Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Through the Ages

 We measure time and assign things to an age, although at times it is hard to determine what age we are actually in.  We started with the prehistoric age where record keeping was confined to cave walls and historians didn’t exist, and have progressed through various civilizations until we arrive at today.  Along the way, we passed through the middle ages, also known as the dark ages, (~500-1500 AD) when the Roman Empire had collapsed and Europe fell into disorganization.  Then, of course, we had the age of Enlightenment where learning returned and men studied the classic works of the ancient Greeks and early Roman intellectuals.  This led us to the Industrial age where mechanical devices began to replace the physical labors of the common man or woman and the idea of mass production became a reality. 

Eventually the Industrial age begat the Industrial Tycoon.  He was a man feared by many for the power he wielded and the wealth he accumulated on the backs of the poor workers and the average citizen.  These men, their wives, and their progeny lived in opulence and traveled the world in an effort to see and buy everything they could.  For example, John D. Rockefeller Jr. traveled through post war Europe (1920s), buying up old churches and middle age tapestries, art, and armor from the religious orders and nobles who could no longer afford them.  He brought them home to the US, of course, and found a cozy spot on Manhattan to rebuild them.  
Certainly, these ages are not strictly defined with absolute start and stop dates, rather they are represented by approximations of when significant indications are present.  There are also “unofficial” ages we like to consider, for example the “Age of Chivalry,” where knights roamed the land protecting the poor and downtrodden from the evil that existed.  I assume good knights could be identified by their shinny armor and white ostrich plumes, gleaming broadswords, and pure white chargers; while the bad knights by their rusty dark black armor, ink black plumes, fear invoking broadswords, and black horses.  Their squires, most certainly, also represented the distinction with one group being kind and loyal while the other sneaky, dark, and perhaps even hunched back.
Which brings me to the question of today, what age are we in now?

If we are to believe the ubiquitous news reporting we must be in the “Age of Incivility.”   For night after night, day after day, that is all we hear about.  The media tells us how this group or that group is destroying society.  We see on social media the outpouring of rage, vile rhetoric, and hate over simple things we should find agreement on, but cannot.  In the cities, we see increases in violence and crime where the average person and even the police are warned not to go into certain neighborhoods for fear of their safety and life.

A year ago, there were massive floods in western Louisiana, citizens came together to help each other, people with boats set out to help rescue those stranded by high water and the various communities helped each other.

Today there are even more massive floods in southeastern Texas, including the city of Houston.  Tens of thousands of people are stranded and needing rescue and again citizens, including those from Louisiana, have come to assist the overwhelmed official first responders and the National Guard as they are mobilized.  It is interesting to see the difference in how the survivors respond.  In the small towns and rural areas, these private citizen saviors are welcomed and their aid appreciated.  In the inner city of Houston, they are fired upon and their boats stolen by those who would profit through violence and theft.  

Unfortunately, this says so very much about the state of the age we are in.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Thank You Mike Rowe

Today is August 24, 2017, yesterday the social media was alive with a response Mike Rowe, a television and internet personality, posted the day before when he dealt with a troll who attempted to link him, those who support him, and Republicans in general, with the white supremacy movement. Mr. Rowe tore him apart in the most civil of ways demonstrating why Mike is such a popular personality (BTW, this is unsupported opinion).  You can see his response either on his Facebook page (22 August, “Off The Wall”), or in this article Washington Times, Aug 23, 2017, Mike Rowe rips 'smug' reader for white nationalist' insinuation attack on Republicans.

What Mr. Rowe points out is how logical fallacies play so heavily on the arguments made by the left or right as they condemn their political opposition.   As an example, he used a tweet from Neil deGrasse Tyson to illustrate this, Tyson said since scientists could accurately predict the solar eclipse they could accurately predict global warming.  The two events have absolutely no correlation, and therefore to say “if A is true, then B must be true” is a logical fallacy that serves only to confuse the issue.  It drives me crazy when I see so many people push this type of argument along as a meme, but I’ve learned, for the most part, to just “let it go.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Priorities, Social and Otherwise

Here on the Gulf Coast, we are in the heart of the hurricane season.  Almost exactly 12 years ago Hurricane Katrina came ashore, with a devastating impact.  The loss of life in New Orleans was almost unimaginable.  The levy systems failed, the drains failed, and the pumps failed as the city was submerged beneath the storm surge.  The local government failed as well.  Their preparations proved woefully inadequate, as they waited too long to order evacuations, and were ill prepared for the devastation wrought by nature or the recovery efforts that would be required.  Louisiana accounted for over 1,500 of the 1,800 total fatalities.  A year after Katrina they were still finding bodies that had been trapped in the attics of flooded homes.

