Friday, November 30, 2007

Something Remarkable

Moved by Jose Sanchez's powerful novel, "God Was Looking The Other Way." For many, this is how it is. Unjust, horrible situations. And the heart's cries hear nothing in response. Where is God? Why doesn't He see?
April 13, 1994

From our human perspective, when overwhelmed by grief, by pain, by injustice, by the senselessness, and God's apparent indifference, it is easy to understand the sense of alienation and despair that pervades so many lives. It is an age old problem. It is our human situation to perceive things thus, because we are finite and shut off from seeing things "as they are." The supernatural realm is veiled from us. We grope inside the four walls of existence, trying to make the best of it.

In truth, God is neither silent nor indifferent. He has spoken, has entered the box and brought us light. The Book through which He speaks is also a lamp that brings illumination to many of these puzzles that perplex us. These horrible, unjust situations are not the end of the story. The world is broken, but it is not eternally so. Yes, our hearts ache at the suffering we see because God's heart aches and we are made in the image of God. In the end, if we read with care and tune our ears to hear His voice, we discover that God's method of helping the hurting is through human agency. That is, God desires to transform this world, to end injustice, to bring healing and hope but has chosen to do it in a remarkable, even unusual, way. Through us.... through you and me, for His glory.

How much can one person accomplish? What difference can we make? We'll never find out until we try.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Advice for a Beginning Writer

A little more than two decades ago I heard the following advice from one of the speakers at a writers' conference. He stated that if we were serious about pursuing a writing career, we should make a commitment to ten hours a week.

He reasoned thus. If one were to write for ten hours a week, then over the course of four weeks it would be equivalent to a forty hour work week. In four months it would be the equivalent of a full month and by year's end it would amount to the same as having been a full time writer for three full months. "If you can't make progress in your writing career by working full time at it for three months, then you might wish to consider doing something else with you life," he said in effect.

I took this advice to heart. One night a week our young children went to the in-laws while my wife Susie went grocery shopping. The other four week nights I put in an hour per evening after the kids were in bed. Saturday mornings, I would knock off another three hours and satisfy my ten hour per week quota.

For each of us, the negotiation of how we spread out these hours may vary, but whatever our aim it takes a commitment and a deliberate managing of one's time. If one is married, then it is important to negotiate a suitable plan one can count on.

Of course this same advice applies to any avocation. Do you wish to build an internet business? Become an entertainer? Build an AMSOIL business? The same time management commitment applies. Ten hours a week eventually adds up. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint. Take the first step, and keep on walking. You might be amazed at where it takes you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

You Can’t Be Serious

I don’t know how many people know this, but underneath this serious demeanor as a marketing executive there is a stand up comic striving to emerge. About twelve years ago I participated in a stand up comedy competition at the White Elephant here in Duluth. I told my brother that I was going to do stand up comedy and he said, “Why are you doing this? You’re not funny.”

Well, for some reason I was determined and I shared my routine with one of our receptionists, who replied, “You better get a new routine.”

Guess what? I did the gig and it really wasn’t so bad. I came out second of seven, which may not be world fame, but gosh, like… it wasn't shameful.

Now it’s a new century and I have the itch again. Don’t ask why, but here I am developing some new routines. And the same old naysayers are reminding me, “You are not funny.”

My daughter is pleading with me not to do it. I said I would change my name first, and she said please do.

Oh well, there are worse things that can happen. I have no illusions about quitting my day job and doing the comedy circuit. I just like trying new things. I’ve jumped out of an airplane a few times. I can hopefully survive a gig at the stand up comedy boutique. And if the doors are locked when I get home that night, well, I can always sleep in the garage.

Actually, my interest in comedy is having a fairly positive impact on my family. They have all started praying again. They’re praying that I do not try to be a stand up comic.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Make Ready

Are we ready for the path that lies before us? Make ready. Though the race may not always go to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, if we be not ready there can be no reaping, no laurel, no spoils, no song. Make ready!
April 12, 1994

"I will study and get ready and the opportunity will come." ~ A. Lincoln

Monday, November 26, 2007

Total Recall

The movie's premise is preposterous and must be accepted for what it is: entertainment. Yet the story itself is filled with plot twists, significant moments where the hero must make choices, with consequences. Throughout we are treated to the basic struggle: what is real and what is not. And we root for the hero throughout.
Key quote of the film: "You are what you do. A man is defined by his action, not his memory."
Journal note, March 20, 1994

At the time I watched this film I did enjoy it. I think it interesting that one of the ever repeating themes in Hollywood is saving the world. Everybody wants to save to world. Arnold Schwartzenegger himself has been in several such films, including this one and most famously the Terminator series. Now, he is governor of California, exercising power and influence. Is it yet another example of life imitating art?

