know the geography of.
Do I think kids should not sext? Sure. But that is because I'm a curmudgeon with a nine-year-old daughter who wants a cell phone very badly. But I'm also an adult who survived my adolescence and believes that this generation, and the next and the next, will too.


Sunday Funday . . .

One of these days I'll grow all the way up and not find movies like this hilarious and immediately put them on my "must watch" list but that day is NOT today . . .


10 Things to Eat This Thanksgiving . . .

Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . this the season for turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie (which I am still positive no one in the history of the world has actually liked/enjoyed) and you have to spend six or eight hours cooking and prepping the mandatory foods of the holiday for what totals 30 - 45 minutes of people eating and pretending to enjoy it to turn around and complain, immediately after, about how full they are.

So here is my suggestion . . . deviate from the norm. Eat something better this Thanksgiving. Need inspiration? Try these:
  1. Toast with Peanut Putter and All-Fruit Preserves. The extra-toasty kind that is not burned but is completely devoid of moisture. Preferably a multi-grain bread with unrefined flour and a thick layer of crunchy peanut putter and a thin spread of ideally tart-fruit preserves like these.
  2. Scrambled Eggs. For breakfast. That day. Every day. So good.
  3. Rotisserie Chicken. Remember that movie "Girl Interrupted"? I love a rotisserie chicken way, way more than that. You should, too. It is nearly perfect alone and pairs well with just about everything.
  4. Grilled Cookies. Yeah. You read that correctly. Get some coals good and hot with a mixture of briquettes and wood chunks then put the dough on a skillet and watch - closely. They'll go from raw to black quickly if you don't pay attention and you don't want to screw that up.
  5. Holiday Spice Tea from the Spice Merchant. Forget the Pumpkin Spice Latte THIS is the flavor of the season. Not from Wichita? You can order it here.
  6. Turkey Pot Pie. The closest you should come to that trite stuff everyone else will be gorging on.
  7. Delivery Pizza. On an occasion when hours and hours will be spent making tons and tons of food there is no greater nose-thumbing than ordering a pizza and sitting on the couch binging Netflix while you wait for it to show up. Delicious and simple.
  8. Mozzarella Sticks. Because you're 12 on the inside. 
  9. Fruit Salad. I love a good fruit salad, served icy cold and with just enough fruit juices to keep it interesting. Best served in a coffee mug.
  10. Hummus. I mean COME ON - you had to see that one coming. TOO delicious to not eat all the time.
So that's it. Go get something yummy before having to endure the trappings of the holiday.


Mizzou . . .

In case you've been in a coma the last several weeks I have some news for you . . . the President and the Chancellor of the University of Missouri have resigned because of racial incidents on campus sports.

Okay, okay. It was sorta about racial incidents on campus (debrief here) but it was actually about, in my never-humble opinion, much, much more. Here, in no particular order, are the things that I think are notable about the events at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

1) Being a victim of hate is apparently something we can scrutinize. Yes. The graduate student (an educational policy major, if I understand correctly) at Mizzou who started (and really did something significant) the call for action at Mizzou went on a long hunger strike. A person of color he was concerned with all incidents of hate on campus. What was the reaction from some? He is the son of a rich railroad executive so apparently he can't actually know from suffering or want things to be better. Sad, really.

2) There were several incidents (reported and document) of hate at Mizzou many of which were white students verbally (and otherwise) harassing and abusing the minority (7%-ish) student population of the University that is black. Racial slurs from backs of trucks, threats from fraternity houses, etc. You know . . . stuff that we can accept from young people studying at a well-regarded university (that's sarcasm).

3) Social media is powerful. We know much of what we do about the happenings at Mizzou because of Twitter but platforms like Yik Yak (which allows you to be anonymous in every way on it - for whatever reason this might be a potentially good and useful idea) were also part of the problem as threats of shooting black students after the resignation of school leadership.

4) Sports, man. Let's be very clear - every smaller protest and call for attention at Mizzou combined netted about 1% of the attention that a brave (and I use that term respectfully - they had scholarships and their futures, in some cases, on the line) group of football players got for refusing to practice and play under the then-current Mizzou leadership and their coach (dealing with cancer) got for supporting them. If not for the $1MM in known financial loss for the school NOT fielding a team - I don't know if this would have been resolved this way.

