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.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Time for a Change?

I came across a column about third parties in the Washington Post the other day. It was interesting. Slanted... because it is an opinion... but still quite interesting.

The first thing that came to mind is that the writer should have used "viable" when speaking of third parties. After all, we have more than two political parties in the United States. We have many, actually. And we have had a number of different political parties over the years. I went looking for some list of them and found this which I found educational. Our political parties often do not just appear, they evolve out of existing ones. Like religions, dissenters break away and form their own. Sometimes these die away and sometimes they become mainstream.

Someone in the comments of the WaPo column brought up something called Ranked Choice Voting (or "RCV"). I urge people to investigate this even though I think it is impractical for the United States. It is an interesting concept. We elect representatives and we do it on a "winner take all" basis. It is our way, so to speak. This RCV system might do away with those annoying runoff elections.

I have no control of the political make up of the country (beyond my single vote) because I am not an influential member of the body politic. If I were, I would put a lot of effort into pushing for four influential (major) parties, each representing one of the following: Left, Right, Center Left, and Center Right.

What these parties would do is create a more fluid political system. Ad hoc coalitions would form and dissolve as needed. No single party could maintain power for long. Our system would be more parliamentary in nature and I feel parliamentary systems are superior to the one we have now since the one we have now is dangerously close to breaking.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Deconstructing for Fun and No Profit

1: a philosophical or critical method which asserts that meanings, metaphysical constructs, and hierarchical oppositions (as between key terms in a philosophical or literary work) are always rendered unstable by their dependence on ultimately arbitrary signifiers; also : an instance of the use of this method [a deconstruction of the nature–culture opposition in Rousseau's work]
2: the analytic examination of something (as a theory) often in order to reveal its inadequacy

I like to deconstruct arguments. I also like to deconstruct theories. Even my own. Maybe especially my own. Because if you do not deconstruct your own argument, your opponent will run rings around you.

How do we do this? First, I think, we listen (or read) the argument or theory. Then we break it down into its constituent parts. if we are honest, we retain the context as we refute the parts. If we are dishonest, we ignore the context and attack the parts. It is sometimes hard to discern if we are being honest or dishonest.  It is also difficult to discern whether a critic of one's argument is honest or dishonest. We get caught up in the emotion of argument or the passion underlying the theory.

It's easy to become defensive when someone is criticizing your argument or theory. After all, you have a bias in favor of yourself. At least, I would hope you do. I would expect you to have that bias. And I would take that into account when critiquing your argument or theory. At the same time I would have to remain aware of my own bias... if I wished to be an honest critic.

I try to be an honest critic, do you?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

It Might Hurt

As you may know.. if you pay any attention to this blog... that I pay attention to threats from outer space. No, I do not worry about space alien invasions. I worry about rocks falling on the planet. Big rocks. Rocks of extinction. Life-as-we-know-it enders or worse.

The theory is that a giant asteroid crashed into the planet around 65 million years ago which led to the end of the dinosaurs. I have my doubts about this. But not serious ones. The evidence now suggests there were more than just the one big rock that hit the earth around that time. And, if that is so, there would have been many events (tidal waves, massive fires, swift climate change, and so on) that would threaten life.

But let's suppose there is one on its way now. That somewhere out there is the Big One on a collision course with our little hunk of rock and water. Do you and I really need to know? I cannot answer for you but I would rather it be a really big surprise. I would like to wake up dead than to dread it for weeks or months in advance.

So, what headline do I find when perusing Google News?

Nasa sets Grand Challenge to public: find earth-destroying asteroids

Let's just suppose that some telescope wielding geek finds Mr. Armageddon out there. It is not going to be a secret for long. It will be all over the news within days, if not hours. The entire scientific community will be tasked to find a way to deflect it. That is the good part. But the entire bad guy community might just see it as an opportunity to liven up what little time they have left. Heck, they might get a huge influx of former good guys, making the chaos even worse.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Petty Annoyances

Yesterday I went for a haircut. It is something I will do as long as I live, I suspect. Because my hair will continue to grow until I die and, unless I fall back into my old post-Navy attitude, I will try to keep it under control.

You see, my hair does not look bad when it is long but it looks really bad on its way there... unkempt and unruly until it is hanging down past my collar. I am too impatient to wait that long (2-3 months or more). Also, as you may know if you read this blog much, I am lazy and long hair takes some effort to care for.

On the way home, I happened to get sort of behind a large pick-up truck towing some lawn equipment. He was in the lane to my immediate left, and slightly behind me, when I stopped at a light.

When the light changed to green, he roared off. The car ahead of him moved out quickly giving him the room to do so. His engine was a diesel. A cloud of black soot enveloped me and my car. It dissipated but not before the smell seeped into my car. Windows closed and AC on, the cabin filter did not have any effect. I could have switched the AC to "recirculate" but I would have had to do that before I knew he had a diesel engine and would pour it on when the light changed.

But it wasn't over. He pushed the pedal down again about a block or so later, picking up speed and blowing out another cloud of soot. It was like driving through the smoke from a fire only without the piney smell. Instead, it was the odor of city life... the commuter bus. We have no buses here in Paradise, no mass transit at all. So our only soot producers are diesel powered pick-up trucks and cars. Most cars do not create billowing clouds like this. Even small diesel powered pick-ups rarely do unless they are in poor shape. I know, I owned one from 1983-1986.

