Equilibrium

Webster tells us it is a state in physics in which opposing forces are balanced. In our bodies it is the things in our ears that keep us from falling over. In our markets it is the equality of supply and demand. In our hearts and souls it is a sense that all is well. Right now in my life at least it is a concept I have not enjoyed for too long a time. 

I started to write last week but the events at the Capitol put me in a state of confusion. Due to the randomness of my ways, chaos is not a unique experience but this time it seemed to overwhelm me. How could I find a foothold? Something that was in some way normal? Tough to find.

I have had this feeling that I am being incredibly selfish. I have a great wife and family, live in an idyllic place with a roof over my head and food on the table. Suck it up boy. This too shall pass. But will it?

I am not talking about COVID. There is a vaccine and despite our foibles, sooner or later we will all get inoculated. Yes, there has been death and disease and this is consequential enough to scare one but it is incidental, as crass as that sounds. 

There is a substrata in our country and our world that has people feeling they have been screwed. States and countries want to regain their rightful position in the hierarchy whatever the hell that means. 

China’s bitch goes back over two hundred years. Putin and Russia are trying to go back to the 90’s and the USSR. Turkey wants to be the kingpin of the Middle East and every little tyrant wants to flex their muscle. 

Governors like Cuomo and Newsom are basking in the limelight, eying bigger and better positions. Bezos, Zuckerberg and Musk count their money and their clout in reshaping our world. Don’t get me started on the Pelosi’s, Shumer’s and Mc Connell’s of the world. When you come right down to it, it seems to be everyone for themselves. 

I am of the opinion that it is clash of styles. Humanists versus scientists. `The latter look at most things as an equation or a transaction. Black and white and survival of the fittest. There must be a cost benefit to everything. Thank you for your service but you are no longer needed. I am sorry but you don’t fit in any longer. We have found a process or machine to replace you. 

Humanists are based more on history or tradition if you will. Morality and the Golden Rule are at the forefront. We should all play by a set of rules that look to enhance the greater good. There is no “I” in team and all that. Fairness, equality and justice are the bywords. 

Is it just me or is this a clash that is being fought every day in every dot in the atlas. We have made our world smarter, faster, more efficient and convenient in oh so many ways. I used to go to the hardware store on Main St. Now I go to Home Depot. We loved a neighborhood bar to get beer and a burger. Now we just call up the chain and have it delivered. 

All this feels like progress and Utopia in our world. If we play it right we don’t have to come into contact with anyone we don’t want to. I no longer think about homelessness because I really don’t see it anymore. Riots, crime  and violence. Sorry, I just don’t feel your pain.   

 My daughter sent me an article about a mayor in Colorado who went homeless for a week. He is a staunch Republican but had the guts to do it. His life and his insight has changed dramatically. What if you or I spent a week in housing project or even a jail? Do you think we would be so dismissive and callous? 

By this time if you are still reading, you are saying TTG is a real downer. I don’t blame you. But at the same time that old pragmatic SOB in me says we or at least I have got to take a long hard look. I think we are kidding ourselves if we don’t.  Do you? 

This isn’t a revival meeting and if we were saving souls I would have to be first in line for redemption. But last week’s events as well as those of the summer focused on the optics and not the underlying condition. The jerks that busted into Congress were the same ilk as those who tore down Portland and Minneapolis. In both scenarios there were those who are upset and probably rightly so. Their message was bulldozed by violence and now have given the cognoscenti on both sides the means to rationalize their hatred. 

There is inequity but everyone can’t be the same. The system has screwed up on education and healthcare but the downtrodden are not without fault. There is a thing called standards that we have to agree on. What is decent and what is obscene? Both in wealth and behavior. The chasm between us is enormous. 

Can we do it? I really don’t know. The political charade of impeachment is not a good start. The selfish and infantile behavior of Trump has created a nightmare. Both sides have built war machines that are revved up and raring to go. 

In my own small and probably naive way I am asking all of us to lay down the arms and try just for once to see the other side. Put away the barbs and the tudes and just say how can we get together? Everyone and I mean everyone has a valid point. It would take some very humble and big people to understand that. I crave some sort of equilibrium in my life. Do you? 

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

The Amazon argument goes both ways. In one sense they have taken over the supply chain and monopolize it. On the other they have given small businesses the ability to market products to people that would have never reached. 

While working as a volunteer at homeless shelter in Denver I unscientifically figured out that about 25% of our residents wanted to not be homeless. Another 50% were either mentally ill or substance dependent. The other 25% just liked being homeless. 

There are 300,000 people in prison today for drug violations. 45% of those in federal prison are there for drug offenses. Most “Three Strike” laws mandate a life sentence for even those who have never committed a violent or aggravated crime. 

All Is Calm

NOT!  We are probably as far from calm as you can get. I started enumerating all the events of 2020 and found myself looking for the scotch bottle at 7:00 AM.

Start with a dose of COVD, sprinkle in the ensuing calamity for our economy, and the just when you think things are getting better here comes Derek Chauvin and his callous disregard for a human life in George Foreman. Breanna Taylor, Kenosha and the lawless rioting in Chicago, Seattle and elsewhere and things are really starting to boil. 

Had enough? Sorry, but the Gulf coast is belted by hurricanes three times in a row. Almost like a prize fighter getting up off the deck after each knockout punch only to get hit with another. The fires in California and my beloved Colorado almost give you the feeling of doomsday or at least a glimpse of it from the edge. 

The response to the virus is chaotic. New York screams for help but a hospital ship with hundreds of beds goes unused. We can’t find masks, PPE, or ventilators. We dart to and fro trying this or that to stem the flow but it is a dam breach that takes down everything in its path. 

