Money Talks, again

Hello Friend,

The last time I talked about money talking was with respect to the velocity of money.  Velocity is another way of saying we hold onto our money for some amount of time before we spend it.  Someone who is very poor spends money within hours, days, of getting it.  Someone who is rich and wealthy may hold onto it for years, decades, before putting it somewhere else.  Today the government tracks this “stickiness” indirectly.

This time the talking money is speaking directly to us.  Yes, in this high-tech information age of electronic funds and stateless money (go check out bitcoin) the money that you will have in your electronic wallet is going to be able to tell all about itself.

From the moment that it’s “born” into the world of commerce, that piece of money will know who owned it and what it was traded for.  Did the owner buy lunch?  Tasty.  Did the restaurant buy food.  Good choice.  Did the cheese vendor pay her truck driver?  Good move.  Did that driver buy drugs illegally?  Got you!

Talking money will do more than make our real wallets lighter.  It’s going to enable an enlightened government to find and shut down operations that injure society.  Not only will it be able to track the drug dealer on the corner, but find his supplier, HIS supplier, and eventually all the people who are part of the operation.

Tax dollars being wasted?  Your money will be able to find that as well.  If there’s a general getting a lucrative consulting fee for doing almost nothing, your money will know it.  Politician spending campaign contributions on a luxury hotel room for two, while his wife is spending money at home for groceries?  The money will know.

Notice that I highlighted “enlightened” above.  A government that is so inefficient, so corrupt, or so focused on its own success rather than that of society in general, that kind of government can’t be considered enlightened.  And that government will do everything possible to keep the money from talking.  And if the money talks, the government can make sure no one asks it any embarrassing questions.

Here’s the good news.  If technology continues, and if our society doesn’t succumb to some other great disaster (see tomorrow’s post), talking money will be inevitable.  And if there is only one enlightened government in this world, then it’s very likely they will show the way for the rest of us.

The sad news is that we could be doing this today, if we really wanted.  I want.  Do you?

Thanks for reading.

 

Roddenberry’s Warning

Hello friend,

It’s been a long time since I’ve visited any of you, and for that I’m sorry.  I’ve been busy adjusting to a new life of semi-retirement, as well as writing a new book.  This one will be an easy read, a romantic comedy.  Stay tuned!

In the meantime, the wife and I enjoyed watching 3 versions of Roddenberry’s original Star Trek pilot called “The Cage.”  One of the 3 was a two part episode called “The Menagerie,” but is essentially the same program.  We enjoyed watching the three versions in order to see how the concepts were evolving at that early stage, as well as how Roddenberry was working within the constraints of TV.

For me, however, the most interesting part occurred around the 32 minute mark into the “restored” version.  Yes, I’d seen it before, long ago, but had not the maturity at the time, nor had the experience of almost 3 decades of internet usage under my belt.

Here’s the text of that critical minute:

VINA: Perhaps if you asked me some questions, I could answer.
PIKE: How far can they control my mind?
VINA: If I tell you, then will you pick some dream you’ve had and let me live it with you?
PIKE: Perhaps.
VINA: They can’t actually make you do anything you don’t want to do.
PIKE: But they try to trick me with their illusions.
VINA: And, they can punish you when you’re not co-operative. You’ll find out about that.
PIKE: Did they ever live on the surface of this planet? Why did they go underground?
VINA: War, thousands of centuries ago.
PIKE: That’s why it’s so barren up there?
VINA; The planet’s only now becoming able to support life again.
PIKE: So the Talosians who came underground found life limited here and they concentrated on developing their mental power.
VINA: But they found it’s a trap. Like a narcotic. Because when dreams become more important than reality, you give up travel, building, creating. You even forget how to repair the machines left behind by your ancestors. You just sit, living and reliving other lives left behind in the thought record.
PIKE: Or sit probing minds of zoo specimens like me.
VINA: You’re better than a theatre to them. They create the illusion for you, they watch you react, feel your emotions. They have a whole collection of specimens, descendants of life brought back long ago from all over this part of the galaxy.
PIKE: Which means they had to have more than one of each animal.
VINA: Please.

