What is it like to be a prisoner of war?

Answer by John McCain:

That’s not a question I can answer briefly. So, I won’t really try. I wrote a book, Faith of My Fathers,which gave the experience the space I needed to describe all my thoughts about it. Suffice it to say, it was a mostly terrible experience but not all of it. I hated it, and yet I made some of the most important discoveries and relationships of my life in prison.
I was treated poorly by my captors, but not as poorly as they treated other POWs, and the treatment improved as the years passed, though it never met Geneva Convention standards.
My contact with the outside world was pretty much limited to conversations with new prisoners, who would bring the old timers up to date on world events. Otherwise, we were stuck with Hanoi Hannah’s propaganda broadcast for news, which for all her enthusiasm wasn’t exactly fair and balanced.
I adjusted instantly to life after prison. It was nothing but a pleasure to get used to the freedoms and conveniences of American life again. My experiences in Vietnam didn’t change me as dramatically as you might think they would or as much as some people probably wish they would have. I learned two big things though. I learned I wasn’t as strong as I thought I was, but I was strong enough. And I learned there were things I couldn’t do on my own, but that nothing is as liberating as fighting for a cause that’s bigger than yourself.

What is it like to be a prisoner of war?

Good Read on the End of Religious Right Dominance


I agree 100% with the facts and conclusions drawn in this piece. I live in Virginia, home to many serious progressives and many Escalade driving, Obama hating, Tea Party reactionaries. I have three kids under 20 and they all have lots of friends over. I know exactly one kid who’s likely to vote Republican, and it’s because his parents are Christian Extremists.

Many kids here have conservative parents, but the kids see their parents’ views on the poor, same sex marriage, immigrants, and progress generally as hateful and grossly outdated. This is great news for the US and the world. By the mid 21st century, the current US right wing dominance will be seen as a period of reactionary madness, a period ended by the refusal of children to buy into their parents’ fear and hatred of a different but better world.


What are some things that cops know, but most people don’t?

Answer by Rick Bruno:

We know that your "little angel" isn't one.

We know you pay our salaries. You have to, it's not out of your generosity.

We don't like to talk about work with people who don't know what we do.

Real police work is not what you see on TV. We can't solve your crime/problem/social injustice in an hour.

Some incidents are not crimes. They're shames.

You might be tougher than me, but I will win in the long run. Believe it.

If I give you a break, it's because I chose to. Not because your mother's cousin is a cop.

We carry the job home with us. We remember the tragedies, traffic fatalities, hurt or dead babies, ruined lives, battered wives, bullied kids, suicides, and the insults. We remember.

We also remember the rare occasions someone says thanks.

We don't do this job for the power or prestige you might think it brings. We do it because we are tired of seeing good people suffer, and we want to help and protect them from the wolves.

(I retired after 37 years on the job.)

What are some things that cops know, but most people don't?

Capital Oppresses Labor


Tolstoy was exactly right.

It doesn’t have to be this way, of course. Welfare Capitalism, as practiced in most of the developed world, allows the creative destruction of capitalism to proceed while shielding individuals from its excesses.

Supporting capitalism does not require that we support a free for all in which the capitalists use people and natural resources as they will. Capitalism left to run its natural course results in the destruction of individual life, liberty, and ultimately the environment we need to survive. A serious capitalist will acknowledge the need for strong government regulation of capitalist practices, even as he fights against those regulations that limit his own profits.

What is the single wisest thing you’ve heard or read that you fully and completely follow in your personal life?

Answer by Christopher Lamke:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
   Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

This is from the Edward Fitzgerald translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Fitzgerald took some liberties with the literal meaning of the Arabic here and elsewhere, but the results are brilliant.

I made many mistakes and hurt many people in my early adult life, and this verse (among many in the Rubaiyat) helped me to realize the importance of empathy and wisdom and the impossibility of ever truly making up for past wrongs. In short, the idea encapsulated in this verse helped me to grow up.

I try to follow this ideal in daily life, though I come nowhere near "fully and completely" following it as the question requires.

What is the single wisest thing you've heard or read that you fully and completely follow in your personal life?

How do you make an atheist angry?

Answer by Andrew Gumperz:

This is a stupid question. Hence, I will answer my own, alternative questions:

How many Atheists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
None. Laws of physics say there is a small but finite chance the light bulb will screw itself in.

How many Christians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Charismatic: Only one. Hands already in the air.

Pentecostals: Ten. One to change the bulb and nine to pray against the spirit of darkness.

Presbyterians: None. Lights will go off and on at predestined times.

Roman Catholic: None. Candles only.

Baptists: At least 15. One to change the light bulb and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.

Episcopalians: Three. One to call the electrician, one to mix the drinks and one to talk about how much better the old bulb was.

Mormons: Five. One man to change the bulb and four wives to tell him how to do it.

Unitarians: We choose not to make a statement either in favor of or against the need for a light bulb. However, if in your own journey you have found that light bulbs work for you, that is fine. You are invited to write a poem or compose a modern dance about your light bulb for the next Sunday service, in which we will explore a number of light bulb traditions including incandescent, fluorescent, three-way, long-life and tinted, all of which are equally valid paths to luminescence.

Methodists: Undetermined. Whether your light bulb is bright, dull, or completely out, you are loved. You can be a light bulb, turnip bulb or tulip bulb. A church-wide lighting service is planned for Sunday. Bring a bulb of your choice and a covered dish.

Nazarene: Six. One woman to replace the bulb while five men review the church lighting policy.

Lutherans: None. Lutherans don’t believe in change.

Amish: What’s a light bulb?

How do you make an atheist angry?

When people in their 30s, 40s, and older look back on their life, what are some common regrets they have?

Answer by James Altucher:

Everyone wants to know what dead people say right before they die. Words maybe infused with speckles of a heaven.

Beethoven supposedly said on his deathbed, "Friends applaud!  the comedy is finished!"

Lou Costello said, "This was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted."
Similar is, "What are common regrets of people in their 30s and 40s?"

Can they be avoided if known?

Here are my regrets. And they can be summed up by the word: "Don't".

Buy experiences. A thing is a house. An experience is a trip.

An experience is a visit to that girl or guy on the other side of the world who said, "maybe".

An experience is an invitation to meaning instead of material.


You think you have time to get out of it. But you don't.

And then it happens. And then it's too late. And then it's something you did. You were the target and you got shot.

A black ink stamp leaving it's mark on your wrist. You went to the party and the next day, all blurry and inky, it shows and everyone can see.


Nobody is more worthy of love in the entire universe than you. I wish I had reminded myself of that more.

I could've saved all of that time where I was trying to please someone else.

Money you lose you can always make back. But even five minutes of time lost is gone forever.


These people are magnets of love. They've sucked all the love out of the room so when you walk in, it's already too late, you're past that zone in the black hole where nothing ever gets out and nobody ever knows what's there. It's lost in space and time.

When I've fallen in love with someone who was in love with someone else, only pieces of me have ever survived. And even then I had to put those pieces back together into the tinkertoy robot that became me for a long time.


And to that I can only say, I'm sorry to that one girl.


I don't mean run to a goal or a destination. There are no goals and you realize this around the age of 30 or so.

I mean just "run". You build up your blood vessels. More oxygen gets to the brain. You get smarter. Life is better.

And you'll see more in life than the people who are walking. Who take their time failing. Who take their time falling for others. Who take their time while waiting for the right moment.

Waiting for the right weather, the right coordinates, the right person, to drop anchor.

There's never a right moment. So just run to get there.


Who is "them"? What are they saying "yes" to? What do you think will happen after the wait is over?

Yes. That's my point. All of the answers to these questions are lesser versions of what happens if you don't wait so I'll say it again. "Don't wait for them to say yes".

Say yes to yourself first and everyone will say yes later.


It seems small. But a million paper clips in life add up to what you are, a mishmash of twisted metal. 

Be honest. Honesty compounds until your word becomes The Word.
Try it and see.


And by "food" I mean McRibs. But also I mean the news. And dramas that kill lots of people.

And coworkers who gossip in the hallway, everyone trying to pull everyone else down.

And family who yells at you only because you have become the piano they play their own anguish on.

And late nights with the girl who smiles but you know it will never work.

At 20, life can either compound into beauty or into insanity. This is the "don't" that forks into both.

It may look like these are regrets. But they are just tattoos that live on me right now. The illustrated man at the circus.

Don't time travel into the past, roaming through the nuances as if they can change. Don't bookmark pages you've already read.

Today it starts all over again. Every tomorrow is determined by every today.

When people in their 30s, 40s, and older look back on their life, what are some common regrets they have?

The hard truth about getting old


This Salon article is a good read and could be starting material for a much deeper discussion, one we should be having among ourselves and also publicly. I’m sharing it because I had a short but rewarding conversation with a friend on Google Plus around this article.

It’s usually a surprise to me when I realize people are treating me differently because of my age. It just feels strange to be seen differently because I’m 20 or more years older or younger than someone else. I try to avoid seeing others this way, but it’s a natural tendency.

As humans, we love to label things, people included, and that includes labeling others according to age. This is particularly problematic because physical age captures so little of a person’s essence.

Becoming ageless by living for timeless goals is a worthy goal for life. For most of us, that means playing a small part in making the world better, dedicating ourselves to improving the lives of at least a few people.

One thing I love about the internet is that people, for the most part, perceive you according to the traits you express, rather than as an age, a race, a citizen of some place. The technology allows us to abstract away (to some extent) the innate aspects of those we meet, letting us focus on their character, intelligence, and general persona. I see this as a wonderful advance.