The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Monday, January 31, 2011

I sense some skepticism

A couple of days ago I wrote about so-called psychics and what I think is the reality behind the ones that seem genuine. I'd like to expand on that today.

As we grow up, we learn skills which we use throughout our lives. Some of them are obvious: language, manners (table and social), walking, running, jumping. And so on. But we also absorb skills subconsciously.

Sports. Baseball. You learn to throw a ball before you even know anything about the game. But there is so much more to throwing a ball than the simple mechanics of gripping the ball, set, arm extension, and follow through. How hard to throw it to go a certain distance and aiming for a moving target have to be learned. We start with stationary ones, don't we? Then we advance to moving ones so we can hit that baseman as he moves toward the bag to tag out the runner. Throwing a ball toward a person standing still seems simple (though it takes you a while to master it well enough). Throwing a ball to a moving person requires complex calculations translated to muscle movement. But we do it, some better than others. Some way better. Some never really get the hang of it.

Take the game of pocket billiards (pool). Striking the cue ball with just the right amount of force to propel it into the object ball in order to move that ball in a specific direction and speed to sink it is difficult enough. Now add to it the concept of positioning that cue ball as a result of that shot so you have another opportunity to sink another object ball. I can tell you how to strike the cue ball to make it move certain ways such as draw (backspin) or follow (add roll) and I can tell you how that might affect the object ball and how that can affect the object ball's path. You, however, will have to teach yourself just how to compensate, how hard to strike the cue ball, and how to take advantage of the physics involved. Physics that you may have no clue you are learning or why they work.

I play golf. Some of you may also. Did you ever consider just how many complex calculations you make when putting? Without touching the surface with anything other than your feet (inside shoes), you determine the speed needed to go a certain distance, you eyeball the contours your ball will traverse and determine how to take advantage of them, and your brain turns this into instructions to your muscles in order to execute the putt. (I would add “and then it misses by a mile and rolls way past the hole” but that goes without saying)

Most of the above is not actually taught, it is learned by the brain however. And the brain performs the calculations without you consciously being aware of it.

Apply all the above to what a “psychic” does. He absorbs information without realizing it, his brain uses that information to make a prediction or determine something about the person in front of him. It seems amazing, magical, but I suspect it is no more magical than playing baseball, pool, or golf.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reading your palm, I can see that you're gullible

No politics today. Since I already waxed politico on Wednesday about the State of the Union speech, I won't do a second politically inspired (if you can call anything I write “inspired”) piece.

Instead I will remind you that I mentioned psychics the other day. I do not believe in psychics. I should clarify that. I do not believe people have supernatural powers to read the future, discern secrets of the past, read minds, or even bend spoons.

This puts me solidly on the side of one James Randi, otherwise known as The Amazing Randi, a magician and escape artist whose Million Dollar Challenge has yet to uncover a real psychic.

I do not consider all psychics frauds. A fraud is someone who pretends to be what he is not, like Bernie Madoff. Or Uri Geller. Some people who call themselves psychics are not frauds but they are not actually psychics either. They truly believe they have these supernatural powers.

If you follow this blog at all, you know I am atheist. This means more, to me, than not believing in gods or religion, it means not believing in anything supernatural. No ghosts, no spirits, no auras surrounding people's bodies revealing anything about them, no telekinesis, no mind-reading, no out of body experiences (AKA “astral flights”), or anything like that.

But I am intrigued by such people. The ones that believe they have powers, that is. The frauds are well aware they can't and merely perform tricks.

If anyone reads this post, I might get a few comments or emails telling me how wrong I am and possibly relating stories of some amazing feat or ability of someone they have seen or known. If you wish to believe, go ahead. So long as you don't pay them more than you can afford I see no harm in believing. But I would like to present my view on what the abilities are that they appear to have.

We know the brain is an amazing organ and we really do not understand how it works. On a rudimentary scale, we do. But not much more. I like to think of it as an organic computer attached to a number of sensors (ears, eyes, tongue/taste buds, nasal passages, and skin) which feed it data and which it absorbs and records. It is not magical, however, anymore than that computer you own is.

Think of what were called “Idiot Savants” at one time. The term is, rightly, seen as derogatory. These people are seemingly “idiots” but possess some ability way beyond what is perceived as their capabilities. Beyond, sometimes, a “normal” person's ability. Heck, we have all seen “Rain Man” by now and know what I am talking about here.

I place psychics in this category. Like the savant, the so-called psychics I speak of have no idea how they do what they seemingly do. What I think is going on, in my view, is that they collect data subconsciously, crunch it, and produce something which appears to be a supernatural feat.

Since we do not yet understand this (yet), it seems magical.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Rants and muses... or vice versa

Yes, it's rant time again... along with some musings. I realize that some people think I rant all the time but that's not true, I have to sleep now and then.

Let's start with a traffic rant. I had to go to the doctor's yesterday morning so I had to venture out into traffic. Since it is winter (as some of you may be aware) the traffic level here in Paradise is about double what it is in summer. That means it is twice as mindless and unfathomable. The "usual suspects" were out, of course. The Blockaders, the Drifters, Wandering Lane Changers, and so on. One I have not mentioned is the Disinterested Turner.

The Disinterested Turner is one who comes up to a traffic light controlled intersection on a red light with the intent to turn right on red (we assume) but sits there until the light changes to green. This driver is often on a cell phone (like way too many others) and oblivious to anyone behind him/her (again, like too many others). It's a breed of the Oblivions who are unaware of anyone else on the road. Naturally, I found myself behind one on this particular morning.

We here in Paradise have a lower share of traffic miscreants in the summer. We import most of them on a temporary basis during winter. If you recognize your self among the ones I have mentioned (and I am sure you will not, for obvious reasons) please stay Up Nawth next year.

I might not have had the traffic rant if I had not had a doctor's appointment which brings me to another irritation. Waiting on one's doctor. I had an 11:10 appointment. I was there at 10:55. I was ushered in at 11:10 to have my weight checked, placed in an examining room, and had my blood pressure checked. The results must have been good because it was another 50 minutes before I saw the doctor.

Can you imagine what would happen if you showed up 50 minutes late for your appointment? All I can say is that it is a good thing that they don't check my blood pressure at the time the doctor actually shows up.

Let's move on to musings. On the way to the doctor's, a couple of thoughts came to me. Someone on the radio said "let's not go down that route." We do not "go down [a] route", we "go down a road." The purpose of these little sayings is metaphor, a way to create a mental image to express an idea or concept. Though I have been known to mix the occasional metaphor, I do it purposely. To draw attention to it, to make the listener/reader think about what was said. Sure, that sometimes backfires because the listener/reader focuses on the perceived error in the metaphor rather than the concept behind it.

But this particular saying failed to do even that. What it did was trigger thoughts about direction and how we describe it phrases. Consider the following:

He lives up the street.
She lives down the street.

