Thursday, December 10, 2020

Breaktime - what do you do when you get the chance for a break from your busy schedule?

 2020 - what a long, strange year it has been. Many of us have experienced unheard of levels of  stress -I know I sure have. So how do all y'all cope? 

Most of you can guess that I spend a fair amount of time lost in music. There is very little music I do not care for. You are not likely to see me listening to an opera. I love Broadway musicals which I discovered as a kid. Camelot is my all time fave, though I prefer the movie to the stage version unless the stage version has Richard Harris as Arthur.

I used to read a lot. My record in books for  a year is over 300 but my preference is mystery fiction, sword and sorcery fiction and the like. Most of that is a quick one night's read for me but I do savor a good Harry Dresen novel by Jim Bitcher or a Kate Shugak novel by Dana Stabenow.  Very few classics make my list as I am more interested in current culture and firmly believe mystery writers are as accurate at chronicling the life and times of their characters as any so called classical author.

Then there is the popcorn movie. The multitub of popocorn, typically action/adventure flick that you kick back and relax. Think Indiana Jones, Harry Potter or my all time fave popcorn movie The Last Starfighter. I confess to a crush on Catherine Mary Stewart since I saw that one and there is a sequel coming.

For the record, my all time favorite movie is a little anti-war ditty called The Americanization of Emily.

Back to music for the home stretch. Movie and TV themes are a great source of relaxation for me. Who doesn't get a warm, fuzzy feeling when they hear the Theme from Cheers? Remember this one? Hill Street Blues.

Some of the best themes come from westerns -here is one of my faves Silverado

That's it for how I relax - save for that occasional lost in thought moment. The astute reader will note that I am a very simple guy. I suspect another sign off this week is more appropriate - Happy Trails

This week's topic was chosen by me. Be sure to check other bloggers in our group's take at their respective blogs: RamanaMariaSanjanaPadmumRajuSrinivas, and Conrad.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Modern Democracy - Success or Failure

This week's topic was chosen by Raju. Be sure to check his take and the other 6 bloggers in our group's take at their respective blogs: Ramana, Maria, Sanjana, Padmum, Raju, Srinivas, and Conrad.

As a prelude to the topic  I offer this as a backdrop


Democracy dates back to the ancient Greek and Roman city states and has evolved through several different flavors over the years. The largest democracy in the world is India and the most powerful is the United States.

The last few  years have seen a largely amoral POTUS attempt to tear down the institutions of our government and instill a hard-right nationalist fervor which he succeeded in doing - you may recall  the armed militia, on the steps of the Michigan capitol and the arrest of several militia members planning to kidnap and possibly execute the governor of Michigan. Our country's divide is as deep and wide as the Grand canyon.

Democracy speaks to how we select our government or the leaders of any institution. You would be hard pressed to find people who prefer any other way of selecting leaders.  

Once the leaders are chosen, how they choose to govern largely dictates the success or failure as a democracy,  Types of democracy? Too numerous to list  or discuss  here. We, the USA, are a Republic. It seems our founders were not so enamored of direct democracy, as in their day that often meant democracy without the protection of a constitution enshrining basic rights. James Madison suggested a direct democracy got weaker as it got  larger whereas a republic could get stronger as it got larger (see the Federalist 10).

World population review list the top 10 of the most democratic nations in the world are: Norway (9.87) Iceland (9.58) Sweden (9.39) New Zealand (9.26) Finland (9.25) Ireland (9.24) Canada (9.22) Denmark (9.22) Australia (9.09) Switzerland (9.03). The bottom of the entire list is anchored by North Korea, the USA comes in at 25. You can see the entire list here - just scroll down through the ads and other info to the list.

Obviously economic performance is a huge indicator of the success or failure of a democracy. I believe the future success or failure of democracy lies with the success or failure of two countries - the USA and India. The USA has long been that shining ight on the hillside so often talked about.  Clearly though, the last four years show we are not without issues that must be resolved. While we do possess the treasure and strength to be a world cop, the wherewithal to do so may be waning a bit. I see that strength in India and a population willing to do nearly anything to be successful. The entrepreneurial spirit I have seen from India is mind boggling and they have the technical expertise. India is an effective counterweight to China with China ahead at the moment but with India in the race for the long haul. FYI, India's democracy score is 7.23, the USA is 7.96 and China is 3.32. Globalization increases daily as communication and technical growth run wild. Market stresses caused by changing and shrinking resources require technical innovation - such as ceasing global dependence on fossil fuels. Changing weather patterns will affect food supplies and population centers. It is going to be a vastly different world in 50 years. Democracy will make a difference, as in my opinion a largely east vs west slugfest becomes a north vs south slugfest.

Modern Democracy has been very much a success to this point thanks in large part to the success and growth of the USA. How the USA reacts to internal power changes, as the next generation of leaders assume control, and external power as  more nations step up on the world stage for their piece of the pie. India, this means you, will determine the future success or failure of democracy. Of course, we live in a nuclear world and there is always the chance some buffoon pushes the button that brings it all crashing down on us. I personally think the chance of that happening increases in direct proportion to the increasing political power of religions. There is a reason our country was founded with a very distinct separation of church hand state.  

That's it for this week's topic. See ya next week, same bat time, same bat channel.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

Dinner in two hours

Maria offered this week's topic. You can check what she and the other bloggers have to say about the topic at their  respective blogs - RamanaMariaSanjanaPadmumRajuSrinivas, and Conrad.

Two hours, eh? That is just enough time so lets hit the road.

Time for one more tune before we get to the place we are having dinner

Yep - there it is 

 Plenty of time to grab a seat and enjoy a couple of double Glenlivets before the others arrive. Won't hurt my feelings if they're late - that's one more scotch LOL. And, look who the bar band is tonight!

See ya next week when our group of 8 bloggers again write on a shared topic.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Letter to Santa...What I want for Christmas.

 Dear Santa,

I hope this letter finds you well. I really hope 2020 has been better for you than it has for most people but I'd love a sneak peek at your naughty/nice book. I suspect keeping it up all year has been quite stressful at times. As you and I share the same personal kryptonite, cookies, I trust the Mrs. or cooking elves have kept your supplies replenished. I  promise I'll leave a few extra on your plate Christmas Eve. I hope you still fit down all of those  chimneys and by the by - I have always wondered how you complete your deliveries without looking like a chimney sweep? Every pic I have seen displays a clean,  bright red suit with nary a smudge on it. You aren't photo shopping those are you?

