We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Sunday, October 8. 2017
We don't have a "Sports" category, but maybe we should. I normally wouldn't call out a seemingly obscure sports obituary. However, it seems worthwhile, particularly in these 'racially troubled' times (let me be clear, I don't feel we are in any troubled times, but Connie Hawkins' story goes to show just how far we've come).
I was surprised to learn Hawkins passed away. In fact, I'd forgotten about him, more or less. Not an extremely well-known NBA player after the early 70's, in his early years he had been blacklisted by the NBA because he was implicated in a point shaving scandal. The problem, of course, was he was a freshman in college, ineligible to play, and couldn't have been involved in any point shaving. During the investigation, he was denied the right to legal counsel while being interviewed by NYC police.
As a result, he was expelled from school, and the NBA blackballed him. He played for the Globetrotters, the Wizards and eventually joined the fledgling ABA and proved he was every bit as good as expected. Unfortunately toward the end of the 1968-69 season, he injured his knee and it required surgery. That same year, his suit against the NBA's blackball was settled and he received a large payment as well as having his rights assigned to the Phoenix Suns.
His first season, he again set out to prove he was a top tier player. But after 8 years of being denied the right to play professionally, many of his best years were behind him. Despite this, he averaged 24.6 points per game, 10.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists. There's little doubt that, fully healthy, Hawkins would have been a premier talent, probably even an NBA legend, if not for circumstances lining up against him.
7 years later, his career was over. He remained a regular at Phoenix poker rooms for years, where his affable nature and celebrity kept him in good company. He was honored by the NBA and inducted into the Hall of Fame because of his overall contributions to the game, in 1992. The Phoenix Suns retired his number, 42.
In the genre of sports literature, 2 books stand out to me. Ball Four and Foul! The Connie Hawkins Story. I read both in my early teens, and they taught me as much about life as they did about sports and celebrity. They are, in various ways, classics and paved the way for all the stories in that genre which followed. They broke the rules of silence surrounding sports, exposing the soft underbelly and dirt which were previously ignored because athletes were icons, and sports leagues seemingly incorruptible (despite the Black Sox Scandal, Americans had a love affair with sports leagues and even today these flawed organizations are viewed as leaders and examples for young athletes). Hawkins was a victim, as opposed to a perpetrator (unlike Jim Bouton), of bad behavior.
What may have made him most well-known, toward the end of his injury-riddled NBA career, was a sketch on the second episode of Saturday Night Live, in which he played Paul Simon in a game of one-on-one.
Thursday, September 28. 2017
Now the claim regarding censorship is that speech itself shuts down free speech.
I didn't have to get too far into this to begin to see where it was going. Claims the Constitution is outdated, not suited for this era, etc.
It also presumes these things didn't exist prior to the internet era.
These tactics are not new. They are old. Kennedy put them to great use against Nixon, although his methods were not high-tech. These methods were used against van Buren, and even Grover Cleveland.
People tend to think technology changes the reasons for certain laws. In rare cases, it may. In the case of the Constitution, I have yet to see a decent example of a need for changes based on changing technology...but the Left will keep trying to make that case.
Tuesday, September 12. 2017
A $586.56 lawsuit in San Francisco could radically alter the 'gig economy' which much of the current tech growth depends upon.
I doubt the plaintiff will win. But if he does, the effects are potentially damaging to several firms worth billions of dollars.
Monday, September 11. 2017
Neil DeGrasse Tyson has opened up science to a whole new generation, and has expanded interest in communities which previously hadn't shown much. For that, we're eternally grateful. But there are limits to intelligence, and he, like many others, crosses that limit when he wades into climate science.
Having studied Economics, I compare climate science, as a science, to Economics. The level of predictability, due to the number of unknowns and variables, is very low. You can model all you want, and you can know how different parts of the economy impact to a very large degree, but still be far off. The same is true with climate. The various elements involved in developing climate models are fairly well known, but it's the stuff they don't know that's causing problems. I have yet to see a model that is remotely close to predicting anything. This doesn't make climate science less scientific. Science is about explaining, not predicting. Predicting is a nice benefit in constrained systems.
