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. 

Optics…..

I have had a minor malady in my left eye for the past few weeks. Nothing serious but it gets you thinking about just how incredible these precious orbs are. They are literally our windows on the world. Right up there with hearing, they are what feeds our minds and our psyche.  

Of course like so many other things in life, we take them for granted until they are threatened. In real time they provide one with the most incredible movie on earth. You watch in wonder at beauty. You crouch in fear at the unimaginable. You are disgusted by vileness and soothed by an idyllic scene. And this all happens automatically without changing your F-stop and you never run out of film.

When you bat your baby blues to greet the day, the input starts. Is the day sunny or gray? You take that quick look in the bathroom mirror and you immediately feel like a movie star or a well worn hack. Don’t be so hard on yourself, there is always plastic surgery. 

You grab your coffee and go right to your laptop or phone. What has happened in our world overnight? Certain things go in the mental trash can and some pique your interest. Data is flying everywhere and those eyeballs are the the valve that controls the flow. It is like this giant factory coming to life.

The National Eye Institute explains the process: “When light hits the retina (a light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye), special cells called photoreceptors turn the light into electrical signals. These electrical signals travel from the retina through the optic nerve to the brain. Then the brain turns the signals into the images you see.” Yikes! All this is going on in my crazy head?

Past the mechanics I ponder the validity of the process. We all have this 4 million pixel TV screen but do we all see the same picture? In reality we do but this is where judgment or predisposition gets into the act. The Donald or Biden pops up on the screen. Do you see a friend or foe? Do you luxuriate in that warm fuzzy or are you ready to throw a brick at the screen? Beauty of course is in the eye of the beholder.

We here in Harbour Ridge had a Zoom interview with Marco Rubio the other day. For the most part our senator does not move my needle either way. As he talked and answered some serious questions he seemed to talk not as a politician but as somebody we were having a cup of of coffee with. He knew his subject but did not pontificate. Not once during the call did he revert to a party line. It was, dare I say, refreshing. 

My eyes saw and probably believed to some degree. In a way they were at least receptive and less guarded as I normally view politicians. Maybe these peepers when used properly can change my ways of thinking. It is like I am looking at things in different way. Hmm, not bad for an old fart. 

On the other hand we view things that seem pretty cut and dried but somehow people don’t agree. I watched the events of January 6. Forget about whether or not the camera angles were right or wrong, a bunch of people stormed the Capitol and broke down doors and windows. Last week I saw some pols trying to downplay things. “It was just like a normal tourist day” one decried. Did my own eyes deceive me?  

We have all become tech savvy people. Through the miracle of Fotoshop we can create any type of picture we want to project to the world. In other words there are times that we shouldn’t believe what we are seeing. Now what do I do? Is it really fake or do my internal filters and prejudices make it so? Interesting question. 

We need photographers to capture those moments that are so fleeting for us. We do it ourselves with our SLR’s and I phones. They seem to get it just right while most of us click away, only to constantly hit “trash” as if, what was I thinking when I took this? But then you see that one frame that is poignant. It says it all and then we look at it over and over again. Good stuff.

For a moment think about how many zillions of pictures have passed through those two fiber optic cables over the years. They are probably stored in some hard drive in the back of our craniums. Some elated us. Some hurt us deeply. Some were accomplishments. Some were total failures. Etched seems to me to be a very operative word. And that is what we are all about. The sum of our experiences. 

People send us all sorts of emails with pictures. I search the files to try to come up with the right pic to supplement my musings. This cacophony of images is really a treasure. We have  woman here at Fla La Land that takes nature photographs. They are both beautiful and startling. They take you away to another place that is right in our back yard. Wonder why I never saw that? Maybe I just never looked. Maybe they are the real touch of reality in our crazy world. 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I have tried to keep Ted’s Head to a thousand words over all these years. I try to paint a picture but probably in comparison I fail miserably. If nothing more maybe I am just here to conjure up those memories in your own mind. I hope they are all good. 

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Your eyes are about one inch across and weigh .25 ounce. They do not change is shape and size over our lives. Our eyes blink over 4,200,000 times a year.  

The human eye can differentiate about 10 million different colors. 80% of all learning comes through the eyes. The only organ more complex is the brain.

