Thursday, June 26, 2008

Selling Your Standards

What is the price for your standards? How much would I have to pay you to sacrifice something that you feel strongly about in your life? Usually when we are posed questions like that we want to say that we absolutely would NOT compromise our standards for any price, and in some instances that is true, but I think most people sell their standards daily at a very low price. Me included.

What standards do you have that you absolutely would not sell? For me, the first thing I think of is my reliance on Jesus Christ as a savior. I don't want this to be a religious post, so I'll give another example too. I will not drink alcohol. No matter what, even if my boss offers me a drink and it seems rude to turn it down, I will not drink alcohol. It's a promise I made to myself years ago having seen alcohol do bad things to a family, and I intend to keep that promise as long as I live.

Now comes the interesting part. What is the price of the standards that you would, or do sell? I'm going to start with an example that I'm a little ashamed of. I often catch (or am caught) by another rider while commuting and I like to ride with them and talk a little. One of my standards is to obey the rules of the road while riding a bike because I always want to ride in a way that reflects well on cyclists and helps improve our image. I ALWAYS stop at stoplights. Anyway, yesterday I was riding with a guy and we came to a red light. I stopped, but he just slowed, looked to see nobody was coming and proceeded through the red light. I followed. The light turned shortly after and there certainly weren't any cars coming, but I sold my standard and my image in order to... I'm not sure why. In order to continue a conversation? In order to keep up in the 'race'? In order to not offend my riding partner? I don't know exactly why I didn't wait for the light to turn, but I sold my standard, and it didn't cost much. That is a situation that I'm ashamed of.

There are also situations where I think we sell our standards, but it's worthwhile. For example, I like to minimize the air pollution that I cause whether it is due to me driving or people driving to see me. A few weeks ago a friend wanted to borrow a backpack that we have. He offered to drive down and pick it up, but I wouldn't let him because I was perfectly capable of bringing it up on my bike, so I did. OK, that's a good example. My parents have both visited recently and spent time with my family. They drove to get here. I wish they hadn't had to drive, although I recognize that it was certainly better than flying. it was against my standard, but well worth it. I will sell my 'anti-air pollution' standard for my kids to be able to know their grandparents and great-grandparents. I think that is a fair sale as long as we live hundreds of miles apart. Sure, I wish we lived close enough that visits could be done by bike or public transportation, but that just isn't the case, so I will sell that standard for that price.

When my parents visited, I think I sold that standard at too low of a price. While I feel that their travel to get to our home was a well valued sale of my standards, during their visits we drove more than we ever do. I feel that much of the driving that we did while my parents were here was a very poor sale of my standards. Not driving most places is a HUGE part of our life and extremely important to us. While my parents were here, we sold that 'not driving' standard to do 'special' things. Essentially we sold our standard in order to prevent my parents from seeing how we really live and knowing who we really are. Another of our standards is living a slow paced, local life centered around our home. So we sold one standard for the price of selling another. I don't think that was a good deal. Instead, I wish we had spent more time at home doing the things we always do with my parents. That would have helped them know who we really are. At the same time, it was fun to go out and do different things, but I don't know that was the best sale of my standards. I also think it was important to make some sacrifice of standards in order to include my grandmother in some activities that would have otherwise been difficult for her (like the many miles of walking we generally do each day).

Here's another example that is difficult for me to admit. I have a standard of minimizing water usage. I'm fine using water to water my garden, that is a good use, but I have a pretty big lawn that I have to water to keep it somewhat green. Why do I do that? I have sold that standard for the resale of my home (since we will likely be moving within the next year or two). Ouch, that was the sale of a standard for money. I don't like that. Not only did I sell the standard for money, but I will be encouraging the next home owner to have a pretty big lawn that they too will have to waste water on. It would cost a lot of money and work to change the landscape and likely not help the resale value of the house so I have sold those standards for money and I'm not proud of that.

Last example, this one hasn't happened yet. As my wife and I think of moving we talk about our dream house. Both of us like the idea of rural living with land to grow a really big garden. We like the idea of having space and not being in a city, but close enough for convenience. My standard (and part of my studies in school) is to prevent sprawl. Rural living just outside of a city is sprawl. Will I sell that standard? Or will I be able to 'settle' for a house in the city that is a little noisier, has a little less room and will have a smaller garden. What is the price of my standard?

What is the price of some of your standards?

I want only to live in accord with the promptings of my true inner-self. Why is that so very difficult? --Hermann Hesse

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


We had family pictures taken recently and I thought I would post a link to them. It was great, I found a friend on facebook and found that she lived nearby and that she was now a photographer. She took some great pictures. Here is a link to the site where they are. If you are interested in her taking pictures for your family or wedding, go here. And if she likes you she will call you a 'hoty' on the URL (did you notice that?) I would have spelled it with two t's, but whatever.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Cute kid

I sat down on the couch when I got home yesterday and my two year old grabbed a book off the shelf and brought it over for me. He says, "Daddy, read story". Of course I'll read my son a story. Wait. Six-Pence, you brought me the dictionary.

He was persistent. "Daddy. Story. Mammoth." I suppose that if you are going to read your two year old the dictionary, Mammoth is as good a place to start as any. So we looked up mammoth and I read him the definition of a mammoth. There was even a picture of a mammoth in our dictionary.

