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Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
-- William Saroyan

Blog Posts for September 2005

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Katrina Needs Rudy Giuliani


It occurs to me this morning that a strong leader needs to step forward and help New Orleans get itself back together. My recommendation: Rudy Giuliani. He's been there. He knows how to accomplish things. He'd get law and order back in high gear. The mayor of New Orleans seems a bit lost, and as Brendan says, a little loose with the facts.

Also, don't forget to give something.

ETC: The picture below will be seen a lot, I expect. It's New Orleans' fleet of busses.

Unused. Idle. Empty. And now flooded.

I think Bush's initial response to this tragedy was tragically delayed, and he agrees with that and spoke to it, admitting the inadequacy of the federal reaction.

The mayor of New Orleans, on the other hand, is not owning up to his lapse of judgement in failing to use the existing materials at hand to get people out of the city. Instead, he accuses the feds of holding "press conferences." While he, himself, is holding an interview with CNN.

He says, "I need reinforcements, I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man.... This is a national disaster."

He had the busses, before the storm hit, and he chose not to use them. His "mandatory" evacuation relied on the means of the people and not on the means of the city. And now he's politicizing the disaster and deaths, for which he owns some responsibility. I have no words for that, other than utter disgust.

As I said before, no politician can stand tall in this episode. Nobody made good decisions. But backbone would dictate that a person own their own shit, and it's callously regrettable that Ray Nagin can't admit his own culpability.


by Brett Rogers, 9/1/2005 7:07:55 AM


I Go Swimming


My boys are back in swimming lessons and so I signed up at the Y today to swim laps on a regular basis. It's something that I used to do. When I was in the Army (late 80's), I swam 1 to 2 miles a day. My pace was about 50 seconds per lap, so I would finish a mile in about 30 minutes. Fairly average.

Fast forward over 15 years, I haven't swum at all since 1999. Part of it is self-consciousness. I don't look good in a swim trunks.

But the other parts are laziness and rationalization. Swimming well is hard work. It's a total body workout. When I'm accustomed to swimming, it's invigorating. When I'm not, I'm lethargic after I finish.

And water activity doesn't burn fat like land activity, so I rationalize it and say, "Gosh, you could do other things..." Now, I bike and walk on a regular basis, so gee, shouldn't I do that instead? But today I really wanted to get back into the water. So I did.

After the boys' swim lessons, I took them to a sports store (No, Jacob, we're not buying a remote control submarine for your time in the pool at swimming lessons... Austin, put the football down. Um, I meant set it down, not spike it...) and I bought goggles for all of us. Later, the boys went home with their mom. Lap swim at 4 PM...

I went to the facility in the late afternoon and walked out to the pool. It was kind of cool to step back into the water after all this time. I stretched a bit and then started off. I managed to do 5 laps straight with no problem. 36 laps is a mile.

Knowing that this was my first time back at it in quite a while, I had to stagger my laps with a 30-second break every couple of laps.

But here's the thing... it felt good. It's funny how the body remembers exercise. There's this "Oh yeah, THIS! Woo hoo - we remember this!" your muscles say out loud and then really get into it. 18 laps later, and 30 minutes later, I was spent. I'm nowhere near my former self, but it felt good.

My immediate goals are to get down to 300 pounds and to get to where I can swim a mile straight out with no breaks, both by the end of September. I don't care how long it takes right now - speed can come later. But the goals are do-able. The swimming will be a good replacement for bicycling over the winter, so I'll be interested to see where I end up at the end of next spring.

Hopefully, I won't hear myself singing "Baby Beluga" in my head by that time...


1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 9/3/2005 6:58:47 PM



Austin and Cub did some work today with my paint gear. My brushes are bigger and fuller than the ones with which they normally work. And that paint from a tube thing... certainly more color choices too than the standard Prang 8-color set that they get at school.

