Sunday, November 25, 2007

Being Home for Thanksgiving was Awesome!

I am SO thankful for family!!! I enjoy our time together and look forward to it all year.

For family: I've put up a slideshow to the right that shows 4 pictures (unfortunately only 4) but if you click on the pictures, you'll be taken to flickr's site which will show the remaining 42. Also, some of you may notice that, while I took a photo of you during the party, it isn't on flickr's site. I was disappointed with my picture taking ability and deleted some that were too dark or otherwise poor quality.

A special thanks to Mom and Dad for their hardwork and to Tobias for all the laughter. Richie, Micah, and Catherine...we missed you!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Compliment Invalidated?

While at church a few weeks ago, the lady in the pew in front of me complimented me on my singing. She recommended that I join the worship team upfront.

She mentioned that she was tone-deaf and that she could never sing upfront with the worship team or with the choir.

Still a compliment?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Time to Clean the Blender

After not using my blender for several months and having a hard time separating the components, I decided to try to clean the blender using agitation.. Agitation like in a washing machine.

Put in water and dishwashing liquid. Turn on blender. Clean as a whistle.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Whats the most communistic org. in the States?

I was thinking the other day that one of the institutions that looks most communist is one that fights communism...our military.

Let's take a closer look:

-while not a classless social organization, it receives most of its recruits from one segment of the population: the poor.

-it punishes dissent.

-it rewards those who accept the "party" ideology and promotes them.

-there is only the possibility of state run jobs. if you happen to do something you're good at, its usually an accident.

even though you take the ASFAB before entering the military (to match your strengths with your position, the likelihood that you actually do what you love, what you were trained for, or what you're good at doesn't match anecdotal evidence. my brother, who was excited about learning the trade of air conditioning repair, was saddened to find both a) that army air conditioners bear no resemblance to commercial air conditioners in the states and therefore renders most of his training useless and b) that he has spent much of his time shredding paper. unfortunately, he is set to be posted to iraq soon...presumably to be an infantryman.

-employment and job security are most important in a state-run job.

-less motivated workforce. up till now, said brother has recounted the laziness of those in the military. "go out drinking the night before, call in sick the next day. there is no ceiling for sick days. want to observe extra holidays? the military can observe all US holidays plus all the holidays in the country they are serving."

-wear the same thing, look the same, eat the same thing.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chiropractor Visit

The last few months I've been visiting a chiropractor here in Omaha. I started going because of some lower back pain.

The ritual is always the same: 30 seconds of alignment for my back, neck, and right knee and then 20 minutes in another room for "shock therapy". This treatment allows me to lie face down and have electrodes placed at different intervals on my back.

Sometime I have 4 electrodes placed, sometimes 8. When I have 4 placed, they have been arranged differently each time. Sometimes 2 around my shoulders and 2 on my lower back. Sometimes 2 on my lower/middle back and 2 on my lower back.

I don't understand why they are placed where they are, except that they seem to be around nerve endings. And why sometimes 4, sometimes 8? Sometimes there are also "lasers" placed on my middle lower back and ice packs placed in different places.

Sometimes they actually hit the nerve ending and I can't take the "shocks" as strong as normal. My favorite is when the electrodes are placed at my shoulders. There is an involuntary jump in my arms when these "shocks" take place. It looks like I'm doing the chicken dance while lying on the table.

The technician dialed down the treatment a couple months ago, when she saw/heard my arms hitting the wall next to me. My chicken dance on the table was disturbing.

But really fun.

New Books Read

Things We Couldn't Say, Confessions of An Economic Hit Man.

Things We Couldn't Say was written by a Dutch woman who helped in the Dutch Resistance by providing ration cards and fake IDS for Jewish people in hiding during WWII. Good read. Had the blessing of hearing the author at Michael and Laura Alley's a couple of years ago.

