Monday, September 18, 2017

The Third Result of Our Beatings.

I am now closer to age 70 than to 50, and if that does not make you shake your head in wonder then you're not me. How did I get this way, still feeling on the edge of 17 (as Janis Ian put it)?
I see around me adults in or nearing retirement and I imagine some of them feel the same; others express complete feelings of adulthood and mastery of life. What is the difference?
I have a thing to mention, and in bringing it up I am not asking for sympathy. The past is past, and by my age I am responsible for what I have done with the hand of cards dealt to me. I hope that by talking frankly I may be able to explain a few things that will lead others to wiser action.
The most important part of my personality was forged by being beaten, or threatened with beating, every day of my life until I left home.
That's it. You don't actually have to strike a child  very often. Once the pain comes down a few times, the kid gets the message: failing to placate the one in power means pain, physical pain, pain that drives out every imperative except to do what it takes to make it stop.
I know that others have suffered worse. I'm not asking for anything, especially since it has been nearly 50 years since I was last struck. But the feeling remains: the most important thing in life is to keep those with the power to cause you pain from being angry.
I disagree with this policy, vehemently. It is wrong. But I understand the feeling, and reflecting on it offers an understanding of some friends and family members who are making what I know to be big mistakes in turning to fascism.
I used to think that beatings taught one of two lessons: some learned that beatings hurt, and that therefore you should not do it. Don't hurt people is a pretty good lesson.
Others learn that beatings hurt, and therefore it's a good idea to be the person doing the beating rather than the one being beaten. This is a bad lesson but it seemed common enough. The distinction between the two put me in a comfortable moral position, which should have made me suspicious but there you are.
I feel now that there is a third lesson that many people learn: beatings come from angry men and therefore it is most important to keep them from being angry, with your behavior and that of others. Stay in your line; keep other people from getting out of line. It is this last element that is most important: the beater enlists his victims to keep others in line.
This explains the authoritarianism of many of my fellow victims. Where one would expect compassion for other victims, there is too often only a desire to kick down, to join the beaters in ganging up on someone else.
I saw this in the fights over legalizing pot and gay marriage. Why did so many worry drunks worry so much about others smoking weed and straights with multiple divorces worrying about gays getting married? The only thing that made sense to me is that both of these issues involved changing what was officially acceptable, and that risked making Angry Father Angry.
I mentioned this theory because it offers a few obvious suggestions for improvements. First, comfort those who express fear and hatred; they may be afraid of being beaten.
And don't hit people. It's really not a good idea.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

RIP James Cline

Late last week the message came that Jim had gone into hospice, and then early Saturday that it was going to be only some hours. I made ready to go up to visit Saturday but then got the message that he had passed.
Three things you should know about Jim Cline . He and my sister Sharon were married and in love for I don’t know how long, and he loved his children as well – that was obvious, you can see it in every picture.
Second, our family is noisy and Jim was not. He was a heck of a smart guy, very successful in his profession, but he didn’t show the urge that many of us have to tell everybody everything we know, several times in case you missed it the first. More than once I stepped out of a family party to see Jim and Brad sharing a cigarette break outside in the quiet. He’d say something funny and we’d all laugh. I never heard him complain, not about anything – which is something I can’t say about myself. You set a high standard, Jim.
The third thing is his last words on Facebook: “Quick reminder gentlemen, get that PSA test to check your cancer levels. It's critical. My love to you all.’
You set a standard, Jim. I’m not going to be able to match you in not complaining, but I’ll sign up for the test on Monday.
My love to you too.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Weekend Reminder

This weekend was unusual.
Saturday morning I saw my ex as I drove to the Y. I greeted her and her new BF but they didn't need a ride, as they were rendezvousing with his ex to connect with his child. We all ended up in yoga and it was a fine class indeed. It's nice to use the muscles a different way after the delightful Zumba last Thursday.
Then I drove up to my sister Kat's, in Marysville, having been invited by my niece Stephanie for an informal birthday barbeque. I assumed it was for Kat and brought her a card, but actually it was for Ryder, Stephanie's 2 year old son. A parent may be forgiven for focusing on her own kids!
I enjoyed talking and listening to the crowd. My nephew Kristian delivered a painting "Soft Serve Squid" that he'd donated to a charity auction I one. I'm happy to have it!
I met Karen's wife and had a long talk about our common interest in veterans services - she's a VFW Chaplain and, like my Veterans and Friends pals, working out ways to go beyond VSOs to solve problems holistically.. I'll be connecting her with my friend Cyril, etc.
I had a shot of tequila with Brad and with Jim, who is ailing. This was a moving experience as it is not often that I see someone who had always been so strong and full of life reach a point in his dying that leaves him able to communicate, but hazy and emaciated. There is not much to say so I talked about his kids.
This was all unusual, and I was grateful to Stephanie for the invitation.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Companions of the Road


The philosopher Dorothy Gale said: "There's no place like home".
Indeed. That’s why so many of us leave.
Around the age that Dorothy left Kansas, I was blown away by the realization that by studying for the priesthood I could please my parents and run away from them.
I took the road to the yellow brick boarding school in Kenmore called St Edward’s.

