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
Thursday, March 31. 2016
But political wives and their treatment have a much lengthier history, too. Edith Wilson is often recognized as the 'first woman president' for the role she played while Wilson convalesced after his stroke. Eleanor Roosevelt was a fiery personality in her own right. Dolley Madison, of course, is remembered for saving Washington's portrait in the War of 1812, but she was also the first to decorate the White House. Few know she lived in poverty after the death of her husband.
Even further back, we have Mary Todd Lincoln, whose story is often overlooked. It's a strong likelihood she was manic depressive. But even in the 1800's she was aware of the spotlight put upon the wife of a president. She lived an unfortunate and desperate life not long after Lincoln's assassination.
Wednesday, March 23. 2016
I receive emails each week making suggestions for weekend activities. Sometimes they are interesting, most times not. This week, a suggestion to visit certain dive bars before they become Pret-a-Mangers. Not a bad idea.
I love dive bars. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania and my stepfather spent time at Mick's Tavern, the local gas station, garage and tavern. Total dive. At Syracuse, we had the student bar, Jabberwocky, which hosted many big name bands before they were names. That was before my time. The Jab also had Oldies Night on Wednesday nights, and Happy Hour on Friday. It wasn't technically a dive bar, but it could qualify. The drinking age was raised to 21 the year I left, and it closed. The real dive bar we used to frequent was Doug's Place, somewhere down near Carrier Circle. Real blue-collar stuff. We'd meet some alumni who lived in the area from time to time. It's where I learned to love dive bars. Pool, dimly lit, cheap glasses of beer, the only 'mixed' drink available was a Boilermaker. Always a few local factory guys in there. Doug's Place is long gone, too. I did hear 'Doug', whoever he is, opened a fish fry somewhere nearby.
When I moved to Queens in the 80's, my roommate was a local who introduced me to My Lady's, a tavern for which I played softball and drank quarter glasses of beer on Thursday nights. I got to know the bartender, a giant of a man, but the classic example of a huge teddy bear. My girlfriend's family came one night to watch college hoops with me and dubbed it The Bucket of Blood because, well, that's pretty much what it reminded you of. The final night it was open was 1991, and early on it was a great party. I heard the rest was very good, too. I guess I had an early start on the evening...
When we lived in Hoboken, Louise & Jerry's was our end-of-the-evening final stop. Louise, a widow in a housecoat, was always behind the bar. When God Bless America played on the jukebox, you had to stop what you were doing and sing with Louise. If she didn't like your look, she stopped you as you walked in, and demanded you leave. She once gave my wife the stinkeye for ordering club soda. When I told her, quietly, that she was pregnant with our first child, Louise smiled and gave us all a round of drinks (but kept the secret). Louise & Jerry's is still open, but I heard it's upscale now.
Recently, I stopped in at the Canyon Club, in Williams, AZ. One of the finest dive bars I've ever experienced. A real honky-tonk. Loved every second, loved the people. Which is important. A good dive bar has friendlies, it doesn't attract surly or violent types. You can have a curmudgeon or two, but people have to want to have a good time.
Some dives are iconic, and unlikely to go away. McSorley's is one. Out where I live, there aren't many dive bars left unless you're willing to take a chance. We used to have the Blue Collar Bar, but that got bought by a high-end group and was transformed into a "dive" bar. It retained the dive nature, but served high end cuisine. Excellent food, but ruined the ambiance. It closed after four or five years. Dive bars, I believe, have short lives.
There is still one place near me, the Garwood Rest, which my buddies and I will gather in to play darts (American Darts - with the wooden shafts and we're playing baseball, not 301, 501 or Cricket) and watch football or baseball once very month. It qualifies as a dive, but it's higher end than any other one I've been in. Here are some more. I'm familiar with the Raccoon Lodge, The Smith, and Hogs and Heifers, though all from 20-30 years ago. When you find a good dive bar, it's a thing to revel in.
Monday, March 21. 2016
Certainly Shackleton deserves his name on a polar research ship. But in a magnificent failure, the British botched the naming process for the ship. Well, temporarily botched. I happen to like "Boaty McBoatface" over "Shackleton" it just seems like a ship where stuff gets done.
