Remember Sears & Roebuck?

Sears and Roebuck have been around roughly twice as long as I have been.

I can remember pawing though the catalog as a kid figuring out what I wanted for Christmas while parents selected clothing to order.

I still get my pants and shirts from Sears, but I have come to dread walking in the place.  I am sure I do not shop there as much as I would if it was not for the hounding I get to sign up for a credit card every time I check out.

As soon as they tell me I can save $16.00 on my $80.00 purchase by signing up, I can feel the hair on my neck start to bristle and my temperature rise.  Am I missing something?  Do they really think my having a card it is going to make me buy more stuff?  Will my additional purchases more than offset the $16.00 and the additional costs of spewing out more pieces of plastic and monthly billing or other paperwork?

I DON’T THINK SO!

Instead, it is close to making me, never walk in the door again.

What really gets me is, if they can afford to give me a discount as an incentive to sign up for a credit card, they are ripping me off for $16.00 if I don’t.  Why not just make the stuff $16.00 cheaper and encourage more people to shop just because the stuff is priced fairly?

There is another factor as well.  I have actually gone through the process in the past, but because I never use the card, I have to do it all over again every time I buy something.  Of course they always argue it only takes a few seconds to fill out the paperwork.

I DON’T THINK SO!

It leaves me feeling there must be something else going on.  Then again, the fact the parking lot is always empty and there is hardly ever anyone in the store (and there is almost never anyone to wait on you), may be a hint sears will not be around much longer–in spite of their long history.

Why can’t businesses just provide good service at fair prices and skip all the gimmicks?

Charles Buell

Merry Every Thing!

While Christianity has “renamed” the season to suit its own purposes, the Winter Season truly is the “Season for All Humanity” regardless of religion. In many cases, in spite of religion.

Of course the fact “Christmas” includes Christ’s name, it is only logical the celebration of his birth would be deemed “Christmas.”  However most scholars agree it is highly unlikely Jesus was actually born on December 25–or even in the winter.

A more likely reason for the choice of that day for his birth was for a struggling upstart religious movement to usurp pagan seasonal rituals popular at the time.  If the coat tails are already in place, why not use them?

Contrary to popular belief (in predominately Christian parts of the world) the season is not “owned” by Christians. While some call their holiday “Christmas,” other holidays chosen by most of the rest of the world have equally valid names.  Names like, the Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa and a many others.

In that sense, “Happy Holidays” could be considered the most “inclusive” of terms and more imperative to a world in desperate need of “anything” that helps us see how we are all on this planet together.

I am sure all the various holidays that have sprung up at this time of year have had an element of just “getting-me-through-the-night.” The longer nights and shorter days must have been quite an ordeal for people just trying to survive.  Add to that a bit of superstition, lack of education, and tyrannical special interests and you have the perfect recipe for the season becoming magical.

It is interesting that the only persons who seem to get their Christmas stockings all in a bunch about NOT calling the season the “Christmas Season” or saying “Merry Christmas” are Christians.  It is totally fine for them to call it Christmas and say Merry Christmas if they choose, just as it is fine for the rest of the world do not do so if they choose.

I am quite OK with our government’s tip-toeing around the words used related to the Holidays.  It is important that our government be for all of us–regardless our personal beliefs.

The various ways people choose to celebrate this change of seasons and entry into a New Year, is, and should be, as varied as the number of people there are to celebrate it.

If you find yourself among the 32% of the world’s population who identify themselves as “Christian,” and who insists “Merry Christmas” is the only correct way to say it, the remaining 68% of the world still manages to merrily and happily find their way into the New Year regardless.

Whether one says Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Seasons Greetings–or Nothing at All—it is ALL good!

I kind of like the sign I saw in a store window the other day that said: “Merry Every Thing!”

So, MERRY EVERY THING EVERY ONE!

Charles Buell

The Great MYME

wp_20161001_20_17_38_richI know there is a lot of angst over this election and many of the issues are complicated, but let’s see if we can simplify the problem.

The Republican Party platform or agenda can be boiled down to some basic principles.

1.    There is an American Dream that has been lost–when what we actually cling to is closer to a nightmare.

2.    There is a notion that somehow we have gotten away from our constitutional government—even though we have a Supreme Court that is arguably more functional than the other branches of government.

3.    That somehow the earth’s resources belong to Americans—even though they belong to all of humanity—including the resources in our own country.

4.    That somehow American families are no longer great–even though they never have been wholly, but can be on occasion.

5.    There is a notion that fixing healthcare involves supporting the insurance industry–even though with it the profit motive reduces the amount of money that could greatly offset the cost of health care for us all.  There may indeed be some painful catch-up as we all get to a place where we are paying our fair share.

