Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Robb Elementary School Shooting

 


How many times have we heard a grieving and devastating mother saying, “We can’t ever allow this to happen again.”  I just heard another, from Uvalde, TX, saying it again.

How many times has that grief-stricken plea gone unheeded?  How many times does this have to happen?  Why aren’t we all on the same page and doing whatever we have to do prevent kids being murdered in schools and people being killed in their places of worship, supermarkets, and other gathering places?  Why is this possibly a polarizing issue?  Why does the gun lobby have, led by the corrupt NRA, wield such power over our legislators?

There are simply too many guns in the wrong hands.  Gun violence incidents beyond these mass shootings are out of control.  And?  We do nothing about it. 

I thought we might actually do something after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on February 14, 2021 in Parkland, Florida.  There was an impressive movement led by students of Stoneman Douglas that, I am guessing, just petered off due to the collective deaf ears of Congress and the Florida legislature. 

We are in a repetitive cycle of being shocked, dismayed, and abhorred each time one of these mass shootings happens.  There are calls to do something.  Then, it dissipates.  It goes away.  People get back to their lives and nothing happens.  When the next shooting inevitably happens, the cycle begins anew.  This is crazy.  It speaks horribly of our country and our society. 


I am not against guns.  I own two.  I am not a hunter but enjoy target shooting.  I respect the notion of the Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  But, let’s face it, that amendment was ratified in 1791 when muskets and flintlock pistols were the only personal arms.  It is a more densely populated country today with personal firearms that the crafters of the 2nd Amendment were not even fathoming when they wrote and ratified that amendment.

President Biden said, “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” When indeed?  It is a complex problem and both sides are wrong.  I cannot imagine that we cannot figure this out if we united and seriously tackled the problem.  As I type this, one extreme is disparaging Biden, adamant about their right to bear arms like it was 1791 or the Wild West, and coming up with bizarre conspiracy theories that started after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting (npr.org).  The other extreme wants to eliminate all guns which is equally absurd and has no chance of happening.  We cannot even limit the kind of guns that people have right to bear. 

Governor Abbot of Texas was asked if he supported any gun control laws.  He responded:

I know people like to try to oversimplify this. There are 'real gun laws' in NY. There are real gun laws in California.  I hate to say this but there are more people who were shot every weekend in Chicago than in schools in Texas.

He is right and wrong.  Gun violence and murder of every ilk needs to be addressed and solved.  No child should ever be murdered whether sitting in a classroom or a church by a mass shooter or just walking down the street or sitting on their porch by stray bullets from gang violence.  As The Everymom graphic says, “Parents should be able to send their children to school without having to worry about if they'll see them again.”  We have to fix this.    We cannot allow the amount of people killed by gun violence each year.  Our country has to be better than this.

 


 

Monday, May 16, 2022

Books of Matches

 


They used to be everywhere.  You could get them anywhere, mostly for free.  They advertised restaurants, stores, and almost any brand.  We had some made some made with the letter G on them and had them at our wedding.  If you didn’t have any, you would ask almost anyone, “Got a light” and they would most like have some in their pocket or purse.   Most folks had them around their house on counters or in drawers. 

Of course, if the title or the photo had not given it away, I am talking about the humble book of matches.  Wikipedia eloquently describes them:

A matchbook is a small paperboard folder (known as a matchcover) enclosing a quantity of matches and having a coarse striking surface on the exterior. The folder is opened to access the matches, which are attached in a comb-like arrangement and must be torn away before use in contrast to a matchbox where the matches are loosely packed in the interior tray.

In my last post, A First Real Day of Spring, my buddy Gian and I almost did not smoke cigars because there were no matches or lighters to be found.  It made me realize,

Back in the 70s and 80s in Detroit, our band, The Johnites, used to play for a lot of weddings.  Every wedding we went to I would take a book or two of matches with the bride and grooms names with the date of the wedding.  I had the idea to keep them as a memento and record of all hundred or so weddings we played for.  I bought a poster board and dutifully mounted like ten match book covers… and then lost interest.  I probably should have just thrown them all in a jar or kept a log book.  I kind of wish I had kept up with my poster, it would be a nice memento to look at and reminisce.  The memories will have to do.

