Left To Our Own Designs…

I have a sore back. Nothing drastic but it will require me to be out of commission for a few days. That get’s dangerous for me and as I sat on the back patio smoking a fat one my mind got to wandering. I thought about our quest for perfection in all things and led me to think about now and the future.

510674920We have created Artificial Intelligence(AI), Virtual Reality(VR) and some strange things called BOTs. AI is simply programming computers to act like humans. Algorithms are dreamed up for just about everything to achieve optimal results. We now have portfolios that run automatically. The stock markets today are controlled by machines 90% of the time. They pick up on words, financial results or announcements and act accordingly. Some do very well.

Google et al take a look at your buying but also your thinking patterns. They constantly bombard you with what you like whether is is a pair of socks or a new TV. The news you receive is prioritized as to whether you are liberal, conservative or God forbid moderate. In a sense you are cast in stone. Efficient to say the least but also with a dash of scary thrown in.

IBM’s Watson has revolutionized many things and most interestingly the world of medicine. He or she can can scan thousands of highly technical treatises and digest them into salient bullet points. All in a matter of moments. We now have diagnoses being made and test results scanned with more accuracy than MD’s. It is said in the not too distant future you will walk through a portal in your home every day and it will catch any abnormalities exist. In my case that could really get dangerous.

Taken to its logical end we will have sensors that a doctor or perhaps a machine will analyze and tell you what is wrong with you and how they are going to fix it. A boon for rural medicine and the impoverished. They will send your meds via Amazon or CVS and presto you back on your way to goof health.

 

480894322VR is really out of a Star Wars movie. You put on this headset in which there is created a whole new environment. You won’t have to travel to faraway places because you can experience the Taj Mahal or the Louvre right in your living room. You can watch a football game as if you are right in the huddle. Sunbathing on the French Riviera is a matter of bringing it up on line. You may even smell the ocean breezes or hear the rustling of the palms in your four story walkup in Brooklyn.

In the business world there will no longer be a need for travel. Visiting the grandkids? We can do that without the aggravation of a long car or plane ride. If they bug you, feel free to just cut them off and take it up again at a later date. You don’t have to landscape your property or keep your neighborhood clean because you can project perfection inside your own house. Pick you temperature. Pick your location. Pick your friends. It its going to be great.

 

Lastly are these BOT things. Basically they are robots that play a script based on your reactions. Siri and Alexa are just the beginning. They will be able to smile at you and offer advice. I hope mine looks at me in the mirror and says, “Man you are looking fine today, Mister Ted”
TTG may have to fall by the wayside as my moniker, in that I will just be one of the crowd. Sad but true.

I can see my new environs quite clearly. I will live in a hermetically sealed abode. I won’t need furniture because it is all virtual. I will eat nutritionally perfect meals so I won’t have to worry about my weight. Booze will be out of the question in that as they always say, it is just empty calories. Won’t need a car even if it is electric because I have no need to go out. Won’t play golf as it will all be on a simulator, I won’t workout because those electrodes I am attached to will take care of everything.

There will be no need for human interaction because that too will be passe. Think of it, no flu or sexually transmitted disease. Sexual harassment? A thing of the past. Speaking of sex that is not necessary.  You will be perfectly happy and if you want a kid you just order one to your specifications. Amazon will handle that too. Free shipping included. You will know you have gone over the line When Alexa or Alex as the case may be, starts to look good.

Now if all this sounds depressing we have a BOT for that. Tell me Ted, what is on your mind? Depending on my response I will get canned psychoanalysis. I can’t complain about my golf game because it will all be in my mind’s eye and predetermined. I won’t even have to write my blog. Just pick a topic and away whomever will reel it off. Stop cheering!

There is one major problem. Let’s say a hacker gets on line and wipes out our power grid so my electronic Major Dome shuts down. Even better some rogue nation takes out all the satellites with lasers and we come to a screeching halt,608516150 Or maybe the VR, AI and BOTS all team up and decide they and decide they want to run things.

Crazy? Maybe yes. Maybe no. I just get the feeling all this is like many of the things we take for granted or as pablum served up to us, has to be looked at more carefully. I am sure there are think tanks but at this breakneck speed we may never be able to get in front of it. Then again things will be so good we will probably not know what hit us.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids;

Facebook announced that their AI can ‘accurately reproduce’ the personalities and behaviours of 85% of their customers. Why do you think they make you type some random letters in to prove are human?

