31 May 2008

david wilcox on the storms of life

David Wilcox (not a Canadian) has a new album out. He wrote and recorded the whole thing in an AirStream trailer in which he and his family were touring the country.

He had the following to say when discussing one of his new songs. I think it is worth a moment to take in some of his wisdom...

The times that define us are often the times of adversity. PERFECT STORM looks at the tough times as if that's the place where our teacher shows up. The sister song to this is DEEPER STILL, where our surface world cracks apart and we get to look down into how deep life gets. But this song is about looking up from the yearning we feel, that voltage between heaven and earth that arcs in the human heart.

When I was making my way home down a path in the dark as the storm was blowing in, it was the brief flashes of lightning that showed me where I was and where I was going. I am very grateful for those times when my heart is full to bursting with a flash of inspiration that feels like the purpose of my being here. I get quite a charge out of knowing that we are given the task of being a conduit for illumination in this world; we put our lives across that distance where this longing turns to light.

My old song SHOW THE WAY says: don't give up on being the change, like a candle in the dark, just because the world needs so much light. But this song takes it farther and says: even our despair is cause for hope. There is a sacred voltage that burns in our hearts, in our awareness of all that needs to change. This soulful yearning is the wind that drives our sails, and the fact that there's plenty of it in this perfect storm means that we will never have to live in the doldrums.

-David Wilcox

He plays Sunday night in Kerrville and in Waring (Boerne) on Monday night. Maybe we'll see you there.

30 May 2008

blogging baby burkholder: the surreal beginning

I have been asked by many of you if I'll be blogging when the baby arrives (my wife Stefani is pregnant for those wondering what I am talking about). It turns out I can't even wait until the birth to begin…So, here we go: Beginning today, I will be periodically blogging my way through the final 30 weeks of Stef's pregnancy. For what its worth, here is one husband and future father's perspective…I hope joy is found within.

On Thursday morning, I got my first look at my child. And it was stunning. I don't think I was ready to see what I saw. I don't think I even knew what to expect.

It probably complicated matters that I have spent so many hours futilely reminding Stef of the baby inside of her (as my last resort when trying to ease the pain that comes with the first trimester of pregnancy). I think all of my lame reminders (which are really pointless since I have yet to have success in removing a shooting pain or migraine) really began to numb me to the fact that there was actually a growing child inside of my wife. Familiarity breeds contempt, I guess.

I remember that a few weeks ago, we saw a dot. It was our dot, but it was just a dot. Still, nothing could have really prepared me for seeing our little one actually looking like a child. There was a head and a bum and little legs. He/she was running in place or kicking or something. My Baby Beckham, maybe? I could see the little heart fluttering like a hummingbird inside if the tiny chest cavity. Are you serious? A tiny heart beating within a larger body? What a beautiful picture… The sustained life within held together only by the larger body, by the greater creative force.

Maybe we are all just little hummingbird hearts in the grand scheme of things...

It was surreal. And I was quiet. I watched my precious wife smile, tears welling up in her eyes. I saw the smile of our wonderful doctor and glowing Auntie Katy as they located our little peanut. This must never get old. How could it?

Only hours later, did it begin to impact me. The fluttering heart and scampering legs – they belong to this child of mine. They will soon be thrashing around in a bubble bath or chasing a soccer ball. They might one day walk across a stage or down an aisle. Today, they kicked…and it felt like they did it just for me.

Does He feel like we do it just for Him...

Amazingly, this is only the beginning. This is going to be one incredible journey...

fact: bears eat beets

"Fact: Bears eat beets."

- Jim, The Office

I figured the right way to close out a week of nonsense about my real-life office was to drop in a clip from the show that makes the office funny.

Later this morning, we'll begin the process of blogging Baby Burkholder.

29 May 2008

the bearable pieces

(Working in corporate America is bizarre for me. Having spent the great majority of my adult working life either slinging coffee at Starbucks or slinging peanut-butter and jam sandwiches at African kids in Johannesburg, this whole office environment is a little weird to me. This week, I’ll share a few of the many stories that are emanating from my time as a corporate lemming. Yesterday, this space addressed Ted from Accounting.)

Part 4: The Bearable Pieces

The average day of the cubicle-dweller is broken up into many parts. It is in this process that an otherwise unbearable whole becomes many bearable pieces. It is in this process that we all maintain our sanity and our employment.

