Not porpoises but cows

Bentley Continental convertible

Gray accent leather on the doors and the top of the instrument panel is called Porpoise, but, like other hides, it comes from land animals and not sea creatures” — from a Car and Driver article about the Bentley Continental GT V-8 S.

Why is it that the thought of someone killing porpoises for our use is more repellant than the thought of someone killing cows for our use?


When I was a kid, Flipper was a TV show about a friendly sea creature that came to the rescue of different people every week. Think Lassie in the sea.

I don’t know of any TV shows about friendly cows.

The quote about Bentley’s choice of an upholstery name made me think of the whole veganism culture and philosophies — one end of the animal rights spectrum. Porpoise killers might be the other end of the spectrum.

And then I thought of my friend who is a cattle rancher in Oklahoma. She loves her cows more than just about anybody I know. And yet she sells them to be slaughtered.

I don’t know how to reconcile all these things.

  • The photo is courtesy of the Bentley website and is used without permission.
  • If there are any modern TV shows starring animals, I wouldn’t know them, since I watch very little mainstream TV.


escapeEscape from your already fabulous life.”

That’s an assumption a luxury hotel chain made about all of us. Or maybe they are pitching to the group of readers who feel that they do have a fabulous life and don’t care about the rest. Or maybe they want the rest of us to think, “Well, my life isn’t fabulous — but I do like it!”

If your life is fabulous, why would you want to escape? I guess that living a life of ease, where everything is catered to and all wants met, gets boring.

We all need change. Kittens don’t stay small forever. God created seasons for a reason.

Embrace change. If it’s a hard change, see what you can do to find the beauty in the pure white snow. Even when it’s freezing outside.


Because I’m selfish

motorbike riders in Phnom PenhI love freedom. But when freedom costs me something that could be easily avoided, I pause.

For people living in the US, depending on your state, you can ride a motorcycle with out a helmet. It’s super enjoyable to zoom along with the wind in your hair.

But then that driver doesn’t see you, he turns into your lane — and your dreams of motorcycling disappear into years of surgeries, physical therapy and pain.

This is not theoretical — a good friend of mine experienced that. And he was wearing a helmet.

So here’s the selfish part of the equation… when the helmet-less rider ends up in the hospital with years of medical appointments ahead, it costs me. My insurance premiums rise.

The same holds true for bicycle riding.

I have to admit that I am not super rigid on that — sometimes when I go for a quick ride to the corner store on my (slow) mountain bike, I don’t put on a helmet. And yes, I know that most accidents happen closest to home.

So I leave it up to you where you draw the line between your freedom and your responsibility to society.

The photo is Creative Commons licensed by Sara y Tzunki (Cecilia e Francesco) and was taken in Phnom Penh.


Variety and uniformity

a collection of vinyl records at a thrift shop - copyright 2016 by paul merrill

We love variety. We love uniformity. This contrast in our wants and needs is intriguing.

The familiar can be comforting — knowing that something will always be there. And yet, we love change. Few people would choose to have the same meal three times a day. We love listening to different tunes. A change in seasons is often welcome.

And yet everyone has different needs for variety and uniformity. Some people are content with no change, ever. On the other side, our ADD culture pushes us toward constant stimulation, which requires never-ending change. I’m probably closer to the wanting-variety end of that spectrum.

My need for constancy is reflected by the fact that I’ve been married 26 years. Yet there is endless variety in my wife. (Women are so different than men that I will never figure her out!)

Finally, variety is a luxury. In America today, we have far greater choice than kings and queens did 400 years ago. We can get fresh fruit 365 days a year. When I lived in Africa, my friends in rural areas did not have that luxury. If mangoes weren’t ready to pick, you didn’t eat mangoes. If they were ripe, you ate a lot, for several weeks straight.


From wealthy to semi-criminal

Categories of wealth in London

It’s amazing to look at the progress we’ve made.

This legend is on a map of London from about 1900. Neighborhoods of the city were blocked off into the levels of wealth represented by their residents.

