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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A most personal invasion

We are nothing more than vessels for our masters; the germs, bacteria, and other microorganisms that see our bodies as their own ecosystems. They live in all the wet dark corners of our bodies, happily breeding and doing whatever other activities amuse and entertain them. Do they know we exist? Do they know anything at all?

If you haven't guessed, I have some kind of disease. First, Frances came down with it. Hacking and coughing more than usual (she is a smoker, after all) and sleeping a lot, she generously gifted it to Faye. And, of course, Faye felt it should be shared with me. So now I have the stuffed up sinuses, the chills are lurking in the wings (I can feel them, I tell you) with the fever.

The weakness is what I dread the most. That inability to feel any strength in arms or legs. It comes at the end of the fever and chills. Is it because we have expended all the nutrients to vainly (it seems) fight off the invading germs? All our resources seem to get used up, leaving us with a weakened shell of a body, a limp and useless (and often smelly) pile of flesh.

And that is where I am now at. I am at that stage where I am either in recovery and tomorrow will be back to my old, gimpy (damned knee!), self. Or I will be in relapse and going through more fever and chills and loss of appetite. You know (at least I do) you're sick when you cannot munch down some oatmeal raisin cookies.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Buddy, can you spare a couple of bucks?

I read this article the other day on the MSNBC website which talked about how the current crop of college students are "less empathetic" than in the past. Toward the end of the article was a link to the empathy test. So, naturally, I took it. Did pretty well, actually. I think. It's not clear to me that the test is useful.

You see, for some test to measure your inner feelings, how you view the world around you, the wording of the questions need to mask the real intent of the question. When answers are easily equated to a certain result then they are useless. It leaves all the honesty up to the test taker. That may work when looking at a large number of people (people do tend to be honest, I think) but I suspect not always. One must be careful.

For this test, it was obvious that empathy was being examined. Empathy is generally considered to be a desirable trait. And, I'm afraid, it is all too often confused with sympathy and pity. Empathy is the ability to see and feel things as others do. Putting oneself in another's shoes, so to speak.

I can do that. Always have been able to. It is not always a good thing to do. Too much empathy can be a bad thing. It can make you a sucker, easily taken advantage of. That empathy you feel, those emotions, may only be on one side; your own. I have an anecdote that seems an appropriate example:

I was washing my car at a coin-op car wash in Pacific Beach (part of San Diego) one warm Sunday morning when a disheveled man walked up. He was youngish, late 20's or early 30's, and in seemingly good physical shape, just bleary and tired. His clothes were not shabby and 2nd or 3rd hand. They seemed fairly new, just slept in. He looked like he had been to a party that had lasted well into the next day, or night. And that is how he described it. He had gotten off work as a bartender Saturday afternoon and had gone straight to a friend's place where he met a young lady who took him to a party. He had no car, she was his transportation. Over the evening and night of drinking and carousing, they became separated.

He had gotten quite drunk and eventually passed out. When he awoke, it was early morning, he was lying on a patio in someone's backyard, and was terribly hungover. He had only a vague idea where he was, no one seemed awake or about and he just left and tried to figure out where he was. He discovered he was cashless and did not know how that came about. He lived in La Jolla, he told me, and needed to get home. He was due to be at work at 6 that evening. Could I let him have a couple of bucks for bus fare?

Being a bit of a softie and not broke myself, I gave him $5 and watched him walk away. After all, I had been in the same straits once or twice myself. At the back of my mind, I "knew" it was a phony story. It had some holes in it. This was confirmed a couple of weeks later when I saw him at a supermarket near my job. He was buying a bottle of cheap wine and handled it like it was a prized possession as he paid for it with a couple of wrinkled bills. He was beaming. It was 10 AM and his clothes were the same as he wore that Sunday morning, though a bit worse for more wear.

Con men use your sympathy and empathy and, when necessary, your pity to squeeze some money from you. Even friends and family members will use these to get you to do something for them. We've all done it, I suppose.

So how empathetic should we be? We need to balance that empathy with a touch of realism. What if I had truly empathized with my panhandler? What if I had seen it from his actual persepective? His actual perspective was that I was a "mark", a person who might be able to relate to a certain story because I was at the right age (late 30's) and appeared to be someone who might have been a partier. If I had any empathy at all, I would at least listen to the sad story. A salesmen making his pitch based upon his ability to read the customer or client.

Politicians also use this to garner votes, to sway public opinion. Charities rely on it to get donations.

Take the test yourself. I could have got close to a perfect score because, to me, the answers to achieve that were way too obvious. But I chose to treat it honestly. I had to be careful, though, and not let my desire to appear to be a "good guy" dictate any answers.

Empathy Quiz

My score was 55/70 (78.6%)

Friday, May 28, 2010

But sleep won't come...

... the whole night through...*

Ever have one of those nights? You know, where sleep is more than elusive? Where it sits in the shadows near your bed and snickers evilly while you feel your skin, your heartbeat in the pulse near your ear (almost hearing it), breeze from the window (or, these days, the flow of cooled air from the AC vent) chilling you, every sound louder and more annoying?

