Jorge Luis Borges is one of those authors who blows my mind. I don't know what other people think of him because he never really just comes up in a conversation. In my feeble attempts to fit in at parties, even I never throw out, "So you ever read Borges?" Maybe I should, maybe that's what I'm doing wrong. Interesting thought. Anyway, I was re-reading one of his short stories the other day and I rediscovered what I always thought was an interesting line. He never wrote a novel, only poems and short stories and some essays, but for my money you go with the short stories. In one of them, or maybe it was even an essay, he has what amounts to a throw away line that is an incredibly interesting way to think of infinite. He says something like, "Most people assume that to do an infinite number of things you need an infinite of time. In fact, all you actually need is any set period of time that you can divide into an infinite number of pieces." Then he goes on like that was obvious. Think about that for a minute, it's actually quite interesting, partially because it is a very distinct way to think about infinite.

I agree that anytime you have to think about infinite and things like that, it requires abstraction that we don't really get (I don't really get it either, but I like to pretend). That line however, that fresh perspective, has always amazed me. Borges was also the first author I read to discuss Zeno's paradox from Ancient Greece, and for that he will always have a special place in my heart. Here is info on the paradox from wikipedia. Basically, it is a little paradox that "proves" motion is impossible. The crux of the argument is that in order to move across the room, you must get to the half way point. In order to get there, you must 1/4 of the way across the room. To get there, you must get 1/8 of the way across. If you follow this train of thought to it's logical (or illogical?) conclusion, motion is impossible because you always have a halfway point. There is another fun example pitting the mighty Achilles from the Trojan War against a turtle in a foot race. In this example, the turtle starts out with a lead because Achilles believes he will catch up. However, Achilles never catches the turtle because when he arrives at where the turtle was, the turtle has moved on. When Achilles arrives there, the turtle has moved on again, and so on. The distance between the two becomes increasingly smaller, but Achilles must always arrive where the turtle was, only to find the turtle has continued to move on. This is a different example than the proof against motion, but it is logically the same argument.

It is extremely difficult to disprove these paradoxes logically although it is easy to disprove mathematically or by, say, moving. However, I read a book about the number zero that was called, conveniently, "Zero" (I don't bring that up much at parties either) and it argued the Greeks couldn't mathematically resolve this paradox because it really requires a limit, thus calculus (as time goes to 0 or as the change in distance goes to 0), to resolve, and the Greeks didn't do limits because they denied infinite and 0. So that's why you should embrace them both, it's freeing. Anyway, the riddles themselves are interesting thought puzzles and I always wondered if you did these with children (middle school maybe) what kind of answers they would come up.

So there you go. It is possible to do an infinite number of things in a set period of time but, ultimately, it doesn't matter because motion is impossible anyway. If that's true, and how could it not be, maybe I'll take tomorrow off of work. Regardless, wouldn't it be nice to think about that laying on the street in front of my old house in Honduras staring at the stars?

Final note: if you ever decide to read Borges (and you should consider it), I recommend reading a story or two before purchasing the book in case you don't like his style. I think Labyrinths is his best work and it has some of my favorite stories. Borges had an uncanny ability to link and discuss disparate ideas in his stories in a way that interests me. His is not the kind of mind I want to meet, it is the kind of mind I want to become. I think The Garden of Forking Paths is a good intro into his circular style , but The Immortals is probably his most profound. Both are in Labyrinths with a lot of other great stuff.

Honduran nostalgia

I'm nostalgic tonight, maybe because it has been so cold here in Philadelphia. You know what I miss most about Honduras? It was the wide open spaces without houses or housing developments or anything. The bus ride from my town to the city took around an hour, although that time varied alot depending on, well, I don't exactly what. There certainly wasn't any traffic, I suppose it depended on how many people we picked up. The bus didn't have specific stops, it just stopped for anyone on the side of the road who flagged it down. Sometimes, people would be standing 10 yards apart and the bus would stop, pick up one group, drive 10 feet, stop again, and pick up the other group. I always thought this was annoying and since I was so busy, it used to piss me off the two groups of people would not wait together. That was very American of me because whenever I asked a Honduran friend they could not understand why it mattered. It's more efficient I said. Again, very American of me. I tried to deny all my americanisms, but I never really got over that one.

