Monday, November 2, 2009

Hope and Change

The world is looking for hope.

Our current President played into that search big time, and rode that horse all the way to the White House a year ago.

I'm not here to discuss his politics or policies. I'll leave that to other pundits. I'm here to give you two more views of hope, the first from a scientist, the late Carl Sagan, set to music by the person behind

The second is the winning film from the Doorpost Film Project 2009. (Thank you, Larry for passing this on to me.) They have other films you might want to see.

Enough talk. Here are the two views of Hope:

A More Glorious Dawn:


The Butterfly Circus:

I cannot add much to these. I can only reiterate the showman Mendez:

"The greater the struggle, the more glorious the triumph!"

Yes, you can!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The First Commandment

On this website you will see ads for various self-help resources. That is good, as far as it goes. But be careful of what you pick up and read, please. Just because something comes with a label you like doesn't mean you will like what is under the label.

For example, from time to time you will see books by Wayne Dyer advertised. Since I am part of Adword advertising, if I have the phrases self-help or self-improvement, his books will appear. I cannot exclude his books without excluding others (such as the Good News Bible) that I want to keep.

I'm going to pick on Dr. Wayne Dyer for a little bit. I have seen criticism of him and his writings (by an anonymous person with an atheistic standpoint) because Dr. Dyer says God exists. Then I have read, from Dyer's own book, that the god he believes in is more of an 'energy field' that we make requests to. I think the anonymous atheist mentioned above has little to fear from such a god, save for the cringe factor of hearing the word.

Why do I say that?

Our atheist above rails against any belief system that imagines something bigger, and external, to himself. He further rails against any 'rule book' that might be associated to such a belief system. In fact, he rails against any non-human authority, be it Judao-Christian in origin, or Islamist, or, in fact, anything else that might restrict him from doing something he wants to do.

But Dr. Dyer's god places no such restrictions on anybody. it merely does what it is asked.

Right now, some of you are arguing that I have created a straw man, and, in fact, I have. In this particular case I know only that Mr. Anonymous criticized Mr. Dyer, and on the point of the mentioning of God. If I was going to knock him down and say, "Ta-Da!" you would be right to yell at me. (Oh, he may fall, but I am not going to touch him. He will fall, or not, on his own.)

What I'm doing today is apologise to you, dear reader.

As the heading at the top of the page says, I am learning to walk like a child of the King. This King has said:

"I am the Lord your God. You will not have any other gods before me."

All three of us, Mr. Atheist, Dr. Dyer and Mr. Madman Hansen, have put other gods ahead of the One True God. Mr. Atheist has placed the non-god of 'Self', Mr. Dyer, his 'Cosmic Energy Field', which is another way of saying 'Self'. And I, I've placed 'Getting Ahead, Making My Pile, and to Hell with the Rest,' in God's place. In other words: 'Self'.

I am the worst of all, because I should know better.

That is why I should apologise. Every time I've said to depend on something or someone other than the Lord our God to provide strength and help, I've pointed you away from the greatest help you can have.

Oh, I've given God a passing nod: "Make sure you know what He wants you to do." And, as far as it goes, it was good advice. But it didn't go far enough.

Folks, What I want you to do is this: Talk to God. Then: Listen! Do this with an earnestness of expecting an answer.

Yes, even you folks who might have more in common with Misters A & D above, I want even you to do this.

If you are an 'energy field' devotee, you might find your 'energy field' is not so impersonal.

As an atheist, if there is no god, you have nothing to fear in the exercise. You may even get a good laugh out of it.

Myself, I'm hoping that you might encounter a surprise, no matter to which camp you belong.

To tell you the truth, sometimes I'm scared to talk to God, especially when I have an idea that I'm not sure is the direction I should go, but I want to anyway. It's that 'self'-thing. If you fear talking, then listening, to God, do it anyway. I have found, even if the answer is 'No', the alternative is often far better that I would have hoped for. Example: being a loner or marrying my wife (ended up marrying); being a lone couple or adopting kids (adopted two great kids); entering old age quietly or being available to raise a grandkid (yep, more pitter-patter around the house). All of those choices involved me not giving of myself to others, or being a servant.

You get the idea, I hope.

How to earn the money we need ... that I haven't had so much luck with. Scratch that. There is no luck. What I haven't done so well with is listen, or even talk, to God about it. That will change. It has to. With God's help, it will.

With God's help, so can you.

Yes, you can!

PS: on my workstation at my day job (actually, night job, as I work the 'graveyard shift') I have a sticky-note that reads:

What is the point?

I know what the point is, the note is merely there to remind me:

I am here to serve.

Not very glamorous, perhaps, but ...

In service, we do our greatest work.

Yes, we do.

PPS: A new edition of my e-book "Yes, You Can!" will be out in the near future, edited and rewritten where necessary to reflect the above truth about God.

Look for it, soon! (As before, it will be freee.)

Monday, June 29, 2009


This is a bit long today, and rambling. But bear with me, and it will all become clear.


