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Sunday, February 29, 2004


Marathon Week

St. George Marathon 1997This is it. Marathon week. Next Saturday we fly to Oakland, rent a car and drive to Calistoga, CA. Sunday is the 26.2 mile run from Calistoga to Napa on the Silverado Trail. I have been training for this since September or so. I have always found it easier to stick with my running if I had a goal / race for which to prepare.

I started running in college to control my weight. I slowly became addicted to the sport and since have run a zillion races of all distances. This will be marathon number five. I checked last year's results for the Napa Valley Marathon and if the same holds this year, I will finish around 300 of 2200, while being 20th in my age group of about 120. Running is about personal bests though. The few runner's who are contending to win the race or age group are competitive, but the rest of the participants are racing themselves.

I woke up Saturday morning with a cold and I am hoping it does not get worse. A cold is about as bad as a twisted ankle at this point in the training. One's body needs to be as strong as possible on race day or it could be an even more difficult task. Oh well, what can you do?

I hope to steal / borrow my son's laptop so I can post photos along the way. We are going to hang around another couple of days and tour San Francisco along with wine country.

Now I have to go put in an 8 mile training run. The rest of the week is light running. No more running after Wednesday except for a 2 miler the day before the race - Sunday, March 7.

I am already eyeing my next goal. Ultimately, I want to run the Boston Marathon. You have to qualify with a certain time. I am near being able to qualify and may do it, but I know I can qualify the next marathon I run with the base I have built up at this time. I have to run the marathon in 3:30:59. I have run one in 3:24, but that was seven years ago.

The excitement is building and I am looking forward to the completion of a goal.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, February 28, 2004


Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition Controversy

Naked girl sitting by tire At John's Online Journal, I strive to discuss topics from personal to the latest controversial current event. It is my aim to present things fairly and invite the same kind of honest feedback from readers. Not shying away from controversy, even on the weekend, I am tackling the controversy of this year's Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. This is the 40th Anniversary Issue and it's on newsstands in the US for $5.99, while my friends in Canada have to cough up an extra two bucks.

I did not purchase the magazine myself, fortunately I have a teenage son to do it for me. "Dad, do you want to see the Swimsuit Edition?" my son inquired. "Sure," I said, I am always interested in the latest fashion trends. When I began to leaf through the pages, however, I was overwhelmed by what I can only describe as a cataclysmic concoction of false advertisement and misleading themes. I was never so shocked and appalled in my entire life.

The first area of controversy I will address is the difficulty I had finding the swimsuits. One would think a "swimsuit edition" would feature swimsuits. Hello, is anybody home? Sports Illustrated seems to have adopted a "Where's Waldo" theme and are making the swimsuits as difficult to find as the little four eyed cartoon character. That is fine I suppose, but make that clear to the reader. Perhaps they could put a disclaimer on the cover. Another possibility is to change the name of the issue. How about, "The Sports Illustrated: Where's the Swimsuit?" Edition.

Here are some examples. Click photos to view larger image.

Naked girl sitting by tire
I must make it clear, I am in no way criticizing these young ladies. For instance, this helpful girl is holding the tire, as they no doubt had a flat going out to one of the photo shoots. I cannot quite tell, but her swimsuit may be under the tire. She probably had to take it off to clean her hands. Still, why would SI put this photo in a swimsuit edition? Hats off, and everything else to the little helper anyway.

Girl lying in large tractor wheel
I am beginning to wonder about the folks at SI. This woman does not look like she was modeling for a photographer. She looks frightened, maybe even hiding. I cannot fault her for not having on a swimsuit. She was not even modeling for crying out loud. I am beginning to suspect the SI folks are running a human slave trade or something. This poor girl was obviously tired from farm work and was resting, maybe even hiding from her task masters. The poor thing, she looks so frightened and over worked.

Frankie wearing gym shorts
Here is another example of no swimsuit. Frankie is wearing gym shorts. Again, her frightened look makes me wonder if she had been threatened with those oars to her side. The folks at SI must have taken intimidation courses from Saddam Hussein. Subtle and effective, the girls fall into line. I can hear them talking about their scheme in my mind. "Yeah, we give non-swimsuits to these girls and photograph them, then we put the photos in a swimsuit edition and the public won't be the wiser, muahahaha." Sick.

Swimsuit may be a tablecloth

Marisa is wearing an unmistakable startled look on her face and what I believe to be a portion of a farm house tablecloth. About to cross the fence trying to escape, she did not notice them behind her. I suppose the SI folks want us to believe someone would actually wear a swimsuit in the middle of a field. I called SI and a spokesman for the magazine explained Marisa was looking for the swimming pool and had taken a wrong turn. Right, I am not convinced.

Necklace not a swimsuit

I do not know what happened here. I suspect the girl was being kept in the box on which she is sitting. Now the necklace she is wearing does not qualify as a swimsuit. She looks dazed and confused. Where she got the cowboy boots and gloves I am not sure. Perhaps she overpowered one of the guards and took his clothing. The SI spokesman told me the girl was play acting, but could not remember what she was supposed to be portraying. I think there is something very wrong here.

Napkin not a swimsuit

I am sorry to show some of these photos, I know they are disturbing. Frankie looks unconscious. She also looks starved. She is in sand and on a blanket, but this does not look like a day at the beach. My thinking is they led her to believe she was going to eat a meal. They even gave her a napkin - that is what she is holding. Eventually her blood sugar dropped so low, she collapsed. What does this have to do with swimsuits? I do not know, that is the controversy.

Shameless SI ad

While this is a swimsuit, it could be confused as a billboard. It would not surprise me if this was the daughter, wife, or girlfriend of one of the SI big wigs. They give the only swimsuit to a family member, while the other models are worked like slaves and only given portions of swimsuits or made to improvise with table linen. This photo is shameless self promotion. Can you say tacky?

A girl and her crock

This section is about the display of the swim wear. I will concede these are swimsuits, but as a man interested in the latest swim fashion, how can I see it the way SI displays them? This is blatant false advertisement. I lay down six bucks for their rag and no swimsuits. Pathetic.

Petra is exotic I suppose, but I cannot see the swimsuit for her crock.

String Bikini

I guess I know why they call them string bikinis. The problem, once again, is the manner in which the swimsuit is displayed. I cannot see it. What part of the suit not concealed in the models cheeks, is no doubt in the front away from the camera. The "Where's Waldo" approach shines through again.

Defective swim suit

SI obviously spent a lot of money. Wouldn't you think they could afford swimsuits that are not defective. This one for instance, while nice I suppose, is missing the heart appliqué on the right side.

Holding not wearing the suit

Another display problem. The model is not wearing the swimsuit. This photo is way too busy. What with the tree and girl, the suit gets lost. I am very disappointed. Instead of seeing swimsuits, all I get is photos of frightened, overworked, unconscious, and crock holding women. I hope this post will save some of you out there.

Too corny for comment

This one is too corny for comment.

Wrapped in the flag

The most shocking feature of this whole affair is the SI people are Republicans of which I myself am. I would expect better from my "wrapped in the flag" friends. I suppose people are people and party affiliation does not guarantee a minimum standard.

After all of this I wrote a letter to the good folks at SI, who unfortunately are a disgrace to my Republican Party. I will post its contents here:

Dear Sports Illustrated,
I am deeply disappointed with the 2004 version of your annual swimsuit edition. Instead of swimsuits, it was full of women anywhere from 50% to 99.9% naked. I could barely see the suits. Shoot, in some photos I could not even find the suits.

Therefore, I have decided to take the following action. Please find enclosed my check for $24.95 to renew my subscription to your magazine. I will give you another chance.

John Strain

That will show them.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, February 27, 2004

This quiz is interesting. You are paired with a similar blog to your own based on your answers. See what you think.

You are a David Weinberger.

You are smart, savvy, interested in why people do what they do,
enjoy questioning yourself and are not balding.

Take the What Blogging Archetype Are You test at GAZM.org


What Meets the Eye

I like stories about triumphant underdogs. I wrote one about 20 years ago. After dealing with controversy, I need a repose. This piece should do the trick. It talks about joy, happiness, and real beauty. I think it also addresses hope, tolerance, and perseverance. I hope you like it.

What Meets the Eye

Once there was a caterpillar. Small, slow, at his best he was the least of all living creatures. Yet in his lowly state, he did not consider himself lowly. He was alone with this assessment, for all saw him as the least. Knowing all this he still smiled. "The maker of all made me," he would boast. The others did not bother to laugh at his ridiculous words. He was so small, so tiny, so unimportant. Only a fool would listen to him. Oh, there were times when some would tease him or try to put him in his place. It was better than nothing on a lazy summer day. Once the giraffe made fun of him because he had to view the world from such a low vantage point. The caterpillar just shrugged and said, "From down here the flowers are as trees and the trees are like mountains. From here things are even more glorious than from there where you see them." The turtle made sport of the fact that the caterpillar was even slower than he. The caterpillar simply pointed out that it only gave him longer to smell the sweetness of the wild flowers and to drink in the beauty of God's handiwork.

