Saturday, February 28, 2015

(#148-1) February 28 2015. What are the fast growing countries? The U.S. is not amongst them—and neither is most of Europe. Ireland is (to my cautiously pleased surprise).

THE GOD OF GROWTH

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A FALSE & MISLEADING GOD—IF BASED SOLELY ON GDP—BUT WITH ITS OWN REALITY

Growth is widely touted—by both politicians and Big Business-as being the measurement of the success of an economy—and, by implication, the country as a whole.

This is a deceptive practice—we seem quite happy to be so deceived despite abundant data which indicates quite clearly that we are being led by the nose.

The standard measurement is GDP (Gross domestic Product) which measures all economic activity within a country.

It is a reasonable measurement in purely statistical terms—but it is extremely misleading if you conflate growth in GDP with the economic wellbeing of the inhabitants of that country.

GDP measures financial activity, not quality of life. GDP growth is blind, thoughtless, callous—and can be downright unpleasant. Above all, it is a gross distraction from issues of much greater concern.

  • It doesn’t care whether the financial activity is good or bad.
  • It doesn’t measure poverty.
  • It doesn’t consider unemployment.
  • It doesn’t care about war.
  • It is entirely indifferent to whether you have healthcare of not.
  • It cares nothing about the environment, the quality of food, or pollution.
  • It has no interest at all in whether growth is shared equally, or benefits only a few.

Well, you get the idea.

There are serious downsides to growth itself.

  • We can’t continue to grow indefinitely without drastically changing what we mean by growth. If we grow the economy more or less as it is, we shall run out of just about everything—from raw materials to land. Our resources, as matters stand, are finite—and vanishing fast. Even our soil is being depleted of nutrients at a truly frightening rate.
  • As it is, we are polluting way faster than the environment can repair itself. Growth just makes all of this a whole lot worse.
  • Growth, where only a few benefit, invariably leaves the others worse off. As now, and for some time past, that is the situation in the U.S.
  • Growth, without reinvesting adequately—in things like infrastructure, plant & equipment—equates to eating our seed-corn. We have been doing this for some decades—and the consequences are evident. They are going to get a whole lot worse..
  • Growth rends to be inflationary—particularly where costs like housing are concerned. In short, as far as most of us are concerned, growth makes us poorer.

Such things are worth thinking about next time some politician, businessman, or media person goes on about growth. Yes, if it is widely shared, it can be a good thing—but in a heavily qualified way. At best, it is a mixed blessing.

It is also worthwhile pondering the causes and means of growth.

  • War frequently inflates growth. It is rarely worth the price.
  • These days, growth tends to be heavily debt based. That tends to have decidedly adverse consequences after a while.
  • Growth is frequently bubble based. Over the last 15 years, we have had the dot.com bubble, the housing bubble that led to the Great Recession, and we currently have a stock market bubble. These developments have a tendency not to result in happy endings.

Growth does normally lead to more jobs—but many of these are badly paid and the working conditions are poor. Very few jobs offer security these days.

It is possible to have economic growth and have most people benefit—but the American Business model is not set up for that.

Could it be? Of course.

Will it be? There are no serious signs of that at all.

VOR words c.500.


Friday, February 27, 2015

(#147-1) February 27 2015. I confess a weakness for tilting at windmills—and sometimes the sails move. Don Quixote may have been smarter than we think.

DO I REALLY EXPECT BLOGGING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

YES

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THE SIGNIFICANT FACTOR IS NOT NECESSARILY ANY INDIVIDUAL BLOG—BUT THE CUMULATIVE TOTAL. IF ENOUGH OF US (better yet, the right people talking to the right people) PUSH FOR CHANGE, WE WILL EVENTUALLY GET A RESULT.

The price will normally be high. The result will rarely be exactly what we want. But, on balance, the effort will have been worth it.

I have been involved with pushing for change for most of my life so the label of iconoclast certainly does apply. The experiences have given me quite an insight into the processes of change—a subject that isn’t studied enough (let me emphasize this).

Overall, and somewhat to my own surprise, I am more optimistic than pessimistic—though I prefer to think of my outlook as cheerfully realistic leavened with a battle-hardened  sense of just how much time and effort seems to be involved in changing anything—together with the price one pays.

Although, I use it where it seems appropriate, I am skeptical of the word ‘optimism.’ It is all too easily paired with ‘mindless.’ But, let’s put it this way: a positive mental attitude beats pessimism every time. Let me add that for some strange reason I have become decidedly more positive as I have got older. My difficulties and failures have not discouraged me. They are great teachers.

One lesson is that if freedom is not free, change certainly isn’t. But, anything worth doing is hard.

Why am I an iconoclast? I don’t know exactly. The probable reasons are a combination of a good brain, acute powers of observation, empathy, a socially concerned grandmother, extensive reading, and being endowed with both stamina and fortitude.

Given time, I’m sure I could come up with a harsher judgment such as, “Too dumb to know any better.” Either way, I have learned to accept—and enjoy—the reality. The fight keeps my brain well exercised. Success, every now and then, gives me great satisfaction. The process of learning, thinking, and writing purposefully is so much more enjoyable than merely consuming.

Here are some thoughts on change.

  • Though we live with change, most of us (even iconoclasts)yearn for stability—at least within our personal lives. The irony implicit in that statement is not lost on me.
  • Change is neither good nor bad. It is just different. If it appears to be good, there is always a downside—and vice-versa.
  • Change is always opposed by the greedy and the ignorant—and frequently by both. It may be opposed by the honorable for the best of reasons—even if the best of reasons are wrong. The constant is that change will be opposed.
  • The dirty little secret of change is that it is not how many you reach that normally matters. It is who is doing the reaching—and who you reach. Though we pay lip service to democracy, a relatively small minority actually determine how we live. If you can influence a few of them—win them over—that can make all the difference. These thought leaders vary from field to field. Identifying them can be difficult. They like it that way. They respond when it is in their own interests to do so.
  • Assembling a sound, fact-based, argument is not a waste of time. True, most people won’t be changed by it—we have become highly resistant to facts (thanks to social conditioning) but some of the people you really want to reach will be. It also benefits, you, the writer, greatly. Every time you assemble a case—whether you succeed or not—you get a little better.
  • Just because you see no evidence of change doesn’t mean it is not happening. In fact, it has been my experience that it is just when you feel close to despair—are despairing—that  change happens. It has a tendency to surprise—both in terms of timing and in its nature. You will rarely get exactly the result you want. That’s acceptable. If you are an iconoclast, you need to be pragmatic, adaptable, flexible, and persistent.
  • Change requires sustained effort and much repetition. It is hard and endlessly frustrating. Most of us lack the necessary commitment. We are also better at the short term than the long term. As a species, we are pretty good at coping with our immediate needs. but poor at thinking strategically—even within the context of our extremely short lives.
  • You can achieve vastly more if you don’t claim credit for change. Easier said than done because it is extraordinarily hard not to claim some credit from someone. It goes against human nature. We all want some degree of recognition. We want to think we have made a difference. Merely knowing it should be enough, but it rarely is. As with writing, we need the recognition of at least one other person. This need illustrates that fundamental truth. No one achieves anything entirely alone.
  • As a working principle, it is always best if you give credit to others (even if, by implication, you claim a little credit yourself).
  • Change, once it starts can happen very rapidly.

We really should think about change, and how to deal with it, a great deal more than we do. On the one hand, the pace of change is increasing rapidly—but our social structures are not adjusting to cope.

