E Pluribus Unum

Out of many, one.

The antics in the White House press room have angered many.

The ejection of CNN’s Jim Acosta has become a lawsuit, one that CNN will most likely win.

But let’s learn something from this.

No matter which side you take, it’s easy to agree that there is one speaker, and many reporters.

When a reporter asks a hard question, and receives an answer that many deem insufficient, what happens?

The speaker moves to another reporter.

Divide and Conquer.

The hard questions never get answered.  The statements are never fully challenged.  The slowly unfolding tragedy that is politics in the USA continues.

United we Stand.  Divided we Fall.

Consider this, those of you in the briefing room.

Choose.  Choose to stand as one.  Or choose to be a mass of competing voices, each of whom goes away unsatisfied, and used.

Choose a single member to become your spokesperson.  Choose them to represent all of you, to ask your questions (submitted beforehand), and to not allow the President or his shills to divide you.

Choose to stand away from the limelight and televised publicity, so that all of us can stand for what is most important.

Choose truth.  Choose dignity.  Choose honor.

Remember.

Choosing not to choose, is also a choice.

Please, choose wisely.  For all of us.

 

Questions versus Answers

Some years ago…  alright, many years ago, I was in public school taking chemistry.  The star quarterback was in my class, and he wasn’t liking chemistry as much as I did.  But he had one of those new calculators, and I didn’t.  The teacher was a nice guy and let us share.

Guess what?  Yup.It's not what you know, it's how you know it.

I would do the problem and leave the answer on the calculator.  The quarterback would have the answer, and then hand the calculator back to me.  He passed the class.

Except one of us learned chemistry.

So, which would you rather have?

A) Answers, or …

B) Questions teaching you how to get your own answers?

That’s right, the correct answer is “B.”

And here’s the reason why.

If someone gives you an answer, how do you know it’s right?

If something changes later on, and you need a new answer, can you get it for yourself?

Best yet, if you understand the process of getting that answer, maybe you can apply it to another problem.  Right?

Right.

So, if someone offers you an answer, try saying “no thank you.”  Instead, ask them to show you how to get the answer yourself.  You’ll thank them someday.

 

Sex Assault Drill

Image

Fire drill?  Line up and file out!

Or turning the other cheek?

Nuclear war drill?  Duck and cover!

Sexual harassment drill?  Huh?

That’s right.  What happens next?  I don’t know.  So I looked it up.

I got these links, and read all of them.  Guess what?  There’s no right answer.

I was sitting by Alice, a charming young woman.  Bob sat on the other side, a large older married man.  She was scheduling a meeting with Bob at a local pub after work.  It was certainly innocent enough until he started making jokes about making sure they didn’t drink too much on a weekday.  Then he made a “joke” about her sitting in his lap.  And finally there was the “joke” about not staying out too late.

Nothing is clear cut in the real world.  First off, Bob was making bad jokes throughout the meeting.  Alice had been encouraging those jokes by laughing, or at least chuckling.  Trust me, the jokes weren’t that good.  Bob has no work authority over Alice, but as an older man she may have some respect for him.

Here’s my problem, and I’m asking you for help.

What is with Bob?  Why is he effectively hitting on Alice?  Hasn’t he heard of the #MeToo movement?  Hasn’t he ever been introduced to good taste?  At the very least, can’t he learn to tell better jokes?

Alice has a boyfriend, I heard her telling Bob that at least once.  But I can’t be sure she was offended by his “moves.”

I would have liked to confront Bob and ask him if he’d like me to sit in his lap for a change.  (I’m a big enough guy, by the way, I wouldn’t care.)  I have to be careful, he might say yes.

Or maybe I should act all coy and ask him to help me with a hypothetical situation, and then describe him in detail.  With my luck he probably wouldn’t get it.

Maybe I should just file a police report.  Ha.  Good luck with that.  They’re busy enough chasing overdoses and crooked politicians.  Well, overdoses.

Perhaps the best place to start is to ask Alice what she thinks.  I don’t mind telling her how I felt (UNcomfortable!) but if it’s some kind of game she plays with Bob, then who am I to judge?

Why can’t people make it simple?  Perhaps everyone really wishes we lived back in tribal times, where those with the biggest sticks got their way.  Everyone else simply got out of their way.

Oh well.  If you have any advice I’d love to hear it.  The only other suggestion I can think of is that we change society so that we are all far more respectful of each other.