Others I know did keep all the matchbooks of the restaurants they went to in large brandy snifter glasses.  It was usually on a coffee table and, even more so, on a bar in the finished basement or rec room.  I don’t recall seeing that in anybody’s home in, probably in decades.

Nowadays, if you ask someone for a light, you will probably hear “Sorry…”  If they have a light, they will probably offer up a throwaway lighter or, if cigar smoking is involved, one of those welding torch butane lighters that are de riguer with cigar smokers.

A search on Amazon revealed that the common book of matches is still available and reasonably priced.  100 plain white match books can be had for $7.85.  If you want color and custom printing (mostly wedding themed), 50 match books could had for $50.  If I were ever, in a fit of nostalgia, buy match books, I would go for the 100 for $7.85 and decorate them with Sharpies.

I suppose I could blog about ash trays and how virtually no one has them in their homes these days.  But it would read very much like this one that we can easily file under the “Blog About Nothing” category.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

A Real First Day of Spring

 

Photo by Gianfranco

It has been a cold and rainy Spring this year.  In March and April, we had four days in which the temperature was at least 70 and for three of those days it rained.

Thursday, April 21st, was beautiful.  It was a Thursday, a day when I am on campus from early morning until I about 3 pm.  It was sunny, the daffodils all around campus were fully bloomed, and the everyone was out and about enjoying the day.  It is the kind of first day of Spring you live for in the Midwest.  One is never sure if it going to be in a globally warming February or, more likely, in March or April.

My professor buddy, Gianfranco Farrugia and I, decided to get out of the office and enjoy the weather.  We decided to take a walk, smoke a cigar, and wax eloquent about life and our noble profession.  We stepped out of offices and lit up our cigars.  We realized just how beautiful it was outside.  We began our walk in the direction of what sounded like live jazz music.

We did not have to walk far.  In a student house less than a half-block from our office, students had set up a few amps, microphones, and a drum set and were playing perfect music for such a day.  We stopped to listen, and never left.  We, leaning on the fence, took in the very good and most entertaining music, puffed on our cigars, and enjoyed the day. 

Other students on their way to or from class or on their way to baseball or tennis practice all stopped and enjoyed the music.  I knew many of the students passing by, but I didn’t know the musicians as none of them were business majors.  Luckily, another student, Christian Morey hanging out with the backyard musicians, told me who they were:

  • Seamus Smith – drums  
  • Brian Chindblom – lead guitarist and singer
  • Caleb Borwon – bass and singer
  • Alfredo Martinez – trombone 

One student, Thomas Schmidt, walking back from class stopped and said, “Sounds great.  Should I get my sax?”  Of course, they said yes.  Thomas returned in a few minutes and joined the group making what was good and entertaining even better.

I learned Alfredo was majoring in music.  The others were in other fields but had their own band and played around town at clubs performing both covers and compositions of their own.  I loved their jazzy easy listening style.  The music was perfectly matched for this first spring day. 

It was wonderful.  While we were listening to the music, enjoying the amazing weather, and watching and greeting our students who strolled by, Gian and I talked about our own college days.  We both were raised and went to school in Midwest, we recalled those halcyon days when the school year was nearing the end and we were out and about enjoying a day just as we are doing a half-century later as these students were creating their own memories.

As a musician, as much as I have appreciated the paying gigs, some of the best memories are the impromptu sessions with my friends, where we just played for our own enjoyment and fun.  I loved that about these North Parkers were doing the same, and to quote Joni Mitchell, “playing real good for free.”

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Camera in Hand

 

Photo by Rich Berberian

I am and am not a photographer.

I am in that I have a couple of decent cameras, and of course a cell phone, and really enjoy taking photos.  I use photos that I take in this blog, family gatherings, North Park events, and annually for the Armenian Youth Federation Olympics.  I am a photographer in that I like to take photos and get enough great shots that encourages me to do more.

