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12/31/2017 9:09 am  #541


Re: The Random Thoughts Thread

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.” 
― George Orwell, 1984


“While the framers of the Constitution foresaw the possibility of a tyrannical president, they never let their imaginations be darkened by the possibility of a compliant Congress.”
 

12/31/2017 11:59 am  #542


Re: The Random Thoughts Thread

I've always been curious about Orwell's outlook.

Was he writing about the things he did because he believed it would change anything or did he do it because it's just the darkest of humor (that being something everyone created but no one controls)?


If you make yourself miserable trying to make others happy that means everyone is miserable.

-Me again

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12/31/2017 3:18 pm  #543


Re: The Random Thoughts Thread

Conspiracy Theory wrote:

I've always been curious about Orwell's outlook.

Was he writing about the things he did because he believed it would change anything or did he do it because it's just the darkest of humor (that being something everyone created but no one controls)?

Interesting question. I just read the quickie biography on wikipedia, and thought that the matter could go either way. Orwell led a dark life, being widowed, and dying himself at the age of 46 from TB.
He fought in the Spanish civil war, on the losing side and was grievously wounded.
He experienced the bleak post war situation of privation in England post WWII.
So, perhaps he believed that the dystopian world of 1984 was inevitable.

However, Orwell was politically active all his life and was known- while alive - for political essays. He was a staunch democratic socialist, and warned incessantly about the dangers of totalitarianism.
So, maybe he thought that he could change the world.
I'd like to think so. It's the romantic in me.

But, hey, Orwell is on my list of historical figures that I fantasize about inviting to a dinner party. If that should ever happen, count on me asking him! 

Last edited by Goose (12/31/2017 3:20 pm)


“While the framers of the Constitution foresaw the possibility of a tyrannical president, they never let their imaginations be darkened by the possibility of a compliant Congress.”
 

12/31/2017 10:24 pm  #544


Re: The Random Thoughts Thread

If I could invite deceased 20th Century literary figures to a dinner party my list would begin with  T.S. Elliot, a C.S. Lewis, and G. K. Chesterton.


Life is an Orthros.
 

1/05/2018 12:57 pm  #545


Re: The Random Thoughts Thread

Goose wrote:

Conspiracy Theory wrote:

I've always been curious about Orwell's outlook.

Was he writing about the things he did because he believed it would change anything or did he do it because it's just the darkest of humor (that being something everyone created but no one controls)?

Interesting question. I just read the quickie biography on wikipedia, and thought that the matter could go either way. Orwell led a dark life, being widowed, and dying himself at the age of 46 from TB.
He fought in the Spanish civil war, on the losing side and was grievously wounded.
He experienced the bleak post war situation of privation in England post WWII.
So, perhaps he believed that the dystopian world of 1984 was inevitable.

However, Orwell was politically active all his life and was known- while alive - for political essays. He was a staunch democratic socialist, and warned incessantly about the dangers of totalitarianism.
So, maybe he thought that he could change the world.
I'd like to think so. It's the romantic in me.

But, hey, Orwell is on my list of historical figures that I fantasize about inviting to a dinner party. If that should ever happen, count on me asking him! 

I just could never get a good rede on his personality.  He did seem rather bleak, stories without heros and without happy endings. 

He had a sadness in him writ large.
 

Last edited by Conspiracy Theory (1/05/2018 12:57 pm)


If you make yourself miserable trying to make others happy that means everyone is miserable.

-Me again

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     Thread Starter
 

1/05/2018 12:58 pm  #546


Re: The Random Thoughts Thread

01/05/2017

 The mood is good.

 I had an interesting conversation with one of my former coworkers by text. She asked if I'm writing a book. I replied that I was trying to but mostly I just have an increasing number of short stories and scenes without an overall plot.

 While that worked for a certain writer of an HBO series I doubt it would work for me.

 She wrote back saying she was a terrible writer. I asked if that was her opinion or someone else's. She confessed she did lousy at English and school and I told her I'd actually failed that subject in high school.

 She told me she would not have believed that if anyone else had told her.

 So she's my favorite fan at the moment.

 But that got me thinking about my path to my current place. I really did do lousy in high school. In fact, I only passed by one point on a single test in a single class. One more question wrong and I would have had to repeat my senior year.

 When I graduated high school, autism was still something that happened to small children and was completely debilitating. There was no such thing as a spectrum. And so, I fell through the cracks. I could function well enough to tell teachers what they expected to hear but I wasn't really learning anything.

 To be honest, I'm not sure I could at that period in my life. My emotion grounding was around the six-year old stage by then, still years away from anything that would allow me to live on my own.

 A decade and a half in the Air Force allowed me to learn how to learn. The structure in any of our military forces is defined on paper. Every aspect has an order, a regulation, or a policy.