Anyway, the trip was a dusty ride through small mountains and valleys as we drove into the city. It was generally very soothing a ride through little towns and past bean and corn fields without much soil. During harvest season, there would be entire families out harvesting corn and beans. The land was a series of big hills and sometimes you would get a great view of a farmer standing on the edge of his land overlooking the valley below. After picking the beans, most farmers attempted to clean them to lighten the load they had to carry back home. They would take a coffee can full of beans from one pile, hold the can at arms length, and dump the beans into another pile. On a windy day, you could see the dust and dirt blowing away from the beans. If the farmer was standing at the edge by the valley, it looked majestic. The farmers then carried the beans home, set them to dry along the street on giant sheets or some other fabric, then stored them or sold them. When the corn was ready, they would bring the corn home in big nets and put the nets on the giant tarps. Then we would all take turns beating the corn with a stick to break off the kernels that would be ground every day and used to make tortillas. Other times, we would sit around and chat and push off the kernels with our fingers. Both beans and corn were stored in giant rusty barrels. I miss the community of it. I also realize most families lived on 1 large harvest and 1 small harvest a year. It wasn't majestic to them, it was the cycle of their lives and they generally could not get out of it. It wasn't glamorous and it wasn't a life most of the younger people wanted. Yet the cycle continues, generally speaking, unbroken.

I lived at the end of town in the 2nd to last house on a dead end street. At night, I would watch soap operas and hang out, read, or talk to the neighbors. The night sky was amazing. Since there weren't many houses, you could look out and see stars, more stars than I have ever seen anywhere else. Sometimes we would lay on the street in front of my house and talk and stare up at the stars. I miss that. I miss staring at the stars and that community more than I can really explain. However, I was never a real part of the life because I always had the option to leave. In fact, I did leave and I was ready for it. Some people in the states talk about maintaining that life and the simplicity of it all. It was a beautiful life, but not one I wanted forever. As I said above, it wasn't one most of them wanted forever especially the youth. Here in the states, we talk about small farmers as an excuse to maintain farming subsidies. Nobody in the states is a small farmer, not like that. I grew up in a farming town and most people lost their farms or sold their farms. Even then, they had tractors and other machines to help them.

This isn't an email about farming or farming subsidies. It's about the life we choose to lead. I think most small farmers in the states, the people who bring vegetables and meat to local markets, do so as much by choice as by necessity. In the states, we have options. When I was in Honduras, it was a nice feeling that every night Gustavo and his entire family would be watching soap operas in his little store because they couldn't afford to do anything else. It was nice for me, but it wasn't really nice for them. It was what they did because it was what they could do. Once in a while we played pool and had some beers, but most of my friends didn't really have money for that.

I miss my hammock on my porch and the kids coming over. I miss making them balloon animals and the stories they used to tell me about monsters in the mountains and keeping my bible open at night to protect me from the boogey man. I miss Chimito and Miguelito, my dueling 1-3 year old neighbors. I miss the mean white dog that almost bit me every day for my first month (i had to walk past with rocks to get home) until I gave it my chicken bones and it loved me. I miss my annual Christmas card from the president that always arrived promptly in February, sometimes just in time for Valentines (I never missed not being here for that "holiday"). I miss people randomly giving me food, and people walking around and selling me vegetables. I miss someone killing their pig and selling me 2 pounds of, literally, random pig parts. Sometimes it was the freshest meatiest pork in the world. Sometimes, it was all bone and fat. They weren't butchers, they were farmers and small time pig raisers. They just took the machete, the same one they used to cut firewood and other things, and hacked off parts of a dead pig. Sometimes you won, sometimes you lost. For $1 a pound, you can't complain.

I remember one day I was finishing up a run and the end of the run was probably a 1/4 mile hill that I just walked up. Don't call me weak, it was 90 most days I was running. One day, I came upon the 50-ish year old lady who lived up the street carrying home firewood. Carrying firewood is miserable. The wood is heavy and awkward. Men carry firewood on their shoulders. Women balance it on their heads. I read an article in National Geographic a while back that studied people in Africa who walked great distances carrying water or other materials on their head. They said most of them walked in a slightly more efficient way than "normal" that allowed them to save energy. It had something to do with a more efficient pendulum motion as they walked. National Geographic sells CDs of all their past magazines and I've been thinking of buying it because that type of thing fascinates me.

Anyway, I just finish my 3 mile run and I catch this lady at the bottom of the hill. I'm sweaty, I'm tired, and I just want to get home. There wasn't another way back to town, and I couldn't run up the hill past her so I stop at her and we start talking. Sure enough, someone else comes along as we are standing and tells me to carry the wood back for her. I was stuck. This women was poor, fairly old (I said 50-ish but sometimes it's hard to tell), ate nothing but beans and tortillas and birds when her husband shot one, and was significantly smaller than me. And she was carrying the wood on her head and talking to me as we walked so I figured I could do it. I almost died walking up that hill, sweat started pouring off and she was laughing at me. I almost quit, it took all my inner motivation (lazy gringo!, tough american!, can't show weakness!, WWGD (what would George do) etc) to make it. We got to my house, she thanked me, laughed again through her 3 teeth, put the wood back on her head and went home. She told everyone I helped carry firewood and, basically, how big a wimp I was. We all laughed. It was miserable. Yet, I miss that too.


