Soft reboot?

Anyone who has spent much time around computers has had some concepts burned into their lives.  One is, in the case of some small but insurmountable problem in performance, it is necessary to “reboot” the computer.  The power stays on, and if everything goes as advertised (never an absolute given), when the computer is ready to obey the User, function is restored and nothing has been lost.  Think of the scene from Airplane when a passenger is given to hysterics and a simple shaking, then a slap, followed by a long line of “well-meaning” passengers attempt their own methods to silence her.

Not so the “hard reboot.”  Nope.  This is necessary when the computer completely freezes – nothing works, not keyboard, not mouse.  Removing all power is required.  Of course this means losing all work that has not been saved; and as if to prove karma, this only happens when the most critical work of the day is hanging in the ether and is lost forever.  But, at least the computer, sufficiently chastised, assumes its humble role of servant once again.

Could this SARS-CoV-2 / COVID-19 be God’s “soft reboot”?  Not a “hard reboot” like Sodom and Gomorrah.  But just taking by the shoulders and shaking to tell an errant world that is not too far gone…yet.  More like in the basket, but only half-way to Hell – still time to bail.

The rumor-mongering surrounding this pandemic, like someone said, is the only thing that is spreading faster than the virus itself.  As if pulled from some B-movie, only the names have been changed to protect the poor acting and script, we have a man-made virus that has gotten out of control.  A bio-weapon that has turned on its master and has wrecked havoc, not on the “bad” guys, but on the “good” guys.  There are other conspiracies, but all involve unspeakable devastation, the bad guys hunkered down in some underground bunker, the innocent utterly destroyed, pillage the order of the day, the good guys down – but not out.

There have been other world-wide calamities, some in our recent past – apparently all forgotten, conveniently for the most part.

What makes this one different is the politics.  For some reason, what we call it is important.  Not that it has upset the world economy.  Not that is makes people sick. Not that it kills people.  But the moniker we hang on it.  The ugly head of PC has been raised once again.

For about a hundred years, we have called the flu that appeared at the end of World War I – and killed more than the war did – the “Spanish flu.”  No one has objected to insulting the Spanish for secretly unleashing the flu on a war-weary world.  It seems we can’t associate this modern day flu with the country of origin because that is “racist.”  Yet we never hear the mob that is so PC about today’s flu say that identifying that flu of a hundred years ago is racist.  But what is sublimely ludicrous is that the “Spanish flu” did not originate in Spain at all.  In fact, irony of ironies, it is the fact that the USA and Europe, fearing revealing their own military capabilities censored the news of this flu; while Spain, neutral during the war, reported it.  Thus, by telling the truth, the Spanish have been discriminated against for a century.  So of course, in the frenzy to not make Red China “feel bad,” we say that today’s flu magically appeared out of nowhere.  We don’t even want to say that it ultimately came from the animal kingdom – oh no, don’t blame the bats, it is human behavior that created this virus.  At least now I know what a “wet” market is.  And any appetite to eat bats is forever off my plate (with apologies to Anthony Bourdain, of course).

But whatever we call it, could it be a “wakeup call” – one so desperately needed?  It seems that governments learning nothing from the SARS pandemic of recent memory – stockpiles of commodities like masks just didn’t happen.  Physical brick-and-mortar hospitals are being augmented by tents – yes, in March, the tail end of winter, when weather is, at best, “unsettled.”  As far as health-care providers are concerned, some are surprised to learn that these people cannot work 24/7 for very long; and, shudder, they get sick too!  How dare they?

As far as religion is concerned, the Roman Catholic Church has become, well to be kind, an embarrassment.  At least here in the United States, the USCCB, so long attached to the Party of Death, and afraid of its own shadow, has closed churches in the name of “social distancing.”  For 1,500 years, the Church has preached that attending Mass is an obligation – if not fulfilled, then that basket you’re in makes it all the way to the River Styx.  Now, public Mass is not available – not even private Mass in a person’s home.  Once again (not the first time, for those conveniently ignorant), the bishops are anything but apostolic.  The Faithful Church is being driven underground, while the apostates run around on the surface like so many headless chickens (apologies to the fowl that were blamed – kinda – for that other flu).

Proof that the Stock Market is irrational (could anyone doubt that now?), the money world has suffered far worse than either medicine or religion.  At least it will recover – it always has, the open market (aka capitalism) is ruthlessly efficient.  And it will finance medicine.  The Catholic Church on the other hand will never be the same – thank God.  It is many months till November and the incumbent in the White House is in the perfect position to pave the way to another four years, while the Party of Death rearranges the deck chairs on its own sinking ship.