In January 2015, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and dozens of Artificial Intelligence experts signed an open letter on AI, calling for research on the societal impacts and urging researchers not to create something which cannot be controlled.There is a “Singularity Institute” dedicated to the creation of safe Artificial Intelligence

First time users of Virtual Reality have reported problems related to motion sickness and headaches. This is apparently because their minds are believing that they are moving around, while they are sitting static in a chair or a couch. It is fact that old people in nursing homes love VR. It takes the where they can’t go.

BOTS can be developed to deliver Fake News. They can create whole scenarios out of thin air and have you believing they are true. Just look at “The Donald”.

Power Trips….

I have been off for a couple of weeks and at least a few of you noticed. I have been working on a project here in LaLa Land but it is irrelevant to the conversation. I have written a couple of missives but was not terribly  pleased

sweet-dome-cream-filling-hazelnuts-89906407with the result. With so much going on for topics, I am not sure if I am swimming in a pool of sewage or that I have an array of Godiva chocolates in front of me. Here goes..

It’s easy to pick sexual harassment. As they say everybody’s doing it. Yet I settled in on power as the personification of all this. it is simply the ability to influence or in worst casecoerce people into doing what you want. We need powerful people to get things done.Otherwise we would wander around our desert of life without a Moses in sight.

We have benevolent dictators and ruthless ones. Some take on the mantle of responsibility because it is the right thing to do. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Abe Lincoln and George Washington come to mind. Even a present day Bill Gates or Warren Buffett fit the mold. Then there are the Trumps, the Clintons, Weinsteins, Lauers and even archbishops who take a turn for the worse. Why? Good question.

How do we ascend to power? As kids there was always a team captain or a lead singer. They probably put the group together. Everyone said ,”Sure,Go for it.” It really comes down to someone coming to the fore. I was going to say it takes balls to step out but I don’t think that would be cool in today’s environment. The debate is endless as to whether leadership is an ingrained trait or an acquired taste.It’s just that certain something that gets people to follow

business-leadership-attributes-features-literature-leader-traits-characteristics-education-mastering-concept-stack-52684724People expert power in different ways.One could earn the respect of their peers and seek consensus. On the other hand you could just bury the opposition unmercifully.Never let’em up for air. Perhaps become the leader from hell and get what you want by bluster and bravado. Lastly you could be a hulking figure either physically or financially that assumes the acquiescence of all. But the real deal is when you get there and how you handle yourself.

Power can be intoxicating. As you climb the ranks people start to hold you in some sort of awe. People are kissing your ass. They are kissing your feet. You start to believe your press releases. You begin to distance yourself from the everyday hoi polloi. You know better. After all if you weren’t so smart how could you have gotten here? Even if your word isn’t gospel nobody is going to stand up to you. That trait I hate so much called arrogance, becomes your persona. You speak for your department and then your company. Before long it is your industry and you are the fide king or queen of the hill.

It is said that power is liberating. No longer having to conform you are now calling the shots. The rules don’t apply you. You are forming your own brand of ethics. The air of invincibility is fueled by the huzzahs of sycophants. As you become more and more withdrawn from the real world your perspective completely changes. You embrace the literati and cognoscenti. You, your spouse, and your children are above it all. Dalliances? Why not? Your subjects are mere pawns to serve you faithfully. Cheating on taxes? C’mon TTG, it is merely creative accounting. Besides you have minions of lawyers and pr people to deflect any corrective action.

Am I overstating my point? I dunno. This last election had the Left and East Coast thinking they had it all figured out. What does Middle America know? The Ins have a clear sense of everything and the public be damned. You see it not only in Washington and state capitals but in everyday life from city councils to HOA’s. We even have it in our own families where a mom or dad is all powerful or all hail the patriarch. Do as I say not as I do.

corruption-concept-business-man-take-stack-money-envelo-envelope-37264618People have gotten away with sexual harassment and political chicanery for years if not centuries. Bullies and blowhards can prevail until someone speaks up. Therein lies the counterbalance. People are compliant until they feel they have been pushed too far or God forbid they start doing their homework.Ignorance is bliss and also a subtle form of submission. We shrug our shoulders and feign indifference or impassivity. The tyrants dazzle you with bullshit. You and I are at fault. We have all seen things amiss and looked the other way.

 

If you dig deep and understand your world you can argue effectively. As you dwell upon a concept, ideas and structures appear in your mind and if well thought out will appeal to some but not all. Then an amalgam of credos creates a more sensible approach that works for most. I think that is the way democracy is supposed to work.