 After a few years of exposure to this, I learned how to break everything down into its component parts, define each, then reassemble them into a functional pattern. I didn't know it at the time but this same process applied to higher learning as well.

 College is very different from mandated schooling. In the mandatory system they teach facts and figures. What you're receiving is a grounding in how to learn and foundation on which to build knowledge.

 In college you are taught concepts and are left to find a path to knowledge on your own. You think for yourself, you interact. It was the most fascinating experience of my life.

 But it didn't start out that way.

 I'd been discharged for two years before my mother finally nudged me into at least trying it out. I qualified for a VA program so expense was no longer an excuse. The path was there if I chose to take it.

 So I took one math class. And it was easy. Unbelievably easy. Only it wasn't. It was just easy for me. As it turns out, math was just a lot of patterns converted to numbers and I found I could skip straight to the end of most problems simply by going around all the annoying bits in between.

 The shocking part was that I was always right. The annoying part was I could never explain why. I could correctly answer a quadratic equation I just couldn't tell you how I got there.

 Now, I can understand why educators want to know you know how to do the work. But, I would frequently point out that I had to know how to do this on some level in order to arrive at a correct answer so what's the problem?

 But I enjoyed it just the same.

 So I decided to go full time. And my goal was to get the mandatory English classes out of the way and focus on annoying engineering professors. Since my grades in high school English were so bad I had to start with what is called a zero-level course.

 College courses were numbered with three digits, the first being the year and the last being the level. Most students started college with English-101. In order to be admitted, I had to take English-100. A Zero-level course is meant to refresh your skills in a subject enough to allow you do succeed.

 It carries no credit value. In other words, it's a remedial course. This annoyed me but when I took that class my life changed. We had writing assignments and I could turn out page after page of things that grabbed people by the emotions.

 You see the same set of patterns that later in life allowed me to do well in math also applied to practically everything else. Math, English, Philosophy, Science....all of it was different now.

 And that creative spark that we all have and that we all want to express somehow and we never do because we're afraid of what people will say was fanned into a flame. So I chose English as my major with a focus in creative writing.

 I'm still enough of an English major to appreciate the delicious irony in the fact that I parlayed my education in creative writing to a career with the government.

 It's always good for chuckle.

 Thanks for listening.


If you make yourself miserable trying to make others happy that means everyone is miserable.

-Me again

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     Thread Starter
 

1/06/2018 11:06 am  #547


Re: The Random Thoughts Thread

01/06/2018

 The mood is even.

 I find myself thinking about my friend Billy a great deal.

 It's sort of a sad, nostalgic feeling. Not bad really, it's just that I frequently think about the things he left behind in this world that no one knows he created.

 I met William Arthur McAdams Jr in the fall of 1976.

 My mom had finally married someone who was actually responsible and we moved from our row home in the city to a huge house in the suburbs. We literally moved on up.

 The neighborhood was an upper middle class planned community still in the process of development so there were lots and lots of things for brand-new teenagers to get into trouble over.

 There were three distinct groups in that neighborhood. There were the teenagers at least sixteen that had cars. There were the teenagers between thirteen and sixteen who didn't have cars, and then the kids between six and eleven or so.

 All of the people I was friends with fell into that second group.

 We were the ones who weren't kids anymore but weren't quite teenagers either. We were in that dopey, uneven-growing, voice-cracking time of our lives that we spent endless hours needling each-other over.

 I can still name everyone in the group. It was large but it was not always all of us together at the same time. There were sub-groups and pairs that spent significant amounts of time together.

 Billy was unusually tall for his age. Painfully think, knobbly-kneed, all joints and limbs flailing about. He had a long neck, a little acne, dark hair always cut short, really a good looking chap later in life but at this stage he was one of those stereotypical dorky-looking teens.

 Billy was into punk rock and new wave. Not just the music but the lifestyle. The idea of rebelling against authority really resonated with him. The idea of dressing in outlandish clothing, having his ear pierced, dying his hair, whatever caught his mood.

 Billy was an artist, first and always.

 He created canvas paintings, murals on buildings and sidewalks, sculpture, photography, any kind of artistic expression he could imagine, he tried them all.

 In June of 1996 Billy created his master work.

 My parents had moved into a house in the city. The back yard was one of those city yards that is about fifty yards long but only twenty yards wide. It was suffering from neglect. It was not possible to go all the way through the yard to the alley due to a overgrowth of brush, tree roots, dead animals...etc.

 Billy rented a Bobcat. For those of you who've never encountered one, a Bobcat is a small, four wheeled vehicle with an engine, a phone-booth sized cockpit, and a hydraulic lift that can be fitted with various pieces of construction equipment.

 Billy bulldozed the entire yard all the way down to the dirt.

 He began by building a sidewalk. He laid dozens of four-inch thick concrete slabs, each decorated with things he found in the yard; strange-looking leafs and old metal gears a century old and coins and polished quartz.

