1st Foray Into ChatGPT

I finally decided to give ChatGPT a test drive. I made the following request: “Write a 500 word blog post about why Gen Z should vote in every election.”

Here’s the response I received. The response is actually 523 words. Close enough:

“Gen Z, also known as the iGeneration or the post-Millennials, is the demographic cohort born between 1996 and 2010. As this generation begins to reach voting age, it is important for them to understand the importance of participating in every election.

“Voting is one of the most fundamental rights and responsibilities of citizenship. It is a way for individuals to have a say in the direction of their country and to hold elected officials accountable. By voting, Gen Z can shape the policies and laws that will affect their daily lives, from healthcare and education to the economy and the environment.

“One of the most compelling reasons for Gen Z to vote is that their generation is uniquely affected by many of the current political issues. Climate change, for example, is a pressing concern for Gen Z, as they will be living with the consequences of current environmental policies for much longer than older generations. Similarly, the high cost of education and the increasing burden of student loan debt disproportionately affects Gen Z. By voting, Gen Z can make their voices heard on these issues and push for policies that align with their values and interests.

“Another reason why Gen Z should vote is that their generation is one of the most diverse in history, with a wide range of perspectives and experiences. By participating in the democratic process, Gen Z can ensure that their diverse voices are represented in government and that policies reflect the needs and concerns of all members of society.

“Additionally, by voting, Gen Z can help shape the future of the country. The decisions made by today’s elected officials will have a lasting impact on the future, and it is important for Gen Z to have a say in that future. It is also important for Gen Z to vote to ensure the continuation of democracy, which is the foundation of our country and it is something that should be protected.

“It’s also worth noting that voting is not just a right but also a privilege in many countries. Many people have fought and continue to fight for the right to vote, and it is important to exercise that right in order to honor their sacrifices.

“However, it is important to note that voting is not the only way to make a difference. Gen Z can also get involved in other forms of civic engagement, such as volunteering, organizing, and advocacy. But voting is an essential part of the democratic process, and it is the most direct way to make an impact on government policies and elected officials.

“In conclusion, Gen Z should vote in every election because it is their right and responsibility as citizens to shape the direction of their country. By voting, Gen Z can have a say in the policies and laws that affect their lives, ensure that their diverse voices are represented in government, and help shape the future of the country. Furthermore, it’s a way to honor the sacrifices of those who fought for the right to vote. It is time for Gen Z to step up and make their voices heard.”


Fitting End to the Deluge

The rain California has been experiencing, at least here in Southern California, was pretty much over this past Tuesday, the 17th. However, we got a little surprise on Thursday, the 19th, and this was the result. A Facebook friend posted that evening he wasn’t able to get a photo of the rainbow and within hours there were upwards of two dozen photos—some of them pretty spectacular—posted as comments to his OP. All hail the ubiquity of the cell phone camera. BTW – I took these two photos from our front yard.


Phony Patriots

Let’s get something straight. There’s little love lost between me and the government. I don’t believe, despite being (ostensibly) a constitutional republic embodied in a democratic body politic, that we are in actuality a functioning democracy. Sure, we have elections, but I have a hard time believing most of the people who are able to run for office represent the majority of us. It takes too much money to wage a successful campaign, especially for a statewide or nationwide office.

According to Open Secrets, as of 2020 more than half of the members of the 116th Congress were millionaires and the median net worth of the entire House was a little over $1,000,000.00. Contrast that with the median household net worth of all Americans as of 2020 which, according to Census.gov, is a mere $140,800.00.

Keep in mind, that’s the median. That means half the population has even less wealth and, again according to Census.gov, the bottom 10% of American households have a negative net worth (-$1,450.00)! That 10% represents 33 million people. That’s an awful lot of people residing in the so-called wealthiest nation in the world who have a collective negative net worth.

This being the case, I find it hard to imagine virtually any politician being able to empathize with and understand the issues most Americans are faced with in living their lives. While there may be some local elected officials who aren’t reasonably well-off, I think it safe to say the majority, especially in the more populous states, are in at least the 75th percentile when it comes to income and net worth.

