Bob's Basement

Just a short, simple blog for Bob to share his thoughts.

We Are a Nation of Immigrants

Living in a border state, I am constantly reminded of the need for immigration. Here in Tucson, we see the myriad of ways which immigration has shaped the culture; our entire Southwest identity is a melting pot of Hispanic, Native American, and Old West subcultures. But if you would permit me to put things in perspective, unless you are 100% Native American, then you are either an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants. For example, my ancestors were immigrants: my father's family arrived from Ireland in 1858 as refugees of the Great Famine, and the patriarch of my mother's family travelled to the fledgling American Colonies as an indentured servant in 1807.

No person of European, Asian, Latin American, or African descent can lay claim to native status in North America; (although if you go back as far as possible, even the ancestors of the 'Native Americans' migrated from somewhere else). Nevertheless, it pains me to see people who suggest that we should close our borders. To do so would be ludicrous; immigration has been and always will be the lifeblood of the United States.

However, immigration must be a legal process, and those who do not adhere to the letter of the law must not be allowed to continue residing here. To be fair, the United States' path to citizenship is long and difficult, but that is no excuse for violating the laws by which our nation is governed.

For those people who insist on incorrectly labeling illegal immigrants as undocumented workers, I would like to redirect your attention to an analogy that I saw the other day:

  • If you are of legal age and driving a car with your driver’s license in your pocket, then you are a legal driver.
  • If you are of legal age and driving a car but you forgot your driver’s license at home, then you are an undocumented driver.
  • If you are not of legal age or you do not have a driver’s license, then you are an illegal driver.

Make no mistake about this: if someone enters the United States by anything other than legal means, then they are not undocumented, they are here illegally, and they have no legal right to remain here. However, if someone if someone enters the United States using any of the methods prescribed in our nation’s laws, then they are here legally, and from my perspective they are more than welcome to stay.

My son-in-law was born in Canada, and over the course of several years I watched as he navigated the steps to citizenship. I can tell you with complete honesty that many of the setbacks that he faced were ridiculous and unnecessary; for example: after years of work on his application for citizenship, someone simply failed to sign one document in my son-in-law's paperwork, (which is easy to do when you are dealing with hundreds of documents). When the mistake was discovered, common sense dictates that the single document would be returned for the appropriate signature. However, the United States government is apparently incapable of using common sense, and it rejected the entire packet, so my son-in-law was forced to restart the entire process. As I said earlier, the United States' path to citizenship is long and difficult, but my son-in-law persevered, and this past year I was privileged to attend his citizenship ceremony.

That being said, while the bureaucratic process should certainly be improved with regard to efficient process management, the need for a detailed and lawful path to citizenship is still required. For example, background checks are necessary to ensure that immigrants are not criminals escaping prosecution in their native countries, and basic health checks are required to ensure that other countries are not simply reducing the burdens on their civic responsibilities by relocating their infectious populace across our borders. Once immigrants have passed the basic checks set forth by our laws, I see no problem with making the path to citizenship a much-easier process than our nation currently possesses.

If I suddenly became emperor for a day, I would revamp our immigration system as follows:

  • First, I would announce a temporary amnesty period, where everyone within our shores who is currently residing here illegally has five years to voluntarily report to the United States Immigration Naturalization Services (INS).
  • Because of this temporary amnesty period, everyone who voluntarily reports to INS will be automatically granted work visas for the duration of the amnesty period, after which they will be required to renew their visas, (which should be an easy process).
  • Those who do not report to INS during the temporary amnesty period will be subject to deportation, and possibly barred from applying for work visas or entry into the United States in the future.
  • And lastly, the path from worker to citizen would be revamped so that productive immigrants will have a much-easier process to complete in order to remain in the United States indefinitely as full citizens.

