SHARING MY WORLD, SUCH AS IT IS – Marilyn Armstrong

Share Your World 1-8-2020

QUESTIONS:

Is ‘hello” enough for you these days?  (credit to Rory – https://aguycalledbloke.blog/2019/12/29/is-hello-enough-for-you-these-days/ )

I’m not actually sure what this means. I think I’m missing something. Let me put it another way: why wouldn’t “hello” be enough? Is there some cooler way to greet someone that I don’t know about? Should I text them first?

Do you believe in Murphy?   For those who aren’t familiar with Murphy, here’s a wee explanation:  Murphy’s law is an adage or epigram that is typically stated as: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”

Murphy is everywhere. Every profession has its own set of Murphy’s Laws, too.

Does evil come from within?  If so, why?

From Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’s “Good Omens”

I believe in evil. Just look at our current government. See those hoof prints?

If that isn’t evil, what is?

I think we all have a basic sense of right and wrong from a very early age and that our sense of “wrongness” is part of our DNA. We had a huge fight about this when I was in college. They had decided to let the leader of the American Nazi Party speak at our school and as far as I was concerned, it was evil. Wrong. Bad. The guys on the radio thought the concept of evil was too silly to even consider. I think they had no moral center

Are intelligent people more or less happy than others?   What defines intelligence?

My bottom line is the ability to grasp complex concepts quickly and easily. Pretty much all the people I know are intelligent, but some of them are absolute geniuses. But not at everything. Geniuses usually have a specific thing that they understand better than everything else. Like physics. Or astrophysics. Or medicine. Or computer development. I don’t think anyone is a genius at everything.

I’m very smart, but I still can’t change the ink cartridges in my printer. Or get my head behind how my smartphone works. I could probably figure it out, but first I’d have to want to figure it out, which apparently, I don’t. I suppose I could also change the ink on my printer, but I refuse. I don’t do printers or copy machines.

Are intelligent people happier? I can’t imagine NOT being intelligent, so I wouldn’t know. Happier than who? And under what circumstances?

Gratitude

This is not a good week for gratitude, so let’s leave it with being glad enough that we are alive and have a home in which to live. I’m personally terrified of the fires and the destruction of humans and wildlife in Australia — so it’s hard for me to feel particularly positive. I’m trying. Just not succeeding.

PROVOCATIVE QUESTION #43 – WHO AM I? WHO ARE YOU? – Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #43

Fandango’s question this week is nature versus nurture, a frequently asked but never entirely answered question. I was personally firmly in the “nurture” camp for many years. I simply didn’t see how our genetics could be responsible for so much of our behavior.

The question:

Over the years, I’ve done a lot of studying about this and it turns out that much more of “who we are” is based on our genetic makeup than on our “training.” Training is like a very thin shell. It tells us how to behave. How to act in a social situation.

This shell doesn’t tell us who we are. That thin exterior aspect of us is personality while inside,  the yolk and the white are mostly DNA and genes. We may “act like” one parent and “be” like another. Our “guts” so to speak are powered by a double helix which defines our intelligence, our bones, our muscles, our ability to focus, our tenacity, our ability to deal with pain. Our willingness to put up with disappointment and failure. Stubbornness. Flexibility. The speed at which our minds work. The shape of our heart and our immune system.

These aren’t things we define as “personality,” but they are the fundamentals that make us who we are. We can look like anyone in our family tree and BE nothing like them. We can BE just like them and look entirely different.

No, I didn’t want to believe it either, but study after study after study has shown the same thing: the “face” we show to the world is mostly nurturing, but what is inside us is almost entirely nurture. You don’t have to argue the point with me. All those studies are available online these days.

Talent tends to be inherited. Our willingness to fight for what we believe is handed down. It may not “look” the same, but functionally, is IS the same.

Too confusing?

I’m confused too, but over the years I have come to believe it. Even when I don’t like what it tells me is true. Even when the resemblance is to someone I don’t much like and who I would like to not be associated with.

As for elaboration, I got a lot of my mental tenacity from my father, who I loathed and I got absolutely none of my mother’s ability to enjoy sports. My mother was very physical, very active, very ‘just do it.’ I’m almost the exact opposite — except mentally, maybe.

I was nothing like my brother, except if you scratched the skin, we were very similar. Different manners, similar reasons for being who we were. My sister and I were nothing alike, but we had the identical voice and vocal patterns.

Our helix is very complicated and we carry strong inherited traits often from very long ago. Nothing is ever simple.

ONLY OLD PEOPLE WATCH CABLE NEWS – BY TOM CURLEY

I watch way too much cable news. Which is odd because I don’t really like the news. I worked for CBS News for over 40 years. I had to watch the news. I was making the news shows. It was my job.

If I had a choice, I would rather watch the cartoon network  But now I watch cable news all the time. I seem to be morbidly fascinated with the steady decline of America and what the ass-hole-in-chief did today.

I have noticed one interesting thing. Well, interesting to me.


Only old people watch cable news.

