Monday, July 22, 2013

Dream Big, It's Free!

Over the years, I think most people who know me would say that I am a pretty upbeat, optimistic guy. Don't get me wrong, I have a cynical and sarcastic streak a mile long, but I think it is tempered by my ultimately positive outlook.

I am often telling people that they can reach their goals, accomplish their dreams or persist toward their objectives.

On any given day, I am feeling pretty good and even on the not-so-good days, I often say that I have no complaints. Friends who have known me for a while have heard me say, "At least I don't have to dig ditches or clean crime scenes for a living..."

Not to be glib, but that is my way of reminding folks that I don't feel I can complain when there are people in this country who have genuinely difficult or thankless jobs to perform every single day. And I know that there are people out there who are far less fortunate than I. But that is just part of it.

I am happy most days because I realize what an amazing time we live in. We have greater access to information, food, culture, and travel than at any other time in recorded history. In fact, in all but the most oppressive countries (and even many of those pale in comparison to societies past), people can connect to the world. And today that means having access to more resources and opportunities than most can even grasp.

Sure, it is not all rosy. We still suffer from war, famine, and injustice. But in today's connected world, it is hard to imagine that we cannot do something about those things, if we only decide to do it.

Think about it, in the past forty years we have seen the end of the Berlin Wall, the Soviet Union, apartheid in South Africa and many autocratic regimes around the world. In those same years we have also put an international space station in orbit, landed a rover on Mars, criss-crossed the planet with the World Wide Web and mapped the human genome. And that's what makes me optimistic.

As was once said by Napoleon Hill, advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt,  "What the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve." And perhaps there has never been a time in the history of the world where that has been more possible.

So maybe that's it. The reason at the heart of why, on any given day, I can be happy is because every day I know there is the hope that we can each achieve those things we dream about, if only we allow ourselves to dream.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

In a Rare Defense of the Oblivious

So today on, a story ran depicting the apparent obliviousness of a ring girl working a recent MMA event. The article openly mocks this girl and the comments posted reinforce a basic idea: How could anyone miss the obviousness of the fact that the fight was over?


The writer of the Yahoo article paints a picture of the situation and wonders out loud, how in the world could someone miss any detail of a fight when all eyes are clearly on the ring for the entire duration of the bout? This observation makes a lot of assumptions including that everyone who is working at a fight has the opportunity to be watching the fight as if they were a paying customer. But even beyond that, there can be a couple of very simple reasons why this girl appears to be completely oblivious to the situation unfolding around her.

She may not know very much about MMA bouts or how her role fits into the bigger picture. This is a situation where compartmentalization of information hamstrings a single part of the whole. In this case, her instructions may have been limited to a simple, "When the bell rings, take your sign and walk around the ring." That's it. And why? Perhaps because the promoters and organizers of these events treat these girls as unintelligent in the same fashion that the readers of Yahoo! apparently concur.

She may not care much for the actual fight: it's a modeling job. If you are a young woman with few prospects but big dreams about being discovered, you may believe that any exposure is better than none. And for the ring girl given the "Round 2" sign, I can imagine that she wasn't counting on the fight being over before she got her moment in the spot light.

She may be just like any of one of millions of working people; if it's not part of her job, it's not her concern. This is the point that I think is most important. Readers of the Yahoo! article, or even those who saw the fight, feel free to criticize this girl forgetting on simple fact: it's a job. I can tell you from my own experience that there are many, many people in every walk of like who treat their own jobs the exact same way. Many people go to work, clock in and then do what they are tasked to do. No initiative. No observing the rest of the company. And most time, people just plain don't worry about what else is going on in the world around.

So why did this girl miss the fact that the fight was over? Probably because she is just like most of us. Too busy thinking about what we need to do to notice what anyone else is doing.

Friday, February 15, 2013

On the Good Ship Hyperbole

This week, the Carnival Cruise Ship Triumph ran into some trouble at sea. Was it a plague? Was it marauding pirates? Did the ship hit a shallow reef?(Costa Concordia)

Nope. Instead there was a fire and a power outage. Don't get me wrong, a ship fire is a very scary thing. Clearly it can wreak havoc upon a ship in unexpected ways and I do not mean to devalue the genuine issues that faced the ship and its passengers.

