Archive for February, 2016

The sounds of silence

2016/02/29

Just returned from a walk, it is 2:30 on a Monday, and the town is very quiet.  I absolutely love the quiet, and can enjoy it so rarely.  This is the quietest time of the week, with each succeeding day getting noisier.  By Saturday morning, Friday isn’t done yet, and there is no stop to the action.  But early on a Monday is usually quiet, except after the Super Bowl, or when the state fair is in town.

Last October, I treated myself to a camping trip at my favorite location, 6,300 feet up in the Cascade Mountains.  I arrived at about 22:30, and it was so beautiful.  The sky was clear, the air was dead still, and utter silence lay across the land.  This was something I have not been able to enjoy for many years, as there is usually wind in the trees, water falling down hill, or traffic.  Utter stillness, that went on, and on…  Until I unpacked my portable stereo, and gave myself a break from outer space.  Standing on that mountain, the stars seemed very close, much closer than they do down in the city.  Which I can see from just a short distance from camp, 5,000 feet below me.  It almost surprises me that I couldn’t hear all the commotion all the way up there, it is so loud down here.

And I also enjoy the darkness, the stars in the sky, the lights across the landscape, the flickering windows of people sleeping in front of the TV.  There are fewer details to distract one, and thoughts can drift easily.  Watching a car half-a-mile away that I have been listening to for 15 seconds is really a trip, seeing as I usually can’t hear anything that far away, because there is too much noise.  Darkness is special, because it is so rare.  People who live in cities never know real darkness, as the light reflects off of the haze, making the sky glow at night.  I spent some time in the desert of Southern California, and the glow that was Los Angeles was clearly visible, over 100 miles away.  Silence and darkness, two things that I love that are getting harder and harder to find.

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Alone in a crowd

2016/02/28

The other day, (no, not THAT day) I was sitting around with some friends of mine, talking and listening to music.  Okay, I know that makes me strange, but I am an old geezer.  Anyway, there were three people in the room with me, and all of them were looking at their phones.  And I think that two of them were texting each other.  I thought to myself, “What can I do, bring a TV in here?  No, they are immune to TV now, I am sure.  Maybe some pyrotechnics?  A few explosions and bright flashes might get their attention.”

I carry a cell phone, but that is about all that I use it for.  Some people text me, but the phone is really clumsy for texting, so I usually don’t respond.  Used to be, you could turn off the GPS tracking feature on phones, but I guess that you can’t anymore.  Just think of it, people are paying hundreds of dollars a month for smartphone bandwidth so that they can be stalked by companies handling advertising for big companies.  Every mouse click, or whatever constitutes a click with a phone, is being watched carefully, and data is being stored, so that your profile can be enhanced.

Soon, they will know what kind of car you  drive, what your favorite food is, and where you keep your dirty pictures.  (Isn’t the cloud wonderful?)  But don’t worry, they are respecting your privacy.  At least, as far as the agreement that you signed when you got the phone requires them to.  If you are a terrorist, they won’t tell the government on you, they will just try to sell you better weapons.  And you will only have to pay $XXX a month for the privilege of being stalked, I mean tracked.

What I don’t understand is paying so much money so that you can leave the house and still be bored, surfing the web, checking your email, and playing games.  Why not just stay home?  You are probably paying for internet service at home, too, right?  Got to be able to stream movies.  Oh, well, soon the phones will be implanted, so we won’t have to be rude to each other by staring at our phones.  We can just stare off into space.  I do that anyway.

A modern census this time?

2016/02/26

During preparations for the last census, I worked with a handheld computer which was supposed to be the single tool that census takers would need.  The computer worked well in the gathering of address data, but shortly after we finished collecting addresses, the Census Bureau announced that the computer would not be used in the actual census.  Apparently, the software for collecting the personal information was not working properly, and there was not enough time to correct the problem.

This resulted in a last-minute, desperate revision of procedures, and a return to paper-and-pencil techniques that had been used in the past.  A big part of the problem with the development of the handheld computer had been budget difficulties resulting from Congress using continuing resolutions to fund government agencies over and over again.  A continuing resolution basically allots an agency the same amount of dollars as the year before. This resulted in the Census Bureau being forced to work with the same amount of money for several of the years leading up to the census, even as work loads were ramping up and problems were being identified with the computer.

We are only a few years away from the next census, and I have to wonder if the agency will have a computer that will work this time around.  With all of the partisan bickering going on in Congress, will the Census Bureau get the needed funding?  The costs of transporting tons of paper, of filing by hand all of the folders, were never accounted for in preparing for the census.  Performing the entire census electronically would have saved millions.  I hope that we are not going to make the same mistakes again by underfunding the Census Bureau.

A new word for you

2016/02/25

Back in the 1960’s, I heard the word ‘affirmative’, which I figured out means ‘yes’.  Later, I came across the word ‘affirm’, which I learned meant to ‘support’ or ‘to agree’.  Over the course of my life, I have been involved in mental health counseling, and have done quite a bit of reading on the subject.  Thus, I was rather surprised when a new word entered the lexicon of therapy.  Especially as the word referred to the process of building someone up, of giving them reassurance, of making them feel wanted, a member of the group.

The new word was ‘affirmation.’  Until the early 1990’s , the only definition for ‘affirmation’ was ‘a legal statement,’ such as a ‘sworn affirmation.’  But scientists discovered that there is a process performed by family members, members of a group, or basically anyone who demonstrates concern and compassion for someone, a process that strengthens our self-esteem, helps us to feel more valuable, and dispels anxiety.  One of the most fundamental processes in human interactions, and no one even bothered to give it a name for decades!

Affirmation is essential for developing egos, such as those in children ages 3 to 5, when belonging is a very desired state.  Humans know instinctively that their chance of survival by themselves is almost zero, that the only way to have any hope of bringing another generation into the world means being part of a group.  How much affirmation a child receives is direct feedback on whether they are being assimilated into the group or not.  But, in modern society, there are hardly any people with time on their hands to give children affirmation.  Children need for adults to listen to them, to pay attention to them, to interact with them.  Without enough affirmation, a child can conclude that they are not wanted, that they are inferior, broken, undesirable.

The world that we live in provides most young children an environment where only one or two adults are around, and they are always busy.  A child who hears, “I don’t have time for that right now” frequently, is in danger of loss of self-esteem, self-hate, anger, depression.  There is an epidemic of low self-esteem and depression in the United States today, and I blame the break up of the extended family for most of it.  Having three or more generations living under one roof is essential to the proper development of children, I believe.   Someone has said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  How many children are raised by villages today?

Can you see it?

2016/02/24

Visualization is the most powerful tool humans have to affect Change.  Change is endless, inevitable, and powerful.  The longer it is put off, deferred, blocked, the more powerful Change becomes.  Instead of trying to block Change, or prevent it, we must work with it, channeling it in ways that allow what we want to happen.  This is accomplished by visualizing the end result, the end goal, and holding that visualization in mind all the time.  Visualizing activates portions of our brains, our souls,  which extend beyond the physical realm into the place of What Can Be.

Physicists now claim (some of them, anyway, or was it mathematicians?) that there are 11 different dimensions in our reality, the Space-Time Continuum.  We only perceive a few of them, apparently, but part of us seems to be aware of information which is a part of a dimension we do not perceive in the classical sense of touch, hear, see, taste, smell.  It is almost as if there is a part of us which actually exists in some of the other dimensions, linking us in some way, so that we may be aware of things which are happening far, far away.  In space or in time, or both.

Visualization is a way to bring the power of the mind into the realm of energy, by using the mind to bend, or to shape the Life Force, the energy flowing through us and around us constantly.  A small amount of force, applied at the right place and the right time, can have momentous consequences.  Words are linear, rational, defining, limiting.  When we see what we want, we are putting energy into the flow, pushing, deflecting, collecting, straightening.  If we give it time, and accept solutions that lie beyond what we had imagined, we can find movement in the direction towards our goal.  Think of ways that achieving your goals will benefit other people.  Visualize them!

Men we are not, People we are

2016/02/22

7000 years ago, men  who had lots of spare time, invented agriculture.  Prior to that, there were The People, male female, and everything in between.  We all were the same.  Agriculture changed all of that.  Men started religions, created marriage, and subjugated half the human race.  Being The People got us to where we could thrive and survive, with language to pass knowledge down.

Men were all about  ‘I’.  There was no ‘we’ anymore.  Prior to agriculture, women had been powerful members of “The People”, some person with strength who had words.  The society treated everyone as the same.  Everyone.  Bi-sexual, transexual, asexual.  Even homosexual.  We were The People, we were all the same, we lived, we loved, and Life continued in the best way that we could make it.  Then  Men created ‘religion’, and if you didn’t get it, life could end….   :(:

The symbol I used there, ” :(:  ”  is an expression of the guilt and shame than religion brought us, all very unintentionally, of course, but none the less, we are TWO now, in constant conflict.  We did not bring Life into this world accidentally when we were The People.  There were no abortions, because every child that was conceived was wanted.  But People, men and women working together, could have a blast without any concern of getting pregnant.  Which, by the way, both sexes do when in a relationship.  Which is why periods are so bad, because the guys are being complete bitches too.

Waterworld we is

2016/02/20

Seeing as we are land animals, it is no surprise that our planet got christened “Earth” or “Terra”.  But, considering that 3/4’s of the surface of our planet is covered in water,  “Ocean” might be a better name.  And we still know very little of what is under all that water.  When we lose things in the ocean, they often are very difficult to find.  A good case in point is the wreckage of Flight 370, the airliner that was apparently hijacked, and then left on autopilot to fly until it ran out of fuel.  Merely by coincidence, a satellite system was communicating with the aircraft, and the records of that conversation proved that the plane flew out into the vastness of the southern Indian Ocean.

Finding pieces of an aircraft that broke up when it hit the water is an extremely difficult task, and this search is made harder by the lack of precise tracking data.  Adding to the problem is the depth of the water in the search area; 2 or more kilometers at the least, so deep that light does not penetrate.  Only with remote sensors can we examine the ocean floor, and we have no maps of the ocean bottom to work with.  Mapping the ocean floor all over the world would tell us a great deal about the planet we live on, and would not require a lot of resources.  The search is generating high-precision sonar maps of the area the plane is believed to have crashed in, but we are still examining hundreds of square kilometers.

The loss of Flight 370 has renewed calls for a world-wide satellite system to monitor the paths of aircraft and ships.  In an era when hijacking and piracy are not unknown, we could benefit immensely by insuring that we keep track of what is traveling over or on the oceans.  A satellite beacon allowed a young woman to be rescued from an area in the southern Indian Ocean as remote as the area Flight 370 is believed to have crashed in.  Similar technology would have pinpointed the location of crash, as well as informing Air Traffic Control where the aircraft actually was when it disappeared off of radar.

Protecting Children From Their Parents

2016/02/17

People who feel at a loss with how to raise children should look to the past, and what worked for most of human history.  Parents frequently have not been primary care providers for children, except right after birth, because parents were the able bodied adults whose work supported the group.  The elders, who no longer were capable of the firewood gathering, or water carrying, oversaw the care of the young, with the assistance of the older children.  Great-grandmothers watched the children, sang songs with them, played games with them, aunts and uncles would listen to stories, watch somebody do cartwheels over and over, and whatever it took to make the children feel good.  Only in the most recent past have parents been closely involved with the raising of the children, as the family has disintegrated.

The family has broken down, so that parents are faced with raising their children without any help.  People have children when they themselves are still immature; learning, seeking, and growing.  We can berate them for that, punish them and the children by forcing the parents to care for them, or we can combine assisted living centers with day care, sponsor placing seniors in family groups spanning several generations, and extend school hours to provide an alternative to being home alone.  Young children bond with elderly people very easily, and often are anxious to help an obviously frail individual.  Combined with a few older children, and a teen or two, an elder can manage several children.

Paying more for less work

2016/02/15

One way to improve the economy would be to pay people full-time wages for part-time work.  In other words, for 20 hours of work, someone would earn as much as if they worked 40 hours.  And have two people doing that, so that a full-time position is handled by two people, each making a full-time salary.  Many companies could do this and still make a profit, just not as big of one as before.  But this would have the effect of spreading the money around, instead of concentrating it in the hands of a few.

The more we try to maximize our profit, the less beneficial we are to the community.  Increasing profits eventually comes from allowing hazardous materials to get into the environment, using inferior materials to make our product with, and forcing employees to use public assistance.  Our enterprise is now costing the community, instead of creating value for it.

At the same time that tax rates on the wealthy have been cut and cut again, wages for most workers have not increased.  This has allowed enormous wealth to accrue to a small portion of the population, which has resulted in economic stagnation, market volatility, and asset depreciation.  It doesn’t matter what we say something is worth, if no one else wants it, it ain’t worth much.  When everyone has a couple of houses to flip, no one is buying houses.

Standing on our heads

2016/02/14

The world of money and banking is on its head.  In some places, putting money in the bank will cost you money, as the bank is charging negative interest rates.  This is completely the opposite of centuries of experience, a foray into unknown territory.  People in the United States have had a negative savings rate for decades.  This forced banks to appeal to investors to get money to loan out.  People have been encouraged to use credit to continue consuming, so that the economy would stay positive.  But the average wage earner is not making enough to be able to keep on borrowing, and economic activity is languishing.  Negative interest rates are a method of trying to force people to invest money rather than saving it.

The system is telling us that things are not working.  People are not making enough money to keep the economy going.  Minimum wage laws will not help this situation, as they force prices to rise.  But increasing wages for most workers would improve the economy, if the additional compensation came out of the exorbitant earnings of executives and dividends paid to shareholders.  Income inequality is driving the monetary system of the world into chaos, as the majority of people are losing the ability to buy anything beyond minimal survival needs.  When all the money is in the hands of a few, the system stops working.  That is the drawback of capitalism, which we are experiencing today.