Monday February 20, 2017

Let’s get this dog and pony show on the road. I’m not looking for a dog to kick here, and I don’t want to be accused of flinging doggy doo doo or anything but I guess I knew from even before I moved – in late July of last year – that of my three new roommates – consisting of my sister and her two dogs Hershey and Chubby – I might become the intruder, the fifth wheel, the odd man out, thereby becoming the “underdog.” After all, not only was Sis and the two poochie’s relationship well established and rock-solid but there was a mother-like thing going on. I already knew moving in – with Hershey and Chubby – who was the alpha and who was the beta because my sister told me and as a visitor to their home, very quickly, you could pretty much tell by both of each dog’s behavior who was “top dog” whom was not.

Within a few months of moving in, a few awkward moments, doggie health scares, allergies, etc., the alpha, Hershey wasted little time when he started following me around. I’m not sure if it was to birddog me or not. But there he was. Omnipresent. Right by my side. Noticing this phenomenon, I mentioned it to my sister.

“You’re the alpha to them now that you’re living with us. You may not notice it so much with Chubby, but just like Hershey considered John (my sister’s husband) their alpha, you’re now it.”

In that moment I realized something. I don’t want to be, “alpha,” and I still don’t. That dog won’t hunt.

It’s all mixed up and turned around. The older smaller chocolate Labrador is the alpha (Hershey) and yet, the larger, younger of the two, (Chubby) the yellow Labrador, is the beta. How does something like that happen? Chubby just decided he likes his dog-naps too much? Oh, Chubby will join in the barking at squirrels if he sees and hears Hershey barking but he’s as happy as a dog with a bone – which is redundant – being bigger and being beta. Underdog. Under-achiever? Perhaps. Who knows?

I always liked rooting for the underdog with the exception of this year’s Superbowl, but you get the point. Something very poignant in that Teddy Roosevelt quote I can’t quote properly about the one in the trenches continually falling short but keeps trying, despite. Or like in that football movie, Rudy. The dork, the dweeb, the nerd does good. I don’t mind being thought of as any one of those things as long as some day I’m either no longer in the doghouse or I get off the porch and get my chance to pee with the big dogs. Either way I guess I have started to settle in to the pack. A little.

And quite frankly being considered by my sister’s doggies as an alpha is very humbling for me because it means that I belong. In this dog eat dog world. There is a pack in which I belong.

I’m such a lucky dog!

Maybe one day I might get between those two dogs, down on all fours and share in their kibble with them.

Then, perhaps, I will have really gone to the dogs.

🙂

MJC
Post# 1182 Word Count: 567.

Thursday February 16, 2017

On my sister’s birthday,
A Poem

Dear Sissy,

This started out as a
real test of my
education and writing
expertise.
Then in my head a bell
rung.
It became blindingly clear:
now,
I’ve decided to enjoy it.
Doing this kind of writing
adds to the enjoyment, but
depends upon how
smart you make your words.

However the day begins or
ends
rest assured
she will eventually get
headed in the right direction.
Even get the
yolk, hopefully
and then I’ll
never have to
do this ever again.
Cyndi, Ron and John don’t spoil
her present
unless you all get it
by sundown Thursday
because, then
you all should hopefully know.

Have you ever noticed
attention to detail
pops considerably when
printing or typing out
your words in stanzas?
Believe it or not
it makes everything
real important-looking.
The true test
happens when you
deliberately sneak
a coded phrase or word in
yet no one really sees.

Another cool thing
no one really gets or
notices is how
acutely and deeply
my love runs for my sister
Annamaria. Thursday is
really her special day and
I just want her to know
a secret: I love you, Sis,

With big-time brotherly love.
I can’t believe you
took me in, and we
have each other as roommates.
Love you for that, too.
Other reasons also.
Very much.
Even if you never
find out the
real messages in an
otherwise cryptic and goofy
meandering poem. Like the hand-written
messages we
exchange daily.

(that all end with, “love, me.”)

