Search This Blog

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Pastafarianism and me.

I was born and raised Catholic.   I still believe in a God, it's just not the God of the Old Testament or New Testament.  It's not the God of my parents.

Growing up I had a lot of questions, and remember getting in trouble with a Sunday School teacher because I dared question them on Abortion or other such thing.  I've always been a bit of a radical I guess when it comes to free thought.

I explored different ideas all through college and eventually decided to call myself a Taoist.  To me it just made sense and to somehow "know God" or to claim that you, and only you, had the correct path to something beyond our understanding always struck me as arrogant.

When I first learned of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I took it for what it was.  A joke, a way to playfully poke at the organized religions and point out some of the flaws in them.  A way to say..."we can do better."  I'm not an atheist.  I'm not anti-religious.   I have seen to much and felt to much not to believe in a higher power, and to quote Shakespeare:

"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 
Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

However, I'm a rationalist.  A realist and someone with a scientific and engineering background.  I consider myself to be a follow of the flying spaghetti monster only to the extent that I can raise a point about some of the silliness that is religious belief today.  I'm at home in hard facts.  The reality is that we're so fucked in so many different ways, but that is for another time and place.  As of late however I fear that my brothers and sisters in playful anti-religious rhetoric are starting to go a bit to far.

Case in point, New Zealand has officially recognized Pastafarianism as a actual religion.  Not as a loose group of agnostics, atheists and semi-believers...but an actual religion.  We have become what we tease.  

Poland actually recognizes us as well, but that was...and I swear this is true, a clerical error.  If that does not sound like a made up God of carbohydrates acting on our behalf I don't know what is.

Being recognized as a religion is a big thing.  Technically I could argue that my company would have to give me every Friday off (with pay) because Fridays (every Friday) is a religious holiday.  For now however many Pastafarian believers fight smaller battles.  Like getting a identification photo of yourself wearing a colander on your head.

Sure it seems harmless and silly.  Until you consider headgear in other religions.  Or until you stop to wonder why the country of Turkey adopted the Fez as its "official" headgear.   Symbols can be powerful things.  There may come a time years from now where the strainer will be seen as a mark of a Pastafarian.

Humor is not a bad thing, it allows us to poke fun at ourselves and our follie's.  What worries me, deep down in my core, is that a silly made up religious movement will start to gain ground and lose sight of what it was supposed to accomplish in the first place.  That we will become an actual religion with all the trappings (and problems) of modern religion.

The good news is that we are a small group, spread all over the world with different ideas and core beliefs.  The good news is that those beliefs are slowly spreading.  Growing and evolving as more people are "touched by his noodly appendage".  We have no army, no nation or single organizational body...yet.

Give us 1000 years, maybe 2000.  Then we will see where and what we are at that time.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Time's untimely problem

So back to Politics for a moment.

Time Magazine is conducting an online non-binding poll for their Person of the Year.  The poll results may not matter in whom Time Magazine picks...but they are in a no win situation.  

Currently Bernie Sanders leads the race.  He's a whole 5% ahead of Malala Yousafzai who is currently in second at the time of this article.  He is well ahead of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the other two political figures that matter in this particular horse race, leading Hillary by 9% and Trump by 8%.  

Here's the problem for Time Magazine.  If they don't pick Bernie Sanders they run the risk of alienating a large part of that ever important advertising dollar (the 18 to 25 year old sweet spot for advertisers who also support Bernie Sanders in droves).  They run the risk of being part of the vast media conspiracy which is designed to prevent Bernie's message from getting out there (please note I don't believe that crap for a moment).

Sanders does generate a lot of interest and a lot of passion in his followers.  Like many I originally went with Bernie because I did not want to see another Clinton or Bush in the White House.  I don't believe it's good for the country or democracy.  Honestly several months ago the media did make it seem like these two were destined to battle, and I would have voted for Clinton holding my nose the whole time.   I still might have to.

If they chose him, it will undoubtedly be for his crowds of thousands of people and his "socialist" label.  The fact that he has matched many of his challengers on both sides dollar for dollar with relatively small donations.  You just "don't do that in modern politics."

He's always walked the walked and exposed hypocrisy for what it matter who has said it.  

For me, the outside observer, the fact that people are even talking about "a media conspiracy" is interesting.   It just shows the overall distrust that Americans have in the "system" in general.  Sadly we've all seen news stories get the facts wrong, print retractions or flat our lie in order to get ratings or "scoop" the competition.  

That's what is fueling the raise of Sanders and of Donald Trump.  The feeling that the system is broken, how to fix it however remains up in the air.   I'm not saying or implying that Trump, Cruz and Carson are fascists, but let's be honest...they lean more to the right than anyone else in the Republican party.  He, and the Tea Party before him, have damaged the Republican party possibly beyond repair.

