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Happy Thanksgiving….

November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

I want to give you the Thanksgiving Prayer that I think sums it all up.

A Thanksgiving Prayer

Samuel F. Pugh


“O God, when I have food, 
help me to remember the hungry; 
When I have work, 
help me to remember the jobless; 
When I have a home, 
help me to remember those who have no home at all; 
When I am without pain, 
help me to remember those who suffer, 
And remembering, 
help me to destroy my complacency; 
bestir my compassion, 
and be concerned enough to help; 
By word and deed, 
those who cry out for what we take for granted. 
Amen.”

For Too Many….

August 24, 2014

NYC - Wrapup (6)

For far too many of us the image of being religious is the above.  This picture was taken on a busy Saturday night in Times Square NYC recently. Too many look at religion as some grim-faced old man telling us that we need to quit having any fun and get ready for the wrath of God. They didn’t take this old guy seriously anymore than take most current religious establishments seriously.

In some ways religion has earned this moniker. Too many  spend too much time worrying about God’s wrath rather than focusing on his love. Too many worry about the afterlife than they do living out God’s command to be our brother’s keeper.  Too many young people are just turned off by the religion of past generations.  They think their lives here on earth are what matter. In some ways I agree with them but in other ways not.  As is typical of many things moderation is the best choice. A little of everything on your plate gives you the most fruitful life.

The guy in the image above and so many like him are doing more harm than good by showing an image of God that is primarily man-made and for the most part disgusting. If God so loved the world why would he condemn most of us to an eternal agony as this grumpy old man preaches?

2014-08-15_08-28-25

Aug. 14, 1935: President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act, which guaranteed an income for the unemployed and retirees. Social Security was initially created to combat unemployment, but now functions as a safety net for retirees and the disabled. It has remained relatively unchanged for 75 years. Social Security is funded mostly through payroll taxes called Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax FICA.When FDR launched Social Security, the United States was mired in the Great Depression, and poverty rates among senior citizens were estimated to be over 50 percent. Social Security was attacked by FDR’s critics, who called it “socialism.”

SOURCE: Today in history: The birth of Social Security – The Week.

The birth of Social Security..

America Stands Alone…

August 6, 2014

2014-08-03_10-52-27I just finished watching a Shields/Brooks segment of the PBS Newshour where Mark Shields made the statement that “America stands alone in its unflinching support of the current actions of Israel. He mentioned that almost all of the EU countries and other developed nations are condemning the atrocities that are being put upon the Palestinian people. Even though I have for the most part boycotted this area of life, his statement got me to thinking about it. So, here goes. As they say fools rush in where…

The latest toll is something like 60 Israeli soldiers killed and over 1900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, killed!  It seems that whenever and Israeli soldier is killed they think they must kill 50 people in revenge. With this almost indiscriminate bombing I can certainly understand why there is so much hatred of Israel in that part of the world. The Isrealis seem to have almost no sense of “collateral damage”. They seem to deem it totally acceptable to bomb schools full of children and U.N. facilities because another very crude “rocket” was launched from that general area.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do not have any sympathy for Hamas who has been inciting much of this violence. They are a very small minority thug organization who if they had the power that Isreal has would be doing worse to their enemy. To hold all the people in Gaza accountable for Hamas’ actions is kind of like us nuking Atlanta because the KKK bombed a government building somewhere.

2014-08-05_08-26-47This whole debacle seems very much like a “David vs Goliath” but this time it is a Jewish Goliath. The response to a crude missile being fired into Israel they destroy yet another Gaza neighborhood, women children and all. I recently saw a report that Israel is asking the U.S. to ship them an emergency supply of bombs and missiles as they are quickly running out with their current vendetta. At least a “cease fire” might actually come if they do run out of bombs and laser guided missiles.  The U.S. currently give them about $3 billion a year of our military hardware. What are the limits to where we as a country say enough is enough with the disproportionate killing in the Middle East?

Why are so many of our politicians, including the current president, sitting back and saying nothing? Why do we continue to send them our bombs to kill so many innocents along with a few bad guys?  Is there nothing they can do that we will find unconscionable? Yes, I agree that they have a right to exist but there are limits to what they need to do to convince themselves that they feel safe.

Enough said. I will get off my soapbox now and try ignore such things for as long as I can before chiming in again.

 

Bitter Rivals….

