Fifteenkey

A place to indulge my narcissism... and write stuff...

Honoring the victims of 9/11

When thinking back to 9/11 and its aftermath, what I choose to focus on is the humanity we showed each other in the days, weeks, and months that followed, regardless of our race, religion, or politics. Sadly that mutual respect has faded, and we’re more polarized than ever. If we’re ever going to solve the problems we face as a nation, we need to get that civility back, one person at a time. So if we want to pay tribute to the victims of that day, let’s be respectful to each other, in spite of our differences. I’m sure they would if they could.

What are the odds of you?

“That you sit down, and you feel everything. And I cry in these moments. I have this urge of crying, but not crying for joy, not crying for sadness, no reason for crying — crying of being amazed for being alive.” – Paulo Coelho, author of many books including The Alchemist

2001 babyIt took some digging to find this, and I have absolutely no idea of the veracity of the numbers, but one guy calculated the probability of Earth forming in its present life-sustaining state to be less than 1 in 10282(million trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion), but let’s not bicker over a couple a few trillion trillion.

So there’s that.

The article above gets into some of the events that have had to happen to make life possible on our third rock from the sun, like:

  • At 93,000,000 miles, it’s just the right distance from the sun
  • Its molten core generates a magnetic fields protecting us from things called “solar coronal mass ejections” that could kill us, or at least fry our electric grid, then we’d kill each other over no wi-fi
  • Our moon creates life-sustaining tides
  • Oh, and Jupiter and Saturn? Their gravitation pull sucks in many a stray asteroid that could otherwise make us dinosaurs

Speaking of dinosaurs, this BBC article reminds us that it’s unlikely we’d be here if the dinosaurs were not wiped out by an asteroid 65 million years ago, or if some frozen comets didn’t deliver water to the planet 4 billion years ago, or if a smaller rogue planet passed on a cosmic slam dance with us, resulting in its bouncing off and becoming our moon…

So there you go. We have a life sustaining planet with a very photogenic moon for romance, but how did we get here, and more specifically, how did you get here?

Well, another guy, Ali Binazir works that out for us. Of course, there are some suppositions here too, but again, let’s not quibble over a few quadrillion. Here’s how Mr. Binazir arrives at the probability of that romantic moon resulting in you or me existing:

  • Probability of your parents meeting: 1 in 20,000
  • They actually talk and have a child: 1 in 2000. (Obviously they did more than talk, but you really don’t need that image, do you?)
  • Probability of the exact swimmer meeting your sperms better half egg needed to produce you: 1 in 400 quadrillion.

At this point, you have to ask yourself just one question: Do you feel lucky?

Of course before Mr. Sperm and Ms. Egg improbably met, all of your ancestors would have had to do their wild thing successfully. The probability of that: 1 in 1045,000.  Ah, but then again we have to do the right sperm/right egg thing for every ancestor in your lineage or you wouldn’t be you… And there’s a 1 in 102,640,000 chance of that. OK, you’re probably not doing math in your head right now, but when you do, the final tally for you existing is 1 in 102,685,000.  You know, ten to the two million, six-hundred and eighty-five thousandth power. Or as Mr. Binazir puts it, “That’s a ten followed by 2,685,000 zeroes.”  Yeah, pretty freakin’ remote.

So when you combine the odds of the planet existing to accommodate all the heroic sex that resulted in you winning the human lottery, you’ve got to be wondering if you’re really taking advantage of this near infinitely improbable gift you’ve been given.

I know I am.

Donald Trump Is the Gift to Liberals That Keeps On Giving

The Election

A little artwork I did last weekend to illustrate the Donald effect. Thanks to Time magazine for the meltdown headshot.

I find it ironic that 8 years of Republican hatred toward Barack Obama (and even longer toward the Clinton’s) has resulted in the nomination of the wholly unfit Donald Trump, who is succeeding in destroying the Republican brand AND putting Hillary Clinton in the White House.

I get some of the frustration. The remnants of what we used to call the middle class have watched their jobs go overseas and to robots, they’ve seen the obscene accumulation of wealth at the very top of our American economic pyramid, and they’ve seen their impotent government doing nothing about it. They’ve also seen the rise of radical Islamic terrorism (I said it!), and they’ve been told by Fox News that it’s the black guys (and now of course Hillary’s) fault.  Hey, Rudy “9/11!” Giuliani recently said there were no Islamic terrorist attacks until Obama became president! Is it in this alternate realty that you support Mr. Trump?