Believe me, it's a good thing that I'm not emperor, but that being said - I am not alone in my desire to see our system of immigration preserved and legally enforced; here are like-minded thoughts from several former United States Presidents from throughout our nation’s history:

  • "Even as though we are a nation of immigrants, we're also a nation of laws. Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and they must be held accountable." Barack Obama
  • "Nearly all Americans have ancestors who braved the oceans - liberty-loving risk takers in search of an ideal - the largest voluntary migrations in recorded history... Immigration is not just a link to America's past; it's also a bridge to America's future." George W. Bush
  • "We are a nation of immigrants, but we are also a nation of laws. It is wrong and ultimately self-defeating for a nation of immigrants to permit the kind of abuse of our immigration laws we have seen in recent years and we must do more to stop it." Bill Clinton
  • "Why don't we work out some recognition of our mutual problems; make it possible for [immigrants] to come here legally with a work permit, and then while they're working here and earning here, they pay taxes here. And when they want to go back, they can go back." Ronald Reagan
  • "The [United States]  flourished because it was fed from so many sources - because it was nourished by so many cultures and traditions and peoples." Lyndon B. Johnson
  • "Everywhere immigrants have enriched and strengthened the fabric of American life." John F. Kennedy
  • "Remember, remember always, that all of us, you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists." Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • "We came to America, either ourselves or in the persons of our ancestors, to better the ideals of men, to make them see finer things than they had seen before, to get rid of the things that divide and to make sure of the things that unite." Woodrow Wilson
  • "Born in other countries, yet believing you could be happy in this, our laws acknowledge, as they should do, your right to join us in society, conforming, as I doubt not you will do, to our established rules. That these rules shall be as equal as prudential considerations will admit, will certainly be the aim of our legislatures, general and particular." Thomas Jefferson
  • "I had always hoped that this land might become a safe and agreeable asylum to the virtuous and persecuted part of mankind, to whatever nation they might belong." George Washington

In closing, I think the following quotation from Ronald Reagan sums up what it means to be an immigrant to the United States:

"I received a letter just before I left office from a man. I don't know why he chose to write it, but I'm glad he did. He wrote that you can go to live in France, but you can't become a Frenchman. You can go to live in Germany or Italy, but you can't become a German, an Italian. He went through Turkey, Greece, Japan and other countries. But he said anyone, from any corner of the world, can come to live in the United States and become an American."

Posted: Jan 16 2018, 11:49 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Earth, Wind, and Spirals

Is it just me, or is watching the wind patterns on https://earth.nullschool.net/ oddly mesmerizing?

earth-nullschool-net

Posted: Jan 02 2018, 22:55 by bob | Comments (0)
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Saying Goodbye to an Old, Trusted Friend...

I was going through some boxes recently, where I discovered the following book…

Natural History Book

My parents gave me this book in the early 1970s when I was eight years old, and I carried that book everywhere. Way back then, my life’s ambition was to become a paleontologist, and this book had some excellent chapters on dinosaurs which I read over and over again.

However, my copy of this book was definitely showing its 45 years of age; it’s binding had worn away to nothing, countless pages were torn… even though I didn’t check, I’m pretty sure that some pages were missing. There is no doubt – this was a well-loved volume of knowledge back in its day; but now it was little more than a shadow of its former self, and a sad relic of days gone by.

Natural History Book

Still, though, it’s amazing the history through which this book persisted in my personal (albeit negligent) care… when I received this book as a gift, Richard Nixon was President of the United States, the average price for a gallon of gasoline was 39 cents, the United States was still embroiled in the waning years of the Vietnam War, Pink Floyd released Dark Side of the Moon, and the biggest single of the year was “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” by Tony Orlando and Dawn.

Nevertheless, this compendium of natural history knowledge had outlived its usefulness several years ago, and it was time to say goodbye. So with a heavy heart I unceremoniously dispatched my once-faithful companion to the recycle bin, where I hope that some part of it might wind up as another book which will spark another child’s imagination in decades to come. Or perhaps that’s just what I tell myself in order to feel a little less guilty…

Sad smile

Posted: Jul 14 2017, 10:25 by Bob | Comments (0)
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Why I Fail To Understand Women

No woman in her right mind would want to be called a "Cow," and yet so many women shop at a place called the "Dress Barn."

This makes no sense to me... Open-mouthed smile

Posted: May 24 2017, 11:03 by bob | Comments (0)
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Sometimes the Deeper Meaning is Missed

I just read the following article about Hasbro's desire to modernize the playing pieces for its best-selling game Monopoly:

Will the shoe get the boot? Board game fans to vote on next Monopoly tokens

The article was amusing for me to read, and I was reminded of the many years throughout which I have played that game with family and friends.

To be honest, despite my admitted sense of nostalgia where this game is concerned, I couldn't care less whether Hasbro decides to update the game tokens; this change will not affect how the game is played, and it might help to attract a new generation of players. I am certainly not one of those people who feels honor-bound to voice their opinion that everything should remain the way that it was in the past.

However, there is one point that the article's author has completely missed: the playing piece in question is not a "shoe," it is a "boot," and the distinction - however small it may seem - is somewhat profound.

A shoe is just that - nothing more. But the boot has a subtle, underlying meaning which most people do not see. When you look at the boot, it has a small loop on the back, which is called a "bootstrap." It is from this appendage on a boot that the English language obtains the word "bootstrapping," which means to "pull one's self up from their current position;" in other words, to take charge of your destiny and to make your life better. This is one of the main points in Monopoly; all of the players are attempting to pull themselves up from their common, humble beginnings, to build their respective real estate empires, and to crush their competition.

The entire principle of the game of Monopoly is condensed into that single playing piece, and it represents one of the deepest metaphors in any board game. However, Hasbro might replace the boot with a T-Rex, which represents... um, let's see... a dinosaur... which is a metaphor for... well, I guess... nothing more than an old, dead, bird-like reptile.

Posted: Jan 10 2017, 22:23 by bob | Comments (0)
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When A Song Gets Stuck In My Mind...

I had a song stuck in the back of my mind all evening and it was starting to bug me, so I decided to sit down and transcribe it in Guitar Pro 6.

Once I had finished transcribing the song, I remembered that it was named "Silver Tightrope," and it was from an album which was released in 1975. I seem to recall that I thought the song had been recorded by "Yes" when I had first heard it, but the song was actually written by a short-lived band from the UK named "Armageddon."

The four bars which I transcribed are probably around 99% of the song, so it was a pretty quick diversion for the evening. Now I'll get back to the business of writing some code.

Open-mouthed smile

Posted: Aug 25 2016, 22:09 by bob | Comments (0)
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My Thoughts about the New Star Trek Beyond Trailer

As a long-time Star Trek fan, I watched this newly-released trailer for the latest installment in the rebooted Star Trek franchise with a great deal of anticipation:

Star Trek Beyond - Trailer (2016) - Paramount Pictures
http://youtu.be/XRVD32rnzOw

This trailer brings up an interesting point: I once read that all good science fiction must challenge something and/or push society to be better, which is why all of the individual Star Trek television series dealt with issues of war, morality, science/technology, racism, power struggles, etc. If you go back to classic Science Fiction like Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, etc., they all challenged similar subjects.

However, the most-recent Star Trek movies have not challenged much of anything; they are simply action flicks. At the moment this latest movie seems more like it's going to be "The Fast and the Furious with Aliens." That might not be so bad if all you're interested in is two hours of mindless fight scenes, chase scenes, and sex scenes, but that's not good "Science Fiction" in the traditional sense.

So at the moment I am unsure about this upcoming Star Trek movie; I will have to wait until next year to know how it turns out.

 


June 22, 2016 Update: I found the following article rather insightful about what makes good Science Fiction:

10 Laws of Good Science Fiction10 Laws of Good Science Fiction

While I realize that true creativity follows no rules and knows no boundaries, I still agree with a lot of what that article has to say.

Posted: Dec 14 2015, 09:01 by bob | Comments (0)
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The Power of Positive Thinking

I saw a would-be motivational poster today with the following quote from Norman Vincent Peale: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars."

I don't mean to be nitpicky, but if you fall short of the moon, you're still going to be light years away from the stars, although you can ardently admire them as you burn up on re-entry.

But if you really miss the moon, and by that I mean hideously overshooting your intended target to an exponential degree, your long-dead corpse might one day make it to the stars, although that will still be thousands of years after you choked to death due to lack of oxygen.

Posted: Nov 25 2015, 13:23 by bob | Comments (0)
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Jury Duty

I received the following notice for jury duty in the mail a few days ago, (although I edited out all of the actual personal data before posting it here):

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that the first thought which came to mind was:
"Crap. I do not want to do this."

The second thought that came to mind was: perhaps I shouldn't be so quick to dismiss my 'Civic Responsibility.' I am eternally grateful that I am a citizen of the United States, and trial by peers is one of our cherished legal rights which is not available in other countries around the globe.

But over the ensuing days I thought about this a little more, and I began to form the opinion that I have already fulfilled 2,973 days of civic responsibility during my time in the military. Now, for those of you who have never served in our nation's armed forces, you may think that is an unfair attitude. But let me be very clear: during my eight years of military service, the Army owned my life 24 hours a day, and it often made good on its possession. I spent hundreds (if not thousands) of hours working in abhorrent conditions in obscure areas around the planet which the average person doesn't know about, and I did so at any hour on any day - regardless of the weather, physical discomfort, or extended separations from loved ones. During my tenure in uniform I endured countless nights trying to sleep in a makeshift lean-to in subzero temperatures, scorching desert heat, and torrential downpours. I also missed dozens of holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. So believe me when I tell you - we veterans have already done more than our fair share for society. With that in mind, I started to think that all honorably-discharged veterans should be exempt from jury duty.

But then again... as I continued to ponder the subject, I began to think about what the impact to society would be if we exempted all veterans from jury duty.

As I watch the news, I am amazed at the lack of responsibility that is so prevalent in North America. When someone does something bad, they generally refuse to accept responsibility for their actions. But when society attempts to punish a person who has done something wrong, large-scale riots break out in protest. When these riots inevitably destroy cities, their apologists claim that none of the rioters were at fault - it is their 'oppressors' who are the evildoers. But the worst part is - if someone is ever taken to trial for their part in these tragedies, the courts often let the guilty parties go without punishment. A group of defense attorneys were able to successfully use the following defense: "They were simply part of a mob; individual actions do not matter."

Well - let me be perfectly honest: I do not share that opinion. I whole-heartedly believe that if a person screws up, they are personally accountable for their actions; I do not care about the actions of any moral degenerates who may have been surrounding them at the time. If you individually break the law - you are individually guilty. Period. And when you are punished, it is not the arresting officer's fault - it is your fault. (Likewise, if you are pulled over for speeding, it is not the police officer's fault if you get a ticket; you broke the law, so you have to pay the fine.)

In the end I came to the following resolution: even though I may not want to give up a day of my life to serve on a jury, perhaps I need to. Our society desperately needs more people who are not afraid to use the word "Guilty" when it needs to be used. So even though I will undoubtedly be bored for most of the day, I will be bored with a better attitude.

 

PS - If you are a lawyer who is selecting jurors and I'm in the pool of potential peers, I believe everyone is guilty of something. Food for thought. ;-)

Posted: May 18 2015, 16:20 by bob | Comments (0)
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Looking Back on 30 Years of Marriage

Today my wife and I are celebrating our 30th Wedding Anniversary, which is the single-greatest and most-important adventure upon which I have embarked in my life. I remember when my wife and I were newly married and we would meet couples who had been married 30 years; I would think to myself, "Wow – that's such a long time." But now that I'm the one who has been married that long I think, "Wow – that sure went by fast."

But truth be told, I cannot take credit for the length of our union - I married someone who is an infinitely better person than myself. Seriously. Anyone who can put up with me for a mere afternoon is a miracle-worker, which probably elevates my wife to sainthood.

That being said, sometime around our 25th wedding anniversary I started getting questions from younger couples like, "What's your secret?" and "Why has your marriage lasted so long?" Let me be very clear - I am not an expert on marriage, and in general I am not a person who should be emulated; I am wholly aware of my many shortcomings as a human being, and I am overtly cognizant of my failures as a husband with regard to holding up my half of our relationship. (I always mean well, of course - but I am just as flawed as the next guy. Some days I simply forget to take out the garbage, or empty the dishwasher, or whatever. [Darn. I'm so ashamed.])

However, if I can't be a good example of a husband to anyone else, perhaps I can share a few of the things that I've learned from being a bad example. To quote the good people at Despair.com, perhaps my purpose in life is to serve as a warning to others:

mistakesdemotivator

With that in mind, here are some of the reasons why our marriage has endured, what has helped us over the years, and some of the lessons that I've learned the hard way.


I'd like to start things off by answering the question that I seem to get the most: "What is the secret to a long-lasting marriage?" Okay, if you're taking notes, you might want to write this down, because here it is:

Point #1 - Don't Get Divorced.

That's it. Period.

You could stop reading right now because you've already got the main takeaway from this blog. Now in case anyone thinks that I'm making light of this situation, I'm actually being perfectly honest. If you decide that divorce is not an option, it affects every part of your partnership. In our journey together, my wife and I have gone through incredible peaks and valleys - surviving both good and bad times - and many of these situations would have ended other relationships. In the past 30 years we have gone through everything we mentioned in our vows; we have endured sickness, health, prosperity, poverty, joy, adversity, etc. In the end, facing these seasons together and surviving side-by-side to live another day as husband and wife has bonded us together in ways which resemble the closeness of combat veterans. Collective perseverance yields intimacy.

I understand that there are situations where divorce is the only option; for example, when your spouse walks out on you, or your spouse is abusive and refuses to get professional help. When I talk about refusing to get divorced, I am speaking to those of you who get up one day and decide that you don't want to be married, or you claim that your spouse "just doesn't understand you anymore." When these feelings happen, you have to work your way through them. It takes conscious effort, but you made a commitment and you should not quit simply because you are wondering whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Walking out on your marriage because you're bored or you don't want to do the work is little more than cowardice.


To be honest, the fact that my wife and I are still together is a much greater testimony to my next topic:

Point #2 - Christ.

Yes, I know - invoking the name of Christ is considered "Politically Incorrect" these days, but it is a simple statement of fact that my wife's and my faith has helped us weather countless trials and tribulations. So I don't care if it's an unpopular to talk about Jesus, because faith works. Don't argue with success.


Over the years I have learned this next valuable lesson:

Point #3 - Fighting Is Not Worth It.

I have to be brutally honest about whether my wife and I ever fight, and I sincerely wish that I could say we never quarreled. But the truth is - we used to bicker. A lot. In the early years of our marriage we fought like cats and dogs. And on that note, the unfortunate reality of our situation at the time is inescapable: I was 19 years old when I married my high school sweetheart and best friend, who was only 18 years old at the time. We went from kids to couple overnight, but only in the legal sense - maturity didn't show up until many years later. (Perhaps it still hasn't. Hmm. Probably best not to digress on that point.)

I would love to say that my statement about how "fighting is not worth it" was due to some grandiose epiphany which I arrived at through years of soul-searching and mature contemplation of our relationship. But the truth is much simpler, my secret to avoiding arguments boils down to one single concept: laziness. Seriously, fighting took way too much effort, and we eventually learned that it was better not to fight. Here's what an argument looked like in our house - we would disagree about something, which would escalate into a maelstrom of heated and hurtful words thrown back and forth between us. Eventually we would reach some form of resolution, but once the dust settled from the actual argument, we had to endure days of coldness as the two of us figured out how best to rebuild all of the trust which we had destroyed during the argument. It dawned on both of us that it took a great deal of effort to work up the anger for an argument, and the emotional trauma that we experienced was exhausting after our disputes had ended. Once we had realized that valuable lesson, both of us learned to recognize when we were hurtling toward another squabble, and we'd agree to skip over the major conflict part. It sounds easy enough, but it took us years to figure that out.

Now please don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we never disagree, nor am I insinuating that we do not defend our opinions passionately when we hold opposing positions on important topics. The truth is - we still differ on any number of subjects, but we both realize that nothing is worth losing our marriage. Together we have endured destitute poverty, years of work-related separations, the births and deaths of several family members, and raising three children to adulthood.


Throughout all of our combined experiences, I have vividly retained the following critically-important fact:

Point #4 - Always Remember Why You Married Your Spouse.

My wife and I were friends for several years before we ventured out on our first date. In fact, by the the time it occurred to either of one of us that we should be more than friends, many of our friends already thought that we were dating and were rather sick of the subject. (They're probably still sick of the subject, but after 30 years I really don't care. :-P)

Kathleen is my best friend, and we still hold hands when we walk together in public - which is how life should be; she has been the predominant character in all of my experiences as an adult, and she has been a major part of my life for almost 35 years. My wife is truly my better half, so why would I gamble all of our collective memories and life experiences by failing to remember the simple fact that I am sharing my life with the most-important and most-loving person whom I have ever known? If I fail to keep these thoughts in mind, I risk destroying everything. And that would make me a pretty selfish jerk. (Feel free to quote that to my face if it ever looks like we're headed for trouble.)


Point #5 – Be Self-Critical.

Believe it or not, you are not the perfect spouse. The folks at Despair.com got it right when they published a demotivational poster which reads, "The only consistent feature of all of your dissatisfying relationships is you."

dysfunctiondemotivator

While they were just making a joke, it should be noted that there is a lot of truth to that statement. More often than not, you will find that the source of unhappiness in your relationship is your attitude and not some shortcoming on your spouse's part. Every once in a while you need to step back and take a good look at yourself before lecturing someone else about their behavior.


I should probably mention one last thing before bringing this blog to an end:

Point #6 - A Good Marriage Takes Work. A Great Marriage Takes More Work.

Somewhere around our seventh year of marriage I decided that I wasn't content to have a 'Good Marriage,' I wanted a 'Great Marriage.' Unfortunately, I had no clue as to how we should go about creating such a thing. With that in mind, I decided to read at least one book about marriage each year. Some of those books have been great, and others I've tried hard to forget. A few books I have re-read years later; this has usually been an amusing experience for me, because I often discover that some part of a book which I thought was silly and chose to ignore at the time was eventually learned the hard way. In any event, there are a lot of good books on marriage out there, and you may think that some won't apply to your situation, but you have to be willing to try.

Two books which have been life-changing for me have been The Five Love Languages and The Five Languages of Apology by Dr. Gary Chapman; these two books probably changed all of my relationships with everyone I know  - spouse, kids, parents, extended family members, friends, coworkers, etc. There are lots of other great books which I have read, but those two are a good start.


In closing, I may not be the best role model for a husband, and I have made more than my fair share of mistakes. But I have learned a thing or two along my journey from the cradle to the grave. I take no pride by admitting that most of my life lessons have been learned the hard way, so you can consider my advice from two perspectives: if I have been an idiot from time to time throughout our marriage, perhaps my advice isn't worth anything. On the other hand, if I've made enough mistakes as a husband to finally realize several of the most-important things to remember in a relationship, perhaps you can learn from my errors.

Posted: Dec 29 2014, 01:10 by Bob | Comments (0)
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