Monthly Archives: January 2017

Generations

“The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” — Socrates

Each generation despairs at their children, or perhaps the children of each generation despair at their parents.

When my grandparents were young, horses were still the main form of transportation. My grandmother’s wedding gown was more than a little flapper-like. Jazz was the cutting-edge music that had parents shaking their heads. With World War I, the musical question was, “How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve seen Paree?”

My parents grew up in the depression and prohibition was still in force for their first few years; World War II was raging in Europe as they became teenagers. Big band music and crooners, like Bing Crosby, led to Zoot Suits and predictions of doom.

I grew up in the 1960’s with rock and roll, hippies, “The Summer of Love,” and the Vietnam War. The mantra was, “Never trust anyone over 30.”

My oldest child is 41, my youngest, 16, so I’ve been through the process with one generation, and am still in the midst of the second generation.

The disconnect is the natural order of things as one generation breaks free from their parents and defines itself. Somewhere around age thirty or so, just as Tolkien wrote of Hobbits, individuals tend to come of age.

Samuel Clemens may or may not be responsible for this quote, of which there are various versions. This one is attributed to Victor Steinbok, a highly-regarded researcher. in a Bulletin from the Missouri Department of Agriculture in March of 1916 <Link>

Somthing like Mark Twain. At the age of seventeen Mark says he thought his father the most ignorant man in all the world and just couldn’t stand him about. At the age of twenty-three he found that his father knew a few things and he could put up with him occasionally; at the age of twenty-seven he knew that his father was the smartest man in all the world and he just doted on having him about. There is a bit of psychology in this that is worthy our study.

Isn’t It Good? Norwegian Wood.

Way back in the 1970s, when John Lennon was still alive, we took many types of wood for granted, although I think Norwegian wood is more a song description than anything else. Apparently, the Beatles, in their leaner days, would break up the furniture where they were staying and burn it in the fireplace to stay warm.

Before container ships, cargo had to be blocked and braced—held in place by wood, so it didn’t shift during transit. If all the weight shifted to one side of a ship, it would heel over then sink. Bad.

If the cargo was flammable or worse (think ammunition or other explosives), the blocking and bracing material had to be fresh wood, since reused wood might have a stray nail that could cause a spark, with very, very bad consequences.

During the Vietnam war, ships would arrive in Vietnam from small ports. Their cargo was often blocked and braced with the shipper’s local “junk” wood. In some cases, the junk wood was teak. Since it had been used once and had nails in it, it was no longer usable. Some of the service members would take it to their hooch and build furniture out of this beautiful teak. They’d then spend the rest of their tour trying to figure out how to get their objet art back home. Some succeeded, while those who failed knew their teak creation would soon be a pile of ash.

Rosewood is another example of a beautiful wood that was once plentiful. Now, guitar makers such as Taylor have to meet strict regulations if they have rosewood to use in building a guitar, AND the rules are equally strict if they ship a guitar that has any rosewood in it, anywhere.

The lesson? Plant trees. You never know what local, unloved, unwanted, species might someday be a rare and valuable commodity. In the meantime, it provides shade, and once it’s full grown, each tree will remove 55,000 gallons of water from the ground and transpire it into the air. Those of you facing droughts won’t appreciate this, but if you’re along the seacoast, you understand the benefits of this.

I like trees. I think Norwegian wood (whatever that is) would be better with roots in the ground and limbs in the air than in the fireplace.

Why Haven’t I Been Blogging?

The sun was in my eyes.

My suit was at the cleaners.

My car wouldn’t start.

Friends dropped in from out of town.

My car was stolen.

. . . with apologies to Jake Blues . . . .

Actually, I’ve been working on my story, and my day job, and my kids—but the story is my main excuse.

The problem with being a writer who is later taught how to edit is that it forces one to keep going back and rewriting, then reviewing, then rewriting, etc.

HOWEVER- – – – – – I think it’s getting better.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to share it in my mortal lifetime.

Cross your fingers.

