Category Archives: Uncategorized

The French Way of Dealing with Fruit Flies

This is, of course, a trivial post. Fruit flies are not anyone’s most urgent problem. The real reason to post this is the introduction to the fruit fly thing. That intro goes like this

When I worked in Paris as an au pair, I marveled at how the French seemed to have it all figured out. The family’s grandmother always set the table with the good silver—even on a Tuesday. I was instructed to pick up fresh, fluffy chouquettes from the boulangerie for the kids’ after-school snack instead of, I don’t know, granola bars (which is what I would’ve gotten). It was almost irritating how everyone around me seemed to have effortlessly mastered the art of languid lunches, work-life balance, cheese savoir-faire, and the immaculate matte lip.

Errr … the immaculate matte lip? I am not sure about that one, but I get the rest of it. There is a charm in doing things well. I would go a bit further. Doing things well — or at least valuing the idea that this is possible — motivates a certain life style. One where you resist the temptation to rush. Where you savor the secret pleasure of what a moment can offer.

And about those fruit flies. They hate cork. They like moisture and they hate cork. It is that simple.

Who knew? Bien sur! The French!

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Asking the Zillion Dollar Question When All Seems Lost

We have all felt it. By “it”, I mean that terrible feeling that we get when we sense that all is lost. When life seems to have lost its value. Thankfully, the feeling usually fades with a cup of strong coffee in the morning. Or perhaps a walk in the park. Or when our loved ones smile at us.

But why do we get that feeling? Where does it come from? Clearly not from an objective assessment of where things stand. Why not? Because we get over it. If all really were lost, we would not. No, my friend, the feeling is subjective. It arises from the swamp of our subconscious. And that makes it difficult to understand.

We can, however, get a peek into its dynamic. The effect of this feeling is to rob us of our conviction..It is momentary but powerful. One minute we are in synch. The next moment, we are staring out the window.

So what can we say about “conviction”? We use the word conviction to describe our highest level of motivation to act. Breaking this down, conviction arises from a powerful belief in something.  Belief, as Dan Kahneman teaches us, being the prerequisite for action in the first place. So rob us of our conviction, and we are paralyzed. All seems lost. That is the dynamic.

BTW, that may be why horror movies are so compelling. They offer us the most powerful sort of  story framework in which conviction — an urgent need to save oneself from something horrible — is easy to conjure up. It is powerful medicine.

And what rips the fabric of our belief framework? What makes us cry out in agony from the worst sort of  tear? Worst of all is when we lose belief in ourselves. When suddenly we doubt whether we deserve self love. Yes, self-love must be justified. And when it is not, all seems lost. Fortunately, the mind is usually rather clever in devising new possible justifications for self-love. The smile from a loved one rescues us. Or the walk in the park enables us to see something new. or the coffee stimulates new thinking.

The bottom line — To act, we need to be sure of something. We need a belief framework. And when we are sure of ourselves, we act with the greatest conviction.

Which brings me to the zillion dollar question — what are you sure about when you think of yourself? Are you seeking that sense of self-confidence or do you feel it? Do you often lose it? Where do you find it? Interesting questions, me thinks!

A quick follow – If life has any meaning — something that absurdists might challenge — that meaning comes from our ongoing process of constructing identity. Of building more nuanced connections between the self (our view of who we are) and reality (our view of external stuff). When we are not building, we are stagnating. That stagnation is in itself a cause for concern.

What I am reading now

The other day, my colleague gave me Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Talking to Strangers”.

Image result for Talking to Strangers paperback

I have just cracked it open and like it so far! I will post on it from time to time as I go forward with it.

One thing stands out already. Malcolm is a highly skilled wordsmith! One more thing, the topic is important. There is no shortage of evidence that we are having problems in dealing with people whom we do not know personally.

Did Hunter Biden Actually Do Anything Wrong?

Donald Trump and his pet poodles, who go by the names of Rudy and Bill, are expending huge resources — including your tax dollars — to try to smear Joe Biden by linking him to some sort of alleged wrongdoing in Ukraine by Biden’s son Hunter.  That has led Trump, Rudy, Bill, and apparently a host of others to ask Ukrainian officials to investigate Hunter Biden.

