Archives For Words of Wisdom

My Alter Ego

April 1, 2015

AlterEgoThis post is kind of like an April Fools joke on myself.

I think all of us have to one degree or another an alter ego.  That is a second self who is distinctively different from who we presently are day-to-day. Many of my personal journal posts are to my alter ego “Joe”.  He is my younger much more timid and less sure self. It took me many years to move out of that mode and to a degree I am still sometimes stuck there.

Before I go any further lets look at the “official” definition of alter ego.

Alter ego

An alter ego is a second self, which is believed to be distinct from a person’s normal or original personality. A person who has an alter ego is said to lead a double life. Cicero was the first to coin the term as part of his philosophical construct in 1st century Rome, but he described it as “a second self, a trusted friend”.

Joe grew up in a single parent household with a stoic father. Mirrors were not his favorite thing. He thought he had a weak chin and just didn’t like looking at himself. He would never look into a mirror and imagine who he might become. He was for the most part never encouraged to do anything. He was never shown much affection and therefore was very reluctant to show any himself. Joe was one of those guys who always slipped into the background of life too shy to admit that he had an opinion on things let alone actually tell anyone what he might be thinking.  Joe was always a dreamer but never had much ambition. He was always doubtful that he was as good as most of those around him. Joe never had a mentor who might have been able to drag him outside of himself. Even though he was the first in his extended family to go to college he, like his father, never had much faith in himself.

If you haven’t guessed by now the J in RJ is for Joe and yes he is my alter ego. It took years for RJ to final come to the surface and leave Joe behind in the shadows. In some ways many of my posts are to Joe as to try to encourage him understand that he is a contributor to the world around him. He is unique and matters in life.  I feel deeply for all those young kids around today who might be stuck in the “Joe” mode. I wish I could be there for each  and every one of them.


2015-02-13_09-55-29We’re still pretending that we’re inventing a brain when all we’ve come up with is a giant mash-up of real brains. We don’t yet understand how brains work, so we can’t build one.

We bolded that last sentence because it pretty much explains the predicament for AI. Until we more fundamentally understand that which we’re trying to clone, everything else is an impressive attempt up Everest that never totally summits.

This jibes with a sentiment that renowned author and cognitive scientist Douglas Hofstadter posed earlier this year. He calls current prominent pursuits in the artificial intelligence arena “vacuous”

[IBM’s “Jeopardy!”-winning supercomputer] Watson is basically a text search algorithm connected to a database just like Google search. It doesn’t understand what it’s reading. In fact, “read” is the wrong word. It’s not reading anything because it’s not comprehending anything. Watson is finding text without having a clue as to what the text means. In that sense, there’s no intelligence there. It’s clever, it’s impressive, but it’s absolutely vacuous.

We’ve got a ways to go before machines are truly smart.

SOURCE: Why We Can’t Yet Build True Artificial Intelligence, Explained In One Sentence – Yahoo Finance.

I seem to come across a lot of talk lately about how machines will eventually rule the world and the humans will become obsolete. Having lived a big part of my life in the software development area maybe I understand a little more than most how this worry is very much unfounded. We have nothing to worry about for probably centuries. We simply can’t simulate something we really don’t even understand in the first place. Plainly speaking artificial intelligence is not even yet on technology’s radar screen.

When I first become interested in computer things back in the 1970s I purchased a TRS-80 personal computer and spent hours of my free time learning to program it. It costs a whopping $500 (that’s about $3,000 in today’s dollar). It had 16 kbytes of Ram and a 85k floppy disk (today’s computers have about a million times more memory and storage). But even this gargantuan increase is still not even close to what the human mind is capable of doing.

Even when the hardware finally comes in the neighborhood of our minds we still have to write the programs to simulate our mental processes. That is something we still don’t begin to understand.  We got a long way to go before we have to be concerned with machines becoming smarter than their inventors if that is even possible….



These won’t get teens into college, but will make them better people

Teen with cell phone1. Write a letter. An actual letter that does not begin with “Hey” and is written, in handwriting, on real paper.

2. Learn to cook a good meal that can feed the entire family, no matter what size family you have. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the average American household has 2.58 people. One nice chicken roasted on a bed of vegetables might even provide leftovers.

3. Hold down an unpleasant job that makes you hate your parents a little bit because they won’t let you quit. When I was your age, I worked as an intern on Capitol Hill and on an assembly line in a Westvaco paper-box factory. Guess which job taught me more about life. (Although I did find myself alone in the hall one afternoon with Senator Sam Nunn and he actually said hi to me, which was superthrilling.)

4. Go somewhere for the weekend without your phone, just so you know what it feels like to be in solitary confinement, or dying.

5. Every time you get a new toy or gadget, give an old toy or gadget away to someone who doesn’t get new things as often as you do.

6. Take care of someone or something other than yourself. A pet does nicely here. And if it’s a dog, learn to brush the dog far enough away from the back door that the hair does not all come whooshing back in when you are finished. Yes, I speak from experience.

7. Write a heartfelt thank-you note to someone over the age of 70. Even if this person hasn’t given you a holiday or birthday present, find something to thank them for.

8. Read a book for pleasure. If you start one and still hate it on page 50, find another one. Repeat as needed until you find a book you really love.

9. Do something nice for a neighbor without expecting any credit for it. Rake the leaves, shovel the walk, put the newspaper on the front step if it landed in the middle of the driveway. Keep your identity here secret.

10. Don’t race to the top. Never race to the top. If you want to aim for the top, good for you. But try to get there slowly, deliberately, without knocking everyone else out of the way. Or missing the beautiful view.

SOURCE:10 Things Teens Really Need to Know Before They Leave Home | TIME.

