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Friday, September 29, 2006


Wasted life

There sure is a lot of wasted life going on. A casual observance of most newscasts will spotlight murders and other crimes. Political fighting and any number of social problems and angry people fill the half hour.

The gossip press concerns itself with important topics that will enrich our lives and the people they report about. Thank God someone is keeping up with George Clooney, Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton.

I am just dying to know the latest about Terrell Owens or basketball's latest bad boy.

Maybe people feel better about themselves if they see a rich famous person having problems or breaking rules.

The point is this. If you focus on problems and other people's problems, then you are wasting your daily allotment of consciousness. You are injecting "crap" (for lack of a better word) into your mind and soul instead of "good stuff."

Good stuff is what gives you hope and makes you feel better - legitimately. A good example of what I am talking about is the Liberty Mutual television commercial.

When I watch that commercial, it makes me feel good and it makes me want to do good.

Media has a great power to influence people, but then so do we. I think that commercial is an example of our power at work.

There is a subtle difference in the power of good and the power of evil or bad. The bad stuff seems to be more flashy. It captures the eye and appeals to something in us that likes to rebel. The good is quieter and does not always bring us public praise. Sometimes we are the only ones that know we did it - the good.

The bad stuff does not satisfy for long and we need more. We want bigger and better - soon an addiction is set in motion that is never quenched. That is if we pursue glitz, glamour, fortune, fame, gossip, and surface kinds of things.

On the other hand, the good stuff is quite satisfying and relaxing. It makes you feel that you belong in the world and that you are doing what should be done. Your attitude improves about yourself and others. You can sleep at night and look yourself in the mirror.

I am not talking about ending famines or rebuilding New Orleans on your own. I am talking about smiling at someone, letting someone in in traffic, holding the door for someone at a restaurant and letting them get to the hostess before you, or any number of things that puts someone else first.

The good stuff makes you aware that treasure is a clear starry night or an orange sunset. You know the riches that lie in the wonder of a child or the nuzzling of a puppy.

To do this, we need to slow down and resist getting caught up in the whirlwind and the artificial excitement created in the media and fickle public trends.

Live by principles and not by your feeling of the moment.

Are you driven by winds or guided by a rudder?

I'll leave you with that thought and one more.

Have a great weekend.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, September 27, 2006



Runners are freaks when it comes to statistics. They may meet the freak description for other reasons, but I will let someone else describe those finer points.

I write down how far I run, my time, my pace, my weight, and the weather at the time for each run I do. I have all of my races linked in the "About Me" section of this blog, complete with photos of the race if available.

I remember many runs. I remember the hills, the cracks in the road, and how I felt. Most runners are that way. They can tell you about a 5K they ran in 1993. They will remember what kind of beer they drank after the race and whether or not the National Anthem was played to start the run. They can tell you how they ran and what mistakes they made.

Runners keep commit their medical history as it relates to injuries in the forefront of their brain and are always ready to dole out medical advice.

When runners get together at races, pre race pasta dinners, or packet pick ups, they regale each other with these and other exploits how I imagine soldiers might talk about past campaigns when they get together.

It is just something we do. I am not sure if runners become statistics hounds or if statistics junkies naturally gravitate to running, but it is a fact.

So you can imagine how happy I was when I ran across a study about marathons. It gave me a lot of statistics I wanted to know, but had not before.

The study is at a site called Marathon Guide and the link to the study is here. USA Marathoning 2005 Report.

I don't expect most of you will click the link and read the report so let me hit a few of the highlights.

First of all, in 2005 there were 382,000 marathon finishing times recorded. That does not mean 382,000 people finished a marathon, because in 2005 I ran 5 marathons. You can probably figure that at least 300,000 people in the USA ran a marathon in 2005. This figures out to be less than 1% of our total population.

So far so good, I am in an exclusive group.

The next bit of information has to do with finishing times. I tend to run 26.2 miles in about 3 hours and 30 minutes. Of all marathoners, only 8.1% finished in less than 3:30:00. The average finishing time for all runners was 4:41:32. So I am an hour faster than the average.

Age groups and gender were interesting. Of all marathon finishers, 60% are men and 40% are women. The largest male age group was 40-44 while the largest female age group was 25-29. I hadn’t noticed, hehehe.

The biggest marathon of course, is the New York City Marathon, 36,872 finishers. I ran Boston in 2005 and it ranked 6th with 17,549 finishers.

Most people run marathons in the fall. October is the biggest month with some 57 marathons and 105,000 finishers. In all, there are about 300 marathons in the USA annually.