So they worked and made a wonderful mess and turned out these great works:

Kids are funny in their inclinations. Like last night, we were coming home from the Waukee Warrior football game and stopped at the local grocery store to grab milk and a few other things to make chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast. As we came out of the store, the in-ground sprinklers for the lawn had come on, so I encouraged them to run in the sprinklers. Austin, no problem. He was as wet as could be before I had loaded the groceries into the truck. Cub? He had barely moved from the sidewalk, but was still having fun watching his brother. So after I finished, I picked him up and carried him laughing through the water.

"I'm wetter than you, Austin."
"Are not."
"Are too."

Today, it was Cub who just walked right up and announced that he wanted to paint.

"Like you do, Dad."
"You mean with this paper and these paints?"
"Mmm hmm," nodding his head.

Austin watched Cub for a while before asking if he could try it. Austin painted the Iowa picture. Big Hawkeyes fan, he is.

But each had their own fearlessness, and each had their own fears. Kids are endlessly fascinating.


by Brett Rogers, 9/3/2005 9:04:50 PM

Like Father, Like Son


Nick brought me his school pictures tonight.

Here's him, at 16:

Here's me, at 17:

Bari, Nick, and I were debating the differences, but it's weird to see my children convey elements of me in them. Of the five, Nick most resembles me. My features are more hidden in the others. But I keep teasing Nick: "See, I had hair when I was your age..."

He gives me nervous laughter back.

ETC: I found this picture of my mom, at about 19:

She has more hair than the both of us combined ;)


1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 9/4/2005 12:55:29 AM

Mike Brown's Incompetence


A friend of mine has a quote that he likes to cite on occasion:

Never assume malice, when incompetence can explain it all.

Rapper Kanye West assumes malice for the lack of initial federal response. Some others do as well. But in my read of President Bush's management style, he broadly relies on his delegates to manage their world below him, and only bring his attention to a matter if he's required.

The one blog I've been reading for Katrina news since before the hurricane started is Brendan Loy, an amateur weather buff who understands meteorology pretty well and a law school student. Very smart guy, and he tirelessly finds great Katrina news.

He's pissed. And he should be. I'm now pissed as well.

Brendan, in the link I provide above, quotes FEMA director Mike Brown as saying that the feds thought Katrina would be just another "typical hurricane situation." Hence, the slow response.

If you're a clerk in a sales office in Little Rock, Arkansas, I might expect that assessment. Or if you're a 5th grader in Sacramento, that logic makes sense. But if you're the director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, such as Mike Brown is, that statement is beyond the pale.

Bush is famous for his loyalty to his staff. We could debate all day whether the resignation of Rumsfeld was justified - I would disagree if you thought that it was. We could debate Karl Rove's lingering stay in Bush's troop of advisors. But there simply is no debating the retention of Mike Brown.

Read Brendan's post. Here's the link again.

Brown's gotta go. End of story. And if one week from now Bush feels as he did last Friday, when Bush praised Brown for doing a heck of a job, then I'll be a letter-writing fool.

ETC: And I want to be clear about something - Brown's aloofness and extreme misunderstanding of the disaster in no way forgives the local officials, such as Mayor Ray Nagin, who failed to get people out of harm's way. In fact, I put Brown and Nagin in the same class of aloofness and extreme misunderstanding. They are two people not fit for the positions in which they are employed.

MORE ETC: I've learned that Mike Brown's previous experience was as a manager of horse shows.

Which makes this picture that's been on Drudge for the last 24 hours rather ironic:

Evidently, what qualified him for his new position was that he was a GOP activist and former college roommate of the guy who used to head FEMA. Cronyism. I'm thoroughly disgusted.


1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 9/4/2005 9:53:55 AM

Oregon Waterfall


After laundry and household chores today, I fired up my new Handel and Bach downloads from MusicMatch and broke out the paints.

This is from a picture of a spot just east of Mt. Hood where the kids and I had lunch one afternoon while on vacation in the spring of 1997. It was gorgeous.

See the orange? I've never tried liquid frisket before. It's like rubber cement and operates as a masking element to prevent paint from entering an area that is to remain white. I brushed it on and it dried quickly enough. So I'm doing the background of the trees and having fun with shades of purple. But the frisket has to come off by tomorrow afternoon. Evidently I use an eraser to get it off. I hope it comes off okay...


