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.”
In my second year of law school I was able to secure a position with a sole practitioner in Beverly Hills. His name was Michael David Freeman and he hired me to be his legal secretary.
Although I had not done secretarial work before, I was a pretty good, fast, and accurate touch typist and I was doing well in school and kind of knew my way around the issues I would be dealing with.
MDF specialized in personal liability and property damage as the representative of three major car rental firms: Thrifty, Budget, and Dollar. He had previously been a C-level executive of one of them and had numerous connections.
We did some other work as well: a little contracts; some wills and trusts; and maybe a little family law. This was from (approximately) late ‘74 to late ‘76.
Shortly after I started working for him, he purchased an IBM memory typewriter and sent me to a one-day class in Century City to learn how to use the thing. It was my introduction to word processing, pretty much at the inception of the concept.
Between learning to skillfully use the device and sending out demand letters, discovery requests, and other miscellaneous documents, I sometimes riffed on the concepts I was conveying with a mix of facts and legal mumbo jumbo, and now and again would fire off a letter or two to friends … just for the fun of it.
Yesterday, while desperately searching for a document I needed in another context, I accidentally came across a couple of those letters. What follows is one of them I sent to my long-time, dear friend Loren.
It’s been almost a month since last I posted which, given my desire to be more and more communicative, seems a bit self-defeating. However, there’s a good explanation. Several months ago my youngest daughter began presenting symptoms of an eating disorder. At the same time, I was working to navigate the changes I had to implement to get her transferred to another high school for her senior year.
Since nothing could be done during summer vacation, because the people needed to convene an IEP meeting weren’t available, and the meeting was a prerequisite to getting approval for the transfer, the entire summer felt a bit like a cliff-hanger. I had been told by the Principal of the new school she’ll be attending they would hold a spot for her, but my cynical self wasn’t convinced it would happen.
Fortunately, it did; last Friday. School starts in two days. I also had to help fill out a very long application to a facility that treats eating disorders. She is now on a waiting list, which may be as long as eight weeks; I’m unclear on what’s happening. Her volatility, depression, and anger have taken up just about all the energy I can muster and this next school year my prove to be the toughest yet. She’s transferring from a regular high school to one with independent study, which means it’s more like homeschooling … guess who the teacher will be.
So … my intention is to write a lot more once she’s back in school and I can have some tranquil time to myself. I’m not entirely certain it will happen, but Imma work for it.
I started writing this post a couple weeks prior to my 74th birthday. Then all hell broke loose with my younger daughter and I had to drop just about everything I was doing and work diligently with her. The issues remain and we’re still figuring out how best to deal with these newly surfaced problems, but I’m finally getting back to writing and posting here. The next four paragraphs were written in May. The rest was written today. If some of it seems a bit disjointed, it’s likely because I forgot exactly the point I was trying to make and have added a bit of speculation and a conclusion that may not track as well as they could. C’est la vie!
You’d think a man my age wouldn’t be paying close enough attention to approaching birthdays all that much and, for the most part, that may be true. It’s not like I’m obsessed with my birthday. There was at least one year where I completely forgot about it until my mother asked what I was planning. Many others have passed that weren’t all that important or memorable. But something has changed … very recently. I’m realizing the prism through which I view the world has tilted a bit. This tilt is primarily a result of my age and what it means for me as an individual and as a functioning member of society.
I’ve been giving it a little thought and I believe I understand the dynamics of what’s happening. When we’re young—and even into our 40s, maybe 50s—we’re generally looking forward to improving our lot professionally or with respect to how we make our living. Usually, with age and experience come greater responsibility and authority, as well as increased income and growing benefits … if you’re lucky. Once you reach retirement age, things begin to change. Suddenly opportunities aren’t as easy to come by. Advancement may even stop, with the exception of very few positions, which are reserved for only a few.
In most of the world age and wisdom are revered. The elderly are respected for their accumulated experience and knowledge. In the United States of America, that just isn’t the case. We are a society enamored of youth and derisive of age. We tend to toss people aside once they reach around 65 years of age; the deadline we’ve set for determining retirement eligibility. I’m way beyond that, but I’m just beginning to realize the changes I need to make in my thinking in order to smooth out my final chapters.
