Thursday, June 14, 2018

Do you have a code that you live by? 2-on-1 06/15/2018

This week's topic is my suggestion- Do you have a code that you live by?

There's a great line in the tune above - you, who are on the road, must have a code that you can live by.. The current tribalism on display daily made me wonder just what exactly is it driving this madness that makes hypocrites out of so many evangelicals? What spurs the pure hatred of the far right and left?

Contrary to the desire of evangelicals, the USA is not a Christian country - it is a country founded on Christian principles. Most people born here are raised and hear some variation of the 10 commandments daily. Those rules - that code - is Jewish, offered allegedly to Moses by God some 350 years before Christ appeared on the scene. My code is not surprisingly taken from those 10 things, though some might argue there were originally more than 10.

My personal code is drawn from those  

  1. Respect your mother and father
  2. Treat others the way you want to be treated
  3. Don't lie
  4. Don't covet your neighbor's wife or his stuff
  5. Be nice
  6. Family first
  7. Try to learn something new every day
  8. Always do your best, but winning at any cost is not an option
  9. Admit when you are wrong
  10. I will not change who I am for any person

Admittedly in these tribal times on occasion, some of those parts of the code can be difficult to live up to. I admit to having a substantial temper that I work very hard to suppress - but at times it does rear its ugly head. I can honestly say that when that happens it is very rare that something good happens.

Over the years I have been exposed to many different "codes" from many different sources, including religions and other philosophical sources. These days, Ayn Rand's morality of selfishness is evident in the daily activities on of our  (in the USA) government, as led by POTUS 45. Her Objectivism - parts of which have always been championed by conservatives, are more popular than ever and so it is against that backdrop that my meager little code tries to get me through each day.

You can boil my code down to work hard, treat others fairly, be yourself, tell the truth, learn something every day and be who you are.

To see what my blogging partner has to say, go here Ramana.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

There is nothing new, except what has been forgotten -2-on-1 06/08/2018

Ramana suggested this week's topic, "There is nothing new, except what has been forgotten" - Marie Antoinette. It is a sister quote, if you will, to "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it" by George Santayana in 1863. Then there is the more common "there is nothing new under the sun". So, everything that is is as it has always been.

How many times have you eaten a bowl of ice cream too fast and ended up with that classic brain-freeze headache? How about a hangover the next morning after a few too many Margaritas (or the adult beverage you prefer).

There are, of course, several more serious examples that validate our weekly topic. If we are to ever progress as a culture, we must study the past so we do not repeat its mistakes. That notion and a widely held belief by many here that our political system and government are allegedly corrupt and broken led to the election of POTUS 45, our current embarrassment who has caused an employment boom in fact-checking as he lies so much. Alas, Mr. Drain the Swamp has simply deepened the swamp and restocked it with a fresh batch of so-called born again sycophants and crooks like Rick Perry (former) and Scott Pruitt (latter).  Sometimes, perhaps, what we view as bad is not really bad, or we make an even bigger mistake in our attempt to fix the perceived problem.  

Is life really simple? Do we really overcomplicate things? Would we really be better off living simpler lives? My friend Tammy would certainly agree - she is something of a minimalist. In my case, I am well aware of the beauty of the simpler things in life but circumstances in which I exist require much more than the basics, though many people do forget that sometimes simpler is better. In this country, the prevailing attitude is to make each day better than the one before. Companies can never be satisfied with their level of profitability - it must always be increased. We live in a world wherein satisfaction can only come from growth and getting bigger and better - or so says the daily marketing and advertising we are bombarded with.  We sure do keep big Pharma busy providing us with stress meds and of course there is the drug problem.

Perhaps we have forgotten.

That's my quick shack-take on this week's topic. Be sure to stop by Ramana's blog to see what he has to say. 

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Is overrated or is it really useful? 2-on-1 06/01/2018

This week's topic - Is overrated or is it really useful? was my suggestion. I have been an avid Amazon customer for many years. Last week I was looking for a USB 3.0/Ethernet adapter and so I decided  to check out Amazon's offerings as well as what else the Web has to offer.