Yes, 2020 is turning out to be very “interesting.”

King of the Forest

I think, if I was “King of the Forest” (alá the Cowardly Lion in Wizard of Oz), I’d much rather people were against me, than disappointed with me.  I mean, how deflating to discover that the vast majority of voters (not merely just citizens, which any Tom, Dick or Harry can claim, apparently) just shook their heads and said “too bad, so sad.”  Wouldn’t it be better to have vast swathes of the populace voice a heartfelt opinion – pro or con – than to have them heave a collective heavy sigh and shake their heads in disappointment?

Wouldn’t an epithet of “At least he tried” be better than “When is he going to show up?”  I do think so, but never having been within a stone’s throw of the White House, all I can do is try to imagine what it must feel like.

However, Joe Biden continues the Jimmy Carter legacy (Full Disclosure: I did vote for the peanut farmer) of “what a waste.”  (Yes, the same can be said of Donald Trump; but I don’t think anybody wondered if he had seen the football after the kickoff.)

How many people and how many millions of dollars are invested in what is arguably the “Top Job” of this country?  All of that investment in Joe Biden has been tossed into the wind and gone forever (unlike the Edsel, Joe will never be a good investment).  True enough: like Donald Trump, Joe stopped something dead in its tracks.  But where do we go from here?  Not only did the Demos manage to lose to someone who had never been elected to any public office, but they got elected an anybody who couldn’t possibly lose to Donald Trump (could Hillary have beat Donald after his four years in office?  Probably.)

But after a year of Joe listening to “who are those people?,” We The People have the rather uncomfortable prospect of having not a clue where we go from here.  One can only applaud Stacey Adams for having a “scheduling conflict” when Joe came to town* (would you ever – I mean ever – have a “scheduling conflict” if the President of the United States dropped into your little (and I do mean little) corner of the world?  That absolutely defies imagination. Kudos to Stacey, if not for elegance, then for chutzpah, or should that be integrity?).

“John, we hardly knew ya,” was said of JFK when his life, both personal and political, was cut short.  No one should ever hope for such end for anybody.  But, Joe, who are are you?  I mean, I would really love to love you.  Really.  Quite some time ago, I was a card-carrying Democrat, precinct committee-man, active campaigner for the likes of Morris Udall (I still haven’t washed that hand).  Now, I can’t think of Democrats without thinking of used-car salesmen, and putting my hand on my wallet.  Thanks to the Demos I am proudly deplorable.

Yes, I do think Donald Trump could have gotten re-elected; but he got in his own way – he didn’t know when to shut his mouth.  No, I do not think Joe can be re-elected for, ironically, he doesn’t know when to shut his mouth.  When will people in positions of power learn to exploit that position, instead of squander it?  Is there any better job than being the former president?  The two-term former president?  A one-term former president probably gets the same bennies, but he somehow failed at a gimme: how can you screw-up so badly that the most common voter learned to hate you?  Success Joe, is not just one term as prez; it is two terms – or does that math escape you?

If Joe Biden is on the next ballot, it would be only out of respect.  His current Veep should be investing in her retirement portfolio – she is most definitely a lost cause.  Between the headless Demos and the non-existent Republicans, I can only thank my lucky stars that I am not invested in either political party.  At this point in time, both are losers.  Perhaps the Demos can take a step back and ask, “What do you propose?” of the Republicans.  Sadly, the Republicans can only reply, “We asked you first.”

And we all lose.

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* Gerald Baker, “Biden Goes for Broke. He’s Broke. Now What?”, Jan. 17, 2022 12:59 pm ET

We’ve Arrived

I hesitate to say “we’ve arrived” if only because it implies that the game is over.  OT (over-time), additional innings, whatever, the obese, socially correct female has sung her last note.  Perhaps it’s only because I am not just a river in Egypt that I refuse to believe The Story (as opposed to “his-story”) is absolutely, well, history.  Wishful thinking?  I think not.

But I do believe we have arrived at an age where we have access to a cacophony of ideas.  Sadly, we are indeed taking advantage of this deluge to conclude that we have no idea what to conclude, and the best strategy is to bury our heads in the sand (apologies to the ostrich).  Or, maybe congratulations are in order?

Some would say that we have discovered that “experts disagree.”  Hello?  They have always disagreed.  The only thing that has changed is that we are now aware of the lack of unity.  Or, we have indeed matured to the point of realizing that one hundred people have one hundred opinions.  This is not newsworthy – it has been a constant for millennia (or eons, or ever since the first human had a thought (there’s something in The Wizard of OZ on this – go ask the Scarecrow, not the White Rabbit – or should that be the “albino bunny”?).

