A Little Help?

“When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22

Help Wanted

Not sure about you, but everywhere I look I see Help Wanted signs. They are in windows, on restaurant tables, billboards, huge banners draped on buildings, in urban, suburban, exurban and rural areas – everywhere – Help Wanted signs. Some of these are for better paying jobs but most are for line cooks, dishwashers, service industry, construction, fast food, hotel staff and the like. These are jobs traditionally held by new immigrants and people low on the socio-economic ladder. Businesses are desperate for workers at a time when our jobless rate is at an historic low of 3.6%.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently at least 11.3 million job openings in the United States. The actual number will be higher due to very small businesses that often go uncounted.

“The Horror at the Border”

The reports are true: There was a record number of encounters with migrants at the Southwest border of 1.6 million in 2021, just over 1 million of those involved single adults. About a quarter of those were repeat crossers, so the number of new people trying to get into the U.S. was about 1.2 million. The number of people traveling in families was 451,087, also a record.

Sixty-three percent of these people were from countries other than Mexico, most from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, another record. Some of these were the migrants we read about or saw on television who walked in caravans hundreds and even over a thousand miles to get to our border.

Republicans among us gnash their teeth, wring their hands, and bellow about the catastrophe at our border. It’s good politics as they can dumb it down, blame it on President Biden and do nothing. Of course, the real reasons these folks are coming in such huge numbers is that there are no jobs in their own countries, they are in mortal danger and/or they want their children to have a better life than they had. The very same reasons every American’s family came to our shores.

I’m sure you’ve already done the math, but here we go: Had we welcomed every single one of those one million single adults at the border and got them each one of the 11.3 million jobs, we’d have filled less than 10% and still have 10.3 million job openings, we’d not even notice the number of Help Wanted signs having gone down, and business owners would still be desperate for workers.

I’m not advocating for that, of course, as it’s all much more complicated, but in general, the average American’s idea of immigration and our borders is shockingly skewed. This is mostly due to misinformation and mostly from right wing media and politicians. They understand that instilling fear into voters, in this case, with “illegal immigrants at the borders,” is extremely effective and distracts voters from the actual issues our elected officials should be focused on – the best education, affordable healthcare, climate change and others that truly affect American individuals and families.

Humanity is the Story of Migration

All Americans are from immigrant families. No matter where you are on this planet at some point your family immigrated to where you currently live. They did not spring from the ground like tulips. Life on earth is defined by migration – constant, ever-flowing migration. Keep an open mind, listen to your heart and don’t buy into the fear-mongering. There are often solutions smack dab in the middle of problems.

The people are woke and global, sorry fatheads

Hearing about Vladimir Putin’s attempts to keep his citizens in the dark about what he was planning and now, what he is doing, in Ukraine is laughable. How is it that these angry old guys really think they can keep information away from people in the age of the Internet? Russia is a modern country, their people are logged in and connected to everyone else logged in. Yes, the state media controlled their message and was telling them one thing but just how many modern educated Russians believe their official state television? Probably about as many Americans who watch Fox News and believe that. (Fox has about 1.5 million daily viewers or about .003 percent of the American population.)

Russians get their news from many sources as do educated and curious people all around the world. They get Russian news, BBC, German news, and on and on – the new perspective is global, which many powerful men and women disdain as it sucks life out of the power to which they cling like deer ticks. Unless Putin could somehow corral the entire world of media into playing along with his lies, or build a dome across his 11 time zones, he is absolutely screwed when it comes to controlling what his people see, hear and know. And we see now how badly he has failed. Brave Russians are protesting in the streets, which to us in America might not sound so amazing, but protesting in Russia is not, shall we say, encouraged by the State. Protesters put themselves and their families in real, sometimes mortal danger.

Even North Korea, a veritable desert of outside news, can’t stop it all. Defectors have reported various ways their citizens still find a way to get western information, usually entertainment, into the country. If the Kim’s can’t do it, no one can.

Here in our own nation, fatheads around the country are banning or trying to ban books, like it’s 1952. This is the absolute dumbest (and dumbing) move the said fatheads can attempt. First, tell a young person with even a modicum of smarts and self-respect not to read a book and they will find a way to read the book. Duh. Second, ban them where? Books are everywhere. You could work to ban it in a school but another school with have it, so will the library, and so will, ahem, Amazon. And third, kids have printers. Got it, fatheads? We know that what you’re doing is merely to make others like you happy to further your political careers, but you look so dumb doing it, that it can only backfire. It seems that you also should read those books, and many more, until you get it.

Young people are woke and global (as are many old people). Your attempts to turn back the clock, jam the toothpaste back in the tube, close the barn door after the cows all left reminds me of the old guy on the 70s television show “Soap” who would snap his fingers and think that he’d become invisible when all the people around him just kind of groaned and went on with their business. You’re ridiculous. You have zero respect for the modern world and for the intelligence of young people. They don’t need you telling them what they can and cannot read. They need you to get the hell out of the way so they can build a new world that recognizes reality, not the wishes of a washed up generation who is handing those same young people a planet that we continue to fuck up on a daily basis.

This is not to mention all of the misinformation perpetrated by these same people around COVID. That led to dead Americans and lots of them. For that, if Christianity is correct, you will all land in hell. Sorry. Well, not really.

We’ll start the new year off with a bit of science.

Floating Houses

Not like houseboats, but houses that are moored to the bottom of the sea that then glide “up and down their steel foundational poles with the movements of the waters below.” Movements that, of course, create energy. These homes float but are also “weighted by basins filled with recycled, water-resistant concrete…” to give them some heft on the sea, and they note that “Heavy pieces such as pianos are counterweighted with bricks on the opposite side of the house.” I wouldn’t have thought of that until they rolled the piano into the living room. 

Our oceans WILL rise and our coasts WILL flood, no matter what we do now, so thinking in terms of taking advantage of the changes that we will have to cope with in the coming decades, is exactly how we should all be thinking. 

Cognitive Issues Decline in U.S.

“From 2008 to 2017, the percentage of adults ages 65 and older in the U.S. with serious cognitive issues dropped from 12.2% to 10%…” This was from a Canadian Study that if accurate would have saved about 1.1 million people in the US from the ravages of dementia. My father had Lewy Body, a form of Alzheimers. It’s awful, awful stuff. This is good news and let’s hope it holds up with additional studies and continues in that direction. 

My parents smoked and drank quite a bit for most of their lives. Let us hope that didn’t have anything to do with it. I’d be screwed. 

More seriously, this is a beautiful piece of writing about an aging mind.

Synthetic Biology

What is it? Not much, just “a transformational technology to feed the planet, conquer disease and combat pollution.” Nothing to see here. What? Here’s how they describe it. “Biological information is coded in DNA, so it can be programmed – with the goal of redesigning organisms for useful purposes.” And if that don’t send a chill up your spine, you might want to read it again. 

They say that synthetic biology “holds the promise of reprogramming biology to be more powerful and then mass-producing the turbocharged cells to increase food production, fight disease, generate energy, purify water and devour carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.” They say it will grow exponentially, similar to computing power over the past decades. See. It’s not all “redesigning organisms for useful purposes,” in fact, “the potential is for civilization-scale flourishing, [That’s Drew Endy, “an evangelist” for synthetic biology and a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University] a world of abundance not scarcity, supporting a growing global population without destroying the planet.” 

In fact, the revolution is already here: “…the DEKALB seed business … is creating nitrogen-fixing microbes to apply to seeds, potentially reducing the use of chemical fertilizer.” And even better: “Cronos, a Canadian company, is using synthetic biology to develop cannabis edibles.” Seriously; that’s what it said.

Coffee? Tea? Assimilation?

If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see stars and satellites, a line of satellites. This was just about an hour ago. It was a steady stream of satellites – left to right – for at least a couple of minutes. What you see in the image probably replaced itself every 5 seconds or so. It was freaky. First thought: Aliens. This is it. I need to gather the family and head out into the woods. Then I thought of Elon Musk. Oh, yeah, Elon Musk is bringing 5G to all corners of the globe. I mean, I hope that’s what I saw. Because if it was aliens, they’re here, and I’ve just not got the news nor been lasered, probed or assimilated. I don’t think.

Either way, it was a rather unsettling sight to behold stepping out of my garage. Will this become commonplace, or did I just happen to be at a spot where the sun, which had recently set, was angled exactly and lit them perfectly? Weird. Welcome to the future, indeed. That being said, I’ve always wanted to be sucked up in one of those below-flying-saucer light beams, the blue ones. That’s got to be pretty cool. I mean, provided what was on the other end didn’t eat me. 

The Answer is No

certs_wintergreen.jpg_1I set out to suck on a Certs today with real purpose. I wanted to, well, not bite it, for one; but also to “be one” with my Certs. Seriously. I wondered if the Certs experience in my mouth would be enough to hold my focus, allowing me to enter into a deep meditation while the minty freshness sort of emanated out of me in all directions like a bright green wintry lightbulb of lovingkindness. I bit it in like four seconds.

The answer is no.

Nice Windows

So there’s quite the kerfuffle about Pope Francis bagging a bit on the childless couples who act like their dogs and/or cats are even remotely decent substitutes. And I get that that is maybe a bit old school Catholic style. But I’m right there with him! I’m so tired of my childless friends talking about this new restaurant or that great band they saw. Screw that! How about you procreate – as we were all meant to do! That’s the only reason why you’re on this earth – the only real reason! Everything else is window dressing! That pottery you do? Whatever. The music you make? Fun, but ultimately pointless. All those great art shows? You wouldn’t miss them if you never saw them.

