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02 July 2002 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I generally disdain the idea of annual gay pride celebrations as political events that do something to achieve any measure of social justice – either for queer folk or for the larger society.  San Francisco’s official celebration used intelligent themes such as “Queerific!” and “Be yourself – Change the World” for the past several years, reinforcing my assertion. 
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That said, if the organizers and promoters of such events would surrender the notion they hold any political or social significance, we could acknowledge they are wonderful parties.  I wholeheartedly support closing the city for two days for a celebration of life.  Rio has Carnival, New Orleans has Mardi Gras, and Cheyenne has Frontier Days.  It’s fun to dress up in costume and take to the streets.  In that aspect, the annual gay pride celebration does an outstanding job.

For all our wealth, Americans tend to be an unhappy lot.  The makers of anti-depressants can certify that.  We need more reasons and opportunities to dance in the streets.  It is horribly clichéd, but true:  the stock market will rise and fall, companies will come and go, politicians elected and ousted.  At the end of our lives, all these events will be meaningless and our presence here insignificant.  A weekend spent dancing, celebrating the miracle of being alive and part of creation, is a weekend well spent.

Need visual evidence of recent events?  Click here for photos from the 2002 San Francisco Gay Pride Celebration.

03 July 2002 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

There’s been a heated discussion lately about whether or not the Pledge of Allegiance should contain the phrase “under God”.   As two sides form to battle over two words, I think we miss a larger point.  The Pledge of Allegiance is a tribalistic relic and it’s time to retire it.
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Government and business leaders have been busy over the last three decades convincing us we live in an increasingly connected world.  Globalization is promoted as an inevitable process that requires we eliminate national tariffs, taxes, regulations and boundaries.  If globalization is indeed an inevitable process by which the importance of nation-states is diminished, then should our allegiance be to a single country?  If corporations hold the ability to move between nations, shifting workforces, production and ownership, should we as humans not have the same privilege?  To whom do we then pledge our allegiance?

For those who believe strongly in God, does your allegiance reside in the Divine or in a country?  Should your pledge not go to the Creator instead of to mass of land divided by human hands?  If so, then why argue over the Pledge of Allegiance in the first place? 

I suspect that if God exists as many believe, then all nations are “under God” and that the United States holds no higher place in the heart of the Divine than Bermuda or the Antilles. 

This debate, of course, is not really about the words “under God”.  On one side, we are trying to escape a perceived religious fundamentalism, and the intolerance and irrationality associated with such.  On the other, we are trying to retain a sense of the connection with God, which increasingly seems out of touch with today’s world and society.  One side wishes to erase God while the other seeks to tightly hold on.  Our society, however, cannot tolerate strict fundamentalism and at the same time we cannot deny the importance and presence of the Divine.  Where then do we go?

We can chose to continue to battle over the wording of the Pledge, or we can acknowledge this incantation has little to do with our lives, our allegiances, or our desires.  It is merely a ceremony we’ve repeated for so long that we continue to do so mostly out of habit.  Let’s make a nice plaque, hang it in the Smithsonian, and move on to solving issues of greater importance to humanity.

05 July 2002 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I was privileged to spend yesterday with Monty, Daryl and John sailing on San Francisco Bay.  Monty grew up on Cape Cod and sails his 40-foot boat with a deft and daring hand.  Daryl, a landlubber by trade, does an admirable job as first mate.  In the evening, we grilled steaks off the stern and watched the fireworks from both Sausalito and San Francisco.  It’s been a long time since I was out on the ocean and the day made me long to go back to sea.  Maybe my next home should be a boat...
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[Note:  rant approaching]

Today I spent fighting with MINI of San Francisco, which is winning no points for customer service.  Two weeks after I bought the MINI, I took it in for some minor adjustments.  While in the care of MINI, they slammed the driver’s side door into a concrete post, denting and damaging the door.  They agreed to replace the door, a task scheduled to take five days.  Three weeks later I still don’t have my MINI back, now it has a flat tire, too.  MINI tires have to be shipped from very far away; making it unlikely I’ll have the car anytime soon.   I’ve been able to drive this expensive toy four out of the eight weeks I’ve owned it. 

Despite the incredibly poor service and chronic lack of parts, I love this little car.  I however, would not cry if a meteor smashed the dealership to bits.  MINI of San Francisco (also known as BMW of San Francisco) has the worst customer service of any dealership I have ever worked with.  I’d say they are even worse than Chevrolet, which is a distinction not easily made.