Without pointing in one direction or the other, which way you go after getting that information if you wanted to see her? Assuming the person you asked was not standing at the top of a hill.

I live in Florida, is New York up or down from me? It seems obvious to me but I have heard both directions used.

It boggles my mind. Speaking of which, try Googling "boggle" some time. The definition has to be specifically requested (as in boggle definition)

I am getting too literal, perhaps. Someone might ask "How are you?" and I will respond with "How am I at what?" or "In comparison to...?" I shouldn't complain... that is better than "How ya doon?"

Seeya tommarah!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Predictability and the Apocalypse

According to some, the world will come to an end in December of 2012. Must be true, there was even a movie about it and we know Hollywood would never make up something like that.

Great disasters will strike all around the world, billions will die, and there will be great destruction and ruin. The good news is we won't have to worry about that $14 Trillion in debt we are carrying.

You may have guessed I just sat through a few hours of apocalypse theories on one of the History channels. Very clever of you. Have you thought of doing a mind reading act?

My mother was a sweet woman if a bit naive. She believed in fortune tellers, psychics, and the like. Not in an extreme manner. She kept her belief in check in public most of the time. Every so often she would remark on how accurate some psychics seemed to be. My father would just roll his eyes and bite his tongue. Dad was a major league skeptic. (I have often wondered about those two and can only say they were proof of that adage "opposites attract.") I take after him in that regard.

Back in 1978, I was visiting my parents so I could be there for my mother's 60th birthday party. We were chatting one evening and she brought up the subject. My uncle Ronnie was there and was also being skeptical but much milder than Dad and I.. or maybe he was just more diplomatic about it... I got her to back off the subject by saying I would predict something... 3 train wrecks of note in the next 12 months. Turned out I was right only I underestimated the number (there were 4 in the U.S. in the following 12 months). I was merely operating on the fact that there are always train wrecks and I figured three was a conservative number.

The look of shock on my mother's face when I made the prediction was classic. Her son a psychic? Wow! She suspected I might be psycho but never psychic.

Let's get back to the end of the world, shall we? It may be important when making plans for retirement for some of you. I find these predictions of the Coming End very entertaining. I am drawn to these like a moth to a flame, like Huffington Post readers to an article about Sarah Palin, like I am to oatmeal cookies. I never fail to learn fascinating trivia from the programs.

Which is also why I get updates from the Earthquake Notification Service and also read articles like Yellowstone has bulged.

For instance, do you know who Terence McKenna was? How about the Web Bot? I had not heard of either of these before I saw one of these programs a couple of years ago. I had heard of Nostradamus and the Book of Revelations, of course, but there are so many more.

The biblical version of the End involves Satan, the False Prophet, and the Anti-Christ. Or, as I like to call them, the Unholy Trinity. I get hours of enjoyment from contemplating who one of the three might be. At least one might be my ex-wife. Not sure which one, though, except not the False Prophet.

Some folks believe we are entering End Times. And have been for the last twenty or more years. Such people have been around for hundreds of years. They have all been pretty sincere, I think, but have caused all kinds of problems.

Don't worry about the world coming to an end in 2012. It won't happen. Trust me on this. After all, I predicted those train wrecks in 1978, didn't I?

Besides, I think I would rather be surprised.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A review by a skeptic

I am going to violate a rule and speak about politics today. This is because of the State of the Union address last night. I have the need to comment on it. No, let me be honest, I have the urge to comment about it.

Politics has become theater in America. Politicians say things that are designed (through polling and focus group analysis) to please the most people, to get them to think that their wishes and desires are being addressed. The proper term is "vocal pandering", I think. It seems to me a great speech is now one that all (or most) constituents come away thinking things will be better.

The reality is that it is just talk. It means nothing. Last night, the president promised to do all the things that he should have been doing for the last two years. He is being applauded for these promises. He is being lauded for "moving toward the center," for "reaching out to the opposition." The reality may end up being different.

I recall that he promised to veto any bill that had "earmarks" in it. That seemed to impress most in the chamber and the "talking heads" blathering after the speech. Strange, but the first thing that came to my mind is "Why haven't you been doing that all along?" It was a rhetorical question, of course. I think I know the answer. And, if I am right, he will continue not to do it for the next couple of years (though there may be a token veto here or there).

Much has been made, and will continue to be made, on the need for unity in Washington. For working together to reach common goals. It always sounds good. But "the proof of the pudding is in the tasting." Which means I don't think it will happen. I am fairly sure I don't want it to happen. I am afraid of a united government. United governments are terrible things. Governments that are united can do as they please, the people no longer have any chance of control. I want the government to be fractured, to squabble, to truly represent the diversity of the country's politics. I want the government to fear the people. I want politicians to fear being tossed out of office. It is the only real power the people have. You lose it when you choose unity.

When the government is united, the people in Washington no longer represent you, they represent the government. We are a fractured people, we have many different ideas about what this country should do in the face of our financial troubles. Those need to be argued, to be examined, to be sifted through, so that the "bad" (or unworkable) ideas are rejected and the "good" ones are further examined, tested, and refined. In unity, the chances of "bad" ideas being adopted is much stronger.

There was one part of his speech that I liked. It was immediately misinterpreted by the pundits afterward, in my opinion.

The president spoke about a small drilling company that provided the equipment and expertise to help the Chilean miners escape. The President emphasized the smallness of the company and the value of its innovation in drilling methods. He ended that part by repeating what one of the people in that company said.... "We may be a small company... but we do great things." The pundits thought he was speaking of America.

In a sense, he was. But America is not a small country, it is a large one. Its great things come from small companies (as well as large) because it has allowed the individual freedom that fosters great things. In other words, it is the small companies, the individuals, which collectively make us what we are. It is not the General Motors, the General Electrics, the huge corporations that made us great, it was the efforts and dreams of those who started the small companies that became those huge corporations. To repeat that, government must not interfere much in the creation and growth of small companies. Let them compete, let the people decide which ideas are best and which aren't.

Trust the people. Let them lead the government, not the other way around.

For a somewhat different point of view, I suggest you read:

The Anticipation

... over at The View From Outside My Tiny Window.

And I thank you for your time.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Untitled thoughts

Blog: noun: a website, or part of a website, where someone writes (types, to be more accurate) things of interest to him/her-self and, apparently often enough, to others.
verb: post one's thoughts or make entries to a blog.
Blogging: gerund: the act of making entries into a blog and, possibly, the maintaining of a blog.

There doesn't seem to be an official definition for the term(s) yet. The above are the essentials as I see them. I would think that there should be a verb that uniquely describes the act of reading a blog or blogs. It seems clumsy to type "reading a blog", or "reading blogs", to describe the reader's part in it all. Maybe "breading" or "bleading". I could say "I was breading the other day" but people might think I did not know how to properly spell the act of procreation or that I was preparing some kind of meal. I am open to other suggestions, obviously.