(both the bold print and underline are mine)

The moment I heard that line, I realized that it was the seed Roddenberry used to create the entire episode.  It’s the moral nugget he would place in each episode of Star Trek, and it’s why the original series carries a moral weight, above and beyond any of the subsequent spin-offs.

… when dreams become more important than reality …

That’s the problem we face today, in a form that Roddenberry could not imagine.  Bradbury did, with his floor-to-ceiling interactive TVs and book burning firemen.  But today’s technology is taking us even beyond what they could have imagined.

For few young people of today can take apart and rebuild a toaster oven (easy) let alone a computer or cell phone (hard).  More conversations have to do with Hollywood and first-person shooters than with history or current politics.

And the dreams we had as a society, of building a civilization among the stars?  Those can be realized instantly with fantasy books and video games.  Why bother actually working towards building the first true space station, or lunar base, or martian colony?

If you’re a trekkie, check out the original version at the 32 minute mark.  Vina (played perfectly by Susan Oliver) explains this to Pike (played perfectly by Jeffrey Hunter) at the 32:40 mark.  Then think about it, and then turn off all your electronics.  Do something real that gets us closer to your dream, your real dream.  Because when you realize your dreams in reality, you leave something behind that your children will enjoy.

Above all, please remember the children.

http://www.chakoteya.net/StarTrek/1.htm

http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/The_Cage_(episode)

Battle of the Sexes

Yesterday I talked about how messy Mother Nature really is.

To sum up Her methods, she throws a lot of things together and sees how they fare in the “real world.”*

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about species like the platypus, or making natural soap.  The outcome is messy, and as humans we don’t understand everything she does.  After all, we’re only human.

Speaking of humans, we are also a product of Mother Nature.  And therefore, we must also be a mess.

Here’s where the fun starts.  Ask a typical woman what she thinks of men, and she will tell you that, as a class, they are pretty much messed up.

Ask a typical man the same question, and you’ll probably get the same answer.

We think differently, we experience the world differently, and we remember differently.  As a result, we live together yet apart.  If we find a partner, we grow together, and yet also grow apart.

Let’s talk sex, raw unadulterated baby-making orgasm related sex.  Got your attention?

When humans are young adults, the sex drive goes into hyper mode.  Men think about it all the time.**

Young women think about it somewhat less.  But young women do think about babies.  They are genetically programmed to do this.  Young married women who want a family go into their own hyper mode.  As an old man I’ve been able to talk with some women who are unafraid to tell me their habits.  Sex every day.  Maybe twice a day.

This is a husband’s joy.  For a wife, she is working.  And she’s feeling a bit stressed, because it’s her job to collect that baby-making stuff and turn it into a screaming, teething mass of tissue.  And she’ll do whatever it takes.

Including, if month’s of making babies the old way doesn’t work, going to the doc and checking out the latest technology.

Let’s fast forward a few decades.  The baby has grown and left the nest.  The man is still around, and for the most part, his sex drive is a good fraction of what he had as a youth.

But for the wife, she’s done her job.  The sex drive is probably greatly reduced.  Let’s face it, for many women it may be gone.  For many women, it may never have even been there!  Once the hard work is over, why bother doing something a grotesque and messy as making love?

Here’s where our messy Mother and humanity clash.  For we have been made this way.  We are an experiment.  She has turned our women into beings that live longer, are generally smarter, and more attuned to sustainable living than the male half.

What does this mean for the future of our species?  After all, we left our own nest some 100,000 years ago.  As species go, we are still babies.  Does this sexual dichotomy mean that we are stronger than the dinosaurs?  Or does our declining birth rates mean that our species is doomed?

We didn’t get a chance to talk about natural selection, and that’s where things can get truly interesting.  But I don’t want to bore you, either.  I just wanted to point out that there is a battle between our sexes in the bedroom, and on the stage that Mother Nature has provided.

So, think about that the next time you are “getting some.”

 

 

* Lets be clear here.  Mother Nature, or Mom, always lives in the real world.  It’s us humans that prefer to live in a delusion.  Let me know if you want to hear more.

