Category: Philosophy

menacing-bearded-man-angryNote: Comments are mine, unedited, and at times… stream of conscious. Not everything is researched as well as it could be. A lot is based on impression and what I have seen. So I expect people to complain about minutiae more than the spirit behind this posting. I do welcome ALL comments. I will respond to as many as I can. I will potentially disagree… or I may say, quite frankly… I didn’t see it that way. But I have a strong feeling on this and I need to put it out there, even if nobody reads it.

It is November, or as several misguided people are calling it Movember.

From Wikipedia: Movember (a portmanteau from moustache and “November”) is an annual event involving the growing of moustaches during the month of November to raise awareness of men’s health issues, such as prostate cancer and other male cancers, and associated charities. The Movember Foundation runs the Movember charity event, housed at The goal of Movember is to “change the face of men’s health.”

I appreciate the fact that an organisation has decided to be YA (yet another) point of donation for Cancer research. Granted, like many of these organisations of late there are several immediate issues.

  1. Operating costs temper the amount that goes for research The American Cancer Society took in just shy of 1 (B) Billion dollars; over 25% went back into Management and Fund Raising.
  2. The average participant is in it for the coolness factor and not for the donation. This seems like an over generalisation but during this month, walk around your office. See how many men are growing their moustaches and ask them about it. How many really want to talk about Cancer? How many have made a donation? You may be upset to find out. And I’ve done this in past offices. The numbers are worse than some of the charities.
  3. We’ll get back to how this is a spin-off of Breast cancer month and my issues with that.
  4. And the thing that pisses me off more than anything about Movember

What kind of an ass thinks the best way to gain awareness for Cancer is to GROW hair?!?!

In the case of Movember, they are very clear about the rules (but not about what the Administrative expenses are.)

  1. Once signed up a “Mo Bro” must begin the 1st with a clean-shaven face.
  2. For the entire month each “Mo Bro” must grow and groom a moustache
  3. Don’t fake it. No beards, no goatees, no fake moustaches
  4. Use the power of the Moustache to create conversations about men’s health and to raise funds for prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health.
  5. Each “Mo Bro” must conduct himself like a true gentleman…

Let’s start with the spectacle of charity.
In Judaism Maimonides points out that one of the highest forms of charity is:

“…to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the “anonymous fund” that was in the Holy Temple. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator, like Rabbi Chananyah ben Teradyon.”

Of course not everyone is Jewish, and (at least Orthodox) Jews aren’t supposed to shave… So I guess the attitude of not making spectacle really doesn’t hold water for most. However, this pervasive attitude towards, “Show me something in support” tends to show up as “Wear Jeans if you support, foo” in High Schools. So, whoever didn’t get the memo and wore jeans has just been labeled as ‘in support.’ And when that is “Teach the Christian Bible in our school” maybe you would have preferred not to.

But lets talk about the growing of hair for raising awareness for Cancer patients. Simply, it misses the boat. 100%. How many people have I seen die from cancer? One. How many people have I seen die from cancer? One TOO MANY. Let me tell you… growing hair and conducting themselves like true gentlemen? It’s not on their list. If you want to raise the topic of cancer… let’s shave everything. Including body hair. (And as a very furry man, I know what that would entail) And that means all of it. Or if you like, leave a few clumps. Then try reducing your diet down to about 200 calories a day. People see the happy, fun side of Cancer… Except when people talk about a lost loved one… But those are just stories. It can’t be as bad as they make it out to be.

One of the most supportive things I have seen for a recovering cancer patient is when friends and family shave their heads in support. This isn’t for discussion. This is to show the human being recovering person that they are loved, and should not feel embarrassed or ashamed. Because as corny as it sounds, love and support go further in recovery than ostracisation and embarrassment.