🙂

Happy Birthday Sissy,
Love,
Me

Monday February 6, 2017

SPOILER ALERT

You know how Mark Harmon’s character on NCIS, Gibbs, amasses all of his evidence before he interrogates a suspect? Yeah. I’ve been doing some amassing myself but not to indict anyone. I wanted to find out more about the guy who replaced Carl Sagan on the PBS series, Cosmos, who recently moderated and interviewed Mac Rogers, Colin Parris and Michael Littman about the science fiction and science fact in the recent #lifeafter episodic podcast drama produced by Panoply and the GE Podcast Theater. His name is Neil deGrasse Tyson and is not only astrophysicist, but he has also hosted the PBS series revival, Cosmos. He is the director of NYC’s Hayden Planetarium, but also hosts his own, “audio-on-demand” podcast called, “Star Talk.” He recently sat down with a Colin Parris, a General Electric VP of software technology, Michael Littman, a professor from Brown University specializing in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and playwright, Mac Rogers to look behind the curtain of #lifeafter and host the listener to a first-hand glimpse into the real life, real world application of twinning technology. But deGrasse Tyson’s roundtable interview, “After #lifeafter,” was much more than that.

Where Carl Sagan was this sort of solemn, turtleneck wearing guest on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show who explained everything like a sixth grade science teacher, articulate and voted, “most likely to host a PBS show on space,” Mr. Tyson strikes me (with the research I did) as Carl Sagan’s foil or this more modern-day, up-to-date counterpart. In every sense of that word. I would not have known any of this had I not listened to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s, “Star Talk,” podcast. One of the more recent ones entitled, “Cosmic Queries,” cohosted by Chicago comedian, Godfrey. The audio on demand offering was jam packed with a lot of laughs, no doubt, because of its co-host. But there was explanations galore, insightful information about physics and as much good humor and geeky goodness as any 2017 science nerd might be able to fit inside his or her gullet.

The 30 minute dessert to the #lifeafter podcast was essentially the same. Techno-nerdy geekiness. I’m impressed. For not having known very much about Neil deGrasse Tyson, there were no seams showing whatsoever in the round table with Rogers, Littman and Parris. Rogers’s haunting, eerie and epic science fiction drama, #lifeafter was given it’s status as something “5 minutes” into the future by both academic, Littman and GE software VP Parris and listening to, “After #lifeafter,” made that point even clearer. Exactly how cutting edge recent “twinning” and AI (artificial intelligence) discoveries are and their present-day application in academia and industry was something Mr. Tyson took painstaking effort to extrapolate from his guests and went so far (as any good science fiction fan would) to ask the experts if they believed AI would some day take over the world. Hearing Mr. Tyson ask that question made having heard Mac Rogers’s drama late last year and the round table come together for me in a really cool kind of way. Neil deGrasse Tyson has got him some swag, ladies and gentlemen and I – for one – like it!

And he runs a great, “interrogation!”

As any good interviewer would, Mr. Tyson gave not only Mac Rogers the floor, but Michael Littman and Colin Parris had ample berth given to explain their involvements, their relationships with AI and also the twinning technology that Mac Rogers so capably intertwined into his #lifeafter podcast drama. From listening to the After #lifeater podcast it’s apparent Mr. Tyson regards his scientific field with as much curiosity and geekiness as any one of my science fiction / science fact enthusiast friends. He’s also suave, smooth and curious. He is with us. He’s one of us. He’s one of the good guys. Funny as hell, too!

I think Leroy Jethro Gibbs would be good with that!

🙂

MJC

Post # 1180 Word Count: 667

Saturday January 28, 2017

Dylan Thomas perhaps did not know how his poem would effect the bravest, fiercest of this human lot of which we’re all a part. Young. Old. Middle-aged. If you move through youth and get to where I find myself in my mid fifties, then you know. The same piss and vinegar with which you saddled up in your youth – by the time you’re 54 – are clothes that you’ve outgrown (with any hope) to continue to move on and through life with any dignity whatsoever.

….And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

— Dylan Thomas

That’s why the existence of a something simple thing like a newspaper – the transaction of laying down of a shekel or two onto a newspaper stand counter for the cash register ringer to take from you, the smell of the paper and ink, the paging through, the folding and unfolding, the anticipation of the people you enjoyed reading daily – was this, “thing” only to be replaced by smart technology – almost entirely – in the last few years. Sad. Yes, you can still find newspapers. Yes, they still print them. Yes, you can buy one daily. Still. They’re still around in some form or fashion but I haven’t bought one consistently or daily for a very long time.

