Category Archives: Society

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

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

So What is Wrong with a School Bus?

School bus

The new school year just started up in my area, and the traffic to go with it. I had forgotten, as I drove around town over the summer, just how crowded the roads get when parents drive their children to school. It makes me wonder, not for the first or last time:

What’s wrong with a school bus?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 58% of student traffic fatalities occur when teens are driving or traveling with friends, 23% when traveling with an adult, and 1% when traveling on a school bus. The odds of your child making it to school on a school bus is much better than when you drive them, so why must we drive our children to school?

I know the argument my wife used when our children were young. She was a stay-at-home mom and just felt better when she dropped the kids off herself. Also she was concerned about bullying on the bus. The bullying concern, I can understand. Still, isn’t that part of growing up? Kids should learn to handle themselves socially not just at school, but on the bus as well. I understand not all parents feel that way, but if bullying is the number one concern, isn’t there a better way to handle that as well?

Speaking from experience, bullying at the bus stop can be an issue. I rode the bus as a kid and was bullied at the neighborhood bus stop. It was not a fun experience, but I survived. Also, it occurred at the bus stop, not on the bus with an adult present. In those days (1970’s), parents didn’t walk their kids to the bus stop like I see them doing in my neighborhood today. Parents in my neighborhood will also wait at the bus stop with their children. I see this as a good change to ensure student safety and combat bullying at the bus stop.

It just seems to me that with the proper planning and safeguards in place, we could save resources and time by allowing our children to ride the bus to school. I doubt many would agree though. It seems that many Americans today want to raise their children in a bubble of parental protection. Even though the numbers show our children are safer riding the school bus to school, our parental angst tells us otherwise.

Has the world gotten that scary that we don’t feel comfortable letting our kids ride the bus to school? I would guess that the bus ride to school is no more dangerous than attending school itself. If you will send your children to school, why not send them on the bus?

I feel a bit hypocritical writing this post, because my own children were driven to school. My wife and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on this issue, and since she’s the one that prepared them for school in the morning, I conceded the point. Still, I think it’s a discussion that should take place. I feel that my children missed out on an experience that could have taught them to be more independent and confident. Of course, I wouldn’t mind having all that gas money back either.

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Filed under Culture, Society

Why I’m not a Twit-ter

Look up twit on dictionary.com and you get the following definition:

to taunt, tease, ridicule, etc., with reference to anything embarrassing; gibe at.

Synonyms: jeer at, mock, insult, deride.

to reproach or upbraid.

Synonyms: chide, scold, rebuke, criticize, revile, castigate.

It seems a pretty accurate description of what appears to go on at Twitter.  I say appears, because I am not a member, but whenever twitter hits the news it’s all about trash talk.  This is enough to keep me away.

Besides the negative connotations that flood the internet, I don’t like the concept of twitter:

Get in-the-moment updates on the things that interest you. And watch events unfold, in real time, from every angle.

So I can be right in the middle of a twitter rant between two Hollywood starlets.  I don’t read that crap in the rag mags why would I want it instantly?  Also, twitter seems to encourage people to post in the moment instead of thinking through their posts.  How many times do you see people apologizing for their twitter posts?  I prefer well-crafted, thought provoking content.

To me, there is just too much negativity associated with twitter for me to want to join.  I’m sure there are people who love twitter and use it in a mature and responsible manner, but that doesn’t make the headlines.

Lastly, to be honest, I’m not a spring chicken.  I didn’t grow up with the internet and instant global news.  Sometimes I feel like there is information overload going on.  We become hardened to it.  In particular, it seems that too many people revel in the spectacle.  What does it say about our society when other people’s embarrassment or public humiliation becomes our entertainment?

Give me a good story any day.

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Filed under Society, Writing