Friday, November 5, 2010

Who cares?

I guess the election results are the big news for the beginning of November 2010. They weren’t that surprising, but they’re considered “earthquake” level by many people because the majority shifted in the House of Representatives from Democrat to Republican. Also, because quite a few states elected Republican Governors over their Democratic counterparts.

The general population is understandably frustrated with the economy and the lack of rebounding the country has done after the big financial crash of 2008. The process is slower, but I put the blame on big business, banks and credit companies, but those institutions are difficult to deal with for any government...whether Dems or Reps. Everyone loves pointing fingers at other people and posturing about this and that and convincing the public that their side is the only one who cares.

Who cares? Who really cares? No one really cares completely about anyone else besides themselves...only God really has that ability. We humans all care to whatever degree we care because we’re getting something out of it. I’m sorry, I know that sounds cynical, but it isn’t. It’s a recognition of human nature. And, most of us walking the Earth today, are afflicted with that ailment: humanity.

Two short years ago in 2008, the Democrats around the nation were celebrating and talking about “change” and “hope”. The Democrats were in control and they were going to get to work and make significant changes so our country could once again be great like it was once upon a time in some indefinable past. The Republicans dug their heels in and said, “Not gonna happen. Those lousy Dems aren’t capable of doing anything but destroying this country because they’re all morally corrupt and devil worshippers who’d just as soon sacrifice children on real altars of fire than help our poor, doomed America. All is lost unless we, the holders of truth can get back in office and ‘fix’ all the corruption they introduce.” The Republicans held so tightly to their ideals that they did everything they could to sabotage any progress. Then, this year, they pointed to all the ineffectiveness with loud shouts of “I told you so, Joe and Jane American!”.

This year was not much different, the parties just traded seats. In fact, there is never really much difference in the political posturing. It comes from both sides and is equally insipid.

The November election saw the ousting of many Democrats and the incoming of multiple Republicans. At last! The world will be saved! The Democrats, moaning, mourning and licking their wounds said disdainfully, “It’s not our fault! You don’t understand Joe and Jane. We INHERITED the problems! You have to be patient and give us time to fix them! You made a mistake turning over the country to the money-grubbing mongers who stole from you in the first place and caused the problem to begin with. They don’t care about you. They only care about themselves. They’re rich and greedy and have no souls! You’ve just handed the keys to the devil himself who will smile at you and rob you blind at the same time. All your services will be gone and only the richest of the richy riches will survive. How could you be so blind? You’ll see. In two years when the Republicans have trashed all the services you say you need, then you’ll look to us for help.”

The sad truth is that both the Dems and Reps are correct in their summations of the other. As I asked.... Who cares? Who really cares? No politician at that level cares. There’s ALWAYS multiple, complex ulterior motives. So, why are Joe and Jane American buying any of it? They’re gullible. I guess they buy one side over the other and cling to that ideology because they have to have some kind of hope. If everyone thought like me, we’d be in a world of hurt. Our whole society is built on faith and hope. Without faith we have no credit system and thus, no economy. As misguided as it may be, we need to have faith and you can really only pick one side. If we didn’t have faith, then it would all truly collapse.

So, I’ll just support whatever good (from my perspective) that I see regardless of whether it comes from Dems or Reps. However, I won’t be ignorant enough to stand at the feet of some politician and cheer when he or she gives speeches full of totally meaningless mushy fragments of useless snake oil as in the following example from the NEW Speaker of House, John Boehner. (John Boehner? Really? Boner? Is Saturday Night Live gonna have a field day with that?) Following is his election night victory speech. I’m not anti-Republican. (I am anti-politican.) I can find just as many speeches full of the same crap from either side of the fence. This one just happened to be handy because the Reps are the prevailing group of the moment. Here’s the speech (Which I listened to on NPR on election night. I'm told NPR is the country's left-wing, value-destroying, communist-run radio station):

"Let me just say this: it’s clear who the winners are tonight, and that’s the American people. Your voice was heard at the ballot box! Your voice!

Listen, I’ll be brief, because we have real work to do - and this is not a time for celebration ... not when one in 10 of our fellow citizens are out of work ... not when we have buried our children under a mountain of debt ... not when our Congress is held in such low esteem.

This is a time to roll up our sleeves. To look forward with determination. And to take the first steps toward building a better future for our kids and grandkids.

Across the country right now, we are witnessing a repudiation of Washington ... a repudiation of Big Government ... and a repudiation of politicians who refuse to listen to the people.

