Is Common Good Possible?…..

I just got back from a long run and as is my wont I like to pick a topic to dwell on to help the miles pass. Being Ted’s Head day it made things even more productive. As I left off last week I have this thing about common good and is it even possible? My opining could be an elixir or can of worms. You decide.

What is the common good? The classic definition is that which is shared by all or at least a majority of a given community. You build a hospital, or finance a police force or designate an area for open space. That is considered for the common good. It is to be utilized and enjoyed by everyone. This is all fine until someone has to give up something for the rest of us and we test our mettle for generosity. Some have to pay higher taxes. Others have to donate or sell land or give a bequest. Others their right to privacy. Tough stuff.

Now by town, state or country we have to arrive at what is proper and what is overkill. I might think I am being levied upon beyond reasonableness and you may deem I am not giving my proper share. Today we have the classic too much or too little government. Some think we need infrastructure for growth and others are content to leave things just as they are.

At the moment we live in a condominium with 68 other units. Everybody has their own idea of heaven and we do a decent job of sorting out but sometimes it is only the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. When we were in Hawaii there were speed bumps in the small village that were spaced a hundred yards apart. Everyone hated them except the activist that bitched to the HOA. So do you make sure everyone is heard or do you just seek the majority opinion?

In a democracy 50.1% is a winner. That also means the other 49.9% feels short shrifted. Throughout the world there are governmental forms where minorities are a fact of life. Lo and behold this requires some compromise to form a bloc of people that feel more or less the same way. Not completely on one side to the other but as they say, “close enough for government work.”

Our Supreme Court has thrown a bit of a wrinkle into our process in their “Citizen’s United” decision. To them corporations are people and with a decided advantage. Their votes really count for more because their wallets are full and largesse towards kindred political spirits gets the desired result even though it may not exactly be the will of the majority.

I guess around mile three I am beginning to wonder if this thing can work at all? If everyone feels like they are being screwed then how do we ever sing out of the same hymnal? This is being exacerbated today as more and more small players gum up the works so to speak. A small group of students can keep a lecturer off campus. Lovers of the snail darter held up a dam in Tennessee for so much time the costs to the general public and ergo you and me got the short end by having more tax dollars wasted. Was this beneficial to the masses?

This has all been debated since the time of Plato and Aristotle. Our current conundrum is no different. The people want a say or at least to feel like someone is looking out for them. That is how the Donald got elected. It wasn’t because of his good looks and charm or his charisma. He was just something different and boy is he ever! At the same time the cognoscenti were egotistical enough to say they knew how to do it and just shut up and vote for me.

Sooner or later the locals have just had it. Look at the Arab Spring, Venezuela, the populist movements in Europe and unrest elsewhere. Smaller nations don’t understand the innuendos of global initiatives and don’t want to play ball. Alliances are frayed and entirely new ones are formed. Times change and definitions are rewritten. What is the common good today? Should everyone be released from poverty? A noble cause but doable? Can the UN dictate what works for everyone worldwide? Democracy is actually on the down slope right now. Tough questions.

It is far too simplistic but there is an element of the Golden Rule present. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Every move or decision you make is not just with you in mind but the world at large in however you deem that to be. Can a senator say this is good for the people but it will probably cost me my job? Can the rich say we have a little too much and we should share the wealth? Can the poor say I have to do more for myself rather than relying on the dole? Big moves. Mind benders. A fools journey?

I looked up the word consensus and its synonyms: agreement, harmony, concurrence, accord, unity, unanimity, solidarity. Do you think any of those concepts are applicable today? Go to your next school board meeting, town council, labor negotiation, or session in Congress. It would take some very big open minds to bridge these chasms.

You say it is life and maybe so. That’s the nature of the beast. I think we are so wary of one another and protective of our own that it is not in the cards. At least not in the near future and that is tragic. Maybe we need another 9/11 or almost depression to shake us up. The common good necessitates community in every nuance. It involves sharing and compromise. I really doubt we have it in us.

As always
Ted The Great.

Factoids:

Mavs owner, Mark Cuban described Donald Trump as the chemotherapy for the cancer that has crept into our democracy. Funny but apt.

