Sunday, July 24, 2022

Post No. 205: I Have a Newfound Respect for 7 - 11

 

 

© 2022, the Institute for Applied Common Sense


If only our nation’s leaders were as sharp as 7 – 11 executives.

 

I’ve alluded to the importance 7 – 11 has played in my life- particularly during my return to Southern California.

 

I considered naming this post, “Things I Learned, or Had Affirmed During the Past Few Months.”  However, after reflecting on my trip to 7 -11 a couple of weeks ago, I thought that I should pay tribute to the true source of the inspiration.

 

I have lived in numerous locations and patronized different 7 – 11s to get a sense of the demographics, while trying to figure out where I should land permanently.  My Father taught me to look in the classified ads to gain a sense of a community.  In my effort to use more cutting-edge technological tools, I simply go to a 7 - 11.

 

I missed this refuge during 16 years in North Carolina, since they are few and far between.  The Southern California store which I first visited always has two clerks, and an amazing array of “junk.”  You’ve never seen so much sugar assembled, of every imaginable color, consistency, price – prompting patrons to spend hours perusing 5 aisles, seeking that one, special, fuel injection.   Imagine a junk food version of Walmart SuperCenter.

 

When I first visited that property, I made a foolish comment to one of the clerks regarding the scientific marketing approach to everything that was in the store, having just read an article about warehousing and inventory. She disabused me of that notion rather quickly.  She said bean counters were constantly changing their approach, which she regarded as a waste of time.

 

I routinely find the homeless at these locations, since the clerks are always willing to engage them. The clerks themselves are an interesting bunch, prepared to deal with virtually any calamity which might pass through the door.  One of the clerks was a man about 21 years of age, who wore a Bruce Lee T – shirt.

 

As is my wont, upon encountering 20 something folks wearing shirts of some kind reflecting 1960s and 1970s icons, I asked my classic question, “And what does a young fella like you know about _________.  You are too young to know anything about Bruce Lee, or perhaps Bob Marley?”  Yet, they always reveal that I am the fool.  My latest clerk simply informed me, “I learned how to fight from Bruce Lee.”

 

He went on to describe his matriculation watching Bruce Lee films (or videos).

 

I refrained from watching videos for the past 14 years, not wanting to waste my time while they buffered up, and I suffered the ads.  I heretofore argued that I could read text 4 times as fast.  Despite being a member of the Triad Audio Visual Group for years, I continued to express my resistance to videos.

 

But them something significant happened about 2 months ago.  I discovered the healthy line of foods put out by 7 – 11. In particular, I found a green colored, cold pressed, not from concentrate drink, and fell in love with its mint flavor.  It occurred to me that instead of bitching and moaning about how people didn’t share my values, I needed to embrace the times and make a change.  I needed to reach across the 7 – 11 aisle and find the healthy products and start watching videos.

 

Then I realized the 7 – 11 executives were way ahead of me.  They started their healthy drink line 4 years ago.

 

Amazing what one finds when one takes time to leave one’s comfort zone and check out what others have to offer. Over the past couple of years, I’ve encountered people who, in pursuit of the goals of comfort and security, are no longer to even venture near a rabbit hole.  Knowing that I am still willing to at least entertain the notion of alien abductions, without Dana Scully being around, is perhaps the most important thing that I have learned about myself over the past several months – I’ll just keep on looking out for them.

 

Now I appreciate that the clerk may have been wrong about the waste.  Being willing to entertain those who think differently just MIGHT be a good thing for an old man as I approach 71 years on the planet.


P.S. Those of you still interested in viewing Gillian Anderson on occasion might check out The Fall.

 

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Post No. 204: And Now for Something a Tad Radical - Before We Implode or Russia Attacks (Whichever Occurs 1st)

© 2022, The Institute for Applied Common Sense

I've had many problems during my soon – to - be 71-year-old existence on the planet.


It’s my mother’s fault.  She forced me to read anything and everything on which I could get my hands, and consider all points of view, even thought I may have vehemently disagreed with the positions of others.


And then to compound my wackiness (God knows she tried), when I asked a question, she would never answer it.  Instead, she would point to World Book Encyclopedias (which she sold in her spare time), and say, “Go look it up, and then come back to me with your question.”


Thereafter, she forced me to attend engineering school where I slept through the acquisition of an industrial and systems engineering degree.  Consequently, I think that everything in the physical universe can be fixed or tweaked, while conceding that humans cannot.


Now that we've had some time to appreciate the significance of the 4th of July, and perhaps ignore it, we peaceful citizens need to make an overwhelming statement as we approach the next presidential election. Simply put, it can't be close the next time around. 

 

No frigging 51%- 49% BS so that the disappointed can perform their rendition of a Marx Brothers routine


If: (a) Democrats are willing to "adopt" Liz Cheney (or write in her name); and (b) we can garner the support of moderate Republicans and Independents, we may be able to reach 70% - 75%.  (I know what you are saying, "Silly boy!")

