Friday, September 29, 2006


The Accidental Feminist

I had an interesting discussion with my friend David Teal last Wednesday. David's a smart guy and has read a lot. And I always consider it a pleasure to converse with people smarter than me. So this was a very fun conversation.

The word feminist carries a lot of different meanings for different people. In many cases, the meaning of the word is so mixed up with emotional connotations that people forget what the word feminist really means. According to the Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary sitting on my desk, feminist means "the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men".

As the father of three daughters, you could ask me "What professions should your daughters be prohibited from because they are women?". I'd tell you "None!". It strikes me as downright weird, but for a father in the 1960's and even the 1970's, the list would be a mile long. In fact the list would be so long that it'd be much easier to ask "What professions are acceptable for your daughter?" because the answer was so short - teacher, nurse, or secretary. How about careers as politicians, engineers, or construction works. You'd probably get a derisive snort, at best, from a man of the '60s or '70s.

How about this one - is a single mother of one or more kids an inherently bad thing? You don't have to go back too many decades for the term 'single mother' to be something that people whispered behind the backs of the poor female who was "afflicted" with this condition. Here's another question that might identify you, like me, as an accidental feminist. Should women (and in my case, I always think of my daughters) be allowed to compete for the same scholarships as men? My answer is "abso-fricken-lutely". If they want a shot at an engineering scholarship or a military/ROTC scholarship or a athletic scholarship, then they have every right to compete for it. Again, this is the sort of thing that most men and women of the '60s or 70s would've scoffed about and declare as radical feminist rhetoric. It doesn't sound radical to me, it sounds fair.

Now feminism is also something that provokes a strong emotional response, especially in men. The basic fact is that any time roles change, society goes through a period of negation. That is, to be a feminist negates many of the traditional things found most valuable by or for men. This experience of negating the value of a man's traditional role is very troubling to many men. I think that most of the troubles that white men are having these days is that it's so fricken hard to tell what our role is. Go back 30 years and all you had to do was emulate John Wayne. Today - no such luck. There is no definitive role model to emulate.

If you take a look at my friend Steve's blog, a feminist is a pretty nasty thing. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen him NOT refer to an outspoken feminist as a feminazi. I'm not saying his experience with feminists is wrong. But it's very different from mine because, well, I have daughters who I want to have every opportunity that my son has (which is the true dictionary definition of a feminist) AND because there are people who are basically man-haters (which I think of as Steve's "feminazi"). So I kind'a feel like we're talking apples to oranges here.

But after this LONG ramble, I find that I have actually and accidentally become a feminist. Weird, eh?


Thursday, September 28, 2006


Hope for a walk? Never!

Motivational speaker and author John Maxwell relates a story about attending his nephew’s Little League baseball game. The nephew had not gotten a hit all season and the coach wanted him to just stand at the plate, do nothing and hope for a walk. This didn’t sit well with John. He began to shout, “Swing son! Swing as hard as you can!” So the nephew swung and missed.

John voiced, “That was a wonderful swing! Do it again! We’ll all go out for pizza afterwards!” Second swing. Second miss. You can guess what happened on the third swing. Contact. A little dribbler down the first base line that just stayed fair. And in typical Little League fashion, the pitcher threw it over the first baseman’s head and the nephew rounded the bases for a home run.



Sunday, September 17, 2006


A Trip to Tampa

Emily and I had the chance to visit Tampa. We were able to visit my dad and step-mom. Plus, we got to do some fun stuff together. Busch Gardens was especially fun.

One of the traditions that we always enjoy is her yearly pampering. So this year, Emily decided she wanted a cut-n-color. I love her new color!

She also went with a very pretty nail treatment including a pattern along with the French manicure. Though we were having a mini-celebration of her 13th birthday, I ended up walking away thinking that she looked 5 years older (except for the braces).

My dad and step-mom are doing quite well living in Tampa. However, the weather issues from hurricane season and the fact that they're so far from family has caused them to look into moving back to my old hometown of Huntsville, AL. Betty Jo (my step-mom) has family in Huntsville, so they'll have lots of support. Plus, I'm glad to say that they'll be close enough for us to visit more frequently and for them to have a relationship with their grandkids.

