Friday, March 28, 2008

Europeans are Coming to New York to Shop

"Europeans are coming to New York to shop" -- Chris Matthews, Hardball

There's something appealing to me about politicians talking about politics, especially in layman's terms. I hear so much arguing about this or that person's record and this or that person's plan, but I rarely hear them duke it out over ideology in practical terms. I was watching hardball, and in the course of the conversation on economics and the drop in value of the dollar, the above quote was stated. It made me laugh, so I thought I'd write about it. The short debate was interesting, because they talked about the mortgage crisis and the supposed recession(s) we're having, and the talked about them in tangible ways. It felt like a conversation we could all join into (if they'd slow down and stop interrupting each other).

So really, should the government "bail people out"? Is it the government's job to stimulate the economy? I think it was Henry David Thoreau who said that the government that governs least is the one that governs best. Why can't we have republican treehuggers today?

Honestly, I really like the idea of helping the poor and those in crisis, but should it be the government that does it? And where do you draw the line? The free-market advocate claimed that the people stuck in the mortgage crisis are mainly those who made bad financial decisions, and if the government bails them out, it would be an encouragement to repeat those mistakes. In my opinion, he has a point, despite the numerous exceptions of people who made decent decisions and just got in a bind that they couldn't have foreseen. And the argument from there was, why should the american people, 90% of whom are not making those kinds of awful financial decisions, be responsible for bailing out those who are? The response is that it's in everyone's best interest for the nation as a whole to be doing well economically. Your neighbor forecloses on his home and your home goes down in value as a result, stuff like that.

Shift focus: the dollar. The Bush administration gets us into this war (approved by a majority of congress, lets not forget), and then cuts taxes, meaning we're going to war, but we're not paying for it ourselves - instead we're going to borrow money from China. Result that a twelve-year-old probably could have figured out: dollar loses value and "Europeans are coming to New York to shop." Okay, so props to McCain on this one, a republican who voted against the Bush tax cuts, claiming that if we're going to cut taxes we need to pay for it (ie. cut spending, which was not done) - seriously, other republicans criticize him for this? I don't know exactly what I'm getting at, but I think I'd mainly like to point out that we really need a sense of balance.

When I play monopoly, I borrow money all the time. I'll mortgage a property just so I can buy another one, because in the long term, it will pay off to have as many properties as possible. So I understand the idea of borrowing money. The problem I see is that people borrow money without the promise of that money making more. Kind of like how we borrow money (via credit cards) to buy ourselves "stuff." We borrow money to buy cars, which plummet in value the minute you drive them off the lot. If you borrow to start a business or to invest in a home or something that will raise in value, then it's understandable. So the question is: how much of the borrowed money the government accumulates is actually going to turn a profit in the long term. Considering the fact that we're funneling that money into war, education, health care... road construction? Who's to say what kind of profits those activities will turn? It seems to me that most of that money is basically being given away, kind of like buying a car. If the government buys bombs, it's not like they're just going to turn around and sell them for a profit. They're going to turn around and drop them in other countries. So buying bombs helps us carry on the activity of making war on other countries, which may or may not allow us to benefit financially through resulting economic deals or lack thereof. But there's no measurable expectation for profic, so what the hell are we doing borrowing money for it? It's ridiculous to me, and that's just in the economics of it. Keep praying for the end of all these conflicts. God save us.

So now the Canadian dollar is worth more than the American. Hmmm... it amuses me that we find that to be so ridiculous. The power of the Euro didn't really bother us, but the Canadian dollar? Now we know something's wrong. So... how do we get out of this mess? I honestly don't know, but I think a balanced veiw of our nations leaders is also called for. Just from this small glimpse of what's going on, I get the picture that there are numerous factors to watch out for, to manage. Sometimes we bring a lot of criticism to politics. I know I just said that what's been going on in the past several years is ridiculous, but let's remember that even the best economists in the world would be hard-pressed to manage it all properly, and we don't have control over all the factors that decide our fate. So I say we pray, we love one another, and we hope for the best.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I'm in the middle of reading the Bourne Identity. I don't have anything profound to say about it - I just wanted to make note, because I'm enjoying it. I've also been spending lots of time recently playing music. I need to learn as many songs as I can, so that I can get gigs to play in various restaurants and bars. Wednesday night Cassie and I visited Dave, and I played several songs, and I really enjoyed it, and the assistant manager liked me, and so I'm supposed to go back tonight (Dave's playing again) and play so that the manager who overseas entertainment can hear me. But I have to have like 40 songs down, so that I have a full set where people won't hear repeats. That might take while - I think I'm approaching close to twenty, if you include a few of my own that I would throw into the set. So if I learn two per week, it would take around 10 weeks for me to be ready. I'm enjoying it, though. When I play guitar and sing, I feel like I'm doing something worthwhile, like I was meant to do it. Sometimes I doubt my guitar-playing abilities. I have a great ear, but... it's just hard to be confident, when I see people playing stuff I haven't learned to do yet. But I am confident in my voice. People like it, and I really enjoy that. It's especially fun when I play a song people know and they get that look on their faces, the one that says "ohhh, yes, I love this song!" and then their heads bob along with the music and a few of them mouth the words. I know I'm helping people enjoy their day, and it's uplifting to me as well.

