What is in a name?

I put a great deal of thought into my children’s names, mostly due to my parents’ odd decision when they named me.

My parents named me Kenneth Blake Cash, with the intention of calling me Blake. Being known by your middle name is not entirely unheard of, typically when a child is named after a parent, to avoid confusion they are called by their middle name rather than “Junior”. In some cases it happens later in life, I had a friend whose middle name was that of his father, after his father passed away he dropped his first name to an initial and became known by his father’s name.

The “Lead Initial” can sound very formal, it’s a powerful introduction. Unfortunately I came of age in the Watergate era, and many of the famous conspirators had lead initials, L. Patrick Gray, G. Gordon Liddy, and E. Howard Hunt were all over the news, so my initial went underground for a while. Then “Dynasty” came along and “Blake Carrington?” was everyone’s first response when meeting me. My last name? I’ve gotten to the point that I can see that question forming behind a person’s eyes, I just look at them and say “Yes, he’s my cousin” before they ask.

The story of how my parents chose to name me the way they did is shrouded in mystery, I’ve heard a couple of variations. One of my favorites is “We were going to name you James, but we didn’t want you to be called Jimmy, so we named you Kenneth and called you Blake”. Yes, that makes perfect sense to me. It also says something about how my parents reached decisions in the early part of their married life.

Sometimes I think their reasoning was even more mysterious, as they never got around to mentioning to me that my “real” name is Kenneth. My first day in kindergarten was like a scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off“. “Kenneth Cash? Kenneth? Kenny? Ken?, Ken Cash?”, I’m looking around, my six year old curiosity peaked at the prospect that someone else in the class has the same last name as I, what a disappointment that he wasn’t there. I don’t recall how we ever figured out who I was, it may have been when the teacher said “Is there anyone whose name I didn’t call?”. I do recall that they looked at me very oddly for the rest of the year. I’m still pretty sure I had the whole left and right thing down, but the cutting a circle out of paper did pose some difficulty.

When I entered the military I was not allowed to have a lead initial. That was really my first exposure to a rigid bureaucracy. I had to learn how to sign my name all over, and I had the most wonderful signature up until (and after) then. I couldn’t even sign Kenneth Blake Cash, it had to be Kenneth B. Cash.

The computer age has brought some interesting variations, I get mail for Blake K. Cash and Kblake Cash, some online services do the same. A number of forms do not allow for middle names, so I am known as K Cash by a number of businesses. I had one account that insisted that I use my first name of record, which was K in their database, to sign in to their website, but would not allow a single letter entry for a name online. After speaking with the office, I ended up with two accounts, one for online and my original one.

The state of Pennsylvania had no problem with my name, and my drivers license read K. Blake Cash for the thirty odd years I had a valid license in Pennsylvania. New Jersey is not so understanding (about anything), so here my license reads Kenneth B Cash. My full name is on my passport so there can be no misunderstanding when the names on my various forms of identification don’t match. It’s only been a real problem once, when I was being investigated for a security clearance. I spent a few hours with an FBI Special Agent who was certain I was hiding a secret identity, but as I hadn’t done anything suspicious under any of my names she couldn’t figure out what I was hiding.

On FaceBook I just used my initials, KB, so at first no one could find me. FaceBook’s software wouldn’t allow two upper case letters, so I’m Kb, or as my grandson says “Kib”. Using initials is fairly common in Texas, both my grandfathers used their initials in writing and were referred to by them verbally as well, T.M. Cash and A.M. Henderson.

My wife, on the other hand, has a last name issue. In Belgium, women maintain their maiden names, so she will not share my name there, nor will it appear on any of her documents. She can’t even hyphenate without filing a petition with the court. I have no idea how they will locate my next of kin if I fall into a canal.

Names are important, they are our primary label. Name your child “Bozo” and you have already charted their career path. Names can be iconic today and forgotten in the future, or vice versa. Your perfectly bland name could be the same as a serial killer or other notorious individual who becomes famous just as you reach adulthood. “Adolph” is still out of vogue, but imagine the parents of a newborn Lee Harvey Oswald watching the news in November 1963.

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Mom liked you best

If I had a brother, today would be his birthday. My mother had another son, but he stopped being my brother a while back, I officially stopped referring to him as a relative just after the publication of my first book. He had felt the need to spread his venom for me as a review on Amazon.com. That was the last straw, after a few years of “last straws” with him.

Much like the Smothers Brothers, there had always been some sort of sibling rivalry. As the elder, I was just annoyed by my younger sibling (although a photograph exists of me tormenting him with his mobile in his crib). As time passed, it became rather obvious that he was for some reason jealous of me. I have no idea why. I’m guessing that it was because I was usually happy, meaning that I was satisfied by my life and enjoyed it without trying. He always seemed to be trying. Trying to be successful, trying to be accepted, trying to gain our parents’ approval. My measure of each of these was my own (and I do think my parents liked him more than me, but I also know they still love me as well). I lived by my own terms, with no need to prove myself, and I felt no need to compare myself to him. I was secure enough in my self that what others might term a failure I saw as a lesson. I learned a good deal, and am always ready to learn more.

We were always different from each other, I was the nonconformist (actually being officially named “Most Nonconformist” in school), he was the conformist. I was a musician, he scared small animals with his singing. I was imaginative, he was black and white. In many ways, I was more like my mother, he was more like my father. I am very thankful for my parents, but to me they are the almost perfect blend of opposites. How they stayed married as long as they did sometimes amazes me. Complementary in so many ways, yet the similarities are there as well, the glue that held them together. My male sibling and I have no similarities.

My second wife had a younger sister. The two couldn’t be much more different. Paula was raised to be self sufficient, she had a job at sixteen and helped with family expenses, bought her own (new) car, hunted down scholarships and grants to supplement her student loans in college. In fact, when she changed majors, her parents sold HER French Horn and bought new furniture. Her sister had everything handed to her. They weren’t new cars, and instead of college she went to beauty school, but she never paid for anything. They were both married about a month apart. We paid for almost everything in our wedding, her parents paid for the sister’s wedding. Our reception was at a hotel, her sister’s was at the country club. At the sister’s reception I learned some interesting things from the maid of honor. As much as Paula had always thought that her parents loved her sister more, the sister had always thought that the parents had loved Paula more. You never know how your children will interpret your parenting.

I always made an effort with my own children to point out to them that my love for each was different. Not more, less, better, or worse, just different. I had always taught them to appreciate different, that different is equivalent to special. So as far as I can tell, they were not jealous of the attention I gave to each of them, because they knew that they were special. It was later that I realized that even though they are genetically half me, they are also half their mother, so I can’t take much credit for their mental balance or lack thereof, they remain unique. I feel privileged to have had a part in introducing them to life.

I have rarely seen siblings that are friends, there is almost always some issues, usually minor irritations, rarely as severe as my male sibling and I. I do not believe that I have ever known a parent to purposely differentiate between their children, but many children sense that there is a difference. We each live in our own cocoon, we experience life through the only eyes we have, we see that life as only we can see it, and sometimes what we see is not what others see.

Sometimes I wish I had a brother, but I am far too aged to allow the person who is turning fifty-one today to insult me again. It is much easier to remove that person from my life than to endure his illness. I have an illness of my own.

God’s thumbprint

Sunday again.

There is an opinion that religion is for the weak minded. I find such moral cynicism, the idea that faith is foolish, to say a great deal about the arrogance and insecurities of the person speaking. It seems important to such people to recite names of famous or popular well educated people that are atheists. Faith is not a democracy, and despite my charitable hope that everyone will experience the love of God, if they choose to turn away, I will not chase them. I think of Christ’s words in Matthew 10:14 “And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.”

Faith does not require proof, but I can see evidence of a creator. Evidence that we are not merely an accident.

The Earth, Moon, and Sun create a spectacular set of relationships. Due to the inclination of the Earth/Moon orbit in relation to the Earth/Sun orbit, eclipses are relatively rare. The amazing part is that they happen at all. The Sun is about four hundred times larger than the moon. The Sun is also about four hundred times farther away than the Moon. Therefore they appear to be about the same size in the sky, and on those occasions that the moon passes directly between the Earth and Sun, the moon cleanly eclipses the Sun. This will not always be true. As the orbits decay, the relationships will cease to hold their ratios. But today, when our technology has advanced to the point that we can understand why it is happening, we can witness eclipses. Keep in mind that our Moon is roughly one quarter the size of the Earth, a planet/moon ratio seen nowhere else in the universe (so far) and you can understand why I call this phenomena “God’s Thumbprint”.

There is the fact that the number of petals on a flower follow the Fibonnaci sequence, a pattern discovered in the 12th century, fn =  Phi n / 5½ where n=0, a sequence that converges on phi and is reflected in the architecture of not only plants, but also human structures.

None of this is “proof” of an intelligent creator. Statistics indicate that anything is possible, that the Brownian motion that disperses molecules in the air could result in all the oxygen moving into another room. It hasn’t ever happened, but an adequate experiment would require an infinite number of tests.

This brings me back to the myth that atheists tend to be of greater intelligence. Atheism requires faith, the faith that God does not exist. What I have found, is that people of extraordinary intelligence (for example, Albert Einstein) tend toward agnosticism. Unable to prove or disprove the existence of God, and unwilling to acknowledge faith, they adopt the view that God is unknowable. In Einstein’s words, an “attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being”. Einstein regularly acknowledged God in a non religious sense, he refuted quantum mechanics with the phrase “God does not play dice“, expressing his own faith in an orderly universe.

While I believe in God, I make no claim to understand it. I feel God, I have faith that all things work towards a purpose of which I am a part. I have no hope, or even desire, to know what that purpose may be. I lack the level of faith required to be an atheist.

