Author Archives: Rick Ladd

About Rick Ladd

Born in 1947, I am an officially retired pensioner who still has two teenage daughters and a desire to contribute. I remain intensely interested in, and fascinated by, Systems Thinking, Machine Learning, Knowledge Management, Decision Intelligence, and Business in general. I am also conversant in such concepts as innovation and ideation, collaborative tools and strategies, crowdsourcing, and the use of social media to accomplish goals ranging from improving business processes to promoting small retail businesses. Since my "retirement" I have done a little bit of freelancing as an editor/proofreader, as well as some technical writing. I've also done a fair amount of Facebook marketing as well. There's lots more where that came from. Need some help? Perhaps another set of eyes? Contact me. The first one's free! ;0)

I Stand With All People

I’ve been an atheist—meaning I don’t believe there is such a thing as God, i.e. a supreme being—since I was 15. I’m now 72. However, I was raised as a Jew and am bar mitzvah (a man of the commandments.) My ethics are fundamentally based on my Jewish background, especially given my four years of Hebrew school, with liberal sprinklings of Christianity and—later—Buddhism, primarily Zen.

I sometimes refer to myself as a Jewddhist, but my favorite designation—for fun—is Quantum Gestalt Humanist. Quantum for my belief in science and reality; Gestalt for my recognition of the totality, synergy, and systemic nature of the universe, and Humanist for my recognition of the beauty and value of my fellow human beings. Still . . . the ethics I recall learning, especially in Hebrew school, form the basis of these beliefs and feelings.

Even though I haven’t been to schul since I attended a very familiar, yet very uncomfortable, Yom Kippur service about 20 years ago, I will always be a Jew . . . and not just because my parents were Jews, but because the world—especially anti-Semites, but even the ignorant and those easily swayed by propaganda—will always see me as a Jew; nothing more. Besides, I was raised to respect and stand up for the oppressed and, despite the actions of the Israeli government, with whom I greatly disagree, there is no place for any kind of bigotry in my world, and that includes anti-Semitism. There is a world of difference between being anti-Semitic and being anti-Zionist.

I hope the United States is the enlightened society I’ve been led to believe it is, but my confidence level is not very high and my Jewish angstometer is slowly flashing a soft, pastel red. Donald Trump has been stoking the fires of hatred since long before he was “elected” president. Incidents of anti-Semitism, as well as attacks on other minorities, have risen rather dramatically and there appears to be a correlation in the rise of these acts following every one of his rallies.

So . . . I want to make it perfectly clear I will defend Jews, including Hasidic Jews with whom I share absolutely nothing save for a long, somewhat convoluted history. At the same time, my “faith” in the interdependency of the human race and all life compels me to stand with everyone, especially the oppressed and downtrodden.

Unfortunately, age is starting to wreak havoc with me. I lift weights and work at staying fit, but I’m approaching 73 and it’s quite clear things are slowing down. I haven’t the stamina, nor the strength, I once had. I’m pretty sure I don’t have the intellectual capacity I once had, but I must continue to fight in any way I’m capable.

I’m planning on attending this year’s Women’s March next Saturday in downtown Los Angeles, not far from the place of my birth. I’m bringing my 18-year-old and a friend of hers who’s in town from the Bay Area, where she’s attending her first year of college. They both went with me last year. I’m hopeful my 16-year-old, who was problematic last year and had to stay home, will also attend. I wish I had the ability to attend the numerous events taking place locally, some as protest and some for electoral politics, but I still have to earn enough to supplement my retirement income (not as easy as it once was), and I also have to help my troubled high school sophomore get through the next two and a half years.


Lindsey The Pilot Fish

A few days ago, Rolling Stone Magazine published an article entitled “How Lindsey Graham Lost His Way.” In it, Steve Schmidt – former campaign manager for John McCain – offered his assessment of the type of person Senator Graham is. I thought I would memorialize his words on my blog in the hope others will see it digested from the original article, which is located here. What follows are two statements from Schmidt, both of which are acerbic and revealing.

“We see more examples of this in film and literature, but there are instances of principled men and women laying down their careers in service of what is right. Clearly, that person will never be Lindsey Graham. With regard to the cruelty and abuse that was directed at John McCain by Trump, I think Lindsey’s flaccidity in defending him says a lot about his character. Nobody wants to be in a bar fight when they go out on Friday night. But when someone walks up and punches your best friend in the face, you’ve got to do something. Lindsey has demonstrated he’s the guy who runs out the door.”

“People try to analyze Lindsey through the prism of the manifest inconsistencies that exist between things that he used to believe and what he’s doing now,” Schmidt says. “The way to understand him is to look at what’s consistent. And essentially what he is in American politics is what, in the aquatic world, would be a pilot fish: a smaller fish that hovers about a larger predator, like a shark, living off of its detritus. That’s Lindsey. And when he swam around the McCain shark, broadly viewed as a virtuous and good shark, Lindsey took on the patina of virtue. But wherever the apex shark is, you find the Lindsey fish hovering about, and Trump’s the newest shark in the sea. Lindsey has a real draw to power — but he’s found it unattainable on his own merits.”


