Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Tuesday, 2017.08.22
A man with one watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never quite sure.

2006.09.02

Steal This Lunch

Go ahead. I dare you. From the New York Times:

For those with autonomy in their jobs – generally, well-paid professionals – breast-feeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice. It is usually an inconvenience, and it may be an embarrassing comedy of manners, involving leaky bottles tucked into briefcases and brown paper bags in the office refrigerator.

I think what creeps people out, and by people I mean “guys”, about this is that it’s stuff which was once inside someone’s body and now is on the outside. Most generally, when this happens, it’s not a good thing, ranging on a scale from unpleasant (“Earl, there’s something on your nose.”) to disgusting (“Earl, that looks infected.”) to flat out horrifying (“Somebody get a tourniquet around Earl’s torso fast!”).

To most, there’s nothing cute about a baby burp, especially as the count rises over time. Although Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes might go gaga over baby’s goo goo given their propensity for collecting trophy excretions. What’s worse, from a guys perspective, is the stuff is being saved. And for non-clinical reasons at that. Imagine a bag labeled “Earl’s sputum. DO NOT TAKE!” or “Earl’s sperm. DO NOT TAKE!” parked in the office refrigerator right next to your egg salad sandwich.

That’s how guys think about it. Of course, babies think otherwise. They have yet to be bent by our convoluted, contradictory and puritanical social conventions. They have yet to be pressured by peers and crushed by the protuberant herd in their journey from self expression to self repression.

Personally, this doesn’t bug me. My perspective is rather pragmatic on these things, the result of having grown up with five sisters, three of whom followed my mother into nursing careers, and supporting my late wife, Janet, through 10 years of battling breast cancer. These experiences left scant room for mystery in regard to what women have to deal with while growing up and trying to forge a career.

Pump away girls, it bugs me not.

A discussion thread is happening about this article over on Althouse (H/T, by the way).

[Edit History]

2006.09.03

Fixed klutzy sentence.

2006.09.23

Edited for clarity.

2006.10.02

Updated dead link to Tom and Katie’s trophy.

2006.08.22

Jacqueline Passey

Because being a self-professed genius means never having to soil your self with those messy rules of grammar…

Also, before anyone feels bad that I felt harassed by their attention, I want to clarify that it wasn’t any one person’s behavior that has made me this uncomfortable, rather it’s the cumulative effect of being simultaneously aggressively pursued by several men who I don’t have reciprocal feelings for. — Jacqueline Passey

Eeek. It’s the cumulative effect of that sentence that leaves me uncomfortable. That feeling is set to rights knowing I fail the date criteria, what with believing in a poverty stricken libertarian God and all. Whew! Judging by her criteria, I’d say she’s looking for herself, anyway. Follow your bliss, kid, and good luck.

[Notice of Full Disclosure: This post is an experiment. After all, what is the Internet if it isn’t one giant sociological Petri dish.]

2006.07.27

Everyone Has A Story…

…if you are patient and let it emerge. Sometimes you do have to sleuth it out, chase it down or darn near drag it out of people with them kicking and screaming. Follow along and I’ll show you what I mean. Before reading any further, watch this video, making note of your reactions to the two players involved: The Bus Uncle.

Were you angry at the Bus Uncle? Sympathetic toward him or the young man? How would your have reacted to the Bus Uncle? What would you have done if you were the young man? And what if you were one of the spectators, perhaps even the person who caught this on video?

Well, there is more to the story of the Bus Uncle. Click here and get yourself some learnin’.

Now that you know a bit more about the cast of characters, how has your response changed to the event depicted in the video?

I’ve nudged people, just as the young man in the video, prompting them to speak lower while on their cell phone. But at 6’5″, 230 lbs and all the confidence of an Aikido black belt behind my nudge and polite request, the risk of anyone bus uncling me is no doubt quite low. In other words, the threshold for provoking a negative reaction against me is rather high. For the young man in the video, that threshold was no doubt much lower. If anyone ever were to cross my threshold, I would have responded in a manner similar to the young man – its that Aikido stuff again – assume a defensive posture and make efforts to deescalate the situation. Only if physically attacked would I have responded aggressively, decisively, and only with enough force as was necessary to stop the attack.