We all have: morning news-reading time, morning caffeine search and intake time, morning bathroom time, pre-lunch cool-down time, lunch time, post-lunch news-catch-up time, mid-afternoon bathroom time, mid-afternoon sugar rush search and intake time, late afternoon almost-home-don’t-want-to-start-something-new so-I‘ll-just-browse-the-internet-time, and finally going home time.

Somewhere in there, corporate America works. I haven’t figured out where yet, but when I find it, I’ll pass on the secret.

Well, nothing so frustrates a cubicle-dweller as much as the disturbance of this schedule. And none of these scheduled activities is more important than lunch time. So, just imagine my despair when I realized that my Hot Pockets in the 2nd floor freezer had been stolen or when I realized that someone threw away my ranch dressing from the 2nd floor fridge or when I noticed that Bill from Mapping was eating my salad at the company-sponsored lunch at Sea Island (even though his meal came with 14 side dishes and my gumbo only came with salad!!!!)… Bill from Mapping!! OK, deep breath…

Let me restate: The average day of the cubicle-dweller is broken up into many parts. It is in this process that an otherwise unbearable whole becomes many bearable pieces. It is in this process that we all maintain our sanity and our employment.

Having stolen not just a salad, but a little piece of my sanity, I am still working on finding forgiveness for Bill from Mapping.

28 May 2008

ted from accounting

(Working in corporate America is bizarre for me. Having spent the great majority of my adult working life either slinging coffee at Starbucks or slinging peanut-butter and jam sandwiches at African kids in Johannesburg, this whole office environment is a little weird to me. This week, I’ll share a few of the many stories that are emanating from my time as a corporate lemming. Yesterday, this space addressed meaningless hallway greetings.)

Part 3: Ted from Accounting

I think Ted from Accounting is probably a nice guy. He gets decent haircuts and likes to wear khaki pants with colored shirts and ties. He always has a Big Gulp from 7-11 with him and it always seems to be half-full of some foreboding elixir. Guys who down 88 ounces of Diet Dr. Pepper in a day can’t be all that bad.

Somehow, despite all the redeeming qualities he possesses, Ted is the most awkward person on the planet. I’ve considered darting him like they do cheetahs in Africa so I can monitor his whereabouts and avoid him at all times.

For example, our first meeting went something like this:

Ted strolls over to my cubicle on my first day. He peeks over the top, rather than walking the three extra feet to get to the opening/door/portal that would render our interaction somewhat human. (The conversation with someone peering over the padded cubicle wall is always creepy. There is just no getting around that fact.)

Ted reached his hand over the cubicle wall and says, “You must be the new guy.” Sigh. “Yup,” I reply and he stares at me and nods for a good 4 seconds. Count that – four seconds. One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand, four-one-thousand.
“I’m Ted from Accounting.”
More silence. Eight-one-thousand…
“I heard you were coming on board.”
More silence. Twenty-three-one-thousand…
“Welcome aboard.”
“Thanks. Great to be, um, on board.”

And that’s pretty much how that goes every time. Ted from accounting, this Bud’s for you.

27 May 2008

obligatory hallway greetings

(Working in corporate America is bizarre for me. Having spent the great majority of my adult working life either slinging coffee at Starbucks or slinging peanut-butter and jam sandwiches at African kids in Johannesburg, this whole office environment is a little weird to me. This week, I’ll share a few of the many stories that are emanating from my time as a corporate lemming. Yesterday, I decided to take a stand against intra-office maritime references.)

Part 2: Obligatory Hallway Greetings

On a typical run to the bathroom, copy room, file room, or break room, I am liable to run into a good half-dozen people. I probably won’t know any of their names, job titles, responsibilities, or life situations. So why, in this silly corporate environment, do we have to make eye contact, smile, nod, and mumble some sort of rhetorical greeting? Why?

Some Other Guy: Mornin’…
Me: Hey.

Some Other Guy: How’s it going?
Me: Hey.

Some Other Guy: Hey.
Me: Hey.

Get the idea? Why is this being promoted? I know that the other guy doesn’t care any more than I do about saying hello. He doesn’t want to know how I am doing and he knows that I already know that it is, in fact, morning. Saying “afternoon” as everyone runs to the vending machine for their 3 o’clock sugar high isn’t any better. We all know what general portion of the day it is.

