Random ramblings of a mind damaged by years of disuse and abuse. Also a place to go to be bored to tears.
The Random Comic Strip
Words to live by...
"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."
(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.
It is time to wend our way home. For the next week or so, Faye and I will be battling traffic, fatigue, and food in restaurants (some good, some bad, some not worth mentioning). This means there will likely be few to no posts for awhile.
I was reading an ABC news story this morning and something bothered me about it. The story seems almost routine, run-of-the-mill, these days. By these days, I mean something I call "the modern era". This would not have happened back in the 50's when I was the boy's age for three reasons:
1. We were not permitted to wear T-shirts to school 2. T-shirts did not have slogans or messages on them 3. We learned about Freedom of Speech as students but did not have that right.
Let me recap in case the story link fails:
A lad of 14 in West Virginia wore a T-shirt with the letters "NRA", a picture of a rifle, and the words "Protect Your Right" printed on it. After several hours of no one paying any attention, a band teacher confronted him about the shirt and told him to remove it. He refused. It became a a loud argument, one supposes, because the police were apparently called in. In the end, the student was arrested for "nearly inciting a riot" (as it was described) and, thus, we have this story. The young man now has an attorney and some fame.
The school apparently has no rule against wearing a T-shirt and no rule on what it is allowed to have printed on it other than ones about profanity and obscenity. The student violated no rule, apparently, only the teacher's political sensibility.
My first question was: Why wasn't the teacher arrested? After all, he started the confrontation and the police always isolate (arrest, detain, stuck in the back of a police car or two) all the primary participants in a noisy confrontation in my experience.
My second question was: Where the heck was the principal? She shows up later, after the fact, doing a bit of PR and hand-wringing but she lets the police be called and she isn't on the scene before that happens????
There are some rather stupid comments on the story which prove, once again, to me that people do not understand the concept of freedom of speech.
When I think back to my younger, more idealistic, years I wonder if I could have been caught up in some kind of movement or revolutionary group? I did, after all, have the urge to "belong" in those days... like so many of my peers.
And I did enlist in Uncle Sam's Navy. But that was not so I could go kill the enemy (the Vietnam War just starting up and all), I was more pacifistic at the time. I just wanted to go to sea, visit exotic ports, and do it on someone else's dime since I did not have many dimes of my own. And we had the Draft at the time which was ramping up big time. I had no desire to slog through mud and jungle and sleep on the ground. I figured the Navy would provide me with decent food and reasonably comfy sleeping quarters and I was right.
I suppose I was never radical fodder. Too much of a cynic, too wary of being used in any way. But I had friends who were more gullible and I often wonder what happened to them. I also had friends who might have sucked in the gullible, they being glib and clever and all. I also wonder what happened to them. I assume nothing too outrageous since I never saw any news reports about them, not that I paid much attention to the news in my early twenties. So they could have simply escaped my notice.
Like the younger Boston Bomber, I had an older brother. By the time I enlisted, though, I wasn't very impressed by him. Maybe if he hadn't stolen my socks and underwear so often or embarrased me in front of my friends regularly or any of the other mean tricks he played on me, I would have been more impressed. But, no, by the time I was 19, I had pegged him as a total jerk and not worth emulating.
You see, my theory is that the younger brother idolized the elder and followed his lead. And that this is what led him to participate in that atrocity in Boston last week and has destroyed his life as well as his victim's lives.
I am still sick but the end is in sight, I believe. The events of the last few days has roused me enough to make some comment.
My heart goes out to all the people of Boston and especially to those who were injured in the bomb blasts and to their families and the families of those that were killed.
Who knows what causes people to do such horrible things? The one thing that is apparent is the ages of the two in this and in many terrorist attacks. Late teens, early to mid twenties, and sometimes (though rarely) in the early thirties. I was young once and maybe quite foolish but I was never so foolish as to believe in causes so deeply that I would happily kill or die in their name.
I have known people who joined cults and I think that willingness to do so is a major part of the make-up of people who get caught up in these things.
I am grateful that my father taught me to be cynical.
It appears that I have picked up that dreaded virus the Common Cold. Therefore, posts will be spotty at best and non-existent at worst. I can hear you cheering and it doesn't help. I will spend the next several days here in San Diego being quite miserable and trying not to spread it around.
