Uncle Josh on the Challenges of Gifts

The following is a short undated journal entry torn out of one the few billion Moleskin notebooks I have purchased over the years.

The first challenge of having a gift is accepting it. The second challenge is accepting acknowledgment for those gifts. The third is the challenge of feeling the gift abandon you in the middle of a tricky bit-a problem you to solve for the first time and every skill, every tidbit of knowledge goes away in a poof. You grasp for everything–anything–that may reveal a solution or a way forward. You find nothing.

Faith tells us that the answer is out there. The exact method exists. The precise answer exists. Maybe you have to make it up as you go along. That’s fine. Faith tells us to live without fear and the creative faith tells us not to fear our own failure because in the end the only failure is not trying.

I am not sure where I was in life when I wrote this, but it seems like one of those things I need to remind myself over and over again. Especially with NaNoWriMo coming up.

Uncle Josh Ponders Portland Measure 26-200

The basics: Limits contributions to $500 per individual, $5,000 loan balance from candidate, with no limits from small donor committees (which are capped at $100 per individual).

I usually scan the number of arguments in favor and opposition to these measures. There are 18 arguments in favor, and only 5 in opposition. Oddly, both sides cited Michael Cohen paying off Stormy Daniel’s to help the current president in the 2016 election. Granted, two of the arguments in opposition are classic reductio ad absurdum arguments. Other arguments in opposition assert that money is speech which is a false proposition to begin with.

In principle we should have locally-funded small scale campaigns and debates where actual ideas can be discussed. We don’t live in anything resembling an ideal democracy. Measures like 26-200 attempt to get more people involved, and that’s a good thing in my book. The Small Donor Committees are designed to encourage grassroots organizations. There is a clause that, if I understand it correctly, still caps an entities total expenditure to $750, so Ms. Mega Rich Donor can’t create 50 SDCs and flood them with $100 each and have them all support a candidate. I may be wrong on these details.

The trick to all of this is the City Auditor. If the Auditor decides not to investigate fraud, I don’t know how the law could be enforced.

Several arguments in favor argue that Oregon allows unlimited PAC-to-PAC transfers, which can be used to hide the source of funding. There’s nothing in the ballot title that tells me this kind of shenanigans would be outlawed.

Ultimately these measures attempt to drive candidates in front of the voters and turn their audience from a  few billionaires to as many people as possible. I can support that.

Uncle Josh Reviews “The Last Biker Gang” by Will McCarthy

This is a story about age and technology and how we as a culture throw people away.

Alan Szcyltz is 84, long retired, recently divorced, and fed up. He inhabits a world of robotic autonomous vehicles that are pushing human-driven vehicles off the road and a large house with several empty rooms that pretty much sums up the state of the American Dream (or at least where it’s heading). His story is a tragedy. He is both a grumpy old miser and a noble spirit hoping to find some joie de vivre. His choices are few and constrict him to living quietly bothering nobody or going out hell-on-wheels.

I know several retired men and many of them have hobbies that occupy their minds and talents. I know photographers and painters and construction workers and gearheads. Alan’s biography doesn’t lend itself to a retirement of interesting projects. He worked. He supported his wife (who left him when she got better) and helped raise children somewhat successfully. He is not a great father or grand father and he knows it. He lives in the wreckage of broken promises. He worked and was, as a far as I can tell, expected to die right after retirement.

There is no year given for this story but Alan has distinct memories of the early 21st century so I figure he is my age or actually born several decades after me and frankly the notion that this character had a chance to retire is shockingly optimistic. I expect to die at work because retirement is another part of the American Dream stripped away from me. (Granted, my choices led me here: education is not a wealth-maker.)

The chapters count down from eleven, which is a nice touch in a story about decline.

The social commentary about the future of cars is bleak. Licence plates that report every vehicles location to the government (maybe just the cops, memory is fuzzy at the mo) is another surprising retro-futuristic dystopia. I expect corporations will keep (and sell) this data in the future and perhaps licence it to the police. The other part of the time bomb is the warning that human-driven cars will be outlawed. Yes, well programmed self-driving cars can be a great convenience, but also a great loss of freedom. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to that future.

Personally, after reading this story, I think I need to pay more attention to the older men in my life. Not only do they carry experience and stories, I am the type of person who discards personal relationships and this is something to work on. I need to make sure I’m not throwing away the older persons in my life.

ISFDB Link: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?2363509