Archive for October, 2018

Nightmare come true

October.20. 2018

It’s a classic case of killing off your competitors by buying them up and then closing them down.

That’s what happened to OSH, an old venerable hardware store chain, started in 1931, bought over by Lowes in 2013 and this year closed down for good.

Sure it took Lowes five years to complete their plan of elimination, but you can’t do these things in a hurry, or it would seem too obvious.

During the closing down sale at the local OSH store, I found a few Craftsman tools made in the USA. It was a surprise. I didn’t even know these things were still being made in the US.

As it turned out, they were the last of the old stock.

Because all Craftsman tools are now made in China.

So I bought them all, what I could find.

These days, increasingly, it looks like there’s only one country manufacturing everything.

I was in New Zealand recently and every screwdriver and pliers I found in the stores were made in that one country.

But not just screwdrivers and pliers, my favorite brand Swanndri, my old high school jersey, the raincoat I bought for the rain shower at Milford Sound—all were made in that one country.

I did manage to find a school scarf still made in New Zealand, and cookies, and yes the same full cream milk that I used to drink years ago.

But it seems like a nightmare come true.

Everywhere you go, it’s the same generic stuff staring at you.

You can’t escape them, the cheap knockoffs, the dollar store, supersave, flea market stuff and they’re all made in one country!

I haven’t been to South America or Africa, or Europe recently but I bet the situation there is not that much different. (I’m hoping the latter will be the exception.)

What do I have against stuff made in that country?

Nothing, I’m particularly fond of my iphone which is a product of that country too.

But it is a worrying trend.

When one country manufactures everything, you end up with very little choice.

It wouldn’t be so bad if it’s quality stuff, but far from it, most of what you get are junky stuff that will work a few times and then you have to toss them.

I know because I just threw away an old adjustable wrench made in that country.

For all intents and purposes, it looks just like any good wrench, but to adjust the screw mechanism, you’ll have to use a pair of pliers because the darn thing has been stuck for years.

So why did I throw it away?

I had gotten for myself a couple of Craftsman wrenches made in the US from the OSH sale.

The difference?

The screw mechanism on these wrenches is so light it practically glides under your fingers.

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Familiarity breeds contempt

October.15. 2018

There’s a saying that familiarity breeds contempt.

For example, perhaps you know someone who you think is a pretty good guy. Then you decide to become roommates with him.

And soon you find that he’s going through your stuff.

He’s leaving the bathroom in a mess every morning, and dishes are piling up in the kitchen sink.

And worst, he doesn’t pay his half of the rent.

That’s the meaning of familiarity breeds contempt.

He’s showing his true colors. The guy you thought you knew never existed.

There is such a person in the public limelight these days.

At first, I thought his abrasive personality was just an act.

I admired his forthrightness, his willingness to call it what it is.

For example, calling the chief instigator of the Iraq war a liar. Nobody had the guts to call out the former commander-in-chief before him.

The lie cost thousands of war dead and tens of thousands maimed for life. According to one military historian, it was the single biggest military blunder since Roman times.

Well, maybe not a blunder, because the hawks overseeing this misadventure knew exactly what they were after and it’s not WMD. (Perhaps something connected to Halliburton?)

Back to my point.

I even liked his policies.

You may have noticed a slight right wing tilt in my writing. I am not a liberal by any stretch of the imagination.

But this guy has turned out to be the biggest low life in public life.

The abrasiveness has turned out not to be an act but a complete disregard and disrespect for other people.

The childish name calling speaks of his insecurity and his constant need to demean and diminish others to make himself appear bigger.

But worst of all, to him, it’s all about enriching himself and filling his family’s coffers.

Many people enter politics to enrich themselves.

I figured this man is already a billionaire (or he claims to be), so he’s not in it for the money.

But how wrong was I!

At 72 years old, how much more money does a man need?

Luckily for the nation, there’re still some good men around. (None of them in the GOP, sadly!)

We’re looking for one particular good man to bring this sad chapter in the nation’s history to a close, actually two.

They say that it’s only during times of crisis that true heroes will emerge.

Well, we have two right now—Mr Rosenstein and Mr Mueller.

These two brave individuals are precisely what make America great.

 

Women in black

October.13. 2018

The gender war currently raging in the country is missing one important component, and a most critical one at that.

How about the women in black?

You see them in airports and malls in many countries, most of them far from our shores. (Although increasingly, you’re beginning to see them in neighborhoods closer to home.)

