Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Yes, the World is getting ickier.

Hi, folks. Not feeling like ranting about anything at the moment; it's pretty much all been ranted before.  I'm more interested in trying to share insights that might, just maybe, be useful in the years ahead.

I think the "world", in any and all of the senses of that word, has never been so unstable as it is right now.

Politically, socially, economically, and environmentally, we are at the edge of the cliff; and not moving away from the drop.  Rather we seem to be heading off the edge; faster and faster.

What to do- is a vast and variable conversation.  But one thing seems clear to me- you need to see what is going on with open eyes; and a mind well acquainted with History.  Politically, socially - we have been here before.

I'll give just one example that hit me today.  Japan has announced it will "form new bodies" to deal with "terrorism".  Below is their statement; and then my "in actuality" translation.


"Japan's government has launched bodies to counter international terrorism in the wake of last month's Paris attacks.

"A ceremony was held at the prime minister's office on Tuesday to open an intelligence unit in the Foreign Ministry and an inter-ministerial liaison body in the Cabinet secretariat.

"Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said strengthening intelligence gathering capabilities is urgent. He encouraged staff whom he called professionals in international terrorism-related intelligence to do their best to obtain vital information.

"The Foreign Ministry unit consists of 4 senior officials, each monitoring one of 4 regions -- Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and North and West Africa. They are to work with staff at overseas diplomatic establishments and exchange information with foreign intelligence services.

"The liaison body, headed by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita, consists of senior officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the National Police Agency and the Public Security Intelligence Agency.

"It is to consider anti-terror measures under the leadership of the prime minister's office."


So.  The message for public consumption is "We are working hard to make your life safer; because you should be afraid of the world now."

The reality of what is going on could be put this way: "Wow, guys, we've got a blank check to set up all the Secret Police we ever dreamed of; with no oversight by anyone, ever!  So; here is where we start! Our political opponents are so totally toast!"

Japan is not the only place this is happening right this second.  Historically; this kind of police action has resulted only in abuse, the destruction of political opponents and personal enemies, and long bouts of hell on earth.  Increased security for the common people - simply never happens this way.

What can we do?  Personally.

Should we vote?  Yes, because it CAN get much worse, much faster, if you don't.  Engage.  Get others engaged, too.  Although voting procedures are often corrupt around the world; we have multiple proofs that voting can still sometimes result in surprises - e.g. Greece and Myanmar most recently.  It's a mystery how the people sometimes prevail - but - sometimes we do.

It's worth a shot.  Because just staying out of it - historically - means losing for sure, every time.

Hang in there.  And if you've been thinking about making changes in your life- do it.  Now.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Upside Is Really Great Surf.

Polka Dot Gallows today, from the LA Times, forsooth.

So.  El NiƱo is here- and on track to be the most intense on record, actually.  Which means?

Floods, mudslides, drought and crop failure in Africa and other places;

11 million children in immediate need of food.

But hey!  Really great surf in California!

Oh, and beach communities battered into oblivion.

Always look on the bright side!

And in that vein; isn't it great how our ability to focus on the utterly trivial is being honed into perfection by our need to ignore reality - at any cost?


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Once in a while.

I had one of those very rare successes in parenting today.  Not that it looks like it's permanent.

Smidgen - who is now 10... (your eyes can't be bugging out more than mine)... is, of course, a child of these times.

Plugged in, far too often.  Her school allows kids to count books as "read" - if they are not read, but  merely listened to, via the omnipresent omnipotent earphones.

I struggle against it- particularly as these are the years when she is really able to see and remember the world around her.  She's had plenty of great experiences so far- but I find that the really wonderful time we had together when she was 5 - she cannot recall.

So this morning - a gorgeous bright October day, brisk in all the best traditions, maples right at peak color, sky pellucid blue - she announced that ho-hum she was going to lounge her butt upstairs and see if maybe she could find something to do.

I did not actually throw her outside and off the porch, though the impulse was hard to resist.  But we did have a substantial father-daughter conversation about inside, outside, days which can never be recovered, lost opportunities, October, and all that stuff.