It was always like this. The animals could not make him feel sorry for himself. He did not have the sense to envy them. They were all greater than he. Still, he was content. He was happy. In fact, deep down the others envied him.

God was watching and with a compassionate tear he said, "Beauty like this must not be confined to such a humble shell." So God caused the caterpillar to sleep. Then he refashioned him and blessed him. When the caterpillar awoke he was different. Now he knew how to fly, so he did. He rode the wind and he reflected the sunlight like a wild flower. ButterflySuch a sight to see, zigzagging, spiraling, fluttering here and there. God smiled. It was fitting that the greatest admirer of his beauty should become his greatest work of beauty. Then He remembered what He had written in His book, that the least would be first, and that light would overcome darkness, and that love would overcome hate. Those with understanding will think of this whenever they see a caterpillar become a butterfly.

Happy Friday and enjoy your weekend everyone.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, February 26, 2004


Lock Step

Is it possible to be against gay marriage and not hate gays?
Is it possible to disagree with affirmative action and not be a racist?
Can someone rail against intolerance while being intolerant themselves?
If one is not for hate crimes, does that make one a hater?
Can your exercising freedom of speech intrude on another's rights?

I consider myself an open minded, tolerant, intelligent man. I try to live by principles. Some of them come from the work ethic I was taught growing up. Some come from my religious beliefs and others are products of many other influences including education and experiences. I get excited when I discover a conflict in my beliefs, because I know I will resolve it and the result will be growth.

To voice my views and listen to opposing views intelligently presented, is essential to my learning process. I believe that the "political correctness" movement of the last 14 years or so has squelched such debate. A good example is the gay marriage discussion. There are several questions about whether marriage should be exclusive to heterosexuals or redefined to include same sex couples. Other issues are involved, including religion and parenting. OK, so far so good. The problem comes in, as I see it, when an individual is branded as homophobic or a hater of gays if they do not agree with the gay point of view. This is an instance of hetero-hateo. This kind of thinking and tactic is not just in gay debates. The race / sex / gay card is pulled quickly when someone does not "fall in" when the politically correct agenda is unveiled. You better not disagree with us or you are a racist, homophobe, or sexist. This tactic is another form of intolerance.

Here is my evolution of thought about gays. I am sure the gay community is dying to know. When I grew up, all of the gays were in the closet, but started coming out in the 70's. At least this is my perception. As a boy, we called each other queer or faggot from joking around to expressing anger. I did not know any homosexuals then.

Later on I entered college and seminary and headed to the ministry. I thought then that being gay was a choice. My reasoning was that if God says do not be gay, but people were gay, then they had to choose it. It did not make sense to me God would make someone a certain way, then say don't be like that. I still had not met a gay person or talked to one that I knew of.

When I started working in psychiatric hospitals and living in New Orleans, I met and talked with many people who were gay - both sexes. We discussed, when did you know you were gay? and other questions. I was satisfied that people do not choose being gay. They are doing what is natural for them. I further decided to let God sort it all out. There are lots of things we should not do according to the Bible. Gay is definitely one of them, but so is divorce, gluttony, gossip, and drunkenness.

Some of the gay folks I met were wonderful, funny human beings. Others I met were the most angry, obnoxious assholes you would ever want to meet. Sort of like heterosexuals, the common denominator is people. Some people are great, some are pricks. Of all the wonderful people and all the assholes, some are gay and some are straight.

Gay marriage? Something in me says no, but I cannot think of a good reason. Therefore, I would have to vote yes. What about gay couples raising children? There is no one answer for this question in my book. Like any adoption, I think it depends on a lot of things. I do think, however, that it is a valid question. I also think it should be answered after reviewing pertinent research and actual situations and not on the basis of how loud someone can yell or how worked up a crowd of gays can get. This issue should seek to do what is best for the child, not a couple wanting said child. That is what irks me about custody battles and I have seen a lot of them. The rights of the parents are recognized over the rights of the child. The parents use their poor kid as a rope in their own personal tug-o-war. So whatever happens with respect to gay couples raising children, I hope the children are considered. I do not think the answer is an obvious yes or no. Because the children are important, how about some time to figure this out?

Here is something that irritates me: When an individual says, "I am gay. Do you have a problem with that?" I want to say, "no, but do you?" In a perfect world we would have sex with whom ever in privacy and not announce our preferences in public. I bet we would be surprised to know who among our coworkers is in to S & M, bondage, sheep, goats, or whatever. If I do not know, I cannot discriminate on the basis of their sex practices. I am not suggesting a gay person should stay in the closet and I am not comparing homosexuality with bestiality. I do think that sexual preference is a less desirable means by which to define a person.

I will admit there are some real jerks out there who hate gays just because they are gay. Some of these people wrap themselves in the flag and the Bible. There are also some in the gay community who spew equal amounts of intolerant venom toward equally innocent heterosexuals. I get caught in the crossfire.

I have rambled and wandered a bit. I have shared my personal beliefs, thoughts, and ideas. I am still forming opinions. My views were not forged in a furnace of hate and intolerance. I may not always agree with the gay point of view, but that does not make me a homophobic or a dumb redneck.

As for gay marriage, hell, I am for it, why should the heterosexuals get all the fun. The lawyers will come out better than anyone on this deal. Think of all the money they will make with double the divorce rate. There are more important considerations for those getting a same sex marriage. I cannot remember the blog I saw this on, but these were some of what was mentioned.

• Who gets carried across the threshold?
• Who gets to throw the bouquet?
• Whose parents pay for the wedding?

You get the idea.

The title of this post is "Lock Step." I attempted to describe the opposite. All gays are not the same, neither are heterosexuals the same. So we should leave room in our debate to recognize this. It is also true some people may be against same sex marriage while not hating gays.

Some people are gay. Some people are straight. All gays and straights are people. If we focus on what we have in common, maybe the differences won't matter so much.

Until the next time,
John Strain


Wednesday, February 25, 2004



You may remember a while back, (January 22-25) I shared a book idea about a person with a chronic mental illness. I posted four days of introduction. I finally got some obligations taken care of and have some time to write. Lamron is Normal spelled backwards. The book opens as Lamron wakes up in the hospital. The first portion is called "Lifting Fog." The following is what I have so far.

Lifting Fog:

As if crawling out of a cave into the light, consciousness slowly filled my mind and I became aware of my senses. The fluorescent light was brightly illuminating the pale green cinder block walls of the small room. Voices from outside the room mingled and echoed in indistinguishable noise. I was lying on a bare mattress which was covered in vinyl. I could feel the plastic on my skin because there was no sheet. My only cover was a thin blue blanket. Do you know the feeling of waking up in a strange place? For a few seconds you look around and think, "where am I?" Then from somewhere in the brain a thought rises and you remember you are at your grandmother's house or in a hotel room. My thoughts were rising and I knew I was in another psychiatric hospital and in the seclusion room.

"Lamron," her voice startled me. I glanced toward the door to see a woman wearing a lab coat. A stethoscope was draped over her shoulder and she was holding two small cups. "I have some medicine for you. How are you feeling?" "Fine," I lied. I really felt terrible. My head was throbbing and I was still very drowsy. My body ached and my stomach was queazy. "My name is Rachel," she said smiling, "I am your nurse today." Then I noticed another person standing in the doorway. He was a rather large black man, "Hi Lamron," the man said, "I'm Mike, one of the techs here." I nodded as I swallowed the contents of the cups, one contained two pills and the other was filled with water. After I swallowed the medicine, Rachel said, "let me look in your mouth." They check to make sure patients do not "cheek" the medication. Not everyone is as cooperative as me when it comes to swallowing pills. "Ok, good," Rachel turned and whisked out of the room. Mike said, "we'll check on you later, just let us know if you need anything."

When I laid back on the pillow, I heard among the echoes a familiar voice. "Lamron, you just swallowed poison, you will be with me very soon." The raspy male voice tailed off into demonic laughter. It was Legion my tormenter. His words and laughter sent waves of fear throughout my body and I felt myself begin to shake. "You're frightened aren't you Lamron," Legion continued, "Your God hates you. He has left you unprotected, so I will do my bidding. You will soon be my apprentice in Hell." Then I heard a chorus of laughter. There were others with him. Lamron listened as the demons talked about him. "How much longer until the poison kills him?" "Soon, very soon."

Lamron began to scream, "God save me! Save me! Protect me from the evil ones!" He was standing in the corner of the small room with his hands over his head. Hearing the ruckus, Rachel and Mike ran into the seclusion room. "Lamron, what is it?" Rachel said. "Keep away from me, you gave me poison!" Lamron screamed. "Oh God, don't forsake me your faithful servant." Legion continued his verbal assault, he kept telling Lamron he was dying, that God had given up on him, that Lamron was about to pay for his sins." Lamron kept screaming, "God, please help me!"