Cancer is a disease. Not a theme. Many of these people have lost parts of themselves in the hopes that they won’t lose more… like their lives. They pray for the words ‘benign’ and ‘remission’. But in the meantime as “Bro’s” once again stand up and say ‘what about us. We’re downtrodden too.’ Lest we forget Breast Cancer; or what has become the pink ribbon brand that far too many refer to as “Save the Boobies”

But this time, instead of being told to grow hair, now we are painting the disease in Pepto-Bismo pink. (I suppose at least this is closer to the cause because Pepto is designed to curb vomiting which for the cancer patient is pretty much the norm. Honestly, if you want a good colour, perhaps vomit olive and beige might be best. But that’s not exactly pretty and of course this isn’t women’s health; it’s more about ‘the pretty.’ (By the way, pink ribbons… stolen from a woman in 1979 who (inspired by the Tony Orlando song) tied ribbons around trees in the hopes that she would see her husband again who had been taken hostage in Iran. So, the next time you see a ribbon… it originally meant, “will I see you again?”

The ribbon isn’t the problem so much as “Once again” it’s using pink and branding the movement, not helping the women who are suffering, losing so much, and dying. Breast cancer awareness is more about getting people talking about Breast cancer than doing something about it and from a high percentage of actual people suffering from Cancer; it’s really not about their welfare. There are some excellent articles
– Wikipedia’s reference on “Breast Cancer Culture”
– – Save the women not the Boobies
– – The NFL’s Campaign Against Breast Cancer is a Total Scam

For as much as a man may be embarrassed to have to be bald. Women are not afforded the same social grace to be a recovering victim of cancer. Women are encouraged to hide behind wigs because the appearance is more important than the educating of others. And the worst part of all are the throngs of people so insistent on saving the boobies, that the numbers of people who a repulsed or push away a woman who has had to lose a breast. It was said that a fetish is having something one needs to be aroused. It is a sad concept to know the number of people who have breast fetishes.

Do I speak for any person who suffers from any cancer? No. Do I have any idea what it’s like to suffer from Cancer? No. But what I will do is see through the morass of pathos avoiding commercialism and put my money and time where it will do the most good.

So this year as you put away your pink… In Pittsburgh, there is a fountain downtown at Gateway Center where the water is tinted pink. I often joke that the irony is that the squirrels are likely getting cancer from the dyes. As you trade in your pink for moustache wax…

Stop, and consider just donating the money, spending time helping someone who is suffering or recovering from Cancer. And make the conversation about the people and the disease… and not about seeing pink-soled cleats, buying overpriced merchandise that donates 10 cents on the dollar, or how handlebars really will impress the gals.

I for one… will not be shaving for Movember. But I will shave for a loved one, a friend, or coworker, or just someone who needs the support and kinship. I am fortunate… I grow a full beard in 3 days. I do not have breasts; I have a working prostate and working testicles. There are others who have so much beyond what they are losing or have lost. Make them see what is left that is fortunate so that they don’t spend time suffering.


Dearest Chris… I gladly came to you in the hospital even though at the time the sight of dying scared me nearly to paralysis. At your service I cried for at least 15 minutes. I loved you in my heart more that I could ever communicate and more than you’d ever believe. I see your smile in my heart sometimes when I look in the eyes of my son who carries your name in remembrance.

I wish you’d had the medical coverage and care that would have detected this before it was too late. I’m glad that so many of your friends were around to keep a smile on your face for as long as we could. The number of people who shaved their heads for you; the number of clergy that you taught and guided who wanted to be the one to deliver you communion from masses.

I miss you so much.

questionImageI typically keep my posts about politics and my political beliefs to my personal Facebook. However, I will admit that I have been on a constant  push to put all my content creation onto this blog. I have described it as “All things ‘Lord Andrei’.” As a result, I hope I don’t frighten off too many “Sing Off” followers. Please feel free to punt to the next post if you prefer (My Episode 6 analysis will be up later today)

The good news is that this political question is not biased to any party or most of the standard issues that people have fiery debate over. So hopefully I can this question and get some responses to help me see how people feel.

I receive many emails from different political organizations and different politicians to make contributions. Some of those politicians or organisations are outside my voting sphere of influence. Examples of this are a senator for a state other than my own or a group raising money for an initiative or proposition that doesn’t affect where I live.