When you hold a kitten for the very first time wearing a wool sweater, and pass him or her to the next person you know how kitty claws dig into the fabric? Sometimes they even let out a mew because the hug you were giving them, holding the tiny kitty cat there on your chest was so warm and comfortable to them. Yeah. Like that. That’s how we should resist newspapers becoming extinct. Because they ~ARE~ becoming extinct.

We didn’t have to scroll through and “x out” advertisements to get to the next comic on the comics page. Our eyes did all the work and the comic strips were all in one place. We didn’t have to click a, “next button” to read our horoscopes, check the box scores, read Royko. The only subscription of promise was that we’d be there tomorrow morning, same time, same newspaper stand and drop a couple of quarters down and Voila! the news of the day. And the next tomorrow. And the next. In Chicago, where I lived for fifty-four years, you could trade your Chicago Tribune for a Wall Street Journal or a Chicago Sun Times for the Daily Southtown on the train or with co-workers. And it would still be there. Handy. Palpable. Two or three puzzles of differing kinds. Crosswords. Scramble. Hell, you could even learn to play, “bridge” when Omar Sharif still had his column. Bridge! Omar Sharif! Amazing! The guy from all those Arabian nights kinds of movies. Teaching you bridge! In a newspaper!

You had guys like Mike Royko and Roger Simon. Neil Steinberg. Richard Roeper. Sometimes Dave Barry back in the day. Editorials by Carl Rowan. Sports by Rick Telander. Etc. Stuff you looked forward to every single day. Your companions. Written voices you paid attention to amid your noisy commute on the bus or train to school or work. These were our celebrities. Each one of these individuals (mostly) went to school and studied this thing called, “Journalism” to improve their grammar, writing skills, technically, and how not to sound like every other guy. And after a few years writing obituaries or advertisements, each found their voice and when you read their words, you knew whom you were reading. Back in the day, you got two of these things called, “newspapers” daily. The morning edition and the evening edition. How cool was that?

Now you have Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and on and on. Information splatting you in the face like driving through the Sahara during a locust infestation and you don’t know which way to turn to find out what the heck is going on in the world or who’s interpretation of world events you should read or follow. Sad.

But true.

Rage, rage against the dying of the light, indeed.

Lord, I miss those days! I think I might have to pick up a newspaper one day soon and see how they’ve changed. Oh!, and for the patternless puzzle. I used to love doing those.

🙂

MJC

Word Count: 757. Post 1179.

Sunday January 22, 2017

Is there, “life after” #lifeafter?

I think if you could take Neil deGrasse Tyson and Dr. Michio Kaku and have them run at each other at a million miles an hour to somehow make this cosmic, protoplasmic combination of what is known and what can be known, then you’d really have something. Or someone. One really righteous dude. The future of humanity and all the answers to all our questions, past, present and future could be answered by this one person that would be created. Whatever you’d really want or need to know. Boom! Throw a little Bob Dylan in there or T. S. Eliot into that magical universe and it’s all so very, Far out, man!”, as the kids used to say. No?

‘Turns out, with all his credentials Mr. deGrasse Tyson will be spear-heading some interviews in the not too distant future with writer, Mac Rogers about the technology and science fiction and science fact Rogers referenced in both the Panoply productions, #lifeafter and, The Message podcast dramas presented by the GE’s Podcast Theater Network in 2016. If you exclude the deGrasse Tyson and Michio Kaku stuff from #lifeafter, you have this poignant love story. If you do the same with, The Message, you have this cool pseudo-podcast of a “podcaster” conducting interviews having access to cutting edge technology with people at work in the fields of cryptography, medicine, space exploration, alien communication and maybe even weapons of war (potentially). You listen to these podcasts thinking none of this is actually true. By the time the Neil deGrasse Tyson / Mac Rogers interviews come out, the technology within #lifeafter and, The Message may be more science fact than fiction!

