Category Archives: Future

Interesting Facts

I try to stay out of politics for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I have a hiatal hernia and gaastro-esophogeal reflux disease. However, from time to time, I come across facts that are just too interesting to keep to myself.

However, beware, for as John Adams said:

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.*

Anne Frank

—–Every western nation seems to be wrestling with the issue of immigration these days. Interestingly, there was a recent discovery by the Anne Frank House and the Holocaust Memorial Museum that Anne Frank’s father had applied–twice–for permission to move his family to the United States, but was turned down due to  “American bureaucracy, war, and time.” ** As everybody is probably aware, Anne Frank spent much of the war hiding in a secret room in the attic, was eventually found, arrested, sent to a Nazi concentration camp, and died only a few weeks before the British Army liberated the camp.

911

—–NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is an organization formed among western nations in 1949 for their mutual protection. Article 5 of the NATO treaty that essentially says that an attack on one member nation would be viewed as an attack on all the NATO members.  Interestingly, Article 5 has only been invoked once, with the other NATO nations coming to the aid of the United States after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.***

 

* Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_adams_134175

** https://www.click2houston.com/news/national/anne-franks-family-tried-in-vain-to-flee-to-the-us

*** https://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/13/us/after-attacks-alliance-for-first-time-nato-invokes-joint-defense-pact-with-us.html

 

Tithing

In ancient times, the Israelites, or if you prefer, the Jews, were expected to set the first ten percent of their harvest aside as an offering to God. Many of us–Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, have roots reaching back to that same practice. Of course, back then, they slaughtered animals, the priests took a portion for their services–after all, they did not farm or own herds–but the rest was burnt on the altar as a sacrifice.

Most churches today, wouldn’t know what to do if someone placed a lamb in the collection basket. Even worse, the children in the congregation would be traumatized by the idea that a cute little lamb (although they really are dirty and stupid creatures)  would be slaughtered (even though they might very well enjoy that same lamb–with mint jelly–if it were packaged on a Styrofoam tray covered with shrink wrap at the grocery store).

It’s a different world. Today, very few of us raise sheep (my friends in New Zealand excepted, of course), so that’s not what we bring as a sacrifice. So what do we offer?

  • Church goers often donate cash to their church.
  • Many people donate money or goods to various charitable organizations.
  • Some people donate time to soup kitchens or shelters for the homeless.

But their are other opportunities to contribute to the good of all, even if you can’t help out at a soup kitchen and wouldn’t know which end of a hammer to use for Habitats for Humanity.

You can donate computer time. and it’s painless.

When you are not using your computer, you can let it work for others. Calculations that once required a supercomputer are now divided up into byte-sized (sorry about the pun) chunks and sent to thousands of personal computers. Each personal computer is limited; a hundred personal computers has possibilities; a thousand personal computer is awesome.

A million personal computer working on a problem might just solve it.

If you participate, you can set your computer to work on such issues whenever you aren’t using it. There are sites working to track asteroids that threaten the earth, the cure for various diseases, the global warming issue–does it exist? What causes it, and what should we do?

There are a variety of other questions to be answered. Curious? Check out

boinc.berkeley.edu.

 

Goodbye to the Newspaper

When I was growing up, almost everybody took the local newspaper. Many cities had several competing newspapers, although Toledo’s two papers–one morning and one evening–were owned and operated by the same company.

Journalism is dead, having given way to commentary. Many newspapers are moribund. In my area, so few people subscribe to the actual news that the newspaper distributes a free weekly printing of advertisements. They probably copied the business model of the US Postal Service, which became a model of financial success when junk mail became their most profitable business.

Many papers already rely primarily on the wire services for their content, which means that in the morning paper you’ll see the same articles you read online the day before. With reliance on wire services–of which there are basically two–the entire nation receives the information as perceived by one writer. While I don’t like this, I must admit that it is an approach that has worked well for Vladimir Putin.

News is framed so as to attract everyone’s attention–in other words, it must be sensational or salacious–ideally both. This results in the media altering our perception. Travel by airplane, for example, is very safe, which is why an emergency landing on a highway with no injuries is considered nationally newsworthy and causes some people to perceive airplanes as dangerous. On the other hand, automobile accidents are so common that it must involve a self-driving vehicle, have a dozen or so fatalities, involve over 50 cars.

It’s sad that most people don’t want journalism because it requires readers to think. It’s easier to find some online source that reinforces their existing position and biases than to have to think and possibly change their minds occassionally.

