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.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Genetic Modification 2-on-1 #18

This week's topic is genetic modification - aka genetic engineering. The "educated" elites on the left are very much against genetic  engineering and rail against genetically modified food daily. I can honestly say I know of  nobody who has been harmed by genetically modified food but none of that is my concern this week. The so-called educated left can rant and rail on genetic engineering  until the cows come in - I do not care about genetically modified food. Those who are opposed to genetically modified food are entitled to their opinions, but that is not what this blog is about. It is simply a discussion for another time.

Readers who know anything about me at all know my wife passed away a little over four years ago from Huntington's Disease (HD), a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person's physical and mental capabilities in the prime of their life and it has no cure.  HD is the quintessential family disease because every child of a parent with the disease has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the gene and HD. Today there are around 30,000 symptomatic  Americans  and about 200,000 potential cases. Therein lies one of the primary issues with HD - our wonderful for-profit medical system and so-called Big Pharma  simply have little incentive to work on solving HD. It is as if President Trump's southern border wall has been erected to hamper  HD study. HD families have no Michael J Fox or Stephen Hawking to help focus attention on HD. Woody Guthrie is probably the most famous person to have ever had HD - luckily his son Arlo did not inherit the gene. Woody died in 1956.

Some of you will say that HD afflicted people simply should not have children. That may  indeed be correct but the genetic test that is 100% accurate was not developed until 1993. My children were born in 1977 and 1982. Lynn was tested and the results of the pre-genetic test were negative, Doctors basically did an MRI and saw no trace of HD (brain shrinkage). Oops - 1n 1999 some friends of ours noticed some odd behavior and strange physical traits in Lynn. She was genetically tested and I will never forget the phone call from the Neurologist's office. I answered the phone at work and there was silence on the other end. Finally the caller said I am very sorry but Lynn has HD.

She lived until 2014, but, we had two children. You can see where this is going. Our daughter was diagnosed with HD  last week after the genetic test was administered. For what it is worth, the older test came back negative 4 months ago.. Each of her three children has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the defective gene. Our son refuses to have the test because he fears it will destroy his attitude about life and he is trying to assure his family has a stable future whether he is there to share it with them or not. I understand his reticence as Lynn gave up on life almost immediately after her diagnosis.  It was part of the progressive degeneration of her brain.

So what does this have to do with the weekly 2-on-1 blog?  Enter CRISPR. If you wish to  examine the technical jargon please click CRISPR. Long story short, CRISPR has the potential to eliminate some 6000 genetic disorders - including HD.  60 Minutes has done a story on  CRISPR.

Genetic engineering is here and it is real. With a bit of luck my six potential HD inheritors will benefit from CRISPR if we can manage to navigate  the slippery slope that genetic engineering has become. But, to ignore the benefits available through the judicious use of genetic engineering is simply immoral in my opinion.  Opponents claim genetically modifying embryos to prevent disease is tantamount to playing god. I say if god screwed up, correct the mistake.  Opponents say genetic engineering is unnatural and does not take into consideration the desires of the future generation. I say so what?  Is not setting a broken arm unnatural? Is not plastic surgery unnatural? Is not transplanting organs unnatural? What about artificial limbs? And who would not want to have HD removed from their life if given a chance? Perhaps some of the faithful might be willing to risk their life on the power of prayer. or god performing a miracle. I am not one of the faithful.

To see what Ramana has to say on the matter please go to Ramana.