Totally different point of view….

The world is getting better!

I got part way through FACTFULNESS, the extremely interesting new book (new-ish) by Hans Rosling and found that I had to stop reading.  He was shattering some of my constructs.  Most of them, actually.

My constructs don’t shatter easily (thus my stopping the process by stopping reading).  My constructs are hard-won.  We all have them and those that are hard-won, earned with scarring and blood-loss, are not easy to let go of.

But, of course, it is our constructs that stop us from learning and keep us experiencing everything through the same thought and belief systems we formed before the new facts were presented.  To have even a passing chance at learning, one must LET GO of one’s constructs.  Now and then, anyway.  Gotta keep ’em close but don’t hold on tight.  So many constructs serve us very well that we do not know which ones to let go of.  Or even how to loosen our grip a bit.

For instance: a very simple construct (belief) is that green light means GO and a red one means STOP.  Chucking that construct can seemingly lead to problems right?  But, it was one I had to let go of rather quickly while ‘scootering’ in Thailand a few years back.  The street was a mass of scooters and I was in the middle of the pack.  We were approaching an intersection at hell-bent speed when the light ahead went to red.  My instinct was to slow and then stop.  Nobody else’s was.  They just carried on and gave the light no notice.  Had I slowed and stopped, Sal and I might have had a typical scooter accident in Chiang Mai.  Letting that ‘stop-light’ construct go – because of immediate evidence all around me to the contrary – was a rapid-learning experience.  “Hmmmm……red lights do NOT always mean stop….who knew?” 

And that is what a construct is: a simple pattern, belief, process designed by yourself to save you from having to re-think everything every time.  Call it habit, beliefs, protocols or just plain rigid-thinking, it has it’s place.   I rarely walk into the women’s washroom, for instance.  That’s a good thing.  I drive on busy streets in almost an unconscious ‘learned-skill-pattern’ so that I can have the ‘brain-space’ to consciously react as traffic does what traffic does.  It’s a form of training.

But it is also a way to NOT THINK and we apply our constructs in everything, not just physical or reactionary situations where thinking-time saved might translate into a life saved (like traffic).  We have political constructs, world-view constructs and, of course, human behaviour constructs.  And those are not always right and, in a rapidly changing world, they are increasingly wrong.

Put it this way: if you were an American and Abraham Lincoln was the president, you might vote republican and be proud to say you did.  If you were an American in between 2008 and 2016, you might have voted for Obama and been proud to say you did.  In effect, you were voting differently for people and parties who were ‘doing the right thing’ for their time but, if you had formed a political-party construct that was ironclad, then you could NOT free yourself to vote your values, you would, instead, vote your party.  Your habit would rule, NOT your brain.  The ‘new facts of the situation’ would not allow your construct to be altered.  You would have found yourself voting for John McCain instead of Obama because of your ‘I am a Republican’ habit construct.

Which is fine, I suppose.  Freedom of choice and all that.  But Rosling posits that, with all the ‘new knowledge’ available to us, we should regularly review our constructs.  Of course, Rosling does’t say much about politics (that was my application).  Instead, he seems more interested in economics and social ‘beliefs’.

For instance, we in the first world, believe there is a first world and there is a third world and, God Knows, there is a second, developing world that is in transition from third to first. We think there is, anyway.  First world are the rich countries.  Third are the dirt poor and the second, developing world is kind of a vague, ambiguous list of countries that have Toyota Landcruisers and cell phones and we haven’t a clue who to include in that list.

Turns out that construct is old.  That is a WW2 era thinking….maybe even earlier.  The FACTS are that there are really FOUR worlds and all of them are closer than we were lead to believe when we built our construct/belief systems back in grade school.  Simply put: first world people (Canada, Britain, USA) are NOT all that far ahead of second world countries and, in some cases, the #2’s are gaining so fast that our first world relativity is about to be overtaken (China, Singapore).  Furthermore, the rest of the world does NOT live in dirt huts, herd goats and chew betel nut anymore.

Turns out 80% of the world has enough to eat, has a cell phone, the babies don’t die and the kids get an education.  There are still ‘starving children’ in some places and health care is wanting (even in Canada) and the problems still exist but the facts are that the world is much better off, the poor especially so, and the richer nations are progressing slower than are the ones catching up.

And, on and on he goes.  “Don’t worry, be happy!”

