Pat Piper has made a career learning something new. As a journalist in the news business, “something new” occurs every hour so he’s becoming an expert at understanding stuff he never thought about. Learning became a common word in “Future Talk: Conversations About Tomorrow” (Warner Books), the popular book he ghostwrote with Larry King as […]

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    Archive for June, 2014

    From the Department of IDGI (I don’t get it)

    By on June 27, 2014 in See It Here
    Six wonderings while wandering:
    1. Why is the column in the New York Post called “Page Six” on page 16?
    2. If John Boehner intends to spend tax payer money to sue President Obama over the issue of executive actions taken by the White House, why hasn’t the Speaker of the House explained how that expenditure is going to be paid for since he insists he won’t pay $18 billion to extend long term unemployment benefits for 5 million people without a job unless it is offset by cutting another government program?
    3. Why do we send 300-plus military advisors to Iraq while saying we won’t have “boots on the ground?” Are they just staying in the air? And remember, Vietnam began with “military advisors” in 1959. And their boots were on the ground.
    4. Why do some say there can be no amnesty in an immigration bill because the 11 million undocumented workers need to pay a fine, get in line for citizenship, learn English while refusing to come up with a plan or the money to send these people back to wherever they came from? And if we don’t know who these people are, how do we know there’s 11 million of them? And if some members of Congress insist on a “secure border first,” why has the Senate plan that doubles the number of agents, extends a border fence by 350 miles and uses drones to patrol possible border crossings been waiting for action for more than a year not been taken up by the House? If the border has to be secured first, isn’t it possible to do the other things at the same time?
    5. Why does President Obama call the group moving on Baghdad ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) while Secretary of State John Kerry calls it ISIL (Islamic State of Syria and Levant)? No wonder we can’t figure out what to do, if anything.
    6. Why is it always the guy five cars behind a red light that has just turned green that honks the horn to get the guy in the first car to go? And why is it always an SUV driver who does this?

    Little Things Isn’t Small Stuff

    By on June 19, 2014 in See It Here

    Some years ago I did an interview with a lady concerned about gated communities. She said it was one more way for people to live in places where everyone looks alike, thinks alike and narrows the chance of finding themselves outside their own comfort zone–read— with other people with different backgrounds. I remember thinking about Pete Seeger’s tune from the ’60’s, “Little Boxes” and seeing subdivisions outside of Gary, Indiana from the window of the South Shore Railroad noticing, as Pete said, “they all look just the same.”

    Now jump to yesterday in Arlington, Virginia where I’m looking for a birthday card. The rows of available cards include “50th Birthday,” “Dog’s Birthday,” “Grandmother Birthday,” “Ex Husband Birthday,” and even cards that can be sent from your iPhone. That’s all nice and I’m sure it makes the receiver of the card feel special because they’re holding a card that has been designed just for them but—-what if you want a blank card where your words can be written?

    That’s what I asked the lady with the spider tattoo on her neck who was pulling cards out of a box and putting them in the display case.

    “We don’t have that,” she answered. “Haven’t seen nothing like that either.”

    Now jump to the Washington DC Metro where about one hundred people are on the blue line train and there’s no talking. Everyone is looking at their smart phones and playing checkers or texting or commenting on someone’s Facebook rant. No conversations.

    A few blocks away is where you-know-what occupies the Capitol building and spends more time with you-know-who with deep pockets than those without. They produce little  of value, save a few new names for Post Office buildings and daily news conferences about why they represent the rest of us–and the others guys don’t. Nothing is getting done because their job is viewed as us against the others instead of all of us finding a solution, despite using the word “bipartisan” as if that’s something extraordinary. There’s no relationship with people who, God forbid, see the same thing differently. Little boxes.

    Civilization is about talking across comfort zones and learning, arguing and then reaching a solution.

    How we doin’ on that one right now?

    We’re not talking to eachother anymore and, in the rare instance we do have a conversation, it’s with familiar faces. Instead, our cards, our reading and our TV/radio/newspaper/magazine viewing is all designed to make it easy not to think.  Our experience has become that card store. Don’t take the time to think, just get the card to do it for you so you need not write anything. Our experience is the TV show where the panelists sit in an echo chamber to explain why the viewer should think the way they do (think of  all the Internet posts that require Snopes in order to check facts).  It’s always easier when people think for you but, it’s not healthy.

    Little boxes are part of the scenery but we need to remember there’s a reason they’re called “little.”

    Sending (and receiving)

    By on June 9, 2014 in See It Here

    The Ability To Hit “Reply”

    Short story:

    I got a flyer in the mail from a guy running for Congress and because I have no life, I sat down on the front steps and actually read the thing. One of the promises he made was “fight climate change.”

    I stopped reading.

    I went to his website and sent a note saying in this world of saying humans have no role in climate change, maybe he should have said “fight climate change deniers.”

    I figured a kid sitting in the office would hit “reply” and say ‘thanks for contacting us, we’ll be in touch with an answer to your question. Your support is needed in the upcoming election.’


    A week later, no reply. So I did something unheard of: I wrote a two-paragraph letter saying ‘I know the campaign is underway with appearances and fund-raising, but I sent this a week ago and never heard anything’ and put it in the mail.

    Nothing came back. It’s been a week.

    In this world of “I’ve been busy” as the most annoying excuse for not doing something, I worry we’ve become numb to the fact “reply” is just a click that will keep us from all the other other pressing issues (that we know aren’t pressing whatsoever but the eBay bid really was just accepted). Apple and Dell could sell a lot of computers without “reply.” Life would be less complicated and offices would become more efficient. But that’s the problem: they aren’t. Technology is great but we’re still learning how to use it. The sad part of this is we do know how to use it but prefer to avoid hitting “reply.” And that suggests we have even considered doing it.

    Makes me wonder how this guy will do if he ever gets into office? I’m going to hit “reply” when I vote tomorrow.