Thursday, March 17. 2016
Young O'Donnell rushed into a church, placed his rifle under a pew and entered the confessional. "Father," he said breathlessly, "I've just shot down two British lieutenants!" Hearing no response he went on: "I also knocked off a British captain!" When there was still no response from the priest, O'Donnell said, "Father, have ye fainted?" "Of course I haven't fainted," replied the confessor. "I'm waitin' for you to stop talkin' politics and commence confessin' your sins!"
Wednesday, March 16. 2016
We already know Hillary plans to continue Obama's war on coal. Coal isn't, or rather shouldn't be, a dying business. But it is, and it's dying because of politics. At a time when politicians keep saying they want to create jobs and improve the general welfare, why would they be attacking a healthy industry? Yes, natural gas has become cheaper and more plentiful - but only because of fracking, and the people seeking to shutter coal are also trying to end fracking. So this is not strictly an economic consideration, there are political currents swirling everywhere.
As I drive my son to college in Ohio, I drive through coal country. Billboards about this war have been up for the last 3 years. The job losses are mounting. Some regions of PA and WV are starting to hurt severely because of this war. It's a political war, and it's driven by a lobby group with significant access to the current administration. Coal has long been one industry the US could rely on to produce energy when other methods faced economic uncertainty due to politics or economics. That is changing, and yet 4 years ago, we were told there was no threat. But even as other nations open coal fired plants, the US shutters its plants because of political, not just economic, realities.
However, as he passes one fellow, he collects a business card. In handing the card, the charitable soul says "This is a soup kitchen nearby, you can bring your children here and get hot meals."
The fellow looks up and replies, "Free food? Here, in Manhattan?"
"So I can bring my kids?"
"So you're saying I have to travel up to the Bronx to get my daughter, then travel down to Brooklyn to get my son, then bring them both with me to Manhattan to get free food? Is that what you're telling me I have to do?"
"Sir, you don't have to do anything. It's free food. It's your choice, but it's a place to go."
He didn't get angry, didn't cause a scene. But it occurred to me if he was really destitute, this wouldn't be an issue. I realize some panhandlers are professional. There is one who sits by my office with a dog and a sign that "the dog comes first, I come second." I'd say he's been there for 3 years, except it's not a he. It's a them. There are 3 or 4 different people who switch out on any given day.
I don't mind giving money to people in need. There's a limit, though. When the ability to get a free meal prompts the kind of response I heard on the train, alarm bells go off. If you're in need, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Yes, everything requires work, even 'free stuff'. It's not as if his tromping through train cars isn't work. If he has real money issues, I'm sure he's not covering his costs by panhandling all day. But he must be doing well enough to keep doing it, and he should realize that it requires significant effort.
If this sounds like someone who has what he needs criticizing someone who is without, I'm sorry. That's not my intent. I'm not judging these people, I'm simply saying work is work. A 'free' lunch of any kind requires effort. It's a shame we don't have a political class that understands this when they make promises to people with money that isn't theirs.
Thursday, March 10. 2016
My goal was to get a feel for the Grand Canyon and Sedona for a longer trip in the future, while being able to see some of the impressive natural (and man-made) wonders that abound.
Sedona was stunning. Visually moving. It is not nearly as awe-inspiring as the Grand Canyon, it's just very pretty. The trip up 89A through smaller canyons, up switchbacks, along Oak Creek (which was full of swimmers and sunbathers) on our way to Williams, was full of even more nature's grandeur.
Continue reading "Arizona Part 2 - Sojourn Through Sedona and Williams"
Wednesday, March 9. 2016
A friend of mine recently posted a picture on Facebook of an old church in Europe, commenting "I wish we had old things like this here in the U.S." My tongue-in-cheek reply was "We do! The Grand Canyon is much, much older." It's also much more beautiful, in my opinion.
This was my first trip to the Grand Canyon, and I enjoyed it immensely. There isn't much to say that hasn't already been said. I'll toss in a few pictures of Sedona and the Grand Canyon, but pictures simply can't capture the grandeur.
Continue reading "Arizona Part 1 - The Grand Canyon"
Tuesday, February 16. 2016
He is deeply involved in holistic and alternative medicines. That, in itself, is no big deal. I know plenty of people who use these approaches, as I have from time to time (despite being the son of a doctor). My father once told me, "If it works, it doesn't matter what it is. Even placebos have a place in medicine." Of course, he wasn't all that thrilled about me seeing a chiropractor, but I figure that was just professional jealousy kicking in.