Rachel turned to Mike and said, "watch him while I prepare an injection and get some more male staff." Mike nodded and stepped forward. Lamron kept screaming, but staying in the corner. He was now sitting down with his knees drawn toward his chest. Moments later, Rachel returned with two hypodermic needles. One 5 mg of Haldol an antipsychotic and the other was 1 mg of Ativan, a tranquilizer to calm him down. Rachel approached Lamron's corner and tried to reassure him. "Lamron, we are here to help you, I have some more medicine for you, it will help you relax." Legion kept whispering to Lamron, "the nurse is my agent. She is bringing your death injections." "NO," shouted Lamron, "stay away from me." He stood up and continued screaming at Rachel. Rachel stepped back, not knowing if Lamron was about to get violent. "I have to give you this shot, Lamron," Rachel said more firmly, "it will make you feel better." "No, no, no shot, you are his agent." Lamron continued screaming and crying. Rachel gave Mike the nod as she stepped back. "Lamron, we are going to give you the shot. It is easier if you cooperate," but Mike's words were met with the same protests as Rachel's. "OK guys," Mike said, and in harmony, the four men grabbed the struggling Lamron. In an instant he was face down on the floor, his pants were pulled down exposing his buttocks. Rachel gave the injections, reassuring Lamron. "It's going to be OK, Lamron, you just need to calm down." Rachel gathered the alcohol preps and hypodermic needles and deposited them in a small red biohazard container. She went back to the nurses station to begin recording the incident in Lamron's chart. Mike and the others continued to hold Lamron who was still talking about being poisoned.

"Lamron," Mike spoke, "we are going to let you up, are you going to be OK?" Lamron agreed. The men loosened their grip and helped Lamron to his feet. "Why don't you lay back down and get some more rest man?" Mike said. Lamron obeyed, but Legion and the others were laughing loudly in his head. It was a symphony of misunderstood thoughts and actions and Lamron knew the melody well. It was the music of fear and confusion and he had no control over it, be it volume, length of song, or time of day

Slowly, the medication began to work and Lamron could feel his body relax. Legion and the others stopped talking and he drifted off into a deep sleep.

Out at the nurses station, the men were taking off their rubber gloves and standing in line to wash their hands at the sink. "That guy is nuts," one of the male techs said, "what was he talking about agents and poison and all that?" Rachel looked up from her writing, "he has a fixed religious delusion. He hears voices and believes them to be demons. Sometimes he hears angels. We've had Lamron before, he clears up pretty well." "I thought he was going to do something," commented another tech. "Not Lamron," said Mike, " he was just scared, we have never had any problems with him."

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Happy Mardi Gras everyone. Do you want to see more pictures of me and my beads? If so take your paw and click this. Here is another great photo of me with my stash.

Hobo with beads

Hobo (John's friend, age 13)


Leave It To Beaver

Leave It To BeaverI learned a lot about life from the Leave It To Beaver Show. It came on in syndication everyday after school. It was entertaining and educational. The Beaver or Theodore, was always getting into some sort of trouble. A lesson was learned each episode. The show was a wholesome tutor about life.

One of my favorite characters was Eddie Haskel. Eddie was a good kid, but full of it and usually leading the Beaver or Wally astray. He was funny though and Mrs. Cleaver always saw right through him.

What about the sitcoms today? That is a rhetorical question. The sitcoms today have evolved, I am being kind. Today's sitcoms know no limits where comedy material is concerned. The sexual innuendoes and double-entendres are so plentiful the jokes lose their surprise. I admire people like Bob Hope who can be funny without resorting to sex or bad language. OK, I tell dirty jokes, but I have to to get laughs. I am no Bob Hope.

How would Leave It To Beaver be today, if that show's writers applied today's standards? Imagine a scene with Ward at the breakfast table. June is making breakfast, then she says, "Ward, don't you think you were awfully hard on the beaver last night?" Ward looking up from his newspaper, "I was really hard." They both snicker and wink.

I am glad these shows are still running. Times change and I am not sure if art imitates life or the other way around. I am glad the old shows remain. They glimpse a more innocent time in my life. Their simple lessons were timely.

I often thought about Ward Cleaver when I had to lecture my own son. Ward had me pretty well prepared.

I suppose I owe a debt of gratitude to the show's creators. I learned a lot as a boy and as a father I still aim for the ideals they set.

Until the next time and Happy Mardi Gras
John Strain


Monday, February 23, 2004


The Personality Test That Changed My Life

I was 27 years old, living in Illinois and working in my first full time ministry position. After four years of college and three years of seminary, I had been recently married and took the job of "church planter apprentice" through the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. The task was to try to start a new church. The method was meeting people, knocking on doors, trying to begin a Bible study and eventually growing it into a congregation.

There were several reasons why I was not best suited for such a job. Number one, I did not drive and depended on Barbara or other folks to get me to places. Number two, I did not believe the basic position of my denomination. I was led to believe there were places needing churches, places people had no opportunity to attend church. The reality, however, was nearly a church on every corner in Rock Island, IL. True, there were no "Southern Baptist" churches, but there were nearly every other kind available. Therefore, my mission lacked cause. I was not supplying a need the people of Rock Island lacked, I was part of a grand scheme to grow a denomination. Nothing wrong with that, but let's be honest about it.

I tried. I knocked on doors and talked to people, some people. Many folks were understandably suspicious and hesitant to talk to me. I wouldn't have talked to me. They would usually ask, "why are you trying to start a new church? Aren't there plenty of churches here already?" I believed the answer to be yes, so it was tough. There were other difficulties. I had very little money to do anything, like renting a building or printing brochures. Other churches had nice facilities and gyms, which made it hard to compete.

I spent a lot of my two years there working with the "sponsor church" helping them with their small congregation.

Anyway, I was somewhat disillusioned. I felt called to be a minister, but was not getting to minister. The way did not open up for me to be a pastor and this two year mission job was all I could find. It was not fulfilling my need to serve God and people. I felt out of place and awkward. I began to question myself.

Then one day, I signed up for a training seminar. The presenter was going to explain a couple of "tests" which could be used in counseling for individuals or couples. One was called PREPARE/ENRICH. This was for premarital and marital counseling. The other test was more of a straight personality test called the "Myers - Briggs Type Indicator."

Part of the seminar involved the students taking the tests. So we answered the questions and scored our own tests, then the instructor began to explain the results. I was spellbound. I found it very interesting for several reasons. I was learning about myself and how other people tick. I was learning something I could use when working with people, but as the teacher got around to describing my personality type, my life was about to change.

I was able to see how failure is sometimes more about mismatching people and tasks than it is about a flawed person or task. I was in the wrong slot. My skills, ideas, and attitudes were not best suited for what I was there to do. On the other hand, I was excited about the seminar. I wanted more and eventually returned to seminary where I entered the doctoral program in counseling and psychology. The test helped me find my niche.

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is based on the psychology of Carl Jung. There are 16 possible personality types. None are preferred over another they are simply different. Each has its own set of strengths and weaknesses. There are four continuums on which an individual is scored.

The first continuum is "introversion - extroversion." This involves how one draws energy from the world and how one relates to the world. Some prefer quiet contemplation to figure things out while others want a group discussion. Some prefer a library while others go to book stores. This involves more than relating to others, but how one prefers to work and think.

The second continuum is "sensing - intuition." The sensing side of the continuum represents the person who obtains information from what is seen and heard. The intuitive end of the scale represents the person who reads between the lines. The scale goes from detail to vague. Someone who is intuitive may have a brilliant idea that seems to come from nowhere, but they can also make some bad decisions because they miss details. The sensing folks may miss things because they only believe what they see. They may lack imagination.

Third, "thinking - feeling." The thinkers depend on logic to make decisions while the feelers look to their heart. The feelers frustrate the thinkers for being indecisive and the feelers feel rushed by uncaring slobs of whom they deem the thinkers. I am speaking in the extreme here.

The last continuum is "judging - perceptive." This refers to how one orders and organizes their life. The judging person likes organization, schedules, and plans. The perceptive person is a free spirit. They are often unorganized and do not adhere to time schedules. They are spontaneous and open.

Things get interesting when you apply this to relationships and work settings. What I learned was to be proactive. Instead of expecting people to understand me, I try to understand them. I know what I am and what I prefer, but if I know what someone else is and what they prefer, I can speak in a way they will understand, while not getting angry or put off. This is not a method of manipulating or tricking people, it is a way to focus communication and get a point across.

Feeling is not better than thinking - we need both. Introverts are not better than extroverts - we need both. The better we are at handling all of these things, however, the better rounded we are and the fewer blind spots we have.

I have changed since I first took this test at age 27. I am now more extroverted and more of a feeler. They were extreme then. I guess that means I am more rounded.

Try the test yourself. There are quite a few books out based on this test. It changed my life and I have found its information practical. It aids in self-understanding and understanding others.

What type are you?
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
What are your blind spots?
Who are the people you get along with?
Who are the people you do not get along with?
This test will help you know more about these questions.

ENTJ - "Field Marshall". The basic driving force and need is to lead. Tend to seek a position of responsibility and enjoys being an executive. 1.8% of total population.
Take Free Myers-Briggs Personality Test

More info on your Myers Briggs test results here.
Scroll down the page and find your letters

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, February 22, 2004


There Are No Pictures of The Bad Times In A Photo Album

Saturday night I watched a portion of "Monster's Ball." As I was waiting to see Halle Berry naked, The character Hank (Billy Bob Thornton) was talking to his father (Peter Boyle). As Hank's father revealed, thus far, unheard stories about Hank's mother, he said "No one takes pictures of the bad times and puts them in a photo album." That line stuck with me, even after I eventually saw Halle Berry naked. Those two really tore it up, but I digress.

In September 2001 I began making videos. I had a new Macintosh G4 and a Canon ZR25MC camcorder. I eventually purchased Final Cut Pro and since then I have completed quite a few projects. Most are compilations of photos and video for a particular family. I just completed a 2003 year in review video to document the times we had that year.

My friend Brian made the following comment after watching one of these videos. "I never knew I had so much fun. It looks like even more fun than I remember having at the time." We all laughed at the observation. Why do we do this? Is there a need to make things look better than they were or are? Is this revisionist history? Is there something wrong with making things seem better? Hank's dad said, "It is the bad times that connect one happy memory to the next." I am not sure I agree with this one. There are OK times. Times are good, bad, and OK.

Then I thought, "what would photo albums look like if we recorded the bad times?" Imagine a family reviewing the previous year's photos.

. . . Here is a close up of my face. You can just feel the pain, look at my eyes closed and my teeth clinched. The knee in the nads really hurt. (Parenthetical joke: I walked into a bar and asked the bartender for a high ball, so he knees me.)

. . . This is Bob with that bimbo he was cheating on me with. It's a little grainy because the detective was using a night vision lens.

. . . Doesn't grandma look natural? The coffin is so pretty. She would have loved that mahogany finish.

. . . Do you remember Mr. Gonzalez? He was Tommy's probation officer, a nice man.

I think you get the idea.

I do not think I will start logging such photos. My memory holds them just fine. Fortunately, the bad memories fade with time. The ones I want to remember vividly are the good times.

Just for fun, why don't you submit a "bad photo scenario" to add to the above list. I bet you can add some doozies.

Until the next "good" time
John Strain


Saturday, February 21, 2004


On Your Mark. . .

The marathon is 2 weeks from Sunday. Today is my last long run, 20 miles. What a difference a week makes. Last week was cold and rainy. Today the temp is in the mid 50's headed to the 70's. This run should be much more enjoyable. I am headed out. Back in 2 hours and 45 minutes.

I am working on a piece about "personality."

More later.


Friday, February 20, 2004


What Classic Movie Are You?


Whispers of Spring

AzaleaTake heart everyone, spring is on its way. The tulips are about to bloom here, soon the azaleas will explode in colors of pink, white, and purple. The buds are on the trees and with a few days of warm sun, they will open up, changing the horizon to a fresh color of green. I can feel it. Spring is at the door. Old man winter is slipping away and new life is on its way.

When I think about the seasons, my mind's eye recalls bulletin boards in grade school. February was always dominated by the color red for Valentine's Day. March, my birth month, was always green and had shamrocks and kites. In Kansas, the spring was marked with some breezy days. I remember the irregular clanging of the flag pole through the sound of gusting wind at my school. I think the most unmistakable sign of spring was the emergence of dandelions. My parents cursed them, but I love the color yellow. To me a yard full of the yellow beauties was pretty.

Things I associate with spring are: new life, cleaning, warmer days, azaleas, color, brilliant green, the first smells of cut grass, energy, invigoration, excitement, baseball, and the ice cream truck.

I know winter is lingering for those of you in Canada and the northern US, but it is getting close here in the south. It won't be long until you experience it. Plan your garden, buy a bag of charcoal and dust off that BBQ grill, you will be complaining about heat before you know it.

PS - The photo was taken last March. It will be a few weeks before the azaleas bloom here.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, February 19, 2004


The Two Shall Become One Flesh

Funny BarbThey say married couples begin to look alike after many years of marriage. I suppose they are right. Who are "they" anyway? - (subject matter for a later post). Now that I have been married 21 years, I can buy alcohol. Yippeee! I may get me some tonight. I may buy some alcohol tonight too, hehe. And it's only Thursday.

People think they know each other when they get married, but they don't. Discoveries are made after the vows have been said. These discoveries are rarely "deal killers," more often they are minor annoyances. When my college roommate got married, I asked him about this after he had been married for a few months. He told me he and his bride had a difference of opinion where making the bed was concerned. Steve held to the school of thought that the print side of a bed sheet faced up, while his wife placed the print side down. She explained it was for when the sheets are pulled back, the print will show. We had fun discussing the ins and outs of this problem, but it looked like there would never be any resolution.

When their first anniversary rolled around, I had an idea. I bought a printed sheet and took it to my mother with a request. Cut the sheet in half. Flip one side over, then sew it back together. This little innovation would solve one point of contention between them. Heck, it could even save their marriage. Steve could have his side of the bed with the print side of the sheet up, while Belinda could have the print side facing down on her side of the bed. They got a big kick out of my gesture and we all had a good laugh out of it.

Just for laughs, comment about what you discoverd about your spouse AFTER you got married that you did not know before you were married?

Barbara's list would be quite long.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, February 18, 2004



John and Barbara 1983Thursday marks my 21st wedding anniversary. Damn. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since February 19, 1983. Barbara and I were married in Vicksburg, MS, lived in New Orleans for a few months, moved to Illinois for two years, then landed in New Orleans again. Eventually we migrated to the Northshore area and have lived there since. I was 26 then. Now I am almost 47 and I have a son who is nearly 19. I remember the shower my church held for us. We received so many nice gifts. Barbara's parent's friends also gave us a lot. I remember thinking, "hey this getting married thing is OK, everyone gives you a lot of stuff."

There were some lean years financially, but we made it. We have had our trials and triumphs. Marriage is an interesting experience. We have been fortunate and blessed. Thus far in life, we have been spared a lot of problems. We have always had enough. We have received a lot of help from numerous people. We have experienced many wonderful things. We are blessed with several good friends.

I attended a 50th wedding anniversary last September. I can see Barbara and I at one of those in 29 years. It will be here before we know it if we live that long.

My mother cross stitched a piece for our wedding. It said:

Entreat me not to leave you,
Nor to keep from following after you,
I love you more than yesterday,
Less than tomorrow.

The years continue to tick by like the numbers of an odometer. A few clicks here and a few clicks there. The mirror looks different today than it did then. I can honestly say things have gotten better. They have gone from good to better and I look forward to the best.

What a gift to have someone with whom to share my life. What a gift to have a son. What a gift to be healthy. I have enough sense to know when I am lucky. I am going to enjoy my good fortune while I still have it. One day, things will slip away, but when they do, I will have a heart filled with gratitude for what I had.

As for Barbara, she was warned, but married me anyway. I suppose she has earned a medal. At least those who know us think so.

Those are a few of my thoughts as I approach number 21.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, February 17, 2004



You are not here merely to make a living.
You are here to enable the world to live more amply,
with greater vision,
and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement.
You are here to enrich the world.
You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand.
Woodrow Wilson (1856 - 1924)

It is difficult to say what is impossible,
for the dream of yesterday is the hope of today
and the reality of tomorrow.
Robert H. Goddard (1882 - 1945)

Make no little plans;
they have no magic to stir men's blood...
Make big plans, aim high in hope and work.
Daniel H. Burnham (1846 - 1912)

One thing I have noticed, working with people over the years is the importance of hope. Those without it find it plausible to take their own life. Without hope they lack a reason to "go on." Their future is dark and foreboding. Without hope, their present is meaningless. What is hope? It is no more than an idea or a belief, yet it is powerful. With hope people have attempted and accomplished the impossible. Impossible is simply something which has not been done "yet." Without hope an individual is unable to tap his or her resources. They often give up. Not because they are not able, but because they lack a belief.

Is it not the hope of the weekend that propels you through the week? Is it not a hope of your children's success that makes you work the second job or volunteer at the school. We hope for connections so we get on line or go to places or let our friends "fix us up." Without hope, life would be boring, without possibilities, and all too predictable. Hope is a cousin of dreams and fancy. Hope is the carrot on the stick or the pull to go around the next corner or over the next horizon.

