Friday, August 27, 2010

More on Fences

Follow me for a second:

1. Helen Keller said, "The aim of education is tolerance."
2. Thomas Gray declared, "Ignorance is bliss."
3. Robert Frost wrote, "Good fences make good neighbors."

The more I read and talk to people about Islam* the more tolerant of that religion I become. I am more worried about ignorant people than I am about intelligent people who believe differently from me. Ignorant people are often fearful when circumstances shake them from their bliss, and fearful people can get violent. The only thing in this world more dangerous than a desperately pissed off moron is a rich bastard and a whole bunch desperately pissed off morons.

The aim of education is not tolerance to the point that you put yourself and your family at risk. I have kids and I want them to enjoy life. My whole mission in life is to push Armageddon off to the right for another generation to give my kids a shot at enjoying at least as much happiness I have known. The wall I want is not to block Muslims (or Mexicans), but to isolate terrorists. Isolate them until their desperation dissipates, preferably by, but not limited to, education and better opportunity.

On a side note, let's not evaluate religions by their ancient scriptures. As a Christian, I get a little squeamish when I reread some of the stuff God told his chosen peeps to do to the Amalekites. More specifically, to the women and children of the Amalekites. So yeah, the Koran has some stern guidance concerning infidels like me, but there was a lot of that sword play going around back in the day.

I think if we look at the history of people who invoked religion to do violence, we'll see plenty of whacked out stuff in all three Abrahamic religions. But that was then. What do you call someone who invokes religion to do violence today? Ask Jim Jones, or David Koresh. Better yet, ask Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. One day, he's calmly sawing off Nick Berg's head because he happens to be Jewish and American, and the next day, ol' al-Zarqawi's desperation dissipates in a pinkish vapor, courtesy of a few of Nick's friends.

We are under attack from Muslim terrorists. If you hate Muslims, you are focusing on the wrong word. I know lots of Muslims. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was no Muslim.

The title of this post could be read as, "Moron Fences."

*To explain the state of my education in Islamic studies I'll repeat comments from an earlier post. "I lived in Turkey for a year, and made friends with many Muslims. I read the Koran, observed Ramadan, and even purchased a prayer rug--though I have never used it for its intended purpose. I deployed to Kosovo to protect Muslims. I was in the Pentagon on 9/11 when terrorists attacked. When I deployed to Iraq, I was pretty clear on the difference between Muslims and terrorists."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Muslims vs. terrorists

Venn diagram to the rescue!

This chart presents a very interesting perspective on Muslims vs. terrorists who happen to be Muslim. As the quote goes, if you were attacked by Muslim terrorists and you hate Muslims, you are focusing on the wrong word.

or, for non-Facebookers:

Thanks to Kyle for bringing this graphic to my attention.

For what it's worth, my feelings about Muslims follow from the following experiences. I lived in Turkey for a year, and made friends with many Muslims. I read the Koran, observed Ramadan, and even purchased a prayer rug--though I have never used it for its intended purpose. I deployed to Kosovo to protect Muslims. I was in the Pentagon on 9/11 when terrorists attacked. When I deployed to Iraq, I was pretty clear on the difference between Muslims and terrorists.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

History Textbooks of the Future? Part 2

Here is another example of world history, as told by Facebook statuses. Credit for this one goes to MFL.

Debate vs. Satire

Jon Stewart and his crew at The Daily Show have done it again. His segment called The Parent Company Trap lambastes Faux Noos and their fear-based reporting of the controversial mosque proposed near the former WTC site. He uses their own "follow the money" logic to deduce the following conclusion:

"If we want to cut off funding to the Terror Mosque we must, together as a Nation, stop watching Faux Noos." --Jon Stewart

He then goes on to assert that Faux Noos is either evil or stupid for not mentioning that Alwaleed bin Talal is News Corp.'s largest shareholder.

"Staggeringly, achingly, almost inspiringly stupid." --John Oliver

"It’s a level of knowing obfuscation that can only come from having a heart of pure evil." –Wyatt Cenac

Skewering them with logic = debate. Skewering them with their own logic = brilliant satire!

Watch the segment here:

Point-Counterpoint on the Proposed Mosque in NYC

The proposal to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center on private property about two blocks from the site where the WTC towers once stood has launched pro and con activists into a fevered pitch. The President has even taken the politically unwise step of entering the fray, further heightening international tensions and contributing to politics as a cult of personality.

Conservative Christians and families of 9/11 victims are protesting at Ground Zero, at the proposed construction site, and in towns across America—some even burning the Quran. But NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg observes that intolerance and rage are not legitimate reasons for refusing the construction. The Mayor and the President have both defended the proposed mosque as a private property, freedom of religion, and separation of church and state issue. This should be the end of the discussion. The President went on to point out that just because a thing is legal does not make it morally correct. Raising this question has had the effect of pouring chum into the shark-infested waters. The issue was already complex and challenging. Now sharks on both sides are escalating their chum-frenzied attacks. Where will it end?

