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Angst Was The Right Word!

I’ve started blogging again here at Systems Savvy and needed to do some research on my history doing so. I came across the following blog post on another, now defunct blog site, The Cranky Curmudgeon, which I wrote on October 29, 2008. I entitled it “Talk About Your Angst! I forgot I wrote it and I’m somewhat amazed that my characterization of the Bush admin sounds quite similar to my characterization of the Trump admin. We’re doing something wrong . . . bigly!

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Barack Obama Makes a point during debate with John McCain

Well, here we are . . . what is it? . . about six days out from what I’m thinking is the most important election of my lifetime. Any election involving Nixon, Reagan, or either of the Bush gangster family was, of course, important, but this one – whew! After eight years of so thoroughly screwing up everything they touched, I am on pins and needles waiting to see if we get a brand new start at fixing things, or if we get something possibly worse than George Bush.

I think I need to explain something too. Although I take the position George Bush and his administration screwed up everything they touched, I think it’s important to note they did exactly what they had planned to do all along. The failures were not truly failures, as they fit into the general plan. Don’t think for one moment these criminals weren’t working toward the dream so famously articulated by Grover Norquist when he said his goal was to shrink government “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

I have no doubt that is exactly what has been going on, especially when government means services for the people, as opposed to handouts for the well-connected. We have witnessed the most massive re-distribution of national wealth, certainly in my lifetime. Now, perhaps, we can see some of that bleeding stanched.

Six more days! I am on pins and needles. We so desperately need to take this nation in another direction; to back away from the arrogant unilateralism and the move toward the so-called “unitary executive”; the use of torture and the spying on our own citizens; and the outright flaunting of the Constitution when it serves the narrow interests of the administration.

Obama has created one of the flattest campaign organizations ever, thanks in large part to his team’s understanding and use of information technology. Let’s see if they can translate this knowledge into a new politics of engagement and involvement . . . and – dare I say – democracy.

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Growing Old, Buck Buck

I’ve been blogging now for at least 13 years. My first post on this blog was on January 8, 2008. Prior to that, I had a Blogger presence I called The Cranky Curmudgeon, where I mostly vented about things that pissed me off and that I thought might piss off others as well. Those posts still exist. You can find the first of them, which I posted on February 23, 2006, right here. Some of them I reposted here in “Systems Savvy.” Prior to that I had another site on Blogger called “A Muse Me”. I can find the reason I said I was starting the blog, but I can’t find any posts and I have no recollection of writing—or deleting—any of them.

I had many reasons for blogging. Prior to starting my own blog, I was blogging internally at Rocketdyne and wanted to test my voice outside the firewall. When I retired in 2010, I realized there weren’t very many people my age who were active bloggers. I reckoned, in addition to offering my thoughts on Systems Thinking, social media for business, religion, and lots of politics, I thought I might shed some light on what it’s like as one ages and approaches the end of life. Not in the way folks have blogged about their terminal disease (as I don’t yet have one), but rather about the aging process when one can only guess at how it’s going to go . . . and the evidence keeps changing as time rolls by.

People who have followed this blog site for a while no doubt know that I have had surgery to have a melanoma removed from my lower back, as well as a few lymph nodes taken from my arm pit and my groin. I spent an awful lot of time out in the sun as a boy and young man, when the only thing anyone wore for protection from it was zinc oxide. When I used to surf we put it on our noses and lower lips. Otherwise it was things like Coppertone or baby oil with iodine in it. We were enamored with being tan, which meant we were “fit”. Little did we know just how damaging being out in the sun so frequently was.

When my family used to go for three and four-day weekends to Palm Springs, which was generally the only kind of vacation we got, I would invariably get a really bad sunburn on my shoulders and back, which required me to wear a t-shirt in the water for the rest of the time we were there. I remember my skin peeling in sheets and thinking how cool it looked, never realizing the damage I was doing to myself.

Fast forward to today. I was going to start this post off by using the term “chicken skin” because that’s what I thought people called what happens to human skin when one reaches a certain age and it becomes a bit parchment like. It’s also referred to as crepe skin. I am fortunate in that, even at almost 72, I have virtually no wrinkles on my face. I do, however, have a lot of wrinkles and other weird things happening to my arms . . . especially my arms, probably because they’ve received more sunlight over the years than any other part of me.