Confessions of An Economic Hit Man is an important read. Incredibly depressing. The destruction caused by the marriage of US industry, government, and our military has overthrown leaders of governments, murdered and tortured, and enslaved populations with crippling debt. Run through the list of leaders/countries affected in the last 60 years: Iran (Mossadegh overthrown; committed to house arrest), Chile (Allende killed in coup and dictator Pinochet installed), Panama (assassinated Torrijos and installed military dictator Noriega who fell out of favor and was later arrested and put on trial in US in gross violation of international law), Guatemala (coup against Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán; he was exiled), Iraq (Hussein tried in kangaroo court and executed), Ecuador (Jaime Roldas; assassinated), Indonesia (Sukarno forced under house arrest after successful coup), attempted in Venezuela (Chavez; acknowledged by US State Department in coup attempt), attempted in Cuba (most well-known because of its failure against Castro), and these incidents don't cover anything the US attempted outside of the work-related or regional knowledge of the author.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Does The US Exhibit Malignant Narcissism?

Let me start with some backround from M. Scott Peck, demonstrating the common ways that a large organization may exhibit less than desirable traits and then ask the question whether the US, as a large organization, exhibits some of the traits consistent with malignant narcissism.

Peck says that "human groups tend to behave in much the same ways as human individuals-except at a level that is more primitive and immature." "why the behavior of groups is...from a psychological standpoint, less than the sum of their parts." p. 216

Peck describes several factors associated with group behavior that influence this primitiveness.

1) Specialization.

While Peck says that specialization has in many been an advantage in groups it also leads to the fragmentation of conscience. For instance, in war, when asked about the morality of the participants' part in the process, the responsibility was always assigned to another "department". "'Oh we appreciate your concerns, but I'm afraid you've come to the wrong people....This is the ordinance branch. We just supply the weapons-we don't determine how and why they're used. That's policy. What you want to do is talk to the policy people down the hall'. And if I followed this suggestion and expressed the same concerns in the policy branch, this was the reponse: 'Oh we understand that there are broad issues involved, but I'm afraid they're beyond our purview. We simply determine how the war will be conducted not whether it will be conducted'." p. 217 And on and on it went...we didn't make the bomb, we didn't drop the bomb, we didn't give the order. "Whenever the roles of individuals within a group become specialized, it becomes both possible and easy for the individual to pass the moral buck to some other part of the group....the conscience of the group can become so fragmented and diluted as to be nonexistent." p.218

In a group setting, it is much easier for an individual not to feel guilt for wrongdoing because the conscience is so fragmented.

2) Regression (Refers to acting like a child despite adulthood)

"Individuals not only routinely regress in times of stress, they also regress in group settings." p. 223 Peck says that this has to do mainly with giving power quickly to a group leader and the corresponding laziness with being a follower or group member.

3) Narcissim.

In a group setting, this is "manifested as group pride" or "enemy creation". "Deficiencies within the group can be easily and painlessly overlooked by focusing attention on the deficiencies or 'sins' of the out-group." p. 225
"Just as the highly narcissistic (evil) individual will strike out to destroy whoever challenges his or her self-image of perfection", so will a group.

"We are our attitudes. If someone criticizes an attitude of mine, I feel he or she is criticizing me. If one of my opinions is proved wrong, then I have been wrong. My self-image of perfection has been shattered. Individuals and nations cling to obsolete and outworn ideas not simply because it requires work to change them but also because, in their narcissism, they cannot imagine that their ideas and views could be wrong." p. 240

4) Victimization

We start with the premise that we are not a "villainous people". Since the enemy outside has already been created, we are the ones who have been wronged. This justifies conflict.

We are righteous, good-hearted, generous people. If we become villians it is because we are unwitting. We are villians out of ignorance. p.249 Peck says that laziness is an essential counterpart to evil. Evil is not resisted precisely because people are lazy.

5) Submission

Everything must submit to the organization; it does not submit to anything else. Therefore, it renders itself mentally unhealthy (refer to early Peck post).

"As they [organizations] become larger and larger, our institutions become absolutely faceless. Soulless. What happens when there is no soul? Is there just a vacuum? Or is there Satan where once, long ago, a soul resided? The Berrigan brothers, are correct when they say that the task before us in nothing less than to metaphorically exorcise or institutions." p. 251

So does the US exhibit signs of narcissism? My diagnosis of course cannot be clinical, but to me, the US does seem to exhibit at least a few signs.

a) like any nation-state, it is preoccupied with its own security, its own functioning, its own image.

b) it does not submit to anything else but requires that everything submit to it. (you're either with us or you're against us). This is also evidenced by an unwillingness to participate in the world court or other supranational bodies that the US doesn't control.

c) we resist any kind of critique. have you ever heard the following defensive statements when the US is confronted by a scandal?
when confronted by Abu Ghraib- congressmen and women said ..."we are the greatest country in the world"....not as a precursor to "we shouldn't be doing this" or "we have the power to stop this". just a statement. like when someone is arrested for a crime and says "this isn't me".

or when confronted by another country like France: "we saved their butts in WWII. they've never thanked us. about time for a little gratitude."
By the way, they saved our butts in the American Revolution. We would never have beaten the British without their help.

or "we are at a cross-roads in history confronting islamo-fascists; we have no other choice but to take this fight to them and confront their evil" "we are the initial victims, but we will end being the victors."

