Give Thanks, It’s Thanksgiving

A bit of serenity can be felt in the weather. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that embrace ‘the way we were’ to steal lyrics from Barbra. Since the 2016 campaign, which actually started early in 2015, it’s been a lot like driving a road with terrible potholes, constant construction signs, gridlock and detours. In other words, the last four years have not been an easy trip. Let’s stop at a truck stop with a good restaurant, have a good meal and gas up for the rest of the trip.

Mariner will have family visiting. Turkey week is a big buildup in his home. Family is a vital shelter from the storms of changing culture. Many of us must accommodate difficult relatives and diligently ignore politics and religion, but the security of one’s family, the shared history and reassuring familiarity are undeniable.

We should note that many, many more folks will not have a family shelter; many will be incapacitated in one way or another, denying the genuine participation one desires from family. If it is possible, invite a guest or two to share your shelter. It may be a single person far from home; a couple in a difficult situation or even someone who has no real home. Think about that as an act of thanksgiving. Sharing is part of Thanksgiving.

In Iowa, the weather has turned decidedly chilly. One thinks of Christmas just down the road. Stay in the mood by celebrating the spirit of the season. This doesn’t require expensive gifts or a lot of overhead – just tune your mood to the joy around you – ‘sleigh bells ring, are you listening?’ to steal lyrics from Andy’s annual Christmas show. Instead of watching the news, watch all the traditional Christmas shows and even a few new ones. Spend some time looking for real carol presentations at church, the mall, even the street corner.

The grim reality of our nation and its situation will not change until after the New Year. Take a break.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

On Lack of Literary Greatness

Mariner has one comment on the results of the 2018 midterm elections:

Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate to 51+ seats — even though 10 million more people voted for Senate Democrats than for Republicans. The Senate was never intended to be a democratic institution. Today it is a hurtful political influence when our nation, indeed the world, needs desperately to deal with human issues, scruples and a new democratic vision.

– – – –

Of more immediate interest, Mariner will never be an author of insightful literary works. The post, “A Future of Oneness,” was written as an allegorical work depicting life without human friendship, love, bonding, compassion and even argument and disagreement – between authentic human beings. Alas mariner’s crude prose left readers only with a literal interpretation of the future, either a gushy basketball or extinction.

In truth, the distant future doesn’t matter much if at all. Our only relationship to the distant future is our disregard for our own wellbeing today. What is missing from this allegory is physical, three dimensional, person-to-person respect and affection, and a desire to participate in these intimate experiences above the need to engage in electronic distraction and convenience.

Many times mariner has witnessed couples sitting beside one another foregoing mutual conversation and the exercise of hippocampus engagement in favor of some nondescript, certainly inhuman distraction on an electronic device. Allegorically, we are adapting to a future as gushy basketballs needing only a port connection to the gushy network.

Similarly, foregoing real experiences intertwined with real human beings, even loved ones dear to one’s heart, so that one can talk to an electronic box full of faux confederacies interested only in manipulation, seems headed for gushiness as well.

Mariner read a psychologist’s article that said android devices are an escape from the energy and commitment required to relate to fellow humans. Yet, that is what living as a human is all about. The commitment we choose to escape is the authentic experience of being human.

As to the second allegorical reference of extinction, two elements are of supreme importance: breeding and environment. One won’t have many children copulating with various sex toys and realistic androids. It is easy even to include smart phones as a distraction from human interaction and the commitment required for foreplay or just having an interesting conversation. Surely, after ninety million years of evolution, the intimate practices between humans has become the most important experience we can have and to which we owe priority over electronic circuitry no matter how disguised.

On the matter of environment – just as with the ease of preferring the convenience and laziness provided by electronics – wealth, physical comfort, and the avoidance of what a real human life is all about, distract humans from their obligation to maintain their environment. A major premise in the study of creatures of all kinds, including humans, is that there must be a net zero relationship with the source of life – environment. Only humans can deliberately alter the net zero relationship: we burn oil for money, convenience, distractions like war, the convenience not to physically weed millions of acres of crops, and so forth – even though our environment is no longer under our control. The planet itself has taken charge. Will the planet allow us to survive or will it choose extinction?