I’m pointing this out to make an argument for my not being an apologist or cheerleader for the ruling class of these United States of America. Add to that my years of experience in the peace & justice movement during the late sixties and early seventies, as well as my two-month trip to Cuba in 1973 as a guest of the Cuban government, and you might get the idea I’m not exactly enamored of the way our country is managed. Also, even though I “settled down” after my years of full-time activism, I’ve still remained a socialist and am supportive of progressive (if not revolutionary) ideas and action. Truth to tell, the only reason I’m not currently advocating for a socialist revolution in this country is because I’m a privileged white man and I don’t think it’s my place to suggest actions that may affect others far more adversely than they will affect me. I believe a revolution in this country would best be led by others than the likes of me.

Nevertheless, if forced to choose between what I would characterize as the regular order of how things are run and the kind of order people who support groups like this Armored Republic wants to equip so they can “honor Jesus” by arming themselves to the teeth to “defend” what they conceive of as “liberty”, I’ll take the former. I have no doubt these jerks are Christian white supremacists and their idea of freedom doesn’t include participation by people of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, most women, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, etc.

These are the kind of people who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2001 and who support and defend Donald Trump. I want nothing to do with them or the kind of society they envision constructing to honor their “savior”.


Back to School (Not Really)

I’m in the library at Moorpark College after accompanying Alyssa while she drove to her Jazz Dance class, where I then took the car to a public parking lot and walked to the library. I’m now sitting and waiting for her class to be over at 10:50. We’ve been planning this for a while, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it given my health concerns.

However, I did get a heart monitor yesterday and it’s important I conduct myself as normally as possible so we get plenty of data in order to more accurately assess what’s going on. The short walk here with about a 10-pound backpack (I brought my laptop so I could get some stuff done with a full-size keyboard) got my heart rate up to about 106, which seems kind of high. After finding a desk to set up at, it’s now down to 66 which, given that I’ve not been terribly active lately, seems a bit low. Part of me is wondering if my Fitbit tracker is on the fritz, as it’s given me some fairly strange readings lately.

At any rate, I’m going to keep on keepin’ on for the next six days, then remove the monitor and send it to the vendor who supplies it, then wait a few days to hear from my doctor. I’m also waiting to hear from Kaiser regarding an echo cardiogram, which has also been ordered. Overall, I’m feeling reasonably good. Time will tell.


Hot Lather is the Bomb!

I’ve long enjoyed shaving with hot lather, applied with an English boar bristle brush purchased up in Carmel-by-the-Sea over twenty years ago, when we attended a round of the AT&T golf tournament at Pebble Beach. My wife-to-be and I drove up with a couple we were friends with and we spent the weekend attending a round of professional golf and sightseeing. It was while we were in Carmel-by-the-Sea that I added this luxurious brush to my shaving routine.

I had been using a brush I somehow—the details have receded into the mists of time—inherited, which was worn down and sparse compared to the new one. I didn’t even realize just how sparse it was until I first shaved with the new one. The difference was immediately noticeable and immensely enjoyable. I’ve used shave cream from the can and shave gel that foams up as you apply it, but for me there’s nothing like running a thick brush under the hottest water available, whipping up a nice lather with a creamy shaving soap (Colonel Conk’s Almond is my current goto) and applying it while it’s still hot and wet. It not only feels good going on, but it softens the beard and makes shaving much more pleasurable. At least that’s my experience.

My Shaving Accoutrements
My Shaving Kit

When the pandemic hit and we were locked down for a while, I stopped shaving and grew a beard. I kept it until this past August, when I decided to shave it off for a job interview I was going on. I’ve gotten kind of lazy in my old age and I don’t shave as often as I used to. I also use an electric razor when I’m feeling particularly curmudgeonly. All that, coupled with the over a year and a half I went without shaving, meant I had forgotten how I used hot lather. It wasn’t until today that I finally put it all together. Believe it or not, it takes a little planning and coordination to get the lather at the right richness and temperature for a truly enjoyable shave. I look forward to my next shave, though I’m unclear on when that might be.