So now we have Donald Trump who has promised to “Make America (White?) Great Again” by building a wall, deporting 12 million brown people, and not allowing other brown people into the country who don’t worship the right god. I’m surprised he’s not proposing shipping all African Americans back to their continent, but given his ambivalence toward David Duke, maybe that’s in the long-term plan. Anyway, for my friends that support the Donald, I’m disappointed that the support of your candidate by a white supremacist and Trump’s tacit acceptance of it wasn’t enough for you to rethink your candidate.  So as a public service, here are a few more reasons for you to reject Trump… What about:

  • His Attack on ex-Vietnam POW, Senator John McCain, in spite of…
  • His dodging of the draft during Vietnam
  • His mocking New York Times reporter Serge Kovaleski for a disability
  • His shallow judgment of women (Carly Fiorina, Heidi Cruz, Megyn Kelly)
  • His racist attack on an American Judge of Mexican descent, Judge Curiel
  • His tendency to encourage violence (“Nominate me or there could be riots.”)
  • His conspiracy theory mindset (Ted Cruz’ father involved in JFK assassination, birtherism, election rigged)
  • His admiration of dictators like Vladimir Putin
  • His six bankruptcies
  • His three divorces
  • His refusal to release his tax returns
  • His re-tweeting a white supremacist meme of the Star of David
  • His support of torture like waterboarding and killing terrorist’s families
  • His tendency toward knee-jerk, angry reaction to any perceived slight

I’m sure there are more, but damn, for those of you supporting the Donald, when will your love of country finally trump your Fox-fueled hatred of Hillary Clinton so that this man is denied the power he seeks?  I know none of this will change your minds, but  I had to try.

Every Day can be Music Tuesday Friday

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Pearl Jam at Fenway Park August 7, 2016

For years, new records would be released on a Tuesday.* For example, Pearl Jam’s “Ten” was released on Tuesday, August 27, 1991, nearly 25 years ago… In 2009, the band released a “Deluxe Edition” of “Ten” including a demo cut from 1991 of “State of Love and Trust,” a song I’d never heard. On Saturday I was working in the yard shuffling the band on Spotify to prep for their Sunday evening gig at Fenway Park when the song began pummeling my cochlea. At about the 2:30 mark, I dropped the heavy rake and just listened. You should, too. No matter when it was recorded, you can discover new (and old) music that just lights you any day of the week. Get busy.

* That changed to Friday in 2015

Family Dinner at the Ballpark

There are some people I carry around with me. Always. At a recent Red Sox game, I sat with my family in the “Pavillion Club” above third base. During a quiet moment in the game, I looked across to see us sitting together, probably 40 or so years ago. There weren’t many seats up high back then, and there surely was no waitstaff, nor the money to afford $5.50 franks. On that summer day I made the hot dogs, Ten of them, I believe. With Guldens, wrapped individually in tin foil. I don’t remember the team or the score, just hanging with Mike G,  a lifetime ago at Fenway Park.

Peace Mosaic

Black

Apparently, I’m going to see these youngsters next Sunday night at the old ballyard. I wonder if they still bring this kind of intensity. Do any of us?

Exile on Facebook Street

facebook time suckIt’s day 14, and I’m OK, though she still haunts me. Yeah, I miss the funny updates from some people, and the content curation, but with the presidential circus ramping up, it’s much saner out of there. I had Facebook friends (and family) that support Donald Trump, and others who believe he’s Hitler with big skyscrapers and little hands. In the other corner, some fervently believe Hillary Clinton killed Satan with her bare hands, lied to his family, and now occupies his fiery throne. Others really love like will settle for her. When the Facebook political kitchen got too hot, my college roommate, Phil would post:

“Politics is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex.” – Frank Zappa

I searched the interwebs to make sure the quote was real. The actual quote appears to be not so much anti-government, but more anti-politics. Here’s what appeared in a 1987 interview with Keyboard magazine:

Question: “Perhaps many musicians simply aren’t concerned with political issues.”

Frank: “Well, I think it behooves them to have political thoughts, but let me make a definition clarification here. I say politics is the entertainment branch of industry.”

Frank was a bright guy. Here are a few more of his memorable quotes.

Ah, yeah. The Facebook thing. It’s a timesuck, but increasingly the “suck” is that people are just at each other. The political poop just gives people more stuff to throw. It’s not that I don’t care. I really do, but even civil discussions on Facebook eventually devolve into hate-fests.

If we’re the only life in the universe, and we may be, so far we’ve really squandered the gift. I intentionally left out “intelligent,” because there’s too much evidence to the contrary. In spite of the scientific proof that we’ve evolved from a miraculous combination of elements over 13 billion years (about 4.3 of them on our “pale blue dot”), for the most part we’re destroying each other and our planet over “beliefs” (another distraction) and relentless competition to profit from resources that really belong to all of us. Take the military-industrial complex, for example. If you don’t know what it means, you should. It’s why we’ve entered failed wars like Vietnam and Iraq. It’s why we spend $1.5 TRILLION dollars on a fighter-jet that has been outperformed by the 40 year old F-16 jet it’s supposed to replace. And it’s why there are so many guns on our streets. Our “civilization” now is largely about profits for those with capital at the expense of human life for those without.

If I was on Facebook, that statement would invite comments like “fucking socialist.”

So I’m not.

And me, I’m flying in my taxi…

publicarMy mind is a freakin’ funhouse. Last weekend I Ubered around Boston, and then yesterday read news that a guy was killed when his Tesla on autopilot “failed to distinguish the white side of a turning tractor-trailer from a brightly lit sky and didn’t automatically activate its brakes.” Oh, then last night I caught some of Ted2 involving a stoned, hilarious, foul-mouthed teddy bear with the voice of Peter Griffin driving a car into the second story of a barn.

