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. 

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.