But Tyson's tweet is lauded as "destroying" a key claim of "deniers" (we aren't deniers, we are SKEPTICS, which is what most good scientists are whenever there is a lack of evidence or an inability to replicate results). Problem is, it destroys nothing. No skeptic ever complains about scientists agreeing. That, in itself, isn't even an issue. The question is why are they agreeing? In fact, Tyson's tweet opens more questions than it answers. If a standard scientific conference is indicative of the amount of disagreement that takes place, then clearly the wide level of agreement on this particular issue is an anomaly and you should wonder why this is taking place? Well, of course, the answer is politics. But Tyson, in crafting his guilt bomb, realizes if he doesn't support the massive Appeal to Authority which is the entire Manmade Climate Change argument, then he loses the game. So he pours it on hot and heavy, because he is the authority!
I was cleaning up this weekend and emptied out a backpack to find notes I'd written a year ago about topics of interest to me. While I traveled through Austria and the Czech Republic, the extended family took meals together and whenever something caught my ear, I'd write it down. One such topic was 'bog butter' - something I'd heard of, but knew little about.
The thought of it makes me wish to know as little as possible, in some ways. Yet it turns out to be an intriguing topic. We are all probably familiar with the remarkable capacity of peat to preserve just about anything. Peat has properties of preservation which are rather astounding. Apparently, old societies used peat to preserve their butter and occasionally forgot about it, lost it, or left it behind. Which means some archaeologists or bog workers are the lucky recipients of free butter. If they're willing to try it.
Its quality varies based on the kind of peat, how long it's been sitting, and what it's made of. I was told by someone who has seen some that it smells like old shoes, which may not make it the most appetizing of condiments. However, perhaps a better description is 'strong cheese'. I'm still not trying it, even if it is edible.
While these random finds are of little culinary value, they do provide insight into techniques of ancient food preparation and management. It has been noted that butter was a bit of a luxury, but was used for more than just food. It was also used to pay taxes, rents, fines and provide hospitality as well as helping out with healing. The quality of the butter would be an indicator of socio-economic status.
As for me, I'll stick with my Land O' Lakes, salted. Refrigerated, not stored in peat.
Thursday, September 7. 2017
It seems obvious, but for some people it isn't.
Plus, the article makes a political statement on Global Warming, so we know there's science involved.
Received this piece today on 10 tips to appear smarter. The key word is "appear" because it's not about actually being smarter. Just to get people to think you're smarter.
Most of it is common sense, anyway. Some is just plain silly. Don't have that extra drink of alcohol? OK, no problem. Wear nerd glasses? Thanks, I'll take a pass.
~Written by Bulldog T. Writer (the "T" stands for "The")
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 12:59 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (0)
Sunday, September 3. 2017
A great conversation.
Wednesday, August 23. 2017
“There are more things to alarm us than to harm us, and we suffer more often in apprehension than reality.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I'd say this sums up many of the problems we face as a nation today. The 'offense' felt by some is a construct based on apprehension and fear. Some claim our president sows this apprehension and fear. What he doesn't do is coddle people. While he is outrageous and lies quite a bit, I've heard every president engage false commentary (many of which have gone overlooked or many people shrugged about, particularly with Trump's predecessor). People claim Trump 'blames the press' for all his problems. He might, though certainly the press does quite a bit to earn that blame. On the other hand, few questioned Obama's 'blame Bush' approach to all his problems.
I'm no fan of Trump. I didn't vote for him (or Hillary). He does engage some policies which I consider outrageous and uninformed. So did Obama. What I do know is, despite the news suggesting Trump is the great evil we face today, that evil really lurks in the hearts of those who hate, on every side.
Thursday, August 17. 2017
I don't want to write a commentary on the violence in Charlottesville. What happened is terrible, wrong, and any discussion of violence begins and ends with the violent acts themselves, not the activity commentators choose to associate it with. I rarely take part in group protests or political gatherings because the likelihood of one outlier who wants to impart damage is very high and I neither want to be associated with, nor a victim of, poor individual choices.
