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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year, Shot

I looked around in the vain hope that I could find something of interest for you folks but I am tapped out. I no longer look forward to another year, I might never have before either, because I know it will be full of all those things that have happened in years past. More wars, more pleas for peace, more crime, more misspellings, more insipid posts that inspire no one, least of all... me; the grapefruit tree I grew from a seed waiting patiently to die from lack of rain or care by me.

We've been invited to a party tonight. We might go, we are the youngest couple in our circle, it is simultaneously cheering and depressing to see our not too distant future. Who knows? Phil's oxygen tank might blow up and there could be some excitement.

Have a Happier New Year!


Monday, December 30, 2013

New years and Resolutions

There is a series of ads run by AT&T of late using children and an out of place adult. They are... "cute"... and the children adorable, as children generally are. After all, if they weren't, we'd likely murder them soon after birth. They are a chore to raise, causing misery and heartache throughout our lives. The latest one involves a boy's mangling, slightly, of the word "resolution", calling it "revolution." It all turns out okay, course, because, as I said, we do not murder them. And the boy's "revolution" is to eat more jelly beans in the coming year. Something that I should do too, perhaps.

Of course, it got me to musing on New Year's resolutions... which I eschew. I would just break them anyway so I long ago stopped making them. Probably around age 6 or so, when my cynicism shoved aside all optimism and gloom became the brightest feature of my personality.

The only reason I can see for making resolutions is to either be hopeful for the future and to revel in their breaking. Neither appeals to me.


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Presidential vacations

A number of people have complained about the vacations that presidents take. They are certainly expensive. After all, a president doesn't actually get a vacation, the office goes with him. On the other hand, a president is pampered and catered to at all times. The worries and concerns are constant and, in our hearts, we want the president to be able to relax from time to time, to recreate, to be distracted... just a little bit.

Those who seek this highest office have not likely taken a real vacation in many years.  But what of their families? Their children? The president does not concern me. He seeks this pressure, revels in it. But his children, like all children everywhere, do not. They are along for the ride. When President Obama goes to Hawaii, he can get out, go play golf on a course cleared of the mundane, everyday people but his kids are pretty much stuck with whatever is planned for them.

We don't think about them much, do we?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Well, Christmas New is Christmas Past, Once Again

When I was a child, Christmas seemed so long in coming and passed so quickly. It was difficult not to be at least a little disappointed. Having an older brother and sister, I didn't get to enjoy a belief in Santa. I had to wait until my son was at that age when magic was real and the world was full of it. We try so very hard to preserve that in our children, even knowing they must face the inevitable day but wishing in vain that it never come. Of course, there came a day  when he lost touch with that magic too. When he finally asked those questions which revealed the secret with their mundane answers. And brought him onto the road to adulthood.

It is such a delicate dance, that balancing act between a child's joy and eventual knowledge.

And now... on to the New Year and the promise of Hope and Optimism.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wasted Phrases

There are phrases, sentences, expressions that I have always wanted to use but never found the right theme to use them in...

I watched the raindrops dance upon the sun-baked boulders in the desert.

That one, especially, has rebounded in my mind of late. Reverberating among the neurons, I suppose.

The painful tenderness of fevered skin.

The pangs of hunger of the heart.

The pink glow seen by the closed eye as one lies on a beach.

The blind see so much more than the sighted.

The heart seeks the comfort only a calm one can give.

Death brings the ultimate clarity but no one to tell.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tis The Season To Be Jolly

Merry Christmas one and all!


My Christmas gifts this this year were a new car and the flu. Hope yours were better.

Here's a Christmas puzzle to while away the time:

 Click to Mix and Solve

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gender Confusion

Just when you (or I) begin to think this town is idyllic and serene, something like this happens. Let me quote from the article:

The clerk told police she was behind the counter putting together cash for a drop into the store safe when she saw a person walk up and began to say "Sir, I'll be with you in a minute."

However, she immediately recognized Bueche as a regular customer who prefers to be addressed as a woman, so she stopped mid-sentence and said, "Ma'am, I'll be with you in a minute."

According to reports, Bueche yelled, "You damn well better call me 'Ma'am,'" and threw a bottle of Mio water flavoring (I am guessing that should read "flavored water") at her from a display on the counter.

And his description:

The clerk also described Bueche as 5-foot-8 with red, curly, shoulder-length hair, a thin build and a flowery dress.

We're not just a sleepy little town...

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Christmas Gift

I originally intended to post something about Christmas from my view. But that wouldn't be all that interesting and it would be painfully short. I'll just say Christmas is a wonderful time of year and I hope everyone is enjoying the Holiday Season.

My "gift" to you this year is a libertarian website. I came across this site quite by accident. It was a link from someone else's blog that took me there. Here is the explanation of the website in its own words. I am not (I keep telling myself) a libertarian. They are obviously a bunch of isolationist wackos who want to do away with the federal government. Except they aren't. It seems we, all too often, draw conclusions from what others tell us. That's understandable. None of us can know everything (except that guy or gal in the office nobody likes and who is never invited to lunch with the group) so we ask advice, we sign up with Angie's List, and read possibly untrustworthy reviews.

I do, anyway... Except that part about signing up on Angie's List.  Still, I hope my recommendation of the Mises website isn't completely ignored.

Now, get that Christmas shopping done! The economy need you!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Affluenza? Really?

It has been a little over 10 days since the (juvenile court) judge in Texas sentenced a 16-year-old to ten years probation and rehab for a DUI related crash that killed 4 people. The reason she was lenient? Something called "affluenza." That term is applied, in this case, to describe the mental condition of a teen who was essentially spoiled rotten by his wealthy parents.

This, of course, raised hackles and triggered outrage in the media and throughout the nation. People are outraged on both the Left and the Right, as well as in the Middle.

I am going to defend the judge.

Yes, I know that can get me some hate mail. I am defending the judge for a number of reasons. In the first place, it was not involved in adjudicating guilt or innocence, it was used as a mitigation factor for sentencing and, as that, it is not functionally different from the "abusive childhood" often (maybe routinely) used by those who have committed heinous crimes and are facing sentencing after conviction. The difference between a child who was physically and emotionally abused in his youth and this 16-year-old is one of perspective.

Do you hate the rich? Then you will likely come down hard on the judge. But you may also feel sympathy (if not empathy) for the physically and emotionally abused poor defendant facing a death sentence or LWOP for some horrible death he caused. The difference seems to hinge on the perception of the abuse involved. Abuse in the form of regular denigration and rejection as a child seems much worse than spoiling a child with gifts and repeatedly getting him out of scrapes.  I get that. But emotional abuse is painful, no matter what its form, and the individual eventually can reach a point where h becomes indifferent (loses all empathy) to the suffering of others and expresses that in cruelty toward innocents.

Ask yourself, those four who were killed that night by a drunken, doped up, spoiled child that night this question: will those four people come back to life if the boy goes to prison? The answer, of course, is "no." We can no longer help those people. So the next question is: will his incarceration help the families overcome their grief and loss? To some extent, we have to say "yes." But is that really what justice is about?

I am torn. On the one hand, I dislike clever defense lawyers who manufacture innovative strategies which help their clients escape responsibility or get lenient treatment. On the other hand, I would not hesitate to hire one of these if I got in trouble.

In this particular case, I feel great sympathy for the families of those the boy killed. I even feel sympathy for the family of the boy who was paralyzed in the accident, the boy who was along for the ride and, one could say, aided and abetted the commission of this crime. I recognize the hypocrisy inherent in these feelings.

And, yet, it would be even more hypocritical to support the "abused childhood" mitigation strategy for the poor and condemn it for the rich.