I tried to continue to the next word, but he would have none of that. "Daddy. Story. Buoy." So I proceeded to look up Bouy in the dictionary... It wasn't there. How about Baouy? Nope... Boauy? No. (embarrassing truth, I had to ask my wife how to spell Buoy.) Buoy? There it is. Since when have words had a 'uo' in them? Anyway, I then read my two year old the definition of Buoy. Again, there was a picture for him to look at. He then took the dictionary from me, returned it to the shelf and returned to playing like a 'normal' two year old.

I now intend to be here more often to post. My summer has sort of freed up...well, sort of.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Have you ever been caught talking to yourself? Do you remember how embarrassed you were and how you tried to sort of brush it off, but you knew deep down it was sort of silly? Today, I took that feeling to a new level.

I was busy on the computer doing research and found this incredible website that had some great links on information that I would need to know. I just didn't have a good way to save it, so I figured I would email it to myself. I got the email all opened up and the link pasted in and I thought, "hey, we're having Joel and his family over for dinner, I should make sure I have his phone number at home". No, I did not say that out loud, that would have been ridiculous. I typed Joel's phone number into the email along with a sarcastic comment so I could laugh when I opened the email. Then I emailed it to Joel...

A few minutes later I got a response, "Was this for me?" Well-- No, actually it was me talking to myself about you... For whatever reason I feel a little silly. I'm glad that I really like Joel so I can be sure that I didn't write anything bad about him... Actually there's nothing bad about Joel so that wouldn't have even been possible. So the next time you're feeling a little dumb, think of me, caught in the act of talking to myself... via email.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Technology to save the day

I often hear the argument that technology is going to solve the problems of global warming, food shortages, peak oil, etc. While I am amazed at the rate at which mankind can come up with impressive solutions to problems, we have thus far not proven that we have actually 'solved' anything.

Let's use the problem of feeding the billions of people on the earth as an example. We have lots of people to feed, so we have come up with ways of increasing yield and minimizing the amount of labor needed at harvest. We have developed pesticides that prevent our crops from being destroyed by insects, we have developed herbicides so that our crops don't have to compete with weeds, we have developed fertilizers to make our foods grow faster and we have genetically modified foods to better deal with the pesticides and herbicides that we have developed as well as increasing yield. Now we have foods covered with petroleum products so that we can have more. Most of these products have not been tested on human health and those that have, well the outcome was generally not positive. Genetically modified foods have been tested on humans (at least partially) with little adverse outcomes (and honestly, I think the protein structures in the foods are not different enough to cause major problems). The problem with genetically modified foods is that they make for a field full of plants with identical DNA. What happens when a disease adapts to this new engineered plant and suddenly can kill the plant? Not only can it kill 'the plant', but now it can kill the entire field because all the plants are identical. We are removing the diversity from the system that protects the system.

And now we are looking for alternative sources of fuel (partly because we use a lot of 'fuel' to cover our plants so that they aren't eaten, weeds don't grow and the crop grows better). One of the leading ideas is plant based ethanol. Suddenly our means of making more of a crop is directly competing with our food supply. Oops, something went wrong with the planning in that process and now we find ourselves in a worse position than we were originally. Organic food production, if done correctly, can be cost effective and compare with the industrialized version of food production. But that is not where the money is.

Actually, I didn't write today to complain about the system. I found a great talk on (if you don't know about it, you should, go there). This is Janine Benyus (who I also read about the other day in Reader's Digest) and she has real solutions to problems. Do you know where she looked for solutions? Nature. Nature holds the answers to our problems. Not human made, more complex stuff, but the simplicity of nature. If we actually take the time to look around and learn from nature, we may find the answers to life's questions. The main point that she made is that we have to follow the example of nature by taking care of the place that will take care of their offspring. They have to do what they do by taking care of the place where they live. Thus far technological 'advances' have been working against nature, this lady provides workable solutions where we can work with nature. Watch and enjoy. It's long, but really good.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I'm Bored

I just finished the last portion of my comprehensive exam. I wrote about the first part that was 8 hours and I wrote 13 pages to answer 6 questions. The second part was 7 questions that took me nearly 9 hours to finish and I typed 15 pages of response. Today was sort of the grand finale. I met in a room with the six men who wrote the test questions and they grilled me on any weaknesses that I may have displayed in my responses to assure that I knew what I was talking about or find the things that I don't know. Today I was in the room for a mere 2 hours fielding questions. I addressed what I knew, but it is quite evident to all involved that I don't know everything. After deliberation, they said that I passed.

Now what? I have been studying for this exam during every spare moment I've had for the last 4 months or so. It's over. I don't don't have to take it again (which is good because I think I would have opted for a job at McDonald's before I spent another 4 months preparing for another test). Now what do I do? I know that I have two papers that I am trying to write that aren't finished yet. I know that would be a good place to start. I also know that I have a dissertation that I haven't started that I need to finish in order to graduate. Oddly enough, that's not what I want to do this afternoon. Instead I have a good Pandora station on REALLY LOUD and I'm trying to numb my brain as much as possible. Following the class that I have to teach this evening, I have scheduled a my bike ride home which will be as fast as possible to see if I can get rid of the nervous tension that still won't leave me alone.

Tomorrow, I will not come to school. I may not get out of bed. OK, I'm sure I'll get out of bed, but I may not get out of my pajamas. I intend to mow the lawn, weed the garden and otherwise not think for the entire weekend. If the weather is nice, maybe I'll go for a bike ride with the boys.

For now I'm going to return to my vegetative state staring at my computer, drooling slightly and waiting for the class that I have to teach so I can continue my life without thinking. I look forward to writing in the blog regularly again. At least until I get to deadlines for my dissertation.