September 26th, 2019

“(Sobh Bekheir) صبح بخير” or “Good Morning!!!” in Persian (Farsi), an Indo-Iranian language spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and a number of other countries

Please forgive me. I woke up on a bit of a soap box this morning and I cannot seem to let go until I capture the thought. I also will ask for your tolerance in terms of use of language. If you read the following and come up with an impression that I am condemning or criticizing any religion or beliefs then my use of the language has failed me.

The longest living social, economic and political institutions are not governments. They are religious institutions. My dad and at least for a while, my mom were both Catholic. My brother and I were both baptized in the Catholic Church but once my folks split up, my mom pretty much abandoned religion of any kind. At that point my Grandma Margret stepped in and started taking Pat and I to various non-Catholic churches on Sundays. We both liked it mostly because she would take us to The Parklane Cafeteria after church for brunch. But we found other perks as well. We each got our own Bible after attending Sunday School four weeks straight. They had a little ceremony where we were praised and presented our own white leather bound Bible. And some of these churches had Choir too. I loved to sing if not in the Choir (sometimes the churches were too far for me to make it to practice after school) then with the Choir during the singing of the hymns during services. I wasn’t always too clear about the sermons but I did like the part about, “Now, turn to page 135 in your hymnals and raise your voices in song to …” I even went to Jesus camp one summer. After that I began to wonder about religions other than the churches that I knew. To my mom’s credit, she always made sure I could explore whatever I was interested in. I even met with a Rabbi at a Synagogue. But we agreed that the skinny blonde kid with the Irish Catholic heritage might not make the best Jew. They were nice enough but not too interested. Then Viet Nam happened to us. It was on the news every night. We ate dinner and watched the horror. I kept asking my mom and grandma, “If God is so all knowing and powerful, how can this be happening to all these people?”. My mom just shook her head. My grandma told me some stuff about, “ … works in mysterious ways that we cannot always understand..” By the time I was like 12, I figured that with all that was written in the Bible, talked about and preached in churches, synagogues and other places of worship that almost no one actually lived to the principles that they expounded upon so fervently when surrounded by “true” believers and that they all agreed that every one else got it wrong.

I have seen a lot and done a lot of living in my years. I found that most of us are pretty much the same. No matter what color, or religion or nationality or gender or sexual orientation, we all want our kids to have a better life or at least a chance at a better life than we did and we want to do something that matters with the time we have on earth. We may all have different words or perhaps priorities or emphasis or ways of measuring our success, but in my experience being “right” or “chosen” or “special” doesn’t enter into all that unless we choose to act on those things instead of the things that really matter. Hell, I don’t know if one group or another has the secret decoder ring for the meaning of life but I do know deep inside, that unless we learn how to get along and work together, none of that will matter because our children will not have a better life or even a chance for one.

I am not judging anyone’s beliefs or practices but I am challenging us all to think about the problem differently. Set aside our apparent need to be superior and look for ways to be supportive. Let go of the need to protect our particular way of life at the expense of others. At the end of the day, we all need important work, a way to sustain our families and hope for a future for our children. If churches or other institutions are getting in the way of those fundamental accomplishments maybe it is time for change to those institutions. We need to challenge any institution that fundamentally calls for the failure of someone else for their constituents to be successful. The foolishness of war and might, has a long, long track record of failure and waste at levels that are no longer sustainable. We are creating a worldwide social and physical cesspool that fosters violence, disease and hatred. We are creating endless streams of political and economic refugees relocating so ineffectively that they create havoc for the places that they hope to go. The institutions that we thought helped us in the past, are failing to even recognize the true problems that need to be solved. The best defense against stateless enemies is not a huge weapons and security infrastructure or walls, the best defense for that threat is finding the root causes for our divisions and eliminated them. We need to find ways to work together to get everyone fed sustainably, good healthcare, start to reverse our planetary environmental damage and create a global infrastructure and systemic network that connects resources to those needing them. These are not trivial tasks. It will take all of us working together to create them. The really good news is that we have made unprecedented strides in collaboration technology and that capability is readily available in most parts of the globe. We must have the courage to explore alternatives to some very deeply held political and social behaviors as we can no longer afford them. If we approach life from a species living on a planet perspective, the last thing we should try to defend is the status quo and the horrific path of destruction we have experienced thus far in our history as humans. Just think about it, talk about it and create momentum for the right outcomes that do more than perpetuate systems and institutions who require large segments of the worlds population to perish so that the survivors can flourish.

This week I learned some stuff:
• I used to walk every day for five miles. Then I tapered it down to 3 days a week. Then 3 miles 3 days a week until i got so heavy that walking distances was painful for me. So I stopped walking which, of course, enabled me to add more weight to my problem. That was some time ago. I have lost enough weight to started to walk again (3 miles ~3-4 days per week). Its different now. Of course, my pace is much slower so far but also I would listen to my “Discman” playlist, then I got an iPod and did my playlist on it. Then, all that capability migrated to my phone. But I haven’t started doing my play list thing yet. I have started to listen to my audiobooks. It’s different. My music was always very upbeat and some of it was driving rock & roll. Often found myself trying to step in time to the tune I was hearing. If a slow, folky kind of song came up, I would automatic skip it in favor of something faster. I have come to believe that audiobooks are perhaps the slowest song ever and seemed to be holding me at a slower pace. So this week, I am switching to a playlist and see what happens. Apple creates a playlist called the Top 25 from the songs that it knows you play the most. Except it never updates after its created unless you delete it and create a new Top 25 using the smart playlist feature. Go to file, new, smart playlist setting the following rules:
Media Kind is not Podcast;
Plays is greater than 0;
Check Limit to 25 (is the default but if you want a playlist longer or shorter than about an hour then change this value accordingly); Check Live Updating.
You will have a not top song playlist that is refreshed as songs qualify.
• September 26th the 269th day of the year (only 91 days till Christmas!). In 1580 while everyone else was snoozing, Sir Francis Drake finished circumnavigating the planet(thus making the whole “the world is flat!” the first fake news report): 1914 the Federal Trade Commission was established; in1969 The Beatles released “Abby Road on this day; in 1774 Johnny Appleseed was born; on this day in 1902 Levi Strauss died and on this day in 2008 Paul Newman’s beautiful blue eyes closed forever.