Time to go out and create more statistics. Today’s run is 5 miles. It should be nice since the temperature is in the low 50’s.

See you at the races.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 26, 2006


It's only time and money

We had a good time in New Orleans. Saturday we drove in from the Northshore to attend a wedding. Barb and I stayed at a hotel in the French Quarter. Bear had to go to dog jail.

Little did I know our stay was about to be extended.

I could tell it like a Visa commercial.
Cab ride to get a battery because your car won't start $15.
Battery $60.
Another cab ride to get a battery because they gave you the wrong one $15.
Battery another $25 because they only had the expensive one.
Shop towels, battery terminal cleaner, and hand cleaner $15.
Cokes, chips, and other items consumed while waiting for taxi cabs and tow trucks $15.
Tow truck ride 42 miles home because it was more than a battery $200.
Car repair, new starter, $395. (I know, but Infiniti starters are expensive.)
Spending all day in the parking lot of a convenience store with your wife wishing you hadn't made that one last stop - That's the breaks.
So the cap on a fun weekend wasn't so fun. We got home at 11 PM instead of 3 PM. What's 8 hours?

The car wouldn't start after we got out to get a drink for the drive across the bridge. Jumping it wouldn't work and since the battery was corroded and old it seemed logical. Getting the new battery was an ordeal and in the end, wasn't the problem.

The store closed at 8 PM so we were stuck sitting in a dark parking lot. We felt like sitting ducks waiting for muggers to show up. We called some friends and they sat around with us until the tow truck came.

In the end, it all worked out. All you need is a credit card and you can get just about anything done these days.

On a much brighter note, I took Monday off to catch up on the yard work that I didn't do on he weekend because of the wedding.

The weather was beautiful and it was a joy to be out in it. Earlier, I ran my 12 miles I should have run on Sunday.

Then the evening was capped off by watching the Saints return to the Superdome. It was emotional and the outcome followed a Hollywood script.

The Saints mean a lot to this region. Now that they are playing well, they are giving folks a real boost. It is just football, but it has a way of easing tension and giving people hope.

Enjoy your Tuesday and I hope things are going well where you are.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, September 22, 2006



It is the first day of autumn. The temperature is 78 and the humidity is 93%. Fish are able to walk around the streets and breathe just fine. It feels more like July than it does September.

We did have two cool mornings, but they are distant memories when you walk out into the thick sticky air here. I take solace in the fact the days like this are numbered and the cool crisp days are soon to be the norm.

Anyway, on Friday, it is hard to let anything get you down. I have a wedding to go to this weekend. Barbara and I are staying in the French Quarter Saturday night. The Superdome reopens to the glitz of Monday Night Football. So there is lots of fun brewing down here on the bayou.

Katrina who?

Have a nice weekend folks.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 21, 2006


Un-United Nations

The United Nations has become nothing more than a soapbox for people who hate America. Hugo Chavez the dictator of Venezuela voiced his disagreements with America by personally insulting the President of the United States.

In his address to the UN he exercised a freedom of speech that he does not allow in his own country.

Ahmadinejad of Iran gave a speech laced with apocalyptic imagery and he prayed for the end of the world.

How can serious discussion occur when these leaders say one thing while they do another? President Bush may be criticized for his policy, but he is doing what he proclaims. These other folks perform evil while they preach good. I don't think I need to elaborate any details to support that point.

What is even more unsettling is the applause Chavaz received and the chuckles he got when he was calling President Bush the devil.

My blood is boiling. Our President was called the devil on our own soil by a dictator. Dictators are not nice people you know. Yet we stand by with our hands in our pockets. When the Pope’s words were misunderstood, Muslims rioted, protested, burned down churches, and shot a 75 year old nun.

Maybe what bothers me even more is there seems to be no outcry from America. I don't think it is because everyone knows what happened and just writes it off as the ravings of lunatic minds. I fear it is because Americans are too busy living their lives that they don't notice the wolves at the door.

The world is getting more and more dangerous for us. There are regimes who are actively seeking our demise. Our policies should address these threats. I am convinced talk will do nothing. Our freedom and way of life will have to be defended and it may be soon.

I hope I am wrong. I hope we all hold hands some day and share cookie recipes. However, since these individuals basically require us to drop our pants and grab our ankles, I think there is going to be a fight somewhere in that process.

Maybe, if these men keep threatening us, Americans will wake up and take it seriously. A united United States is a bad mofo to tangle with, so I have hope.