So the question is… Should I be contributing money to a race that doesn’t affect me. Let’s be honest here. When writing a senator from another state they are really fast at turning around a letter that says, “You’re not one of my constituents” (Which means, ‘You don’t vote for me; F@©< Off.’)  So, should we be putting our support into candidates and issues outside our areas of voting influence; or should we be encouraging those affected to do so and keep our finances out?

I’m often on the fence about this. I tend to lean towards the fiscally conservative side saying that if I can’t vote on it, I shouldn’t be putting my money in on it.

What say you?

blenderSome people ‘fire’ months, years, etc… I was very close to firing a whole lot more after a very bad week.

In a period of 6 days, my very expensive King Size Bed that we saved a lot for had the frame crack and the mattress drop. As a result, my spouse and I have been sleeping separated. She on the side of the bed that is okay with an equally expensive mattress that helps her back that was injured permanently by a careless 19 yr old driver. I on the other hand have been relegated to my office to sleep on a bed I got when I moved out to the West Coast to pursue being a software developer. About $200 from Ikea, 13 years old, survived the trip back to Pennsylvania… But it’s too soft for my dear spouse. This was strike one.

Monday, I did a very grueling presentation for work on a project I’d taken on myself. The presentation went okay, but there were chinks in it. Worn out, I came home and got hit with the flu. 102 temperature and the whole “useless as all hell” misery. I didn’t have enough energy to sit up most of the time. Water and the occasional saltine (so much for GF). This took me down for two days where I really needed to be fixing the chinks in my presentation. Make that strike two.

Today, my company and I parted company. I’m not going to go into a lot of details. There’s no need to. It was a good job, but the fit simply wasn’t right. I don’t know if I could have or would have changed enough to make it a good fit. These changes never come at a good time. It is what it is. The team/group will do what they will and I will do what I will. It just so happens that it will now be on two separate paths. But we can switch sports and call that the hat trick for the week.

So, I do what I always do at this point… Update my resume and contemplate semi-finished pieces of code projects that hit some stumbling block or another. Or at least I contemplate  contemplating it while avoiding all responsibility on my first night free by reading too much internet. (My random 80’s mix in the background has just started Rickrolling me)

One of the famous people I subscribe to on Twitter (I like to refer to this as Schizofreindia) is Producer/Writer Jane Espenson (@JaneEspenson). Apart from being a linchpin in the Buffy family, she’s also the creator of Warehouse 13, and she’s been a writer, executive producer, or contributing producer on everything from Once upon a Time, Torchwood, Dollhouse, to Tru Calling, Firefly and Angel. She is greatly respected in her arena.

A few weeks ago, I noticed she posts to twitter an occasional “writing sprint.” I’d love to blog more (and maybe I will now) but at the time, I think I noticed it in the evening as it was winding down. A writing sprint is basically an hour devoted to total focus writing on one project. It seemed like (given the chance) it would be at least motivation to try. Sadly, I just filed it away and didn’t think much of it.

Tonight, I am sitting in the living room contemplating what waste of time I will stay up too late watching on the telly. And then I see it:

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 10.26.02 PMNot “writing”… Any Project. I contemplated my latest block in a software project. I could go into very droll technical details but it is simply defined as “Multi-Threaded CoreData” Either of these terms can strike fear into even advanced Apple Coder Types, and here I was trying out how to get both at the same time. And honestly, I really wasn’t good at CoreData as it was without adding in the monster of trying to drag it kicking and screaming into the world of being Multi-Threaded; which I can guarantee you… It doesn’t want to be.

But, hey. I had a project, a goal, and at least an hour for bruising my head on the keyboard some more. Why not?

Why not indeed. At 50 minutes in; it worked. I didn’t simply make it work. But I understood why it worked, how it worked, and that I could make it work again. I also wrestled down a nice little steaming pile of other Apple coding technologies that I’d pretty much avoided.

In the world of coding there is a very important step. It’s called Source Control. What this is, is carefully storing your changes on a server so that you can see your work, roll back your work if you do something truly bone-headed, and have a secure way to share work with others. The act of saving your work is called checking-in. And sure enough, I hit the Check in and pushed to my save server and looked at the clock. 9:59.