We then demand transparency beyond closed doors. A scary concept called accountability keeps most if not everyone honest. This is for senators, corporate suits, pastors and school principals. Society can’t exist without constraints. Left to their own designs at the public trough of whatever sort, people are going to overindulge. That is the folly of man but no one says we have to accept it as a given.

We need leaders but we don’t need egomaniacs. How do we put up with this without even a whimper? Go ahead. Don’t get involved. Don’t read beyond the comics or sports pages. Look the other way. Don’t rock the boat. Tons of people know about the slugs and say nothing. Is this a watershed? Probably not although it should be. Spare time and stock markets have a way of numbing people’s minds and their consciences.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

restraining-order-document-name-98661684 In heterosexual relationships, most abuse happens to women by their male partners. Emotional abuse, like physical abuse, is used to control, demean, harm or punish a woman. While the forms of abuse may vary, the end result is the same – a woman is fearful of her partner and changes her behaviour to please him or be safe from harm.

On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime

On a trip I had a discussion with the Inspector General for Health and Human Services. I marveled at his statistics. I cringed at his conclusion:” The greatest danger to our civilization is corruption!”

People do not speak up because:They don’t feel their opinion is valued, they fear ridicule or recrimination or because they feel it doesn’t do any good.

On more than one occasion in our soon to be 47 years of marriage my wife has fired back at me,”Don’t give me orders. I am not one of your men” Good Point!

 

Thank You For Your Service…..

soldiers-assault-usa-flag-american-army-military-grunge-concept-51778450Last week I went to a veterans dinner here at Harbor Ridge. It seems this has been a long standing annual tradition for the Marines in this enclave. This year they opened it up. Not through all inclusiveness per se but they were running out of old leathernecks to attend. It was an fascinating evening.There were actual tanks and Jeeps at the door. Probably from some museum although you never know what is going on here behind closed garage doors. How did they get those things past security? Participants ranged from their thirties to their nineties. There was a slide show of sorts from various members who submitted photos. I did not.

I couldn’t help but think of all the veterans, many of whom had gone to war and the hours, days and years we have all given up in service to our country over all these years. Most notable was a 93 year old who gave a stirring talk. He had been at the Battle of the Bulge and had become a prisoner of war. Couldn’t hold a candle to this buck private. And there he was in a natty shirt and blazer. He like all of us had answered the call whether it was a sense of duty or your friendly draft board that summoned you.

Yesterday I went to Hospice orientation. By some miracle of guile I made it through the background checks and yet I am still worried because they took a full set of fingerprints. I looked around the room at a group, both young and old. Probably from mid 20’s to mid 70’s. All ready to help. I thought they should also be thanked for their service.

In “pondering the imponderables” I wondered why we and so many others volunteer? Mine is simple. I used to tell Father Mike that this might be my only chance to get extra credits to allow me to sneak past St Peter unnoticed.

As a nation we count around 60 million of our fellow travelers who give of their time at no cost. Everything from food banks, meals on wheels, tutors, mentors, blood donors, board members, builders and thrift shop entrepreneurs, to name a few. That is a huge number but still only 25% of the adult population. Are they special and does the other 75% just not care? That is not accusatory but observational and worthy of consideration.

volunteering-crowd-three-young-people-raising-their-hands-45121913Several studies have been done. It seems first and foremost is that some say volunteering isn’t cool. We see stereotypical pictures of do gooders and in a fascinating way we say we cannot relate to them. They are old. They are dorks. They are not of my ilk. They have nothing better to do with their time. Mine is valuable.

Another aspect is that many are unsure of what they can do. Successful people don’t like to look stupid or pedestrian. If you need a CEO or CFO or someone with a doctorate in nuclear physics I am your man or woman. Otherwise as they say on Shark Tank, “I am out.”

The time factor seems daunting except for one fact. A majority of volunteers today are between the ages of 30-60. In their prime, they have kids and demanding jobs and yet still find a few spare hours on weekends or whatever. Some would be volunteers will argue they can’t stick to a fixed schedule. Almost every organization can tailor to one’s spare time.

Other than my Catholic guilt as one harsh critic told me once, I thought about what is it that makes me want to help? They say much of your proclivity to charity is a result of what your parents taught you. As a kid I remember going over to shovel the elderly Mrs Cook’s driveway after a snow storm. It wasn’t a suggestion from my mom but a very gentle command…and don’t you dare take any money from that poor lady. Not exactly enthusiastic, I did my duty to God ,country and of course my mother.

climber-helps-friend-giving-helping-hand-mountains-day-alpinist-submits-cliff-concept-mountaineering-80904842I guess you have to have an innate empathy for others. When you see someone in trouble you can’t look the other way. Many years ago, dashing down the stairs to the PATH at the old World Trade Center, I happened upon a man siting on the floor with blood all over him. The poor devil had slit his wrists in front of the waning commuter crowd. No one had stopped to notice or if they had, they decided they had more important things to do.