Such a map would never exist today. We all categorize people we see, but it’s not polite to even say those categories, except to the most trusted of friends.

In America, we have gated communities. You can’t drive in, unless you are given the code or are invited. You are categorized as resident, friend of resident or not welcome.

I lived in gated communities in Nairobi, Kenya, for five years. The disparity between my relative wealth and that of those not welcome was vast. Heather and I tried to do all we could to break down that barrier, for a few.

Now that we’re living back in America, the gate between us and them is more powerful. It’s time. Our memories fade and the need to help has become less urgent.



three color spectra - copyright 2016, paul merrillI’m a huge fan of the idea of spectrums. So many aspects of life can be described by spectrums.

Spectrum 1:

Pleasure seeking: Some people put pleasure so high on their priority list that they are willing to die for it (heroin addicts and canyon-jumping motorcyclists).

Pain avoidance: Some people are so averse to the idea of pain that they refuse to leave the safety of their bedrooms.

Spectrum 2:

Ideology: Some people believe in their cause so much that they are willing to die for it (Muslim terrorists).

Lack of beliefs: Some people are so open to worldview that they don’t believe anything.

Spectrum 3:

Chaos: Some people are willing to have thirteen children and let the crumbs fall where they may.

Neatness: Some people wipe the table under their guest’s plate before they have gotten up.

Spectrum 4:

Germs: Some people never wash their hands.

Sanitation: Some people wear gloves in public.

I think everyone has tendencies to fall on one side of the center in each of these spectrums. (Note that I am using extreme examples. Humanity is like a bell curve — most people fall into the middle.) We all move around on spectrums during the course of our lives — or in the course of our days.

A beauty that lies at the extremes is that some of those people push the envelope of human experience — and that can benefit everyone.

Psychologists sometimes dump various spectrums under blanket names such as “autism” or “OCD.” But the human experience is enriched by people living off the center of spectrums.

Footnote: I know that some say the plural of “spectrum” is “spectra.” But “spectrums” is also acceptable English, these days.


We need the perspective of others

face made up of trash cansHipster coffee shop. Fun visit with family.

My daughter noticed the face that their trashcan and recycling bin made.

I never would have seen that on my own. But after seeing her perspective, I never can look at that corner the same way again.

We need others to show us things we don’t see.

Sometimes I need to ask, and sometimes another perspective is volunteered. Either way works fine.


Beauty is pain

shoes-of-ms-pradaJust looking at this photo* caused me pain.

What great lengths people go to in pursuit of beauty — and have done for the scope of human history.

The vast majority of good things come with a cost.

Even enjoying a beautiful flower along the path requires you to take a moment to stop.

- -

*This is an excerpt of a photo taken by Craig McDean. It appeared in the November issues of WSJ magazine.

Footnote: The pain Miuccia Prada must experience while wearing these shoes must make her feel beautiful — enough to put up with the pain of wearing them.



Cab armchair by Mario BelliniEveryone has one.”

Tom Kundig, a famous architect said that about his Cab armchair by Mario Bellini. I did a quick Google search and discovered it costs about $5,500. For one chair.

The full quote is just as priceless: “It’s almost embarrassing to admit that [I own one] because everyone has one.”

Then I had to ask myself, when do I make assumptions about others? Quite often.

  • They look like that because they have no sense of taste.
  • They are struggling with that health problem because they refuse to exercise.
  • They keep failing at relationships because they…

You get the point. It’s too easy to assume things without knowing the bigger picture.

Photo by vetustanova on Tumblr.


Treat your body like… belongs to someone you love.


Self-destructive behaviors abound. (And I'm far from perfect.) But I love this saying - how often do we treat our bodies like we love ourselves? Even more important, how often do we treat others better than ourselves? (See here.)

If we truly followed that saying, would we shop at Whole Foods to pick up food for that homeless person we see on the corner on our way to the office?

(Thanks to Whole Foods for their store-window poster.)