Consternation….

I am consternated. I have not put keyboard to screen in several weeks. At least one of you noticed. As usual it has not been for the lack of topics but just too many for this poor little brain to try to make sense of things.

I have been looking for the right word or theme to describe my mien. The topic says it all: amazement or dismay that hinders or throws into confusion. It is not just Flalaland but the world in which we live. I love change and thinking outside of the box, but this is ridiculous. There are so many disparate views on things I could be wandering around for a long time.

I have just read a book sent to me by my daughter and written by Andrew Yang, former presidential candidate and also tossing his hat in the ring  for mayor of New York City. He seems thoughtful enough and describes his presidential run, a synopsis of the problems we face in the US and finally his proposed solutions. 

For the moment let’s not judge by political association whether we love or hate this guy but just listen to what he has to say. His campaign laid bare some of the inadequacies of our democracy. To be heard you need stature. To have that you need money and a lot of it. Just to be noticed. So much for voices in the crowd. 

Another aspect was the dearth of local news reporting. The internet has deprived the weeklies of classifieds and regular advertising. Without that you can’t hire journalists. There are over 3,000 counties and almost 20,000 incorporated places in the US. There are around 1,000 newspapers. Circulation has gone from 60 million in 1992 to 26 million today. On one hand you are not going to get a lot of diversity of thought and on the other maybe a lot more people could care less. 

He spoke of automation and social media in not so flattering terms. Both are wildly successful in today’s world but beyond problematic in their logical conclusions. We will eliminate thousands of jobs. We will have knowledge of your most intimate secrets. But we will be moving towards a more real time and technologically driven universe. My point of consternation is that in some ways this is great and on others  it scares the hell out of me. 

To wit the latest on Facebook. They knew what they were putting out there was bad for some segments of their viewership, especially teen age girls. Ditto Google but they have so far eluded the radar of the press. The real scary part is they have been at this for 17 years for Facebook and 23 years for Google. Yes, they have connected us and made life more interesting but did we ever stop to think of the downsides? We rarely do?  

One also has to consider our dependency on drugs….legal ones. Last year 100,000 people died from an overdose of something. OxyContin was first introduced in 1996. It was hard at work for over 20 years before anyone questioned its efficacy in laymen’s terms. Now we as a country are paying for all that ease of use in terms of hospitalizations, rehab treatments and heart break for families involved. Is that consternating to you?

The coup de grace was a conversation I had with an ex military  buddy last night. He was senior officer and  described the procurement process for anything in the military from everything to advanced weapons systems to a simple piece of hardware. The bureaucracy, red tape, hoops to be jumped through and compliance made this a living nightmare. And folks we pay for all of this. 

I put my head on the pillow last night and it was exploding. Not from a couple of vodka and tonics but from all the surrealities my discussion had conjured up. It seems to me that everything from education to commerce to restaurants to automobiles is so fraught with pratfalls and pitfalls that it is a wonder we get anything done. Yet we continue to push on, open new frontiers and want to venture in outer space  without cleaning up what we have now. 

I am not so pessimistic this foretells our demise. We have a lot of great going for us. But to look at this world with rose colored glasses is foolhardy. For some of us to try to get out the door and leave it to our kids to solve is a total cop out. 

The first step is not to throw more money at a problem unless it happens to be a deteriorating bridge or roadway. Education suffers not from a lack of snappy looking classrooms but a coordinated effort of both the school and the parents.

 Secondly we don’t need more rules and regulations. Some of these are hundreds of pages long. This is not the libertarian but the pragmatist in me. 

Lastly, we do not need another department, detailed study or anything else that contributes to our overly bloated bureaucracy. Look at what is in place. Clean it up and root out the dead wood. Give people respectability but also responsibility. Make them answerable for their staffs and the decisions they make. 

My consternation is my own fault. I should just chill out and ignore all this Maybe my cranium should explode? I told the lovely Kathy last night I was giving up thinking for awhile. A few moments ago she asked me how that was going for me? What do you think?

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Consternation synonyms:  alarm, amazement, anxiety, awe, bewilderment, confusion, dread, fright, horror, panic, perplexity, terror, trepidation, distraction, fear, muddle, shock, stupefaction, wonder. Any of these work for you?

The not-for-profit Social Progress Imperative ranked social progress in 128 countries in 2017 based on three criteria: basic human needs like food, water, and shelter; foundations of well-being such as access to information and environmental quality; and opportunity, including personal rights and freedoms and access to education.

The US came in 18th on the list.The US spends about three times as much per capita on healthcare expenditures than other countries with comparable incomes, yet Americans have a lower life expectancy than people in those countries

Countries With The Best Education Systems

RankCountryMathScienceReading
1China591590555
2Singapore569551549
3Estonia523530523
4Japan527529504
5Korea526519514
6Canada512518520
7Finland507522520
8Poland516511512
9Ireland500496518
10Slovenia509507495
11United Kingdom502505504
12New Zealand494508506
13Netherlands519503485
14Sweden502499506
15Denmark509493501
16Germany500503498
17Belgium508499493
18Australia491503503
19Switzerland515495484
20Norway501490499
21Czech Republic499497490
22United States478502505
23France495493493
24Portugal492492492
25Austria499490484

Need I say more ?

On more positive note I took an airplane ride on Thursday. It was in a WWII P51 Mustang. We flew over the Stuart Veteran’s Day parade and were supposed to return to base. My pilot broke formation and headed west to Lake Okeechobee where we did about 8-10 minutes of aerobatics. What a ride!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

Perfect…..

Upon first glance the topic is easy.

noun: perfection

  1. the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.

Some of you may feel that describes you to a tee but therein lies your first flaw. Failed reasoning. But we always seek the perfect wine, the perfect word, the perfect lifestyle. And even if we think we get there we are always looking for more. Did you ever wonder why?