How do I know this? Simple. The commercials. They’re the same. Fox, MSNBC, CNN and for the most part CBS, NBC, and ABC.

By “all the same.”I mean the same advertisers. They break down into a few categories: drugs, medical products, drugs. Medicare supplement plans, drugs. Life Insurance and annuities, drugs, walk-in bathtubs, stair lifts and, oh yeah, drugs.

Every last one of them is depressing as hell. Most of them, I simply don’t understand.

Let’s start with a drug supplement that is supposed to help your brain think better. Why does it make your brain better? Well, they proudly tell you it’s because of an ingredient found … wait for it… in JELLYFISH!

Yes, jellyfish.

Because, you know, when I think of something that involves brains and intelligence, the first thing I think of is a jellyfish! Billion-year-old multi-cellular organisms who float in the ocean waiting for food to become entangled in their floaty dangling tentacle-like thingies. Also, they have no brain.

Then I got to thinking about it and maybe I have it all wrong. Maybe jellyfish are the most intelligent, intellectual philosophical thinkers on the planet. You know, like those advanced omnipotent species that show up on Star Trek.

I mean, what else do they have to do all day? They just float around.

JELLYFISH 1: I think, therefore, I am.

JELLYFISH 2: Free will is an illusion.

JELLYFISH 3: Hey! Some food just bumped into my tentacle thingies!

Next, reverse mortgages.

This is where if you own your house you can sell it back to the bank. They pay you a monthly payment until they buy your house back. Then you have no place to live. So, you’re betting you die before you become homeless. And older.

Is that a bet you want to win?

Then there are all the companies that want to buy your life insurance policy. The pitch goes something like this: “We needed more money for our retirement. We found out we could sell our life insurance policy. Now we are set for life.”

UNTIL ONE OF YOU DIES and the survivor has no life insurance to collect and live off of!!! Isn’t that the reason you bought life insurance??

Isn’t that what happens when the person holding the policy dies??

I guess you could room with the guy who just became homeless. Except, oh yeah, he doesn’t have a home.

Then there are the catheter commercials almost always being hawked by a guy who looks like a middle manager for an insurance company.

Actual catheter guy. And they all have the same mustache.

They all start out with the guy saying, “I don’t like pain when I cath.”

WHAT? Are there people out there who like pain when they cath? And when the hell did “cath” become a verb?? If you don’t know what a  catheter is, Google it. I’m not going to explain it.

Having said that, here’s a true story.

Back when I was a college freshman I worked as an orderly and an ER technician for a hospital. One of my jobs was catheterizing patients. I had only done the procedure on old guys who were unconscious or in a coma.

One day the head nurse gave me a cath kit and told me to do it to a 45-year-old wide-awake guy who was being prepped for surgery. I walked in the room and said I had to catheterize him. He asked me what that was. I explained it to him. When I finished there was a really long pause. All he said was, “You gotta be kidding me.”

It was at that point I realized that:

    1. I had never explained the procedure out loud to anyone before. And —
    2. He had a point. 

So I went back to the head nurse and said “Not doing this one. You’re on your own.”

Finally, drug commercials.

Lots and lots of drug commercials all of which are incredibly annoying because they take a beloved song from my youth and pervert it into shilling their drug. They all tell YOU to ask your doctor if whatever drug they’re selling is right for you.

Shouldn’t your doctor already know that? If he doesn’t, have you considered getting a new doctor?

Here’s the main take away from all drug commercials.


DON’T TAKE ANY OF THESE DRUGS!!!

For God’s sake, listen to the list of side effects they describe in each of them.

        • Explosive diarrhea!
        • Sudden stroke!
        • Sudden death!
        • Rectal itch!

There’s actually a commercial for an anti-depression drug where one of the side effects is suicidal depression!

The drug side effects are worse than the disease you’re trying to treat. Except maybe for the one with rectal itch. I just don’t remember what disease it was treating.

So, to all you young folks out there. If you want to see where your life is going to end up, watch a cable news station for a day.

Me, I think I’m going to go back to watching the cartoon network.

WISDOM VERSUS INTELLIGENCE? Marilyn Armstrong

Fandango’s Provocative Question #2


Okay. First, is there a difference? Isn’t wisdom something intelligent said by a white-haired old person sitting near a hearth fire? Or a casual comment from a kid translated by grown-ups to mean a lot more than it meant.

I read a bunch of definitions of the difference between intelligence and wisdom and basically, it boiled down to intelligence is using wisdom intelligently.

I think you can’t be wise until you turn 70. Certainly not before 60.

Can a child be wise? A child can say something that we interpret as wise, but wisdom from children isn’t wise because it isn’t intelligently thought out — unless we have some kind of super-genius child hanging around. We can act like it’s wise, but the kid didn’t think it was wise and likely doesn’t understand the concept of wisdom.
This reminds me of the Peter Sellers in “Being There.” He’s actually simple-minded, but everyone is convinced he’s very wise. They misinterpret everything he says and they are, by the end of the movie, ready to elect him president. If you haven’t seen the movie, see it. It’s eerily relevant and not in a good way.