 

Complicated? Yes, but can anyone suggest another pragmatic way to assemble 70% of the popular vote so that the next President has a legitimate mandate?

 

Biden can't do it. 

 

Harris can't do it. 

 

Trump can't do it.

 

DeSantis can't do it.


(Check out the pictures and ask yourself why they are always wrapped in the flag.)


There is simply no way that we will have peace if either party runs with their preferred candidate. We ordinary everyday citizens have more power than we realize, and we need to defy and tweak the system that has been forced on us. (That’s the engineer in me standing on my shoulder.)  We don't have time to form a viable 3rd party.  We may not be able to get around the primary impediments forced upon us.

 

However, we can try to cross party lines and occupy the middle, where (I firmly believe) there is a commonality of interests.  There is no way to get to 60% - 70%, unless we tweak the system, and form a "peace coalition." Can't be done by either party separately.

For all of you naysayers who disagree with this goal, PLEASE tell me an alternate SOLUTION.  If not, spread the word #LizCheney4Prez. (Mitt Romney is my 2nd choice but Cheney has been standing up more recently, and Liz and Prez both end with a z, which may be more important than we are willing to admit.)

Our country was founded through a balancing of competing interests so that we could all live as one people - citizens of one country. There has always been a "tension," and always will be should we continue to exist.

 

A wise former partner of mine once said, “A good settlement / compromise is when all parties walk away somewhat unhappy and partly dissatisfied," and I later added, "...not when one side bullies the other into submission through some type of power." 

 

P.S. 1: This post is well under 750 words, which my now departed mentors horse - whipped me about repeatedly. That leaves time for you to watch one of my favorite movies about the power of ordinary citizens

P.S. 2:  You Can't Always Get What You Want

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Post No. 203: Something Good to Wake Up To On a Sunday Morning - From Anne Lamott

I WAS ABOUT TO CALL IT A NIGHT, after eating a burrito (after midnight) as big as my upper arm running from my shoulder to my elbow, and after telling the clerk at the 7 - 11 how foolish I felt and that I was no longer 27, I re - discovered Anne Lamott on Facebook, who made it all seem okay, and placed everything into perspective:


"I am going to be 68 in six days, if I live that long. I’m optimistic. Mostly.

 

"God, what a world. What a heartbreaking, terrifying freak show. It is completely ruining my birthday plans. I was going to celebrate how age and the grace of myopia have given me the perspective that almost everything sorts itself out in the end. That good will and decency and charity and love always eventually conspire to bring light into the darkest corners. That the crucifixion looked like a big win for the Romans.

 

"But turning 68 means you weren’t born yesterday. Turning 68 means you’ve seen what you’ve seen—Ukraine, Sandy Hook, the permafrost…Marjorie Taylor Greene. By 68, you have seen dear friends literally ravaged by cancer, lost children, unspeakable losses. The midterms are coming up. My mind is slipping. My dog died.


"Really, to use the theological terms, it is just too frigging much.

 

"And regrettably, by 68, one is both seriously uninterested in a vigorous debate on the existence of evil, or even worse, a pep talk.

 

"So what does that leave? Glad you asked: the answer is simple. A few very best friends with whom you can share your truth. That’s the main thing. By 68, you know that the whole system of our lives works because we are not all nuts on the same day. You call someone and tell them that you hate everyone and all of life, and they will be glad you called. They felt that way three days and you helped them pull out of it by making them laugh or a cup of tea. You took them for a walk, or to Target.

 

"Also, besides our friends, getting outside and looking up and around changes us: remember, you can trap bees on the bottom of Mason jars with a bit of honey and without a lid, because they don’t look up. They just walk around bitterly bumping into the glass walls. That is SO me. All they have to do is look up and fly away. So we look up. In 68 years, I have never seen a boring sky. I have never felt blasé about the moon, or birdsong, or paper whites.

 

"It is a crazy drunken clown college outside our windows now, almost too much beauty and renewal to take in. The world is warming up.

 

"Well, how does us appreciating spring help the people of Ukraine? If we believe in chaos theory, and the butterfly effect, that the flapping of a Monarch’s wings near my home can lead to a weather change in Tokyo, then maybe noticing beauty—flapping our wings with amazement—changes things in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It means goodness is quantum. Even to help the small world helps. Even prayer, which seems to do nothing. Everything is connected.

 

"But quantum is perhaps a little esoteric in our current condition. (Well, mine: I’m sure you’re just fine.) I think infinitely less esoteric stuff at 68. Probably best to have both feet on the ground, ogle the daffodils, take a sack of canned good over to the food pantry, and pick up trash. This helps our insides enormously.