At my age you might think it odd I am once again writing to you but frankly I cannot remember you ever delivering anything I asked for before. As I grew older and wiser I just assumed your day job was in politics and you are a typical politician. Alas, when the divide between folks in my country reached epic proportions and the red hated the blue, elephants hated the asses and some families were sadly torn asunder, I realized that not getting that Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 Shot Range Air Rifle (aka BB gun) could cause this much trouble. What the heck - that thing isn't even on the NRA's watch list.

Don't worry Santa - I won't ask for world peace - that must  be above your pay grade. 

How about a Stanley Cup for my beloved Tiburones de San José

The board game Version of QAnon - 

More tolerance to deal with the idiots in this world 

Winning lottery numbers (before the game, of course)

A pill for writer's block on blog day (just in case)

Zero calorie cinnamon gummy bears

Gym membership for my good angel since my bad angel seems to kick his ass regularly

The wherewithal to finish the great American novel

More patience - he is only 10  years old (my grandson)

CRISPR being approved for HD treatment for my daughter

One more year of Supernatural 

The sequel to The Last Starfighter to get filmed 

One last note Santa - since world peace is beyond your reach, how about just a simple thing like a return to civility?


That's it for my spin on Padmini's chosen topic. Please see what the others have to say



Ramanas Musings



Padmum & Raju


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Best, Worst, Probable, the World in Five Years

This week's topic sprang forth from the fertile mind of the Old Fossil, AKA Conrad. Time is running out on the US election season and Fos wants to know where it all will end. Honestly, so do most of us - the population in general. 

We begin our best view of the world in five years on November 3, 2020 by replacing the current inhabitant of the White House with Joe Biden. Mike Pence is shown the gate with his political career in tatters because he was nothing more than a sycophant for Donald J. Trump. We will have five years to repair the INTENTIONAL damage done to our Republic by the Trump administration. Trump took his deconstruction of the administrative state seriously. But, who could have imagined that one thing he did in his term was create a coalition primed to solve the divisiveness his presidency has  so enthusiastically engendered by uniting together to remove him from office. Irony of ironies.

Nobody in their right mind would expect this new coalition to remain in tact once the job of removing Trump is done. Most important, though, is the fact that the left and right are showing they can  work together if there is common ground. There is plenty of common ground to be explored and many opportunities to become a bipartisan country again. That is something we need to embrace and build on. That is something Joe Biden is known for - being an old school politician known for working across the aisle. We need to put folks in charge of departments that are qualified to run those departments. Regulations? How often have we heard from the automotive industry that they could not adhere to the regulations being imposed on them and remain in business. Yet, every year cars were made safer and more energy efficient. The entire industry is working toward nothing but electric cars in 10-15 years. Clean energy is an imperative and will require much work and new job creation. The oil industry companies are already working on this and simply need incentives to continue.

Part of the great unknown over the next few years is how the younger generations react to the real power transitioning to them. I frankly have no clue what they will do as I have no idea what they really care about - just that they blame us boomers for many if not all of our ills. I am reasonably optimistic they will take the ball and run with it. They may have a different plan of attack but the requirements  remain unchanged. Our west coast offense may soon become a thing of the past, just like the run and shoot I played in before Bill Walsh came along. To my Indian blogging partners, I apologize for the American football references, but they are the easiest to make that can be understood by readers here (especially those that know me).

We are undergoing a period of change in this country that could be as rocky as the sixties due to the divide between us. But that divide offers a chance to create a stronger, better republic - one that lives up finally to its promise. One that returns us again to a position of leadership on the world stage. One that our allies can trust and that our foes respect. One with our nation's soul restored, where our  politicians cease the name calling and behavior more akin to 10 year olds on a playground than adult leaders.

The worst? Like the best, the election November 3, 2020 holds the key. In the worst scenario, Donald Trump is reelected. Chaos continues to reign. Our primary foe - Russia - continues to make enormous gains against our interests, as does our primary competitor, China. North Korea is stronger militarily than ever. Tensions along the Korean peninsula are as tenuous as ever. That will get progressively worse IMHO.

Our justice department will continue its slide into the swamp and become more of a tool for 45 to seek revenge on his enemies, real and imagined. Our national parks and land will be sold or leased to companies seeking to drill or mine while little or no progress is made on alternative, environmentally friendlier power.

More tax breaks to wealthy Americans and companies will increase the national debt significantly. Healthcare will change but we have no idea how. Nothing 45 has said or done gives any indication beyond his promises it is about to be delivered. He has made the same pledge for four years.

I expect the protests in the streets to expand and be worse as militia groups feel emboldened by 45 to clash with protestors. The violent extreme left and extreme right use the streets as their battleground. 45 will continue to use "law and order" to push the limits of his authoritarian tendencies and label the left's actions as socialism and communism. Of course, that is likely no matter who wins the election. It also amazes me how many people are so ignorant of communism as to agree with Trump and so ignorant of socialism to not recognize its presence in our lives.

Trump's actions - or lack thereof - regarding the pandemic will lead to many more deaths as we await his vaunted herd immunity to be reached.  As this is being written we are adding 70,000 plus cases daily. Despite 45's protestation, the rise is not simply due to increased testing as the percentage of deaths and hospitalizations has increased. Vaccines are coming but only about 70% of the population seems willing to take the vaccine. 

Trump seems bulletproof when it comes to the economy and the stock market. His tax reductions and deregulation seem to keep the markets on the rise, though the benefits do not always trickle down to working folk. I see no reason for that to change.

I expect  chaos to continue its hold on a Trump administration should he be reelected. The cabinet doors will be constantly swinging as nearly everyone seems to cross 45 eventually and draw his ire.

Of course this is all speculation and swag (scientific wild-assed guesses). But, should Trump win reelection, why wouldn't he continue to enrich himself and his company by drinking at the government trough. I would also expect Don Junior to find a way to enter politics and continue the new and improved family business. The religious right sold their souls for Trumps judicial picks, hoping to overturn Rowe v. Wade and do everything they can to ban abortion in the country - something I believe the majority does not support. But regarding the judges, and specifically the Supreme court, anyone who thinks the Democrats would not have done the exact same thing given the opportunity is naïve, foolish or both. Both parties are largely amoral when it comes to getting their way.

