Archive for the ‘the human condition’ Category

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.” — Robert Heinlein

Part of being a good generalist is knowing when to call in a specialist.

I can, for example, do gear and axle setup to change gearing in a Jeep axle. I mean, it’s physically possible for me to do it. I know the general principles of what must be done to provide proper bearing preload, proper pinion depth, and so forth. I don’t have the tools, but I could buy or build them. BUT: I’d likely go through multiple very costly install kits before finally getting it right. And it’d likely take me multiple days before it was completely right. Meanwhile, a specialist can do it in a couple of hours and do it right the first time without all the trial and error.

Part of being a good generalist is knowing, when you look at a job, that it’s time to call a specialist.

Which is my problem with Heinlein’s statement. We *need* specialists. How else are generalists going to call in a specialist when it’s time to solve something that’s really most effectively solved by a specialist?!

No, Mr. Heinlein, specialists are not insects. Rather, they are the base upon which us generalists rest. We may know how to do almost everything, but we’re not good at doing everything. We rely on specialists to do things in a cost effective and swift manner that we ourselves simply don’t have the time or money to do for ourselves. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to be generalists!

– Badtux the Generalist Penguin
1. Who can do most of what Heinlein mentions above, but doesn’t *want* to do some of it and is willing to pay others to do it for him.
2. Yeah yeah, I know Heinlein is dead. But people still keep quoting him anyhow.


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Death used to be a big deal. The whole family would gather at a church, while the deceased’s corpse rested in a coffin at the front. There would be lots of flowers all around. A preacher would say some words. There might be a hymn played or performed. Then everybody would troop out to the graveyard to plant the corpse, and afterwards withdraw to the home belonging to the nearest next of kin, bringing along potluck dishes to feed the hoard. Folding tables might be set up on the lawn to hold the food, and folding chairs brought out from all around as people sat around talking about the deceased and catching up on family business. Then everybody would go home, until the next time.

But that was in a time of connection, when families were large and connected with each other, before the nuclear family blew up our society and turned it into isolated islands. Sunday I went to a “Celebration of Life” for a friend who died unexpectedly. A “Celebration of Life” is a California thing, I guess, where people get together with pictures of the deceased and talk about him and view pictures of his life. This was at the shop of an auto restoration business whose owners had met my friend via our Jeep club. There was no body present, no minister, no flowers, none of the trappings of the traditional Death industry. One of the members of the Jeep club is a caterer, and he catered some goodies to eat while we remembered our friend. And that is that. No children. No wife. His only living relative an older sister, who spoke of her memories. A girlfriend spoke of her memories. A street preacher who was the husband of a woman who worked at the shop and had visited my friend in the hospital spoke of his memories. No visiting a grave. He was cremated, and basically tossed to the winds.

That is our society today. Cremated, and tossed to the winds.

My mother was an only child. My father was an only child. My brother and I were their only children, and neither of us have children, though my brother has step-children. I guess I can leave whatever to the oldest of my brother’s stepchildren if my brother predeceases me, as is likely since my brother is younger than I am but lives in Louisiana, where people die on average ten years sooner than here in California. But when I die… it is likely that the story will be the same. Except I doubt that there will be forty people who show up to share memories of me. I doubt there will be anyone at all.

Because that is how we live, and that is how we die, in this time of societal dissolution and isolation.

– Badtux the Sombre Penguin

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Where white folk celebrate the kindly Uncle Tom caricature that they’ve made of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was a nice negro (in their caricature version of him, not in real life, where he was righteous and fiery and said tons of things that white people wouldn’t like to be reminded of today).

So fuck that. I’m more sad about the death of Dolores O’Riordan, whose Irish lilt and clear enunciation made for a distinctive and refreshing voice on a radio filled with sloppy slurred drugged-out singers in the early 90’s. She was only 46, and still in fine voice just a few months ago…

Fuck reality. Donald fucking Trump is still alive despite consuming more Big Macs than the entire city of Detroit, and someone who actually contributed beauty to this world dies young? That’s why I know if there is a God, he’s a vicious and vindictive son of a bitch and I want nothing to do with him. Besides, Hell would have better company.

– Badtux the Sad Penguin

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It’s Banned Books Week. Here are the most-banned books of 2016. It appears that books featuring gay or transgendered people were the most banned books of 2016, because teaching our kids to treat others with dignity and respect is something to be demeaned and forbidden.

Somewhere in passing I came across this book, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, by John Colapinto. This is a book about a doctor who believed that you could make a boy be a girl simply by raising him as a girl, and the young person who was the subject of the doctor’s deeply unethical and horrific experiment. The end result was a very troubled girl who became a very troubled boy who became a very troubled man who eventually ended up committing suicide.