Public Breastfeeding

There seems to be a lot of articles recently about people, mostly women, breastfeeding in public. Actually, it's not just women, it's babies too! Blank slate? I don't know. Think of the scandal! Think of the children? What would the blind prophets of legend say?

So after much thought, I realized this debate is missing something critical: my opinion. Today I have decided in my blog to take a stand. This doesn't bother me. In fact, I don't see what the big deal is. It's very natural and healthy for the child, which makes sense since the nature channel is always showing other young mammals following their mothers around and nipping at their tits. If it's good enough for a pig, it's good enough for a baby. Speaking of which, have you ever seen the movie "Story of the Weeping Camel?" It's a solid movie, probably one of the top 2 movies I have ever seen about Mongolia, right up there with "something about a dog" - that names isn't' quite accurate but you get the idea. Actually, I must admit they were both made by the same people so my knowledge of the legendary Mongolian film industry is limited. Bygones. What I was saying was that in this move, the mother camel had hard delivery and shuns her white camel child. Most of the movie is spent watching the family trying to get the mother camel to nurse the baby white camel. Whenever the baby camel came around, the mother camel would kick it and let out a loud camel sound, something like the sound of a dead seal mating with an elephant in the suburbs. Yeah, that's what it's like. Actually, the first time the mother camel kicked the baby camel I laughed but it's still touching, you can feel the pain in the baby camels eyes. They say it was trained in method acting, and it shows. The movie might not sound like much, but the scenery and lifestyle documented in it are fascinating. Anyway, as much as their was a point, the point was it's natural for mammals to nurse their young.

But I digress. I was speaking of humans. I think it's a little awkward for people to be around mothers who are nursing, especially if you are an uncontrollable repressed sexual pervert (see conservatives who favor banning nursing in public), are uncomfortable with the human body (see comic book fans), or just don't believe in family values (see democrats). For everyone else, it's natural and maybe beautiful and just something that happens that you shouldn't actually put much thought into, like removing a pebble from your show.

For the sake of argument, let's say I am a comic book fan and I get all sweaty when a women near me is nursing. Get over it geek! I would scream at myself. Aren't we fighting a war (or two or three - what a jerk!) to stop extremo islamo-fascist governments that require women to be covered head to toe. And now we are telling women here to put more clothes on? Think of the millions of 7th graders around the world who would kill for this. In France, women bath topless. I have been to some of the beaches and believe me, it's a double edged sword. Think Aunt Bethel at Thanksgiving - they look just like soggy mashed potatoes hanging from your spoon. Ugh.

Anyway, I think I got used to it in Mexico, then again in Honduras. You don't actually see it that often in America. In fact, I don't remember that last time I saw it in America. In Mexico, I remember a women walking around the market with a baby strapped across her shoulder, everything out and about in the air, buying meat as people swatted bugs and shooed dogs like nothing was abnormal. When the baby was hungry, it leaned in. When it wasn't, it looked around. Seemed like quite a natural way to go about it, probably why National Geographic always posed women topless when doing their photo shoots.

In Honduras, it was even worse because I always knew someone who just had a baby, I saw almost all my females friend's breasts. It's a little weird initially because you don't know where to look, but yo get used to staring at something nearby or, god forbid, looking the woman in the eye. After a few conversations, you can look just to the right of her eyes and she can't tell. Quite frankly, the female body is a beautiful thing, breasts included. But when you put a 22 pound smelly screaming machine on the end of the breast, it's not so attractive. People need to just relax and move on with their lives.

People are so annoying sometimes.


100,000 trees falling

Here's a modern zen riddle for you: If 100,000 people march around the capital, does it make a sound? If we all clapped with one hand, would that make it louder? I declared 2007 my year of activism, so one of my first efforts was to take part in the march on Washington DC yesterday. I went with two rowdy friends from Philadelphia and met up with a rowdy friend from DC. I have never been to a rally before, not one of this size, so I wanted to see what it would be like. It's depressing in a way because I don't really feel like it will make a difference. See the cat? See the cradle?

