Where have all the “old people” gone?

I was trying to think of a good topic to write about today….although my guts were directing me to delve into “domestic terrorism” and how our government is effectively green lighting white nationalists, compared to Federal and local response whenever there is an act perpetrated by foreign terrorists.  But, no, I am not going to ruin my day getting even more agitated about this.

I thought also to write under a post title, “Death by blogging,” and I likely will do that in the future; however, today’s topic is as stated.  I can’t seem to find any “old people” on the web, in photos and film, and frankly, in flesh and blood, in most public places.  I know we haven’t all just “disappeared.”  I can look at myself and see that I haven’t disappeared….or at least I don’t think I have, but maybe?  Of course, by some standards I am not even “old” yet, so maybe I haven’t totally disappeared yet?

When I go out looking for photos for my blog posts, if it’s about people, seems like the only old people “pics” are those taken in foreign countries; by “foreign,” I really mean developing or third-world.  No offense meant, of course, for my readers in India and other areas populated by societies that have been around so long that the USA is not even a sneeze in comparison.  But, please, my readers not in the US, don’t you agree? Can you find many “old American” pics, except maybe people golfing or living on the streets?  We have no gurus just “chilling,” drawing photographers to them like a magnet.  Do you not agree that there is a dearth of photographic proof of the existence of old people in America?

I don’t get out much anymore, and when I do, I don’t stray far, but in the stores the only “old people” I see are perhaps around the time Social Security checks hit our bank accounts.  I do occasionally see a little “blue haired” white lady being slowly chaperoned by her health assistant, usually a young non-white person.  I don’t know, maybe if I were a golfer, I might see a few more old men.  But I hate golf.

I suppose this is just how nature works with people.  The new is out and about, blooming, busy as bees, and the old folks just sort of stay out of the way.

That’s ok by me, but just remember, we are still here among you, so watch your steps!

A Man of Simple Means, A Hero to His Family

“I can’t tell you what goes on, but the Italians are going to have a lot of bridges to build when the war is over.” (My father writing to his parents, dated December 9, 1944).

Daddy was a B-25 pilot, one of many brave warriors of the 321st Group, commanded by General Robert Knapp, a friend of General Jimmy Doolittle, who used the B-25 to launch a strike on Japan from the deck of an aircraft carrier.

On April 27, 1945, my father was awarded a 6th Oak Leaf Cluster to his Air Medal.  That was his well-deserved birthday present.  On April 27th this year, had he lived, he would be 99.  Daddy wrote to his parents on April 25th that he had finished 70 bombing missions over Italy, as the Allies drove the Germans back north.  I wonder if he had any premonition that his son, me, would be born exactly one year later.

On May 8th, VE Day, General Knapp pinned on Daddy’s Distinguished Flying Cross, and soon he would be home.

The photo is actually one of the B-25’s that my father flew.  Back then aircraft in the field would have various “decorations,” usually of shapely ladies.  My have times changed.

Tom Brokaw has referred to the WWII generation as America’s Greatest Generation.  All I know for sure is our father was to me, “the greatest man.”

Happy Earth Day?

While home on leave in 1971, my future wife and I attended the second Earth Day celebration in Austin, Texas.  I don’t remember much about it, except it was a beautiful day, and I was with the beautiful woman that I would spend 25 years with on this beautiful Earth.

Today I am not sure it is appropriate to wish someone “happy Earth day.” Is it?  As a Buddhist I strive to keep a happy mind, which I do believe allows clear insight and comes by negating ignorance, anger and confusion about the things we all deal with on a daily basis.  However, a happy mind requires equanimity, a challenging matter given what we observe humanity doing to – committing against – our Mother Earth.

AI, artificial intelligence, is one of my favorite topics, which I have written about previously.  Being a positive soul, coupled with faith in what I observe in the young generation – their concern about climate change, to the point of global walk-outs by school children –  I do feel somewhat better that AI will be shaped by our progeny toward arresting the slow decay of our space-ship/biosphere.  On the other hand, there is the very real threat of high-tech gurus attitude of never looking back, and only concerning themselves with accomplishing technological steps that really remove humanity even further from our Mother.  Without heavy ethical push-back, there is extreme risk of technology being grasped by near fascist political regimes that will push the curve downward, continuing the decrement of the life-force that sustains all life.

In democratic nations, people can push back by voting for those who do cherish the Earth, who do work in evidence-based policy formation and who do what must be done.  Democracies that follow an environmental friendly state policy-making can also greatly influence the  non-democratic and developing nations.

