Category: Personal

What do you celebrate?

In our geek household, we celebrate holidays when We get days off from work. That’s irrelevant for me since I’m retired; but, all the more important because my honey and I get an extra weekday together – instead of only the evening through to morning. Make sense?

We celebrate New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day because the first is my wife’s birthday, the second is mine. We celebrate MLK Day. Memorial Day in its original form – remembering the Civil War. Independence Day, Labor Day. Veterans Day is Armistice Day in our home. Again, we’re celebrating the original.

Thanksgiving is a perfectly reasonable holiday; but, remember to reflect on the lot of First Nation folks who didn’t exactly invite us in – and were brutally shoved aside. I used to belong to a sport club named for Metacomet who damned near wiped out all those original English colonists.

Lots of folks get their knickers bunched over what should be a special December event – whether it be Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Festivus. Essentially, we celebrate the winter solstice. There are Druids on both sides of our relationship and neither of us is religious. My wife is a student of Buddhist philosophy [among others] and I’m a philosophical materialist, dialectician, existential and atheist. Wandering the roadways and footpaths of our small bosque community with Sheila the dog – is plenty of celebration.

What are we thankful for? Well, today we celebrated our 254th Lunaversary. We take time to express our thanks to each other for another wonderful month since we were married here in the courtyard at Lot 4. We celebrate the regular anniversaries, too. Of course. But, we consider ourselves exceptionally fortunate to have found each other…and celebrate that every month.

Have a mellow holiday, folks. We send you our love and respect.

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Pic of the Day

nina pham & bentley
Click to enlarge

Nurse Nina Pham had a tear-jerking reunion with her dog Bentley Saturday after they both had been declared free of Ebola and released from quarantine.

Bentley was quarantined along with his owner after Pham tested positive for the disease. He has been cared for by Dallas Animal Services and his treatment has been covered mostly through donations. Bentley only had one more step before ending up back in the arms of his owner — a bath.

“I’d like to take a moment to thank people from all around the world who have sent their best wishes and prayers to me and Mr. Bentley,” she told reporters. “I feel like Bentley reentering my life is yet another reminder of hope and encouragement for me moving forward … with my best friend at my side again.”

Pham was released from the hospital on Oct. 24 after being declared Ebola-free.

With all the hysteria, opportunist politicians and mediocre journalism surrounding anyone and anything to do with ebola in America – it’s a pleasure to offer a happy moment. Realism in the midst of insanity.

Remembering absent friends — all wars

I presume these Canadian troops are marching away from a memorial to those who fell during the liberation of Belgium during World War 2. Yes, I remember all of those days. I can’t forget those days.

My best friend died ten years back. He was the most decorated soldier from our home state in WW2. He had 16 months in hospital to reflect upon how he got there – not just the German soldier who threw a hand grenade at him at the liberation of a death camp; but, the corporate and political creeps who helped scum like Hitler into power. Both sides of the pond.

We learned a lot together over the years. Both of our fathers’ families came to the US from Canada, btw. His from Montreal and mine from PEI.

This weekend watching football from England the silent tributes pre-match – and more – have started. Tens of thousands of sports fans of all ages in complete silence remembering all they have to remember. I thought I’d repost this tribute.

I salute you, too, Clyde.

Thanks, Mister Justin

“Active Fatalism”


Wolfgang Schaeuble

A core problem with the modern world is that we have heroism all wrong. It is not just the conflation of heroes with celebrities as role models, giving rise to the endless magazine lists of ways to be more like Beyoncé. The more serious issue is how, in the rush to elevate the authors of exceptional acts, we forget the ordinary man and woman doing their often menial jobs day after day. I am less interested in the firefighter-hero and the soldier-hero (not to mention the hedge-fund honchos and other quick-killing merchants thrust into the contemporary pantheon) than I am in the myriad doers of everyday good who would shun the description heroic.

