Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Importance of Education

Sanjana has suggested the importance of education as this week's 3-on-1 topic for herself, Ramana, and I to write on.

Some may consider education to be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, in a place I lived, while expressing the sentiment education is important, the school board wanted to force the schools under their purview to teach the Christian-based notion of creationism as valid along with the notion the earth is only 6000 or so years old. Man inhabited the planet with dinosaurs and the Noah's ark tale (among other biblical stories) is accurate and true.

So, the question becomes what education is the government responsible for? Secular, religious or both? Here in the USA it should be clear - public education should focus on secular areas. Comparative education on religions is fine as an elective in the last couple of years of high school and at any level of college. Those courses should not be taught as indoctrination but rather comparative studies. LDS teaches this, Catholicism teaches that, etc. 

Private schools, especially those affiliated with a particular faith, have more leeway as they are not supported by public funding. As long as students from those institutions can pass standardized testing that does not focus on religion, those private schools can and do place higher emphasis on religion course credits. The Catholic school system is well known here in the USA. There are many Catholic high schools and quite a few Catholic-run colleges like Notre Dame, St Marys, Santa Clara, University of San Francisco. Non-Catholic colleges include BrighamYoung University, Texas Christian, Southern Methodist, Liberty College, Oral Roberts, and many more. Just as in the USA  somewhere every major religion can be found, so too is the case for secondary college education supported by churches.

Public institutional school systems seem to have failed at providing education in the trades for many years. When I was in high school, there were many opportunities to learn about a trade (aka blue-collar work). Friends of mine learned things like welding, auto shop, and the like. Somewhere along the way school districts made the big mistake of no longer offering those classes. It was usually claimed to be a money issue  - the school districts allegedly could no longer afford those courses. IMHO they could not afford to NOT offer those courses.

It seems this situation continued for decades until a TV show named Dirty Jobs came along. The host, Mke Rowe, traveled to all 50 states, tackling over 300 jobs. 300 jobs that were actively hiring. Skilled trade jobs. Well-paying jobs that often were unfilled.

If the purpose of education is to prepare people for the workforce, we were most assuredly failing. We owe Mike Rowe a huge thank you for pointing that out and for insisting that blue-collar work is dignified, rewarding, and available.

So yes education is important and invaluable. No, a degree is not necessary nor desirable for many. Many years ago my namesake uncle Chuck was waxing philosophic over a few scotch and sodas. He asked me why I picked a degree in Political Science. I told him it was interesting. I enjoyed talking about it and discussing politics. He asked how much that paid. Point taken. Unless a degree can directly lead to a career or be used as a stepping stone to another career path what is the point?

Too often we pidgeon hole young students and force them into career paths that are not really what those students want or should be doing. We need to correct that process.

Skilled trades need to be re-entered into high school curriculums and students taught the value of blue-collar careers. Religion needs to be kept out of the public school system other than perhaps as a club activity. Students who feel the need for religious education should find their way into a private school run by the faith of their choice. 

Every student needs to be taught to read, write and do enough math to do things like balance a checkbook, set up a budget. Advanced courses should be offered to those who desire them. Civics need to be covered - every student needs to be taught to have a civil conversation. Real history needs to be covered. Students need to know the good, bad, and ugly facts of their backgrounds. Students also need to know that they are not responsible for societal failures before their time but if they have benefited from them they need to understand that.

That concludes my quick take on education. Be sure to see what Ramana and  Sanjana have to say.

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

Thursday, June 10, 2021


Regret is this week's 3-on-one blogging topic for Ramana, Sanjana, and me to comment on. Ramana chose the topic. This one could come dangerously close to being too personal. We all have things in our past we wish we could undo. It seems this week's topic is the third in a very similar series. We've gone from talking to our past and present selves to what truly shocks you to this week's regrets.

There is a myriad of songs about regrets. One of my faves is by the late Kenny Rankin.

Anyone who claims to have no regrets in life is most likely a liar. In all my years I have encountered nary a single soul who honestly has no regrets. Heck - I remember the first baseball bat I ever purchased and I regretted the heck out of the purchase. In my first year of organized baseball in the Old Timers League in my hometown, Pueblo, Colorado, that sucker had almost no hits in it. Boy, did I feel cheated! It was the last Mickey Mantle model bat I ever purchased. It was nothing but Mays and McCovey models beginning the next year when we moved to California.

I have discussed my shyness before. I can honestly say I regret not making more of an effort to fight through the shyness and get to know some of the young ladies in high school. At some point years later,I was having a discussion over a nice single malt with a friend and he said what the heck - being told no is not a big thing. There was a pause before I responded and he asked what was wrong. I replied looking back, nothing because I do not recall ever being turned down when I asked a girl out. Now, admittedly, you have to get up to the plate to hit and I did not do that often, but maybe I wasn't as bad as I thought. Oh well - that was a long time ago. Were it not for the drought conditions these days it would be water under the bridge.

I regret not getting along better with my kids. We are rarely if ever on the same page about anything and I have not spoken to my son in a couple of years. Jamie and I have almost daily shouting matches. Jamie and Sean have not spoken to each other in years.

I most assuredly regret moving to North Carolina. In spite of my southern upbringing, thanks to my Mississippi-born and Louisiana raised grandmother, the deep south is not for me. It never will be. 

I regret the schism in the USA between the left and right. The left equates something as basic as voter ID as a racist attempt to suppress votes and the right makes no secret of the new laws they are enacting to suppress the non-white vote. As I have said many times in the past, the browning of America is truly scary to many.

The left is so disdainful of free speech they want people fired for stupid things people said in their youth, teens, and more. Who among us has not said or done something stupid in the throes of our youth? There is a reason the term youthful indiscretion exists. Is the suspect action a one-off or part of a pattern of similar thoughts/actions? Try and book a conservative to speak at UC Berkeley. So much for healthy debate.

