Thursday, July 19, 2018

What frustrated you most last week and why. 2-on-1 07/20/2018

This week's topic was my idea and for the purpose of this post the week ended  on Monday. I'm sure some if not most of you can guess why that caveat was added. Be sure to check my co-blogger and friend Ramana's blog to see his take, which I am quite sure will be very different, by clicking here.

I have tended to avoid political blogging for most of this blog's existence. Even though I am a political junkie with a degree in Political Science, I am not an ideologue and I have only occasionally commented on a president or otherwise commented on the political hot point du jour. Alas, my proverbial unstated red line in the sand has been crossed. Silence has been severely tarnished and is no longer golden.

For the record, I believe dialogue is good - we need to speak as regularly as possible with both friend and foe. That 45 legitimized the North Korean dictator on the world stage is collateral damage to 45s attempt to open a dialogue with him, although I found the far right's praise of 45 for that worthless meeting somewhat disingenuous. The jury is still out on whether or not anything positive comes of it (the ball is now in the seemingly competent hands of Mike Pompeo). The Trump/Putin meeting could have been constructive had 45 taken the opportunity to call out Putin and Russia for their attacks on our electoral system. 45s tax breaks have benefited the 1% far more than the rest of us, he has caused substantial increases in insurance premiums for the ACA in spite of his promises otherwise (still waiting for that replacement plan) and his recent tariffs have queued up a trade war that has already begun to harm workers here. And then there was Helsinki.

I have watched the devolution of political discourse on Facebook, Twitter. cable news channels and media in general. Marked by a lack of civility I never imagined we would reach, I still refrained from constantly berating either side, though I took occasional shots at both sides. I watched, in somewhat stunned silence, one of my friends - an old high school friend - devolve into a self-proclaimed super patriot who posted daily rants against the corrupt libtards (his word) - aka Democrats - and bragged about how he could trace his family's military service back to the Revolutionary War - as if that gave him the moral high ground as he railed against Obama, the Clintons and every other Democrat. When he had a good point to make, his delivery - as far as I am concerned - rendered that point moot. Rather than deal with his political rants I simply ignored them and carried on non-political conversations by posting directly to his timeline. He has a hard core group of followers that hang on his every word. Because I lean to the left on social values I suspect he - and possibly several others - assume I am a leftie and a libtard. The fact is, I am a registered Republican - but not for much longer as if/when I register again it will be as an independent. The Democrats have drifted much to far to the left for me to seriously consider them, The new so-called progressives are the Millennial's to contend with and support or reject.  

Sadly, my friends attitude has become the norm for Trumpers, the followers of 45. Their hatred of all things not pro Trump is rivaled only by their hatred of Obama, Obama's legacy and their hatred of the Clinton political machine - admittedly one of the most corrupt entities in the history of American politics. - but, in case you haven't noticed  that big, bad Clinton machine is history. Now, I was never a big fan of Obama - but I always thought he was a decent enough man. His policies, though, were seriously flawed but they were not the kind of things designed to bring down the institutions that have served us well for over 200 years.

Along came 2016 and we now have 45 - a man who campaigned claiming among other things that if he lost the election it would be because it was rigged, He developed a name-calling, hateful style that lowered the so-called bar to a point where an ant could not get under ihe bar if it were a limbo bar. But I was optimistic - I figured he could not do much damage and that we would survive until the Republic was once again placed in saner hands.

So now we get to last week and the NATO summit. Things began to seriously fall apart. 45 insulted our primary allies again, harangued Angela Merkel and Theresa May, the leaders of probably two of our top three allies, and continued to refuse to condemn Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin. He was late to his meeting with Queen Elizabeth and then rudely ignored the defacto protocols for meeting British royalty. He insulted the Mayor of London and Mrs. May. His smugness was on display for the entire world to see. Forest Gump immediately came to mind - "stupid is as stupid does".

Of course there was more to come. He had set up a "summit" with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki immediately after the NATO and UK meetings. One again had to wonder what he would do to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory as on Friday, July 13, charges were filed against 12 members of the Russian military for their roles in the cyber crimes related to our 2016 election. We literally had the Russians by those uniquely male sex organs and it was time to squeeze them, confront Putin with the proof as developed by the USA and our intelligence agencies. 

Of course we all know what happened. 45 sided with Putin and his "strong, powerful" denials - and promptly threw our intelligence community under the bus. He suggested the ongoing collusion investigation, which he has continually labeled a witch hunt had whipped up an irrational fervor and was harmful to our country. He blamed Obama for allowing the cyber attacks. He once again patted himself on the back for winning the election.