Yes, technology has given us awareness.  Maybe this “new” data will give us knowledge that could lead to wisdom?  I think I’d rather invest in Bitcoin.

There is a cartoon out there (creator unknown, enlighten me) that shows in three panels the state we now find ourselves in.  The first panel shows an apparently random number of dots and is labeled “data.”  The second panel shows the same set of random dots connected and is labelled “knowlege.”   The third shows the dots connected to show a cartoon of a cat and is labeled “creativity.”  (And of course my short search of the internet does not bring us this particular cartoon.)

A recent opinion piece in a trustworthy newspaper by an “anarchist” accurately points out that many people defer to the opinion of “experts.”  We have a long and easily accessible history of the great unwashed masses deciding that smiling and nodding at the promulgations of the experts was the easiest way to get thru life.  You could either “toe the line” and enjoy NIMBY (Not in My Backyard), or you could be forced into a cattle car (a cautionary tale right there) and sent to a gulag (gotta thank the Soviet Union for bringing that term into the lexicon).

Maybe the internet is indeed something of a solution (if not savior).  Usta be all we could rely on was the newspaper delivered to our front door every morning, or the evening news on the telly.  Now, just turning on your laptop brings you the headlines of hundreds of news outlets and you are confronted with who to not click into oblivion.  So, you narrow your exposure to names you know, some unknown to your parents – tho none recognizable to your parents.

My father, a newspaperman all of his adult, professional life, always read the sports page first (I have never), once asked me if I read a newspaper.  Unthinking (as usual) I said no.  He was deflated if not horribly disappointed.  In fact, in his world, his world was pretty much confined to a few paper newspapers; in my internet world, I can very quickly scan a half-a-dozen or more at the touch of a finger.  He formed his world around one, or two, specific newspapers, and one evening news show.  I am not as limited (and paradoxically, probably not as wise).

But the point is, if any term should now be thrown into the dustbin, “expert” ought to be the first.  Not that there never have been experts, there have been.  It is that there are now so many.  And, as the essay referred to above implies, even the so-called experts rely on other so-called experts.

The “patron saint” (if you will) of an informed populace could be Paul Revere.  Without the endorsement of a government broadside, or an underground newspaper, he took it upon himself  to spread the word that a menace was approaching (and his – unnamed – horse: “You want to go out riding at this hour, yelling at the top of your lungs, waking people with very big rifles, to do what?”).

I offer that the internet is our wakeup call.  COVID is a warning – but so far not succeeding – that our slovenly (“Twinkie”) lifestyle is not sustainable (on a very, very personal level).  In the USA we have a government (at all levels) that is working very hard to take decisions away from the individual – sounds like the “divine right of kings” to me.  If you are ignorant now, it is because you don’t care.  My father’s generation did not have the luxury of accessing the hundreds of opinions of thousands of experts, we do.  They had the luxury of being surprised – we don’t.

You all know the story of the frog in the pot on the stove.  We are the frog, and it is getting warm. 

Now, add COVID.

Today I learned that being an old fart is a co-morbidity when it comes to listing cause of death due to COVID.  So, why are “we” vaccinating the under-20s?  Sorry, I digress.

CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walenski has announced that people with 4 co-mobidities are more likely to die than those without.  Oh, I’m sorry: die from COVID-plus-something – not “just” COVID?  Well, I’m no doctor (medical or otherwise), and not a “health-care professional” (though the adjustors in my insurance carrier may beg to differ), but this “divine revelation” is not news to me.

There have been countless (and I do mean countless – like to infinity and beyond) opinions as to why COVID has happened.  Ignoring the opinions that have seemingly changed faster than the wind in the past two years, perhaps COVID is just a wake up call for those who aren’t saddled with “co-mobidities.”

Yes, I said not inflicted with co-morbidities.  Years and years ago, I picked up a book titled: What to Eat if You Have Heart Disease*.  Several decades later, I still don’t have heart disease; but I have often wondered why a person would wait until sick with a “co-mobidity” before adjusting their life style.  Makes me think of the game to see how close you can stand to a speeding train.

The other day, I was in a parking lot walking to my car when I passed a man going into the store.  He was probably 50-something, if not older (an old fart like me).  His mask was down, keeping his chin warm while he smoked a cigarette.  It is hard for me to imagine a more incongruous picture.  COVID-only has always been touted as a respiratory disease.  In the two years we have denied COVID we have decided that it can affect other organs as well; but it is still inhaled and apparently not transmitted by doorknobs (and a shame, too: I’d rather wear gloves than a mask).