Following the disaster, as there always is, there was a series of government investigations to determine why so much had gone so horribly wrong.  Why had the levies and floodwalls of New Orleans failed?  Why had the government response been so inadequate?  Why had so many died?

The Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for the construction and maintenance of the protective system that proved totally inadequate for the task it was designed for.  The investigations determined the government, in an effort to save money, had shorted some of the design requirements and the system was not as strong or robust as it was claimed to be.  The human decision points were late, and the city response was slow, as they underestimated the force of the storm.

The Federal Government was condemned by the press and political opposition, for its slow response to the disaster.  Of course, there were public floggings of the guilty bureaucrats, and the Army Corps of Engineers set out to build a better system of levies, floodwalls, and pumping stations to keep the city dry.  But what about the local leadership?  What about those who failed to maintain their part of the system?

Millions, and perhaps billions, has been spent in post-Katrina repairs and recovery.  Donations by the millions went into helping the poorest rebuild the homes destroyed by the storms.  The Army worked for years rebuilding the floodwalls, levies, and pumping stations to insure they would not be overwhelmed again.  But at the end of the day the primary custodian of the overall system is the city itself.

So here we are with another rain maker storm approaching, and is New Orleans ready?  I think we can safely say it’s not.  On August 10th, the Governor of Louisiana declared a state of emergency because the city could not handle the heavy rains of that week.  It appears the city has failed to maintain the pumps and drainage systems needed to move water out of the city.  The story in the Toronto Sun[i] suggests the city isn’t able to handle even the thunderstorms that frequent this area in the summer time, so a major storm coming ashore will, undoubtedly, overwhelm the ill-maintained system.

So where is the public spot light on the local government, asking why they have allowed this?  The spot light will come, it will come when the loss of life occurs, but I am willing to bet it will be again focused on the federal government, rather than the corruption, and failures of a local government that seems more interested in enriching themselves than protecting its citizens. 

Let’s hope and pray for those who have placed their faith in the city council and mayor that they and their homes are not destroyed this year.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Life in a Post-Eclipse World

“Hello darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.[i]”  Yesterday was a historic day.  The press spent almost as much time talking about the darkening of our sun as it did vilifying the President.  It was as if the world stood still.  Millions of North Americans, (500 million by NASA’s estimate), had at least some opportunity to see a part of this event.

Having made a cereal box viewer, I was not impressed. I think I needed a bigger cereal box or perhaps some fancy look at the sun glasses.  Although it got really dark, and wet for a time, I attribute that to the passing cumulonimbus that seemed to block out the moon, blocking out the sun.  But enough about me.

Today we return to what has become the norm, the people at ABCNNBCBS and Fox will again tell us how a statistically insignificant group is threatening our civil liberties with their hate and violence.  Of course, they will take sides and one hate group will be okay, while the other will be damned.

Politicians and celebrities will continue to climb on board with the idea that statuary that was placed by politicians a previous generation or two ago are now dividing our country unlike anything that has gone before.  In the political frenzy, they will not separate the profound from the mundane and will trample on them all.  They will, of course, be aided by the vandalism of one or two politically acceptable hate groups.

What they won’t cover, what we won’t discuss in reasonable terms, and what we won’t make an effort to fix is why are so many young people killing each other in the inner cities?  Why has gang violence escalated to the point that Chicago is now on track to break last year’s total of 789 murders[ii]?  Unfortunately, most of these are African-Americans, or the politicians would be forced to actually do something.  We see politicians talk in grand terms of government support to the poor, or closing our borders, or expanding/contracting our civil rights, but at the end of the day it is all meaningless if we let the one segment of society engage in murder without consequence.  We can fill our prison’s but they are already filled, and all they seem to be doing is returning the vicious back to the streets with better street cred. 

