The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A late tribute to the Greatest Generation

This should have been posted Monday...

An impromptu parade in Honolulu in August of 1945 celebrating victory in the Pacific.

Thanks, Cindy, for finding this.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Working thoughts

I was reading this article about headphone use in "open space" workplaces and was drawn back to my days at that Humongous Telecommunications Company. Specifically back to a time when the Large Brains who thought they ran the company had instituted a a program called Quality of Work Life (QWL, for short).

QWL's purpose, we were told, was to give the employee's some sense of "ownership" and "control" of the workplace. Our input was valued, they said, and we were encouraged to become involved. I quickly dubbed it "Quiet the Worker's Laments" because that seemed to be the real purpose behind it.

The reason I was brought back to those heady days was the "open space office" concept. For years, the company had established offices within offices; high padded wall cubicles were installed, giving non-management personnel the illusion of having a private (though doorless) office.  Like all ideas imposed from the top, it worked and didn't work. A sense of autonomy pervaded and the "grunts" (as I affectionately called the average non-management worker) quickly adapted a feeling of importance. They could sit at their desks and know the boss had to actually come to their cubicle to see if they were doing actual work. The lazy ones could laze, the energetic ones could work, and they were mostly happy.

But something else happened, the bosses would look out and see only cubicles. They could not see the workers... unless the workers were outside their cubicles and going somewhere. But they could see, at times, some clustering. People gathering around and in a cubicle; laughing, talking, being (I am sure was thought) unproductive. And so a boss would have to get up, walk among the peons, and scatter the herd back (presumably) to their respective cubicles.

Hence, the Open Space concept came into being. Actually, it returned. It was not a new concept. Just think back to those movies which showed an office environment with rows and rows of desks, all aligned and facing away from the boss' office; an office with windows that looked out upon the sea of workers under his command.

Nothing is really new in the workplace, old practices just get re-cycled, called something new, and reinstated.

Where I worked at the time of QWL was in a switching office; a #4ESS computerized, digital, switching system. I was part of a group of 12 who maintained and repaired the system hardware. I worked out of a large room called the MOC (Maintenance Operations Center). I spent a large portion of my non-break time in that room; reading printouts, determining strategies for problem clearing, and generally goofing off. We worked in shifts (6 on Days, 3 on Evenings, 3 on Nights)

There was another group, more than 12 in size, who worked in the TOC (Trunking Operations Center), a much larger room. The plan was to replace the full wall and door between the two rooms with a short wall. To create an open space where all were one big happy family of "worker-bees". It would give us a sense of "working together", they said, of being "part of a team", and increasing communications between the groups. None of the people wanted it except management... who would each, under the plan, be given a private office and no longer merely have a desk in one of the old large rooms, sitting amidst the rabble, accessible to all.

It failed to come about because there was a general uprising against it. It also brought the end to QWL in our workplace after it was learned that our only "valued" input was to determine the color scheme for the office.

Maybe if we had earbuds, iPods, and noise canceling headphones, things would have turned out differently.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Perspectives and studies

I came across a couple of interesting articles today (Monday) about belief in global warming (aka "global climate change").

The first was at Foxnews... and was headlined

Global warming skeptics as knowledgeable about science as climate change believers

The other was at USA Today and was headlined

Culture splits climate views, not science

Both articles are reports on the same study, of course. They show how editing decisions affect the slant of an article in a way few others have.

They do not contradict each other, they simply emphasize different aspects of the study.

But the show one more thing in both cases, belief in anthropomorphic (man made) global warming is more about cultural desires and attitudes than about science.

Or maybe just peer pressure....

"...what an ordinary member of the public believes -- or does, as consumer or voter -- has no practical impact on climate change, and hence no impact on the risk he or she faces. So any mistake that individual makes on the science is really immaterial to his or her personal well-being. What matters a lot more is having a belief that fits in with her group -- it can really ruin your life to hold a position that is at odds with your peers on a controversial issue. So it makes sense that people will pay more attention to "getting it right" relative to their group. It doesn't take a lot of sophisticated thought to be pretty good at that. But if you are capable of technical reasoning -- and you know a lot about science (we measured that too) -- you can do an even better job finding support for his or her group's position and rationalizing away evidence that challenges that position. If that is how things work, then people who are good at quantitative reasoning will be even more polarized."