Now, COVID-OMICRON is (Bad News) much more easily transmitted than its predecessor (“Alpha,” I think – this is certainly sounding Biblical (don’t tell the woke – no wait: that was “Alpha and Omega” – sorry).  But (Good News), less likely to stick you in ICU.  So, let’s do triple shots (no, not tequila) and double mask (if I am wearing two masks and you are wearing two masks, what does that make us?  Besides fall-down, pee-in-your-pants ludicrous?).

Oh yeah, back to not having “co-morbities” (maybe less Biblical and more Greek Tragedy?). I make this assertion because if you have one of them things, you are very nearly dead already, so why change? (Kind of like substituting margarine for butter after your double-bypass.)

There was a statement made a few years ago that you can’t be healthy if you’re fat (sorry: I have no clue as to who coined this phrase – suggestions welcome).  And looking purely at statistical records (observations – not interpretations or Wild ___ Guesses (WAGs) the number of cases is “trending” up (I’d like to say “exploding” or “increasing exponentially” – but being alarmist on this subject is the job of Chicken Little).  The Harvard School of Public Health declares: “Today, nationwide, roughly two out of three U.S. adults are overweight or obese (69 percent) and one out of three is obese (36 percent).” From 15 percent in 1990**. The other “co-morbidities” are less easily observed and are controversial (e.g., high blood pressure seems to have decreased in the most recent years).  However, they all contribute to heart disease.

Now, add COVID.

As they say: “Life is short, death is sure, and Eternity is a long time.”

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*Keane, Maureen and Chace, Daniella, Contemporary Books, 1998

** https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/an-epidemic-of-obesity/ from, Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Ogden CL. Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999-2010. JAMA. 2012;307:491-7.

Kármán vs Mendoza

I first ran into the “Mendoza Line” when a co-worker commented on a customer’s inability to perform the simplest of acts.  Although the origin of the term varies, since my co-worker was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, I choose to associate it with Mario Mendoza of the 1979 Seattle Mariners (see also https://www.mlb.com/glossary/idioms/mendoza-line).  It is probably a paradox since Mario was able to remain on the roster for his defensive capabilities, though his hitting (offense) was extremely poor.  Nevertheless, the internet (that fount of all knowledge – sorry Encyclopedia Britannica) regards the Mendoza Line as an absolute minimum measure of performance.

As commercial “space” travel has become a reality, defining what is space and not Earth has given the work of Hungarian Theodore von Kármán a new life (he died in 1963).  However, if one gets above this line, is one an “astronaut/cosmonaut”?  As truly amazing as this feat is (for a variety of reasons), what’s the difference between technical competence/contribution and sightseeing?  Does it matter?

Purdue University, self-proclaimed “cradle of astronauts” (Neil Armstrong, et al.), has decided that to be an astronaut you have to be there doing something besides paying for bragging rights (compare Audrey Powers to William Shatner).  In any event, rising above the Kármán Line seems to be a maximum measure of performance (unless setting a record in the International Space Station means something – if so then maybe we need a new label: the “Scott Kelly Line” of 340 days in space?).

As we enter this second year of “COVID Purgatory” (for some, “hell”; but for no one, “heaven”), we continue our downward spiral below Mr Mendoza:  seemingly racing to the bottom.

Recent polls, and an essay in the Wall Street Journal (see “Is Climate Change in Your Problem Top 10?,” Andy Kessler, WSJ, 2022 January 9) reveal what appears to be a statistically significant abyss between the two predominant political camps and the “Top 10 Problems” this country is struggling with.  It is not so much whose list is right and whose is wrong but that the two lists are so incredibly different.  Take away all the political posturing and what emerges is that one school is of the opinion that “immigration” is Number One, and the other school votes for “COVID-19”.

I guess they agree on one thing: climate change is not something of concern.  Not the cause.  Not the effect.  Not the remedy.  Maybe it’s like being wholly interested in whether or not it will rain today, and not the fact that it’s been raining “forever” (or that reservoirs are drying up – globally)?

As my daughter put it just before Christmas, the weather is “wonky.”  Indiana was experiencing weather (warm, into the 50s, and sunny) that could make those of us in the PacNW wish we ever had any days like that (we have been under a “Flood Watch/Advisory” for about three weeks now – yes, I had to go out and buy a sump pump (you don’t want details).  The point is, while politics may be local, the weather everywhere is just plain “wonky.”  And it is climate that makes the weather.

Back in the 90s I was living in Stavanger, Norway.  A friend, who had grown up in Oslo could remember when fishing boats got caught in the ice and it was possible to skate out to them and provide food, fuel.  In just one lifetime, we have all seen – if we chose to – a very “wonky” climate.  Trouble is, our so-called “leaders” choose not to (“panem et circenses” indeed).  Rather than setting ourselves to the task of adapting, we have chosen to wring our hands (gnashing of teeth and rending of garments optional).