I regret holding on to grudges - nothing of value comes from extended periods of rancor. I regret not being more positive on a  daily basis. I always considered myself an optimist but looking back that is not the case.

Time for a second musical interlude, this one by a very much underrated LA area band called Love, led by the late, very talented Arthur Lee.

When it comes to relationships I have been extremely lucky. The friends I made in 5th grade are still my friends and I picked up a few more along the way. One of the things my kids did like a lot was the fact they had the same 2 parents until Lynn passed away. We got good at working out the ups and downs of marriage and life. 

Regrets are a part of life, but I would much rather regret things I tried than things I did not try. You cannot hit if you do not get up to bat. I do not honestly regret things I tried - perhaps the outcome of the effort but not the effort itself. If I'd known I was going to live this long I might have taken better care of myself. If I could turn back time I definitely would change the things I did to hurt people if at all possible.

That concludes my quick run through regret.  Be sure to visit Ramana and Sanjana to see what they have to say.

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

Thursday, June 3, 2021

What truly shocks you?

What truly shocks you? That is my question this week for our weekly 3-on-1 blog. How many news stories have you read that discuss some "truly shocking" event? Has truly shocking simply become an over-used phrase for lazy reporters? Here's what I think.

Things I consider to be truly shocking include over half of the state legislatures in this country moving to suppress the vote of people of color by changing the voting laws. The GOP used to manipulate election outcomes by gerrymandering to create super red districts and keep the GOP on top. Remember Tom Delay, Newt Gingrich and others in years gone by? Now, the GOP flatly says they are changing the state laws because the GOP cannot win elections otherwise. Democrats used the same technique (gerrymandering), just not as effectively as the GOP.

I have no issues with voter IDs - but wouldn't linking Voter IDs to driver's licenses be a simple, efficient way to issue them? The bottom line is our democratic system of government is in real jeopardy. Too many people fear the browning of America. Voting power is shifting away from the white majority and that simply terrifies many.

I find some of our local education systems currently in place truly shocking. I went through high school and college and never once heard about the Tulsa massacre 100 years ago.

In the 25 years I lived in Texas, periodically local school boards tried to force school districts to teach creationism - a clear violation of the separation of church and state on which our nation was founded.

Do you know the Beatles have a song that threatens violence against women? Take a listen to these isolated lyrics on their song Run for Your Life.

I love the Beatles and the vast majority of their efforts but I will take a pass on Run for Your Life. Still, compared to some rap and hip-hop lyrics, that is pretty tame stuff.

Some of what passes for entertainment in the arts is truly shocking, but that is the price we pay for the freedom of speech. Change the channel, don't watch or listen, but act like an adult. Firing someone for a stupid comment or action he or she made as a teenager is truly shocking if it was a one-off situation. A history of offensive comments or actions over a period of years may be a different story, but teenagers are infamous for making questionable comments and or decisions.

Transgender people are big news these days. Frankly, it is not something I have a real grasp of but the reasons people do it are none of my business. My home state of Colorado was at the center of this with a hospital in Trinidad being a surgical hub for transgenders. While I have always had gay friends, I honestly do not know if I have any transgender friends. News value of transgenders? Not a truly shocking circumstance to me. There have always been genetic issues people are born with and periodically they become the news story of the week.

Frankly, I find that health care in the richest country in the world not being a right is truly shocking. The lack of care available for mental health issues is indeed truly shocking. So too is the lack of respect afforded senior citizens here. That definitely falls into the truly shocking category - but maybe I just feel that way because I am a senior citizen.

Political correctness is definitely truly shocking. Calling Christmas trees holiday trees is patently absurd. We are a country founded upon Judeo-Christian notions and holiday traditions. We simply drew the line at having those traditions embedded in our government. People are free to worship the faith of their choice or none at all, but prohibiting manger scenes during Christmas on government property is ridiculous. There is virtually no major religion not represented somewhere in the USA.

The politicizing of virtually everything is truly shocking. Soon the condiments you choose for your hamburger will be politicized. I hope mine stays in paradise and does not become a political football.

The simple act of wearing a mask to slow the spread of Covid-19 was turned into a  totally ridiculous political football. It somehow became an infringement on the rights of citizens to wear a mask to help prevent the spread of Covid. The utter selfishness of nearly half of our population was truly shocking.

The percentage of the population that bought into the QANON nonsense is beyond ridiculous. I had people telling me there was a vast underground network of high-speed trains. Another good one was the fact that JFK Jr was not killed in an airplane crash but was in South Dakota when Donald Trump spoke there. Both explained to me with a straight face. Mind bendingly ludicrous. Oh, and Obama is either dead or in Guantanamo Bay and we are seeing a body double/actor. How about the one that has Trump being reinstated as the winner of the last election this summer. His ex-attorney is floating that one these days.

That concludes my quick run through some truly shocking tidbits. There certainly are more than enough floating around. Be sure to visit Ramana and Sanjana to see what they have to say.

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

Thursday, May 27, 2021

A message to my future and past selves.

 This week's topic was suggested by Sanjana. Interesting to consider is that her past is really quite recent and her future filled with the promise you might expect for a bright teenager. Mine and Ramana's situations are reversed - we have long, deep pasts and somewhat limited futures as we are both septuagenarians. The future belongs to the young while the oldsters get blamed for the present.

It is safe to assume most people my age have been asked at one time or another if they would go back to their high school days and relive them, knowing what they do now. The answers vary widely. 

