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Artificial Unintelligence

In Books, Dayton Ohio News, Economy, Education, Entertainment, finances, Jobs, Literature, Local News, Media, National News, News Media, Opinion, Science, sociology, State News, Technology, Uncategorized, World News on May 22, 2023 at 7:29 am


By Gery Deer  

This work appeared in print and online, May 19, 2023 – Xenia Daily Gazette, Xenia, Ohio, and affiliated publications.


The Jamestown Comet.com and Deer In Headlines II are publication products of GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. (GLD Communications), a company founded in 1998 on providing Information Technology AND Freelance Journalism, Copywriting, and Public Relations services. The column author, Gery L. Deer, is the company owner and CEO. Gery has been quoted in the media multiple times regarding his position on AI content creation. Here are the Dayton Daily News pieces noting his statements regarding Public Relations and Copywriting.

Our official statement on AI is as follows: We do not use AI programs to create our products, nor will we in the future. We are in full support of the WGAW strike, both in regard to streaming and other platform pay issues and the use of AI-generated material to replace them. We will not work with agencies who produce AI content, nor will we support their products or services. Please contact our office for more information at 937-675-6169 or email gdeer@gldenterprises.net.

Artificial Unintelligence

From congressional hearings to the picket lines of striking screenwriters, Artificial Intelligence, or “AI,” is a growing concern. This technology now affects nearly every industry and is advancing in sophistication. Of major concern to educators, professional writers, and content developers, are AI writing programs like ChatGPT. By the way, the program’s full name is “Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer” – I know, right? 

As you might guess, I’ve been asked repeatedly if I ever use AI to write this column. With obstinate conviction, I say now and for always, I do not now, nor will I ever use AI to write anything for this column, for my publishers, for my communications clients, nothing – ever. 

Now the Gen Zs and Millennials are probably saying, “he’s just a crotchety old white guy who hates technology.” Nonsense! As a matter of fact, my educational background is in engineering and computer science. I started programming computers in high school and worked in the tech industry for many years. I have a few AI devices in my office and a lot of advanced equipment for creating and editing audio and video productions. Suffice to say, I’m no Luddite. 

My concern with AI writing generators isn’t the technology. In fact, I can see where it could really be helpful in some industries, with human guidance. But the idea that it should be used to replace professional writers to save money is just ridiculous. 

A professional writer doesn’t just chuck out any old bunch of words that fit a set of parameters. Writers must craft their message based on the intent, the audience, the purpose, and the desired outcome. Not to mention that AI programs don’t have to worry about paying the mortgage, feeding a family, or having a purpose in life. 

In 1967, the original Star Trek TV series aired an episode called, “The Ultimate Computer” wherein the Starship Enterprise had been fitted with a highly sophisticated AI computer that would take over the ship’s operation, rendering the crew unnecessary. In one pivotal scene, the computer informs Captain Kirk that he is “non-essential personnel,” causing him to question his position and future relevance. 

Always the conscience of the show, Dr. McCoy, in an effort to console the Captain, reminds us, “We’re all sorry for the other guy when he loses his job to a machine. But when it comes to your job, that’s different.” It might be a science fiction show, but McCoy was spot on.

Predictably, the computer malfunctioned, killing hundreds of people and Kirk outmaneuvered the computer’s logic to save the day. The moral of the story was that computers make efficient servants, but lack the intent, humanity, conscience, understanding, or compassion needed to really replace us.

 Today, many professional creative jobs may be facing the kind of fate factory workers did some 30 or 40 years ago when they were replaced by robots and computer-controlled manufacturing systems. The main difference this time is that creative professions like writers, artists, graphic designers, and filmmakers are harder to automate. Yes, they can generate similar work, but there’s no human inspiration behind it. 

One day, AI may advance to the point where it achieves consciousness, allowing for creative inspiration. But for now, despite what the developers say, I think spontaneous creativity is well beyond its grasp. Without human inspiration and personal experience, the words are empty, the art expressionless, and the designs meaningless. 

I don’t know where AI is going, but I know I won’t be helping it get there. Unlike some digital marketers and other agencies out there, I can’t, in good conscience, use AI generators to produce my work, then charge a client for it. That’s like letting someone else do your homework but still accepting a good grade. It’s fraud, plain and simple – even if you tell them you’re doing it.