Can we not confront our capacity for evil in the US? Do we always have to perceive ourselves as the best, most generous country with the highest ideals in history? Can we not see that our nation's history is mixed with some generosity and lots of oppression?

Friday, November 9, 2007

I'm Out of Touch

This weekend, when trying to talk about Conor Oberst setting up a record label here in Omaha, I called his band Blind Eyes, instead of Bright Eyes.

Sorry Conor.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Evil is Malignant Narcissism

M. Scott Peck, in his book People of the Lie, suggests that truly evil people demonstrate "malignant narcissism", a term coined by Erich Fromm.

Interestingly, Peck says this narcissism is characterized by an "unsubmitted will". p. 78 He goes on...everyone who is mentally healthy submits themselves to something higher than themselves. Be it God, an ideal, truth, etc. The narcissist is consumed with his/her own image and his/her desires (specifically that they not be intruded upon).

"In Buber's word, the malignantly narcissistic insist upon 'affirmation independent of all findings'." p. 80 Peck distinguishes between sin "missing the mark" and evil, which the malignant narcissist demonstrates, which involves both a denial of any sin, cover-up, and/or blame-placing.

This kind of narcissist has an "unacknowledged sense of their own evil nature. Indeed, it is this very sense from which they are frantically trying to flee. The essential component of evil is not the absence of a sense of sin or imperfection but the unwillingness to tolerate that sense. At one and the same time, the evil are aware of their evil and deperately trying to avoid that awareness." p. 76

Thus the attempts of the truly evil to get rid of the guilt instead of the sin.

Contrast this with psychopaths or sociopaths who don't seem to have a moral grid. They can commit an unspeakable act and not know either that they have done something wrong nor the harm that this action caused.

Tomorrow I'll probe into the problem of division of the conscience within organizations, and because the US gov't is itself a big organization will ask the question if the US demonstrates signs of malignant narcissism.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Try this at home, its fun:

From the September 13, 2007 edition of The Economist. Algorithms
Business by numbers

People often make mistakes when they key in their credit-card numbers online. With millions of transactions being processed at a time, a rapid way to weed out invalid numbers helps to keep processing times down. Enter the Luhn algorithm (see [above] ), named after its inventor, Hans Luhn, an IBM researcher. The numbers on a credit card identify the card type, the issuer and the user's account number. The last number of all is set to ensure that the Luhn algorithm produces a figure divisible by ten. If it is, the card number has been properly entered and the processing can go ahead.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Life Stories

After receiving a warm towel to freshen myself at the beginning of an Asia flight several years ago, I thought about carrying this into my life here in the States.

In fact, from my travels I've thought about other new practices I should adopt here in the states.

1) no shoes worn in the house.
2) slippers (adapted from flip-flops) throughout the house.
3) eye mask used on occasion at home along with ear plugs.

However, the one related to the story above is how I wanted to create a warm towel for soothing refreshment.

To start the process, I boiled a pot of water. A big pot, since I didn't have something small. I hung a large towel over the pot to aborb the moisture wafting up into the towel. The towel, limping from the moisture it absorbed, curled under the pot and fell onto the burner. Said towel caught on fire. Finally was manuevered to the sink and doused with water. Emergency averted.

Jara told me later that I should wet the towel and put it in the microwave. Genius.

My Amway Encounter

When I was working for a bank a few years ago, I stopped one morning on the way to get some gas.

There was a car just across the pump and a fellow I never met, broached the conversation: you look like you're going places!

Figuratively or literally?, I asked. (I wish I asked).

So anyway, I listened to a few of his tapes...the success stories of good salesmen. Double diamonds or something like that.

Never did enter Amway.