For time eternal we search for things. Neuroscientist Jaak Panks argues that of seven core instincts in the human brain (anger, fear, panic-grief, maternal care, pleasure/lust, play, and seeking), seeking is the most important. It is how we grow and it is healthy to a point.

We all have frontiers to conquer whether is is a more fulfilling job, getting in shape, or just pursuing a topic we know nothing about. Over the years I have watched good friends who slip into the routine of the day and don’t want to be bothered. Don’t get involved. Relax TTG ! They might be right but that feels sort of like giving up which to me  is the opposite of the pursuit of the unknown. Stop Ted, you are making me tired looking at you.

My old buddy Leonardo described it as curiositae.That beautiful genius looked at everything as something to be learned. He would look at fields and see how many different shades of green there were? How do fish swim and breathe? He would question people on the street. He kept dozens of notebooks on his observations and then read them through trying to connect the dots. 

His greatest strength was not considering himself smart but inquisitive. There is so much to learn. He asked tough questions.As we become more academic we tend to be more rigid which is sad. We rely on consultants and so called experts when all that gray matter that we have upstairs is the same as DaVinci’s. As Mark Twain said,”We are all perfect, just at different things.”

I think there is a distinction between striving for knowledge and just wanting more. In today’s world we tend to emphasize things more than thoughts. There is never enough. We want bigger houses, faster cars and airplanes, and more lavish accoutrements. We don’t stop to think of what we have but are always looking down the road. It is almost impossible to live in the present. We don’t find time to enjoy the simplest of things. Does that great scotch taste any better in a fancy restaurant than your back porch? Good question for us all. 

Part of this thinking lends itself to constant comparisons. Our world is full of it. Advertisements and media of all sorts blast us with visions of who we should be and what we should look like if we are successful. When we lived at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, people would build what I called two party houses. They were gigantic and off the charts with this and that but after two parties people would wonder what the owners were going  do for an encore. 

I know it sounds corny but do we never just sit down and thank whatever God we employ for all we have. Not just saying grace every now and then but really looking at our world and being grateful. I don’t. I get off on this tear or  that until something hits me over the head. It is usually Kathy. 

This all has a dark side as it relates to mental health. Some equate perfectionism with acceptance. If I am not that good then I am not lovable. If I fail then I am worthless. Sadly this affects young people the most. It is estimated that 50% of those teens who have taken their own lives did so because they were not able to measure up. They felt they had let down family and friends. They felt there was no hope for them. 

How incredibly sad and what an indictment of our society. Pressure to get into the right school. Pressure to succeed in work and make not only a decent living but supersede all others in wealth and power. Pressure to be acceptable to our peers and conversant in the latest fads. Pressure to fit in every possible way. This is not a passing moment but being ingrained into our younger generations by a constant barrage on social media and an amped up culture. I don’t know how we stop it?

Perfect, TTG. You have now screwed up my day by your drivel. I apologize for that but I see too much of it. Here in Flalaland we have it good but it is not good enough for some. We went to the New York area and saw a frenetic pace twice to three times what is was just years ago. We can strive but we don’t have to be insatiable. We can dream but life is tough with all sorts of ruts in the road. When we create unreal expectations we are setting ourselves up for a hit.

The prefect answer is to be grateful for what we have. It sounds trite but if we just stopped the world and got off for a minute we would realize what a good thing we have. Thank all to you for reading and listening and of course thinking. It  is as close to perfect as I am going to get…and that is just fine for me.  

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

The average American home has tripled in size in the last 50 years and continues to grow larger and larger. The average American woman owns 4X the amount of clothes as her grandmother, but continues to purchase. The average American home has 300,000 items inside it… and yet Amazon arrives on our doorstep several times each week. Go figure

Perfect games in baseball, bowling and sub par golf are very rare for the vast majority of earthlings. Ditto 1600 on SAT’s. 

Both adaptive and maladaptive forms of perfectionism have been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality disorders and eating disorders.

Perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand. You are so afraid of not being perfect you don’t do anything at all. Yikes

Who Do You Trust?….

I don’t know about you but I am in a serious search for the truth. No, I am not doing my Socrates gig but really trying to figure out if there is anyone or thing out there that I can believe in? Whether it is  government, media, business or religion, you really have a hard time saying this or that is really true.

We make our decisions and form our ethos by looking at data sets and deriving conclusions. Your thinking follows a trend and your beliefs are either confirmed or disrupted by what you perceive to be reality. In today’s world our sources of data have become suspect. You can follow blindly or constantly challenge their veracity. I choose to do the latter. 

We have had a pandemic scorch our civilization. We are mesmerized by its evilness in every part of our lives. We look for a way to make sense of this or at least to understand what we are up against. We want and need answers. We are told to follow the science, but science disagrees.

People who have spent their lives studying epidemiology, find it impossible to speak in a unified voice. Even worse we have some with dubious credentials who are now touted as specialists. And on top of all of this is politics and optics. The so called leaders might know something for a fact but they cannot let it get out for fear of panic or image ruination. What’s a guy to think?

I would like to tell you this only holds true for this once in a lifetime event. For years we have discussed climate change.

Forget about whether it is man made or not, it is happening. We are hotter, colder, wetter, drier. I happen to believe the world before we started screwing with it, is system complex far beyond our comprehension. Ice melts in the Arctic, the saline flows up the west coast of Africa on underwater currents to the Sahara and then is blown across the Atlantic to nurture the rainforests of South America. This is not Sci fi but highly observable phenomena. Yet we don’t believe. 

Let’s forget about science and move onto the Disneyworld of the Capitol Beltway. We have a multi trillion dollar infrastructure bill that the pols tell us is revenue neutral. The non partisan Congressional Budget Office just pegged that declaration off by $350 billion over ten years. A mere rounding error, you say. We have not fully spent the remnants of the last giant COVID bill.  The current one is 2500 pages long. How can you begin to comprehend not only its utility in solving  problem but how do you administer such a giant? The devil is truly in the details.  

