Sunday, May 25, 2014

Women's Rights are Human Rights

"I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime, because... I don't know what you don't see in me. I'm the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman. I will punish all of you for it. On the day of retribution I'm going to enter the hottest sorority house of UCSB. And I will slaughter every spoiled, stuck-up, blond slut I see inside there."

That is just a small portion of the disgusting diatribe the Isla Vista shooter posted just days ago to YouTube before it was taken down. CNN still has a copy of the video and transcript in the link above.

After most mass killings, there is a scramble to find evidence of the motive, written or otherwise. There is also a mad dash to compartmentalize the tragedy by labeling the killer a terrorist, madman etc., so as to assure ourselves their madness or motive is incredibly rare.

What is rare in this story is how forthcoming the killer was about his motive and that his hatred toward women is actually and tragically not something rare in our world.

I am saddened that like most fathers, I occasionally lived in fear when my daughter went to college and thought those fears were becoming a reality as it was locked down when someone placed eight fake bombs around her Linfield campus in November 2009.

I was horrified in August of 2002 having to speed up the education of that same daughter at just the age of 11 when two girls around her age were murdered and buried less than a mile up the road from our house. The infamous location of the previous home of Ward Weaver is one that we still drive past every day.

I am physically disgusted to witness the increase of news stories about violence against women in places like India, such as the 2012 brutal gang rape and murder of a 23 year old woman on a bus by six men, including the driver. In a country where martial rape is legal and rape cases have doubled between 1990 and 2008, women are having to take to the streets in protest marches to condemn something as obvious as gang rape being wrong.

I am embarrassed by the fact that I know so many friends and relatives who personally have been physically attacked and abused for simply being women.

I am also ashamed at the unabashed mockery of the First Lady Michelle Obama, driven by her heartbroken compassion from having two of her own daughters, when she posted a picture holding a paper with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.  In a world where just one month ago 276 girls could be kidnapped in Nigeria and sold like mere objects into slavery, that horror is somehow astoundingly ignored and replaced by our petty political attacks against a First Lady because she happens to not be of our own voting party.

Another hashtag, the most popular one currently trending on Twitter is #YesAllWomen. It is a viral, visceral and organic reaction to the Santa Barbara shooter who disgustingly said the college girls deserved to die because they refused to have sex with him.

Whether it can even be proven at this point if he was extremely insane or just mildly delusional, I will refrain from writing here what I really think about him because I simply cannot do it without the most profane expletives possible.

As a man, I live with the worry for my own daughter in such a country where this most recent shooter and his motives could somehow be sympathized with or even remotely justified.

But I am also aware enough to admit that I could never fully understand the degrees of fear or caution that most women experience daily of being abused and sadly, horrifically in many cases come to see those fears become reality.

The thousands of #YesAllWomen posts trending as I write this all serve to highlight the gulf that yet remains between the sexes in 2014 and a partial chance for us men to see things through their eyes. Take a few minutes to read many of them and then read some more.

In the flood of information and news coverage we endure daily, it is natural to fight back against these mass shootings with calls for awareness on gun rights or control, as well as mental illness and treatment.

But I think all of us should be able to take a minute or more from our regularly scheduled soundbites and bullshit debates to agree that it is never acceptable to hit a woman or debase them as mere objects instead of human beings with equal rights in utterly every respect.

You do not have to be a feminist to condemn misogyny and the objectification of women. Or if that is in fact the base tenet of feminism, along with the promotion of their being treated with equal respect and rights, then regardless of conservative or liberal ideology, maybe we should all proudly bear that moniker.

If we cannot stop to agree together on promoting things as basic and obvious as those truths here in first world America, then how can we even begin to imagine we have a right to speak to the tragedies and injustices of third world countries like India and Nigeria?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Through a glass darkly

"For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
 - Paul the apostle, to the church of Corinth (1 Corinthians 13:9-13)

It is difficult to imagine being more sure of your understanding of Christ than a man like Paul, having what he described as a literal encounter with Him where he was struck blind only to be given back his sight three days later when prayed for by a stranger sent to him.

Turning in both character and name from being the infamous Saul of Tarsus who imprisoned Christians and oversaw their public executions, to becoming Paul the apostle who would spread the gospel further than any other disciple, was the epitome of a redemption story.

It had to sting Peter a little when Paul publicly rebuked him for gradually being influenced to refuse to even eat at the same table as gentiles who called themselves Christians, but were uncircumcised.

It's awkward enough that one of the only documented meetings between Peter and Paul centered on the topic of whether or not church goers were snipped... down there.

