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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Ships Passing in the Day

Once upon a time...

I had been in the Navy for maybe 9 months. We were headed to port at Keelung, Taiwan for some repairs and R&R. That would be Rest and Recreation. I don't recall feeling all rested after these stopovers but...

The approach to Taiwan back in 1967 was interesting, like approaching a fortress. The cliff-like hills bracketing the port bristled with armament. Mostly anti-aircraft guns but I am sure a number of guns were aimed at any ships that were deemed to possibly be unfriendly. It was a beautiful, clear and sunny, day. The seas were calm but dotted with boats of all sizes. Most were fishing junks but there were a couple of freighters about.

I was standing watch as bridge talker. The bridge talker stands at the back of the bridge and listens in on the sound powered phones. He relays the reports of the port, starboard, and after lookouts. He may also relay what others, such as the Combat Information Center (aka CIC or, in ship lingo, "combat") or SONAR or anyone else that happens to have something to report and is connected to the sound powered phone system.

The talker relays these reports to the OOD (Officer of the Deck), the guy in charge of the ship at the time.

And so I said:

"Sir! Starboard lookout reports civilian freighter bearing 060."


"Sir! Combat reports civilian freighter is on collision course."

The Lieutenant JG who was the OOD scans the horizon, noting the approaching freighter which was moving a tad more rapidly than we seemed to be. We were moving along at what seemed to me to be a leisurely pace. And I, like most of my shipmates (especially those who knew they would be allowed liberty soon after tying up), were a bit impatient to get into port. We had been out to sea for some time.

"Sir! Combat reports civilian ship still on collision course."

It was becoming clear to everyone that this was a rather large freighter. And, while we weren't small, running into the freighter wouldn't be very pleasant.

The OOD sounds the horn. Two blasts. To warn the freighter that we are approaching. The freighter does not reduce speed or alter course. The OOD does not order a reduction in speed nor a course change.

The freighter is getting larger.

"Sir! Combat reports civilian ship is still on collision course."

The OOD blows the horn again. Twice.

At this point, the ship is closing quickly with the freighter who appears to be insistent about entering port ahead of us. And appears to be blithely ignoring our warning horn blasts.

At this point the captain, having been roused from his nap in his sea cabin just behind the bridge, storms in and looks around.

"Sir! Combat reports collision imminent."
"Sir! The captain is on the bridge."

And the captain shouts:

"This is the captain and I have the con!"

"All back full!"

And we immediately slow. The OOD stammers:

"But captain, as a 'man o' war' we have the right of way!"

And the captain replies:

"I don't think he cares. And neither do I."

And I breathed, along with my mates, a sigh of relief (quietly, of course).

The moral to this story is simple:

It does not matter if you have the right of way if your ship ends up sinking.
It is a lesson I found useful to recall a number of times in my life.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

It's Here Somewhere

Now and then, we have some friends over for dinner. These are semi-special occasions. We do not have a large house so we do not have large and lavish dinner parties like you see in the movies. Our idea of a large dinner party is when we have more guests than chairs. And that, in our house, is a bit too easy to do.

Like maybe 3 couples.

In any event, we are having a few people over tonight for Mexican food. I believe it will be enchiladas tonight. Enchiladas are among my favorite Mexican dishes. And guacamole. Also burritos, chimichangas, and rolled tacos. And guacamole. And Spanish rice. And guacamole.

Sorry... got carried away for a moment.

The problem with special occasions is that I am urged to clean up my computer desk. I do not like to do this. Faye spends two days cleaning the house prior to these occasions so she expects me to actually clear my desk off. I am not sure why. No one is likely to wander into the master bedroom and see it. And, if they do, they aren't going to tell the world they went snooping around just so they could reveal how messy my desk is.

I mean who cares?

I like a messy desk. I have always had one at work. Well, when I actually had a desk, that is. I distrust people who keep neat and clean ones. Every boss I had trouble with kept a neat desk, for example.

No offense intended if you keep a neat desk.

One particular boss even spent an hour each morning, cleaning and polishing his desktop so it shined. Then he would go to his 15 minute break (which lasted an hour), come back and polish his desk again, spend a while admiring it and then wander off to annoy people who actually did some work before going off to his two hour lunch. After which he would come back and admire his desk, wiping off the invisible dust which he imagined had landed on it in his absence. Then he would disappear for the rest of the afternoon.

I, on the other hand, had a desk that looked like this. People (well, bosses... and the occasional neatnik clerk) would suggest I put some of it away. I have no idea where, the drawers were all full too.

I had two desks just before I retired. Three, if you count the table where the printer and some extra reference books (among a number of other things) sat. All were messy.

But, you see, I knew where everything was.

Because everything was right there on a desktop.


Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Chomp, chomp

I find it interesting that we pay dentists. I suppose it is just another example of our skewed sense of normalcy (a word coined by FDR to obfuscate the reality). After all, there are men (mostly politicians, it seems) who pay women to treat them badly... even whip them.

I visited the dentist today to see about getting my partial repaired. Well, of course, I could have it repaired but there would be no guarantee it would stay repaired (or even that the repair would be successful) they told me. If I wished, I could have a new partial made which would be less likely to break since it has a metal framework. It also might be more snug fitting. It also will cost more to do this. No surprise there.

These are very nice people, the dentist and his staff. I suppose they must be; glum and grouchy people would scare off the already unhappy people. Have you ever noticed how nervous people in the dentist's waiting room are? Like they are ready to bolt at the drop of a hat. Any other waiting room, the people are impatient and can't wait to be called. The door opens and everyone looks up expectantly. Not at the dentist's office... People peer more deeply at the year old magazines they are reading, look away, or seem to shrink into the rather uncomfortable chairs... all hoping it is someone else's name that will be called.

Not me, I like pain. Ok, that's not entirely true. I'd just rather get it over with when I know there is no escaping it.

When I was 15, I had a toothache. A bad one. It went on for two days before my mother insisted I go to the dentist (in fairness to her, I waited two days to tell her about it). The dentist could not see me for another 2 days so I had not only the tooth pain but the anticipation to deal with for two more days.

I am sure you won't be surprised that on the morning of the appointment, the pain disappeared. Completely. My mother, however, would have none of that and dragged me off to the Chamber of Horrors anyway.

After a short wait with the other very nervous, fidgety, and uncomfortable people, I was called in and sat in the chair. I wonder why these chairs do not have restraints.

The dentist entered, smiled, and asked me which tooth ached. I pointed out the tooth that had been hurting up till that morning. He made the usual noises...


"uh huh"


...after the usual admonitions to "open wider... wider" and then poked and prodded with the instruments of torture these people stock their offices with. There was no pretty nurse to distract me, no elevator music to annoy me, just the hum of the fluorescent lights and the interrogations of my torturer.

"Does this hurt?"




Those "No"s sound more like "urroh"s... how can you answer intelligibly with the dentist's fingers jammed into your mouth???

"Well," he says (with a bit too much joy, I thought), "It will have to come out, I'm afraid."