 

"So Sunday I will celebrate the absolutely astonishing miracle that I, specifically, was even born. As Fredrick Buechner wrote, “The grace of God means something like, “Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.” I will celebrate that I have shelter and friends and warm socks and feet to put in them, and that God or Gus found a way to turn the madness and shame of my addiction into grace, I’ll shake my head with wonder, which I do more and more as I age, at all the beauty that is left and all that still works after so much has been taken away.

 

“So celebrate with me. Step outside and let your mouth drop open. Feed the poor with me, locally or, if you want to buy me something, make a donation to UNICEF. My party will not be the same without you.”

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Post No. 202: On Whose Team (or Side) Are You; Should It Make a Difference?

 

© 2022, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

 

This is a post I generated a year ago, but never published - partly because I wanted to ensure that my position was clear, even though out of the mainstream.   

 

Around that time, I promised myself that I would never write anything again about being a black man in America.  Why? Because it doesn’t really accomplish anything in terms of advancing any meaningful societal interests.  Either one already recognizes the complexities associated with the race issue, or one doesn’t.  Either one feels that America is a racist country; or one doesn’t.  I’m not sure that the conversation really matters, unless one believes that they can sway the sentiment amongst the “undecided.”

 

Unfortunately, I’ve always tried to find solutions to problems, and not just repeatedly complain about them. (It’s the engineer in me.) Thus, I prefer to talk about human issues (and widgets), and the commonality of interests facing all widgets, and not just black widgets.

 

So about two years ago, I started a Facebook group page entitled, Black Baby Boomers Who Remember – namely segregation.  I later changed the name to Black Baby Boomers Who Seek a BetterFuture for All, seeking to attract more Chinese followers. (Seriously!  During the early days of this blog, I tried every imaginable tactic to reach Chinese students. Silly me, once again.) I’ve been amazed, quite frankly, with the nature of the discourse on the Black Baby Boomers page, which I expected to become “self – executing,” and take on a momentum of its own.

 

Then this black guy, who was a member only briefly and supported most things Trump, accused me of assembling a bunch of Trump haters and feeding them raw meat, which led to this: Just so that there is no confusion, or a claim that the goals of this group page have been misrepresented, I started this group page with no particular political agenda in mind, either explicit or implied. Additionally, I welcome, and encourage, people of all ideological views to participate. I do not belong to either major political party. I am unaffiliated. This page is focused on the potential reversal of civil rights laws as it affects minorities.”

Then, shortly thereafter, a different black guy (as far I could tell, although he might have been a Russian operative) asked me to expel him from the group, because he could not figure out how to do so himself.  He was offended by my intellectual dishonesty for including the word “Black” in the name of the group, which had white members.

   

All of this reminded me of a time when I had a 4 or 5 hour layover in Mexico City, and decided to walk through some neighborhoods to get a “real feel” for the city, but chose to walk down the middle of the street to avoid being attacked from either side. It actually worked.

 

Consistent as is my wont to entertain the views of all humans I encounter, and learn “something” from them, I thought about something often said by one of the most despicable (and devoid of socially redeeming values) childhood friends of mine, "Take the names and faces off of the individuals involved, and then analyze the conduct."

 

In theory, and in principle, doing the right thing and having integrity and principles SHOULD NOT CHANGE FROM SITUATION TO SITUATION or event to event, no matter which team you find yourself associated. There’s a phrase which I have been uttering to folks for the past year, and I believe that there is a modicum of truth to it:  “There’s no need to take a side, unless you have a dog in the fight.”  And if we find ourselves rooting for one dog over another, we should consider the nature and consequences of the fight, and whether it is a good fight. 

 

I am still amazed to this day about two things in history pertaining to the Roman Catholic Church – the first being the Doctrine of Discovery, justifying the exploration and colonization of lands not inhabited by Christians - hhmm, hhhmmmm..., and if that wasn’t deep enough, the second, the Church cozying up to the Hitler and the Nazis (reminiscent of Trump cozying up to Putin).

 

I’m done for tonight.  I can’t make sense of any of this, despite spending an entire year thinking about it.  On whose team or side are you; and should it make a difference?  That is the question.

 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Post No. 201: Oh What a Difference Ethno – Cultural Experience Can Make



© 2022, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

 

When I am with some of my Japanese friends, I often mention that when I was a Hispanic kid growing up in North Carolina during the 50s / 60s, if I saw a Caucasian woman on the street, I immediately crossed to the other side. They often appear confused, not sure whether to laugh, cry, or even comment.  

 

As of 5:35 am Monday, March 21, I will have been back in Southern California 4 weeks.  Since my arrival (excluding time spent in the train station and walking through homeless camps on Los Angeles County Superior Court and United States District Court property, I've seen roughly 8,372 people.  Only 28 – ½ of them have been Negro, black, or perhaps, African –American.

 

I encountered 4 fellow black folks in my 3 week stay in Oceanside, and another 24 – ½ in Carlsbad Village, where I arrived on Monday. During a conversation with a Nashville friend, she asked what I thought of the numbers.  I told her that I wasn’t sure, but imagined there might be at least 27 possible explanations, not one about which I felt confident.

 

During a period some years ago, which some might call, “Open Season on Young Black Men,” I generated a post, Exist with Caution: You May Not Be Who You Think You Are; Or Be Seen the Way You Want.  Having had all of this preparation over 70 years for people seeing me with different Ray - Bans, I developed a response while visiting Dollar Tree stores, when cashiers asked me whether I wanted a receipt.  “A black man should always have a receipt,” and perhaps a few old ones in his pocket, just in case.

 

Despite this pro – active approach, I actually found myself unprepared last week.  I bought a bumper case and screen protector for my smartphone at 8:38 am at a local Walmart, and was concerned about having it properly matched to my phone.  The sales clerk provided a few hints, but was not allowed to assist me.  She suggested that a manufacturer’s rep would arrive at 10 am, and that I could avail myself of their services.

 

I proceeded to my Taco Office, which did not open until 9:00 am, and waited a few minutes to take care of “bizness.”  During my wait, I filled out the onlineWalmart survey (expressing my sincere satisfaction with rude sales associates who never appear in Walmart ads), thinking a $1,000 gift card would be right on the money right then.  I carelessly threw the crumpled receipt in the trash, and it was only after I crossed half of the parking lot separating the two, that I realized it.  Walking ¾ mile back to Taco Bell, I was unable to find it.  Undeterred, I returned to the electronics department at 10:22 am, thinking that the manufacturer’s rep had surely arrived. 

 

Silly me.  Now, not only had he not arrived, but there was an elderly lady in line ahead of me.  I walked around the store and returned at 11:15 am, only to see the elderly lady depart, and no rep.  I figured that I could apply the screen protector myself, or have the fellow at the Metro PCS store, who had switched my service the day before, apply it.

 

As I was preparing to leave the store, a friendly Walmart sales associate requested my receipt.  And there I stood trying to simply explain how I managed to come from the rear of the store with two still packaged items, and no receipt.  She had that look of having heard my explanation before. Fortunately, I was able to resurrect mycorporate business voice, and it only took me 45 minutes to be gone.

 

So, fast forward to this afternoon, when I was in a Marshalls with no black folks in sight for miles around.  As is my wont, I left packages from other stores close to the entrance, to avoid walking around with open bags.  I was immediately approached by a security lady who advised me against it, suggesting that someone might take my previously purchased items, and that Marshalls would not be responsible.  I explained that I preferred not to walk around the store with open packages out of concern for… well, you know.  Not having any appreciation of my issue, she insisted, and said, “You have nothing to worry about, Sir. “

 

As I put on my newly purchased Ray Bans, and left the store, I realized: There are many situations where a black dude walking through a white anything would be regarded as suspect.  I guess that it just depends on… “Whatever.”

 

 

 

Post No. 200: So Who Are These People ?


© 2022, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

 

Throughout my life, I have been humbled by people with whom I studied and worked, and had the opportunity to brush shoulders.  I was always the least sophisticated, least intelligent, individual in the room – not to mention the most naive. 

  

Those around me always seemed to have a “game plan” for their lives; and to view the world with such clarity and simplicity.  I love people who say, “When I was in college, I decided to….”  Others speak with such confidence, and with such certainty about issues.   As for me, I long ago concluded that I’m not certain about much in life, except those things which I mucked up in the past.  I’ve always been curious - trying to make sense of things, and as time has moved on, I’ve become less certain about more things.

 

I started writing in 2008, under the title, The View from Outside My Tiny Window. When I meet strangers and suggest they read my stuff, I mention the title.  What’s interesting is the difference between folks who instantly comprehend the meaning (repeating it back to me with nary a mistake), and those who struggle, generating some contorted version 4 or 5 times. 

  

I frequently relieve them of the pain, by using a visual descriptor:  Imagine you have a globe before you, and you are on the outside trying to look in and make sense of the world, through a very tiny window – my window.  And thus, The View from Outside My Tiny Window.

 

I’ll be the first to admit that I am having extreme difficulty understanding the Trump phenomenon, on multiple levels (not to mention the fact that it is global).  He simply does not strike me as one with much in the way of socially redeeming values.  Yet who he is and what he tries to accomplish, however contrary to my core values, should NOT be the end of the analysis.

 

 In anticipation of the upcoming presidential election, I started a Facebook group page in August of 2020, Black Baby Boomers Who Remember.  I wanted those of us who lived in segregation to share our memories with young folks, and encourage them to register, get to the polls, and assist others in doing so. Not wanting to simply limit participation to just black folks, I decided to change the name to Black Baby Boomers Who Seek a Better Future for All.

 

I tried to avoid the use of the names of the two political parties.  Although I have always considered myself an independent, there have been phases in my life when I was more closely aligned with “Republican” values, and on other occasions, the balance tilted the other way.  As I observed the discourse between the members of the group, and the opinions expressed by Trump supporters and adherents, I came up with two other, admittedly less than satisfactory descriptors:  the authoritarian governance faction, and the anti – authoritarian governance faction.

 

Silly me - none of this seems to really work.  First, calling Trump supporters “racist” is intellectually dishonest, and insufficiently supported by the facts.  Second, they are not just a fringe element, consisting of extremists – there are too many of them constituting 47 – 49 % of the voting public.  Third, attaching simplistic labels to them and summarily dismissing them as “something” which we do not like, gets us absolutely nowhere – with no interests advanced except perhaps on a personal level.

 

However, there is a more significant reason the labels don’t work.  They are people who I care about, who care about me, who I’ve had in my home over the years, and who have invited me into their homes to watch their kids grow.  There’s a buddy with whom I have been friends since 1979, and another business associate who has been one of my biggest fans since 2002.  Followed by the nurse who used to travel miles to attend to my ailing Father, on Saturdays, when she was technically off work. 

  

As I talk to people and describe this blog, we seem to agree about one thing – there ought to be a better way for common, ordinary, everyday citizens to find the commonality of interests which binds us, rather than focus on the forces that divide us.  I say, get rid of ALL the politicians, and the money out of politics.  But then again, I am just one, not particularly smart, unsophisticated, naïve guy. Silly me.

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Post No. 199: Son, Everything is going to be Alright

© 2022, the Institute for Applied Common Sense


Six hours ago, I returned to my temporary home of Carlsbad, California, fresh from a productive day dealing with my 3 week transition. I had become a resident of the Golden State, once again. When I woke up at 4:30 am, Pacific, I was consumed with the notion of cyberterrorism, prompted by Putin's desire to accomplish "something," although elusive it may have been from my personal perspective.  (I will not comment on our former President's emotional support). Despite the relative youth of the day, I found myself shelling out cash for VPN software (free being deemed inadequate), and sharing my internet concerns with many a friend, and a thousand or so strangers.

 

 

As the day wore on, despite an absence of CNN input, I became increasingly concerned about the future of humanity. As the day wore further on, I realized that I had transformed myself into an itinerant preacher, proselytizing far and wide about how we citizens might collectively seek a better future for all. I must have struck a chord since, much to my surprise (and perhaps dismay), roughly 99% of people who I engaged took the time to listen.

 

 

Of course, the more prudent side of this tradition - based Negro suggested I exercise care to avoid being labelled paranoid, over reactive, out of sync with the prevailing mood, or what was perhaps, trending. I managed to get home on the last bus, using a new route, at 9:38 pm (having inattentively missed the preceding 3). I soon found myself 1/4 of a mile from the vast Pacific, while waves beat peacefully against the shore. I breathed a sigh of relief. Although the shore itself was hauntingly quiet, I heard youngsters partying at the local bars, having a good time, perhaps as they should have been. As I walked the remaining 3/4 of a mile to my temporary home, I thought how this time it might be different, and how the giant moats called oceans, just might not be enough to protect us.

 

 

I crossed the street to my old reliable haunt (which I had not visited during my 14 years back in North Carolina), the local 7 – 11.  It was my place of refuge following the Northridge earthquake of 1994, at 4:30:55 am. I remembered how I was thrown out of my bed onto the floor, stepped on my glasses trying to stand up, and that lights disappeared all over Southern California. I spent 37 minutes perusing bottles of red wine (which I had not consumed in the preceding 18 months), cost be damned.  I grabbed some bacon jerky strips (which I had never previously consumed), before approaching the clerk, who exhibited a strained smile, wondering whether I was Michael Brown and this was Ferguson, Missouri.

 

 

And this I said, without the least bit of hesitation, and no introduction or segue following the usual transactional conversation: "I'm 70 years of age, and will soon turn 71 in a few months, and this s _ _ _ is serious.  THIS is the most unsettling time of my entire life after having endured a 3 – ½ day Amtrak journey across the country just three weeks ago, today."  I suggested that we all might consider discontinuing doing business as usual, and start getting prepared.

 

 

He looked at me with a responsive demeanor and degree of seriousness which suggested that he knew exactly what I was talking about, and implicitly appreciated that I had not even opened the bottle of wine. Any smile or even grimace, which he might have possibly entertained, suddenly disappeared.

 

 

As I exited my refuge, which had comforted me during many an earthquake during my 30 years in Los Angeles, I wondered, "How many other people are as afraid on a basic, visceral level as I am?" I'm frigging scared. You can call me a weakling if you want. I prefer honesty and being a realist.

