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.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Adventurizing in Dogberry

One of the things about Faye that I love is her malapropism. I became aware of this soon after we started dating. She tended to stick an "r" or two into words that did not need them. It was cute, not annoying. It is still not annoying but she does it a lot less now than when I first noticed it.

Not because I brought it up, I don't think. Though I did correct her a few times. Her malaprops were better than Yogi Berra's because they seem to fit. Let's look at one of the better ones, "rudefully", it was used in a common enough phrase that goes... "Now, where was I before I was rudely interrupted?" If you replace "rudely" with "rudefully", you can see what I mean. It adds "malice aforethought" to the meaning, I think.

But perhaps I am being too pedantacious...


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

So... How Does it Work anyway?

Well there's a rose in the fisted glove
And the eagle flies with the dove
And if you can't be with the one you love, honey
Love the one you're with.

[Stephen Stills,  "Love The One You're With"]

I was very young when I began having "deep thoughts" about life. For instance, back in the 50's (maybe even today), people thought there was the One True Love waiting for them somewhere. That somehow, Fate, God, Kismet... whatever... would bring them together. I gleaned this from fairy tales, books, movies, and TV shows...

It took me only a short time to decide it was silly. Not because, at 9 or younger, I thought that love was "mushy girl stuff" but because I found it odd that this One True Love would so often be living next door or at least going to the same high school.

Even then, with the world's population at around 2.77 billion (my, how we've grown since then), I thought the odds of that One True Love living in the same town as his/her mate would be astronomical. That feeling never went away.

Especially after I moved away to another state, grew up while moving around a bit, joined the Navy (to see the world, of course), and traveled far and wide. I met women all over the place; in Florida, in California, New Mexico, Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Mexico... everywhere I went. Many of whom seemed to think I was their One True Love and thought themselves to be mine. One even tried to prove this via astrology.

I also rejected that "love at first sight" meme that has permeated romantic literature since man discovered language. Lust, maybe, but love? Love, I think, must grow between two people... and out of friendship.

I suppose you could say I am not the romantic type. That would be accurate. Just don't tell Faye.

Monday, July 29, 2013

I Wish I Were 19 Again

I was once a young pervert... now I am a dirty old man. It's expected of me. After all, I am a man, I am getting old (and older, I hope), and we all know that men are pigs. Or is it dogs? Whatever, we are animals of some kind.  And, so, our inevitable evolution into dirty old men is clear. I note, however, that the animals used for labeling us are all domesticated. Fortunately, we have women to counter our animalistic natures; to rein us in, so to speak. The fairer sex does its best to keep men's libidos in check.

Enter the C-String...

I would post a picture of this but I try to keep this blog "family friendly" so you will have to click on the link above if you are curious.

When I was young, young women wore bikini style underwear. Skimpy panties of pretty much see-through almost non-existent material. Not a big deal, few people would see them in the normal course of the day. The young women I knew at the time liked them because they felt sexier when they wore them. Which struck me then as a bit odd since women at the time were complaining about being viewed as "objects" and not complex human beings.

It's nice to see that women have continued along that line.

Actually... it's just nice to see.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Don't Give in so Easily

The other day I was watching "The Five" (a panel show on Foxnews). I do not normally watch the show but Faye likes it for some reason and what Faye likes, we watch. I am only the king of this castle when she permits it.

One of the subjects (they cover a number of them on each show) was this "national dialogue on race" that is often mentioned by some pols and any number of individuals who do not hold office but who manage to get a lot of publicity. Greg Gutfeld, one of the panelists, said something of interest, something I agreed with...

I will paraphrase:
"Dialogue too often means 'you must agree with me'"

We could also substitute "Compromise" for "Dialogue" without altering any other word. When politicians of one political party complain that politicians won't compromise, they really mean "the other side won't go along with our side."

While this appears to be a viable political tactic, it ignores the entire foundation for our systems of government and justice, and (perhaps) our way of life. We are a contentious people. It is our culture. From the beginnings of this nation, well before it was a nation, we were contentious. We were initially populated by people who didn't get along with the majority back in England... and elsewhere. We took the people who were unhappy with their homelands. So unhappy that they were willing to give up everything to take a chance on building a life in what was, essentially, a wilderness.

The government of this country is based on adversarial exchange. One side proposes, the other opposes. It is this way in life, is it not? Your associates have ideas. if you agree with those ideas, you support them. If you disagree, you oppose them. Compromise, among the average people, means you give up some things (short of core principles) to get the things you want. We call it "negotiating" and often do not even realize it is compromising.

But I want politicians to oppose each other. I do not want them to compromise too much. I especially do not want them to even think that is why they were sent to government. I don't want to compromise on my choice for elected office and I don't want that person to go to my legislature or to Congress and give up anything to get anything in return. I want them to stand on principle, I want them to oppose new laws, oppose new regulations, and oppose new taxes. And I want them to stick to their guns until the votes on these things and vote as I would vote.

I am willing to accept the outcome.

 This does not mean that they cannot compromise from time to time. It means that they should not walk into those halls with the idea that they must give ground to get anything done. There will be times that each side must give ground. The best compromise is one in which each side truly thinks they lost. But most compromises cause more problems down the road than they prevent or resolve.

Argue your point, forget about the next election and your chances in it, just believe in your position and present your case... and accept the outcome.

That's real dialogue. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Time Machine

I sometimes scroll down the Feedjit list over there on the right to see what visitors find interesting. Most often it is that a picture drew them here, a picture that popped up on a Google image search. Some of these are obvious, some not so much. Sometimes, I am told the title of the post, sometimes only the month and year. I, myself, have done some image searches and, clicking on the image, was wafted away to some blog I never knew of. I understand it. I don't resent it. If they take the time to read a bit, perhaps they'll return.