We had an attack on the nation’s capitol on January 6. It was beyond embarrassing for us as a great nation. Despite on the spot coverage there are those that think it was just tourists acting up or at least exercising their right to free speech. Interpret it any way you want but IT HAPPENED! 

I am embarrassed and saddened by my Catholic church. For an institution that has over the centuries sought to care for the sick and educate our public we have done a horrible job on sexual abuse of minors. That’s right, we have specifically preyed on the young and impressionable. We have ruined lives beyond repair. And yet we stonewall and pontificate. Don’t be smug. It is emblematic of other so called teams in gymnastics, football et al. If you can’t trust your priest, coach, governor or scout troop leader, who can you?

Wall Street is a game of numbers and numbers can’t be altered or can they? Stocks gyrate up and down by 20-50% largely based on rumor. Theranos was a new type of testing that would revolutionize medicine. Millions of dollars invested. Safeway and Walgreens were going to carry the tests. The board included former heads of the DOD, Wells Fargo, Bechtel and of course Mad Dog Mattis..  All taken in by what was probably a total fraud. 

Nikola is an electric truck startup that staged a video showing one of their rigs cruising down the highway. It turns out that they pushed a shell of a truck with no engine to the top of a hill and then filmed the ride down. Some pretty smart people got sucked in and millions down the drain. 

Everyday there are people stealing everything from pension funds to school budgets. There are con men on the prowl worldwide on the internet. The recent revelations of Facebook are just the tip of the iceberg. Are we at the core dishonest?

Money, greed and power will do strange things or are they just part of our way of life? I would hold out that we are shocked at first but then complacent or even complicit in our acceptance of,”It’s just the way it is”.

Trust is earned. I go out on a limb for anyone if I feel they are genuine and truthful. I am also greatly saddened and beyond crestfallen when I find out it not to be so. I am all too far from sainthood but I hope I am decent human being you can depend on. Maybe we are just numb to events and they are easy to ignore. It’s just people being people. Lower your standards, TTG, otherwise you are going to have a heart attack or an ulcer. Sorry, just not there yet.  

Who do you trust? It says on the fiver in my pocket, “In God We Trust” Maybe we ought to think about that? It may be all we have left. I hope not.

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

The FTC said there were 2.2 million fraud reports from consumers in the US in 2020. A large portion were online and from overseas. Many sought out the elderly as perfect targets. Sadly it works. 

Healthcare fraud is somewhere between $100-230 BILLION per year. This comes from HMO’s, doctors, pharmaceutical and individuals. The most common is billing for services not provided. 

A recent analysis indicates the average person tells two lies per day. On further study the lies were not evenly distributed. This pattern of a few individuals telling most of the lies follows what is known as the Pareto principle, which is also known as “the law of the vital few.” In short, this principle suggests that in a population, 20 percent of the people account for 80 percent of a behavior. There might be hope

Some Big Lies:

The Trojan Horse

Bernie Madoff

Hitler

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski

Watergate

Stolen Elections

What a Week….

It was symbolic that the end of the Afghan War and the 20 year anniversary of 9/11 collided in midair over the last two weeks. Some idiot decided it would be great optics to celebrate both events under our new President. It readily demonstrates there are still no adults in the room at 1660 Pennsylvania Avenue. It is sad to see. 

I was inextricably drawn to the various documentaries surrounding 9/11. The psychologist will tell you we keep looking to see if it somehow turns out differently. I just kept looking for answers. 

 I watched because I had a lot of connection. I walked in and out of those towers for many years on the way to the office from the PATH station at the WTC.

I knew 19 human beings who went down in the holocaust. One of them was my cousin’s son. A great young man who was bigger than life. Several others I worked alongside from my Wall Street days. Two of them I helped bring into the business. All gone in an instant

There was a series done in concert with National Geographic and the 9/11 museum. It was no holds barred reenactment of the days leading up to and the actual denouement. There were scenes and pictures I had never seen. It was remarkable for its lack of editing. You got hit between the eyes. It really cut deep into me.

That day by some crazy stroke of fate there was a film team following a NYC Fire Department Battalion Chief. He was investigating a gas leak. You heard the second plane screaming overhead as it homed in on its target. You saw from ground level the fatal stab wound on a seemingly impenetrable fortress.The AVGAS exploded on impact. It was horrifying. I realized how naive and egotistical I was and probably still am. 

I am not talented enough to describe the outcome properly. Take some time out. Watch the segments. Feel the horror and the devastation. Then tell me you are having a shitty day. Let’s argue about Trump or Biden. How about elections or immigrants or China and Russia? Better yet let’s figure out how to give our kids in college safe spaces and nonviolence. Let’s spend out time wrenching out every last nickel of profit in our mega corporations. These are the important things in life. Look again, mes amis.

This last Sunday’s 60 Minutes, ripped every last vestige of indifference from me. You watched some of the most dedicated and heroic human beings alive, New York City firemen.

Cooly and calmly they assessed the impossible. They sent men to their certain death and both sides knew it. The chief passed his brother for the last time as they gave each other knowing looks. You heard thuds on the canopies of the buildings as the bodies of some who saw know no other way than to jump from 80 stories, hit with incredible force. I cannot even imagine the thought processes these poor devils went through. What would you or I do?

The last segment I watched was “Shine A Light” on CNN.

I didn’t know who HER was but her rendition of “Hallelujah” was beyond stirring. It was a lead in to a show that was all about the spouses and kids who were left alone to pick up the pieces. They spoke eloquently. 20 years was a blink of an eye as they fought to grieve and then find some sort of meaning to it all. 

Their message was simple but spell binding. The 9/11 Day organization wanted to shine a light by the simplest methods. They have formed groups all over the country to just perform a good deed on the anniversary. Now that sounds hokey, but please for a brief moment think about it. 

When 9/11 occurred we were together in every possible way. There weren’t blacks, whites, or hispanics. For a brief period we realized we all bled red. We weren’t ashamed to show our patriotism…and our love for each other. We flew flags proudly and differences seemed minor at best. Where did that go? Why is it so difficult now? 