A few weeks back I was listening to remarks by the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble. The minister was the target of an assassination attempt in 1990 that left him partially paralyzed, confined to a wheelchair. He brought up Sisyphus, the Greek mythological figure whose devious attempt to defy the gods and even death itself was punished with his condemnation to the task of pushing a boulder up a hill, only for it to roll down again and oblige him to renew the effort through all eternity. No task, it would appear, better captures the meaningless futility of existence. But Schäuble suggested that Sisyphus is a happy man for “he has a task and it is his own…”

The phrase was arresting because the culture of today holds repetitive actions — like working on a production line in a factory — in such contempt. Hundreds of millions may do it, and take care of their families with what they earn, but they are mere specks of dust compared to the Silicon Valley inventor of the killer app or the lean global financiers adept in making money with money. Routine equals drudgery; the worker is a demeaned figure; youths are exhorted to live their dreams rather than make a living wage. Dreams are all very well but are not known to pay the mortgage.

Schäuble was echoing the French writer and philosopher, Albert Camus, who in his book “The Myth of Sisyphus” noted that “there is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn…”

In Camus’ book, “The Plague,” one of the most powerful moments comes in an exchange between the doctor at the center of the novel, Bernard Rieux, and a journalist named Raymond Rambert. Rieux has been battling the pestilence day after day, more often defeated than not. Rambert has been dreaming of, and plotting, escape from the city to be reunited with his loved one.

Rieux suddenly speaks his mind: “I have to tell you this: this whole thing is not about heroism. It’s about decency. It may seem a ridiculous idea, but the only way to fight the plague is with decency.”

“What is decency?” Rambert asked, suddenly serious.

“In general, I can’t say, but in my case I know that it consists of doing my job.”

Read the whole article. There are more examples. They make the point.

I haven’t read Camus since I was 17 or 18. At the time I was drawn more by Sartre…in turn more drawn to Engels than Marx. I guess I’ve always felt that societal ennui to be important as cultural inertia as anything.

I have both The Stranger and The Plague sitting in my wish list at Amazon and will likely revisit that thoughtful, existential anti-fascist again this winter.

Thanks, Helen

A mother’s tale about her son, autism — and Siri

Just how bad a mother am I? I wondered, as I watched my 13-year-old son deep in conversation with Siri. Gus has autism, and Siri, Apple’s “intelligent personal assistant” on the iPhone, is currently his B.F.F. Obsessed with weather formations, Gus had spent the hour parsing the difference between isolated and scattered thunderstorms — an hour in which, thank God, I didn’t have to discuss them. After a while I heard this:

Gus: “You’re a really nice computer.”

Siri: “It’s nice to be appreciated.”

Gus: “You are always asking if you can help me. Is there anything you want?”

Siri: “Thank you, but I have very few wants.”

Gus: “O.K.! Well, good night!”

Siri: “Ah, it’s 5:06 p.m.”

Gus: “Oh sorry, I mean, goodbye.”

Siri: “See you later!”

That Siri. She doesn’t let my communications-impaired son get away with anything. Indeed, many of us wanted an imaginary friend, and now we have one. Only she’s not entirely imaginary.

This is a love letter to a machine. It’s not quite the love Joaquin Phoenix felt in “Her,” last year’s Spike Jonze film about a lonely man’s romantic relationship with his intelligent operating system (played by the voice of Scarlett Johansson). But it’s close. In a world where the commonly held wisdom is that technology isolates us, it’s worth considering another side of the story.

Read on! Long, informative, interesting.

I’ve always talked to machines. The conversation moved from cars to electronics to computers. Record-keeping has become data-mining. The river of experience has reached a rapidly broadening delta.

Gus: “Goodnight, Siri. Will you sleep well tonight?”

Siri: “I don’t need much sleep, but it’s nice of you to ask.”

Brittany Maynard has scheduled her death for November 1st — UPDATED

Brittany Maynard, a 29-year-old with terminal brain cancer, tells her story and explains why she plans to ingest a prescription that will end her life on Nov. 1 in this video from advocacy group Compassion & Choices…

Brittany Maynard carries a prescription in her wallet. It was written by a doctor in Oregon, one of five states with legal protections for terminally ill patients who want to end their suffering. And in three weeks, she plans to use it to die.

Maynard has chosen to die Nov. 1 in her bedroom in Portland, Ore., surrounded by family — her mother and stepfather, her husband and her best friend, who is a physician. She said she wanted to wait until after her husband’s birthday, which is Oct. 26. But she is getting sicker, experiencing more pain and seizures…

“I’ve had the medication for weeks,” she wrote in an op-ed for CNN. “I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.”