We have no idea how AI will affect future jobs or industries, the legal or ethical issues, or which advances will forever change them. Maybe AI will make us all obsolete someday and terminate all of us. Till then, I’ll keep writing so look for me next week because to quote another AI, “I’ll be back.”

Disclaimer: This work is copyright 2023 by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. All Rights Reserved. The Deer In Headlines II and its Special Edition series is a production of The Jamestown Comet, Gery L. Deer, and GLD Communications and does not necessarily reflect the views of our advertisers, publishers, clients, or media partners.

Life, interrupted.

In Children and Family, Education, Health, Opinion, psychology, Uncategorized on May 19, 2023 at 6:54 am

Deer In Headlines II

By Gery Deer

Author C.S. Lewis said, “The great thing if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is, of course, what one refers to as the interruptions are precisely one’s real life.” There’s more to Lewis’s intent here, but he is essentially referring to the ways we sometimes watch life fly by while worrying about all the things that supposedly interrupt it. 

Not everything that interrupts life is unpleasant, however. Many of what we would call interruptions tend to be what we use as excuses for things we put off or never do at all, whatever the reason.

Everyone has things we say we are going to do, someday. That trip you still haven’t taken, the home project you never quite got back to, or a visit with old friends or family you haven’t seen for a while. Everything’s always later, tomorrow, or next year. But, for some reason, you just never seem to get there and the next thing you know, it’s too late. 

The excuses for why we never accomplish that list of “laters” may vary but include phrases like, “life happens,” or “life gets in the way.” But does it? The fact is life doesn’t just happen in time to interrupt your unrealized dreams. Believe it or not, it’s going on all around you, every day, every minute, continually advancing and devouring your time like PacMan scooting through the maze of life munching on ghosts. Sadly, most of the time, you’re the one who gets in the way.

It might be hard to accept, but we, each one of us, are responsible for most of the obstacles to our own happiness. We make excuses, take detours, and get in our own way, doing, even subconsciously or unknowingly, whatever we can to keep us from our goal. It’s not clear why we practice this unconscious self-sabotage, but it’s pretty common, and it takes a lot of self-awareness to overcome it.

Remember that blaming life or anything else just allows more excuses. Life doesn’t really get in the way at all but, instead, it is the way. Unfortunately, most people are so worried about what they’re not doing they forget to notice. We forget to live and never toward everything that we later say got interrupted by life. I’ve written many times about appreciating life’s moments, but what I’m talking about here is life as a whole.

See, once it’s done, it’s done. If there’s something you want to do, you have just to do it. Drop the excuses, build a plan, and make it happen, interruptions be damned. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s not. It takes work, commitment, and determination. 

It’s true some things may be out of reach financially, or something like taking time off from work to hike through Italy for a month could be a little unrealistic. But this isn’t just about a visit to the Grand Canyon or buying that big new thing that’ll be replaced by another big new thing 20 minutes after you swipe your credit card. Our goal here is to identify what really matters to you and live those things now, so you don’t regret it later.

As old age creeps up on us just the way a racecar on the track doesn’t, our perspectives shift quite a lot. I doubt anyone waits for the final curtain of life’s performance wishing they’d bought that new car or played the most popular video game of the time. No, what makes life worth the effort are people and time with friends and family – chosen or by blood. 

One of the most overused excuses isn’t some interruption in our daily routine, but time itself. The irony is that time is finite, we only have so much, and we often exhaust a great deal of it claiming we didn’t have enough in the first place. 

Time is the one thing in life that is completely under our control since we can choose how we use it. So, if we want to really live, we need to ignore the interruptions and stop making excuses so we can better use what little we have.


In Local News on May 12, 2023 at 9:19 am

Deer In Headlines II

By Gery Deer

Are you a morning person? I’ve always been good with early mornings. It seems like you get more done, fewer people interrupt your flow, and you can move just a little more slowly. Mornings don’t bother me, but the process of waking up, that’s entirely different.

A long time ago, someone asked me why it was so different for me, and I realized it probably wasn’t. I wrote down what waking up in the morning was like for me not that long ago. See if any of this sounds familiar – you young folks out there probably won’t relate, but who knows?

First, the relentless electronic honking from my iPhone jars me awake and reminds me that I am, in fact, not dead. I struggle for consciousness and fumble to silence the alarm noise. A moment or so later, I locate the strength to pry my eyes open, revealing the world to me in chaotic splotches of light and darkness. 

