Who and What is the Happy Warrior

The Happy Warrior is the title of a poem... and yes, I love this poem. I do not wish to be mischaracterized, for the most part poetry is not my bag. I am not an afficionado of literature nor am I a metro-sexual (I despise that term) but a dear friend introduced me to this masterpiece of prose several years ago... it has provided no end of inspiration. The Happy Warrior by William Wordsworth outlines the qualities of a magnificent soul. I aspire to possess even one or two characteristics that "every man in arms should wish to be."

This blog is a representation, in conversational form, of my voyage to wrap my arms around the world in which Mr. Worsdworth's warrior finds happiness.

(Standing disclaimer: Luckily tests of spelling accuracy ended in 4th grade otherwise I would still be in Elementary School. Be forewarned, spelling errors ahead. I subscribe to the wisdom of a great man who said, "I have utmost disdain for a man who can only spell a word one way." -Benjamin Franklin)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas from our family

To family, friends and readers, I hope this Christmas time brings to your mind the many blessings of freedom, family, faith and prosperity that enrich our lives every day.  I recognize, more and more, that each of these four gifts from God are not to be taken for granted nor is there some default guarantee that they will always be in our possession.  Millions who now live and the greater majority of those who have come and gone before us have not known the quality and the quantity of these things as we have.  They are given to us by a benevolent God and only limited by our willingness to serve him with our own modest lives.  May these blessings of heaven fill your lives this season and throughout 2012. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Optical Illusion Christmas Card

The Captivating Mrs. Wicke and I are very fortunate on a number of fronts.  One of which is that our lives have always been garnished with many, many good friends.  So Christmas time is always associated with many cards and pictures from friends now far away.  This year, however, I may be pressing the limits of card viewing as a very strange thing has happened with the card a dear family sent to us.  Either my eyes are playing tricks on me or they have sent a card that utilizes some pretty cool new technology... 
OK, so far so good... 

What?... Is that Wilson...

... a smiley face  (what kind of subliminal message is this?)

... an extra-terrestrial? 


Could it be Elvis?

Well done Megan and John, well done!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Prognosticating Doom

One of the most important results of my professional socialpsychological development (first through years as a student and now as a researcher) is a critical and deservedly cynical view of the media.  While most of their inaccuracies and errant analysis are not intentional I am coming to believe that the one percent they get right is due to sheer accident.  Perhaps I am exaggerating a bit but I have truely come to question nearly every statement verbalized by some individual from the great nameless mass we call "the media".  The lack of credibility portends dangerous consequences for society... but that is a subject for another time.
Let us examine a specific article on MSN.com headlined,  "Why all signs point to chaos" byAnthony Mirhaydari a writer for The Edge.  Before we dive into the specifics let me point out one of my pet peeves:  fear mongering.  I hate it, especially fear mongering wrapped in sophistication.  This hatred is at the root of why I am averse to home alarm systems and particularly auto, life and health insurance.  Do not try to sell me by petitioning one of the most basic and basest of human sensibilities:  fear. 

Needless to say, the headline got my, allbeit annoyed, attention.  It took less than twenty seconds for annoyance to evolve into infuriation.  Here are the first two paragraphs:
You don't have to look far to find evidence that the glue that binds us together is losing its grip. Blame the years of economic turmoil and hardship. The volatility. The booms and busts. The persistent joblessness. The increasingly narrow path to financial independence.
For the vast majority of us -- dare I say, the 99% -- the social contract seems like a raw deal these days.

My self-imposed 2 minute blogging rule is about used up so let me be brief:
 "For the vast majority of us --dare i say, the 99%--..."  "Dare I say"???  Yes, how dare you say it!  I am tired of media, government pundits, social narcissits (groups that say, "to hell with the greater good, we want such and such") and so called intellectual elite claiming that their views are shared by some "vast majority" of Americans.  No, there are not even close to 99% of "us" who think we have been shafted in the matter of our social contract.  Your thinking stinks of the social cancer of entitlement.  Inherant in your statement is a belief that we have been wronged by some external force.  If the social contract is falling apart, the American people have no further to look for the source than their own bathroom mirror.  And while we, individuals, bear the burden if our social ties are threadbare, I have great trust that the American tapestry is not about to fray. On the contrary, I believe that a great majority of the American people still beleive in that contract and feel extremely blessed to live in a country of such magnificent prosperity, freedom and opportunity.  Are there problems, yes.  Is there need for serious reformation?  No!  What we need is rededication to the original principles of that uniquely American "social contract" we call the Constitution, to principles of self-reliance, limited government and to moral virtue. 