If Donald Trump was a traditional Republican candidate he be sitting in the bottom of the polls because the party would have muzzled him years ago.  He leads the race on the right currently because he offers the Right the same thing Bernie offers the left...a chance to tear the system down and start anew.

Again he puts Time in a uncomfortable position.  Yes, they could name him Man of the Year and it would be well deserved.  However they would face charges of "jumping on the bandwagon", supporting "racism and jingoism."

Trump has pretty much run his race his way and with his own money.   Again "You just don't do that in modern politics."

Honestly....I would not be surprised if Time named both men as "Outsider of the year." I guess we will see.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What I want, What I need is more money

I'm going to take a break from the politics and such to concentrate on something else for a change.  My girl and I are thinking about buying a motorhome or other such nonsense.

I should explain, we both have family that still live in Northwestern Pennsylvania and it's important for Susan to go home at least once or twice a year for a week or two.  Sadly neither her mother's home or her daughter home is really ideal.  They both live in small places, basically just one bedroom homes and that means Sue is stuck sleeping on the floor or the couch in the living room when she visits.  Not exactly the ideal situation.  As such we have been throwing the idea around of either buying/building a "tiny home" for her to stay in while visiting them...or getting an RV.

The "tiny home" or RV could be rented out during the 6 to 9 months that Sue would not be going home (basically Sept through March) to a college kid.  Sue's family owns the property on which it sits and their are 3 nearby colleges at least.  Tying it into the water and sewer system would not be an issue either.  That also means that she can stay longer than a week or two, an idea that appeals to her.

You can pick up a "Tiny home" or even a good RV for under 20K.  That means charging about a $500 dollar rent.  If you rent the place for 8 to 9 months out of the year, that is more than enough money to pay the expenses and make a small but reasonable profit.  Once the property is paid off in full your golden and a positive cash flow is never a bad thing.

While I'm not sure I could live in a area of 500 or less square feet, which I understand is the definition of a tiny home, I like the concept of simply "simplifying" your life.  My first apartment after college was a 500 square foot place outside of Charlotte, NC.  I didn't own much at the time but I quickly found myself needing to leave the place when the walls started to suffocate me.  "Tiny" living I know is not for everyone.

In nearby Orlando there is a tiny home community that sometimes does open houses, I'm hoping to be able to attend one soon for ideas and an idea on pricing.   Going with a pre built kit home means I don't have to hire someone to do the work or be (hopefully) to concerned it was done wrong.

Option two - and this is the one Sue likes.

An RV.  Pictured above is what's referred to as a Class C RV.

I have to be honest I like the idea to a certain extent.  The idea of being able to take off and go somewhere with her for a weekend or a week appeals to me.  Frankly, if and when I retire, I would love to simply go and see Canada, Mexico and the US at my leisure.  While both of us believe that camping should be done from the confines of a motel room, this is about as close as we're going to get to "roughing it."  Something like a Class C would allow us to dip our toes into the RV waters.

However, unlike the tiny home, I'm not sure how something like that would work for us.   A new motorhome is simply out of the budget.  Plus frankly how would we be able to rent that out?   A better option may be a travel trailer.

Here we see a classic and iconic Airsteam.  The good news is that they can be winterized or some are even designed to be lived in for all four seasons.  A bit of work could be done to block the cold air from getting inside of the trailer and you have a small, but hopefully comfortable, home for a college kid.

The only problem is that we would need to have a different type of vehicle to either move it or tow it from place to place.  Something we can't do right now.  I'm about 3 years away from being financially solvent and am not happy about adding another debt...but like the man said, "you don't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."   I'm trying to build towards my future.

Personally, if we do this I'm thinking a travel trailer is the best way to go.   Sue and I are spitballing ideas right now, looking at options and trying to find something that is going to meet all of our needs.  Frankly I'm not sure which way we will go.

Rentals have there drawbacks of course but in the end they are a solid investment and will make us some additional cash in the future.  I'm going to be 65 before I know it and although I'm not bad off, I'm not where I want to be.   Having that additional cash flow is only a good thing.

Of course I might just say "fudge it" if I could afford a place like this.  I would sell the homes in Florida in a heartbeat and live on the road full time.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The various strands of history

I'm a political wonk.  I love reading about politics, seeing how things begin to change over time.  How things have come to be.

While I'll gladly admit that I'm liberal and consider myself a progressive: I was a fan of Democratic Socialism before Bernie Sanders made it cool, I'm also a realist.  Democratic Socialism has always been part of the United States, and it's only going to grow.  The fact that we are actually having a conversation about what that term means is progress.

