Feb 26

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home—Part 11

In Brief— The author’s experiences after the private elder care company took over management from the kommun. Privatization European-style.

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“I’m Mad As Hell…”—

Though there is now another vacancy, one empty room in our warehouse has now been filled. One of our number got off the train at her destination. The new occupant—I’ll call him Rikard—is a former coworker of Bengt whom you may recall sneaked off from these premises earlier. Rikard suffers from Parkinson’s. Thanks to Sweden’s hyper-cautiousness regarding cannabis, Rikard doesn’t get relief from his shakes and contortions, but the good news is that Bengt sticks around now.

But I digress. As suggested above, the new company that took over management on 1 October hasn’t worked out the wrinkles yet. When I wrote the kommun (copying everybody!) after being forgotten in early November, I complained inter alia that the new company was understaffed and unable to handle the load placed on the overworked and underpaid staff.

There was a flurry by company management who hastened to assure me that it would NEVER happen again and that there was the same personnel level that had been here before their arrival. According to what I hear and experience, that appears to be a fib. CYA as they say.

Finally, when one of the personnel complained to a harried company chief assigned here about the lack of adequate staffing she was told, …”We don’t have the resources for that.” When I asked if the union had been notified, I was told that the union did nothing to help rectify the problem.

[My cynical translation: As an observer of human nature, unions here in Sweden are in bed with management. Too much trouble to raise some dust. It’s easier to collect a paycheck and sit on the couch. I’ve heard this before from other sources both here and in America. What ever happened to unions?]

When I asked if I should write the kommun again, I have been requested to wait. Honoring that request, I’ve not yet written a letter to the kommun, but I didn’t promise not to express my ire on this blog.

As Howard Beale exclaimed in the movie “Network,” “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”

Whew! Other than that, things are pretty much the same around here. I take my exercise walk through the next department hoping that a cheerful wave will provide a small lift in some old folks’ day. I have my computer and friends to exchange thoughts. I have my little blog where this will sit in line waiting to go public. Seems as if I’m running dry these days, but I no sooner say that when two or three subjects pop into my mind begging for a surge of energy to prompt my hunt-and-peck memorialization of the subjects. And I have my reading which is often fed by a former teacher friend sending me Kindle books to read. All’s reasonably well with my limited world… not the rest of the world which is more screwed up every day.

Right now, I’m writing a fantasy—a fairy tale, so to speak.  I expect to post it following this piece.

So what’s new with you?

P.S. Since I posted this a month or so ago, the new company has improved conditions, but the lack of sufficient personnel persists. I’m told that this problem is being addressed, but I’m not holding my breath.

Oh, and as to that fantasy, you’re going to think it bears some resemblance to America, but remember it’s a fantasy.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on February 2014

Feb 19

Elegy for a Deer

In Brief—Memories of an autumn afternoon when a little deer came to die.

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Tears for A Little Deer—

unknownShe lay quietly next to the fence hard by the forest and the trail down the side of the hill. Nearby stood the feeder where the birds, squirrels and deer came each day to feed. Autumn’s leaves covered the ground where a cushion of sunflower seeds and shells waited expectantly for winter’s first snow.

She was a small deer, no bigger than a large dog. Her grey-brown coat showed no signs of blood while her long graceful legs appeared to be unbroken. As I looked out the kitchen window at the new arrival, she seemed calm, almost as if resting, but the thought crossed my mind that it was unusual for a normally skittish deer to be resting so calmly.

In an effort not to frighten her, I quietly approached murmuring low, calming reassurance. Her large, dark eyes followed me as if expecting a threat, but she made no move to flee. Gradually, she seemed to relax when she realized I intended no harm. I like to think now that she was merely curious.

A chill was in the afternoon air, so thinking that she might be cold, I went to the nearby garage and retrieved an old blanket. Returning, I gently covered her with the blanket, but she remained still watching me. That alone was unusual. I began to wonder what I should do.

At last, naively thinking that she would be well taken care of, I called Animal Control. In just a few minutes, a truck crunched up the gravel driveway. A man emerged and followed me to the little deer. He bent, looked at her and opined that she may have been hit by a car and made her way to a place of comfort to die. It would be better to put her out of her misery. Shocked, I pointed out that she showed no signs of being in misery. Rather it was as if she simply needed to lie quietly for a while and heal if, indeed, she was injured. Despite this, he turned and went to his truck.