I’m the type of coder (nay artist) who when I finally defeat something I will jump up, punch the air, shout “YEAH!”, etc.  (Did I mention… maybe not the best fit for my old job)

I had no choice. I had to revel in my schizofriendia just once.Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 10.37.53 PM

You see “Schizofriendia” to define a term is not the act of following someone famous. It is the concept of writing to someone famous with (for example) nearly 100,000 followers and being the slightest deluded that your comment isn’t just fodder for the internet vacuum. I guess this instance wasn’t Schizofriendia. Because I wasn’t writing it for her, I was writing it for anyone else who might be following her tonight also trying to find their own motivation to succeed.

In a week of what one could call major failures. In a week where one could easily discard all motivation and just slide down a whole. One success can keep a dimming light burning.

One success can do that…

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 10.45.07 PM

But an added word of encouragement that was unexpected can light a new path in ways it has never glowed before.

Nothing gets fired, it just finds a new course and path. A better fit

hc-questAs 10 minutes have just opened on my schedule and I didn’t get lunch, I’m taking 10 minutes of a philosophical smoke break. Here is my question:

Obviously I am in support of the ACA from what would be viewed as the left side because I believe in universal healthcare. I’m even more of a socialist here as that I don’t believe that healthcare should be a for-profit business but that is a larger issue. We live in a capitalist society where health care is for the most part for-profit. Doctors pay to be educated (at great expense), Medical innovations cost money, blah blah blah.

Many uninsured folks who had held off medical care until begrudgingly (and without insurance) would resort to emergency rooms will now have insurance so they do not have to wait until emergency care is needed. The offered solution there is to go to a PCP who they are now insured to see.

The statistic I am now seeing is that we as a nation have a dearth of PCPs. In general Primary Care doesn’t pay as much as specialization and even doctors are having problems covering medical education costs as PCPs and thus are choosing specialization.

So even though you now have insurance, there aren’t doctors available to take you on as a PCP and you are left still needing to use the emergency room as a first line of medical care.

While the long range fix I see is like the Peace Corps or the GI Bill where if you do service as a PCP in conjunction with being a specialist, the gov’t pays some of your medical education.

So… My questions to my other “labeled leftist friends”:

Are these statistics and observations accurate or merely more ‘Anti-Obamacare’ rhetoric?

Does this actually form the grounds of a problem with the ACA that does require further intelligent investigation and legislation? (Yes, don’t say it… I’m thinking it too)

Does this run the risk of the ACA actually causing problems that even the left can say, “We need to fix this, too”?

Of course this is a deep post and even putting it on FB and Twitter isn’t likely to get anyone to read or respond to it.

side-by-sideIn the 1950s a mathematician/entertainer by the name of Tom Lehrer created a song called “Poisoning pigeons in the park.” The song in its opening verse posits the observation that with the onslaught of spring comes life. “Life” is described as full of skittles and full of beer.

I digress. Many today would think that Mr. Lehrer is referring to rainbow-coloured confections but would in fact be incorrect. Skittles first emerged in the early 1970s and the song is 20 years the elder. Skittles in this case is referring to either a pickup game of chess or a game of lawn bowling. this life is being compared to being full of thoughtful, strategic warfare or triumphing at knocking things down. Eitherwise (sic) it is not ‘tasting a rainbow ®.’

Sadly, we are not at the beginning of spring; life cannot necessarily be described as receiving it’s endowment of beer; but mayhap the metaphor of conquest and destruction may not be too far off the mark.

So, here we are at the beginning of autumn (also known as fall). This is the season where we harvest what we have sown so far this year and prepare for old things to die in the hopes of every birth in the coming spring. The Church that at one time I was heavily involved with has a series of rituals called initiations. (I would like to point out here that “Church” is both an accurate and inaccurate term. I use it for simplification and will not go further on that specific topic.) Members of The Church often describe these rituals with the term “karmic acceleration.” Personally, I have not attended one of these rituals in probably close to five years. Further, I have not personally gone through an initiation ritual in my Church in about a decade. One could hazard that I have spiritually hit what one could call “karmic stagnation.” I however would not. I have spent a good amount of time living life while at the same time trying to understand my direction, my failings, and my personal growth.

