January 12, 2010

Was It All Lost?

All the time that's lost,
what's the final cost?

"A Light in the Black" by Blackmore's Rainbow

Buon giorno. Have you ever had the experience of reading or hearing something that made an impression on you several weeks earlier, and then have it continue to come back to you? Sure you have. I'm going to share my latest.

Unfortunately, I do not have the source material. It was a link from a link, one of those things that you chase down. And this thing made me feel better.

This is a bit difficult to set up, so I hope you'll bear with me.

I was remembering (lamenting, in a way) all the time that I have lost on projects and interests that I did not complete. (In fact, I have Soviet Union badges and other memorabilia in storage even now from when I was deeply involved in studying their history. I want to be rid of them. Any takers?) Time spent, and also money spent. My interests changed, and I felt foolish for having spent time and money chasing those interests. After all, I had left things unfinished.

This article pointed out that it is not a waste. We have to try things out, and we usually cannot know right away how long those interests will last. Spending money is a part of that process. And even though the interest has been left behind, there is still the growth process; we learn from our pursuits. The remarks in that article helped me stop beating myself up over what I thought was foolishness and lack of self-discipline.

As it has been said, if you're not growing, you're dying.

At this point in my life, I have become more interested in reducing the clutter in my life (both mental and material), and more concerned with how I spend my time. So this lesson came back to me again very recently, and I took some comfort in it again. I tried it on, it fit for a while, now it doesn't fit (or it is out of style for me). Are these clothing comparisons doing anything for you?

Although I am much more selective now with how I spend financial resources, I am certain that some of those "mistakes" will happen again. Learning is a process, just like growth. It's certainly far better than stagnating because I did not try to learn and do something new.

I am not the man I was twelve years ago. Thank God.

January 11, 2010

Angel, Saints, Curses and Luck

Today, I'm going to give political stuff a rest and keep to the overall topic of this Weblog, which is: Anything I feel like writing about. This time, I want to partially repeat myself about being blackmailed in e-mail. This comes from people that I think are well-intentioned, but do not bother to get rid of the conditions that are contained within the e-mails.

Every once in a while, I get mail that invokes an angel, the Virgin Mary, some obscure religious figure like "Saint Schnitzel" — or even Jesus himself. These sentimental pieces are telling me that the sender cares about me, is glad I am a friend and so forth. But then, they get weird. They often have religious pictures and prayers in them. OK... If I forward the mail to fifteen people in the next five minutes, I will have good luck within the next week. I can see by your expression that you've had these things as well. Hey, do you get them with another condition attached, that if you do not forward them, something bad will happen to you? Sometimes it is only bad luck, but even so, a kind of curse is implied if you "break the chain". Yes? I didn't think I was the only one that received these things.

Wow, you shouldn't have gotten me started on this topic! I have to say something else about angels: They are not women and/or children with wings. If you knew your Bible or Torah, you would know that angels are very powerful spirit beings. Cute artwork is actually very misleading about their nature, ministry and their power. But that is a topic for another time.

Bonus: A promise that a graphic will appear on the mail, or something cute or special will happen. That's an outright lie from other "forward this and get rich" schemes.

Other than being irritated at the "curse" for not forwarding them, I have another problem. (I mean, besides the fact that most people do not clean them up, and I have to wade through two hundred other names waiting to be harvested by spammers.) Frankly, they turn religion into superstition; it's degrading to the religious figure that is being invoked, and that they will bring you "luck". Most of these things are Catholic-oriented. I'm not even Catholic, and I am offended
for them. Also, I do not believe in luck. You want luck? Work hard, think, keep your eyes open and make your own luck.

People can send me good wishes, prayers or whatever. Fine. I do not believe that the electronic medium means anything, but if it was actually sent prayerfully and the sender is wishing the sendee well, I will spiritually accept that a prayer or (good thought) was said on my behalf. Otherwise, it's junk that is being forwarded almost by reflex.