On one hand, the “mosque blockers” invoke Mr. Obama’s moral stance and state that we were attacked, and have in fact been repeatedly attacked before and after 9/11, by non-state terrorists who have declared war on Israel and the Great Satan, America. The radical Islamists who have attacked us seek a return to Sharia rule and do not wish to co-exist with infidels like the apostate, feckless, and immoral Americans. Islam’s goal is to restore the Caliphate. Infidels who do not convert shall be put to death until all the world worships Allah and acknowledges the Prophet Mohammed.  Mosque blockers are determined to counter the monolithic Islamic threat. They say Ground Zero is hallowed soil to be preserved. They say the Islamization of the WTC site emboldens the enemy, dishonors the memory of the fallen, and undermines our society.

On the other hand, the “mosque apologists” point out that we were not attacked by Muslims but by Muslim extremists. That is an important distinction. It’s not fair to generalize about 1.5 B Muslims from the actions of 150 K radicalized terrorists.  Allowing the mosque is not the same as welcoming Sharia or capitulating to the al Qaeda or Taliban extremists.  In fact, there are many other mosques already in Manhattan, and they are crowded, so the proposed expansion is based on a real need not arrogantly and mockingly undermining the apostate infidel. Further, the idea of refusing construction based on religious grounds goes against our core principles as a Nation. Mosque apologists cite Mr. Obama, too.  But they cite the moderate, pragmatic, law-abiding Obama, not the moralistic, fear-inducing, threat-mongering Obama.

So the issue is tolerance or protection, globalization or tribalism, patience or pre-emption.  Helen Keller said the aim of education is tolerance. But what if we become so tolerant that we lose our identity? Is tolerance a path to global peace, or to the destruction of our country and “way of life”? (Is the American way of life even defined anymore?) Is this a time to be patient and open and trusting, or to preemptively assert protective boundaries? After all, another aphorism may apply: Good fences make good neighbors.

I worry that the debate will be won by the side that makes the most noise. When did politics stop being about getting things done? Now it seems to be about taking sides, and politicians must not only cater to the extremes, they must increasingly become identified by extreme positions to be electable. President Obama has stirred the pot but has not shown leadership in terms of pragmatically managing the debate toward a solution. The country is divided, and no one is really at the helm of the national debate. If politics is not about getting things done, then politicians stop being elected leaders and become elected puppets, reactively catering to the noisiest subset.

What follows in the comments below are citations for the two most strikingly clear arguments I have found to explain the two sides of this issue. First is Newt Gingrich’s call to action in favor of blocking the mosque.  His is the argument of tribalism, protectionism, and preemption. Next is a quiet article by Petula Dvorak about a small, ecumenical chapel in the Pentagon, where Muslim services are held every Friday on the very spot where American 77 impacted on Sep 11, 2001. Hers is the position of globalism, tolerance, and openness.

Does this issue matter to you? Do you have a position? If so, which side are you on, and why?

Managing Time: The 5D Model for Transforming Inputs to Outputs

Ever feel inundated by things to do? The 5D model is a model I developed to help me stay on track, avoid distractions, and get important things done. In order, the five Ds are: Discard, Disseminate, Delegate, Defer, and finally, DO.

Discard: first, do no work without a customer! Limit random inputs. The first question to ask about inputs that get past filters is, “Can I safely throw this out?” If so, ignore, delete, discard, trash, recycle, or compost it.

Disseminate: If the input has merit, but does not require my personal attention, share it. Blog it, forward it on email. Move it out and be done with it.

Delegate: Some inputs require action, but not necessarily my personal action. These can be delegated to others. Consider the value of time and try to delegate as much as possible to others. Delegation is granting the responsibility while retaining the authority to do a thing. In other words, the output reflects in the delegator. The role is managing, rather than doing.  So the delegator must, to some degree, Plan the work, Organize the resources, Delegate to someone, Supervise their effort, and Check their results.

Defer: Some inputs do not require my immediate action, because there is plenty of time available, or because attending to them at that moment would distract me from a higher priority. Defer them. Set them aside for later. This is not about deliberation. Decide quickly to defer for a good reason. Obviously, things on various To-Do lists are repeat inputs until they are either done or OBE. Handle tasks as few times as possible. Do it, later.

DO: finally, some inputs require my personal attention. They cannot be deferred, delegated, disseminated, or discarded. The things that end up on my schedule fall into two broad categories: Admin or Action. Admin: sort of like overhead, or process value-add. Action: actual production or customer value-add.

GeT HaPpY!! BiRtHdaY

Today, 25 Aug., is the birthday of one Declan Patrick MacManus, also known by his stage name, Elvis Costello. Happy 56th birthday to one of the most prolific, most influential artists ever.

