Mike Kueber's Blog

January 25, 2015

The fast track to love

Filed under: Relationships — Mike Kueber @ 1:22 am

According to an article in the NY Times, there is a fast track to love.  According to the article, a couple can create a loving feeling simply by agreeing to honestly answer 36 questions, and thereby creating the intimacy and trust that foster love.  The coup de grâce to any lingering resistance is administered by staring into each other’s eyes for four minutes.

The three sets of increasingly probing questions are as follows:

Set I

  1.  Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?
  2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?
  3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
  4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
  5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
  6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
  7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
  8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.
  9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
  10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
  11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.
  12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Set II

  1. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
  2. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
  3. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
  4. What do you value most in a friendship?
  5. What is your most treasured memory?
  6. What is your most terrible memory?
  7. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
  8. What does friendship mean to you?
  9. What roles do love and affection play in your life?
  10. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.
  11. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
  12. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?


  1. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling …”
  2. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share … “
  3. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.
  4. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.
  5. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.
  6. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
  7. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.
  8. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
  9. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
  10. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?
  11. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?
  12. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

This concept makes sense to me, and I plan to use the list the next time I find a woman who I want to fall in love with me.

November 18, 2014

Is it bad manners to brag about your kids?

Filed under: Facebook,Philosophy,Relationships — Mike Kueber @ 1:04 am

This morning I woke up in a bad mood after suffering two losses in Fantasy Football yesterday, and my mood quickly worsened when I read a Facebook friend’s lengthy braggadocio about his college daughter. This friend, who is a well-known conservative politician, was “proud” that his daughter had competed successfully in a Moot Court competition. I will spare you the details, which were spread over three paragraphs.  This guy has a habit of this type of behavior, and I recalled him once saying, “I don’t like to brag, but Miss Perfect was recently named to the Dean’s List.”

I decided to post on the subject, not only because I was in a bad mood, but also because my memory was still fresh from reading yesterday about the George H.W. Bush family style of parenting, where their kids were taught that they were neither special nor entitled. (The Mitt Romney family seems cut from the same cloth.)

A little internet research revealed that my feelings were simpatico with many Americans. As one website noted:

  • At one time, boasting was considered poor form, an exercise in vanity and bad manners and to heap garlands of praise on a child, especially for their looks, was thought to be detrimental to the development of their good character.”

Another opined:

  • I also think in a round about way, it’s a means of bragging about yourself, without actually bragging about yourself.  Narcissistic? Absolutely.”

A NY Times blog assured me that I am not alone:

  • But a rare consensus has emerged on at least one topic. What subject could possibly be so clear-cut it has elicited once-in-a-generation unanimity? That parents should stop bragging about their children.”

The Times blog went on two suggest four guidelines for “acceptable chest-thumping”:

  1. Brag about how good a child you have, not how good a parent you are.
  2. Brag about effort, not accomplishment.
  3. Brag in context. People generally don’t mind if parents brag, as long as they don’t pretend they’re Stepford parents and their children are little angels. “I want to hear the bragging in the context of real, gritty, poopy life,” he said. “If you’re trying to sell me your perfect life, the hate machine starts humming again.”
  4. Follow “the bragging formula.” Another common piece of advice — each time you criticize someone, you should give multiple compliments — applies equally well in reverse. Each boast about a child should come surrounded by three negatives. My son is on the honor roll (but still wets his bed).

As I was doing my internet research, however, I gradually got a feeling of déjà vu, like I’ve examined this issue before. So I searched my blog for “parenting” posts, and sure enough I found a similar post from earlier this year titled “Bragging on your kids.”

The sources may have changed, but the conclusion is the same – an out-of-control ego is not a pretty thing.

November 1, 2014

I love my flaws?

Filed under: Facebook,Relationships — Mike Kueber @ 12:26 am

A friend/yoga-instructor posted on her Facebook wall a poster that said the following:

  • Hey you. Yes you. Stop being unhappy with yourself. You are perfect. Stop wishing you looked like someone else or wishing people liked you as much as they like someone else. Stop trying to get attention from those who hurt you. Stop hating your body, your face, your personality, your quirks. Love them. Without those things, you wouldn’t be you & why would you want to be anyone else? Be confident with who you are, smile, it’ll draw people in. If anyone haters on you because you are happy with yourself, stick your middle finger in the air and say my happiness will not depend on others anymore. I’m happy because I love who I am, I love my flaws, I love my imperfections, they make me, me. & ‘me’ is pretty amazing.

I commented as follows;

  • I heard you recite this passage at practice this morning, and I was struck by the closing – “I love my flaws.” Definition of flaw – a defect or fault that mars something. Not so sure about loving my flaws. The Serenity Prayer tells us to accept the things we cannot change, but the courage to change the things we can.

I didn’t mention to my yogi that a few weeks ago I had a serious discussion on this very subject with one of her yoga students. The student told me that she has had a problem for years with guys who were unable to deal with her emotional meltdowns. When I suggested to her that she should try to avoid those meltdowns (a la Men Are From Mars), she responded that those meltdowns were an inherent part of who she was and that the guys needed to learn to accept that (Women Are From Venus).

I reminded her that two of her favorite mantras were:

  • I am what I am; and
  • I am a work in progress.

This is apparently a conflict, but I should have pointed out to her that the Serenity Prayer provides a way to manage the conflict – i.e., use your wisdom to know what you can change and what you cannot.

October 7, 2014

Really listening

Filed under: Culture,Relationships,Self-improvement — Mike Kueber @ 1:18 am
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Last month when I was visiting with a friend in my hometown of Aneta, ND, she mentioned a high school chum who regularly returns to Aneta for its summer festival in June. This chum lives an outwardly successful life in a large urban area, yet still seems to enjoy returning to the small-town rural charm of Aneta and reconnecting with the people she grew up with. But something in their conversations has begun to bother my friend.

It seems that my friend and her chum usually bump into each other before or after Aneta’s small parade on Saturday, and invariably they have a warm and friendly chat for a few minutes before moving on. At first, these conversations were very satisfying, with the polished urban person asking appropriate questions and apparently enjoying the conversation. But lately my friend has realized that her chum asks the same questions every year, not unlike the movie Groundhog’s Day.

Although the repeated questions might not be immediately insulting, my friend has gradually become insulted because she has concluded that her chum is merely deploying her social graces in answering the appropriate questions and is not actually listening to or remembering her answers.

I think my friend is right.

One of my happy-hour friends complains that I often ask him the same question on multiple occasions, and I have to confess that this happens when I am making conversation with him instead of being hugely interested in what his answer is.

Don Imus has the same problem. Several times I’ve noticed him ask a guest something that I recalled he asked the same guest several weeks ago, and occasionally the guest will even point that out. Obviously, Don was making conversation in the earlier interview and didn’t particularly care what the guest’s response was (even though Imus takes great pride in asserting that, unlike other media interviewers, he actually listens to the answers and then lets those answers dictate the direction of the interview).

So, is this a teaching moment? I’m not sure. Obviously, it would be nice to be sincerely interested in your conversation, consistent with that old saying, “Be here now.” But sometimes a person is engaged in casual conversation that is not significant.

Do I want to waste my scarce brain cells remembering that? I vote yes, and I’m going to redouble my efforts here.

May 4, 2014

Men are from Mars

Filed under: Relationships — Mike Kueber @ 3:01 pm

A couple of years ago, I encountered a large San Antonio cycling club as their peloton was rolling along the 1604 access road just as I was starting my bike ride.  I tagged along and later became a Facebook friend with one of them.  Then that friendship resulted in friendships with two other club members – single, beautiful females – who are the subject of this blogpost.

Shortly after becoming friends, the first woman posted on Facebook a poster bragging that single mothers were responsible for raising the last two Democratic presidents.  As someone who is disinclined to let glib liberalisms pass without comment, I pointed out that the poster was factually wrong (Obama and Clinton had been raised with the help of stepdads and grandparents) and scientifically wrong (studies consistently find that kids do better with two parents).  My new friend was offended because she was a single mom and was not looking for analysis but rather support.  Although I apologized, she unfriended me.  That seem like a perfect example of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

My relationship with the second woman was much better.  In fact, we went out a few times and seemed to enjoy each other’s company.  But she was clearly an Alpha, and I decided that that was not what I was looking for.  We stayed in contact occasionally through Facebook, and it was a relationship I enjoyed – until this week.