I wrapped a handkerchief around his wounds and asked another guy to find a Port Authority cop. I tried to calm him until help came. Riding home on the train after that I was stunned that no one stopped to help. Was I overly virtuous? Hell no, I was just being a human being. It was an automatic response. Why had so many chosen otherwise? Dunno.What would you have done?

Some people are beyond exemplary. Everyday you have good Samaratins who risk their lives to save another human being. Invariably they brush adulation aside when confronted afterwards. You have Doctors Without Borders who get in harms way with no compensation. You have soldiers who are on their umpteenth tour to a war zone. A donor of a kidney to some unknown person. These are the real heroes.

There are cops and firemen, teachers, nurses, social workers, soldiers, sailors and airmen and the like who serve with compensation but probably not nearly enough. Think of all the people you and I don’t notice who make our world a better place. Think of waiters and waitresses, bussers and landscapers, janitors and delivery people. When you stop and just look around your little burg or fiefdom the number is astounding.

This is not a call to action. That would be haughty on my part. But for me, just cogitating

says upon introspection that maybe I should do more.For all of those  60 million plus and beyond I just want to say thank you for your service. I owe you a lot. We all do

.As always,
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Psychologists can demonstrate volunteering helps you look outside yourself and your problems, allowing you to see the world and other people from a whole different perspective. Might be that endorphin thing or that you are not as bad off as you thought. Works for me.

A study by the Journal For Philanthropy noted that a survey among wealthy people showed more that half said that volunteering rather than just writing a check did more for underprivileged people.

One statistical reason people don’t volunteer is they are not asked. This is both wealthy and poor. We tend not to ask clients, fellow workers or friends. We feel we are intruding. We assume less fortunate people have no desire to better their surroundings. Not true at all.

On a percentage basis Utah,Idaho and Minnesota lead the pack with over 35% participation. The bottom are Florida, Nevada, New York and Louisiana which are at or below 20%. Best city, Salt Lake City. Worst Miami.

Correction: Last week in my “Numbers”blog I stated that 15% percent of the town of Sutherland Springs had been killed. Of course a numbers man pointed out to me that the 26 murdered was 6 percent of the population which would have meant only 40,000 in Denver and 540,000 in New York would have died by extrapolation. Thank you Neil. Did anyone else notice that?

 

 

By The Numbers….

As I thought about those poor people in Texas two numbers stuck in my mind, 26 and 400. There were 26 killed and the population of Sutherland Springs was 400 give or take a few. Unfortunately today we look at this and shrug our shoulders because the slaughter that many people becomes commonplace and even mundane.

But it becomes altogether different when you realize that was approximately 15% of the town’s population. That percentage in Denver would have been 90,000 mowed down. In New York City the toll would have been 1,500,000 defenseless people. What would we have thought then?

We are influenced everywhere by numbers. It is quite fascinating to dwell upon how they interact with our daily lives. Perhaps a zillion times but I can’t tell you if such a number exists. I use the hyperbole because my poor brain can’t even fathom 456 to the umpteenth power. Mathematicians, actuarials, nuclear physicists always scare me. Probably because I feel so inadequate as I muse as to what is going on in their brain at any given point in time. Much more than mine.

We use numbers in sports ad nauseam. You have batting averages, point spreads, over unders and yards to the hole. Swimming race victors, pole vault champions and gymnasts are determined by one one thousandth of a second or point. Can we really cut it that close? Numbers definitely help in point shaving and fantasy whatever. Is it just me as it really gets annoying as you watch a football game. All I want is a score but we have to go through on screen every detail of the game with individual statistics to curry favor for this that play the game within the game.

Wall Street loves or hates numbers. GDP, unemployment rates, the average temperature on Gdansk, Poland all determine whether our personal fortunes go up or down. The unemployment rate is actually the result of a survey. They make phone calls to companies and say “How you doing?” They reply, not too good or not too bad and that determines our financial health as a nation. But then there are hidden numbers which tell you the real situation. How can we parse through all this to get a straight answer? Analysts come up with earnings estimates with is mean between 5 and 30 cents let’s say. Of course if the company beats estimates by 5 cents then they are geniuses and if you miss you are in stock market solitary….until the next set of numbers.

