After my Character blog last Friday, BBC News contacted me about the “widespread belief in Japan that character is linked to your blood type.” Since both BBC News and Japan are reputable entities, I cannot dismiss this as fake news. I assume my official Blood Type is “Boiling” because my blood is constantly roiling. It started boiling again when I could not find my blood type designation anywhere in my medical records, even in files my Mother kept dating back to my birth. I assumed Boiling Blood was Type B but discovered in The Japan News that Type B’s are considered “self centered.” Maybe my Mom deleted references to my Blood Type to spare my feelings when my blood did not get an A grade. Donald Trump claims he is Blood Type A+ but will not release medical documentation. Alice Gordenker thinks the selfish reputation for Type B is a bad rap and I am certain my family and friends would be shocked if I were labeled self centered. But still I generally put myself first and always eat the last cookie without offering to share it. And I do hog the computer and forget to water the plants when the official waterers are away. I am very quick to claim credit and shift blame. But other than those charming idiosyncrasies, I am considered a model for unselfishness. I sent an ecare message to my doctor asking how I could find out my Blood Type. She suggested I donate blood and the extractors of that precious fluid could tell me. I have so many excuses why I do not want to do that. I am only anxious to confirm that I am not saddled with Bad Blood.
Month: July 2020
20 Minute Pace
I never thought I could break the twenty minute mile pace barrier when running. Although not officially timed last Sunday, I feel like I did it for a short distance. The accomplishment is difficult because if you run that slow, you are theoretically walking. For two decades my sister-in-law Kristine and I have regularly done long distance training runs together when our schedules permit. She has shortened our course to ten miles the last two years because I cannot go further even when she slows down. I shorten the course further by using knowledge of hypotenuses to angle across lawns and parking lots. The steep uphill climb at the end of the run has forced me to walk more than once. Sometimes I do switchbacks to make a more gradual ascent while gaining back the mileage I eliminated on shortcuts. But lately I have discovered the secret to running straight up the hill. I swing my relatively rested arms in an exaggerated and comical flailing motion that simulates great speed if you abandon science and common sense. The key is to never look down or you will see that your feet are not actually running. But your upper body and your lungs make you feel like you are on a sprint. The route is on a twisting side street so thankfully witnesses are rare. My sister-in-law scampers far out of sight. When I finally emerge around the last corner looking like I am on unwaxed cross country skis, she probably thinks I walked up the hill. And technically I guess she is right. My philosophy of life is coming into focus as I realize my advice in yesterday’s Blog was to just move your lips if you do not know the words to a prayer.
Pandemic First Communion
I attended a First Holy Communion Mass on Saturday. Preparation classes were cancelled in March and the event was rescheduled a few times. Some parents chose an August option or deferred to 2021. Eight children participated in the July ceremony. Guests were restricted to close family and a total of 24 were approved. The eight small groups were dispersed far apart in an otherwise empty church. Everyone wore masks for an hour and thirty minutes of preparation and Mass. The children briefly removed masks twice: first for an individual head shot photo when entering the Church and later when transferring the host from hand to mouth. Protocols included no group photo, no singing, no readings by the children, no Offertory presentation of the gifts, no wine from the Cup, and no leaving the pews to take pictures. The parish administrator emailed a reminder that Father Tony expected all the children to know the words to the Our Father, so we repeatedly practiced reciting that prayer for 24 hours beforehand. I chanted the words whenever my granddaughter was within earshot. I counseled her how she could echo the words a half beat late during the recitation by the Congregation. I told her to keep her mouth moving even if she was not saying anything. Of course I realized during Mass that no one could tell who was saying any prayer because all mouths were masked. Now the children just need to live long enough to be interviewed and celebrated as last survivors of the great Coronavirus Pandemic when they can tell their grandchildren and others what it was like.
Stopping at Nothing
Why do interviewers keep asking Donald Trump if he is going to accept the results of the Presidential election if he loses? Why are we legitimizing that plan by suggesting the option is worth considering? Of course he is not going to accept results of a loss. He did not accept the results when he won in 2016. You might as well ask him if William Barr is going to announce the week before the election that Jill Biden is under investigation for running a prostitution ring. If the Obama administration could torpedo Hilary with that strategy, imagine the plans the Republicans already have in the works. They are anxious for Joe Biden to announce his running mate so they can shut down multiple fictional investigations and concentrate on just one smear strategy. We were worried Trump might impulsively send troops to attack other countries. No one should have suggested he could just as easily invade American cities. He is dangerous enough without giving him ideas. On July 21, he addressed the pandemic by promising, “My administration will stop at nothing to save lives.” I think he has been stopped at nothing for too long. The news cycles are already exciting. We do not need to further jack up ratings by asking if he has considered killing people who test positive for COVID-19 as a way to stop the spread of the virus.
I was born in Westchester County, New York, while my parents were on a summer break at the home of my maternal grandparents. But the first 11.5 years of my life were officially spent in Michigan where my paternal grandparents lived. I resided first in Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor, Pittsfield) before we migrated to the Detroit area in adjacent Wayne County. My spiritualist daughter-in-law Joanna recently sent me materials about The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. I am Joanna’s dedicated disciple because her regular emails provide needed source material for daily blogging. Milton Rokeach conducted a famous experiment at Ypsilanti State Hospital in Washtenaw County with three paranoid schizophrenics who all claimed to be Jesus Christ. He encouraged them to interact, confronted them with their conflicting claims, and manipulated their delusions by inventing messages from imaginary characters. They were not cured, experienced much distress, and Rokeach later apologized for the ethical breach. The township of Ypsilanti (aka Ypsi) was named after Demetrios Ypsilantis, a hero in the Greek War of Independence who was blessed with a memorable name. Inhabitants of Ypsilanti who migrated from Appalachia were called Ypsituckians. My grandparents from Kentucky were lured to Michigan by the automobile industry and were presumably comfortable among such people of similar heritage. But the term Ypsitucky is now considered derogatory and has fallen into disfavor. If Russia keeps interfering in American elections, the bust of Demetrios Ypsilantis in front of the Ypsilanti Water Tower may be torn down since he served in the Russian Imperial Army. This would be a shame because all the Ypsi words are so much fun to say. Thankfully, the name Washtenaw seems to have escaped controversy. Domino Pizza is the 11th largest employer in the County with 812 employees and Domituckians seem comfortable with their image.