What the CRO said to catch my attention was this - "there is no incentive for the medical community to cure cancer because they make far more money by just treating it." From someone as highly educated as he is, I was shocked.
It's not like I haven't heard this comment before. I just never heard it from a person capable of thinking deeply about an issue like this.
His premise is based on the existence of one thing called 'cancer' which must be somehow curable. I tried to explain to him there is no single thing called 'cancer'. There are forms of cancer, and they are all quite different. In addition, we all have some form of 'cancer' within us, it's really just a question of whether the deadly or invasive form has been activated. Furthermore, the term "cure" isn't perfectly applicable. There are many ways of dealing with disease, such as prevention (one example is vaccines - the HPV vaccine should reduce the rate of cervical cancer over time) and altered diets and behaviors (there is evidence that healthier eating habits, reduced sugars can help slow some cancers from spreading - and even ending smoking or drinking can help). But even treatment is a form of 'cure' (many lymphomas are now 'cured' if caught early and treated aggressively). Regardless of how you approach the issue, strides are being made to find a 'cure'.
The idea that you "make more from treatment so you're not looking for a cure" is like saying "the attempt to cure the disease generates so much revenue, they aren't really trying to cure it." In other words, the money generated from 'curing' it isn't really an attempt to 'cure' anything. Which is a nice bit of circular logic I guess only a lawyer can get away with.
The truth is, many cancers may be 'curable', but because all cancers are such complex diseases there is no magic bullet. This, of course, makes Obama's State of the Union call a bit outlandish, and it also tends to forget that we've been trying to find a cure since 1971, when Nixon was the first president to declare "war" on cancer. This doesn't mean we should stop trying simply because we haven't cured all forms yet. However, it does mean we should keep everything in context. We've 'cured' several forms, we've made tremendous progress, and there is no value in ignoring everything which has happened to improve the lives of those with various forms.
If treating diseases generates so much money that 'curing' them isn't a goal, then I'd like to know why we do have so many curable diseases today? Treating diseases like smallpox, polio, and a host of other diseases generates plenty of money - why did we 'cure' them by finding vaccines?
In a way, the logic employed by my CRO friend is an application of Bastiat's "Broken Window Fallacy" - the idea that breaking windows makes us wealthier by keeping the glazier at work, and money changing hands. It's a logic that ignores the massive costs of lost value and misallocation of spending. Cancer's costs on productivity far outweigh the revenue any treatment can generate. 'Curing' all its forms is a goal simply because the overall gains in productivity will be greater than the revenues generated by simply managing it.
Tuesday, February 9. 2016
Reading the morning links, the Signs of Bad Science piece caught my attention, having just read this bit over at Manhattan Contrarian:
There's plenty of good science out there, but there
Thursday, January 14. 2016
For years, I've been taught that 'win-win' solutions are the best. They certainly are, and I try to find them whenever possible. But in this vein, how is compromise necessarily 'win-win'? It can be, certainly, but it is not always and definitely. In my day-to-day life, 'win-win' is what I live for. It's what keeps business running. But it is no longer useful in politics.
My friends who are Democrats bemoan the Republican stance saying "How can they block Obama at every turn? Why can't they compromise?" I don't doubt their sincerity of motive, their desire for what's best. I know they want to do well and good for themselves, others, and the nation. All they hear are flowery stories of 'curing cancer' or 'feeding the poor' and decide "Hey! That's a great idea, and politicians say we can do it by taxing the rich."
But I prefer shrinking the government. So do many people in this nation. When a Democrat says "I want to grow government infinity, and you don't, so let's compromise and only grow it 10%" I immediately start to get angry. Only growing it a little less than you want still constitutes growing it, and I am opposed to growing it. Where do we compromise?
We used to. We shouldn't anymore. It's time to say no. It's time to push back and take back. Which is why I don't particularly like the methods used in Oregon, but I support them. After all, Eric Holder took part in an armed takeover while at Columbia. How was his 'good' and theirs 'bad'?