I am not wise, but I’ve got a very smart ass. I think it’s possible Garry is wise. I’ll have to ask him when the next commercial break comes on.

WHEN DENIAL IS YOUR BEST DEFENSE – Marilyn Armstrong

Denial: When refusing reality is as good as it gets.

From dumbest to smartest, no one is exempt from it. In fact, I think that the smartest of us are the most clever at making denial seem perfectly rational. We combine denial with massive rationalizations to create an alternate reality that others may actually believe. If you write it down, it’s called “a novel.”

I went through that with each dog, each cat, my need for (and months of) rejected heart surgery. I went through denial when my brother, mother, and first husband each were dying.  Ultimately, with each person, I took a mental cold shower and did what needed doing.

There are times when denial is your only defense against an intolerable reality, between life and death. But it needs to be temporary. Reality has a nasty habit of intruding on even the finest construction of denial. Reality has an attitude while denial is thin and translucent.

In small doses, a little denial can go a long way to soothe a frantic soul — as long as you have a fundamental understanding you’ll have to face reality soon enough.

None of this applies if you are extremely wealthy and can comfortably retire to a distant, yet somehow perfect island in a faraway sea. In fact, I think a lot of our top one percenters live fully in denial.

Problems? What problems?

REBELLIOUS? – Marilyn Armstrong

WHAT’S A REBEL? AM I A REBEL? ARE YOU?

I was never consciously a rebel, but I was definitely “different.” I’m pretty sure the difference  was books.

I read a lot of books. If you couldn’t find me, I was probably hiding somewhere. With a book. Rain, shine, sun, or snow — I read books. I read books intended for grown-ups long before I was “ready” to read them. Once, the librarian tried to prevent me from reading adult books and my mother came and tried to eat the librarian for breakfast.

After that, I could read whatever I wanted. I read ten to twelve books a week and if school hadn’t interfered with my reading program, I’d have read more. Sometimes, my mother took the books from my hand and shoved me outside. So I also jumped rope and played tag and built weird “houses” out of old crates and whatever junk we could find on the streets.

Because I read, so did my friends. Just as bad habits are contagious, sometimes, so are good ones. We were a group of completely outlandish friends who were friends only because we all lived in a strange part of town and were the only kids in the area.

Two girls attended the local Catholic school, the rest of us — a bunch of miscellaneous Jews, Lutherans, and non-believers — read books. We used to have contests with questions and answers — sort of personal trivia — about the books we read.

Of this crowd of kids who basically had nothing in common, everyone (except me) got either a Ph.D. or a Masters … and none of us really fit in anywhere. We used big words — always something that makes you an outsider in most schools — and we all wanted to be something. We got a psychologist, a Director of a NY school district, two college professors … and me.

We were different because we read books and books gave us ideas. They weren’t — apparently — like the ideas everyone else had. Maybe they were ideas others had and dismissed.

Is that really what a rebel is? Someone who has different ideas?

The official definition is:


REBEL

noun
1  –  A person who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or ruler, e.g. “Tory rebels”
Synonyms: revolutionary, insurgent, revolutionist, mutineer, insurrectionist, insurrectionary, guerrilla, terrorist, freedom fighter.

verb
reˈbəl (Accent on the second syllable)
2 – To rise in opposition or armed resistance to an established government or ruler. E.g., “the Earl of Pembroke subsequently rebelled against Henry III”

Synonyms: Revolt, mutiny, riot, rise up, take up arms, stage/mount a rebellion, be insubordinate as in “the citizens rebelled.”


I’m not insurrectionary or any kind of freedom fighter. I have had some unconventional ideas, but ideas don’t make me a rebel. Not being the same as everyone else is — or wants to be — is not revolutionary.

Having unique ideas is just “thinking for yourself.” It’s something we should all do. No one can manipulate you if you do your own thinking.

Why Incompetent People Think They’re Amazing

How competent are we? Are they? Are any of us? Do we want to know?

ScienceSwitch

Research suggests that we’re not very good at evaluating ourselves accurately. In fact, we tend to overestimate our own abilities. Psychologists call this phenomena – the Dunning-Kruger effect.

THIS IS COOL. I WANT TO LEARN SOMETHING ELSE, TOO!

Video via – TED-Ed
Further Readings And References @ Sparkonit, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Pacific Standard

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SPYING

So I’m looking through my news feeds again — there are so many these days — and I come upon Daily KOS. I like them. They are pretty accurate and mostly, they write well. Of course they are always out for donations, but everyone is. And there’s the headline:


Marilyn, on Thursday the House voted to reauthorize section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which is a “backdoor” to allow the U.S. government to spy on citizens. This section is the basis for the NSA’s largest domestic surveillance programs, which serve as an end run around the Fourth amendments prohibitions on unreasonable search and seizure of citizens.

We don’t have much time. The House has already passed this bill. The Senate vote is scheduled for January 16, right before the current FISA authorization sunsets on January 19. If you care about protecting your rights to privacy–free from government interception– please use the link below to contact your Senators immediately. 