People read 25% slower on a screen than they do in print. The human eye can only see three colors, red blue and green. All the others are combinations of these. 

While a fingerprint has 40 unique characteristics, an iris has 256. This is why retina scans are increasingly being used for security purpose.

These nature pictures are a few examples from my good friend, Lois Fraser. You can go to her Instagram account @loisfraser She would love to hear from you and you will enjoy more of her fabulous work. Look at your own habitat. There is a lot there.

Garden of Eden

Most of you know the story. Many, many eons ago, God had created this fabulously lush and verdant Garden of Eden. Nothing could be better. It is ironic that the supposed site is where Iraq or some other portion of the Middle East is today. Was this prophetic or was His GPS broken?

The first humanoid was a guy named Adam. He was fat dumb and happy until this chick named Eve along. She was a looker and the A Man was head over heels in love. Turns out there were snakes in Paradise and one in particular proved to be their downfall. They ate from the Tree of Life and that is how strife and struggle started. Or so the story goes. 

The original couple probably fought and accused each other of causing this mess. Things like pride, jealousy, lust and overindulgence became the norm of the day. Right from the get go they wanted more than they had. They wanted to strive and accomplish more. Contentment was a long forgotten goal. As the planet reproduced, everyone took different sides. 

Fast forward several millennia and you would have thought that history would teach us something? Not so. It got worse. People, towns, cities and countries all wanted to be better than the other one. Each civilization built cities and trade routes and acquired a specialty of some sort. But one group or another always wanted to be first. It was bred into us.

In a perfect world there would be balance and equality. Everyone brought something to the table. Exchanging gold for spices and silk or fruits and vegetables for lumber it seems on the surface work. But going back to that cute little couple in Paradise there was never enough. 

Today we call that entrepreneurship and growth and that may well be true. If there are frontiers to conquer and horizons to sail to, that will keep our minds occupied and creativity will flourish. Progress is a good thing unless we subvert it. We create cures for disease but we also dream up ways to kill people with similar compounds. The Wright Brothers taught us to fly but today we have used that knowledge of flight to build supersonic fighter planes and hypersonic missiles. We used to wage war from afar but now we can annihilate each other with the flip of switch. 

My poor little brain has been cogitating on all things cosmic these days. My first question is strife inherent and a necessary part of our existence? I believe events are somewhat spontaneous and just happen. How we interpret them and react is what causes problems.  

We all think differently. We like to label ourselves this or that but we really are incredibly different. We don’t think white or black or American or European or Asian. We are alone in our thoughts which is both petrifying and exciting. To say you and I or Biden or the Pope agree on everything is an absurdity. And I think this is where the politics, religion and ethics collide. You are either with us or against us. How much time is wasted trying to figure that out instead of embracing those difference and dare I say benefit from the interaction?

I have my idea of what heaven is but I get cut off many times trying to get  there. You have yours. Do you take that collision as a minor bump in the road or a threat to your existence? I think one of the major difficulties today is we have made every little thing a Waterloo. Everything is a crisis and a threat to your manhood or womanhood and as such can not be ignored or glossed over. 

We have taken something so basic as communication and parsed it and reviled portions of it, so most people are afraid of saying anything. Spontaneity and creativity are snuffed out. We become placid and compliant. The only winner is the one who yells the loudest or who has the most clout….or the biggest gun. 

I have been studying empathy because I want to have it as much as possible.I am not getting all Kumbaya, but I think it is the only way we can break down the walls on both sides. We have to figure out where the other person is coming from.  I want to listen. I want to admit I might be wrong. Is that difficult? You bet it is. But what is my alternative?

I can shut out a number of the people in my life because they are either left or right. Another group I will ask if they are moral or immoral? Then I have to separate believers and non believers.  For immigration or against it? Racist? Gay, straight? Ah yes, now I have my small select group of friends. We can sit around over drinks and congratulate ourselves on how perfect we are. We can get a visceral pleasure when one side or the other falters. And we think that is cool. 

Think about the number of times there are negative thoughts or situations in your daily routine. Of course you are happy overall but screw the other guy. That son of a bitch has no right. I feel your pain. Ha! I hope you rot in hell. 