So, according to you, "You don't have to look far to find evidence that the glue that binds us together is losing its grip.  Blame..." and you produce a laundry list of causes for the weakening of American social capital.  There are arguments to be made about the waxing and waneing of American social capital, evidence exists to support both a weakening and an invigoration.  Let me grant you a rather large point for the sake of argument:  if the glue that binds us together loses its strength and we slide into chaos as your classic media-sensationalized headline proposes, it will not be for any of the reasons you "blame".  It will be, rather, because American's have discarded their native virtue, their trust in God (which is at the root of their trust in each other), their belief in a civilization fundamentally different than any this world has ever seen.  Yes, I reference the idea that we are exceptional.  But we are being told far to often that we are not.  We are no different than Europe, than Tehran, than Bosnia.  Perhaps we are no different than 1939 Germany.  These countries all have experience with chaos in the face of  economic turmoil, hardship, volatility, booms and busts, persistent joblessness and a narrow path to financial independence.  America has a system, a culture, a set of values and beliefs that makes her exceptional.  But that social contract depends on a critical mass of Americans who still believe in such things.  I do not know if we will slip into chaos and social discontent but if we do, we can only blame it on ourselves for abandoning the morality, the system, the exceptional features of society and a government that made us great over the course of the last two hundred years.  We do not need "real change", we need real rededication.  I believe a vast majority (somewhere around 65 to 75%) of Americans believe exactly this.  The trick is to get them to stop listening to the 1% who claim to be the 99%.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Farewell Mr. Hitchens... say hello to God for me

The world lost a tireless pursuer of truth today. Mr. Christopher Hitchens lost his battle with cancer.  I cannot fathom the road he has recently traveled and wish his family and friends a great deal of solace in the memory of a gifted and courageous man.  Mr. Hitchens was a strong voice of conservatism and atheism (antagonistic, intellectual atheism) during the latter decades of the 1900's and til his death in 2011.  One of his most popular books is boldly titled:  God is Not Great.  Agree or disagree with him, his mind and courage in speaking his convictions demand respect.  So it is only with great honor that I make this observation as he passes out of this life and (as far as my convictions hold) into the next.  I do not mean to be even the slightest bit inappropriate, unfeeling or otherwise disrespectful.

Since Mr. Hitchens was a tenatious pursuer of truth, I hope that today, right now, is the most enlightening experience of his existence.  Of course there is no way for us to prove or disprove his current spiritual reality, such things pertaining to our existence of life before mortality and after mortality are entirely outside the realm of scientific observation.  They are relegated to the domain of faith.  As one who believes that scientific and spiritual truth can co-exist, I trust that Mr. Hitchens is now engaged in a level of comprehension he did not know on earth.  I am not privy to the progression or order of things beyond this life but I trust that when Mr. Hitchens comes face to face with God there will be a tearful and soul-felt retraction of previous assertions regarding the quality of God's greatness.  And since God is great there will be no strict reproof for a son who has just come home from a long and difficult journey through a foreign land.  The Father will take his child in his arms and Mr. Hitchens will know of a goodness and love that is impossible for our language to convey.  This will be the greatest discovery of Christopher Hitchen's life.  For this truth I am most excited for Mr. Hitchens in his current condition.  This world will miss him perhaps (no less or no more than it misses any other who briefly dance across it's stage) but his discoveries have just increased a hundred fold.  All my best to you Mr. Hitchens.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wacky Wednesday: One week and counting until Christmas

No commentary needed (although some back stories would be very interesting):

Photos courtesy of AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com

Monday, December 12, 2011

Know thyself...

Last week I had the opportunity to prepare for a high level interview as a company flew me to their headquarters to further explore my fit for a position.  I have not pursued the interview process for a decade and a half and felt some significant trepidation over the entire process.  In the end, it went very well and was quite an enjoyable adventure.  The preparation process provided much opportunity to take inventory of my own philosophy that has developed over the course of my adult life.  I wanted to be prepared to present my core beliefs in a practical and concise manner.  Here is some of what I self-identified as some core personal and business beliefs:
1.  People want to matter, they want to make a difference.  This applies to their jobs as well as to their overall life.  People want to feel like the eight or ten hours they spend engaged in their occupation has some purpose beyond "putting in time".  An extension of this claim is the belief that people basically (there are always some exceptions) want to succeed; they want to make a contribution.  The problem is they are often held back from this out of fear/lack of confidence, a work environment or management situation that does not allow or facilitate this or finally, some don't have the "tools" (the know-how, the habits, a strategy, etc.) to succeed.  The good news is that proper leadership can often facilitate success.
2.  We should manage figures and processes but you lead people.  That is a primary difference between "management" and "leadership".  No one likes to be "managed" but most of us will follow a good leader into hell for a worthy or noble cause.
3.  Subordinates will be as committed as they see you (their leader) are.  The truth is, most followers do not preform because they are reflecting the cues (conscious or subconscious) of their leader(s).
4.  Leadership is most effectively and powerfully done on a one-to-one basis.  A prerequisite to this type of leadership is knowing the names (at the very least) of your team.
5.  Goodness, honesty and hard work will always win the day.
6.  Most victories are gained on the extra mile (where most people don't venture).
There you are, a look inside my mind and heart.  Any additions?  Please make recommendations.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's the truth, that is why it hurts: global gobbely-gook

The globe is warming, the climate is suffering, weather is out of control, the oceans are rising, we are all going to die!  I've never believed in this cirque de fanaticism.  Environmentalism is nothing more nor less than a contemporary secular religion  -complete with its articles of faith and unquestioned devotion.  Al Gore is the high priest and the United Nations is the temple.  I think President Obama was supposed to be the environmentalist's savior.... 

