Reflections from under the Derby

you're not thinking about this stuff


Haiti
stymie4
docstymie
It's been 2 years since the earthquake. Haiti is still devastated.

Haiti

There is no dignity
when you die
poor, ten-thousand
at a time.
Your long dead
bodies lie in the streets
piled a dozen high,
some covered, most bare
to survivors stumbling
trance-like looking
for something resembling
normal. Not normal,
bodies in the streets rotting,
eyes open, staring but not
seeing survivors not
seeing a woman, a child
a mother, a daughter,
human beings
scooped together in death
dumped in a truck,
carted out of the city,
dumped in a hole in the ground,
thousands at a time,
alone -
no mourners, no music
no blessing of the souls.
There is no dignity
when you die
poor, ten-thousand
at a time.

(c) 2010 Jeffrey Seale

I'm moving
stymie4
docstymie
After 5 years of blogging here, I've decided to move on. When the site issues came up this summer, I set up something over at Word Press and tried that out a little bit. But with the recent creation of Google+ it seems like the integration with Blogger is inevitable. I originally started over at blogspot until I was convinced to move over here because of the community. However, it feels like the community spirit of LJ has died over the last couple of years. I'm not sure if that's due to the rise of Facebook, the stability issues of LJ recently, or other issues. And so, I've turned off the automatic renewal of my paid account and I will migrate permanently over to blogspot. That's the place where I got my blogging start and so it seems appropriate to go back to those roots.

I know going someplace without the "friends" feature makes extra work for people wanting to read, but if you'd like to continue keeping up with my antics, you can read it here. I hope you'll drop by and leave a comment from time to time.

I loved my time here at LJ and I've met so many awesome people, both virtual and in person. It's been very cool seeing parts of your lives and careers over the past 5 years. I will keep my LJ account and follow my friends list here, so you'll still see me around. I've learned many things from all of you over the years and I can honestly say that I appreciate each and every one of you.

I've recently finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and found this passage especially timely:

As pageantry goes, what could go more to the heart of things than this story of need, a dread of starvation, and salvation arriving through the unexpected blessings of harvest? Even feigning surprise, pretending it was unexpected and saying a ritual thanks, is surely wiser than just expecting everything so carelessly. Wake up now, look alive, for here is a day off work just to praise Creation: the turkey, the squash, and the corn, these things that ate and drank sunshine, grass, mud, and rain, and then in the shortening days laid down their lives for our welfare and onward resolve. There's the miracle for you, the absolute sacrifice that still holds back seeds: a germ of promise to do the whole thing again another time.

So, in the spirit of the season, I give thanks for you all and look forward to doing it all again.

-Jeff

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It Gets Better and being different
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A few weeks ago, I contacted someone with our company's GLBT employee network with the suggestion that it would be cool if we could make a video for the It Gets Better Project.

The It Gets Better Project was created to show young LGBT people the levels of happiness, potential, and positivity their lives will reach - if they can just get through their teen years. The It Gets Better Project wants to remind teenagers in the LGBT community that they are not alone - and it WILL get better.

We have several high school groups come through our site each year on tours - many of them from FFA groups. It stands to reason that a number of gay teens probably come through our doors each year. Given that rural communities tend to be conservative in nature, gay teens in that environment could be more likely to have difficulties embracing who they really are. So, I think that as a leader in the agricultural industry, we could send a strong message of hope and support to these teens. And so this was my suggestion.

Today I attended my first meeting of our LGBT employee network where the issue would be discussed. The group was supportive of the idea and we're going to try to do it. Of course the caveat is that the same issues that make it difficult for these teens would also make it difficult as a business to come out strongly in support of these teens. At the end of the day, I suspect we won't do anything that might alienate lots of our customers. We're going to try anyway and I hope we succeed. It would make me happy to know that one of those teens could be feeling down and see a bag of seed with our name on it knowing that not only do we support his family by providing them with high quality products to help make them successful farmers, but we also support them in their struggles to embrace their identity.