Leading a Horse to Water

During my last eight years at Rocketdyne (which traversed ownership by The Boeing Company and United Technologies’ Pratt & Whitney Division) I was the Project Manager for an internal tool called AskMe. It’s original intent was to provide a method whereby people could find both experts and expertise, i.e. people with knowledge they needed or papers and other publications that expressed useful knowledge. I later came to realize what we were doing was using a social media tool.

During the entire eight years I worked on that system, it was a constant struggle to get people to use it. People clearly believed that sharing was not in their best interests. Either that, or they were too intimidated by the thought of putting their knowledge to the test of time, as the whole idea was to foster conversations that would be saved and could later be searched when that kind of knowledge was needed again.

At any rate, I tried lots of different ways of promoting the tool. This one, below, came about after I received an email (at home) for a penis enlargement product. I thought to borrow the concept and see if it flew. I have taken the liberty of blurring out my colleague’s face, as I’m not sure where he is and, frankly, I don’t even remember who he is!

BTW – Within a couple of years of my departure, much to the chagrin of many who had worked on it, the tool was gone. I’ll share later why I think this was so.


My "Daughter's" Project

My youngest daughter (I have two) is in the 10th grade in high school. Her history class is studying the French Revolution right now and, during the Thanksgiving break she decided she wanted to build a scale model guillotine for extra credit. She, of course, enlisted my help. It never even occurred to me that I could probably find something online that would suffice and, in fact, I just looked and found a couple of places I could have purchased a kit. Here’s a really simple one. Here’s another.

As it turned out, I think I jumped at the opportunity to re-arrange our ridiculously stuffed garage, so I could get to my woodworking bench and use all the tools I’ve purchased or was given over the years and haven’t used for nearly a decade. Amazingly enough, they all worked despite some rust and corrosion.

I took some pictures as I was going along, and finished it yesterday so she could bring it to school today. This afternoon, I came across the original note her teacher gave her with the “rules”, e.g. it must work, it can’t have a sharp blade, and it isn’t due until Friday . . . grrrrr. Frankly, I became a wee tad obsessed with pulling this off and I’m glad it’s done and gone. I was having a hard time doing anything else, even though there were periods of time in between gluing and when I needed to build up my confidence that I could pull something off. Sometimes it mostly involved my remembering how to do something.

I made the whole thing out of a plank of 3/4″ thick Pine and a hobby piece of 1/4″ Oak. Since most of the table called for 3/4″ square pieces, I had to use an old table saw designed for onsite carpentry. It belonged to a friend of mine and, even though it’s been in my garage for at least 17 or 18 years, it still belongs to him. I just get to use it. Some of the cuts I had to make concerned by fingertips greatly, but they all managed to survive.

At any rate, here are some photos.

Here, the guillotine is mostly finished and assembled. You can see I was making a set of stairs, which I hadn’t planned on doing, but my daughter insisted was necessary.
I made the blade out of plastic, so it’s incapable of cutting, the spacer out of some Oak I had to purchase to get the 1/4″ thickness I needed for a few pieces, and I made the counterweight out of a piece of 2×4 that’s probably been sitting in our garage for the last two decades.
If you compare the stairs to what I started with and have depicted in the first photo, above, you’ll note I ultimately ended with four steps. I think it was because I realized I’d made them too tall to begin with and had to scale them down. The steps and the table/platform are made of Oak and here the whole thing has been treated with Watco Danish oil.
Getting the blade to actually drop was a bit of a challenge because cutting the channels on the two uprights so the blade assembly would be able to slide smoothly up and drop fairly quickly down was challenging, and they weren’t quite as smooth as I would have liked them to be. Nevertheless, I got it done after a bit of trial and error.
We have a little squeeze toy I picked up at a conference a long time ago from Hitachi. It’s a Sumo wrestler and, unfortunately, his head has managed to depart his body, though we keep him around (why, I don’t know). My wife thought he fit rather nicely with the device, so here ’tis. Next photo is from the other side.
That’s All, Folks.

Impeach 'Em All

Bill Barr has proven himself to be nothing more than another of Trump’s uncritical sycophants. Instead of being Attorney General for the United States of America, he’s acted as Donald Trump’s personal attorney. Couple that with his overwhelming partisanship and dishonesty, and you have a perfect case for another impeachment and a criminal indictment. Make it so!


Thread by @djrothkopf: “Just got this via text: “You are a retarded kike. You dont want to win 2020. You enjoy complaining about Trump.” It was accompanied by this […]”

I want . . . no, I need to share this thread. Although I have been an atheist for most of my adult life, I was born a Jew and am bar mitzvah. I feel it is incumbent upon me to stand not only with my fellow Jews, but also with all those who suffer oppression, prejudice, and hatred. I am not a public figure, so I have not been attacked like David, but if this keeps up (and, especially, if Trump is re-elected) we can expect things to get worse, perhaps a lot worse. Don’t think it can’t happen because this is America. As David points out, America is responsible for the slaughter of our native peoples and the enslavement of Africans for centuries. Our hands are hardly clean. We need to be prepared for the worse, all while working to bring about a better world for all.