At any rate, if I get something with conditions, promises or curses attached and I like the rest of it, guess what? Yep, I edit the thing before sending it on. Think for a moment: Does Saint Schnitzel or any other religious figure really want to be associated with some kind of luck curse from your e-mail? I didn't think so.

January 4, 2010

Have Less, Feel Better

Buona sera. Yours truly is a bit wound up about a different approach to posting. I believe that I will be posting more often, but with less text; I want to become more efficient with my thoughts and words. Sure, the occasional lengthy treatises and rants will appear, however. "I gotta be me", as the song goes.

Things may change. After all, everything is a work in progress (to use another saying). But to use one of my own sayings around the office, "We'll see what happens".

Unfortunately for people who want short messages, this is not going to be one of them. It's my usual length. But it's very good, keep reading, it'll take you about two or three

To the right is an example of extreme clutter.

Before we set our hearts too much upon anything,
let us examine how happy those are who already possess it.

—Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author & moralist (1613 - 1680)

When Hal the Hacker gets on a project for me, he has all kinds of stuff. I try to be tech savvy, but he's way over my head, being comfortable with gadgets that I never dreamed existed. Many of them are toys, and not really necessary for his work.

How much stuff do we really need to own? I have things in storage from previous lives that I have not been able to part with, so I continue to pay the storage fees. Someday, I will be able to break the chains and set the stuff, and myself, free.

Let's look at stuff on a philosophical or spiritual level.

Benjamin Franklin did not desire many possessions and luxuries, and lived a frugal lifestyle. He believed that the best possession is a true friend. No, he did not think you could own anybody. The value of friendship is more important than stuff or material riches. And this guy whose name I can't pronounce, Francois de La Rochefoucauld, said, "Before we set our hearts too much upon anything, let us examine how happy those are who already possess it." Right. Will it make you happy? John Ruskin, 19th century philosopher (and so much more) said that "Every increased possession loads us with new weariness".

Buddhism warns against attachment. That is, getting mentally and emotionally attached to stuff, or people, or whatever. Clinging imprisons one's self. This does not conflict with my Christian beliefs. Rather, it supports them. But going deeper into that point is more than I want to do here, so if you want to read more about that, click here. The point is, Buddhists agree that gaining more stuff only increases your burden.

There are strong words about being enamored to wealth, and to things, in the Bible. Mark 4.19 mentions the "deceitfulness of riches". The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4.11-12 that he knew full well how to live well and to go hungry, and "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content." (I seem to recall Ben Franklin saying something about being content with what we have, as well.) Proverbs 30.8-9 tells us, "Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD', or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." Get that? A good balance between wealth and poverty is a good thing. So, "more is less", because the more stuff you have, the less freedom and peace of mind you have because you're dealing with all of it.

But why do we get so much stuff? Prestige? Impulse? The silly notion that owning things will make us happy? Mental illness? I'll tell you about mental illness, I've said long ago that getting ourselves organized is very helpful for our mental well-being. Although that is about personal productivity, it brings up the point that we need to keep our stuff organized as well, or it becomes a considerable area of stress.

But catch onto this principle that I have been learning: Less is liberating! If you have less stuff (and you know darn well that you don't need that much in the first place), you have less to deal with. Read what Leo Babauta says over at Zen Habits:
Have less. If you learn that enjoyment of life isn’t having stuff, you’ll be able to let go of it … and declutter. Having a life with a minimal amount of clutter is so enjoyable, so peaceful, it’s hard to describe. It leaves you feeling free, without the stress that comes with an overwhelming amount of stuff, and leaves room in your life for relaxation. Less of a focus on buying stuff means you also have more money, or less debt, or you need to work less in order to live the life you want. Any of those options are good.
So, are you with me on this? One more saying: Do you have possessions, or do possessions have you? Maybe it's time to stop obsessing over stuff, over how much you can get. In fact, maybe we should be thinking about simplifying and de-cluttering. That's the directiong that I'm heading. Less clutter, more organized...I'm feel better!

Addendum: Here is a great (and short) article at The Minimalist.

