HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #44

From Fandango:

“You’re probably familiar with this quote from philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist, George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.“ In a 1948 speech to the House of Commons, Winston Churchill changed the quote slightly when he said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.“

Or my favorite version of this particular saying:

“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” ― Michael Crichton

So, speaking about what you remember about the past or have learned from history, how would you answer this question:”

Achievement? By the human race?

Right now, I’m having a lot of trouble crediting the human species with any significant event. I suppose it depends on what you think is significant. Would it be something that makes a life for people better? Or for a specific part of the human species better? Even if that “advancement” decimates or destroys other important aspects of the world in which we live? Like, for example, when we learned to plow and created the Sahara desert? And eventually killed ever last living mastodon? Was that an improvement?

Or how about when we broke the sod in the west and created the Dust Bowl? You know all those westerns where the sodbusters are the Good Guys and the ranchers are the Bad Guys? You know — the ranchers were right. We destroyed the prairies.

How about the invention of the government? After the Black Plague, the central government that was created produced giant grain silos and thus managed to feed the starving people after the plague wiped out the serfs — aka, farmers.

So the central government enabled people to rebuild after the worst (known) 100 years of human life or at least the worst time we still know about. But the deep plowing of the soil essentially was the beginning of what we are now experiencing: the ending of the world as we know it.

Will we take from that lesson that few have understood and somehow avoid total annihilation? Shall we yet come up with a world in which we can all live? Not just the human race, but all creatures?

Was the world better when we foraged for food and hunted our meat? I suspect it was. Were humankind’s invention of the railroad, automobile, and the airplane an improvement or was it the beginning of our end?

Do I live with any substantial hope that we will find a way out of this disaster we are in and rebuild a world in which we can live at peace as a part of nature and not its murderer?

I don’t know. Do you know?

We aren’t going to live long enough to see the end result of this madness and I’m not sorry about that. I love this world with its birds and bunnies and squirrels and eagles. With its tigers and lions and the elephants that crush the crops — but they were here before me and they have the right to live, even when it makes our lives more complicated.

Doesn’t every living thing deserve the right to survive? And our grandchildren — do they deserve the right to survive too?

We came out of our caves as killers and so we have remained.

And here’s my answer:

The most significant thing we ever invented were weapons. Significant isn’t, after all, the same as “good.” Or positive. 

CENSORSHIP AND THE LIFE WE LIVE – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #42

It’s a good question for everyone to ponder these days.

There has always been censorship of some kind in every country as long as humans have been “civilized.” Its definition — or at last one of its many possible definitions is, “Censorship is the suppression of speech, public communication, or other information, on the basis that such material is considered objectionable, harmful, sensitive, or “inconvenient.”

Censorship can be conducted by a government, private institution, and corporations. Or by your local sheriff or lynch mob.

The question is:

There is some kind of censorship in every nation, every government and in nearly every business. Even if the big secret is “what ingredients are in the Coca Cola recipe,” it’s still censorship.

There is censorship to keep technology private. Censorship which aims to keep military movements undercover. In some places, religions force secrecy. No society is completely open. There’s always something — militarily, governmental, corporate, technological, religious, or personal that are forbidden to say aloud. Sometimes censorship is unwritten, but everyone knows about it. Sometimes it’s part of your professional contract.

Sometimes you just know what you should simply not talk about because if you do, something bad will happen to you or those you care about.

Issues like this don’t affect everyone. The business you are in, how well-known you are, what kind of profession you follow are part of the process. If you are a general in an army, most of your life is censored. If you are in the Mossad, or a television reporter, what you can say is by definition censored. In the United States today you can get away with anything if you are personally unimportant but can get away with very little if you share a spotlight on the big screen of life.

Does it affect me? Personally? Mostly not because I am not regarded as knowing anything worth censoring. I don’t belong to a corporate entity that is creating new technology or know anything about the government other than what I read in the news.

Garry has a lot of secrets and most of them — nearly ALL of them — he has never told me. I have pointed out that many of the people about whom he “knows stuff” are gone from this world.

“They have families,” he says and that is the end of the conversation. Reporters always have secrets.

So do I personally feel threatened as an individual citizen by censorship? Not at the moment. When I worked for Grumman I had a “top secret” legal rating and there were things I could not say to anyone lest I be imprisoned and fined. I worked in a “black building” and I hated it. I hated everything except those great bridge games at lunch. They were fun!

If I live long enough, this could change, but I think for most non-political, not military, and no, not a spy either? No one cares what we say because we don’t know anything and when you are low enough on the totem pole, nobody much cares what you say.

But if our world changes dramatically and for the worse, this could alter. I hope I’m not alive if it does.

THE EARLY GOLD OF AUTUMN – Marilyn Armstrong

The leaves have definitely begun to change! The aspens are bright yellow and there are edges of red on the maples. There is a hint of gold on al the leaves as if some painter was doing a watercolor and washed it with light golden amber.

And there were a bunch of Tufted Titmouses on the feeders this morning. Can the rest be far behind?

EVENTUALLY MAKES A LONG LIST – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP SATURDAY : Eventually

Be there anyone amongst us who doth not make lists.

Not all my lists are written, mind you. Some are mental. I have a wedding coming up. It’s a very big piece of my “eventually” list and includes:

      • Can we afford reservations anywhere?
      • Am I physically up to a long drive from Massachusetts to Virginia?
      • Is Garry up to a long drive from New England to down there?

These lists used to be smaller and I used to be better at approaching them. I always did things quickly — just to get done with them and not have to worry. Reservations are probably manageable — one way or the other. Probably the other. I really want to go to this wedding.

When I first knew it was happening, I promised myself I would find a way to make it happen. Which automatically put it on my primary “eventually” list. I did not count on how hard I would find just getting through a normal day. Or how exhausted I would be after even a minimal effort.

Why am I so tired? My back is badly broken and my heart is tired. The back is both broken and arthritic. It hurts. I have better medication than I used to, so that’s a good thing, but the heart is a whole other issue.

The heart is genetic and I never knew I had. Most people who have the problem are unaware of it until it kills them. I was lucky I discovered it before it killed me. I was born with it. Probably so was my father and for all I know, my mother too. I’ve already had major surgery to repair it which involved installing two replacement valves, an electronic (metal) Pacemaker, and surgery which remodeled the entire left ventricle and a bypass.

The problem was my heart walls continue to thicken. The walls become inflexible. It’s harder for the valves to work – which means my red blood cell count drops which probably explains why I’ve had problems with minimal anemia since I was a kid. So far, though, it has never dropped dangerously low.

Can I get there and enjoy it? Can Garry make it? He isn’t good with long drives anymore. He used to love driving. For that matter, I used to love driving!

There are a lot other eventually lists. I’m not sure I can take a long walk to take pictures. I finally use the chair lift because hauling myself up and down the stairs isn’t going to improve my spine or my heart. The heart will get worse until it stops working.  No one will redo the surgery. I figure I’ve got another five years if I’m careful and a little bit lucky. Maybe longer. They keep improving the technology, so maybe they’ll come up with a miracle drug — and it will even be affordable.

The way we were – September 15, 1990

But that’s not so bad, right? I’ve had a full life. Not a super long one, but not cut excessively short either. Eventually is the rest of my life. There is so much eventually waiting for me to get to it.

Sometimes, I think, “What if I win the lottery? Could I somehow manage to travel to Europe and see Paris?” When we hit our 25th-anniversary and I wanted to go to Paris because I always wanted to see Paris (though I think I wanted to see the Paris that disappeared 100 years ago), we didn’t go. If you can’t walk, what do you do in Paris? If you can’t walk through Versailles or the Louvre — or walk those cobblestone streets — what else is there to do?

We went to visit Ben in Arizona and that was actually fantastic. The dry heat improved my ability to breathe and my spine hurt a lot less. I don’t know if I could live in that kind of heat all the time, but winter in Arizona is heavenly.

All my eventually lists are waiting for me. Sometimes, I forget what’s on the lists and by the time I remember, it’s too late. This time, though, I have to deal with it. One way or the other, it’s on top.

BLASPHEMY! – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Blasphemy

Yesterday, or really the day before, I discovered yet one more “website” set somewhere in Asia is reusing a ton of WordPress and other copyrighted material on his/her/their website.

I’ve seen these sites before. I figure if they aren’t trying to sell pornography or illegal drugs, I might as well not worry about it. Because my stuff is all over the Internet and no amount of actual copyrighting or trademarking is going to stop anyone from using the material.

It annoys the hell out of me, but I’m not planning to use the material in a book, so it’s not a matter of “earning a living” and probably, after seven years of blogging, it’s a little late to worry about who is picking up my material to use on their  sites.

Why these sites thrive is completely beyond my understanding.

I did make a few changes to my site. Not that it will make any real difference. Some of these changes I wanted to make anyway. I removed the “reblog button” from my posts. If someone wants to reblog me, they can ask and I’ll let them, but in any case, the presence or absence of the click-button doesn’t make any difference. If someone wants to use the material, all they have to do it copy and paste it.

Essentially, WordPress talks a lot about security but offers none. Anyone can become a follower of any site without anyone’s permission. Anyone can reblog your writing and photographs for any purpose, no matter what official “advertisements” WordPress posts. The blasphemous, felonious, and illegal use of our material is damned near-universal.

So this is what — for whatever good it does — I have done. I removed the categories and tags, which I wanted to do anyway. All they do is make the screen busier. I dumped the reblog button which is just like putting up a neon sign suggesting whoever it is to copy our material.

None of these changes will stop anything. Short of giving up blogging, I’m already doomed and so is everyone else.

But I knew that anyway. The good news? My screen looks a lot tidier.

The bad news? Anyone who wants my stuff can use it and no doubt will. At least I’m old and not trying to make my living off this blog!

WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG? – Marilyn Armstrong

Mid-Week Word Prompt – Haywire

We have a guaranteed way of making everything go haywire. All you have to do is say the following words:

I absolutely guarantee should you speak these words prior to any planned event … the universe will conspire to prove exactly how much can indeed go wrong!

These are the “haywire” words. You should never say them and if possible, don’t even think them!

EXACERBATE — NOT THE SAME AS EXASPERATE – Marilyn Armstrong

Daily Word Prompt – Exacerbate – 06/18/19

A long time ago, when Garry and I still lived in Boston and both of us were working, we used to get both Boston newspapers delivered daily to our townhouse in Roxbury. I mostly scanned them and read Doonesbury, but Garry pretty much read both papers cover to cover, but always from the back to the front because the sports and entertainment were in the back. He was dedicated to the news in a professional way, but he was personally dedicated to sports and entertainment. So he started with the fun stuff and moved frontwards.

Happy kidneys

I was doing what I did for a living which was writing or editing manuals — or doing both — depending on the size of the project and how each job was defined. I was in “auto-correct” mode and often found myself unconsciously correcting errors in the newspapers. Usually, these were typos, misprints, incorrect tenses, or clumsy writing. I forgave most of it because people who write for the news — any news service be it TV, radio, or press — are under constant deadline pressure. They have to get it right and on time.

So there I was, reading the Boston Herald. Not my favorite newspaper, but it had better comics and a bigger sports section, which made Garry happy. The Boston Globe had better writers. Or, perhaps, they were encouraged to be better writers at the Globe, while the Herald prided itself on being “down to earth.”

There had been an unfortunate event. I think it happened during a police training camp for upcoming recruits. The weather was very hot and the training instructor refused to let anyone stop for a drink of water, even in nearly 100-degree heat.

One of the recruits had a kidney problem, unbeknownst to the drill sergeant and the heat and lack of water caused him to die of kidney failure. It was quite a scandal and it ultimately changed the way recruits are trained.

In the Boston Herald, they wrote: ” … and with the weather so hot, the young man’s kidneys, which were already damaged, became exasperated causing the recruit to die.”

Unhappy kidneys

I know it was a tragedy. Truly, it was. And I realized that this was probably an autocorret error. Autocorrect had decided the writer couldn’t possibly mean “exacerbated” and must have meant “exasperated.”

I had a sudden weird mental image of his kidneys throwing up their hands or whatever kidneys throw into the air and saying, “That’s it. I’ve HAD it. I’m outta here.”

The poor young man suffered from exasperated kidneys.

I’m not sure what the moral of the story is except if you are writing for the news, you should probably turn off autocorrect.