It worked because maybe for once in our lives we did not think about ourselves. There was no one upping. We treasured the you. Me was irrelevant. We are the most charitable country in the world. But we are also the most wasteful and consumptive. How does that happen? We have disease and famine in our world but we spend $200 million on a 4 day joy ride in outer space. Bezos and Musk want to live on Mars. Is it just me or are we way off kilter?

In case you did not gather it I am upset at our world and pissed that we are so vapid. We are all spoiled brats. Rich, poor, white and black. We want what we are deserving of, in getting our fair shares. I found it interesting those firemen saved both millionaires and cleaning people  on 9/11. You can tell me you worked your ass off. I will tell you that you have no idea what is like to work two or three jobs. Nor do I and that is the point. I volunteer four hours a week at hospice. It should be four hours a day.  

Let’s knock off the snarky emails on both sides. Let’s be honest with one another. Let’s just say hello to someone. Call that grocery clerk by their name. Hold a door. Offer a hand and not look the other way when we see something terribly wrong. In our homes, on the street, in our capitols and churches. Board rooms and ward rooms. Country clubs and barrios. This has got to stop!

You may laugh at me and that is okay. You may think I have lost it. You would not be the first. I hope that one or two of you would think about what I have said and take action in whatever direction you think appropriate. We have to start somewhere. 

As always 

Ted The Great

Factoids:

Nineteen men hijacked four fuel-loaded US commercial airplanes bound for west coast destinations. A total of 2,977 people were killed in New York City, Washington, DC and outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

It took 102 minutes from when the first jet hit the WTC until the final tower disintegrated. 

It took $500,000 to plan and accomplish the hijackings.The estimated economic loss during the first two to four weeks after the World Trade Center towers collapsed was $123 billion.

  • It took 3.1 million hours of labor to clean up 1.8 million tons of debris at Ground Zero. Cleanup officially ended May 30, 2002.

A total of 412 first responders died on 9/11, comprised of 340 firefighters and 72 police officers.

The total number of casualties of the aftermath of the attack will likely, tragically, rise: Over 1,100 9/11 first responders have been diagnosed with cancer directly linked to the dust and air quality after the terror attacks.

Regret and Blame…

Old Blue Eyes sang,”Regrets, I have a few” in “I Did It My Way.” I think most of us have had more than a few. Life is lot of choices. Where you go to school, whom do you marry, what kind of career do you want to pursue, where you choose to live. 

Some of us do spread sheets and others shoot from the hip. When the outcomes are good you are a genius. When the result falls short we go over and over in our minds what went wrong and how you SHOULD have proceeded. What a fantasy.

We create an ideal world. Our marketing gurus are more than happy to serve up the good life. If only you use this product or that then you will achieve nirvana. If you don’t then it is your fault. You missed step three or used the wrong formula. They are never wrong. 

Afghanistan is a mess and for the most part always has been. We entered an impossible situation and made it worse. We will hold post mortems on everything from tactics to withdrawals. Tora Bora, Bagram, you name it, we will hold hearings and throw some people out of office because of this or that. Were the originators or mop up guys evil to the core? I hope not. 

We had a tour of the Pentagon a few weeks ago. All that brass and all those rooms where top decisions are made could not have foreseen the attack on 9/11. We will say there were warning signs and some did not connect the dots. But were they laggards or malcontents? I think not. As we sat on a walkway between the buildings, our guide pointed out where the nose of the plane settled just beneath us. That was just plain old reality up front and personal. 

It was interesting in that they had a chart of everyone who died or was injured. A guy was in a meeting and survived because he went to the head. The others were obliterated. I am sure his life has been full of joy at surviving and anguish that he did. Does he regret? 

In the study of regret there are two types of the same. On one hand you rue what you did. That stupid move that cost you monetarily or psychologically. It is over and done but it nags at you in so many ways. A lost love or a business opportunity that went south. Woulda’s, coulda’s, shoulders prevail. Yet there is no way you can go back. There are no do overs in life. It is what it is. 

The other type of regret is more insidious. It has to do with inaction. You were presented an opportunity and didn’t take it. You should have bought Amazon at 20 or Facebook at 9. You had a chance to change careers and just did nothing. It might have changed your life forever. You coulda been a contender! That doesn’t go away as easily as if you tried and failed but at least you tried. 

Regret haunts us. But wait. There is a salve for those wounds and it is called blame.I didn’t screw up, it was the other guy. That golf shot? The sun got in my eyes or someone made a noise to throw off  my backswing.Biden didn’t  blow the exit, it was already preordained by Trump’s negotiation of the date. Bush and Obama had no choice but  to do it or else. 

There always has to be a fall guy and rarely if ever is he a higher up. The sacrificial lamb gets slaughtered. The high priests go on just as they always have….most of the time. Andrew Cuomo quickly ran out of friends. The Donald lost fifty some odd lawsuits that claimed the election was stolen. For each and every side there is justice what ever that means. But I think they all miss the point. 

Life is totally unpredictable. No one plans for pandemics or economic meltdowns. Airplane crashes or random shootings are not part of a plan. If I were to calculate my odds of going out in my car and it crashes or walking into a store and catching COVID, they are slim. Yet people hole up with phobias and doomsday proclamations. Pretty sad. 

This fantasy world of regrets and blame will drive you crazy. I like to say I can’t take back what I said five seconds ago. It is history, in the books so to speak!  I wish a lot of times that I could but it ain’t going to happen. You have a disease or condition. If only I had stayed away from this or that or taken better care of myself. If only they had elected the other guy. If only my loved one had taken a left or right five minutes later none of this would have happened. And yet for better or worse it did. 

It takes a strong person to  admit they were wrong. Their whole personna demands that they are right. I have to save face.  Blame it on random or some sort of nefarious behavior against me. Never admit realty. It is the sign of weakness…and stupidity. Ha!