Adulting Not Parenting

They say that getting old isn’t for the faint of heart. I tend to agree with that sentiment, but I’ve managed to add an entirely different dimension to the equation. I did’t become a parent until I was 55 years old. That’s when we adopted our oldest daughter from the People’s Republic of China. When I was 59 we did it again. Now I’m 75 and I still have a 19 year old living at home, as well as a 21 year old.

When my oldest graduated high school, I kind of panicked. I hadn’t been thinking much about what happens when the kids grow up and go out on their own. Everything I’d done for them was with that end result in mind, but I hadn’t given much though to how it would affect me. I took it hard. Even though she wasn’t leaving anytime soon, I went through a painful cycle of distress and remorse. I was certain I’d messed up somewhere along the way and it was too late to fix it. I spent an entire day drying on the shoulders of several friends, just to get it off my chest. I finally discovered that spending a little time talking to her, and being the recipient of her ‘tude was enough to set me straight and I was able to get over it.

Still, last night she went to house sit for some friends for the next 10 days and I already miss her. Even though she barely came out of her room and I could go a couple of days without seeing her, the knowledge she’s not here is somehow distressing. I think maybe it’s because I really want to spend some quality time with her, just talking about life and family, etc. Every since we adopted our second daughter, she needed so much attention I wasn’t able to give my oldest the kind of attention I had been giving her previously. Thankfully, it turns out she’s strong and independent – just like I had hoped.

I know I’ll get over this feeling. After all, I’ve been patiently waiting to get back to a little adulting after all this parenting. I am looking forward to both of them getting a bit older and more independent. That’s when I think the really good conversations will happen. I just hope I live long enough to see, and experience, it.


Sister Golden Hair Surprise

I got a few new articles of clothing from my family for Christmas. They’re currently the only ones I have that aren’t at least lightly covered with dog hair from Angel. Her golden fur stands out nicely against the darker colors I usually wear. These new things will soon be covered with reminders of my fur baby as well. I’ve accepted it as part of the natural order of things.


Strange Encounters

I must confess to being a bit of a pack rat, primarily with papers and a few collectibles or mementos. For instance, I have official NASA mission patches for all the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, as well as numerous patches for significant events and test activities, including for Vandenberg launch facilities that were never built. I also have two commemorative seat cushions from sporting events I attended; Superbowl XIX, between the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins, and the 1981 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. I don’t remember which game of the WS I attended, but it had to be either 3, 4, or 5 since it was at Chavez Ravine (Dodger Stadium).

Recently, I came across a binder I’ve had for at least forty years that’s filled with business cards neatly preserved in plastic pages specifically made for such things. I had forgotten I had it out in the garage, but I encountered it recently. Most of the cards are from either when I was in the wholesale food business with my family, or when I was in the music business pretending I knew what I was doing. SIDE NOTE: As it turned out, despite a propensity to be a bit of an asshole, I was nowhere near the kind of asshole one needs to be to succeed in the business end of the music biz.

One of these cards is particularly interesting to me. It’s from the lawyer we engaged to keep a friend out of prison for possession for sale of cocaine. This is part of a much longer story which I am writing about in my autobiography/memoirs (have yet to decide the final format). A little over a decade after our engagement with this lawyer, he became far more well-known due to his representation of a famous athlete, who was accused of murder. The card is somewhat unique, as it is a parchment fold-over, with a script inside for people to use if they come under the scrutiny of law enforcement personnel. Do you remember this guy?


My Life as a Wiener Clerk

Sometime in my first year of law school I had the opportunity to work at a place called The Wiener Factory. It was located just west of Kester on Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. Owned by a former stock broker turned English teacher, it was one of the truly iconic places in the San Fernando Valley to get a hot dog or other type of sausage (knackwurst, polish). The dogs all had natural casings, so they snapped when you bit into one. We also used egg bread buns that were steamed prior to placing a dog in them and the mustard was Gulden’s, slightly thinned with a bit of pickle juice. We did not served French Fries; instead we served hot German potato salad and coleslaw.