Last week she posted a photo showing a bad knee injury.  Her knee was badly scraped, and I assumed that she had been involved in a bike crash, but she later revealed that she had fallen as a pedestrian.  Then this week, she posted another close-up picture from a dressy affair, and her knee looked much better.  I commented on the improvement, and noted that she probably had enough tomboy (and Marine) in her to feel proud of the battle scars she earns while living life to the fullest.  (She had actually served in the Marines for several years right out of high school.)

Suddenly, two days later, she responded to my comment:

  • “I don’t know you well; one reason for that is that you came across as very argumentative, challenging, offensive, brassy & basically rude. You don’t know me well either, much less to call me names such as tomboy or pass judgment of my lifestyle. I have not given you a reason, either, to be anything less than a gentleman with me. I suggest you edit your communication & postings with me to meaningful conversations & interactions without the aid of name calling & otherwise, or remove yourself altogether.”


I responded to her as follows:

  • I have never considered tomboy to be anything but a compliment. Tomboy – ‘a girl who enjoys rough, noisy activities traditionally associated with boys.’

She didn’t respond, but she didn’t unfriend me either.  Going forward, though, there doesn’t appear to be any left to salvage here.

After consulting with several friends about this, all I can say is that Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

March 9, 2014

Sunday Book Review #124 – Writing from Left to Right by Michael Novak

Filed under: Biography,Culture,Philosophy,Politics,Relationships,Religion — Mike Kueber @ 2:19 pm
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Michael Novak reminds me of Forrest Gump – i.e., his obscure life, starting in a dying steel-mill town of Johnsville, PA, seems to have fortuitously involved him in many of the most interesting events of the past few decades.  He also reminds me of my best friend Mike Callen because he studied to become a priest before deciding he preferred to remain in the lay world as a lifelong philosophical theologian or a theological philosopher.  Although I had never heard of Novak before stumbling across this book, Callen told me that Novak cast a big shadow in the Jesuit/theological world back when Callen was studying at Fordham to be a priest.

After leaving his priestly studies, Novak studied philosophy and theology at Harvard and came under the influence of two great men – French philosopher Gabriel Marcel and Protestant theological ethicist Reinhold Niebuhr:

  • Gabriel Marcel – “Marcel brought new light to daily experiences, such as recognizing the ‘presence’ of other persons and ‘encounter’ with another person – in other words, not just a passing, inattentive moment with another human being, but something more.  He drew attention to the difference between sitting between two people on the subway for an hour – treating them without recognition or interest or attention – and the act of having a memorable exchange of personal qualities.”

That reminds me of my dad, who “never met a stranger.”  The first night that Novak met Marcel, the philosopher generously spent much of the evening talking to Novak and even read to him extensively from a favorite play, The Funeral Pyre.  At the end of the evening, Marcel said to Novak – “Tonight, I think we had an encounter.  I think so.  Don’t you?”

  • Reinhold Niebuhr – In 1937 he coined The Serenity Prayer.  (Original version by Niebuhr – “Father, give us courage to change what must be altered, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.”  It was later revised to read by an unknown person to read – “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can change, And wisdom to know the difference.”)

Novak was most impressed by Niebuhr’s moral axioms:

  1. Expect that every man sometimes sins.
  2. Expect that every man has the capacity to act virtuously (and that the power of God might prompt man to rise to the occasion.
  3. Expect the laws of irony to operate – i.e., one’s stated motives are not always one’s unexamined, baser aims and there are almost always unintended consequences.
  4. Expect to feel the bite of tragedy – i.e., tragedy flows from overlooked human weaknesses that turn high hopes upside down.
  5. Know that decision-makers for social and political bodies must take into account factors that individuals do not.
  6. Know that in social and political actions by decision-makers, the difference between public duties and personal inclination is often keenly felt by the decision-maker.
  7. Know that our actions in history seldom work out as we hope, but even so we are responsible for protecting our actions from unanticipated ill effects as best we can.

