It’s Fun, Dating Myself

Once in a while over my years, the subject of technological change comes up, such as while sitting watching my grown God-children totally engrossed in their on-line computer games, teaming with other Millennials around the world as they zap bad guys, jump rivers and fend off attacking “things.”  Or, we might be talking about recorded music, or other media, as this is a popular interest of theirs.  These occasions give me the opportunity to reminisce “about the good ol’ days.”  I don’t know what it is about getting older, and old, that gives we human beings the motive to tell the young ones about “how it was like when I was a kid.”  From my observation most of the young ones could care less how it was, but we oldies keep on talking anyway.  So please indulge me here.

When I was a boy we never had any technology in our home, other than our father’s Kodak 8mm camera and a reel-to-reel projector to run the silent movies he would take, and take he did, capturing the river flooding, or filming Old Faithful on our around the West road trip when I was eleven.  I remember Daddy showing the movies, sometimes to our cousins who were not equipped with such “high tech” toys.  These would be fun affairs, usually after dining on fried fish or venison, and drinking iced tea as we watched.

Then along came the first television in our home, around 1952.  It was a big, ugly, piece of furniture thing really.  So that we could receive the signal from San Antonio, some 100 miles away, Daddy had also bought this antennae that was on a fifty-foot tall steel tubular pole, erected next to the house.  It was so high to get up over the huge oak trees around the house, that the F-100 fighter jets on their low-level training runs down the Nueces river canyon would rock the pole with their blasts.  I am sure Daddy and Mama were thrilled to be able to acquire this grand tv, and on “good days” we could actually make out the visual image of Jack Benny and others of those days.

Mama and Daddy saw to it that at Christmas we got the latest toys that we had seen on some earlier trip to Joske’s in San Antonio, such as an electric fire truck and train set for me, and when an encyclopedia salesman came by, they bought everything he had, which I read cover to cover during my boyhood book-worm years.  It was their way of seeing that we were educated, and even though we lived in an old, cold as hell, hot as hell ranch house, and had no more than two changes of clothes each, we “kept up” with the town folk in their fancy houses when it came to being “modern” and educated.

One thing we didn’t have, and didn’t have until I was turning 13 – and we had moved to San Diego, California (which was only for three years) – was a telephone.  Looking back, I can truthfully say that I seldom if ever used the phone myself.  The time I began using telephones “often” was when I was in college in the later part of the ’60’s, making use of the one Bell pay wall phone in my dorm to call my parents or bug my new girlfriend.  Now I can’t even go to the bathroom without my smart phone.  My, my.  My remembrance of telephones when I was a young boy was that one of our cousins had an old crank phone like the one posted in the title above.  The way you would call some one would be to turn the crank in a coded way, such as 3-shorts and 1-long, or you could just call the switchboard lady and ask to be connected to so-and-so, and she would do some magic with her plug jacks, and voila, “Hi Aunt Susie!”  Of course the first of the modern telephones were the old black, table top ones, that we still see in the old Hollywood films of the ’50’s.  These had a rotary dial, not buttons, and you could wear out a finger turning the spring loaded dial.  One time our Daddy’s mother fell in her house – you know, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up” kind of fall that elders (like me) are prone to.  Luckily she was close to her old black rotary phone, but she did not have her glasses, and so proceeded to just dial random numbers, on and on for a long time – not easy for a lady with sever arthritis in her hands.  Eventually someone answered, and she was rescued.

old typewriter

I learned to type (sorry, “key board”) on a typewriter not much more advanced than the one in this photo.  I was 14.  I think perhaps we were taught some practical things back then, as I also took electric shop three years running. leading me to my fifty year career as an electrical engineer.  In high school Mama had a nicer typewriter, which eased typing long term papers.  No word processors or lap tops then!

Over time the first electronic calculators came along, replacing the slide rule that we engineering students packed around.  Unfortunately the first Texas Instruments calculator cost around $375 and came onto the market when I was just completing my degree.

Slide_rule_scales_front

When I was in college the creative Japanese came out with a portable 45rpm record player.  I managed to buy one for the girl I would later marry.  Here is what one looked like, except the one I got her was “cuter.”  It would play one record, so of course you toted your favorite “jam.”   I ran into her one day on campus with it, playing Retha’s  “Natural Woman.”  We never made it to class that day!

