Author Archives: Rick Ladd

About Rick Ladd

Born in 1947, I was an officially retired pensioner, but in January of 2015 I returned to work as a contractor at Aerojet Rocketdyne. I remain intensely interested in, and fascinated by, Systems Thinking, Knowledge Management, Decision Intelligence, and Business in general. I am also conversant in such concepts as innovation and ideation, collaborative tools and strategies, crowd sourcing, and the use of social media to accomplish goals ranging from improving business processes to promoting small retail businesses. While "retired" I did a little bit of freelancing as an editor/proofreader, as well as some technical writing. There's lots more where that came from. Need some help? Perhaps another set of eyes? Contact me. The first one's free! ;0)

What Ever Happened to all the Old Racist Whites from those Civil Rights Photos?

I don’t do this very often, but I want to reblog this post. I think it’s important, especially for white people.

AfroSapiophile

What ever happened to those white folks from those old photos?

A few months ago from this day of publishing, I had an interesting discussion with a white guy at work.  The subject of riots came up.  Pretty much, he attempted to place a mass association of “riots” to Black Lives Matter protesters.  Fascinated with his thoughts (which severely lacked critical thinking), I throw him a critical thinking question:

“Do you think that Black Live Matter protesters, command riots?”

I had to repeat the question because he was in total shock, as if he walked from a train wreck, because he didn’t expect to engage in critical thinking.

detroit_race_riots Do you think MLK changed this white man’s bigoted social ideology?  Any of them?

He answered no, which was smart; they do not command riots to occur.  It’s a bit stupid to suggest such.  While he did concede the point that BLM…

View original post 1,164 more words


How Seniors can Cope with Financial Stress

A little while back I received an email from a woman who had come across this blog and, specifically, had perused posts tagged with the word “retirement.” She wrote me that “a combination of my father being downsized in his 60s and my mother falling ill have combined to seriously affect their financial planning for retirement and has exacerbated their health problems. They have inspired me to write a guide for seniors and their families about the most common causes of financial stress, how it affects the person, and provide some coping strategies.” She provided a link to the guide she wrote and asked if I would consider posting it, along with an intro she wrote for it.

I said I would be glad to consider it and she wrote back with the following introduction, which I’m just pasting in, below. I’ve gone over the Guide she wrote and am providing her info here as a service to anyone considering or preparing for retirement, or for anyone who just might be interested in what to expect and, perhaps, how best to plan for one’s eventual exit from the workforce. What follows come from Ms. Jenny Holt.

PS – I will offer one observation. The site her link points to is called “Reverse Mortgage Alert”, which I have to admit raised a red flag for me. I’m not a fan of the concept, at least not as I’ve learned it is frequently practiced. However, after reading some of the info provided there, I do believe what they have to offer is useful information. They are not “pushing” reverse mortgages. Rather, they seem to be intent on providing useful information that anyone seeking to make a major investment move, especially with the home they’re living in, should take into account. If you have info that proves this wrong, I’d really appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.


With more limited access to financial services and often post-retirement, a money problem for seniors can be magnified more than for other age groups. While many have saved or invested in property and pensions, there are common causes of financial issues for the over 55s. These include:

  1. Job Loss/Reduction – 51%

  2. Healthcare – 29.5%

  3. Other – 21.6%

  4. Unpaid Taxes – 12.7%

  5. Divorce/separation – 8.2%

  6. Bankruptcy – 6.7%

  7. Foreclosure notices – 5.7%

The onset of stress can cause a range of emotional and physical problems which may exacerbate any health-related financial issues. These include insomnia, headaches, chest pains, anxiety, and depression.

However, it is more than possible to mitigate these issues. Of course, finding a solution to the financial problem in the first place is preferable. That being said, clearer and more focused decisions can be made with the right approach. Many seniors find stressful situations easier to cope with by combining a better diet with more exercise and meditation.

There is more to learn about this issue and more information can be found in the full Senior Financial Stress Coping Guide.


How I Became A Vampire

Nine years ago I had a nice chunk of flesh removed from my left lower back to remove a Melanoma. They also took a couple of lymph nodes from under my left arm and the left side of my groin. Tests all proved negative and, save for becoming a vampire, I’d put it mostly behind me.

This morning I went for my yearly dermatological exam and had to have another small chunk taken out of the middle of my back and sent for biopsy. So . . . I’ll know in a week or two if I have to undergo another surgery.