I also sometimes read the post, if the title is there, to cater to my curiosity about the person drawn to it. The Feedjit does not tell me who the reader is, just where he or she might be  (in general, not specifically). Some of my more or less regular readers are obvious; or if someone leaves a comment, I might be able to correlate the entry time in Feedjit to that comment and guess where the reader lives (state or country and city or area) and I am always curious about visitors to my humble, but annoying, blog.

But I have written well over 1400 posts in the almost 5 years of this blog's life and one cannot remember them all so I re-read the ones I see in the Feedjit list from time to time to get a better understanding of myself at the time of that post. I sometimes wonder if other bloggers do this. I suppose they do. It's a bit like looking at old photos of oneself in an album.

For instance, I just recently re-read "Clouds and fresh washed linen". It brought back the same memories, the same feelings I had when writing it. I smelled the clean linen, fresh from the washing machine... felt the breeze, saw the clouds, felt the cool sod under me.

And I travel back in time...

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Minefield of Life

As I was growing up, my self esteem basically sucked. I was nonathletic, skinny, had large front teeth, "bug eyes", and no confidence. I also had a bully for a big brother and an enabler of same for a sister, both older than me (and, therefore, bigger). My natural fear of others was strongly reinforced by those closest to me, the ones I had to deal with daily.

My stature as a skinny, short for my age, kid guaranteed I would be picked last most times when sides were chosen. It also lowered me in the estimation of others, like coaches. I recall once in junior high when I caught a fly ball deep in center field and "Coach" (one of the three Phys. Ed teachers) ran out on the field to "congratulate" me. He was shocked that I caught it... and hung on to it, though I had done so as often as most others.

I smoked then, having started when I was 12, and my brother would push me down and take my cigarettes away. Not because he didn't want me to smoke but because they would be "free" for him and his friends to smoke. He did this until I turned fifteen and started to fight back effectively.

I do not look back on my childhood with any kind of wistfulness. It was a terrible time for me. A bit like walking through a minefield blindfolded. I had no idea where I was going, why I was going through it, or if I would survive. But I did. Survive, that is. And I picked up some skills along the way.

We are, after all, shaped by our experiences growing up.


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I'm so Tard!

This is going to be short...

I am tired. I am tired of people who do not think for themselves, I am tired of people who jump on bandwagons, I am tired of sheep who just "go along to get along." I am especially tired of people who have few, if any, facts but still feel the need to voice an opinion... an opinion that comes across as if it was taken, verbatim, from the NY Times or the Washington Post. Or, worse, from the Daily KOS or the Huffington Post.

I am tired of people who read one story about something and think that is enough. I am tired of people who do not vote. I am tired of people who are more concerned about what Kim Kardashian's baby looks like than about upcoming legislation. I am tired of people who keep reality shows on the air.

Basically, I am tired of people.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Royal Baby is Born.... yawn...

Last evening as I was sitting in front of my TV (because sitting behind it is a waste of time and there is no room to do that anyway) when the news came in to my tablet that the Royal Baby had been born.

I was not impressed. I then watched some of "The Five" on FNC where they babbled on about it. Kimberly Gilfoyle (a rather foxy... no pun intended... commentator) remarked that it was an "historically significant event." After almost choking on the steak I was eating at the time, I shouted at the TV... "What historical significance?????" It's just another baby, one of millions born all over the world each year. Is it because the baby is a royal heir? Big deal. I am not a monarchist, I do not believe that certain people were born to rule, that they have anything special about them that justifies treating them as earthbound gods.

In fact, I am offended by the fact that royal families exist at all and that people think highly of them just because they do.

As I sat there dumbfounded by  the reactions of otherwise sane people, I realized that I would not have lasted more than a couple of days after learning to talk under a monarchy.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Gadgets and TV

I used to have  Nook. I gave it to my mother-in-law as a gift. Her eyesight is poor, and getting worse, and the ability to increase the text size is useful to her. It was gathering dust as I had moved on to a 10" tablet which doubles as an eReader and a general time waster. What is a "time waster?" Simple, it is something to play with while commercials are on when I am watching live TV (I generally record programs to watch later and can FF through commercials on those).

Time wasters are the solitaire apps, the Stickman golf game apps, the crossword puzzle apps, the news apps (I have three), and so on. As the screen goes to commercial, I grab the tablet and select the time waster. For 2 minutes, I can exercise my brain (minimal exercise though it may be) instead of pay attention to the "But wait!'s" for the "incredibly low priced" gadget that I really don't need and would just gather dust somewhere. I have a number of these lying around... because I sometimes pay attention to those ads and succumb. I am only human, of course. Something I have always tried to overcome.

I used to grab a book or a magazine and read for a bit, now I am living the "digital life."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Thoughts on Immigration

I have been thinking a little about immigration lately. It's a touchy subject, I know, but that doesn't mean I should ignore it. I can't anyway. I cannot ignore any thoughts that come into my head. Sometimes I wish I could but...

I am in favor of immigration. I have had many friends who immigrated to this country and met many people when I was out of this country who wanted to immigrate here. Fine people, all of them, a number of them quite pretty and friendly. But let's not go there...

But it dawned on me that I don't know much about immigration, legal or illegal. One of the things I didn't know is what nationalities are immigrating here. So I went looking. and this is what I found:

Legal immigrants by nationality (top ten):
Country               #                     % of total
Mexico          276,550                  14.8%
India              110,193                    5.9%
China            101,368                    5.4%
Philippines      98,963                    5.3%

The other 6 are each under 4% of the total.