Talk about dreaming!

Where There’s Smoke

They always seem to go together.It’s no coincidence that if you see smoke, there’s fire somewhere inside.

If you live inside a house, you’re taught from an early age to save your life by GETTING OUT.

Drop.  Roll.  Know your escape route to safety.

That’s the easy way to save your life.

What if the smoke you are seeing isn’t from inside your home?

What if the smoke is coming from your society?  What if the news is full of tragic stories?  What if your family and friends are touched by random violence?

What if your planet is being harassed by unthinking newly arrived inhabitants, who litter, obliterate, and violate huge portions of its landscape?  What if the Amazon is cut down?  What if we fill the atmosphere with CO2 and methane?  Why does it matter if we drive so many species to extinction?

These are all variations of seeing the smoke inside your home.  Many people see the smoke, and are crying out as loud as they can: FIRE!

My question is this.  Why can’t more people see the smoke?  How many more cries will it take to move the majority of people?  What will it take to get governments to act?  Even more critically, what will it take to make all governments act in unison?

If you are studying any social discipline, including philosophy, these questions should be at the top of your syllabus.  Your “discipline” should have a methodology, a basis of axioms and reference in which you can answer this question.  Better yet, if your discipline is mature enough, it may even suggest an optimal route of making our world a better place.

If not, then, all I can say is…

Drop.

Roll.

And …

 

 

Tuning the Turing Test

Image

Let’s begin with the world’s greatest sci-fi movie: 2001.  This is from Piers Bizony‘s book on the making of 2001 A Space OdysseyIt's Eye-Conic.  Sorry.

Marvin Minsky had no problem understanding that the emptiness of 2001’s dialogue was intentional:

” … And after the momentous statement that the monolith must have been deliberately buried, one of the astronauts says, “Well, how about a little coffee?”  Kubrick’s idea is that the universe is too majestic for short sighted people.”

Trying to understand an “intelligence” that is much greater than our own is going to be a tough job.  Drinking a cup of java while pondering that gulf might be appropriate.

Which brings us to Alan Turing, the godfather of the modern computer.  He suggested a simple test to determine “intelligence.”  He didn’t define the term either, by the way.  What he said was put a person in a room and let them interact with a human, or machine, in a limited way (like through text only) and let them ask questions.

Today, this remains the best test we have of machine intelligence.

Here’s the problem.  What kind of person are you going to put in that room.  For instance, if you put my mother in law, she’s likely to think that the navigator voice in the GPS is already intelligent.  You should see the conversations they have while we drive along.

If you put some genius, like Doug Hofstadter or Doug Lenat in that room, chances are they can ask one question and game over.

So, next time you think of the Turing Test, also consider who you are going to put in that room.  If you’re scientifically oriented, then you want a “standard” human.  Good luck!

In the meantime, I’m going to get some coffee.

A Tale of Two Yogas

Image

My wife and I attend a small studio up the street.  She has deep knowledge of musculature.  The poses are gentle, our progress slow, in a cozy, comfortable environment.

Across the street is a bustling studio with 4 large rooms, the coolest one being 30 degrees centigrade (85F).  Some classes go up as high as 40C (105F).  That’s hot.

When I say bustling, I mean bustling.  Not like wearing a bustle, but like being super busy.  Which is pretty good for our small town.  There’s over 15 classes a day!  And the classes have all the latest trends, bikram, barre, and whatever.

Not only that, but the classes are an hour long.  Perfect for scheduling into your busy day.

Meanwhile, in our little space, you spend the first half hour getting warmed up, the next getting into the practice, and another one figuring it all out and cooling down.

Cooling down.  That’s important.  You can’t do that in heat.  In order to listen to your body properly, you have to let it speak to you.  That’s not going to happen in an extreme environment.  Your body is working to keep you cool, and that throws all your inner workings out of wack.  Sure, you feel better, for the moment, but what did you learn?

A good yoga class is a true class.  You will come away with a nugget of knowledge, a new insight into yourself.

The trend towards fast, hot, trendy yoga is surely a money maker for the studio.  But what does it lead towards?

Students who want hotter, faster, trendier solutions to their problems.

The ultimate?

I see a drive-thru studio that offers a quick yoga drink and a semi-mystic experience while you sit in your car.  Perhaps like the drive-in diners of the 1950s.  Scantily clad roller skating yogis will bring everything to you and your friends as you sit in the comfort of your SUV.