When you come right down to it we all have to look in the mirror at some point in time during the day. We are honest with ourselves even though we don’t admit it. We do realize from time to time that positions we take are absurd. That credo we live by has some holes in it and we know it. Why can’t we just say so and move on?

We all have to look at life and know it is ever changing for better or worse. We all have warts. We all have failed. That is called being human. Not all that bad when you think about it. 

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoid:

When researchers asked a test group how many had no regrets, 80% said they didn’t have any. Really ?

We face up to 70 decisions to make every day. Some small ,some critical. How you choose can affect your life or just your routine. Go for it!

People in hospice regret:

That they made decisions based on what people might think.

That they worked so hard

That they didn’t express their feelings more openly 

That they didn’t stay closer to friends

That they didn’t let themselves be happy. 

There are victims everywhere. Some are real such as rape, physical and psychological abuse. People have been duped and conned. For others it is just a convenient excuse. C’est la guerre. 

Bored To Death…

There has been all sorts of talk with people being bored during the pandemic. We see people throwing caution to the wind to once again socialize and do things they long for. It has been dull in spots and probably our isolation got a little long in the tooth but was it really that bad?

I am sitting here in Morristown, New Jersey without golf clubs. How am I ever going to make it? It is only when one travels out of their routine, that you take a good look at your routine day and probably realize how ordinary it becomes. Is that good or bad?

We can’t live life in a totally random fashion although there are times when I try my best. A regimen of any sort brings order to our being and peace to the soul. But shockingly George Friedman in his latest missive on Geopolitical Futures asks,”Is that all there is ?”

If you haven’t read him, George is a wonderful thinker and writer. He looks at the world rather unemotionally from 30,000 feet and tells it like it is. I wrote to him and wondered if we are supposed to be entertained by the world  all around us? I suggested that rather than being in the audience we might want to just be part of the show. I don’t know if I will receive a reply. 

It just strikes me as odd that we need constant sources of sensationalism or adventure to keep us amused? We all get bored but the extent to which we try to extricate ourselves tells a lot about our mien. Kids come into the room and declare they are bored and parents have the opportunity to jump into action or tell their children to figure it out for themselves. 

We have seven grandkids and they run the gamut on the self sufficiency scale but for the most part they can do their own thing. When my daughter was visiting with two of hers, I was fascinated by the things they cooked up out of almost nothing. There is this wonderful element of creativity that if captured and nourished in a child will follow them throughout life. 

I did some research on boredom and was surprised how much study there has been. It seems this all started with the Industrial Revolution when days were segmented by work and a small amount of play rather than the nonstop plodding of agriculture. You actually had some free time. How you spent it was another thing. 

The majority did not read books about how they could go forward but rather concentrated on their lot in life. It wasn’t all that exciting but you had a few more bucks in your pocket. Enter taverns, saloons and houses of ill repute where you could wash away the thought of your ever so ordinary lifestyle. 

Not sure I agree with all of this but it makes for good copy. Fast forward to today and we have figured out all sorts of ways to chill out. We go on once in a lifetime vacations or buy houses, cars and stuff to keep us amused. Amazon et al can bring the immediate gratification to your domicile in a matter of hours. Netflix, Apple and Disney will create an imaginary world to get lost in. Life is fulfilled or is it? 

Getting back to that boredom thing after a dose of this and a dab of that we are still looking for Nirvana. “Can you top this ?” becomes more and more difficult..and expensive. The drug and booze cultures round out the program nicely, but when you sober up it is still the same. 

Now I am not without sin. I can get lost in Solitaire on my MacAir with the best of them. Watching golf sucks up more time than it should. Daydreaming? I am one of the best. But then good old fashioned guilt kicks in. “You owe it to yourself” gets quickly replaced by,”Get your ass in gear and do something”.  Been there. Done that.

It is a good thing for my creativity. The accursed internet offers more than ample opportunity to delve as far as you want into a topic. Rabbit holes beckon and I am more than happy to go down them. Many people my age wonder where I get my energy? I am not sure if it is some inner battery power or just a mind that is just plain old inquisitive. We all can be that, if we try. 

I find myself taking more enjoyment in simple things. A fun conversation over a scotch and cigar. A long  solitary walk on a golf course or trail…..talk about some serious thinking. Maybe delving into something like boredom. I learned a lot. I hope you did too.

As always 

Ted The Great

Factoids:

Bored to death, can be real. People feel lonely, depressed, guilty and not of much worth. The outcomes are not good.

Boredom and apathy are not the same. With apathy you just don’t care. With boredom you would love to find a way but can’t seem to do so.

Boredom is good if you let it be. 

   . Boredom encourages imagination and creativity. …

  • Boredom teaches ‘grit’ …
  • Boredom develops problem-solving skills. …
  • Boredom helps children form relationships

Most Boring Things

Waiting in traffic, line or the doctor’s office

Listening to politicians. 

Listening to sports analysts

Playing Monopoly unless it is for real

Other people’s pictures of their vacation

Ted’s Head…Whoa,Wait a sec!

The Sum Of My Fears…

Kathy and I signed our revised wills yesterday. Nothing has really changed except we are now residents of the Sunshine State and they do things a little differently down here. Mortality gives you a quick jolt to the system, when you create a living will. Not maudlin but sobering. This is how you decide how you want to go out. 

I don’t know if it is my work in hospice or that I feel lucky I have gotten this far, but death does not scare me. It is what it is. But as I look at the world around you and me I do have fears. Not only for me but for my family and the rest of our big blue orb.

Dr Webster tells me, fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. He goes on to say it can come from real threats or imagined dangers. Interesting.

We take risks all the time and some more than others. Coming back from DC, we were on I95, doing 85 and getting passed on the left and the right. If you really stopped to think about it, this 4000 pound piece of metal is hurtling down the macadam with little or no chance of stopping in time if the situation deteriorates rapidly. You don’t dwell on it because it is a fact of life like riding in a plane or train. Some people do.  freak out.