She can be enticed into things.  So I baited her into going outside- and making noise, something she is appallingly fond of.  "Go strangle your duck outside, down into the valley."

Go strangle your duck is our current code for practicing her newly adopted oboe; particularly when it is operated in its weaponized mode.  She's decided not to be offended, but rather to cheerfully accept the language.  "Can't, my duck is in the car, not here."

"Fine.  Then get one of your old recorders, and go play that."

"Okay!  ...  Which one, the blue or the red?"

Getting very close to the just actually throwing her, at this point, which I was able to convey.

She went.  Out.  Until she came back in after 5 minutes; "Daddy!!  You have to come, QUICK!"

Really?  And why is that?  Any hints?  Is something bleeding rapidly?  Have we discussed clarity in communication previously?


And there is.  And the owl came - because of the weird trilling and clucking she was producing from the recorder.  Really.  Flew right up.

Young and foolish, almost certainly, and calm enough that I was able to go back in the house for the camera, which does not have a telephoto lens but is a camera I know well - and get this, which is greatly enlarged from - this -

Really, the owl is there.  And Smidgen is a complete owl freak; she collects any that can be collected, drinks out of an owl mug I brought back from a trip... etc.  And it is a Barred Owl.

I did not fail to point out that I had been correct about the advantages of being outside.

She graciously deigned to agree.

But it wore off, after lunch.

I'll take what I can get.  :-)

Friday, August 28, 2015

Polka Dot Gallows! Japan Empowers Women!

I haven't been doing Polka Dot Gallows posts for a good while- it's been too easy; and too depressing-

But today; amid all the global catastrophes in progress that don't bear examination; I did find one that is pretty much pure theater, entertainment.

And depressing; but worthy of a good big belly laugh, also.

Japan is currently being run by a government entirely owned by the Owners; big business, elites, and all that.  All their decisions and changes are designed to repeal all safety and health measures, and increase corporate profits.  Seriously; look into it if you want.

A big part of the reason the Abe Dynasty was elected is, they are experts at media propaganda; really, really good at it.  The melted reactors at Fukushima are a terrific example - most of the world thinks that Japan has of course responded to the leaking radiation in a fast, efficient, and effective way.  So the media reports.  The reality is - nothing effective whatsoever has been done.  Nothing.  Tons of money spent on things that don't work; but - the reactor cores are still leaking radiation directly into ground water, which is moving directly into the ocean.  Incidentally, your local physics professor knows this- and is silent about it.  (How do we know?  Fish keep showing up with very short-lived radioisotopes - that have to have been just leaked.)

So - since women in Japan do have the vote, and they are pretty universally unhappy about how women are still excluded from advancement in business and government - the Abe machine has now very effectively passed legislation to Empower Women!  Huzzah!

Here's the press release:

Female empowerment bill approved

Japan's Diet has passed a law aimed at enhancing the role of women in the workplace.

A majority of Upper House lawmakers voted for the legislation at a plenary session on Friday.

The law obliges the government to come up with a policy for offering women more opportunities in recruitment and promotion. It also calls for creating an environment where women can balance work and family.

The law requires the central and local governments and large companies to set numerical targets for female recruits and managers. Employers are required to make the figures public. The law also calls on smaller firms to draw up similar plans.
In case you are not used to translating press releases: "The Abe regime announced today that they are forming a committee to study how to empower women; and have directed that everybody else form committees too."
Total effect for women of course: Zero.
Actually, I'm having a hard time getting the belly laugh.  I hope you have better luck. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

A bit of GOOD news today.

Generally, it's a lousy news day - world stocks crashing, huge chunks of ice breaking off Greenland, whales dying in Alaska - not a lot of fun.

Imagine my surprise, when I ran into this article on neighborhood networking in Italy.  Read it, it's delightful!

And, a terrific model.  If I lived in a city, I'd for sure try to launch one of these in my neighborhood; or join one if someone has already launched.

It's simple- a couple of people launched an invitation to a closed group on Facebook; just for people in the neighborhood.  Both on Facebook; and with plain paper fliers.  Now- instead of a crowd of strangers; many know each other, say hello on the street- and help each other constantly; for free.

Of course this is how neighbors should act - but we rarely do these days.