6.    There is a notion that somehow we are not the great power in the world we once were–even though sometimes that should not be our job when we are merely being a bully.

7.    The notion that government is too big is also a common thread—when all evidence points to its not being big enough (and while it is broken, so is the private sector, we do not need to throw either baby out with the bath water).  We only have to look to our crumbling infrastructure, lack of construction oversight, delays in public works, underfunded education etc.  And why are these problems?  Because we lack the will to pay for them.

There will always be the wrestle between what appears “socialist” and “capitalist.” But it should be clear to anyone paying attention that neither one can ever be entirely the answer.  There is no reason to think we cannot be a country that does what it takes to function, use whatever means works, as opposed to beating dead horses for all eternity.

Behind the thin veil of these principles is the ugly underbelly of exclusiveness, nationalism, entitlement, religious intolerance, racial intolerance, social intolerance, bigotry, selfishness and wishful thinking.

When we have a MY and Me approach to the problems we face on the planet, and become unable to see the WE and US that is necessary, we ultimately all suffer. Sure this means we may not get what we “want” all the time but perhaps we can all get a better share of what we need.

Americans are a better people than to promote walls that will never be built, support insurance companies and corporations when they become nothing but leaches or parasites, and/or promote one religion’s views over another.

So as we all go to the poles it is important to consider which candidate is more likely to be about the MY and ME as opposed to the WE and US.  Ultimately, if the planet is to survive the MYME stands to make out better if the WEUS is paramount.

The road to ruin is paved with greed, selfishness, arrogance, and ignorance.  While these will always be present in whichever road we go down, let US at least attack the issues with WE and US first.

Charles Buell

Be Careful Judging Books by Their Covers

We may not always do this, some don’t come with pretty covers, but it sure is easy to do.

Of course this is a metaphor for any number of things we judge by their appearance.

But their appearance where?

Most men are afflicted and helpless with the power of a pretty woman walking by. I was thinking about this the other day when I saw a pretty woman headed home from a hard day’s work at the office.

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Obviously I have no clue as to whether this is true or not. I suspect I could make up endless stories about what the truth really is, but I suspect regardless the truth, it would not alter the high likelihood of their being a dark side most of us would not want to go to.

I wish the picture was in better focus, but I suspect that would not clear up the overall focus.

While most guys will automatically see her as “beautiful”–regardless of focus—the truth is, there was almost nothing unusual about her such that, if you saw her in Nordstroms, you would have any clue this might be where she lived. Either here, or in one of 20 other similar homesteads on this median of Interstate 5 in downtown Seattle.

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I found the juxtaposition almost unbearable.

Solutions apparently are difficult to come by, and I have to assume the varied causes are themselves, likely part of why nothing gets done.

Charles Buell

Watch out when snakes warm up!

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How to Guarantee an Election

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Abandoning Ship

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Something is lost when success leads to mediocrity.

DSCF1228While I live in the land of all things Starbucks, it never occurred to me there might actually be a very “first” Starbucks–and that one could actually “go there.”

I guess it is logical there had to be a first and that one could go to it, but not being a fan of burned coffee, I have never spent as much time thinking about going to the first Starbucks as it will take me to write this post.

What struck me about going to the first Starbucks (besides finding out that it is not at the actual “exact” location of the original one–but very close–at least in the same Pike Place Market), was noticing the degree to which Starbucks sold out as it went after, and adapted to, a wider audience.

What started out as a very cool and different coffee shop, with a different taste and with perhaps one of the coolest logos of all time, had to “cover up” their vampish mermaid logo so as to not offend the tastes of a wider audience—a sometimes prudish and conservative audience.  The logo became “safe” and much less interesting.

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But this is the way of businesses that feel compelled to figure out ways to clone themselves in the pursuit of profits.  It is one of the fringe benefits of globalization.

Something is lost when success leads to mediocrity.

 

Charles Buell

What Math Does Your Life Follow?

As a student, math and I didn’t play well in the sandbox. I really only appreciated geometry–all the other types of math were painful to me.

I will now attempt to use math to convince you that human beings as a whole are seriously lacking in more than just math skills.

Warning: this post will contain gross generalizations all designed to assist me with my point.

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Roughly, human beings have been roaming the planet, depending on what you consider “human,” somewhere between 1.8 million years and 240,000 years. Since most people don’t like to see themselves with bodies covered with matted hair, hands hanging almost to the ground and where all attempts at communication sound like bedroom noises, let’s use the nice round number of 250,000 years.