What would happen if we stopped talking about gun control for just a while (Chicago has among the strictest in the nation), and talked about how society has set itself up for this war in the inner cities?  The problem, as I see it, is we have abandoned the concepts of family, faith, and neighborhoods that form the sense of belonging to the young.  Even in our most liberal of areas we still discriminate with expectations for a successful life.  Those who can afford to send their children to private schools do so, those who can’t are left to the mercy of political agendas of the school board and the unions.

Is it better to allow everyone to become victims in this age of victim-hood?  For the major cities it would seem so.

[i] Simon and Garfunkel, “Sounds of Silence”

Monday, August 21, 2017

To Infinity; and Beyond

(with apologies to Buzz Lightyear, Star Command, PIXAR, and all the philosopher/mathematicians within the blog-o-sphere who’ve written so much about the deep meaning of the phrase).
This morning I set out for what Mark Twain described as a way to spoil a good walk.  I was considering the quiet of a course covered in the morning dew, the sun casting long shadows as it began its climb to zenith, and naturally here in Florida the humidity that turns your clothing into damp cloth in a matter of minutes.
A small sphere sitting quietly at rest, until a force, other than gravity, acts on it, transferring energy and imparting motion.  If all things are done in harmony that sphere with its drag reducing dimples will take flight in a graceful arch, supported by a top spin that will allow it to settle gently to earth hundreds of yards from where it began, on a direct line from its origin and a desired point of termination, some distance beyond.
 Along the way, as I travel from one resting spot to the next, and in between the activity points where I attempt to impart just the right amount of energy to the sphere I wonder about a lot of things. 
How fragile life is, yet how often do we seek to destroy it for human convenience?  We have invented a thousand different ways, and a hundred different reasons to destroy life.  If you’ve created a life and you don’t want it?  No problem.  If someone has something you want and the only way to get it is to destroy its owner?  Okay.  If you think life is painful and want to end it, there is help for that. 
Then, of course, we have war, where mankind thoughtfully or haphazardly inflicts grave damage to other parts of mankind to settle a dispute.
But we still grieve for those who’ve made it past the initial screening and are allowed to live, yet die for one of the multitude of reasons.  Why is that?  Why are some lives considered more worth saving than others? 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Morning Thoughts 8/20/17

It has been a tumultuous week, with riots, police shooting, terrorist attacks, and political opinions spinning wildly out of control.  The current “cause celeb” is the removal of monuments recognizing the Confederacy and (mostly) the generals who fought the war.  Liberal establishments are also taking steps to purge the names of slave owners/white supremacists from their institutions (e.g. Yale’s renaming of its Calhoun College).
What distant cities, or Ivy League institutions, do with statuary or names recognizing past contributions isn’t something I lose a lot of sleep over.  The people they commemorate are long dead and beyond caring.  For the most part their only visitors are the pigeons or the students who really didn't know how the name came to be.  I find it pretty funny how this political football has become such a hot topic, with the politicians and their supporters justifying the actions because of how offensive these are to an entire race.  The counter point, made by the opposition is “if these were so offensive why didn’t they all come down during the past administrations term?” I am willing to bet 99% of the race that is supposed to be offended has never given a minutes thought about the statues or the names of various colleges.  It is only the vocal 1% that has chosen to make this an issue, and not because they are historically offended, but because of they see it as a way to attack the President, and gain power for themselves.
So, this is what politics has become, act and counter-act, anger and counter-anger.  Anger and violence fanned by a media that supports one side of the story and a President who has created a persona that encourages the anger that flows from his opponents, both in and out his own party.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Today's Question