A funny thing happened while I was sitting in that meeting today. As I sat there and looked around the table, I realized I was probably the only straight person in the room. On the way over to the meeting, I'll admit to not knowing what it would be like attending the meeting (not knowing anyone in the room). Everyone was great and they loved the idea. But as I sat there thinking about the other folks in the room, for the first time in my life I realized what it was like to be "different". I'd say most of the time in a group of people, I am always in a group of the majority, especially being a white male. I suppose I was a little self-conscious but I certainly have a different appreciation for what it's like to be the "different" guy in the room.

At the end of the meeting I stayed and talked with the two organizers. One of them grew up on a farm and knows what those kids go through. We had watched an It Gets Better video during the meeting and as he and I talked about what it would mean if we did this, I got choked up and had to look away to compose myself. I knew I felt strongly enough about this to try to get something done, but after choking up talking about it with that guy, I learned that I care more about it than I realized. I really hope we can pull this off.

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Happy literary Halloween
stymie4
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My Aunt in California built this in her backyard garden. Forget the 2012 typo. I figured some of you would appreciate this.




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I'm going to Africa!!!
stymie4
docstymie
In case you missed it the first time, and you could have easily since that entry had a generic title, I'm going to Africa next spring!

If you've read here over the last couple of years, you're aware of my growing interest in helping small stakeholder farmers in Africa. And now, it finally seems I'll get to go see African farming firsthand. Last week I sent out an email to get the logistical planning started. I had planned on gathering lots of blogging material for both here and my internal company blog. A couple of our communications folks are now assigned to help coordinate the kinds of information they want brought back to our employees. Today, I received an email from my colleague in Kenya giving me some more suggestions.

It looks as if I'll be visiting Kenya, Malawi, and South Africa on this trip. Of course I'll be meeting my African colleagues and seeing our local facilities. But the majority of my trip will be visiting small farms and meeting farmers with the goal of finding ways we can focus on helping them get out of poverty. Today I also learned that as part of the trip, I'll likely be giving talks to University groups and even some government researchers/officials about agricultural innovations, probably with a focus on combating climate change.

Over the last couple of years when discussing my personal development plan, I've half-joked that my career plan is to become agriculture's version of Bono - focusing attention on the need to increase innovation in agriculture to feed a growing population while bringing over a billion people out of poverty. Today after learning of the possibility of talking to University and government officials, I couldn't help but think of Bobby Kennedy visiting South Africa the year I was born and giving his Day of Affirmation speech:

It is these qualities which make of youth today the only true international community. More than this I think that we could agree on what kind of a world we would all want to build. it would be a world of independent nations, moving toward international community, each of which protected and respected the basic human freedoms. It would be a world which demanded of each government that it accept its responsibility to insure social justice. It would be a world of constantly accelerating economic progress - not material welfare as an end in itself, but as a means to liberate the capacity of every human being to pursue his talents and to pursue his hopes. It would, in short, be a world that we would be proud to have built.

After feeling like I've been swimming upstream in my efforts to help people in Africa, it finally feels like good things are about to happen. I am so excited for the possibilities.

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The 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
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This is a story of validation. This is a story of redemption. It is the kind of story that we like, a feel good story. In April 1982, Dan Shechtman was looking at images from his electon microscope when he saw something that all of the textbooks and theories of the day said was not possible. In solid matter, it was known that all atoms were arranged in a repeating, periodic manner. This was the basis for crystal formation by solids and had been conventional wisdom for almost 200 years. In Shechtman's images, the patterns were regular, but they did not repeat themselves. The patterns looked much like medieval Islamic mosaics. These crystals were deemed quasi-crystals.

