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Category Archives: Personal

It’s All Over, Humans!

Despite this foosball playing robot’s ability, it will be a long time (if ever) before robots or artificial intelligence actually displace us. More likely, they will augment our capabilities and free us up from most of the drudgery we’ve been dealing with for millennia. I find it easy to imagine a day when humans will evolve into cyborgs; part flesh, part machine. In some ways it’s already happening with prosthetics and it’s almost certainly going to accelerate with DNA testing and in utero surgery.

Stay intelligent, my friends. 

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What’s In A Name Anyway?

Russia-US Flags

Detente . . . at least with nomenclature.

In a Facebook post, I apologized to the world for not having a more exotic name. After all, Rick Ladd is pretty much – other than the oblique reference to an acting family – anything other than exotic. After a few comments, I decided to flesh out my position, which follows:

My father’s given name was Isadore Edward Wladofsky. My mother’s maiden name was Annette Moldofsky. When they married, she refused to change from Moldofsky (which she hated) to Wladofsky, so they kept the lad, added another d, and – voila! – their last names became Ladd. I was not given a middle name, so the most exotic I could be is Richard Ladd.

However, I do have a Hebrew name, which is Ezra ben Yisrael. I also once considered changing my name back to what my father’s original name had been, plus adding a little Russian embellishment, as well as picking a substitute for Richard, as there’s no equivalent I could find in Russian. So . . . had I done it, my name would now be Petya Isadorovich Wladofsky, which translates to Peter, son of Isadore Wladofsky, but you can call me Petushka.


Trump’s Phoenix Rally

I only watched a portion of (P)resident Trump’s speech in Phoenix last night. I can’t stand listening to the man. I did, however, see excerpts as they were shown during Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC program, “The Last Word”, and what I heard was disheartening, to say the least.

I know I can read it if I want to, but I don’t really want to. I saw enough of his lying, self-aggrandizing bullshit to last me a lifetime. Today I came across this little snippet of Don Lemon of CNN, recorded last night as he opined on what he had just heard. It’s worth a listen.

We truly are going down the rabbit hole with this insanely unqualified train wreck of human being actually “leading” the Executive branch of our government. While I’m beginning to gain some modicum of confidence most everyone is learning how to ignore him, I’m not entirely satisfied we’ll come out of this safely . . . or ever be whole again.


Racism & Bigotry Aren’t Quite the Same

I wrote the following four paragraphs a couple of days ago. Today (8/19/17) I ran them through the Hemingway app, which informed me the text’s readability score was 11th grade. It also pointed out numerous issues to address and suggested I aim for a readability score of 9th grade. I then worked to remove all the issues (well, as many as I thought made sense to me) and was able to bring the score down to 7th grade . . . in Hemingway’s algorithms. It still says three of the 14 sentences are hard to read. I’m adding the second version for readers to judge which they find more readable. Hemingway seems a little harsh. I suppose, if I were writing for the general public, it might make sense to shoot for 9th grade readability, but I’m not convinced it’s what I want to do. What do you think?


Readability score = 11th grade

In May of 1973 I traveled to Cuba with the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. I spent two months, mostly just outside Havana, working and learning as a guest of the Cuban government.

Prior to our departure, we were required to undergo some pretty extensive training in history, cultural chauvinism, and the roots of racism and bigotry. Some of these classes were led by members of both the Brown Berets and the Black Panthers.

One thing I remember well from this training was the difference between racism, which we were taught is systemic and insidious, and bigotry, which is personal and obvious. I have occasionally posted about these differences, but I’m coming to the conclusion that current usage has blurred the distinction between the two. I have also decided maybe I should stop bucking the trend, as I find myself using them somewhat interchangeably as well.

It’s a bit disturbing, as it is ingrained in me that racism is embedded in our laws, institutions, and normative cultural behavior, while bigotry is evidenced by individual prejudices and hatred or fear of the other. Nevertheless, just about everyone I read uses racism for what I would call bigotry. I think I’ve decided to give up worrying about the distinction, though I find it important. Carry on!


Readability score = 7th grade

In May of 1973 I traveled to Cuba with the 6th contingent of the Venceremos Brigade. I spent two months outside Havana, working and learning as a guest of the Cuban government.

Before our departure, we received training in history, cultural chauvinism, and the roots of racism and bigotry. Leading some of these classes were members of both the Brown Berets and the Black Panthers.

They taught us racism is systemic and insidious, while bigotry is personal and obvious. I have posted about these differences, but am concluding current usage blurs the distinction between the two. I have also decided I should stop bucking the trend, as I find I use them as well.

It’s a bit disturbing. I know racism infuses our laws, institutions, and normative cultural behavior. Bigotry involves individual prejudices and hatred or fear of the other. Even so, most everyone I read uses racism for what I would call bigotry. I’ve decided to give up worrying about the distinction, though I find it important. Carry on!


Romeo & Juliet: My Very Own Personal Experience

The balcony scene

Romeo courts Juliet prior to their mutual display of stupidity.

I was going through some of my old files and came across this paper I wrote nearly sixteen and a half years ago. I was in a program at California Lutheran University called ADEP (Adult Degree Evening Program) where I was attempting to earn a Bachelor’s degree in . . . I don’t remember, but it was something like “Information Technology”. Unfortunately for me, the lower division classes were designed for eighteen to twenty year olds, and I was nearly 54 years old at the time. Much of it was boring and I was a bit miffed at having to slog my way through material, much of which I was quite familiar with.