As for you, what are you doing to change your world? As Quatto said in Total Recall, "You are what you do." Be bold, and make a difference.


Quick note to my blog readers: if you click on the images, they will emerge in a pop up screen so you can view them in a larger format.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Murderball

Tonight, watched Murderball, the incredible documentary about quadriplegic rugby. Or rather, a film about humanity. When our bodies experience limitations, our dreams do not need to be grounded as well. The film vividly portrays a world few of us are familiar with, yet it exists all around us. I refer not to the world of quad rugby, but to the forgotten masses who have been crippled by injury or disease. Murderball is just one of the outlets through which the handicapped express their passion for life. This is a gritty, inspired film and I recommend it wholeheartedly.

A review from Amazon.com:
More than merely a sports documentary or an inspirational profile of triumph over adversity, Murderball offers a refreshing and progressive attitude toward disability while telling unforgettable stories about uniquely admirable people. It's ostensibly a film about quadriplegic rugby (or "Murderball," as it was formerly known), in which players with at least some loss of physical function in all four limbs navigate modified wheelchairs in a hardcore, full-contact sport that takes them all the way to the Paralympic Games in Athens, Greece, in 2004. But as we get to know paralyzed or amputee players on Team USA like Andy Cohn, Scott Hogsett, Bob Lujano and charismatic team spokesman Mark Zupan, we come to understand that quad rugby is a saving grace for these determined competitors, who battle Team Canada coach (and former Team USA superstar) Joe Soares en route to the climactic contest in Athens. Simply put, Murderball is the best film to date about living with a severe disability, but codirectors Henry Alex Rubin and Dana Adam Shapiro avoid the sappy, inspirational sentiment that hampers nearly all mainstream films involving disability. By the time this blazing 85-minute film reaches its emotional conclusion, the issue of disability is almost irrelevant; these guys are as normal as anyone, and their life stories led to Murderball becoming the most critically acclaimed documentary of 2005. ~ Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com

Saturday, November 24, 2007

AMSOIL Duluth Nationals

This weekend the snowmobile racing world comes alive as the AMSOIL Duluth Nationals are underway. Enthusiastic masses descend upon Spirit Mountain to stand outside in frigid temps drinking beer and beating their chests. Will it be Polaris, Arctic Cat, Ski-Doo or Yamaha atop the podiums at the end of it all? Naturally, I will be rooting for D.J. and Shaun on the AMSOIL Polaris sleds.

The AMSOIL Duluth Nationals is akin to opening day at Yankee Stadium. You just gotta be there if you are part of the snowmobile scene.

Despite the lack of Northland snow, the temperatures plunged enough to make plenty for the races. On the far side of the track the base must be close to 25 feet deep since the event is held on a ski slope that slopes away and down from the lodge. With the Aerial Lift Bridge in the background and the full moon illuminating all last night, it was quite a spectacular site.
The locals, as well as all the AMSOIL people present, were thrilled by the exhibition Team AMSOIL put on. Local hero D.J. Eckstrom literally smoked everyone in the Winter X qualifiers. Shaun Crapo likewise showed that the AMSOIL sleds will be something to reckon with as he, too, won his feature almost effortlessly. The boys are looking strong and the sleds dominant, thanks to the tireless work of Steve Scheuring and his team of mechanics.

At the end of day one the season looks promising. But it is a dangerous sport and no one takes anything for granted.

Thought food: Some of these riders have flown over 130 feet through the air on their snowmobiles, sometimes getting as high as 30 feet off the ground. The Wright brothers' first flight was only 120 feet, and I do not think they went quite that high, yet they called it flying.

Friday, November 23, 2007

A Smattering of Good Quotes

Someone once criticized me for using quotes from other people. He quoted Bill Gates to defend his position.

