Tuesday’s Quotes #4

“Each minute we spend worrying about the future and regretting the past is a minute we miss in our appointment with life.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, who has been living in France for the many years following his exile from Vietnam in 1973. Over the course of his 88 years, he has written over 100 books, and has worked continuously for peace across the globe. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1968 by Martin Luther King, Jr. He has, sadly, been in a coma since mid-November following a brain hemorrhage.

I have to confess that I used this quote earlier this week on Facebook  – so to my family & friends, I apologize for the lack of originality, but I love this sentiment. This is advice that we all need on a nearly daily basis, but it seems to be a bit worse during this time of year, when confront the end of one year and the beginning of the next. While we inventory what went right/wrong, and what we want/need for the future, we sometimes forget where we are. This inventory taking and internal planning has much value in our continued growth, but when we get caught in the trap of obsessing over mistakes we’ve made, or difficulties we’ve had, and wishing our crystal balls were intact so that we could know what tomorrow will bring, we lose track of where we are.  And of those around us that need us to be involved in this moment.

So, as we rush towards the end of yet another year, filled with planning and excitement, remember to slow down sometimes to enjoy the now. There is beauty and wonder all around, if we would only allow ourselves the time to look around.

False choices in the news & Happy Solstice

This was a busy week for news, and there were several stories that I’d planned to touch upon this week, but after yesterday, I’ve decided to cut back a bit to just a couple of the bigger stories.

First, one story has forced me back to a recurrent theme – we are losing our sense of balance. Our citizenry is moving from one media-driven frenzy of outrage to another without waiting for the facts to come in. The known facts of what happened yesterday in Brooklyn are painfully simple. Ismaaiyl Brinsley walked up to a marked squad car yesterday afternoon & shot the two police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, seated inside. Since Mr Brinsley shot himself shortly afterwards, the real motivation may never be known, but that never seems to stop the shouting. NYC Police Commission Bratton indicated last night that the motive was unknown, and yet, there seems to be an awful lot of pundits out there blaming NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio – because of Eric Gardner, obviously. Sane, rational, people rarely commit murder, let alone multiple shootings across two states, and yet we all spend a great deal of time looking for logical reasons because murder is so horrible to contemplate. But there are no rational reasons. Yes, he apparently used his ex-girlfriend’s social network to post threatening anti-police statements – after he shot her yesterday morning. So, it would seem that something in his brain chemistry has gone very far amiss yesterday, in a violence filled day punctuated by suicide. And yet, since the news first broke yesterday, it seems that all I keep hearing is how this was all about retaliation for Gardner and Michael Brown. And I’ve heard way too much stating that you are either with the dead black criminals, or with the police. This is not only a false choice, it fosters hate and a furthering of the divisions separating us. A promotion of the ‘us against them’ thinking that is so incredibly unhealthy to what’s left of our democracy. To repeat what I’ve said before – we are being led to believe that we are far more divided than we really are, because as long as we fight amongst ourselves, we will not focus on the things that should matter to us as a nation. As far as I’ve seen, most of the prominent groups that have been protesting the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, and others, have also condemned this murder, but this does not seem to stop those that are promoting the idea that criticizing bad police behavior is tantamount to applauding criminal behavior.

That’s a very hard story for me leave for another, but this week was a very busy, very unhealthy week for news. And one very tragic event should not completely overshadow everything else.

So, onto the Sony hacking, and subsequent decision to pull “The Interview”‘s theatrical release. Now let me start by saying that “the Interview” looked to be a stupid, not particularly entertaining, movie, that I have no interest in seeing. My assumption is that it would have died of its own accord once it went into general release. Instead, it will live on forever in mythic proportions, and once Sony figures out how it will get the movie shown – and it surely will since wasting $44 million is unlikely – then it will probably have a bigger audience that it deserves. Crap is crap – and hopefully potential viewers will remember that when the film finally makes its way to the public. But extortion is extortion, and threats of violence to stop a film should not be tolerated. Did the hack originate in North Korea? The FBI has concluded that it did. Was the threat to the theaters credible? We may never know. And therein lies the heart of the matter. Sony caved, incorrectly, I think, but many others disagree. If the threats were credible – is any movie worth bloodshed? Certainly not. But if North Korea was behind the hack, that actually makes the threat less credible in my personal opinion – since any physical attack could have been interpreted, easily, as an act of war. And posturing aside, I doubt North Korea really wants a war. I’ve seen much criticism of our government’s response – or lack thereof – but I’m not entirely sure what an appropriate governmental response to a threat made to a private corporation should have been. More posturing? Calling a threat against Sony Pictures an act of war? Perhaps Japan could take on that mantle, instead. Ah, but yes, I forget, corporate profits are more important than the regular people since the contribute more (money) to our political process – so we should focus on that instead of on any of the other things are going wrong in Washington.