In the face of substantial criticism - several people called  45s actions treasonous - behavior in Helsinki 45 again tried to walk it back by again blaming Obama and Obama's intelligence team since they knew of the cyber attacks just before the election. He again attacked the FBI over Mrs. Clinton's missing emails and the DNC's missing hacked server (which is not missing at all). 45 believes constant denials will convince people he is right as he panders to his base. It is scary to realize he may be right, as his constant stream of lies are accepted by his base as alternative facts. His constantly calling the mainstream media the enemy of the people may get someone hurt or killed.

White supremacists have been rejoicing since 45 was elected. His second most popular campaign sound bite - drain the swamp - has given us Tom Price, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy Devos, Scott Pruitt and more and the swamp is deeper and more dangerous than ever. Price was a piker when it came to corruption when compared to Pruitt. Devos is working on dismantling the public education system. 45 has - not surprisingly - appointed one conservative SCOTUS justice and nominated another with the sudden and somewhat unexpected retirement of Anthony Kennedy. Could that surprise retirement be due to the fact that Kennedy's son provided 45 with a billion dollars in loans when US banks would not? And Deutsche Bank -  the younger Kennedy's employer - has strong ties to Russian oligarchs? Is this a thinly veiled attempt to insure a conservative SCOTUS for generations further evidence of 45s pandering to his base?? It is the POTUS job to nominate SCOTUS justices when openings arise but is it  simply a coincidence that there is a rush to confirm the latest nominee before the midterm election, when there is a very good chance the GOP may lose their hold on one or both chambers of Congress (historical fact even before the actions of 45 and their presumed negative impact are factored in). FYI - I do not take issue with conservative justices - but I do care about the process involved in their selection. I do not meant to suggest the Democrats would not do the same thing if given the opportunity, which would be just as wrong.

Clearly there is much greater detail I could bring to the page, but this is a simple weekly blog, not a master's thesis on corruption in US politics. Unfortunately, the incredible stream of lies that are the hallmark of 45 coupled with his fake news rants and calling the mainstream media the enemy of the people, while establishing what is effectively state-run media at Fox, have caused my frustration level to breach the levees. 

It has been somewhat cathartic to put all of this down but the frustration has continued daily and is likely to do so. I need a prescription for chill pills, or at least some good scotch or beer. Maybe both. I admit my confidence in and optimism for our Republic has been shaken. I wonder if every generation experiences some of these feelings as they reach the end of the line and prepare to pass the baton to the next keepers generation. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