People bet on the numbers and have done so for decades. The Mafiosa in our queen cities throughout the country have lived the high life through their rackets. Of course we in our wisdom saw a chance for getting in on a good thing and created state lotteries and the infamous Powerball. In either case the poor are being promised wealth and fortune if only the can come up with the right number. Damn I missed last week by only three numbers. I think I am getting on a roll.

Numbers are a wonderful source of identifying places and things. Streets, interstates, parking spots and zip codes bring clarity to our lives. Seems our area codes keep changing and any vestige of personal identification is gone. I used to date a girl whose phone number was Eldorado 6 4938. I was on Long Island and that was in the New York City. Plaza 9 5000 was just that, the Plaza Hotel. The Lex subway is now the number four. Main Street is now Rte 24. I guess that is progress.

The Armed Services love numbers from your dog tag to the guided missile frigates to the platoon or division you are assigned to. We kept track of KIA’s in Nam but the really great thing was when you had actual body count. The higher-ups really got off on that. Almost like the Indians taking scalps. I kid you not. We also show convicted movie stars and Wall Street thieves with their mug shot and whatever their prison number is. It feels so good to see them degraded and sniveling.

Which of course brings us to the haves and have nots. The top 1% or those that live below the poverty line which in both cases is an estimate. As we have travelled the world and have seen yachts and condos and mansions in the multi, multi million dollar range Kath and I often wondered who can buy all these things? But if you really think about it, with a world population nearing 7 billion then the there would be 70 million people in that top 1% If you are not in the top 5% then you are really a piker.

As my head is spinning with all these numeral I have to look to numerologists.They go beyond seeing patterns. These people feel our whole lives are preordained by the alignment of this or that set of numerals. They see numbers in everything and the certain of them are completely taboo. In Chatham, New Jersey I had a business and had the phone number 201 635 6666. I thought it was pretty cool until someone told me it stood for the devil. Maybe it was an appropriate one at that.

Whether it is the number 13 or 7 or whatever they are just numbers. Someone said numbers don’t lie and they may be right. I for one do not put all my stock in them and in no way wanted to be considered as just a number. Our beauty as a person and our hearts and souls has got to be more than a formula or equation. Inside it is what makes us, us. You can’t put a number on that. At least not yet

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:
• The numerical digits we use today such as 1, 2 and 3 are based on the Hindu-Arabic numeral system developed over 1000 years ago.
• Different names for the number 0 include zero, nought, naught, nil, zilch and zip.

What comes after a million, billion and trillion? A quadrillion, quintillion, sextillion, septillion, octillion, nonillion, decillion and undecillion. My favorite is still a gazillion.

• The name of the popular search engine ‘Google’ came from a misspelling of the word ‘googol’, which is a very large number (the number one followed by one hundred zeros to be exact). Which is probably why the company is worth so many hundreds of billions.

We have seven deadly sins, and seven wonders of the world. Not to mention colours of the rainbow, pillars of wisdom, seas, dwarves, days in the week…This might be because when these things came about there were celestial bodies visible in the sky (the Sun, the Moon, Venus, Mercury, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn).

That’s all folks!

 

Speaking Of Hospice…

My sister in law died earlier this week after a long illness. In the end she was in the care of hospice. As I discussed this with her kids it came to mind how little we know of this wonderful mission. Yet almost a million and a half people a year avail themselves of this part of medicine that is rarely talked about.

As some of you know I have worked in hospice as a volunteer for over five years in the Denver area. When I mention that to people they cringe and say,”I could never do that.” Maybe yes, maybe no. The fact is I am not an oddity, at least not in this. There are almost 500,000 volunteers who share with me a special calling I guess.To me it is just a part of life.

The derivation of the word hospice is from the Lain for visitor or host. In the early 1100’s it became known as a way station or inn for tired or wounded travelers. The present day institution is the brain child of a British nurse, Dame Cecilia Saunders. The basis is simple. You treat the person not the disease. In order to gain access you have to have a written document from a medical doctor saying you have six months or less to live. You state you will not ask for any extraordinary procedures to prolong life. It is that simple.

We are not too good talking about death. My old buddy John Horan, aka The Body Snatcher, and I have had several lengthy talks about this. John is a funeral director extraordinaire in Denver as well as my cigar smoking and drinking buddy. . The best answer seems twofold. First our medical industry has taught us that they can cure you of anything.