Ancient Mariner

 

A Future of Oneness

Mariner mentioned that he took a trip recently to visit friends and family. He has been traveling the Pennsylvania Turnpike for many, many, many years. Do any readers remember the service stops alongside the turnpike where one did not have to exit the toll road? If the reader hasn’t traveled I-76 recently, these service stops have been upgraded to modern facilities. They are pleasant, much roomier, with up-to-date restrooms and the stop incorporates several chain stores chief among them Starbucks and Burger King along with tourist trap stores and gasoline stations.

This was mariner’s first experience with order kiosks at Burger King. A customer doesn’t need to interact with another human being to have a meal; just push buttons and pay with one’s transaction-tracked credit card. Mariner chose to interact with a fellow human being and ordered lunch at the traditional counter by talking with a pleasant older woman who shared in an aside that she didn’t like the kiosks, either.

This isolation of human beings appears to be a trend. No longer does one need a checkout clerk to kibitz with or an aisle clerk to tell one where Mexican catsup is. Increasingly, a customer checks themselves out now with the conversation limited to a muttering to one’s self about checking out alone. Even more isolationist is the ability to order one’s groceries over the telephone and have them delivered to one’s home. The US claim of “In many one” will soon be “In many none.”

Walmart and Amazon are well on the way toward social isolationism. What happened to a human’s natural relationship to environment, time invested and store clerks visited? Then there’s Facebook. Lack of government regulation about privacy and security aside, there are members of mariner’s family whose only family relationship across years of time is digital; digital photographs are shared to remember what a human lifeform looks like.
And of course the smartphone and Alexa. Mariner is quite sure that soon humanlike robots will be purchased so real humans will have someone to dance with when they ask Alexa to play some oldies.

Mariner has read some marginal futurists who claim the human being will evolve into a brain with a few key visceral organs – all of which are sustained by AI food supply, medicines and communication – a lot like Facebook now but much more sophisticated and very, very, communist. Even the five senses will be replaced with electronic sensory imitations. In other words, the end of Homo sapiens is a gushy basketball attached to a port in a massive network of gushy basketballs.

But mariner doubts this scenario. He listens to Amos, who says the entire Planet is in a death spiral; the Sixth Extinction means humans too, not just tigers and giraffes.

Have a pleasant election.

Ancient Mariner

 

Travel isn’t Broadening – It’s Frightening

Mariner grows disinterested after hearing hour after hour day and night the same statistics, speculations and campaign ads intent on assassinating the character of the other candidate. Today he focused on the rest of the world. He should have stayed home.

We live in an age of rapidly growing nationalism. Most countries have had a form of nationalism but today it is the democratic nations that are switching rapidly. To name just ‘a few’: every member of the European Union (EU), most dramatic are England (Brexit), Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Turkey, Greece and Germany – just a quick list. South America is awash in nationalism with Brazil and Venezuela in great disarray. Central America has long had several abusive, crooked governments but even there dictatorship is on the rise.

Drivers of nationalism include a slow economic recovery, an increase in people displaced across borders, and anxiety about terrorism, according to Harun Onder, an economist at the World Bank. Another factor, which perhaps is not as appreciated, is age. Many rich nations are in the grips of a big demographic shift toward older populations, and aging populations experience economic pressures that can lead to more nationalistic tendencies. Most frightening is that the newly elected nationalists in these democracies act and sound exactly like Donald! Racism and religious oppression are rampant around the world and are used to incite even more fear in stressed populations.

Median Age [qz.com]

On a more theoretical level, our global economy is 170 years old and shows signs of wear as oligarchical practices gather more and more wealth to fewer and fewer people. In the US, despite apparently good unemployment statistics, general wage levels are half of what they would be if wages kept up with inflation. Corporate power expands ever more rapidly as new digital technologies emerge.

Regarding migrations, mariner has noted that major migrations occur periodically throughout history. Humans moved out of Africa because food was becoming scarce; two very long droughts drove large numbers of humans further into Europe and Asia. Today, the reasons are war, violence and abject poverty. Ironically, the human population is growing to such an extent that soon there will be no room to migrate.

Global culture is in a state of severe turbulence. Change is everywhere and in everything. Is nationalism a solution? Is nationalism similar to a storm cellar during a tornado? Can democracy survive during hard times; during times of uprooted society and morality? Coming back to the US this evening, mariner is concerned about the state of western society. China may not know what it is getting into.

