Thursday, October 14, 2021

Choices

 I am beginning to get really depressed. Not about this unending pandemic. No, we got our two Pfizer shots and then our third booster, and yes we wear masks when we go into a store—any store.  And yes, the anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers annoy me a lot. But I write that off to stupidity, and then get on with my day.

No, it is this beginning surge of articles by people I respect about the Biden presidency, and how it seems to be losing ground because he seems unable to deliver the really big changes he promised.  They are talking about how Biden is losing his favorability ratings. He apparently has descended from his high marks and is now continuing to lose ratings.  But, knowing how fickle is the American public vis-à-vis presidential approval ratings, I don’t pay much heed. No, these authors then go on to discuss these lower ratings in the context of the 2022 and 2024 elections. Now, mind you, Biden has only been President  since January 2021, some 9-10 months.  And already we are discussing how Donald Trump could defeat Biden in an election? Talk about depressing?

First, we should acknowledge that Biden’s first few months has been a mixed bag. He has succeeded in moving us in the right direction on the pandemic. But we also need to understand that the extreme right wing has been encouraging an anti-everything regarding pandemic solutions. No masks, no vaccinations, including from leaders who have in fact been vaccinated – see Gov. Abbott.  So, rather than the nation pulling together to defeat this pandemic, the nation has been tearing itself apart so as to defeat pandemic solutions.  And why? Well, from what I can see, this anti-solution group is all about defeating Biden AT ANY COST to the nation. If Biden succeeds in defeating the COVID nightmare, then the public will credit him. The ANTI forces cannot tolerate any win, regardless of the effects on the Nation of his defeat in that arena.  If more people die, so be it. That will be on Biden’s head.

And then there are the legislative actions needed to literally prevent our nation from falling into insolvency. Mitch McConnell seemingly caved temporarily to suspend for a few months the uncertainty regarding the Nation’s debt ceiling.  But this leader of the Far Right in America (there is no longer any republican responsible Middle-Right faction) continues to oppose. That group, to the extent it exists at all, no longer speaks in Congress or to the American people. They have ceded all conversations between republicans and the public to the Far Right—that faction whose sole purpose is defeating Biden on any initiative, again regardless of the cost to America.  We no longer have two responsible political parties. We have the Democrats, and a Far Right faction that seeks to overthrow democracy in America.  Their primary goal is defeating Biden’s initiatives—all of them. But they also are working actively at all levels of government to eliminate free and fair elections. They are working locally and at the state level to Gerrymander voting districts to eliminate or minimize the number of people who might vote for democrats. They are also at least examining the possibility of using the states to decertify election results, using the electoral college system to eliminate actual voter choices by refusing to certify the election results—you know that process Trump tried to use overthrow the election of 2020 (the results of which he/they still dispute).

And all of the legislative initiatives Democrats are seeking—to provide economic assistance to lower income people affected by the Pandemic, to at least begin to combat Climate Change, to rebuild the Nation’s infrastructure, and to change the tax code so that the ultra-rich would pay their fair share of taxes. These and so many other initiatives that seek to improve the lives of Americans are being denied by the Far Right, beginning, but not ending with McConnell.

And so my depression is setting in. I am feeling like it is 1942 all over again, only instead of Americans all pulling together as a unified Nation, we are actively debating the virtues of Nazism in the East and the threat posed by the Japanese Empire in the West.  And maybe even how we should probably not be sending troops anywhere—not our problem don’t you know.

And meanwhile, the public continues to roar their approval of Donald Trump as he runs around the country rallying his troops ahead of his 2024 candidacy, and, more especially the 2022 Congressional elections. Really people???? You continue to support Donald Trump, who seems even crazier and less competent, if that is possible, than he was when he was actually in office??? Really???  I should note here that I continue to receive 10-12 text messages every day from a Trump campaign entity seeking money—EVERY DAY!  And I am perhaps the least likely human on the planet to donate to Donald Trump. But what does that say about their campaign? That they have so many donors they continue to expand their list so as to overwhelm the Nation?

I seriously believe our Nation is on the edge of either another Civil War (with actual guns and shooting), or maybe simply coming apart as a democratic system of government.  Maybe we are collapsing into a heap of dysfunctional state entities, or maybe just collectives of like-minded activists, and we no longer believe in America—that shining Vista on the Hill. And that is depressing at the least. I keep hoping that Americans, even those who disagree with Joe Biden, will begin to understand that Biden wants to help America continue to exist as a democracy, and wishes its people to survive and prosper. Maybe that is no longer possible, but I keep hoping . . .

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Life: Control It

Gee, Facebook does nothing to alter its behavior if it might get in the way of its profits? And we didn’t know that? Facebook is a for-profit corporate entity. It’s what they do.  Maybe folks haven’t been paying attention, but it turns out that commercial firms, which are legal entities owned by rich dudes, or dudes hoping to become rich, actually consider profits more important than morality. Huh, who knew?

Oh and then there’s that cute story about the Church’s involvement in ignoring/covering up the abuse of hundreds of thousands of kids by church officials. Why would they do that?? Well, church profits and church control over humans. Turns out that churches are no more moral than commercial entities.  If action might affect either profits or control, then church officials see no evil, hear no evil.

We humans seem not to understand the role of money in our universe. AND, that role is growing not becoming moderated. Apparently, since nobody ever wishes to entertain the idea of controlling the influence of money, then money continues to grow in influence.  This latest thing about folks parking their money in tax havens, now in places like South Dakota instead of far-off places, only convinces me that we have ALL BUT GIVEN UP ON CONTROLLING MONEY. It controls us apparently.