Men with a bunch of women in tow, dressed in black from head to toe, herding them around like so much cattle.

The message is clear, these women have no life, they are the possessions of these men.

How in God’s name do you justify this complete domination of one gender by another?

Isn’t this the real scandal of our modern world?

I’m all for the prosecution of men like Cosby and Weinstein who used their power and prestige to prey on women and who deserve their fate and eventual fate, but where’s the outrage concerning this other abuse?

Yes, they can claim that their religion legitimizes it.

Very convenient.

Everyone should be able to indulge in their favorite perversions and claim that God is behind it.

I would argue that any religion that believes in the oppression of one segment of society and reduces them to being the possessions of another human being is not worthy to be called a religion.

(Incidentally, these same people believe in a God who will deliver to them 72 virgins in paradise.)

The fundamental premise of religion is to uplift mankind, not to serve as a pretext to enslave another human being.

So what’s the solution?

Since sanctions have proven to be effective change agents, perhaps they should be enforced here too.

But I wouldn’t be too optimistic about that happening any time soon.

In the corridors of power in our capital, the word ‘geopolitical’ is often used to justify unjust policies and unhealthy alliances.

We all know of course that’s a sham.

The true reason behind many of our policies is money.

(Especially in the current political climate, where one family in particular is laughing all the way to the bank. For example, if you’re a head of state and you’re visiting DC, you already know which hotel you’re going to be staying at. Wink wink)

So while people are getting all hot and worked up about the injustices perpetrated on one gender by another in this country, there is an alternate universe existing out there.

A universe where one gender is completely dominated by another, and it’s all perfectly okay, even decreed by God.

The failure of morality 2

October.9. 2018

So what’s the solution?

Take out morality and adopt an unabashed total self-serving approach to life.

Forget the good of mankind, the common good, or any other phony pseudo altruistic religious mumbo-jumbo.

Instead, be unabashedly self-serving, look out for number one. No need to pretend.

There’s a choice here.

You can do it the old fashioned way which is to ruthlessly grab whatever you see, and do whatever it takes to ensure that you get what you want.

Which may or may not include cheating, lying, scamming, extorting, assaulting, you name it, it’s all fair game to you.

Since morality has become obsolete, you’re free to pursue anything you want, with unbridled greed and lust.

Never mind that this will upset other people.

They’re losers, weaklings, not worth your concern. (I’ve even heard one guy proclaiming that morality is for losers. Really? We’ll wait for Mr Mueller’s report.)

The goal here is to satisfy every one of your needs and urges without any concern for others, because you’re the most important person in the world.

In the short term, this strategy will work, and you will probably be number one.

The only problem is, all that lying and cheating and scamming and assaulting involve victims.

And victims have long memories and they will harbor resentments.

For example, if you cheat someone of his life savings, don’t expect that person to forget it in a hurry.

All that forgiving garbage may be good for Sunday school, but your victims’ resentments will simmer on and will find an outlet one day.

This will lead to a universal law—the law of return.

The return will come in unexpected ways and when you least expect it. Maybe not in a tsunami, but it will come.

(If you don’t believe me, if you think this is mere superstition, maybe some of these names might ring a bell—like Madoff, Cosby, Kaddafi, Marcos, etc etc.)

And you will no longer be number one.

Now there’s a second way to look out for yourself but this method is a bit more complicated.

And it involves a fundamental shift in your thinking.

Which is that looking out for yourself is not a solo enterprise but one that involves the whole universe.

Because we don’t live on a deserted island.

Everything we do interacts with the universe and produces repercussions. These interactions and repercussions are what will really determine our fate, not our own small selfish efforts.

In other words, our future happiness and well-being are as dependent on the actions of others as they are on our actions.

This leads to one inescapable conclusion.

To look out for ourselves, we must do good onto others, not because it’s the right thing to do, but because we want them to do good onto us.

You might call this the enlightened approach to life.

And it’s totally based on a self serving agenda (with no phony self-righteous moral overtones).

You’re looking out for yourself but in order to look out for yourself, you’ll have to look out for others first.

The failure of morality

October.8. 2018

One of the reasons communism failed was not because its ideals were bad.

On the contrary, its utopian ideals are actually based on lofty principles that hack back to the teachings of the great teacher two thousand years ago, who espoused a doctrine of ‘the meek shall inherit.’

Communism failed because it didn’t take into account human nature.