Shechtman publicized his controversial findings but because they were against the conventional wisdom, they were dismissed by the scientific community. The situation was so bad that he was asked to leave his research group and had to find another scientific home. It took 2 years to get his work published and another 3 years for someone else to confirm it. During this time, 2 time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling went so far as to say, "there are no quasi-crystals, only quasi-scientists."

The scene at the end of the movie where the hero is vindicated occurred today when the Nobel Committee awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Dan Shechtman for his discovery of quasi-crystals. This is one of those awards for a concept that overturned a convention of science. Textbooks had to be rewritten because of Professor Shechtman's work. Quasi-crystals are now used in razor blades as well as tools needed to perform delicate cuts on eye tissue during surgery.

Congratulations to Professor Shechtman on a well-deserved honor. Having his name appear alongside Linus Pauling as a Nobel Laureate in Chemistry is Hollywood-like justice.

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The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics
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How did all of this get here? It's a question that has puzzled philosophers, scientists, theologians, and all mankind since the time we first gazed up into the sky and noticed objects of light and fire that would come and go regularly over time. Today the Nobel Committee awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics to Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam G. Riess for their discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe.

In the 1920s Edwin Hubble observed that the universe was constantly expanding by looking at the light emitted from distant galaxies and realizing that the velocity of the galaxy was proportional to its distance from Earth and to other objects in the universe. The implication was that all objects in the universe were moving away from each other at a constant speed and that all of the mass of the universe was originally contained at a single dense point that was dispersed by The Big Bang. If the universe is expanding constantly, it is hypothesized that at some point, gravity would cause the universe to collapse back on itself into that small point resulting in a fiery end to the universe.

In the late 1990s, this year's Nobel laureates were studying very distant stars called supernovae and observed that those stars were actually accelerating away from Earth contrary to Hubble's observations. These new discoveries were enabled by higher powered telescopes and more powerful computers that Hubble did not have. The observation has led to the hypothesis that there exists "dark energy" that is causing this acceleration. The nature of this "dark energy" and its other implications is one of the most pressing questions in physics today. It is important to note that this years winners are NOT being awarded for "dark energy". That is apparently the subject of a future prize - to be awarded to the people that figure it out.

What are the implications of an accelerating universe? In contrast to an eventual collapse of the universe due to gravity in the case of Hubble's observations, an accelerating expansion of the universe suggests that bodies will continue to move apart until interactions between them become so weak that the entire universe cools to a very low temperature - a cold death of the universe.

And so this year's Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded for a fundamental discovery of the origins of the universe with implications on how it might all end. Congratulations to Saul Perlmutter, Brian P. Schmidt, and Adam G. Riess.

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The 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
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docstymie
What if you awarded a Nobel Prize and one of the laureates had died? That is exactly what happened this morning. The Nobel committee announced this morning that Bruce A. Beutler, Jules A. Hoffmann and Ralph M. Steinman had been awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their pioneering work in understanding how the immune system functions. A few hours later, it was announced that Professor Steinman lost his battle with cancer last Friday. It is the practice of the Nobel Committee not to award prizes posthumously. Perhaps the most well-publicized instance of this practice occurred when Rosalind Franklin died before the Nobel Prize was awarded to Watson, Crick, and Wilkins for their elucidation of the double-helical structure of DNA. Her x-ray data of DNA were critical to the determination of the double helix. The committee decided after today's announcement to allow Steinman to retain the honor.

The events that have occurred are unique and, to the best of our knowledge, are unprecedented in the history of the Nobel Prize. In light of this, the Board of the Nobel Foundation has held a meeting this afternoon.
According to the statutes of the Nobel Foundation, work produced by a person since deceased shall not be given an award. However, the statutes specify that if a person has been awarded a prize and has died before receiving it, the prize may be presented.