5) This is not a "Mizzou" thing . . . since the incidents at Mizzou there have been dozens of colleges and universities around the country where students are calling for equality and fair treatment and respect on campus. Not all are as popular or powerful in scope or demand but the discussion is real and spreading.

6) Hate is alive and "well" . . . so much so that a human being (we'll be kind) is willing to pick up a piece of their own feces and scrawl a swastika on the wall of a bathroom. In America. In 2015. Imagine how absurd you would have to be to do THAT.

7) This generation is different. I talk a lot of crap about millennials (which are apparently no-longer even our youngest adults) but here's what's splendid about them. They have had enough and they are willing to do something about it. Take the Mizzou hunger strikes, or the larger protests there and around the country and weigh it with acceptance of homosexuals (something that should be a given vs. celebrated) and the dipping of incidents of bullying, and the inclusion of those with disabilities, and the statistics around diversity and acceptance in general and you have something truly special coming in to maturity.

8) Privilege is hard. Professors and media and students arguing about access and rights and roles and responsibilities is a time-honored tradition in confusion and futility. Can we just accept, in 2015, that none of us have any rights nor do we have any lack of rights? We're just a smudged up world of fighting and pushing and pulling.

9) This will never end. We'll always have a "Mizzou" (or the problems there) to confront or ignore. Maybe there is a point or value in it but I sorta doubt it, much to my chagrin.


Family Time . . .

The backsides of some of my favorite people in the whole, wide world.
There are few things in the world that thrill me as much as when things go as well as they can.

There are, of course, a few reasons for this. First - it means that nothing went wrong. Second - there has to be an overcoming of the concern it might not. Third - that crap never, ever, ever happens. Ever. Especially to me. Because, well, life.

I had the distinct pleasure of spending a nearly-perfect, extended weekend with some of my favorite people in the world this last weekend. My natural and dismissive cynicism wants to jump in here and say something cruel and crass toward/about myself and how much I've devolved over the last nearly-two-years into someone who believes in joy, merriment, comfort, love, satisfaction and (deep exhale, deeper gulp, deepest eye roll) happiness.

Yet it is hard to dismiss myself for coming around to join the other 99.9999999999999999% of you that believe in that stuff all day every day. It is hard to find the error in my ways other than how long it has taken for me to come to this point and to start down this path. It is really too bad. For just about everyone else family time is normal. Family time is easy. Family time is comfortable.

Sure, sure - it could have been better. I only had one brother, sister-in-law, and niece here. My other brother, sister-in-law, and nephews could have been here. My parents, too. But there I am . . . doing it again. I'm going negative instead of just enjoying and relishing four great days with family. Four days surrounded by people who I love. People who mean very, very much to me. I'll just leave it at that.


Sunday Funday . . .

NOT a "fun" day but - as is tradition. Some music. Today . . . Jeff Buckley singing his wonderful version of "Hallelujah" live at the Bataclan. Thoughts and prayers to everyone in Paris. My two cents (worth far less) on that whole mess coming one day this week. Maybe.


Paper Cups . . .

Let me make one thing perfectly clear . . . there is nothing Christmas about paper cups. I don't care what color they are or what decorative "flare" they do or don't have. I don't care if snowflakes or Jesus in the manager adorn them. I don't care if they say "Merry Christmas" or not. I don't care how secular our perception of Christmas has become - thanks to the over-marketing and commercialization of the holiday - I am sure that the spirit or meaning or intent of the holiday is not about a cup. It won't be found in, on, or around a paper cup.

I've raged about the "war on Christmas" before (many, many times) and people have often thought I'm somehow speaking from my own religious bent (which is flawed logic - if I were a self-aggrandizing Jew I would want Christmas to be put in a box, with a bow . . . instead I'm equally ragey about THIS and THIS (not because either offends me or my religious persuasion but because they are both stupid things to make and sell tied to the defense and destruction of the temple and one day's worth of oil burning for eight days)).

Alas this is not a religious fight and my rage doesn't come from the cleave between the who, exactly, Jesus was. No, no. My rage is far more sparked by the misguided absurdity of those who believe their faith and belief and adoration for Christ (meant respectfully) and his birth, that he might redeem and save all mankind is in any, any, any way tied to the billions and billions spent in this country every year to celebrate the very, very humble occasion and circumstances of his birth. When did people decide that NOT over-using the holiday and the occasion was somehow an attack on it. When I shared an apartment with three other guys I celebrated every time they left my milk in the fridge. And rued every time they drew dicks on the jug.