So, let me end on a positive note, and do wish everyone, all my fellow humans, orangutans, and all Mother’s “creatures”, Happy Earth Day!

 

My Ancestry DNA Results

Recently I updated my Ancestry.com DNA report, as prompted on the website.  What a nice surprise I suddenly saw on my screen.  Besides being all Western European, I have one or more ancestors from the Gold Coast / Ghana region of west Africa.

Given that I made a choice back in the 1960’s that I preferred being around African American culture, and married a black woman, and have all these years lived with black women and my godchildren, I said to myself, “well, this does make sense now.”  Of course, I know that having such a tad of DNA from Africa would not pre-destine me to have an affinity for African American culture.  I am still not sure what did, and does, make me feel more at home around black people.  Likely I will never figure that out, but I would answer if asked, “Because they show much greater warmth and feeling, are welcoming of strangers, and are forgiving, and racism is almost non-existent among them.”

DNA has many twists and turns, and certainly it affects phenotype (how we “look”), but ethnicity is so much more complex.

What I do have now is a better feeling of who I am as a human being.  All humans began their journey through time in Africa, long, long ago, but now knowing I have a “recent” real connection does make me feel good.

One of my black godsons said a day ago, “I would have bet on it,” referring to my finding.  Others of my family also felt this confirmed a similar feeling in their hearts.  So it is nice to feel my inheritance is now a little more global, and accords with my present familial environs.

So I had a nice week.

You Can’t F*&% With TRUTH

So for my readers in UK and EU, no this post is not about Brexit.  I just wanted to find a caption photo that exemplifies this thing called “truth,” and the ripples NON-truth has across our societal senses. While I specifically address the USA, one can certainly draw similar comparisons within any society.

Let me get this out of the way right now.  As Shakespeare let audiences know, “The truth will out.”  We can’t hide from it, defy it or twist it into any “alternative facts,” without it ultimately coming undone, like a twisted rubber band it will find a way to release the energy of truth.

Where has truth gone these days?  Mass disbelief in traditional sources of information, regardless of the history of credibility of those sources, the distrust of any institution, any political entity that is not on one’s side of the fence, is at an all time high it seems.  Trust or belief in these are at a record low based on “surveys,” (but who can trust those you know?)

There is a good article on this subject published on the RAND Blog, May 5, 2017, appropriately discussing “truth decay.”  I had actually touched on similar reasoning in one of my earlier post, concerning why I think it is so important that critical analysis be taught in America’s school systems.  I sincerely believe that the political quandary we find ourselves in today is largely due to the inability of a significant sector of our population to critically analyze factual data, topped by the fact that most do not have ready access to hard factual, evidence-based information and news.  It is a fact that a handful of politically conservation news media companies control a huge number of news outlets in the central and southern part of the country, and in large swaths there is no option to watch or listen to other than the “tailored” news that is fed locally through these channels.  Moreover, many rural areas do not have ready access to high-speed internet, which also throttles the amount of news source selection available.

However, at this juncture it seems America is stuck in the mud, at least for a while.  I have faith that truth will prevail, however, and the arc of moral justice will continue to arch upward again, as it inevitably must.  Facts and statistics will play a role in this, and I believe any rational person who takes time to actually look at hard data cannot help but align some of their sense of the world to a rational model.  The bifurcated zeitgeist we are experiencing now will in time be healed, although a scab will remain.

An example of the power of factual data is readily evident in statistics such as motor vehicle death rates, murder death rates, mass shootings and terrorism.

I will not get into details, but let me start with the attack on the World Trade Center.  I like millions sat and watched in real time the entire event, sick to my stomach.  Some 3,000 innocent Americans and others died that day, and many more first responders have suffered and died since from related causes.  But every year well over 33,000 deaths are recorded in the USA on the public highways, with over 2-million injured.  So every year Americans essentially kill each other on the highway annually at a rate that is over ten WTC attack losses.  Most of these “accidents” are due to reckless or intoxicated driving, which means we have little concern or respect for our fellow Americans.  So where should the money be spend to curtail deaths.  Is a death by a foreign terrorist worse than a death due to a drunk teen boy?  In either case a loved one is not coming home.