My interest in quoting comes by way of my mom who frequently made reference to Elbert Hubbard's Scrap Book. Hubbard was a collector of insights and pearls of wisdom from great minds and books that preceded him. A perpetual optimist, he created two magazines that proved influential at the dawn of the twentieth century. His Scrap Books were collections of insights and quotes. And for the whole of my life I have enjoyed the habit of "quote collecting."

I prefer utilizing quotes from my personal reading, lest it give the impression of putting on airs. But then again, there are so many pithy sayings and witticisms that others have collected, it seems a crime to leave them in the ditch when their illuminations are so apropos.

My favorite part of collecting quotes is that as you read and re-read them over the years, you internalize them. When a situation occurs, a pithy quote rolls off your tongue. (Or, frequently in my case, a line from a Dylan song.)

Here are some samples for today's meditation, and future utilization.

"Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet." ~ Rousseau

"Every man is a volume, if you know how to read him." ~ Channing

"When the state is most corrupt, then laws are most multiplied." ~ Tacitus

"I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday." ~ Lincoln

"The greater the obstacle the more glory in overcoming it." ~ Moliere

"Every war is a national calamity, whether victorious or not." ~ Gen. Von Moltke

"Next to knowing when to seize an opportunity, the most important thing in life is knowing when to forego an advantage." ~ Disraeli

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Much To Be Grateful For

We take so much for granted. Hence there is value each year on Thanksgiving day to reflect on how much we have to be thankful for. Friends, family, loved ones, a home, a job. It is a good tradition to make a list, to write it down. Writing forces you to clarify even further, and this process makes you even more appreciative.

But if you are an American, when you have finished your list you will have still not recorded some things that are so basic, so part of our lives, yet we take them for granted. One way to deepen your appreciation for how good you have it is to visit an impoverished Third World nation.

We did not do such a thing this week, but we did go there in pictures when the son of a friend of ours shared photos from his recent nine day trip to a slum called Cite Soleil outside Port au Prince. Having lived in Puerto Rico and Mexico, I have seen slums. But I'd not seen anything that closely compared to this (except perhaps some very poor sections of Mexico City.)

The shanty towns stretched far as your eye could see. No yards, no electricity, no running water, disease infested stenchwater and muck all through the streets, makeshift homes of corrugated steel and miscellaneous scrap materials, and death. One in four children never see their fifth birthday. Reality is grim, and hope is difficult to imagine.

Haiti is the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. For a bed, many people sleep on cardboard. AIDS is rampant. Food is lacking. And for most, even if you want to work there are no jobs. What is there to look forward to?

Without electricity, if you had as cell phone, there would be no way to re-charge the battery. No microwave ovens. No way to read this blog post because you would not have internet access, or a computer. Was that a mosquito bite or a malaria infection you just received?

The mission of The Haiti Orphans Project is to improve the lives of orphaned children in Haiti by providing medical care, access to education and equal access to basic services. If you wish to do more than "give thanks" you can visit their website and see what a few handfuls of good people are doing out on the front lines where poverty reigns.

http://www.haitiorphansproject.org/haiti/english/home88.html

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Naming

From the beginning man has named things. He was given authority to name the animals and has been naming things ever since. This week a scientist named a new element. Through the centuries men have named stars, planets, plants, diseases, instruments, objects. Artists, too, carry this godlike expression even further – creating poems, pictures, stories, art… so they can enjoy this special privilege: naming.
Journal note, March 19, 1994

Naming is one of those things that can really be fun. Coming up with names for our various pets has created meaningful and memorable experiences in our home. Whether the dogs (currently Hobo and Gypsy) or the goats or goose, duck, cat, birds, rat... whatever... Something would be missing if they didn't have names.

I enjoy making art, but I also enjoy the process of naming the pieces half again as much as creating them sometimes. I like writing poems, but also like making a name for each. And for stories as well.

In sifting through an old journal I came across these names or titles for potential stories.
Attention Span
Token Memories
The Hall of Light

I once developed an idea for a Hollywood movie called Pause Button based on the notion "wouldn't it be great if life had a pause button so we could stop time and get everything done that we never have time for?"