The only compromise from here on in, as far as I'm concerned, is to agree to grow a Democratic program while cutting a larger one somewhere else - or not agree to growth at all. It's time for these people to choose what's important, and not throw shit on a wall to see what sticks. Nearly every article in the mainstream is heralding the idea that Joe Biden is going to cure cancer. This is, without question, one of the most laughably stupid concepts I've heard from anyone, anywhere, anytime. 'Cancer' isn't one single disease that a silver bullet cure can be created for, and chasing all the cures needed is absurdly expensive and outlandish regardless of what the mainstream journalists say.
Wednesday, January 13. 2016
I watch less TV than the average American, but more than a little. M*A*S*H reruns (it's on when I get home from work and it's still great television), sports, and movies. I was a regular viewer of The Sopranos and Mad Men. I never watched Breaking Bad (though I may since many people have recommended it), but I have gotten hooked on Better Call Saul. Most of this viewing has been done via binge-watching. Late at night, when nothing else is going on and I can squeeze two or three episodes in on VOD or Netflix.
Recently, the wife and I got a recommendation to watch Fargo. The original film is classic, thoroughly enjoyable. Coen brothers at their very best. I wasn't sure how telling fake 'true crimes' tales in serial format would play out. Despite my reservations, the show is fantastic. I finished the final episode of season two (because I can't get season one yet) this week and had a difficult time taking a break from viewing.
In true Coen brothers fashion, there is plenty of violence, dark humor, and outlandish twists of fate. The Coen brothers often have a theme of unstoppable and overwhelming evil running through their films. Fargo is no different, with several characters, who can only be described as psychotic, pursuing various goals. Each one meets a different end, some more surprising than others.
Without providing spoilers, there is one particular theme which caught my attention. It was mentioned early, and barely discussed until the very end. A secondary character is reading Camus' The Myth of Sisyphus for a class. This detail is brought up in conversation on occasion as the story progresses, several characters comment on the book. As the story unfolds, plot twists hint at the absurdity of life, how boring and difficult it is to live a life that only leaves you dead, without much to show for it. As you begin to think there can't be any redemption, the primary characters (the police) continue to pursue their goals, against odds that slowly stack against them.
Then the script flips. It becomes clear each character is Sisyphus, pushing their own particular boulder up a hill each day. A criminal seeking to make his boss or himself happy, a police officer engaging crime prevention and enforcement against increasing human stupidity and avarice, a mother dying of cancer trying to make life comfortable for her family, and a woman seeking personal fulfillment. Each day, they wake up and push that same rock up the hill again.
What becomes clear at the finish is the rock we all push, the thing we consider a burden, is in fact a privilege. It can be family, a job, any repetitive detail in our lives which we view with some level of disdain simply because it has to be done over and over again. Camus insinuates the reward for this seemingly useless behavior was death. Fargo alternately embraces this point in some cases, and rejects it in others. The characters point out our duties are what provide meaning and value. The show is full of death, and someday we will die. But on every other day, we will live. Living a life expecting nothing but an absurd finish is a fate for many, who don't expect much else. For others, death gave their lives meaning and highlighted what was good in the lives of those around them.
Fargo closes with a standard Coen brothers flourish. We're happy, but not completely so. Life goes on, happy enough for those we're pleased to see finish in good spirits, but it takes bizarre twists for others. Good has triumphed, but only barely, and evil continues in various, new, formats. It's not Hollywood. It's close enough to real life to relate to, but strange enough to keep your interest and make you think.
I look forward to watching the first season (no spoilers in the comments, please!).
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 10:39 | Comments (12) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, January 11. 2016
I imagine this is Bernie's thought process. But if he's in control, he's the entitled minority.
I don't consider my loathing of Dunlap to be particularly unusual or unjustified. I don't know the man, but his behaviors were pretty transparent. It was easy to not like him, as opposed to a Warren Buffett or Bill Gates, who have proven themselves astute and relatively even-handed businessmen (even if you don't necessarily admire their politics).
There are still other reasons why people loathe the successful, and the death of flamboyant glam-rocker David Bowie reminded me of some. Many popular music stars have no problem speaking out against successful business people or businesses - even those in their own industry. I don't know if Bowie ever had anything bad to say about the marketers who helped turned him into a cottage industry, but plenty of his contemporaries certainly had/have very negative things to say about the successful. I have sat through more than one concert (Roger Waters in particular) which did nothing but complain about corporations and greed.