When I was in my thirties I came to the conclusion the only thing I was truly interested in achieving was wisdom. Yet I knew that it not only came with age, but one can’t merely hang out a shingle declaring oneself a wise person. That’s for others to determine. At least, that’s how I see it … if one isn’t a charlatan. What’s happening to me now is I’ve realized, viscerally as opposed to intellectually, I am at an age where growing older has nothing to do with improving my lot in life, at least not with respect to employment or professional standing.
I believe my task now is to strive to accept the physical and intellectual limitations brought on by the aging process, while strenuously working to minimize their destructive or deteriorating effects in whatever way I’m capable of. This is why I have been going to the gym to lift weights. It’s also why I write. As well, I’ve decided not to just sit back and be “retired.” I still have a great deal to say. I’m still deeply interested in the direction our country is going in. I care for my daughters and my wife and want to be here for them as long as possible, while staying as healthy and as “in touch” as possible.
I think there’s something deeper that’s going on with me and my view of the world, and I think I was approaching it when I began this post two months (approx) ago. Unfortunately, my memory is suffering from what seems to be a combination of old age (which might means either it’s degrading or I just don’t give a shit about many of the things I did before) and the lingering effects of having Covid-19 at the beginning of the year. Which means I’ll have a lot more to say about this as time goes by. Stay tuned!
I can write a poem I can pen some verse I can make it florid I can do it terse I can be profane I can wax profound Or lay it on real thick And sling it by the pound I’ll take a slice of paper Slather on some ink Arrange the words just so And present them . . . Whaddya think?
I quite accidentally came across an old Facebook post, which I’m pasting in below, that I wrote and shared a little over six years ago. I’m a little ashamed (embarrassed might be a better word) that I announced my intention, only to not complete what I said I had started. I truly had started but, shortly after doing so I was approached by a former colleague at Rocketdyne and was offered a job.
Since my primary goal at the time was to bring in enough supplemental income to allow us to maintain our modest, yet comfortable, lifestyle, I dove into the job head first. I had also gotten an editing gig shortly after the post, which took a great deal of my time and overlapped with my return to Rocketdyne. For a couple of weeks I was working up to 13 or 14 hours per day.
So, here I am six years later and I have begun serious work on what I used to think were my memoirs. This past Wednesday I woke up thinking I needed to better understand the difference between a memoir and an autobiography. After a moment’s worth of research I realized I was not working on my memoirs; rather, I was working on my autobiography.
I have, therefore, decided I am now working on three projects. The most ambitious is my autobiography. Ancillary to that effort are two subsets of my life, which I will write and publish as memoirs: one surrounding my experiences of more than 50 years of drug use and what I learned about myself and others; the other about my experiences with the Peace & Justice movement during the late sixties and early seventies and how it’s affected my politics and my philosophy of life.
I had done a fair amount of work on an outline, which currently consists of 158 entries (many of which are partially written, some recently and others copied from blog posts that are relevant to the subjects I cover. Many of the blog posts need to be somewhat re-tooled to fit the format of either a memoir or an autobiography, and much needs to be added, but I’m currently at almost 16,000 words. My Peace & Justice movement project is currently at nearly 3,800 words, and my drug use project currently consists primarily of a reasonably thorough outline.
Previously, I was deeply concerned about our household income. I am not as concerned now and a couple of things are driving me to complete these projects reasonably soon. The first is my age and the age of others who were substantial parts of my life. As far as my political activities back in the day go, at least three of the people I am writing about are no longer with us, with two of them passing in the last few years. I was hoping to interview them. That’s no longer possible. Fortunately, they’ve all left a legacy and there’s plenty of material for me to glean from and help me remember the activities I shared with them, as well as others who we worked with who are still available.
The second reason isn’t directly related to my age, but is nevertheless a result of it. As I’ve written about previously, I have what are called “essential” or “familial” tremors. There are three areas in which these tremors affect those who suffer from them: the neck muscles (my mother was a “bobblehead”); the vocal cords (think Bette Davis); and the hands. My experience is mostly with my hands, though on occasion I can swear I feel it coming on in my neck muscles as well.
I want to finish these projects before I can’t type at all. There were times, during my two-year return to Rocketdyne, when my left hand was shaking so badly I couldn’t log on to my computer. I had to enter my user name and password with one finger on one hand. There are times when my left hand shakes so much I can’t possibly type like I’m used to.