I do so wish I could knit the words together like Twain. For that matter, I wish I could steal a march on the words of Bradbury. Alas, it is not to be: I am my own fool. My words are so much dirty foolscap. And yet, maybe there is a turn or two within the letters, such as might echo in the realms of dusty thought.

Continuing, the above men are my countrymen, as is Emerson. Moreover, Emerson is my kinsman. Too long have I rested on the laurels of that relationship. Self reliance, if not the key (which it may be), is certainly crucial. Emerson’s essay has opened my eyes a bit. He writes from the conviction that all we depend on, outside of ourselves, becomes a crutch, a leaning post. If we add to our capabilities by means of some aid or other, we remove an ability.

I can see that. How many people know more than just the rudiments of arithmetic? Most of us reach for the calculator. My personal classic example of this occurred one day as I was ringing up a sale. The total, with tax came to something like $13.61. The youth (of about 14 years) handed me a twenty and almost immediately I spoke the value of what the change should be, namely $6.39. Then I asked,

‘Did I do that right?’

To which the youth replied, ‘You tell me, you have the computer.’ I told him I hadn’t punched in his twenty, yet. Then I asked,

‘Do I get to keep the change if I’m right?’

He wisely declined my offer.

Throughout our society people have lost such a basic skill, instead, replacing it, and none-too-steadily I might add, with skill of using a calculator. My grandmother used to add figures faster that I could punch them into a calculator, and my mother was almost as good. I practiced that skill, and added the running total of my grocery list in my head as I added things to my cart. At the checkout, while waiting in line, I amused myself by calculating the tax. Quite often I would hand exact change to the checker before she even began her totals. Imagine having anyone do that nowadays.

What have we replaced it with? Well, something that is useful: a virtual Library of Alexandria at our online fingertips. Calculators of wonderful, though sometimes useless accuracy. I mean, who cares if you can multiply a quantity of items by the price, and add in a fractional tax rate and get an answer that continues to ten decimal places to the right of the decimal? You are just going to have to round the number to two decimal places anyway.

Speaking of that, I get a laugh every time I pick up a bag of this or that that says something like: "NET WT 19.20 OZ 544.3g." First off, it might be nominally 19.2 ounces, but saying that that is 544.3 grams just shows that you can work a calculator. In all reasonableness, that bag would be labeled 544 g, or even 540 g, or perhaps 545 g, and still be just as true from a practical standpoint. After all, three-tenths of a gram isn’t much. For comparison, a penny weighs about four grams, and it takes about 4 M&Ms (plain) to balance a penny. An M&M, therefore, masses (very roughly) about a gram. Are the folks at Mars Candies trying to tell me that they weighed each bag meticulously, then added a fractional M&M to bring the bag to proper weight?

Please be serious.

The packaged product is weighed to make sure it contains the amount labeled on the package, within a certain tolerance. When I was packing potato sticks, it was something like plus/minus a gram out of 28 1/3 grams (approximately one ounce) for a one ounce individual serving package. It may have been we were allowed to go ‘heavy’ rather than ‘light’, but I frankly do not recall.
So, instead of using a false precision, why not just say ‘545 grams’, and make sure you adjust to load the bag a bit heavy on the average?

Because that would make too much sense. There would be someone who knew how to operate that calculator, but didn’t know what the answer truly meant, and take issue with the producer and his/her/its product.

For example, when I say ‘About a hundred yards,’ and someone wants it in meters, I’d have to tell him ‘About ninety-one or ninety-two meters.’ No amount of badgering will get me to say that ‘About a hundred yards’ is equal to ‘About ninety-one-point-four-four meters’, especially since I probably paced it off as ‘one-hundred-twenty steps’ (my step averages about 2-1/2 feet on smooth and level ground), and the ground I needed to cover may have required shorter steps, or I might have felt the need to stretch my legs more, or something. ‘About’ in this case means ‘Something close to’, and the unit measures used cover the ground (no pun intended) adequately for that, whichever is used: ‘About a hundred yards’ or ‘About ninety meters’. The exactness of the calculation is falsified by the inaccuracy of the original data.

Back to the sack of M&Ms. The manufacturer cannot say ‘about so much’ regarding the quantity, else they would face FTC problems, despite the fact that they do not, as a practical matter cannot, know the quantity in the bag precisely to the nineteen-and-twenty-hundredths of an ounce. Likewise, they cannot know the mass of said M&Ms to 544.3 grams. The best they can do is try to keep the variation from bag to bag from getting too large.

Soapbox time: weight is not mass, the conversion is not proper in any case. Okay. I’m off my soapbox.

Our almost instant availability has brought an awareness of what might be out there, information-wise, but it hasn’t really brought us much in the way of knowledge. We leave the knowledge in the books, as it were, and get it when we need it.

I admit I hold a little of that attitude as well, and have told my students (in chemistry) that they don’t have to memorize the Periodic Table. But, they had better be able to use that table when asked to apply it to calculations required to balance a chemical equation. And that is just the beginning.