At any rate, one of my classes was a performing arts class, which I really did enjoy, especially because it gave me the opportunity to spend some time on stage. Being somewhat of a ham, it was great fun. This review of Romeo & Juliet, which was the first (and, I believe, only) Shakespearean play I’ve attended, is the result of an assignment. Here, then, is that review in all its stupendously innocent glory.


 

Having never seen a performance of this play, and neither having previously read it, I was uncertain as to how I would pick a favorite character amongst the many. This was made even more difficult by my rusty Elizabethan English. Nevertheless, at curtain time (figuratively speaking, for there was no curtain) I sat attentively and pricked that portion of my brain devoted to my ears, straining to find meaning and direction in the activity taking place before me.

Romeo and Juliet were too easy. Besides, the actor doing Romeo played him with a type of boyishness which bordered on, shall we say, dweebiness . . . or perhaps a certain goofiness reminiscent of Jim Carrey as either dumb or dumber (I forget which role he played). Juliet was, of course, sweet and petite, but singularly uninteresting from my point of view.

Mercutio, however, was a character I liked immediately, even though most of the time I couldn’t be entirely certain I understood what he was saying. I do believe early on I caught a glimpse of at least one of his objectives. He spoke of “fine foot, straight leg and quivering thigh, and [especially, I assumed] the demesnes that there adjacent lie”[1]. Certainly, this is what I was most interested in when I was a young, impetuous man. This, then, I felt was one of Mercutio’s primary objectives; to get laid.

This isn’t to say he had no other objectives. Certainly, he wished to demonstrate his loyalty to Romeo and the Montague household, but my overwhelming feeling during the play was that, above all else, Mercutio wished to tear off a piece, if you will. All other objectives were subordinated to this overarching quest.

I can think of at least two major obstacles which stood in his way. The first was Romeo; this was, after all, his show. His obsession with Juliet dominated the play (how strange), and greatly cut into Mercutio’s stage time. The other obstacle, as I saw it, was Tybalt who (rather pointedly) ended Mercutio’s quest to achieve any of his objectives.

Mercutio’s tactic then was one of challenge and bravado. Perhaps, if Romeo hadn’t been such an insufferable dolt, Tybalt would not have gotten in the cheap shot which ended Mercutio’s presence in the play, rendering his tactic moot. Who’s to say? This has been happening for many hundreds of years now, and the result is always the same is it not?

Except for the fact that the seating was not designed for the comfort of a man temporarily crippled with a palsied foot, I enjoyed the play immensely. As I said, I had never seen this nor, in fact, any Shakespeare and it was quite enjoyable.

My two favorite characters where Mercutio and the Nurse. I thought the Nurse was played brilliantly, and I watched her closely. Her facial expressions and body language were superb. I also thought Mercutio played well. I wish that I had been a little closer so I could have seen both their faces more clearly.

As I, er, intimated above, I thought the actor who played Romeo made him out to be rather foolish. Since I have never seen this play performed by others, I don’t know how he has been interpreted previously. The impetuousness with which both Romeo and Juliet pursue their relationship and, ultimately, end it is reminiscent of today’s teenagers and reminded me of teen love affairs and the high rate of teen suicide. Perhaps, then, Romeo was played as he should have been. A bumbling numbskull marginally responsible for the death of one of his best friends, not to mention himself and his putative love. Call me callous, but I found him singularly unsympathetic. I might have killed him myself, if Will hadn’t saved me the trouble.

Thanks for the tickets. I could go on. I find flowery language grows on me and, given time, could no doubt tell you of my experience in rhyme, perhaps even in heroic couplet. However, this is ADEP and I’m injured, a mere shadow of my former self. I end, anon.


[1] I looked this up on the Internet. Hey! Like I said, my Elizabethan English is rather rusty, so I thought I’d check and see if the lines jibed with what his actions said to me. Indeed.


Another Father’s Day In The Books

I spend a lot of time on Facebook and, once in awhile, I write posts that are a bit longer than a paragraph or two. I seldom cross post here, but it’s a habit I’d like to get into. This was originally posted Sunday morning, June 18, 2017 and I’m memorializing it the following day. Better late than never, eh?


 

My father died nearly 33 years ago; my maternal grandfather passed earlier that same year. I never knew my paternal grandfather. For nearly two decades, Father’s Day meant precious little to me.

Nearly 15 years ago, despite my having concluded for over a decade fatherhood would not be something I would ever experience, 14.5 month-old Aimee Lian (Cen Fuxing) was placed in my willing arms, and I became an adoptive father. I repeated the exercise when 33 month-old Alyssa Bai Yuan (Guang Bai Yuan) joined our family a few months after my 59th birthday.

At times I still marvel at the reality I am a father, and have been one for quite some time now. Today, I give thanks for the tremendous responsibility this has placed on me, which I have happily embraced and thoroughly enjoy. I have no idea how I’m doing or, more precisely, how I’ve done so far. Both my girls are now teenagers, who are notoriously difficult to read beyond the rolled eyeballs, the “I know”s, and the wholesale dismissal of virtually anything I say or do.

Yet, I take comfort in knowing I have done all I am capable of. Being a father at my age has been the most challenging and, definitely, the most satisfying thing I have done in my life. Today I am grateful for my wife’s desire to have a family and for our two girls, all three of whom have caused me to become the man, the father, I am. That thought, on this day, gives me the chills and fills me with gratitude and humility.

Happy Father’s Day . . . Today and every day, to all the men who struggle to be the fathers they believe their families deserve.


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

 


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