Ancient Mariner

On Being Manic/Depressive

According to mariner’s favorite bookie Nate Silver, “Republican chances of holding the House are only about 1 in 1,000.” He is not as kind to Democrats taking the Senate: only 1 in 6 (16%)

The imminent election induces one to be manic/depressive. If you’re a Donald advocate, you revel in Donald’s pompous attacks on the establishment and in the process seemingly untouchable by anyone. Conversely, it’s the invasion of the nonwhites who will rob, rape and take jobs – oh, and eliminate white people.

If you’re a Donald critic, the anticipated change in Congress, especially the House, provides a sense of relief and joy that US governments will become functional. Conversely, the lame duck Congress, especially McConnell, will ingrain Republicanism in the courts and agencies regardless of the election. Then there’s Donald playing dirty tricks with the Department of Justice to trash the Mueller investigation.

Voting on Tuesday will be like taking an analgesic for pain but the headache, AKA Donald et al, will return. As long as the Senate exists, especially if it is controlled by the GOP, the big issues of our time will continue to go unresolved. Speaking in manic voice, we may expand and secure ‘Obamacare’ and even expand Medicaid with the help of a democratic House but still, speaking in depressive voice, guns, taxes, modern constraints for runaway corporatism, and a new vision for international economics and cooperation will not be resolved.

Mariner doubts Donald will be impeached because of the Senate. Mariner doubts Donald will face criminal charges while in office.

There’s another election in 2020 . . . .

REFERENCE SECTION

Although many kids’ apps may seem innocuous, filled with bright colors and loud noises, they actually contain loads of advertising targeted at children ages 5 and under, writes the Atlantic staff writer Joe Pinsker. Researchers characterized the methods that advertisers and app makers use to influence young children as “manipulative and disruptive,” with one scholar even calling the practices “abominable.” For full article see:

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/11/kids-apps-ads-smartphones/574588/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=family-weekly-newsletter&utm_content=20181103&silverid-ref=NDkwMjIzMjA1Mjg2S0

National Public Radio is touting the country western song “Will the Circle be Unbroken” as the new national anthem. The lyrics allude to the importance of continuity and generational bonding. For a Grand Old Opry rendition, see:

https://www.npr.org/2018/10/30/662203468/will-the-circle-be-unbroken-connects-musicians-generation-american-anthem?utm_source=npr_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20181103&utm_campaign=music&utm_term=#

Ancient Mariner

News of the Day

National Public Radio (NPR) is launching a new newsletter all about China. When reading the first reports, it became blatantly obvious to mariner that China, while a communist state, also is an aggressive capitalistic state. Not having to mess with sloppy democracy, China’s leadership (Xi Jinping, elected for life) can dictate the priorities of its economy, its culture, its international behavior and its ethics. One example of China’s aggressiveness is its invasion of other nation’s economies; the old idea of international trade is not the major strategy. China simply joins the target nation’s production economy – starting businesses without mentioning the link to China and hiring away the best and brightest from that nation’s existing workforce. Mariner highly recommends the NPR series especially because US TV news media is useless.[1]

– – – –

Yesterday, mariner returned to watching TV news broadcasts after a four-month self-imposed hiatus. If reality is anything like the content of news programs, our nation is doomed to the trash heap. Mariner felt he needed to track more closely the coming election next week so he watched a full day accessing every broadcasting source. As they say today, OMG.

Watching the various broadcasts, mariner felt he was watching an Asian table tennis tournament. No, perhaps it was more like whack-a-mole. In any case, in four months, broadcast news has begun to ignore ideological differences and simply engage in discounting competitors’ news stories. It is a blood battle for market share. Mariner blames broadcasting corporations for making news a profit center.

Add to this a President intent on destroying the unity of the United States, its culture, its democratic ethos and its sense of fair play and equality of life. Mariner now knows firsthand the feelings of an individual trapped in a horror film.

His advice to his readers is to join the growing number of newsletters that pride themselves on quality research, unbiased reporting and covering news worldwide in every subject. Augment digital sources with a few quality magazines that provide in-depth articles about reality.