I have begun my own private revolt. I either say nothing, giving a half-smile and nod or I take a sincere interest in the individual, stop them in the hall and ask them personal questions about their life. One way or another, we can stop all of this unnecessary greeting.

26 May 2008

welcome aboard (and other intra-office maritime references)

(Working in corporate America is bizarre for me. Having spent the great majority of my adult working life either slinging coffee at Starbucks or slinging peanut-butter and jam sandwiches at starving African kids in Johannesburg, this whole office environment is a little weird to me. This week, I’ll share a few of the many stories that are emanating from my time as a corporate lemming.)

Part 1: Welcome Aboard…

Why are we in corporate America so stuck on maritime metaphors? When I started my job here at the office, I probably met 694 people in three days. And I would bet that 687 of those people gave me a handshake, a smile, and a hearty “welcome aboard”.

Welcome aboard? Ok… I work in a cubicle, not on the poop deck, right? Some of the classier office folks told me that it is “great to have you on board”. That is no better. For the sake my sanity, can I call an official moratorium on sea-faring greetings in the workplace? Please?

No more “Jim reeled in another big client.”
No more “Martinez had to walk the plank on Friday – at least he got severance.”
No more “Shipping out”.
No more “Steering the company”.
No more…

I am half-tempted to just go all out with the theme and start referring to everything with its maritime equivalent.

My boss could become “the captain”.
I would no longer work on the northside of the building, I would be stationed on “the bow”.
Accounting (including Ted from Accounting who you’ll hear more about another day) would be on the “starboard side”.
I could start calling my co-workers “matey” and “scallywag”.
I could use the “galley” down in the “hull” instead of the breakroom.
The CEO could always be referred to as “manning the rudder”.

This could go on all day – and maybe only then would the world see just how annoying this whole trend is.

So, lemmings of corporate America, let me set you straight: You are not pirates or sailors or explorers. Using terminology that any of those folks might use does not either make your job more exciting or make your daily vocation any more adventurous than it really is. You sit at a desk, type things, and look forward to casual Friday. Let’s admit that and just move on. Stop pretending to be on a ship and stop welcoming people aboard.


23 May 2008

waking up with the cap'n and roof rip revisited

Well, being moved into our new house officially means one thing: breakfast is back in my life. And, more importantly, the Cap’N is back in my life.

Yup, Cap’N Crunch is back along with his signature “Roof Rip”. You know what I’m talking about. You pour the cereal in the bowl, add your milk, and dig in with your spoon, awaiting the sweetened oat and corn based bliss that is to come. And then, rrrrrrrip!!!!!!!!! Its like they put jagged metal pieces in there. By the time your done with your breakfast, you need 30 stitches and a reconstructive surgeon to repair the roof of your mouth. And it still doesn’t matter. Tomorrow will be another date with the Cap’N.

22 May 2008

wonka as the dreamer of dreams

“We are the music-makers. And we are the dreamers of dreams.”

-Willy Wonka

Not too long ago our friend Tiff and some of our family returned (simultaneously but separately) from Disney World. Tiff, in particular, lamented the realization that we have lost our ability to dream. Disney World will do that to you. It is a sparkling place of happiness and cleanliness, and friendliness. It is so nice (and so much fun) you almost forget how much the whole thing is costing you.

Anyway, I wondered if she was right. Have we really lost the ability to dream? We live in a world where technology makes almost anything possible – at least virtually. And maybe that virtual possibility has limited our ability to dream about what it is we might do with reality.

Maybe we should all step back and reorganize our thoughts a little bit. Maybe we should all take that wide-eyed look that Mike TeeVee and Charlie Bucket had. Maybe crazy dreams are possible after all. Maybe a chocolate river and everlasting gobstoppers could remind us to re-imagine the things we are really going to do with this life. Imagination is a beautiful and dangerous thing.

Be bold. Say it out loud. What is your dream?

Mine? I want to wake up one day in the not-too-distant future and say that I was part of finding the cure for HIV/AIDS. My meager donations and unanswered prayers might go further than I think. After all, we are the music-makers…

21 May 2008

the future, $8 gas, and the stranded suburban masses

A column from Paul Krugman:

The Link

I have seen the future, and it works.

O.K., I know that these days you’re supposed to see the future in China or India, not in the heart of “old Europe.”

But we’re living in a world in which oil prices keep setting records, in which the idea that global oil production will soon peak is rapidly moving from fringe belief to mainstream assumption. And Europeans who have achieved a high standard of living in spite of very high energy prices — gas in Germany costs more than $8 a gallon — have a lot to teach us about how to deal with that world.