The absence of hope is despair. When I talk to people who are or have recently been suicidal, I will ask them about their level of hope. What is your level of hope? To what do you look forward? What excites and drives you? Do you have a passion? What is it? Life is so short. It is a shame to waste any of it, but that is what happens if our hope dims. Your hopes can be as lofty as landing a robot on Mars or as simple as receiving a hug from your little girl. What you have hope in is not as important as you having hope in something. I also recommend spreading your hope around. The market can take a down turn, people can die, life has a way of assaulting our hopes. But hope springs eternal. Your hope may be down for the count, but it will never be out. Deep within you an ember of hope awaits a thought and a belief to transform the hidden spark into a flame of passion. It is how we were put together - it is how we work.

I invent things to look forward to. I tell myself when I finish this or that, I will get a cup of coffee or a coke for a reward. I look forward to Friday night meals with my friends. It is OK to bribe yourself. Have something to wait for, something you can't have until tomorrow or next week. Do you remember how hard it was to wait and open Christmas presents when you were little? As adults, we do not wait for things, because we don't usually have to. That is why you do not feel like a little kid at Christmas or any other time. You can recapture some of the excitement by building it. Buy some concert tickets for a month or two from now. Rent a hotel room next month. Make dinner reservations next month. Build your own excitement and anticipation.

I hope you do and I hope it works.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, February 16, 2004


Mardi Gras Parades

Olympia Parade Krewe Beads

More Olympia Parade Photos Here

What do you think of when someone says the words "Mardi Gras?" If you are not very familiar with the holiday, you probably think of a crowded French Quarter and a sea of drunken revelers flashing each other as currency to procure beads. While this is a part of Mardi Gras, the bread and butter of the season is the parade. This year there will be 82 parades with 15 occurring on Mardi Gras day. Parades begin two weeks before Mardi Gras and follow traditional parade routes all over the city and surrounding communities.

Parades provide an opportunity to socialize and party. Because there are so many parades and they happen all over the area, chances are a parade will come by either your house or the house of a close friend. Parade parties are everywhere. It is not uncommon to be invited to a party by someone while standing on the parade route. Because the crowd gathers well before the parade, one usually meets new people they often extend their hospitality. "Hey we're having a party at that house over there (he turns and points in some direction), come on by and get some food." Mardi Gras is like Christmas in that people are friendly and open. You are supposed to love everybody and most people do just that.

On the parade route, people mill around and walk along the parade route. Walking a parade route is something the older kids do more of, while the adults are content to stay put. Walking the route is a way to see who is there and connect with friends. We normally have an ice chest with us and wait for the parade. Since my house is only two blocks from the parade route, it is convenient to run back for the restroom if necessary. A place to pee is a necessity or a Mardi Gras parade can be miserable.

Vendors walk the parade route prior to the parade selling all kinds of glow sticks and glow rings. They have their wares dangling from customized shopping carts. They attract kids like magnets. Eventually, an occasional emergency vehicle drives by, then another one or two. The parade is like a summer rain, a drop or two then slowly the drops become more plentiful and a steady rain is falling. It might rain hard for a few moments, then subside as slowly as it began. The parade is that way. The lead vendors and police cars are the sprinkles, then the floats carrying the Krewe's royalty are next with a few marching bands thrown in for good measure. The rest of the parade is the floats lined with people throwing beads and other "throws" as they are called. In between each float is a marching band or something special like bag pipers or the Clydesdales.

Pictured at the top are Olympia Krewe beads. Krewe is synonymous with club. A Mardi Gras Krewe is a club or organization which puts together a parade and ball. They work all year and it is a way to socialize as well as have fun on Mardi Gras. Each Krewe has their own special insignia Krewe bead and it is the prize of each parade. Beads are OK, but not as special as the Krewe beads. People often shake their head and say, "I don't get it, what's the big deal about a bunch of beads?" That person has not been to a parade. Here is how it works. You come to a parade as an unbeliever. You say to yourself, I will not indignify myself by going crazy for a few strings of beads. The parade will start and the excitement will begin to carry you along. Beads will sail over your head and to your left and to your right. You may even catch a string or two. Then someone on a float will make eye contact with you. He will point at you. He will reach for a special string of beads and toss them your direction. You see them coming and you hold up your hand to catch them and just before you grab them, another hand comes out of nowhere and grabs them. The competition will get you. You will spread your legs a bit and extend your elbows to take up more space. You will protect your space like you would box out under the hoop in basketball. I guarantee you the excitement will take you away - it does everyone else.

It is a lot of fun. Before the parade is over you will have more beads and things than you can carry. Once home, people go through their goodies and give away or trade their treasure with others at the gathering. If you have been to several Mardi Gras' you will have a few boxes full of the stuff. I usually give all of my catches to kids at the route.

Float riders reserve special beads for people who impress them in some way. For instance, it impresses them if they see some skin. However, they usually cave in for a blown kiss or a smile or even an exaggerated compliment, such as, "I love you," "I want to have your baby." You get the idea. Men are easy. So if any one in our group is sporting a particular nice string of beads or carrying a large stuffed animal you have to wonder how she, it is usually a she, got it. "Hey, what did you have to do to get those beads?" She will smile and evade the question. All just Mardi Gras fun.

You should try it some time. It is a unique experience you will not soon forget.

More Mardi Gras facts, info, web cams, and more.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, February 15, 2004


Just A Taste

John By Float

I want to do a proper job talking about last night's Olympia parade and I do not have the time to get it up before this evening. Therefore, I will post a photo and promise more tomorrow. The weather was cold for us. Temp was in the 40's with a stiff wind. The rain stopped just before the parade leaving puddles everywhere. We had the usual good time, talking, laughing, eating, and drinking.

I just finished my run. I ran for 3 hours about 21.5 miles. It feels so good taking a shower after that. I had a nipple blow out. I know I mentioned this before, but the friction of the shirt on the nipple sometimes gets serious. Usually Vasaline protects me from this little problem, but not today. When I finished I looked down at my shirt and the blood soaked through two shirts. The best part was taking a shower - talk about sting. I may have to adopt the band aid protection method. I am reluctant to do so fearing what an EMT might think if I "fall out." They will think I am some kind of pervert. On second thought, what the heck, I am some kind of pervert.

Have a nice Sunday

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, February 14, 2004



This post is not about sex it is about a little bit of time. The rain has been nearly constant all week and I missed a day of running. I have been running so much, missing a day was like missing a hit of crack. I was like a caged animal. Today, threats of rain still loom and it is sprinkling now. I have a 20 miler called for on the training schedule. I am going to try to get it in.

Tonight is the parade party at my house. A Mardi Gras parade comes within 2 blocks of the house. People come by and use the house for a base station including, parking, peeing, drinking, and eating chili dogs, red beans and rice, king cake, and all manner of foods diet pundits warn against. Pictures will follow tomorrow.

My sister in law is a good source of jokes so here is another.

Phone rings
Boss: Hello
Bob: Yeah, I can't come to work today
Boss: Why not?
Bob: I went to the doctor and he says I have anal glaucoma.
Boss: What the hell is "anal glaucoma."
Bob: I just can't see myself coming into work today.

I can't see myself coming into work to day either, just don't give me drops to dilate my ass.

Off to run, got to get it over with so I can get ready for the party. Come on over if you are in the neighborhood.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, February 13, 2004


The Main Event

In this corner . . . . wearing the red, white, and blue trunks . . . . weighing in at just under a load and a half of bullshit . . . . with a record, getting a lot better as of late . . . . especially since he decided to start fighting dirty and ignoring the rules . . . . hiding behind the first amendment guarantee of free speech. . . . from the USA Network . . . . The Friday night movie . . . .THE PERFECT HUSBAND: THE LACI PETERSON STORY. (some cheers, some jeers and boos from the crowd.)

The ring announcer continues: And in this corner . . . . wearing the plain but practical trunks . . . . weighing in at just enough to beat any opponent whether they cheat or not . . . . with a pretty good record but on a recent losing streak . . . . all the way from the beginning of time . . . . obvious to most but invisible to many . . . . let's hear it for . . . . Truth, Honesty, Mutual Respect, and Responsibility. (some cheers, some jeers and boos from the crowd.)

The bell rings, the boxers move to the center of the ring and begin to spar. They are still at it. You and I need to help one of them or they will spar for ever. One getting the upper hand then the other. It is OK to help, because this fight will be won or lost based on our participation. Doing nothing is participation in this fight.

The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story

Normally, before I rag something, I read several articles to make sure I cover the bases of the arguments. This one has me wondering what the other argument could possibly be. I am not about boycotts, censorship, or any of that, but the decision by USA Network to produce and air this movie is a new benchmark in tastelessness and blatant disrespect for the REAL lives of families affected by tragedy.