 

 

And then I recalled one of the most comforting conversations I ever had with my Father, a World War II veteran, D - Day plus 6, and a great man, and not just because he was my Father. Prior to that time, I could not ever recall him discussing his experiences in the war. He called me a few hours later during that morning, and said that everything was going to be alright. He imagined that the earthquake was similar to when he was in London, when Hitler was tossing V - 1 rockets (not even close to those of the Francis Scott Key variety) across the Channel. He said the percussive nature of the bombs made the buildings shake in a way that he had never envisioned. Although he was terrified, he said that he got through it, and that I would also.

 

 

Here's hoping that my Dad is right this time around, although he is no longer with us....

 

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Post No. 198: There Has to be Something Bigger than One's Self

© 2020, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

My last blog post was on June 4, 2016.  It has been a complex 4 years. Shortly before that date, my good friend, mentor, and Founding Member of the Institute for Applied Common Sense, Willy Hopkins (a/k/a The Laughingman), left, as he would characterize it, “…this mortal coil.”  My father, who I consider to have been a great man (and not just because he was my father), passed a couple of weeks short of his 97th birthday. He had that indomitable spirit and positive influence on me to the end. Finally, one of the most in-depth thinkers and a calming influence in my life, Darryl Jackson (a/k/a The Optimizer of the Institute), passed far too early in life when he had so much more value to bestow on the young people who he taught.

So here I stand, the only surviving member of the Institute for Applied Common Sense (2 weeks shy of the tender age of 69 and before I start the 2nd half of my life), trying to figure out what to say in 750 words or less, which pays tribute to these men in life, and yet encapsulates all my thoughts for the past 4 years.  In September of last year, while observing the Senate hearings on Brett Kavanaugh, I decided on the title of this piece, but did not get around to writing it until today, when the memorial service for civil rights icon, John Lewis, took place.  I listened to all of the speakers at his service, and there appeared to be a common theme, and thus the title of this piece.

Recently, I have been concerned about the extent to which many people think that, “it’s all about them, and what they want.”   My dad was a caring, humble, relatively quiet man, who did wonders for his community.  He won several community service awards from the NAACP and never mentioned them to me while I was living in California.  But then again, he never had to be concerned about being re-elected.

I first started gathering my thoughts about this life principle when Bill Clinton was facing impeachment.  It just seemed to me that the office and institution of the presidency, and the goals which he sought to accomplish, were more important than Bill Clinton, the individual, remaining in that position. He was not the only individual who could advance those goals.  Additionally, his credibility and effectiveness were severely affected by his indiscretions.  My position is that he should have immediately resigned, and allowed his vice – president, Al Gore, to carry on the mission (which Clinton did not personally own).  

I felt the same way during the hearings with respect to prospective Supreme Court Associate Justice, Brett Cavanaugh.  Even if he felt that the allegations of sexual misconduct had no validity whatsoever, I felt that he should have removed his name from consideration and fought the allegations outside of the context of the hearings.  Once again, it seemed to me that the seat and institution of the Supreme Court justice, and the goals which his party and supporters sought to accomplish, were more important than Brett Cavanagh, the individual, putting up a fight to acquire that position. He was not the only individual who could advance those goals. 

Additionally, his credibility and effectiveness, and respect for the Court would be, arguably, negatively impacted by his getting the seat.  Why would someone want that to satisfy one’s personal desires?  Interestingly, right after Mr. Kavanagh was successful in fending off the challenges, and confirmed by the Senate, President Trump congratulated Mr. Kavanagh for putting up the vigorous fight, and alluded to former Senator Al Franken, as having “folded like a wet rag.”

So, what is my message to college students, who are my target audience?  It seems to me that personal responsibility includes thinking beyond one’s self and one’s personal goals.  Though the Laughingman and the Optimizer are gone, I still reach out to others to expand my thinking about the concepts and issues about which I write.  The Laughingman introduced me to someone who often provides kernels of thought.  During an exchange with him earlier this year, he suggested that I pose two questions to the readers of this piece.

The first was, “What would your grandfather or grandmother have done confronted with your current situation?”

The second was, “While you may presently be strapped for money because of being ‘sheltered in place’, you now have a lot of free time.  What can you do with this free time to make a difference in the quality of someone else’s life?”  He suggests that thinking about improving someone else’s life can help you improve your own....

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Post No. 197c: Muhammad Ali


© 2009 and 2016, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Muhammad Ali died yesterday, on June 3, 2016. Today, the airways are full of documentaries and special programs discussing The Champ's life. Back in 2009, I generated two posts about Ali, "Who is This Muhammad Ali, and Why are So Many Still Saying Things about Him," and "More Things People Have to Say about Muhammad Ali." I decided to re-post them today. (You can access the first article through a link in the second.)

I, like many people, always had a special affinity toward Ali, despite the fact that my Mother so intensely disliked him. My good friend, Willy Hopkins aka the Laughingman, who grew up in Louisville at the same time, often spoke of him as his personal hero. No matter where you stood or stand on his contributions to the Universe, you would have to agree that he made a difference, and that has to be a "good thing." I hope that you enjoy reflecting....