I enjoyed my high school years immensely, in spite of my shyness and problems with girls. I was likened many times to a big teddy bear. That seems fair enough - I really was that shy until I met a cute little blond who really was the first female to really give a damn about me. She started pulling down some of the walls I had built up around myself. She did look a bit funny wearing my letter sweater though. She is still short, cute and one of my very best friends.

Perhaps I would advise my younger self to get serious about a future a bit sooner when it was clear sports were not in my long-term future. In 1976 in Connecticut I was enrolling in broadcast school, but that plan was interrupted when Lynn was transferred back to California, and we discovered Lynn was pregnant just before we started the road trip back to California. Lynn was not happy with her job in LA and so she resigned. To get back at her, the company let go 3 weeks later. I joined RadioShack in November of 1977 while Lynn and Jamie moved back to the Bay Area to look for work. The plan was I would move back to the Bay when she was settled as RadioShack agreed to transfer me when that time came. I considered going back to school and getting a Masters Degree in Public Administration but frankly, the notion of college again was not high on my list of things to do and I was promoted fairly quickly by RadioShack.

I enjoyed a long, somewhat successful career with RadioShack, but the last half of it was spent being Lynn's caretaker. 

A message to my future self? Try to get along better with Jamie as her life struggles are about to take a big downturn as she enters the home stretch with HD.

That ends my shack take on Sanjana's topic. Be sure to check what Sanjana and Ramana have to say and I will see you next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, May 20, 2021


Ramana suggested this week's topic, maturity. Arguably, everyone goes through the maturation process. Most go through at minimum a two-stage process, physical and mental. 

I think it is safe to say people mature physically first. This is easy to see in athletics. High school star athletes can dominate and usually they are a step ahead of most teammates in the physical maturation process. Some grow physically early. I, for example, was 6'2 and 230 lbs when I was 13 and entered Senior league and high school. In Senior League I was the big guy, in high school I was one of a bunch of big guys. I was strong but not exceptionally so - I was really quick. Each time I advanced to the next level in a sport  - frosh-soph to Junior Varsity to  Varsity I became just another stronger, quicker guy. When I graduated high school I was 6'2, 265. I was a big, strong quick guy but others continued to grow, I didn't. My dream of playing baseball evaporated, as the body was made for football. My friend Ed Galigher was 6'2 190 when he left Sunset High and was 6'4 265 when he went to UCLA on a scholarship for his last two years after we played two years together at Chabot. He was drafted by the NY Jets and had a solid NFL career with the Jets and 49ers. I ran into him after one of my brothers games at Chabot (Ed was one of my brother Mike's coaches) and he said all of his advantages disappeared and it was mental toughness and maturity that made the difference in the NFL.

Mental maturity and toughness has extra components in athletics due to the injuries suffered by athletes at the professional level. In truth there are significant injuries at all levels of certain sports like football and basketball.

Everyone goes through the physical maturation process at around the same time - just about when we are in high school. Good old adolescence - it starts around 10 and goes through the late teens and early twenties. Good old puberty when boys and girls go through sexual maturation. I was terribly shy back then - actually I still am. It is a wonder I got through that part. That's my journey in three stages at the top of the page.

As I said, I was extraordinarily shy in high school. In four years I went to about six dances -Junior Prom, Senior Ball,  Christmas dance, a Sadie Hawkins dance and one just to watch my friends in the New Chessmen. So now we come to the mental maturation process.

To me, you reach maturity when you are more interested in doing the right thing than just worrying about what you want. Mature people do the right thing, even when nobody is watching. Of course, the process is not an epiphany, but one that develops over time. In my case, a big step came when I agreed to move across the country in 1976 to support my wife who was offered a promotion to establish the New England office for the small company we both worked for. I essentially put everything on hold to support Lynn. The final proof of the success of my journey was my experience as Lynn's caretaker during the last ten years of her life.

Interestingly enough, boys and girls do not develop at the same time or pace. There's a reason girls tend to perform better in high school. Girls' brains tend to be more developed during puberty. Read about that here. It is an interesting read. I really had no issues in high school beyond Algebra 2. Why? simple -I stopped taking math when hit that wall, thus ending any hope of becoming a rocket scientist. My good pal Stuart in New York kept at it and he was closely involved in developing cellphones. I used to get calls from Stu while he was in a cab in Chicago testing the latest switching technology that his group at Bell Labs was developing. So, at some point in time, it is fair to say the boys catch up with the girls. My old friend and editor Kathi insists men never catch up. I told her she shouldn't judge all men based upon her experience with me, but she laughs and says we are all alike.

That is my take on Ramana's chosen topic. Be sure to visit his blog here Ramana.

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



Thursday, May 13, 2021

Transactional vs morality driven and which are you?

 This week's topic - transactional vs morality driven and which are you - was suggested by Conrad. It is a rather esoteric topic, not the kind of thing you might discuss around the dinner table or the fireplace with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label (the really expensive stuff).

So, what's it all about? Leadership styles. If you are a political junkie you have probably heard Donald Trump called transactional. Other transactional leaders include Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Norman Schwarzkopf, Vince Lombardi and Howard Schultz.

"When placed in command, take charge."

Transactional leaders follow regular rules, reward success, and reward followers for punishment or failure. However, they do not act as a catalyst for growth and change in an organization. Instead, they apply current rules and expectations and focus on maintaining it to apply.

 "The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."

These leaders tend to be good at setting expectations and value that maximizes the efficiency and productivity of an organization. They give constructive feedback regarding follow-up performance, which allows group members to improve their output for improved feedback and strengthening.

"The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."