Here is one more article... a letter headlined as
No Need to Panic About Global Warming

Myself, I do not worry (much less panic) about global warming. After all, it may be a good thing in the long term. We have no way of knowing what is the ideal temperature range for the earth and for human beings. It could be as beneficial as it is disastrous or more beneficial or more disastrous. In any event, it seems inevitable. I think we should spend more time and money figuring out how to adapt to climate change than on trying to stop it or reverse it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

If I don't get caught, is it still wrong?

As usual, the best writing (and research) is done by someone else. Someone other than me.  Fortunately for me, there is the internet and I get to see some of the better examples so I can then write about them.

Is that cheating?

And that is what the article [link] is about... cheating.

I am assuming you don't and have rarely, or never, cheated in school, in your job, and in your marriage or other intimate relationship. I am also assuming you are lying about that. Why? Because the article says we all do it. And also why we don't all do it. Or don't do it all the time. Confused? So was I.

Take a breather...

There's a joke about a man who loses his bike outside his synagogue and goes to his rabbi for advice. "Next week come to services, sit in the front row," the rabbi tells the man, "and when we recite the Ten Commandments, turn around and look at the people behind you. When we get to 'Thou shalt not steal,' see who can't look you in the eyes. That's your guy." After the next service, the rabbi is curious to learn whether his advice panned out. "So, did it work?" he asks the man. "Like a charm," the man answers. "The moment we got to 'Thou shalt not commit adultery,' I remembered where I left my bike." [from the article]

We all cheat a little, it seems, and some of us cheat a lot. 

I have that "conscience" thing (that "Jiminy Cricket" that sits on my shoulder) that keeps me mostly honest. I am uncomfortable lying, uncomfortable stealing, uncomfortable cheating. Not that I haven't done each of these things but, rest assured, I feel guilty about each instance... and I remember most every instance. When I recall them, I feel my cheeks redden. The guilt lingers, doesn't it?

I have an appropriate anecdote (I think) for this article.

I was sent to a management "evaluation" a couple of times while I was working. This was a series of graded exercises designed to test one's management skills and aptitude. I did well on all but one phase. In that phase, we (the participants) were each given an imaginary subordinate to sponsor for a management opening. Each candidate had a flaw. The idea was not so much to get your candidate promoted (actually, put to the top of the list) but to see how you overcame adversity, worked as an impromptu team, and facilitated a process.  

I was honest about my candidate's troubled history; her termination from her previous employment for insubordination. There was an audible gasp from the panel of managers evaluating our performance. Obviously, my candidate ended up close to the bottom of the list.

I learned then that a manager's job included lying.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Just a few random thoughts on politics today

I really don't have much to say today. No rants, no cajoling, no whines about how people are being misled, lied to, and bamboozled in this year of presidential politics.

Why bother? Of course you are being misled, lied to, and bamboozled. You know this.

Sadly, many know it but don't care. People say "I know he hasn't lived up to his promises but I am going to vote for him anyway." People say "Anybody but Obama."

And that is what presidential politics has come to in the US. Maybe it has always been this way, it seems like it has been like this for as long as I have been politically aware. That and the "lesser of two evils" mantra.

We feel helpless.  We feel as if we have no real voice.

But is that feeling enough to give up on the American political system? Maybe it is a sham, maybe it is all illusion. But it is better than out and out corruption and rigged elections. And it will only remain that way as long as we participate.

Friday, May 25, 2012


There's a new danger on the road these days. Instead of those old tales of cops hiding behind barns, billboards, and bushes waiting for the unwary driver who doesn't see the speed limit sign (also carefully hidden) we now have cameras and toll roads.

Yes, I said "toll roads".

As we moseyed on back home from San Diego, we had to travel through Texas. And, in doing so, we had to go through Houston. I don't like Houston much. I am sure it is a fine city with nice people but it is also a traffic snarl.