I do want to write a commentary on the removal of icons and monuments. In Tuesday's morning news, Bird Dog posted an article about Confederate statues in the Capitol building.
Before I dig in, I want to point out that if a statue triggers your emotions, I suggest you think long and hard about why you're having an emotional response to an inanimate object. I'd further point out that if these emotions regarding the statue are related to taking offense, or increasing your anger or hatred, you may want to see a therapist. I'm not a psychologist or psychotherapist, and maybe one of our other writers who are in that field can elaborate (or even tell me I'm wrong) about this point.
Consider one fact. Since Monday, monuments around the US have been removed, sometimes forcibly, in an angry response to Charlottesville. Taking this further, New York's governor, and NYC's mayor, have decided to review and remove 'symbols of hate'. One NYC councilman said "if not hate, at least symbols of hurt." I'll have to send him my list of statues that 'hurt' me.
I think politicians, and people, get bent out of shape over strange things. When I see virtually any protest forming, I begin to think "Don't those people have better things to do?" It's been a long time since I marched or protested or did anything political in a group setting. I generally don't like aligning with large groups that claim to speak for me. But a bigger personal issue is the current mindset is the assumption that if you don't agree with removal, you must somehow be sympathetic to the white supremacists. Thought Police abound in today's society, driven by emotions of hurt and hate. Moral equivalency is employed with alarming regularity, often unnecessarily and ignorantly.
I'll relate one experience I had in which I'd have to admit I was emotionally 'triggered'. It was a great learning lesson. I was in college. I was working on a TV show about hunger for the college station. A speaker arrived and handed out leaflets. One person pasted several of them on the set. It was an elephant with "GOP" written across his chest, preparing to drop a nuclear bomb. This was 1984, I was 22 years old and Reagan was being protested regularly on campus. I stood up, stated my opposition to the leaflet on the set, saying it neither had anything to do with hunger, and had everything to do with politics which we weren't discussing. I was told to be quiet and do my job. I protested again, saying it "offended my sensibilities" and that I couldn't work on a project like this. The professor who managed the station walked over, put his arm around me and said "you will be asked to do difficult and uncomfortable things throughout your life, and on your job. If you allow your emotions to get the better of you, it will cost you your job. Today, if you walk off the set, you will fail the day's project." I walked off the set, took my "F" for the day and still got an "A" for the class. But I learned a lesson. Don't let your emotions overwhelm you. I could have done the work and still been effective at my job. Today, I guess I could've sued for a "hostile workplace."
Continue reading "Monuments, Identity and Race"
Wednesday, July 12. 2017
Sorry, not sorry. A neologism which I hear young people use frequently, and now people my age are adopting. It's a great phrase. People want you to be sorry for something you did, you feel you're in the right. Sorry, not sorry.
Urban Dictionary has its first reference to this in 2012. It became a Twitter hashtag at about that same time, maybe 2011. This was predated by an alt-punk song from an obscure band, Amen, titled Sorry Not Sorry, but it seems to have come into common usage around 2011/2012. Today it's used primarily as a sarcastic comeback or response, usually for humorous purposes.
There is another aspect to this, though. It revolves around empathy. At least, that's where I see it coming from. Mainly because I tend to have so little empathy (and I'm told that's a problem). Sorry, not sorry for lacking that empathy.
Point is, I don't know why we have to be sorry for so many things. President Obama was on an "I'm Sorry" tour for 8 years and what did it get us? Not much. If the US did it, he was sorry about it. Why? Saying "sorry" doesn't change the past. It doesn't even change the future. Stuff happened, and I wasn't involved, so don't judge me on that.
Many things he was sorry for occurred long ago. I'm sorry Hiroshima happened, it was terrible. I'm sorry for all the death and damage and horrific after-effects, but it was war, so I'm not going to quibble whether Hiroshima or Nagasaki were worse than Tokyo or Dresden. Death happens in warfare. We don't have to be sorry for killing people in warfare.
Continue reading "Sorry, Not Sorry"
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 15:27 | Comments (22) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, July 10. 2017
You learn things in the strangest ways...