[Rant complete]

From time to time, events happen in my life that would make for great fiction.  I’m always slightly dubious about using real life events to create fictional stories.  Somehow it seems sleazy.  What do you think?  Let me know.

08 July 2002 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I’m reading an excellent book by Irvin Yalom that brought to mind a truth especially prevalent in my consulting work this year.
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I’m not certain how as humans we come to believe it, but it seems that all of us carry a belief that there are perfect humans all around us, that our faults and failures are unique to ourselves.  We learn to hide or ignore our weakness and shortcomings as a way of meeting the expectations of the world around us.  This, of course, reinforces the belief of defect-free people by portraying that we are fully integrated, when, in fact, we aren’t.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve heard numerous clients state they feel like frauds; what the world sees of them is an act, something they create to meet the perceived expectations and demands of their environment.  Their outer persona is at best a character, played by an actor inside who knows the truth.

Often what clients appreciate most is just hearing, perhaps for the first time, that their particular failing or weakness isn’t unique to them.  Surviving in a society that places unrealistic demands on humans frequently places demands on us that, lacking alternatives, require us to do and say things we know fail to meet our internal measures of integrity and correctness.

The challenge of living honestly in a time and place where such honesty is not encouraged, perhaps even vehemently discouraged, is one every person faces.  Giving ourselves room to openly acknowledging our flaws requires we provide a space safe enough for others to do the same.  Living our lives in an honest manner can require changes in lifestyle, relationships and even employment.  This task is not always an easy one.  The benefit, however, is a life lived less as a character and more as who we really are.

We all come with things that bring us shame, cause us sorrow, create the illusion we are less than those around us.  We have zits and scars; sometimes we have skid marks on our underwear or wear shoes that don’t match our belts.  We lie to each other, sometimes we steal, we blame when we hold responsibility and we feel horribly lonely. 

From time to time, I get to the end of writing something and I don’t have something profound to say, or at least something I consider worthy of a proper ending.  Sometimes I throw stuff away because it lacks an ending I find worthy.  I worry that people might think:  “He wrote all that and what was the point?”  Funny thing, no one is paying me to write this, I don’t know and probably will never meet most the people who read it and yet I hold the opinion of those reading it important enough to care.  And there, my friends, is a little one of my secrets.

18 July 2002 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I’ve been saying for months that I need a vacation.  I woke up yesterday and realized I had taken one without really thinking about it or going anywhere.  Two weeks ago I stopped writing, ceased going to the gym, stopped returning all but the most important email messages, and began consuming anything that consisted primarily of fat and sugar without any nutritional value.
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Unlike a vacation where I travel somewhere, either returning home slightly disappointed the journey is over or happy to be home, I woke up feeling hung over and vaguely depressed.  I might easily dismiss it as the end result of a sugar binge that left my body in toxic shock.  I suspect that might miss the real cause of the post-pseudo-vacation hangover.

Human existence can really suck and running away from reality can be a welcome coping mechanism.  I suspect this may be the reason insanity and pharmaceuticals are rather popular.  Lacking untreatable psychosis or a diagnosis worthy of medication, a vacation is perhaps the best option available.

Having returned from my unintended absence, I leave tomorrow on a flight to Los Angeles and then on to Palm Springs.  It’s a brief trip, but it includes a visit with a friend I’m very much looking forward to seeing, a pool and the sun (which I’m also looking forward to seeing – there isn’t much of that in San Francisco this time of year).  I’m leaving the laptop at home and only carrying the GPS system for the drive home.

Next week, I fly to Seattle for business.  I haven’t been there since I was in the Navy.  I get to see some former shipmates I haven’t seen since my Navy days either.  And, if I’m lucky, I might get to see the remains of my favorite ship, too. 

So, next week, another Saint Hella’s, more thoughts that deserve little mention, and perhaps even some photos. 

18 July 2002 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

You may have guessed that there is another reason I haven’t written in several days.

He finds things like this statuette as ridiculous and as funny as I do.  We laughed about this for hours.
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I told him he had to go home tonight so I could write.  We ended up having sushi and ice cream.  Now it’s really late and I haven’t the time to write anything worth reading. 

