Monday, February 14, 2022

Why the 5 most important words an athlete can say after the big game are: "WE'RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!"

"WE'RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!"

Of course you are. It's a great paying gig for any BM/WOC (Big man/woman on campus) that almost everyone knows. Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player usually gets an offer to make a quick buck by promoting Disney World. This year, it was Q.B. Tom Brady and his buddy, tight end Rob Gronkowski who pocketed big dollars. Rumor has it Brady got quite a bit, possibly as much as $300,000... plus half price on all tickets (kidding).

Here's something you may not know: It was quarterback Phil Simms of the New York Giants who won Super Bowl XXI in 1987 that was the first paid to say that phrase. He received $75,000... and so did loosing quarterback John Elway of the Denver Broncos, because when the Disney contract was signed before the game, the winning team was not known, so Disney was ready either way. The one exception is that Elway, as the loser, was not committed to go. That's what I call easy money.

However the first to actually say that phrase was Dick Rutan, who, with Jeana Yeager in December of 1986, piloted the first aircraft to circle the globe without stopping or refueling, in 9 days. While dining with Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney  and his wife, Jane, Yeager was asked what he was going to do next. He said, "I'm going to Disney World." It was Jane Eisner who suggested to her husband, that comment would make a great commercial. Thus, one of the best marketing ideas in the world was born. That gem, all for the price of a dinner.

All in all, that phrase, "I'm going to Disney World," has sent more than 100 speakers and counting to see Mickey Mouse and all that mouse represents, in Orlando or Anaheim. It has been spoken mostly by NFL players, perhaps because the Super Bowl has a super large audience, and there is not any other commercial playing during the game that is less expensive ($5.6 million for 30 seconds this year) or better remembered than "I'm going to Disney World." 

Miss America said it commercially in 1988 as did two American Idol winners later. A few Olympians, several race car drivers, the entire US Women's National Soccer team, and a few NBA, MLB and NHL players have made the trip. So also have four worthy college graduates. 

Who is next? We'll see.


Extra stuff and forced relevance, but ego satisfying: So why am I filled with angst about all this? I guess I was just born too soon. You see, even before there was a Disney World (but there was a Disneyland) I had my chance. When I won the National Collegiate Bowling Championship (really) at the American Bowling Congress tournament held in Toledo that year, I was ready.  After the trophy was awarded I was being interviewed on radio by Bill Stern (Who? Never mind.) who had a national syndicated sports show. I quite remember, when asked what was next for me, I said "I'm going to Steak 'n Shake." Walt Disney probably couldn't get a hold of me but he should have. (True story of that follows.) so I took the next best thing, two steak burgers (pickle and onion) with french fries and a chocolate malt. No Mickey, Minnie or Donald Duck. Beside the honor and trophy, I got a new bowling ball. Did you ever try to fly home with a bowling ball that won't quite fit under the seat? 

I was on the All America first collegiate bowling team that year and actually had my name in the National Bowling Hall of Fame at one time. I actually spent much of my youth in my dad's bowing alley. But no one wants to grow old smelling of sweat and smoke of that day. Love, marriage and wonderful children far outpace any 300 game. I don't do that any more but it was great in my youth.

Now, why should Walt Disney seek me out? Well, my dad was one of few people there when Mickey Mouse was created. That was in a small, one-time strip-mining town, Toluca, Illinois, where my dad was born. And, as the story goes, when Disney was traveling by rail from Hollywood to Chicago, that train made a water stop--what trains of that day did--early one Sunday morning. Disney, who had been up all night sketching a new character, peeked out his window and saw the water tower with 'Toluca' painted across its side. Looking back at his sketch, he knew what he had drawn was some charactered mouse with a high pitched voice named Mickey, who would be the star of his new black and white cartoon, Steamboat Willy.

TaDah!

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

WHERE IS WALDO? He is here... and so are you.


Where is Waldo? Though he is fictitious, you aren't. But you are both in this most remarkable photo.


See that very faint, very tiny white dot a little more than half-way up in that dull red streak? That's earth, pictured in a ray of sunlight, photographed by Voyager 2* when it turned it's cameras toward us as it exited our solar system.

Actually, that's how minuscule we are in the scheme of all things. (There should be some introspective thinking here as we hold ourselves so all knowing and important. We, as a civilization and a world, are but a dot... and not a very big one at that. Think smaller than a grain of sand... and the period at the end of this sentence. That's earth.)

After two-and-counting incredible years of "the plague," could we look forward to our new year as better, and perhaps be done with the thing that brought major change to the world. You do know we will never be the same again. But better? We could hope.

We are, as a whole, predominantly good. Sadly, 'good' does not make the news often. Bad is what the news is about. Bad actors, selfish public servants, hate, revenge, I win, you lose, loss of a moral conscious, guns and killing, assaults and thefts, wild weather, global warming... and on and on.