Read the whole story of "Oregon Waterfall"
by Brett Rogers, 9/4/2005 8:43:48 PM

Oregon Waterfall - A Bit Later


When I paint, I lose track of time. I'm a little further along... I hope to have the trees in the upper-left completed tomorrow.

But now, it's time for bed.


Read the whole story of "Oregon Waterfall"
by Brett Rogers, 9/5/2005 2:09:33 AM

Oregon Waterfall - Labor Day


I removed the frisket, or liquid resist, and it rolled right off with no problem. I have a picture I'd wanted to do a while ago, but hadn't. I need to find a model because I want to insert someone into the image before I get started. But that's another painting another day.

I started this one because I like the memory and the scene, but also because my technique with trees needs work. This is good practice. One thing that I did learn in painting this is that I need to paint from the background out. Which means that no matter how dark the background is, that goes first. With watercolor, that can be tough because lighter colors will just blend into the background colors and you never get a true lighter color. Or, you have to overcompensate, which can lead to strange results. So in this painting, there is a near-black, purplish background for much of the picture. I didn't start with that in my work, and I've realized that acrylics or oils would have been better for this, but I've never used those, so watercolors it is until I get to know those mediums.

It's coming along fine. I'm nearing the waterfall itself, so I have to be careful. I had hoped to keep the resist on a bit longer, but there are darker areas near the edge of the water, so I had to remove it.

I'm not completely satisfied with my effort on the trees thus far, but I am applying what I learn as I go. We'll see if the trees at the right of the picture turn out differently than on the left.

ETC: I didn't like the graininess of the scanner picture that I took, so here's a picture with my little Sony Cybershot:

Quite a difference. I hate my HP scanner.


1 Comment
Read the whole story of "Oregon Waterfall"
by Brett Rogers, 9/5/2005 3:51:51 PM



We get motivated by many things... fear, love, sex, greed. But something always drives our decisions and spurs us to action. In acting, we have some goal in mind. Generally speaking, our actions have some purpose at heart.

We also, generally speaking, put in the least amount of effort required for the actions that we take to achieve our goals. I once knew someone who planned to take a poster to work that said, "I give 100% at the office: 10% on Monday, 20% on Tuesday, etc..." If pressed, we can always think of ways that we could have given more and tried harder.

So when do we truly rise up and give 110%? When someone else is vying for the very goal that we have in mind. If I'm jockeying for a promotion, for example, and someone else is as well, I will shine - above and beyond what I normally do - to win that promotion. I double and re-double my effort. When I do this, I sometimes surprise myself by doing things that I didn't know that I could.

In short, I better myself.

That's the beauty of athletics. It teaches a person how to reach down and grab untapped resolve to sustain the effort needed to win. But if it weren't for the competition at hand, it would be as casual as Sunday afternoon touch football with the family. Not quite the same fervor.

It's also the beauty of capitalism. Each would-be business has to vie for the affections of the market by beating the competition in price, selection, and service. Competition drives efficiency into every business, or the business does not sustain itself. Sure, there are fly-by-night operations that make a quick buck, but like Worldcom, the truth is eventually known and the business withers.

It's for this reason that it is an unreasonable expectation for anyone to believe that government is a suitable answer in any crisis. Government has no competition. Efficiency will never be driven into government by Darwinian market selection. We're kidding ourselves to believe that government can be efficient. They have no reason to be efficient - no entity will replace government if government fails. Government will persist, in spite of itself.

I haven't been shy about commenting on the questionable decisions of government officials throughout the events brought on by Katrina. But elected officials are never elected because we see them as wonderful managers. Quite the contrary. We elect them because we buy into their showmanship. We purchase the facade of the man or woman in electing our representatives. A truly talented manager well-suited for the many tasks of governing is not the same as finding a person who best represents our beliefs. And unfortunately, that's usually the criteria for electing someone. We're concerned that they believe in our views on abortion. We want them to view society as we do. But such things have no basis on their ability to withstand and persevere in a crisis. Or to manage a budget. Or to encourage the best traits in those who work with them to run government.

Government can't be efficient, not only because it has no competition, but because its leaders typically aren't gifted in leadership - only showmanship and electability.

And so we stand aghast at the spectacle of New Orleans and Mississippi and wonder why. And so commissions will be brought to bear. In part, to try and resolve better practices, and in part because it's politically opportunistic to do so. But it's a facade that is only as strong as the leaders elected to carry out such best practices.

Peter Drucker once said that efficiency is "doing the right things right." In business, that will happen because otherwise the business will fail. In sports, that will happen or the team will lose. But it will never happen in government because its survival is never in jeopardy. There is no true threat to its existence.

ETC: One other thing - this is also the reason that unions are so bad for America. It's next to impossible to fire someone in government, no matter how inefficient they are. Unions kill competitiveness in the workplace. Merit is moot, and tenure is everything.


by Brett Rogers, 9/8/2005 7:13:13 AM

Over at Kris' House


Over at Kris' house talking web site, art, and music. More later...

ETC: Wow - that was awesome. I went to Kris' pad to talk about how to make a commercial art web site cool and not just like an expensive online gallery. She has the best family, a terrific dog, and these art cards that she doesn't show us online but they blew my socks off. Particularly her Sandponies picture... and Kris, since I know you'll read this, yes, make a print and sign it and I'll buy it from you because it's just incredible. I want it!

This weekend, I'll write up the gist of our conversation and we'll see where we go from there. It's fun to brainstorm with someone that gifted. Makes you think that anything is possible...


by Brett Rogers, 9/8/2005 9:18:53 PM



Just got my new lamp in:

It's specifically designed to mimic sunlight and to fit over an easel. It has a large and strong clamp. Here's a picture of it at my desk here at work.

You would never realize how yellowing the light is in the building until you compare to the light output from this lamp. Astounding, the difference.


by Brett Rogers, 9/9/2005 2:17:18 PM

No Longer a Luddite


I don't like cell phones. That's my personal opinion. I don't mind others having them. No, my distaste for cell phones is more because I like to be in the moment where I am without the opportunity for someone to call me wherever I go.

But, I actually broke down and bought one. I figured as project manager, I'd need one. So if I'm to join society, I might as well get the nicest phone I could find. Which in my case was the LG 535. It takes nice pictures:

And this one:

Very nice. While out on the playground with the boys tonight, I saw the most interesting mold. Yes, mold.

I haven't seen a mold like that since I lived in Oregon, where yellow lichen abounded on rock walls. Strange.

But the phone is cool. I was even able to check my Yahoo mailbox.

I expect I'll spend more time taking pictures with it than talking on it. The ability to instantly upload my images to the web is a nice feature.

I wonder if I can blog from the phone?


by Brett Rogers, 9/9/2005 11:45:42 PM



Via Instapundit, I found this Washington Post article, that cites cronyism in the Bush administration.

Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But scorching criticism has been aimed at FEMA, and it starts at the top with [FEMA director Michael] Brown, who has admitted to errors in responding to Hurricane Katrina and the flooding in New Orleans. The Oklahoma native, 50, was hired to the agency after a rocky tenure as commissioner of a horse sporting group by former FEMA director Joe M. Allbaugh, the 2000 Bush campaign manager and a college friend of Brown's.

Rhode, Brown's chief of staff, is a former television reporter who came to Washington as advance deputy director for Bush's Austin-based 2000 campaign and then the White House. He joined FEMA in April 2003 after stints at the Commerce Department and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Altshuler is a former presidential advance man. His predecessor, Scott Morris, was a media strategist for Bush with the Austin firm Maverick Media.

David I. Maurstad, who stepped down as Nebraska lieutenant governor in 2001 to join FEMA, has served as acting director for risk reduction and federal insurance administrator since June 2004. Daniel A. Craig, a onetime political fundraiser and campaign adviser, came to FEMA in 2001 from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where he directed the eastern regional office, after working as a lobbyist for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

That pisses me off. But at the same time, I'm thrilled.

I'm nowhere near naive enough to believe that cronyism is new in Washington or to the White House. I expect that Washington is riddled with it and that no politician is clean of it. We're human, and we tend to aggregate with people whom we trust. Or, worse, we might hire someone to reward them for past loyalty or favors. But it's a bad practice. It's an uncapitalist approach, as it's completely without merit.

I'm not surprised that Bush did it. When a president comes into office, there are a ton of jobs to fill and the hiring and assigning and appointing is fast and furious. I'm quite sure that many people are in positions that they don't deserve. But here's why I'm thrilled...

This increasingly transparent world in which we live exposes much that has gone unnoticed in the past. Cronyism is a malady that has plagued American government since, well, probably its inception. But with this scandal, it's less likely to happen in the future. More people will pay attention to appointments and hirings and assignments in future administrations. That's a very good thing.

So the question will become how good someone might be at hiring people whom they don't know... which might mean that it takes a bit longer to fill positions. But hopefully it means that the people employed are actually well-suited for the positions in which they work.


by Brett Rogers, 9/10/2005 9:11:26 AM




Four years ago, I sat in my little office in Lorimor, Iowa, trying to get a software company launched. That morning, I sat in shock listening to Peter Jennings on the radio as the events unfolded. I had no TV at the office; I got all of my news form the web that day. So many people unexpectedly gave up their lives and I went home numb, wondering what it all meant and grieving for the people who died.

When it became apparent that it was a terrorist attack, the next days were followed by a fierce resolve. Since that time, we've taken the fight to the enemy and we have avoided a second attack. President Bush was the right man at the right time. Our troops, both active duty and reserve, have sacrificed an incredible amount so that we can continue to enjoy our lives in peace and freedom here at home.

America is the greatest country ever to exist. My hope is that the freedoms we enjoy become the freedoms that every other person on the planet gets to enjoy one day as well. I believe that the dream and the promise of freedom is being born in countries that have never had a hint of freedom as we know it. I also believe that only America could have taken something so horribly tragic and turned it into something so positive.

And the best part is that the terrorists catalyzed the exact opposite effect that they first sought to deliver. No one can defeat this noisy, tumultuous, disagreeing, vibrant, ever-changing, freedom-loving country.


1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 9/11/2005 8:40:07 AM




Well, today's a milestone for me: I've now lost over 50 pounds since last fall. Losing the weight is almost effortless now. The habit of eating a whole foods/no refined sugar diet is firmly entrenched. Exercising regularly gets no fight from me. This morning, I woke early to swim at 5 AM. I was able to swim 18 laps (1/2 mile) non-stop and did it in 23 minutes. Biked to work. I'll walk through the building at some point today. Actually, I would think that it's hard not to lose weight that way.

This morning in the pool, I passed the fitness room with its loud, driving beat. Made me thankful for the pool, where it's quiet but for the rhythmic gurgle of the water around my head. Head out, mouth slightly above water, breathe in. Head down, air out; bubbles surface by my ears. I concentrate on the scull of my hands through the water, reaching as far forward as I can as I roll my body to one side and the other with each stroke. Five years ago, my feet would cramp up as I swam. No longer. Must be all the bananas that I now eat.

Organic Dole bananas were on sale over the weekend. 29˘ a pound. Unreal. I bought 4 bags of oranges ($1.48 per pound), red seedless grapes ($1.88 per pound), and about 30 pounds of bananas. The woman at the checkout asked me, "Like fruit?" Except for four steaks, it was all that I bought.

This morning, after I returned from my swim, I juiced eight oranges and then blended the juice with 5 frozen bananas. Nick and Aaron both love that for breakfast as I do, so we all drank deeply, gladly. It's a ritual, us three tall Rogers men gathered for, as Nick puts it, a "fruit party." He nibbled on grapes while he waited for the nectar from my juicer.

For work today, I donned a shirt that I haven't worn in about 4 years. The last time that I wore it, it was tight. Not so now. I'm now at my year 2000 weight. Once I venture into the 290's later this month, I'll be at 1999 weight. It's like rolling back the clock in so many ways. I just feel unbelievably good. Younger than my 40 years. I actually had a 38-year-old woman guess that she was older than me the other day. And she looks good too! Perhaps she was just being polite, but it's hard not to smile at that.


by Brett Rogers, 9/12/2005 9:00:15 AM



The Israeli army pulled out of Gaza yesterday and the Palestinians swarmed over their newly acquired land on their first day. The writer for the Boston Globe captured the scene pretty well.

Mohammed Maluala'in, 33, rushed out of his house in pajamas at dawn when he heard that the Israeli army had left Rafiah Yam, the abandoned Jewish settlement separated by a few hundred yards of sandy no-man's land from his concrete apartment block in Rafah, on the Egyptian border.

That meant he and his neighbors, whose houses are pockmarked with bullet holes from years of conflict, would no longer have a nighttime curfew. They'd no longer have to thread their way through each other's back yards instead of walking on the street facing the settlement, where suspicious movements once drew Israeli fire.

He was still standing by the gate in mild shock yesterday afternoon. He knew he had a silly grin on his face.

''I'm in a good mood," he said, giggling.

Yes, the Palestinians also demolished the synagogues that remained (what if the Israelis had set fire to mosques?), but hopefully the Palestinians will realize something very important: the Jews could completely obliterate the Palestinians, if they chose to do so, but instead they gave the Palestinians the land and the freedom to wander without Israeli soldiers looking over their shoulders. I hope that the Palestinian leaders, post-Arafat, understand this gift and that they make their people understand the opportunity it represents.

One fella in the article says that now it's time to fire more Qassam rockets at the Israelis to push for more land and to get revenge for the martyrs. Giggles will not last long if that attitude wins out.


1 Comment
by Brett Rogers, 9/13/2005 7:32:07 AM


A Lot of Things


About a week ago, I'd wanted to post something I'd written a couple of years ago. It follows below, but I found that I couldn't post it because it was too long. My blogware that I wrote prohibits me from posting anything greater than 8,000 characters in length.

So I've been meaning to change it, but mercy, life has been busy. And I've been restless. Something's eating at me, but I don't know what it is. I went to bed last night from great fatigue at 8 PM and I've been up since about 11:15 PM. Just can't sleep.

I worked on my waterfall painting but lost control of my brush as I worked the waterfall itself. Not sure what to do with it now, but I wouldn't categorize it as a happy accident. A fella who paints once told me that he hates watercolor because mistakes are so final. "Not so with oils. You scrape, and start anew." But I like that about watercolor. It forces discipline and focus. And who knows - I may salvage it.

So I'm up, and this is a test of the correction of my 8,000 character limit. Then I may paint for a while. But anyway, here's what I had written:

You have a great advantage over the rest of the animal kingdom. Know what it is?

It's choice.

Animals run on instinct. They do what they do because their very nature tells them that they should. They don't really have a choice. There are no second thoughts. There is no guilt. Ambiguity? Not a chance.

Not so with us humans. We have second thoughts and guilt and indecision. But wait - I did say that this was an advantage...

Like animals, we also have instinct.

It may be our genes driving our impulses. Maybe it's how we grew up. Whatever drives our baser instincts, there are natural tendencies that we all have. Some are beneficial, and some are not.

But unlike animals, we have choice.

Choice can allow us to select our way. We don't have to be a slave to instinct.

At many moments throughout our day, we make small choices, almost imperceptible choices that determine what it is that we do each day.

I don't mean just the big stuff, like "wake up, go to work, come home..." I mean the small stuff.

Visit the vending machine or not?

Make a sarcastic comment or say something nice?

Answer the phone or let the machine get it while watching TV?

Elevator or stairs?
Each of these moments is what I call a "decision switch."

Like a train getting routed through a rail yard, our decision switch routes our actions many times a day. It's the instant of decision; it's not the internal debate that leads up it. It's a moment, and it happens so fast that it can be hard to recognize.

Normally, a decision switch moment is routed according to our natural impulses.

Ever have someone ask you why you did something and you didn't know why? Ever feel like you just can't help it? Couldn't explain it? If so, then you are truly part of the animal kingdom. That, my friend, is baser instinct, but there is a better way...