The preceding paragraph probably endeared me to 50% of people and made me enemies with the other 50%...  No matter.  This segment (It's the truth, that is why it hurts) is bound to cause such a reaction.  I am not here to make friends, I'm here (this particular segment specifically) to speak truth and fact.  Here is a fact from a fantastic piece in the Wall Street Journal:

On Sunday, 2,232 days will have elapsed since a category 3 hurricane made landfall in the U.S., the longest period in more than a century that the U.S. has been spared a devastating storm.

There, a beautiful little piece of truth that none of the climate and global warming people are running to the nearest microphone to tell you.  Why not?  This is a fantastic piece of information.  Seems relevant to the discussion.  Truth people, truth.  That is all I'm asking.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wacky Wednesday

Because life is full of disappointments, challenges, setbacks and irony, a little levity is in order:

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

It's the truth... that is why it hurts: College Reality

I am introducing a new segment:  It's the truth... that is why it hurts.  Sometimes it is painful to hear, to face, to admit the truth. Truth, like shots, hurts in the short-term but is a vital element of long-term health and vitality.    Unfortunately we live in a world where the very idea of truth is under attack.  Some say there is no objective truth and all is subjective.  What a load of crap.  If these people were really honest they would say, "I want things my way and NOTHING is going to get in my way!"  Since this sounds blantanly childish and narcissistic, they create, instead, sophisticated and veiled arguments -many shrouded in science, philosophy, religion or hiding behind political and social causes like health, the environment, the welfare of innocents (children, the poor, etc.) and such.  But I am getting away from my main point.

In the midst of our self-deception, moments and examples of truth emerge like a spotlight in a dark theater to illuminate absurdity.  For a brief moment truth is on display until someone scrambles to pull the plug on the light because our eyes hurt from the glare. 

Consider this little bit of information about a very specific element of modern life:  higher education.  Many are understandably concerned with the rising cost of tuition at US universities.  At the same time many professors are being squeezed by macro economic forces which are reducing their pay and the number of faculty in many departments (which translates into a higher workload for remaining faculty).  You might be interested in reading some exerpts from an article by Heather Mac Donald in The National Review... then again, you might not be interested since the truth hurts.  My purpose is not to summarize her argument, she does a far better job than I ever could, but to provide a concise blast of truth that will hopefully cause enough of a intellectual pin-prick to generate a pain response (i.e. indignance, astonishment, anger that leads to some sort of action).  Here is the amazing statement of truth from her piece:
"Since 2006, full-time administrators (at the college/university level) have outnumbered faculty nationally."
That is UNBELIEVABLE!  There are more administrators in higher education than there are faculty!  This should anger any student or parent (or taxpayer) who is paying ever increasing tuition fees.  Last time I checked, our young people go to college to be taught by professors who are expert in their dicipline not for the priviledge of being administered by some nameless, faceless person in a campus office building they never see in the 4, 5 or 6 years spent at the institution.  Read the full piece for more truth and pain (wait til you read what these "administrators" are paid compared to faculty and the important roles they are attending to)!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wacky Wednesday

Here is a little personal reassurance for the next time you make a stupid mistake:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Not fun, not exciting, not how I want things to be... but true

There are some things in life... correct that, let me start over.  The things in life that really matter are not easy, quick, painless or guaranteed to bring the approbation of the majority.  I present another thought from Mr. Epictetus (refer to Friday's blog, Nov. 4th):
  You may well have to forgo wealth and power if you want to assure the attainment of happiness and freedom.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dead Man Speaking

I love reading the words of dead people.  No, this is not some morbid confession of bizzare graveyard voyerism.  It is merely my affirmation of my love for history.  I am fascinated by the writing of dead Greeks and Romans in particular (while also enjoying the wisdom of Eastern authors).  There is an eriee familiarity in their words.  It is almost as if they faced many of the same personal and political challenges we face today.  I love when they speak of efforts to find meaning, of values, of ethics, of human nature, the quest to live "the good life", even of cruelty, evil and those forces -internal and external- that threaten our felicity.  We do not talk enough of these things today even though they are all pertinent.  Somehow we have let the technological advances, the comforts of affluence, and the narcotic of leisure cloud our minds from the essense of life.  There is something about fighting the overuse of sodium instead of the barbarians at the gates that causes me some concern....  But I am off on a tangent.
Complying with my self-inflicted 2 minute rule for blogging, I have decided to share some short snippets from one of these dead Greek guys, Epictetus.  I commend his book, The Art of Living.  He covers a variety of topics and gives advice ranging from practical to philosophical.  Some I agree with and some I do not but I have learned much from both.  Here is the first installment:
"When something happens, the only thing in your power is your attitude toward it; you can either accept it or resent it.
What really frightens and dismays us is not external events themselves, but the way in which we think about them.  It is not things that disturb us, but our interpretation of their significance."

More to come....

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Personal Holy-day: Oct. 22 & 23

Previously I've made the case for the importance of holidays: national, cultural, familial and even personal.  Today and tomorrow (Oct. 22 & 23) are days I've adopted as important to my own identity and contribute to a legacy of sacrifice, faith and service.  I direct interested readers to posts from previous years for a description of the events I commenmorate and the people I honor.