The CES and Other Illusions

Every year I read about the great new products at the Consume Electronic Show, this year held 8 – 12 January in Las Vegas. The products are marvelous. They’re amazing. They’re introduced amid a glamor of models, cosplayers, and celebrities. They represent the cutting edge of technology.

Unfortunately, most of us will see, much less be able to use most of them. Like, where are the flying cars?

Driverless cars, domestic robots, virtual 3-D that’s adult—NOT porn (I’m not kidding, that’s what they say), and (wait for it) the ability to see INSIDE YOUR HAIR! Now, given that I have much less hair than I did in my younger days, that just might be important to me. Can I stop by WalMart, BestBuy, or even Brookstone and pick one up? Not so much.

There are the latest video games (yawn)—but—wait! Here’s something special— a smart kitty litter box! Something practical—but it’s for the show, not the store.

Oh well.

I’d write more, but I need to go sweep up around the plain, old-fashioned, low-tech kitty litter box.

Goodbye to an Old Friend

Long before my time, Theodore and Milton Deutschmann started a business to cater to the new field of wireless—specifically, amateur radio. They called their business Radio Shack.

rs

Why? Ships were among the first to adopt wireless communications, and since early transmitters created a signal by generating a huge spark, there was the risk of starting a fire. To minimize risk, the radio equipment was placed on the main deck, in a separate small building, which came to be called the radio shack.

Ham radio operators (no one knows for sure why they’re called “hams”) tended to call the place where their radio station was located as the radio shack, or ham shack. Amateur radio was shut down during both world wars, but hams returned to the air as soon as it was legal to do so. The end of the Second World War provided an added advantage with huge selection of inexpensively priced military surplus radio equipment.

When I was a youngster, there were a few radio stores around town where you could buy components or tools. However, periodically the mailman would deliver a catalog from Lafayette, Allied, or Olsen Electronics. The Sears Christmas toy catalog couldn’t compete with these for the pure lust they generated. I remember building a set of Knight Kit walkie talkies, purchased from Allied.

In the late 1960s, Allied began opening stores in malls, outcompeting most the other companies, which gradually faded away. Allied purchased Radio Shack, but the combined Allied-Radio Shack was determined to be too monopolistic, and the two companies were split up. Allied became the industrial supplier while Radio Shack stayed as the retailer in the malls. Radio Shack sold things that you couldn’t find elsewhere. The TRS-80 computer was one of the first personal computers. They introduced a pocket-sized computer and one of the first laptops. Radio Shack had a niche market—the nerds—but nerds were paying $2,500 for a radio shack computer before the general population knew personal computers existed.

You could find all the parts to build a stereo from tuner to speaker wire. How about a multimeter and a soldering iron? They sold CB radios, of course, but also some ham radio transceivers. Most everything was manufactured by someone else, but carried one of Radio Shack’s brand names.

If you were working on a project and need a 47 ohm resistor (usual price, 10 cents—Radio Shack price, two dollars) you could drive to the mall on a Sunday and finish your project before dinner, even on a Sunday afternoon. Yeah, their components were overpriced, but the convenience made it worth it.

Then, one fateful day, the brainless
pencilnecks management of Radio Shack decided to sell the same products (e.g., cell phones) that you could buy for less money at Best Buy, WalMart, RiteAid, etc.

I’ve been told by Radio Shack managers that the really profitable part of the store was the parts section with those overpriced resistors, capacitors, and semiconductors. You know, the ones you could buy whenever you needed them? The parts selection went from a large section of wall to a metal cabinet with multiple drawers. I think the cabinet got smaller, but in any case, there were fewer and fewer parts available. Cell phones—no problem. Parts? Sorry.

I hear that Radio Shack is still sort of, kind of, in business, but you couldn’t prove it by me. The last local store is now empty. Like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, you only hear about someone who knows someone whose brother-in-law saw one. It’s too bad—they could have coasted a few more years just on what I spent there.

Fixing Healthcare – Part Three

Physician’s Assistants (PAs) and Advanced Registered Nurse  (ARNPs) are helping lower costs and increase access. While some nurse practitioners, can operate relatively independently; other nurse practitioners and most physicians’ assistants, cannot. Why?