As I look back over my life I have taken chances. I have done things some might consider dangerous. I assess the odds and hopefully make a rational decision to either take another route or plunge forward. The real secret is having control over the situation. Things of late run a little contrary to that prospect. 

This gun and violence thing has gotten totally out of hand. Back on the Interstate, you may have really pissed somebody off by switching lanes.

This dude or dudette is coming up to full boil as he or she pulls alongside you. The window rolls down and all of a sudden the business end of a 356 Magnum is aimed at your head. Nowhere to run. No where to hide. 

Recently a woman had dropped her son off at the US Naval Academy for his plebe year. She was back at the hotel chatting with fellow parents and she was shot and killed by a random bullet from a drive by shooting. We saw the mayhem as 30,000 fans were watching a Nationals game and a drive by occurred just outside the stadium. Shots rang out between two cars and three people were hit. Random? Yes. Rare? No.

What could be more tranquil that sleeping in your apartment overlooking the Atlantic Ocean at 2:00 in the morning? Then in an instant lives and concrete vaporize, reminiscent of 9/11. Incredible in every way but something went terribly wrong. 

COVID has struck more swiftly and stealthily than any other disease. Entire families and neighborhoods are under attack without any weapons in sight. A baptism or wedding turns into a “spreader event”. Rich and poor are hit with equanimity. 

On the gun thing you can’t run or hide and this galls me no end. There are no safe havens and I do not choose to live my life behind triple bolted bulletproof doors. But the chances grow every day that it could be me or someone dear to me. How did we let it get that far?

As for condos who knows? But if you are on an upper floor right now you have to be wondering if the contractor cut corners to make more money or the building inspector turned a blind eye. Maybe the condo board does not want to spend the money? A lot to think about. 

And finally, we have the opportunity to get vaccinated but we don’t. For some it is fear of what might be down the road as a side effect. Others want to make a statement about their rights and good for them. Lastly some are just afraid of doctors and needles. All valid but can you just stand in the middle of the tracks playing chicken with a freight train? 

All of this seems so implausible to me. You can get shot at walking to the store or the guy behind the counter chose not to get vaccinated and you catch COVID. You got through that gauntlet only to sit down with your takeout and a glass of wine and the building crumbles. How much of this is bad Karma and how much is avoidable? 

History is littered with bad actors and their aftermath. Yet we have always had faith in our systems and failsafes to get us through. In our seesaw of life we have always loaded up good and decent people to offset the miscreants. It was just the way we did things. I keep asking myself if this simple dogma still holds true. 

Fear is a reaction to a particular occurrence It is both physical, emotional and healthy. It keeps us on our toes. Anxiety is more lasting  and tougher to beat.

You feel overwhelmed by situations, events and personalities. You just worry a lot….about most everything. You say it is your nature but it is a learned trait

The sum of my fears is simple. I worry we are less and less able to handle problems head on. We look for magic pills and silver bullets. We look the other way. We don’t want to get involved. It is all about ME and US never enters our minds unless it is to our favor

Sorry kids,I can’t sugarcoat this. You can visit Disneyland but you can’t live there forever. Whether it is in gated communities or hardened barrios, we have problems that have to be addressed or they will eat us like a cancer. I fear but I am hopeful that we get our act together.

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

A study in 2016 showed there were 327 disaster events. 191 were natural and 136 were man made. 

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.

Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.

Concern motivates to help others with goal of solving it or to minimize the issue. Whereas, Worry is something which stems from negative thoughts about future with assumptions that is driven by fear and anguish. This fear then creates an emotional disturbance and there is no peace of mind. Which describes you?

MY HERO

Thank You For Your Service

I felt like I was back in uniform. We spent part of the July 4th weekend with great friends in the DC area. He was a senior officer retired from the Army after 23 years. We played golf at the Army Navy Country Club. I thought it should be Navy Army CC but that is just me. The cookout Sunday night was replete with fireworks and red, white and blue were everywhere from bunting to shirts and dresses. 

While waiting on the chow line of sorts we asked fellow place holders what branches they were from? There were plenty of “Sirs” but  one admiral waved off any recognition of his rank. We were all in the same fraternity. Very cool!

Of particular note was our host’s son who just retired from the Army as a Lt Colonel. I read the handout of the retirement ceremony which included the plan of the day. Tributes from CO’s, Gunnies and fellow officers. His bio read like an Audie Murphy movie for those who remember that far back. Five deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq ranging from 6-18 months each.Three Bronze Stars and a lot more. An amazing young man. 

His presence was commanding but I couldn’t help but look aside to his parents and his wife and daughter. Mom and dad were beyond proud. Deb even had a tear or two although she claimed it was allergies. Dad was pure soldier and loved the passing of the guard. Who wouldn’t, but there was more. 

The soldier’s wife was beyond sharp. Big smile and an even bigger personality.Not over bearing but just testimony to a young lady who had her you know what together. Several master’s degrees that she acquired in addition to her duties as an Army wife and mom. She was supportive and always in synch. There at the ready for her family like a tough Marine guard but with an absolute heart of gold. One neat lady.

We have had a couple of other dinner conversations with military friends and I keep going back to the wives. They told their own war stories. Moving their entire household single handed because dad was off soldiering someplace. Laying awake at night wondering if the doorbell was going to ring with some horrible pronouncement. Raising the kids because it is what you do when 18 month deployments interrupt your marriage. Dozens of new places and friends and schools over 20-30 years. Some kind of amazing.

More intriguing  or heroic is the fact that many these women are from service families themselves. Dads, uncles and brothers go way back as do the moms, aunts and sisters. To a person they never spoke of regret but of a life that was rich if not rather unconventional. When you get them together, each one has their own comical or harrowing story to tell. We should make their conversations a TV series. It would put Housewives of Wherever to shame. 