Our president said on Friday, and this is I believe an exact quote but I can't be sure, "I am the commander and chief and if you don't like it, I'm going to take my army and invade another country." Well I'm taking my ball and going home too. The Nation is a weekly left leaning magazine I recently started reading and they had an interesting question on the cover. Basically, it states world opinion is against escalation, the American populace is against it, Congress, Iraqi people, and the Iraqi government are against it. Can one man make a country fight a war it doesn't want to fight? They are speaking of America, but they could really be speaking of Iraq as well. I think Iraq is going to have to fight its own internal war at some point, but we don't need to be involved. There is to much hatred and history not to reach this conclusion.

In my opinion, the escalation is going to happen anyway unless congress refuses to pay for it. They won't. So what do you do, how do you fight that? If congress actually agrees to something and passes a non-binding resolution, what the hell does that do? It positions people to run for president, that is what it does. It's politics, not reality. See the cat? Maybe in 2 years we are better off. I am inpatient, I'm not waiting for that. Bush keeps asking others for a plan. They have a plan, stop. His plan is to keep going. See the cradle? The american democracy is moving in a bad direction in my opinion. We are moving away from open dialogue and discussion into rhetoric and obstinacy. We no longer value intelligence in debate and favor cheap sound bites. We, as a country, have gotten lazy. Maybe we always were and I didn't realize it, I don't know.

I didn't hear all the speakers yesterday, but I am disappointed by the rhetoric coming from the anti-escalation side. I just don't hear anyone speak that inspires me, someone like MLK who, even years later now, can give you shivers listening to some of his speeches. I realize he was an extreme rarity, but why can't we find a leader like that now? Or is there a leader like that now, but he can't be heard?

I love America. Or I did. Or I do. I just don't love our democracy anymore, it's been twisted and manipulated and we have all let it happen. Rather, more importantly, I have let it happen. I was having a conversation yesterday after the march and we talked a little about legacy. I don't have a legacy, except selling out and passing time. That's not a life i want to look back on years from now. That is something I need to fix. Kurt Vonnegut wrote a book, a brilliant book in my opinion, called Cat's Cradle. He has a rhetorical device in it where one of the characters is complaining about the child's game played with string called Cat's Cradle. He uses it as a way to describe how things are not what you are told (as a child, as an adult, how things are never quite what they seem to be or are not what people tell you they are). Whenever I think someone is trying to manipulate me, I think to myself see the cat? see the cradle? Things are not what they seem, it's a game, an illusion. Just smile and go back outside and play with your ball.

Maybe the country isn't going in such a bad direction overall, and it's just the war. Regardless, I think America wasted a great opportunity to step into a world void and lead with integrity and morality. We could have pushed democracy without wars. We could have pushed free-er economic growth throughout without selling ourselves out to oil companies and special interest. We could have led the world in environmental protection and human rights. Instead, we have squandered our global leadership position in favor of money and power. We begin to speak of Iran and their negative influence in Iraq. Didn't we take over the country, cause the chaos, leave the museums unguarded, and overstay our welcome? Are we building a case that Iran is the new Iraq? The government says no. See the cat? See the cradle? Things need to change. The unabomber sat alone in a shack somewhere and tried to fix it. Maybe he was crazy. Maybe, if things had happened a little differently, he could have been that leader. Perhaps he still is? What if our generation already missed it's next great leader? What if this is what I have to live through? What if this is all there is? How do I setup my legacy, how do I get comfortable with my own skin? What if I plant 100,000 new trees and they are all knocked down in a forest - would anyone hear it? Is that a legacy? See my cat? See my cradle?


State of the union

My unbiased opinion of the state of the union.

Did he really just say balance the budget? Maybe he should actually put the Iraq war into his budget so he realizes how much it is costing. What a jerk.

Not raising taxes? What programs are you going to cut to make that happen? Maybe you could actually tax corporations, especially ones that incorporate offshore? What a jerk.

Earmarks? Now he wants to remove them? Why didn't he talk about this over the past 6 years ago when it has been happening and getting worse? And he only wants to cut it in half? Eliminate them! What a jerk.

I actually agree with his opinion that Social Security/Medicare needs to be fixed. He's still a jerk though. DId they just show Ted Kennedy almost asleep? I love the state of the union, I just wish they stopped clapping all the time.

No child left behind act is a fiasco. If you want to increase testing, increase the budget. If you want to increase help for special children, that costs a lot. Talk to teachers who know what it costs for special education programs. And what about gifted and talented programs? How are we paying for that? What a jerk.

I like that he said offer affordable health care. If we don't raise taxes, how are we going to do this exactly? He is actually proposing a new tax for health care (I think)! I like it! Of course, that means we need to fix the insurance process. He wants to change the tax code - who is this man? Oh that's right, he's a lying jerk... I give it a 10% chance of passing congress and getting signed.