That might be true but no one discusses what you might be like at the end of the treatment. In our era of specialization the surgeon is just supposed to get rid of whatever. Then a cadre of others from physiotherapists to psychotherapists, dietitians, pulmonologists fall in line. We have done a lot to have case mangers et al but the myriad of professionals sometimes seems quit daunting and even dehumanizing.

The second part is that we are not exposed to death as in days of old. People live longer. When I was in grammar and high school parents or siblings died. You went to Gallagher’s funeral home for a wake. You could have been 8 or 18. It is what you did. Not today.

Hospice tries to comfort you in every way possible from physical to psychological to spiritual. Palliative care tries to ease the pain. We work with the care givers to assuage any fears they might have and yes, give them a break. In totally crazy way, people have a better quality of life and in many cases survive longer but in a better fashion. I know that sounds like a sales pitch but when all involved feel some sense of control over the process it really does bring relief.

When I talk with patients I don’t have any specific agenda but am just there to talk…or not. For once in my life it is not in way shape or fashion about me. No one pats you on the back because they have too much else on their minds. You do what is asked but I tell the family, the patient and no one else calls the shots.

I happened upon a woman patient one day. She had a legal pad and I asked what she was doing? She replied, “I am planning my funeral” I said “That’s cool, do you want to talk about it?” She then related in a very upbeat way how she wanted it to come off with a few exceptions. When I asked why the problem, she said her daughter told here she either couldn’t or didn’t want her to do it that way. Really? I said, “Honey you do what you damn well please”. She said,”I like you” At least some one does.

I won’t bore you with any more stories but if I did they would be ones of an incredible connection with another human being. I am always in awe they trust me to that extent. For the most part they know exactly what is going on and are comfortable with it. That is not always true for the family. The most common concern is of what will it be like when the time comes? Every one is different.

I have been there several times at the time of death. All I can tell you is that is genuinely peaceful. I remember when my son Scott was born too many years ago. I wanted to be in the delivery room which was taboo back then.The Ob/Gyn wanted to meet me to make sure I was not going to go to my knees at the big moment.

In a wonderful way he told me there are five people in the room and then there are six. I thought about that during one of my patient visits. There are six in the room and then there are five. It is the ultimate demonstration of the cycle of life. Don’t know why people don’t get it? I don’t know anyone who has beat the rap though of course we will always try.

Two thirds of hospice patients choose to die at home. I get that but residences also offer an inordinate amount of flexibility. You want to bring pictures or furniture? No problem. Your dog or cat? Can be arranged. No visiting hours. we are always open! You want an ice cream sundae at three in the morning? At your service. you can even have a drink or tow.

That does remind me of one last story. A patient wanted ice cream. I said, “With Chocolate Sauce?” Why not! I threw in a couple of chocolate chip cookies. As I served him I said with a wink,”You know all this sugar isn’t good for you.” We both laughed heartily and it was as it should be. I am irreverent to the end. It is life.

As always
Ted The Great.

Factoid:

The cost of in resident hospice care ranges from a little over $225 a day to $450 for extreme care. Just the basic part of a day in the hospital can range anywhere from $1500-5000. Intensive care is a whole other story.

At the beginning most hospices were not for profit. Of course the entrepeneurs of the world saw an opportunity. Today there are many both large and small. Unfortunately many have questionable practices. One of the largest,VITAS just paid $75 million to settle a question of overcharging. They of course did so without admitting guilt.

The average stay in hospice is 17 days. That is really quite sad because the majority of families I have worked with said they waited too long. There is a sense of giving up and guilt that really shouldn’t be there. We had one patient who was with us for over a year.

 

Meditating On My Navel….

This past Monday I spent an absolutely delicious day staring out the window at Chateau Kenny here in the Sunshine State. There is an alligator in the pond/lake behind our house but I don’t think he likes cigars or scotch so we will be just two passing acquaintances for now. My Sonos jukebox was playing Gregorian Chant. I got to thinking about our world today and almost called this edition, Heart of Darkness, but I didn’t want to show up Joseph Conrad.

The Wall Street Journal saw no end in sight for the bull market. Trump, Shumer and McCain were still at it. Corker whom I think is one of the more erudite in DC also fell prey to the Donald displaying once again that sanity will not prevail for the time being. The world made its weekly quotas of assassinations and senseless killing and then some, with bombings in Somalia. But I mused about the whole idea of driverless cars and colonies on Mars? Is that progress or just avoidance of some our problems in the real world? Dunno.

