Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Weekend Plans

My mother and I are going to San Francisco's Open Studios this weekend.
We've been going for nearly 10 years now. The routine has stayed the same - first we got to the exhibit hall and review the section of art samples for the studios who are open. Then we map out where those studios are and head out. I've had friends join us through the years - maybe I can talk Greg into going with us this year.

My favorite cluster of artists work at the old Hunter's Point shipyard. There are several buildings, each with several floors and I do my best to not get over-loaded. About 3 years ago - when I went with Michael and my mother, I fell in love with lovely paintings of rural Marin. Last year I treated myself to a new necklace by Brooke Jasmine. Almost every time I wear that necklace, I get comments - a very smart purchase!

Going to this every year helps me feel more connected to the local artistic community. Not that I can be a significant patron of the arts, yet they open their studios to provide us with a little window into their community. We can see and learn what they are doing - if possible, support them with a purchase.

I think I've waxed on about this before, and so will keep it short. I believe that societies are judged on their creative additions to our culture bank. We look to Athens, not Sparta. We look to cultures that have produced art, literature and poetry. I like staying in touch with the part of San Francisco that adds to our culture's greatness.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Never Ending Road to Self Improvemnt

Greg got me started on a program of Life Mastery and I've spent much of the last few months spinning my extra cycles on thoughts regarding my vales, my purpose, my talents and how those can be better defined - or even defined at all in some cases - and then how those line up with my job, career and other focuses in life.

The first hurdle I faced - I wasn't sure of what my values were. It took a while to figure that out. There are things I like, activities I enjoy but I couldn't always justify those as values. Just because I like to cook, does that mean I value food more than the next guy. And is food a value? I thought values were concepts - like freedom, honesty or maybe a cool car? I value time off - but is that sloth? After all that thought and a couple attempts to find answers or, at least the right questions, in self-help books - I've come to the conclusion that I need to write a book.

Back to the topic... After 3 weeks I think I sorted it out. I value my connection to family & friends (that is why I moved back to San Francisco from Los Angeles) - but I'm not spending enough time on them. I value health and so am going to stick more to the low-carb meal plan as well as get myself to yoga 3-4 times a week with 1 supplemental visit to the gym. And I value continuing self improvement.

Right now I'm reading The Relationship Cure (by John Gottman) - which sounds like it would end all need for those pesky relationships, but instead is supposed to help me with my communication skills. Some might suggest that I simply speaking slower and enunciating more, but pshaw!

I'm only 1/2 way through and was taking the personality command center tests which make me realize two things. First, I love personality tests. They are fun! The majority of them don't really help me get anywhere, but still they amuse me when joining Greg on the couch for an occasional hour or two of professional sports.

Next, how I perceive myself can be in stark contrast to how Greg sees me. When I think of myself being nurturing, I remember leaving a sick ex-significant other in bed with a cold. I was so filled with contempt for him at the time, I had to leave the house. I was utterly unable to tend to him or even warm up some chicken soup for him. He and his stuffy nose repulsed me and it angered me to have any obligation to him. On the other hand, I talk to and tend and trim my orchids incessantly. Greg sees that as nurturing. Maybe it is that I do my best to keep good things around the house for him to nibble on. I also love to cook and do little nice things for friends... does it count as being a nurturing person if one only shows that side around those who they care for?

I guess I need to keep working at this. But I'm also reading the bible (the New Living Translation - that King James version is exhausting), as I think everyone should. And yesterday I found a passage in the first book of Peter that was encouraging in my struggle to be a better person:

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies.

Some of you who have known me for years are probably amazed that I would quote the bible... And I'm surprised myself at what I'm finding in there. We all have gifts, we all should take time to realize what they are and then go out to use those gifts with all your heart and for the benefit of all. That's universal.

Now, if only I could figure out what my gifts are!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Smart Security

Yesterday I was reading about how the Bush Administration wants to go into Iran. This shouldn't be a surprise - they have been saber rattling for years. First they tried the same argument as they did against Iraq - "They are about to have nuclear weapons." But the public was tired of that. We didn't do so well trying to prevent Iraq from developing their sand into plutonium.

Now they are squealing about how Iran is the cause of Iraq's civil war. Unfortunately they are gaining traction with this argument. When will the public awaken to how much less secure the Bush Administration is making us? This aggression towards "rogue" nations that only servers to make us look like bullies. Going into Iran will launch us into another mind boggling expensive quagmire. It won't be long before they tell us that we will be welcomed with open arms by the Iranian people... parades & roses & all.

Smart Security means making friends in the world. Instead of invading at the drop of a hat and chasing after non-existent enemies and weapons, we should be focusing on stopping the real threats. We should focus our energy on Afghanistan - where the real threat is. We should be rebuilding and providing for the poor & needy in nations where terrorists take hold. If we provided medicine to the sick, food to the hungry and clean water to the dry, we'd have many fewer enemies in the world. Bin Laden would have a hard time recruiting suicide bombers if the majority of Muslims owed the bread on their table to America.

Smart Security is not alienating other nations. It is building coalitions. It is recognizing others viewpoints and finding common ground. It is working with, not talking down. It is researching and respecting other societies and countries. Our way works well for us and most other cutlurs find that their ways work well for them.

We need to ask our presidential candidates how we are going to leave this wasteful path of war and implement Smart Security solutions.

I think Bill Richardson has a good grasp on what this means:

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why do we need torture?

For a while I didn't really care. I think I was like most Americans. We didn't care that the Bush Administration wanted to use torture against those pesky terrorists. The terrorists were out to destroy us, right?

But then I've been thinking about it more - torture & Guantanamo. What is going to happen to the people suck there? At first it was fine - we needed information to fight the war. But why does he want to keep bugging those guys stuck in that Cuban prison? How many years have they been there? And they have total isolation - no letters from family. I keep thinking of the family back in Afghanistan that has no clue about where little johnny is. Let them just go home. Do they really have to serve a life sentence for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

And then the military tribunals - what a joke. The defendants don't hear evidence against them. They don't get lawyers. They cannot confront those accusing them. I would think it better to not have a court than to have such a farce.

When did we Americans start to stoop so low? Bush has been dragging us down. I know - this is nothing new. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, but what if we get another NeoCon in office? How can we as individuals stop this alarming trend of destroying American values in the name of security.

Then, I have yet to see torture work. When a man is under duress, he just says what the torturer says to say. Valuable information is rarely obtained. Just forced confessions. More than a tool to elicit data, torture is a weapon to inflict fear upon a population. Current we are using it against the terrorists, but when will we shift to start using it against internal terrorists?

We say that can't happen, but Bush has already received permission to declare anyone an enemy combatant. Once an Enemy Combatant, the person loses all rights of a citizen. No trial, no habeus corpus, no contact with one's family, no lawyers... just a quick trip to Gitmo where torture is allowed.

The torture has got to stop. Habeus Corpus must be restored. We need to speak to our representatives - let them know that this isn't acceptable, under any condition. That we are civilized, not savage. We understand and respect human rights - even of those that do not respect ours. We are better than the terrorist and we need to live that way.