So, when people get all uppity about Mark Zuckerberg being unwilling to control the nasties on Facebook, et al, because that might interfere with his money-making, I’m sorry, but it makes me laugh a bit.  And apparently Instagram, yet another of Zuckies’ creations, is proving to be hostile to teenage girls.  And everyone is up in arms. Goodness, teenaged girls coming acropper of a social media site that publishes nasty stuff about them. Uhhh, did they ever consider dropping out of that social media site???  Or did their parents ever consider exerting some parental controls over their teenager use of social media? Well, no, that’s all on Mark Zuckerberg. He should be controlling his sites such that they don’t make teenage girls do nasty things to their teenaged girlfriends.  Wow, I never realized Zuckerberg had such power that he could control teenage girls.

Yes, social media sites are potentially dangerous, both to teenaged girls, but also, frankly, to everyone who uses them.  Yes, we have Nazi’s using social media to bad ends (see republican party). Oh and then we have perverted individuals who wish to scam you in some way. They might use Facebook, but there are so many ways we communicate that the scammers of the world have an open field. My wife got a text message, telling her that Person X (someone known to me) had sent her this link. And she was supposed to click on that link. Now who should control that text communique? Shouldn’t the phone company (e.g., Spectrum, or Verizon) be monitoring such texts to assure that they are real? No?? How come? Oh, you mean, it’s up to us to control what we do—to click or not to click, that is the question  . . .

Oh, and then who should control the Trumpies (or their surrogates) who send me 10-12 text messages each day, asking me to join them at a rally, or oh, by the way, how about sending them $25? Me, asking Me, to send money to Trump? Maybe the least likely human on the planet to send Trump money???

So, why doesn’t Verizon, or Spectrum control who sends me such idiotic text messages?  Oh, cuz they expect me to censor my own text messages?

So, yeah, it would be nice if teenaged girls didn’t have to put up with all this social media crap, especially the nastier stuff aimed at making them feel like total POS. It would be nicer yet if the world didn’t contain so many nasty little idiot-malenfants. But apparently it is not to be. If God created all these idiots, then how incompetent is she??? Nope more evidence, as though we needed more,  for Darwin at work here. It does make me wonder actually, why Darwin seems to be so hard at work creating so many total cretins in America. How did we turn into a country of human-haters?  I mean, people actually still support Donald Trump??? Really??? Darwin, you’re really a badass.

And then I was drawn to thinking again about one of my favorite theories: that Nothing Follows Death. See, when we take our last breath, and that light goes out, we don’t know it, cuz nothing follows something. And, you might think, that’s awful right? Yeah, no bus to the heavenly gates, nope. Nothing. We just zero out, almost as though we never existed. Awful, huh?

Well, but stop to consider. We are all stuff that arrived out of nowhere. Yep, first there was nothing. Then suddenly a creature arrived, breathing, and eventually yelling for food and a clean diaper.  See, out of nothing came something. And we are in charge of how that something turns out, and whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing for the rest of humanity.  So think on that before you do something good or bad for humanity.  Sniff the flowers, check out that bumble bee who is wandering around your flowers. Oh, and do talk to your teenaged daughter about the dangers of social media—it’s worse than trying to cross a crowded street in Manhattan, and you talk to her about that, right?  So, remember, you both suddenly appeared out of literally nowhere, and you will eventually return to nowhere. So, all you have is this thing we call life, the here and now. Act like it matters, even if only briefly. Act like you can exercise some control over that life. And smile. You look much nicer that way.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

LIFE

What is life anyway? It occurs to me, as I prepare our morning cappuccinos, that life is really just tiny gestures, millions of them perhaps, but then it’s gone.  You place a spoonful of ground espresso coffee in the little container, place that container in its proper place in the espresso machine, then turn the dial to the correct mode, and a nice espresso stream flows from the machine into the little cup. And then you turn off the stream just as the coffee reaches the top.  Then you remove the little container and empty its contents of wet espresso coffee. Next, you go to the fridge and pour a little bit of fat-free milk into a small container and bring it over to the espresso machine, where you bring the milk to a foam using a small wand in the machine. Then into each cup of espresso, a layer of milk foam is placed on top, followed by a little bit of cinnamon, and a hint of raw sugar. And there you have another wonderful cappuccino, which you hand to your wonderful wife, and you both clink and say, “to us”.  And then you consume the cappuccino, sipping slowly so as to gather all the aroma and taste available. And there is yet another tiny gesture, one of millions as you wander through your life. 

And your life is filled with such tiny gestures. It is in fact what life is all about. We think of life as grand gestures, doing good things for humanity. And some of us have included within our lives just such gestures.  But mainly, our lives are simply collections of the tiny things. And, so I was thinking, one day I will cease to be, and I will no longer carry out these tiny gestures, not to mention the grand ones.  No, I will no longer scratch the top of my cat’s head, or rub my eye, because it is itching, or partake of a glass of wine, or even a glass of water.  And you are unaware that you can no longer partake of these tiny gestures, because your 40 -50 million minutes of life have run out. And a little switch in your brain has simply turned off.  And because you no longer have a functioning brain, you no longer actually exist.  It is as though you were never here, alive and laughing.

But because your entire life is composed of these tiny gestures, perhaps it might be worthwhile to at least be more aware of them.  You see, there is no actual counter in life, no one to tell you, “OK, it’s all over, and now you’re done.” Some people are indeed aware that their life may be ending soon, especially those folks who are afflicted with a cancer, or some other life-ending disease, or those who have been grievously injured and know it is a matter of moments. But most of us don’t know, even those of us who are seriously old—how old is that? Your choice, you decide how old is “seriously old”.

But it is the “paying attention” thing I am drawn to thinking about, now that I am approaching my 87th year on this planet.  Maybe it’s that COVID thing. COVID tends to focus the mind, but mainly only if one contracts COVID. Otherwise, it is merely a distraction.  I find myself going through my work-free day, doing roughly similar things and ending eating dinner and watching British mysteries on TV, day after day. Sometimes, when I awaken for a new day, I have to focus to be sure which day of the week it is.