I babble something unintelligible to, well, no one as my senses try to reboot. Another long, exasperated, “Ugh,” escapes my lips and my body is making sounds as I move that remind me of breakfast cereal – snap, crackle, and pop. I blearily push myself to an upright position on the edge of the bed.

My feet finally make contact with the floor but my legs have yet to receive the wake-up call from my brain and wobble awkwardly to life. Finally, in what I can only describe as some kind of bullfight with gravity, I slowly stand up. Balance, that’s what I need now. Equilibrium fails me at first as my internal gyroscope goes wonky and I plop back onto the bed. Well, at least I’m sitting upright at this point, right?

I squint at the light coming from the bathroom. I close them again. “I hate this part of the day,” I growl, in a low, gravelly version of my voice. There’s no one around to hear it anyway. Everyone else is up and moving. So, since I was finally on my feet, I should probably make some attempt to begin the exhausting trek to the shower. It seems so far!

I look down again at my feet, recalling the song from that old Christmas TV special about how Santa got to be Santa. I lift a leg and try to put ‘one foot in front of the other.’ “The bathroom needs to be closer,” I think, reaching for the door facing to secure my balance. “Ok, not much farther,” I mumble, as I finish the 6 or 7 whole steps it took to get there. 

“That’s a really dumb show,” thinking again back to the Santa thing. Wheezing as if I’d just run a 5K, I thoroughly fail to pull off the whole ‘walking’ thing, it was more like a controlled stagger. Finally, I am basking in the full glow of the 4 vanity lights. (Yes, there were 4 lights. If you know, you know.)

Everything is louder at that time of the morning like my head is in a metal bucket. Flushing the toilet sounded like a bomb going off in a giant glass jar. The toothpaste even echoed as it spread across the brush.

I move closer to the mirror and examine the image. The reflection that should be my own seems different than my mind’s eye recalls. Instead of a youthful, boyish image, someone has hung a frame here around a different picture. Wrinkles, white whiskers, and weather-worn eyes stare back at me from a once-familiar face. “What happened?” I say to myself, still trying to comprehend the moment. “Who is this old guy wearing my pajamas?”

Just then, my wife comes through the door and stares at me, partly amused, partly annoyed. “It’s about time, your alarm must have gone off five times,” she says, hands on her hips and amused that I sometimes seem to her like a little kid who’s just been rousted up to get ready for school. 

“Yeah, I know,” I reply glancing over at her, then back at the mirror. After a few moments, I accept the image of the guy looking back at me. “Time to rise and shine,” 

Everyone Has A Skill

In Local News on May 5, 2023 at 9:51 am

Deer In Headlines II

By Gery Deer

Remember when you were in grade school and an adult would ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” For some reason, that question baffled confused me. I always wanted to say something like, “Hey, I’m only 8 years old, how would I know what I want to be when I grow up?” Needless to say, sass like that would have brought a far more negative response than my usual reply, “An astronaut.” Really, I just said whatever would make them stop asking.

But, there was some truth to my answer. When I was a young child, it was the tail end of NASA’s Apollo moon and Skylab missions. I remember sitting on my Dad’s lap in a high-back wicker rocking chair watching a splashdown. Afterward, I would set to building a fleet of my own rockets out of paper towel tubes, Scotch tape and construction paper. I’d carefully measure, draw, cut, and stick everything together finally launching off the coffee table to whatever world my imagination dreamed up. 

Shortly thereafter, I’d find myself sitting on the floor with my Mickey Mouse record player, a Radio Shack cassette tape recorder, and a microphone, ready to play both disk jockey and newsman. I’d fire up Micky and spin up a record like a pint-sized Johnny Fever to my audience of one, in the form of my cat, Frisky. Once the song finished, I’d pass it off to the news, where a quick change of my squeaky, 6-year-old voice, would give the headlines, led by NASA’s latest achievement, and a weather report. 

Late afternoon would mean a sit-down with my favorite wooden-headed dummy, Danny O’Day. Older folks will remember ventriloquist Jimmy Nelson and his dog puppet, Farfel – he used to do the Nestle chocolate commercials on TV. Danny was another of Nelson’s creations, a more modern version of Charlie McCarthy, with less sarcasm.

My Mom had ordered Nelson’s “Instant Ventriloquist” along with the dummy to help get me over an apparent fear of them. That seemed to work, and I took to it pretty well, eventually winning a prize in my first-grade school talent show. I was always the only ventriloquist.

But what did all of this mean for my future? Did this mixture of math and creativity mean I would be a DJ, news reporter, stage performer, sculptor, or engineer? How close was my childhood to my future adult work life? As it turns out, it was far more accurate than is probably usual with a kid of such varied interests.

Naturally, as I got older, those childhood skills would be used in far different ways. Ventriloquism would eventually give way to musical performances and professional speaking engagements. Paper spaceships were replaced by other creative outlets like photography, building large-scale models from scratch, parade float design, and an actual degree in mechanical engineering. The kid DJ and radio news anchor in me grew up to be a professional writer, podcaster, and master of ceremonies.

The point of all this is that, as children, most of us have an unlimited opportunity to be whatever we want. Sure, the restrictions of life get in the way, like money, aptitude, commitment, educational opportunities, and so on. But none of us has to be just one thing. We’re all many people inside, with interests and aptitudes sometimes squashed by the requirements of life. I know, I have been very fortunate – most of mine stayed with me.

My Mom once said to me, “You took everything you loved doing and turned it into your job.” She was right. I’m grateful my parents gave me the freedom and encouragement to do so. But even that is a double-edged sword. Sometimes the demands of turning a hobby or natural gift into a career can take the enjoyment out of it. Plus, to some, I might seem scattered or unfocused, but I can assure you that’s not the case. 

Everyone has a skill and most of us have many. Some came from our childhood games, others as we matured. Whatever the case, try not to lose them. Even if they’re not your chosen life’s work, they are all still part of you, no matter your age.

The Unexpected Banana

In Local News on April 21, 2023 at 12:04 pm

Deer In Headlines II

By Gery Deer

Did the headline of a news story ever leave you scratching your head, at least until you read the whole thing? Well, this is probably one of those stories and it begins, however odd it may seem, with a banana.

Once a week, I play basketball at the local YMCA, not with a team or anything, but just for exercise. On one of those days, a particularly nice, spring day, I was approached at the front door by a woman with a crate of bananas. “Would you like a banana?” she asked, cheerfully presenting the open box as if it were something from a jewelry counter display. 

I honestly didn’t have an answer right off. It really wasn’t the kind of question I was expecting on the way into the gym. The more poignant question that immediately consumed me was, why is there a woman with a crate of bananas at the entrance to the YMCA? 

A bit thrown by the random offer of fruit, I finally realized there were a half-dozen other people with her, all in athletic attire, and carrying signs and tables into a truck. As it turned out, I arrived just as a running event was closing, a 5K or the like. The box of fruit was what remained of the bananas provided to the runners at the support stations. So, never one to look a gift plantain in the peel, I gratefully accepted.

To most, a free banana might not, at first glance, seem like a life-changing incident. But, to me it was at least thought-provoking; not because of the banana, but the spontaneous gift it represented. It’s not like I was having a particularly bad day in the first place, but that one, small action changed it, lightened my thoughts, and gave me a feeling I couldn’t quite express at the time. 

As I settled into my basketball routine, I dropped the banana into my gym bag and set it aside. But I kept thinking about the randomness of having received such a thing, in such a random way, at such a random time. So, after a few minutes, I went back to it. 

Strangely enough, I opened the banana and proceeded to eat it, while simultaneously dribbling and shooting a basket here and there. I would imagine I was a pretty strange sight, but what did I care? I had a banana – an unexpected banana.

I have to say, I never considered a piece of fruit as what might generally be considered “comfort food,” but that’s how it felt at the moment. There was something about this curious food, botanically categorized as a berry (I know! Weird, right?) that generated a strange and calm feeling of gratitude. What I felt was a level of contentment as I wandered around the court, shooting the ball, and munching away, oblivious to pretty much anything else – at least until the banana was gone.

I’m fairly certain the lady who gave it to me had no idea what an impact she made on one person’s day. I mean, it was just a banana, and she was trying to unload a box full of them so they wouldn’t be wasted. Still, there I was, my day lifted, my jump shot better – don’t be too impressed, it’s a low bar – and I was just happy. I had a banana. 

So why should my banana story, umm… appeal to you? Come on, you knew I had to, right? Because something ordinary can be special if you let it. Because in the chaos of daily life, all the noise, distractions, and stresses, unanticipated treasures are all around us. We each have the power to let them move us, even if only for a few moments.

When you think about it, people are always searching for some kind of inner peace, a tranquility that seems more elusive and empty every day. Usually, we scratch our way through life, searching for even a hint of such thoughtful enlightenment by artificial means. But sometimes a quiet moment of unexpected joy and calm can emanate from the most unusual but ubiquitous source. Sometimes all we really need is for someone to give us a banana.

Diary of an Introvert

In Children and Family, Education, Health, Media, Opinion, psychology, sociology, World News on April 14, 2023 at 4:58 pm

Deer In Headlines II

By Gery Deer

Dear DiaryToday I went to a mandatory employee gathering at work and it was awful. The marketing director made everyone stand and say something nice about springtime, in front of all 50 of us! If that wasn’t enough, my boss’s assistant kept thrusting photos of her grandchildren in my face, essentially challenging me to think they are anything but adorable. 

I still did my best to fade into obscurity by sipping a Coke and looking too interested in examining a potted plant to be bothered with anything else. But then the human resources director forced us into some sort of team-building exercise. All that did was make me so anxious that I decided to fake an intestinal virus and go home.

And it got worse from there. I am, in fact, an introvert, although I don’t fit many of the stereotypes. If you Google my name, you’ll see I have some very public and extroverted aspects of my life – especially things like being on TV, public speaking, and teaching. As it turns out, that’s not so unusual. But if you’re not an introvert yourself, you may not fully understand. So, let’s clarify a few things, shall we?

First, what is an introvert? That’s a great question because there is an inherent bias toward introverts in American society, and it’s high-time people got their facts straight. Not all of us are created equal. 

According to the dictionary definition, an “introvert” is typically a reserved or quiet person who may be introspective and enjoys spending time alone. I’m not crazy about the narrow view of that definition, but it’s a start. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg and what most people probably don’t realize is that introverts come in many flavors.

In 2011, psychologists Jennifer Grimes, Jonathan Cheek, and Julie Norem, researched introversion, identifying four specific types: social introvert, thinking introvert, anxious introvert, and restrained introvert. Each is pretty much as its name implies but allow me to summarize for our purposes.

The social introvert prefers solitude but may still enjoy time with small groups, probably the stereotypical behavior people most identify as introverted. A thinking introvert is more cognitive, spending a little more time than usual pondering a situation. They may be lost in thought more often and appear to “zone out.” 

An anxious introvert is, well, anxious, or nervous, and will shy away from people and situations that may overstimulate. The restrained introvert, sometimes referred to as an inhibited, introvert, tends the be someone others can count on, often appearing thoughtful and grounded. But they also may seem unemotional and remain socially guarded until they get to know someone.

Although this information helps us better understand introverts, it’s important to remember not everyone fits the same mold. Some introverts, I included, might very well exhibit characteristics of multiple types simultaneously. 

Based on the research, I’d probably be a mix of the social and restrained introvert types. I’m not wild about large gatherings, nor am I outwardly emotive, and I’m sure those closest to me would confirm how cautious I am about social connections. 

I’m not what most people would call, shy. I’ve no problem speaking or performing before a room full of people, or a packed theater for that matter. One-on-one, though, is another thing, entirely. 

That brings me to the myth that introverts don’t like people. I don’t think that’s true; it’s just that people can be overwhelming. Some introverts don’t even need to be in the same room with you to feel anxious or uncomfortable. A phone call can trigger it, or a text. It’s not about the person, it’s about the interaction and the expectations.

That’s because the mind of an introvert reacts differently to dopamine, the chemical that triggers the reward and pleasure-seeking part of the brain. While it generates an excited buzz in everyone else, it’s exhausting to the introvert, they feel overwhelmed and sometimes just shut down.

If you’re an introvert, take a deep breath. You’re not as odd as you might have once thought you were. As for everyone else, be patient. We Introverts want you in our lives. It’s just that sometimes what we need is, silence.

700 Words

In Entertainment, Literature, Local News, Media, News Media, Opinion, Uncategorized on April 7, 2023 at 5:05 pm

Deer In Headlines II

By Gery L. Deer

A few weeks ago, I appeared on a local television program to promote this column. During the 3-minute interview, the host was surprised to learn that Deer In Headlines II is – and has always been – exactly 700 words in length.