But in the end, since we are here for such a short time, you'd think we could do better. As a civilization, we have mostly been at war with one another since the beginning of time, either as a nation or as one who always seems to know better. 


As John Muir, naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, botanist, zoologist, glaciologist and advocate of the preservation of earth 
said:

“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”

Why would we want to mess with that?

My wish: May we all do better in this new year. We must, or the world we leave to our children and all the young will not be a place that we would choose to live.

HAPPY, JOYFUL, HOPEFUL, BLESSED 

NEW YEAR TO ALL. 

May we find the hope that makes the best of each and every one of us, better. Dogs are proof that there is still good in the world.


*Voyager 2 successfully fulfilled its primary mission of visiting the Jovian system in 1979, the Saturnian system in 1981, Uranian system in 1986, and the Neptunian system in 1989. The spacecraft is now in its extended mission of studying interstellar space. It has been operating for 44 years, 4 months and 8 days as of December 29, 2021 as of November 28, 2021, it has reached a distance of 129.3 AU(19.343 billion km; 12.019 billion mi) from Earth.[5]

Thursday, November 4, 2021

LOVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU ARE SORRY... OR NOT!


 



Love Story, the movie, was a popular tear-jerker, first screened in 1970.  And if you saw it then, or now, you will cry. I promise.


That was then, as a tearful Oliver (Ryan O'Neal) tells his love, Jenny (Ali McGraw) who is in the hospital dying of cancer, "I'm so sorry."  

"Love... " she clasps his hand and whispers bravely, "is never having to say you are sorry." (Cry here.)

So is it true that love means never having to say you are sorry? My 98 year-old mother had a take on that. She roused suddenly from a catnap in her wheel chair and said, "You know that story... when the man says, 'I will fall into your arms and there I will gladly die'? "

"Yes mom," we agreed.

"That's a lot of crap." 

Really, she said that. And yes, she was a beloved character.


Is it true that love is out and revalued as "Money (not love) means never having to say you are sorry?" You may be right mom. At least it seems that way.




Want proof... as if you need it? 

You may not recall the name Ethan Couch, AKA: the "Affluenza Teen.' Here is Wikipedia's summation of what he did on the evening of June 15, 2013 

... according to authorities and trial testimony, 16-year-old Couch was witnessed on surveillance video stealing two cases of beer from a Walmart store then speeding off with seven passengers in his father's red 2012 Ford F-350 pickup truck. 

Approximately an hour after the beer theft, Couch was going 70 miles per hour on rural, two-lane Burleson-Retta Road where motorist Breanna Mitchell's sport utility vehicle had stalled. Hollie Boyles and her daughter Shelby, who lived nearby, had come out to help her, as had passing youth minister Brian Jennings. Couch's truck swerved off the road and into Mitchell's sport utility vehicle, then crashed into Jennings' parked car, which in turn hit an oncoming Volkswagen Beetle. Couch's truck then flipped over and struck a tree. Mitchell, Jennings, and both Boyles were killed, while Couch and his seven teenage passengers, none of whom were wearing seat belts, survived—although one was paralyzed—as did the two children in Jennings' car and the two people in the Volkswagen.

Three hours after the incident, the teen-ager had a blood alcohol content of 0.24%, three times the legal limit for adult drivers (21+ years old) in Texas, and he also tested positive for marijuana and diazepam. 

So did they throw the book at him? Hardly. In trial testimony, a psychiatrist said that growing up with money might have left Couch with psychological afflictions, too rich to tell right from wrong. Then, free on bond, he and his mother fled to Mexico in an effort to evade sentencing, which for the teen-ager, could have been as much as 20 years in prison.

His attorney urged probation, because "he (Couch) was too rich to know what he did was wrong. He was unable to link his actions to consequences because of his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege." Oh, really? 

When Couch and mom were caught and returned, he spent two-years in a state-owned inpatient mental health facility. 

So justice (?), was served, right? Ask those who lost loved ones. Ask MAAD.

Now here is the "money means never having to say you are sorry" comes in. When rich, you might virtually bear no responsibility. You can get away with almost anything... unless you are also stupid.Yes, they were filthy rich.

Elsewhere, there are non-rich people pulled over by police for perhaps a broken tail light or a double yellow line violation or maybe just looking suspicious, and hurt no one, but pay with their lives. 


Mr. Sobolewski doing 43 cents worth of time.

Here is what can happen when you are very opposite of rich:

Joseph Sobolewski was arrested a few month ago after he underpaid for a bottle of Mountain Dew at a Pennsylvania convenience store

The store sold two 20-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew for $3. Sobolewski, wanting only one, put $2 on the counter, took the drink and left the store. But he didn't realize that a single bottle of Mountain Dew was priced at $2.29 plus tax, which meant that he had underpaid by 43 cents. Sobolewski didn't know he underpaid as he thought one Mountain Dew would cost half ($1.50) of the $3.00 price and the two dollars would cover the tax.