Now, to be fair, were I still a working class dude, I would be more aware of each day, and would in fact have at least some differences in my chore list each day.  I mean, my goodness, I had to routinely board airplanes, attend meetings in strange towns, call folks to obtain information, or maybe even begin or continue writing some treatise for a client.  But, to be fair, each of those were also small gestures in this grand place we call Planet Earth.  Now, a nice walk along Union Street seems enough of a chore for the day, and that involves dozens of little gestures, called walking and observing.

And as I move along the pathway that is Union Street in our little village, watching for cars as I cross streets, avoiding oncoming pedestrians by walking out into the street, because none of us is wearing a mask, I often begin thinking of other little things and how little good things have been turning into big bad things.  See, I’m focusing. And what are those little things? Well, I was thinking about money, and how money is both a good thing and a really horrible thing.  Think of the invention of money. Initially I am thinking that humans simply traded things. “Let’s see, how about if I give you six tomatoes and you give me six ears of corn?  OK?”  And then the dude with the six ears of corn had to think.  Was that an even trade? Enter MONEY!  Now money seems a simple enough concept. But, as with many seemingly simple ideas, the invention of money involved hundreds of years, and many brains, now long gone, to actually lead us to our current approach.  I looked up the invention of money, and discovered among the many explanations, a few that bear insightful witness to its origins.  The one I might recommend can be found at:

The Functions of Money - The Human Journey

Looking at the origins, as defined in that article, it seems pretty clear that a simple idea, “how many tomatoes equals six ears of corn?”, has now been translated into a monstrously complex system of ideas.  So, money now seems to be a BIG THING.  But not only is Money Big, perhaps because of its complexities, it has also transformed from a simple good idea, into a complex Evil System so corrupt that it now beggars belief.  And our world now seems consumed by this thing we call Money. It now affects everything we do—all the things both big and little now seem at least affected by this Money thing.  And while there are wondrous things done with money, that concept seems more often negative than positive.  And because the acquisition of money is something we all wish for, most of us never acquire the skills or the understanding of money acquisition, so that we spend much of our lives skipping past, or simply ignoring all those little things, because we are preoccupied with this thing called money, and our relative lack thereof.

But we need to understand that, when we enter that dark period where the switch of life is turned off, money will not allow us to escape. No, everyone is dissolved in the same way, although the monied set perhaps leave life with more luxury. Still, they are gone also, and with it, their relative understanding of LIFE and its little gestures—those things of which LIFE is composed.

So, tomorrow, perhaps we all need to pay attention more to LIFE’s little gestures.  As we open our eyes in the morning, look around. Observe your surroundings. Look at that person with whom you occupy your life, if you are so lucky. When they open their eyes, look into those eyes, and smile at that person.  Try to remember as your day progresses the tiny things that consume your day.  Let LIFE into your life. Yes, we all must pay attention to other things like money. But mainly, try to remember the tiny pieces of beauty that arrive each day into your life. A smile, a kind gesture, a wandering butterfly, the sunlight streaming into your window. Notice, and smile. Because that is called LIFE.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Tri-Cataclysm

 We’re living in a weirdly dangerous world. I’m old—86 by at least one count—and I have never quite seen anything like this age we now inhabit. What the hell is going on?

1. COVID – perhaps the most widespread and deadliest disease the world has ever seen.  Well, maybe The Black Death (Bubonic Plague) during the 14th century was worse, especially given the level of ignorance about disease that existed.  Yeah, it was bad then too, but in the 14th century, we could blame it on actual ignorance, whereas now we have this stupidity thing we have to add in. Imagine 21st century people yelling about their “freedom” being imposed upon, by requiring them to wear masks, and even, get vaccinated.  I imagine in the 14th century, people would have accepted these restrictions happily.  When the alternative was death, people used to pay attention and do the right thing. I think of polio, smallpox, measles, etc.  All those diseases we eliminated because people got vaccinated.  What a concept, huh? Now, folks regard interventions as some sort of government plot to be resisted at all costs.

2. Climate Change – climate change may in fact be the most catastrophic human-caused event ever to occur on this planet. Although our science community has been warning us at least since the 1970s (that’s 50 years ago folks) that we needed to do something serious about constraining carbon emissions, we have largely ignored them, until now. And now, it seems less the underlying science than catastrophic wild fires, huge storms, flooding, droughts, each seemingly larger and more damaging than the last that has finally gotten our attention.  We humans seem not to learn about anything important until it smacks us across the face.  Even that cute little girl, Greta Thunberg, who has been yelling at us and warning us for several years now, is only now beginning to attract our attention.  She has been organizing school climate strikes since about 2018, when she was 15 years of age.  Think of that. At age 15, she was organizing for action to defeat climate change.  But, despite the attention she has received, it seems we really needed to be smacked across the face—the floods, wild fires, droughts are happily providing that slap. Now, we still need to observe carefully whether humans will also figure a way out of actual action to arrest climate catastrophe.  Real action around the globe is kind of like gun control in America. There are always arguments around actual corrective changes, without any actual changes taking place. And with climate, reducing carbon emissions requires us to radically alter how we manage to transport ourselves about, and how we produce energy. Those industries would rather “Keep on Truck’n” and so they will happily bribe political officialdom to allow just that.

