Thursday, November 29, 2018

A Thin Slice of Life

     Sometimes, like on a wintry Wednesday after Thanksgiving, a thin slice of life is what I feel like blogging about. Well maybe more a thin slice of avocado…
     I was grading in my office after my morning classes and before a 1 pm Faculty Senate Executive meeting. Around 12:30, I thought I would head over to the Johnson Center, our newest building on campus, where the meeting was supposed to take place. I would get there with time to grab a sandwich at the ARA run Einstein Bros. Bagels in the lobby. A specialty of the house, a turkey, bacon, and avocado sandwich was sounding pretty darn good.
     I got there between classes so there was no line. I placed my order, paid, filled my drink, and waited for my sandwich. The student worker announced, “Turkey, bacon, avocado.” I said right here, and she said, “We have no avocado.” I responded, “Well then it isn’t really a turkey, bacon, avocado is it?” All I got was a deadpan stare. So, I added, “How much rebate will you be giving me?” More deadpan. Then I said “You know for the missing avocado… for which I paid.” The deadpan pan continued but she did say, “Pardon me?” I responded, “I ordered and paid for a turkey, bacon, avocado, you gave me only a turkey and bacon sandwich. As I got less than what I ordered and paid for, I figured I should pay less.” My estimate was that the missing slice of avocado was about 15% of the value of the sandwich. "What else would you expect from a professor who teaches microeconomics.” All I got was more deadpan.
     The young lady’s boss, another student, asked if there were an issue. Mind you, I was doing all this in a lighthearted way with, as far as I could tell without a mirror, a twinkle in my eye. I told him, “It is at best a minor issue if at all.” I rephrased what I told his colleague including the suggestion that a rebate was probably in order. I just got more deadpan and he was not as good at it as she was. Needless to say, I did not get the rebate and honestly, I really wasn’t looking for one. The whole thing just kind of struck me as a bit absurd. Maybe the operations management professor in me that they should have told me, when I ordered the turkey, bacon, avocado sandwich, that they were out of avocados. Then, I could have made an informed choice and not been surprised at the end. Maybe, I was just in a playful mood and was simply disappointed they were deadpanning instead taking playing along.
     I sat down, unwrapped, and ate the sandwich. It was actually pretty tasty. Upon leaving for my meeting, I told them so and thanked them for making it. They both broke into wry deadpannish smiles. A semi-sweet dessert if you ask me.
     I wonder what today will bring? We shall see.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Game

     Before: It is twenty minutes to kick-off of the 115th meeting of Michigan and Ohio State. For most of my life, it is simply been referred to as "the game."  It is, in my purely biased view, the greatest rivalry in sports, nay, the history of sport and possibly even warfare and human conflict. It is good versus evil. The outcome sets the tone for the next year for both players and fans on both sides.
     Michigan is favored in Columbus for the first time… in way too long a time. We have a great team. It is built on a rock-solid defense and a constantly improving offense. I love strong defensive teams. Stop them from scoring, stymie their game plan, frustrate them, and crush their will and ability to win.
     Both teams are 10-1. Michigan is undefeated in the Big Ten. Ohio State has their one loss in the conference. There is a lot of talk about how this Ohio State is lesser. The announcer just said that “they have walked a tight rope this season.” But, dang, they are still 10-1 and still are coached by Urban Meyer who, no matter what you think of him, is one excellent football coach.
     Throw the out all the pre-game babble and hype. None of that matters in this game. Throw all of that out the window. It is in the hands of the players who want it more than any of anybody else.
     My prognostication? I want to win, and this is the best team we have had in years. But I think Urban Meyer is the better coach and, sadly, I think the evil empire will prevail.
     During: I have some notion that I can actually write about this during the game. I am sure this won’t last. Ohio State just kicked-off to Michigan, held us to three and out, and we punted to them and they ran for a first down and then just passed for one. The adrenalin is flowing in this armchair coach… gotta stop writing to cheer and yell at the TV screen. [expletive deleted] they just scored. 7-0 OSU.  Wow, that is fast and it doesn't bode well.
     The last minute of the first half was crazy. Michigan scored a touchdown. Ohio State fumbled the kick-off and Michigan recovered on the 8 yard line. Michigan scored a touchdown on the next play.  We kicked-off to Ohio State with 41 seconds left in the half.  Ohio State drove down and kicked a field... we seem unable to stop them.
     Coming out of half-time, all Michigan fans were hoping that we could make the adjustments that would allow our defense to dominate.  I fear the Ohio State offense adjustments were better.  It is the middle of the 3rdQuarter and Michigan is down 34 – 19. It is not looking good. Ohio State looks better. Much better. If we score, they score faster. 
     48 – 25 at the 13:00 mark of the 4thQuarter. Our vaunted defense simply cannot stop Ohio State.
     There was a question on a Michigan page on Facebook asking people what the key would be for a Michigan victory today. In borderline smarmy way, I posted: Michigan has to score more points than we allow Ohio State to score. Duh…
     After: The game just ended. Ohio State trounced Michigan 62 – 39. They scored 62 points on us!  We scored 39 point on them which is pretty good.  But my smarmy prescription held true… for them. Our defense was overwhelmed by their offense. Urban Meyer is an unbelievable recruiter, coach, and motivator. We are still second to Ohio State in football. We have not beat an Urban Meyer coached Ohio State team.
  • We had 401 yards of total offense. Ohio State had 567
  • Michigan passed for 240 and rushed for 161 yards (4 yards per rush)
  • Ohio State had 318 yards passing and ran for 249 (6 yards per rush)
  • We turned it over twice versus one for them. I do believe all turnovers turned into scores.
     Our numbers were good but we lost because their offense overwhelmed our defense.  
     Michigan has a bowl game yet to play and then looking forward to next season. The team and the fanbase has to endure another year of not beating Ohio State. Sadly, I am almost getting used to it.
     This being said, we are 10 – 2. That is a great record and has been a great season. Kudos to the team and coaching staff and… keep getting better.