We took a surprise trip to the NJ/PA border to look at some apartments for a friend. She lives in Georgia and is thinking of relocating. We decided to use this as an opportunity to go bike riding along the Delaware Canal, and make a day of it.
Bike rides aren't all that interesting but are great exercise both physically and mentally (riding gives you tons of time to concentrate). I spent a great deal of the ride thinking about a person we'd met at one apartment. She said was a writer and a professor. A writer of anything I might attempt to read? Why yes, it turns out. She is a 'futurist' and writes about Artificial Intelligence. A topic which is changing my job on a daily basis. I told her I knew quite about AI, and look forward to the day it replaces me. She looked at me quizzically and said "Really? That's strange, most people would fear it. Besides, we have to hope it comes with a Universal Basic Income."
I simply looked at her and said "No, I don't fear it. I've studied history enough to realize change is good. The Industrial Revolution destroyed some jobs, it's true. But it created many more, and those jobs paid better. It also created new industries altogether. I see the same thing with AI. After all, AI is great, but it will probably always be better with humans working in tandem, rather than as a standalone, though some standalone items may exist. Overall I see more jobs coming from it, not fewer. Training is what needs to improve, not payoffs to those who don't want to learn."
I didn't get into a deeper discussion, since I wanted to ride my bike. She seemed amazed I was so nonplussed. Actually, I think she was surprised to meet anyone willing to discuss the topic but shocked at my indifference to her perceived negative consequences. My reasons are based on economics, but also her personal story, which made my ride a mental exercise.. She espoused a point of view which may seem to make sense, but her behaviors told a very different story.
Continue reading "AI and Universal Basic Income"
Friday, June 16. 2017
Living in the NYC area, I have plenty of wacky Progressive friends. They are really wacky these days. Of course, my Republican friends can be just as nutty, at times. It all depends on what you're discussing, though this should go without saying.
What's really crazy, though, is how one Progressive friend mentioned to me that polarization has reached "fever pitch" and the basis of her comment was the recent Congressional shooting. I shrugged and said it had been at that level for 24 years, really, and she'd simply chosen not to notice. Now that she's energized politically, it matters to her. No, no, no, she replied, that can't be it. It most certainly is.
All my Progressive friends are members of the #Resist movement. I am not a Trump supporter, but I'm not suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome, either. He's had mixed results so far. Nothing outlandish, nothing crazy. I think he's accomplished quite a bit (both better and worse) for not passing a single piece of major legislation. His bluster and hyperbole bug me, but that's just talk and Tweets. I've seen and heard worse from regular politicians. Yet it's these words that set off the #Resist people. They go bonkers over every little thing! It's fascinating.
Continue reading "Obstruction By Any Other Name"
Thursday, June 8. 2017
I can't say I agree with the conclusions drawn by this Harvard Business Review article. If office politics are only about influence, the premise is that being political is actually beneficial.
I see a significant difference between being social and being political.
Is that really true? Did I join a fraternity to be political and gain power and influence? Did my joining mean there were political implications? As a member of my church, is membership political? And to influence, must we have power? I have always been taught that influence is not power, but access to, and ability to, inform and shift power.
I can see how these memberships can morph into political alliances or positions, but they are not inherently political, we don't necessarily join social groups for political reasons (though I know plenty of people who joined country clubs for political reasons).
We have too many sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists over-analyzing behaviors and assigning them improper value. I completely understand the value and benefit of good work socialization. We need to maintain relationships and behaviors to not just garner influence, but to just to get jobs done effectively. But the maintenance isn't in itself political, most often (certainly in my case) it's genuine, sincere and geared toward generating productive and useful outcomes.
My perspective is that it becomes political when it is self-serving or guided by less than sincere or honest motives. When subterfuge, dissemination of false or bad information, and exclusion take place it becomes political. The author tries to differentiate these behaviors as Machiavellian, anathema to proper behavior in an office. Certainly they are - but they are far too common, particularly in large organizations, simply because people can get away with it. By lumping good social action in with political behavior, this author does employees a disservice.