A fellow golfer once asked me:

"Do you know the best time to drive through Houston?"

I responded with:

"At 3 AM?"

Now, they have (like many big cities these days) HOV lanes. But they are not simply HOV lanes, they are also toll lanes. This is something new. In California, near San Diego, there is an HOV/Toll lane on I-15. If you have 2 or more people in a car, it can use the lane during designated congested periods ("rush hours"). If you do not, you can still use the lane but must pay a toll. This is enforced through the use of traffic cameras in conjunction with something called an EZ-Pass, or similar, which can be a device or a sticker with a bar code. In either case, the car owner has an account out of which the tolls are paid.

We got nailed using the lane on a weekend... obviously no congested period. I missed getting off at the last "toll free" exit. The signs continued to state "2+ free" so I thought it wasn't a problem... until I received a letter from the "HCTRA" (Harris County Toll Road Authority). I requested an explanation for the fine through an email address the letter provided.

This is the answer I got:

Thank you for allowing Harris County Toll Road Authority the opportunity to assist you. We apologize for any inconvenience. The Katy Managed Lanes is a project of the Texas Department of Transportation and the Houston Metropolitan Transit Authority. It is operated by the Harris County Toll Road Authority (HCTRA). The KML consist of four lanes (two eastbound and two westbound) located in the center of the I-10 Katy Freeway. The two outer lanes are toll lanes. During posted hours the two inner lanes (one eastbound and one westbound) are High Occupancy Vehicles (HOV) lanes. The posted times are 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday - Friday. At all other times (including weekends) the two inner lanes are toll lanes.

I must pay the fine or avoid driving through Texas. Well, to be fair, I would likely only have to worry if I was pulled over for some other infraction or come across an over zealous traffic cop.



Thursday, May 24, 2012

DirecTV... run by fools

Sometime ago, I switched to cable from DirecTV. I did this because I was getting tired of losing the signal on stormy evenings and an every increasing monthly cost. I may have mentioned this here and here.

Soon after the changeover, I began receiving mysterious phone calls; a couple of rings and a hang up from a toll-free number with no name attached. Curious, I dialed back and found myself waiting for the "next available agent" for DirecTV. The first time I simply hung up. The calls continued... daily. So I called the number back and waited for that "next available agent" and requested his supervisor. Surprisingly, I got someone who claimed to be the supervisor. I informed him that I was sick and tired of getting these phone calls and demanded they cease immediately; that I was even less likely to restart service with DirecTV because of these phone calls and that I intended to register complaints to the FCC, the FTC, and the state PSC (our state's regulatory service watchdog) about harassment.

He immediately apologized about this "inconvenience" and said he would remove my number from the dialing database. I gave him the number and he then stated that it would take up to 30 days to complete. I stated that he had 24 hours and no more, that the complaints would be filed after that. When he protested, I explained that I understood how these things worked and that it took a simple data entry to complete and that I would not tolerate more than one more call.

Amazingly, the calls ceased.

But the letters began within a week and have continued once a week ever since. They urge me to return to DirecTV, they offer me great savings, they annoy me no end.

Of course I will not return to DirecTV! The service was poor (though better than Dish) and the cost kept increasing and the support was surly on their best day.

But I still get the letters. Which makes me wonder... Are some people that stupid as to resubscribe to a poor and costly service because they are pestered into it?

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I like the 1%

There are people who dislike the rich, especially the very rich; the "1%". I am not either one of these. I was destined never to be rich. I do not have the drive, the ambition, the discipline it requires to achieve that much. In fact, I am lazy and like to float along on the river of life, admiring the view and grabbing the low hanging fruit as I pass along the way to whatever is at the end... hoping it isn't a rock-filled waterfall that follows some nasty rapids. But I admire ambition and I harbor no animosity even for those born into wealth... because their fathers or grandfathers had that ambition, that drive, and even the sons and grandsons (and daughters and granddaughters) probably inherited that gene.