From The Transatlantic Academy:
“Democracy is in trouble,” the report begins. “The collective engagement of a concerned citizenry for the public good — the bedrock of a healthy democracy — is eroding. Democratic governments often seem crippled in their capacity to deliver what their people want and need. There is widespread concern about apparent declining rates of voter participation and about the alienation or disaffection of citizens from the political process.” Uh Oh!

Democracy is a process that relies upon optimism regarding the future. It also rests upon the belief that the system is fair. Finally, people must believe that it possible to make substantive changes. The extreme concentration of wealthy undermines all three views.
Psychology Today 1/20/2015

Eras and Stewardship….

We crave definition. We want to think of ourselves as special. Something that will make us stand out in the millennia from all the other schmucks that have walked the face of this earth. We tend to use an event, personality or accomplishment and dub it with being life altering for better or worse.

After separating a period of time we look back and cast a yea or nay as to its significance. Historians pore over it from every vantage point but it strikes me as interesting that we look back and try not to commit the same mistakes again. Rarely do we see it as a work in progress but rather something to look at from the rear view mirror. I find this intriguing in that respect. We only learn of our erroneous ways after we have screwed things up. There should be a better way.

Some of our folly in epochs is our desire to put our personal imprint on things. Obama, Bush, Clinton, all wanted to preserve their legacies. Obamacare, MidEast wars, peace talks are the consummate trophies of egotism. Jack Welch, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were indeed dynamic and rewarded shareholders alike. I admire their desire to make a change for the better but do we fall prey to man’s ego lest God forbid that person or company just be considered ordinary. Maybe a good steward should be ample reward. This is contrary to our current beliefs.
I have just read a Shepherd’s Life. It is the story of a young man in the dells of England whose entire being is wrapped up in the breeding and maintenance of sheep. His love and dedication of his chosen profession was palpable as he saw nature at its best and worst. He praised a sun that nourished his fields and cursed the snow and wind that presented incredible challenges to his very existence.

Throughout the book was reference to lineage and family. He was tending the flock as his family had for generations. It was a mantle he wore proudly and with a sense of ultimate responsibility. He would teach his children and hope they would continue on in his stead. He was constantly aware of new ideas to improve his breeds but there was also a way to do things that were time worn.

In former times the steward was a servant who made sure his area of expertise was up to snuff whether is be the castle itself or particular pieces like the scullery or wine cellar. Of course the latter would have been my druthers. As wont would have it the cream came to the top and eventually you were made El Supremo for the whole operation. Yet rarely did you deviate from the norm as this is the way we have always done things and if you don’t like it, leave.

There is a tranquility to this viewpoint but at what point does that breed mediocrity and blandness? Tough question. I think of nature itself. You know I consider the world as a whole and we all play our parts. The food chains and weather cycles have an order to them that I feel should not be broken. As man, do I look at it as my plunder to use any way I want or do I have a responsibility for it and its implications for every other being and organism?

Back to that pithy question of progress and at what cost? The Industrial Era has brought wealth to more than a few and our lives are undeniably better for it. The Technology Age is of the same. On the other hand our climate is changing. Did we cause it? Dunno, but I do believe many of our industries exacerbate whatever trend is present. We use fertilizer for our fields to increase yield but you only have to see the green slime of Lake Okeechobee to know that something is amiss.

The Graduate saw the future of the world in plastics. This substance has many incredible uses but at the same time it lives on in dumps and oceans for beyond our lifetimes. Can you really say ,”Tough shit” as you toss away your liter sized polystyrene Diet Coke bottle? Your styrofoam coffee cup is replicated billions of times a day. As you travel cross country the rusting hulks of autos, trucks and abandoned RV’s dot the landscape. Who cares? We have got plenty of room for empty fields and dump sites to “dispose “ of things. Yeah but for how long? Oh, I am sorry I forgot we will be long gone when that becomes a problem.

Let’s get back to good old capitalism. Have we really used our country’s financial resources properly? Do we spend smart or stupid? Do we really need five TVs in our houses? Could all the money we spend on defense be used to further healthcare or nutrition? We build golf courses in deserts. We have well manicured lawns extraordinare while one of biggest problems in the future is going to be the availability of water.