Of course, this campaign is not yet over. To folks out in the West, where the polls are still open, seize this opportunity to be heard ... to reject the spending sprees, the bailouts, the backroom deals, the takeovers and all the nonsense ... and to join your fellow Americans in putting Washington on notice.

Because for far too long, Washington has been doing what’s best for Washington - not what’s best for America.

Tonight, that begins to change.

With their voices and their votes, the American people are demanding a new way forward in Washington. And I’m here tonight to tell you that our new majority will be prepared to do things differently... to take a new approach that hasn’t been tried before in Washington - by either party.

· It starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it.

· Reducing the size of government instead of expanding it.

· Reforming the way Congress works and giving government back to the people.

· And for all those families asking ‘where are the jobs?,’ it means ending the uncertainty in our economy and helping small businesses get people back to work.

The people’s priorities will be our priorities. The people’s agenda will be our agenda. This is our Pledge to America ... this is our pledge to you!

While our new majority will serve as your voice in the people’s House, we must remember it is the president who sets the agenda for our government. The American people have sent an unmistakable message to him tonight, and that message is: “change course.”

We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course, and commit to making the changes they are demanding. To the extent he is willing to do this, we are ready to work with him.

But make no mistake, the president will find in our new majority the voice of the American people as they’ve expressed it tonight: standing on principle, checking Washington’s power, and leading the drive for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government.

These are the principles our new majority will stand for, and we hope you will stand with us in the hard work that lies ahead. Because we are humbled by your trust in us. And we recognize that with this trust comes the responsibility to listen, and listen we will.

Let’s start right now by recognizing this is not a time for celebration. This is a time to roll up our sleeves and go to work.

We can celebrate when small businesses are creating jobs again. We can celebrate when the spending binge in Washington has stopped.

And we can celebrate when we have a government that has earned back the trust of the people it serves... when we have a government that honors our Constitution and stands up for the values that have made America, America: economic freedom, individual liberty, and personal responsibility.

I hold these values dear because I’ve lived them. I’ve spent my whole life chasing the American Dream.

I started out mopping floors, waiting tables, and tending bar at my dad’s tavern. I put myself through school working odd jobs and night shifts. I poured my heart and soul into a small business. And when I saw how out-of-touch Washington had become with the core values of this great nation, I put my name forward and ran for office.

So I want to close by thanking my wife, Debbie ... my girls, Lindsay and Tricia ... my brothers and sisters ... and all my friends and neighbors in Ohio for giving me the chance to serve and the opportunity to stand before you now ready to lead.

Thank you. God bless you, your families, and the United States of America."

God Bless America... why? As far as I know, God has only indicated his interest in one people or political group and that is Israel and the Jews therein. For the rest of us, His interest is personal. So, why do we stress God's interest in our country? His interest is in us individually. I say we concentrate on that aspect of our relationships with God.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No Child Left Behind?

Who hasn't heard of NCLB (No Child Left Behind) in education? On paper, the idea of "No Child Left Behind" is hard to argue against. After all, the creators of this legislation ask, "Don't we believe all children deserve an education?" and "Aren't all children able to learn regardless of ability? And, since this is true, don't we have an obligation to teach them and provide them 'quality' teachers?" Asking these questions in this way doesn't really allow anyone to answer, "No." After all, which children would we choose to "leave behind" and not educate? None. We'd be monsters to suggest such a thing.

If you're not familiar with NCLB it's a noble-sounding attempt to hold schools accountable and improve education. Unfortunately, the only real measure for success are standardized testing, the results of which are arguably unreliable as a measure of teacher quality and student improvement. These standardized tests do give information, but it's incomplete at best and often can be skewed or easily misinterpreted.

If you look closely at the way these tests are administered and the information presented, you might be confused. For example, the test scores from a third grade class in year one give us an idea of what is happening in that classroom that year. In year two, the same third grade class is tested and these results are used to measure how well the students and teacher did. Did the year two students/teacher improve, stay the same, or decrease in test scores?

In case you missed it, there is a very important problem with this. The third graders in year one are DIFFERENT STUDENTS than those in year two. The scores from the year one third graders are not used to measure the same students (who would likely be fourth graders in year two). The test scores from year one third graders are measured against the year two third graders, an entirely different set of students.

Does any logical, reasonable person not see a problem with this? If you have a really low third grade class year one, and a "better" class year two, then your scores increase. "Isn't that great? What a wonderful teacher!" If the opposite is true, your "good" class is year one, and your "lower" class is year two, then the result is, "Bad teacher! You failed your students and should be removed from the classroom."