July 29, 2014

2014-07-20_09-28-10Apple and IBM are teaming up to bring iPhones and iPads to business customers, the two companies said in a surprise announcement Tuesday. In a wide-ranging partnership, the two tech giants that were bitter rivals for decades will create a suite of apps and services aimed at enterprise clients….

“For the first time ever we’re putting IBM’s renowned big data analytics at iOS users’ fingertips, which opens up a large market opportunity for Apple,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

2014-07-20_09-28-39“We are delighted to be teaming with Apple, whose innovations have transformed our lives in ways we take for granted, but can’t imagine living without,” IBM CEO Ginni Rometty offered. “Our alliance will bring the same kind of transformation to the way people work, industries operate and companies perform.”

SOURCE:  Apple Partners With Former Rival IBM to Target Enterprise Customers | TIME.

IBM and Apple doing business together???  Go figure… Next thing we know the Israelis will be getting along with their neighbors!  Wouldn’t that be something to see. But then again when money is involved things seem to get worked out sooner. That is, money coming in, not going out…

Apple has always been considered the computer of choice with the creative crowd and IBM amongst the bean counters. I know the iPhones and iPads have been making their way into the business world folks. They just can’t pass up the leap in quality over Apple’s competitors and finally the IT departments are beginning to slack up on the adamant resistance to anything Apple.

Maybe what it took was for Apple to move beyond its first generation of bosses. Now that Tim Cook is at the wheel instead of Jobs the rivalry has been tamped down a hair and that is good for all of us.

 

 

CHildrenDue to these blurred role expectations for adults and children, grown-ups have become a dying breed in America. According to writer and speaker Robert Bly, one-third of adult Americans are actually half-adults. “We have become a nation of squabbling siblings. We have abandoned our children to day-care centers and our elders to old folks homes, while we, like Peter Pan, simply ‘won’t grow up.’” Bly describes a culture in which Americans tolerate no one above them and show no concern for anyone below them.

John Powers of the Boston Globe has also bemoaned the fact that there are a lot of older people, but not so many mature adults. A father of three children wears a tank top and mesh shorts on a plane trip, and women in their sixties wear sports bras as tops. In fact, I saw a father wearing a T-shirt proclaiming, “I’ll never grow up.” According to Powers, adults used to know what to wear and how to behave; they knew not only what to do but also what not to do. Now, however, marketers direct their pitches to these half-adults.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 1482-1490). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

I have been posting on this Yin/Yang of American culture for ten posts now. These first ten posts have been on the positive aspects of our culture. We will now start a discussion on areas where we could show improvements, where we could learn from the rest of the world. I am pretty much a pragmatist, I look for good ideas wherever I can find them. The “Not Invented Here” syndrome which is so prevalent in much of this country’s population seems to have passed me by.

In the 1970s I was in my “searching” years and I read deeply in the area of psychology. One of my favorite authors was Eric Berne who invented transactional analysis. It is a theory that all our transactions originate in one of three states; Parent, Adult, Child. I won’t go into more details here than to say that many communications between two people occur in the child mode. Even among people no longer in that physical state. What Berne discovered is pretty much the same as Professor Eun states here.

Americans just don’t like to have to answer to other people. Many of us like to think that we are free from any responsibilities except to ourselves.  The above quote states that one-third of grown ups are not really grown up. As a result they no longer feel much of a responsibility toward their parents or in some degree even to their children. An extreme case of this self-absorption is called narcissism. I have some very direct and personal experiences in dealing with a narcissist parent. To boil it down I think the author is just saying we Americans are too full of ourselves.

Another aspect of not growing up is in our relationships to our children. We tend to let our kids do pretty much what they want. They have learned that if they don’t get what they want all they have to do is to throw a fit. We let them talk back to us. That would be a very serious thing in most other countries in the world. In other words parental authority is grossly lacking for many American parents. Along with this comes parental responsibility. One of the basic problems with America is that too many parents just don’t want to be parents anymore.

This is a continuation of my Friday posts about the book “Yin/Yang and American Culture” by Kim Eun. It is a book well worth reading about the differences between America and much of the rest of the world. This post is about remaining active in our senior years.

Old PeopleAlthough America is criticized for its youth-oriented culture, American elders enjoy more productive lives than their Asian counterparts do. From working as independent consultants to serving as volunteers, American elders can retain their zest for life….

In contrast, many Asian elderly expect to stop learning at a certain age. It is rare to see an elderly person visiting a library unless he or she was a scholar. The typical mentality for Asians over fifty-five is, “I’m old, so what is learning for?” Opportunities for elders to lead productive lives or use their energy in positive ways are limited in Asia.

