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.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A New Old Thought

A thought came to mind the other morning while I was preparing to go out. This seems to be happening more of late than ever before. Perhaps because of my blogging. I get these concepts in my head and then an urge to expand on them so I do.

In any event, the concept was about re-reading books. I realized that I rarely re-read books but that, when I did, I got something different, something new, from them. I have decided that our perspective changes as we grow older and different aspects of a story, or theory, or concept, become important.

I actually first noticed this when I was re-reading some Frederik Pohl novels; the Gateway series, to be exact. The series is about man's discovery of an ancient race called the Heechee (not their real name but what humans called them). And they only discovered artifacts, not the Heechee themselves. That was to come later, much later. I don't want to re-tell the tale, even in summary, but the first time I read it, it was a tale of adventure and space travel mixed with a man's guilt and angst. The second time I read it, I discovered a whole subtext about immortality and what constitutes the "self" or perhaps the soul.

Another take: Souls in Silicon

Well, that popped into my head when the thought of re-reading of books emerged. And, just now, I have related this to my Snippet of Life posts in my mind. I am "re-reading" my life through writing them. And seeing new aspects of it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Robots Are Coming

Robots are coming to a theater near you. Well, not near you... yet. But in Japan, robots are acting on stage in a 20 minute play "Hataraku Watashi" (I, Worker)

Which, to me, evokes "I, Robot", the classical collection of robot short stories by Isaac Asimov. Forget the distorted movie version, read the collection. The Japanese seem to have a fascination for the concept of robots becoming the helpmates of man, the robot actors portray house servants. And that begs the question: would they be the Perfect Slaves? No sense of personal liberty, no desire to be free, no true independent thought. That was the underlying theme of Asimov's series, are these man-made creatures actually sentient beings?

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Last Meme

My thanks to The Jules for laying this on me. He noted that there was no number 10 so I added it because I am a mild OCD type and needed the symmetry. I am not sure what the answers say about me and I am pretty sure I don't want to know...

(appended: This is a "one word" meme)

1. Where is your cell phone? Bureau
2. Where is your significant other? Heart
3. Your hair color? Graying
4. Your mother? Spirit
5. Your father? Memory
6. Your favorite thing? Time
7. Your dream last night? Unfinished
8. Your dream/goal? Nirvana
9. The room you’re in? Parlor
10. Your definition of ugliness? Roadkill
11. Your fear? Irrelevance
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Alive
13. Where were you last night? Abed
14. What you’re not? Incurious
15. One of your wish-list items? Omnipotence
16. Where you grew up? Incomplete
17. The last thing you did? Blog
18. What are you wearing? Shorts
19. Your TV? Flat
20. Your pet? Dead
21. Your computer? Which?
22. Your mood? Cyn-Opti-mistic
23. Missing someone? Yes
24. Your car? Fine
25. Something you’re not wearing? Shoes
26. Favorite store? None
27. Your summer? Sweaty
28. Love someone? Completely
29. Your favorite color? Teal
30. When is the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? *

I am supposed to inflict this on 5 others. Since I think these things should be completely voluntary, I am going to allow you to pick yourselves. Or, better yet, ask your readers to select you.

* The night I had to authorize the removal of my father from the ventilator machine. It cannot be put in one word.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Each year, on the last Thursday of November, the people of the United States celebrate Thanksgiving. This holiday was derived from stories of the Pilgrims giving thanks for surviving a couple of harsh winters and reaping a bountiful harvest that promised that the colony would survive and flourish. There are many conflicting histories of the First Thanksgiving and some like to revel in the many misconceptions and misunderstandings of those early events. I don't. I try to look behind the mythology to the meaning, you might say "soul", of the ritual.

Thanksgiving is about gathering family and friends, it is about appreciating the blessings you have received even in years where perhaps you have also suffered problems, setbacks, or sorrow. It is a time to look in wonder at that silver lining we tend to ignore. It is a time to forgive the slights you've felt from those who should be close to you. It is a time to reach out to family and friends to let them know they are important to you.

And, finally, it is the time to be truly thankful that you are not a turkey.

(image credit: *AngELofREbellion)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Typos or The Keyboard Konspiracy

I hate and love typos. I hate them when I commit them and love them when others do. The internet is rife with them. I blame the keyboards, of course. It cannot be that we are all so klutzy that we just stumble them out. No, can't be that. Nor can it be that we are simply poor typists. It must be a conspiracy on the part of the Keyboards. I say that because certain typos are found all across the internet.

Certain typos are extremely common. I give you "teh", a typo so prevalent that it ought to become a legitimate spelling of "the". Its cousin is any word beginning with "th" at the start of a sentence. As in "THe quick red fox...etc." I notice, ironically, that I never typo the latter as "TEh quick red fox... etc." (I would add "ect" as a common typo but I think some people believe that is the correct abbreviation for "et cetera".)

Typos should not be confused with common misspellings. Typos are the result of minds operating faster than fingers. Misspellings are the result of minds not working. Or dyslexia. But I can't believe that every person who misspells words on a regular basis is dyslexic. No, there are people who are just too lazy to look it up or too arrogant to believe they cannot spell.

Some misspellings bug me greatly. Especially when they violate an easily remembered rule: "i before e except after c, or when sounding like a as in neighbor or weigh." (That would be "neighbour" for those of you in Canada, Australia, and the U.K.) The most common mangling of that seems to be "receive"; a word that is all too often written/typed as "recieve". I am reminded of a large type (as in font) instruction sticker on a printer in my office at work back in the late 70s. It had a line on it which stated:

Set the printer to RECIEVE

This sticker was on every printer hooked up to a phone line in our office. It was likely on every printer hooked up to a phone in offices all over California and parts of Nevada. They were certainly in Pacific Telephone offices throughout the region. yet it seemed I was the only one to notice.

Jsut had to get that off my chest.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Snippet of Life - The Barber Shop

Growing up in a small town was Americana at its best. My father was the owner of the only bicycle shop in town. That made it even better for me, I think. I don't recall anyone making a big deal out of it, my friends never mentioned it. But it was a source of pride to me as I grew a little older. When my father moved the shop from that alley garage to a regular store across the street from the elementary school, it made things simpler for me. After all, I could leave school, cross the street and my journey was ended. Mom was often there, and I'd get to eat at the luncheonette next door from time to time.

The bike shop was like a second home to me. The area became familiar to me as I explored it. The barber shop, with its red, white, and blue striped pole outside, was a few doors north. I had more than a few haircuts there. The barber's name was Joe, I think, as it seems all barbers were called then. I remember him as a shortish, slightly stout, man with dark hair and a small mustache. Probably Italian. Very friendly, always happy to see his customers and seemed to like kids. All the store owners on the block (probably in town)knew each other and were friendly.

There was a ritual to a haircut then. You sat in the chair, the barber wrapped you in that big apron and pinned a ribbon of crepe paper tight around your neck. He trimmed your hair with electric clippers and then scissors. Then he ran the shaving cream machine, which whirred behind you, and applied the warm, almost hot, shaving cream to the back of your neck and behind and in front of your ears. That was a strangely nice feeling. Then he would strop the straight razor for a bit, "thwop, thwop, thwop". The sound was so suitable to the word and the action. And then that delicious feeling of the razor's edge scraping across the skin as it took away the small hairs from your neck and around your ears. It was a sensation that I have never felt anywhere but at a barbershop. Just short of pain, just past a tickle. And then he would slap on the aftershave lotion, which stung just a little but also felt good and smelled neat. Then he'd brush you off, pull off the paper from your neck, and remove the wrap with a swirling motion, and announce, "All done!"

I would leave the shop and walk back to the bike shop, feeling all fresh and a little chilly around the ears, where Mom would "ooh" and "ahh" about how nice I looked.

Monday, November 24, 2008

*&^%)$#! (A Screed on Profanity)

Lately, I have been finding it difficult to go back to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night. At one time, when this would happen, it would be because of noise from outside, or from someone snoring, or someone else being awake and making some noise, but that's less the case now than internal noise. My brain gets noisy. An idea pops into my head, starts sparring with my consciousness and won't back away. So, here I am at 4:30 in the morning pecking away at my laptop trying to defend myself.

The idea was "profanity" and its uses and misuses. It came to me because someone, in a blog, referenced a flash animation called "Dance, Monkey, Dance". It was made from a "slam poem" by Ernie Cline. It is clever, a slightly angry but humorous description of humanity. The flash animation is more effective than the poem itself.

Dance, Monkey, Dance Animation
Dance, Monkey, Dance Poem

It wasn't the poem which invaded my brain and kept me awake, it was a word used repeatedly in the poem, in the flash animation, that was the culprit. It is a four letter word for the act of sexual intercourse. It was once rarely heard, or seen written, in polite society, Certainly not in mixed company. Now, it seems to roll easily off the lips of young teenage girls. It bothers me.

I am not a stranger to this word, I cannot say I don't use it myself. I certainly have and do. But I am consciously trying not to. You see, once that word was very useful for its shock value alone. But it is an addictive word and soon is popping out on a regular basis. The shock value is lessened by overuse. I know, I spent 4 years in the Navy. That word was in constant use. It was in almost every sentence spoken. It was a noun, a verb, and an adjective... often in the same sentence. It's definitely versatile. And it still, even after that, has shock value.

I blame Lenny Bruce. Back in the early 60s, Lenny shocked America with his use of profanity as schtick. It made him wildly popular, both with the public and with the police. He is widely recognized now as a comic genius and he was a great comedian. But he set in motion the idea that profanity wasn't really bad, that it was just words and words that could amuse.

The amusement gave way to utility which led to common use which led to overuse. I am no longer shocked by profanity, I am turned off by it. I see it as the lazy way to make or press a point. It's just too blanking easy to rattle off a profanity than to think of a clever and unique way to get a point across.

I challenge you all to be creative, to think, to use your wit, and avoid profanity.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


While commenting on someone else's blog (Argentum's, of course), I became aware of the Word Verification's odd ability to come up with a nonsense word that almost makes sense, and often in the context of the theme of the article upon which I am commenting. Sorry about the convolution of that last sentence but it came out that way and I am leaving it in.

Just today, I was leaving a comment (again, on Argentum's) and I was offered a beautiful, almost magical verification word: "spong". It has taken root in my brain, pushed all other thoughts into some cubicle over there on the left side so I could play with it freely on my left.

Now, I must come up with some definition for the word. What is a "spong" anyway? It seems to be a sound or maybe some kind of coiled spring thingy or maybe something that almost soaks things up but not quite.

I definitely could use some help here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


The title is a new acronym. It stands for Yet Another Blog To Follow and should be pronounced "yah but if" and said fast. I coined this today in response to finding myself with 5 tabs open in Firefox and about to open another by clicking on YABTF. I expect this acronym will eventually take over the internet within a few days or be forgotten by, oh, Monday. I figure, if it catches on, there will be 200+ blogs with that in the name. But I am still betting on Gone By Monday.

I am not a trendsetter.

Plug in that Magazine

I have, on occasion, subscribed to a number of magazines. Most have been because I was new to a hobby or cultivating a new interest. The most prominent of these were golf and photography magazines. More often, I would browse the magazines on the newsstand and purchase one that had an article of interest to me.

I was reading a photography magazine one time while visiting my parents back in the 70s. I was getting into photography and wanted to learn about techniques, lighting, framing subjects, and the "nuts and bolts" of the discipline. I tried to engage my father in a discussion about photography because I knew he had once had a strong interest in it, though he hadn't done much in many years. He said a strange thing to me. He told me magazines weren't of much use, that they were mostly big advertisements for products. Of course, like many of the things he told me, it took some time to sink in. But he was right.

Since then, I cannot look at a magazine in any way other than as some kind of advertising scheme. Well, except for news magazines and I have begun to wonder about them too.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Today is the 110th anniversary of Rene Magritte's birth. If you are not familiar with his work, you should be. His work so impressed me that, when I was dabbling in the art of painting, I copied one of his works. Alas, it looked like a copy. And a poor one at that.

"My painting is visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question 'What does that mean'? It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable."

René Magritte

Thursday, November 20, 2008


The following is something I never would have thought of doing until I saw it done by others. Since public humiliation seems to popular and others get away with it, I see no reason why I cannot join in. There is a sort of catharsis in examining yourself. It might also lead to suicide but that's a risk I found acceptable here.

The blank for for this can be found at: The Silent Podium

– Name: Douglas - There's more but I don't think about it. This is enough.
– Birth date: Baby Boomer, first year edition. Share the precise date with a famous person.
– Birthplace: Hospital. Oh, you mean city or somesuch. Copiague, NY
– Current Location: SouthWest Central Florida. A beautiful place everyone else should forget exists.
– Eye Color: Brown
– Hair Color: Predominantly Brown, bits of gray... more each day, it seems.
– Height: 5'11" (180.34 cm or 1.8034 m) last time I checked. They say we shrink, I say we adjust the tapes.
– Righty or Lefty: Righty
– Zodiac Sign: Not my thing. How dare such insignificant objects influence my life!

– Your heritage: Mostly Irish. Obviously, like most, my ancestors lusted for some more exotic than the epitome of Man so I have a bit of French and Scottish too.
– The shoes you wore today: Cheap sneakers or cheap loafers, if any.
– Your weakness: That sounds like a title. "Here is the paper, Your Weakness" Sarcastic responses, I suppose.
– Your fears: Personal. My demons guard them.
– Your perfect pizza: Sausage, bacon, ham, extra cheese, maybe pepperoni too.
– Goal you’d like to achieve: I gave up a long time ago. So, no goals. Hence, I cannot fail.

– Your most overused phrase on AIM: Don't use AIM
– Your first waking thoughts: Do I have to pee?
– Your best physical feature: None. I leave that to others to judge.
– Your most missed memory: Strange question form yet I understand it. Too personal.

– Pepsi or Coke: Neither. Dr. Pepper or Root Beer if I must have carbonated.
– McDonald’s or Burger King: BK, hands down. But I would rather have a Cuban Sandwich.
– Single or group dates: No preference. Each has its merits.
– Adidas or Nike: Neither. I prefer to pay less than $40 for shoes of any kind. Less than $20 if I can. Best shoes I ever owned were $5 loafers.
– Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Neither. Celestial Seasonings Green Tea (hot), Arizona Green Tea (cold); both with Lemon, ginseng, and honey.
– Chocolate or vanilla: Chocolate is preferred over vanilla. Usually.
– Cappuccino or coffee: Coffee, black, no sugar, strong.

– Smoke: Used to. Quit on 7/7/70
– Cuss: Try not to... fail at that (most often on the golf course). Profanity is what you use when your wit fails you.
– Sing: Often. Usually while driving. Sing along with whatever's on my CD. Often out loud.
– Take a shower everyday: Yes, at least one.
– Do you think you’ve been in love: Yes. Still am.
– Want to go to college: Did once. A little bit. Dropped out. Life got in the way.
– Liked high school: Sometimes. I enjoyed it even if my teachers did not.
– Want to get married: Already did. Twice. Second one is the best.
– Believe in yourself: I have always been the first one to do so. Often the only one.
– Get motion sickness: Yes, I do. But only if I read while riding in a car.
– Think you’re attractive: Sometimes. Mostly do not think about it.
– Think you’re a health freak: Hahahahahahahahaha... hack, hack, cough.
– Get along with your parent(s): Used to get along with my mother very well. My father only in the last few years of his life. Both are gone now.
– Like thunderstorms: Yes. I enjoy the power of them, the smell of ozone (I suppose that's what it is) and the freshness they leave behind.
– Play an instrument: Failed miserably at music. Can't sing either but it doesn't stop me in the privacy of my car.

LAYER SIX: In the past month…
– Drank alcohol: Yes. Gin and Tonic, a little Plum Wine, from time to time.
– Smoked: No.
– Done a drug: No.
– Made Out: What? A will? A check? Very adolescent term.
– Gone on a date: Define "date". Taken my wife to dinner, yes.
– Gone to the mall?: The other day, as a matter of fact. Hate the mall.
– Eaten an entire box of Oreos?: No. Large bag of pretzels, yes.
– Eaten sushi: No.
– Been on stage: No.
– Been dumped: No.
– Gone skating: No.
– Made homemade cookies: No.
– Gone skinny dipping: No.
– Dyed your hair: No.
– Stolen Anything: Yes, that "all holidays" card.

– Played a game that required removal of clothing: Yes, when I was much younger and trimmer.
– Been trashed or extremely intoxicated: Many, many times. It's a Navy thing. Also a stupid thing but I have done that many a time. I no longer do this, cannot handle the aftermath anymore.
– Been caught “doing something”: Yes, more than I'll admit to.
– Been called a tease: Yes.
– Gotten beaten up: No. Came close a few times, though.
– Shoplifted: Yes. When I was young and stupid, I did young and stupid things.
– Changed who you were to fit in: I am a chameleon. It is my nature.

– Age you hope to be married: Not applicable. Married at 24 and again at 39.
– Numbers and Names of Children: One son; Brian. Good man now, with a wonderful wife and two beautiful daughters.
– Describe your Dream Wedding: No such animal. I hate rituals.
– How do you want to die: Quickly. The details are unimportant.
– Where you want to go to college: Don't anymore.
– What do you want to be when you grow up: I never knew, still don't.
– What country would you most like to visit: Too many to count. Ireland, definitely.

– Number of drugs taken illegally: Many, maybe 7 or 8.
– Number of people I could trust with my life: 2. Myself and my Wife.
– Number of CDs that I own: A few. Not sure. I put them away after ripping them to MP3s. Then I burn MP3 CDs to play in the car. Do they count?
– Number of piercings: None. I think they look a bit silly.
– Number of tattoos: One. Stupidly got drunk with some Brits in Hong Kong in 1968.
– Number of times my name has appeared in the newspaper?: Quite a few actually. Nothing important, no arrests.
– Number of scars on my body: Several. All gained honestly. And stupidly.
– Number of things in my past that I regret: Not taking an opportunity to fly jets while in the Navy.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Card For the Holidays

I try to be efficient. In fact, I often multi-task. So, this year, I decided to apply this to my Holiday greetings...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Desktop

My computer desktop has many things on it. So does my actual desktop but that's another, much messier, story. The wallpaper is a picture of the 6th fairway of the Palm Beach Gardens Golf Course in Palm Beach County. I took the picture one morning while Tom and I were playing one of our usual rounds of golf. Tom was 81 at the time and could hit the ball like a much younger man. He also chipped and putted much better than I. We played "skins", a quarter a hole with carry-overs. He beat me as often as I beat him. We started early in the morning, just after sunrise. I use that as wallpaper because it reminds me of Tom. And that course, and that morning. Looking at that picture, I can still smell the wild flowers, feel the damp early morning summer warmth, see all the colors of nature, feel the pain of my ball drifting left into the water. But I digress.

There are a number of icons, shortcuts, for games, websites, useful programs, and folders. They are not arranged in any particular order, mostly just for convenience or because that's where they popped up when I (or the installation of a program) created them.

I have recently begun to play with icon images. So, now I have a few icons that are more representative of where they take me or what they open. At least, to my mind. I picked up an Icon Editor, which allows me to manipulate existing icons, create new icons from images, or build an icon from scratch. This a lot of fun to do. I don't always like the icons that come with the programs I install and this is a great way to deal with that. Also, Firefox is incredibly unimaginative when it comes to icons for websites. Unless the website has its own icon, Firefox uses its own. It's a nice icon but I hate seeing it all over the place. So I am in the process of changing them to fit my mind's eye of what they should be.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Things that Go Bump in the Night

It is late in the evening, a shadow falls across the window of a young woman asleep in her room. The moon, now hidden by the clouds as they move across the night sky, sheds little light upon the figure crawling across the walls of the old mansion. The creature is in search of an innocent heart. In search of the blood that pumps through that heart. And Innocent blood is the sweetest.

Vampires are a myth, of course. Or are they? Since time began being recorded, there are legends of vampires. Most rational people do not believe the legends, consider them products of superstition. But I, unlike most, believe in them. Oh, I do not believe in supernatural creatures who turn into bats or smoke and flee from daylight, religious symbols and garlic. No, not them. These are monster details, conjured up by active imaginations to flesh out the myths and add to the terror while providing some hope of protection from this evil.

My hypothesis (you know the difference between hypothesis and theory, don't you?) is that vampires, werewolves, bogeymen, etc. were conjured up to explain the disappearance of young children in every culture that ever existed. It is the mythological embodiment of the pedophile. Consider the level of sophistication of early cultures, consider the limits on their ability to understand complex abberant behavior, consider the limited ability of their investigative forces, consider the limited knowledge to combat superstition. When you put these together, you see a strong possibility for allowing supernatural explanation. And you can see the strong possibility that these were what we would now call serial killings.

Serial killers would be a better explanation for random disappearances than these supernatural creatures but they did not exist in any culture's conscious until relatively recently. Take a small village, remote and surrounded by wilderness. Superstitions abound anyway. Now add the disappearance of children or young women over a short period. Perhaps the bodies of one or two are found later in the forest nearby, ravaged by a wild animal. The children had been sleeping in the safety of their huts and found to be missing in the morning. A superstitious people would think something had lured them away, stolen them. They would have no media to tell them about some human predator snatching children. Imaginations would run wild. Amid the grief and dismay, a shaman might take the opportunity to increase his or her power within the village by inventing (or adopting another village's) legend of an evil supernatural creature of the night.

I have had this discussion with others. Most listen politely, some point to Vlad the Impaler as being the model for vampires. But that isn't true, he was only the model used by Bram Stoker for his novel Dracula. The vampire legends and myths go back thousands of years before his novel. Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, China all had legends that are associated with vampirism. Werewolves were mostly a European legend but similarities with shapeshifter legends abound in other cultures.

It is easier for human beings, operating in a vacuum of knowledge, to create supernatural explanations for what may have been acts we now recognize as criminal behavior.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My Spare Time

When I am not doing anything important, (which is most of the time) and I am at the computer (which is when I am least likely to be doing anything important), I often play solitaire. To do that I use Windows (stop laughing) Freecell Solitaire and I have Thomas Warfield's Pretty Good Solitaire. Solitaire on a computer has both good and bad points. A good point is that you don't have to pick up all the cards and reshuffle them, the computer does that for you. A bad point is it is expensive when you throw the deck across the room in frustration.

Windows Freecell (I can still hear you laughing) for Vista is much better than it used to be. It now allows you to cheat properly. On the earlier versions, you could back up just one move. And, if you lost the game, it immediately went into the statistics. The only way to cheat was to hit ALT-CTRL-DEL and kill the task before you actually lost. Oh yeah, you can see it coming easily enough. Now, however, you can back up as far as you wish, even all the way to the beginning and start over. You can even lose and you'll get a chance to go back to the game and back up without it affecting the stats. In order to get a loss in the stats, you have to quit, resign the game, acknowledge defeat, crush your ego. This is a Good Thing in my opinion. On the New Computer, I am at 89 random games and no losses as of this writing. On the laptop, I am at 96% of 970+ games because I was unaware of the changes and quit when I thought I was going to lose a few times. My long term stat on my Old Computer (a fine little Win98 SE machine) was 83% with no cheating. Either I am getting better at that or the cheating is helping. Yes, I do know that starting over or backing up is cheating. But, since it isn't recording it, I am only cheating myself and I forgive me.

Thomas' Pretty Good Solitaire is actually a solitaire suite. That is, it has 700 variations of solitaire to explore and play. That's right, 700. I knew of about 10 of them before I got the suite. The best part of the suite is that you can create a "Tour". A Tour is a group of games which you play in a row and accumulate an aggregate score. The suite has several Tours built in and you can make your own. You can also create your own solitaire version with the Wizard built into the suite. I have not mustered up the courage to try that yet. Besides, I am going to play relatively few of the games already in the suite, just the ones that do not challenge my meager solitaire skills too strongly. By the way, I am not plugging the above suite for Thomas nor am I getting any kickback on it. I just happen to like it and I decided to let you know about it.

I don't want you to think that's all I do on this computer, besides blogging incessantly. No, I also play Mahjongg, watch the value of my holdings in the stock market dwindle, email the few friends I have and some family, and wander around the web following paths my curiosity takes me down. I also do a number of crossword and jigsaw puzzles online. I find puzzles and solitaire (which is really just a card puzzle) are good exercises for the mind. The medical world seems to think so, too, since they say it often enough. In any case, the following ones are the ones I play on a daily basis. None of them are very hard so I use Master level on the first two. There are plenty of others on the internet, I just sort of fixated on these.

From the USA Today (Monday thru Friday only)
From the Palm Beach Post
From An untimed X-word
From Australia Another untimed one
From Heritage News A Weekly one
From the JigZone A daily timed jigsaw puzzle
From JigsawOnline A daily group of three jigsaw puzzles (untimed)

It's nice to be retired. But I did much of this when I was working too. Only not when the boss was around, of course.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The New Computer

I spend way too much time on my computer. Most of it is wasted. Nearly all, in fact. Now that I have got into blogging, that would range around the 99th percentile. Before that, I would estimate only 95 percent was truly wasted.
I recently purchased a new computer to replace my old one. There was nothing inherently wrong with the old one, mind you, but I was challenged. I was about to embark on a journey (64 miles) to the Sam's Club to pick up supplies when Faye remarked "Don't come back with a new computer." Well, I certainly hadn't intended to until then. Now I had no choice.

The new computer runs Vista. Those of you who are laughing, please stop. I actually like Vista. I am a PC guy. I have been for many years. I have played with other operating systems but I am stuck on Microsoft. I suppose it is all part of the Great Conspiracy to destroy our minds, steal our souls, and reduce us to automatons controlled by Lord Bill Gates (PBUH) but it could be that it just does the job for me and I am used to it. You have to understand (and sympathize with) me. I started out on unix (which was linux before it went through therapy) and CP/M. I also had to deal with operating systems that had no name that anyone ever told us which ran massive computers which turned your voice into little bits of data and then back again. Obviously, I was doomed from the start and I am too old to change now.

Here's a glimpse at what I used to do before I came to my senses after 34 years.

(no, that isn't really me)

Western Electric (now Lucent) #4ESS

Those of you who aren't computer geekish or Phreaks (phone system hackers and such) won't be interested in that so I won't go into detail.

After I booted up the new computer, I spent a few hours trying to move the important stuff over from the external backup drive onto it. I was almost successful. Fortunately, I gave the old computer to my sister-in-law, Frannie. Which means that if I ever get her (now) computer connected to the wireless router, like her old one was, I will be able to recover those files I really wanted but didn't bother to check were backed up on the external hard drive. My family and friends think I am a computer guru. Man, have I got them fooled...

We have four computers now. 3 desktops and 1 laptop. Actually 4 desktops if you count the one sitting behind me on the floor that is not hooked up to keyboard, monitor, or electricity. That's Frannie's old computer which used be one I kept at work so I could play games and sneak onto the internet without the company knowing. The laptop is for when we go on vacation or when I am sitting in the living room and I just have to look up something I saw referenced on TV.

I like this new computer. It has more RAM than my old one, a faster CPU, and a bigger hard drive. I can now lose files much more quickly than I ever could before. But it's a bit arrogant and rude. It won't play with my old, way out of date, scanner.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I Hear Music

As I was browsing through the blogs I follow, I ran across a reference to coffee in a comment (thanks, Argentum) that kicked off a thought about a song as sung by the Andrews Sisters. It, the song, rattled around in my brain and I had to go find a link to it playing somewhere on the web. It's called "The Coffee Song" and I hope you will click on this link and go listen to it. And then I hope you will become intrigued by the vocalizations of the Andrews Sisters and listen to more of their songs. And then I hope you will start to become fascinated by the sounds of the Big Band and Swing Era and listen to more and more by all of the artists of that period. I would have embedded that video into this post but I like to think that people learn better by doing.

I was born at the end of that era and was only slightly aware of the music. While there were still many of the artists around, the popularity had waned by the time I was actively thinking about the music playing on radio and TV and in the movies. and the new Rock and Roll was quickly displacing the melodies of the Swing Era. My father had a number of albums left over from the War. (I still have many of those old Victory LPs.) So, I did get to listen to them. I also grew up watching old movies on TV that were filled with these. I rediscovered them a few years ago and began collecting as many as I could off the internet and anywhere else I could find them.

So, now I burn CDs full of MP3s of this Swing and Big Band and older jazz, put them into my car's stereo system and listen to them whenever I drive. Before I got re-acquainted with that music of a bygone era, I hadn't been much interested in burning CDs. This rebirth in my interest in music kicked an interest in burning music onto those little plastic dishes. It is fascinating to me how one thing so often leads to another, how curiosity draws us down so many paths.

Wake up and Smell the Coffee!

There is a ritual at my house each morning. Sometimes it is more like warfare. Subtle warfare, like scouting parties and recons. In reality, it is a group of small rituals centered around the main activity: Morning coffee.

My house has three adults in it. Well, chronologically speaking anyway. We all drink coffee, some more than others, and we all must have it soon after staggering out of bed. The trouble is we only have one coffee pot and it holds only 12 cups of coffee.

Actually, that's not true. The manufacturer says it is 12 cups but it is more like 6 to 7 cups in Real Life. This is because while the industry defines a "cup" as "6 ounces", Real Life provides us with 12 to 16 ounce coffee mugs. My personal favorite is a 14 oz insulated steel travel mug, of which I use about 12 oz. The insulation ensures that the coffee will stay hot enough until I am finished.

[ramble mode on]
I used to drink a lot of coffee during the work week. At least 2 pots a day, often more. I did this for several years. One Saturday, I noticed I had a massive headache. Then I realized I had these headaches, the massive ones, almost every Saturday. They would last until I had breakfast (which was usually late in the morning and at a Denny's restaurant on Saturdays) and I had swallowed at least 2 or 3 cups of coffee. Being an aspiring genius, I quickly deduced that my headaches were symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. I was addicted! It had taken me only 10 years to figure this out. I was proud of myself. I set about weaning myself off coffee. Not entirely, mind you, I am no fool. But down to a couple of cups a day on average and only in the morning. It took some time and a great amount of willpower but I have achieved my goal. Mostly... I do backslide on occasion, for which I am duly repentant.
[ramble mode off]

What happens is that the first person up in the morning turns on the coffee pot. (running joke; one leans over the coffeepot and whispers, "Oh baby, oh baby") Then that person (hereafter known as First Drinker) is entitled to, and definitely will take, the First Cup. If a usurper manages to sneak in before the First Drinker then strong words are often exchanged. Fortunately, blows are never exchanged, though dirty looks and snide asides tend to fly about. We are all entitled to two cups, any after that is considered a "bonus cup". The person (Last Cupper) taking the last cup must perform the Last Cup ritual.

The Last Cup ritual is not complex. Last Cupper announces/asks if he or she should make a new pot. Sometimes, Last Cupper will simply start a new pot without announcement because he (or she) knows that someone (usually Last Cupper or First Drinker) will want More Coffee. In that case, Last Cupper will announce "I have put on a fresh pot!" or words to that effect. At this point, all may finally relax as the Morning Coffee ritual is now completed and we have, once again, become reasonable and rational adults. More or less.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy Birthday (A day late)

A number of years ago, about 29, I was going through some personal struggles. My marriage was unraveling, I was facing decisions I had known were coming and had put off repeatedly. I was a mess. My home life was chaotic, I was disliked at work by many of my co-workers, and I just wasn't a pleasant person to be around. To be honest, I wouldn't have liked being around me either. Of course, I couldn't avoid me and that probably made things worse.

I worked the "graveyard shift" at the phone company (Pacific Telephone) in San Diego. Instead of leaving home about 11:30 PM, I would leave at 11:00. The trip took just 15 minutes but the sooner I left, the better. When I arrived, I was irritable and belligerent. I would argue with the evening shift over procedures and upcoming problems. I created a rift between myself and one of my oldest friends at work. I would be surly with my shiftmate when he came in. I put down his efforts and I sulked a lot. I drank way too much coffee. On top of everything else, Ma Bell (AT&T) was buying the office I worked in, we were being given the choice of staying with the office or finding another place in Pacific Telephone, and I wasn't sure which way I wanted to go.

That year was probably one of the worst of my life. My wife and I separated in the Spring. I hit bottom emotionally but thought it could only get worse. I was wrong but it would be some time before I realized my life was changing for the better. Just before the separation, I went to a co-worker's party. Mike was holding one of his "29th birthday anniversary" parties. Mike was a good guy who had his own demons he was trying to drown and we got along probably because of that. Unlike me, Mike was not taking his misery out on those around him. Instead, he was a happy, outgoing, friendly guy who was liked by everyone who knew him. He listened to me and understood what I was going through, he empathized. At his party, he was standing next to a young lady and called me over. He introduced us and quietly slipped away. She worked in our building but not with our group. I had seen her a few times but didn't recognize her dressed up and not in her usual jeans and T-shirt.

We chatted for awhile but eventually we went our separate ways, mingling with others at the party. My separation hadn't yet happened and I wasn't thinking about any possible relationships. I got roaring drunk but somehow managed to find my way home that night. When I got home, my wife was awake and waiting for me. Surprisingly, we didn't fight. It was at that point that I knew the marriage was over, that there was no saving it.

Over the next year and a half, I went through a number of changes. I dated some, fought with my estranged wife, moved across country and returned, and I began a long term relationship that has lasted to today. And that is why today is special. Today is my wife's birthday. She is the love of my life, the one who took me as I was, somehow felt I was worth knowing, and put up with me for several years while I sorted out my life. I tell people she saved my life and she did. She saved me from drowning in my own misery. She became my best friend when I had very few and none I thought I could count on. For all she is, for all she has done and all she has sacrificed, I am eternally grateful. I would be lost without her.

Happy Birthday, Faye. May we share many, many more.


I have been tagged. This is a bit like being kissed by the capo, I suspect. It means I have to come up with 8 factoids about myself. I assume they must be true and I can't simply make them up as I go along. I then have to dig up eight other bloggers and inflict the same fate on them. That could be a problem. I am new to this and haven't cultivated 8 friends that I can afford to lose by subjecting them to suicide by public humiliation. Heck, I don't have that many in my regular life.

OK, here goes:

1. I listen to Rush Limbaugh. Regularly. He's entertaining, extraordinarily so, and not nearly the ogre he's made out to be. I am amazed at the number of false claims made about him (yes, I research them), the unbridled hatred many have for him, and the lengths that people will go to villify him. Only the unbiased can properly judge him or anyone else. None of us is unbiased.

2. I am hopeful about Obama's presidency. I think he has a chance to be a great president and fear that, if he isn't at least a good one, it will set the US back by decades.

3. I stink at golf but I still love to play. This is a mystery I may never solve.

4. I like to take things apart much more than I like to put them back together.

5. I am an abject coward... but a mean one. Do not back me into a corner.

6. I like sour/tart things much more than sweets. That often showed in the women I dated.

7. I am positive my wit is nowhere near as clever as I pretend it is.

8. After 62 years of life, 58 of them I am reasonably aware of, I have begun to realize I am much happier than I used to think.

I am not going to proofread this. If I did, I would change way too much.

And now for my victims... uh, taggees...

I am sorry, I cannot provide 8 people. I have not expanded my travels through the blogs enough to do so. I started to select some and then, when I reached four, I realized I cannot impose on them in good conscience until I get to know them better. That would be my 9th factoid: I am not good at this type of game.


I am going to ramble for a bit. There should be a better word for this, one that is suited to the printed/written form. Rambling in speech is all about context but when it's oral, it's all about who is speaking. If a college professor rambles then it's a sign of a mind caught up with more esoteric things, deeper thoughts. If your neighbor rambles, he's an idiot. When your wife rambles, you have done something wrong. If your husband rambles, it's because he's done something wrong. If you are speaking to an unattractive person, it indicates you are bored. If you are talking to an attractive person, it is more properly called babbling. Incidentally, beautiful women think that most men babble as a rule. But I digress... which is another way of saying I am rambling.

When I worked, I got involved in a quality process group. What we were supposed to do was analyze process problems and find solutions. One of the things we did was called "brain storming." That's corporate-speak for group rambling. I didn't do well at this because I thought the ideas offered for consideration should be sensible, that nonsensical ideas were not only non-productive but counter-productive. I was obviously not a team player and eventually resigned from the group. I wrote a nice letter of resignation wherein I pointed out that we were avoiding the obvious solution by spending too much time playing at problem solving. No one missed me much.

The new I-phones are coming out and have their share of problems, as all new products seem to. Which reminded me that not too long ago (in real time, eons in technology time) we complained about noisy phones and phone lines. We complained about having to speak loudly on long distance calls. This was on the phones in your homes and they cost maybe $8 a month. Fast-forward to the present and we gladly pay well over $50 a month to shout to be heard poorly on cell phones. But we get to do that shouting in restaurants, our cars, and on the streets where everyone gets to hear at least one side of our private conversations.

I'm an old fogey. I realized this a few years ago when I noticed that I remembered when they didn't have to edit films so they could be shown on TV. I grew up watching films from the thirties and forties played on Saturday afternoons. Jimmy Cagney, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, et al., all managed to entertain us with great acting without once uttering even a mild profanity. TV trailed behind movies in allowing "colorful" language but it's catching up. A couple of decades ago, we began seeing ads on TV for feminine products, now we have ads for erectile dysfunction products. This is progress? I am not so sure.

Speaking of things I remember, I need to write them down before I forget them. That's another sign of advancing age. I am not too worried about this, it's natural to have little lapses of memory. I recall hearing once that we shouldn't be concerned when we forget where we left the car keys. We should start worrying when we forget we own a car. But a good memory is useful when writing columns. I often think of a great idea to write about when I am lying in bed waiting to fall asleep. That creates a quandary. If I get up and write it down, I will greatly postpone falling asleep. If I don't write it down, I am afraid I will lose it forever. If I lay there debating with myself about what to do I will end up with both results. So now I have little slips of paper with bits of ideas all over the place, none of which seem half as witty or clever as they did when I was half asleep.

I am my own worst critic, next to my ex-wife. That makes it tough to proofread what I write. That's always been a problem. When I would write essays in school, I would re-write them several times as I checked them for spelling and grammar. Sometimes, I would change the entire theme because I would find the original theme boring or insipid. I did this with reports I would write for work too. The same thing happens with this column. I wonder if this is common among writers. Probably. I am definitely not as unique as I'd like to think I am.

By the way, I think I know the key to easing global warming. Just get all politicians to shut up. Just think of the amount of hot air that would no longer be released.

[This bit of drivel was originally posted on an old blog I had that no one ever saw]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Snippet of Life - Our New Home

[Settle back, grab a cup of coffee, this one is long...]

Late in the summer we moved into a 3 bedroom house in North Miami Beach. This meant I had to share a room with my brother. In Farmingdale, I had my own room. My brother is two years older than me and not my favorite person. I'll just say we didn't get along and leave it at that for now. It didn't help that we had to share a bedroom. All five of us had to share the one bathroom. The odd thing is I don't recall much fighting over that. At least, not like the sitcoms always show.

The house was a standard one of the type they were building in south Florida in the 50s; Concrete Block and Stucco, CBS in the common real estate terminology. Concrete block is what we often called "cinder block". They stagger them like you would brick, mortar in between, to make the walls, then stucco applied to the outside. No insulation. The hollow construct of the block was supposed to be the insulation. The inside walls were stucco also. The foundation was a concrete slab where the surface was salted with colored stone/marble chips, ground down, and buffed smooth. It was called terrazzo. It's expensive now but was common then. the roof was covered in barrel tile. These were layed in interlocking rolls on the roof, all tacked together with mortar. You can bet the roof support was strong. The only thing that ever damaged those roofs was a tree falling directly onto it. I thought of it as a bunker.

Heat was from a wall heater in the living room and whatever portable electric heaters we might have. My father figured out that a large window fan, set on low, would circulate the warm air in the living room back toward the three bedrooms down the hall. I don't think it really helped but you didn't argue with my father. About anything. Ever. The heat wasn't needed very often, maybe ten or fifteen days a year in stretches of 2-3 days at a time.

We had city water and sewer. A true blessing. Of course, you had to get used to the chlorine smell and taste but it was so much better than the Ojus water. The windows were awning style, you cranked them open and closed. We had heavy wood hurricane awnings over every window except the jalousie windows of the "Florida Room." [ I could not find any pictures of these old style wooden awnings, they were unique to the decade] A Florida Room was simply a closed in screen porch. Ours was very nice, it went from the middle of the front of the house around the side and was about 12 feet deep. We practically lived out there. We had to, there was no air conditioning. We spent more time in the house during the winter but not a whole lot more. My father, who joined us about a month after we moved into the house, built a breakfast nook on the porch by the kitchen door. We had a dining room in the house but we never used it, all our meals were at that breakfast nook. The TV was on the porch for many years before we got one for the living room. There were a couple of swivel rockers and two chaise lounges with cushions in the TV area. There were only three stations in the area at the time.

At the end of the porch on the side, the carport began. No one had garages in our neighborhood. There were very few garages in south Florida as far as I could tell. A carport did the job; it kept the sun off the car and allowed you to get in and out of the car when it was raining. Or would have if anyone actually used them for that purpose. Like garages, carports collected stuff. Lots of stuff. Lawnmowers, edgers, trash cans, tool benches, tools, bicycles, and all the other flotsam and jetsam of surburban life. My father parked in the carport for about a month and then there wasn't enough room anymore. My mother parked her car in the front in a gravel covered area big enough to fit three cars end to end with room to spare.

The house sat on a large corner lot and was landscaped nicely. The walkway was lined with ixora bushes. There were several tall pine trees, a few bushes, flower boxes under the windows, and large coconut palms along each street. My father assigned us different areas of the yard for each of us to care for. A mistake. The yard went downhill fairly quickly. None of us liked yardwork and it showed. Still, there were worse yards in the area. And a number much nicer.

The neighborhood was a good one. Plenty of kids my age, some I knew from school since Ojus Elementary was the nearest and handled the Sun Ray kids as well as the ones in Ojus. The park was a block away and a great place for ten year olds to play for hours and hours. My family would go to the beach a lot that first year. The nearest public beach was Haulover Beach, about 10 miles away. The water was warm, winter and summer. Sunburns were big at my house. Statistically speaking, I should be battling with skin cancer right now. The lure of the beach ebbs over time and, soon enough, the family beach trips stopped.

There were two groups of stores, a couple of blocks west, on 19th Ave. It would become a hangout area in my teens. A drugstore, hardware store, small grocery store, hardware store, laundromat, a 7-11 store, a barber, and a dentist office. The last three were added a year or so after we moved to that house. No lunch counter, no restaurants, they were at least a couple of miles away. Not that important, I don't recall one family outing to a restaurant after moving to south Florida. We always ate at home. I did go out to lunch with my mother and grandmother (and sometimes my sister) a few times, though, but no dinners. Strange, now that I think about it. Even when we lived in Farmingdale, the few times we went out to dinner as a family, it was to one of those silver/chrome railrood car style roadside diners. Nothing special except for the rarity.

My school was still Ojus Elementary. It would be another year before a new school would be built for those of us in Sun Ray. I got a bit of a surprise in the fifth grade; my class was in a "portable." These were small wood buildings that were brought in by truck and set up on blocks. They looked like the little rural one room schoolhouses of the19th and early 20th centuries. We were the Boomer Babies and the schools were being overwhelmed with our growing number.

This was 1956 and changes were coming. My life would change in so many ways over the next few years. I see this year as the beginning of my life in many ways; my childhood innocence would be taken from me, my cynicism would be born, and I would take my first chosen steps on the path of my life. Up until now, I was a good son, a bright student, and only a moderate troublemaker. All that would change.

Some links that might be of interest...

Haulover Beach aerial shot (1962)

Greynolds Park, as it is today

Layout of North Miami Beach

The History of North Miami Beach

Footnote: it appears that the canal I wrote about in my previous piece was actually the Oleta River and my "Ojus" is now "Ojus Park". Those familiar with Google Map searching can find these easily enough. There is even a street level view where you can drive down the streets in the places I describe. Most look only vaguely as I remember.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Just a few short words now (maybe more later).

First - A salute to all our veterans. Whether you served in popular wars, unpopular wars, or in peacetime, you have my gratitude and thanks for your service. My time was 1965-1969 in the US Navy. But it does not matter to me if you were Navy, Marine, Army, Air Force, or Coast Guard, Active or Reserve, you are all my brothers and sisters.

Second - I had to remove the Dilbert Widget because it seemed to be causing my Firefox to crash. If I can get a fix for that, it'll be back up (though that sidebar is getting crowded).

Third - I don't have a green thumb but I am proud of my little Key Lime tree. It sits on my back porch and seems to be thriving. Everything I read says it should be 5 years before it produces but I have had it for about 6 months and this is the second attempt it has made to produce. The first attempt failed and they all fell off before they reached the size of a dime.

Looky looky...

Finally, Michael has a new Blog called "If you're going through Hell, keep going." Stop by and give it a look

Monday, November 10, 2008


Words are magical things. They are soothing, inviting, seductive, infuriating, insulting, and more. They can wound or heal; entice or repel; confuse or clarify; amuse or sadden. I love words. I do not obsess over them but I enjoy them. I like learning new words but I try to avoid using them to impress. Some others do not, they think it makes them appear sophisticated and educated. In other words, appear to be something they fear they aren't.

But words do not stand alone. Someone must speak or write them to bring their power to bear. They must be joined in such a way as to make them memorable or, I feel, they are wasted. And they must be used with the listener/reader in mind. Talking over someone's head will not endear you to that person. Not to mention that words, uttered at the wrong time or in he wrong place, can get you into trouble.

Oral communication is only partly dependent upon words, the majority of context is in body language, gesture, facial expression, and voice (tone and emphasis). These non-verbal communication factors are not available in the printed word. That makes communication very difficult for people who write for a living, or even for pleasure (as we bloggers do). Yet, throughout the ages the written word has sustained and advanced civilization. We study the writings of ancient civilizations intently; we immortalize the utterings of great men; we revere books and plays written hundreds of years ago. All of this without the physical manifestations needed in face to face communications. I think we are able to do this because these writings transcend that need. These men (and women) are wordsmiths.

Shakespeare is, to me, the greatest of wordsmiths. He transcends the ages with his wit and perception of the human condition. Aristotle and Plato are the great teachers, while Aesop the best in the art of expressing common sense and moral virtue. But there are so many worthy rivals to these that it would be impossible to be fair and list them all. I have no favorite style, genre, or discipline in writers. I have found joy in a vast array of works from the past and present.

One of the questions in the profile we make up as we create our blogs, is "Favorite books". I listed no one book, just various genres. That's because I am fickle; the book I am reading at the moment is likely to be my favorite, whatever it is. I rarely reread a book. When I do, the book is undoubtedly special. At least for me. It is usually one in which I strongly identify with a main character. Perhaps that's why the question is important to a profile; it reveals something important about the person.

Though I cannot list it as my favorite, I want to recommend a book that I have read more than once. It has been many years since I read it and my memories of it are vague. It was introduced to me by a man I met while in the Navy. This man, no more than 6 months older than I, mentored me. In his struggles with authority and the burden of his great intelligence, Herb Jahnke reached out to me as a friend and taught me much about how to view the world around me. He gave me this book not long after we met and we discussed it more than a few times in the year that we were shipmates.

It came back to me because of a blog post I read this morning, a blog post that triggered many thoughts as the blogger often does for me. The blog site is
"THE VIEW FROM OUTSIDE MY TINY WINDOW" and the post Number 66b

The book Herb gave me is "The Painted Bird" by Jerzy Kosiński. It's a story about a young boy lost and alone in Poland and Eastern Europe while World War II ravages the countryside.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Where's my Tinfoil?" - Rebuttal

This post is going to be different from any so far and, hopefully, any in the future. Because I feel I may have offended a couple of people, I think it's fair that opposing positions on the matter of ignorance and conspiracies be given some prominence. These people have valid points and deserve my (our) respect for both having the courage to stand up for those positions and for not taking those positions without considerable thought and research. I made light, in a way, of these perspectives. The worst part is that I knew, not all that deep in the recesses of my mind, that I would likely ruffle some feathers with the "Where's my tinfoil?" post and yet I did it anyway. There's no excuse for that and I apologize for my rude behavior.

We all like to listen to those who say what we already believe. A wise man questions his own beliefs as deeply as he questions another's.

The above is part of the core of my philosophy. I ignored it when I wrote and posted "Where's my tinfoil?"

The Logisitician has left a new comment on your post "Where's my tinfoil?":

I have very mixed emotions about this subject. I'm all over the place in terms of the "wilfull" or "conscious" aspect. I really don't know.

I've been to some 3rd world countries where I have posed this question to myself. If I remember correctly, you were in the Navy, and you obviously saw all sorts of people from all works of life from all over the country.

There are a couple of recent experiences in my life which have made me less certain about this issue. Moving from a metropolitan area like Los Angeles, 2 blks from UCLA, and then returning home to North Carolina and teaching adult students seeking their GEDS at a local community college. Some of them have struggled for years.

Just three weeks ago, I attended a blogging, social networking, new media conference, and met some extremely bright people, only to consider how many kids in my town are so far behind the conference participants in ..... virtually every way.

I keep coming back to the concept of not being willing to learn. I know that you mean something other than the level of educational attainment. I just don't know how that is separated from ... and I'm obviously not contributing much to this conversation.

I will say this. I think that some narrow-minded people view the world they do because it gets them by. I call it "muddling through." Life is too complicated for them to process without being Neanderthal in nature, and their attitude makes the world more comprehensible. They can understand up and down, and left and right, but not oblique or skew. I think that we've seen that throughout history. In some ways, it is often safer for people not to venture beyond the realm of the known, and the realm of the beliefs held my the neighboring majority. Safety in numbers.

I actually think for many people, it is risky, and dangerous, to think outside of the box. I don't know. I'm not helping here.

One more thing. I have unending curiosity. I always have to know more. No information is off limits in my view. However, my Father often tells me that I know too much, and that some information is unnecessary and does the average person no good.

Sorry for occupying the space here. Just had to ramble.
[No need to apologize and it truly wasn't a ramble, Logistician, it was an attempt to explain something I have seen in every part of the country and world that I have visited. It is the way human beings cope with environments which they feel would overwhelm them, I think. You have done a good job presenting that perspective. We both have that curiosity. You have a couple of things I don't have; one is the discipline to follow that curiosity through the educational system and the other is the strength of purpose to share what you have learned with others. I respect and admire that. You also have something else I admire and respect: a non-judgmental nature. Maybe not entirely non-judgmental (you judged my post,after all) but reasoned judgment without condemnation. I have tried to walk that fine line myself but I all too often lose my balance.
With all due respect, your father is wrong. At least, I think, from our perspective. Knowledge may be painful and cause you to challenge your environment, but it is something we should never be willing to restrict in ourselves or accept in others.]

PhreedomPhan has left a new comment on your post "Where's my tinfoil?":

After seeing this answer to sal, Douglas, I'm afraid I have to say you have no room to talk of ignorance.

Thirty years ago, while fighting against a so-called "Home Rule Charter" in my county, an associate and I stopped by his house to pick up some documents. When we walked into his basement I was stunned. Two forty-foot walls were lined with bookcases filled with books and documents. In the center was an island of back to back file cabinets filled to overflowing with documents, clippings, newsletters, and the like. In all, the man had more documented proof of a conspiracy or conspiracies than all I've seen on the Internet. He was not a conspiracy "theorist." He was a "watcher." He had spent most of his adult life gathering this information and much of it he'd inherited from a Philadelphia woman who'd done the same most of her adult life. Yet he never mentioned conspiracy. Why? Because, as he said, the majority of people have been conditioned to a knee jerk reaction to the word. They roll into a little ball and start hurling epithets like "kook" and "crackpot" at those who disturb the pleasant little world "education" and the media have created for them where power hungry men have never conspired to enslave their fellow man.

Maybe my blogs are the ones you are talking about. But I have some evidence that should at least start those with an ability to connect the dots thinking. There's a lot of info there so they'll also need an attention span greater than a gnats.

[You are correct, Rick, I did have no room, or right, to talk. While I may disagree with you on the validity of some of your evidence and on the way you connected the dots, I spoke from ignorance because I did not research it as deeply as you nor did I open my mind to the possibility that your connections were valid. Please accept my apologies. Your "watcher" was (is) quite correct. We do ascribe certain connotations to words and lose the general meanings in the process. Type is sort is ilk; these all have the same general meaning but the words are perceived differently because of their connotations.

I watched a TV show last night that I had TIVOed (there's a new word); The Eleventh Hour. It's a good show, not great, but good. This episode was poor, in my judgment, because it ignored what I believe to be prudent protocols in order to advance the story's plot. Because I concentrated on what I deemed willful distortion of reality (what the characters should have logically been doing based on the situation), I failed to enjoy the show. I do this too often.
I did your blog, and you, a disservice. I was wrong.]


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Where's my tinfoil?

Ignorance seems rampant these days. Some willful, some out of apathy, some due to misdirection. Hmmm, maybe the reasons are all the same: willful. After all, apathy is a choice and misdirection is only possible if one allows it to happen.

Let me explain, ignorance is not simply not knowing something, it is being unwilling to learn. The root word is "ignore", a verb meaning "to refuse to pay attention to; disregard." Therefore, in my opinion, ignorance is always willful.

It is rampant today because people seem to want not to know. They are willing to accept what they are told, or read, because it is easier than doing any research on their own. We, in general, have become all too willing to let someone else tell us what and how to think.

Now, do not confuse ignorance with stupidity. One has nothing to do with the other. Stupidity is unchangeable, ignorance can be cured. We often confuse the two, though. I know, and have known, a number of people I consider fairly intelligent yet I also consider them ignorant. Not about everything, of course, just on selected subjects. I am probably ignorant about a number of subjects also. It's a fairly common condition. I choose not to learn about them or choose to only examine them superficially.

What I am writing about, though, is not the ignorance of a random subject but a general ignorance born of complacency. We are tired at the end of the day so we turn on the news and let the anchorman (or woman) influence how we feel about the current issues we face. We let the pundits explain what the politicians meant in their speeches or press conferences and accept it. We agree with our co-workers opinions because they seem to match the consensus and we all just want to get along. We agree with our spouses because... well, maybe that's just the wise thing to do, let's skip that one.

I know people who believe in fairly bizarre conspiracies. I know others who believe the auto industry, in cahoots with the oil companies, bought a 100 MPG carburetor from an inventor and hid the plans, swearing the inventor to secrecy. I know people who believe in UFO abductions, ghosts, and that the government is hiding a cure for cancer. These people are not dangerous. They are generally just amusing.

But what about the countless number of people who believe that the government, our government, was behind the 9/11 attacks? Or the ones who think Obama is really a Muslim or was not born in the US? The number of people who believe such things seem to be growing and that frightens me.

Are we becoming a nation of the gullible?

Friday, November 7, 2008

I need to improve this site's image(s)

Just testing how to place a picture in a blog entry... so I took an old picture I had and plugged it in. That was a much younger me (as you can tell by the beard color). It was taken with my (then future) wife upon my knee. They dressed me up like an old time gambler, Faye like a dance hall gal, and posed us nicely. Faye won't let me show you the rest of the picture. I think she looked pretty good as a dance hall gal.

I need to do some more playing with this so I understand how to place the pictures where I want them. It would be nice to do this with my Snippet of Life series.

For instance, below is an old picture of the school in Farmingdale. How much easier it would be to grasp the description of that school when there's a picture to guide you. Of course, that picture was taken many decades before I was a student there. They had added onto it. To the right, there was a an auditorium. In front, a grand old oak, majestic and broad. A circular walkway led up to the front steps from the sidewalk along Main St.

Yes, I think this site will definitely benefit from this. I've also added a couple of things on the sidebar. Dilbert, for those who love office wisdom and "Martha's Word". Martha sends me (and many others) an email each day that tells about a word. I find them interesting to fascinating. I am hoping you do also.

Snippet of Life - South Florida Part II

Ojus was a small place but it had character. A southern charm, of a kind. It was viewed by most non-residents as a "cracker town". Most of the houses, like my grandmother's, were wood and stucco, or wood frame and shingled, on raised wood foundations. There were no cellars. How could there be? Dig down 3 feet and you hit water. A cellar would be perpetually flooded. Our house in Farmingdale had a cellar which flooded when the septic tank overflowed so I didn't exactly miss that feature. Kids ran around barefoot all the time, except at school, and no one cared. That was new to me. And odd, too, because there were burrs which hurt when they stuck in your foot and hurt even worse to pull out. The local kids called them "sandspurs" and it was a fitting name. These burrs were bunched on grassy stalks but the worst were loose ones because you wouldn't know they were there until you stepped on one. We'd throw the stalks full of the burrs at each other... just in fun.

Between sandspurs and "red ants" (more properly called fire ants), bare feet did not seem like a good idea to me. Fire ants are nasty little creatures. They crawl all over your foot and then, once they have it covered pretty good, all bite at once it seems. I have since learned that they actually do bite all about the same time, that it's done through a chemical scent/pheromone signal. At least these things were outdoor threats. Inside, there were wolf spiders and palmetto bugs. Wolf spiders are big brown spiders that moved very fast and are basically unafraid of you. If you happen to stomp on a pregnant one, you find yourself in the midst of hundreds of tiny baby wolf spiders. That usually starts a kind of dance where you stomp on all of the babies. Palmetto bugs look like cockroaches, only much bigger (up to 2" or more), and they fly. Ugly suckers. Neither of these pests bite or sting but they do manage to get into the clothes you left on the floor.

There were other pests I had to learn (and worry) about. Wasps and hornets and bees were not new to me but scorpions and rattlesnakes were. In fact, there were several poisonous snakes native to the area. And many stinging or biting insects that made wandering in empty fields or woods less than appealing. It took me some time to get used to the idea of this environment. Long Island was incredibly benign in comparison.

There were a couple of country stores on West Dixie Highway, the old main north-south highway that had been replaced by US 1. These stores sold bread, milk, and pretty much everything you can find in any mini-mart these days. They also were wood frame buildings on raised foundations. I wondered about those raised foundations until we had a lot of rain then I understood. In these stores there were usually soda machines. I recall a lever type Coke machine that held 6 1/2 ounce bottles. You put a nickel in and pushed the heavy metal lever down and a Coke would slide down into the chute. Then there was the slider case types. These looked like a huge metal picnic cooler. There were slots between metal strips and the bottles rested by the bulge in their necks between the strips, hanging down in the chilled water. these held the 12 ounce sodas which cost a dime. You put your dime in, selected the kind of soda you wanted and slid the nearest bottle toward a gate-like thing. Then you pulled it up. No coin and the gate was locked. I heard that some kids would pop a cap off a soda and use a straw to drink but I never saw anyone do it. We were always looking for slugs that would work as coins. I don't recall ever finding any. The most common sodas were Nehi in various flavors and RC (Royal Crown) Cola.

We'd buy a confection called "Lik-M-Aid" which was basically flavored sugar in a little envelope and pour that into a half empty bottle of coke. That would result in a massive production of foam which emptied out of the bottle like lava from a volcano. Sometimes we'd pour the confection on our tongues and then take a swig of coke, trying to hold the foam in as long as possible. There were also small wax bottles with some kind of flavored sugar water in them that we'd drink and then chew the bottle. Most of these candies cost no more than a penny or two.

There was a drugstore called "Moore's Sundries" just past the corner where the school was. It had a lunch counter which had all the usual sandwiches, sodas, and ice cream dishes. But most of us kids couldn't afford that. Still, we'd hang out there and read the comic books until somebody chased us off.

Sometimes we'd go up along the canal bank when the water level was low. You could walk along the lower edge quite a way. Occasionally, you'd see a gator swimming in the canal, always see mullet jumping in the water, and there were lots of land crabs in holes in the muck along the water's edge. Land crabs (Cardisoma guanhumi) are odd creatures. A sickly white underside with a bright blue upper. We'd flip them over with a stick and watch them struggle to right themselves. In the summer, when the heavy rains came, the crabs would migrate to higher ground. Sometimes the roads would be full of them, clattering across the road, a constant clicking from their legs against the asphalt.

Fruit flies were a big problem for Florida back in the 50s. Every once in a while, they'd spray for them. This was done using planes and people were supposed to be inside while the spraying was done. Of course, not everyone was. I recall a WWII era bomber flying almost tree-top level one summer day, spraying a cloud of white over everything. I sheltered under a big banyan tree down the street from my grandmother's until it cleared. I suppose if there were any long term effects they'd have shown up by now.

Ojus was not what people think of when they think of south Florida. Normally, you think of hotels and motels along the beaches, convertibles full of the young and beautiful, and maybe older folks sitting on the verandas watching the world go by. Ojus was working class poor. Oh, there were some nice homes with nice lawns along the canal but not a lot. Most homes were little, old, and the lawns unkempt. My grandmother wasn't poor but she lived on Social Security, her savings, and maybe what was left of my late grandfather's pension. She didn't drive, she walked everywhere, even in the heat of the summer. After we moved down, my mother would drive her to the supermarket for groceries. Before that, she'd shop at the little markets not far from her house.

My parents bought a nice house in North Miami Beach that first summer, in a housing development called Sun Ray (now called Sun Ray East), just a couple of miles away on the west side of the canal. North Miami Beach wasn't near Miami Beach or near the beach at all. It was a small city then, maybe 10,000 or so, and was a step up from Ojus. The house was only a block away from Greynolds Park. I would spend a lot of time in that park over the next few years.

I have found some pictures (and links to) of some of the things I mentioned above.

Old Coke machines

Google Map of Ojus, FL