As a younger person, I used to complain about paying $X to go see a band. "The greedy music companies want to soak us." I still paid and saw the band. I never considered that the $X I paid covered a large number of costs which provided jobs to people. Sure the music promoters got wealthy, but these promoters were usually making money on the margins, and managed several events which also lost money. Whatever I ultimately paid for the ticket probably covered the costs for the show, as well as some losses on other shows.
As I aged, I realized even though I paid $X, jobs were created to service my entertainment needs. I also realized my willingness to pay $X meant I believed $X was a fair exchange for my entertainment. I no longer believed some wealthy promoter was ripping me off - I was engaging in a fair trade which left both of us better off. I enjoyed my entertainment and the promoter got paid for his ability to put together a show which thousands may enjoy.
Continue reading "Loathing Success"
Thursday, January 7. 2016
Whoopi says she has no problem with someone who wants to search for her gun (she says she's a gun owner, which I don't doubt) and has no problem registering her weapon. Good for her. I do have a problem with it. Why do I have to do it because she doesn't have a problem? I need to register because she's OK with it? Well, I want her to register with my gym and start attending with me, because I did it and it's good for me and it would be good for her.
I didn't need the extra piece of roast beef last night, but I wanted that extra piece of roast beef.
I didn't need to drive 40 in a 25 MPH zone, but I did and nobody was harmed.
I didn't need to cross 34th Street against the light while there was traffic, but I made a choice and I was prepared to deal with the consequences.
Laws which are created by people based on the belief they are needed for others miss an essential point. The 25 MPH zone exists to protect children who live on the street. But at 1am, with well lit streets, I am fairly certain I'm not putting them at risk and I can see very well to react in a timely fashion. While I crossed against the light on 34th Street, and stepped into traffic, it was at a standstill due to a jam. What we 'need' is not always what works in a given situation, and it does not properly address the desire to pursue happiness (my roast beef, or my wish to get across 34th Street quickly).
Others telling us what we "need" or passing laws based on what they feel we "need" are really just telling us what they want or don't want us to have based on their own biases and desires. That's not what this nation was built on. It is what totalitarian regimes are built upon.
Tuesday, January 5. 2016
The "purple squirrel" comment made me laugh because it's perfectly descriptive. I've been involved in many job searches for "purple squirrels." Watching the evolution of the job listing, from purple to brown or gray, as different candidates are interviewed can be alternately frustrating and comical. It's mostly annoying and aggravating, though.
On the other hand, as I pointed out to my friend, you can always have a purple squirrel if you have enough dye and the willingness to hold down the squirrel while you change its colors. It's not a good way to run an organization, but I've seen that happen, too. Happens every day in politics, which is probably why the process of electing a leader is about as enjoyable as the job search for that "purple squirrel." Not only are we trying to find one, but after we elect one, the leader usually becomes the one trying to inflict the dye job on the population.
Thursday, December 24. 2015
It's very easy to look ahead and expect the worst. We could enter 2016 with low expectations. There are plenty of negative trends going on in the world. When aren't there negative trends? I can't remember a single year where life was rosy, bright and promising without a hint of clouds. Some of the less encouraging new years I remember were 2000 (that nasty Y2K bug which did so much damage), 1980 (Iranian hostages and an election...the Winter Olympic Miracle on Ice was still to come), 1988 (after the market crash, people were very uptight) and 2009 (again a market crash, the mortgage meltdown and the election of a president bent on dividing the nation as he claimed to unify it). Even in these years, there were many positives which were overlooked. Needless to say, we passed through all those years without seeing everything fall to pieces.
Which isn't to say some things haven't gotten worse. If all we do is focus on what's worse, though, it is hard to see how life gotten better. Yet it has. Hans Rosling spends much time discussing this (and his videos are always worth posting again):
2016 won't be sweetness and light, the news lately has had plenty of negativity. ISIS and the growth of fascism driven by Islamic radicals, Bernie Sanders and socialist wonderland driven by his belief in mythological theories which have been discredited time and again, an overbought stock market fueled by easy money, a dollar that is the prettiest horse in the glue factory, a Fed which is raising rates because it has no choice after keeping them low too long. There's plenty of bad out there to worry about.