Maybe I am over-sensitive.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It Will Likely Continue

What is it about celebrities? I see where Angelina Jolie is pressing the U.N. Security Council to stop rape in war. Here's a quote:

"If the ... council sets rape and sexual violence in conflict as a priority it will become one, and progress will be made. If you do not, this horror will continue."

Whatever they do, set a priority (as Ms Jolie demands/requests) or not, rape during war will continue. She talked about the Security Council having witnessed 67 years of wars and conflicts since it was established but the world has not taken up rape during armed conflict as a serious priority. Does she know that 67 years is a brief moment compared to the thousands of years of conflict history?

I applaud her good intentions but the UN is impotent. The Geneva Convention outlawed rape. Not explicitly but close enough. Here's a link which talks about it. Rape has been used by armies since the first armed conflicts, I am fairly certain. And it is not limited to any one ethnic group. We see it in virtually every conflict everywhere in the world.

How can it be stopped? I have no idea. We execute war criminals (which some jaded folks simply call "the losing generals and other officers") which does not deter war crimes very much but has created some huge cover-ups and interesting defenses for those exposed.

We have sexual assault laws in every country (some common sensical, some pretty inane) yet rape in society continues. Some say it is a growing problem. Currently, we are seeing sexual assaults and sexual harassment throughout our own military. I suspect our military is not alone in this, that other countries have the same problem.

But, for some reason, celebrities think that if they make it "their" issue, it will be stopped or at least reduced to almost nothing. In the meantime, all soldiers are being viewed as potential (if not actual) sexual predators. That is one of the problems that comes with publicity and celebrities generate publicity.

I don't mean to sound like I am saying, "Hush up, nothing can be done about it." What can be done is to get serious in prosecuting those caught, both in the military and in society. And the punishment was once severe (it once was a capital crime) and is now relatively light. Longer prison terms might be a good start. But the main thing is creating a truly civil society. And that comes about from creating a solid moral center, not a fractured one. I don't know how to do that either. I once thought I did but no more. And, perhaps, that solid moral core really didn't exist, perhaps it was ignored by way too many. And too few of us adhered to it to matter. Or maybe we have created societies based on shifting and ethereal values that mean nothing. Or maybe we are breeding out that thing we call a conscience.

I wish you luck, Angelina, but where were you ten years ago?

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Dog Ate My Homework

That's the excuse I never used in school. I knew it was too lame and, instead, just said "Didn't do it."

It's early in the morning and I, as I lay in bed pondering whether I should just get up or try to go back to sleep for an hour, I realize I have no post for this morning. So I give up on sleep and get up. After grabbing some coffee and firing up the computer, I am faced with a blank screen. Not only in front of me but the chalkboard of my mind is also blank.

That's the biggest fear any writer can face: the empty pit where the ideas should be. Like standing over an abyss. I meant to gather some thoughts yesterday and put something together but it slipped from my mind. It wasn't because I was busy, I just plain forgot.

I have come to look at my blog as I once looked at homework, I suppose. Something to put off. I often wonder why I procrastinate as I do. I do not know why others do it but my procrastination is out of fear. Fear of failure, fear of humiliation, fear of not measuring up to my own standards. My standards are not high either.

Later, I will be playing golf. Which has its own set of fears. The same ones that cause me to procrastinate. I dread that first swing on the first hole and I dread all the ones that come after it.

I thought of something yesterday that went like this:

The key to good golf is confidence, the key to confidence is playing good golf.

It's a "catch-22", is it not?

And that line sums up life. At least, it does my own.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


I am going to ignore politics today. I would like to ignore politics every day if I could but politics affects us regardless of whether we ignore it or not. But today I have a couple of things that puzzle me that I would like to share with you. You may not see the connection between these items and I may be wrong that there is one.

The first one is from ABC and has this statement:

They did so (actively support California Proposition 8) not knowing that their now 14-year-old son, Jordan, was gay and would later contemplate suicide because of the church's steadfast belief that homosexuality is a sin that would cut him off from his family not only here on earth but in the afterlife.

Wouldn't committing suicide just make that (the separation from his family) happen that much sooner?

The second puzzlement is from

It has this on the upcoming "supermoon" on June 23rd:

Although some people have suggested that the supermoon might drive people crazy, cause natural disasters and wreak havoc on the tides, there is scant evidence in support of those claims, NASA assures.

"[S]cant evidence?" How about no evidence at all? Have we not had "supermoons" in the past? Of course we have. It is inevitable that a full moon would coincide with the moon's perigee. The moon is in an elliptical orbit. It varies in distance from the earth from 220,000 miles (the perigee) to 252,000 miles (the apogee) each month. And (I think this is key) the moon is not actually larger when it reflects the maximum solar light and, therefore, has no increase in mass or gravitational pull.

People are strange.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Waste of Time and Effort

Let's start with a chuckle, shall we? I need one...

Ladies, if a man says he'll fix it, he will. There is no need to remind him every six months or so.

I know, I know... that was sexist... but I am not sure who should be offended, women or men?

As I write this on Thursday, I have just returned from an disappointing trip to Sam's Club in Bradenton. It was disappointing because I did not get all the items I usually want. They simply did not have certain items. No rolled tacos (taquitos), no pre-cooked bacon (Hormel, I think, makes this), no packs of frozen chicken breasts, no furniture wipes, and a few other items I wanted weren't there.