3. Afghanistan (and other natural catastrophes) – We seemingly never actually learn anything from our past excursions into military disasters. Apparently America has never been really any good at this war thingie, except when it involves two big armies, at least one of which is European in origin. We were quite exceptional in that War of Independence, War of 1812, Civil War, World War I and World War II. Note that all involved actual formal armies that more or less understood war in the same terms. We succeeded by being better armed, and better organized.  But it seems, whenever we drift into a “conflict” between two foreign entities not of European origin, without reliance on conventional armies and conventional army strategies and tactics, we fumble around like teenagers at their first boy-girl party.  I’m thinking of, say, Korea, Vietnam, and the whole of the Middle East messiness.  In none of those did we ever manage to achieve the clear Winner and Peace Treaty thing.  We seem to have achieved a kind of stalemate in Korea, actual defeat in Vietnam, the first in our history, and then a retreat in the face of a likely defeat in our various Middle Eastern enterprises. At least the British, in India, achieved a kind of civilized and ultimately peaceful withdrawal—call it what you will. But they left with all their troops intact, and a reasonably civilized resulting governmental solution in its wake.   That would have been absolutely splendid in Afghanistan, but it was not to be. First the Brits, then the Russians, then finally the Americans tried to secure a stable, peaceful government there, but alas, none of us knew how to do that. Mainly, of course, neither do the Afghans. The Taliban taking over is just one more period in Afghan history in which one corrupt regime replaces another corrupt regime.  Exactly what we will all consider doing when this Taliban regime fails and the place falls into chaos once more, with catastrophic effects on surrounding countries, is anyone’s guess.  I understand that our corrupt republican party is now considering impeaching Joe Biden for his disastrous Afghan withdrawal, and to that, I reply . . . Hahahahahahahahahahahaha. You guys really have no class and no clue do you?  Taking advice again from that Giant Turd at MaraLago??

But I assume that we will go on, unless the republican party decides they prefer the Trump-Christian Taliban approach to government reorganization—revolution. Hopefully not, though.  I keep wondering when we will see a replacement party begin to take shape in America. See, we actually need two functioning parties to argue and to bring about intelligent changes to our approach to life.  Hey, George Will, why not return to Life and begin yelling for a new party?

But this TriCataclysm has really begun affecting life on earth.  It seems difficult at best to awaken each morning and smell the roses, and absorb the sunlight, and truly enjoy that first cup of espresso. Every joy is now tinged with these dark elements of potential disaster. I know, I know, it’s tough being 86 and trying to find happiness.  But, looking at and listening to Greta, it seems equally tough being 18 and trying to find happiness. She just has more energy to expend on that vital task.  Well, good luck Greta. You may save us after all, just don’t expect too much from we Americans. We seem to value money and that great Ponzi Scheme in the sky called organized Religion a bit more than rational thoughts about humanity. Keep on kiddo. We need more folks just like you Greta.

And on our overall theme, I came across an article on dinosaurs. Remember them? Well, think of us as modern dinosaurs. See below . . . or, if you prefer, just go have a second glass of wine. Ta ta.

____________________________________________________________________________________

 

And from the National Geographic (Dinosaur extinction facts and information | National Geographic)

One of the most well-known theories for the death of the dinosaurs is the Alvarez hypothesis, named after the father-and-son duo Luis and Walter Alvarez. In 1980, these two scientists proposed the notion that a meteor the size of a mountain slammed into Earth 66 million years ago, filling the atmosphere with gas, dust, and debris that drastically altered the climate.

Their key piece of evidence is an oddly high amount of the metal iridium in what’s known as the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, layer—the geologic boundary zone that seems to cap any known rock layers containing dinosaur fossils. Iridium is relatively rare in Earth's crust but is more abundant in stony meteorites, which led the Alvarezs to conclude that the mass extinction was caused by an extraterrestrial object. The theory gained even more steam when scientists were able to link the extinction event to a huge impact crater along the coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. At about 93 miles wide, the Chicxulub crater seems to be the right size and age to account for the dino die-off.

In 2016, scientists drilled a rock core inside the underwater part of Chicxulub, pulling up a sample stretching deep beneath the seabed. This rare peek inside the guts of the crater showed that the impact would have been powerful enough to send deadly amounts of vaporized rock and gases into the atmosphere, and that the effects would have persisted for years. And in 2019, paleontologists digging in North Dakota found a treasure trove of fossils extremely close to the K-Pg boundary, essentially capturing the remains of an entire ecosystem that existed shortly before the mass extinction. Tellingly, the fossil-bearing layers contain loads of tiny glass bits called tektites—likely blobs of melted rock kicked up by the impact that solidified in the atmosphere and then rained down over Earth.

Volcanic fury

However, other scientists maintain that the evidence for a massive meteor impact event is inconclusive, and that the more likely culprit may be Earth itself.

Ancient lava flows in India known as the Deccan Traps also seem to match nicely in time with the end of the Cretaceous, with massive outpourings of lava spewing forth between 60 and 65 million years ago. Today, the resulting volcanic rock covers nearly 200,000 square miles in layers that are in places more than 6,000 feet thick. Such a vast eruptive event would have choked the skies with carbon dioxide and other gases that would have dramatically changed Earth’s climate.

Proponents of this theory point to multiple clues that suggest volcanism is a better fit. For one, some studies show that Earth’s temperature was changing even before the proposed impact event. Other research has found evidence for mass die-offs much earlier than 66 million years ago, with some signs that dinosaurs in particular were already in a slow decline in the late Cretaceous. What’s more, volcanic activity is frequent on this planet and is a plausible culprit for other ancient extinctions, while giant meteor strikes are much more rare. This all makes sense, supporters say, if ongoing volcanic eruptions were the root cause of the world-wide K-Pg extinctions.

Why not both?

Increasingly, scientists trying to unravel this prehistoric mystery are seeing room for a combination of these ideas. It’s possible the dinosaurs were the unlucky recipients of a geologic one-two punch, with volcanism weakening ecosystems enough to make them vulnerable to an incoming meteor.

 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Crises of the Mind

I used to work in aerospace, first at the Firestone Guided Missile Division, where we produced a guided missile sort of right out of WW II.  The Corporal was a direct follow-on to Hitler’s V II rocket that he used to send over the waters into Britain’s back yard during the war.  Ours had a range of about 100 miles, and was essentially a battlefield weapon. It was an odd weapon, since an airplane, almost any WW II fighter-bomber would have caused more enemy destruction at less cost and fuss.