I want everyone to love their faith and religion. I want everyone to love culture and whatever part of it they embrace or reject. I want the warm and fuzzies of the secular Christmas to be real for all who feel them. I want both and all of these things. But I want them to be separate and distinct phenomenon - much like paper cups and the reason for the season.


Fitness . . .

I have, after a month of thinking about it, researching it, and pondering it (and using said process as an excuse to not just starting DOING it), arrived at a fitness plan that I really think I can follow and make work with my schedule, lack of interest, and dedication to other pursuits like sitting around, eating, Internetting, and planning a fitness regimen.

It is not that I don't want to lose weight and get more fit and build tiny, thin, laughable layers of muscle under my rich, marbled, storied layers of fat. I do. It is not that I don't want to give more time and energy to my body and the vital gift that it is (we only get one of them, friends). I do. It is just that I hate, hate, hate working out. I hate going to the gym where all the thin, spandex, day-glo clad people are. I hate how overwhelming I find all the weight machines and the very, very specific each muscles each one works (this one is for the under third of the left butt cheek, that one for the upper third of the right). I hate the rubberized flooring (roll your eyes all you want but I don't trust flooring built to absorb shock but repel moisture.

But I also hate running and I think running five days a week for ten straight months took its toll on my legs and was not enough for me to embrace enough to battle the bulge. I really, really wish that archery was as good for physical fitness, muscle building (I'm told the forearms get far stronger but if my teen years didn't lead me to toned forearms this will not) and actual exercise. I wish, I wish, I wish. Yet - here I am. With a plan and dedication to make it work because, frankly, I've got some stuff coming up that I need to look vaguely presentable for.

So here - without additional delay - is my plan (I'm publishing it here to hold me more responsible):

DAY 1 (Sunday) - Active play with my daughter or on my one for 90 minutes.

DAY 2 (Monday) - Walk/run (15:00/mile initially) three miles. Five reps of this crazy push up routine (from Men's Health magazine) that features some of these nutso variations on the classic (that I've never been able to do anyway).

DAY 3 (Tuesday) - A group exercise class at the YMCA and thirty minutes of cardio before or after (ability to stand permitting).

DAY 4 (Wednesday) - Swimming. 35 lengths (1/2 mile) - for now. Hopefully growing that number quickly after 15  minutes of stretching/yoga.

DAY 5 (Thursday) - A group exercise class at the YMCA and thirty minutes of weights (10 minutes each on arms, core, and legs).

DAY 6 (Friday) - 45 minute exercise DVD at home.

DAY 7 (Saturday) - Walk/run (15:00/mile initially) four miles. An hour of other exercise (group class, DVD, boot camp, or whatever).

The goal is to spend 60 - 90 minutes every day on exercise. I will likely take at least one day off each week and the Sunday activity/play is designed to be low-intensity and just movement. We'll see how this goes but . . . I have a plan. And the urge to rest.


Double Standards . . .

"Hotline Bling" from the male perspective complete with phone sex operators, spandex-clad voluptuous women, goofy dance moves, and a man concerned that his woman has lost interest with him due to time and space between them . . .

"Hotline Bling" where only the gender identifiers are perspective is reversed (she's the woman left behind) and the only woman is dressed in a knit cap, flannel, and she stands (essentially) still the whole time . . .

Spot the difference? No, you didn't. Trick question . . . this is just a rap/pop/dance/club song the world is no different with or without either version. Relax. 


Sunday Funday . . .

I'm still not sure how I feel about Drake's "Hotline Bling" song/video (I like the Erykah Badu remix, if that matters) but this vine of Drake dancing with "The Donald" superimposed over his face made me super, super happy.


Spousal Failure . . .

While the rest of you were enjoying a casual Sunday, 11/1 or returning to a typical Monday on 11/2, there were a few couples in America having less than typical (we would hope) days. Who am I talking about?

Former-famous people Lisa Rinna and Harry Hamlin and current Lahoma, Oklahoma Mayor Theresa Sharp and otherwise-unknown husband Cary Sharp.

And WHY were they struggling earlier in the week? Because HALLOWEEN.

You see both of these husbands just couldn't sit home and hand out mini Snickers bars and enjoy the World Series like all the other schlubs. Nope. They had to dress up like KKK members and rally around a cross in the front lawn and go out on the town with a swastika t-shirt on.