Today we see what the very rich can do for us. A billionaire with a dream of space has successfully launched the first commercial space "supply" ship. At one time, we thought only government has the funds, the resources, to explore space. If this flight is successful, it will encourage more commercial investment in space travel.

I see this as a Good Thing.

Now, this billionaire didn't do this alone. He created a company and hired engineers and many others who did the work needed to design, build, and launch this space vehicle.

He did it because he believed in space travel. And he could do it because he is very rich, a billionaire.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Just braggin'

As you know, I do a few mind exercises each day. I do a few crossword puzzles, a jigsaw puzzle, and run through several games of Freecell.  I enjoy these. I like challenges of this type. Problem solving is fun for me.  I have successfully completed 7753 of 7754 Freecell games. Yes, I admit that I have had to back up to the beginning from time to time. But I still found the solution eventually.

The following is a list of my best times for a certain crossword puzzle. I will acknowledge that these times were achieved while in Regular mode. In that mode, when you enter an incorrect letter it shows up in red. This allows you to correct typoes or lets you know you have not solved the clue for that word. I have moved on to Master mode in the last year and my times are somewhat higher.

This crossword is not a tough one, it is not like the New York Times puzzle. I believe it was made to be done as fast as you can. And that is how I have treated it...

Even though I am overwhelmingly humble and shy, I do like to toot my own horn on rare occasions.

Monday, May 21, 2012

I really hate to be in charge

This morning I am off to engage in a bit of play-acting. I am playing the part of Pete... who runs the group I play golf with on Mondays. Seems Pete has a doctor's appointment or a medical procedure to undergo (Pete is 83 and has some health issues).

I have done this before, though not pretend to be Pete. I pretended to be Joe (who runs the group I play with on Fridays) a few times. It was easy to assume Joe's role... Joe runs his group in a lackadaisical manner... Just collect the $5 pool money from each player, let them choose their own playing partners, tally the results at the end, and hand out the cash to the winners.

And I have assisted Joe when he filled in for Pete a few times.

Pete's different, more anal-retentive. He assigns players to groups. For the most part, this works out well and few complaints are voiced. He tries to match up people by skill level; by handicap.

So I sat down the other day with Pete's index cards and the list of those who said they would show up and tried to do the same. I can see why Pete gets worry lines. And I am faced with many fewer players now that our winter friends have migrated back north.

Normally, he would get Joe to do this and Joe would get me to help him. Joe used to assist Pete on Mondays but they've had a little "falling out" over where to play this summer. They are still friendly but there is a bit more tension between them than usual. Joe will be playing elsewhere and so I will be without assistance. 

Thankfully, there will be only 10 or so "cats to herd."

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Class warfare, fairness, and reality

Once again, I urge you to read John Stossel's column of the week. He says things much better than I do.  Here's the link. It's about fairness. About real fairness that comes from freedom, not regulation.

We are, as he writes, "wired" to desire fairness. I would say "conditioned" to do so. Yet, many of our parents chuckled when we, as children, demanded fairness in life. My mother, the sweetest woman who ever lived, often reminded me that life wasn't fair. And she was absolutely right.

Some of us were born with silver spoons in our mouths, some were born with great intellect, some with little intellect at all, some with great physical talents, some as klutzes. Some of us overcame the poverty of our beginnings, some of us didn't.

I look at the disparity of wealth in this country and think about countries I have been in where our poverty would seem like wealth. I think disparity in wealth is a Good Thing. Sounds cold, doesn't it? But it isn't, not really. That disparity is incentive. Seeing someone driving by in a $150,000 car should instill a desire to emulate him, to get where he (or she) is. To have that wealth, that luxury, at your command.

Or you could, like me, decide that isn't for you. That having "enough" is just fine.

What is bad is that some people resent the wealthy. They resent the young man who was born into wealth and does little. Or the Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians. Yet even more follow these "famous for being famous" celebrities as if they were people to emulate rather than just distractions from our dreary lives.