I tend to stroll through comments on media sites and leave a number of my own. Some of the other commenters view me as a troll: dropping comments seemingly intended to cause a stir or rile others. Perhaps I am. Though that is not my intent. My intent is to instigate some critical thinking.
I also intend to get people to question something called "conventional wisdom." I usually fail at this. I suppose it's difficult to do for so many. Not for me, however, I have always done this. I guess you could say I never got over my "Why?" phase as a toddler.
One of the things that gets me labeled as a troll is that I have a low tolerance for robotic thought. And I get bored easily. So I leave a comment, defend it for a few exchanges, and then just move on.
I found a phrase in an Ambrose Bierce story that I have already used in ending a "conversation." It goes like this:
Against stupidity, even the Gods themselves are helpless.
The actual quote should be:
Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain.
And it is attributed to a German named Friedrich Schiller, a German poet, historian, dramatist, and playwright. His full name is Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller. Which, I suppose, means he is used to some latitude in quoting his words.
Bierce called him an "ancient Roman" in the story, which couldn't be farther from the truth so I don't feel bad about paraphrasing the quote.
I am fascinated by comments on stories on the media sites. They tell me something (most like a distortion) of the general public feeling about various issues. I am sometimes appalled by what I read. Sometimes I am pleased, and all too often I am bored.
As some of you know, this blogger is an advocate of freedom of speech. He is also one who doesn't think it is understood by the average person. Some seem to think it is a license to use swear words in public or to preach hate. Others seem to think it applies only to those with whom they agree. Yet others think it is the right to appear on stage naked and covered in chocolate.
So, when I read thisyesterday, it bothered me. Intrigued me, actually, so I followed a link in the story to this where I found something quite disturbing:
"In a democratic and secular state governed by the rule of law, expressing an opinion should not lead to long terms of imprisonment," it read. "A case like this is both an attack on artistic freedom and on the culture of humanity."
The words which disturbed me were "should not lead to long terms of imprisonment".
It seems like Tiger Woods is embroiled in yet another controversy, real or imagined.
Those of you who play the game know many of the rules but, I would guess, not all of them and not all of the various rulings which help to define and refine them.
I was watching the Masters on TV when the violation occurred. It did not seem to be a violation at the time. However, in the post round interview, Tiger explained that he dropped his ball two yards further back than where he had originally played the shot:
" "I went down to the drop area; that wasn't going to be a good spot, because obviously it's into the grain and it was a little bit wet," Woods said.
“So it was muddy and not a good spot to drop. So I went back to where I played it from, but I went two yards farther back and I tried to take two yards off the shot of what I felt I hit."
Tiger had four choices after putting a ball in a lateral hazard on hole #15 (five, if you count hitting the ball from the hazard which was not possible in this case): 1- hit the ball from a designated drop zone, 2- hit the ball from an area two club lengths from where it went into the hazard (but no closer to the hole) if possible (this was not possible), 3- keeping the point where the ball last entered the hazard between the player and the pin/hole, dropping the ball as far back as the player wants, or 4- replaying the shot from as close to the original spot as possible.
Tiger chose the last option after examining the designated drop area.
There's a lot of noise and controversy over this. Some people think Tiger knowingly cheated, some think he didn't. It all depends upon whether Tiger was aware he was in violation when he dropped the ball two yards further back. I do not think he did or he would not have described it that way in the post-round interview; he would have said "I dropped it where I first hit the shot." Based on that, I think he was unaware that he violated the rule.
The second part of the controversy is the Tournament committee's decision to give him a two-stroke penalty, rather then a disqualification, for signing an incorrect score card. I am not privy to their reasoning but it seems reasonable that they chose to invoke a new decision making disqualification an option but not mandatory.
Tiger Woods, because of his ability to draw viewers will almost always get the lesser penalty. Some are angry about this, some are not. The vast majority probably do not care one way or the other. I stand with the vast majority.
Before I start in on a rant about the 2nd Amendment and the attempts by the Senate to do what it proscribes, I would like to bring up that toxic subject: abortion.
When the Roe v. Wade decision was made, it was lauded as the end of "back alley abortions", that women would no longer need to risk their own lives to terminate a pregnancy. To hear the Left tell it, women were dying left and right at the hands of unlicensed abortionists. I would like them to read this: The Trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnells
If you choose to read it, be aware that it is pretty graphic and very disturbing.
But let's go back to something more pleasant... gun violence.
Nobody is in favor of people randomly shooting other people. I think we can agree with that. I believe even the hated NRA is not in favor of gun violence, though you wouldn't know that from reading the general media. Reading the opinion pieces, the editorials, and even the news stories, one might come away thinking the NRA wants mass murder. Rational people will dismiss such as hyperbole and distortion. Still, there are many who believe the NRA is merely a shill for gun makers and a too strong lobby.
I don't. Growing up, I was taught that guns weren't needed by the average person. My father didn't own one, my mother didn't own one, and I was not allowed to have a BB gun (cap pistols were permitted, however). I got a BB gun anyway; more than one, as I recall. And I and my friends risked the proverbial losing of an eye by engaging in BB gun fights. None of us lost an eye. In fact, the worst that happened to any of us was a welt when we were hit on a bare arm.
Dianne Feinstein (D, California) jumped on the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary to introduce a reprise of the old "Assault Weapon" ban. Many of my friends (and possibly yours) will explain that assault weapons are already banned. And they are. What Feinstein wanted to do was ban assault weapon looking rifles. Some of which are less powerful than hunting rifles which would not be banned. Majority Leader Harry Reid shot down (excuse the pun) her bill because he knew it wouldn't pass... he just couldn't guarantee the votes. At the same time, we are being told that "everyone" is in favor of such a ban. This, I think, is why the NRA is being trashed of late.
What Reid's strategy is, I think, is to get something limiting magazine capacity and expanding background checks. And then allow Feinstein's ban to be added as an admendment. He is also warning, admonishing, Republicans not to filibuster amendments. I suspect he thinks he can get Feinstein's ban in through the back door, so to speak.
But let's look at something absolutely true:
No proposed federal legislation (and no proposed or passed) state laws would do anything to prevent what happened at Sandy Hook. Even proponents of the proposals and laws acknowledge this.
It's very simple. If someone wants to commit such mayhem, they will get weapons illegally. In other words, they will readily break the huge numbers of gun control laws already on the books. Adding more laws will simply add laws that will be broken.
Criminals and the insane will ignore any law that gets in their way and find ways around any law which prevents them from getting what they want.
Will reducing the privacy of those with mental illnesses help? Maybe. But who increased that privacy? Why, it is the very same people who now want it reduced today in the name of gun control.
Society is a complex organism. A free society is even more complex; a delicate balance between individual liberty and collective safety. We are rapidly approaching a tipping point.
As I write this, we are winding up our stay in Vegas. Tonight, we will be visiting with some friends who retired to Vegas from San Diego quite a few years ago. Unlike me, he still hustles for extra cash. I suppose that, if I had retired to Sin City, I would also have to supplement my retirement income. And do not think that Faye did not lobby for a Vegas retirement.
It might have been a good place to retire in some ways but not for me. I don't like to gamble. And the cheap dining of the 70's no longer exists. Golf is expensive, even for residents (though it is much more expensive for visitors), so that would have created more incentive for a "working retirement" (which, to me, is an oxymoron). But there are many other benefits to this city that, perhaps, I don't know about but would enjoy. And, in spite of what you might think, it gets rather cold here in Vegas... and often quite windy.
Let me be honest, I don't like big cities. I like small cities and towns. I spent the first 91/2 years of my life in a small town and the next 8 in a small city. They suit me. Traffic is lighter; life is less complicated and cheaper.
We all have different needs and wants. Some like having more entertainment and fine arts than are available in smaller cities and towns. But I am not one of them. I am a homebody and golf is the closest thing I have to a passion or obsession.
Different strokes... as the old saying from the 60's goes.
Isn't it strange? This wintery storm hitting the nation seemingly argues against Global Warming. Many might be puzzled by this cold weather this late in the year, thinking it contradicts all that noise about how the planet is warming. Well, it really doesn't. And that's probably one of the reasons the environmentalists and others have taken to using "Climate Change" in place of Global Warming.
I am one of those who might be called a "denier" when it comes to Climate Change. But my skepticism is only about the cause, or the primary cause, of Climate Change. And I dislike the idea that we can do much about it. My opinion is that we should try to adapt to it. That we should concentrate on how we can use it to our benefit rather than worry about how terrible it might be.
I have written about this before. A few times, actually, just search the blog for "climate change" to see what I wrote. I may not know much about science but that has never stopped me from having an opinion. I am not alone in that, look at all those Hollywood celebrities who speak like they are experts about issues. The only difference between them and me is the size of our bank accounts and the number of people who idolize us. I have no fan club, just opinions.