Post from 2010
Post from 2009

Earlier this year a movie, 17 Miracles, was released that provides a historical account of the pioneers at the center of my holy-day celebration.  It is not comprehensive in the account of their suffering and the events of Oct. 22 and 23, 1856 but it does a very nice job depicting the general sacrifice, faith and miracles of their exodus.  Click to see a trailer:

Shalom, God bless and may your day be meaningful.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wacky Wednesday Returns!

So I enjoyed composing my blog entry so much that I made a personal pact:  I can spend 2.5 minutes on a post...  So get ready for short and sweet.  In honor of Wednesday here is a photo to brighten your day (because in this economy you can either laugh or cry).  :

Monday, October 17, 2011

What the hell is going on?

It takes a lot to bring me out of a self-inflicted blogger retirement.  My life is not mine... there are more demands on my time (both personal and professional) than I can possibly accomplish were I to live well into a second century.  Blogging is one of the activities forced to the back burner.  I could not, however, remain silent on a slow scourge that appears to have no limits.  This society is slipping into one of two deplorable conditions: insanity or incivility.  I am not a profane man; my range of vulgarity ranges from "holy cow batman" to "hell".    This blog entry merits a good, old fashioned:  What the HELL has gone wrong with this world! 

What has set me off?  Here is some context leading to the tipping point:  The ever captivating Mrs. Wicke has engaged in the wonderful world of PTA (Parent Teacher's Association) mainly, I think, to keep a close eye on our Angel #2 who has proven to be a challenge to the current educational establishment.  She provided me with some of the latest news from the front lines in the fight to produce the next generation of educated Americans... The news:  lollypops and suckers are no longer allowed at our elementary school.  Are you kidding me?  I admit that this may seem like a straw on the perverbial backside of the camel, but how much more can this society be turned upside down before we fall on our collective asses (oppps, add another vulgarity to my rapidly expanding library)?

Consider all those things that are no longer allowed in your children's lives that were taken for granted in the romantic past of your own formative years.  Literally, some of these are actually illegal:
extra tall play ground slides
those spinning "merry-go-rounds" on the playground guaranteed to make someone puke
dodge ball
freeze tag
smear the queer
kissing tag
Happy Meals (in San Francisco at least... but you can be sure it is coming to your town soon)
Pop in school vending machines
fire places in homes
light bulbs
home made treats your mom would take for your class on your birthday
references to God in graduation speeches
excessive amounts of sodium (salt)
... I'm sure I am forgetting some (help me by adding your comments)

Now, if this was not bad enough, if this were not enough evidence of a swiftly tilting planet, consider that Happy Meals are legally banned but marijuana is now legal to grow, sell and ingest.  Are you kidding me?  This is how crazy this world is: McDonald's could be fined for putting a child's toy into a box with a hamburger but they could slip a joint in  brightly decorated box with a Big Mac, Fries and a Coke and rebrand an adult "Happy Meal" that is entirely legal.  Why not throw in the latest Play Boy pictoral and call it a Constitutionally protected full course.  It would be OK --in fact it would be socially acceptable-- to substitute apple wedges for the fries but don't even consider substituting the pictoral with a Bible; the Nineth Circuit will have none of that.  It is times like these when I am so proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free... that is unless you want to take a lolly pop to school, or play dodge ball or say a prayer or take in some homemade cup cakes....  Hmmm, my freedom suddenly feels kind of empty.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Great pictoral to help your children have a reality check

About four years ago our Angel #1 was struggling through the first of many phases of chronic umphalos.  You know, the idea that the world revolves around you.  It is the childhood version of the entitlement mentality.  Unfortunately many in our society have never matured past this stage but that is a different discussion for a different time.  Well the long and short of it is that Mrs. Wicke packed up all her things -her clothes, her toys, her bedding, etc.- and cleared out her room.  All the precious things that Angel #1 thought she had "a right to" were gone until there was a significant change in attitude.  This change would be manifest by gratitude, kindness, obedience, displays of responsibility like cleaning up after herself and taking care of "her" things, etc.
Oh, there was kicking and screaming (not unlike some government workers and school employees in Wisconsin) but the end results were fantastic.  Some call this a "reality check" others call it a "come to Jesus meeting".   Several years later there is very little trace of a spoiled, entitlment driven, ungreatful character in our Angel #1.  She is well on her way to being a very beautiful (speaking mainly of those internal  characteristics) young lady. 

This story is a way for me to introduce a pictoral I stumbled across on MSN.com.  It is a visual tour through the bedrooms of about 20 young people.  Obviously there is much to be learned since a picture is worth a thousand words.  I am definitely going to spend some time viewing, learning and discussing these pictures with my children.  We live at the apex of human civilization.  We have more material needs that any society deserves and yet there are children around the world who live in desperate circumstances...  My little angels need to have a larger view of life and need to understand the greater context in which they live.  I, for that matter, would do better to remember this.

Click here or on this image for the link to the story:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Scorpion Hunter

When the wife is away, the husband will play.   Well, not exactly.  This husband works alot but also takes time to take the battle to the desert creatures.  Hunting is fairly close to playing.  With the captivating Mrs. Wicke and the 3 angels gone for a few weeks I have made a personal war on the creatures of the night.  My goal is to rid our homestead of all scorpions before the family returns.  I purchased my weapon (an UV flashlight) and have been stalking inside and out.  The most harrowing experience was when one little devil climbed up my slippers when I was distracted watching one of his cousins.