It's beginning to be a waste of time and gas. The trip takes over an hour (longer when there is roadwork in progress as there was Thursday) and about 3 gallons of gas. That last means I have to save quite a bit of money to justify the trip. Today was one of those days that did not fulfill that requirement. I make these trips about once every 6-8 weeks. I don't think I will make another one.

The company once promised to open a Sam's Club here in Paradise but, after buying the property and razing the existing structure (and old lumber company), they have shelved the project.  It was understandable, the economy went bad about the time they would have started building. They did what they thought was in their best interests by halting the project.

But, now, I will do what I feel is in my best interests to not provide them with business. And not renew my member card.

Before anyone suggests it, the nearest Costco is almost as far away and requires a trip full of small towns and traffic lights.

Today is the first day of summer. Down here, that started in May.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

I have, in the past, harped about racial discrimination. I think racism is an inherently human condition. That we can never eradicate it, only ameliorate it, legislate against it, and try as individuals to control it in ourselves as best each of us can. We, as a nation, do the best we can but it is a never ending struggle.

I grew up from age 10 to age17 in Dade County, Florida. I was there when Castro took over Cuba and promised an egalitarian society where discrimination would no longer exist. I watched and listened as those promises failed to be fulfilled. I watched and listened as some in this country (artists, actors, even politicians) failed to see the failure of the Castro government to live up to those promises. Instead, they praised him and the Cuban government and criticized our own.  This had a lot to do with my disaffection with liberalism and liberals.

Finally, after 54 years, the Washington Post runs an opinion piece revealing what I saw all those years ago in my youth. And it isn't just Cuba that fails to stem racism. It is countries all over the world. Many, if not all, of these countries criticize us for our own failure to eradicate racism within our own borders.

I urge you to read the following article:

Afro-Cubans fight for equality under Castro regime

And I urge you to think.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Could I Get a Hand?

I live in a marvelous, and magical, age. I was alive when the first heart transplant was performed (December 3, 1967). In fact, I was just 4 years old when the first successful kidney transplant was performed. It was 16 more years before the first successful pancreas transplant took place.  We now see face transplants; and re-attachments of severed limbs, hands, and fingers (even a penis!) have become commonplace.  

My own father, at age 80, had a pacemaker implanted. These implants have become commonplace. I play golf with a gentleman of some years (83) just recently had a defibrillator implanted. It replaced his pacemaker and will do that job as well as get control of his heart if it goes into arrhythmia. Defibrillators were once large machines that were found only in hospitals. But, to date, we have no implantable artificial heart.  

The next best thing may soon come to pass... a grow-your-own heart. No, you will not have to grow it yourself but biologists are working toward growing implantable organs from stem cells. Think of it. We already have tissue banks for some things... like corneas. But nothing for organs. At least, not yet. But that may come. 

In the meantime, we have transplant lists. These have been in the news lately. And not enough people are listed as organ donors (I am... Florida permits us to notate this status in our driver license records).  

And why am I delving into all this? Because of this article. This is not re-attachment, this is the transplanting of hands. And the transplanted hand will work, it will grasp, it will hold things, it may grasp a ball, a bat, a golf club! A child may have a chance at some semblance of a normal life. But, from what I gathered from the article, it will start with children who have lost both hands and, presumably, will only transplant one hand.  

It's a start.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

It's Not The Heat, It's the Heat AND the Humidity

It may not be officially summer but Florida does not wait for such things. As I look at my little Weatherbug gadget on the right hand edge of my screen, I note it says it's 92oF. I have no idea what that is in Celsius but it wouldn't feel any cooler just because the number is lower. The "realfeel" number is 108. It is hot! It is miserably hot. And sweaty... very sweaty... dripping, sticky, itchy sweaty.

I played golf yesterday morning. I wilted in the heat. Normally, we tee off before 8 AM. This helps a little because we get done by 11 AM or a little after. Yesterday, we teed off at 8:30 and things went slowly. Very slowly. Hit the ball, head for shade, wait for the group ahead to clear the green, hit the ball again, head for shade.

Slowly, oh so slowly, we seemed to crawl around the course. It was a regulation round of 4 hours. But it seemed much longer.

My 82 seemed like 98... maybe higher.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mulling Over Facial Hair

As my picture shows, I sport a goatee. I have worn beards, with a few periods of not, since shortly after I left the Navy at age 23 (late 1969). I say shortly because beards were not permitted at the time I served. Moustaches had to be permitted after one requested one through a "chit." What a"chit" is is unimportant. I had grown a moustache during my last WesPac (trip to the Tonkin Gulf and other exotic places in the western Pacific) but shaved it off soon after arriving back in CONUS (Continental United States). I had to. The Marines at the gate would not let me pass because the mustache was not on my military ID card. I got around that a couple of times but decided it was not worth the effort or the hassle of getting a new ID card.

After I left the Navy, I was in the Los Angeles area and beards were common. So I let mine grow. It took a long time, it seemed. And it was sparse compared to some (most, actually) but it was what I wanted, what I thought was right. The hair was allowed to grow too. It saved money for barbers. And it was also common at the time for men to have long hair. I was less suspect as a "narc" when seeking drugs, too. Which was odd because undercover cops grew beards and long hair too, so  beards and long hair actually meant nothing.