Physicians are adamant that they maintain a high degree of control over these and other healthcare workers. This is a throwback to the nineteenth century—which is kind of interesting in a weird sort of way. The story, and I cannot vouch for its accuracy, although all my research seems to support it, is that the country was besotted with traveling medicine shows hawking patent medicines (You’ve seen it in the movies—“One for a man, two for a horse”). The physician industry supposedly promised to get things under control if they were put in charge of medical practitioners, i.e., physicians and surgeons (MD). It, at best, minimized, if not blackballed, osteopathic physicians (DO), chiropractors (DC) and chiropodists, now known as podiatrists (DPM).

A physician, at the time, could authorize any hireling under his license to perform any duty under the concept that the doctor was “the captain of the ship” and was responsible for everything. Therefore, he had authority to authorize any employee to do anything—hopefully, but not necessarily, after some training.

Today, many non-physician healthcare workers are licensed in their own right; in most states this includes nurses (of all levels), therapists (of all varieties), and technologists (ditto). These people are trained and possess technical skills that physicians do not. Generally speaking, only television doctors leave their practice in order to operating high technology devices. It’s good theater but bad economics.

Many of the other healthcare careers such as nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants, etc., have made significant advances Unfortunately, old attitudes die hard, and there are too many physicians who try to maintain an inordinate control over everything, including these other professionals. Nurse anesthetists and physicians’ assistance must be “supervised” by a physician, although such supervision does not require actual observation or even the presence of the supervising physician.

Efforts to keep others under control have led to some bizarre arrangements. In radiology, for example I’m told that the technologists are now required to periodically retake the examination that initially proved their competence even though there has been continuing education requirements for 40 years. If true, I believe this is a unique requirement, but a warning to all others. Of all the physicians’ assistants, only those specializing in radiology are not permitted to interpret x-ray or other diagnostic images.

Why?

Some blame the American Medical Association, a very powerful organization with effective lobbyists. However, it apparently speaks for a self-selected group of physicians. Out of 923,308 practicing physicians, the most recent numbers available indicates that only 228,000 belonged to the AMA. If you don’t round, that’s just less than 25 percent.

Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman and his wife, who wrote the book Free to Choose, asserted that the AMA functions more like a guild with the goal of increasing physicians’ wages and fees by limiting both the supply of physicians and the competition from non-physician groups.

This is yet another issue that must be addressed if we are truly interested in fixing healthcare.

Medical School Rationing

Fixing Healthcare – Part 2 — Doctors

I’ve known many intelligent, talented, committed young people who aspired to become doctors, but couldn’t get into medical school. Some were resigned to their fate and used their degree in biochemistry to become medical technologists; others made arrangements to attend medical school outside the United States—primarily in the Caribbean. In one case, in order to study at a school in the Caribbean, the aspiring medical student’s parents sold virtually everything to finance her education. She’s nearly complete with her rotations back here at US hospitals and plans on serving rural or tribal underserved areas.

While we don’t have enough graduates of United States medical schools, we grant 85,000 special visas to foreign medical graduates every year because it’s a “critical shortage.” Today, roughly one quarter of all practicing physicians are foreign medical graduates. I’ve worked with many, and while their initial desire is to return home, after about six months the sports car and the arm-candy significant other appears. When I ask if their plans have changed, I’ve been told, “If I return home, I will be paid in chickens and melons. If I stay here, I will be paid in dollars. I like dollars better than chickens and melons.”

So, we import thousands of non-American doctors every year even though we have many Americans who want to study medicine but are turned away.

A decade or so ago, when more students wanted to study law, the educational industry had no difficulty in adding seats—even if they had to build new schools. Why won’t (not can’t) we do the same for medical schools?

Some claim there wouldn’t be enough residency opportunities if we graduated more doctors from US schools, yet foreign medical graduates can and do get residency positions at US hospitals. In any other industry, this might be viewed as restraint of trade.

I suggest that the goal of US medical schools should be to increase their capacity so that by 2030 ALL US residency openings can be filled with US citizens who graduated from US medical schools.

Next, I would change the entry criteria to include the following:

  1. Accepting students with a commitment to actually practice medicine; better yet a commitment to practice whatever type of medicine is in short supply, wherever needed, for at least three years. After that, every accommodation should be made to place that individual in a residency or fellowship of their choosing for which they have the talent, without a decrease in salary.
  2. While academic achievement is important, the ability to work as a team is critical. History is full of brilliant people who didn’t succeed because they could not work with others, and medicine is now a team sport—whether the person with MD or DO after their name likes it or not, they are teammates with the nurses, technologists, therapists, etc. No one is a superstar.
  3. Children of doctors or other elites should have to prove themselves more—not less—than other medical school candidates. They’ve grown up exposed to the field, often in an environment of privilege, so they should demonstrate their desire to serve, not their pedigree.