Having said that, I do want you to know that, to perform the above calculation I used my memory: I recalled the mass of a pre-1980 penny (which I had in my pocket), grabbed the bag of M&Ms at my desk for the Net Wt quote (I could have used the ‘1 lb, 453.7gm’ from the past bag size, also from memory), I constructed a simple balance from a pencil and a ruler at my desk, and carried out the comparison to find the mass of a single plain M&M. I didn’t look it up. Why should I, when I can discover the facts directly for myself from first principles?

The look-it-up culture has lost a bit of the experimental, experiential experience. Now there is a certain sense in this; why duplicate effort? My answer to that: check and balance. Did the first experimenter get it right? If your results do not compare to everyone else’s, who’s right? And how do you check? Do you merely capitulate, say everyone else is right and you are wrong? Or do you do the opposite, say that everyone else is wrong? And again, how do you check?

Your direct experience has a more immediate value. The best expression of experience is from an old guy:

"Experience is that thing you get five minutes after you need it."

That says it all, really. The value, the need, the learning curve. If you can learn from someone else’s experience, do so. A young woman I know had two examples to follow on how to live her life: one, get married, be true, work hard, live a fairly successful life; and another, sleep around, get pregnant, convince all the boys slept with that it (the child) is theirs, and get each of them to pony up support. The first example was her parents, the second a ‘friend’ who was doing the very thing, and living just above poverty. The young woman chose the advice of her ‘smart’ peer, and not of her parents. To be sure, she was rebelling against her parent’s ideas and saw their way of life as too hard, when she could just be a sponge. A sponge doesn’t have to think too hard; on the other hand, a sponge is dependent on the currents to bring sustenance to itself; it cannot ‘go get it’.

This young woman’s story is not finished, and she may come to herself and find a better way than just subsistence living as a sponge. I hope she does. She has had much personal experience to learn from.

Experience gives you grit, the stuff you need to keep on grinding on the problems of life.

On the one hand, the instant-look-up of today’s culture/infrastructure does give us new opportunities. What was impossible or extremely expensive a few short years ago has become relatively cheap, easy and of equal or better quality (allowing for the material being worked on being quality to begin with) than what was to be had not so many years ago. To help you with that notion, I direct you to An Army of Davids; by Glenn Reynolds, of fame. Our technology is enabling people to do so much with very little. The real problem is becoming separating the wheat from the chaff. In truth, it has always been so, but there is so much more of it to weed through now.

It has become easier to be self-reliant; the tools are so available. But, without the divine spark, the drive, the fire in the belly, a body can still go: nowhere, fast.

So, where to get that spark?

Ah, there’s the rub, isn’t it?

What do you blame the lack on? Go ahead, think about it, I give you leave. In your secret place, in your heart of hearts, you hold something or someone, human or Divine, or just plain damn misfortune responsible for your lack of success.

Me, too.

But, we’re both wrong. Look in the mirror: that’s whom to blame. Now that you’ve faced the fact, put it out of your mind, don’t dwell on it. Once you know whom to blame, don’t waste time blaming. Spend your time improving, working on a different outcome. Until you die, your book hasn’t been completed. So what if the story hasn’t had much of a plot so far. Be purposeful, give yourself a plot to follow, make it a good one; make it yours. If you need help, consult that Divine Counsellor. I guarantee He's got something in mind for you. My plot isn’t the one you should follow; it’s only the one I should follow.

What is your voice?

I asked that question some time back. A better question:

What is your song?

Karen Carpenter sang the lesson many years ago:

"Sing, sing a song./Sing it clear, sing it strong./Sing of good things not bad,/Sing of happy not sad./ … Make it simple, to last your whole life long./Don’t worry that it’s not good enough for anyone else to hear;/Just sing, sing a song."

Did you hear that? ‘Don’t worry that it’s not good enough…, Just sing…’

Nike said: ‘Just do it’.

Follow their lead.

Yes, you can!

Saturday, June 13, 2009


It never ceases to amaze me what people will say to someone on the far end of a telephone or chat screen. They would never say such things in person. At least, I hope not.

A petulant little boy, whatever his true age, wanted to have his way, and so badly, that he wanted the person on the far end of the line to give him access, or to divulge company secrets allowing him to hack his way to free stuff.

Presuming the service person knew how, didn't the kid have a clue that these conversations were recorded? Apparently not. He just wanted what he wanted when he wanted it, and he wasn't above throwing a child's tantrum if he thought it would get his way (I'm sure it has worked for him in the past).

I won't embarrass the boy by naming him. Surely you've met people like him: thinking they are all grown up, when all they've grown is a semi-adult body and a full-grown spoiled-brat attitude, the kind that looks bad on a five-year-old. What makes it worse is their choice of language. It wasn't the kind that would make a sailor blush; it wasn't that original. It was that low, though.