How do schools prevent this? They simply ship out the students who are likely to bring down their scores. This is illegal, but there are many "legal reasons" a student may be "encouraged" to find a different school. Where do they go? They go to schools that already have low test scores. The result? Those schools are labeled "poor" and they continue getting worse. "Bad school! Bad teachers! You're all doing a terrible job with all the students that no other school wants. You should be fired!"

Originally, NCLB said "failing" schools should get extra funding to help them. This never materialized. The climate quickly became, "Remove funding from failing schools. Why waste money on loser teachers and loser schools?" Thus, the problem is actually accentuated.

Another example of how NCLB failed is this: Let's say a teacher inherits a student in their class who is several levels below where their grade says they should be in reading, writing, you know, the essentials. This teacher connects with the student and helps this student improve their skills greatly. In fact, this student actually improves two whole grade levels in one year! Fantastic! Right? Hell no! When this student takes their test, they still fall below their grade level. Even though the student has made marked improvement and this teacher has done some amazing work, the teacher is labeled a failure by the standard measure.

As a teacher in this environment I am either unmotivated to work, or I'm extra motivated to find one of those "legal reasons" to get rid of that low student. After all, my very job is being evaluated on how well these students do on these tests.

And, when teachers started complaining that NCLB was unfair not only to them, but to students, these teachers were accused of wanting to get rid of a needed accountability system and just keep being the slackers that they are.

Makes you want to be a teacher doesn't it?

Two news items caught my attention today. As a K-12 educator, my senses are naturally tuned to pick up information about our schools and about children/students in general.

The first news item was that teachers in Colorado will now be evaluated on how well students perform in their classrooms. Like NCLB, it sounds good on paper. Here's a quote from the article:

"Colorado was at the forefront of an effort to reward teachers who boost student achievement and to get rid of those who do not. After a bitter fight in the Legislature, the Colorado branch of the American Federation of Teachers helped broker a deal. Brenda Smith, president of an AFT local union in Colorado, says her members recognized it was time to stop resisting an idea whose time had come."

Just to be clear. Teachers like assessments. They see the value of assessing students and giving them feedback. That is the learning process. Teachers are not averse to reasonable, well-constructed assessment of the jobs they're doing. They want the feed back too. They're just averse to ridiculous measures that can get them fired even though they're doing exemplary work. Who wouldn't oppose that? The measure of "student achievement" is still somewhat hazy in this new legislation, but will likely include the same NCLB standardized tests.

The other news item that caught my attention was a radio interview with Dr. Richard Friedman about a study he did regarding "bad children" coming from "good parents". What?? The parent is always the reason a child turns out "good" or "bad", right? Not always. Sure there are terrible parents out there producing "bad" kids, but this study suggests that there are also at least adequate parents doing all they can with the result still being "bad" kids.

This topic obviously got lots of reactions, from all sides. There were those who said this type of study just gave bad parents a good excuse to continue being bad parents. The other reaction was relief from parents who really thought they did all they could and still felt guilty over their lack of success.

Why did this second story catch my attention as an educator? If parents are being recognized as "not always the reason" that children end up "bad" then shouldn't that same consideration be extended to teachers?

No training, no licensing, no anything is needed to become a parent. It's easy to argue that many parents are completely ill-suited to do the task well. Still, they can be parents. The results are what they are. Society takes no responsibility.

However, as soon as that child enters the school system that all changes. Suddenly, the teacher is held responsible for all that that child becomes.

Parents are abdicating their parental responsibilities more and more each day. Children go to "school" or "preschool" or "pre-preschool" at younger and younger ages. They go to school longer each day with before and after school programs growing exponentially. Parents are spending less and less time with their children. Teachers are spending more and more time with these same kids. If students don't do well, then parents get up in arms about the education system and the failure of these teachers. If kids don't learn or if their behavior is unacceptable, the failure belongs to the school. The parents take little ownership of any of this.

For some reason, our government has accepted this situation and agreed that teachers should be accountable for what students become in these scenarios. However, there has been no training nor funding to make these additional responsibilities reasonable. (Many would argue that no amount of money for schools nor training of teachers should allow the passage of parental responsibility from parent to teacher. I agree.). What has happened in actuality in schools is that teacher responsibilities have increased while funding has decreased.

Once again, what logical, reasonable person sees this as a good approach? No wonder our education system is in crisis! We've created a system that has no chance of winning.