It's just my opinion. Yours may be quite different.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Are You Shaking?

I came across this story last Sunday after reading about the impending (though no one knows when) collapse of the Universe. I thought one that blames man's activities for earthquakes was more... well... interesting.

A "consultant geophysicist" (not sure what that is, exactly) named Christian Klose did a study of hundreds of earthquakes around the world and found 92 likely to have been caused by human activity. Activities such as "mining, reservoir construction and oil and gas extraction."

Scary, huh?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Something To Consider

Warning: this post is political in nature
I came across something the other day that I would like to share with you. Let me provide the information which prompted that:

Like today's neo-conservatives, nineteenth-century socialists branded classical liberals with the name "individualist," implying that classical liberals are opposed to fraternity, community, and association. But, as Bastiat astutely pointed out, he (like other classical liberals) was only opposed to forced associations, and was an advocate of genuine, voluntary communities and associations. "[E]very time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists [mistakenly] conclude that we object to its being done at all."[17]

The next time someone declares him/herself a "liberal" or "progressive", refer them to that website.

(Thanks, T.C., for bringing this man to my attention)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sting or Scam?

There was an article last Friday in one of our two local papers about the police running a sting operation involving crosswalks, pedestrians, and automobile drivers.

I spent a lot of years in California where the "yield to pedestrians" rule is very strong and mostly obeyed. If there is a pedestrian in a crosswalk, you stop and allow him or her to cross. In fact, it is wise to stop even if that person is not actually in a marked crosswalk. My time in California probably trained me to follow those rules. But I grew up mostly in Dade County (now called "Miami-Dade") in Florida when crossing the street seemed to mean "I'm a legitimate target!" In the late fifties and early sixties, the pedestrian was responsible for avoiding cars in the street. The California model (pedestrians always have the right-of-way) is the norm these days.

That's a good thing. It flies in the face of maritime practice (which is that the larger, less maneuverable vessel has the right-of-way) but it is, I think, the right way to do it. Cars and trucks can easily cause more damage than a pedestrian.

The problem I have is the manner in which this sting was performed. I am speculating, of course, based on what I saw in the picture and what I have seen on the streets both as pedestrian and as a driver. Looking at the picture and noting where Officer Little was in relation to the truck partially in the crosswalk, I wondered where the officer was just prior to stepping into the street. It is difficult to tell from the picture. He appears to have taken one or two steps from the curb and, in the picture, the truck seems to be stopped. In other words, everything looks normal and correct except that the truck is encroaching on the crosswalk (this is illegal). The article states: "The motorist stopped at North Ridgewood Drive and North Mango Street and appeared to be in a hurry when he turned left Thursday onto Ridgewood from Mango." But this is not possible. There is no Mango Street on the west side of Ridgewood, just on the east and (from the picture) the truck was traveling north on Ridgewood. Use Google Maps and "street level view" to view the intersection.

The motorist stopped at North Ridgewood Drive and North Mango Street and appeared to be in a hurry when he turned left Thursday onto Ridgewood from Mango. - See more at:
The motorist stopped at North Ridgewood Drive and North Mango Street and appeared to be in a hurry when he turned left Thursday onto Ridgewood from Mango. - See more at:
The motorist stopped at North Ridgewood Drive and North Mango Street and appeared to be in a hurry when he turned left Thursday onto Ridgewood from Mango. - See more at:

When I was a child, my mother taught me how to cross a street; use the crosswalk if available or cross at a corner where there is a traffic light or a stop sign. Look both ways. If there is a vehicle approaching, do not step into the street. I wonder, did Officer Little step out into the street before the truck approached? How long before? The speed limit on the road is 30 MPH, I think, certainly not lower than 25.  Did Officer Little behave like a reasonable pedestrian? Or did he just start walking as the truck neared the crosswalk? The latter means this wasn't a "sting" but an "entrapment."

When I am walking and about to cross the street, I always make sure any vehicles have plenty of time to see me and react to my presence before I step into the street. I hope you all do the same. Make my mama proud.

Another thing I learned (actually from riding a motorcycle) was to try to make eye contact with the driver of the vehicle approaching before stepping out in front of him.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Work and Fun Are Not Synonymous

Every once in a while, the New York Times gets it "right." That is, it puts out an opinion piece or a story that makes me smile or triggers something (that indescribable feeling of "getting it") in my brain. This is one of them:

Who Goes to Work to Have Fun?

These kinds of op-eds often inspire me to leave a comment... and so I did:

My first reaction to this article evoked memories of my ex-wife, she who was constantly unhappy and looking for me to "make me happy." I do not believe you can make people be happy, it comes from within or it doesn't happen.

My second reaction was to think about my own career and the places I worked. I actually enjoyed my job, looked forward to doing it, I consider myself lucky to have found it because it suited me. There were times we went through these management fads where management would try to improve morale; all failed, all went by the wayside over time and all seemed to cause adverse reactions which took time to recover from. At those times, I often thought of my ex-wife wanting me to make her happy.

One other thing: During my career with "Ma Bell", I worked in many offices in many locations around the country. There were times that the only thing I enjoyed was my work, either the office was not quite right or the area wasn't what I liked. Other times, it all clicked. A lot depends on the individual, I suspect, and his/her attitude.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Presidential Appearance

There's been a lot of coverage of President Obama's "selfie" activity in South Africa.  I really think that is pointless. Not because I approve of his doing that but because I think the emphasis is on the act and shouldn't be. My problem with his behavior is that he represents us on these state visits. Regardless of whether many South Africans danced and sang and celebrated Mandela's life, Obama's behavior was not the behavior one might associate with presidential stature.

The president of the USA does not go to other countries to "go native", he goes there as the primary representative of his country. The essence of the United States. Even so, I see no reason to make a fuss about it and I do not understand the furor over it. In my opinion, he made a social gaffe over which Americans may feel a twinge of embarrassment for some time to come and perhaps associate a minor embarrassment with South Africa. I do not think that South Africans will look down on us over it, I don't think they would consider his behavior out of line. It is possibly only Americans who might feel that.

It's a bit like the guy who gets excessively drunk at a party. If you were the one who invited him, or brought him along, you might feel embarrassment about his behavior even if the host, and the other party goers, had no problem with it.

Please, I did not mean to even imply that Obama's behavior had anything to do with alcohol consumption.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Caveat Emptor and Car Purchases

Having just recently bought a new car, I am now finding several articles explaining what preparations a potential buyer should make, what to look for in a car, and various takes on the gadgets and options available on new cars. Just my luck, all the advice was hiding until after I made a purchase. Sigh...

So, I thought I might ask the readers of this blog what attracts them to a new car?

One of the things I pay close attention to is the upholstery. I happen to like leather myself but I really don't want to pay too much to get it. I considered pricing 3rd party leather upgrades. I am not that picky, there are some Naugahydes I will accept.

But the sound systems don't mean much to me. I find a lot of car sales people like to talk them up. I like safety and driving enhancement gadgets but I find, like a lot of things in the car biz of the last couple of decades, that pricing of options has followed the cable company route. That is, if you want the backup camera and/or blind spot alerting, you may have to purchase a "package" that has a lot more than you want or need. And the price of said package may be prohibitive. I ran into that several times. I'd want a nice interior but find I could only get that with a package that includes a sun or moon roof (and, perhaps, "ground effects lighting" and/or a "spoiler" in the rear). I do not want, need, or like those roofs. Maybe I am old-fashioned. I know I am old. For the same reason, I do not even glance at convertibles. I got my fill of wind in my hair when I rode motorcycles as my primary (meaning "only") means of transportation.