Characteristics include

  • Focused on short-term goals
  • Favor structured policies and procedures
  • Thrive on following rules and doing things correctly
  • Revel in efficiency
  • Very left-brained
  • Tend to be inflexible
  • Opposed to change

Transactional leadership pros:

  • Rewards those who are motivated by self-interest to follow instructions
  • Provides an unambiguous structure for large organizations, systems requiring repetitive tasks and infinitely reproducible environments
  • Achieves short-term goals quickly
  • Rewards and penalties are clearly defined for workers

Transactional leadership cons:

  • Rewards the worker on a practical level only, such as money or perks
  • Creativity is limited since the goals and objectives are already set
  • Does not reward personal initiative

There is definitely a place for transactional leadership in the world today. One of its best uses is in multinational corporations where not all of the workers speak the same language. Once the structure and the requirements are learned, it is easy for workers to complete tasks successfully. This works because transactional leadership is simple to learn and does not require extensive training. The transactional approach is easy to understand and apply across much of an organization.

The military, policing organizations, and first responders use this style of leadership so that all areas of the organization are consistent. It is also easier to apply in a crisis situation, where everyone must know exactly what is required of them and how a task is to be done under pressure.

To many people, money and perks are a powerful motivator. Most people need a job to pay the bills. They have other obligations and distractions and would just as soon know exactly how to do their job in order to keep it and reap the rewards.

Morality (ethics) driven leadership is a completely different animal. What are the principles of ethical leadership?  Practitioners and scholars of ethical leadership point to several key principles of ethical leadership: honesty, justice, respect, community and integrity. There are other lists with varying numbers but I think these five work well within the framework of this discussion.

Ethical leaders champion the importance of ethics regularly and they need to be good communicators. Good relationships between leaders and their teams are built on fairness, integrity, and trust. They need to hire ethical employees, and exhibit zero tolerance for ethical violations. Lastly, they need to practice justice and respect.

Interestingly enough, Bill Gates, previously cited as a transactional leader is also considered an ethical leader. The same can be said about Howard Schultz. Still picking your brain over who Schultz is? Schultz built Starbucks into the behemoth that it is. He was replaced in 2017. Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX is considered an ethical leader - interesting when you consider what a divisive figure he is. He earned his ethical stripes by refusing to compromise his values. He is going to land people on Mars no matter what.

Pros and Cons of ethics driven leadership?  It is a long game style. Ethics driven leaders want to be good and do good. They enjoy being creative.

Which am I? Quite simply, I am both and neither. It all depends upon the task at hand - or rather depended upon the task at hand. These days I am retired and no longer interested in management styles, wherever they come from or are heading. I have a passing interest in political leaders and that, in and of itself, precludes ethical leadership it seems. 

That's a wrap on this week's topic. Be sure you hop over to Ramana, Sanjana, and Conrad to see what they have to say on their blogs and I'll see ya next week, same bat time, same bat channel.





Thursday, May 6, 2021

Books vs e-Readers

This week's topic is books vs. e-Readers. The topic was my suggestion.

For most of my life I have been a voracious reader. I have said many times my preference is fiction, typically mysteries, or thrillers, and science fiction. Several years ago my annual total was over 300 read. Yes that is a big number, but way back in the 7th grade, a forward looking teacher named Rex Pinegar taught speed reading in English class. I read the typical mystery fiction book in under 4 hours. If for some reason I feel so inclined I do slow down and yes recall can be an issue, so while in school I kept the speed more reasonable. Some of you may find  that speed hard to believe but I assure you it is easily attainable.

There is nothing more satisfying to me than reading a book. A real book - the look, feel, and smell are all part of the experience. That said, unfortunately my age and eye conditions have forced me to rely on an e-Reader. With the flexible font styles and sizes, there is nothing I cannot read on my Kindle.

It is also quite easy to read multiple titles at the same time on an e-Reader, although that is not a habit I ever developed. I tend to get into the story and read straight through to the end.

Another advantage of books is collecting. I had 26 signed first editions at one time. Titles tend to be much cheaper for e-Readers, many classic titles even being free. Want to check out a new author? You don't need to invest much to check out new material. I found I enjoy native American mystery fiction that way - I started with Tony Hillerman and his Navajo police procedurals and found similar styles for Apaches, Metis, Cheyenne and Alaskan. Since Tony Hillerman passed away, his daughter Anne is keeping that series going and Dana Stabenow and her Kate Shugak series in Alaska are my favorites. There is a great detective series set in Australia - the Cliff Hardy series by Peter Corris. San Francisco has Bill Pronzini's Nameless detective series and then there are the classics - John D. McDonald's Travis McGee series, Robert Parker and the Spenser series, a unique series set in Hollywood by Stuart Kaminski - the Toby Peters Series and  too many more to name. One worth mentioning though is James Lee Burke and his Dave Robicheaux series set in Louisiana. Burke is as fine a writer as has ever put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Read. Read some more. In this day and age of alternate universes and fake everything, protect yourself by reading -become your own fact checker. Don't become a slave to some cult of personality. The future of your family may depend on it.

That's my quick shack take on this week's topic. Be sure you hop over to Ramana, Sanjana, and Conrad to see what they have to say on their blogs. Just click on their name to be whisked half a country away or half of a world away. Nothing keeps travel costs down like reading!

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


Thursday, April 29, 2021

Philosophy and What It Means to Me

Philosophy and what it means to me is this week's topic, suggested by Sanjana, the youngest member of our blogging group.

The word "philosophy" is derived from Greece. It originates from the words "philein sophia," which mean "lover of wisdom". "Phil" is the prefix that relates to love, while "soph" is a word root that means wisdom. Therefore, the word "philosophy," like the original Greek, means "lover of wisdom or knowledge." The Cambridge English Dictionary says philosophy is the use of reason in understanding such things as the nature of the real world and existence, AKA the meaning of life.