An interpretation of the purpose of this rule leads to the conclusion that Ralph Steinman shall be awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The purpose of the above-mentioned rule is to make it clear that the Nobel Prize shall not deliberately be awarded posthumously. However, the decision to award the Nobel Prize to Ralph Steinman was made in good faith, based on the assumption that the Nobel Laureate was alive. This was true – though not at the time of the decision – only a day or so previously. The Nobel Foundation thus believes that what has occurred is more reminiscent of the example in the statutes concerning a person who has been named as a Nobel Laureate and has died before the actual Nobel Prize Award Ceremony.

The decision made by the Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet thus remains unchanged.

Professors Beutler and Hoffmann were awarded their share of half the prize for their work in how innate immunity works. Innate immunity is the body's natural reaction to general challenges from microbes. This initial reaction is non-specific, i.e. the immune system reacts to the foreign invader regardless of whether this particular invader has been recognized previously. For this to work properly, there must be some general characteristics of pathogenic microbes that the immune system must recognize. This turns out to be the case and Beutler and Hoffmann identified receptors on cells that are responsible for recognizing these characteristics. These receptors are known as Toll-like receptors and are found in both vertebrates and invertebrates as well as plants suggesting that they are some of the most ancient components of the immune system. Recognition of a pathogenic invasion via the Toll-like receptors triggers an inflammatory response as the first defense in fighting the infection. It is for their discovery of the role of Toll-like receptors in this response that Beutler and Hoffmann were recognized with the Nobel Prize.

Professor Steinman was honored for his work in the second part of the immune response, adaptive immunity. Anyone who has received a vaccination is familiar with the concept of adaptive immunity. Your system is challenged by a modified pathogen which triggers a response that allows your body to fight off a recurring attack by that same pathogen. In the early 70s, Steinman discovered a new type of cell, the dendritic cell. Steinman proposed that these cells played a role in the activation of the immune response by activating T-cells. He later showed this to be the case and demonstrated that this activation could be triggered by signals from the initial innate immune reaction. It is this process that is key to the "self or enemy" paradigm and under normal conditions protects the immune system from turning on the body.

These studies have laid the ground work for fundamental applications in immunity related to vaccinations against dangerous infections as well as to the promising area of vaccines against cancer. In fact, Professor Steinman was being treated for a very deadly form of pancreatic cancer using some experimental treatments of his own devising. Whether this treatment was effective is probably up for debate but he lived 4 years post-diagnosis with a cancer with a 4% survival rate at 5 years.

Congratulations to Professors Beutler, Hoffmann and Steinman and a special kudos to the Nobel Committee for allowing the continued awarding of the prize to Professor Steinman.

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Wangari Maathai
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Wangari Maathai died this week. I first learned of her from lizannewrites and then bought the book The Challenge for Africa. Professor Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in Kenya in the late 70s to help women improve their lives by improving their access to firewood and clean water. She became passionate about the environment and sustainability, especially pertaining to preserving native forests in Kenya and the impact of reforestation on climate. Her movement started planting trees near her homeland. Her efforts have resulted in the planting of over 30 million trees and helped almost 1 million women in Kenya. She was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

Dr. Maathai was an amazing woman. It's a shame she is not widely known. She will have a state funeral in Kenya - a well-deserved and untimely honor. In her book The Challenge for Africa, she wrote:

My grandparents and others of their generation measured their happiness, their material and spiritual well-being, in ways far different from today. Their medium of exchange was goats. They kept domestic animals, which they used carefully for survival and treated humanely, and cultivated a variety of food crops on their land. Because most of their basic needs were met, they didn't consider themselves poor. They lived within a community of rituals, ceremonies, and expressions of their connection to the land and their culture; they didn't feel alienated or adrift in a meaningless, highly materialistic world that assigns value only in dollars and cents, because their world was animated by the spirit of God. They took what they needed for their own quality of life, but didn't accumulate and destroy in the process - and they did all this so that future generations would survive and thrive. By the time my mother died, in 2000, everything could be sacrificed for money: forests, land, goats, values, and people.