December 28, 2009

Power of an Employer

Buona sera. I was able to catch some of the usual Christmas movies that I like to watch every year. Now, wait a minute! I am not going to be going on about Christmas, exactly, and then I'll drop it. I'm as glad the season is winding down as much as almost everyone else. So anyway. Hard-hearted and heavy-handed employers make labor burdensome. Labor, by its nature, is seldom a joy. But treating your employees poorly, or even neglecting opportunities to bring them a little joy, is a good part of what causes labor to be a burden.

In National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Mr. Shirley suspended the Christmas bonuses. He was becoming a miser and was more interested in saving a few dollars than in the best interests of his employees. In this case, the Christmas bonus was expected every year, and they counted on it as part of their salaries. When he had to look at the Griswold family, he said, "Look, uh, sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn't mean much, if to get it you have to hurt the ones you depend on. It's people that make the difference, little people like you." I want that emblazoned on a sign over every employer's personal office door!

Now, let's go back to an older movie, Scrooge. (By the way, after hearing the audio book of the original story, I am thoroughly impressed with this version, as it actually improved on the work of Charles Dickens.) The Ghost of Christmas Past took Scrooge back to his younger days, where he was a happy apprentice. Mr. Fezziwig threw a shindig that brought him the praise of his employees.

The Ghost said, "He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is th
at so much that he deserves this praise?" Right. He spend some money to make people happy. Is that really such a difficulty? People complain about the modern economy, but they should realize the economy of people like Fezziwig in Victorian England!

Scrooge said to the Ghost, "He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune." Yes! A thousand times, yes! Learn this, employers!

I think I read that Lee Iacocca said, "Give your employees your best, and they'll give you their best". Is this so difficult? Things may look good on paper, but treating people properly and actually treating them like people has its own intangible dividends, capice?

December 23, 2009

Cowboy as a Pejorative

Buon giorno, Pardners!

Do you ever have that experience where something occurs to you and you ponder it for a while, then it finds its way to the back of your mind and camps out for a while, then it comes back so you can consider it again? It happens to me occasionally. Sometimes, the cycle repeats itself several times. Well, one of those thoughts seems to have come to fruition.

Tommy the Knocker and Nicky hate it when I talk that way ("comes to fruition"), and they don't like my title. Too bad.

There are people that put "The State" above all else. Your liberties do not matter to these Statists. All that matters is government control, making you bow to the state. According to Mark Levin, Statists are not necessarily liberals. I see it that liberals are more likely to be Statists (so I have a slight disagreement with the great one), and in America the extreme leftist liberals do not believe in the rights of the individual. All that matters are their own political power, and also increasing control of the state over our lives.

I was remeCalling someone a "cowboy" is sometimes intended as an insult and a pejorative. Digging deeper, we see that such a handle is a complement.mbering how enemies of George W. Bush referred to him as a "cowboy". Also, Ronald Reagan was called a "cowboy". These were not complements. Rather, they were used in a pejorative sense. That is, they were not only making "cowboy" a dirty word, they were also applying it to each president. It would convey a meaning of stupidity and recklessness. (Yes, cowboys could be stupid and reckless, but that was usually saved up for riding into town at the end of a successful cattle drive or something. The rest of the time, cowboys were and are hard working people.)

But I realized something else: These people hate individualism. Cowboys can be very individualistic. While loyal to the employer and working as a team ("ride for the brand"), they had their own temperaments. They also had values and a code of ethics (although not actually written down on a wallet card).

"Is there are point to this stuff, Cowboy Bob?"

Yup. Statists and leftists hate individuals because they stand in the way of the leftist insistence on state control. And cowboys are strong individualists. To me, it stands to reason that calling Reagan and Bush "cowboys" indicates that they dislike real cowboys, past and present. And they hated those presidents who were individuals, and respected the rights of individuals. Capice? You may want to consider that perhaps cowboys, by their individualistic nature, represent Conservative values!

Calling Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush "cowboys" is, to me, a high complement.

December 21, 2009

Projection of Arrogance

Buon giorno. While doing some follow-up research on my "Arrogant Atheist" series, I came across some interesting bits of projection (where you do something, deny doing it, and then say that someone else is doing it). Also, I find some interesting rationalizations for arrogance.

While skimming an atheist group, I saw some comments by someone that is a "Christian" (I put the term in quotes because this person is so liberal in theology, it's pretty much "anything goes") tells the atheists, "You're so much nicer than the so-called 'Christians' that I run across", and how Christians shame themselves, etc. Meanwhile, the sneering and condescending approaches of the atheists is excused. Why? Because the ultra-liberal "Christian" had more in common with the atheists than with people that believe the Bible to be true. Of course there was agreement! Also, use of deliberately antagonistic expressions such as "xians" is ignored.

I have said that I do not care what someone believes. That is their right. I do care when your unbelief is thrown in my face, and you attempt to make yourself look clever.

I will remind you that I have a problem with the atheists playing intellectual games. They want God to play by their rules (and boy, do they get upset when I point out that the creator of the universe does not have to do that). Further, they play mind games: "Give me evidence for...", and when you offer something for them to think about, it is not admissible because their "rules" are so rigid and narrow, nobody can come up with something worthwhile. Many know enough theology and history to be annoying, and they throw that material at you to make you squirm (because it is a distraction). Then, they analyze you with feigned innocence: "What? Why are you offended? Why are you saying these things? It must be because..." I can spot manipulation from a long ways away, I have an understanding of psychology, and I've studied theology for years. (Ironic, isn't it, that Christians are held to a higher standard to follow what arrogant atheists think it means, but they have no higher standard to follow themselves.) So, that manipulation crap won't work on me, Bubbles. Frankly, I have met very, very few atheists who are intellectually honest.

Another problem that I have with them is that these "intellectual" atheists hold "believers" to a higher standard. That is, they want us to have the character of Jesus himself, and exhibit the intellect of, say Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking. They conveniently forget that believers are people, too, and have the same problems that beset the rest of humanity. So, if you show any kind of flaw, your arguments are invalid, and you are invalid.

Then, we have the atheists that cry about how Christians are arrogant. "You shove your religion down my throat!" Yeah, sure. Frankly, there are not very many Christians that share their faith. In the earliest days, the Apostles went door-to-door. If actual Christians do that today, people think that they are with a cult! At any rate, sure, there are rambunctious Christians that have no tact and do not know when to shut up, but they are in the minority. Other Christians share their faith in a kind and loving spirit, but overly-sensitive people will take every utterance as "forcing it on me"; they are projecting their own arrogance on believers. Keep crying, Skippy. Here's a tissue.

Although it is rare, it is possible to have a rational discussion with an atheist, because not all of them are arrogant, wanting to destroy the faith of believers. But one thing I learned long ago, when someone is showing considerable resistance and hostility, just drop it. The conversation is a waste of your time. If they want to talk again later and do not have the attitude or play mental gymnastic games with you, perhaps you will want to try again.

Listen up, Joe Atheist. I keep saying that I do not care what you believe, and I stand by that because where I live (in America), we have that right. Did you notice that it is actually easy to claim to be an atheist? The rest of us have to endure attacks from people like you. Do us all a couple of favors, OK? First, don't come around crying because someone didn't fall for your manipulation and psychological projection tricks. Second, don't try to humiliate those of us who have the courage to believe in God; people like me will make you cry. If you cooperate and get civil, we can get along better.

December 11, 2009

Intellectualism and Reality

Buoa sera. Not too long ago, I was involved in a discussion in an online forum regarding things that we find irritating. One fellow is upset about anti-intellectualism, and wondered why it exists in the first place.

I felt that I was bright enough to attempt to offer a bit of an answer (it was a public forum, after all). After I gave that answer, I kept thinking about the subject and have more ideas to offer. Why are people anti-intellectual (or dislike those who call themselves intellectuals)?

  • Smug. The "intellectual class" is so much more clever than those of us who actually have to work for a living, and they let us mere mortals know it. Here is a smug, arrogant article that is just reeking of attitude and helps prove my point.
  • Impractical. They gather together to discuss "ideas" and "knowledge", but appear to be unable to take care of even their own needs. Hey, Mr. Brain! Can you change a tire, or only discuss the physics involved? Torque this, Pal!
  • Disassociated. Intellectuals are usually supportive of leftist causes, including socialism and communism (for instance, see William Ayers, terrorist and professor). Ironically, when The Revolution comes, academics and intellectuals are among the first to be executed. Hell's bells, Lenin believed that the "working classes" were unable to understand socialism!
  • Religious. Love of thought, learning and intellectual process become a religion in and of themselves. Further, there is some kind of an unwritten law that intellectuals are atheists. Of course, that is nonsense. Some of the most intelligent people, past and present, in all walks of life, are "believers". Because God doesn't respond to your criteria, he doesn't exist? I reject you, because you cannot understand that God, by his very nature, is not understandable by your proud clique.
  • Persecution. Yes, they feel sorry for themselves. Not only do they misunderstand (I suspect it is deliberately) regular people, but they have such a high value on themselves that they are offended when we do not bow down and worship their wisdom. After all, we're clinging to our errors, and they want to save us from ourselves. Arrogant cazzos.
  • Loftiness. The affectation of an impractical vocabulary insulates intellectual types from regular people; "Let me show you how bright I am by using big words". I prefer they cowboy approach: "You don't need decorated words to make your meanin' clear. Say it plain and save some breath for breathin'." Me, I'd rather be understood by as many people as possible rather than impress a few.
Folks in the "intellectual class", in the traditional sense, seem to talk about things that the rest of us supposedly cannot understand, and congratulate themselves on being so frightfully clever. Frankly, most of us have no interest in debating the merits of the great philosophers, or "pure" mathematics. We have work to do. But I'll wager that if we were exposed to such discussions and concepts in the first place, and wished to expend our intellectual energies and time on them, we could understand those things. We choose not to, and leave those concepts to those who hold us in contempt.

The truth is, they just don't "get it". People have their beliefs, many of them logical and useful. We don't need to have self-congratulating brain worshipers swoop down and save us from ourselves because we're not thinking their way. Sorry, Mr. Brain, I don't have to think your way, or have you tell me what thoughts I can think, or what beliefs that I can have.

To add more fuel to the "attitude" fire, they believe that they are to be the conscience of the age, and to speak out. That sets them up into a godlike role, because they are oh so right, they are clever, they must be obeyed.

Please pay attention Mr. Brain, this is important. And it is also painfully obvious.

In my travels and adventures, I have helped people with their computers. Several make me their "go-to" guy. They say, "Gosh, Cowboy Bob, you're so clever. How do you know all this stuff?" Well, I'm not being clever! I happen to know something that they do not know. Big freakin' deal. Yeah, I'm so clever with computers, but my associate Hal the Hacker makes me look like a trained monkey on computer stuff.

Knowledge is relative. Still with me, Cyril Cerebellum? I know stuff that I don't dare tell you, things that you'll never know. Fact of life. And I know a dame that works with the mentally retarded (or, to use modern, politically correct lingo, "developmentally disabled") people. I'd be standing there looking just as retarded as her clients while she does her job. And a babe I knew that owned horses...fuggedaboudit, I'm a cowboy at heart, not with my hands. She said I was a smart guy, but I'm as smart as a box of rocks when it comes to what she has to do with her horses. For that matter, I know some auto mechanics that I would put their brain power against yours. No, they don't know "that stuff" you know about. But boy, can they diagnose and fix a problem in my car!

Let me tell you something, Mikey Mind. I am not anti-intellectual. I am anti-attitude. People are not asking to be "dumb", or to be stupid. They just don't think like you, and don't want you interfering by shoving your intellectual "religion" down their throats. Just because they don't know things that you have decided are important, and meet the intelligentsia criteria, does not mean they — or I — do not measure up in the brightness department. Capice?

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