Archive for the ‘Unintended consiquences’ Category

I’ve been challenged this morning. I’ve been challenged by words. Words like “maudlin“, which I admit I had to look up a definition for, were awaiting me this morning. I will confess to being occasionally, if not frequently, guilty of demonstrating said word. I might be sorry, or I might not. For now, I will settle for “guilty”.

And, I have been challenged by The Word. The Word was also awaiting me this morning in the form of an email challenging me to accept a reading plan. Would’nt you know that it started me in John chapter 1?

I don’t want to be maudlin about all of this. I don’t want to lose my head. Or, maybe I do. Maybe that is what He is calling me to. It certainly was the case for John, and he was but one to help point the way for others.

It is Mothers Day today. On this day of recognition, I hope to be learning the path to be a better father.

I may be losing my head. I’m OK with that. If I come across as maudlin in the process, I will plead guilty.

Word up?


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I was watching cable television tonight with the ladies in my family, and their choice of programing was sponsored by a particular new prescription drug. This was perhaps the most dramatic case to date for the side effects being worse than the basic treatable condition.

With limited editorial deletes (for the family friendly under 25 readership crowd) and only the drug name changed to avoid a potential international incident, here is the listing of potential side effects to endure:

Severe allergic reactions (rash; hives; itching; difficulty breathing; tightness in the chest; swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue); confusion; fainting; fast, slow, or irregular heartbeat; fever, chills, or sore throat; increased saliva production or drooling; increased sweating; memory loss; menstrual changes; muscle pain, stiffness, or weakness; new or worsening mental or mood changes (eg, aggressiveness, agitation, anxiety, depression, exaggerated feeling of well-being, hallucination, hostility, impulsiveness, inability to sit still, irritability, panic attacks, restlessness); numbness or tingling; persistent, painful———-; seizures; severe or prolonged dizziness or headache; shortness of breath; ——– thoughts or actions; swelling of the hands, legs, or feet; symptoms of high blood sugar (eg, increased hunger, thirst, or urination; unusual weakness); tremor; trouble concentrating, speaking, or swallowing; trouble sleeping; trouble walking or standing; uncontrolled muscle movements (eg, arm or leg movements, jerking or twisting, twitching of the face or tongue); vision changes.

Seriously, why would anyone want to take this mystery drug? Oh wait, I just remembered what we were watching tonight. Someone, pass the pill bottle, and hurry. Side effects can’t be worse than enduring Monty….


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We’ve been buried in a round of financial systems consulting at CampOC this week. In additional to some very useful tools and information for improving what we do and how we do it, the Instructor/consultant has blessed us with some great one liners.

“Rule Number One” is reflected in the title.

A department is a who; an object is a what.

Other good ones from the week:

“Not everything worth doing is worth doing well”.

“I am so excited…I know I don’t look it, but I am…”

“Two years from now, we are going to love our jobs”.

And, finally;

“This has been another specialty of the Department of Redundancy Department”.


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Sometimes, it’s all about the “Oh”.

He was preceded in death by…

His reputation precedes him.

Both are somewhat ominous uses of the word precede, and both presume that the subject does not enjoy much anonymity.

Anonymity? What’s that? While it is often fleeting, it is nice for it to exist just enough to shape some experiences. I had just such a fleeting experience last evening.

Our son is staying in one of the dormitories on the college campus where I work while he attends an athletic camp. He needed some items for his stay, and I went to take them to him last night. The boys were not back from their final session, so everything was locked up. I asked the hall director if he could get me into his room to drop the bag off, and he had to say no.

I said I could wait till the boys got back, and we began to visit. I had just finished mowing the lawn, so my appearance was not as it normally might have been. I felt a bit like I was the protagonist in one of those episodes of “Undercover Boss”. It was a fun and enlightening conversation. I knew who he was, but to him, I was just a dad.

Then it happened. I let slip probably too much insight into the way things happen at our University, and his curiosity got the best of him. He extended his hand for a formal invitation.

“I’m Jeff Bingham”, was my reply. His reply to that? “Oh”.

“Oh”. Oh no. What is that supposed to imply?

“Oh”? “Ooh”? “Ohh”? “Ew”? One is left to wonder.

Fortunately, our conversation continued and was a good one. But, his paradigm was changed.

My reputation precedes me. I can only hope that it is mostly good. Fortunately, I can also work to keep it so, and hopefully make it better.

Sometimes, it is all about the “oh”.

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“God is subtle, but He is not malicious. I cannot believe that God plays dice with the world.” – Albert Einstein.

I’ve long thought that to be true, but now wonder if He is not often times speaking to us more directly. Take a random walk with me, and see if you agree.