We will also witness the beginning of the transition of real power between generations as the younger folk start assuming the reins of power. Things will change as dinosaurs like Moscow Mitch, 45, Lindsey Graham, Pelosi, Schumer, Feinstein and the rest of the old guard ride off into the sunset searching for a rest home to continue what I am sure they believe is the real battle. 

As our population becomes younger and browner, newer ideas will spring forth from young liberals like AOC and young conservatives like Ben Sasse. That is as it should be as they inherit control from Boomers and other old folks. The world in five years will be an interesting place - we are leaving a lot of ideas and broken toys for them to sort through. I just hope it is all  not filtered through another four years of Trumpian chaos. Plus, the world may be split more along north/south lines rather than east/west. It seems to me the haves are more to the north and the want to haves are more to the south. one thing is certain - Time Has Come Today

That concludes my speculations on the world in five years. Please Be sure to check what the other 8-1 bloggers have to say.



Ramanas Musings



Padmum and Raju

Thursday, October 22, 2020

A Day in the Life

This weeks topic is my choice and it is meant to catch us all up on life today in the midst of a global pandemic, that as this is written has infected over 40 million people, killed nearly 1.1 million people and of which over 26.7 million have survived. Over the last several weeks we have been around the edges of this subject so lets see just what is really happening.

Woke up - fell out of bed

The first thing I do every morning is head to the kitchen and make a pot  of coffee, throw a couple of slices of multigrain bread into the toaster oven and let the dog out.  After the animals and I are fed and watered or 
'coffeed", the day is in full swing. Full swing is to remain grounded in my little aluminum tube. See - I am one of those with comorbidities and pretty much under quarantine 24/7. If I do get out it is definitely with a mask and a large container of hand sanitizer. That is for trips to the Doctor's office, Cardiologist or the rare trip to a drive through for takeout. It is good to see that treatment for Covid-19 has improved - at least if you have access to treatments not yet available to the general public. Just ask 45 and Chris Christie.

No barbershop for me but I won't look like an elderly Sasquatch any time soon as there is someone here in the park that can cut my hair.

I spend most days playing Scrabble, Words for Friends 2, and being a political junkie and following the news - multi sourced of course. I must admit, though, the 24/7 news coverage and short news cycle are frustrating and stressful.
Frankly, I long for the old days - what we used to call normal. The weekends when we could pick up and head to a movie on a whim. Of course the cost these days is simply outrageous. 

I have noticed a cost increase for groceries as well - varying from 10% to 20% per order. Coupled with unemployment numbers and the inability of the government to come up with an appropriate new stimulus package, things are tougher than ever. There are 3 people here living off a single social security check. As long as nothing goes wrong - read breaks down - we are fine. Of course something always breaks down.

Things apparently will continue in this vain until we can get the Pandemic under control. We continue to lead the world in poor response to Covid-19. Nothing being presented in the news lately gives me confidence the situation will improve appreciably any time soon.

I am not particularly surprised by that as many people here are blessed - or cursed - with a fierce independent streak. One that seemingly equates the simple task of wearing a face mask as a severe infringement of their personal rights. There is as much rancor there as there is with gun rights critics. Who woulda thunk - a cloth face mask is as sore a point as semiautomatic weapons. The CDC is the right's NRA. Sensible? That is up to you.
It has been interesting to see home delivery of groceries and take out establish a strong foothold. I think those will be with us permanently as we move forward and establish a new normal. I must admit - I find the fact that I can make an Aldi, Publix, or Food Lion grocery order at 8AM and by 10AM  it is delivered. I have become a fan of Aldi and their prices while the prices on groceries are so unstable. And Door Dash is easy to use but expensive. Choose your establishment wisely as you can save money with special deals. Boy, do I miss a place called Mr. Pickles - the best sandwich shop ever. I discovered them while staying with my brother's family.

Something else that is gaining popularity is working from home. Out of necessity, many folks are discovering the joy of working from home. Commutes include  avoiding overly affectionate pets as you walk down the hall. Having spent ten years doing it at RadioShack, I am glad to see it spreading. I am even considering going back to work.

So here we sit - less than two weeks until what I consider the most important election in our lives. Essentially quarantined,, avoiding get togethers, watching way too much TV and being as careful as possible. NC is spiking in infections - but the weather is nice. So far I have managed to not lose any friends over the election but the number of folks I discuss politics with has declined. No harm there as it is a mad mad world there is always plenty of stuff to discuss. Less than two weeks to go until things settle down.

And so goes a typical day for me here in North Carolina, the place I not so happily call home these days. The unhappiness is my issue and not related to the Pandemic. We are rapidly entering the Fall season, my favorite time of year. The temperature has been falling to 43° nightly, there is definitely a nip in the air. Good news - it is much cooler and pleasant temperature wise. Bad news - the cooler temperatures may be leading us into the worst time of the Pandemic. It will cause people to congregate in enclosed areas and far too many people still have issues wearing face masks when they are out and about.  Opening the state's economies has caused new spikes in infections as beaches and bars become more accessible. Too many in our society prefer to be seen in pubic carrying their semiautomatic weapons rather than wear a mask and help protect people from Covid-19.

That's my take on this week's quirky topic. Please Be sure to check what the other 8-1 bloggers have to say.



Ramanas Musings



Padmun & Raju

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Recipe For Your Grandchildren

This week's topic sprang from the fertile mind of the youngest member of the blogging group - our resident teenager Sanjana. Considering I have 2 grandchildren older than her, this topic is even more perplexing, but here goes anyway. I will attack the topic with a twist of sorts - my recipe is for a Saturday. A perfect Saturday like many of the ones I experienced as a kid.

Saturday AM

We will assume that you did not set an alarm to awaken early on this special Saturday. You did agree to call the gang upon rising so the first part of the days recipe is to call the "gang" and set in motion the events of the day. You might down a glass of OJ whilst calling the gang.  Arrange to meet at the local McDonalds for a quick breakfast - you will need some fuel for the day's activities. Meet ya at Mickey D's in an hour you excitedly say  - and after the calls are made, it is off to the kitchen to make your lunch, grab your stuff, and split.

