Monthly Archives: May 2021

Memorial Day – A Selfish View

How COVID Is Affecting Memorial Day 2021 - TREMG

Memorial Day honors those who have died in defense of our country. Veterans Day, in November, honors those who served. For this reason I do not celebrate Memorial Day, I observe it.

However, there’s one tiny part of Memorial Day that is a bit celebratory on a personal level.

Fifteen years ago, the Sailors I was responsible for were returning home. These sailors had been boots-on-the-ground supporting the Army. Many had carried weapons every day and dealt with mortar fire, rockets, and IEDs. All had worked hard while enduring desert heat, mountain cold, or ankle deep mud.

Some I knew well, others, not so much, but given that there were hundreds spread all over Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait, it wasn’t possible to spend more than a little time with some. I never know their political views nor did I care. I do know that we had a number who were not American citizens. Dozens were sworn in as citizens in desert cammies while deployed. Dozens more had completed all the requirements and were sworn in after they returned home.

The Command Master Chief and I were the last ones off the last plane home. He took the lead, as he often did, and we checked inside the passenger compartment, then the cargo bay to make sure that all our people were off the plane and inside the terminal.

Together, we breathed a sigh of relief. We had returned without a single casualty. On Memorial Days, we would not grieve the loss of any of our Sailors.

However, more than a few of those from other units stationed with our Sailors had lost men and women. Today, while thanking God that none of our people are honored today, in war, too many are lost–the number doesn’t matter, it is always too many.

Far too many.

Almost Normal?

Maybe we made it. I hope so.

Vaccinated people can now visit certain places without wearing a mask. Churches around here are going back to live, in-person services, rather than virtual online services. I won’t know what to do if the priest doesn’t periodically freeze or jitter during Mass like he did via the Internet, but I’ll get used to it.

I always told my kids that I’m a planner and therefore paid to be paranoid. I wonder if we could have reached this near-normal state earlier if wearing a mask hadn’t been perceived as a political statement. How would it have been if the COVID vaccine had been accepted the way the mass polio vaccinations were.

In the military, people are trained to understand that after a firefight or a battle is over, it’s best to be prepared for another attack. I hope we don’t have to worry about that with COVID, but it is one of the possibilities.

But then, I’m paid to be paranoid.

Heavenly Entertainment

"Musical Angels" Religious Stained Glass Window
“It’s a jazz riff in B, watch for the changes, and try to keep up.”

We all have strange beliefs. Mine is that my life is entertainment for the dead.

When people die and get to heaven, at first, it’s busy—music lessons and practice. Harps are probably the main ones that must be taught. Harps are complex; on earth they tend to go out of tune at the slightest breeze, which shouldn’t be a problem in heaven. Many other instruments, such as the tambourine or timbrel are percussion and almost intuitive. There are no accordions.

From what I can tell, the angels have the horn section covered.

In any case, before too long, heaven could get boring. God anticipated this, of course, so He arranged for alternative activities. One of which is that they treat my life like a situation comedy. They look forward to the next exciting episode, asking, “I wonder what humorous situation he’ll face this week?”

I must be doing okay, because so far I haven’t been canceled, at least to the best of my knowledge.

I figure the Steve Show must be the only true reality entertainment. It’s kind of like the old Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. You knew which guests were scheduled, but have an idea as to what will happen.

I thought, if that’s the case, would it be better if it were scripted?

The Steve Show

Characters: The cats, the dog, the parrot, the woman, and the man (Steve).

It’s dark—too dark to see anything. Things become slightly visible as though eyes are adjusting to the dark. There is a beeping sound that increases in volume. A slit widens, showing a digital clock. A hand fumbles, attempting to find the switch to turn off the alarm.

The man: (groaning) Ohhhh.

Man sits on edge of bed to the accompaniment of cracking sounds.

                The woman: (Has obviously already had at least one cup of coffee downstairs.) Are you up? Yes? Good. Love you babe.

                The man: (groaning) Ohhhh.

Man walks into bathroom and turns on the light, walks into the water closet room and closes door. Sound of toilet flushing as door reopens. Man looks into the mirror but isn’t quite able to focus on the reflection. Asks his reflection.

                The man: (groaning) What day is this?

Turns water on in shower, takes off clothes, tosses them toward the dirty clothes hamper, misses. Stares at clothes on the floor before picking them up and dropping them into the hamper. Steps into shower. Intermittent splashing sounds heard.

                The man: (groaning) Makes indeterminate guy sounds.

On the other hand, maybe unscripted spontaneity is better.

Ring! Ring! Hello?

Lily Tomlin's Lifetime of Funny Characters
“Have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?” The inimitable Lily Tomlin

I have a computer.