I'm confused. I'm alarmed at these state of affairs. I'm now qualified to be labeled as one of those whining educators who want to wallow in their cushy jobs without accountability. After all, I probably became a teacher because I didn't have the skills to do anything else. I wanted an easy gig with a ton of vacation. Yep, I'm the slacker that you're mad at for not raising your children the way you think I should.

"Bad teacher! I should be fired!"

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Polarized Promotion

I was watching "Talk Soup" yesterday. Don't judge me. I know it's a big waste of time and a fairly mindless pursuit, but it's still fun to watch. I don't need a lecture on wasting time. I'm a Facebook user, and worse, a dedicated player of Farmville. I know how to waste time and I'm aware that there are countless "better" things to do with my time. I personally think we all need some time each day when productivity and "misuse of a valuable resource like time" are not considerations. Okay, you may not "need" this, but I do. Or, at least I want it, so I'm going to continue.

On the program, Joel McHale was lampooning Ann Coulter for her belittling remarks regarding global warming. The clip that was shown had Coulter rolling her eyes and derisively making a statement to the effect, "We had snow in all 50 states this year. So much for this so-called global warming."

My initial reaction was to think Ann Coulter was ridiculously uninformed. Detractors of global warming often site snow and cold temperatures as "proof" that global warming is a myth. Global warming proponents counter that climate changes of any kind are indications that this phenomenon is real and increasing. They would say that the fact we had snow in all 50 states (and often times in great amounts) was evidence of unusual weather, which could and should be attributed to global warming.

Whatever your stance on global warming, what I didn't like about Coulter's remarks was the way it made her look deliberately closed-minded and ignorant. She dismissed a controversial topic in a disdainful, cocky manner which made me distrustful of any comment she might make on any topic. If she was willing to dismiss outright the opposing view of a topic that cannot be proved definitively one way or the other, then she is not a critical thinker. Those were my thoughts.

So, I decided to find out what Coulter actually thought on the subject. After all, what does weight does a 10-second video clip from Talk Soup have anyway? I visited Coulter's blog and found an entry on global warming posted in 2007. The entry was well thought out and had arguments worthy of consideration. I was surprised. I was not expecting that after my brief encounter with her soundbite on television.

What weight does a 10-second video clip from Talk Soup have? Well, actually, a lot. Because of it, I was willing to discount Coulter as a non-thinker. Is that what she wanted? I doubt it. But, she had made the comment live and in person that made her seem that way to me. Maybe she makes those kind of statements to please her target audience? Maybe her fans expect her to offer one-sided statements? Maybe those are what get attention? Her comment certainly got the attention of Talk Soup, and in turn, my attention too.

I'm not saying I agree with Coulter—on anything—but, I do think she can and does think through her positions.

Do people who can think, like Coulter, have to stoop to low levels just to get people's attention and market themselves? Is this "polarized promotion" the only thing that makes us sit up and listen in this crazy, noisy world? Coulter must feel she needs to make inflammatory comments in order to create some heat. Maybe she thinks that after getting a reaction, viewers will be spurred (either positively or negatively) to explore her writings and videos and discover what she really wants them to get—her real, full opinion on a topic.

Well, if polarized promotion was Coulter's tactic, then it worked in my case. Maybe I'm the one who needs to reconsider my considerate and moderate approach to sharing information.

Of course, the more likely scenario is that Coulter just expected her supporters to accept what she said with enthusiastic "Amens!" and her opponents to hate what she said and for both to simply go on their merry ways. I doubt her goal was to incite further consideration and exploration. I believe Coulter expects that her audience was likely to respond in one of these two ways. I believe she is correct in that understanding. And, to me, this is the most disheartening part of it all.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Revulsion Therapy

Some of my friends tried smoking when they were young. They don't smoke now because of the "revulsion therapy" practiced on them by their parents. Now, I don't think there is such a thing as revulsion therapy, but I don't know what else to call it.

For my non-smoking friends, the scenario went something like this: They were caught trying a cigarette. The "punishment" they received for this act was being required to smoke the entire pack of cigarettes right then and there. This, naturally, made them sick and thus, their "revulsion" from that experience made them not want to smoke again. I'm not sure of the success rate of this approach, but the anecdotal evidence says that it has worked for some people.

While I never tried smoking (never was interested), I did have two similar revulsion experiences. One of my earliest and vaguest memories is a train trip with my mother, brother and sister. We were all hungry and probably cranky and my mother says she failed to bring along anything to eat for any of us. A fellow  passenger kindly provided us children with a bag of those Brach's candy peanuts. You know the orange, puffy, marshmallow things? We evidently at too many on empty stomachs because they made us all sick. To this day none of us will touch the things. Even the smell is revolting.