“Neither seek nor avoid, take what comes.” 2-on-1 07/13/2018

Our 2-on-1 topic this week - Neither seek nor avoid, take what comes - was selected by Ramana. Be sure to check his take on the topic here. 
At first glance, if you are a believer in fate or destiny, these are words to live by. If you are a reactor rather than an actor, you would certainly have no quarrel, as to live by these  words is to embrace a life predetermined - a life of destiny, fate sealed. I suppose to some it would be liberating to embrace such a lifestyle.
Like others,I sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time pondering just such notions - is life predetermined? Are we really free? Does free will really exist?
Frankly, I have a difficult time believing we are living predefined, scripted lives. I find it very hard to believe that some so-called god took the time to write out my life - and say my wife will suffer for 10 years and ultimately succumb to a genetic condition that he (or she to be fair) predetermined would strike her down. Why would my friend Jim's wife be destined to suffer through cancer - or anyone for that matter. Oh - the Bible does say the planet is under the control of Satan - interesting that god covered his/her tracks that way - check 1 John 5:19 - “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” That's all you need to know, shut up and keep keep doing what you are told. You simply cannot be trusted to make decisions on your own.
Naturally folks like Pat Robertson and others of his evangelical ilk will suggest we are being punished for the "wickedness" in our lives in this country and the decline in the importance of god in our culture. We are bombarded by cries of god belongs in our schools, workplaces and needs to dominate our lives because he/she loves us and we cannot be trusted to manage our own lives. God created us as imperfect beings, burdening us with free will while at the same time requiring us to strictly adhere to his will. It's the old his way or the highway scenario. But - which of his paths is the true path? Catholic? Mormon? Methodist? Baptist? Jehovah's Witness? Christian Science (boy does that one sound like an oxymoron) or any one of the dozens of so-called Christian churches - all of which claim to be the one true way down that Christian highway. How about Judaism - after all,  those Christian churches are really spin-offs of Judaism and that Jesus fellow was actually a Jew. Perhaps god had a script writing contest and chose the best batch of the entrants to put into place as the scribe of our destiny.
What about miracles? Are miracles really miracles - an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs - as defined by Merriam/Webster or are they simply random acts that coincide with mathematical prophecy (probability)? How many years until a chimpanzee with a keyboard creates the next War and Peace? (I'd prefer that chimp create something shorter, thank you very much). 
 I trust that by now you have ascertained that I do not subscribe to the "God's will" school of thought regarding my lifestyle. That does not, however, mean that I have completely ruled out some form of universal (call it divine if you must) karmic intervention, aka the payback is a bitch equation. Karma is terrific - there is something inherently fair about a theory of life or a lifestyle that is based on the notion that whatever happens to you happens because of your actions, and isn't fairness what almost everyone seeks? Throw in the occasional random happenstance - be it triumph or tragedy - and you have a recipe for life that is workable and satisfying.
Go to worship every sabbath (whatever day your particular faith calls for. Follow the tenets of your faith. In my experience/observation, doing that quite frequently leads to a satisfying life. To those participating in such a lifestyle it is God's will, whereas to a believer in karma, since Christianity tends to follow the 10 commandments, following them means you are leading a fair, honest life which bodes well for your destiny.Karma is a big-tent faith/lifestyle/philosophy. Clearly the fact that we are all human, and thereby subject to the occasional lapse in judgement or mistake, the tent is sufficiently large as long as you accept your responsibility. It is a pity the religions of the world do not have a tent as all encompassing. I suspect the world would be a much better place if we were all living that way.  Neither seek nor avoid, take what comes is simply too passive for me as an active  lifestyle, although I must admit that retirement has been closer to that than I imagined i it would be. Plus, the jury is still out when it comes to me and god - anyone that knows me understands why neither I nor U2 have found what we are looking for. 
That's it for my take on this week's subject. Ramana and I will be back next week for another 2-on-1 blog on a new subject. Until then, remember how to treat people -  good Karma matters.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

What would you say to a younger version of your self? 2-on-1 07/06/2018

 This weeks topic was my suggestion. Please be sure to check Ramana's take on the subject here. 

It is an interesting exercise to consider changing your life - at every turn when a different path taken could change everything. What would change? Family size? Would your kids be the kids you have now? Would your friends still be your friends? Would your relationship with your significant other survive? Is the life you have your destiny?

The first thing I would say to me is "Buckle your seatbelt when they appear - it is going to be an E-ticket ride". For those of you not old enough to get that reference, Disneyland tickets used to be sold in books with gradings from A to E, with E being the fewest in the book but also the best rides - think

Moving on, to my high-school self (that is the middle picture at the top of the page)I would simply say throw as hard as you can but throw to spots and use that damn knuckleball.

Work harder when you are at Chabot - go to Berkeley when you get accepted this time. Pay attention, engage and think. This is an important time. law school is more viable than you think so give it more thought.

The move to Connecticut in the bicentennial year is your chance to do a major reset on yourself. Follow through on that broadcast school dream. You can do that work anywhere you live and you will be happy - even Texas, 

It would be interesting to skip the Texas move but the cost would be to great. All of my grandkids are here because we went to Texas - nothing is worth giving them up. 

As I said - is the life we have our destiny? What of the things you have will you give up to make a change? While my life may not be one filled with money and excitement, it is uniquely my life - good, bad and indifferent. I would not go back and start over - it is what it is so I actually have very little I'd say to my younger self beyond work hard, play hard, smile often, laugh regularly and try to do no harm, Nobody gets out of here alive. 

That's my take on this weeks topic. See ya next week - same bat time, same bat channel. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Sports in our lives. 2-on-1 06/29/2018

Ramana suggested this week's topic - Sports in our lives. You might say he lobbed me a softball this week. Be sure to check his take on the subject here.

I am what is jokingly referred to as a jock gone to seed. Older, slower, fatter than in my halcyon days. Now some of that is due to the abuse I heaped upon myself all these years - those Xs in front of the L on my frame compounded the wear and tear to the point that I now get around on what I laughingly call stereo walking sticks - aka crutches. My knees are shot and I simply refuse to have them replaced - I have friends who have almost died due to that surgery although my brother has had both of his replaced and thinks I should go ahead and have the surgery. No thanks.