I’ve already contacted a half dozen people, including former roommates, a former girlfriend, and my first wife. They have all not only expressed a willingness to be part of this, they have already provided me with recollections I had forgotten, all of which will surely improve the quality of the stories I plan on writing.
So I’ve set a goal for myself. Currently, it’s 500 words per day but I’m going to probably up that to 1,000 words per day. It’s not really all that difficult once I get going, especially since my outline now is quite thorough and all I need do is tell my stories. Another goal is to, as I mentioned in my post of six years ago, stand up a Kickstarter campaign to see if I can raise any money. I don’t need a lot and I think I have a fairly interesting story (actually stories) to tell.
For the first time in my life, this IS my job. If nothing else, I will leave a legacy for my two daughters, to whom these works will be dedicated.
I am on the verge of taking on what I believe to be an important project. I’ve been thinking about it for well over a year and I have discussed it with several old friends who were part of the experiences the project will speak to.
I plan on writing a book. It will be a combination of my memoirs, as well as a history, of a part of the peace & justice movement, specifically in Southern California, from about 1968 until 1973. At the time I was part of a group of amateur, yet reasonably well-trained, people who provided much of the security for rallies, demonstrations, and numerous cultural events. We provided building and personal security, including occasional armed bodyguard work, for people like Jane Fonda, Daniel Ellsworth, Tony Russo, a group of Vietnamese students studying in the U.S., Roger McAfee and family (they put their ranch up for Angela Davis’s bail after Jonathan Jackson’s disastrous attempt to break his brother, George, out of the Marin County Courthouse), Mrs. Salvador Allende, and cultural groups such as Quilapayun, Arco Iris, and Holly Near – to name a few.
The book I propose to write would be a combination of my memoirs and those of many others (some of whom I have recently contacted and who expressed great interest in seeing this happen) who I worked with. I was a member of groups such as The Peace Action Council with Irv Sarnoff, The Indochina Peace Campaign with Jane Fonda, Tom Hayden, and Bruce Gilbert, Vietnam Veterans Against the War with Ron Kovic, as well as individuals such as Dorothy Healey, Frank Wilkinson, and others – many of whom I will need to do some research on to refresh my memory.
Part of this piece will be aimed at setting the record straight. Part of it will be pointing out the many sacrifices lots of people made in speaking and acting out during that time. We thank members of the military for their “service”, regardless of what they did and what their motives truly were, yet the people who risked so much during those difficult times were – and frequently still are – vilified as traitors and un-American. I’d like to help set the record straight.
Those of my friends who have any experience or thoughts about those times and the activities I will be addressing are welcome – actually, encouraged – to share them with me. While I am willing to read, even address, contrary opinion, anyone who attempts to engage me in frivolous argumentation will be asked to stop and, if that doesn’t work, will be unfriended. I am interested in useful, thoughtful opinion even if it doesn’t agree with how I see or remember those days, but only if it helps me understand my perspective more completely. I have a well-established POV after all these years and I’m not interested in useless argumentation over its validity.
This also means I will be incrementally backing off of Facebook; posting far less and paying less attention to others, even with the all-important mid-term elections looming. I want to get this done while I’m still able to and I will have a lot of reading, interviewing, and writing to do. I’m also thinking of using Kickstarter to raise some money so I don’t have to worry about further depleting what savings we’ve managed to accumulate prior to my somewhat forced retirement. I’m thinking, if a guy who’s merely making potato salad can raise $70,000, I might be able to find enough interest to get $15 – $20,000. I’m anticipating the need to travel for some interviews. Many of the people involved at that time likely won’t be available via online technology.
I will probably share this more than a few times in the next couple of days or so. Knowing there’s only a small percentage of my friends who will see this at any given time, I think it will be useful to share it at different times. Please forgive me if I annoy you. Feedback is, of course, more than welcome. I’ll also be sharing my progress as I go along.
As I’m searching for material for the three books I’m now working on, I have to reconcile the reality that I’ve spread my work out between two computers: the iMac I purchased when I retired from Rocketdyne in 2010 (and which was essentially replaced by a newer model – by warranty – in 2013); and the HP Laptop I’ve been using for the past two years plus. I’ve even purchased a separate copy of Scrivener, which I’m using as my writing software, for both operating systems.
At any rate, I’m copying and moving things around and, as I was copying some photos and other stuff, I happened upon this limerick, which I thought to share. I write them on occasion, and I know I’ve shared a few of them here in my blog over the years. I wrote this one in December of 2013 so, maybe I’ve posted it before . . . but I don’t think so.
