Thursday, November 29, 2012


John Lennon, Solo 1971

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

No need to expand my meager thoughts about possibly one of the most moving songs written in the Twentieth Century.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Old People vs Babies, In one Graph (NPR)

A very interesting story and time graph, so I will pass it on without any comment from me.

National Public Radio / Planet Money November 8, 2012

In the U.S. today, there are 23 elderly people for every 100 working-age people. That ratio has been rising for decades — and it's projected to nearly double by 2060.

This is a problem. Working-age Americans pay for programs like Medicare that support the elderly. So the more that ratio rises, the heavier the burden is for working Americans.

The problem is not unique to the U.S. In fact, it's a much bigger problem for many other developed countries.

I knew the broad outlines of this story. But when I talked about it recently with Gerhard Heilig of the UN's population division, one thing surprised me: Populations are aging mainly because people are having fewer and fewer babies, not because life expectancy is increasing.

The graph below shows the very clear, two-stage process that lots of countries are going through: First, people start having fewer babies. Then, over the following decades, the ratio of elderly people to working age people goes up and up and up. The U.S. is the orange circle; other countries are color-coded by region.

Click below to go to story and graph:

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Friday, November 23, 2012


Jargon bothers me. 

What is your DNS server setting?  I didn’t even know I had a DNS server, much less settings for it.

Your lipid panel test is on the high side.  What is the lipid panel?  I am getting livid now.

You business insurance policy doesn’t cover POV.  Did they mean point of view, I doubt it.  POV?

Nor does your policy cover dual occurrence losses.  I thought dual occurrence loss would be paid twice, but the truth is if one cause is not covered then you receive zero, zilch, zip, nothing, nada compensation.

I sometimes overhear conversations from my co-workers to clients and think I am in an alternate universe.  Carbides, agglomerate, gamma-prime, or fin-fan tubes are words that waif from their mouths over the phone to some unknown person.  I must admit they are engineers and I am not.
Of course, the speakers know what they are saying and presumably the listener does also.  But often understanding is not a two-sided event. 

I’ve been known to stop a conversation with a computer help desk person or medical professional and ask for clarification of what was said.  On occasion I have informed the speaker at the outset that I prefer plain English to jargon, abbreviations, buzzwords, and lingo that is unique to their specialty.

Insidiously, jargon is drifting into all areas of daily life.  “Outside readings” is replacing old-fashioned book reports in school.  “Upside” has replaced benefit. The phrase “Buy in” means to agree with not purchase.  Specialized language is often necessary to communicate specialized knowledge accurately, to relay complex concepts in a single or small number of words to facilitate understanding.  We live in a highly technical world and jargon is important to relay information between two or more knowledgeable people.

My beef is when jargon is used to confuse the listener, delay action, or hide facts for the benefit of the speaker.  Have you read your insurance policy, contract with the telephone company or TV cable provider?  Most of us would get a headache trying to decipher the meaning or give up half-way through the first few pages.

Many speakers of jargon spent years in school and use jargon to impress others with their knowledge of the subject.  I don’t want to hear “negative outcome” from a doctor (the patient died) or my financial advisor tell me, “We’ve had a market correction” (you’ve lost 10% of your portfolio).

Sometimes jargon is reduced to abbreviations. 

Have you experienced a RIF? Fired! 
Do you have a good CD?  Music or bank account?
BM.  Body mass or bowel movement?
CAD.  Coronary artery disease or computer assisted drawing?
HUD.  Is this a government agency or the title of an old movie?
I’d rather get a letter from SSA than SSS. (I am old enough for SSA, and too old for SSS).

There was a cell phone commercial that made famous the phrase, “Can you hear me now?”  I would prefer the phrase, “Can you understand me now?”

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Sunday, November 18, 2012


Klystron sounds like a term that might have come from an old Superman comic. Superman came from the planet Krypton, and has been recently located by scientists. This fact (really?) has no connection to today’s blog, but it sounds interesting, so it is included.

Back to Klystron, my L blog referred to my joining the army voluntarily with assurances of technical training (to avoid infantry service). It was during my Signal Corps training that I learned about the Klystron tube. What is a Klystron tube and why am I writing about it?