While Americans have always had a discussion about the role of the unwashed masses in our society, this is probably the first time since the 1760's that role has been so openly discussed.

Basically it's a simple argument about what is best for America.  Do we allow only certain people to control us, and remember in America at one time the only people allowed to vote were white men that owned land (they were seen as being responsible as they had the most to lose or gain in a election).  Or do we trust the general populace to make a choice?   Every battle we have had since has been along those lines.

From allowing blacks the vote, to women's rights, to the current fight over the minimum wage.

What many politicians and media people are missing however is the very subtle shift that is occurring towards a more equitable economy.   It's in fits and starts and like everything in America it seems to be starting  small.  A barely visible moment at the lowest and most basic of places.  The neighborhood.

I'm seeing more community gardens.  I'm seeing progressive cities like my old home town of Pittsburgh, who recently tore down old dilapidated buildings and turned the now vacant lots into community gardens.   Allowing some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city access to fresh, green and healthy foods.   Helping to answer in some small way the growing "food desert" problem that plagues many cities.

I see it in the fight against gerrymandering.  I get that.  It's only natural to want to protect what you see as "your power."  So Ohio's recent decision to outlaw it is a victory for democracy in my opinion.   Let's have races actually run on issues.

When I hear of families of two or three generations living together under one roof in order to save money and cut costs, I see a changing economy.  When I read stories about polyamory, and how again a small community of people is redefining what it means to "be a family", I see a changing world and economy.

Driving home one day after work and listening to Marketplace on NPR I was shocked to hear a conversation about the idea of establishing a Universal Basic Income.  That to me meant that business leaders themselves are beginning to understand that the economy is changing in such a way that the old models are not sustainable.  All of this conversation was brought about by economic anxiety index; which serve as a gauge about the general feeling of the economy.

It's to radical of an idea for politicians to touch, yet if it's being discussed on a award winning show about business and slowly finding it's way into business magazines as a viable option, then you know it's a viable option.   Business is not always short term driven and "evil."  In order for it to survive long term they have to come to grips with a changing world.

Don't believe me?  Look into the history of civil rights.  You will see that business put pressure on states to change racist laws.  Or have supported gay rights - sure, it was to sell more of their product and look "progressive" but that's not the point.   In doing these things they "normalize" what many people protest.  Sure, some crazy religious group might stop buying Doritos because the chips are rainbow colored, and all they do is give the company free publicity.

To get back on track though...think of it this way.   If a company can't sell it's product or if the marketplace shrinks so much that their product becomes a luxury item for most people, then the sales drop.  Simple supply and demand economics.   BUT if everyone had a certain amount of income guaranteed then the market place opens up again and their more people to buy Doritos of any flavor and color.

Does that mean a possible loss of profit in the short term?   Probably.  Greater profits in the long term?  Most likely.

Does this mean I'm hopeful?   Sort of.  Change takes time, ideas like this take time.  Greater Equality takes time.  The wheels on the train are creaky and rusted but once you start them moving down the track they will only pick up speed.

Doing the right thing

My office and work space
I've been ignoring these blogs over the past couple of weeks.  My life has become a flurry of days and nights that flow into each other.  I didn't even realize yesterday was Friday the 13th 2015 till one of my clients reminded me of it.

Which brings me to some choices that I have to make.   I like my job.  I like the people I'm associated with and at times can make good money (as the 2 grand check for 2 weeks work in my bank account shows).  I do feel however that my job is "unstable" and what I mean by that is simple.  In the past 14 months I've worked for 4 different departments and have worked with 16 different clients.

I enjoy a challenge.  I enjoy learning something new...and I'm happy that the company feels that I can handle whatever problem is thrown my way.  At the same time I also feel that if things slip gears for me and I no longer am able to produce at a certain level...that I would be out on the street.  Welcome to sales, welcome to the world of finance and insurance.

Lately I've been toying with the idea of making my life even more complex and busy by looking outside my company and building a small book of business for myself; while continuing to work for the company I do.

From when I first bought the place
There are reasons for this.  We need to get the kitchen redone.  The electric stove (welcome to Florida where everything is electric) has lost one of its burners.  The door keeps coming off it too.  The cabinets are dated and the floor is an ugly off white color.  So let's sink about 10 grand into that, because if we are going to be honest with ourselves, people look at kitchens and baths.  Plus updating it would help with resale value and although I'm noting planning on selling anytime soon, I have to keep that in the back of my mind.