The store called the police, who arrested Sobolewski, charging him with a felony under the state's "three strikes" law for retail theft.

Since this was Sobolewski's third offense (with two other petty crimes over the past decade) he was held on a $50,000 cash bond which he couldn't meet, and spent seven days in jail before a public defender got him released pre-trial. 

The charge carries a prison sentence of 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison per the state's "get tough on crime" law.

A Pennsylvania State Police spokeswoman said that a third retail theft offense is automatically treated as a felony, regardless of the dollar amount. “Troopers cannot decide to not charge someone for a criminal case, only victims of certain crimes can decline charges,” she wrote in a statement.

Ultimately, the State showed some sense and dropped the charges, perhaps because of all the bad press, and obviously, it was an embarrassment.


Then there is BIG BUSINESS AND EXXON is BIG!

An Exxon Lobbyist, since fired, gave out a few 'supposed' company tactics (denied by the company) to support Exxon's efforts and debunk climate change science at Exxon's expense. In a filmed interview recorded by an offshoot of Greenpeace, the lobbyist said, "Do we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes."

"Did we join some shadow groups to work against some of the early efforts? Yes, that's true... but there's nothing illegal about that. We were looking out for our investments, we were looking out  for our shareholders."


Obviously, we could go on and on. But you get the picture.

MONEY MEANS NEVER HAVING TO SAY YOU ARE SORRY.

About LOVE, I'm sorry.


Saturday, August 14, 2021

TWO MEN WHO MADE THE WORLD BETTER. CAN YOU NAME THEM?


The person on the left is 1921 Nobel laureate Albert Einstein, perhaps the world's most renown physicist, meeting Charlie Chaplin, the world's greatest silent movie comic artist. 

These two men changed the world for the better in their own manor and style. 

It was said that Charlie Chaplin was the only person in Hollywood that Einstein wanted to meet. In 1931 at the premier of Chaplin's new film, CityLights (trailer here), the two geniuses met for the first time.

It was the Nobel Prize committee that shared this exchange in their conversation:

Einstein: "What I most admire about your art is your universality. You don't say a word yet the world understands you."

Chaplin: "True, but your glory is even greater! The whole world admires you, even though they don't understand a word of what you say." 


It's simple. 
Science and comedy do actually make our incredible world go 'round. The science to better understand the improbabilities of life and the comedy to better deal with it all.


A lesson of life as we know it:


Today, in the cutest voice, my young daughter asked me to start recycling. I smiled and asked, "Why?"

"So you can help me save the planet," she told me.

And why do you want to save the planet?

"Because," she explained "that's where I keep all my stuff."

Thanks to Marc and Angel Hack Life website


ARE YOU LISTENING PEOPLE OF EARTH?


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

You are what you read... or are you? Your favorite reads? And mine.


It seems odd to start with a book I DID NOT LIKE, Klara and the Sun. It was authored by Kazou Ishiguro, winner of a 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature. He also wrote Remains of the Day and Never Let Me GoI have read neither but both are soon to be movies. So what have I missed?

       

I'm either not smart enough or just like to be more entertained, and that's harder if there is no popcorn.



I loved this book, Why Fish Don't Exist by former NPR Radio Lab personality Lulu Miller who writes so incredibly well. It is a non-fiction story with incredible art that made it a great read for me. 

Aptly described by Sy Montgomery who wrote NYTimes best seller, The Soul of an Octopus, (another great read): "Riveting. Surprising. Shocking, even! Why Fish Don't Exist begins with a mesmerizing account of the life of distinguished biologist David Starr Jordan--and then, quite unexpectedly, turns into so much more. Narrated in Lulu Miller's intimate, quirky voice, this is a story of science and struggle, of heartbreak and chaos. This book will capture your head, seize your imagination, smash your preconceptions, and rock your world."


Now it must be known that I like to read both fiction and non fiction, and I often have several books going at any one time. And some of my reads are wide-ranging for reasons I can't explain. But it is nice to try to suck everything in.


I've got my eye on the new Steven King book, Billy Summers. It was King who gave me my most favorite, The Stand, in 1978 and almost all of his early books until I tired of the supernatural twist. But he is good and I am ready once again. 



The first book I recall that totally blew my 3rd or 4th grade mind was Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. I could hardly wait to see what happens next and had, for the first time, that bittersweet experience of closing the book when done. I wanted more!

I'm also looking forward to A Libertarian Walks into a Bear: the Utopian Plot to Liberate an American Town (and some bears) by first-time author Mathew Hongolitz-Hetling, a strange but true story of one New Hampshire town that became the nexus of a collision between bears, libertarians, guns, donuts, parasites, firecrackers, taxes and one angry llama. Is that not an intriguing run of words? We'll see.