Compared to many people, including a number I know, my experience was a walk in the park. No chemo, no radiation, just scoop that shit right out of my body. I’d rather not have to do anything other than eat healthy and exercise, but if I have to go through this again, I’ll take heart from my past experience. Given what others have gone through, I refuse to call myself a cancer survivor. I was never sick and the entire episode took less than three months from discovery to excision.


The Regimental Repp and the POTUS

I seldom wear a tie any longer, but I used to wear them frequently and I have dozens still hanging in my closet. I learned a long time ago that the regimental repp stripe tie originated in England and there is a significant difference between English and American ties of this type.

Very briefly, the history of the designs harks back to when the British realized bright red uniforms were not the best way to engage on a battlefield and they changed to olive drab in order for their soldiers to be a wee tad less conspicuous. In order for the different regiments to distinguish themselves when in dress uniform, they each transferred their regimental colors to their ties.

There is a fundamental difference between ties from England and ties from America. In England, the stripe goes from the left shoulder, over the heart, and toward the right hip. In America they’re the exact opposite. There is a difference in meaning with the use of color as well, in that here in the U.S. the colors don’t mean anything. In England the colors signify either an element of the armed forces or a boarding/prep school.

Over the years I’ve been struck by the fact that our Presidents – at least the last three of them – most frequently wear English ties. This is also true of our PEEOTUS as well. Notably, the two Presidents prior to these four seldom wore regimental repp ties from England. I put the attached graphic together after looking through hundreds of photos of all six of them to illustrate this “discrepancy.”

Last Six Presidents

The Last Six (including the illegitimate one) Presidents

I have no idea why the change and I also have no idea why this is so. Perhaps American manufacturers are now making ties with the stripes going from the left shoulder, but I’ve seen nothing to convince me that’s the case.

I know this is trivial, but it’s been floating in the back of my mind for some time. I’ve found it a taste ironic these men go to great pains to wear American flag pins on their lapels, and I often wonder why they’re wearing ties the symbolism of which evokes merry old England. Where’s their patriotism?

More about these ties at http://bit.ly/2iuQ6nu


Apparently, God Loves California

Currently, the sun is shining brightly through my home office window, as we’re enjoying a short respite from the deluge we’ve been experiencing. Here in SoCal there hasn’t been quite as much moisture, but the central and northern portions of the state are getting hammered. The table below shows just how dramatically our fortunes have improved since a year ago and, particularly, in just the past week. There’s more rain in the forecast and we’ve still over two months to go in our traditional rainy season.

US Drought Monitor Table of Data

Drought Conditions in California Improve Dramatically

People like Pat Robertson, and others of his “deep” religious conviction are quick to claim “The Lord” is punishing us when bad things happen. Perhaps they should consider recognizing, if that is the case, then we must conclude God is now rewarding California for rejecting Marmalade Mussolini last November. Surely The Lord is even-handed in both punishing and rewarding us for our aberrant, as well as our compliant, behavior.

To appreciate just how much our conditions have changed, here’s a screenshot of the State’s major reservoirs. Note how many are near or above their historical average. This doesn’t translate directly into replenishment of our depleted water table but, with an increased snowpack and more precipitation on the way, we’re at least moving a long way toward normal conditions. I expect an awful lot of people are going to continue their water conservation efforts regardless of this reversal in our fortunes. Californians are recognizing how precious fresh water is, and how easily it can be hard to come by if we continue using it unwisely.

Reservoir Condition Changes

Less Than a Month Ago These Reservoirs Were All Below Their Historical Average

 


Closet Christians

This is the third blog post I ever wrote, published at The Cranky Curmudgeon on February 25, 2006. It reads pretty much like I could have written it today which, when you think about it, is pretty disappointing.


“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6
(New International Version)

I don’t believe in God. I really don’t care if others agree with me. I only care that they respect the relationship I have with the Universe, whether it’s through a God, a group of Gods, or woven between the interstices of the space-time continuum contemplated by quantum physics. I believe that having convictions, and being secure in those convictions, means not needing to be validated by the acceptance of others.

John Lennon - Imagine

Somewhere in the (hopefully) not-too-distant future

I have a little difficulty calling myself an Atheist, only because I can’t prove the non-existence, anymore than anyone can prove the existence, of God. However, I don’t like referring to myself as an Agnostic, mostly because it sounds rather smarmy to me; like I’m not sure of what I believe. Mostly, I like to say I’m a Quantum Gestalt Humanist. You figure out what it means. I need to get to my rant.

How many times during the day, while driving to and from work, grocery shopping, dropping the kid(s) off at daycare or school, etc. do you see either those little fish (some plain; some with the greek letters for ichthus, or fish) or a window decal depicting a little girl or boy, or both, supplicating themselves in the shadow of a cross? What are these people trying to say? Is it meant to be some sort of secret code, so Christians can recognize each other across the lanes?