But Peter had said he already had previously been personally confronted and chastised by the Lord for his hesitance to follow Jesus' original command to actually go into all the world and preach the gospel... and that included the gentiles.

And yet even after he realized his error and tried to correct it, someone far more unexpected and unqualified was being groomed to do just that.

So it had to be far more embarrassing for Peter to be exposed for his error by an ex-Pharisee like Paul.

Think about it.

It was bad enough the gospel was being broadcast much more far and wide by one who was not even an original friend and apostle of Christ like Peter... let alone it being spread by one like Paul who used to belong to the very religious order of Pharisees famous for helping orchestrate Jesus' trial and execution.

Apparently, even after having a powerful and life changing encounter with the Lord, the temptation is overwhelming to gravitate back to the false pride of being righteous through good works or spiritual gifts like Peter and the churches of Galatia and Corinth.

Before his conversion, Paul was a professional church goer, so to speak. He was a believer of the highest order. He spent his life in a temple observing every possible letter of the law, if not the spirit of it, while Peter spent most of his in a fishing boat.

So after his conversion, it was so much harder for Paul to fall to self righteousness and religious certainty and pride. That is what he had been saved from.

While most of us strive with our faith to reach a place of absolute certainty of who Christ is and what is truth or error, Paul could never forget what it was like to be struck blind and he famously wrote that we all can only see Him through a glass darkly.

Corinth was famous for their burnished mirrors and scholars still debate whether Paul spoke of looking through the typical uneven and distorted view of an ancient glass window or into the imperfect mirrors for which the city was famous.

We're so used to our modern, factory precision made windows and mirrors, we are not accustomed as people were for thousands of years to always seeing others and themselves through such distorted and flawed mediums.

So, sadly, the spiritual analogy is lost on many of us.

And like Peter, we quickly become so incredibly sure of perfectly seeing who God has condemned and who He has not.

Jesus spoke of two people who prayed in the temple, one with complete confidence and certainty and another too ashamed to even lift his head up while he prayed.

"Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted."
 - Jesus (Luke 18:10-14)

Maybe Paul personally heard or read of this very parable of Jesus, as Luke was one of Paul's disciples and transcribers. And maybe Paul was guilty of being just like that Pharisee before his conversion.

I could never sing as literally as Paul that "once I was blind, but now I see".

But I have been blind, even long after I thought my eyes were opened. More than Paul. And more than Peter.

You see, I have prayed at so many different times as both the unsure publican and as the arrogant and utterly certain Pharisee.

It has taken me many years to admit that I do not see as perfectly as I once thought about all the many lost and supposedly condemned publicans praying beside me.

And it has taken me longer to realize that as hard as I will continue to ever strain to be like Him and as hard as I will try my best to see Him, it is for now still only through a glass darkly.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Onward I hobble

For a blog to really grow in popularity, it has to tackle the important issues in our world today, which is why I have tirelessly focused on P90X, my Corgis and having to fly on business trips.

I also have written a few heartfelt tributes for people, but at this point, I am just trying to minimize the gradual decent into a macabre diary of everything breaking apart and pieces falling off of me.

When they finally do send me down river and set the boat on fire with flaming arrows, I mostly hope for two things - one, that I am actually really dead at that point and not just sleeping... and two, that people say a couple nice things about me.

I already have a "good" friend who promised me this week that if I let him give my eulogy that he would spend it making fun of all my never-ending problems and him trying to make everyone laugh.

(Another time, he told a comedian friend of ours he thinks he totally could do stand-up, so I think I should give him a shot.)

As I hobbled into the hospital today with my leg brace, I passed a young lady who smiled at me. But I am not stupid.

I know girls are no longer smiling because they think I am the cute 45 year old that I mistakenly used to think I was just a year ago.

They're smiling out of sad pity for the crippled 65 year old that my limp and beard make them think I am now.  A couple even held doors for me today, which was "nice".

Yes, I know all the white in my beard makes me look older than I am, but I really don't think about it that much. But still, the two most common suggestions people give me about my beard are:
  • Shave it off
  • It looks terrible, shave it off
The third input is "It's awesome, it is epic" (actual quote from a human female I did not even give that big of a tip to) but this opinion is as rare as biblical miracles. Maybe even more rare than unbroken Presidential promises.

I fully admit that 90% of the beard compliments I've gotten were at the tattoo parlor.