I am not joining the Sierra Club although their efforts are well taken. I am also not giving up my golf membership at wherever country club. But I do consider as I get on in years just what I am leaving my kids and grandkids and their kids to deal with. And that is really my point. I not only want to act but I want to THINK responsibly. As one gets caught up in the good life I just want us to stop for a moment and consider. Are we stewards of all we have been blessed with or are we just part of an Obscene Consumption Era that wants to emboss our generation with a monogram rather than commonweal? I am going to think about that and I hope you do too.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

We generate 250 million tons of trash every year as a nation. These are put in landfills or mountains of garbage which as they decompose create methane gas which is more lethal than carbon dioxide. 28% of the crud is wasted food. You do know that 35% of our foodstuffs are wasted due to throw away at the dinner table or spoiled meat and produce?

World military spending totaled more than $1.6 trillion in 2015. The U.S. accounted for 37 percent of the total. U.S. military expenditures are roughly the size of the next seven largest military budgets around the world, combined. U.S. military spending dwarfs the budget of the #2 country, China by almost three to one.

We spend $95 billion on medical research or about 18% of our military budget. We earmark a couple of billion for Alzheimers and around $500 mill on depression. That compares with $1.5 billion on addiction. Now if you understand that depression is a major cause of addiction do we have our priorities straight? By the way the new F22 Raptor airplane will have the Air Force paying about $340 million per copy.

The average household can waste up to 10,000 gallons of water per year by leaky pipes and faucets. We waste over 1.3 billion tons of food per annum which is bad enough but it took 45 trillion gallons of water to create that stuff we threw away. Simply amazing.

Spoiled Rotten…

Sorry to miss last week. I hope someone noticed. Daughter Megan brought her three munchkins down to our current hideout in the Sunshine State. For the forty ninth time we are searching for Eden, Nirvana or whatever and we had to have the acid test of grandkids to move the discussions along. Being Padge is one of my favorite things to do and it supersedes even the writing of Ted’s Head.

Doting takes some effort. You start the day with the trio and moi making our way to Dunkin’ Donuts. Roll down the windows on the Lesbaru, open the sunroof and pump up the volume so your eardrums feel like trampolines. First big decision of the day…a half or full dozen? What do you think? Then the true test of agility is to pick out which cannonballs of grease make the final cut. Tyrone at the register is patient but somehow the aggressiveness of this East Coast crowd on line isn’t prone to pronouncing,”Aw, isn”t that cute?” They had other ways of putting it. It’s fun to watch the people in the drive in lane who can’t even get out of their car to order a donut.

Back home, the big box is inhaled in no time flat and we have to plan the day. Pool or beach? The sandy shores get the nod and here the sheer simplicity and beauty of childhood unfolds. Forget about Legos, iPads or phone apps, The time honored pail and shovels carry the day. The budding architects and builders plan their attack and the randomness of a sand castle let’s one’s imagination roam free. Only rule is “No Rules”.

Entering the surf brings on a whole new set of challenges. For the older ones the way is clear. Demonstrate how cool and courageous you are by going further and further out to sea. Then of course a parent freaks out and the whistles or hollering can be heard clear down to Miami. How can a guy look good in front of one’s peers if Mom is putting on a show?
For the little ones the scene is nowhere near the same. They brazenly run up to the water’s edge as the tide rolls out only to retreat in fear as that onrushing breaker seems like a twelve story building ready to topple. Then the inevitable happens. Whether they muster the courage to face the onrushing surf or perhaps they got caught in between waves, they get floored. Disoriented and wobbly, they start inhaling salt water and their surroundings have taken on a combination of a sandy brown and flotsam hue. Almost a metaphor for our world today. Time to regroup.

We are not in LaLa land here but there are aspects of this whole thing that scare the crap out of me. The beach is a few miles away and the St Lucie River serves as my water fix. It is broad and somewhat serene. People are active in doing mundane things and it takes on this aura of a camp in New Hampshire that I adored when I was a young lad. At some point in time during the day you happen by the main clubhouse for this or that. There is this communal thing that is not overwhelming but just sort of there.

Why do I go into all of this? Simply put, I am wondering if I should be like my grandkids. Down here they make do and become creative with whatever is around. They seem content to just be with each other. The locals here are prone to have a simple life. There are no talks of politics or wealth. You just sort of do your thing. I keep having the guilts that I should be involved in deep conversations and trying to at least solve a small portion of the problems of the world. Can I sit back and just let the world go by? Dunno.