What this basically says is that gender is something that’s deep inside a person’s soul, deep within the core of that person’s being. You can’t “make” someone be a girl, or “make” someone be a boy. It’s something intrinsic to the person. If you try to raise that person as the opposite gender from what his soul tells him he is, you will end up with a very confused and tormented person.

In this case the boy was genetically a boy. There are boys who are genetically a girl (and the other way around) who have the same problem of being forced to live as a gender that is a complete violation of who they are in the depths of their soul. In the past, these people ended up as lonely outcasts seen as “weirdos” and “creeps” to be feared and hated unless they were very good at hiding it. But even those very good at hiding it, like J. Edgar Hoover (former cross-dressing director of the FBI), lived lives of torment when forced by society to live as a gender that was not what their soul told them was right. J. Edgar Hoover was a twisted little man who did things that deeply shamed him. If he’d lived in a time where he could have lived as a woman, would that still have been true? I guess we’ll never know.

In any event: I don’t understand what makes a trans woman be so convinced that she’s a woman despite being born with male genitals. But I don’t have to understand in order to know that trying to force someone to be something that is contrary to the depths of their being is deeply wrong. I didn’t need any of the banned books above to know that (though I’ve read a couple of them, like “Fun Home” and ), but it certainly is a good thing, to me, to have those books available just so that others can come to that exact same understanding: that people are what they are, and trying to force them to be something contrary to the very essence of their being is deeply wrong.

– Badtux the Book Penguin

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Where do the years go when they’re gone?

I look at the photograph of you at your birthday party, you are 11 years old, a laughing child with long sleek black hair and honey colored skin wearing a t-shirt and nice pants. Your grandmother and your little sister are by your side and your friends and classmates are all around. All are laughing and looking happy.

I remember a kid who could be generous, who could be kind. Who everybody said was doomed, a future criminal, a future murderer. But I was young then, and stupid in the way of young people everywhere who believe that love can fix the world, love can change the world, love can save the world. After all, it is the only thing that ever has, even where it obviously does not. I remember you peering at the books of puppies in the school library, dreaming of having a puppy of your own. Where do dreams go, I wonder, when dreams die, or when they turn into lies?

The years passed by, and it is twenty-five years on now. You are a guest of the State of Texas for another five years still, a sullen muscular man with tattoos and an expression of disgust with the world. You did not kill anybody, at least not anybody who wasn’t trying to kill you, it’s all about drugs, and being picked up with drugs, and your second strike and a system set up to put people of color into prison, especially male people of color. But in the end, it was all about choices, choices you made, choices made for you by a world that gave you no real place to be other than what everybody expected you to be. Love was not enough to change that. Maybe love never is. Maybe those stories in the story books, they’re just that, stories, not real, not anything that could ever be.

You never did get that puppy.

Maybe, someday, you will.

In my memory you are still that laughing boy of eleven. But in my heart, you are yet another soul I could not save, another name on a list of people where I tried, and failed, and had to let go and walk away.

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Roger Waters, “Is This The Life We Really Want?”, off his brand new album by that name. There are flashbacks to 1977’s Pink Floyd album “Animals”, which he plays alongside the songs on this album live in concert, because both came out of the same place: A supreme disgust with the complacency and indifference of the average human being.

So, every time the curtain falls
Every time the curtain falls on some forgotten life
It is because we all stood by, silent and indifferent

His implied answer is “Yes.”

– Badtux the Music Penguin

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Americans aren’t Germans. Germans are orderly and by the book. German roads are perfectly striped and perfectly paved. German cars are ridiculously expensive because they’re over-engineered and over-inspected to make sure they’re as perfect as the Germans know how to make them. They’re a tidy, fastidious people for whom everything must be just so.

Americans, on the other hand, are the nation of “hold my beer and watch *this*!” Everything is sloppy here, from the lines on the highways which differ ridiculously from state to state, to the way we drive. We drive Germans nuts. A Mercedes executive in charge of autonomous car development once tried out a semi-autonomous car that worked perfectly on German roads on American highways, and almost had a nervous breakdown as his car’s computer *did* have a nervous breakdown. “You people can’t even stripe your roads right!” he said, as furious as a German ever gets.

This, of course, is why we invented Silicon Valley and the Germans didn’t. The whole of Silicon Valley is “hold my beer and watch *this*!” applied to computer technology. Most of the time, the result is a spectacular crash, as the dismantled remains of so many failed Silicon Valley companies demonstrates. Sometimes, however, sometimes… you get a Facebook, or a Google, or an eBay, and wonderful things happen. All because of “hold my beer and watch *this*!”.

Now, when applied to the national government… suddenly “hold my beer and watch *this*!” doesn’t seem so great. But a majority of people in sufficient electoral college states thought differently, so ….

– Badtux the Non-beer-drinking Penguin

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