Ripples (Words and Actions Have Consequences)

​https://youtu.be/1VR3Av9qfZc

Sometimes we aim to misbehave

Most often, we don’t aim at all

In an intricately interconnected world

Our actions and inactions have meaning

Beyond our circle of friends
Beyond our monkeysphere 

Beyond our field of vision

We dance on spider’s silk

Intricately interwoven

Each step sets the strings vibrating

For good or for ill

For ourselves and for those a world away

Myths of violence prime our minds for war

Spinning up from children’s cartoons

To novels and political speeches

Desensitizing, Dehumanizing

One American life is worth

How many Pakistanis? 
How many Afghans?

How many?

Chocolate grown by slaves tastes sweet,  but not to them 

Clothes, Coffee, Rice, Diamonds, Gold

Products of foced labor, by children

So many things it’s hard to know where to start

None of us is pure.

I doubt we can be in a world like this.

Where powerful interests throw their rocks and hide their hands 

What can we do?

I’m no expert, but I have a few ideas.

Ironically, the first comes from Ayn Rand: Call evil “evil.”

Don’t give your silent sanction to things you oppose

Don’t give unspoken approval to things that appall you.

The second is simpler, but requires some self discipline

Pick a few things that are products of slavery,

And stop buying them.

Buy more clothes second-hand, if you can.

If you’re 6’7″ like me, that may not be possible.

Find something you can do, even if it’s small.

Only buy chocolate that’s ethically sourced.

Change where your money goes.

The third is simpler yet: spread the word

Sign petitions. Write your congress people

Post to social media. 

Get the word out, to people who matter.

Praise President Obama and the responsible legislators of both parties for tightening restrictions

For keeping dozens of slavery products out of the US  

Even if you don’t like their other policies

Fourth, if you are a writer or content creator

Be sure that what you create reflects your heart

Every work has a message

Every work shows and tells how it’s world works, 

How things get better or worse, 

What brings happiness and justice

Money? “Winning” the sexy love interest?  

Outwitting a nagging wife? 

Killing or beating up the right bad guys? 

Every story tells a story… or it wouldn’t be a story. 

Pure entertainment doesn’t exist

All Things Right and Good

You’re going to reach a point (We all do)

Where you must decide whether you will be right or good.

I know, Jesus never found Himself in such a spot

But he was God made flesh. You and I are not.

And when I reach that point, I want to say:

“I don’t know if this is right.

I don’t know how it fits in with systematic theology

With moral law, with moral codes

But I know how to be good.”

I’ve learned the hard way that right, like rights,

Can be abused, can be abusive:

  • Right and wrong (who decides?)
  • Legal and illegal (who makes the laws?)
  • Winning the argument
  • Contempt for the loser
  • Insiders and outsiders
  • orthodox and heretics
  • Moral panics
  • “They deserve it.”
  • “They would do the same to us.”

These are tools of domination. These are acts of violence

They’re labels and weapons the powerful use to maintain their supremacy

Be it white or male or hetero/cis.

It’s all the same. Power. Money. Control.

The rich men who wield it

The rough men who enforce it

The abuse and domination of women

And the blood of dark-skinned people

And anyone different in religion, sexuality, or creed

The enslavement of millions in for-profit prisons

And the torture of the few with neither trial nor hope

We can be right.

We can be in control.

We can hold the moral high ground

Or we can be good.

Or we can love as Jesus loved.

But we cannot serve both God and mammon.

Why it’s hard to watch Jessica Jones and Stranger Things


I figured out why it’s taking me so long to get through Jessica Jones and Stranger Things.  

It’s not just because Jessica Jones is such a  intense show,  dealing with heavy subject matter unflinchingly.

It’s not time:  I’ve wandered in and watched basically all of who knows how many episodes of the various shows Katherine has watched to unwind: Limitless,  Monarch of the Glenn,  and other generally lighter shows. 

I think it’s energy and tolerance for lack of closure. In a lot of shows, the problems are solved by the end of the episode.

I have my own problems,  and I don’t have a lot of space in my heart for shows that might have some resolution at the end of the season, but certainly won’t before then. 

They’re both great, like Babylon Five and Battlestar Galactica before them.  I’ll get through them eventually, but I may be past the point where I can dive into many more grueling indefinite-length dramas. 

That time would probably be better spent reading anyway. 

A Tale of Three Pens

Like most of the American population, I’ve become more of a visual learner in the last few years. 

I like taking notes in multiple colors, using different pens for different categories or to separate different thoughts. I like having multiple highlighters for review. 

And, of course, I like to use pens that write well.

I know, I know: first world problems. But who doesnt like a smooth pen, especially when you have a lot to write?

So I keep a number of gel pens and quality ball points in my bag. But I often don’t have that with me,  and there’s no good way to carry a half-dozen pens in my pockets. 

So I started carrying one of those four in one ball point pens (The one at the top). They’re not expensive,  and they’re a compact solution,  but they are horrible pens. 

The colors are so dark and still I have to faint to tell the green from the black once it’s on paper. The points scratch and drag across the paper, allowing my writing down considerably.  And that’s when they write I  the first go,  and I don’t have to spend time trying to get them primed to write at all. 

Great concept, rubbish execution. 

So, after conversation with a co-worker who really knows pens, I decided to buy the red pen in the picture above, a Uniball Jetstream.

It was $9, a manageable amount for a pen, it comes with four colors and a mechanical pencil,  and it feels great the hand. I think it looks pretty good, too.

It is world better than it’s predecessor, both in writing experience and in ink color, and definitely worth the extra cost. It’s even refillable. 