According to current government data, the average life span of humans is 67.2 years, if we divide 67.2 years by 250,000 years we come up with a percentage that represents our own individual portion of that total amount of time we, as a species, have to spend on this great planet. Of course this average is greatly impacted by where you happened to be lucky enough to have been born–or not born, in the case of countries with tremendous infant mortality rates, malaria or genocide.

Keep in mind I am doing my best to convince you of something, so I will use the number “68” as the life expectancy. The amount of time you or I have on this planet is roughly .00027% of all the years that humans have been around.

Now we must take that .00027% and take 1/3rd of it away to account for how much of our lives we spend sleeping, which leaves us with .00018%. I know that sleep and dreams are important to the quality of our lives–and however “entertaining” they can be, I could do without the occasional nightmare.

Here comes the good part.

Of that .00018%, we all spend a lot of time in “prison” of one form or another, whether they are prisons of the mind or prisons of the body.

Think about all those people imprisoned that, even by the most critical observer, would be deemed innocent. If such a person were to spend 75% of their .00018% incarcerated–how much would be left to lie on the beach, worship a sunset, smell a baby’s head, or climb Mt Everest? Now this is not to say that they would not have some sort of life while in prison–but I think you get the point.

jeweldrop1This all reminds me of the movie “In Darkness.” It is an incredible movie about a whole bunch of Jews that were hidden from the Nazis in a sewer in Warsaw, Poland–for 14 months! How can anyone survive that? How can anyone justify taking away such a huge percentage of someone’s already small percentage of life like that?

Who among us can make it OK in our mind for our child to make a pet of a sewer rat after a year of that kind of existence?

And these were the lucky ones.

A step further in my analogy would be if a person were killed at age 20 in some meaningless war (or even meaningful war)–now we have to take away another 2/3rds of that 18%—bringing their total down to .00006%.

Think about this percentage for a moment.

Consider that we have not even begun to calculate all the time we spend hating someone else, watching reality TV shows, spending too much time on Facebook, eating too much junk food, being wholly focused on making money, sitting on the toilet, dieting, believing in things we don’t understand, being drunk or stoned, being bogged down in jobs we hate, or any number of other things that suck the life out of us.

There are also all those hours spent stalled in traffic, on jury duty, and in psychotherapy.

These are the comas we can find ourselves in.

The prisons we are placed in, or create for ourselves, are as varied as the number of human beings that there are.  Sometimes they are all there is.

Most of us managed to avoid being killed at age 20, or dying in child birth, or dying of leukemia at age 12, being beheaded, burned at the stake or spending our teenage years as a sex slave. But just look at your own tiny portion of what remains of the .00018% after you take out all the things that hold you back from fully experiencing this great gift we call life–whether we do it to our selves or other do it to us. And it is not merely “a life”–it is a life we can be “conscious” of. Consciousness is perhaps the one thing that truly separates us from other animals–something few if any other animal truly has–or at least to the potential of a human being.

Whatever percentage of that .00018% that you can conjure as the percentage that defines your life–that is how much time you have to make a difference.

It comes down to making the most of whatever percentage we get to experience. The person with the shortest bucket list in the end in one sense wins, but that does not mean that lives cut short didn’t contribute more, in some other way–in their own way.

In the big picture, when I take the time to put my own self importance aside, I find the percentage of human history my life represents entirely humbling.

What path does your life follow?

And keep in mind, I could have used the 1.8 million years instead of the 250,000 years in determining the percentages.

I knew I hated math for a reason!

 

Charles Buell

Evil happens when we believe in cheese that is not there.

eagle3All the things we assume true (but actually are not true—or at least cannot be proven) are buried fundamentally in what we bring to any discussion.  Because of this we are always vulnerable to being seen as less than able to support our entire position—as well as blind to the other person’s position.

When we are not fully committed to vetting what we think is true, we reduce the chance of ever hearing another person’s point of view—or even being accurate in our own.

Relying on, or believing in, what we assume to be true is perhaps the biggest danger of all.

The best laws are those that protect us from our own blindness as well as the blindness of others.

Given that laws are created by the fundamentally blind (being human), it takes great vigilance, patience, insight, time and wisdom to get to a place where all are equally protected—but mostly it takes willingness.

It also takes understanding that all our human endeavors are works-in-progress and no “past” or “future” can tell us what is necessary in the “now.” In their own limited ways, I think our Founding Fathers were interested in this.

There is a kind of tyranny in a reliance on the past.  This tyranny forces us to repeat the past over and over.

Even rats eventually stop going down the same tunnel after the cheese.

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Happy 4th of July!

Charles Buell