Monday, June 5. 2017
Wow. David Blaine used to amaze me with his 'street' magic. Since he became more performance artist than magician, I've been less impressed with his stuff. But magic is fun if it's done well. I don't think I've seen it done this well in a very long time.
Monday, May 8. 2017
I have seen a number of articles this morning about Macron's win. At least two were about how France is better than Britain and/or the US. However much satire is involved, and certainly Andy Borowitz believes himself to be a satirist, there is one problem with the concept (which Borowitz fervently believes is true) being promoted. That problem is Obama.
After all, both four and eight years ago, the US was so darn progressive and ahead of the curve. In such a short period of time, we've become mind-numbingly idiotic, to believe the press. This only happens when a non-Democrat is elected (I hesitate to say Republican because I really don't consider Trump a Republican in any traditional sense). Remember when Bush was elected, and re-elected? We were stupid then, as well.
Whether Macron is good for France or not remains to be seen, and is of little interest because it's France. They've hitched their wagon to losing causes far too many times to trust their instincts (for clarity, since Progressives have a problem with it, this statement was satire). For now, the Left is hailing his victory as the Waterloo of far-right politics. That's hard to support, since Macron is hardly a darling of the Left. Besides, even many policies which have been deemed 'far-right' could just as easily be labeled Leftist (traditionally, anti-immigration, closed-border, and protectionist views have been domains of the Left. It is only recently that they've been furiously adopted by the Right).
Continue reading "Macron Wins, Americans Officially Idiots"
Sunday, May 7. 2017
I was too busy getting lost, turning the wrong way, and competing with professional tour guides to take any photos. I hope someone took a few, because this year's tour was a great one. With 17 people (16 who finished, a very low attrition rate, with representatives from New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, and Illinois - again!), we covered about 9.7 miles and saw many sites and sights. I'm not sure what those slow-walking people were doing - was it Tai-Chi of some kind, or perhaps a slow-moving flash mob? We stumbled on Edna St. Vincent Millay's townhouse (which reportedly also housed Cary Grant). Someone kindly purchased Magnolia Bakery cupcakes for the entire group (and they were delicious).
Mrs. Bulldog says the highlight of the trip was a visit to the Manhattan Contrarian's secret lair. It's beautiful and the location quite wonderful. His knowledge, assistance and willingness to put up with our gang were all admirable. I have to say, I always assumed magical, secret gardens existed, but now Mrs. Bulldog wants one.
I learned quite a bit more about Clement Clarke Moore and his family. The Moore farm's name is now the name of the district, Chelsea, and the Churches they oversaw (St. Peter's) or started (St. Luke's in the Fields) were both stops. Both churches are beautiful, and St. Luke's has some lovely gardens.
Next hike is already being planned. Alien environs, otherwise known as Brooklyn. We'll start in Manhattan with a crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge, and from there we'll study hipster culture, taste local bourbon and beer, and see what life is like outside Manhattan. Looking forward to it already. If our group is half as good, or even half as large, we'll be in fine fettle.
I'd like to thank Atlas Obscura for assistance in planning our trip.
Wednesday, May 3. 2017
So who gets to make the decision about what is truly 'fake news'? I know it when I see it, and every individual should have that right to decide. As I tell my friends, I apply Occam's Razor to everything I see and read. If it doesn't look or smell right, then it's probably fake and more digging needs to be done. Few people take the time or effort, anymore. So our government wants to do it for us. The politicians, at least, want to promote the concept that someone should be doing it for us. So guess what? They are. It's my view that Google's announcement last week to use algorithms to flesh out 'fake news' is going to be their Waterloo. Algorithms can't tell people what to read, what to believe, and can't discern truth from falsehood. All algorithms can do is push an agenda from those controlling the algorithm. So we'll be spoon fed pablum as real news seekers are cast aside as non-traditional sources or 'extremist' or having some other epithet applied to lower their score on the algorithm.