If Europe’s example is any guide, here are the two secrets of coping with expensive oil: own fuel-efficient cars, and don’t drive them too much.

Notice that I said that cars should be fuel-efficient — not that people should do without cars altogether. In Germany, as in the United States, the vast majority of families own cars (although German households are less likely than their U.S. counterparts to be multiple-car owners).

But the average German car uses about a quarter less gas per mile than the average American car. By and large, the Germans don’t drive itsy-bitsy toy cars, but they do drive modest-sized passenger vehicles rather than S.U.V.’s and pickup trucks.
In the near future I expect we’ll see Americans moving down the same path. We’ve already done it once: over the course of the 1970s and 1980s, the average mileage of U.S. passenger vehicles rose about 50 percent, as Americans switched to smaller, lighter cars.

This improvement stalled with the rise of S.U.V.’s during the cheap-gas 1990s. But now that gas costs more than ever before, even after adjusting for inflation, we can expect to see mileage rise again.

Admittedly, the next few years will be rough for families who bought big vehicles when gas was cheap, and now find themselves the owners of white elephants with little trade-in value. But raising fuel efficiency is something we can and will do.
Can we also drive less? Yes — but getting there will be a lot harder.

There have been many news stories in recent weeks about Americans who are changing their behavior in response to expensive gasoline — they’re trying to shop locally, they’re canceling vacations that involve a lot of driving, and they’re switching to public transit.

But none of it amounts to much. For example, some major public transit systems are excited about ridership gains of 5 or 10 percent. But fewer than 5 percent of Americans take public transit to work, so this surge of riders takes only a relative handful of drivers off the road.

Any serious reduction in American driving will require more than this — it will mean changing how and where many of us live.

To see what I’m talking about, consider where I am at the moment: in a pleasant, middle-class neighborhood consisting mainly of four- or five-story apartment buildings, with easy access to public transit and plenty of local shopping.

It’s the kind of neighborhood in which people don’t have to drive a lot, but it’s also a kind of neighborhood that barely exists in America, even in big metropolitan areas. Greater Atlanta has roughly the same population as Greater Berlin — but Berlin is a city of trains, buses and bikes, while Atlanta is a city of cars, cars and cars.

And in the face of rising oil prices, which have left many Americans stranded in suburbia — utterly dependent on their cars, yet having a hard time affording gas — it’s starting to look as if Berlin had the better idea.

Changing the geography of American metropolitan areas will be hard. For one thing, houses last a lot longer than cars. Long after today’s S.U.V.’s have become antique collectors’ items, millions of people will still be living in subdivisions built when gas was $1.50 or less a gallon.

Infrastructure is another problem. Public transit, in particular, faces a chicken-and-egg problem: it’s hard to justify transit systems unless there’s sufficient population density, yet it’s hard to persuade people to live in denser neighborhoods unless they come with the advantage of transit access.

And there are, as always in America, the issues of race and class. Despite the gentrification that has taken place in some inner cities, and the plunge in national crime rates to levels not seen in decades, it will be hard to shake the longstanding American association of higher-density living with poverty and personal danger.

Still, if we’re heading for a prolonged era of scarce, expensive oil, Americans will face increasingly strong incentives to start living like Europeans — maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives.

20 May 2008

more on squatter camp violence in johannesburg

JOHANNESBURG — The man certainly looked dead, lying motionless in the dust of the squatter camp. His body seemed almost like a bottle that had been turned on its side, spilling blood. His pants were red with the moisture.

Nearby was evidence of what he had endured. A large rock had been used to gouge his torso. Embers remained from a fire that had been part of some torture. Shards of a burned jacket still clung to the victim’s left forearm.

Read the updated New York Times story

johannesburg erupts in anti-immigrant violence

Some disturbing (and still developing news) has started to filter out of South Africa. We have many friends in South Africa who are immigrants, both legal and otherwise and this latest bout of xenophobia is very troubling. We will pray as we wait and watch...

JOHANNESBURG — Violence against immigrants, like some windswept fire, spread across one neighborhood after another here in one of South Africa’s main cities at the weekend, and the police said the mayhem left at least 12 people dead — beaten by mobs, shot, stabbed or burned alive.

The violence continued to rage on Monday, as police fired rubber bullets and made arrests to try to quell the violence in and around Johannesburg, and said the death toll had reached 22, The Associated Press reported.

Continue Reading the New York Times story...

A video of the violence

19 May 2008

economists? what do they know?

"I'm not going to put my lot in with economists."

-Senator Hilary Clinton, after she was told that her plan for suspending the gas tax for the summer driving season was touted as a monumentally bad idea for the already-struggling economy by almost every economist that was asked.

For the record, Senator John McCain is backing a similar (and equally silly) plan.

Why the gas-tax is a bad idea...

16 May 2008

our first home and how you might help

We're moving into our first house this weekend, not too far from downtown San Antonio. We've never had a house and we pretty much sold everything when we moved to Africa awhile back so, for the first time, I am going to use this blog for completely selfish reasons.

Let me say that I believe in the power of community and that, certainly, someone knows someone who maybe knows someone who might help us out.

We need a few things and we would love to help you get stuff out of your garage or storage unit. We'd even pay for some of these things, so tell us what you have and name a price. Email us at theburkholders@gmail.com or call me (Kyle) at 210-68-2878 if you can help. Thanks!!

We are looking for:

Deck Stain
Gas Stove
Electric Weed Eater/Edger
Gardening Equipment
Wall Paint
Yard Tools
Coffee Maker
And possibly a lawn mower....

We are hopeful that even one of our little needs may get met through you or someone you know. We are so blessed to have a place to call our own. And we can't wait to bring a little bit of light to our new street.

15 May 2008

my new (deceased) friend robert

“Screwing things up is a virtue,” he said when he was 74. “Being correct is never the point. I have an almost fanatically correct assistant, and by the time she re-spells my words and corrects my punctuation, I can’t read what I wrote. Being right can stop all the momentum of a very interesting idea.”

-Robert Rauschenberg, artist

A New York Times Article on the death of Robert Rauschenberg left me feeling hopeful and yet sad. I was hopeful having read of his life and his philosophies. I was sad that I only just met him through this story, through his death. Maybe you'd like to meet him too...

14 May 2008


I was only going to Starbucks to grab a gift card for an upcoming birthday…

Upon arriving, I learn that Starbucks is releasing a new beverage option on Tuesday, giving customers a choice of adding “+Energy” to their drink of choice. “+Energy” comes in a powder form (like one of those Crystal Light packets some people mix into their bottled water) and is added by the barista. According to the Starbucks website, it contains “a blend of B vitamins, guarana, and ginseng for added energy”. Whatever. It could have said that the energy supplement came from a blend of pig hooves, cat litter, and motor oil. I probably would have tried it out anyway. Energy is energy…and it appears that Starbucks is entering the energy drink market.

Of course, having spent 18 months as a Starbucks employee, I know a few local coffee veterans. One of these old friends was working the counter and was all too happy to facilitate my introduction to “+Energy”. He explained that it was, as advertised, just a powder of additives that were supposed to increase my energy. He mentioned that no one had ordered it yet, but that the store manager had added it to her morning drink and left shortly thereafter feeling violently ill. (The previous anecdote was a literary tool – will it be foreshadowing or a red herring? Read on.)

The news that the additive might actually cause a personal physiological calamity made me more excited to try the stuff. Nothing like an excused afternoon off work…

I ordered an Iced Green Tea +Energy and watched as the miraculous powder was shaken and stirred into place. In the great tradition of baristas looking out for baristas, I was told that the drink was on the house and I left Starbucks as excited as I’ve been in awhile. A free drink – with crazy, trippy, just-might-kill-you additives…? Nice.

Next phase of this experiment: Observation. My tea looked quite a bit “foamier” than usual. And it might have been a touch cloudy, but that also could be completely made up. I mean, how many times had I analyzed the physical characteristics of a Green Tea? I tasted the elixir. And it tasted completely normal. It tasted good.

So, I got on with drinking and gave it time to work.

20 minutes in - a little jittery.
21 minutes in - OK, very jittery.
25 minutes in - does my stomach hurt? I can’t tell. Did I eat lunch? I can’t remember. Where is that ginseng?
35 minutes in - I am doing that thing where I wait for the ice to melt a little and then feebly try to drink the newly-created watered-down remnants of tea.
40 minutes in - let’s end this.

So, my review: I am going to say that this might be worth the $0.50 extra you have to pay. It might as well be tasteless and I do think that there was a little added boost in there. No harm, no foul.

13 May 2008


We escaped the heat of the South Texas summer evening by ducking into the brisk air-conditioning of the downtown parking garage lobby. Approaching the "pay station", I pulled out my wallet and readied my cash.

The machine accepted my parking card and asked me politely for $6. Fair enough. I loaded my 5-dollar bill into the machine. The machine rejected it. Again, I fed the machine. Again, it spit my money back at me.

On the opposite side of the lobby, an elderly African-American man was having similar trouble. The Coke vending machine was rejecting his coins, forcefully ejecting them onto the floor after each attempted payment. The man would calmly bend over, collect his coins, and try again. He looked exhausted. His heavy packs were no doubt an incredible strain on that 100-degree day (that's 37 celsius for our African friends). He was obviously homeless. And obviously thirsty.

Stefani, in a simple act that speaks as to why I love her so much, took a dollar from my hand and walked over to the man. Together, they fed the machine and watched as an ice-cold Diet Coke rolled into the hands of one very thirsty man who had seen better days. "Blessed" he kept saying as he looked into her eyes. Blessed. We left him with another dollar, offering to buy his next bit of relief from the heat. He left us with a very simple reminder of what we are. Blessed.

12 May 2008

shopping trolleys, soy milk, and the value of perspective

What is it that makes us so aware of the judgment surrounding us?

Am I the only one who occasionally looks down into my trolley at the grocery store and wonders what others must think?
"Soy milk? What a poser." Or maybe: "Who buys organic bananas and Hot Pockets? What a hypocrite."

Should I care what they think?

There is a freedom in not caring, but there is also a subconscious accountability in thinking of how something looks from another's perspective. As a follower of Christ, there is a particular value in such a perspective. We are invited not only to follow Christ and walk as he walked, but also to invite others along that incredible journey with our lives of love and grace. In considering what it is our lives are saying about what we claim to believe, we can better represent the one who left His legacy in our hands.

09 May 2008

the truth

"It's not enough to rage against the lie.. you've got to replace it with the truth."

- Bono

A quote from Bono with an example of how to live that out below...

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr...Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, 1964:

I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when 22 million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award on behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice. I am mindful that only yesterday in Birmingham, Alabama, our children, crying out for brotherhood, were answered with fire hoses, snarling dogs and even death. I am mindful that only yesterday in Philadelphia, Mississippi, young people seeking to secure the right to vote were brutalized and murdered. And only yesterday more than 40 houses of worship in the State of Mississippi alone were bombed or burned because they offered a sanctuary to those who would not accept segregation. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder.

Therefore, I must ask why this prize is awarded to a movement which is beleaguered and committed to unrelenting struggle; to a movement which has not won the very peace and brotherhood which is the essence of the Nobel Prize.

After contemplation, I conclude that this award which I receive on behalf of that movement is a profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time - the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression. Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. Negroes of the United States, following the people of India, have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a powerful moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

The tortuous road which has led from Montgomery, Alabama to Oslo bears witness to this truth. This is a road over which millions of Negroes are travelling to find a new sense of dignity. This same road has opened for all Americans a new era of progress and hope. It has led to a new Civil Rights Bill, and it will, I am convinced, be widened and lengthened into a super highway of justice as Negro and white men in increasing numbers create alliances to overcome their common problems.

I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. "And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid." I still believe that We Shall overcome!

This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

Today I come to Oslo as a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity. I accept this prize on behalf of all men who love peace and brotherhood. I say I come as a trustee, for in the depths of my heart I am aware that this prize is much more than an honor to me personally.

Every time I take a flight, I am always mindful of the many people who make a successful journey possible - the known pilots and the unknown ground crew.

So you honor the dedicated pilots of our struggle who have sat at the controls as the freedom movement soared into orbit. You honor, once again, Chief Lutuli of South Africa, whose struggles with and for his people, are still met with the most brutal expression of man's inhumanity to man. You honor the ground crew without whose labor and sacrifices the jet flights to freedom could never have left the earth. Most of these people will never make the headline and their names will not appear in Who's Who. Yet when years have rolled past and when the blazing light of truth is focused on this marvellous age in which we live - men and women will know and children will be taught that we have a finer land, a better people, a more noble civilization - because these humble children of God were willing to suffer for righteousness' sake.