If you listen to some Christians whine and complain about how they’re persecuted, you’d have to believe this is their secret, vehicular handshake. These people actually think they’re persecuted. WTF? The United States of America is what, something like 90% Christian? They permeate every aspect of society and are represented overwhelmingly in all levels of our government. Christmas, the holiday many of them have taken to complaining is being phased out, effectively lasts for well over 10% of the year, the admonition to wait until after Thanksgiving before decorating notwithstanding.

I’ll tell you what I think it is. I think it’s the very thing Jesus was saying one shouldn’t do in the above quote found in Matthew. I think Jesus knew people whose faith was steadfast had no need to brandish it publicly, as though it were a badge of courage or strength. Indeed, I think those people who feel the necessity of advertising their religion are the least faithful of all.

I’m not exactly a religious scholar, but I think it was Paul of Tarsus who made proselytizing into a competitive sport. I don’t think Jesus would have approved. After all, he was Jewish and Judaism teaches that the most important thing one can do is live a “good” life, that is an ethical, righteous life. It is more important than liturgy or dogma and, therefore, it is one’s deeds, not one’s words by which we are judged. As a Jew, Jesus would not have found it necessary to convert people, or to preach to them. He was a teacher, not a preacher.

I think Paul felt guilty because he had persecuted and killed so many early Christians and, much like Charles Colson or numerous serial killers who, after lives of despicable and heinous acts, find and accept Jesus as their personal savior, he determined to make amends for the damage he had done. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing he repented; only that – like so many true believers – he swung that pendulum just as far in the other direction from where it had been and, therefore, avoided any kind of moderation in his pursuits.

In his book “The Wisdom of Insecurity”, Alan Watts discusses the difference between faith and belief. He posits that belief is rigid and unyielding, but faith is open and accepting. People who feel the need to wave their so-called religious convictions in our faces are believers. Faith is beyond their comprehension, because having faith requires an openness to things as they are, not as we wish them to be. These people, these cross-wavers – at least the worst of them – are certain they “know” exactly what truth is, and they are not shy in telling us where our faith leads if it isn’t in line with theirs.

I really don’t care what religion you are. I expect the same from you. Your religion, your belief, your faith are none of my damn business. However, the moment you start pushing your brand of soap as the only way to be clean, as the only way to live one’s life, as the only way to what you believe is the ultimate goal of our existence on this planet, then you’ve made your religion MY business. You open yourself up for criticism and you deserve every bit of scorn and anger dumped on your judgmental hide.


SNL Cold Open From 12/17/16

Saturday Night Live has been doing some wonderful dissing of Donald Trump and his entire litany of assholishness, and last night was no exception. This bit highlights the vapidity of Kellyanne Conway, as well as the intellectual and moral unscrupulousness of Trump and his entire entourage. I share it as a useful historical document.

Also joining in this cold open is John Goodman, who portrays Rex Tillerson, the Exxon CEO Trump has tapped as his new Secretary of State. Tillerson has a very close relationship with Vladimir Putin, having been awarded Russia’s highest honor for a non-citizen, the Medal of friendship, and his appointment as SoS portends a very disturbing future for U.S., Russian relationships, as well as our response to climate change.

In the video, Putin gifts Trump with an Elf on the Shelf, putting it on the mantel, where he pushes a button which then offers an electronic winding up sound, as if a piece of equipment was spinning up and ready to perform. He then tells Alec Baldwin’s Trump to keep it close to his wifi router <Hint, hint. Wink,  wink>.

As all of these cold opens have been, it’s funny, topical, and (hopefully) it really pisses off Teh Donald™ and his cadres of deplorables. Enjoy!


Empathy: The Core of Complex Decisions

Having worked with Dr. Pratt and her company, Quantellia, I have long been convinced their approach to decision making is one of, if not THE, best methodologies I’ve encountered. After what I consider to be one of the most disastrous general elections in my lifetime, it would seem we need help in navigating the complexities of the world and our place in it. Lorien’s work can, I believe, help us understand the consequences of our decisions, before we make them. I urge you to watch this video and become more conversant in the issues Dr. Pratt raises. What follows below the video are some of the “liner notes” that go with her TEDxLivermore talk.

Making decisions based on invisible inputs is like building a skyscraper without a blueprint. Yet that is the norm, even for very complex problems. Contrary to how most of us think about making a decision as being the act of choosing, a decision is the last piece of a long, almost completely invisible, process. The good news: it is possible to make the invisible part of decisions visible.

