Category Archives: lp3

Black Friday Memo: Unthankful

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and I was thankful for my friends.

I have the best circle possible. Brilliant, creative, thoughtful, empathetic, generous. I’ve done little to deserve such friends, so all I can do is be grateful for the stroke of blinding good luck that brought me into their orbit.

I have failed at much in life, but the friends category I win going away.friendship

Today is Black Friday, so let me share what I’m ungrateful for.

Most in my circle (not quite all, mercifully) live a thousand miles away or more, and I never get to see them, enjoy a dinner, have a beer, talk. I’m not there to help when they’re in crisis, nor are they here when, as now, I am. Some I’ve never even met face to face.

Our mobile society has made it possible for me to achieve so much more than I ever could have back in NC. I’m an exile, but have finally found my place, my home, here in Colorado, and am happy beyond words for it. And digital communication allows me to stay in touch across the miles. It’s not the same as being together physically, but it’s far better than nothing. There are wonderful, life changing developments.

But I am not unaware of the costs.

FishCountingWater

The Trump years brought out the worst in me. And maybe you.

A war is being waged against everything decent in life, and dealing with the daily onslaught was eating me alive. The battles still have to be fought and won, but at some point I accepted that I had to look after myself. More importantly, in a world of creeping gloom, maybe I’d be more useful as a spot of light.

What emerged was FishCountingWater, a small book about Zen. Or, more accurately, about “Zen,” since I really know nothing about the practice at all. It covers a lot of ground for something that’s under 15k words. The residents of my imaginary monastery talk about enlightenment, of course, and also the wastefulness of consumer culture, the emptiness of corporate life, art and lit, and quantum mechanics (I know, but it’s fun). There’s an old master, a biz world dropout, a former college soccer player, a retired DARPA contractor, a “crazy” old lady, and an always-on cattle dog.

And it’s funny. Don’t take my word, either. Friends and relatives assure me they’re laughing when I’m not around.

Anyway, as part of the project I started a new web site: FishCountingWater.com. It’s where I’m spending most of my online energy these days. It features ancient Zen wisdom, art, photography, and excerpts from the book. Like “Dingo & the Road to Bliss,” the last story I wrote for it. If you’ve heard the old story about “does a dog have a Buddha nature?” this is my response.

I invite you to stop over and spend a few minutes in the light…

19th Century Day

On 2.2.22, this guy, who was born in ’61, turned 61. (I’m not sure, but this may make me the antichrist.)

That’s 22,314 days. 22,314 days before that it was New Years Eve, 1899, and people were living the final moments of the 19th century.

For generations of Smith

As my birthday approached, I got to thinking. It’s probably common enough, once you reach a certain age, to reflect on all that has happened in the world during your lifetime. Something made me ask the next question: what about the 61 years before that? Take my birthday as the center-point, and compare the span before with what’s come after.

In 1899, William McKinley was president. Joe Biden would be born 21 years later. My great-grandfather Charlie was eight.

A majority of Americans lived in rural areas. 44,628 days later, there are very real questions about whether the damage we’ve done to the environment is fixable.

Indoor plumbing, telephones, and cars were rare. Only the well-off could afford an automobile, for instance, and the manufacturer options included a variety of household names:

1899 Mobile steam car

Steam: Century, Grout, Kensington, Keystone, Kidder, Leach, Liquid Air, Locomobile, Mobile (pre Stanley Steamer), Strathmore, Victor Steam, Waltham Steam; electric: American Electric, Baker, Columbia (taxi), Electric Vehicle, Quinby, Stearns, US Automobile, Van Wagoner, Woods; internal-combustion: American, Black, Bramwell-Robinson, Gasmobile, Gurley, Holyoke, International, Media, Oakman-Hertel, Packard (Ohio), Quick, Sintz

Ford wouldn’t be incorporated until 1903.

Top tech innovations in the last decade of the 1800s included the escalator, the zipper, the Cinematographe, and the motor-driven vacuum cleaner. The zeppelin and the air conditioner were right around the corner. The first successful radio transmission happened in 1901. Now we engineer genomes and know a staggering amount about the first seconds after the Big Bang. Don’t get me started on quantum mechanics.

The Wright Brothers also weren’t due up until 1903. Last week, a Chinese spaceship crashed into the dark side of the moon.

On Dec. 31, 1899, the US was closer to the Civil War than World War II.

I was lead writer on a “future of cybersecurity” guide recently published by my company. In it, I talk about artificial intelligence, quantum computing and cryptography, deepfakes, a trillion-IoT device world, hackable pacemakers and insulin pumps, flying taxis, autonomous killbots, an “i-condom,” and lots more fun stuff to keep you up at night. Some of it is very near-future (as in, less than a decade). Some of it is already happening.

Why is this important?

Heck if I know. It probably isn’t. We all know things have changed, are changing, and will keep changing. We know the pace is vertigo-inducing, we know the scale is epochal, and we may feel it’s all we can do to hang on.

And we all have our own frames for thinking about it. For managing it.

This is mine, and it’s been a fascinating exercise in personal perspective.

In case you’re wondering, 22,314 days from today is April 9, 2083. It will be a Friday.