I am not a photographer given that, other than the impressive set of automatic presets, I really don’t know how to use my Nikon SLR or Sony Alpha settings very well.  Aperture, aspect ratios, exposure, depth of field, focal length, and others are all terms that I frankly should not only know more about but should be able to use to manually get even better shots like professional photographers.  Instead, I use the automatic modes and then employ cropping tools, filters, and other features available on the basic photo editor on my Mac to take good images and make them amazing.  My cell phone, an Apple 13 Pro, has an amazing camera as well which takes photos at about the same quality as my Nikon and Sony. Again, I use but a fraction of the features of the iPhone camera.  For that matter, I probably use only a fraction of the features of the photo editor as well.

Does this bother me?  Not really.  I wish I knew more and may well take the time someday to learn some day about the features of my cameras and the photo editors.  Technology is a great equalizer.  It can make anyone a better photographer with little effort. 

Magnolia in bloom on
the North Park University
Campus


I have a collection of photos taken mostly in the town I live in.  These are photos taken over past two years of the iconic architecture in Market Square and our two train stations.  I have photos of flora.  I think the architecture photos are better than the floral shots.  I am thinking about taking the best dozen photos and making some note cards for my own use and gifts for friends and family. 

Floral photography is a real art.  I was first impressed with it when I was a graduate student back in the 1970s.  One of my professors had this hobby and his office was adorned with incredible photos that he took.  I aspire to get amazing photos like I see others take and post.  This kind of photography requires that deeper knowledge of all those terms and camera features I am only vaguely aware of.  The goal, I believe, is to get an extreme close-up of a blossom that shows amazing details of the petals, pistil, and stamen.  The background should be blurred.  Of course, the colors should be vibrant and true to the naturally beauty of the flowers.  All this requires the knowledge of the camera features I know so little about. One thing I have learned for sure is that bright sunlight coming in the direction I am taking the photo is an absolute must.

My cousin Levon takes amazing photos of flowers about DC.  He posts them on Facebook.  Everyone that sees his photos comment on how impressive they are.  I and other friends encourage him to publish a coffee table book of which I would certainly buy the first copy.  I really should have him teach me the art of floral photography.

This week I took a camera to school and to music practice and took some photos.  I have included a few of them here including one of Levon’s.

 

What was, presumably, once
a photography store front
across from North Park University


 
The second floor of
the Johnson Center at
North Park University

 

Sculpture of Jesus outside
of Anderson Chapel
on the campus of
North Park University


 

Market Square
Lake Forest


 

Lastly, one from
Cousin Levon

 

 

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Passé Office Products and Doodads

 

Amazon.com

I was talking with Ara a few weeks ago.  Somehow, we got on the subject of office products that were once popular, even necessary, that we no longer need or use.  We discussed several topics and had a few laughs (you all must know that laughing is important, maybe even the core part, of our interactions).  Ara then suggested that this might be a good topic for me to write about.  I agreed and made a mental note to do just that.

As alluded to many times before, many of the post-its I use for my mental notes have lost their stick.  This was the case with this bloggy idea and the mental note fluttered off to who knows where.  But thanks to a random Amazon ad on Facebook (Social Media Advertising Revisited) the topic was again front of mind. 

The Amazon ad was for an Alessi Chip Paper Clip Holder.  This beauty is bird made of shiny steel that is magnetized to hold the paperclips.  The list price was $62 but could be had for $54.99.  Wow, $54.99 for a paper clip holder.  I have plenty of paper clips.  I have paper clips, two sizes of them, in my desk at work and also at home. 

There is no way I would make this kind of investment for such a doodad when I cannot recall the last time I actually used a paper clip for its intended purpose.  Mostly, when I use a paper clip, I straighten one out and use it to open an inadvertently locked bathroom door or free up a clogged head of an Emer’s Glue.  I even used one to secure a toilet flap chain to the handle last year!

Amazon.com

I realized that my desks at both home and schools are laden with supplies I use a lot less than I used to.   I used to staple papers more often than I ever used paper clips.  I probably used a stapler several times a day.  These days?  I probably use on once or twice a month. For larger sheafs of papers, I loved binder clips.  I still have a large stock of them in three different sizes.  I also used to organize research and work output in binders.  I used three-ring binders, duo-tang folders, and Acco binders.  I used dividers in these binders to further organize things.  I have a three-hole punch and reinforcements in both offices.  The only time I use binders these days is for my music when I play in the University of Chicago Middle Eastern Music Ensemble.  Other than that it is all Evernote, Box.com, Dropbox, GoogleDrive, and OneDrive.

I have straight edges, a protractor, a flow-chart template, and a polygon template from the days when I used to draw my own graphics.  I know I have a compass and a slide rule somewhere in the house.  I never use these things anymore.  I used to use a straight edge or ruler all the time.  Now? Forget about it.

I have scissors and tape dispensers at both my offices.  It is the same story here.  I use them mostly to wrap gifts.  I used to use the tape, I preferred the magic variety, all the time.  I was cutting and pasting like I was in first grade.  I still do, expect it is all on my PC.

Actually, all the office supplies and doodads I have mentioned are passé because they are all geared to doing paperwork from an era of inboxes and outboxes when business was truly conducted on paper.  That is simply not the case anymore.  I use my PCs and my cell phone to do just all transactions, filing, and document creation.  For note taking, ideation, and draft work, I am still old school using my Leuchttram 1917 A5 Notebook, post-its, and, of course, my collection of pens.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Slice of Life: Driving to Detroit

 

extension.msstate.edu

It is my Spring Break.  I decided to go to Detroit and visit my mother.  She had broken her wrist after taking a tumble on some ice.  She has been living under the care of my sister for almost a month.  I wanted to come and spell my sister for a few days and visit with my mom.  She is doing quite well and on the mend.  While she had to have a plate and screws to reassemble the bones in her arm, she was fortunate to have very good bone density due to her active lifestyle which includes playing in a competitive tennis league.  As a further bonus, I got to see my first grand niece, Talene Frances, who was born on Friday, March 11th. 

The weather was nice when I set out from home.  While there was snow in the morning in Detroit, the weather in Chicagoland was blue skies and predicted to get to 50 degrees.  Actually, I had blue skies all the way to Detroit with temperatures in the high 40s and no evidence of any snow at all.

I set out, grabbed my usual Grande Americano from Starbucks, and was listening to NPR Now.  The traffic through Chicago was bumper to bumper as one might expect but mercifully for only about 20 minutes after which I opened up the accelerator.  As usual, I took the Chicago Skyway which, when I was first making my runs from Detroit in the 1970s, was heavily industrialized with the steel plants around Gary, Indiana.  There is still some vestige of the steel industry there, but what used to look gritty and polluted from the mills and their spewing smokestacks now looks restored and breathtakingly beautiful.  The lagoons of the Grand Calumet near its headwaters by Lake Michigan look pristine and thriving with waterfowl from geese and herons to swans and gulls.  What was once an eyesore to drive through is now beautiful.

Back on I-94 in Indiana heading into Michigan, I got a call from an old Armenian friend Varoujan.  I have known him since my late teens but had not talked for a long while.  As part of a chat group of our contemporaries, our communication was renewed.  We realized we had sympathetic views on politics both American and Armenian.  We texted back and forth before I left the house.  I suggested he call me during the drive to Detroit.  He took me up on it and we talked for an hour and a half.  It was very good to hear what he was up to and learn about his two boys and the men they had grown into.  In turn, I brought him to speed on my family.  I learned he was doing research on Armenian Shamanism and the how it led him to discover the rich parts of our history that most of us do not know.  He is actually writing a book, perhaps in a few volumes, about the fascinating things he has learned.  I do believe it was the longest we have ever chatted one and one.  I look forward to the next. 

Armenian Shamanism?  A google search showed references to learn more.  One was a 2008 book, The Shamanic Themes in Armenian Folktales by Michael Berman, which I might have been tempted to purchase but for Amazon saying it was out of stock with no foreseeable restocking date.  Another was a Wikipedia page on Hetanism which I took only semi-seriously with several grains of salt.

When I entered Michigan, I noticed two things.  First, I was kind of amazed by the number of billboards for cannabis shops.  I know cannabis is practically legalized, but I have never seen this level of advertising.  These cannabis billboards were in stark contrast to Illinois where I see none and Indiana where every other billboard is an advertisement for personal injury attorneys.  The only law firm that I recall was, not surprisingly the Armenian named one, Sarkisian and Sarkisian.