I love it!  You should do it!  :-)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Role Models And Fate


Several times a week, I think "I really should make a post on the Little House blog- the folks there are so crazy loyal; and worth talking with..."

And then, searching my brain for something worthwhile to talk about; I come up pretty empty, except for all the horror stories rapidly escalating around the entire world... and who needs that?

You all know the world is a horror, and the trends are worse.  What we need of course is to find some way to come through it.

Without attempting to summarize the tome it would take to document why "popular culture" is a complete waste of energy and dead end for our species - I'll just note that probably many of you are in a fight, as I am, to get our children to see "the real world" - without it being filtered through their smart phone, iPad, video games, or latest dystopian megablockbuster movie series.

"Hey- kid - look at the dragonflies; they're catching ants with wings right over our heads!"
"What?  Oh.  Yeah, very cool, daaad.  Can we watch a movie tonight?"

This is horrifying.  Intractable.  Universal.  And I believe deadly dangerous for the world.


I'm re-reading "Anne Of Green Gables" at the moment- by myself, not with Smidgen.  Nothing bad about that, I still read stuff out loud with her; but this is just my current research.

Then today I found this announcement that a wonderful Japanese TV serial is being dubbed in Tagalog, for the Philippines.  Very successful entrepreneurship...

Anne, and Laura of the Little House series, and this Japanese girl Amachan, - and back about as far as you can go in popular literature - all start out impoverished, desperate, and struggling.  Our hearts go out to them.  And by the end of the book?

Anne winds up the top scholar for an entire province, Amachan winds up an actual rock star, after picking seaweed, Laura winds up happily married, well off, and a newspaper columnist...  Even Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm winds up well-to-do.

And these are the stories we give our children, to build their dreams on.  More current stories are the same; think them through. How many of the children reading these stories have any hope of matching these outcomes?

Very, very - very few, is the answer, and the vast majority know it by the time they are 12 years old.  Their future does not include becoming a rock star, or getting a full scholarship to Harvard - or anything, in fact, that the world will see as "remarkable".  They are just plain kids; with just plain lives to live.

Where are the role models in literature for just plain people - who live just plain lives - happily, and contentedly, without constant envy of those "better off", and endless dissatisfaction with their world?

I'm not even sure how I would go about writing such a short story, let alone novel; models to build on are - nonexistent, as far as I can remember this morning.

The knowledge that their future is without fame or a moment on stage with crowds cheering wildly - leaves the great majority of kids feeling hopeless, forgotten, and worst of all, useless.  Bleak.  So?  What the hell; drugs, party, indiscriminate sex, tribal hatred - why not?  No point to any of it, anyway.

How would you build a Japanese TV serial that told the wonderful story of - a common, satisfied life?  Or say, a hugely successful American TV reality show about - real, common folks; happy with their fate and place; every day?

Those are the models we desperately need.  The concept is so different- you might even be able to sell it, commercially.  Life is worth living; common lives very much included.  I believe.

Some of you are writers!  Please - see what you can do.  And pass this on to your writer friends.

Yes, the fate of the world may depend on it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

On The Ground. :-)

I've watched this video 4 times so far; twice with Smidgen.

Solar Impulse Lands In Hawaii


Monday, June 29, 2015

Something admirable.

And boy, is "admirable" getting hard to find these days.  But I felt particularly motivated to find something today- in view of the world-wide litanies of awfulness, and imminent awfulness.

There is something underway right this minute (8:48 AM US Central Daylight Time) that I believe we can all find admirable.  Quixotic, to be sure- but all the humans involved in this effort seem to be motivated not by greed or self-inflation; but by the pure desire to - move forward.

Ok, we don't want to get into "what is really forward?"; let's just enjoy the moment here.

One man in an astonishingly fragile machine is flying, at this moment, between Japan and Hawaii.  Slowly.  The trip is expected to require 120 hours.  And he is "past the point of no return" now.

The Solar Impulse craft is 100% solar powered, and keeps flying at night using electricity stored in batteries during the day.  To me, this is somewhat more daring than Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic ocean, using a single gasoline engine powered plane- that kind of powered flight had far more years of development than this matchsticks and plastic wrap and flashlight batteries gizmo.

Ok, it's a lot more sophisticated than that.  :-)  But still - these folks, and this pilot, are sticking their necks way, way out.

Whimsical?  Quixotic?  Absolutely.  But also one of the good things about humans; we can sometimes poke at the Universe a bit, looking to find our more than we knew; even if it means risking our necks.


And, boy, am I grateful to see it.

Looking for an update- nope, it is SO not in the news.  It took me a little internet digging; but; there is a website that gives current information during the flight: Follow The Flight.

I think they definitely need a couple communications/advertising nerds to help with the web info (in the few minutes I've looked) - but; it's there.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Some progress, perhaps - and more possible.

Long time readers here will know and remember this topic, which sets me off into rants like few things do.  We've just had an event with nearly identical causes, to my mind.

I'm not going to rant here; having already done so on this blog, and you're welcome to dig out the various versions.

What I want to observe is that just possibly, there is some progress in public reaction.  On the day of the event, every media outlet on the planet screamed the news- with big photographs of the murderer, his name, his history, and where his mother learned how to blow her nose.

Two days later - this stuff has receded dramatically; no longer "above the fold", and with far less emphasis on pointless "analysis".

I would love to think this is because many other people are now doing what I do - turning them OFF - immediately.

The instant I see the face, name - I close that media window- and will not open it again for 24 hours.  Regardless of whether I actually wanted to use the site, or not.  I can of course live without them.  I will not use any website; for 24 hours, that posts names and photographs of murderers.  Most of them kill - specifically to get their name into the news.  Don't give them what they want.

Possibly - others are as sick of this as I - and just turn it off when it happens.  The media outlets now track their responses, of course- and if they can see a drop in readership in response to a news direction; they will change it.

When I started doing this; I also went to "Contact Us" on each site, and sent them an email explaining that I was turning them off, and why.  That can be useful, too.  The Washington Post sent me a whiney juvenile response; essentially "gee whiz, we have to report the news" - ignoring what everyone knows- that they control the news; they don't just report it.

Turn them off.  Pass it on.  Maybe, someday, they'll shut up.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Trouble With Kids Today...

That, of course, is intended as a laugh line.  The first commentary on that topic was written in Cuneiform, on clay tablets.  But it's still a workable headline, and appears in all major media, under various disguises, at least 4X per year, per newspaper, or talk show, or whatever.

Hi!  I'm still not dead yet!  This post will be, I hope, relatively brief; since a) short is better in this world, b) I have other urgent things I must do in the next few hours, and c) - it has dawned on me, finally, that even if I wrote about the "stuff" included in the post title at length, and to the extent of my expertise on the topic; I would not really be able to communicate even "most" of it.

Probably lost you already, with that one!  Back to the "Kids".

I have an unusual perspective available to me on the subject.  I remember being a kid myself, in considerable detail; I was paying attention to kidness at the time.  I have 2 from my first marriage, now both in their 30s (yes, I know B, closer to 40 for you, but I'm blocking, and prefer to keep it that way.)  I also have one right now who is 10.  Smack in the middle of Kid, for her, though as part of that experience, she denies it, and identifies far more as a "young lady".  And I teach, multiple ages.

The thing that triggered this blog post; I'm currently re-reading, for the umptieth iteration, a book that was written for kids; over 100 years ago, which is a very great favorite of mine.  I still read aloud to my 10 year old, though she frequently now reads some of whatever it is to me, too; we both like it a lot.

And I hesitated, about attempting to read this one, over 100 years old, to Smidgen.  Still hesitating.  Writing this, instead, half thinking perhaps writing it, or your comments, will clarify things.

Not, at all because she wouldn't understand the dialogues, embedded dialects, topics from pre-industrial cosmos, or that she wouldn't enjoy the book.  She handles all that kind of stuff already, just fine.  She would love to pick up some new tag-lines; and learn new, esoteric words.

I hesitate because I'm -just a bit- afraid of putting her on a path that will separate her even further from her classmates and peers.  The vast, vast majority of Kids these days are completely unfamiliar with the literature of the previous century, both words and concepts; and give you blank incomprehension if you try to communicate with them using such referents.  I need- you need - Smidgen needs - to communicate with them, and of course they are totally worth communicating with.  But cultural referents outside Twitter are now a barrier.

Smidgen already drops words and references that leave not only peers but many adults with blank faces.  Do I really want to make it worse?  The other horn of the dilemma (did you know dilemmas have horns?) is that I believe deeply that nothing you learn is ever a waste; at some point, it will enrich your life.

This sort of generational shift has happened many times, since the cuneiform editions, and we've survived.  But we have something different going on now, too.  Not only is there a possible barrier due to time passing and changing us- Kids Today have instant access to incomprehensibly more information, and varying cultural sources, than us ancients ever did.  It's very easy for this dumb kid who doesn't understand you at all - to be a PhD level expert, in grade school, on some topic you know nothing about yourself, have no frame of reference for, and no interest in.  Leaving both parties feeling the other is without worth.

That too has happened before, but never on the current scale.

Oddly- the best cure for incomprehension I've found is also a major part of the problem - YouTube, and its derivatives.  It's now my tool of choice, when my Kids (all 3) do not understand something I'm trying to explain.  It'll usually take me around 30 seconds to find a video that crosses and connects viewpoints.  The most frequent scenario is the Kid has to be dragged, by me, to the screen, and parented into wasting time watching something they're SO not interested in; halfway through the video they start to "get it"; and by the end, they're absorbed.

You can see the neurons connecting up.

But boy, is it a lot of work.

Ok, a tad longer than a good Tweet; but hey, short for me.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cyclone Pam Likely To Become "Biggest Disaster In Decades.."

Tropical cyclone Pam struck the island nation of Vanuatu dead on, only a few hours ago, and it is shaping up to be one of the biggest journalistic disasters in many years.

" 'Six known dead' - that's been the headline for over 24 hours!  Where are the bodies?  How can we keep the paying audience interested in a dead headline- where the photos of lines of body bags- turn out to be lines of sleeping bags, not corpses?!?" said "Katastrophe Kate", the globe-trotting specialist for Rooters SNews Service. (http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/13/asia/cyclone-pam-vanuatu/)

"It's really horrifying- we managed to milk a couple of "OMG it's all gone!" statements from  a few NGO nerds huddled in hotels; but all the photos and video feeds are showing exactly the opposite!  It's looking like a minor thunderstorm passed through.   We just don't know how long we can keep up the pretense that this is a big deal.

"Luckily, very few of our viewers know that original local architecture is designed - from thousands of years of experience- to blow over in heavy winds, and then be rebuilt from the same materials, in a matter of days.  And Vanuatu is one of the few places left where the local people still have the skills to do this.  Sure, there will be a few deaths; but nothing like the 6,000 dead from Typhoon Whatsit in the Philippines a while back.  And we're getting a few pics of "halfway" buildings that look messy- homes that are part native design, with "modern" bits that blew down tacked on; but the darn people keep smiling; and it's just a bit hard to sell "this poor man now has nowhere to live!" - when he's sitting on a bench under a nice roof...

"Pam is just not generating the bodies and images we need- waving palm fronds are great for a couple hours, but then we need some really good smashed up stuff; and so far, we're not getting it.  The downtown areas- were pretty clearly actually built to survive typhoon winds- a couple broken windows and one piece of roofing blowing around is just not - enough.

"Thank god we can depend on the John Frum guys for really good quotes designed to bring in "relief" flights.  But, there is a limit to how far that can stretch.  It's a word no one wants to hear- but we're becoming seriously afraid that this disaster is just going to prove- unsustainable.

"As of today, this is shaping up to be one of the biggest disaster failures in recent history.  Thank god- our audience is easily distracted from reality collapses- all we need is one good new cat video; and they'll forget the whole thing.  Kat-ass Kate, reporting too live, from Port Vila; most of which is still here, dammit."


(Ok, not trying to make fun of Vanuatu, in any way, or be skeptical about their need for help after what was definitely a bad cyclone.  But.  My guess is, once the information comes in from the "remote" islands- yes, their houses may have blown down- as they are designed to do; but I'm betting their elders- who are still in place- probably got most of the people into a safe place, known to them for centuries at least, to wait out the wind.  We'll see.  Fingers crossed, and I'm betting on the elders.  And meanwhile; Tuvalu and Kiribati- nations with no mountains to provide rainwater streams and shelter- have also been hit by Pam.  Harm there could be much, much larger.  We hope and pray not.)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Zombie Snacks.

I have an idea for a new, prize-winning, TV Reality show.  The need is certainly dire.  "Dirt Dynasty" and "Game Of Dregs" seem to be fading.

"Snack Spotters!" perhaps would be the title.  A bright group of "Big Bang Theory" watchers will get together every week; go out for a stroll through any neighborhood; and point out, for our joint amusement the groups of individuals - who will be the first to die, WTSHTF.

"Zombie Snacks", is how I think of them; and spotting Snacks is not a pastime I would have chosen; it's simply grown to be an inescapable compulsion.  I can't help myself.

"Wow.  No skills or talents of any kind, beyond Twitter.  Non-survivors, for sure."

One would rate the various discoveries, based on the estimates of survival times.  "Not gonna last a week."  will quickly by trumped by "I give these guys about 2 hours."

Then there's the "Five minutes.  If they're lucky."  That would apparently be the entire Minneapolis suburb of Anoka; where a local petty thief, with no brains of his own, hit the same houses, over and over- finding that the doors remain unlocked and welcoming; no matter how often the cops had been called.

After 30 attempted robberies, though; the Anoka cops finally managed this difficult capture.

So I'm guessing, WTSHTF, Anoka is going to be "harvested", top to bottom, in a few hours, cops and all.  So you can mark that area as "Vacant" on your TEOTWAWKI maps.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Any "No Fridge!" Folks Near New York?

My old, old post here, on "No Refrigerator- for 30 Years" - (38, now...) continues to be one that gets very high attention, every day.

Today it's the BBC that's interested; and looking for a little help from you:

Chloe Hadjimatheou has left a new comment on your post "No Refrigerator- for 30 years...":

Hi there,
I am a BBC journalist working on a radio documentary about how fridges change people's lives around the world. We are in New York this week and looking to meet someone who has chosen to live without a fridge. Can you help? Please contact me either via FB (chloehadj@hotmail.com) or else via email chloe.hadjimatheou@bbc.co.uk or phone +447974105829.
Many thanks!!

It would be a good thing for the BBC to get a little of the other side of the story!  If you are, or know someone who might be- able to meet up with Chloe and team- please do.

And share this on your other communications outlets; we should be able to find someone somewhere.

Chloe- 2 things to keep in mind on this subject; which the refrigerator manufacturers won't point out:

100 years ago- no one had one.  If it weren't possible to do without- your grandparents wouldn't have had any children, and no one alive today would - be alive today.  Sure, there may have been a few more cases of food poisoning- but those cases were mostly due to poverty and ignorance; just as they are still.  And;

100 years ago- the global obesity epidemic was not yet happening.  If you check - you will find that obesity tends to follow the advent of refrigerators...

Seriously.  You could do hard statistics on that point, with info on the internet.  I don't think it's been done.  Yet.

And, Chloe- if you don't wind up with anyone in the New York area who works out; you're more than welcome to just pop over to Minnesota.  :-)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

No category for this one.

There's an abundance of human drama in the world right now; no shortage for us human watchers.

But the one that struck me, so much I wanted to share it with you; is this one, from the BBC.

Man In Africa Kills Crocodile That Killed His Wife.

Seriously; read the story.  The crocodile was huge; a proven threat to the village- and the man armed only with his humanity.

Good?  Bad?  Mostly good, I think; but most of all - very, very, human.

This is who we are, and there are plenty of upsides, and downsides.  I was stunned to find such a primal story - making it all the way to the effete (really) pages of the BBC.  Apparently this is still salable to modern urbanites.   Sure, we consume this kind of thing constantly in our video games and movies; but in reality?  Freaky.

I confess I find this man admirable.  At arm's length.

We're a tough species; when we have to be.  Just something to keep in mind.