When he returned, he held a small caliber rifle. I knew immediately what was intended. She watched him as if resigned to her fate, her big dark eyes following him. Frozen in horror, I watched him place the muzzle of the rifle near her forehead. It wasn’t loud. One shot brought forth a brief fountain of blood. This beautiful little deer was dead.

He gathered her little legs together and carried her like a rag doll, head lolling, to his truck… and he was gone. She was gone. I stood in disbelief at what had happened. Slowly, almost reverently, I gathered up the now empty blanket and returned it to the garage.

To this day, I wonder if I did the right thing or if I brought about her death. Sometimes, as now, the memory of that beautiful little deer creeps back to haunt me. It will until my last day.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on January 2014

Feb 12

Zealotry is Poisonous

In Brief— An examination of two aspects of society, Politics and Religion, and how the mixing of the two creates a destructive force.


A Deadly Recipe—

Mix one part Politics with one part Religion, add a human society made up of differing views and watch it boil until it spills out in turmoil. This is a recipe for disaster that now threatens America as it has other societies throughout history.

pence-zealotOn November 8, 2016, ignorant, frightened, xenophobic and racist voters put the profoundly ignorant and crude groper, Donald Trump, and his slick, handsome, Christian Sovereignty running mate, Mike Pence, in charge of arguably the most powerful nation in history.

Politics has been around for good or ill since our ancestors gathered into clans in pre-history. Politics is defined simply as organized control over a human community, particularly a state. Looked at carefully, it’s about the power to exercise control over the people. As I have said, that power can be good or it can be bad. Depends on the individuals exercising that power. The key word is ”power.”

Now, let’s look at religion. It’s been around at least as long as politics. Religious belief can range from relatively benign belief confined to the believer to, at the other end of the spectrum, zealous belief that the believer imparts to other credulous members of family or society. It’s at this extreme end of the spectrum that religious belief blends with politics. That’s what America has in vice president Mike Pence and his zealous fellow Christians.

A Look at Mike Pence—

Putting aside the crude groper in chief, Trump, take a look at the anti-female laws supported by Pence when he was the governor of Indiana as well as his zealous Christian beliefs.

  • Pence actively sought to ban Planned Parenthood in Indiana disregarding the organization’s positive record of contributing to women’s health, particularly their reproductive health. Before that, he opposed Planned Parenthood in congress.
  • Pence has stated that he wants to overturn the Supreme Court case of Roe versus Wade that guarantees women the right to an abortion. That would return America to the halcyon days of back alley coat hanger abortions.
  • As governor, Pence signed every anti-abortion bill that crossed his desk.
  • Pence opposes gay marriage and would overturn the Supreme Court ruling. He has said that equal marriage rights for gay couples will lead to societal collapse. Furthermore, he supports a constitutional amendment that would ban such marriages.
  • Pence signed a bill that would have required all fetuses, whether through miscarriage or abortion, be given a funeral. This law, greatly increasing reproductive health costs to women, was so extreme that it was blocked by a federal judge because it violated a woman’s right to choose.
  • Pence opposed a bill that would prevent discrimination against LGBTs in the workplace. And the list goes on and on.
  • What about Mike Pence’s religious beliefs? He has said that he is a Christian first, then a conservative and lastly a Republican. Pence is a Christian Supremacist, that is, he places his religion ahead of everything else. This is a blending of politics with religion on steroids, the very definition of a zealot.
  • Finally, what power will Mike Pence represent? After John Kasich reportedly turned down Trump’s offer to make him ”the most powerful vice president in history,” several sources including the reliable Truthout believe that Trump offered Pence the same power to handle domestic and foreign policy while Trump would handle ”making America great again.” According to reports in the New York Times, this is exactly what we see happening. Put clearly, Mike Pence is now the de facto president of the United States.

At the beginning of this piece, I wrote about the danger of combining politics and religion. The title of this blog post is ”Zealotry is Poisonous.” Mike Pence is both the vice president and extremely religious. Are you scared yet?

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on December 2013

 

Feb 05

Immortality, Yes or No?

In Brief—An examination of the age-old philosophical question of whether you would choose to live forever or die as normal mortals do.