I worked for the original owner, whose name I can only remember as Gene. He had a way with words, as evidenced by the walls, which were covered with graffiti. The entire inside of the place was filled with different pithy sayings and slogans, many of which he had invented himself (I think; who knows?). The only two I can remember are “Please tell us how long you want us to hold the onions” and “We may be contumacious, but we’re never revocatory.” They were all amusing. However, were you to step out in the back where the bathrooms were located, it was a different story. There, the graffiti was raunchy and risqué, bordering on the profane. It was not something you were likely to encounter very often in your life. It was, after all, the early seventies.

The Wiener Factory after it closed.
Da Kine!

We served them with mustard, relish, and onions, mustard and sauerkraut (one of my all-time favorites), mustard, chili, cheese, and onions, and two that were oddballs at the time – red cabbage and cheese and coleslaw and cheese. Lately, I have been purchasing Hoffy all-beef, natural casing wieners and they are reminiscent of the Vienna dogs we served back then and that I used to buy in 10-pound bags when I was working with my father in the wholesale beat business.

This morning I got nostalgic. I had been eating kraut dogs intermittently for some time, but the thought of a coleslaw and cheese dog has been invading my consciousness with increasing frequency. Since I had to make a stop at Vons to pick up some items for a dinner we’re making for some friends tonight, I checked out what was available coleslaw-wise. There was some at the service deli, but it was early and they weren’t quite up and running and I didn’t feel like waiting. However, I was able to find a tub of it in one of the stand alone deli cases where they provide salads, cold cuts, cheeses, and other items one might want.

I don’t have any egg buns, but I do have hot dog buns and I also have some Gulden’s mustard and some cheddar cheese slices. So I used a paring knife to further slice the cheese into bits (impossible to grate a slice of cheese). I nuked the dog, then the bun with the dog in it and the cheese on top (I had already drawn a thick thread of mustard at the bottom of the bun) and, finally, topped it off with a generous helping of coleslaw.

Of course it wasn’t exactly as I remembered (is anything?) but it was close enough … and it was heavenly. I’m going to do it again. Tonight, though, is reserved for Italian Wedding Soup that Linda made for our friends. We’re taking a big pot of it over to their place and serving it with pepperoncinis, stuffed olives, and fresh garlic bread.


Fragile Masculinity is a Disease

As a genuine, card-carrying man I’d like to offer my opinion on the study I’m linking to here. In 1967 I set out to discover what was happening up in San Francisco, specifically in the Haight-Ashbury district of the city. It was the end of the summer. I had a little money and a fair amount of wetness behind the ears.

I spent the next couple of years living on and (barely) off the streets. I slept in parks during the day, on lots of couches, and was at times able to rent a room, sparse as it may have been. I spent a lot of time dealing with strangers, some of whom were possibly dangerous. Although I had some experience fighting (it was hard to grow up as a Jewish boy without running into some anti-semitism) it wasn’t something I relished or had a great deal of experience at.

I had to learn to protect myself and I learned two valuable lessons very quickly. The first lesson was that the best way to win a fight was to never get into one in the first place. The second was somewhat of a corollary and speaks to the substance of this article. I learned that even the appearance of quiet confidence (no matter how twisted your gut was with fear or anxiety) went a long way toward making all but the craziest think twice before going after you physically.

I also learned, as a part of the second lesson, that the men who exhibited the most braggadocio, the ones who (figuratively) pounded their chests or banged their fists on the table, were almost without fail the most insecure and fearful of failure.

In my less than humble opinion, any man who looks up to Donald Trump as a strong man or role model is seriously lacking in self-confidence and self-assurance. Trump (aka #TFG) is demonstrably one of the most insecure and unmanly men I have had the displeasure of encountering in my over 75 years. No man, in my experience, who is secure in his masculinity has to brag about the size of his dick, as if that had anything to do with his worth as a human being.

Fragile masculinity is a disease and is far too widespread, and paternalism and patriarchy are poisons to a truly just and egalitarian society. More men need to speak up, IMO, and this includes defending our LGBTQI+ brothers and sisters.

/<soapbox>


%d bloggers like this: