Moving Is for the Young

This past weekend, Beauty moved to her new digs. It seems not so long ago there was a time when my friends seemed to move apartments all the time, and I looked forward to it. I liked moving other people. I didn’t have to pack or unpack any boxes. No cleaning was involved. I just showed up, dragged heavy stuff in and out of a truck for a few hours, then ate pizza and drank beer for the rest of the day. This move did involve pizza and beer… and a big truck. But after that, it wasn’t quite like I remember.

The boxes are heavier now. And where I used to seek out the heavy awkward stuff to move as sort of a personal challenge, this time I just sort of pretended it was invisible and hoped her two 20-something nephews would grab it – a strategy which was quite effective I might add.

Today the realities are beginning to hit home. My legs and shoulders are sore. I’m exhausted. I’m grateful to be going back to work. It was a satisfying weekend in a way. We got a lot done, and the new place looks great. But it may take awhile for me to make the emotional adjustment that my credit card is more powerful than my muscles now, and perhaps in the future I should just hire movers… or find more 20-something bucks like I used to be that are grateful to move heavy things for pizza and beer.

The Likability Liability

The field of presidential candidates is down to four. Well okay, probably three, but Huckabee’s still in there pitching. And I find myself in the upside-down situation of the more I like each candidate as an individual, the less I want them to be President. I don’t think these two factors are necessarily related. That is, I don’t want them to be President because I don’t like them. But the fact that it turns out this way concerns me.

First, my personal popularity finals:

Mike Huckabee – far and away the most likable person in the race. He’s funny, self-deprecating, down to Earth, caring, and just seems like a good all around Joe. If you missed his participation with Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert on which of them “made” Mike Huckabee, then you should look it up on YouTube. I’d gladly give up any of my neighbors to have him move in next door. Unfortunately, as President he scares the hell out of me. His policies (social, foreign, and economic) are woefully misguided. Not to mention that he’s pretty well promised to promote his view of Christianity as law.

John McCain – a straight talker, an affable guy, and a man of opinions and convictions, who can entertain and discuss both sides of an issue. I like listening to him, and I’d love the opportunity to just sit and kick ideas around with him. He should own the adjacent cottage at the lake so I could while away a summer afternoon on his front porch with a couple of beers. Unfortunately, his foreign policy and military policy is just more of what we’ve been suffering through for 7+ years. I can’t abide any more of that.

Barack Obama – an eloquent speaker. He knows how to turn a phrase and work a crowd. It would be entertaining to go and watch him speak. However, I can’t say I’d want to spend time with him personally. I get the feeling it would be like being caught in a 1-on-1 infomercial. He’s a great salesman. Unfortunately, he lacks a product. To the extent he has any policies, they are pale rehashes of programs proposed by Clinton and Edwards. And while I think these are directionally correct, it’s not clear he’s the one to implement them.

Hillary Clinton – a smart, savvy, and politically astute player. She has solid policy positions, a keen intellect, unbounded ambition, willingness to compromise in the name of progress, and many other qualities that make her the best choice of the field to be President. But in honesty, I don’t like her. I don’t hate her. But I don’t find that I enjoy her talks, and I’m not anxious to suffer a dinner with her.

All of this matters little I guess. But I think it is interesting how my gut and my head are in almost diametric opposition to one another. That doesn’t happen to me too much. Fortunately, my gut doesn’t vote,

The Bias Against Atheists

This is an exceptionally well written piece, discussing the bias against atheists in the US. It’s not approaching it from the “atheists as victims ” angle, but rather just exposing current attitudes and their relationship to historical attitudes about other minorities. Good food for thought.

The author touches on the point that atheists are misunderstood. I think this is understated. In part it’s fueled by the reality that most people don’t know any atheists. (In reality, they probably do, but as the article states, many of them stay well closeted.) Much as gays, blacks, and other minorities required some everyday exposure to the population in general before they began to gain acceptance, the same is true of atheists.

But a larger difficulty is that while there is a natural attempt to define us, there is little cohesive about us. We are a very diverse group, only loosely held together by our lack of faith. It’s hard to define a group by the lack of something. It’s like trying to profile people who don’t drive SUVs. It might be because they are rabid tree-huggers, but it might be because they can’t afford one, don’t have a place to park it, or any of a dozen other reasons. There is no atheist culture. Because of that, I think it will be all the harder for people to know and accept us as a group.

Maybe the place to start is to accept us as individuals, including accepting and allowing us to openly assert our personal convictions. Maybe you could even ask us about our views of the world. Most of us are actually eager to share (not preach), but we don’t because it seems to make you so darned uncomfortable.

Holy Days of Obligation

A friend of mine used to refer to days like the impending Valentine’s Day as “holy days of obligation”. Much like the real Catholic Holy Days of Obligation, you had duties you needed to perform, or else you risked eternal damnation. These were days with very little upside. They were mostly opportunities to fail, and guys (in general) were having a good day if they didn’t crash and burn. Most of us are lucky to have a lifetime total of a handful of jewelry store commercial moments where you manage to do something she’ll treasure forever. And even pulling off such a feat is fraught with danger, for you’ve risked raising the bar such that next year that is the new base level of expectation.

Now in fairness, my lady is really exceptional about this sort of thing. At least for all the Hallmark Holidays, it’s nice if I remember, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of downside to letting the day pass by. But the conditioning from your childhood still looms. The trepidation is part of our male culture more than it’s based on our personal experience.

Which is why a recent question from a young lady with a new boyfriend caught me by surprise. “What do boys want for Valentine’s Day?”

My initial reaction was mostly trying not to snicker. I’d never really ever thought about this. The idea that boys would have an expectation for such a holiday just seems a foreign notion. From the boys’ perspective, these holidays are all about girls. You see, even when boys are on the receiving end of a gift from a girl, they are mostly concerned about whether or not they are having the appropriate reaction to the present. After all, girls seem to put so much thought and consideration into choosing even a card. They expect you to be appreciative, and more importantly, touched by their effort and their sentiment. Again, an opportunity for a guy to fail. So this is kind of a double-whammy for guys. There’s pressure on both the giving and the receiving end. From that perspective, not doing anything for your guy at least takes half the burden away – a gift in itself. If you really want to make an impression, feign being thrilled over whatever lame thing he brought you (or didn’t), and you’ve made his day.

When you get right down to it, what guys want most for Valentine’s Day is for it to be over.