I’m walking around laughing. This is just the most recent invasion of our privacy. This month, the government. Next month? Cable news? Google? Windows? I don’t know who it will be, but it will be someone. They are all spying on us.

But our government spies on us more than anyone else and they are never going to stop. You knew that, right?

Last night, when we were tucked into the most comfortable bed in the world, I said to Garry, “Can you think of any government anywhere, or any time in the history of humankind, during which governments have not spied on their citizens or subjects?”

He honored me with a thoughtful few seconds before answering (or maybe he was just twiddling with the remote control). “Nope.”

And I said “I think the way it works like this. We invent heads of state. Kings, presidents, emperors, whatever. Then they invent a special police force to keep an eye on us. The only thing that changes is technology. And the quality of the dungeons.”

“Yup.”

“I think it’s a mistake to try and monitor all those emails and phone calls. I mean, they are just going to be buried under data. Lots of jabbering kids yakking with friends, people arguing with customer support, and boring conversations by people like us. We never say anything interesting on the phone. We hardly talk on the phone at all. Our email is pretty dull too.

“Yup.”

Traffic cameras in Brookline

Americans have an ongoing need to be outraged. It’s our thing.  We require a constant level of civic hysteria. Scandal keeps ratings up and gives talk show hosts something to joke about. It gives liberals and conservatives something to accuse each other of doing, even though every administration has done pretty much the same stuff and always will.

Spying never gets old.

Possibly the only traffic camera in our town. At least the only one I could find.

Nothing will change. Governments spy on citizens. Citizens are outraged. The outrage is ignored. Everyone moves on, until it comes up again.

I remember Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover. I know there are traffic cameras tracking me everywhere, even out here in the country. If anyone is looking for me — or you — I’m sure they’ll have no trouble finding us. My government spies on me. Corporations spy on me. Everyone collects my personal data and uses it without my permission.

Fedex truck on Aldrich Street

No cameras here. No streetlights, either. That’s how you know you are in the country!

It’s the price I pay for being connected and computerized. I suppose I could go live in a cave where no one would find me (is there such a place?), but what fun would that be?

Spying on citizens is as old as government. It will never end. You knew that too, right?

RACHEL MADDOW AND CABLE NEWS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I never used to watch 24 hour cable news. But after Trump’s election, I started watching The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC at 9 PM weeknights. I love this show because it has a different format and purpose than most other cable news shows.

Rachel Maddow talks directly to you for much of the show. She rarely has more than one guest at a time and there aren’t that many guests throughout her hour. This in itself sets her apart from the other cable news hosts. She sees her job as explaining and digesting key news items of the day for her viewers. She tells her chosen stories of the day with lots of background and perspective, both historical and political. Some hours are totally dedicated to unraveling and illuminating the complexities of just one story. She starts at the beginning and brings you up to date with the complete story, boring details and all.

Sometimes you don’t quite know where Rachel is going on a story and then suddenly, what she’s saying clicks with something in the news today and the light bulb goes off in your head. Rachel will then explain the significance of today’s facts and evaluate the importance of the information. She makes sense of the barrage of information we are being inundated with on a daily basis.

You end your hour with Rachel feeling that you actually have a handle on what’s going on, at least regarding whatever stories she has covered. I find that I often can help friends understand some issue by imparting some of the wisdom I have absorbed from The Rachel Maddow Show. Friends are grateful for their new-found understanding and look at us like we are founts of wisdom. It’s not us. It’s Rachel.

Lately I’ve started watching other shows on MSNBC, my chosen cable channel. I don’t find them as satisfying as Rachel Maddow. But they do serve a more general purpose. They just report on whatever is happening or is in the news at the moment. They often use interviews with multiple people in those little boxes on-screen. The experts and/or pundits explain different versions of the story and offer different opinions about it. Often there is shouting involved.

Other MSNBC show

There’s nothing wrong with that. Very little in this world is simple or clear-cut. There is a place for the two-sided, “he said/she said” news presentation. Most of the print news I read is presented this way too.

For me, there’s something about how Rachel Maddow presents the news which I find very clarifying. After her shows, I feel like I have a better grasp of the material she covered. I don’t always feel that way when I read or watch other sources.

I find so much in the media to be confusing and uncertain, as well as unbelievable. I’m grateful for every bit of clarity and comprehension I can get. I thank Rachel Maddow for giving me an hour a day of sanity in the middle of the information storm in which we live today.

BRILLIANT BUT NO LONGER FORLORN

Yesterday was a day for sadness and being forlornly. It was a day for mourning the loss of our dearest, the end of jobs, marriages, pets — and a shot at the World Series.

Today, because we bounce from word to word with the energy of one of those magic super bouncing balls, we are brilliant.

I am personally brilliant. I know this because at P.S. 35 in Queens, New York, I got a look at my I.Q. score which was so ridiculously high, it made me feel inadequate about the entire rest of my life. Discovering you are supposed to be a genius when you are ten can ruin the rest of your life.