But don't worry . . . the wives were there to clean up the mess.

It seems (and you're gonna feel better after this) Mr. Sharp was just one of "four good ol' boys sitting around drinking beer and things got out of control." Mayor Sharp apologized, after learning of the event the next day, and even went on to elaborate that the cross was never actually burned and to emphatically state her husband is not a member of the KKK (her paraphrased words . . . no affiliation).

Rinna, for her part, was actually with her husband Harry Hamlin when he put on his t-shirt with an icon actually ruined from otherwise pure intent by the Nazis and their mission to take over the world. But be cool . . . as her Instagram post clearly states (yeah - you read that correctly INSTAGRAM is the spot for a 52 year-old-woman to apologize for her 64-year=old fella . . . Check it out (complete with stock image, emoticon, grammatical nightmares, and tons of "likes" and supporters in the comments:

Yeah. Turns out they were being the "authentic" Sid and Nancy (minus, you know, the heroin that ran through their bodies and eventually killed Nancy while Sid slumbered near her). And forget that Sid Vicious was a Sex Pistol (known for their contempt and fire-branding) and Harry Hamlin is best known for . . . for . . . for . . . (why is he famous?).

Now I know, I know . . . let's all relax. No one was harmed and the intent was pure. I sorta guess that is fair and okay (far be it for me to judge) but I have to acknowledge that I'm far less comfortable with their wives and their felt need to apologize and smooth the waters than the men and their stupidity (which I can only label and dismiss as stupidity).

I'll ask for SLF to be patient with me and accept me for my shortcomings, flaws, stubbornness, and crappy decision making and might ask her to manage the politics of her family and the dynamic I share/make/ruin with them but I'll never, ever ask her to apologize for me publicly (and am going to state here she would never do it anyway). That is spousal failure. If you're old enough to get married, wear a crappy costume, and offend the not-even-masses (I'll point out here - largely flat and empty outrage that hasn't exactly caught on in the national dialogue so maybe we're all getting a little more willing to contextualize these acts) than you're old enough to apologize for yourself via Instagram or local TV station, at least.

One final point . . . I've said it before, I'll say it 1,000 more times . . . adults should just leave Halloween alone and focus on things like dignity, self-respect, and cultural and historic sensitivity. AND stop embarrassing their spouses in these public ways.


Infighting . . .

You may have heard (and perhaps watched . . . with 14 Million viewers the spectacle grabbed more eyes than the World Series and was CNBC's highest-watched program in the history of the business network) that the GOP/RNC held their third Presidential Debate last Wednesday evening.

While the debate itself was another two-parter (with the proverbial "kids table" hosting four men not-yet-ready to admit they are not going to be our next President (or even Under Secretary for National Park Admission Rates at this point) and ten "contenders" who are all fighting for a piece of the - presumed - larger pie of American voters . . . the Conservative block. I won't get back on my soapbox here on how confused I am by our politically (financially) conservative leanings but I WILL get on my soapbox on one thing . . . the Republican nominee process is in big, big trouble.

No. This is not my personal politics (as vaguely hinted at - I am a liberal, Bernie Sanders socialist at heart (who is far more centrist and practical in my political approach . . . which is why I still think Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee)) this is the established, political punditry conscensis. But WHY is it in trouble? I have three theories.

1) The GOP campaign, thus far, has been all about "soundbites" and "moments" versus "politics" and "leadership". Sure, sure, the GOP can blame the media outlets that host its debates and cover its candidates for this simplicity (and they will blame the American attention span and the pressures of media-as-business) but we all (both major parties and all smaller parties that can't get any airtime) have to admit that politics has lost America's interest. FDR held an average of 35% of America's attention for 13 - 45 minutes (each) for 30 consecutive Fireside Chats. For context that would be like 111 Million people watching the CNBC debate last week. If the GOP is serious about debate moderators not asking candidates what their Secret Service "handles" would be or what their greatest weakness is they should sit down the 13 men and 1 woman that comprise the candidates pulling enough support (with four of them at less than 1%, three more of them at 5% or less, four more at 10% or less with just two candidates higher) and explain to all of them how fewer candidates would mean a more constructive, real debate and conversation. But, instead, blame the media.