But I have a hard time convincing my detractors that I just like it and want to grow it out and that I am not just doing it because I "love attention". This is easily disproved by two simple facts:
  • Yes, I love attention, fine you got me on that one
  • But I don't love negative attention, so shut it
I have been on either crutches or this leg brace for a week an a half, as the doctor said it hurts too bad to step on because I have "a neuroma".

I told him he was rude and maybe I thought he had "an aroma" too and that made it really awkward for a minute.

But then he spelled it out for me as an injured nerve. Then he gave me a shot right into my foot with what was probably no longer than a 4 or 5 foot needle. There's no way that was the regulation sized needle, but I guess I had it coming for the "aroma" comment.

Luckily, he said I should be able to walk normal again in as little as 3 weeks, just in time for me to stay fat and out of shape for the family reunion this summer.

Then I stormed out of his office as quick as you'd expect a fat man with one foot could storm, but I'm not giving up!

I may be a chronic breaker-aparter and pieces-falling-offer, but I am not a quitter. 

I WILL start exercising again as soon as possible and I WILL still lose this winter weight before summer*.

Then I can finally focus again on writing about important things, like cigars and Corgis. Maybe beards.

*summer 2015

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Advice for Life

As I sat down on the plane next to a much older gentleman, I could not help but notice a bit of mischievous smile on his face. He was easily in his 90s, so I was a little surprised he was not more withdrawn and sullen like so many of the others.

We had many hours of a long transatlantic flight ahead of  us and with the inflight movie down with technical problems, we started making small talk.

He seemed to have a good sense of humor and air of calm and confidence. Before long, we both really started to hit it off, even cracking jokes and poking fun of each other a little.

Halfway through each of us enjoying our second drink, I jokingly asked him what advice he would give a "young" man like me for living life.

At first, there was quite a long pause as he seemed to be reaching down for the right thing to say.

Then the smile completely left his face. He suddenly became more serious than I'd yet seen him.

I don't think I will ever forget the words he told me:

"Don't say anything. Don't do anything. Keep your head down in this life and do little as possible to attract any attention. 

Anything you do or say that stands out just draws others' notice and judgement or worse yet, their criticism.  

Your goal should not be to get people to like you, but simply to get as few people as possible to dislike you. 

If you are careful to always worry about what people think about you, then you are less likely to say or do anything with which others might not like.

Dress and style your hair exactly as much like everyone else as possible, to blend into the crowd. 

If you don't, then you can either spend your life bullying others into feeling self conscious about their appearance or spend it withdrawing deeper into yourself as others bully and pressure you about how you look.

Don't try to leave a mark or be an influence for change. History has proven that nothing good comes to those who do.

Live every day as if you will never run out of them. You may only have one day or a hundred days left on this earth or you may have ten thousand. 

But however many or few they may be, live as though you have a million days left, so you do not need to start living life until maybe some other day down the road.

Don't laugh too loud or try to make everyone else laugh or worse yet, make them think. You might say something stupid or unfunny and you will always regret it. 

Be reluctant and slow to give out hugs, kisses or compassion and never, ever let others see you cry as these kind of things only show weakness.

Complain often about your problems. This will let others know you are already hurting and unhappy which might make them content to leave you alone.

Don't sing or dance. Don't learn to play an instrument. Don't draw pictures or paint. Don't write any songs, poems or stories, because that is just silly. 

People may not like them, plus you have more important and serious things to do, like work.

Don't waste time sitting in the sun, going for walks or traveling to new places. Don't look at nature unless it is on the screen of your computer. 

Spend as much time as possible looking down at your phone, because that is where you will find the most happiness.

In fact, don't go outside unless you are getting in your car to go to work.

Just go from the box of your house to the box of your car to the box of your office cubicle and back again. Spend as much time as possible in a chair, on the couch or in your bed. 

Watch as much TV as possible. Reality shows are the best as you can watch scripted people pretend to live their lives instead of you ever living your own. 

You can watch movies, but do not read any books as they might challenge what you believe. The only reading you should do is on websites that reinforce everything you already think.

Don't believe in or pray to any God, unless He personally shows up in front of you and speaks to you. Then check yourself into a mental ward, because you are obviously insane.

If you do choose to have faith, only congregate with those exactly like you and never open up and truly befriend anyone who believes differently.

You will have a choice to make... either become so earthly minded that you are of no heavenly influence... or become so heavenly minded that you are of no earthly use.

Don't plan for the future, whether it is saving money or eating healthy or exercising. 

Live just like today will never end and tomorrow will never come. Eat as much junk food and drink as much alcohol as possible, because all that matters is how you feel right this second.