2016 could still be pretty good. We may worry the so-called recovery is likely to end badly, though I hesitate to say it will be in 2016. It could've, and should've, ended many times in the past 6 years. But since it isn't a real recovery, more of a muddling along, maybe there hasn't been anything to 'end'. Even though it's been a pale 'recovery', plenty of good events have occurred.
Continue reading "Looking Forward to 2016"
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 18:42 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, December 21. 2015
On the other hand, there is a reason to be disappointed when the issue revolves around responsibility and entitlement. Some claim this is a standard complaint from generation to generation. Perhaps it is, though I don't remember my parents consistently commenting about the work ethic or willingness of any of my friends to think and act responsibly. There were moments when singular behaviors led to stern conversations about smoking, or drinking and how 'kids aren't like they were'. Of course, I'd later hear my parents tell humorous stories of their own proclivities as adolescents and young adults. Some behaviors and complaints do travel across eras.
My parents taught me to work. They instilled an understanding that I'm responsible for myself, and my family, and I need to earn the income to fulfill that responsibility in a dutiful fashion. I began seeing a therapist recently to work through some job-related concerns I have. She keeps using the terms "thoughtful" and "caring" about stories I recount. I always make a face and say "it's an obligation." Maybe some of the things I do are thoughtful and caring. I prefer to think I'm living up to my obligations. Others can think what they want about my motivations. I don't consider an obligation a negative. Like all things in life, there is a price. Obligations are prices with positive feedback loops. Live up to them, and you're trustworthy and should earn a level of respect.
Continue reading "Why Are We Disappointed in the Next Generation?"
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 17:23 | Comments (21) | Trackbacks (0)
Monday, December 14. 2015
For several years, she insisted this was a saying that was distinctly Philadelphian in nature. This seems to have been confirmed when we were speaking with several friends of ours who were from Philly and she asked "do you know what the back way means?" They all nodded and the conversation then revolved around how "the back way" is defined.
Every region has some kind of slang. In California, it seems every highway has "the" in front of it. "The 405 to the 10 to the 110" was one set of directions I used whenever I was visiting clients. Visiting Boston College, I learned not to order milkshakes or subs, but frappes and grinders.
Being from Philadelphia, it took me years to stop asking for hoagies and asking after "youse guys", but I still go "down the shore" (another phrase which drives my wife nuts - living on Long Island, she always went to the beach and despite the beach being south of her, she "went to the beach"), and "Yo" is still part of my vocabulary.
For my wife, the torture of the regional slang is only made worse by the fact I've managed to convince both my boys to enjoy certain foodstuffs, like the Philly Cheesesteak (we take ours 'wit' - never 'witout') and Taylor Pork Roll (technically a NJ thing, but a staple down the shore). Of course, neither has succumbed to my great longing for Habbersett's Scrapple, the mere mention of which causes her nose to wrinkle in disgust.
What slang and/or foods do our readers enjoy wherever they are?
Friday, December 11. 2015
I spent last weekend with my family celebrating my father's 80th birthday. My sister and one of her sons flew in from their home in Vienna, Austria as a surprise. My other sisters picked her up to join us, as did my brother, his wife and one of his sons. We all traveled to Connecticut to see my niece play in her first two high school hockey games. She played well, picking up 2 assists and her team won both games, beating one of their rivals for only the second time in history. She is a freshman, excellent on defense, and has the Olympics in her future. My father loves watching her games, so we turned it into a celebration.
As my wife and I traveled home, I reflected on the conversations that weekend, as well as the many I've had with my father over the course of my life. Obviously, my personal points of view were influenced by my parents. But rather than simply adopting their views, both taught me (and my brother and sisters) to think critically. Like most families, our views on life, politics, and economics vary greatly not only from our parents', but from each other.
Growing up, heated discussions took place during meals. We covered all kinds of topics from art, history, literature to politics and music. On Maggie's there is plenty to remind me of those conversations, even some of the heated comments down below. My father's birthday, realizing his parents didn't even reach the age of 80, caused me to think long and hard about the positions I take in these discussions.
After some reflection, I began to realize most of the opinions I fight against are related to envy and desire...
Continue reading "Life in America: The 80's"
This isn't the kind of thing I normally spend time thinking about, but this morning I saw this article. In addition, my best friend is, at the moment I'm writing, somewhere over the North Pole on his way back from Hong Kong. As a result, the concept piqued my interest.