Unlike in America, it is difficult in Asia for senior citizens to get jobs at restaurants, grocery stores, or elsewhere. In Asia, even the volunteer organizations do not appreciate the services of elders. In the United States, an eighty-year-old man who opens the door for patients at a hospital is one of almost 445,000 retired seniors who do volunteer work. They serve their community as public park guides, library storytellers, and literacy mentors, among many other roles….

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 1062-1094). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This topic rather surprised me in that I always thought that the elderly in Asia were treated with greater respect than in this country. The author did go on to say that if the elder “earned” respect then it is generally given. I don’t know how that works though. How much is enough for earned respect?

I am very thankful that in America elders can and generally lead very productive lives. I have been retired/semi-retired for going on to fifteen years now and I can honestly say that I think as far as my contributions to society go I have been much more productive during these years than I ever was during my “working” years. Of course it also follows that, despite all my growing aches and pains, these years have been the happiest of my life.

The quote above says that about half a million seniors do volunteer. But remember that this book was written in 2001 and that number has increased substantially since then.  Ms. Eun says further in her book that many Asian elders don’t bother to take care of themselves during their senior years. It seems that all they do is wait to die so to speak. How sad is that? Almost as sad as a woman having to cover her entire body when she goes out in public so that men won’t see her.  :(

I certainly appreciate that things in America are better for us seniors than they are in Asia….

This is another post based on the book “Yin/Yang and American Culture: The Paradox”. This one will be about our obsession with winning and competition.

2014-05-01_10-26-21No doubt competition has produced for the United States some of the best professionals, the best products, and the best business practices in the world. Nevertheless, there is a downside to Americans’ emphasis on winning at any cost. The pressure to win can be overwhelming in America, where only winners are cheered and remembered and the winner takes all, including multimillion-dollar advertising contracts. Tonya Harding, the figure skater who arranged to have her Olympic competitor, Nancy Kerrigan, injured, is an extreme example of the pressure to win…

The overemphasis on competition also contributes to a hostile workplace. Employees constantly compete against their peers and lose sleep over who gets credit for a new sales plan or for having the best ideas; this discourages teamwork and strains human relations. At school, cheating has become a serious concern when even the top students do it regularly.

Asians believe that it is neither necessary nor beneficial to be obsessed with winning. Although they set goals for surpassing their previous achievements and emphasize doing their personal best, when it comes to competing with others, Asians choose their battles carefully. They consider the cost of winning, not materially but emotionally and socially. In human relations, many Asians believe that it is better to promote peace and harmony than to win at any cost. It is dangerous to think that if one is not a winner, one must be a loser. Some may look like losers at first, but they may turn out to be winners in the long run. As Lao Tzu said in Tao Te Ching, “In natural law, some lose and yet profit along the way. Some profit and yet lose along their way.”

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 656-668). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This is one of those areas where Yin wins out for me. I think we Americans are just too obsessed with winning. I am a competitive person but it is introverted rather than pointed at defeating others.  I don’t see the point in making everyone else losers so I can be a winner.

Our fanaticism with sports in this country epitomizes our obsession with winning. It is all about defeating the other team. I was never much of a team player in my early years and for the last 25 years or so I have not watched any sporting event other than in passing. Vince Lombardi’s famous quote “Winning isn’t everything, it is the only thing” turns me off. I just don’t see the point in sports.

I spent the first 25 years of my work life in the Midwest. It was not until I spent the last five years in the East Coast (NY/NJ) that I was really faced with the overemphasis of competition which inevitably creates a hostile work environment. The backstabbing and emphasis for getting the credit, whether deserved or not, totally turned me off! I left that environment as soon as possible after becoming fully pension eligible.

Defeating the other guy has never been very important to me but I do strive to get better at what I do everyday. I sometimes set outrageous goals for myself in order to insure that I keep progressing in both my personal and spiritual life. Helping to promote peace is one of my primary focuses in life. We don’t need to hate or even fear others simply because they are different from us.  To me winning is only winning when others benefit as well as ourselves.  I just don’t buy into the idea that if you are not a winner then you are a loser….