Why Do Hate Groups Exist?
Perhaps the more important question is why does hate exist?  That is a question mankind has struggled with for our entire existence.  If you have a good answer I am sure the world would love to hear it.  I know I don’t, but I do know greed, envy, vice, and hate have existed since the beginnings of our humanity.  One of the first stories in the Old Testament is Cain’s killing of his brother Able.
I am pretty sure creating alternative hate (alt-hate) groups is not likely to end this unfortunate human trait, for these alt-hate groups will just fuel hate for a slightly different reason.
Also, no matter what the government attempts to do, these groups will not cease to exist.  The human spirit, for better or worse, will find ways to take these movements underground even deeper than they now are.  Acknowledging Godwin’s law, we have only to look at the original Nazi’s and their attempts to crush resistance groups both in Germany-Austria, and the conquered lands.  The government simply cannot put enough laws in place, or lawman to enforce them to prevent their existence. 
Until we find a way to end hate; these groups will exist.  If we, especially our politicians and celebrity leaders, were to universally condemn hate groups, in all their forms, perhaps we might reduce them, but as long as some believe their violent groups are okay, and it’s just the other side that is evil, then the hate will go on.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Just a Little Encouragement, That's All

If you support, and encourage, one form of anti-social protest through your silence, you support and encourage all forms of anti-social protest. 

If your political party supports, and encourages, one form of anti-democratic behavior, it supports and encourages all forms of anti-democratic behavior, even that which it abhors, for it only abhors it because it doesn't think it can control it. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

And It Begins

We have begun the second civil war, brought on by an intolerance to divergent views, and a continuing rhetoric of hate.  This war will escalate for neither political party will be willing to step back from the edge, and each side will see the other as evil.  The media, who wins in this conflict, will continue to fan the flames of intolerance and hate seeking an escalation of conflict to increase their profits. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Wit and Wisdom of Neville Chamberlin (and Maxine Waters)

 We should seek by all means in our power to avoid war, by analysing possible causes, by trying to remove them, by discussion in a spirit of collaboration and good will.”

“I want us to be very careful, very alert to what is happening and to avoid war. I think we can do this with some diplomacy…”

“How horrible, fantastic, incredible, it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing.”

“This is something that we should be very concerned about, but this is not the time to go bluffing and threatening. This is a time for a diplomacy,”

“I think there’s some things that they want from us, and we have to find out whether or not we can work with them on the things that they’re asking for,”

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Short Story (part 9 - post script)

Home Again
He felt the hot breath of the bison, heard the beating of its hooves, tasted the dust it kicked before it and closed his eyes as he pushed the return on his machine.  His heart was racing at almost 200 beats a minute as he stood in the middle of his living room.  It was quiet, but it took his brain some moments to register the fact he was not dead.  He had not been trampled by the herd.
Tom slowly came back to the present, the world, his world of 2222, and worked to calm his breathing and his heart.  He knew his grand adventure was over, for although he could start over with the preparation and planning he had learned an important lesson.
While he had wide-open space before him, he was never truly alone.  The beauty of nature, with its vast expanse, crystal clear nights, and distant sounds filled the space with a peace and majesty unmatched by any human construction.  But even in the quietest of solitude there was something that provided the comfort of companionship.  He couldn’t quite put his finger on what that was, he had never been a religious man, but there in the open space of the plains, with only his horse and the two mules to keep him company he found companionship that silenced the fears and troubles of his soul.
Tom sat for a long time considering this revelation and tried to decide his next move.  Would he choose a new time and place to explore, or would he begin to explore himself, to see if he could understand that companion he found in the plains of the mid-west?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

I'd Rather be a Hammer...

No One Wants Equality
Look around society.  We see demands for equality, but really, no one wants equality.  Everyone wants to be on top, and if they can’t be on top the next best thing is to be a victim. 
Can anyone show me an ‘ism that isn’t arguing for their superiority or victimhood status in the media?  Everyone wants to tell everyone else how to behave or think, disagreement will not be tolerated and when independent thought does occur it creates outraged victims.