The second thing I noticed in Michigan was a bit more subtle.  I was behind a non-descript sedan and noticed a bumper sticker, “Containment vessels being transported.  Stay 500 feet back.”  My first thought was “Huh?” which, of course, sparked my curiosity.  As the car was going too slow, I decided to pass it.  It all made sense when I noticed the Ghostbusters logo prominently on display on the driver’s door.  This person was a serious Ghostbusters fan.  I thought nothing more of it until maybe a half-hour later when I saw another sedan that was displaying the deathly hallows one side of the trunk lid and lightening script HP on the other.  This car was clearly owned by a serious Harry Potter fan.  I decided to pass it to see what might be on the driver’s door… which was unadorned.  I was wondering if movie themed cars had become a thing in Michigan.  I was on alert to finding more but, alas, there were none.

Just outside of Jackson, I saw my first bald eagle… ever.  I saw a big bird, which I easily surmised to be a bird of prey, cross the expressway in some distance ahead of me.  It soared to the left and merged above the oncoming lanes of the expressway.  I noticed what I thought was a white head and then a white tail.  Could it be a bald eagle?  I noticed the yellow beak and graceful majesty of our national symbol as it soared by me.  It was a truly cool way to see my first bald eagle.  I know there has been a resurgence in population of bald eagles, but this sighting was most special.

Of course, the best part of the trip was at the end when I saw how well my mother was doing and got to meet my great niece Talene! 

Saturday, March 12, 2022

World Gone Crazy

 


The war in Ukraine started on February 24.  While it is still very much in the news, I fear we will lose interest in soon while worrying instead about the inflation and the price of gas.   As this happens, we will also find a way to politicize the war with the midterm elections coming up.

The Trump half of us want to blame Biden for the war and inflation which almost reached 8% this past week.  They will say he is weak and too old to lead decisively.  If Trump were still President, we wouldn’t have inflation and Russia wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine.  The other half of us, blame Trump and seemingly odd relationship with Putin and the pressures applied to Zelensky to open up a probe on Biden’s son Hunter in 2019.  This faction still believes that the Russians influenced the 2016 election that got Trump elected.  Trump actually called Putin savvy when the invasion of Ukraine began.  I have no clue no idea where the truth lies in this quagmire of false news and conspiracy theories.  Thankfully, there is no shortage of friends and family that see all of this clearer than I do and are willing to educate me.

Right now all of this seems to be in check and mostly our focus is the war and the death, destruction, and refugees associated with it. 

The world is looking at Ukraine with great concern.  They are trying, via diplomacy and sanctions, to get Russia to cease hostilities and withdraw.  The sanctions will have some impact eventually.  What we don’t know is the unintended consequences on the global economy.  While the world is focued and verbal about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Azerbaijan is shelling Armenian villages in Nogorno Karabagh once more demanding they withdraw from the villages on the border with Nakhichevan.  In this case, no one but Armenians are watching and crying out.

Even with the eyes of the world on Ukraine and even with the some serious sanctions in place, the war wages on.  At some point, military actions can only be halted with military action.  In Ukraine, Biden has made clear we will not be committing troops nor will we establish a no-fly zone.  So, Putin keeps advancing his troops.  There is already speculation that Putin may not stop in Ukraine and could threaten the Baltics.  There is worry that China may attack Taiwan or North Korea invading the South.  If any of these happen who will stop them?  Who would take the risk, expenses, and loss of life that war brings?  My fear is Azerbaijan and Turkey could invade Armenia and the Nogorno-Karabakh Republic.  Who would care?  Who would stop them?

The world and mankind seem to be at an inflection point.  The world is smaller.  We are faced with the pandemic which hopefully is waning.  We have to deal with global warming.  And, now, we have to deal with wherever Putin’s megalomania is taking us.  I have little faith in any of our options for leaders to be able to navigate this quagmire.  I have even less faith that the people will miraculously rise up and refuse

I find it rather unsettling.

 

I close with the lyrics of Edwin Starr’s War (1970)

 

 

War

Edwin Starr

 

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, uhh
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, y'all
War, huh (good God)
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me, oh

 

War, I despise
'Cause it means destruction of innocent lives
War means tears to thousands of mother's eyes
When their sons go off to fight
And lose their lives

 

I said, war, huh (good God, y'all)
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, just say it again
War (whoa), huh (oh Lord)
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

 

It ain't nothing but a heart-breaker
(War) Friend only to The Undertaker
Oh, war it's an enemy to all mankind
The thought of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest
Within the younger generation
Induction then destruction
Who wants to die? Oh

 

War, huh (good God y'all)
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it, say it, say it
War (uh-huh), huh (yeah, huh)
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

 

It ain't nothing but a heart-breaker
(War) It's got one friend that's The Undertaker
Oh, war, has shattered many a young man's dreams
Made him disabled, bitter and mean
Life is much too short and precious
To spend fighting wars each day
War can't give life
It can only take it away, oh

 

War, huh (good God y'all)
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again

War (whoa), huh (oh Lord)
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me

 

It ain't nothing but a heart breaker
(War) Friend only to The Undertaker, woo
Peace, love and understanding, tell me
Is there no place for them today?
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there's got to be a better way, oh

 

War, huh (God y'all)
What is it good for? You tell me (nothing)
Say it, say it, say it, say it

War (good God), huh (now, huh)
What is it good for?
Stand up and shout it (nothing)

 

Source: LyricFind

Songwriters: Barrett Strong / Norman Whitfield

War lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Chekist

 

https://i.imgur.com/GnJhLY3.jpg?1

There seems to be a sense of foreboding, a general angst, or gloom weighing on people.   I know I am fighting off such feelings while trying to stay upbeat for my students and basically to just live life.  Most of us are basically doing the same.

The main source for these worries is the Russian invasion into Ukraine.  Putin is the man behind this.  For the life of me I cannot fathom what is behind this.  The easiest conclusion to draw is the one that is most common and commonly reported in this country:  Putin is a madman.  I just read an article in The Atlantic, “I Was Wrong About Putin” by Sergei Dobrynin who works for Radio Free Europe.  In the article, he related what his academic mentor, Vladmir Arsenyev told him about Putin in February 2000:

“He is a Chekist,” he said, meaning an agent of the secret police. “Once a Chekist, always a Chekist. He is pure evil.”

He has succeeded in throwing the world into chaos and fearing escalation of the war in Ukraine to a wider conflict.  Energy prices have skyrocketed.  Global supply chains, which were already weakened from the pandemic, are further compromised. 

The West is afraid to engage militarily.  Will this embolden Putin attack other countries or for China to do the same in Taiwan?  There are plenty of sanctions which will impair and possibly perhaps implode the Russian economy.  Will this make Putin even more dangerous? 

Diplomacy does not seem to work.  We could see the invasion coming.  We predicted it.  Biden tried to reason with Putin to no avail.  Putin knew we would not have a military response because we basically said we wouldn’t. 

Are we being manipulated by our government and the press?  I don’t believe so.  Because, I agree with Vladimir Arsenyev on Putin.  Once a Chekist, always a chekist.  I was giving him the benefit of the doubt on being pure evil.  But, no more.  He is either pure evil or a madman. 

The Russians agreed to cease fires only keep positioning their troops and then break the cease fire.  They agree to humanitarian corridors, again, only to violate them.  They fire rockets and artillery on cities… why? 

Putin wants to conquer Ukraine by destroying it.  To what purpose?  To beat Zelensky who dared to defy him?  To teach NATO a lesson for flirting with Ukraine?  As a prelude to rebuilding the Russian Empire more commonly known as the USSR?  Who really knows.  I certainly don’t.

I have many Armenian friends that have posted a graphic on social media that says, “Excuse me if I can’t feel anything, 2 years ago I felt too much, and the world was silent.”  They are referring to the Armenia/Artsakh war with Azerbaijan.  It was in the news, somewhat, but there was essentially no outrage excluding strong words from France and no sanctions on Azerbaijan or Turkey who backed the Azeri’s with mercenaries, drones, air support, and command and control.  It is stark contrast to the coverage, concern, and outrage being shown for this war.  Armenians are further uncaring because of Ukraine took the Azeri side in that conflict. 