All the other geniuses with whom I went to elementary school and thence Junior High, High School and eventually, college, became doctors and physicists. They studied law, became judges. At the very least, they made oodles of money. A few wrote novels … the kind that get published by actual publishers. A couple became Rabbis and others became Deep Thinkers and got jobs as professors where deep thinking comes with a salary and benefits.

I, on the other hand, messed around. I worked, but work never was my central thing. I wasn’t ambitious in any properly American sense of the word. I never expected to be promoted. I was surprised that I got paid so well. I might not have been ambitious, but I was really good at what I did, which was write the crap out of anything technical or sort of technical. Whether it was an article for publication or a manual for users, I wrote it and made sure anyone with half a brain could understand it. And I got paid to do it, which was nice.

Unfortunately, being the least corporate person on Planet Earth, I never got to work for the big companies where they did cool things like provide a pension. I worked for venture capital companies where someone had pitched a great idea and gotten the money to start a company. The companies inevitably lasted exactly as long as the money. When initial funding ended, they fired everyone who wasn’t a family member.

The owners went bankrupt which didn’t mean they were out of money, but rather that they reorganized and restarted under a new company name while the rest of us went job hunting.

So brilliant? Maybe, but what exactly does brilliant mean? It is no guarantee of success in the world. Brilliant may give you ideas and concepts, but it doesn’t necessarily give you business acumen or the kind of diligence you need to make an organization successful … or even make your own financial life a success. I am proof of how brilliance on an I.Q. test is just that. Great at taking tests … but as for the rest of life? That’s a different game entirely.

Yet — I’m a hell of a Trivial Pursuits player and I can write. I can even take pictures. And I can talk you to death. That’s sort of brilliant … isn’t it?

WILLOW’S FEARFUL QUESTION & MY IRRESPONSIBLE ANSWERS

Willow has posed some fearful questions. It was more than a week ago, but I saved them because usually, I don’t do this stuff … but these are interesting. So here are the fearfully interesting questions. My answers may not necessarily be equally interesting answers.


Fearful questions

It’s been a long time since I’ve asked questions, and I had these floating around in my mind. So anyway, I had some questions about how you, dear reader, deal with fear, or maybe the unexpected, in your world. There aren’t that many of them.  But maybe you might find the them interesting…

Do you now, or have you ever, looked behind a closed shower curtain before using the bathroom?

No. Not even immediately following watching Alfred Hitchcock.

Do you look in your back seat — or taking it further, under your car — before getting in to drive?

Not since I got back from Israel. In Israel, however, you were warned to always make sure there wasn’t a terrorist hiding in your back seat so sometimes, I checked. Mostly, I forgot. I never entirely made the leap from American trustfulness to middle Eastern paranoia.

Do you have a safety ritual before going to bed at night? i.e. checking the doors, windows, locks, or setting an alarm.

Nope. There’s stuff I do. I close the curtains in the bathroom so the morning light won’t wake me up at dawn. I take the telephone off the charger and move it closer so I can grab it without a long stretch, although recently, it has stopped waking me up early in the morning. The scammers, spammers, and survey takers have finally stopped calling me first thing in the morning. Oh, the joy of it!

When you leave your house or car, do you check the locks more than once, or are you satisfied that you’ve locked the door the first time?

I forget to lock the house. It’s a country thing. But also, there’s a logic to it. This is a pretty old house. Getting into it would not be exactly difficult for anyone who really wanted to do it. It was why my husband never locked his convertible. If they were going to break into the car, please DON’T slash the top. Just open the door. It’s expensive to fix the top.

When we lived in the condo in Boston, we locked it … but the city is a different place.

Do you answer your phone if you don’t recognize the number? Why or why not?

No. I used to, back when calls were real people calling about something. But over the years of the robo-caller, I gave up. We have NOMOROBO and it interrupts most automated calls before the second ring. IF it rings twice, it is probably at least a human on the other end, or an identifiable number — doctor’s office or the pharmacy are automated calls, but we do get them. We don’t get the survey takers, the fake charity organizations, the scamming organizations who tell you you’ve won something and just want your personal information to steal your identity or, for all I know, your life.

In what setting — urban/suburban/rural — would you feel the least comfortable walking alone? Does the time of day matter?

I used to walk alone through the old city in Jerusalem in the middle of the night. It was the most dangerous city in the world — and also, one of the safest. Terrorists weren’t looking for me. They had specific goals and a woman alone was not a target. Boston? It depended on the number of alleys along the route. I have always been suspicious of alleys, especially at night. Alleys are unlit — and people hide there.

I don’t walk out here. We live out in the country. No sidewalks. Twisting roads and cars that drive much too fast. Even during the day, I’m sure someone is going to run me down on my own road … or even while I check the mailbox. I am not afraid of being attacked by a person, but I’m very afraid of being run down by a car or truck.

If you found yourself walking alone, would you avoid small groups of suspicious-looking people? How about a singular suspicious looking person?