In our schools we tend to teach that there is only one way to do things or one version of the truth—and to discourage intellectual curiosity—whereas the opposite is what is required. Since the best way to teach is by example, our school system should be in a state of constant flux—changing everything from the school day to  what is taught.

It isn’t. It clings on to a rigid, authoritarian, approach that has scarcely changed in a couple of hundred years.

We need to change this!

VOR words 969.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

(#146-1) February 26 2015. It’s amazing what you find if you look. A bomb? Well, not just any old bomb.

MY FAVORITE RECENT HEADLINE

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GEORGIA: AMATEUR DIVERS FIND LONG-LOST NUCLEAR BOMB

Georgia: Amateur Divers Find Long-Lost Nuclear Warhead

Extract from www.worldnewsdailyreport.com of February 12 2015

Savannah| A couple of tourists from Canada made a surprising discovery while scuba diving  in Wassaw Sound, a small bay  located on the shores of Georgia. Jason Sutter and Christina Murray were admiring the marine life of the area when they stumbled upon a Mark 15 thermonuclear bomb that had been lost by the United States Air Force more than 50 years ago.

The federal and state authorities were well-aware that a nuclear warhead had been lost in the area in the 1950′s and had never been recovered, but no efforts had been done for years to recover it. It was lost on the night of February 5, 1958, when a B-47 Stratojet bomber carrying the 7,600-pound hydrogen bomb on a  simulated combat mission off the coast of Georgia collided with an F-86 Saberjet fighter at 36,000 feet of altitude. The collision destroyed the fighter and severely damaged a wing of the bomber, leaving one of its engines partially dislodged.

An unmanned submarine was sent to determine the condition of the bomb, before explosive experts were sent to disarm it. Fortunately, the thermonuclear weapon produced in 1955 seemed in sufficiently good shape for a team of Navy seals  to try to defuse it. They successfully deactivated the warhead after hours of strenuous work, allowing the rest of the bomb to be moved.

The delicate recovery operation took more than 48 hours, but the bomb was finally recovered and transported Mayport Naval Station in Florida. A full set of tests and analysis will now be performed on the warhead to evaluate its actual state and the possible ecological and health hazard that its presence in the bay for 50 years could represent.

I can write about most things with some equanimity. However, I find nuclear weapons particularly chilling and consider that it is only a matter of time before unfriendly people use them on us. I don’t regard it as a possibility. I regard it as a certainty—or as near a certainty as the next financial crash.

Relax—I have been wrong before.

VOR words c.60.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

(#145-2 February 25 2015. I love written words with a passion that my words alone cannot describe. Maybe, I should ask Lucy to photograph them.. Can one photograph words? Can one adequately describe a photo? Perhaps we do need both at that.

I’M AMAZED HOW MUCH PLEASURE I GET FROM GOOD PHOTOGRAPHY

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SOMETIMES I TRY TO ANALYZE. MOSTLY, I JUST ENJOY

BRIGHTON BY MY TALENTED SISTER, LUCY AYETTEY

MY NIECE, LUCY’S DAUGHTER, FAITH

FAITH AND MY SISTER, LUCY

Lucy took the top picture. I’m not sure about the other two. They lack her distinctive editorial style. However, the subject matter is so attractive, I thought I would include them.

I hope to get back to photography one of these days. I miss it.

VOR words c.100


(#145-1) February 24 2015. Why do so many Americans accept poor working conditions as normal?

JUST WHEN I THINK I’M GOING TO WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING WARM, FUZZY, AND CHEERFUL (WHICH I LIKE TO DO) I SEEM TO RUN ACROSS YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR BY BUSINESS

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WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO AMERICANS THAT WE PUT UP WITH THIS RUBBISH?

THE RISE AND RISE OF NON-COMPETE AGREEMENTS—FOR SANDWICH MAKERS!

THIS IS OUTRAGEOUS, RIDICULOUS, AND WRONG!

The following story is from the Washington Post

A few months ago, the Huffington Post reported on a surprising piece of the standard employment contract at Jimmy John's: A "non-competition" clause, preventing employees from working at any other shop within three miles that sells sandwiches for two years after they leave. It's convenient for the company, if it keeps sandwich-makers from taking their talents -- and inside knowledge -- to a rival. It's not so great for workers, who have much more limited options if they want to quit.

But wait: Is that really a danger at a place like Jimmy John's? Non-competes are normally reserved for executives or at tech firms, to keep people from bringing trade secrets to another company. Lately, though, they've been popping up in more and more low-wage sectors too, like maids and nail stylists, prompting a spate of lawsuits.

And now, we have actual data on how prevalent non-competes are across the labor force: One in four workers have signed such agreements in their lifetime, according to a new working paper, and 12.3 percent of them are bound by one right now. Here's a breakdown of the data on non-competes by profession:

I used to regard the expression ‘wage slaves’ as being totally over the top. More recently, I have been beginning to wonder. There is so much bad behavior by so many U.S. corporations these days that the term may not be inappropriate for long.

In all too many cases,  current employment in the U.S.—when you can find it—seems to feature.

  • An overpaid CEO and senior executives focused on optimizing the share prices to the detriment of just about everything else including the longer term interests of the company.
  • No concern for the local community.
  • No concern for the national interest.
  • No concern for suppliers.
  • No real concern for customers.
  • A toxic management style.
  • Employees being treated like a disposable commodity.
  • No job security.
  • No union.
  • Dismissal on a whim.
  • Poor pay.
  • Irregular and unpredictable hours.
  • Minimal vacation time.
  • Minimal or no paid sick leave.
  • No defined pension.
  • Employees paying every increasing amounts towards healthcare.
  • Numerous petty restrictions.

All I can say is that sooner or later, something has got to give. Or has the American spirit been completely crushed? 

I would like to think not—and there are sporadic outbreaks of resistance to corporate malfeasance—but there is scant evidence of any national fight-back despite a myriad of provocations. Big Money continues to manipulate Big Numbers. So much for democracy!

Much has been made of Wal-Mart's recent decision to raise pay rates as evidence of growing worker dissatisfaction having an effect. I would like to think so, but the increases are so small in the face of the need that I have my doubts.

Overall corporate behavior needs vastly more scrutiny than it gets. We certainly need corporations, but do we need such entities as currently structured—especially when imbued with an ethos which is so profoundly unpleasant and which undermines the quality of our lives?

It is a sad thing that I need to even raise the question..

VOR words 576.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

(146-1) February 25 2015. Though there are signs the economy is improving on paper—six long years after the Great Recession--the current American Business Model isn’t delivering for most most Americans. And productivity is suffering.

DESPITE ALL THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY, RECENTLY U.S. PRODUCTIVITY GROWTH HAS BEEN LOUSY.

WHY?

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I DON’T THINK IT IS A MYSTERY. IF YOU TREAT YOUR WORKERS BADLY (AND AS WORMS), THE WORM WILL EVENTUALLY TURN—EVEN WITH FEW WORKER RIGHTS AND NO TRADE UNION.

From the NYT of February 23 2015.

Wage stagnation is a decades-long phenomenon. Between 1979 and 2014, while the gross domestic product grew 150 percent and productivity grew 75 percent, the inflation-adjusted hourly wage of the median worker rose just 5.6 percent — less than 0.2 percent a year. And since 2002, the bottom 80 percent of wage earners, including both male and female college graduates, have actually seen their wages stagnate or fall.