Monday, August 7, 2017

The New Colossus

The New Colossus
by Emma Lazarus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

We see reference to this poem in the news lately, so let’s talk about it.  According to the US Park Service[i] Emma Lazarus wrote, and donated her poem for an auction raising funds for the base of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to commemorate our alliance during the American Revolution.  It was converted into a bronze plaque and affixed to the base in 1903. 
The statue became the welcoming symbol for the European migrations of the late 19th Century and is now intimately associated with the center on Ellis Island where people were screened and quarantined for diseases like tuberculosis.  Ellis Island is also the place where so many Europeans received new names because the customs agents couldn’t pronounce or spell their real names, and many could not write for themselves.
In the main stream and liberal media, much has been made of President Trump’s proposed policy changes regarding immigration.  They throw up this poem as if it were proof he is violating some sacred policy and national mandate.  I find it amusing -- their commitment to pure emotion and rhetoric, rather than a debate on the facts. 
Fact 1:  A poem, no matter how inspiring or idealistic does not equal our Government’s Foreign or Immigration policy.  It didn’t in 1883 when Lazarus wrote it.  It didn’t in 1903 when it was affixed to the base of the statue.  It certainly didn’t in the 1930’s when the government refused immigration of European (primarily German and Austrian) Jews fleeing the Nazi persecution.
Fact 2: The US policies on Immigration have changed frequently based on national need, perceived threats to the society, and political will.  When we became a nation we “welcomed” the arrival of significant numbers of immigrants from Africa.  The vast majority against their will.  The legal slave trade was active until 1808.  On March 2, 1807, President Jefferson signed into law the “Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves.”  Although there were many who opposed changing this policy and enforcement was weak allowing slaves to continue to be imported until the civil war, it marked a significant shift in acceptance of what we view today as an inhuman policy.
Fact 3:  US Immigration policy affects the US (and its 50 states), as well as the nations from which the immigrants flow.
Fact 4:  Not all 7+ billion humans can live within the confines of the United States.
With those annoying facts in mind let’s talk about immigration policy and perhaps some lesser understood ramifications.
In 1921, for the first time, the Congress sought to limit immigration of the European states, arguing that immigrants from southern and eastern Europe could not be easily assimilated into the American culture. “The fear was that these newer immigrants would always be ‘hyphenates,’ or citizens who would call themselves, or be called by others, by such hyphenated names as ‘Polish-Americans,’ ‘Greek-Americans,’ and ‘Italian-Americans.’”[ii]  In 1924, additional steps were taken with passage of the Johnson-Reed Act formally establishing the racially and ethnically based quota system that became permanent in 1929.  The premise of this system remained in effect until 1965 when the Congress passed the Nationality and Immigration Act of 1965 removing the racially and ethnically based quota system.
American discrimination of Asian immigrants, and attempts to limit their arrival, can be traced back to 1882 with the “Chinese Exclusion Act.”  Aside from the cultural bias, there was concern over the impacts of huge numbers of immigrants on the local labor pools and loss of American jobs to foreign laborers.
It is interesting the claims of those who support immigration control are not significantly different today, then they were in the past.  On the other side, those who are critical of immigration control are also not significantly different than they were in our history. 
The divide seems come from the understanding of personal impact to a life style.  If you don’t feel your way of life is threatened then you are all for open borders.  If, on the other hand, you see your job and life style at risk, then you do.  We see this clearly in today’s divide where the urban and liberal elite believe they are insulated from direct loss of a life style, and welcome those who they believe to be victims of poverty or injustice in their own countries.   It seems they don’t believe their livelihoods are at risk from this group.  On the opposite side are those who see their incomes, neighborhoods, and lives directly displaced by this expanding group of refugees.
Now, about that third fact.  As refugees flee the savagery of war, or the devastation of draught and famine, what is the residual effect on the lands and nations they leave behind?  Who remains behind to rebuild or recover the nation?  Regardless of the administration, Republican or Democrat, we seem to “cherry pick” those refugees or immigrants we think will support our agenda.  Under the Obama administration, we opened the gates wide for those coming from Central and South America, as well as those from the middle east.  There seemed to be little concern with assimilation, only the potential for them to gratefully support the DNC agenda.  The current administration is attempting to close those gates and limit immigration to those who will best support the wants of our big businesses.
What we never see discussed though is the issue of secondary effects on both us (the US) and them (the nation of origin) of every immigration policy we implement.  We rarely, if ever, consider the negative impacts to the countries they come from.  We are taking the best and brightest, those who could make a difference if they would help themselves and their native countries to prosper.  There is much talk about the consolidation of wealth and the distance between the well off and the poor.  How much do we exasperate this problem in the third world, with our immigration policies when we take only the best and brightest or encourage the flight of the poorest so those countries can forget about them?
The issue of immigration remains, as it always has been, a political football.  Carried by one side, or the other, to achieve a political objective rather than attempt to determine what is best.  For determining what is best for all parties is impossible.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A Short Story (part 8).

