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Monday, January 21, 2019

Exposing Truth

My friend and his daughter started a consulting firm called Critica.  It's has been to take the public controversies of science, which are often more controversial to ignoramuses or people with political agendas to pursue than they are to scientists themselves, and promote accuracy in its public reporting.  There are legitimate machloket's, Hebrew for disputes, among scientists, which is how science advances, and there are distortions intended to achieve a desired end.  Lest we think this is new in the form of evolution deniers or anti-vaxxers, in another era our history books tell us of scientists revered today being threatened but high level authorities over things like geocentrism or a flat earth.

Their editors asked an interesting question to their readers recently, how could their service be advanced?  While they focus on physical or biological science, which for the most part has demonstrable end points. their interface is journalism, how the truth or its distortions are presented to people who lack the technical background to permit their own analysis.  It is not all that hard to demonstrate that pediatric vaccination advances public health and that the world is warmer than it once was.  Those same processes of analysis and presentation are adaptable to other forms of demonstrable truth.

After World War II General Eisenhower on discovery of concentration camps had the saichel, good judgment, to bring witnesses and newsreels to disclose what he saw.  Despite many technological advances in documentation, I've yet to see anyone marching Gazans through Hamas tunnels or interviewing the people who built them.  No question that those tunnels are there and what they are intended for, but nobody with Eisenhower's looming stature, security, and integrity seems ready to make the disclosure.  Not even journalists who would like a scoop.

One of the audiobooks that I listened to while commuting was Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Nomad in which she described the textbooks given to her as her curriculum with blatant anti-Semitism whose content those students would be expected to master for their exams.  I've never seen one of those textbooks, but there is nothing to keep it from being translated and posted on the web in its original form.  These are pretty binary truths, they are either there or they are not.

Some are more nuanced.  People of my era have some recollection of Edward R. Murrow's Harvest of Shame documentary, where he reported on the dark side of the farming that becomes our food supply.  How the migrant farmers lived, or how the Appalachian people get by, has its element of truth, though with more of a "yes but" than we would get from analysis of physical sciences.

We also have things that do not lend themselves very well to analysis and finite answers.  There is a certain folly to proclaiming a true religion but people have been trying for a thousand years.  Perhaps exposing the folly is also part of exposing truth.

Whether science, geopolitical circumstances, or the plights of different people, all have that common link of reality.  While science disclosure generates less controversy than the others, they also have that common link to good journalism to create a proper public presence.  Clark Kent, that mild-mannered reported from a Great Metropolitan Newspaper, sought truth, justice, and the American Way.  The order on the Superman series seems more correct than the reverse order that we seem to have now.

Image result for truth justice and the american way

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Purging a Closet

This is the six month project that is both difficult and will happen.  I will create a personal retreat from my dysfunctional study by Memorial Day.  I started last year, never worked in a sustained way, bundling it with other upstairs declutter.  It didn't happen.  Much more limited focus this time.  I am arranging for a space planner but first there needs to be space.  What better space than closets, two of them, ample in size, with legitimate storage functions.  But first they need to be emptied.  There is a hanging bar with my haven't fit in decades suits and pants, all in good condition.  Off to clothing donation.  Ditto for my daughter's Brownie uniforms.  The shelves have games and puzzles.  Out they go, charity if usable, landfill if not.  But my demise has been paper.  And I was ruthless.  I do not have any birthday cards from my grade school years and neither should my son.  Big recycling box of school papers, financial proxy notices, requests for donations that were never opened.  Lots of banking and financial statements from the 1990's.  Those go in a separate box for state sponsored shredding the first Wednesday of every month.  Another box with my wife's papers that are not so easily discarded.  Separate box for those for now, then tackle a file drawer, rid it of not needed, and designated a file draw with my wife's papers to remain in indefinite oblivion but not visible when the file drawer is closed.  Did one closet floor.  Finish removing the stuff from the room today.  On to the next closet tomorrow. 

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Monday, January 14, 2019

Might Go, Might Not

Class of '69, first graduating class from my high school.  Fifty years approaching and undoubtedly cause for acknowledgment if not celebration.  We are highly accomplished.  I know that not so much by newspaper clippings as by a mixture of prior contacts, a small amount of keeping in touch, and a large amount of Facebook where many of us reconvened about eight years ago and largely plateaued, though I did add my first new HS acquaintance in a while not too long ago. 

For me HS was my fate.  I did not choose it.  My parents purchased a house and people who ran the school district apportioned which street's residents went to which school.  I liked the people and the teachers, clearly derived benefit from having been there, and it enabled my destiny.  Most of the ensuing half century proved more destiny than fate, choices about college, career, marriage, family, social and religious affiliations, political leanings, where to donate a portion of my treasure and how much.  Fate never quite stopped, though.  I had my physical composition, my INTJ Myers-Briggs assessment, those calls from the Dean of Discipline who programmed his office phone to speed-dial my office.  But for the most part my decisions directed my future, which turned out rather well overall.  That nebish from HS could direct his intellect and ambition in a purposeful way.

That did not happen for everyone.  Some I might say peaked fifty years ago, never separated, and plodding along not that differently from Arthur Miller's Bif who coulda been somebody had not somebody in high school done him wrong.  Death of a Salesman was a mandatory title in part so we would not have the same outcome as Bif.

Most do not live in the county of our youth, abandoned long ago for college or career or to escape the Hasidim who moved in.  But for a lot, those were their peak years.  For me my best times have usually been best defined as Right Now. 

People put together a lot of effort for a celebration.  With two months to party time, I need to make a decision.  I'm not indifferent.  I am ambivalent.


Image result for high school reunion

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Learning Twitter

Took Twitter for Dummies out of the library.  In 2015 I had created an account but never used it, and as I search as a new user, there are a lot of other accounts that appear blank as well.  Our President uses it to create discord and call attention to himself or develop his cult, which may be what the service is ultimately about.  While the intent of Facebook has been to connect to people you already know, apparently Twitter is more of a broadcast service to people you don't know, much like SERMO among physicians.  It open an opportunity for self-promotion.  In any case, I set my profile, misrepresenting it to make it look more interesting than it really is, but I assume that is part of the service.  Looked up a few people and organizations to follow.  Haven't yet exercised my option of blocking @potus.  Sent one tweet to an old friend.  Mostly see how it evolves.  It's popularity still mystifies me but maybe I'll understand better as I get farther into the book.


Twitter For Dummies; Paperback; Author - Laura Fitton

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Slip 5

As an AARP member I receive their newsletter and magazine on schedule.  Seniors span a whole range of situations from debilitated to healthy, poor to affluent.  There seem to be common concerns like filling up the day when there is no time clock and managing money that is finite.  Most of it I don't read but occasionally one suggestion works out well.  On the suggestion of one of the articles, I started setting aside every five dollar bill received in change.  It went into an enveloped marked for that purpose, kept on my desk in one of its cubbies.  I made some rules:  not more than one daily, as restaurants will often give two five dollar bills rather than one ten dollar bill in change, presumably to enhance waitress tipping.  Every six months, I count the content of the envelopes and allocate the money for things I would not have otherwise spent on myself.  Three countings have been done:  $180-$130-$145.  A new envelope began with the change of the calendar year and has its first bill.  The purchases from last time:  a shiatsu electric back massager, a radio with a short wave band, and and Instant Pot, all on sale.  Don't use any of them as much as I expected. 

Now I have 29 five dollar bills on my desk, no particular goods or services I'd like to acquire.  Have six months for something to catch my eye and desire.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

The Mummers

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New Year's Day in Philadelphia brings a tradition.  Groups called Mummers, who prepare all years for their glimpse of fame, strut along South Broad Street, reaching City Hall which lies on a plaza where Market and Broad Streets intersect.  There is a set of bleachers for which people can buy tickets, while judges make some assessments and present awards.  They then strut, never march, around the corner.  A local TV station usually covers the parade from beginning to end, which in recent years includes some indoor presentation as one of the divisions, The Fancy Brigades, have costumes that are not weather friendly.

Having lived in metro Philadelphia the vast majority of my adult life, I had never attended the Mummers Parade and rarely watched much of it on TV.  I had seen them perform off season, which they often do to raise money for their ornate costumes or rental of a practice facility.  But the full parade, never.  Legitimate excuses abound.  Cold weather, having to work the next day, out of town that day only happened once, too much champagne the night before.  But for 2019, unseasonably warm weather, dry skies, a split of bubbly instead of a bottle, left me without excuses.

Getting to Center City Philadelphia has a few options, but the commuter rail seemed the most suitable.  Fare $5.25 each way, holiday rates.  Since I boarded the train at its onset, various revelers, some with New Years hats or similar insignia, joined in at each stop.  Some were annual revelers who knew exactly where to get off.  Our train pulled into Suburban Station and everyone exited.  I thought I could just follow everyone else, but the station is a big place, spanning several blocks of underground.  By asking a few people dressed as either policemen or Mummers, I eventually found my way to the parade route, at a site after the judging.  Getting to the front of the crowd barricade proved rather easy.  I stood next to a small post which would allow me to steady my camera, the adjustable one with zoom lens and the cell phone accessory which would allow me to transmit the movie or still images quickly.

Before long the brigades started coming.  Far from military discipline, the participants semi-danced along the parade route, stopping along the barricades to give High 5's or to place beaded necklaces on the little girls.  A new set of strutters would appear about every 10 minutes.  There was music from times gone by, though I left before the popular string bands had their turn.  Gaudy costumes, painted faces though the blackface tradition had long since been banned, small trucks to receive the gear at the end of the route.  Stayed about an hour, maybe a little longer, called the kids to wish them a happy New Year on their cell phone answering devices, then headed home.

I had not been to Suburban Station in many years.  Work days bring a lot of communter traffic, served by Dunkin Donuts and the like.  Since the underground comprises several blocks, some of it far from where people enter and exit their trains, some of the areas have gotten seedy.  For the vagrants the rent is cheap, mainly keeping an eye out for the police, rest rooms too much of a bother for some, and the price of some underused psychotropic medicine too high.  Nobody seemed drunk despite the night before being a prime night for intoxication, nobody panhandled, and nobody appeared aggressive.  It was an eyesore just the same but off the path for which the desired tourists to the city would walk to get to the glittering buildings that rose from the sidewalks at street level.  Mummers are unique.  People who prosperity has passed by are not.