I was hoping that on my visit to Kenya next year that I might have the opportunity and honor to meet her. I can now only hope to carry on her legacy by finding a way to help poor farmers in her home country. Well done, good and faithful servant.

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Entropy Thursday - Global edition
stymie4
docstymie
Man, has it been a long time since I've done an Entropy edition, or any post for that matter. Way too long.

I've just spent the last 2.5 days at our company's Global Sustainable Ag Conference. There were 150 of us from every corner of the globe gathered together to talk about our vision for the next steps of our sustainable ag initiatives. Sustainability is not part of my direct job, but you know of my interests in the area, particularly with helping small farmers in Africa. I was not on the radar for the meeting organizer, but I found out about it and invited myself. They gladly included me.

All I can say is that the last 2.5 days were amazing. We do a terrible job of telling about all of the cool things we do to help poor farmers all over the world. I think too often we get stuck in the mindset of the American Midwestern farmer - easy to understand as they're our biggest customers. But, the majority of the world's farmers do not farm 10,000 acres in Iowa. Most of the world's farmers tend less than 2 acres in the developing world. They don't have John Deere tractors or even access to technology we had 40 years ago. And so they spend almost all of their day just trying to eek out enough to feed the family. Many times the kids stay home and help in the field. But our employees in those parts of the world find ways to make a huge difference in the lives of those small farmers. And our colleagues in Brazil are doing amazing things to help safe forests from being converted to farmland. It was so inspiring to hear these people talk about how they kept working to help poor people even in the face of people saying it couldn't be done.

In more general terms, I couldn't help but notice how awesome it was to be surrounded by people not like me. I grew up in a segregated city, surrounded by people that were just like me. Yesterday, I shared a table with a gentleman from Brazil, one from Mexico, and a woman from India. It is so amazing to sit and talk with these people, learn about them, about their lives and homes. It made me feel blessed and a part of something larger. At the end of the day, I was in a working group for Africa and India. I was placed there because of my interest in Africa. In that group, I met a man from Kenya and a woman from South Africa. Of course, I fell in love. We talked a bit, but it was mostly about the task we were given. This morning, our assignment was to finish the task. But we had a little time to talk and the man asked "why Africa?" And so I started telling the story of the teenage boy who in 1984 saw the stories of the Ethiopian famine, the all-star Band Aid tribute "Do They Know It's Christmas" and how I felt that I was lucky to have been born a white guy in middle class America. I explained that I had a duty to help those less fortunate. After that, he said, "you must come to Kenya! We need you to come."

Now, I had discussions earlier in the year with a woman who said she could get me over there whenever I wanted to go. But today seemed different when the colleague from Kenya said, "you must come!" Shortly after that, we ran into this other woman and he told her, "he needs to come" and she asked, "when?" And so, it appears that barring any unforeseen circumstances, I will be going to Africa next spring to visit Kenya, South Africa, and perhaps Malawi. I will be working with our sales people and also with African farmers. I'm sure it will mostly be an educational experience for me, but I hope to identify ways I can make a tangible difference between now and the time I go.

I'm incredibly excited about the opportunity and humbled by the possibilities. I can't imagine what it's going to be like. But I know it will be transformational.

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My Boy is a Baseball Player
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I played baseball. My boy is a baseball player.

This statement would have seemed absurd a year ago. It was then that K. decided he wanted to play baseball. So, we bought some baseballs and a cheap glove and tried to throw the ball around. He couldn't catch it - he was afraid of it. A natural reaction. I remember being afraid of that hard ball when I was first starting to play when I was 10. So, I tossed lightly to him so he could get used to the ball coming at him and landing in his glove. After a few weeks, he got it. Then, I could really throw it to him. He also wanted to learn to bat, of course. His older nephews had given him bats from their little league days, but they seemed a lot beat up and a little too heavy for him. I showed him the proper stance - knees bent, bat back, step to the ball, head down, contact. Well, in theory anyway. The whole fear of the ball coming at you reared its ugly head again, manifested this time in stepping back instead of toward the incoming pitch. Flashback 35 years to a schoolyard practice and a coach putting a lineup of bats just behind a kid learning to bat - one step backward and said kid finds himself on his backside. So, out came the rest of the too heavy beat up bats to be placed perfectly behind K. Stepping backward problem solved. We continued to practice in the yard and at the park over the summer, as well as taking in the local minor league teams to soak up as much baseball as possible.