An outwardly orderly universe built out of chaos. That is God’s Thumbprint.

 

 

 

 

Common Sense

I normally take Saturday off, but was driven by a statement made on the news this morning. There is a man in Philadelphia armed with a fully automatic AK-47, randomly opening fire on people on the street at night. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey stated in an interview “This case underlines why these weapons have no business on our streets”.

I wonder which weapons Mr. Ramsey feels are suitable for our streets? Perhaps this is a case which underlines why we need these people off our streets. I’m not suggesting this as a solution, but if everyone had an AK-47, this guy wouldn’t be opening fire at random. There are thousands of solutions to the gun violence issue, but the ones that have any hope of saving lives address the violence issue as opposed to blaming an inanimate object.

I like firearms, I have owned several, and even made my own ammunition. I was a member of the NRA for several years. Sometime back in the early nineties, the NRA stopped representing me, and became the “gun lobby”. The people who invented the phrase “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people” stopped representing people and started representing guns. I, along with what I hope are most gun rights advocates, am in favor of what is being called “common sense gun laws”. The problem is there isn’t a great deal of common sense floating around. 31,672 people were killed by guns, mostly handguns, in 2010, but when 20 died in a mass shooting at a school (in which a rifle was used) the nation exploded in a cry for gun control.

Following the shooting, everyone wanted to do something. Anything. Our President suggested armed guards at schools among other more restrictive measures. The NRA issued some suggestions for common sense solutions as well, placing a great deal of the blame on behavior and media influences. One suggestion the NRA made was training school staff in defensive weapons use, and arming teachers. Since the NRA represents guns, and guns are the problem, the idea of placing more guns into the environment was ridiculed, even by the President.

Immediately New York rushed through a gun law prohibiting weapons that are almost never used in crimes, and allowing only weapons that do not exist. Despite the fact that Governor Cuomo had absolutely no idea what his law was, he defended it as a common sense gun law. Is it me, or is understanding the effects of the law you sign common sense?

Our President, who is a master of vague statements that mean whatever you want them to mean, grasped hold of the phrase “Common sense gun laws”. Who can argue with Common sense? When congress failed to write a law on a cocktail napkin that would affect each and every citizen, our President issued Executive Orders concerning guns. Executive orders are essentially meaningless paperwork, which few people read and no one follows, including the President. One of the orders was to appoint a director to the bureau of alcohol, tobacco, and firearms, something our president had failed to do during his entire first four year term in office. As of today, three months after his executive orders, he still has not. Another order was to provide for “School Resource Officers”, AKA Armed Guards.

The gun lobby, not to be outdone, successfully defeated a group of bills earlier this month. One, the Toomey-Manchin act, written by two “pro-gun” Senators, would have required the same background checks for private gun sales as apply to commercial sales. This was when I lost faith in the “common sense” mantra. This had been a totally common sense bill, introducing no new limitations, just eliminating a loophole in the standing law.

As Americans, we cherish our constitution, as long as following it is easy. We’re all for free speech until someone says something we don’t like. We’re all for not establishing a state religion until a religion we don’t like builds a temple on our street. The simplest amendment to our constitution, the second, has people who would never own a firearm threatening to shoot people who would defend the right to own firearms. The amendment reads:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Much has been made over the placement of a comma after the word militia, and the meaning of the term militia, and whether the application is for hunting rifles or assault weapons. Most of these arguments come from people who couldn’t tell an assault weapon from a hunting rifle were they to hold each in their hands. The interpretation has become more and more convoluted as our society moves away from firearms being a tool used on a regular basis to one in which they are a symbol of self reliance. Our government, rather than adress solutions, feeds the fires of arguments, protecting them from actually having to do something.

The fact is a hunting rifle IS an assault weapon, the muskets of 1776 were the assault weapons of the day.

As the arguments proceed, gun owners become increasingly frustrated with the ignorance of non gun owners. I have been frustrated by both groups. I am annoyed when people speak about a subject such as firearms of which they have no understanding. I am annoyed when my fellow “gun rights” activists fail to show any common sense, because there are people who should not have guns. Like the guy in Philadelphia.

Criminals will get guns, as they by definition are not following laws, and were some magic wand to eliminate guns, they would find another weapon. Until the issue of violence is solved, there will be the need to be armed equally as well as the attacker.

That’s common sense.

 

 

 

 

Home

“Home” tends not to be a place on a map, as much as a place in the heart. The desire for a safe haven, a return to the womb. It is important to note that while the desire to return to the womb is universal, it is also the basis for many mental illnesses.

If I had a place I considered “home”, it would be Texas. There is a certain sensation, the feel of the air, that is comfortable from the time I step off the plane. When I use the word “home” in conversation though, I am referring to my current residence. As John Worfin said in Buckaroo Banzai, “Home is where you wear your hat”. I enjoy visiting Texas, but I do not long to return. I long for the comfort of the life I have made. I have changed location enough to know that places I leave do not remain static, they change, I change, and the moment we shared is lost but to memory.

I think of Disneyland, and the portion inside the entrance, “Main Street USA“. A street that never existed anywhere outside the memories of Walt Disney’s childhood. An idyllic turn of the (19th to 20th) century town in middle America. I wonder how it looks today, are they able to replicate something that their grandparents dreamed of? Today, living in Princeton NJ, there are residents who want to maintain the small town feel of the borough, which I greatly appreciate. I lived in South Philadelphia immediately prior, and my neighborhood had largely maintained its small town feel. I didn’t own a car, I could walk or take public transportation anywhere. There was a baker, a butcher (I used to eat meat), a produce store, and other small shops on my street. I knew everyone’s name, and they knew mine. Princeton, home to Albert Einstein, John Nash, and Princeton University, with its tree lined streets and appreciation of roots, seemed perfect.

Oh, the failed analogies. On arrival I became involved in a grass roots movement to save the “Dinky“, a small rail line which connected the borough to the commuter lines. What a wonderful introduction to small town politics. As I hadn’t bothered driving in some time, I still relied on public transportation, as do many Princetonians who commute daily to Manhattan. The University President didn’t want a “railroad running through my University”, despite the number of students it carried. She had just built a new parking garage and to reach it, the train had to go. Despite an overwhelming public disapproval, the University got its way. The station has been slated for “renovation”, a new terminus will be built off University property, no longer within walking distance.

kiosk

Being a “college town”, the public kiosks are ablaze with notices. To me, even though I haven’t lost or found a cat, nor am I looking for used furniture or a garage sale, the kiosks represented a vibrant social network. To see one covered with notices means people are reaching out to each other. To the Chamber of Commerce, they represented an advertising opportunity being wasted on the public. The Chamber of Commerce put forward a plan to lease the kiosks, for $1 a year, and to replace them with glass enclosed advertising space. It really doesn’t matter what colour they’re painted, they will still look sterile. The public hated the idea, but the chamber of commerce, with seventy percent of its members actually located outside of Princeton, was able to convince the Town Council that the new kiosks would maintain the small town feel and provide advertising for local businesses (local remains undefined), while removing the “eyesore” of the “messy” old kiosks. The idea of a “Free Speech Zone” is redefined as “Advertising Space”. The “Disneyfication” of a beautiful old town continues.

Some of the silliness is simply based on appearances. Princeton is literally in the woods. Yet every wind storm, and there have been many in the last few years, knocks down trees all over the area. I was wondering how any trees remain. Apparently, the trees in neighborhoods are weakened when property owners place large mounds of mulch at their base. But it’s the look people want (the mounds), so yesterday coming home I noticed that one neighbor had placed nice neat mountains of mulch at the base of every tree, and also at the base of their mailbox. Another neighbor, who lost several large trees and his fence during Hurricane Sandy, has finally gotten a service to come out and remove the debris. Several large trucks have been there all week, cutting up the trunks and running them through a chipper. This morning, I noticed a couple of dozen bags of mulch in his drive. He’s discarding the chips from his own trees, and purchasing chips of a mulch company’s trees. They must have a more desirable colour.

The desire to maintain the old world while living in the new world is of course doomed. Nassau Street is rapidly becoming an open air shopping mall, the trendy chain stores replacing old, useful, businesses. We bring the world home with us. I am reminded of living in a suburban town in Pennsylvania, and hearing complaints about wildlife. If you didn’t want deer and fox and raccoons in your yard, why didn’t you stay in the city? My father exemplified the “Ugly American”, expecting the same amenities in a cantina on the beach of Mexico as in a restaurant in the States. People always want to bring their world with them, what was the point in traveling again? I’ve seen countless examples of people trying to bring “home” with them. The best story, crossing several lines, is of a Scottish band in Japan, looking for McDonalds.

You can’t go back, and you can’t escape. Something like “Hotel California”, or as Buckaroo Banzai (you really shouldn’t see this film) would say, “Wherever you go, there you are“.

Changing with the times

You should have immediately noticed a change in the visual theme on this page. Two people mentioned that the white print on he black page was difficult to read. As much as I like the old look, it is the words that are important. I am open to criticism, it helps to know what other people think, and sometimes their ideas are better than mine. I had a little trouble reading the old design, but I didn’t know anyone else did.

Thinking along those lines, the song “Time waits for no one” by the Rolling Stones found its way into my head. A beautiful melody and performance, marred by the arrogance of youthful inexperience celebrated in the lyrics. The drive to consume rather than savor. Lyrics written by a young Mick Jagger, who sings about time destroying a woman’s face. I find the character written on the face by time to be quite attractive, although in Mick’s case, the story is rather sad.