My opposition is clearly floundering as I've decimated their numbers but I am amazed at how they keep coming back.  They must engage in some sort of shift work where some are out on Tuesday and Thursday and others take the Monday-Wednesday-Friday rotation.  I don't know if I will exterminate all of them (my regards to the EPA, PETA and all those other crazy environmentalism groups) but I have made great inroads.  And this is for Mrs. Wicke specifically:  I have not come across any inside of the house for over a week.  Last night however I took my camera with me and caught two scorpions engaged in some type of mating dance.  It was quite fascinating and I almost called Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom to send over a film crew... instead I put an end to the entymological enchanted evening with a spritz of scorpion killer.  Yes, to quote a the line from a recent movie, I am "the murderer of love".

Friday, June 24, 2011

The blessing of The Book of Mormon Musical

Many of my fellow Mormon's are up in arms about the recent Broadway phenomenon, The Book of Mormon Musical.  To be honest, I'm not sure what the percentage of my blog readership is... perhaps 50% Mormon, 50% otherly inclined.  This posting is really directed to my fellow Latter-day Saints.  Before we become to incensed at the popular movement de jure, I want to suggest that the current production is a tremendous blessing to our faith and to our cause.  Let me explain:
1.  Consider the exposure Mormonism is receiving.  This musical may not rival the brightness of the Olympic spotlight a few winter's ago but it is certainly spreading the Mormon name far and wide into circles of society we might not otherwise have reached.  Granted there are many half-truths, misconceptions and mischaracterizations spread by the production but when have we (speaking of "we" as a collective faith going back to 1820) not had to confront half-truths, misconceptions and mischaracterizations?  It provides an excellent opportunity for us to be on the top of our game when questions arise and conversations develop.  Is there a better opportunity to "stand as witnesses of God at all times, and in all things and in all places."  True we need to be appropriate in our efforts to address and correct these misconceptions but what a tremendous opportunity to really engage in dialog with people who have had a first brush with Mormonism!
2.  Related to my first point, the story certainly pokes fun at the naivete of Mormon missionaries and paints some of our beliefs in a cartoonish manner.  Yes, it is high browed mockery and suggests that Mormons, especially missionaries, are simpletons.  The truth of the matter is that this accusation should serve to raise the bar on our spiritual and theological sophistication.  For far too long we have rested on the "easy responses" and surface explanations.  We need to be, what I call, "proactive Christians" (versus assuming defensive or reactive conversations) .  Let me give an example:  Instead of the defensive explanation for our refusal to drink alcohol, "I don't drink because it is against my religion" we need to give a more personal, a more substantial, a more proactive (and bold) response: "I choose not to drink because of the horrible social, physical and spiritual toll alcohol has on individuals, families and societies.  Take a look around and tell me that God was not right in warning us against drinking...  Besides, a milkshake, aside from tasting much better, won't make me throw up in two hours or give me a headache tomorrow."  
Similarly, on questions of theology (polygamy, expansion of the priesthood, potential to become as God, Kolob, etc.) we need to be much more sophisticated and knowledgeable in our responses than we have been.  If we were "feasting on the word" of God as we should be it would not be too difficult a task.  The indictiment against us for our naivete is, unfortunately, frequently deserved.
3.  This last reason for considering the Book of Mormon Musical as a blessing may be the most important.  We need to take the perverbial "chill pill".  In the background of the real persecution experienced by the Saints of this dispensation and others, a Broadway musical does not even find a place on the same scale.  There are real attacks on our faith (and the faith of Christians of all denominations) at work in the world today.  Secularism, materialism and narcisism are serious threats to Christian's.  With respect to these cancers or The Book of Mormon Musical, we should take comfort and counsel in the truth that this church (as an organizational whole or as individual adherants) will never fail from external attacks.  The true danger has been, is now and always will be from within.  The Book of Mormon musical, if it is a threat at all, is an external force and can have no effect on us.  I think, on the contrary, it will actually bring about more good both within us and among those within whom we share our neighborhoods, offices and schools. 

What a great blessing that this popular musical can remind us of these things and inspire us to be better Mormon's so that when people ask us "is that really true" we can engage in a  promising discussion.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Some catching up to do...

It has been so long since I've authored a new entry to this blog that I almost forgot my password...  I am in the midst of a chapter of my life that is far too thick in details, twists, unexpected turns and laborious character development.  If my life is Moby Dick then I am somewhere around page 523... just hang in there with me, something has to give and easier reading (or smoother sailing -pick your illustration) is somewhere in the chapters ahead.

I've made mental notes of a myriad of topics I would love to weigh in on (Weiner's weiner exposure, the tornado devastation, Bin Laden's encounter with an American soldier, even Oprah's final episodes) but I am resigned to side with Mr. Frost... "knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back".  And so I shall not try to revisit worthy lessons from the recent past but I shall move forward to abundant topics of the present.