Rosling says that the ‘myths’ and beliefs we hold about the state of the world are all wrong.  He suggests factfulness.  Get the facts.  Learn ’em.  Change your mind as the information changes.  Stay out of the wrong washroom but, otherwise, be OPEN to learning.  And learn by facts!

Ironic, don’t you think?  Just as Rosling presents FACTFULNESS as the cure for what ails us, some are presenting the exact opposite.  “We have alt-facts and we intend to cure what ails us by way of getting rid of the real facts!”

To be fair to the proselytizers for ignorance, even Rosling admits that a fact one day might be proven untrue the next.  So, his answer is to be skeptical, have an open mind, be curious and question everything.

I have also noticed that some of the ‘facts’ that Rosling bases his optimistic statements on are somewhat suspect or, at least, worth examining more closely but that is still consistent with his instruction to question and be skeptical.  Rosling, I think, put a simple, smart concept regarding thinking into a simple, smart book that is easy to understand.  He said out loud what many were thinking….but hadn’t put into words.  That’s great!

But what does that do to my constructs?  Is the world still going to Hell in a handbasket?  Or not?

 

To NOT comment is a dereliction…..

Trump.

He disses his friends, he cozies up to a known criminal and thug, he is revealed as a traitor to his own country and institutions and then…then…THEN he claims he misspoke.

Which, of course, he did NOT!  He lied about misspeaking and only because his ‘advisers’ explained that he must.  They also WROTE the words he was supposed to read at today’s press briefing only to have him depart from them into unintelligible gibberish every so often.  The discrepancy between the language that was written for him and the words he spoke extemporaneously was breathtaking.  A sane person wrote words that an insane person was supposed to read.  He couldn’t do it!

I cannot dwell on Trump-the-idiot (it is boring, I know) but I can wonder where it is all headed?  Logic doesn’t play much of a role in predictions on this issue because logically he should not even be there.  Madness has prevailed in the United States for over two years (even before the election).  Clinton got almost 3 million more votes.  The Republicans have NOT reigned him in and yet they hobbled Obama.  The US – under this business tycoon stable genius – has increased world tensions, military buildup and the national debt by a staggering amount and yet the White House is talking more tax breaks and catering to dictators.  Debt and moral failure is the new Great Again?

The political and managerial contradictions keep mounting up.  What should go up, doesn’t.  What should never fall, clangs loudly on the floor.  Allies alienated.  Enemies suck-holed.  Environment disregarded.  National Parks sold.  Free Trade sabotaged.  Wall Street parties on while Main Street writhes in pain and hunger.  White supremacists pandered to. Racism and cruelty instead of hospitality and compassion for the huddled masses.  When all is turned upside down, how can anyone predict anything but catastrophic ruin?

So, is that my prediction?  Strangely, no.  America has a perverse kind of genius that underlies all that it does.  No matter what, no matter who gets hurt, or how much blood gets spilled, no matter the environmental consequences, the economic skulduggery, the international level crimes, the US makes money off of it. Somehow they get richer.

Of course, the price they pay for that is loss of respect, loss of humanity, loss of moral standing and long standing relationships rent asunder but they think it is all worth it to make a buck.  And they WILL make a buck.  And, in money they have trust.  If they have enough guns and if they have enough money, they believe they are going to do well.  Those are today’s American values and they will play out.

My prediction: this year and the next are a turning point in modern world history.  If Trumpism continues unchallenged by the so-called’ checks and balances of the US Constitution (so far not present or accounted for) then the world may shift to a significantly more dystopian state and the Judeo-Christian values we have come to believe in will be eroded beyond redemption.  If, instead, the evil emperor and his even-more evil courtiers is revealed to have no clothes and truth and fact once again have prime legitimacy along with basic human values, then it may herald a new dawning in our pathetic and incremental struggle for a morsel of enlightenment.

You know where I stand.

As far away as I can.

Golf!

I haven’t played at golf in 15 years.  I have never really played golf but there was a time when I played AT it.  I put it that way because, in my opinion, golf is the best game there is because, even as you get better, you can never win.

Oh, you can win against your other buddies who are generally as bad (or worse – that’s why you play with them) but you can never beat the course.  The course is always better than you are and, even if you are named Tiger, and you do well enough to beat most courses, there is always a hole or two that beats you and, sometimes, beats you badly.  For Tiger, a par is a missed opportunity and a bogey (one extra swing) is embarrassing.  A double, triple bogey or ‘blow up’ is soul-crushing.