 

portable 45 rpm record player

Some years later a big rage overcame the United States at large.  Everyone had a CB radio!  CB meaning “citizens band.”  There were CB clubs just like motorcycle clubs today and everyone learned the lingo invented by truckers.  Daddy got one for the home, and would talk to local ranchers, but most people had them in their cars and pickups, like this one.

cb radio in pickup

In the late 60’s, into the ’70’s the 8-track players reigned, but all “good things” come to an end, as these were replaced by the smaller cassettes, and then along came the CD.

8-Track-Tape-Revival

I will close with the arrival of the first cell phones.  In the mid-’80’s cell phones became available in larger cities in the USA, such as Dallas where we resided.  My wife was a jazz singer, performing at clubs around town, and usually she would have to call me to come pick her up, as I would be getting my sleep to get up for my day gig the next morning.  To call she would have to find a regular land line phone, or if we knew this would be difficult depending on the venue, I would just have to set my old alarm clock in time to wake up and get to where she was.  I saw a great thing in the first cell phone, and jumped at buying her one!  She could then call me right when she needed me to come, and I could get some more shut eye time.  He phone was like this one, huge and heavy.  I instructed her that if someone every attacked her, that she could just swing her purse with that phone in it, and likely knock them out!

motorola-dynatac-8000x1

Well, I will end this morning of recollecting without talking about word processors and the first personal computers.  Aren’t you glad!

Homage to Black America

This being the last week of this year’s Black History Month, a fact likely missed by 99% of white Americans (and likely most Latinos and Asians and First Peoples), I wish to make a brief statement on the “situation” of race in these States.

May I first offer a quote from one of the greatest writers of all history, James Baldwin?

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

The civil war that we are in right now (and yes it is a civil, not-so-civil, war), the war that never ended really at Appomattox, is slowly draining the dreams of millions of Americans -black and white and all others- and like Climate Change, we cannot just pretend that it does not exist.  We must face it.  We must face the root causes of it, and attempt collective understanding of this morass.

As a white man in America, who grew up in a “white world” until the age of 18, and who later went on to live among mostly black Americans until the present day, for over fifty years now, I feel very well qualified to repeat James statement, above.  All I have to do is watch the news feeds, watch the man holding the position of POTUS and hear and see the vile attitudes and behaviors of so many on the extreme right, to clearly comprehend that they must face their hate, and we who expound love and sharing and unity are wholly obliged to help them see the non-truth of their Weltanschauung.

All we can do on the left is hold ourselves to the arc of moral justice admonitions, check ourselves, but be firm in reaching out to the right with love and resilience of purpose.  We must push our institutions, our corporations and businesses, our churches and organizations, to look at FACTS, and stop reverse-engineering realities to justify distortions of history and of other human being who happen to not be of the same color.

There are many white people, especially men, who at one time were skinhead racists or “run of the mill” bigots, who have found the power in their heart to change, so they can be fully human being, and experience the beauty of their ultimate divine purpose.  It can be done, but only by having the courage to sit down one on one, or starting in small groups of black and white and all other Americans, to listen and hear one another’s pained and painful views.  Hiding behind Tweets and Comments is only the sign of someone who is afraid to put his or her skin in view behind those words.  So many cowards.

We must all, face the music.

 

Is It Temporal Distortion, or What?!

CLIMATE CHANGE.  Is it because so many people cannot grasp the fact that our world WILL die as we know it, and is already in the throes of death due to what we are allowing to be done to Mother?  Is it because it seems far in the future, and like our own corporeal deaths we just cannot attend to grasping it? So many other things to worry over, mostly pure nonsense and invented by those who wish to control our minds? I could go on and on, and like me, I pray you reading this are sick and tired of politicians and greedy industrialists and Wall Street hedge fund managers setting the course of our planet’s impending destruction.  As this brilliant young mind, Greta Thunberg of Sweden,  tells us, the solutions are at hand, and there is no need for discussion, just ACTION!

See That Elephant?

Having retired last year, after fifty year career as a professional engineer, I have a lot of time to reflect on my experiences within professional offices.  Most of what I recollect I tend to put a nice pleasant spin on, and I admit using my own distortion field of vision, tuning out a lot of the “bad stuff.”

However, observing the state of this nation presently, particularly “race issues,” I cannot help but interject to the public forum that we, collectively as professionals, need to do a lot better in addressing racial issues.  We need to acknowledge and even highlight in appropriate ways, the racial “baggage” that all of us bring to the workplace.  Right now, from my observations in recent history, “race” is like the elephant in the room that no one wants to see,  nor wants to unveil within groups of diverse ethnicities in general.  Its like there is an unspoken rule about leaving a large part of your humanity at the threshold of the workplace.