Then came the opportunity to play real baseball. K signed up for a fall league, which here is much more laid back and more just so the boys don't get rusty over the long offseason until spring. The Bearcats agreed to let him play with them as a season-long tryout. He got his jersey, a leftover from a kid who wasn't very good and quit - #99, the "cursed jersey" according to his teammates. During his first game warmup, he missed a catch and took a ball to the face - bloody nose. He shook it off and got out on the field. First at bat - beaned right in the knee. He dropped the bat and ran to first base. As the fall days got shorter, he got better. He could throw the ball across the infield from 3rd base to 1st base. He could catch the ball most of the time. And in his last at bat of the season, he got his very first hit. K was finally playing baseball. A couple of weeks after the season ended, the coach sent an email asking if K would be a permanent member of the team. He made it. The "curse" of the #99 jersey had been lifted. We continued to throw the ball and take batting practice until the days were too short and too cold. And he continued to get more confident.

Spring rolled around and practice began. K fit in with his team now and he improved by the week. He was asked to pitch to the coach in practice one night. He didn't have much velocity, he's a small kid after all, but he was accurate. Early in the season, he was told he might pitch an inning. When it came around, he pitched like a pro - giving up no runs and striking out two hitters. He was getting more confident at the plate, putting the ball in play and getting on base regularly.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed something different about how K plays the game. He has "it," whatever "it" is. Whenever he bats, he has the correct mechanics most of the time. He has an incredible eye for the strike zone. He often gets two quick strikes, but then he will work the count full and either take a walk, or get a hit. Incredible plate discipline. He steps out of the box, takes a full practice swing. Incredible concentration. When he pitches, he has "it" down, too. He holds the ball in front of his face before the windup. He rubs the ball down between batters. He wipes the sweat from his forehead with his hat. He has all the nuances of a real baseball player. At his game a couple of days ago, we were warming up together and I was tossing him ground balls on the infield. He free hand was going right on top of his glove and covering the ball as it entered the pocket. I had never noticed him doing this before and asked, "where'd you get that?" He just simply shrugged and said, "I don't know." It was at that point that I thought about all these other little things and his comment that I realized it. He pitched two innings in that game, holding a two-run lead in his first inning shutting the other team down. In his team's next at bat, they scored the maximum five runs and put the game safely out of reach. They went on to win, beating a team that had not lost yet this season.

A year ago, K could barely catch a baseball. Now, he's a real baseball player.

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On Globalization
rfk
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This morning I had the pleasure of attending a talk at the Donald Danforth Plant Sciences Center as part of their Seeds of Change event. The keynote speaker was Richard Longworth who is a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and author of the book, Caught in the Middle: America's Heartland in the Age of Globalism.

The premise of the talk was that the economic decline of the Midwest is essentially due to the decline of the manufacturing sector and the failure of the midwestern cities to embrace globalization effectively, i.e. realizing that the competition is in Beijing and Bangalore, not San Francisco or New York. Longworth used Chicago as an example of embracing being a "global" city paying dividends in their successful bid to attract the Boeing headquarters over Dallas and Denver (not considered "global" cities). But in spite of this positive example of Chicago embracing globalization, he admitted that Chicago still hasn't rebounded from a huge population decline from its peak. As I was sitting there listening to his talk, I thought of Bobby Kennedy's famous quote on the GDP in the context of our economic decline in the age of globalization:

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

As I thought about this quote in the context of globalization, I couldn't help but think that globalization has been driven by our thinking that has been dominated by the ideas in the first paragraph of Bobby's quote. These days, we are driven by the almighty dollar. We measure our value in material things. Our companies are valued not by what they create, but the value of the stock. Those are related, you say? If that is true, the value created by outsourcing jobs to China and India thereby increasing the company's bottom line has created decaying inner cities in the Midwest. The increased value of the stock has created a high dropout rate in the public schools of large midwestern cities. That higher stock value has created a jobs market lacking in good paying middle class jobs - those jobs that were key to building a vibrant Midwest. I would argue that our focus on the financial bottom line which has driven economic globalization has created the exact environment that Bobby spoke of more than 40 years ago.

What we need are leaders with Bobby's vision, that focusing our efforts on things that make life worthwhile - the strength of our families, the health of our public schools, the social safety net, the elevation of our public debate - will begin to reverse the economic decline driven by globalization. Sadly, there are no politicians on today's stage espousing these ideas. Instead, we have leaders who are embracing globalization with pushes toward more "free trade" agreements. Instead of increasing our quality of life, we are apparently in a race to the bottom.

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Remembering Bobby
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David Lubar Appreciation Week
stymie4
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It appears to be that time again, boys and girls - David Lubar Appreciation Week.
What's not to appreciate about a grown man who loves video games as much as an 8 year-old boy? What's not to like about a man who writes really clever weenie stories? What's not to like about a guy with a sense of humor that always makes you think? And most of all, what's not to like about a traveler who gives mother nature the big middle finger by challenging her to screw up donations to a good cause?

So, thanks for being you, David! And happy birthday!

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The Almighty Dollar
stymie4
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I've had the fortune to be participating in a business strategy exercise. One of the things I've learned over the last couple of days is that I have no business being a businessman. :) A couple of things have stuck with me during the activities. More than once, the old adage that "it's all about making money" has been uttered. I understand that businesses must make money or they don't survive. But I can't reconcile myself to the suggestion that making money is the only thing. Whenever I hear someone talk about the financial bottom line, I constantly recall Bobby Kennedy's famous quote about gross domestic product:

Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

The bottom line is all about making money, but at what cost? Another adage I've heard a lot is that free markets are highly efficient. Efficient at what? Delivering the almighty dollar - it's the only thing that matters, after all. But take the case of health care and the pharmaceutical industry. Toward the goal of maximizing profits the industry has developed managed care organizations to control prices and maximize profits. In thinking about what this has gotten us in regards to health care, I can only come to the conclusion that markets might well be highly efficient at maximizing dollars, but they're apparently really crappy at delivering a healthy population. And in thinking about Bobby's quote, isn't that the more important thing to focus on? At what point is it NOT about the almighty dollar and it becomes about the person, the human being, the soul?

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Connecting the good and the holy
stymie4
docstymie
I recently started reading To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. In the first chapter, I ran across this quote:

The prophets warned against a rift between the holy and the good, our duties to G-d and to our fellow human beings. It still exists today. There are those for whom serving G-d means turning inward - to the soul, the house of worship and the life of ritual and prayer. There are others for whom social justice has become a substitute for religious observance or G-d. The message of the Hebrew Bible is that serving G-d and serving our fellow human beings are inseparably linked, and the split between the two impoverishes both. Unless the holy leads us outward toward the good, and the good leads us back, for renewal, to the holy, the creative energies of faith run dry... Unless we reconnect the holy and the good we do less than justice to the unity that is the hallmark of the monotheistic imagination.

I suspect that my rebellion against the extremism of Evangelical Christians led me toward substituting my desire to bring about social justice for the more personal religious observance. This is likely the reason that this passage resonated with me and led me to dog-ear that page. Now, to find the answer that is the reasonable middle.

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to my LJ friends
stymie4
docstymie
I did not know lkmadigan. I was not even her LJ friend. But I too lost a friend at too young an age to cancer. I understand the hurt you're feeling. You guys were all there during my time of grief.