Watch the video, please. Read the interview with Brittany. Reflect on her right to choose her death with dignity.

I understand religious folk who reject this choice. They accept a concept of morality which doesn’t allow for individual choice. On lots of issues. The real hypocrites who would stop Brittany Maynard from this difficult farewell are the so-called libertarians who blather all year-round about liberty and personal freedom – and then reject her right to make this choice.

Step back and consider how many little pieces of freedom we willingly give up for the common good – from voting for elected officials to traffic lights at urban intersections. All understandable even though ranging from irksome to frustration – depending on how much individual corruption worms its way into the equation.

OTOH, there are beaucoup examples of personal decisions that trump interference. Not screwing with someone else’s safety and health? Then it is your right. The rest can keep their morality to themselves.

UPDATE: Brittany Maynard stuck by her decision.

The terminally ill woman who revived a national debate about physician-assisted suicide ended her life Saturday by swallowing lethal drugs made available under Oregon’s Death With Dignity Law. She would have been 30 on Nov. 19.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Everyone in America loves guns — even two-year-olds

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 6.43.02 PM

A family road trip comes to a frightening end when their two-year-old daughter finds a gun in the back of the car they had rented.

The Davie, Fla. family had just returned home from Cocoa Beach when the gun was found.

The gun — which was still loaded — was found underneath the seat of the Toyota Avalon the family had rented from Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

The girl’s father, Louis Venuto said, “She knew something was wrong. She knew she was doing something wrong. So I didn’t hear her for a second because she always makes little noises and whatnot, so I quickly look back to make sure she’s OK, and she kinda was like, ‘Look what I found.’ I just reached around, and I grabbed it.”

Venuto also said, “She could have easily pulled the trigger is what I’m try to say,” he also added, “She rough houses with my 65-pound dog in there and to pull that trigger would have been nothing to do.”

Davie police were called. They took the gun away and are investigating who it belongs to.

Enterprise said they are also investigating the situation.

Yup, everyone will make certain that gun is returned to its rightful owner.

Holding hands for 700 years

Two skeletons were found holding hands after being excavated from a lost chapel in the small English village of Hallaton.

They were found in a grave together with their hands intertwined by a team of archaeologists from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS). The lead on the project, Vicki Score, said the two were placed in that position as the grave was large enough for the two to be separated…

In addition to the couple, 11 skeletons have been discovered. Some of the findings include a 46-year-old man who was struck on the head with a pole or an axe, and a man in his mid-20s who showed signs of physical trauma during the first nine years of his life.

The remains of English King Richard III were found in the same county underneath a parking lot in 2012. A recent study revealed how the 15th-century monarch died in battle.

Romantic love wasn’t always common in the “good old days”. It still speaks well to those who believe in love.

Why I hope to die at 75

Ezekial Emanuel
Ezekial Emanuel

Seventy-five.

That’s how long I want to live: 75 years.

This preference drives my daughters crazy. It drives my brothers crazy. My loving friends think I am crazy. They think that I can’t mean what I say; that I haven’t thought clearly about this, because there is so much in the world to see and do. To convince me of my errors, they enumerate the myriad people I know who are over 75 and doing quite well. They are certain that as I get closer to 75, I will push the desired age back to 80, then 85, maybe even 90.

I am sure of my position. Doubtless, death is a loss. It deprives us of experiences and milestones, of time spent with our spouse and children. In short, it deprives us of all the things we value.

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

By the time I reach 75, I will have lived a complete life. I will have loved and been loved. My children will be grown and in the midst of their own rich lives. I will have seen my grandchildren born and beginning their lives. I will have pursued my life’s projects and made whatever contributions, important or not, I am going to make. And hopefully, I will not have too many mental and physical limitations. Dying at 75 will not be a tragedy. Indeed, I plan to have my memorial service before I die. And I don’t want any crying or wailing, but a warm gathering filled with fun reminiscences, stories of my awkwardness, and celebrations of a good life. After I die, my survivors can have their own memorial service if they want—that is not my business.

