Category Archives: Culture

Guess What I’m Having for Dinner?

I talk about all my favorite things on this blog except food.  Why you ask? (you know I’m going to tell you anyway.)

My brain works in peculiar ways, and I often feel it is just as important to explain why I don’t do things than it is to explain why I do.  This habit has been reinforced over the years by having to explain to my wife why I didn’t wash the dishes, or any number of other tasks that I should have done in her estimation. (sound familiar?)

So why don’t I blog about food and cooking?

Cooking is actually one of my favorite things.  I love to cook and share food with friends, but there is a difference between sharing food with a friend and the food videos I see all over the internet.  Here’s the difference:

I like to play a game with my mom when we talk on the phone.  If I made something for dinner that I know she loves, I’ll say “guess what we’re having for dinner?”  Then I’ll describe the dish in detail and, of course, invite her over to share the meal.  My mother lives six hours away.  So, in essence, I’m rubbing her face in it.  I’m saying “Nah, nah!  See what I got and you don’t.”  If I really want to get her goat, I’ll take a picture and text it to her.  Of course, she does the same to me.

Those food videos and pictures all over the internet are basically the same thing — “Look what I got!”  Oh yeah, you can have some too.  Just rummage through the pantry and try to find all these ingredients (Who keeps capers in their pantry anyway?).  And good luck getting it right!

Don’t show me food that I can’t eat.    It’s like going to a topless bar (or watching Magic Mike for you ladies I suppose).  What’s the point?

So I’ve decided that I will start a food blog just as soon as someone develops a food replicator like in Star Trek.  I’ll happily share my food with you online.  I’ll just shove a slice of lasagna in the chute, and you can pull it out of your replicator without having to rummage through the pantry.

Until that happens, I guess you’ll just have to come to Charlotte if you want to check out my cooking.  Tonight we’re having BLT’s.  See you at seven.

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Filed under Culture, musings, Society

Politeness is a Virtue

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I just finished reading The Way of the Samurai by Inazo Nitobe.  Nitobe was of the samurai class in Japan but was western educated.  He wrote The Way of the Samurai in English in 1900 around the time Japan was westernizing.  Nitobe does a good job of explaining the philosophy of the samurai as it relates to western civilization.  Specifically, he compares the ways of the samurai warrior to that of medieval knights in Europe, and compares Japanese culture and philosophy to the christian west.

Not surprising, he describes the Japanese as being more culturally focused, whereas westerners are more individually focused.  He does this without judgement.

The bulk of the book is taken up with explanations of the virtues to which the samurai adhered.  These virtues are: Rectitude, Courage, Benevolence, Politeness, Veracity, Sincerity, Honor, and the Duty of Loyalty.  As I read this book, the virtue that resonated with me the most was Politeness.

If you watch Japanese anime, news from Japan, Japanese shows, or know someone Japanese, politeness is probably one of the first things you notice.  The Japanese are polite, and it is a sharp contrast to American culture.  It could be argued that politeness is disappearing from American culture.

According to Nitobe, “Politeness is a poor virtue, if it is actuated only by a fear of offending good taste, whereas it should be the outward manifestation of a sympathetic regard for the feeling of others. . . In its highest form, politeness almost approaches love.”

So it seems that the samurai virtue of politeness is not much different than the Golden Rule that we were all taught as children.  You know, the ole mind your manners and love your neighbor shtick that seems to be going out of style.

For a true samurai, using his sword was the last resort, not the first instinct.  Virtues, such as politeness, came first.  Hmm, maybe we could try that for a change.

 

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Filed under Books, Culture, Philosophy, Society

No New Tale to Tell

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I was riding in the car the other day and a familiar song came over the radio:

“No New Tale to Tell” by Love and Rockets from their Earth, Sun, Moon album.

At the time, my brain was hopping around like a frog trying to avoid capture.  (Like the tree frog that got into my house the other day, and it took me several tries to get it back out again.)  I was thinking about my recent writing and marketing efforts when the following verses played:

My world is your world
People like to hear their names
I’m no exception
Please call my name
Call my name

My mind jumped to the thought:

Is that why I write?  Is that why people do crazy things on the internet, or in life?  Are we all just trying to be recognized? (For the record, I don’t know.)

