Monday, September 25, 2017

A weekend not of football.

Unlike most of America, or at least most of my Facebook feed, I stayed away from football this weekend, except to check in on the Columbia-Georgetown game which took place at one on a marvelously sunny Saturday afternoon.

For pretty much the entirety of my adult life, Columbia has had one of the ten worst college football teams in the country. But two years ago, they decided 'enough is enough' and finally hired a coach, Al Bagnoli, who had led the University of Pennsylvania so successfully, to turn their program around.


Last week they beat Wagner--pronounced with a W--not a V like the German composer, 21-0, and this weekend they trounced the Hoyas 35-14

I played football for a year in high school--a tribute not to some transcendent athleticism on my part, but to my size. I was already, as a 16-year-old senior 6' tall and 200 pounds, and I had, because I was too stupid to acknowledge my limitations, prodigious strength and speed.


My team was a bad one, and after two resounding losses in our first two games, we had so many players injured that we couldn't field a proper squad. We had a team meeting and voted to discontinue the season for the safety of the remaining players.


Some kids, of course, voted at that meeting to soldier on. But I had a busted probiscis already and a bandaged face and though the peer-pressure--and a nascent machismo were there--I boldly said 'I'm out.' 

The truth is, I've never really cared for the sport. I've always found it too brutal and ugly and warlike and as slow as an ice-floe in February.

This week, of course, Trump put football back on the front pages. Trump the draft-dodger, Trump the anti-Constitutionalist, Trump the Russian-colluder made standing for the anthem the litmus test of his brand of dime-store phony patriotism.

The truth is, I wish I could take a knee as well. That is not stand-up and acknowledge the meanness and xenophobia and racism which is now ascendant. Would that I could put my taxes in escrow and not have them go to propagating and propping up our illegitimate regime.

That said, I am a creature of hope and believe that the House of Trump is much like Poe's House of Usher. It will fall, I believe, by Halloween, or if not then, by the time the kneeling is over--by the end of the football season, perhaps we will, as a nation, be standing again.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Stranger in a strange land.

“George,” she said standing over my desk, oblivious to the fact that I was typing and in the middle of a thought.

“George,” she insisted. “We need you in 14B. There’s a big ecosystem meeting now, we’re discussing if we can retarget our target without initially targeting them.”

“I’d love to go,” I lied, “but I’m in the middle of writing some copy. I promised it to the client at 2.” It was about 1:15.

“We really need you,” she said, turning on the charm. “We’re having a new sprint and the scrum needs you to help iterate.”

“Look,” I began, but she cut me off.

“The stakeholders are backlog grooming and we need a daily standup to fail fast and avoid feature creep.”

“Speaking of creeps,” I said, but again she cut me off.

“C’mon,” she said, fairly tugging at me. “Look at this Kanban, or is it a Scrumban? Anyway, look at it on your way downstairs. We need to swarm and story-map before we get time-boxed.”

We were in the elevator now, heading down to 14B, when fortunately the elevator stopped. The doors opened on 9.

“Listen,” I said, stepping off, “I have a 407 in 8219 and will catch up later. Ping me on the 9270 and I’ll ying-yang on the knick-knack.”

The doors shut, and I walked up the steps to my desk. And I sat down to finish my copy.



Joy to the world.

Now that the Jewish New Year is upon us, it's a good time, perhaps, to turn to thoughts ontological--or even cosmological. 

That is, it's a good time, I think, to ponder: is the world going to hell in a handbasket?

There seem to be a lot of reasons to leap up and say "hell yeah."

For one, our President is an idiot--and idiot who activates not 'the better angels of our nature,' but instead the worst of America. Venal, petty, racists, misogynistic, anti-science, nazi scum.

9,000 miles away, another idiot nut is threatening to explode hydrogen bombs over the Pacific. 

Mexico has been rocked by a series of horrific earthquakes. And the Caribbean is being blown apart by hurricane after hurricane caused by changes in the climate that one-half of the American electorate denies.

But then, and because it's a new year, there's this (by way of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.)