Then there's the illegal immigrants
Mexico           6,650,000         61.9%

The rest of the top ten countries are each less than 4%. If you are wondering why the numbers are small, it's because the data is from 2009.

I found the data at this site:

I came across it after Googling "illegal immigration by nationality." I tried "immigration by nationality" but that didn't give me any results that fit with what I wanted to know. Instead I got a lot of hits about "the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952" which provided neither timely nor useful data for my purposes.

I lived in Dade County (now called Miami-Dade County) in the late 50's and early 60's. Immigration was not a big issue then. After the Cuban Revolution, we began to get a big influx of Cuban immigrants. The first influx was mostly middle class and above; mostly doctors, lawyers, and other professionals along with businessman of some level of affluence. But they brought no money with them. A few had money stashed in our banks but not enough to matter. Most arrived with just the clothes on their backs. After that, the influx was mostly made up of the poorer members of Cuban society.

The black population quickly resented their presence. This was because the new immigrants took jobs away from them. The new immigrants became a cheap labor source for lawn services and other menial work, undercutting even the poor wages given to blacks in those days.  The Florida branch of the AMA demanded almost impossible requirements for those that had been physicians in Cuba to prevent them from easily entering the medical profession in Florida and becoming competition for the state's existing medical professionals. I don't recall but I would bet the same happened for nurses, lawyers, and all other professional occupations. The small businessmen ran into the usual restrictions and regulations that have always plagued small businessmen. And, of course, getting loans was even tougher for them than people who had lived here all their lives or, at least, had been here long enough to establish good credit.

When I was an usher at age 17, the theater hired a man as a doorman. It turned out that he had been a doctor in Cuba and had made the journey in a leaky boat from Cuba, a journey that cost him his entire savings, to escape the land of his birth. But he found he could not practice medicine here unless he completed a couple of years of med school. He was not a young man, somewhere in his 60's (maybe late 60's, I do not recall) and did not have strong command of the English language. So he looked for and took what jobs he could... including a $1 an hour doorman's job.

I had had several Cuban friends in school. Good kids, lots of fun, and as crazy as I was in those days.  A couple were close friends. They got a bit of grief from the ignorant and cruel kids but nothing too serious and they were generally accepted.

But all of these were legal immigrants. I did not know about the migrant workers who traveled up from Mexico and followed the crop harvests through the southeast states. I had heard about them and, occasionally, saw them in the orange groves but didn't get to know any of them personally. I was oblivious to the discrimination they faced until I went in the Navy at age 19 and found myself in California.

I detest discrimination. But I am concerned about illegal immigration. I do not think anyone should be given "a path to citizenship" if they entered the country illegally. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Next Big Thing!

There is an ad for some precious metals broker that I have been hearing for some time on the radio. This ad is not touting gold... no, no.... it is touting the "next big thing" and it's silver!

I may not know enough about this ad because I tend to be laughing too hard by the time it's halfway over to give it the attention it thinks it deserves.

It talks about a silver shortage. A shortage so severe that they allege that Apple had to halt production of one of its products because it ran out of silver. It also alleges that the US Mint had to stop minting some coins because of this shortage. Never mind that you cannot find any report anywhere that this shortage actually exists. Go ahead, Google "silver shortage"... I'll wait.

Now, this brokerage is minting something they call "silver polar bears." This is a coin with a polar bear image on it. It has no currency value, it cannot be spent. It is not legal currency. And, because the silver shortage has increased the demand for these "coins" so much, they are going to give away some of them to anyone purchasing silver from them.

That's right, there is a huge silver shortage that has upped the demand for these useless coins so much that they have decided to give them away.

Isn't this a great country?

Update: The news just reported that salvagers just found 61 tons of silver. I wonder what that will do to the price?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

What's Been on my Mind of Late?

It is strange how our minds work. A single phrase heard triggers a flood of memories and musings. At least, that happens for me and I assume that I am no different than anyone else so I feel that this happens to all of you at times.

The other night, I was watching (off and on) a Nova program about Lewis and Clark, two men who led a party to explore the land west of the Mississippi, who sought the mythical "Northwest Passage."

They failed and succeeded. As do most expeditions, I think. There is no Northwest Passage but there was great and wonderful land with wonderful people and great numbers of game.

But there was one little snippet in the story that I happened to hear that flooded my brain with other thoughts...

It turns out that Meriwether Lewis turned to drink and opium sometime after he returned from the expedition. It was, the program said, during his governorship of the Louisiana Territory that he turned to drink, opium, and morphine. And it reminded me of the actor, Cory Monteith, recently found dead in a Hotel room in Canada. It turns out that Mr. Monteith overdosed on a mixture of heroin and alcohol.

And that, in turn, reminded me of a story that a fellow shipmate once related to me. My friend had been an intravenous drug user. He claimed to have shot up everything from speed to LSD to heroin and morphine. He was very knowledgeable about needles and I had no reason to doubt his stories.  It goes like this:

He and some of his friends were doing some drugs, mostly smack (heroin, for those who do not know the lingo), and one of them keeled over about halfway through an injection. Now, when a user injects a drug, he does it in stages; he puts some in, draws it back mixed with his blood, and then pushes the drug and blood mixture back into his vein. It was just as he started pushing the needle that he keeled over, collapsing onto the couch and rolling toward the floor. My friend grabbed the needle from the man's arm, he said, so that his friend would not tear his arm up when he fell. My friend sat there for a moment as the others checked on the fallen friend and then, for reasons he couldn't articulate, he put that needle into his own arm and gave himself the dose, mixed with blood, that his friend had failed to complete.