Or you could slow down, and get to know yourself.  Not trendy, not hot, not even hard.  Just right.  Just perfect.

But if you’re planning to make it to 70, 80, or 90, you’ll appreciate it.

Otherwise, you’ll be taking plenty of pills.

Ommm.

 

Dream a Little Dream

Image

Dreams.  I can’t get them out of my head.

Dad’s dying.  Did I mention that?  Sure, everyone dies, but he’s taking his time.  He’s smart, tough, tenacious, and still has the capacity to dream.

His dreams are a bit modest nowadays.  Going to the potty.  Getting back to his old apartment.

The size of the dreams aren’t important.  It’s the fact that he has them.

He fights to make them real.  If I’ve learned nothing from Dad during the last few months, it’s how to keep fighting.  And hanging onto those dreams is critical.

I used to dream, back in my day.  All us kids dreamt of superfast trains and living on the moon.  There would be hotels under the ocean and everyone would live to be 150.

So much for those dreams.

Here’s the problem today.  I had those dreams way back when.  I wasn’t the only one.

Today, I don’t hear anyone’s dreams of the future.  The term I hear most often is “dystopia.”  People are depressed about the future.  They don’t have dreams.

They have nightmares.

If someone does dream, it’s for something next month, or next year.  A new phone.  A better snowboard.

Have you tried dreaming?  Really dreaming, long term?

I have this super smart cousin, and I asked him what he thought humanity will look like in 100 years.  His first reaction?

He’ll be dead.

Yes, but your daughters might be around.  It’s more likely that their daughters will be alive then.  What kind of world will they live in?

He didn’t like my question.  He’s been having nightmares about humanity.

I encouraged him to dream.

By the way, dreaming does not mean wishing for free money from the government.  That’s another story.

The best dreams are big dreams that you have to work for.

Don’t believe me?  You don’t have to.

Ask my Dad.

 

Dividing Flirt from Felon

Image

I was in a meeting the other day where two friendly members made a professional date.  Alan then made comments to Barb that made me uncomfortable.  Barb laughed them off, so I’m not sure if she felt the same way.  To make sure, I’m going to ask her the next time we meet.  If she was uncomfortable, then I’m going to ask permission to talk to Alan.

It got me thinking about more important things.  Those things have to do with biology.  Our very genes want us to make more of ourselves.  Our genes also encourage us to have a partner.  These are not necessarily the same thing, but they can be.

More importantly, the urge to reproduce is very ancient.  That “phenotype” is one of the very first to be programmed into sexual animals.  After all, if an animal didn’t have the urge to reproduce, their species wouldn’t be around very long.

The other phenotype is wanting to have a partner.  That’s fairly unique among animals, but not unique to humans.  Plenty of other organisms like to have long-term mates.  It makes sense.  They get to know you, you know them, you help each other out.

Alan and Barb also have these urges.  Barb is young so that both urges are probably strong, despite her having a boyfriend.  Alan is older and married, so his urge *should be* less.

This means that each wants to be alluring to the other.  Yes, both already have others in their lives, but that doesn’t mean their basic urges turn off.  So we end up with this:

  1. We want to be alluring.
  2. When we’re talking with someone we like, we let them know by flirting.
  3. If, and this is huge:
    1. Both people want the same thing (each other) then they are going to keep flirting, and talk, and touch, and before you know it they become intimate.
    2. Both people DON’T want intimacy, this is what happens.
      1. At a certain point, one person’s flirting becomes another person’s harassment.
      2. If the person who is harassing doesn’t stop, the harassment is assault.

And there’s the rub.  Both people want to be liked.  Both people want to enjoy each other’s company.  But to the extent we must encourage allurement and flirting (in any form), then we must also encourage learning when to stop.

That’s part of what #MeToo is all about.

Societies that don’t want to deal with all of this tend to suppress their women in burlap and burkhas.  Even in the most modern societies, you can find women who are being bundled up.

Is it bad?  Is it good?

Neither.  It only is.  But the conversation is important.

So, as Jane Austen’s Elizabeth says to her Aunt Gardiner: “Where does discretion end and avarice begin?”

 

Two A-Salty for Words

Image

In my writer’s group, I listen to everyone read their material and tell myself I’m way better.  It’s great for my self confidence.  Of course, they probably do the same thing to me, so our karma balances out.