A Healthy Lunch

Grab the bag of Cuties (Mandarin oranges), a couple of apples, the bags of chips from the pantry (healthy is in the eye of the young lunch maker) and a few bottles of Gatorade G2, the cooler and load it with ice and your ahem - healthy lunch selections. Just enough time to get dressed and hit the road. Mickey D's is only about 5 blocks away. You'll make it in plenty of time.

Dress for the ball game of the day - be it soccer, football, basketball or baseball. Gloves and bats - as necessary. While getting dressed you realize the cooler is overkill since you and your siblings all have backpacks. Load the backpacks and leave the cooler on the patio. You can clean it when you get back. Hop onto your chosen mode of transport - skateboard, bike or shank's mare (for the unenlightened, shank's mare was my grandmother's way of telling me to walk if the bike or board were not available). Within 10 minutes or so you meet up with the gang at Mickey D's ready to get some breakfast. Amazingly most of the gang had fries for breakfast. I had a sausage, egg and cheese McMuffin - well - 2 of them and a Coke. 

To the Park

Alright - fueled and ready, cross the street to get dibs on the baseball diamond at Gansberger School for the days activities. In my time 90% of those days were filled playing baseball or football, depending on the time of year. And yes - unlike my time, girls play. Some of the best ballplayers are girls - my niece Sammy got a scholarship to  college at Notre Dame  Demur. Her mom and sisters all played, my brother and sister were jocks. I suppose these days kids are more apt to be going out to play soccer than baseball but the Saturday concept does not give a darn about the game being played - as long as you get home in time for dinner. 

Let the Game Begin

Choose up sides and get the game going. You will only have 5 or so hours to play. Everyone will get 15 or so at bats or scoring chances. If another "gang" shows up, then it is your gang vs them for neighborhood bragging rights. And, if by chance a mud ball fight breaks out, open fire. Mudballs are best after a heavy rain - you grab a handful of grass (the fields were not mowed often) and pull straight up. Then shape the mud at the base like a ball and they will fly straight and true. In 7-10 years of mudball battles no gang members were hurt. 

Game Over

After 4 or 5 hours of serious fun the entire gang will be whupped. Time to head home and work on dinner plans. For me, that meant convincing the folks a trip to Ye Olde Pizza Joynt was in order. The recipe for that was convincing the folks it was more relaxing to head to there than cooking anything at home. Luckily, both parents  recognized the real value in an extra large confusion, a cold beverage and the sounds of the pipe organ blasting away. Confusion? Sausage, hamburger, multiple kinds of cheese, pepperoni, salami, mushrooms, green and black olives, bell peppers, onions, red pepper flakes and a liberal dosing of parmesan all excessively applied, and then baked to perfection so the center was not soggy. It was the perfect ending to a great day - a real recipe for success. And a loud belch.

Yes this is based upon my experience as a kid in Hayward, California. My summer days were very much like this as the neighborhood gang and I headed off to play baseball every day - an activity well documented in the 1993 film The Sandlot.

That's my take on this week's quirky topic courtesy of Sanjana. Please Be sure to check what the other 8-1 bloggers have to say.

"Sage" Advice

My editor suggested recipes for life - like always wear clean underwear, avoid  blind alleys and the like. We all have within us a sensible person and the idiot - unfortunately, we cannot often tell the difference. Lastly, people argue less on a full stomach. 



Ramanas Musings



Padmun & Raju

Thursday, October 8, 2020


This week's topic, offered by Ramana, is short and sweet - Power. Well, maybe not so sweet. That likely depends upon whichever side you are on in the battle over power  you have chosen. Lovers and proponents of Chaos theory, like a pair of bloggers in this group, are likely doing backflips. Careful Conrad - you are not as limber and in such good shape as you once were.

Politics of Power

We are unique here in the USA in that every four years we show the world a peaceful transition of power. There was that little hiccup called the Civil War and there are grumblings by some extreme right-wing folks about taking it to the streets again, though frankly I prefer the Doobie Brothers version. I have seen folks I consider my friends threatening violence in the streets over politics. Perhaps I need to reconsider some of my  friendships but I will wait until the very last moment to undertake that.

We in the west make Christmas a power event. Listen to the lyrics of some seemingly cutesy children's songs like this one "Santa Claus is coming to town Santa Claus is coming to town Santa Claus is coming to town He sees you when you're sleeping He knows when you're awake He knows if you've been bad or good So be good for goodness sake! O! You better watch out! You better not cry Better not pout I'm telling you why Santa Claus is coming to town Santa Claus is coming to town Santa Claus is coming to town" Yep - that fat guy in the red suit has the power to make or  break every kid's Christmas.

Power has appeared in the name of Q-Anon. "Over the past few years, the Q-Anon movement, a baseless conspiracy theory referring to the belief in a cabal of deep state leftist pedophiles, has gained tremendous traction — and extremist researchers believe it’s largely been due to social platforms turning a blind eye to such content." Speaking of blind eyes, there will be Q-Anon believers/supporters in the next House of Representatives. Apparently we have not yet reached the bottom of the candidate barrel.  It seems like voter limbo - how low can you go? I sure hope we have hit bottom.

Use of Power

It's always interesting to see how the eventual winners in a power struggle choose to exercise their newly won authority. Do they do the things they promised to do during the struggle? Do they have an epiphany and do the opposite of what they promised? Do they have a clue what to do if they win? One need only look at the USA 2016 Presidential election to see the results of a seemingly clueless winner. Then again, Steve Bannon did state Trump was going to disassemble the mechanism of government a department at a time. So far so good. Clearly power in the wrong hands can be devastating. One also might wonder just what Trump would have done had he not had Obama to villainize and roadmark his own private Route 66 highway of destruction. It seems the only structure to Trump's administration is to piece by piece reverse any Obama action.

Power Speaks to Truth

When I was in college earning my BA in Political Science, we had one standard question that came up time after time - When does power speak to truth? I submit that power speaks to truth when it has to. Currently the Covid-19 pandemic is dominating the news waves and we here in the USA appear powerless to effectively deal with it - unless, of course, you accept the statements by Trump that he has cured Covid-19. He is, after all, a perfect physical specimen (in his own mind). I suggest power has spoken to truth in this instance and has had it's butt roundly kicked.