The first version of a digital computer by any stretch of the imagination was the Atanasoff-Berry Computer in 1937. The first personal computer, the Altair 8800 was available to geeks and other hobbyists in 1973, but required knowledge of computer and electronic technology. The first IBM PC—generally accepted as the first consumer-friendly (more-or-less) was unveiled in 1981.

My computer has a firewall, anti-malware, virus detection, virtual private network, spam filters, and other protective software that are readily available and affordable. This seems reasonable.

I have a telephone, a smartphone.

While many inventors were involved with the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell introduced the first- commercially viable telephone in 1876. That was almost a century before the Altair 8800 and just over a century before the IBM PC. For years, the telephone company controlled every aspect of consumer telephones, which led to such advancements as telephones with dials and eventually, telephones with push buttons (yawn).

Even with ~100 years head start, the telephone manufacturers and telephone companies have done little to help their consumers. I’m average so that 90 percent of the telephone calls I receive are spam. The spammers make so much money that when they are sued, the judgement is considered a (tiny) cost of doing business.

With my smartphone, I can surf the internet, send text messages, make international calls, and find the nearest Lithuanian-Italian restaurant. However, I can’t do anything about the 10 spam phone calls I receive each day because the spammers spoof the phone number they’re calling from.

Why don’t the telephone companies address this? My suspicion is that a) they aren’t willing to invest any money in solving the problem and; b) they just might make money off the spammers who maintain a thousand phone lines to call the rest of us.

Since it’s all driven by money, I suggest that Congress (if they ever decide to agree on anything) pass a law that the telephone companies have to pay their customers twenty-five cents for every spam call we receive. That will be the end of spam.

The Laws of the Game

As I approach retirement, I wish to share the wisdom that I have acquired from working over half a century.

There are certain rules that businesses follow. These are not prescriptive, nor are they written down anywhere, but businesses gravitate toward them the same way that moths gravitate toward lightbulbs. I am neither condoning nor endorsing these, I am merely sharing my observations.

  • Any problem in business can be resolved by training.
    • Q: Poor customer service? A: Training!
    • Q: Defective merchandise? A: Training!
    • Q: Nuclear radiation leak? A: Training!
    • Q: Cicadas hatching? A: Training!!
    • Q: Romulan Warbird uncloaking? A: Training!!!
  • Training must always be conducted by expensive external consultants.
  • It is always best to develop expertise within a small group and carefully protect it. It must remain within this cylinder of excellence and is not to be shared.
  • When working with another organization that has processes and procedures that work perfectly, they must be replaced since they are NIH (not invented here).
  • Every organization conducts drills, simulations, exercises, etc. When these are complete, meetings are held, after action reports written and other efforts undertaken to ensure that all lessons learned are captured. After the last meeting, the reports, data, etc. are either filed or shredded, never to be seen again. This allows the same wheel to be reinvented over and over.

If you look around the company or organization where you work, don’t be surprised if you see all or most of these.

Semitism

https://www.thoughtco.com/thmb/mrwC3V7GbA07x1ZuRAlUWlucfDE=/1955x2332/filters:fill(auto,1)/Kingdoms_of_the_Levant_Map_830-5aa50e7aeb97de003690e595.png
The Ancient Levant

If you’re planning on solving a world problem, it might be wise to know, in great detail, what you’re talking about. For example, there’s the issue of war in the Middle East.

For a moment, let’s leave the politics and who owns what out of it. With the recent conflict in Gaza, in the news, more than a few articles have been titled or focused on antisemitism. This is normally interpreted as referring to a bias against the Jews. I have a problem with that. The Jews are not the only Semites involved.

What is a Semite, anyway? The Merriam Webster dictionary provides the following:

Sem·​ite | \ ˈse-ˌmīt , especially British ˈsē-ˌmīt \ – 1a : a member of any of a number of peoples of ancient southwestern Asia including the Akkadians, Phoenicians, Hebrews, and Arabs b : a descendant of these peoples 2 : a member of a modern people speaking a Semitic language

As near as I can tell, anyone who lives, or whose ancestors lived in the Levant, is a Semite.

This should not be a surprise to anyone. The Jews trace their ancestry back to Abraham through his son, Isaac. The Arabs trace their ancestry back to Ibraham through his older son, and Isaac’s older half-brother, Ishmael. Given that Abraham and Ibraham are the same person, it’s not surprising that at various times they both lived in the same neighborhood.

The reason I bring that up is that people find it far too easy to point out where people are different from one another, often making a bad situation worse. Maybe it would be better if we focused on the things we have in common. We don’t have to agree on everything–but perhaps we shouldn’t disagree on everything, either.

https://i0.wp.com/www.glaphyridae.com/Biogeografia/img/Lev/Levantpolitical.gif
The Modern Levant

Plagiarism

To quote the Byrds, “I’m lazing on a sunny afternoon,” so I’m taking the easy way out and linking to someone else’s post.

Here’s a laugh for those of you who like sarcasm.