Amazon is rather unique in their attitude and business strategy. They re in it for the long haul so they constantly play a long game. Immediate profitability is not critical to Amazon as long as they grow their market share. Toward the end of my career at RadioShack I worked for The VP in charge of .com was a fellow named Dave Goyne. I recall several conversations with Dave regarding Amazon and their rapid growth. His comments were always that Amazon was a benign company - never profitable and not a threat to the multi-billion dollar RadioShack. Dave had no vision and at the end of his time we were very far behind companies like Amazon in web development. I hope he is enjoying his retirement - he wanted to farm nuts (I do not recall what kind - Almonds and Pecans both stick in my mind). The Shack is no more save for a few independent dealers and a web presence that is ludicrous at best. Thousands upon thousands of people lost their livelihood due to the bad decisions made by Goyne and the rest of senior management.  Jeff Bezos - the Amazon CEO is now arguably the wealthiest man in the world. Not bad for a guy that started the business selling books online. He and Amazon changed the publishing industry.

Amazon now is the clear leader in online sales. They are developing a robust brand of their own products like Fire tablets, cabless, Echo, Prime and more. Prime offers video streaming like Netflix with a growing list of original material, free 2-day shipping and more. For a nominal fee of $12.99 Kindle owners can read an unlimited number of books - last year I read 78 under the Kindle Unlimited plan.You may not find the latest best-sellers but there is a vast array of excellent stuff available.

I realize this is starting to sound like a commercial for Amazon but all is not sunshine lollipops and rainbows.  Amazon grew its business by offering the best prices. That automatically generated competition from other online companies. Then they created Amazon Prime and offered free 2-day shipping as well as video streaming to compete with Netflix all for a flat annual fee (that price just went up BTW). They wisely offer some program material that is original which adds subscribers and allows Amazon to do add-on sales.

POTUS 45 has spent a considerable amount of time claiming Amazon is responsible for the US Postal Service losing billions of dollars; not collecting sales taxes on items sold; forcing thousands of "mom and pop: stores to close.  It will come as no surprise that those things are simply lies. Trump despises Bezos for one simple reason - Bezos owns the Washington Post. Amazon collects sales tax on products sold, they do NOT collect sales tax om sales made by Amazon associate companies. The USPS negotiates shipping rates for large commercial customers and Amazon pays the same as others. That contract is renegotiated periodically. Lastly, the chief small business killer in this country is Walmart - not Amazon.
 because of the depth and breadth of their selections. They are developing same day deliveries, 1-hour grocery deliveries and are one of the most innovative companies in the country, 

The bottom line - to me - is that Amazon is easily the most convenient online business to use when shopping online. I may not always buy there but they usually get my first look.

To see what Ramana thinks, click here.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Imperfections 2-on-1 #20

Imperfections are this weeks topic, suggested by Ramana. Imperfections - those faults, blemishes or otherwise unwanted characteristics that, depending upon your outlook, make us unique or prevent us from being perfect. I am most often in the former group - it is our imperfections that make us who we are - and make plastic surgeons rich.

As we age I suppose it is normal to wonder who that old person that we see in the mirror each morning is that stares back at us. In our hearts, most of us still feel like that enthusiastic youngster that was full of hope for life, not that oldster who has realized that life is what happens while we are busy making other plans. Life is about evolution - we grow into adulthood through our experiences and life lessons - each lesson leaving its mark on us, shaping our attitudes and actions. 

Can that woman that stares back at the once 17-year old beauty still be a beauty? Absolutely - and often more so than that youngster with the perfect complexion and the perfect smile. For example, I'd much rather see Helen Mirren than Jennifer Laurence on screen. I have a friend that complains about the extra 40 pounds or so she carries around these days as well as the wrinkles that she thinks detract from her looks. Trust me when I say this woman is DDG - drop-dead gorgeous. She is a life lived, and yet still in progress and as far as I am concerned has miles of smiles yet to travel - along with a few speed bumps along the way as that is the way of life - lots of curves, twists, turns and speed limit changes.