Actors are intelligent people. They have to be in order to act. They must have good memories. They must have good imaginations. They must be good observers of human nature and behavior.

I am sure that Monteith was intelligent. He was also rich and in a world where drugs were readily accessible and affordable for people like himself. Experimentation was almost inevitable. Addiction, in my opinion was not.

Why do I say addiction was not inevitable? Simple, because one has to continue using a drug to become addicted. It has been said that crack is so addictive that one use of it will hook just about anyone. I don't know, I've never used crack and I do not intend to but I have known people who used it (more than once or twice) and they didn't get addicted. I have used a lot of drugs; speed (dexedrine, methamphetamine), MDA (I think that's called "ecstasy" now), barbiturates, pot, cocaine, LSD, mescaline, and a few others. I stayed away from heroin, morphine and other "hard drugs"... drugs that were known to ruin your life and could be quite addictive. Had someone offered me opium, I probably would have used it... probably more than once or twice.  But I would have stopped as soon as I felt compelled in any way to find it.

I like to think that the intelligent are more likely to addicted or become an habitual user of intoxicants. The intelligent often have a view of life that is poor. They may be successful but they often feel that success is unearned. They often find things "too easy." They sometimes think, because they are keenly aware of their own faults and foibles, that they are frauds of some sort... unworthy of admiration or even respect. And they "self medicate" to suppress those feelings.

In the end, drugs mess up your life. Alcohol can also do that. And the relief, the pleasure, one gets from them is fleeting and empty.

So, sadly, we have another promising talent lying in a morgue.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

To "Cheat"... Perhaps to Win

I have played at least 9000 games of Microsoft's Freecell on this machine since I loaded it with Windows 7. Of those 9000, I have won 8999. Now, granted, I have also aborted games when I was stumped so the numbers are a bit misleading. But only a bit. And I have reversed moves in order to apply a different strategy. How does this distort the numbers? Because games aborted (if one "backs up" the game to the beginning with Ctrl-Z) do not factor in to the stats. And, often, the new strategy is effective and I win the game.

Is that cheating? I am unsure. In the purest sense, it is. But, if a means to avoid a loss is provided by the game, then is it cheating or taking advantage of the rules?  No one ever, including my mother who turned me on to solitaire when I was a mere child, said it was illegal to undo a play or series of plays, which she did and taught me to do. And, searching the web for rules for solitaire, I can find no mention of reversing moves at all. And Microsoft permits it which means, to me, that it is legal to do so.

Let me use golf as an analogy. I do this for two reasons: I love golf and golf has rules which can work against you or help you.

In golf, the rule is to "play the ball as it lies." Except where you do not have to: casual water, cart paths, ground under repair, and so on. In other words, there are exceptions to the rules to make the game fair. Sometimes, these exceptions afford you an advantage. Let me give you an example:

My ball lay close to a cement cart path. Very close. Up against it, in fact. And the rules give me the option to move the ball based on the "nearest point of relief" if the cart path will affect my stance or swing. In the example, I was also about ten feet short of a tree that was in my line to the green. I would not get relief, under the rules, for the tree. However, the nearest point of relief from the cart path also gave me sufficient relief from the tree. So, when I dropped the ball legally as relief from the cart path, I also got relief from the tree in my line. Perfectly legal. I followed the rules, I was legal. I still got a bogey, as I recall, but that had more to do with my skill level than anything else.

Since there is no rule against reversing moves (so far as I have been able to determine), I am free to take advantage of this strategy. If I back up all the way to the beginning, all I am doing is "resetting" the game. Sometimes, I do this to start over because a move I made early on in the game caused me to arrive at an unwinnable point but usually I just back up to a point where I see a move I feel I should have made (let's call it "correcting an error").

Morally, and (as I said earlier) in the purest sense, this can be construed as cheating. Still, I like what this has done to my game stats and I can overlook it without taxing my conscience.

It's like telling your wife that those pants don't make her look fat.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Last Word on the Zimmerman/Martin Case

I hate to be seen as fixated on anything but especially on the George Zimmerman trial. But, apparently, there are people who are fixated on it and they are angry about the verdict. There are also people who are fixated on the case and are happy with the verdict. Most of these, on both sides, are ignorant of facts and insensitive about either family.

I came across someone who wrote in a comment the following:

"We know that one guy went after another guy - with a loaded gun, while screaming racial slurs, after the police told him not to."

He called these "uncontested facts."

Except they are neither uncontested nor are two of them facts. First, Zimmerman did not even utter a racial slur, much less "scream[ed]" them. Had he done so and there was any actual record or testimony of such the prosecution would have presented it. They did not. The writer claimed these racial slurs could be found on the Zimmerman's call to the police. They cannot... because they do not exist. The only thing he got right was that Zimmerman had a loaded gun (and a permit to carry it).

Second, Zimmerman was not told to not follow Martin. The exact words were advice, not an order, not a demand, not a telling. The exchange went:
Dispatcher: "Are you following him?"
Zimmerman: "Yeah."
Dispatcher: "Ok, we don't need you to do that."
Zimmerman: "Ok."

At that point, Zimmerman claims (in his statement and subsequent police interviews) that he stopped following martin at that point. Is that to be believed? There is no evidence or testimony that disputes it. Therefore, in a trial, we are obliged to accept that it is true (benefit of the doubt always is to go to the defendant in a criminal trial). But, as individuals not bound by trial rules, we can disbelieve it and presume that he continued to follow Martin. However, that brings up another problem...