In working with the Community Justice Advisor Program in Liberia, Africa, Lorien and colleagues helped The Carter Center (founded by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter) use decision models to increase positive outcomes in the domain of civil justice, by identifying the most effective levers for change.

Using deep learning artificial intelligence, the interconnections between inputs become visible, and unintended consequences can be identified before implementation. Vicious cycles can be reversed, and virtuous cycles of improvement can be built in place and nurtured through intelligent decision metrics.

As co-founder of Quantellia, Dr. Lorien Pratt co-created the decision intelligence methodology and the company’s award-winning World Modeler™ software. She consults and speaks worldwide, and is known for her neural network research and the book Learning to Learn. A former college professor, Pratt is widely known as the former global director of telecommunications research for Stratecast, a division of Frost & Sullivan. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Rutgers University, Pratt holds three degrees in computer science. She received the CAREER award from the National Science Foundation, an innovation award from Microsoft, and is author of dozens of technical papers and articles.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx


Eighth Decade, Here I Come!

During my activity against the War in Vietnam, as well as other Peace & Justice movement activities I was involved in, I really never thought I would see my thirties. I know now I was a dreamer and a bit too wrapped up in my view of what was happening in the country, but I thought we were ripe for a revolution and I thought I would be on the front lines. That was nearly fifty years ago and time has given me a new perspective on life, the universe, and everything (H/T to Douglas Adams R.I.P.).

Today, however, marks the mid-point in my seventieth journey around our home star, Sol. It’s my half-birthday! I know . . . aren’t I a little too old to be celebrating half birthdays? I suppose, but this day has some other significance for me. Today marks the thirty-seventh year since a man surprised me on my doorstep in Venice, California, where I was living with my soon-to-be wife. He held me at gunpoint*, threatening to blow my “fucking brains out.” I managed to escape when he went to get something with which to tie my hands behind my back, something I had no intention of allowing him to do. I was prepared to attempt attacking him as he tried, but I didn’t have to. I had been preparing by slowly getting my right foot behind the bedroom door. I was lying spread-eagled on the floor, and each time he looked away I inched my foot closer and closer to the position I wanted.

Fortunately, I was able to get away from him by slamming the bedroom door (well, almost. The landlord had installed new carpeting and neglected to plane the bottom of the door, so it was almost impossible to shut it without a lot of force) in his face, levitating myself from the floor (lots of adrenaline involved at this point), grabbing my Ithaca Riot Pump Shotgun from the closet where I had carefully hidden it and practiced this very thing, and suggested he leave before I killed him. The remainder of the story is a bit convoluted and involved numerous calls to three different police departments before the first one I called finally realized they were, indeed, the proper jurisdiction for where I lived; about 200 feet east of Carroll Canal, on Ocean Avenue. It was years before I was able to finally throw off the hyper-vigilance this episode generated in me.

Also, this coming April I will be ten years older than my father was when he shed his mortal coil. This past September marked thirty-two years since he died. If you’ve read some of my other posts, his death weighed on heavily on me for quite some time. I was always considered the spitting image of him and my mother used to say “You’re just like your father” so often I was convinced fifty-nine was the limit for me as well. I think it wasn’t until I passed the age where he had had his second heart attack, and I had nothing more than moderate hypertension to deal with, I finally convinced myself I would likely live longer than he had.

So, here I am on the downside of my seventieth year on the planet. I actually used Microsoft Project to determine exactly when I would begin the second half of the year, and it was midnight today. Now, in celebration of having made it this far, and because it’s “the season,” I’m sharing two pictures I just found of a couple of my earliest Christmases. Next year is going to be interesting, no doubt. Perhaps it’s been long enough, and I can fully retell the story of this episode some time soon. This was a start.

rickysanta

Not So Happy. Perhaps Wondering Why I’m Sitting on Santa’s Lap When I’m Jewish!

rickysanta2

Much Happier. I Must Have Decided I Was An Atheist By Now & It Didn’t Matter.

 


 

* The link “He held me at gunpoint,” above, is to the decision in a re-trial the defendant won on one count of murder he was found guilty of. I was required to appear as a witness and, since he had become a jailhouse lawyer in the interim, he represented himself, meaning he was the one who questioned me when I gave my testimony. Two things – He was partially victorious on several other charges and the case was remanded to the trial court for reconsideration. As far as I know, he’s still in prison. Second, although the appellate court states he took three guns from me, he only took one; a Ruger Blackhawk .357 Magnum, with which he shot and killed two people. I carried a fair amount of guilt around for quite some time before I could finally convince myself those deaths were not at least partially on me.