I shaved off the beard (but left the moustache) and got my hair cut shortly before I applied for employment with Southern Bell in Miami a few months into 1970. I didn't shave again after my first week on the job and I didn't get another haircut until 1974.  I let the hair grow back until 1978 when I decided I was tired of washing it and taking care of it. Long hair requires a lot of effort to keep clean and under control. I trimmed my beard from time to time but did not shave it off again. I trimmed it into a goatee around 1989 and then again a few years ago.

Why am I babbling about my beard? Because I read this which burrowed into my brain and took up residence.

Why did I grow a beard?  Unlike the author of that piece, I never met a woman who disliked beards. Even my mother liked it (unlike his). She never complained about it anyway. No one did, as I recall. I grew it for a simple reason: I am lazy. Shaving every day is a pain in the derriere. I shave my cheeks and neck maybe once every couple of days when the neck growth starts to itch too much. The cheek growth never seems to itch. My facial hair is soft, unlike some men with much more testosterone, I suppose. Perhaps that's why the women I dated and married never complained or maybe because the beard hid my weak chin.

There's another possible reason... beards, especially soft ones, can tickle... wherever, and whatever, they touch.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

It's All About Security

Are you concerned about the NSA getting the phone records of, basically, every phone call made in the United States?

I am just curious. It is being called "metadata". What is metadata? Well, defines it this way:

Metadata describes other data. It provides information about a certain item's content. For example, an image may include metadata that describes how large the picture is, the color depth, the image resolution, when the image was created, and other data. A text document's metadata may contain information about how long the document is, who the author is, when the document was written, and a short summary of the document.

In the NSA case, this is phone numbers and more. The calling number, the called number, and the duration of the call. It might include the names of the owners of said phone numbers or it might not, that part is unclear at the moment. The NSA is not only gathering this data (and has been for quite some time) but it is storing it for future use. If they determine that a number belongs to a certain person of interest, they will be able to go back and search through this metadata for patterns of calls, presumably to build a case against that person (and others, I would guess, found to be involved in whatever activity that was of interest).

No big deal, right? What harm can come of this? After all, it is just phone numbers and call duration.

But who will get access to this data? Will it be restricted to the NSA and only sifted through  by them to collect information about suspects involved in terror attacks? or will it, someday, be accessed by political operatives to gather information about those they see as political opponents?

Why... that's silly, you say, what can they possibly find out?

Calls to one's gynecologist.
Calls to Planned Parenthood.
Calls to an abortion clinic.
Calls to a psychiatrist or psychologist.
Calls to other political opponents.
Calls to reporters.
Calls to sex talk lines.
Calls to escort services.
Calls to girlfriends or boyfriends by married people.
Calls to stockbrokers.

All of which include date, time of day, duration, and number of calls.

Quite a bit of this can lead to further investigation which might reveal information about people that could be used to control them.

So, still feel complacent?

Friday, June 14, 2013

Honesty and Authorities

I was reading a story in the NY Times (online) that suggests that a Brooklyn detective might have some problems with credibility in regard to confessions he elicited from suspects. Something about similar language.

I was whisked back to a couple of incidents in my own sordid past. One occurred when I was 17 [link] and the other occurred in 2004.

Let me recap the first incident (if you don't wish to read the linked post):

I was ticketed for running a stop sign. the ticketing officer lied about the event and the circumstances and I ended up being found "guilty."

The second incident happened while I was driving to work one night in West Palm Beach. It involved a car acciddent involving a sheriff's deputy and a civilian. I was merely a witness. A concerned citizen who stopped to render aid. The deputy's car spun out and came to a stop in the median. The civilian's car stopped a little further down the road on the right hand shoulder.

After ascertaining both drivers (there were no passengers in either vehicle) were not in need of medical help, I hung around to give a statement. My statement was clear: I saw the officer speed onto the interstate from an on-ramp with her light bar flashing. I saw her approach the cluster of cars a hundred or so yards ahead. I could not see beyond the tail lights of the cars closest to me as that section of the interstate is unlit. I saw the deputy's car move from the middle lane to the fast lane and then move quickly back. She then spun out and ended up in the median.

I was asked by the deputy when I first approached her car if I saw a white car jump in front of her. I told her no, that I could only see that row of tail lights closest to me. The deputy writing up the accident also asked me the same question and I answered in the same way. He had me sign the statement (which read exactly what I had said).

Before I moved to Sebring, I attended a deposition wherein I was shown a copy of my statement. It no longer reflected what I had stated but said I saw the white car pull into the lane just ahead of the deputy. It also had a signature  which in no way, shape, or form resembled my own. I pointed these out to the attorneys.

Some months later, after I had moved to Sebring, I was called as a witness at a trial of a woman accused of driving that white car.  I spent about 10 or 15 minutes on the stand while I was questioned about that accident. I repeated my original statement, not the one I saw at the deposition. The driver was cleared of all involvement.

To be honest, I have no idea if she pulled in front of that deputy's car and it's possible she had. But it would have been awfully dishonest of me to say she had.

The moral to this story? Cops lie. Not all of them, of course, but one is enough and I found two.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


The day before yesterday I took my beloved car to the "doc". That is, I took it in to have her oil changed, her tires "rotated" (they are no longer actually rotated, you know, just switched back to front). There  was a "special" from General Motors for this service; you get a $10 rebate in the form of a debit card. Seems ok to me. I never turn down a reasonable bargain.

