Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Who to Help and Who to Kill

December 31, 2016

Volunteering

Because we adjuncts are so poorly paid at Pima College, I have pretended that I’m getting twice the pay half of the time, and the other half of the time I’m volunteering.  But I continue, even though I meant to completely retire. When the head of the department, at the end of the semester, said that one of the instructors for the Writing Fundamentals class had bowed out, and asked if I would teach another class, I said yes.

senior-transI’ve also decided that I need to help more than my students.  (Did connect on of my students last semester to Helping Hands for Single Moms, which provides scholarships and services for single mom college student families.)  Shall be going through orientation for ICS (Interfaith Community Services) – Helping Seniors and Individuals with Disabilities Stay Safe and Independent, as a Senior Services Driver – providing transportation to doctor’s appointments, the pharmacy, the grocery store, etc.1

I know that it’s more than the transportation, but the companionship. When I had done Christmas at Primavera1, which has a temporary shelter for the homeless south of town, (with my mother and possibly my children – it was years ago), we were asked not only to bring food,  but to sit and listen to their individual stories.

Sure, this is through a church group, and most of you know that I don’t go to church, as I can plainly see that if there is a god, he or she doesn’t micromanage, or we wouldn’t have such horrible natural disasters, wars, diseases, and overpopulation, so prayer does nothing.  But if churches, synagogues, mosques want to help others, I’m all for that.

Charity

I believe that I got ripped off.  A few months ago a couple of young people at a table outside Lee Lee International Supermarket were asking for contributions to ChildFund International Guardian Angels.  The brochures were glossy and the pitch sounded legit.  But they said that I had to sign up for at least $30/ month to sponsor a child.  They took my email address to send the receipt, and since then I have gotten at least two junk emails a day for EnhanceMind IQ <EnhanceMind@nd1.kndrako.site>, Military Flashlight <Military@nd1.kndrako.site>, Choice Home Warranty <Choice@clouacierl.xyz>, and so on.  It took me a while of tossing them into the Junk Email folder to realize that I should Block them.  (Done.)  But after three months I tryied to cancel the money being taken out automatically on my credit card by ChildFund, and hadn’t gotten an answer since my email on December 18, nor a returned call from a message I left (with an actual person) on December 22.  Finally, a chirpy woman called on December 27 to say that yes, they’d cancel but wouldn’t I like to give only $10 a month.  Apparently that had always been a choice, but it was not given to me.  I declined.  Here is a lawyer’s take on the charity:

childfund
The ‘Kids Wish Network’… has doled out less than three cents for every dollar contributed over the last ten years. $110 million donated by people thinking they were helping sick kids has gone into their own pockets. Another $4.8 million has gone to the founder and his consulting firms. It’s rather shameless that on their own website they claim 100% of donations to “Kids Wish Network’s Guardian Angel Fund will go directly to supporting our kids through our services and programs.” I sense some lawyerly dissemination there. Do they mean the donations go directly to the kids, or that they go to their companies which operate the charity and ‘support’ kids? That second interpretation is MUCH different from suggesting the money goes straight to the kids and I suspect it’s what is actually going on.

The strange thing is that apparently watchdog groups think a legitimate charity should spend about 35% of donations on direct aid. If you’re good enough to really pick a great name, throw together a great website with a link for donations, and then get some great pictures of sick or hungry kids (remember Sally Struthers and the Child Fund?) you can operate a legal money-making machine on a grand scale. If you keep your overhead low you should have no problems tossing a few dollars here and there to real charitable causes to get close to the 35% guideline and stay off the bad list. I mean, hey – if you bring in $200,000 this year you can spare $50,000 if it goes to a soup kitchen or something. Of course running one of these fake charities really depends on your ability to stomach all that ripping off of well-meaning people who think they are trying to help some dying three-year old kid in Africa. But if you can do that then you are in business.3

Who to Kill

Interesting article: Self-driving cars are already deciding who to kill.4  I thought I had already written about the trolley problem, an ethical conundrum, but I can’t find it in any old blog.  This from Wikipedia:

trolley_problemThe general form of the problem is this: There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railway tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. The trolley is headed straight for them. You are standing some distance off in the train yard, next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks. However, you notice that there is one person on the side track. You have two options: (1) Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track. (2) Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person. Which is the most ethical choice?

So the programmers of the Autonomous Vehicles have to decide who to kill:

The most well-known issues in AV ethics are trolley problems — moral questions dating back to the era of trolleys that ask whose lives should be sacrificed in an unavoidable crash. For instance, if a person falls onto the road in front of a fast-moving AV, and the car can either swerve into a traffic barrier, potentially killing the passenger, or go straight, potentially killing the pedestrian, what should it do?4

“Poetry”

NPR discussed Ring Lardner this morning.  He wrote poems about when each of the boys were born. His wife insisted they name Ring Jr. after himself, so he writes,5

When you are christened Ringworm, by humorists and wits
When people pun about you, till they drive you into fits
When funny folks say ‘Ring, ring off!’ until they make you ill
Remember that your poor old dad tried hard to name you Bill.

1https://www.icstucson.org/
2http://www.primavera.org/index_flash.html
3https://lawyerrant.wordpress.com/favorite-scams/fake-charity-scam/
4http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/technologyinvesting/self-driving-cars-are-already-deciding-who-to-kill/ar-BBxI6mq?li=BBnbfcL&ocid=mailsignout
5http://www.npr.org/2016/12/31/507595363/lost-journalism-revisits-the-golden-age-of-ring-lardner

God

January 28, 2015

I know, it’s an age old phrase that many people use – “You shouldn’t talk about religion or politics.”   Oh well.

This from Sunday’s NY Times:

[Pope Francis] was on the papal plane, en route from the Philippines back to Italy, and he was reflecting on the relationship between third-world poverty and extra-large families. He told reporters that Catholics needn’t feel compelled to breed “like rabbits,” a zoological simile that’s sure to have legs.1

OMG!  (A bad expression for me, as I have no god.)  But imagine if the pope figures out that families would do better with only two children.  Maybe he could start handing out condoms to the poorest of the poor?  Zero Population Growth2 would help solve most of the world’s problems.  (See my note towards the bottom of my blog, October Evening3.)

God and Me

… But what is he

Who fills the world with trees and stars
And leaves us alone
With our wars and atrocities
Our deadly human nature
Our sad dominion over the fish and the fowl

Look
No one knows why
There is so much silence in the upper spheres
And so much suffering down here

The Almighty skipped over our houses4

— Edward Hirsch

Seen today

OK, a lighter topic.  In my neighborhood – a woman driving a golf cart as she walked her dog.  At the college – a guy with short hair except a long swirl of orange sherbet hiding half of his face.

Life in the Universe

In January/ February of each year the University of Arizona’s College of Science offers free evening lectures once a week at Centennial Hall.  (Of course, because they’re free, the audience is mostly retired people, which means that if you get there half an hour early, you won’t find a seat.  We ended up sitting behind the camera, leaning way over in each direction to see the stage.  Oh, and talking about the camera, these lectures are recorded.5)

I had previously attended Living Beyond 1006 and Genomics Now7.  (These lectures from previous years can be seen on http://cos.arizona.edu/podcasts or chose a lecture from a previous year here and watch it on youtube: http://cos.arizona.edu/connections/ua-science-lecture-series.)  This year’s series concerns Life in the Universe8, and the first lecture on Monday night was What is Life? presented by a Jesuit Brother, Guy J. Consolmagno (BA and MA from MIT, PhD from U of A, postdoc at Harvard and MIT, and served in the Peace Corps in Kenya before he took vows as a brother, now Planetary Scientist, Vatican Observatory Research Group), who was a fantastic speaker!  He even got Stephen Colbert cracking up on the Cobert Report9.  Marvelous sense of humor.  Our hour listening to him went all too fast.  (But the conclusion was that there is little agreement among scientists on What is Life?)

Riffing on Cobert’s comments (watch that video), I had read The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber10 back in December.  Plot: a preacher goes to another planet in another galaxy to convert the natives, along with a group of people going there to colonize and mine the planet, leaving his wife back on a collapsing earth.  Not your typical scifi, but I was rather captivated.  (Note: you have to employ suspension of disbelief as Peter has to be put into a state of suspended animation to travel the vast distance to the planet, but emails to and from him and his wife go through almost immediately.)

1http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/25/opinion/sunday/frank-bruni-pope-francis-birth-control-and-american-catholics.html
2http://www.populationconnection.org/site/PageServer (ZPG is now Population Connection.)
3https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2014/10/10/october-evening/
4http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/27/miquel-barcelo-edward-hirsch-picture-poem/?_r=0
52015 – Each lecture will air on television after a one-week delay on Mondays, beginning February 2 at 8PM. The broadcast will repeat: Tuesdays at 2AM, Fridays at 1PM, Sundays at 1PM and again on Mondays at 12AM and 2PM.
Comcast Subscribers: Channel 76  Cox Subscribers: Channel 116
6https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/100/
7https://notesfromthewest.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/genomics-now/
8http://cos.arizona.edu/connections/life-in-the-universe
9http://www.frequency.com/video/colbert-report-gold-frankincense-mars/69752258
10http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Strange-New-Things/dp/055341884X