Friday, December 24, 2010

Once You've Been Poor

Whether you were poor as a child or suffered economic reversals as an adult, something happens to your basic instincts once you've been poor. No matter how much money you manage to make afterwards, you have to fight your inner self to spend major portions of it, because you are afraid of being poor again. Even Oprah, with all of her millions feels this way because of poverty as a child. I grew up in a single-parent situation with only meager alimony/child support family sustenance. I didn't consider myself poor because we lived in a city neighborhood where all of my friends had similar economic conditions. From the age of seven on, I had to fend for myself after school until my mother came home from work. In those days, apartment house neighbors watched out for you if you ran into problems. It was also a time when kids were happy with a basketball or a building block set for Christmas. They couldn't even conceive of the Christmas largesse of today. As soon as I could get a work permit, I started working jobs after school and during the summers, and eventually things got better. Nevertheless, my psyche had been marked in two ways by the experience of being poor. First, I knew that I could get along no matter what economic reversals I suffered, because I had been there before, and I knew the difference between a need and a want. Second, I knew that I would never be able to spend money as though it had no importance because there was always the sensitivity to losing it all. I still look for the best value whenever I shop. Some of my friends who haven't been there can't comprehend my attitude. I thoroughly recommend raising your children on lean rations, because it is far better to live your adult life based on past experiences of being poor than it is to have to learn poverty survival skills during your later years.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What's the Value of Conflict?

Most of the effort we put into interpersonal relations, and most of the effort our governments put into international relations are aimed at reducing or eliminating conflict. The tensions in our lives are caused by the many conflicts we perceive and encounter. Obviously, conflict must be a bad thing because we always try to eliminate it. This statement is not necessarily true in life, because we gain most of our benefits from negotiations due to the conflicts that ensue during the bargaining process. When you write fiction, as I do*, you learn that nobody will want to read your book if it doesn't contain enough conflict. People find books that are all happiness and void of conflict to be boring and uninteresting. Thus, we have a paradox between life and fiction. In life, we try our best to avoid conflict, while in the selection of fiction to read, we go out of our way to search for it. To resolve this conundrum, we have to look at the impact of conflict. If conflict impacts or affects us during the course of our lives, we seek to avoid it because conflict costs us in many ways: money, sleep, friendships, etc. When conflict occurs in a novel, it impacts fictional characters, and we can find that interesting without working up a sweat over it. It is the same principle that lets us enjoy a football game between two teams that aren't our favorites without caring who wins. We have no stake in the outcome. When one of the teams comes from our home town or college, we go through a psychological roller coaster process when our team looks as though it is on the way to winning or losing. The next time you find yourself in a personal conflict with someone, tell yourself that the outcome really doesn't matter that much, and you will find yourself able to think your way through it more objectively. If you don't let conflict emotionally suck you in, you will be more likely to be able to work your way out of it.

*To enjoy some conflict, read my "Lord's Prayer Mystery Series", books out to date: Lead Us Not into Temptation, Volume I, and Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread, Volume II. (written as Richard Davidson)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

God Is Not on Your Side

One of the biggest problems in world and local conflicts is that groups and individuals believe that God is on their side. Making allowance for variations in religious beliefs, if we look to God as the creator of the universe (including a scientific approach that says that something got all the atoms and molecules into the right condition for a big bang to move things along), there is no logical or theological reason to assume he would take sides. The only reasons to claim he takes sides are believer ego and believer strategy. Both of these are initiated by humans and not by God. If you create something, you want others to appreciate it, preserve it, and improve it. God probably takes the same outlook.

Believing that God is on your side is harmful to improving our world. Whether you are attacking others because they don't believe the same things you do; whether you consider that only your group will go to heaven or achieve nirvana (however you define it); or whether you feel that God promised you territorial exclusivity or political power, you are sowing conflict and encouraging destruction of God's creation.

Organized religious groups compete for shrinking pools of potential followers, pushing the importance of their history, their good works, and their lifestyles. None of these things give one group an edge over another in God's sight.

No matter what organized religious groups say, faith and the existence/importance of God in your life are personal matters. It's not whether you follow a defined discipline that counts, it's whether you keep yourself perpetually aware of God's presence and whether you follow his moral ways in order to help improve his creation. If we help each other as we journey through life, we are helping God. If we hurt each other, we are trying to possess God, which is clearly impossible.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What Would Will Rogers Say?

As the pre-election idiocy winds down, each of the candidates is filling the TV airwaves with commercial messages lambasting his or her opponent as being completely unfit for election...My solution is to always hit the mute button when any political commercial comes on. Will Rogers said that he never met a man (or presumably a woman) that he didn't like. The current political commercials have the effect of having us voters not like any of them. None of the Above would win the election in a landslide. However, in keeping with the Will Rogers motto, I feel that I should have something positive to say about this election process. About all I can come up with is the suggestion that high-powered lawyers try to get a temporary injunction to delay the election for another month. The way these people are spending money on negative commercials, the economy would be in great shape after another month of this.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

In the Kingdom of the Blind...