Teddie (Cruz) and Me.

Coefficient of Friction

Every day–or at least many days–I try to write a blog, but current events dissuade me. I confess, I automatically select Netflix when I turn on the television, even though if my granddaughters have been here, I’m immediately exposed to ICarly. (I never knew that any children’s television program could induce urticaria, borborygmi, and myclonus. Mighty Mouse never did.)

Current events, especially in Washington, DC, are so–so–so, you know. It makes it difficult to write anything that doesn’t sound desperate. I’ve got two dozen blogs I started but I haven’t finished, because of that.

So why today’s title? It should be obvious: Friction force develops between contacting surfaces of two bodies and acts to resist relative motion between the bodies. The friction force, F, is proportional to the normal force, N, and the coefficient of friction, μ.

Still not tracking?

Okay. Whenever I have an idea for a blog and then become exposed to current events, the idea either slips away on its own, or else I push it out of the way. There is not enough friction to keep it in one place.

It’s pathetic, I know, but this is the world in which we live.

Post COVID-19 Economics 2021

Pandemics have had an interesting impact on economics throughout history. While most “experts” predict doom and gloom, there is another possibility. Depending upon your economic status, it may be bad or not.

Many times when a plague hit, predictably it was the poor who bore the brunt of it, with many dying. The Black Plague, for example, has been estimated to kill one-third of Europe’s population.

When the plague abated and businesses tried to recover, the decimation of the lower class meant that there were fewer laborers available. Although many could return to their old jobs at their old wages, other businesses, desperate for workers, offered significantly higher wages to lure them away from their old employer. In some cases, they were offered two to three times as much as they had earned in the past.

The wealthy found some of these changes alarming. In the words of an anonymous English chronicler: “Such a shortage of labourers ensued that the humble turned up their noses at employment, and could scarcely be persuaded to serve the eminent for triple wages.”

The response from the wealthy was predictable. In one case, “the wealthy lobbied the English crown to pass the Ordinance of Labourers, which informed workers that they were ‘obliged to accept the employment offered‘” for the same measly wages as before.’ This was largely ignored, of course. It would require a violent suppression to force compliance. Over the years, some societies did just that.

In the meantime, landlords were facing an oversupply of real estate and a shortage of potential tenants. Prices were lowered, and the lucky elites managed to survive on their wealth rather than relying on their income. It is debated, bot possible, that these events created the middle class.

We can only wait to see if the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has such an effect. I suspect that will be a while, since the unvaccinated provide a breeding ground for the virus to mutate. When this occurs, the original and the weaker variants are stopped while the stronger survive and will likely be harder to combat.

Many of the ideas and the quotes in this blog are based upon the writings of Walter Scheidel, Professor of Classics and History at Stanford University, and the author of The Great Leveler: Violence And The History Of Inequality From The Stone Age To The Twenty-First Century.

Don’t Worry

Don’t worry, those trillions of cicadas are going to pop out of the ground and make a thunderous nose any second now.

The Samaritan

I have been seeing news articles about people who stepped into an emergency situation and rendered assistance. The headlines describe them as Samaritans, referring to the story in the New Testament of the Good Samaritan. Luke relates the parable Jesus told in which a man had been beaten, stripped and left for dead. A priest and a Levite passed him by while a Samaritan treated his wounds and took him to an inn and paid for his care.

There are several important issues that are not obvious as to the significance of the Good Samaritan. Over 500 years earlier, Samaria had become the capital of the Northern Kingdom when Israel was split. The Assyrians conquered the Northern Kingdom first, removed many of the Israelites and largely repopulated the area with Gentiles. The Israelis in the Northern Kingdom intermarried and adopted many of the ways of the Gentiles, including their religious practices.

Some years later, the Southern Kingdom was also conquered by the Assyrians, and its people carried off, but 70 years after being conquered, a contingent of 43,000 Jews were allowed to return. These people had maintained their commitment to God, whom they worshiped in captivity and whom they continued to worship when they returned to their homeland. They hated the Samaritans because the Samaritans had chosen to view the Gentile idols as either co-equal with God, or as replacing him.

Jews had nothing to do with Samaritans. Hence the “Good Samaritan” would have been seen as a contradiction of terms during Jesus’ time.

The other significant detail is that the priest and Levite passed the injured man without aiding him. This was not merely hubris. Priests and Levites served in the temple, but anyone who touched a dead or dying person, would be ritually unclean. This meant they could not enter the temple until they had been ritually cleansed, which took seven days.

We don’t know the thoughts of the hypothetical priest and the Levite, but it is not unlikely that Jesus’ listeners would see them as choosing their duty to God over their duty to mankind.

The story of the Good Samaritan was a parable–a story–intended to teach. It was not a historical fact, so if it was intended to teach, it’s good to uncover the hidden wisdom as well as that which is obvious.