Monthly Archives: August 2012

Birthdays

There is no such thing as Age, there is only TIME, and what we choose to do with it.

ctwfrank

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AS TO CONSIPIRACY THEORIES

I promised, so here it is.

As to conspiracy theories, those unproven high-level conspiracies that include clandestine government plans, elaborate murder plots, the suppression of secret technology and even a grand master plot that will determine the fate of humanity by a secret ruling elite.  There are a lot of these alleged schemes that have consumed years of people’s lives following trails, piecing together events and looking for clues in the hope of finding proof of one.  Almost all conspiracy theories have two things in common:  1:  They are all related or linked to political, cultural or historical events, and 2: They part from a premise that someone or some group of people are in charge and in control of things.

The question IS:  Are any of them real?

The answer is:  No, they are not real, not even the ones that happen to appear like they might.  They are very human constructs, born from the same place as science and literature, but not real.

The math:

If one were to tackle the issue of conspiracy theories with any seriousness, it wouldn’t take very long to realize that the answer to this question is directly linked to one of the conditions always present in every conspiracy theory, namely the premise that there is a person or a group of people that maintain some secret method of centralized control over the infrastructure of the human world.  If one were to find whoever is “driving”, then whoever he/she or they are would also be the source of all of the real secret plots that no one was able to prove because they are simply that good.  The discovery of “who” is “in charge” would prove that conspiracy theories were true.

So, who is in charge?  That is another question entirely.  It is the title and the reason for calculation number 182114.  That math took me 10 years to do and I will never stop kicking myself for taking that long.  Who runs the world?  Who is in charge of making the top choices? Where does the buck stop?  My mistake in doing this math was that I took the questions literally and seriously.  I thought of candidates; The Rothschild-Rockefeller dynasty, the illuminati, a secret sect made up of the descendants of the Knights of Templar (the only group of people in history to ever control all of the wealth in the world, if only for a few weeks), any of the religions that might fit the bill and even the possibility of an unknown super-secret group of people, descendants of the first Kings & rulers.  It didn’t occur to me for a moment that all of these were simply other conspiracy theories. The answer had been staring all of us in the face all the time:  Nobody is in charge.  No one has the ultimate word.  Nobody is driving the Human Civilization bus.  We are today, what we have always been; scattered pockets of humans who run into each other in the course of a lifetime and see who can impose their will on the other.  Not one single leader of any “group” or country or empire has ever contemplated the world in the macro sense.  Nobody has ever considered “all of us”, it’s always been more important for people to believe that there’s us and there is them.  It’s a much more convenient control mechanism.

Conspiracy theories are not true because in the end, nobody is in charge.  There may be some people that think they are, but they are not.  They’re just the leader of one of the many “street gangs” of the world, protecting their turf and trying to look tough.

Finally, the conclusion is simply this:  Nobody controls the events in human history or this direction in which politics and society and people evolve.  If anyone were actually in charge, we would not be in the situation that we are in.  At the rate that our infrastructure is decaying, we don’t have very long before it all just falls apart and nobody benefits from it.  There are no winners when our story plays out, and everybody losing is not indicative of leadership, even bad leadership.

There are no conspiracy theories.  There’s just whatever we decide to believe and do.

We can do better.

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It’s all in the details…

Ever since there have been banks, one of their principal bookkeeping functions has always been  the daily reconciliation of every customer’s  account(s) and the posting of credits (on the right hand column) and debits (on the left hand column).  From the very first day that the first modern-day bank opened, the daily reconciliation has always been performed in the same exact way, probably because it simply made sense; nonetheless, every bank in every country has always posted the credits to every account first and then the debits.   There is no citable reference found up until now that establishes the order in which the functions of the daily reconciliation are performed, it has simply been that way always.  What this translates into visually can be described as follows:

Mr. H has a checking account at a bank.  On the morning of August 5, 2012 (for example) Mr. H had a balance of $50.00 to his favor in the checking account.  During the banking day of August 5, 2012, two transactions took place:  1) Mr. H deposited $2,000.00 in cash into the checking account.  2) A check, payable to City Gas Co. for $62.00 written by Mr. H and drawn on the bank was received for payment.  At the end of the banking day, when the accounts are reconciled, this is what has always happened:

  1. The $2,000.00 cash deposit is posted as a credit to the account, leaving a running balance of $2,050.00.
  2. The check for $62.00 is posted as a debit, leaving a running balance of $1,988.00.
  3. After posting all transactions, the account’s final ledger balance is updated to $1,988.00.  This is the balance that will be reflected for the account the next morning.

Simple, isn’t it?  After some pondering on the topic, I arrived at the opinion that credits were posted first as a courtesy to the customer, probably because courtesy still existed back then, but that is just my opinion.  If there is a law, a policy or regulation mandating this particular order of events, then it’s been very well hidden for whatever the reason, the point being that the posting of credits before debits is a matter of rote rather than a matter of statute.  It is also a pretty decent custom and a courtesy, which is probably why it’s never been an issue. Well, all that is about to change.

It appears that for some reason and at some unknown point in time, more than likely in the last 3-4 weeks, the banking system modified a custom.  Customs, require no authorizations, approvals or other mechanisms in order to be modified, they just are.  It can be accomplished by a simple inter-departmental memo or even by a verbal instruction; what’s the big deal?  It’s only a custom that’s being modified; it’s not like a major, official change or anything.   The custom that was modified is the very one exemplified in the opening paragraph; banks, at least two of them, are now posting debits before credits to the accounts held by their customers.   There was no announcement made, no newspaper articles or television reports, nothing on any of the news pages on the web; why should there be?  Legally, this was no different then moving the water cooler a little to the left in the lobby.

Let’s re-visit the banking day of August 5, 2012 and Mr. H’s checking account, only this time, the daily reconciliation will be run with the new modified custom.  It goes something like this:

  1. The reconciliation opens with a ledger balance of $50.00.
  2. An incoming check for $62.00 is posted as a debit, overdrawing the account.
  3. The check is returned to the bank that presented it for payment, with a notification that the account had insufficient funds or what is commonly referred to as ‘the check bounced’.  This leaves a running balance of $50.00
  4. The bank posts a $35.00 debit as a ‘returned item fee’ leaving a running balance of $15.00.
  5. The bank posts a $5.00 debit as a ‘misc. penalty’ based on the bank’s policy of charging a $5.00 penalty if any checking account’s balance drops below $20.00.  This leaves a running balance of $10.00.
  6. The $2,000.00 cash deposit made on that day is posted as a credit, leaving a running balance of $2,010.00.

-STOP- If anyone just thought: “Hey, he didn’t make out so bad; he ended up with more money than the other way.” Go back and do the math again, please.  Let’s continue because this doesn’t end here:

  1. The check that was returned had been deposited by City Gas Co in their general account.  It was sent to City Gas Co by Mr. H in payment of his monthly gas bill.  The Gas company’s bank will now charge the Gas Company a fee for a returned check that is anywhere between $10.00 and $50.00 depending on the bank.  The gas company is notified of the returned check and the fee.
  2. The Gas Company orders Mr. H’s gas service cut off and dispatches a crew to shut off his gas the next morning.
  3. The Gas Company puts the returned check fee that they were charged by their bank on Mr. H’s account.
  4. The Gas Company charges Mr. H a $50.00 returned check fee.
  5. The Gas Company charges Mr. H a $15.00 late fee for not having paid by the due date.
  6. The Gas Company charges Mr. H a $50.00 disconnection fee and notifies Mr. H that it will cost him another $50.00 to re-connect his gas.
  7. The Gas Company charges Mr. H a $15.00 ‘convenience fee’, because it can.
  8. The Gas Company will require Mr. H to put up a deposit of $500.00 as a guarantee of payment on account.
  9. Mr. H still owes the original $62.00 from his gas bill, and has no gas.  His house has all-gas appliances and heater, Mr. H lives in Gnome, Alaska.  It is mid-August, 2012 so Mr. H is lucky; today it was more than likely in the mid- to high ‘forties’.
  10. The Gas Company reports the incidents to the credit bureaus who in turn update Mr. H’s file and flag him.
  11. All of the banks that had issued Mr. H a credit card panic and close his account, regardless of the balance.
  12. One of the banks that had issued Mr. H a credit card not only closed his account in mid-cycle, when they wrote to him to inform him of their decision, they offered to accept settlement payment of $20.00 in lieu of the $80.00 balance on Mr. H’s credit card and the account would be considered settled.
  13. Mr. H’s three major credit card issuing banks, the two department stores that had issued him credit cards and the one gas station company that had issued him a credit card all turned over whatever balance (even $0.00) was left owing when they closed his accounts to their various collection agencies, even though Mr. H had never been late with a payment in his life.
  14. The collection agencies began a relentless telephone persecution of Mr. H; calling him at 7:00 a.m., yelling and screaming at him about being a lowlife and owing money.  They call his work, his father, his mother and pretty much everyone he knows, asking for him, or if anyone has seen him because he owes money.

It is very likely that this entire situation will continue, undisturbed and to a great degree, unnoticed.  It will take us, the general public, roughly two months to assimilate this new little detail, and by Christmastime, it will be simply another normal thing…normal.

Now, in the time when everyone knows that something has gone very wrong; half the world is desperately searching for a previously unidentified event in the recent past that can account for, be blamed for and ultimately be the foundation for the restoration of what was and the other half is bracing for something unspeakably horrible to happen, something that makes now feel like the warm up.  Nobody can predict the future, but there a very good probability that whatever caused the incomparably catastrophic collapse of human civilization’s infrastructure was neither a single event or one that hasn’t happened yet but instead a range of time where many little, tiny, insignificant changes in this mechanism or that system that were nothing more than details which benefitted only a few or even none at all at the expense of everyone, all achieved normalcy.

Personal Note:

Rarely do I personally interject in any math that I’m writing; this is one of those times.  Four days ago, someone that I’ve known for over ten years called me a “conspiracy theorist”, with a straight face – as if he were mentioning the color of the sky or anything else that might be considered ‘obvious’.   A conspiracy theorist?  I laughed for about 15 minutes, hard.  No one, ever in my whole life has called me that.  None of you; my subscribers, readers of the catalogue of calculations an those who follow my work (there are six digits worth) have ever even alluded to anything like that in all of the e-mails that I’ve received, which will require a long life to read them all.  I am about the farthest thing in the world from a conspiracy theorist; I’m a scientist, we don’t understand conspiracies, only facts.  Then I realized how this person could have come to such an outlandish conclusion; they found themselves having to compare (and therefore judge) the world and me, and from that perspective, I can almost understand, but I don’t.  That conclusion is an excuse to not think, to not see clearly, to simply be one more of what we are turning ourselves into:  pussies.  I’ll leave you with this for the moment:  first, the promise that I will answer the riddle of the conspiracy theories in my next post and finally; the image below.

What you are looking at is not a joke or a story, it is an actual button that was worn by the tellers of a particular bank chain between February and April, 2012 and then by the tellers of another bank chain between May and July, 2012.  I’m sure it’s out there somewhere right now.   It’s just a little detail; a promotion that is popular this year, from a certain point of view, it can even be considered ‘cute’ . . . NOT.

A little detail

A little detail.

It’s all in the details.

We can do better.

ctwfrank

 

 

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Any minute now…

A little boy gets down from his school bus on his way home. The boy saw his mother about halfway down the block and ran, as fast as he could, to where she was.  He jumped into her arms, trembling and with tears streaming down his cheeks.

The boy’s Mother hugged him close and tightly and spoke to him warmly and in the way that only a Mother can.  She said:

-“There, there, my little man.  What’s this all about?  What’s got you so upset?

The little boy lifted his head from his mother’s shoulder and between sobs, managed to ask her:

-“Mommy, today at school I heard some grown ups talking and they said that the world is coming to an end.  Is that true, Mommy?  Is this the end of the world?”

Without any hesitation, the boy’s Mother giggled and then kissed his forehead and said:

-“Come, come now, you silly willy!  The world is fine, it’s not ending at all – it’s only  human civilization that’s collapsing all around us and a lot of people can’t tell the difference between one and the other, but don’t fret my little man, at least now you know and you don’t need to be afraid.”

 

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How I learned about Shinola

This is the way that the story was told to me, it is the way I remember it and the way it made sense, it still does.  I don’t know this actually happened or not, but it doesn’t matter, it puts the lesson into perspective. It will tell you the tale in the same exact way; after all it is one of the most important rules of all time.

The story of shit and Shinola.

The stock market crash of 1929 and the great depression that followed was undoubtedly one of the most horrifying and impacting things to happen to a people, ever. By 1933 it had reached its peak.  Most of the pictures that we are familiar with from the “Great Depression” were taken during this time; the soup kitchens, the lines of unemployed people seeking a meal, the apple vendors.  1933 was indeed a very bad year for many. Not everyone was affected, however.  “Most” of the rich from Wall Street is not the same as “all” of them.  There were a few who weathered the catastrophe and they may not have been as wealthy in 1933 as they were in 1928, but they were still “people of means”.

The story takes place during this time.  Among the hardest hit were shoe-shine boys.  No one thinks about this much, but shoe shine boys were as much a fixture on Wall Street as stockbrokers and bankers, after all, during the 1920’s, walking was still the method of transportation of choice and on Wall Street, this meant looking sharp; a tailored suit and shoes that were shined to a mirror gloss on a daily basis by the army of shoe shine boys lining Wall Street.

In 1929, to be exact, a new product was patented and put to market.  It was called Shinola.  It was a shoe polish with a wax base that gave birth to the “spit shine”.  Within a year of being introduced, even during and after the crash, it became the only shoe polish desired by anyone who could still pay for a shine.   By 1933, however, the army of shoe shine boys sat idly, their shine boxes, rags and brushes ready, but not one cent with which to buy Shinola.  They simply did not know what to do and so they took to assembling in the mornings near the Northwest end of Wall Street, where it meets Broadway.  They assembled quietly and just sat throughout the day; during the time that they would normally be shining shoes.  At the end of the business day, they would head back to wherever it was they called home, with nothing more than what they had in the morning.

By the same token, the few wealthy Wall Street gentlemen simply went without their beloved “shines”.  One day, during this time, one of the shoe shine boys decided to not walk up the street to where all of the others would be waiting with an ominous silence. On this day, this one particular shoe shine boy decided to walk the other way, and he walked.  He walked until he got to the Brooklyn Bridge and kept walking.  Back then, there were still cow pastures in Brooklyn, even though it is hard to imagine nowadays. The shoe shine boy walked until his feet hurt and then he sat down.  He put his shine box on the ground as sat on it like one would sit on a crate.  It was only then that he looked up and realized how far he had walked.  He looked in the direction from where he had come and could see the Manhattan Skyline.  He turned to look around and realized that he was in a vacant lot with some grass and a few cows.  The cows looked at the boy with a bored expression as they chewed.  Directly in front of where the boy had put his box on the ground, he saw a fresh, steaming and aromatic “cow patty”.  For a moment, he thought that if he had taken two more steps before stopping and sitting down, he would have stepped right into the pile of dung.  He sat and stared at the pile of shit; there was nothing better to do anyway and this way he did not have to share his misery with anyone, he could take the full brunt of how bleak life was.  So he sat, for an immeasurable and uncounted period of time, just looking at the pile of dung and then suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, he had a strange thought.  In some ways, the cow manure reminded him of the one thing he so needed and desired; the instrument with which he practiced his craft; Shinola.  He stared at it and stared at it and thought;
-“They’re almost the same color, and from here they could even have the same texture.”

That’s when it occurred to him.  He looked left and right so as to make sure no one was watching and reached out.  He grabbed a handful of the cow shit and swished it around in his hand, thinking.   He wasn’t sure exactly what he was thinking just yet, but he was thinking.  After a while, he just couldn’t take it anymore, he had to try and see what would happen so he scooped up some of shit in his Shinola tin, took his rag, dabbed it in the brownish goop and shined up the tip of left shoe (it was all that was left that could be shined).  He used his best moves and lo and behold, the poop gave a great shine, in fact it was so good that for just a moment, he could swear it was the shine that only Shinola could muster and for just a moment, he believed it.  That was all it took.  He filled up his tin and two empty cans he found in some trash and whatever else he could fill with cow dung.  Once he had all he could carry, he made his best effort to cover up the smell and ran back towards Manhattan, as fast as his feet could carry him.

The next day, the boy’s cries of
-“SHINE! GET YER SHOE-SHINE RIGHT HERE! ONLY FIVE CENTS!” greeted the rising sun, to the great surprise, and joy, of many.  Within seconds, the first man to get a shoe shine on Wall Street in almost 3 years, stepped up to the boy and said:

-“Well!  Just in time, too!  Looks like I’m first!”  The man boasted as he hoisted himself up onto one of the high stool-benches that were placed by the very patrons of the shoe shine boys, so that everyone walking by could see them and know that it was they whose shoes were being shined.

-“Coming right up, sir!”  The boy smiled back.  He took out his rag and his Shinola tin and got to work as if ne’er a day had passed since he last shined a pair of leather uppers.  The boy had let the cow dung dry out a bit during the night, and covered the tin quickly after dipping his rag so the smell wouldn’t give him away.  Once it was on the shoes, no one could tell the difference.  The boy was good; hunger is an excellent teacher.  In no time at all, the gentleman’s shoes where like two mirrors, gleaming in the morning sun.

-“There you go, sir.” the boy said, shyly and just for a moment, he almost hesitated, but he didn’t; he reached his hand right out, palm up where a shiny dime landed firmly, almost as if choreographed.  A dime!  A dime for a five cent shines!  None of the boys had EVER been given an entire nickel as a tip before!  The boy’s entire face lit up almost as much as his benefactor’s, who slowly got up from his perch, ruffled the boy’s hair and said: -“See you tomorrow, kid.” before continuing his walk; much slower now and making sure to greet everyone he passed.  Word spread quickly and by noon, the boy’s hands hurt.  He huddled backwards into a niche between buildings, and emptied out his pockets.  He had nearly three dollars!  THREE DOLLARS!  That would feed him, his parents and his two brothers for a week, and it wasn’t even high noon!  By the end of the day the boy added another two dollars to his daily total and it was only then that he realized that he has shined one hundred pairs of shoes and could expect the same every day!  He loved that cow manure!

One by one, the other boys approached him, simultaneously in awe and shock.  The boy looked at his friends coming towards him and reacted; covering up his tin and protecting it, like a prized treasure.  One boy asked:  “Where’d you get the Shinola?”  The boy hugged his box tighter and said “Leave me alone, all of you!  You’re not going to take it from me!”  He ran off like a bolt, straight home and fell right to sleep, exhausted.

The next morning, he gave his mother $4.50 of the $5.00 he had made.  People say that she cried tears of joy for a solid month. He kept fifty cents, thinking to buy a supply of Shinola and continue his journey towards his good fortune.  On the way to the general store, he thought; “Wait a minute!  Nobody knew the difference!  Why should I spend this money on real Shinola when the cow shit is free, after all, they do the same thing!”  He turned the other way and went to the Candy Store and had himself a Malted Milk with two scoops of ice cream for breakfast!  He had actually believed his own lie.

The boy shined another 100 pair of shoes that next day, and 100 more for each day after that for 5 days.  His grin was so wide it challenged the great breadth of Broadway itself.  Everyone was HIS regular customer and he was only shoe shine boy on Wall Street, all thanks to cow’s four stomachs and what they left behind.  He would run to the field in the late afternoons, filling up his tin with more of the precious brown goo that had made him so happy.  Yeah, it wasn’t really Shinola, it was better than Shinola!  He laughed to himself all the way back across the Brooklyn Bridge.

Now, all of this took place in late July, did I mention that?  Oh, yes, it was the dead of summer – and a hot one.  Manhattan was hotter than anyone wanted to even guess at, and then some.  The few rich men who had been getting their daily shines from the boy paraded themselves back and forth on Wall Street; to their meetings, their lunches and dinners, their offices and their homes.  None of them were the wiser; no harm, no foul thought the boy.  The summer sun thought otherwise however, and after five days and five layers of cow shit on all of those shoes it began, to cook – actually to bake.  Baked cow shit on leather; I don’t know if I can even imagine what that would smell like.

On the fifth day after shining his first pair of shoes with the manure, the benefactor of that shine was having a luncheon meeting with another businessman together with their respective wives.  They were in the fanciest restaurant around, high noon on a Wednesday.  The place was packed with the few businessmen left in a country gone bankrupt.  At exactly 12:07 pm.  The caked on dung on that first man’s left shoe, where the first dab of cow shit was so carefully applied five days before, finished baking and cracked, a slim plume of heat escaped from the crack, rising higher from the ground.  In seconds the other shoe also cracked and a plume of shit-steam began to rise from it as well – and then another, and another!  In ten minutes, the restaurant smelled like an outhouse.  When it no longer became possible to ignore, it was that first man to have his shoes shined who spoke first.  He threw his napkin on the table in a fit of rage and gave his lunch companion the foulest stare he could muster and blurted:  ”Well, Sir!  I never…”  The sheer insolence of the accusation brought the other man to his feet immediately and he retorted “What say you, man?  Me? Look to your own loins for the source of the stench, non to mine!”  Almost immediately, the same scene played out at virtually every table, and the few rich men left in America, found themselves having a knock-down, dragged-out bar-type brawl in the fanciest eatery on the Lower East Side.

Back to the first man, the one who got the first shine and who started this brawl, he received a jarring left hook that floored him.  The man landed with a THUD, right at his opponent’s feet.  After recovering his wits, he realized he was no more than two inches from the man’s shoes and saw the cracks that had formed where earlier there was the shimmering mirror-like shine.  The man took in two enormous breaths of the stench before recognizing it and screamed; “Bull Shit! This man shined his shoes with bull shit!” and laughter roared from his belly.  It spread quickly too, calming heated tempers with the thought of a man resorting to bull shit to shine his own shoes!  That lasted for about thirty seconds before every other man realized they were in the same predicament.  The laughter suddenly came to a screeching halt and a dumbfounded silence hung in the air – no one knew what to say, they had all played the fool that day.  Once again, it was the first man who spoke:  “The shoe shine boy!  We all got our shoes shined from him; he’s the only one out there!  He’s made fools of all of us.”   The men stormed out of the restaurant and straight towards the boy’s spot on the side of the road.  When the boy saw the literal stampede of men coming at him, he didn’t have time to even react.  They were upon him at once and literally kicked the boy’s ass all the way to the Brooklyn Bridge where they warned him to never show his face on Wall Street again or they might just forget he was a boy.  He was never heard from again.   His first customer was ridiculed by all of his peers for being the first sucker to buy the cow shit shine and the ensuing lambasting ruined him and few others as well.  These were tender times, after all, there was a Great Depression going on – but not so great that an entire city couldn’t stop to laugh at one man who could not tell the difference between the cow shit that was used to shine his shoes and the Shinola that he thought adorned them.   Sure, you could hardly tell the difference in the shine.  In the end, they both shined your shoes, but one of them is SHIT.   No one is allowed to make that mistake, ever.  And so it was that it came to be that to know the difference between shit and Shinola is one of the more important things, literally or metaphorically, that we must all never forget.

That is how I head the tale, one warm day in December in 1973; I now give it to all of you.  Share it if you like, remember it or forget the story, but never forget the lesson.  Shit can imitate many things, but in the end, its shit and we know this from the onset.  Remembering this will save your life; more than once, without fail.

I always say that we can do better.  Maybe this is a start.   I love you all; all 7 billion of you.

Ctwfrank.

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Expectations of the future

The only thing required of a person for any thought or deed is that it be true. That is the source of all possibilities. One starts by looking at themselves in a mirror and reconciling their truth. We are a genetic collective while being individual and autonomous beings. It is time to realize that we are all we have and that true power is what WE can do for US, not what I can do for me. We can do better, therefore we must do better. It just has to be true-believe it.

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