It just gripes my rear end to see little pip squeaks talking big in our house. Macho or not, you don't do that unless you are spoiling for a fight. I say give it to them.

Just some thoughts of mine stirred by some threats of those who want us all dead.

Until the next time
John Strain


Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Civil Rights

Technology gives creative power to regular folks - like me. I enjoy playing with photos, video, and sound to express myself. This little video about the Civil Rights Movement in one such expression.

Words are one way of expression, but photos, video, and sound offer limitless ways to convey thoughts and emotions.

You Tube is a great way to share those expressions with others once they are completed.

I will never be bored.

I hope you have something you like to do and that you get to do it often.

Oh yeah, and Happy Birthday to my lovely wife Barbara.

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Everybody talks about the weather . . .


This is it; the first breath of cool autumn air for the season. While New Orleans will be in the low to mid 60's the next two mornings, we here in Covington may be treated to upper 50's. Ahhhhhhh. It's been a long time since I felt temperatures that cool outside of air conditioning.

In the south, the heat drags on like the cold does up north. Growing up in Kansas City, I hated those occasional March or April snows, especially if the weather had been teasing with worm mild air. I wanted to play baseball and I was tired of wearing coats.

It is strange here, because it looks like fall, but it feels like July. The next two days though will feel more like the calendar says it is supposed to be.

This is the kind of weather that stirs my soul. It conjures memories and all kinds of things. Running is about to get much more enjoyable instead of daily reenactments of the Bataan Death March. Speaking of Bataan, they now have a marathon in New Mexico to commemorate what our servicemen endured at Bataan during World War II. Check it out here.

The event is held at White Sands in New Mexico. Many of those who were in the Bataan Death March were New Mexico National Guardsmen.

So I guess there's nothing much going on here but the weather.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, September 18, 2006


Bear Ball

by Bear

Hi everyone, it's me Bear.
Bear in September

It's been a while, so I thought I would tell you what's going on. I have a few minutes before Daddy takes me on my morning walk.

Last summer, Daddy bought me a football. Up until then, all I ever played with was tennis balls. I even have a collar the color of a tennis ball. Anyway, I think I like the football better. It bounces in all kinds of directions like it has a mind of its own. It gives me chances to jump and bounce in all kinds of directions myself.

Something is funny though. I used to go outside and just play ball, but lately something is different. I go outside with Daddy like usual, but there are strange smells now. I don't chase the ball until I run around the yard with my nose down sniffing. It is like I am in a trance and I don't even listen to Daddy when he tells me to "get the ball" and "come here."

Daddy says I probably smell a girl dog in heat. What is heat?

Oh well, here is another picture of me with my football.
Bear with his football

Here is an action shot. Click the photo to see a video clip.
Bear with his football

Daddy likes to watch football, but I don't know why. It looks like he is in pain sometimes. Even though it is Sunday, I hear him say bad words. Mommy says he shouldn't get so mad at a silly game, but he just stares at the TV. Sometimes he talks to the TV and yells at it.

He seems to reserve his harshest criticism for the men who wear striped shirts. He thinks they are "paid off" whatever that means.

All I know is I am laying there in the middle of a nice dream and trying to figure out what heat means one minute and the next minute I am startled by Daddy jumping up and down yelling.

I get up and run around, but I can't see anything wrong. Sometimes Daddy is real happy, but this weekend he was mostly sad. First LSU lost a close game. Then the Chiefs lost a close game. Daddy says at least the Saints won.

I guess I better get used to all of this, because the season just started. At least I get snacks when football is on and I get to be close to my family.

Well, I better go out and sniff those smells, chase the football, and take my morning walk.

I hope you have a nice day and your Daddy comes home from work early to surprise you.

Bye for now,


Friday, September 15, 2006


Reading between the lines

I read this article Thursday and it really pushed my buttons. I took the liberty of posting the article here to see if it pushes your buttons too. I also added a few annotations to convey my own thoughts on the topic.

Experts see slow obesity fight for kids


WASHINGTON -- Ride a bike or hop on a skateboard. Any physical activity is cool - and a plus in the fight against childhood obesity.

That was the straightforward message from an expensive and heavily promoted federal program that claimed it led to a 30 percent increase in exercise among the pre-teenagers it reached.
Brilliant. I wonder how they figured out that exercise helps fat kids lose weight? Expensive? How expensive is common knowledge?

Despite the apparent success, the Bush administration killed the program this year through budget cuts. That was a shortsighted decision in the view of an organization that advises the government on health matters.