If you are vaguely interested, some minor updates/rants:

The MINI Cooper is back.  Four and one half weeks after it went into the shop it returned.  I noticed an annoying rattle somewhere on the passenger side, but I’m afraid to take it to the dealer lest I lose my car for another month.  Three things I learned about MINIs:  First, new MINI tires cost $400 each and cannot be repaired.  You have to buy a new tire if you get a flat and it takes up to six weeks to get said tire.  Second, if you use a non-MINI approved mobile phone or electronic accessory in the car, it voids your warranty (as documented by a little sticker on the windshield).   Third, neither the local dealer, nor MINI’s U.S. headquarters really know anything about the cars.  To resolve a problem or find out what really needs to be done to fix your car, plan on calling to the United Kingdom.  I love this car, but unless you have a sizeable amount of disposable income, I’d recommend you wait until MINI works out the considerable kinks in its customer service and parts system. 

On the new technology front, I have a mobile telephone now (which I can’t use in the MINI Cooper – see above) with an integrated Palm Pilot.  Too many client meetings juggling the Palm Pilot, the mobile telephone and the MINI keys (which are too big to fit in one’s pockets) pushed me to make the switch.  I used the wireless Palm browser to surf the web today and make car reservations.  It works pretty well; I’m impressed.  Maybe Samsung can loan some designers to MINI.

I head north to Seattle for business on Saturday.  I hope to see some old Navy friends I haven’t seen in nearly a decade, look at ships and railroads, and finish the existential psychology textbook I’m reading.  And perhaps I’ll finish the photo essay I’ve been promising for two months. 

25 July 2002 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

[Rant approaching]

Midway into a Southwest Airlines flight from Oakland to Ontario last week, the pilot announced: “We’re running behind schedule today.  We’d make up time except this aircraft is having mechanical problems and so we are speed restricted....uh...what I mean is...not mechanical problems exactly....uh...well, the aircraft needed some tests it didn’t get before leaving the shop, which it needed, and as a result, we can’t fly as fast as we might like.”
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I consider it bad etiquette for any pilot to announce an aircraft has mechanical issues during a flight unless those issues require my immediate attention.

In the early 1990s while serving in the Navy, I flew from Manila to Tokyo.  The communist rebels in the Philippines had threatened to kill any American servicemen they found in Manila and security was tight.  Guards at the airport held machine guns pointed at passengers as they passed through security.  All luggage was opened and thoroughly checked, everyone was patted down.  It was clear any terrorist would be shot on the spot.

Security at Oakland International Airport clearly believes that only stupid people will attempt an act of terrorism.  Anyone can get into the terminal with a paper itinerary, something easily faked with a copier or computer.  The security screeners pose no physical or psychological threat to passengers, most of them look like you could take them down with a standard king size pillow.  Looking for shoe bombs consists of asking passengers to take off a shoe while the screener glances inside.  One might think a smart terrorist would take the precaution of making certain the plastic explosive was better hidden and not installed as an insole.  Baggage is “searched” by simply opening the top, glancing in and closing it again; clearly terrorists only place weapons on top of their folded socks. 

At the gate, certain people are selected for a second “random” check.  Every person (including myself) subjected to the check was traveling on a one-way ticket.  Terrorists apparently haven’t learned the FBI figured that one out and are still avoiding the cost of round trip fares.

Submarines are fitted with escape trunks.  Sailors refer to these devices as “Mommy Pleasers”.  It makes mothers feel good to know their sons have a way out of the iron coffins, when in fact every submarine sailor knows the chances of escape are slim.  Security at American airports has been a Mommy Pleaser for years, and the new efforts could be foiled by anyone with a reasonable intellect.  I’m not certain I’d hand machine guns to the high school dropouts currently manning security checkpoints, but replacing these fast-food workers with trained security guards with real authority, real presence and real skills would be a good idea.

Maybe we can hire some of the guards from Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  A four-foot-ten-inch former soldier with a machine gun is a lot more impressive than a slovenly former welfare recipient with a metal detecting wand.

29 July 2002 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

I'm in Seattle this week for business.  This town was built by short people for short people.  I've lost track of the number of times I've banged my head on something here.  I'm not certain if that is due to the number or impact of the blows.
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I spent part of today in Bremerton with an old friend from my days in the Navy.  Got the nickel tour of this Navy town and saw the remnants of my favorite Navy ship.

Although this is the home of Microsoft, I can't establish better than a 26K connection and I can't send email at all.  So, the stories about Billy Idol and the fat woman in the Russian Submarine will have to wait until I get home.

30 July 2002 - (Link to this entry) (Comment)

In addition to being a city built by and for very short people, nearly every street corner in Seattle houses either a tattoo parlor or a tuxedo rental shop.  I've come to the conclusion this city is filled with heavily inked midgets who attend frequent gala openings and lavish parties.

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