The title "The Perfect Husband" leads one to believe Scott Peterson was at one time the perfect husband. Even if he did not kill Laci, he ran around on her, not quite perfect I'd say. Then there is the family thing. I cannot imagine how Laci's and Scott's families feel as this movie nears its showing.

Then there is the trial thing. No way can this movie do anything but cause problems for the trial. I thought networks had some sort of responsibility to serve the public. Even if it is not a law, how about a moral obligation? Show Janet Jackson's left tit or have a gay, interracial, couple screw a herd of sheep in slow motion. I think that would be less offensive than this movie, especially as it relates to the families involved. Anyone wanting to know about the case has ample reading on the net and viewing on virtually every news channel. Can you say "overkill?"

I am sure the USA Network is within their rights and are not breaking any laws. Tell that to a grieving mother and father who were almost grandmother and grandfather. Their life has been dealt a severe blow. Apparently, USA Network thinks this is good stuff. Businesses and citizens should do more than follow the law. The law gives us a general guideline. A great society depends on its citizens going the extra mile. They show respect, they treat others as they would like to be treated, they help their neighbor, they cry and grieve with those crying and grieving. If a society seeks to cash in and exploit a neighbor's sorrow, how wretched is that?

Imagine the meeting that hatched this bad idea. Somewhere in USA Network HQ a table was ringed with a bunch of MBA's who lost their souls after they signed that contract with the devil. The VP in charge of crap production speaks. "OK folks, we need a good idea for February." "How about the Olivia Newton John having breast cancer story" one of the bright eyed MBA's says. "That's already been done," the VP says in a monotone voice. A few more bad ideas are shot down, then the up and coming star speaks, "I know,the Laci Peterson story, if things work out, we could have this in the can before the trial." The VP was stroking his chin with his left hand and fidgeting with his pen in his right hand, he was nodding as boy genius explained his idea. Then one of the older guys says, "but won't that stir up folks, I mean, what about Laci's family? How would they feel?" The room erupts in laughter. "You cannot be serious" the VP says doing his best John McEnroe imitation. The old guy was shot down so he kept his mouth shut. The idea flew. Boy genius got the project and notified a production company. They began production November 03 and it will air Friday, February 13. They must be proud.

I emailed USA Network to tell them I disapproved of what they were doing. That is the only way I could think of to throw a punch in the fight announced at the beginning of this post. I got the automated reply thanking me for writing in about my favorite movie. I guess they side stepped my swing. With all of our reality programming, the powers who produce the programming do not get it. Their depiction of reality is a dream. They ignore reality and in so doing cause real pain on real people, who probably thought they could not feel any worse. I bet they are finding they can feel worse and they have the USA Network to thank for it.

Until the next time and have a happy Friday the 13th
John Strain


Thursday, February 12, 2004



Necktie Collection

Everything you always wanted to know about neckties, but was afraid to ask.

A lot of men complain about wearing neckties, but I like them. I like to dress up and a necktie is the icing on the cake. I own more than 100 of the little buggers and most of them are wearable. There is probably a cache of out of style ties somewhere around here. In the 70's they were real wide. In the 80's they were narrow. I liked the narrow ties cut straight across on the bottom. The width of ties varies from about 2 inches to 5 inches.

For more than 18 years, I have worn a tie to work. I am not required to do so, but I think it makes a person look more professional. It works too. The patients always think I am a doctor. The tie has a lot to do with respect people offer up. So I don't complain. Since I have worn them for so long, I have endless combinations with shirts, pants, and ties. I like to throw on a sport coat every now and then just to hear the comments. "Who died?" "Are you going to a job interview?" The other thing that happens, is the nurses will always give Barbara credit for my outfit. They will say, "Barbara sure dresses you well." Granted, Barbara buys most of the ties and she has good taste, but I am no slouch. I can match a tie to a shirt without help.

Some say wearing a necktie in a psychiatric hospital is dangerous. The reason being, someone could kill you. We have a security guard who is a caricature of a security guard. This guy makes Barnie Fife look like Super Cop. One day, we were talking and he dished out a portion of unsolicited advice. "You shouldn't wear that tie back there," motioning to the unit. "Why not?" I asked, humoring him. "He gave me the pat answer, then recommended I wear clip on ties, that is what he does." I did not say it, but I thought, I would rather be dead than wear a clip on.

Let me tell you about some of my ties. I love purple and have a lot of purple ties (top right). I like to have ties for the season so I have ties for Valentine's Day and Christmas (middle right and bottom right). I have a nice collection of animal ties (middle left). The bottom left are my bolder print neckties. Finally, the top left are just regular ties.

When my son wears a tie I have to tie it for him. One dance he and his two friends were going to back in high school, I had to tie all three neckties for them. This meant I had to stand behind the boy and tie as though it were on my neck. For me, it is the Windsor knot (named after the Duke of Windsor). Just the other day, I picked up a tip from the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" gang. They showed how to make the dimple under the knot. Never too old to learn a new trick I suppose.

So that's it. I like ties, I have a lot of them. If you ever need to borrow one, just let me know.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, February 11, 2004


Musical Confessions

John at 9 months - 1st ChristmasIn this picture, I am 9 months old. The year was 1957 and I was enjoying my first Christmas. The photo looks innocent enough, I suppose, but I am ashamed to say within this photo is an item of drug paraphernalia. I am referring of course, to the square piece of furniture - a combination record player / radio. It was a musical crack pipe and it attached a "jones" to my back so tight, it's still there. I've been turned out my whole life. I have paid dearly too. Music has encroached on my entire life. At work, at home, even at church. I have to have music. I am so pathetic.

Here is my story: The very first record I bought was in 1966, Georgy Girl by the Seekers. I still remember what the record looked like. It was a 45 RPM from Capital Records. The center was orange and yellow. I played it a million times.45 Record
45 RPM Record Adapter

That old phonograph folded down on the left side. The right side of the console opened to reveal a large radio dial. It had a light behind the dial and there were only two knobs on it. One for off/on/volume and the other for tuning. To play a 45 you needed an adapter to make the big hole smaller. I tried in vein, in the absence of an adapter to place the record on the turntable, but I could never get it just right. It would start out OK, but soon the record would spin out of round and the tone arm would skip. You had to have an adapter.

I bought other 45's in those days. The first few records I bought were: Kind of a Drag, Buckinghams; Snoopy and the Red Baron; He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother, The Hollies; Incense and Peppermints, Strawberry Alarm Clock; and Venus, Shocking Blue.

The first album I bought was "Introducing the Archies." There! I said it! I bought bubble gum music. Oh the embarrassment. I was only 12 or 13, so young and naive. I have tried to make it right. I have listened to lots of Hendrix, Clapton, Frampton, Page, and Santana. All of that should cleanse me from the bubble gum sins.

8 TrackOver the years, I bought a lot of record albums. Then I bought a lot of 8 track tapes. Then I bought a lot of cassette tapes. Then I bought a lot of CD's. Then I downloaded a lot of music from Napster. I think the RIAA are a bunch of monopolizing jerks and I have shed few tears over the whole downloading thing. For one reason, I have had to buy the same music several times. Each format change means give the RIAA more money. Presently, I purchase music from the Apple Music Store. I pay .99 per song. Where will it end up? I don't know, but I will be there. It is a drug I cannot live without.

I do not blame my mother for introducing me to this addiction - on the contrary - I am glad she did. This is one addiction I do not want release from.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Congratulations to Tim on the birth of his new baby daughter, Mercedes Jean. Tim lives Down Under. I get a lump in my throat when I see a new baby, because it reminds me of when my own son was born. Best wishes Tim and Judith with little Mercedes and the rest of the family.


Life Is More Than A Moment

On Labor Day 1957 Elizabeth Eckford, 15 was one of nine students who attempted to enroll at all white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. She was turned away by Arkansas National Guardsmen. As she walked away she was tormented by another teenager named Hazel Bryan. This photo taken by William Counts has been called one of the top 100 photographs of the century by the Associated Press. Full Story here.

Elizabeth Eckford, Little Rock, AR

Forty years later, the photographer who took the photo, William Counts, arranged a meeting between the two women. Although Hazel had phoned Elizabeth to apologize years later, the two never met until 1997. Hazel Massery had been the poster child for hate. She once said, "Life is more than a moment." One moment in time had defined her life for a generation. People change.

Reunion of Eckford and Massery

Here are a few more photos from the Civil Rights Movement of the 50's and 60's. I used these in a four minute movie I made last year about the Civil Rights Movement. You can watch it here. This is an mp4 about 9mb. When you go to the page, the movie will download automatically. If you have broadband, the download will take one and a half to two minutes.

