Sunday, March 30, 2014

Helping smooth the flow of traffic.

We do communicate with other drivers. We signal intent. Honk different types of honks. Ask and give directions, offer courtesies. You’re entering traffic from a Starbucks, but the street is packed with cars. A driver nods and lets you know get in ahead of me. Who hasn't felt appreciative when that happened?

I like to drive, and curious about how drivers act sometimes. I remember a night in North Beach in San Francisco. Traffic was stalled. Somebody honked. I honked too. The other driver honked again and back and forth we messed around honking for fun.

Let’s say you fall asleep at a red light and don’t go when it turns green. A simple honk would nudge you back into business. But when the driver behind honks with a blast that is plainly rude. There are intermittent honks, blaring honks and notification honks when you see somebody you know and want to attract their attention.

Headlights signal too.  If you're in the fast lane, and see a car in back with its headlights going off and on it means to get out the way. You’re going too slowly for that driver, even though your speed may be a far cry from slow to you.

Just looking at another driver sometimes signals awareness. I see that when a driver is on ramp to a freeway, and she or he approaches to what feels like too close for comfort. At the same time, both of us look at each other. It's a signal of understanding that we won't allow a collision.

Anger does not go well with driving. I got angry and flipped the bird at somebody in a truck for some reason, and the guy did a U-turn and chased me. When he abandoned his chase I was definitely relieved.

Some actions of drivers sometimes go beyond courtesy.

I was driving south on 101 Freeway in Marin County. A car slammed into this other car and pushed it into the concrete divider. The offending vehicle sped off while the victim vehicle stalled on the freeway. The woman was in a daze as I guided her to the curb. People got out of their cars and stopped the flow of traffic. Others gathered and pushed her car off the freeway. We were communicating how we cared for a fellow driver.

I was driving east through Caldecott Tunnel once, in the East Bay region. It was hot and I was on an incline---the radiator cap burst and my car, spewing swirling steam, stalled in the tunnel. I was almost at the end of the tunnel, but cars were heading towards me at freeway speed. A beat up truck driven by what looked like a Mexican farm worker shoved my car out the tunnel and off to the side. That man signaled he cared about helping to avoid a collision.

I feel it’s always good to keep the ideal of courtesy in mind while driving, as well as to go out of your way to help when it’s needed.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

When eating too much Isn't enough.

Food has always attracted me, but as something more than a means of sustenance. Sweet foods especially have been this way. I was raised, practically, on sugar food. I ate candy bars, donuts, pastry and pancakes.

A daily habit I had when in high school was to buy a cinnamon roll and eat it before the first class. It didn’t take long to discover by doing such eating I could sooth myself. Sweets produced a relief that felt like amelioration. I could depend on the feeling if I ate sweets. And always, the pleasure of eating sweet tasting food itself was a primary factor in the simple quest to feel better.

I was never overweight until I reached my thirties. When I got a job as a newspaper reporter, especially, I found the pressures of reporting and writing under deadline hard to handle. Everyday I’d eat big lunches at McDonald’s. I may have seemed ravenous on account of hunger, but this eating was not a response to hunger. I was eating to cope with the stress of the job. My stomach expanded into a pot belly.

What emerged with food in my life became troublesome. I didn’t want to be fat, but simultaneously, I wanted to eat without restriction. I could lose weight. I went to Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Herbal life; I always lost weight. The catch for me was I couldn’t maintain the weight loss over the long term. I began to feel discouraged and said to myself, “Well buddy, get over it, you’re just going to have to be fat.”

So for years I ate in the clutches of what I now call an eating disease. It’s an addiction like the other addictions we hear about---alcohol, drug, gambling and sex addictions. This is food addiction and it causes food binges---eating for the sake of eating.

I still struggle today with eating. But I’ve found a solution that is always there for me. It’s to associate with people like me who have the same condition. It’s a program developed by people with the condition to arrest it with the use of spiritual aids. It works to achieve long term, lasting weight loss. It’s also a trek into the self to determine and to have the root causes of the illness healed.

I’m not going to disclose the name of the program in which I’m involved. However, if you are troubled by the way you eat, I encourage you to google something like “ways to solve eating problems.” Do some browsing about the matter---this thankfully is a problem with solutions.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

About the existence of Israel.

I don't agree with every policy enacted by Israel. I don't like it when Jewish settlers occupy disputed territory. It's as important for the Palestinians to have an independent state as it is for the Jews to have an independent state. Statehood for Palestinians is a crucial determinent to ending violence in that region, but it must be a state that recognizes the right of Israel to exist.

What has it meant to be Jewish throughout most of history? It has meant being hated. It has meant being vulnerable and without rights. It has meant being excluded, banished and subject to pogroms throughout the middle ages. Throughout Russia and Eastern Europe well into the modern age, being Jewish has meant being regarded as having a malignancy. The Holocaust was an eruption of anti-Jewish hatred without parallel. Despite this, Jewish people in Israel and all over the world have secured and maintain a vibrant and lively culture of intellectual pursuit and study. In their books of religious literature and practical lessons on how to live, the Jewish people have offered wisdom to all.

Since the establishment of Israel, Jews from throughout the world have had a country where they can go to escape penalty for being Jewish. That’s why I support Israel. It’s a democratic country with a free press. It’s a modern secular state. It has fought wars to defend itself, sure. It has captured Arab land. This captured land is a sticking point in peace negotiations and does contribute to violence. It is also a carrot Israel holds in its hands for peace.