I think Alfred Nobel would know what I mean when I say that I accept this award in the spirit of a curator of some precious heirloom which he holds in trust for its true owners - all those to whom beauty is truth and truth beauty - and in whose eyes the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace is more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.

08 May 2008

my cubicle

I am a cubicle-dweller.

You know, it's a really nice cubicle. It is wooden (not that gray carpetish stuff) and it even has little windows. Well, the windows look into other cubicles, but still...

It is a strange existence in the cubicle. You really could go days in there without ever looking another human in the eyes. Your computer screen opens to the rest of the room, so if someone walks by there is this constant pressure to look like you're working, even though half of the room is on the internet reading about Britney Spears or the Spurs at any given moment. I think everyone keeps a fake spreadsheet in a minimized window with ALT+TAB just waiting to be pushed.

And I have to admit that I have (more than once) wondered if this is what the creators of The Matrix had in mind when they thought up those creepy human farms. I mean, honestly, what else are we there for? We produce, the system consumes, we go home to recharge, and then the system consumes that the next day. If I thought about it too much, I'd probably end up under my desk in the fetal position cuddling with the electric three-hole puncher. And, just so you know, I broke the electric three-hole puncher today. I don't think it was designed to take 80 pages at once. It started buzzing and whining and basically disintegrating before my eyes. Should I tell someone... or walk away....tell someone...walk away...?

Look, I'm not complaining. My cubicle is nicer than a lot of my African friends' houses. It is just a weird place to be all day. Especially when you're the new guy. My phone never rings (ever), I never get emails (except forwards about menopause from my cubicle-farm neighbors), and I don't really have much company schwag (read: logoed crap) to decorate with yet. I do find that drinking lots of coffee in the morning and water in the afternoon will inspire nearly half-a-dozen bathroom breaks a day, which is a nice way to break up the monotony.

I enjoy my job. I enjoy the people I work with. I am thankful for a paycheck and benefits and the ability to be a part of something larger than myself. I'm just saying that when people flip out in the workplace (you know, throwing computers out windows, having Vietnam-flashbacks - that sort of stuff)...well, I understand.

Enjoy this video - it should be required Friday afternoon viewing for the cubed-masses...

07 May 2008

cold coffee and new habits

I like my coffee cold. There, I said it. No, not iced. Sweet Fancy Moses, please don't try to push that iced coffee from McDonalds on me. I'd rather drink anti-freeze. At least the experience would fall in line with expectations.

I am saying that I like my coffee cold...As in it once was hot and now its not. Seriously, invite me out for a cup of coffee. (Subtle hint.) Then watch me watch the coffee. Watch the steam slowly fade away. Then, watch me enjoy the cool, crisp, pungent nectar of energy. Mmm.

In addition to favoring my coffee cold (Grande Pike Place Roast, please), I prefer espresso drinks straight and hot (Doppio con Panna). I also prefer any drink containing milk to be iced (Iced Triple Tall Vanilla Soy Latte). That is what I like. It is also what you should like. It is.

The point of this...well, I neither have a point nor do I need one. You're reading this blog because you are a creature of habit and I could (and do) write about pretty much anything. That said, I wanted to talk a little about coffee before providing a clever segue into the NYT article on habits that I am referring you to today. Nice, ne?


New York Times:
Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?

Brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths, and even entirely new brain cells, that can encourage a way to innovation.

Click here to read on...

06 May 2008

shark-jumping, space-shuttling, and being green: how africa and tang are now the same

Africa has jumped the shark. And its time in the spotlight was short-lived.

I realized recently that Africa as a social issue has passed its peak. Africa has become tired and predictable. It has fallen off our moral agenda. Death, AIDS, war, orphans, malaria, genocide, blah, blah, blah, blah...

Remember when watching the space shuttle take-off was a big deal? I certainly do. What might be harder to remember is the first time that you heard about such a feat and were no longer impressed. "People are going to the moon? Eh..."

Africa is now like going to the moon. A Feed the Children video is about as exciting as Tang. Ya, it has a little kick, but you've had it so many times now that the impact just isn't so great.

Today, the issue that inspires emotion and action in people is "being green". It is timely and it is important to live a more sustainable life for future generations. Unfortunately, in our short-attention-span society, it has replaced the movement to preserve the generations that are wasting away now. We think our grocery bill is getting expensive - imagine how much harder it is getting to live on $1 a day like so many desperately poor people around the globe must every day.

