Thoughts on the State of the Union Address

The President characterized the Trans Pacific Partnership as “Americans writing the rules.” It would have been more accurate to say corporations writing the rules. I did like how he dealt with Republican clapping when he announced that he’d run his last election. I wonder if maybe he didn’t ask Senator Franken for some tips on dealing with hecklers. Here’s somebody who actually knows something about economics talking about some of the President’s tax ideas. I do hope his college proposal doesn’t just extend the time when youngsters have the security of not having to necessarily have any skills.

The Republican rebutting the President (whose voice I find patronizing and annoying, but that’s on me) called Keystone XL a “jobs” bill when it is nothing of the sort. And once more I ask: if this stuff is so great and it’s going to create so many jobs, how come the Canadians are letting us ship it here rather than processing it there?

On good and bad habits: it’s apparently easier to do yoga while sober (I’ve never done it drunk, so I don’t know); thinking and doing; America isn’t the only nation that has a racism problem; healthy eating tips; avoiding salt doesn’t necessarily have to be one of those tips.

In Closing: fair housing and Ferguson; sensible; pointlessly gendered; 100 students; not a bad simplified explanation of how viruses work; the boy who rode his bike; and exploding kittens.

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Music Monday: Come Out

Here’s a long overdue habit for some people: see others as human beings rather than members of a group of people. Or as one guy put it, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Racism (and sexism) should have gone out of style a generation ago. Yet, somehow or another there are those that think it’s ok to criticize the President’s heritage rather than his policies. There are people who fear or think themselves better than those who are different — bafflingly, often at the same time! This is the 21st Century; time to stop it.

Since each of us is an individual, that means each of us must stop ourselves if we have an unworthy thought before it becomes a despicable action.

In honor of MLK’s birthday, I bring you music from the Civil Rights era. Come Out is an early work of minimalism. I recommend listening in stereo and giving it at least 3 minutes before you decide whether you like it or not. I’m a little disappointed that so little is said about the technique of layering tape recordings that differ ever so slightly in timing.

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What a laugh

Believe it or not, there are people who think President Obama is liberal. Isn’t that a good laugh?

In Closing: miscarriage; I already said this; measles; and beavers…. with parachutes.

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In honor of flu season…

Ok, so by now everyone knows that this year’s flu vaccine isn’t quite as effective as would be desirable. By the way, that’s because the flu virus changes (read: evolves!) quickly. There’s still a few things you can do to reduce your chance of getting the flu. One of the biggest things is almost free and you won’t even need a doctor: wash your hands regularly.

Hand washing — a controversial yet effective technique since 1846. I wish I didn’t have to point out that it’s a good habit.

In Closing: a few items about terror, the internet, and security; point, partially refuted.

 

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Privacy? Oh, were you using that?

The incident in Paris is already being used as an excuse to take away what little privacy (and other rights) remain in the world, despite the fact that privacy is a necessary feature of security. In the meantime, bulk data will continue to be collected by both the government and various corporations (who of course, can sell that information to the government without anybody having technically violated the 4th or 5th Amendments). Nor is the NSA the only agency collecting information; the DEA is doing it too. Are they at least sharing nicely, or are We The Taxpayers paying to collect all this stuff twice?

Now, don’t forget for one minute that the President is proposing laws that crack down on “hackers”. Those laws would make a dizzying array of normal and sometimes necessary activities illegal. That’s on top of the undead CISPA cyber”security” bill. Oh yeah, and that nasty old TPP that would make corporate rights more important that national rights.

At what point does Joe Average get fed up? Congress is doing the opposite of what he wants almost every chance they get. And thanks to rigged Congressional districts, all of our political voices are diluted. Further even though the amount of money made in our nation per person is near a record high, Joe Average has very little to show for it. What happens now?

In Closing: why you can’t have hot and cold running municipal internet; misinformation; how dare you be a crime victim; brother, can you spare a bridge; some of us would like our sons to know this stuff too; backfire; denial; take the money and run.