There is an old saying that an old liberal has no brain, while a young conservative has no heart.  Well, Novak fits that mold perfectly, as his book is subtitled, “My journey from liberal to conservative.”  As a brilliant young man, he was drawn to the left and Humphrey, McCarthy, the Kennedys, and McGovern, with a special place in his heart for Sergeant Shriver.

But as he got older, he realized that liberal policies didn’t work – “Where has socialism ever worked?”  The war of poverty, welfare, and socialism corrupted people while capitalism caused them to flourish.  Similarly, military weakness brought out the worst in other countries.  Although Novak remained a Democrat, he worked for Reagan and became a big fan of the Bushes.

Like his hero Niebuhr, Novak attempted to balance idealism and realism, as reflected in his statement – “Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.”  President Obama also is impressed with Niebuhr, calling him his favorite philosopher and theologian.

Fascinating guy, with a rare combination of intellectualism and down-to-earthness.  And his description of Marcel’s “encounters” is something that I plan to apply to the rest of my life.

Incidentally, Novak loved President Kennedy, but his recollection of Kennedy’s time seems inaccurate:

  • Both us had rejoiced in the subsequent celebrations of ‘Camelot’; ironic and silly as the idea was, it was contagious.  Now we felt only the senselessness of the television set in front of us, one scene being played over and over again, as the open convertible pulled slowly around the circle in Dealy Plaza in Dallas.  The head of the president snapping forward, his collapse, and Jacqueline Kennedy bending over him.  This squalid killing.”

The pre-assassination reference to Camelot is false because the use of term to describe the Kennedy administration originated with Jackie Kennedy talking to Theodore White after the assassination.  And regarding the film showing Kennedy being shot – the Zapruder film – Life magazine outbid CBC for the film and it was released a few days later in the magazine, not on TV.

A memorial mass

Filed under: Relationships — Mike Kueber @ 2:36 am
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This morning Mike Callen and I attended Tom Wendland’s memorial mass out by Leon Springs.  Tom was a co-worker, and during the mass I learned that he started work in 1968, almost 20 years before I did, and retired in 2001, eight years before I did.

I never worked with Tom, but got to know him when co-worker Jenny Fischer told me that he was selling a nice house in the Woods of Shavano about the time I was thinking about buying a house.  My ex-wife Debbie and I loved the house, and Tom offered owner-financing that was unbeatable in the high-interest year of 1989.  When Tom presented the house to us, one of its selling points was a large deck that Tom had built himself.  He proudly noted that his daughter was married on the gazebo-like portion of the deck.

I saw Tom’s daughter and son for the first time today.  But I didn’t see the mother of Tom’s children, his first wife Tracy Wolff.  After Tracy and Tom were divorced, she married the man who became the mayor of San Antonio and the judge of Bexar County, the estimable Nelson Wolff.

I don’t know the circumstances that resulted in Tracy not attending the memorial service, but it did prompt me think that a mother of children should be with those kids for that service.  Regardless of the circumstances of the divorce or the post-divorce relationship, the mother’s place is with her kids.  Put the bad stuff behind you and focus on the good stuff that remains, which at a minimum consists of your kids and grandkids.

As we were driving back to SA, Mike Callen and I discussed this subject and wondered if our exes would attend our funerals.  Although we would certainly attend theirs, we weren’t sure the feeling was reciprocal.

November 30, 2013

She Said “No.”

Filed under: Relationships — Mike Kueber @ 5:16 am

There is a country song titled, “She Said Yes” by Chad Brock.  It’s about a guy who meets a girl at his old apartment, and after a brief visit, he asks if he can see her again – “She said yes; I said wow!”  Later in the song, he pops the question and, “She said yes; I said wow!”  Well, a few days ago I asked a girl if I could see her again, and although her response didn’t include the word “no,” it wasn’t yes.

So how do I feel?

For the past few months I haven’t been interested in dating, and I’ve had a few friends tell me that I need to get back into the game.  They feel that a man without a woman is incomplete.  One even referred me to a biblical quotation for support.

I’m not so sure.  Many years ago I noticed that my favorite movies invariably had the man losing the woman – Casablanca, Liberty Valence, Gone with the Wind, and Shane.  So maybe there’s something in me that prefers being the person who loses the woman and leaves to someone else the work needed to maintain a relationship.