There is an interesting list of the supposed major philosophies on the meaning of life from the last 5000 years or so in a blog called Adioma. Check it out - maybe one of the philosophies listed is the same as or similar to your own.

You may even find that no single philosophy is all-inclusive and you find yourself a combination of two or more. In a world as complex as ours, it actually makes the most sense to me. While one's outlook on life is primarily defined by a single philosophy, snippets of others are recognizable. I find myself being a subjective, modern humanist according to the list of philosophies offered in the posted link - a combination of subjectivism and modern humanism.

Many people I know consider themselves Christians - theists in the philosophies listed. Then there are the logical positivists - the folks who believe life has no meaning until you give it one, and boy do they like to argue with those determinists that say everything is predetermined. Those damned hedonists are always too busy partying heartily to even join in the conversation. Maybe the absurdists are right and we should all just stop trying to find a meaning and just live.

Yes, folks, it is my belief that philosophy is all firmly etched in water. Do any of you spend much time looking at philosophy? Did you ever answer that question I posed last week- the one that asks if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it does it make a sound? Philosophy discussions tend to be similar to circular firing squads. I tend to take the easy road - treat people the way you want to be treated - well unless you are a sadist. You make your own choices in life and the meaning of your life is up to you. Unless, of course, you are a huge Monte Python fan.

It might look like I don't take philosophy seriously. The truth is, I am not a huge fan of the discipline if you can even call philosophy a discipline. My degree is in political science - an oxymoron of the highest order. Too often, philosophy discussions in my observation turn into exercises wherein people try and impress each other with how many classical philosophies they can name and compare. To me, that is like only considering classical literature real literature. IMHO there is no better observer of humanity these days than James Lee Burke, with Dana Stabenow a close second. They happen to be primarily mystery authors.

In all seriousness, if discussions about philosophy and the meaning of life cause a surge in polite discourse and actually get people talking to each other, then let the conversation begin. That would certainly be an improvement over the current divide.

That ends my quick take on Sanjana's suggested topic. Be sure to take a look at what  RamanaConrad, and Sanjana have to say on their respective blogs.

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

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Doing the Wrong Thing at the Right Time

This week's topic, doing the wrong thing at the right time, reminds me of the mind games college philosophy professors used to play back when I was a student. You remember them - things like if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Right and wrong are even more nebulous.

Right and wrong are relative terms. Being precise in their definition is often difficult, perhaps even impossible. You might even say or think there is no absolute right or wrong in this world. What is most often the basis of "right" is religion. Right is what a given society determines to be moral, just, and legal. That leaves wrong things to be those things that are not in accordance with morality or the law.

So, in relation to our topic, Ramana has proposed doing the immoral or unlawful thing at a time when it is determined to be moral, just and legal. Is there a right time to do the wrong thing?

In a world where there is no absolute right or wrong almost anything is possible. People with strong religious upbringings will most typically do the right thing. Unless, of course, like  religious right here in the USA, they choose to support  amoral, falsehood-based policies and practices to pack the Supreme Court with conservative justices to facilitate overturning existing law with which they disagree. Apparently, everyone has a price. I myself find little if anything done by radical Muslims to be moral, just or legal. There are many more examples.

For a long time climate change was laughed at and considered folly by conservatives here. Several consecutive years of radical temperature change, extended drought and the great state of Texas almost losing its electricity grid in an exceptionally cold winter seems to have awoken a few to reality. Climate change is the right thing to address, so can there really be a wrong time for that discussion?

Man's contribution to pollution? One of the unadvertised benefits to the pandemic we have been enduring is cleaner air. Why? Travel has been severely restricted. There's that nasty science bugaboo raising its head again. Can there be a wrong time for that discussion?

The wrong thing at the right time has been justified for centuries when the outcome is considered positive - in other words, the end justifies the means. It's what Arthur got wrong with Camelot - might for right. That is really no different than might is right.

Considering the high regard in which science holds evolution, we can easily conflate might makes right with the survival of the fittest. Is that always correct? I think not.

Thomas Jefferson had an interesting take on religion and Jesus. The "Jefferson Bible” was created by Thomas Jefferson in 1820 as a collection of the Biblical teachings of Jesus that he found sound, with passages that Jefferson found unreasonable, such as miracles and the resurrection, removed. To me, it is a humanist view of Jesus. Strip away the magic from Jesus and the Bible reveals a real guidepost for life.

We all have the capacity to choose right over wrong. We do it daily in our lives. Many times we habitually do the right thing which helps maintain stress levels. Imagine how you would feel if you actually had to ponder every decision you make daily. Turn left, turn right, stop at the sign, and so on. Habits can be a good thing. Sounds like a 9AM naptime to me.

Since there are no real absolutes, you could be forced to do the wrong thing at the right time quite often. Take each action as required. It is all about perception and as long as your moral compass, be it god-based or humanist, leads you down a sound moral path, I suspect you will be just fine.

That's my quick take on Ramana's wrong thing at the right time conundrum. Be sure to check what Ramana and Conrad have to say. We'll see you next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

How is today's world compared to the 21st century you imagined as a child?

 As a child in Colorado, my view of the 21st century was shaped by what I saw in the movies and on television. I saw some of the old Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials and my favorite at the time- Jet Jackson, Flying Commando. Jet Jackson was actually Captain Midnight with a different title and sound dubbed. His sidekick, Ichabod Mudd (with 2ds) was the same in both incarnations. 

Then, of course there was Forbidden Planet, a big budget Hollywood movie that I remember seeing at the drive in.

Forbidden Planet introduced us to Robby the Robot and futuristic flying machines and space travel. Alas the special effects were in their infancy and it would be years until things got really interesting.

It wasn't until the TV show The Jetsons that real speculation about life in the future would be seriously imagined.

As you can see, we are light years away from the Jetsons' flying car and Orbit City. George worked a two hour workweek and complained about being overworked. Interplanetary travel? Tesla is working on it. Robotic maids? We are making great strides in robotics. Much of what the Jetsons predicted is on its way.

Flat-screen televisions  and tanning beds were predicted by the Jetsons. The show was canceled after 24 episodes because there were not enough color televisions in homes. Only 3% of homes had color televisions at the time. We did not get one until the first time the Oakland Raiders made the Super Bowl (1967).

Science fiction literature and Star Trek and Star Wars became prime predictors of future life. Not surprisingly, Star Wars and Star Trek focused on military technology. Our war machine is very efficient and we have kept it very busy. Lasers, satellites, and cloaking have all advanced.

Technology these days is about what I expected it to be. We are geeks at heart, I suspect. Rather than active  physical play, kids gravitate to the latest technology. Texting has largely replaced conversation as a means of communication. Interpersonal communication and conversational skills are severely lacking in my opinion. Nearly half of our population chose to support the verbal flatulence and belicose ramblings of an amoral, pathological liar. Our interpersonal discourse is at the lowest levels in recent memory. I most definitely expected better of us. I do not see the divisions in our society going away any time soon. Ayn Rand would be delighted at the degree of selfishness rampant in our selfish society. And yet, we see random acts of kindness regularly. So maybe there is hope for us yet. Only time will tell.

That is my quick take on Conrad's suggested topic. Be sure to check what my compatriots Conrad and Ramana have to say on their blogs.

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

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Has the Pandemic Wrought Any Positive Changes?

With all we have been through in the last year, have any of the changes been positive?

That is this week's topic. Initially, I confess that what immediately leaps to mind is being cooped up in this trashy trailer park for a year and there sure as hell is nothing positive about that. Frankly it is still too early to assess the positive effects of the pandemic. Upon further reflection, though, it has not all been negative.

Many people have been exposed to working from home for the first time in their lives. It is something I have taken for granted for years. My late wife Lynn was home based for years and I spent most of the last ten years at my namesake RadioShack woking from home. I was substantially more prdouctive working from home. Why? Simply because my dog Ginger and I had no water cooler conversations. I was mindful of the fact my boss was doing me a huge favor staying home and caring for Lynn. 

Then there was my commute - dodging an overly affectionate basset/collie mix hound walking  down the hall. On a bad day that took at least 45 seconds and surely beat the hell out of taking the freeway.

I have to think many companies have discovered in the last year that having some employees working from home is a good thing. Hopefully it will become a permanent option. I see it as a net positive for companies and the family life of employees (especially when the kids return to school in the classroom).

For the last year there has been a reduction in CO2 emissions - in fact in general global greenhouse emissions have dropped because of reduced travel. That is not likely to continue long term but it has been a very good year and surely adds credibility to the notion that we humans are the cause of much pollution with our burning of fossil fuels. It should be a huge impetus for new green product development.

Cleanliness - both personal and disinfecting our environments has become second nature to most of us. Save for mask-wearing, it is likely to remain a good habit for us. 

Are you interested in what psychologists think? Psychology today published an article with 30 positive factors - 30 Ways the Pandemic Has Changed Us for the Better.

These are but a few of the positive changes that have come about because of the pandemic.

My optimistic angel has gotten stronger of late.

We have much to overcome. We here in the USA stand at the brink of a second civil war as we look ahead at finishing the racial issues we left incomplete in the sixties. It isn't going to be easy, but we are backed into a corner and as Japan discovered in WWII, the sleeping giant has been awoken.

That is my take on this week's topic. Be sure to check what my compatriots Conrad and Ramana have to say on their blogs.

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

Thursday, April 1, 2021

The Most Heartbreaking Thing In My Life Right Now

Entering your septuagenarian decade is a good news/bad news proposition for most of us. We have reached the age where members of our families are no longer with us and some of those old friends we have had since childhood also are no longer with us. We have become those grandparents that we so fondly remember, even though I suspect we all feel younger than our mindset for grandparents. Our topic this week is "The most heartbreaking thing in my life now".

I have narrowed that to two things, the first being personal - the fact that my daughter has Huntington's Disease - the disease that killed my late wife Lynn. Jamie is on a nearly identical trajectory with the disease as Lynn was. Unlike Lynn, having gone through this once with her mother, Jamie is actively aware of what her future holds. I assure you it is not pleasant. There is a treatment in development that could be very helpful called CRISPR - where the defective gene is snipped and removed, thereby eliminating the disease. Duke University in North Carolina is a major player and we are searching for a trial group but have been as yet unsuccessful. Jamie is doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances but there are good days and bad - most typically revolving around our relationship. She struggles with the knowledge that each of her three children has a 50% chance of having HD. 

The other most heartbreaking thing in my life now is the condition of my country. The complete lack of civility in our discourse and the fact that a pathological liar, amoral sociopath has the  attention of nearly half of the population. We have devolved into a society where half of the population embraces the lies and bizarre conspiracy theories of QAnon. The religious far right embraced the lies and conspiracy theories to allow the Supreme Court to be stacked with conservative chistians.  Their hope is to advance their anti-abortion agenda. But, worst of all is the realization that all of the work done on  civil rights matters in the sixties is unraveling before our very eyes. GOP-controlled state legislatures across the country are passing voter registration laws with the intent to suppress the votes of minorities. One state has passed a law making it illegal to supply water to persons waiting in lines to vote. This was done 4because the GOP still supports the notion that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump thanks to the allegedly fraudulent votes of vast numbers of black voters. Race attacks against Asians are on the rise because of the ranting of some folks that China is responsible for the pandemic that has claimed over 500 thousand Americans, even while claiming the pandemic is a fraud and the death figures attributed to it are a lie.