Any thoughts? What do you look for in a new car?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Forming an Opinion... or Just Going Along?

I was wondering this morning about how we form opinions. Not just the opinions we offer to our friends but the ones we offer to pollsters. The former seem designed to "fit in" with our friends, the latter may have a slightly different dynamic involved but one which I think is related to the former.

For instance, the NY Times has an article which reveals that health care is the most important problem currently facing the country, jumping 5 percentage points since September 23rd (the last poll taken on this subject); from 8% to 13%.

Why did that happen? What made it less important 3 months ago and why is it more important today than it had been over the last 6 months? Why is it on people's minds? Could it be that it is because the news media has emphasized it over the past few months because of the problems with the Obamacare website? Could it be that the annual drive to sign up seniors for Medicare supplemental plans has had an impact? Or perhaps a combination  of the two put the subject on the front burner?

You see, I think our opinions are formed almost collectively, that a relative few of us actually form opinions independently. I think we are more reactive than proactive (to use a buzzword of some years ago). We can see it in our childhoods when our parents admonished us in response to our "But everybody is doing it (or has one)" reason for wanting (to do or to have) something. And what did your parents say? Why, they said things like "If everyone jumped off a building, would you want to do that too?"

I do not think that, while we grow up, we also mature. I think that wanting to belong is an integral part of our make-up. And that it affects our opinions about what is important. We are trained to use something called "groupthink" from the time we first leave our homes to go to school. We become part of a herd... but we call it a class or a school... and we adapt our once family group way of thinking... because even before we go to school, we are part of a group (called a "family") to which we want to be a part, to be accepted, to
... to the larger group with whom we now find ourselves.

Independent thought is both praised and denounced in our (maybe all) society(ies). Independent thinkers are either innovators or kooks. 

Which one (independent thinker or herd member) are you?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Haven't Quite Figured It Out Yet

I am in that period of ownership where you are starting to like the car but are still unfamiliar with it. For instance, I decided I would fill up the new car yesterday. For two reasons: 1, because I was down to about a third of a tank and 2, because I wanted to see how far off the estimated average MPG display was. You do know that these displays are not accurate and tend to exaggerate your mileage, don't you?

As expected, the calculated actually mileage is about 1.9 less than the car's computation. But then I realized I did not know how to reset the numbers: the trip odometer and so on.  The manual showed me how to do that but, of course, I didn't do it until after I was at home so it will remain somewhat skewed. This was much easier in the Lucerne; quite user friendly.  The other problem I realized was that I was still thinking like I was in the Lucerne. As I began the process of purchasing gas, I got to the "Ready to "pump" stage when it dawned on me that the fuel port was on the other side of the car and, looking at it, also realized that the hose was too short to get there from the pump. In case you were unaware, GM vehicles have the fuel port on the left side while Ford vehicles have it on the right side. So I cancelled the transaction at the pump and drove around to a pump that was on the right of the car. Then I learned that cancelling a transaction gets my card blocked for 24 hours. Forgetting that I had another card I could use, I obediently went inside to "See Cashier" as the pump display said; gave him enough cash to cover the purchase and went back to pump the gas... then had to go back inside to get my change. Not exactly convenient (a little "old school") but it got the job done.

Now I still have to sort out the display controls so that I can get things smoothed out the way I would like them. It's all part of the learning curve.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"You're Number 1!" ... and Other Hand Signals

Each day I receive an email from the Highlands Today newspaper. Well, from the organization. I am fairly sure the paper itself doesn't send anything anywhere, it's an inanimate object that often lines birdcage floors and and finds itself balled up and on fire in a fireplace or wrapped around some fish. Why do people want newsprint on their fish?

Anyway, Sunday's mailing had a link to an article about the most dangerous intersections in this area. It was called, oddly enough:

Where are the most dangerous traffic locations in Highlands?

Highlands is Highlands County where the three cities mentioned exist. I was hoping for a list with the number of incidents at each intersection but I was disappointed. It didn't lay them out in that way. Instead, it randomly jumped around dropping the road names in no particular order. One thing was abundantly clear, the intersections which involve U.S. 27 and have a lot of traffic are the most likely to have accidents. This is no surprise to anyone with a brain, I think. More traffic means more opportunity for mistakes and mistakes create accidents.  The following are also no surprise:

"The worst month was February with 258 accident calls reported. The month with the fewest calls was August, with 173."

Time of year makes a huge impact (pardon the pun) here in terms of traffic accidents. I am just a little surprised that October or November or December are not the worst of the lot. October and November are the two months which see the major influx of "snowbirds" escaping the coming winters of the northern states. These folks come down each year and have to remember where things are here. The year round residents tend to dodge and swerve a lot around snowbird cars driving slow and searching for the road to turn onto, or the store or restaurant they want to visit.

It is no surprise that U.S. 27 is heavily linked to accidents. The speed limit through the intersections mentioned in the story is 55 MPH except for the ones in Avon Park and Lake Placid and a short stretch (about 2 miles) in Sebring (50 MPH); those are 45 MPH zones.  One would think knowing one is approaching a dangerous intersection would be sufficient to induce an increase in caution. But, sadly, it does not.

I have a friend who thinks the speed limit is too high on 27. I tend to disagree. Primarily because there are two speed limits: the posted, legal, limit and the effective limit. The posted one is obvious but the effective one is determined by traffic flow and quantity. In the winter, the effective speed limit is just over 45 MPH along all of 27.  Reading the story, I found something I see all year long:

"A white older vehicle made a right-hand turn off of Sparrow Avenue to travel southbound on U.S. 27. At the same time, a silver sedan made a U-turn at the intersection, switching from northbound to southbound.

The two cars both headed for the middle southbound lane at the same time, but avoided colliding.

The last sentence says it all... We have three lanes in each direction. The law actually states that a driver turning right onto a multi-lane road should stay in the rightmost lane and a driver turning left (or making a U-turn) should stay in the leftmost lane until they reach the speed of traffic. Most people do not follow the law, most swing wide and go almost immediately to the next lane over.

Personally, I think several intersections in our area should have U-turns restricted. Our laws in Florida permit U-turns anywhere that they are not posted as illegal. Because, apparently, we have a lot of places that one cannot simply turn left into but must travel to the next intersection and make a U-turn to get to.

The primary cause of accidents here (and, I am sure, everywhere else) is drivers. And we are not allowed to shoot them.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Musing Triggered By Age, You Could Say

Tom at "Sightings Over Sixty" has a very good post on retirement which I read the other day and re-read while considering this post of my own. Call it theft, if you must, or be kind and consider that Tom inspired me to write this one.

I did not plan for my retirement, I am not quite ashamed to say (I have very little shame left in me, it seems), I just fell into it... pretty much the story of my life... and found my "niche." I was fortunate. After getting out of the Navy in late 1969 and getting married some months later in 1970, I realized that just stuffing cushions in an upholstery shop would not be a wise "career" for a man with a family. I needed something which paid better, which had some job security, which had some benefits. I found myself applying for a job with Southern Bell (which later became BellSouth which was bought up by SBC which subsequently bought AT&T and became "at&t"... all of which happened after I migrated to AT&T). I was surprised to learn that I loved the work (and, therefore, did not view it as "work").

I did not save much in the early years, nor in later years, toward retirement. I did not think about retirement much at all. After all, I had the promise of a pension in the future, why save? Well, those of us who are retired understand that you can never have enough money in reserve. Those of us under 40 have a hard time imagining that need at all. At least I did.

I moved about over the 34 years I worked within the circle of the old "Bell System." San Diego, northern Virginia (Herndon), Jacksonville (Florida), and West Palm Beach. All the while not planning on my retirement or preparing for it. I saved money because Faye insisted on it but not as much as I now think I should have.