I got to thinking about all of us in this crazy country of ours. We have universities to learn and seek alternative thought yet we become embroiled in controversy. We want an education but on our terms. Professors themselves who should be the bastions of freedom of expression seem hell bent on pushing just one line of thinking. I asked my daughter if she and her husband were willing to drop $250,000 in today’s dollars to educate their children according tot the reigning schools of thought? Interesting question, Padge.

I got to thinking of all I, and yes we have. I do see people being gassed in Syria or 750,000 people in the Townships of Johannesburg living in not much more than a cargo container. Even our worst slums could not compare to the horror of war nor pestilence and despair of these God forsaken people. We say we are hungry or as the wags say “nutrition deficient”. Compare that lack of goodies to the people of South Sudan who have not seen food or clean water for months. Their kids are skeleton like and dying of starvation.

I am not so much trying to give all of us a case of the guilts as I am trying to sensitize myself and maybe some of you to just say thank you to whatever god you worship. We have so much and take so much for granted. We throw away or let rot 30% of the food we produce. We have the ability to walk into a store on Fifth Avenue or even a bodega in a barrio and see them stocked with whatever. We can say whatever we want and plot our own future without fear.

No matter your circumstances or ills that befall you, we got it good. Old or young we should lower our expectations and yearning for this or that. Man, we demand so much from medical treatment to social security to a lifestyle that befits our importance. We are simply Spoiled Rotten. That ’s okay as long as we know it.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Starvation is a severe deficiency in caloric energy intake needed to maintain an organism’s life. It is the most extreme form of malnutrition. In humans, prolonged starvation can cause permanent organ damage and eventually, death. 3.5 million kids under the age of five die every year from starvation. That is just slightly less that the population of the city limits of Los Angeles.

The revenue obtained from the sale of games and toys within the United States alone was estimated to reach close to $23 billion by the close of 2014. We spend anywhere from $400 to $1,000 on iPads or similar devices. A pail and shovel at Walgreens cost about five bucks.

10 billion donuts a year are consumed by me and my fellow Americans. 20% of our meals are consumed in our cars. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found that in 2011 the average American consumed nearly one ton of food. That’s 1,996 pounds of food a year.

Average home size in US is around 2200 sf. Australia is approximately 2500 sf. Hong Kong 482 sf. UK is 850 sf and France is 1100sf.

Down Life’s Highway…

I ran five miles this morning. Not exactly at warp speed but at least I finished. When I returned to the hacienda my wife declared me nuts. I would like to tell you it was the first time she had uttered such a profundity but it was merely the first time today. Why do I practice such insanity? First it supports my bad habits, sort of an offset for cigars scotch and the like. It also is a great time to think.

Now as I trod down the various byways of this seaside development I tried to set out a group of standards to be met in whatever lay ahead for us. As I delve into people, places and things I realize the major prerequisite for a nice life has nothing to do with the accoutrements that daily life provides but rather what is going on in my brain, soul or whatever. What is it that floats my boat or dare I say is my pursuit of happiness? I would have to jog fifty miles just to get started.

But seriously, Kathy and I have discussed that it’s not where you are situated or what you have but what is it that gets you up in the morning. Great stepping off point. If your life’e expectations are to play golf, or go to your job or study Aristotle and do so in a fairly routine way then that is easy. Just put your life on cruise control and I don’t say so in a demeaning way. Not everyone wants to climb Everest or run a major corporation or even be Pope. Just maybe for you the beauty in life is to just be ordinary. We should not make that sound so mundane or terrible.

I gave some of my corpuscles yesterday and had a wonderful chat with two of the phlebotomists since business was slow.One wanted to go on to be a nurse and perhaps eventually a doctor. The other saw herself as part of a process that eventually was the difference between life and death for some accident victim or cancer patient. For her drawing blood or making calls to get people in was just as important as every other step in the chain. She was psyched. How refreshing !

I began looking around and engaging throughout the day. I chatted with the guy putting out golf balls on the range. He had been in the airline industry and got laid off. He had done other things but this he really loved. Huh? He said he was providing a service and he took great pride in making sure everything was just right. He said he loved being outdoors and this job was perfect. A lucky man.