Back to that Garden of Eden thing. No one is perfect. No one is that smart. Life has its good and bad spots. Weeds in that flower bed or thorns in the bushes. And of course a few snakes. Understand them. Greet them. And most of all don’t let them get you down. Damn those first two! Why did they have to screw it up? 

As always 

Ted The Great

Factoids:

Main Causes of Conflict:

Money. You are criticized for having too much or too little by your friends and family. It is a struggle to make it and keep it.  

Approaches. We all have different ways of solving problems. Some are diametrically opposed. Tough to problem solve.

Perceptions. Did you hear what I had to say or did you hear something else? Eye contact and body language can cause a myriad of problems

Goals. What you and I think are important can be greatly divergent. What is the end game. Define that and half your problem is solved. 

Pressure generates a LOT of conflict. Performance pressure, financial pressure, emotional pressure. All kinds of pressure exist in our lives.

Power.  Everyone wants to have power. Those who do not have any power, want power. Those who have all the power want more of it.

Values. Values lead to generalizations about people. You are a Republican so you have to be against human rights. You didn’t go to an Ivy League school so you can’t be smart 

Policies. They cause conflict because it is in their nature. People, with different values, create policies. Policies only change when people change them. If you disagree with a policy, there are limited ways to change the policy.

Making Progress….

This last week for at least the 439th time in my life, I have taken stock, rearranged priorities and set new goals. The occasion? I turned 76. Not a day for panic or euphoria but introspection. I have always found it good for the soul. 

In doing so, I have to look at my world around me. It would be foolhardy to consider it anything other than pretty nice. I need to lose a few pounds but that is inherent in any of my refits. I want to shave a few shots off my handicap. I want to get more involved in outside projects. I want to try to be a better husband, father and friend. But why?

Aha! We now talk about a thing called progress. Defined as: a forward or onward movement toward destination or goal. If you get there, it is a sense of achievement. If you fail, you are miserable. Why take the chance ? Why not just chill? Interesting stuff.

Personally I would be lost without something to shoot for. If I just sit around and read at least I hope I am learning something. If I lay down, my crazy mind is still processing dozens of thoughts looking for my next insight into this or that. Can I go comatose in front of the TV? Of course, but that is just a passing fancy. I really like being on the move and dying to get absorbed into something. 

Now I do believe in living in the moment. I can’t take back what happened 30 seconds ago. I have no idea what the hell tomorrow will bring but at least I have the expectation that there will be something new to learn or enjoy. And that is what keeps me motivated. 

Here in Fla La Land there are some who think I am nuts. Of course several of you will quickly rejoinder that is not only the Sunshine State. But many just want to exist. Their life by their standards is perfect. Don’t know what tomorrow will bring and I don’t really care. If it is you, I would probably stop reading right now.

I can understand this happening to the mega rich. When you have a billion why do you need another one?  Why do you need one more house, hot car or toy? I guess because it says you can. The hunt, the fight and the thrill of victory are intoxicating. Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett et al have found other uses for their energy and the world is a better place. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk? The jury is still out. 

Our country is torn by inequality. Wealth, race, gender etc. But compared to what? In charting our progress we seem to rely on the metrics of wealth or fame. Who wouldn’t with a non stop barrage of ads saying you have to be this thin, this successful, this white or black to make the grade. It’s natural but does that make it normal?

Progress needs to be achievable but challenging. I go to the gym and someone says, I wish I could do that. Boy, Ted I wish I had your energy or your ability to write. Ted, you seem to have so much fun, how do you do that? I think you all know that I don’t have anything special. It is right there inside each one of us. Make your goals your own, not someone else’s. 

Probably a goal we all share is to be happy, which of course begs the question what is that?

I have searched for that definition for a long time. Contentment? That’s not bad but it still leaves me a little restless. I think I just want to matter. I want to feel I can contribute and in some small way be recognized for that. At some point in time maybe someone would say I am nice guy. I am not holding my breath on that just yet. 

When am I happiest? When I am making someone else feel good. Somehow, some way I made their life a little better. It could be at the gym or a gas station. A smile, a handshake (whoops I violated COVID protocol) and maybe even a hug. It doesn’t take much. 