Human nature is inherently self serving.

No amount of political sloganeering can change that fact.

You can appeal to people’s sense of patriotism or their duty for the common good, but at the end of the day, few people will be moved by altruistic ideals.

Instead, people are motivated by their self interest, or as Americans call it, looking out for number one.

The same is true of morality.

Morality is supposed to be based on doing what is right, for the common good of mankind.

But as is evident from the state of our current affairs, it has failed miserably.

Nobody cares about it.

You have clergymen who are supposed to protect the innocence of young people, actively engaged in corrupting them.

You have a political system that should be there to protect the country but instead is used primarily by many to line one’s own pockets. (Can anyone say tax cuts?)

You have the rich exploiting the poor, the powerful exploiting the weak, and in general, everyone’s doing what they can to look out for number one, and they don’t care who they tread on in the process.

So what’s the solution?

That’s for the next post.

The root of all evil

October.7. 2018

The root of all evil is not money or power but egocentricity.

Egocentricity is self over others. You’re only concerned with your needs and wants and not the needs of others.

Every source of evil arises from self-centeredness.

Take for example, a thief who steals from others.

You could say that it’s greed that’s driving the theft.

But greed in itself will not cause someone to steal; it’s the disregard for the other person that will drive the action.

For example, perhaps you see someone’s beautiful brand new bike and you want it for yourself.

But something in you says, wait a minute, how would the other person feel when he finds his bike has been stolen?

This empathy for the other person will in itself cause you to stop your action no matter how much you may covert it (And if it doesn’t, then it’s not true empathy.)

Because you care for the other person and you do not want to inflict pain on him.

Few people are born with total egocentricity and blatant disregard for others, so sometimes they have to rationalize their evil intentions.

The most effective rationale is to dehumanize the other person.

When you diminish a person, you’re relegating him to subhuman status and therefore, in your mind, your ‘compassion’ does not extend to that person.

You can still feel compassion for your neighbors who belong to the same group as you, you can even go to church on Sundays, but because these other people are ‘lesser’ than you, they are not entitled to your compassion.

This is the rationale that has caused one group of people to feel it’s perfectly okay to enslave another group of people.

It’s allowed entire nations to perpetrate genocide on other people (in the not so distant past too).

It’s the same rationale that causes otherwise ‘good’ people to do evil things.

When you somehow rationalize to yourself that your needs have precedence over the needs of others, you have effectively given yourself permission do anything you want with them.

If you read the daily news, every crime story will have as its basis, self gratification and self absorption.

From financial scams to outright theft, to random school shootings, to evil perpetrated in the name of religion, every act of evil comes from this basic precept:

Other people do not matter, my needs come first.

Function vs form

October.6. 2018

When it comes to things, I prize function above all else, including form. If it doesn’t work well, it’s a piece of junk. Even if it’s perfect form wise, it’s still just a beautiful piece of junk.

I had mentioned the summer of looking for #14, and the happy ending to that search.

Well, here’s the object that started the odyssey.

number14

Borneo machete (parang) made by #14

number14blade

The blade with the faint outline of #14

number14handle

The handle

This fearsome looking parang (machete) is extremely good at splitting coconuts. In its previous life, it had probably cracked open a few thousand of them.

It used to lie underneath the kitchen sink in my mother’s house in Borneo. Now, it’s found a hallowed place among my other tools in my garage.

Unfortunately no fresh coconuts in South Texas so I use it to whack at the weeds in the front yard which it does beautifully and effortlessly.

But imagine function and form merging into one.

That’s perfection itself.

And that’s what I found a few years back.

I was on a hunt for a quiet clock, one which I didn’t have to take the battery out when I’m recording late at night in my living room.

And I found it in this beautiful looking clock, a Braun ABW 30 designed by Dieter Rams.

abw30

Not only is this clock a work of art, it keeps perfect time.

And most of all, it does this almost soundlessly.

That set me off on a quest for more Braun timepieces and I found its perfect mini counterpart in this beautiful watch, an AW 20, another masterpiece by Rams.

aw20

phonewatch

Yes, the date is off by a day because I haven’t brought it forward since the end of September (September has only 30 days), but the time is still precise (attested to by the phone) and the last time I set the watch was in March 2017!

I like to think that I am not a materialistic person but I must admit, I’m a sucker when it comes to things that add functionality to life.

And if they add a touch of class and beauty, so much the better.