And yet the rest of us – the beaten and down-trodden who carry the future of the world on our shoulders and our credit cards – double-down, the women go through the amazing sacrifice of giving birth and the two of us (hopefully) feel the tectonic shift beneath our feet and realize that one now true truth: It’s no longer about me any more, it’s all about you. I live for someone else.

And you with your hip concerts and surprise trips to Costa Rica! You with your spotless houses and planned dinners! You with your facebook posts about all the kidless fun you’re having! You!

Have you ever cupped your hands to catch the puke of a little girl? Realized long after changing a diaper that you had poop beneath your fingernail? Have you ever listened to the banal goings on of a six-year-old orator on a car trip for 2.75 hours? NO, YOU HAVE NOT! And even if you have you could leave the little pains in the ass behind when you head home to your great new awesome HBO series binge-a-thon!

Yeah, I’m jealous. Really jealous. You got it made. I’m screwed. But you got to admit I got it right with the whole evolution thing. Crap out kids – the genetic coupling, halving yourself. Passing on the genes. Only the strong survive. That’s the only real reason we’re here. The rest is window dressing.

But I got to admit that your windows look awesome, god damn it.

06.17.14

Happy Birthday, Dad. You’d be 83. I graduated in 82 – not sure there’s a connection there, but I like numbers so I see something obliquely significant. The universe works on numbers – physics – so maybe that’s where we need to look to look beyond our insignificance.

83 years on this planet has to be a win. I know it is as a dedicated Sunday obituary reader. I see the numbers – the ages – the multitudes in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and now 90s, so I know that lasting into the land of the octogenarian is a win.

A win for you and a win for all of us. To love someone and then have them for so long is exactly what we live for. Early deaths are tears in our lives, our families and our psyches. They serve a purpose – they remind us of the fragility of it all, but they rip at our souls. Old deaths show purpose. They remind us of the reasons we fight to stay alive – not only for us but for the people we love, and more importantly, who love us.

We loved you – love you, but the distinction is profound. I’ve yet to pick up your ashes. I know they’re perfectly safe where they are and I really don’t know what on earth to do with them, despite our plans to do something earthly with them.

I’ll never forget the births of my children. That’s about as profound a moment as you can experience. Everything about me dissipated. It was now entirely about them. All selfish desires went from life to just plain selfish. But then again, it is about me and how I live my life for them. You did that for me. You lived your life to make certain we were provided for. Not that you didn’t live your life for you, you did! But underlying whatever you did was the knowledge that you had us and would provide for us and then make certain we lived our own lives.

Well done, old man! Happy Birthday! Your birth led to mine and your mind made certain I lived a good life. I am working – struggling – to do the same for my kids. It’s a struggle, you know/knew that. But it’s worth it. For living for yourself is one thing, living for others is a multitude of things.

Lewy Body Dementia

There but for the grace of God go I. Lewy Body Dementia. Look it up if you’re looking for yet another chink in the armor of this loving God of grace. Or if you’re more modern, explain to me why evolution would evolve such a thing. It’s a cocktail, not to be enjoyed surely, but jammed down the throats of the unsuspecting; a mix of Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease with a double-shot of hallucinations tossed in for good measure. Shaken. Stirred. Scared. To death.

“Dad, are you all right?”

Eyes of terror, hands shaking, trembling in the middle of the familiar family room.

“No.”

“Can I get you anything?”

“Yeah, a casket.”

It’s one of the sickest parts of the sickness, this in and out of reality, with little of the blissful ignorance that can accompany some forms of dementia. Just confusion, then awareness, then terror, then anger, then anxiety, then awareness, then frustration, then and again and again and again.

The hallucinations started out fascinating, even funny. “Do you see that garden party over on the Johnson’s lawn?”

“No.”

Or

“Do you see the couple standing on the rocks down by the lake?”

“No.”

“Well, then, what about their dog?”

They got less funny over time. Long, complex hallucinations he recounted later. The three women who put him in a car and took him across the country, stopping at gas stations, not letting him out of the back seat. The same three women who would show up unexpectedly in the house. “I don’t know how they get in here.” Then maybe funny: “But damn they work hard around here. Never seen anything like it.”

He’s moving into memory care now and if anyone’s memory needs some care, it’s his. It’s the sickest thing I’ve ever seen, this Lewy Body business. Reduce a once proud, hyper-intelligent, orthopedic surgeon, to a trembling, mumbling “resident” (read “patient”).

There are moments of transcendence, fewer and farther between these days, but, still, and occasionally.

I love my dad. I hate this fucking disease.