You will hear, over the next several months, about class warfare. About the "1%" and how they have "unfair" advantage over the "99%". Yes, they do. But, most likely, they either earned that status or someone in their family did. We have little "old money" in this country. Most of our wealthy and important families built that wealth in the past 200 hundred years. They didn't descend from nobility with titles that reflected the vast lands they held that were worked by those who were little more than slaves. Titles that were handed down from generation to generation, titles that signified their position in the ruling class.

This country has not destroyed opportunity, it is still possible to start out with little to nothing and end up rich and powerful. Punishing the current rich and powerful won't make that easier to do or make the country more "fair." It might just do the opposite, it might just have those pesky "unintended consequences" and leave the vast majority of us as serfs once again.

I also have something else for you to read. It is the most insidious organization I could imagine. And they claim to be "libertarian communists."

I found this site while reading about some a group called "clownbloq" who intend to disrupt the NATO summit in Chicago as part of the "Occupy Chicago" event. Their own site is:

If you do not think OWS, protesters at WTO and G8 summits are not extreme leftists, you are delusional. There may be some whose motives are "pure" but the protests are run, financed, and used by those who would destroy capitalism and deny freedom to all.



Friday, May 18, 2012

Be special... be one of "us"

Ever have one of those moments of great pride? You know what I mean, when something, somewhere, happens that vindicates you or confirms a premise you made?

I just had one of those moments.

I was perusing the Google News (as I am wont to do) and came across this article [link]

The article is about the success and the nature of advertising that emphasizes group acceptance, a feeling of belonging, of being seen as one of the "In" crowd.

As the article says:

“There’s a historical as well as societal foundation for utilizing the social group as a way of capturing the zeitgeist,” said psychologist Robert Passikoff, founder of New York-based consultancy Brand Keys. “It’s a cultural and social imperative: Nobody wants to be uncool, and that’s why these ads are virtually the same.”

In the article, there are two ad photos from old ad campaigns. One is for the 1969 Camaro and the other is a Tommy Hilfiger ad. About which, the article says:

Both ads present coolness as shopping’s blissful by-product. Buy this brand and you’ll be legit; you’ll of us.

I do not have a formal education beyond high school, I have no degrees in marketing or psychology, and I never worked in advertising. But I was raised on TV, part of the first TV generation, and I have seen a lot of ads. I have also read a lot of magazines and seen a lot of glossy, attractive, ads in those.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. I knew it in my teens. The ad series that brought it home to me most, however, started later. It was the Dr. Pepper ads of the late 70's.

These ads emphasized uniqueness and belonging to a group (the "cool" group) about as subtly as a growling doberman pinscher suggests viciousness.

But there are many more. Today, you can refer to the ads for the military for great examples of this... Be unique, be special, by being part of a certain group. The few, the proud, the Marines or There's strong and there's Army Strong.

I thought the Dr. Pepper ads were blatant attempts to push  diametrically opposed desires: the desire to be unique, an individual, apart from the faddish crowd while also saying it will make you popular and bring you into that cool crowd you've always wanted to be a  part of. All by buying and drinking this specific product.

In reality, I'd say these two themes run rampant through all marketing strategies. Either apart or combined. And always have.

Must have been "cool" to be a Roman citizen.

You, too,  can do this. You can be part of a unique and cool crowd by being one of my followers.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Travels and rituals

After having traveled extensively the past month, it seems my journeys are not over. I must leave town again in a couple of weeks to attend the wedding of my wife's niece in New Orleans. The trip should only take 5 days. I will get a chance to visit New Orleans but not enough time to thoroughly explore it. Nor will it be that greatest of all times to be in that city. It will be very warm and very humid and it will not be Mardis Gras time.

We will be staying in the French Quarter and I think I will enjoy that.

I will not, however, enjoy the wedding. I will tolerate it, I will smile at the appropriate times, I will seem pleased to be there to those around me, but I will not enjoy it. You see, I do not like such things. I do not like,though I appreciate, rituals such as this.

I don't know why this is so. As far back as I can recall, I have been uncomfortable with elaborate ritual. I have come to accept this as a part of my nature. I also have come to accept that most people do not share my aversion.