In short, we need more doctors, but our current method of selecting them is less than optimal.

The Candidates (Revised)

After being politically correct for the past few weeks (some by omission), here we go.

The Clintons at the Trumps’ 2005 Wedding

 

Now that the presumptive candidates (and, they’re both quite presumptuous, thank you [rim shot—bada-bing]) are in place, the world is beginning to react.

Great Britain: “I say, old chap, do you miss King George the Third yet?”

Vladimir Putin (AKA Russia): “Of course this is all according to my plan, but I assure you that no Russian military troops were involved!”

Mexico: “Here’s our counter offer:

  1. “We are willing to pay to build a wall, but we propose a different—but better—location. The wall would be more beneficial to the citizens of both countries if it were constructed about fifty meters outside the right-hand lane of I-495, thereby encircling Washington, DC. This would help maintain control of politicians’ entry into the United States of America mainland.
  2. “The wall will be funded by charging a toll for travel through the numerous tunnels that already exist under the border between our two countries. Since the tunnels are well-engineered, structurally sound, well lit, and either paved or equipped with rail service, it should be easy to add electronic toll transponders. Of course, after the election, there may be many US citizens who will utilize the tunnels to head south in a search for a more placid place to call home, and they would be responsible for paying the toll as well. Please ensure that the EZ-Pass transponder system deposits the fees into Los Estados Unidos de Mexico National Bank.
  3. “Incidentally, we revised our immigration laws in 2011. If you’d like a copy, you can easily get it online.”

North Korea: “As a gesture of confidence in our future relations, we would be most willing to host any of your e-mail servers. I assure you that the DPRK has many well-trained computer specialists, and we would treat your computer as we would treat one of our own.”

Canada: “Hey! No way, hoser! Take off, ay? There are reasons that we prefer to be neighbors rather than family. We like our prime minister just fine, thank you, since he’s cultured and refined. Besides, our beer is much better than yours!”

Content vs. Quantity

brown

 

There’s a famous quotation attributed to various people, but the supposed authoritative sources credit to Blaise Pascal:

I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.

When I first started writing this blog I thought that my goal should be to write and post something every day. Of course, at the time, I had plenty of ideas—some worth sharing, some not. Good, bad, or indifferent, I posted them. Like the codfish, I laid 10,000 eggs hoping a few would hatch. Now, I try to limit myself to thoughts worth sharing. Iay—or may not—be succeeding.

I’m a science junkie. If it were 1955 or 1985 (or for that matter, 1895) I could have been Doc Brown in Back to the Future. The biggest difference is that he had a family fortune to support him while he experimented, while I’ve got a steady job (just as valuable, but less conducive to experimentation). Nevertheless, as kindred spirits, he in fiction and I in reality, we try to see what the next step might be. Which brings me to today’s issue.

Today there is a huge emphasis on STEM—science, technology, engineering, and math in the education biz, today—but there is no real commitment. It’s a lot of talk, but no real action. I’m not blaming the educators. God knows that I understand that there’s only so much you can do in guiding a teenager. However, among today’s teenagers, any interest in science is ridiculed. A student interested in STEM requires the commitment of the Maquis (that was the French Resistance in World War II); one must be willing to maintain a low—if not invisible—profile, only confide in a few trusted souls, and be willing to die a thousand deaths (of embarrassment) if discovered.

Kids today don’t realize that the person they call “nerd” today, will probably be called “boss” tomorrow.

In our effort to be politically correct and not impact anyone’s self-esteem we dare not put scientists, engineers, or mathematicians above athletes, gangstas, or “celebrities” who are famous for being famous. Personally, if I’m going to get my brain scrambled, I’d rather it happen in an experimental space craft rather than having repeated concussions playing football or via cocaine, meth, or whatever is the celebrity drug du jour.

Whatever happened to science fairs? High school science clubs? Achievement awards? When did it become shameful to be interested in science beyond the specific items included on the standardized test?

Think about it. To paraphrase Doc Brown, “Our future depends upon it.”

A Dismal Future?

220px-Marvin_(HHGG)

Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (We already miss you Alan Rickman!)