2) As I've discussed several times on this blog there is clearly a frustration with Americans and politicians. We (to approximate) see "them" as pawns of the establishment with no ideas or work or resolve in them. They, like my Congressman Mike Pompeo really is, are just there to do the bidding of their party and their donors. WHY else would Donald Trump, Dr. Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina (who, admittedly, has dropped way off the last few weeks) have been leading a pack of Governors, Senators, Congressmen, and hybrids of the above in pursuit of the highest office in the land? Say what you want about the Democrats but Lawrence Lessig (who has a quite compelling, single-issue platform) has less than 1% support in the polls . . . the same as two Governors, a Senator, a former Senator, and a former Governor across the aisle. Again - if there were less candidates in the mix there would be less noise and clutter and the candidates with the best ideas (and I'll openly acknowledge here that might mean first-time candidates/never-before-elected aspirants still lead) there would be more opportunity for all of them to clarify who they really are and what they really want to do vs. just being dismissed as the status quo keepers.

3) ENOUGH with the in-fighting. Yes, yes. Obama and Clinton went at each other like actual animals (while politely smiling and eventually working together for a historic effort to rebuild American ties with the world during Obama's first administration) and I know that attacking opponents is seen as a way to gain favor and differentiate but there is a way to do it (voting records and historic positions on issues) and a way not to do it (releasing personal cell phone numbers and generally talking sh*t like the campaign is a rap battle or MySpace wall). This is never more obvious than the disaster that has become of the once-collegial dynamic between Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio. Sure, sure. Jeb was - for YEARS - the presumed nominee (Dad, brother, and history can't be disputed). Sure, sure. Rubio was - for YEARS - seen as the future of Republican politics in America (Latino, not of the wealthy elite, etc.). Both Floridians, the men are frustrated that - as my alma mater notes - they are not leading their own state and they don't collectively, hold a third of the support in the state (for context Christie support in New Jersey is now in the single digits - something he (hilariously) believes is based on their want to keep him in the Garden State). But these men are not going to make any inroads with frustrated American voters who hate politics-as-usual and are so desperate for a departure from it that they will support . . . ANYONE else.

So there are my three theories on why things are the way they are now. The GOOD news (for Republicans who want to stay engaged) is that I fully believe this is temporary. As is the curse on Bernie Sanders . . . people "support" Trump and Carson but don't believe them to be electable. So by the time the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary are held we'll likely see a Bush or Rubio or Cruz surging and, within a few frenzied months, we'll be back to a slate of just a few, traditional politicians who can and will HOPEFULLY be talking about real issues and real positions as they try to secure a very important nomination (the GOP doesn't want to lose four out of the last five popular votes while the presumed majority of American political persuasion).

I don't know if we'll be any better for it but hopefully there will be lessons learned and BOTH (major - and all the other minor) parties will start adjusting positions and buy-ins and platforms and issues so develop better candidates (first time and, in time, established) that can pull more people back to politics and issues and meaningful discussion on who we are and where we are going.


Cord Cutter . . .

One of the biggest sticking points (not in any way a fight or debate) of SLF and I moving in together was one that most people probably don't even ponder . . . would we have cable or not.

I, as I've long bragged, was a very early adapter of the "Cord Cutter" movement. I stopped watching live cable/television in mid-2010 (about the time, frankly, I moved into the basement (and eventually guest room) of the house I shared with my then-wife. I just decided I didn't "need" it. I read a lot more. I started listening to podcasts. I got a Roku and started streaming everything and I was very, very happy without the hours and hours of zoned out TV watching I was accustomed to. I don't think this makes me a better person - trust me NOTHING can or would or will make me a "better" person (I'm raw evil on legs, folks) - I just thought it made me a more deliberative person. Why? No. More. Commercials.

Despite the hustle I chose to make a living doing, I sorta hate advertising. I only listen to NPR, I can easily flip past ads in the magazines and newspapers I read, I have all-but-tuned-out banner and embedded ads on websites, and I don't really pay much attention to billboards at the side of the road. No reason to. The stuff I want is surrounded by, but not "of" the ads.

SLF agrees - 98% of the time - but then there are sports. You see, much to my great confusion and occasional angst and soul-searching, SLF loves her some things that involve balls (giggle, giggle) and is very loyal to her K-State Wildcats (not an alumn but native of Manhattan, KS), Chiefs (but we don't ever talk about them and the NFL), and Royals. There may be other teams (cricket, rugby, curling, etc.) she loves but I've never bothered to ask.