So I will go. And no one will know my true feelings.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Power, politics, religion... does it ever change?

 As you should know by now, I watch a lot of TV. For the past season and this one, I have been watching The Borgias on Showtime. Not just because of the wanton nudity, sex, and violence (though it is...uh... tastefully done) but because I tend to like just about anything Jeremy Irons is in. Especially when the character is a dastardly villain. In this case, his character is more complex than a super criminal or egotistical maniac.

Yes, the flesh and sex and violence are plentiful. We must have our diversions, mustn't we? But the intrigue and the twists and turns of the politics of the time are what holds our attention episode after episode.

Irons plays the patriarch, Rodrigo Borgia (aka Pope Alexander VI) superbly. Corrupt at his core, he seeks and gains the power of the Papal Throne.  But it is his family, particularly Cesare and Lucrezia, who make us anticipate each episode.

Historical accuracy is, of course, a casualty of drama but this feels right somehow. Perhaps because the writers and the director see  politics and Church intrigue of the time period as I do. History should not be dry and boring and it should be applicable to our own time. Man, after all, does not change all that much. Especially when it comes to the pursuit of power.

I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Arrogance, thy name might be Gmail

Do you have, or are you contemplating having, a Gmail account? I set up a Gmail account quite some time ago. My wife's nephew, the computer genius, recommended it. On the whole, it was good advice.

But something changed about a month ago, maybe a bit earlier than that. Gmail began an aggressive filtering for spam. We all hate spam, don't we? So this couldn't be a bad thing, could it?

Turns out that it is. Turns out that Gmail sees spam almost everywhere. Email from friends, associates, just about any business, even from themselves. Yes, that's right... even from themselves. After I discovered some desired email had been deemed spam, I went to a Gmail forum and asked a simple (I thought) question: How do I turn off spam checking?

It turns out that you cannot. That answer came through and was delivered to my inbox without problems. However, a follow-up response was deemed spam and tossed blithely into the spam folder. Since I use Live Mail for my email client, I did not see this for quite some time. You see, it is the online folders at my account on where this alleged spam is sent.

The interesting thing is that it was suggested that I could create a filter which would send all mail addressed to me to my inbox.

Here is the suggestion: There's no way to turn off the spam filters, but you can bypass them.  Go to Settings->Filters and create a filter for anything TO you can check the box for "Never send it to spam".  You'll get it all in your Inbox.

Funny thing is, there's a lot of mail that I want that is not addressed directly to me. It is to mailing lists, to "undisclosed recipients", and so forth.

So, now I am wondering just how wise I was to make the move to Gmail. And also wondering why Gmail thinks it knows better than its clients what is spam and what is not.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Wild life or wildlife?

A lot of people dismiss golf as a "sport". It's understandable... the image that comes to mind for most is fat guys in ugly clothes who swill a lot of beer as they ride around in motorized carts or pay some kids to carry their bags.

I can understand that. Although, the look on the Tour has changed considerably and the young guys are all stringy, and even some of the older guys have trimmed down and have even started exercising to get , and stay, in shape.

But that's the Tour. The average golfer, the guys who I play with, are generally older, fatter, dress badly, and play poorly.

But then you introduce alligators to the game...


Sunday, May 13, 2012


This was written some time ago, in early 2008, and posted twice before. I am bordering on establishing a tradition.
Moms... we all have them, the vast majority of us love them.

My mother is slipping away. She's 89 and she hasn't been herself for many years. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in her sixties and was put on a wonder drug, of sorts, called Aricept. It held the disease at bay to some extent for decades. Her short term memory went first, of course. But Mom, a clever woman, saw this as a benefit. Every day was a new world, a new life. She always had an optimist's view of life. Now I don't know what she sees or hears or knows. This disease took away the woman who raised me. After my father passed away, I took her into my home. We tried to care for as best we could but the time came when we could no longer see to her needs. She has been in the care of some nice people out at an assisted living facility for several years now.