I avoid groups of teenage boys. They scared me when I was a teenager and they scare me now. They are big, full of hormones, and mentally unbalanced by extreme youth.

Do you have a plan or way to determine if someone is following you or if someone is just walking behind you? What would you do if someone started following you?

No. Really, no I don’t. Sheesh.

What would you do if you notice the same car driving behind you for a significant period of time?

Probably not. I am clearly insufficiently suspicious.

If you drove up to your house and the front door was standing open though you clearly remember closing and locking it, would you go inside?

If there was no car in the driveway, I’d probably race in to see if the dogs were okay!

Driveway with shadows

What would you do if you drove up to your house and found a stranger there, clearly waiting for you to come home?

Who would do that? Why? We have no money, no political connections. We aren’t cops. We aren’t important. We are old and basically, poor.

Do you have plans in place for emergencies (fire, flood, etc.)? Have you ever had to use them?

We should. But we don’t. We talk about it, though. One of these days, I’m sure we’ll do something about it. Maybe.

Do empty parking lots/parking garages make you nervous?

Yes. Because if the parking lot is empty, the place is probably closed and I’m there on the wrong day.

Do you tend to forward emails/messages that urge people to beware of this, that, or the other thing, or is Snopes.com (and similar sites) your friend?

Snopes is my pal. I forward jokes. I forward really great photographs, blogs I really like, and anything that makes me laugh a lot. Also well-written articles and information of historical note. But I always check to make sure that it is legitimate. You should too. Please, do NOT forward fake news!

If you have a dog, or dogs, and they start barking at nothing you can see, does it make you anxious?

If it made me anxious, I wouldn’t have dogs. They bark at nothing constantly. Squirrels? Birds? A noise from another house? Or just because they feel like barking? Dogs bark. At nothing. Often.

Do you close your curtains at night?

I don’t have curtains. But we also live so far from anywhere, no one can see anything.

How do you feel about the state of humankind in general?

I find human beings depressing and I am often embarrassed to BE a human. I am also deeply disappointed in my country, our political process, and people I really thought knew better. I am horrified at the awful things we do to each other, to animals, to the earth and the air and the water. I expected better from us and I hope with all my heart we improve in my lifetime.

DANCING BETWEEN THE RAIN DROPS

BETWEEN THE RAINDROPS — SURVIVAL DANCING


When Garry said it, it meant he was on the air live, had absolutely no material written and no one had told him anything … and he had to keep talking — intelligently — for as long as the station kept the mike open and cameras rolling. I once watched him dance through the raindrops for almost an hour on a runway at Logan Airport while waiting for one or another President to arrive. This kind of thing happened to him at least once a week and on a busy day, could happen several times in various locations. He was better than most people at doing the dance. They don’t give Emmy’s for it, but they should.

For me, it meant writing about something — intelligently — about which I knew essentially nothing, but I had five days to turn out 500 pages to meet a deadline. I got hired for a lot of jobs like that because I was really fast. I could write about pretty much anything if someone could give me an overview of what the product was supposed to do, for whom it was supposed to do it … and someone else would produce screen dumps for me because 500 pages, including book formatting and readying for press, is a lot of work even if you work very fast. I got paid well for the work and I deserved it. In the tech doc gig, they don’t give prizes … but earning a living is a prize. It’s not glamorous, but it has its moments.

I remember riding down the elevator at Channel 7 with Garry, on our way home. The anchor came on. He’d had a difficult show because they’d given him the wrong script. He had to wing a couple of stories. In other words, no script. Nothing to read. You’d never have known what was going on unless you were in the studio and realized he had no script. He never lost a beat and when the commercial came on, they gave him a script and an apology. He looked at Garry and said “Let no one say that I cannot dance between the raindrops!”

From teaching kids who have no interest in the course you are supposed to be presenting, to giving a speech when the audience isn’t buying it, to standing in the middle of a major catastrophe while trying to explain to the watching world — when you’re working without a script or a producer and all you have to go on is your experience. When the rain is pouring down, that’s when you find your tap shoes.

We all learned to dance between the raindrops. Remarkably, our bosses never recognized how good we are. Never noticed or said thank you because we’d done a lot more than they ever paid us to do. We got no awards or raises for being able to perform the impossible. The best we got was from our peers. “Good job,” they said and that meant something. Sometimes, it meant everything.

We are amazing, aren’t we? Let’s clap for ourselves. Let’s tell each other how good we are. Because damn it, we deserve it.

GENIUSES? WHY AREN’T THEY RUNNING THIS WORLD?

On a day when my “lead” story is ARE PEOPLE REALLY THAT STUPID?, it figures the Daily Post would have “genius” as the word of the day.

There are some very smart people in my world. Geniuses even. 

Why aren’t they running the world instead of the morons who actually ARE running it? If anyone has a sensible answer for that, please let me know. Otherwise, please see my lead story of the day.

The flat earth — according to Terry Pratchett


The world is not flat.

Vaccinations prevent plagues, the pox, and infantile paralysis — and much more.