The old saying says: In the Kingdom of the Blind, the One-eyed is King. I always thought that saying was a bit wrong. I think it should be: In the Kingdom of the Blind, the One-eyed is Crazy.
Wouldn't the blind people think that the one-eyed person was talking about unbelievable things? I bring this up now because there is either an election or a mutual massacre about to happen. All the candidates spend all their time tearing into the opposition with false and misleading and outrageous statements. What would happen if one candidate actually spoke about what he or she would do to accomplish something for the people if he or she were elected? Would all the people rally to that candidate in relieved support? Would all of the political aggressors turn against such constructiveness? Could such a constructive candidate survive?...probably not. Just remember that we will be stuck with whomever wins. At this point I think that the American people and the country are going to lose no matter which backstabbing candidates win. Who wants to join me in organizing the None of the Above Party?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Two New National Political Parties

I have become very disillusioned by the political atmosphere in the United States. For many years the outlook has been that anyone who doesn't agree with my viewpoint is evil and should be slandered. I feel that it is time to do whatever is necessary to bring back the spirit of compromise and tolerance of the other person's viewpoint as worthy of logical debate and discussion. Accordingly, let's shuffle up the players in the Democratic and Republican parties so that people on both sides of the aisle have to talk and live with each other. I recommend that we mix the more conservative Democrats with the conservative Republicans to form the Demoblican Party. We should also mix the more moderate Republicans with the progressive Democrats to form the Pubrats Party. You have your choice whether you want to be in Demob or whether you want to be a Pubrat. Either way, we should have more intelligent conversation and more of a party.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Jobs and the U.S. Economic Recovery

According to the Bureau of the Census data (Click on the title of this piece.), there are only 17047 firms in the United States that have more than 500 employees. There are 19,523,741 firms that do not have any employees at all. These are one-person operations that may be run on a full or part-time basis. There are also 5,885,784 firms that have payrolls, 4,980,165 of which have fewer than 100 employees. The most direct path to economic recovery lies in a combination of more people starting their own businesses and a significant percentage of small businesses adding a single employee. The Federal Government would do well to encourage entrepreneurship and to take steps to make it easier for small businesses to hire one additional person. The leverage of small businesses on the economy is huge, and their employees tend to stay with their companies for as long as those businesses remain economically viable. Add to these choices the fact that the government is finally starting to encourage the manufacture of products domestically, and we may find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chicago Blackhawks Decline Arbitration Award for Antti Niemi

The Stanley Cup winners, the Chicago Blackhawks, have demonstrated that common sense is trumped by financial considerations in today's sports world. Capital availability, budgets, salary caps and shareholder pressures are more important than trying to turn a once-in-fifty-years championship into a sports dynasty. This is obviously a very conservative approach to sports management. The Blackhawks are thankful that they won this year, but they are assuming that they are not likely to repeat, so they are being fiscally conservative and hoping for the best.

The salary cap restriction made them release or trade a bunch of players who were central to their phenomenal season, but given the fact that they had already conceded that they could stay under the salary cap with Niemi's arbitration award, their action baffles me. In playoff hockey, a reliable goalie is essential. The Blackhawks are disregarding the adage that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Not only that, but they are turning their backs on a young goalie with many years of future playing potential in favor of a good but older goalie who would be only a temporary solution.

The other Blackhawks news item that throws me is their statement that they lost money this year. They had bigger crowds than ever; they had TV revenues that they didn't have in the past; they had all of the souvenir sales and other benefits of a championship; and they lost money. Next year they will have higher salaries and a low probability of repeating as champions. Will they make more money than this year? I doubt it, but good luck to them.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Rest in Peace, Daniel Schorr

For years I have kept an open spot on my Saturday morning schedule, no matter how busy I have been. It has been the highlight of my week to follow the analysis session after the 8:00 A.M. NPR News with Scott Simon (usually) reviewing the news of the week with Daniel Schorr. Dan always had a fairly balanced point of view plus so many connections that he presented special insights in just a few broadcast minutes. With a heritage that went back all the way to Edward R. Murrow and coverage of World War II, Dan Schorr reported on the events that formed the background tapestry of most of our lives, and he knew how to explain to us how the various threads in that tapestry were interwoven. I know that Scott Simon will continue to review the news with other learned analysts, but I doubt that it will be the same for me. There was something special in the way Dan helped us to understand a situation but still refused to take sides in reacting to it. Thank you, Dan...You've been a beacon, illuminating complex situations.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Priorities and Checklists

I've been away from working on this blog for a while, mostly because my competing time obligations said that something had to give, and this blog turned out to be it. All jobs that compete for your time should be assigned priorities. When I do this, I find that one of two things happens. Either I do the right thing and tackle the top priority job, or I do the wrong thing and tackle lower priority jobs that are easier to accomplish. Recently, I have been doing the right thing - working on my latest novel. In my book DECISION TIME! Better Decisions for a Better Life, I discuss the importance of setting priorities, but I overlooked the self-satisfaction priority of accomplishing something. Sometimes it is important to your ego to be able to check some tasks off of your long list. At these times it is natural to do a few easy and short things so that you eliminate any feelings of guilt and feel free to tackle the high priority difficult and long job. Writing in general, and working on my next book in particular, is usually my top priority. However, I find that I do better writing if I take some steps to clear a few tasks off of my list first. You have to strike a balance that suits your own personality. Procrastination should not be an option. Do something; it's better than nothing.