It is clear that Lisa inspired great love during her all too short time here. As Lisa Schroeder said after the passing of my grandmother, inspiring that kind of love is the best we can do with our time here. Well done, Lisa. May you rest in peace. May the remembrance of the love you inspired be a comfort to your friends in their time of loss.

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Moving
stymie4
docstymie
I'm contemplating a blog move to here. I set that one a while ago and haven't really put much there. It seems to me that lots of people have left LJ for blogspot or wordpress over the last couple of years. I suspect I'll have fewer readers, which was the allure of the friends list on LJ. That probably means more work trying to build an audience. Wordpress does have a subscribe option for people that already have a wordpress account, so perhaps that's the compromise.

Thoughts? Would you stop reading me if you had to click somewhere else? You certainly won't hurt my feelings if you say yes :)

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Too Old to Die Young
stymie4
docstymie
I stumbled across this video on Youtube by a group of ladies from Austin, TX. You gotta love Austin music.



Those harmonies are angelic, aren't they? It must be those West Texas roots in me that make the music resonate deep inside my soul. But, these lyrics are especially poignant and make me tear up when I listen to the song.

If life is like a candle bright death must be the wind
You can close your window tight and it still comes blowing in
So I will climb the highest hill and watch the rising sun
And I pray that I don’t feel the chill till I’m too old to die young

CHORUS
Let me watch my children grow to see what they become
Oh Lord don’t let that cold wind blow till I’m too old to die young

Now I have had some dear sweet friends I thought would never die
Now the only thing that’s left of them is the teardrops in my eyes
If I could have one wish today and know it would be done
Well I would say everyone could stay till they’re too old to die young

And the people said, Amen.

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a new Kennedy!
rfk
docstymie
Joseph P. Kennedy III gave a speech at the Massachusetts State House in honor of his great-uncle Jack's inaugural address in January 1961. You can watch the video here.

Joe the Third is currently an assistant DA on Cape Cod. He clearly has the Kennedy gift of oratory and he looks eerily like his grandfather Bobby.

For experience had taught him (JFK) that America's is at its best when instead of putting up fences we lift up each other. When our leaders unleash the power of the human experience rather than exploit its limitation. When we combine the qualities that belong not just to the Yankee or the immigrant, the farmer or the fisherman, the businessman or the laborer, but to every American. When out of many we are one. This was the America that President Kennedy championed.

And for what he represented he was taken away, as was Dr. King, as was my grandfather Robert.

Something happened last weekend and it’s time for a change. For too long the rhetoric in Washington has been toxic. Anti-war protesters holding up signs saying ‘death to terrorist pig Bush,’ Tea Party protesters shouting out racist and anti-gay slurs to members of Congress. Protesters shouting out, ‘Death to Cheney.’ Radio talk show hosts calling President Obama and members of Congress communists and traitors. Images of both political parties showing opponents in the crosshairs of a rifle scope.

This isn’t what President Kennedy stood for. It isn’t what Dr. King or Robert Kennedy stood for. They took on the big problems of our world. They looked to those common threads that unite us rather than diving into the identity politics to find those that divide us. This rhetoric creates an atmosphere of hate in particularly difficult times. Our armed forces and their families are bearing the terrible burden of a decade of war. Our economy is struggling to recover. Unemployment rates remain high, while confidence in the American system is at all time lows. Yet in times such as these our commitment to each other and to our country cannot dim but is more critical than ever drawing us once again to something greater than ourselves, to lives of service and sacrifice, courage and judgment, integrity and dedication. These are the ideals that ought to endure rather than partisan rancor, naked self-interest, and other corrosive effects of promoting social divisions, a kind of moral gerrymandering that saps our spirit and degrades our collective will.

I like his speech. He has the potential to carry on the Kennedy torch of service to country and dedication to those less fortunate.

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