Power is clearly a multifaceted beast that we deal with daily. We give our children examples of its daily use in the way we wield power in our homes. Then the kids go to school, we go to work and another set of examples are presented, to our kids and to us. Power is wielded at work and schools in different ways - lessons for us all. And, we wield power daily. How we do that may well determine how happy and successful we are. That old adage treat people the way you wish to be treated stands out as the way to wield that power.

That's my quick shack-take on power, our weekly topic. Power is a topic worthy of  50-60 page paper. I did a few back in the college days. I enjoy interacting with readers on this blog, so those epistles are locked away somewhere  with my copy of David Mitrany's Working Peace System and other things from my youth that I outgrew. And, a few I never outgrew. 

Please be sure to check what the other 8-1 bloggers have to say.



Ramanas Musings



Padmun & Raju

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Living in the Now.

Living in the now is this week's topic for our group of bloggers. Hop aboard and lets see what - if anything - of interest we encounter as I enter  my eighth different decade on this 3rd rock from the sun.

I have lived in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, 2010s and here we are in the 2020s. What a long, strange trip it's been.  That's a whole lotta nows that have come and gone.

Since I have been old enough or aware enough to have a guide in life this has summed it up - "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". That is a forward looking way to attack life and though there have been missteps along the way I am still here pushing forward. I have  crushed a few curveballs along the way and done my Mighty Casey act as well.

When you are a kid it is easy to live in the now AKA today. Today is fun. Mistakes? Well they are soon forgotten although hopefully you catch on  to the value in not repeating them.

One of the things I learned  was that competition is good for you. I went to a school called Carlile in my hometown of Pueblo, Colorado. My best buddy there  was a kid named Dave Perkins. Dave's older brothers and my uncle Chuck raised significant hell together - the kind that left someone in authority to offer my uncle 2 choices - jail or the military. Chuck picked the Marines and off he went. The word filtered down to keep that Perkins kid and that Higgins kid in separate classes as they feared a second onslaught of trouble. Alas, someone at Carlile goofed and Dave and I were in the same class from kindergarten through 4th grade when I moved to California. 

The only hell Dave and I raised was with each other. We competed in everything. Whenever we had quizzes in school we were told to stand when we finished - and every time the first thing Dave and I did was look for each other, and typically one of us was first and the other second and whoever was first had bragging rights that day. It soon became clear to our folks that we couldn't be kept apart and were actually making each other better.

The summer after 4th grade I moved to California. I last saw Dave the summer after 6th grade when we visited my grandmother.

I was looking through Facebook awhile back and found a couple of  Perkins fellows from Pueblo so I messaged one and asked if he might be related to Dave, and it turned out he was Dave's son. Long story short, Dave quarterbacked his high school football team to the state championship when he was a sophomore. He also wrestled and played baseball. I often wondered how different my life would have been had I stayed in Pueblo - turns out probably not so different as Dave and I would have been pushing each other in the same three sports and in life. The "now" when I was in Pueblo had a large influence on my life.

It has been my observation that those who live in the now tend to be happier by nature than those who live in the past - and that makes perfect sense to me. The past is yesterday and yesterday's gone. You cannot relive the past as that time has passed you by. You can learn from the past and not repeat your mistakes or you can repeat those mistakes while expecting a different outcome from the same effort. 

For a while after my wife Lynn's passing I spent some time mired in the past. I tried to see a different outcome for us but the Huntington's Disease that snatched her away from me was in total control and eventually I realized I had done everything I could in the circumstances as presented. Mistakes made would remain mistakes forever and successes the same. All that is left is a degree of loneliness that will probably never go away.

The now taught me to plan for the future, so as to not be totally blindsided events in the future. I frankly played a dumb jock act for most of my life primarily because of shyness but I learned it could be beneficial. I could quietly observe things around me and make better decisions along the way. I believe I surprised more people along the way with what I could or could not accomplish and people rarely underestimated me more than once. I have always been more interested in popular culture than the so-called classics. It is my firm belief the "classics" were simply the popular culture chronicles of their time.

My quest for spiritual strength has not been  completed. It is still summed up by U2's Still Haven't found What I'm Looking For. But the universe  has a balance I constantly try to identify. My late friend Pete Dintino used to tell me I was one of the most spiritual people he knew. Pete had cancer and we had many phone conversations about spirituality and God. Phone conversations that typically began around 3AM when Pete would call and say he needed a few minutes of my time. That usually got me banished to the living room so Lynn could sleep.

So to summarize - 71 years of living in the now has made me a pretty decent guy, well read,  still inquisitive, and ready to learn. Live for Today. That is my quick shack take on this week's blog topic. Be sure to check the other seven bloggers and see what they have to say.






Padmun & Raju

Songs with lyrics quoted

Changes in Latitudes Changes in Attitudes

Yesterdays Gone

Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

Live for today

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Medical Practice Today

Medicine, according to Wikipedia, is "the science and practice of establishing diagnosis, prognosis, treatment  and  prevention of disease."  You feel bad, go to a doctor, obtain a diagnosis and  establish a treatment plan. That sounds relatively straightforward and it usually is - as long as you have insurance or a wad of cash to pay for it all. Speaking of cash, your healthcare provider likely acquired a mountain of debt while attending medical school. 

Over the years the USA has evolved into a country wherein most people count on their employers to provide health insurance, a standard employee benefit. That system left 10s of millions without coverage since insurance is a benefit too costly for most small businesses to offer. Our response to that was The Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare, and more than 8 million people are signed up for coverage. But about 27 million people are underinsured or uninsured, many with preexisting conditions that make insurance virtually unattainable.

Health Insurance

Health insurance is a product in our capitalist system. There are numerous exclusionary factors - aka the aformentioned preexisting conditions. Not fair you say? Many agree, but many also say it is a business. Profit is king. Healthy people should not have to pay increased premiums for insurance because of someone else's preexisting condition. Now healthcare has become weaponized in today's political debate. While the bickering continues, Trump is attempting to totally dismantle Obamacare, a death sentence to some people insured through the plan. 