Just when democracy should be at its best we keep shooting blanks. Congress stutters in fits and starts. It is locked in a battle of egos and one upsmanship with our Tweeting president. The elections are contested no matter the assurances and we the poor people are clamoring for a leader. Anyone, anywhere among this ship of fools. It is almost as if everyone in Washington has fiddles while the rest of our beautiful country burns. 

This is not the year in review of a man who is depressed but rather one who looks at all we have in consternation. We were favored by 171/2 points and here we are in the fourth quarter and down by ten. We are so incredibly creative and resourceful when we want to be but we have chosen to bitch and moan about our lot, even though there is none better. 

The irony and maybe the beauty of all this is the ability of the locals to get back to basics. When in doubt do it for ourselves. Here in La La Land we don masks out of respect for our neighbors not feeling in any sense docile nor subservient. We play by the rules not because it is the law but because it is right. 

There is a school in Indiantown run by two nuns. It is called Hope Rural. The locale is home to the people that pick the fruit and labor in the hotels and condos. It has existed for over 25 years to educate a hundred or so kids in the basics of education and life. They do this without a penny of public or even diocesan funding. 

I mention them because as a community we give Christmas to the over 100 families every year. Our garage was the depot for our members to bring bags of presents for each. A vey cool thing but more importantly going on in nooks and crannies throughout our generous nation. Food banks, shelters and neighbors looking in on each other are a part of our landscape as a country and a people. 

I am so torn about how good and how bad we are. Sure it is life but does it really have to be that way? I am always amazed by the balance of nature. Food chains and adaptations over millennia have enabled all forms of life to survive. There is flock of sand hill cranes flying above me. I wonder if they fight and bicker about who is boss or does one have more than the other?

There was guy who was born over 2000 years ago. Let’s for the moment not even call him God. He preached about loving one another. He healed the sick. Maybe it wasn’t a miracle but maybe the human spirit just reviving because someone took the the time to care. We are so quick to rule it out as a possibility because science says it can’t happen. We can’t seem to get the message that is so obvious. 

I worry about us because we want to keep slicing off pieces of the pie for own. We want to be recognized and rewarded for what our color, nationality or sexual preference is. We want to stand out for what we have materially and not for what goes on inside of us. We are losing our sense of community in our burgs, our nation and our world. That can’t be good. 

I am going to go out and say hello to total strangers today. I am going to write or call friend and say thank you for being so. I am gong to have a talk with my God and tell him my shortcomings but also how lucky I am. I hopefully have put into words what I think we all feel. We can get there but it is going to take a lot of work. But as I think about it maybe “All is bright” after all. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you.

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

With three devastating hurricanes, extreme wildfires, hail, flooding, tornadoes and drought, the United States tallied a record high bill last year for weather-related disasters: $306 billion. 

In a letter Thursday, Capitol physician Brian Monahan informed members of Congress and their staffs that the National Security Council had designated vaccine doses to Congress to meet “long-standing requirements for continuity of government operations.” Members would be vaccinated first, followed by “continuity-essential” staff, and then other staff members until the supply is exhausted.The Devil made them do it.  As of press time many emergency room doctors and nurses throughout the country have not been able to be vaccinated because of short supply. 

From the beginning of March through the end of October, food banks nationwide distributed an estimated 4.2 billion meals to our neighbors facing hunger in the United States. 

Since 1947 the Marines Toys for Tots program has given out over 584 million toys to 265 milli9n kids. That is just one program!

92% of Americans celebrate Christmas. 79% put up a tree. About 35 million trees are sold each years.

Overall, American consumers will spend more than $1 trillion for Christmas this year, with almost $150 billion going to online retailers

Searching For Sanity

There has been a lot going on in this little brain over the last week. My social interaction has been severely curtailed so I have to find my own way to entertain TTG. 

I went to the boob tube and found little that was of comfort. I have given up on PBS after every newscast was full of bias and subdued hate during the unending presidential campaign. McNeil, Lehrer would be disappointed. As for regular news, I completely understand and respect COVID. I just don’t need it every night. Lines for testing everywhere in America and the 49th closeup of people dying in ICU’s have numbed me rather than intrigued me. 

How about Frontline? The latest on the Uyghurs being deemed subhuman in China? Perhaps The Social Dilemma which will cause you to toss everything technological that you own. I am not dismissing any of this. It is just difficult to find anything uplifting.  

A friend very nicely dropped off a book to me called,The Kill Chain by Christian Bose. I read it in two days. It discusses war from a new technological perspective. I will admit it was an incredible page turner but at the end I wanted to have a stiff scotch. That was at 8:00AM!

I picked up my Wall Street Journal from the driveway this AM hoping for solace. It’s Tuesday, so the crosswords don’t offer respite. Let me see,COVID again, Trump still denying, student debt, congressional inaction on monetary aid, Pearl Harbor, the Pope’s inaction in China. What’s a nice guy like me doing in a place like this? 

But wait, there is a full page ad taken out by the HANS Foundation. Probably looking for money but let me peruse. It seems it is run by this guy from India, Manoj Bhargava. A former monk who turned entrepreneur and had this “5 Hour Energy” drink. Made him a billionaire. My type of guy. 

His latest venture is called the Hans Premium Water Invention,HPW. It can turn brackish, chemical water into crystal clear pure water much like that Guy turned water into wine at Cana. This thing is the size of a dishwasher and doesn’t use chemicals. I have to read on. There has to be a catch somewhere?

If he is right then we don’t have to buy water in plastic bottles. We can go to God forsaken places like Calcutta and provide people with aqua pura. There are one billion people in the world today without access to clean water. 80% of the water in China is contaminated. Forget about that. What about Flint, Michigan?

Sucked in, I kept reading. He never asked me to buy one of these things. He never asked for money. This dude actually gives away billions to the poor people of India. He wants to provide at no cost, this device to regions and countries in the world with no access to fresh water. Is he for real?

I immediately sprinted to my laptop to find some sort of critique. He had to be a whack job at best or charlatan at worst. The fact is I could not find anything derogatory. There was an article in Forbes five years ago and just recently in Crane’s Detroit. But no malice or forethought. Hmm. 

The best imprimatur I could find was a deal he just cut with Culligan Water Treatment to distribute his products in the US. I don’t think an operation of that size would risk their rep on a fly by night. Wow. A positive story, that he had to pay the WSJ for. 

Point being is there are some good things happening out there that get little or no ink. If I had breezed by page 10 to find the editorials, I would not have had my sprint uplifted. If I had not researched I would not have discovered a billionaire doing good things whom I had never heard of, much less know how to spell his name. Imagine that. 

There is whole lot of good stuff out there that costs very little or nothing. Go to a body of water. It can be the ocean or a pond or perhaps a puddle. Look at and into it and just think about nothing but simple things. 

Take a walk down a path where there is nothing around you but beauty in its most primordial form. No, I am not going Thoreau or Chopra on you but trying see life for what it is. Sure we have been thrown a few curve balls lately but that is the hand we are dealt. 

Can I find bad in today’s world? You bet. There is a bunch of it. Is there a whole lot of good. Yup! You just have to look a little harder or even better as that full page ad demonstrated, not overlook it. A little bit of sanity is starting to creep in. Don’t worry, not too much in my case. I don’t want to lose my reputation. 

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

68.7 % of the fresh water on earth is trapped in glaciers. 30% of the fresh water is in the ground in aquifers. Water is 71% of the world’s surface. 80% of all illness in the industrial world is water related Yikes!

Approximately 400 billion gallons of water are used in the United States every day. About 6,800 gallons of water is required to grow a day’s food for a family of four. Unsafe water kills 200 children in the world every hour. 

The number of negative news stories far outweigh the good. Humans may be neurologically or physiologically predisposed towards focusing on negative information because the potential costs of negative information far outweigh the potential benefits of positive information.

Uyghurs are a Muslim population in the Xinjiang province of China. They number about 2.5 million and have lived in the area for over thousand years. The Communist Party in China has been trying to root them out since 1931. Most have been imprisoned in what are called “reeducation facilities”.

Many Thanks…

Many Thanks

It seems like some of the craziness is tapering off while we still hold onto our cherished moments of insanity. Transition can go forward and the vaccine is in sight. Yet as homo sapiens we can’t control our urges to mingle on the feast day of feast. 

We all want our place at that Norman Rockwell table even though Uncle Lenny always gets smashed and someone makes a remark or taunt to causes one or several to leave the buffet in tears. We say grace but real fast so we can dig in. Some don’t say anything. 

In the midst of all this I have decided to sit down a few days before and really think about all I have and how good life has been to me. Not riches or fame but an incredible series of events and relationships that have formed me over these 75 years.

For a moment just think about family. Not just immediate but over the centuries the number of unions that go into the DNA of you and me. My grandmother, who at the age of 14 joined her 16 year old sister to go down a country lane in County Roscommon, town of Boyle  and wind up in a place called America. Talk about guts or desperation or perhaps a little of both.

There have been so many teachers that cajoled, disciplined and gave you little pearls of wisdom that have stuck with me all these years. The Sister Eamons and Albertas that were strict but not as heartless as wags might tell us. My beloved Jesuits who taught me to question and an English teacher in college who liked the way I wrote and may have given rise to Ted’s Head so many years later. 

Bosses? As a true rebel and egalitarian I have railed from time to time about authoritarian figures. Still there were some who saw something in me whether as a captain of a ship or a titan of industry. One in particular gave me wide latitude to as he said, “make myself or hang myself”. Your option. 

I mentioned to a fellow golfer last week, a memory  when  I had a caddy back in New Jersey. He dryly noted he never owned a caddy. I quickly added that Steve, a black man from Harlem and I were good friends. It did make me think about so many people who have been so giving to me over the years. 

Whether it is a waiter, maitre’d, cleaning lady, bartender, nurse, shopkeeper in a little town, just for a moment of revery I am going to cogitate about how gracious so many people have been to me. Again I have always thought of them as friends.  I wish there was some way I could thank each one of them and let them know what that has meant to me. Maybe just a please, may I have, and thank you today can make up for some of that. 

Kathy and I have lived in so many locales over the years. A little nuts? Of course but just think of the myriad of people we have come to know from all walks of life. Neighbors by the score in towns, churches, clubs, kid’s soccer teams, schools and business. When you stop to add them up, it is really astounding. 

Of course there have been some that have stood out more than others. Roommates, teammates, classmates, shipmates. For some unknown reason we clicked and I am so fortunate to have so many good friends right now and it is incredibly sad that some have so few or none. I have girl friends. Don’t tell the divine Miss K but I love talking to women. I am an equal opportunity gabber and sometimes flirt. To each and everyone of you I say thank you. 

To those who have departed you know now what an effect you have had on my life. My closest friends, John and Tom. My older brother Kevin. All gone far too soon, no matter what their age. All are there when I needed them. I only hope I was half as good in return. 

Of course the final piece has to be family. I have a sister that is the mother hen and the glue that holds this group of reprobates together. Even at this age when we are supposed to be independent she is there watching and worrying. 

My son and daughters are in a word, fantastic. They have spread their wings but have not forgotten their roots. Each is is special and unique in so many ways. My munchkin grandkids can do no wrong. I look at pictures around this joint on a daily basis. I think of each one as the amazing individuals they are becoming. I forget birthdays and ages but they are always in my heart. 