The demise of the program, known as VERB, "calls into question the commitment to obesity prevention within government," an Institute of Medicine expert panel reported Wednesday.
Whose responsibility is it to monitor the weight of a child? I believe it is not government, but the parents. Hello.

Dr. Jeffrey Koplan of Emory University, who led the panel, was more blunt, saying it was a waste of public money to develop a program that works and then to dismantle it.
It was a waste of money to do the program in the first place.

One in five children is predicted to be obese by 2010. Efforts to turn that tide are scattershot, given too few dollars and lacking the national leadership needed to speed real change, the report found. No one knows how many of these programs to trim kids' growing waistlines actually work, the panel said.
Two things: Too few dollars? Money is not the answer to reducing childhood obesity. Exercise and nutrition is. Everyone knows this already. The problem is action; or shall I say innaction.

Lacking national leadership?Let me direct you to the photo in my sidebar. President Bush is running with a US Army Seargent who only has one leg. I would say that the President has demonstrated a commitment to hard work and exercise by example. Then look at the example of the serviceman. He could sit on his butt and be justified in doing so, but he is still exercising, while able bodied lard assed kids are laying on the couch sucking down chocolate milk and playing video games.

A kid will take the easy way. Parents are there to make sure they do the right thing.

"Is this as important as stockpiling antibiotics or buying vaccines? I think it is," Koplan said. "This is a major health problem. It's of a different nature than acute infectious threats, but it needs to be taken just as seriously."

To reinforce that point, the report spotlighted VERB, a campaign by the federal Centers for Disease Control that encouraged 9- to 13-year-olds to participate in physical activities. Slick ads, at a cost of $59 million last year, portrayed exercise as cool at an age when outdoor play typically winds down and adolescent slothfulness sets in.
My blood pressure is going up again. This wonderful program consists of a "slick" ad campaign to the tune of $59 million dollars. The message of the campaign was the never before spoken finding that nutrition and exercise reduces fat. Thank God Bush cut the program. What a crock.

A CDC spokesman, Jeff McKenna, said the agency is "trying to do everything we can to package the research and lessons learned from VERB so it can inform campaigns local groups might take on throughout the country."
What packaging? There is no secret to fixing the problem of childhood obesity. Parents have to monitor what their kids eat and they need to make sure they do more than sit on their asses.

The report cites other examples of promising federal programs that have not reached their potential:

-Kids gobbled fruits and vegetables in an Agriculture Department school snack program. But it only reaches 14 states.
Do we need a federal program so kids can eat fruits and vegetables? Last time I checked, there was a produce section at our grocery store.

I would suggest showing Popeye cartoons again. I ate spinach because Popeye ate spinach and it helped you beat people up. Oh, I guess that's not politically correct. I know; if you eat spinach you will have enough energy to keep the polar ice caps from melting.

-The CDC's main anti-obesity initiative had enough money this year to fund just 28 states starting childhood nutrition and exercise programs.

The report did praise some state and local efforts for their creativity. Examples include:

-A California program, begun in Marin County, to build new sidewalks and bike paths. They are getting more children to walk or bike to school.
Let's buy them the bike, running shoes, and a membership to the health club while we're at it. Those poor people in Marin County are so disadvantaged.

-A community garden project in New York City's Harlem section to increase inner-city youngsters' access to healthful food and safe recreation.
Good for them, but the government doesn't need to spend money on it. How much does a shovel and a bag of seeds cost?

-An effort by Arkansas schools to notify parents when students are overweight. Combined with new school menus and physical activity programs, the initiative recently reported a leveling off of the state's child obesity rate.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith, This is to inform you that your son Johnny is fat. The government told us that if he rides a bike or a skateboard more, maybe he will get skinny. Sincerely, Your friendly Arkansas School.

In 2004, the institute recommended that parents, schools, communities, the food industry and government work together in taking on childhood obesity. Wednesday's report was the first assessment.

"We still are not doing enough to prevent childhood obesity, and the problem is getting worse," said Koplan, a former CDC director. "The current level of public and private sector investments does not match the extent of the problem."
Investment? This is not a top - down problem. It needs to be addressed by the parnets. Eating less should not cost more money. Exercising is free.

More than individual programs, full-scale social change is needed to make healthful eating and physical activity the norm, said one member of the expert panel, Toni Yancey of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Some 17 percent of U.S. youngsters already are obese, and millions more are overweight. Obesity can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol, sleep problems and other disorders.