For the moment, I am just going to focus on the productivity issue. Much is being written about the mystery of why productivity has been increasing so slowly recently—despite the truly dramatic improvements in the capabilities of our technologies, but I don’t regard this situation as being mysterious at all.

Productivity gains come from (1) MOTIVATION: People working smarter because they are motivated to do so; (2) CAPABILITIES. Capital investment so that people can work smarter; (3) KNOWLEDGE & TRAINING. These are the requirements which enable people to know how to work faster.

Let me list me list the reasons why I think productivity is increasing at such a slow rate.

  • MOTIVATION. All too often, U.S. management has adopted an adversarial, divisive, and destructive stance towards employees. On top of that senior management is greedy—and can be seen to be so to the point of excess. A consequence is that all too many employees are de-motivated. Bad managements=Lousy morale=Poor productivity. Personally, I believe this is the single greatest drag on productivity.
  • CAPABILITIES. American business has been under-investing for years—particularly since the Great Recession. Money which should have been spent on plant and equipment has been spent on share buybacks, Otherwise, there has been a tendency to hoard cash to the tune of trillions of dollars. In addition, infrastructure has suffered from a truly horrendous lack of investment—thus putting up costs.
  • KNOWLEDGE & TRAINING. Thirdly, U.S. business has largely dodged responsibility for training—and tried to foist it on on government—while at the same time extolling the virtues of the private sector while chastising government. This feckless and hypocritical attitude has hade exactly the results one might expect.

I don’t pretend the above are the only reasons for our poor productivity performance recently—merely that they are the principal ones. Others include.

  • THE DISTRACTION FACTOR OF NEW TECHNOLOGY. Computerization does help us to do many things that previously were impossible—but they also encourage us to waste many hour a day. E-mail and internet browsing are a mixed blessing.
  • THE CUMULATIVE EFFECTS OF AN UNDER-EDUCATED WORKFORCE. U.S. policies, whether deliberately or otherwise (a matter open to some debate) seems to be geared towards creating an ever increasing, poorly educated, under-class. Its members tend not to vote—which helps the Republicans greatly—but they also act a steadily increasing drag on the productivity of the economy.

The Right Wing likes to blame government—taxes and regulations in particular—for everything that is wrong with the economy.

If government was intrinsically as inefficient and flawed as its critics like to maintain, then clearly countries with activist governments like the Scandinavian countries, Germany etc. would be demonstrably less efficient and less productive.

In practice, the reverse is true.

The following is taken from a McKinsey report. The Swedes annual productivity growth of 5.7 percent over the period 1993-2010 is just plain remarkable—and this is a country where taxes are high and government is particularly active. They also take long vacations and work shorter hours—yet they do better in a host of ways than we do—and they live longer.

Why don’t we learn from them? Because it doesn’t suit a small number of Americans who do extremely well from the status quo—and the rest of us either feel helpless or are ignorant.

From 1993 to 2010, the Swedish economy grew at an annual rate of 2.5 per cent, outperforming the EU-15 as well as the United States. Sweden’s GDP growth per capita, 2.0 per cent per year over the same period, was also higher than in the EU-15 and the United States. As a result, Sweden advanced from 14th to 11th place in OECD’s ranking of countries by wealth and Sweden’s GDP per capita is currently 15 per cent higher than the OECD average. Sweden also scores high on several other key metrics that are commonly used to assess a country’s economic performance. The country has a comparatively low public debt, a balanced budget and a current account surplus. The strongest growth engine in the Swedish economy over this period has been the international sector, i.e. the manufacturing industry, business and financial services, and commodities (illus. 1). This sector accounts for around one third of the Swedish economy, and its value added grew by 4.3 per cent per year from 1993 to 2010. The manufacturing industry, in particular, has achieved a rate of annual productivity growth of 5.7 per cent, which is very strong by international standards. However, Sweden also differs from other European countries in that the number of jobs in the manufacturing industry is actually increasing if the share of business and financial services that are sold directly to the manufacturing industry is included.

VOR words c. 500


Monday, February 23, 2015

(#144-1) February 23 2015. What Eisenhower warned about has come to pass—and corruption at the top has permeated down to the very bottom.

THE US. ARMY WAR COLLEGE HAS JUST COME OUT WITH A REVEALING AND IMPORTANT STUDY ABOUT INTEGRITY IN THE ARMY

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ITS FINDINGS ARE NOT PRETTY. IT IS TITLED—APPROPRIATELY—

‘LYING TO TO OURSELVES’

IN PRACTICE, INTEGRITY IN THE ARMY IS SADLY LACKING

The following is a brief extract from a UPI story featured in www.military.com on February 20 2015.

A recent U.S. Army War College study states "dishonesty and deception" among Army personnel is common, often encouraged to maintain a false sense of integrity.

In the study called "Lying to Ourselves," the War College's Strategic Studies Institute interviewed Army personnel from all ranks and found that lies permeate throughout the military institution, whether by civilians or those in uniform.

Officers sometimes face a "suffocating amount" of tasks. Often, they use phrases to make it seem as if they complied to all requirements demanded.

Personnel do this to "sugarcoat the hard reality that in the routine performance of their duties as leaders and commanders, U.S. Army officers often resort to evasion and deception," the study said.

The most highlighted rationalization to partake in dishonesty is that it is often necessary to lie because the task asked of personnel or the reporting required of them is unreasonable, irritating or "dumb."

"I think some expectation of equivocation is accepted on dumb things," one officer said.

Staff officers in the Department of the Army revealed that sometimes reports they receive aren't fully trusted. This means that personnel who request information and those who supply it know that the information is questionable, the study said.

"We don't trust our compliance data," one officer said.

Part of the reason why lying is so prevalent is because there is a psychological disconnect between performing a dishonest act and facing the consequence for it.

"A moral decision can lose its ethical overtones if the eventual repercussions of such a choice are either unknown or minimized," the study said. "For example, it is a common perception that much of the information submitted upward disappear.

The thrust of the above suggests that this culture of dishonesty (which is what it is, by the way) is confined to bureaucratic reports and similar. Unfortunately, it is not. Instead, outright lying, dissembling, or obfuscating is fundamental to the way the entire system works at present. Let me stress this—it is normal.

culture--: a way of thinking, behaving, or working that exists in a place or organization (such as a business)

It helps to explain why the Pentagon still cannot be audited as yet. The excuse that is given is that there are too many incompatible accounting systems—which I do not believe—but I certainly do believe that a considerable amount of basic data is simply made up to keep superiors happy.

No, I am not relying on my own analysis and observation alone. Recent research has shown that such is exactly the situation. False figures covering a wide range of issues from maintenance to readiness are entered—and this fact is widely known within the services.

Why is nothing done about it? Because such lies make everyone look good. That is their purpose.

It is all based upon the idea of making your superior look good—regardless of the facts—because, if you don’t, he or she can, and frequently will, wreck your career.

Let me paraphrase Lord Action: “All power corrupts—and rank—when used in an authoritarian manner (which is how the system is set up)—corrupts both up and down.”

One side-effect of all this is that the data upon which major decisions are made is often massaged to make it fit in with the senior officer’s prejudices. As a consequence, it is exceedingly difficult for just about anyone to find out the truth about anything. After all, if the base data is falsified, what is there to go on?

A true irony is that in the the absence of accurate information, leaders—who know perfectly well their data is false—still rely on it for decision making because accurate data doesn’t exist. Indeed, after a while, they start believing in it themselves. 