Earlier this week, we posted a piece on how Muhammad Ali still commands the world’s attention, even though his boxing days are behind him, and Father Time has been in his opponent’s corner in recent years. By writing it, we gained a better appreciation of the man, and what sets him apart.

For decades, many have asked why so many admired him, warts and all. He never claimed that he was perfect, just that he was pretty.

Our readers from all across the philosophical and ideological spectrum, even at its extremes, shared their admiration. Something about his appeal is obviously universal.

Simply put, Ali is the quintessential “Fighter.” He has always stood up for what he believed in, even if society did not always believe in it with him. For all of us who do not stand up for ourselves on occasion, he represents the possibility.

During his recent trip to Ireland, much was written about Ali’s legacy. Sports Illustrated and PBS commentator Frank Deford, in a poignant piece, A Fading Champ, But a Champ Still, claims that, “… a great many people find it as upsetting as it is sad that the old champ continues to make personal appearances.”

But, as one of our readers noted, “They don’t really understand who Ali is.” His eternally youthful attitude, humor, and quick wit have served him well, and counter the ravages of time.

One of our friends loves The Champ – always has; always will. Ali made 3 personal appearances in his life, although the first was not exactly face-to-face, and perhaps apocryphal in nature. They reflect certain aspects of who Ali is.

In 1978, on his way to a wedding, our friend visited a friend in St. Joseph, Michigan on the shore of Lake Michigan, at the mouth of the St. Joseph River. At the time, The Champ maintained a training camp in nearby Berrien Springs.

After getting off the train in a torrential down pour, he took a cab along the winding road alongside the river, and noted people sitting on its banks in the dark of the night, with giant lanterns. He inquired as to what they were doing out in the rain, in the dark.

The cabbie said they were illegally fishing. The area was known for its salmon, and fish are attracted to light emitted by the lanterns. The poachers simply extended their nets from banks, catching salmon as they sprang into the air.

The cabbie told of how The Champ was once on a boat fishing with a local resident, when a group of salmon sprang into the air, and surprised him. Without hesitation, he instinctively turned and punched one of them in mid-air, with his eyes wide open.

The second meeting took place in Universal City in the offices of MCA Music. Our friend maintained his office in the same building. One of his associates had just traveled up the elevator with Ali and his confidante, Bundini Brown. She burst into our friend’s office and yelled that one of his idols was in the house.

He ran back and forth through the halls of the 2nd floor to find Ali, and found him in the dark gray, glass, Italian motif, minimalist lobby of MCA Music. There he stood panting from his run, alone with The Champ and Bundini. Even the receptionist had left her desk to get the person Ali was to meet.

He nervously approached this massive man, and said, “Champ, I’ve waited a long time for this opportunity.”

Ali flicked his head, clinched his teeth, shot out his left fist stopping just short of our friend. In that characteristic Ali tone, he said, “Whew! Bundini. He’d better be glad that I’m so fast. He look like Joe Frazier. I thought that you were Joe Frazier! I was about to kill him Bundini!” His face reflected that special Ali “join me in the joke” smile.

The third meeting was even more personal. During the 80s and 90s, our friend ran the Los Angeles Marathon, and The Champ frequently shot the starter pistol for the race. It was necessary to arrive early, in order to park, store one’s sweat suit, get a massage, and then stretch.

While warming up one year, he encountered The Champ wandering alone among the trees and grass outside of the Los Angeles Coliseum, and once again shook The Champ’s hand. However, by this time, The Champ was more distant, already suffering from the condition which makes him tremble, and appear dazed. Additionally, the one-time, rapid-fire “loudmouth,” as proclaimed by our friend’s Mother, was more subdued and mumbling slightly.

But he still had that twinkle in his eyes, and that smirky smile. He wished our friend a good race.

He was, and still is The Champ.

It made us consider what many have learned from this man, with very little formal education?

1. Backing up your promises is generally viewed as a positive attribute.

2. Cheating on your spouse is not.

3. There is some value to recognizing that there are some issues bigger than your short-term personal issues.

4. There is tremendous value to being open to associating with people of all backgrounds, faiths, social position, classes, races, and such, and not judging them.

5. Society admires people who just keep going like the Energizer Bunny.

6. A Father must ensure that he takes care of and is involved in the lives of his children.

7. Saying that you are sorry and admitting that you messed up goes a long way.

8. Society will always admire someone with a twinkle in his eye.

9. Your legacy is enduring and long-lasting, and doesn’t die with you.

There’s only one Champ in our book.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Post No. 197b: Now That Cruz and Kasich are Contenders of the Past


© 2012 and 2016, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

Yesterday, Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz dropped out of the race. Rumors are swirling today that John Kasich will do the same. That will leave Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee for the election for President. We revisited an earlier post to see how much has really changed since November 7, 2012, the day that this post was originally posted after Mitt Romney lost to Barack Obama. By the way, a prominent political operative noted roughly 100 years ago, that, "In the realm of politics, passion and prejudice will kick the ass of reason and principle on any given day."