Warfare has become less deadly but that is cruel in a way. We have mastered the fine art of triage and reconstruction to the point we can bring people back to life from death’s darkest door. Whether the returnee has missing limbs or just part of his or her psyche forever changed, the spouse waits and accepts and loves. I really don’t know how they do it. They are incredibly special people. 

In WW II you were shell shocked. In Nam you just couldn’t get it together. Today PTSD is the acronym that ties it all together. War changes you for better or worse. It is more often the latter. You are a handful and someone has to understand and help you regain yourself if you ever do. Once again it is you know who.

We seem to have a love hate of the military. Since the end of the draft a waning single digit percentage of us have any connection. We have no idea how much of their reality keeps us safe. We can pooh pooh Iraq or Afghanistan or wonder why we have overseas bases but when the next 9/11 happens, we are sure happy they are there. Military budgets? You bet they are big. Want to defund them? I think you see how that has worked out for us. 

If you have been to war you probably have seen the futility of it. No one really wins and you see a lot of loss. But right now the world is not an especially friendly place. There is always someone out there who wants to project their ego or get even. We are forced to make assumptions and plan for eventualities. Is it a huge waste? Probably a good part of it is, but we really have no alternative. 

So for now let’s go out of our way to thank anyone who wears the uniform, no matter what branch. Wait, you can do a little more for the Anchors Aweigh men and women. Ha! Don’t just doff your hat during a flyover but maybe sing that national anthem a little louder no matter your musical talent. Stand up and be proud. 

Most of all be grateful to the ones that keep the home fires burning. When your day sucks from some minor mishap, realize it is just that. A small inconvenience. I thank the soldiers and sailors, but I really want to thank the spouses for their service. Where would be without them ?

As always 

Ted The Great  

Factoids:

In our population of 330 million people there are 1.4 million on active duty. This is about 30% smaller than in 1990 when there were  2.1 million. 

There are also 19 million veterans. 25% or 5 million have a service related disability. 

Of veterans of war who were in combat anywhere from 10-30% suffer from PTSD. 

Approximately 250,000 veterans suffer homelessness over the course of a year.

We have 165,000 American forces in over 150 installations throughout the world. There are 55,000 troops in Japan, 33,000 in Germany and 26,000 in South Korea.

Two great comments from PCS(Permanent Change of Station) spouses that probably sum it up:

“I am stressed,” she admits with a laugh. “Yes, I cry myself to sleep. Yes, I take long showers, but after awhile, you realize you just have to deal with it. The movers are here with their truck; you have to go. You pull your big girl pants up and dig in.

“It helps to remind myself that somebody always has it better and somebody always has it worse,” she added. “I’ve had to PCS where I had a whole year to prepare. Then again, I’ve heard of people who had to move in two weeks. You need a back up to a back up to a back up plan.”

Pax….

TTG At Sea….

For those of you that know my love of the US Navy, you might think from the title of this week’s missive that TTG is shipping out once again. Au contraire mes amis. The phrase, “at sea”, denotes someone who is confused and unsure of what to do. It describes me to a tee. 

We had great friends over for dinner last weekend. As we lingered at the  table, we discussed our state of the union. It wasn’t bitching or grousing but a sincere effort to at least figure out where the problems reside and if there is any hope for a solution. There was no rancor but thought, especially after too many wines and yet our mutual frustration was palpable. 

I have always tried to solve problems. For some crazy reason, they appear to me with an amazing clarity and simplicity. Ditto the solution. I am not particularly smart but practical. It just shouldn’t  take that long. Now some I have been fortunate enough to act upon and see results. Others have been relegated to my ever growing folder of “100 Brilliant Ideas I Haven’t Done Squat About”. C’est la guerre.

Recent disclosures have demonstrated pretty clearly that a lot of businesses and rich individuals don’t pay taxes. They are not breaking the law but using it to their best advantage. Yet tax reform never sees the light of day. You don’t understand TTG, Congress is overworked. They can’t get to it. Yet we can waste all the time in the world to impeach Trump or fight about voting bills. We work a three day week and take junkets here and there during our numerous “breaks”. Would you hire any of these people to work in your business?  No, but isn’t this our business?

Immigration is the best. We have the same situation at our borders that have been there for decades. The last meaningful reform was in 1986 under Reagan. If you can’t do the math that is 35 years ago. Get real! We need immigrants  for so many reasons but we can’t have them strolling in without any sort of identification. We spend billions on housing and processing immigrants instead of spending that money to better conditions. Am I the only one who sees this? Of course not. 

Education is beyond screwed up. Our test scores are at best mediocre. The system itself was designed in an era where kids had to go to work before and after school. Charter schools are thriving in poor areas because they are succeeding. They are fulfilling a need. Did anyone stop to think for a moment that if it is working might we not want to adopt the theory instead of trying to denigrate it? I know, that is far too sensible to work. 

The key to solving any problem is defining it. You have to be unemotional and pragmatic. Take guns. At 375 million and counting there are too many of them. I understand everyone’s desire to defend themselves but an AR15 is a little over the top. Do you tuck it under your pillow at night in case there is a B and E at your home? The solution, ban assault rifles. No TTG, you don’t understand. They’re taking away my freedom. Hmmm, you may be taking away mine. 

Back to the dinner party and how we can change. You have to start with factual unbiased data. Give me a set of numbers and I can work them any way I want and our newspeople do just that on both sides of the fence. Pin down these politicos with tough but fair questions and not prearranged soft balls. Give me the news without all the editorial content and innuendo. I want to be informed, not entertained. 

Secondly, we have think tanks throughout the world. Instead of opining on the subtleties of a Mideast conflict or the world economic forum at Davos, how about really doing a deep dive on poverty, drugs or our lack of water? Instead of planning our trip to Mars, figure out why people aren’t getting vaccinated and appeal to them as fellow Americans and not a member of this party or that. 

Educate your self. Take just one hour of what you would normally spend watching, Netflix or golf and just start Googling a particular topic. Research some so called specialist on TV and find out if they are really that good? If you find one go even further. 