We define who we are by the decisions we make every day.

Not only the life-altering decisions that affect everyone around us but also, and most importantly, the day-to-day decisions. 

Simple things like what to cook for dinner. Should we have fish and vegetables, or hamburgers and french fries? We all know that the best thing for us is the fish but boy, are we craving those fries. And then it's decision time, driving with the kids in the van on the way home. We pass countless fast food places and each one tempts us, stacking the internal argument and soon enough, impulsively, we veer into the Burger King parking lot to the cheers of our kids who all call out for a Kid's Meal. The turn of the steering wheel came directly from the routing of the decision switch. Burgers and fries it is.

A decision switch takes place in a fraction of a second.

How many happen in a day? Each decision determines who we are, how we live, and how we present ourselves to the world. Think of all the little decisions that we make in just one single day. Really. Stop to think of it. Each day is packed with so many events and decisions and interactions and conversations.

It's true. What we do each day matters so much to who we are.

Consider that every 30 years, we live about 11,000 days.

If you truly stop to think of each day and how much happens within a day, the thought of that much life should stagger you.

What do you want the sum of the days of your life to be? We don't have to be the essence of our baser instincts. We can choose who we are and become the person that we want to be.

We hear people all of the time ask us when we are young, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

But is that the wrong question? Maybe it should be not "What do you want to be?" but instead...

"Who do you want to be?"

Everyone has a career goal, but how about a Self Goal?

The decision switch is generally run by instinct, but it doesn't have to be.

You might have seen the movie, Iron Giant. In it, a boy is told and later tells someone else that "You are who you choose to be." Exactly (and great movie). It's the importance of choice. Of taking the time to really consider who we want to be.

What we do for a living is so much less important than how we live.

We are creatures born with the ability to choose. So how do we choose who we want to be and become that person?

  1. We stop to think of who we want to be and then embark on a long-range plan to be that person. This choice is a SelfGoal.
  2. We maintain an awareness to guide our decision switch moments along the path of a Self Goal. This is harder. The first is saying it; the second is doing it.
Let's say that I want to be a better parent. That's my Self Goal. But I'm sitting down to watch a TV show that I like and a half an hour into the show, my son comes up to me and asks if I would read him a book. At that moment, there is a little decision-making process and I weigh my desire for the show and my son's request. Which do I choose?

If I'm engrossed in the show, I absent-mindedly respond, "No, I'm watching the TV right now." Far from my thinking is the Self Goal I had set for myself.

Living in control of your decision switch takes practice.

Here's how:

  • First, learn to recognize your decision switch. At first, you'll notice it after the fact. You'll see the actions that resulted from the decision switch. Stop then and retrace your thinking. You'll come to see it and then begin to recognize it as it happens.
  • Second, learn to interrupt the decision switch to keep it in line with your Self Goals. This requires pause. The switch is naturally aligned with whatever is easiest to do. The mind, a naturally lazy thing, will make excuses for you. Don't listen to it.
  • Finally, remember that failure at the decision switch is normal and to be expected. It takes work to align the switch with Self Goals so that these moments don't need to be so conscious.
Living in control of your decision switch is day-to-day and moment-by-moment.

So, who do you want to be?

Sometimes, it's easier to answer that question by simply doing what others want from us. In the movie, The Last Samurai, Tom Cruise shouts in exasperation to his antagonist, "What do you want from me?"

He is asked in reply, "What do you want from yourself?"

We can make choices about who we want to be based upon what others want, but these choices seldom stick because we do it to please others, and as you know from experience, people can be hard to please and we wonder why we're doing these things.

We need to choose our Self Goals to satisfy ourselves.

If our aim is self-satisfaction, then we won't need the recognition of others to sustain us. Our satisfaction at achieving what we choose becomes the only reward we need.

So, who do you want to be?

To choose a Self Goal for myself, I first need to be as honest as I can be about who I am now. If I want to be a better parent, then I need to ask: Am I good parent? Do I yell at my kids? Neglect them? Listen to them? Where am I today? Only if I know that can I plot a course for the person that I want to be.