We must continue to think beyond ourselves. We must continue to put justice issues in front of those in power. And we must plead for less "coverage" of the issue we care so deeply about and more action on it instead.

As the children of Africa all sing: "If you believe, then I believe...Africa will be saved."

technical note (rss)

For those who know of such things, I've fixed the RSS function so you can better access the content here through your normal RSS Feeds....Look for this sign and enjoy.

Thanks to Woody who made me aware of the issue...

05 May 2008

rube goldberg

Rube Goldberg was awesome. A real outside-of-the-box thinker. And he died in 1970, but he still fascinates weirdos like me. Now, that's a shelf life even Twinkies could be proud of.

He invented things. Well, to be more accurate, he thought of creative ways to do everyday tasks. Ok fine...he thought of the most complicated possible way to do everyday tasks. As a trained engineer and avid cartoonist, he let his imagination run wild. Hard to explain. See this picture (below) - it is his, The Self-Operating Napkin... His wondrous ideas were so popular, and so pervasive, that he got an official entry in Merriam & Websters dictionary.
Rube Goldberg - "accomplishing by extremely complex roundabout means what actually or seemingly could be done simply."

Use it in a sentence this week.

Anyway, Rube lives on in people like me who love his fanciful ways and in the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest, where universities compete against each other to create the best Rube Goldberg-inspired device. For one contest, teams had to invent a contraption that could make a simple hamburger (one patty, 2 pickle slices, bun, and ketchup) in 20 steps or more. Or something like that.

Creativity is beautiful.

The "Self-Operating Napkin" is activated when the soup spoon (A) is raised to mouth, pulling string (B) and thereby jerking ladle (C) which throws cracker (D) past parrot (E). Parrot jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and lights automatic cigar lighter (J), setting off skyrocket (K) which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M) and allow pendulum with attached napkin to swing back and forth, thereby wiping chin. After-dinner entertainment can be supplied with the simple substitution of a harmonica for the napkin

04 May 2008

me. non-expert, coffee-guy, modern-day paul revere

What is the polar opposite of an expert? I don't know the answer, but in most situations I am whatever that would be. Wine. Car repair. Gardening. Engineering. Cheese. Cosmetics. Whatever. I know nothing.

One thing I do know about it coffee. I don't know if 18 months of employment at Starbucks did that for me. I didn't love Starbucks coffee, but it did teach me how to distinguish the good from the bad from the Folgers Instant Coffee Crystals.

I have tasted a LOT of coffee from a lot of places, read more than a few books on the brew, and managed to stumble across some of the best coffee-based drinks (and places to drink them) the world has to offer. And, thanks to that knowledge and passion, many of you have come to see me and coffee as inseparable. I often get emails about coffee-industry news, questions about coffee products, and even requests as to where people might find good coffee on vacation.

Let me say that I embrace the role of coffee-guy in your life. I like my espresso straight, I know that vanilla is inherently superior to hazelnut, I think Starbucks did well for themselves with their new daily-brewed coffee, and I could not be dissuaded in my thinking that coffee tastes better on gray and rainy days.

Most everyone has heard of Paul Revere, whose mythicized midnight-ride has become a pillar of American revolutionary history. I, like Paul Revere, have a message to spread. Unlike Paul Revere, I am not a skilled horseman and I have access to a blog, so there will be a minor difference in delivery method. Nevertheless...the message:

Never - no matter how tired or thirsty or desperate or time-constrained or drunk or possessed you are - never drink McDonalds Iced Coffee. I did. And it was the most disappointing $2 I have ever spent. The texture was inconsistent and bizarre. I only tasted watered-down vanilla milk, even thought the drink was brown and smelled like coffee. The drink was not foul or stankin'. It just wasn't worthy of carrying the label of coffee. It should have been labeled as an "artifically flavored, chemically altered, milk and ice beverage."

So, let me repeat. You will be tempted. You will be hot and lacking energy. You will see the golden arches and the sign promising "iced coffee". You will consider turning through the convenient drive-thru lane and paying your hard-earned money for a little mass-produced treat. Don't do it. Avoid McDonalds Iced Coffee at all costs. You will thank me later.

02 May 2008

schrute in three words

"How would I describe myself? Three words - hardworking, alpha male, jackhammer. Merciless. Insatiable." - Dwight Schrute

Dwight Schrute of The Office is officially approaching George Costanza on the list of greatest television characters ever. Just thought you should know.