The call to the dispatcher goes silent soon after Zimmerman says he (Martin) is running in the direction of the back gate to the complex (time 7:13:41). As we can learn from this interactive map from the Miami Herald, Martin is also moving in the direction of the townhouse in which he is staying.

Martin is on the phone with Rachel Jeantel. He tells her that there is a man following him. She tells him to run but he responded with "No" because he is "near his father's place." (or words to that effect, there is no transcript of her testimony, just recordings... If you have the actual words, I would like to know what they were). Now, "near" is a vague term. It could mean he was right outside or on the same block. We do not know. What we do know is that the struggle occurs between the two near the "T" intersection of walkways.  This is clear from where the body is found and testimony of  of Mr. Good. This is maybe 300 feet from the townhouse in question. We also know the fight broke out just about time 7:16, as the first 911 call is placed at  7:16:11 and the fight is already in progress.

Incidentally, the timeline can be found here:

And the timeline is important. Because it shows there were a number of minutes that went by where we do not know where Zimmerman or Martin are. If Martin is seeking the safety of that townhouse, why does the struggle occur ~300 feet north of it? If Zimmerman continued to follow Martin, why is the struggle not further down toward that townhouse.

What I think happened is that two people who distrusted each other on sight because of each person's behavior (Martin appearing to be looking in windows and checking out units in the complex, Zimmerman following Martin). Instead of letting these go, each continues to hold that distrust until the confrontation which explodes into violence and leaves Martin dead.

It is clearly a tragedy and it could have been avoided. But neither one was willing to let his guard down apparently and assume any innocent (or even reasonable) intentions on the part of the other. Both, I am sure, felt completely justified in that distrust.

As I said, a tragedy... but not a crime.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Boycotts and Bigotry

On Saturday, I came across two articles that intrigued me because of their topics. They are well-written and thought-provoking. At least, I thought so. Perhaps you will also.

Author’s Views on Gay Marriage Fuel Call for Boycott

Are the author's private beliefs "fair game" to strike against a work which, apparently, does not address or reflect them?

Jets’ Aboushi Faces Aspersions for Being Palestinian

This one is important to me because of one person who supported Mr. Aboushi, Abraham Foxman.

Please read these two articles and think deep and meaningful thoughts. Feel free, as always, to comment.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Justice or Double Jeopardy?

I am remiss this morning. I should have had this post prepared in advance but, alas, I procrastinated. All I can say is that it is my nature to procrastinate, it might even be genetic in origin.

Normally, my Saturday posts are specifically political in nature. This one is not so specific. It concerns something that arises from the Zimmerman trial. Something that came up near to the closing arguments. It is the issue of the jury being told that they can consider, and rule, on a "lesser" charge than murder in the 2nd degree.

Here's why it bothers me. I see it as a form of double jeopardy and a situation where the defendant is unable to defend himself against the charge. Neither he nor his attorney(s) are allowed in the jury room where the jurors deliberate on the case. If the jurors find him not guilty of the initial charge, they can then consider if he might be guilty of some other charge concerning the event.

Unless the defense anticipates such a situation, it presents only a defense against the charges filed. If it does anticipate this situation, it risks confusing the jury by addressing all possible other charges that might have been filed.

I see this allowing the jury to act as the state... And I see this as a form of double jeopardy. A particularly nasty one since the defense is not made aware (in this case anyway) of the possibility of other charges and is not, therefore, being given the chance to defend against them.

In Zimmerman's case, the "lesser" charge can be almost worse than the charge filed against him... thanks to Florida's "10 20 Life" law.

Perhaps we should have laws that restrict the jury from considering any charges except those filed. It won't help Zimmerman because we cannot enact laws that are retroactive. But it might help in future cases.

Friday, July 12, 2013

What is it we Perceive?

As some of you might have guessed, I waste a lot of time mindlessly watching the "idiot box." And it's true that much of what I watch is simply mindless entertainment. I also watch a lot of science programs and other things which, one might presume, are not. Let me tell you that much of even that is trash even though I do occasionally learn something. Being a World War II buff, I tend to watch a lot of the Military and Military History Channels.

But mostly what passes for drama on the major networks is trash. Except for a few. So I watch the "lesser" networks; A&E, FX, and TNT. One of these shows of interest is called "Perception." If you do not watch this show, you are missing out on a jewel.  It is entertaining and educational. It is also just about the only show on TV that does not treat the viewer as a 12-year-old.

Last night's episode revolved around something they called "cognitive blindness" (a made-up name for a real phenomenon). What they described, and what the show revolved around, was the sometime inability of the mind to perceive something that happens right in front of the person. In the beginning of the episode, a judge is murdered in his chambers. You do not see this happen, just the aftermath. His clerk claims the judge was alive when he left his chambers to go to the courtroom to hear a verdict, a federal prosecutor swears he saw the judge at his bench when the verdict was read. But the judge was actually murdered before the verdict was in. Soon after, a referee at a high school basketball game is murdered (stabbed in the back by the team mascot) during the game but it is not noticed by the fans until after the referee falls.

I am not going to reveal anything more about the episode, it is unimportant. But the show centers on how we perceive the world around us and how we are often fooled in those perceptions and that, to me, is very interesting.

You see, I cannot remember a time where I was not interested in that. There is a poem by Edgar Allen Poe called "A Dream Within a Dream" that ends with this refrain:

Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

I did not learn of it until I was perhaps in my 20's but I immediately identified with it. I have often toyed with the idea that the universe does not really exist, that we have dreamed it up. That it is an hallucination so all encompassing and complex that we are lost in it.

Perhaps that's silly. But perhaps not.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fast Food and Bad Health

I happened to get into an exchange with someone the other day that bothered me. It wasn't that it was a heated exchange, it was the context and the accusation tossed toward the end.