It is easy to get lost in the moment, to forget that there will indeed be a future. I’ve spent a good deal of my life “in the moment”, in some cases doing so has allowed me to become older. There are moments when you need to be aware of nothing other than the present. I once told my nephew, “Living on the edge is great, as long as you can pull yourself back when you fall off”.

Life, overall, doesn’t always work that way. The accumulation of experiences create our responses. The desire for new experiences drives us to explore. Today is all I have, but the beauty of today is appreciated more because of my knowledge of the past, my ability to recognize and evaluate “beauty”. It is the experience of reflection that makes me seek new experiences, knowing that I will not only enjoy the moment, but also the memory of the moment.

Yes, despite my denials I am growing older. My hair has not gone grey other than some distinguishing highlights (and my face, thus the lack of a beard), but my eyesight is growing weaker. I realize that my next frames will have to be heavy enough so I can see them when they are not on my eyes. I never understood those eyeglass repair kits, that include some of the smallest screws in the world, that you are supposed to thread into an equally small hole, without the aid of the glasses that you are repairing.

My hearing is failing, particularly in my left ear, so that as I lie on my right side it becomes difficult to converse. Too many years with the music far too loud, and of course the drummer was always directly in front of the amplifiers, head turned slightly to the left. It has worked to my advantage, in South Philly I had an obnoxious neighbor who lived to my left as I came out of my front door. I wasn’t aware that I had missed many of her insults until I left my apartment with someone else who could hear. I do so wish I could have heard before, because I had some great comebacks. I suppose the freedom from her venom is better for my blood pressure than my replies would have been.

My first neurologist warned me not to blame symptoms on the wrong causes, that even though I have MS I should be on the lookout for other explanations. I’m actually moving better recently than during the last decade, I’ve put away my cane for now and am more flexible than many other people younger than me. There are funky aches and ghosts of old injuries, but I’m in relatively good shape. I’m not sure if the extra pounds mean my metabolism has finally slowed, or if a diet of beer and chocolate really is fattening after all.

None of the physical issues of aging are important. In the sense that some cause us to slow down, moving slower allows us to appreciate more. While youth disdains age, age is appreciated by those that have enough experience to recognize its value. At one point I had a small patch of facial hair (my face went grey when I was in my 30s) so my clients would be reminded that I wasn’t “just a kid”. The external signs of age are a badge to be worn proudly. As young as I stay in my heart, I am thankful for the years, each and every one of them.

Time waits for no one. Time is the ride we take through our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Words

As an “Author”, words are my tools. I love words, the way they fit together like a puzzle, creating meanings and emotions. The best tools have more than one edge, and the best words have more than one meaning.

I’ve spoken a few different languages in my life, I almost became a translator in the Air Force, but they wanted me to study Arabic in San Antonio and I wanted to study Russian in Monterey. It was Summer, so we compromised and I studied operations analysis in Denver. I studied French for a few years in my early teens, taught myself Russian, and picked up more Spanish living in California than my father learned in a Berlitz course (I had to serve as translator in Mexico). My wife is from Belgium, her native tongue is Flemish, so I decided to learn to speak her language.

Flemish is almost identical to Dutch, different enough for natives to not be able to understand the differences, but close enough that I could take the Rosetta Stone Dutch course. There is no Flemish course, fewer people speak Flemish than live in Wisconsin. Like most Germanic languages, it looked easy. So many words were the same, or similar. I could hear the common roots with English in some words, “bloem” is “flower”, it sounds like “bloom” (an interesting word I’ll get back to). I detest the abbreviations used in texting. Imagine my shock when I found that the polite form of you (je, jou in familiar form) is spelled u. I thought they were just using text language, and they’re actually being formal.

It was important for me to know how to say “I love you” for our wedding, and I incorporated it into the ceremony. “Ik hou van jou mijn lieveling” translates to “I love you my darling”, and another thing I like about Vlaams (Flemish) is that my wife’s name means “dear” and is used often. I was sure I’d be fluent in a few months. It’s now over two years later and I’m still working on it. The more you get into speaking the language, the less the words (and grammar) relate to English. I do have the consolation that her first husband didn’t pick up any words outside of “Lekker”, or “Tasty”, a compliment helpful at meals.

The word that set me off in this direction today is douche. In English, we associate this word with vaginal cleansing, in Flemish it means to shower (kind of odd the first time my mother in law asked if I had showered). In English, it has become something of an insult, i.e. “douchebag”, so this morning, when someone was referred to as a douche and another person used the word “doucher” to describe “more of a douche”, the idea of discussing etymology seemed destined.

Back to bloem. A few weeks ago I decided to get serious about making curry. I asked my wife if she had a recipe, and she pulls out Vegetarisch Koken, her vegetarian cookbook (see how easy it looks?). I’m reading through the recipe for curry van rode bonen (curry with red beans), translating ingredients (measures took some guesswork on both our parts). Laurierblad is bay leaf, okay, bay laurel. Chilipoeder, kurkuma, koriander, komijn, kardamomen, I’m doing fine. Teentjes knoflook required some help, cloves of garlic, but once you understand that a clove of galic looks like a little toe it makes some sense. I was stuck on bloem. What kind of flower? Then I had the most delightful discovery. There are homophones in Flemish (I knew her and hair were both haar) that are the same as English. Bloem is both flower and flour. How cool.

The world of puns in Flemish has thrown its doors open to me. Last week, my nephew posted a photo of a group of his colleagues. They study archeology, and call their group Alfa. The women had just put out a calender (Alfa’s Naaktkalender, figure that one out) so this photo was of the guys, sitting at a bar, naked. He called them the Alpha males (alpha mannen), so I said “graven die”, as I often say “dig that” in English. It worked, humour translated properly.

The sounds of the spoken word are fascinating, I know people who honestly cannot understand a person speaking with an accent (my last wife couldn’t follow BBC, friends in California can’t understand Brooklynites)  but I love them. When I hear about the various accents in Belgium I find it amusing, you would think that geography and population density would homogenize the language of such a small group.

It’s difficult communicating on the internet at times, with no source of inflection or facial expression. Sometimes people take things the wrong way, and when it’s something they’re sensitive about (the most likely items to be taken the wrong way) tempers can flare. I try to remember that we each have different sensibilities, but I pop in with information so often that I manage to offend someone every week. I also tend towards dry humour, which only adds to the problem.

Words that are repeated too often can lose their meaning, but if I have offended anyone, I mean it quite sincerely when I say “I’m sorry”.

Mob mentality

I prefer to stay away from being topical. One reason is that I wish to understand a subject before commenting on it, another is because I detest being part of a herd jumping on every facet of a topic. While this post might be considered topical, as it is inspired by recent events, the trait is as old as the first crowd.

Last week at the Boston Marathon, two explosives were detonated near the finish line, killing three spectators, wounding at least one hundred seventy. Many of the wounded lost limbs or had other life altering injuries. One of the dead was eight years old.

Big news. A pending nuclear attack from North Korea disappeared from the headlines in the media hurricane. And a hurricane it was, twenty four hour news outlets bored of repeating the same five minutes worth of information grasping at anything to get an edge in the ratings. Speculation and misinformation opening the door for the conspiracy seekers, who see any conflict of statements as disinformation. Reports were broadcasted that a Saudi had been arrested, then changed to state that he was a “person of interest”, then reported that he was visited in the hospital by the first lady, then reported that he was on a terror watch list and had been deported. A humming sound can be heard near Edward R. Murrow‘s grave as he spins faster than a CD.

One man’s speculation becomes another man’s “facts”. As one reporter speculates that the culprits are terrorists, another picks up the story and reports it as fact. It was blamed on left wing extremists, right wing extremists, Al-Qaeda, and a government false flag operation. Video of the scene, ubiquitous in a world of cell phones and digital cameras, reveals “suspects”. Suddenly everyone is a forensic photo analyst. The entire city of Boston was CLOSED for two days, while armored personnel carriers brought thousands of “troops” (it still isn’t completely clear under whose command they served). Neighborhoods were searched door to door by armed troops. Hysteria was the mood of the moment.

When the two suspects are located, one is shot and the other escapes. The troops fire over a half million rounds during the pursuit, [the source for that data has acknowledged that his estimate was based on recent ammunition purchases at DHS] and the subject is taken alive. Think about just that for a second. Assuming 147 grain bullets, that’s over five tons of lead. Spontaneous crowds cheer the troops as they transport the suspect. The Justice Department states that it will not advise the suspect of his Miranda Rights, citing public safety and “imminent threats” (considering he wasn’t conscious for forty eight hours, it doesn’t appear that anything was imminent after he was able to speak).  The idea of treating him as an “Enemy Combatant” is tossed around, but just can’t squeak through the hysteria, seeing that he is an American Citizen on American soil. He is eventually charged with using a weapon of mass destruction, by the same people who insist that Saddam Hussein didn’t have any WMDs.

Only a few days have passed, no new tragedy has taken its place, so the mob turns inward, and starts to eat itself. The discussion over civil rights abuses becomes arguments over compassion. Somehow the youngest victim being eight years old is more important than the fact that all the victims were random. The people who consistently go in the “what if” direction miss the point that it could have been anyone. The level of response gets the Monday morning quarterback treatment, again, the victim being the justification. No balance with the hundreds of children killed in urban settings every year.

The suspects weren’t Arab, but at least they were Muslim. The question becomes not if they are connected to Al-Qaeda, but how they’re connected. It comes to light that one was questioned by the FBI at the request of the Russian government. He was on a terrorist list (this “being on a list” bit is getting a little scary). No one seems to understand that the Russians wanted him questioned because they are concerned with Chechen terrorists. We didn’t care, as long as we didn’t think he was anti-American.