Speaking of naming things, think about the significance associated with your own name. How might you be different had you had a different name? Think of all the people who change the name they have been called by when they grow up. And if you are a parent, think of the special care and attention that you gave to naming your own children. Naming is a powerful thing.

On this topic much more can be said, but for now... it's time to move on.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Run Lola Run


Just finished watching Run Lola Run. (Original German title: Lola rennt.) From the first note and image you are “there.” The movie immediately notifies you that this is not just another film. Two quotes appear on the screen….

“We shall not cease exploring…” ~ T.S. Eliot

“After the game is before the game.” ~ Sepp Herberger

...followed by the opening monologue:

Man, probably the most mysterious species on our planet.
A mystery of unanswered questions.
Who are we?
Where do we come from?
Where are we going?
How do we know what we think we know?
Why do we believe anything at all?
Countless questions in search of an answer…
an answer that will give rise to a new question…
and the next answer will give rise to the next question and so on.
But in the end isn’t it always the same question?
And always the same answer?

The ball is round, the game lasts ninety minutes. That’s a fact.
Everything else is pure theory.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The film is a fresh blend of audio and visual impressions threaded into a surprising and intense three part exploration. The tale, once told, does leave questions. But they promised that in the beginning, didn’t they?

Friday, November 16, 2007

From "Magic"

From indescribable transforming flashes
such figuration --: feel and trust!
We know too well how flames
can turn to ashes;
in art, though, flame is kindled out of dust.
~Rilke

When Rilke I read, how is it I be so moved? Such is the power of his poetry, his thought, his voice, that even when translated it maintains its original force. Even though I know well that "the poet speaks but once, & even the closest echo is hollow with loss."

Such beauty in words can break a heart.

We measure our lives by one true measure, our proximity -- far or near, day by day and year by year -- to our heart's treasure.
Journal notes, Feb 27, 1994

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ten Lessons from a Picture Puzzle

Susie had been working on a puzzle that we had gotten for Christmas & I spent an evening helping. Within minutes I had an insight about achievement. Susie said making the puzzle had triggered all kinds of insights. Here are just a few of the lessons she gained by working the puzzle.

1) Start with frame. It’s almost impossible to put a complex puzzle together without doing the edges first. Life, the great puzzle, is more easily worked out when you first build a framework for putting it together.

2) Work areas that are obvious first. You focus on specific tasks. The red wagon. The blue door. Don’t worry about other parts of the puzzle. They will become easier to do later when the pieces around it are assembled.

3) Sometimes it seems like critical pieces are missing. But in truth they are all there, though we don’t always recognize them when we first see them.

4) Sometimes others help us. Their fresh perspective helps us see things we hadn’t seen before and thus moves us forward.

5) Sometimes it seems there are too many pieces. They can’t all fit in this picture, can they?

6) Christina (our daughter) came along and put in a piece. Even a child can see solutions at times that we miss.

7) Puzzles are put together one piece at a time. Achievement is a series of small successes.

8) Persistence is necessary in order to succeed.

9) It’s not arbitrary. You are following a pattern. Life works better when we have role models and people to pattern our lives after.

10) When a piece doesn’t fit, you can’t keep jamming it in trying to force it. Kids learn this at an early age, but many adults seem never to have learned this lesson.

January 22, 1994

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Few Small Pearls

"Positive emotion alienated from the exercise of character leads to emptiness, to inautheticity, to depression, and, as we age, to the gnawing realization that we are fidgeting until we die." ~ Dr. Martin Seligman

"Strong conviction of one's calling has always seemed to me to be the most important element in a successful career." ~ Paul Tournier, Escape from Loneliness

"Many lives remain unfulfilled because of a lack of courage in affirming one's inner conviction in spite of all obstacles." ~ ibid.

"I will study and get ready and the opportunity will come." ~ A. Lincoln

"Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind." ~ Seneca

"When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die." ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Achievement

Achievement, in its most basic essence, is a series of small successes strung end to end.
Achievement is the inevitable result of a persistent series of small achievements.
Two definitions of achievement from my journal, 1994

Examples are legion. Assembling a jigsaw puzzle is the most obvious illustration. We usually begin with the straight edged border pieces, then work our way into areas of the puzzle with pieces of color that interlock. It is one "success" at a time, searching and finding the next pair of pieces that go together.

