Scrabble, Chess or Jump

Scrabble,Chess, or Jump

When we retired Kim and I had plans to explore Spain’s Mediteranian coast. We wanted to explore the beach towns and live like Gypsies moving from town and city for 3 to 6 months at a time. Through a process of selling, giving away and throwing out our accumulated stuff from 55 plus years of life we managed to get everything into two medium sized suitcases, two duffle bags, and two backpacks. We have just the bare necessities so that we can move without the hassles of trying to get an entire house of stuff to come with us. The first small coastal town we want to explore landed us a very luxurious, by European standards, high rise apartment that is right on the Mediteranean. It came with a one year lease and even though the lease was twice as long as we wanted to stay, we couldn’t pass up the sweet apartment. The property manager informed us that in Spain you can end a one year lease after six months without penalty. Apparently it is new legislation and some property owners don’t like it. Go figure, right? With a view as nice as this, and a climate as good as southern Spain’s, and just a six month lease, what could go wrong?

Included within our downsized and meager possessions are a deluxe dominoes set, travel size cribbage set, and a deck of cards. We need something to do on rainy days and when we’re not in the mood for mental stimulus from learning Spanish, reading Spanish news, or hearing about economics, and an hour of television, or two at most, can leave me feeling overly manipulated so we needed the games for those rainy days and down days when we can’t get out on the beach. Here we are today halfway into week five of the war with China’s virus in lockdown. Spain has taken draconian government steps and we cannot leave the apartment except to get food. We’ve watched the police and civil guards stop people to question why they are out of their homes. In some cases we’ve seen them take their IDs and sometimes they tell the people to go home. Most everyone tells the officers that they are heading to a nearby small grocery stores that are scattered throughout the town about one for every two or three blocks. At the beginning of week two of the lockdown the government began a policy of each family making one trip a week to the main supermarkets in the town. Kimber makes the once a week trek into the market for us. It’s a 3 kilometer walk to the main supermarket. But even so, we are finding after 3 weeks of isolation in this grand apartment with its spectacular view, and even though we enjoy dominos and listening to podcasts, learning Spanish, meditation, zumba on Youtube, reading, and… well we’re cabin fevered! Let me out. Even when I was on an 8 and 9 month cruise stuck on a ship in the Navy we would pull into port every few weeks.

Well I’m telling you we had to get creative and we couldn’t find a way to get a couple of gallons of mazola oil into the apartment. Besides there’s the mess a mazola party makes; It’s impossible to get all that oil cleaned up after the party. Seriously though, we like to play chess but the chess board and pieces take up a lot of room in the duffle bags so we don’t have it. We also like scrabble but it too requires space in the bags so we don’t have one. We’re not gen x so we don’t play game boy and axebox or whatever it’s called. One day as I was cruising through my Facebook feed, looking for a debate I explored the Facebook games feature and — look at that, there’s scrabble, poker, and chess. Electronic versions of the popular games. Yes, artificial general intelligence versions of the games and the option to play with real people too. Kimber and I sat back on that rainy evening and played chess and scrabble until the wine and whiskey were gone. It was so fun and we were so happy to have a distraction. Perhaps we can prevent the depression from weeks of house arrest. Even the terrific view from the balcony has started to become little more than a reminder of all the great beaches, hills and trails we used to enjoy daily and cannot now. Now though, now we have chess, scrabble, and poker. Three days, yes, three days later even these have no joy remaining. 

“The world karma unfolding now is something we cannot predict or control – it is a force with an energy and lifespan of its own that will exhaust itself in its own time. However, we do have a choice. We have a choice in the kind of relationship we will forge with this karma. Will it be a relationship fraught with fear and anxiety — unsettled, ungrounded, and disconnected to any source of sanity and compassion? Or will it be a relationship that relaxes in the flowing energy of change, of emotional upheaval, of not-knowing?

Can we hold in mind and body the truth that we are meant to be here, now, to experience and feel all the energies surging around and through us? Can we recognize the truth that these energies are a radiant expression of love and of the beauty and tragedy of being human? When you sit, feel the earth. When you sit, feel the sky. Remember that you came here, that you took up this path to learn what it really means to be fully human, awake and aware, in suffering and in joy, holding still in the middle of fire.”

Lama Elizabeth Monson

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Learning Spanish over 60

Learning Spanish over 60
Learning Spanish Over 60

Back in 1994 through 1996 while obtaining a Master’s of Mathematics from Boston University I learned some very valuable lessons about language and the benefit of using correct grammar. The course curriculum for the hard sciences was daunting, and I had just the minimum acceptable level of GRE score. Nine courses were required with one course taken at Harvard University and another from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The three universities frequently work together in some sort of state run cooperative, and since they are all just around the corner from one another, why not? For me, hard sciences like physics, engineering, mathematics, etc. came pretty easily. But nothing prepares you for the massive workload of a Masters program. It was a challenge for my own self doubt, self loathing, and a confrontation of internal struggle as much as the day and night efforts to accomplish all the assignments and to master the material knowledge. The absolute hardest part for me in both undergraduate as well as this first Masters degree were written reports. The drudgery of writing out the detail of defining the projects, the techniques for proofs, the execution of plan and research occupied my time and elevated my stress far more than proving the mean distance to the sun. 

