until that day comes, there will be gridlock and dysfunction

“In their new book, “Millennial Momentum,” they explain how the millennial generation (born from 1982 to 2003) will remake America in education, politics, entertainment and every other conceivable endeavor. There will be more compromise, they predict, and more tolerance for different points of view…. But until that day comes, there will be gridlock and dysfunction. And our government will stay broken” – CNN


being on track with your life

(This is a cross post. Please comment on “being on track with your life” on the chron blog here.)

From a post on CNN about an unemployed iReporter:

“I’m still fortunate to have a roof over my head and make do with what I can but I miss having a decent job and being on track with my life.” – sbeasia

I don’t mean to sound jaded, but does “being on track with my life” qualify as expectation or entitlement? I hear that from many people, frequently they are employed but have some other expectation. They can’t articulate WHERE they are “supposed” to be. But they can complain they aren’t “there” and look at you  solve it. Solve what?

Here’s the thing. Lament the loss of a job and work hard to find or create a new one. The CNN ireporter sbeasia is clearly doing that. But “being on track with my life” is an illusion. You might as well say “keeping up with the Joneses.” YOU CAN’T.

Reality is all of us with very rare exception are bumbling along and making due with circumstances. None of us are “on track with our life” as far as I can tell. And the few I have seen accomplish all of their “goals” are generally  dissatisfied  and hungry still. And someone somewhere is still richer, has a better job, has a beautiful house, has 2.5 kids, drives a Ferrari. Someone somewhere is more “on track with their life” because as humans our perception of what we want is always more than what we have.

I am not “on track with my life” and I’m OK with that. I’m in Texas because the Army stationed my Dad in San Antonio years ago. They left and I stayed. I went to a school mostly to play an obscure sport. I’m in Houston because I met a girl at school who was from Houston and we moved down here after college. That is all just bouncing around based on circumstance.

houston tunnels - curve in the roadI didn’t even intend to start a company. That was sort of an accident as well. Yes really. Oh, and the reality of running a company is NOTHING like the perception. Inspector Clouseau is one of my heroes because he embraces this reality. From wikipedia:

Regardless of his rather limited ability, he successfully solves his cases and finds the correct culprits, even if this success is achieved entirely by accident. As such, he is even promoted to Chief Inspector over the course of the series, and is regarded by many other characters who presumably have not met him as  France‘s greatest detective; those characters he actually encounters, nevertheless, are quick to realise his incompetence and limitations. He is immensely  egocentric  and pompous; despite his many failings, he is seemingly convinced that he is a brilliant police officer destined to succeed and rise through the ranks of the  Sûrete.”

That is completely me. If I solve a case half the time it’s just by luck. Or as the Inspector would say, “I knew that” after the house fell down around him. “That is not my dog” indeed!

None of us are entitled to a particular station in life any more than Clouseau was entitled to be a Chief Inspector. If you achieve some perceived “station”, or get lucky and win lotto, then good for you. But you aren’t entitled to it. And EVERYONE feels like they “aren’t far enough along.” Particularly during the Great Recession. You are not alone, although that doesn’t help much. Changing the toxic internal dialog however just might help.

The problem isn’t that things are tight and you need to cut back on cable and get a roommate. Or that you aren’t “on track with your life” and can’t afford $60 a month for cigarettes or a $500 car payment. The problem is entitlement. And it’s worse than that because it is entitlement  that will forever be unrequited. It is entitlement to a carrot on a stick that will ALWAYS be held out in front of us.

I am definitely not “on track with my life” but at least I realize that is society creating false expectations. But I still work Saturday’s. Clouseau might not have the right theory, but he is present and solves the case anyway. So be present.

If you are thinking “I’m not on track with my  life” then go create something. And quit letting Mother Culture tell you how you should act and where you should “be”.

“(Mother Culture) is not a real entity, just as Mother Nature isn’t. I believe that’s why he chose the name. Mother culture refers to the voice in your head that tells you how to think and act ‘normal’ in your society. It is TV ads and movies and fairy tales and laws and school lessions that all are based on the same underlying values. It is reinforced by everybody around you buying into the program without ever really knowing there is a program.

Mother culture is a subtle influence and much of it is not explicitly said. It is a bias on how you observe the world, the tint in your ski goggles when the world looks slightly yellow.

You aren’t a puppet. You are a free man. And freedom doesn’t look like the beautiful people on TV. You aren’t at your “proper” “station in life” because it is an illusion. Be present.