I have been blogging for over two years now and I still don't understand why. It's a sort of online diary for me where I do not quite reveal my innermost thoughts. If I did that, I might be investigated by a half dozen agencies of the government*. And some might run screaming from the madness. A few weird folks would undoubtedly remain.

The most difficult part of blogging for me, other than finding a subject, is titling an entry. The title is very important, it helps to draw the reader. It needs to pique the reader's interest so he will give up his precious time, time he might otherwise spend productively, to read what you have written. Because isn't that the point? To distract the reader from something he might have thought was more important? The title should also trigger in the reader's mind a concept of what might follow. And it should also entertain in a way. At least I think it should. Which might explain some of my titles... or not.

Then we get into the length of a blog entry. Some are short, succinct, and to the point. Some are long, so long that the reader may lose the point along the way. Some seem to be long enough to explain the point without being too wordy. These are the best of the best, I'd say. I rarely manage to post them. I do not use a word processor with word counting ability so I have no idea how many words are in a post I write unless I copy the text to one which does have that feature. I use WordPad. It is free, it is adequate, and it is simple. And I am, after all, a simpleton simple man.

They say about 500 words is the "right" length. I just exceeded that.

*Another word that has multiple meanings, depending on context, and can be used to describe a single complex entity or the general authoritative establishment under which individuals function (city or town, county, state and federal all rolled into one category).

Monday, January 24, 2011


It's funny how quickly things change. I moved to my little slice of Paradise in December of 2006. I had purchased the land where the house is in 2004. It took the builder 18 months to finish the house, cheat me as much as possible, and not correct most of the problems. At the time I purchased the land, the area had a decent unemployment rate (around 6%) for a mostly retirement location and business was booming.

Most of that boom came in the form of housing growth. And the force behind that was people trying to get out of Dade and Broward counties while capturing the increased equity caused by the real estate bubble of 1995-2006. People were retiring early, some were intent on commuting to very high paying jobs back in their old areas, and some came just trying to get in on the next Big Growth area. I was one of the "retiring early" crowd. I could not ignore the "We'll pay you big bucks to empty your desk and leave" programs the company I worked for was offering.

And then it all went away, didn't it? As I waited for my house to be completed, I saw the Bubble start to deflate. I worried that I might not be able to get my hands on that inflated equity. I worried that I might have to find at least a part time job to carry me through. I worried for nothing, it seems. I did lose some of the inflated equity when I sold the old homestead in the Spring of `07. Just not enough to hurt. I didn't have to get a part time job.

And now the unemployment rate for my county is over 12% and things don't look to improve for the next year or more (some say several, maybe 5). In 2005 and 2006, new businesses were moving into this area, old ones were expanding, houses were going up left and right. And the political leaders were trying to stall off the growth. They might have been right to do so, looking back. The period of growth was not normal and it couldn't be sustained. If they could have kept the growth restrained, maybe the Bubble bursting wouldn't have hit quite so bad.

Now we have a lot of empty houses, empty and closed businesses, and a general feeling of missed opportunity. But, oddly, I am happy.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I wish I could be apolitical

As a first step in toning down the rhetoric, as the President and others have requested, Congressman Steve Cohen got up on the floor (after hours) and compared Republicans to Nazis.

To be fair, Mr. Cohen denied that was his intent. Instead, he said:
“I regret that anyone in the Jewish community, my Republican colleagues or anyone else was offended by the portrayal of my comments,” he said. “My comments were not directed toward any group or people but at the false message and, specifically, the method by which it has been delivered.”

Not directed at any group? Republicans are not a group? And aren't repeated comments painting Republicans as lesser beings and Nazi-like the very same thing he is railing against? For the past 30+ years, that is all we seem to hear from Democrats. The Republicans want to "starve children" (for attempting to reduce the amount of increase in the school lunch program) or take away Medicare (for wanting to address its red ink) and so on. People actually believe that the Republicans want to kill children and throw Grandma out in the street.

According to the Washington Post, there is a fine history of political "dirty tricks" in American politics. Even JFK engaged in them back in 1960.

Speaking of Palin (because one must these days, mustn't one)?

An example:
If Sarah Palin Were Black

Do not simply read that article, read the comments. I always get a kick out of the comments of any article. Whether I agree with them or not. They reveal more about the attitudes driving political discourse in this country (and a couple of others) than the articles themselves.

Or you could just read the Anti-Fox website Media Matters For America. Look at the sidebar headlines on their home page. They aren't looking at the Media, they just shill for the Left and attack the Foxnews Channel. Without the FNC, they'd have no purpose, no reason to exist.

Look for Keith Olbermann to show up at MMFA after quitting|his contract expired| being fired (pick one) at MSNBC. Lots of speculation over that.

And, of course, to top off the week, we have Jeffrey Immelt replacing Paul Volcker as head of Obama's council of economic advisers. Jeffrey Immelt is CEO of GE, which owns NBC (and which has always favored Mr. Obama) and has reaped rewards from the administration in the form of TARP money, "green" energy policies, and business deals made in the wake of diplomatic efforts with India and China. Something the rest of the media seems unconcerned about.

What a strange country the U.S. has become in the last 50 or so years.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sex on an interstellar scale

Ok, kids, please go read another blog while we (alleged) adults discuss something not intended for your innocent eyes.

The origin of life on this planet has always been a mystery to science (not to religion). The following article (and ones like it) reveal the latest theory... life arrived by meteor.

RAW ingredients carried to Earth by meteorites may have been the seed of life on our planet, according to evidence revealed yesterday by NASA.

"The evidence hinges on the molecular structure of amino acids, the repeated chemical units that make up proteins found in all living organisms. The molecules come in left- and right-handed varieties, and only left-handed varieties are found in life on Earth."

I am no biologist nor am I well versed in this particular theory. I find it plausible. The idea that life "just happened" here doesn't sit well with me nor does any religious explanation that I am aware of. Life, even in the form of a single celled protozoa, had to have a beginning. After accepting that, it's the old "chicken or egg" question.

Speaking of that, does anyone else see the imagery of a planet (ovum) being impregnated with life by amino acids (sperm) carried by a meteor (semen)?

Or am I just too literal?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A small confession

My name is Douglas and I am an addict ("Hello Douglas"). I would like to say I have been clean for whatever amount of days seems impressive. But that would be lying. I still indulge. Daily. I am not proud of this. But, sometimes, I am content.

I have not stooped so low as to build and maintain an addiction to an illegal drug or to alcohol. No, the substance I abuse can be found almost everywhere. I succumb to its allure a couple of times a day. In my way, I am almost proud that I keep this addiction under control. It is possible that I could let this addiction completely take over my life.

I am talking about oatmeal raisin cookies, of course, the food of the gods, manna from heaven via the ovens of bakeries and homes with wonderful, happy, moms.