I used to hate rebates. You had to mail in your receipt (or, sometimes, just a copy would do), along with a form that was available at the retailor, and then you waited... and waited... and waited... sometimes in vain. When you got tired of waiting and you kept a copy of the rebate form or instructions, you called the toll free number to inquire about that rebate. You were assured it was being processed (or told that the "check is in the mail") or some such and you went back to waiting. More often than not, I suspect, people gave up on ever getting said rebate.

But that's all changed. Now we get "instant rebates" (the rebate is calculated right there at the register or while you are checking out online... but the tax, if any, is calculated on the price before rebate). Even when you have to wait for it to be mailed to you, you no longer have to mail in all that stuff, just fill out the submission form online. Right?

Except, apparently, with this GM rebate. With this one, you go online and fill out the submission form, but then you print it out and mail it in before you begin waiting for that rebate card to arrive. It's a bit retro...

I went through the online process, filled in all the required boxes (including the VIN # and the invoice number), and then clicked on the "Print" button. The print failed. Perhaps I ran out of ink (though the printer reports I have ink), perhaps there was a glitch; the end result was a blank piece of paper. "No problem," I think to myself, "there's a `Reprint my form' button on this page I was sent to after submitting the form." But it seems I must have something, the "submission ID", which was no longer available of course. So I called the toll-free help number. A pleasant young lady tried to help me after I explained about the printer failure. Her suggestion? Start all over and fill out a new form.

I declined... angrily. And informed her I would avoid all GM service centers in the future. I don't think she really cared, though, because I don't think she works for GM but for some company that handles rebates for various and sundry companies. I then shot off an email to the company that owned the local dealership complaining about the process and the "hoops" I had to jump through for this alleged rebate. And wondered why I had to fill in a form online and then mail it in? Why couldn't they just accept the form online?

I received an email (two actually) from an employee of the company. We talked on the phone. A nice chat and he offered to find some way to compensate me for my frustration.

I am to meet with him today. We shall see, shan't we?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Chasing Nothing Much

On Sunday last, Faye and I went out to eat... as we regularly do... at the local steak house, our favorite. Each Sunday at 3:30 in the afternoon (very approximately), we go there and order the same things: a Delmonico steak for her and a ribs and chicken combo for me. We are nothing if not predictable. We take half of each
entrée home in those little styrofoam boxes.

As we left in Faye's car, I looked down (I was driving) and noted the "check engine" light was on. I mentioned it to Faye, which I should not have done. She proceeded to worry about it whereas I did not. I have been there before. That light means very little, really, it's just a warning of possible problems.

I learned about this indicator when I was driving my previous car; a 2001 Chevy Impala. I dropped by the dealer when the light lit up in that car. Not right away, after I got off work that afternoon after seeing it come on while on the way to work (there was a short period when I worked days at that time). The light went out before I arrived at the dealership. They looked at it anyway, attaching one of those analyzer units, and said they could not determine a problem at the time but asked me to stop by if it came on again.

It did come on again a few days later. I dropped by again, this time the light stayed lit. But they couldn't state with certainty what was causing it. However, they suggested I have a carburetor rebuild done. Odd, since the vehicle had fuel injection. Needless to say, I rejected the suggestion. The "check engine" light went out again a few days later and never came back on. I researched it a little bit, however, and learned some interesting things. One of these was that something as simple as a not fully snugged gas cap can cause that light to come on. As can a small bit of dirt in the fuel filter or any of a hundred minor things that will go away naturally.

Faye's car sits... a lot. She might put 100 miles on it in a month (and that would be a busy month). Plus the car had sat in the garage for the month we were away on our trip, not being run at all. She had only driven it to the library and supermarket, a distance of maybe 12 miles total... to and from. I had taken it to get an oil change and tire rotation the previous week and had not noticed any warning lights (nor did the service people) at that time.

Still, the light being on bothered Faye (I was somewhat indifferent about it) and she asked me to have it checked out yesterday. I decided I would, since it is best to do as she asks than to ignore her, and backed the car out of the garage. I noticed that the light was no longer on. I rev'd it a couple of times, put it in Drive and back out again, and pulled back into the garage.

False alarm.

I like those.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Once more unto the breach

Each year, we here in Florida (land of heat, bugs, and humidity) become somewhat aware of Mother Nature's bad temper. We call this "Hurricane Season." For the six months between June 1st and November 30th, we pay attention to the weather reports and storm predictions. Most people think hurricanes are all bad, they aren't. I'll explain but, first, let's speak of the term... hurricane.

Unlike most words that Spanish and English share because of their shared history with Latin, "hurricane" came to English directly from Spanish. But Spanish explorers and conquerers first picked up the word from Taino, an Arawak language from the Caribbean. According to most authorities, the Taino word huracan meant simply "storm," although some less reliable sources indicate that it also referred to a storm god or an evil spirit.

Wiki puts it this way:

Etymology 1

From Spanish huracán, ultimately from the name of the Taino storm god Juracán whom the Taínos believed dwelled on El Yunque mountain and, when he was upset, sent the strong winds and rain upon them.