I was able to finally return to hospice volunteering  after being shut out for one whole year. I know this sounds weird but I couldn’t wait to walk through those doors. The nurses and staff are some of my best friends. In an instant I met a large family whose patriarch was dying. We clicked and became close in a matter of minutes. There was an openness and honesty that was palpable. There wasn’t time to be wary and calculating. Maybe it’s life as it should be? 

I felt I was moving forward. I was so much luckier than before I walked in there. I was a fuller person if that makes any sense. I think I figured it out. Forget about my weight or my golf game or glass of fine  wine. Look at yourself as the benchmark,TTG. Tell your friends. Maybe a snippet here or there will help them. Not a bad goal to have. Progress? You bet!

As always 

Ted The Great

Factoids:  

Reimagining happiness is almost hard-wired into Americans’ DNA, said Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside. “Human beings are remarkably resilient. There’s lots and lots of evidence that we adapt to everything. We move forward,” Here’s hoping!

When people are down they are less giving. When they give a lot they are more up. Go figure!

Less than 14% of the people in the United States say they are happy. That is down from 31% in 2018. Only 31% before all this mess?

7 Steps to Make Progress Towards Life Goals

  1. Determine Why You Want to Move Forward in Life. …
  2. Be Okay with Where and Who You Currently are in Life. …
  3. Strive Within Your Circle of Influence. …
  4. Stay Reflective During the Process. …
  5. Accept the Possible Setbacks. …
  6. Celebrate Your Successes. …
  7. Take Time to Enjoy the Amazing Result of Your Journey

      Sounds like a plan.

A Man Walks Into A Bar…..

And shoots everyone…. What seems like an intro to a classic joke turns out to be a tragic outcome. It could be a bar, a church or a super market. The most sanguine of locations sets the stage for slaughter. Once a rarity, it is now an all too common part  of our lives. 

People say how sad and move on. Adaption or aquiescence? Maybe if I ignore it, the aberration will just go away. We fail to dig down and find out what is causing this in some madman. Is that capacity for hate and anger endemic to all of us or just the few? 

At birth we have the capacity for both aggression and empathy. We are imbued with a sense of survival but also a desire for connection. We are by nature social animals. We want to love and be loved.The outcome of good or evil is a learned trait. 

 It is great to be part of a group, a town, a state, country and of course a fan of our favorite team. It is ignominy to be an outsider. If someone moves into our neighborhood we are welcoming but wary. Are they going to be one of “our kind” of people or are they going to try to turn my wonderful little life upside down? I get defensive and maybe angry. I could even hate that person if it goes far enough. 

Let’s start with that getting pissed off thing. Psychologists will tell you rage is caused by an event, a feeling you are not valued or the grandaddy of them all, injustice. Somebody cuts you off in traffic and you flip them the bird. What might have been simple faux pas gets to the point of road rage. 

Overlooked as inconsequential or shunned by your peers you are hurt to the core. Your Rodney Dangerfield moment where you don’t get no respect. What am I chopped liver? Some are hurtful and some are downright nasty in their putdowns. It’s what we do as we revel in “gotcha” moments. 

The cause of the day, year or decade is injustice. No matter how hard to you try to be reasonable you are convinced you have been screwed. It could be your status in life, your position in the company or just a series of failures that you blame on anyone else but your self. Some right. Some wrong. 

I get nailed for a drug charge and get sent away for forty years. A rich kid with a great lawyer pleads it down to a misdemeanor. Better yet I am arrested for trafficking when my customer was a rich kid from the burbs in his BMW. Does that sound just to you?

The world is against me because I am black, gay, muslim, Jewish handicapped etc. Many of these are not imaginative but real. Racism, sexism, ageism are there no matter how hard we deny it. I hate to tell you but the world is not fair. The bigger question is should it be?

Now I am a white male in a golf community with decent resources. I can opine on how hard work got me here but I would be stretching things a tad. A member of the “Lucky Sperm” club? You bet. A stable home life to grow up in? Check. Good schools? Yes. Good student? Maybe. 

Yes,I did have to have my wits about me and fend for myself on more than one occasion. Did I take chances? Of course. And yes it could have gone horribly wrong. Did unfair things happen to me? Sure. But people weren’t shooting up my neighborhood all night long? Was my father a drunk who came home and beat the crap out of my mother and siblings? Thank God that’s a no. .