Hollywood—so politically correct and socially conscious—loves to produce movies about a dystopian future. I admit, I’ve watched–and enjoyed many of them: Blade Runner, Terminator 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and counting, Mad Max 1 through nx, I Robot, Planet of the Apeses, etc. What’s the point?

 

Is Hollywood trying to convince us that in our world with global warming, bigotry, greed, corruption, and disease, things are only going to get worse? And they promote this in the name of entertainment? I suppose it makes sense. After all, this is an industry that insists on making more Adam Sandler movies.

Why not make movies predicting a future in which:

  • No one has to deal with the DMV. In fact, historians cannot even find out what DMV stood for.
  • Whenever mail (physical or electronic) includes an unwanted advertisement, it’s normal procedure to call the postal inspector—with every reason to believe that there will be an immediate arrest of the perpetrator.
  • Issues concerning climate, medicine, nutrition, are debated ONLY by experts in those fields, with minimum criteria for the validity of the data, hypotheses, and conclusions they reach. Soundbites would be based on these factual notions, and periodic updates would be published to reflect the peer review process. Celebrities without a PhD and current peer reviewed publications dealing with the question at hand need not apply.
  • Cute kittens would be adored by their owners but prohibited from cluttering the internet.
  • In the entertainment world, the media focus would be on the characters that actors portrayed, whether Petrucio, Spock, or Professor Severus Snape—not the actors themselves.
  • Blog writers would be universally revered as geniuses, giants, and heroes.

Okay, the last one was a reach, but I had to take my shot.

All Right! I Confess!

I admit it. I’ve been trying to write blogs lately, but:

  • There was Christmas.
  • My son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren drove 12 hours to visit.
  • My daughter, who has started reading my blog, says all my blogs are the same.
  • I keep coming up with ideas that are incomplete—which got me thinking.

Some of the Beatles songs, including much of Abbey Road were actually the parts of songs that had never fully developed. Therefore I tried to piece together ideas:

My New Year’s resolutions. After “I will never be a staffer for Donald Trump,” I got stuck.

I tried to write about the era of Downton Abbey and how people were once born into wealth and/or married into it, and how that is rare today.

Then I thought of:

  • The Bushes
  • The Clintons
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Jaden Smith
  • Colin Hanks
  • Drew Barrymore
  • Prince Charles

Which brought me back to square one, so, attempting to steal from the Beatles, using the tune from “She Came in through the Bathroom Window”:

My son and daughter trashed the bathroom,
I think they lost my silver spoon,
So I sat there and I pondered,
I should not get mad so soon.

My kids have always been expensive,
Cost me more than I could know,
But I wouldn’t change a minute,
So now I have these joys to show

Is it any wonder?

Let me close this year with my thanks to God for my NORMAL family (the emphasis is there to remind me that despite the condition of their bedrooms and bathroom, my kids are normal; on the other hand, given their outstanding academic, athletic, and musical accomplishments, I owe it to them to differentiate between normal and average).

For you, may 2015 be the year that was just before when everything became wonderful.

Wow!

NCIS (But you knew that!)

NCIS
(But you knew that!)

Life is funny, and it sure gets in the way.

I’ve been so busy with my day job, my kids…

My kids—two are already grown up and the other two are suddenly almost there. My younger son just got his acceptance letter from his first choice college—and an early admission at that. Now, it’s kind of hard to chastise him for not taking out the recycling.

My daughter is a few years younger, but also a great student (My grades were never that god), musician (I was never first chair bassoon), and athlete (let’s not even go there). However, after her last birthday she seems to believe it’s necessary to remind me every 15 minutes or so that in in a few months she’ll start driving.

Naturally I’m proud of both of them, but I wonder, if I hadn’t blinked would they have grown up so fast?

Thankfully I have a Sherpa guide who has looked out for the kids and advised me. I’m speaking of my wife, of course. This is a challenge for her, I’m sure. She hasn’t had to resort to the Gibb’s slap on the back of DiNozzo’s head yet (for the benefit of NCIS fans) but it’s not because I don’t need a >HINT< from time to time.

So, thanks to her, even though I’m sports impaired, I’ve been a soccer dad, in spite of myself, which makes a world of difference to my kids.

However, in all fairness, I’ve done just fine as the science, music and school project parent.

If I haven’t been blogging as much as I should, lately, it’s because life has gotten in the way, and the people who are special to me—well, you know.