The report shows "what the country is doing is like putting a Band-Aid on a brain tumor," said Margo Wootan of the consumer advocacy Center for Science in the Public Interest.
These programs will be as efficient as threading a needle while wearing boxing gloves. Childhood obesity does not require a top-down solution, but an individual solution.

The institute is part of the National Academy of Sciences, a private organization chartered by Congress to advise the government of scientific matters.
I think it is funny how this "crisis" is presented as if it were a mystery that only expensive programs can address.

$59 million dollars were spent on ads to tell kids to exercise. It would be a lot cheaper if more mothers would say what I often heard when I was hanging around the inside of the house too much. "Why don't you go outside and play." If I didn't do that fast enough, I might end up with a bucket washing windows. Both scenarios qualify as activity and have been proven to reduce fat.

Are parents so stupid they need a government program to tell them that their kid is fat? Is the kid so dumb he/she is helpless to keep the pounds from piling on? Will that kid stay dumb and continue to expand, developing diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease? Will government spending change any of this?

It seems to me that if people are that stupid, government should go door to door, confiscate all of the fat kids and make them live on a big fat farm until they achieve the ideal weight. No one should be allowed to get fat unless they have a note from their doctor that they have a thyroid problem.

Maybe government should get out of the area of common sense. Allow people to destroy themselves without feeling abliged to piss away millions of federal dollars in the process.

This is a free country. At least we say it is. If you want to smoke, drink, or get fat, that is your business.

On the other hand, it's Friday, so who cares anyway?

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 14, 2006


Charging batteries

Battery charge iconThe laptop is plugged in, the iPod is hooked up to its wire of life, and all over the house, battery packs and electronic devices are sucking energy out of the wall.

I need a wire like that. I have been drained lately. I hate going a couple of days without posting, but I have been both tired and uninspired.

I am hoping that when I step out into the low 60's in the morning our weather lady promised us, I will be recharged instantly.

But for now, I need a little boost.

Here's to the top of the mountain. I'm headed that way - once I get a bit more recharged.

Until the next time
John Strain


Monday, September 11, 2006


Comprehending evil

I have been fortunate to grow up in safety. I do not live in fear for my life. It is always possible to fall victim to a violent crime, but it is not imminent.

Here in the New Orleans area, we recently had a radio celebrity kill his estranged wife in broad daylight. He shot her in the face twice. He waited by her car until she came out of an office building.

I wondered how a person could just walk up to someone and shoot them. No matter how mad I am at someone, I don't want them dead; I just stay away from them. I put them out of my mind.

This man was so angry or something that he had to have her dead. He at the age of 69 threw the rest of his life away in the process. He once loved her, he certainly knew her, yet he was able to somehow wait for her, talk to her, look at her, and squeeze off two bullets in her face.

The evening news in any city parades criminals and their evil deeds before our eyes as we sit safely in our living rooms. Security cameras show their animalistic behavior. It is a lot like wild kingdom watching a predator hone in on a weak member of the herd.

Something is different about someone who can hurt and kill others like this. Something was certainly evil about the individuals who perpetrated the calamity on September 11, 2001.

Some folks have a problem using the word evil to describe the terrorists we are currently at war with. They feel it is judgmental and arrogant to label someone else evil, because from the terrorists’ point of view, they are only fighting for their cause.

Evil is defined as "profoundly immoral and malevolent." The people who had anything to do with 9/11 fit this definition and then some.

When fleas get on my dog, I don't waste my time trying to reason with them. If roaches are in the kitchen, I don't suggest we sit down and talk about how we can get along, and if someone comes to this country and targets civilians just because they are Americans, I think it is clear what must be done.

Someone enlighten me. When has negotiating with terrorists ever amounted to anything? I find it incredible that some responded to the 9/11 attacks by wondering what America did to anger these folks.

Would you respond that way on the street? If someone came up to you on a street corner and punched you in the nose would you say. "Excuse me my good fellow. Tell me what I did to anger you. How can I make this up to you." Hopefully you would defend yourself.

If I have a problem with my neighbor, we would talk about it; and probably over a beer. That is because we are both willing to compromise. We both believe in the rights of the other. We know that if both of us are happy, then that is the best thing for us both.

The terrorists are focused on one thing. Killing westerners. I suppose we could convert to Islam and save our hides, but that is probably the only thing we could do.

So our choices become limited. I wish our enemy were like my neighbor. I wish we could sit down and talk. That is not an option and it is not by our choice it is by the choice of the terrorists.

They are evil. Yet the only ones who are called to task on human rights and the treatment of women is the good old USA. Incredible.