However, I do take issue with it being referred to as a "nightmare" cruise. It makes me wonder by what standard are we calling this a nightmare? Carnival-Triumph-Cruise-Returns-Sewage-New-Yorkers-on-Ship

I don't think it would take more than as moment to find examples of true maritime "nightmares" from our own past, some not so distant.

On June 15, 1904, the PS General Slocum sank in New York's East River after experiencing a fire. The ship's lack of safety equipment and presence of flammable materials doomed 1,037 out of the 1,358 people on board that day.

On April 27, 1865, the SS Sultana sank in the Mississippi river. It was a steamboat paddlewheeler in the region and tragedy struck when three of the ship's four boiler exploded sending the Sultana to the river bottom. An estimate 1600 people died.


And perhaps most famous of all, the RMS Titanic struck disaster when it could not avoid an iceberg in the North Atlantic. Infamously, 1,532 people died in the freezing waters unnecessarily due to an under-equipped ship and an under-trained crew.

RMS Titanic

Given the tragic disasters and nightmare scenarios that have been experienced in the long history of shipboard travel, I pose the question: Where exactly on the nightmare scale does the Triumph truly rank?

Give Blood!

So this morning I find myself heading down to the Blood Bank of Hawaii to give blood. They called me earlier in the week stating that they had a critical shortage of my blood type and having given in the past, I was on the roster to give again.

I am happy to give blood especially in a time of need, but don't get me wrong, I don't really like it. I have never been fond of getting any kind of hand injuries so the hemoglobin test is kinda scary to me. I realize that it is only a small stick, but the anticipation really gets me. I am surprised that my pulse rate is so low after getting jabbed in the finger. On top of that, the idea of voluntarily sticking a needle in my vein, when I am perfectly healthy, even for the best of intentions, seems counter intuitive to me.

So why give?

I don't to tell you all the statistics about how much blood is needed every day or that each donation can potentially save three lives. The Blood Bank does a good job of getting the word out on the need for blood. In my case, I do it because of my family.

Like a lot of things in life, being a husband and father has given me a new perspective on the need to do the right thing especially in the face of your fears.But it was when I took my 11-year-old son with me to donate blood that it really hit me why I need to give, in particular.

My son was with me for my donation in December really out of necessity. He was off for the day and I had a commitment to go give at the new blood donation center. Whenever I take him to do things that are new to him, I take the time to explain things and answer his questions.

On this trip, I was explaining the need for variety people to give because of their different blood types. As it turns out, I am AB+. I told him that people call that the "Universal Receiver" because people with that type of blood can take any type in an emergency. On the other hand, people call type O folks, "Universal Donors" since anyone can receive their blood.

To this, my son said that I am lucky because I can receive any blood type. He was right.

However, I told him that it was because other type AB+ people can get any blood type that I really must donate. He looked puzzled.

I told him that because type AB+ folks can use whatever blood is available, I wanted to make sure that there would be sufficient blood of the appropriate type so that they would not deplete the supply for others.

Still puzzled.

Then I told him, imagine we were having a pizza party and we had three types of people showing up. One group were lactose-intolerant, one group were vegetarian and the last had no dietary restrictions. As a consequence, we order three types of pizza: cheese-less, plain pizzas with just crust and sauce; vegetarian pizzas with cheese but no meat and then supreme pizzas with the works.

I reminded him that there was a time when he could not eat dairy at all and asked, "So how would you feel if I showed up at the party and ate the plain pizza with no cheese?"

He answered, "But then what would I eat?"

"Well, I got to the party first and saw that I could eat any of the pizzas since I have no dietary restrictions, so I ate the plain pizza. In fact, I ate some of the vegetarian pizza too."

He looked concerned.

"So do you think it is fair if I eat all the different pizzas just because I can knowing that there are people who cannot?"

"No. Because then the other people will have nothing."

I explained to him that if you have fewer limits that it does not entitle you to more. That instead it means you have an obligation to do your part to make sure that you are not infringing on access to the same basic things that you may otherwise take for granted.

Who knew that a mere two months later, I would get the call that would confirm my theory. That there are too few AB+ people giving blood and although I will never be at a loss should I need blood, there are many others who could be right now.

So if you are healthy, give blood. It can be a little scary, but I promise that it is worth it.