I will go on  record as saying I think healthcare is a right, and we need some form of public option to keep as many people as possible insured. It is indeed interesting that only one western power does not offer a public healthcare option, something we have not yet given up our leadership role.

Quality Care is Available

Delivery aside, excellent healthcare is available here. There are specialists available for almost anything. Family doctors should harp on preventative medicine and show you how to stay healthy and my experience has been just that. Specialists are available for everything else - as long as you have insurance or a wad of cash. A huge wad. Doctors are small business owners and those businesses aren't cheap to run. Equipment, employees, office space and oh yeah - insurance. Doctor's malpractice rates are outrageous. Why? Check out the settlement figures for malpractice. Remember - just like any school, there are doctors who performed at the very bottom of the pack.

Dr. as a Small Business

Holes in our system? Of course there are holes. Many small, rural hospitals are closing. Areas of the deep south and Midwest have no or insufficient quantities of doctors and must rely on services provided at no charge by organizations.

Holes in the System

There is a glaring hole in medical care offered for mental health issues. The level of service we provide is embarrassingly insignificant. Simply look at the number of homeless veterans.

At times one wonders why anyone wants to be a doctor. I had an interesting conversation with my cardiac specialist about just that. She is a Physician's Assistant (PA). She just smiled and said "Chuck - I make excellent money and do not have to run a business. I get to help people but not deal with the rest of the headaches."

When you feel bad, you want to feel better so you go to a doctor and if it is a Dr. Feelgood you may come away with a script that gets you pills to numb you. Or, you go to a doctor that is interested enough in your well being to help you. We have them both here. Ultimately your healthcare is up to you. You decide what you will do - whose instructions to follow. Don't like your Doctor? Change to a new one, though the new Doc will need to be one approved by your insurance provider. We are fortunate to have some of the best healthcare in the world as long as you can pay for it. But, we have a long way to go on the delivery mechanism. I do not see us ever becoming a single payer nation - too many people fear the term socialism. You would think more would fear the notion of no insurance but that looks like a topic for another time. Until then people here must wait until retirement and eligibility for Medicare unless Trump decides to dismantle that as well.

Big Pharma in Control?

Lastly there is phenomenal control over our healthcare system exercised by the pharmaceutical industry. They get paid to sell medicine and like everything in this day and age that has been weaponized - politicized like never before. Clearly this deserves more than a scant paragraph in this blog - again that deserves its own weekly topic,

That ends my quick shack take on Padmum's topic. Be sure to visit the others of this little blogging group to see what they have to say.

ConradRamana,  SanjanaPadmum,  RajuMaria & Sriniva       

Thursday, September 17, 2020

What's All the Fuss About?

Maria suggested this week's topic so lets see what all the fuss is about.

This whole crazy world is just too frustrating.

What's all the fuss about? Well, here in the USA we have an election coming up in November. No big deal - we have them regularly - it is what makes us strong and unique - a peaceful transition of power. This election, though, brings a degree of uncertainty that was simply unthinkable until recently. Our current President, number 45 to be exact, has spent the last 4 years cozying up to and supporting the leaders club of autocrats - starting with his buddy Vladimir Putin and the leaders of China and Turkey. 45 is even on track to fulfill Putin's most exciting wet dream - weakening and even dismantling NATO, the alliance mostly responsible for the dissolution of the USSR. I certainly hope Stormy Daniels was treated as well as Putin and I must say - even shirtless, Putin is nowhere as attractive as Ms. Daniels so the question is begged - what exactly does Vlad have on 45? We'll never know - perhaps if the next world dictatorship summit is held at Mar Lago we will get a hint. I hear the invitations are in the mail. Those shining lights on the hill we used to represent may be about to permanently disappear.

This whole crazy world is just to frustrating.

What's all the fuss about?

Ah yes - the mail. In the midst of a global pandemic, the Postmaster General (appointed by 45, of course) when voter safety is paramount, 45's Joy boy is doing everything he can get away with to slow down mail delivery and cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election - even AG Barr is suggesting postal workers can be bribed to cheat for a few hundred dollars. 45 daily says that he can only lose a rigged election.  Now remember he appointed a commission to root out voter fraud and they came up empty-handed. Still, 45 - who considers himself the finest President in history - says he deserves a third term. The GOP - once a Grand Old Party has become the party looking to bend the constitution to the Parties will rather than the conservative watchdogs of our noble experiment with democracy. They cast the Democrats as socialists and communists - both far from the truth. But that characterization suits the fear-mongering of 45 and his team. So voter safety be damned - do everything possible to cast aspersions on voting by mail. The pandemic will end someday. Maybe. Remember there is that herd thing.

This whole crazy world is just too frustrating.

What's all the fuss about?

Lets talk Pandemic for a bit. A newly released book by journalist Bob Woodward and backed by taped conversations between 45 and Woodward show once again our Liar in Chief - AKA 45 has been lying to the American people. Just listen to the tapes.

Trump to Woodward on the pandemic

As of this writing, we have seen over 6.5 million Covid-19 cases in the USA with over 195,000  deaths. One must ask how many of those could have been prevented with swift, effective action. Of course, he called the Woodward book fake news within 3 hours of his last conversation with Woodward - after accusing Woodward of drinking the Kool Aid. Gotta say though - Bob sure covered his derriere with those tapes he made. You'd think 45 might have recalled some tapes being somewhat important in another important story in which Woodward was involved. The late President Nixon is probably laughing his ass off wherever he is at the sheer stupidity of the great deal maker. And, this time Woodward got the info straight from the horse's mouth (luckily this is a family-friendly blog as you know what I wanted to say).

I can't twist the truth, it knows no regulation

Well not in the real world. In 45's world, if his lips are moving he is testing that statement.

I'm sure you have figured out the lines from Eve of Destruction - here's Barry McGuire's somewhat updated version

Ya gotta wonder if PF Sloan thought he was so smart that his song would be as meaningful over 50 years after Barry McGuire recorded it in a single take back in the 60s.

Now the fuss is not all negative. We now have space being exciting again as we have private companies vying to provide the vehicles. Next is back to the moon and then it is off to Mars. I certainly thought this would happen sooner but I'll take it.