And on a related side-note – all politics aside, Sony has proven itself to be far too vulnerable to hackers in the last couple of years. Are they not capable of learning from their own mistakes? Perhaps we should all consider that before by a newer Playstation for Christmas.

On the good new side this week:

New York state did not grant a casino license to Orange County, who really did not need one and should not have been included for consideration in the first place. Sullivan County, who badly needs the economic boost did get one of the licenses. The glory days of the Catskills may be long over, but hopefully, this will bring some much needed income to a an economically depressed region.

The Ohio House has approved a plan to make the drawing of the voting districts less partisan. Does it go far enough, probably not, but any move away from the party controlled process that dominates districting in most states is a good move. The extent of damage done by gerrymandered districts is now evident in a US Congress that seems perpetually out of tune with its constituencies. A less partisan approach would be a welcome change.

I’m having some captioning issues, so here is the image caption for those of us that can’t see it with the post:

The Winter Solstice – one of my favorite days because it marks the end of decreasing daylight – has finally arrived. And with a small amount of optimism for more daylight (even as the dreaded Winter officially begins).  Meme courtesy of  the Progressive Secular Humanist Examiner’s Facebook page

“There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.”

— Charles Dickens

My Liebster Award Post

I was pleasantly surprised after work on Tuesday when I started catching up on my blog reading and found that unsimplelife had nominated me for a Liebster Award – I am honored that my fledgling blog has begun to find an audience, and I’m very glad that someone whose blog I enjoy also enjoys mine. Thanks for the vote of confidence!

The rules seem to be pretty simple:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
  2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
  3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
  4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
  5. Nominate 5-11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)
  6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.
  7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:
  8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!).

I managed to work out the hyperlink for #1 at the start of the post.  With luck, by the time you read this, I will have worked out #2. #7 is above (so that I could read the rules while I was writing). All of the rest follow below, but I’m finding #5 challenging – it seems that most of the blogs I follow, that meet the criteria, already have the award. But I don’t see any rule that says they can’t be nominated more than once. And a couple do not want any awards – oh well.

The 11 questions I was given, and their responses:

1. Why did you start blogging?

I needed an outlet for the words jumping around in my head. I love to write and I love to pontificate – not sure why blogging didn’t occur to me sooner. 🙂

2. If you could have dinner with any three people, alive or dead, who would you choose and why?

  • Thomas Jefferson because he was a true ‘Renaissance Man’ who worked tirelessly and seemed capable of doing everything he tried – yet he was decidedly human.
  • Stephen Hawking because he is just amazing and I am awestruck.
  • Richard Feynman because not only was he brilliant, but his sense of humor and sheer joy shines through in all of his writings and I wish I could have attended his physics lectures.

3. If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?

I love to travel, and there are so many places I want to visit or return to, but weirdly, what came into my head first was
New Mexico – fell in love with it, want to relocate there when I retire – beautiful state, with probably the friendliest people I’ve encountered in the US.

4. How do you measure success?

Doing something you enjoy well

5. Do you have any regrets in life?

No – on balance, there is nothing I’d do differently. Every choice has led me to where I am, and that’s a good thing

6. If you had one super power, what would it be?

I’d love to be two places at once, but the ability to disappear from one place & reappear in another when I need to would be close to perfect.

7. What cartoon character do you identify with most?

This is unbelievably hard for me because I never really got into cartoons or comics. I can’t say I identify with them, but when my kids were younger, I enjoyed Kim Possible, and the little girl in Spirited Away (if I’m allowed to call anime a ‘cartoon’)

8. What was your favorite pastime as a kid?

Reading

9. What does it mean to be happy?

Being content with myself and where I am in life.

10. What do you wish they taught in school?

Thorny question – I would like basic Civics to be taught at both the high school & college level, because it seems to me that many adults get confused about how government works. And I think that may be because it isn’t reinforced after elementary school.

I’d also like to see Ethics taught at both the high school & college level – as a mandatory course, regardless of academic concentration.