Classifying data which doesn’t need to be classified—and should not be—obscures many deficiencies. False figures obscure much else. Lack of oversight by those tasked with that responsibility—the leadership, Congress, and, in the final analysis, the president, completes the picture. The wider context is an ignorant and indifferent public.

Militarily, we are the most powerful nation in the world—yet success in war eludes us again and again—and has since Korea (over 60 years ago). We refuse to admit this, but we have a dysfunctional military system in a number of critical ways.

It is scarcely an accident that whenever our military occupy, invade, or otherwise become involved with another country, corruption becomes rampant.

DUTY, HONOR, COUNTRY makes a nice slogan but it is not the way the system actually works.

The public, as a whole, know little about the Army, don’t care to know more, and prefer to admire from afar because that eases their consciences.

“Thank you for your service,” means, in essence, “rather you than me.”

Congress is not just complicit in the corruption, but is integral to it. The MICC stands for the Military Industrial Congressional Complex.

Can soldiers be both physically courageous and corrupt? Absolutely. That fact is demonstrated every single waking day. Being brave doesn’t mean you are a trustworthy human being.  

Moral courage—standing up to the rampant careerism, intellectual dishonesty and other forms of corruption that permeate our military, is another matter entirely.

It is hard to fight a system that is rotten in such fundamental ways.

What drives such behavior? The same things that have so distorted the current American Business Model.

Ego and Money. If one want a one word answer, ‘Greed’ will serve.  Over $1 trillion a year flows through the National Security establishment (the Defense Budget being the largest—but very far from the only—element).

Throughout history people have raped, pillaged and killed for a whole lot less. Human nature hasn’t changed.

It is to the credit of the War College’s Strategic Studies Institute that they have written this report. This is serious moral courage at work.

Will anything happen as a consequence? To the authors of the report? Probably (in some quiet way). To the Army as a whole?

Sadly, it is exceedingly unlikely that matters will change. The American tragedy continues apace. The lack of integrity in the Army is just one facet.

VOR words c. 740.


 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

(#143-1) February 22 2015. Words and their timing.

THE ENCAPSULATION OF AN IDEA IN A QUOTE IS A WONDERFUL THING

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YET AGAIN, THE VALUE OF WORDS

"Your present circumstances don't determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start."

-- Nido Qubein,
businessman and motivational speaker

"Our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers."

-- M. Scott Peck,
American psychiatrist

"[I]f one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours."

-- Henry David Thoreau,
writer and naturalist

The past five years have been especially difficult for me—but also the most rewarding of my life (something I did not expect, but which encourages me greatly). I don’t want to over-praise the value of adversity—I aspire to a comfortable stress-free life as much as anybody (as long as it includes adventures) but the fact is that I have found the period to be personally enriching to a degree that I hadn’t thought possible.

In essence, I have been trying to change my life in a number of significant ways—and the transition, though largely successful so far, has certainly not proven to be easy. In fact, an observer—when seeing me confronted by setback after setback—might well wonder why I continue along this particular path.

It is not sheer bloody-mindedness—though I am aware that some think so. I do so because it feels like the right one to me—morally, creatively, operationally—and I tend to be inner-voice directed. Obviously, external factors influence me too, and sometimes force me to make a detour or otherwise cause me to deviate from my course, but I work hard at getting back on track. I also fall on occasions—or my courage fails at some crucial moment. So far, I have been able to come up with no better solution than to pick myself up, endeavor to recover some dignity, and continue.

My friend, Tim, a practical and successful man, who copes rather better with life than I do in many ways, likes to send me quotes from time to time to both cheer me up and stiffen my resolve. He succeeds on both counts—and his efforts are deeply appreciated.

In response to my reflections on Death With Dignity recently—and my recollections of Jo Curran taking her own life legally back in December 2010, he sent the following.

"There are stars whose radiance is visible on Earth though they have long been extinct. There are people whose brilliance continues to light the world even though they are no longer among the living. These lights are particularly bright when the night is dark. They light the way for humankind."

-- Hannah Szenes,

Hungarian soldier

Tim’s skill lies not just in his choice of the right words—but in their timing.

VOR Words c.255.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

(#142-1) February 21 2015. Poisoning for profit—our food and the current American Business Model in action.

THAT EXCELLENT WEBSITE MERCOLA.COM ASKS AN INTERESTING QUESTION

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Why Are American Foods Routinely More Toxic Than European Versions?

If you accept that, subject to our genetic makeup and our environment (a separate topic of major concern), we are what we eat, then it is abundantly clear that the U.S. is in a state of crisis—at least comparable, it terms of it being an existential threat, to a major war. When casualties are factored in, a major war—like WW II—should be regarded as less serious. Our food crisis has already invaded successfully and is killing way more of us than the Germans and the Japanese ever did. 

As a matter of interest, the U.S. lost 420,000 dead in WW II (and the UK, with a  population of about one third of the size) lost 450,900.

This crisis is vastly more serious than  the terrorist threat or virtually any other immediate threat—although climate change looks like giving it serious competition before too long.

In fact, the incredibly disturbing problems associated with the U.S. food chain have evolved way beyond the status of a threat. They are no longer theoretical. They are in action against us right now. They now constitute a lethal scourge which is wreaking havoc on the health of the American population—and has for many years. Antibiotic resistance is just one side effect—and that alone is killing 23,000 a year—and rising.

When I say “A lethal scourge” I mean exactly that. Our food chain—starting off with the rapidly depleting quality of our soil and water (and the environment generally) and ending up with the food we buy (whether for home consumption,  in restaurants, or as Fast Food) is chemically contaminated, nutritionally inadequate, over-processed, laden with excessive sugar, fat, salt, fillers, and chemicals—and then frequently  wrapped, stored, and even cooked in chemically dubious packaging materials and storage containers.

Appreciate that in the ‘anything goes’ U.S., chemicals can be used without any check or hindrance until such time as they are proven to be harmful. In contrast, in Europe, chemicals have to be shown to be safe first.

Is there any proof of the problems with our food chain?

Yes, and it is overwhelming. Some examples.

  • DIE SOONER. Americans die roughly three years sooner than Europeans. (and about two years sooner than Canadians).
  • LIVE SICKER. While alive, Americans tend to be sicker than Europeans. For instance, roughly half the U.S. adult population suffers from at least one chronic condition.
  • OBESE.Obesity is rife—over 30 % of adults—and increasing. Include being overweight and the figure rises to about two thirds of adults—nearly 155 million people.
  • UNFIT. Over 70% of young Americans are too physically unfit for military service (other factors contribute to this statistic but lack of fitness is the dominant one).
  • FOOD COMMITTEE APPALLED. A recent government report by the Federal Diet Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) on the American report supports my observations. In fact,  insofar as a bureaucracy can do such a thing, the committee freaked. Its members seem to be appalled at the current situation and announced plans to “transform the food system.” We have heard that before—and little has happened.
  • SERIOUS WATER QUALITY ISSUES. Routine tests of water quality only cover traditional life-threatening contaminants like lead and arsenic. Non-standard tests have revealed widespread contamination of our water supplies by meds. More research is needed, but the implications of all this appear to be serious.

I would add that you have only got to people watch for a limited period of time to come to the conclusion that there is something very wrong with American health.

What and who are to blame for this?