Last but surely not least I can’t believe how lucky I am to have such a wonderful wife. A good friend told me several years ago if I was married to any other woman I would have had three wives by now. The oracle thus spake. I am always amazed at the serendipities and pure chance that we met. It’ll be 50 years in January and doesn’t seem half that long. 

The coolest thing is that when asked what she did for a living, she responds forcefully she was a mother and a wife. It has been her calling and her life. She is as cute as the day I met her and suffice to say I married up. 

I hope if you have gotten this far, that you too can think about what gifts we all have. Not just a quick prayer on one day of the year but a realization that someone has been looking down on us even if you don’t believe in a God. Thank you for listening and reading all these years. You are all wonderful and dear friends. Thanks for the ride

As always 

Ted The Great

I Am Thoroughly Confused…

I live life in what some of you might consider a random fashion. Winging it and turning on a dime might be considered some of my DNA. Yet the last year has been a challenge. Like every other homo sapiens I look for a little certainty where there is none. 

For Kathy and me, this year started off in the South Pacific where we cruised, making Australia as our final destination. We toasted our 49th wedding anniversary overlooking the Sydney Opera House. All was good until all hell broke loose. It’s ironic that Wuhan was light years away and yet it would soon affect every human being on the planet. 

We can argue about response time and safety measures but I think this virus caught everyone, including some very smart scientists by surprise. Yes they had talked of some sort of super virus that would spread because of our global connections, but to this extent? We were all quickly assured we were smart enough to figure out a way around it. How naive and probably incredibly stupid. 

I respect this pandemic but I don’t live in fear. I will take adequate protections but if somehow it sneaks through my bubble then it is probably the luck of the draw. That’s just me. But it galls and yes confuses me why people don’t wear masks? They are available and stupidly easy to put on, so it defies logic that we don’t all do so. I do not look at it as a threat to my virility or Superman status. It is simply a mark of respect for my common man and woman. 

We have just concluded a presidential election. For months we have been lectured to by the cognoscenti. Pundits and pollsters have flooded the airwaves with their version of the way things are or will be. Raw news and facts are now sandwiched with editorial comment. 

Op Eds aren’t just one but every page of the paper. The “latest” polls proved terribly wrong. The Blue Wave fizzled and 71 million Americans thought he other guy was right. How could they?

The Dems outfoxed the GOP. They pushed mail in voting while the Republicans excoriated it and held big rallies and get out the vote campaigns. They did a fabulous job on Election Day but unfortunately the public wanted to mail in. They failed to realize the subtle impact of COVID on the voting process. I guess they were confused.

But beneath the rubble there was another number that stood out to me…the number of non voters. There are in the US 233 million people of voting age. Only 145 million voted. Imagine if you had figured out a way to get some of that other almost 90 million out to cast their ballot? Confusing isn’t it?

The stock market is not easy to figure out. Yesterday we had a ginormous rally over the possibility of a vaccine. Today we are wondering how to distribute it, so perhaps we will have a pullback. A month ago oil was at almost $0 per barrel. Today it is at $40. Once again every financial guru has his day but can anyone get it right? It leaves the public guessing which may be the way they like it. 

Add into this maelstrom the, NFL and college football, weather forecasts, protests for and against, crime and my golf game and poor old TTG has run amok. No matter what little tidbit of sagacity I try to hold onto, there are nine counters saying I am an idiot. (Please don’t comment on my last). You can say these are just alternate opinions but I do have to question just how really smart they all are?

I abhor the term genius. I think I have told you Mark Twain’s maxim that everyone is perfect, just at different things. In times like this we crave some stability, some light to lead us out of the darkness. We watch Dr Phil and Dr Oz on TV. We pick our news cast or channel by who seems the smartest. If we stepped back for a moment, we could probably punch holes in every argument both left and right. 

People are great but man are they opinionated with a dollop of superiority on top. Not so much social but intellectual. They know the perfect way to redo their house, buy golf clubs, go on vacation, pick out single malt scotch and fine wines and of course express themselves politically. They have it all figured out or do they?

I guess my point is that we are not as smart as we think we are and the other guy is not as dumb as he looks. The titans of industry, renowned scientists, columnists, pollsters and eloquent bartenders are all entitled to their opinion. And I am entitled to mine. But life isn’t as predictable as we think. There are aberrations and upheavals beyond our control every day of the week. 

As we look for answers we would do well to dig deep and form our own well thought out viewpoints. God forbid that may take some of our valuable time in our ultra busy world. Then we have to be able to adapt them to our ever changing diorama called life. As we accept things for what they are, we might actually feel less confused. I know I do. 

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Polls affect public perception of everything from voting to racism to God. If they are flawed it results in wrong conclusions by ordinary people and vast amounts of money spent going this rabbit hole or another. Polls actually cause us to think one way or another even if it turns out to be wrong.

“Five percent of the people think;
ten percent of the people think they think;
and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
Thomas A. Edison

Illusory superiority (also known as the above-average effect, superiority bias, leniency error, and the Lake Wobegon effect) is primarily a term used in social science which indicates an individual who has a belief that they are somehow inherently superior to others. They have the tendency to overestimate their own capabilities in relation to the abilities of others.  Legends in our own minds

HAPPY VETERANS DAY….Thank you for your service

Normal Is Overrated…

Here In La La land and at hospice we have these little gizmos that you stand in front of before entering a space. They do some sort of a temperature scan and pronounce you “normal”. I have got to get one of these for home and keep pressing it to prove to my wife I really am on the right side of sanity. On second thought it probably wouldn’t work. 

I got to cogitating about this whole normal thing. Who invented it? Is It some computer that clicks on when you go one way or the other over the line? Perhaps it is a stuffy group of people that meet once a month to decide what is good and what is bad….in their eyes? Can’t say for sure.  

Normal is defined as conformity to a rule or standard. It is usual, average and by some measure, healthy. Whether it is body parts or mental acuity they line everybody up and develop some median of the way people, economies and things of all sort should behave. 

I guess this is why they developed statistics on everything from batting averages to stock averages to body mass indexes. This is okay for reference but in reality it is a contrived concept. They are merely numbers but when transported to you and me they often take on a deleterious effect.  

We seem to love to have guard rails. Acceptable behavior.  How else would we keep score? How else can we figure out who is in and who is out in our particular part of the universe. It becomes the basis of our expectations and if people or things do not measure up, then they are stigmatized and possibly ostracized. 

It becomes an obsession for parents as they not only want their little Jane or John to conform but to excel. Who the hell wants to accept average? They spend hours and vast amounts of money to make sure their progeny at least keep up with the rest of the world and hopefully surpass it. You are told our child had wonderful talent and possibilities.  We form Great Expectations and are shattered when realty hits home.

 It drives our love of things. We want to fit in. We want to be acceptable. We adapt and change our bodies and minds to please society. We develop a social identity, not necessarily our own. If we are not within the lines we are deemed different, disabled, or sick. But is that the real us?

Enter the individual. How horrible! Leonardo DaVinci is one of the great examples of this deviant behavior. He would question everything and at least try to compose an alternative explanation. Not to be a pain in the ass but to say that is the way he wanted to live his life. He looked at things differently. He did not set out to be a genius. He just figured out how to let his mind go. The rest is history.

He wouldn’t make it in today’s educational system. He might take a week or a month on some concept with his students. He would argue the teacher does not have all the correct answers. He wanted to know what you thought in your gut and not what was dictated by the pablum of rote. 

We feel uncomfortable in these situations. We are SUPPOSED to act this way or dress this way. You are too old to be doing that. Your ideas are crazy. What are people going to think of you? On the other hand is it in any way acceptable or healthy to live your life behind a facade of so called propriety?

If I were perfect I would be white, upperclass, suburban, straight, physically chiseled, mentally complete and with 2.5 kids. Do you know anyone like that? I don’t, but we think we do or at least want to be just like that person. From that derives prejudice and stigma. The unwashed masses. Stay away lest we be tainted. Who died and left you the gatekeeper?

Perfection is nirvana. If I don’t have it I must be able to buy it, take a pill for it or find some surgeon who can create it. It literally drives people nuts trying to achieve it. 

The most common symptom of depression is a lack of self esteem. I am unworthy. I can’t be good enough to be loved. If we wonder why people take drugs or binge on booze look no further than a world that wants to tie individual personas in knots. Am I being hyberbolic? I think not. What say you?

Up until about twenty five years ago I strove to be in the right place at the right time. I wanted to be in the club and to say and do the right things. Dare I say, be normal? After a great deal of introspection I discovered that it was more fun to just be me. If I fit in the mold then that was fine. If not I could find my own way and not sweat it.

I did not want to tear down society but to have it serve my purposes rather than the reverse. I am outspoken, not to put someone down but to say I don’t think this or that is quite right. I know it causes some to feel uneasy but if I really believe in something shouldn’t I stand up or should I just acquiesce in the name of amity? 

The real bottom line is whether or not you speak your heart ? Are you truly genuine or do you worry about how that will look? Being open is a tad scary but also a lot of fun. You don’t have to think your way through every move or word. Normal is a vague notion not a strict construct. I happen to think it is overrated. How about you?

As Always

Ted The Great

 

Factoids:

Who has 2.5 children? In all my years I have never experienced a half child.

Behavior: the way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially toward others.  There are thousands of books on the topic from social to economic to consumer behavior. Don’t be so smug when you think you have it figured out. I sure don’t.

Etiquette: the customary code of polite behavior in society or among members of a particular profession or group. Emily Post made a fortune by her “Rules of Etiquette”. Manners, especially good ones are wonderful, but when you get carried away by proper this and that it seems a bit stifling. 

We have had New Normals about 1000 times in my seventy five years on this earth. Just when you think you have normal down it changes again. It is stupid thing called life. BTW: I have also been through at least a half a dozen elections that were the most important in the history of these United States. Pax.

Balance of Power

These past few weeks we have witnessed our three branches of government in action for better or worse. The Executive, Legislative and Judicial were dreamed up almost 250 years ago by some pretty clever dudes. I imagine they are having an interesting conversation in heaven or wherever they are.

In a perfect world each branch does their thing and then keeps an eye out to make sure the other doesn’t overstep their bounds. Somewhere along the line that has gotten a tad askew. 

The people elect the Congress and President. The President nominates to the Supreme Court and the Congress advises and consents. The Supreme Court makes sure that the laws that are proposed and enacted are according to our Constitution. This is the separation of power. My poli sci major at Georgetown at least gave me the basics. 

After watching the last few months the separation part is wanting and I prefer to use the balance of paper as in warring nations. I fear egos on all sides of the fence are trying to assert themselves. Is it their proper lot in life or is hubris superseding civility? SCOTUS is getting dangerously close to legislating. POTUS thinks everything is fair game. Congress is enjoying the theater of it all. 

Case in point is Judge Barrett. I think no one doubts her excellence in all matters judicial as well as her coolness under fire. As a judge we would hope she would be Solomon like in cases before her and that would lead to a simple analysis of the law. 

But I would lead you to a wonderful article I found by Brandon Murill that outlines the various possibilities of interpretation of what our forefathers wrote. There are many and they range from textualism to moral reasoning to original intent. If you read it and the justices are true to their school they will use whatever manner without bias or prejudice or personal feelings. I am not completely confident I would know how to do that? Maybe you too. 

I am not sure if the intent of the Senate Judiciary Committee was to try to understand the judge or to grandstand on both sides of the aisle. I found it incredible that each member on the first day read prepared remarks that seemed like stump speeches to pander to their bases. Even the second day of questioning was more accusatory than fact finding. Did we accomplish anything other than to brag to the home town folks that we showed them. 

The fiasco of a second stimulus package laid bare the obstinance of both sides. Constant negotiating for the last several months have brought us nowhere nearer to a conclusion. Congress holds the pursestrings and the executive branch tries formulate a policy. It s like a president of a company coming before a board. But they are at loggerheads. Balance or chaos? Does the company eventually go down the tubes?

I did a little more delving into the boys and girls on the hill. Surprisingly they average around 60 years of age and their average tenure is ten years or so. Senator Josh Hawley is youngest at 40 and Diane Feinstein is oldest senator at 87. AOC is 31 and Don Young is 87 on the House side. 

As I went through biographies and career paths it was fascinating  to see how many were career politicians. Some would say they know the ropes. Others like me, would question if they have ever had any experience in the real world? 

Beyond that one has to wonder what sort of original thoughts one might have after being in the same place for forty years? Schumer, Pelosi, McConnell, Grassley and Hoyer are the ones in position of leadership. All lifers. 

You know me. I love to think outside the box. Spontaneous? My middle name. Not always a plus but you know where I stand. Imagine being in a so called deliberative chamber where your are pretty much forced to follow the party line? You can originate a bill that might be truly groundbreaking but it is tied up in committee by the party hack chairman or chairwoman. You hear of bills being locked up in committee or scheduled for a vote so far down that it will never see the light of day in this term. What happens? In the next session the process has to start all over again. YIKES!

I guess the SCOTUS nomination has caused me to think far beyond the choice of a Supreme Court Justice. Is this whole system of organized chaos the way it was supposed to be or has the cancer mutated so grossly that we will never find our way back to a healthy and vibrant organism?

To put it another way do we have Ben Franklins, Thomas Jeffersons, James Madisons or George Washingtons in our midst? Or was that  time of incredible foresight and collaboration a freak of nature and history? 

To think their plan would endure for two and a half centuries is mind boggling. Yes there is a process called amendment to change things and we have done so several times. The Bill of Rights clarified and repaired the original document a short while after it the original constitution was ratified. They nailed it. 

 But overall in an amazingly simplistic form this thing has worked. We have teetered and tottered but that thing called balance has brought us back. I hope we understand what a wonderful but fragile thing balance is….in all things. 

As always 

Ted The Great

Factoids:

The Constitution states that Justices “shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour.” This means that the Justices hold office as long as they choose and can only be removed from office by impeachment.The Supreme Court acts as a check against the power of Congress and the president. The lifetime appointment is designed to ensure that the justices are insulated from political pressure and that the court can serve as a truly independent branch of government

Congress:

5% do not have bachelors degrees compared with 65% of Americans 25 and older.

Only 20% have not held previous political office

Fewer than 5% list blue collar experience in their biographies.

35% are lawyers

!8.8% have served in the military

Common fields for Republicans

include medicine, real estate and

farming. For Democrats, they include

teaching, nonprofits and unions.

Chuck Schumer went to Harvard undergrad and law but never practiced. He went right into politics. His father was an exterminator in Brooklyn. I couldn’t resist. 

Silly Us…..

I know in my last, I espoused living in the present.What was I thinking? With all that is going on, I decided to look into my crystal ball and try to figure out where we are going. I am keying in on one area, technology. 

 

As you are all well aware I am not a rocket scientist. At the same time I have watched over the last forty years as we have progressed from Apple II’s to the latest iPhones and Apple watches becoming part of the vernacular. The power of an IBM 360 in my meaty little hand.  

We take all this for granted which is dangerous. We blithe fully use our apps to play games, communicate, manage our health, finances and soon our cars. The four pages of legalese before usage are never read and a sheer nuisance in the way of our self gratification and we push “Agree” to any terms they are putting out there. 

We are without exaggeration ceding control of US to a tech or a bot of some form of AI that can be beyond helpful or at the same time destructive. I am not paranoid about my personal data because it is rather boring but when it is used to constantly sell me on a product, a politician or a principle or even an ethic then I am getting concerned. 

Every keystroke says something about you and that is more than valuable to a whole lot of people. Just try to read any sort of article on line and you are asked to sign up for the newsletter all the while being bombarded with pop up ads for a variety of everything. You may be amused or annoyed by this but the thing is you can’t avoid it. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is both fascinating and terrifying. It helps a medical doctor scan thousand of articles for insights into a diagnosis while at the same time analyzing the success or failure rate of certain treatments. It takes testimony and evidence in a criminal proceeding and determines with uncanny accuracy the guilt or innocence of the accused. 

In our present day stock market there are high speed trading units that can buy or sell millions of shares in nanoseconds without any human intervention whatsoever. If there is weakness in a stock or bond it perceives it and starts selling, even more drastically increasing the downward plunge. Ditto when it is going up and euphoria sets in to the viewing public and some poor bastard gets caught in between. The exchanges explain this provides great liquidity to the market which is a bunch of BS. It’s all there just to make money. Caveat emptor.

We all use Amazon. What could be easier. I think it is one of the most dynamic and at the same time scariest companies around. They want to own every piece of the supply chain down to the product itself. They take the order and fulfill it while gathering enormous amounts of data as to buying trends and delivery methods. If a product is hot they develop their own as competition. Merchandisers have to use them to gain market share and before you know your pocket has been picked by Mr. Bezos and Co. 

Now you cry out, let’s investigate. They appear before Congress and run circles around the pols while feigning cooperation. By the time any legislation or oversight is completed, they are well on to the next generation of this or that and could care less. 

The most insidious part to me is when it comes to education on all levels. Students no longer research and consider. They don’t memorize but just look up. When you read you get sense of things and that in turn forms your opinion. If it is all laid out for you, there is not that critical area of judging whether something is right or wrong. You take it as the new gospel and move on the next assignment.  

This brings me to the most unpalatable aspect of our information age. How do I know what is true? Visually we can create anything we want. Photoshops of all sorts can create images that look as real as original. Subjects can be mouthing words even though they were never spoken. Only the most sophisticated sleuths can discover the fraudulence and by then the image is set and the damage done. 

I can take any instance today and create an event and a narrative. I can specifically target you as a liberal or conservative to play to your bias. Everyone speaks of fact checking but it becomes more and more difficult. A friend sent me a picture of the rioters defacing the Viet Nam Memorial in DC just recently in a BLM protest. I was appalled but upon checking, it was a demonstration five years ago on a replica in California. Now some will say it doesn’t make any difference it is still an insult to our fallen heroes and I agree, but talk about being out of context. 

I am not anti tech by any means. There has been so much good accomplished. But as with any new and evolving science a lot of people are going to figure out a way to subvert it. Hacking emails, stealing personal information, dark webs and the like have almost made us numb to the downsides. We figure someone will fix it somehow. Maybe, but before how much damage is done?

I am not trying to be a downer but I am a realist and that alarm is rising in me and getting louder. You and me and others say we are doing fine. Why rock the boat? Let’s ride those tech stocks and not think ill of the masterminds. The only really scary part is when the future becomes now and we don’t understand just how left out we really are. Silly me? Silly Us!

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Snopes.com is a very useful website devoted to debunking rumors or clarifying accuracy. Some claim it is a liberal website but it has provided a number of real answers for me. 

Telemedicine is amazing. Doctors now have the ability to diagnose you from afar and monitor your vital signs remotely. During treatment for prostate cancer I was operated on robotically. With 5G, a surgeon may be able to simultaneously perform surgery in multiple cities from a single console in say New York.

By 2021 there will as many personal assistant bots (Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant etc) as there are people on this planet. Are they there to serve us or listen to us. They provide an entry for their provider into every aspect of your home. 

Over 70% of US Americans are worried about having their personal data stolen from their computers and online networks. To put that in perspective, only 24% are worried about terrorism and 17% are worried about being murdered. Approximately 30,000 websites are hacked daily. 

Rearview Mirrors….

On a pretty Florida day I was traveling down life’s highway.  I happened to glance in my rearview mirrors. I don’t do it that often. What interesting devices these things are. Metaphorically speaking they can prevent serious injury or dredge up happy or sad thoughts, all in the same motion. 

To start, they prevent you from getting hit from behind. Or if you are going to get rear ended, at least you can take your foot off the brake to soften the blow. After you’ve robbed a bank they can keep you keenly aware of were the cops are, in their pursuit. Perhaps you are Dustin Johnson in the Fedex Cup. You know where the contenders are and in this case you just step on the gas a little harder. 

It amazes me how often we look at the rearview mirror of our lives. The romantic in all of us thinks back to when times were simple. The maelstrom of our modern times creates a yearning for much more laid back years of adolescence and early adulthood. You can be 38 or 78 and you still feel that way. Probably wasn’t quite as good as we remembered but who is counting? Besides as you get older there fewer and fewer who can call you out. 

The ego in us recalls triumphs and achievements. It could be something small or big but man you were a legend in your own mind. Of course you ran the company and they couldn’t do without you. Golf? Tennis? Basketball? Football?. You coulda been a contender ! The big time was at your doorstep. If only. 

There are also the memories of lost opportunities. Why didn’t I go for it? Raise my hand? Take a chance? I knew I was right but never spoke up. Not just woulda’s coulda’s and shoulda’s but a deep sense of regret that I should have done better. The boulevard of broken dreams and busted taillights. Have you been there?

We seem to be hellbent on changing the past. There is an absurdity in that. I can’t take back what I said 5 seconds ago. It might have been hurtful or snide or just stupid but it is gone except in our minds. The palm smash on your forehead or that sick feeling in your gut when you say, Uh Oh!  I can’t believe I just said this or did that. 

We look at the news of a tragedy, 9/11, a forest fire, or a senseless killing with a whole lot of sorrow and also a sense of the irrational. Maybe if I watch it enough times it won’t be real or the ending will turn out differently? Maybe this is just a dream and I will wake up soon. Reality is just that and fairy tales don’t come true. 

Today we have the COVID. We want to hold a post mortem while we don’t even know if the catastrophe is half way through.  Historians opine a lot more clearly in decades than in weeks. We of course want to convene a court now. There has to be someone we can blame. Of course none of the culpability is ours. Ha !

Therein lies one of the rubs. Every single thing in our life is the result of a decision we have made. Where did we go to school? What job did we take? Did you ask out a particular girl or guy and then marry them?  Great successes. Dismal failures. The buck stops here on every one of them. Many of us can’t seem to accept that. We want to blame. We want to make excuses. It has to be someone else’s fault.

The other significant part is change. We can look back and think of this or that time. Leave things just as they are and we will be just fine. That is unless someone brings up a quote or bad act from my past and then we are front and center saying we don’t think like that anymore. Funny how that works

If you have a good life you don’t want anything to change. If your life sucks you can’t wait for it. Neither is a panacea. We have problems on a number of fronts. We have to deal with them and if we are smart, no one will be happy with the solution because it means that each side had to give. 

My last thought is a simple one. I can’t change the past and I have no idea what the future will bring. I could literally get hit by a car tomorrow. I can plan but it doesn’t  mean all my variables are right. Crystal balls and OIJA boards are BS and we know it. 

Right now I am thoroughly enjoying myself by writing to friends. I am not thinking yesterday or tomorrow. I am living in the present. Sounds weird or some sort of psychobabble but it is really pretty cool. For a few moments or even a few hours you just exist without anything heavy duty. Going forward, I am going to concentrate on the road just far enough ahead so I don’t run into anything. As for the rear view mirrors? Who needs them?. I think I am taking mine off. How about you?

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

According to figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), out of the 6 million car accidents that happen on U.S. roads every year, over 40% of them (2.5 million) are rear-end collisions.

At the Indy 500,Tony Stewart set the pole mark of 233.100 mph in 2006 on a track that had been just resurfaced, while Arie Luyendyk eclipsed him with the fastest single lap in speedway history with a mark of 236.986 miles per hour (381.39 kilometres per hour) the following day. Do you think they look back?

The shape of the mirror makes a difference in our perception. In the U.S., passenger-side mirrors are convex (curved slightly outward), whereas driver-side mirrors are flat. A convex mirror placed on the passenger side reduces the driver’s blind spots on that side of the vehicle by presenting a wider field of view, but it also makes other cars appear farther away due to a slight distortion caused by the shape. The flatter mirror on the driver’s side produces a more accurate depiction of what’s behind the car with a more narrow field of view, since light bounces off in the same direction that it hits the mirror and doesn’t distort the reflection of the object.

The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment

https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200811/the-art-now-six-steps-living-in-the-moment?eml. This is a very interesting article. You might like it.  BTW, I won’t tell anyone you read it. 

Risky Business….

 

jumping-across-1-e1525387320303.jpgCOVID has struck fear in the hearts of young and old and has put  new element of risk in everyday life. I took a questionnaire based on age health etc and I have 8% or 1 in 12 probability of getting it and below 1% chance I could die from it. I fiddled with some of the answers and could not skew it all that much. C’est la vie. 

I have been thinking about how much this has changed our life. Kathy and I were going to take a road try this summer to visit friends in Michigan, upstate New York, DC and South Carolina. Nada! Ain’t gonna happen. We were going to fly or drive to Colorado to see the kids and grandkids. Another goose egg. What was holding us back? Should we take the risk? Should we ask others to do the same?

I have really got to thinking about this thing called risk. Webster says it is exposing someone to danger, harm or loss. I think that is a little too negative for my liking. I took a risk in marrying my wife or more probably she took a much larger risk in marrying me. But was there the element of injury? I hope not. 

You go to a casino. You have the ability to limit your risk by how much you bet and what are the best odds in a particular game of chance. You play in the stock market and try to increase your chances of success by doing your research. You buy a house or you choose a career. I guess if you want to do something in life, you have to take chances.  

Our society today serves both ends of the spectrum. Unknown-2You have helicopter moms and dads that want to orchestrate every baby step to reduce any perceived harm and of course maximize results. We have spent gazillions making, cars, planes, cribs, Big Wheels and life in general foolproof. There are warning stickers everywhere. Guard rails, seat belts, shields, et alia. All in the interest of keeping us safe but are we taking all the enjoyment out of life? Good question.

On the other side of our ethos are the crazy people. They have gone to new heights to get their thrill. I recently saw a guy jump out of an airplane without a parachute and landed on this huge net. Base jumping, wing suiting and bull running will get your attention. But why do we have these opposite poles of behavior?

It seems first off that people are far more inclined to encourage others to do a risky thing before they want to do it themselves. When I jumped out of an airplane a few years back, a whole lot of people wanted to hear about the experience rather than doing it themselves. They take vicarious pleasure but could they do it themselves? It depends on a variety of factors. 

In my case with the parachute thing, it was in many ways a physical but also psychological challenge to my acrophobia. When you are staring out an open door at 18,000 feet it gets intense. But in a strange way I became very much at ease. It was sort of here goes and there is no turning back. It either works or it doesn’t so enjoy the ride. And boy did I. But I also surmounted a great fear and the accomplishment made me want to do it again. Unknown-4.jpeg

In life we have choices of all sorts. Where you go to school, a career, a spouse, where you live. I don’t know about you but every time I have done something different or taken chances there is an incredible sense of discovery and of course a fair amount of trepidation. But once you do it and pull it off so to speak, you get more confident the next time. And that leads to whole new worlds and feelings. And as many of you know that is very cool. 

Life has no guarantees. Sure I could hole up in LaLa Land until the storm blows over but I could also have a heart attack or get hit by lightning too. I can buy insurance for my house, my car and even me but can I cover everything? Lastly what if this thing does not peter out but become and even greater part of our lives? What then?

We are in the midst of this ugly pandemic. We should be wary but we should not freak out. Respectful but not afraid. I have done my research and I think I understand this thing to a fair degree. The most striking part are the odds. Today we have 5.55 million cases that has resulted in 177,000 deaths. If I told you 50 million people in the US had COVID and there were only 177,000 deaths (.0035) would you feel differently? In actuality that is probably the case. So many have had it and are asymptomatic. images-5.jpeg

I have tried to limit the risk for Kathy and me and she has done the same. I play by the rules but I am also not going to become a recluse. Personally I think we can reopen carefully and sanely. I am appalled by the college beer parties but in all honesty I can’t guarantee you I would not have been in the middle of them. Neither could you. Life has to go on. There are so many ways we could see our end. That’s life. It’s a risky business but a pretty good one too. Stay safe but have a little fun.

As always

Ted The Great 

 Factoids:

40 million persons in the United States suffer from anxiety. Yikes. This number was obtained before COVID.

Comfort Zone….a situation in which you feel comfortable and in which your ability and determination are not being tested:

Courage….strength of mind to carry on in spite of danger 

Antonyms:anxious, apprehensive,afraid, worried

Risk also means possibility, opportunity, prospect ,vulnerable

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