I kept on observing. There were some men doing landscaping or to be more specific weeding and trimming. I asked how they were doing? They couldn’t be loving grunt work but ah I was mistaken. They loved to bring things to life and to see the beauty that flower beds provided. It didn’t seem to be a massah and slave relationship. One had tried college and said it wasn’t for him. He liked the people he worked for. Seems they pay well and look out for their employees. One of the members at the club here actually took to teaching English to those horrible immigrant workers whether they were illegal or not. Maybe that nasty rich man had found meaning in a totally different way. I might learn to like this place.

As I wandered further throughout the day it seemed that my interactions with people of all sorts gave me a good feeling inside. Not egocentric but by opening up to someone and having them reach back to me was not only a communication but thinking about what this thing called life is really about. As I cogitate one of my true joys in life is being able to be open up and yes, be vulnerable. Those people could have thought I was weird(not an unusual reaction to me) or just some well to do rich guy. Lucky for me it did not work out that way.

I have spoken of my cigar buddies and how much I treasure those moments. With a few of you out there I have gone deep into conversation. We have gone beyond ball scores and politics and gotten into some serious subjects. Some philosophical and some controversial. At times at least for me I have said, “Holy shit I can’t believe I am saying that.” And then not having induced shrieks and condemnation you take a step further. It just feels good to be unfiltered. Kind of just letting it rip. Not an easy venture in today’s world.

You might be a young person who feels you are far too busy or even important to entertain these random thoughts. Others might be too old to change. You have life down pat and there are no further questions. I hope there are some of you who might just pause and give some thought to what I have written. It seems one of the keys to happiness is the willingness to develop deep friendships and communicate with your fellow man or woman in pure honesty. I just wanted to let you know there is a kindred spirit out there.

Going back out to life’s highway.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:
Just one: If you want to study personal service go to a Publix Super Market. I don’t know if it is a corporate culture or just an incredible training program. Every employee in that store greets you, wants to help in any way and asks you to come back. I have never seen anything like it in any other large chain.

It’s Getting Stupid Out There….

I am sitting here, pen or keyboard in hand and trying to come up with some clever witticisms or pithy comments to assure you and myself that all is well with our world. I am struggling. I want to work on my golf game but I find this gnawing in my gut that can’t be denied. I want to have a conversation that does not involve politics or basketball or SNL but it always keeps coming back like a vortex that wants to suck you in.

Of course I pride myself by the company I keep which is why you are all on such a select list. We are the learned ones, the seers, the titans of industry, medical wizards et alia. If we are all so damn smart why do we have so much strife? The problems from healthcare to education to tax reform to immigration have been out there for years and yet we keep doing the dance. A little sparring, a clinch or two and then back to our respective corners.

I had a conversation last night with an acquaintance just trying to elucidate the top five in our myriad of problem children today. I brought up the fact that a vast majority of baby boomers don’t have bupkus in the bank for retirement. It is not because I am doing okay and they aren’t but rather this is a crisis that we will all share in. His response was somewhat startling. He merely said the government would take care of it. The simplicity of his answer may portend the future.

We boomers are part of a crazy generation. Make love not war was the catchphrase and Woodstock would go on forever. Just smoke a toke and all your troubles will go away. While in Hawaii some very old hippies came into the ice cream store and you could see they were just waiting for the next big wave. Forget about what means of support they had presently as opposed when they are old and broken do we all foot the bill? I guess Uncle Sam will and ultimately you and me.

On the subject of healthcare there seems to be a bigger piece than who pays for what. Did it ever occur to any of us there is a finite amount of money we can throw at the problem? We spend $10,000 per person per year on healthcare. I don’t know about you but I don’t. And it goes higher and higher. Do we do away with roads, bridges, defense and other sciences and put it all into medical costs and Social Security? Can we pay $300,000 for a drug to extend someone’s life for three months when they are 85 years old? Don’t even raise that question TTG. We are a civil society no matter what the cost. The inability to address that could just bring that little Fantasyland down big time.

Immigration reform is insanity. I get a number of emails from very well meaning people about one side or the other. The nightly news will bring story after story of a family busted up because of a deportation. The tears and mayhem give everyone the guilts.On the other hand people will raise a defiant hand saying this land is our land and no one else’s. Send them sons of bitches back. Nice rhetoric that leaves out any sense of practicality. If we sent them all back who will cut lawns, wait tables or staff our hospitals and yes do important research? In sheer demographics with the number of people reaching retirement age we are going to become woefully short of just enough people to work and pay taxes that will support SS and Medicare. Sorry. Don’t know what I was thinking.