Self-awareness demands a no-excuses honesty.

That's right - an honesty of the soul - the kind of honesty that no one will ever see because it's completely about you for your own satisfaction.

You may not know right away what your Self Goals should be. That's okay. Self Goals should be well considered and will need re-assessment from time to time. Circumstances change and you will too as you grow. But it's important to dig in and be honest first. The Self Goals will come.

Self-awareness also demands a bit of mercy.

To admit that I am flawed and then take ownership for those flaws is hard.

We live in a society where we hear that "Failure is not an option." We can't admit failure. Failure means ridicule and ineptitude. It's unacceptable.

Failure is the "f" word. Parents don't want to see it in their children. Employers don't tolerate it in their workers. We don't want see it in ourselves because we're afraid that it might define us.

But this attitude ignores an indisputable fact: like it or not, failure is inevitable. Failure is not only inevitable and apparent to everyone, but our failure is also okay.

Toddlers fail at walking. A lot. Nevertheless, they keep walking.

Too many of us only love ourselves after we have succeeded.

If we fail, we see the failure we have at decision switch moments, and we lower our opinion of ourselves. Because we have no success (yet), we give up.

We need love most - from ourselves - when we are failing. Nobody rejects the 13-month-old who keeps falling. Failure is a natural part of growth. Failure means that we tried. It doesn't mean that we can't.

If a credit card company can love us 2 months after bankruptcy (financial failure), then we can love ourselves after decision switch failures. Only if we do this can we persist and stay focused on our Self Goal, even if it takes a lifetime. The decision switch, that little guide that keeps us oriented toward the Self Goal, takes practice, just like walking.

You can do this.

You can make your life what you choose for it to be, so that it positively impacts the lives of others.


"Stop. Focus. Change. Because I am who I choose to be."


by Brett Rogers, 9/20/2005 2:03:32 AM




In my previous post, I was concerned that my work on the water was not focused enough. I just need to trust the process and keep going.

ETC: I've abandoned this painting... I did some nice work on it, but once you screw up on a watercolor, it's hard to recover.


Read the whole story of "Oregon Waterfall"
by Brett Rogers, 9/20/2005 2:59:52 AM

Cronynism, Part II


Conservative heavy, Michelle Malkin, points out that the Bush administration still needs to work out the cob webs in its post-Mike Brown era of hiring. Bush is appointing cutie-pie Julie Myers, a 35-year-old lawyer, to a high level immigration and customs position. Michelle highlights this section of her, ahem, resumé:

Her uncle is Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, the departing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. She married [Michael] Chertoff's current chief of staff, John F. Wood, on Saturday.

I hope that they fix this - and fast - by 86'ing her nomination.

Michelle offers up Pete Nunez, a former US Attorney in southern California, as an example of someone more eminently qualified for the job.


by Brett Rogers, 9/20/2005 7:41:34 PM



So I mentioned a few days ago that I might blog by cell phone - well I am now. I'm waiting out a storm on a runway in Minneapolis.


by Brett Rogers, 9/21/2005 12:00:00 AM

Quiet for a While


As I transition into my new position here at Wells, I will blog next to nothing at all for several weeks - maybe painting and pictures only. I have a lot of studying to do, and a lot of work in front of me. But in the meantime, check out anyone on the left. And remember: life is the sum of one's choices. If someone is going to kick you, just be sure that you are pointed in the right direction first :)


by Brett Rogers, 9/23/2005 1:25:32 PM

Acrylics Class


I started my new weekly acrylics class.

Tom, the guy leading the class, threw some fruit on the table and showed us "umber washing." Kind of a cool thing. He explained how Rembrandt used the technique in painting. So I painted a lime and a red cup nearby for some composition.

We used the instructor's paints and not our own, and acrylics - at least with these student grade paints - is a weird medium. The brush slices right through the paint to the canvas. So it's pushing around and flattening ridges of paint. Very different from watercolor.

Next week, we actually get into the tubes of paint, which should be fun. I'm interested to see how that is different from the paint we used today.


by Brett Rogers, 9/27/2005 11:46:49 PM