In the midst of all this the crazies of opportunity hit the fan. An Elvis impersonator sends envelopes laced with Ricin to Washington DC. A plan to disrupt train service in Canada is linked to Al-Qaeda. A totally unrelated chemical explosion takes place in Texas, twenty years to the day after the Branch Davidian massacre. The conspiracy theories travel over the internet at the speed of light. Everyone has something to be afraid of.

In the aftermath, there is so very much to be learned, but very few people willing to learn. Reddit has apologized for identifying people at the scene of the bombing after they turned out to be innocent bystanders who then faced a witch hunt. “Witch Hunt” was the phrase that started this post fermenting in my mind. The mobs of passionate individuals looking for an answer, and unable to look for that answer in the mirror. No other networks have apologized for their reckless behavior, whipping up the frenzy. There’s no reason that anyone should learn the lesson of Richard Jewell. Apology or not, once published those inaccuracies are still alive, floating about the internet, like a nude picture from Spring Break. Next month those reports will be someone’s “proof” of an already dis-proven theory.

The security of the herd allows us to say things we would never say to someone’s face, do things we would never do, even support ideas that we would never, under normal circumstances, believe. We have to be careful about what we say or write. It doesn’t go away, and is always waiting around the corner to hurt someone that we had no intention of harming. What is worse to me, is that it clouds the truth. With so many inaccuracies to shift through, finding the truth gets more and more difficult. There are some conspiracy theorists who believe that is the point.

Good day, and good luck.

The persistence of memory

I’ve always had a good memory, and by that I mean two things. I remember things in detail, farther back than most people, and I tend to remember more good things than bad. Looking back, I remember a much more pleasant life than I know took place. Of course I’m speaking of long term memory, when it comes to short term memory I often can’t recall breakfast.

I know memory is slippery, that we don’t always remember things the way they actually happened. For the most part, that’s a good thing. I can’t remember the last argument I had with my first wife, but I remember joking about the scratches on my face later that day. I can’t remember screaming when my last wife died, but the nurses were in the room immediately, they must have heard something.

I have several memories of childhood, earlier than most people accept as possible. Some of these remain bright and clear in my mind, others I recognize as being “memories of memories”, in that I can recall remembering the event, so I remember the event today, but I don’t actually have a picture of it in my mind.

I often wonder how other people remember shared experiences. I ran into a friend from High School a couple of years ago, when I asked how he was he said “Much better than in High School”. We had lived through years of partying and mischief, he, in particular, was a madman. I guess he wasn’t having as good of a time as he appeared to be having. Maybe pretending to be happy when you are not only adds to your misery.

I’m of the understanding that people do not remember those things which they do not wish to remember. I guess that explains how politicians get reelected, but how is it that they manage to raise the specter of previous administrations? There is a great deal of cognitive dissonance walking hand in hand with memory, and politics for that matter. There is always the “He was such a nice boy” comments after a mass murderer is captured, as an Animal Control officer I often dealt with people who were suddenly compassionate, after complaining about a vicious dog for weeks.

I understand the difference between having a bad memory and having selective memory (I’ve been divorced twice and have four children). My eldest son once told me that we had never done anything that he had wanted to do. Farther into the discussion I found that he had developed an interest in fishing and was upset that I hadn’t taken him fishing more often when he was a child. Actually, I had, but in his mind it wasn’t as memorable as he would expect it to be, as he was now very into fishing.

I’ve wondered if it would be better to be able to purposefully not remember. The bad times in my life are shadowed, but I can find them if I look. I wished for the longest time that I could forget the expression on my last wife’s face after her death, but now I just remember it differently, as a portrait of her strength. I remember her hand in mine, holding me tightly, when I know the fact to be that rigor mortis had set in and I had to peel her fingers open. I suppose that is the best definition of “good memory”, when we know both how we felt, and what was real.

Sunday Sermon

I do not often preach, I prefer to share my religious beliefs by example. I will work scripture into a discussion, and point out misinterpretations of various religions. I’ve studied a variety of disciplines, and have settled into my own set of beliefs and philosophies which I refer to as Zen Baptist.

I had a wonderful minister in my life, Dr. C.E. Colton. As a child at Royal Haven Baptist Church in Dallas, TX back in the early 60s, I was in awe of him. His manner of speaking appealed to me even as a five year old child, and still in my twenties when I returned to Dallas. He seriously pissed me off at my Grandfather’s funeral in the 90s, at which he came out of retirement to speak, but I never lost respect for him and struggled to understand the conflict, which may have made me a better person. He passed away in 2003 at the age of 89.

Dr. Colton was a scholar, and wasn’t just a polyglot, he was fluent in the languages he understood. He would pause during a sermon, and explain that the original Aramaic or Greek words had a different meaning at the time they were written than at the time they were translated, and/or the English word has a different meaning today than at the time of the translation. He brought the otherwise boring Sunday morning activities to life, challenging us to understand what we were reading. Then he bestowed upon me the lesson that would guide my life, through the radical 60s and my days as an Intelligence Specialist, as a husband, father and friend.

In the midst of a sermon, he related a story from his days in college. He had a question about a concept, and approached one of his professors to further his understanding. His professor had said “Well, I have my own opinion, which I will discuss with you later. What you should do is go speak with Dr. Jones, as he is considered an authority on the subject. Then when you understand his point of view, ask him who holds an opposing opinion and is as well versed as he. Understand that person’s position, then make up your own mind. After that, come talk to me and we can discuss it.”. Most people apply their own prejudices and find it impossible to believe that those words came from a Southern Baptist minister.

As a teenager in the waning years of the Viet Nam war, I was filled with revolutionary ideals. I was always thoughtful about the direction (or lack thereof) of the organizations I supported. A careful listening to the song “Volunteers” by The Jefferson Airplane fertilized the idea that many of my fellow “radicals” were just there for the party. Today more than ever that is true, as any protest brings out “the crazies”, every wing nut in the vicinity waving their own flag, suffocating the original cause.

I studied various branches of Christianity including Catholicism, dabbled in Judaism with a best friend and a couple of Jewish step brothers, studied the Hindi and Buddhist teachings, and explored several “New Age” beliefs as well as Wicca. I investigated the relationship of religion and the “new religion”, Science. In the 80s I had reason to understand Islam, as well as people of Islamic faiths. Eventually I found that I was a Christian, in the sense that I believe and attempt to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. I do not attend a church, as I have yet to find one that teaches and adheres to the teachings of Jesus Christ now that Dr. Colton is gone and I live in New Jersey. Since around 1996 I have been a Zen Baptist.

Christianity is based on Christ, AKA Jesus of Nazareth. He brought a new message, and the story of his life is called “The New Testament”. The “Old Testament”, the beginning of the Christian Bible, is very similar to The Torah, the religious text of Judaism. When someone claims to be a Christian, and quotes the Old Testament as supporting their beliefs, they are most often confused about of what their religion consists. Jesus was exceptionally clear about speaking in parables, and yet so many “Christians” choose to interpret his words literally.

To me, the Old Testament is to be seen as a parable itself. God spoke to people who had no way of understanding the process of creation. So he gave the story as a series of seven days. Paying attention to that story reveals there was no measurement for time for the first few days, so it seems far from likely that they were strictly measured twenty four hour days. The description of God, “a spirit on the water” (Genesis 1:2) is the most in depth description in the entire book, yet God’s physical appearance is described by humans every day.

The New Testament is arranged so that the first four books are the same story, told by four different people who were present. How can you see that and not recognize the overall massage is that we should not take every word literally, each disciple interpreted the event differently and they were there. The important messages are repeated, over and over, hoping to work past individual interpretation, and the translations that would spread the word around the world.

The message is, Love each other.

I invite you to examine the book of Matthew, fifth chapter verses 43 through 48:

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Dr. Colton would, among other things, point out that the word translated as “perfect” is closer to meaning “complete”.

The other quality that Dr. Colton taught was to teach in small segments. Let the information roll around and soak in. And finish the sermon in time for everyone to get home in time to watch the Cowboy’s game. They are after all, God’s team, why else would the sky be blue and white?

It may not be recorded in the Bible, but I believe Jesus had a sense of humour, and laughed well.

Differently abled

Once in a while I get a reminder that I have a chronic disease. See if you can spot it in the picture below, it’s the only way most people can notice. I try not to think about it often, as I have found over the last few decades that thinking about it makes it worse. It’s not funny in the traditional sense, but I’ve also found that a sense of humour makes me feel better. Maybe because it started (from a treatment perspective) with an hilarious exchange, maybe because laughter is the only drug that has worked, I’ve exercised my sense of dark humour.

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About the time I turned thirty, I had a vision issue. It was as if I was wearing glasses, and there was a thumbprint on the left lens. After a few weeks I decided to see an ophthalmologist, having Wills Eye Hospital nearby I chose to “see” a doctor there.

I passed the eye exam. I really don’t trust eye exams because you already have a pretty good idea of what is there and can guess the right answers. I’ve learned how to fail those in the intervening years. The doctor told me everything was fine, so I once again described the problem. He shined his light in my eye and looked a bit and said, “I don’t see anything, you’re just getting older”. This was not what a perpetually young person who had just turned thirty wanted to hear, but it cleared up in another week or so and I thought nothing more of it.

Maybe six months later I started to get severe (unable to move due to pain) headaches when my blood pressure peaked (usually during “adult” activities). This time I went to my regular physician, who was much more thorough. We discovered some other “symptoms”, things I had just passed off as unimportant. Occasional weakness and balance issues. He ran a couple of batteries of blood work, ruling out Arthritis and Lyme disease and all sorts of things I had never considered. Then he sent me to a Neurologist. The Neurologist ran a number of tests, which were all in all entertaining. There was this one where I had electrodes placed all over my head and stared at a video screen with a checkerboard pattern on it. Then I had my first MRI, which introduced me to an area of imaging technology I hadn’t seen before.