Then there is that white-haired, goateed fellow that stares back at me each morning.
Through a quirky memory that often leaves 50-year old memories imprinted in my mind like the pages read in a book by a genius with an eidetic memory (no I am not a genius - I just have a great memory) I cannot help but think - in spite of recent events -  Jimmy Buffet got it right when he sang " yesterdays over my shoulder but i can't look back for too long - there's just too much to see waiting in front of me and I know that I just can't go wrong".

What about our institutions? Cam imperfect people create perfect institutions? It would seem we here in the USA currently have a president hell bent on destroying our institutions of government to further enrich himself and his family. One can only hope the checks and balances built into the system created 240 years ago are strong enough to prevent that from happening. POTUS 45 is certainly creative in his efforts to create an alternative reality by simply screaming everything he does not like in the media is simply fake news and declares the media - with a glaring exception is the enemy of the people. The question becomes will his narcissistic imperfections convince enough people he is correct to inflict permanent damage on what is - on paper - the best political system devised by imperfect people?

Be sure to see what Ramana has to say on imperfections.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Not all those who wander are lost. 2-on-1 #19

This week's 2-on-1 blog is dedicated to all those restless souls who are not meant to be tied to a traditional lifestyle and yearn to wander, not looking for anything specifically but - like sharks - must move or die. Everyone knows someone like this.

I went to high school with a guy born to run - his name is Randy, I have known Randy since grade school and little league baseball. Randy is a musician -a superior bass player - and lives in Kauai but is prone to take annual trips to Asia and other places. He is now in the middle of solo sailing trip through Asia and headed to London, Not a bad jaunt and it is not his first within the last 12 months. You go Randy.

So why are these people born to run?

Dunno for  sure why but there seems to be a common thread in my experience - musicians seem to be afflicted with the traveling gene. But even though they travel they have roots. I think we are conditioned to have a home base = whether they want to go back to it or not.

Back in 1967 as I was preparing to graduate from high school several of my friends and I were bitten by the wanderlust bug, When asked about our post HS plqns the replies were almost universally the same - I am gonna Route 66 it for a while. The response was greatly aided by our near universal affinity to a popular TV show back then - Route 66. It was a show about a couple of 20 somethings traveling the country in a corvette, experiencing life and love literally on the road of life.

I confess occasionally I wonder how different my life would have been if I had actually taken that trip. Somehow I doubt I'd be living in a home with wheels in North Carolina if I had.

For whatever reason, some people are just happier when on the road. Maybe they had some emotional trauma, maybe they simply like to travel. The reason is irrelevant. These are folks that are not lost,  they are doing the thing that makes them happy.

Back in my Pueblo days (up to 10 years old) we lived a couple of blocks away from a hobo encampment. To get there I had to cross a couple of streets and sneak through my friend Bud Rossi's back yard, hop his fence and go down about 50 feet to the path that ram along the railroad tracks and lead directly to the camp. Now these were the tail end of the halcyon days when hoboes rode the rails regularly. Although my grandma and step grandfather warned me not to hang out there, how could I not? These guys were bigger than life and friendly as all heck. I had my first taste of slumgullion - a hobo stew. It was wonderful but I gave myself away when I asked my grandma what was in it. Busted. But she checked with Mode, my step grandpa and three or four days later she made it for me. I remember potatoes, onions, stewed tomatoes and chunks of beef. It was wonderful. I wish I'd been old enough to ask those guys why they rode the rails. They would likely have said looking for work but I suspect a few just liked being on the road.

I think it is clear by now that some people simply cannot remail in place, no matter where they are. They are simply restless souls that for whatever reason keep on moving much like gypsies, nomads or other types of vagabonds.

That's my quick shack-take on the topic I chose for this weeks 2-on-1 post. Be sure to visit see what he has to say.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

MusicalBreak Time

My inner music geek is working overtime this AM - back before we went psychedelic there were some good songs - remember any of these??

Before Jan Ericho joined the band and they morphed into the Vejtables SF had the Mojo Mem

Hey Brian SCott - ever meet these guys in a Battle of the Bands??