(This is a cross post. Please comment on “being on track with your life” on the chron blog here.)

every day

“Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.” – Goethe

WTC Rebuilding

We will rebuild. And we’re almost done.
2011 05 WTC Rebuilding
2011 05 WTC Rebuilding

Note: these photos are from May of 2011. I’m sure even more is complete now. Whoooop!

the long now

“When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 02000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 02000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium.”

–    Daniel Hillis  via The Long Now

perceived american narrative on islam

Wow, I think I’m guilty of this. And I’m not sure I can change either.

The Capital at NightI read “Why Muslims are still mad at America” by Steven Kull on CNN and I can’t say that I think the Muslim perception of the American narrative is incorrect. Speaking for myself, I do view freedom and civil rights for women as an evolution past Sharia law. I believe our Democratic-Republic is a more evolved form of government than a theocracy. Of course the non-sequitur in my thought pattern is that Sharia is opposed to rights for women, which I realize does not follow. Non-sequitur or not, that is how my brain processed it. And that is how governments like the Taliban implemented it.

So why are Muslims still mad at America? From Dr. Kull’s article on CNN:

“…there is one thing that is the most fundamental: their (Muslim) perception that America seeks to undermine Islam – a perception held by overwhelming majorities.”


“According to this American narrative – which Muslims perceive as arrogant and dismissive – human society naturally and inevitable evolves through the stages that the West has gone through.   As in the Renaissance, religion is largely banished from the public sphere, thus allowing pluralism and diversity of beliefs in the private sphere while maintaining a secular public sphere.   This leads naturally to the elevation of individual freedoms and the emergence of democratic principles that make the will of the people the basis of the authority of law rather than revealed religious principles.

From this assumed American perspective, Muslim society is seen as simply behind the West in this evolutionary process.   Retrogressive forces in Muslim society are seen as clinging to Islamic traditions that make Sharia the basis of law, not the will of the people, and inevitably keep women in their traditional oppressed roles and minority religions discriminated against.”

I would be interested to know how many Americans, right or wrong, actually do view Islamic governments as earlier than Western governments in the course of natural evolution. I had never thought about it in exactly that way, but it makes sense. I’m guilty of thinking that. And I don’t think it was Islam where the west first threw off the shackles. I suspect we can credit  Henry VIII, Martin Luther and Ann Boleyn for ending the rule-by-fiat from Rome for that part of the West’s evolution in political thought.

There was an article a while back I read that opined that Muslims view Judaism as “Religion 1.0”, Christianity as “Religion 2.0” and Islam as “Religion 3.0.” Thus the later releases should be “superior” to those prior. And if Islam is indeed superior to Christianity or Judaism in the eyes of Muslims, then why do the people who subscribe to these 1.0 or 2.0 religions prosper more than the new-fangled 3.0 release?  (I tried to find the article but instead found message-boards full of  crazy  posts, so I won’t link them.)

I can see how the Muslim perception of the American narrative could be particularly galling from that world view. Although the irony of a perception of American arrogance based on an arrogant assumption of religious superiority means both narratives aren’t fact based. Narratives are stories. In this case it’s a perception of a story you think the other person thinks without actually asking them. This thought pattern is best expressed by a quote from Vizzini  in the Princess Bride:

“But it’s so simple. All I have to do is divine from what I know of you: are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s? Now, a clever man would put the poison into his own goblet, because he would know that only a great fool would reach for what he was given. I am not a great fool, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of you. But you must have known I was not a great fool, you would have counted on it, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.” (and he goes on and on…)

You think that I think that you think that I think that you…etc… You can’t resolve that or even have a reasonable conversation about something that amorphous. After Vizzini drops dead from switching and then drinking from the Goblet that was in front of our hero, the  Man in Black  explains to Buttercup  how he did it:

“They were both poisoned. I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.”

In closing, why can’t we all just get along man? And it seems to me keeping religion out of politics is the first step and was a wise decision. If any of the religions are more or less “evolved” is not really the point. It is that this quote from James Madison:

“The civil rights of none shall be abridged on account of religious belief or worship, nor shall any national religion be established, nor shall the full and equal rights of conscience be in any manner, or on any pretext, infringed.”

Which became the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

To me at least, separation of church and state is a more evolved political structure. And that, in my opinion, has nothing to do with the superiority or inferiority of any particular religion. It simply speaks of a political system designed to  reduce people killing each other in the name of God.

