Thursday, April 19, 2018

If more politicians listened to scientists would the world be a safer place? 2-on-1 #16

This week's topic was culled from current events. If more politicians listened to scientists would the world be a safer place? 

The quick, easy answer is yes but is it actually true?  Science in and of itself makes the world a better place, but safer?  Certainly, many scientific advances are dedicated to improving safety in some manner. Some would not even be possible without the efforts of politicians because politicians control much of the funding that drives scientific discovery.

What makes the world a safer place? Sufficient food supplies, which require efficient, effective food production and food distribution; clean water supplies; absence of war; safe and efficient transportation services/systems seem like a good basic set of requirements. Well fed folks with plenty of fresh water and decent transportation systems should result in happy people.  

Science can directly impact food production and distribution, clean water and transportation. Food production has been greatly enhanced since  the days of the Green Revolution, aka the Third Agricultural Revolution that exploded in the late sixties. Things developed to the point where sufficient food production was available in new, developing countries. But then the politicians got in the way and we have struggled with distribution ever since. Add climate change that we are now experiencing and now we need a science reset to boost production again. We need a political reset to distribute food supplies. Water demand will be a major issue moving forward. Thanks to the greed of capitalists like Nestle - who say water is not a right but a product to be bought and sold - water purification will require the best efforts of the scientific community. Then we need to rely on politicians to get the water where it is needed - naturally after select bank accounts are greased along the way.

Absence  of war. Again -absence of war. A glance at the daily news headlines makes that seem nearly impossible. There is little science can do to prevent war - that one is on the politicians'.

Science can assist in the transportation portion of our equation. Of course the politicians must make the decision to go forward with infrastructure projects. Pocket lining 101.

If  politicians listened to scientists would the world be a safer place? Absolutely. But political ambition and greed constantly cloud the thinking of the politicians. Logic leaves the building, and in fact it often seems like logic never made it in the door. Politicians, it seems, rarely look beyond their own benefits.

That is my quick take on this weeks topic. Be sure to check Ramana's here. 

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Last Page 2-on-1 #15

This weeks topic came about as a direct result of the fun and feedback generated by our previous topic 2 weeks ago - the First Page. After this topic all that remains is the rest of the books. Ahem. To see Ramana's last page go here.

That damn Detective Brooke and his pal the taco bender think they have it all figured out. What a pair of idiots. They have no clue why Bowman was eliminated and they haven't figured out that Perkins and Taylor were mine. God, that Taylor was gorgeous. They haven't figured out that being a serial killer is nothing more than enjoying your work. Nothing is as satisfying as watching the light go off when the spark of life leaves thanks to my efforts - when the sparkle leaves the eyes and all goes dull. The feeling that is better than sex. Taylor was my best yet - watching her realize she was done and nothing or nobody could save her. Acceptance. Acceptance that she was mine. And then she sagged, wet herself and was gone.

"Hey Tito - what's wrong? You look lost".

"I tell ya Chas" - he replied - "something just doesn't add up.There's more to Bowman's death than we have come up with. We are missing something, amigo." 


"Chas I swear Bowman is tied to the Dave Perkins/Susan Taylor murders. We just can't see it yet."

"You've got that right buddy. I do not see any link beyond the fact Bownan, Dave and Susan all were in school with us from Carlile through Central." 

Maybe if Tito and his idiot pal Chas ever noticed me in high school they might have figured this all out. But no, they are too stupid. They are responsible for the rest of my dates. The dumbasses can spend their time hanging at Arnie's Time Out while I do what I do best. Maybe I should write them a letter.

Two days letter, an envelope postmarked Florence, Colorado - a nearby town - was delivered to Chas at the office. He casually opened it and sat in stunned silence as he stared at the letter. It simply said "Tito is next. First Dave, then Susan and CD- next Tito. Catch me if you can".

Thursday, April 5, 2018

East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet, 2-on-1 April 6

I am not now nor have I ever been a fan of poetry. My experiences reading and analyzing poems have pretty much always been based on assignments in school. Some have expressed surprise over this because of my love for music, but though I love music I detest opera. We all have our limits - poetry and opera being two of mine.So here we are - a topic drawn directly from a Rudyard Kipling poem that actually screams relevance in today's world. Leave it to Ramana to so subtly point out my shortcomings - that darn Karma thing I guess.