If 9/11 isn't enough proof that terrorists are evil, then a notarized letter from the Devil wouldn't help either.

How can one man take a knife and saw off the head of another man? How can someone walk on to a bus, notice women and children, then blow themselves up? How can you hate so much that you can't love anymore?

I don't know, but folks like that must be killed. They are wild animals among us. They will continue to wreck havoc until their dying breath.

The best way to remember the 3,000 citizens that died on 9/11 and about that many military personnel who have given their lives in the war on terror is to comprehend the kind of evil we are up against and work to kill it.

May the memorials today serve to renew our resolve to wipe out that evil as it exists in people.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, September 09, 2006


United States Presidents

OK kids. I know it's Saturday, but it is time to learn about the US Presidents again. Can you name them? Do you know what they accomplished and what they had to deal with during their tenure?

In case you want to freshen up those facts you probably learned a few times in school, visit this link.

Here is a sample of some of the interesting stuff you will learn.

Grover Cleveland
Let's take Grover Cleveland for instance. He was the first Democrat elected after the Civil War. He was also the only president to leave the White House and return for a second term four years later.

Check out this tidbit from the website and tell me if his words and actions sound like a Democrat of today - this is a trick question.
Cleveland vigorously pursued a policy barring special favors to any economic group. Vetoing a bill to appropriate $10,000 to distribute seed grain among drought-stricken farmers in Texas, he wrote: "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character. . . . " -Source

Pretty amazing. I think he was right then. Obviously his predecessors didn't look at things his way and now we have a sizeable welfare state as a result.

This article gives a good description of entitlement spending.

One thing I like about reading history is it calms me down. I realize that people have dealt with the problems we face today. There have always been bitterly fought issues, but somehow, we as a people overcome.

Usually, we don't get mobilized until our backs are against the wall, but when that happens; look out.

I remember the line the Japanese Commander said in the movie Tora Tora Tora; “I fear we have awakened a sleeping giant.”

I believe there is nothing we cannot conquer when we finally come together. When we are a united people we can move mountains.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, September 08, 2006



What would we do without Fridays? The weekend is ahead of us and football season will be at full force. The heat has broken and it is beginning to feel a bit fall like.

They say of addiction, that the very best part of it is that moment just before one indulges. Just before the drug is taken, the drink consumed, or the dice rolled is the peak of enjoyment. Maybe that is why Fridays are so nice. The whole weekend is ahead.

I don't like to have things scheduled on my weekends usually. I want them wide open so when I get up on Saturday morning, I can do what I want to do.

The best weekend is when I get some work done, have a nice long run and do something with my friends. Most weekends include all of that.

Bear likes the weekends too. He has his family around him compared to weekdays when he is lying around waiting for us to come home from work.

So TGIF and I hope your weekend is a good one.

Until the next time
John Strain


Thursday, September 07, 2006


Cry, bitch, piss, and moan

I have to admit that I do my share of complaining. I sometimes blame entire races, management teams, and governments for what I perceive is the problem. I don't think this is unique to me or to white people who live in the southern United States.

A casual viewing of the nightly news features people of all walks of life blaming some group for their woes. Finger pointing is at an all time high.

Look at the current conflicts:

In New Orleans there are several groups and no shortage of individuals who are blaming many of the Katrina woes on racism. Translation - white people victimizing blacks.

Republicans and Democrats are blaming each other for all things real and imagined. The rhetoric has gone beyond common sense and the ridiculous.

On the world stage, terrorists and governments are blaming the West and calling for their demise in the name of god. (I use the word god with a small "g" to show my own bias. I don't think God is behind their hate.)

As long as the bitching, pissing, and moaning is on a group level, the subject or the problem will never be solved.


Because the blamers have made themselves victims. Some go way out of their way to prove they are victims. All wasted energy that would have been better spent on a solution.

It is all wasted energy. If you are a victim, then you have rendered yourself impotent. Let me say that again. If you are a victim, then YOU HAVE RENDERED YOURSELF IMPOTENT.

A victim assumes the position that they have been wronged and things cannot be right until someone (those to blame) fix it. This is what victims may think of as justice.

So a victim has a certain condition in their head that must occur before they can go on with their life and be happy. Sadly, these folks will never be fulfilled, because they are waiting for something that is equivalent to catching a unicorn. Their quest is a myth and an impossibility.

I do not like formulas that depend on someone else doing something or some condition happening before I can be happy. I like to control that myself.