Where do we go? A former classmate from Georgetown, Roger Altman wrote an oped for the Wall Street Journal about what the Dems have to do to get back in power. A very well written piece but to me it consisted of structural deficiencies as it only related to gerrymandering and getting younger people involved. I was hoping to see more of a trend to less emotional and more business like approaches to the above and more. Chaos reigns in DC right now and indeed we need a totally new approach rather than refining one’s message. Admittedly he hoped for this but in our populist world is it possible?

It seems we have left the planning to those who have ascended to power and the bureaucrats alike.One is based on glad-handing and the other is lauded for consistency and perpetuating programs. Mr Altman does point out that if the managers of the Democratic party were in a corporation they would all be fired for poor results. As a country both on national and local levels we do have a zillion dollar business and we are its stockholders.

The current playbook of the Donald is being decried for its lack of transparency. Rex Tillerson has not held a news conference. Wilbur Ross was wearing Gucci slippers to the State of Chaos address. This is really getting nuts. True they will be taking hatchets not scalpels to various programs. I am not a Trumpists but can anyone tell me the old way is better?

We are truly in a critical situation. It has been created by an egotistical and terribly sensitive CEO, a press that is in a frenzy of salacious detail and politicians that have more time in front of microphones that they do in their committees. Shut down the tweets. Turn down the blare on reporting. Disband the dais and bands of brothers and sisters appearing on capitol steps throughout our country. Lock everybody up on a farm in Idaho and don’t let them out until there is substantive progress is made. No press. No phones. No leaks.

Then we have a shareholder meeting where we can question and vote down management if we deem them inadequate. No golden parachutes. No cushy deals. Just results. Sound impossible? Maybe. But then again Trump did get elected didn’t he? Wonders never cease.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law over 80 years ago this month, he said that while “ we can never insure one hundred percent of the population against one hundred percent of the hazards and vicissitudes of life … we have tried to frame a law which will give some measure of protection to the average citizen and to his family against the loss of a job and against poverty-ridden old age.” Hmmm! 4.9% of GDP

 
• Per capita national health expenditures: $9,523 (2014)
• Total national health expenditures: $3.0 trillion (2014)
• Total national health expenditures as a percent of Gross Domestic Product: 17.5%
• Percent of national health expenditures for hospital care: 32.1% (2014)
• Percent of national health expenditures for nursing care facilities and continuing care retirement communities: 5.1% (2014)
• Percent of national health expenditures for physician and clinical services: 19.9% (2014)
• Percent of national health expenditures for prescription drugs: 9.8% (2014)

Pew Research

There were 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. in 2014,

The U.S. civilian workforce included 8 million unauthorized immigrants in 2014, accounting for 5% of those who were working or were unemployed and looking for work,

Mexicans made up 52% of all unauthorized immigrants in 2014, though their numbers had been declining in recent years.

The US admits approximately 1,000,000 legal immigrants per year.

Six states accounted for 59% of unauthorized immigrants in 2014: California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois

A rising share of unauthorized immigrants have lived in the U.S. for at least a decade.

Cross Country

We have just completed another crossing of this incredible country of ours…by car. In the fast paced world we all live it is always good for the soul. I am consistently amazed how the blah landscape of Kansas can hold one’s attention. Who are these people and what do they make of all this madness we live in? Are they part of it or just innocent bystanders?

The deep loam is giving birth to all things green.The towns spring to life in a more gentle way. On Saturday we watched the sun come up and set in the same day. When was the last time we did that? Anywhere,USA , Population:223. Everyone is family and the kids can’t wait to get out to seek fortune somewhere else. Will there be anyone left to feed our insatiable appetites or will we dream up some way to put molecules together obviating the need for such mundane things?

Just outside of Kanarado, (there is such a place) wind turbines have mated and multiplied since our last trek. Not dozens but hundreds of the behemoths silently churn out a cleaner fuel. The conservationists cry of the death of birds that seem to fly into these things in some sort of kamikaze insanity. These days everything has its price.

As we rode along we listened to NPRX which is a series of stories on a myriad of topics. One that stood out was a Ted Talk on algorithms. It seems that Google, Facebook, Apple et alia have the ability to know when you query, just who you are, your age, sex, where you live, what type of computer you are using, what you have bought over time and what you are most likely to like in the future. Kind of fascinating when you consider how much we worry about our privacy vis a vis the NSA and wiretaps.

