Bowe Bergdahl, Tiananmen Square, and exchanges

Danger invites rescue

Chinese lantern
One of the most eloquent judges ever was a New Yorker named Benjamin Cardozo.

He had a case called Wagner v. International Railway where a fella and his cousin are tossed from a train. The first guy goes to look for his cousin and is injured himself. He then sues the train company, which says, “We didn’t ask you to search for your cousin!”

To which Cardozo said, “Danger invites rescue. The cry of distress is the summons to relief […] The emergency begets the man. The wrongdoer may not have foreseen the coming of a deliverer. He is accountable as if he had.

Essentially, Cardozo said, “You made the situation happen where a normal guy did the normal thing: tried to help. You can’t create a situation that causes danger and then say, Well, we didn’t ask you to help!

Danger invites rescue. Because, while human beings – by and large – are animals, there are those that aren’t. There are those that point at burning buildings to laugh and those that run in to help. We are in need of all you dormant warriors for justice, the people need you.

That was very first thought three years ago when I first heard about Bowe Bergdahl. It remains my thought now.

While we’re on a rare political bent I note that today is also the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest massacre.

Him: But don’t they have freedom now?
Me: When it happened, the government said, “Holy crap, we’re in trouble – give them everything they ask for, except the one thing we really want.”

Property ownership? Done. Capitalism? Done. Private industry? Done.

Everything but what really mattered to the government, which was power. Political freedom was the one thing that mattered to the government and the one thing that should have mattered to the people.

Whenever you trade X for Y – $499 for a toy called iSomething, freedom for basic rights, one man for five, etc – you’re making a conscious choice of what you really want.

Only afterward do you ever find out if it was really worth it.

It’s the lawyer in me that always wonder what’s really for sale.

Location: in a new laundry room
Mood: injured
Music: you’re taking these pills for to fill up your soul
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Why it’s so hard to get from Brooklyn to Queens

Frankie, Sofie, and the trolleys

Decorated Bus in NYC

Had to work over the weekend so I found myself in the middle of Brooklyn early Saturday morning. The nature of mass transit here in NYC is that: (a) there’s a lot of track work over the weekends and (b) it’s nearly impossible to go from Brooklyn to Queens without first going into Manhattan.

The former means that trips that usually take an hour take twice as long.

The latter is just a constant annoyance because that initial trip shouldn’t take an hour in the first place.

There was a great article written about this time last year called A Very Brief History of Why It’s So Hard to Get From Brooklyn to Queens that says that we used to have a really extensive trolley system here in NYC but these were destroyed by corporations that wanted to create a bus system instead.

The short-term greed of a handful of men has resulted in decades of wasted time and money for millions.

That’s probably why I enjoy history so much, because so much of the past still affects our lives to this day, we just don’t know it.

Right now I’m reading about Franz and Sophie Ferdinand and I am amazed how one couple’s death changed the world so profoundly.

In any case, made it home in time drive my dad to the supermarket, pick my brother up from the airport, and see my sister and her kid. Pretty full family weekend.

Right now, I’m back in Manhattan but I have to go to midtown to argue with someone over a bill, then the gym, then out to Long Island for some more work.

I’m traveling a lot. Just don’t know if I’m going anywhere.

Location: midtown
Mood: irritated
Music: been traveling a hard road Had been looking for someone
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We handle life as we do bad weather

Someday we’ll know

Sunset at sea

Her: I don’t think of you as 41…
Me: Thanks, that really…
Her: …mainly because you act so immature.

For my birthday last week, Paul and his fiancee took me and the wife out for sushi around the way; they recounted their first date with us, which I’d not heard before. The funny thing about first dates is that you never know if that first date will lead to something more or less in the future.

Speaking of the future, been thinking about it more and more these days as I (slowly) accept that I’m 41. I’m nine years away from 50. I’m solidly middle-aged. And, when I fill out forms, I’m in a totally new age bracket.

But, it’s better than the alternative.

This Austrian named Alfred Polgar once said, “Too often man handles life as he does the bad weather. He whiles away the time as he waits for it to stop.”

So I try make these moments worth something, if only to myself.

Suppose someday we’ll know if it was worth something to anyone else.

Location: the middle of my life
Mood: pensive
Music: bought a ticket to the end of the rainbow
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Asians as the wrong type of minority

Don’t overstep your station in life

Wooden American Indian in NYC
An article came out recently about Asians in specialized schools whereby our current mayor Bill de Blasio and his Schools Chancellor  want to change the rules for specialized schools here in NYC so that not as many Asians will be there.