I mentioned this to my dermatologist and he said it’s just normal, aging skin. Nevertheless, the transformation is something I find fascinating, especially when viewed at through the magnification available with my iPhone XR. Below are two photos. Actually one is an enlargement from the other. I was sitting in my car, waiting for my younger daughter to get out of school when I took this pic of my arm. I actually used the magnifier, took the pic at the high magnification level, then pinched out to the whole photo, both of which I saved to my phone. Note the first one looks pretty normal, at least for a man of my age. Yes, it’s a bit wrinkly, sports a few freckles and moles, and may be a bit dry, but still pretty normal.

This second one, however, is (for me) a mind blower, especially when you look at my skin in juxtaposition to the cloth of the shirt I’m wearing. BTW – this is an enlargement of the inner elbow from the above photo. Even looking at my arm as I’m writing this, it doesn’t look anything like it does in this enlargement. I think it’s a combination of the magnification and the angle of the light hitting my skin. I still can’t get over how weird it looks, though.

So . . . any of you out there who read this and are in your thirties, forties, or fifties, here’s something really exciting for you to look forward to. You’re welcome!


They Grow So Fast!

Last weekend was my oldest daughter Aimee’s final dance recital in High School. Our local paper did a nice little feature, and that’s her in the very front of the line of ballerinas. She’s been doing pointe for at least her Senior year. I can’t believe she’s graduating in about three weeks. Frankly, I’m not handling this transition all that well right now.

Our Aimee’s Final Ballet Performance

I lost—and grieved over—the relationship we had when we adopted Alyssa, who required so much attention, and it was exacerbated by Aimee’s quiet nature. Part of me fears we’ll never be close (typing these words nearly brings me to tears). I’ll get over it, but there’s a part of me that worries I haven’t really been a good parent and it’s too late to do anything about it. Another part of me thinks I’m being silly, but it’s not helping right now. Hopefully, it’s just the gloomy weather that’s affecting me.

I posted this on Facebook and got quite a lot of wonderful replies, most of them assuring me that most, if not all, parents feel inadequate and many recounted stories of their own experiences with their children. I’m grateful for the friends I have on Facebook, many of whom are also friends IRL. Quite a few of them were with us when we adopted both our girls, so they have a special connection to us. In responding to some of them, I offered another picture of Aimee, which I think is gorgeous (as is she). I’m including it here as well. Both photos were taken with my iPhone XR, without flash, which was prohibited during the performance. They’re not close to being HiRes, but they’re serviceable.

Modern Jazz (or Something Like That)

Hey! Long Time, No See.

QuantelliaLogoPaleI know it’s been quite a while since last I posted here. I’ve been continuously active on Facebook and have begun tweeting quite a bit as well, but that’s not why I haven’t posted to this blog in the past nearly three months. As of March 1 I began a new career, probably not the kind of thing you hear about 70-year-olds doing all that often. Since then I have been working as the Business Manager for Quantellia, LLC. You may recall I’ve done work for and with Quantellia on and off for the past six years.

Quantellia is a small AI/ML software development house and, until now, one of the co-founders has been running the business. Inasmuch as she is also the organization’s Chief Scientist, and a well-known pioneer in Machine Learning, this was not exactly the optimal thing for her to be doing. I had been touching on the subject and, since she was having such a hard time getting someone competent to run the business, I pressed my offer to do so. She finally relented and things have been going swimmingly, although there have been times I was swimming against the current. I’m definitely climbing a steep learning curve, which sometimes has me questioning if I’m losing my edge.

Actually, at times I can’t quite tell if my intellect is slipping a little bit, or if I just don’t care as much as I used to and I’m not quite as arrogantly sure of myself. My memory seems to be intact, along with my ability to learn and adapt. I’m going to go with the “I just don’t care as much about things as I used to; I’m more sanguine about life, work, and the need to control everything.