  • US. We the People are for largely ignoring what is in plain sight—much as we have a tendency to most other important issues. The U.S. public has largely given up the fight. The ultra-rich, and the corporations they control, now have their hands on the  the levers of power and have no intention of giving them up.
  • BIG AGRICULTURE. Our agricultural systems which are largely based upon monoculture, artificial fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides, and GMO. Add in CAFOs and antibiotics fed to food animals as a matter of routine, and you have a toxic mix which produces nutritionally inadequate and contaminated raw materials.
  • BIG FOOD. Our food processing industry takes in substandard and contaminated raw material, processes much of the inadequate nutritional value out of it, and then endeavors to make it enticing with a range of materials that it knows perfectly well are hazardous to our health—sugar, salt, fats, fillers, and chemicals.
  • BIG MEDICINE. The medical profession knows perfectly well that we are in the middle of a food crisis—but largely stays silent because ill-health brings the medical profession business.
  • BIG POLITICS. Our politicians could legislate most of our food problems away, but choose not to do so because they are heavily funded by the corporations which constitute the problem.
  • BIG MONEY. This is the root cause of the contamination of our food chain. It is the motive, the method, and the consequence—and it is killing us in large numbers. Feeding us mediocre food and then treating the inevitable negative heath consequences generates enormous sums of money for a relatively small number of people. Killing Americans pays. Killing us in quantity pays even better. Arguing that we have the freedom to chose what we consume is disingenuous. Not only are we massively conditioned to eat certain foods, but very few processed food are not substandard in some way.

The bottom line is that our food chain constitutes a much greater health hazard than tobacco ever did—and that virtually nothing is  being done to remedy the situation. In fact, it is scarcely being discussed.

Capitalism has great merit as the basis of an economic system, but like any human activity, it needs some ground rules linked to a moral core. As matters stand, the checks and balances that capitalism requires to function effectively and fairly—largely don’t exist or are being ignored.

The current ABM (American Business Model) based upon the theory that that management need only be concerned with maximizing shareholder value is a corruption of the free enterprise system—and is having a truly disastrous effect upon this country in innumerable ways from lowering the quality of life of tens of millions of employees to undermining their health. 

It is self-evident that it lacks a moral core—which is precisely why the food industry regards it as entirely reasonable—because it is not actually illegal—to diminish the lives of large number of their fellow citizens and eventually to kill them prematurely.

We are experiencing a very American Holocaust in the name of business. Are the numbers comparable? No, the American version is killing more.

Check out www.mercola.com

More than 3,000 food additives -- preservatives, flavorings, colors and other ingredients -- are added to US foods, including infant foods and foods targeted to young children.

Meanwhile, many of these are banned in other countries, based on research showing toxicity and hazardous health effects, especially with respect to adverse effects on children's behavior.

This includes food colorings such as red 40, yellow 5, yellow 6, and/or blue 2, which has been shown to cause behavioral problems, allergic reactions, and even cancer.

In countries where these food dyes are banned, companies employ naturalcolorants instead, such as paprika extract, beetroot, and annatto. But if they can do it in a host of other countries, why can't they switch over altogether, and use natural colorants in foods sold on the American market as well?

Another example: the antifoaming agent dimethylpolysiloxane, found in the American version of McDonald's French fries, is a type of silicone with anti-foaming properties used in cosmetics and a variety of other goods like Silly Putty. Does it have to be used to make a decent French fry?  Apparently not. So why use it?

Ditto for TBHQ. Animal studies suggest there may be a number of health hazards associated with this chemical, including2 liver effects at very low doses; positive mutation results from in vitro tests on mammalian cells; biochemical changes at very low doses; and reproductive effects at high doses.

A question that really needs to be answered by each and every offending food company is: Why do you want to make Americans sick? You're keeping all this junk out of the UK and other countries' food supply, why not here?

The following infographic highlights 10 glaring examples where foods sold in the US contain ingredients shunned by other nations, due to their health risks.

 

10 Banned Foods to Avoid

Friday, February 20, 2015

(141-1) February 20 2015. I suspect Apple will be a trillion dollar corporation one of these days. Good for them—they deserve their success. It still won’t make Apple into a person. It shouldn’t have to be one. A corporation should succeed or fail within the context of its own environment.

AWESOME IS A MUCH OVER-USED WORD

VICTOR - SHOT BY MICK - WEBSITE 1

SOMETIMES IT IS ENTIRELY APPROPRIATE

I neither like nor trust the Stock Market in its present form—and regard it as a good idea gone badly adrift. But, that is a topic for another day.

It really is encouraging to see Apple—which really does deliver decent products—doing so well. In contrast, it is mildly depressing to see Walmart, Bank of America, and McDonald’s—all corporations with murky track records and unpleasant cultures, being given the time of day.

As for Google, they are not perfect—but they are pretty damn good.

The issue of corporate personhood is one that cries out to be addressed. The legal rationale for determining that a corporate entity is legally a person was never adequately  established in the first place—when the Supreme Court made their judgment on the matter—and, since then, corporate power has increased beyond recognition to the great detriment of the wellbeing of the typical employee in the U.S. over recent decades.

AS UNION MENBERSHIP DECLINES THE SHARE OF INCOME GOING TO THE TOP 10% INCREASES. SCARCELY A SURPRISE I THINK.

A consequence has been income inequality on a scale that has become downright unhealthy. Simply put, corporations now have virtually all the power and unions, in the private sector, have been near eliminated. As a consequence, we’ve got either stagnant or declining pay for most, inadequate demand, and an economy performing way below it’s potential. There are numerous other significant side effects including the rather disturbing fact that our political system has been hijacked by major corporations. The typical voter’s interests are no longer being listened to—let alone looked after.

This finding is not just my opinion. As I have stated previously, it is the finding of academic researchers of some stature. It should scarcely be a surprise. Money doesn’t just talk and influence. It buys control.

The disturbing thing is that both parties are now largely funded by the ultra-rich and their corporate interests—which means the issues are not being raised adequately, let alone dealt with.

It also means that no party, and few individuals, are fighting for the interests of typical Americans.

This is all happening in plain sight—but, in the main, we seem to be ignoring it.

A tragedy in the making—or one already made?

Writing, you know, is all about decisions.

 

VOR words c.370.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

(#140-1) February 19 2015. We all have to die. Dying with dignity on your own terms doesn’t seem too much to ask. It is more than most of us manage to achieve. It shouldn’t be.

THOUGHTS ON DEATH WITH DIGNITY

VICTOR - SHOT BY MICK - WEBSITE 1

BASED UPON FIRST HAND EXPERIENCE & INSPIRED BY THE SAD PASSING OF DIANE REHM’S HUSBAND, JOHN

Story extract from the Washington Post of February 14 2015. Written by Michael S. Rosenwald.

Diane Rehm and her husband John had a pact: When the time came, they would help each other die.

John’s time came last year. He could not use his hands. He could not feed himself or bathe himself or even use the toilet. Parkinson’s had ravaged his body and exhausted his desire to live.

“I am ready to die,” he told his Maryland doctor. “Will you help me?”

The doctor said no, that assisting suicide is illegal in Maryland. Diane remembers him specifically warning her, because she is so well known as an NPR talk show host, not to help. No medication. No pillow over his head. John had only one option, the doctor said: Stop eating, stop drinking.

So that’s what he did. Ten days later, he died.

For Rehm, the inability of the dying to get legal medical help to end their lives has been a recurring topic on her show. But her husband’s slow death was a devastating episode that helped compel her to enter the contentious right-to-die debate.

“I feel the way that John had to die was just totally inexcusable,” Rehm said in a long interview in her office. “It was not right.”