It does not write like a gel pen. But the more I write with it, the more I like it. I really don’t need another multi-pen…

…But that doesn’t mean I won’t buy one anyway. Right now I’m looking at the Sarasa Zebra multi-pen, a well-reviewed gel multi, and the Pilot Coleto Multi, a hyper-custonizable gel multi that comes in 2,3,4, or 5 color barrels, and allows you to choose your own colors (or pencils or styluses).

I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Meat-Free Monday: Quick and Lazy Recipes: The Perfect Grilled “Cheese” (Vegan)

Vegan Grilled Cheese, that is, starring Cheddar Flavored Daiya, 100% cow-free. Which is good for the lactose-intolerant, as well as vegans. It’s doubly good for folks like me that are both.

Here’s how I make my grilled “Cheese” (daiya) sandwiches:

Ingredients:

Directions:

  1. Lightly toast two slices of bread. Toasting keeps the sandwich from getting soggy. I usually use setting 1 or 2 on our toaster.
  2. Put a skillet on the burner at just higher than medium heat (6 out of 10)
  3. Spread both sides of each slice of toast with vegan margarine.
  4. Assemble the sandwich on the skillet
  5. Cook until each side is golden brown and the daiya is melted. You’ll have to mind it the whole time and flip it more than once.
  6. You’ll provably have to press it down with a spatula before it’s done. That’s okay. Grilled “cheese” is supposed to have ridges and variations.
  7. Eat and enjoy

Okay, I know this isn’t a huge, overwhelmingly complicated process, and I know you could have figured this out yourself, but the grilled “cheese” (daiya) sandwiches I’ve been eating lately have been so darn good I just had to share.

Stress Part Two: Stressing Over Nothing

​https://youtu.be/rni41c9iq54

Previously, I discussed Kelly McGonigal’s advice to tell yourself,  when you feel stress, that your body’s reaction (faster heartbeat and breathing) is preparing you to face the challenge ahead. 

So what do you do when most of the stress you feel is rumination, fear of disapproval, frustration, or existential anxiety? 

I think pat of the answer may be found in my post on love, fear,  and Frozen, or in 1 John 4:18 “there is no fear in love,  for perfect love casts out fear.”

Try to act out of love for the person you’re worried about.

If they love you, remember that love, and remember that they aren’t just waiting to judge you harshly. 

If you are actually dealing with a harsh judge,  a perfectionist, externalize that to them. For the sake of your job or whatever, you may have to deal with their criticism and ridiculous standards, but keep that voice outside your head.

We’ve all had to deal with people like that. I have in the past. Thankfully, I don’t now, but things could change for the worse. 

And those people can leave deep marks,  especially if you encounter them when you’re a child. 

It’s okay not to like or respect bosses, teachers, or even family members. You have to treat them respectfully, but they don’t get to define your real value. 

Now, keep telling yourself that until you believe it. I’ll be right there with you. 

Long Journey, Part 2: A Long Road That Has No Turn

​https://youtu.be/sGs9V7iDuZU

Yesterday, I talked about how the changes I want to make in my life all promise a lot of effort, even pain, with no guarantee of arrival. 

I’ve been thinking about that since I wrote it,  and it occurs to me just how  fortunate I am.  

The goals I have to struggle toward are self-actualization goals. The first four levels of Maslow’s needs hierarchy are pretty much taken care of. 

I have a good job (one I enjoy most of the time)  with benefits and truly good co-workers. 

There is plenty of food in our panty,  fridge,  and deep freeze,  and money to eat out of we don’t feel like cooking

Our house is safe, dry,  un-infested, and everything works. 

I live in  a safe neighborhood.

I only drive about 2 miles to work.

As a white (cis, het) man, the world is an infinitely safer place for me than it is for most other Americans. 

I have a loving wife and daughter. 

I have an extended family, and we love each other (even my in-laws, which I understand makes me really lucky).

Truthfully, my stakes are low. If I fail at these personal goals, I will be upset with myself, and my life will not improve. 

But my kid won’t starve, I won’t lose my house, I won’t be raped and then watch my rapist get 6 months in prison, and I won’t be gunned down while buying a bb gun at Wal-Mart.  

We all want to improve ourselves and our lives, but it’s easy to lose track and think that if we can, anyone can. For people like me, that kind of thinking is part of the problem. 

A Long Journey, with Much Pain, and No Guarantee of Arrival


I realized something today about all the things I want to change about myself: 

Every one well be painful and long.  None will be accomplished overnight. They will require me to hurt for a fairly long time. 

Muscles will ache. My mind will wrack  with ideas and extended effort, long after inspiration has passed. 

And not a single one of them comes with a guarantee of success. 

There are smarter ways to work, tactics to prevent injury and burnout, and tips to lighten the load, but there will be no more easy victories. Becoming vegan was the only one of those I’m likely to get. 

The sooner I accept this,  the sooner I can really get started. 

Heh. Does this mean I’m finally growing up? 


Meat-Free Monday: WOW, Daiya, WOW

Okay,  so I haven’t had a grilled cheese sandwich in over a year. Even before I became vegan, when I ate lots of cheese, I rarely had something melty enough for a property grilled cheese. 

And I thought I’d never have one again, now that I’m eating plant- based.

Then I saw daiya in a grocery store.  It’s not exactly a local store, but it’s in a city we visit occasionally anyway. 

Yesterday,  I bought a package (cheddar flavor), and tonight I made a grilled “cheese” sandwich, using vegan margarine and bread. 

I am in love!  I can have grilled “cheese” again! One of my ultimate childhood comfort foods! 

And I am pretty sure it was the best grilled cheese sandwich I ever had. 

Daiya isn’t perfect: I did not like it one bit when I tried to eat it cold, with crackers. But hot and melty? Yes, please!

Now, I surely won’t eat this stuff like I used to eat cheese: the stiff price tag and long drive to find it will prevent that. But I can have it when I really want it, and that makes me smile.