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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Low-hanging fruit: A starting point or a block?

In honor of the upcoming new year and the tradition of setting goals and resolutions, I decided to blog on a concept has been rolling around in my mind for a while.  I think it is appropriate to determine what the purpose of low-hanging fruit we are going after in this context.  Here goes: defines low-hanging fruit as:

  • a course of action that can be undertaken quickly and easily as part of a wider range of changes or solutions to a problem.
I've heard/seen this phrase used in multiple context.  One winter I heard Cardinals management talking about there off-season efforts to build a winning team for the next year.   The phrase "low-hanging fruit" was used to describe their initial efforts.   For impatient fans it appeared that management was rewarding their loyalty by going after the inexpensive, easy to sign, and apparently
mediocre talent at the expense of trading for/signing the greater impact, harder to get players.  It appeared as if the front office was letting possible free agents/trades go by under their nose, while they picked up questionable help.

In my own personal life and from what I've seen in others, going after low-hanging fruit can serve one of two purposes:
  • It can be a way to ramp up, to gear up, to get in the spirit of or to build momentum towards accomplishing a larger goal or a circumstance.
    • When working on a large project at work, sometimes working on the most difficult part of the it can cause discouragement.  Working on and/or solving a smaller part of the puzzle can give momentum or ideas on how to proceed on the larger piece(s).  
    • When cleaning around the house, cleaning out one room at a time or even one portion of one room at a time can make the job seem less intractable.
    • When processing a major loss (such as a death), it can simply to difficult to decompress the whole loss at once.  Sometimes, it helps just to deal with the aspects of it immediately in front of you rather than get paralyzed dealing with the whole ramifications of the loss.
  • It can be a way to avoid dealing with the larger goal or circumstance.
    • Denial - If you are focused on some aspect of the goal or circumstance, then you can pretend to yourself that you are dealing with the problem.  After all, "you are making progress" or so you tell yourself.
      • Paying on time.  Having a 12 month interest free loan and making the minimum payment for the first 10 months, telling yourself that you are going to pay it off in full before the end of the year.  Sure you are making some progress, but you still have most of the bill to pay off.
      • Working on the perfect eulogy, when you haven't picked the mortuary or burial location.  Words are helpful in facing a death, but they don't create the same finality in your mind as discussing where to hold a funeral or bury the body of your loved one.
    • Avoidance - Picking a route to a goal that doesn't fit or explanation that doesn't make sense.  In other words, creating a diversion or to give the appearance of facing what you need to.
      • In dieting this might take the shape of switching to diet soda while not changing your larger eating habits.  Making the small switch will not by itself lead to the larger goal.
      • In counseling, an example might take the shape of griping about a new friend when you have been dealing with the pain/guilt of a close relative for a long time.  While problems with your friendship probably are causing you some consternation, it really isn't addressing the deeper hurt you are facing.

Sometimes it is hard to know whether you are addressing a goal or issue one step at a team, easing into it or you are just throwing out obstacles to dealing with what you need to.  Sometimes, this takes reflection.  Sometimes this takes a close friend to determine.   Sometimes, the difference is so subtle that it can take a trained professional to spot.  Either way, it is best to figure out early on.

Just some thoughts for the day.  Hope this helps someone.


(Originally written 12/31/15, but still hold true today)

Friday, December 25, 2015

And now for something really different: Fun ways to mess with people's mind

I've posted a bit on this in another blog entry ""The 'insane' little voice in our head and entertaining ourselves"", but I thought I'd reiterate and add a few new gems

Life is full of serious moments.  Sometimes it is spending time with at family functions, sometimes it is working on a serious project at work, sometimes it is burying a relative, sometimes it is interviewing for a job, sometimes it is trying to get a loan, and sometimes it is another stressful encounter with the world.

For me, the best way to break up the seriousness is to flake out a little.  One of the ways I like flaking out is messing with people's minds.  It helps if the victim of said encounter has a sense of humor, but sometimes it is funner if said victim DOESN'T have a sense of humor.

For Christmas and the upcoming new year try these ways to mess with the mind of others.

1. One of the all time classics:  When someone is talking to you, ask them in a serious voice after you've heard them clearly, "What?"  Keep a serious demeanor when you do this.  They will either look at you and be like, you heard me or they will say in an agitated voice "nevermind".  If you get them to repeat themselves twice or get them to say nevermind, declare aloud to them, "I win."

2) When someone is talking to you and it is clear they need feedback like a nod or word in agreement, deny them that and just stare at them in a worried fashion as if to say they are crazy.  Once again, if they are unnerved by this, declare, "I win".

3) For those well into their adulthood when you are over a friend or family member's house and are sitting down.  When you get up, bend over a little and put your hand across your back and say, "Owwww".  When they ask, "Are you okay?", you say, just kidding.  Then you announce winning again.