Sunrises In March

As far back as I can remember in school classes it was always English I found most difficult. With all of the silly imperfections with such nonsensical silent letters, words that sound alike but have different meanings, always put the i before the e except in certain arbitrary situations when you just don’t do that. We have semicolons and colons; but even the Ph D in English literature cannot tell you precisely the correct usage. The language has just five vowels except it may include a sixth one. Each of the vowels have a variety of sounds which are sometimes strong or soft but not at all when silent. Oh the madness goes on and on. You see, science is precise. Science is exact. Mathematical proofs are not sometimes this or sometimes that, they are just this and only this so-to-speak. And so, one day in a fit of despair and anguish I basically in fact did tell a professor that mastering science should not have to at the sametime require I must also master language. He was quite calm as I recall. He explained to me that even the most brilliant person in the world, with the greatests of idea of all human existence who lacks the ability to explain the idea at a basic level of understanding has no worthy idea at all.

Sunrises of February

The lesson from that day was worth more to me than the entire course curriculum. I got it. It made so much sense to me. I wasn’t just writing a report, I was communicating. I was just doing the required work, I was helping others to understand what I have accomplished in a way they could confidently agree I had succeeded. For example when you hear a commentator on a televised news show talking about the success of a restaurant and how the success of the restaurant has made a good living for all the employees. As a scientist and a communicator I can instantly determine that story is incorrect and is as devastating to people as lead paint. It has more poison in its message than lead water pipes in your homes. The data they are using is incorrectly translated. The restaurant has not been a success. Restaurants like any business are not successful. The people working at the restaurant are successful and have amazing talents. When you combine all of their talents together they have made a good living for the restaurant. Not the other way around. Let me take this one step further. If I was able to come up with an idea for a new product or even a spinoff of an existing product, the idea is worthless even if I can write up an amazing document about the idea. To make this idea into a success I will have to have people work with me and for me to produce the product. I will need people who can get the product into the hands of consumers. Factually, therefore, any and all success isn’t the result of an idea, it is the result of many people working together to make the idea a reality. We’ve been poisoned with poorly written and spoken reports based on data that has been wrongly interpreted. It’s not the business owner who deserves all the credit and therefore all the profits. All the owner did was to file the paperwork with the state to register the corporation, and probably had a lawyer do that. All he did was find a place for the work to be done and probably had professional help with that. Maybe the owner hired a few engineers to layout the machinery, technology and methodology to make the product. You see the owner isn’t doing any of the work at all. It’s other people with amazing talents that are making the idea into a tangible thing. 

Sunrises of January

With the poisoning of the Regan era “trickle down” the narrative in classrooms, televisions, and governments alike have over forty years learned to tell the story with determination and boldly naive. The data is wrong, the story is killing humanity. People are successful not corporations, not the wealthy, not bankers and politicians. People are successful. We’ve been led to the gas chambers and forced to breathe in their poisonous wrong narrative. Their poison message works at our own demise. Sadly too, right now and even back then you can find 18 million people who believe the wrong narrative with such blind conviction they are willing to fight to the death to defend it. Everytime you find yourself in this kind of heated and highly volatile quandary, let it be a beacon of warning. When the issues of the debate seem to have people with absolutely differing opinions and the data on both sides is interpreted opposite to one another, it’s a clear signal to stop. There’s Mara again trapping you in the illusion of what is real and what is nothing but a lot of noise distraction. Enlightened as we would like to think we are, seeing this argument as a root cause for wealth inequality would seem evident by the obvious existence of wealth inequality. Further an enlightened mind would also see that all news is totally false and misuse of data and only broadcast to allure humans and to appeal to their vulnerability so the network businesses owners can sell advertising to make them wealthier. 

It’s all a masquerade and a game of illusions. Human nature at the whim of Mara has our ego constantly blaming others for the ills of the world. The world doesn’t have wealth inequality, the world doesn’t have successful businesses, the world doesn’t have i before e, except when insanity sets in. Humans can only ever have a chance at fixing just one thing and one thing only in each of our lives. Ourself. Whenever you find yourself judging, comparing, blaming, and getting your emotions all worked up pointing all the blame at them, it’s time to stop. Learn to use the emotional escalations in life as a trigger for self growth. Ask yourself, what is wrong with me that I think this is so important when I know it really isn’t? Ask yourself, how can I help myself to stop getting tangled up in all this noise? Always remember it’s not them who need to change, it’s only you who can change.

Learning Spanish at my age is not just a challenge to learn words, vowels, nouns, present tense, past tense, future tense, etc. it’s about continuing to teach myself how to better communicate.