But then in 1957 I switched to Lockheed, the new Missiles and Space Company just beginning to operate in the San Francisco Bay Area, just before that turned into Silicon Valley. Lockheed was designing and producing several creatures. The one on which I worked as an engineer was the Polaris Missile. Now that was a giant step ahead in wartime technology. The Polaris was a formidable Cold War weapon. (It was intended to be launched from a submarine.) Yeah, instead of sitting on the ground somewhere in the US or Europe, this dude was intended to be carried around under water in a nuclear submarine. Now each submarine was large enough to house 16 launch tubes, so 16 Polaris missiles.  And each missile could carry 10 independently targetable nuclear warheads. Now think of that. Each submarine could launch enough weaponry to destroy 160 enemy targets, as in Cities.  How’s that for an advance in Cold War weaponry?

I think as engineers, we kept our minds on the day’s tasks at hand—designing some piece of the monster. We really did not think much about what we were really about—designing a mechanism that could destroy much of the world, if not the entire globe.  I mean, we showed up each day for work at around 8:30, stayed until 5-5:30ish and then went home, or sometimes out for an after work drink at a local pub.  Even there, we didn’t talk much about what we were about. Mainly, we chatted about movies we had seen, what our kids were up to, or maybe where we might go for our vacation.  Well, we also chatted about cars a lot.  As engineers, we all loved cars, especially sports cars, or other unique creatures of the road. Many of my engineer buddies owned exotic cars. One of them drove a 1927 Rolls Royce. Another fellow drove a 1959 Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing.  MGs, TRs, Jags, Alfa Romeos.  Lots of money went into that auto parade.  And so, there was a lot of chattering about cars.  I had a wife and a young child, so, of course, I did not own a sports car. I drove a Borgward Isabella (look it up).

And so we worked and played along through the 1950s into the 1960s.  And then we had an election in 1960, and John F. Kennedy was elected. Such a nice, clear moment in time. A decent, intelligent human being as our president. Wow, what a concept. But throughout this period, tensions arising out of that Cold War with Russia kept increasing. I assume our missile development program might have contributed somewhat to those tensions.  But increase they did.  And then this dude Nikita Khrushchev showed up on the scene in Moscow.  And he wanted to shake things up a bit. So he looked around and then he came across this other dude, named Fidel Castro who had taken over Cuba. Fidel was an ornery dude looking for a way to increase his relative independence of the US. So, Nikita began talking with Fidel, and they arrived at a momentous decision—the Russians would respond to our missilery in Eastern Europe with some missiles in Cuba, and maybe add some Russian aircraft he could use to survey American interests.

So beginneth  the Cuban Missile Crisis. And what was that crisis you might ask? Well, here from Wiki is a little brief on that period.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, also known as the October Crisis of 1962 (SpanishCrisis de Octubre), the Caribbean Crisis (Russian: Карибский кризисtr. Karibsky krizisIPA: [kɐˈrʲipskʲɪj ˈkrʲizʲɪs]), or the Missile Scare, was a 1 month, 4 day (16 October – 20 November 1962) confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union which escalated into an international crisis when American deployments of missiles in Italy and Turkey were matched by Soviet deployments of similar ballistic missiles in Cuba. Despite the short time frame, the Cuban Missile Crisis remains a defining moment in U.S. national security and nuclear war preparation. The confrontation is often considered the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war.[3]

In response to the presence of American Jupiter ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey, and the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion of 1961, Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev agreed to Cuba's request to place nuclear missiles on the island to deter a future invasion. An agreement was reached during a secret meeting between Khrushchev and Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro in July 1962, and construction of a number of missile launch facilities started later that summer.

Meanwhile, the 1962 United States elections were under way, and the White House denied charges for months that it was ignoring dangerous Soviet missiles 90 mi (140 km) from Florida. The missile preparations were confirmed when an Air Force U-2 spy plane produced clear photographic evidence of medium-range R-12 (NATO code name SS-4) and intermediate-range R-14 (NATO code name SS-5) ballistic missile facilities.

When this was reported to President John F. Kennedy, he then convened a meeting of the nine members of the National Security Council and five other key advisers in a group that became known as the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM). During this meeting, President Kennedy was originally advised to carry out an air strike on Cuban soil in order to compromise Soviet missile supplies, followed by an invasion of the Cuban mainland. After careful consideration, President Kennedy chose a less aggressive course of action to avoid a declaration of war. After consultation with them, Kennedy ordered a naval "quarantine" on October 22 to prevent further missiles from reaching Cuba. By declaring a quarantine rather than a blockade, the United States was able to avoid a further conflict. This quarantine fell short of a traditional blockade and so avoided the implications of a state of war.[4] The US announced it would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba and demanded that the weapons already in Cuba be dismantled and returned to the Soviet Union.

After several days of tense negotiations, an agreement was reached between Kennedy and Khrushchev. Publicly, the Soviets would dismantle their offensive weapons in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union, subject to United Nations verification, in exchange for a US public declaration and agreement to not invade Cuba again. Secretly, the United States agreed that it would dismantle all of the Jupiter MRBMs, which had been deployed in Turkey against the Soviet Union. There has been debate on whether or not Italy was included in the agreement as well. While the Soviets dismantled their missiles, some Soviet bombers remained in Cuba, forcing the Naval quarantine to stay in place until November 20 of that year.[4]

When all offensive missiles and the Ilyushin Il-28 light bombers had been withdrawn from Cuba, the blockade was formally ended on November 20, 1962. The negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union pointed out the necessity of a quick, clear, and direct communication line between the two Superpowers. As a result, the Moscow–Washington hotline was established. A series of agreements later reduced US–Soviet tensions for several years until both parties eventually resumed expanding their nuclear arsenals.”

And there we sat every day, designing that big missile that might one day destroy all of Russia, while simultaneously listening to daily news reports about the worsening crisis on our southern doorstep. Would they actually launch missiles at us? And, if so, where would those missiles be aimed? Every day, we would gather after work and chat, while we drank martini’s, or gin and tonics, and pondered the possibility that we might not actually make it to the next day.