4) When you are talking with someone who is sitting down while you are standing up, walk back and forth without announcing what your intention is.  If their eyes follow you, they will probably say, "stop that".  Once again, announce winning.

5) Make a lot of noise as if you are falling down the stairs and when they say are you okay, yell like you are hurting, "I'm fine don't worry".  If they fall for it, announce winning.

6) Hurry ahead of them and hide around a corner.  As they are strolling in and about to reach you, yell "Boo".  If they fall for it and you scare them, announce winning.

7) In church when everyone is singing a hymn, change the words to funny words--keeping them clean of course--and see if the people around you notice.  

8) When you are at the counter, ask the clerk for something you know they don't carry.  When they apologize and say they don't have it, say with a straight and serious face, "Why do you hate me?".  If they get all defensive and say I don't hate you, say just kidding.  Announce winning.

9) When you run into someone you know and they start talking to you.  Stop them for a minute and say, "who are you again?".  If they fall for it, say just kidding and announce winning.

10) When you are passing by strangers in the store out of the blue and looking away from them, "Say quietly, Shut-up they will hear you" when you aren't on the phone or nobody is around you..  Look over and say, "I'm sorry you had to hear that" and wait for their uneasy response.

11) One of my favorite, lightly pushing your kid into a wall and say, "Why'd you run into the wall?".  They will look at you like, "Really?"

12) Have an obscure name ready--one that they will know--such as Sam Donaldson.  When they are trying to recollect who is an actor in a movie, what is the name of the music group or singer, say "Ooh, ooh, I know.  It's Sam Donaldson".  When they look at you, like you are nuts, announce winning.

13) When you are in a store, raise your voice and pretend to be talking rudely to someone and yell, "goodbye" and act like you are hanging up.  Look at the person in line next to you and say, "I'm sorry that was my parole officer".   If they fall for it, announce winning.

14) Announce on a pretend call in a loving voice, "Don't worry baby, daddy will take care of you."  When someone looks up say, "I'm I'm sorry, that was my cat."  Watch their shocked response and announce winning.

15) Play frisbee in the park with a friend with a pretend frisbee and see how many people are looking for the frisbee.

16) Change your ringtone to person screaming in horror and when in public have a friend call you.  Watch the surprised responses you get.

17) When you friend gripes about someone, say matter of factly, "Just kill em, that will send a message to the rest of them."  Watch you friend look at you like you are crazy.

18) When you go over a friend or family member who has a beloved cat.  Grab the cat and act like you are going to take it with you and say, "Well it's been good seeing you. Hope to see you again soon."

19) Ask your boss, when he has a fire alarm just outside his office, why he gets all the fun.  He looked at me like, you are crazy.

20) Tell a person who is near a landmark birthday, but not at it that they look good for 30 (when they are 28 or 29), 40 (when they are 38 or 39), etc.

You can add to this list with your own.  Remember a mind is a terrible thing not to mess with.

Cheer and Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tell me all your thoughts on God: One person's understanding of his Higher Power

With the Christmas holiday approaching, I got an idea for a blog which I think is appropriate: God and his relationship to his creation.

I was talking to my fiancee about my understand of God and how I felt there was no way that I could, in this lifetime, really hope to appreciate the awesome, dynamic and profoundness of God.  Obviously, I can get a biblical understanding of Him, can feel His presence in my life and see Him in nature, but I know I am limited that way, just based on my finite nature.

I don't claim to have all the answers, nor do I claim that I even have a fraction of the answers.  However, I feel that God has given me some insight or at least a way of understanding of Him as I see the world around me.