Website Update:
• Last week for our “New” Vocabulary Quiz!
• A New Music Trivia Quiz !!! WhooHoo!!!
• This week I added a couple of new recipes. We made some very tasty Slow Cooker Chicken Ramen with Bok Choy and Miso. I also tried out a new (at least to me) way to boil eggs. I love eggs in about any form but it has driven me crazy for years that some peel gently an easily while others look like something like a Zombie movie extra when i finally wrestle the poor creature from the shell. I have only tried it once so far but this method worked great! I also came up with a really quick, easy and tasty Italian Sausage Broil dish that every one seemed to like a lot. Lastly, I captured the oven roasted veggie recipe i have been using for years.

Writing, Ceramics and Painting Update:
• I have almost finished the Tapas painting and started the old door painting. Started working on a painting of some cool birds.
• Grandpa Stories is still not re-published.

• Walmart! What could be weirder than Wallyworld??? Walmart has a rather large cadre of haters out there. “They” are the weedkiller of small mom and pop business in every area they set up shop. “They” beat up on their suppliers to conform to very rigid packaging and delivery specifications. Yet, they continue to thrive. I mean, no one wants to help kill small businesses or make products and service delivery more difficult to provide. Right? Well, apparently we all do. Walmart continues to grow and their business practices drive so much cost out of their business that they can compete effectively against other scary monoliths such as Amazon. I shop at Walmart, partly for the show (Walmart customers are pretty entertaining to watch sometimes), but mostly because no other store in my area actually reduces its prices when it finds a process or technology efficiency in selling that product. All companies employ process improvement teams and invest heavily in technology enhancements. But when those actions result in cost reduction, most companies convert them into dividends for stakeholders. It appears Walmart invests in market share capture but reducing their prices to consumers. I guess that is pretty diabolical when you think about it.

Music Update:

Once again this week, I have created a very nice collection of song samples that I think celebrate life in a grand way! This week I would like to celebrate the life of Robert Hunter, who was the lyricist for many of the Grateful Dead’s most loved songs. Robert died the way most of us hope to, at a ripe old age, in his own bed with those he loved around him. RIP Bob!!!

Go to this week’s UJT Radio program.
• Grateful Dead – France — From the Vinyl!!!! One of Robert’s contributions! This jazzy little song kind of surprised most dire wolf fans but I liked it. Ain’t life grand! This one comes from their 1978 release, “Shakedown Street.”
• Grateful Dead — Touch of Grey — From the Vinyl!!!! I may need to re-export this from the record as the volume seems low, but just turn it up and enjoy. Its really hard for a die hard deadhead like me to pick a favorite song by the Dead but if someone put a gun to my head and said choose, I am afraid that this would be the song. It just features all the things I love about Dead music soooo well. This one came from their “In The Dark” released in 1987. …. “ Oh well, a touch of grey .. kind of suits you anyway… we will get by…” Just makes me smile every time.
• Taylor Swift — Ours— This wonderful little song came out in 2010 on her “Speak Now” album. Taylor has never said but it is suspected that this song is about the happy days she had with John Mayer before their breakup. Taylor worked the board recording this one and did a good job.
• Ambrosia — Nice, Nice, Very Nice — From the Vinyl!!!! I love this very very tight precise chunk of music. This one is from their debut album “Ambrosia” released in 1975. You can feel and hear Alan Parson’s fingerprints all over engineering of this very tight production.
• Les Paul & Billy Gibbons — Bad Case of Lovin’ You — This one is from a compilation of great musical collaborations with the famed guitarist, engineer and inventor, Les Paul released in 2005.
• Mary Gauthier — Mercy Now — This is one of the most thoughtful, sad and hopeful protest songs I can every remember hearing. Please listen carefully, she has something to say. This one came out on her 1978 release of the same name.
• Kris Kristofferson — Jesus Was A Capricorn — I really hope I don’t offend any one by this selection. From the first time I heard it on the jukebox of the 19th Hole bar on Red Road in Miami back in 1973 or so. The bartender John had a beautiful voice who would harmonize with Kris quite a bit. I always thought of this song as an excellent reminder that being a good Christian should mean more than just “being a good Christian” – liking only people like ourselves, who live and look and pray like we do. Kris Kristofferson caught the hypocrisy of those loudly professing “Christian” values and shared his feelings in this song. Anyway, this is the title cut of Kris’ album released in 1972.

That’s it… Do the best you can;  Laugh every chance you get;  And always remember …  The best is yet to come!  As always, thank you for being my friend!