Just because the dinosaurs lived for millions of years does not mean that any person breathing now will see 2100.  Maybe Pogo was right? 

[sorry about the typo: “who’s” vs “whose”]

Revenge

Altho early for me, I was not the first one in my neighborhood to put up lights for the Christmas Season.  It just seemed that, in this Bizarre Year of 2020, we just needed a little Christmas – early.  Most of my neighbors beat me to it.  In any event, I splurged and bought new lights.  Oh, I still have the strings (and strings) of miniature lights that have increasingly more sections of dark (one of these days, I’ll get around to troubleshooting – yes, I said the same thing last year).  But, after carefully measuring how much I would need, I carefully read labels and bought six boxes of “cascading LED icicles.”

Thinking ahead (yes, rare for me), I unboxed the first set and plugged them in – before climbing a ladder and putting them up.  I remember my dad digging out the strings of incandescent bulbs and painstakingly trying to find the one errant bulb that prevented any others from lighting up.  Not quite what Clark W Griswald inflicted on his son, Rusty – but close.

That was the easy part.

So, 20 icicles on a string of ridiculously thin wire ten feet long.  Unbox that, knave!  (Gaunlet optional.)  The clock is running.

I have often wondered what the people who make stuff for the American market think.  Clothing items for people with more money than sense are probably beyond understanding for sweatshop labor that might have a single pair of “shoes.”  But, at least these lights were assembled in a country that is not hellbent on destroying the infidel USA.  Maybe.

So, where’s the end to this snake’s nest?  I found the end I needed to plug in; but how to unravel?  Or, untie?  Or, overcome?  I could not give up.  I could not stuff that bunch of plastic icicles and miles of wire back in the box and trek back to Costco (I had seen the line of people who were already returning stuff).  I could not admit defeat.  How hard could it be?  (And this was box number one.)

Thinking that the assemblers were paid on piece-rate, they must have a system that allowed them to very quickly take this nightmare and stick it in a box.  Soon, so it seemed, a few of these damned icicles were grouped together, and then the whole conglomeration stuffed in a box.  You know: like five groups of four.  Or, is that three?  How about a random number?  (By the time I had opened the sixth box, I decided it could be any number between one and five.  I think.)

In fact, I was convinced that not only did they not have a fixed number of icicles per bundle, but neither had anyone stipulated how to, well, tie the bundles together.  Turns out, logic was not my friend.  Remember: I unboxed six boxes and found absolutely no consistency.  Except for all of the LEDs working.  Not that I actually counted them: maybe ten LEDs per icicle, 20 icicles per string, six strings; after an afternoon going up and down and up and down a ladder, I could not possibly have cared less.

I wasn’t worried about the warning that only three strings could be strung together: extension cords I got.  But, after trying to find the synthetic twine (you know the kind that unravels and frays as fast as you can use it) that I used to string up last year’s lights (remember: the miniature colored lights that are still in the box this year), I resorted to fishing line.  You see, I have 40 feet of wood fence – about as common as moss here in the Pacific Northwest.  Ha!  Fishing line?  Why in the world do I have 4 pound monofilament fishing line?  I don’t have a pole and if there is a hook somewhere in my shed, I haven’t seen it lately.  (Or poked myself with it.). I really ought to throw that damned stuff away.  No, really.  (Yes, it is now in some obscure corner of my shed.)

About that time, my neighbor from across the street sauntered over and asked if I had thought about using a staple gun.  I said, no; and besides I didn’t have one.  He said he had one if I’d like to borrow it.  I asked him if he had plenty of staples.  That is the longest conversation I have had with him in the five years we have lived in this house.

Two lessons: 1. When you move into a new place, make it a point to meet your neighbors – they just might save your bacon someday.  2.  Christmas came early this year.

Boom!  Putting up the icicles on the fence took a fraction of the time that I was expecting.  A big shout-out to the neighbor whose name I still don’t know (we’re guys, we don’t hug and we don’t brush each other’s hair).

Yes, I will buy my own staple gun and TWO boxes of staples during one of my countless runs to HomeDepot in the next few weeks.  As my “new” neighbor said, “Having the right tool …” you know the rest.

And yes, the instruction booklet expressly recommends against using staples.  What do they know?  After all, the page-after-page of warnings (in a thousand different languages) used flawless English – yep: I’m still in shock.