Career Advice

I’m tempted to advise my kids to get business degrees and go into the pharmaceutical industry. It’s a great opportunity—you can raise the price of drugs essential for an infant to remain alive 18,000%. You can buy out competitors. You can change formularies so no patients get what they need. You can buy companies strictly so you can own their patents and cut off competition.

What a great way to work towards riches! What a great opportunity to steal from the sick and give to the rich.

If he were in the industry, Vito Corleone’s response might be, “Why have you come to beg for prescription drugs for your child on the day of my daughter’s wedding?” Then he’d send Luca Brasi to take care of both the parent and child.

No, wait, the Godfather actually wouldn’t—only modern pharmaceutical companies would do that—if they could. (Can they?)

When there is a situation in which the Godfather appears as a paragon of virtue compared to the pharmaceutical companies, maybe I should recommend my children place doing good above doing well and seek employment elsewhere.

Hmmmm, what if someone made big Pharma an offer they couldn’t refuse and everyone could get the drugs they needed with a reasonable, but not obscene profit?

Don Corleone might say, “I’m honored to be godfather to your child, and I’m happy that your child is healthy. It is my hope and my wish that no one stands in the way of your child’s health and welfare.”

Fake News

What’s the big deal about fake news? How much of the news that we get isn’t already at least partially fake?

Would you stake your life on the information you hear on talk radio? What about CNN? Fox? MSNBC?

I’m not aware of any news source that limits itself to the facts; I used to give that credit to NPR, but sadly they too place agenda above journalism.

Sometimes half-truths are worse than outright lies. You can skew logic by picking the facts support your position and ignoring anything that contradicts it.

The bottom line, in my humble opinion, is that the amateur news organizations have started using the same tools as the “professionals.”

As the Irish say, “More’s the pity.”

Dr. Martin Luther King

Today is set aside to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, few people really know much about Dr. King.

He made a difference—the beginning of change, but change is a process, and the change he inspired is continuing, but nowhere near complete. The change process feels agonizingly slow and many grow frustrated.

Unfortunately, real change—especially important change—takes time. Healthy babies take about nine months. Evolution takes eons. Only television programs provide almost instantaneous answers—not reality.

Like a garden, change will grow at its own pace regardless of our need or desires. No farmer, no megacorporate farming conglomerate, no Nobel winning scientist can shorten the growing season. Plant in the spring, fertilize, irrigate, hope, and pray; if everything is right, you will harvest in the fall, when the crop is ripe. You cannot harvest any earlier.

Dr. King cleared and plowed the field. He was a major contributor to the planting. The crop is growing. We don’t know when the harvest will occur, but we must tend the garden to ensure that the change will grow and eventually yield the results that he hoped for.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was not a mythical, perfect being. He was a human being with flaws—just like you and me. Nevertheless, in the face of challenges, hatred, bigotry, violence, his own human nature, and eventually his assassination, he pressed on and made a difference. He had a dream, and he tried to make that dream a reality.

How many of us are willing to do the same? Take time to learn from Dr. King.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3vDWWy4CMhE

But of Course—Selfies!

I purchased an inexpensive tablet to use for ham radio communications (APRS and MT63 for those who are curious). When I say inexpensive, I mean a refurbished discontinued model, but still adequate for my purposes. There’s just one problem.

Every time I turn it on, it immediately goes into camera mode, with the camera aimed at me. This is unsatisfactory for two reasons:

1. I rarely use camera mode on a tablet. Being a 21st Century Luddite, I use an honestly real digital camera. It has something to do with quality pictures.

2. I put myself through school photographing weddings. Although income was the primary reason, additionally:

  • When friends got married, I never had to rent a tux, host a bachelor party, etc.
  • I hate having my picture take, and being behind the camera helps ensure very few pictures with me in it.

At first I was confused—why was it set up this way?

You know how when you see something frequently, you tend not to see it at all until you stop and think.

I stopped, thought, and turned my head toward my teenage daughter, She laughed loudly and took another selfie.

I told you I was a Luddite.

