Slipping into the future


Michele and I have sort of slipped into the habit of using Google – and Apple on the other phone, and, sometimes, Waze – to show us the fastest route on even the shortest of trips, especially when it is rush hour (rush four hours?). At first, the results were a little surprising like when Google told us to go surface when we were driving up Highway 880 to Berkeley from the San Mateo Bridge – I didn’t and Google was right and we got stopped in an East Bay traffic jam – then the results became routine as Google routed us off the freeway and through residential neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Now, when freeway traffic is heavy and Google provides an alternative surface route, cars start to back up at the off-ramp and we follow three or four cars – with cars behind us – through a residential area or along a county road.

All of a sudden a quiet residential street can become somebody’s – lots of somebodies’ – fastest way home and that home may be twenty or thirty or forty miles away. Now, everybody has local knowledge and the real locals are starting to react. Some, especially in rich neighborhoods, are starting to petition their City and Town Councils to have one end of their streets blocked off. It seems that the best way for us to get somewhere is often not in the best interest of the people living in places that are on the way to that somewhere. The world has changed in a major way and the institutional antibodies are starting to kick in.

As an aside, I’ve heard somewhere that “medicine is not revolutionary; sanitation is revolutionary” is a Che quote and I have cheerfully quoted it ever since. Now I can’t find it on Google and I am starting to have my doubts so I’ll say Misquoting an alleged Che quote, ‘Computers are not revolutionary; smartPhones are revolutionary,’. Several years ago, Michele and I were walking through the outskirts of a rural village near Yangshuo – China – when a group of school kids appeared ahead of us on the trail. I’ve been in this situation dozens of times, kids in a dirt-road-poor village asking for pencils or candy, but these kids just waved and took pictures of us with their smartPhones. As an aside to the aside, when we were in China, we were offered iPhone knockoffs in about four flavors, the cheapest was just a phone and camera and the most expensive did everything a real iPhone could do. End aside to the aside. All over what we used to call the Third World people who have never had a landline phone or, even, electricity, are getting smartPhones. In rural Africa, places that have been off the grid for 10,000 years, people are getting solar cells for their roofs. In many cases, they are not powerful enough to run a refrigerator but they can run a signal light bulb and a cell phone charging port (if the family is rich enough, they can even get a small, cheap, low-power TV). With their cell phones, 15 million people in Kenya – using a Kenyan App, M-PESA – transfer money without walking to the nearest big village; with cell phones, farmers in India can now get weather forecasts; In Bangladesh, people look for and advertise jobs on CellBazaar; all over the world people are inventing their own Apps to fit their local conditions. According to The Economist, “Unesco pointed to data from the UN, which shows that of the seven billion people on earth, more than six billion now have access to a working mobile phone. ‘Collectively, mobile devices are the most ubiquitous information and communication technology in history….More to the point, they are plentiful in places where books are scarce.'” End of the aside.

A couple of pics from the Angeles Crest Highway with totally unconnected thoughts

Rules-00751I am not a big rule follower. One of the things that really bugs me is being told to do something only because it is the rule rather than being given a reason. But there are rules, conformities really, that just make life smoother; walking on the right side of a path for example or answering a question when you are the one who brought it up. Trump is one of those people that say – by their actions – “It’s my path, I’ll walk on any side I want” or “There might be tapes of my conversation with Comey.” and then, FORTY-ONE days later, says “I was only kidding.”. Everybody thinks that Trump must have had a good – as in real – reason for saying it in the first place, but I’m not sure, I think it is more likely that he is just a dick with no social graces. He is doing it just because he can. If theree is a reason, it is just of seeing how long he can keep people looking at him. He is the kind of guy that never gets invited back after a “get to know you invite”. He is sad…and a dick.

Rules LA-00738

Baldy-00753Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: ‘Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump’ headline in the New York Times

What most pisses me off about the Democratic Establishment is their complete cluelessness about the Nation they say they should be ruling. Until Trump won, they – they being everybody from the New York Times to Hillary Clinton who was already picking out her cabinet – didn’t have any idea that Trump was actually going to win. Sure, the Polls were off, but only the Liberal Polls, some of the Conservative Polls said Trump was going to win but they were dismissed as Fake News. What was really Fake News, it turns out, were the news sources we want to trust. That is also sad.