(This is a cross post. if you wish to comment please comment on the chron post here.)

“work hard at something worth doing”


“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at something worth doing.”

– Teddy Roosevelt

“Our nation’s work force is the most productive in the world because, as a societal norm, hard-work is deemed honorable and

The GE Equation (2)  excellence considered admirable. This holiday is about those who sweat for a living, literally and figuratively, and whose characters are molded by their industry. Whether done to improve another tough shift, there is pride in a job well done. In shops, factories, plants, offices and homes throughout the country, a strong work ethic pervades as part of our heritage.”

– David Patton, Houston Chronicle, Sept 5, 2011

tennis opponent wastes time and delays between serves

Excerpts from an email regarding how to handle cheaters taking too long between serves, first or second during a tennis match. a toss upMake no mistake, the delay of tennis serve by your opponent is a cheap attempt to get in your head and play mind games. And it’s against the rules.  The bottom line from the USTA rules:

Between points, a maximum of twenty (20) seconds is allowed.

More info on players delaying during a tennis game – you need to read and memorize the rules to prevent the cheating and gamesmanship. Knowing the rules of tennis is a good thing.

Commentary on cheating and gamesmanship:


ITF rules of tennis



As a principle, play should be continuous, from the time the match starts (when the

first service of the match is put in play) until the match finishes.

14  a.  Between points, a maximum of twenty (20) seconds is allowed. When the

players change ends at the end of a game, a maximum of ninety (90) seconds

are allowed. However, after the first game of each set and  during a tie-break  

game, play shall be continuous and the players shall change ends without a  


At the end of each set there shall be a set break of a maximum of one hundred

and twenty (120) seconds.

The maximum time starts from the moment that one point finishes until the

first service is struck for the next point.

Event organisers may apply for ITF approval to extend the ninety (90)

seconds allowed when the players change ends at the end of a game and the

one hundred and twenty (120) seconds allowed at a set break

When your opponent is cheating during a match by excessive delays between serves, the next step is to remind your opponent politely

“You only get 20 seconds between points. Do we need to call a line judge?”

Commentary on a blog post about delays at the professional level tennis are below. This post points out that wandering around the tennis court to find the best ball, toweling off during a game, wandering to the back-court to seek the meaning of life, just pisses everyone off:


For this article I chose to specifically focus on one of these virtues: the  continuous rhythm of the game. The players were not only watchful not to interrupt this rhythm, they were actually contributing to it by not returning serves that were obviously out, by helping the ball boys do their job (!!!) etc. Actually they tended to make the intervals between points so short that they would give a headache to the contemporary TV director, who would struggle to find enough seconds for a slow motion of a highlight.

According to the ITF rules of tennis, during a game,  the server has no more than 20 seconds to start the next point  (25 seconds for any ATP event, still 20 seconds for Grand Slams that prefer to have their own rules). USTA goes even further by saying that typical sportsman – like play is supposed to be 12-15 seconds for a first serve. Nevertheless, excessive ball bouncing, choosing the newest ball between 4-5 balls the ball boy gave to the player, asking for the towel, arranging socks and other even stranger habits of some players, regularly lead to intervals that last 35-40 seconds or even a minute!!!

Again, the solution is to print and study the rules. Have a copy printed and highlighted in yellow in your bag. Have a spare copy you can hand your opponent in case they need to be educated on how the game is played.

Regarding notes, the USTA says it is OK to read notes and study during changeover. If you don’t want to challenge a dweeb taking 2 minutes between serves, you can have notes in your right hand pocket laminated with study notes and a game plan. From this post:


Q.  Is it legal to look at  written notes or reminders to yourself during changeovers; such as “Remember to keep your chin up during the serve” or “Slice approach to his backhand works best”.

A.  Yes, this is permissible. In fact, it is a good idea.  It is not uncommon for your thoughts to become chaotic during the stresses of match play, and having some reminder notes can only help.

Bottom line – learn the rules and use them to your advantage to win more matches ethically. If a kid’s coach has taught him to cheat and you hand him a print out that tells him he is a cheater, it would really mess with their head and ruin their crappy game plan. Who knows, maybe we can just play tennis!?

The last thing I would say is ask the tournament organizers if USTA rules are in force or if they allow extended delay. If you ask them this specifically you can back up the print out.