Gun rights supporters have convinced their multitudes that the government is after their guns - all because there is a call for real background checks for gun purchasers. The recently deposed president worked enough of his followers into a frenzy that there was an armed insurrection on January 6. We are teetering on the brink of a second civil war. The politics of obstruction rule the day in both houses of congress. The GOP still supports the notion that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump despite the conclusion of Trump's own appointed investigators that the election was fair and not fraudulent.

The browning of America is a terrifying thought to the apparently vast numbers of white supremacists suddenly appearing out of the woodwork. That points to some rocky roads in the future. Although I feel bad we seem to have left so much of the race issue left incomplete, I confess I am glad I will not be here to witness the next 40-50 years. I am, however, cautiously optimistic that things will work out for the best. 

That is my take on this weeks topic. Be sure to check what the other members of this little blogging group have to say. I'll see y'all next week, same bat time and same bat channel.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Bad Luck or Karma

How many times in your life have you been mired in a string of bad events, one after the other, and muttered to yourself Karma is a bitch. The truth of the matter is Karma is a bastard - he was male, according to Wikipedia. So much for today's history/anatomy lesson.

I commented to one of  our blogging group members not long ago that if not for bad luck she'd have no luck at all. She was having a run of serious bad luck including deaths in the family and was having a tough time. In this instance she literally was having a run of bad luck. Or was it really Karma? Karma, you see, is subject to cause and effect and related to things you have done in the past that cause a specific event. The term karma (Sanskritकर्म) refers to both the executed 'deed, work, action, act, and the 'object, intent'.

Luck is what Karma gives you when it sees you working hard with all you've got to achieve your goal. However, luck is a result of Karma. There's almost no such thing as pure luck. If you win the lottery, it's not that the ticket came flying to you. You bought it. In this case, Karma is you buying a ticket and luck is you winning the lottery.

Karma Chameleon - according to the lyricist and lead singer (Boy George) is 
about trying to suck up to everybody. Basically, if you aren't true, if you don't act like you feel, then you get Karma-justice. That's nature's way of paying you back. Bad luck.

With Karma and luck so thoroughly intertwined, it is easy to understand why they are so commonly misused and misunderstood. Those who believe in a higher "authority" - god, the universe or whatever are likely to subscribe any luck to their personal Karma.

People have free will to choose good or evil and suffer the consequences of their actions. John Lennon addressed the notion of people accepting responsibility for their actions in his song Instant Karma.

Karma became very popular in western culture in the late 60s and early 70s when the Beatles had something of a spiritual revolution (some might call it a spiritual evolution). It has been an important part of Indian philosophy for centuries, with roots in Hinduism and Buddhism. Buddha took what he learned of Karma from Hinduism and took it in a different direction - reminding me of Martin Luther a bit.

Where do I land in all of this? Well let's just say I believe in a higher power and in taking responsibility for my actions, good, bad, or otherwise. I have no objection with calling the results of my actions Karma. The jury is still out on how I feel about reincarnation, but if I suddenly find myself a duck-billed platypus at some time in the future I expect I might reconsider.

That's my quick shack take on this week's topic. Be sure to check what the others have to say on their blogs.

RamanaPadmumRajuSrinivasConradMaria, and Sanjana---

I'll see all y'all next week, same bat time  - same bat channel.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Vaccination Drama

 I am sure most people my age remember their first mass vaccination experience. We all stood in long lines at a designated vaccination site to take the latest, greatest polio vaccine developed by a gentleman named Sabin. We popped a little sugar cube in our mouths and headed back home. Mine was given at Southgate School - the first school in California that I attended after moving from Colorado to California in 1959. That was the second polio vaccine available, the other being developed by Jonas Salk. I had that vaccination (regular needle type) years earlier in Colorado. As a result of those vaccinations,polio has been nearly eradicated. In 2016 only 42 cases of  polio were reported worldwide. Unfortunately the number of cases is on the rise, including cases caused by live strains of the virus included in the oral vaccinations.

Vaccine-derived polio is caused by remnants of earlier versions of the live virus used in the oral polio vaccine. The vaccine can be shed through feces. In places with poor sanitation, the vaccine can be spread through wastewater. Over time, the virus from the oral vaccine can replicate, regain strength and become just as virulent as the original virus against which it's supposed to protect. Most kids born after 2016 have no immunity to the most prominent vaccine-derived polio strain because that strain was thought to be on the verge of elimination and is no longer included in the primary oral vaccine they would have received.

The attempt to eradicate polio was going very well until it wasn't. Hmmmm - a few hundred cases of polio instead of hundreds of thousands. Have you heard of a case of smallpox recently? 

Now we are facing a worldwide pandemic that has killed over 500,000 Americans and 2.6 million worldwide. We are in the midst of a massive vaccination plan using vaccines approved for emergency use. Not surprisingly there is a degree of resistence to the vaccines available from a growing cadre of antivaxxers.  Covid-19 - the disease under assault by the vaccines is already mutating and changing. 

So why the drama over vaccination? Who wouldn't want a free vaccine that could protect them from serious illness and/or death? More people than you might think. Vaccination protects you and wearing a mask protects others because even if vaccinated you can be a carrier. Who wouldn't want to protect their loved ones? There are people that have been used by the government - experimented on and lied to that have a mistrust of the government. Trust me to them means buyer beware. Add to that the notion that the vaccines available for Covid-19 are seemingly  rush jobs thrown together without adequate testing and you can understand the resistance.  Then too, there is the fact that the part of the population that is the most adversely affected by Covid-19 is the least respected age group - seniors - and populations of color in our population. It is as if Covid-19 is simply the tool of natural selection and is just thinning the herd while offering survival of the fittest. Of course very few people will publicly state their support for that concept but we are clearly in the midst of  a white supremacist revolution of sorts. Lastly, a segment of  our population view Covid-19 as a biological warfare assault on the USA by the Chinese.