If the planet is warming, weather will get weird. The differences in warm and cold areas are a major factor in weather. So, yes, Climate Change can be expected to make weather even more unpredictable than it already is. But many of the dire predictions by the Climate Change advocates haven't come true. We haven't had the rise in sea levels, nor the increase and intensity of storms, that seemed to be the main threats. We may yet see these happen but, so far, nothing.
Many of the deniers (most of whom only, like me, deny that human activity is the primary driver of it) point to the reported lack of temperature increase in the last decade. I would expect that the possible temperature increase would not be linear.
I read a couple of headlines the other day that said that Climate Change may shift wine making regions around. Well, duh! If France's wine regions get too warm, the grapes will be of poor quality. Fine wine requires a certain, fairly stable, climate. France may lose its place as a primary wine producer. To New Zealand... or even (gasp!) the British Isles.
You see, Climate Change will shift "normal" temperatures around. Some places that are cold will become warm. Agriculture will become more common in places where it once had a very short season. We should expect that and adapt to it. It is not really a disaster. It is opportunity.
I pick up a USA Today and sit down to eat my breakfast burrito at the casino cafe and what do I see? Annette Funicello has died. Annette was a Mouseketeer and the heartthrob of so many pre-adolescent, and adolescent boys in the 50's.
She sang adequately and wasn't a very good actress but you can bet she was a major draw at the box office when I was in my teens. Those Beach Party movies weren't great cinema but they certainly made money for Disney. I and many of my friends willingly put up our purloined money to watch the eye candy (of which Annette definitely was a part). We could easily ignore the silly plots in order to view the bikini-clad babes.
Like most of the Disney child stars of those years, she had a pristine reputation.
Good-bye, Annette, you had no idea how many of my dreams you starred in.
I was doing fine until yesterday. Then I found that I had to rely on my tablet to write a post. Let's just say it didn't work out so well. The tablet's keyboard (a virtual one) is difficult for an accomplished typist but a complete disaster at the fingertips of one such as I. And Blogger's editor is less than tablet friendly. At least for me.
We stayed at a less than stellar Comfort Inn in a place called Moriarty, NM, on Saturday night. Double beds, tiny bath tub, and no cell coverage to speak of. Fortunately, we were expected at Faye's brother's house in Prescott Valley (Arizona) on Sunday afternoon. And we made it... after a stop at an out of the way Indian Casino. Indian Casinos are the Red Man's revenge. But this one didn't know that. It was a pleasant place that allowed Faye to win nicely. Not a great amount but enough to treat her brother, his wife, his daughter and her daughter to a nice Mexican Meal.
The next day, we found our way on the worst paved highways and interstates I have seen in years. Rough, patchy, and just poorly maintained. And full of big rigs. And, to top it off, very windy. I mean 30-40 MPH windy... a cross wind, to boot. And even some rain. I've been through worse but it was a few decades ago. Did I mention it was also cold? Not inside the car, of course, but you have to stop for gas sometime.
Still, we managed to get to Vegas without crashing and burning or breaking down on the side of the road. And it was well worth it. 3 nights in a comped room in the New York New York cannot be scoffed at. Ok, so Faye likes to gamble... but there are perks.
Still, I am a bit exhausted after the drive. Anyone out there from Texas? Can you explain to me why the state highways are designated "FM" and the number? I cannot seem to find the answer online.
North Korea is rattling nuclear sabers, the Obama administration is ignoring them and sending an anti-missile system to Guam (one wonders why it did not already have one?), Obama is going to take a "pay cut" of 5% of his salary (about $20,000) for the year 2013, he claims, SecDef Hagel will give up 2 weeks pay, and Biden is waiting for the sequester to impact his staff before he does anything.
The rest of us are already feeling the pinch and I think the Obama administration should unilaterally cut the administration's salary budget and eschew vacations this year. Hey, he's the one who thought up this game (sequestration), he ought to set an example.
On the social front, a judge has ordered that age should not be a criteria for buying the "Morning After Pill". The Obama administration had already mandated that anyone over 17 could buy the pills but a lawsuit resulted in the judge's ruling. So, if this holds up, potentially pregnant 14 year-olds will be able to take this post-coital contraception without having to tell mommy and/or daddy that she's been shagging her acne-laced boyfriend. A real step forward, eh?