 Each slab was different and the path wound through the yard in a sinuous path.

 Then he seeded one side of the yard with grass. On the other, he built three mounds. On the first, he planted two-dozen sunflowers. On the middle one, he planted wildflowers. And on the mound closest to the alley, he planted a tree.

 I remember him bringing that tree home in the trunk of his Toyota MR-2. If you've never see one, it's basically two seats and an engine with a trunk added as an afterthought.

 I lived in the third-floor apartment next to my parents house so I had a bird's eye view of Billy's masterwork coming to life.

 The first things to grow were the grass and the sunflowers. I remember the stark, yellow color so brilliant against the green background. I'd stand on my back porch and watch the sunflowers track the sun across the sky.

 Then the wildflowers began to bloom.

 A riot of color in every spectrum erupted covering the mound. I could smell them from where I was. They'd ripple in the breeze creating colorful waves that were just fascinating to watch.

 I remember spending hours looking at each square of pavement.

 There were twenty or so, each different. Each pressed with something or with something visible embedded. His tag, BAM, is on one of the stones nearest the driveway.

 I'd driven by that house on occasion. I only ever catch a glimpse of the yard. I can't tell if it's been changed at all and I'm not sure if I really want to know.

 That yard was Billy's greatest work. But his masterwork, the work that I got to see, was that first spring.

 It was art at it's highest. Its pinnacle of expression.

 Not art imitating life, it was art made of life.

 This is how I want my friend remembered.

 He was an artist. First, last, and always.

 Thanks for listening.


If you make yourself miserable trying to make others happy that means everyone is miserable.

-Me again

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1/08/2018 2:29 pm  #548


Re: The Random Thoughts Thread

01/08/2018

 The mood is up.

 Something came up in group today that I found perplexing.

 Every other member of the group felt they were not productive members of society. The word “leach” was used.

 Th e confusion is over what productive means. No one really seemed to know. Do you have to build things to be considered productive? Or is is paying taxes? Or simply holding a job. And does it have to be paid employment? Does raising children or keeping house count?

 No one knew what productive was yet they felt unproductive.

 After pondering this for a time I reached the conclusion that they felt unproductive because they could no longer do what they did before they were injured. Each of us had specialized skills that would have paid well. All gone.

 So they feel they no longer contribute to society. I found that sad and I said so.

 I couldn't understand why someone would beat themselves up because they can't do the job they used to do or they do something that people don't consider work like being a house-wife. Yes, people still say that and yes people apparently think busting your ass twenty four hours a day raising children and keeping house isn't really work.

 I found a familiar specter lurking under all of this.

 The measure of productivity seems to orbit around wealth. What one contributes to society is measured by how much someone has accumulated. Be it wealth or power, lots of either means you are productive.

 The session ran out of time so I did not get the chance to explore whether or not my notion of productivity being equal to accumulated wealth which was kind of a bummer because I have about a thousand questions.

 Does everyone measure their success by what they have?

 Is having things important to everyone's sense of self-worth?

 Does “Productive” begin with a dollar sign?

 Thanks for listening


If you make yourself miserable trying to make others happy that means everyone is miserable.

-Me again

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     Thread Starter
 

1/09/2018 1:37 pm  #549


Re: The Random Thoughts Thread

01/09/2018

 The mood is nervous.

 It's not a bad kind of nervous. It's more of a mixture of anticipation and that feeling of dread I get when encountering groups of strangers.

 I'm trying something new today.

 I recently discovered Meet Up. Meet Up provides a website for people to organize meetings—just like the title says. I never gave it a great deal of thought but I found out there are gaming groups on Meet Up.

 So I'm going to a Meet Up at a comic book store in York for Table Top Tuesday. It's a BYO game night. I'm taking Discworld: Ankh-Morpork, Mancala, backgammon, and Pass The Pigs.

 If you want to know about the Discworld game Google Terry Pratchett. The world is much reduced by his passing.

 Pass The Pigs consists of two small plastic/rubber pigs, one of which has a spot on it. The pigs are thrown like dice then the position in which they land is compared to a chart.

 The chart consists of colorful names like Joweler (pig tipped on its nose, 1 point), a leaning double Jowler (both pigs tipped on its nose and cheek, 2 points)...etc. The highest number of points possible in one throw is called Makin Bacon (ten points).

 I'll leave it up to you to visualize what position the pigs have to land in for that.

 The feeling of excitement has been building since I woke up. I'm having difficulty sitting still.

 Once upon a time, a genius names Gary Gygax came up with a way to make a fantasy novel fully interactive.

 At a guess, I'm thinking Gary loved fantasy novels as much as I do and really wanted to find a way to participate in the plot. He did so by breaking people, places, and things, down into numeric values and introduced random values using dice.