He's afraid? What does he think I am?

First, though, there's the Novocaine to administer. Four shots. He exits saying it will take a couple of minutes to take effect. He returns an eternity later but the numbness has not set in. So, three more shots and another exit. He returns again, this time after not quite so long and acts surprised when I say it's still not numb. Just my lip is a little tingly.

"Hmmmm," he says. And pokes and prods the target tooth.

"Feel that?"

"Yeth," I reply.

"Hmmmmm," he says and gives me two more shots.

I am feeling like a pin cushion. But the feeling does not change. The numbness does not spread beyond the partial feeling in my lip.

He decides, and announces, that I am "only feeling pressure" and grabs the extracting tool.
He inserts said tool, firmly grasps the tooth and squeezes while I attempt to scream around the hand and metal in my mouth.

He twists, I try to bite, he pushes down while still twisting.

And then he pulls and, with a grunt, yanks the tooth from my mouth.

I am in agony while he stuffs gauze into the gaping hole in my jaw to staunch the bleeding. He quickly escorts me out to my mother in the now almost empty waiting room. My mother leads me outside to the car and comments...

"I could hear you yell from the waiting room!"

My next experience with dentists is in Navy Boot Camp. A tale almost too painful to relate so I will save it for another time.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chew on This.

I am not in a good mood right now. You see, I have dentures. I have what is called a "partial" which I got some 3 years ago. These have broken... again. Twice in a period of 3 years. That alone makes me unhappy. But there is more... of course.

I now have to either get this denture repaired or replaced. Neither of which will be cheap, though one will be significantly cheaper than the other. I will be without a way to eat anything but fairly soft food while the repair is done or the replacement made. I will have to get up early in the morning so that I might be able to get the repair/replacement done in a minimum amount of time, perhaps in only a day.

I will also miss going out to dinner with friends tonight. I could, I suppose, and order something soft but I would rather not. Instead, I will stay home. That will make me even more cranky.

And I can't even bite someone.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Some More Stubbornness

Maybe I need to explain more about why I wrote Stubbornness.

When I was young, the police had a lot more leeway than they do today. They could stop citizens and query them about their purpose in being where they are, they could demand identification, they could intimidate fairly freely without having to explain their intent.

This has been shown to be Unconstitutional behavior. The police now have to have what is called probable cause before bothering citizens. Yet, at the same time, we expect the police to protect us from those who would victimize us and are angry because we think they ignore what we think is obvious criminal intent.

In addition to the incident I experienced and wrote about in Stubbornness, I had many similar interactions with the police during my teens. I was stopped while driving many, many times. In only a few rare instances were these stops because I was violating a traffic law. Most were merely because I was a teenager driving a car at night.

In a common procedure when stopped the officer would look throughout the car, including the glove compartment and trunk, while holding your driver's license so you could not simply drive away. My friends and I, thinking we were clever, eventually performed a routine when stopped.

We would pull over, open the glove compartment, all get out of the car and stand by the open doors, while the driver would open the trunk and get out his driver's license. All before the officer requested it.

This did not endear us to the police. It did not reduce the time we were detained on the side of the road. It lengthened it.

A friend would, on occasion, step out of his car when pulled over and stand there by his car with his hands raised in the air. When the officer would tell him to put his hands down, he would inform the officer:

"No sir. You have a gun and I do not want any misunderstandings to happen."

This did not improve his relationship with the police. It may have increased the number of times he was stopped.

What we were practicing was something I like to call over cooperation but is better known as a mild form of passive-aggressive behavior.

While I was in the Navy, I had occasion to be placed on Shore Patrol Duty for a couple of 30 day stints in the States and for shorter periods (one night stints) overseas. These assignments were not voluntary. But they were educational.

What they taught me was that people look at you differently when you are in a position of authority. They react differently to what you do and say than they would to another citizen. It also affected how I viewed the people I had to interact with , or that I might have to interact with. These latter changes were important and necessary for me to perform my job safely and properly.

However, I quickly learned that I was not cut out for a job in law enforcement. I did not like to view people in that way and it bothered me to do so. Yes, there were rewarding moments and feelings of having performed a useful (and necessary) service. But they were heavily outweighed by the other, darker, feelings.

It changed how I interacted with the police from then on. I have, since then, done my best not to make their job more difficult.

Someone commented on the Stubbornness column:

Until you walk a mile in the other guy's shoes...

I think I have. I think it should apply to one's perception of everyone else, including one's perception of the cop trying to do his job.

Don't judge people by the color of their skin, the language that they speak, or the uniforms they wear.

Rodney King said "Can't we all just get along?" and many have made fun of that remark. But it is a good question. I think we can, if we all try and if we all realize it is not the other guy's responsibility to get along with you.


Sunday, July 26, 2009


I am stubborn. It is not just my wife who tells me this, it is something that's been told to me by parents, teachers, superior officers, colleagues, bosses, salespeople, repairmen, and just about everyone who has known me long enough to get into a discussion with me.

I am not, of course, stubborn. What I am is right. Well, mostly. It is only when I am wrong that I am stubborn. When I am right and it isn't acknowledged it is the other person who is stubborn, is it not?

In any given disagreement, one side is more wrong than the other. You will note I did not say "one side is right and the other is wrong." What I am saying is that disagreements happen when each party believes it is right. The art of avoiding argument is to acknowledge the possibility of being wrong. And that is where the mutual wrongness comes into play.

Recently, there was a disagreement between a police officer and a citizen in Boston. You may have heard or read about this incident. I'd like to examine it carefully and objectively, if I may.

To summarize the incident as objectively as possible, a police officer was called to an address to investigate a possible break in. The initial report came from a neighbor of the house where the possible crime may be being committed.

After a short period of time, according to witnesses, the resident of the house was arrested on his front porch while being loud and agitated.

The resident is a professor of African-American Studies at nearby Harvard University.

The above entails all of the actual facts that we know to be true. The rest, at this point, is all hearsay. We do not know what the actual verbal exchanges were between the two principals in the matter.

Now, let me relate an incident which happened in my youth...

I was driving a car between Orlando and Hallandale in Florida. I was on a state highway, traveling at the speed limit (about 30 MPH at that point) and exiting the town of Pahokee. I was 17 at the time. The car was loaded with clothes in the back seat and various other items in the trunk.

A Florida Highway Patrol car moved up behind me and with flashing lights and a burst of his siren, indicated that I should pull over. Not being stupid, nor doing anything criminal at the moment (or relatively recently), I complied.

The officer walked up to my car, asked for my driver's license and registration and queried me about where I was going. He was polite. So was I as I complied with his request.

Without telling me why he had pulled me over, he asked me to open the trunk of my car. As we walked back to the rear of the car, another Highway Patrol car pulled up behind the first and that officer got out, joining us at the rear of my car.

I opened the trunk and stood slightly back away as the officers peered inside. The first officer noticed a box. Specifically an old .50 caliber ammo box. I informed him that it was my toolbox when he asked me what it was doing in my trunk.