We actually discussed what we might do. If the missiles began, would we run off to the Pacific coast, or would we head for the hills, to hide out in the mountains, assuming we could actually reach there? Yes, we actually held such discussions, and so the possibility of the end of our lives began entering our consciousness.  See, this was not World War II we were pondering, where all the action took place beyond that great sea. No, this wartime might arrive right on our doorsteps.  And so the tensions began increasing, while our work on a device to destroy the Russian people continued.

This period of crisis lasted for several months and did not end formally until November 1962, when we began to breathe normally again, and we were able to think about such things as sports cars, or families, or vacations.

And then my life regained its normalcy.

Now life in this country and, in fact this world, is rarely without some crisis in the making. Goodness, remember Ronald Reagan, messing around in both Iran and Central America? Oh, he did love to stir that pot. And let us not forget Korea, and then Vietnam, that endless blood sport. But with all those horrific blood sports, the action was elsewhere. It was technically possible to get on with the activities of your daily living, and not focus every hour of every day on those warring events.

And we did enjoy all of our activities of daily living. We got to travel a lot, even living for a few years in India, traveling to Europe, and other exotic locations (does Australia qualify as exotic?).  And then we retired and moved to North Carolina to be close to a daughter and some grandkids.

That retirement phase has been quite wonderful I must confess. We have managed to see much of our family both here and farther away with some frequency, and so retirement has been a wonder.

Then recently, this young lady, one Greta by name, began appearing in our consciousness.  And she began saying things that others had said for several decades, although quite without notice.  I think scientists had been saying since maybe the 1970s that we really needed to begin paying attention to our global climate. That we were really screwing up with our emissions of carbon into our atmosphere and that, eventually we would begin paying a price. That is, our climate would in fact begin to change—heating up our globe and changing our environment in deadly ways. But they always put off the period when the dues had to be paid.

Suddenly, enter 2020. We now had arguably the stupidest human on the planet as our president.  And then, that dreaded little creature known as the COVID entered our world in the Chinese city of Wuhan. And again, we were preoccupied, so for a time we just pointed our fingers at China, until that little COVID creature spread beyond China. And then it really spread, and people all over the globe, including especially here in America, began to sicken and then die. It seemed wherever stupid political leadership was in place, the disease spread more rapidly, and more people died. And America sported arguably the dumbest human we have known, so we did relatively little to prevent the worst effects.

And then, finally, 2021 arrived and we managed to kick out our Neanderthal president (although he continues to deny that fact). But he succeeded in not managing the disease, to the point that hundreds of thousands of people died unnecessarily.

But were we done with catastrophe? Ummm, no, because then our climate suddenly began changing in big ways. California has always had forest fires, but suddenly whole regions of the state were burning away.  The entire Pacific Northwest was turning into a tropical zone. Areas that normally consider 85 or maybe 90 very hot, now suddenly were seeing temperatures creep up into the 120s and above range.  And we suddenly had fires beginning because of lightning (or Jewish Space Lasers, take your pick).  Storms were beyond dangerous.

Ice sheets were collapsing. In one region, an entire town began sinking due to water being sucked out of the substrata, causing the soil structure beneath to collapse.

Climate change had joined forces with COVID to change the conversation.  Was the globe on fire, and would that fiery creature get to you or would COVID end it all for you? Take your pick.

And so that terror-filled mind-set has entered our world.  And still we have people denying the worst effects of the disease or climate change—take your pick. It seems that stupid people everywhere are into denial. Here we have two governors, Florida and Texas who specialize in denial, and their people are dying heavily as a direct result.

Now, unlike the Cuban Missile Crisis, there is no easy answer. We can’t sit down at a table with Mister COVID, or Madame Climate-Change.  No, we only have responses that can play out over the long haul. And the responses must begin with POLITICS, and then they must engage the world of MONEY.  We must stop electing stupid people to govern us.  Texas and Florida are examples, but the world of American politics is rife with idiocy.  How in heavens name did anyone even consider voting for Trump or Green, or Bohbert,  or Cruz, or Rubio, or Mitch,  or, for heaven’s sake now Giuliani?  Really? Rudy gets your vote? Really? And you watch Hannity & Co, and expect to understand anything??

So, we really need a wholesale re-outfitting of our Congress, and our State houses. And we need to begin demanding some honesty and some actual intelligence in our public discourse.  Because, folks,  we are killing ourselves with these folks-yep, it’s exactly like committing suicide.  It’s like being tossed into a cellar filled with sickly degenerates and then deciding that we really are not going to get vaccinated against their disease.

Now, you are entirely correct that all of this is your choice. Yep, you can continue to support the idiots of our world. OR, you can open your eyes and your minds, and begin considering human intelligence as a pathway to a new world.  Yep, there are actually folks out there in America who possess functional brains, and who are willing to at least begin confronting the problem of MONEY as a corrupting influence in the World.

It’s really your choice folks.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Burning Down the Planet

 I walk outside and I feel immediately like I am on some different planet. I have kept listening to them tell us about Climate Change, but mostly I guess I have been hearing what I want to hear; which is that, climate change is definitely happening, just not today. Yeah, ice sheets are melting, but I don’t live in the Arctic Circle, or Antarctica.  So, I appreciate what you are saying Greta, but right now I have to pour myself a nice glass of red wine.  Last Tango in Halifax is on and I am really hooked.

And then I catch a glimpse of an article in the Guardian about some town in the west sinking, as in sinking over 11 feet.  Yeah, a whole town is sinking. Why? Well, it seems they have been pulling water out of their underground reservoirs, and that water has not been replaced due to dry weather in the West. So, the entire structure underneath the town is falling down, causing the ground up above to also begin collapsing.  Who ever heard of such a thing, right?  Towns might drown, but that’s their own fault, right? They shouldn’t have built so close to the water. But collapsing into the soil beneath??? What the hell is that all about?

