Monday, June 30, 2008

The Russians are coming, no wait it's the Muslims!

When I was in grade school (elementary to you), I was scared of the Russians. I was taught to be. My Weekly Reader showed Russian bombers flying with their fierce Red Star emblem shining. Rocket launchers were shown in the May Day parades in Moscow. We were near war all the time with a country that I was told did not believe in God, a country that took the children away to factories or the army while still young, and a country that always looked dreary, cold and lifeless. I grew up thinking that these people did not feel like you and I. They were sort of robots or something. As I grew I slowly learned that maybe I was wrong. It was a process much like the first Europeans went through with Native Americans. It was a process like the whites went through with the blacks. It was a process that our country is confronting on two fronts now (Mexicans and Muslims)!

I am probably confessing something that makes me sound insane but here goes:

In my earlier years, say ten years ago or more! I would be watching TV news where a calamity had happened in Ethiopia, Africa, India, or somewhere. There before me were thousands of people homeless, hungry, dying with out hope. I have watched and thought to myself, well, at least they are not like us with families that love them, and someone to care about. I was so disconnected with them it was like they did not feel, did not love, did not live for anything. I thought of them much like animals. You know, like our forefathers thought of slaves, and Indians.

Sounds stupid. Yes, very stupid. I'm glad you have never had such thoughts.

I listen to people talk today about Muslims. Some believe that they worship a different God, they only want to kill us and they all train their children to be terriorists. They are the new Russians!

Somewhere in Afghanistan, a guy is thinking about Americans. Americans worship a different God. They only want to kill. They train their children to be soldiers. They are the new Russians.

I read "The Kite Runner", "A Thousand Splendid Suns", "Three Cups of Tea". I listen to men like Matt Gulley speak of the needs, hopes and dreamsof displaced people from Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan he and his wife are called to help. I hear of Greg Mortenson giving his life to build schools for the children of Pakistan and I read my Bible.

We all are looking to the same God. We all want to live a good life. We want the fighting to stop.

If you haven't got to this point yet. Read "3 Cups of Tea".

As I was thinking about this, I read a story in the Sunday Dallas Morning News by Firoozeh Dumas. She is of Iranian descent but has lived in the US since she was 7. She writes that as a child, people were interested in her heritage and ask her questions about the food and customs. Now even though she is a citizen of our country, she is treated like she is a potential terriorist. This is how she ended her article:

"There is more to America than school shootings, MTV and political scandals. You know that, and I know that. But how are Americans supposed to know that there's more to the Middle East than terrism?"

"Let's make learning about other cultures at least as important as keeping up with our local sports teams. Let's banish the sterotype of the ignorant American. Let's teach our children to be thoughtful critical thinkers who don't buy into fearmongering. Let's remind all Americans that it is the compassionate spirit of this country that has allowed it to become the envy of the world."

"It takes an enlightened soul to refuse to step into that abyss of hatred, to instead shine the light where their is none and to illuminate the path for others."

The Road Less Traveled

Sunday, June 22, 2008


We are currently in the process of moving the offices of our firm. The move seems easy (from the 5th floor to the 3rd floor of our building. We are dealing with the contractor building out our space and seeing things move ever do slow. We should have to do this every few years to remind us how our clients feel!

Wildest Dreams

One of the recurring statements about Tim Russert was that his occupation took him "beyond his wildest dreams" and that he started every day like he had just won the lottery. I pondered a while about my dreams concerning my occupation in architecture and relate well to his feelings. I have had the opportunity to do several things that I could not have expected.

1. I attended Haskell Schools, Northeastern State University and Oklahoma State. I have done multiple projects for all 3 schools.

2. At OSU my first design project was to design a church building for Perkins, Oklahoma. Because of my background, I picked a Church of Christ building for the site the professor had selected. 40 years later I was hired by the Perkins Church of Christ to design a building for them just two blocks east of the site of my school project.

3. While in college there was one building in Muskogee that I could not stand. Its original design was out of proportion and well "Crappy". I used to drive by the building and mentally change it. 6 years ago I was hired to remodel it!

4. Of the last 5 churches that I have attended, I have had the opportunity to design 3 of them and remodel another. I designed the the church building of the church I attend, 6 years before I knew that I would ever live in Muskogee.

5. When I started classes at OSU, I attended a church next to campus. It was new in 1967! I thought it was a cool design and used many aspects of that building in later designs. Last week I was hired to do a new master plan to remodel that very building.

I am constantly amazed that places and buildings that formed my thinking have later been subjects of projects. Besides doing buildings of most of the churches that I attended, I have done projects in every town that I lived. It keeps getting wilder! and more fun.