What is interesting is that one can achieve this ultimate success in a variety of ways. There are no instructions that say one must begin at the top or bottom or the edges at all. The goal is always in sight, but it does not direct our steps.

In this same manner, writers assemble stories or write books with no instructions other than a picture in their heads. The best writers work each sentence to be a good sentence that fits with the next, and the next. We write our words one at a time, with no really correct answer, though in the case of bad writing the words and sentences may fail to convey the writer's vision.

Nobel prize winner Andre Gide wrote, "I have never produced anything good except by a long succession of slight efforts." Like the definition of achievement from my journal, it seems so small in the moment, but all adds up.

Gide, in another place, notes, "One should only become aware of the difficulties of a subject progressively and in the course of working at it; if one realizes them all at the outset, one loses heart." This applies to any larger venture, from building a business to building a masterpiece. Do the little things well, and the big picture will ultimately come together.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's a Small, Small World

In 1889, Thomas Curtis Clarke opened his essay on "The Building of a Railway" with these words: "The world of today differs from that of Napolean more than his world differed from that of Julius Caesar; and this change has chiefly been made by railways." Little did he know how transfigured our world would become by the twenty-first century, first by the multiplying transportation routes, and later by communications.

Not too long ago I read a book by Stephen Ambrose about the building of the transcontinental railroad, the most ambitious engineering feat of the 19th century. Before the railroad there were three routes to California: overland, across the Panama Isthmus, and around South America's Cape Horn. The overland route was tedious, time consuming and dangerous. But travelling by sea proved no better. New York to California by boat, via Cape Horn, was a 196 day trip that included storms, seasickness, bad food and occasional shortages of water. The young, fit and ambitious who attempted to take the Panama shortcut had to risk life threatening fevers, and hope that a boat was waiting on the other side when they sloshed on through.

Financiers, engineers and an army of workers built the railroads. The nation reaped its benefits. The United States and her territories finally became acquainted. The size of our country began to shrink and become manageable. Relatives who went west no longer disappeared forever. They were eventually only days away.

In the last half of our century we've seen a further shrinking of our nation and the world. Airplane travel has become commonplace. California, once half a year's journey, was now less than half a day, once you include layovers. Indeed, the world keeps shrinking.

And frankly, I'm glad of it. Because last year my son got married and took his sweetheart to San Francisco. Thank goodness for email, cell phones and airplanes.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Preface to The Red Scorpion

I met Dustin Greene at a trade show in Las Vegas. He works for one of the tech firms that has become so intertwined with the auto industry these days. We'd gone to one of those parties where the invitations are twenty to thirty times more interesting than the party itself, which usually boils down to too many drinks, not enough food and a lot of foolish talk.

I'd been sitting alone at a small round table with four empty chairs, trying to decide how to spend the rest of the evening. This young guy comes over, tilts a nod my way and lifts a glass with some kind of mixed drink in it. "I see your from Wisconsin," he says, getting it wrong because my badge reads "Superior, Wisconsin" and I live outside Duluth in rural Minnesota. The company I work for is across the bridge.

I proceed to set the record straight and he says, "Cool. I'm originally from Minnesota, too," his eyes brightening. Just as swiftly a cloud hid that inner sun and he looked down at the table.

He joined me anyways and we engaged in small talk about our careers, getting to know one another in the banter that gives you a chance to decide how much energy you want to invest in this new relationship. When I mentioned that I was a writer, he tilted his head to the side and studied me a minute. "I have some friends who say I should write a book.... well, supposedly everyone has a book inside them. Mine's pretty --"

I've been writing for almost thirty years and at least once a year someone says, "Your're a writer? People tell me my story should be made into a book." A couple of times they may have been right, but usually, well, even if it were made into a book, I'm not sure anyone would read it, care about it. (I'm just trying to say I've become pretty jaded about these things, though in my case, about 15 years ago I did meet a man from Estonia whose story was indeed remarkable and ought to become a book.)

All this to say that when someone introduces himself in this manner you have to at least pay out a little line and see what bites. Dustin (not his real name) was about twenty years my junior, a tech manager for one of the Silicon Valley firms. He said that it's really hard to talk about it, not because he's afraid of being laughed at, but rather because he has career aspirations and he knows top management would see him as a kook if he wrote a book about what happened and said he believed it. These are the kinds of statements I've heard from people who claim to have seen UFOs. I understand where they are coming from.