If there is even a remote chance of returning to civility and international leadership, and mariner must be honest and repeat ‘remote’, that chance hangs on whether the reader will vote on November 6.

VOTE

Ancient Mariner

[1] To receive NPR newsletter, see:

https://www.npr.org/newsletter/best-of-npr

FYI

Tidbits from mariner’s email:

֎60 percent of vertebrate species

According to a new report from the World Wide Fund For Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Fund), there has been an average 60 percent decline in vertebrate animal species population — you know, like mammals, fish, birds, etc. — between 1970 and 2014. “Earth is losing biodiversity at a rate seen only during mass extinctions,” the report reads. The cause? “Exploding human consumption.” [BBC]

֎2,681 planets

The Kepler Space Telescope is dead. Long live the Kepler Space Telescope. The NASA craft discovered 2,681 planets since its launch in 2009, along with many more promising outer space “blips.” Kepler ran out of fuel. It will be missed. [The Verge]

֎1 million lost users

Facebook saw zero growth in the U.S. and Canada and lost 1 million users in Europe last quarter. God bless you brave million. Go outside. Dance. Sing. Frolic. Be free. [TechCrunch]

֎The Democratic Divide:

New York progressive Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did better in gentrifying precincts than she did in working-class neighborhoods. Do blue-collar Democrats really want what the far left is offering? [David Freedlander, Politico Magazine]

֎How much will summer temperatures in US cities change by 2050?

Des Moines, Iowa:             2018 – 85.4° ….. 2050 – 91.1°

Los Angeles, California:    2018 – 83.5 ….. 2050 – 87.1°

Baltimore, Maryland:         2018 – 82.6° ….. 2050 – 92.3°

Denver, Colorado:             2018 – 86.4° ….. 2050 – 91.7°

New York City, New York: 2018 – 83.1° ….. 2050 – 87.9°

Billings, Montana:              2018 – 85.4° ….. 2050 – 90.7°

Miami, Florida:                   2018 – 89.9° ….. 2050 – 93.4°

Phoenix, Arizona:              2018 – 104.7° ….. 2050 – 109.2°

[VOX]

֎Worried about voting? Here’s what to know before you go:

Double Check Your Registration

Know Your State’s ID Requirements

Know Where You’re Going

Beware of Misinformation

Find Out What’s on Your Ballot Right Now

Access to the Ballot if You’re Disabled

Vote Provisionally if You Must

If All Else Fails, Call For Help [ProPublica]

Ancient Mariner

 

US has Cultural Issue with Education

No way, Jose: Like many expensive cities, San Jose, California, is struggling to keep its teachers. Of the 1,400 classroom teachers employed by the San Jose Unified School District, one in seven have to be replaced each year. In the heart of Silicon Valley, the towering gap between housing prices and teacher salaries is now so extreme that the school district has considered another idea: building apartments for teachers on school grounds.

 The idea is still in its earliest days, but it’s already being met with outrage that this housing might be located near some of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country. One superintendent told CityLab’s Sarah Holder how perplexed he was about the resistance: “I’m a person who works with your kid every day—you trust me with your student in my classroom, but I’m not good enough to be your neighbor?” Read Sarah’s story: Why Are So Many People in San Jose Fighting Housing for Teachers? [CityLab] See:

https://www.citylab.com/equity/2018/10/san-jose-trying-build-low-cost-housing-teachers/572665/?silverid=%25%25RECIPIENT_ID%25%25&utm_campaign=citylab-daily-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter

– – – –

The average Public School Teacher salary in the United States is $56,103 as of September 28, 2018, but the range typically falls between $48,978 and $64,766.

For comparison Truck Driver average salary = $63,250 per year

Factory Worker average salary = $24,881

Computer Programmer average salary = $69,620

Welder average salary = $37,590

Clerical/administrative average salary = $32,675

All US workers average salary = $44,564

These comparisons suggest that teachers are doing well compared to other workers. However, taking into account education, social skills, impact on professional society and responsibility for the wellbeing and meaningful education of children and indirectly reinforcing the moral fabric of American culture, teachers carry a large influence worthy of better paid managers in business whose influence extends only to monetary influence – without the responsibility to build a better society.