Thinking about The Fall of Rome while Watching the Warriors win


I should say “Watching the Warriors win a second time”, no, not watching them win their second Final – although It was also the second Final we saw them win –  but watching the Fifth Game a second time. I think, at this point, I have seen LeBron James in twenty-two games and I am willing to concede that he is the best player in the world. He can bring a passion and intensity to a game that is singular but that is still not enough to beat the Warriors.

The Warriors are a better team and at the end of the day, that is what counted.

I feel like I am just discovering Basketball after only following it peripherally and a couple of things that I most like are the intimacy, the player on player matchups that change as players are rotated, and the fact that Basketball keeps track of the assists a player makes. In Basketball, playing as a team with individuals making sacrifices for the greater good  – passing the ball to somebody who has a slightly better chance to make a basket rather than playing heroball – is rewarded and considered a virtue.

As I sat through the game a second time, I kept thinking about the Fall of Rome. It seems that as a country, we are doing the same things that I was taught had lead to the fall of Rome in the first place and we are distracted by, among other things, sports just like the corrupt Romans used the Games in the Colosseums all around their Empire. As I watched the game, all thoughts of Trump and the Congress destroying our country disappeared, I only had enough bandwidth to watch Curry and Durant do their magic.

Memorial Day

Cemetary-01193Somehow, the post that I made about Memorial Day disappeared into the either, or, maybe, the Dark Web. Rather than trying to reconstruct it, I’ll take it as a sign to write something different.

For Memorial Day, Michele and I went up the Golden Gate National Cemetery and then went home and watched Hacksaw Ridge, a true-story war movie by Mel Gibson. While we were walking around at the Cemetery, I felt like a voyeur and it struck me that I have nobody to mourn who is here. Other people did, other people who were here had friends or family members who were killed in combat, but nobody I loved or even knew, died in combat and I don’t think any of my friends mourned anybody either.  Cemetary B-01203

America has been at almost constant war my whole life and it hasn’t personally touched me. That is more than sad, it is tragic. Not for me,  but for our country. By eliminating the draft, we have separated most of the American people from the consequences of our constant war.  By eliminating the draft, the Military-Industrial Complex – us, really, as in our country – have been able to change the dynamic from people protesting the war because they or their loved ones might get killed to fetishizing our military.

When we had the draft, most rich people could get deferred still enough people got drafted for it to change our national dynamic. Enough people actually went into the military to see how stupid the military was. During the 60s and early 70s – when we still had the draft – people joked that “military intelligence” was an oxymoron because enough people saw the military from the inside. They were much less likely to believe the fantasy of an all heroic, all-conquering military. When a large portion of the population are faced with the potential of being sent into whatever meat-grinder our government is currently touting as critical to saving the world, they are more likely to question the actual worth of that war. I think that lack of national involvement is tragic. Cemetary A-01177



Bloomberg Businessweek on Trump, “Would You Let This Man Run Your Company?”

Blomberg-01174But in many ways the more appropriate perspective [to judge Trump] is through a  business lens: The immediate issue is whether a boss tried to halt embarrassing revelations about his company; the underlying one is whether he knows how to run it. Bloomberg Businessweek

Several months ago, I got a complimentary copy of Bloomberg Businessweek and really liked it. Several weeks ago, I got one of those cut-rate subscriptions – something like a year for eight bucks – and subscribed. I’m glad I did. This article, in this issue, is especially fascinating. Almost all my usual news sources – except, most of the time, The News Hour on NPR – are slightly to massively hysterical about Trump (although most haven’t sunk to the level of many of my facebook friends who have just given up any pretense of thinking about Trump rationally). So, when The New Yorker has an article on impeachment, say, I have a hard time judging its accuracy.

The Bloomberg article is refreshingly dispassionate. So when Bloomberg says, Behind this list of individual transgressions sit four larger failings: This CEO-in-chief has failed to get things done; he has failed to build a strong team, especially in domestic policy; he hasn’t dealt with conflicts of interest; and his communications is in shambles. it packs a more devastating punch than, say, The New York Times saying the same thing.

Check it out: if you are a Trump fan,  you might find a couple of things that will give you pause and if you think Trump is evil, you might find some things that will give you a more reasonable perspective (as well as getting some good arguments for The Cause).