My point is this. Don’t say you have experienced all of the above unless you have. I feel your pain is a bit theatrical. Have you really walked hundreds of miles to a border with your wife and three kids so as not to get killed or raped in your own hometown? Until you have been totally destitute, don’t be so quick to judge and dismiss.

But as in almost any disagreement, this is really a fine edge to be defined. There are two sides to the immigration story. Ditto racism et al. The needle bounces all over the place trying to find true north. And herein lies why we can’t make any progress. 

We are a highly competitive nation. We like to win. As a country, an athlete, a parent or a person. The opposite of competition is cooperation. But If I cooperate today I am seen as weak and yielding. You can’t compromise your position. Do not yield the high ground. Stick to your guns and sadly we have taken that literally. This can only go so far. 

The last time we had any cooperation across all party lines was 9/11. We were one and we were even one with most of the world. We shared and hugged and cried as one. We were partners. A friend told me one time that partnerships were wonderful until one side or the other feels they are being screwed. We got back to looking out for ourselves and the romance was over. 

We are at juncture and I don’t see the way out. Whether it is the US vs China or Russia or whites vs blacks or liberals vs conservative we have lain down the gauntlet. People are angry. People are disgusted. Empathy for the other side is a hard to find commodity. 

It will probably take something pretty bad once again to make us come together and collaborate. It might be global warming. When things get so desperate there is no other way whatsoever. It might be mass killings on such a scale that even the coldest soul has to take heed. I just hope and pray the guy walks into the bar and the joke is not on us. 

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

We concentrate on mass shootings and mental illness. It is shown however that of the 120,000 deaths due to guns only 7-8% are directly related to mental illness. It is somewhat bizarre that we concentrate on mass shootings that total of several hundred victims in a year but do not even consider the other thousands that don’t make the news. 

In fact over 80% of shooting deaths are committed by persons who have many of the problems that nearly everyone has to manage at some point in life: anger, isolation, depressive moods, resentments, jealousy.

Anger is a condition in all of us. It can create heartburn or be a motivating force. It can cause us to wallow in self pity or provide impetus to do better. It is many times valid. How we tame or control it is another question.

Self esteem is a personal estimate of one’s worth. China does not like its position in the world. It is hell bent on being number one to make up for the Century of Disgrace. If one is confident of their self esteem they are more open to new ideas and contrary thinking. If they are worried about their image they will do everything possible to protect their point of view. 

Sea Change….

Although nautical in nature, this idiom refers to philosophies and credos that undergo some sort of metamorphosis or distinct change of direction. The cognoscenti would rather call them paradigm shifts in today’s vernacular, but I think you get the idea. 

I have written many times of how painful change can be. We are creatures of habit and comfort in knowing this is the way things are supposed to be. The COVID monster has thrown us for a loop but I feel it is just symbolic or even a distraction from what’s really going on. 

I hate subtlety and the latest blurring of the line between equality and equity is particularly galling. Up to this point in our fair nation we have at least striven for equality. We should all have the same status, rights and opportunities. Bumpy as the road is we have slowly but surely fine tuned what it means to be equal. There is a long way to go and many are impatient and they should be. There is a similar crowd that says we have gone too far. 

Equity is whole other thing. Equity allocates resources differently. You are poorer, slower, sicker, less imaginative than others because of your surroundings. We want to change that and reallocate resources to ensure your success. 

The difference between equality and equity must be emphasized. Although both promote fairness, equality achieves this through treating everyone the same regardless of need, while equity achieves this through treating people differently dependent on need. However, this different treatment may be the key to reaching equality, but not always. There are some that want success to be guaranteed. 

All this is well and good but the results of the Great Society of LBJ tells us differently. Despite trillions of dollars over 50 years, we have lowered the poverty rate from around 20% to 10%.That sounds good but it was accomplished by raising Social Security so the gains were for those over 65.  The pandemic has brought big bucks into the debate once more.  I am not as much against giving the money as to how it is distributed and accounted for. We have not been good at this. 