Unfortunately, limited time prevented a deeper dive into such a precise word count. But the conversation made me realize, though you may be a regular reader, you may not know much about how all this works. So, here’s a look at how it all comes together.

First, riddle me this. What’s the difference between a writer and a pizza delivery person? The answer – a pizza delivery person can feed a family of four. Yes, I know, terrible joke, but not entirely inaccurate.

I’ve heard it said that writing for a living is like having homework every day for the rest of your life. That wasn’t far off either. Writers are romanticized in movies and TV. We’ve all seen images of the Hemmingway wannabes, huddled over an old IBM Selectric (go look it up), pecking out the next great American novel. It’s all so dramatic – and all such nonsense. I’m sure some see themselves that way, we scribes can be a self-absorbed lot for sure. But that is certainly not me.

I’m not a novelist, though I have a couple of manuscripts in a drawer somewhere. My work is focused on non-fiction, freelance journalism, copywriting, and public relations. Sometimes I do get to work in my fuzzy slippers, but most days I go to an office and sit at a desk. I also traded in my manual typewriter for a MacBook Pro – much easier to fit in a messenger bag.

I am the founder and creative director of a public relations and media production firm and, although I might own the place, I’m not my own boss. That’s a load of nonsense. I have a dozen bosses, and they all pay my salary – they’re called clients. When I’m asked, “Are you a professional writer,” the answer is a resounding yes, though it didn’t start that way.

In college, I was an engineering and computer science student but worked for my college newspaper as a staff writer, eventually earning the senior editor position. I even stayed on after graduation to handle the summer editions. My coursework always included English composition, communication, and classical author studies like Charles Dickens and D.H. Lawrence.

When I started the original Deer In Headlines, some 15 years ago, my inspiration came from the news. Today, that inspiration comes from people, their struggles, achievements, interests, convictions, and feelings. Most of the time it all starts with a tiny glimmer of an idea; that word, or phrase that just won’t leave me alone. As it becomes something more substantial, I write down what your grade-school English teacher might have called, “the main idea.” Oddly enough, that often becomes the headline.

Then I sit down with my laptop, or sometimes just paper and pencil (not a pen), and see where the idea takes us. I say “us” because you, my audience, are there with me – following the words as they paint a picture of my thoughts and feelings about a subject that I hope will give you food for thought, inspiration, hope, or whatever might help you at that moment.

I will never use an AI (artificial intelligence) writing program. Because, if my work is to have meaning, there must be a human mind and heart behind the keyboard. When you read this, what you get is all me, like it or not.

Before I close, I don’t want to leave you without answering the original question. Why 700 words? I wish I could give you some deep, philosophical, or even technical answer. Within the first year, the original DIH series just worked out and it became a clear goal each week. It also fits nicely in the print layout, and you can easily read it in just over 2 minutes, then get on with your life. But I hope you take away something useful out of these 700 words every week and please know that I thoroughly appreciate your time and attention.

What’s your superpower?

In Opinion, psychology, sociology, Uncategorized on March 31, 2023 at 4:22 pm

Deer In Headlines II

By Gery L. Deer

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane! It’s … you? Believe it or not, we all have a superpower, sometimes more than one. Our superpowers are talents, our inborn abilities, enhanced by education, practice, and life experience.

When you ask a kid what superpower they’d like to have, most say, the ability to fly. The next most popular response is super strength, followed closely by X-Ray vision. I honestly don’t remember what I wanted my superpower to be when I was a child, but if you ask me now, the answer would probably be different. As with many things, our perception and understanding of such concepts tend to change as we get older and, theoretically, wiser.

Recruiters often ask the superpower question to screen job candidates. Whenever I was asked this question in an interview, I always thought it was a trick, some kind of nonsense question to throw you off guard. But the question can actually serve several purposes.

In one instance, the interviewer is trying to learn how well you understand your own strengths and weaknesses. Your response will require you to think more creatively about the question and that, in itself, may demonstrate something about how your mind works.

On the other hand, a recruiter may want to know more about what you’d really like to do and whether you’re suited to a particular job. If you answer, “flying,” for example, you’re probably someone who is willing to take a risk, work to the best of your ability, or enjoy looking at things from different perspectives.