I love this list whether it is reality or not. 🙂  There are words of wisdom here that all young people, and some not so young, need to learn. Number one is near and dear to me. I am a wordsmith and take great pride in being able to form intelligent complete sentences to relay my thought about all the issues I care about. I know I am going to sound like an old person here but tweeting and such is ruining the written word for too many of the latest generations. They need to sit down and write a letter once in a while.  No, fifty truncated words doesn’t make a letter.

I guess home economics is probably a thing of the past in today’s schools. In my day it was pretty much restricted to one gender. If a guy ever took the class he would be forever labeled.  I learned to cook when my mom left us for greener pastures. Better quit here as this post is beyond my self-imposed length already… (Ok, I know this kind of contradicts #1 but get used to irony in your life maybe should be #11)


Out With The Old, In With The New

May you get a little fruit of the Spirit in





No Raises Anymore….

December 5, 2014

Loyalty Concept.When’s the last time you heard of a millennial friend or relative getting a raise or a promotion in their current job, excluding a new degree or new job? Almost never, right? Employers rarely give raises anymore, outside perhaps a standard cost-of-living adjustment. If we want a new opportunity, we’re told we need a new degree or certification. Most often, we have to switch jobs.Job hopping is often the only way for us to move ahead. I know friends who are waiting a backlog of managers or supervisors who (might) retire in 5-10 years. The choice is clear: wait out a long retirement or force their hand by getting a different job.

SOURCE: Millennials: Don’t Quit; Take a Break & Recommit – Red Letter Christians.

The main topic of this article was not about raises but about pastors and churches. But the comment above from a millennial got my attention. Job hopping did occur in my world but it was usually the exception rather than the rule for at least the first two-thirds of my career. To hear that today’s crop of workers deem it a necessity in order to get a raise kind of shocked me.

I know the statistics bear out the fact that people don’t get raises anymore. The middle class of which most of us relish to be in has been shrinking since the Reagan years of trickle down mentality. When employees became liabilities to be shed instead of assets to be pampered, raises basically disappeared. They say that the average person will change jobs every seven years now.

Of course there will still be those entrepreneurs who will manage to find just that right thing to bring to market at just the right time. More power to them but we must realize that they make up a very thin slice of today’s workforce. We hear the mantra that small business is the backbone of our nation but small businesses employ much less than half the nation’s workforce.  The vast majority, as in the past, are in jobs with major corporations and those corporations have deemed it unnecessary to give their workers a slice of their ever increasing profits.

Some consider it a chicken/egg thing but living through this corporate change it isn’t to me.  The logic goes something like this.  Corporations don’t give raises to their employees because the employees are not loyal to those who pay their salaries. My peak earning years were in the 1970s through the 1980s and I saw a definite change in corporate mentality over that period of time. For the first half of my work life I was a proud employee of AT&T. I, and most of my co-workers were very loyal to the company. We all had a pretty strong healthcare plan and received a slice of the profits we generated. In years when the corporation made lower profits we willingly got smaller raises.  We were loyal to our company.

Then came 1980 where very conservative Republican started his presidency by firing all members of a national union and it continued to get worse from there. Employee loyalty evaporated over that decade due to a basic change in corporate mentality and that change continues to today. Is it possible to get back any level of the trust lost during those decades? Probably not….. and that is  truly sad…..

Now that I have had two posts here about mandating morality it’s probably time to address this general issue. I’m sure that after reading these posts some people question whether I believe there is any moral foundation. They are calling me a moral relativist. A recent article in The Week news site very much characterizes where I stand on this issue. Lets read some quotes from that post.  Click on the source to see the whole thing.

Haidt lays out six distinct moral foundations.

1. Care the desire to help those in need and avoid inflicting harm

2. Liberty the drive to seek liberation from constraints and to fight oppression

3. Fairness the impulse to impose rules that apply equally to all and avoid cheating

4. Loyalty the instinct to affirm the good of the group and punish those who betray it

5. Authority the urge to uphold hierarchical relationships and avoid subverting them

6. Sanctity the admiration of purity and disgust at degradation

According to Haidt’s experimental research,

social conservatives affirm the validity of all six foundations.

Libertarians focus very heavily on liberty and a modest amount on fairness, while showing something close to indifference on the rest.

Liberals, for their part, emphasize in descending order of intensity care, liberty, and fairness, and express little concern about the others.

Viewed through the lens of these differing moral foundations, we can see that positions frequently described as expressions of moral relativism actually flow from deeply moral assumptions and commitments.

Liberals, for example, tend to be highly skeptical about American exceptionalism not because they deny moral truth, but because they are suspicious of group loyalty and highly concerned about making fair impartial judgments….

Liberals and libertarians on the other hand, can point to the comparative indifference to these same acts of harm among conservatives as evidence that they’re relativists.

Conservatives are merely somewhat less fixated on harm and much more concerned with group loyalty.

The conservative moral matrix might rub liberals and libertarians the wrong way, but it’s not an outgrowth of relativism. Rather, it’s a sign of a distinctive and different form of moralism….

All of which goes to show that pretty much no one in our politics and culture is a moral relativist. Our conflicts involve clashes among distinct moral outlooks…

SOURCE: Who are you calling a moral relativist? – The Week.

The six areas above I believe pretty much cover the foundations for just what morality is. As mentioned various groups tend to almost primarily focus to one or two of these issue and pretty much ignore the rest. Yeah I am part of that group. The words above pretty clearly distinguish between the three political ideologies that are currently around.

I am not one to believe that any of these groups are without their moral compasses. Being a social liberal I pretty much align with that thinking. I can certainly see that some of my conservative friends are mostly concerned with loyalty, authority, and sanctity whereas i put most emphasis on the first three in the list.

The next time one of my conservative friends tells me I don’t seem to have a moral compass I will remember this article and understand that neither one of us is lacking morality we just cling to a different area of it.