As with all efforts of improvement, it is best to put your home in order first.  So my first blog shall be of a personal nature.  My family has experienced many firsts during my absence from the blogesphere.  Here are some images and brief summaries that capture the essences of just two of our firsts. 
Our Angel #1 (my pet name for our oldest) finished her first year of little league softball.  It was a painful year both for her and for the charming Mrs. Wicke.  I try to deal in the truth and so I cannot say anything other than Angel #1 was the most remedial player on her team.  Aside from being at the younger side of the level, many of the girls had four solid years of playing experience under their belt.  Angel #1 had one season of tee ball several years ago.  This being said, I could not be more proud of my little Rudy Rudiger.  She was the most enthusiastic player on the team.  She was always happy, ever enthusiastic and contagiously in love with the game.  She had no idea of her weaknesses and athletic inadequacies.  Mrs. Wicke, however, was not so blind to the painful truth.  Angel #1 went through the entire year with only one hit -if you could really call a three foot dribble toward the pitcher's mound a "hit".  Her team, however, won the league title and advanced to the Tournament of Champions to face the victors of the neighboring leagues.  Long story short:  in her last two games of this tournament (the semi-finals and the finals), our Angel #1 got three solid hits against some very good pitchers.  It was a fairtale ending to a magical year.  As a father it was envigorating to see her athletic development but by far the thing I was most proud of was her undying effort and boundless thrill for a new endeavor.  She gave it her all every moment of the year.  She proved that the spirit of the happy warrior is still alive in the hearts of mankind!

(watch for video soon to come)

The second event requires much less description.  I can sum it up in four words, a numeral and a symbol:
Angel #3 versus coffee table

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wacky Wednesday: What's your family tradition?

I know that every family has their own traditions...  The Wicke family has its own share of craziness (including a National Park recycling program that was years ahead of its time, honey harvesting, Thomas Day celebration, etc.) but we do try to respect that fine line that separates innocent participation in Renaissance festivals and genuine mental imbalance.  Looks like someone crossed the line and should set aside some money for the eventual and inevitable therapy required by the younger generation (she doesn't look exactly thrilled to be participating... it was fun at 4 years of age but children start to become self aware at about 9 or 10):

Thursday, March 10, 2011

You are what you eat....

It would appear that the saying "you are what you eat" has as much applicability to our sensory and behavioral diet (and I would argue, our moral diet) as it does our gastrointestinal constitution.  Eat garbage and our bodies will eventually be garbage.  Watch garbage and our behavior will eventually be likewise trashy.  It is funny but the Judeo-Christian religious orientation to appropriate behavior and elevated character has long held this very position.  Looks like science has finally caught up.  Here is a news write up of the "discovery" or "findings":

What you watch is what you do

A new analysis of more than 25 years of research has shown that exposure via the media to activities such as street racing, binge drinking and unprotected sex is linked to risk-taking behaviors and attitudes.

The connection between risk taking and risk-glorifying media – such as video games, movies, advertising, television and music – was found across differing research methods, media formats and various forms of risky behaviors, according to an article published in a journal.

The effects are likely to occur both short- and long-term, while increased exposure is likely to be associated with increased risk taking, according to the study's lead author, Peter Fischer, a psychology professor at the University of Regensburg in Germany.

Really?  I am shocked!  Watching risky behavior actually normalizes such behavior in the "real world".  No, how could that be?  Actually I'm surprised that behaviors such as street racing, binge drinking and unprotected sex have not been politically corrected out of the realm of "risk behaviors".  Although don't think I did not notice the careful avoidance of "pre-marital or extra-marital sex" while identifying the more PC practice of "unprotected sex".  I submit that there are many married couples engaging in unprotected sex whose behavior is the opposite of "risky" while there are thousands of single mother's who, because of pre-marital sex, now find themselves and their babies facing a life defined by risk of economic, academic, social and health ruin.  It is not "unprotected sex" that carries such high risks but a cavalier social concept of sex as a recreational and inconsequential past-time (completely unconnected to any form of a committed long term relationship) that is not only risky but psychologically, socially and economically ruinous.  And yet, getting back to the main point of the research above, this conception of sex proliferates every form of media in contemporary society.  Try watching a motion picture or an evening of sit coms without this type of relationship being positively and prolifically promoted.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wacky Wednesday.... too long in coming

After a long absence from blogging there is no easier way to try and ease back into the groove than with the help of a Wacky Wednesday picture. 
  I am a student of human behavior and can usually ascertain some plausible reason behind most actions... but there are some things that defy all rational explanation...  What was it exactly that convinced this happy couple that this would be a good snapshot to preserve for posterity (and now in the age of technology, for all the world to see).  I don't know if it is a bra-bareing pregnant woman or the strange mosaic involving gigantic pink flowers or the fact that some form of matial arts are so fundamental to this couple that it compelled them to have a portrait taken in their uniforms.... perhaps it is a combination of all these elements  (flowers, pregnancy, bare bra-ed woman and karate... how do these possibly intersect).  I give up.  I have no workable theory to offer here.  In such cases I recommend unbridled laughter.  Enjoy:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Five Best Toys of All Time