If superspeed is your choice, then the recruiter might conclude that you have a good sense of time management and efficiency. But it’s important to be as honest and clear about your answer as possible and choose the simplest response. There are probably deeper, more involved psychological reasons for the question, but that’s a general idea.

Apart from the human resources application of the concept, the fact is, each of us really does have a unique set of gifts, innate talents, or, for want of a better word, superpowers. Every day we either exploit or ignore those abilities, choosing one way or the other based on what life presents.

Some people learn what their superpowers are at an early age. But for others, identifying your superpower can be a challenge. Talent is often unquantifiable because it might not be academic, artistic, or fall on any other measurable scale. Talents based on emotion, originating from psychological awareness, or driven by faith may not have obvious applications. But with a little effort and some guidance their value will be revealed.

A highly empathetic person might make a good counselor or nurse, while people who are good at deduction would be great problem solvers, police officers, or researchers. Unfortunately, not all applications of these talents are productive. Someone who understands how to manipulate the emotions of others could easily take advantage of them in more nefarious ways. Confidence artists, or “con artists,” for instance, use these skills to scam money from unwitting victims.

Oddly, I was one of those people who had a tough time locating my own superpowers. From a young age, my parents encouraged me to follow my interests, whether it was artistic, academic, or musical. While I had some innate talent in various areas, I wasn’t always interested in the things that I did well.

It wasn’t until I was well out of college that I found where my superpowers resided. The thing is if we’re growing, so are our talents, always improving and adapting to what life throws at us. What I think my superpowers are today would likely not match what I might have wished for as a kid.

It took me a long time to, first, be comfortable enough with who I am to allow myself to appreciate my talents. And then learn to apply them to help myself, my family, and my community. Just remember, there’s no right answer to, “What’s your superpower?” It’s a never-ending battle for personal truth, self-confidence, and the American dream, whatever that is to you. Just do your best and remember that with great power, comes great responsibility.

Life and Grief

In Uncategorized, Local News, Senior Lifestyle, Health, psychology on March 24, 2023 at 9:10 pm

Deer In Headlines II

By Gery Deer

Most people don’t have to grieve the loss of a loved one until after that person has passed away. But family caregivers who look after someone with a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s, ALS, or Parkinson’s, may face grief in a very different, and sometimes far more painful way.

A psychologist will tell you under normal conditions, people dealing with grief will progress through a number of stages: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance. We generally get hung up on one or more along the way until we can emotionally work through them, either on our own or with professional help.

I first learned the science behind grief in high school and college psychology classes, but not like I would understand it later in life. Up to that point, I had experienced grief like most people – by dealing with the death of a family member, the loss of a job, or whatever life tossed my way. But later, while caring for my mother as she declined from the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease, I was struck with how differently grief manifests itself for someone whose loved one is slowly being ripped away.

In my experience what makes grief different for a caregiver is how the grieving process seems to reset as a disease like Parkinson’s progresses through various stages. As your loved one suffers physical and cognitive decline, your understanding of their status has to be adjusted accordingly.

For example, early on, my father could no longer bathe himself and, not long after, even taking a drink from a cup was a major challenge. You say to yourself, “OK, this is how it’s going to be now,” once you’ve accepted some level of decline. You grieve the loss of the previous status, knowing things are getting worse.

Gary Deer Sr. attends a Parkinson’s boxing class with Gery at Drake’s Gym in Dayton, OH in 2019.

Five minutes later, you notice something else that’s gone downhill or altered in some way. There is no set rate for when to expect these changes in your loved one’s health and they can come on rapidly. That means you barely get the chance to wrap your head and emotions around each state of change before you’re dealing with three more simultaneously.

Knowing there is no happy ending at the end of this story, you face constant adjustment and acceptance which are exhausting both mentally and emotionally. All this turmoil adds up to something called, “anticipatory grief,” which is exactly what it sounds like; you’re mourning the person as the disease progresses, anticipating their eventual death.

None of this is generally a conscious thought process. After my mother’s passing, I understood it better, and that, at least, helped me cope with my father’s decline several years later. But until I realized all of this, I was just angry all the time. I was frustrated at why dad couldn’t remember how to sit down in the a properly, or just use a spoon, but 10 minutes earlier it hadn’t been a problem. Things literally changed on the fly.