They have a problem, it seems, with the fact that there are 75% Asian students in these specialized schools, which only allow admission based on a passing score on a test.

“We must do more to reflect the diversity of our city in our top-tier schools — and we are committed to doing just that,” the Schools Chancellor said.

The article notes, however, that neither the mayor nor Schools Chancellor have a problem when it’s 75% White, 25% everyone else, or 75% Black, 25% everyone else, or 75% Latino, 25% everyone else.

Only when it’s 75% Asian is governmental intervention required.

I never really think of myself so much as Asian, as I do of myself as a creaky old man.

But every once in a while, I’m reminded by well-intentioned, liberal, white men that I need their help to succeed in life, but to please not  overdo it.

I cannot stand people like Bill de Blasio.

Location: apparently 1950s America
Mood: irritated
Music: we are all missing something I don’t got
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Painting oneself into a corner

The new Old World Order


This whole Ukraine/Russia world event is interesting to me as someone that grew up in the 70s and 80s.

As a kid, the “commies” were the bad guys. They were what we taunted each other with in the playground, what adults discussed in hushed tones

The Berlin Wall fell and then the Soviet Union followed.

Suddenly, these guys that we’ve been hating all this time just up and disappeared. But on the flip side, we’re still the same. We’re still the Americans. We still have the Republicans and Democrats (for better or worse). And that rhetoric is still there.

For the Russians, there’s an element of their own success at painting us out to be their enemy. Decades of it, plus the fact that the West triumphed in the Cold War, plus our own self-inflicted stupidity and arrogance, means that it’s easy for us to remain their boogeyman while they’re no longer ours.

They’re victims of their own propaganda success.

As for me, I try as much as I can to be even-keeled. Because I never know when the situation may change. On a related note, spoke to an old friend the other day and was reminded why we stopped speaking in the first place.

He’s 42 and still angry, still suspicious, still sure that conspiracies abound. He’s 42 but really still 18.

At 18 his convictions were hills from which he looked; at 42 they’re caves where he hides. The world’s changed around him but he hasn’t.

RedditFor the  Reddit Ask Me Anything this Thursday, I dropped the the price for The Men Made of Stone to $0.99 and A Great First Date to $2.99, so pick up a copy!

Here are some details about the novel.

Location: the weekend, the local diner getting a Cobb Salad
Mood: good
Music: everybody’s gotta get there somehow
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It’s the Ides of March again (and again)

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose


My brother’s in town again so he stayed over the other night.

For over 15 years, he’s been reading Will Durant’s The Story of Civilization – he’s finally on the very last volume of the series (11). The author spent his entire adult life writing the series from 1935 to 1975; he died in 1981.

We both like history because it’s fascinating just how much it repeats itself. You could take the news about the latest scandal on cheating, double-dealing, and influence from the Roman Senate and change it to the DC Senate and no one would notice.

We’re such predictable creatures. There are the occasional surprises, though.

Right about now are the Ides of March so it was 2,058 years ago that Brutus killed Caesar.

Roman historians like Plutarch commonly note that most people – including Brutus himself – thought that Caesar was Brutus’ father.

So Brutus wasn’t just killing a politician, he was killing his father. It makes Caesar’s last words all the more pitiful, “Even you, Brutus?”

Was pretty young when I learned this and found it completely unbelievable that something as mundane as politics would drive someone to kill his own father.

But just recently an article called I lost my dad to Fox News, which talks about how politics split a father and son. It’s not really so unbelievable now.

As for me, I’m reading about the 1683 Battle of Vienna and the struggle between Muslims and the west.

There’s this French saying that goes, Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – the more things change, the more things stay the same.

There’s something comically  tragic about that.

Me: What are you going to read after you’re finally done with the series?
Brother: I have no idea.

RedditOn a different point entirely, next Thursday, I’m doing a Reddit Ask Me Anything on the first book I wrote about gangs in the 1990s, The Men Made of Stone.

If you’re a Reddit user and/or have read the book, stop on by here and support!

Location: last night, kitchen making more chili
Mood: good
Music: Wheels are turning in the bed you make
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It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.

What’s the Point?

Him: What’s the point? You’re 40, when are you ever gonna get into a fight, let alone a sword fight?
Me: Why do you play the guitar? You’re never gonna be in a band.

Spent most of the holiday weekend traveling around the city – Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island – and New Jersey as I did work, saw my rents, and the wife’s family as well. Exhausting.

Was debating going to the gym last week because my leg was killing me but I ended up going, knowing I’d be eating my weight in complex carbohydrates.

While I was there, a buddy, who forgot my leg was injured, was goofing around and kicked my knee. I went down like a sack of bricks. Still not a 100% now so I’m using it as an opportunity to catch up on some work and my social media.

Speakinga which, I’m genuinely amused by people that are so critical of the whole Black Friday shopping frenzies.

The way I look at it, everyone’s got a thing. Something that makes no sense to anyone else, but matters to them.

One guy whom I’m friends with, wakes up at the crack of dawn to hit the gym, goes to work, goes to the gym again, and lives to punch someone in the face or get punched in the face. To anyone else not in the life, this probably seems crazy. “What’s the point?”

To him, there’s a point.

Yet he had this whole rant as to people waking up at the crack of dawn to get a good deal on a television, essentially saying, “What’s the point?”

I remember my parents waiting in line for a 13″ black and white TV for me years ago. It was my favorite possession as a child. It made me feel less poor.

For all I know, that’s why these people braved the cold and the sneers. What does he know? For that matter, what do I? And who really cares what people hang meaning upon?

There’s a hypocrisy with people that point out the inane in someone else’s life while not realizing it in their own.

I know it’s a bit ridiculous that I spend so much time either rolling around the floor or whacking someone with a blunt object. Yet to me it has meaning.

And look, I think it’s nuts that someone would want to risk life and limb to try to get a cheap toaster. But I’m not them. And they probably think it’s nuts that I spend so much time icing my leg because I can’t accept I’m 40.

Sir Edmund Hillary, the fella that climbed Mount Everest, once noted that, It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.

Personally, that someone has a goal – however silly I might personally find it – is a laudable thing in and of itself. It’s better to have some passion for something than live life as if in a haze. Even if no one else understands it.

Me: Spent Friday upgrading the two computers. I installed about 40 updates and a wireless 802.11n card into the living room MCE. We can stream full HD wirelessly.
Her: That’s nice.
Me: FULL WIRELESS HD! Not 720 like a chump. 1080p!
Her: …
Me: Clearly, you’re not affording this the attention it deserves.

Location: icing my leg at home
Mood: amused
Music: I have to climb Up on the side of this mountain of mine
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Guilt by association

You may have more in common with Joe Lhota than you think

Another political rant, but this time on local elections. Sorry, it’s the season.

For those of you that don’t know, in part of my day-to-day real life, I deal with trademarks. What a trademark is, is shorthand for actual critical thinking.

For example, if you buy a good cuppa joe at a place with a green mermaid called “Starbucks” for a while, you eventually learn that you can expect roughly the same level of quality at any other place with a green mermaid.

Recently, I’ve been involved in a dozen or so conversations with friends asking them the following about New York City:

  • Are you pro-NYC charter schools, which tend to help lower-income and minority children?
  • Are you pro the legalization of marijuana?
  • Are you pro-same-sex marriage?
  • Are you pro-abortion rights?
  • Are you anti-new taxes?

Across the board, everyone answered yes. The funny thing is that those positions are exactly what Republican for mayor Joe Lhota has according to this NY Time article.

De Blasio has essentially said he will cripple the charter school system and will raise taxes – something that Democratic Govenor Cumo said is both (a) not going to happen under his watch because it is (b) dangerous for NY since it will force people to move to more welcoming areas.

When I pointed this out to most people some changed the topic completely, several got (very) angry, and one put up a passive-aggressive link to look up things on Google.

But not one could point out a reason why they would vote for de Blasio over Lhota.

It’s little different from the Republicans that are just furious over Ombamacare even though it was an initially Republican conceived plan.

It’s disappointing how little thought – let alone critical thought – people I know in real life actually give to the issues that matter to them.

And the reason behind this is because everyone believes very easily whatever he fears or desires.

The person that posted the passive-aggressive link and one of the people that’s furious with me both wrote about how much the charter school program meant to them. So I asked them both why they didn’t support Lhota if they were so passionate about it.

Obviously, you don’t know what you’re talking about if you think [a Republican] is pro-charter schools.

Obviously.

Location: -120 mins, making sure the boiler was on
Mood: disappointed
Music: I’m stuck with them and they’re stuck on you
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Explaining Libertarianism and writing a date book

Accept the world as it is, not the way you wish it to be

Getting ready to see the doc in a few hours. Nerve-wracking.

