Mar 302014

dryerI follow someone on Twitter who includes “Normal is a dryer setting” in her bio. What a thought-provoking thing to say, eh? I like its poignancy and elegance very much.

She advocates for people with special needs—Down syndrome, folks on the spectrum, and so forth. That’s what she means when she says that. It speaks to something different for me.

I’ve grappled with “normal” for most of my adulthood, in terms of how people’s lives go. I determined a long time ago that there was no such thing.

Everybody’s got a backpack they can’t take off. Some folks—I (still) like to believe a lot of folks—have light ones. Others are so crushingly massive that just getting through a day is a minor miracle.

And I’ve been thinkin’ ’bout my backpack lately.

There’s just about a third of a hair’s width between thoughtfully examining your childhood and blaming your childhood for whatever flavor of asshole you’ve become. I’m not interested in the latter. People are themselves responsible for who they are. Anyone who knows me 5% knows I believe that.

But I’m finished pretending that a number of childhood things that happened to me, or in close proximity to me, were “normal.”

Know that I don’t walk around resentful. I know, intellectually, that the people I could/would blame were doing the best they could.

But I struggled for some time with just how I would allow that to inform my reality, particularly as a husband and father. I don’t have any greater earthly responsibilities. It is critical that I bring clarity and integrity to those tasks.

And though I genuinely believe I’ve done a serviceable job at both—maybe even an unambiguously good job, particularly relative to society—I can feel just as dark as I want, anytime I want, considering my failures.

Marinating in my failures.

I’m realizing that to some degree, I’ve been defining success at these tasks in negative context with what I’ve directly experienced as a child. I’ve been saying to myself “well, I’m better than x“—where x is something I remember from my childhood—and calling that good enough.

It’s not.

I can do better.

And because I can, I must.

 Posted by at 11:27 pm
Mar 282014

The highest-quality racing in the world resumes this weekend!

If you’re a racing fan and you’re not keeping up with IndyCar, you’re missing out. Start making up for it on Sunday afternoon at 2:20 CDT. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg happens in the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and it’s always an exciting one.

Looking forward to a great year!

 Posted by at 3:36 pm
Mar 272014
  • We had a hard freeze yesterday morning following a fair bit of springlike weather, and there was the requisite bitching, but it wasn’t nearly late enough. We need it in another two to three weeks to make a significant difference with the mosquitoes.
  • IndyCar 2014 is here! I’ve been watching the St. Petersburg weather carefully. Looks sloppy here and there right up until race day, but Sunday has looked consistently good. Hope it holds.
  • On another IndyCar note, this will be the final year Jim Nabors sings “Back Home Again in Indiana” just before the command at the Indianapolis 500. I’m delighted we got to see/hear him in person last year. Thank you and God bless, sir.
  • Just past halfway through Breaking Bad. It’s a really good show, but as of now I have not elevated it to the ranks of the all-time greats.
  • Did you know that suspending yourself with metal hooks driven directly through your raw flesh is a thing? Did you know a wacky, fun-loving bunch partook of this activity at the Von Braun Center this past weekend? Aren’t you disappointed you didn’t hear about it sooner so you could have taken the kids?
  • The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that Northwestern football players are not student athletes but employees of the university, and can therefore unionize. Barring a successful appeal from the school, which seems unlikely, massive changes in college football and basketball have just moved from possible to inevitable.
  • You’d think steak or cheeseburgers would be giving me the most trepidation when considering giving up red meat forever, and though I would miss them, they’re manageable. It’s breakfast meats, cold cuts, and pizza that really have me thinking.
 Posted by at 11:22 am
Mar 262014

This morning started week four of my Lenten lacto-ovo vegetarianism. I have been 100% compliant and am happy to report that it got considerably easier after the first week. A few thoughts:

  • I’m more confident than ever that I’m not a candidate to do this indefinitely. However…
  • …I am thinking seriously every day about only resuming with poultry and seafood after Easter. Can I avoid eating mammals indefinitely? It’s intriguing to consider. Stay tuned.
  • Mexican, Italian, and Greek are easy cuisines. A salad bar is obviously highly doable as well. Asian cuisines are essentially shut down for me until Lent is over.
  • The black bean burger at Anaheim Chili is very good. I’ll keep that in the rotation.
  • Eating and cooking at home hasn’t been a problem. I can cook bacon, chicken, or whatever for Lea and the boys without discomfort. We’re about half and half between me eating my own thing and all of us eating vegetarian (or, a meal that can be satisfyingly and easily modified for me).

So, I’d call myself largely adjusted. I’m interested in how the remaining 25 days will go. Thanks to all who have supported me on this endeavor. I appreciate it.

 Posted by at 10:42 am
Mar 252014

animalwelfareI introduced this post series last week. And now I’m going to give you something of an extended introduction for Part I before I go to extended treatments of single topics in Part II next week.

As I considered it last week, I became steadily less pleased with what I hadn’t said in my introduction. You see, I am hoping for some skeptical readers over these next several weeks. I’m going to say some controversial things. It’s critically important to me that my readers understand that these are the thoughts of a reasonable person. You don’t have to be out on an ideological limb to nod at what you’ll read. You just have to consider the motivations of those battling for your minds, hearts, and (mostly) pocketbooks.

So thanks for your patience, and please stay with me.

Part of how I got to be 42 years old without ever sustainedly considering animal welfare issues is that I assumed it was one noise I heard. I assumed that when someone espousing what I considered to be ridiculous beliefs about the environment (for example) said something about animals, that it was probably equally ridiculous. I further assumed that horror stories about farming, for example, had to be overstated or badly misrepresented. After all, it’s in a farmer’s interest to ensure the health of his livestock. Why would he act counter to that?

I think there is deception in degree—some inherent, some actively cultivated—when we consider these issues. We can understand a lot of what is happening with animals under our control by using rather less controversial beliefs and sentiments as context.

For example, few people who become truly informed about how most veal is produced continue to eat it without consideration. Veal calves are horribly crowded and often spend their entire lives indoors. They are tethered in crates, almost unable to move at all. They have lives most of us would never consider giving any companion animal, like a dog or a horse.

And yet, some heinous practices dominate our mass production of livestock now. We raise farm animals in conditions that are plainly inconsistent with basic definitions of humane treatment. Then, we administer many tons of drugs to the animals to improve their survivability in these conditions—drugs we then get to eat later. So you get a twofer with your meat:  animal welfare concerns and health concerns.

How about for our pleasure? Civilized people don’t support dog fighting or cockfighting. That’s a no-brainer, right? Setting animals upon each other solely for human entertainment is barbaric and cruel, particularly when the death of the loser is all but guaranteed. I’ll go ahead and include bullfighting here, too. Though it continues legally in some places, defended wanly as “cultural heritage” and what-not, it is clearly in severe and unrecoverable decline.

And yet, though we don’t generally stage fights between them, we freely and openly use our dominion over animals solely for our entertainment. A prominent example arrives at the Von Braun Center next week (and yes, you’ve now got an excellent idea of next week’s topic).

With zoos, there is a genuine and positive difference. There are horrific disasters attached to gas stations, and there are valuable educational and research facilities that also support tourism.

I don’t want to tell you what to do in this series. I think there are enough parties doing that in our lives already. I am, however, highly interested in disseminating, as dispassionately as possible, accurate information on many of the animal practices that have settled into our sociocultural narrative as normal. See what’s there for a rational person to absorb.

All right, I promise that’s the last bit of dedicated introduction. Next week:  the circus.

(Note: This post was amended after initial publication.)

 Posted by at 7:57 am
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