I don't know how it started, I suppose no addict does. Somewhere in my youth, I am sure. Just a young boy with no sense of right and wrong, I am handed a cookie, an oatmeal raisin cookie. I ate it, of course. What would you do? I am not addicted to oatmeal, or to raisins. I don't recall "jonesing" for a bowl of lumpy oatmeal (which as always how it was served in my childhood homes) or demanding Mom buy all the boxes of raisins she could fit in the shopping cart. But put them together, add a little molasses and who knows what else and heat it in the oven until its almost crisp but still has a hint of gooeyness, still a little soft, and the sweat will start oozing from my pores, my mouth strangely dry and wet at the same time. I will hover by the cookie sheet until the wafers of delight are cool enough to not burn my tongue (overly much).

They are the perfect food. Nutrition, fiber, and decadent indulgence all in a compact, easily consumed, form. And they border on being healthy, on being "good for you."
Nothing else, no other cookie, no other food, so captures my attention.

And the only side effect seems to be an advantage as I age... the cookies keep me, uh, regular.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Rip but don't scratch

It's time for a rant. I have been ripping some music from a friend's CD music collection. I have run into two problems while doing this.

1. Homemade CD's often cannot be "populated" with valid information. They show up as "Track 1" and so on rather than identified by the title of the song. It's frustrating. If you rip from an original CD, the info is available and most music ripper software will find the information from the internet and insert it into the MP3 tag area. But with a homemade CD, that is not always the case unless the person ripped the original CD to MP3 format on his/her hard drive and then made the new CD from that.

2. People apparently poorly treat their CDs. I found this out when Faye couldn't get her DVD/CD drive to open and release the CD in it. Even using a straightened paper clip to manually open the drive. I had to shut her machine down in order for that to work. Even then I had to pry the CD drive' CD carrier out. This was a commercially made CD, one of 5 covering the Billboard top tens from 1957 through 1961.

The CD causing the problem had fingerprints (notably one BIG thumbprint) on the data area (shiny side) and some gummy substance on the non-reflective side. After cleaning the disc, it worked fine. But then I started checking play on the songs I had been ripping on
to my hard drive. Playback on some were poor (jumping and skipping) and had to be re-ripped.

I was taught how to handle records by my father. He was meticulous in how they should be treated. He had a small collection of LP's, albums, and 78 RPM singles from the 40's. If you are old enough to recall records, you know they came in cardboard like covers and also had paper sleeves to protect them from damage. One end of the record cover was open, the record went into the paper sleeve and then into the cover. Most people I ran into later in life would use the sleeve as a liner, matching up its open end with the album cover's open end. My father did it differently. He would put the record in the sleeve, turn it so the sleeve opening was lined up with the top edge of the album cover and slide it in that way. He did this to prevent a record from accidentally sliding out while handling the album. Early training made that a habit for me also. Thus, I always knew when a roommate had been into my albums.

We have a couple of problems with CD discs. One is that some people do not realize that the shiny, reflective, side is the one that holds the music data. They put the CD shiny side down on desks and other other surfaces, greatly increasing the risk of scratches. The other is putting their fingers on that shiny surface, leaving behind oils (in the form of fingerprints) and anything that happens to be on their fingers. Cleaning that surface can be done with a soft cloth or even a paper towel if you are careful. I don't use alcohol as a cleaner, just my breath like I do eyeglass lenses. That seems sufficient for most fingerprint problems. One should only touch the edge, the rim of the disc, when picking it up.

Be kind to your CDs. Treat them with care and they will last a very long time.

Yeah, I am a bit obsessive-compulsive.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sometimes humor is unappreciated

Today is Tuesday and I sit here, staring at a blank page in WordPad (yeah, I use that... what's it to you?) and wondering what to chat about. This is chatting, isn't it? Just you and me... with me doing most of the talking, just like in Real Life.

I am back in rehab (no, not the Charlie Sheen or Robert Downey kind) again. The old knee is still in a bit of trouble. Still hurts when I do something unusual like.. I don't know... bend it. My doctor rightly figured I needed to build up the thigh muscles on that leg. And he also rightly figured I wouldn't do it on my own, that someone had to force me to do it.

You see, we tend to do the wrong thing when we feel pain in these cases. Pain is a warning from your body that whatever you are doing is probably bad for you. However, in some circumstances it means you did something wrong previously which left you with these pain reminders. In my case, the previous thing I did wrong was falling over that hassock back in March. I would like my body to stop reminding me of that.

Anyway, back to rehab where, this time, I will actually build up that needed muscle tissue. If for no other reason than I am getting tired of doing rehab.

The really strange thing about this injury is that it has not affected my golf game. I still play as badly as I did before it happened.

I understand Ricky Gervais got into some trouble over his jokes at the Golden Globe Awards show. It seems he offended the overpaid Hollywood elites with some mean spirited jokes at their expense. What a surprise! Hollywood stars getting offended when someone doesn't treat them like the Demigods they believe they are.

Here, judge for yourself:

I happen to like Gervais. He's not the funniest guy I have ever seen but he is good. But insult is his schtick, like Don Rickles...

We like to see the Hoity-Toity skewered from time to time but this dust up over Gervais' performance shows some people cannot handle it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

You gotta believe

There are certain things in life that seem to be cyclical. For instance, we are born toothless and bald and are put in diapers because we have not learned to control certain bodily functions. If we are lucky enough to live to a ripe old age, the odds are we will end up bald and toothless and in diapers because we have forgotten how to control certain bodily functions.

This came to mind last night during a conversation with Frances, my sister-in-law. Frances works at Publix cooking those tasty little dishes and handing out samples of same to customers. She has received numerous requests to come cook for customers as well as almost as many marriage proposals from single, older, men. I remarked that men reach an age where we stop looking for the "hot babe" and start seeking the "good cook."

I was fortunate, Faye was a hot babe who could cook. Time and circumstances have left me with the good cook and great memories.

Frances is a wonderful person and rally a lot of fun to be around. She's a bit naive, though, and gets suckered into all kinds of scams. She is a great believer in "natural" remedies, conspiracy theories, and the like. I , of course, am not. We have some interesting conversations.

Frances visited a couple of times when my mother was living with us to help take care of her. They got along famously as they had a lot in common. My mother was a dreamer, as is Frances. My mother always entertained me and my siblings and, I assume, my father with her get rich quick schemes. None of them ever worked out, of course. But there were often some good unintended consequences. She bought one of those books on getting rich through real estate. She got her real estate license and went about looking for houses she could fix up and resell at great profit. Didn't quite work out that way but I ended up with a place to live for awhile after I married the first time. I rented a house from her with the rent being the same as her mortgage payments. To be fair, I did help fix it up a bit. After we got rid of the termites.

Frances gets the bulk of the mail at our house. She is on every scammer's mailing list, I think. Natural cures for everything from diabetes to coronary heart disease. All of them sketchily documented and preceded by "What your doctors don't want you to know" in large boldface print. All she is required to do to learn about these amazing discoveries of what the ancient Egyptians/Greeks/Native Americans/etc. knew but were hidden by Big Pharma and the medical conspirators.

Trust me, I love Frances more than my own sister. Not a hard thing to do considering my history with my sister. But she frustrates me with her willingness to accept what "they" say about just about anything. She firmly believes in the 100 MPG carburetor (the automakers bought it and suppressed all knowledge of it), the natural cure for cancer (Big Pharma is keeping this from you), and so on. She also has the annoying habit of not paying attention to whatever is on the TV most of the time until some word catches her attention and then she interrupts with a multitude of questions about what is going on. I believe Frances is the reason the Pause button was invented for live TV. Well, her and bathroom breaks.

Frances has a green thumb. She is the owner of the Tomato Plant that has Eaten the Front Porch, a peach tree growing from a seed (she swears it is, I think it strongly resembles a weed), two avocado trees (started from avocado pits), a couple of aloe plants, and one non-producing (so far) pineapple plant (started from a pineapple). She started these because I brought home that sickly looking Key Lime tree which has managed to survive and produce. Now I can't stop her from trying new plants.

Our back porch resembles a greenhouse.

But we have fun.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A slightly different view of Tucson's tragedy

On January 8th, the nation was stunned by an outburst of violence that took 6 lives and injured 14. All of these lives were greatly impacted but only two have remained in the headlines on close to a daily basis: Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 9 year old Christina Taylor Greene. Ms Giffords is alive, critically wounded by a gunshot to her head but alive. According to reports, she is making progress and there have been a lot of good signs. Christina is not. Christina and 5 others will never recover.

What bothers me is, except for the federal Judge, we have no idea who the other five killed were. Their families know. Their families grieve, their friends feel the loss. But the nation pretty much ignores them.

Sometimes, in a sense, we forget that the people killed have family and friends. We forget that these people are victims of the incident also. There are many people who are hurting in Tucson and elsewhere. And, in some cases, we choose to ignore the grief of certain individuals. Perhaps even maliciously.

The parents and family of the person deemed responsible for the shootings. Jared Loughner, as crazy as he is, hurt not only those 20 people and their families and friends, he also hurt his family and any friends he had. They are victims of this tragedy too. His parents didn't raise him to kill people. His friends didn't urge him to be violent. In a sense, Jared Loughner is a victim too. A victim of the madness which took over his life and made him commit this act. His life was destroyed too.

I wonder why we are spending so much time and concern on Ms Giffords. She is being given the best possible care and attention available. She seems a strong woman with a great will to live. I expect her recovery will be seen as almost miraculous to some. It is already being called a miracle that she survived a 9 mm bullet piercing her brain. I don't believe in miracles myself but I am amazed by this. Even though I knew a man in Jacksonville who was shot twice in the head at close range with a .38 caliber revolver and survived.

He was a friend I met while I lived there. I met him long after the incident which left him disabled and with brain damage. I am ashamed to say that I do not remember his name today. He was part of a computer club my wife and I became involved in during the 5 years we lived in that city. His handicaps caused him a lot of physical and mental anguish. He lived in fear of another violent encounter. He was left confined to a wheelchair and with a much shortened life expectancy.

He considered it a miracle that he survived. Maybe it was. Especially after you consider that he didn't have someone there to administer even first aid. He just laid there on the floor behind the counter until a customer came in and found him. No one fussed over him or his care in the manner that Ms Giffords experienced (and is experiencing) except his immediate friends and family. His name wasn't all over the news with regular press conferences on his condition and prognosis. No one came and made speeches about him, no one called for political unity in the wake of that crime.

Comparatively speaking, no one cared whether he lived or died except those who knew him personally. His story never hit the nation's headlines, much less the international ones. It didn't become a part of the national debate. It was just another senseless shooting during an armed robbery of a mini-mart. It likely made no more impact than a few lines, and maybe a couple of columns, in the local papers. Things like that are pretty much everyday stories.

In a way, I see his shooting as more of a tragedy because there were no circumstances which would have brought him to the attention of the nation. He was just a young man working in a thankless job for poor pay whose life was taken from him as surely as if he had died that night for a few measly dollars. He was no political figure, no one special. And so he's forgotten, ignored by the world.

I am offended by those who have seized on this tragedy to make political gains. I am offended by speeches by presidents at memorial services for little girls that reek of the manipulation of politics. I am appalled at the crassness of those who use tragedy for political purposes.

So my heart goes out to Ms Giffords (because no one should have to go through this) and to all who were injured or killed that day but a bit more to the ones whose names we do not know and to all the families and friends of those victims.

Addendum: I came across an article about Jared Loughner after being referred to an article at Both articles are interesting if you are trying to get an understanding of the motivations of Loughner.

Friday, January 14, 2011

You're a poopyhead!


I tend to get into arguments. Often. Always have. Even when I was a skinny little kid. It's not a smart thing to do when you are a skinny little kid. It makes me wonder how I managed to avoid physical altercations growing up. I didn't avoid them all, of course, but I can only remember a few. Less than a handful. And those were because I lost control. No, it wasn't ever me who threw the first punch. Even if that is a good tactic. I would say that my ability, if I kept my wits about me, to defuse the situation is what kept the physical fighting to a minimum. I somehow sensed when and how to ease the tensions.

I bring this up because of the events of the past week. There is a lot of heated debate over, well, heated debate. And, I am only a bit ashamed to say, I have been dragged down into that swamp. Because, as I said, I like to argue.

There is out there in the universe we call the Internet a number of places where one can comment. On blogs like this and also on columns written for newspapers. These comments often lead to public debates which more often than not would turn into fistfights if the people were within physical reach of each other.

What bothers me about this latest round of commentary altercations is the way that each side is blaming the other for the meanness, the crassness, the excessive level of animosity and name-calling. Sure, that's happened in the past, It also happened (often) in our childhoods.
"You're a poopyhead!"
"Am not!"
"Are too!"
"Am not!"
"Are too!"
"You're the poopyhead"
"Am not!"
"Are too!"
... and so on until an adult grabs both by the ears or they end up rolling around on the ground trying to hurt and avoid being hurt.

Even after the fight is over, even after the tears are gone, each will still blame the other, each will still think the other started it.

I suppose we have a long way to go before we grow up.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Kneeding a break

I have a doctor's appointment today. I would rather not go to the doctor. I don't often agree with them, it seems, and I have had some major differences with them over the years. But, alas, I really have no choice. The doctor who put my kneecap back together may have done something wrong, or missed a bone chip, or who knows what? In any event, the 3-6 month period of healing has now stretched into 9+ months and the last three have seen no progress at all.

This may be what I am stuck with. It may be the way I heal now. I used to heal quickly and completely. But I was younger then. At 64, I shouldn't expect the recuperative powers I had in my 20's or 30's.

Still, I suspect something has gone wrong that did not have to. So it's off to my primary physician (who specializes in sports medicine) for an evaluation. I am getting tired of dragging my left leg in and out of bed, the car, and across rooms (and the golf course, especially) and if there is anything that can be done, I want it done.

I mean, people have knees replaced and end up better off than I am right now... and in shorter time.


Earth must prepare for close encounter with aliens, say scientists

I came across the above just a few minutes ago. Ignoring the "fact" that they are already here (according to some) and have been visiting (and mutilating cows and abducting mentally questionable individuals for decades), I find it interesting that scientists seem to be actively pursuing extra terrestrial diplomacy. I just wish I had found this sooner...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Random pointless thoughts in January

I have been trying to find something amusing to write about today. I am not having too much luck. I peruse the news for oddities and weirdness but today's is full of woe and turmoil.

I suppose this story about the Giant Green Blob is amusing. But it's so far away. And so trite.

It also appears that Verizon is going to be pushing the iPhone. Many people were unhappy with AT&T's service so this is a good thing. Though my brother was not happy with his Verizon service. We shall see if the complaints continue. Maybe it's not the service but the device? I think I just blasphemed Apple... I will get hate mail now.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is trying to block Apple's attempt to trademark the term "App Store". I have no idea why... maybe MS is going to start their own and wants to somehow trick Apple-heads into buying from them?

[Now I'll get even more hate mail] seems to be falling apart. Facebook apparently is winning the Social Networking war. I don't like either of them myself. But that may be because I am a recluse at heart. One of these days, I'll buy me a cave somewhere very remote and withdraw from society. But only if it has cable.

The violent rhetoric has now infiltrated sports... Oh, wait... that's just football. Never mind, violent rhetoric is a fundamental part of that game.

David Nelson died. I used to watch Ozzie and Harriet every week. Actually, I wasn't given much of a choice. My father controlled our TV. David was the "good" son. Ricky was that rebellious rock and roller. David was the clean-cut, happy, all American boy of the 50's. Ricky was a bit darker, more angst ridden. Ricky died back in 1985. Thus disproving the old adage that "only the good die young."

Sorry, that is the best I can do today. There's just not enough irony out there to overcome the angry rhetoric.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

An attempt to put it in perspective

The events of January 8th have prompted a number of blogs, pundits, and editorial boards to make statements about the tone of discourse in this country. It would seem, based on these, that the tone and the level of anger and animosity has reached critical levels. Maybe so. I think it is quite a bit less than during the events leading up to the Civil War. Even less than what I saw in the 1960's over Civil Rights and the Vietnam War.

We won't reduce the tensions by repressing the anger, I don't believe. That would just feed the "beast" and create more outbursts such as what happened on that day. Besides, I believe the anger of citizens, collectively, is what drives changes in policies and that is mostly for the better. People vote out politicians with whom they are angry, people protest against policies which they see as "unfair" or "unjust", and people vote for "change" out of anger and frustration with the status quo.

We've had these violent outbursts like this one in Tucson before, many of them. A McDonald's in San Ysidro, California, back in 1984 was the scene of a horrific massacre. Charles Whitman back in 1966 killed 16 people and wounded 32 others from a tower at the University of Texas. There have been numerous others throughout history, some with political overtones (think Harper's Ferry or Shays Rebellion) but most not.

These are not unique to the U.S., we have only to look at Rwanda some years ago (1994). Or to the insanity of the Islamic terrorists of today, or to the radical terrorists of the 60's and 70's with the skyjackings and embassy attacks. Madmen can be anywhere. Every society has had these things in their histories.

It is only natural for the rest of us to want to find some thread of rationality behind these acts. Some cause we can determine so that we might prevent them in the future. I don't see any way we could do that. We cannot remove all guns from society and prevent them that way. Two incidents in China back in April of 2010 prove this. Two separate incidents of knife wielding madmen within a couple of days. No guns but many killed and injured. Even a regimented society like China cannot prevent these things.

Human beings are simply capable of great and irrational violence. That won't change because of gun control laws or a toning down of the type of political discourse in this (or any) country.

We cannot change society into some peaceful and idyllic paradise. Not with laws, not with repression, not with an increase in freedom. All we can do is try to protect ourselves, try not to be complacent and try not to become too paranoid.

In looking for a history of massacres or acts of major violence in the US, I came across this page:

He's probably harmless.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Trawling for data

I have been meaning to comment on something... This seemed like a good day to do that...

Along the right side of this blog, there is a little "gadget" that tracks the visits. It's provided by "Feedjit" and it reports your city (nearest internet node location, actually) and something of what you read. The location it gives for me is about 75 miles north of here. Though not accurate, it gives us a general idea of where a visitor was from. It is what is read that is interesting.

By far, the most popular destination is Shopping Trip. I am not exactly sure why. Following that is Random Musings for May. I detect a slight pattern there. Those two seem very popular with Middle Eastern countries. Another favorite is The Myth of Pandora.

I am not actually spying on anyone, I don't dig too deeply into the preferences of the visitors here, I'm just happy they dropped by at all.

I worry a little about who collects this data and what they do with it. Most of the data sifted from various sites is used to direct advertising. Just as those surveys that are attached to product registration are used. You didn't really think they wanted to know how much you made and your age range and job category so they could improve the product, did you? It's all about sales.

I sell nothing on this site. I carry no (nor solicit any) advertising here. So long as the site is free for me to use, I see no reason to try to profit from it in any monetary way. I do profit from it by venting, by meeting new people, and by learning about things tangential to my posts. It's fun for me. If it wasn't, I would not do it.

I have come to think of it as a "diary" of sorts; a place where I can say anything at all. But instead of locking my mental ramblings up in a drawer somewhere, I let anyone who wanders in read them. I suppose I should place a warning on the page...

Caution! Read at your own risk!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

"Please Sir, I want some more"

I once remarked to a friend that my theory was that the difference between a recession and a booming economy was about 2 percentage points. I basically invented that "2 percentage points" difference. I have no foundation or experience in macro-economics. To be honest, I am not very good at managing my own micro-economics; I spend too much, I save too little, and was never good at keeping tabs on it all. This may be the reason that both wife vers. 1.0 and wife vers. 2.0 just happened to be good with such things. I need a CFO around the house or I'd be broke most of the time.

My youthful understanding of economics was similar to my "Theory of Girlfriends". The "Theory of Girlfriends" states that if you have a girlfriend, you will attract new prospects for same; if you do not have a girlfriend, no one will date you. If I had money, opportunities to get more would appear; If I did not have money, no opportunities could be found.

However, that lack of financial acuity has never kept me (or, apparently, most everyone else) from criticizing how the economy is being run by the government. Let's be fair, the government doesn't actually run the economy. It sets a tone, it encourages or discourages growth though various policies and legislation but we really do have a market economy, not a centrally planned one. Yet that is exactly who we blame for a bad economy and who we expect to get us out of a hole they, presumably, dug for us all.