I then said, "Here, I'll show you." And reached in to open it.

At that point, the second officer grabbed the butt of his pistol and started to remove it from his holster. The first officer merely grabbed my arm and told me to stop.

He then said, "Let me do that." And opened the box himself which revealed... tools.

I spent the next half hour or so while the first officer verified my driver's license, ascertained that there were no warrants for me or the car, and basically checked out my story that I was in the process of moving to Hallandale with my parents who were a couple of hours ahead of me.

Had I gotten indignant about being stopped for no apparent reason other than that I was a teenager driving through this remote town with a plate that identified me as coming from about 125 miles north of it, things could have gotten a little ugly. Had I moved a little faster to open that box, or the first officer mimicked the second on resorting to pulling his gun, I might have been facing a couple of .357 magnums up close and personal.

Why do I relate this story along with the previous? Simple.

Even as a young man of 17, not yet out of high school, I knew it was not smart to be impolite to a police officer.

Right or wrong, I would have suffered the worst of it.

Why does a college professor of 58 years not also know that simple fact?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

What if?

As some of you know, I am a lover of science fiction. Not a fanatic about it (or anything else) but I enjoy it more than most other genres. I have watched as many cheesy Sci-Fi movies as have been made in the last 60 years. I grew up on them. I have watched Sci-Fi series on TV since Captain Video. In fact, on that last, I used to get visions of the players in the dentist's chair while under the influence of the nitrous oxide that was used in the 50s. I loved the old Flash Gordon serials with Buster Crabbe.

Of all the various genres, Sci-Fi captures my attention the most. In the 70s, I ran across a British TV series called "UFO" that hooked me on the British form of Sci-Fi. Oh, Dr. Who was around already but I didn't like it. Maybe it was a bit too cheesy (though I have come to believe that isn't possible with Sci-Fi), I don't know. I just couldn't get into it. Then. Now, of course, I am hooked on the new version that was revived in 2005 and plays on BBC America.

Along with the updated Dr. Who, a new Sci-Fi has drawn my attention. It's called Torchwood. It is a companion series, inter-connected, to Dr. Who. And, at first, was as mindless an entertainment as its companion series.

Until now.

The series has, apparently, run its course. So, in a final blowout, a 5 part mini-series was presented over the last 5 days. The premise for the presentation was simple:

An alien species, very powerful, made a deal with the British government in 1965 where they would provide an antidote to a virus they had unleashed upon the world in exchange for 12 children. The children (orphans who would not be missed) were provided and the aliens provided the antidote. A horrible concept, to be sure, but a fair trade because the virus would have killed 25 million people.

And the aliens have now returned. And this time they want 10% of the world's children or they will annihilate our entire species.

But this is not a review of the mini-series. It is a review of the show's premise. Well, more of a question based on the show's premise.

What would you do, if you were the leader of a government, if faced with prospect of giving up 10% of the children in order to avoid the annihilation of the human race?

What do you think our current leaders would do?


Friday, July 24, 2009

Flea Marketing

I am not above stealing ideas from other blogs (oh, like you never thought of it or did it...). In fact, I do it on a regular basis. Today, I am grabbing an idea from Pearl over at "Pearl, why you little..." It's not an idea I hadn't considered before, though, but it is one I hadn't considered lately.

Pearl was speaking about garage sales. It is a subject about which she has some expertise. I do not indulge in these things. For a number of reasons, mostly involving people wandering about my house asking me how much I want for my TV, stereo, living room sofa, etc or actually walking off with them without even offering a dime.

So what I did to feed that need to find bargains among other people's castoffs was to patronize flea markets. Now, flea markets don't actually sell those small, leaping, parasites (though you might find some in that easy chair you purchase at one) but they do provide bargains. They are also called "swap meets" (where the only things actually swapped is your money for their, uh, junk).

A better way to describe one would be to ask you to imagine your whole street all having garage sales on the same days. But with better parking. And maybe an admission fee. And a few Dollar General stores in among the garages. And a refreshment stand.

For the meager price of maybe $10 at most, you can rent a "stall" (aka "pair of parking places") where you can set up a couple of folding tables (you can rent these if you do not have any), or lay out a tarp, on which you can display all the junk you had stored in your garage (thereby making it unusable as a place to put your car) and attic and spare bedroom(s).

To do the above, all you need to do is load your car, van, station wagon or whatever with all of the junk your significant other is willing to give up (you aren't the one to keep everything, are you?) and then get up before dawn so you can wait in a long line wasting gas so you can get a space in the farthest place from the entrance because all the commercial places have reserved the best ones and friends and relatives of the market's owner(s) got the next best ones.

Once you have managed to get through the gate and wend your way to the very back to the space that probably has a puddle (from the rain that was not predicted but somehow showed up last night while you were loading your car) in the middle and you can begin setting up.

At this point, a hundred or more people who do not speak English show up grabbing items that you have just set down or are about to remove from the trunk and offering you somewhat less than you expected to sell them for. That $1 almost new extra variable speed drill that you never used but once? They hand you a quarter and run off. Others just start stuffing any clothes you might have for sale into large garbage bags (or pillow cases) and only offer you money if you actually see them doing it. At this point, I should point out that you should have removed anything from your car that is not securely bolted down before loading the stuff you actually did want to sell. I have lost a couple of spare tires...

Once the Gypsies have left (no offense meant to any real Gypsies), you will find that the only things left for sale are things that no one will take even for free and you have made maybe $7.35 if you were lucky.

You will now sit there, baking in the sun, and drinking warm lemonade (because you sold the ice chest for a dollar with out realizing it in that initial frenzy of commercial activity) until your mind turns to mush from the heat. Somewhere in the 6 hours you have been there, bored and buyerless, you wandered off to look at other peoples' offerings and somehow manage to purchase $15 worth of their junk which you will put in the garage, attic, and spare bedroom(s).

It only took me a year of being a seller at these things to realize I was not making a profit of any kind.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TV or Not TV

I like TV. Yes, I know that Marx had it wrong and that TV is the real "opiate of the masses." I also know that "we" all eschew watching TV because it is so mundane and aimed at the low brow and not "us" clever, educated, and intelligent people who are more interested in true cultural activities.

None of which explains the fact that most of you can reel off the last three winners of American Idol or the report that places Jon Stewart's Daily Show as an important source of news.

I freely admit that I am addicted to this opiate. I was raised on it, it was my Nanny, it was my primary babysitter. Captain Kangaroo helped form my childhood, as did Ding Dong School. My cultural exposure was through Cid Caesar, Red Skelton, and Milton Berle. Not to mention Ed Sullivan's Show of Shows.

So, yesterday when my two year old 42" plasma HD TV died, I was struck dumb. Emotionally paralyzed. Lost in the Bermuda Triangle of entertainment. My DVR would be happily recording my favorite shows but I would have no way to watch any of it.

Well, no way to watch until I purchased a new one, of course. I wasn't struck that dumb.

But first I needed to call the TV manufacturer. Which I did. Wending my way through the breadcrumb path that is called voice menu options. Each of which slowly sucked me down into the quagmire as it transferred me willy-nilly through the redundant questions, gathering information that would never make it to the alleged "tech" that I would be occasionally connected to. At each transfer, I would be placed on hold while the Hollywood Strings (or some other bland orchestra) would barely audibly be playing some obscure piece of music or some rendition of Desolation Row until some tones would slam into my ear at about 150dB giving me an instant headache and an attitude.

And the first "tech" would be useless, have a slight New Delhi accent, and apologize for the trouble I am having while telling me he cannot help me but would happily transfer me to someone who could and would I "hold just a minute?" Oh, and the information I had supplied to the faceless, lifeless voice menus? He had to get it from me all over again. And, of course, there was obviously no way to send the information he gathered to "tech" #2. So I would have to provide all of that data again. And the incredibly bland music in between these "techs" would also be interrupted by the blare of tones exacerbating that headache and putting a fine edge on that attitude.

When I finally got to the "tech" who could actually allegedly help me with my problem (as she repeatedly assured me), it turned out that my warranty expired two months previous. But no problem, says she, we can help. She can send out a technician and it will only cost me $629 or so to have him make three attempts to correct the problem. But, she happily informed me, if he could not successfully correct the problem, I would be rebated the difference between that figure and the $329 I would be charged for their ineptness or the TV's insistence on remaining blank.

I quietly explained that I would rather just buy a new TV and that I would certainly make sure it was not manufactured by them. And I did.

Did I mention the name of the company? No? Should I?

Maybe I should not state the TV was made by Hewlett Packard!

After all, I wouldn't want anyone to think too badly of them.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Help Alan Chill Out

I received the following plea from Blogger, Alan Mizell, of Robot Nine , Photobesity, (both of which he has sadly had to neglect of late for his latest project) and Alan Around The World.

Alan, if you haven't been following his blog, is in preparation for a bicycle journey around the world. He assures me that he will not attempt to bike across any oceans or other bodies of water... something that concerned me greatly as the last guy I knew who attempted to drive to Hawaii hasn't been heard from since. But I digress.

Please go to the linked site (yes, there's a link down there somewhere), attempt to vote, and you will be guided through the registering process. Alan has assured me (though he does not yet know it) that he will deal with all spam I might receive as a result. I am sure he will do the same for everyone.

Seriously, it costs you nothing and you will be helping out a great guy.

Here's the plea... (I edited out the bribery portion)

Quark Expeditions is sending a blogger on a trip to Antarctica. This is probably not possible for me unless I can be chosen to be their blogger, and that means I need the most people voting for me to go.

The person with the most votes goes and the leader seems to have only 1,900 so far. PLEASE go to the link and do the simple registration and vote for me!

Put Alan Around The World truly AROUND the world. Put me on top of the world by sending me to the bottom of the world!

For my friends I promise every detail will be blogged and photos galore. For those not so fond of me (are there any?) this is your chance to stick me where the sun don't shine. (Well, it does, actually, but it still sounds funny!)

Please visit Quark Expeditions and vote NOW!!!

If you possibly could help spread the word to your friends that would be even better!!!


Monday, July 20, 2009

"I am"... A debate

"I am," I said.

"Really?", the voice replied.

Yes, really.

How do you know?

I think.

You think you know?

No. I think, therefore I am.

Been said before, doesn't mean much.

What does "I am" actually mean?

That I exist.

But what is "I"?

Me, of course.

And what is "me"?

You know, a human being.

No, I don't know.

What are you?

I don't know.

Where are you?

I don't know. Wherever you are, I suppose.

Then why are you questioning me?

Because I can.

That seems a flimsy excuse.

Maybe but you are trying to answer, aren't you?

Good point.

How do you know you are human?

Because I was told that.

Who told you?

Other humans.

Can they be trusted?

Most of them.

But some can't?

That's right.

How do you know which ones can be trusted?

You just know.

You mean, like you "just know" you exist?

No. It's complicated.

You are evading the question.

No, I am not.

But you said "I am." Now you are not?

No, no. I am not evading the question.

Well, you aren't answering it.

Good point.


Well what?

How do you know which ones are telling the truth?

You get a feel for such things.

Ever been fooled?


Then your "feel" isn't all that good, is it?

I said it was complicated.

Yes, you did. Why should I trust you?

I haven't lied to you.

How would I know?

You're in my head, how would you not?

Good point.


Sunday, July 19, 2009

Here Comes The Judge!

In the US, we are going through a political process that is loosely designed to weed out poor nominees for a life time appointment. Over the years, that process has become very political. In the last few decades, it appears to have become political theater.

Currently, we have a Supreme Court nominee who is of Puerto Rican descent. Sonia Sotomayor* has an impressive life story, a good record on the bench (though not stellar), and will likely be confirmed easily.

But my question is why?

We seem to be embroiled once again in racial and gender politics. Questions over whether she would be biased, if she would use empathy (as a woman, one infers), and the meaning of certain statements she has made that seem to indicate these would be a part of her thinking when judging cases.

Yet nothing in her rulings actually seem to suggest this. Only statements and speeches made over the years.

Certain concerns arise when I think about her appointment.

Why was she nominated? Was it because she is a woman? Hispanic? Both? Did the administration search for a suitable gender and ethnicity? And then narrow the search to those who should be able to get through the nomination process?

And the big one: Is this how we should determine such an important selection?

I am, of course, not so naive as to think administrations actively seek out the best choice and ignore politics in the process.

That tiny little part of me that is optimistic says she will likely be a good Supreme Court Justice. The somewhat larger part that is pragmatic says her confirmation is a foregone conclusion so it doesn't matter what I think. My conservative side worries that she will be another liberal voice on the Court. But, retorts the pragmatist, "she is replacing one anyway so no harm, no foul."

And it is true; the balance of the Court will remain the same as it has been for some time. Almost evenly divided between Liberal and Conservative with a slight tilt toward Conservative.

Which, after all, probably best describes the country.

All of which tells me we have a truly fascinating system of government and quite a unique culture. And makes me very happy to have been fortunate enough to be born here.

* Two articles of interest on Judge Sotomayor:,0,961424.story


Saturday, July 18, 2009

I Hate Mowing!

Today I arose at 6:45 AM. I didn't want to get up but I was awake and I needed to get moving. You see, I had to mow my aunt's yard. Since I live in Florida and it is July, the earlier you start that chore, the better chance you have of surviving the ordeal.

The yard is actually three narrow lots. Overall, the property is about 150 foot by 150 foot. On it are two small houses (almost cottages). The yard is a bit overgrown. Seriously overgrown. If you have watched any of the British Open and had a look at the rough, you will get an idea of how overgrown her yard was. Except her yard was worse.

In order to mow her yard, because she has no mower, I had to load my mower into the trunk of my car . I managed to do this without pulling a muscle or damaging anything vital. Including the car.

My mower is a 21" self-propelled one. It is not a riding mower. You must walk behind it. You must pull it back when that maneuver is needed, there is no reverse. At least I didn't have to push it. This was my weapon for the battle against thigh high weeds. Yes, I said thigh high. Above the knee... by a number of inches.

The temperature when I finally arrived at 9 AM (hey! I had to drink some coffee before leaving and load the mower... one does not rush into these things) was 83 degrees. The humidity somewhere above 90%. A typical summer day here in Paradise.

I managed to unload the mower at my aunt's, again without sustaining injury. I had also brought with me two 20 oz bottles of Gatorade and one 20 oz bottle of water, all chilled nicely. And a hat. And sunglasses. The (hopefully) life sustaining liquids were placed in the refrigerator , the hat and sunglasses on my head in their proper places. I was ready.

After priming the carburetor, I pulled the starter cord and the mower sputtered to life. The battle was begun.

It was a mere thirty seconds later that the mower choked on the thickness of the weeds. The idea that I would be headed home in a mere two hours vanished from my mind. I would need to cut in half swaths in order to keep the mower running and, even then, lift the front of the mower half a foot as I moved forward through the weeds.

Falling back on my Zen nature, I became one with the chore... and the heat... and the sweat... but not the recalcitrant mower. It still choked on the thick weeds every so often, requiring that I back off to a mown spot and restart the motor.

The one bright spot in this was that I did not run into any snakes, or raccoons, or badgers (or larger predators) while working my way through this veldt. No ponds or lakes nearby so gators, thankfully, were not an issue.

After 3 hours, three breaks (during which I consumed the water and one and a half of the Gatorades), and clothes soaking sweat, I was done. After yet another break, I loaded the mower into the trunk of the car (again, amazingly, without personal injury) and prepared to leave.

One stop at the mailbox out front to retrieve the junk mail and the (fully expected) Code Violation citation from the City Police. Hah! There will be no fine, no excessive charge by the city to mow the unruly yard.

Mr Average Joe beats the Powers That Be once again! And it only took three hours.

I may even survive.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Ramblings

I couldn't come up with a theme for today so I thought I might ramble a bit... if you don't mind? I'm sure you don't.

Fridays are the last day of the work week. Since I retired, Friday seems to have lost its meaning. After all, I have no real weekend anymore. Each day is just a day, nothing special about any of them. I am still not sure that's good or bad.

When I was in my junior high and senior high and summer would come along, it was pretty much like this, too. One day was the same as the next. Except that Friday nights there would be a dance somewhere and Saturdays someone, somewhere, would throw a party (which I and my friends would crash). But I had to be reminded what day it was. Much as I do now.

If I wasn't reminded I might not know the trash would have to go out or certain TV shows would be missed. These are not important things. Trash is picked up twice a week here so it would just be put out next time. Hopefully. Eventually it would get put out and picked up. And I have a DVR. Which is like TIVO only more generic.

The DVR is great. Much better than a VCR. For one, you can record two programs at once. That is something you cannot do with a VCR. We no longer watch shows when they come on anyway. Even if we have nothing better to do (which we usually don't), we wait until twenty minutes after the show has started before we begin watching. That way, we get to fast forward through the commercials.

There are a few commercials I do not mind watching. Some are entertaining. But they are rare.

Speaking of commercials. There are things being advertised today that never would have made it in the 50's and 60's, even if the product existed then. And the commercials for some mystify me.

Take Cialis, for example. Well, not literally, that is. But the commercial. What is the meaning behind the bathtubs? I mean there is always a bathtub scene at the end with the man and the woman each in their own bathtub. The symbolism escapes me.
Are they cooling off certain parts? Why two bathtubs? Why not a jacuzzi?

On the other hand, I have no problem understanding the Victoria's Secret commercials.

But back to days of the week...

Mondays and Fridays I play golf. This means I do remember when it is Sunday and Thursday. I get confused the rest of the time. Since the rest of the time is 5/7ths of the week does that mean I am confused most of the time? I'll have to think about that.

Tomorrow I must mow the rather large yard of my aunt's house. I would hire someone to do this, someone who does it for a living and has a riding mower. Unfortunately, they do not call me back when I request an estimate and a day they can do it. Since the "grass" (a euphemism) is over knee high now, it has to be done soon. Otherwise the city will cite the property.

I am not looking forward to this. This is called work and I gave that up.



Thursday, July 16, 2009


We seem to be the only species who actively seeks intoxication. Certainly there are other species who will get drunk, or eat plants that intoxicate, but none have made it such a social ritual as have human beings.

We both vilify and celebrate the intoxicated. the bible has passages and stories which admonish the believer regarding the use of alcohol (chiefly wine) yet we have incorporated the drinking of spirits into religious rites; even weddings. We toast those we admire, we throw drinks in the face of those we dislike.

We consider those who resist being intoxicated to be strong of will and a bit too uptight. Depending, of course, on whether you like them or not.

Regardless, humans have always sought ways to alter their mental state. We have greatly rewarded those who have facilitated that search by finding new intoxicants or by increasing the effectiveness of existing ones.

What is it about intoxication that draws us so?

I got drunk for the first time when I was 14. A party. I have no idea whose party or why it was being held. At the time, that did not matter. An older friend with a car had taken me along to this party in a trailer park somewhere in North Miami. There was a lot of booze floating around. No one seemed to care that at least half the attendees were under age. Way under age.

All I recall from that party was there was a boxing match on the TV (Archie Moore, I think) and riding away while leaning out the window of the car and puking my guts out.

I had done a little drinking before that but never more than a beer or two. I was left to walk home from a favored hangout (a "Mr. Donut" coffee shop) at around 4 in the morning. Somehow I made it.

There would be many more bouts with alcohol before I wandered into other areas of intoxication. I got drunk frequently in the last year before I went into the Navy, especially in the last 3 months. Every weekend, in fact. Blitzed. Stinking drunk.

Then came boot camp and I dried out. Two months of absolute sobriety. Then a short Christmas leave where I managed to get drunk maybe once... or twice. Then sobriety again for another 6 weeks. Once in the Fleet, getting drunk was a routine activity at any port overseas... and in the States.

At some point in all this, I began to dread the hangovers. The best way to curb your drinking is, I think, to dread hangovers. The idea that I would suffer so much the next day inhibited my drinking quite a bit. Especially when I knew I would not be able to imbibe any more alcohol to ease the hangover for many hours.

My moment of truth came in San Francisco. I made the mistake of trying to match, drink for drink, this well practiced Petty Officer 2nd Class. I also made the mistake of eating each cherry in each whiskey sour. When the time came to seek "Ralph" in the restroom of some bar, I thought I had permantly damaged my stomach. Or at least destroyed the lining. It certainly looked like blood and tissue to my blurry eyes.

I managed to get out to the street on my own two (very wobbly) feet and then slid down the pole I was leaning against when the Shore Patrol stopped by to give me a "lift" back to my ship. And then carried me onto it since I was no longer in control of my limbs. The Officer of the Deck found a couple of my shipmates to carry me to my bunk (with a stop or two to further attempt to empty my stomach).