Health savings accounts are stupid. What if I don't get sick? I can't roll the money over. I know people who buy thousands of aspirin at the end of the year just to use their money so they don't lose it.

Medical liability reform I like. Lawyers already make enough money. He said people and doctors make good decisions. Drug companies own doctors with free samples and drug salepeople are beautiful.

Immigration: They just showed someon from CO and I think he was sleeping too. Can't congress afford coffee at least for the state of the union? More money for the border? Where is that coming from? Why do people keep clapping? I hate the state of the union. He said melting pot - that is a slot on my buzzword bingo. I like the idea of legalizing immigrants. I don't think that will pass either. Actually, I agree with Bush on immigration and he has solid ideas here.

Energy: He's a jerk. He has let us be dependant throughout his presidency. Maybe he should look back at the ugly white guy behind him to his right. Yeah, more coal! I like solar, wind, and nuclear power. I read something that said only nuclear power can meet our demand in the short time frame. Ethanol is a scam and will make meat more expensive unless they can get something else to make ehtanol on a large scale besides corn. Mexican's were rioting because corn was being exported to the states for, among other things, ethanol and the price of tortillas were going up. I saw in interview onTelemundo with different Mexican mothers complaining about this and they were pissed! In fact, the Mexican government is looking into price gouging practices by tortilla makers. I love The Economist!

Reduce emmissions by 20%? He's almost like a real human tonight. I might have to turn this off.

He said steward of the environment? Did you see Cheney give his little half hearted clap? That was classic and may be worth my time. Do you think Karl Rove is watching this? I love it.

Here is the big one. Speaking of September 11, is it true that Pinochet took over Chile on that day? That is one crazy day throughout modern history. "Ttake the fight to the enemy..." Yeah, get Iran! 90,000 more troops! Who is paying for this war exactly? Oh right, I am. Fortunately, it is not in the budget so we don't really pay for it...

Oh, all the almost attacks. Nothing like a little paranoia to support another invasion. 8 years, 3 countries - that's a legacy. Standing ovation to stop terrorists, really out on a limb on that one. I support stopping terrorists, I just don't support torture, invading countries, and lying presidents.

He said he has a clear view of the enemy - that was a joke, right? Is Al Quaeda even the strongest Islamic militant organization now? More Iraqi's die in a few days than died in September 11th. I say let the middle east fade back into the desert by removing our dependance on oil. Then we can ignore it like it's Africa. Unless we decide to randomly bomb it every once in a while just because.

Standing ovation to protect Americans. I hate the state of the union. "What every terrorist hates most is human freedom." Maybe that was true. I bet now a lot of them hate most strong countries invading weaker countries without cause. Why are they clapping? That guy is a jerk.

John McCain was sleeping too. Maybe I would vote for him. Doesn't anyone in congress stay up past 9 on a normal day? At least Kennedy was probably to drunk to be awake...

Uh, maybe we are attacking Lebanon instead of Iran. That man is a genius. No, sorry, he's still a jerk. Yeah, good idea, let's win the rhetoric war against extremism! We win! Our speech writers are better than yours.

New strategy in Iraq? It's the same plan, just more people. Hmm, if I want to buy a $200,000 house then decide to buy a $250,000 house, I didn't change my plan, I am just spending more. Is that a good analogy? Mmmm, that wine is good...

That guy's a jerk.

He seems to making the Iraqi government accountable. In theory, this is a great idea but we'll see how it works. What happens if they don't? Do we overthrow the government, or does Bush pull out? I still say he pulls out but he does it on his terms and tries to call it a win for his leadership because he did what he wanted. What a jerk.

"Nothing is more important at this point in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East..." OK, he isn't pulling out no matter what happens. Everyone supports the troops, I hate it when they say calling for a withdrawl is anti-troop. Even McCain said that last week on Meet the Press. It's political bullshit and they know it.

Is he developing a war on terror leadership group? Will it be just as important as the Iraq study group? We already have the largest military in the world, why add 92,000? Who the hell are we attacking? We took over 2 countries without any problem? Who is paying for that? No higher taxes? More money for schools? Free health care? Balance the budget and cut the deficit (remember, Bush came in with a surplus)? How does this all work?

If you Tivo-ed this, watch both Cheney and Pelosi behind Bush. They obviously both think most of this is crap. Who supports this guy? What a jerk? He mentioned Cuba, Belarus, and Burma. I can't even find 2 of those places on a map. Then he threw out Darfur - what exactly is our plan for Darfur again?

I just noticed this but is Cheney wearing a purple/pink tie? Who dressed him?

1.2 billion over 5 years to combat malaria? Can't we let Bill Gates fix that problem? Let's start a war against the mosquitos to help train those 92,00 new troops.

Dikembe made the state of the union! Dikembe made the state of the union! He's the oldest man ever in the NBA, I don't care what anyone says. He's standing - wag the finger! Oh, he didn't do it. I'll never root for him again.

Seriously, what is this random american good people shit? I believe children have a right to live in a world that is safe? Bold statement from her. I think Dikembe is wagging his finger at her off camera! I love that man.

Oh, another great american. Actually, the guy who jumped on the train tracks to help that guy in NY subway is quite a man. I like him. George Bush is still a jerk though. I don't think he would jump under a subway for me. Just thinking out loud here.

I like the way he is complimenting America. If I saw GW in a bar, I would buy him a beer, but I wouldn't jump under a subway for him. Why do people who obviously disagree with him stand and clap? Wow, MSNBC had the word count before he mentioned Iraq within 30 seconds of the end of the speech. Crazy.

We'll see what happens.

My job

I had an interesting experience at work today. We started adding levels within positions at work, so we have junior project managers, project managers, and senior project managers. However, we bill all 3 levels at the same billing rate. I mentioned this at our group meeting and said I thought this was not right. If we are going to have different levels internally, we should bill the client at different rates. Otherwise, what's the point? (The point is so we can pay people less because they are junior without billing less. I wanted to see if they would state this. They didn't.) I made the point that I bill myself and one of the my coworkers at the same rate on our project even though my time is more valuable. I pissed off one coworker with this comment (not the one I made the comment about who wasn't at the meeting) and my boss looked at me and said, "You really think your time is more valuable than John's?" and smiled like he thought I was kidding, or it was a nervous laughed. I looked him straight in the eye and responded, "Yes. Because it is." I'm not being arrogant, that's just true. I have more experience and I can resolve problems more quickly. I have 25 examples backing that up. It's my project, I define it and I manage it and I know how to keep it working. It's important to understand your strengths and your weaknesses.

Anyway, that argument is going nowhere at my company. I followed up by asking what I should tell a client who views the billable hours, knows we are different levels, and asks me why the billing rate is the same. He said when this happened to him at his other company, they either changed the billing rate for one of the people or re-assigned one of the resources. So we are openly entering into an unethical situation and, as the project manager, the client is going to ask me about it. I'm honest with my clients, I'll tell them I agree and they need to talk to my boss. I have no problem saying that. This type of game could cause bad feelings with our clients and hurt our future growth with them, not a smart business decision for a company that have "Integrity" as one of it's values. If I were a client, it would piss me off because it looks shady. Obviously, we are a business and need to make money to stay in business. However, there is an ethical way and an unethical way. I'll sell out my company to retain what little morals I can have in a corporate environment. I might get fired soon. Or I might just walk out one day.

Never green enough

If you were to ask me what made me happy, I would give any number of responses. They would all be lies. I think the only thing that truly makes me happy is looking for something else to make me happy. I look for happiness in new places to live, new places to travel to, a new job. No matter how happy I should be, I am never satisfied. I gave up on a lot of things that make other people, most significantly any serious notion of ever truly dating again, because this attitude doesn't work with dating. It doesn't work with a lot of things. It requires leaving friendships and family and routines and constantly starting over. I used to do it out of shyness or social awkwardness, real and perceived. Now, strangely, I think I do it out of habit. My personal routine is solitude. It's not as lonely to me as it is to others, so it's not fair to judge me from your perspective. Sure I get lonely, but I know lots of people who are married in serious relationships and they aren't any less lonely than I am. They are around someone more, but that doesn't have anything to do with loneliness. I have been lonely in large groups of people, all friends, because that was my mood at that time. I was also perfectly content for over a week on a beach in Mexico with a notebook, a good book, a hammock, renting a room on the beach from a family where I didn't speak Spanish and the family didn't speak English. Someone called it an introverts dream. In a way, it was. Could I live like that forever? Probably not, at some point I would miss the solitary beauty of wandering around a city, losing myself in the anonymity of it all, passing empty faces I'll never see again, smelling the city and watching it all pass by even as I pass it by. I couldn't live like a hermit forever. But recently, I've been wondering if it isn't time to do it again. I have been back in this city for a while now, and I'm content but I'm not excited. Again, that is my routine. I don't want that to be my routine. I don't want to have a meaningless job. I don't want to sit in front of a computer all day. I do it so I can afford, every once in a while, to go live on a beach or a mountain with a notebook and a book, alone. I am introvert because I re-energize myself internally, not in groups.

I have been thinking about my life recently because one of my best friends is separated from his wife, while two other good friends recently got engaged. 3 lives heading in different directions, all directions different than my own. Should I have pursued any of those paths? Should I pursue one now? One of my best friends just left Philly. My boring logical mind tells me to stay, my routine locks me in place. My body is getting restless, my feet and my mind long for something new. I don't know what will make me happy, I just know it's something else.

You know what is really odd about this, I was very happy for both of my friends who got engaged. Truthfully, I was happy for my other friend as well. I liked his wife too, it's not that. Instead, I think this is something he has been considering and struggling with for a while. Life is a journey, it's cliche but I think it's true. One of the great advantages of being alive now is that we have the ability to pursue our happiness. Indeed, we owe it to ourselves to do so. It's not important how you define happiness, only that you constantly seek it. Years ago, people stayed in situations for appearance, people stayed because everyone stayed. Now, we don't have to. We live in an amazing time. I can travel anywhere in the world. I can live on beans and tortillas. I can sweat all day and not care how I smell. I am free. We should all be free. Are you free? Are you happy? If not, what are you doing about it?


Every problem has a solution

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to work in a series of elementary and middle school computer labs under some sort of library grant. One of the more special seventh grade students had a bad habit of mentally and emotionally collapsing under even the most minor computer lab pressure. When stressed, he would begin slowly rocking back and forth, sweating, and mumbling to himself, "Every problem has a solution. Every problem has a solution." It was a very unfortunate situation for him, but one I always found interesting. The rest of the students didn't seem to take any notice of this, which means this was his normal mode of handling problems (bummer for him, but at least he seemed to be getting help based on his personal mantra), or he was a figment of my imagination. For the sake of this blog, let's assume the former.

Whenever I am confronted with a difficult problem, I am reminded of this poor child thunking his head on the keyboard and mumbling, "Every problem has a solution." For my loyal readers, you may understand that this has to do with my last post where I was bothered that I didn't feel Iraq had a solution. I still feel that way, although later that day I found an interesting article that, although not a solution, is an interesting best case scenario. Since I still don't have a solution, and since it still pisses me off, I'll just talk about the best case scenario.

Someone from the NY Times, someone probably smarter and more informed than me, someone who may actually have thunked her head on her keyboard while whispering a prayer for her solution, wrote an interesting article stating the best case scenario is basically that Iraq become the modern day Spanish Civil War. Now I admit I have an appallingly weak grasp of history, but I know most people consider the Spanish Civil War and the entire reign of Franco to be a fairly low point in world history. The article is included below so you can read it and draw your own conclusion.


Basically, her point seems to be that our best hope is that Iraq itself descends into a modern day replica of the Spanish Civil War. If this happens, and as I mentioned in my last blog I doubt it can be prevented without a full military takeover, it would be ok for other governments to support the war financially so long as they do not become involved militarily, meaning they don't send troops. If this happens, the civil war will eventually take care of itself (probably with an oppressive dictator taking control again) but would not lead to larger conflict in the region. She mentions this is the only positive result of the Spanish Civil War, that it did not draw in other countries and expand throughout Europe. Of course, as is mentioned in the article, most of Europe was occupied with a larger world war. Other countries sent money or weapons, but not large numbers of troops.

So I think the solution here is obvious. I am going beyond what the NY Times printed, but I think I speak for all thinking people here. We need our fearless president, who I still think should be tried for treason (maybe we can let the wonderful new Iraqi justice system handle that one?), to call the famous Statue of Liberty play. That's right, the statue of liberty isn't just a hunk of metal in NY or a great football bowl play. The statue of liberty play is a trick play that involves some misdirection and some trickery. It's definately a premo call for our executive branch.

In war terms, to minimize the overall world effect of the civil war in Iraq, we need a diversionary world war to distract all the countries that would like to become involved in Iraq. So we need to distract Iran and Turkey and Saudi and France and England and all the other countries "worried" about Iraq with another war. I think Bush is going to fumble this and invade Iran, which is certainly located to close to Iraq to be a true statue of liberty diversion play. Instead, we need a larger target. We need a world pariah to attack. North Korea would make for to easy a play. The people are starving, the country isn't large enough, and we already tried it. I thought about a combined Venezuela and Cuba fight but decided against it. I like that we could call it the Venezuba war, or the Cubazuela Conflict, but you can't go willy nilly advocating war because of the naming rights. I do think we could sell those rights though. "Today's highlights of the Cubazuela Conflict brought to you by the US sugar industry. Don't support 3rd world sugar. Buy American Rum."

This leaves us one obvious enemy: Russia. If there is only one country in the world that needs a global smackdown, it's Russia. Putin's soul, which not so surprisingly connected with George Bush a few years ago, seems to have gone sour. They turn off oil to spite Europe. They might have poisoned someone in what is easily the most creative killing since god said "Fuck them" and dropped a meteor on the dinosaurs, and, quite frankly, I don't think they are moving toward a functioning long term democracy. If democracy is good enough to fight for in Iraq, should we not dear reader fight for it in Russia too? And they too have oil! To keep the sports analogies going, it's a slam dunk! Russia also has all the historical significance that I don't need to spell out for you. By attacking Russia, all the world would get involved and we could let Iraq fight it out among themselves. This would effectively minimize the deaths in Iraq because it would only be Iraqis. You might, just might, be able to argue this would create a larger world death toll but that's not the point. I am fixing Iraq right now, not the world. After the Russia-popalous war starts (I'll figure out the naming rights later - the Statue-evsky war perhaps), I'll figure out how to end it.

If I never blog again or start glowing blue, it means Putin is reading this and he knows I am right and I am onto him. It also means he is onto me! Fair readers, save yourselves!


Problems without solutions

I tend to spend a lot of time, arguably to much time, thinking about my life. When I was in Peace Corps, I analyzed myself to the point where my own being almost became nothing but an abstraction for me. It was as weird as it sounds. However, that helped me realize a few very important things about myself. I realized that for all my strengths and weaknesses, my shyness and my social quirks, the one thing I can do fairly well is analyze and solve problems. I can generally break down a problem to find a solution. I can't remember facts or names. You may not agree with my solution, but I generally have a reason for it.

Why do I mention that? Because I cannot for all my thought or all the reading I have done come to a conclusion I am comfortable with for our situation in Iraq. This annoys me. I thought it was a mistake to invade and I still believe that. However, arguing that point is currently irrelevant. We - you, me, congress, the president, America in general - have to solve it, or rather, we have to do something. The two ideas on the table are to leave and let Iraq figure it out or to send in more troops, gain control of the growing violence and, well, let Iraq figure it out.

The closest I can come to a conclusion is the two items break down into the same idea, but nobody wants to admit it. To leave, we talk about creating a timetable and making the Iraqis responsible for being ready to assume full control of the country based on the timetable. Conceptually, I like the idea of Iraqis assuming responsibility for their country but it does put a lot of faith in a young democracy that we don't have any real reason to believe in. The 3 major ethnic fractions don't seem all that interested in being friendly and I can't imagine why, if we leave, the Kurds won't try to become their own country (bad for Turkey -> bad for Europe/US -> bad for world) and why the Shiites won't want retribution for the Sunnis power abuse under Saddam. This option saves us money and military lives in the short term, but doesn't resolve any problems. Also, if Iraq falls victim to a great civil war and ethnic cleansing, won't we have to return anyway? This does not resolve any problems we created.

The other option is to send in more troops to gain control of the most violent areas while giving the government a series of steps to prove they are assuming control of their country. In this scenario, we lose more lives, spend more money, more Iraqis die, and ultimately, the government probably can't hit their milestones. Which brings us to the possibility that our president can then say we gave it one more chance but Iraq wasn't able to do their part. He can then bring troops home on his own terms and call it a win for his leadership while calling his opponents weak. However, there is a chance that, in this situation and this is really where the two options truly diverge in my mind, he will not withdrawal troops and work to create a new puppet government that is stronger. Basically, we are swapping Saddam's military law for our own. So I figure, since Bush isn't telling us what he will do if the government fails to hold up their end of this bargain, there is a 50-50 chance he just withdrawals on his own terms or we make Iraq an unofficial province of the US by installing the leader we choose.

Why do we even care? Why do we care if Iran has more power in the Middle East? Is a united Iran and Iraq a military threat to us? Probably not. It may be an economic threat, only because of their natural oil reserves. We have had plenty of time as a country to address that moving back into the Clinton presidency and we have not. VP Cheney should be locked up for treason for not developing a real sustainable energy policy when he had a chance in the first presidential term, and the entire brain trust should follow him for not releasing the notes of that energy committee. We have no plan to free ourselves from the middle east, and neither solution is better. For lack of a better idea, I am tempted to promote leaving Iraq because it won't bankrupt my government and raise my taxes. It's not a solution, I realize that. I don't have a solution. I don't even know if one exists. Saddam was a bastard and probably deserved the death he got. He probably deserved a worse one. At least with Saddam we knew what the issues were and more or less what the situation was. I think the biggest reason we can't resolve the current problem is that now we don't.

I'll probably blog more on this as the weeks progress. I'll also discuss my views of how Israel fits into it all, and whether or not a Jewish state even has a right to exist. I don't agree with Iran that it should be eliminated, but I don't believe the current status is correct either.