Then came the refrain:

No new tale to tell
No new tale to tell
No new tale to tell

That is exactly what I wanted to tell a person the other day in one of my online writers groups.  They were worrying about sharing their work with other writers for fear the other writers would steal their ideas.  I just wanted to shout at them: No new tale to tell!  There are no new ideas, just new versions of the same old stories.  How many times have you seen The Lord of the Rings retold in the fantasy genre?  Let them have the idea, just write it better.

Then came the verse:

When you’re down
It’s a long way up
When you’re up
It’s a long way down

It’s all the same thing
No new tale to tell

Yep, it’s long way up, and down.  Everyone started somewhere and will end somewhere. Hopefully, I’ll end with several readers.  It’s funny how songs sometimes just hit the mark on where you’re brain is currently hopping.

If you’ve never heard of Love and Rockets, you should give them a listen.  They are an alternative rock band from the late eighties.  I own three of their CD’s, and like all the songs.  Here a a few of my favorites:

“Here on Earth”, “Welcome Tomorrow”, “An American Dream”, “No Big Deal”, “So Alive”, and “Holiday on the Moon”

Look them up, check them out, and enjoy.

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Filed under Culture, Music Mondays, Writing

Writing Ideas

Where do your writing ideas come from?  For a long time I didn’t really have an answer for that question.  Where did they come from?  Imagination, yeah of course, but what was the spark that brought the idea to life?

Many of my stories, especially my short stories, have come from writing prompts.  I’ve belonged to a few writers groups over the years, and several of them utilized writing prompts to help get the writing juices flowing.  It has worked for my short story ideas, and at least one of my novels started that way too.

One of my problems is figuring out what to blog about.  Writing prompts don’t cut it as blogging topics.  So where do bloggers find their material?

Recently, I was looking for a way to get unbiased news.  I went online and checked media bias websites AllSides and Media Bias/Fact Check and put together a list of media outlets that were considered least biased.  I put together my list on feedly and that’s where I get my daily news now.  It has actually cut down my stress from reading the news, because for some reason I’m not getting pissed off anymore.  Who knew there was so much biased opinion floating around on the internet.

A huge side benefit to this plan is that my news feed is giving me all kinds of great ideas for blog (and Facebook) posts.  Who knew that the news could actually be informative, enjoyable, and useful?

 

 

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Filed under Blog, Culture, Society, Writing

Is AI Bad?

Recently, several companies that work with developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) sent an open letter to the UN.  The letter was to voice concerns over the use of AI in weapons.  These companies are concerned that AI will be used to develop weapons that will act independently of humans.  They call it the “third revolution in warfare” which will “permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend.”

This is scary stuff, but it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that this is a possibility.  Especially if you have read or watched much science fiction over the last few decades.  Most people would probably point to the Terminator movie franchise as an example where Skynet takes over the world from humans.  There are other examples, for me the first one that got me thinking about this topic was 2001: A Space Odyssey.

HAL

I’m Sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.

HAL’s monotone voice only enhanced the creepy factor.  There was no obvious malice involved HAL’s non-compliance, was there?

2001: A Space Odyssey came out in 1968.   I remember watching it as a kid and thinking it was weird, but that voice has stayed with me since.

Over the years, there have been several movies that took on the AI question:

  • Wargames (1983) – AI bad.
  • Terminator (1984) – AI bad. (First movie bad, but mixed in later movies with “good” terminator)
  • Maximum Overdrive (1986) – AI bad. (Of course this one is a bit campy, but it does have AC/DC music)
  • The Matrix (1999) – AI mixed. (First movie bad, but got mixed up in later movies)
  • AI: Artificial Intelligence (2001) – AI good.
  • I Robot (2004) – AI mixed.
  • Chappie (2015) – AI good.

The AI comments are mine (you may not agree).  I’m sure there are other movies that I didn’t see, but there seems to be a trend where AI is becoming more acceptable, less scary (in the movies at least).  What does this mean about the acceptance of AI in our society?