9/11 was not a conspiracy.

We really did land on the moon.

We are not creating hurricanes using laser beams with the intent to “gain control” of “The People.”

Climate change is real and has been scientifically proven (repeatedly).

Drilling into the core of the earth to get some more combustible gas is stupid. And dangerous.

Guns DO kill people when in the hands of PEOPLE. Who own guns.

The first amendment allows you to say anything. It doesn’t force you to be a moron.

Not liking something doesn’t mean you should automatically reject it. A failure to fit into your idea of the way things ought to be is not a failure of science. It’s a failure of your brain.


If you believe any of these things, please, let’s not talk. If you can’t be convinced by any existing evidence, there’s nothing to talk about.

STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES – BY TOM CURLEY

Stupid is as stupid does. The line comes from the movie Forrest Gump. It’s what Forest’s mother always told him when people would make fun of him for being … well … Forrest Gump.

The thing is, I never really understood what the phrase actually means. It sounds very profound, but what is it actually saying?

I only think of this because stupid has become a word that’s popping up more and more these days. The current “so-called administration”, has been labeled “ignorant,” “immoral” and “inept.” But lately a new word is emerging to describe our “so-called government.”

Stupid.

Also the word “idiot” is cropping up. The headline of a recent NY Post editorial was “Donald Trump Jr. is an idiot.”

Why? When he discovered the New York Times was about to publish a story exposing emails which proved he was meeting with Russian agents to acquire damaging information about Hillary Clinton from high level Russian government sources — because they wanted to help Trump win the election — what did he do? He released the actual emails. Proving he wanted to collude with Russian agents to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton and didn’t care that the Russian government was involved. He actually wrote back “I love it!”

HOW STUPID WAS THAT?

His defense was that he didn’t get any damaging info, so it didn’t count.

HOW STUPID IS THAT?  

It’s like saying “I went to rob a bank but when I got there they were all out of money,” so it doesn’t count.

And we all thought Eric was the dumb one.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Cheesy McCheese head, the actual President of the United States, recently stated — publicly — that the Mexican wall must be transparent.

Why you ask?  Because Mexicans will be throwing large bags of drugs over the wall. He didn’t want unsuspecting Americans on our side to get hit on the head by large bags of drugs.

No, I’m not making that up. Absorb that for a few minutes.

Everybody has role models.  Trumpy’s role models seem to be Governor LePetomaine from Blazing Saddles. “Work, work, work, work. Hello boys!”

And the rebel leader from Woody Allen’s Bananas.

REBEL LEADER: From this point forward, underwear will be changed every half hour. Underwear will be worn on the outside. So we can check. Every child under 16 years old, is now 16 years old.”

Previously, we learned how utterly incompetent this administration is. But now, we are also getting a handle on just how incredibly stupid they are.

I still don’t know exactly what “Stupid is as stupid does” means, but it seems to explain our current administration.

REAL REALITY, VIRTUAL REALITY AND REALITY TV REALITY – BY TOM CURLEY

I’m having a real problem with reality lately. And it’s not from taking too many drugs. I think it’s from not taking enough drugs. The problem is that we have too many realities to choose from. We have reality TV, which everyone knows is not real at all.

We have our real reality, which seems to be a really bad reality TV show and is very surreal.

And very now we have Virtual Reality, which is oddly, very real.

“Cool”

I recently made the leap and got a VR (Virtual Reality) system. In this case the Sony PlayStation’s VR platform. There are currently two others out there, the Occulus Rift and the HTV Vive. Which one is better? It depends. Mostly on which one you own. The Vive is the most expensive, the PlayStation the least. I’ve seen all three. Frankly, they look pretty much the same. By that, I mean AWESOME!!

“Whoa!”

Unfortunately, I can’t describe the experience. You have to experience it. Imagine being inside an HD movie. Everything is to scale. You can walk up to people, walk around them. They are human-sized. Not TV-sized or big screen movie-sized. It’s amazing. The only downside is that the games and movies available right now are sort of skimpy. There’s a Batman game in which you literally become Batman.

“I’m Batman”

It’s incredible, but the whole game only lasts about an hour. This is because of the enormous amount of data the system requires. That will change. Soon. Most of the games involve looking around at things and marveling at how real they are.

“I’m gonna need a bigger cage!”

That all changed when a new game came out called Star Trek, Bridge Crew.

In this game, you are on bridge of either the Federation Starship Aegis or the original Enterprise. The detail is amazing. You can sit at any one of four stations.:  Helm, Tactical, Engineering and, of course, the Captain’s chair.

Each station has its own console and responsibilities. Helm steers the ship, sets courses for both warp drive and impulse drive. Tactical fires phasers, photon torpedoes, scans other ships and objects, transports people on-board the ship and can disrupt enemy ships functions, such as disabling their shields, weapons, engines, etc.

The Engineering station fixes the ship, re-routes power, etc. (I need more time!) The Captain runs the show.