I'm also very happy to say that Betty Jo is feeling better than she has for years, which is a huge improvement.

Busch Gardens was a blast! The weather was perfect and, I guess because school was in session, the lines were all very short. The rides were awesome. But the best ride of all, and perhaps the best rollercoaster I've ever ridden, was the Shei Kra. This rollercoaster includes the world's only straight drop. So imagine a rollercoaster that includes something like Terror Tower over in Six Flags. It rocked!


Saturday, September 16, 2006


For all Weird Al fans...

Weird Al has a new CD out. I think it's called "White and Nerdy" spoofing the song "Ridin' Dirty". Check out the new video...





What's in a Name?

Finding out what your last name means is cool. Learning about its origin is kewler. It's a great project for you and your kids to work on together. The sites below can offer some great help. Have fun!

Here's a sappy little poem about last names that's very male centric. I wonder what you ladies feel about names since it's much more common in our society for you to change your names during your lifetime. Let me know what you think:

You got it from your father,
It was all he had to give,
So it's yours to use and cherish
For as long as you live.

If you lose the watch he gave you,
It can always be replaced,
But a black mark on your name, son,
Can never be erased.

It was clean the day you took it,
And a worthy name to bear,
When he took it from his father,
There was no dishonor there.

So make sure you guard it wisely,
After all is said and done,
You'll be glad the name is spotless
When you give it your son.

My father was always proud of the "family name" and, I have to admit, I am too. In a way, I'm proud and relieved that I have a son who will carry on the family name. Still, I find myself wondering about how this whole thing scenario feels for women.



Friday, September 15, 2006


Jumpy Fun

World-renowned artist Edgar Degas said, “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.”

I'd suggest that the same thing is true of adults and fun. We (adults, that is) know how to play. We can still remember playing and having fun. But it's so hard for us to truly play. First of all, we're to busy to stop and play. And on those rare occassions when we do roll up our sleeves to play, we just can't seem to really let go and fully enjoy the experience.

So I've thought a lot about learning to play again. I'm of the mind that it'll help me stay young. Whipee!


Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Hot Roddin' Mama

I've been having riding mower problems. And when you have a yard that is almost 2 acres, riding mower problems are big problems. My 15 yr old Snapper riding mower broke three times during the season, each time costing about $100 to fix. Well, in August, it broke a fourth time and this time the bill was going to be $275. That's it - I need a new mower. The repairman offered me $150 to part out my old mower. I said "That's a down payment on a new mower. I'll take it."

Now the Snapper was a great mower for its time, but I've learned that mower technology has come a long way. My new mower was about $1250 and it's ride is so carlike. (It was regularly $1399, but I got a deal because the exact mower I wanted was out of stock.) I mowed the lawn in record time, going from about 1:45 minutes with the old mower down to 1:10 minutes with the new mower.

With the ride being more carlike than ever, I thought Emily might like to give it a try. I expected her to mow maybe two passes around the backyard. But she wound up having so much fun she mowed the entire backyard. Whoohoo! Daddy's very happy.

It's usually part of Dylan's mandatory chores to mow the lawn. He get's paid handsomely for it but he's always, well, leasurely in getting around to mowing the yard. Emily's made it very clear that if Dylan say "I'll mow this afternoon or tomorrow" that she'll mow right now when I'm asking for it. Now that's what I'm talkin' 'bout! So Dylan some competition for a major source of income and, I have to say, I'm happy to be the beneficiary.



Monday, September 11, 2006


Remembering September 11th

I think 9/11 is one of those things that we all will never forget where we were when it happened. I was at work that morning and I recall a coworker telling me that a plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers. I thought to myself "Some drunk idiot in a Cesna did what?" A few minutes later, the coworker came back and said a second plane had crashed into the other tower and that they weren't little prop planes, but great big 747s. I was stunned.

I gathered my team and we all huddle around our PCs looking for news on the Internet. Many of us called home to find out more information. I recall that I felt like I was really going out on a limb, but I called my team together and I led a prayer. Deloitte is a very PC place and I worried that a coworker might protest. However I felt, and I think everyone on the team did too, that we were looking at a pivotal moment in our lives.