After a couple of days I received a call from my Doctor. I had no idea what was wrong with me or what they were looking for at this point. He asked me to come into his office, and clear my calendar for the next day. I’m assuming brain tumor at this point. When I arrived in his office, he took me into his study rather than the examination room. He looked very serious. He closed the door and sat down at his desk. He looked in my eyes and said “Most importantly, you should continue to work as long as you feel able”. I replied, rather loudly, “What’s wrong with me?“. He said “Well, the neurologist can go over the details with you tomorrow, but your diagnosis is Multiple Sclerosis (MS).” Thank you doctor drama queen. That story just gets funnier every time I think about it, more so now than back then.

The Neurologist was a nice older specialist, fairly well respected in his field, and he had a much better “bedside manner”. He explained how the disease works, at least what they knew about it. He told me that “Nobody dies from Multiple Sclerosis, they die from complications, or other diseases, or being hit by a bus.” By odd coincidence, someone I knew was diagnosed about the same time across the country. His wife was actually hit by a bus while he was ill. The neurologist told me that there was no treatment, but that research on a new drug was promising and it might be released in another year. The disease was progressing slowly, I had the relapsing remitting form, and the trouble I had with my eye had been Optic Neuritis, my first exacerbation of MS. I signed up for a recently diagnosed support group.

The group was interesting. The MRI as a diagnostic tool for MS was a very new thing, there were people who had spent a dozen years trying to get a diagnosis. MS comes and goes (relapse/remit) so it can be very difficult to diagnose, the MRI was the first tool to be able to see the scleroses (scars) in the brain. Prior to that, the only definitive diagnosis was by autopsy. I began to see how fortunate I was. One girl in our group had the chronic progressive form, she had just fallen down while hiking in Costa Rica a few months before. In the six weeks the group met she went from crutches, to a wheelchair. Then she didn’t show up, and we were informed that she had died. So much for nobody dying from MS.

My step mother, an opticians assistant, took one look from about three feet away and said “oh yeah, you had optical neuritis, I can see the scars”. I looked in the mirror and there they were. So much for Wills Eye Hospital.

Through the years my symptoms have come and gone a couple of times. My eyesight has gotten progressively worse but I’m allowing some of that to actually being older. My balance gets so bad I use a cane at times, once for two years, but I haven’t used it much at all recently. Stress makes my symptoms worse, it seems to drain my reserves and make it harder to conceal my weaknesses. A number of drugs have come out, I tried them all, none had any positive effect. There was one fairly bad relapse about four years ago and my neurologist prescribed steroids by infusion, that was the closest I’ve ever been to death. The steroids wiped out my immune system, I was pale and barely alive. Afterwards I came down with shingles, and the neurologist’s receptionist said “he doesn’t care for shingles” meaning he didn’t treat them. I told her I didn’t care for them either (meaning I didn’t like them) and that he would see me and write a prescription for a pain killer since the steroids had precipitated the Shingles. He saw me, but that was the last time I visited a neurologist.

Once in a while something will happen and I’ll explain that I have MS, like at my high school reunion. I had brought my cane (it’s really cool, black carbon fibre with flames, like Dr. House’s) because I get wobbly pretty fast when I drink, and the cane helps when I explain that I’m not drunk, I just have MS. Most people are visibly shocked, so I have to go through pretty much the entire explanation.

Of course I carry the cane when I travel, it won’t fit in a suitcase and I never know when I might need it. I’ve also found that the presence of a cane implies you are disabled, so I get preferential seating on aircraft.

I am fortunate. Not everyone has the same experience. I prefer to believe that it all comes down to having a sense of humour.

Eating to end hunger

I love chocolate, and the fact that my wife is from Belgium has only opened the doors to what I now call “real chocolate”. I have, in the last three years, gained thirty pounds, a full twenty pounds more than I have ever weighed in my life (the Belgian beers may have played a part as well). My Godiva card has had to be replaced twice (worn to the point it was unreadable), and we always come home with a suitcase filled with chocolate.

Imagine my quandary when I found out about “Slave Chocolate“. Unfortunately not an S&M game, it is a movement to avoid chocolate made with cocoa harvested by slave labor. Of course I’m against slave labor, I avoid Chinese products and items that are identified as the products of slave labor, but this is chocolate.

As with any situation, actual facts are hard to come by. Cocoa beans originate almost exclusively in third world countries (largely Ivory Coast), where a variety of different forces prevent accurate information. Not only is it difficult to find out what precisely is going on, it is difficult to determine which chocolates are not harvested under slave labor conditions, and what actually constitutes slave labor conditions.

The corporations have their own interests at heart, and there have been a number of brands appearing that are marketed as “free market” chocolate. I’ve found in life that you can place a label on anything, calling a pig a helicopter will not enable it to fly. Recently Whole Foods was indicted for mislabeling food as “organic” when it was not, so I rarely trust what is said on the packaging. One particularly troubling item came from reading statements from various chocolate producers. The phrase “elimination of the worst forms of child labor” was repeated, word for word, by a majority of the public relations departments. How nice. At least they don’t use the worst form of child labor.

So how bad is it? Is there a relative scale for abuse? Perhaps there is. In a country with an unemployment rate that averages ten percent, and an individual GDP of about one thousand dollars, how “abusive” is abject poverty? It’s dangerous work, not only the physical work of opening cocoa pods, but also in the exposure to pesticides. The food provided to the workers is typically the least expensive available, not terribly tasty or nutritious, but better than eating dirt. The housing provided may be open dormitories, with little sanitation. But the fact is, all these conditions are improvements over their lives before harvesting cocoa. It may not be appropriate for us to judge a portion of the worker’s world without considering all of it.

Extreme conditions, such as human trafficking and physical abuse, are actively being fought, but as I said at the beginning, these are third world countries where surveillance isn’t as trustworthy as it is here. Even the most well meaning corporation cannot control everything that happens in the jungle. The amount of money in play, the relations of the economies in question, play into the creation of corruption at every level. A civilized society does it best to be aware and prevent abuse, but we simply cannot control every human involved.

So I was starting to get comfortable with chocolate again. Then I get this email from Godiva. By spending between $50 and $70 for a package of between 12 and 36 pieces of chocolate, I can provide ten school meals for children in cocoa producing countries. Somehow, being reminded of starving children while I eat gourmet chocolates is someone’s idea of good marketing. All it does for me is to suggest to me that with $70 I could provide a lot more than ten meals. I think I could probably feed an entire village with $70. I have to think that the roughly $2 I paid for that single piece of chocolate would have probably fed the kid who risked his life to harvest the cocoa for a week. I go in for the “proceeds go to charity” bit occasionally, but someone hadn’t considered this one very well.

If you would like to help a child in a third world country, $70 will cover two months at SOS children’s villages.  And for being such a good person, get yourself some Belgian chocolates, maybe Leonidas.

 

Dancing with Shiva

Change is not something most of us embrace. We get comfortable with things the way they are, and it seldom occurs to us that improvements are available. That’s largely due to the fact that we don’t really take notice when things get better, only when they get worse. So change gets a bad rap.

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Ham’s was a little bar just off base, right outside the Bellevue gate (stumbling distance). In a brotherhood of acronyms and abbreviations, Ham’s was called “Building H”. Besides, having the Colonel overhear you saying “meet you at the bar” doesn’t sound quite as professional as “There will be a briefing at 1730 in building H”. Yeah, the old man thought we were working late.

Ham’s closed a few weeks ago, it was a family run place, it’s been thirty years since I was there last and it was old when I arrived. I guess Ralph ran out of patience, or his kids got tired of running the place. It was popular after a night shift, the best one dollar chili dog and a beer special you could find at 0730, but the world is changing. I remain hopeful that the destruction of one icon brings the creation of the next.

I checked on line to see what was said about it. Very little outside the Air Force Alumni community. The reviews were funny, some (obviously civilian) reviewer absolutely hated it, one of his complaints was “bath room big as an air plane bath room”. Well yeah, what more do you need at a bar? He followed that up with “not shure (sic) if i could find the door after one more drink”, as if that was something bad. But as I said, the world is changing. We went to a bar to drink, not to use the toilets.

Ham’s outlasted the Strategic Air Command, no one thought we were needed after we won the cold war. No gratitude required, we were just doing our jobs. Most of my friends from those days have disappeared into the alphabet soup of governmental organizations around the world, when we do run into each other we can’t talk about work, but we can talk about the time Kip almost lost his clearance for drunk driving because he passed the SP on the right. Over the lawn. With the SP’s girlfriend in his car. Took a General to get him out of that one.

I’m sure today the people who do what I did then drink smoothies and bottled water, and eat veggie wraps and hummus chips, and that does not reflect on their mettle in any way. The world is changing.

I do know that even as bearers of the gauntlet filled with lightning bolts, we were searching for peaceful resolutions. Intel is about avoiding conflicts. I’m a little concerned with the new generation’s blood thirst. Those words have been spoken for centuries. The world is always changing, yet it stays the same in many ways.

We keep wishing that we have won, that the conflict is over. The world continues to find idiots who think nuclear weapons make up for their shortcomings. We try to force peace down the throats of people who only know how to hate. We get so very close, then we screw up the end game and have to do it all over again. Perhaps we will finally reach that final reincarnation and stop making mistakes. Until then, the only cushion we can put between our head and the wall is labeled “we did the very best we could with what we had”.