Aside from my wife, I can't say I've ever been remotely interested in any of my seatmates.
I've had plenty of good (and bad) interactions with women on a plane. I had a woman yell at me for wearing a Fox News shirt (I used to work there). I calmly explained to her that it's based in New York, so it's chock full of Democrats, which got a smattering of applause. I helped a girl returning from college, who'd never flown before, find her luggage and reunite with her family. I also had a very cute woman grab my arm, to the point of pain, as she chanted something in Spanish and grasped her Bible during takeoff. I'm guessing she was saying the Hail Mary, but I'll never know. I didn't feel like I should pry her loose, her fear was palpable and the flight was a red-eye. I just wanted her to calm down so I could go to sleep.
Thursday, December 3. 2015
There's no law that can keep us safe. After all, there are laws against bombs. Still, the Bath School Massacre, Oklahoma City, Boston Marathon and a host of others, are all examples of how mass death can take place without guns. When deranged people have a goal, they will usually achieve that goal regardless of the laws in place.
Misguided folk, who believe laws can keep us safe, feel there are ways to keep guns out of the hands of 'deranged' people. Unfortunately, the definition of 'deranged' is likely to be open to political maneuvering. I know, because of my deep distrust and dislike of government, that I could easily land up on a politicized list of 'deranged' people. I don't want to invoke Godwin's Law, but it suits this discussion...the Nazis classified political opponents as 'mentally unstable'. Is it so hard to conceive of a future where people like climate skeptics (who are already hearing calls for their views to be criminalized) would be classified as 'mentally unstable' and have their guns taken?
Even more misguided is the belief that banning guns will make us safe. Because strict gun laws always make us perfectly safe. Like in Chicago. Or California. Or France.
To make a case compelling, you have to make it seem like science, so you'll call up data and misuse it. Which is what WaPo did on this blog. Alternatively, you can pick and choose your data to suit your meme. It doesn't have to be scientific. It just has to look scientific.
Friday, November 27. 2015
Which is why, when I read this piece, I began to question whether it's worth reading any more at all. The article implies the U.S. is somehow failing its children since, as a nation, we lag the rest of the developed world in providing pre-school education.
My parents divorced the year I entered kindergarten, aged 6. I had an older brother who was a year ahead of me, and 2 sisters who were younger. For the next 3 years, she was a single mother raising 4 kids and holding down a regular job. We all went to Catholic school. When my mother remarried, my youngest sister was just starting kindergarten. None of us had pre-school
Despite the lack of pre-school, we were all high performers in school and all of us got a college degree, while two of us continued into post-grad work. Maybe we were genetically predisposed to do well. I doubt pre-school would have helped, though we will never know for sure.
An early start to education is useful, but it is not necessary and does not guarantee performance. It's my guess higher performance later in life has to do more with factors such as the involvement and care of parents in their children's lives, as well as the relative success that allows many families to send their kids to pre-school. You can't replace a caring parent and loving family with a (hopefully) good teacher and assume that will yield great students. But that's the story you'll get from Bill de Blasio, Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton (as well as a few Republicans). The OECD and CSM will push that agenda, too.
Wednesday, November 25. 2015
It takes a special breed to be a rough and tumble sort. I recently stumbled on the story of Carl Akeley, who brought taxidermy into the modern age. His adventures seem like dime novels. He crossed a crocodile infested river on a carcass, and beat a leopard to death with his hands. I doubt that could be repeated today, but maybe these stories are fairly common for men who wind up dead. What made Carl unusual was his survival. His stories live on, much like his taxidermy and dioramas. In that survival, I believe, comes the official stamp of 'badass'.
His career path didn't start out as one which put him on the path as a most interesting guy. He had been fired from his taxidermy jobs for napping. It wasn't until he met P.T. Barnum and stuffed the elephant "Jumbo" that his life changed and he began taking an intense interest in making his creations more life-like. It's doubtful you could get away with living a life like his today, given the current political environment surrounding animals and hunting, in general. In fact, Akeley himself shifted his views later in life and began to promote conservation and nature preserves. I guess anyone's life can change at any point and take a turn for the exciting and adventurous.
Friday, November 13. 2015