I know that I am woefully behind on my posts... I know that very few people have noticed... I am a realist. By this I mean, at least in part, that I am dealing with the realities of life: limited time, too many tasks, a two year old who wants to occupy all of his waking hours with his dad.... In the face of these realities, the blog falls to the wayside. However it is now 9:53PM and I stumbled across fantastic article. Its main point speaks volumes about our over-indulged and affluent society. Some may challenge the validity of the claim made by the title but in the context of the entire history of the world (we only need to go back 500 years for that matter), it is true.
Here is the article, enjoy the read:
The 5 Best Toys of All Time

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Happy Birthday President Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln is my hero. In my estimation he is one of a handful of great men and women to walk the earth and who had a profound influence on the course of society. I believe most of the great men and women are unknown to the masses -they live out their amazing lives in relative obscurity and the nobility of their actions affect those in their small circle of influence and trickle down from generation to generation. There are, however, a small group of individuals whose influence spreads across society and widely into the lives of future generations. Abraham Lincoln was one of those. Follow the link to the Smithsonian exhibit that commemorates his life, enjoy:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute 7

Two quotes that fly in the face of a society enamoured with self, secularism and with our collective intellectual achievements. 

"The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."

                                                                                                                                                                           -Strength in Love

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige and even his life for the welfare of others."

                                                                                                                                                                          -Strength in Love

Monday, January 31, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute 6

Two profound thoughts on how we treat each other:

"We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles, rather than by the quality of our service and relationship to humanity."                                                                                                                                                -Stride Toward Freedom, pp. 94

"You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."                                                                                                                                        -Wisdom of MLK, Jr., pp. 205

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute 4 & 5

Since I missed a few days here are two thoughts from Dr. King worthy of your contemplation:

"A civilization can founder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy."

                                                                                                                   -Where do we go From Here, pp. 186

Wow, what would be the peril for a society that is dangerously bereft of moral, spiritual and financial stability?...  And the bonus quote is a beautifully expressed truth (one of my favorites):

"No work is insignificant. If a man is called a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, 'Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.'"

                                                                                                                                        -Wisdom of MLK, Jr., pp. 2

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wacky Wednesday 2011, Vol. 1

Time to get back to laughing... especially at the expense of others.  Every family inevitably takes a bad family picture or two.  But there are a few obvious things to stay away from... nakedness would appear to be one of them:
Babies, toddlers and children are cute without shirts but when mom and dad start showing the skin (and chest hair) things have gone just a bit too far.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute 3

The dead (especially the marytered dead) are readily respected and easily praised.  I wonder how the secular world and anti-God progressives (Dawkins, Harris, Stenger and the general body of academic elites) would treat Dr. King if he were still alive.  He was fixed in his Christianity and made no apologies for it as a driving force for the benefit of mankind.  Here is but one very short declaration that surely would not sit well with many who trumpet reason and ridicule God ordained standards of morality:

 "The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals."

                                                                                                     -Wisdom of MLK, Jr., pp. 52

Monday, January 24, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Tribute2

Here is another bit of wisdom from Mr. King.  Even in the racially charged atmosphere of his day (when he might have been justified to do so) he refused to take a destructive road of racial or political opportunism:

 "We are not going to allow this conflict in Birmingham to deteriorate into a struggle between black people and white people. The tension in Birmingham is between justice and injustice."

                                                                                                                             -Wisdom of MLK, Jr., pp. 26

Friday, January 21, 2011

Martin Luther King Day.... Week..... Month..... Character!

One of the dangers of having any day designated as a remembrance for some cause or person is that it becomes something of a token.  Take Mother's Day for example:  we shower our mother's with praise, gifts and favors on this one day when in reality we should do that every day of the year.  Likewise I think Martin Luther King, Jr. would gladly surrender "his" day (i.e. Martin Luther King Day) for Martin Luther King character.  That is to say that his life was all about encouraging the development of a specific kind of character by individuals.  A single day, while it provides a degree of social recognition for his contributions and may encourace the adoption of his teachings, is entirely insufficient for the development of personal and societaly character at the heart of his efforts.  Like Christmas and July 4th, once the day comes and goes we take down the decorations and "move on".  This is the double-edge sword of holidays.

Well, since Martin Luther King, Jr. is solidly on my short-list of amazing people (and yes I am fully aware that he, like everyone else had some mortal shortcomings), I will make an effort to provide a thought a day from his own writings for the next little while.  Most of these will be extremely short but they have great depth and demand our ponderous attention.  Here is the first:

"Every nation is an heir of a vast treasury of ideas and labor to which both the living and the dead of all nations have contributed. Whether we realize it or not, each of us lives eternally 'in the red'."

                                                                                                                        -Where Do We Go From Here?, pp. 181

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Our current economic difficulties: A little context is illustrative... and suggests that we can survive this

I am engaged in a love affair with history.  And by default a love affair with generations that have gone before.  For all of our self-aggrandizement about being so "advanced", so sophisticated, so civilized I suggest we would do well to have a little more humility than we do.  Also I would suggest that we stop looking to others (especially to the government) to save our sorry buttocks.  To this end I give you a little historical context:

In 1893 the United States economy sank into its worst depression ever. Six hundred forty-two banks closed and an incredible sixteen thousand companies shuttered their doors. The most actively traded company on the New York Stock Exchange - National Cordage - went belly-up. Giant pillars of the economy such as the Northern Pacific Railway and the Union Pacific Railroad crumbled. America had experienced economic downturns before, but this was much bigger, lasting for four frightening years, from 1893 to 1898. At one point, four million workers were idle - more than one-fourth of a labor force of fifteen million - at a time of no government support for the unemployed.