Monday, August 16, 2010

How to Be Alone

Do we rush into relationships because we are uncomfortable being alone? Do we want someone to fix, or to be fixed by someone, some special other one?  Who is more attractive, the person who needs to be in a couple, or the person who is completely happy in his or her own skin?  How do I present myself to the world--as one in need, or as one with an abundance of gifts to offer?

There is some timeless wisdom in this video poem, written and performed by Tanya Davis. Check it out:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How Do I Organize My Blog?

Inspired by a feng shui ba-gua map, I developed an interesting little model for creating and tracking my personal goals. There are nine components to my model. Visualize a 3 x 3 grid base, with each of the squares representing one of the components.  Start in the middle square, in which I place goals having to do with physical, mental, and spiritual health, work-life balance, and so on.  Then move south to the square for goals having to do with my passions and motives.  Proceed clockwise around the grid.

Categories are: 

·        Center: health, balance, physical, spiritual and mental fitness
·        Purpose: passion, career, motive
·        Introspection: spirituality, self-improvement, education, meditation
·        Support: family, friends, community, neighbors, church
·        Gratitude: reward, making, saving, investing, spending, giving
·        Authenticity: production, work, foundation, outreach, legacy
·        Receptivity: relationships, love, companionship 
·        Joy: creativity, music, art, children, dance
·        Awareness: travel, helpful people, new ideas, gurus

Now imagine the grid is a Rubik’s Cube, stacked three high.  The layers represent three different ways of dealing with the goals, starting from the base and going upwards:

·        Hands: physical, mechanical objects and production
·        Head: mental, information and concepts
·        Heart: spiritual, unity and flow
The degree to which goals and objectives are fulfilled can be represented by a color. Green means that results are within an acceptable band, Amber means that results are below expectations but progress is being made, and Red means that progress is halted or off track and immediate attention is needed.  The color of the large cube reflects the color of each of the 27 smaller cubes.  

I think I can employ that “Ba-gua Cube” somehow to organize my blog. I’ll start by using the 9 categories as pages, labels, or tags.

Now if I can just figure out how to tag posts!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The makings of an epic journey

The New York Times' Matt Gross, aka the Frugal Traveler, blogs about his grand tour of Europe. Grand Tour 2008

Why Blog?

There are as many reasons to blog as there are bloggers, but I wanted to share my motives. Sharing helps me clarify my own motives by making them explicit (I am an extrovert). Sharing may also help others who are bloggers or blog-curious.

·        I like to write. I like to tell stories and chat with people about a wide range of topics.  I have made lots of presentations to groups of all sizes and I really like that a lot. I want to publish more and maybe write a book or three. I am tired of some of my best writing gems being lost and forgotten in underappreciated emails. With a blog, my best gems can be forgotten in public.

·        I like to be in community. I like attention and interaction. When I read a good book, I scribble in the margins and underline new words as if I were talking with the author. I meet people easily and make friends quickly.

·        I would like to simplify my life, to save time by leveraging technology.  I’d like a hub for my virtual life—a hug that is accessible from anywhere using my smart phone or any connected computer.

If you are a blogger, what are your motives? How are they like mine? If you are not a blogger, why not?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Grace Comes to the Wave

Enlightenment for a wave is the moment the wave
realizes that it is water. At that moment,
all fear of death disappears.
                    --Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Global Peace Index

For those of us interested in metrics: I've enjoyed recent conversations with many friends about indices besides the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that may offer a more holistic view of the health and happiness of a society. There's a new Index that has just emerged on the scene called the Global Peace Index (GPI). As opposed to measures of economic productivity, this index focuses on measures of war and peace as a proxy for health and happiness.

Have a look at the Global Peace Index

The website is still under development, but it already offers enough information for us to construct a rudimentary assessment framework.  The authors list 23 indicators of Peace (and some other indicators are in the testbed). Do you see any missing indicators? Any favorites? Any that don't belong?

To make a functioning model I would need to connect data to scoring functions for each indicator. Do you have any thoughts on how to measure any of your favorite indicators? By that I mean how would you construct a scoring function for an indicator like Military Capability / Sophistication such that anyone else, using the same data and your scale, would get the same score?

Does your "gut feel" align with the USA's ranking 85th of 149 countries on the Global Peace Index?

How would you use that relatively poor score (we're 43rd percentile) to influence public policy in ways that resulted in a more Peaceful society? Would you try to turn all the red areas green?

Comments welcome.


Welcome to my blog! The point of Blogging is to interact with the world, one person at a time. Sure, email still serves a purpose. No, I will not throw away my phone(s). Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are all still OK--though none of them are as good as getting together at the coffee shop or a great neighborhood bar like Rustico.  I'll still use listservs I may not be the first person on my block to start a blog, but I do think it's time to jump on this interesting band wagon.  I'll learn as I go.  My intent is to let this blog serve as the hub of my virtual life. I'd like to come to one place to share and relate.  I'd like to leverage technology where I can.  There is so much to write about! Thanks for reading this, and welcome to PhilosFX!