The American attitude toward education, that is, train our children to read, write and count so they can function in basic society, evolved out of the combination of a long period of agricultural economy and the no-nonsense economics of Adam Smith. As the nation moved toward the industrial revolution, it didn’t require much education to work in factories.

Leap forward to today. Colleges, especially small liberal arts colleges, are gutting any subject related to liberal arts. Excepting privately funded colleges and wholly state-funded universities, colleges are falling back into the community college model, offering only high level trade training, e.g., nursing, criminal justice and administrative skills. One doesn’t need Proust, Hemmingway, Nietzsche, Plato or second languages; one doesn’t need the French Revolution, Magna Carta or the mechanics of American civics. One doesn’t need to understand the dynamics of Hamilton, Madison and Franklin. One misunderstands how the spirit and scruples of the American Experiment evolve over time.

Eliminating the educated, the intellectuals, the graduate degree professionals and successful business owners/entrepreneurs, forty percent of US citizens are culturally deprived of the process and understanding needed for living in a democratic society. This forty percent is Donald’s base including twelve percent who are hard core conservatives. Without a functional education system, all they have is emotions; neither awareness nor reasoning is available.

How does one know one sees a public school? Because it looks like a factory. Once the building, utilities and ancillary responsibilities are acquired, e.g., busses, cafeteria and educators, the fun dollars go toward sports facilities. It is blatantly obvious that school architecture expresses no awareness of adventure, importance, or even community personality. Our nation has never wanted to pay for pleasantries for its citizens (God bless the Reformation). Teachers do the best they can decorating the walls and creating a fun atmosphere in an otherwise barely utilitarian room. For virtually every primary and middle school, science facilities and event centers that encourage liberal arts awareness do not exist. Even libraries in too many elementary schools, to the chagrin of mariner’s wife and librarian, do not allow children to peruse the shelves but are limited only to a text that the teacher said they must read – a practice based on ranking reading skills sans any joy of personal learning and adventure. American society still considers education only in the pragmatic sense and a responsibility of lesser importance for government – aside from inherent babysitting services.

Ironically, the concept of education for US citizens, despite some spit polish here and there, remains the same model as it did for a nation of farmers, hunters and tradesmen during the nineteenth century. Only in the last fifty years has industry slowly discovered that available employees are missing technical, social and reasoning skills for jobs that have broader responsibility and problem-solving required by this modern era. Sadly, the cultural richness that would provide a happier and productive lifestyle for our nation’s citizens still is ignored. As mariner often has lamented, business considers a human being only as a profit source. Lucky pets have better lives than culturally oppressed humans. Where is Mr. Rogers when you need him?

Several education journals and education books are trying to imagine the direction of an education methodology that will match a new century whose cultural and educational demands are totally different from today’s pragmatic and unimaginative model.

Already, we live in an age where knowledge is no longer a measure of significant importance to society. Information is free, immediately available, does not require reading printed publications or text books, and is available on any subject one can imagine – considering only Wikipedia and YouTube among tens of thousands of sources. This digital access will reduce the importance of test scoring, incremental grades (based more on age than comprehension) and ranking individual students statistically.

What will emerge in very small steps is an education program that takes advantage of a child’s natural inquisitiveness; desire to experience reality; and normal mental aptitudes. Instead of tests, children will receive group assignments consisting of group cooperation, investigative skills and problem solving. The ‘score’ will be the quality of the entire group’s solution. While individuals may not be scored per se, as groups are rearranged, various natural skills will emerge; putting together winning groups will be the teacher’s role – just as an athletic coach puts together a winning team.

The qualities of each group will be recognized and students will be fully prepared to join employment in similar situations. For example, one group may emerge with quality construction as an earmark, another may be artistic and strong in design, another in science or mathematics, etc. There will be little new to a student who is fully familiar with the work environment he or she enters.

Already there are attempts by public schools to create this new ‘group’ model. Most examples are in the trades, e.g., home construction, automobile repair and utilities. The score is how well the product is completed by the group, not how well an individual student scored. Would it be possible to put together an income tax prep team? How about a math team that configures real life computer solutions or a production team to promote plays, movies and other art forms in the community. A student would have a reputation based on the group’s achievements rather than carrying a resume full of individual statistics. As a manager for forty years, mariner has longed for employees who are well rounded socially, comfortable in their ability to achieve and aware of the responsibilities inherent in their work.