It was a marvel of technology when I learned about the Klystron in 1965; it had been first developed in 1937 and then utilized in radar equipment during World War II. Later it was the heart of the Distance Early Warning Line communications network. It enabled the military to reliably transmit messages from the Arctic and Greenland regions to the United States by bouncing radio signals off the stratosphere over the horizon. It was designed to alert the country of an imminent attack by the Russians. In case of attack school children were trained to “duck and cover,” which meant go under your desk. Millions of dollars spent on communications and $12 spent on desks.

Jumping forward the 1960’s the US military installed these radio systems in Southeast Asia during the war in Vietnam. I was fortunate to enough to work at one of those stations in Thailand; or as I like to say, “In the rear, with the gear.” Click here to see one of the largest communication sites of its day, my home for one year in Thailand.

All this may be interesting to me and a few of my fellow Signalmen who know about the Klystron tube and its mysterious operation. The tube is a resonant cavity that an electron beam enters, after that memory of the actual theory and operation is kind of fuzzy. All I can say is that it worked, and don’t mess with it. This type of communication systems became obsolete, just as all technology advances do) with the advent of satellite communications.

Still, why is this important? Today the same gear is used in many microwave radio towers that the dot the landscape today, mostly by telephone companies, pipeline companies and government agencies on the local level for short range communication needs. This may be important but not what the average consumer cares about.

The Klystron tube is the heart of the microwave oven; the Klystron tube and variations of it produce the energy to operate these fantastic gadgets. Finally billions in military spending has found a purpose that benefits society. No more wasted leftovers, the perfect device to heat up a cup of Ramen soup, defrost a bagel, and prepare tonight’s frozen fish dinner.

Excuse me, I hear the ding. My popcorn is ready.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

L is Life and Life is a Lesson

It has been a long day; you get home from work and wonder how you made it through without a major breakdown. Life was hard today. Or maybe you experienced a series of bad days; then again it could be one major letdown or problem that got to you.

Recently I saw a mother pushing a young child in stroller eating an ice cream cone and noticed the smile on his face. Did you ever wish that you could really remember life as a young child? No cares or worries except when the next meal is coming. Is someone going change my diaper? Everything is done for you, all you have to do pretend to cry or just have a sad face and bingo good things happen.

At some point while growing up we learn that those idyllic, lackadaisical days are gone. Realization comes gradually; slowly over time our expectations change. We learn that the lovely things of life are not going to be handed to us. Our discovery of the real facts of life, not the birds and bees lessons, dictates our path forward. An “ah ha” moment sets our future path. That event defines the years ahead.

Just before Veterans Day I reflected back on my “ah ha” moment. It was the winter of 1964 and I decided that continued attendance in college was Sisyphus-like, some successes and some failures. Without clear direction forward, without a real career path ahead I quit college. I had no clue where I was or where I was going.

My father’s response was simple, “Okay, now what?”

It was my life, my future, it was my choice. I returned to a company that I had worked for during the previous summer. The money was okay, but not a life-long job I wanted to continue. War loomed on the horizon; I still had no long term plans and had been reclassified as draft eligible. But I did know I didn’t want to be drafted into the military, so I enlisted in the army with some assurances that I would be trained in a technical field.

That decision changed my life. Army service was a million dollar experience that I wouldn’t give you a nickel to do again. As my life developed I’ve realized that those three years really developed my character, my ethics, world view and any number of other positive traits. After my service was completed I returned to work, then to college and earned two degrees.

Those three years helped me become a better college student, husband, father, teacher, and have more flexible nature. Each subsequent step moved me forward in a long trek of life. The hard logistics of life were made easier by lessons learned during life’s journey.

The path we take is a labyrinth, with twists, turns and a few dead ends. Allow yourself the latitude to change, modify and grow. I returned to college, quit one job and returned to the same company and made other changes without looking back. One change culminated in anger that slowly evaporated; lessons were learned again and now I am satisfied with my decision. One point I learned is that anger is not a good teacher nor is it a good companion for life’s journey.

Back up and start over. My life and actions may not be the model for everyone but it worked for me.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Nostalgia Gone

I could start this blog by stating my name is Warren and I’m a Notary Public but that style opening was used for the letter R.  Compounding my opening hook dilemma is my O blog expounded on Originality, which puts the onus on using the same opening twice so close together.  If you had the inclination and a few dollars you too could become a Notary Public, no real requirements necessary.  And the work of a Notary is very boring.  A notary is relegated to the role of a mere observer of other people’s paperwork without input or comment.  Notary is not an interesting topic.

One good (or not so good) N thought down the drain.  The dictionary is full of words but my head is not.

Santa Claus wants to know if you have been Naughty or Nice. Change the phrase and you come out with nice and naughty. Now that is an image that excites me.  The kinky side of my brain is working overtime now.  Sounds like a women’s lingerie commercial; I see a tall, olive skinned woman approaching…

“No,” the good angel on my shoulder is saying while wagging his (maybe it is a she angel, can’t tell with all the feathers) finger.  “Those day dreams are reserved for teenaged boys.  You need to write about important issues."

“All I can think of is notorious, nefarious, nuclear bomb, newspeak and narcotic.  Not very nice."

My little shoulder angel is now silent.  Writing is a solitary task.  People who hear and listen to voices usually end up in psychiatric wards for treatment.  And if I heard those voices I wouldn’t tell anyone, I got that good advice from the other angel on my shoulder.  He hates to be locked up and medicated.

Now the blog

News from New Jersey, my home state for the first 33 years of my life, is dire.  The recent storm devastated my father’s hometown, caused significant damage to the neighborhood of a friend since fifth grade and inflicted incalculable damage to many beach towns of legend.  Any thoughts of return trips to indulge in nostalgic adventures are gone.
I remember going to a July 4th celebration in Asbury Park with friends to see fireworks and cruise Ocean Avenue years ago.  We ventured out to near the end of one of the stone jetties to get a better view.  The view was great, ocean on three sides and a clear view of fireworks ignited from an off-shore barge.  As we intently watched the fireworks and maintained a steady footing on the slippery jetty we neglected the most serious danger.  The ocean: beautiful, awesome, powerful and dangerous all at once.

A wave spewed from the sea and crashed over the revelers at the end of the pier.  Luckily nobody was washed off the jetty.  But my friends and I were drenched, soaked from head to foot.  We retreated off the jetty, over the beach and into a local pavilion.  We found a bathroom, stripped down and attempted to dry ourselves with paper towels and toilet paper.  We drove 50 miles home with soaked shoes and clothes.  No harm done, but we came close to personal harm.  At 18 years of age we had no idea how close we had come to serious injury or worse.  If we had known the real danger we faced a wonderful, quirky memory would be tarnished with dread.

After my stint in the army I worked for the railroad that served the East Coast.  Now I see pictures of tracks underwater, a boat tossed onto the train tracks like a toy, and water pouring into underground stations.  My work then was hard and sometimes dangerous; I cannot visualize rebuilding the rail infrastructure, or roads, or bridges, or ports, or an entire city.

Now the coastal towns are damaged, beaches washed away and the pavilions damaged.  Seaside attractions all along the shore (as Jersey residents call the beach area) are destroyed, lives lost, homes damaged, and Ocean Avenue under water.  TV broadcasts and newspaper headlines scream these obscene descriptions to the world.

There is no catchy ending to my blog.  Just a deep sadness.  Nostalgia gone. 

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Friday, November 9, 2012

The One, the Only, the Original

My alpha-blog series started a series of posts that I have enjoyed writing. The basic blog idea came from another blog (Grannymar), so it is not an original idea. Perhaps my twists and turns make this series somewhat original. But is it really original? The concept was taken from Granymar and I implemented it a little different but the question remains. Is it original? Original Thought, is that like Original Sin?

Then I went to my fall-back research tool, Google. Original Thought Theory garnered an amazing 58 million hits. If I read some of them and later incorporated parts of those entries into this blog my original thoughts would be corrupted, not original. So I closed that browser, and then immediately reopened it again. The truth is I am not creative to the point where I could function or write without input from other sources. And I doubt that most of us could. So I looked at a few of the results and found that many were very similar, not original. So I closed my browser once more and wrote in a near vacuum, sometimes referred to as my head. I’ve been called an airhead, which is close to the vacuum just mentioned.

I create, like most others, with inspiration and ideas garnered from other sources; the creative process involves a certain degree of selectivity and adaptation of ideas from a multitude of sources. One of the members of my writing group mentioned at a recent session that stealing from one was plagiarism and stealing from many was research (he gave credit to anonymous).

Our minds are great receivers and filterers of information; we use the process of osmosis. The problem is the filtering process; the evaluation of information to suit our beliefs is not an effective method. Unimportant and relevant facts that don’t fit our preconceptions are, shuffled off to the sidelines, into oblivion.