Education has been proven to be the ticket out of lower classes. Several years ago I was involved in a program called Tri County Scholarship. We took an abandoned Catholic High School in beautiful downtown Paterson, NJ. This was a tough area to say the least. We stressed commitment and discipline. There were no entrance exams so we did not cherry pick. Sister Gloria ran a tight ship but that did not mean we were not open to all faiths.

It cost us $2500 to educate a child at a time when the state was spending $11,000. Public school’s attendance was around 65% and ours was 100%. We graduated 90% into some form of higher education and they were coming in at 33%. Every child had to pay at least $5 in tuition and the money had to be brought to school by the parent. 

Why were we successful? For the same reason schools like this throughout the country today are succeeding today. We won their hearts and minds over to a concept of striving to be better and taking incredible confidence going forward at its accomplishment. Everyone wore uniforms which gave them a sense of pride. Today that is  considered an act of tyranny. 

We are changing today. No longer are we to be competitive because that does not give everyone a fair chance. Discourse and true questioning are not allowed. We want everybody to be the same and think the exact same way. We forgive student debt. We forgive your rent and your mortgage payments. You don’t have to have any responsibility because we are going to make it all work for you in some magical way. 

Don’t get smug on the right. There has been a gravy train and you know it. You have made the top tiers so impenetrable that the hoi polloi can only wish from afar at your cult like status. We cite the here and there success stories but only consider the Ivies and top MBA mills as appropriate supply chains. The disparity between the worker bees and El Jefes salaries is obscene. 

How does this all tie together? In all areas it has become about me. Rich and poor. Black and white. We decry violence but each side finds some sort of rationalization in burning Federal buildings or storming the US Capitol. Send those SOB’s back to Mexico or Central America and let the wait them wait their turn while others want to take down every border control station. Each one can justify their narrative by citing this poll or statistic. 

We have created a fantasy world. We watched as royals cried victim. The suits of corporate America will tell you how hard they worked. So have others. Many cry poverty but have a new SUV in the garage or a big screen in every room. I watched on TV as a Mercedes pulled up to a food bank. Seriously? Everyone dreams of winning the lottery….or at least getting a check from the government. This can’t turn out well. 

In a radically changing world we need an efficient and caring government. The COVID chaos has shown a lot of flaws. In industry we need compassionate managers who will recognize people for their talents and not necessarily their CV. We need a work force that wants to work and create a pride in achievement like we had at Tri County. Each and every one of us has to figure out how to help someone besides ourselves. 

Sure this is altruistic and heady stuff. Tell me if I am wrong? Whether you are a billionaire or impoverished I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Get some skin in the game. There is a sea change and if we don’t get it right there is a good chance of being swept overboard. Unfortunately I don’t see a lot of lifeboats on the horizon. 

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Women earn 81% of what men do for doing the same job. 

The pay gap between top executives and workers continues to be wide. Since 1978, CEO compensation rose 1,007.5% for CEOs, compared with 11.9% for average workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In comparative terms, CEOs now make 278 times the average worker. In 1978 it was approximately 30 times.

Very high earners are up 339%

19% of the US population received government assistance in 2020. That is about 59 million people. 

The US spends 11.6% of public spending on education. The international norm is 15% 

We spend on average $12,612 on K-12 . 

New York state spends $24,000. 

Colorado spends $12,200 

Utah spends $7600.

 . 

Trust Me…

Our world gets a little more complex every day. Just when you think you have things figured out something out of the blue hits you right between the eyes. It could be an event or concept. Where do you go? I think we have to start with trust.

It has been called the glue that holds everything together and I think whomever coined that phrase was right on. But how do you gain trust or more importantly how do recapture it after is has been lost? 

Whether it is your parents, siblings, friends, boss or lover you approach things warily. You take small steps at first and then increasingly feel comfortable opening up. You get enthused as the door to your and their psyche opens. As you increasingly feel that you are not going to get hurt, you let them see more and more. It is very human.

As much as we crave community, you are ever watchful. If you have had a great childhood with few disappointments you are more prone to believe. If you have been hurt either physically or emotionally you are saying I never want to go there again. We see severely deprived adults who can’t even conjure up a smile or a wave. How tragic but oh so understandable. 