I had to do sink some serious cash into this home for a new roof already, some underpinning work, flooring, paint and added a shed.  I did some grounds keeping work on the outside of it this year, taking down some trees (which to be honest I did not want to do) and trimming up others.

Slowly but surely this has become a home that Susan and I can feel proud of.  This is our home.

Over the last two years however Susan's health has not been good.   She's ended up in the hospital a few times, and as some friends know....the prognosis is sketchy at best.  So there is talk of her wanting to go back up north to Pennsylvania to live with family again, at least for a partial amount of the year.   I can understand that.

Slippery Rock Campground be perfect for her.  It's only a couple miles from were she grew up and with relative low costs for rent she could be there for 3 or 4 months out of the year if needed.   Of course, this takes money.

We always find a way.

So I put feelers out...looking for a independent company that might be willing for me to work weekends and nights at times to slowly, ever so slowly, build a book of business for them.  To make things...better for us.

I know USAA is hiring, that they pay more per hour, but that means putting up with "sweat shop" conditions and frankly at this time I'm not looking for that.  I don't mind putting in the work, but I do mind the stress.  I'm not working to work, I'm working to live.

So...let's see what happens.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The temporary nature of art.

We had some good news this past week, so with that in mind we decided to travel down to Clearwater and take in the chalk art festival that run over the weekend.  I've always admired those that can draw or do something, anything with their hands.  Perhaps because I never got past the stick figure phase, I am always impressed with what people can do.  From creating 3-D fish with chalk to creating ice sculptures or crafting a wonderful piece of furniture.

You have to wonder exactly how many hours someone put into what, will ultimately be lost.  Much like those that build elaborate sand sculptures or sand mandela's, I suppose the joy is in the creation.

All life is transitory.

I can understand why people create art, or write blogs.  It's a way of saying, "I'm here, I matter."  Still though, when you're working in a art form that can be washed away in the next tide or rainstorm, I can not help but wonder what drives them to create.

Then you hear the "Oh's" and the "Wow's" and I start to understand a little more.   Life is dark, hard, brutal...even in a paradise like Florida, and now and again you're shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right (with apologies to Robert Hunter who first uttered that line).  Life is funny that way.  Art helps us find our way.  It provides a few moments of wonder and joy.

Not the best pic, but you can see the 3D nature of it.

I'm an explorer at heart, give me that experience...that sense of wonder at any time.  I'll take it.  Give that that "OH!" moment.  Give me food that I may never have again.  Give me the experience of a new drink, new music, new is to short not to enjoy it.

And as I dug into my first ever Stone Crab at a local eatery I found the meat to be sweet and meaty but lacking much taste.  Perhaps it was how it was prepared.  In fact, it tasted much like other crab I've had in my life.  I also find that eating crab requires a lot of work for little return, and I found it funny that I was reminded of peeling a hard boiled egg as I removed the carapace from the meat.  Just look at that concentration!

For what it's worth, life is good.  You have that special someone to keep you warm, you have warm days and cool nights to snuggle.  You have that now...but life is transitory.  We age, and yes...we will die.

Did we bring joy?  Did we bring someone an "OH!" moment in their life?  Did we write a song that brings a smile, gets someone to tap their feet?  A love note?  A novel?  Did we paint a picture that brings a smile.

Life is simple.  Make someone happy.  In doing so, you'll be happy too.  Create a Positive feedback loop.  

For additional photo's go here.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Bernie Sanders - The President we need.

I am a member of the Democratic Party.  Always have been, always will be.  I'm a dyed in the wool Democrat.

Depending on your political views that is either a good thing or a bad thing.  It stirs up a certain image in your mind.

Bernie Sanders is a Democratic Socialist.   It's that last word that people have been concentrating on lately and honestly if you listen to his speeches he is talking about one of the basic tenets of Socialism, class warfare.  It's that last word I want to concentrate on.

I like Bernie Sanders.  I support Bernie Sanders and I truly believe that he has a chance (although slim) of taking the Democratic nomination for President.  What attracts me, and many of his supporters, is that the man has been "walking the walk" for his whole political career.  He's never run a political attack ad - preferring to stay on topic and talk the issues - as he recent "Enough with the damned emails" comment during the first Democratic debate shows.

Thanks to the NY Observer
He also could have turned a chance meeting into political gold.   He did not.   In fact, it was a friend of the Bland family that broke the story.  Any other politician would have called for TV camera's and issued press releases.

Integrity and class are words not often associated with politicians.

Of course, it is not the way of modern politicians to use integrity and class.  Instead we get a twitter war between, in my humble opinion, idiots like Trump and Bush.  Do we really want two grown men acting like grade schoolers to be the future leader of this country?

The American people deserve better.