For me, at my best, bogey golf was to aspire to and a par was a celebration.  The odd birdie (one swing less than was expected for the hole) was the stuff of talk-over-beers and one time I got an eagle and that one-time event has gone down in golfing history.

Seems wherever I go, that story is told.

I mention all this because my recent foray into community volunteerism has resulted in an invitation to join two other hackers onto the local course to whiff and slash until we can drink beer, eat nachos and I can tell my eagle story.  I can hardly wait.

Sal said, “You have your clubs, you know?”

“Really?  Where?”

“I stored them away.  I’ll get ’em.  Do you have your golf shoes?”

“I didn’t even know I had my clubs.  Shoes, schmooes….I’ll wear gumboots.”

Sal brought me my clubs.  I took my five iron out and walked to an open part of the deck.  I wiggled my hips like they do, took a grip and slowly moved into my backswing.  THAT was a shock.  Seems the backswing is a helluva lot shorter than I remember it.  But…in for a penny…eh?

I paused at the top of the backswing (like they do) and found that the pause was held at about two thirds of the way up.  Oh, well.  And then I released, sweeping the club so that there was a slight ‘click’ as it clipped the surface of the deck.  Oh! The sweet sound of the ‘click’.  Sadly the click was the highlight.  The follow through was as abbreviated as the back swing.  My golf swing is half what it was and – I am guessing – half as capable.  That translates poorly when used to tally swings-taken.  Instead of reaching a 400 yard hole in two or three (or close), I will be lucky to make it in four and more likely to take five.  Can I average one hundred yards a swing?  And that is NOT counting the inevitable and yet always-surprising errant flight of the ball off in the wrong direction (add two more strokes as one wanders all over the damn place)

That’s sad.

Of course, I know me.  I’ll actually take fewer strokes than nine-times-seven (63) for the front nine because, by the third hole, I’ll be swinging for the fences, coming out of my shoes and the ambulance crew will be picking me up at the fourth tee.

That’s humiliating.

I just read the other day of an 86 year old who regularly shoots par (72) at his local course and that very day had shot an astounding 68.  Almost 20 strokes less than his age!  Golfers aspire to ‘shoot their age’.  Going under that metric is astounding.

“Look what I found!”

“My shoes!  Where the hell did you find them?”

“That’s the sad part, sweetie.  I’m afraid to let you go out with those guys. They were in your golf bag.  What kind of doofus doesn’t look in his golf bag?”

“You are right.  I may not be able to do this without you.  Let me show you how to caddy……”

Learning Gap

Yet another ‘late blog’ mea culpa….sorry….

Been busy, ya know.  A man’s work is never done (usually because he refuses to get started on it).  But I had no choice last week.  Had to haul butts and tools down to offspring’s house and pry some parts of his house loose, set them free, released them into the renta-a-bin appropriately named, ‘Bin there, dump that!’ That was good.  Got to see my grandson.  Waddacutie!!!

Couple extra days with Sal’s parents collectively 184 and still going full tilt. ‘Dad’ took early retirement at age 60 and has been collecting his pension for 34 years!  “I just passed the time collecting my pension compared to earning it!”

THAT Has to be some kind of sweet revenge!

And then we charge back home from a HUGE Costco-shop laden to the brim only to find the fabulous funicular acting up.  Well, NOT acting UP, actually.  It would go down but it would NOT go up.  So, we schlepped.  And schlepped.  And made calls to techie friends to help ferret out the gremlins in the magic motor controller box.  Got instructions.  Did stuff.  Multi-metered some other stuff.  Wiggled wires, that kind a thing.

Then went back to schlepping.

I find the motor controller and logic box unit a bit confusing. See picture. Sal, the resident electrician, is totally confounded as well.  This is a learning gap larger than the age gap between grandson and great grandparents.  But, we’ll figure it out.  It is just a matter of time.  Sal has the longevity genes…….and may need ’em.

Another reminder of Alzheimer creep (not to be confused with the old guy down the hall) is made omni-obvious by silly-me volunteering for a health care clinic initiative on the neighbouring island.  I have driven more miles in the last two months than the previous year!!  We all seem to meet a lot.  And email a lot as well.  It all seems like a helluva lot of talking to me.  So, someone suggested Skyping.

Sounds good.  But I do not know how to Skype and neither do all the other committee members (except the one who suggested it).  They are as afflicted with AC as I am.  We are a committee of Luddites.  Average age..?  65?  We can email.  We can phone.  We can drive.  But Skyping?  Seems a bit much, ya know?