We may not have a Ministry of Truth, but lots of countries are trying to. If progress and opportunity slow and die in the coming years, the 'fake news' reaction will be why. After all, one clear case of how this is a problem is Man-Made ManBearPig Global Warming/Climate Change. Any site posting legitimate data and information which rebuts the Global Warming/Climate Change agenda will undoubtedly be labelled 'fake news'. From this point forward, any other opinion deemed 'incorrect' will fail the test and we can see where this algorithm will deprive people of good information.
Continue reading "It's Not Censorship If the Algorithm is Done Right"
Thursday, April 6. 2017
An historian seeks to 'disprove' the 'myth' of Social Security being a Ponzi scheme. His assessment? The fact that is has worked for almost 80 years. Just because it's operated for 80 years doesn't mean it's not a Ponzi scheme. Ponzi didn't last that long because his scheme just didn't force everyone into it. In addition, while the math indeed proves SocSec will go broke (to me, proof of a Ponzi scheme is that the investment, under constant conditions, will go broke eventually), what makes it a non-Ponzi is that government just has to raise taxes!
Brilliant! And all Ponzi had to do was get more people to join and charge them more as he got closer to failure!
Sorry, any pay-as-you-go system which has regular payouts in perpetuity and no clear way to link dollars in to dollars out in the future, and without a clear method of investment and growth, is a Ponzi Scheme. Saying government bonds fulfills the method of investment is like saying investing in the next big bank heist is an investment. You're relying on coerced collections rather than actual organic progress and growth.
Wednesday, April 5. 2017
This is a rant. If you think government works for the people, you may not want to read this. If you know government is essentially a means for legal theft, read on. I have just gone through a mind-numbing process which has left me absolutely cold and more determinedly Libertarian. Shrink the government, and shrink it fast. Don't worry about the process. Just time to get rid of the stupid, inefficient and idiotic things it does.
When my son was born, a friend bought a single share of Disney stock for him. Today, that would be slightly more than 3 (3.04) shares. At today's price, that represents $339.
When my son graduated from college, he began to pull together all his savings bonds, gifts, and various financial instruments to see what was at his disposal. Sadly, he couldn't get the stock. It had been taken by the state of NJ in 2012. Presumably because the corporation had had no contact with me for over 5 years. Which is strange. I contacted the corporate offices and they had my name, address, email, and phone number. All of the correct information.
I never received any notifications of escheatment, never received any kind of warning from the shareholder office or the state.
What is even more galling is what happened after escheatment. NJ law stipulates after 1 year any financial instruments are to be sold. This meant the state was now holding about $220 in my son's unclaimed property, rather than the stock itself.
It's amazing to me that the state will have no problem finding me in 10 days to take my taxes. But when they take my property, they won't lift a finger to find me.
In fact, that's literally what the two brainless bureaucrats at Unclaimed Property Administration said to me. The state does nothing, outside of advertise in newspapers and the web, to contact people whose property they are holding. Here's the kicker. I was told the stock was sold in 2013, but the advertisement wasn't made until 2014. In other words, they held it for 2 years before even letting the world know they held it. So there was no way we were getting the stock back.
I can point fingers at the corporate shareholder office for not trying hard enough. They certainly didn't. But they would, presumably, keep trying unless the law steps in. The law did, in fact, step in and once its process started, nothing was done to assist in 'finding' me. The state, which presumably has greater resources to contact me when they want my taxes, didn't lift a finger to find me. The response from the unclaimed property division is that they have no relationship with the tax division. Of course not. That would actually require intelligence.
My son is only out $110, so this isn't the end of the world. As a big picture example of how useless government is, though - this is a classic example.
Wednesday, March 29. 2017
I'm no gourmet, and I'm not hip enough to even say I'm a 'foodie'. I dabble in cooking occasionally. I'm somewhat adept at certain types of chicken, and while grilling is supposedly the domain of the more masculine of the species (remember, gender is an attitude now), I'm only passable as a grillmeister. I can follow directions well enough, so if required I am actually capable of whipping up a decent meal from time to time.
My wife has a ton of cookbooks on our shelves, so I'm never at a loss for opportunity or options. She is also a fan of cooking shows, and I've learned to enjoy the dulcet tones of such celebrity chefs as Bobby Flay, Giada de Laurentiis, and Ina Garten. I couldn't really tell you what they actually cook or how they do it, but I know who they are and what they do.