I was led to believe (in my youth) that "hurricane" was derived from an Indian word for "big wind." Close enough. A hurricane is a huge storm with high winds and much rain.  It is the rain they bring that prompted me to say they aren't all bad. We need that rain here in Florida because it replenishes the aquifer from which we get our water. Oh, we get rain year round and that helps (except for those drought years... which have been many recently) but we really need a `cane or two to stock up, so to speak. Some hit us, some do not.

I just wish we could choose which ones hit us.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Do We Still Have a Voice?

I am going to harp on this just once more (maybe) because I think it is vitally important. I realize my few readers are so small in number as to be insignificant but perhaps they can influence others... wake the sleeping masses... if they wish to.

President Obama made a few statements regarding the bad press the administration has been getting over the latest revelations about the NSA's activity in spying on us all. Here's how the NY Times put it:

He [President Obama] argued that “modest encroachments on privacy” — including keeping records of phone numbers called and the length of calls that can be used to track terrorists, though not listening in to calls — were “worth us doing” to protect the country. The programs, he said, were authorized by Congress and regularly reviewed by federal courts.

In another article (this one on , the president is quoted as saying, “I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 per cent security and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience,the president told the crowd while delivering several minutes of unscripted remarks about the NSA.

He went on to say "we have choices to make" in this regard. One wonders when, or if, the electorate will realize the time to make these choices is on election day? One should remember the president's words, vividly, the next time he or she votes for their representatives in Washington.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Caveat Emptor?

Yesterday I wrote about the surreptitious collecting of phone records by the NSA. Today I wish to tell you about something that happened decades ago. Not a great conspiracy on the part of government but about privacy and telecommunications.

As it happened, I was running an electronic bulletin board, or BBS as it was called. Those of you old enough to remember them probably enjoyed interacting with them and their users. One of the duties of a System Operator (or, "sysop" as we were called) was to verify the users who applied for access. Some sysops ran an "open" board and did no verification at all, some were very diligent in doing it, most made some effort. Some used a call back system at first, as I did. It worked this way, the new user would call in, enter his data (name and number he was calling from at least), then hang up. The BBS would call the number back, the user would let his modem answer and the session would continue then or the user could accept the call then hang up and call the board back at some other time. I used this method until the magic of Caller ID (AKA "CID") became common.

With Caller ID, the process became simple. At first, I had my board call back the CID provided number. Later, I simply matched the number provided by the user to the one provided by CID. It simplified things but it wasn't foolproof. Annoying little pests found ways to get around the system. Eventually, though, I would identify the pests and block their access.

I would also call around to BBSes all over the country. I had several favorites which provided files I would download to post on my own board. I never required uploads as some boards did.  There was a BBS in California that I called on a fairly regular basis. It was a good board with a healthy forum area. Forums were, then, places one could exchange knowledge, find answers to problems (both technical and non-technical), and/or just "shoot the breeze" with others. BBSes would often have "sysop only" forums; a place where sysops could help each other with various problems.

The subject of CID came up on open forum on that favored California BBS and I found some resistance to it. One person did not like CID, thought it was an "invasion of privacy" and always blocked his CID. I attempted to rebut his position. I tried to explain it this way:

What about my privacy? A person calls my house and refuses to identify himself. I have the right to refuse to answer his call, do I not? Before CID, I had to answer each call or not answer any calls. I equated it to someone knocking on your door. You glance out the window (or look through the "peephole" in the door) and see that his face is masked, do you let him in or refuse to answer the door?

We provide data about ourselves everyday. Sometimes knowingly, sometimes not.

In one of the articles about the NSA's data gathering, a quote from Justice Sotomayor was presented:

People disclose the phone numbers that they dial or text to their cellular providers; the URLs that they visit and the e-mail addresses with which they correspond to their Internet service providers; and the books, groceries, and medications they purchase to online retailers. [United States v. Jones - 2011]

It was a preface to suggesting that new privacy safeguards were needed in a "digital age." As I read that part, I thought to myself... "they provide this because they must if the action is to be successful and with a reasonable expectation of privacy." However, as we know, that expectation is not shared by many entities (such as Google) and we authorize this "invasion" when we accept the "terms and conditions".  Because we do not read the terms and conditions, we are often shocked to find we have no privacy rights at all, that we have waived them. And, if we do not waive them, we are blocked from access.

If I might paraphrase the title (poorly, I suspect)... "caveat omnes."

And now I learn of this:
And this:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Is Anyone Paying Attention?

I really hate to post something political other than on Saturday but this is important, I think, and worth breaking that internal rule:

In the NY Times, I came across this little item of interest...

U.S. Is Secretly Collecting Records of Verizon Calls

I have sometimes offered the argument that the current administration is much worse than the previous one. Not simply because it hasn't lived up to its promises of closing the Gitmo detention camp or the one about transparency or the one about posting laws online before Obama signs them into law but because it is doing the opposite of what it promised in terms of personal liberty.

The Patriot Act, enacted after the the terror attacks of 9-11-2001, was reviled by civil libertarians and countless liberals who saw it as a huge trampling of civil rights. To be fair, I argued then that it wasn't as bad as the opponents presented it because we have had several instances in our national past where civil rights were suspended or infringed upon and, eventually, things were righted.

I have pointed out that Congress (in 2009), instead of paring the infringements in the Patriot Act strengthened and expanded them. Even the Huffington Post was upset by this.