And the ‘being hip’ gap is widening.  I can ‘touch’ my credit card to the machine in some places.  But not in others so that creates the embarrassing spectacle of me waving my credit card around in the air with a look of expectancy on my face only to be looked at pathetically by the pimply faced youth who says, “Like, no swiping here, man!  Gotta, like, insert it, ya know?”

“Sorry.  Can’t tell.  Not by looking, anyway.”

Kid slowly points to a huge sign saying, “THIS TERMINAL DOES NOT ACCEPT SWIPE!”

Oh well……

 

Yikes!

When we left the big smoke 15 years ago, I thought we would be a smidge early in the expected exodus of retirees from the city.  After all, we left long before typical retirement age.  I was 55 but escaped early because my heart and soul were already MIA.  I had to go find my spirit.  Or die.

Sorry, my drama teacher Prime Minister is rubbing off on me……

To be fair, I knew we were early departees but I really thought we were only 5 years early.  I really thought a huge number of greying and wrinkled urbanites would be leaving soon after especially as that five years coincided with the financial recession of 2008.  But they didn’t.  So, like all good prognosticators, I moved my projections up and made predictions for a bit later only to find that, once again, I was wrong.  2013 was not the year of the Lemming, not a migrating year.  Lower mainlanders stayed put.

Aging city folk, it seemed, still liked the hustle and bustle of traffic and regulations, obligations and fees, line-ups and smog, restaurants and film festivals, more than I thought they would.  I stopped predicting.  I decided that I must have been just a bit odd.  Maybe….still am?

And THEN they started coming.  This last year has seen a HUGE increase in domestic, outer and inner-province ‘migrants’ to Vancouver Island and the Campbell River area is really starting to feel the increase in population.  They say Campbell River is ‘booming’.

One of the ways in which this kind of thing is measured is in house prices.  Properties in Campbell River are about 30% higher than a year ago and, over the past five years have almost doubled.  A house that was $300K in 2013 is now in the high fives.

Most people like a ‘booming’ economy.  I don’t.  I don’t see booming as any better at all than idyllic, affordable, slow-paced, personal and human-scale but I KNOW I am different on that score.  Most people like fatter wallets.  I prefer quiet.  And it is not like we experience traffic jams in Campbell River. It’s busy but still very livable.

“Dave!  Surely you don’t feel the population pressure way out where you are?”  

Well, that’s just it.  We do.  There are more kayakers.  There are more tourists in the remote, forest parking lot.  More campers.  More litter.  There are slightly longer lines at grocery stores.  There are helicopters and planes, boats and hikers, there are simply more people.  But, again, NOT so much as to worry about but there are more.  It just is.

I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again; “Maybe we just didn’t go FAR enough!”  

The articles in the paper suggest that it is people like us (like we were, anyway) finally opting to ‘cash-out’ and realize gains on their Vancouver properties but the vast majority are buying into urban-similar cul-de-sacs in developments on the BIG island and NOT going OTG.  That’s good.  But, of course, the small percentage that are inclined to OTG-ing is still there and now that number – in real terms – is also larger and so we are seeing a few ‘extra’ people coming to the boonies.  And that might be good.

Could be good.  A few more people COULD be good.

One of the first to get noticed, however, was a Meth-making, drug dealer with a retinue of ne’er do wells in tow but he kind of disappeared rather quickly so maybe he and they were just an aberration.  But the Mounties are curious.

But that’s ANOTHER sign……the Mounties are curious……

…we didn’t use to HAVE Mounties being curious about anything.

The good news?  We still have the visitors we really, really like.  See below.

and

Duh, duh, doofus………or collector’s item?

Doofus!  That is us.  We are stupid.  We wrote the book, pored over it and read it so many times looking for typos and errors, I almost memorized it.  Sal being the editor read it three times more than I did.  THEN we published.

A friend called a few days later to comment: “I like it.  Would make a good screenplay.  By the way, read page 169 and 170 again.  And, congratulations.”

I immediately went to page 169 and read.  It was fine.  I then went to page 170 and, lo and behold!  Page 170 was a total REPEAT of page 169!!!  We had inadvertently repeated about five or so paragraphs.

How is that possible?  I read it.  Sal read it.  Beta readers read it.  The printer didn’t read it but sent a proof and we read that, found a few errors and they fixed them and sent another proof.  We read that, too.  AND signed off on it.  (For the record: the beta reader version DID NOT have it, we somehow added it after they were so engaged.  They are blameless.)