Despite my reservations about attempting to maintain a relationship, I feel the peer pressure to try, especially if the potential mate is a really exceptional person.  Based on a consensus developed at the Mira Vista pool this summer, “exceptional” means someone who is attractive, intelligent, personable, and warm.

In the past few weeks, I have gotten to know two exceptional women, and one of them appeared to be available, so I decided to apply the old saying that you will often regret things you didn’t try, but you will rarely regret things that you did try.  So I asked this person out, even though I thought that the chances of a positive response were in the 30%-40% range.

In hindsight, I’m glad I did, but I’m also not very disappointed that she didn’t say yes.  I don’t mind being in the company of Rick Blaine, Tom Doniphon, Rhett Butler, and Shane.

July 25, 2013

Craving approval

Filed under: Relationships — Mike Kueber @ 5:39 pm

I don’t know what caused it, but I have a significant character flaw in craving approval or, conversely, avoiding disapproval.  Example – yesterday after a Wednesday yoga class, I was visiting with one of my favorite yoga instructors, Melissa Burns, and as I was walking away she said, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”  Her statement was based on the fact that I regularly participated in her uber-challenging hot-vinyasa practice on Thursday.  I responded, “You bet,” even though I had already decided that I was going to take an alternative, easier yoga class on Thursday – Dhyana’s slow-burn class.

Why did I do that?  I did it because I didn’t want Melissa to think that I was rejecting her class in favor of Dhyana’s, even though I was.  Then when Thursday rolled around, I tried to please both yogis by attending back-to-back classes, but was unable to pull it off because Melissa’s killer class left me completely drained.  As I dragged myself out of the yoga studio following Melissa’s class, Dhyana was walking in.

This character flaw of mine would be bad enough if it were limited to situations like choosing a yoga class.  Unfortunately, it has more significant ramifications.  Probably the most significant is that it causes me to communicate inaccurately with others.  Instead of communicating the unvarnished truth, I often distort the truth into something that the listener wants to hear, especially when the truth will cause the listener to think less of me.

I’ve searched the internet and haven’t found a consensus about what causes individuals to act like I do. The TV psychologists often point to a disconnect between the love of a parent and child, but that doesn’t resonate with my personal recollection of growing up.  In any event, I think I’m getting better with this problem as I grow older, but I’m still clearly a work in progress.

November 20, 2012

Why does John Boehner cry so much?

Filed under: Relationships — Mike Kueber @ 5:35 am
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Anyone who follows politics has probably noticed that House Speaker John Boehner can bring himself to tears very easily.  This character trait came to the attention of most people in 2010 shortly after he became House Speaker.  He was interviewed on 60 Minutes by Leslie Stahl and started crying when he described his Horatio Alger story.  When Stahl asked him about his crying, he explained that he had a habit of choking up whenever thinking about the American dream or kids.  And because he wasn’t ashamed of it, he didn’t try to stifle it.

Shortly after the 60 Minutes interview, there were a raft of stories debating whether this crying was appropriate.  Most of the stories were either light-hearted or attempted to put the crying of politicians in a historical perspective.  In all my searching of the internet, I was able to find only two stories that seriously explored whether there was a psychological cause.  One suggested that Boehner’s excessive crying was a side-effect to excessive drinking/alcoholism, even though there was scant evidence that Boehner abused alcohol.  The other proposed that the cause was depression, but once again the facts didn’t reveal any signs of depression in Boehner’s life.

Boehner’s crying interests me because I have noticed a similar trait in me.  I just finished watching the movie Not Since You, and several scenes brought tears to my eyes.  Although I’ve always been vulnerable to a really sad movie, I’ve noticed in the past few years that it is easier and easier for those crying moments to happen.  It could be a movie, a song, or a story.  And it doesn’t have to be sad.  All sorts of sentiments or emotions can trigger it – happy, disappointing, inspiring, etc.

Like Boehner, I don’t know what’s causing it, and I don’t know why I’ve changed in the past few years.  It is not booze or depression.  And like Boehner, I am not ashamed of it and actually enjoy it.  But I still hope to gain a better understanding of it in the future.

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