This is how we met. The more I listened, the more I wanted to hear. And when he said that some of the facts could be verified, I knew I couldn’t just dismiss him. What’s more, he still had the journal he’d found, the one that details how Professor Comstock came into possession of the red scorpion, along with the trouble it spawned.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Lessons from the Virgin Billionaire

By studying the lives of exceptional people, we gain insights that may in turn help us to become exceptional. Here are some of the highlights from my recent readings on Richard Branson.

Founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways, Virgin Music, and more than 170 other companies Richard Branson epitomizes innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. The following excerpts from his autobiography Losing My Virginity illustrate several of the qualities which have helped formulate his success.

1. Motivated by something beyond money.
"Above all, you want to create something you are proud of.... That has always been my philosophy of business. I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive, then I believe you are better off doing nothing."

2. The importance of a good name.
"All you have in life is your reputation: you may be very rich, but if you lose your good name, then you'll never be happy. The thought will always lurk at the back of your mind that people don't trust you. I had never really focused on what a good name meant before, but that night in prison made me understand."

3. Big picture thinking & creative problem solving
In his book, Branson tells the story of a Mike Oldfield concert that was to take place at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Oldfield, the featured artist, had decided he did not want to do it. This was a major promotional event, designed to bring visibility to Virgin Records' inaugural shining star.

Tickets had been sold, the concert all set to go and Oldfield, that morning, had determined not to perform. Branson's creative problem solving saved the day. The two went for a drive together in Branson's Bentley. After the drive, Branson asked if Mike would like the car, as a present. Mike said sure.

Branson said, "I'll get out here and walk home. You just keep on driving and the car is yours."

"Come off it! It was your wedding present."

"No, all you have to do is drive it around to Queen Elizabeth Hall and go up onstage tonight. It's yours."

Mike agreed. Tubular Bells eventually sold over thirteen million copies and became one of the best selling albums ever released in Britain.

4. Dreaming impossible dreams.
Writes Branson, "My interest in life comes from setting myself huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them." Hence, in addition to successes in business, Branson became first to cross the Atlantic in a hot air balloon, the first across the Pacific, and the fastest to cross the Atlantic by boat. His life exhibits a "no limits" attitude that ever seeks to stretch the boundaries of what is achievable.

5. Success is not a formula, but it doesn't 'just happen.'
"To be successful, you have to be out there, you have to hit the ground running, and if you have a good team around you and more than a fair share of luck, you might make something happen. But you certainly can't guarantee it just by following someone else's formula." A swashbuckling entrepeneur who lives life to the full, Branson has seized life by the throat and given it all he's got. And from here? To think he's only half begun!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Jurassic Park

An absolutely remarkable movie, from conception to completion. Masterful, exhiliarating and terrifying. Only criticism I would make is that last scene where the bones fell and just missed crushing the boy. How many near crushing experiences can one boy have in a two hour movie? Even though I knew the kid would survive -- rationally I knew this -- emotionally, it was no less terrifying and fraught with fear. This is the wonder of cinema.
Journal note ~ Dec 29, 1993

This past year's Blood Diamond felt the same. Just a few too many close calls and drawn out near death experiences. Supposedly it was dramatic, but after a while it is too much, distracting even. Dear Hollywood: lighten up. All we want is a good story. By the way, I've got more than a few up my sleeve, if you are interested.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A World Turned On Its Head

Sometimes it just seems like life isn't fair.

"Crime Pays." So it said on the front page of our local newspaper a number of years ago. The story: A woman embezzles $37,000. The judge sentences her to repay $3,000 and to remain grounded in her home for two months.

Wherever one turns one hears similar stories. Crime victims who have no rights. Criminals who seem to suffer no consequences for their crimes. Where is the justice in all this?

But then, this is nothing new. 3,000 years ago the writer of Psalm 73 had been struck by the same observation. As he looked on the prosperity of the wicked, their apparent success, their disregard for God or truth, and their mockery of heavenly things, he felt the same grief and dismay that we feel today. However, he did a unique thing. Rather than become embittered as he was tempted to be, he laid his complaint on God's doorstep and waited for an explanation.