We live in the snow belt.  Feels more like the snow crotch.  This belt is made of snow, and despite my carbon butt-print, global warming isn’t enough.  Too much white stuff.

Snow.  Not drugs.

Our lake sits on top of salt deposits.  If you live in a place that uses salt during the winter, it’s probably our salt.  Thanks.  Salt, and assault, seem to be everywhere, even here.

Amy sits between me and Nerdy Bill.  She knows Bill as a co-worker and writer.  They’re talking about a working date.  Bill’s got a wring on his fing, is a lot older than Amy, and is quite a bit bigger.

I’m not trying to listen, but I hear him making references to not getting drunk on a weekday.  Ha ha.  Isn’t that funny.

Then he says something about her sitting in his lap.  Yuck, I’m thinking.  What lap, dude?  He has to reach for his computer keyboard.

Wait.  Now he’s telling a story when there were so many Bills in his elementary classroom that he was rechristened Will.  He’s laughing.  I’m crying.

Amy is laughing!  Now she is saying “that’s funny!”  I’m thinking Amy is having a stroke!  Or was she flirting?

No, Amy has a boyfriend.  She is probably only being nice.  But Bill is being yucky, with extra YUCH.

I should have told him he was making me uncomfortable.  He was.  I shouldn’t care what Amy thinks, or should I?

That was in the middle.  At the end of the meeting, our leader, Charlie, was suddenly attacked by a dog-loving woman.

Charlie also loves and owns dogs.  For some reason he’d brought one to the meeting and left him in the car 3 hours.  He’s not allowed to bring him in.

Yes the weather is cold, about 30 degrees F.  Before you get all “poor doggie,” the dog had a sweater on, and, here’s the best part, he’s still a dog.  Dogs can handle cold weather for a long time.  I’ve seen huskies in Alaska in minus 20 degrees F staying out all night.  They’re fine.  They’re dogs.

But this woman bolted in at the end of the meeting, accosted Charlie, told him he was cruel to animals, and called the police!  Then she ran out.

Did she think she was helping the dog?  Did she think she was teaching Charlie?  No to both.  Her assault was violent and uncomfortable.

So, maybe it’s winter.  Maybe it’s people.  Maybe it’s the salt.

 

PS – Shout out to ee cards for putting this image on the web for us to enjoy.  Get more at ee cards!  Send one today.

Hollywood Child Abuse

Image

When it comes to kids I’m all for them.  Adults screw them up.

If I’m remembered for nothing else, I want to be remembered as the guy who fought for the kids.  Today’s kids.  Tomorrows kids.  Remember the children.

Wife was watching a well-acted show that stars Lily Tomlin.  She’s wonderful and I’ve always enjoyed her work.  She’s also one of the producers.

I was reading this book while wife watched season 2 episode 12 dealing with suicide, among other things.  Well done.

But there’s a scene with a young girl, and she drops the F-bomb at two points.

There’s a certain kind of adult who takes pleasure out of seeing a child swear like an adult.  Why?

Is it that as adults we lost our innocence at some point, and we enjoy seeing a child lose theirs?

The fact is the show had a child actor appears to swear (it could have been dubbed) in order to complete the scene.  Turning that child into an adult is something that should be treated with great respect and tenderness, not for profit.

That child most likely didn’t want to become an actor as much as her parents wanted her to act.  Certainly her agent and the other actors see her more as a money-making team mate rather than what she truly is, a child.

What is the impact upon her?  Does anyone care?  (Yes, I do.)

Look at the track record Hollywood has upon other childhood actors.  It’s not good.

Why do we allow this to happen?  What can be more important than a child’s life?

Rhetorical questions, because we know the answers.

Greed.  Power.  More greed.  And because money made today is worth more than a grandchild’s happiness.

So, please, the next time you see a sweet, innocent child, love them and help them to keep that innocence as long as they possibly can.  Face it.  They’ll lose it soon enough without our help, without our greed, and without our short-sightedness.

C’mon on.  Swear you’ll do it.

Thanks.

PS – Today is 22 January, 2018, and I just learned young gymnasts were happy their team doctor was being put away for many years as he’d been molesting them for some time.  The tragedy is compounded by the fact that their parents and coaches didn’t believe them – or didn’t want to.  Perhaps they, too, were blinded by greed.