Raise your hand if you have read any or all of Malcolm Gladwell's books. He is a Canadian writer, lecturer and thought-provoker who's first five books--THE TIPPING POINT: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, BLINK: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, OUTLIERS: The Story of Success,  WHAT THE DOG SAW: And Other Adventures and DAVID And GOLIATH: Underdogs, Misfits and The Art of Battling Giants--made the NYTimes best seller list. His work has often appeared in The New Yorker.

His 'take' on so many of the things we imagine differently in our minds is often an 'eye-opener.' For example, did you know that Goliath was actually the big underdog to David? Very logically, yes. 

Gladwell is, for me, a good read.

Ok, so who is on my nightstand now? The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni, Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley, Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, A Promised Land by Barack Obama, Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins and Draft No. 4 by John McPhee. More coming and going. That's how to read.

Books are incredible for the places they take us. So what are your reading choices of note? And what is your next book to be? Share at pjsjerry@gmail.com Love to hear.


Sunday, August 1, 2021

NAME YOUR POISON: A Serious Reflection of here and now.

Yes, from The Princess Bride





If  you don't think this applies to you, it     does.

 

  

We--by action, inaction, consent, default,         ignorance and other ways--are killing ourselves.

It's a strange, beautiful, wonderful world we live in, filled with so many good creatures and wonderful ideas. But we, God's receivers of all these gifts, are literally poisoning ourselves in so many different big and small ways.

We don't have to be bad to do bad, and most of us aren't.  We can be innocent bystanders. But even bystanders have obligations. Sometimes our actions are biased, prejudiced, naive, unconcerned, unbelieving short-sighted and more. And yes, more often than not, we are bad actors.

But in our own way, we are the killers.

Global warming... *or not: Does it matter what you call it? In Death Valley, California it was 135 degrees for three days in a row. That is verified, the hottest temperature in the recorded history of our world. I can cook a roast in my crock pot at that temperature. 

Our last decade was the warmest ever. Our warmest six years have all been since 2015 with 2016. 2019 and 2020 being the top three. June, 2021-- just one month ago-- was the warmest month ever. Go figure.


The drought, the lightning and the fires:
What should we call this ugly phenomena? New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd suggested "The Day After Tomorrow was Yesterday" would be an apt title. Seattle was 108 degrees, British Columbia unbelievably hit 121. The world is experiencing 'once in a lifetime' rains, flooding and drought as weather patterns have changed. Forest fires world-wide are more ravaging than ever in places that have never seen this before. Smoke from our fires in the West have darkened New York and East Coast skies. The dire climate fears scientists have warned are coming in 10 or 20 years are already here. 

And this is just a foretelling. What will next year be like... and the following? 

Destruction of natures' balancing act: Oil companies making billions of dollars mining the Niger Delta region in Nigeria are leaving ruin and devastation for the natives in what once was once one of the most incredible ecosystems in the world. The Amazon rain forest in Brazil is combating continuing major loss by man's hand of this treasure that was a key weapon in combating greenhouse gas emissions. These things are happening world-wide as never before.

Greta Thunberg
Some deniers have delighted in the mocking of Nobel Special Award recipient Greta Thunberg as she continues to raise the cry. 

There is discord and the lack of common good: The United States and much of the rest of the world has no common ground on which to build. You would think survival and critical times would be a universal enemy, but we, as a people, seem not to believe even that. 

The pandemic... and the ones to follow: We, in a general sense, seem to hate each other, just because. With the every day problems we face even before we tackle the greater problems of mankind in general, we can't seem to get to first base. We can't decide to wear a mask or not, get vaccinated, or disbelieve on principal or suspicion, or, as I said, just because.

We are a gun totin' country: In the United States, 316 people are shot by a gun every day. And of them, 106 die. There have been 147 mass shootings--defined as four or more shot or killed, excluding the shooter-- in America already this year and we still have five more months to go. We are awash in illegal 'ghost guns' (firearms without ID markings, easily hand made or otherwise) popular by those who use them in every illegal way. And, if any legal gun is purchased, half of the buyers are not 'background checked.' We still legally sell weapons that can easily be converted to fire 20 or more rounds in seconds. 

We do not have an issue with those who own and use legal guns acquired legally. But make no mistake, we do have an issue.

Then we have water to contend with... and water has no master: Because of global warming, an enormous chunk of ice has this spring broken off the Antarctic ice shelf. The floating mass covers more than 1,600 square miles making it the largest iceberg in the world... so far. For comparison, that is just a little shy in size of the state of California which is 1,637 square miles. Already water is encroaching on the world's shores and experts' projections warn this is just the beginning. Even inland Chicago is at a point of no return with water control problems as man is no master of nature. This incredible video tells that amazing story. Mother Nature isn't done with us... not by a long shot.

The Golden Rule is now defined as "He who has the gold, rules." And money talks... but not for everyone,  It originally read "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Remember?

So which poison is it that proves a tipping point? 

