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Category Archives: Random Thoughts

I Hate Time Cliches, But They Fit!

I have written previously about my feelings regarding the passage of time. In case you don’t feel like going back and reading, here’s the relevant portion:

Lest you think I’m being melancholy, I’m not . . . though I will admit to occasionally feeling as though time has slipped by far too fast. However, I have a trick I use to deal with that and I’ve been doing it so long I really don’t think about it much any more.

I’m of the opinion the feeling that time has slipped by far too fast is a low-level form of self-pity. That trick I mentioned is something I used to do many years ago when I sensed I was feeling sorry for myself. I would pick a day, perhaps six months or a year ago, and try to recreate all the things I had done or experienced in the intervening time. I never made it to “today” because I always got bored from “reliving” all those things I had already done. Nowadays, I don’t even have to go through the exercise. I only need to remind myself of its efficacy.

I bring this up to explain my feelings (somewhat) when I worked on — and now look at — this collage I made of pictures of me and Aimee, my oldest. I’ve been teaching myself Photoshop and one of the most valuable skills one can master, IMO, is that of layering; and not just using layers, but being able to manipulate pixels through selecting and masking very selectively. While there are plenty of technical issues one must master in order to be able to successfully create multi-layer pictures (in a timely manner), there is most definitely an art to doing it well.

So . . . I’ve been practicing with creating memes and sarcastic photos of the Groper-in-Chief, as well as touching up some personal photos and creating new ones from old ones. Here’s the picture I put together that’s now causing me some consternation:

Aimee and Daddy

Aimee and Daddy

I was most interested in the speed with which I could select and create layer masks for each one of these photos (there are 10 separate pics, plus one barely visible as background). Resizing, aligning them properly, and putting them in the right order is not terribly taxing or time consuming, but selecting and masking requires some patience. This is especially true when you have essential tremors and your hands shake, at times almost uncontrollably. I also experience occasional “jerks”, where my hand just jumps for no specific reason, at least none I can discern.

Now that I finished and posted it — actually, yesterday on Facebook — I’m taking some time to enjoy the photos. They are, after all, some of my favorite pictures of the two of us. It’s important to keep in mind, I was childless until my 56th year; long enough to be pretty convinced I would never be a parent. I was resigned to this fact and content with my situation. Little did I realize I would have a 14-month-old, 25 lb. bundle thrust into my arms halfway around the world in the People’s Republic of China, shortly after my 55th birthday. The story behind how my wife and I decided this would be a good thing to do is a long one, and I have no intention of going into it here.

I have now been a father for 15 years. In addition to adopting Aimee, we returned to the PRC to adopt our younger daughter, Alyssa, when I was 59. I’ll do a collage of me and Alyssa at some other time. I don’t know if I have enough pictures of the two of us; second child syndrome and all like that, but I’ll put together what I’ve got.

What’s bothering me now about this picture is, every time I look at it I’m reminded that she is now a full-blown teenager and, as such, I represent everything wrong, lame, and stupid about the world to her. I know our relationship will never be the same. Actually, I knew it the day we adopted Alyssa, who was a real handful — still is, and that’s not hyperbole in any way. This, however, is somewhat different. I’ve watched enough of my friends’ and family’s children grow up and go through this. It’s not like I’m surprised or taken aback by it. It’s just that experience tells me she may not appreciate me again for another five years or more.

I’m 70 years old and already over a decade older than my father was when he died. I’m healthy, take pretty good care of myself, and expect I’ve got a while to go. However, even if I live into my eighties, we won’t have a great deal of time together. I only got a couple of years to enjoy the relationship my father and I started building in my mid-thirties. I still miss him and occasionally lament not having had much time with him after we worked out our differences. I want more time with Aimee when we can once again relate to each other without her being embarrassed or confused.

I do want that relationship with her, though only the passage of the thing I’m not sure I have a lot of is going to allow it to happen. I guess I have no choice but to wait. Do I have to be patient too?

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The Original Social Media

Do you remember hand turn signals? The cars my parents owned when I was a child didn’t have turn signals, which had been introduced by Buick in 1939, eight years before I was born, but didn’t really make it onto most vehicles until much later. Also, my family was not wealthy, and their cars were usually at least 10 years old. I’m not certain, but I don’t think electric, flashing turn signals were required until sometime in the late fifties or early sixties.