Therefore, I have to let go of things. The conditions outside may not be within my control, but the way I think about them is in my control.

Being wronged or victimized is a human condition. No race, religion, political viewpoint, or nationality has the franchise on victimhood. I have been a victim. I have experienced prejudice and so have you. I have also felt pain and experienced the emotions of pride, joy, and love. These things I have experienced because I am human.

If one were to obtain their information from the media, they would conclude that racism is something whites do to blacks. However, blacks are racists too, because they are human. Anyone who lives in the south knows this fact is true. The light skinned blacks known as (bright) look down on the darker skinned blacks.

Anytime we refer to blacks, whites, Jews, Arabs, Democrats, Republicans, men, women, young people, Americans, Europeans, and environmentalists, we are generalizing. All Americans are not the same. All whites are not the same. All blacks are not the same. Still we have folks on television throwing around general terms and making definitive statements like they were reading from the Bible.

Let me just talk about racism and blacks for a moment. Some would say that because I am a white man living in the south, I cannot understand the covert racism that blacks face. Because of my white privilege I cannot see what they are going through. Their experience is so unique, only they can understand it.

Therefore, I am taken out of the game and my observations and comments are not credible. Any argument I postulate is met with, "You don't know what you are talking about being a white southern man. You haven't lived their lives. How dare you even try to say anything to this subject."

Of course, this is all bullshit.

Walter Williams an economic professor at George Mason University hosted the Rush Limbaugh show a couple of weeks ago and he was talking with Juan Williams. The two men discussed some of the problems in the black community. You can listen to their conversation here.

Juan Williams has written a book entitled: Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America -- and What We Can Do About It.

Anyway, in the course of the conversation, Walter Williams referred to a column he had written about poverty. In the column, he cited four things a person could do to avoid poverty. First, get a high school education, second, get a job, third, don't have any children until you are married, and fourth, when you get married; stay married.

Of those who meet these four conditions, only 8% of whites fall below the poverty line and only 11% of blacks fall below the poverty line.

So don't take my word for it - a white man living in the south; take it from two black men who have chosen to live with different values than the victims have chosen.

I think it is ironic that I am called a racist because I am trying to group whites and blacks into the same category - human. All whites don't have a free ride and all blacks are not held down. Those who succeed - white and black - have decided to shed the victim role and take control of their lives.

I can't tell you how many people have come to me for counseling. They come with some magical hope that I can tell them something to make their problems go away. I see the realization slowly come to their face when I tell them they have to work their way out of it.

Drug addicts and alcoholics have to stop drinking and using. They have to stop hanging with their old crowd and find other places to go and other things to do.

Folks who have chosen divorce have a whole new world of problems with which to deal. Parenting becomes more difficult, holidays are a challenge, and most everything else has to be retooled.

Some folks are depressed because they have been irresponsible. Maybe they are 25 and haven't gone to school. Life is going nowhere for them. When I tell them they need to do something like go to school; it isn't the kind of thing they want to hear.

Salvation is in the work and effort we produce. We need work like we need air. We need challenge like we need our hearts to beat. Hardship is just part of a day's work and part of the human experience.

We cannot completely understand each other, but we can try. We can meet on our common ground and build from there. But if you are going to bitch, piss, and moan - get lost. I don't have the time or energy to waste on a lost cause.

I will extend a hand to an outstretched hand, but I won't chase you down and carry you to the promised land if you are intent on headed the other direction – I will respect your choice.

Life happens. A lot of it isn't what we want. If we choose to cry it won't make any difference in the long run. If we learn to move on it will make a huge difference.

Like Andy said in the movie Shawshank Redemption; "Either get busy living or get busy dying."

Until the next time
John Strain


Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Tupelo Photos

Here are some photos from our trip to Tupelo. I will describe the trip later.

Tupelo Photos

No BearCam today. The poor dog is still at the vet. We'll pick him up this afternoon.

Until the next time
John Strain


Sunday, September 03, 2006


Piece O' Cake

The gun went off at 5:00 AM in the Tupelo darkness, setting in motion everal hundred pairs of running shoes. I lke the sound of all of those shoes hitting the pavement. It is the unmistakable sound of a foot race.

I ran the whole way and felt pretty good. The weather was perfect. Low 60's and a breeze made it feel like air conditioning compared to the heat and humidity I have been dealing with in Covington.

I ran a 3:37:20. I will have to look up what pace that is. I just wanted to come in under 3:40 so mission accomplished. I have recovered quickly and Barbara and I are about to take in the sites of Tupelo. It is pretty up here with rolling hills, cotton fields, and farm houses.