The Night of the Buffalo

Tom had been on the prairie for almost two weeks.  He had become comfortable with the routine and the animals.  He found starting out at daybreak and then taking a rest during the heat of the day worked best for all concerned.  After the mid-day rest, they would travel another four hours or so before setting up a night camp. He found he was able to walk more, and ride less each day, as his body was conditioned by the exercise.

In those two weeks, he had not seen another human, although he could not shake the feeling that someone, or something, had been watching him almost the whole time.  He had purposely chosen not to follow the river, and this would have been a problem if he had not brought along the solar still.  It was the first thing he set up during his mid-day rests and it provided just enough water for him and the animals during those times he was not able to find a stream or other water source.

With his routine, he was able to cover about 20 miles a day without too much difficulty.  He worried about the loads on the animals, but was amazed they seemed to carry on without much effort.  Of course, any chance they had they would stop to graze on the now brown grasses.

As he crossed the rise of a low hill, Tom, Chester, and the mules came to a standstill.  There in the wide valley below was something Tom had never imagined possible.  Before him, as far as he could see were American Bison, or Buffalo as they were called in the history text.  They seemed to cover the earth for miles in every direction.  He decided, then and there, that this would be his campsite for the night.  He wanted to watch the herd until the night came.  He checked his micro weather station and although the pressure was dropping there was no indication of storms, so he figured a night on the top of this hill wouldn’t be too much of a risk.

As luck would have it, there was a small artesian spring that bubbled out of a crevice in some rocks.  Tom chose those rocks as his campsite, and quickly erected the tents, the electronic corral, and the shelter for the animals.  These days he wasn’t hobbling Chester or the mules for he felt with a halter and a long lead tied to a stake they would be more comfortable as they moved around to graze.  Once everything was set up, and he had grabbed a bite to eat he headed over to watch the vast herd below.  As he settled in he felt the wind pick up. 

With that subtle shift, the mood of the herd seemed to change as well.  He noticed the bulls begin to sniff the air and scuff the earth with their hooves.  The cows seemed to shift toward the center with their calves.  With his concentration on the herd, Tom hadn’t noticed the sky darkening.  He had expected it to do so, but as he looked to the Western horizon he was shocked to see not the warm glow of a summer sunset, but the angry dark of thunderstorms building to the stratosphere.  Although he could not hear anything he saw the flashes as the symphony of lightening danced from cloud to cloud and cloud to earth.

He was astonished at how quickly these storms were building and how intense they were becoming.  As they built and moved ever closer the buffalo bunched tighter together, but still they stretched for as far as Tom could see.  Concentrating now on the growing storms Tom could see the bottoms of the clouds as they appeared to become soft and round.  Then, quicker than you could say “get me out of here,” a funnel emerged from the closest clouds and reached for the earth.  Now Tom could hear the thunder, and as he watched in fascination the Tornado began moving directly towards the herd.

As if by some silent signal the entire herd, maybe 10,000 head turned and started running.  Running directly at Tom, his camp, his horse, and the mules.  Tom had moments to decide what to do.  They would be up the hill and on him in less than two minutes.  He had only one thought, the same as the buffalo, survival.  He sprinted to the camp, released Chester and the mules, hit the disable switch on the corral, and kicked the takedown switch on the tent. 

By this time, the first of the herd was reaching the crest of the hill, the very spot Tom had been just a minute earlier.  As they bore down on him the horse and mules took off running.  Tom was about to be trampled.  This would be the end of the grand adventure and perhaps his life.  Just then he remembered his return home mode on his time machine.  Reaching into his pocket, he hit home just as the lead bull arrived.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