Many of us recall the “Rocky” movie franchise. He started his saga in the slums of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. The movie details him out running past a group of likely unemployed young men standing on a street corner singing “Take it Back”. Four movies later, some good, some less than good, and Rocky is back in the same neighborhood, a rags to riches to rags scenario, but he is still “Rocky Balboa” at the core, albeit changed by time, experience, and the impact of money.

I have experienced in the past 24 hours what I’ll dub “the day of diatribes”, polite though they may have been. This may or may not be considered just one more of the same by the time you finish this reading.

The first diatribe was by a Facebook friend protesting the use of the American flag as a form of forced advertising by a local realtor who placed them in every yard as far as the eye can see.

The second diatribe hit a little closer to home. It was written by a youth minister in Texas about the problem of increasing costs in higher education, specifically private faith based education, and the amount of debt it takes for many to get an undergraduate degree. The university for which I work’s mission statement is “Transforming Lives for faith, scholarship, and service.” Trust me when I say we do not intend for that to be “debt service”, and are listening and seeking solutions to the broad based problem of the higher education industry making our experience affordable and relevant. Pardon my digression from the topic at hand.

The third diatribe dealt with the problem of sensationalism and desensitizing in our mass media, all to get attention and “viewership”. It is a well written piece about things that are good and true, and you can read it at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/rdc-editorial-whatever-is-good-true-beautiful/

The fourth piece, more a reflection than a diatribe, was a personal look at living a purposeful life, and not a life of “Shadow Purposes” as we are so prone to do in this rich society. It can be read at http://www.reddirtchronicles.com/2011/06/chasing-my-shadow-purpose/

The final referenced piece in the “24 hours of diatribes” was my own, preceding this one, mind you. I read an article this morning about the NBA lockout and some of the quotes in a war of mega millionaires fighting mega millionaires over who gets the bigger share of the billions being offered by the masses at the alter of modern day entertainment. I love the NBA, but this article made me mad, and I suspect it will do the same for many fans as what promises to be a protracted labor negotiation fight plays out.

To paraphrase author Donald Miller, I think we all have forgotten that we are just trees in a story about a forest. The forest may be on fire all around us, but we are too focused on the near surroundings and our own concerns to notice.

The global economy appears to be badly broken. We have “stored up treasures on earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19) and need to be prepared for a different day and age, even within the lifespan of some current generations. The economic storm is raging as we speak in benefit rich European society, and the tsunami is racing toward us across the Atlantic even now. Societies are in debt up to their eyeballs; we are soft; we are spoiled. And fundamental societal things are changing. We are aging. The balance of trade and who makes and who buys is evolving. Health care is a concern. The U.S. Government won’t be able to pay for it all or fix all that ailes us. All the while, I fear we are standing on the beach arguing over who gets the bigger share of sandbags while we should be moving to higher ground to stay safely out of the coming wake.

Our societies often have found themselves in these moments in history, and it seems they are often ultimately resolved by fighting a war. The U.S. War for Independence; the French Revolution; the U.S. Civil War; WWI; WWII; the Middle East conflicts. Its about a groundswell of the masses when they can’t get what they want and need, and when the establishment is out of touch. We may be entering another “let them eat cake” moment, I fear. Get the picture?

I think the establishment may be catching on. One of the more telling advertisements running on TV today is “More Saving: More Doing; That’s the power of the Home Depot”. We need to realize that David Stanley (OKC auto dealer) does not really lead the way. The Mathes Brothers may have “our style at our price”, but they will never know us by name.

As I began to pour these random reflections down and try to tie them together cohesively, I looked through the “categories and tags” section of my blog site, and a huge percentage of those previously used seemed strikingly relevent. Take a look at all those listed at the end of this and see if you agree.

After an early morning of pondering these thoughts, I got into the car to come to the office and was immediately presented with “Awakening” by Switchfoot playing on my car radio. God is subtle, indeed, and He was speaking right to me.

Face down with the L.A. curbside endings
In ones and zeros
Downtown was the perfect place to hide

The first star that I saw last night
Was a headlight of a man-made sky
But man-made never made our dreams collide, collide

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

Last week saw me living for nothing but deadlines
With my dead beat sky
But this town doesn’t look the same tonight

These dreams started singing to me out of nowhere
And all my life I don’t know
That I’ve ever felt so alive, alive

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
You’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, I’m bleeding

I wanna wake up kicking and screaming
I wanna live like I know what I’m leaving
I wanna know that my heart’s still beating
It’s beating, it’s beating, it’s beating, I’m bleeding

Here we are now with the falling sky and the rain
We’re awakening
Here we are now with the desperate youth and pain
We’re awakening

Maybe it’s called ambition
But you’ve been talk, talking in your sleep about a dream
We’re awakening
Dream, we’re awakening

So, where do we go from here, in this digital community, and in each of our own “cities of brotherly love”? Maybe we are a little like that prizefighter who has gone one or two rounds too far, and needs to reset. What is our task? More saving, more doing? Maybe. Less spending, more doing? Likely. More sharing, more caring? Absolutely. Heightened attention spans are in order. We’re awakening. The bar is raised. A groundswell is happening all around us, and a tsunami may (or may not) be headed are way. Let’s move to higher ground and be ready.