NASA is planning a landing on a steroid in 2021. Cool. Or is it "rad?" I don't know. It's a good thing either way. We may really come to need that technology.
And yesterday we got some bad news about unemployment. Well, it was good and bad. It all depends on how it is spun.
Plans have been put into action to gather those items left behind and ship them to our next stop in time for us to have them for the rest of the trip. Whether those plans work out remains to be seen.
We are firmly ensconced in Biloxi in a hotel/casino. Faye is happily gambling and I am happily sitting around in our room, watching TV and playing computer games and reading.
I have noticed there's a big difference in gambling cities. Las Vegas has a better looking clientele than Biloxi. I don't want you to get the impression that Biloxi caters to the toothless and obese trailer park types. Far from it. But they are also way down on the glamorous scale. I have seen a number of wide bottoms with "Juicy" stitched on the denim stretched across them. This is not something one easily spots in Las Vegas... For one thing, the writing is much smaller and the letters closer together there.
On any given trip, I forget to bring things. Mostly easily replaceable items that I can pick up at the nearest WalMart or other fine store; my electric razor, comb, or other small toiletry item. This time, it wasn't just me and the items are not easily replaceable. They are clothes. Quite a lot of them. Clothes were were planning on wearing in Las Vegas. And some jackets.
The jackets became important as we stopped briefly at the Mississippi Welcome Center. It was cool and rainy. Jackets would have been useful. This is when we realized how much we had left behind. After the usual point and blame routine, we came to grips with this reality. And the jackets would have been useful at Faye's brother's house in Prescott Valley in Arizona. That place is actually in the high desert and it gets chilly there.
So, no jackets, no hoodie sweatshirt (mine), and none of the clothes Faye planned on wearing in Vegas.
We can only hope that Frannie can pack up the clothes and ship them to Faye's brother's house in time.
Well, we survived the first 7 hours on the Great American Freeway. A small accomplishment to some, I'm sure, but I no longer commute to and from work. Journeys on the interstates are obviously fraught with danger. The "bitter clingers" were out in force, as were the clustering folks and the same old wandering semis. I probably haven't mentioned the wandering semis before.
A wandering semi is that huge tractor-trailer rig that can't seem to avoid keeping the trailer in his lane. For the most part, this is not a big problem... unless you happen to be alongside at the time. It is scary to glance to your right (or left) and notice nothing but a large box made of metal seemingly inches from your car. And there never seems to be a good escape from it. It gets really bad on 6 lane interstates when you are the "meat" in a semi sandwich.
I try not to panic in those situations because panic rarely helps. And, really, what can you do?
As I approach the beginning of the journey to San Diego (and, hopefully, back), I do so with serenity and calm. I have no choice in the matter beyond insisting on driving rather than flying. Faye has provided for our trip in logistics (planning and packing and arranging some of the stop-overs) and so I have little to do beyond mentally preparing myself for dealing with traffic and long days of driving.
Since I do not mind driving long distances, it is not difficult to prepare. Cruise control prevents the dreaded "dead foot"; a malady that afflicted most of us back in the olden days. On long drives in those days, I would switch feet on the gas pedal from time to time. Have you ever tried to use your left foot on the gas pedal? It is not easy. And it is not comfortable. I would twist myself around so my right foot was up on the transmission hump (these were also the days before front wheel drive was common), my back was almost up against the driver's door, and I was sort of sideways in the seat. Since bench seats in the front were the norm, this was easier than it sounds.
These days, however, I set the cruise control for 5 MPH above the speed limit and try to avoid being run over. I will now burn a new MP3 CD for the trip. Some songs that Faye will likely not appreciate but will keep me awake.
I was driving home yesterday morning after filling my gas tank, getting the car washed, and vacuuming it out. As I left the Burger King with breakfast, this song came on the radio...
The DJ commented that "It's lonely at the bottom, too." Something I always knew but never had expressed.
A verse in the song really hit me:
I had the wind in my sails and she took it I had the world by the tail and she shook it I reached out for a lifeline and she threw me a noose I got the short end of the chicken and She got the golden goose
Ok, it was this line, not the verse:
I reached out for a lifeline and she threw me a noose
Sometimes, a line like that just sums up an ex-wife... My ex was born on April 1st but I was the fool.
And today? Well, today Faye and I head out for the annual excursion to San Diego (via Biloxi and Las Vegas). Oddly, I am looking forward to this.