Professional and college sports have restarted - while the stands remain relatively empty during the Pandemic, they are all over the TV - the Stanley Cup finals are about to begin. (Go Stars and Joe Pavelski) The big 3 - NFL, NBA, and MLB have all found a way to safely return to the field.

Now if we could just find a way to make schools safe for the kids and college students things would be vastly approved.

For the record, I used  to be a glass  half full kind of guy until the damn thing broke. I just replaced it and am refilling the new one - this time with Scotch, just in case.

That's my quick shack take on today's topic. Be sure to check with the other 7 members of the blogging group to see what they have to say.

ConradRamana,  SanjanaPadmum,  RajuMaria & Sriniva       

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Why My Blog is Called Shackman Speaks and Sometimes Yells

The Old Fossil, Conrad came up with this week's blogging topic - each blogger will be substituting their blog name - Why My Blog is Called Shackman Speaks and Sometimes Yells. Well, folks, my answer is what I call a blinding flash of the obvious.

Because of many years working at RadioShack, I acquired the nickname Shackman. Since a blog is about expressing opinions, the Speaks and Sometime Yells was a natural add on to Shackman. I don't really yell much these days but I do have a tendency to be a tad sarcastic on occasion. Ya gotta have some fun once in a while. And, of course, everyone has an opinion so feel free to share as long as you can maintain a degree of civility. That degree is my choice.

Then there is the small, yet ever-expanding blogging group to which I belong. Not so long ago it was Ramana and me. Now I am part of an eight-member loose conglomeration of bloggers. For the same price as before (free) you get eight opinions for the price of one. Such a deal. Then there is the odd tune or two that I work into my little epistles. Civil discussion and entertainment - that is the root of Shackman Speaks. It also keeps me off the streets so the town of Hickory is safe.

Just for fun, here is an oldie that I am not sure was even heard in India

That completes my take on the topic chosen for us by our very own old fossil Conrad. Be sure to visit my compatriots' blogs to get their take -

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Sky is the Limit

 One thing is certain in the midst of the global pandemic, election unrest here in the USA and other countries is that change will continue to evolve. All segments of the Pharma industry are focused on the development of a vaccine to combat and prevent Covid-19 and the race is on to see who will reap the financial reward for being first to market with the vaccine.

Now, more than ever, if we can imagine it we can do it.  There is nothing to prevent someone or something from being very successfulWe have recently witnessed the launch of two American astronauts and their flight to the international space station on a vehicle provided by a private company. And, the rocket that launched the Dragon capsule was returned to earth and safely landed so it can be reused. Oh, and the astronauts were also safely returned after a successful space mission. I will save comment on their newly designed flight suits. Ahem.

Next up a moon shot and then a flight to Mars. There is competition from another company to provide the vehicles for the upcoming trips. Space travel is exciting again. We are about to once again boldly go where no man or woman has gone before.  Speaking of that, in 2021 Jeanette Epps is scheduled to be the first black woman to join the crew of the international space station.

Since the nineteen sixties, mankind has been embracing and at the same time fearing Future Shock. The rapidity of change excites the younger generations while at the same time striking fear in the hearts of older generations. As we Baby Boomers enter septuagenarian status we find ourselves in a state of fear over where our culture is headed. One need only look at how the basic boomer feels about so-called progressives like AOC, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. How soon my basic boomer brothers and sisters forget that a mere half century ago we were those progressives. As the envelope is pushed forward we are becoming our parents. Relax boomers. Our time has passed, and the baton in the relay race of life has been handed to the next leg of the race. Their ideas are different than ours but remember this - without us they would not even exist. We were a necessary step in the evolution of our society and culture. If you are a music fan, consider for example where popular music would be without the influence of those mop-topped Liverpudlians. Where would those young Brits have gone without the influence of that pseudo-surfer California kid Brian Wilson? The Beatles begat Rubber Soul which inspired Brian Wilson to create Pet Sounds (including what Paul McCartney calls the PERFECT pop song, God Only Knows) which inspired the Beatles to create Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band. The rest is history, and when in real time those were all examples of The Sky is the Limit.

Of course none of that matters until you see the Beach Boys live and they hit every note and nuance of a song like  Good Vibrations, which has and will forever remind me of that short, cute blonde with the drop dead smile (it still is) that was the first female to ever really give a damn about the big, dumb-jock wannabe I was back then. She is the definition of a BFF. Add my editor to that list and I am indeed a very lucky fellow in spite of the many missteps I have taken along my personal Route 66.

I am particularly interested in where the Indian compliment of this little but rapidly expanding blogging group. Welcome back Maria, (an Irish woman married to an Indian man and living in India), one of the most fascinating places on the planet.

That completes my take on the topic chosen for us by Sanjana, our youngest member. Be sure to visit my compatriots' blogs to get their take -
 ConradRamana,  SanjanaPadmum,  Raju & Maria

See ya next week, same bat time and same bat channel

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The New Normal

 The new normal - where are we,  where are we headed - ready, set, speculate. Lets face it - almost anything we come up with is simply a swag (scientific, wild-assed guess), so here we go.

First there is the election here in the USA -  the winner will go a long way toward defining the new normal. And, just what is normal these days? We are in the throes of a pseudo-nationalistic, selfish we are the champions of the world era while our respect among the nations of the world is in a steady rate of decline. Our alliances are in jeopardy and our government is in denial about the ongoing globalization.   It is a natural byproduct of other nations growing ever stronger economically and  militarily and assuming more control over themselves. The same thing is happening here inside the USA as the controlling cabal of old, white men here in the USA realize their "automatic" authority is slipping away, contested by a younger, more diverse population nipping at those old fellas' heels. 

That evolution of power is a natural occurrence, and, how we deal with it will in large part be determined by who wins the election in November. One side is stoking fear and predicting the end of suburbia as city dwellers move into suburbia,  bringing with them gangs and illegals. The other side is touting themselves as the transition team, promising to stabilize and break the tribal grip that has ensnared the country for the last few years. The current administration promises to be the law and order crowd that will protect the suburban housewives (their words - not mine) from the expected onslaught. Which one will win out? That is up to the voters - although one side is already shouting if they lose, it is because the election is rigged and they continue to try and cast doubt over election integrity. Interestingly enough, the current administration launched an investigation into election fraud but the Trump commission did not find it to be widespread. That has not yet deterred Trump and his team from making the claim, however. The bottom line is simply that we are living the new normal right now so little will change if Trump is reelected. Trump promised to shake up the norms - in fact his chief advisor stated what they intended - "Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations, and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty. I would suggest they are deconstructing with a capital "D".