It took me two days to get over that hangover.

It is the most likely reason I have not become a lifelong alcoholic. I do not like what I wake up to in the morning.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Snippet of Life - Frank and Luigi

It had been a long day. After school (not so taxing) and a rigorous "hanging out" at the 163rd St Shopping Center, a few friends (about 8) attempted to hitch a ride toward our respective homes. No one, oddly, seemed interested in picking up a gaggle of unruly boys. It did not occur to us to split up into smaller groups of 2 and 3.

So we laughed and joked and annoyed the people who had to stop for a red light. We apparently were so successful in annoying those people that a cop came along and suggested ever so gently that we "move along" and not regroup as we did so.

So we did. Move along, that is. We regrouped within a couple of blocks... well after the cop had left the area. I recall we were still in a good mood and even took up some poor singing to pass the time as we trudged the 4 or 5 blocks to the next major intersection where a few of us would head left. "Peanut Butter" was the song of choice with the occasional refrain from "Poison Ivy". This would make the year about 1961. Which meant I was probably 14 at the time.

Frank and "Luigi" (real name "Rhett") and I went left on 19th Avenue and didn't bother even trying to hitch a ride. We chatted and joked and put each other down in that friendly way that rarely led to a bloody nose or black eye. We decided we'd get together that night at the dance at Victory Park, it being a Friday and all.

Frank was an aspiring songwriter who claimed to have written a song which he sent to Ricky Nelson. Nelson, he alleged, rejected it (with thanks, one presumes) and then produced it anyway. Frank had no proof of this, of course.

Luigi was not of Italian descent as far as any of us knew. More like Czech, I believe, or maybe Romanian. He claimed to own a "dog killer" cat which weighed a bit over 20 pounds. I never saw that cat. I don't think anyone else did either.

That night the dance was boring. Not all that unusual. It was rare that anyone other than local teen bands played and it was more a social gathering than a dance. But it was free. We headed over to Frank's house since his parents were out of town. Maybe sneak some booze from his parents and smoke cigarettes. Possibly play a little poker. Which is what we did, except for the poker. Frank stepped out of the living room for a bit. The lights were low, just a small lamp on and light from an aquarium near where Luigi is sitting in a cushioned chair, the radio playing. Frank comes out talking mean at Luigi. Telling him he's sick of his crap and was going to end it. He heads toward Luigi and that's when I notice it... The Gun.

Frank had a snub-nosed revolver in his hand. He moved fast, bringing his hand up, gun now pointing right at Luigi. Luigi is shrinking, trying to squeeze down between the cushions of the chair. He looked scared. I am frozen in place across the room, maybe 12 feet away. Frank looks really mad.

He stands over Luigi, who is trying to make himself as small as possible and who is blubbering things like "What are you doin'?" and "Put it down!"

I see the hammer move back. Frank is squeezing the trigger. He's still saying things like "You are dead! I am gonna blow your brains out!"

And then... he laughs. He backs away. He lets the gun drop to his side. Luigi is barely able to breathe. I am just trying to remember how myself.

"It's a joke, man", says Frank. "You should see your face", he laughs.

Luigi is laughing now, although rather nervously. I still can't say anything. I saw that hammer pulling back. I was thinking I was going to see someone die and now I couldn't get my heartbeat back to anywhere near normal.

Luigi is asking if the gun is loaded. Frank says to come outside and we follow him to the side yard. He aims up into the night sky, toward Greynolds park, a block away, and squeezes the trigger. It was the loudest noise I had ever heard.

The rest of the night is lost to me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yow! &%@^$!!

Go Ahead and Curse! It May Ease Your Pain

It appears that the sudden outburst of profanity when you hit your thumb with a hammer (oh, like you've never done that) is not only natural but it is also a defense mechanism. It allegedly lessens the pain. Less so if swear words are not used. That's right, cussing may be "good" for you.

I am not so sure the testing the article refers to was done in a proper manner. That may be because the methodology was not detailed. Here's a quote (for those of you too lazy to click on a hyperlink and read the actual article):

The students were asked to stick their hands in buckets of icy water twice. The first time, participants repeated a curse word over and over. The next time, they repeated an everyday, neutral word.

My immediate reaction was "Did they reverse the tests with a separate group? Did they use two (or more) different groups; i.e. see if the results held up on replication?"

Another thought (I get lots of thoughts, bear with me) was that perhaps the expelling of air that comes with the swear words uttered in pain exceeds that of most benign words and that is somehow a factor. What I mean by that is that real swearing is often more forceful than the euphemistic form. I have not heard anyone shout "Drat!" as loudly or as forcibly as, say, "Damn!" (to use the mildest profanity I can think of).

I am no stranger to pain, nor to cussing when it is experienced. You do not spend four years in the Navy without learning (and becoming inured to) a full vocabulary of profanity. I have also managed over my 63 years to inflict pain on myself innumerable times (from hacking my finger with a chisel to shutting a car door on my hand and worse). I can do some pretty creative swearing at the proper moments.

Even so, I have not noticed any lessening of pain based on my reaction wording. I learned, at some point, to use a more stoic method of pain reaction. I found that the pain is quite bearable in most instances if I simply detach myself from it. This is even easier to do in situations where the pain is expected, as in the experiment described above. It's the unexpected pain that is least controllable and tends to induce an involuntary, verbal, reaction.

And I am always reminded of my father. He never once uttered a profanity in my presence. And I saw him experience great, and unexpected, pain a large number of times.

So you can put me down as a bit skeptical about this particular experiment.


Monday, July 13, 2009


I don't have much to say today. It is not because I had a bad day at golf (just a mediocre one) or that I have no thoughts to share. Quite the opposite about those thoughts though I am not so happy to share them. When I turned on my laptop and checked my email, I came across one from my friend in Corona, California.

Yes, that friend. The one I went off to visit. He did not have good news to report. What he had was more bad news. The cancer is spreading wider and faster than was first thought.

I am not happy. And I do not wish to try to be happy right now.

One of the things he said to me before I left was that, in spite of what he was going through, it was really nice to know that he had friends and that people still thought about him even though he had not been in touch with them for many years.

Reach out to old friends. Tell those close to you that you love them. Do not put these things off.

Because you never know.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Life of Wheels

The author of Irish Gumbo wrote a post that started me thinking (as do so many bloggers' works) about the modes of transportation we work our way through as we grow up (and, eventually, out). I hope he doesn't mind my stealing a bit of his theme.

When I was a wee lad back in the dark ages of the late 40's, I rode a trike. Not a Big Wheel, those came much later, but a metal, steel, tricycle. I don't recall it in any detail but I am sure I had one because I do recall riding it. It was likely a hand-me-down since I rarely got anything new. Those days of early youth have mostly faded from my ever diminishing memory but tiny bits and pieces remain which flare up from time to time. There was also something else I rode... a scooter.