A Social Question

They (those mythical experts), say with age comes wisdom.  I am not convinced this is true, but for now let’s assume it is.  My question then is, at what age does the younger generation have enough wisdom to determine which values of their elders they should cast aside and which they should retain? 
It seems obvious the answer must recognize that wisdom and knowledge are not synonymous and one may have knowledge without wisdom.  But can one have wisdom, without knowledge?  That question seems to be harder to answer.  It also seems obvious that knowledge must come from the world, learned from parents and family, teachers, friends, trusted public personalities, books (or now the world-wide web), and observation.  Wisdom, though is something beyond knowledge.
 “Knowledge and wisdom, far from being one, have oft-times no connection.  Knowledge dwells in heads replete with thoughts of other men; wisdom, in minds attentive to their own.  Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smooth’d and squar’d and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems t’enrich.  Knowledge is proud that he has learn’d so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” 
William Cowper (1731-1800) The Task, 6.88, 1785[i]
Aldous Huxley, in his essay Censorship and Spoken Literature, published in 1956, wrote “Ours is a world in which knowledge accumulates and wisdom decays.”[ii]  The events of the past 20 years have, for me, solidified the accuracy of Huxley’s statement.
In the 1960’s and 70’s, when my generation was coming of age, we were full of knowledge and ideas on how to make the world better.  We were inspired by the science that sought to take us to the stars, embarrassed by the racism that existed in America, and alienated by a war that seemed to have no end, yet sought to send our young off to die in a war with no clear road to victory.  Yet here we are some forty years later, with my generation in charge and surrounded by the same problems we had as young men and women.  Where did we fail to translate knowledge into wisdom?
For eight years, we had a President who was extremely popular with his supporters, the press, and the liberal establishment.  He was 47 when elected, yet he was surrounded by people my age and older.  In the course of his administration what did he and his party accomplish?  Was he, and his party, able to translate their vision of a more equitable America into a reality?  Was he personally able to translate his knowledge into the wisdom necessary to unite the country and end our wars?  Did he and his administration show the wisdom to consider all the social implications of casting aside the bias and concerns of a large portion of society, as they rushed to appease the vocal minorities? 
Why not?
The unfortunate reality of the past administration was the creation of conditions that led directly to the current administration.  As much as his supporters would deny this, the facts are inescapable.  We, the people of the United States, when asked to cast our ballot in November, cast enough of them in enough different places to bring in an outsider who refused to conform to the political expectations of either party.
The other unfortunate reality is the current President, his administration, and all his opponents seem no more capable of translating knowledge into wisdom than the previous one.  Bringing me back to my original question.  When do we have the wisdom to know what is right for the whole, or when the rights of the one outweigh the rights of the many?

[i] Leonard Roy Frank, Random House Webster’s Quotationary, Random House, NYC, NY, 1999, p. 931
[ii] Leonard Roy Frank, Random House Webster’s Quotationary, Random House, NYC, NY, 1999, p. 931

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

A Short Story (part 7)

The first day on the trail.

As the sun rose, Tom was up to greet it.  He had prepared his breakfast from the stock of condensed and packaged foods he had brought.  He’d had quite enough bacon to last for this trip.  This morning, he chose a lovely egg soufflé with Bearnaise sauce, and a cup of hi-energy coffee as his start for the day.  Soon enough the heavy-lifting of breaking down the camp, and packing his essentials onto the two mules would begin.

As he sat in his inflatable recliner and watched the glorious sun rise, he could hear nothing, except for a few birds or some distant echo from some lonesome animal.  This, he thought, was all he had hoped for.  The solitude and the peace of looking around and seeing no one.

After his brief reflection, he completed his meal.  Rising with a long stretch he got to the task of folding the tent.  He first pulled the four stakes that secured it to the ground, and then pushed the fold button by the door.  In about 30 seconds the tent was back to its original size and weight (5 pounds). 

Next, he pulled out his light weight exo-suit and strapped himself in.  This suit was a wonderful invention, he discovered on his first journey back to 2190.  Folded -- it weighted just over two-pounds, and fit in a 12-inch pouch, but when opened and powered on, the neuron systems grew to match his frame and provided him with the strength of three men.  This made loading the 25-pound bundles onto the mules manageable.

Before too long each mule had about 150-pounds of equipment and supplies loaded and balanced on their backs, secured to the pack frames Tom had found in 1986.  After he finished with the packing he dug a small hole to bury the packaging from his meal.  It was made from natural fibers and would be broken down by the earth within about a week so there would be nothing to show he had been here.  The last thing to do was to saddle Chester, and set off for the wilderness.