 And then we have all the western wild fires. I looked at a picture of the skyline from somewhere in San Francisco. And it was all red, and you couldn’t see very far. And I thought, God, this is way worse than looking out the window in LA during the 1950s.  That was smog, and we all knew what caused smog. Yeah, your dumbass car which had no decent exhaust system, so cars were practically belching smog out their tailpipe. But this picture was different. It somehow looked like the world was on fire.  And who could I blame??? Some dude smoking and then tossing his still-lit cigarette into the weeds??  OH, no, right, they were caused by Jewish Space Lasers. That dudette Marjorie Taylor Greens told us all about that.  And she must know right? I mean people voted her into Congress, so she must know these things.

Oh, and then I started reading about the weather in Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver—110 to 116 degrees F. No, how is that possible? I’ve been to all those places and the temps never climb above, what 75??? I mean, they aren’t New Delhi in June, right??

So, what the hell is going on anyway? I guess I could cope were they to tell me that, since it was January (it isn’t) we should expect four feet of snow tomorrow.  I mean, I get that. So, I have to take my snow shovel tomorrow and really haul ass out there to dig some big time channels, so we could actually emerge from our house. But no. Instead, they are telling me about some unstable upper air that is likely to cause locally torrential rainfalls of maybe 12 inches or more. They weren’t sure, but maybe.  Everywhere I turn this summer, I see some cataclysmic weather event. It’s like someone turned a switch and suddenly climate change was turned on for good. Greta, did you turn that switch? I mean, warning us via the telly is one thing, but you wouldn’t just suddenly switch it on would you??

Part of my problem is I’m now really old . . . by any definition. And one characteristic of being really old is that lots of things now either depress me, or frighten the crap out of me.  And, trust me, this weather pattern is definitely one of those things.  I read about houses floating away due to some river flooding. I understand that we live in an old house—even older than me for god’s sake—and that extreme waterfall, like 5 inches of rain, will cause the basement to begin flooding. Once I had to spend nearly 11 hours in the basement vacuuming the water til it finally stopped coming in.  So, yeah excess rainfall brings me to the freaking out stage. I’d much rather shovel snow, than vacuum water.  Why? I don’t know.  I just really hate vacuuming water.  Maybe it’s cuz the snow just sits there, and then eventually it goes away when the sun shines on it and warms things a bit. Whereas the water coming into the basement gets things wet that shouldn’t be wet, and then they rot or smell. Or it shorts out electrical connections. So, with water in the basement, it’s a fight against time. You get the water out, or it will screw you big time in some way.  Now, to be fair, if we just had an empty cellar, or a crawl space, I doubtless would not care. But someone, a long time ago, decided to create a useful space down there, and so we adopted that space. We have a furnace, a freezer, a refrigerator, my artsy supplies, a washer and dryer. So lots of stuff. And so, extremely heavy rain freaks me out.  More so now that I’m really old.

But it isn’t just the fear of a big thunderstorm. I mean, periodically, summer produces thunderstorms, and occasionally, one could be really big.  No, it’s that this is the summer of our cataclysm. Climate change arrived with a bang.  And I’m thinking, OK, this is our World War IV. Apparently, when a human is born, part of the deal is that that human will have to live through some big time catastrophic event, probably more than one.  I’m not sure what it was like to be born into, say the 16th century. Likely, as now, it mattered whether you were born into a family with lots of money, or into a family of slaves, or farm workers.  But everyone was likely to have to live through some period of awfulness.

So, let’s see. I was born in the 1930s. And what did we have then? Oh, yeah that Great Depression thingie. So much fun for my mom. And then we had that period when ordinary Germans ignored what a dude named Hitler was saying, and so they installed him as their leader, so he could go on to kill six million folks and cause the entire world to engage in that killing field called a World War.

And then suddenly that awful thing ended as I became a teenager, and we had that period called the 1950s.  Quiet, well aside from that kerfuffle in a far-off place called Korea.  To be fair, there was a lot of saber rattling, and lots of people yelling at one another—“if you don’t listen to me I might shoot off a big missile and blow you up!” But nobody did.

And so it went on, with shootemups here and there, but always limited. Oh yeah, hundreds of thousands of people were killed, but that’s just life in the Big City, huh? And then sometime during the 1970s, amidst the messiness of life in this World, folks called scientists began yelling that we needed to do something to reduce something called carbon emissions. If we didn’t, the global temperature would begin rising, and then the world would be at risk of cataclysmic failure. And the monied sets just guffawed and said, “oh crap those damned scientists are trying to get us to change our ways. And we ain’t gonna do that, cuz it would get in the way of our making money. And that ain’t gonna happen”.

And so, we did nothing, cuz the folks with the money control everything.  And now, 50 years later, ice sheets are melting, towns are collapsing, forests everywhere are burning down, making the problem worse. And yeah, the average temperatures are rising. So, apparently, the scientists were right, huh? But meanwhile, the Sacklers, and the Jeff Bezo’s, and the rest of the superwealthy are continuing to act in ways designed to destroy our world.  And then Portland, Oregon hits 115 degrees of summertime temperature, and forests are again burning down the world.

So, are we doing anything? Oh, I forgot, that group called the Republican Party decided to go into a permanent state of mental breakdown, by deciding to elect either the terminally stupid, or mentally unstable to its leadership.  And so we have Donald Trump, and Mitch McConnell, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Rudy Giuliani (yeah, he of the melting head) and others of that ilk, making believe they are actually 1936 Germany.  And they are looking for their own Adolph, or at least their own Benito Mussolini, so they can embark on the final destruction of America via the cataclysmic climate change event. So, it’s that “Decline and Fall of” thingie. Remember that? So much fun.