We constantly re-visit posts to see if our views change. Although we occasionally find grammatical mistakes, the underlying thought process generally remains the same.

There is one post we never re-visited, and we are not going to do so now. It’s irrelevant. That post, The Morning After, was written hours after Obama was elected the first time.

On the other hand, there is an article we re-visit far more than others. It accurately outlined what we expected Obama to face in the event he was elected in 2008. Why I am Concerned that Obama Might Win (October 25, 2008), noted that the global economy was in bad shape, predicted it would continue for years, and that Obama would be blamed for not pulling the U.S. out of the economic doldrums quickly enough.

That was a no-brainer, but we re-posted that fluff piece 28 times, and each time a bunch of people exclaimed, “Amazing!”

Politicians, like lawyers on corporate payrolls, are necessary evils and part of our current governance model. But politicians have a significant problem apart from trying to act like money does not influence their decisions. In the real world, to solve problems it is far more efficient and effective if one’s analysis in addressing them is a thing apart from one’s values. Just imagine an ER doctor taking into consideration whether the patient was at fault before providing treatment, or how much money he or she will make if the patient lives or dies. Unfortunately, politicians have the dual, often conflicting, goals of defining what they stand for (depending on who they’re talking to), and ultimately getting re-elected.

Many Republicans are already heading down the wrong road today as they emerge from last night's limousine, caravan pile-up. They claim their message and mission are still on point; implicitly suggesting they were “right” all along, but that they picked the wrong driver for their vehicle.

Actually, Romney could have been the right man, and probably would have been in an earlier version of the Party. Our sense is that he is a good and decent man, with nothing but the best interests of our country at heart. Additionally, America could really use a business-oriented technocrat right now.

However, truth be told, the man never was as extreme or angry as the loudest elements of his Party wanted him to be. The most vocal and angry members of his Party out-shouted the thinking members.

This is a preview of our common sense presentation to the RNC on where the Republicans went wrong, and what they need to do to get back on track:

(1) You threw everything in the kitchen sink plus all of the crap in the outhouse at Obama. By doing so, you lost credibility with sensible folks, and your message became, per Marvin Hagler, “odiferous.” (College students simply held their noses.) If your positions on a few key issues were really that strong, you didn’t need all of the other stuff, or the Donald Trumps of the world.

Last week, someone sent us a chart outlining “Almost Every Obama Conspiracy Theory Ever.” The visual representation overwhelms you. It did not matter whether every single allegation was true. The President is an Incompetent, Dangerous, Treasonous Retard Side Show ™ was simply “over the top,” suggested something kooky was going on, and more importantly, unnecessary.

(2) The relatively small, extreme, fringe elements of your Party high-jacked the larger Party, in much the same way as the relatively small, extreme, fringe elements of Islam have high-jacked their religion. The Democrats also have such folks, but they shut the muck up. Your problem was that heretofore sensible, thinking members of your Party joined the fringe chorus, because they thought it was their ticket to Disney World. As the Laughingman often says, “If you think that hitchhikers you pick up are going to pay for all of your gas, you’ll probably never reach your destination.”

The Party needs to expel the kooks and extremists. Right now, there is no other club where they can hang out. Take some of that Koch Brothers / Super PAC money and build a third club house, where the bigots and narrow-minded can go party. They are pulling you down, in very much the same way Islamic terrorists are hurting their religion.

Deep down inside, your Party as presently constituted scares not all, but many, thinking people.

(3) The leadership of your Party abdicated responsibility and went on the road with The Fringe Circus. That suggests you don’t really have any leaders. It looked more like a revolutionary movement. Someone needed to take control, show some non-kooky qualities, and get the ship out of the rough seas. No one did that. The Good Governor didn’t want to do that. That’s not who he is.

(4) Our last point is the same one we made in October 2008. Economists predict another 5 – 7 years of economic sluggishness, GLOBALLY. Your Party asked us to believe that one man was supposed to turn around this giant ship in the middle of the ocean after both Parties had charted the same route for 30 or so years, AND you expected us to ignore all of the past trips where you collected bounty.

In 2016, you need to clearly articulate that your solutions will yield (not would have yielded) better results than those achieved during the preceding 8 year period, without making it seem as though you are the Virgil Starkwells of the economic world, who want to Take the Money and Run.

Quite frankly, the middle class never really believed that you cared about them.

You just looked greedy and disingenuous.

This is not to suggest that Democrats do not have significant comparable problems; just that they proved to be the lesser of the 2 evils this time around.

To the RNC Chair-Person [?], you need some new image consultants for the next round. We here at the Institute will gladly assist you, at a rate 1/1000th of what you were paid by your largest campaign contributor. Give the Koch Brothers our telephone number.

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