More interesting or disturbing as the case might be is that the news you receive is preordained. For instance you and I could put in the same request and get two entirely different front pages from Google. Yes, the content is the same but in a different order. They want to give you what you are most prone to agree with. As the replies become more and more refined and so called suited to you, there is now a total lack of contrary opinion. You are getting one side of the story. It is almost like your world is now tuned nonstop to FOX or MSNBC depending on what THEY perceive you to be. Hmm. No wonder we are at odds with each other.

Another talk was by a young lady of 17. She lived in the Northwest. Until she came forward she had been sexually abused by her father since she was 10. He controlled her entire life from what she wore to who she saw. She thought this was all normal until she confided in a friend.Dad went away for a long time. As the miles and her story sped by you have to be appalled at the sheer depravity of what she was relating. At the end they tell you she is far from alone and 85% of the victim suffer in silence for fear of retribution or ostracism. Yikes!

I guess where this leads me is that until you sit up and take notice the world seems sanguine. Life goes on in little burghs and big cities. We can shrug our shoulders and accept it all as we zip by on the freeways of life or we can at least give pause to realize the consequences of being in all aspects of our society. Heady stuff? Not really. There is a lot of good in the world and there is a lot of bad but you have to look under the hood to see it for all it is.

It is intriguing to descend through several different altitudes and ecosystems. We came from 5280 down to 0 above sea level. We stopped at gas stations throughout. In some the clerks were a little too cheery. it was another story in Somewhere, Tennessee.The checkout lady here was not a happy woman. She was either having a bad day or got up every morning, spit out a couples of nails and lit up a Camel. As I brought my items to be purchased I could almost hear her singing “You can take this job and shove it”.

We stopped at two highway inns along the way and the people were beyond pleasant. In St Louis we had gone too far for the day and as darkness fell we dumped ourselves at the first Holiday Inn we could find. As we entered the lobby we realized we were the only white people to be counted. All my Common Man BS came to the fore and we said, here goes. Turns out these people had come to a funeral in St Louis and this was the after party. They were just cerebrating some lady’s life as I had for my buddy Tom three weeks prior. I told the grieving brother about that and we shook hands. Nothing more . Nothing less. A lesson learned.

As usual we are exploring alternatives. We are contemplating new locations…again. This is not just me but my incurable wanderlust virus has now invaded my bride’s beautiful cranium. Who knows? Never a dull moment with these two. Tune in to find out what these loonies are plotting next.

As always
Ted The Great

Factoids:

Our itinerary covered 2008 miles. It took 26 hours over two and one half days. To go from New York to San Francisco is 2906 miles. From Caribou, Maine to Key West Florida is 2045 miles. Our southern border with Mexico is 1989 miles. When you are thinking of walls it is interesting to ponder these figures.

There are over 200,000 wind turbines operating throughout the world. We used to lead the world in terms of numbers and generating power but we have been surpassed by Europe, especially in Germany and Spain. Getting this power to the user is the biggest challenge. The sites are usually many miles away and in remote areas requiring power lines which localities and conservationists are averse to giving permission for.

Globally, approximately 18–19% of women and 8% of men disclose being sexually abused when they were children.Most sexual abuse offenders are acquainted with their victims; approximately 30% are relatives of the child, most often fathers, uncles or cousins; around 60% are other acquaintances such as friends of the family, babysitters, or neighbors. Strangers are the offenders in approximately 10% of child sexual abuse cases. Most child sexual abuse is committed by men. Oops! I guess I wasn’t supposed to talk about this.

The Art Of Loving….

The Art of Loving is an marvelous book written by Erich Fromm back in the fifties. If you can remember back that far? The main gist is that we have to work at love beyond the initial swoon.It is incredibly complex.  It seems to be an apt title for this week’s missive in that my topic is self esteem. I have been batting around ideas with an old friend who is struggling right now. To me it is key to so many things in life it deserves a lot of attention. .

Self esteem is simply our subjective judgement of our worth in society. How do we stack up in relation to the rest of the world? The tough part is we are doing the grading as both pupil and professor. We are constantly under scrutiny as to our beliefs, looks, clothing and status in life.