The second was later. I was eating some Chips-Ahoy-like chocolate chip cookies. I didn't eat too many, but I was getting the flu at the time of ingestion. The cookies came back up a few hours later and the whole combined experience has put me off those particular treats to this day.

I thought about this as I read stories this week regarding George Rekers, a Baptist Minister and anti-gay activist who was "caught" with a traveling companion he had hired to "carry his luggage". The only strange thing was that this companion was hired through a gay escort service. Rekers denies any wrong-doing and all suggestions of "inappropriate" relations between them, but he did make a statement that reminded me of my "revulsion therapy" experiences. Here's his quote:

"I have spent much time as a mental health professional and as a Christian minister helping and lovingly caring for people identifying themselves as “gay.” My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them."

While this statement sounds noble, it just doesn't ring true for me. So George maintains that he is not nor has he ever been gay, but there's enough doubt about that to make questioning it reasonable. Why then, would he choose to "minister" in this particular way? It's like a reformed alcoholic going to bars regularly to try to help other alcoholics. You just don't do that. You don't meet at the one place where you both will be strongly tempted by the one thing you're trying to overcome. George, you don't hire a gay escort to travel to Europe with you just for the purpose of trying to make him not gay.

Maybe George is using revulsion therapy. If he has enough sex with a man, then that man will become sick of it and never want to do it again. If George can have massive amounts of sex with other men, then he can cure them of their homosexuality. It's quite a ministry.

Can you give an alcoholic so much alcohol that he'll want to quite? Not likely. In extreme cases, he may end up with alcohol poisoning and die, but it's unlikely that you serving him drink after drink will make him stop wanting them. Same with the gay sex thing. I'm guessing a gay man who has sex with another man will enjoy it in whatever quantity. I'm not sure it's possible to offer so much sex to him that the revulsion kicks in.

So, George, I guess you can keep trying your approach and keep us posted on how it's going. Or, I suppose you could also choose to drop the pretense and admit that you are actually gay.

Unfortunately, your actions will likely have a different outcome than you expect, but one that fits well with revulsion therapy. You increasing the number of "Christians" who claim one thing and do exactly the opposite in their lives will likely cause the revulsion effect to kick in and people will choose to avoid Christ at any cost. What a ministry.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Expectations and Disappointment

I've dealt with this before. I've processed this before. I've already had that "little talk" with myself in my head many times before. But, the disconnect between my expectations for the world around me and what actually happens in it is still something that is hard to accept. I should know it's coming. It's all happened before, but I still find myself surprised and disappointed.

Why can't the people around me see my point of view? The path I've laid out for them in my head is not only ideal for me, but it's ideal for them! Why would they choose something different? I've thought it through. I've considered all the angles. I've weighed the pros and cons. I'm good at that stuff. I even outlined all my findings for you and shared with you this masterful, fail-proof plan. It had it all: the risk vs. benefit analysis, the return on investment, the "what could happen if you didn't follow this course of action" summary. Why, then, would you choose to go a different direction? It makes no sense to me.

All right. I'm okay now. I'm still disappointed, but I'm okay now. Yes, I do remember the countless times when I thought I had all the answers, but found out later that I didn't. Yes, I remember the plans I made that seemed perfect at the time, but were quite flawed because by assumptions were incorrect. Yes, I know that only God has omniscience. Yes, I know that sometimes even though all the "facts" point toward following one course of action, but my gut says the opposite, that my gut could still be right. Yes, I know that many times I haven't got what I wanted and have been so happy about it later even though I felt devastated when the refusal was given. I know all this. I even know that remembering all this will likely not be my initial response the next time my plans appear to be thwarted.

Will you try to remember this too, the next time you give me your version of "not-to-be-ignored" advice? If remembering this isn't your initial response either, I'll understand. How could I not? But, I hope you get there eventually. I will for you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

My Guy is Good. Yours is Evil Incarnate.

I know balance is boring. Nobody likes listening to a discussion in which both parties find common ground. We're trained throughout life to like drama. We want villains and heroes. We want good vs. evil. We want our bad guys and good guys polarized so we can clearly see who to root for. Television, movies, and books all give us the drama we so enjoy. But those are entertainment vehicles and more often than not meant as escape from the realities of life.