Over the years, my economic theories have increased in complexity. I no longer see a direct correlation between having money and good opportunities to get more. The relationship is still there, mind you, it's just not absolute. Days and nights spent in casinos have taught me that. Dabbling in the stock market reinforced that complexity.

Government, in my view, can only put up roadblocks or smooth the way for the economy. And I think there are a couple of ways these are done. First is tax policy. The second is enforcement of laws.

Currently, we have two major political parties and these are in the process of being defined ideologically as "liberal" (Democratic) and "conservative" (Republican). And the ideologies are also being further defined as "pro-labor" and "pro-business." Or "tax and spend" and "cut taxes and spend." That's right, neither party seems to want to actually cut spending. Neither one actually cuts taxes, either, they just increase them or move them around or, more likely, both increase them and move them around so it appears that taxes were cut when they were actually raised. You also need to know that cutting spending is defined as not increasing spending on various things by as much as you wanted is called "spending cuts" or "gutting [insert popular program here]."

It's a political charade wherein politicians can claim they voted for (or supported) lower taxes and tried to cut spending while also claiming their political opponent was in favor of uncontrolled fiscal government growth.

Much of this reminds me of my mother. She would remark from time to time about credit cards. She said she never had to worry about maxing out her credit card debt because "they always raise my limit before I reach it." And this is what Congress is about to do... raise the limit on their collective credit card. They are arguing over whether to raise the debt ceiling for the nation. They do this because they fear, as far as I can tell, that not doing so will mean the government will grind to a halt and we'll default on our debts.

Now you and I (who cannot simply tell the bank or credit card people to "gimme more!") do something different as we approach our credit limits. We start looking at what we can do without. We start cutting back on how much we spend and on what we spend it on. We prioritize. Congress does this also but they make everything the "number one priority."

I don't really think this new Congress will do anything differently.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A couple of random thoughts struck me

I just heard a PA (that would be "Public Announcement" for those of you who are, apparently, clueless about these things) on the radio that was a little morality play about using one's small child to clear a hornet nest from the eave of one's house. It is full of little chuckles when the child expresses fear of falling ("Oh, you understand gravity! You're so smart!") or confusion ("I can't see... are they biting me?" "No, silly... Hornets don't bite, they sting!"). It's a wonderful piece. Sure to entertain and inform anyone with small, exploitable children.

It took me back. When my son was about 6, I managed to convince him to crawl under the house and bring some speaker wire from the back den to the living room in front where I had drilled a small hole in the floor for the speakers I planned to put out there. Before you accuse me of child abuse, I usually had to restrain him from getting into that crawl space. He was eager to do it.

Still, being a responsible parent, I was concerned about things like spiders, rats, and poisonous snakes. So I made a cursory search with a flashlight. I would have made a thorough search but the batteries were old and only held out for a few minutes. I am just kidding. The batteries held out until he crawled back out.

I would have crawled under the house myself but the opening was too small for me. My little volunteer had no trouble fitting through the opening. And there actually was plenty of light from other openings and that flashlight. I carefully instructed him on how to use the flashlight to fend off the giant rats and basted him with insect repellent before turning him loose.

No harm came to him at all. No insects bit him, no rats even challenged him, and the snakes all stayed hidden.

He grew up in spite this incident, of falling off a bike and breaking his arm (age 7), bouncing off the road after a skateboard fall and gouging a hole just below his knee (he still insisted on playing baseball that weekend... age 9), getting his thumb caught between the chain and the sprocket on his bike (age 14), and countless other little incidents. Now he owns a nice big house of his own and like the other two houses he owned, this one has no crawlspace under it.

I wonder why?

Every so often, someone drops me an email asking me to mention their blog or asking if I would advertise their (usually commercial) site. I decline these as politely as possible most of the time. But I have this fetish and someone chanced upon it.

A guy named "Ken" sent me an email with this link:
4o Funniest Cartoons to share with the nurse in your life

So, I checked it out. Because that fetish I told you about? It involves nurses... Something about white uniforms with white stockings... none of which I will get into here. In the process, one of the cartoons led me to another site, Nursetoons, which I also checked out. A friend of mine has a standing joke...

Joe: "Sorry I was late. I was sick in bed... with a nurse."

Me (or anyone willing to play along): "Really?"

Joe: "Yeah, she even said 'You're really sick!'"

Be kind to your nurse, she may be the only thing preventing your doctor from malpractice.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stock tips... almost guaranteed

As some of you may know, I "play" the stock market a tiny bit. I am not a Day Trader nor an options guy nor a major speculator. I am more like that mousy accountant from Sheboygan who doles out his $5 chips very carefully at the BlackJack table in Las Vegas. The accountant will spend all evening enjoying his free drinks and risking no more than a $100 in total. Once that's gone, he'll leave the table and go to bed.

Likewise, I have my limit. And I have my limits. I know them both very well. So I have, overall, gained a little more than I have lost. Mostly out of sheer luck. I am no Wall Street Wizard. I do not have the High Roller's bankroll. I also do not have the nerve to risk all that much. I get the shakes lining up a $1 putt.

The market is a funny thing. Though I rarely see anyone laughing about it. For the last couple of years, it has been bouncing up and down, like a puppy trying to get into your lap. When it finally does, it's so happy it pees on your pants.

People watch the Dow-Jones average and think that is the market. It isn't. Though the Average may be an indicator of overall activity trends, it represents only a tiny part of the market. I have had stocks (and funds) that have gone up nicely when the Average was heading down. Conversely, I have had holdings dropping like those birds in Arkansas and Louisiana while the Average is roaring up the mountainside.

There are people who make fortunes predicting market trends. They run all these calculations, examine "key indices", gather and analyze financial data, and tell their clients which sectors are healthy and strong and which aren't; which sectors will thrive and which will collapse. They are, in my mind, the modern day oracles, seers, and prophets. I don't trust them. Especially the ones who go on the TV financial shows. I rank them somewhere between used car salesmen and your run-of-the-mill con artists. Sincere though they may be, their field seems like astrology to me.

These are the guys who tell you why the market went through the roof or collapsed in a heap of smoldering ashes. And little of it ever made much sense to me. The market seems to be driven by a bit of mass insanity. A small incident sparks a rumor which travels through the brokerage houses like fire in a sawmill. The traders buy or sell depending upon the aura surrounding the rumor. It seems irrational to me.

While I was writing this, we got a phone call from the brokerage that administers my old company's 401K plan. Apparently, they'd like to get more activity going. Or maybe they were wondering if I had died. I haven't made a change in my 401K since... I don't recall when. I was still working. Somewhere between 2000 and 2004, I am sure. That was when I placed everything in a kind of Guaranteed Interest fund. It may not make much but it loses nothing (except to inflation). I was warned, of course, by a broker who thought I was nuts to do so. But, after the crashes and recessions of 2008, everything I had in 2003, I still have... plus some more.

Remember the Aesop fable, the Tortoise and the Hare? Throughout the last 10 years, I have followed the tortoise. I am not getting rich but I am not getting poor either. I am just getting older.

And isn't that the point at my age?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

In the dumps, as they say

I'd like to write something light and witty today. Really I would. But I don't feel light and witty. I feel down and glum and foggy-brained. Don't know why, could be hormones or it could be genetic. They've recently identified what they think is a genetic marker for depression. And today I learn that baldness may be due to a defect, a flaw, in stem cells. Not that I am going bald, mind you. I am just destined to have very thinned out hair. I am reasonably sure that I inherited that trait from Mom. Dad passed away at age 84 with a full head of bushy "salt and pepper" (more salt than pepper) hair.

But mild depression runs in my family. So I have always suspected a genetic component. It isn't so much a bi-polar thing or deep depression, just a mild, lingering moroseness that pervades our lives. It is, no doubt, a factor in our curmudgeonly personalities. We are not a family of optimists... except on Mom's side. A real batch of Pollyannas on that side of the family. When you think about it, it is a surprise we don't have any bi-polar types running around.

Or maybe we do... moodiness is what we call it. One day up, a few days down is fairly common among us. But not so anyone would notice. I mean I have rarely spent the night painting my bedroom a bright red. Or wandering around babbling to myself. Well, other than on here. I do have mood swings, though, fairly wide ones. They seem normal to me.

I have nothing anyone might call "acute." I would categorize it as "mildly persistent." They don't treat that, you know. It has to be bad enough to attract attention. Attack someone or attempt suicide. The rest of the world just lives with it. We expect bad days, interspersed with good days. And we apologize for our behavior.

It also tends to mess up my golf game. Which is what really irks me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Putting the last year in proper perspective

I was perusing the various things I peruse in the mornings and finally clicked on the link in my email to Dave Barry's column in the Miami Herald. Dave is semi-retired, it seems. That is, most of the column links I am sent are for reprints of old (sometimes several years old) columns. On occasion, however, they are new and timely columns that are salient and insightful. Wait a minute, the older ones are always insightful. Just not always timely.

But I mentally wander...

The one I was sent the other day, on the third of January of this year (to be precise) is rather long. It is a not all that brief recap of the events of 2010. Dave, and others, do these recaps of the past year because they assume we all have case of Alzheimer's and have lost our short term memory capability. Which is not true, of course. I remember everything that happened last year. Except I have a little trouble recalling it clearly.

In any event, Dave (he lets me call him by his first name because he has no idea who I am and that I am doing it) provides us with a absurdist's view of the most interesting and/or important events of the last year. As if still nursing a hangover from your over-indulgence on New Year's Eve and facing another year of poor to non-existent economic recovery wasn't depressing enough. Of course, unlike me, Dave is entertaining and (most importantly) amusing. That would make the recap fun to read.

So, if you have a spare several minutes (it was a busy year) and you want to recall the year 2010 without a smile leaving your lips, I highly recommend following this link

Dave Barry’s 2010 Year in Review

How can anything that starts off like this be ignored?

"Let’s put things into perspective: 2010 was not the worst year ever. There have been MUCH worse years. For example, toward the end of the Cretaceous Period, the Earth was struck by an asteroid that wiped out 75 percent of all the species on the planet. Can we honestly say that we had a worse year than those species did? Yes we can, because they were not exposed to Jersey Shore."

Monday, January 3, 2011

You say you want a resolution?

This is the time of year for resolutions, I am told. Resolve to lose weight, resolve to be more kind, resolve to be more frugal (or less, depending on whatever you perceived yourself to be heretofore), resolve to quit smoking, resolve to spend more time with family and/or loved ones, and so on.

Pointless exercises, it seems since we all expect to break these solemn vows; it's merely a matter of when.

I gave up making resolutions many years ago. It is, perhaps, the only resolution I have ever kept for a year or more. I approach each new year in my life with the same fear and trepidation I have always felt entering the unknown. No resolution can overcome that, I suspect. I long ago found I could not keep a resolution to be optimistic. It is against my curmudgeonly nature. I would like to be optimistic but it would save me nothing in the long run. Being pessimistic at least allows me to prepare somewhat for life's unpleasantries.

I suppose I could make resolutions in keeping with my pessimism but wouldn't they be awful dreary?

Resolved: To be ready when the jack-booted thugs come to take my not "green" car away.
Resolved: to hoard enough gold so when the fall of civilization as we know it, I can still buy things.
Resolved: to collect enough guns and ammunition to fend off the marauders who will seek to steal my gold.

See what I mean? Very dreary. So I do none of the above but I don't feel bad because I never actually resolved to do any of them.

One day at a time, I say, and New Year's Day was just one more of them.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

No good deed goes unpunished, they say

This being Saturday and all, I was looking for a reason to rant, political style, and came across this:

Scott Sisters Kidney Donation Threatens Organ Transplant Laws [Read here]

If you don't know the story, it goes like this... about 17 years ago, two young sisters were arrested for their part in an armed robbery netting a grand total of $11. Per the NYT-

"The Scotts were arrested on Christmas Eve 1993 and convicted the next year of leading two men into an ambush during which the men were robbed of about $11, according to the trial transcript.

The sisters’ accomplices, three boys ages 14 to 18, have served their sentences and were released from custody for the crime years ago, Mississippi officials said. The sisters have denied playing any role in the crime.
[Full story here]

Well, fast forward to 2009 when the sisters petitioned for early release (they were due to have parole reviewed in 2014) so that the healthy sister could donate her kidney to the younger sister. It apparently took some time for this to reach the desk of Haley Barbour, governor of Mississippi, who has signed an order commuting the sentences but carrying the proviso that the organ must be donated.

Heart-warming? A real human interest story? Well, yes, it started out that way. A gracious governor granting clemency to loving sisters who appeared to have been given unjust sentences with a an organ donor twist. Just tugs at the old heartstrings, does it not? Well, that was how the initial stories went. Then the tone of the story, and the emphasis, has changed.

Now it's all about transplant ethics.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. After all, Barbour is being touted as a possible Republican candidate for president. The odds against him making even a a moderately successful run at the nomination are slim to none but that doesn't seem to matter. I doubt that Barbour wasn't looking at the political considerations of his commuting their sentences, don't get me wrong. I just think it had more to do with the flak he was receiving over prior comments about how he didn't recall the racial animosity in his hometown in 1955 as being all that bad and not about any presidential aspirations. Not only would he do some good for Mississippi's Corrections Department (removing their liability for the transplant costs, though it would likely just shift to Medicaid), for the sisters, and for (presumably) his own image. It seemed like a win-win situation.

I am nothing if not pragmatic. If the motives are selfish but the end result is all good, seems ok to me.

I would think that some people who are questioning the ethics of the commutation deal ought to look at the ethics of those questioning it. Why is the ethics issue coming up in this fashion? Why now, rather than in January of 2009 when the sisters petitioned for early release and brought up the transplant deal as a bargaining chip?

I think I know why.