The ray of hope is that we become more aware every day of the things we can do and while an unsatisfactory course is already upon us, know the worse can be altered. We are taking some positive action and making progress, but the tide against us is fast-moving and relentless. And not everyone is of the same belief and/or as willing to make the effort and sacrifices required to alter a perilous way forward.

I hope and pray we strongly advocate for the better, lead when we can, be vocal to those who need to know how we feel, elect those who believe, and work with the empowered to take this challenge seriously. Time's a'wastin'.

The universal question should be, "What will we leave our children?"


*Note of caution to those who do not believe in global warming: Be careful if you are near the edge of the earth so you don't fall off.

Friday, June 18, 2021

The Difference Between You and a Rich Person

You probably have an idea of where you stand between the richest and the poorest. 

Here are some of the extremes:

The C.E.O. of Palantir, a data mining company that gets half of it's revenue from government contracts, earned $1.1 billion ($1,100.000,000) last year and was the highest paid executive of a publicly traded company.

If you were paid the U.S. minimum legal wage of $7.25/hr. (which hasn't changed since 2009), you would have to work 137.931,034.5 consecutive hours (15,749 years) to make that much... if you could live that long. Even Methuselah, who lived to celebrate his 969th birthday says the bible, would just make chump change.

But thankfully, most of us--but not all--are making more than minimum.

Even if you were pulling down $100/hr. 24/7, you would have to work100 non-stop years to make that much. Oh, not that $100/hr. is shabby. In a regular 40 hour work week you would be making $208,000 annually... certainly comfortable perhaps but not rich by current standards.


Here's an incredibly beautiful example of how hard it is to be rich when you are trying to give it all away. It's called "win-win."

MacKenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos's ex and one of the richest women in the world, made a pledge to give all of her fortune away. Despite her great effort, she is finding that harder to do than you could imagine.

She just announced a new round of grants that give $2.74 billion directly to non-profits for benevolent uses. This is her third such donation since her 2019 divorce that awarded her billions in Amazon stock, which keeps growing beyond her generosity. She has already donated $8 billion before but she keeps getting richer. 

Ah, the curse of the rich. Those who have no need keep growing richer just by breathing. And, latest revelations show, they pay less tax proportionally than you do and some pay no tax at all. Try to tell the I.R.S. that and see how far you get before being thrown into jail.

 But thank you, MS Scott for the continuing effort.  

And that's why we often feel those ultra rich are so above us in more ways than one.

When the Mexico City Metro disaster ,which claimed 26 lives and horribly altered so many more, was blamed on construction flaws and political pressure, Mexico's President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador explained, "The humble and hard working people understand that, unfortunately, these things happen"...  but not to him.

See what I mean? Being that rich is unfathomable in so many ways. If you found a ten dollars bill, you'd feel lucky. If you were that rich, you might see hundreds of ten-dollar bills on the street as just litter, and to them, you'd be right.


But here's the harder to understand: Our Founding Fathers promised in The Declaration of Independence "... that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." 

That is backed by 27 amendments to date--from freedom of speech to rights to vote--and also  the right to own more guns per capita than any other country in the world... another inalienable right. Seems some inalienable rights are easier to handle than others.

We are a capitalist country built for many to make money. There is no sin in that. Many of the moneyed are generous thinkers and doers. But we don't do that well for those at the bottoms side of the system, unable for so many reasons to put food on the table for family and children, to be able to receive needed health care, to have a roof over their heads, to have the basic footing to pull themselves up. Money makes money automatically. Lack of money makes poverty, automatically. 

Trump's tax act in 2017 literally made billions for the top, just a pittance for the middle and almost non existent for the bottom. So why today, for infrastructure and health care, food on the table and opportunity for those unable to grasp it themselves, can't we take a lesser sum back and make sure everyone has some proportional tax to pay? That just makes common sense. See more here.

Life is not fair. We, as Americans, could... should do better to balance the scale. Where the top 10 wealthiest are richer than the all of bottom half of us combined, there is room. It's an attitude problem.



Monday, June 7, 2021

So, all this time it was real. UFOs are seen almost daily by military and commercial pilots. And ETs are here now, maybe... just maybe.


E.T. The Extra-terrestrial (1982)

No matter how cleverly disguised, there is a growing belief that UFOs exist and ETs (extra terrestrials) may already be here. Ufologists (Those who study UFOs) have seen public sightings rise to more than 7,200 per year.

From The New York Times recently:

"WASHINGTON American intelligence officials have found no evidence that aerial phenomena witnessed by Navy pilots in recent years are alien spacecraft, but they still cannot explain the unusual movements that have mystified scientists and the military, according to senior administration officials briefed on the findings of a highly anticipated government report.

"The report determines that a vast majority of more than 120 incidents over the past two decades did not originate from any American military or other advanced U.S. government technology, the officials said."

Photo taken by a US Navy pilot

The Pentagon acknowledges that we are seeing unexplainable and incredible things in the sky. And finally admitting, so are they... things so mind-blowing in appearance and performance that we can't yet imagine how that could be.

I personally accept that there could be aliens and UFOs because, why not? The universe is the most mind-blowing actuality that engulfs us... for real. And who can say that we, a tiny speck in unending space, are alone and supreme. That takes some nerve and/or naivety.
 
We've had our fun and movies aplenty in disbelief. If you've seen the 1996 movie Mars Attacks!, you know how dangerous it could be to us humans if Martians choose to ''take over." This movie has the credibility of superstars Jack Nicholson, Glen Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Michael J. Fox, Martin Short and Danny DeVito, so would they lie?... unless they were themselves, aliens?

Do Not Panic! I repeat, Do Not Panic! (Just pretend there is a gasoline shortage.) The increase in sightings is not seen as an imminent invasion, but because of covid, more people are looking to the skies and noticing "things."

Which begs the question: What then will we do when we actually make human contact and perhaps, find them among us? That, my friends, is a knotty next step. Fortunately, this has been given some cogent thought by someone more conceptual than me. More on that later.

Do we fight or do we flee... or are they friends? And why wouldn't they be... unless they look as us and see squabbling and differences filled with hate, spite, racism and polarization and decide "Who wants to buy into that?" So how will it all go down?

Most interesting guess so far was a 1959 episode of the then popular TV series, Twilight Zone, titled, 'To Serve Man."

The show was in black and white (that is, before color television) and the opening was solemnly spoken by series originator Rod Serling: 


"Respectfully submitted for your perusal – a Kanamit. Height: a little over nine feet. Weight: in the neighborhood of three hundred and fifty pounds. Origin: unknown. Motives? Therein hangs the tale, for in just a moment, we're going to ask you to shake hands, figuratively, with a Christopher Columbus from another galaxy and another time. This is the Twilight Zone."


*THE STORY UNFOLDS: The setting changes to several months earlier, on Earth. The Kanamits, a race of 9-foot-tall (2.7 m) aliens, land on Earth as the planet is beset by international crises. As the Secretary-General announces the landing of aliens on Earth to the worldwide public at a United Nations news conference, one of the aliens arrives and addresses the assembled delegates and journalists via telepathy. He announces that his race's motive in coming to Earth is to provide humanitarian aid by sharing their advanced technology, including an atomic generator that can provide electric power for a few dollars, a nitrate fertilizer that can end famine, and a force field that can be deployed to prevent international warfare. After answering questions, the Kanamit departs without comment and leaves a book in the Kanamit language, which leads to Michael Chambers, a US government cryptographer, being pressed into service.

Initially wary of an alien race who came "quite uninvited", international leaders begin to be persuaded of the Kanamits' benevolence when their advanced technology puts an end to hunger, energy shortages, and the arms race. Trust in the Kanamits seems to be justified when Patty, a member of the cryptography staff led by Chambers, decodes the title of the Kanamit book: "To Serve Man." The Kanamits submit to interrogation and polygraph, at the request of the UN delegates. When declaring their benevolent intentions, the polygraph indicates that the Kanamit is speaking the truth.

Soon, humans are volunteering for trips to the Kanamits' home planet, which they describe as a paradise. Kanamits now have embassies in every major city on Earth. With the U.S. Armed Forces having been disbanded and world peace having been achieved, the code-breaking staff has no real work to do, but Patty is still trying to work out the meaning of the text of To Serve Man.

The day arrives for Chambers's excursion to the Kanamits' planet. Just as he mounts the spaceship's boarding stairs, Patty runs toward him in great agitation. While being held back by a Kanamit guard, Patty cries: "Mr. Chambers, don't get on that ship! The rest of the book, 'To Serve Man,' it's... it's a cookbook!" Chambers tries to run back down the stairs, but a Kanamit blocks him, the stairs retract, and the ship lifts off.

Chambers is in the shipboard room now, and is again offered a meal. He throws it to the floor, but a Kanamit retrieves it and encourages him to eat: "We wouldn't want you to lose weight". At last Chambers, in one of the few instances of the series where a character breaks the fourth wall, says to the audience: "How about you? You still on Earth, or on the ship with me? Really doesn't make very much difference, because sooner or later, we'll all of us be on the menu... all of us." The episode closes as Chambers gives in and breaks his hunger strike.


*Thanks to Wikipedia for this synopsis.


Sunday, May 2, 2021

If not now, then when? (Never is not a choice.)

 Not intending to be biased (though it may seem so to some), President Biden has proposed a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to congress and the American people. And the question, "If not now, then When?" is fair.

Here's what's in that impressive plan and its approximate cost, as reported by CNN. It is divided into 11 sections: Transportation, Home care services and workforce, Manufacturing, Housing, Research and development, Water, Schools, Digital Infrastructure, Workforce development, Veterans' hospitals and federal buildings and finally, How to pay for it.