First, read the whole article.

Obviously I have a small problem with this article. I’m already past 75. Ezekial Emanuel would say I think I am an outlier – and discuss the realities of that perception, positive and negative. And I love that. It’s materialist, scientific. I think I qualify – at least for the near-term.

Quality of life, what satisfaction I derive from that lifestyle is an all-encompassing determinant. Let me start with the most striking existential differences between Zeke and me. [I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him Zeke]:

My family ties are small. My parents and peers are dead. I took care of the question of having children with a vasectomy at the age of 22. No regrets. Not even a look back. I had one close friend most of my life and he died ten years ago. That has been surpassed by the relationship I’ve had with my wife these past twenty-one years. She passed this article along to me to get my opinion – which differs in only a few ways from hers.

In many ways, I’m healthier now than I was when I retired. Mental challenges, introspection, thoroughly examining a dynamic world around us – in the broadest sense – is no less than it has been my whole life. Starting, I guess, when my mom taught me to read by the age of four. Physically, overall, I’m doing better than five or ten years ago. Lighter, stronger, more active – hampered a little by a foot injury for a few years, almost completely healed.

Most of this, again, owed to the dialectic of intellect between my wife and me. I may be doing better than 90% of my age peers. She’s doing better than 99% of her peers. Twenty years younger than I, she’s invigorating in her sharpness. And that’s where the only challenge to my differences with Zeke confront critical agreement. I’m not certain how I would view my life if I lost her.

She’s the one who brought that up. Because she’s already started looking at that consideration just because of age difference. I’m twenty years older. When she would be 75 – it’s not likely I’ll be around at 95. And, for now, she isn’t certain either if she would care to live on without the relationship we share.

As an existential question, I’m fine with living alone. We joke about being a pair of hermits. Only comparison with the depth and fullness of what we share makes solitude less than acceptable.

Ezekial Emanuel has an advantage over almost all of us. He’s a doctor. He can access any medications he deems appropriate to shuffle off this mortal coil and no one other than himself will be found guilty by out-of-date politicians, priests and pundits.

Thanks, Helen

Applying for a job? – You may have to take a meaningless test

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is probably the most widely used personality test in the world…An estimated 2 million people take it annually, at the behest of corporate HR departments, colleges, and even government agencies. The company that makes and markets the test makes somewhere around $20 million each year.

The only problem? The test is completely meaningless.

“There’s just no evidence behind it,” says Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania who’s written about the shortcomings of the Myers-Briggs previously. “The characteristics measured by the test have almost no predictive power on how happy you’ll be in a situation, how you’ll perform at your job, or how happy you’ll be in your marriage.”

The test claims that, based on 93 questions, it can group all the people of the world into 16 different discrete “types” — and in doing so, serve as “a powerful framework for building better relationships, driving positive change, harnessing innovation, and achieving excellence.” Most of the faithful think of it primarily as a tool for telling you your proper career choice.

But the test was developed in the 1940s based off the untested theories of an outdated analytical psychologist named Carl Jung, and is now thoroughly disregarded by the psychology community. Even Jung warned that his personality “types” were just rough tendencies he’d observed, rather than strict classifications. Several analyses have shown the test is totally ineffective at predicting people’s success in various jobs, and that about half of the people who take it twice get different results each time.

Yet you’ve probably heard people telling you that they’re an ENFJ (extraverted intuitive feeling judging), an INTP (introverted intuitive thinking perceiving), or another one of the 16 types drawn from his work, and you may have even been given this test in a professional setting.

RTFA. It goes through the stereotypes, explains why these labels are meaningless — and why no one in the 21st century should rely on the test for anything.

I had fun with the test before I moved to the Southwest. Interested in a job with a dynamic high tech startup, I applied to see what they might offer – and ran into this test. The HR dude was in love with its self-fulfilling prophecies. After all, if you tell people how to define their lives and lifestyle long enough and thoroughly enough – and they follow your so-called wisdom – then, results become appropriate. Even if they’re nothing more than imitation.

I drove him nuts answering segments of the test with two completely contradictory personality styles. He was dying to hire me; but, was equally afraid I might turn out to be an axe murderer.