The exchange was in the comments about the plane crash in San Francisco. I asked what I thought was a simple question:

I am curious. We have cameras on street corners, in small stores, at ATM machines... why are there no cameras trained on aircraft approaches to runways?

I was answered in this way:

How many times does something like this happen? Wouldn't it be more prudent to place cameras at a McDonalds to watch for heart attacks?

In response, I pointed out that heart attacks rarely happen at McDonalds and that a heart attack only kills one person while plane crashes usually kill many more.

I was later accused by the responder of making a "knee jerk outrageous response" (presumably by asking about video cameras on runways) which seemed quite odd to me since bringing up heart attacks and McDonald's seemed quite off-topic.

But that got me to thinking, why is McDonald's the villain in heart attacks? I realize that McDonald's sells fast food and that fast food consumption is deemed unhealthy but is it to blame for the fact that heart disease is the #1 killer of adults in the U.S.?  Was heart disease not a major killer before 1954?

It seems to me that heart disease was a major problem well before that.

I'd like to point out that heart disease, though not a heart attack, killed my father and he rarely, if ever, ate any fast food.  And that he lived to be 84. That his father died of a stroke at 65 (in 1955), as did his grandfather (well before 1954, obviously).

You see, I think genetics has a lot to do with heart disease, as do poor overall diets, lack of exercise, and a number of other things. I would not recommend eating fast food every day, however.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Guilt or Innocence?

Have you been paying a lot of attention to the Zimmerman trial? Just curious. I haven't watched much of it (it is broadcast on a few stations, either in part or in total) but I have paid attention to the news reports and opinion pieces about it.

The shooting occurred on February 26, 2012 and the publicity about it began within days, if not hours, of the death of the 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Public furor was whipped up in the next few days and weeks until Zimmerman is charged with 2nd degree murder on April 11th.

In comments in various places on the web, I have posited that Zimmerman should not have been charged with anything above voluntary manslaughter. Nothing I have read or seen in the trial has changed my opinion.

The issues are quite simple once you get past the emotional aspects of the case:

Who initiated the confrontation?
Was Zimmerman in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm?

If Zimmerman initiated the confrontation or was found not to have reasonable fear then voluntary manslaughter is the proper charge. If only one of the two issues is true (and the other, therefore, false) then involuntary manslaughter is the proper charge.

But Zimmerman was charged with murder in the second degree. So there should be a third issue:

Did Zimmerman have intent to do bodily harm that could have resulted in the death of a person?

As I said, I have not watched the trial "gavel to gavel" but have read reports about testimony and evidence. Therefore, I do not qualify as an "armchair" juror, I am operating on insufficient knowledge. I note that there are quite a number people with strong opinions about the guilt or innocence of Zimmerman commenting in various places around the web. Most (on both sides) seem to be operating primarily on emotion.

In my opinion, the prosecution has put on a very weak case. There has been virtually no evidence presented which showed Zimmerman had intended any actual physical harm to Martin prior to the confrontation. There is very little evidence that contradicts Zimmerman's version of events. Which leaves us with those two issues.

If I were pressed to offer an opinion of the prosecution's strategy, it would be this:

We do not have enough evidence to convict him of second degree murder but  maybe we can entice the jury to convict him on a lesser charge of manslaughter and win that way.

It is sad. A young man lost his life, his parents are heartbroken. Another young man is in a fight for his freedom... all because of an "unfortunate series of events."

Had Martin not gone to the store that evening, he'd be alive. If Zimmerman had not gone out to get groceries that evening, Martin would be alive. If either, or both, of them had remained reasonable when the confrontation began, Martin would be alive and Zimmerman would not be on trial.

Here's how that confrontation should have gone:
"Where are you going?" or "What are you doing?" (Zimmerman to Martin)
"I am staying with my father but I can't find the building." (Martin to Zimmerman)

But that didn't happen, did it?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Insigificance in the "Modern" World

I watched an old movie the other night, a movie made back in 1957. I recalled the movie but did not go to see it at a movie theater. Perhaps you've seen it? It is called The Incredible Shrinking Man .

1957 was a year in which the Cold War was on most Americans' minds. Radiation was a threat greatly feared. The movies were full of animals and bugs that had been mutated by radiation into giant and fearsome things. In this particular movie, the protagonist (Scott Carey, played by Grant Williams) is lounging on a motorboat on vacation with his wife. When his wife goes below to get him a cold beer, the boat encounters a strange cloud and Scott is contaminated by a mixture of radiation and some unnamed pesticide. But he doesn't know  this and neither does his wife (who is not affected by this at all). They ignore this until some 6 months later, he realizes his clothes do not fit him like they used to. They are too loose, too large. He goes to a doctor and eventually extensive tests are run which reveal the pesticide involvement but not the radiation. All attempts to rid him of the affliction are without success and our hero continues to shrink until he is living in a doll house. There are scenes of him fleeing the family pet (a cat) and ending up trapped in the basement, so small he cannot get back up the stairs and is being menaced by a spider.

As I recall, but can no longer find any reference to, the story was a metaphor for the diminution of man in the modern world of the 50's and his struggle to retain his dignity and necessity.

In the end, he finds some solace but no cure, no answers, and we are left to believe he will continue to shrink until he falls between the atoms which make up all things as he ponders his fate and his place in the vast universe.

Something I do every day...

Monday, July 8, 2013

What's Out There?

I sometimes muse on people. People in general, that is. Not individuals (though I do that too) but the vague, average, person. You know, the "man on the street" that various reporters interview for late night talk shows and local news shows.

I am talking about the people with the blank stare when asked about history or current events. I am also talking about those people who see vast government conspiracies in play or who draw a blank when asked to name the current president. I simply cannot believe the "average person" is that oblivious to things going on around him or her.

Ok... yes, I can. I have to. After all, I see them all the time. On TV. I very rarely meet them in real life. And, when I do, I tend to smile and try to walk away as quickly as possible.

i came across an article about some bursts of radio signals  that appear to be from a a point some 11 billion light years away. The article talks about what the astronomers think of the origin but that seems to get lost on the commenting public. Or maybe not. The people commenting may be just having a little fun... or they could be serious. I hope it's the former.  Here's an example:

Well the title made me think the story would be about signals from an alien civilization, and it's starting to seem a little strange that we are still not getting any kind of signals like that. It seems that we should be picking up radio chatter from long gone civilizations that peaked thousands or millions of years ago. The Rare Earth Theory is beginning to actually sound like reality, and if that's the case, then other theories become more believable like the poster before who says there could be some sort of "anti-space" between the galaxies, and the universe is actually much smaller than we thought. I can grasp the concept of humans on Earth being the only intelligent beings in the universe right now. But the only intelligent beings EVER to live in this universe? And what about all the high level UFO sightings in the past 50 years? What becomes the truth in those stories?

Buried in the story are things which reveal the true nature of what the astronomers think. But also buried is the fact that sometimes nearby, human activities or natural phenomena, can interfere and be misconstrued by scientists to be from far away. That was something new... to me anyway. I hadn't realized such "leakage" could occur. I assumed (silly me) that this would be filtered out by the programs involved. After all, these are radio telescopes, not optical ones, and everything they receive are now pored over by computers... not individuals. The results of the computer's analysis is then given to the eggheadsscientists for further study.

I was surprised to learn that my father had seen a UFO. Of course, it was told to me by my mother so I have no idea what he actually thought it might have been. My father would never have told me what he saw. My mother had told me this in connection to a light discussion about the possibility of aliens from outer space. My mother had a vivid imagination and believed in fortune tellers and seers of all types so it came as no surprise to me that she also thought space aliens had visited us now and then.

My father always seemed, to me, to be quite cynical about such things. My immediate, though not voiced, reaction was that my father had mentioned he saw something, some light or lights, in the sky as he drove the rural highways of Florida on his sales route. I figured he had tossed off this sighting as nothing quite so mysterious and wonderful as craft driven by extraterrestrial beings but maybe a helicopter or small plane. He probably even told her what he thought they or it might be but she conveniently forgot that part. It did not fit with her child-like imagination about such things.

I was watching some show the other evening on one of the more obscure cable channels when an ad appeared touting something called Celebrity Ghost Stories wherein famous people talk about their eerie encounters with spirits and poltergeists.

As I said, I am cynical. I do not believe in ghosts. I believe in the mind being able to take some optical illusion and turn it into something else that the owner of said mind wants to believe in. I have met many a young woman who fiercely believed in astrology. One, a young busty wench, even developed astrological charts to show how we (her and I, casually mentioned here) were meant to get together.

I have a saying that goes:
People see what they want to see, hear what they want to hear, and believe what they want to believe.

And I am stuck, mired, in mundane reality.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Political Expediency

The other day, the administration announced they were postponing a requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka "Obamacare"), specifically, the requirement that businesses with more than 50 employees provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty. They are delaying enforcement for one year. The year that just happens to be an election year.

Why are they doing this, you ask? The reason given by the administration is that it comes in response to complaints by many businesses that the requirements were too complicated and difficult to implement on time.

It has nothing to do with businesses cutting back on the number of employees hired in order to keep the total employees number under 50. It has nothing to do with businesses cutting the hours of employees so that they are deemed "part-time" under the act and not subject to this requirement. Really, pay no attention to these scurrilous accusations from those rascally Republicans.

You and I know the Obama administration operates out of the purest motives and would never make political expediency more important than the welfare of the people.

On the other hand, everything else is on schedule. Individuals will still have to have health insurance or be fined (or is it "taxed"?) by the IRS. I suspect this, too will be be delayed if political expediency demands it.

We shall see, I suppose.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Deep Thoughts

Timeless questions about the Universe

This (the article above) is just something to think about. That is, if you think about such things. I often do and I do it without the benefit of great knowledge and learning. Of course, my thoughts are likely wrong-headed because of that lack but it does not keep me from thinking about such matters.

I was asked once by a shipmate what I believed in. What happened after we died. He knew I was atheist, I never kept that a secret during my stint, and he was curious if I had any beliefs at all. I made up something on the spot.

What I told him was something about how matter and energy could not be destroyed, just transformed from one to the other, and that I considered us (human beings) to be a combination of matter and energy. Therefore, we would just  remain part of the universe. It was hippie-dippie crap but he seemed to accept it and as something deep and meaningful. It was the 60's after all. I didn't really believe that at all.

I don't really care what happens after we die. I don't think you can care and remain  atheist.

My father was agnostic, or close to it. I never saw him in, or going to, a church except to attend a wedding or a funeral. He distrusted organized religions but he believed in a Supreme Being. I don't think he knew about my atheism, we certainly never talked about it, but we hardly talked about anything of that nature so that's not a surprise.

But I do think about the questions I think are at the heart of all religions. Why are we here? What is "here" in that context? What is nature?

All of these are part of those questions we have about the Universe (or "multi-verse" as the new consensus seems to be asking).

And we are a curious species... in all the meanings of that phrase.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish  brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

And, thus, we began...