If I had matched my Social Security "contribution" (about 7% of income... BTW, it's not a contribution if it's mandatory) in savings each payday from the time I was, say, 30, I would have had a lot more to "play" with now. Thinking about it, it still would not have seemed enough but it certainly would have helped a great deal.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Art Imitating Life or Vice Versa?

Do any of you watch "Person of Interest"?  I do, it's one of my favorites. Well, it seems like it isn't all fiction. The other day, I (and millions of others) learned that the NSA was collecting quite a bit of data on people.

The premise of the TV show is that the government has a computer which sorts all the data from all kinds of sources (not revealed but hinted at: traffic cams, ATM cams, cell phones, etc) and determines threats to the general public. The computer also finds people who are personally at risk, or are a risk to others. The government doesn't bother with these but a reclusive billionaire (who built the system) named Harold Finch and his associate, a former CIA operative named John Reese, do. Each week, we see how Harold (Michael Emerson) and John (Jim Caviezel) figure out how to save them or their victim(s). 

But that's not what the NSA does. It just collects as much data as it possibly can, mashes it with a bunch of supercomputers, and tries to figure out what the "bad guys" are up to and who they are. Presumably, the NSA is that government entity which  ignores the individuals that Harold and John care about.

Do I worry about all this spying on us? Not a whole lot. Philosophically, of course, I am opposed to it but a part of me is impressed by it.

A number of years ago I decided that nuclear power plants were not all that good a thing. That came after I looked around at my peers and remembered all the people I had known over the years; realized that almost all cut corners and routinely ignored safety precautions and decided that these people would eventually be the ones operating such plants. I became less confident in the concept of nuclear powered electricity.

That thinking is now popping up in my head regarding the NSA and the intelligence apparatus in the U.S.

Where are Harold Finch and John Reese now that we need them? 

Today is December 7, "a date which will live in infamy." What a different world we live in today than the one in 1941.

Friday, December 6, 2013


It is Friday morning and, therefore, I am at the golf course chasing that little white ball around. I think of it as mandatory. I am retired, therefore, I play golf. Golf, as you may know, is a difficult and frustrating game.

I was thinking about the hardest parts of the game the other day. That thought came to me as I was leafing through a golf magazine and saw a picture of an amateur golfer competing in the Walker Cup. The caption was "USA Walker Cup team member Justin Thomas gets some help from former President George W. Bush..." on the line of his putt.

Putting is definitely one of the hardest parts of the game. It is a skill that is difficult to learn and to teach. I have spoken of this before; the person must take a number of factors into account, factors that are less than obvious, in determining the break (if any), also known as the "line." and the speed (the force that must be applied) of the putt. The golfer calculates all these factors (or tries to) without being conscious of the math his mind is doing. The slope of the green, the smoothness of it, the amount of dew, the average speed of it, and a few more. But touching the green (to feel the smoothness, for example, which might give you an understanding of the speed the putt needs) is verboten. As is tamping down those nasty spike marks left by the group ahead of you. You cannot teach someone the feel, it is something each of us must learn internally. But putting is only one part of the game. There are many others. let me go through what are the hardest shots in golf for me:

The tee shot. Not just the first tee shot but each of them. The first one seems to have added pressure but all of them are critical. After all, the tee shot is the precursor to the next shot. A man once told me that all of the holes on a golf course are actually par 3's. What he meant was that your tee shot on a par 4 determined the kind of par 3 you would then face; hit that tee shot short and you had a long par 3, hit it long and you had a short one, hit it behind a tree and you have an almost impossible one. And so on. You could call this a strategy... or depressing... depending on how well you can play. Your tee shot creates the difficulty, or ease, of the next shot. On par 5 holes, both the tee shot and the second shot are equally important.

The first iron shot. For me, this one is a little nerve wracking. It is important. It can be critical. And I am almost completely without confidence in my ability to execute it. I have decided that it will fly shorter than my usual distance with whatever club I am using. That's already locked into my brain and, therefore, will be a "self fulfilling prophecy." After assuming that, I still have to execute the shot. Since using an iron is off the turf (except on par 3's of reasonable length), the execution is different than most tee shots.

I have been told that the swing is the same for every club, every shot. I disagree. there are numerous variations; amount of backswing, descending versus rising contact with the ball, face angle, and so on. Factors like wind direction and force also come into play, not to mention those trees in front of you or the low branches on them.

Golf is not an easy game.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

More On Congratulations

It appears I have ruffled some feathers out there with my post on the unnecessary congratulations for a car purchase. I will probably just get in deeper with this but I will try to explain myself:

When someone I know buys a car, or other pricey item, I might ask, "Did you get a good deal?" If they answer with something like, "Yes, it took a lot of haggling but I got a pretty good deal" then I might say something like, "That's great!' or "Wonderful!" or "Good for you!" but I am highly unlikely to offer congratulations. When someone plays well and wins, I will offer congratulations because there was obviously effort and risk involved and the person persevered against adversity, he or she actually accomplished something. I might offer congratulations to a new husband or wife, I might offer congratulations to someone (father or mother) who just had a child though it often seemed silly to me to offer that to the father... for a number of reasons I will not go into here. Maybe more likely to offer such if the couple had been trying for a child for some time.

My post was about the cultural cheapening of a compliment. Like graduating from kindergarten or elementary school. Or an award for participation in some team or individual contest. These things are routine, we are a competitive species... competing should be expected, not something unusual that needs to be recognized.

This blog is about how I see things and so I muse about various things that puzzle me or interest me in some way. It is, therefore, highly opinionated. And these opinions are mine, not the reader's. I recognize that you, as a reader, might not always see things my way... I hope you also recognize that I might see things differently than you; that neither of us is correct or incorrect.

Now, some of you offered me food for thought on this subject. Mostly, I see it as interesting takes on the subject but not sufficient argument to make me change my mind. Some of it seemed to imply I was being impolite in not responding favorably to the offers of congratulations. Let me assure you that I say "thanks" to these folks, I try not to be rude to them... they feel, apparently, that they are complimenting me. That I might believe differently is unimportant to them.

But I thank you all for commenting. Really. Congratulations!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Something I Need More Information About

Among the things I wonder about is the dinosaur extinction. There are theories, one of which is becoming more and more accepted: a giant space rock hit just on the northern edge of the Yucatan Peninsula about 65 million years ago. This theory is based on the Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) boundary (formerly known as the K–T boundary) and the iridium found in high concentration at its stratum. The impact of this space rock is theorized to have wiped out the dinosaurs.

But one thing bothers me... One of the clues in all this is the lack of dinosaur bones found above this layer. Unless the dinosaurs all died off before that impact, wouldn't there be bones and fossils found immediately above that layer? This is why I need more information... because it doesn't quite make sense to me. If the iridium debris floated in the atmosphere for, say, a year or more then there would be time for the dinosaurs to die off and be found below the layer.  But if it fell back to earth in a shorter time then wouldn't we expect to find some dinosaur fossils above the layer? Additionally, it is said this impact driven extinction killed off the non-avian dinosaurs. If so, I surmise that this means avian dinosaur fossils are found above the layer. But wouldn't such a massive amount of debris in the air (not to mention the shockwave and massive winds an impact like this would cause) impact the avian dinosaurs even more than the land-locked ones?

Any experts out there who can explain this to me?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Some Things I Have Come To Believe...

Over the years, I have developed some beliefs that are at odds with conventional wisdom. I am, apparently, a contrarian.