Okay - enough whining - done so with nary a slice of good, sharp cheddar I might add. But seriously - given the conditions prevalent in today's world was Kipling on to something? Are several ultra-aggressive religions responsible for the divisions we deal with in the world and are they insurmountable? According to Wikipedia, the top 5 religions based on adherents are as of 2012 are Christianity with 3.2 billion adherents, Islam with 1.8 billion adherents, Secular non-religious including atheist and agnostic with 1.2 billion adherents, Hinduism with 1.1 billion adherents and Buddhism with .5 billion adherents. You can view the entire list here. The top three are all typical isms - my way or the highway (in this case  straight to hell, though the secular non-believers may disagree).

While logic would seem to dictate a global approach to the world many countries are adopting a much more nationalistic me first attitude that is not conducive to adaptability. Many Muslims seem intent on taking over portions of western society through the ballot box along with acts of terror. This has led some countries - the USA included -to attempt to restrict Muslim immigration. Since Islam is as much a way of life as it is a religion, it seems the fears may be well founded based on the European experience. I suspect our roots as an immigrant country have made it easier for Muslims to integrate into our society but that may be in jeopardy due to radical Islamic terror. All Muslims come under much more intense scrutiny thanks to the actions of a small percentage of the entire faith. I should point out, though, that although the percentage is small the numbers are large. If one in ten Muslims are "radicals" then that means there are almost two million radical Muslims.

Christianity has had its time in the violence game. Remember the Crusades?  The original Friday the 13th massacre? How about something as recent as the troubles in Northern Ireland? It seems some religions are as adept at using fear to keep their folks in line as any nation state.

I confess that when I started this little ditty I was positive and upbeat like my liberal education taught me (I have a BA in Political Science) But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized there will not likely be a come together moment between east and west. There will always be small percentages of people from both ends of the spectrum that embrace adaptability. Many people love to travel to strange, far away lands. But they then return home to the way of life that is more comfortable to them, fully convinced they are people of the world because they developed an appreciation for the cuisine of whatever land they visited. 

The bottom line is simply that the West and East are too different to have that come together moment, But that does not mean we cannot have mutually beneficial relationships. We live in a truly global economy that requires cooperation to prevent mutual destruction. At the same time, certain Eastern countries believe they must develop nuclear arms to be respected in the new world order. They feel they must counter the West militarily to control Western empire building which history shows has been the norm. Western empire building is largely a thing of the past but "Fake News" keeps the mythology going. Russia is perhaps the most active empire builder (rebuilder?) on the world scene and they need to be dealt with though whether Russia is in the West or East is a topic worthy of discussion.

It can be considered somewhat ironic IMHO that the East is the birthplace of the oldest civilizations on the planet with the possible exception of the Central and South American natives (Incas, Aztecs, and Mayas). But they were not assimilated well into Western civilization (those old school Catholics were an ornery lot).  

So my conclusion is that the quote is truer than not - East and West will essentially remain separate but equal partners with neither able to fully assimilate the other into a integrated society beyond trading partners. 

To see what Ramana has to say, go here.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Page One 2-0n-1 #13

This week's 2-on-1 topic was my choice - a wheelhouse expanding first page of an as yet unpublished novel/short story.

You’ve gotta love food trucks. They offer great food at prices low enough for me. Unfortunately, my wallet was as empty as my stomach yesterday and the smell of the tacos wafting from Tito’s was making it worse. Tito winked at me as I strolled by, expecting me to order my usual triple taco lunch special. I just shrugged at him and smiled as I walked past the service window. The back door opened and a grinning Tito handed me a bag of tacos – “on me today, Chas”. I almost hugged him.