My personal growth has been around a philosophical analysis of one idea:

“For pure will,unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.”

For quite some time I have wrestled with the concept of actions ‘delivered from the lust of result.’ While I could write on this topic for pages and pages; suffice it to say that after a great amount of time; I find myself focusing on the act for the motivation and purpose of the act; and not a desired outcome.

In some ways I could believe that I am ready for a personal initiation, but that must be brought about on my own at my stage of life and spirituality. This being said, over the weekend of the equinox I attended an initiation ritual presented by a branch of my Church. I have not actively participated in The Church in about five years. Oddly, it would seem that the “karmic acceleration “that is often felt by those taking the ritual is not limited to those individuals involved in the ritual. To say that my life changed overnight would be a gross misrepresentation, however I would be remiss to say that far too many coincidences have occurred within a short period of that event.

Surprisingly to me, I have felt murmurs of change in just about every aspect of my life over this weekend.  It would seem; all of these changes are helping to improve these aspects of my life.

About five years ago I found myself moving away from being active with my Church. Between moving around the country and having a new child, certain things reprioritise in your life. By the time the family had resettled in Pittsburgh I’d drifted into inactivity that was further exacerbated by no official outlet in town. While at one time I’d been a champion supporter of my Church, now I had neither the time nor the energy to try to motivate a local presence.

About a month ago I took what I referred to as a Drive-about. (Walkabout at higher speeds) I found myself driving from Pittsburgh, through Columbus, to Chicago, and back by way of Cleveland. At each stop along the way I saw someone from different parts of my past. This unto itself was an experience because there are so many pieces from my past that I have changed in myself by either walking away or sweeping under the rug.

In each case, each old friend welcomed me with open arms. There is something special about people you were close to that you haven’t seen in time that can be measured in decades. Each one, in their way, gave me back a piece of my own history. The last one… a person that I had not seen in almost exactly 10 years was a member of my Church. They invited me to ‘come back’ when there was an event.

I wish I could say the invitation settled easily on me; however, it was in fact a difficult process. Time and distance weren’t the only motivating factors influencing my lapse of participation and turning that around was also going to be a huge fight against momentum and cynicism.

Over the next month I put thought into the invitation and decided to accept. At the time I believed it was for two events: Initiation rituals for some new members of The Church and a private Mass. There was an irony in attending in Cleveland as this local branch was the place that I first was introduced to The Church over 15 ½ years ago. An introduction that would lead to my own process of learning to be a better teacher, person, Church Officer, Ritual leader, and eventually Ordained Clergy.

At the time of the weekend, I really didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. Honestly, I still don’t; but I feel the need to write about it and my personal observations. With the exception of family, and the officers of The Church I was visiting; few people were notified that I was coming out of my personal tomb of hibernation.

The initiatory ritual was as beautiful as I remember it. And I was utterly surprised at myself at how much of the ritual I remembered verbatim. Granted, I have also performed this ritual several times. I remembered my own experience as the recipient of the experience, which again was over 15 years ago. I remember how much the experience spoke to me internally as well as externally. And I was very touched to be there for three strangers who took their first steps in The Church.

That evening was a general social event/dinner for the public at the temple to celebrate the Equinox. When I opted to visit, I did not realise that the weekend was over the Equinox. I have found a wonderful passage that I think deserves to be included. This is from an excerpt from “The Path of the Spiritual Sun” by Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard:

The autumn equinox is a mysterious time. It marks an essential passage in the process of enlightenment that is often overlooked, misunderstood, and mistaken as dark and heretical.

It is the time of balance between day and night, before night takes over and brings the coming winter, a time of darkness and death. This duality between light and dark exists within humanity, and in the work of spiritual transformation. All things must die before they can be born, all spiritual ascent requires descent first, and all those who long for light must firstly face their own inner darkness and overcome it. The autumn equinox symbolizes a stage of inner preparation in the process of enlightenment—to make way for the Son to be born within at the winter solstice.