The Nazi war machine was overrated.
Hitler's military was not as fantastic as reported. It was formidable but not overwhelming. What it had in its favor was a willingness to use the standard street fight tactic of landing the first blow and following up. If a fight is inevitable, punch the opponent hard and don't let up, don't give him a chance to recover. Hitler did this in Poland and western Europe. He tried to do this in Russia, too, but ran into Napoleon's nemesis... the Russian winter.

Likewise, the power and competency of the Japanese military was also misunderstood.
They also used the blitzkrieg strategy to great effect against weaker (Korea and China) and unprepared (British and American) forces in Asia  and tried to do the same with the U.S. in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The U.S. recovered quickly and moved against Japan's military with what were then considered inferior equipment and inexperienced men (Chenault and the Flying Tigers used that inferior equipment pretty successfully against the Japanese, for example). The U.S. had another advantage; our industry was beyond the reach of both Japan and Germany. The tactic of blitz and follow-up was, therefore, not practical.

Conspiracy theories are 99.999% false. Especially ones which involve governments.
People cannot keep their mouths shut. And they tend to gather physical evidence to prove their participation in something, knowing that they will be met with skepticism. A conspiracy can work if the participants are few (a handful or so) but that's a rare event. Most conspiracy theories involve hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people that must either be incredibly stupid or incredibly fanatical.

Perhaps I am just cynical.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Just Don't Get It, I Suppose

As I mentioned a few days ago, I bought a new car. Since then, a number of people have congratulated me on my purchase. Granted, most of these were working for the dealership but they weren't the only ones. A number of friends and acquaintances have also offered congratulations.

Why is that? After all, all I did was drop by a car dealership, take a couple of test drives (to compare vehicles), and haggle a bit over price and trade-in value. It wasn't like I spent hours or days chasing down an antelope armed with a spear or bow and arrow. I faced no physical danger or privation in the process to bring back to the cave meat for the tribe. Instead, I accepted a deal offered while sipping some coffee inside an air conditioned office. And bought a product that was immediately worth thousands less than I paid.

But I did get that new car smell... along with a small enough cargo space that I had to fold down part of the back seat to make room for my golf clubs.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Chaos On The Health Insurance Front

On Sunday, December 1st, is the not a re-rollout of the Obamacare website. So, last night at 9PM, they took the website down for a 12 hour maintenance interval. Why do I think this is a last minute attempt to get the thing running? Maybe I am wrong. Perhaps it's because they truly care about people having great difficulty getting on the website and difficulty navigating it. Perhaps. Or perhaps it's because they want to get the president's polling numbers up.

Let's forget for the moment that the president seems to get outraged with the performance of the administration often and claims ignorance of whatever went wrong and let's also forget for the moment that the president is the head of that administration and he is the one who ought to know what is going on with his signature achievement. 

I just don't think government does anything well and the more complex the project and function, the less able to do it without causing great harm.

I know what you are thinking... "Well, the government seems to do a good job with the military." To those that had that thought all I can say is... you must not have served. I did. It was wasteful, inefficient, and riddled with incompetence. Of course, much of that may no longer be the case but I don't think so. My bet is that it is smaller in scope but higher in cost. I will have to do some research to find out if I am right. Example:

The government has taken on many tasks over the 224 years of its current existence. How many departments and functions would you rate as excellent? Heck, how many can you even name? I know I can only think of a few and that bothers me somewhat.

I would rather that health insurance not be quasi nationalized. 

Friday, November 29, 2013

A Post Turkey Day Thought

Yesterday, as people all over America slaved over hot stoves and dealt with numerous relatives they wouldn't otherwise associate with any other time of the year, we (Faye, Frannie, and I) started a new Thanksgiving tradition... We went to our favorite local steakhouse.

And we had turkey, of course, all three of us.  After grabbing the leftovers (they did, I didn't) and paying the bill, we went home. Now that I can happily reflect on it, it was the right thing to do.

Here's hoping you all had a very satisfying Thanksgiving and enjoyed the company and the meal immensely.

I'll be at the golf course.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

But Would We Want To?

I wrote a little about this some time ago but after watching last night's episode of Futurescape, it rose in my mind once again. Living forever, that is... or at least for a very long time.

I was reminded of a short story I read many years ago, I no longer recall the author or the main characters but the basic premise was that an alien hired a detective to find a certain other alien race. The race was supposed to be immortal or as near to it as anyone decide was close enough. The twist was that the race of the alien who hired the detective already had a lifespan of some twenty thousand years. Apparently, that wasn't enough.

I used to tell my mother that I intended to live forever, pause, and then say "so far, so good." A friend of mine says he wants to live to be 150... he's a little over halfway there. And plays better golf than I... though that isn't all that hard to do. I live in a town that has a median age for its population of 47.3 years (Florida, overall, has a median age of 41.3 years). You get that median age by having a lot of old people. People tend to come here to retire or when they get tired of maintaining two homes; one in some northern state and one down here. Let's just say, at 67, I am one of the "kids" around here.

In a story, a novel (The Annals of the Heechee, I think), by Frederik Pohl, the protagonist (Robinette Broadhead) meets a race (the Heechee) who keep the minds of their ancestors with them to help and advise them. Humans do something slightly different with the technology; they transfer all of their knowledge (their "essence", if you will) into a computer which creates a virtual world in which they live on, perhaps forever.

All of which makes me wonder...  Would I want to live that long? The Futurescape episode suggested that people might not want to, that they might seek out death at some point. This is a common theme in vampire novels. It might be incredibly boring to live a couple hundred years... or longer. Even if, say, 90 becomes the New 40.

The Bible speaks of ancient patriarchs (such as Methuselah) who lived 800 or more years (Methuselah allegedly lived to age 969). Even though it might be fascinating to live far into the future and see the amazing advances man makes, it could also be possible to see the destruction of civilization in a few hundred years.

Not sure I'd want to see that.

Oh, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sometimes Hate Is The Controlling Emotion

A lot of people like Rush Limbaugh, a lot of people hate him. Most people have no feelings one way or the other about him. I listen to his show a few times each week and have for many years... starting in 1989. Unlike some, I do not think he is as great as he appears to think of himself. Likewise, I do not think he is evil incarnate... as some others appear to think.

I recently decided I would look into reviews for Limbaugh's latest book. Not that I am looking to purchase it, it is intended for children after all. But I wanted to see how it has been received. Some of the reviews are by those who hate the guy, some are by those who idolize the guy... very few are not biased. The first review I read was not a review of the book but a polemic on Limbaugh. It insulted, it ranted, it said nothing about the book except to point out the reviewer's issues with the cover picture.  It became clear that the reviewer hadn't read the book. There are reasons, good ones, why the cover picture is as it is.

I run into numerous articles about Limbaugh on the net, most are unfriendly to put it mildly. He irritates some people no end it seems. Most of those who hate him do not listen to his show and appear to get their information about him from the Huffington Post, the Daily Kos, and/or Media Matters for America. Let's just say these sites do not view Limbaugh in a friendly manner.  It's understandable, Limbaugh is the polar opposite (politically) of those who run, and write on, those sites.

I am not one of those who allows others to dictate his feelings. This is probably due to childhood experiences with food my mother served (Hint: I actually liked lima beans). Enhanced during my teen years. So I tend to investigate controversial figures myself. With Limbaugh, however, I had heard nothing about him before I ran across his radio show (a "best of" rerun, I guess) one Saturday afternoon on my way home from work in Jacksonville. I had no preconceptions about him.  I found him entertaining. He used humor (self-deprecating and against others). He was bombastic, a real self promoter.