Take me back.

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As referenced in last night’s post, I encountered a team of people during my early morning jog on the beach yesterday. They were a clean, well dressed, polite looking bunch. They carried fish net poles. And they were intensely focused. I approached the lady at the end of the column and simply verbalized my two hunches in the form of a question: Jellyfish, or tar balls? She half smiled, half grimaced, and nodded her head in acknowledgement. “Tar balls”, she said.

I never would have known it was an issue. Since that time, however, I’ve been on the internet, and the pictures of this very beach from exactly one year ago are shocking and sad. How they got it cleaned up is a mystery and a marvel. A regular “reconstruction” is what it is.

It is beautiful here today. But I wonder, “how did it look 15 months ago?”. My wife and daughters came to this place at that time, and they raved about it’s beauty and clear blue water. When we arrived here a few days ago for my first visit, they commented about how the water is “not as blue as last time; maybe it is the time of year…”.

How did the accident causing all of this “collateral damage” occur? Because of the decisions of a group of only a few people, primarily those in roles of authority on the Deepwater Horizon rig itself, and some in the halls of corporate power.


The book I brought along on this trip is “Flyboys” by James Bradley, the author of “Flags of Our Fathers”. The premise of the book is to tell the story of the flight of men, including President George Bush I, who were shot down over the island of Chichi Jima and what eventually happened to each of them. It is a fascinating account, but is almost as much cultural history and a treatise on the horrors and crimes of war (on both sides) as it is about the men he calls Flyboys.

The horrors of war and the mass number of civilian deaths and suffering from WWII are astounding. Even more astounding is how much death and destruction occurred in the final days of each theater of war, mostly because the few refused to read the handwriting on the wall and give up their positions and demands. Millions upon millions, and suffering beyond measure, all because of human pride, greed, and ego. And hatred, lots of growing and compounding hatred.


The same was true of the civil war, as my kids so earnestly discovered in our tour of Vicksburg earlier in the week.

I won’t even attempt to touch today on the bigger basic points of “original sin”, “death thru Adam and Eve”, redemption, and the like. My point today is about leadership: vision, motivation, and responsibility. There is a management saying that “Where there is no vision, the people perish”. It is a fairly innocent saying, mostly condemning policies and practices that hold people and companies back from achieving to their full potential.

An even more sobering reality, though, is that with bad vision, people will perish. And suffer. Lots of people.

It all starts with one person: Me. You. The other guy.

We are each responsible; responsible to be responsible. And to be loving, caring, and cautious. Can this decision hurt others? Is the desired outcome worth it? Is it about me, or my agenda? Is it driven by greed, lust, pride, anger, and the like?

But, reconstruction can occur. It happened in the Confederate South. It happened in Japan. It happened in Germany and throughout Europe. And it happened on this beach. Yes, scars, remain. Maybe the water is not as blue as it was before. The name Hiroshima will always conjur up images other than the place of beauty it represented 70 years ago and prior. What happened in Dresden should never be. We need to remember.

Scars remain, and diligent people remain to ensure the cleanup happens and that the accidents and incidents hopefully don’t repeat themselves. Leaders are more aware. Constituents are more aware. The memory of the cost is vivid.

So long as time continues, history will repeat itself. Memories will fade. There will be greed and renewed self interest. There will be mistakes. There will be more wars.

But, not here, and not today. We have beautiful friends in Japan. We have beautiful friends in Germany. And it is a beautiful day in Gulf Shores, even a mere 12 months after the devastation, and I can see the morning cleanup crew forming down along the water’s edge, and it’s not even 7 AM yet. Diligence and caring will pull us through.


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Circa 2007: “All is well; buy our stuff”.

Circa 2008: “Dumb question: that won’t happen”. (new BearS chairman speaking to yours truly, 2 months before their doom).

It’s Friday the 13th. The CNBC prognosticators are talking about the Fed, inflation, the SEC, and “the reason it’s different”. And, of course, Goldman is always in the background: the circa 2011 version of Bear, I would contend.

I’m beginning to think the whole lot of them is corrupt with self interest.

Cynicism expressed, I’m cheering for my retirement account. Go baby, go….


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