Friday, November 03, 2006

Dave Zweifel: AA's method could solve other issues

By Dave Zweifel
November 3, 2006

With all the problems in the world these days, a fellow named Francis Fennell thinks that he's got an answer to solve a lot of them.

Who is Francis Fennell? Well, actually, he doesn't exist, at least by that name. It's really the pseudonym of a longtime member of Alcoholics Anonymous, who has been so smitten with the way AA works that he's convinced beyond a doubt that other problems - everything from drug abuse to domestic violence - could be solved by using AA's techniques.

So he's written a book, "Stake Your Claim to Happiness," that he has self-published and hopes to get in the hands of people who will take his message and make use of it.

Fact is, I know the real Francis Fennell quite well. He has long been a strong player in the campaign to solve alcohol and other drug abuse problems in Wisconsin, and he brought his book for me to read before it was actually published. It's a good and thoughtful read, full of suggestions for people who want to make a difference in their lives. And it suggests that our propensity to lie and cheat, which he sees as a scourge on our country, could be altered by Americans achieving that difference.

Fennell describes in easy-to-understand fashion how AA's famous 12-step approach to conquering alcoholism can be modified and used for many of society's other ills. AA's free support to alcoholics has been enormously successful, much more so than counseling and therapy, and Fennell sees no reason why it couldn't do the same with other problems.

Plus, truth is, he's not out to make big bucks with the book, but rather to spur support for the concept.

That it is already having some impact was evidenced in a report by Ben Bromley of our sister paper in Baraboo, the News-Republic. He recently wrote of how Fennell's book has already led to efforts to form groups in Sauk County to begin putting the book's suggestions to practical use.

"His efforts to acquaint south central Wisconsin residents with this concept started as an effort to sell books," Bromley wrote. "But that pursuit soon became secondary to a new goal: Organizing a committee of stakeholders to combat our communities' ills."

Fennell, who in his real life has operated alcohol treatment programs based on AA's principles, plans to help the groups get under way.

"We want to get across the message that there is a serious problem in society that is affecting our youth," he told Bromley. "I think a lot of things that are going on are really impacting drastically our strength as a nation." With any luck, Fennell hopes to someday attract a national publisher to get the message spread countrywide. If you'd like to get a copy of "Stake Your Claim to Happiness," go to

Monday, October 30, 2006

Andy Andrews lived a relatively normal life until the age of 19. It was then that both his parents died—his mother from cancer, his father in an automobile accident. Within a span of several years, the young man found himself literally homeless, sleeping occasionally under a pier on the gulf coast or in someone’s garage.

It was at that time Andrews asked a profound question that would alter his own life, and ultimately affect millions of people: “Is life just a lottery ticket or are there choices one can make to direct his future?” Andrews read more than two hundred biographies of great men and women, and decided to put characteristics used by famous individuals into effect to change his life.

I'm reading his book The Traveler's Gift--Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success, and finding it very helpful.

This is a reader review from Amazon:

Not a read for the shallow thinker.., July 9, 2006
Reviewer: RJ "ledog3" (snohomish WA) -

If this is one of those books that some physcology teacher "assigns" you to read for a later book report, forget it. Put the book back and drop the class. It's just doesnt fall into that kind of catagory. This book is an extension of that old saying "You make you're own bed, so sleep in it".

If you're not a deep thinker and don't consider spirituality (I don't neccessarily mean religion, so chill) anything more than a magic act, then don't bother picking Andys book up. Its not you or for you. Having said all that, I liked it. It had some solid words (the 7 decisions thing) to live by that are not anything more than you already know in your own gut. He just brings it all to the surface a bit so you can digest the meaning and perhaps try it yourself. I cant call it a self help book. I've read several of those and most of them get thrown out with last nites pizza box. This is a simple, short page turner that you could knock out in a couple of evenings. No big words or long speeches. But dont read it that quick. Do a couple of chapters then put it down for a day or two.

He uses the "time travel" vehicle as nothing more than an example for you to hold on to while the message is getting told. Yes, we all know time travel likely doesnt exist. Thanks for the reminder. So many of the early reviewers must have just got through reading The Davinci Code or something. Exactly what were you expecting, a bottle of fix-it pills with each copy?? If you're looking for a little refill of your already learned life lessons and what they should mean to you and others, this book is great. Its not about what you did wrong. Its about what happens now and later. This is not a review of YOU birth-to-presentday. Its not a textbook, or like I said, a self help book. Its not religious or anything like that. No thee's thou's or thou arts. You're not getting brainwashed and they dont ask you to send money to a P.O. Box in Florida at the end of the book... Its written for those of us living in the western world who can't seem to believe in ANYTHING without seeing it, smelling it or touching it or having an unretouched digital internet image as proof of existence. Its just a little bit of walk-around enlightenment for your every day use. So go deep. You can't lose here. The book only costs 10 bucks and I got mine on sale.
As the midterm campaign enters the homestretch, the GOP congressional juggernaut that has dominated national politics for more than a decade may be over. Polls show Democrats extending their leads in pivotal races across the country. But the man largely responsible for the Republicans' glory days — and arguably still the most powerful political operative in the United States — is far from discouraged.

Instead, (Karl) Rove is giving a virtuoso performance designed to prevent the Democrats from taking control of the House and Senate or, if that is no longer possible, to hold down the size of the Democratic victory to make it easier for the GOP to come back in 2008. His plan is three-pronged: to reenergize any conservatives who may be flagging; to make sure the GOP's carefully constructed campaign apparatus is functioning at peak efficiency; and to put the resources of the federal government to use for political gain.,0,440699.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"It wasn't courage it was stupidity. You have to be so dumb you that you say, 'let's just do it, maybe it will work out.'" Neil Simon on CBS Sunday Morning.
I've twice come close to starting startups since Viaweb, and both times I bailed because I realized that without the spur of poverty I just wasn't willing to endure the stress of a startup. Paul Graham, founder of Yahoo.
This is a week to note our solidarity with all the dead (on Thursday 2nd), the saints (on Wednesday the 1st), the uncanonised and maybe the accursed. We are one human family. St Matthew, listing the pedigree of Jesus, draws attention to the harlot Rahab and the adulterous David and Tamar. What mixture of DNA is in my makeup, linking me perhaps to farmers, poets, kings, rapists, the violent or the victims? This is the makeup in which I work out my way to God. I inherited it, I did not choose it. But like a good card-player, I can make much or little of the hand I am dealt. Lord, how am I doing? Help me to improve my play.