But it all comes down to the job description: I'm here to serve. If my customer is a boor, it does me no good to sink to their level, or to take offense, or, especially, to get mad. I've lost when that happens. No matter what, I can no longer serve this client when I let my anger rule.

And, as I contemplated what I was going to write on my way home, I was doubly reminded of this.

God has set us here to be a reflection of His glory. Moses looked on the face of the Lord, and his own face shone with reflected glory for a time afterwards. That is what we need to do: reflect the glory. We cannot do this while angry.

Look, even if you don't believe in this God person, you need to understand this. If you want to accomplish something good, you won't get very far if you reflect all the bad in the world. You have to show the best of the best, whatever you hold up as that example.

For me, however badly I accomplish it, I am bound to show mercy and grace, for such was meted to me. And the reason? For those I show it to, to ask: "Why?"

Jesus' task was to live a perfect life, to show it could be done, to die the sacrificial death, to pay for our sin debt and break the power of sin in our lives, and to rise again, to prove he wasn't just blowing smoke. I'll talk another time about the validity of all that. For now, please believe I'm convinced, and I'm not some ignorant hillbilly who can't even tie his own shoes. My faith is as that of Thomas', I have doubts; I need to be shown.

Anger doesn't serve.

Save anger for true injustice, not those who need your service. Serve those in need, if only by a soft voice in answer to their loud, brash, ugly comments. They are only words. Your spirit is stronger than that.


Yes you can.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


Y’know, it’s easy to fall into the entitlement mind set. “I deserve this, because…,” “ I deserve that, because …,” After a while, the because falls away, and it’s just “I Deserve …,” Voila! The entitlement mindset.

We fall into it because our egos like it. To quote Pippin in the musical of the same name: “The fact that I’m different is easy to see …,” and so we should get different treatment. If you find yourself slipping into this mindset, I have one word of advice:


The “Devil Entitlement” sneaks up on a body without notice most of the time. It arrives, quietly, and slowly tells you things you want to hear: “Go ahead, no one will miss that last piece of cake,” “You are a rising star, no one can miss it,” “Sure he got the job, but you’re better. Besides, you deserved the promotion more that he did. It’s not fair.” You get the idea. You may have noticed that “Devil Entitlement” is a flatterer.

Don’t listen to it.

You may have many good qualities, and I hope that you do. But each day you have to prove yourself anew. You have to do what you do best, do it to the best of your ability, and work for what you want.

Wishing won’t do it. Whining won’t do it. Cussing won't do it. Working does it.

Ah. Time for the rest of the lyric quote: “The fact that I’m different is easy to see./So why doesn’t anybody know it but me?/It’s so secondary,/To someone who is very/extraordinary;/ Like ME!”

The fact is, you are different. But, it’s not obvious how you are different from all those other ‘different’ people out there, especially the ones who are caught up with the entitlement mindset.

You have to show people that you are different, and you have to show them how you are different. Most especially, you have to show them why your difference should make all the difference to them!

The fact that you’re different is not easy to see. Show it to them. Prove it to them. Help them understand. In fact, just help them.

Yes, you can.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Words to Remember and Live By

Just a brief note, since I've been doing a bit of updating.

"This just in, from the History Department:

"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." -- Cicero , 55 BC

"Hey, if it's good enough for Rome... "

Yes, WE CAN.

The Economy is Sh*t!

“The Economy is Sh*t! And this is the best I can do!”

Doubtless you’ve heard people around you say this. Is it true?

It is, if you believe it. However, ours is a robust economy, that admittedly has taken a major hit, not the least of which is the Government’s boozy sailor’s spending habit of the last few months. Despite what people would have you think, we cannot spend ourselves into prosperity. I’ve tried it. All I’ve gotten is debt. And debt robs us of opportunities to take our money and invest it in truly important things.

Like what, you ask?


Not just any people, mind you. You have to find like-minded persons, ones who will watch your back while you watch theirs. What is more important, though, is you find people who are going to win, no matter what.

I don’t mean the people who will lie, cheat or steal to get what they want. Those people only win in short term. I mean the people who will, if they are knocked down nine times, get up the tenth time and carry forward.

So, given that this economy is robust, though stressed, what do you do?

Look for the niche. Get/be lean and mean against the obstacles. Be generous with the help you give others. Deliver on your promises, and give a little bit more. Learn what you need to. Put it to use.

Keep moving, don’t give up. Remember your passion.

That bears repeating:

REMEMBER Your Passion.
Remember YOUR Passion.
Remember Your PASSION.

You say you don’t have a passion? Find one. Then, let it take you from there.

Yes, You CAN!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"I Was Wrong."


Two whole months!

I'm sorry folks. I have no excuse, except that I am having a hard time fitting all my "not day job" stuff around my new schedule. Which, oddly, (or perhaps not so oddly) is not a day schedule but a night (graveyard) schedule.

Why? It seemed a good idea at the time.

And I'm going to 'wimp out' a little here. I don't usually steal from myself this way for this blog. The original intention was the other way around. Nor do I usually put forth an overtly Christian message here. What follows just seemed to need to be said.