 

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Sign of the Times

IMG_20140716_102931 (1)

“Vintage Antiques? Well, honestly I was hoping you had some brand new antiques!”

In Closing: sick and tired; CISPA is back from the dead; “Lack of exercise responsible for twice as many early deaths as obesity”; ok ok, we’ll tell you what the NSA is doing, but we aren’t planning on stopping; institutional sexism; a third of Americans think cops are liars; Target pulling out of Canada; on a living wage.

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Fail.

Some years ago, I read a book called the Inner Game of Music. In a manner of speaking, it was about getting out of your own way. Oddly enough, one of the things that stuck with me about this book was a peculiar concept: giving yourself permission to fail. Apparently many people have learned this lesson from many sources.

So yes, it can be a good habit to permit ourselves to fail. And although I am far from the first person to explore the concept, I would like to share why I think it is so.

Paying attention to failure teaches how to succeed. Of course, this only applies when we pay attention, and fail “mindfully.” The truth is that most of us fail a time or two when we are learning something new. One anecdote from the Inner Game of Music relays how when a pair of musicians tried to isolate when their duet went awry, suddenly it was perfect! When we pay attention to how, when, and why we fail, we come up with solutions.

Failure teaches us about ourselves and about reality. How we react to failure can give us insight to who we really are — but again, only if we are willing to pay attention. But more importantly, failure can be the beginning of discovery! Or, as Isaac Asimov put it, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That’s funny…'” Consider Alexander Fleming discovering that the “contamination” in his bacterial culture was actually exactly the exact bacteria-killer he’d been looking for. If he hadn’t been willing to learn, he might have thrown away that specimen and never discovered the first known antibiotic.

Sometimes, our failures fail spectacularly! No, I’m not talking about all those online videos we’ve watched many times of people doing stupid things on skateboards or motorcycles. I’m talking about a failure that turns out for the best. My favorite example occurred in the original Iron Chef series. Chen Kenichi was the chef who specialized in Chinese cuisine (a footnote, his father invented “shrimp in chili sauce”). A French challenger chef decided to take on Kenichi-san rather than the show’s French specialist, perhaps thinking this gave him an advantage. The secret ingredient was yogurt, unused in Chinese cuisine. You can see for yourself: between 8:30 and 9:00 minutes into the video, Kenichi-san gives himself permission to fail. After all, he’s never used this stuff, never even tasted it. But freed from the need to succeed, he experiments and innovates his way into one of his most memorable wins.

There’s nothing wrong with failing now and again, as long as you aren’t doing something colossally dangerous.

In Closing: milk fail; chart fail; vax fail (don’t do this one); wedding fail; jobs report fail; weight loss fail; just, fail; patient confidentiality fail; accidental paleontology win!

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Eat It

Today’s question:

Do you tend to order the same thing at restaurants? Or do you like to jump around the menu?

Answer: yes. It depends where I am. There are places where I just want the one or two things that I know are awesome. There are other places where I am busy trying new things. Remember, Vegas is a world class food city! Sorry, I don’t have much more to say about the issue than that.

In Closing: no regard for the Supreme Court; catching the cold; one Indiana lawmaker doesn’t think you should have a choice whether you raise a child with severe disabilities; cybersecurity; doing the same thing and expecting different results; finally somebody said it out loud.

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Music Monday: Got any change?

Today’s question from the nice folks at BlogHer:

Do you enjoy repetition, or do you always need change?

What a meaningless question. The only thing that does not change is that everything changes. This has been known for thousands of years in both the East and the West. Clinging to the way things are or the way things were is a fast road to discontent.

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Three Paths

On one side, we have Tucker Carlson opining that one particular religion is a problem. Maybe his bow-tie is a little tight.

On the other side, we have someone pointing out the extremists in the “dominant” religious group of our nation.

But the gripping hand is Pope Francis preaching that breastfeeding is completely natural and welcomed where he preaches.

Now then, which of these has shown love for his neighbor?

In Closing: best commentary you will ever see anywhere on President Obama’s “free college” plan; I’d like some truth with my news, please; alarming statistic.

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