Posted by: David | April 3, 2016

Special Election

I normally abhor writing or even speaking of politics, conversations with like-minded friends excepted. Our inward political beliefs have an organic, chemical quality that makes them hard to change. We tend to pick up our political orientation from whomever raised us as children. So it’s generally pointless to discuss current political “issues”. However, this frightening election is causing much worry- words keep welling up. Words I can no longer contain. And what would be the point of having this blog if not to express my opinions?

My philosophies lean toward the left. Big surprise, huh? I have plenty of right-leaning friends, and plain politeness (thanks Mom!) keeps me from even considering attempts to move them from their Disney-esque nostalgia. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back to those glorious years after WWII victory, when we alone had The Bomb? When we had just vanquished real, evil enemies; when women, children, foreigners and homosexuals all knew and kept their places, and The Great Depression was ancient history?

Really? Would it be that great? Let’s go a little further back …

As a bystander in the temple when Jesus overturned the money-changers’ tables, I would have cheered him on. Financial instrumentation is lost on me, and where my right-leaning friends scream about the money wasted on those fat, lazy welfare slobs, I scream about the World Police wasting money on ever more deadly (and expensive!) weapon systems. They think of poverty and disease as choices, while I think that choosing a designer for the yacht remodel is NOT a real problem. Money wasted is money wasted I guess- the money doesn’t care whether it’s spent on an aircraft carrier or a hospital.

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Are all the rich guilty? Of course not. Money has a physics all its own, and its gravitation is as unavoidable as that which keeps our feet on the ground. To acknowledge that one can work hard enough to earn a fortune is fine, but when is enough enough, and what happens to empathy, charity and morality once great wealth is achieved? Compassion is much harder to practice in the whirlwind of business. And practically impossible next to luxury. Lamentation: how have we come to this?

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In my home state, where the first primary in the nation is a big big deal, Sanders and Trump won handily. These results were shocking. I knew there was a deep chasm separating right from left, but holy hell!  Could these two presidential hopefuls have ideas any further apart?

Solace lay only in the fact that 50,000 more total votes were cast for Sanders. If New Hampshire were a microcosm of the USA (which it isn’t), then we can hope that the national popular vote will never favor the Blowhard Billionaire. His fans love his projection of authority, truthful or not. What I just don’t understand is how his supporters can think that he’s really any different from the run-of-the-mill “establishment” politicians.

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It’s all so goddamn sad. How have we come to this? How are we so deeply divided? Of that aforementioned nostalgia, at least back then we felt that were on the same side. How will we overcome this awful rift in our collective apprehension of our core beliefs? I wish I knew. But I blame it on Wall Street, Madison Avenue and Hollywood. Roughly in that order. Next up are lawyers and the insurance industry. And we all work too hard.

Posted by: David | March 23, 2016

Reformulations

On approach toward an ominous birthday. Thank heaven for grandchildren! They really help to soften the blows. Thirty was a little iffy, fifty was nothing, but sixty’s approach feels more fraught. Not sure why. It’s been a glide-path forever. Ascending? Descending? All that’s certain is that it’s unpowered flight, at the mercy of time and the wind.

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In preparation for this, some routines have been re-calibrated. For example, underwear. The white cotton briefs worn for five-plus decades have been replaced by boxer briefs. They are black and gray. And surprisingly comfortable.

The weekday breakfast routine has gone from 1/3 cup rolled oats + 2 tablespoons flax meal to 1/4 cup oats and 1 tablespoon flax meal. And the 40+ men’s one daily multivitamin has been replaced with a more accurate (agewise) multivitamin for men 55 and over. The label says to take two, but one per day will be fine.

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Grab the wheel firmly.

 

Posted by: David | March 2, 2016

Awkward Writ Large

Today was an unexpected day off from work. Late winter can bring these days, but it’s unusual when one begins as a 2-hour delay, then becomes a closure. This morning’s freezing rain progressed as such.

So what to do? Netflix, of course!

Binge-watched Love, the Netflix 10-part series exploring the developing relationship between two fairly unlikable re-bounders ably inhabited by actors Paul Rust and  Gillian Jacobs. I’d started the series a day or two earlier, so only had about 7 episodes to watch, and with all day to do so, there was time to watch a similarly themed movie, Slow Learners. O, star-cross’d lovers, how do you survive?

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Artist’s conception of colliding black holes. Image courtesy LIGO website.

The awkward and unreliable narrator is all the rage these days, in books, movies and TV series. Maybe it’s the evolutionary result of the last century’s so-called “anti hero”. These characters are everywhere. Their painful collisions can be entertaining to watch, and interesting, but at the end one wonders about the meaning of it all. One feels moved but a little dark.

It made me think of what the LIGO experiment detected last September. Announced around Valentine’s Day of this year, both of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory detectors detected a ripple in the fabric of spacetime. They’re calling it a gravity wave. It was caused by the collision and merging of two giant black holes over a billion years ago. Einstein predicted these things 101 years ago. He was married twice. He and his second wife were cousins. Love and cosmology. Awkward.

Posted by: David | March 1, 2016

Cheating Solitaire

At 85, dad is overripe crotchety squared. Some advice I hope to pass on to myself is don’t become dependent on your children. It’s not in the natural order of things. Or is it?

A devout contrarian,  time’s passage seems only to strengthen the commitment. Having played tens of thousands of games of solitaire on his computer over the years, for some reason he recently began calling it “online solitaire”. It’s not online. It’s the same solitaire on the Windows Vista computer that came from his Windows XP computer. Literally. I copied the files. And what the fuck would be the point of “online solitaire” anyway? The final confabulation on this topic was his claim that the online solitaire was somehow cheating and that Microsoft had no interest in answering this accusation, but was only interested in charging money to open a support ticket.

Contrarianism is a losing game. Eventually thought processes are distorted. In a recent article The Atlantic on math education, the following logic problem was presented.

You have a drawer full of socks, each one of which is red, white, or blue. You start taking socks out without looking at them. How many socks do you need to take out of the drawer to be sure you have taken out at least two socks that are the same color?

Seems simple enough right? The answer, four, appears in the next paragraph. Dad had circled the answer and presented the magazine opened to that page, on his face a look of consternation. He could not agree that the answer was correct. Even when presented with a simplified version (drawer full of black and white socks), he refused to accept that  n+1 selected socks (where n = number of colors) guaranteed a matched pair.

As a well-read college dropout, and aforementioned contrarian, dad had a lifelong mission to debunk basic tenets of mathematics and logic. And yet, his daily thinking was always extremely concrete. Irrational thinking was a primary target of his rants. With this Woody Allen School of Philosophy he dismissed the entire science of psychology. Though maybe his actual participation in the Milgram Experiment (he may have seen this ad in the New Haven Register when he was between jobs) had more to do with that. His story is that he refused to administer the shocks. I wonder if he collected his four dollars.

At any rate, I have dad to thank for my own outlook on life, which is one of anti-contrarianism. Yes, I proclaim this a THING: anti-contrarianism! I aspire to follow the code of improv, which is to say yes. Or yes, and

And as I posted about 8 years back, I choose to ignore a vast amount of shit.

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