Saturday, April 26, 2014

Weekend Thoughts



Can you imagine the effrontery of what Georgia's legislature euphemistically calls the "Safe Carry Protection Act"?  Just ask any parent of a child who was at the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter.

Georgia "Cracker" takes on a new meaning. Crack! Pow! Rat-tat-tat!  To what extreme and at what cost of lives do we take the interpretation of the Second Amendment?  When the Second Amendment became part of the Bill of Rights the reigning weapon was the Musket, accurate perhaps up to the length of a football field, and if you were experienced, perhaps you could get two shots off per minute.  Compare that to today's weapons.  Is that what our Founding Fathers meant, the right of every citizen to carry AK-47s which can fire 600 rounds per minute with a maximum range of 30 football fields?

Georgia takes this to another level. Bring your gun to your favorite bar, have a few drinks, and shoot 'em up!  Then, go to church with your fellow gun-toting religious zealots and pray!  And, bonus time, give a gun to your kid to take to college!

Georgia now joins twenty two other infamous states with some form of "stand your ground" laws as opposed to eighteen states that have laws imposing "a duty to retreat," seemingly a more civilized law that puts the burden on the threatened individual to avoid deadly force where reasonable (like getting the f**k outta there!), only resorting to deadly force where unavoidable, such as being in one's home during an armed home invasion.

I've written about this before, ad nausea. Here's but one of several on the subject that makes the point.  It just seems that in the wake (sadly and certainly no pun intended) of the Newtown, CT tragedy, the NRA has simply put state governments in its powerful lobby cross hairs (pun intended).  Frankly, although I support the second amendment for hunting and target practice, it's dispiriting that we can't have stronger laws to outlaw automatic weapons and institute laws that mandate registering weapons as we must register automobiles (which can be equally lethal).  It's a stain on our legislative resolve (or lack of it to be precise).

On to more amusing reading, actually an extended book review of A Left Hand Turn Around the World: Chasing the Mystery and Meaning of All Things Southpaw by David Wolman.  I am among the 10-12% of the world's lefties, and I wear my anomaly with pride.  When younger, they tried to change me to a righty as my handwriting was abysmal.  (Still is.)  But I rebelled in the 5th grade, and almost was "left" back as punishment.  Back then I learned from a Dick Tracy comic book how easily it is to spot a lefty (we normally, but not necessarily, wear our watches on our right wrist). I'm grateful to be a lefty, which was an advantage in many competitive sports, particularly (for me) tennis, baseball and basketball.  Lefties seem to be more prevalent today in those sports. Cream to the top!

Although God himself is obviously right handed (“The right hand of the Lord is exalted. The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.” Psalms 11), I proudly join my fellow lefties, crazy though some claim us to be. But at least I'm in good company with Albert Einstein and Barack Obama.  It was a fun article to read, certainly more intellectually salubrious than anything relating to the "Safe Carry Protection Act."

On even a more personal note, today is our 44th wedding anniversary.  We were married at the New York Ethical Culture Society, only blocks from Ann's apartment at 33 West 63rd Street and mine at 66 West 85th Street.  Another milestone to be celebrated by a special dinner out tonight.





Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blood Moon Thoughts



When I learned that there would be a "Blood Moon" -- actually an eclipse of the moon by the earth's shadow, not becoming completely dark as light bending around the earth and through the atmosphere would give it a reddish color -- I wanted to see and photograph it.  But the eclipse was to occur in the very early morning hours, around 4:00 AM. 

Any photograph I would take with the 20x zoom lens on my little digital, without a tripod, would render it hopelessly unprofessional, so what's the sense I wondered.  Having planted the seed of getting up at that time to experience the eclipse, I thought I'd get the camera ready just in case I was actually awake.  Hopelessly neurotic though, I knew if I did that, I'd probably be up at 2.00 AM waiting, so my decision was just to go to sleep as usual, set no alarm, and enjoy the professional photos I'd see online.