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
ADDENDUM – I just discovered I not only posted this before, it actually wasn’t even a year ago that I did so. I don’t know whether to be dismayed, or heartened, by the fact I used the exact same title as I did this time. <Sheesh!> Therefore, I’m leaving this here as a testament to my declining cognitive functions . . . maybe. Here’s the link to the last time I posted it: https://atomic-temporary-2455556.wpcomstaging.com/2019/10/31/a-forgotten-limerick/
This post is from my old blog, The Cranky Curmudgeon. It was written nearly 14 years ago, shortly after my oldest’s fifth birthday.
So what is it with Thank You cards? When did they become de rigeur . . . a fixture of every child’s birthday and gift-giving Winter solstice celebration?
My daughter celebrated her 5th birthday recently and we had a party for over twenty children and adults. We provided entertainment for the children, lots of food and drink for everybody, really nice loot bags for the kids, a large cake, and a pinata filled with lots of candy. My wife spent around a week’s worth of her spare time researching and purchasing everything necessary to make the kids feel special. This included purchasing inexpensive cowboy/cowgirl hats and bandanas, as the party was held at a nearby farm where the kids could feed animals and enjoy some really fun and clever rides. I spent a good 10 – 15 hours running around and picking up things and making arrangements. We really wanted everyone to have a good time.
Now comes the aftermath. My wife is not the best at sending out Thank You cards, and I have virtually no experience doing it at all. I mean, isn’t it against the law for men to do this kind of thing – no matter how sensitive they are? So . . . here it is, a couple of weeks later and the cards she took the time to purchase are still sitting on the table . . . in their original box. They’re taunting me. Like chocolate in a candy dish, I sometimes hear them calling out my name.
Isn’t a sincere “Thank You” at the party’s end enough for everybody? I don’t know; maybe she feels better about not doing it than I do, but why do I have this sinking feeling we must carry some sort of guilt because we have yet to send a hand-written, personalized note written by us as though it was our child channeling Emily Post or Martha Stewart?
Here’s an example of a Thank You we received the day after a 5-year-old’s birthday party:
Thank for coming to my birthday party. I was really happy you could be there. The Spiderman backpack will be really useful next year in Kindergarten to carry my laptop as I’m learning how to post covered calls without the help of my broker.
I’ve never understood how people who once loved and cared about each other can not merely drift apart (which is far more normal than we think) but who end up hating each other. In my early twenties, somewhere around 1969 (I think) I had been living in Berzerkely and wasn’t taking very good care of myself. I became very ill with a form of asthma. I ultimately decided—thanks to the I Ching; the Chinese Book of Changes—to return to Los Angeles and get medical help. I don’t quite remember how I met Susan, but we ended up living together and she literally nursed me back to health. Our relationship didn’t last that long, mostly due to my being an asshole, but we’ve remained friends over the years; perhaps because we shared a lot of the same friends. Susan Marlow is her name, and she sent me this short essay, which I want to share. Self-isolation, social-distancing, shelter-in-place, whatever we’re calling it . . . seems to be fueling some interesting creativity and innovation. I’m happy to share it.
PS – Thank you, Sue . . . for this and, especially, for taking care of me way back in the wayback machine. I’ve long regretted how I acted back then, but I’m pleased we both went on to have wonderful, interesting, and fulfilling lives and that we remained friends. Hopefully, we’ve got another decade or two to enjoy . . . once this is behind us.
by Susan Marlow – 26 March 2020
I am finding this Covid-19 isolation, while mostly strange, not entirely unpleasant. The disease has me frightened. It is such an unknown and one that I want to keep that way. Yet clouds can be fluffy and white and pretty or dark and sullen. They bring us rain which cleans and they filter and cool the heat. So too has this isolation that we are living through brought some very interesting and beneficial changes for us all.
“This too shall pass” and “That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” are my favorite quotes. And perhaps that is what is happening. I actually do not mind being home I am not bored. I have oodles of half baked ideas and partially concocted schemes that I can pick up and play with. Who knows I might finish the knitting project, or begin my composting and renewed vegetable and flower garden. The composter has been ordered through amazon prime. I have learned to order household items to avoid shopping. My pointer finger is getting stronger, as I push those order buttons. With each boxed item it’s a bit like Christmas.