Not a motorscooter but a precursor to the Razor or what is now called a mini scooter. They had a flat ramp, handlebars, and two small wheels. You placed one foot on the ramp and pushed with the other while you held onto the handlebars. there was even a brake of sorts. A flat piece of hinged metal which when pressed with your heel, rubbed against the rear tire. Exercise and transportation. Steering was like a bike, you leaned this way or that (but not too much) and you barely pushed one side of the handlebar or the other. It was good training for bicycle riding. You learned balance and steering. And they were really fun to ride down the gentle hill in front of my home.

If I was really brave, I might ride down our driveway which seemed a steep hill to me in those days.

When I was almost 5, I got a bicycle. A real one. I had to sand it down so it could be painted. It was used, of course. My father owned that bicycle shop, the only one in town, at the time. You would have thought I would get a bright shiny new one but nooooo...

No helmets then, no kneepads or other protective gear. You might get a springy metal clip like thing for holding your right pants leg snug around your ankle. Or you could just stuff it in your sock, as I was taught, which worked as well. If you didn't do this, you were likely to get that pants leg caught in the chain. That would stop any pedaling quickly and interfere with braking (small bikes, most American bikes really, had coaster brakes then, no hand brakes) making stopping an issue. So a pants leg caught in the chain often resulted in a crash as well as a damaged pair of pants. My son would get his thumb caught in his chain when he was 14 (the klutz) and have to play baseball one handed for a couple of weeks. But that's another story for another time.

I rode bikes all over the place. All over the neighborhood. All over town (it was a small town) but not to and from school. I don't know why. Maybe because it was on the other side of downtown and it would be during high traffic hours. School was only a mile away and so I walked. Except for one year when I rode the school bus. That wasn't so bad since my stop was the first one coming home and the last one going to school.

That was in Farmingdale. In New York. In Florida, things changed a bit. I rode a bike to school once. And not until junior high. There the bike was stolen and it (reputedly) ended up in a canal. Mostly I rode the bike for transportation to, and through, Greynolds Park and a lot of other destinations. Only places where I wouldn't be leaving the bike alone for any length of time. I didn't have a lock for it. And theft was always an issue. It was sheer stupidity that I took it to school that one time when it was stolen.

When I was 14, I could get my learner's permit. That meant I could legally ride a motor scooter (less than 5 HP) during daylight hours. Of course, my parents absolutely refused to get me one.

"Too dangerous," they said.
"You'd get hurt," they said.
"Not a chance," they said.

So, I found a way. I borrowed them from friends. I chipped in for one with a friend whose parents were okay with the idea (they didn't know I was co-owner). And, finally, semi-permanently borrowed one from my brother-in-law. A little box scooter (Allstate) with a beefed up engine that exceeded that 5 HP limit. It had no key so I had to get a chain and lock for it. It was ugly. It was noisy. It had only a single seat so no passengers. But I was mobile!

My parents couldn't really argue with me about it since my brother was then riding a motorcycle (a beautiful Triumph Bonneville) which he had purchased with money he claimed he had earned as a paperboy.

I had friends with Vespas and Lambrettas and Cushmans. We traveled all over the place on these things. None of us were killed. Only two I know of even got into accidents. Broken legs in both instances. But by then I had moved on to cars.

My primary transportation between ages 12 and 16 was hitch hiking. This was before it was known there were people called serial killers about. Oh, we ran into the occasional creep but nothing we couldn't handle since we mostly hitched in groups of two or more. I only had a couple of incidents when I was hitching alone. But even those were easily handled. Hitching was fun transportation and fairly reliable in those days. I managed to roam up to 30 miles away. Down into downtown Miami, Miami Beach, or up into Broward. Even hitch hiked into drive-in movies.

But at 16, I got my driver's license. And, soon after, a heavily used, oil leaking, under powered, ugly as sin, green 1952 Studebaker Champion. It cost me $80. My brother-in-law (again) was the source. He also taught me how to work on it. How to change oil, how to tune it, how to replace the brake pads, how to replace the clutch (oh, that was fun), all the things that needed to be done to it to keep it running. The one in the picture isn't mine but it is close. Mine did not have the skirts. Or white walls.

It was, as I said, ugly. Definitely not a "babe magnet". But it got me to high school and back, to the beach, to drive-ins, and the girls I dated didn't seem to mind that the front passenger door was wired shut (until I finally found one in a junk yard to replace it). Or that the front seats were torn.The radio worked (if you banged on it from time to time... ask me about "vibrator tubes") and that was good. And gas was cheap then. I was really mobile then. My travel radius moved out to the hundred mile range. It broke down from time to time, though, and I had to be handy with impromptu repairs. This was pre-duct tape so it was electrical (and friction) tape, coat hangers, in the tool box. Along with channel lock pliers, a couple of screwdrivers, and a few wrenches (the most handy one being a 9/16).

The next year we moved up to Orlando and I managed to convince my mother to get me a more dependable car. A `55 Buick Special. Yellow. With a black roof. Automatic. V-8 (vroom vroom). No torn seats, though, no oil leaks, no wired doors. Still not a babe magnet. But comfy with a nice big back seat for dating uses. And dependable enough for me to take down to Dade County (about 240 miles) on occasional weekends to visit old friends. Or out to Daytona Beach or Tampa.

I went through a few cars between then and my Navy enlistment (a 56 Chevy, a 58 Chevy, a 56 Buick). Used cars don't really hold up all that well. Especially in the hands of a teenager. I never got that MGA I always wanted either.

While in the Navy, I managed to get back into motorcycles except for a period of about a year where I owned an MG sedan. Motorcycles became my primary transportation for almost 3 years. And secondary transportation for another 4.

But cars and pickups took over. Mostly small ones. I liked small cars. They were (are) economical, mostly fun to drive, and cheaper both to buy and to insure. Then middle age struck. Hard. I found myself leaning toward that sofa on wheels. With automatic transmission, air conditioning, am-fm stereo (and more) and that blessed option,cruise control.

So now I drive a Buick Lucerne with all the goodies, even rain sensor wipers, and wonder what happened to that kid on the push scooter.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Sunrises vs Sunsets

I was driving home from a jaunt down to Naples and then up through Sarasota. This little ride took more than a few hours and entailed a stop over in Sarasota for some Sam's Club shopping. What all that meant is that the sun was going down as I got within a few short miles of my house. And I was treated to beautiful sunset colors off to my left that slowly stretched across the sky. A sunset through the pines (we have a lot of pines in Florida) with the remains of storm clouds overhead is a symphony of colors from blues to pinks to reds to oranges with a multitude of hues in between. They are indescribable in mere words. Master painters struggle with their depictions (though they try mightily) and the photographs and movies fall somewhat short of the glory of a sunset. I was reminded of my mother's love of sunsets. She thought Florida had the most beautiful sunsets of all.

It isn't true. I have seen sunsets in many states of this country and in a few other countries. sunsets are, most of the time, simply the epitome of transient beauty. They are an evolving composition of color and emotion, which is what makes them so hard to describe, paint, or even capture in a photograph. They are rivaled only by sunrises. A sunrise is not simply a sunset in reverse. It has its own colors and emotions.

