Another difficult call . . .

but this one wasn’t a phone call. It was a decision about a letter. I wrote the letter to my dad, and wrestled with it for a week. The decision was about the temptation to post a copy of it here. This morning I concluded that it should not be shared, because I couldn’t find any way that it’s personal and family information would actually help anyone else.

Except for one thing that isn’t personal or family information. It’s about a problem in our world that affects everyone in some way or other. So, I’m going to write this as an opinion piece to the whole world.

There is a misunderstanding that is one of the most fundamental we face. The differences between an opinion, a fact, and faith.

At the most basic, most people think they know what each of these 3 things is. However, when it comes to applying that knowledge, the meanings get blurred.

We accept that one person may not like our favorite sports team, or prefer one city over another, or prefer tea over coffee. Everyone knows that those are matters of opinion, and we generally respect those opinions.

We also know that a fact is something that is able to be tested, and proved, over and over by anyone trained to examine it. A fact is that riding a motorcycle without a helmet at low speeds is more risky than using the helmet. It is also a fact that the helmet probably won’t save your life in an accident at highway speeds, because the helmet can’t protect your neck.

But our real problem on this planet is the number of people who mistake faith for facts. The only difference between faith and an opinion is the religious nature of faith. Faith is an expressed belief in something that can’t be proved – thus it is an opinion on religion. Missing that one thing is why so much strife exists in our world anytime religions clash.

Please, people, learn to treat your own faith, and the faith of anyone who disagrees with it, as an opinion. Religious zeal has already caused too many wars, ruined families, and hatred among us. It is arguably, historically speaking, the #1 cause of preventable death globally.

Love really is the answer.

I don’t understand . . .

Well, before I start describing things I don’t understand, please let me “set the stage” as we’d say in literary or acting circles. Yes, I have been an actor, and have written short stories, and have read so many works by acknowledged masters of literature that I could be a collegiate graduate assistant in any area from British Literature to Ancient Mythology.

I have been told, so many times I’ve lost count, that I think like a lawyer. I can see both sides of any argument, and plot the path to resolution for either side. That does not mean that I am totally ambivalent. On the contrary, I have very clear preferences for how things develop. But that leads to the next set of things that are weird, if not unique, about me.

Not only do I have an above average vocabulary in general English language, but I also have a strange array of specialties. I’m a trained US Army Medic who was being fast-tracked to becoming a Physician’s Assistant, so I have a good Medical Vocabulary. Not an MD, but good. In my personal library I have copies of Black’s Law Dictionary, Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, Grey’s Anatomy, several copies of the PDR (Physician’s Desk Reference), Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, the Oxford English Dictionary (2 volume compact edition), and a few other reference materials. I am well versed in using all of them.

I’m also a person who was among the first to recognize what eventually became known as HIV in the European US Military Medical community. One of my patients in 1981 was a victim – probably of a contaminated blood transfusion.

I’ve always had a gift for being able to see big ideas, and explain them to other people in plain language. So, please take the following – not with a grain of salt, but with the forewarning of a NORAD escalation to DEFCON 1.

I don’t understand why, but The United States is under attack, by cyber terrorists. The terrorists do not hide in the shadows. Instead they act as major platforms of social media and information distribution. Google, Facebook, Twitter, and a dozen other companies.

What they are doing is CAUSING the continuing fracture of our society. Whenever you do a search in one of those services, they automatically search your recent online activity and give you back ONLY the results that feed your world view. In other words, they feed your bias. That is, as far as I can tell, the ONLY reason why the US social fabric has become so incredibly fractured that everyone seems to feel that anyone who disagrees with them (about anything) is nothing less than Satan Incarnate.

It’s one of the oldest military strategies in the books. Divide and Conquer.

There is a documentary you all need to watch. /thesocialdilemma.com thesocialmedia.com

Another thing that I don’t understand is the push to force a national adjustment to the minimum wage law. The current federal law is that the minimum wage is around $7.25/hr. I’ve certainly worked for less, and was thankful for what I got.

But, now we’re being bombarded by people demanding that the minimum wage be increased to $15/hr. Do the people making this demand truly NOT understand the implications of the demands they are making?

There is no corporation currently working in the USA that will increase the wages of their minimum-wage staff by 100% without passing that cost increase on to the people who purchase those products they sell. That is only the VERY ABSOLUTE MINIMUM of the changes which will result from mandating a pay increase to $15/hr.