Hours later (or, before it started raining again), I put the ladder away and stumbled into the house.  I thought I had set the timers, or at least had intended to set the timers.  Nightfall happened without fanfare, or lights.  Oh well, I still have another day before the First Sunday of Advent.  So, there I was, Saturday in the rain, climbing a ladder to set the timer.  Oh, and wrapping the electrical connections in plastic and zip ties.  (The connections on the strings of icicles are probably water-proof to a hundred meters – but I know my extension cords are only water resistant to the next cloud that comes by.)

So, I say Bravo, or Bully to the demons who created those LED icicles and then wrapped them up: it took me longer to get them out of the box than it did to string them on my house.  (Full Disclosure: they slipped out of the box – that part took three, maybe four seconds.  It was the unwrapping that took ages and ages.)

Is revenge a dish best served cold?  Well, it isn’t snowing here (and isn’t likely to).  And it really isn’t all that cold, either (except maybe compared to Vietnam, where these things were said to have been assembled).  But, I just gotta think that, all these years later Ho Chi Minh is thumbing his nose at western imperialism (and rightly so).  And by the time next year rolls around, I will have forgotten the ordeal of putting up lights this year (assuming that ridiculously thin wire has endured).

But what do I do with the box of miniature lights – some working, some not – that sits at my feet?

Maybe that is the true revenge?

Merry Christmas.

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“We need a little Christmas,” from Jerry Herman’s Mame

Clark W Griswald courtesy of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Darnel

You know that ancient story of the farmer who discovered that his wheat field was full of weeds.  He concluded that only an enemy could have done that – a person had consciously and deliberately (“with malice and forethought”) sewn his fields with a plant that would reduce his yield, and could possibly make people sick from his otherwise healthy crop.

A little research revealed that it is commonly thought that the weed was darnel.  A plant that looks like wheat (and as a city-dweller, I am sure I could not tell them apart) until it is harvest time.  Apparently, darnel turns black and remains standing, while wheat becomes “amber waves of grain” and leans over.  Without doubt they have to be separated because the darnel can make humans sick – but it would be best to wait until harvest to be sure of what is which.

While no one could say I have a “presence” on the internet (more like Churchill’s belief in a proper martini: merely turn toward France, but vermouth did not even have to be in the room), I was recently attacked by a “hater.”  Someone had gone out of their way to accuse me of some vile things.

I linked the two: the old story and the new experience.  Imagine purposely cultivating weeds to have enough seed to ruin someone else’s livelihood.  Living in suburbia, that would be like collecting dandelion seeds and then throwing them in my neighbor’s lawn.  Or, trolling the internet and then sending an email to my former employer asking the inflammatory question of whether or not they wanted an employee like me (turns out, it didn’t – given a choice, that former employer preferred the accusations from an anonymous source, than someone who had been an employee for 35 years).

Like I say, someone took pains and went to great lengths to smear my reputation.  On the one hand, it is probably someone I know, because some familiarity is usually a factor in such behavior.  But, what I was accused of came from someone who obviously has no idea who I am.

So, that old story took on new meaning.  I now have a clear example of applicability between my life now, and a story from 2,000 years ago.  The villain used a great deal of effort and the tools at hand to try to destroy someone else.  Of course, in that old story, the villain was probably thinking the farmer would have to sell the field at a discount.  In my case, it isn’t likely I was moved out to make room for someone else (but here in 2020, stranger things have happened).

In any event, I now better understand human nature (especially on the internet).  In that old story, the darnel was also collected at harvest time, and thrown into the fire.  And so I will treat the “haters” on the internet.  I suppose I should feel flattered that anyone took the time?

While I would certainly prefer that Life was all skittles and beer, I know that I would become fat and lazy if I didn’t have to work at it.  Some ask why bad things happen to good people and to me the answer is easy: it’s called opportunity.  Of course that is a Christian way of looking at Life.  A pagan point of view (something I would expect of a darnel) might be that “Mother Nature” (aka “Fate,” or “Destiny”) is capricious and arbitrary and that this life as we experience it is all there is.  While there are no gods on Mt Olympus and the stars couldn’t possibly give a fig about us, the natural world presents each and every one of us with choices.  Some have to choose between silver spoons, most of us have to worry about our paycheck (and the vast majority of people worldwide worry about their next meal).  But for those of us who have some choices, how we decide does determine how we exist in the Next Life.  To borrow from a movie, “Choose wisely.”

You see, I firmly believe that Eternity is a Long Time.

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Matthew 13:25

“Indiana Jones”

Profound or Profane?

I was able to tough my way thru “Another Life,” only because I enjoy Katee Sackoff (having discovered her in “Longmire” a few years ago); but it was tough going.  The Netflix series seems to be an adult version of “Lost in Space,” and since I do love sci-fi it was a given that I should try it.