-James Bradley, The Imperial Cruise

I understand from firsthand experience the current difficulties but I submit the following as a fact:  things could be much worse.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The first law of collective traumas and disasters: Do No Harm!

The terrible events that took place in Tuscon (just "down the street" from my Arizona community) this past weekend are exactly the type of collective traumas that I study.  My disertation explored similarly tragic events that transpired in Jasper, Texas and Laramie, Wyoming.  I am specifically concerned with the social element of how these events unfold, metasticized and can effect the entire community.  Through this first hand research and my examination of the literature extending to more traditional natural, technological or man-made disasters I have identified what I consider to be the first law of extreme events (which includes disasters, collective traumas, terrorist acts, mass shootings and the like).  The law is simply this:  Do not react in such a manner as to expand the impact of the disaster.  This principle is a macro application of the micro or personal guideline for medical practitioners:  first do no harm.

Unfortunately this law is violated with frequency by politicians, agencies and the news media when responding to extreme events.  This type of involuntary (and sometimes negligent) socio-slaughter was evident in reaction to Hurricane Katrina, to the Gulf Oil Spill and is already rampant in reaction to the shooting in Tuscon.  Actions, reports, claims, accusations and uninformed conjecture have a negative effect and can create more social harm than the event itself.

The evolution of disasters and extreme events have a natural life cycle.  There is a time and a place for both altruistic generosity, for greiving and for a critical evaluation of cause.  When these are out of place and out of their normal time frame it is as if a patient undergoing delicate heart surgery were cut open without anesthesia and without sufficient equipment at the cardiologists beckon call.  This is the reason why I consider the following statement --from an individual ,a so called public servant who should be an expert in establishing public peace, who should know better-- the most irresponsible and the most injurious action subsequent to the actual shooting:

I do not care what political tendencies you (my reader) may have.  This type of rush to judgement and assignment of blame is socially detrimental.  The nearly instantaneous politicization of this shooting is a social tragedy.  We must hold our public officials, our political representatives AND our news media accountable for the damage they are facilitating.  The body politic cannot be so roughly treated during such traumatic experiences without grave consequence to our future wellbeing.

Friday, January 7, 2011

An uncomfortable challenge to an age of intellect and progress

As I become more familiar with the great minds of those who have lived before (through their own writings) especially as they contemplate the challenges, accomplishments and conditions of their day I am more convinced that there is nothing new or unique.  This is not to say that the future will not hold any new inventions or progress will halt.  We are quite adept at adding new layers of icing to the cake of human experience.  But at the core, the main issues facing humanity, nations, families and individuals are the same as they have always been. 
This is both comforting and disconcerting.  I am a lover of learning and involved in the world of research (what I like to equate with "discovery").  I have found, however, that rarely do we discover anything that was not known previously. The area that may contradict this assertion is the natural or "hard" sciences where, for example, we've advanced in our understanding from atoms to nutrinos to quarks to leptons to dark matter... but even with regard to these, the intellectual processes of discovery underlying the addition to our store of knowledge is largely the same.  What is more, the human elements that cause debate, disagreement and resistence to these "new" conceptions of the world around us are the same that faced Copernicus and Galileo. 
The same human (you might say social or psychological) challenges that bedeviled our predecessors of the Roman, Ottoman or 18th century British empire face us today.  I am amazed to find in the writings of Epictetus, Voltaire and Edmund Burke discussions that are entirely applicable to our most contemporary problems even though these (used simply as examples, when we could just as easily have identified Aurelius, Adam Smith and Mao) lived two hundred, four hundred and a thousand years ago.  Perhaps a specific quote will better help me make my point.  Consider Voltaire's observations on the nature of human beings and the operation of society from this short excerpt:
Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more venerable than many courts of justice, where the representatives of all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian transact together, as though they all professed the same religion, and give the name of infidel to none but bankrupts. There the Presbyterian confides in the Anabaptist, and the Churchman depends on the Quaker's word.

At the breaking up of this pacific and free assembly, some withdraw to the synagogue, and others to take a glass.  This man goes and is baptized in a great tub, in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost:  that man has his son's foreskin cut off, whilst a set of Hebrew words (quite unintelligible to him) are mumbled over his child.  Others retire to their churches, and there wait for the inspiration of heaven with their hats on, and all are satisfied.
If one religion only were allowed in England, the Government would very possibly become arbitrary; if there were but two, the people would cut one another's throats; but as there are such a multitude, they all live happy and in peace.
-Letters on the English (thanks dad for brining this to my attention)
Now while the world has "changed" since Voltaire's observation in that a number of new religions have entered the scene (Mormons, Jehova's Witnesses, Scientology, etc.), the fundamental conditions which he outlined and which apply to social or political reality are the same!  To borrow a few trite, but nevertheless sage, phrases to summarize: 
-the more things change, the more they stay the same.
-those who do not know history are doomed to repeat its darkest chapters (I took a little editorial liberty on that one).
the answers (to so many of our contemporary challenges) are out there... they have already played themselves out in the history of mankind.