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Vishnu is right behind Shiva, isn’t he?

Listen to the band

I spent some time with an “old friend” last night. Michael Nesmith performed a retrospective of his career, which has spanned fifty years. Michael is a fellow Texan, and shares many of my personality traits (AKA quirks). His music doesn’t fit in a box, he wrote “Different Drum” which Linda Ronstadt made famous and (vice versa), which he performed with a totally new arrangement, moving the story from the Haight to Paris. He was in the Monkees (although he only performed one song from those days). He moved on to The First National Band, and then created MTV, creating videos for his songs like “Crusin“. Today he is Videoranch and is still making new music. Although his voice is showing some age, it is still recognizable, ties his works together. His framing of each song was poetic, and at times moving moving. In the clip above he speaks of Red Roads, and how he programmed Red’s tracks through the keyboard so he could “be there”, performing with Nez again.

What was old was new again. Not many obvious Monkee fans present, but who could tell after all this time? From the grey hair in the audience it looked like we were all roughly the same age. There was a group of guys wearing “Save The Texas Prairie Chicken” T shirts.

My wife wasn’t familiar with his music, she knew “Rio” but didn’t know it was his. We’ve shared a lot of music, she’s introduced me to new things, I’ve done the same for her. And that is what this post is about. She derives a great deal of pleasure from new music. In her youth she was A&R for a few record companies, including Factory Records, and she loves new music, not any particular genre, just tracks she hasn’t heard before.

I had often found this intriguing. I love music, and play several instruments, but she loves to listen. Always new bands, college and independent radio stations, well beyond the edgy “I heard it first” snobbery of young people, she needed it to thrive.

Then I came across this study from Canada. New music has a different effect on the brain than music you have heard before. Beyond the simple “I like music”, this study indicates that your brain likes music, and it likes new music even more. When we listen to our favorite music live, we get the thrills from the improvisations, the altered arrangements, the styles of different performers.

One of the performers last night was Chris Scruggs, grandson of Earl Scruggs (who most people know from the theme music of “The Beverly Hillbillies” but who had a seventy year career and created the “Scruggs Style”). Chris played slide and electric guitar, as well as balalaika. New from old, more evidence that musical talent is genetic. If Earl could have seen Chris’ solo on Grand Eunni he would have seen (and heard) the similarities between his banjo work and Chris on the guitar.

I believe that matter and energy are made of the same thing. Energy is expressed in many ways, and many waves. The heat from the Sun, the colours of the rainbow, the laughter of an infant. Sound is a form of energy, expressed in waves, or vibrations. Like any other vibration, it can resonate and reinforce. Now we can prove that it can harmonize with the matter of our brains. I’ve always felt this to be true, it’s just nice to have research to back it up.

I believe this is how music connects us. We resonate with the vibrations, creating chords with others, creating a song with our lives. I often use words like “dance” and “song” as metaphors, because that’s how I see life. Not that I’m synesthetic, or perhaps it’s just a degree of synesthesia. We are part of the song of the universe.As Joni Mitchell put it, We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon. And then…

The big wrap up. We’ve got to get back to the garden. Nez finished the night with a mention of the tragedy in Boston earlier in the day. For those of you from another planet or who are reading this in the future, a couple of bombs were detonated at the Boston Marathon. At this point, twenty four hours later, the casualties are one hundred fifty injured, three dead, of which two were children. Many of the injured lost limbs. Missed in the headlines was that thirty people were killed in bombings in Iraq. No data for Syria, or Afghanistan, or Spain. We can either align the phase of our vibrations, creating a larger, stronger wave, or we can be discordant with each others’ music, the result of which is silence.

Give Peace a Chance.

The American Dream

I’ve heard quite a bit over the last few years about the American Dream. Largely from people who don’t understand the concept.

It makes great political fodder, “Where is my American Dream?”, “American Dream unattainable for nation’s poor”, “Young people denied the American Dream”. Sounds awfully sad. I was sad when I heard people were no longer dreaming, dreams are important for mental health.

The American Dream is an idea, not a product. It is not something you receive at birth or upon crossing the border, it is a possibility, a chance. Living in America, many forget that there are places where there are no possibilities, no opportunities, no chances.

The American Dream is the promise that you will not be oppressed. You will be able to accomplish whatever you work for. Ahh, there’s the problem. You have to work for it. No one is preventing you from working, like they did in Kosovo or San Salvador. You don’t have to know someone or pay someone for an opportunity, but you do have to take advantage of the opportunity. You have to be smarter, faster, and willing to sweat. Sound familiar? That’s right, the American Dream is the permission to live by the law of the jungle.

And if you work hard, go without luxuries and save your money, you will be able to buy things. Everybody wants things don’t they?

The history of the American Dream predates America. In the 1600s immigrants began coming to these shores, looking for a fresh start, opportunities to own homes and businesses. They came to escape oppression, or intolerance. Wave after wave came through the centuries, America was universally known as “The land of Opportunity”. It is only recently that the definition of “opportunity” became “entitlement”.

There is not, nor was there often, a job waiting for you after graduation in the field you desire at the rate of pay that will be enough to buy a home, two cars, and a dog. You start at the bottom, and work your way up. But the “dream” has morphed into an idea that all these things are your right as an American. All those less than average intelligence folks can’t comprehend that.

Today, all the things that our parents and grandparents worked for are expected. Eight year olds have $300 phones. Everything is available on credit. Then when you can’t pay your bills, it’s the bank that’s “greedy”. It never occurs to people that they don’t need an SUV that gets sixteen miles to the gallon. They don’t need three large screen TVs. They don’t need every new product with an apple etched on the side. What they need is the love of their family and clean air and water (not the stuff in bottles at $12 a gallon, the stuff out of the tap at $0.01 a gallon).

So it’s really two problems. The first is understanding the difference between desires and needs, the second is understanding that you are not entitled to your desires, you have to work for them.

The Dream is alive. You can have whatever you work for. Generations did it before, the only difference today is that “Keeping up with the Joneses” is no longer looked down upon. Living within your means is.

The thing we lost was pursuing the American Dream. Because that pursuit made us equal. The sacrifices built our character, and taught us the difference between “price” and “value”. In at least three of my children, I was able to instill the American Dream. My youngest son works his butt off, then goes to his art gallery and produces artwork, and spends his spare time operating the gallery and selling his work. He’s working eighteen hour days and is completely self sufficient. And happier than he has ever been in his life. I am proud of all my children and their accomplishments, but my youngest just totally blows me away.

Dreams are wonderful. Making them come true is better. My dreams have come true repeatedly. Make yours happen too.

Paranoia will destroy ya

I worked with a veterinarian in Dallas TX who was on an incredible variety of mailing lists. He introduced me to the wonderful source of information, the MWWR, published by the CDC (which is now available online, for free, instead by mail for $125 a year). He also received mail from PETA and other (what he called) “Radical Vegetarians”. When I asked why he read some of the fringe publications he replied “Sun Tzu said ‘know your enemies’, this is the best way to know what they’re thinking”. This folded into something a teacher had said many years before, that I should always seek information from both sides of an issue to help form my own opinion.

I have followed that advice ever since. It is one reason that if you were to survey everyone who knows me, you would get the descriptions of several different people. I am suspected of being everything from a Pagan to a Fundamentalist Christian, a Socialist, an Anarchist, and a Fascist. Some people think I am Gay, others think I am a womanizer. Most agree that I’m crazy, because they project their beliefs on me, or assume that because I speak about a certain issue that my beliefs follow a certain path, then when I “change direction” they think I’m schizophrenic. That may not be entirely incorrect, as I freely admit that I am of many minds.

On social media sites, and in real life, I have friends from a wide variety of backgrounds and interests. I belong to a number of fringe groups, all along the fringe, from the East side of the circle through the West. Occupy Wall Street and the National Rifle Association. Sometimes I forget that these people tend to be far more exclusive than I, and that they’re really not interested in exploring their beliefs, they just repeat their mantras and find scary things under every rock. I really pissed off a Global Warming advocate (not “for” but “it exists”) when I pointed out the graph and data he was using to illustrate his point was also being used as evidence that global warming does not exist by another group. He claimed to be “a scientist” and could not accept that he was seeing what he wanted to see.

This morning I was blocked by a woman on FaceBook. Not just “unfriended” but blocked. I had been following her posts for a couple of months, making comments that she agreed with, but today I insulted her immensely, and I hadn’t meant to. In fact I was fairly clear, starting with “I mean no insult” after she figuratively bristled.

She posts about Chem Trails, we used to call them Contrails, as they are the condensation caused by jet exhaust at high altitudes. She thinks they are chemicals being dumped on us by…somebody. She’s never been too clear on who she thinks is responsible, but speaks of “The Illuminati”, and “The New World Order”, and “The Freemasons”, with fear. She also believes in Niburu, or “Planet X” and takes photos of sunsets believing that the sunspots are Niburu, you see it’s invisible to the naked eye, only her camera can capture it. She thinks the robots in movies are real and being used against us. She believes that the magnetic poles of the Earth will shift, soon, and that there is a conspiracy behind it. A fabulous source for the state of paranoia.

So today, she posted a photograph of Aspen trees with lichens on them, with the caption “Has anyone noticed this yellow stuff on trees everywhere? It’s making the bark of the trees crack”. My first response, “That’s lichens, they’re natural and occur in many colors, and Aspen bark cracks like that all the time” was ignored, and a number of others chimed in with “I’ve never seen anything like it!”. So I asked “Are you a ‘City Girl’?”. I was genuinely interested, wondering if she had never seen an Aspen or lichens before. She came back with “No, I’m a wilderness girl, are you a city boy?”. I realized I had insulted her, so I said “I mean no insult, it’s just that many of your observations seem ‘virginal’, that is as if you had never encountered such things before”. And she was gone.