Other thoughts? ... Well... I'm still trying to figure out life. You know, I spend day after day after day attempting to be positive about everything. And sometimes things at work bother me, and I've been pretty good about taking a moment and turning my thoughts around on the issue, whatever it may be. I try to think how I do the same thing as the person who just did something I didn't like, only maybe in a different way. There are times when I don't listen to others, or when I get in their way or when I disregard their feelings, or whatever, so that reminds me that we're all the same, and I have no right to judge. So I can thank God for the reminders I receive from others that I should listen and I should watch out, instead of being all high and mighty and thinking that they should. But then I have these spells, sometimes. After a whole day of staying positive in an environment I dislike, I can come home and be irritable, even though I'm trying to practice the same things. I don't want to be fighting this battle all the time. Maybe some people will say that it just is a battle and it will be for your whole life, but I can't believe that's how it's meant to be. As they say, practice makes perfect. I should think that doing something over and over and over again should make a difference. And maybe it already has. I think about the past times when I've been irritable, and I'd have to say I've come a long way. But when you're aiming for perfectiong, it seems you can never be fully satisfied. I'm sure there's a balance somewhere. Keep hoping, keep living with faith and love, relax, trust, give thanks, believe. The days will get better and better. They already are.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What's with Today, today

I don't have a ton to write about right now. I have a short story based on one of my main characters from my novel, and it's up for critique on a critiquing website I joined a month ago. So I should get several critiques on the story in the next week, which will be really cool. I've already gotten one, and the feedback was good. I'm hoping someone will read it who will want to publish it in some magazine or something. If not, I'll probably submit it to one after I'm done editing it. It's a fun story, about how Onefist Jel first became a big name in the outlaw community of Moorlick. If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's just too bad. You'll have to buy my book when it's finally published. Who knows when that will be.

I'm still trying to live in thankfulness. It helps to remind myself "I live by the grace of God." This phrase reminds me that everything I have is a gift, Everything I have I've received. It takes away feelings of entitlement and encourages feelings of trust. Entitlement often leads to bitterness, anger, resentment. Whereas trust leads to happiness, joy, and love. So I thank God for everything I have, because it's all a gift. Life is a gift, and I plan to live it gratefully.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Friends with Everybody

Today, I went to work with a new idea. Last week was kind of rough at work, at times very busy and stressful, and it was incredibly difficult to remain positive. Anyway, I knew/know that I needed to start looking at people differently, somehow have a new attitude that would be long-lasting and endure any difficulties. So I decided that today I would try my best to look at each person as a friend of mine. They weren't customers, they weren't strangers, they weren't guests - they were my friends, and I got to serve them. It could be that I just got the right people, but I don't think that was it entirely. I think because I was more open, others were more open. Because I was not judging others, they were not judging me. It turned out to be a great day, and it was a lot easier to serve people.

One thing that's really cool about this is that when I got home, I went online and I looked up this teacher guy who was talking about how to live your life in balance. And he had this really cool thing about how we need to approach people without self-righteousness and without self-deprication. Which means, we need to interact with everyone without applying all of our standards to them and without applying their standards to us. When we have this balanced attitude, we're free to approach people with openness and love, and when we do that, we receive the same in return. It was right in line with what Jesus teaches about not judging others, and it was right in line with what I've was trying to focus on for the previous few hours.

I find it really hard to go about life this way. I believe I'm an idealist by nature, I have high expectations, both for myself and for the world around me and the people around me, and that creates a lot of frustration. In the past few years I've been able to overcome a lot of that, but it often comes back, and I find myself angry, frustrated, irritated, scornful, and all those negative attitudes that do no one any good, least of all me. I've been trying to be a positive person these past several years, and I've made great strides, but I'm hoping to make even bigger ones. By the grace of God, I will.

One other thing that was coming to mind was the idea of blessing. I was reminded recently to bless my enemies and not curse them. It was in a book I was reading, but it is also a very strong message in the book of James in the Bible. "Bless, and do not curse." "Out of the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be." I wait tables for a living. In the state of Utah, the minimum wage for servers who make money in tips, is somewhere in the vicinity of $2 an hour, which means if I don't get decent tips, I don't make money. It is very tempting, when people tip badly, especially after receiving good service, to think very low of them and to curse them in my heart. I had one table like that today, and as I was feeling those kinds of feelings and thinking those kind of thoughts inside, but I remembered the reminder I had read in the morning. Bless your enemies. So I prayed for them, not that they would "learn their lesson" but that they would be greatly blessed. It was a very freeing prayer. I myself was freed from bitterness, from self-righteousness, from anger, from my own cursing mouth. Thank you, God, for your lessons, even those which you must teach me time and time again. Thank you for the opportunity to live a new life with each passing day.

I continue to pray for better days to come, greater joy, greater peace, and in all things, greater love.