SkyDome Restaurant

I’m in Washington DC for work for a couple of days, at one of the hotels that is close to our meeting place and charges a rate acceptable to the bean counters. I’ve stayed here many times before, so it feels familiar.

The hotel’s hallmark is a rotating restaurant on the top. These are always fun with a great view, and while they’re not in every city, they’re not uncommon, either. That got me thinking (always dangerous):

1. Is there a company that just builds revolving restaurants? “Okay, you want a 90-foot diameter restaurant. I just shipped the last one, so it’ll take us a few weeks to make a new one. Don’t forget, we just do the restaurant shell and mechanical rotation equipment—all the cooking and bar equipment, tables, chairs, and so on are your responsibility.”

2. Maybe the company provides a kit of unique parts. “Okay, you’ll need a roller-bearing assembly, 90-feet in diameter, and rated for 150 tons. Next, you’ll need the fastening kits, one to connect it to the building, and then the other to connect the restaurant floor. Oh, do you need the instruction and service manuals? They’re not included and cost extra. They are cheaper if you buy the downloadable version; the paper version has 3 x 5 feet pages and weighs a couple of hundred pounds. With the download, you can print as many copies of any section whenever you want.”

3. Or, is each one individually designed by the architect or civil engineer working on the building? “Hmmm. This will be fun—I’ve never designed one of these before. I know how to calculate the weight, balance, and torque needed to turn the restaurant floor, but not everything. I guess I’ll Google it and check You Tube to see if there are any good tips online.”

Whichever way they use, it works; I’ve never encountered a problem (except for the occasional unexpectedly high dinner and drink tab), so I enjoy them very much.

Everybody panic! It might snow!

Buffalo, NY 2014 (Courtesy PBS)

Southeast Virginia’s TV meteorologists are in a full-blown tizzy because (gasp!) it looks like it’s going to snow. This is not necessarily bad, because TV meteorologists love to be in a tizzy over any weather event—but if you lived as boring a life as they do, wouldn’t you? The only other excoitement they get is standing outside in a storm on a live broadcast telling everyone else not to go outside.

Our neighboring states average the following annual snowfall:

West Virginia 62″

Delaware and Maryland 20.2″

North Carolina (due south of us) 7.6″

Virginia as a state averages 10.3″ per year, but the southeast (Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Hampton, Chesapeake, etc.) averages a paltry 5.8 inches, although eighty years ago, in January 1936, there was a record snowfall of 20 inches. Wow!

So, wish your television weatherman a happy blizzard, but leave quickly or risk having it all explained in great detail to you.

What a Day

We moved at work yesterday into smaller cubicles with no storage space and virtually no sound control. The idea was to use “collaboration rooms” for discussions. They forgot most of the collaboration rooms.

In the meantime, Human Resources unveiled a new performance system that is based on lots of collaboration and sharing of ideas to break down the “stovepipes” that separate the people working on different parts of the same overall goal.

From now on, whenever I cut a board too short, forget an appointment, get the paint for the wall on the ceiling, or commit some other human frailty, I won’t sweat it. I can’t compete with the professionals, so I need to accept my limitations. That will give me more time to focus on activities that make me smile.

So today—smile! At worst, it makes people think you’re up to something.

2017

Time and dates are artificial. Intrinsically they have no importance, although accountants and bankers think otherwise. It is now 2017, and we’re all supposed to make resolutions for the new year. That’s okay—improving one’s self is always a good thing regardless of the date. I generally don’t make New Year’s resolutions because they last about three or four days. However, this year I do have a few:

  1. I’m going to try to spend more time just being with my wife. I’m often so busy doing so many other things that being together gets pushed off the agenda.
  2. I will try to share thoughts more often on this blog
  3. I will maintain a positive attitude because I know that no matter what happens, it’s going to turn out consistent with God’s will.
  4. I will try to do what’s right—not just the easy decisions, but the tougher decisions that I often totally avoid. In other words, I will choose doing good over doing well.

No, I won’t tell you when I’ve failed at these. Instead, I’m going to pick myself up, dust myself off, and start again.

May your 2017 be Vulcanesque—”Live long and prosper.”