I have a rule of politics to which politicians fail to adhere and the public fails to enforce:

Do not grant a power to your political ally or leaders which you would not want your political opponents to have.

I supported the Patriot Act under Bush for three reasons:
1. I thought it was needed at the time.
2. I thought the political opposition to Bush would ensure careful monitoring of the administration's use of it
3. And I thought that the courts would eventually limit, or nullify, the more odious parts of it.

Now that Bush is out of office, the second reason is no longer valid. And there appears to be little political opposition to the current administration.  The media tends to be supportive (until just recently), the other major political party has been greatly weakened, and the public has its concerns elsewhere, primarily economic.

It's time we woke up.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Who Says TV Isn't Educational?

I learned some
interesting things, at least to me, the other day. I was watching the History International channel , a show about medieval life. It exposed some myths and reinforced some others. But it also revealed the origin of some common phrases.

The show was hosted by an historian. He engaged in some of the activities of medieval life in order to illustrate and, I suspect, just so he could say he did. Some things I thought were "gilded" a bit... such as showing a meal that wasn't common for the peasants of the day and concentrating on the noble's lifestyles and pastimes.

Of fascination were the weapons used and the way they were used, of course, because warfare was central to the period. He spoke of how hunting, for example, was a metaphor for warfare and also that it was informal training and preparation. One might also realize that it has been so since the beginning of mankind. As hunting is, so are games.

My learning of something interesting had to do with falconry. It turns out that more than one bird was often brought along (let's call them "back ups"). These were carried on a "cadge" and the person carrying the cadge was called a "cadger". That later became "caddy", the name for the guy who carries the bag with the extra clubs for the golfer.

A falcon was perched on the heavily gloved index finger of the falconer with the falcon wrapping its talons around the finger. The falconer would then bring his thumb against the talons, controlling the falcon, and having it "under his thumb." The falcon had a "leash" (called a creance) attached to one of his legs. That leash would thread across the palm of the falconer's hand and would be wrapped around the smallest finger of the hand. In other words, it would be "wrapped around his little finger."

I can't wait to see what I will learn on "How Sex Changed the World."


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Life is What Happens While You Are Making Other Plans

I read an interesting post on retirement planning by a fellow blogger the other day, and (as is my wont) have stolen the idea to use on my own. Bear with me, I am sure that I have something important to say about the subject, though I am not sure what...

In the post, he wrote about how we change our attitudes toward retirement planning over our working lifetimes. Well, that's what I saw (seized upon) anyway and I wanted to muse about that.

When we first start our working life in earnest (as opposed to just earning money to waste on dating and drinking adult beverages), usually just after we first get married, we really do not much care about retirement. After all; our parents are usually still working (and have done so all our young lives), we're young and healthy and expect to live forever, and we have other things on our collective mind.

My less serious working life began when I was 12... with a newspaper route. It wandered aimlessly through bellboy, movie usher, handyman, busboy, stockboy, USN sailor, cushion stuffer, and other assorted short-lived jobs.

It was only after I got out of the Navy and then married (poorly, as it turned out) that I got serious about working for a living. Benefits were important but retirement was the farthest thing from my mind in those days. I knew there was a pension, I knew it wasn't a great pension, but it was there and ignored. Medical benefits were more important, more immediate... though not as immediate as the amount of vacation and paid holidays I would be entitled to, nor the amount of pay I would get. The latter things, as I recall, were very important at the time.

It wasn't until I approached 45 that I seriously began thinking about retirement planning. Fortunately, my second wife was more practical than I and pushed me to increase my contributions to the company's Long Term Savings Plan (which soon was converted to a 401K type) and just worried more about what would happen in our old age. I am one of those who need a practical mate since I would never think about anything that was not immediate.

Fortunately for me, it turned out that others worried about such things and planned ahead: the company, the union, and the lovely and vivacious Faye. And so I was able to retire and... so far... avoid doing anything more than play golf and lie about my scores. 

But, if you are under 40, you should think about what will happen when you retire.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Stupid ads With Turtles and Bears

There's an ad running of late on the TV. It involves a beautiful woman swimming with a sea turtle. I have no idea what's being advertised, I mentally drift off after she starts talking about meeting a "new friend", meaning the turtle.

I don't know about you but I would bet that turtle does not recognize her the next time they meet. A new friend would but not a turtle. That turtle had no more awareness of her than the rocks in the scene.

Why do advertisers do this?  Are we, the general public, that gullible? Apparently we are. Turtles sell, sex sells, therefore turtles and sex must be a very powerful fiscal stimulant. Ok, maybe that's a bit much. But maybe not.

I had a pet turtle once when I was very young. I don't recall what happened to it but I suppose it ended up dead and probably buried in the back yard. Though it was a very small turtle, we had a septic tank then and flushing it would not have been a smart thing to do.

My brother got a blue rooster for Easter one year. We did not know it was a rooster, it was just a fuzzy blue chick when he got it. I got a white duckling that year. Both grew up to be rather annoying. My brother's blue chick grew into that rooster (with quite a few blue feathers) and that rooster then welcomed the dawn just outside the window of the room we shared at the time. The rooster got sent off to some farm, I think. My duck eventually got released in Greynolds Park. That was pretty traumatic. She got attacked, sexually assaulted, almost immediately after I released her.