I will write more on this marathon later. Now that the race is over; it is time for the reward.
Here is a photo of Barb and I in the house where Elvis was born.
John and Barb in the house where Elvis was born

Have a great weekend.

Until the next time
John Strain


Saturday, September 02, 2006


Road Trip

Elvis is blaring on the iPod and we are headed North on I-55. If we had a convertible I'd have the top down. Destination Tupelo, Mississippi - the birthplace of The King.

I have to get up at 3AM for the 5AM race start in the morning. The weather should be cooler than what I have been used to - low 60's at the start.

The motto of the race is "Hurdle the dead, trample the weak." It has a nice ring to it. It makes me feel like I will be part of a Capital One commercial.

I will have the laptop and free wireless Internet at the hotel so look for a post sometime Sunday with the race results.

Got to run - really.

Until the next time
John Strain


Friday, September 01, 2006


Coping and reacting

It has been a year since Hurricane Katrina. One would have to be in another solar system not to know this. Television has aired numerous Katrina anniversary programs.

This event has dominated my life and the lives of so many. It has never been out of the news here, so the anniversary shows just seemed like more of the same coverage.

I am always interested in how people respond to things. Our values and philosophy of life drive our reactions and responses. I think most of the fighting and blaming is really a clash of these values.

People believe different things about what should be done about what Katrina broke. Much of the debate and anger centers around the role of government. Local, state, and federal government all have roles.

Some people are still waiting for government to help, while others have moved on. Some folks had the means to rebuild on their own, some - like my neighbor - cashed in his 401K to move on.

Houston, TX extended their hand to help our region and they are sorry for it now. Many who went there believe they hit the Katrina lottery. They have sat for a year with free rent. It appears they will do nothing until someone from FEMA takes them to the next free thing. The murder rate has gone up in Houston 20% and they can attribute it to Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

Now everyone who went to Houston is not a lazy murdering free loader, but many are.

I saw a report about St. Bernard Parish. This area was as devastated as the highly publicized 9th Ward. The rebuilding effort seems to be going much better in St. Bernard. The people want to be there and they are not waiting on the government. One man said that hope is as cheap as despair.

The problems and solutions around rebuilding after Katrina have been touted as racial. However, I have seen and read about people from both races on both sides of the fence. Katrina was an equal opportunity hurricane. She wiped out everybody equally.

Whatever resources you had before the hurricane are what you had after the hurricane. Money in the bank, education, insurance, and family and friends are what folks have to rebuild. The color of your skin has nothing to do with it.

If you are waiting on the government and help isn't coming, then you get angry. You may even begin to believe you are not getting help because of the color of your skin, but that does not make it true.

Individuals will have to rebuild their own lives or not. Government will throw a bone every now and then, but they will not provide a comprehensive answer for each individual.

When I see helpless dependent people whining or venting anger on the news, I realize they did not get that way over night. Much like a spoiled child, they learned how to be dependent.

Government has tried to raise a couple of generations with welfare and it does not work. The old saying, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," applies here.

We in these modern times think we have accomplished something because we did without electricity, cable TV, and running water for a few weeks. I wonder what the conditions were like settling this country and moving west.

The pioneers somehow made it and eventually thrived. Where is that spirit and innovation now? I believe it was slowly washed away by government handouts. People got used to the monthly check. They didn’t have to dig for water or hunt rabbits, they just had to walk to the mailbox.

Now we have a large segment of society that is uneducated, doesn't work, and continues to produce children even though they have no way of providing for them. These kids are raised in inadequate environments. They often lack a two-parent home and are not taught to value education. The kids are largely ungoverned and eventually wind up dead or in jail.

Katrina really exposed what this means when basic services are interrupted. This group of people lacks the resources to help themselves. They blame and criticize the government like a spoiled child would their own parents if their car runs out of gas.

The folks who make it are born into homes where they are taught to believe in themselves and not the government. They are taught they can do anything they want to if they work for it. They are taught to value education. They are taught to respect others, themselves, and their community.

If they are taught these things, it does not matter how much money they have. Dignity is not purchased; it comes from an attitude and a way of behaving.

I don't care what color you are. It matters not what your religion is or your sexual orientation. What is important is how you behave and what you do. If you take care of yourself and have enough left over to give to others and to your community; then you are a responsible adult in my book.

Hurricane Katrina came along and exposed what people think of themselves. She was a test that no one could cheat on. Some passed with flying colors, but others failed miserably.

Until the next time
John Strain