11. What is your ideal day?

One where I have nowhere I need to be, and nothing to do that has a deadline. That allows me the freedom to write, spend time with family and friends, and possibly, just sit and do nothing for a while if it seems right.

11 random thing’s about me? Hmm…

    1. I don’t really ‘think outside the box’ so much as have problems finding the damn thing in the first place
    2. My first love was constitutional law – when I was still in grade school my career path included becoming a Supreme Court justice
    3. I fell into computer programming 35 years ago, and somehow never really got away from the field
    4. I’ve been working on a novel, in my head and on paper, for six years – while writing other things around it. It probably should never be finished. However, when I finish this year’s NaNo story, I will have a potential bestseller on my hands.
    5. I think that the Shenandoah Valley is one of the prettiest places in the US
    6. I hate being called “ma’am” – it has always felt old to me. I am old/not old and do not need reminders
    7. The only sport I pay attention to is auto racing – particularly F1, and someday I’d love to go to France for Le Mans
    8. corollary to #7 – I love cars, and internal combustion engines. My first real Christmas memory was when I was about 5 and my father bought me a small track (with wires to the cars & everything!). Ok – it was a long time ago & pretty primitive – but it was fun when the cars would actually stay on the track & move.
    9. As the byproduct of a very good memory, I frequently surprise myself in conversations by saying something that I didn’t know I knew – learning by osmosis, I guess
    10. I lack the ‘shopping gene’ that women are allegedly afflicted with – my mother loved to go the the store and ‘browse’. Don’t get it.
    11. I’m an introvert, and, in my recent journeys through the blogosphere, I’ve discovered that online social interaction is almost as exhausting as the more traditional kind.

And the honorees are:

Nutsrok

Great storytelling.

when my brain farts

musings on life

A Momma’s View

insightful, well-written, good storytelling

wtf Am I On About Now

very relatable assortment ramblings, photos, and poetry, etc

Phoenix Grey

a fellow NaNoWriMo survivor who blogs fiction

The 11 questions for my honorees to answer, if they choose to participate:

  1. If you could go back to any single point in history, when would you choose and why?
  2. Who is your favorite author?
  3. Why did you start blogging?
  4. What is your top goal for 2015?
  5. How do you define happiness?
  6. Do you have any regrets?
  7. If you could have dinner with any 3 people, living or dead, who would you choose, and why?
  8. What is the number one thing that you would like to see/do before you die?
  9. What was the last movie that you saw in a theater?
  10. What was the most unusual, or amazing, thing that you’ve ever seen?
  11. Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Why or why not?