Facts related to murder rates also show us very quickly that our pocket books and policies are ill-aimed (pun intended).  There are over 17, 000 murders every year, not to mention those seriously injured who survive.  Now the underlying causes of these murders do not get the attention that the murders themselves get, unfortunately.  Why? Because a large percentage of murders are in isolated, cut-off, impoverished and forgotten urban areas, where the politicians do not live.  Our solution has been to spend millions on military weapons and equipment given to local police departments, to deal with street demonstrations instead of finding out how to stop the illegal flow of guns into inner cities, sold by mostly white profiteers.  The NRA and its fat cat, hands-out politicians are indirectly responsible for many of these deaths, no different than cartels bringing death to those poor souls addicted to hard drugs (often originally caused by other white collar profiteers, namely the heads of certain pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors – and doctors).

Mass murder is another interesting statistic:  mass murder by white men FAR exceeds that committed by any other race in America, and by any foreign terrorist, other than 9-11, which was a historical aberration akin to the attack on Pearl Harbor.  And yet, we have spent trillions in the War on Terrorism, when right now the evidence shows us the greatest threat is from domestic extremists and people who have not been steered to psychological treatment, and denied access to battle field weaponry.

What about crime by illegal immigrants?  Statistics are not as good as one might wish for in this area, but all studies have shown that illegal aliens are less likely than their represented population in the States, to commit crimes, including murder and assaults.  In other words, for instance, Hispanic American citizens are more likely to commit crimes on a “per 100,000” rate than Hispanic illegal immigrants.  The one exception in some areas may be arrest for illegal drugs.  In spite of this we now are being told by our President we have a huge security threat on our border, necessitating the shifting of Army and other military personnel, resources and funds to the Southern border, away from being ready and postured for quick response to any future international threat, such as Putin entering another country with tanks, rocket launchers, and his other state of art weaponry.

Even though truth is seemingly lost in the haystack right now, as the wind blows it will be revealed, and many will wipe their eyes and finally see.  Hopefully that day is not far away.

 

 

Esthetic Appreciation of Machinery

On my walk this morning, something popped into my mind that I have thought about occasionally, so I decided to write about the topic today.  The title of the post was one I struggled with, but “Esthetic Appreciation of Machinery” sort of sums up my notion.

I readily admit having such an esthetic, and find myself sometimes bothered by the actions, or inactions, of those who do not; to wit, those who treat their vehicles (or other machinery, even gadgets) so “uncaringly,” so cavalier, not maintaining, not cleaning and generally treating the “thing” like a “thing.”  When I look at a vehicle, I see the millions and millions of hours it took to design it, and its predecessors, and build it and all its variations.  Surely that human effort should be in some way honored, at least by caring for the car or truck better than most car owners do.  How readily we take for granted all these marvelous creations that make our society so much easier to live in than fifty years ago.  Whether its highways, bridges, cell phones, or cars or a billion other “things,” we seem to just have not sense of appreciation for these “things” that just become part of our daily landscape.  This offends my engineering esthetic.

I know this is difficult to grasp, and as a Buddhist I don’t want to leave the impression I am grasping at material stuff, as in recent years I have learned not to.  We all have probably seen trucks or trains carrying crushed cars to be recycled for their metallic content, usually dumped the electric arc furnace at a steel plant, so this confirms that vehicles are in fact, “things.”  When I observe recycling of cars I think of it as like any organic matter, including the human body, being converted back into its original ingredients, from which the very universe is composed, but whether its people or cars, while they “exist” in this perceived reality, should we not show respect for the mind energy and labor energy that went into their creation?  I think so.

Let me remind my readers that I am an engineer, although a retired one.  But  once you “go engineer,” you are one for life I can assure you.  So I have a love for the workings of “things,” although I am an electrical engineer and the things we EE’s work with may be static/passive, or dynamic machinery such as motors.  My love for “what’s going on inside this thing”, I was born with it seems, but the appreciation for the “thing” I believe is a developed or learned sense, just like one’s appreciation of art, or music.

When I was a boy I, like many future engineers or “mechanics,” was always tearing apart any mechanical thing that I could find the right tool to undo, opening its secrets of operation.  At age 13 I bought my first powered lawn mower to earn money mowing yards.  It was what is called a two-cycle engine, spewed smoke like a sick diesel truck, but it was my engine, and I loved tearing it apart to clean it and tune it up.  No one taught me to do this, it was by just by doing it.  During my early teen years I had some neighbor boys who parents would give us a lot of slack on tearing into engines, big car engines, racing boat engines, and we boys were into powered model cars and airplanes as well.  As any mechanical engineer or mechanic will vouch, just to observe how the “guts” of an engine all fit together and serve mutual, integrative purpose, is a marvelous thing to witness.  Touching, handling, feeling the finely machined steel, in spite of the oil or grime, is to many people, a connecting, revelatory experience, similar to a basketball player handling the ball, the ball becomes like the key to opening up a large slice of the player’s psyche.