Enough is enough, though. We don't need 200,000,000 cookbooks, we don't need new tools, shows and gadgets to get the best meal. By now, the right way to boil water has been fleshed out, and we should be able to provide sufficiently for ourselves. Shouldn't we?
Continue reading "Celebrity Cookbook Hell"
Sunday, March 19. 2017
I will recommend, for anyone who can, visit Cuba now. On one level, it will provide a great appreciation for everything we have in the US. In addition, the food is so good (and inexpensive) you will wonder how they got so many great chefs. Finally, the culture is unparalleled, an amazing amalgamation of past and present.
Visiting Cuba provoked many thoughts about what could have been, as well as visions of the past. I will post as many as I can, but I will start with a simple travelogue. It’s the best way to introduce the country, and the city of Havana, without provoking much commentary about such a wonderful destination. Still untouched in many ways, clearly this will not be the same country in 10, and possibly even 5, years.
There is a raw beauty to Cuba. It is almost impossible to not fall in love with this country upon arrival. The people are friendly, the climate nearly perfect, while the cityscapes of Havana and surrounding country retain an air of the not-so-distant past. Bt, it is a crumbling place, the majority of exteriors falling apart, much of the infrastructure antiquated and in need of update, and modern services and conveniences (for locals who can’t afford to pay) subpar. Even tourist spots are in the process of updating. They are improving rapidly. Often, entering a building you are convinced must be a hole-in-the-wall, only to find a modern and beautiful interior with wonderful food and music.
Continue reading "Havana Dreaming"
Wednesday, March 1. 2017
“There's as much crookedness as you want to find. There was something Abraham Lincoln said - he'd rather trust and be disappointed than distrust and be miserable all the time. Maybe I trusted too much.”~John Wooden
Tuesday, January 31. 2017
My poker night is this Friday, and I look forward to it each month. 50 people, food, libations, conversation and competition. There are afew heated moments. Not many, mostly good fun and the chance to take your friends' and neighbors' money. I have more or less broken even in this game. I keep pretty good records. We play a cash game for an hour, then a tournament, followed by cash games as people are bounced.
It's a game of incomplete information. Computers are good at games that have lots of available information, not games lacking in it. But poker often has more information available than we care to admit. Betting trends are like prices. They give signals. Being able to sort through the signals and recognize where value lies is a skill. But humans also think and behave in linear ways. If you have a non-random betting approach, a computer should be able to sniff it out.
A computer beating a human at Texas Hold 'em, even a limited table such as this, is quite a feat. The fact I happen to know the inventor of the computer makes it doubly interesting for me. He presented some of his yield optimization techniques to our team several times. I have suggested to our team we bring him back in.
Thursday, January 26. 2017
Entire group of senior State Department administrators resign.
Not yet clear why. Largest single loss of institutional memory and experience on record?
My uncle spent 30 years working at HUD under many administrations. He retired in the late 90's because the politicization under Clinton was too much to bear. I'm sure in the years since, all departments have gotten worse in this regard. It may be that these losses are no big deal. I'm less certain. My uncle was always a very strong believer in institutional memory. Not that everyone had to be retained, but you always need to maintain a level of management that understands the history and the operational capacity. That is why I believe the only way this is good is if the department is reduced dramatically. Which can happen, as there are well over 20 senior positions now open.
From a sheer "Wow, that's pretty big" point-of-view, I'm stunned at the turn of events. When you drain a swamp, you'd better be sure you know what is replacing the ecosystem. I am not confident in Trump, while I know many here are. At best, he remains 50/50 with me.
The article itself was the first I'd read shortly after this occurred. Many have since followed. I didn't post it to indicate support for the author's position, just that it was breaking news and rather surprising. A friend contacted me last night asking what I thought of all this. I replied "I still don't know. I don't trust the press, I don't trust Trump, I don't trust politicians in general, so I'm left trying to read whatever erratic signals continue to emanate from liars everywhere."
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