Do you enjoy $15 pizzas with free delivery? Well, with a $15/hr minimum wage you can expect the price to climb to around $25/pizza for the same product. Do you love the $0.99 value menu at your favorite restaurant? Expect to start paying $2.50 per item unless the quality becomes so poor that it wouldn’t sustain the nutritional needs of a colony of amoeba 5cm square for 12 hours.

This experiment has already been enacted to law in the US State of Washington. The result was that all fast food companies, from McDonald’s to Burger King, replaced all of their minimum wage tellers with computer/robotic tellers that drew no wages at all. 10k people were forced OUT of the workforce because bleeding-heart liberals tried to make their lives better. Can we afford to replicate this on the national scale?

My wonderful wife . . .

is a librarian. She spends all day, every work day, helping the university she works for to provide the best training she can, from her area of specialty. And she is VERY good at her job.

One of the factors of her job is a well-known situation called “publish or perish” – where if you are working for a non-private university and are faculty, you are required to publish to help the university improve it’s standing among all the universities. She has worked within that environment for the last 15 years, and has steadily improved her standing to reach the highest faculty standing she could hold without ever having to re-apply for it. Several times she has achieved an annual review rating of her performance as “Excellent” – which brought her the highest pay raise available to any faculty member that was available in that year.

This morning she told me that she’d had an idea for a presentation on the local campus for assisting new and experienced faculty to improve their applications for tenure or promotion, based on a new approach to gathering statistics to support the application. Not only was the presentation well received, but a former co-worker suggested she submit the concept to a national conference. The challenge, from her point of view, is that presentations to that conference have an INTERNATIONAL audience. She was, mildly, freaking out – because she’d just found out that her proposal to that conference had been accepted.

So, I walked up to her, put my arms around her, and while hugging her I reminded her of one of the teachings I learned from L. Ron Hubbard’s teachings. “The right person to assign the job of fixing a problem is the first one to realize that there is a problem.” She identified the problem, worked out the solution, and had already successfully presented it on the local level. She owns this. And if it happens to lead to international recognition, so be it. She earned it.

Tough Phone Call . . .

I’ve been considering this for over a year. I weighed the idea of respecting whatever needs my family may have against what may be best for them. All of them. I felt that I was on a marry-go-round with no viable resolution. I had to make a decision.

So, this morning, I called my dad. Apparently I woke him up, which I apologized for. Then, I spelled out the situation – as I saw it.

I know full well that my dad has a Last Will and Testament. I even know what some of the considerations of that document are – and have no objection to them. But, I also know that in most cases, if an executor is not specifically named by the Last Will and Testament, the job will default to the oldest living descendant, which in my dad’s case will be me.

Here’s the problem. I’m the literal BLACK SHEEP of my birth family. I’m never called for family holiday gatherings; I’m never asked for life advice; I would never be asked for life advice even if I was the oldest family member left alive.

So, today I made a phone call that may well have been the most difficult call of my life. I told my dad that I knew he had a Will, but didn’t know who the designated Executor of his estate was. Then, before he could tell me who it was, I said that I hoped it isn’t me. Why? Because I honestly believe that if he appoints me to be his Executor, there are no members of our family who would respect that decision and let me do the job without conflict. Not even if I followed every part of his Will to the absolute letter.

I asked my dad to appoint someone else, and told him that he needed to call his lawyer and make the appointment official. I will fully support anyone he appoints, as long as it isn’t ME.

There was a long, very painful pause (at least from my perspective). Then dad said, in a very small voice, that he believed that I was right. He told me he was considering a dual-executor arrangement, and who one of the people was. I repeated that I would fully support anyone he appointed, but that he needed to call the lawyer and actually declare his wishes. I am hopeful that he’s still among us another 25 years, but at this stage of life it is best to be prepared. Especially with his health history, and our family situation.

Frustration . . .

I’m beginning to think that the physics is against me. When I last checked into a medical facility – for the unbillical hernia repair – I weighed 223 lbs. Okay, I fully acknowledge that muscle mass weighs more than body fat, so it stands to reason that as I build muscle tone in body areas that have seen long-term neglect, weight loss could be a challenge.

But, seriously – only 2 months after beginning my program to get my abs back in shape, I’m now at 239?