I have to be honest however, as although when a kid and later a young adult, I enjoyed working on engines, I gravitated to designing “things,” in my case, electrical power systems that connected a lot of “things” together, and given that most of these when operating are electrified and dangerous, there is not much “touchy-feely” one can do, without the proper precautions and procedures; otherwise one gets zapped and toasted

The car in the photo above is my very first new car.  My father bought it for me and we picked it up right after my receiving my 2nd Lieutenant bars at UT Austin, May, 1969.  It was an Opel Kadett Rallye.  He made the down payment, and then I picked up the payments when my military checks began to arrive.  I hadn’t had the car but a year or so, when I discovered the same manufacturer had just come out with a sports car, the Opel GT, and as a young military officer, I just had to have one.  That car was frankly one of the best I ever owned, and over my life I was fortunate to own a number of new cars.  I loved the headlights on the GT, as there were turned into the car when unused, then when you needed them, there was a lever right next to the shift stick, that you pushed forward and the headlights rotated out to shine.  Very cool.  Very mechanical.  And, it would hug the curves and hills going 110mph mile after mile.  Hit my esthetic dead on.  The car had a straight, 4-cylinder engine, and there was tons of room under the hood to get to the spark plugs and everything.  I worked on the engine to do minor things, like changing plugs, for several years until I could one day I could afford to trade it on a new car.  Over the years I loved the changes in technology, but golly-gee, that little GT was just the bomb.  I still miss it.  But I also miss my Ford Taurus, a 2014 model, one of the last of the big Ford sedans.  I miss it, but then I do not, as you see I have adapted to a life without a car, which is not a very easy thing to do when you live in Texas.  So now I Lyft or Uber, but also have found that I don’t really need to move around much needing a car, as just having a car compels unnecessary motion I have learned.  So now I walk a lot more and enjoy it immensely.

My readers also know of my fascination with futurism, especially AI (artificial intelligence).  So I wonder as cars become essentially autonomous, will we humans collectively become totally detached from any appreciation of these vehicles?  And, given their complexity, will it not require robots and androids to work on them, totally replacing our corner grease-monkey businesses?  It seems so, sadly.

Many of you will understand my appreciation for “things,” but for those who continue to use your car like a garbage can, oh my, get some help!

 

Why not write that book?

I thought that today I would choose a really easy topic for me to write about, one that I hope also will encourage and inspire readers to take that step toward publishing their own first book.  For decades I have had some books turning pages in my mind, all wanting to come out.  I started two or more books writing by hand, and later on an old word processor (pre-dating PC’s).  I researched how to self-publish, researched “vanity publishing,” and each time just threw up my hands, feeling in my busy life I did not have time to do all this “stuff.”  I just wanted to write my books, push a button, and get them on the store shelves!  All those years I published nothing other than a small printed book about Ritual Male Initiation, which went nowhere.  I was really stymied.

I had known about Amazon’s Kindle for quite a while, and “print on demand,” but again I was just too wrapped up in my career and other of life’s distractions to pursue it further.  However, having retired recently, I had time to really look closely at “how to” publish using Amazon’s KDP platform, and after some experimenting, and several trials and errors (which with me is a continuing process), I was amazed to realize that even I could do it – publish my own book all by myself!

I now have two new loves in my life:  Google search and Amazon self-publishing.  I use Google although there are others available as you younger readers certainly know, but these two things have literally opened up new doors for me as I move into my elder years.  As an engineer for some 50 years, I always used my mind everyday for hours, and then when I retired, I wanted to push the gas pedal of my brain but I had no where to go.  Now I do.  Between this blogging (which I really enjoy, and enjoy just for the sheer delight of self-expression, whether or not anyone ever reads my posts), and my new-found book writing/publishing “romance,” I am as happy as a pig in slop!

So let me close by just saying that you too, if you have a good PC or laptop, and a good internet connection, can also step confidently into the book world.  It is EASY!  If any readers have questions, perhaps I can help, so just contact me, ok.

And, oh yes, the photo above:  this is the cover of my latest book, Texas Jazz Triangle, A Historic Nexus:  My Love Affair With The Music, available on Amazon, along with a few others I have happily published.  The singer in the photo is my late wife, Shirley Tennyson-McFatter, who passed 25 years ago.  You can see and hear more of her on my You Tube channel (Joe McFatter).

Peace be with you all today, and always!