Not long after that, the Towers collapsed. We were all so stunned. We got a call from the big wigs and everyone was told to go home for the day. The part I remember best, and am most sad about, was when I got home everyone even the kids were there. Dylan and Emily were celebrating about being out of school and Dylan was makin' all kinds of jokes about how this should happen more often so he could get out of school. I'm rather ashamed of myself because I really snapped at him and even cursed - "Dylan! This is -bleepin- horrible. We might be at war this time tomorrow!" I feel so bad that I made him cry. But that's a part of my 9/11 story too.

The outcome of 9/11 was profound. Of course, I don't have to tell you everything that's changed in our country as a result - war in far off countries, stepped up security here at home, oil prices, etc. But on a personal level it was also huge. Deloitte decided to tighten their belts and I was put on notice, along with a couple thousand others, that we'd soon be let go. I found another job that led to more huge changes in my life and the lives of my family.

I've heard that there has been some squabbling among the politicos about whether President Bush's 9/11 speach was appropriate. I really can't comment because I didn't hear it and don't know what he said.

I do know that any memorial speech should be only about those memorialized. It shouldn't talk about what we, the living are doing except in the most abstract of terms. That is because the loss is to grievious to memorialize. All we can do is gather at the site, like a tomb in a cemetary, and lay the flowers down. This is what Reagan did so well after the Challenger disaster and Truman did after WWII. But it was Abraham Lincoln who offered the best possible memorial when he spoke on the grounds of that horrible battle in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania...

"But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. "


Friday, September 08, 2006


Learning to learn

Overall, the kids are doing great in school. Sometimes, however, one of them will ask me "Why are we studying xyz? We'll never use it in real life. Who cares about the date of a battle or when Train A left Station B?"

How do you respond? I tell the kids they’re probably right in some instances. But I also go on to tell them that academics isn’t just about memorizing facts. It’s really about learning how to learn and building perseverance to get through circumstances they may not enjoy. Very few classmates master these character traits. And it’s these students who go on to change the world.

I'm not sure that this them, but hopefully they’ll begin to think about the grander scheme of learning and become a student of life itself.


Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Strong man!

One of the guys that I've had the honor to get to know while at Quest Software is one of our SQL Server SC's named Darren Mallette. Darren is extremely talented with SQL Server and, without even knowing it, he's made my job a lot easier by doing things to make his job easier. For example, he's created scripts and demos to highlight certain problems on SQL Server. But by doing so, he makes it much easier for me to do the big webcasts and customer visits that I do all the time.

One of the really cool things about Darren is that he's very active in the "World's Strongest Man" kind of competitions that you see on ESPN. I love watching those shows just because it's so amazing what these guys can do. Here I am - I can hardly life up one of my kids without blowing out a spinal disk and he's over there flipping 300 lb tires like they were frisbees! One thing that's really cool abour Darren is that he's not a huge guy (big, yes; but not huge) and so he wins competitions with as much brain power as brawn.

In the picture at top, Darren is the third person from the right in the second row. It's a competition where he was the grand champion. He's hold a trophy and some kind of tub. He beat three guys he thought were unbeatable. The guy to his right, who took 2nd place, weighs in at 325 lbs! And here's more, Darren doing a Truck Pull and a Tire Flip.

So here's a cheer to Darren! You ROCK!

Friday, September 01, 2006


Embittered versus Happy

The AllProDad website quotes author William Hendrickson's 6 primary ways to embitter your child. Read this list and think about examples you've seen or experienced in other families:
  1. Over-protecting your kids
  2. Favoring one child over another
  3. Constantly discouraging your children
  4. Not letting your children be unique individuals
  5. Neglecting your kids
  6. Bitter words and physical cruelty

It's funny how so many of these behaviors, except for #6, crop up out of good intentions. So I'm going to list each of these again and then chip in a few cents of my own.