A lack of it is one the prime symptoms of depression. We put ourselves down in so many ways it is tough to crawl out of the hole. We glare at people and say,”What are looking at?” when we are probably the furthest thing from their mind. We berate a waiter or supposedly lesser person just to make ourselves feel good. Doesn’t work. Then the feelings of guilt and frustration pull us lower and lower.

It is personified in strange ways. Perfectionism is one. We are never good enough. We keep trying to achieve the unachievable. We set absurd standards for us and others in the hope we will be more lovable. It can’t be done. On the other side of the coin it spawns procrastination. If I don’t make a move then I can’t be wrong. Inaction eventually leads to feelings of inadequacy. Sad but true.

The one I love is people being late. We stall and find stupid tasks that seemingly must be accomplished before our entrance. We crave attention and the “TaDa” moment. Fashionably late means I want to be noticed. If you piss people off, all the better. You have made your mark and the rudeness becomes self reinforcing. Kind of like a diva without the autographs.

In all cases we always see the world from our own point of view. It’s our game and our rules. We refuse to accept counter philosophies and we become infuriated at any hint of alternative thought. That is opposed to “alternative facts” of course. Which brings us to our current cause celebre, the Donald.

Narcissism is extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration. This term is bantered around as it relates to His Hairness and may not be far from the truth. It is somewhat counter to lack of self esteem in that it is probably too much of it. The favorite letter is “I” and you had better fall in line. Some fear authoritarianism and dictatorship. I just look at it as another ego run amok. There are plenty of culprits in DC, Hollywood, New York and cites far and wide. Legends in their own minds.

The underlying feature of all this is the inability to judge oneself honestly. None of us are perfect and never will be. Who hasn’t dreamed of fame and fortune? It is holding onto that fantasy through life is where the trouble starts. It starts in childhood where doting parents praise your accomplishments in the same way your failures. You can do no wrong and will be great. No matter how good or badly you perform you look for the adulation and reinforcement. Look again.

Hopeless? Of course not, as long as you are willing to face facts. We are not talking about self flagellation but a good hard look. Dare I call it a dose of reality? We have to set bars but let’s be reasonable. I love it when a professional golfer eyes a 60’ putt and then bemoans it when it comes up short. A mere mortal is despondent because he or she only made $10 million last year. The average American thinks everyone is entitled to a new care every year or a 5,000 sf house. Get real.

I have stated before that our world loves to put us down. Not verbally but visually. From childhood to death’s door, everyone is prey to the fine art of promotion and advertising. Next time, study that 30 second spot. You will not get the girl if you don’t drive this truck or drink this beer. Every femme has to look like a Victoria Secret model. Get the latest in technology to hit your drive 6 yards further this year. Don’t be left behind. Don’t fail to measure up to our absurd fantasies. When you fall short, the drop is precipitous.

Getting back to that love thing it comes down to loving yourself for who you are, warts and all…and we all have them. Figure out how good your are not by what you have but what’s in your soul.There is a sense of calm when you get there. That old feeling comfortable in your own skin. Then you are not a fraud with a designer personality. You are just you. Doesn’t mean you can’t strive but don’t set yourself up for failure.

Even better look at the world around you. Do you get short because people are not living up to your standards? Do you want to change the world to your terms? Did you marry your spouse hoping they would change or do you love those annoying habits as part of their persona? Idiosyncrasies? I think a better term is unconditional love not only for those close to you but for you yourself. Look in the mirror and enjoy the ride.

As always,
Ted The Great

Factoids:

There are about 5,000 books listed on Amazon for self esteem. Probably the same is true for self improvement. Now does that mean we are unhappy with ourselves or just trying to be better? Dunno the answer to that one.

Ann Landers once said that when we are 20 we wonder what people think of us. When we are 40 we don’t care. When we are 60 we realize that all that time no one was thinking about us at all.

“That’s what real love amounts to – letting a person be what he really is. Most people love you for who you pretend to be. To keep their love, you keep pretending – performing. You get to love your pretense. It’s true, we’re locked in an image, an act – and the sad thing is, people get so used to their image, they grow attached to their masks. They forget all about who they really are. And if you try to remind them, they hate you for it, they feel like you’re trying to steal their most precious possession.”― Jim Morrison Couldn’t have said it better myself.