The computer phrase of garbage in, garbage out is a close approximation. But a computer sorts information by zeros and ones (geek-speak) without judgment. People don’t operate that way. Our filters are biased; our filters utilize past experiences and values as a mechanism. On occasion we seek information that suits our beliefs and wave that preponderance as validation. Many people operate with filters that are clogged and in need of replacement.

Originality requires that we adjust our filters. More precisely we need to detune those filters, make the sieve holes bigger. Toss out preconceived notions, work with a clean slate. Open our minds to ideas that we may have rejected previously or rework some old work that has been shelved. Look at ideas that may be overtly opposed to what we hold true or of value with a detuned filtering mind. Turn the filter inwards and reexamine our positions. Usually when I open my mind stuff falls out instead entering. The open mind relies less on the static filters but on a conglomerate of incoming information, from a variety of sources.

My almost original thought is, “Open mind, empty contents before filling again.”

But I think I saw that someplace before.

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012


Today is Election Day in the United States and I will go out on a limb with my predictions for the Presidential elections.  Noise and din of points, plans, pundits, parties, PACs and the press will cease for a brief time.  The early hours of the day will start quietly as the official campaign activities finally ceases.  This quiet will change as the day progress.  

While the residents of New Hampshire might be digging out from the first snow storm of the year Hawaiians will be surfing.  There will be a clip of the first voters aired on TV from Dixville New Hampshire.  It is a shame that the last voters in Hawaii will not receive the same coverage.

As the polls start to close the analysis phase will begin.  Exit polls will be tallied and explanations of how women, men, blacks, whites, Hispanics, northerners, southerners, young and old voted.  There will be more voters at some locations, less voters elsewhere.  Poor turnout, early voters, delays and confusion will be the stories of the day.   A multitude of maps, charts, and of course the all pervasive blue and red colors will infuse the day’s stories with substance.  The sole result of the color use has been to divide the nation and create new meaning for gang colors.

By the end of the day a President will be first predicted, state by state; then confirmed and at the end of the day one man will concede, another will be victorious.  Wednesday, November 7 the sun will rise and with another full day of explanations, excuses and expletives (by some supporters of the losing candidate).

Of course, you knew all of the above.  The winner is …

What?  You thought I might announce the name of the winner.   How would I know?  I am just a poor blogger trying to fill space.  One thing is certain: this blog will continue despite who is elected and I will reveal previously unknown facts about the winner in a future piece. 

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Q is Quality

Quality is a concept that has intrigued philosophers and critical thinkers since the era of when ancient Greece was the center of Western culture.  I hesitate to venture into the realm of real critical thought but the nature of this alpha-blog requires that when challenged by the letter Q - I must respond.

Quality has a multitude of definitions, two of which are; an inherent distinguishing trait, and degree or grade of goodness are two definitions found in the dictionary.  Brown hair and a round stomach are two physical traits that can describe me; easy going is a behavioral trait that could also define me.  But these descriptions could change; my hair is falling out, a recent diet has shrunk my stomach and sometimes I am grouchy, just ask my family.  Even I would have a difficult time finding descriptors that are unmistakably me.  The distinguishing trait definition is easier to state than to define in a thing or being.  Eastern philosophical thought, primarily Buddhism, operates under the assumption that all things change.  That is the nature of the world.  Change is constant.  Without actual study it would appear that Eastern thought is not encumbered with the burden of defining Quality as a distinguishing trait.

How does my writing, my work, my driving, my marriage, or my parenting skills rate?  Poor, fair, good, better, or the best are measures without a scale.  My weight can be accurately determined, I step on a scale and bingo a number appears.  Can I walk through a machine or detector and get a numerical grade on personal abilities?  The answer is quite obviously no.

Individuals behave on the basis of self perception.  Am I driving okay, is this blog well thought out, or is my personal life satisfying?  Research of my driving record reveals no recent accidents, tickets or insurance claims but that doesn’t indicate how fast I drive, stop signs I miss or if my eyes drift away from the road more than is safe.  I may start a blog or a piece of flash fiction and delete it after a quick review; those pieces never see the light of day.  Once I was told that I was an excellent photographer, they loved my pictures.  Then I mention to them my collection of hundreds of photographs that I would never show.  Careful editing made me appear better than an initial impression.  I believe I write okay, drive well and have a good marriage.

My wife might agree on the first and last points (I hope) and she would express some qualifications on my driving.  After all she is a Quality Back Seat Driver (no tickets in 47 years), which is a feat I can’t approach.  But she can't park as good as I can, unfortunately no quality points are awarded for parking skills.

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