Had he been foolish to try to live a good life? No. There are rewards for those who seek to do what is right. And things aren't what they appear to be for those who choose to hurt others, to cheat, lie or steal. Their choices will have consequences, too, both in this life and in the world to come.

Tonight I went to see American Gangster with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Powerful movie and if your vantage point in time is within the story, during the high times when all is going swell, you get a perspective that is not comprehensive. It is incomplete. Was Russell Crowe a fool to do what was right? The guys doing wrong sure seemed like they were the ones living the good life, both the cops on the take and the hoods on the street. But then again, in the end it always catches up with you.

I was once involved in a prison ministry. From behind bars many of these men saw quite clearly the illusory nature of the "high life" they had purchased with phony credit cards or other kinds of vice and crime. The worst of it, one man told me, is that the longer you are in it, the more difficult it becomes to get out.

Often, the lifestyles we are attracted to have been bought with a price. We would do well to note the rest of the story.

Things are not always what they first appear to be.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Thought for the Day

“Twain said that history doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” ~ Lewis Lapham

Jonathan Winters Talks About His Start Making Pictures

"I went to art school in ‘47, got married in ‘48, and in ‘49 got into radio at Dayton, WING, and was a disc jockey, and continued to go to art school.

"The bug bit me in show business. My art at the time was so commercial, so commercial it was sad. I would have been good if I was going to do industrial drawing or be a commercial artist, which I wasn’t. I’m not a commercial comedian, so I certainly wasn’t going to be a commercial artist.

"I didn’t find a style until I was well out of school. In the early 70’s I really got down to painting. I was working on the road, in gin mills and night clubs and stuff, but when I’d come home I’d paint. I think I had my first art show in ‘72, here in Southern Cal or LA, and I have been painting ever since."
~ from an interview with Jonathan Winters, 2004

Monday, November 5, 2007

We Only LIve Once

"As always, it is with regret that I realize that we only live one life when there is still so much to do. For this reason, our choices are supremely significant. We do only live once." ~ Dec. 26, 1993

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Heroes or Goats?

The oil change business is by nature an extension of the oil industry, an industry that is considered by many environmentally conscious people to be “the enemy.” It’s a strange situation, because everything that has moving parts needs lubrication, hence the lube folks have actually played an essential role in the advancement of civilization.
Journal Note

There is good reason to be concerned about the environment. This is the only planet we've got.

As for our oil dependency, it is one facet of a basic energy dependency. It takes energy to move a body from one place to another. Our bodies burn energy to do it. We obtain the fuel to do this via eating. Likewise it takes energy to heat a house, or to create electricity. Frankly, I like these conveniences. Otherwise I would not be very warm in Minnesota's winters and could not power up my computer to write this blog.

Sources of energy are limited. The automobile became the vehicle of choice for Americans because horses and bicycles had certain drawbacks as a means of commuting to work. Trolleys and trains also have limitations. Our whole way of life seems to require transportation to and from the stores (supply chains) and places we are employed.

Are there alternatives? I read a lot of articles suggesting this and that solution to reduce dependence on oil, but guess what? Most of those solutions are either two to three decades off or simply not practical. All involve trade-offs and may require sacrifices Americans do not want to make.

I work for a synthetic oil company called AMSOIL that has a partial solution that we can implement today, without waiting two to three decades to make a difference. AMSOIL synthetic motor oils have two features that make a difference with regard to environmental impact. The company was first to introduce the concept of extended drain intervals, in 1972. You only have to change your oil once a year or in 25,000 miles, whichever comes first. Oil change intervals for conventional petroleum oil are once every 3,000 miles.... which creates a heckuva lot of extra used oil to dispose of or deal with. A second environmental benefit of AMSOIL synthetic oils is their fuel efficiency. Because AMSOIL synthetics reduce friction, slide more easily inside the engine, and because they don't break down to create sludge or varnish (which increases engine drag) the engine runs more efficiently. It takes less energy to create the same amount of power.

In short, if we want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the environmental damage we're doing through excessive amounts of oil being disposed of, check out the AMSOIL website at http://www.amsoil.com/.

Let's not just talk about making the world a better place. Let's do something about it.