The fact is that people of different ethnicities do see their world differently.  There is NO homogeneous workplace “reality” shared by all those present in any situation.  What there is, again from observation, is an indifference (I prefer to think being attributable to sheer ignorance) to the views, values and outlooks of those persons of color, by often majority race (Caucasians) managers.  Managers who are “of color” are often just as “guilty,” as they do not want to “stir things up.”

Over my 50 years of working, as a white man, I have heard countless racist remarks, either overt or oblique, from “respectable” professionals…99.9% by white men.  I will not recite incidents decades ago, but even in my very recent years I perceived numerous racist or biased hints, innuendos or outright “old school” derogatory remarks spoken by white coworkers, out of hearing of black team members.  (This is not to also mention the misogynistic and sexist behavior of otherwise “nice guys.”)

While it is not incumbent on firms and large corporations to directly foster resolution of racial issues that employees bring with them, it is wholly insufficient to only make grand statements on their human resource sites that they comply with the law and discrimination, et cetera, will not be tolerated.  The fact is it is tolerated, and they cannot hide behind the position that relies on individuals to necessarily report every occurrence of racial bias that goes on almost daily in many employment environments.  Usually someone reporting -“snitching” – on others in this regard will themselves be getting a paper showing them the door.

A culture of education, group discussion and expectations should be set by all companies.  Requiring employees to watch an on-line video about discrimination is not culture! When I was a lieutenant  in the USAF around 1970, there were occasional problems that would flare between white airmen and black airmen.  The Air Force came out with a policy and program that used “sensitivity training” methodology.  I don’t know if it did much good, but it at least had sound intent, of improving internal working relations of the mixed fighting force.  So in 2019, why can’t companies do something similar?

When there is a racial tension present in a working group, it definitely creates a situation where people are not maximizing their human potential, and “human capital” is being wasted.  If a black person senses that their white manager is prejudiced, that black person cannot be expected to go “all out” meeting their manager’s goals.  Sure, bonuses for performance can be argued to overcome such dissonances, but I would counter that it doesn’t fully.  White managers and coworkers who are not open and empathetic toward those of color, will never attain the full respect and reciprocity of their black “friends” at work, whether in an office setting as or out in the field and factory.

Let’s stop being blind to the elephant in the room.  If we don’t, we may get stepped on.

 

All is Mind.

I have been a Buddhist going on 25 years, but only in the last ten years or so have I begun to have a burning interest in finding links between Buddhism’s teaching (summarized in the Heart Sutra), that “all is mind”, and the experimental evidence and theories of physics.

There has been over at least the last decade, a growing number of theoretical physicists, particularly those delving into quantum phenomena, who have expressed their observations and feelings about the intersection of their physics and what may be called conventionally, the spiritual realm.  There are now many books on the subject, exploring the links spanning consciousness, spirituality and modern physical theories and astronomical and laboratory observed phenomena.  The book, The Physics of Consciousness, by Evan Harris Walker, is but one.  Currently I am reading and will reread a book by Carlo Rovelli, Seven Brief Lessons on Physics.  A couple of other authors are Amit Goswami and Fred Alan Wolf, but there are a number more who have written on the subject, either directly or by touching on the consciousness aspect.

For those less inclined to read, but who want to explore this topic, you must watch the movie, What The Bleep!? -Down The Rabbit Hole, which gives an excellent treatment of the subject, although being already somewhat outdated as science has moved on since the release of the film in 2005.

This whole subject, trying to grasp findings and implications of modern particle physics and the relationships of time, space and gravity is mind-boggling enough, but when blended with the question of “what is consciousness?” becomes essentially unfathomable if one remains in a normal state of mind.  I have found the best way to approach these questions is to essentially go into a semi-meditative state.  Little by little I am finding I have a better understanding of the puzzle pieces as explained by these great physicists.  But when “studying” the subject of consciousness, using one’s own consciousness, it is clear that there is no discernible end to the rabbit warren’s twists and turns.

I would be foolish to attempt to say more on this grand subject, for far greater minds than my own continue to struggle and scribble equations that may finally capture the Mind of God.  I would leave it to the reader, if interested, to follow me into the hole, and be open-minded.

Happy exploring. Keep a Happy Mind!