Nonetheless, being but a mere slave to an unforgiving body clock I woke up at precisely 4.00 AM.  Now I had to find my camera, hope the battery was still sufficiently charged (it was), and would be able to get something meaningful with my hand-held. I opened the door to our home's courtyard in the still of the night and beheld the sight of the blood moon.  Impossible to photograph at 20x zoom just standing there, so I took a chair from the area near our pool and sat down and propped my elbow, an improvised tripod.  Still the "target" jumped around on the camera's little LCD screen, trying to lock in the focus.

However, the best part of sitting there was being in the moment, putting down my camera from time to time just to take in the sweeping quiet of the night, not a breath of wind, no sound whatsoever.  Just the Blood Moon, Mars, and the stars and myself looking at the spectacle.  After a while I thought I identified a faint sound, a steady almost imperceptible humming.  It wasn't traffic far off on I95 or the Florida Turnpike -- too early given its continuous nature. It was the electricity running through the wires and transformers on the street, the only man-made sound, not noticeable above the normal din of day. 

Although there are much better photos of the event almost anyplace one searches, I offer up a couple of mine as they are my own record as posted in this modest blog.  I particularly like the one of the moon and mars (to the far right, a little red dot), as it defines our insignificance in relation to the cosmos.

And I'll add this blog to that definition, just a kaleidoscopic record of one person's late-life journey.  I've been writing this, now, for some six and a half years and this entry marks my 400th.  If one searches "blogging" or "writing" among the labels to the left, there is plenty of content as to why I try to keep this up.  It all stems from the title of the blog, the essence of the word, "lacuna."  


Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Random Nature of It All



Hat tip (again) to Barry Ritholtz who as a "financial guy" (actually schooled in law) has a logical way of looking at the inexplicable. He puts his spotlight on the recent gyrations of the stock market and the blather of the financial channels --  all constructing a "story" to "explain" sudden up or down moves in what, short term, is really a guessing game.  Media noise --  a  form of cognitive dissonance, contradictory "explanations" some of which appeal to investors and therefore feed the furnace of their convictions.  Which begets even more gyrations. As Ritholtz so accurately puts it: "people create a happy little bubble of delusion."  His article "What's Your Stock Market Story?" is well worth reading and keeping in mind when making one's next trade.

Speaking of the inexplicable, how do we mere mortals understand the consequences of a term that suddenly surfaced on the waters of our online lives: Heartbleed?  Perhaps a binary Loch Ness Monster?  How vulnerable is any online financial transaction or, for that matter, routine things like writing emails or even posting this innocuous blog?  And all of this the result "of a two-year-old programming error?"  Two years and we've all been lulled into a "happy little bubble of delusion" that all those "Secure Sockets Layer" web sites to which we've committed sign-ons, passwords, credit cards, etc. might have all been vulnerable and no one seems to have a full understanding of the consequence.  No consequences?  Armageddon? Somewhere between? A random programming error -- or an intentional one  -- that could have been silently exploited for two years?  Talk about a potential Black Swan. Here's Scientific American's take on it.

On to the random nature of one's career.  Looking back from the so called "golden years" how many can say that his/her career and how it unfolded was one of unsullied choice?  Choices do have to be made, but those are ones circumstances concoct, almost like one's DNA randomly assigned at birth.  I could have ended up as a photographer, a librarian, or even in the insurance business -- there were paths in front of me to each of the foregoing, but I choose publishing, my first job being the result of a chance interview.  From there, I was able to make choices over the next 35 years, but, even then, I was given a random set of options.  Do I choose from behind door #1, #2 or #3?


Once I was running a publishing company, one of the choices I made was to pursue international opportunities.  Japan became one of our largest overseas markets and so I occasionally made trips to Japan, sometimes alone, sometimes with Ann and eventually both of us with our son, Jonathan.  The Japanese culture had a profound impact on us all. 