However, our news media helps bring this theme of good vs. evil, tragedy vs. triumph into our "real" lives. They report on the dramatic, the traumatic, the sensational. Nobody wants to hear the good things (or even the moderately questionable things) that people do on a daily basis. That isn't news. Reporters want to find the dirt and the scandal. They want to expose corruption and be heralded as righteous truth bearers. They report danger and catastrophe and the conflict that is happening all over the world. With grim expressions and clicks of the tongue and shaking heads they are "sadly" burdened with the duty of sharing horrible information with the masses. It's interesting that even with all their "we're sorry to tell you this" posturing, they all seem to jump at the chance to be the first to tell us. They claw and scratch at each other for the opportunity to be the first ones to tell us how reluctant they are to be the bearers of bad news.

So, I guess it's natural for us to accept the drama-mongering into other areas of our lives. Politics for instance, is a popular place for this game to be played. My candidate is a saint whose sole intention is to better the world around him. If he is criticized it is evidence that he is doing something brave and noble because brave and noble people always have detractors. Evil always hates good and tries to tear it down. My guy is good. His goals are lofty. His critics simply don't understand him or hate him because he's good.

Your guy is either the devil incarnate or he is so stupid that he is simply a dupe and puppet for Satan himself. Everything your guy does is bad. His expression in a photo, even without accompanying text or caption, is obvious proof of his evil disposition. Everything that comes from his mouth is either a lie or is meant to deceive by covering his actual nefarious motives. Even the mention of his name causes people to shudder. I don't need to stop and consider what he is saying or doing. I know, just because you said his name, that anything associated with him and his kind is worthless. No, not worthless, but actually designed to bring down civilization as we know it and end all that is moral and decent in the universe. That is your guy's goal. That is his agenda. How do I know? Because he's on the opposite side from my guy, that's how!

I guess I understand the use of hyperbole when making a case, but I don't understand people who completely vilify those on the other side of the fence from them. This irresponsible approach to candidate and party support is far too common. I know friends and acquaintances on both sides who froth at the mouth at the mention of the other side's views or leaders. Yes, I know that there are many who take a balanced view. There are many who say things like, "I don't really like most of what you stand for, but I can see your goal even if I'd get there a different way." But, we don't often hear from these people. Nobody wants to report on their views. It's boring.

Do we really think that our guy is the only one who has the good of the country in mind? Do we really think that those with ideas that differ from ours are actually out to sabotage our society? Or, if he's not actively out to undermine all that is good, do we really think the other guy is just so stupid that he can't see how he is being manipulated by the evil people around him?

Polarization is fun. It's entertaining. It's the bread and butter for soap operas. But, we laugh at those and ridicule them. Why, then, do we bring their ideals into our realities? Why do we gobble up the empty "news" calories of modern day junk food journalists without question? Are WE really that naive?

Sorry for being boring, but I'd like to hear from both sides in a rational conversation and then decide what I think from that. Is that even possible?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Blogging - Who Cares?

For a long time I've seen blogging as an exercise in narcissism. Maybe it is. After all, who is really interested in reading random thoughts from strangers (or friends even) about the happenings in their lives? I guess I never wanted to waste time reading the mundane, although I do exactly that all the time. LOL! Of course many blogs are well-written, insightful commentaries on culture and the state of our society. Although I'd like to think that my writing would fit into that lofty category, I have more realistic views. This probably won't be one of those most admirable blogs.

So why write then? I guess I write this in hopes of spurring thought in....well....anyone, and perhaps reading some others' thoughts posted back to me. Don't get me wrong. I'm not a lost soul adrift in a sea of human angst and anxiety looking for a guiding light. I think I have a pretty well-defined self view and world view, but I do enjoy hearing what others have to say. I welcome most discussions. Agreement and disagreement are of less importance than a willingness to actually have an open conversation with the goal of understanding another's point of view.

I chose the moniker, "The Mirthful Misfit" because it is an apt description of where I am in life. I'm happy that I don't fit many molds, that I am not readily identified with any specific group. I think when you adopt a label you are burdened with a lot of extra baggage in the form of people's expectations about what you should and shouldn't be. I think there are labels I would use for myself, but I know I can't (or won't) accept all the perceptions and misconceptions that go with those labels. So, I choose to remain "in between," a "misfit" who attempts to find reason and reasonable people in unreason-infested waters.

Nothing may come of this venture other than a few ramblings from my unconventional mind. That's okay. If nothing else, even without input from others, I guess I can enjoy this as an exercise in narcissism. I like to hear myself talk, so why not?