Ghost Fleet

ghost-fleet-cover

I found another great book, with an interesting story behind it

Peter W. Singer is a strategist and a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, was formerly the youngest fellow at the Brookings Institute, along with many other interesting credentials. He founded NeoLuddite (I love the name), a technology advisory firm, and has written a number of books, including Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, and Children at War, which explores the use of children-soldiers. Mr. Singer consults for policy makers on these and other important issues.

However, Mr. Singer believed that such information was not getting the attention it needed, so he decided to team up with another writer and present his ideas via a technothriller a la Tom Clancy. The result is Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War. I downloaded the eBook to my Kindle Tuesday morning. By Wednesday evening, interrupted by a 600+ mile drive and a college campus tour with my son, I had finished the book. Here are a few highlights.

The United States and China are strong trading partners, every bit as strong as Germany and Great Britain in 1910. Relations between China and Russia are tense. From America’s viewpoint, things look fine (and quite familiar) until the Russian cosmonauts lock the American astronaut outside the International Space Station. The Chinese have, by this time, orbited their own space station and have covertly installed weaponry. They destroy key American satellites. We’re suddenly at war, and it’s obvious that the Chinese have seriously studied our past to avoid the mistakes made by others; their attack on Pearl Harbor is much better executed and totally successful. The relationship between Russia and China is not tense, but instead they have formed an alliance to allow China and Russia to recapture their positions of power.

The Chinese have one significant advantage–almost every high tech American weapons platform has Chinese manufactured electronics, either because we allowed it, or in some cases because sub-sub-contractors substituted cheaper Chinese components for those specified. Embedded malware in the components renders most of our weapons unreliable if not totally useless. America no longer has the manufacturing base it did in the Second World War, and what capacity it does have has substantial foreign ownership interested in return on investment, not America’s survival.

Our only option is to drag out the old ships in the West Coast “ghost fleet;” obsolete vessels awaiting sale for scrap and some experimental that didn’t quite work out. Similarly, planes stored in the Air Force’s desert boneyard are pieced together, scavenging from several to get one aircraft reasonably operational. Kind of like the “hillbilly upgrades” soldiers did to Humvees in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a desperate move, but these has-beens and never-weres all predate the use of Chinese components.

Oh, and you’ll never guess how Wal-Mart figures into the story.

The book is a wonderful mix of scary fact and intriguing fiction with interesting characters. It is truly difficult to put down.

If you liked “The Martian,” you’ll love this.

Metamorphosis

Monarch Butterfly Cocoon, courtesy Wikipedia: User: Umbris

Monarch Butterfly Cocoon, courtesy Wikipedia: User: Umbris

It’s hard not to be fascinated by insects. I will stop to look at a walking leaf or a praying mantis; butterflies always catch my attention, as do dragon flies. Perhaps the most fascinating insects are those that pupate and undergo metamorphosis. Imagine one day being a caterpillar, spinning a cocoon, taking a long nap and then emerging as a butterfly.

I recently realized that humans have a similar process. Babies are born, demand attention, like to be held, make noise and break things. They grow, start school, but the parents’ role stays pretty much the same.

Then, one day, that cute little kid becomes a teenager.

It’s unfair to expect teenagers to spin a cocoon, since they can’t even pick up their socks, but they are able to compensate. Teenagers’ cocoon is their bedroom into which they sequester themselves for several years. It’s not quite as constant as insect larvae; you can spot teenagers—or at least the backs of teenagers—as they root around in the refrigerator or the pantry. Occasionally you’ll see the front of a teenager, immediately behind the outstretched hand with the palm up.

I’ve examined cocoons, but really don’t know what it’s like in one, but I imagine it gets progressively less sanitary over time, just like teenagers’ rooms. The biggest difference is that teenagers’ cocoons have televisions, smartphones, computers or video games. However, the long sequestration is similar among the various species.

There is another similarity. Someday I know that my teenagers will emerge from their cocoons more resplendent than even the most beautiful butterfly. Then, like the butterfly, they’ll stretch their wings and fly away.

1,000

I had to give some extra thought to this blog, if my count is right, this will be my 1,000th post, so it’s kind of special.

I thought it might be interesting if I presumed that such productivity, tenacity, or whatever actually makes me wise, and offer some advice and suggestions for all of us. Feel free to join in, or not.