  1. Over-protecting your kids: Most parents who are overprotective don't mean to smother their kids, they simply mean to protect them from harm. But the truth is human beings learn best from a bit of pain. Of course we want to keep our children from real danger and things that can cause substancial physical hurt. But a little hurt can be very instructive, both physically and emotionally (more on the emotional part in a minute). As comedian Carlos Mencia points out, "Warn a kid a hundred times not to touch a hot stove and he wonders what hot is. Warn a kid once not to touch a hot stove but then let him touch it and he never takes your warning for granted again." Emotional hurts go in the same category. We know our kids need to get out and meet other kids. Sometimes other kids won't share with them or say mean things to them. But that's all the more a lesson to teach them to share and for them not to say mean things, right?
  2. Favoring one child over another: I'm sure that most folks who do this, do so in complete ignorance - otherwise, it's a form of emotional child abuse. But the truth is that as kids get older and develop their own personality, we enjoy some traits more than others. If you have one whiny child and one stoic child, it's only natural to gravitate towards the one who's not annoying. But in truth, the exhibition of these traits is your call to parental action. What that whiny child (or angy child or less pretty child or whatever) needs is more of you to help them control those negative traits and bring out the positive ones. This can backbite you a bit if they child you're working with interpretes your behavior as favoritism in punishment. I guess you have to even tailor the punishment to fit the needs of the child so they don't perceive a constant unfairness in discipline as well.
  3. Constantly discouraging your children: Parents don't do this on purpose in a lot of cases. They simply don't want to spend more time cleaning up the mess, or see them being embarrassed by their clumsiness, or simply deal with lil Jimmy on the diving board yelling "Look at me! Look at me!". After all, we've been worrying about making the mortgage payment all week. But discouragement is one of those tiny and insidous agents in a kid's life. One of the pioneering scientists of our age (who's name escapes me at the moment) said "All childred are born scientists. We simply trample their spirit of experimentation." I'm not sure how to control discouragement, except perhaps to find a way to channel their energies into something more acceptable for me. So rather than saying "No" to something they want to do, I'm trying to say "Yes, in this room..." or "Yes, outside..." or "Yes, paint in your mother's clothes at her house..."
  4. Not letting your children be unique individuals: Now, I can't say that I've really experienced me or their mom doing too much of this. We've always enjoyed the uniqueness of each of the kids. However, it is something families do, especially as the kids get older and begin to develop more independence. I think one thing that their mother and I have done to enrich their uniqueness is to allow them certain latitudes in decorating their own space. Some families don't allow their kids to decorate their own rooms because it might be tacky or offend the parents' sensibilities (Goth anyone?). It may not sound like much, but I think it makes a big difference in establishing your sense of self and how you are different from everybody else.
  5. Neglecting your kids: I think most mom's and dad's who do this, do so because they're overwhelmed by life. A dad's neglect is usually obvious. Why? Because he's simply not there when he needs to be. I know that I've been the kind of dad (in the past, I might add) who focused on earning enough money for all of our family's needs. The only problem is that our needs are infinite or nearly so. I've had to learn, at the end of the day, all I can do is simply all I can do. And it took me too many years to learn this, but I now know that all I can do is enough. Moms, in their own way, are subject to an even subtler form of neglect. You see, moms are often more used to giving of themselves than dads. They give their energy to keeping up with meals, with the chores, with everybody's school schedule, with their own job, with the social activities of the family, with errands... and before you know it, there's no energy left for her. She's exhausted herself by giving too much. She's too tired to play a game (or whatever) with her daughter or listen to music (or whatever) with her son and before long she's pretty much sick-n-tired of the whole deal because she's neglected herself. Yes, she's neglecting the kids a bit. But she's the one who is suffering the most. It's so easy to do because it's so well intentioned. But at the end of the day, she and her whole family by extention, would have been better served if she'd said "Do it y'own damn self!" once or twice a week.
  6. Bitter words and physical cruelty: I can say pretty safely that the Kline Kids haven't had to deal with physical cruelty, at least in my home or the home of their mom. I grew up in a home where I saw physical cruelty occur and, though it wasn't directed at me, you can bet that it had a huge impact on my psyche.

Well, I've blathered on for too long already. But I'm curious. What kind of things do you think should be on this list? Did you experience anything as a kid that made you bitter toward your folks? How was that rift healed?

Best regards,


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