The Tale of the Dunne Call

The instructors were very old school.

We sat strict alphabetical order: I in the back, behind my pious friend Mr. Murphy, in front my nervous friend Mr. Dunne. One Latin teacher picked on the boy in the front: Dunne, what is the singular feminine superlative of beautiful? Poor Mr. Dunne! He would stammer and wilt. Pulcher? Pulchra? Then it was Murphy! my friend Mr. Murphy gave it a try and was chewed on a bit. Then: Winnie!

I had had two minutes to look up the answer. I always got it. I learned the lesson: I was smarter than everyone else! Later this proved untrue. 

Today, Mr. Dunne is at the top of his profession, a brilliant counselor solving complex problems. He would have been better than I at the job for which we were ostensibly studying, but for his unfortunate choice of last name beginning with “D”.

Do not think of him merely as scholastic roadkill. Oh no. For his lack of academic achievement, Mr. Dunne got extra duty in the school office. He knew he was trusted because he was often unsupervised, and used that time to read his own file: Trustworthy

For two Hershey bars – our medium of exchange at Stalag St. Edward - he would read your file too.

A Holy Tale

This was helpful for the my friend the inappropriately named Mr. Holy.

Mr. liked knowing things and doing things – just not Latin or theology. He knew which basement window opened from the outside, should you need to reenter the building after an all night carouse. He often dozed in Latin. Perhaps those facts are related. Later he used his energy and curiosity to be a very successful what? Detective? Politician? You're both right!

 At the end of spring term, he learned, no doubt with the aid of Hersey bars, that he being sent back to Spokane. He generously gifted me with a magazine in which the people wore not enough clothing; a great increase to my knowledge, not helpful to my vocation.

The Tale of Mr. Phelan: Out On The Road

My friend Mr. Phelan, now a senior computer engineer, showed me how to solder circuit boards. Thus college workstudy placed me in a computer lab, rather than washing dishes, the foundation of all my financial success.

One Saturday we two amiable dweebs were in a walkathon, raising funds for some charity or other, strolling down the road talking about life and everything, just us two guys and no faculty. He said, “Randy, you know, I’m gay.”

Well, I knew now. 

But what did I know? Gay was against the rules. But friendship is its own rule. Either my friend was wrong or the rule was wrong. This is no contest. We walked on together.

“Also,” he said. “So’s my sister.”

Disaster! Even now, my breath stops at the glory, the wonder, the singular feminine superlative that is Mr. Phelan’s sister: pulcherissima!

She and I had been together, or at least, we had been at the same All School Picnic, a hundred boys and their families milling around. She smiled at me over the fruit salad jello, and perhaps seminary would not last for ever. But now?
Mr. Phelan snickered. “Just kidding. About her”.

Conclusion: On The Road

You’ll understand why we’ve all been friends so long. We share so much, big things, little things, but one REALLY big thing:
Some go home to Kansas – or Spokane -
Some settle in the Emerald City
Some stay on the road
It doesn’t matter: with companions, you are already at home, and there’s no place like home.

Maybe I’ll ask Mr. Phelan for the phone number of his sister.

2017 Humorous Speech Contest, Chapter 832 Toastmasters (I won yay!) 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monday Zumba Etc

Today was a typical Monday for this part of my life. The cats work me, asserting that they were starved even though we all knew that the feeding is done in the downstairs apartment by the girls. They cats always try, and sometimes they are rewarded by milk. As Gail Gorud said, I am often a soft touch.
Since I cleaned the litterbox thoroughly on the weekend I usually skip that Monday mornings. After ablutions I make my preferred brekfast of oatmeal and fruit, with maybe some protein on the side. The coffee drips as I make my lunch salad and then I'm ready to go. Shall I catch the early bus, or the just-in-time bus? Today I went for just-in-time, which was late and therefore so was I. Fortunately there was slack time, but I dislike using that.
I like my work well enough; I meet (virtually) 20-40 people a day and solve problems (ideally). Which I could prefer better technology, I like the work itself and take pride in managing the experience which is, after all, often fraught with worry for the customers.
I made it home on time to drive to Zumba - I have not built up the confidence to take the bus yet - and had another excellent class. I have decided I enjoy exercise that doesn't involve being shouted at, and dance is ideal for this. I just need to add a little more strength training and I'm set!
I drove Nessa home from work and we stopped to pick up a last-minute item for support. Kiria made enchiladas fit for the gods, and I farted around on my computer, surrounded by cats, until bedtime. I made sure to have my Toastmasters role well prepared for, checking the equipment and drafting Table Topics so there is nothing last minute
I'm not sure that I made any major progress toward large life goals today, except that I am maintaining and moving closer to the heating system renovation - so there's that. Another day!