Nowadays, all vehicles are required to have turn signals, but you’d be hard-pressed to know it based on how often people don’t use them. Let me say here that I’m well aware there are lots of circumstances when a turn signal is functionally unnecessary, but in the last few years I’ve noticed lots of people just don’t use them at all, regardless of the situation.

I like to think of these simple devices as one of our earlier forms of social media. A method for people inside their vehicles to (you’d think) effortlessly announce their intentions. “Hey! Check it out. I’m slowing down for no apparent reason, so I’m letting you know I plan on turning off this road very soon.”

Or “I see you sitting there at the bottom of that tee intersection, expecting me to continue along the road, so I’m letting you know I’m actually going to turn onto the street you’re on and you can pull out now instead of waiting for me to pass.”

This type of signalling is, it seems to me, a simple, easy-to-do form of showing respect for others on the road — kinda like a “golden rule.” Unfortunately, as our society seems to be slipping deeper and deeper into the abyss of unprincipled narcissism, led by our erstwhile POTUS, the sociopathy inherent in ignoring simple, respectful customs is increasing and serving to further coarsen our driving (and all other, it would seem) discourse.

I’ve been noticing this for over a decade, and I’m a bit ashamed to say it didn’t fully occur to me how representative such a seemingly small thing could be of the direction our nation was heading in. I had a blog for a while I called “The Cranky Curmudgeon” and I wrote mostly about things that were pissing me off, like people who leave their shopping carts adjacent to, or in the middle of parking spaces, rather than taking a moment to return them to a collection area; or those who decided they really didn’t want that frozen meal they put in their cart, so decided to just leave it on an unrefrigerated shelf in some random place of the market; or the driver going much slower than you changing into your lane when there’s nobody behind you.

I noticed these things and used my blog to complain about them. Mostly it was personally cathartic, but I don’t believe any of my writing has captured much attention. Nevertheless, I enjoyed doing it and it really was a good method for getting things off my chest. I just wish I had made the conceptual leap from the everyday degradation of common decency, to the complete lack of responsibility toward the “general welfare” so evident in our national political leadership, especially the Republican Party and conservatism in general. I’m not sure it would have changed anything for me, but it does feel — in retrospect — like I missed some rather startling clues.

At any rate, since I drive my youngest daughter to school, as well as pick her up, every day of the week, I see this behavior (or lack of what I consider to be appropriate and legal – activity) constantly. As I noted earlier, clearly there are time when using one’s turn signals is not really necessary, but I think getting out of the habit ends up with lots of people just neglecting to ever use them. It’s an epidemic of disrespect for one’s fellow drivers. So, please, get in the habit of using those damn turn signals. They’re a social signal as well . . . and wouldn’t it be nice if we could all respect each other a bit more than is currently done?


Pledge Is For Furniture. Right?

Should I feel guilty they’re reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, I can hear it, yet I remain seated in my vehicle, staring at my phone?

Hint: I don’t think so.


Thought On Being Human

Pro tip — You don’t have to know you’re making a racial slur for it to be offensive. If you didn’t intend it to be offensive, it just means you’re a fool, but not necessarily a bigot. Also, negligent is often worse than intentional.


Lousy Vehicles These Days

I can’t believe how the quality of vehicles has deteriorated over the years. It seems like the more expensive the ride, the more likely its turn signals don’t work. Puzzling.


A man and his slog

Almost everyday I have to drive a little over four miles — each way — to take my daughter to school, and then to pick her up. In order to get a decent parking space, I have to make sure I get there early in the afternoon, when I’m picking her up.

Rick Picking up Alyssa

Me . . . Waiting Patiently.

Generally, that means I’ve got at least 15 minutes to sit here in the parking lot and wait. So I’m thinking this might be a good time to post a few blog entries. I mean, what have I got to lose?

The parking situation here sucks, as the school was designed when most students walked or took the bus. That’s no longer the case and the parking lot is ill-equipped to handle the traffic. Simple staggering of final class ends would go a long way, IMO, towards alleviating the traffic, which would have the salutary effects of lowering overall parental anxiety, as well as saving gas.