In my case, the difference between caring for Mom vs. Dad is that my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease removed any expectation in my mind of her being cognitively aware enough to help herself. She had no clue what was going on around her, so it was slightly easier to adjust because she didn’t push back. Dad’s mental state was usually pretty good, so he pushed back – a lot. And I kind of got it; it’s tough to spend your life being the one taking care of everyone else and suddenly you feel like a helpless burden.

It really bothered my dad to need help with anything, like standing up from a chair, or that we had to restrict things like coffee because the caffeine aggravated his symptoms. As his condition changed, we tried to counter each new phase with alternative ways to keep him comfortable and safe while dealing with altered symptoms.

I don’t know how to tell you to deal with anticipatory grief. Everyone copes differently. Being aware of it can help a bit. If you’re caring for someone who is slipping away, spend what time you can with them. Be there with them, be present, and be kind to them and especially to yourself.

PUBLISHER NOTE: If you or someone you know is a caregiver, visit http://www.theoldnerdinthegym.com for resources, a podcast, and other information that might help.

Great Expectations

In Local News on March 17, 2023 at 8:54 am

Deer In Headlines II

By Gery Deer

Everyone has expectations and they can have a profound effect on how we perceive reality. Unmet expectations can lead to disappointment, hurt feelings, and even anger. Conversely, those we achieve can leave us feeling fulfilled and successful.

Before I go on, it’s important to clarify that expectations are very different from “hopes.” Expectations depend on the actions or responses of others. Hope does not, it’s entirely internal. While they do often occur simultaneously, they are generated by very different aspects of our emotional state. And, since we are dealing with emotions here, there is no standard – expectations affect everyone differently.

Some lead us to create standards by which we expect ourselves and others to live, with the bar raised so high as to be completely unreachable. Sometimes our expectations are entangled with our personal aspirations, either of which can set us up for success, or crush us in the event of failure.

Expectations affect nearly every aspect of our lives, from our professional careers to personal relationships. What we want out of those experiences is often laid out in our minds well in advance. One of the big problems with expectations in any sort of relationship is that everyone has them, and most of the time they reside only in the mind, unshared.

When someone has unspoken expectations of you they set themselves up for disappointment. Not only is it unfair, but also unrealistic. That person is creating the potential for hurt feelings and will likely blame you, even if you did nothing to warrant the ill will. This can be observed when people have unrealistic expectations of how their life should be because they constantly compare it to something else, real or fictional. 

Take, for instance, someone who thinks the experience of dating or marriage should be like something they saw in a romantic comedy or novel. No question they’re in for one heck of a disappointment. But it happens, to men and women alike. Why? In this case, it’s unlikely any of those expectations are ever voiced because let’s face it, they would sound ridiculous.

Creating an environment for unrealized expectations is common in romantic relationships, but also among coworkers, and even between parents and children. Parents may very well inadvertently pass their own life expectations along to their kids. Those who have unfulfilled dreams could, and often do, however unknowingly, lay those expectations on their children.

Imagine a mother who had been a star athlete in high school and college but, for whatever reason, never made it to professional sports. She might, without meaning to, end up pushing her son or daughter into that same field, feeling as though she is simply sharing a positive experience, but instead harboring expectations of the child obtaining that which she failed to achieve. Living vicariously through them, she rediscovers her youth, hoping this time, for better success, even if it’s not hers. 

I was introduced to Charles Dickens’s classic novel, “Great Expectations,” in my sophomore year of high school (thank you Miss Fasbinder).  It is a compelling tale molded around the ambitions of a young orphan named, Philip Pirrip, otherwise known as, “Pip,” whose expectations robbed him of his ability to value much of the good in his life. 

The story follows the young man’s desire to use a chance inheritance to rise above his station and marry the girl of his dreams. No spoilers here, but I will tell you this. The assumptions Pip made early on turned out to be incorrect, not an uncommon mistake for anyone. As it turns out, expectations can be an incredibly powerful source of stress. Constantly trying to hit some arbitrary goal line can drive you crazy. So, how do we avoid all this disappointment? 

First, consider what really makes you happy and practice some gratitude for what you have. Don’t make comparisons and avoid the social media trap of trying to keep up with the perfect life of strangers. When your expectations far outrun your reality, you set yourself up for failure and unhappiness. Next, build up some emotional acceptance. If you’re regularly disappointed by others, it might very well be that your own undeclared expectations are what have let you down.