Fast forward to last night.  All those random choices.  No wonder when our gourmet club was deciding on the next "theme" -- one that was to be held at our home -- we suggested Japanese.  What a feast it was.  Our friend Lois made 3 platters of sushi: delicious fish, tuna, grouper and salmon.  We served a very good chilled sak√© with that and during dinner which everyone drank and  enjoyed.  Then Susan made authentic Miso soup along with tasty shrimp gyoza.  Gail brought short ribs with a Japanese barbecue sauce and a very refreshing side of cucumber salad. 

Ann made one of my favorites -- a genuine yaki udon dish with a homemade yakisoba sauce, tender pieces of chicken, red pepper, onion, bean sprouts, broccoli, shiitake mushrooms and scallions and of course udon noodles!  She also made traditional sticky rice (enough for twenty people!) along with glazed chicken drumsticks, serving it with a very nice Green Tea in beautiful tea cups that Susan brought.  For dessert, Ann served sweet pineapple and John made Green Tea Ice Cream that was out of this world.  Ann was in her authentic Japanese Happy Coat while our son, Jonathan, had given me some traditional bamboo flute music to play in the background, greatly adding to the evening's atmosphere.

Arigatou!




Thursday, April 10, 2014

Opening Day



Well, not actually, the Class A Advanced Florida baseball games were already underway.  But last night was the first night for the "Silver Slugger" series of games  -- each Wednesday night a hot dog, soda, and general admission for us 55 and older crowd who subscribe.  Twenty-five bucks for the entire season!  You can't beat that, and our Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL is pristine, a true field of dreams and we've watched many minor leaguers come and go there over the years, some making it to "the show" such as Giancarlo Stanton and most recently Christian Yelich both now starting for the parent team, the Miami Marlins.  St. Louis also fields a Class A+ ball club at the stadium.

Strange to be a "silver slugger" as my own dreams of baseball seem less than a distant memory. By the time I was in college, my playing days were over as a pitcher. But, then I had other priorities -- like getting an education.

The first night welcome-back for us "silver slugger" crowd usually includes a promotional item as well.  This year an umbrella, but my favorites were the hats and the tee shirts of years gone by.  The tee shirt amuses me as a Urologist placed an advertisement on the back.  Talk about knowing your market. You're out!

Last night's game was played after a mild cold front had gone through so it was a breezy, cool night (low 70's at game time I figure), but as usual, I had to hold my breath as we walked to our seats to see the beautiful field in full once again.

The game though was uneventful, a 5-2 loss by the Marlin's Hammerheads, but I enjoy watching the pitchers, in this case Trevor Williams who pitched well enough, hitting 93 mph on the gun, looking very professional in his delivery.  The Marlins have a lot of pitching talent in their pipeline.  Last year I wrote about Andrew Heaney and Justin Nicolino who have gone up the ladder in the minors.  Expect to see one of them with the parent club soon.

But Williams gave up three runs in the third inning, in spite of ostensibly having some good stuff. The Marlins selected him in the second round (44th overall) of the 2013 Draft, so they must see potential there.


Ironically, while we were watching that game our son, Jonathan, was at the Yankee game seeing Masahiro Tanaka's debut in the Bronx, a 5-4 loss for my Yanks.  Tanaka pitched well (in fact, very well after giving up a 3 run home-run) and I thought Williams did too, if you discount the third inning. Frankly, I now enjoy watching Class A+ ball more than going to Yankee Stadium.  It's as professional as the Majors -- this is no bush league other than the contests they invite fans to participate in between innings.  Furthermore, you are right on the field, up close and can watch the game as it was intended, not from nosebleed territory.  And, finally, the last Yankee game we went to cost us almost $100 per seat, and that was from StubHub at a discount (and that's relatively cheap -- try to get seats on the field, near the dugouts).  It's just gotten out of hand, at least in the NY market.

So the Silver Slugger games are now underway.  How did I become one so quickly?  Time to see the Urologist!