At any rate, I’m having a lot of fun. I was once partnered with two CPAs, doing royalty accounting for some big acts: Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, The Cars, Dollie Parton, Ronnie Milsap, The Commodores, even Jimi Hendrix’s estate. I learned a fair amount about accounting back then, and now I’m getting the opportunity to revisit what I learned, applying it in different circumstances. I’m also learning about artificial intelligence and machine learning, and hope to convey some of what’s going on in these fields. Although not a data scientist, I am quite capable of seeing where AI can be applied in business to assist with all kinds of issues. I’m sure you can as well.


The Irony is as Thick as the Karma

Venceremos Brigade-FBIWhen I returned from a two-month working journey to Cuba in 1973, the FBI showed up at my door with questions about my trip. I had been a member of the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade, and a small part of my education for the trip was the admonition to politely refuse to speak with them, which is what I did.

It was a short, pleasant conversation. I told them I wasn’t going to answer any questions and they asked me if I was sure. I said “yes” and they said “have a nice day” and left. That was it.

My years of activism had brought me to the attention of many law enforcement agencies, chief among them the LAPD and the FBI.

All to say, there’s been little love lost between me and these organizations . . .

Yet I’m really looking forward to what James Comey has to say.


The Nothingburger Memo And Disappointment

After a couple weeks of breathless anticipation, endlessly hyped by Trump TV . . . er . . . Fox News, the ballyhooed Nunes memo was finally released, creating a giant thud as it fell flat on its face. After all the buildup and breathless hyperbolating over it being set to expose the worst scandal in United States history, it was a real let down, though you wouldn’t know that by the response of the Knucklehead-in-Chief or his band of merry sycophants.

As I have mentioned before, I’ve been spending time learning how to use Photoshop to create my own renditions of the news or other things that catch my fancy. I’ve got two of them related to this debacle. One I created is based on an earlier “confrontation” where something Mueller had done was written off by the right as a “nothingburger”. I’m afraid I can’t quite remember what that something was, but I obviously reacted to it. I didn’t do much; merely found a great shot of a hamburguesa tremenda, then added some words.

The second one took a bit more work as I had to create a series of layer masks to represent what I envisioned. Generally, I put these together, then post them to Facebook and, at times, to Twitter as well. I’m working on remembering to post them here too.

Here they are, with added captions.

NothingBurger

Wrap Your Mouth Around This Puppy

The Memo

Jerky is Such a Disappointment When You’re Expecting a Thick, Juicy Steak


Cheetolini Hard at Work

As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I’m teaching myself Photoshop. As far as I can tell, one of the most important things to understand and use is layers. This is one of my first creations where I was beginning to understand how to use layers to change pictures in both large and small ways.

May years ago I worked at a silk screen shop. Silk screening required the creation of (as I recall) four separate screens (layers) in order to create the colors of whatever poster was being printed. Those colors were the primary ones: Red, blue, and yellow . . . as well as black. If the poster called for orange, then the area to be that color was open on both the red and the yellow screens. Same thing for green, purple, brown, etc.

The thing I remember most about working there (I was in my very early twenties) was coming home higher than a kite at times. This was because we used a lot of toluene as a solvent for creating and cleaning the screens. There were days when I breathed in a lot of that stuff. There were no requirements to wear masks and I don’t think there were many, if any, regulations in place regarding adequate ventilation, etc. Now that I think about it, it’s a wonder I can recall anything about that job. I did enjoy the work, though.

So here’s an early picture I ginned up using PS. It consists of seven layers:

Cheetolini at Work

Where’s My Phone? I Need My Phone!


They’re Finally Catching Up To Me

The last few years I was employed at Rocketdyne, my job – which I essentially created – was to research social media for the purpose of bringing it inside the firewall for internal communication and collaboration.

As a result, I became both well educated in the use of numerous apps and platforms, and excited about the possibilities they represented. When the Space Shuttle program was nearing it’s end, everyone over sixty was offered an early severance package.

After some research I decided to accept the offer, which I characterized as a “gold-leafed handshake.” I was pretty excited about going out on my own and offering social media marketing services to local small businesses. Unfortunately, very few people knew what I was talking about and most businesses remained content to spend $200/month on a Yellow Pages ad that likely got thrown in a recycle bin the moment it arrived.

I’m not entirely certain, but it does seem like things have changed and many more businesses understand the value in promoting via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. As a result in finding it easier to get clients to help and supplement my retirement income.