 Interaction between players and characters in the game or between players and other players is governed by a set of rules and limitations which are also assigned numeric values with a random element.

 The end result is someone playing can alter the plot line at any time in any way. There was no other game like it. Nothing even came close. As a seventeen year old social misfit thousands of miles from home, immersing myself in a story really was a wonderful way to escape for a while.

 Every air base I was assigned to had recreation centers and every rec center had large rooms separate from the main section with lots of tables and chairs available. Every base, bar none, had at least one D&D group.

 In fact, most dorms had groups that played in their day-rooms.

 I was a player for almost ten years.

 I quit doing it when I got married because my spouse had little interest in role playing games. After we separated it just never occurred to me to get back into it.

 So that's what I'm going to do today. I'm going to this tabletop game night and I've RSVP'd for two other game nights this week.

 I have no idea if I even have dice anymore and I certainly have no books so tonight's mission is both to find a new gaming group and to get information about what one needs to play these days. I'm not foolish enough to believe I can just dive right back in after twenty-five years.

 There's a good chance things might have changed since then.

 So I'm putting up with a lot of nervous energy, basic twitchiness, and the day-to-day random thoughts.

 But I'm not fearful of going. And I'm not feeling like I just can't bring myself to do this. And if I look back at myself a year ago there's no way in hell I would have been able to go alone.

 I would have needed at least one Wendy with me.

 And now I'm feeling like I can pull this off.

 Thanks for listening.


If you make yourself miserable trying to make others happy that means everyone is miserable.

-Me again

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     Thread Starter
 

1/10/2018 2:51 pm  #550


Re: The Random Thoughts Thread

01/10/2018

 The mood is good.

 I had lunch with my former pod-partner Joan Wade. We went to a new place on George Street called The Handsome Cab. Joan picked up the tab as a belated birthday present which is good because I'm still trying to get used to being paid once a month.

 I wouldn't recommend The Handsome Cab. At least not for the food.

 Joan got something with chicken, looked like a little pizza. Joan said the chicken was dry. I ordered something they called Wellington burgers of some sort.

 If you're not familiar with it, there is a dish called Beef Wellington which consists of wrapping a grilled steak in dough with a flaky texture and baked. What I received were three burgers Joan called Sliders. I've heard the term but never in this context.

 The first definition of Slider I learned on active duty referred to things sliding in and sliding out. Not what you'd call lunch conversation material.

 The “Wellingtons” I received tasted like a burger made with meatloaf. Now, I like meatloaf sammiches, I just don't like to be ambushed by a meatloaf and I like the meatloaf cold.

 It was the weirdest thing. We were there for nearly an hour and, apart from a man in a wheelchair, not a single person came in for lunch. Or for any other reason.

 So, the food was blah and the service sucked. As one PM approached, Joan began to get more and more nervous. We were the only two diners in the entire restaurant and I had to go back to the kitchen and yell through the doors asking if anyone had seen our waiter.

 I'm not sure what Joan tipped and I didn't ask but if it was a pittance, he earned it.

 The game night was fun.

 I was in a room full of social misfits. I'm home! Last night was tabletop games. They're what I called Bookcase Games because they come in thick, rectangular boxes that fit neatly on a book case.

 When I walked in, there were two guys setting up what looked like a Star Wars battle complete with miniature X-Wings and TIE fighters, very detailed and painted by hand. There was one other person sitting in a corner where two bookcases met.

 I went and introduced myself to the two guy with the Star Wars stuff.

 When I said hi, I'm Ben, they looked at me like I'd just asked them for money. There was a very long pause before they each muttered a name—which I do not remember—then turned a suddenly very intensive focus back on their game.

 Raise shields.

 I went and chatted with the other guy. He was a little more receptive. We talked about the Ankh-Morpork game and Terry Pratchett's novels. He said he'd been considering picking up the first book.

 I told him to leave extra time to read an additional thirty novels because The Color Of Magic was published with paper made from heroin to keep you coming back.

 I joke. Terry Pratchett's writing was all the hook they needed.

 I broke out the Mancala game and we played a few rounds—won them all—then the rest of the group showed up. We played a game where two players get to play ghosts bent on destroying hotel rooms.

 The other three players were the ghost hunters. The object of the game is for the ghosts to accumulate a certain dollar total in property damage. In other words, we got to break shit! For the record, myself and the young chap across from me were the ghosts—we not only won, we went over the dollar total by fifty-thousand dollars. Woo hoo!

 Let's hear it for some harmless destruction.

 Anyway, the D&D group meets tonight. This is my first time going. There have been about a dozen new editions and additions to the game since I last played so I have a great deal of catching up to do

 But I”m doing it.

 And that seems important to me.

 Learning to fit in with people who don't fit in.

 That's poetic somehow, I'm certain.

 Thanks for listening


If you make yourself miserable trying to make others happy that means everyone is miserable.

-Me again

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