Tuesday, January 31, 2017

All Or Nothing Is Not the Correct Approach

Many ultra left wing liberal Democrat friends post things on Facebook that basically say all Republicans are wrong, everything a Republican says is stupid, immoral and will lead to the demise of our great country.

Many ultra right wing Republican friends post things on Facebook that basically say all Democrats are wrong, everything a Democrat says is stupid, unpatriotic and will lead to the demise of our country.

Stop it. Just stop it!

Every Democrat is not exactly like every other Democrat. Every Republican is not like every other Republican. There are stupid, immoral and unpatriotic Democrats AND Republicans. There are smart, moral and
compassionate Democrats AND Republicans. Most people of either party believe in some of the principles usually associated with the other party. Not every American is a registered member of either; there are libertarians and there are independents.

We are individuals!

I urge my ultra friends on either side to think about something I consider to be logic-based truth: if there was only one way to believe, only one way to act, only one solution to every problem, we'd all believe, act or solve that way. Truth, and our own American form of democracy, is based on a melting of contradictory ideas, beliefs and solutions to problems.

It annoys the hell out of me when people blame things on everyone of a certain party. One specific Democrat Facebook friend is constantly blaming all Republicans for things he thinks are wrong, essentially insulting a lot of my Republican friends (including my very closest friend in life). One specific Republican Facebook friend is frequently blaming all Democrats for things she thinks are wrong, essentially insulting a lot of my Democrat friends (and me, the boyfriend of her aunt).

In fact, that last one posted a comment essentially blaming all Democrats for the violent Inauguration Day protests that led to broken windows and a firebombed limousine. What, you think a Republican has never broken a window or torched a car?  I'm certain those protesters were stupid, misguided thugs and they certainly DO NOT REPRESENT ME OR MOST DEMOCRATS. And in keeping with the conspiratorial tone of our new president, those protesters could have been paid Republican Trump supporters. They probably were NOT, but this is the kind of thinking I'm talking about.

I've been a registered Democrat since 1975 but I am not an extreme, left wing liberal. Don't assume that about me and don't assume I never vote for Republicans. Don't assume I blame all Republicans for anything. Don't assume I always agree with everything every Democrat says or does.

I do blame the Republican majority in Congress for many negative things.  A few years ago I blamed the Democratic majority in Congress. Under the arrogant leadership of Nancy Pelosi, they blew a great opportunity to enact meaningful legislation, in part by ignoring the concept of bipartisan compromise. The current Republican leadership didn't learn this lesson and their arrogant refusal to listen to opposing views will guarantee continued, frustrating gridlock. They will wake up one day two years from now and realize they lost their majority.

Meanwhile Democratic and Republican politicians alike are paying more attention to their party than they are to their constituents: we the people.

And we are individuals!

The all or nothing approach to anything is a bad idea, in my opinion, because it closes the door to ideas that can eventually solve problems. The best solution is often a compromise of ideas. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Some final thoughts to this rambling post:

A Republican administration (Lincoln) ended slavery, created the Interstate Highway system (Eisenhower), ended the Vietnam War (Nixon) and created the Environmental Protection Agency (Nixon again, wow).

A Democratic administration ended World War II (Truman), enacted meaningful civil rights legislation (Johnson), created Medicare (Johnson again), balanced the federal budget (Clinton), ended two wars (Obama) and ended a financial crisis (Obama again).

All of the above happened as a result of spirited debate and a compromise of often conflicting ideas and opinions.

You know I hate our new president and believe he is a dangerous con artist. However, he is our president. And buried somewhere in his insulting (my opinion), misguided (again, my opinion) inaugural address are some positive promises about infrastructure and jobs. Presidential arrogance and congressional arrogance will not be enough to make those things happen. Compromise and respect of opposing ideas will be the approach that could lead to positive results.

Will that happen? Time will tell.