Both podcast dramas are so much more. Without spoiling too much and at the risk of gushing, let’s just say if the genres of science fiction and fact and how they ebb and flow back and forth over one another in today’s world interest you, or you dig audio books and such – give #lifeafter and, The Message podcasts a listen. Then stay tuned to listings up and coming in the #lifeafter podcast feed because with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Mac Rogers, I’m sure the conversation will be intelligent, informative, enlightening and entertaining. Digital twinning and ultra-sound technology are on the verge of some major new breakthroughs, so for those into cutting edge technology, the upcoming interviews will definitely prove to be, “must hear.” There’s more to these stories than just cool writing, well acted scripts and drama, my friends, of this I’m sure we’re about to find out.

If you think about it that’s a good time right there and you can’t beat the price. Especially if you were a fan late last year of #lifeafter and, The Message podcast dramas like I was. The #lifeafter podcast feed will be populated again. Soon! And it won’t all be geeky, nerdy techno-babble, Make no mistake. I am sure this will be really cool stuff! I’m pumped.

Oh and one last thing. Into that weird amalgam / persona we’re creating – along with Michio Kaku and Bob Dylan or T. S. Eliot perhaps we add a little humor, like Gilbert Gottfried or Adam Carolla for example. Then we’ve ~REALLY~ got it all. The key to unlock the universe. All in one guy. We can have the Jimmys interview him. Or Steven Colbert. How cool would that be. Hey, if we’re dreaming, we might as well dream big.

🙂

MJC

Post # 1178. Word Count: 591

Saturday January 14, 2017

People have asked me – knowing I worked in agricultural futures markets for 24 years – what the secret was to investment. Surely I learned something I could impart. Surely I had an, “in” to the secret world of commodity trading. There must be some overall concept, rule of thumb or credo one can follow to allow the day-to-day fate of news events, weather, political upheaval in agriculturally positioned nations and areas of the world, psychology of trading floor (for lack of a better word) palpable, demonstrable sound levels (the amount of yelling, the frequency, duration, volume of sound) that could convey to the average day trader where to go and what to do in order to make money in trading financial or agricultural markets. I don’t purport to have the technical skills, or the fundamental training in touching soil, measuring plant color and growth or any of that stuff to answer any of those questions in a manner to anyone’s liking, But what I do have is a story.

One day, in the late eighties, early nineties, a young upstart runner got into a heated debate with fellow trade floor personnel, soy complex experts, traders, brokers, technicians and customer service people – “desk monkeys” as we called them, as to the incidence of a greater amount of heads or tails tosses of a penny on an infinite amount of tosses. Coming in from the trade checking area, to this day, I’m not sure I understood their argument completely, but this afternoon I tried to explain what I thought I heard and saw to my sister and it went something like this.

A blowhard, upstart runner was trying to impress big shots with philosophical questions about the infrastructure in which we work in order to show them how smart he thought he was and how, with that pea-sized brain of his, he was likening initiating trade purchases and sales to tossing a penny. In the grandeur of the communicative moment all parties were disagreeing on the point of the conversation. So the runner decided to spend a goodly portion of that business day tossing a penny and recording outcomes while the rest of us went about our everyday practices and duties during trade hours.

That’s a gross oversimplification of what probably transpired in our office that day, but pretty funny. Well, to me it is, anyway.

When one tosses a penny in order to determine the frequency of heads or tails spins an infinite amount of times, the answer cannot be determined. You can’t tell which will come up more: heads or tails, because infinite is infinite. It never ends. However, if you toss a penny a finite amount of times, say ten sets of ten or a hundred thousand sets of a hundred thousand tosses, a trend can be reached. History can be recorded.

Using the scientific method (An event occurs, you observe it, try to duplicate it or wait for it to be duplicated, cull findings, make judgements. I may have some of these steps wrong, but you get the idea.) one can base opinion fairly accurately on what one deems noteworthy: i.e., the penny fell off the table 1000 times, my finger slipped on toss 1374 and I lost the penny, the sun was in my eyes and I failed to record a few tosses, etc. Again, probably only funny to me. Using the lower number of ten sets of ten tosses – of course – the outcomes can be recorded. Historical data culled and analyzed. Pronouncements made.

But, like computer code has only ones and zeroes to work with, pennies only have heads or tails. One or the other. Either or. So far – if you’ve been able to follow this – one thing remains. The entirety of my point today. It’s all an analogy to things our entire financial infrastructure in trading stocks and bonds or commodities like livestock, agriculture, metals or frozen concentrated orange juice (like in the movie, Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd) is based upon. Infinity becoming finite. An ends to a means. An outcome. Heads or tails. Win or lose. Make money or lose money. Smile or frown. Martinis and big cigars or heart attacks and strokes. Futures markets are like predicting penny tosses. It’s all a crapshoot ladies and gentlemen. Regardless of what my former colleagues might say.

