Thursday, October 27, 2016

Election Immersion

I have not been posting much this month.  In addition to work related items I have become immersed in the election contemplating various scenarios. I count electoral votes like a miser counts personal funds--hour by hour or nearly.

My concerns about the election are visceral in that I worry, truly, about the residual effects of a Trump presidency.  I believe the stock market would tank after an initial burst upwards.  I think the US position in the world will be reduced and render us more vulnerable.

I know some people who are voting for Trump, not many, but some. And those are doing so either because of an aversion to the Democratic nominee or because of an allegiance to the Republican party. I personally do not know anyone voting for Trump because they think he would be a good leader. I know there are people out there who do feel this way, but I do not know them.

Some comments about Trump's candidacy and his campaign.

  • The worst thing he has said, the comment that somehow did not torpedo him but should have, is that Senator John McCain was not a war hero and that he became a war hero because he got caught.  Trump said he likes people who do not get caught.  What does that make the dead? Are they the ultimate non heroes because they were caught for good.  
  • Trump's pussy comments and then explanation of the pussy comments are not to be believed. I played basketball for three years in high school (never, alas, on the varsity) and one year in college. I played intramural basketball forever and work out five times a week still.  I was a member of a fraternity and lived in a freshman dormitory where braggarts held court discussing their prowess.  And I have never ever heard anybody comment like that about women.  I have heard men use coarse language of course. And I have heard men speak about their ability to woo women such that they were eager to engage.  But I never heard anyone talk about grabbing women under the assumption that these fellows were so powerful or alluring that such grabbing was okay, condonable, or welcome.  If we heard of anyone speaking like this--even the raunchiest of the raunchy--would consider the braggart crazy in the head.
  • Trump's comments about the handicapped man is something that, amazingly, did not put the kibosh on his candidacy right there and then.
  • The announcement of "extreme vetting" whatever that means and that any Moslem would be prohibited from entering the country is anti-American and mind bogglingly so.
  • His foundational idea that he would build a wall and force Mexico to pay for it---is there a word that transcends fakakt?  
  • The man LOST close to a billion dollars in one year, and has not been taken down as a bad businessman.  Trump Vodka, Steaks, Airlines, Casino--all were losers.  Why would we want to put, say Social Security, or any part of our treasury at risk? 
  • His invitation to a long time adversary to hack our computers is nothing short of treasonous.
  • His support for Newt Gingrich after Gingrich's condescending chauvinistic put down of Megyn Kelly is beyond the pale.  Trump's own comments about Megyn Kelly are beyond the pale.
  • There is nothing more central to democracy than the notion that our elections are on the up and up.  This whining, "the election is rigged" narrative is as unAmerican as palling with Putin.
There's more, but I will stop here. I hope the polls are correct. My prediction is that if he does lose, Trump will not be the champion of the disenfranchised. He will become a pariah within the Republican party and his own party members will initiate criminal charges on Trump University, the hacking of computers, and threats to challenge the health of candidates in office and those running for office.

P.S. The good news is that this is the only time of the year that all four major sports are in regular season action at the same time.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Best wishes

I reread yesterday a blog I posted on Yom Kippur a number of years back.  I titled it, "There was Soap."

I liked what I reread, but am/was not sure how I could write anything more distinctive today, Yom Kippur the main day of introspection for those in the tribe.

"There was Soap" refers to a key passage in the book, Love in the Time of Cholera.  Essentially, it refers to unconditional forgiveness.--forgiving even when one has not earned forgiveness.  If you are so inclined to read the blog again, you will see that I make the point that sometimes such forgiveness extends to forgiving ourselves--even when we have not earned it.  This assumes that the residual of the day's introspection is a commitment to not continuing to do what required forgiving.

This virtue of forgiveness was put to the test within the last hour.  I wanted to check and see what time the shofar is blown this evening.  On this day the blowing of the shofar marks the end of the fast and the time when the services are over.