But all I found was that it was trying.  Katee was fine; but the dialogue was unbelievably juvenile, beginning with the now ubiquitous “F-bomb.”

Yes, I am a word snob.  Somewhere in my past I developed a love and respect of the written word.  Now, thanks to the internet, I have learned that the language evolves and is often obliterated to fill the needs of the users – as it should be.  Language should not be confined to the hallowed halls of museums; but at the same time, it shouldn’t lose its ability to communicate.

And the recurring message I got from the over-use of the F-bomb was that the writers were either extremely unskilled, or the audience that they were writing for is extremely unimaginative.  In any event, relying on one word for every verbal interchange became an exercise in resistance for me.  I was never able to see past the constant, staccato pinging (no, I did not count how many times it was used – what would be the point in that?).

I have a co-worker who really is a rocket scientist, and one of those individuals who remembers “everything.”  I asked him once if he can recall everything he ever read and he said no, just the page numbers.  He is, quite literally, my workgroup’s very own internet.

Sadly, he uses “curse words” in every day life like the characters in “Another Life” use the F-bomb.  It does not help that, as an intellectual elitist, he does not respect either me or my religion; but beyond his blasphemy, his vocabulary is stilted, stunted and inadequate.

I ask myself why, in these two examples, is such a limited vocabulary characteristic.  Being as generous as I can be, I have concluded that it is an attempt to be profound, when all it is is profane.

If language cannot be used to communicate, then the human race has not advanced all that far from our prehistoric predecessors.  To overuse and misuse words seems more to prevent communication than to enhance it.  The irony is that people who rely on a handful of words to express themselves are communicating something I believe they would flatly deny.

I would not call the United States a physically violent place to live.  I wish I could say the same of our rhetoric.  In order to endure the mindless onslaught, the message is missed.  As an optimist, full of hope, I know we can do better – we have done better.

Much of what is said about the human race, the earth, democracy sounds as if the end is in sight.  Only 12 years until our home becomes inhabitable, thanks to farting cows?  Ludicrous.  I believe none of us now will see “the end.”  This is not to say the status quo will prevail – as has been said, the only constant is change.  We need to use words as a tool to communicate, not as a weapon to subjugate.  If we can’t be anything else, can we at least be civil?

Maintain the Status Quo

While I have, in fact, visited the Middle East, I cannot say I have…what?  I was going to say that I have “no dog in that fight.”  Then, I thought, “no skin in that game.”  But, if anything like that were true, I wouldn’t feel compelled to write anything on the subject.  Yet, here I am.

We now have two representatives in Congress who have roots in the Middle East: Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, a Somali refugee; and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, a Palestinian-American.  Also Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York is quite vocal, though I am not aware that she has roots there.  All three are women, which I think is “interesting,” given the Muslim repression of women.  All three are Democrats, which is not surprising, but another reason I have rejected the Demos.

What I don’t get is why the other cultures in the Middle East have given the Palestinians less support than the elected officials above.  That’s the first thing.  Why don’t the other Muslim societies support the Palestinians?  They don’t.  Period.  Countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia finance world-wide terrorism, but have they spent even one dollar on schools or hospitals in the area?  Do they finance education abroad to promise a brighter future for the people who live there?  Not that I know of.

I don’t see Middle East support for the Palestinians.  I don’t know why, I just don’t.  I presume, since they all live there, and have a vested interest in the Palestinians, they have a reason to look the other way.  But, if they don’t, why should we?  If they don’t, why should anyone on Capital Hill spend an iota of effort to help them.  Why should my tax dollars support them?

Israel has been a long friend, ever since they single-handedly wrenched a country and culture from the sand.  Visit Israel, if you dare.  The countryside is lush, the desert blooms.  Not so where Palestinians control the landscape.  Let’s see: sand or oranges?  Which do I prefer?

Ideologically, I’ve never heard Israel say the only good Muslim is a dead Muslim, yet almost daily I hear Muslims from all corners of the world espouse this attitude toward individual Jews and Israel in general.  That, right there, is all I need to know.  Yes, Israel has taken military action into lands that it does not “control.”  And, maybe some of that action has been pre-emptive; but mostly it is in response to a Hezbollah missile, or a suicide-bomber.  What would you do if someone killed someone you love, for no good reason?  If you would just roll over and say “Thank you, may I please have another,” then maybe you should strap on a vest.

So now we have three very vocal (I was going to say “noisy”) members of Congress who want to spend MY money getting further involved.  And, when it comes to American “diplomacy,” that invariably means boots on the ground.