It was all terribly insensitive of me, but I’ll never have the opportunity to apologize. I’m guessing that I would be unable to successfully apologize anyway, because she’s the type that finds the existence of another point of view insulting, and is an incredibly serious person.

I will find other sources of paranoid views, they are endless, but it remains my responsibility to be careful in my interactions. I am an observer, and when the observer alters the object observed, the exercise is pointless. Once again, the lessons of quantum physics relate to the larger world.

Aliens

My wife was not born in America. She had lived here for five years before I met her, and we are working our way through the system of obtaining a green card. The experience has been frustrating for her, and enlightening for me. I had never found the word “Alien” to be derogatory, but to her, it is. She remembers using the word for “foreigner” or “immigrant”, even when she lived in English speaking countries.  Aliens come from outer space and are usually green.

Although she has visited more countries than I, it is very possible that my travels have covered more miles. When most Americans are asked where they are from, they will respond with a city or state. I usually say “America”. My lack of a strong identity of origin has fed my nationalistic pride. With that, I have always found the need to hyphenate nationality as, well, silly. My previous wife’s first words to me were “You need to know two things about me. I’m Sicilian, and I smoke”. She had never left America, her parents had both been born in America, but she felt she was Sicilian, not even Sicilian-American. We have a friend from Rhodesia, her parents were from Scotland and she has white skin and red hair, no one would ever call her an African-American.

A couple of conversations converged to bring today’s topic to the page. One was the flak over Mattel’s dolls of the world collection. Not the entire collection, just “Mexico Barbie”. Apparently some people take an impossibly proportioned fantasy totem seriously as an international ambassador. From what I have been able to find out, the people who have found the doll insulting to their heritage have no idea of what their heritage consists of. They are “Mexican-Americans” who have never been to Mexico. They wish to identify with a culture which they know nothing about. People who actually live in Mexico find the doll to be quite appropriate.

Another conversation was with a black friend. He mentioned that the Gadsden Flag was being banned in New Rochelle, because it was “offensive” and a “symbol of the TEA party”. The flag, familiar to all Americans as a symbol of the revolutionary war, has been adopted by the TEA party, but has also been used by the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps since 1775. It brought to my mind the issues in America about the “Stars and Bars” or Confederate flag. To many, the flag represents rebellion, and/or pride in Southern heritage. But other groups find it symbolic of the civil war, which they feel is symbolic of slavery, which of course is symbolic of racism, so people who display the Stars and Bars are racists, even if they happen to be black. This took us into a deeper conversation about racial terms, and he pointed out that no one from Egypt would want to be called an African American. It should also be noted that as a black person, memories of Africa would include being captured by other Africans and sold to slave traders. Maybe there’s a reason that although they tend to venerate the continent, very few recall which country was their origin. This brought to mind comments by Dr. Bill Cosby, who started his career reminiscing about growing up in Philadelphia but is now not well loved in the black community due to his portrayal of the “unattainable” status of the Huxtable family.

I knew a woman in the Air Force, who suddenly became Irish in March. She was from Savannah GA, where St. Patrick’s day brings out the Irish in everyone. A little research reveals there are nine times as many people of Irish heritage in the United States as in all of Ireland. There  are more people of Polish descent in Detroit than in Warsaw. America is a land of immigrants, I grew up with the term “melting pot”, because we were supposed to see ourselves as Americans, different cultures all contributing to the American culture. then the hyphenating began, and we became a nation of differences. A nation of Aliens. Alien nation begets Alienation. How easy it is to make people distrust a country that they do not feel they belong to?

Recently a meteorite was found that may have originated on Mercury, others have been identified as being of Martian origin. Some meteorites have contained evidence of life. Perhaps life on Earth originated from, or at least was catalyzed by, alien sources. In that case, would we all be aliens? It would fit the current opinions that we don’t belong here, that we are damaging the planet. I’m wondering what extradition treaties will come into play.

I’m considering moving someplace smaller. Belgium. Fewer occupants than Manhattan. Three languages (I speak one fluently, one I studied long ago and can survive around, the third I’m learning now). Wonderful beers, high carbohydrate diets (frites, waffles, cheeses, and chocolates), and an immigration policy much less complex than America. Probably shortly after we get my wife’s “permanent” green card. Then I will have another perspective on aliens.

 

origins

What were they fighting about again?

I’ve been having an online conversation with a Palestinian about the conflict with Israel. It started with this article from the Daily Mail, about a former Palestinian Intelligence Officer who was tortured and condemned to death by the Palestinian Authorities, for the crime of selling his property to a Jew. It folds into a variety of other political discussions, the current threats from North Korea, the overall political atmosphere in America, and the death of Margaret Thatcher.

My Palestinian friend’s point of view is that there can be no peace as long as Palestine is occupied by Jews. He sees the “Zionists” as an occupational force, brutalizing the Palestinians. He sees the attacks by Palestinians as “Defense”. The former Intel Officer is a traitor to the cause who has gotten what he deserves. He stated at different points that “The only peace can be when Palestine is returned to Palestinian control, the Jews would be a small minority that would be treated as they treat us”, “I don’t think we should kill all the Jews, even though it’s our right”, and “We have a lot of Jew friends and they are real humanitarian people”. The last reminded me too much of the old “I have lots of Black friends” line.

He doesn’t care if the rest of the world, even other Arabs, don’t agree because they’ve been “brainwashed”. He will fight to the last man (or child). No manner of logic could show him his hypocrisy.

He is symbolic of the reason there will not be peace in the Middle East. No matter what agreements leaders may reach, there will always be guerrillas. I have no idea how they ever convinced the IRA to stop killing their brothers, but huge doses are needed in Palestine.

This morning, my step children headed out for a vacation with their father in Hawaii. A they leave, Kim Jong Un increased his threats against the United States. It seems that when he threatened nuclear war, and America flew over North Korea with B2 stealth bombers for exercises in South Korea, Kim’s dignity was devastated, so he moved a couple of missiles which might (they’ve never been tested) be able to reach Guam. Some of his missiles might be able to reach Hawaii, so my wife was relieved that of the threats to launch weapons that he doesn’t have on missiles that can’t reach their targets, her children were not in any imagined danger. China, on the other hand, is holding public emergency drills. Apparently they don’t trust the North Korean guidance systems.

Kim is much like my Palestinian friend. This all began when sanctions were imposed against North Korea for conducting underground nuclear tests. The world knows he’s crazy and doesn’t think he’s responsible enough to possess these weapons. His response is to threaten to use these weapons (which may not exist in a deliverable form). Because he lives in the bubble of his own propaganda, he isn’t aware of reality.

This morning Vladimir Putin threatened to blacklist Americans accused of human rights violations if America bars entry to Russian diplomats accused of human rights violations. When I was able to see again through the tears of laughter, I read the remainder of the article. Sergei Magnitsky died in jail, after he had accused officials of embezzling $230 million. No mention of Chechnya, this was the horrific human rights violation that diplomats had been blacklisted for. One wonders which human rights violations the Russians would choose to blacklist Americans for, but to me, the importance is in the violations each side chooses to ignore. Do we, as citizens of the world, learn more about who is complicit with whom by the omissions? Don’t ask don’t tell hits global politics.

Margaret Thatcher died the other day, just twenty two years after leaving her post as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. The insults flow like, well, what does flow out of the UK these days? Having assisted in winning the cold war, and thus freeing the entire world from the threat of nuclear annihilation, she is of course hated by a large segment of the British population. Having been a world wide beacon for women’s rights, the song “Ding Dong the Witch is Dead” went to number one on BBC radio in response to her passing. Chivalry may be dead, but misogyny is alive and kicking.

The house intelligence committee (don’t laugh, it’s not an oxymoron in this case) passed a bill degrading internet privacy the other day. One discussion I was following started with a woman bemoaning the evils of the Democratic administration, followed by a response that the house is controlled by Republicans, followed by my response that the intelligence committee is a bi-partisan panel, and that the bill still has to pass both the house and the senate, and be signed by the president. That response was ignored, because it’s so much more fun to pit Republicans against Democrats, and throw in accusations of Socialism, Communism, Fascism, and Theism. Pointing out that the real enemy is totalitarianism, and that politicians are just playing a game of distraction is just not interesting.

So they fight, everyone, everywhere, because that’s all they know how to do. The causes and reasons lost in the dust.

I remember what I heard in Paul Simon’s song “Boy in the Bubble”, “These are the days of lasers in the jungle”. We have the technology to communicate with anyone in the world, all the knowledge of every society is at our fingertips, but at the same time we have the ability to turn the planet to ash in a matter of hours. The choice appears obvious to me, unfortunately it’s also obvious to Kim Jung Un, the Palestinians, Vladimir Putin, Barack Obama, and the hooligans in England.

What’s wrong with GPS?

Yes, if you’ve been following along, you can guess that there must be something wrong with GPS if I’m writing about it.

Being one of those XY types, I’ve never cared for asking for directions. Being one of those old fashioned XY types, I typically know where I am, and where I am going, before I start out. I once drove from New Jersey to California with only the knowledge that the interstate road system connected the coasts, I should drive West until I see the ocean then I can find where I’m going on the Pacific Coast Highway.