So my response would have mirrored that of the young man’s, although undoubtedly with a different strategy and set of motivations in play. What the heck, we’re all on this train for the duration of the trip and as long as the Bus Uncle isn’t hurting anyone, including himself, its all a bit of goofy entertainment. I’m cool with that.

About half way into watching the Bus Uncle video, I remembered a story, probably because it took place on a train as well, told by Terry Dobson which I read many years ago and hadn’t thought of for about as long. Terry was an Aikido student in Tokyo when a drunk laborer stumbled onto a train he was riding.

He was a big man, a drunk and exceedingly dirty Japanese laborer. His clothes were stiff with dried vomit, his hair matted and crusted with filth. His eyes were a bloodshot, neon red, and his face was apoplectic with hatred and rage. Screaming unintelligibly, he swung at the first person he saw – a woman holding a baby.

From there, things got worse. A young, healthy, sober and highly trained Aikido student, this was just the sort of situation Terry was hoping for to test his skills. As the two squared off for battle, they were interrupted at the last second by a small, elderly man immaculately dressed in a kimono and hakama. “What you been drinkin’?”, asked the old man and from there he proceeded to deftly diffuse the conflict. Eventually, the old man made reference to the laborer’s “wonderful wife.”

“No,” replied the laborer, shaking his head sadly. “I don’t got no wife.” He hung his head, and swaying silently with the motion of the train. And then, with surprising gentleness, the big man began to sob. “I don’t got no wife,” he moaned rhythmically, “I don’t got no home, I don’t got no clothes, I don’t got no tools, I don’t got no money, and now I don’t got no place to sleep. I’m so ashamed of myself.”

Terry’s response was profound:

And all of a sudden I felt ashamed. I felt more dirty in my clean clothes and my make-this-world-safe-for-democracy righteousness than that laborer would ever be.

I saw that what I had been prepared to accomplish with bone and muscle had been accomplished with a simile and a few kind words. I recognized that I had seen Aikido used in action, and that the essence of it was reconciliation, as the Founder had said. I felt dumb and brutal and gross. I knew I would have to practice with an entirely different spirit.

As with Terry Dobson’s story, the Bus Uncle is a good lesson in the importance of context when you seek to understand a situation. It is critical if you wish to find a solution to a problem. The bigger the problem, the more important it is to understand the problem context. If you are trying to hammer a nail into a piece of wood, just the facts will suit you fine. If you are being physically attacked or otherwise in imminent threat of serious bodily harm or death, you have all the context you need to make any life saving decisions. If, however, you are trying to do something like build peace in the Middle East, you’ll need the context if you want to avoid building a house of cards.

The problem content, contrary to what most people generally think, is not the only important element or even the most important element. You could be seeking a solution to a life threatening illness, a relationship issue, problems at work, international conflict, or an angry commuter on a train. Content can be important, but its rarely the only important thing. Approaches to problem solving, based on technologies like neuro-linguistic programing, where content is intentionally removed from the process offer excellent illustrations to just how much easier a solution can be found when the distractions of content are removed.

Fixating on content can leave one in a panic or paralyzed from acting. If the issue is health, for example, you want to make sure the medications involved are not in conflict with each other. That sort of content is important, even critical. The potential for things to go awry increases when content is given the priority to the exclusion of all else, especially the context. That can lead to the common result where the solution becomes part of the problem.

Another excellent video that deals with context: Koyaanisqatsi – At the beginning of the movie, you do not know what you are seeing. Gradually, the viewer is given a little more information, a little more context. It is only when you have enough context that you understand what you are watching. How soon the viewer is able to understand what they are looking at is dependent on their personal experience and knowledge of the subject and ability to extrapolate what they see and match it to what they know. This is a theme throughout the movie as the viewer is challenged to consider the bigger picture.

You know nothing, if you do not know the context.

2006.07.18

Anyone For A Piece Of Pie? Everyone?

La Shawn Barber, saying what we’re thinking

Blacks already receive reparations with every lowered standard, every welfare check, every skin color-entitlement government contract, every race-based program subsidized by taxpayers, and every politically correct doctrine that seeks to suppress honest discussions on race and encourage others to apply different standards to black Americans in just about every area of American life.