It's obvious to me that he uses his controversial image to his advantage. And he has certainly done well for himself. That much, no one can deny.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I'm Sure I Made a Mistake

I went off the deep end the other day, I bought a new car. I didn't really need one, mind you, but I have been getting tired of poor gas mileage in my old one. So I took the plunge. A 4-cylinder thingie with lots of goodies to occupy the mind and tantalize the eyes... and a lack of storage space.And now the learning curve (which gets steeper as you age... trust me) begins. This can be annoying for us old farts, we lack the mental flexibility of the young.

This is why this post is late, my mind has been elsewhere. It's been elsewhere before, mind you, but that was due to drugs and/or alcohol. This is that weird time where buyer's remorse lurks and nags at you tirelessly.

The car is a Ford... Focus, hatchback, automatic, leather seats. Eventually, I will learn to love it, I suspect, but this is the exploration period... like a new romance. That time period when  you wonder just why you are seeing the new love interest and wondering if the positives will outweigh the negatives. Sure, she looks pretty and all but then there's that clearing of the throat, the snoring which rattles the windows, the lack of interest in doing your laundry...

Now, if I can just figure out the radio...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Buzzkill or Blessing?

The New Yorker ran an article about Washington's (the state) problems and issues with the legalization of marijuana a few days ago. The object of a ballot initiative "I-502" passed in November of 2012. It's an interesting read, I think. An excerpt:

The law, which was sixty-four pages long and contained hundreds of specific provisions, assigned the liquor-control board the role of regulating the pot market. Yet many difficult questions remained: Who would be allowed to grow legal marijuana? Who would be allowed to sell it? How much would an ounce of legal pot cost? The legislation gave Washington officials only a year to come up with answers. Randy Simmons, the state’s project manager for I-502, says, “From the week after the initiative passed, it’s been about a hundred and fifty miles an hour.”

We do not often consider the details of things in advance, do we? Nor do we often consider the unintended consequences. The year that the law provided to set up the legal apparatus to handle the new business is just about up. Many people think that Colorado and Washington are just the first two and that the rest will follow pretty quickly. I tend to agree.

Just as the Prohibition Era advanced organized crime, fueling and funding it beyond imagination, the legalization of marijuana for recreational use will send ripples of turmoil throughout the country that are impossible to predict... The prohibition of marijuana was not, as some people seem to think, age-old. It started in the 1910's, around the time alcohol Prohibition started to gain traction. Before that, it was legal. Not widespread, mind you, but not prohibited by law so much and not at all by the federal government. You could say it was part of the Temperance Movement. Which some say just wanted to ban pleasure. Here's a good rundown of the timeline: History of Marijuana.

Should be an interesting decade, don't you think?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

On Thursday, 11-21-2013, the Democrat majority Senate took away the power that a Democrat majority in 1917 created. At that time, filibustering got in the way of Woodrow Wilson's desires so his party created a rule that created cloture. This is a procedure in which 2/3rds of the senators must agree to end debate on a matter before the chamber and bring it to a vote.

There is a lot of confusion over this and much is being said about the Senate ending the practice of filibuster. This site has a good explanation of the history of the filibuster.

Never mind that the Democrats, when in the minority under a Bush presidency, favored this ability to block nominees from votes to approve. (In 1975, with a Democrat controlled Senate and a Republican president (Nixon), the 2/3rds was reduced to 60) This 60 vote cloture rule was getting in the way of the president's ability to quickly move his nominees through the consent process in the Senate. In the past, not all that long ago, when Republicans held the majority in the Senate, Democrats praised the rule of 60. Even Obama did.

But no more. Obama wanted this. But what happens if the Republicans regain control of the Senate and a Republican president lives in the White House?

I predict that they will, at that point, clamor for a return to the "sanity" of a 60 vote cloture rule. I hope the Republicans politely laugh in their faces.

Never, ever grant a power to your own party that you do not want the other party to have.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I, Not a Robot (Yet)

A few years ago, I wrote a post that was entitled "Does This Compute?" and it mostly outlined my exposure, and connection, to computers over the years. I also wrote this, "The Robots Are Coming" back in 2008.

The other night, I recorded a program called "Futurescape" on the Science Channel. It's only a 6 parter and I missed episode 1 (which I will watch On Demand... assuming it's there). But the episode I watched had to do with robots and artificial intelligence and with the possibilities of enhancement of human bodies and brains through technology. I found it very interesting. This episode was called "Robot Revolution" and I highly recommend it.

As the show was talking about artificial intelligence and ethics and morality, I stopped playing with my tablet and paid closer attention. Humans, with rare exceptions, are taught these things as they grow up. Robots, presumably, will also be "taught" these things. It will allow them to be useful as caretakers, for instance, and to interface with humans in most ways.
That and one section on sensitivity of skin, especially fingertips (did you even know some scientists are developing artificial fingers?).
It got me to thinking about how we teach children these things.  They started out with a smooth material for the skin and then decided to create a series of ridges and whorls... an artificial fingerprint, if you will... and were surprised by the increase in sense data that created. I was not. I think our fingerprints enhance our ability to understand what we touch. Do some experiments yourself with touching, you'll see what I mean.

But I want to get into programming of these units. A human child is programmed spontaneously by the world around him. Some have suggested that an unborn child can be programmed, that the fetus hears, can feel, and learn. And, so, they suggest playing music, among other things, to stimulate the fetus. I don't know if that is just wishful thinking on the part of people who mean well or total fantasy. You see, no child is born with the ability to communicate in a complex manner and no child, once he/she learns to speak appears to have memories of what they experienced before birth.

Our childhoods are just part of the programming humans go through. We constantly learn new things and apply these in our lives. We view people as not ready to go out in society until they have at least graduated from high school (12-13 years of educational programming along with social programming that includes ethics and morality). Now an additional 4 years (at least) of college/university training seems to be almost mandatory. So, let's take the low end and say a minimum of 18 years of programming to create a functional human unit. At that point, we say they can vote, join the military, start a family, and begin a career. Yes, I know some start earlier than that and some aren't ready at 25, 30, or 40. See comment about how we continue to learn and apply that knowledge throughout our lives.

Robots will have to be programmed in days, weeks, at most months. Of course, they will be programmed by computers and that will speed things up exponentially. But how about the gaps in that programming?  No computer software is ever rolled out without bugs and glitches and, often, the fixes cause more problems that then need to be addressed.  We should not expect robots to be any better.

The opportunities of cyber-kinetics and the integration of technology into human bodies were another thing which I found fascinating and encouraging; new hands that work, feet, legs, arms, eyes, and so on. Perhaps, some day, we will live forever (or close to) by moving our minds (which are not simply our brains) into humanoid, but artificial, bodies.

What then?

Today, November 22nd, 2013 is the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I was in an English class in a high school in Orlando when it was announced. I was a Kennedy supporter (in a light way) in those days. I was stunned. Not because I was a supporter but because it was such a horrific crime. Take a moment to reflect on where you were... if you are old enough to have been alive, I mean.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

ET... Stay Home

I came across this article which, of course, fascinated me. I am intrigued by the possibility of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. It's clear that it is in short supply here on Earth.

Something in the article struck me...

"When I was a student in the 1960s, the prevailing view among scientists was that life on Earth was a freak phenomenon, the result of a sequence of chemical accidents so rare that they would be unlikely to have happened twice in the observable universe. "

Somebody please tell the author that we have learned many things in the last 50 years that overturned what we believed back then. Learning should not stop for an individual until he or she passes away. Some might argue... Not even then.

I think there might be life throughout the universe, though I am not so sure it will be what we call "intelligent." Some of this life might be unrecognizable to us because, face it, we are a bit egotistical about such things... having a tendency to believe it should resemble living entities we find here. This in spite of learning that life of some kind appears to exist in places on this planet that we once thought couldn't possibly support anything alive.