I have gone into the garden to collect worms for the composter. They are busy I hope eating what is in their temporary home. Now I’ve read that there are specific worms that are better than the garden variety. Wouldn’t you know it there are designer worms available on line 1000 per pack.
I am not much of a cook and my husband (the cook) has grown tired. His meals are not so exciting after 37 years. So we joined a meal delivery service. The food comes fresh and ready to prepare with complete instructions. Surprisingly it is a lot of work but very tasty. My back aches as I stand by the sink cutting chopping and stirring. So I prep the meal early allowing myself time to rest. Then maybe 2 hours later together we finish. It’s become a very nice, even anticipated activity for the two of us. Time is not of the essence anymore or maybe it is but there is a lot of it to spread about. We don’t have anything to argue about and we are able to laugh at ourselves quite a bit. I like that part the best.
I should tell you that I have actually been in semi isolation since 2/27 so I consider myself the expert. I love the quiet streets which remind me of my childhood where a kid could safely ride a bicycle at break neck speed down a hill across a residential street without much chance of getting creamed unless you hit a pothole and there were fewer potholes back then as there was less slurry, trees were younger and their roots had not yet begun to encroach. People are out walking cranky children or happy dogs. We are walking Peanuts twice a day and he is now a very happy doggy. We waive at our neighbors most of whom we have never even met. Hundreds of bees are darting to and fro through rain soaked flower beds.
Maybe people will once again remember how nice this all is and make the necessary changes to keep it that way once this crisis passes.
The amount of world nastiness seems to be reduced. Everyone seems to be getting the message that we are all in this together. Borders, walls, languages will not protect us. Jobs have changed and are still changing. Many types of employment never to be seen again or never seen before. Creativity is running high. California needs ventilators and someone is crafting them on 3D printers.
My husband and I seem to be getting along better than ever which amazes me. We treasure humor and stuff that makes us giggle a bit. I am checking on friends whom I rarely see. Despite our limits we are finding common concerns. People are caring for each other even at a distance which I find nothing short of magical. The meanness that Trump fostered has finally been challenged by something far bigger than that “Stable genius.” He can not buy it, sell it, hide from it, or manipulate it. Nevertheless, I know he tries.
I am learning more about myself. I’ve been sequestered for a month now. I can withstand a fair amount of isolation from others. But I can not stand our 24 hour news cycle. Our TV isn’t going on until 5:00.
I am finding that when I casually throw out “I love you,” I really do. I mean it. Likewise, the kiss throwing emojis have sincere meaning to me now.
I believe I wrote this poem in the early nineties. It was, at least obliquely, addressed to a woman I had fallen desperately in love with (this would be the last time in my life I fell that stupidly, at least until we adopted and I became a father.) The love of one’s child—especially the first—is far more powerful and nuanced than any other type of love I’ve ever experienced.
This poem, however, speaks to my desire to see this woman* open up and face some of what I thought were self-destructive fears that were keeping her from enjoying her life. It was complicated, as was she . . . and it just wasn’t to be. I have little doubt the somewhat crazy depth of my desire was just too overwhelming for her. Hey! I was just a kid . . . in my late forties.
There exists in all things A strength and beauty Unappreciated by those of us Who have suffered the constraints of narrow education Yet . . . it exists In repose Silently waiting for the moment of discovery In many of us it is doomed To remain unannounced unapprehended and, yet Undeniably It is there And there are those of us Who by some mad twist of fate Crush the beauty in ourselves Divert the strength And smother the fragile wonder of our lives Beneath pain and isolation Which we call self-protection
* I will not use her name in deference to my wife and children. She is a part of my history, but only relevant today to explain the motivation behind this particular bit of communication.
I retired nearly 13 years ago, though I've continued to work during most of the time since then. I'm hoping to return to work on the RS-25 rocket engine program (formerly the SSME) which will power our return to the moon. Mostly I'm just cruising, making the most of what time I have remaining.
Although my time is nearly up, I still care deeply about the kind of world I'll be leaving to those who follow me and, to that end, I am devoted to seeing the forces of repression and authoritarianism are at least held at bay, if not crushed out of existence.
I write about things that interest me and, as an eclectic soul, my interests run the gamut from science to spirituality, governance to economics, art and engineering. I'm hopeful one day my children will read what I've left behind.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.