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.

Thursday, July 31, 2014


 I found a lovely piece of spam in my spam folder the other day...

It looked like this:

  Registration Confirmation View Online Logo
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Dear Darrell,

Thank you for registering and welcome to the York Technical College Bookstore! We have everything you need to succeed in school -- and to show off your school spirit.

To access your account, just visit our website, click Login/Sign Up at the top of the page and enter your username and password.

Your user name (email address):

Now that you're all set on our website, why not register here to receive e-mails from us, too? You'll receive promotions, updates, discounts and more.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us at (803) 327-8011 or email

Thanks for choosing York Technical College Bookstore!
  B&N CollegeYork Technical College Bookstore
452 South Anderson Road
Rock Hill, SC 29730
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barnes & noble college 120 Mountainview Boulevard Basking Ridge, NJ 07920
 So I replied with this:

I never signed up and do not want to receive anything from you.
To my surprise, I received a reply:
"Dear Darrell,
       We apologize for any problems this may have caused. If you would like to stop the emails, there is an 'Unsubscribe' button at the bottom of the original email. If you click that you should stop receiving emails.
Best Regards,
York Tech. Bookstore Staff.

York Technical College Bookstore
Barnes and Noble #032
Phone: 803.981.7293
Fax: 803.325.2895

I was amused. Those who know me know my name is not "Darrell" but "Douglas" but I ignored that. After I sent the reply to them, I unsubscribed from all future mailings from them.

It is obvious to me that it is BARNES & NOBLE who started this and is engaging in spamming. This saddens me a bit because I thought legitimate businesses did not stoop this low. I am obviously naive.

And, so, I replied to their reply with these words:

"Then your organization is engaging in fraud to entice registrants through SPAM. Disgusting"
Just thought I would pass this on to my readers and let you decide if you wish to do any business with  BARNES & NOBLE

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Cell Phone Confusion

We (Faye and I) purchased a Lincoln  last week, as I told you last week. But, of course, that wasn't the end of the story. With a new car purchase (as with any major purchase) there are things that happen afterward. Things like learning the idiosyncrasies of the new vehicle and dealing with communication needs. The Lucerne had OnStar, which Faye used to make the occasional phone call. Fords and Lincolns do not use OnStar and, therefore, we (meaning "I") needed to come up with some kind of replacement system.

In my Focus, I simply used the Bluetooth connection my cell phone and the Focus supported. That seemed like the ideal way to deal with the communication issue I had with the Lincoln. So I ambled to the local Walmart and purchased a "GoPhone." Not a smartphone, just what they call a feature phone. They are cheap and work well for this purpose. You see, all Faye needed was a way to make hands-free phone calls. She did not need apps or anything fancy like that.

I worked for AT&T for 34 years... you would think I would know something about phones. And I do... but not what I needed to know about Bluetooth and phones that use it.

The phone I bought had Bluetooth capability but it did not have it turned on. I found that and enabled it. Then I learned that I needed to turn something called "visibility" on because that, too, was disabled by default. These two things made the phone discoverable by the vehicle. But it still didn't work right. It would find the phone but then the phone would ask if I wanted to "sync" with the system in the car. And, after answering that in the affirmative, it wanted to know if it should share the addressbook with the system. It took me a few days to figure out how to make that automatic. It turned out that I needed to look under "Devices", find "SYNC" and then configure an option that said "Always connect."

That made it work the same as my other cell phone which only needed to be told to "Auto-sync."

I hate it when phones are smarter than me. And I really hate that the terminology they use is not standardized.

And, in addition, the door from the house to the garage decided to act up, prompting me to have to call a locksmith to fix it. Of course, no locksmith could come out until Monday so it was two days of using the handheld garage door openers and the front door.

I did not have a good weekend.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

We're All Going To Die!

And, of course, it's all our fault. It isn't clear in this article if humans will be wiped out in this "mass extinction" but perhaps...

The article, at one point, states:
The planet's current biodiversity, the product of 3.5 billion years of evolutionary trial and error, is the highest in the history of life. But it may be reaching a tipping point.

In a new review of scientific literature and analysis of data published in Science, an international team of scientists cautions that the loss and decline of animals is contributing to what appears to be the early days of the planet's sixth mass biological extinction event.

Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.

I have to wonder... just how are we doing this? Or, in other words, just what is causing this reduction in populations?

The article says:
Since 1500, more than 320 terrestrial vertebrates have become extinct. Populations of the remaining species show a 25 percent average decline in abundance. The situation is similarly dire for invertebrate animal life.

The article says the large vertebrates show the greatest decline. It attributes this to humans basically crowding them out. That is, we are expanding rapidly and, in so doing, are shrinking their available habitats. That's understandable. But it could blow back on us... for example...

"Where human density is high, you get high rates of defaunation, high incidence of rodents, and thus high levels of pathogens, which increases the risks of disease transmission," said Dirzo, who is also a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. "Who would have thought that just defaunation would have all these dramatic consequences? But it can be a vicious circle."

Most of the mass extinctions in history have come from huge meteors or the eruptions of super-volcanos. But, this time, it's US (human beings) at fault. I disagree... a little.

While I agree that our encroachment on the habitats of animals is an important, even major, factor in the reduction of many species I do not agree that we are in the beginning stages of a Mass Extinction. I think we are a part of nature, part of the fauna on the planet, and are just doing what any species does; expanding our habitat. We are the "dominant species" now.  We have always done this... and likely always will. No other species cares whether its actions impacts its fellow species (and we once didn't) but they have impacted other species. Nature, for the most part, kept that impact down. A species which grows too large in number displaces others... which sometimes affects its own ability to expand and which can then cause their own species to contract. We are doing that (expanding our habitat) and have been for millions of years.

We started as a small population in a very large world. We have grown enormously over the ages. This naturally displaces other species and probably caused numerous species extinctions. It is only recently that the idea that this is bad has become mainstream. Maybe only recently have we even bothered to notice.

But don't worry, our own actions may prove to be the regulation factor in our population size. The article talks about an increase in rodent population, for example, which could increase the number of pathogens which could, naturally, kill a large number of us off. Science, however, will try to combat these pathogens and reduce the impact. This could result in our maintaining (or even increasing) our numbers.

Seems to me that perhaps science ought to consider that it is at the heart of our problems and stop doing what they have been doing. Let us dwindle in size as we once did through plagues (mostly) and natural disasters.

Join me! Become a Neo-Luddite and save the planet!

Monday, July 28, 2014


I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
Nearly reach the sky,
Then like my dreams,
They fade and die.
Fortune's always hiding,
I've looked everywhere,
I'm forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air.
We've seen "bubbles" a few times. Few of us notice them when they are growing, only when they "pop." I am speaking of economic bubbles here. They are useful economic devices, these bubbles, but very dangerous. Creating, or expanding (by encouraging), a bubble can bring an economy back from a recession or out of a doldrum.  Those that recognize a bubble can benefit financially from it. Most of us don't. Most of us eventually get hurt by the collapse of one. 

Take the real estate bubble of a few years ago. I took advantage of it when it inflated the price of my home in West Palm Beach. It paid for my house here in Paradise when I sold it. The false equity did, that is. What is "false equity?" That would be the amount of equity above what a "normal" market price would offer. Let's say you bought a house in 1993 for $120,000 (as I did), that home would be worth $161500 in 2005 in a "normal" market. Except we were in a real estate bubble in 2005 and the home was worth more than twice that amount. After we bought our home here, of course, its value dropped quite a bit  when the real estate bubble "popped" but that would only matter if we tried to sell the house... something we did not  (and do not) plan to do.

Timing is everything. While I was still in West Palm Beach, a co-worker told me how he was making money on the side... by being part of a group of people who speculated in real estate. It was a great idea... as long as the bubble was growing in size. But all bubbles eventually burst, just as they did when we were little kids. And when this bubble broke, this co-worker and his group  saw their fortunes dwindle.... rapidly.

Like all things in a market; it's buy low, sell high to make money. The time to get out is before the bubble deflates. The big problem is recognizing just when that is. I got lucky with real estate, many others did not. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I Goofed!

I made a mistake the other day, I had Faye follow me to the local Ford dealership where I had an appointment to get an oil change (a free one). I shouldn't have. I should have just gone there and called her to pick me up when I dropped off the Focus.

But, I didn't. And she pulled up in front of the dealership, a salesman chatted her up and started showing her a Lincoln MKS. For those of you who are not up on these things, the MKS is a gussied up Ford Taurus which has a Lincoln logo emblem and nicer (and more expensive) options available.

Of course she fell in love with it. And, of course, we ended up buying it. I knew this was coming. So it is really my fault.

Still, I like the car and am glad we bought it. It has all the "bells and whistles", including remote start and rain sensor windshield wipers and air-conditioned (
and heated) seats in front.   There's the back up camera, the parking sensors, Blind Spot Warning, and much more. I hate buying cars because of what has to be done afterward. Not to mention it takes hours to finish the paperwork. Just getting my Sunpass account configured for the new car was a pain. Her Lucerne used a barcode windshield sticker for that purpose but I bought a new device to replace it. Activating that wasn't hard but I found that my two cars were not on the same account (even though I had requested the Sunpass people do that many months ago... when I purchased my Focus). They promised that would be done this time... in 5-7 business days...but I am not holding my breath. I have no faith, I suppose. But, this time, getting the insurance transferred was simple. And then I worked up a sweat (not hard to do here in July) configuring the built-in garage door opener. I still have to pick up a bluetooth enabled phone to replace her old OnStar setup and get that established on the system.

I came home from golf yesterday to hear complaints about the car not "remembering" her seat position. I got her straightened out on that. She thought just having the "magic" key (it's one of those push button start things) with her would somehow make that happen. I explained, and demonstrated, how it actually worked. All she had to do was push the start button and the seat would adjust to her pre-sets. Then she could easily step on the brake and press the start button again to start the car. You have to step on the brake before the car will start. Otherwise the car just turns on accessory power.

The next few months will be a learning experience for both of us. With me doing the most learning, I figure.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Aren't Ads Annoying?

Not just the ads you see on TV (the number 1 reason I DVR everything... so I can fast forward through them) but internet ads as well. Extremely annoying. And they use data collected from each of us to tailor the ads to suit our "profiles." Which explains why I see so many ads for golf instruction and equipment.

But they have gone too far. One of my favorite sites is jigzone, a site that offers a daily jigsaw puzzle. It's useless now because of ads. Ads that I cannot block with the ad blocking app that I use on Firefox. I do not know how they are getting around the adblocker but they are doing it. Here are the filters I have added to combat them:*.swf*****

You will, no doubt, notice that there are repetitions. This is because what works one day does not work the next. And the ads interfere with the usability of the puzzle. At times I cannot even move a puzzle piece and must close the browser and re-access the page. The fault may lie with Java or Flash, whichever is used, but I no longer care. And the page owners are concerned with their privacy. So much so that I could not learn who owns the site. Apparently, they had a company that specializes in keeping site owners secret register the site for them. So I cannot write to them and complain.

It's too bad. I will miss going to that site.

Or would have... Wouldn't you know that the day this is to be posted that I take one more look at the page and, voila, no ads pop up?

And now they are back. So, it's into the "junk pile" of unwanted web sites, Jigzone goes! And stays!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


I watch a lot of TV. I think possibly too much TV. But, I rationalize, I don't pay all that much attention to whatever I am watching... most of the time. The exceptions are shows that demand my attention (usually crime shows) to details of the story. The rest I watch while playing solitaire, or doing crossword puzzles, on my tablet. I have a short attention span, I suppose.

Anyway, I wrote a post in which I talked about programming robots and humans not long ago. And now there is a TV show which has that as a part of it. The show is called "Extant" and it is better than I thought it would be. I figured, at first, that it would simply be a showcase for Halle Berry's talents (or "ta-tas") but I was wrong. It is that, of course, but it also has a character that fits right in with my take on human/robot programming. That character is "Ethan", an android (called a "humanich" in the show) that serves as a kind of surrogate son to Halle Berry and her husband on the show. The husband (a brilliant scientist, of course) created Ethan as a prototype and an experiment.  And there is a sub-plot surrounding the husband's experiments... all tied into, I suspect, whatever is happening to Ms Berry's character.

There is an interesting (but not well thought out or explored) exchange when someone asks the husband what plans he has to terminate the Ethan experiment (and, therefore, Ethan) if the experiment begins causing problems (meaning if Ethan becomes hostile and violent toward humans... did these people not read "I, Robot?").

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

For most of my life, I lived (as my peers did) in fear of the Soviet Union. The Cold War, they called it. It wasn't all that cold, though, not for the countries who were  "in the way", who could be used by one side to goad the other. During the Cold War, dictators and despots were wooed as were those that opposed them.  It was how the game was played. Over it all, the threat of nuclear annihilation loomed. Because both sides had enough nuclear weapons to destroy life on earth many times over.

Movies were made about that threat, songs were written about it, it was a part of life. The allegedly sanest of us just shoved it into the back of their minds and pretended it didn't matter. And, in a sense, it didn't. After all, there was little anyone could actually do about that threat. We were at the mercy of politicians, the leaders of both the "Free World" and the communists.

Now we face a different threat, one that will (eventually) have that same threat of nuclear annihilation hanging over our heads. This time though, I think, the threat will come in the form of fanatical extremists who glorify death; that want what we call Armageddon.

This song was one of my favorites.

And these are the words...

"Political Science"

No one likes us-I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money-but are they grateful?
No, they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us-so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them

Asia's crowded and Europe's too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada's too cold
And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

We'll save Australia
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo
We'll build an All American amusement park there
They got surfin', too

Boom goes London and boom Paree
More room for you and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh, how peaceful it will be
We'll set everybody free
You'll wear a Japanese kimono
And there'll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let's drop the big one now
Let's drop the big one now

Welcome to my world...

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Danger Of Cooperation

The following is a re-print of a post from August of 2011, I think it is still relevant...

Some people don't like partisanship. Quite a few, actually. That might be the wrong position to hold.

Political partisanship can be a problem. It's difficult to reach a compromise when there is a lot of that. On the other hand, compromise is not always a good thing. I refer you to the several compromises made in the decades leading up to the Civil War as examples. The ultimate goal of these compromises was to avert the disintegration of the United States. They failed, in a sense. All they accomplished was to delay the inevitable Civil War. And that could have made the war worse than if it had happened 20 years earlier.

There are times when compromise is impossible. When it would be the same as capitulation. Principles have to be violated in order to compromise. It doesn't start out that way, of course, the idea is to give up only that which is unimportant to you while getting the opposition to give up that which is important to them. Compromise is simple if one side is weak. Compromise is hard if both sides are firm in their principles.

I read a lot of political articles and the comments they generate. The Democrats want the Republicans to go away, to disappear, or (at the very least) just not impede the goals of the Democrats. Likewise, I see Republicans advocating the end of the Democratic Party. There is no chance of compromise in that kind of environment. Any compromise would require one side to cede power to the other.

If I align with a political party, it is because that party represents the principles I strongly believe in. Why would I want that party to violate any of them? Why would I want it to cede power to the opposition? I wouldn't. Nor would the opposition.

We call that partisanship. It's actually a good thing. It is part of the foundation of our system of governance. Of any form of multi-party democratic system. It helps prevent any one ideology from getting too much power.

Dictatorships consolidate power by outlawing, or marginalizing, any opposing party. Look at China, look at the former Soviet Union, look at the rise of Mussolini and Hitler. They gained enough power to outlaw all other political parties. Before that happens, they gain control or the sympathies of the dominant part of the media. Constant repetition of the party line encourages the party in power and attracts more adherents. We are, after all, herd animals for the most part. We also like to jump on bandwagons. Watch the crowds at stadiums and political rallies swell as the teams improve their records and political candidates rise in the polls.

It is why you read and see/hear about political polls. It's akin to the advertising strategy that portrays a product as wildly popular. The more popular a product is deemed to be, the more popular it becomes. Or, as my mother used to put it... "Them that has, gets."

We do not want a single party system. We do not want one party to be wildly popular, much more popular than any opposition party. Too much power will adhere to that party.

It is better that we have constant bickering, political arguing, and even gridlock than have cooperation that leads to one party becoming dominant.

At least, that's how I see it.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Perhaps You Are Wondering...

Why I have been skipping posting from time to time. It's not because I have been busy. It's mostly because I am lazy. And I haven't had a decent (or even indecent) idea lately that would translate into a post.

That's not quite true, I distinctly recall having a good idea Tuesday evening while preparing to go to dinner with a few friends. Unfortunately, I did not write it down and I can no longer remember it. Blame it on age. Or blame it on laziness. You see, I could have taken just a moment to write it down somewhere but didn't.

And then nothing at all came to mind yesterday but I thought I might try to explain why with a post today.

I will be out playing golf today. It will be hot, sweaty, and I will probably play poorly.  That's pretty much what we put up with here in Paradise. I think back to my early youth when my family first moved to south Florida and we had no air conditioning. And I wonder how we survived the summers. Maybe it was because I was young and the heat didn't bother me as much as it does now. Maybe. In fact, I didn't like air conditioning then. Not in most places. They would set the thermostats to too low a temperature and I would get the chills. To this day, I think it made me sick.... fooling my body into thinking I had a cold because I would be in and out of the air conditioning in the bowling alley (where I hung out in my mid-teens) regularly. And the motels I hung out at had to be set at 72 which I thought was freezing at the time. Still do in a way.

I set my house thermostat to 78 degrees and it seems just fine most of the time, though it sometimes feels a little chilly.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What Border?

We are hearing (and seeing) a lot about illegal aliens these days, primarily because of these children (mostly from Central America) who have flooded across the border in the past few months.  So it's sort of "old news."  But I read something today which bothers me a bit.  Let me give you something from that article in the USA Today...

Vargas, 33, became an immigration sensation in 2011 when he revealed that he was an undocumented immigrant in an essay published in The New York Times Magazine.

Vargas was born in the Philippines and was raised in the U.S. from the age of 12. He was on a team of Washington Post journalists who won a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for their coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings.

Basically, this guy has been flouting our immigration laws for decades. And, since 2011, he has been known to authorities... yet, no one has detained him before? And no one has fined the Washington Post (though it is possible the Post did not know of his status). My question on that would be: Did anyone in authority even ask them about him?

From the story:
Vargas was in McAllen (Texas) to visit a shelter for undocumented children, to attend a vigil in their honor, and to raise awareness of the plight of the undocumented. Last week he wrote in Politico that he learned after he arrived in McAllen he might have a problem getting out.

So, instead of leaving in a way that might allow him egress without passing through a checkpoint, he strode through the airport intentionally...

It turns out he had been to the border before (in California) and had never had his status questioned. Well, DUH, it was California... and he was a reporter, why would anyone bother him with questions of his status?

Big mistake on his part... Apparently, though he had been in the country since he was 12 years old, he didn't grasp the idea that we have a lot of individual states and that what is okay in one may not be okay in another. That California (which has an illegal immigrant problem of some size) might ignore him, Texas might not. On the other hand, though he claimed that he didn't know they checked status at airports in Texas, he might have wanted to be "caught" in order to get some of what we used to call "newsprint" (but now mumble something about "15 minutes of fame").

I wonder what slant his raising of awareness of the illegal immigrant was taking? Was he concerned about their welfare? Did he want pictures of the conditions in which they are now living? Or was he merely exploiting them in a search for some personal attention?

Speaking of those kids, I heard someone (Bob Beckel) talk about how poorly the Central Americans were treated by some large American conglomerates. That was a long time ago. Which immediately made me wonder... If American represented such evil to them, why would they happily send their children off to that evil country? In fact, why would anyone in those countries think they would not be exploited there?

 Makes no sense to me...

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Thoughts On The Civil War

Forget, for the moment, that the term "civil war" is an oxymoron and let's think about the war itself.

I came across an op-ed piece in the Washington Post a few days ago that triggered some pondering. I have pondered the Civil War many times over the years... as I am sure many others have. My perspective is influenced, I think, by having lived in both the North and the South.

That bi-polar experience has taught me that many of the differences the war was fought over weren't all that real. Oh sure, the northern states had all outlawed slavery but that was not the sole issue upon which the war was fought. I have come to believe the war was really fought over the concept of a unified nation; slavery was just something to use as a recruitment tool, you might say; a cause to fight for.

When my family moved to Florida, I thought the issue that triggered the war was slavery. That was what I had been taught. But seeing the virulent racism around me in Florida changed me. The de jure segregation I saw reminded me that there was de facto segregation in my home state. The only real difference was that, in the southern states, it was written down. In the northern states, it was just assumed.

The nation, as a whole, embraced slavery at its beginnings. Slavery was legal in most of the newly formed states. Let me quote from Wikipedia:

"During and after the American Revolutionary War, between 1777 and 1804, anti-slavery laws or constitutions were passed in every state north of the Ohio River and the Mason-Dixon Line. By 1810, 75 percent of all African Americans in the North were free. By 1840, virtually all African Americans in the North were free." (emphasis mine)

Much of the impetus behind anti-slavery laws was economic-driven. That is, as the northern states turned away from an agrarian culture, the need to employ slaves waned. The southern states retained an agrarian culture and, therefore, thought they needed slavery to prosper.

I have come to believe that our Civil War was really fought over the concept of union as a nation; a concept that said the states were merely a part of a nation, not nations in and of themselves. In the early years of the country, people tended to think of themselves in terms of the state they lived in (and, most likely, born in); they were Kentuckians, Tennesseans, Ohioans, New Yorkers, and so on. As the northern states evolved into less agrarian cultures and more urban, they began to see themselves as more enlightened, more advanced. They began to look down on those who had stayed agrarian. This doesn't breed amity but does breed enmity.

I think civil war was inevitable as a part of our evolution.  Not because of the rightness of the anti-slavery movement but because we had regions that were diverse and because of our self-images as members, citizens, of sovereign states. We needed to resolve that issue and war was bound to be the method, as it so often is.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Perhaps I Shouldn't...

Peruse the internet ads... specifically the ones for computer stuff. But I like stuff. Especially the little doodads and thingamajingies we can attach to
(or put into) our computers.

I used to put computers together for a hobby of sorts. Mostly, I decided at one point that I could put a computer together from purchased parts for a lower price than buying one from a store or online. Did you know that, at one time, there was no internet and no place online to buy parts? Back in those "bad old days" we relied on what were called "computer stores."

Even so, there were companies that operated as mail order that served much the same purpose as online stores do today. Bulk mail delivery of catalogs showed up often in my physical mailbox. Possibly operating out of their garages, these entrepreneurs offered all sorts of things at prices much lower than you could find in retail stores locally... Even when you factored in shipping costs.

Today, of course, I get numerous emails that are mini-catalogs. These often remind me of the phenomenon of electronics pricing. Not only are TVs and stereos cheaper (and have more features and look and sound better) but so are those parts I used to buy for my computers. I once paid $500 for a hard drive which had a grand total of 512 megabytes of storage! It was, then, a cheap price. Today, I got an e-catalog that offered a 512 gigabyte solid state drive (these are really fast) for just over $200 and a 3 terabyte hard drive (the ones with spinning disks) for $115.

I can no longer, however, put together a computer for cheaper than I can buy one.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Culture And Man

Please note that "Man" in the title is generic.

"I think morality is a collective illusion, genetic in origin, that makes us good cooperators."

Every once in awhile, I read something in the NY Times that appeals to me. Thus the quote and link above. As a person fooling himself into thinking he is a philospher of sorts (an uneducated one, that is), I ponder the concept of morality from time to time. Perhaps we all do from time to time... For instance, when we read about an exceptionally depraved crime.

When we read of depravity, we tend to see it as an abberation. And it is that, of course. Because I think that culture defines morality. And culture is what sets norms or standards of behavior. It also provides the basis for these, usually on religious grounds.

Back in the Sixties, in what I call my adult formative years (I think we have several periods wherein we form various concepts about life, culture, and reality), there was a general feeling among my chosen peers (and we do choose who we see as peers, don't we?) that things were not "black or white" but that morality was a seemingly infinite array of shades of gray. I have since rejected that idea but I pretty much bought into it at the time. 

I also believe that we indoctrinate our children in whatever morality our society has. I began believing that when I was quite young, perhaps five or six years of age, after learning the words of the Pledge of Allegiance. I thought about those words as I pondered the oath inherit in them. A pretty strong oath, I thought. One I felt most children were not equipped to truly understand at such a young age. One I thought would be difficult to adhere to for me.

It seems to be simple and direct:

I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I learned it as "to the flag" as a child of five in a small elementary school in a small town on Long Island.

I do not know if I saw/heard Red Skelton's parsing of the Pledge around the same time but maybe I did and that is what triggered my pondering its meaning. You could say that the Pledge is how we view our country, our society, our culture. When I was taught the Pledge, I was one of 25 or so kindergarteners and I was not taught the meaning of the words or the collective meaning of the Pledge. I would guess neither were any of you.

Perhaps we should teach that and perhaps we should wait until children are old enough to understand
them (if they ever are) and what it means to pledge allegiance to something.

I remember the Pledge each time I see an American flag.

Friday, July 11, 2014

I Could Be A Member

I am not a "joiner" but maybe I should see if this group exists... 

Though I fear that the audience/members's reaction would be the same. Cynical audiences are tough. Which is why you do not often see cynics at a podium... we think there are a lot of cynics out there and we do not want to face them. We also think cynicism is a desirable trait, one which everyone should cultivate, especially when it comes to politicians.

I note that many people do not believe politicians. In fact, they very often say "all politicians lie." And, yet, they vote for them... repeatedly it seems. How else do we get Senators and Congress-critters with 40+ years in office?

Which makes most of us hypocrites.

And there is nothing worse than cynical hypocrites.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


The title has nothing to do with this post. I just like the word... even though I do not understand it. I looked it up just so you won't laugh at me.

North American informal
gerund or present participle: lollygagging
    spend time aimlessly; idle.
    "he sends her to Arizona every January to lollygag in the sun"
        "we're lollygagging along"

It's weird, a "lolly" is a nickname for "lollipop" and one might reasonably think "lollygagging" is choking on a lollipop. Only it isn't. It's something entirely different and it has nothing whatsoever to do with lollipops and everything to do with laziness and sloth. Now, laziness and sloth are terms near and dear to my heart. I have been practicing these from my earliest days.  That's right, I'm a lollygagger. I have always been one. My mother said I was a month late being born. Apparently, I even lollygagged when it came to that. I can't be sure, even though I was there, I don't recall the event.

Over the years, I became quite adept at it... lollygagging, that is, not being born (that came naturally, I suppose).

Everyone is good at something, they say, and lollygagging is my forte'.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Freedom of Speech For Me But Not For Thee

I became engaged in a short conversation with a young woman about freedom of speech. It started with a comment by her that a particular comedian be banned from TV for making some remarks (which the young woman did not elaborate on) about some young girls and refused to apologize for them. I replied to her comment with "And [young woman's screen name] comes out in favor of censorship."

The young woman was perplexed. She asked me what she said that could possibly paint her as favoring censorship. I quoted her words about banning someone from TV. This just further confused her. She explained how she felt justified in her wishes. I explained that those that advocate censorship always justify their advocacy. And in much the same way. She also had said that she was a great supporter of freedom of speech and that was why she was in that forum (presumably so she could exercise it). I asked, in a roundabout way, if she had way to turn off her TV or change the channel? Because, after all, if she did not like what this comedienne said, she was not being forced to listen to her.

I suggested she get educated in what freedom of speech actually means.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Growing Old Is Not For Wimps

That's what my older friends say, anyway. It could be true. I am not all that old yet, though I will be seventy in a couple of years. I think that was once considered old. In my youth it certainly was. Of course, I was too young to appreciate it then. I might still be. Many of my friends are in their late seventies or early eighties. They play golf. They are active... much more so than I. I would be a "couch potato" but I lack a couch. We own three recliners which take/took the place of one couch. I sit in the one on the end, the one next to the small table... so I have a place to put things. Things like a glass of juice or a cup of tea (green tea with honey, lemon, and ginseng)... and cookies, most often, cookies. This is where I watch the idiot box (should that now be "idiot [flat] screen?") and cuss the remote which does not seem to work as well from that angle. I guess you could say I am
a "recliner potato."
From that recliner, I watch the news and shake my head in disgust while mumbling aloud what the politicians should do... and understand that they won't... and at all the stupidity in the world (it was just as stupid when I was young, maybe more so). I also watch the all of the other shows that interest me;  the old movies on TCM, tales of World War II, shows that tell me about life before I existed. And I watch the science shows, which often tell me about life after I will no longer exist. While I watch, I fill in crossword puzzles and play solitaire games on my tablet. I call this "multi-tasking."

This is what my life has been reduced to... watching more than doing. No wonder I'm depressed.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Waging The Good Fight

Seems like a contradiction in terms, does it not?  How can a fight be good? The answer is clear enough; when in defense of honor, country, family, or...  Well, you complete the thought.

Back in 1776, some old men of property (and some owned slaves, mind you) got together to declare independence from the Crown, far across the Atlantic Ocean. Of course, the struggle had already begun. But without real purpose. Mostly operating just on emotion, the rebels were angry but had not yet focused on a goal. That was what the old men of property were about... creating that purpose. They were gambling their fortunes and even their lives on that independence.

Anger at the Mother Country had been building for decades, mostly over taxation. Taxes were imposed by Parliament, far away, and the colonies had no representation there. By today's standards, the taxes were minor but had a major impact on business and the general economy. The economy was rural, as were the people. Oh, there were towns and cities. But we wouldn't call any of the cities actual cities. After all, the population of New York City in 1776 was a mere 25,000 or so. We might see them as towns, through 21st century eyes. And every penny counted, for both the townspeople and the rural folk.

We only numbered about 2.5 million then and most lived away from town... on small farms or in houses built on plots of land with a large garden. Quite rural, perhaps pastoral.

Knowing this, and having been schooled mostly during the 50's, I could not understand what angered enough citizens to do the unthinkable... rebel against royalty; against the status quo, against the country many of the citizens, or their parents or grandparents, had come from. I think they lost a large amount of support when the Crown fought back, trying to crush the rebellion. Could I have done it? Could I have joined in the rebellion?
I cannot ever know the answer to that question.

I should have posted this yesterday, huh?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Right Or Wrong?

We, in the States, have rights that are secured by restrictions on government actions. This is a Good Thing. But I fear it has led to people misunderstanding what rights we have.

 The Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to our constitution) covers Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly, Freedom of Religion, the Right to own and bear arms, the Right to avoid self-incrimination, the Right to a speedy trial, and so on. The Bill of Rights enshrines these by denying the right of government to legislate against them. But that doesn't mean they cannot, or do not, try. (See all amendments.) The Fourteenth Amendment has been ruled to extend the protections/restrictions to the states and local governments.

But what, exactly, is (for instance) the right of Freedom of Speech? If you do not like what someone wants to say can you, as a citizen, refuse to allow them to speak? To a great extent, the answer is "yes." You do not have to put them on the air if you own a radio or TV station, for example. Can you shout them down? Apparently the right to protest allows this, though it seems rude to do it. And the Supreme Court has extended the Freedom of Speech to any and all expression, not just political speech (as I had always thought the Founders meant to protect).

I was driving home from our county's recycling center (where I had dropped off some non-working electronic devices) and had a radio talk show on. The host made a statement about rights. He said (as near as I remember), "Marriage is not a right; it's a rite." which he followed up with something about the government doesn't belong in the marriage business. Something I agree with*, by the way, but for slightly different reasons than those the host provided. But he offered something to think about:

The government provides licenses for business, for driving, to sell alcohol, etc... as well as marriage licenses. And they sometimes take those licenses away... except for marriage... because of wrongdoing. A poor driver who gets a bunch of tickets? We can take your driver's license away. Cheat your customers? We can take your business license away. Sell alcohol to minors?  We can take your liquor license away. But abuse your spouse (repeatedly)? Nope, not unless the spouse demands the license be nullified.

At one time, the only way that license could be nullified was by proving one spouse violated the oaths espoused at the altar (or in the county clerk's office... or at the Justice of the Peace's office) in a court of law.

The host acknowledge the issues of property division (as do I) when the marriage is dissolved. We both recognize that need for government to be involved. But, as I say at that linked post above, that does not require the government to be involved at the time of the marriage's inception... except as a potentially interested party.

What are our rights anyway? What do you think they are? Do you think we have only those rights delineated in the Constitution? Or do you think there are a number of rights that aren't mentioned? Do you have a right to food? To medical care? To housing? Can you offer other rights?

*If you agree with my proposal about civil unions, I urge you to use that link in comments or otherwise tell people about it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

History Of The World

There's a tropical storm (Arthur), the first named storm of the season (which started June 1), it's just off the east coast of Florida.  Hamas celebrated the kidnapping of three Israeli teens who were later found dead. Israel blew up some Hamas leaders in Gaza then a Palestinian teenager was found dead. And Belgium defeated the U.S. in he World Cup.

None of that is important. The other day I recorded "The History Of The World In Two Hours" on the History Channel. And I watched it in two sessions (I was interrupted by Faye wanting to watch some other program we had recorded that night and Faye Must Be Obeyed). The show was quite interesting. It started with the Big Bang (but did not explain how matter moved faster than light in the initial period just after) and brought the viewer all the way up to present day. Lots of interesting stuff. Quite a bit of it was absolutely true with only a smattering of speculation (not labeled as such) tossed in.

The interesting thing in that history is the rise of human beings. It's interesting because I am a human being so I tend to identify with them. I know, I know, there are people insisting we are the cause of Climate Change and it could destroy all life on the planet. I don't agree, however. I think life will continue. In fact, I think human beings will survive. We have had mass extinctions a number of times in the planet's history; wiping out the dominant species or form of life  of the period. Each time, another species or form of life grew to become dominant.

When I was a young and impressionable child, my teachers taught us that the dinosaurs died out because they couldn't adapt to the climate change (ice ages). That was the belief at the time. It would be much later when somone theorized that it might have been a huge meteor crashing into the area just north of what is now called the Yucatan. That theory was not believed until much later when someone discovered evidence of the crater. I thought the earlier belief was a bit silly because the dinosaurs were dominant for 160 million years and man had only been (possibly) dominant for less than 50,000 years. Some might say we have only been dominant for less than 5,000 years. There was no comparison in my mind.

But it was clear that a rapid change in the environment led to the demise of dinosaurs and that humans eventually evolved from the few mammals that existed and survived. Why did these animals survive? Because they could adapt. Not all of them did, of course. And that is the point. If some life survives, it will thrive and it will multiply. Because, after all, the planet is is just close enough to the sun and all the turmoil of the early millions of years of the planet have resulted in an optimum environment for life.

The odds that we could trigger a cataclysmic extinction event seem incredibly small. And, that it would last long enough to wipe out all life is impossible for me to believe. All the ants, all the cockroaches gone forever? Sorry, I doubt that. All human life? Maybe, just maybe. I suspect, though, that some humans would survive and eventually thrive again. Maybe not as the dominant form of life but maybe we will again become dominant.

But that's just me.


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rational Or Irrational?

I like to think I am a rational person. That, in itself, may be irrational. There are times I question my rationality... many times, actually. Currently, I am engaged in a number of "debates" with others on Mother Jones. The story and the comments can be found here. Do you know what the Mother Jones site is about? Have you ever heard of the publication that goes by that name? When I was young, back in the late 60's... in the Dark Ages before the internet came into being... There were some magazines with a left-leaning, radical, tone. Being a liberal at the time, I liked them. I thought they were revealing things that were being suppressed, kept from "the people", as it were. Like many of my peers at the time, I was pretty ignorant. Nothing was really being kept from us but it seemed so. After all, we were embroiled in a war in southeast Asia that was inexplicable. To understand why we were in that war, one would have to understand the history of colonialism, the history of the region, and political policies since the end of WWII. Most of my liberal peers did not have a good grasp of these things but had a good grasp of rumor, paranoia, and all disliked authority. Now they seem enamored of it.

Mother Jones came out of that period. It was radical, it was leftist, it was revolution; in short, it was interesting. As I grew older and changed, I realized it wasn't anything but rabble rousing propaganda from the left. I should say "I began to see it" in that way.

Anyway, I was engaged with a person who felt that jet contrails were part of the problem causing Anthropomorphic (man-made) Climate Change. Commercial aviation is destroying the planet. He was adamant about this. I challenged him on it since contrails are pretty much just condensation. I asked him to provide a link to a site that would explain the issue because I could not find one that took it seriously. He stalled and obfuscated, claiming he would do it "when [he] got home." He is posting on a web site and he can't do a search for websites? Why did he need to be at home? It made no sense.

Eventually, he offered a couple of links. The first of which produced a "page not found" error at the EPA website. The second went here and I laughed myself silly. But he was serious and offended by the fact that I did not read the specific article in his link. Instead, I simply gave him the link to this story.

Whereupon he accused me of having a closed mind because I did not read his linked story.

Maybe I am wrong but I think any website that thinks UFOs exist is a bit irrational and if it further thinks they are attracted to what they call "chemtrails" (you should Google that term) then I would say the site is moved way beyond just irrational.

But I leave it up to you to decide.