Old Car - New Car

The 2002 4Runner
   While I was born in Massachusetts, I am really a Detroit guy. Being a Detroit guy, I am also somewhat of an auto guy as well. As a boy, I could name every car on the streets of Detroit and they were all from the Big Three back in those days. Henry Ford’s Mansion, Fairlane, was on the campus of the University of Michgan – Dearborn. My first jobs were in the auto industry at Ford Motor where my maternal grandfather had labored. In the auto industry, almost everyone was driving newer cars. It was simply how it was done. We worked in the industry and we wanted to drive the latest models. Also, back in those days, the US models did not age well, nor did they have very good reputations for reliability.
     I always bought Fords as that is where I started. Even upon moving to Connecticut to work for Colgate-Palmolive in New York City, I still bought another Ford. Then as the market trended to SUVs, I ended up buying two Chevy S-10 Blazers. The reason I
The 2018 4Runner
switched to GM was simply because the Blazer was cheaper and had better incentives than the Ford Explorer or other models.
     At the end of my being a Ford customer, I was not happy with the reliability of their products and certainly not happy with the design, performance, and reliability of the Blazers from General Motors either. I expected more from Ford since they had revolutionized the way they designed vehicles with the very successful Taurus. But, in true Ford fashion, that method did not become the norm nor part of the culture.
     I know a bit about the heritage of both Ford and Toyota. I have studied and continue to study both companies on my own. In the 1980s, I was part of a team that evaluated Toyota versus Ford defects in the warranty period. Finally, I was part of a study mission that visited many companies in the Toyota family of companies.
     So, I thought I would give a Toyota a try. I bought my wife a Camry and then leased her an Avalon. They were awesome cars. They operated smoothly and performed admirably on the road with one exception… they were not good climbing our street, Cavalry Hill Rd, when it snowed. We needed either all or four-wheel drive. So, I leased a Lexus RX. It was a perfect vehicle. It was so perfect, we leased two more until I switched her over to Mercedes. We looked at Cadillacs and Buicks along the way but were not overly