Now I'm GOOD with my sports watching needs (most of the world's major archery competitions are streamed live for us to enjoy) but she will, on occasion, like EVERY October (lately) when her team is in the World Series (Royals fans go nuts at this talking point). So I do what all good, loving, supportive partners would, could, and should do - I tell her that we can go to a restaurant/bar to watch the game where I can eat fried corn chips and pickle slices and she can get her fix of men grabbing their own junk in pursuit of a trophy they can't actually keep.

I've gotta say . . . as much as I love the fried food and time with squishy face . . . commercials and embedded, paid content have gotten truly horrible. I mean BAD. There are blatant cut-aways to things that are paying to be there, super-imposed ads behind batters, the animated cast of Peanuts singing during the seventh-inning-stretch and this truly horrible campaign for MasterCard's Master Pass (that eliminates the time consuming, emotional drain that is putting in your information while buying stuff on the Internet (we all gasp in collective horror)). Don't even get me started on the Apple stuff - if you really want to pretend Apple is still the world's leader and household presumptive in overpriced consumer electronics you have to ask why they spend SO MUCH on advertising.

The good news is that the World Series is now over (congrats to the Kansas City Royals and all your ships at sea) and the Wildcats are having a truly horrible season and . . . well . . . there is NO WAY I'm ever, ever, ever going to watch an NFL game as a token of affection (it is bad enough when we're trapped with her family of football lovers and I do it as an act of unity).

Enjoy your crappy commercials, cable subscribers. And congrats on another great season, Royals fans.


#30DaysOfThanks . . .

Something that has become a bit of an annual tradition for me here on the blog (save for last year - when I skipped due to business) is to consolidate the social media trend of "30 Days of Thanks" in to one, simple blog post that outlines the things that are most important to me at this moment . . . a snapshot of my life and the things I appreciate. 

Here, alphabetically, are the thirty things that come immediately to mind for me as I ponder appreciation:
  1. Adversity - What doesn't kill you makes you stronger? How about challenge makes you better? No. How about just enjoying the idea that we can't always get what we want - or need.
  2. Being a Father - I'll get the collective eye roll of everyone reading this but being a parent is the best thing I have in my life. I'm not perfect. I'm not even great. But I'm getting there.
  3. Bernie Sanders - Trite as this may by I think he's great for not just my own political thinking but for the larger conversation. He's not getting enough attention - yet - but it is coming.
  4. Books - I have recently resumed an old weakness . . . binge buying books. I promise I'll read them all, eventually. For now I just want them all around me now. NOW.
  5. Career - I don't talk, often enough, about work and how much I appreciate the opportunity to get paid to do something I love that is more thought than labor and fun than work. 
  6. Chinos - You may call them "khakis" but you're minimizing an entire category of pant . . . the cotton twill goodness that comes in near-limitless colors and styles. Screw jeans, go CHINO.
  7. Concerta - You  know what plagues my life? The ability to focus. I'm happy to say that I'm getting some help for that and it feels wonderful to be "present" all the time, for the first time.
  8. Expressions of Thanks - Every night before we eat dinner everyone has to declare what they are "grateful" for. Hilarity often ensues. But it is a good exercise.
  9. Family - I once felt time and distance left me with just my daughter as "family" today I am better connected to my family and a whole other, large, crazy group much closer to home.
  10. Frequent Trips to DC - One of my favorite things about my job is that I get to go to DC about once a quarter. Seeing family, seeing friends, being back near a place I consider "home". 
  11. Goals and Objectives - I am a slave to mine. The strategy of building them out, the pursuit of them, the nuanced validation of them. I appreciate the rails they provide my life to run upon.
  12. Graphic Novels/Comic Books - No, not for me. But my kid loves them and it has sparked creativity, reading, and passion in her. Hard to dismiss that. 
  13. Honesty - I'm direct and honest almost to a fault and, while I appreciate storytelling, the long con, and the hustle . . . I can't stand lying or people confusing "polite" with honest. Stop it.
  14. Hummus - I don't care what food and/or other, earthly delights come across my plate or palette . . . chick pea mashed with the other goodness that makes up hummus will never be overcome.
  15. Internet - It sounds cliche but, in my adult life, I've seen the Internet go from a slow, dial-up option on a desktop computer to the whole world, lightning fast, in my pocket. Impressive.
  16. Joshua Ferris - I am not entirely sure if one of Ferris's three books I read this year will be my "book of the year" but I'm pretty high on the guy. I hope he has 100 more books in him.
  17. Judaism - Being Jewish, for me, is about belonging to something bigger than me -a community as much as it is about G-d . . . I missed both for a long, long time.
  18. KMUW/NPR - I love very little more than being a snob for public radio. That I know much of the staff and feel "of" the station AND that my kid also loves the station . . . snob heaven.
  19. Learning - I am actively challenging my brain more lately than I have in a long time. Reading about topics out of my depth, discussions that push me, learning at work. It feels good.
  20. Mitzi - No. Not my mistress but I do spend every night with her. This is the greatest mattress of all time (GMOAT). Get you one. Sleep better. 
  21. Music - I spend lots of money on things vital and trivial. I feel better about paying for Google Play Music: All Access than I do any other money spent on the regular. Therapy and joy.
  22. My Morning Jacket - I feel like every year finds me, at this time, with a new "favorite" musician or group. This year . . . no doubt . . . MY MORNING JACKET. I love their groove.
  23. Penny Loafers - The greatest pair of shoes ever designed or sewn. Long, long may they live and forever may they rise . . . and diversify in color and leather style.
  24. People - There are billions of them on this planet. They have different backgrounds, faiths, values, morals, genders, wants, and needs, etc. I like that. It keeps us all honest. 
  25. Sacred Architecture - A recent fixation for me - the way houses/places of worship are conceived, built, used, and embraced makes me really happy. A healthy ponderance. 
  26. Sense of Self - I've bragged on my swagg many, many times but I am never not aware of how important it is to believe in yourself and carry yourself accordingly. You could do worse.
  27. SLF - I don't mention her lightly. She has been nothing but a blessing and a gift. I am truly a better person for having her and I can't really imagine not having her - at this point.
  28. Socks - I am obsessed (only word for it) with the various fabrics, colors, patterns, and style you can don between mid-calf and the tips of your toes. I'm glad to have the (affordable) addiction.
  29. Time - It is a gift and we squander too much of it. If you want to talk about getting up at 4:15 AM to go run or sharing custody where you have some evenings totally free . . . YES.
  30. Transparency - This is something I never used to put too much premium on but between my personal and work lives - I like the notion of knowing exactly where things stand. I'm lucky.
So - there you go. Thirty (of the millions of) things I am grateful for. A worthy, annual (if not daily) exercise.


2015 Objectives (Update 10) . . .

"They" say that if you want to reach your goals - you should share them and your progress. Soooooo . . .

  1. Read 24 (or more) books (for ME - reading with my daughter doesn't count). 20.25 finished. I'm just a few pages ahead of schedule. I have my last four books chosen and have, obviously, started one of them. 
  2. Run 10 miles/week (on average). Yes. That is 520 miles (or more) in 2015. 18.1 miles/week (779.9 total miles on the year. I took the balance of October off (and feel good about that) and will be running just six to eight weeks/mile through the end of the year.)
  3. Finish a half marathon in under three hours (as many tries at it takes). I did not make it. I finished at 3:18. That is about ten minutes faster than the spring half I did and, honestly, fine. I still had a great eleven months of shooting for the goal. That, alone, should be worth something.
  4. Lose 100 Pounds. That's right. Get. Less. Fat. I'm down very few actual pounds for the year. This bums me out but I'm working on my 2016 goals and objectives and two of them will ensure that I stay more focused next year.
  5. Reduce wasteful spending by 10% (this is actually more about not growing my spending - I'm pretty friggin' frugal now). Reduced overall spending by 28% year-to-date. I'm calling this one a victory. 
  6. Increase savings contributions by 12.5% (I've been pretty minimal on this one lately - time to grow my future). Updated 401K, IRA, 529, Investments, and Insurance products by 113%.
  7. Earn college credits (I'm going back to school, one way or another) in 2015. Still time. Very, very little but - I'll figure it out.
  8. Reduce social media time by 25% (10 minutes/day or less). Logging an average of under four minutes/day (not including blogging, or efforts for work and/or my congregation) and am considering quitting Twitter altogether. 
  9. General Nutrition. I've quit soda, again. I've cut caffeine, again. I'm diversifying my menu and meal planning with an emphasis on healthier choices. I'm also snacking less. This is all good.
  10. Food Diversity. Getting better all the time. We eat tuna and swordfish and grilled vegetables and grilled fruit and I make a point to get at least two different dinners at the grocery store each week.