Hero Worship

RepresentSometimes, it's important to question the unquestionable.  One area where I see that our culture has the most difficult time doing this is in talking about the funding of our military defense and public safety services.  At a national/international level, it's the U.S. Military and private security contractors.  At the state, county and city level, it's police officers along with firefighters and EMTs.

Lawmakers and executive branch leaders across the political spectrum are acutely aware that they'll never be criticized for "supporting the troops" that serve in these operations.  In his recent speech updating the world on the status of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he also acknowledged the tenuous state of the economy, President Obama said that, "as long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known, and we will do whatever it takes to serve our veterans as well as they have served us."  The finest in the world.  Whatever it takes.  These phrases mean something coming from the President of the United States.

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Super ultra mega-secure EFTPS enrollment

As an employer, my company Summersault is required to withhold and then turn in federal taxes from our employee paychecks.  In the past we've turned in those withheld funds by printing out a check, walking it a block down the street to the bank, and getting a receipt.

I recently took the IRS's advice and inquired into enrolling in "EFTPS" - Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.  (It's too bad they didn't call it something really cool like "Maximum Velocity Pay" or "Blue Tiger," but I guess EFTPS is at least accurate.)  The idea behind EFTPS is that it will save you time and simplify payment and filing of federal taxes.  So far, here's what the process has involved: Continue reading Super ultra mega-secure EFTPS enrollment

Reviews: The Reader, Then She Found Me, At World's End

This is a triple header movie review post, hold on tight.  No overt spoilers, but if you like going into movies without any preconceived notions, I hope you'll stop now and come back later when you've seen them for yourself.

The Reader is one of those films that haunts my thoughts and dreams for some time after I've seen it - in part because of the subject matter, and in part because of how beautifully and authentically it was rendered.  Director Stephen Daldry rightly relied heavily on the amazing ability of his cast to communicate so much through the slightest changes in expression or well-timed pauses, and the cinematography only complemented this by just getting out of their way.

Continue reading Reviews: The Reader, Then She Found Me, At World's End

Can the President of the U.S. use e-mail?

The Times has a nice little article today about why Barack Obama will probably have to give up the use of his Blackberry - and e-mail altogether - when he becomes President:

As his team prepares a final judgment on whether he can keep using e-mail, perhaps even in a read-only fashion, several authorities in presidential communication said they believed it was highly unlikely that he would be able to do so.

Diana Owen, who leads the American Studies program at Georgetown University, said presidents were not advised to use e-mail because of security risks and fear that messages could be intercepted.

“They could come up with some bulletproof way of protecting his e-mail and digital correspondence, but anything can be hacked,” said Ms. Owen, who has studied how presidents communicate in the Internet era. “The nature of the president’s job is that others can use e-mail for him.”

Surely there's some middle ground to keep a President as tech-savvy as Barack Obama from being forced off of e-mail altogether? I mean, this is the guy who announced his VP pick by SMS text message, for crying out loud.

Here are some scenarios to explore: Continue reading Can the President of the U.S. use e-mail?

On practicing what you preach

Preparing for High RopesIs it really important to practice what you preach?

Must we really become the change we wish to see in the world?

As I try to work in my life and community to create a peaceful and sustainable existence, these are questions that churn in my head daily.

On a personal level, I think a lot of us struggle with living out the values we hold - we have aspirations and ideals about ourselves and the world we live in that can seem hard to enact, even when the path might feel clear.

But when you start to talk about how the rest of the world could be - even should be - the conversation goes beyond issues of self-discipline, time management, or having sufficient support and encouragement. When we talk about sharing a message with others about how we want the world to be and perhaps suggest they change their behavior to get there, it becomes a question of whether there's a practical or ethical obligation to already first be living out that existence well as the messenger.

Some people say you have to transform your own life first before you can expect others to transform theirs at your suggestion. Do we?

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Our Empire Story

One of the books I've been working my way through recently is David C. Korten's The Great Turning, which I bought after seeing him speak at a conference last year. In a recent article in Yes! Magazine that distills the essence of the book nicely, Korten suggests that one of the barriers to achieving the world we want to live in is that this story about who we are loops endlessly in our heads:

It is our human nature to be competitive, individualistic, and materialistic. Our well-being depends on strong leaders with the will to use police and military powers to protect us from one another, and on the competitive forces of a free, unregulated market to channel our individual greed to constructive ends. The competition for survival and dominance—violent and destructive as it may be—is the driving force of evolution. It has been the key to human success since the beginning of time, assures that the most worthy rise to leadership, and ultimately works to the benefit of everyone.

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Review of the Garmin Nuvi 360 GPS unit

I have long resisted the use of GPS technology for any serious or sustained navigating. This is partly because I don't like the notion of depending on an array of satellites managed by the US Air Force just to get where I'm going - to whatever degree I have any simplicity left in my life, it's one more way to add complexity and hidden costs to basic everyday tasks. I've also resisted GPS because I like the idea of being able to navigate with basic tools, instinct, and luck.

For my recent road trip, however, I got over these hesitations (for better or worse) enough to want to give the use of GPS a real spin, and I did in the form of the Garmin Nuvi 360. Here's my review.
Continue reading Review of the Garmin Nuvi 360 GPS unit