This is weird for lots of reasons. The most obvious one is that it is blatantly illegal for an elected official to try to enlist foreign governments in their re-election efforts.  Even Rex Tillerson — a person who had no experience in government when he was made Secretary of State —- knew that, and hence refused to have anything to do with Trump’s global fishing expedition and extortion racket.  We are likely to hear form Rex on that point in the impeachment hearings soon.

But there is more weirdness here. First, there is NO evidence that Joe Biden had any connection to what his son Hunter was doing in Ukraine. Rudy suggested that Joe influenced the Ukrainians to stop any investigation of something. There is NO evidence that Joe did that. To the contrary, the evidence suggests that Biden and others on both sides of the aisle and European allies were concerned that the prosecutor in charge of the investigation of the company in question was not doing anything. That is why he had to go.

Going further, there is also NO evidence that Hunter Biden did anything wrong as a member of the board. And we might keep in mind that being on the board itself violated no laws.

There is a deep irony here. Trump wants the public to think that Joe Biden acted improperly by influencing the Ukrainian government to benefit himself politically. While there is NO evidence that Joe did this, there is clear evidence that Trump did EXACTLY that. Just read the phone transcript of Trump’s famous telephone call with the president of Ukraine where he expressly asked for that help.

Meanwhile, Trump is arguing in one US court that he cannot be investigated for criminal activity in New York because impeachment is the sole remedy that can be used against him. BS. But things get far more weird. In another court, Trump is arguing that the impeachment investigation that is now ongoing is unconstitutional. Huh?

You do not have to be a rocket scientist to understand what is behind this — at attempt to establish that the president is above the law. Something that grossly violates a treasured value of the American people  Remember the Supreme Court’s rebuke to Nixon? — NO MAN IS ABOVE THE LAW! The Donald would have us forget that. And it may be that his enablers — the republicans in the Senate — will say that is just fine with that. And Rudy, Ben and the gang? Like good poodles, they will wag their tails and await further orders.

Welcome to the Trump era. May it end soon!

Friends? Who Needs Friends?

US policy in the middle east over the last several decades has been, shall we say, up and down. There was

  • the invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Husssein for his stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction (which did not exist),
  • the bungled attempt to rebuild the country, followed by
  • a nasty insurgency, and then
  • the rise of  ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and then
  • a prolonged effort to stamp out ISIS.

Throughout all of this, the US has had one friend. A friend that could be relied upon to do the dirty work of fighting on the ground. At times, that friend offered the only effective fighting force around. They were the kurds of Northern Iraq and Syria.

Donald Trump has just decided to screw the kurds.

You read that right. Even Lindsey Graham is outraged, and that is something you don’t see every day.

How? Trump has decided to pull US troops out of Northeastern Syria and allow the Turks to control the area.  The Turks, you might recall, do not look kindly upon the kurds and for a long time have wanted to prevent the kurds from setting up a coherent network of territory south of the Turkish border. Why? A coherent network of Kurdish territory south of the Turkish border might interfere with Turkish efforts to keep kurds in Turkey under “control”. With Trump’s blessing, the Turks can now do whatever they want and it won’t be pretty.

You might say, “Well, who cares about the kurds anyway?” And you would have a point that the kurds are a small group of people in the global scheme of things. On the other hand sticking up for your friends is not a small principle in global affairs. Especially when you have the power to do so, and can easily do so, and have no reason not to do so. Trump’s abandoning the Kurds sends a message to lots of other peoples around the world. It is a bad bet to trust the US.

Welcome to the Trump era.

This is What an Amazing NBA Season Looks Like

Each season, the NBA has its amazing moments, and not so amazing moments. Last year, Kawhi was amazing. LeBron was not.

What if this year, every team has amazing moments?

That would look like this — a post that goes through the best possible scenarios for each team. Check it out!

I would quibble with just one point. I think Ben Simmons will surprise a lot of people. Not only will he start shooting from the outside, he will demonstrate that he can take over games without Joel. If that happens, and  everyone else on the team does well enough, the Sixers will win it all.

Onward!