  • How can one God be a Trinity?
    • I've heard it explained this way: ice, water and steam are made of up the same essence-- H2O.   Yet, they are each have distinctly different forms and purposes.  But, all together, each come from the same pool of elements
  • Why was Jesus take the form of a baby.
    • We needed someone who would understand or experience the human condition from childhood to adulthood.  Someone who would be subject to that which we are subject from an early age, through adulthood.  In short, we needed someone who would experience the trials and tribulations we would from childhood to and through adulthood, yet be able to successfully navigate them.  In other words, He needed to be shown that he could be blameless, experiencing the human experience.  In short, we needed a perfect man to atone for us.
  • Why did Jesus have to shed his blood on the cross and die for us?
    • This one always eluded me.  For me it was always a big mystery.  From the best of my understanding.  Let's start with sin: 
      • Sin is a crime against the perfect nature of God, just like infidelity is a crime against a marriage or theft is crime against another party and/or the state.   Our soul can survive our sinful nature and be in harmony with God, but there is a heavy price that has to be paid. A marriage can survive infidelity, but there is a heavy price to pay for it usually it.  Society can survive theft, but there has to be punishment to atone for it and deter additional theft.
      • Just like a marriage cannot effectively survive unrepentant infidelity and a society cannot effectively survive unpunished theft, our relationship with God cannot survive sin that has not be atoned for.
    • Okay, I've talked about why the need for some form of atonement but someone else paying?
      • A devastated spouse can forgive, but he or she has be able to absorb a lot of hurt. If he or she isn't willing to absorb the hurt, the marriage cannot survive.  
      • A theft requires paying back what has been stolen and a recognition of how wrong it is.  Someone has to bear the cost of the theft in terms of $$ and punishment or risk society being damaged further.  The someone might be the father of the thief who doesn't want his son to be have a tarred record following him around.
      • Similarly, sin is such a profound assault on our relationship with God, that we cannot pay it back ourselves.  Jesus has to intervene.
    • Why Jesus and why dying on the cross?
      • Why dying on the cross?
        • Sin is so destructive that it takes a huge sacrifice to atone for it.
        • It is a sacrifice we don't have the capacity to make.
        • The atonement could not be a simple I'm sorry and I won't do it again.  It had to be profound like dying for us.  Sin is a poison, the poison had to be absorbed by someone.  We all know what happens when you absorb too much poison.  The only way to get rid of poison is to clear it out.  In Jesus' case that was bleeding it out.
      • Why Jesus?
        • He is an infinite being.  He could atone for all sins past, present and future for everyone.  A simple man could not atone or take the fall for all of mankind's sins.  Imagine a simple man trying to do the same for everyone.  Jesus by being both God and infinite Deity could cover both the huge number of sin we individually commit.  Imagine the number of sins being multiplied by the billions of people that have lived or will live.  His infinite nature would always cover all sins that could/would ever be committed.
        •  He was a man.  Sins are committed against the Father by mankind and therefore a representative of mankind would have to be the one to atone.
        • He is all powerful.  His soul could take the poison and punishment required to atone for all mankind's sins. 
      • Why doesn't forgiveness come automatically.  In other words, why do we have to accept his gift of salvation?
        • Imagine you are before a judge in a court of law after you commit a crime. As part of a plea bargain someone agreed to take the punishment for you.  Your part in the plea bargain would be to acknowledge your guilt and to actually accept the plea bargain.
  • How can we conceptualize God?
    • His Word is the best starting point, obviously, it gives the different aspects of His nature, including that of the Trinity.
    • I believe we have his Word and we have glimpses of Him all of nature.  However, I believe none of this will prepare us for Him.  I believe we will be blown away with His awesome nature.  The closest thing I could think of is this.
      • A dot sees itself as a complete being.  It sees a circle as related to him, but it sees a circle as a more profound.  A dot would be blown away by a sphere and above.  It has some clues about a sphere, but clearly cannot understand the sphere's magnitude.
      • A circle sees a dot as a simple being and sees a sphere as a more awesome being.  It sees itself in being in the presence of sphere (and above), but not near as profound as it. 
      • A sphere (and above) sees a dot as a very simple being, but is protective of it.  It sees a circle is something that has its nature, but is still not as awesome as it.
        • Out of a sphere come a dot and circle.  So, clearly the sphere recognizes the dot and circle for what they are.  I
      • The dot is man, the circle is angelic/spirits, the sphere and above is clearly God in this picture.
  • Why is God portrayed as the Father?
    • We tend to understand the family the family unit.  The Father is usually considered both firm in nature, but has a gentle loving side as well.
    • I've heard it is important for a father to be a good leader because he represents the father who is seen.  If we do not trust or have father in our seen father, it makes it all the harder to have faith and trust in our unseen father.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tis the season for music: poetic music is like a rare pearl.

I'm not sure when it hit me, but I've always related life to music and music to life.   Anyone who knows me realizes this.  I have always realized that writing good lyrics and good music to accompany isn't easy.  As I've gotten more involved in writing I've come to realize a good idea, concept or thought is a process that evolves.  I have found that while an idea may come together within a day, an hour or literally minutes, generally the formless or structured thought has been circling around in my mind for a while.  Sometimes, all it takes is a little nudge, conversation or event to crystallized the idea.  Music I believe flows similarly.

Quality music is art in words, a story that is put to a symphony of sound.   Sometimes it can be a simple statement like "It's Time" by Imagine Dragons in which the lead singer tells his struggles to get to where he is now in a poetic fashion.  He tells how he hasn't lost himself in the process.  The musical arrangement on the song I believe is time perfectly to the story.  It slowly builds as his story is told and it hits a crescendo as he expresses how he has kept himself in the process of his personal and career development.  Sometimes, it can be a more complex story.

Either way, having poetic lyrics effectively written and then tied to sound from what I see is a process that evolves over time.   From what I see, it is a process that for most successful musicians/songwriters happens only a few times in life, just as pearls are a rare gift from oysters.

We take it for granted, but I believe that even the most talented songwriters and musicians realize this and they try to strike gold when they are in the zone.

Anyway, just a thought.  So, please take with the me the opportunity to enjoy a Christmas treasure with me while appreciating this thought.

Merry Christmas,