Can Democrats and Republicans with opposing views get along?  Ask my girlfriend.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Amazon Effect

A lead local story on a recent Monday morning TV newscast was about the closing and redevelopment of Landmark Mall in Alexandria, Virginia. Word was already out about several Macy's store closings nationwide, including the one there, but this story confirmed the demise of the entire mall.  It will be replaced by a mixed use development including residential and retail and the sketches accompanying the story showed the trendy, somewhat boxy blend of glass and steel, open plazas, walkways, public art space, and other things described by developer buzz words.

The earlier national story about Macy's also predicted anticipated closings of many Sears, K-Mart and Kohls stores and the sale of the iconic Craftsman tool brand to competitor Stanley Black & Decker. Wait, weren't Stanley and
Black & Decker separate competing tool companies at one time?

So what's going on here?

The short, simple answer is that we're shopping online more than in stores. Does this trend only affect business models or is the impact broader than that?

Psychologists and sociologists are probably studying this topic and attempting to learn why and anticipate the impact. Boomers like me remember shopping 'adventures' to locally-owned downtown stores, then open air suburban malls with national chain stores and eventually the big malls we know now.

Some stores like Sears had a large mix of products. In fact their slogan at one time was "Sears has everything."  I worked at Sears in college in the 1970s and sold everything from suits to shoes to Christmas trees to bicycles to pool tables to small fishing boats.

Other stores were more specialized. One store for cards, another for music, another for each of the above-mentioned items available at Sears.

I 'discovered' Amazon several years ago and treated it as a convenient novelty. Now I do about 75% of my shopping on Amazon, from the convenience of my coffee table. I also regular buy clothes from the Macy's web site rather than their stores. Same thing for Eddie Bauer and LL Bean. Outlet malls are the only retail stores I've shopped at in the past year and only twice.  I shop Costco regularly but mostly for household stuff like paper towels. Food, wine and greeting cards are almost the only things I regularly buy at stores; those items can also be purchased online but that's where I've drawn my line in the sand. For now.

The effects of this shift to online shopping are added convenience, selection and product information and comparisons. But I wonder if another effect is the increase of our societal shift from face-to-face social interaction to device-driven social interaction. Many of us already spend more time with people on Facebook, Face Time, text, Twitter, Instagram and email than we do in person. Now we shop without direct human contact. Add automated call answering to that (when's the last time your call to a  business or doctor's office was answered by a live human?) and you have the potential for serious social isolation.

Psychologists and sociologists are probably studying that aspect of online shopping too.

What I call 'the Amazon effect' could lead to increased social isolation and human detachment or it could just be fueling a change in how we interact. Even though a lot of my own contact with friends and family is digital,
that method has helped me be in regular contact with a lot more people now than just a few years ago. That's a positive. In some ways texting or facebooking is a simpler, quicker way to catch up.

On the other hand, I've read many articles pointing out the positive benefits of real contact and the negative aspect of isolation. Touch is a powerful and positive connector. Every type of touch, from a handshake to a hug to love making, reinforces a biological need for physical contact. Does the 'Amazon effect' interfere with that?  Or does it just move us in a different direction on the biological scale?  Maybe time will tell.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Don't Call Him That

So there's a new rule in my home: don't call Trump an a-hole. Actually the 'request' is that I stop using that term and others like it. "It's done, he's the new President. You don't have to like it but you do respect the office, don't you?"

I do respect the office of President of the United States. More than that, I respect my girlfriend. I have zero respect for Trump.  I do have my priorities, however, so I have agreed to try to refrain from using the totally earned, derogatory vocabulary that includes the "a" word when referring to the orange man.

This will be quite a challenge for me. Even the worst presidents in my lifetime eventually earned my respect. I disagreed with many of their policies and actions but I rarely thought any of them were morally bankrupt. Frump has no apparent moral center. He only cares about himself.

During the campaign he said 9/11 was Bush's fault, McCain was not a hero because he got caught, Clinton and Obama invented ISIS. What a moron; a stupid, disrespectful idiot.

I don't want him to fail because he could bring down the whole country with him. I do think he will fail. At the same time I hope to be proven wrong. Currently in the battle between 'I'm wrong' and 'I told you so', the latter is winning.

Of course this is all merely my opinion. Opinions are like a$$holes, everybody has one.

Meanwhile I will try to refrain from calling our new President an a-hole, because the most wonderful woman in my world has asked me to stop. It is unlikely, however, that I will call him President.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Process Update 1.0

I've decided to go with three keywords/phrases to guide my year: discipline, stress reduction, fun.

The plan is to do something related to each of these, weekly or even daily. I also plan to track my progress or lack of progress with something resembling a calendar.

So what does each keyword look like? What criteria defines each keyword?  Yes, I will get that specific about it now because I believe a specific definition will help simplify the process.

Discipline:
Stop procrastinating, do things now, organize my home office and keep it that way, work out every day, eat at home more (and plan home meals better so there are fewer excuses). Stuff like that.

Stress reduction:
Meditate, let go of some things that bother me that aren't really all that critical, laugh more, take artistic photographs of serene landscapes, don't watch the news every night, stop reading about or even thinking about the a-hole who is about to be President.

Fun:
Hang with friends, see more live music, go to more movies, comedy shows, take more photographs, dance.

Hopefully I'm on to something here. The only way to really make this work is to keep track and follow up. Hold me to that.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Painting the Picture


The pulsing beep gently nudges my brain out of a weird dream involving asparagus and French wine. I laugh quietly as my right hand flops around the nightstand in search of the snooze button. After three cycles of snooze I finally roll out of bed, put on my sweats and cross the street to the apartment complex fitness room. It's 8:30, two and a half hours past my former regular workout time just three weeks ago.

Good morning, World. Welcome to Day Twenty-one of Bernie's retirement.


Yes, this is a dream inside a dream as my brain visualizes a scene from my future. It's an award-winning motion picture set at least five years from now.

A companion visualization from two months ago:  Whenever I visit New Orleans, my hometown, I try to spent time with my cousins. We're all within 10 years of each other in age and spent a lot of time together growing. I'm the instigator of the cousin reunions. All of these cousins had careers or long-term jobs and all have retired. All. My sister and I are the only family members of this generation who still work.  During these cousin reunions she and I are happy to hear about their retirement life. And we are jealous. Our parents were the most frugal, plan-for-the-future people on both sides of the family. Why are we still working?

My workout is a short but effective thirty minutes. I shower, then walk a half mile to my neighborhood Starbucks. Several "hey Bernie"s later I'm enjoying expresso and conversation with retiree friends. We talk neighborhood gossip, politics, medical ailments, music and the weather. A couple of us keep busy with part-time jobs as consultants or Uber drivers, but most mornings start with camaraderie and coffee. All of us enjoyed our working lives but all of us knew it was time to cut back and enjoy life.

This visual becomes clearer every week. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm pretty sure it isn't a train. When it comes to work/life balance, work still wins, but the more I paint this retirement picture the more focused it gets.

Ok, guys, I've got some errands to run. See you at happy hour?  I'll tell y'all about that crazy dream that involved asparagus and French wine.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Laugh Cry or Scream

When I see Trump and his co-whiner Kellyanne complaining about people who insult the president-elect, I don't know whether I should laugh, cry or scream. Trump is a master insulter who has shown complete disrespect for nearly everyone. Why does that thin-skinned pussy think he is above being insulted?

Hey, president-elect jerk, you're a public figure and not immune from criticism. I respect the office of President but I have ZERO respect for you.

Trump insulted and spread vicious and stupid lies about President Obama, past Presidents Bush and Clinton, opponent Clinton, opponents in his own party, millions of Mexicans and billions of muslims. And he expects to be treated better?  What an idiot!

You are stupid, unqualified, have no moral center and care only about yourself and not America. You prove it every time you speak or tweet. A majority of those who voted for you were not voting for you but were voting against Clinton. And even though millions of people hated her, more people voted for her than for you.

You will be insulted and disrespected every day for the next four years. Get used to it.

Back to my original question: should I laugh, cry or scream? The more I think about it the more I will try to do none of that. Your stupidity and ego do not deserve any of my attention.