     I bought my first Blazer in 1995. It was red, and I actually was happy with it even though the braking was horrible (rim brakes on the rear wheels instead of disc). I gave it to my son when he went to college and I had to buy another car. I wanted a Toyota 4Runner. I priced them out and, dang, if Chevrolet was not provided zero financing and a low price making it $5,000 less than the 4Runner. So, I bought a navy-blue Blazer and was actually unhappy driving it off the lot. Allow me to emphasize this, I was actually unhappy driving a brand-new vehicle out of the dealership. That is not supposed to happened. It was prophetic.
     That Blazer stalled on the way home! It continued to stall every time I drove it. I took it back to the dealership and it took them a week to fix it. The vehicle was a rattle trap at 60K miles. We traded it in in 2009 when my daughter bought a Jeep.
     In 2002, my son drove the red 95 Blazer into the ground at about 80K, so I decided to give him the blue Blazer. I needed a new car. Without hesitation and without checking with GM, Ford, or any other make, I went to the Toyota dealership and negotiated to buy a beige (they called it Champagne) 4Runner Limited. I was delighted to drive this truck off of the lot.
     That delight never waned. In fact, it grew and grew. I remember hearing a Toyota executive address us in the study mission to Japan that, and I paraphrase, their goal was to have their customers happier with their vehicles with each year of ownership. I was really surprised to hear this as cars and truck wear out. They start losing value from the moment you buy them. Repairs simply become more expensive as components wear out. To achieve their vision, they would have to have excellent engineering and precision manufacturing… exactly what Toyota is known for. That increasing delight is exactly what I experienced in 16 years of ownership of my 4Runner. That is a great definition and example of quality that breeds customer loyalty.
  I just bought a new 2018 4Runner and traded in my 2002 4Runner. Given the age and being 500 miles shy of 200,000 miles, they gave me a mere $1,500 for my old 4Runner. 
     I understood the economics of this, but that truck was worth so much more to me. In fact, I was sad to give it up. I have owned that car for a quarter of my life. It has had amazing reliability and will go another 50-100,000 miles for whoever buys it next. It was, flat-out, the best car I have ever owned. I was feeling down driving it the last time this past Wednesday, November 21st. I really felt I was severing a great friendship. It was just a car but one I appreciated more and more each year I had it.
     Thankfully, these feelings quickly dissipated when I drove away in the new 4Runner. I would love to see this one last 16 years. The new one certainly has some big shoes to fill.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Feeling Thankful

Sasoun David
     It is Thanksgiving 2018. For the second year in a row, we just stayed home, Judy and I, and had a rare down day. Between the football, not overeating, getting some chores done around the house, and avoiding the hype and lure that is Black Friday, I actually had the time and inclination to reflect and be thankful. That is the essence of the holiday after all which is sometimes too much in the background.
     I am very thankful for my entire family. I love and value one and all. They make me smile and bring me joy. The older I am, the more important that is. This includes most certainly my wife, our children, our mothers, our aunts and uncles, our siblings and their spouses, our nieces and nephews, our vast extended richness of cousins and their families. I am thankful for the memories of our fathers, our grandparents, my sister, and aunts and uncles who have passed. I am thankful the richness of our friends both those we see often and those we should be more in touch with. I am thankful, also, for my encore career at North Park University. It is the capstone, for sure, to my career.
     Did I forget our grandchildren? No, not at all. Aris, Vaughn, Lara, Sasoun, and a fifth due in February are truly blessings in our lives.
     I am especially thankful for my youngest grandchild, Sasoun David Kapamajian. Sasoun was born on November 27th. We were, of course, delighted. A short week later, we got some very scary news. Sasoun was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID). We were not sure what that was but were devasted when we heard it was “the Bubble Boy disease” or syndrome. Our little guy, basically, did not have an immune system. He could not get a cold… period. It was a gut punch to the entire family. We were in shock. Our daughter Armene and Sasoun went into a sterile, isolation, room at UCLA and we had no clue what was to happen and what the next steps were. Sasoun’s father, Michael, was wonderful working at his ophthalmology practice, coordinating Sasoun’s medical care, spending time with Vaughn, and explaining everything that was happening and planned to all of us. It was a tough December last year.
     Everyone we knew prayed for Sasoun. He truly has some of the best doctors in the world, specializing in SCID, caring for him. He has awesome parents who steered a steady course through these uncharted waters. Sasoun had his California grandparents Anna and Manuk who watched his brother Vaughn while he and his mother were in isolation for three months… yes, they were in a hospital room for three months.
     Medicine has advanced amazingly since the era of the Bubble Boy. We learned that early diagnosis was the key to treatment and healing. This is why SCID is screened for it a birth these days. The next step is a bone marrow transplant to trigger the growth of T-cells, the foundation of the immune system that was missing. Thankfully, Sasoun’s brother Vaughn was a perfect match. Secondly, Michael and Armene had had Vaughn’s umbilical cord saved and frozen. The umbilical cord was rich in stem cells was the source of everything the physicians needed for the bone marrow transplant, thus sparing Vaughn from having to undergo any medical procedure. On January 10th, Sasoun had the transplant and the transplant team celebrated this as his second birthday… which we certainly celebrate ourselves!
     Sasoun and Armene remained in the isolation room at UCLA until mid-March. They were there for three months! The positive side of this was that Sasoun had the full attention of his mother for three months. Three-year-old Vaughn was a trooper too. He missed his mother and face-timed with her a few times a day. He understood and weathered this interruption in his routine wonderfully. Because Sasoun’s numbers were heading in the right direction, mother and son were released to home isolation. The could only go out for doctor’s visits
     All through this, everyone kept Sasoun in their prayers. Everyone asked about him, his status, and how everyone was doing. It was a true blessing and, I am certain, had an impact. I am ever so thankful to everyone who kept him in their prayers.
     At this writing, they are still in-home isolation. As Sasoun’s numbers progress positively, the definition of home isolation is a wee bit looser than it was in March. And Sasoun? He is a happy, engaging, and fun little guy. He is unaware of his condition and all that he went through. That is as it should be and definitely another blessing for which we are thankful. We face-time with him regularly. He knows us and responds to our songs and little games.
      As Sasoun is about to turn one, we are ever so thankful for how this is all working out. He is not fully out of the woods, and it not clear to me to what extent he will ever be, but he is in a much better place than he was fifty short weeks ago. We are all much happier and optimistic, cautiously optimistic, and oh so very thankful.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