Take it with a grain of salt, or an entire salt lick, if you like.

Dear C___,

We met a few times (very few) a long time ago, when you and your sister were quite young. This is by way of introduction.

You say that God hates you, listing all of your problems. I understand how you feel. For years I was sure God hated me, too.

And I had plenty of evidence. I'll skip my early life and pick up when I was about eighteen, when my mom divorced my step-dad. I was mad as hell. That I didn't fly totally off the handle and do something stupid that night (get roaring drunk, etc.) was amazing.

A few years later I married a wonderful woman (whom you've also met). Within months she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Then, a year after that, my Mom died of a heart attack.

That's when I became very angry at God, and was convinced that He hated me. So I hated Him right back. For ten, fifteen, nearly twenty years I've been angry at God for giving my wife cancer, and for killing my Mom. I still have the habit, and I fight it every day.

Now I don't tell you this to try to "one-up" you. Rather, I want to let you know I thought I had reason to think the way I did.

And now I need to tell you this: I was wrong.

My mom died from her own life-style, which included smoking a pack of Winstons a day, until she had her own cancer. She tried quitting, but never quite managed to. My wife's cancer was due to some environmental factor we still don't know about. My mom's divorce was because she was one of two people couldn't really find that spot where they were hitched together like a team of horses pulling the cart of marriage in the same direction.

More than that, I was wrong because God never gives us more than we can handle, at least if we have His help. He wants us to ... Well, I was going to say "Call on Him in times of trouble." That is true, He does. But He would rather we be listening to Him before then, and avoid some of the problems in the first place. I could give you some examples of them, but why bore you, you've undoubtedly heard it before.

In the case of my wife's cancer, I can truly say, there is nothing we could have done to avoid it. That's when we needed to "get through it."

My wife trusted God much more than I did. She did have her scared, and sometimes angry moments. I just have trouble remembering them.

Whereas I walked through my life back then with a chip on my shoulder the size of the General Sherman redwood. I still have that habit. My wife can tell you about that. She is usually too kind to do so unless there's a lesson to be learned. I hate to say that I can be a very good bad example.

God is in control. By that statement you might assume He wanted you to break your wrist, or to hurt yourself snowboarding, or to have the other problems in your life. He does allow these things. He expects you to learn something. What is He wanting you to learn?

Remember something about that: God had the people of Israel wander in the desert for forty (40!) years before entering the promised land, because of their lack of desire to learn and understand. This for a trip that could take a determined person on foot as little as forty DAYS! Is it any wonder that we sometimes seem stuck in the same spot? I've sometimes said to myself: What am I supposed to learn with this uncomfortable situation? Let me learn it quickly, so I can move on to something else! Sometimes, I even do.

C____, I may have gotten off track a bit, but my point is, God does love you. He wants you to learn from what has happened in your life. I want you to understand this: God did not spare His own Son, but placed Him in the path of our punishment for sin. That punishment is the eternal death. Please don't misunderstand, it's not eternal nothingness, which is bad enough, but the punishment that a just and angry God is reserving for His rebellious angels. You don't want to be there. The only way to avoid it is by accepting the gift of God's Son, the price He paid for your sin on the cross.

If he was just another man on a cross, there would be no point. But to prove that he was who he said he was, God raised him from the dead three days later.

If that hadn't happened, this whole Christianity business would never have gotten off the ground. We could well be sacrificing bulls to Zeus, or grain to Demeter. That this Christianity thing DID take off, says something.

It says there's something real about it. Nothing would change eleven scared men hiding out from what they thought was an eventual and certain doom into eleven men willing to face physical torture, persecution and death than an absolute certainty that this Jesus character was alive again. If you know of anything, please tell me.

Well, I've rambled on far too long, so I'll close.

Take Care of that Wrist and
God Bless,

Dana H.

That's it. I guess you could call it my testimony. Compared to some I've heard, I wish it was better, but, it is what it is.

Perhaps it also lets you inside this madman's head a little.

The theme of this blog is: "Yes You Can."

Whatever you do, you can get through your life, even if you do need help sometimes.

Yes, you can!

Monday, February 2, 2009

"We don't serve food here. We serve people."

First of all, this is a work of fiction. None of the names belong to anyone, so far as I know. But, you have met these people before, at one time or another. And if you haven't met a 'Ruthie', I hope you do, soon.

I was talking to Fred and his wife, a wonderful couple once mentioned in Paul Harvey’s Tournament of Roses*, when the man came in.

He came in all het up, and stalked right past the “Please Wait To Be Seated” sign. I could see Emmaline cringe. Emmaline doesn't cringe for much, so I said, "Pardon me, Fred, I think a 'situation' just walked in. Do you mind if I come back in a bit?"

"Sure Eomer, take care of what you need to take care of."

"Thanks. I'll be back." I intoned in my best Arnold voice. That got the usual chuckle.

As I walked up to Emma, the man was just saying: "Do you know who I am!?"

Before Emma could try to answer, I said, "Michael Moore?"

The man turned to me with a glare. "Who are you?" he demanded.

"Eomer Dane. I run this place. What can I do for you, Mr. Moore?"

"I'm not Michael Moore!"

"Oh, I'm sorry. May I have your name, please?"

He rattled of an important-sounding string of syllables so fast I couldn't catch them. I mentally named him, 'Sir Loin, of Beef' and determined to just call him 'Sir'.

"Thank you, sir. What can I do for you today?"

"I'm hungry, and this greasy spoon is the only place to eat in this one-horse pimple of a town."

"Why, thank you, Sir. But you seem upset. How can I help you?"

He looked at me as if I was stupid. Self-important people often make that mistake. "I want to eat, now! I'm in a hurry!"

I looked over the lunchtime crowd. A typical Friday bunch, some were folks I know lived two towns over, and regularly made the trip for their favorite meal, or just to see ... yes, they were here today: Little Ruthie and her family. There's only one major business in our town, building farm implements, and Ruthie's mom worked the swing shift as a safety oversight. A stickler for detail, her shift recently won a company-wide award for the longest time without a loss-time incident. Lunch was a special thing once a month thing for them.

"Who do you suggest I try to hurry along? Those four road-crew guys?" Each was bigger than two of me put together, and I'm not small. Good guys, but you don't want to get between them and their lunch. "The 'Ladies'-Aid Tea' folks in the corner?" They were the blue-haired Jesus lady types, sure to bless you, and any one if them will be on your doorstep with a half-gallon mason jar of the best chicken soup (better than mine, even) you've ever used to get over your flu. I'm sure they race each other to see who can get it to you first. But don’t you mess with them; they’re close to God. "Or how about that single mom and her three kids." I indicated Ruthie's table. "Are you more important than them?"

He glared at me. "Doesn't my name mean anything to you?"

"Frankly, no. But say it again, loud, so the people can hear. Maybe they know you."

Glaring at me, he raised his voice, which had already been audible to most folks in the cafe: "I'm Robert Sarkajanianski!"

Most of the folks looked puzzled at each other. From the Crew Guys' table: "So?" It pretty much summed it up.

To 'Sir', I said, "You seem to have a high notion of your importance. I don’t kow what your standards are, but let me pick one of the least important parties here: How about that family of four there: let me tell you about them. The Mom works nights as a safety boss, over at the factory.”

“So what?” he sneered.

I ignored the interruption, “Her husband used to work there, up until someone forgot to put away an extension cord after doing some maintenance. It was a small thing, but, as such things happen, a trip over a cord here, sent a person into a control panel that started up a machine there, that her husband was working on. He was hurt pretty bad, but the injury itself would have been survivable. He was caught in the machine in such a way no one could get to him, and he bled out." I paused for a breath. "All for a simple extension cord. Sam was a good man, and is terribly missed in this, what was your word? 'Pimple', of a town." Another breath, "That lady is a trooper, though. About a week after the funeral, after all the hot dishes had been finished up, Ellen marches into the office of the plant. The secretary immediately thought: 'Lawsuit' and buzzed her boss. He was just coming into the reception area when Ellen said: 'You need a safety chief. I'm your woman!' She wouldn't take 'No' for an answer, and he, more out of pity, really, and possibly thinking that he could avoid that lawsuit he feared, put her on as safety agent on the same shift her husband had worked.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell me she is the best they have now?” Sarcasm fairly dripped from his mouth.

"As a matter of fact, she is. To say that she’s motivated is to state the obvious.”

“Hmmm. I suppose.”

"Sam Junior, Billy and Ruthie are all good kids, and Ellen is doing the best she can, not looking for handouts, and she owns that job she has. She's been training the other safety bosses in the company, but doesn't want to be promoted; she can't be on the lookout for the stray cord or tool left where it shouldn't be. 'Inspect what you expect,' is her watchword."

“Why should she be so worried? She’s already lost her ‘man’. If she pressed a 'suit' she might even come out a rich lady.”

I looked at him, searching for his face for a sign of understanding. Seeing none, I said, “She doesn’t want anyone else to suffer the same way she did, from the same kind of stupid mistake. Some folks turn inward at these times. Ellen turned outward.”

By this time, Emma had taken the checks for two or three groups, and seated new groups in their place. But the people weren't leaving. They were hanging around, watching the show: Me and ‘Sir’.

"Like I said, Ellen does her best; Sam Jay, Billy and Ruthie are all good kids. You want some name recognition? Listen:" I raised my voice, "Hey folks! Ruthie's here today!"

The Cafe erupted in a roar of applause that went on for a full three minutes. Standing ovations are hard while sitting at a table or in a booth, but some folks tried. Little Ruthie sunk down low on her seat, trying to look small, but with a shy, happy smile. I turned back to 'Sir', "Do you know that some of these people travel to this cafe, not for my chicken-fried steak (which is the best around, if I do say so myself), but for a chance to get a hug from Ruthie? There's not a person here that Ruthie hasn't touched somehow. She even has a menu item named for her. There's a story about that," I glanced at 'Sir's face. His glare had fled somewhere, only to be replaced by a sad, sad look not often seen apart from funerals. "But now perhaps, is not the best time for it."

He looked at me, as if coming out of a dream. Along the way his angry glare came back. "Very nice story. Now get me a seat, dammit!"

I looked him right in the eye, and said, "Emma, Do we have a seat for this customer yet?"

Emma, who does her best to be accomodating, looked at the line of people still sitting in the waiting area. "No, Boss."

"How long, do you think?"

"Fifteen, maybe twenty minutes."

Still holding 'Sir's eye, and with an easy smile, I replied: "You heard her. You can wait on the bench with the others, and have a cup of coffee if you'd like, while you wait. Tell you what," I added, "I'll even get you a Ruthie's dessert, on the house."

"No. Thank. You. Don't you know I could buy this place?"

"I rather doubt it, but, if you'd like, I'll get you the owner's card and you can call him."

"Do that!"

From my wallet, I pulled out one of my cards and handed it to him. He snatched it out of my hand, stalked off to the bench, sat down, pulled out a cell phone and started dialing. He had no problem finding a place on the bench; no one wanted to sit near him.

In a moment the back office phone rang. I let it go. I knew someone in the kitchen would pick it up by ring three. We get a lot of take out orders. Meanwhile, I said hello to the folks, and got back to Fred. Before I could pick up the thread of the conversation, Louis was at my elbow with the cordless phone, and a strange look on his face. "Someone wants to buy the whole place, Mr. Dane. He don’ soun' too frien'ly though. You not gonna sell are you?"

I shook my head with a smile and a chuckle, and took the phone. Covering the mouthpiece, I said to Fred, "Do you mind being a secretary for me, Fred?" I handed him my pocket notepad. I don't leave home without it.

To the phone: "Hello, how can I help you today?"

I didn't need the phone to hear him say, "I'm gonna buy your cafe today. The only question is how much."

"I'm sorry, to whom am I speaking?" he rattled of his name even faster than before. I asked, "Can you spell that for me please? S-A-R-K, Slowly, please, A-J-A-N-I-A-N-Ski? Thank you." I spelled it aloud for Fred, who was dutifully scribbling. "Mister Sarkajanianski, I'm not in the market right now. Talk to me in a few years, maybe."

He named a ridiculously low figure, "Surely, 'Sir', you must be joking." He then named an equally ridiculous high figure. I let out an impressed whistle, and replied, with a wink to Fred, "That's an awful lot of money. You'd have to wait a lo-o-ong time for the R-O-I to break even. What?! Close the place?! Whatever for?"

'Sir' told me how rudely he'd been treated, not mentioning, of course, how rudely he'd treated the clientele already here. He invented all sorts of terrible, terrible things done to him, none of which were true, how he'd write to Duncan Hines and other folks about it, and I'd never have a scrap of business again. The best thing for me, he said, was take the money and run. Most of these bullies do their best work over the phone. I glanced over to the bench and I saw that the crowd was starting to get a bit ugly.

"'Sir'," I said, "Do you mean to tell me that you'd do all that, just because you had to wait a little bit to be seated?"

"Didn't you hear all the other stuff I said?"

"Yes, indeed, and so did the whole restaurant. About your threat, I think I’ll just take my chances. You seem to think you can buy me. What cell service do you use?"

He named one. I said, "Great. They have broadband coverage here. Does your phone do the web? Good. Try 'Googling’ my name, please."

He hung up with an, "I'll get back to you."

While he was doing this I walked back to the waiting area and sat down next to him. As I did so, I saw that Ruthie, little butterfly that she is, was working her magic among the patrons. She didn’t have particular favorites, but she aims herself at people most needing a smile. It’s wonderful to see a room just sort of take on a glow when she’s been through it. It never ceases to amaze me.

I asked ‘Sir’, "Did you get a hold of him?" He just glared at me. He seemed only to have those two expressions: Angry, and Sad, with Angry being the one he used most often. Then he found the links. I found he had a third expression, one not commonly used, apparently: astonishment.

"You can't buy me." He looked up, startled. I went on, "Even if you could, I wouldn't sell. This place is a hobby, not a business; a labor of love. I run it because it makes me happy, and it makes other people happy, too. Everyone who works here is on the same wavelength. And my best advertising draw is Ruthie, and," I looked him straight in the eye again, right down to the bottom of his soul, "What she gives away for free you can't buy with money." I looked around me. Apart from the two of us, the bench was clear. Fred came by, saying, "Here's your pad, Eomer. Thanks for an entertaining lunch."

"Don't thank me, Fred. Thank Mister S., here. Have a great day!" Fred and his wife left, arm in arm, as they had done so for as long as I can remember, probably since before I was born.

I looked back at my guest on the bench, "Emma? Is there a booth for Mister S. yet?"

"Looks like Ellen and the kids are just finishing up, Boss. Be five minutes to clean the table."

"Great. Five minutes, then. Will that be good enough, 'Sir'?"

He just looked at me, dazed. I answered for him, "That will be fine, Emma. Put a platter of Ruthie's on the table for us."

“Why do you do this? You could do anything you wanted.” Sarkajanianski was truly puzzled.

“That’s why I do this: I want to.”

Ellen checked out, and as the family walked past, a familiar voice said, "Mister, you look sad. Can I give you a hug?" Without waiting, she hopped up on the bench and buried her face in his ribs, wrapped her arms around him the best she could, and squeezed. Then as her Mom said, “Ruthie…” she said, "God loves you, mister." and hopped away, giving him a little wave.

Sarkajanianski just looked after her. The whole thing happened too quickly for him to react in any way except more surprise.

"Looks like Emma has your table ready, Mr. Sarkajanianski. Let's go get you sat down."

He looked at me, "Do you always treat people like this? I mean, people like me."

"Like what?"

"Not taking their guff. Not pushing back, but not backing up. Being polite. Being ... Nice."

"Not always. There was a day I would have thrown you out, and to hell with you. But we don't serve food here. We serve people. And we try to give them what they need, not what they deserve." Glancing up, I see the booth is set, and Ruthie's Dessert was laid out: broccoli, celery, carrot sticks, apple slices, and fresh Alberta peaches.

"Let's go and get some food into you. Emma?"

"Yes, Boss?"

"Make sure we have plenty of coffee, we may be here a while."

"Sure thing, Boss."

I may have another convert.

* Actually not, but it gives a sense of how old they are.

Can people be converted this easily? Maybe not. But, it's worth a try.

Yes, you can!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Greatest Middle Name Ever

Seth Godin has a point. It is just about the greatest middle name to have. Click here to visit his blog.

I'll wait.

Now that you're back, I'd like to remind you that *>ahem<* my nickname is "THE Madman."

Not that I'm tooting my own horn (much), but being the singular, remarkable, unique can be a good thing.

  • What makes you unique?
  • What are your singular talents?
  • What causes others to remark at your passing by?

I bet there's something about you that turns heads, something you may not even be aware of.

What is the "The" in your life?

Find out.

Yes, You Can!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Is Poverty an idol?

And do we take pride in being poor?

I have an acquaintance that I run into every now and then, that kind of exemplifies this. I won't mention her name. She claims to be of the Franciscan Brotherhood, and, since I've known her to be trustworthy, I trust her.

Yet, when she visited me some time ago, I got the idea that she was proud of her hand-to-mouth existence, thinking herself holy because of it.

While I understand the Franciscans do take a vow of poverty, I believe they do also believe in working for their bread, or providing some sort of service or labor.

My wife and I tried to counsel her along the lines of finding some sort of work, but we didn't get very far. I asked her, "What can you do, what skills do you have?" Her reply was, "I might be a ____, if I go back to school for it, or I might be..." going on to list the different possibilities, never once truly addressing my question. These answers, I felt, might have been all right twenty years before, when I knew her in college, but I felt, that at this point, they were the answers of a drifter, one who lets life happen to them.

We all can fall into that. For some of us, it's called the rat race.

There's two ways, money-wise, if you're going to trust God implicitly, and both require you to talk it over with God first, and remembering to listen.

A) you can be like my Franciscan friend. No, that's wrong. You can be like George Mueller. He's the person who provided homes and shelter for 500 orphans (as his ministry grew), and his needs, and the needs of the children were fulfilled entirely by God through prayer.

I'm not that brave, by the way.


B) you can strive to make the money, tithe and be generous, be wise in your investments of your money, time and talents, and be productive. That way, you can help the George Muellers of the world.

I'm learning to be that brave.

Both methods require you (and me) to turn our hands to some productive endeavor. I don't think God blesses idleness. If someone can point this out to me, I'll be glad to stand corrected.

And both require you to get it straight what you're supposed to do.

God doesn't care if you're rich or poor, as far as what you do. He just wants to be first in your life, whatever you do.

That's the heavy topic of today. It's time for something lighter.

I should have warned you, this post is going to be all over the map, since it's been so long since the last posting.

Encouraging words: there was a scene from Good Will Hunting (never saw it, so I'm trusting other eyes) that referred to a college student who came in late to a statistics class and hurriedly copied down two formula on the blackboard, thinking that they were an assignment. He didn't know that they were supposed to have been impossible, so he worked on them and solved them.

Some weeks later, his professor congratulated him on solving the insoluble, and made sure he got proper acknowledgement for his work. True story. That man was George Dantzig. Feel free to click his name to bring up the Wikipedia article.

One more, just for fun, is at Just click it, and you'll see. remember it when people say it can't be done. And grin.

Yes, You Can!

(By the way, Happy New Year!)