Back in 2010, I helped to look after a friend of a friend who was dying of cancer. To this day, I’m not quite sure why I volunteered, but I’m glad I did. It was an honor to help to care for Jo (Curran) and a life changing experience as far as I was concerned.

Jo was a feisty lady with a bawdy sense of humor and told everyone I was her lover. Crippled with pain as she was, that possibility didn’t exist—but it entertained her. Her pleasure was mine.

A particularly aggressive cancer was eating her spine and death within weeks or months was certain. It was highly likely that she would become paralyzed before then.

Jo faced up to these grim realities with great courage—and decided to kill herself legally under Washington State’s Death with Dignity
Act.

When I first heard of her decision I was decidedly shaken. I had been brought up a Catholic—conditioned to think that the taking of your own life was a mortal sin. I am no longer a practicing Catholic, but such teachings leave their mark.

Beyond that, I have encountered, or been on the periphery of suicide far more often than I  care to think about. People near and dear to me have killed themselves despite every effort to dissuade them. On the other other hand, none were facing a fairly imminent and painful death.

In fact, it was a supposed suicide—there was never a thorough investigation so I have never been quite sure—which inspired my first book, GAMES OF THE HANGMAN. I found the body one damp morning hanging from a tree in a lonely wood. It was not a pleasant sight.

Hell of a way to start the day.

When I thought things through—and it wasn’t easy—I realized that Jo’s decision was courageous, rational, and the morally right thing to do. She was not just sparing herself, by she was sparing those who would otherwise have to look after her. We were more than happy to do that, of course, but it we knew it was going to be a sad and grim ending.

I still felt incredibly strange when I was dispatched to find something flavorful  to disguise the taste of the barbiturate overdose that would kill her. Jo, her sense of humor ever evident, fancied Flavor Aid, or something in the Jonestown tradition. I bought her straws as well since a straw would be easier to drink from than a glass. She was very weak.

Knowing Jo, I anticipated a joke about ‘the last straw’ and I was not disappointed.

She asked me to attend. When I arrived dressed up for the occasion she sent me away to change into the clothes I wore when nursing her. Jo being Jo, I obeyed.

Together with her daughter, I then helped to hold her up while she drank the lethal dose. A small group of friends was standing around her bed as she did so, and Jo then started to say goodbye to us one by one. With a grin, she apologized to me for not getting me into her bed. Within a couple of minutes she was unconscious—and dead within half an hour.

Crying, I could not take my eyes off her as she lay there dying—and it took months before I was over the experience. I doubt I ever will be entirely. I had become very fond of Jo and it broke my heart to see such a vibrant spirit kill herself.

At the same time, I was happy for her. She died on her own terms with her friends around her and the alternatives would have been paralysis, pain, much indignity over her bodily functions, no quality of life at all, endless tests, and inevitable death.

I have no doubt at all, but that the Death With Dignity Act is a good thing. It should be universal.

I truly feel for Diane Rehm and what she had to go through. I would also add that she is an exceptional broadcaster and a truly beautiful woman.

The prospect of death does not worry me much. I have had a good, rich, fascinating, life with as many adventures as I used to long for so long ago. I hated boarding school, escaped through adventure stories—and dreamt of having such wonderful adventures myself when I grew up.

Life has not let me down.

The manner of my passing does give me pause. I hope I die as well as Jo.

The most beautiful rainbow appeared shortly after her death. The most beautiful spirit had passed.

VOR words c. 643.


 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

(139-1) February 18 2015. Continuing the thorny subject of what we writers should write about.

HERE IS AN EXAMPLE OF A HARD THING (something it would be easier not to write about—which most of us don’t want to accept—or even think about)

VICTOR - SHOT BY MICK - WEBSITE 1

THE U.S. IS NOT A DEMOCRACY ANY MORE. IT IS A PLUTOCRACY—OWNED AND RUN BY THE RICH FOR THEIR OWN ADVANTAGE.

SO SAYS THE RESEARCH—OR YOU CAN OPEN YOUR EYES!

From www.america.aljazeera.com

The rich own our democracy, new evidence suggests

  • by Sean Mcelwee

Two new studies by political scientists offer compelling evidence that the rich use their wealth to control the political system and that the U.S. is a democratic republic in name only.

In a study of Senate voting patterns, Michael Jay Barber found that “senators’ preferences reflect the preferences of the average donor better than any other group.” In a similar study of the House of Representatives, Jesse H. Rhodes and Brian F. Schaffner found that, “millionaires receive about twice as much representation when they comprise about 5 percent of the district’s population than the poorest wealth group does when it makes up 50 percent of the district.” In fact, the increasing influence of the rich over Congress is the leading driver of polarization in modern politics, with the rich using the political system to entrench wealth by pushing for tax breaks and blocking redistributive policies.

At the turn of the decade, political scientists Larry Bartels, Jacob Hacker and Martin Gilens wrote several incredibly influential important books arguing, persuasively, that the preferences of the rich were better represented in Congress than the poor. After the books were published, there was a flurry of research arguing that they had overstated their case.

Critics alleged two key defects in Bartels’ and Gilens’ arguments. First, because polling data on the super-wealthy were sparse, it was difficult to prove that there were large differences in opinion. Political scientists often rely on composite measures of policy liberalism, but since the poor tend to be more economically liberal but socially conservative, the differences between the poor and moderately rich can often be obscured. Second, there was no way to show that influence of the wealthy was caused directly by the influence of money. It might well be that the rich are simply opinion leaders or are more likely to vote.

Recent research offers compelling answers to these criticisms. The new evidence adds credence to the Bartels-Gilens-Hacker view that money is corrupting American politics. By using a massive database of ideology that includes the super wealthy, Schaffner and Rhodes found that “members of Congress are much more responsive to the wealthy than to their poor constituents.” However, this difference is not equal between both parties; rather, Democrats are far more responsive to the poor than Republicans. (This is not surprising; other research supports this claim.) They find that both parties strongly favor the upper-middle class, those with $100,000 to $300,000 in wealth. But Republicans are not only more responsive to the rich, but particularly to rich donors. Schaffner and Rhodes argue that, “campaign donations, but not voter registration or participation in primary or general election, may help explain the disproportionate influence of the wealthy among Republican representatives.”

Kind of sad to see The Great Experiment hijacked in plain sight—and over 300 million people giving in without a fight. There is something very wrong with our culture these days—and I don’t just mean the current American Business Culture. And yet the paradox is that the talent is out there. Yet, the better people—who often do marvelous things in their fields and at a local level—don’t seem to be concerned with the welfare of society as a whole. But society is about the whole—and has to be.

I find the general acceptance of the current situation—which so blatantly favors the few—and leads to the neglect of so many, troubling to the point of being tragic.

Could the situation be reversed? Yes, it could—but I see no signs that it will be.

VOR words c.100.


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

(#138-1 February 17 2015 You can make a case that we have too many writers these days. On the other hand, the human condition is far from adequately illuminated. Perhaps we scribes aren’t doing our jobs as well as we might. Perhaps we aren’t thinking and writing enough about the hard things. What are the hard things? The things it’s easier not to do or write about. Because they are hard.

WHAT EVERYONE KNOWS—IS OFTEN NOT TRUE

MIND YOU, EVERYONE KNOWS THAT

VICTOR - SHOT BY MICK - WEBSITE 1

IF A WRITER’S JOB IS TO ILLUMINATE THE HUMAN CONDITION (AND TRY AND MAKE IT A LITTLE BETTER) DOES THAT MEAN WE SHOULD QUESTION THINGS—OR MERELY ILLUMINATE

When in doubt I tend to look up the meaning of a word. Where English is concerned, not only do we have a ridiculous number of words, but they often have several meanings. You know one, and feel safe—and then another meaning comes along and thumps you.