Civil Rights Photo

Civil Rights Photo

Civil Rights Photo

Civil Rights Photo

On April 4, 1968 I was 11 years old. I was watching television with my brother when the news flash came on that Martin Luther King, Jr. had been shot and killed. My brother said, "good, that will teach that nigger." I did not know who Martin Luther King was, but my mother walked into the room and asked what the news flash was about. I told her Martin Luther King had been killed, then I repeated what my brother had said only moments earlier, "that will show that nigger." My mother slapped my mouth and said in a very stern voice, "you never use that kind of language or take joy in someone's death again." I was shocked and confused, but it is a memory vivid to this day. For one reason, it is about the only time I can remember my mother laying a hand on me except for the time I was caught teaching the neighbor boy how to curse. What would follow in the coming days would be a turmoil our country had not known.

At the time, I was attending the Kansas School for the Blind. I missed a couple of days, because there were riots near the school. There were riots all over the country. Looking back it seems so strange, but our country was at a boiling point.

The movie I made contains vintage photos and video of the Civil Rights Movement. Voices of Civil Rights Leaders are included. Making the movie, I gained more respect for the people who demonstrated for their rights and to seek the freedoms guaranteed by our constitution. Those people demonstrated "civil disobedience." In return they were beaten, attacked by dogs, unfairly harassed, ridiculed, and some were killed. Why? Because they were black - because they were different - because of fear - because of ignorance. They shed blood for their cause and in the end, they overcame.

I am not saying racism is conquered, but the Civil Rights Movement resulted in legislative change. What a contrast to today. Individuals often see racism behind every bush. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton run their self-serving campaigns under the guise of eliminating some form of racism. These and others like them are not worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as some of these nameless people who suffered physical harm for their cause.

People are not equal. Some are smarter, prettier, richer, funnier, faster, stronger, and so on. We are born to a class, a race, a country, and parents not of our choosing. Life does not care which set of variables you were given. Most people do not either. Success is up to the individual or a long wait will ensue. My life has not been a greased path to success. Maybe I enjoyed "white privilege," if so I was not aware of it. I know some have it better than me and some have it worse. Either way, it matters little, because, I have to make it myself. I had to go to school every day. I have to go to work every day. For these opportunities I am grateful, but I had to add a heaping portion of elbow grease.

As a white male, I am often told I cannot even have an opinion. I am not a woman so I cannot talk about abortion. I am not black so how can I understand racism? I am not gay so how can I be expected to have the right opinion about hate crimes? I am not a lot of things. I am trying to understand and I remain open, but I refuse to accept responsibility for someone else's happiness and success.

Today, Warren Sapp the football player makes millions of dollars but compares his situation to that of slaves. Jesse Jackson shakes down companies in the name of correcting racial injustice. Al Sharpton tells a girl to lie about an attack to stir things up. These people are not defenders of their race. They are self serving individuals who are abusing their opportunity. They dishonor Martin Luther King, Jackie Robinson, and others who suffered, but blazed the trail for those who would follow.

I am responsible "for" myself and my family. I am responsible "to" my community. What I have said about being responsible is not a white thing, it is a success thing. Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, and every other race under the sun are more limited by their own beliefs than they are oppressed.

Injustice will be around as long as people live. We must all do our part to make our little part of the earth just and fair. We are powerful if we work together. As Cheekysquirrel pointed out yesterday in the comments, diversity is what makes life interesting. Instead of fearing what is different we should explore it and appreciate it for what it is - just something different.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, February 09, 2004


Too Much "Us" and "Them", Not enough "I" and "Me"

Racism is one of those topics which evokes strong feelings from people regardless of their color. My purpose in writing is to make us all think, challenge, and reexamine our current views on the topic. I approach a discussion of racism with some trepidation. I realize the subject of race is a tender box awaiting a small spark to ignite a firestorm of visceral hyperbole. However, if two sides in an argument shout at each other, then no one is listening and hope is lost for any progress.

Anyone who speaks about race and racism is of course a member of a race themselves. I am caucasian. I do not have a racial agenda or a particular ax to grind. My purpose here is to first, state the positions of each side in the racial debate, and second express my personal views about race and racism. I invite your input.

• What is the definition of racism?
• Can a black person be a racist?
• Can a white person be the victim of racism?

How you answer these questions positions you along a continuum in the race debate.

Racism Defined:

Webster’s dictionary defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Many activist describe racism as prejudice + power = racism. Many people who subscribe to this activist definition of racism believe that Black people in the United States cannot be racist because they do not have the power to effect other groups and White people in particular. As a facilitator, trainer and activist in the fight against all forms of bigotry and for the expansion of peace and justice I have on occasion been confronted with the question in one form or another, “Can a White person be the victim of racism?” - Michael T. Mc Phearson

Some good reads:
Several articles from a black point of view.
White Washing "The Dream" With Divisiveness
Racial Double Standards and Dusty Baker's Quip
Can A Dog Be Racist?
What Is White Privilege?
Basics of Racism

Problems in racism discussions:
• Blacks and whites are referred to as if monolithic.
• The media is conflict oriented and favors extremists fighting opposed to orderly forums.
• Extremists are often held up as spokesmen for an entire race.
• Feelings are so strong on both sides, many simply choose to keep quiet on the issue and avoid personal attacks.

Racism is a human problem. One race is not more or less racist than any other. Therefore, I can experience racism and I have. However, according to Michael T. McPhearson, blacks are victims of institutional racism. While whites may have experienced racism, it cannot be compared with the racism blacks endure.

This discussion often becomes a recitation of who was discriminated against the most and the worst. It is a contest to show who is the real victim. Both sides contradict themselves.
It is important for Black people who fight for equality and justice to label all racist beliefs and acts for what they are, racism. To do less diminishes the moral argument to join the fight against racism and appeals to group affiliation. This is in itself racist. It also hurts Black people as we strive to form coalitions and help people see the morale outrage of racism. We cannot argue against an action or belief one minute and defend the same act or belief the next minute because of a change in skin color. Conversely we cannot allow arguments of reverse discrimination obscure the effects of institutionalized racism and White privilege. But if we are not honest with ourselves about our own racism, against ourselves and others, we help to obscure the issues; and that my friends we cannot afford to do. - McPhearson

I have a few things to say about racism and how it is addressed. I will not do all of that in this post for the sake of length. However, I will explain the post title. If race relations are to improve, people will speak their own mind and heart to others who will listen with their mind and heart. Racism will continue if we do not find a better way to discuss the problems. If I use words like "them" and "us", I can use blame and victimhood much easier. If, however, I use terms like "I" and "me," I am being more specific. It is one thing to discuss things hypothetically. It is quite different to talk to an individual. We need fresh talk devoid of any victim rhetoric or chips on the shoulder.

A black man may look at me and have little compassion for any racism or discrimination I have endured as an individual, because he compares it to what his race has experienced. Blacks were slaves and did not receive full protection against racism until the late 1960's.

I as a white person may feel that I can understand racism since it may happen to me, but I am often told I cannot and therefore can never understand what a black man feels. This minimizes and discounts my experience even if there is some truth to it.

The discussion is so polarized and emotionally charged that emissaries from either side are shot down. Well meaning, well intentioned people eventually "give up" under the other side's attacks usually from extremists.

I know this. I do recognize a person's race. I have certain ideas about that race which are generally correct (prejudice). I try to be aware of my prejudice so as not to act toward an individual with a general preconceived notion. I attempt to deal with each individual as an individual. I respect people based on their actions. I do not like or dislike people based on race.

In my mind, I think that is enough. I am willing to entertain the thought that it may not be enough as far as racism is concerned. I am willing to look at things like "white privilege" and "institutional racism" and examine my own participation in them. This goes against my grain though for the reasons I stated about my personal way of relating to others.

If I am guilty of racism, even if I am not doing anything myself, I am placed in a no win situation. The black man is put in a no lose situation and many times, blacks use this way of thinking (white privilege, institutional racism) as cover to fly their own bias and racism under the radar.

The discussion must involve more talk about individuals to individuals and not hypothetical talk about us and them. I cannot effect "them." I can effect "me."

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776

I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963

I have laid out several ideas I understand to be important in discussions of race. Tomorrow I will share more of my opinions, but as for now, what do you think. How can we improve things? How can we better discuss the issue? Can we ever get to the point where race is not going to be an issue?

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, February 08, 2004


Billboards You'd Like To See

I received this via email from my sister in law Lisa. If you like these there are 25 more here.


Until the next time
John Strain


Taking A Breather

I am not going to shy away from controversy as I write this week, but I am taking a breather today. My initial plan was to address a "hot button" topic each day last week. However, I found I needed more time to prepare the post, time to think about and respond to the comments, and a break in between topics. I used my head and my heart a lot last week. I was stretched in my thinking and awareness and ultimately in my compassion and understanding.