When it’s really hot (which is often) everyone leaves their vehicle running so the air conditioning can keep them cool.

I’m sure something could be done. Unfortunately, as in any large, somewhat conservative organization, change is difficult. I’ll have to keep pushing. It’s like digital transformation.


I Didn’t Quit; I Just Stopped

I smoked my first cigarette when I was five years old. That’s right. Five. I didn’t inhale; didn’t even know that was an option back then. My best friend, Jim, had “liberated” a cigarette from his father. It was either a Camel or a Lucky Strike. This was in 1952 and the first filtered cigarette to be successfully marketed – Winston – would not be available for another two years.

Jim and I sat on a merry-go-round similar to the one below, though nobody bothered to paint them back then. We used to hang out at Panorama Park, just north of where I attended Kindergarten, Chase Street Elementary School. A couple of weeks later, Jim managed to snag a couple of rolling papers from his dad.

Playground Merry-Go-Round

Round and Round and Round We Went

We went to the Thrifty Drug Store on Van Nuys Blvd., in “downtown” Panorama City, and walked out with a can of (“Well . . . let him out!”) Prince Albert tobacco, then absconded to the east end of the parking lot, where there were lots of bushes to hide out in.

Five-year-olds do not have the manual dexterity to roll cigarettes by hand. I’m not sure we could have done it with a machine. We were unsuccessful and, dejectedly, had to settle for “borrowing” cigarettes from our fathers; his the Camels or Lucky Strikes, mine Pall Mall.

Filterless Cigarettes

All Three in One Photo!

It would be another three years before I actually inhaled my first cigarette, an act from which I would not look back for quite some time, and which I now look back on with some remorse.

Look. I’m not trying to justify or celebrate smoking. When I first set out on that path, the only negative thing I can recall hearing was that it stunted your growth. Nobody mentioned cancer, emphysema, bronchitis, etc. Nobody! Smoking was permitted everywhere, at any time. And it was so cool! Cooler than Elvis’s sideburns, which I could not grow at nine years old to save my life.

It wasn’t until I was 15 and, through a combination of teenage hubris and stupidity, almost burned down our modest suburban home, that my parents gave up and decided it was better if I smoked in front of them, rather than had to continue covering it up and, maybe, killing everyone.

By then I had become, like my father before me, a Marlboro “man” and within a few years was smoking about a pack and a half a day. I cut down somewhat when I started smoking pot in the late summer of 1966, mostly because tobacco tasted funky on top of the taste of weed. I didn’t stop.

It wasn’t until my mid-thirties that I managed to stop smoking for fourteen years. During that entire time I never said I had quit smoking; only that I had stopped. I knew I was a hopeless addict and, in the intervening years (I’m now 70), I have stopped and started numerous times.

Each time I stop I go cold turkey. Generally, it’s only taken me a day or two, at the most, to get over any physical craving for tobacco or nicotine. Unfortunately, I never get over – only manage to control – the ingrained rituals and habits of smoking.

I’m bringing this up because last Friday, after over a year, I stopped again. In a few hours it will have been a week since I last inhaled tobacco smoke. I took advantage of a trip to the Bay Area for a memorial service and didn’t take any tobacco with me and I had no plans of purchasing any while there. I was traveling with my oldest daughter and wouldn’t dream of smoking where she could breath it second-hand. In fact, in the last twenty years, of which I’ve probably smoked for about six or seven, I have either not smoked in the house, or did it under the stove’s exhaust fan set to high, very carefully blowing my exhaled smoke into the updraft created by the fan. And that was only on the bitterest and coldest of days, which are few and far between here in SoCal.

So, after a day or two, I had no cravings at all for nicotine. I do still have to fight the habitual affectations that went along with my smoking; the numerous breaks one takes in the course of a day to grab a couple of “hits” in between whatever you might be doing. I’ve also gained a couple of pounds and my next challenge will be continuing not to smoke and still get back to the weight I believe I should be to be as healthy as possible.

I don’t ever want to smoke again, but I’m aware of my proclivities toward tobacco and just can’t honestly rule out a cigarette or cigar at some time in the future. If I’m strong, I can probably make it through what remains of my life without shortening it even more. That’s what I have to keep reminding myself.


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.


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!


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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