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Is Everlasting Life Worth It?—

eternity-hourglass“Tuck Everlasting” is Natalie Babbitt’s thoughtful novel that raises the question posed by a fountain of youth that confers everlasting life on those who drink its waters.

Ten-year-old Winnie Foster meets the Tuck family who are frozen at the ages when they drank from the waters that bubble forth from a spring beneath an ancient tree in the forest. The youngest son, Jesse, prevents the thirsty girl from quenching her thirst. Telling her his unbelievable story, he urges her to wait until she is his age so they can be married and live forever in marital bliss. The rest of the family convince her of the truth of the little spring and their lives. Of course, there are complications, but the question remains: Would you choose everlasting life or not?

Questions Before Choosing—

  • Assuming immortality were possible and you could choose any age for yourself, at what age would you drink the elixir? Why?
  • Where would you choose to live? Country? City or rural?
  • Would you marry and whom? Children?
  • What would you study and what profession, if any, would you choose?
  • What political party would you choose?
  • Who would you tell?

Possible Positive Considerations—

  • You get to see how conditions and your predictions turn out.
  • Depending on your chosen age, you would presumably be at the height of your physical and mental condition.
  • You would be attractive to those interested in mating with you.
  • You could hone your skills and education making you more employable.
  • You would be impervious to death regardless of any risks you might take.

Now pause for a moment and consider how you answered each issue before you go on.

Reality Rears Its Ugly Head—

The above questions and possible advantages of immortality are by no means the only ones capable of being raised. Nevertheless, here are some aspects that might influence your answers.

  • Assuming you drank the elixir at any age of your choosing, if you were a child or an older person, remember you would be frozen at that age forever. Too young and you may not be of voting age or virile; too old and there are those aches and pains with you forever.
  • No matter where you chose to live, city or rural, your neighbors and the people where you bought stuff would begin to wonder why they were aging and you weren’t. The religious among them might even begin to think you had made a pact with the devil.
  • If you settle down with a partner and particularly if children come along, they would age while you stayed the same. This could drive a wedge in your relationships and would impact both you and them emotionally.
  • Should you keep the elixir a secret from your loved ones or friends? If you tell them, would they tell others? Might certain groups (e.g., the wealthy or privileged) want to hog the elixir for just themselves?
  • Would Earth become crowded by people who live forever and demand food and services?
  • Professions would be in less (or more) demand with the advent of technology, automation and political pressures. Your studies would vary according to the demands of the market.
  • Will the political party you choose change? Will the country of your residence become authoritarian or open?
  • Now remember that each aspect mentioned above is impacted by immortality.

In “Tuck Everlasting,” the father looks at a dead man with envy. Think about that.

I recall the story “The Country of the Blind” in which the narrator learns that his eyes are considered by the inhabitants of the hidden valley to be a curse. Is immortality a curse?

The moral to this exercise is that you should be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled  “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on November 2013

Jan 29

Love and Human Nature

In Brief—An exploration of what is meant by “Love” and its possible sources. Is it real or merely a transitory experience?


“Love is a serious mental disease.” (Plato)

stupid-love“I love you” may be the most common expression in the human repertoire, but its vagueness avoids some truths that are the core of human nature.

Love is said to be a strong emotional attachment that embraces commitment, selflessness and harmony. Wait a second! Is that true? Let’s examine that more closely in light of what we see around us every day and what our own lives reveal.

Views of Love—

Like life, thinkers through the ages have tried to define love. Religionists, philosophers, scientists, psychologists and others have taken a whack at it depending on their particular orientation, but few have been able to define it satisfactorily. Instead, I will look at this emotion from a realistic and some would say a cynical point-of-view.

Religionists and those claiming to be spiritual but not religious have their own takes on love. Religious people assert that God is love without realizing that if God is love, he has a strange way of showing it. The deity permits his creations to suffer and die without stepping in to stop it.

The “spiritual” adherents often talk in terms of using adversity to strengthen oneself. Gaining strength through suffering is their mantra. We might ask those suffering if they prefer their pain over their spiritual gain. You can also find the tarot card and Gaia crowd crowing about how “spiritual” they are.

Philosophers too often pontificate about the types of love: philia (brotherly love), agape (love of God), pragma (companionate or married love), eros (sexual love), philautia (love of the self) and storge (love for a child).

Scientists speak of love in terms of hormones, endorphins, oxytocin, serotonin, neurotransmitters, brain states and psychology. My view reflects this position.

Practical Situations—

It is said that true love is instantly recognizable and will last a lifetime with that one special person. If that is true, then how do you account for the young falling in love with one today, then next week another? How do you account for divorce? What about multiple marriages, most taking place in religious surroundings under the eye of the deity? ‘Til death do you part, and all that stuff.

Here are some interesting facts about love and marriage.

  • People married while young are more likely to divorce.
  • People who work in the same place are more likely to marry. The person in the next cubicle is a big attraction.
  • Roughly half of all American marriages end in divorce.
  • Divorce is more common where one’s parents were divorced. Other risk factors include, Youth, Limited education, Low income, Cohabitation, Religious differences and Insecurity of one or both partners.

So you don’t believe in marriage? Here are some facts about living outside of marriage, continued cohabitation, marrying later or separating.

  • Approximately three-quarters of American women below thirty have lived with a partner without being married. Some married their partner, some continued to cohabitate and about thirty percent separated. Continued cohabitation or multiple partners depend to a substantial degree on lower income and level of education.
  • Part of the issue is cultural. That is, people are not marrying as much these days. Traditions are changing.

So what does this have to do with love? Could it be cynicism about love? Could it be reality intruding? Could it be the current fad? Is love just a transitory state of mind? I believe it involves all the above, but mostly the latter.

Although I am only one among billions of humans and not necessarily representative, here is my history and my views. Every individual has a different history and view.

I have been married three times. Fortunately, it appears I paid attention and grew since the third relationship has lasted forty years. A couple of years of cohabitation with my present wife convinced me that this one was right (consider this: maybe I just got lucky). Despite coming from different cultures an ocean apart, our values were similar. We don’t subscribe to ownership of the other and, though we may disagree at times, we respect each other. Today finds us in a new phase of the relationship and we’re feeling our way. Still, it feels solid.

My first two marriages show that love is temporary. We were young and immature (I certainly was), but I sensed that the marriages didn’t feel right. I suspect that the women did, too. More importantly, it takes two to tango; that is, both of us contributed to the breakup. The results point to love being transitory.

I came from a family where, for two prior generations, divorce was common. That probably made it easier to end the relationships, but we seem to be better for the divorces…at least it was for me.

What is your view? Are you better off now after a divorce? Is your ex-partner better off? Why? Those readers who have made their marriages work, what is the relationship for you? Those who have remained single, Why? We’re all different, so share how it is for you.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on October 2013

Jan 22

Memories of My Parents

In Brief—Bay remembers his parents and the influences they had on him from childhood and adulthood.

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Does the Apple Fall Far from the Tree?—

For good or for ill, our parents not only endow us with their genes but provide the environment that helps shape us. Nature and nurture in concert.

real-memoriesOne question we have to ask ourselves is whether our parents set the pattern we follow or if each of us chooses his/her own path. In examining myself, I think it’s both, but one or the other will dominate. In my case, the person I have become is primarily determined by all the influences that have touched me since the time I was a kid. Once I tasted independence, the influences of my parents receded…but they’re still in there.

Being sent to a distant boarding school as a child allowed me to flex my self-reliance muscles, to depend on myself more often than not. It was a matter of survival. Although being sent to Santa Fe, New Mexico, was a life or death decision, I suspect it was also a convenience to my parents, particularly Mother.

Dad was a disappointment to his successful father who refused to employ him. Dad was often away scratching to make a living on his own. He became a lovable alcoholic who charmed the ladies. Mother was born to wealth and was farmed out to a strict Catholic boarding school by her rigid, controlling mother. She was meaner than a cornered badger and unfortunately contributed to Dad’s alcohol problem. That said, it was only natural that I would be sent to a Catholic boarding school in Santa Fe where her mother summered every year. I have always assumed that my grandmother suggested it.

This gives you some background that will add meaning to the incidents I will relate.

As a little child, Dad was disappointed that I didn’t want to rough-house with him. To him, that may have been taken as a rejection. I’m not qualified to psychoanalyze him, but I sense an echo of his father.

When bathing me as a toddler, Mother laughed at the sight of me. Rather than interpreting that as parental joy at her little boy, I have chosen to feel it was denigrating me. Is this too harsh or something else?

I’ve already related how Dad bought a toboggan for my sister and me, but Mother angrily insisted he return it. Maybe it was an economic thing, but I clearly recall that Dad was visibly deflated. Could he have refused?

The Vanishing Family Dogs—

When I returned from Santa Fe, my gentle dog Bouncer was missing. Before I left, he was my constant companion. When I asked, Mother evasively replied that he barked at the milkman and was mean. She conveniently forgot that just before I left, the milkman hit Bouncer with a metal rod. She simply wanted an excuse to get rid of him.

Poopsie was a cute and active little mutt. One evening at a party, Dad and Mother laughingly poured booze into his bowl which Poopsie lapped up. Incensed, I wrote a note and ran away. After sitting through the film twice, I decided that running away was not such a good idea and returned home. Angry, Mother wanted to punish me, but Dad defended me. No punishment for me, but Mother decided Poopsie must go.

While I was in the Army, Mother bought two elegant Afghan Hounds. Beautiful dogs, but Mother decided they were too mch trouble to brush, so they went.

Anger in Action—

Clipping away half Dad’s mustache while he slept. On the way home to Albuquerque after my army discharge in Arkansas, I stopped to visit Dad in Houston, the first time in years that I had seen him. Mother was angry that I visited Dad. Being slapped HARD when I quietly defended my sister’s position that her boyfriend not be forced to return to Kansas during the busy Labor Day holiday. Mother never apologized. Indeed, when mentioned a couple of months later, she said she didn’t remember the incident even though it caused me to abruptly leave for California. “Disowning” me because I held different political views and married a Swedish woman. Anger was Mother’s default emotion.

I have zero memory of Mother ever telling me she loved me. Dad, by contrast, told me he loved me. Although she lived only an hour and a half away and we repeatedly offered to drive her, Mother refused. Dad visited even though he lived halfway across the country.

These are just a few of the many instances of Mother’s meanness and anger. What a miserable person she must have been.

I have friends who loved their mothers, whose mothers were kind to us all. A friend once said that something should be added to the water until the drinker proved capable of being a good parent. Mother would have flunked.

It took several years after Mother’s death for me to accept that she simply lacked the tools to be a good parent. Today, I look in the mirror and recognize her genes. Some of the aspects of my personality that I admire come from her, but I neither like nor love her. She was simply my mother. Dad, however, is a warm memory.

I readily admit that being a parent is a hard and often thankless job. Unfortunately, time has not softened the jagged edges of my memories. Acceptance finally came, but reality mutes it.

On my wall hangs some wisdom from Illusions that your true family is your friends, not the family you grew up in. The friend who sent it is right.

What about your parents?

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15 blog for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not. The blog administrator will post any comment you choose to make in the current Comments and I will reply. Both will then be attached to the original piece regardless of when it was written.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on    September 2013

Jan 15

A Simple Reading Assignment

In Brief—A change from the usual approach to religion to one from an easy-to-read scientific point-of-view. It does require reading and looking at colorful illustrations, but it’s guaranteed to be painless and rewarding. And see the end of this piece when I introduce a new feature.


Simple Basic Facts of Reality—

dawkins-bookThis illustrated book of clear and simple-to-understand facts about Earth, nature and the universe is easy to read in just one or two days and replaces human myths with beautiful reality. It’s a detective story that’s filled with thought experiments that will engage you and light up the synapses in your brain.

The book is “The Magic of Reality” by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, and the illustrator is the famous and multi-talented Dave McKean whose drawings make clear the words written by scientist Dawkins.

Whoa! Lest you allow the author’s name to turn you off without reading what he has written suggests that erroneous preconceived notions lurk in your subconscious to poison your always inquisitive brain. Dawkins writes a charming book and McKean’s lovely images will doubtless win another prize. If I can be charmed, surely you will be too.

Not everybody has an e-reader like a Kindle, but if that is the case, check the book out at the local library or, heaven forfend, buy it as I did. Your local bookstore has it and Amazon offers it at low prices, but by all means, get one that has the colorful explanatory illustrations and pictures. The whole package is definitely worth the price of admission.

The Book’s Contents—

The book has twelve chapters starting with “What is Reality? What is Magic?” through chapters such as “Why are there so many different kinds of animals?” and “What is the sun? to “Are we alone?” and the concluding “What is a miracle?” Each chapter dazzles the reader with information and captures the imagination. You’ll feel like a kid opening anticipated presents on a special occasion.

This is a book that’s not to be missed. Do yourself a favor, get it and read it. You’ll be happy you did.

A New Feature: The Weekly Sampler.

  • Starting this week, you’ll find The Weekly Sampler. Go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured sampler.  Each piece for the chosen month will provide a thumbnail of the piece. The early pieces simply start with the first paragraph, but in later months the pieces settle into a rhythm of about four or five pieces per month. Then pictures started appearing after In Brief appeared at the top. The blog evolved!
  • If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue reading.” Lo and behold, the rest of the piece appears. When you want to read the next piece, simply use your cursor to swipe across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.
  • It’s up to you whether you reading all the pieces in the chosen month at one time or drag them out over the week. You have a week so don’t feel rushed. Next week will be a new Weekly Sampler. Subject matter will vary: Personal, Political, Religious, Animals, Books, whatever. Each piece is different, but you will know where I stand.
  • Don’t miss the Comments and my replies attached to each piece. Even though the pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not. My blog administrator will post any comment you choose to make in the current Comments and I will reply. Both will then be attached to the original piece no matter when it was written.
  • See how my thinking and the blog evolved.
  • And I won’t be angry if you tell two people that my blog is well worth reading. It’s almost as good as sex (Okay, so I exaggerate a bit). So much for the promotion.

Tune in today and every week to The Weekly Sampler. Enjoy!

The Weekly Sampler:  Go to the Archives. Click August 2013.

Jan 08

Call Me Lucky?

In Brief—The author wonders if he has been lucky or if there is more than luck going on.

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Luck or Circumstances?—

imagesAm I lucky that I am white? Am I lucky that I am an American? Am I lucky that I have a good education? Am I lucky that I have lived at the right time in history? Am I lucky that I have experienced good health throughout most of my life? Am I lucky that I have the friends I have?

These may seem like luck, but is it really good luck or is it more? Ralph Waldo Emerson has said, “Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” He has also said, “Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.” Others have said that it’s being in the right place at the right time. I think it’s more than this.

In looking back over my life, there have been occurences that could be labeled good luck, but after due consideration I believe there have been instances that weren’t luck. Here are some of them.

When I was a little kid, I liked to climb trees. The higher, the better. One day, high in a tree, a branch gave way. I was falling head down toward the ground. At the last moment, a thick branch struck my legs and flipped me over causing me to land on my feet. Luck?

When I was ten I ran in front of an unnoticed turning car. The driver didn’t see me, but I reached out, vaulted over the fender and kept on running. I was unharmed and the driver was no doubt swearing. Luck?

In my haste to catch an updraft, I launched my hang glider off the side of the mountain without paying attention to the straps that suspended me above the distant valley floor. To my horror, I discovered my error and gingerly, ever so slowly, placed the straps where they should have been before I took off. The flight continued without incident. Luck?

On another occasion about which I have written, the late afternoon lift turned into downdraft. I figured my only chace to avoid landing in the rubble below was to pick up speed in a shallow dive in an effort to reach the landing zone. It worked. I made it…barely. Luck?

After visiting the doctor for a suspicious spot on my chest, I was speeding down Santa Monica Canyon when I was pulled over by a motorcycle cop. In my ignorance over being told I had a simple basal cell carcinoma, I blurted out to the cop that I had just been told I had cancer and wasn’t paying attention to my speed. He paused, saw the look on my pale face, handed me my license and said, ”Slow down. You’ll live longer.” Then he returned to his bike. No ticket. Luck?

On my way home from San Diego and facing snails-pace slow-moving traffic, I pulled onto the paved apron and sped past the long line of cars. I was pulled over by a Highway Patrolman who told me I was traveling in an illegal lane. I explained and pointed across the grassy divider where numerous cars were speeding southward down the apron I had been on the previous day. The patrolman saw them, listened to my explanation and said, ”You can tell your friends you talked a Highway Patrolman out of a ticket.” Whereupon he got back in his car and I dutifully joined the slow-moving traffic file. Luck?

It is said that a person is known by the company he keeps. Essentially this means that people are similar in character to their friends. If true, then I have truly wonderful friends who have shaped the person I am. At a bare minimum, the individuals in my circle of friends are reflective of me and show that both they and I have good taste and discrimination in the folks we choose to hang around with. Certainly, my friends are thoughtful, kind, smart and add to the person I have worked hard to be.

Now, am I lucky or is it something else? In the fall from the tree, the circumstances of my fall were the governing factor. The lower branch was there regardless of my fall. Had been for years. Its presence was simply coincidence…and my good fortune. Luck? Possibly.

My carelessness in running in front of an oncoming car was compensated for by my physical speed and youthful athleticism. Luck had nothing to do with it.

My carelessness in the hang gliding incident was overcome by reasoning and caution. It was brains, not luck.

My ignorance and the compassion of the cop saved me from a ticket, nothing more. Luck? Maybe…

The San Diego freeway incident depended on my glibness, coincidence and a reasonable patrolman. Maybe I was lucky that the patrolman was working that day.

Luck, you say? Maybe it’s somewhere in the mix. What do you think?

 

Jan 01

All That Glitters Isn’t…

In Brief— A belated review of the slickly produced but potentially dangerous pseudoscientific documentary The Living Matrix. This is a reminder that the internet has lots of junk along with the good stuff.

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Slick and Potentially Dangerous—

As a preamble, I must point out that it has been shown that people tend to read material that fits their belief system. As a skeptic, I will generally accept only material that holds up to the legal and scientific standard of solid, reliable evidence.

stop-pseudoscienceA friend in LA occasionally asks my opinion on material that pollutes the Internet. Racists, Islam haters and other ignorant folks circulate baloney without questioning its authenticity. Of course, most of that material is crude compared to the slickness of The Living Matrix, the subject of this piece.

Despite its pseudoscientific content, I watched The Living Matrix in its entirety…twice! Slick production and it’s clear that they know how to manipulate Google’s algorithm to get their message dominant on the Internet.

That aside, the Living Matrix documentary has more than a little pseudoscience and is, to say the least, misleading and even potentially dangerous in a variety of ways. I suggest that before you invest your time, you check out what the skeptics have to say about The Living Matrix.

Notwithstanding the ample evidence, supporters will still say that this confirms their view that I am closed-minded. Bushwa! This simply confirms my willingness to get solid, reliable evidence before I accept material that too many folks accept without question. The day I start accepting without question the nonsense believed by many is the day I realize I have gone over the edge into cloud cuckoo land.

Here are some facts about Lynne McTaggart, the woman who’s a major part of The Living Matrix. She runs the What Doctors Don’t Tell You web site and calls herself a ”pioneer of medicine.” She is not a medical doctor, but a journalist and writer. The presumed goal of her web site is to provide “independent information on medicine’s dangers and the alternatives that work.” Instead, it denigrates proven medical treatments, emphasizes infrequent side effects and uncertainties and attempts to influence readers to accept what informed experts have characterized as ”quackery”. She even advocates that group meditation alone can affect the outcomes of experiments at distant locations. In short, hers is a strange world view.

In order to get a sense of the documentary, I did a random google search on some of the individuals who appeared in The Living Matrix. I learned for example, that Dr. Eric Pearl learned his waving hands healing energy method from a gypsy who told fortunes at Venice Beach, California. Pearl is best characterized as self-deluded.

Dietmar Cimbal, a German veterinary doctor and alleged biophysics researcher claims that birds are connected to ”the field” and change direction instantaneously when flying. In fact, scientific researchers have discovered that the change of direction is not instantaneous and relies on individual birds observing the moves of six or seven other birds and coordinating their direction change according to what they see. Cimbal’s theory is bad science…it’s pseudoscience.

Peter Fraser, uses speculation instead of relying on scientific research because there has been no scientific research supporting his ”field” theory.

Rupert Sheldrake, author, biologist, parapsychology believer in telepathy and advocate for pseudoscientific ”morphic resonance” has the unique distinction of having his fluke TEDx talk removed from TED’s roster of otherwise interesting talks.

Last but not least is Edgar Mitchell, former astronaut who is noted for his belief in flying saucers and ESP. Proof that simply being an astronaut does not mean that a person does not wear a tin hat.

Well, you get the idea. The Living Matrix is populated with men who hold some really odd beliefs about how the world and the universe works. Save your money and time. Don’t buy into the pseudoscientific nonsense peddled by the slickly-produced The Living Matrix.

All that glitters isn’t gold.

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Dec 18

‘Tis the Season to Donate

In Brief—Bay points out the necessity for ignoring the commerciality that smothers the real meaning of the season and spending your money on the worthy causes that can really make a difference.


“Ho, Ho, Ho!” Donations That Have Real Impact—

make-a-donationWe all need another tie or toy like we need water in our shoes. How many times have you smiled gamely at the giver and thanked her/him while thinking, “Oh, God! Not another gift that will never get used.” Well, here’s a solution.

For the past several years our family has agreed that we have enough “things” while there are folks who have little, who are sick, who fled their homes just to survive. We have made donations to worthy causes that address these needs and can always use more. You should do the same thing if you are not already ahead of us.

Here are organizations that can put those donations to use where they’re needed. These are the truly worthwhile organizations. I’ve also provided a list of organizations that are already receiving attention but don’t really need the money they receive. By all means remember them if you need to but give where it truly counts!

Worthy Smaller Organizations that Need Your Donations—

These organizations are just a few of those recommended as worthy causes by both Bay and the courageous journalist Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. Most of the groups listed are relatively small and all give considerably more bang for the buck than the big guys.

Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres)—This organization provides medical treatment to all comers in areas often in conflict zones. Their personnel work where other organizations fear to tread. As if that isn’t enough, they provide much-needed treatment to sick people throughout the world where poverty is the killer.

Reading is Fundamental—This organization provides free books to kids who live in poverty in the United States. It’s a way for children to advance in America’s unequal society.

American Civil Liberties Union Foundation—Despite what right-wing whiners trying to steal our rights may say, this organization is devoted to defending the First Amendment and our civil liberties. We’d be living in a fascist country if it were not for this group and others who value our freedoms.

Afghan Institute of Learning—Operated by Afghan and Pakistani women, this organization focuses on health and teaching and builds a foundation for a civil society.

Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee—Since 1972, this organization’s mission and efforts have been focused on turning poverty-stricken people into productive contributors to Bangladeshi society.

The Fistula Foundation—Operating in 32 countries throughout Africa and Asia, this organization provides surgery to eliminate the pain and isolation arising from a childbirth gone wrong.

GEMS (Girls Education & Mentoring Services)—In New York, young women who have been sexually exploited and trafficked learn solid gender-oriented principles in how to turn their lives around.

Partners in Health (PIH)—Focused primarily in Africa but with programs in other parts of the world, this organization works hard to improve the health of the poor.

Planned Parenthood—With the unexpected election of Trump, this organization devoted to women’s health is under great threat and needs both money and your support.

Truthout—This small online news organization publishes little-known news that’s ignored by mainline media. In an era of threat to press freedoms, this organization is needed more than ever.

In addition, Nicholas Kristof annually mentions overlooked organizations worthy of support. By clicking on the highlighted (light blue) area, you can check out organizations that are both effective and in need of donations to carry out their missions.

Organizations that have More than Enough—

The following organizations may be helpful, but they get more attention and money than the smaller worthwhile groups listed above. Why do these large groups get all the attention and so much money? They spend millions in advertising, they recruit mega-stars to advance their causes, they are enormous religious organizations. Less bang for the buck. They don’t need your donations to survive.

The Red Cross—Sometimes effective, sometimes not. Enormous advertising costs. Wasteful.

The Cancer Society—Both private and government support. Enormous world-wide research focus.

The Roman Catholic Church—The wealthiest organization on earth. Richer than the United States. Global reach and influence.

The Muscular Dystrophy Foundation—Worthwhile but heavily funded by the American government. Recruits mega-stars to promote contributions.

Your Local Church—By all means drop your small contribution in the basket they pass around every Sabbath, but be aware that your local church is part  of a wealthy religious organization.

I’ve just scratched the surface of the organizations that don’t need your contribution. There are others, but be aware that these groups have more than ample support while the smaller organizations above need your contributions to carry on their work.

Give Where it Really Counts—

However you celebrate the holidays, give thought to the small organizations that work to improve the lives of people less fortunate. Make a meaningful donation today.

Note—This piece will run for two (2) weeks because many readers will be involved in activities and travel during the holidays. I suggest you post this piece on Facebook and other social sites.

The next piece will resume on Sunday, January 1, 2017.  Be there or be square.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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