The environment has an effect on the beauty and its perception. As do the events prior to the time of each. I am especially partial to sunrises.

I was in Daytona Beach visiting a friend just before I entered the Navy when I witnessed a sunrise that I can conjure up mentally easily. Another friend and I had driven up the day before, arriving late in the evening. Of course we spent the next many hours talking and drinking as we went over old times and future plans. Before we realized it, it was dawn. My friend was living in a motel on the beach and we had been sitting facing the ocean while we talked and talked (and drank and drank). We went silent as the sky slowly transitioned from black to blue to orange to red and the ocean followed suit. The sun slowly rose above the horizon as we watched. There were clouds above the horizon whose base reflected all the colors. As the sun continued to rise and pass its equator, it began to elongate.... to stretch. And then it started to narrow at the middle. Still moving up, the "waist" of the sun grew narrower and narrower until it seemed that there were almost two suns connected by a thin, short, string of sunfire. And then they separated and there were two suns, one above the other for just a split second. At the same time, the colors danced in the sky above and around them.

It was only the effects of reflection on the ocean which was calm and silky. But the images are forever burned into my brain along with the emotions of friends facing separation for the first time seemingly permanent.

I had always loved sunrises, even before that morning, having watched a number of them over the ocean as I grew up in south Florida (and spent way too many nights roaming the beach overnight). But that one has never been rivaled by any I have seen since.

Sunrises or sunsets, no one paints as wondrous a scene as Mother Nature.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The (Ongoing) Life of Brian

Have I ever told you about my son? He was born on 7/7/70. One would think that was a lucky date. Maybe. I wasn't so sure. After all, I was a lad of 24 myself and not sure of where I was going in this world. Still, it was an important event and meant I had to be responsible. I now had a son to watch over, to protect, to provide for. It meant I had to grow up.

Before I knew it, he was 3 and getting into everything. Like a puppy, he was all hands and feet and I knew he'd be a handful.
But, in spite of his clumsiness and lack of grace, he managed to survive the scrapes and bumps and bruises of early childhood and make it into his teens. With a love of baseball. Not a great player nor destined for professional sports but a good one and an asset to every team he was on. He could pitch, he could field (any position, mostly shortstop), he eventually learned to run fast enough to even steal a few bases.

Amazingly, he managed to graduate from high school and then, after some fits and starts, even from college (San Diego State) with a degree in accounting.

I suspect that this was because of the influence of the creature on his left whom he knew from 3rd grade but who became his girlfriend in high school.

... whom he had the good sense to eventually marry.
They then produced these little sweethearts...

And now he is learning what he taught me...


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Excuse Me While I Whine

I didn't post anything yesterday. I could come up with a lot of excuses but, basically, I didn't have anything to write about and I took that as a good enough reason to be lazy. Though I really don't need a good reason since laziness is my natural state.

"Douglas, why are you so lazy?"
"Because of all the things I could be, it takes the least effort."

I no longer consider myself lazy. I consider myself efficient. I realized a number of years ago (decades, actually) that efficiency is admired while laziness isn't. And there really is very little difference between the two except that one is a tad more productive.

I am not writing about either laziness or efficiency today. I am simply doing the written form of babbling while I figure out what I do wish to convey.

I have hit a little bump in the road of life in the past few weeks. First, I have experienced a rift in my relationship with my brother-in-law (sister's hubby, or as I like to call him "#9"). Jack is not a bad guy. But he is a retired Army colonel (full colonel, he will remind you at most every opportunity) and they have some annoying habits. One of which is to treat people like subordinates. You can ignore this for just so long and then... well, there's a rift.

Second, there is the matter of my 92 year old aunt. Grace is a nice, but a bit odd, person who used to live in Naples. My sister, who was made guardian of Grace's husband, who was in bad physical shape, moved her and Norm up here so she could better see to his needs about four years ago. Norm lasted all of a month before passing away. This left Grace all alone with no one to look after her. Grace is a headstrong woman. Charming but a little offbeat. At 88 (when Norm passed), she was physically healthy but a bit forgetful. That was 4 years ago. She is still physically healthy but her forgetfulness is in, shall we say, full bloom.

My sister reluctantly looked after her. This became more and more of a chore as time went on. Grace cannot be convinced she should move into assisted living. Therefore, Grace ends up with a small house (actually two, side by side) in the heart of town where she can walk to the junk... uh, antique... shops and art stores which dot the downtown area. She has yet to do this. She is also a pack rat (a family trait, sadly) so her little house overfloweth... with junk, trash, and who knows what.

Finally, my sister has some health problems which she has ignored, and exacerbated by not eating enough, which has landed her in the hospital. This was not wholly unexpected. Unfortunately, my sister had not taken steps to see to Grace's needs while she would be laid up. So I got a call from Grace asking me to give her a ride to Naples. She wanted to return there to the house she once lived in. A house which may be unlivable except by the wild peacocks who have taken over the formerly screened front porch.

Fortunately, Grace has a friend in Naples who is also a nurse (pediatrics, she likes to remind me) who has some apartments where Grace can live. And I arranged for Kitty to come get her. Kitty is happy to do so.

Did I mention that Grace has assets of close to a $million? Well, likely much less these days but still...

My next step is to see that Grace's financial needs are seen to without her being fleeced. I think that can be done easily enough. But it means I will be busy over the next several days trying to get things organized down in Naples

Did I mention that I am also having guests (Faye's other sister and her husband) drop in this week for a two day stay?

This is severely impacting my laziness...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Maybe Not So Smart Cars

A Friend sent me this email the other day. While I found it funny, I am also intrigued by the possibility of one of these vehicles... except it sounds like something to roast over a campfire.

The Smart Car

what we will be forced to drive quite soon.

But look at all of the 'great new choices'

we will have from 'The SMART Car'.....

The Smorvette!

The Smaudi A3 AWD!

The Smamborghini!

The Smorsche!

The Smerrari!

And last, but not least,

The Smustang


Saturday, July 4, 2009

And Finally (I think)

I keep finding appropriate (somewhat) things to post for today...

A Puzzle For Today

Have a Great Fourth of July!

Today is an important day for people all over the world. Of course, primarily for those of us in the United States. But when you consider our history (both good and bad), you realize we have had a huge impact on the entire world. In spite of our shortcomings, we are still the nation who draws the most immigrants (both legal and illegal) and still seen as the primary example of individual freedom.. The following text did not spark the Revolution, it had already begun a year or more before. Instead, it embodied the thinking of its leaders, of the men who represented the colonies which would become the original United States of America. The words did not reflect the reality of the freedom that was won in that revolution. That freedom fell far short of what we have today. The document stands as the embodiment of what we had hoped to achieve and still hope to achieve. Today is a good day to re-read these words.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

The following link will take you to the Virginia Declaration of Rights. That document undoubtedly inspired not only the Declaration of Independence but also the Bill of Rights that formed the basis for all our civil rights.