 

It Began Here

For some reason my mind wandered back to where my formal education began, at the school house pictured above.  I attended first and second grades there, at Montell, Texas, 1952-1954.  It was a fun time, and I learned what I needed to learn to move into decades of learning that would lay the foundation for my career of some fifty years as an electrical engineer.

Now I remember what drew my mind back to the school.  I was watching a movie last evening and there was a jeep rolling along a country road that triggered my remembrances of the jeep our parents owned.  It was a raggedy Army jeep, with even one or two bullet holes in the back.  I don’t recall if I ever asked Daddy if that jeep was in the WWII or the Korean conflict, or maybe it was just used for training.  I do recall how much fun it was to drive it, as my parents taught me how to drive it when I was about 8 or 9 years old.  I will save my stories of driving the jeep on the ranch for another post.

Mama used to drive me to school, as we lived about five miles from Montell on a ranch.  I vividly remember those wintry days when she would bundle me and my little sister up, and we would roll along with cold wind chewing us to pieces.  During good weather though it was so enjoyable to us kids.

Montell school closed after my second grade, and I went on to attend schools in Uvalde, which was a 40 mile bus ride from our ranch.  The school had been there a very long time, and after the community hall closed, the school served that purpose and still does today.

On one side of the school is a historic Methodist church, and a short distance away on the other side is the Episcopal Church of Ascension, with a historic graveyard.  Our parents, one set of grandparents and many other relatives are entered there, along with many area residents spanning centuries.  The graveyard also has some historic characters in the mist, including a Confederate general, which I am not very happy to admit (but also not happy to acknowledge the slave-owning history of some of my ancestors).

One other building makes up the “infrastructure” of Montell, and in its day when I was a little boy, it was very important to us kids around lunch time.  John D.’s store and post office was just a couple of hundred yards away from our school house, and we would of course often skip over to the store as we knew John D. would have some candies for us, and maybe a Coke.  Ah yes, when Cokes were in the smaller glass bottles that we seldom see today, and tasted so good during a hot day where we sweated in the open windows building trying to do what our one teacher was working so hard to teach us.

Mrs. Taylor, our teacher, was responsible for teaching four grades at the school, with a student population that varied some, but usually around 7-10 kids over the four grades.  She was a very nice and competent teacher as I recall.  She got some assistance from two sisters who were in the top two grades (levels), and they would help tikes like me with learning our primary colors and ABC’s.

It took me a while apparently to master the primary colors.  I even recall to this day, Mrs. Taylor trying to get me to comprehend what the color orange is, so she took an orange from my sack lunch, held it up, and said “What color is this orange?”.  I was totally frustrated by then, and blurted out, “I don’t give a damn what color an’ ol’ orange is!”.  Well she was very nice as I said, and didn’t spank me, but told Mama, who laughed about this her entire life.  Now I laugh hard thinking about it!

Besides myself, there were usually 2 or 3 other boys, one a little older than myself, and all Mexican Americans.  Which reminds me also that at this first school experience all of us kids, Anglos and Hispanics, played together; but, when I went to school for the rest of my days, especially during elementary years, there was a very harsh distinction between the two ethnicities, with the Latin children always sitting on one side of the class rooms, and we “white” kids on the other.  And, I clearly recall that we “white” boys were often pitting ourselves against the Mexican-American boys on the play ground.  That one day I would marry an African American woman is a testament to how people change.

The Montell school had one big wood-burning stove to keep the school “warm”, but we definitely kept on our coats during the cold days.  I and the other boys were given by Mrs. Taylor the chore of going out to the wood pile to tote in logs and keep the stove stoked, so this was a fun thing to do at that age (I was used to doing it at home anyway!).  One day we were gathering wood and discovered a huge centipede in the pile, and we ran to get Mrs. Taylor, who grabbed a big glass bottle and came running.  Her intent as a teacher was to catch it and let it become a science exhibit.  I am not sure how we caught it, no doubt she was doing that work, because I know neither myself nor the other kids wanted to have anything to do with it (and I still today would not).  She was successful, and we kids marveled at how scary the thing in the bottle looked.

So it all began there.  Very few kids today in America get to experience anything like this country school experience.  It was a holdover, a remnant of the past.  Although we didn’t have anything like today’s technology (my granddaughter mastered the iPhone at 18 months!), we did have real life lessons, like looking under logs for centipedes!

If you are ever inclined, go visit Montell, just don’t blink or you will miss it!