I go to see her when I can... and when I think I can handle it. It's hard on me. I remember her as a vibrant, cheerful, witty woman who was always there when I needed her. She could always cheer me up when I was down or life seemed bleak. Now she can't. Now I have to do that on my own. And the worst is after I have been to visit her. I look for some sign of recognition in her eyes and never see it. I visit just before lunch because she seems the most animated at that time. I try to think of things she used to say to me to cheer me up and repeat them to her in the hopes they'll somehow break through that fog in her brain. She seems loved by the ladies who tend to her needs. they all speak of her with caring and joy. Some are as sad as I am to see her as she is now.

My mother had a way of getting a point across with humor. She would admonish me to be careful by warning me that "If you break your leg, don't come running to me." Or, "If you drown, I'll never speak to you again." As silly as these were, they stuck in my mind. Nothing seemed serious with her while you still knew how concerned she was. Her humor has failed her now. She doesn't smile much and, when she does, there's no way to know why.

It doesn't seem fair that this woman should finish out her life oblivious to most of the things around her. She read, she painted, she wrote stories, she even invented childrens' games. Oh, none were ever published or developed but that didn't matter. Her paintings were always flawed in some technical way; shadows fell the wrong way, perspective just a little off. They were nothing you'd expect to find in an art show but her family loved them. Her stories were simple and naive. Her games too easy. But you could see her slight off kilter view of the world in them.

Because I didn't get along with my siblings, I spent many of my years far from my parents. I rarely wrote or even called. It was never my way. I took after my father in that regard. In the last couple of decades, I tried to re-connect with my parents. I think I did re-establish some relationship to my father, just a little, in the few years before he passed away. My mother acted as if I was never far away. Now I don't know if she knows I exist, that she had a son, what her universe is like. I think that is what hurts the most... to not be a part of her life anymore.

Mom passed away on July 25th of 2008. Rest in peace, Mom, rest in peace. I miss you every day but you remain in my heart.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Musing on killing

I was watching a TV show the other night. One of my favorites, Person of Interest. It was a repeat, a show where the main character dissuades a woman intent on committing a murder.

It got me to thinking about murder and why the average person won't commit one. Why the average person would be destroyed by killing another human being. Social conditioning is the reason. We create a set of mores for our societies. Also called an ethos, it defines "good" and "bad" behavior as the society sees it. The people within the society teach these mores to their children, enforce them through laws and through the usual societal methods, such as shunning or shaming. Though the latter seems to have been rendered impotent in recent years.

Few people cross these lines. Though there are times that it seems like a lot of people are doing it. We tend to obey laws against theft and killing not just because there are laws against them but because we have been taught to from almost birth. Perhaps we obey all laws for that reason. And disobey some for similar reasons. After all, if seemingly everyone around you takes pens, paper, and such from work... it's pretty much a given you will too. Unless you have some other strong conditioning not to.

In the story, the idea is that killing someone, even a creep like her target, is so wrong that it will destroy her with guilt and remorse. It would, for lack of a better description, injure her soul.

Yet we send off young men to war, telling them it's just fine to kill faceless, nameless, people not unlike themselves under the circumstances. And it is, I suppose. These young men (and now women) act in a sort of self defense because those faceless, nameless, people not unlike themselves are there to try to kill our young men.

Are we removing some of the conditioning against killing and violence by the content of video games and violent movies?

Just something I've been pondering of late as I drive across the country.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Almost home

Sorry about not posting for a few days, been driving... and driving. Too tired each night to post, too much to do in the morning to post, and so I have neglected you.

Motel life is weird. The water is soft but the towels are washed in hard water. This means you feel like you are sandpapering your skin after feeling silky smooth from your shower. And the AC in the rooms must be adjusted as soon as you enter because they're set at 70F (72 at most) and I am not used to such. I keep my house at 78. I play golf in 90+ weather. I grew up in south Florida without any AC. I like warm.

Today, after a miserable night at a La Quinta, we traveled on toward beautiful Biloxi. Faye managed to cadge 2 more free nights at the Isle Hotel and Casino. On the way, however, a semi tossed up a small rock which dinged the windshield. My insurance company is good and scheduling a repair for this afternoon. This is good since it means I can slip out tomorrow morning for a round of golf.