Trust is belief in someone or something. You know it to be true and reliable. Sometimes we accept all that without empirical data and that is a thing called faith. You believe because the person speaking has degree of competency in their certain field. Words that pop out to me are reliability, authenticity and fairness. It is so hard to achieve and even more difficult to win back. Once burned, you are petrified of the flame. 

As I think about all the things I believe in, I harken back to my youth and parents and siblings. My parents loved me and I responded. Not so much my one brother who needled me constantly and I thought he could clearly be labeled a terrorist today. Ha! Friends were many and some even became close.  You won’t tell anybody, will you?

School at the onset was rote. Who am I to argue 2 + 2 of course equals 4? Doesn’t it? But as you go on you begin to have a doubt here or there and in some cases outright revulsion over what was being said.I just don’t agree! You are starting to think independently. That was what learning was all about but of course today that discourse is not allowed. 

I used to have a lot more trust in the government. They were smart or at least productive and “In God We Trust.”  Unfortunately they tend to think those words on the fins and c notes referred to them personally. Not so.

For me it started with John Foster Dulles and his brother at the CIA who thought they could play chess with countries. Watergate, Iran Contra, the Rose Law firm, K Street, dalliances, elections, Russian influence etc showed that most if not all politicians had their flaws and some went very deep. 

All one has to do is look back at the Great Society and the trillions spent with scant results. WMD’s brought us to war even though they never existed. Money commandeered with the right intentions gets siphoned off in bridges to nowhere and a detailed review of the latest COVID relief bill shows the kids are still at work.

The world scene? Do you trust Russia or China? How about Turkey, Iran, Venezuela, Cuba ?  The World Health Organization(Who) ? Maybe even the UN? We all have our skeletons but it is hard to trust egocentrics and petty dictators. 

Big business? Volkswagen,Boeing, JP Morgan, McKinsey et al, have paid out huge sums to make things go away. All without admitting any guilt of course. Bernie Madoff conned hundreds of people and institutions. He even betrayed his Jewish faith by screwing many temples with equanimity. You just don’t do that! Have you no conscience?

Speaking of which, how about religion? The Catholic Church, not my faith has lost me. The lies, the coverups and sanctimonious preaching was beyond a breach of trust to those they counseled.  Ministers and rabbis are right up there but not as easy or visible a target. 

Doctors and coaches molesting at will. I could go on and on. Am I being unfair? Have you lost faith in me? Good question. I have often felt to solve a problem you have to admit to it. We are not very good at that. If you want my trust there are some simple things you have to do to get it back. 

Be sincere and be vulnerable. No one is perfect. If you are wrong, admit it. If you don’t know the answer don’t try to BS me. It will come back to haunt you. Learn to trust others. Don’t think I can’t take the truth. The Donald and Cuomo were almost complicit at the same time in the failure to give us the facts. Equal Opportunity Offenders.

How about being humble? Look yourself and then me in the eye. Show me your warts. I will do the same. Then maybe we can get back on track. When you believe you are beyond excited. When you see inequities and falsehoods it sucks all the air out of the room. We are devoid of oxygen in many places on our big blue marble. 

Hopeless? No, but a daunting endeavor lies ahead. Where do I get just the facts to make my decisions? Is the speaker sincere or duplicitous? Do the corrupt speak for entire countries and institutions? Do we have the inner drive and gumption to turn things around? Therein lies the problem. Trust me. 

As always 

Ted The Great

Factoids:

Digital information which floods our world is suspect to many. Are the claims honest? How are you going to use my personal information? Is my credit card info going to be pilfered? Yet we pound away all day on that keyboard or phone. 

People you should not trust are fickle, tell secrets to others, are too sweet to you, competitive, narcissistic, lack empathy and are social climbers. Yikes, is anyone left?

Lying…telling falsehoods. We all lie between one to two times a day. I am sorry I am busy. I think you look great. I feel great. If you lie five times a day you are probably younger, male and have occupational status. Memories of liars become reality in the their minds. It is easier to lie in an email than it is in pen and paper or in person.  Ask me no questions, I will tell you no lies.?

Pew Research:

35% have low trust, 41% have medium trust 22% have high trust

The top professions that are  trusted are scientists, military and police officers, with journalists, business leaders and politicians bringing up the rear.