Archive for May, 2013

How to act

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

I read in my local paper about how local kids at a local high school – our real ‘super’ kids – are attending college courses early, even earning Associate degrees before they graduate the twelfth grade. This cuts down on the future expense of the real thing, and gives these star performers a better chance at: a paying job.

I saw a headline: ‘Dreams on hold.’ Same thing: kids have a hard time finding work. So we’ll come up with this: run faster. Study harder.

I’m not going to make the obvious complaint, this time, about how the kids are being ripped off. My own kid is so ‘accelerated’ in math, right now, his high school literally won’t have any more coursework to offer him when he finishes sophomore year. I think some free time whistling Dixie in the park might do more good than three hours of problem sets each night during seventh grade. But this is what we want. We’re keeping him dreaming.

Except we’re not. I’m complaining, this time, the dream itself isn’t real. Kids don’t dream about employment. Kids don’t dream about careers. And the careers they get don’t emerge from their schooling. The jobs that come along are the jobs that come along. Read some surveys. You can’t realize a dream working nine to five, anyway.

People my age are proud of our country (I’m not sure if our kids are). We didn’t get here because we competed real hard to earn a wage. We’re here because our parents taught us to try as hard as we could to make of ourselves what we hoped we could be. There’s a difference.

We passed a law in this country that all our children have to excel. So almost none of them can. And fewer are finding good reasons to do so. We should act like we care, again, and make them play outdoors once in a while.

Confidentiality, secrets, and government

Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Some public secrets have recently been revealed, apparently coming to light for political effect. So there are questions, as usual, about timing. There are, as usual, choruses of outrage.

I’ve long wondered how our clandestine surveillance network will eventually become better recognized. We’re well into the century, and most people still believe in restricted access to information. For the large and growing group of ‘extra-governmental’ ‘national defense’ workers, there are no restrictions. AP leak? You’ve gotta be kidding. There’s nothing, on any network, anywhere, that isn’t available if you’re on the inside.

It has to be this way, both in the interests of national defense, and simply because the technology behind moving and storing information inherently makes it all accessible. But it creates a situation that, I think, is new. Any sort of communicating we do, electronically, still exists. It’s all backed up in giant server farms built precisely to back it all up and store it for algorithmic content searches. I still don’t know how to explain this simply: it doesn’t matter if you’re a top government agent or your own mother-in-law. You speak into the same system and it’s all recorded for future research. There’s a whole community of people who have access to it, and these people know what the data says.

The situation will gradually become more explicit. We’ll have public lawsuits over this and that, and there’ll be references to lots of electronic information which may or may not be allowed into the trial – but a whole community of people already knows what it says. There will be more and more information clearly available to some, but inadmissible in court because, well, it shouldn’t be available. It’s only around because, of course, all information is around, now.

So, it’s a new world in terms of what we choose to look at, and what we pretend we cannot see.



Monday, May 13th, 2013

Nica is a twelve-week-old girl; a puppy who appears to know absolutely nothing. We’ve done a lot of reading about puppies, and I’ve learned my instinctive responses to her behavior are all wrong. I, of course, want her to be a ‘good dog;’ to be silent, obedient, cheerful, and affectionate – not to chew the furniture, bark at strange noises, or pee on the floor. With my children, I’m used to demanding what I want, then yelling at them when things fall short. Nica doesn’t have a clue.

There is a way of teaching through loving. It didn’t come naturally to me, and I still haven’t learned how. First, Nica isn’t about me. Nica is living her puppy’s life and something makes her feel warm and gratified if I’m pleased, and self-disappointed if I’m not. But she could easily not care for me at all. I have to flirt with her.  I have to be her friend, and then, while I’m her friend, show her what it takes to get along together; show her how much joy it can be to rely on each other.

I’m reminded how rarely this has been done for me, then how, when it has, I’ve chafed and felt manipulated. I want to be special. I want to bite my human, and go unpunished. So now I’m hardened and lonely, with only a few people willing to scratch behind my ears. Nica is wide-eyed and friendly. I hope I take my time with her.


Saturday, May 4th, 2013

‘Saying This About That’ is prominent enough to jump to the top of certain Internet search pages, so this site has attracted ‘criminals’ who are posting poorly worded references to something or other under my search results. I wonder how these ‘criminals’ really differ from legal ‘advertisers’ – everybody uses the machine as best they know how.

I saw in the news the public is getting upset about government ‘spying’ on cellphone conversations and email. I think this is great, but not because anything can be done about it. Nothing can be done about it because ‘spying’ isn’t a separate activity on a cellphone; the phone is a machine which records your picture and your voice and your text and transmits it. It can’t exist without ‘spying.’ If your phone takes pictures, you’re holding a camera someone else is operating. It’s wonderful you’re worried. You can’t change it.

But it might bring us closer to a public self-perception. I pride myself on my insights and awareness. Perhaps there are entire little communities of people who intellectually comprehend what’s going on and talk about it – but if we don’t look at ourselves collectively, it’s all dumb self-congratulation. It doesn’t help a crowd to be the only know-it-all in it.

My son described for me his ‘health education’ class, and I recalled recently signing a form permitting him to participate in a classroom program designed to ’emphasize abstinence.’ Somehow I feel a group of thirteen-year-old boys and girls shouting “penis! penis! penis! vagina! vagina! vagina!” together doesn’t ’emphasize’ anything of the kind.

I was married, and wholly in love with another woman, who, when we met, looked me straight in the eye and started talking earnestly about God. I spoke with a Christian counselor who advised me to repudiate her; to make absolutely sure I had no possibility of contact with her, ever again.

I went to the bank (no, I didn’t, I just phoned the bank) and borrowed a hundred thousand dollars at three percent (well, forget the two percent transaction fee). I think this is a low rate. Like, lower than any time in the last, oh, one hundred years. Current thinking is: the banks are going to keep printing money because the economy is so bad. The more they print the cheaper it will get. Of course, this is permitted because bank regulators, including the president of the United States, think bankers are the only ones who can make things work. So they have declared bankers above the law to make sure they keep doing it.

My wife said: “After all these years of claiming you have no self, now you’re reaching for one.”

Indeed, and I see the troubles you’ve been having. You’re trying to realize outwardly the thing, inwardly, you feel yourself truly to be. You can’t. I can’t!