Life is still good.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Adrift in revery

A thought came to me today that really and truly depressed me...

Someday these will be someone's "Good old days."

This, of course, begat the concept that Rap will one day be part of the "Golden Oldies."
I'm not sure I can wrap my head around those thoughts.  It's a bit frightening. The thoughts hit me while leafing through a notebook my late father-in-law had kept containing bumper stickers he had seen. I had read most of them on the backs of cars many years ago. One of them I even had on the back of my Datsun pickup... 

It read

"I am the person your mother warned you about"

He didn't have the other one that truck sported, it went...

Love is just a passing fanny

My girlfriend at the time (whose name, oddly, was Faye... who later became wife vers 2.0) did not think it was so amusing.

That was the early 80's and I was finally single again after years lost in the deep dark  pits of a bad marriage. It all came back to me as I read through that notebook. A mixture of pleasant and unpleasant thoughts.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Junior Seau 1969-2012

As you can guess, the suicide of Junior Seau is big news in San Diego. It's all over the TV, constant coverage. The usual stuff of interviewing anyone and everyone they can. People who knew him, family members, and people who met him once or twice.

The questions and discussions about Seau's death touch heavily on whether anyone saw anything in his behavior that might have been related to why he took his life, some sign that was missed that might have hinted at what he thinking.

A suicide is a kind of special death. I have only known one person who committed suicide, a co-worker, and I was not close to him. A girl in junior high, who I was close to, attempted it when we were both in 9th grade. You cannot see it coming. I couldn't, anyway. They say that suicides often go through a depression that lifts just before they take their lives, that they are happy just before they make the attempt... I do know the girl in junior high seemed very happy and comfortable just before she made the attempt. But I don't recall her being all that sad or morose in the weeks preceding it.

I don't think people share the depths of the depression they feel.
Maybe few of us actually share our inner lives. That's why suicides are such surprises.

There was a pastor who knew Seau and worked with him at Seau's foundation didn't see it coming, thought he was happy and looking forward to the future.

A family friend who was interviewed said some things that were useful and important. He said "Hug those around you, those you love. Say you're sorry to those you've wronged. It's worth the hassle, the trouble."  I'd add forgive those you think have wronged you. You never know what may come or when.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I am sure of it

While happily esconced here in San Diego, I have been contemplating a few things. Since "contemplating" is merely a fancy way of saying "musing on", I am just doing what I have always done.

One of the things which intrigues me is the confidence one feels about his knowledge. Especially the knowledge he gained from his teachers while growing up. Most of us still believe the things we were taught in elementary school.  But beyond how to spell and string a sentence together (something way too many of us have not mastered) and do simple math, much of the knowledge turns out to be false. Our teachers did not know this would be the case, of course, but knowledge evolves and expands. Those of us who continue to study often find this out; that things they were taught were only true because of the perceptions of the time.

As we gain new knowledge and test the old with it, our perceptions change. And our understanding changes. Things which were "true" 50 years ago are now "wrong" or "untrue."

I like to use the example of what a healthy breakfast of the 1950's was compared to a healthy breakfast of today. But here's another one: Andy Pettite now testifies (in cross examination) that he may have "misunderstood" Roger Clemens about Clemens saying he used HGH (Human Growth Hormone).

Andy Pettite may have misunderstood Roger Clemens on HGH comment

Not long ago, I posted a piece about how we have learned how inaccurate our memories are. We've actually known this for a very long time. Think about that little game you may have played in school where you sit or stand in a line and the teacher whispers a sentence to the first student who then whispers it to the second and so on until the last student repeats out loud what he was told. Of course, it is completely different. That lesson was supposed to be about rumors and how they are often false because of how they change as they are retold. But it was also about memory, how it works, and how quickly it gets distorted. Though no one told us that at the time and, I think, few (if any) realized.

Well, just something to think about. Maybe you will agree with me, maybe not. Maybe you will find I am right about this and maybe I will learn I am wrong... sometime in the future.