Childhood mortality

Since 1990, more than 100 million lives have been saved among kids 5 years and younger. The rate of death has fallen from 85 deaths per 1,000 live births to just 38.."
Maternal mortality
Over the past 25 years, women have started giving birth in hospitals and health facilities more frequently than at home.
The biggest benefit: Mortality rates have fallen from 275 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 179 deaths in 2016.
HIV
HIV's decline over the past 25 years is nothing short of remarkable, the report noted. Rates of infection have fallen from their high of 0.60 deaths per 1,000 people in the late 1990s to 0.25 in 2016.
Poverty
The World Bank defines global poverty as living on less than $1.90/day.
The Gates Foundation found rates of such poverty have declined considerably over the last few decades, from 35% in 1990 to 9% in 2016.
Smoking
Between 1990 and 2016, the prevalence of daily smoking among people 10 years and older has dropped from 22% to 16%.
Sanitation
Greater numbers of sewer connections and water treatment plants are helping to clean up the world.
Over the last 25 years, the percentage of people relying on unsafe sanitation has fallen from 57% to 33%.
Neglected tropical diseases
There are a slew of neglected tropical diseases that affect 1.6 billion people but rates of infection of neglected tropical diseases have fallen from 47,000 cases per 100,000 people in 1990 to 27,000 cases in 2016.
Vaccines
The Gates Foundation called widespread vaccination "one of the most impressive public health stories in global health."
Since 1990, the proportion of target populations who have gotten covered by the eight major vaccines has risen from 73% to 89%.


There's also this. A photo of the waterfall my daughter Hannah swam in yesterday in Fiji.


Take your joy where you can find it.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Happy New Year.

I am taking the day off today for the Jewish New Year known as Rosh Hashanah.

In days of yore, when I was a kid, my old man would drag me to Temple and I would sit there, not understanding the Hebrew and not believing the English.

Later, my wife was the dragger of me to Temple, fulfilling what she regarded as her uxorial obligations. (One of the many reasons I loved studying Latin was the word uxor. In its singular form, it means wife. As a plural, it means a yoke of oxen.)

I was dragged to various Temples for about 45 years of my life, and in all that time I never once felt any connection to the ceremony or the preaching, and further, and worse, never through all those hours of being preached to felt I heard anything wise or insightful.

Once my kids flew the coop, I stopped going to Temple altogether. I don't think I've stepped into one for five years now.

All that being said, I still, try to take the day off and commune with myself and reflect on the year I've had, the future I am working for, and my most important relationships, those with my wife and my kids. I do try to spend some time enriching my brain and thinking about what I can do in my own small way to make my world better.

Beyond the briskets and the apples and the honey and the ancient rites and rituals of the liturgy, that's what the Jewish holidays are for me. 

A few semiotic moments away from a world that is too much with us to think, quietly and constructively about things larger than the next assignment that has to go out the door or the next mortgage payment that must be made.

That's it for now.

Last night's dishes are still in the sink.

And new year or not, they're not going to wash themselves.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Me and my love.

-->
I fell in love some years ago with a woman very much not my age.

I only have to hear her voice, and I am set to tripping down the steps of my memories to a different time, a different New York, a different world. One little laugh, one elocutional filip, one turn of a phrase and I leave today—the here and now—and I am sent spiraling like a football through the crisp autumn winds—back to a time when we used to have crisp and autumn.

It started, the affaire d' cerebellum, when I heard this song:

It's not like, like Beverly Kenney, I hate rock n roll. I actually can, in small doses, tolerate it. But what I found here was a kindred spirit.

From the fuzziness of the recording--which I enjoyed for it's raw authenticity--to the out-of-stepness with our times, I had found the woman for me. 

I was born 30 years too late. And like Wordsworth--who walked an estimated 175,000 miles in his lifetime as he wrote long un-written-down poems in his head (as I do) the world, today's world, is too much with me. I am one, for instance, who believes we have placed lead in our societal pipes and as a culture we are getting dumber and dumber by the microsecond. 

But Beverly Kenney gives me belated hope--funny for someone who killed herself at 28 with an all-you-can-eat platter of alcohol and Seconal.

Despite that gloom, she first brought me joy when Hector  Quesadilla, my manager when I played for the Seraperos de Saltillo down in the Mexican Baseball League in 1975 would play this song over and again, especially loving the bit about the bull-fight and the ball game.


Then there's today's abject political dumbness--a veritable dumbageddon where--as Shakespeare's Three Weird Sisters said--'fair is foul and foul is fair.' Dig on the whole thing below--bearing in mind it's better to read/hear while imagining a storm of the ages (currently known as normal "global warming weather.")  That Shakespeare, well, only 'cause I love her, reminds me of this from Kenney.

ACT I  SCENE I 
A desert place.
[Thunder and lightning. Enter three Witches]
First Witch
When shall we three meet again
Second Witch
When the hurlyburly's done,
When the battle's lost and won.
Third Witch
That will be ere the set of sun.
5
First Witch
Where the place?
Second Witch
Third Witch
There to meet with Macbeth.
First Witch
I come, graymalkin!
Second Witch
Paddock calls.
10
Third Witch
ALL


Anyway, that's it for me for now for the end of Jewish year 5777. I say without irony, "Have a Happy."