Thread by @djrothkopf: “Just got this via text: “You are a retarded kike. You dont want to win 2020. You enjoy complaining about Trump.” It w by this and other anti-semitic art. This is Trumpism. The instances of this & worse happening in my life […]”

Source: Thread by @djrothkopf: “Just got this via text: “You are a retarded kike. You dont want to win 2020. You enjoy complaining about Trump.” It was accompanied by this […]”


My Twitter Suspension

Uh oh! Ricky’s been a baaaaad boy. This is what happens when you suggest a man surrounded by secret service protection and the best medical care in the world experience something everyone’s speculating he’s experienced already. The man responsible for hundreds, if not thousands of needless deaths and who knows how much misery. The man who vilifies those he represents and spews a constant stream of vile, hateful lies and deceptions. The person who violates Twitters rules on a daily basis and suffers nothing for his transgressions. And, of course, there’s precious little I can do about it. I will appeal and suggest context matters, but I can’t even be sure what I was responding to. I think I know what it was, though, so I’ll go that route.

Golly gee whiz! I sure hope I didn’t hurt his feefees or anything.


Understanding Grief

I’ve written fairly frequently about death and dying. The concept of non-existence for eternity fascinates me. I suppose that might be a taste weird, but I have a feeling I’m not alone in my wondering. One of my first posts on the subject is about my attitude toward my own death. You can read it here, if you’re so inclined.

I’ve also written about one of my closest friends who was killed in Vietnam, long ago. That post is located here. Another came much later, and is about another friend I had known since before I can remember. I hadn’t spoken with him in a long time and heard about his death from one of his brothers. It can be found here.

I also touched on the subject of grief, somewhat generally, in a post where I ended by lamenting the loss of people I never knew but somehow felt I should have upon hearing from those who were close to them. That post is located here.

All this is merely an intro to a thought I encountered recently on Facebook, and I wanted to share. I think it more than adequately expresses what grief truly is, and how it affects us. What follows is that sentiment. I want to remember it well.


Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give, but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in the hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

~Jamie Anderson


Bribery or Extortion?

A lot of airtime has been spent over whether or not Donald Trump offered a quid pro quo to the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky. Many astute commentators, however, have pointed out that a quid pro quo is not necessary in this case and, in any event, the real criminal activity here is either bribery or extortion. I would argue that it’s actually both. Let’s look at the elements of bribery.

  1. The individual being bribed is a “public official,” which includes rank-and-file federal employees on up to elected officials; [President Zelensky is most definitely a public official, as is Donald Trump.]
  2. A “thing of value” has been offered, whether it’s tangible (such as cash) or intangible (such as the promise of influence or official support); [Lots of cash was offered to Zelinsky. This is the “Quid.”]
  3. There’s an “official act” that may be influenced by a bribe (such as pending legislation that may have a direct impact on the party offering the bribe); [The Ukrainian government was to make an official announcement it was conducting a corruption investigation into the Bidens and the DNC server. This is the “Quo.”]
  4. The public official has the authority or power to commit the official act (for instance, the official is a senator who is voting on a particular piece of legislation); [Two Presidents . . . duh!]
  5. There must be the establishment of intent on the part of the bribing party to get a desired result (the intent to sway the vote by handing over an envelope full of cash); [The “transcript” of Trump’s call and plenty of testimony], and
  6. The prosecution must establish a causal connection between the payment and the act meaning there must be more than just a suspicious coincidence. [Again . . . lots of testimony from highly credible witnesses to the ongoing attempt at extortion].

It’s become quite clear the American public is a bit uncomfortable with the Latin phrase, quid pro quo and, in fact, as previously stated a definitive “this for that” offer isn’t necessary. Given the totality of the evidence so far, it’s quite clear to anyone who is really paying attention—and understands how the law works—Trump was using the threat of Russian violence to extort an announcement of (at the minimum; actual investigation as they real object) an investigation into Burisma and Hunter Biden.

It can also be argued, at the very least, that Trump was also soliciting a bribe from Zelensky before he would release the money Congress had already authorized for military aid to the Ukrainians. Also offered, in exchange for such a bribe, was a meeting at the White House for President Zelensky.

What’s important to realize is there is no reason to dwell on whether or not there was a specific quid from quo (an offer of something in exchange for something else) to find Trump was engaging in extortion and (as previously noted) at the very least solicitation of a bribe.

That Trump is a common criminal and con man, who has managed to grift his way into the highest office in the land, should be quite obvious to all but those who are now deeply enmeshed in his cult of personality. What this says about that swath of the populace supporting him is quite uncomfortable to fathom. Regardless, I’m looking forward to his impeachment and, if we’re fortunate, removal from office of this deeply deranged and hateful man masquerading as an actual President of the United States of America.


A Forgotten Limerick

Faux Snooze

Looking through some of my old writings, many of which have never been published (some because they’ve never been finished,) I came across this limerick. It’s dated December 3, 2013.

Fox newscasts, so chock full of hate
Render truth an impervious gate
They so often dissemble
We can’t help but tremble
With hope they will soon meet their fate


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