#270 solo flight

“I must learn to love the fool in me

the one who feels too much,

talks too much,

takes too many chances,

wins sometimes and loses often,

lacks self-control,

loves and hates,

hurts and gets hurt,

promises and breaks promises,

laughs and cries.”

Theodore Isaac Rubin

 

 “He is his own best friend, and takes delight in privacy

whereas

the man of no virtue or ability is his own worst enemy

and is afraid of solitude.”

Aristotle

 

  “You have brains in your head.

You have feet in your shoes.

You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

You’re on your own.

And you know what you know.

You’re the guy who’ll decide where to go.”

Dr Seuss

 

Never, never, never say die walking the last leg of life’s journey alone on earth.

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#268 thrift

THRIFT

is inscribed on a polished block of marble in the center of Rockefeller Center in New York City.

Built during the Great Depression, this building is a monument to the wealth and power of John D. Rockefeller —

“Thrift is essential to well-ordered living.”

 

Sir John M. Templeton (1912-2008) wrote:

“The qualities that distinguish

thriftiness from mere cheapness

are noteworthy.

Thrift is part of wisdom.

Thrift and gratitude,

thrift and ethical standards, and

thrift and hard work

all go hand in hand.

The Bible, literature, poetry, and philosophy,

as well as examples from daily life and most faith traditions,

demonstrate that thrift is

more than just understanding the bottom line.

Indeed thrift is

part of a religious and cultural understanding of

how we use our time, our talents, and our resources.

As inherently virtuous as thrifty living is,

its capacity for leading to deep joy is severely limited

if its goals are merely self-serving.

On the other hand, when thrift is combined with the virtue of generosity,

when empathy opens the doors for channeling the thriftiness to generosity,

the potential for good is greatly magnified.”

#259 true champion athlete

After watching the interview of Marion Jones-Thompson on the Oprah Show here in Singapore today, I was moved to tears as Marion stood out a true athlete and a champion.

Yes, she went to prison on March 2008 for six months for lying to Federal agents about UNKNOWINGLY taking performance-enhancement drugs during the Olympic Games in Sydney and she had apologised publicly to the world but in my heart Marion Jones will remain the fastest woman athlete. Sadly she will not return to running again.

She looks as beaming and beautiful today. Throughout the interview she fielded Oprah’s questions rather matter of factly with occasional tears and I could not, for a moment sense slight of bitterness.

From Oprah Show

Marion says was allowed to bring only a tiny number of personal possessions to jail with her—a Bible, a few photos, and a list of important addresses and phone numbers. Marion says she spent much of her six-month sentence writing to friends and family. “I learned that the only real way that I could communicate how I was feeling, how I was doing, with my family—in particular my husband—was to write long letters every day,” she says. “About important stuff, mundane stuff, my feelings on how I feel about the boys, where I’m at, who I’m meeting, the incredible stories that these women are sharing with me.”

Since her release, Marion says she has a newfound love for her freedom. “I appreciate so much more now the little things—going to the supermarket, being able to buy whatever I want,” she says. “There are days where I drive to pick up my son, and I just thank God that he’s given me the gift to do that. There are so many days when I was in prison when I had wished I could have … just held my kids or picked up the phone and called my best friend.”

While she was disappointed to be sent away, Marion says she believes her sentence was fair. “I believe in the legal system, Oprah, and I didn’t want to go,” she says. “Sure, I can compare my story to recent stories about other athletes or other people who were involved in certain situations and didn’t get much time. It would be easy to do that. It would be easy to point the finger and say, ‘It’s the judge.’ Or it’s that. But you know what? It’s me. I made the bad choice to put my future and my freedom in somebody else’s hands to make that choice for me. I did that. And because of that, I have to live with it.”

Marion says her experience has taught her to question other people’s motives. It has also forced her to realize she can no longer hide behind athletic prowess. “In the past, it was ‘Marion Jones, the athlete.’ And Marion Jones, the person, a lot of times, got to hide behind that. And while I was in prison, I learned that I used the athlete part of it all as a cover for a lot of my weaknesses. I think a lot of the choices that I made in the past were because of those weaknesses,” she says. “Now, of course, I don’t have that cover anymore and I have really had to find out who I am.”

With her life of athletic competition and very public legal ordeals behind her, Marion says she is eager for the future. “I am energized by this next chapter. I think really it’s going to be bigger and better than that last,” she says. “My goal now is to find out how to connect with people on a much bigger level. How can I help young people make certain choices and not make certain bad choices like I did? … What am I going to do with this negative experience and turn it into a positive?”

#244 change

To exist is to change,

to change is to mature,

to mature is to go on

creating oneself endlessly.

French Philosopher Henri Bergson (1859-1941)

#243

It is  NOT

the strongest of the species that survives,

nor the most intelligent;

 

it  IS 

the one

that is most adaptable to

change.

Scientist Charles Darwin

#239 oldest person in the world

Can you imagine living to 130 years old?

From the news on the BBC, I read and viewed this — Sohan Dosovah from Kazakhstan, the oldest person in the world — her eyes still bright and alert:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/7992696.stm.

Kazakhstan’s famous ‘130-year-old’

By Rayhan Demytrie
BBC News, Karaganda, Kazakhstan

Sohan Dosova pictured on the front page of a local newspaper

“Do you remember Tsar Nikolai’s era? When the Red Army came and when Vladimir Lenin died? Well I do. So take a guess how old I am.”

Meet Sohan Dosova – the newly found treasure of Kazakhstan. She is 130 years old, at least she is according to her documents.

The Soviet passport issued in the early 1980s states that Sohan Dosova was born in the Karaganda region on 27 March 1879.

Now after a new national census in Kazakhstan, she has been “rediscovered”.

“This is a truly unique case,” says Ludmila Kolesova, the head of Karaganda region statistics agency.

“According to international standards we do not usually seek proof of ID when collecting census data, but when it came to Sohan Dosova we had to check her documents and verify this information with the social services department. They confirmed her date of birth.”

Tea with butter

Sohan Dosova can still walk, albeit with great care, assisted by a walking stick.

She eats slowly, and her favourite snack is bread soaked in tea. Sohan chews her food with a single remaining tooth.

Sohan Dosova
Sohan says she can no longer dance, but she enjoys singing

“My secret is to add butter to my cup of tea; this is how Kazakhs like their tea,” says Sohan, speaking a mixture of Kazakh and Russian.

She can still see, but has hearing problems, so most of the communication is done via her granddaughters – and there is no shortage of them.

Sohan had 10 children, and three of them are still alive. Her son had seven children. One of two daughters had six children, and the other, 22.

“There is a small tribe of great-grandchildren,” says 53-year-old Gulgoim, her eldest granddaughter. But when pressed, Gulgoim was unable to say just how many.

Sohan Dosova has lived her entire life in Aul, a village in the central Karaganda region, the industrial heart of the country.

Most of the population work in the coal mining industry. Semipalatinsk, the first Soviet nuclear test site, is nearby.

Some of Sohan’s grandchildren are mentally ill. They are among thousands believed to have been victims of Soviet nuclear experiments.

But Sohan has stayed healthy.

“She is in good shape, alert and active,” says Valentina Shamardina, a family doctor with 40 years experience.

“In my whole career I never came across cases like this. When I first arrived to do a check-up I demanded to see her passport and it all looked correct.

“I’ve never heard of anyone living that long.”

Frequent visitors

If Mrs Dosova really is 130 years old, that would make her the oldest person in the world. But if she ever had a birth certificate, it no longer exists.

Sohan Dosova's Soviet passport issued in the early 1980s
A Soviet passport issued in the early 1980s makes Sohan Dosova 130

In fact few rural Kazakhs born in those days are likely to have been registered. It was common for people to make up their date of birth.

Her true age is simply impossible to establish. But the local media is satisfied she’s the oldest woman in Kazakhstan.

Since the results of the census were made public, journalists have become frequent visitors to Sohan’s fifth floor apartment.

“This place is small, I need a bigger flat,” says Sohan. “There are too many people living in this crowded apartment, there is not enough room.”

Certainly her family appear to be hopeful that all the media attention might result in an improvement to Sohan’s living conditions.

But up to now, no benefactor has been forthcoming. So Sohan continues to live a simple existence in her old age, watching television, laughing and smiling.

Her granddaughter Nuken claims she loves dancing, but Sohan says she is too old for that now.

“I can’t dance, my knees hurt… But I can sing.” And so she gives a gruff rendition of her favourite Kazakh song.

#234 thot-provoking

I read this piece on blog ‘a baseline scenario’ written by Sanjiv Gupta for Huffington Post (?) dated on 10 March 2009 under the title — The Change We Need I: A Bank for America — :

 …Rather, I want to use the crisis in our financial system to pose a fundamental question about our political system.

Consider: What is democracy?

We normally think of democracy in terms of some essential, precious rights not available in any other political system, not the least of which are the right to vote that made Obama President, and the right to express ourselves freely on websites like this one.

But now we’re compelled to ask: What does democracy mean when our lives can be so drastically affected by the Market, in which the most powerful players are people we haven’t elected, and institutions in which most of us have little say?

When the Market, an entirely human creation, can ruin us as effectively as a hurricane, sweeping hundreds of thousands of us from our homes, destroying the livelihoods of millions more, and washing away the retirement security of an entire generation?

When the actions of organizations wholly unaccountable to us can imperil our public libraries, parks, fire departments, and schools? When many of our elected representatives have facilitated these actions instead of protecting our interests?

If there is a positive side to the financial crisis, it is this: We can no longer avoid confronting the limits of our democracy when our lives and communities are thrown into such violent disarray by individuals and organizations so completely outside our reckoning. (3)

It is this same crisis, moreover, that points the way toward a more complete democracy, one in which we will have greater control over the financial system. That is because the core of any government strategy to rescue this system will be — and already has been — a massive injection of our money into it.

If we’re going to pay to save the financial system, we have the right to shape its future.

Banking and credit are the economy’s air and water. They’re too important to be left entirely to private operators whose only concern is maximizing short term profits. Yet even the most ardent mainstream proponents of nationalization assume that once this crisis passes, the government should, and will, re-privatize any financial institutions it takes over.

What then? What is to prevent these organizations from continuing to invent ever more destructive “financial weapons of mass destruction?” (4) Will they be any more accountable to us after the next cycle of boom, bubble and bust?

It is time we considered the possibility of permanent public ownership and control of a large part of the nation’s system of savings and lending.

How might this work? One way is the creation of a national public bank along the lines of a credit union. Credit unions are owned not by shareholders but by their depositors, or members. We would own a national credit union in which all of us could be members.

A national credit union would combine our deposits into a huge pool of capital to lend, invest, and do all the other things banks do. Crucially, we would exercise far greater control over such a bank than we ever could over institutions like Bank of America. Credit union members vote for their board of directors. Unlike private banks, in which the greatest influence is exercised by those with the largest number of shares, every member enjoys the same voice in a credit union — one depositor, one vote.

Would a national credit union be competitive with large private banks? Like existing credit unions, it would return profits directly to us in the form of favorable interest rates for loans and deposits. For example the typical yield on certificates of deposit at the largest credit union in my area is about one percent higher than Bank of America’s, and the yield on its best checking account is over 4%, compared to less than 1% for BoA. (5)

A national bank structured along these lines may also be safer than large private banks. Credit union managers are salaried employees who earn wage increases rather than exorbitant bonuses for good performance, which reduces their incentive to take wild risks with members’ money. This would not by itself guarantee the stability of a national credit union, but its managers and directors would at least be accountable to us if things went wrong.

This is just one way the government could use our money to create a national public bank; there are other possibilities. (6) Whatever its specific form, a permanent national bank could compete with private banks and demonstrate the benefits of a financial institution owned by, and accountable to, the people.

At stake here is not solely or even most importantly the stability of our banks; rather, it is the very character of our democracy. A large, public financial sector could be a critical piece of a new democracy in which we cannot be held hostage by organizations over which we have no control. In this new democracy, the heresy would be not the notion of public ownership of financial institutions, but rather the idea that these institutions should exert so much power over our lives without being accountable to us.

Let us use this crisis to move ourselves in the direction of such a democracy. Let us demand that the government use our money not merely to bail out Bank of America but to create a new Bank for America.
NOTES

…3. Simon Johnson, ex-chief economist at the IMF and currently at the MIT Sloan School of Management, has been one of the few mainstream commentators to correctly identify the financial meltdown as not just an economic crisis but a deeply political one. “This is, after all, a critical fight to save American democracy, and it’s good to know what we are up against.”

4. This is the now famous formulation of Warren Buffett in his 2002 letter to investors in his mutual fund (p. 15).

5. One reason this credit union may be able to offer better rates is that membership in it is open only to employees of the local educational institutions. This may be a more stable base of depositors than most private banks like BoA, and translate into better rates. This could be a problem for a large national bank open to all.

6. Gerald Epstein, an economist at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, advocates a reversal of the proposal that the government should detoxify bank balance sheets by buying their bad assets. “A much better approach is to turn the formula on its head. Let the taxpayers keep the good banks and leave the bad ones for the bankers…And the bankers will have to deal with their own mess, rather than foisting it off on the rest of us.” With the new good banks, the government could create “a completely different banking environment, one with a completely different mandate and incentives” and considerably greater public accountability.