The End of the Great War: 100 Years
     One hundred years ago on this day, World War I ended. The Great War ended at the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. It was dubbed the war to end all wars. It was called the Great War because of the vast numbers of soldiers involved from so many countries.
     It was also called the Great War because the industrial age had brought mechanization and science to warfare to make this brutal undertaking more brutal and miserable as we were able to more efficiently kill each other. The concept of a second Great War was inconceivable. It seemed for a moment that the leaders of the world actually believed we had to find a way to live peacefully. They even thought it was possible and took steps toward that by creating the League of Nations to resolve disputes between countries without resorting to warfare which the rightfully assumed would even get more brutal.
     The war began on July 28, 1914 and lasted more than four years until November 11, 1918. In that time 8.5 million soldiers were killed and another 22.2 million were wounded. 10 million civilian were killed. As I read this last statistic, I wondered if the Armenian’s who died in the Genocide are in that count.
     Chemical weapons, mustard gas, were used for the first time as was the first battle tanks. It was the first-time airplanes were used. The trench warfare in France made for the miserable conditions we are reminded of in film and books such as All Quiet on the Western Front.     The US Congress declared November 11, Armistice Day, to be a day of National Observance in 1926. In 1938, they made it a national holiday. In 1954, Armistice Day was renamed Veteran’s Day. I am not a Veteran. There is some regret for not having served, but at this point in my life, it is what it is. I know I was not put in harm’s way but again I never experience the comradery and esprit du corps that being in harm’s way can forge in a group of young men. I honor and revere anyone who served in war or peace.
     I believe in honoring Veteran’s and having a Veteran’s Day. But, I have a longing for Armistice Day, a day to commemorate the end of the first modern world war, and, maybe more importantly, a day to commemorate what people, for a brief time in history, thought and believed would be or should have been the end of all war.
     Kurt Vonnegut put it best in his novel Breakfast of Champions:
So this book is a sidewalk strewn with junk, trash which I throw over my shoulders as I travel in time back to November eleventh, nineteen hundred and twenty-two. 
I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month. 
It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind. 
Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.
     We no longer have “men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.” We did not listen. Will we ever…