Tito and I have known each other for about 25 years. We met on the football team in high school – Central High – in Pueblo, Colorado. He was a slow footed, sure handed receiver and I was a part time tight end/tackle. He was half my size then, but his years as a taco purveyor had rendered him a bit circumferentially challenged. That is a fancy term for fat. After high school, we both attended the local state university in town – Southern Colorado State. We both played football there too – both all conference. It was the big fish in a small pond syndrome. After we graduated, he went to work in his family restaurant business and I became a cop. So here we were – Tito a popular food truck jockey and me a small town detective, Tito happily married with three kids and me – a widower. My wife Dee passed away six years ago from the ravages of Huntington’s Disease. We’d had no kids because Huntington’s Disease (HD) is genetic and any child we had would have a 50  percent chance of having HD. We decided the odds were not in our favor.

So there we were – the dynamic duo, Chas and Tito, staring at the body of someone we both knew – Carl Bowman. Carl had been shot in front of the bar that Tito and I frequented once a week or so for a  couple of cold Coors. We were old school and had not adopted one of the new microbreweries in town. Someone had done Carl in execution style.  Tito almost tripped over him as we left Arnie’s Time Out. The killer used a silencer – we had not heard the shots.

I reached into my pocket, grabbed my phone and called it in.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Faith, hope, love, and insight are the highest achievements of human effort.

This weeks 2-on-1 topic was chosen by my good friend - the sage of Pune - Ramana. "Faith, hope, love, and insight are the highest achievements of human effort."~ Carl C Jung

I have been pondering the above quote all week. Interestingly enough, the most important part of the original quote is IMHO missing - "They are found-given by experience."  We are not born with faith, hope, love and insight but we are born with the capacity to achieve them and our success in that achievement (or lack thereof) comes from our life experiences. 

In my case faith is/has been the most difficult to achieve - and is still lacking in my makeup - at least spiritual faith. My issues with religion are still summed up by the U2 tune I shared last week - I still haven't found what I am looking for. Faith in non-spiritual matters is a bit easier to achieve - when I played football I had faith my teammates would do their jobs and we would win games. At work I had faith my co-workers would get their parts in out project done and we would successfully complete the task/project at hand. By the same  token I clearly misplaced my faith in senior management and the company board of directors as the company went bankrupt and thousands of people were let without jobs, myself included.

Hope is something most of us combine with faith - our faith in our ability to complete a task  is what drives our hope that we will accomplish the goal at hand. Interestingly enough, we hope to complete tasks although we may not always expect to be successful. That is driven by our insight into the task. It may be clear not enough time is allotted to accomplish the task, not enough resources, etc. A classic example is from the dying days of RadioShack - my employer of thirty plus years.  

As brick and mortar sales declined regularly over a period of years, there was a clear increase in digital online sales in the industry so a massive, expensive rewrite of the RadioShack website was undertaken. It was driven by contract employees from India and a level of middle management without the necessary experience to accomplish the task in the requisite condensed timeframe necessary to save the company. If you think it is frustrating to get product support from off site support centers in India, imagine trying to get deeply layered verbal instructions on internal programming issues from that type of site. Plus,  bare in mind the folks doing the QC testing were being expected to perform at a technical level they had never experienced  nor been trained for. It is no wonder the project failed and the company folded, leaving only a struggling web business and a small cadre of independently owned brick and mortar stores  - dealers. Clearly senior management lacked the proper insight  to successfully run the company. I specifically recall having a conversation with the VP responsible for our digital business telling me how Amazon and  Jeff Bezos would never be successful or as strong as RadioShack. How'd that work out for you, Dave?

That leaves us with love. Fans of the Beatles believe All You Need is Love. Well - love can indeed make bad situations more bearable and lack of love can certainly make what should be a happy time the exact opposite. But the fact remains, Love works in conjunction with faith, hope and insight.  My favorite song lyric is from a favorite love song of mine -  
In my most secure moments I still can't believe
I'm spending those moments with you
And the ground I am walking, the air that I breathe
Are shared at those moments with you
I'd say the character in the song has achieved love and insight for sure. I know the songwriter - Terry Kirkman - had some struggles in his life that he eventually overcame and along the way achieved faith and hope. If interested, here is the song
Everything That Touches You. Terry also wrote one of the most played songs of all time - Cherish.

So the question remains -are faith, hope, love and insight the highest achievements of human effort? Granted, they are not on the same level as quantum mechanics, but they are all pretty darn high on the list. They absolutely enhance our lives and in many ways make everything else worth living for so I'd have  to say Herr Jung was on to something with his comment.