That evening was a level of kinship, fellowship, and fraternity that I think had been missing from my life for potentially too long to even note. Granted this kinship included an extended game of “Cards against Humanity” which is always an open chance to push your own morals and ethics to the edge against your own tolerance for humour and political incorrectness.

The next day was a private Mass. And here was the full circle of my spiritual process in the Church. The branch that had shown me the Mass as my first event was now the branch showing me Mass after a long hiatus. And it was amazing to see both how much it had changed in the eyes of one who had travelled from Tabula Rasa to Traveled Ordained Clergy while at the same time how much was innately the same.

I was so taken with the ritual that I have to admit that I actually stumbled through the process of communion. Granted, in my own defense, I am used to branches of the Church that offer small (shot glass sized) communal cups, and the branch I attended was offering full glasses of wine. As a communicant I don’t think I have felt the mass as a whole so deeply as I have since being a communicant under the clergy/church officers that taught me in Los Angeles. Again, despite time and practice, the liturgy was sharp in my memory.

With the mass over, I had to bid farewell and make the solo drive back to Pittsburgh. You’d think that I’d spend the several hours while driving mulling over the experience; but there was no need. It was what it was and to elevate it beyond what it was would be to give it unnecessary power. In retrospect a few weeks later, I think that this mindset it what makes these rituals so strong when left to their own devices.

Earlier, I mentioned that the “Karmic Acceleration” inherent in these rituals, especially the initiation is often quite powerful to the participants. This ritual can also have a profound effect on the officiator(s), the congregation, and on the local branch itself. I would be greatly surprised in short order how quickly the effects of this would be felt.

Upon arriving home without going into too many details, I find myself completing several work projects and taking others onto new levels. One new implementation project that had hit several blocks opened up very quickly and is for lack of a better term blossoming.

The continual process to improve home financing and budgeting turned a major corner. This corner includes not only finding more available budget starting… nearly immediately, but also the realization that several longer-term debts are close to closure (our 2nd car for example becomes paid at the end of the year) I give immense props to my MiL (also an ordained member of my Church’s clergy) for giving me a lot of advise, smacks to the back of the head, and support on the rebudgeting.

I also was able to bite the bullet and clean and arrange parts of the house that were still lacking in move-in organization. And as of this past weekend have expanded my DIY talents by replacing an old, rusted mailbox. (See the picture at the top of the post.) Similarly, I was greatly surprised to see a crossover of hobby and work when one of the other Architects told me he was looking into exactly the type of electronics I have been experimenting with.

Some might think… well, that’s easy. Obviously you need to re-embrace your Church. I’d obviously be lying if I didn’t indicate that the temptation is high. Happily motivated by a series of potentially corresponding coincidences; one could easily let resultant accomplishment drive faith. However, to do so, solely on this, would undo most of the personal work I’ve done. To jump on this with this motivation would be a lustful pursuit of result.

When I was an exchange student to Europe (which was a long time ago) there was effectively a contract that the American students (at least) had to sign with the organisation. The rule was that you would not travel back to the country you were in for a period of time. My memory seems to believe it was a year; it may have been shorter. The idea being that it was so easy to be seduced by a short taste that you do not take a fair consideration of the seduction and lose sight of a normal life.

I’m by no manner suggesting that it would be a year before I return again. The emphasis for me is understanding what has motivated me away; what I’ve seen that motivates me back; and most importantly, what is are all the things in the middle that I’m not seeing that will pull me in both directions?

So, the bottom-line: The leaves have begun to change. Some older parts that wither while turning colours are going to fall away. The bitter night must be given its fair chance to wipe the slate clean with a dark yet pure white blanket. As the spring approaches, life begins anew. Life built on the survivors of the dark, cold winter, but also Life grown new from the old giving way to start fresh.

The future is as it always is… an unwritten book. But now I have some old books and binders put away on forgotten shelves to find and read again. Some to influence my next chapter and some to be reminders that everything is always new again.