There is more to explore but that is for another post to pursue.

Ancient Mariner

 

 

Theologically Speaking

Theologically speaking, mariner believes there are so many people alive today that God has arranged to have some of us live longer so God has time to process purgatory before we die instead of afterward. For example, several years ago God arranged mariner’s life so that mariner would be retired to a small Iowa town on the Great Plains. Well, it’s been awhile now. Wait – what if mariner is wrong and this isn’t purgatory . . .

It may be that purgatory isn’t the issue at all; it’s the eternal places that are overcrowded.

God has many issues to overcome while managing the afterlife. There’s the old story about the less than scrupulous old man who died and was paired for eternity with a strikingly beautiful young woman. Speaking in an aside to one of the residents, the man said, “Wow, I must have done something good to deserve this.” “No,” the resident replied, “this is Hell and you are her punishment.”

The worst game loss the Chicago Bears ever experienced was September 27, 1964: Baltimore Colts 52, Bears 0. Colt Joe Don Looney ran for 82 yards – quite an effort and unusual for him. After he died, Looney asked God why God was so good to him in that game. “I’m glad you recognize my contribution to your life, Joe Don. I was unhappy with the Bears at the time.”

Mariner, an intense Baltimore Colt fan, watched that game but isn’t sure he wants to know God’s motivations. The Colts moved from Baltimore, MD to Indianapolis, IN on March 29, 1984. They left Baltimore unannounced suddenly in the middle of the night. What did mariner do to deserve this? Mariner chooses to believe God is testing his faith, like God did with Job.

– – – –

There will be a pause in mariner’s postings while he travels to visit family and friends. He plans to be back aboard on November 5. He leaves a prayer for you that unless you have done something terribly evil, God will arrange for you to vote on November 6.

Ancient Mariner

 

Notes from the Alter Egos

Guru speculated about China’s Belt and Road Initiative (in China more often referred to as One Belt One Road or OBOR). Very generally, Belt and Road is China’s plan to be the most powerful economic engine in history. This is not simply bravura but a scale of economic activity necessary to accommodate China’s very large population and its stressed economy. It is a huge goal costing more dollars than anyone can begin to estimate but at the same time creating economic opportunities for about 60 percent of the developed nations in the world today.

Guru noted two things:

  • OBOR sounds aggressive and immediately brings to mind an automated form of colonialism. In truth, to use a mariner metaphor, China needs more stoves to burn its wood. Think of a family with twenty children trying to establish a rotation of food, clothing and household goods without being overcome by storage and process – it is easier to send out for pizza than having to make it at home. Investment opportunities seem to abound both for China and nations on the OBOR. However, economists are less than enthusiastic about using geopolitical solutions to solve internal economic issues.
  • Today, at least until Donald was elected, there was no question that the western nations, especially the US, were at the center of global economics and political influence. Guru proffers that if OBOR is successful, the center of global economy will drift back to the centuries where Sino-Eurasian economy prevailed (The original Silk Road). Still, guru ponders whether nations on the sea route in particular will be susceptible to economic bondage.

Amos has had it with the US citizen. The harsh combination of identity politics, populism, incompetent, party-zealotist and opportunistic Congressmen, news programming required to make a profit, predator corporations, a horrific, selfish, hoodlum-like Whitehouse, and more, all virtually have eliminated the American ethos. Acknowledging activist interest, albeit it often a part of the list above, common citizens don’t care about ethos as long as they have their Facebook, smartphone, Echo, and Netflix. Putin is right – Americans have irretrievably trashed their respected role among nations. And the beat goes on . . .

Meanwhile, Chicken Little is fearful that he may be deported because his grandmother at age nine arrived in the US as an immigrant.

Mariner agrees with dissenters of Elizabeth Warren’s claim to be a Native American. Mariner’s Aunt Mary married a full-blooded Cherokee and had a son that looked more native than the man on the nickel. But that heritage was never used to differentiate their family. Elizabeth should be ashamed for practicing identity politics.

ELECTION DAY: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6. BE THERE AND DO IT – VOTE!

Ancient Mariner