If only reparations would stop the complaints, excuse-making, pandering, envy, and hostility! I would be the loudest proponent, donating my share to the poorest of the poor, shouting from the rooftop, “Thank God for this cash, for now my people are free, satiated by the ultimate government check!” (Emphasis added)

Articulate perfection.

[Edit History]

2006.07.19

Cobb has a perspective on how things could be. Writing on African American achievements, he observes:

I percieve a kind of checkboxification going on and a reflexive statement about ‘race relations’ etc. Everybody plays this game. My token is more representative than your token. But I don’t think it is fair to the achiever, the achievement or to the audiences.

And concludes…

So here’s to hope that African American acheivement remains apolitical.

I’ve witnessed remarkable achievements done by many people out of necessity or for the simple thrill of it. I’ve then watched as some of those people and their achievements were snatched by less ambitious folk along the sidelines and spirited away to serve some political agenda as an “aggrieved out-group” icon. I echo Cobb’s hope and look for the day when personal achievements are regarded, pure and simple, as human, unencumbered by qualifiers or tokenization, and therefore available to any of us with the desire and will to succeed. That is a day I would dearly love to see.

2006.07.08

Life on Fellini Street

Odd week, this. More so than most. Turning 45 without the one I had hoped to grow old with probably set the tone and the rest just flowed from there.

We’ve had a solid week of rain here in the land of perpetual drought. I had planned to replace one of the sprinkler zones during the holiday but that just turned into a muddy mess.

The person responsible for keeping me employed declared I was introverted. The surreal song-and-dance that followed as he strained to make this sound like an asset and a compliment is just too…beige…to describe.

Thursday I came home to discover someone had seen fit to walk up onto my porch and steal the 6 or so small American flags I had stuck into a flower pot. I found one in the street out in front of the house and retrieved it. This one will be hung on the inside of my glass door next to the Urban Scare Crow. I decided this act had some intent behind it which I didn’t like. Was it a political act? Was someone casing the house? Was it a solicitor miffed at the Urban Scare Crow? Is this making me needlessly paranoid (as opposed to necessarily paranoid, I suppose)? I filed a police report for the theft in case I need to establish a pattern or if others in the neighborhood had their flags stolen.

Minutes after the all-business police officer left along with his rather cute ride-along, Bethany I think her name was, all bloody hell broke lose. Six or seven police cars converged on the house two doors down along with an ambulance. The street was blocked and crime scene tape went up. The couple in the house had been in the midst of one of their numerous arguments and the dude went into his backyard and shot himself dead. We know this because the coroner showed up, too. As this was playing out, I looked to the neighbor directly behind me who is busily mowing his lawn. A little leaguer could have thrown a stone from where the lawn mowing neighbor was and hit the dead neighbor. Smelly gasoline powered machine being pushed across a lawn. Dead guy on a lawn. Only one conclusion can be made from this at the end of a week like this: Lawns are bad things. But of course, I already knew this.

I fully expect Rod Serling to ring my door selling cookies, magazines and V8 engine blocks. If he does, would you like me to put in an order for you?

2006.06.19

Jason Leopold Reaps The Whirlwind

There was something in Joe Laurias’ Washington Post column wherein he dings Jason Leopold, “My Unwitting Role in the Rove ‘Scoop’“, that has me thinking.

Leopold is a product of a narcissistic culture that has not stopped at journalism’s door, a culture facilitated and expanded by the Internet.

This begs the questions, how was it this narcissistic culture came to be? There isn’t an easy answer to this question, but I would start looking for tracks around the politically correct camps, the bullshit agendas entrenched in our public schools and the fallout from have-it-instantly disposable consumerism relentlessly driven by increasingly sophisticated mass marketing. The alter of political correctness demands blind faith in following the path of guilt and punishes critical thinking and skepticism. From the earliest age possible, young minds are steeped in this rancid tea in our public school system. After 12 years of this, out pops a walnut ready to get it now, chew it up and spit it out.

Leopold’s life appears to be a story of instant gratification – get the cocaine high now no matter the cost, get the story euphoria now no matter the tactics. I wouldn’t call his life a tragedy, its just pathetic. He has had his instant gratification at our expense and will be chewed up and very soon spit out to the gutter. He has my pity, the little I can muster, but nothing else. There would be more if he could but reclaim his responsibility in this mess. Sadly, he seem to lack this capability as well. After having been completely exposed, he shamelessly works to cloak his sloppy “reporting” in shallow words. He is the epitome of the cut-and-paste mentality and those of his ilk are dangerous indeed.

Jason Leopold’s offence was egregious and his unmasking should be ruthless. That he has done great harm to those who strive to report the news should never be forgotten or forgiven lest others choose his path. Let him find the sympathy he deserves in drug rehabilitation and therapy. He is young and can forge a new career, assuming he can clean up his life. A long tour of duty doing one of those jobs it is claimed Americans refuse to do may serve to realign his bent sense of responsibility.

[Edit History]

2006.06.19 – It seems Karl Rove is still about to be indicted. After careful review, Capt. Smith of the USS Truthout has reconfirmed the re-verification that there cannot be any icebergs in the water around him and therefore that thing their boat rammed into couldn’t have been an iceberg and therefore they didn’t hit what ever it was that wasn’t there. Well, we’ll just have to wait and see if the imminent indictment of Karl Rove continues to not happen or not.

2006.06.17

Modern Day Marshalsea

While on a recent trip I found myself short of cash. “Not to worry,” me thinks. “A convenient cash advance from my credit card and all will be set right.” And so it was, until I got my credit card bill. I hadn’t done any kind of cash advance for years, as in 15 years. Having learned early about the black pit that is “Credit Card Debt,” I vowed to myself as a young lad never to fall into that dark, unholy place again. Since that day, I’ve paid my credit card balance in full each month.

But there are new rules (new to me, anyway) about cash advances. Not only do you pay a “fee” for the cash advance transaction, $20 in my case, but the damn thing is subject to immediate and Draconian finance charges. Check out the APR put in place by a simple cash advance:

Ouch

It would seem with the recent changes in bankruptcy laws (aggressively lobbied for by the banking and credit card industry) and the ability to jack interest rates to such obscene levels, the credit card industry has successfully pilfered the signage above the very gates of Hell: “All hope abandon, ye who enter here!” All the more reason to be mindful of the benefits of hard work and grateful I can pay my balance in full each month.

2006.06.10

Social Parasites Wanted, No Experience Necessary

Amy Alkon is attending the Human Behavior and Evolution Society conference at the University of Pennsylvania. She makes note of these comments from behavioral ecologist Marlene Zuk (University of California, Riverside):

She talked about parasites as a normal part of life, and noted that they’ve shaped life from the beginning: “We evolved with parasites…” and “…we remove them at our peril.” She spoke of the unexpected downsides of removing our pathogens.

This has me thinking. It is a common observation that our social behavior is a more developed or complex extension of basic physical models and that our social structure is often modeled after similar systems in nature. So while Professor Zuk is talking about actual little critters, what are the implications of removing societal parasites? Is it actually a good thing for society to have some portion of the population living on welfare? Does the social burden of 14 million illegal aliens provide some as yet unrecognized benefit, something deeper than the ideas and claims being kicked around in the MSM and blogsphere? And the same for social security, Medicaid and Medicare.

I don’t have an answer to these questions, but they may merit consideration if a socially healthy solution is to be crafted to many of the current issues we face. I believe there is a very real possibility we are failing to define many of these issues in a manner which can result in positive solutions.

That which does not kill me makes me stronger.

Friedrich Nietzsche

[Edit History]

2006.06.10 – Ooooops. Wrong link to Advice Goddess post. Its fixed now.

2006.06.20 – Sissy Willis takes a similar tack with regard to immune response research and the social context.

2006.03.16

Taking the “e” Out of e-Commerce

These good people deserve a plug for making me laugh. I’d ordered several Zoe Keating CD’s and this is the e-receipt that was sent. Normally I barely glance at these things, but this one managed to make the transaction a little less electronic.

Thanks for your order with CD Baby!

Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with
sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make
sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over
the crowd as he put your CDs into the finest gold-lined box that
money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party
marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of
Portland waved 'Bon Voyage!' to your package, on its way to you, in
our private CD Baby jet on this day, Monday, March 13th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby.  We sure did. 
Your picture is on our wall as "Customer of the Year".  We're all
exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you once again,

Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby
the little CD store with the best new independent music
phone: 1-800-448-6369  email: cdbaby@cdbaby.com
http://cdbaby.com

This is also where you can find the excellent tunes from David M. Bailey.

2006.03.02

From the College-Is-Stranger-Than-Fiction Department

As a self proclaimed act of public obedience, some students from Atlanta took it upon themselves to drive down the highway, four cars abreast, at 55 miles per hour.

In my view, this was a poorly thought out stunt. Alan, Esq has indicated this is far from being an act of public obedience, rather it was against the law (Follow the link for an excellent discussion on the stunt.) Without the consent from all the other “participants” in this stunt, their act was certainly unethical. Without a plan in place to respond to the dangerous situations that were likely to arise, their act was reckless. Watching the video leaves the distinct impression the plan was to just do it and see what happens. There is no sense they considered when things were getting out of hand and what they would to de-escalate the situation they created.

The lives and well being of real people were put at risk because of the irrational response from a few drivers this stunt provoked. What will never be known are the extended consequences of the delay this group imposed. How many appointments were missed or meetings and deliveries delayed? What other unintended consequences may have resulted from this stunt? There my have been no emergency vehicles involved during their 10 minute stunt, but the video shows how they almost created the need for one. How much safer, and less sensational, would they have been driving single file, convoy-style, in the far right lane?

The objective was “follow the rules and show them how stupid those rules are.” In the end what did they really prove? That some drivers are assholes? This bit of insight is about as profound as revelations the sky is blue. What they demonstrated is that assholes can take it upon themselves to run unethical and dangerous experiments at the expense of everyone else. Lets hope their next project doesn’t involve guns.

2006.01.26

Jesus in the Checkout Line

Thankful to have survived another season of holiday shoving…er…shopping, there are a few things which stand out about the past few months, in particular, that give pause to reflect on just what motivates the galaxy of agendas among the teeming masses each November and December. By the time the corporate marketing machine had “The Big Push” to full power, I had pretty much tuned out – the paper was down to Sunday only delivery, the TV and radio off for weeks at a time, SPAM filters nicely tuned and most shopping done on-line when I already knew what I needed and from where.

I’ve never been easily led by marketing campaigns anyway. As a kid, there just wasn’t the level of saturation there is today. Since then, years of Zen meditation and Aikido practice have instilled a strong sense of balance when it comes to material things and the stuff I consume. The set point for that balance is definitely on the minimalist side of the scale where less is more. Having less stuff, less reliance on things and “services” gives me greater liberty and freedom. This type of life style kills more sales pitches than anything else I know. Back in the mid 80’s, for example, when I didn’t have a TV, the cable TV companies would go door to door pitching their service. “I don’t have a TV” squashes any deal they may be offering and renders any strategy for overcoming objections DOA. Likewise, complaints from people around me about the cost of cable service carry about the same level of interest as complaints about the cost of escalator service on Jupiter. (more…)

2005.03.25

Psycho Ward – Hijacking the Hijackers

Ward Churchill, the latest mushroom to sprout from my alma mater’s1 manure heap of unintended consequences, is a model for how to milk the random moments of fame foisted upon the equally random few.

Are Churchill’s arguments right or wrong? No one seems to be getting far enough to ask that, yet it is Churchill who carries the burden of blame for this. Interjecting parallels to Nazism without extensive context taints all preceding and subsequent arguments made by the author with irrationality and crudeness. As measured with Godwin’s Law2, it can be said that Churchill’s paper attempts to vaguely (and, having read the essay, I’m being generous here) relate his arguments to Nazism but is basically seeking to be insulting and inflammatory. At this point, all prospects for rational debate and discussion related to his central thesis are effectively over.

Like a fart in a crowded elevator, its unmistakable and offends everyone with the exception of the scatologically inclined. Most people want to exit the elevator as quickly as possible, others may want to linger with the fumes and complain while an unfortunate few will have no choice but to follow the fumes all the way to work. One of the problems Churchill is struggling with is he cannot un-fart, no matter how hard he tries. (It has been great entertainment watching him try.) The stink is out there and it is his. (more…)


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