Functions

Are people like functions,
getting called,
taking their arguments,
ultimately to exit,
yielding their return value?

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A Nation In Crisis

American officials have recently asserted that the 2016 Presidential Election may have been tampered with by a foreign power, by unlawfully gaining access to the information system one of the two major parties in favor of the other. We have also seen a massive disinformation campaign through social media and entire professional-looking fradulent news websites which cropped up just in time to sway the election, again in favor of the same candidate.

Given the gravity of this accusation, a full investigation is needed, both by the Executive branch and Congress. The Electoral College should and must postpone its duties until this investigation is complete. Any other course of action risks compromising the security of the United States of America. If a full investigation reveals that a foreign power did not, in fact, intervene in favor of one candidate, the Electoral College should certainly carry out its duties as intended. But given the unprecedented and dangerous nature of this accusation, I am in favor of a postponement, pending investigation.

A word on motive and motivation: I am not writing this because “my side lost”, per se, given that I never felt personally that “my side” was ever represented in the first place. I am writing this because if these official allegations are true, then this is simply the most prudent course of action: allow our Republican-led Congress to lead a formal, nonpartisan investigation of the allegations before the Electoral College convenes.

A delay is unfortunate, and uncomfortable, and may even make many voters angry. But again, if these allegations are true, the truth must be determined before it is too late.


Home Improvement

I recently watched an instructional video on home improvement, and I was struck by how deeply into the presentation the language of business was embedded.  For example, when deciding what kind of cabinets to buy for a kitchen, the host recommends that for luxury homes, one purchase the finest fixtures available, since lower quality fixtures could reduce the value of the home.  On the other hand, for “normal” homes, one should purchase cheaper cabinets, since having the finest quality available would not necessarily increase the value of the home.  The question of which fixtures the people living in the house would actually enjoy is never addressed.  Even safety is discussed primarily in terms of financial liability: if someone is injured due to construction work on a home, is the contractor liable, or the homeowner?

In other words, the top priority of the instructor appears to be maximizing the financial value of the house while minimizing costs and liability.  One of the disturbing assumptions underlying this perspective is that the home is seen as an inherently temporary product, intended more to be sold than lived in.  In this view,  the home is reduced from being the intergenerational nexus of a family’s life to being a commodified “vehicle” expected to provide a good “return on investment” (ROI).

Why would anyone plant a tree on such a property, given that the tree could take decades to mature (and only then serve its intended purpose, ROI), long after the house is expected to be sold, and even resold?  In his “Last Lecture“, Randy Pausch implores parents to allow their children to color on the walls, as his did.  What role could a child play in such a house, other than staying out of the way, for fear of doing something that would (heaven forbid) reduce the value of the property?

Thus what should be the primary focus of home improvement, building a beautiful, loving, warm, and safe long-term environment for family and friends is mutated into a heartless business venture that is crippled by the binary logic of the balance sheet.  It is, of course, wise to keep a place for cost-consciousness in any large project, but let us not allow cost-consciousness to supersede the higher consciousness of building a true home.


Fruit

Once I bit lustily from the fruit;
until the shivering insult of rot
learned me to be cautious forever.


Flea Market

“That’s $14.35.”

“Fourteen… thirty-five?” He felt stupid saying it so slowly, but it sounded wrong.

“Yep,” the woman sitting on the other side of the table said.  He thought he saw a slight leer.  “You want it?”

“Ummm, well, I, uh, hmmm…” He had an uncomfortable sense that she somehow understood his disfluencies better than he did.  “I’m not sure, hmmm.  What is it?”

“It’s a clock. Antique. It’s worth at least a hundred and fifty but I gotta get rid of it.”

“A deal,” he thought. “Maybe. This lady knows what she’s doing. Probably not $150, maybe less, but who knows? Maybe it’s worth even more.  I could get Sam to look at it… Besides, it would look good on the bookcase, next to the lamp.”

What he said was, “Huh,” but again he sensed that she was reading him more closely than he would have liked.

The vendor sat at the edge of a plastic folding chair, arms folded, with raven-black hair, wearing a dark purple dress made of what looked like velvet, the steward of a table covered with old dolls, old bottles, old mirrors, objects waiting for a place to go besides the dump.  The table’s faux oak veneer was peeling, revealing the damaged particleboard underneath.

“It’s nice,” she said.

It was, he agreed. But it also looked heavy, and he had a long train ride home.

“Yeah…” He started to pull back.

“You can have it for ten. I gotta get rid of it.”

He tried to remember what was in his wallet. Did he have a ten? He was pretty sure he had a twenty, but sometimes these flea market people didn’t have change, and they had to go to the next table, to their… friends? Probably more of a you-scratch-my-back kind of situation (now that was an old saying). Anyway, he definitely didn’t have… fourteen-thirty-five, and didn’t feel like spending more time with this transaction than necessary, and already regretted following his curiosity to this weird place, and this weird woman, with her weird table, but if he had a ten on him, what the hell, it was a nice… clock, or whatever it was.  It didn’t look like a clock to him, but it looked old and ornate and brassy, and they don’t make things like they used to, and it would give his apartment a slightly classier feel, and… She was staring at him, waiting, waiting for a decision, while he tried to remember if he had broken a twenty recently… He had! Yesterday, when he stopped by the deli to get a coffee.  The guy hadn’t been crazy about giving him nineteen dollars in change, either.

“Sure,” he said.

He took out his wallet.  There was no ten, only three twenties and a few singles.  He blankly handed her a twenty.

“Hold on, I’ll get you your change,” she said, and headed to the adjacent table.

“Careful, it’s heavy.”


Gluten Free

Hey, how you doin’ little pizza pie?
You are the apple cobbler of my eye;
You look like a panini fallen from the sky;
Just a little taste of you I wanna try;

Gluten Free! Gluten Free!
Gluten Free! Gluten Free!

Hey my lasagna babe you look so fine;
My little cupcake yeah – you’ll soon be mine;
Delicious canolies all in a line;
If I can’t eat you up it would be a crime;

Gluten Free! Gluten Free!
Gluten Free! Gluten Free!

(Bridge)

I want to slurp you up just like spaghetti;
Warm you like toast that’s nice and bready;
Run my fingers through your raw cookie dough;
Why I can’t have you baby I just don’t know;

(Instrumental)

My cookie cuttin’ days are just about through;
My angel cake went and left me too;
No devil’s food for me, you know it’s true;
Babe I’d go hungry if it weren’t for you;

Gluten Free! Gluten Free!
Gluten Free! Gluten Free!
Gluten Free! Gluten Free!
Gluten Free! Gluten Free!


A Plea to Iowans on the Eve of the Caucus

I am writing on the eve of the Iowa caucus with a plea to voters in Iowa, many who see Donald Trump as the answer to American’s problems.

He is not.  His rhetoric against Islam and Muslims is already pouring gasoline on a conflagration, serving no other purpose, and his election to the presidency would have the effect of increasing the quantity of gasoline a million-fold.  Members of the three great monotheistic religions have coexisted peacefully together before, so it is not without precedent that I still have cautious optimism that it can happen again in my lifetime.

I cannot speak for all Americans, but I do not want my president to lead my country into a religious war with Islam.  There can be no winner in such a war.  The dangers are too great.  And the only security system in the world that can prevent random attacks is a totalitarian one.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency would only escalate the tension between Islam and the West.  I am concerned that his election could lead to a thermonuclear event in the next ten years, on one side or the other.

Again, today I plead with my fellow American citizens of the great state of Iowa.  Please do not elect Mr. Trump to be leader of the Free World.  We will be more safe and secure as a country without the terrifying drastic measures he has proposed.

Thank you for reading this.

Daniel M. Tsadok