I'll let you know if it was as much fun as winning the lottery.........after I win the lottery.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Tim Russert

Ever since we had a bath room large enough and the money to but it, we have had a TV to watch while we get ready for the day. Weekdays we watch Today show and Sunday is always "Meet the Press". After 10 years of that show and reading 2 books by Tim Russert, I felt like I knew him much better than most other public figures. He became a trusted friend. I knew his family, his hobbies, his back stories, and his spiritual beliefs. He was the most consistent person that I ever observed. In the midst of a tense political interview, he could insert something about the "Buffalo Bills" ball team. He was an "everyman" that I could identify with. He never got the "Big Head" and he seemed to love all aspects of life. He was an Irish Catholic who was proud of his faith, his hometown, and his family. And by the way: He was a great interviewer. I pity who has to replace him. I have been very sad this weekend because of his passing.

We were never destined to meet, but he was a friend.

Being a Banker

For the past year, carol & I have been in the banking business. Reading Clinton's Book on Giving, I came across a discussion about regular people making micro-loans to people in other places of the world. One of the web sites listed was and I decided to give it a shot. We made 2 small loans to a person in Togo (Africa) and another in Mexico. Over the past year I get regular updates, when they make a payment. After the loan is paid off my account is credited for the amount loaned. i can then get the money back or loan to someone else. Unlike real bankers, we charge no interest. Since I have been reading a book about Pakistan, yesterday I made two loans to two women who own their own businesses in Tajikistan. One owns a food store and one makes yarn. The part that gave me insight into banking was that when I decided to increase my loans, there were 25 pages of requests from all over the world and I had to decide who received my help.
Another cool aspect of these loans is that you can see who else is loaning to the same people. The lady that owned the store was also being loaned by a couple in Bartlesville. All who loan give to a pool managed by a local agency. No money goes to middle men.

Because of books like "1000 Splendid Suns" and "3 Cups of Tea", we are at present only loaning to women. In third world countries support like this is not available in their communities.

Check out KIVA. Loans can be made for $25 or more.

Father's Day

My Dad was 30 years older than me. This week he would be 91 had he lived this long. I am 30 years older than my son, Nate. Nate is almost 30 years older than his son Addison. When something happens in Nate's world, I now stop and think what was my dad doing when I was Nate's age. It grounds me to realize how little I knew about my dad's thoughts and dreams when I was younger.

No matter what I do in life, I hold his accomplishments in the highest esteem. My dad had a 10th grade education. No high school or college diploma. In his world of Haskell he was Mayor of the town for 8 years (never had an opponent) and he was an Elder in his church. He came up through the ranks of John Zink Company to become a department head over 35 years. To do similar with the things he empowered me with- I would need to be Governor by now.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

June 14 Milestones & Flags

Today is Flag day. It is also the 16th anniversary of starting my architectural firm (Spaces, Design & Architecture, Inc.). And it is also the 16th anniversary of getting "fired" for the first time! In 1993 I was working for a Tulsa firm. I had been there 2 years. When I went back to work with a guy that had been my partner for 6 years, he told me that after one year we would talk about becoming partners again. At the time he asked me to rejoin him, he had a firm of 8 persons and a couple of contract workers. A year later we had added 5 additional people that I recruited from the firm I left to join him. About 40% of the work in the firm was work that I had brought in. 18 months past and no talk of partnership! I had opened a Muskogee office for his firm and had successfully marketed 4 projects worth $600,000 in fees. I asked him about the agreement, he said no deal. I commented that I would have to leave when these new projects were finished and he responded by saying to leave now. June 14.

I was living in Bixby, but all my current contacts were in Muskogee.

A new firm was born that day. No office. No projects. No staff. No money except for severance pay. Weird day! I wouldn't trade it for the world! These events caused me to realize a dream that is as fun today as I ever imagined.

P.S. 2 of the projects that I had brought in for my former firm ($400,000 in Fees) fired my former boss as soon as it was known that I was not there.

The day I got fired my employer got fired too!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Its what happens when...

The other night after Carol read my rant about politics, she said, "A little more and you come across as Bill Clinton's brother!" I re-read it and agreed. Politics is hard to talk about. What I did is close to the thing I don't like about today's media. When McClain or Obama or one of the Clintons make a statement, the media talks about it for a week. They tell their version of what was said and it sounds nothing like what I heard. Today you and I (or at least I) hear a topic introduced and if we are not careful, only listen to see if it meets our preconceived notion of things. The Media no longer reports, they create the news in their own image. That goes for the networks , CNN & Fox. So yes, I guess I was over the top. I do know that Bill C. had many faults and I do not know for certain that he has cleaned up his act. But in a way, that was the point! We talk about others as if they will never change and at the same time hope that our old old friends would be pleasantly surprised by how good WE turned out.

Sorry if I offended my Republican friends. By the way, I don't really have Democratic friends!
No one I know will admit it in public! a Road less traveled.


* I am reading two books at once. Not something I normally do but I asked for books for my recent birthday, and got them. I am reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson (recommended by David Hall) and The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. i am reading both at once because I need both. There are potential life changing elements to these stories (both true accounts). I will talk more about them as I digest.