Israeli leaders say they would return land in exchange for a settled peace with a Palestinian state. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says progress is being made in current peace negotiations.    

I frankly doubt most Arabs in the Middle East are now prepared to accept Israel’s right to exist. I've read so much venomous verbiage against Jews and Israel by prominent Arab and Muslim leaders. The roots of animosity between Arab and Jew supposedly go far back into the history of that region. According to Genesis, God gave the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham, i.e. the Jews. That's at the beginning of recorded history. It may be that's the pot where Jewish/Arab animosity first kindled.

But King David and King Solomon ruled a Jewish kingdom in that region. Rome centuries later made Judea a province. The Jewish claim to Israel can no more be rightfully rejected than the Palestinian claim to a state in the region.

There are instances of mutual accord between Jews and Palestinians. These instances are sometimes hampered by inequality. It is the Jews after all who have a state. “Putting oneself in the other person’s shoes” is an all too human stumbling block. Contact between Jews and Palestinians and collaborations which do occur in educational conferences or mutual business or environmental projects are bound to help alleviate tension.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Something about filters and perspective.

Filters in faucet heads keep water clean. Filters in people do the same in the waters of human contact, but they’re not uniform---not mass produced. Although everybody agrees we need filters for ourselves, people don’t agree on what needs filtering. Some people allow into the pool of public interaction what other people filter out---there is no one size fits all filter.

A friend recently told me my filter has big holes in it. She said I have privacies that need preservation which I’m willing to advertise on billboards. I do have an inherit dislike of hiding the forbidden and secretive. I generally want to expose, not hide. I want to talk about subjects not usually discussed. I want out in the open honesty. Still, some matters I fully intend to keep secret.

Filters have something to do with perspective. When you look at a wood finish from one perspective, the color and shade look dark---from a different perspective it can look way light. The same finish when looked at from different places appears different.

Democrats are inclined to favor the poor. That doesn’t mean they can’t run a business or feel the importance of profit. Republicans are inclined to cut and limit taxes. That does not mean they don’t give to charity. But both have different filters. The Democrat won’t agree to cut Social Security payments to balance the budget---that doesn’t get past his filter. It does get past the Republican’s filter because his perspective is fixed on cutting taxes. Perspective and filters are part of the way  ethereal flows to the substance that's unique to us.

What happens when WHAT many people filter out is dropped into the pool of consideration?  Usually discord I’d say. Contention. Disagreement. Unkind remarks. It’s too different. Too odd. It wants to have a discussion about sex---but that can't happen. Most people filter the subject out and feel everybody else should do the same. If you don’t--- you’re considered a troublemaker. Argument ensues over the admissibility of the subject. It’s “Inappropriate.” “Not fit for discussion.” [Back and forth]  “Why isn’t it?” “No censoring.”  Argument and tempers flare.

Before the Judeo-Christian world view replaced the pagan world view---sex and love were openly celebrated. Venus, the Roman goddess of love, had a public festival held every April 1st called the Venus Verticordia.

My theory is two thousand years of Western culture tempered into the minds of even modern man an unconscious bias against sex. Sex is not considered a fit topic for discussion by many, if not by most, even in a secular internet forum consisting mostly of baby-boomers.

If you introduce such a topic, you will spark a nasty argument between those who feel it's inappropriate and those who feel it's appropriate. Even though it made sense to introduce the topic and though you may believe in Freedom of Speech, doing so will stir up a hornet’s nest that accomplishes nothing but to confirm the inability of people to talk about the subject in a rational manner.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

How the Computer is replacing TV

With Netflix and other streaming view sites, watching TV is more like watching Computer.

One reason? Well, at Hulu you can go back to the late 50s and early 60s to watch multiple episodes of Bonanza or Rawhide on your computer. I’ve wanted to re-watch the 1981 German sub war movie “Das Boot” for years---but not until I joined Hulu this week at $7.99 a month did I find a way to do that---same with the “I Claudius” BBC series of the late 70s.

Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in House of Cards
I don’t have a TV and that’s no bother. It insulates me from an overload of news. Yet with Netflix and Hulu, I indulge for the sake of enjoyment, and keep up with news by selecting online articles to read that fall into areas of personal interest.

The web is replete with news and differing opinion about “binge watching.” People talk about the phenomena and the dramatic series that spin the phenomena into life. I wondered if chat forums exist geared to discuss specific shows---yes, at AMC for the “Breaking Bad” series. Comments and insight about that slam dunk compelling show would most likely interest the assiduous viewer.  At Television without Pity, before it ended, viewers could discuss a variety of series shows on Netflix including “Game of Thrones,” “Mad Men,” “How I met you’re Mother” and “Orange is the New Black.”

The word “Binge” has an unhealthy connotation---a binge ipso facto harms. It doesn't have an antidote called setting limits. I know watching “Breaking Bad” from 8 pm until 6 am will screw with my sleep pattern. But when I'm hooked on a show, I'll do it anyway.

What makes it hard to detach from a good episodic Netflix series?  The suspense! Meanwhile, the high quality of the program itself---the attention to detail magnetizes you into intent watching. You want to know what’s going to happen next but you don’t.

The "Walking Dead" series is graphic and uncannily realistic seeming…each character displays personal substance. You know how they act and enjoy watching them develop. At the end of an episode, you’re amped to watch more---the “cliffhanger” affect. The end of an episode is an end with a hook of curiosity that reels you into watching the next. All it takes is a click on the continue button.