Here’s where it gets cool. The whole program is linked  to IBM’s Watson super-computer. When you play in solo mode you are the Captain. Your crew are AIs (artificial intelligences). You can talk to them in normal language. You can say “Helm prepare for warp.”

Helm AI will respond “Yes sir.”

Engineering AI will say “Charging the warp coils Captain.”

When you are ready you actually can say “Helm, ENGAGE!” And it does!

“Engage!”

The Watson computer is constantly learning. You can just talk to it and it tries to figure out what you want to do. This means that when you are being attacked by five Klingon Cruisers, you can shout “Red Alert! Raise shields, arm photon torpedoes, fire phasers at that goddamn Klingon!  Helm! Prepare impulse. Get us the fuck out of here!” And it does.  Of course, there are glitches, but for the most part, it works.

The solo part is not what the program was built for. You can play the game with three other real people. It doesn’t matter what system they own. They all work together. You have to work together to finish a mission and the missions are not easy. Usually, you blow up the ship.

“I think we’re about to die”

It’s a lot of fun. The first time I tried playing with real folks I was at the Tactical station and our Captain was a 14-year-old. The conversation went like this.

ME: Tactical is ready Captain.

CAPTAIN: Helm, prepare to warp the Devos system.

VOICE OFF IN THE DISTANCE: Honey, it’s time to leave!

CAPTAIN: Ma! I’m busy!

MOM: I don’t care what you’re doing, it’s time to go!

CAPTAIN: But Ma! I’m on a starship!

MOM: I don’t care where you are, get your butt up here.

CAPTAIN: But Ma! I’m the Captain!

The rest of us were laughing our asses off. The engineer recorded the whole episode (you can do that) and posted it on his Facebook page.

One other time we sat at the space dock for a half hour because the engineer seemed to have no idea how to energize the Warp coils.  I was the Captain.

ME: So, engineering, figured out how to energize those Warp coils yet?

ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.

ME: Well, we don’t seem to be moving.

ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.

ME: Let me guess, you need more time?

ENGINEER: Uh, yeah.

Eventually we got so bored that the tactical guy started blowing up our own ships. Yeah, you can do that.

What I find odd is that many of the reviews of the game are sort of negative. They complain that you can’t get up and walk around. You are stuck in the chair in each station. Excuse me? That’s what they do in any Star Trek episode. They sit in their  friggin’ chairs and to their friggin’ jobs! I mean what would happen if Captain Picard ordered Worf to lock phasers on a Romulan ship and fire … and he’s off wandering around the bridge.

PICARD:  Worf! What the hell are you doing?

WORF: Uh, walking around the bridge Captain.

PICARD: Are you kidding me!! For Christ’s sake, get your ass back in that chair and fire those Goddamn phasers!

WORF: Well normally sir, I stand at my station.

PICARD: Oh for Christ’s sake!

Ever since November 8, 2016 I’ve been obsessively watching all the Star Trek series — because Star Trek Reality makes more sense than our real one.  Now, until our surreal reality TV show reality returns to real reality, I’m going to spend as much time as I can in the Star Trek Virtual Reality.


Engage!

THE “AH HA” MOMENT! – BY ELLIN CURLEY

It has always fascinated me that ideas can somehow just ‘pop’ into my head. Creative thoughts, insights into situations, or even solutions to problems can just suddenly appear to me. It’s the light bulb going off in your head. It’s also called an epiphany.

Everyone knows that when you’re obsessing about something and hit a brick wall, you should give your mind a break. You should do or think about something else. After that down time, you’re more likely to see things more clearly. You may even have that “Eureka moment” when a full-blown idea just comes to you. Apparently Paul McCartney ‘heard’ the complete melody of “Yesterday” in his head when he woke up one morning.

Scientific research has been done on this type of epiphany. “Eureka moments are associated with a distinctive burst of high frequency activity in the brain’s right temporal lobe. This burst of activity is preceded by a brief ‘brain blink’ during which a person is momentarily less aware of his or her environment.” John Kounios, “Eureka! Yes, Eureka!”, New York Times, Sunday, June 11, 2017.

So this is a real, physiological phenomenon! But there are two factors that must exist to allow for this to happen. One is that a person must be in a positive, relaxed mood. Anxiety is not conducive to any kind of creativity. The other is that the idea must be based on new connections between things you already know. These insights can’t come out of nowhere in a vacuum. The elements of your ingenious thought must already be floating around in your brain somewhere.

This explains why ‘sleeping on’ something stimulates the light bulb effect. You know, when you go to bed thinking about a problem and you wake up with a fully formed solution. That’s because the relaxed brain during sleep is fertile ground for the Eureka Moment spurt of brain activity.

Very often, when I’m writing a blog or a script, I wake up with phrases or ideas or edits that had eluded me the day before. I keep a pen and pad next to my bed so I can write these things down before I forget them. That’s part of my writing process.

It’s nice to know the scientific explanation for why these mini lightning strikes happen so often. It’s also nice to know that Eureka moments will keep happening. Without them, writing would be much more difficult and far less inspiring.