What will be the new normal because of the pandemic that has caused over 180,000 deaths here in the USA to date? I suspect initially there will be a continuation of the mask/social distancing but I suspect that will disappear over time. We tend to be a reactive population. As the current problem hits the rear view mirror, so too will the concern. Eventually there will be a vaccine, although since 50% of the population does not even take a flu vaccine, a Covid vaccine may be of limited value unless herd immunity is eventually reached.

We are entering into another era that will be marked by a focus on racism and race relations, as the job started by the baby boomer generation is hopefully completed. Institutional racism is being recognized - and addressed. Though not IMHO intentional, when old white men make rules and regulations for other white men expected to be in charge, a degree of racism is institutionalized. We are not an inherently racist country but we do have a racism issue that must be addressed.

We will continue to wrestle with gun ownership and freedom of speech so in that regard we are living the new normal daily.  Gun ownership, particularly of semi-automatic weapons - will continue to be a hot button issue. Every gun owner I know is against restrictions on the weapons they own and they are among the most conscientious folks I know. I do not care what type of fire arms they own, but I do believe there should be serious  background checks on people before they own semi automatic weapons. Gun show loopholes need to  be eliminated. As I said, we already are wrestling with those issues. 

Retail shopping appears to be on the way out as more and more people make purchases online. Spending the day at the local mall is a vanishing option. This was already happening but has been exacerbated during the pandemic. Restaurants are closing rapidly and a large percentage of the unemployed rolls are made up of restaurant employees. Those jobs may never come back so an extended recession is certainly possible. 

Movie theaters are in jeopardy and by extension so too is the movie industry. We simply cannot predict  what will happen at this time - are the blockbuster movie days behind us?  Concerts? Stage venues? State Fairs?  

One of the issues facing us, regardless who wins the election, is what will happen to the 30-35% of the population that makes up the core support for Donald Trump. If Trump wins, they will continue to be the primary target for presidential rhetoric. If Biden wins, how will they react? They imply through their rhetoric they are the true patriots, and they have the guns with a clear implication they will protect their rights and beliefs. Look at what just happened in Kenosha WI. when one of them took it upon himself to protect the law and order and killed two people. The shooter is 17. 

That's the end of my speculating about the new normal. Essentially we are living the new normal for the most part, and any further changes in the norm will depend on the outcome of the election in November. Be sure to check with my compatriots to see what they have to say -  ConradRamana,  SanjanaPadmum, & Raju

I'll see you next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Don't Worry, Be Happy

It may come as a surprise to you to learn a silly little tune Bobby McFerrin turned into a big hit has its roots in Pune, India as it was inspired by a popular quote from a man named Meher Baba, called Avatar of the Age (FYI Avatar is another name for God in human form). And Pune? Well the Sage of Pune, my friend Ramana, is a  resident of that city. Here is the Avatar himself, one looking remarkably like Frank Zappa and one in is later years looking like an Indian holy man.

I was not exposed to Don't Worry, be Happy by Bobby McFerrin. I first heard it by Bob Marley 

Have you ever listened to the song? Really listened to it? 

In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double

No doubt that is true. Worry. Stress. Some folks pay a lot of money to therapists to be taught that stress is harmful and then spend more money figuring out how to relieve that stress. The song, however,  cuts to the chase.

Don't worry, be happy.

Sage advice indeed. And much cheaper than a therapist. Simple but true. Sometimes the simplest answer is the correct answer. Think Occam's Razor. Think Meher Baba - the spiritual master with a good-sized following both in India and in the west.

Baba's followers include Pete Townshend of the Who. Townshend dedicated the Who's rock opera Tommy to Baba as well as several other songs. If you have ever heard the full version of Melanie Safka's (aka Melanie) Candles in the Rain, in the spoken intro is the line "Meher Baba lives again".

Baba said "I was Rama, I was Krishna. I was this One, I was that One, and now I am Meher Baba. In this form of flesh and blood I am the same Ancient One who alone is eternally worshiped and ignored, ever remembered and forgotten. "

Baba discouraged evangelizing, stating he needed no propaganda or publicity.  It was his follower's lives and how they lived that delivered his message of truth and love to others which he wanted spread far and wide. 

Baba described the Avatar as  gauge against which man can measure what he is and what he may become. He trues the standard of human values by interpreting them in terms of divinely human life. Interestingly enough, he stated the Avatar, in Baba's testimony, appears on Earth every 700–1400 years.  The Avatar is "brought down" into human form by the five Perfect Masters of the time to aid in the process of moving creation in its never-ending journey toward Godhood. Baba claimed that in other ages this role had been fulfilled by ZoroasterRamaKrishnaBuddhaJesus, and Muhammad.

Baba was certainly an interesting fellow with a rather simple, straightforward message. He amassed a following said to be in the millions. There are spiritual centers in several countries.

One thing I have neglected mentioning is that from July 10, 1925 until his death in 1969, Baba was silent. He communicated via unique hand gestures and an alphabet board. His silence was not undertaken as a spiritual exercise but solely in connection with his universal work.

"Man's inability to live God's words makes the Avatar's teaching a mockery. Instead of practicing the compassion he taught, man has waged wars in his name. Instead of living the humility, purity, and truth of his words, man has given way to hatred, greed, and violence. Because man has been deaf to the principles and precepts laid down by God in the past, in this present Avataric form, I observe silence.

Baba's words seem to align with these famous words -- God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

I sure wish some of the western evangelicals followed his example.

That is my take on Ramana's chosen topic. I congratulate him for choosing something that is essentially a great googly (crickets version of a curve ball). If you want to read more about Baba, his books are available on Amazon. And, cut down on your stress - don't worry, be happy!

Be sure to check the blogs of my blogging compatriots to see what they have to say -   ConradRamana,  SanjanaPadmum, & Raju

See ya next week, same bat time and same bat channel.