The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

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

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

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

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

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year, Shot

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

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

Have a Happier New Year!


Monday, December 30, 2013

New years and Resolutions

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

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

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


Saturday, December 28, 2013

Presidential vacations

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

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

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

Friday, December 27, 2013

Well, Christmas New is Christmas Past, Once Again

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

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

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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wasted Phrases

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

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

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

The painful tenderness of fevered skin.

The pangs of hunger of the heart.

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

The blind see so much more than the sighted.

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

Death brings the ultimate clarity but no one to tell.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tis The Season To Be Jolly

Merry Christmas one and all!


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

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

 Click to Mix and Solve

Monday, December 23, 2013

Gender Confusion

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

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

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

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

And his description:

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

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

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Christmas Gift

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Affluenza? Really?

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

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

I am going to defend the judge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Are You Shaking?

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

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

Scary, huh?

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Something To Consider

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Sting or Scam?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 16, 2013

Work and Fun Are Not Synonymous

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

Who Goes to Work to Have Fun?

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Presidential Appearance

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

Caveat Emptor and Car Purchases

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Forming an Opinion... or Just Going Along?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

I Haven't Quite Figured It Out Yet

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

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

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

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

Where are the most dangerous traffic locations in Highlands?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Musing Triggered By Age, You Could Say

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Art Imitating Life or Vice Versa?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 6, 2013


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

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

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

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

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

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

Golf is not an easy game.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

More On Congratulations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Something I Need More Information About

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

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

Any experts out there who can explain this to me?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Some Things I Have Come To Believe...

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

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

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

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

Perhaps I am just cynical.

Monday, December 2, 2013

I Just Don't Get It, I Suppose

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

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

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