** I got an email from a friend today. It was one of those mass mailings urging me to send it to every one i knew. The gist is that every horrible act against mankind the the recent past was caused by 19 to 40 year old Muslim men. These were documented. Then it stated that profiling Muslim men was important and we should stop screening 80 year old white women at airports because it is the Muslim men are do the crimes. It ended by stating that after all the Book of Revelations says that the antichrist will be a 40 year old Muslim.

I emailed my friend and asked where I could find that passage. He responded that he had not checked it out before he sent it! That reminds me of the book I just finished by David Balducci on the premise that a war could be started by spreading a fabricated story on the internet!
I thought the book to be bad fiction until this e-mail.

Monday, June 9, 2008

mike goes to the movies: Lars and The Real Girl

The best movie not seen in 2007. Rent it. You will thank me!
If only every community functioned like this.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mike talks Turkey (Politics)! #1

Well, with the last weeks events, I guess my mother will be alive a lot longer. After all she said on many occasions that she would die if Hillary became President.

Let me pull over and park: I am a registered Democrat for business purposes. While working for a large architectural/engineering firm in Tulsa, I learned the following: When Democrats (Ds) are in control public schools, universities, roads, and clinics are built. When Republicans (Rs) are in control you switch to retail, industrial, churches and other private buildings. It is simple democrats use public money and republicans private. From college I enjoyed designing both schools and churches. Schools need taxes, republicans hate taxes. I also learned that if you want to be hired for a County or City project, you can bet that they will check your registration. Being registered wrong can cost you a job. I also have met very few school superintendents that are Republicans (though many school board members are!)

Other than that I probably have voted for as many Rs as I have Ds. I did vote for Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Bush the first, before going to the dark side.

I was raised Republican and my folks were Eisenhower republicans in the 50s when there probably weren't 100 republicans in Muskogee County. I remember when Belmon ran for Governor I was in Haskell High and our Civics class held a mock vote. 24 kids voted for the democrat and I voted for Belmon. I had the last laugh when he became the 1st first republican Governor in Oklahoma.

Ok, back to the road.

A lot has changed for me in 50 years. Many Republicans seem to believe that they are the only ones that will go to heaven. I have actually heard this said within the walls of the church that I attend.

The mixture of religion and politics has been strange for me as I am on a less traveled road. I was taught from a early age to support our President (even Carter). When Bill Clinton came along I became a "closet" fan. He was ridiculed by everyone around me especially at church. He was (in my fellow Christians' eyes) a demon who was trying intentionally to give the USA to Satan. We used to say that about Russia.

Here was my take:

Bill Clinton was a real baby boomer like me. He grew up in a small town. His family had no money. He was driven to achieve. He liked music. etc. etc. Apart from Monica he was a good politician. He was accused of being a womanizer by the republican leader, Newt G. (who had been divorced 2 or 3 times). It has always surprised me to talk to my friends about Bill. In their minds Bill is still committing adultery with great passion (because Letterman and Leno) has been telling Monica jokes for 12 years! The Monica Incident happened 2 years before you and I heard about it. This is the Zacchaeus Factor.

In Luke 19 we know this about Zacchaeus: He was a chief tax collector (democrat). He was wealthy. He wanted to see Jesus. Jesus wanted to see him. The republicans did not want Jesus to be with someone who was a sinner. Zach said that IF he had cheated anyone he would repay.
Jesus said "Salvation has come to this house." The end.

For Bill it is not possible. And Zacchaeus never even admitted to sinning! either!

Go 8 years into the future. Hillary was not accepted for three reasons by most republican Christians: 1. She SHOULD have divorced Bill and not doing so made her a party to undefined sins. 2. She showed too much control as first lady and she was cold and hard and surmised that even Bill was driven to others by her personality! 3. She is Satan.

I see no example of Jesus attacking the Romans and treating Caesar like we treat our government leaders (in His Name) even though the Big C probably did a few bad things. I believe Jesus was called (and is calling) to do something different.

I pray that Obama and McCain can weather the coming storm.

I know that I didn't mention abortion, gays, and immigration in this but check the stance of both Obama and McCain!

P.S. This is a reason the blog is "Less Traveled Roads". I think a little off the compass!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

mike goes to the movies: The Visitor

In the midst of the "summer movies" such as Indiana Jones and Sex & the City is a small movie that you probably won't hear about in the media. It is playing in Tulsa for a short run on one screen and is about a professor from the Ivy League who being and recent widower has lost his way. He journeys to NYC for a conference and to stay in the apartment that he and his wife had kept for 20 years. He had not been there in a while and upon arrival finds a couple living there that are illegals! The story starts there and is one of the best of 2008 so far. No car chases, No fights, just a slice of very current life and events. A good follow up to my recent rant about immigration. Out of five stars, I give it ****.

The Visitor ( look at the trailer on line.)