Tom swung an unsteady leg over the seat and settled into the saddle.  This whole horse riding thing was new for him, but he was determined to live out this dream.  The horizon lay out before him, unbroken by buildings, sky scrapers, paved roads, or any other sign of civilization.  How unlike his home he thought?  To be alone, totally alone, and without a deadline to make or meeting to attend, was something Tom had wished for as long as he could remember.

With a gentle nudge, Tom and Chester set off with the sun to their backs, and the two mules in tow.  Since he had no clear destination, or expectation on time to arrive, there was no hurry in their pace.  With an even walk, Tom’s aching muscles from the ride the day before began to protest this new day.  He reached into his pocket and removed a muscle relaxing pad.  Reaching behind himself he pressed it on the lower part of his back and pressed the activate button.  In a flash, his pain was just a memory, and he could sit back and enjoy the ride.

Slowly they traveled west, with Tom making sure to dismount and walk as the instruction manual suggested.  As the sun rose high in the sky the heat became intense and he could see the storm clouds building to his north.  When the sun appeared to be overhead he stopped to let the animals drink from a small stream and graze on some grass, as he had lunch, a Rubin sandwich with pickles and a nice light white wine.  While he thought of this as  roughing it, there was no sense in getting too carried away.  As he ate, he watched the astro-tracker take a noon fix to determine his location.  He was shocked to see in the course of four hours he had traveled only 12-miles.  With few landmarks to provide reference and nothing to judge scale it was impossible to know exactly how fast or how far he had traveled, without using the stars.  When he camped tonight he would set the tracker up to look into the clear night sky and use at least six stars to mark his position.

When the animals had rested, he dug a small hole for his trash, and mounted Chester to begin the afternoon's walk.  He saw a stand of trees on the western horizon and used that as his goal for the afternoon.  Once they reached those trees he would settle the livestock and himself in for the evening.  One hour passed, then a second, and a third and still he did not seem any closer to the trees than he did when he first saw them.  Finally, after six solid hours of travel they came to a small pond and the trees.  Cautiously he approached them, hoping no one else was around, but expecting that this small oasis was probably a popular spot.  Luck was on his side, the area appeared to be empty and void of other human life, although a number of birds and a couple of deer were shocked by his arrival.

He tied the mules to a tree as he donned his exo-suit to unload the supplies, which he bundled together and suspended from the tree branch about 15 feet above the ground.  He had learned this trick from John Muir on one of his shopping trips to Yosemite Park in 1903.  Of course, he had camouflaged the bundle so once he activated it the only thing visible was the rope that held it aloft.  He then hobbled the mules and as an added precaution he put an electronic security fence around them.  Once this was done he proceeded to remove Charlies saddle and blanket, hobble him and then put him inside the security fence.  Seeing how he was alone he didn’t see a need to shelter and activate a cloaking screen.

Finishing up, he set down his tent, activated the erect button and settled back as it set itself up.  He staked it down and then set out to explore this little grove of trees.  Night would settle on them in an hour or so, and he wanted to know where to go in the dark if he had to.  Once he was comfortable with the area he thought about dinner.  He had enough supplies for about 30 days in his kit, so today he had almost the full menu of choices.  He settled on a sweet and sour pork dish over wild rice with a hot Sake wine.  He took the packages, placed them in the solar cooker that had been charging all afternoon on the back of one of the mules and hit the menu choice, cook and start.  Inside two minutes the meal was ready to eat.  He then warmed the Sake and sat down to eat.   In the distance, he heard the howl of a wolf.  It was unlike any sound he had heard before and it sent a shiver along his spine.  As he looked to the heavens he could not believe how clear and close the stars were. 

He set up the astro-tracker and within just a couple of minutes he had a precise location for his camp.  He had traveled just over 28 miles on his first day.  As he prepared for sleep he took care of his dinner boxes for he knew the smells could attract unwanted company.  He brushed his teeth, washed his face with the warm water from the sun heated water jug, and crawled into the tent.  As he settled in, he made sure he had his rifle and pistol handy as he drifted off to sleep.
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