I’m with the letter writers.  Yes, Artificial Intelligence is cool, but it is way too scary for me to be happy about it being developed.  A couple of recent developments reinforce my concern:

While human intelligence maybe somewhat of an oxymoron at times, I say let’s keep the robot programming simple, and let people think for themselves.  Who’s with me?

Hey, what’s that button?

download

 

 

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Filed under Culture, Philosophy, Science Fiction, Society

Super Genius

Coyote

My daughter calls me Super Genius, but not in a good way.  She doesn’t mean Fruit Loops with marshmallows genius (If you haven’t tried this perfect breakfast cereal, stop denying yourself).  When she calls me Super Genius, the words are accompanied by a smirk and an eye roll.  She means Wile E. Coyote Super Genius. . . and I’m okay with that.  She even bought me this nifty shirt.

Genius shirt

I earned this designation by sharing all the trivia stuck in my head with my family at the dinner table.  So this means we made a habit of sitting down and eating dinner together, and even (gasp) talked as a family during that time.  So yeah, I tell too many “dad jokes” and spout off nonsense trivia, but it beats each of us burying our heads in our cell phones only coming up for air for a “pass the bread.”

Besides, Wile E. Coyote is one of my childhood heroes.  That dude never gave up!  Get blown up, fall off a cliff, get hit by a train—it didn’t matter, he always came back for more.  That coyote had a goal, and he was determined to reach it no matter what.  To be honest, I always cheered for Wile E. Coyote.  He was the underdog (or would that be undercoyote?), and that roadrunner was a bit too arrogant for my taste.

So when my daughter calls me Super Genius, I just smile.

That’s me.

genius

When the roadrunner finally slips up, I’ll be the one strapped to my Acme rocket ready to swoop in and finally reach my goal.  Or, maybe it’s off the cliff again.  Who can say, but you can’t stop trying.

Coyote Bye

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Filed under Culture, Philosophy, Society

Dogs Aren’t People

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I actually wrote the draft of this post about a week ago.  Here is what happened:

I was walking with my wife on the sidewalk.  A lady was approaching us from the opposite direction with her dog on a leash.  It was an older yellow lab.  As we approached, I moved over to the right (behind my wife) to give them space to pass.  The dog ignored my wife but stepped towards me as we passed and tried to bite me.  He got a hold of my shirt and snapped the belt loop off my jean shorts.  It happened so quickly, I had no time to react.

When this all registered in my brain, I heard the woman say to her dog, “That’s not nice,” as if she was talking to a child, and she kept walking.  She didn’t turn around or say anything to the guy her dog just tried to bite.

You can imagine, my original post had a different tone than this one.  Fortunately, I decided to sit on it for a week.  I had visions of doggy protesters waving signs in my front lawn, walking their dogs up and down my sidewalk, and pooping in my yard (Actually, with my single-digit readership it would probably be just some old dude with his chihuahua—sorry dad).  Can you imagine how embarrassed those dogs would be at their owners’ behavior?  That’s right, they wouldn’t be embarrassed because they are dogs, not people.

I guess I just don’t understand people why treat their dogs like children.  Maybe it’s because I have children, and have also owned dogs. Yes, I am a dog person, and I do believe they can be a part of your family.  Still, pet owners should understand that they are animals and not people.  They are responsible if their pet injures another person, or damages another’s property.  This means they are responsible to train their dog properly, not treat it like an errant child.

You don’t have to look hard to find headlines about dog attacks, even dogs that attack their owners.  It is not just pit bulls that attack people either.  Dogs of all breeds do it, like the yellow lab that wanted a piece of my shorts, and even the little chihuahua out protesting in my front yard.  The repercussions of a dog attack can be deadly.  As a pet owner, you owe it to not only your fellow humans to train your pet, but also to the pet itself.  It may be your pet’s life that you save through proper training.

I have no hard feeling towards the yellow lab, but I wouldn’t mind taking a bite out of the owner.  Of course, then she would demand that I be put down.

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Filed under Culture, Pets