The United States Air Force decided to spend a fair amount of money teaching me how to read maps anyway. It was in that class that I learned that many people cannot read maps. Many people do not in fact have any idea where on the planet they are. I can recall speaking out, rather loudly, “For Christ’s sake, it’s a picture! Just point out Kabul!”, to a young man in the class. He wasn’t even looking in the right hemisphere. Fortunately, finding Kabul was not a life or death exercise that day.

When I lived in Philadelphia, and earlier explored Manhattan, I was impressed with the thoughtful numbering of streets. How could anyone get lost?

Enter GPS. Much like the way the hand held calculator caused simple mathematical skills to atrophy, the GPS has been like a flashlight without batteries to the lost.

One day in Philadelphia, a coworker called and asked “Where is 510 Walnut St.?” Just a little background here, like most cities, in Philadelphia the even number addresses are always on the same side of the street (South side on streets running East to West), and the “odd” side of the street in the block in question is a park. So feeling that I was giving a rather obvious answer, I said “Between 5th and 6th Streets, Walnut is two blocks down from Market St.”, just in case he didn’t know where Walnut street was. He responded “But it’s not on my GPS”. Well then, obviously, they had moved the building. I told him that the building itself was actually located at that address, which happened to be on the Southeast corner of 5th and Walnut regardless of what his GPS had to say.

When I moved to New Jersey, I decided to break down and buy a GPS. We tried a variety of voices on the unit, but eventually decided to turn off the volume, because my wife would argue with it. She knew better shortcuts, and to get her to stop calling the unit “The Bitch” I named our GPS “Gertrude”. Gertrude continues to be annoyed with us, we consistently choose different routes, but she’s helpful in a pinch. Except today.

I had a job interview in Jersey City, after which I was meeting a friend in Manhattan. I printed a map with the directions to the interview and the Jersey City train station so that I could take the train into Manhattan, and figured Gertrude would get me back to the turnpike for the trip home. I should have known when I looked at the ETA for the return trip that she was getting back at me. It had taken an hour to get to Jersey City, but the return trip was estimated at an hour and a half.

The path Gertrude chose took me through Staten Island ($13.00 bridge toll, what I was avoiding when I took the train earlier) and through some interesting neighborhoods. It’s a cloudy day so there is no Sun to give me a directional clue. I’m too far away from Jersey City for my original maps to be of any use, and I’m a man damn it, I’m not turning around! I knew Gertrude would get me home eventually, and I was in no hurry. It was when she told me to take an exit for 440 North, when I could see a sign for the New Jersey Turnpike, that I told her she was fired. I got onto the Turnpike, she recalculated and the ETA dropped by fifteen minutes. Ah, what may have been down the road not taken?

I’ll be purchasing a compass for the car, but I’ll keep Gertrude. She’s taken me on some interesting rides.

 

 

Judge not

I mentioned in the last post the concept of cultural literacy. Cultural literacy is the ability to recognize phrases as they represent cultural icons, parables, or other shared experiences. Being culturally literate allows conversations to use shortcuts rather than explain each concept in detail. One of the many issues with cultural literacy is that an icon may not actually mean what the speaker thinks it means.

My wife and I were discussing her ex, who had sent an email titled “Proof of my expenses” and contained a list of expenses he claimed. He was under the impression that because he said they were expenses, that was all the proof required. Perhaps that speaks more to illiteracy than cultural illiteracy, but it’s the discussion that brought this subject to mind.

My last wife would often use the phrase “Judge not”. What she meant was “Don’t judge me”. But by using the phrase “Judge not” she was trying to use the iconic scripture “Judge not, lest ye be judged”, which many people misunderstand and translate as “Jesus said not to judge anybody”. In reality, the phrase is part of a longer scripture (read along if you wish, Matthew 7) and goes on to say “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again”. In total, it is essentially a reinforcement of the “Golden Rule”, do unto others as you would have them do to you.

So a phrase meant to tell people that they will be judged by the standards they hold others to gets turned into “don’t judge anyone”.

Of course you judge. You judge each and every thing in your life. You choose one avocado over another. You decide to make curry instead of waffles. You decide to buy a Ford instead of a Chevy. You pursue the woman with the long hair and ignore the one with short hair. You decide what you believe, and what you do not believe. These are all based on judgements, and you make them constantly.

Another frequently misused phrase is “I couldn’t care less”, meaning “There is nothing less important to me”. Unfortunately, most people will say “I could care less”, which would mean that there are things less important.

Why these misunderstandings in cultural literacy are important is because, as I said earlier, they are used as shortcuts. We live in a culture which allows us more time to communicate than ever before, yet the desire to use shortcuts overwhelms the desire to communicate clearly. Try reading a random sample of text messages if you don’t believe me.

The result is we usually do understand what the person speaking meant, even though it is not precisely what they have said. Instead of a shortcut, the icon became a detour, and our brains spent an extra second translating. Our ability to understand can be enormous, and when I say “our”, I mean those people who are of above average intelligence. Then when we want to make certain that we understand, we need to go over the conversation twice, saying to the speaker “When you said “X”, did you mean “X”, or was it actually “Y”?”

And what about that majority, those who don’t realize that they misunderstood? I believe, with no evidence other than my growing frustrations, that they spiral downwards, understanding less and less, repeating what eventually becomes gibberish.

And that brings me back to the example of my wife’s ex. How do you tell someone that they do not understand the language they have spoken all of their life? They have already become difficult to communicate with, and their self confidence precludes the possibility they may have any deficiencies. It is your problem, your inability to understand what they are saying so very clearly. They become frustrated, angry, and eventually violent. Because in their mind, they are dealing with an idiot. Can’t blame them, can’t euthanize them.

So from here, we go to Israel. The Palestinians cannot accept the existence of the Israelis, and try to drive them into the sea. The Israelis learned in the holocaust not to just march into the sea, so they give the Palestinians a bloody nose. Now the Palestinians must avenge their bloody nose so they throw rocks at the Israelis. So the Israelis throw rocks back. It never ends, and the Palestinians say to the world “Look! The Israelis are throwing rocks at us!” as justification, just as the Israelis say “Look! The Palestinians are throwing rocks at us!”.

And that, is how a failure to effectively communicate becomes lethal.

 

More ramblings tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A rant on average intelligence

We all should seek information. We should want to learn, to grow, to better ourselves. Doing so makes us part of society. We are “Culturally intelligent”, we speak the same language, use the same references. Have you noticed though, how we don’t all speak the same language? That references have different meanings to different people? How often has someone who is unable to explain themselves simply said “You know what I mean”, when you obviously do not?

You are seeking information right now. You are determining if I am an interesting source, if I have something new to say, if I know what I’m talking about. You are not a part of the majority. There is a reason for this.

 

. NormalCurveSmall

Average intelligence is considered an IQ of 100. Roughly half of the population is above average. Roughly half is below average. A recent poll found that 90% of people asked believe they are above average.  If you happen to actually be above average, you immediately knew from reading that information that somewhere in the area of 40% of the population is kidding themselves.

The implications tend to sail over our heads. We try to be gracious and accepting. But the fact remains that half of “us” are lacking in intelligence. In fact, considering the requirements of life, “average” really isn’t good enough, so more than half of us are less than capable of meeting life’s challenges. That’s a difficult idea to accept in a democracy, so we ignore it.

You know who they are. They believe things they can’t justify. They deny evidence. Their point of view cannot be changed, or if it is, their new point of view is just as blindly accepted as their last. They have said “I don’t want to know” with the confidence of stating a healthy perspective.

Intelligence of course has many meanings, and IQ is not a measure of many of the things that make the world a beautiful place. You do not need to be intelligent to be a wonderful artist or musician. You do not have to be intelligent to be a good person, a good neighbor, a good parent, or even a good leader.

You do need to be intelligent to make intelligent choices though. So in our democracy, where each person has an equal voice, we should not expect intelligent decisions. At least in some countries everyone is required to vote, balancing the represented intelligence. But in America, the least intelligent are encouraged to vote out of balance with the most intelligent, and we end up with a government that has learned to take advantage of that fact.

The majority of successful individuals are above average. They are where they are because they learned to profit from their intelligence. Those that are not successful tend to be jealous of those that are. Rather than acknowledge the superior intelligence of the successful, they accuse them of manipulation and “cheating” (not always falsely, it is in many ways “unfair” to take advantage of others’ weaknesses).

I’m not saying this for any reason other than to educate. There is nothing that can be done to change the system, but understanding the system and the forces at work can lead to some inner peace. Inner peace is highly underrated, I’ll write about that another time.

And yes, I am among that 90% that believe they are above average. When I was a child, I stood out enough that my parents had me tested, fearing that I was “retarded”. Many years later I discovered the results of those tests. It was sometime later that I came to understand the entire issue. I was not “retarded”, I am a “genius” (146 on the Stanford-Binet scale). I am also imaginative, creative, and artistic, the things that the tests don’t reveal. I see connections that few others see, the universe is a framework of matrices upon which the fabric of reality (Maya) is stretched. So I appear distracted at times. I wear the badge of “wierdo” proudly.

Another rant tomorrow…

 

 

 

 

First post

Greetings.

I’m going to try to share my point of view. You are more than welcome to comment (politely and with proper spelling), and guess what? You might change my mind. Just be open to the idea that I might change yours.

A little background on me, I’m in my 50s, married a couple of times, my previous wife died of pancreatic cancer. I’ve been semi-retired for a few years and have published one book (“Surviving” ISBN-13: 978-1463438890) about my late wife, and contribute to a variety of sites, NPR, Occupy Wall Street, and Planet Princeton.

I’m a little strict on sources. Qualify your statements with why you believe in them.

I’ll be addressing issues such as language and communication, relative intelligence, the difference between cause and effect and  correlation, tolerance, and the American Dream.

Peace,

Blake