Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Random Crap

The stretch from the Prudential Exit off the Mass Pike to Mass Avenue may be less than a mile, but it can take as long to get to the spot where I need to make my left, as it has taken me to drive from
Waltham to the Prudential exit. For this reason I have ample time to watch the pedestrians as I creep along Huntington Avenue.

Yesterday I spotted a woman who, from the back, looked like a colleague of mine. As I crawled closer I saw it was not she, but I did notice her back pack.  The letters on the backpack caught my attention.  They read, "Random Crap."

Random Crap seems like a suitable name for a backpack. Therein lies random crap. A great metaphor there don't you think? Someone walking along the street carrying the weight of random crap on their back.

How much of our random crap is of our manufacturing? And how much has found its way into the backpack because of poor choices we've made. How much was just stuffed in there by inconsiderate others.

This brings me to the Kavanaugh case. There is a connection. Having watched his opening statement it seemed clear to me that this guy should never have become a judge let alone be considered for the supreme court.  Then his testimony followed which solidified my position. The calendar. Really.  The comments about how he played sports in high school. Highly relevant both.

I have taught on the college level since 1973. Ninety per cent of my students do their assignments--not all as well as the assignments could be done--but 9 out of 10 do the work.  About ten percent come in with excuses.  I have heard many. Only a traffic cop listens to more nonsense.  But nobody has ever tried to explain away irresponsible behavior by trotting out a calendar on which they placed nonsense to indicate that they could not possibly have done something.  "Hmm I see Mr. X that you plagiarized this paper." "No Dr. Z, just look at my calendar.  I practiced the trombone on Wednesday, did wind sprints so I could be the point guard on the basketball team on Tuesday, practiced singing the star spangled banner on Wednesday--see--when would I have had time to plagiarize?"

This guy is walking around with a bag full of random crap and has no clue that he is hauling these bricks around. And so, are the senators--ostensibly vetting a person to see if he will be a dispassionate arbiter when, in fact, they--both dems and republicans- are only trying to assess whether a jurist will vote their way.

The key to managing the random crap in your backpack is acknowledging what is in there and, periodically, getting rid of what can be eliminated.  But if you become a whore, no matter how much money you earn, or titles you accrue, you are going to have a heavy load of random crap that weighs you down.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

irony

Today I saw something that was ironic. A woman in a full burqa--the only thing exposed was her eyes--was walking with her family.  She was conversing with a man who I took to be her husband and a few children.

In Boston, it is rare that you see someone in a full burqa. When I was in England last month, I noticed people so attired more frequently, but in Boston it is a rarity.

But what was ironic was not the woman with her normal looking brood.  What was ironic is the woman with only her eyes exposed was carrying a bag.  The bag read Victoria's Secret.  She had shopped, apparently, at Victoria's Secret.

So, explain to me the extent of cognitive dissonance reduction that could make these decisions--to wear a full burqa, and to shop at Victoria's secret, seem rational.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Rarity

A rarity for me.  I cannot find sleep.  I know that this is something that plagues many, but I have been remarkably blessed. I go to bed, I fall asleep. If I wake up, I go back to sleep.  Lucky guy. Not today.  Some turbulence I guess is keeping the zs away.

So, some random thoughts. This and that.

Terrell Owens deserves to be in the hall of fame as much as a kangaroo deserves to be in the White House. He never won anything.  He has gaudy statistics but was a terrible teammate.  Hall of fame athletes ought to have helped their teams win.

The Red Sox have been fun to watch this summer. Their ability to come back has been the stuff of fiction, not reality.

It is frightening that 40 % of the country thinks that Donald Trump is doing a good job. A woman I know said that she has trouble saying his name without throwing up.  I am not there. Just stunned that people can look past his obnoxious character. He reminds me of the guy who tries to rush a fraternity bragging that he has 50 million dollars and a wench in every dorm wing,  but whenever you need a dime for a keg, he claims to have left his wallet in his room, and the only women on his arms are those that he appears to have bought.  His regular claims that the press is evil, is enough to make me wonder how anyone who does not have oatmeal between the ears, can believe Trump should be the leader of a democratic country where respect for journalists is a foundational plank.

I am regularly in awe of the incompetence at various high levels of organizations.  It strikes me as singular that a knucklehead can be the head of a lucrative company indicating that the value of whatever product or service trumps the irrational decision making of decision makers.

If pornography is the abomination that the right claim it to be and many even on the left publicly decry, then how come there is a stunning abundance of it. If the majority believe it is horrible, how can so many pornographers be cashing in. 

Outside of the library I visit, there is--daily--someone who wants patrons to sign a petition to outlaw marijuana shops in the community.  Sure. If they are so concerned with drugs, how come the petition doesn't include outlawing CVS, Walgreens, and the liquor store.

I don't give a damn that Donald Trump slept with Stormy Daniels or a former Playboy bunny. The guy is a cancer on so many fronts, dwelling on his infidelity is like focusing in on an axe murderers unwillingness to use the turn signal at intersections.

Where are the Republicans?  The true Republicans. The ones that believe in less government, conservative fiscal policies, free trade. Are so many people tickled because the stock market is going up, that they are ignoring the stench.

I do not know how some books have gotten published.  There are some real stinkers out there.

Anne Tyler is an amazing author. I read a review of her recent book, Clock Dance. Very good book and very good review of it.  One comment the reviewer made was that there were critics who deride Tyler because her books are so easy to read.  Really?  What Tyler excels at is taking complex situations and explaining them effortlessly.  Her books often have what seem to be quirky characters in them. But maybe the characters are just like you and me, she just does a good job of bringing out all of our eccentricities.

Yesterday and Monday were hotter than hell.  Those who poo poo Global Warning should leave an address for their great grandchildren when they kick so that their descendants can direct their shvitzing wrath.

Every month it seems as if another friend has departed.

I don't think the Patriots will be so extra this year. Belichick does not seem to have the same fire. Brady is Brady because Belichick is Belichick. Had Brady been on another team with another coach, his main asset--his head--would be a limited asset.

Will try to meet the sandman now.


Friday, July 27, 2018

drew me back in

Yesterday, according to headlines in the Boston Globe, Facebook lost billions of dollars. I don't think this means that Mark Zuckerberg will be staying at a youth hostel the next time wanderlust kicks in, but his company took a hit.  I am not sure why.  And as I wrote in my last blog, on balance I like Facebook. It has put me in contact with people that had been lost to my horizon.  I find out about comings, goings, children, grandchildren--get to see happy pictures--wish people birthdays. 

I wrote recently that I had decided, despite my generally favorable view of the social network, to take a break. I was spending too much time on it and that, plus concerns about privacy, and a general desire for temporary reclusiveness, had me deactivate the account.

If you have never done this, give it a try. It is not easy to deactivate. Lots of navigating steps which might make someone not all that sophisticated with technology to say "the hell with it I'll keep the account" But that day I worked at it, and finally deactivated.

And I was doing fine.  I did notice that I periodically subconsciously typed in the url until realizing I was no longer a member.  But I was getting used to it. And I had not missed it much.

Then I received an e-mail that told me that my niece had posted some pictures on facebook.  She often posts sweet pictures of their children which I like to look at.  I did not think I could access the photos because I no longer had an account. But I tried. I clicked on the link and was able to access the pictures.

The problem is that because I did click on the link, on that device at least (a laptop) I was back to "active." Yesterday I found that I am active on my desktop at home as well. How that happened I don't know.

Fact is, that once I found I was able to prowl around, I stayed on it and looked at the various posts. But I am mildly annoyed that I returned to being a member when I had actively tried to deactivate.

There was probably a clause somewhere when I went to deactivate that read that should I click on any link I would be back in the fold, but fine print should not govern this.

Facebook will return no doubt. I see that it is up over a dollar a share today.  Zuckerberg will not have to rush to make the Early Bird special tonight. 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Deactivated

Last week I deactivated my facebook account.

I was in a cranky mood when I did it.  I have at times become concerned with privacy issues.  And also, I spend a good deal of time reading the posts.  I've thought that I might be a bit more productive without the account.

Several days later what have I noticed?

The first thing is how often I must have gone to Facebook. On a number of occasions I have mindlessly typed in facebook and then realized I did not have an account. So, previously, without thinking I must have gone to the site regularly.

I have missed the connectivity.  I like how facebook could and did expand my network. I had become acquainted with people I'd not seen in years.   I got to see pictures of family members that I would not have seen otherwise. I was connected to friends from various lives--college, camp, high school, sports teams, graduate school--and I enjoyed the virtual reunions. Peripheral friends have opened up in ways that have made our relationship less superficial and more meaningful. I have found out about illnesses and people's need for emotional support and have been glad to offer support to whatever extent my words may have been comforting. I have read about acquaintances' children and grandchildren and the joys they have experienced.

So, that is the bad news. I have missed these things.

The good news is that I am not spending twenty minutes at a pop, reading these posts.  And nefarious sleuths will have more trouble finding out about my interests, buying habits, "likes" and "loves."

In a way it's like being on a diet or giving up booze.  I miss the sweets and buzz, but wonder if, when all is said and done, I will be healthier.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Back from the Dead

Today, three plus days after I returned from London, is the first full day when I feel like a human being.  On Sunday night I attempted to work out. Afterwards, I do not know who the fellow was who was looking back at me in the locker room mirror. Yesterday, I felt like more of a mensch. Worked out again, and I felt better. Still sweated through my tee shirt overnight--a sign throughout my life of something less than stellar in my system. When I am really sick, or even on a night like Saturday evening, I can look like I dove into a swimming pool at 3 in the morning.  But tonight, and tomorrow morning I think I will be dry and my normal self when I awaken.

I'm in a local library, not my town's, one nearby. This is a very good community library. There is a system in the Boston burbs, that links over a dozen of these places and it is quite good. The place where I am sitting may be the best of all the participating facilities --though it has competitors. The town that houses this particular branch is quite affluent. My home in blue collar Waltham would be worth nearly double just a short ride away.  Still whenever I come to this library, I am reminded of how many people, regardless of wealth, are sick, lugging around their illnesses, and do not know it.

Thirty minutes ago a guy I have seen before came smiling into this section where I now am parked. He had the gleam of a person who was for some reason recently amused, or a religious zealot who beams because she or he has found the spiritual answer, or the person with such a gleam is a nut.

As the man got closer to me I knew it was (c). I'd seen him here before. In fact, the last time I saw him he was sitting directly across the table from where I now sit. I was afraid he was going to join me again, and my fears were warranted. But nearly a minute after he sat down he popped back up. When he was here before he was filling out a crossword puzzle frenetically, and alternately doing math computations which looked legitimate but could have been residual graffiti from courses he took forty years ago.  He was so manic then that I had to move my seat as his scribbles were jostling the table.   There's a woman now at a nearby desk who is speaking loudly in a library in a way that she would have to know is inappropriate. On Sunday I was at my university library and another person was bellowing there.  My point is that there has to be something off-kilter about an individual over the age of 18 who speaks loudly in a place where it is supposed to be quiet.

My night sweats are probably over. I will get off the elliptical tonight and feel like I appropriately purged tensions and calories to allow for the inevitable accumulation of the former and the necessary consumption of the latter in the following 24 hours. (I did spot a blueberry pie in the refrigerator which might require some extra time on the machine).  The beaming guy with the cross word puzzles, and the human megaphones in the library, though--they never recover from their temporary bouts with whatever, because whatever brought on the illness is likely here to stay.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Shall We Dance


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On Wednesday night my brother and I  bought tickets to see The King and I which was playing in the London theatre district. Our dad was a big fan of musicals in general but had an especial fondness for The King and I.  We heard him croon the lyrics to “Tis a Puzzlement” on many an occasion.

There are times I often think I am not sure of what I absolutely know.
Very often find confusion in conclusions I concluded long ago.
In my head are many facts that as a student I had studied to procure
In my head are many facts of which, I wish I were more certain I was sure.


That was dad in a nutshell. A wise man who, modestly left room to doubt what he “knew.” A favorite refrain of his, after he had opined on a subject was “Yeah: but what the hell do I know?”

I thought I knew the play, but I really did not. I knew the score from the album we would listen to in the house.  I had the gist, but there is more to it. 

A widow who had been a schoolteacher comes to Siam in 1861. She travels there at the request of the King of  Siam so that she can teach his many children whom he has fathered with several wives and lovers. The King, while a blustery and, well, imperious man is beginning to feel conflicted. He is not quite saying “What the hell do I know” but he finds “a puzzlement” in some of his conclusions. He wonders how to teach his eldest son.

What for instance shall I speak to him of women?
Shall I educate him on the ancient lines?
Shall I tell him that as long as he is able
To respect his wives, and love his concubines?
Shall I tell him every one is like the other
And the better one of two is really neither?
If I tell him this I think he won’t believe it
And I nearly think I don’t believe it either.


The king is also puzzled about how to deal with other countries.
           
Shall I join with other nations in alliance?
If allies are weak am I not best alone
If allies are strong with power to protect me.
Might they not protect me out of all I own
Is a danger to be trusting one another
One will seldom want to do what other wishes
But unless some day somebody trust somebody
There’ll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes.

How many times did we in the Zaremba household hear those last four lines? I think someone in Washington might be wise to consider this wisdom. Unless some day somebody trust somebody, there'll be nothing left on earth excepting fishes.


Ana the school teacher is a big hit with the kids.  And the kids are a big hit with Ana.  There is a melody that I always heard on the record, but had never seen performed called “March of the Siamese children.”  Just beautiful, with little ones stealing the show. After the show I went on Youtube and saw the original Broadway version from the 50s. It was good but not as powerful as what we saw on Wednesday.

Ana tries to tell the King that the groveling of his subordinates is inappropriate. The King is not quite convinced, but she is making a dent.  The audience begins to wonder if the two might have developed some feelings for each other. 

The King is to be visited by an emissary from London. He has been called a  barbarian by some in the west and he does not like it.  He wants Ana to help him create a good image for the ambassador. He is too kingly to ask for her help, he asks her to "guess" what his ideas are, and then of course adopts them. The ambassador actually knows Ana, and has a thing for her. Before Ana met her beloved, Tom, the ambassador had tried to initiate a love affair with Ana.  Ana was not interested.

And then she met Tom. The love of her life.

When I think of Tom. 
I think about a night
When the air was full of wonder and the night was full of light.  
And the sweet mist of England was nestled on the hill 
I remember him.
And I always will.

There are new lovers now on the same silent hill. 
Looking at the same blue sea
And I know Tom and I are a part of them all.
And they're all a part of Tom and me.

She breaks into a song called “Hello Young Lovers” which will touch anyone who has ever fallen.  A reviewer for this London performance called it the best rendition of “Hello Young Lovers” that he had ever heard.  (The London production is the same cast that performed the New York version this past year).

What makes the song particularly meaningful is that another woman has been “gifted” to the King which the king thinks is normal stuff. The problem is that this woman is in love with someone else. Ana in covert ways helps these two rendezvous.

The last song on the album is “Shall we Dance”  The King and Ana begin to dance and you get a sense for sure that there is something there more than platonic.

The two sing while dancing.  Nobody else is on the stage. Each verse ends with the refrain, Shall we Dance?

Shall we take a chance on loving family, friends, sweethearts. And dance toward that possibility.

As the two dance around the stage, you certainly get a sense that they are considering romance.  What actually occurs, I won't spoil. But the metaphor is there regardless. Things can happen if we dance with our family--whether individuals are still with us or not. Exciting, wonderful, perhaps wonderfully dangerous things can happen if we dance with our family, friends, and our sweethearts.

With the clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen, Shall we dance? Shall we dance? Shall we dance?

Yes. 

With the clear understanding that love and friendship can evolve, we should dance toward this end.
This is the message my dad told us our whole lives. 

With the clear understanding that this kind of thing can happen.  Shall we dance? Shall we dance? Shall we dance?

Invoking dad again, his answer to the question would be, "Only, if you know what's good for you."