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Really Matters in the End
     My father died on June 3rd. This Saturday, November 3rd, it will it will be five months.
     There are predictable ways in which his passing is top of mind. First and foremost are family gatherings where his presence is missed. There are the Armenian events of which the Armenian Youth Federation Olympics held every year over the Labor Day Weekend is the prime example. Certainly, as we are in the height of the college football season, I think of the commentary he would have been making in every game I watch. While he was a great track coach, I think he might have also been a great football coach. I pass by family photos every day in which he is well represented. I see these photos and his passing is again front and center or shall we say a bit more front and center. There are no surprises, just the gentle easing of grief as time passes by. He, my sisters, and grandparents who have all passed are always on my mind.
     Earlier this week, I had a different kind of reminder, an unexpected, maybe even surprising reminder of his passing. I was listening to National Public Radio during my morning commute.  They were featuring a recently published book, The Last Pass: Cousy, Russell, the Celtics, and What Matters in the End by Gary M. Pomerantz. The book, per the title, is about these two stalwarts of the great Celtic teams of the 50’s and 60’s that won 11 NBA titles. But, it had a twist. The focus of the book was how racism did and didn’t define the relationship of Cousy and Russell.  It is written from Cousy's perspective as Russell just doesn't speak to the press these days.  From NPR, “They became teammates in 1957, just after Martin Luther King Jr.'s Montgomery bus boycott, and would play together through turbulent times of the civil rights movement — in Boston, a city roiled by bigotry.” 
It is basically a Cousy confessional ot how he could have been a better and more supportive friend to his teammate.
     Well… I thought to buy the book, but not for me. I thought quite naturally, “I will get it for dad, he will enjoy reading it.” I am not sure the Bob Cousy or Ted Williams had a bigger fan than my Boston born and bred father. Needless to say, the moment I thought that pleasant thought, I had the surprising and stark realization that those days were gone. It caught me off guard. I would not be buying anymore gifts for my dad. I was reminded in an unexpected way that he was gone.
     I am not sure, given his condition these past few years, if dad would have even been able to read the book. As it is about Cousy and Russell, he might have no matter how long it took. Also, I am not sure how he would have reacted to the racism theme of the book but then again it was about his beloved Celtics, so it is hard to tell. Bottom line, I would have bought him the book.
     I may, however, read the book on his behalf and no doubt hear his ongoing commentary in my head while I do.

Friday, October 26, 2018

A Little Disappointed?