This year promises to be very interesting.


America The Not So Beautiful

Dissent is Patriotism

I believe I wrote this (see below) during the administration of George W. Bush who, at the time, I thought was the worst President I had lived through. Harry S. Truman was POTUS when I was born (1947) but the first I remember is Ike (Dwight D. Eisenhower). With the election of Donald J. Trump, I have lived through 13 presidencies, most of them two-termers.

Now that I’ve figured that out, and despite not being superstitious, I can’t help but note that Trump is number 13 and, were I triskaidekaphobic, that reality (a difficult word to use in the Drumpf era, no?) would be significant. In this case, I consider it amusing, but entirely random.

At any rate, inasmuch as I’ve begun using this space to share some of my other work from different venues and applications, I have some old poetry and the like I will no doubt put up on occasion. Some of what I’ve written (and bothered to keep over the years) is not what I would consider complete, as I sometimes just jot stuff down as it occurs to me and often don’t actually spend the time completely fleshing it out.

One day I guess I was thinking of the song “America The Beautiful”, as I’m wont to do at times, since I love to sing and patriotic songs — as well as religious ones — are often particularly beautiful. It doesn’t mean I believe in them, at least not any longer . . . and not for a long time, but they’re pleasing to the ear musically, if not lyrically. So here’s a verse of that song, as rewritten by me at least 10, more likely 15, years ago.

Oh beautiful for specious lies
That shelter capital gains
For the poor and elderly
Who endure financial strains

America, America
Your God damned lies I see
Have replaced thy good with two-bit hoods
And political chicanery

I’ve known for a long time the reality of what this country stands for is far from what most of us were led to believe (read “brainwashed”), but I still feel it’s important to think of those things as aspirational. As Robert F. Kennedy said “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

I wish this truly were the greatest nation on the planet, but it’s not. If you think about it, I don’t believe there is such a thing. Different nations lead in different areas of government, economy, and society. There isn’t one that truly stands out as “the greatest”. We can leave that to Muhammed Ali, who really was just that. 😉


How Have You Disrespected The Flag?

I just wrote about my feelings regarding what I consider to be a truly overzealous display of the American flag I encounter practically everywhere I go. I received a comment mentioning how disconcerting it is to see so many people wear the flag, or disrespect it in some way, contrary to correct flag etiquette. I’m not necessarily a huge stickler on these matters, but it serves to point out the rank hypocrisy of many, especially those who complain that taking a knee during the anthem is disrespectful.

Also, in my previous post I suggested I would be sharing some of my Photoshop efforts as I see fit. So . . . here is another file I created regarding ways in which the flag should not be displayed. Every one of these, with the exception of Old Glory flying in the background, is wrong according to United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1. Especially relevant to this post is §8. Respect for flag. Here’s the appropriate language of that section:

The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back, nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free. Bunting of blue, white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker’s desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general.

Note that bunting does NOT include the stars, only the stripes and the colors red, white, and blue, with blue always being at the top and red at the bottom.

Inappropriate Use of Flag

Don’t Do These Things. It’s Disrespectful. 😛

I truly don’t understand people who scream bloody murder about respect for the flag, yet have no clue as to the etiquette called for in its display. Keep in mind, however, although there are federal regulations involving respect for the flag, none of them are actually enforced . . . as should be clearly evident by the ways in which businesses and people use it to adorn just about everything, including napkins, tablecloths, socks, t-shirts, etc. So go ahead and disrespect our flag in whatever way you wish; just shut the fuck up when others do it in a manner they think appropriate . . . especially if it’s part of a protest designed to bring attention to injustice.


 

PS – Here are a couple of choice provisions I find interesting:

  • (c) The flag should never be carried flat or horizontally, but always aloft and free. (How many football games have begun with the unfurling of a large U.S. flag, carried horizontally down the field?)
  • (i) The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. It should not be embroidered on such articles as cushions or handkerchiefs and the like, printed or otherwise impressed on paper napkins or boxes or anything that is designed for temporary use and discard. (What did you eat on last July 4th? Did you maybe casually wipe your mouth with our flag?)

I suggest reading the rules if it’s important to you and, if you have complained about how people show their respect, I suggest you make it important.


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