I whipped out one of my Leonardi Da Vinci books. If you ever need to regenerate your brain just Google Michael Gelb and some of his insights to the Maestro. Two of his seven principles he ascribes to Leo are Curiositae and Sfumato. The first pushes you to question everything. You have an insatiable wonderment at our world as would a child trying to learn. You question and research. Not for a term paper but for the sheer fun of it.

I thought about the human body and not quite in the same way that Harvey Weinstein might. More like Da Vinci. He would study cadavers and marvel at the intricacies of blood vessels, lungs, the heart, and nervous system. This was without any textbooks. The interrelatedness is almost beyond comprehension. If you go for a run or a walk you engage all sorts of muscles, axions and energy and breathing mechanisms to propel you. Your heart beats a gazillion times in your lifetime 24/7 and you never give it a thought. Elon Musk, you can’t even come close to equalize these efficiencies and symbiotic relationships.

Look at a tree or plant and realize all the systems and subsystems producing photosynthesis and clearing our carbon dioxide. All of this is done without or in spite of the intervention of man. I guess what I am saying is this world of ours is one giant miracle.Food chains and symmetry. A delicate balance. If I ever needed a reason to explain some sort of superior being I wouldn’t have to look far. I find it very difficult to believe this all came together all on its own or by some sort of accident. I am not trying to play the God card but just marvel and hope our arrogance doesn’t blow us up some day.

We look for our own personal meaning in the world and that is a valid endeavor. Yet we are specks in time and no matter who we are it doesn’t take very long to forget us after we are gone. Given that I have to catch myself constantly worrying about the past or trying to figure out the future. Living in the moment is not just a Zen thing. I am writing at this very moment putting my feelings on paper. It will not be a great manuscript but if I can connect with anyone of you, how cool is that. In a rather obtuse way we have communicated over all these vast miles of cyberspace and that is amazing.

The second Da Vinci principle I love is Sfumato. You embrace enigma and paradox. You go down dark alleys knowing full well you will probably never figure it out but just trying to get past the contradictory is fun. It is not an exercise in frustration but seeing if somehow, some way you might find an answer. Why does God let bad things happen to good people? Why do we spend billions on trying to kill one another and yet there is poverty in the world? We spend thousands getting our German cars fixed but don’t spend the money on our own health?

Instead of putting road blocks in our life we should figure out a way around. This whole thing about sexual harassment has a deeper meaning to me. Why do my fellow males have the absurd fixation that anything that reeks of acquiescence to women will be their downfall? If we really think we are smarter how does the exclusion of women in industry and technology in particular make any sense? We have problems that need solutions. Wouldn’t you rather have 100% of the population trying to come up with an answer? It seems to me that separation by sex, nationality, religion is the ultimate blockade to creativity. Sorry I keep going back to my same old pulling on the same oar theory.

My son Scott is searching for his next post in life. He spent thirteen wonderful years with a fine company. He is good at what he does but is seriously considering another path. TTG is preaching that in this point in his life he can experience the Possible. Now that would seem contrary to career paths and utilization of one’s talents. Yet you are really asking what are your talents? What really floats your boat beyond a pay check? Did you get into your present position because it was comfortable or was there really a fire in your belly? This can apply no matter where you are in life’s journey. Us old farts need to go through this drill.

Sorry for all the blabber. It is just so much fun to let it rip and for just a brief moment concentrate on the here and now. Make decisions not on outcomes or judgements by others but by what is really in your gut. Be careful. That is what happens when you meditate on your navel. You might find out what is really in there.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:
Who wants to deal with facts in the midst of this crazy episode.

Getting Keyed Up….

Keys are supposed to open things and the ones in Florida did not disappoint. We have had company for a few days and it seemed like a perfect excuse for a road trip. One that has been our Florida Bucket List for a while. The Hurricane called Irma gave us pause but they told us they were open for business. Depends on your point of view.

This archipelago is made up of over 800 islands that stretch from the Southeast tip of the Florida mainland for almost 120 miles. Probably only 30 of them are inhabited. They range from Key Largo of Beach Boy fame, to Isla Morada for the Bloodlines aficionados and then lastly the infamous Key West. This was our final destination. They were all ground zero for a Category 5 maelstrom a little over three weeks ago.

US 1 is a marvel of engineering. The two lane road hopscotches the cays and inlets via 42 bridges, one of which is seven miles long. It parallels the old railroad line that served to open the Keys in the early nineteen hundreds thanks to the raw ambition and some would say folly of Henry Flagler. He was rewarded with land from the state for every mile of rail he put into service and he was prolific.