     I am a little disappointed. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am.
     I am a little disappointed that I did not win the huge Mega Millions record jackpot of $1.6 Billion.
     I know. I know. I know I had no chance of winning. I am a statistician and studied mathematical probability. I know that the probability of winning was 1 out of approximately 303 million. Actually, mine were 3 out of approximately 303 million since I bought 3 tickets.
     So, if I knew that the chances were that infinitesimal, why was I a little disappointed.
     I do not play the lottery on any regular basis. I only play it, as this week, when the jackpot is so high that it is all over the news and a topic in general conversation everywhere. I bought 3 tickets a week earlier when the jackpot was a measly $1 Billion. As no one won, the pot skyrocketed to the record level. So, I bought 3 more.
     Knowledge of probability or not, the sum was so huge I could not help doing what countless others were doing… contemplating what I might do with a windfall of that much money. What would I do with that much money? What would I do for family and friends? What I first do for myself? When I asked this last question the word Maserati popped into my mind. Maybe I would buy a small fleet of Maseratis for folks I adore. I would endow a chair, for sure, at North Park University. There were lots of other ideas, some charitable and others more for myself and my family. There was, after all, a chance, small as it was, that I could win all or a share of that jackpot. It was impossible not to dream a little… and thus impossible to not be a little disappointed.
     Tickets were $2 each. The jackpot was $1.6 B and there were approximately 303 million possible tickets. Why not just buy all possibilities? It would cost $606 Million and I could double the money. If the pot had to be split there was a chance I might break even or maybe even take a loss. The real problem with this scheme was even more fundamental. First, here would I get the $606 Million to buy the tickets. If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t need to lottery winnings to begin with. Secondly, it would take forever to print out approximately 303 million tickets even if there were five entries per sheet.
     Aside from the probabilities, another reason I knew I wouldn’t win was because I lived in a suburb or a major city. The winners all seem to be from some backwater place that you never hear about except for when they announce where winning lottery tickets were sold. I was joking with friends that I had no chance of winning since I didn’t live in someplace like Fenton, Arkansas, Darcy, Kentucky, or Humboldt, Oklahoma (all names I made up). Case in point, the winning ticket for this record jackpot was sold in Simpsonville, South Carolina.
     At the end of the day, sure, I was a little disappointed. But, when I reflected on the kinds of things I might do with the money, I only thought about getting myself that Maserati paying off some bills, and then… I thought about charities and family. It dawned on me that I was already one fortunate person and life was indeed pretty good. So, while I was amongst the throng of folks a bit disappointed that we did not win the $1.6 Billion, I feel like I won something bigger in the long run.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Answering Machines and Victrolas
      I was in a staff meeting for the School of Business and Nonprofit Management where I teach. During the agenda item on what faculty could do to assist in recruiting students, we reviewed a program where faculty call recently accepted students to congratulate them and encourage them to commit to North Park University. It is a great program in concept. I noted, “In not recognizing the number of the incoming call, no one answers the phone and I end up leaving a message on their answering machine.” Everyone laughed. I asked, with a dumb look on my face, “What??” Someone filled me in saying, “Answering machine? It’s called Voice Mail this century.” 
     Well, yes. Technically, they were right in laughing at me. I was certainly referring to a most outdated technology. Laughter aside, everyone knew what I meant.
      There is a precedent however: my father. This, occasional, trait of mine for using outdated terminology seems to be following in his footsteps. For as long as I can remember, he would occasionally refer to the refrigerator as an icebox. “Where are the apples?” He would respond, “they’re in the icebox.” Or he might ask, “Go to the icebox and get…” whatever. He used the term early enough in my life and often enough that I assumed that icebox and refrigerator were synonymous terms. In my view, to a certain degree, they are. It is where items you want to keep cold are stored. It matters not what method is used to cool the stuff in the box. I used to use the terms interchangeably, until, I was old enough to realize what an icebox actually was and how antiquated the term actually was. 
      The same logic applies to the answering machine and voice mail example. When I call someone, they don’t answer, and I hear a recording of the person’s voice telling me that they are not there and to leave a message, I have no idea if I that recording is from an antique answering machine or voice mail provided by their cell or home service provider. Actually, if I know I am calling someone’s cell phone, duh, I am fairly certain it isn’t an answering machine when I hear their recorded voice.
Uhuru Furniture
     My dad had another one of these that I found even more amusing. He used to call any music playback device, that required a needle to function, a Victrola. Of course, most everyone else called them record players or phonographs. For some reason, I never took the name Victrola to by synonymous with record player. I never really knew the origin of that term. I did figure it out about the same age I found out how an icebox differed from a refrigerator. Victrolas were actually the brand name of phonographs made by The Victor Talking Machine Company from 1901 – 1929 ( 
     The brand is still alive today,, as one can purchase a variety of retro looking record players... er... I mean...Victrolas: 
Victrola was born in 1906 in Camden, NJ when first introduced to the American public by the Victor Talking Machine Company. Full of entrepreneurial ideas and known for its use of quality materials, Victor (later becoming RCA) was the largest and most successful turntable manufacturer of its time.
More than 110 years later, the legendary Victrola trademark has been revived in the US and is now owned by Innovative Technology – The Victrola Brand will once again symbolize the same high-quality, nostalgic turntables of the past for this century’s music listeners of all ages.
    I would expound more on all of this but have to go and check my answering machine as the light is flashing. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Come on Facebook!
     There is some of fishy goings on these past few days on Facebook. Friends of all kinds are sending me messages telling me that they have gotten a duplicate friend request from me. The implication is that someone has cloned my profile and trying to get access to all my friends. I guess the cloners do this for… well it is not exactly clear. Do they use the cloned me to disseminate false news? Will they eventually make a plea for money to my friends on a fake GoFundMe like site? Maybe, it is a social media rival trying to destabilize Facebook, forcing users to leave Facebook for… and I can’t even think of where I or others would go. Or, are they simply trying to clone everyone and create a parallel Facebook of all cloned profiles? At least this last, low probability at best, option has cool philosophical implications. I would love to be able to check on what my cloned self is up to and how that cloned self is interacting with my clone friends on a parallel Facebook.
     Given that the first message I got from a trusted friend seemed plausible, I took it seriously. I searched to see there was indeed a parallel me on Facebook. I could not find a clone. That was good. So, I googled what to do if I thought my Facebook was either hacked or cloned. Not surprisingly, I was advised to change my password. I did. It was also suggested that I “secure” my account by evoking a “secure my account” dialogue box on Facebook. I did that even though it did not give me any sense that what I was asked to do could possible lead to a more secure account. OK, I idid what I was supposed to do was done.
     The following day, I got more such IMs suggesting that my account was cloned. After getting a few, I noticed that the messages were all the same or a too close in wording to be coincidental. Here is the most common message:

Hi....I actually got another friend request from you yesterday...which I ignored so you may want to check your account. Hold your finger on the message until the forward button appears...then hit forward and all the people you want to forward too....I had to do the people individually. Good Luck! PLEASE DO NOT ACCEPT A NEW ONE FROM ME AT THIS TIME.
     What else should I do? I copied the above message and googled the whole thing. Yesterday, there were a few news items talking about this being a hoax. The report said that the was not an uptick in people’s accounts being cloned. The reports urged people not to forward these messages as the IMs suggested. Today, googling the same message there are many more news items saying the same thing. Oddly, there was nothing from my favorite reputable news sources: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Newsy, or NPR.
     What surprises me is that Facebook has not posted a notice about this. They are obviously working behind the scenes trying to figure this out. I look at my IM icon and it shows 9 new messages and a few seconds later it shows 2 or 0. Clearly, there is some filtering going one. I would think being forthcoming and giving folks status updates would be better than letting people get frustrated about this, forward this hoaxy message, and think about just not using or even quitting Facebook. But then, what do I know? I’m not a Facebook executive.
     In the meantime, please stop sending me these IMs.

If I am Right...
     There is a thing about religion that I have never really resolved. Actually, it is about all the religions and their seeming inability to get along.
     Sure, we have our World Council of Churches and who knows how many other high and low level meetings of leaders of this sect and that religion, this branch and that synod, and so forth. There are divisions within what seems like the same religion, e.g. Protestants and Catholics, Sunnis and Shia, Jews and, sadly, just about everyone else.
     I grew up with division. The Armenians are a small, but I am required to add, proud and enterprising, people. We will proudly tell you that we are the first Christian nation. We are a people of devotion and dedication to our sacred church and its rites and sacraments. But, we have the equivalent of two popes though we call them Catholicos and that is but one of the things that divides us.
     Don’t get me wrong. Religions and faith are so very important. They help us answer the questions that have no empirical answers. This biggest of these questions is “What happens when we die?” Do we just die and basically cease to exist? Aesthetics would say “yep!.” Agnostics would say “can’t really tell, now can we?” These answers are OK for atheists and agnostics, but they leave so many more people view this as a hopeless perspective. It makes them uneasy and unsettled. Most of us want someone to tell us that, “death is only the end of this life, your essence will live on.” Maybe we will be reincarnated, over and over, until we get it right. Maybe if we lived a good exemplary life we will go to Heaven, Nirvana, or Valhalla. In essence, the vast majority of the world’s religions assure us of an afterlife of some sort. This is important stuff. We want to know. We need to know. We need to believe and have faith in the answer to this question. Religions help us answer this question. They are good, they are necessary, and everyone has faith in the beliefs, teachings, and writings that fortify this faith.
     Herein lies the rub. We do believe, truly we do. We believe so hard and have so much faith that for so many of us when confronted with a person with a different set of beliefs we are confused and start thinking, “We can’t both be right.” The next thoughts are, “For my belief system to be right, yours has to be wrong. For what I believe to be true means that your, different beliefs are false.” It often comes down to just that. If what I believe is the word of God and what you believe isn’t. It can easily evolve to “What I believe is the word of God and what you believe is evil… and thus you are evil.”
     Of course, this doesn’t universally apply. People are capable of seeing similarities as much as they can see differences. But, in the history of the world, rulers have often played to these kinds of differences to motivate the populace to do what they want from fighting wars to ridding a country of a particular ethnic or religious group. Yes, the rulers are motivated by economic and political gain and the use of these differences are used to get the people to do their bidding. This is not just a historical thing, it happens in our world today.
     Also, I know that theologians and biblical scholars have well thought out theories, commentaries, and commentaries on other commentaries that clears all this up using rhetoric, languages, and references that laymen have no hope of understanding. In my naïveté  I almost think they make things unnecessarily complicated and erudite.
     These differences are in base beliefs. No amount of reasoning or preaching will easily sway someone who fundamentally believes differently.