I do believe, however, that any intelligent species which could develop space travel should have hands that can grasp, eyes, and a measurable dexterity. None of those amorphous blobs or multi-tentacled things the science fiction writers have invented. 

Call me silly, if you wish... I can handle it.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Issues... I Got Issues

I'd like to start out with an update on my DVR troubles... I didn't tell you about these? Well, here's a quick summary:

On Tuesday last week, about 4 PM, the living room DVR (a Motorola DCH3416) went through multiple reboots. A DVR is nothing more than a computer which stores programs as digital data on its hard drive. After three reboots in 20 minutes, I called Comcast. While talking to a tech, it rebooted one more time. After that, it stayed stable. The tech scheduled a service call for Thursday. The next day, I received a call from another tech; this one at Tier 2. It appears that the trouble had been escalated. He suggested the problem might be related to the signal and that they had tweaked it the night before after getting the escalation. The unit had worked fine since the night before and his explanation for the problem seemed plausible so I allowed him to cancel the service call.

On Friday, the unit went through 5 unexplained reboots in quick succession. I did not call tech support because it stopped happening and seemed stable.

On Sunday, about 5 PM, the DVR began rolling in reboots and did not ever stop so I unplugged it. I called Comcast, told them I wanted a new unit and I wanted it Monday. He scheduled a service call for Monday between 1 and 5 PM. He showed up just after 1 PM on Monday, replaced the unit with a different model (Motorola model RNG200N). After he left, I began re-programming my scheduled programs. Which irks me no end; why can't we use the USB port (which all DVRs appear to have) to store the data on a flash drive and have an option to reload it from there????

I have three DVRs in this house; 0ne in the master bedroom, one in the living room, and one in my sister-in-law's room (the same model as in the living room). Only one of these (the living room unit) is on  UPS, the other two are on surge strips.  I am beginning to suspect that the UPS/DVR combination is where the problem lies. If so, it can only be fixed by the unit maker (Motorola) because I want the DVR in the living room on a UPS so I do not lose any recording or part thereof.

Though the new unit is working fine now, I doubt the problem  will ever be fixed.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Time Is Relative... At Times

As I was perusing the headlines from the email from the NY Times, I was suddenly attracted to this article:
                           You're So Self-Controlling

Since I am proud of my will power, even while realizing it is incredibly weak at seemingly crucial times, it drew my attention. It's a three page article and I grew impatient to read it through and almost gave up. Which seemed apropos of the article's theme.

Here's an excerpt...

WHAT do you do if, when you get to a subway platform, you see that it is already packed with people? Do you join the throngs to wait for the train, or do you shake your head and seek an alternative way to get where you’re going?

In my mind, I thought I would do what I always do in such a situation; check the schedule and let that information guide me. If the schedule says the train's arrival is imminent, I will likely wait, tolerating the crowd that I now see as joining me on that train. If I have long to wait and I have ample perceived time to get to my destination, I will likely seek an alternate means to get there.

To me, there are numerous factors involved in such decisions. But scientists seem to want to eliminate most of them, to simplify the process people use to make decisions. I believe our environment (society) is not easily parsed into either/or decisions. I believe that decisions are rarely one of "this or that" but often (if not always) have multiple possible choices or at least multiple factors involved in the either/or choices.

The principle factor in these studies seem to involve time perception. If one believes the schedule, one might wait. If one worries about the time to get to one's destination (running late, say) then one might almost immediately seek an alternate method. That's simplification. At any given time, those factors might not be applicable. One might have plenty of time to reach that destination, one might already be late, one might not have a  need to reach that destination at all but just want to, etc.

The author posits a situation, a test, and then points out the additional factor not planned for:

Can you forgo a brownie in service of the larger reward of losing weight, give up ready cash in favor of a later investment payoff?

The studies favor a belief that time perception is a predominant factor in decision making. But what about a craving for chocolate? Can that take precedence? Or does time perception rule?

I say that decisions are fluid, that a multitude of factors are involved with none taking absolute precedence every time. Time perception is important but perhaps one is hungry because one skipped a meal already? What if the goal (losing weight in this case) is one of  a greater need? Like saving a relationship? Or self esteem for a person whose life has been plagued by image problems?

On any given day, I believe numerous factors determine how we approach decisions, factors over which we often have no direct control. Not to mention factors we carry from our upbringing ad our genetic make up. And these impact how we approach the decision making. I don't think we can ever boil decision making down to either/or.

Monday, November 18, 2013

But What Really Happened?

Murder Charge in a Shooting on Doorstep

This is all over the news, it seems. There are some things about this case which anger me and some which just confuse me but, overall, I just don't know enough of the facts of the case. That just adds to my frustration. I like things neat and tidy, I like to know much more than most (maybe any) news sites provide in their reporting.  And, in this case, that causes ambivalent feelings.

Let me recap with known facts (as reported):

Just before 1 AM, a young woman (age 19) hit a parked car on a suburban street near Detroit, Michigan. Witnesses say they tried to help her but that she was disoriented and wandered off into the dark. This would suggest that she was uncooperative though they do not seem to have used that word. Shortly before 4 AM, she is shot dead on the porch of a house 6 blocks away. The homeowner is the one one charged in the headline.

Very little of the story I linked to answer questions I have. Where was she between 1 AM and 4 AM? Why didn't these witnesses try to follow her  or inform the authorities where she headed? They may have but we do not know. Why did the police  think there were no injuries in the accident and, therefore, make it a low priority? They did not respond  immediately.  Why did the homeowner open his front door (leaving only a locked screen door between them)? Why did the homeowner not immediately call 911 when she allegedly began knocking on his door?  He did, however, call 911 after shooting her.

Much is being made over the fact that the woman is African-American and the homeowner (shooter) is Caucasian. In fact, this remark is in the story:

“I think people don’t understand that this stuff is happening all the time,” said the Rev. Charles Williams II, the Detroit leader of the National Action Network. “We’re happy we got a charge in this case — that’s progress — but this whole situation tells us that there is still work to do when it comes to race in America.”

It is not "happening all the time." In fact, it is quite rare. But when it happens, it gets a lot of coverage. If a member of your family is the victim, even once is too often, of course, but the Reverend is not a family member so his exaggeration seems out of place.

Eric Holder (and many others) has said we need a dialogue about race in the United States. I agree. I think that this dialogue should not be one-sided, it should not be full of exaggeration and hyperbole, it should not be emotionally charged. It should be an honest one and one conducted calmly. That is extremely hard to do when it comes to race.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

More Wool For Our Eyes

There's a lot of hubbub over President Obama's "apology" and attempt to correct the problem of people having their insurance cancelled (5+ million and counting) due to Obamacare. Of course, the administration pointed out that The ACA (Obamacare) law did not cancel those policies, the insurance companies did. That's correct. However, it was because of requirements for coverage that were imposed by that law which led to the companies cancelling the policies. Even though Obama made the promise (many times) that "If you like your policy, you can keep it. Period."

So, now he has, once again, made a change in the law without having either house in Congress having a vote. This is blatantly unconstitutional but very few seem to care.

Here's what he said in a recent speech:

"Already people who have plans that pre-date the Affordable Care Act can keep those plans if they haven’t changed. "

One little problem, they never changed, the requirements set by the government changed. None of the cancelled policies changed. They were cancelled because they did not meet those new requirements. The above wording suggests that if the policy you had changed in any way (the amount of change was not specified), then you cannot keep your policy. It also does not actually reinstate the policies that were cancelled but it allows the insurer to reinstate them... IF the individual state governments allow it (they do not have to) AND the insurance companies jump over some difficult hurdles AND the individuals whose policies were cancelled petition their insurers to reinstate said policies.