So I went on line and typed in what one would type in to find the time.  As is the case with everything now that you could possibly want to know, the googling resulted in several hits.  I clicked on a couple until I found the one which indicated when, in Boston, the shofar would be blown.  When I scrolled to the bottom of the page, I was taken aback by a one word comment from someone who, for who knows what reason, had paid a visit to the site.

The one word comment from, go figure, "anonymous" was KIKES.

I am not a religious person.  I believe, as my father was wont to say--to the irritation of my mother--that the problem with the services in temple is that there is too much "god" in them.  This quip drove my mother mad, but I think it makes sense.  I believe that monotheism does not mean that there is one "god" so much as one right. That is, there are things about how to conduct our lives that are incontrovertibly right. It is right to be kind to others, right to be sensitive to others, to not steal and kill.  And it is our job as humans to try and do what is right, live within the confines of a moral conscience.

So if I don't believe in god, then why do I observe the holy days.

One reason is that I like the feeling on particular days of knowing that throughout the whole world, Jews are saying the exact same prayers as I am.  If you were in Peru last night and went to temple, you would have been chanting Kol Nidre.  

A second reason is to stand up to the misanthropes who write Kikes.  I like to go to a temple and say to these sorts, "Right here, buster, right now.  Lot of good your Kike writing is doing.  I'm still here."

A third reason is that when I go on high holy days it sometimes sets me straight.  During the holy days there is a moratorium on your routine, a routine which can sometimes bump me off the line of living as I think one ought to.

So, Mr. or Mrs. Anonymous who wrote Kikes on the website--let me tell you what I am going to do. In a few moments, I am going to take a shower, put on a suit, grab the tallis bag that my grandfather bought for me in 1962, and go to a service. During it--and all day until they blow the shofar--I will try and remind myself that I cannot become like you.   And I will send you my best wishes towards an awakening for yourself.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

l'shana tovah

Tonight at sundown begins the new year for those in my tribe. 5777.

I saw in the New York Times today that there were several advertisers that wished its readers, l'shana tova.  A good year.

I'm reluctant to employ the slogan of a political candidate to whom I have no allegiance. However, a challenge to all is tikkun olam which, in the vernacular of today's politics, can be translated as "Let's make the world great again."

What can one do toward that end?

Nothing profound here in terms of the recipe. Work to love yourself and be the person you want to be so that loving yourself comes naturally.   And love, as a verb, those you love, as a noun, and be loving toward everyone in y/our orbit.

Rosh Hashanah (the word rosh literally means "Head", shanah means "Year") is an opportunity to be introspective, a time to take a look at what is what, and get on track to where you want to go.

Happy new year to those who celebrate and observe this time.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

78 rpm

I just read that today is National Coffee Day.  (Is there a date on the calendar that is not a national something day?)

In the Boston area, coffee establishments--of which there are only about 1000--have various promotions in honor of the day. It is only 66 cents a cup at Dunkin Doughnuts. You get a cup free with a food purchase at another shop.  You become eligible for free coffee for a year at yet another.  One can apparently leave the wallet in the pocket and obtain morning fuel-- and perhaps a second and third cup.

Some possible repercussions because of the coffee shops' largesse.

Check to see if your colleagues are speaking more rapidly today.  The person who informs you of all sorts of mundane irrelevant to anyone but his life's activities, may be spewing these meaningless reports so quickly that they are, not that it matters, unintelligible.  Today, you may hear about traffic confrontations, trips to kids' soccer games, problems with water heaters, at a much faster clip

See if you notice a marked increase in the gait of your colleagues.  Is the guy who typically plods up the corridor moving as if he is late for a bus?  I just saw a colleague who regularly lumbers as if he would rather never arrive in his office move as if there was a check taped to his door.  Perhaps he took advantage of dunkin doughnuts 66 cent a cup offer.

Does it seem as if the public toilets have more traffic?  If your office is near a lavatory, can you hear flushing noises with greater frequency?  Is your office mate making even less sense than is typical? Are meeting participants who ramble getting to the point more quickly, or rambling on yet even more tangents?  Later in the afternoon are the lounges filled with slumping bodies who have crashed after a larger than normal fix?  Do you see coffee entrepreneurs laughing even harder because the product that costs them a few cents to make, and for which they charge two plus dollars, is even more clearly today, delightfully, addictive?

Let me know.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

One of those guys

When I was a summer replacement in the United States Post Office I toiled with several other temporary workers. Most of the time I was on the parcel post belt. My job was to "trow" (nobody threw anything in the post office, we "trew" things) parcels into bins.

This is how it worked. Parcels would travel on a conveyor belt. I, and several others, were to pick up the moving parcels from the belt. We'd read the address, find the bin for that locale, and "trow" the parcel into that bin.  So, if I snagged a box that read Babylon, my task was to spot a bin beyond the belt and trow the box into a bin with all the other parcels heading to Babylon.

It was an interesting job, not because of the challenging nature of the tasks (though since the bins were arranged in alphabetical order it was sometimes challenging to trow a parcel into the Syosset bin since it was way in the back).  One aspect of the job that was interesting were the dynamics between the temporary workers and the regulars.  The regulars had short cuts for many of the tasks and a routine for their work. Some of the regulars were supervisors and, in that capacity, made suggestions to us about how to get things done swiftly.  There were several characters who had amusing ways of passing the time while trowing parcels or handling other responsibilities.

A couple of years after my stint at the post office, I went back to the location to visit with some of the people with whom I worked.   I ran into a fellow who had been a temporary that summer, but had stuck around and was now working full time in a supervisory role.  When we chatted he said, "Remember when we used to have to deal with the supervisors. Well guess what, now I am one of those guys." The way he said it was amusing and I can still see the expression on his face when he summarized his new status.

The other night we were watching the Monday Night football game after Hilary squared off against Trump. I had, despite my intentions to not watch the debate, viewed much of it.  But it ended, thankfully, at about 1030, so I turned my attention to the game.

I did not do so because of my interest in the New Orleans Saints and the Atlanta Falcons.  I did this because in the fantasy football family league I reluctantly joined this year we "had" Drew Brees as our quarterback.  The Maroons, our team, had lost its first two contests and it looked bleak for this week's as well.  We were down by 60 points going into the game, so Brees would have to have a great night for us to have a chance.

The thing is that according to the rules of fantasy football, Brees was having a great night.  So good that by the time I tuned in we were close to overtaking my cousin's husband in our head to head battle.  The Saints and Brees had the ball and were driving which meant we were accruing points with every pass.

However, down by only three points the Saints had to relinquish the ball.  The Maroons chances therefore became slim.  All Atlanta had to do was get a first down or two and the game would be over.  Atlanta did get an initial first down so it looked as if the Maroons attempt to break into the win column would have to wait.  But then what happened was that a player from Atlanta broke into the open and was en route to the end zone.  This was good news for our fantasy football team.  If the Atlanta player scored, Brees could get back on the field and might complete a few passes before the game ended. If he did so, the Maroons would win.

So, because I am a participant in fantasy football, I started to shout for the Atlanta player to score a meaningless touchdown so that Drew Brees might throw some meaningless passes.  I barked "Go, Go, Go" at about 11 at night. Donna was ready to call the local asylum because this to any reasonable person made no sense.  Did not stop me. I kept saying Go, Go, Go.  Sadly, the runner was tackled, Brees did not get on the field, and the Maroons lost.

I am becoming one of those guys.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

All My Puny Sorrows

When I was reading this book I felt that it had to be autobiographical.  Then I finished it, googled the author and found that while this book is listed as a novel, it is very close to, or indeed, a memoir as events in the book are identical to events in the author's life.

The fact that the story is in large part real makes this book even more sad than it would be if it was pure fiction.  All My Puny Sorrows is beautifully and cleverly written.  But it is so sad that I am not sure I can recommend it.

The book is about two sisters who were brought up in a Mennonite community near Winnipeg.  One of the sisters is a brilliant pianist.  The narrator, the other sister, is an author. The story includes episodes from the sisters' early family life with their loving parents.  Much of the "novel" takes place when the sisters are in their forties, but there are reflections about childhood throughout.

All My Puny Sorrows is beyond sad.  A message in the book is that given the emotional blows that this family endures, most of the sorrows that weigh us down are relatively puny. I'm not sure it works that way and I will write more fully about this later in the blog.

If you think you might want to read the book despite how sad it will likely make you feel, then do not read the next paragraph.

One of the two sisters is a brilliant pianist.  The narrator, the other sister, is an author.  (Miriam Toews, the author, grew up with her sister in a Mennonite community near Winnipeg. Her sister was a concert pianist).  A central character in the novel is the sisters' father, a very good man.  He is also a depressed man who commits suicide by sitting on the train tracks one day.  (Miriam Toews's father killed himself by sitting on the train tracks).  The central character in the novel is the narrator's sister.  She, like her dad, is also very depressed and the novel focuses on  how the family, already bereft of a father because of his suicide, attempts to address the sister's suicidal tendencies.  It doesn't help. She, like her father, sits on the railroad tracks and commits suicide. (Miriam Toews's sister in real life committed suicide, like her father, by sitting on the railroad tracks).  Throw in an aunt--whose own daughter had previously committed suicide. The aunt comes to Winnipeg in an attempt to comfort her suicidal niece. During her visit, doctors discover that the aunt needs to have emergency open heart surgery.  She has the surgery. She dies after the surgery.  The book is just one barrel of laughs.

But, despite this, it is a valuable read.  The narrator describes the events vividly and includes her own missteps.  She, her children, her mother, her friends are fully drawn, very real, and earn the reader's sympathy.  Some scenes are brilliantly described, even if maybe a little heavy on the metaphors. It will be a while before I forget the part when the mother, sister, and sister's daughter try to put up a Christmas tree.

It is true that compared to this family all our sorrows are puny, but no matter how bad someone else has it, our relatively puny sorrows do not feel puny to us.  All of our sorrows will be a burden even if we know of others who have it worse.  My favorite character in the "novel" is the mother. She is a survivor.  She loses her husband, daughter, niece, and sister and still attempts to find the light.

Monday, September 26, 2016


I am attempting to unpack why I do not want to watch tonight's debate.

A number of things to point out.  In our history, ever since televised debates became common, the events have had dramatic effects on the elections. Kennedy's first debate with Nixon vaulted him to a national figure and made Nixon seem relatively apprehensive and incompetent.  The Reagan-Carter debate in 1980 was held on the final weekend of the campaign season.  When they went into the debate the polls had the contest neck and neck.  In the debate, as on the election two days later, Reagan won by a landslide.  When Dukakis ran against the elder George Bush, his response to a question about capital punishment torpedoed Dukakis's candidacy.   Ford misspoke in his debate with Carter in 1976 revealing ignorance or, one hopes more likely, just misunderstanding of the nature of the question. Ford's response was a pivot point in the election.  Gore's sighing and eyeball rolling could have been the tipping factor in the crazy 2000 election with the hanging chads.

So, the debates matter.

And the stakes here are very high.  I follow the election polls closely and as of this writing it seems likely that Clinton will win with 272 electoral votes.  Since a winner needs 270, this is a slim comfort margin. Any one state now in Clinton's column swinging to Trump means we have this Trump person in the white house.

It is frightening to me that in many states there are more people who think that Trump would be a viable president than those who recognize this egocentric goofball for who he is.  My favorite quip about Trump was one I heard in an interview. "This guy was born on third base, yet waves his arms and jumps up and down as if he hit a triple." No humility. No sense of how he is not fit for this office.

I think our economy and national safety are on the line.  If we get close to election day and it is still a close race, I will take whatever meagre sums I have in it, out of the stock market and put them in an insured account.  And who knows if that will matter if the person with knowledge of the nuclear codes is this person who always thinks that there is a safety net because for him daddy always provided one.

So, I don't want to watch because I am afraid that Clinton will stumble and, apparently, Trump can fall on his face and dirty his underwear and people in the Dakotas and Kansas and Utah and Oklahoma, and Idaho and Arkansas, and Mississippi and and and, will still vote for him.

I'll take a long walk and then hope someone will tell me that Trump showed his true self and Clinton held her own.