The decision was easy for me as every comorbidity that could affect my chances of survival is part of  my makeup. I am an obese senior citizen with type 2 diabetes and congestive heart failure. My chances of surviving a bout with Covid-19 are about the same as surviving a fight with Mike Tyson or George Forman in their prime. As we have learned how to treat the original strain of Covid-19, the new  variants are more virulent and  more highly communicable. We are likely to be dealing with this bugger for years. 

The choice is yours. Take the protection offered by vaccination or take your chances against a virus whose sole objective is survival. Don't want the government having any more control over your life? Do you really believe Bill Gates wants to microchip the planet through vaccines? Are you convinced that 5G radio frequency communications have a damaging health impact, and that either these are directly making people sick (i.e. COVID-19 doesn’t exist and people are actually suffering from 5G effects) or the radiation is depressing peoples’ immune systems and therefore making them more likely to suffer from the virus.

Your drama is your drama. Take the vaccine or do not take the vaccine. The choice is yours. Common sense win out or not. That is my take on this week's topic. For the record, I am approaching 24 hours since my second shot of the Pfizer  vaccine. No effects.

Be sure to check the other bloggers in our little blogging group to see what they think of Maria's suggested topic. 

RamanaPadmumRajuSrinivasConradMaria, and Sanjana

I'll see all y'all next week, same bat time  - same bat channel.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

The Exploration of Outer Space

Space, the final frontier...To boldly go where no man or woman has gone before. 

The irony is not lost on me. Thanks to the pandemic,we have been locked down and quarantined. Now, some states are opening up and unleashing the heretofor cooped up masses. 

While we work to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, we are seriously on Mars - checking out the red planet more seriously than ever before. Manned flight to Mars is on the drawing board, private enterprise is doing more for space exploration than we ever thought possible. Reusable launch vehicles are now a reality and another moon shot in the works. Once again, we have something new and exciting to keep our minds off the failures brought on by the pandemic.

Do you remember this? 

That song - in its original version - is one I 
heard on the car radio (in that infamous Mustang convertible) on the day Armstrong walked
on the moon. I was on Hwy 92 having just crossed the San Mateo bridge and headed to Half Moon Bay to meet the gang. Call it a Twilight Zone moment - the song was not released nor even  completed when I heard it. I looked for it for months as John Stewart was and is a favorite of mine.

Space exploration has been on my mind since I lived in Pueblo Colorado when my folks and I went to the drive in movietheater and watched Forbidden Planet. That was it for me - I was hooked. Then I saw The Day The Earth Stood Still on TV. The politics of the time went right over my head but boy was that robot Gort cool. In fact, the guy who owned the company that  my late wife and I worked for in the early seventies nicknamed me Gort.

Next came Star Trek and then Star Wars and all of the one off movies - including my all time fave space opera, The Last Starfighter. 

We launched Voyager and that one is still out there. Then there is the SETI Institute - America's only organization whose very existance is dedicated to searching for life in the universe.

Space has been on people's minds since the days of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon - even longer. For all of our flaws, 
we humans are a curious race. Not  curious as odd but curious as inquisitive. What is out there? Who is out there?  What is our place in the grand scheme of things? 

So here we are - back in a space race and our timing could not be better. After being locked down for a year, we are raring to go. Private companies are building the vehicles. Our resident crazy South African is building a vehicle to get us to Mars and that Branson guy may as well. The excitement is building and should continue to do as we press on. Every milestone we reach should fuel the fire within us to keep exploring. We may even run into this little guy once again.

If nothing else, I hope this weeks blog captures some of the excitement I feel about space exploration. These are strange times we live in - and the times they are a changin'. See ya next week for the next 8 on 1 blog as we get back into the swing of things. Conrad picked this week's topic and be sure to see what the other bloggers have to say. I'll see ya next week, same bat time - same bat channel.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Will the Balance of Power Be Impacted by the Pandemic?.0

With the entire world stage dominated by the Pandemic, it is interesting to contemplate how the pandemic will impact the balance of power, if at all.

I see the world stage dominated by China/India, China/USA, and China/Australia along with USA/China, USA/India, and USA/Australia relations. Russia can possibly sneak in with their relations with Central and South American countries. Primary among those relations are the world's continued  reliance on fossil fuels.

As solar and other sources are developed pay careful attention to the countries rich in the compounds that make up the lithium-ion batteries that power electric vehicles. Watch how Russia, China and the USA react to those countries as they each seek to gain control over those critical resources.

How is the Pandemic impacting countries and thus possibly the balance of power? Vaccines. Watch how Russia and China share their vaccines with the nations of the world.

We have spent decades living under a Balance of Terror. Russia and the USA have long stockpiled sufficient nuclear arsenals to obliterate the planet several times, and even though the cold war ended decades ago whenever a new country enters the nuclear club it wants to flex its muscles. New alliances may be in our future and the balance of power may enter a state of flux like no other in history.

Yes the balance of power is likely to change and  I think in large part it will realign largely how we exit the pandemic. The primary influence is likely to be if the USA ever regains the respect it once commanded on the world stage that was nearly rendered extinct when our previous administration was in office. The extent of the damage it presided over is only now showing itself, including the spreading danger posed by white supremacist militias. Can we overcome the internal strife caused by POTUS 45 and his band of marauders? We are about to find out.

Please check the blogs of the other members of this unique blogging team