At the southernmost terminus of the US, Key West has been home to pirates chasers, notables such as Ernest Hemingway, several presidents and today is a base for the Coast Guard, Navy and many misfits and forgotten hippies. They just ran out of land and decided to stay. They can be seen around town with gray ponytails, a minimum of clothing and that far away look in their eyes which is surely the result of too many trips to Margueritaville. My type of place.

It seemed to be a cross between Charleston, Savannah and New Orleans. The charming homes, at least the ones that have survived, have stories to tell. There are hawkers on Duval Street trying to sell wares of all sort including T shirts, cigars and even a bit of the flesh. Business in every aspect has picked up since the arrival of cruise ships. It seems when people have a short time ashore and money burning holes in their pockets they will believe just about anything. Almost like my Navy buddies of old. All in good fun.

From the looks of things the storm did little damage to this Eden and that is an important part of the story for the Keys as a whole. In the KW we saw, the streets were swept clean and piles of branches and ruined belongings were kept from the public view on the side streets. Put on a good show.Business as usual for the Golden Goose. Money is no object. Probably a good move.

It wasn’t the same scenario in getting there. Some of you have witnessed coastal destruction firsthand but it was tough watching this on the way down. Literally 20-30 foot mountains of brush, clothing, furniture and appliances were strewn everywhere. Cars boats and lives are upended in every possible way. Trees and shrubs were stripped of their greenery by the wind forces. It was almost like it was autumn in a place that doesn’t shed its flora. The beige of winter was omnipresent as far as you could see. People were trying to dig out and piece together what had been a dream getaway. I don’t know how long it will take? Their far away look wasn’t from peyote but despair

It was a metaphor in so many ways to where we are as a nation today. These people had found their bit of heaven whether it a was a mansion or a double wide. When you see the exposure to water on either side of the road you have to ask,”What were they thinking?” But the siren call of developers who were prodded on by the federal as well as state and local governments was too good to resist. Now what do we do?

As in Houston, Puerto Rico and maybe even the vineyards of Napa, people are looking for and even demanding help. If you can’t sympathize when you see their plight you are heartless. At the same time is rebuilding a smart option? What about next time and more importantly are we just insuring people against failure. Flood insurance is non existent in the private markets. Uncle Sam is the insurer of last resort and he is in the hole right now for about $30 billion large.

As we drove, we spoke of the options and approaches. Succinctly if you are Democrat you say we have to do everything we can to get these people back up on their feet. It is our responsibility and duty no matter how absurd the circumstances seem. If you are a Republican you say, no way. Everyone has to fend for themselves. If you made a mistake we feel sorry for you but it is your responsibility to fix it. The GOP are heartless sons of a bitches.Not really but which way do we play it?

Think about bankruptcy laws, student loans in arrears, defaults on mortgages, welfare, disability, poverty, unfunded pensions and auto repos. Is there a line of thinking here? Should we have free college tuition, free medical, and for some a guaranteed minimum income? I saw all that damage and there were FEMA tents and state crews and private contractors clearing roads. There was a lot of work to be done and a ginormous amount of money to be spent. We have to ask where will it all come from for this and so many others? And don’t say the rich.

The rub is I can’t be heartless and turn my back but the businessman in me says is this just throwing good money after bad? Those in need throughout the country are popping up everywhere. I just wonder if anyone is looking long range? We run huge deficits and rob Peter to pay Paul. No one is stopping to think. Don’t you worry TTG, we will find a way. Just tell me which way you think we should play this? Horn of plenty or Simon Legree? Not quite as easy as it sounds. Maybe there is a Key to all this? I hope so.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Key west is actually closer to Havana (90miles) than to Miami.For a long time, it was the largest and busiest town in the whole of Florida, because it was close to the Bahamas and Cuba and provided a trade route up to New Orleans.

In 1935 the Florida Keys were hit by one of the worst hurricanes ever to strike the USA. Winds with speeds of 200 miles per hour (320 km per hour) battered the islands and a storm surge of over 17.5 feet (5.3 m) flooded them. 500 people died in the hurricane and the Overseas Railway was severely damaged. Irma’s peak sustained winds were around 110MPH Those that hit Naples topped out at 142MPH

Pan American World Airways, commonly known as Pan Am, was founded in Key West, with its first flight on October 18, 1927 to deliver mail between Cuba and the United States under a contract with the with the United States Postal Service.

Charles “Sonny” McCoy, the mayor of Key West, water-skied to Cuba, making the trip in 6 hours, 10 minutes on a slalom ski. He must have been smoking something.