 

2014-05-01_10-26-21Many of the world’s greatest inventions are credited to Americans, from the telephone to the computer. Anesthesia, the miracle of painless surgery, is among the greatest gifts that American medicine has given to humanity. The invention of the safety device on passenger elevators by Elisha Otis in 1852 led to the construction of skyscrapers and encouraged metropolitan growth around the world. Nylon , the first man-made synthetic fiber, invented by the du Pont company, has forever changed the lives of people around the world. The impact of Bill Gates’ MS-DOS is not even measurable. Some attribute Americans’ genius to their ability to question, to think critically and creatively.

Professor Chin Ning Yang, a Chinese American Nobel laureate in physics, related the experience of some of his students from China and Taiwan. “Professor Yang,” they would say to him, “I find it very strange that I was among the best in my class in examinations, but now that I am doing research work, the American students are much more lively, much better than I am.” Yang believes that despite the criticism of the American educational system, it produces highly creative individuals. Now Yang encourages his Asians students to explore: “You may see only vaguely what is going on, but you should not be afraid of that. That was one of the things I learned after I came to this country [America].” Indeed, it is incredible that 29 percent of Silicon Valley CEOs were born in Asia.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 435-446). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

I was proudly part of the company that started the current technological revolution by inventing the transistor. When I started college in the 1960s I was taught how the vacuum tube worked. But before very long the transistor took over and things really began to accelerate.  The 1960s and 70s was a great time for the U.S. technologically. We simply ruled the world.

Back then a couple of kids in their garages went about miniaturizing the main frame computers of IBM. They put crude devices, at least by today’s standards, on a desktop instead of requiring a massive air filtered room. I can remember when Jonas Sulk invented the polio vaccine.

I, and I image many of you, sometimes take for granted much of what we have in this country. But when we take a serious look at much of the rest of the world we come to understand America’s strengths. Creativity has been almost an exclusive American product.

“You may see only vaguely what is going on, but you should not be afraid of that. That was one of the things I learned after I came to this country [America].”

These words are at the core of the differences between America and Asia. We American were just not afraid when things became somewhat muddied.  We embraced change at almost all levels of our society. Sadly, I’m not sure that is as true any longer among a larger segment of our society. Fear, particularly the fear of change has overtaken too many of us.

 

 

impossibleNothing is more distinctive than Americans’ disbelief in impossibilities. Every day Americans receive invitations to dream big dreams, and they give the traditional exuberant American answer, “Why not!” In contrast, many Asians believe that things happen as a result of fate: their success or failure in life, work, and marriage is determined by the year, month , date, hour, and place of their birth. Because they believe that their futures were laid out at birth, many people passively accept undesirable conditions rather than try to shape or alter their destinies. Interestingly, in Chinese, the word for destiny consists of two characters. The first, woon, means “dynamic flow,” and the second, myung, means “movement of the absolute.”…. In Korea, where I grew up, I was often reminded of an old Korean saying, “Don’t even look at a tree if you cannot climb it.” We were told that it is a virtue to know one’s limitations….

Due to this cultural orientation, many Asians still believe that their lot was determined by a divine force before they were born. In contrast, Americans are told, “Know your limits and ignore them.” This sky’s-the-limit outlook has enabled them to create one of the world’s wealthiest nations in a very short time. Leaders such as Benjamin Franklin and Horatio Alger encouraged people to pursue wealth through hard work. Universities use Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich as a textbook in classes on American success. Such an atmosphere has produced world-renowned rich people such as Rockefeller, Ford, Du Pont, Carnegie, and Gates. It is not a coincidence that the greatest concentration of wealth is in the United States.

SOURCE: Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox  Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

It is widely accepted that as far as yin/gang is concerned America and Asia are quite different. America is much more yang and Asia yin.  The above quote helps us to understand some of those very basic difference. We proudly know that we Americans are just more creative than our Asian counterparts. A big part of that difference is due to the continued caste mentality among many Asian cultures. Being a born and bred American I simply can’t understand how someone could just accept that their place in life is to be a servant because of their birth. I don’t think I, as an American, am unusual in that regard.

Dreaming the big dreams, even though we might never accomplish them, is what keeps us Americans going. At least for some of us”Why Not!” is indeed a basic part of American mentality. But there are some Americans who, like their Asian counterparts, believe that their life is predestined by a heavenly authority. Of course everything is not rosy in the U.S. especially in the last couple decades. Life’s opportunities have skewed very dramatically to the upper end of the economic scale now and there is no end of this in sight in this regard. The middle class is literally disappearing. But still we remain the shining light in the world when it comes to “know your limits and then ignore them”. I, like most Americans are very proud of that fact.