I’m amazed we are able to get through the day. And then tone comes into the picture—and body language. The English get over the latter by not having any. Accents—which denote class—and the stiff upper lop suffice—though they rather like irony.

In contrast, you use irony in the U.S. at your peril—unless you are Jon Stewart.

And to think English has become the international language of just about everything? Oy Vey! What’s wrong with Yiddish anyway?

Illuminate is defined by Merriam-Webster as:

    • brightened with light
    • intellectually or spiritually enlightened

I’m feeling much relieved. The first definition suggests that a writer should function as little more than a literary lamp-post. However, “intellectually or spiritually (Why not both?)” allows us writers to do pretty much anything. Questioning comes near the top of that list.

Or nothing—which comes first. We writers call the latter “thinking.”

It’s a hard thing.

VOR words 220.


Monday, February 16, 2015

(#137-1) February 2015. Extraordinarily interesting things are happening in aviation these days. Some involve those incredible aircraft that have mastered the neat trick of flying largely without wings.The birds, I’ll have you know, are jealous.

HELICOPTERS ARE ABOUT TO CHANGE DRASTICALLY

VICTOR - SHOT BY MICK - WEBSITE 1

BUT WHAT DIRECTION WILL WIN OUT?

173467.jpg

SIKORSKY S-97 RAIDER

Helicopters are extraordinarily useful machines, but are expensive to buy, expensive to maintain, gas guzzlers—and limited in performance. Where the latter is concerned, they can’t lift very much or go very fast. Though there are exceptions, most helicopters cruise at well under 150 mph—and many don’t do much better than 120 mph.

That situation has existed for decades. In fact, many Vietnam-era Hueys are still flying—and they were introduced in the Sixties.. Rumors that they are pedal powered are an exaggeration. Their rubber bands work fine.

Helicopter avionics, rotors, and engine performance have all improved immeasurably over the years, but speed, duration and lifting capability have changed little. The gains have primarily been in terms of sheer flyability, reliability, fuel economy, engine power, and comfort. The things still seem determined to vibrate themselves to pieces—but less so. It now takes a little longer before they fall apart in the air.

There is now a serious attempt to just about double helicopter performance—at least in terms of speed. The Sikorky S-97 Raider represent just one such approach. Other include variations on the tilt rotor—as currently represented by the V-22 Osprey.

The question is not whether these efforts will be successful—we already know they will be. The question is which technology will emerge as being most cost effective.

Regarding the issue of lift, I expect to see major development in terms of multi-engined aircraft—probably powered by hybrid electric motors. Electric motors can be made very small and powerful so I see them being used on the rotors with power being supplied by a battery and the battery being kept charged by a single generator. Eventually, one would hope that battery improvements will make the generator unnecessary—but we are far from there yet.

Nonetheless, within 10-15 years from now, I expect the rotary world to look very different.

Thanks to being privileged to work for Piasecki Aircraft for a brief period on a DARPA project—to develop a MAR (Mission Adaptive Rotor) I am pleased to say I will be able to claim that I have made a tiny (as in miniscule) contribution to that progress.

It was fascinating, exhausting, and fun—and I shall ever be grateful to Piasecki—and to my good friend, Mike Sparks, for making the connection.

Why in hell was a thriller writer asked to work on such an advanced engineering project?

We writers get around, I’ll have you know—and, if nothing else, words are Mission Adaptive.

By the way, for all their imperfections, I love helicopters and the day I flew in an Apache-AH64 changed my life.

For the better.

Based on Sikorsky's rigid X2 rotor coaxial design, the S-97 RAIDER helicopter features next-generation technologies in a multi-mission configuration, capable of carrying six troops and external weapons. The coaxial counter-rotating main rotors and pusher propeller provide cruise speeds up to 220 knots (253 mph).

"We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate the RAIDER's revolutionary performance and unmatched maneuverability for the U.S. Army," said Steve Engebretson, Director, Advanced Military Programs. "We're delivering on our promise to design and build a helicopter with performance capabilities not seen before."

The S-97 RAIDER helicopter demonstrator program is 100 percent industry-funded. Sikorsky provides 75 percent of the investment and the suppliers provide the remaining funding. Sikorsky's goal is to attract government interest in the program.

VOR words 374


Sunday, February 15, 2015

(#136-1) February 15 2015. St. Valentine’s Day has left me feeling romantic (amazing thought though that may be to some) so I didn’t feel like following it up with some serious piece on the economy. But then fate intervened most pleasantly. A stork flew in (so to speak). And here am I thinking that babies are found under cabbages. That ‘s the first answer I received when I first asked. You know something—adults don’t always tell the truth.

SPEAKING OF ROMANCE—WHICH I WAS YESTERDAY (ST. VALENTINE’S DAY)

VICTOR - SHOT BY MICK - WEBSITE 1

SOMETIMES THE OUTCOMES ARE RATHER SPECIAL—AND EXTRAORDINARILY SWEET. BUT THEN I LOVE BABIES

MY MUCH LOVED SISTER, LUCY (THE TALENTED PHOTOGRAPHER I FEATURE REGULARLY) AND HER FIRST GRANDCHILD, ANAYA (A VERY RECENT ARRIVAL)

ANAYA—JUST A FEW DAYS OLD

Just as well I love babies, since I am the eldest of 12 and had five of my own. And I don’t mind the yukier (how do you spell that?) aspects either. Changing diapers and so on is no big deal where babies are concerned—especially when they are your babies. The compensations are overwhelming.

My sister Lucy—as you can see from the above photo, has a remarkable ability to radiate happiness—and she certainly doesn’t look like the mother of five children (four fully grown). But she is.

I have been using the word ‘joyous’ recently to describe what I feel about writing. It’s at least as applicable to the arrival of babies.

Will this site now feature a regular series of baby pictures—sandwiched between peculiar aircraft, weaponry, and graphics featuring the economy?

I wouldn’t be at all surprised.

I guess I am now a grand-uncle. Now there is a title to be proud of.

Congratulations to one and all. I’m more than happy for you. Lucy’s glow of happiness radiates a long, long way. She is a phenomenal lady.

VOR word 210.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

(#135-1) February 14 2014. It seems as good a time as any to confess to being both an adventurer (in the sense of being willing to take risks in seeking out the new) and a romantic It’s not a state I would recommend if you want a quiet life. It can be stressful. On the other hand, I have discovered—somewhat to my surprise—it makes for a joyous one..

I HAVE BEEN TOLD THAT MANY OF MY POSTS (especially those on military matters, the economy, or technological innovation) SUGGEST I HAVEN’T GOT A ROMANTIC BONE IN MY BODY

VICTOR - SHOT BY MICK - WEBSITE 1'

COULD BE. BUT I LIKE TO THINK I DO HAVE A ROMANTIC SIDE—ALBEIT IT DWELLS ELSEWHERE. (as in not in my bones)

BUT, IT IS THERE, I PROMISE YOU!


A VALENTINE FROM VICTOR—FEBRUARY 2015

 

SOMETIMES—EVERY BELOVED WORD

The words elude my search—but sometimes words seek out the man.

Is destiny a voice—and if it is, how right it feels to be captured so.