OK, so mix all that together in my Ninja 900 mind blender and dreamland puts me in the back seat of a driverless taxi speeding down “thickly settled” Bennington Street in East Boston to the point that I stretched my left leg from the rear passenger side seat to the front drivers side brake (I can do that now thanks to yoga…) to slow that bad boy down. Next thing I know I’m in a dark barn and I need change for my fare.  A computerish voice says, “It’s in the back.” I crawl into the back and see cardboard boxes with clumps of bills… $10’s $20’s, $50’s, $100’s… No $1’s and for whatever reason, my change involved only $1’s…

I found three $1’s, then walked outside because that barn location was my destination.

Keeping Up With the Trumpsters

Coming out of my self-imposed political exile for a question:

Will the Supreme Court have to decide whether the Donald will be the Republican nominee?

The conservative court majority already gave us George W. Bush in 2000, and the recent rumblings among some Republicans about a “Conscience Clause” at the convention as a mechanism to “Dump Trump” would certainly end up in the courts if the Donald is stripped of the nomination he won fair and square. Yeah, the Republican process is more fair and “democratic” than the “stacked deck” nonsense of “Super-Delegates” the Democrats run. A legal battle would be a fitting episode in the obnoxious reality show called US Presidential Election 2016, starring Donald Trump.

I wrote the following on Wednesday, February 24, 2016, two days before NJ Governor Chris Christie endorsed the Donald:

Donald Trump is Reagan II (Governator Edition)
On November 8, 2016 the Democrats aren’t going to win. The Republicans aren’t going to win. The Donald is going to win. Working white people are pissed, and while they are still a majority, they’re going to vote for the person they truly believe represents them. Think about that. They’ve seen their jobs disappear to corporate decisions regarding technology and foreign outsourcing, they’ve seen the value of their homes and retirement savings shrink stemming from the 2008 Wall Street crisis, and they’ve witnessed most of the financial gains since then vacuumed up by a tiny number of people at the top of our financial pyramid. And yet they are still wild for the (alleged) billionaire!

Blue-collar whites see Donald Trump as their last chance to “Make America Great Again.” To some of them, the slogan is interpreted as “Make America White Again.” Once elected, he and Vice-Bully Chris Christie are going to bluster their agenda from Mexico, China, the oil countries, and most importantly, the members of Congress. Trump is like Ronald Reagan dipped in a vat of radioactive steroids emerging as Arnold Schwarzenegger on a mission, and he’s going to bully from the pulpit both Democrats and Republicans to deliver what his people want. A wall. Yep.

Scary, but now four months later I no longer believe Trump will be elected, and even though his likely opponent is nearly as unlikable as he is, Hillary Clinton is a grown-up, and is sufficiently qualified and experienced to be president in spite of the hate directed at her for nearly 30 years by many on the right.

I have family, friends and acquaintances that are Trump supporters. The one common theme of their support, aside from their hatred of Hillary Clinton, is that he’s not “politically correct.” That sounds good, but his record of racist, misogynist and xenophobic statements are not just politically incorrect, they are wrong in every way and should never represent the values of the  United States of America.

Man, I sure hope I was wrong on February 24th…

Prince

12e6c4b0b9c7e1f289f36d2d85361a55I was going to write about why the death of Prince hit me, but it’s some of this:

57

Yeah, too young to die, but another example of how it can happen in the snap of a guitar string. I can’t say I was a huge Prince fan. I own only one collection from the artist, but it’s a doozy – The Hits/The B-Sides. It opens with “When Doves Cry.” You know the lyrics.

Over the years I’ve seen my share of shows, but there’s only one artist I got shut out of. In March of 1985 at the Worcester Centrum I had a pocket full of dollars, but they were seldom used. There were no tickets to be had. That was at the height of his “Purple Rain” fame. That record opens with “Let’s Go Crazy.” So fun! “Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down? Oh, no let’s go!” You know those, too. Dude could write. One of my Facebook friends posted these words to express her feeling of loss:

I guess I should’ve known
by the way U parked your car
sideways
That it wouldn’t last

I finally saw the artist in 2004 at the Boston Garden or whatever it was called back then. It was a theater in the round show, and Jeff and I had sweet loge seats. What a show. Maybe the best I’ve ever seen, A 34 song set list including 9 in the middle by Prince alone on a stool with an acoustic guitar. He closed that nine with a cover – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. You know the words. Prince closed the night with “Purple Rain” and his guitar. Dude could play. After seeing the SNL tribute Saturday night I wrote:

If Michael Jackson could play guitar like Jimi Hendrix and write his own songs like Bruce… That’s Prince.

I guess that’s why it bothered me to see a Facebook post saying some crap about a celebrity death. The Kardashians are celebrities. Prince was an artist and his art made people sing and dance, think and cry. That matters in “a world that’s so cold.” Another friend said, “he hasn’t done anything since ’90!” Dude made 39 records. This is from 2014. Dude rocked.

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