You can check Ramana's take on the subject here.

Monday, March 12, 2018

My life in 3 songs 2-on-1 #11

Anyone who has read any of my previous posts know music is very important to me in many ways.  It always has been thus so what music sums up or gives a reasonable picture of my 68 years here on this third rock from the sun?  Some of you might guess one or more of my choices, some may not care. I see this as a simple exerciise that might be fun, so climb aboard the music express along shackman highway. Whether you agree or not with my choices or do not care , I think I can guarantee at minimum a pleasant musical interlude. The inspiration for the topic was a  SHARE on Facebook that was a picture of Snoopy holding a cup of coffee and on the  page was  this "Lord give me coffee to change the things I can and music to accept the things I can't".

Let's start with this one from the Byrds

Like most of us, I thought I had all of the answers when I was young. My namesake uncle Chuck and I had some monumental discussions about things when I was in college getting a decidedly liberal education. Dylan nailed it in this song with the refrain"Ah but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now". Hey - maybe I didn't have all of the answers. Neither, it turns out, did Uncle Chuck. 

Being a naturally curious guy, I kept questioning things.  God, spirituality and more. My late friend Pete Dintino was a devout 7th Day Adventist. My experiences with The Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints had put me off religion and possibly even the concept of God. (Now understand - most of the LDS members (Mormons) that I know are wonderful people - my issues were/are with the theology and mythology.) Pete  concluded after our many discussions on the matter that I was one of the most truly spiritual people he had ever met - whereas my evangelical friends are convinced I will likely burn in hell. That leads to the next musical selection:

The journey is not complete and the same still rings true. Some accept that while others say I have not asked the correct questions nor accepted the true answer. Something about "God fearing" bothers me. It always has and I suspect it always will. God creates flawed beings in his image, allegedly gives them free will and then hammers them for questioning things.

So here I am - 68 years old and a lifetime of experiences - some good, some bad. I still have questions unanswered and opinions on most things - and life in general?

So that is the end of the journey musically, at least as far as this topic is concerned. Check Ramana"s take on the subject here.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Calm After the Storm. 2-on-1

This weeks topic - the calm after the storm - was selected by Ramana. While researerching the topic I came across this poem by someone named Rachel:
Calm After the Storm
I am tired, I am worn
For this is the calm after the storm
Heart beat ceases to race
Everything seems to fall into place
Take comfort in cycles and patterns,
Separate the insignificant from what matters
History repeats itself they say,
The universe works in funny ways
So push thoughts of growing older,
Of growing colder, of forgetting to be bolder
To the back of my mind
 Shelved away somewhere difficult to find
And think instead of stories that turn out okay
Think of the sound of waves and rainy days
For I am slowly breathing
Almost sleeping
Nearly dreaming
Simply being.

Storms - be they weather related, relationship issues or simply life issues like losing a job, divorce, etc.  can wreak havoc.  Stress can be brutal, but it is really only temporary as the storm passes. The period in which things improve after a difficult, stressful, chaotic time - that is  the calm after the storm.  
The calm can be something as simple as a few drinks after a particularly stressful day at work, a  weekend get away or something entirely different.

We've all had stormy periods in our lives.  In my life the last two  years of caregiving  for my late wife was particularly stressful. The calm after the storm started when three of my  
oldest friends flew to Texas the first weekend after Lynn died. Their  visit kick-started my  recovery from a very trying  time. 

In late March of 2000 I was living in Fort Worth, Texas when an F3 tornado rolled through the city.  The tornado did 450 million dollars worth of damage to homes and businesses. I was less than two blocks away from feeling the full force of that tornado. My office was two blocks from  the Cash America building shown in the photograph and in fact I had left for home about five minutes  before the building was hit by the storm.

 Immediately after the storm passed,  the city heaved a huge sigh of relief and started rebuilding.

One last "storm" is todays blog. The storm is about to pass, the blog  posted and the calm after the storm begins - the wait to see if anyone reads and comments on the thing. Hmm - that   sounds like another storm. Oh well, life's a bitch as the saying goes.

Be sure to see Ramana's take!