Tuesday’s Quote #3

“Be careful how you interpret  the world: it is like that” — Erich Heller

Erich Heller was an essayist, and German scholar, who was best known for his writings on the literature of Nietzsche, Thomas Mann and Kafka. He was Bohemian by birth, British by choice, and ultimately was a resident of the US. He died in 1990 at the age of 79, eleven years after retiring from academia. He seemed to be particularly struck by Heidegger, and his writings on the nature of Being. This particular quote is one of several that I have stuck on the wall of my cubicle at work – perhaps the single best reminder of the importance of perception that I have. When Heller wrote this, he could never have imagined the world that we live in now. In recent years, as the information that we are bombarded with (true, false, good, bad), had continued to grow exponentially, that advice has become increasingly valuable to me. Rather than fostering ‘one world’, as was perhaps the hope, I often feel that this flood of information has, instead, deepened the divide. Rumors and false information now spread at the speed of light, yet corrections and retractions rarely seem to make that same leap (similar to the paper news of yore, but now with a wider audience). We humans seem to have developed remarkably short attention spans in the age of the ‘sound bite’, and we have always had a particular fondness for news that gets our dander up. I check before I share things, or get riled up, because even some of those heartwarming stories – like the heroic 9/11 rescue dog – are simply not true, and there are many, many negative stories (from all views) that are either exaggerated or completely untrue. And we are hard-wired to prefer things that are like us, and/or that fit our worldview. Partial disclosure – I’m a married, heterosexual, woman of a certain age, a parent, love the law, love to write, and am analytic by nature. Each of those things, plus the rest of what makes me ‘me’, and a multitude of experiences and life choices along the way, have all combined to not only make me unique, but to make my perceptions of things unique. Just as it does for all of us, who I am reflects back in what I see. But I have the (dis)advantage of seeing multiple sides to an argument at once – the curse of an analytic mind. Great for chess, but it complicates formulating an opinion – but even at that I need to be wary of my own biases. In order to live among other unique humans, what we must do is push ourselves so that we can begin to see what others see. We tend to get so caught up in our own bubbles that we only truly see that which supports our own biases. We close ranks with those that think as we do, and we lose the willingness to seriously consider an opposing view. At our worst, we go into attack mode at the slightest provocation, and insults replace reason. Most times we try to engage constructively, but what we really seem to want is the opportunity to lay out our counter-argument. Not a bad thing in itself, since debate is a wonderful thing, but when our debating becomes pedantic, and when we focus more on our sparring partner’s word choice than the general intent, then we are closing ourselves off. And that can be okay, too, when values or facts, and not opinions, are being debated (is it ever okay steal? is the earth really flat?). But – rational beings can, and do, change their opinions, and decisions, based on new input – it isn’t a sign of weakness or a betrayal of our core values. Right now, we are living in a society where we are being led to believe that we are deeply divided – by religion, by race, by gender – and where our fears of loss of our rights and our values are being stoked by a media that rests in the hands of a very few, very wealthy corporations. I’ve never been a conspiracy theorist, and yet I sometimes think I sound like one now. All of that fear nurturing is distracting us from the larger issues that really do confront us as a nation. We undeniably have a Congress that is beholden to their large corporate and private donors. Polls over the past few years have repeatedly shown that our gerrymandered Congressional representatives are not voting in line with what their constituents want. The political system in this country is broken. This isn’t a Liberal vs Conservative thing. It is a systemic problem. And sadly, it is our very natural tendency to see primarily what we want to see that is being used to keep us from seeing what we need to see. Unfettered capitalism is giving rise to corporatization, and the concentration of power into the hands of the very few. And given our current political climate, this looks like it will only get worse for the foreseeable future. Where we are now is coming alarmingly close to where the country was prior to the Great Depression. And that alone, should be a wake-up call that something has gone very wrong. All is not lost – we need to take ourselves out of our bubbles & be aware that our perception of the world is impacted by who we are – and we have the innate ability to see beyond if we wish to. And if we do, we can work on fixing the system rather than on fighting with each other. And, to close with a somewhat related thought, I leave you with the following quote from Aldous Huxley:

“To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves.”

A not so great week for Democracy

“The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.”
— Woodrow Wilson

I very much wanted this post to be more upbeat than last week’s, so I hoped for a slow news week. But, obviously it wasn’t, and those of you who read my post on Thursday will have no problem guessing the first news item to be highlighted this week. And anyone who knows me will expect the second (if the quote I selected for today didn’t give it away).

The dubious honor of being mentioned first goes to the release of Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA Interrogation Methods, or as it is better known, the ‘Torture Report’. I’m stunned by how the media – liberal, conservative & in-between – has played this one. The fact that anyone is bothering to ask Dick Cheney his opinion on anything, anymore, is mind-boggling. We lost the moral high-ground when we invaded Iraq post 9/11. The report proves that we lost whatever high ground we had left in the years since. To try to pretend otherwise is a waste of energy. There simply is no justification. Ever. Someone helpfully pointed out to me that 141 countries are still using torture. I’m not sure what that was supposed to prove, but I certainly hope that the intent was not to make me appreciative of the fact that we are not alone. 141 wrongs do not make a right. Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, himself a former POW, said it all much better than I ever could. If you haven’t already heard the speech, the transcript is well worth a read:

FLOOR STATEMENT BY SENATOR JOHN McCAIN ON SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE REPORT ON CIA INTERROGATION METHODS – Press Releases – United States Senator John McCain.

In other news, we have the Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill that has passed both Houses of Congress. Very good news – no government shutdown. Very bad news – the Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations bill. I think that I may have preferred a shutdown. Now, I’ll be honest, I did not read the entire 1600 page bill – my guess is very few in Congress did, either, since like most legislation these days, the bills are generally written by lobbyists, but I did read three summaries over the past few days. And I may plow through it eventually. Although those Senators and Representatives that did not vote for the bill had differing reasons, some of which I may not agree with, they should all be lauded for standing their ground under a great deal of pressure from the leadership of both parties, and from the White House – because no one really wanted to repeat the very unpopular ‘government shutdown’ approach to budget negotiations. But the sad fact is that there were many losers in the passage of this bill – chief among them was the American public. The bill (or actually a set of bills) drafted, as always, by special interest groups has left us with a massive increase in campaign contribution limits, and a gutting of the finance reform legislation.  Oligarchy here were come..