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Windows 10, Memory Hogging, and the Passage of Time

When the Mac died I decided it was time to give Windows another try. I'd spent extra money getting a premium computer and it died all the same, so I tried the opposite route of getting the least expensive possible.
That turned out to be $179 (plus sales tax) - a 4 Gb of memoryWindows 10 device on sale at Target. At that price it's almost an impulse item, and I needed the computer. I took it home, set it up, and was frustrated because it was unusably slow. For example, I would click on an email to read it and wait more than a minute even for the email's checkbox to activate showing me my click had worked. I gave it a day, then took it back. Target is good about returns.
I decided to just give a heavy sigh and buy whatever was midrange for now. Next up was Costco. Their top performing machine was l6 Gig plus 4 of video memory and had a cute backlit keyboard that I knew I would soon hate; it was labelled as a gaming machine. I guessed that the extra video memory was of no use if I didn't game, which I don't, and the display was only 15". I went instead for the 17" display with 16 Gig of memory. That is what I'm using now, and it seems to perform acceptably.
My first home computer was the noisy Coleco Adam. I say "noisy" because the power supply was embedded in the printer, which ran on a daisywheel so I associated booting up with printer warm-up sounds. For all its faults it kept up with my typing. Next I got a Commodore 64 which was mostly for gaming, although I vaguely remember I justified it to myself for experimenting on  software for helping the developmentally disabled.
The first computer I got that was comparable to those I was using at work was a Franklin 800 from Sears. I went with the dual floppy drives and goes a lot of writing done on it, mostly resumes of course. Thereafter I alternated between DOS or Windows and Apple devices, and noticed that as the features improved the memory requirements went up even faster.
That's just the way it is, I suppose. My parents were of a generation that could still recall when "horsepower" referred to an actual horse, and I am of a generation that could still recall when a megabyte was "a lot" instead of "a little".

Wednesday, August 02, 2017


This morning the Mac quit.
I'd  spent a premium to get a top of the line device, and after about 16 months thus morning, the display shimmered and then went dark. Much of the device continues to function, as if
I press the power button I get the 'power on'  chord, but I can't go far blind.
It's valuable enough that I took it to West Seattle Computers for a checkup. I trust them to do the right thing and not to overcharge, but my being unimpressed by the Mac reached a tipping point today. It's just not the magic box it pretends to be - you have to be looking at it constantly to make it work, and that's just stupid - anyone with keyboard skills can look anywhere to get things done, so the computer becomes merely a tool, not the focus.
I find myself forced to take up the bloated Windows 10. Rather than waste my time going the top of the line route, I got a cheap device with only 8 gig. It is slow but usable.


Sunday, July 30, 2017

Toastmasters Training and Kat Dining

Saturday morning was taken up with officer training for Toastmasters. I enjoy getting together with a lotto people dedicated to self-improvement!
For the evening my sister Kat came over, toured the house and then had dinner and gossip cat "Noble Barton". This was really fun.
Sunday I caught up on chores. This may sound prosaic, and much of it is, but it's necessary and useful and I don't regret the time. I rewarded myself by writing memes and planting potatoes that had gone leggy. I do wish the  cats barfed less....

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fabulous App and the Busstop Buddy

My bus stop buddy Margaret and her husband Phil are moving to 35th, as they've bought a house for their growing family. I'll miss the conversations, especially on sustainability projects run by the nonprofit she works at. But good luck to them at their new location, and may the family flourish! At our most recent chat, she reminded me of an app I was trying ("Habitica") that supported developing useful habits by making a game of it. Using the game mechanic of frequent small challenge and rewards, and progressively more difficult, less frequent but larger rewards, felt like a good idea. I played with Habitica for a while but quietly dropped it during one of my periodic cellphone purges, because I had begun to regard it as a chore. If I chose small daily tasks, it was not fun to tick them off and if I chose large infrequent tasks, the app didn't help. Margaret suggested the app "Fabulous" as a more sophisticated approach; she'd tried it for a few days and liked it. I promptly downloaded it and fired it up. It appears to be preloaded with good habits that it presents over time, freeing me from the work of writing tasks. I'll give it a try - I can always use self-improvement!