The Elements of Dialectical Materialism

Yin Yang Symbol

My Favorite Representation of What The Dialectic Represents

I am not an academic. Neither am I a philosopher or a journalist. Nevertheless, I do write on occasion and make an effort to share my thoughts in a somewhat coherent manner. I have to admit it’s gotten a little bit more difficult over the last few years, what with Twitter, Facebook, and other social media apps, platforms, and sites, slowly turning me into a scattershot reader of content.

My goal for the foreseeable future is to reverse that trend somewhat and spend more time writing and sharing my thoughts, perhaps some of my dreams, and a few (or more) of my memories. I’ll be 70 years old next June and, in mid-April of next year, will have outlived my father by a decade. Although relatively healthy, I do have my share of ailments that seem to come to everyone eventually: Mild Hypertension; Type II Diabetes (though, thanks to Fitbit and a little willpower made easy by the data retrieved from my Aria scale and Charge HR (link is to their latest version), I’ve lost a little over 30 pounds in a little over a year — and it’s had its salutary effect on my blood sugar); surgery for a Melanoma; Dupuytren’s Contracture; trigger finger; and a bunch of weird-ass nerve issues that are making many reaching movements with my hands problematic. In other words, I’m doing pretty good for an old guy.

I’m hoping to live long enough to share a little of the adult life of my children, who are currently 15 and 13, but there’s no way to know if that will happen. A lot of folks around my age have been dying off lately, and I can feel the inexorable decline of my physical strength, stamina, and overall health accelerating as I age. It’s a strange trip, I must say. Sometimes I worry a bit that I’m paying too much attention to the end, but I have always been one who has enjoyed the ride and I’m not really too concerned with its conclusion. I just happen to be fascinated by the concept of nothingness, which I contend is nigh onto impossible for we humans to comprehend. I also believe it is a big part of what has long attracted people to religion; they need to believe there’s some sort of consciousness after they die. I don’t believe that’s possible.

As someone who has embraced (if not always lived up to the practices inherent in doing so) Systems Thinking, I long ago came to the conclusion that the philosophy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Dialectical Materialism, is the framework from which systems thinkers can best view the development of the natural world which, of course, includes human beings and our social constructs.

In that regard, I thought I would share this compilation of the elements of the philosophy, as culled from the works of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, one of the world’s clearest explicators of the work of Marx. Here are the 16 elements I’ve been able to find. I once had a slightly shorter version, which I had printed out and displayed at my desk. Several years before I retired, someone had the audacity to take it down from the wall, rip it in half, and leave it on my seat. I’ve never quite understood the cowardice it takes to do something like that but, no matter, the words — and the concepts they represent — can’t be erased quite that easily. Here’s the list:

Summary of Dialectics

Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

  1. The objectivity of consideration (not examples, not divergences, but the Thing-in-itself).
  2. The entire totality of the manifold relations of this thing to others.
  3. The development of this thing, (phenomenon, respectively), its own movement, its own life.
  4. The internally contradictory tendencies (and sides) in this thing.
  5. The thing (phenomenon, etc.) as the sum  and unity of opposites.
  6. The struggle, respectively unfolding, of these opposites, contradictory strivings, etc.
  7. The union of analysis and synthesis — the breakdown of the separate parts and the totality, the summation of these parts.
  8. The relations of each thing (phenomenon, etc.) are not only manifold, but general, universal. Each thing (phenomenon, process, etc.) is connected with every other.
  9. Not only the unity of opposites, but the transitions of every determination, quality, feature, side, property into every other [into its opposite?].
  10. The endless process of the discovery of new sides, relations, etc.
  11. The endless process of the deepening of man’s knowledge of the thing, of phenomena, processes, etc., from appearance to essence and from less profound to more profound essence.
  12. From coexistence to causality and from one form of connection and reciprocal dependence to another, deeper, more general form.
  13. The repetition at a higher stage of certain features, properties, etc., of the lower and
  14. The apparent return to the old (negation of the negation).
  15. The struggle of content with form and conversely. The throwing off of the form, the transformation of the content.
  16. The transition of quantity into quality and vice versa.

As I said, I am hardly a philosopher; merely a person who has found Materialism, whether it be Dialectical or Historical, to be the best method available to understand history and the development of society without — and this is important — the intervention of the supernatural. I try to apply this type of thinking to everything I ponder, but I do fall short at times. I, like most of us, am a work-in-progress. More to come.



%d bloggers like this: