Thursday, June 23, 2016

Random Thoughts 11

Parenting necessitates the use of some very unusual sentences. These have actually been said in our home:
  1. This is as loud as the hippopotamus song gets!
  2. Who put yogurt in the T-Rex’s mouth?
  3. Did someone eat all of the sidewalk chalk?
  4. When did you take your pants off?
  5. If you do not poop, you will not get a seahorse!

  • It should also be noted that, in a house of toddlers, you are unlikely to get a favorable answer to the question, “Why is ______ all wet!?” It is like playing a round of “what’s that smell?” There are no winners.
  • I love it when I request a service call to my residence and I am expected to give a binding answer concerning occupancy to a vague window of time. Such as, “We should definitely be able to get someone out there to look at your waterfall grotto, will there be anyone home after April?"
  • It is always interesting to witness a transaction when the sales clerk is forced to employ gentle euphemisms for a declined card:
  Sir, it appears that we are unable to complete the transaction within the current parameters….                       
               Swipe it again!
               Sir, the system has requested an                          alternate method of payment for your                  purchase....
                Huh?
                Sir, there appears to be a problem                       with your card...
                What?
                Sir, it would appear that you are                             poor...
                Oh. Can you break $100?

  • There is no greater harbinger to a forthcoming discriminatory comment than when someone prefaces their statement with, “You know me. Some of my best friends are Jewish / black / Latino / hemophiliacs / Frisbee enthusiasts / graphic design artists from Portland.”

Each time my wife or I visit a new primary care physician, the new patient questionnaire gets more and more elaborate to the point of self-diagnoses:
  1. Are you at an increased risk for prediabetes?
  2. Please circle any words that make you sad.
  3. Do you have a family history of heart disease?
  4. Did your paternal grandmother ever suffered from bowel distension?
  5. Do you think you have mono? Please explain...

At some point, the medical profession is just going to consist of individuals with the ability to comprehend a form while sitting on a rolling stool.

  • I have always wanted to answer the “Do you abuse prescription drugs on a regular basis?” question with “That depends on how today goes” or just scratch the word REVENGE where it asks for the purpose of today’s visit.   
  • The Venn diagram of American males eligible to collect social security and American males who feel compelled to mow the lawn shirtless contains more overlap than it should.
  • I just read a story about an at-home fertility machine called Trak. It determines your sperm count and syncs the data with a smartphone app. Half of America is still trying to understand how to properly respond to a group text so I imagine this can’t miss. #LittleSwimmersForHIPAA
  • Isn’t “athletic cut” a fancy way of selling you the same shirt at the same price while using less fabric?
  • New Cosmopolitan Magazine description for sales brochures: People more attractive than you have better sex than you while maintaining lower body-fat than you. Details inside.
  • My wife and I were recently in Lowes looking for carpet when a large sign caught my eye. It said “Lifetime Vomit and Feces Guarantee” I naturally assumed that this was a part of the Stainmaster Frat-House series. I jokingly asked the salesman if he had anything with stain resistance so good that it would ensure acquittal in a homicide case like a Stainmaster Forensic Series endorsed by the Gambino Family. He smiled wryly and said, “We could call it the husband series.” I did not make any more jokes with the salesman.
  • Do terrorist organizations have casual Fridays?
  • There is no faster way to locate the underside of a car tire than to reposition an extension cord.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Politics, Tragedy, and Grace



Don’t be deceived by the charlatans and hucksters attempting to sell you simplistic political solutions. They want your vote and they have only two models to address the mass shooting in Orlando:
1.      More guns here, more bombs there, less Muslims everywhere
2.      Less guns here, more diplomacy there, more tolerance everywhere
Solution 1

This would seem sensible if all (or even the majority) of mass shootings in America were committed by radical Muslims immigrants at the behest of foreign terror groups. So, for the sake of brevity, we can glance at the top 10 deadliest American mass shootings since 1966:

·         Of the 11 perpetrators (San Bernardino had two), 8 were born in the United States, 1 was from South Korea, 1 from South Vietnam, and 1 (the lone female) from Pakistan.
·         4 Were Muslim, 4 were Christian, and 3 had no discernible religious affiliation
·         Of the four Muslims, only one had any demonstrated communication or ties to an Islamic Terror Organization (although the San Bernardino shooters were inspired by ISIS to perform their acts and Omar claimed allegiance).

Assuming there was a ban on any foreign-born Muslims in place, the only perpetrator affected would have been Tashfeen Malik (the wife and accomplice of San Bernardino shooter Rizwan Farook). Sadly, we now live in a world where their rampage doesn’t even make the top six. None had criminal records and as far as we know all obtained their weapons through legal means.

Some may argue that while these might not have been immigrants in the typical sense, there is definitely a trend connecting Islam and mass shootings in America. However, any attempt to disarm gun owners based on religion or dislike of the US government would have the added irony of placing The Civil Liberties Union and the National Rifle Association on the same page. Flippantly disarming Muslims in America would also have the unintended effect of neutralizing the 5,000 that currently serve our military and the thousands who work in law enforcement.

So, let’s eliminate all soft targets. Arm the good-guys. We already have more guns per capita than any country and guns sales have grown exponentially since 2008. Smith & Wesson’s stock has gone up almost 800% since Obama took office. Do you feel safer now than you did 10 years ago? Are you less or more fearful of random violence? Are there less or more mass shootings?

That leaves the idea of bombing ISIS into oblivion so that they can no longer inspire anyone. Suffice it to say that the whole military-action-in-the-Middle-East strategy has had dubious results at best. Even assuming that we could eliminate any mass shootings involving Muslims - and assuming that their religion was their primary motivation - it would have only affected 3 of the top 10 incidents.

If we eliminate Fort Hood, San Bernardino, and Orlando; those slots would be filled by the 2013 Washington Navy Yard Shooting, the 2012 Colorado Theater Shooting, and the 1999 Columbine Shooting. This still leaves us in a world where Dylan Roof’s 2015 murder of 9 people in a South Carolina church can’t crack the top 10.   






Solution 2


The idea here is that if there are less guns, less people die needlessly. Perhaps, but it is also true that violence can express itself any number of ways and completely eliminating guns (if such a thing could even be done) would not eliminate hate and violence. It is also true that while total pacifism sounds alluring as a moral high ground, I doubt that ISIS is the type of organization likely to respond to a gift basket and strongly-worded e-mail. Tolerance also has limits. There are certain things that can and cannot be “tolerated” by a free society in order to remain as such. 

So what are we supposed to do? 

As for me, I refuse to place my hope in political ideologies or presidential candidates. I refuse to place my hope in the goodness of mankind or the deterrent of consequence. I even refuse to place my hope in religion or its practitioners. I choose instead to place my hope in the grace exhibited through Jesus Christ. It is a grace that existed before politics, governments or religions ever formed and it shall remain once they have fallen away.

Our world knows well the transformative power of the hate and fear. In many ways, those two emotions have brought us to where we are today. I hope and pray that we demonstrate a better way forward for the sake of my children. A way where we do not blame victims for their fate or God for the terrible actions of those who invoke his name. A way where we do not continually give in to the debilitating fear of those in whom we have difficulty seeing ourselves. A way where we stop believing that our self-sufficiency can overcome our flaws and protect us from all harm. A way that seeks to emulate the Son of God who never let politics, nationality, societal norms, or even religion keep him from reminding us that we are his children and we are loved. God came looking for us. May our lives, words, and actions bear witness to the one whose prevenient grace pursues us still. 

Source:

 

Friday, June 10, 2016

Thoughts on T-Ball



Recently, my son began participating in a three and four year-old municipal T-Ball league. Here are some things that I have learned:

By Skoch3 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10183670


I am not a sports guy, but I volunteered to “coach” second base. I quickly had to learn some of the accepted mannerisms of athletic endeavors.

The Let’s Go 3-Clap – This is where, apropos of nothing, you clap three times in rapid succession to indicate general enthusiasm for the game. I observed several other coaches performing this and am happy to report that I have successfully deployed it to some mild acclaim. The three clap is a pretty hard and fast rule because more claps would indicate an injured player is leaving the field and less would be indicative of killing a mosquito.

The Triangle Stance – Legs apart, knees bent, hands on knees. This gives the impression of intense concentration and, with younger ages, allows you to speak to them more easily. It is important to assume this stance only when a batter is about to be engaged, otherwise it could be misconstrued as constipation.

Encouraging Exclamations – When a player almost completes a positive action, it must be verbally encouraged. On defense, example phrases would include, “Good hustle. Be ready for the next one!” or “Stay sharp number 3!” Offensively you would foster a good swing by randomly yelling, “Way to commit, Jones!” or “You got a good piece of that one Billy!” More advanced practitioners will combine this with the “Let’s Go 3-Clap” for maximum impact.    

Things that have been randomly said to me by players on second base:
Are you my soccer coach?
I touched a lightbulb once. It hurt.
Do you like the blue ninja turtle?
My hair is hot.
Can you shake hands?
Why is there a dog?


  • All parents have varying levels of expectations when it comes to pre-school T-Ball. Thankfully, our team and head coach are laid back so no one is pretending that MLB scouts could be in the stands. However, there are a few whose parents have purchased Nike cleats, Easton bats, and top-tier gloves. Not to be outdone, I briefly toyed with the idea of placing a tin of smokeless-tobacco in my son’s back pocket. The truth is that my wife and I consider it a win if my son spends more than four consecutive minutes facing home plate while on defense.
  • Sponsorships by local businesses are both the lifeblood and a source of consternation for teams. I am sure there must be a vetting process (lest your child find themselves representing The Stag Shack off exit 54) but even otherwise innocuous businesses can create logistical problems with the uniforms. For instance, many parents will put the team’s initials on the player’s hat. Not a problem when Outback Steakhouse is your sponsor, but when Fletcher Underwriting has skin in the game…..

  • You will buy pictures. Not because you need an 11x15 oil painting of your child demonstrating the very actions they have no interest of re-creating on the field; but because other parents are all standing there when you hand in your order form. Timmy’s parents got the MVP Package with the All-Star Upgrade and the Dugout Keepsake. How are you going to look your child in the eye when they find out you just got the Benchwarmer Value Bundle?

  • I am wrong. A lot. The league provides the shirt (with the child’s number on it) and the hat. If the parents wish to go further they can pay out of pocket for the provided shirt to be customized with the child's name. After we received the uniform at the first practice, my wife asked if we should go and have our son’s name put on the back of his shirt. I reassured her that no one else was going to do that and it would be a waste of money.

When we showed up at the first game, not only did the majority of the children have their names on their shirts, but several parents had purchased shirts for themselves and the child’s sibling denoting their relationship to the participant (“such and such’s Dad or little brother”) Needless to say, I now have a shirt and one more item added to the “Things I Do Not Know What I Am Talking About” list.  

  • The entire enterprise would collapse without postgame snacks. These become increasingly essential when you have three or more games in a four day period. Behind every attentive and compliant preschooler in T-Ball, there is a legal guardian unabashedly wielding the promise of a KoolAid pouch.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Participation Trophies



I have heard and seen a growing amount of public hand-wringing over the so-called “participation trophy” generation. Depending on your particular ideological bent, the phenomenon could be responsible for overly-sensitive entitlement liberals or insensitive trust-fund babies that never had to work for anything their entire lives. In either case, the scorned group is portrayed as having been debilitatingly-coddled for so long that they are unable to fathom failure or stomach disappointment. The concept of someone else’s contributions or ideas being valued over their own causes them to demand that the very fabric of society should be altered to conform to their worldview.

While there does not appear to be a consensus concerning the time-frame of this unfortunate generation, I suppose this would be the proper juncture to admit that I received several participation trophies as a child. The first was for my T-Ball team when I was 4. It was rather impressive in stature and I displayed it proudly in my room for quite some time. My disillusionment came later when I discovered that both the funding for, and design of, the trophy was the collective responsibility of the team members’ parents. At the age of four, it never occurred to me that our local Recreation and Parks department did not employ an objective oversight committee to distribute them based solely upon merit.
My next participation trophy would come in Kindergarten. This one was ostensibly awarded for being “Student of the Month” but I am fairly certain that - despite the statistical implausibility – everyone managed this achievement once. It should also be noted that Kindergarten is much more rigorous now than it was then. Remembering which color-coded table I sat at (the orange one) and managing to avoid peeing on my own shoes practically fast-tracked me to magna cume laude. When my wife starting teaching Kindergarten, it felt like we were a state-standards revision away from book reports on Faust.

My final participation trophy was for Fire Prevention Month. You heard me. I got bragware just for NOT starting a fire in the presence of the Fire Marshall and whatever poor intern they forced to wear the Dalmatian costume. That being said, this trophy took its rightful place alongside my T-Ball trophies and student of the month. If my streak continued at this pace, we were going to need a sizable display case before I hit puberty.  

I suppose one could argue that having parents hand out trophies to their children with blatant disregard for their skill-level or giving awards for being alive and conscious in the same room as a fireman is conditioning them for failure. I believe that the validity of that concern varies greatly with the child’s age. My son is 3 years old and playing rec-league T-Ball where no one keeps score and everyone gets a chance to bat. I argue that it is OK to recognize the sustained effort it takes to work together with one’s peers toward a common goal. It also provides needed encouragement at a very impressionable age.

Conversely, I do not believe it is appropriate to hand a fourteen year-old a trophy simply because they did NOT commit arson or to allow high-school students to perpetually retake tests or exams until they reach a desired outcome. There must be a transition period where a child prepares for life by experiencing the tangible (and often cruel) hierarchy of personal achievement.

Unlike some of my more athletic peers, I had to come to terms with the fact that trophies awarded for participation were the only ones I was likely to receive. It was not so much an emotionally-devastating moment in time as it was the gradual realization that while I may possess talents and abilities, I would have to make peace with the fact that sometimes our greatest efforts and accomplishments will remain uncelebrated. Sometimes the work is the reward and the right thing to do is the path least likely to garner attention or accolades. If my children manage to embrace that philosophy despite my shortcomings as a parent, I may just have to buy myself a participation trophy.