To care, to cherish, to capitulate, to love, to commit to death.

To a stranger—but a friend to my soul—a true lover,

a dreamer, a poet.

Sometimes tears find the man—of ever elusive happiness.

Sometimes they reflect what might have been—and a broken heart.

I write with hope, belief, and joy regardless—to a woman who is

worth every risk, every breath, every thought, every endeavor, every

passion, every caress, every touch, every tenderness, every kiss

—every beloved word. But is she real—or a beloved fiction?

February 15 2014

 

No, I haven’t given up prose for poetry—nor do I consider myself a poet—or even close. But sometimes words compose themselves according to the cadence of circumstances—and this is such a day. May there be many more like it.

Is it about my love of words—or my feelings for a particular woman—or both. Or am I just playing with words? Or with women?

Well, of course I’m teasing in a mild way—but my words are from the heart.

Where would writing be without mystery—and love. And whatever would I do without the written word—and my love for it.

Best of all to share such a love.

 


Friday, February 13, 2015

(#134-1) February 13 2015. Beware of asteroids. What are the odds of being killed by a bee sting? Or being listened to by a member of Congress unless you are a contributor?

WHAT IS MOST LIKELY TO KILL YOU?

VICTOR - SHOT BY MICK - WEBSITE 1

RELAX! TERRORISM DOESN’T EVEN FEATURE. A HEART ATTACK WILL DO THE JOB WITH MUCH LESS DRAMA

There is something deeply wrong with our mass media. On the one hand, I do believe we need to be informed—indeed that we have a duty to keep ourselves informed—but that is very different to being exposed to a constant diet of disasters and celebrity gossip.

As matters stand, our mass media—and here I’m thinking primarily of TV—do a lousy job. Sadly, they don’t even keep us informed about the issues since they think we are too dumb to put up with more than a sound-bite.

Terrorism gets massive coverage—almost certainly vastly more than it deserves. In contrast, labor news is minimal—as is coverage of poverty. Many truly wonderful achievements get no coverage at all.

Fortunately, the information is out there if you are prepared to look—but it does take effort.

Best source? NPR in my opinion. It does a truly outstanding job in a low key way—and this Great Nation is the better for it. But though NPR’s audience is steadily increasing, most Americans still depend on mass market TV.

A badly informed public will result in—what we’ve got.

It is not a healthy democracy. It is a plutocracy. I don’t think that is what the Founding Fathers had in mind.

The frustrating thing is that America could so easily be the kind of country most of us really want it to be—and which, mythically, we believe in—with relative ease. This country is rich in every kind of resource known to man.

If…

Such a small word—with such enormous implications.

VOR words c.280.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

(#133-1) February 12 2015. Yet again the Swiss demonstrate what added value means. They keep on coming up with clever products which justify a price premium but cost little more to make. This is no accident. It’s a cultural thing based upon a highly educated, attuned, outward-looking—and constantly learning—population. We, in turn, could learn a great deal from their approach. The answers are out there.

DRONES REALLY ARE GOING TO CHANGE OUR WORLD (sometimes for the better)

VICTOR - SHOT BY MICK - WEBSITE 1

AND SOME ARE MORE INGENIOUS THAN OTHERS

How drones can be prevented from crashing into things, or at least in a way that doesn't p...

THE INCREDIBLY INGENIOUS FLYABILITY GIMBALL DRONE

The Gimball is a twin reciprocating rotor copter inside a protective carbon fiber cage. This allows it to bump into things but continue flying—and it also makes it safe for people to handle.

The initial idea is for it to be used in disaster situations where debris makes it very difficult to avoid bumping into something.

Will the cage, itself, get caught? Well clearly it could—but the overall advantages of the thing are still substantial. But the Gimball is less likely to stay snagged than it seems because the cage rotates as it flies.

Are the weight and drag of the cage problematic? It appears the advantages dominate.

The developers are the Swiss company Flyability. The company has just won $1 million prize in the International Competition Drones for Good Award.

Truly amazing things are happening in the aviation world these days—and they are a pleasure to write about. Human ingenuity—a truly inadequately tapped resource—fascinates and inspires me.

There are no borderlines where creativity is concerned. Whether the endeavor is in the arts or in engineering, creativity is creativity. It lifts the soul.

VOR words 211.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

(#132-1) February 11 2015. To be told that what you are doing is pointless—and fails across the board—is disconcerting. Still, such criticisms make me think—never a bad thing.

RECENTLY, I WAS TOLD BY A VERY CHARMING AND INTELLIGENT WOMAN THAT THIS BLOG IS A WASTE OF MY TIME—FOR A LONG LIST OF REASONS

VICTOR - SHOT BY MICK - WEBSITE 1

I CAN’T REMEMBER THEM ALL, BUT HERE ARE SOME

DO I AGREE? WELL, I PAID CLOSE ATTENTION AND UNDERSTAND WHERE SHE IS COMING FROM—BUT NO. THAT SAID, I ALWAYS LISTEN TO ATTRACTIVE WOMEN (AND I FIND MOST WOMEN ATTRACTIVE)

I have explained my reasons for writing this blog on several occasions in the past (put ‘blog’ or ‘blogging’ in the search engine and they should come up). Now, I no longer feel the need to justify this blog. It has become part of my writing day—and, for better or worse, who I am. I hope to blog until I die—improving steadily over time, may I add.

I’m content enough with the existing format and contents, but am determined to do vastly better. In broad terms, I want my main blog to become more personal and to put specialist areas like military matters, comments on the economy, and aviation into their own sections.

If had more computer expertise, these changes would have been done by now. As matters stand I endeavor to do the best I can within the limits of my skills and circumstances.

Now let me list her criticisms.

  • It doesn’t make money.
  • It wastes time that would be better spent on creative writing.
  • It won’t interest my existing readers.
  • It won’t gain my any new readers.
  • It covers too wide a range of subjects.
  • It doesn’t reflect my style as a fiction writer.
  • It is merely an outlet for my loneliness.
  • Above all, it won’t change anything—because American are too wrapped up in the myth of being rugged individualists to care.

    There is clearly some validity to the above comments—particularly in relation to it not being a money maker (that is not its purpose) though quite how they can be made with such certainty without knowledge of the figures is a good question.

    But some validity does not mean that the charming woman in question is right overall. Actually, it does interest some of my existing readers and I think it is highly probable that it will land a few new ones. As to changing things, I am an absolute believer that just because you don’t see a result immediately doesn’t mean you are not having an effect. You simply have to take the long view.

    But the real point of my blog is the effect it has on me. Precisely because it covers disparate subjects, and I—quite deliberately—don’t plan it in advance—it forces me to exercise my brain rather than let it slumber on in its comfort zone.

    As for my loneliness, firstly, I am blessed with marvelous friends; secondly, I am surprisingly self-sufficient; and thirdly—if it is therapeutic (which it is)—all the better.

    But let me quote from from a Micheal Stelzner piece on Seth Godin.

    The importance of blogging

    Seth started his Typepad blog about 10 years ago, and says that even if no one read his blog, he would still write it every day. The act of writing has done more for him than any other habit. Blogging pushes you to notice things, it gives you a schedule and puts you on the hook to publish something daily.

    Everything starts as a blog post, Seth shares. “Sometimes I don’t publish it, because by the time I finish writing it I decide that it should be an ebook. Then, by the time I finish the ebook, I decide it should be a book.”

    The above isn’t exactly what I think but it’s close enough.

    VOR words c. 400