To me, that's a pretty empty promise and a scam.  But what do I know?

Speaking of Obamacare, the president says he was unaware of the problems with the website. Apart from the fact that it seems reasonable that he should have known, it seems odd that his hand-picked people didn't keep him "in the loop." Does he tell them not to bother him with details? If so, then he was willfully ignorant of the problems. If not, then why didn't he know?


Friday, November 15, 2013

It Was One of Those Days

My head is full today. Mostly full of anger and frustration at my DVR and the cable company which provides it. But also full of thoughts about prejudice, sterotyping, theories of the origin of the universe, hot dogs, and enchilada sauce (with rice and pork).

Let me rant about that DVR and the cable company...

A couple of days ago, the DVR decided it would just shut down. It does this on its own from time to time. Often it is done by the cable company. A "reboot" of the box after doing some update to the software that runs it. It is, after all, just a computer. It records and stores programs on a hard disk, among other functions. So, it is annoying when a reboot happens. Especially annoying since that wipes out the guide and the re-population of said guide takes many hours, sometimes days. So I wasn't upset when it happened on Tuesday. What upset me was that it did it 3 times... starting at about 4 PM. An hour before our local cable office closes for the night. This was odd behavior and suggestive of a problem with the box itself. So I called the cable company.

As I complained about the problem and made the alleged technician aware of my frustration and distrust of the DVR (my third one in two years), the problem seemingly stopped. The tech scheduled a service call for Thursday. A little later I got an automated survey call from the cable company, asking me questions regarding my call to support. Apparently, my answers triggered an escalation of my complaint because the next afternoon  I received a call from a tech at a higher level (tier 2?) support group who wanted to discuss the problem I was having.

This tech suggested that the problem was caused by some issues with the TV signal the box was receiving and that they had "made some adjustments" which should clean it up. Since it had not experienced a problem since the day before, it appeared that had cleared up the problem. We agreed to cancel the service call.

So, this morning (Thursday), I sat in my recliner and proceeded to watch the programs I had recorded the night before. The first one went fine, no problems. The second one was about halfway done when the box shut off again. It did not reboot. I waited a good 60 seconds and unplugged it and plugged it back in. It started back up. After it was restored to service, I restarted the recorded program I had been watching. Within 15 seconds, the DVR shut down and rebooted. And then again as I went to start the recorded program again. And then again after trying to restart that recorded program. So, this time after it rebooted I decided I would try a different recorded program and this time it went through without a hitch. I then went back to the one which seemed to trigger reboots and found it worked fine... I was ready to just delete that recording if the reboot happened again.

Go figure. I'll be at the golf course today, at least I understand that frustration and who causes it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

This Page Intentionally Left Blank

It matches my mind today. Perhaps I'll think of something to muse about tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Paper or Plastic?

A thought came to me yesterday... about plastic bags. I was contemplating a trip to WalMart. Let's be honest... Faye strongly suggested that I go with her to WalMart. This is about as close to ordering me to take her shopping as it gets. And is treated as if it were analogous. Which it certainly is.

WalMart does not ask you the title question. In reality, few stores do anymore. Publix (our major grocery store chain) simply says "Plastic OK?" instead of offering a choice. It implies you have one, though, even if you really don't.

Let's face it, we like plastic bags, don't we? They are easier to carry since they have handles built in. Paper bags once had these but I haven't seen one so equipped in many years. At least in grocery stores. Too expensive, I suspect. Paper bags have square, flat, bottoms. These make them easier to put in the trunk of one's car. Easier to control. And paper bags have many uses: masks for New Orleans Saints fans, for instance, of not so many years back (an idea they got from  the "Unknown Comic", no doubt). Plastic bags have no solid structure to them and spill their contents very easily. So the auto-makers add (often optional) a webbing which spans the width of the trunk into which we can plop those unruly plastic bags. Even if things spill out, they tend to stay in the webbing.

But my car does not have that webbing anymore. First, the piece to which it connects on the right side of the trunk fell out and will not secure itself again. So, in frustration, I tossed the now useless webbing aside (and eventually into the maw* that is my garage). Instead, I tend to pile things in the foot-well behind the driver's seat or on the back seat itself. What goes on the back seat are things which are unlikely to move around in normal driving. Things like cases of bottled water, things that have flat bottoms, things that are less likely to leak or slide around as I dodge traffic, or make turns,  on my way home.

* Things accumulate in my garage where they hide under other things I do not use or do not use often enough to keep them handy and in plain sight.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

All Hail The Chief

Throughout recorded history, and very likely well before, humans have sought and supported kings, queens, emperors, and other leaders. Sometimes just tribal chiefs, sometimes Caesars, Pharaohs, Czars, prime ministers, presidents, and tyrants.

My question is "Why?" No matter how bad the leader might be, he (or she) will have sufficient support to gain the office and to retain it. People will kill, die, and suffer great harm to put them in charge. And we seem to want these leaders (even the bad ones) to have a great amount of power.

I think the human political power structure is based on the traditional family model. A strong father, an obedient wife (second in command), and subservient children. Look at king (or whatever the leader is called) as the father and the populace of a country as the dutiful but subservient children.

The military is structured this way (and has always been). When you think about it, the American Revolution resulted in a different model but not so different as one might think. Our system limits not only the power of the "king" but divides that power among elected people who ostensibly have a limited term. Did you know, though, that some of the founders wanted a king and offered that title to George Washington? He rejected it. They could not envision a government that was not ruled by one man.

Even today, we look at our president as a powerful figure. And he does have great power compared to the average citizen.

I upset a lot of bosses when I treated them as just another employee. But that is who they are. Same for CEOs and other executives. Certainly they had more power than the average employee and certainly they made much more money but they were all still just employees.

Even the communist systems suffer from this. While they claim to empower the people, they make them subservient to the state and the state is represented by the party bosses and, often, a single ruler. 

The ancient Greek Democracies weren't very democratic. Only the elites, the monied, the powerful, could vote. And the Greeks invented the term "tyrant."The Roman Republic was also run in much the same way. There were slaves, of course, who had no rights (much less a vote). And the Roman Republic was much more complex than the Greek systems. But there was always an elite (the Patricians in the Roman version) and these tended to gravitate to power.

I have come to the conclusion that humans do not actually believe in, or even want, complete equality. And it would likely be chaotic at best.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I Like To Think of Myself as a Type Z

The Co-Villains Behind Obesity's Rise

So it's "gut bacteria" that may be behind the obesity "epidemic", eh?

N.F.L. Coaches: In Charge and at Risk

The question that came to me while reading this is: Do certain "types" (like the Type A) gravitate toward stressful jobs? I do not think we can disconnect the two. The job of head coach will be stressful, it will require long hours and great stress. The people working toward getting that job know this yet they still do it. Just as players tolerate the pain and injuries that go along with becoming top players, the potential head coaches tolerate the long hours and stress they endure along the way to that head coach position. These are behaviors that are created and nourished over decades.

And then I thought about the bacteria story... and wondered... do certain personality types have a propensity to nurture the kind of bacteria that leads to increased weight and its attendant health risks?  Maybe a chicken vs egg issue? That is, does the personality type create the conditions that are amenable to the "bad" bacteria? Or do the "bad" bacteria create the conditions that lead to a type A personality?

I don't have answers (or any way to get them), just questions.

Today, by the way is Veteran's Day. It used to be Armistice Day but that was changed in 1954 and so I still remember the original designation. And how it came to be. A recognition that "The War To End All Wars"... didn't.