The comic relief was necessary for balance. I, at least, do not prefer to walk around carrying the banner for some "cause" all the time. Life is a lot of things. It is tragic. It is chalk full of causes I should be about, but life is also funny and ironic. If I / we become so serious we do not see the humor, then we won't be very much fun at parties. Balance is an important word to keep in mind. If you are stressed, most likely something is out of balance. We need work, play, fun, thought, exercise, and all that stuff. Keeping balance requires many small adjustments as in riding a bicycle. Not making the adjustments will soon have you in the ditch.

Marathon update: My race is one month from today. Yesterday was a 13 miler to be run fast. I was pleased with my time of 1 hour 41 minutes and 30 seconds. That is about a 7:45 pace per mile. Next week is another 20 miler then we begin tapering down for the race. My post of September 20, 2003 was my public announcement of taking the pledge. I had let myself go and was officially on the fitness wagon again. Since then I have lost 22 lbs. (192 lbs. now) and probably dropped a few dress sizes as well. Today, however, is a rest day. I am sipping fresh brewed french roast. I like dark coffee and dark beer.

The Jamie Leigh fiasco: For those of you who may not understand what has happened on my site the past few days I will attempt an explanation.

Monday: I posted about the Super Bowl halftime show. I took issue with Janet exposing herself because of where she was and how what she did was breaking the rules and disrespecting people who do not like that sort of thing. The time and place were wrong.

Thursday: I posted a photo of my own right breast as a tongue and cheek copy cat flashing / publicity stunt.

Friday: I posted a photo of a football with a nipple ring on it, compliments of my pal Claude.
Comments were numerous and funny. Folks had a good time ribbing me and themselves as we put the whole "Titgate" controversy in its proper place.

Saturday: I checked comments and had two with photos from Jamie Leigh. One comment in the Thursday post and another in the Friday post. She shared a photo of her right breast. A nice gesture, none of my other readers has done with the exception of Mary Lou. So it looks like Jamie is famous. Her website looks professional and there seemed to be a tinge of suggestive, sexual, whatever. I, being the sleuth that I am, go to Google and found lots of Jamie Leigh stuff all referring to a porn queen. I, jumping to conclusions, as I sometimes do figure it is this Jamie Leigh who shared a part of herself with me. I being a man am flattered, no, proud, no, damn proud. I did not think she "wanted me," but I had some bragging rights with my friends at least. My wife was less amused, but nothing serious there either. Barbara knows me and figures she has the inside track on keeping me, the prize that I am with all of my "stuff."

The next step was to share this wonderful news with the world and let the ladies weigh in. I figured they would side with Barbara. I was getting a laugh out of the whole "man - woman communication thing." It was all going as expected when Jamie makes another comment. She is not the porn queen and though polite, probably not amused I confused the two. Oops. I quickly commented / groveled back and expressing my sincere apologies to the amusement of the Saturday afternoon blog readers. Dennis was getting a kick out of it, which tells me he has been in similar circumstances, come on Dennis confess or Kim will give you up. Hahaha.

That is it. No porn queen of any fame commented on my blog. It was not a goal of mine, but I saw it as serendipity. I do take some pleasure and bragging rights that I did receive a mysterious breast shot. That is something and certainly appreciated. Barbara got a good laugh, "see, I knew it didn't sound right."

Without blogging I would probably have been working in my yard and missed all of this. I will let you decide which would have been better.

Sneak preview for tomorrow. I am going to tackle the subject of race.

Enjoy your Sunday folks,

Until the next time,
John Strain


Saturday, February 07, 2004


Blogging Can Get You In Trouble With Your Wife, Sort Of

To my surprise, delight, amazement, and a few other emotions. I found two comments from Jamie Leigh. One in the comments on the NFL commemorative football and one comment about "If you can't beat them, join them." She shared a right side view photo. Now, Jamil Leigh's name sounded familiar, but I did not really know who she was. Since she provided the link back to her site, there was no need to call a private investigator. I am not sure how she came across my site, but maybe it is because one of her movies carries the name "Abuse of Power," which incidentally is the name of my post on Friday.

Well, I was happy on a few levels. The first level of happiness was someone semi-famous dropped by and left a comment. The second level of happiness was thinking about all of the milage I was going to get when I told my "boyz." I was also quite pleased I had over 130 hits yesterday. I realize I can't keep this up. The body part card has now been played so I will have to think of something else, but it was good for a lot of laughs. Then following Jamie Leigh's comment was one from Martini Zero inviting me to rip her clothes off and expose her breast at a little league game this summer. In the 25 Mardi Gras' I have attended, never did anyone make a request such as that.

My wife sensed my happiness and realized the rate at which my head was swelling could unbalance the power structure of our relationship. Therefore, she launched operation "deflate my arrogant husband's head." I felt like we were reenacting the scene from "A Christmas Story," in which the father won a leg lamp. He was proud of it, but the wife hated it. As they argued, he said, "you are jealous of the lamp." I now know a woman can be jealous of a lamp and certainly a comment on a blog.

I would like to poll some of you ladies out there. (If Dick were to write that last sentence, he would have spelled "poll" differently, hehe.) What would you do if your husband got some comments from Jamie Leigh and he was damn proud of them? Would you celebrate with him? Launch into operation "deflate," "ass kick," or "bitch?" Would you do something entirely different?

I know I won't understand anything you tell me because men and women will never understand each other, but it is a hell of a lot of fun trying.

Happy Saturday Gang,

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, February 06, 2004


NFL Releases Commemorative Ball

Game Ball


Abuse of Power

When I get angry it is usually because of some abuse of power. If a man batters a woman he is abusing not only her but his power over her. In the same way, employers take advantage of employees. Universities abuse their power over students. Politicians misuse funds and the trust given to them by the people.

Let me give a few examples of abuse of power:
1) My son attends a nearby college. Parking is inadequate. Freshmen have to learn the hard way where they can and cannot park. Tickets are issued faster than "time share condo" flyers are passed out in the French Quarter. The university must make a tremendous amount of money from this practice. They could provide more parking or even signage. They could have their police posted and warn people before the fact, but I imagine the money they receive is substantial. I would rather they just raise tuition $100 and not nit pick you to death. The anger grows, because you feel had, taken advantage of, and without recourse.

2) I have already mentioned the Janet Jackson thing. She abused her moment in the spotlight much like Terrell Owens did with the San Francisco 49ers when he took out a Sharpie and signed a football to give away after scoring a touchdown. Joe Horn for the Saints made a cell phone call after a touchdown. All incidents were planned, staged, and carried out for self-promotion.

I remember in a college class, the professor was talking about celebrity. He told us that only in recent years did the English allow a microphone at center court Wimbledon to talk to the champion. He said it was resisted, because, all they did was win a tennis match. Their views on politics and world events are not any better because they can play tennis. What could they say anyone would want to hear? Contrast that opinion with how we view celebrities in America. We assign more weight to the opinion of a celebrity. Madona gives parenting advice. Barbra Streisand gets her views out there, not because she is a political scientist, but because she is an actress and singer.

3) Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton abuse their power to strong-arm corporations for money. They have profited individually while pretending to promote their racial concerns. They abuse the very people they say they represent.

4) The mentally ill are abused all the time by so called "group home directors." In Louisiana at least, individuals set up group homes, usually without a license. They overfill them with people who receive a social security check. They charge the person the bulk of their check promising to provide food and shelter. What is delivered is often an over crowded room with people physically and mentally ill who are in essence slaves. They are treated as cattle. I call them check farms. Every now and then one is shut down, but the mentally ill are not welcome in society and if someone keeps them off the street, no matter how squalled the conditions, who is going to complain?

5) In the Bible, when Jesus became angry and turned over the tables of the money changers it was because one religious group was abusing their power and preventing another group of people access to worship.

Abusing power or influence is something we have all done and must guard against doing. I recognize it when it is being done to me easier and quicker than when I am doing it to someone else. It angers me most, because it is most unfair. The feeling I get is, "John, I am not doing this to you because it is logical or it makes sense. . . I am doing it because I can."

The opposite of abusing power is fairness, justice, compassion, respect, and love.

Think of your best boss. He or she probably did not ask you to do anything he or she would not do themselves. Think of the helpful person at the DMV or customer service department of a business. I bet they were personable, helpful, and kind instead of cold, unfeeling, and arbitrarily making decisions that did not solve your problem.

When we say, "life isn't fair," we state a truth, but it does not have to be that way insofar as our behavior toward one another is concerned.

Look around yourself some. The next time you get angry, see if there is some power being abused to your detriment. Then keep this line in mind, I came up with it the other day when I was bitching about someone over me with power turning the screws: "Have you read the book 'Animal Farm'? Just remember, the pigs lost." It made me feel better.

What do you think?

TGIF and POETS (piss on everything tomorrow is Saturday)
Until the next time
John Strain