Why do I do all this? Plain and simple. My kids and grandkids. A lot of what is wrong is because my generation and yours gave out a lot of passes. Run up the Federal tab like there is no tomorrow. Spoil the environment with plastics and pollutants in our lakes and oceans. Let corruption go unchecked because you have to do it to remain competitive. Looking the other way is just as bad as not looking at all. Stop equivocating whether you are a titan of industry, pillar of the church or just a resident of this place we call home. 

Sorry for my petulance. A man in my position should not bitch and moan. Kathy and I have it good here in Fla La Land. You probably do too. But please note it is a not a complaint but a plea for some sane and wise discussion. Just for even a moment don’t think about ourselves but the other guy or girl. We are probably all at sea and looking for land or at least a lifeboat. 

As always

Ted The Great.

Factoids:

There are 18,000 interpreters and their families that are trying to get visas to the US. They face certain death when the Taliban. Our State Department can’t figure out how to process so many applicants.

Go to USdebtclock.org if you dare. Watch the dials spin as they relate to the US debt(28.5 trillion at press time) and rising. 

We spend $60 million a week to house 16,000 underage immigrants.That is $775 per day per child. This is not partisan but a government system that can’t meet the need. 

There are over 7500 think tanks in the world. Some are partisan and some are topic specific. They are very informative as mostly non governmental organizations. Maybe a good place to start. 

The Week….

The lovely Mrs K and I read a magazine called ‘The Week”. The format is simple. It takes a variety of topics that occurred 7 days hence and gives a short summary. It then quotes various news sources both left and right as to their take on the subject and you hopefully can form your own opinion. Most of the time it works very well. 

It is quite a trip this particular week, from coast to coast, north and south and continent to continent. I love different slants and enjoy hearing what pratfalls and pitfalls happen elsewhere in our world. I came away this week with WTF flashing in red. This planet is getting nuts. We hope to get back to normal after the COVID lockdown. I have not a clue what normal is?

Here in Fla La Land as in other old fart hangouts we yearn for the good old days. We have this distinct memory of a perfect life that happened anywhere from ten to fifty years ago. Name your year. 

Music, cars, photo albums try to recapture the magic. No matter how real nostalgia feels, our world has changed and in a startling way. 

Globalization, technology, social media, gender identity et al were not part of the conversation a short time ago. We changed our thoughts and ideas from time to time but we relied on history and pendulum theories to bring us back to True North eventually. I am not so sure right now. People really look at things differently. 

I wander every so often to the Pew Research website for a look at the latest trends. After the elections some may think polling of any sort is absurd but Pew seems to do a pretty good job, finding whatever pulse there is on issues of the day. They rank “center”on most reviews which for the moment is the best we got. 

I was struck by one category of study,” Generations and Age”. As a Boomer,I think I have a pretty good idea of what my generation is thinking but what about millennials and generation Z’ers? That’s the group from 16-40 years of age right now.  I can see some rolling their eyes and saying who cares? I think we better. 

We Boomers for the most part are white, Judeo/Christian, and a combination of average Joes and a certain select group that achieved higher education. We are living longer than expected, so our numbers are pretty high as a percentage of the population. Sounds great but we are also dependent generation that sucks up a lot of healthcare dollars.  

The new kids are feeling a tad more rebellious than previous groups. They are much more educated. They have the ability to speak out through social media at the drop of a hat. They have found kindred souls not in the workplace but in the hundreds if not thousands of causes they identify with. They have been entitled and like it. They don’t worry so much about their career as their experience of the present. 

I don’t mention this as an alarm but as a reality. We can react in one of two ways. We can ignore them and put them down and say we have the control of the purse. They will change when they get hungry, we say. Life is hard knocks. Get used to it. Or we can try to understand where they are coming from and try to parse true fact from fantasy. 

They have new ideas and they might scare you. One third say they think socialism may not be all the bad. They think the government should be more and more involved in our daily lives and provide more assurances for a predestined future. Religion eventually fades away and there really are no more color lines. 

That last piece is purely demographic. For seniors now, the majority are white. For the new generations, whites are no longer a majority and the world becomes more one of color. Cross marrying or living together are creating families that defy the traditional definition of race. It is said in a hundred years you might not  recognize any difference at all. 

This is just one aspect of our world. Look at global politics from China to Russia to Turkey or Subsaharan Africa. Everybody wants to flex their muscles because it makes for good press and masks a lot of problems. The world is becoming more totalitarian. My way or the highway. If you speak up we will just arrest you and lock you away until this blows over. Democracies have been blindsided and duped. It wasn’t so long ago the world was trying to enable China to become part of the world. Now they want to run it. 

There is a lot going on. You can just ignore it or be part of the conversation. The current topic of Critical Race Theory is an interesting one. Born about 40 years ago it seeks to tie the founding of the US with inbred racism. The government, courts and state law were to serve one purpose. That was to further the wealth and domination of whites. 

In a purely intellectual sense the theory could be plausible. But to label us all racist is absurd. Herein lies the subtlety. I can get my knickers in a knot and it might be justified. Or I can sit down and discuss it in some sort of rational atmosphere. Not screaming or yelling but hopefully intelligent people trading ideas. There are pros and cons. You just have to look for them. Neither side is very good at that. 

It might be naive but I think it is possible to have conversations on a myriad of topics. It would take lot of give and take on all sides. It might take a week or two or perhaps a year or a decade to get to the bottom. Have you got the time? More importantly, do you have the desire to get involved in this whacky world of change? Tough question.

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Genrations

  • The Greatest Generation (born 1901–1927)
  • The Silent Generation (born 1928–1945)
  • Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964)
  • Generation X (born 1965–1980)
  • Millennials (born 1981–1995)
  • Generation Z (born 1996–2010)
  • Generation Alpha (born 2011–2025)

Go to pewresearch.org and look under the topics they delve into. Fascinating or overwhelming? You decide. PS Click on the full list.