From San Jose - I saw these guys open for the Dave Clark Five

I owned this album and yes I'd like some of your tangerines

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. 2-on-1 #18

Picture yourself in a small, artsy collection of shops. You enter a shop that looks interesting - back in the day we called them head shops - and are immediately almost overwhelmed by the scent of incense burning -  Lavender, Sandalwood, Jasmine, Patchouli, Rose or maybe Vanilla. Vanilla so sickly sweet it makes you want to swear off vanilla milkshakes for the rest of your life. Playing softly in the background is some music you cannot quite peg  but because there is a sitar you guess it may be Indian. You look up to see several large posters - the old hippy version of Hallmark Cards that
boldly proclaim:
    Image result for Pain is inevitable; Suffering is optional posters

And then you ponder -are either of those statements really true? I mean what the heck - Buddha would never lie to us would he?

When I look back on all the crap I learned in high school, its a wonder I can think at all. Paul Simon would not sing  it if not true, would he? Wait - he didn't.

It is a given that in a lifetime pain is inevitable - be it physical or emotional. Somewhere down the road of life we all encounter the pain of heartbreak  or the more easily understood pain of falling off a bike, a jungle jim or having a well thrown dodge ball bounce off your head. In my case, a fastball off a knuckle, massively jammed finger and riding my bike headlong into a car stand out among the physical pain memories. I blame Bruce Carpenter for the baseball pain to this day :) .The others are my fault.

The bike incident happened when I was about 8 - I was hustling home - flat out flying - down the road and completely missed the car that turned in front of me. Now remember - thus was circa 1957 or so and cars were not the  lightweight little things they are today - this was a full size Desoto.  Just the fins likely outweighed today's vehicles.

I tried to take a bite  out of the grill. Mr. Desoto won and I was promptly hustled off to  the ER for surgery to stitch up the piece of my mouth that was hanging down. I remember the mask with ether flowing through it covering my nose and awoke in the back seat of my grandmothers Oldsmobile at the local drive in theater. It happened to be close to the hospital and so there we sat, watching Hell and High Water. My mouth hurt like hell and I could swear  the scent of ether was omnipresent. My mouth hurt like hell for a week or so. So....that suffering was not optional - simply the result of my carelessness.

My guitar playing career was effectively ended during a Sunday football game my friends and I engaged in. While absolutely destroying my pal Dave Hitchcock, I jammed, dislocated and did everything  but break the ring finger on my left hand. Being tough, I continued to play the rest of the game but my hand was literally on fire. It remained that way for weeks but I was tough. The tough that is defined by stupid. That hand hurt for six months in total, will to this day not straighten out and caused me to lose my college ring and a wedding band or two over the years. So clearly that suffering was not optional although the pain and suffering of listeners to my admittedly lame guitar efforts did evaporate along with the callouses on my fingertips.

Now I think these two examples the suffering related to physical pain was in no way optional.

Emotional pain, however, is an entirely different matter. We have all, at one time or another, experienced a breakup with a loved one.  We probably have experienced both sides of that equation - breaker or breakee. In my case my go to song was this little ditty 
I guess you could say I chose to suffer by playing the song over and over.. Truth is, I still think of the girl whenever I hear the song. We reconnected years later and are great friends.

The other obvious emotional hit I have  absorbed is the loss of Lynn four years ago. Emotional pain of the highest order. But the suffering afterword did not match the intensity of the pain. The last ten years of Lynn's life were not pleasant. You might say I suffered along with her during those years and when she did die it was a relief as her suffering came to an end. So, essentially, did mine. I still get emotional when I hear a couple of songs that remind me of Lynn but that emotion these days is tied up in remembering the good times. Simple stuff like visiting her at BYU, playing catch on some early dates, moving across the country twice and simultaneously bursting into laughter when we crossed the state line back into California on our return trip.
So here we are, discussing a quote attributed to Buddha but admittedly attributed to others as well.  Based on my experience, suffering is essentially optional. We can control the strength and duration of suffering and control  our lives.  It is no wondwe there are over 500 million Buddhists in the world - the doctrines - if you can even call them that - seem based in rational thought rather than rooted in fear.

Be sure to check Ramana's take on his chosen subject here.