Page 169…….twice……OMG, what doofuses!

“Sal!  YOU screwed up!”  Sal looked at the offending section, “How is that possible and YOU SCREWED UP, TOO!”  We each thought for a nano second how we could put more blame on the other, immediately saw the futility of that and so then focused on the money.   “I think we are out $1500.  That’s a bit harsh but we can’t use the 200 copies we got printed.  Not now!  Aaaaargh!!!!”  (we handle these things so well, don’t you think?) 

“Hmmmmm….let me think……hmmmmmmm, maybe……”

Sal came up with a solution:  Included with the first 200 misprinted books will be a slip of paper tucked in at page 169 and addressed to: DEAR READER,

‘Postage stamps printed and coins minted with errors can be worth immense amounts of money to collectors.  According to The Independent, five hundred hardback copies of the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone contain a rare error – just a typo – and those books can fetch as much as $26,000 at auction.

We inadvertently repeated a whole page of text in this book on pages 169 and 170. We fully expect that this glaring error will make your first edition extremely valuable’.

David and Sally

So: LIMITED EDITION!!  Get ’em while they’re hot!  Rare investment opportunity!  

Marketing, eh?

“You can’t make this stuff up!”

ACCIDENTAL FUGITIVES

The new book is out (of course. And I already announced that.  Sorry).  But it is not enough to post a blog with no more than fifty (tops) readers and expect that the ‘word’ will get out.  Ya need ‘buzz’, they say.  You have to promote it more fully somehow and we have some difficulty doing that so we basically have NOT done any trumpeting of our own horn, so to speak.

Still, the word ‘trumpeting’ works as a nice segue for this short item:

To those we have told about the book, we find that we are repeatedly saying, “Generally speaking you can’t make this *%$#@! up.  But we did!  We made up a story about Trumpian excess, bullying and tyranny involving Mexican children separated from their parents.  It WAS fiction when written.  But much to our surprise, it HAS come to pass.  IT SEEMS WE DIDN’T MAKE IT UP, HE DID!”

TRUMP and us think alike….?  I dunno……..

Still, Melania put the whole fiction thing back into play – this is truly UNBELIEVABLE – she went to visit the incarcerated Mexican children wearing a coat on which was written in large graffiti-style lettering, “I really don’t care!  Do u?”

To be fair, she didn’t wear it into the detention centre.  She just left home wearing it and traveled wearing it. The coat was not her typical $5000 designer coat.  This was from a local chain and cost $39.00.  She or someone bought it.  It was in her closet.  SHE PUT IT ON!

How does that happen?  What White House Aid let her leave the building on any psuedo first lady venture (photo ops with injured puppies, wounded soldiers, flower shows…whatever…) wearing something that telegraphs either that she really doesn’t care or that she really can’t read?

White house spokeswoman, “I really wish you people (journalists) would focus on the good work the First Lady does rather than her fashion style.”   I can honestly say that I have NEVER cared a whit about fashion on me or anyone.  BUT THIS ONE CAUGHT MY EYE.  If ever there was a time to comment on what someone was wearing, this has to be it.

Back at the ranch, we are beat.  People, chores, volunteer work, family visits, socializing, replenishing stores, cleaning up, prepping for the next group…it’s one long, madcap whirlwind when you include naps and wine drinking as well.  Sheesh.

On other political fronts Doug-the-frump Ford is cancelling electric car subsidies, promising cheap beer and gas (doesn’t that combination kinda say it all?) and is on the phone to the Donald to see what other Luddite thinking he can employ, Notley has gone all quiet on the western oil front but she and Trudeau are still 100% behind pumping tar into the Gulf of Georgia while, at the same time Trudeau is up the BC coast (without a paddle) announcing ocean protection plans for the North coast.  Is it just me?  Or are there some very basic contradictions there?

We are all in for a summer respite now, tho.  The legislature and parliament are closing their doors for the season.  We won’t hear a lot of major-crazy for awhile now except from Trump.  Or his new BFFs, Kim, Erdogan, Duterte and Putin just to name a few.  His new ‘enemies’ are May, Macron, Trudeau and Abe, just to name a few.

Anger your friends, suck-hole to your enemies and polarize your family, friends and neighbours.  And people thought the flipping of the magnetic poles was hard to believe.