Does “something” need to be done?  Well, how to interrupt or derail a never-ending history of violence of the worst kind is the question.  Apparently, the local Muslim population doesn’t want peace in the Middle East.  There is only one way to read their Not In My Backyard (NIMBY): they don’t want peace.  Even before the Jews established the State of Israel, the locals fought amongst themselves.  Since 1947, they’ve used Israel as an excuse to hide how poorly they manage themselves.  Don’t tell me Saudi Arabia doesn’t have enough money to “fix” the problem.  Don’t tell me Iran wants to better the lives of its own people.  Don’t tell me Assad is doing all that he can to raise Syria above the historical ashes.  Maybe individual Muslims want peace, but the powers that be certainly don’t know.

And it is those powers that need convincing.  To those three new members of Congress, I say start working on those powers in the Middle East.  The best way to help the Palestinians is to get the yoke of violence off their back – the yoke that is perpetrated by the established governments in the area.  Israel is just an excuse to continue with the status quo.  The powers in the Middle East need Israel to stay in power.  We now have three avowed anti-Semites in Congress; good luck changing the status quo.

Opposites Repel

I suppose, when it comes to romance, “opposites attract.”  But, when it comes to politics, it seems more and more that others are more likely to be repulsive than attractive.

The circus that some might call the Brett Kavanaugh hearings certainly proved one thing: the Demos are anything but civil.  I watched some of the proceedings (tho, by and large, found them too ludicrous to subject myself to), and admired the man for not getting up and walking out.  Clearly, he saw the bigger picture, he saw the prize.  And just as irrefutably, the Demos sitting on the panel, as well as those in the galley and on the street, completely lost sight of the bigger picture: the future.

That Trump was legally elected, in full accord with the existing laws of the land, can’t be denied.  “He’s there, deal with it.”  Have the “Never Trumps” made any effort at all to modify those laws, to somehow change the Electoral College so that someone with the popular vote gets into office?  Not that I am aware.  They still rail against the man.  Still throwing more money after bad.  Still living in yesterday.  Sure, he’s an easy target; Trump is no politician – if by “politician,” we mean someone who can fool enough people to overlook his warts.  However, the first job of a politician is to get into office – and he’s done that.  (The second job is to stay in office, and that is TBD.)

No, the horse has left the barn and the Demos continue to lament that someone – never themselves of course – left the door open.  Wide open.  And now, in the wake of Judge Kavanaugh’s swearing-in, the Demos are pushing the door ever wider.  For me, instead of building bridges (trying to look like a reasonable alternative), the Demos are setting the barn on fire.

That Judge Kavanaugh was nominated, and now sworn in, could have been an effort only to humiliate the Demos.  Judge Kavanaugh certainly paid a high price; his family has paid a high price.  For an appointee, he has been raked over the coals – largely, manufactured and fabricated coals – like we might expect someone running for the highest office in the land.  Maybe Judge Kavanaugh is just a surrogate for Trump?  What better way to move forward than to give the Demos enough rope to hang themselves with?  Self-immolation, more like it.

“You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.”  I used to be a card-carrying Democrat.  They seemed “kinder and gentler” than the GOP.  My, my, my, how they have changed.  Not that the Republicans are now hugging trees.  But as party made up of individuals, the Demos continue to raise the bar on being uncivil.  For years, the Demos have developed a platform that seems to have only one purpose: destroy everything I hold dear.

I’m not saying I have somehow found the Holy Grail of truth, and that I never threw ice on anyone in high school (or, was it college?).  But I was taught by the old school: first my parents and then the Marine Corps.  I don’t feel all that old; but I do feel like a dinosaur.  Yes, we all know what happened to dinosaurs: they all died and now some smaller creature burns the oil and coal that they turned into.  Great legacy, huh?

Moving forward to the political arena in months to come, it will be harder and harder for the “guy on the street” to divine the issues and see thru the mud-slinging (I’d like to say “rhetoric”; but that would imply civility, and we no longer have that available to us).  And even if I can convince myself that “this person” has the same values as I do, how can I be sure the “system” will respect those values, respect that representation?  If my vote ever meant anything besides just a warm feeling, now it feels like a betrayal.  Do I continue to participate in a disgustingly flawed political system – and tar myself with the same brush – or, do I withdraw from the playing field.  Stick my head in the sand, or do the right thing?

Dunno what the future will bring; but one thing is sure: Judge Kavanaugh is very likely to outlive either President Trump or Hilary Clinton.

Two questions will be answered real soon: (1) What mud will the Demos throw – since they seem to have already fired their best shots at Judge Kavanaugh, and (2) will the GOP lower itself, or take the high road?