  • Sit down with a copy of the United States’ Constitution and seriously read it. As written, it was not perfect (slavery, being the most flagrant example), but most of the amendments have improved it over the years. It’s really an amazing set of ideas.
  • Put down the smartphone, tablet, PlayStation, or whatever and look at the real world; talk with real people—don’t text them, actually have a friendly interactive conversation. Engage in a real game or undertake a real adventure.
  • Listen to a viewpoint that is different from your own on a subject that you feel deeply about. Really listen—with an open mind. It may not change your belief, but don’t you wonder why some people have such different ideas?
  • Take some quiet time to examine yourself with regard to Faith. What do you believe? How important is it to you? How much does it impact your actions? Why?
  • Finally, go help someone, just a little. Volunteer an hour a month with the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the local food pantry or soup kitchen. The list of organizations that depend on volunteers is long, and your participation can make a difference.

The Taylor Swift Effect and Democracy

It’s over twelve months until the next presidential election, and we’re already growing weary of the process—and we can’t blame all of it on Donald Trump, no matter how much we may wish to. I’m tired of reruns, and don’t see the need for another Adams, Roosevelt, Clinton, or Bush in the White House.

However, does it really matter?

Taylor-Swift-Performing-in-Toronto--05 Courtesy FABZZ.com

Taylor-Swift-Performing-in-Toronto–05
Courtesy FABZZ.com

The president has the bully pulpit, from which to claim accomplishments not due solely to the president and make promises, which the president lacks authority to keep.

Congress—even with all its gridlock—passes far more laws than anyone needs or can follow. These laws are generally written by lobbyists, who pass them to carious politicians’ staffs. Staff members then brief their bosses; this is actually what the staffer believes the bill means, occasionally based on actually reading the bill, but often just a rehash of the lobbyists’ explanation. This saves our elected officials from actually having to read the bill.

The election arrives, and in America, only about 61 percent of those eligible vote exercise the right. The parties’ hardline supporters are about equal; the conservatives almost always vote Republican and the liberals almost always vote Democrat. There are also who vote for the most attractive looking candidate, a name they recognize, or some other silly reason.

So who determines the outcome of an election?*

Let’s ask it another way; who determines that Taylor Swift should be popular? Who determines that NCIS should stay on the air for at least another season? Who determines it’s time to open a convenience store and hire a handful of people? Who determines that we need a new gadget, gizmo, smartphone app?

These key decision makers are the ones who are open to ideas, evaluate their merits, and then act. Proponents provide them with data—everything from National Public Radio to Wired magazine to negative campaign ads. Some data these people reject, some they accept as valid, but it does not impact their decision, while some makes its way into their decision-making process. Taylor Swift and Barack Obama owe their position to this group of people.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

*Check out “Who Votes, Who Doesn’t, and Why: Regular Voters, Intermittent Voters, and Those Who Don’t”

After Independence Day

When the United States sought its independence, it created something new, but hardly perfect. Perfection requires that we continue to strive, not rest on our laurels.

The US Constitution enabled the continued practice of slavery, and in the process virtually guaranteed the Civil War. When the Civil War was followed by Reconstruction, it virtually guaranteed that instead of reconciliation, the nation would suffer from bitter hatred; we saw the Ku Klux Klan and the Jim Crow laws.

Today we have the issues surrounding the battle flag of the Confederate States.

It’s time to steer things in a better direction.

9.12.3-3-ExplorePAHistory-a0h4j5-a_349

First: The Civil War is over. Many of those who fought were able to make their peace. Why can’t we?

Second: Most of those who fought for the Confederacy were not slaveholders; many were not even property owners. Generally the wealthy plantation owners did not fight as privates or sergeants—that was the role for the common folk who believed they were fighting for their homeland. It doesn’t take a great detective to figure out who convinced them of that. The white commoners, like the black slaves were just one more tool.

Third: Many black and white people today look back at their ancestors and want to take pride in their bravery in Viet Nam, Korea, and even the segregated military of the Second World War. It’s only natural to be proud if you find out you’re descended from a hero like Alvin York or Doris Miller.

Fourth: Great-great-grand pappy Jedidiah who fought as a corporal at Gettysburg is dead and gone. It doesn’t matter which side he fought on, it’s over, and as anyone who has experienced war will tell you, the best part is when it’s over and you go home. He would probably tell you, “Let it go.”

We are a stronger and better nation through Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Colin Powell, and Barack Obama. You may not agree with them individually, but history will not deny that the changes they brought about was important and good—even if some individuals do.

John Tyler, the tenth American president sided with the Confederacy, served in its congress, and was the only president to be proclaimed an enemy of the state.