Yet, for a variety of reasons (all of our own doing), this is what we get.

Of course, as the race heats up and we move deeper into the political season (hard to believe the election is still over a year away)  we are going to see more and more attacks on Bernie and the "Socialist" label he gives himself.

 Never mind the fact that many of our allies are Democratic Socialist nations or have some Democratic Socialist system in place.  All the right will hear will be the "Socialism" part of things.

America is socialist in a lot of ways already.  There are the very public examples of the police and fire departments.  The roads and bridges we drive on.   Our often wrongly misunderstood Social Security and Medicare systems.  I am not sure if there is enough time to educate the average Joe on the street about that.

I can see it now.  Hour after hour of negative political ads featuring pictures of the old Soviet Union and of Cuba being flashed across our TV screens while jackbooted soldiers march to the Internationale.

I'm curious if the fear is going to work though.  We have had eight years under that Communist Muslim Obama and yet our lives are pretty much the same as they were before.  Some might even argue better than before.  Negative ads work, but will they work against the Republicans in this case?  I'm sure they are asking themselves that very question.

The pundits and news media are missing one thing in all their coverage.  The American people are angry, fed up with the bullshit and tired.  We have had eight or more years of Fox News telling us lies. Nineteen years of Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and John Oliver deflating the pompous attitude of politicians on both sides of the spectrum.  Both sides have failed to live up to their promises to us, the American people.

It's hard to deny.  This election has everyone in power on edge.  No, I'm not a conspiracy nut.  There is no vast network of people trying to keep Sanders down.   But he does threaten vested interests in keeping the status quo, just like Trump does on the right.   Both set dangerous precedents for the future (and that is for another day as well).

The internet, although it does allow us to form little enclaves with like minded individuals, has also allowed people to do their own research and collect their own data.  To actually make up their own mind on an issue.  It also has allowed old myths to perpetuate.  What were the most searched for words after the Democratic debate?   Socialism, Democratic Socialism, and

Yes, Communism and Socialism are in the same family.  Democratic Socialism is to the left of the Democratic party.  If you actually sit and read what many of the Tea Party darlings like Walker and Huckabee are calling for...that is more towards the Totalitarianism side of the political spectrum.  Of course they don't want to hear that.   I'll be the first to call a spade a spade.

I understand Democratic Socialism.  I am not afraid of it, and I've been calling for a one payer medical system for years.  It's coming, America has no choice as it is the only way we will reign in the over bloated health care costs that privatization and for profit hospitals bring.

Some of the other things make sense.  For example using our post office systems as banks, investing in our infrastructure, raising taxes on the wealthy.   It's not going to be easy and honestly I feel the Republican party understands this too.  They are not dying but may be passing into the night as a National party if they don't change...we are seeing the birthing pains of a new, and hopefully better, Republican party now.  That however is for another time, another place.

So yea, a little Socialism just might be what this country needs.

It's not going to work however if we the House and Senate to the Republicans.  We need more progressives in office than ever before.  Just because they are a Democrat does not make them progressive - always research there record.  I would proudly have this guy in office any day of the week!

So please, join us on the barricades.  Join the revolution and #feelthebern

Monday, October 19, 2015

Welcome to my diseased mind. Enjoy the view.

I've been considering starting another blog for sometime.   While I enjoy writing about my adventures on my bike, that is not all I'm interested in.

I'm interested in politics, music, football, that other football (soccer), the law and life in general.  Sometimes an idea strikes me that I want to write about but it doesn't seem like it really belongs in a motorcycle blog.

Sure I could put this crap on my Facebook page, and to a large extent I already do.  However the problem with Facebook is that your limited.  A 20,000 word rambling about the evils of polyester is just not possible on Zuckberg's creation.

So I thought I should lay down some ground rules.

a)  I really do want your feedback - but you have to defend your argument with facts.  I'll be the first one to admit when I'm wrong.   You should be able to do that as well.  If you're insulting, mean or just plain stupid your reply may not see the light of day, but then just might.  I have the final say.

b)  I don't plan to limit myself.  We get to be better people by questioning things.  We learn that way.  I truly believe you never stop learning.   So you might get an article about Bernie Sanders one day followed by a piece on my favorite piece of classical music the next.   If you know something I don't, then share it with me.  Just be nice.  I'm still debating about you really need to know everything?

c)  Whenever possible I will use facts.  Sometimes I will not and these are opinion pieces.  Take it for what it is.

d)  If you want to link this to your blog go ahead.  I will be happy to share your link as well.

e)  I plan on having fun with this.   When it stops being fun that's it.  I'm done.   This will be updated whenever I feel like it.

Simple enough I think.