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Memory Fragments

I was driving to the golf course on Monday, listening to a CD... John Mayall was playing... one of my favorites. The song was called "Room to Move" from The Turning Point album. It's what they call a "live album." This is because it is a recording made at a concert. All recordings are made live, of course, since the dead have yet to make any music. Well, except for the Grateful Dead, that is.

It's an interesting album. One of the few performances made by a band without a drummer. There are other groups that work without a drummer; string ensembles and a few folk groups, but it is odd to find a blues or rock band that doesn't use a drummer. The Grateful Dead used two drummers at the concert I saw them at.

I bought the album before I had seen the new band Mayall had put together. It was after I bought it that I went to a concert in Santa Monica back in 1969. I wrote a little about the aftermath of that concert once [link]. What I didn't mention in that post was the ride back from the concert.

It was cool that night so it must have been in the Fall. As I sped down the freeway on my way back to Long Beach, something started rattling behind me. It was the grab bar on the back of the motorcycle seat. The bolt on on side had come out and the other was apparently loose. Loose enough that when I grabbed the piece of chrome tubing and yanked, it came off pretty easily. I tossed it away to my right, off the freeway, into the ubiquitous iceplant that lined them in the Los Angeles area.

I remember nothing more about that ride but that memory has stayed fresh in my mind for over 4 decades. I also distinctly remember where I sat in the theater (Santa Monica Auditorium, I believe)... first seat off the left aisle in the center section, about halfway down.

Memories are such odd things, aren't they? And every time I hear one of the songs on that album, those memories come back... in vivid color and sound.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Sometimes I just like to sit in front of the computer and listen to music on my headphones. This brings to mind a number of things... one of which is the feeling of getting lost in the music and having the world become something ethereal, unreal, far away and unimportant. Here I sit on a Sunday morning listening to a collection of Alicia Keys tracks that I've collected over the last several days. Lost in the sounds that, with headphones, seem to be inside my head...

One of the other thoughts that crops up is the similar feeling that talking on a cell phone in the car produces. Your (well, mine anyway) concentration is caught up in the conversation in a way that chatting with a passenger does not. This doesn't happen with the radio/CD player in the car so much.

When I was in my teens, I spent a week in a traffic school as a result of getting a ticket (see here). I don't remember a lot of that school but I remember one thing fairly well. The instructor mentioned that two of the worst things ever put in automobiles were radios and air conditioning.

Both cause drivers to become less aware of what is going on around them. The instructor was speaking from his perspective as a police officer. He felt the closed windows (because of the AC) and radio (which fills the car with sound and masks outside noise) made people less aware of his lights and siren. I began to realize he was right and that the problem was much larger than just being unaware of a screaming, flashing, police car coming up behind. It also made one less aware, less conscious, of much less important seeming things. The bicycle entering the roadway from the right, the motorcycle passing you close on the left, the car approaching the stop sign on a side road too quickly, and so much more.

Distractions like music and phone conversations (even "hands-free" ones) pull you into them and the world starts to fade outside that little bubble of sound and thought.

My brother introduced me to meditation when I was about 12. He came home one day with stories about how you can make the world disappear into a gray fog. He put a small dot on the wall at about eye level as I sat on the floor and told me to focus on the dot, concentrate on that dot to the exclusion of all else. I did... and, soon, the world around me became less and less real. I was brought back to something I used to experience at the dentist's office as I succumbed to the nitrous oxide ("laughing gas").

In the dentist chair, the nitrous oxide would cause the world to dissolve into a gray, swirling, cloud sometimes filled with various faces, sometimes empty... leaving me oblivious and peaceful. Until the drill got too close to a nerve, of course, and then the world was there again. Real... important... painful.

Like the car that slams into you as it rolls through that stop sign on your right, seemingly out of nowhere.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Bionic People

I live in a wondrous age... as do all of you. I was thinking about this the other day as my cohorts and I sat around after playing golf and chatted about life in general. We do this a lot.

A "new guy" to the group talked about how he decided to live in Sebring ("Paradise", as I call it)... He said it was partly because people seemed to live so long here. He is right, we have a number of guys in our group of hackers that are in their 80's and there are plenty of nonagenarians in and around this town though few of them seem to be playing golf (at least, I haven't met any here though I knew of a couple in San Diego). His other reasons were mostly economics (as were mine).

From there, talk turned to defibrillators and pacemaker implants and stents. The number of stents one has seems to be a "bragging point." Joe (age 76) has 8, most have some but not near that many (one, two, and four, as I recall). For my part, I remarked that people in our area seemed to be in a sort of competition to see who would outlast who.

I was immediately reminded of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams...

On July 4, 1826, at the age of 90, Adams lay on his deathbed while the country celebrated Independence Day. His last words were `Thomas Jefferson still survives.' He was mistaken: Jefferson had died five hours earlier at Monticello at the age of 82.

But let me get back to why I think of this as a "wondrous age." It has to do with those implants, especially the pacemaker and the defibrillator. At one time, the defibrillator was a large, expensive machine found only in hospitals. Then a portable version was created, allowing them to be carried in ambulances. And now they are very small devices that can be implanted in one's torso.

My father had a pacemaker installed a few years before he passed away. He did this on advice from his cardiologist. It reduced his angina considerably but he came to see it as a mistake, extending his life when he would have rather died before becoming dependent on others. But that was him and my friends have different outlooks. Different situations and circumstances merit different decisions.

An anecdote about Ed, the guy with the defib implant:
His cardiologist told him: "If you were in your 60's, I would recommend this implant strongly. But you are 83 and you have lived a good long life so I leave it up to you."

I am glad Ed chose to do it. I would miss him terribly.