 

Male Ritual Initiation: On Becoming A Man in America

This topic has always intrigued me.  In fact many years ago I wrote a small book on the subject, self-published it at a local print shop, then never did anything with it further, eventually tossing it all.  But I continue to feel that the vacuum of male ritual initiation in modern Western societies, especially in the USA, has “short-sheeted” our cultures.

In all tribal societies, to my knowledge, there is a rite of passage from being a boy, to joining the ranks of manhood; same for girls becoming women.  Many of these practices continue this very day, some extremely risky, but innate to the respective cultures.  Some of these rites would highly offend our values and senses, but each tribe or group devised these over millennia to be their social “glue.”  Somehow our modern Eurocentric societies, over centuries, lost whatever we had “back in the day.”  Likely this had to do with two things:  religion and industrialization.  The latter gave the masses a means to live less tribally, more as larger societies, exchanging goods and services, without having to endure extreme deprivation or physical pain routinely; whereas the former sought to totally control the masses, with initiation becoming baptismal in Europe, excluding any possibility of initiation into one’s familial micro-culture.  The objective of most ritual initiations is to prepare the man for dealing with his future life as a man, whether warrior or elder, which invariably will involve pain:  the pain from hand to hand combat, the pain of hunger and pain from accidents working in very harsh conditions; basically the pain of living as hunters, gatherers, and herders.  The greater objective is to be shown one’s role in their tribal structure, and instill an appreciation for the tribe’s values.

However, my thesis is that having forsaken ritual initiation, our society left the door open to the natural yearning that young males have to feel their strength, to become men in the sense of social responsibility, to protect their loved ones and to bond together.  Thus, I contend, boys in America have been left with finding their own means of initiation, for some beginning with participating in potentially dangerous activities such as skate boarding and other sports and activities with considerable risk.  Another example is our passion for rough sports, whether it is football, or today’s popular MMA fights, which are clearly at a lifetime cost to these “gladiators.”  To become a man in the heart of a “normal” boy, is to face danger.  The sense of adrenaline flowing through the body, providing that special thrill that has to be upped each time to experience the same level of reward, fuels this self-initiation.  The coursing of testosterone through the body, focusing the mind on sex, is a parallel aspect of this initiation: being a standout in a sport may reward a young man by upping his popularity sexually.

I personally experienced all these aspects of self-initiation, growing up as a boy in Texas: doing all sorts of risky things, hunting with a rifle at age nine, riding bikes doing crazy stuff, racing dump trucks on gravel roads….you name it….and being like many American kids in their teens, endangering myself and others while DWI; oh, and let me not omit, chasing girls.   Eventually my self-initiation was joining the Air Force, going to pilot training (that I quit…see another of my posts), and fortunately, NOT going to Viet Nam.  So my perspective  about all this is experienced based, of course.

But the No. 1 issue of my thesis, is this:  that Americans and America at large has always had a penchant toward violence, and over the years since the Korean war, our society has turned to war as a means of collective initiation.  As a result, in the absence of personal ritual initiation, many of our youth have sought to pass into manhood by joining the military – or being drafted to be “initiated” – without any real understanding of what they are getting into, or what they may have to do, or accidentally do,  “to other human beings.”  The saying that “ignorance is bliss” well describes how we prepare our youth in understanding the full truth of America’s history domestically and abroad, and even current events cannot easily be penetrated or assessed by the young mind (the mind does not reach adulthood until around 25 years of age), so how can they make a clear choice about becoming a soldier?

On the other hand, most American males never go so far as to join the military, and so are left without any recognizable initiation into manhood.  So initiation comes only through the experiences of their lives, and combined with our poor education system, lack of mentoring and coaching by elders, begets an unending spectrum of personal and social difficulties.

So given the premise of my argument, do I also proffer a solution?  I do have one:  radically improve our educational system.  Obviously there is no way to change our culture at large, but we can greatly improve what we teach our children, our boys and our girls.  Children will self-initiate themselves into adulthood, one way or another. If they have been given a wider spectrum of education, from societal to physics, all through their school years, they will be much more equipped to critically analyze their options and the implications of potential choices they must make in life.  The starting point would be to teach American history truthfully, devoid of “white washing” and prejudice.  Next, expand the teaching of science, for instance teach quantum physics theory and its implications regarding “consciousness” and even religion.

Am I optimistic.  Well, yes.  I detect slow but sure changes going on, for the better.  My pet saying, that I often voice to my godchildren and others, is “all good things take time.”  So while we cannot return to tribal ritual initialization, we can holistically prepare both our minds, spirits and bodies to be the best adults we can be.