So whenever someone asks me what I have learned from my time in Chicago trading pits, I’m emphatically going to answer like this: (Again, a gross oversimplification, like this whole blog today. LOL!)

Find a penny, pick it up and all the day you’ll have good luck. But don’t be tossing it for heads or tails outcomes to see which ones come up more than the other. That’s a sucker’s bet. Just be happier you’re one cent richer.

🙂

MJC

Word Count: 821. Post # 1177

Thursday January 5, 2017

Usually this blog for almost twelve years has been filled with a lot of random and free-floating anxiety. (Some creatives say without angst, there is no true art.) On the plus side, it’s also been filled with humor, funny things I notice and tributes to not only my Dad but people who’ve been influences in life. This cold potato soup I call my blog is, was and always will be my tiny spec of property on the juggernaut known as the information superhighway. Plug my coordinates into your Explorer, Safari, Chrome or Mozilla Firefox GPS and you’ll find yourself here.

It’s not a sports blog. Nor is its focus video games, pop psychology, gardening, DIY cabinetry or even a, “he said / she said” recounting of my daily life ala a teenager’s journal. Basically, my blog is – like me – on a journey of discovery. What I’m willing to state, share and say about myself, who I am, what I do and the effect this world and this life have upon me. Out of 1175 entries since March of 2005, I’d say I could compile a three of four part selection / collection of my best couple of hundred rants. Good toilet reading because I try to keep my word count under eight hundred and fifty most times I post up.

So how is it that someone with my lack of credentials can keep, maintain or even justify keeping a blog about essentially nothing but potentially containing anything and everything? I’ll tell you how. But you’ll have to keep this our little secret. It’s because I write. Bad grammar, faulty punctuation, dangling participles, spelling errors, etc. I write. The cathartic, oftentimes arthritic and sometimes manic nature of taking pen to hand or fingers to keyboard. Those are my credentials. You can do it, too. Write. Just write. Maybe you can utilize the space better. Think of better things to write about. Use better writing skills and techniques. Post more interesting stuff. Be more fervent in your opinions, more steadfast in your regularly writing. More confident in your ideologies political, moral or sociological. Who knows? Maybe?

I’ll tell you what. Until I decide – truly decide – what this is going to be and what to do with all this; this – whatever it is – will just simply have to do. I’ll keep making the soup, you keep bringing the spoon. I can also tell you this: every once in a while a co-worker, a former classmate, a family member or someone else will click on this thing and, “favorite” it, or, “like it.” Perhaps share or retweet my blog; and it gives me a warm fuzzy for the rest of the day. That’s why I think I do this – but it is truly nice when it happens. (If I’m being brutally honest here, I can find catharsis in writing my blog without anyone ever having made mention of a particular one or another to me.)

Recently, the writer of, the production team responsible for and an actor appearing in an “audio-on-demand” podcast drama whom all along with the GE Podcast Theater – are perhaps single-handedly involved in bringing back “radio-style drama” in podcast form – enjoyed some thoughts I posted about their work. I blogged about #Lifeafter and, The Message both written by Mac Rogers and produced by Panoply and the GE Podcast Theater and they and an actor in one of the productions took the time to “like”, “favorite” or retweet THIS BLOG across the social networks they belong to. I wrote about how their product was a throwback to a simpler time of radio dramas and how their creativity in both #Lifeafter and, The Message effected me and compelled me to write my thoughts and reviews.

I felt like there was the same sort of exchange taking place as took place when I subscribed to my writers corner online some twelve years ago. Praise and support for creativity that was both mutually respectful and supportive all at the same time. Someone’s writing and creativity effected me and mine, in turn, effected others. I think that sort of exchange is all any of us really want. Finding the time to be creative. Exercising that creativity. Have it be appreciated and in turn finding creativity. Experiencing it. Sharing our thoughts on it. What a basic and simple idea.

It might end war some day.

I mean if that ideal appeals to you.

🙂

MJC

Word Count: 755. Post 1176.