I am sympathetic to my fellow Armenians but wrong is wrong.  The Azeri war in Artsakh was wrong.  This Russian invasion of Ukraine is wrong no matter how much global outcry one war got and the other didn’t.  Outcry or no outcry, both wars continued.  Sanctions or no sanctions, both wars continued.  Only force can end wars.  The Chekist knows this quite well and counted on such.  A sad and scary state of affairs indeed.

Monday, February 21, 2022

February 2022: 19th Anniversary Letter - Part II

 


There was a Facebook post a few weeks ago.  It asked people to respond to a simple question:  An animal, besides a dog, that you’ve been chased by?  I am equally likely to pass up these kinds of posts as I am to comment on them.  This one intrigued me.

I started thinking if I have ever been chased by an animal other than a dog.  I couldn’t think of an instance.  Such is the consequence of urban and suburban living all my life.  Our house in Connecticut was the most rustic place I have ever lived.  In our time there I had seen deer, skunks, racoons, pheasants, rabbits, bats, wild turkeys, ground hogs, hawks, bats, coyotes, guinea hens, possums, copperhead snakes, and others.  My wife was once chased by a racoon there.  Though a chase was not involved, I did have a memorable encounter with an animal.  It was like the second time I visited the house after we bought.  I decided to walk around the house and survey the grounds.  I went into the backyard and came face-to-face with the most magnificent buck I have ever seen.  It was the only buck I had ever seen.  But it was magnificent.  It was big, fully antlered with a large swath of white fur on the front of its neck.  We surprised each other.  He snorted and with a quick startled shifting of all his hooves at once, set himself into an amazing stance, almost exactly like The Hartford logo. We stared at each other for a long second or six, and then he bolted quickly and effortlessly into the wood.  In the seventeen years we lived there, I would see many does and fawns but never saw another that buck again.

I was in a most philosophical mood having just lost a dear friend a week earlier.  When a close friend or family member passes on, we, or at least I, tend to get more philosophical about life than might be our norm.  An animal, besides a dog, that I’ve been chased by?  Well, as I never had been chased by anything but a dog, I left this comment:  The grizzled nasty wolverine of my own expectations.

Well clearly as a proud graduate and avid fan of the University of Michigan, the wolverine was the animal for this role.  They have a reputation of being ferocious and tenacious in both protecting themselves and bringing down their prey.  I am not sure why I chose the words “grizzled” and “nasty.”  They simply popped into my head as I was writing the post.  I think they were for effect.

Am I chased by my own expectations?  Sure I am.  I imagine many people are.  Some of us fulfill them while others are tortured by them.  Our own expectations can drive us, make us perfectionists, or any imaginable form of stressed out.  The relentless pursuit of perfection may be a great tagline for Lexus but only applies to a small number of us humans. 

We must have expectations.  We have to have dreams.  It is a wonderful part of life to have expectations, goals, dreams, and ambitions.  These move us to strive and to accomplish.  When sane, motivated, gifted, and well-intentioned people fulfill their expectations, our world is enriched and moves forward. 

So, is my being chased by own expectations a good or bad thing?

It is good.  The bar of my expectations moves up and down as time passes and my sense of self changes with the circumstances that happen in life.  In my previous post, I referred to the concept of Opportunist Randomness.  My expectations bend and otherwise adapt flexibly to the opportunities as they avail themselves in a seemingly random manner.  They bend and adapt to the impact of other random events and influences.

Sense of self?  Sure, I continue to learn what I like and don’t like.  I continue to realize what I am good at and may never be good at.  I continue to realize what the limitations of my skills.  Maybe most importantly, I continue to realize and understand the gap between my ego and my ambition… if this even makes

So, while my expectations have propelled me along, I must focus on the ground covered and the accomplishments rather than what remains unfinished.  Have I achieved everything I expected exactly as I envisioned?  Of course not, but good enough in most of the dimensions and there is more to do.

I will admit, the grizzled nasty wolverine image was for the Facebook post. I will stick with the wolverine for old alma mater.  As for the grizzled and nasty… not so much.