**  If you don’t think this is true, do your own research.  Just be careful.  Take backup!

 

Enjoying Nature’s Cold Remedy

Achoo!

Yes, I’ve got a humdinger of a head cold.  I never get sick, but a combination of spending two days in court and weeks in preparation and all the other junk that is work have combined to lay me low.

And am I low.  I am just hyped up enough on ibuprofen and ginger tea to write this.

So many have told me to take this, or drink that.  Cold-eze, or vita-C, or whatever.  Each has some kind of magic mixture of minerals, vitamins, and other things to get you better faster.

Bull.  Including red.

Our bodies can do a lot on their own.  After all, how did the old-timers handle these things?  Did they die?

Nope.  We have pretty good records for when people did get colds, and they lived just fine.

As I lay here feeling sorry for myself, I sneezed.  And I realized what the answer is.

Sneezing.  Yes, the lowly sneeze is our cold medicine.

Turns out sneezing is something all mammals do.  Heck, it may be that all animals sneeze, maybe even fish!

The sneeze reflex starts in our nose, detecting invaders.

Then it travels to an ancient part of our brain.  The part that we share with LOTS of other animals.

And we sneeze.  And in sneezing we’re getting rid of those invaders.  Lots of them.

So next time you have a cold, think about sniffing some dust, or pepper.

Why?  Because it’s natural.  It’s cheaper.  And chances are it’ll work better than anything else.

Gesundheit!

PS – Let me know if you want details on the court case.  It’s a doozy!

 

 

Phony Driving Laws

Wifey and I are walking down the street enjoying crunchy snow and blue sky.  We feel so much better knowing that New York is snowed under for a change.  Why should it always be us?

As we approach the crosswalk we stop and look.  We’ve learned our lesson by watching other unsuspecting tourists get run over.

Yes!  Here comes a speedy car making the turn.  He doesn’t even see us.  No signal.  He’s going fast, and he’s even driving in the other lane for a while.  Are these all driving transgressions?

Under the old regime, back when people paid attention to reality, sure.  But what makes this all good is the fact that the young man is intently talking on his phone.

Yes, the black rectangle is glued to his head.  In the few seconds of sight I see him vocalizing loudly.  I see head wagging.  I see one hand on the wheel, and at least his eyes appear to be on the road.

Should I be angry?  No!  I realize the laws need to be changed.

If you’re on the phone, it’s the other cars and pedestrians that have to get out of the way.

Let’s say you’re at a 4 way stop and you pulled up first.  But a car pulls up to your left and you see they have a phone to their ear, who gets priority?  Why, he does of course!  He can’t see you, and he’s not going to wait.  Why should he?  He’s busy.

So it’s your job to wait and respect the call.  After all, communicating with our friends is one of the few pure joys left in our otherwise dull and boring lives.

Well, that and dodging those drivers who are out to kill us.

 

Alphabet 2.0

It’s time for a serious rant.

Not about anything “see-ree-us” but about something nearby all the time.

This item is impossible to run from, for it’s always within arm’s length.

Yes, there’s a major problem in our nation and it has nothing to do with war, spying, drugs, budgets, or greed, lust, lies, power, or pollution.

No, none of those.  It’s about our alphabet.

Some years ago I realized that a good operating system improves our ability to work.  Those who used linux or apple rapidly got up to speed and stayed that way.  Good work, people!

Those who went the way of windows spent far more time learning how to use it and also had more problems.  In the long run, both groups are about equal.  But why make life harder than it has to be?

The alphabet is an operating system for our brain.  We think in it, talk in it, and write down all our important thoughts.

It takes years for kids to learn it.  And even as adults, many still don’t get the idea of spelling.  My favorites are many, but some are: thorough, philosophy, and agile.  What are some of yours?

The list is almost endless.  So many funny words, not spelled the way they sound.  No, they get spelled the way someone else did it by mistake years earlier.

Need proof?  Look at any old writing that is 200 years old.  See how differently the words are spelt.  Grammar nightmare for young and old alike.

Where should I start improving the alphabet?  I’m going to begin at the beginning, to make this short.

Sure, I have issues with the idea of “Q” always being followed by a “U” – how useless is that?  Or the fun we have with “G” being hard and soft.  Is there a word where both “G” sounds appear?

No, I’m going to ignore those fun problems and start at the top with the biggest offender of them all, letter number three, the “see.”

What are it’s offenses?  Let me sum the ways.  First, students of English never know if it’s sounds like an “ess” or a “kay.”

In Latin they only used it for the “K” sound.  So the Roman Emperor Julius?  He was a Kaiser, like a King.  He was not a “see-zur” like the salad!

Then at times our perpetrator teams up with unknowing partners.  Paired with the “H” or the more popular “S” our perp alters the entire sound, leaving hate and mayhem in its wake.

No, Fair Reader, the time is now for removing the old letter from our operating system and re-purposing it as an entirely new sound.

Perhaps it’s willing to take up the mantle of “TH” so we don’t have to merge those two letters in order to make one sound.

Or maybe, finally, we fulfill its destiny and free the poor partner “H.”  In this way a popular point of worship would be spelled “see-you-are-see.”  In a way, spelling it like this seems very zen-like.

There’s my rant.  Time to reinvent our alphabet and promote the third letter to a new position.  Are you with me?

PS. I’d love to hear some of the alphabet problems you’ve seen.  “See” you later!

 

Foretelling Stories

My friend appeared in a local production of the play Vanya and Sonia, playing the part of Cassandra.

Cassandra is a fortune-telling housekeeper.  And my friend was brilliant.  Easily the most interesting person on the stage, playing her part with gusto.  Multi-colored headbands, crazy eye shadow, striped socks and funny sneakers, wild skirts with funky shirts.  Throw in some interesting jewelry and hairpieces and you get the idea.  And those are only the trappings.

What she portrayed was a half-crazed, half-possessed, but wholly compassionate dervish who transitioned from quiet domestic servant into a tornado of words and action.  In some scenes she danced about, flailing her sticks and feathers and other voodoo goodies to exact revenge.  And throughout the play she warns everyone of the nefarious “hooty pie.”

Fortune telling, soothsaying, and astrological prediction have been around as long as we’ve had questions about the future.  Many of us pay good money to know what our horoscope says today.  It doesn’t matter if it’s almost always wrong, because, sometimes, it’s right.  Right?

Oh, so many fancy shmancy people think that gypsy palm readers and tea leaf readers are absolute charlatans.  These fancy people are so full of themselves because they read the business news and understand advanced mathematics.

I thought of these things as I watched my friend scream and chant across the stage and into our hearts, and then I realized something crazy.  What if I was an alien watching this play as my first exposure to humanity?  How would I know that my friend was not truly a clairvoyant?

I wouldn’t!  Unless of course you provided me with absolute proof.

Being an alien, I wouldn’t trust your words, or the words of your friends.  I’d prefer hard data.  In fact, I’d probably really want to see it for myself.

As I smiled to my alien self, I realized that there was another type of human I wouldn’t believe.

Economists.  Yes, modern economists.  If I was an alien, and you told me that economists were the only people on Earth who could foretell the future, I simply would not believe you.

Yes, you can find me millions of people who watch their newscasts, who pass laws based on their words, or even set policy based on their massive calculations.  But can you show me and my alien friends true results of their predictions?  Better yet, can I see those for myself?

Is there even a scorecard that shows, unequivocally, that what an economist predicts today comes true tomorrow?  Or next week?  Next month?  Even next year?

Somehow, I doubt it.  Somehow, I feel that there is a vastly overpaid economist predicting the future, and doing it in a way that is boring and tiresome.

Meanwhile, on the stage stands my friend.  She is vastly underpaid, far more entertaining, yet her predictions are equally as valid.

As an alien, I smile.  As a human, I sigh and shake my head.  Then I sit back and enjoy the rest of the play.  By the way, if you go see this play, I predict that you will like it, too!

 

 

Body Swap

Are you ready to swap bodies?  For fun?  For profit?

Wait, there’s more!

We’ll swap bodies AND do some time travel at the same time.

But first, let’s set the scene.

In my favorite hardware store the other day.  Stu, one of the owners, was having a semi-political discussion with Pete, a customer.  Stu is incorrigible, irascible, and constantly wearing a snarly face; and that’s on his good days.  Pete is a tall, barrel chested, clean shaven, square jawed, silver-crew cut of a man.  Pete was bemoaning the current state of the economy, government, especially complaining about our “imperial president.”

In his own diplomatic fashion, Stu said “All I know is that we didn’t have to start working 7 days a week until the first year of this President’s term.”

Right there, in that instant, time stopped and I froze the scene.  My time travel body swap was ready.

Our 20 trillion dollar economy is so large that no one president can impact it very much in one year, let alone two or three.  Whatever pain the owner was feeling came from the previous president.  And that even assumes the president truly has much influence over the economy anyway.

But as people, as humans, we’re not geared that way.  We like to look at our local gods, whether they are good or evil, and blame them.  Whether Obama likes it or not, most people deify him – and not always in a good way.  Ultra conservatives give him credit for destroying our future, our way of life, and the Constitution.  Pretty good for a guy who’s limited to running the executive branch and vetoing the occasional bill.

As a nation, as intelligent adults, we should be smarter than to deify anyone.  We should know by now that the economy is large and complex.  That policies put in place 5 years, 10 year, even 50 years earlier could be impacting us today.  We shouldn’t be measuring our pleasure and our pain by the year of someone’s reign.

Yet here was an American, doing just that.

Body swap:  Stu becomes Japanese.

Did you know the Japanese still have an emperor?  In fact, they claim they’ve had a continuous line of emperors since 700 years before the common era (BCE).

But what’s even more fun is that we can stick Stu into a Japanese body, and get him to say the exact same thing.  Because many Japanese measure life events in terms of their current emperor’s reign.

Stu could say something like “Business was terrible in the first year of the Chrysanthemum Throne (1989).”  Or, “The first decade of the Chrysanthemum Emperor was all recession.”

Many Japanese remember their birthdays or anniversaries based on the emperor’s reign.  How quaint.  Are they also blaming the emperor for what is good or bad?  Perhaps.  But the very fact that they mark time based on a celebrity instead of a more objective system says something in itself.

Time swap:  Stu becomes Egyptian

In that next moment, I can take Stu and put him into the desert sun of the upper Nile.  Pharaoh Sesostris III has undertaking great tasks to unite many separate states into a greater Egyptian empire.  It’s 2,000 years BCE.  The pyramids aren’t quite yet built, but paper and mathematics are well on their way.  Meanwhile, most of humanity is still running around in skins.

And what do we find Stu the farmer doing back in the days of Sesostris?  According to written records, we know that his harvest, his battles, and his marriages and births are all being recorded based on the year of Sesostris’s reign.  In year one I got married.  In year two we gave birth to a son.  In year three the harvest was good, and so on.

Time swap, body swap: Returning to the present.

So, I smiled at Stu and Pete.  I may not agree with their politics, but in that instant I was able to watch Stu become a modern Japanese, and then an ancient Egyptian.  As far as I can tell, he’s none the wiser.

 

But is humanity?

 

 

“The Force” has gone

The new “Star Wars” is BORING.

My date wanted to see it.  I knew what to expect, and as we drove away, she agreed.

The story, even some of the exact characters, are lifted directly from the same movie of 1977.

Abrams gets “credit” for the writing and directing, but his specialty seems to be in copying others, including himself.  That’s my highest praise.

The whole idea of a magic bullet that destroys planets?  Not only lifted from the original star wars, but also from a “star trek” movie he directed.  Remember the wiggly jiggly big red ball of death?  Aaaargh.

Finally, the latest edition of star wars sports a good amount of poor acting, lousy internal consistency, and a whole lot of “just don’t make sense.”

But spoiling on the latest movie isn’t what this post is about.  No, I like taking a bit of current culture and using it to illuminate the big world around us.  And this movie, no matter how much money it makes, helps prove that “the force” is leaving our culture, our humanity.

You see, even as we watch crazy giant aliens blow up planets, our own civilization could be building its own on Luna and Mars.

Instead of watching crazy red tractors float across sand dunes, we could be capturing lightning to power our cars and computers.

Instead of watching evil magic-wielding weirdos sporting beautiful makeup and hair, we could be working towards universal healthcare and education.

Instead, our government, our culture, and our civilization are moving away from all these things.

Instead, most of us are more concerned with our pensions, our youth, and showing off our “stuff.”

Every great civilization has risen, and fallen.  The Egyptians, Indus, Mesopotamians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, and others.  Every single one of them became inbred, and finally bored with themselves.

Then young upstarts from outside those civilizations came in and conquered.  Those young upstarts weren’t bored.  They were motivated.  The Romans called them “barbarians.”  Today we call them entrepreneurs, radicals, even terrorists.

Star Wars is boring.  Our current culture is boring.  The lesson from History is that boring is the same as death.

Who do you know who isn’t boring?  They are the ones to watch.  Because the force is with them.

May the force also be with you.

 

New Fat Path

We’re driving over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house for a traditional Christmas Eve gathering.

I’ve already eaten several holiday dinners every day this week.  With all the office parties, birthday parties, and generic holiday parties going on, it’s hard to even pretend to abstain.  And there’s people dropping by the office with the assorted mixed nuts, chocolates, cookies, and popcorn, and even beer! I can’t remember the last time I felt hungry.

As we drive along, I wonder what can I do?

I can say, “no thanks, mom.  I’d like a small portion.  No, no seconds, thank you.  Dessert?  No, none for me, please.”

None of these will work.  Like a game of chess I have to worry about what my words will do to my wife’s mother, my mil (mother in law for short).

I know I’m the only one with this problem, so let me describe it for you.  If I say the wrong thing while we’re at their house it could make my life very stressful for weeks.  If I really screw up I could make everyone upset, including my wife.  Chances are good that they would never let me forget it, either.  Heck, they still remember stupid things I said twenty years ago; things that I’ve long forgotten.

We’re parking the car.  What do I do?

What’s the downside?  So what if I eat too much?  You know, besides getting bloated and fat?

The burden I face is made much heavier because my wife and her mother are incredible cooks.  So it’s not that I’m turning down fast food; this is real gourmet dining.

What’s wrong with me pigging out?

As we gather our goods and start walking up the path, I think about Americans.  We’re a big country.  Not just Alaska and Grand Canyon big, we’re big and fat.  Americans are heavier than any other nation.  I don’t think that includes Canadians.

Americans are BIG.  How did this happen?

Well’ we have lots of money, so we can buy lots of food.

We make our food in factories, for the most part, so it’s inexpensive.

Generally, it’s not high quality, so when we get it served to us in a restaurant we get a lot.

Plus, there’s a good chance the food factories put extra sugar and other “ingredients” into their food encouraging us to eat more.

And let’s not forget the other side of life; the fact that we are constantly bombarded with ads telling us to eat more, and that we are glued to our screens watching those ads instead of walking around our neighborhood.

All of these are known pathways to getting fat.

I know all of these paths, and I realize that what I’m suffering from is a brand new pathway.  I’ve discovered yet another force upon us that makes me eat too much.

Guilt.

Yes, you may nod knowingly.  Guilt is the icing on the holiday cake.

No matter your ethnic background or religious upbringing, there are few young women who can go through an entire holiday event without getting a dollop of guilt from her mother or mil.  Guilt is probably more of a tradition than turkey and mashed potatoes.

Now, here I was, being guilted into eating.  How?

You see, if I say too much or say the wrong thing, I’m screwed for weeks, perhaps years.

But if I keep stuffing my face and mumble things like “thish is deelishus” or “paff vu graffee” then it’s like getting a pass out of making conversation.

Even if I’m asked a tough question I have a way out.  For instance, my mil may ask if I like her new hair style.  I’ll just stuff more rib roast into my mouth and nod agreeably.

If I hadn’t been eating I probably would have said something really stupid like “I hadn’t even noticed” or “I thought it was a wig.”

We walk up the steps and into the room.  I’m greeted by incredible aromas and a glass of wine offered by my fil.

Guess which path I choose tonight?

Happy New Year!