Fresh meat, I suppose. I was ten. I knew next to nothing about sex then. It was a shock. But it taught me that nature was not very much like what Disney showed us on the "Disneyland" TV show. It was more raw, more brutal.

I feel the same way about that Nissan Leaf ad where the polar bear treks from the Arctic down to some suburban neighborhood and hugs some guy for buying such a climate friendly car. Hey, polar bears worked for Coca-Cola, didn't they?

But you don't really want a polar bear to hug you.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Snippet of Life: A Day at the Pier

Let me take you back to those thrilling days of yesteryear... 1965, to be exact. It was summer and I was staying with my sister and her 4th husband (there would be 4 more, in time) on Merritt Island. In a few short months I would be in the Navy and off to California. My sister's husband worked at Cape Kennedy as a firefighter and/or mechanic (I never knew for sure which... he was proficient as both).

Canaveral Pier was 10 minutes away and a favored surfing spot for me and my friends, both ones there and from my old turf in south Florida. One of the attractions was the music over the loudspeakers on the pier; it filled the air and could be heard on the beach and in the water. Loud enough to hear over the sounds of the waves breaking.

One of my strongest memories of those days was riding my board on a decent day of 3 foot or so waves, listening to the music and getting lost in it all; the sun's warmth, the cooler water, and the motion of the waves. I was fairly proficient by then and comfortable with maneuvering the board, my balance (that's gone now), and just the feeling of power and control. I would catch a wave, cut to the left, away from the pier... my back to the wave, walk forward on the board to the nose and perch there as the board slid across the face of the wave. Then I would step back a little and cut back toward the pier, daring myself to get as close to the pilings holding the pier up and wondering if I had the nerve to cut through them to the other side of the pier. I never did.

Walking back to the nose, I would do my best "Phil Edwards " imitation and all the while listening to the Rolling Stones playing "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" as the pilings grew larger and larger before me.

And now it is just distant memory but I can still feel the warmth of the sun, the smell of the salt water, and feel the mist spraying in my face.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Rumors Abound

There is an old joke bumper sticker that goes something like this:

Paranoia? Or heightened awareness?

I am reminded of that every time I hear a conspiracy theory or see one start up. I wrote, early on in this blog, a piece called "Where's my tinfoil?" in which I pontificated on those all too willing to see conspiracies. I wrote a second post that apologized for making fun of those people. It's a fine line between paranoia and heightened awareness.

In the not too distant past, May 22nd of this year, a man (Ibragim Todashev) was shot and killed by an FBI agent in his condo in Orlando, Florida. The shooting occurred at the end of a lengthy interview of the man by the FBI agent. There were two Massachusetts State Troopers and possibly other unidentified police personnel there when it happened. It is not clear, however, who was in the room when the shooting occurred. In fact, many details about the shooting are not clear.

I engaged in a discussion about the event after reading an article in the Atlantic with the title "Why Did the FBI Kill an Unarmed Man and Clam Up?"

The story details the media reports after the incident and the contradictions in them. The suspect was armed with a knife, the suspect had a sword, the suspect was unarmed but lunged at the agent, the suspect may have pushed table and/or thrown a chair...

All of the reports related "facts" which were attributed to "officials" in either Massachusetts or the FBI, unamed officials. There are conflicting reportes of whether the agent sustained injuries and whether said injuries were "life threatening."

I have learned, over the years, to ignore all initial reports of any incident and assume there will be few actual facts in them. It will be days, even weeks, before the actual facts become known.

The man was Muslim and he was being interviewed because he had a (somewhat tenuous) connection to one of the Boston Marathon bombers; the older brother, Tamarlen Tsarnaev. There was also a triple homicide in Massachusetts in 2011 that he may have had some information about or was a "person of interest" in.

The father of the young man made this statement from Russia:

My son was in full cooperation with the F.B.I. but they just murdered him after an almost 8-hour-long questioning. Before this trouble I thought America was a free democratic country, where unlike in Russia, laws worked. I was deeply mistaken--now I think Russia is a golden place compared to the United States. My attitude for America flipped 180 degrees in one minute.

The head of the Tampa office of CAIR apparently made the claim that the young man was shot 7 times; 6 to the body and 1 to the head. This morphed into the "head shot" being a "kill shot" because the father of the young man thinks it is.

I do not. I do not think the young man was murdered nor do I accept the claims of the father. He is obviously distraught and he is far away in Russia. He claims he has 16 photos of his son's body that were taken "at a Florida morgue" by friends of his son who, he says, were given custody of the body. The father said he had 16 photos of the body.
I suspect the authorities would never turn over a body of a victim of a shooting to anyone other than a family member. They would make arrangements to have the body sent to the family, wherever that family might be. I especially question the idea that a body would be released if there was a cover-up involved.

I have seen only two of the photos (see them here) but the head shot appears to me not to be a "kill shot" (which would be a fairly clean bullet hole) but either an injury by some other object or a the results of a bullet grazing the top of the man's head. It is not in the back of his head, that much is very clear. I could not see the other wounds on the torso either.

Add to this, the "mysterious" death of two FBI agents in a training accident involving falling from a helicopter while attempting to rappel and rumors that these two men were at the scene of the capture of the younger of the Boston Marathon bombing brothers and you have the conspiracy in full bloom. The FBI says the two agents killed in the training accident were not involved in the Boston situation and were not even in Massachusetts at the time.

But that will not stop the conspiracy theorists.