From the time I was very young, all I ever wanted was to be a baseball player.   I loved to play baseball and anyone who has seen the movie The Sandlot knows what my life was like. I managed to keep that dream up through high school -that's me my senior year glaring at an imaginary hitter from the mound. It is also somewhat clear from the photo that it is body by football at 6'2' and 270 or so. I also wrestled so I was a three-sport jock. That certainly kept me busy and off the streets - all good for a shy guy like me.

For the record, I still miss pitching - LOL - some dreams never die. I became a two-sport jock in college - shoulder injuries and reality set in - no more baseball, but I did enjoy 25 years or so of softball, dabbled in golf, tennis and played very aggressive handball and racquetball well into my forties.

On New Years Eve in 1968 I went to a party at my friend Anne Amundson's house and my life was changed forever as I met my future wife Lynn. You can read about that  meeting, our life together and her struggle with HD here.

Lynn was a gymnast at BYU back then - these images are of her working on the balance beam in her backyard in Oakland, California. Not shown is the cement patio under the beam - and people called me crazy.

 During the summer of '69 when she came home from school we began dating in earnest. Our early dates could be as simple as just playing catch as she was also a softball player. We attended softball games, both spent the summer working for the Oakland Recreation Department and developed a relationship that would last for 46 years, until her death. We raised two kids - I coached them in soccer, softball and baseball. Sport was always part of our lives. We also did a bit of white-water rafting and for a few years went skiing regularly.

These days I am relegated to the status of a fan. I enjoy watching baseball, football and hockey but honestly I am not what you can call an avid fan - unless my San Jose Sharks are in the Stanley Cup playoffs or TCU (Texas Christian University) - my fave college football team - is on TV.

I was never much of a jogger and I literally ran my last lap the day of my last football practice. Again - mine is not a body built for jogging. Although I love the mountains, hiking is not on my bucket list. It is not lost on me that perhaps if I'd had a different attitude maybe I would not have so many Xs in front of that L on my buffalo petite frame if I had been a runner. Clearly, 12 oz. curls (the weight of a can of beer) were not sufficient.

That's it for my take on this weeks 2-on-1 topic. Check back next week for another round of 2-on-1 where my good friend Ramana in Pune India and I tackle the same topic.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

What is/was your favorite weekend getaway spot? 2-on-1 06/22/2018

It has been a long while since I had a weekend getaway spot - way back to the pre-Texas days.  Lynn and I used to spend Labor Day weekend in Monterey/Carmel. It was our goto spot. It was a quick, beautiful drive from our EastBay home and a trip we very much looked forward to.

Image result for monterey peninsula
The weekend always started on Friday evening, occasionally Friday afternoon if we could coordinate an early getaway from work. We lived dangerously - we never made motel reservations as finding a place to stay was part of the adventure. We'd secure a place to stay and then head over to the Del Monte shopping center and Marie Callender's Restaurant for dinner and drinks.

Not only did Marie Callenders have great food, they poured a mean Long Island Ice Tea, a fave of mine. Lynn was fond of their fettuccine alfredo and I loved their pot roast, stews and other things. After dinner, we'd head back to the motel and get a good nights rest and be ready for the Saturday fun.

Sunday we would have Sunday Brunch at one of several places and then we'd act like tourists and just drive around and check out the amazing scenery on the Monterey Penninsula.
  Related image
Saturday morning we'd grab some breakfast and plan our day. We'd either head off to Carmel to hit up some of our favorite shops. Carmel was full of boutique type shops and there were enough books shops and music stores to keep me occupied while Lynn hit up gift shops, clothing shops and anything else that struck her fancy. If we did not go to Carmel we'd head off to Monterey and Cannery Row for a day of shopping and a visit to the Aquarium that David Packard of Hewlett Packard fame built so his daughter Julie would have a job. (She was the Director when the Aquarium opened).Packard, incidentally, was born in my home-town - Pueblo, Colorado.

A full day of shopping or wandering through the aquarium petting rays and whatnot typically left us worn out so we'd head back to our motel. We'd typically grab a light  dinner at some little seafood shack or fast-food joint and retire for the evening.

Sunday we would enjoy Sunday brunch at one of several places and then typically take a drive around the Monterey Penninsula enjoying the spectacular scenery.

Image result for monterey peninsula

Monday morning would see us heading back home at a leisurely pace, always stopping at a place called The Giant Artichoke in Castroville to stock up on bags of fried artichoke hearts.  Then it was back on the road headed for home.Be sure to see what Ramana has to say by clicking here

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.