The need for the desired end result is approved by about 3 of 4 Americans. (Polls are taken often and they vary, so you can check the latest by asking Google.) The most visible to us... the more than 90,000 miles of roads and 71,000 bridges that are in dangerous disrepair according to a 2010 study by U.S. PIRG (United States Public Interest Research Group) as the deterioration  continues unabated. The plan identifies other critically related needs and benefits as well as how it will be paid for.

"On the last two report cards from the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. got a D+ and it urged the government and private sector to increase spending by $2 trillion over the next 10 years in order to improve not only the physical infrastructure, but the country's economy overall." reports PBS.


Now here's where it gets interesting: We know this work needs to be done because we are living with the need every day. But our political bias insists it matters when, how and by which administration gets it done... i.e. takes credit for it, while the other party squirms and wiggles like a fish out of water... or, "Will this get me reelected?" We haven't seen "for the need of the people" play out too well lately.

How will we pay for it? Biden proposes an increase in taxes on the wealthy (those making $400,000-plus) and corporations which are showing record gains with some paying no tax at all, to a level less than the gain over the 2017 tax cuts which added trillions to our national debt and has yet to 'trickle down.' 

And best yet, along the way, all of this makes more jobs for more people to make more money to do more things to buy more stuff... the American way.

Want to see something amazing? Look what Inequality.org has searched out:

"As ordinary people around the world suffer from the health and economic impacts of the pandemic, billionaires have actually seen their fortunes expand. According to the Institute for Policy Studies analysis of Forbes data, the combined wealth of all U.S. billionaires increased by $1.138 trillion (39 percent) in the 10 months between March 18, 2020 and January 18, 2021, from approximately $2.947 trillion to $4.085 trillion. Of the more than 600 U.S. billionaires, the richest five (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Elon Musk) saw an increase in their combined wealth during this period, from $358 billion to $661 billion. We will be regularly updating this analysis here. "

Good for them, really. They have earned it. And many 'super rich' are quite benevolent. This IS, after all, the land of opportunity. But sadly, not for everyone. Those scrapping by or less have virtually no chance to measurably better themselves the way we are going. On July 4, 2009 the minimum wage was raised to $7.25 an hour... and it remains there today, 12 year later ... $7.25 for an hour's labor. And worse, at that rate there just aren't enough hours in the day/week/year to make that work. We are breeding poverty.

So tell me, with the price of everyday commodities ever increasing, who would you guess will suffer most without a better path? 

This is the making of that path.

When one of our senators against the plan was asked how he liked Biden's proposal, he said the speech could have been shortened to just 10 words: "Good evening fellow Americans. Send all your money to Washington." Fact is, he must have been taking about he and his colleagues because I know most of us don't make $400,000 a year, but most in congress do. 

The old axiom, "It takes money to make money" has a modestly good news flip side: "Those who have little money will not have to sell their yachts to make ends meet." (Confession: I made that last quote up.😏)

To repeat the question: If not now, then when? (Never is not a choice.) Here's an added last thought based on the history of the world: If we don't get it right, it will cost far, far more in time (which is finite), money and rancor (blaming the other person) to re-fix the fix or  force us to live with the missteps forever. It just doesn't get any easier.

OK, take a breath and read on:



Here is the companion piece to infrastructure, Biden's Family plan If the poor and all of those not able to put food on the table just had a yacht to sell, I'm sure they would be ok. However, yacht ownership of that economic group doesn't show strong, especially in this pandemic time with a horrible death total (576,000 to date) and loss of jobs and opportunities. 

If any billionaire saw a $1 million dollar bill (I know, but hypothetically) laying on he sidewalk, he/she technically should not stop to pick it up because that person's real time is worth more than the time it takes. If a more average person saw a $10 bill on the sidewalk, it could make the day.

Is it morally and practically good to be a 'have' without concern about the 'have nots?' Historically, kingdoms have toppled and heads have rolled in such times. That was 'then.' Here is 'now,' and this is America. That's the difference between 'need' and 'have.'

We, as a country, have proven we can do anything we set our minds to do. Sometimes, we just don't.


Friday, April 23, 2021

"Please listen carefully as our menu has recently changed.": Customer service or customer disservice, that is the question. AND, A PROMISE that the most valuable information you may ever receive is the last sentence of this blogpost.

 

Thank you Scott Adams for Dilbert which helps to vent our frustrations.

The blessing, however, is that it is more often a parody of our frustrations rather than 'every single time.' But hey, it happens.

Last week I listened to "... our menu may have changed" through three sets before I got a crack at a real person. At last!

"Our agents are presently helping other customers. Your call is important to us and we will be with you as soon as possible." .... pause, then a very pleasant machine voice tells me "... an agent will be with you in (pause) 3 hours and 40 minutes. You can leave your number and we will call you back. You will not lose your place in line." 

As I said, that was last week so I am expecting that call... let's see... (checking my watch)... any minute now. Really.

Business must have been so good they were just too busy to call back. 

Aaargg!