So, the rest of us get to just sit back and watch it all on the Telly, or maybe on our smartie phones.  Voting?? Well, no, that republican bunch are changing all the rules, so you won’t be able to vote. They do so hate it when people actually vote.  Ta ta folks. Enjoy this summer of our discontent. It may be our last. Or not. We’ll see.  Remember . . . 74 million people in America actually voted for Donald Trump. Let that sink in. Hahahahahahaha.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Being in the Right Place at the Right Time

Two things, Climate Change, and Man’s Inhumanity to Man, have begun to weigh into the world’s make-up.  Carol and I have begun remarking about timing and how we have actually been fortunate. Now we are old, at this age, old by any definition. So, we don’t have a long term horizon staring at us. Instead, I guess, we have a bundle of gratitude, because the world allowed us to do and see things that might now be less easily accessible.  Now, to be fair, many of these same things continue to be available, so I would counsel folks to take notice. Before your own personal time runs out, act. Put that Bucket List to work and do and see the things you may have simply dreamt on.

Carol and I have been fortunate. We both originate in families that had limited resources. And we all know that resources often dictate what we do, or where we might visit.  Personally, I grew up in a broken family, with a working mom who worked hard to bring in the resources needed to feed and house her kids. Until I was about 12, I never ventured farther from Manhattan than say The Bronx.  And even after she moved us up to Rockland County to live in New City Park, it still kept me within ten miles of the city. So, I had not seen much of the world through my high school years.  Carol pretty much the same, although she lived just outside New York City.

And then I abruptly zoomed out of New York to reside for a time at Stanford, maybe 25 miles from San Francisco.  Imagine that.  And why would I do something as far-fetched as that? Well, my sister had dropped out of high school at Julia Richman to enter the work force during WW II. But she thought that both her brothers needed to go on to finish college. So, she convinced me to attend Stanford.  And so, suddenly I was resident on the West Coast of America. And guess what? Climate change had not yet dropped into the San Francisco Bay Area. So, we enjoyed reasonable day-time temperatures. And if there were forest fires they were relative rarities, unlike today.

But my point here is that timing is important, but action really is everything. We live on this spinning globe for a limited time. Some of us, perhaps most of us, will elect never to examine much of the globe, preferring instead to live a calm, limited life.  My own personal experience suggests that we might want to expand our horizons a bit and opt for a more expansive view of life on Earth. Seeing our globe is to better understand the humans who reside therein.

But, to return to my earlier premise, carrying out that more expansive view may be as much luck as energy levels.  The world continues to change over time, and much of that change is determined by humankind.

For example, many regions of our globe are beset by evil doers, trying to assert their control over ordinary folks. The Middle East is perhaps the prime example of that phenomenon. In 1964, we managed to travel to India and stop on the way in Beirut. It was really our very first excursion outside the United States. We found Beirut amazing. The people we met everywhere seemed happy and just delightful. Even our various taxi drivers seem to revel in happiness. The city was lovely and, for us, quite exotic.  But this was in 1964, as noted. Today, Beirut seems on the verge of collapse as a civilized place to live. It has been drawn into the cesspool of the Middle East miasma.  The entire Middle East seems a region to be avoided at all costs, even for a brief visit.

And then, beyond evil doers, we have the changing of our climate, due to inaction on the part of humankind, despite the increasing evidence, since at least the 1970s. Apparently we humans reject changing our behavior whenever it gets in the way of making money.  And we have been piddling around, mostly talking about the need for changing our behavior, while steadfastly rejecting any actual doing of change.  And while we have been chatting about the climate, the climate has actually been reacting to our collective stupidity.  Slowly but steadily, global temperatures have been inching upwards, sea ice at both poles has been melting, and weather extremes have been occurring more aggressively.  Forest fires, especially in our West, and throughout the Amazon basin have become a new norm, creating whole regions poised on the edge of disaster. Exactly how these phenomena will change our earth over the next 50 years is the subject of considerable argument between scientists and science deniers.  And it should be noted that the science deniers have become a larger and more aggressive collective, mainly fueled by big money, because climate action always suggests the need to change our ways—especially in the form of reducing carbon emissions. That always suggests changes in our technology, especially our automotive systems, and our energy development systems.

And as we argue, the planet does its own thing and begins to change, whether we like it or not.

Now these planetary changes have and will continue to affect regions of the planet. In our West, forest fires affect whole regions, changing the landscape, and modifying our ability to literally see through the mess that fires create.  In one area of California, a town is literally sinking, due to a geological phenomenon called subsidence:

In California’s San Joaquin Valley, the farming town of Corcoran has a multimillion-dollar problem. It is almost impossible to see, yet so vast it takes NASA scientists using satellite technology to fully grasp.

Corcoran is sinking.

Over the past 14 years, the town has sunk as much as 11.5 feet in some places — enough to swallow the entire first floor of a two-story house and to at times make Corcoran one of the fastest-sinking areas in the country, according to experts with the United States Geological Survey.

Subsidence is the technical term for the phenomenon — the slow-motion deflation of land that occurs when large amounts of water are withdrawn from deep underground, causing underlying sediments to fall in on themselves.” 

With changes this dramatic, I begin to wonder about the future of towns and cities located along coastal areas. What will happen to Florida an entire region surrounded by an ocean that may well begin to capture the land, perhaps bringing it all underwater?  Similarly, cities like New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle may well become threatened over time.

All of this is to suggest that we need to be paying attention. The world around us is changing in ways we do not yet fully comprehend. And some of that world may actually disappear, or be changed in ways that we cannot predict.

Two things occur to me as I write this challenging note. One is that perhaps the Greta Thunbergs of our world are correct. We must act to preserve our planet, or we will find ourselves overseeing its ultimate destruction.  I know, Greta is just a teenybopper, but she seems smarter than most of the fully adult humans who surround her on the planet.  She is warning us, because she will be one of the ones on the planet who may live to see the ultimate effects of our collective stupidity and inaction.

The other observation, which may be silly, is that, if you wish to see the planet, perhaps you might want to consider an earlier rather than later visiting schedule. Some places, as noted, seem unwise, because the resident humans seem too intent on killing anything that moves. But other places remain, for the moment, open to visiting humans. Perhaps earlier rather than later is my advice. Our planet may not be around forever.  So perhaps start doing your research now. Where have you always wanted to visit? Now may be the time.