Never talk about anything of import, like politics or religion, unless it is to attack and argue and tell people how stupid and wrong they are for not believing the things that you do.

Do everything you can to grab, take and keep as much as possible, whether it is solitude or attention, winning arguments, or getting money or respect. 

Remember, giving away any of those things to others always means less for you. 

Now listen to me carefully...

Be incredibly careful about befriending anyone and even more importantly, ever loving people. 

Trust me, anyone you choose to love is just opening up yourself to be hurt. You can never get a broken heart as long as you do not open it up and give it to anyone. 

And if you do get hurt, do not ever forget it. You must hold on to that pain. Be quick to anger and slow to forgive, as a reminder to never make that mistake again.

Don't bother settling down with someone, as it probably will not work out and you will just get hurt again.

Be reluctant about telling any of your very few, select friends and loved ones how much you care about them. 

If anyone you do care about ever gets sick or suddenly passes away, you can always tell them at the last minute how you feel about them. 

Or you can live with the regret of missing that chance, if it is too late.

Remember, on your own deathbed, you will only regret the embarrassing things you did, but never the things you were careful to never do. 

Even if you could somehow go back and do those things all over again, if you were smart, then you would still choose to not do anything risky.

If I could sum it up, I would say to never be reckless or vulnerable enough to actually "live life". 

Just spend the illusion of your seemingly limitless number of days as if you're about to eventually... some other day... live your life.  Maybe. In a future that will seem like it might never come anyway.

Always act like you're only about to finally start living life... in the future.

It's just... it's safer and so much easier that way."

As he trailed off, I just stared at him stunned and speechless. I almost felt betrayed. I couldn't believe within this previously smiling, laughing man actually lived such a bitter cynic.

Then he looked up at me again, this time with what looked like tears in his eyes and he told me:

"But more importantly than anything else, especially if you're already doing any of these things... young man... please... please do the exact opposite of everything I just said."

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Every move you make

Earlier this week I went in for a sonogram on my heart (EchoCG).  Aside from complete certainty I am not pregnant yet, they have not offered me other useful data from that test.

They have been monitoring me over the last few weeks because for at least the last 3 months, I have been waking almost every night with my heart racing super fast, sometimes out of rhythm.

With my heart then beating as fast as if a zombie had just broken in or as if I had chased a hobo around the block, it is almost impossible to doze back off and thus the accumulative lack of sleep is somewhat destroying me.

While sleep has long been called "overrated" by our lovable neighborhood crack addicts, science shows it is surprisingly useful for preventing dying. So I would like to do it regularly again.  At least a few times during my average work-week and preferably not while at my desk or in the car.

So, for my doctor to get all her ducks in a row and kill two birds with one stone, she decided there was more than one way to skin a cat and sent me last night to count sheep at an in-lab sleep study to see if I have apnea.

This is that story.

First I should warn you this might get a little graphic, even scary. I was even able to surreptitiously smuggle a few photos out that were secretly taken on my phone by the sleep technician. Someone had to break this story about the seedy underbelly of sleep "science" and I... and maybe TMZ... am that someone. Are that someone. Whatever.

My healthcare provider (real name omitted - we'll just call it the made up name of "Piezer Kermanente") has a large campus directly across the street from a Day's Inn hotel and actually uses their whole 3rd floor for studying people sleep. My experience there last night was typical.

When I arrived to the hotel, I saw we were just down the road from Clackamas Town Center. I was immediately encouraged by the hotel location and my chance to nod off a few inches away from the on-ramp to I-205 and what occasionally sounded like frantic hobos possibly being chased by zombies.

I bypassed the front desk and followed the "Piezer Sleep Study" signs to the 3rd floor. Once checked in, they walked me to my room and we passed a larger room full of scores of monitors where they were meticulously recording dozens of us patients snore and drool.

My sleep tech looked like he was moonlighting from his regular job as a college linebacker, so as he escorted me into my room I was relieved there were no candles flickering or Adele softly playing.

But the huge bank of video cameras on the ceiling were still a little unnerving. It felt like I was stuck somewhere between either a sting of Toronto mayor Rob Ford or the making of a new Kardashian tape.

♫ "Every move you make, every snore you take..." ♫

Falling asleep in a new hotel has already long been hard enough for many people, but this place was different as you immediately noticed on this floor the rooms have OH MY GOD NO LOCKS ON THE DOORS.  But I was immediately set at ease that probably almost none of my fellow patients in the next door rooms were sleepwalkers and/or wanted by the FBI.

The tech informed me the cameras were supplemented by very sensitive microphones throughout the room which they listened to live and recorded. This is of course very useful and inviting for make-believe people who never, ever fart during the night.

Amy has also often told me I can tear into weird and profanity laden outbursts in my sleep, so I had a little fun and pretended a couple times to blurt out in my sleep,  "... the %^&*ing money we stole is buried behind the Town Center! Zzzzzz!".

I don't know if he fell for it, but the tech told me that, "all the sensitive wired connections can tell exactly when you are awake or asleep, so please stop doing that".

I almost forgot about the wiring. Since there are only a couple hundred thousand or maybe million of them attached, you hardly notice they are even there. Here is the picture of me taken by tech once we were done:


Sorry, wrong picture! Here is the correct one of me:

The Six Hundred Dollar Man

To get an idea of how many stickers and wires are attached, try the following, easy test:

  • Pick up a palette of self-adhering electrodes from Costco and carefully attach one on every single square inch of your exposed skin and hair. Yes, even your hair.  Finally, stick on three more of them. This is how many they will be using.

They even had to put electrodes on my jaw. This raised my concerns, especially with the foot thick grey rug I have been carting around under my nose and ears for the last 9 months.

Fortunately, the tech assured me despite my thick beard that they would remain stuck on my jaw with a "special type of glue that will wash right out" and sure enough, it absolutely did not wash right out at all.

The next morning, I even had to sneak mid beard shampooing to my neighbor's unlocked room to steal an additional bottle and I clearly disturbed and offended several sleepwalkers on the way.

Anyway, despite all the wires jabbing into every never-intended-for-wiring crevice of the human body, I think I finally drifted off to something similar to sleep.

Ahhhhh... finaaaaaa.... ARGH!!!

About 3 hours later, I awoke to the 200 lb linebacker hovering above me in the dark and saying that one of the wires might be loose.

Sure that might sound unsettling, but since I was in a strange new hotel room without a door lock, clearly attached to the Matrix, I was able to immediately drift back off to not sleeping ever again until I got back to my house.

Every few hours the tech's voice would come over the room speaker and say, "Pat, I notice from our sensors that you still are not falling back asleep. Is everything OK?"

I replied back, "What IS life? Why are we even here on earth? Do YOU believe in life after death?"

The tech then said "that's it, we're done".  He said he had actually gotten good data of me sleeping on both sides and my back, so they might have enough for analysis.

After my shower and hallway shampoo incident, I was ready to pack up. It was just about 5:00 am and the sun was starting to come up just like at the end of the 3rd movie of the Matrix trilogy.

And I felt satisfied that I had just finished thoroughly exploring some of life's most important existential questions as well as personally contributing to this fascinating new pseudo-science.

I couldn't help but smile as I drove passed the Clackamas hobos and zombies and finally headed home, possibly in the right direction on highway I-205 on just 3 hours sleep.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

When the devil went down to Georgia, God swung by Oregon...

 Thousands of unsuspecting Portlanders praying

Once upon a time... many, many... seriously... MANY years ago...

Me: Ohhhhhhhhh Lord, please see fit in any way possible to use me... a lowly and humble vessel... to show the world you are real and have a sense of humor... I just want to...

God: MY SON....

Me: God! Hi! I was just...

God: Yay, I have heard your petition and I will give you the gift of almost always being able to laugh and wanting to try to make others laugh...

Me: Whoah, nice! That's sounds pretty aweso...

God: ...despite constant painful trials and health problems that will go on for decades, possibly forever. It will be like Life itself is punching you in the face over and over and over and over and over, but yay, I will strengthen you to try your best to stay positive and laugh about it...

Me: Um, wait...

God: ...but finally there will be periods where that stops and it switches over to being like Life is just kicking you... full on kicking you in the groin with steel toed boots. Seriously, it's... it's gonna get bad, I'm not gonna lie to you. And yet you will somehow, someway try to stay joyful and keep a sense of humor, which is actually kinda weird...

Me: Wait... wait, what? WHAT? Can you... can go over that again? I don't...

God: ......................

Me: God?

God: ......................

Me:  Hello?! Hey! Don't go all silent! You were talking literally just seconds ago!

God: I work in mysterious ways.

Me: Oh, come oooooooon! I'd like... can we... can we switch that for another one? I'd really like...

God: Sorry, I... look, I already gave you that one. You have it. You have to keep that one.

Me: No! Come on! This is bullsh....  I mean, this is baloney! Switch it out for something else! Please!

God: ......................

Me:  ARGH! Whyyyyyyy?!

God: Maybe you should have been more specific when you started this prayer.