It’s time to relegate history to history. Put the confederate flag away,

 

If There’s No Breaking News—We’ll Break Something!

Courtesy, National Geographic  (Consider joining--http://www.nationalgeographic.com/about/)

Courtesy, National Geographic
(Consider joining–http://www.nationalgeographic.com/about/)

Squeezed in somewhere among the celebrity gossip and pinup pictures, occasionally the Internet carries items that journalists once referred to as News.

News includes such boring items as wars, disasters, election results, and rarely mention the reaction from starlets, transgender humans or trans-species….whatever. In the days of journalism, the reporter listed the facts:

  1. This is what happened (not my impression of what happened).
  2. Where and when it happened.
  3. Why is this significant? (Not guaranteed to be 100% factual, but true journalists tried to be as objective as possible).

“News” today is often predictive—this COULD happen, or the media focuses on something that probably will happen, but it could be tomorrow, or it could be in 30 billion years (give or take).

[Note: I like the fact that what was once the press is now the media. It’s like admitting they only rank a grade of “C” for their work.]

Today CNN ran a story on the super-volcano that someday could, maybe erupt (or it could keep releasing pressure through Old Faithful and the other geysers like that weight on the top of a pressure cooker).

But the best thing is—they’re now adding music to news stories, and a pretty zippy bongo number (doubtlessly electronically generated) at that. Try http://www.cnn.com/videos/weather/2015/04/24/supervolcano-yellowstone-magma-reservoir-orig.cnn?iid=ob_article_footer_expansion&iref=obnetwork

What’s next for the news mesia—laugh tracks?

Community Service

Socrates Courtesy Wikimedia

Socrates
Courtesy Wikimedia

Yesterday, the American Diabetic Association’s Tour de Cure bicycle race was held in our area. This is a fundraiser for diabetes research and rides can choose a ten-mile, thirty-mile, sixty-five mile, or one-hundred mile course, with people donating to support their efforts. Local ham radio operators provide communications from each of the seven rest stops with the race coordinators at the start/finish lines. When I lived in Wyoming, the local hams provided similar service during Frontier Days.

Some people enjoy providing service to their friends and neighbors; some belong to an organization that encourages (and if necessary shames) its members into serving the community. Churches often provide the tipping point for people who wouldn’t go out on their own. Many high schools require a certain amount of community service in order to graduate. I believe that organizations provide the social network and support to help those who are comfortable being part of a group, but are not comfortable acting as an individual. Members of the Local Club (whatever it is) are more likely to adopt a road and clean it than the same people as individuals.

I know every generation worries about the state of their children. Supposedly, Plato credited Socrates with the following quotation:

The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they allow disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children now are tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

However, in Socrates’s time young men and women couldn’t cocoon in their bedrooms with smartphones and video games.

So You Say You Want a Resolution?

Great calendar! and apparently you can print it for yourself. www.trendymaal.com photo: elsoar.com

Great calendar! and apparently you can print it for yourself.
http://www.trendymaal.com
photo: elsoar.com

Personally I don’t subscribe to the idea of New Year’s Resolutions.

Every day is an opportunity to do at least one thing better, and we should seize every one of those opportunities as it comes along. Most areas of improvement are like fruit; they ripen at a certain point, and if you wait until the first of January they get squishy and smell bad. You need to grab them at their prime.

Big decisions, in my humble opinion, cannot be accomplished between 31 December and the next morning. Major changes like quitting smoking take time, and may require assistance from medications, nicotine patches or whatever. Most people stumble—the question is, “Do I pick myself up and try again from where I fell, or do I chalk it up to another resolution I couldn’t keep?” Picking one’s self up is hard, but the results—well they speak for themselves.

The closest thing to a New Year’s Resolution I’m going to make is to pick something each day and then try to be a little better husband, father, daddy, lover, friend, worker, or whatever. Not all at once—just one little tiny improvement per day.

When the day comes that I can shave without turning on the bathroom light because of the halo glowing around my head, I’ll stop.

In the meantime, my wish for you is that 2015 (or however you number your years) be blessed; that it brings you closer to God; that it helps you count your blessings, starting with those around you—family, neighbors, friends, and even the people in your neighborhood that you know by sight but have never met; and most importantly, that it helps you overlook the foibles of others that drive you crazy while being of no importance whatsoever. After you remind yourself how blessed you are, share your blessings with others.

And you can start, or restart on any (or every) day from today on.