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Pitchfork Economics

pitchfork economics dark days ahead.
Darkness Before the Dawn

A few years ago I watched Nick Hanauer (an unapologetic capitalist), as he presented a TED Talk on the coming pitchforks. He’s a billionaire himself and is spreading the word for why the system that allows billionaire is a flawed economics system. Especially when the system creates poverty. That is a pitch fork economics system. Along with several data points that identify where the issues with capitalism need to be corrected he uses his money today to spread knowledge. The narrative is the issue and he’s making the effort to spread a new narrative. Since 1980, Reagan era dismantling of the best political system in the history of man the USA has steadily lead the world in establishing the most wealth. In every other category and the categories that matter, the USA continues to fall behind every country. Healthcare, education, standard of living, infrastructure, income, human rights, human freedoms, child mortality, life expectancy, and more are all categories the Regan era (Neoliberalism) destroyed and the republicans continue to erode daily. Now and then perhaps it’s time to stop the tug-of-war between republicans and democrats and just settle on where everyone is together. It’s better for everyone to join together in agreement than to separate individually by disagreements.

Here’s where we all agree, even those Fox News watchers and AON advocates all agree with the rest of us on these key issues.

  • The influence from the wealthy on the government needs to end.
  • The income inequality is out of control.
  • Democracy needs to be reestablished and protected.
  • Equal pay, workers rights, and CEO pay are no brainers. Fix this now.
  • Everyone living in the wealthiest country in the world should have a living wage, the best education and an amazing healthcare for all.
  • Politicians should not be allowed to own stocks, businesses, or board of directors.
  • Lobiast should be unconstitutional.
  • Voting should be electronic.

The magic all happens in Seattle Washington and is shared online at https://www.pitchforkeconomics.com Even though the word economics reminds me of school, college courses in micro and macro economics were as exciting as watching a goldfish in a bowl. Fun for a few minutes but 4 semesters of material… really? The content of the website is all in podcast so it’s just stuff to listen to, and it’s pretty cool people to listen to. I would list the names of the speakers but I doubt most people reading this would know them. Governors, politicians, entrepreneurs, sports team owners, billionaires, poor people, etc.

If you call yourself a republican then this website isn’t for you. If you call yourself a democrat this website is not for you either. Actually if you think of politics with the same stubborn enthusiasm most people have for their favorite football or baseball team (politics is like a sport) this site isn’t for you, at all. Here’s an example of why you need to embrace the sunrise now and then. 

Thick Storm Clouds Closing In

Seattle raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour three years ago. OMG! Right? Before the legislation passed Nick and team surveyed several hundred business owners across seattle. In every case the business owners said the $15 an hour would destroy businesses, increase unemployment, ruin the city’s economy. One year after the increase Seattle was the fastest growing city in the USA. More new businesses were opening, employment was higher, crime rates were dropping, and a surprising 75% drop in time lost at work for sick time. When Nick and team researched and interviewed business owners the facts revealed a very different truth. It turns out that when you nearly double the income of waiters, cashiers, factory workers, healthcare workers, and about 25% of the general workforce that those people now become consumers. Those people could now afford to eat in restaurants and so rather than restaurant owners having to layoff staff and close down business, they had to hire more help and open more restaurants to keep up with the increased demand. More new and used cars were getting purchased, more televisions, more cell phones, tablets, and clothes. People could get their own apartments rather than sharing and so the city has faced a boom in new apartment building construction. The narrative from the neoliberals that taxing the rich, increasing wages, helping those less fortunate, providing free medical, free education and increasing funds to the retired is a doomsday recipe  are forced down our throats and spouted as if they were scientific facts and laws of nature but they are not correct nor scientific fact. They are absolutely wrong. And so, trying to develop India, Africa, and still vastly third world China so that the UK/USA businesses can generate more money is the pursuit even while the standard of living, mortality rates, and education of the citizens of her majesty’s kingdom continue to plummet is a crime against humanity. To increase wealth in the UK’s colonies including Canada, is simple. Give money to the people. Establish a strong middle class. Trickle up economics.

One last fun fact from Pitchfork Economics. The neoliberals have used the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the standard for measuring economic success since the 1950’s. It too is wrong in the same way that taxing the rich is bad for everyone kind of wrong. The wealthiest country in the world should lead the way in establishing a living wage. We should begin by removing GDP and replacing the measure of economic growth with measures that truly reflect the economy. Four such measures are suggested by the economic experts.

  1. How many times a day do you worry about losing your job? When it’s zero we have a living wage stage 1.
  2. How many times a day do you worry about not being able to pay rent/mortgage? When it’s zero we have a living wage stage 2.
  3. How many times a day do you worry about not being able to financially take care of your family? When it’s zero we have a living wage stage 3.
  4. How many times a day do you worry that you won’t be able financially afford to retire? When it’s zero we have a living wage stage 4.

Simple and truly those measures above are the real indicators of economic growth and prosperity. We will always get what we measure.

Nick Hanauer’s newer Ted Talk on income inequality.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”

The Great Soul

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

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