Then there are those calls that come with a warm, real voice that try to have a pleasant, understanding, helpful conversation and get it right. Thank God, life can be more real at times.

Amazon, the biggest company in the world, may not do everything right (and they don't) but it's success is built on getting more right, from a consumer standpoint. Almost nothing from Amazon involves a phone call, which is not perfect, but we do build up a resistance against customer service that often isn't and the commitment of time. Time is not money. It is much more valuable.

Oh, lest I forget those robo calls that happen at dinner time or any time... they are different than consumer service of course, but somewhat in the same vein of how the phone reorders our lives, and in this case, our time AND money.

I'm sure my 14-year-old car might have an expired warranty but I can live with that. And I don't regret that I could "... already be a winner," many times over if I had just paid attention to what was being offered.

Don't you wonder how much time and effort it must take to scam us one way or another? Here's a really terrific piece from the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Bulletin on scammers and how they operate. It is the very best real life story of 'them' that I have ever read and a most compelling read:

Lessons from inside the Fraud Factory: We Witnessed International Phone Scammers In Action. What we Saw Will Both Terrify You And Help Keep You andYour Money Safe and Secure. 




Saturday, April 10, 2021

Something my 98-year-old mother taught me before she died: A primer on how better to live.



She was with the world, though feeble. She made us laugh and lived believing "into each life, a little rain must fall." 

"You know that story, 'Into your arms I will fall and there I will happily die' ?"

"Yes, mom. I remember," I answered because it made her happy.

"Well, she said, looking straight at me. "That's a lot of crap!"

Mom had a way with words. When she was 89, I dropped in one morning for coffee and noticed with some delight, a finished crossword puzzle sitting on her side of the table. Looking closer, I saw the first answer was not correct. Then, I saw a few more, then a lot more. 

"Mom," I asked, "there are some wrong answers here."

"I didn't say it was right," she told me, "I said it was done." 

Mom had a smile for everyone she passed, would stop and talk if she detected an opening. To her dying day, she could remember almost anyone she met when she saw them again, though she did have a propensity to tell the same story she heard or read, every 15 minutes or so. And therein, the lesson:

She was beloved because she was lovable. Never had an enemy except for that darned newspaper boy who would always put the plastic tie from his paper bundle into her convenient garbage can. "I think he's stalking me," she believed.

But the key was her smile. She would smile at the drop of a hat... and people would smile back. Is that the key to a better world? I wouldn't be surprised.

So is it a curse that gives us a pandemic to be best fought behind a mask? Love the mask/hate the mask... but wear the mask because it works... or not, says 'Karen.'

In our most hostile world of today, the collateral damage seems that every smile behind the mask is a smile that has no place to go, no return smile to see. And we desperately need that.

According to VeryWellMind.com promoting trusted mental health information, "Many see smiling simply as an involuntary response to things that bring you  joy or inspire laughter. While that is certainly true, it overlooks an important point: Smiling can be a conscious, intentional choice. It appears that whether your smile is genuine or not, it can act on your body and mind in a variety of positive ways, offering benefits for your health, your mood, and even the moods of people around you."

Smiling, it tells us...

  • Helps you live longer
  • Relieves stress
  • Elevates mood
  • Is contagious
  • Boosts the immune system
  • May lower blood pressure
  • Reduces pain
  • Makes you attractive
  • Suggests success
  • Helps you stay positive

Have you noticed, as I have, that in the super market, on the street or anywhere, people are not as genial or conversational or nodding as they were before the pandemic... before the mask. Oh, they may still smile but who can see it. The eyes don't convey a smile very well. That's the lips' job. and a whole face reveal. Besides, we are more concerned about maintaining those six-feet between us.

But of course, first things first... the pandemic, then, God willing, normal... whatever that may be.  "One for all and all for one"... wouldn't it be nice? We beat this thing then the smiles will come back because that's human nature. And, we will have one more reason to smile. We saved lives, we won. It is tomorrow.

So you say not wearing a mask is swell? Well, if that's you, then you probably don't smile that much anyway. Not wearing a mask appears to make you defiant, falsely proud, determined to strut "your legal rights," etc ... but those things don't create smiles. They create snarls or a firm-lipped resolve.

Visible or not, smilers still smile and show it. Even animals show 'happy.' (This information came from The New York Times monthly special segment for the young.)

  • Octopuses change color to blend in to their surroundings, but when they are relaxed and happy, they fade to white.
  • Kestrels (of the falcon species) says one expert 'fancier.' "When released, they soar high to the sky and then tumbling down, stopping just feet above the ground--over and over and over."
  • Belugas  blow bubbles.
  • Elephants wag their tails. 
  • Dogs and cats... of course.
  • Orangutans do it best. They just crack up. Well, we do share 97 percent of our DNA sequence so maybe through their evolution... and ours also, we smile.

 


"WELL I'LL BE A MONKEY'S UNCLE!"

Happy early Mother's Day mom. You were great!