Since I’ve not been able to do much with my free time with my leg, been working on a book on dating I’ve been meaning to write for a while. It’s a little different from what’s out there already but if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, it’s probably exactly what you might expect.

One thing I have is a list of baseline beliefs that one has to have to get anything out of what I write and the first – very first – baseline belief is to “accept the world as it is, not as you wish it to be.”

It sounds simple, but it’s something that I don’t think I myself really did until I was in my 30s.

Brought this up with someone who immediately scoffed and said, “What about Rosa Parks? If she did that, black people would still be sitting in the back of the bus.”

Which I thought was odd because Rosa Parks is a perfect example for my baseline belief; I’m sure she wanted to punch that guy in the face. Or sue them for discrimination. But neither would have worked in her world. Which didn’t mean not to do anything, but to do things that made sense in her world. And quietly sitting there fit into that world.

And now, the ability to sue for discrimination exists in our world, because of her working within the restraints of her’s. Because it doesn’t mean giving up on wishing for it to be different.

It’s a fine distinction, which is why it’s so difficult.

Fast forward to now and we’re in our current US government shutdown. For those of you not in the US, there’s a brand of politics called, Libertarianism, which essentially calls on as little government as possible. People should just be responsible for themselves.

It’s one of those things that in theory is great; personal responsibility is great. But in practice, it’s difficult if not impossible. I admit that when I was younger, I was a firm believer in it.

As I got older I realized that the reason it’s near impossible is because what George Carlin said is true: Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.

In short, Libertarianism it only accepts the world it wants, not the world as it is.

I’m off to get poked and prodded now, so I leave you with a paraphrase of a Salon.com column by The Week, June 21. In it, Michael Lind asked a simple question: “Why are there no libertarian countries?”

Modern states have tested all kinds of political philosophies, from fascism to communism to social democracy. But not one of the world’s 193 sovereign states – not even a tiny one – has adopted a full-on libertarian system, with very limited government, an unfettered free-market economy, decriminalized drugs, and no welfare or public education system. Yet libertarians still insist we’d all be happier in a system with an absolute minimum of government. Lacking real examples to prove their point, libertarians are forced to make lists of nations where there is a lot of “economic freedom,” with the lowest taxes and least regulation. That list includes such countries as Singapore, where economic liberty is paired with an oppressive police state, and Mauritius, a tiny island country with double the infant mortality rate of the U.S. and nearly triple its maternal mortality rate. Would you prefer to live in either place? Libertarianism, clearly, is based on a fantasy—that regulations, social safety nets, a strong military, and engagement abroad are unnecessary nuisances that can be discarded. Libertarians live not in reality, but in an “imaginary Utopia.”

Location: waiting to see the doc
Mood: bummed
Music: Entre le royaume, des vivants et des morts
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Someone’s going to have to Rosseta Stone us in a 1,000 years

The way things are going, I worry about us as a species

Been cleaning up my room and I came across a small stack of MiniDV tapes. The problem is that I don’t have a MiniDV player.

Thought of this recently as I read the news.

As I said earlier, it’s depressing. Between the Kenyan mall shooting, the church bombing in Pakistan, and shootings here in the states, I wonder about our future as a species.

Historically speaking, when violent uprisings happen, there’s not just a wiping out of people, there’s a wiping out of that people’s civilization. After the burning(s) of the library of Alexandria, the western world saw 600 years of dark ages where knowledge was lost and only slowly rediscovered over centuries.

In Mali, the Islamists aren’t just killing people, they’re destroying ancient manuscripts, temples, and art in Timbuktu.

And if any one of these people nutjobs get a hold of a nuke, well then all those sci-fi films like Planet of the Apes – where major cities like NYC are little more than ruins – become very real.

Perhaps then these harddrives and computer will just have a wealth of knowledge on them that no one can read. After all, for about 1,400 years, no one could read Egyptian hieroglyphs until the Rosetta Stone was translated in 1822.

All that knowledge gone for 1,400 years.

Of course, I could just go to ebay now and pick up a MiniDV player and a computer with a Firewire in port to record the info on these tapes of mine. I’m geeky that way.

Then again, maybe some information is best lost and left undisturbed.

Case-in-point, this photo below of me right before my MRI in some fetching blue slippers. No one needs that.

I mean, I’m showing it to you, but, really, no one needs to see it.

Location: trying to get to the gym
Mood: concerned
Music: make the change, it’s up to you to break the chain
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