If two friends ask you to be judge in a dispute, don’t accept because you will lose one friend; on the other hand, if two strangers come with the same request, accept because you will gain one friend. This bit of wisdom is attributed to St. Augustine. I actually do have two friends but neither one would ask me to be a judge in a dispute. As for the strangers, gaining an enemy is too dangerous to be worth a corresponding gain of a friend in the bargain. I feel a bit sheepish for exposing a rare omission and sloppy thinking by someone as brilliant as St. Augustine. He cannot expect to get it right every time. My disappointment is more than offset by the elation, giddiness even, of being able to improve on the words of St. Augustine. Ironically, if I needed a judge in a dispute, my first pick would be St. Augustine if I knew I was right. If I was in the wrong, I would choose Donald Trump to arbitrate the case.
Alex Gregory has a cartoon where one dog is telling another one: “I had my own blog for awhile, but I decided to go back to just pointless, incessant barking.” The dog who is speaking has a self awareness. The downside of such awareness can be bouts with self loathing. But think of all the humor you miss if you are either too good or too obtuse to self loathe. My best material comes from things I hate about myself. Unfortunately my best material is not quite good enough. Apparently I do not hate myself enough. I am like the scratch golfer who misses just one putt too many every round. That is the difference between being just the best golfer in your circle and actually qualifying for a professional golf tour. In my short golf career, I missed the crucial putt on every hole and sliced my drives twice per hole. But why quibble? If you miss the cut, nobody remembers whether you were one stroke or ten strokes off. I am lucky that self loathing can improve barking because it definitely made my golf game worse. I hate that my bogey loathing does not rise to a comical double bogey level. But I work on it every single day looking for that Rodney Dangerfield breakthrough.
Dr. Dan Crystal has a slide in one of his presentations that defines “character” as how you treat people who can do nothing for you. I am an ideal human test vehicle because I am the universal someone who cannot do much of anything for anyone. So people who are nice to me rate very high on the test of character. When I was climbing a Corporate hierarchy, I did have a few years when some co-workers felt I could do something for them. And some of those people who treated me well had an ulterior motive. Retirement weeded those allies out when I could no longer give quo for their quid. And frankly I miss many of them. The gist of Dr. Crystal’s message is the same one promoted by photographer Robert Capa: “Like people and let them know it.” You can raise your character score easier than your credit score just by treating all people well, whether they can do something for you or not. The next best category must be the non hypocrites who treat you poorly even though you can do something for them. This is not as rare as you might imagine, especially if you are a parent. I could have treated my parents better considering how much potential they had to do good things for me. I was nice enough to them but I was always a minimalist. What is the exact minimum I need to do to satisfy my parents? I found that sweet spot. But the minimalist strategy is dangerous because in my experience the slightest miscalculations lead to dating disasters, flunking exams, and missing promotions.
President Trump claims he aced a challenging mental test last Fall when aides rushed him to the hospital to determine whether he was cognitively impaired. He is proud he could identify the elephant in the room and correctly subtract 7 from 100. The actual results have not been released but William Barr has provided a summary interpretation of the medical assessments. If Joe Biden accepts the challenge to take the same mental acuity test for the aged, he should first demand a level playing field. Donald Trump has surrogates he pays to take his tests, dating back to the SATs and his Selective Service Physical. Trump cannot even find his tax returns which is a lucky break for him because apparently they are riddled with math errors. Biden should be allowed to prove that he can find better test takers and assessors (perhaps Dr. Fauci) than Trump before we decide between the two candidates. We should also factor into an overall fitness score the results of morality tests Don and Joe have been taking over the last 70 years. The Donald will have to subtract much more than 7 from 100. We should not forget to award points for the one who has the biggest hands, hottest wife, and best hair. Before Trump and Biden go too far down this trail, they need to consider whether they will be proving that many others are more qualified than either of them to be President.
Eating Kettle Corn from a giant bag puts me in a stupor. I can ignore the popcorn treat for the longest time. But if someone passes me the bag umpteen times, I eventually sample a few puffed up kernels. That action sends a message to my brain that only Kettle Corn will save me from imminent starvation. No one ever rescues me because they are celebrating their own success at unloading the bag on another addict. If I consume the Kettle Corn while watching clips from America’s Funniest Home Videos, the combination is deadly. Neither the snack nor the videos are anywhere near guilty pleasures, so the temporary mind numbing addiction defies logic. If I were watching Better Call Saul episodes while drinking milk shakes and eating oatmeal raisin cookies, I could understand the hypnotic effect. Unfortunately, Dr. Fauci is too busy to explain the science behind this remarkable riddle. One day in late 2016, I went into a Kettle Corn trance and experienced hallucinations that trapped me in an alternate universe. I have been trying to find my way back but everyone I encounter is wearing a mask and trying to avoid me. So I recognize no one. When I look in the mirror, I do not even recognize myself. I think I might be a leper in a leper colony. Or at least I could pass for one. I suspect the inmates are running the colony. Kettle Corn is everywhere and the video clips are hysterical.