When I was young, I had so many of those nights but easily survived them. Then, I could go 24 hours easily (sometimes 36) without sleep anyway. Of course, I would always crash at the end and sleep so soundly nothing would rouse me for 10-12 hours.

But I am old now. And when those nights come, there is no ignoring the need for sleep. I will suffer for most of the day, I will be bleary of mind and eye, I will be unable to concentrate anywhere near properly on any task at hand. I will pay for this night dearly. I will nap soundly later in the day, while watching TV or trying to read. Maybe even while hunched over the keyboard of this computer, my head nodding like a heroin addict feeling that rush.

I didn't mind losing sleep when I was young. Sleep was an annoyance all its own then, an intrusion into my desire for constant stimulation. Now sleep is something I desire much more than excitement most days and nights.

But I am still a slave to whatever rules my body clock.

*from "Your Cheatin' Heart" by Hank Williams, Jr.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Consumer Alert Time

The following video of a CBS News investigation piece is important. It shows me a number of problems that I will avoid by:

1. Not using public copiers (libraries, data centers, etc) for copying personal records.

2. Not allowing ANY business to copy anything with my personal data.

3. Not trusting that any of my data is secure in someone else's hands.

I was unaware they used permanent storage, like hard drives. I assumed they used RAM banks. These would not store any data permanently. Once power is removed, they would go blank. There's really no need to store massive amounts of data as part of the copying function. The multi-function types are probably where the dangers are since they act as hubs (as in "Biz-Hub") for all sorts of things. But these days, there is the capability of multiple gigabytes of RAM storage so why don't the copier companies use that? Cost, probably. But they could pass that cost on by explaining the security aspect.

With this knowledge, if I had a leased machine, I would be demanding the hard drive be left with my company or be shown that the drive was "scrubbed" before I returned it.

Here's the video link for YouTube...

Though it doesn't seem to be mentioned in the video, think about how many times some government agency copies your data... IRS, SS, DMV, whatever...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'd like more, please.

I am not a big eater. Most of my life I have been considered underweight. A polite way of saying... "skinny"... which was also what I was called more often than not. And, of course, "skinny" is not what a guy wants to be be. Guys aren't skinny. At least, not when I was growing up. Guys had meat on them. So they could show off muscles, not ribs, at the beach. I wore T-shirts at the beach.

But "skinny" was what I was. It was an inheritance from my father. I was told he weighed 140 lbs when he married my mother. He was 6'4". I have seen pictures of him in his 20s... he was definitely "skinny."

Today, we are told, we are experiencing an "epidemic of obesity." Could be true. I see a lot of heavy people out there. And I do mean heavy. Overflowing seats heavy. Scare the bejesus out of "all you can eat" restauranteurs heavy. Fat people.

My mother fought with her weight constantly. She was short, 5'3", and the highest she ever admitted weighing was "a little over 140." A flat out lie even then. Still, she tried diets, eschewed sugar, and tried to lose weight. I can't say I ever saw any positive results. She never hit obese but she stayed what you might call "pleasantly plump" until her later years. She had some health problems, stopped eating, and dropped a bunch of weight. A real "babe" at 78. She gained some of it back in the next several years before she passed away but never got nearly as heavy as she had been.

Why do I bring this up? Well, those guys at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) did a study on what's available at restaurants and were, predictably, appalled. I have to agree with them on this to some degree. Restaurants serve portions well above what you need. Well above what I even want. I tend to take half home most of the time.

Extreme Restaurants

Only two of the most egregious violators of common sense are available here in my little town and I don't patronize them anyway. Well, I do stop by Bob Evans once in a great while but that amounts to maybe twice a year and then I eat the half portion meals.

Want to know the best way to lose weight? Savor your food. Eat slowly, very slowly. Chew each bite until the flavor is gone and then swallow. And skip desert 6 days out of 7. Make it a reward for being good. Or a ritual for Sunday evening.

Or break a kneecap and find it too painful to think about food.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I am being persecuted

I don't wish to involve anyone (least of all, the ragged few readers I have) in a domestic squabble but Faye is demanding that I clean up my computer desk. Something about it being a mess. I don't quite grasp the meaning of that term, "mess", but I am told it means "a: disordered, untidy, offensive, or unpleasant state or condition b : one that is disordered, untidy, offensive, or unpleasant usually because of blundering, laxity, or misconduct."

I am a tad offended. After all, it is my desk. Am I not allowed a little liberty in my own space? Am I not allowed to have my own space?

I resent the implication that I am disorganized. Everything is there, on the desk, in the cubbyholes, or behind the doors. And I do mean everything. When asked if I have this paper or that item, I can honestly reply that "it is somewhere on my desk." Unless, of course, Faye has filed it away somewhere under some mystifying (to me) category in the file drawers that sit between our desks. I will grant that her filing is pretty close to alphabetical but I am unsure why there is a folder labeled "Chevy" when I haven't owned one since 2006.


Ok, maybe it is a little dusty...

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ok, caller, what's on your mind?

I am making a number of confessions here. Some of you may be surprised, some of you will not. Some may even be shocked. After all, we really do not know people, we only think we do. What is that is always said after the police haul away the guy next door?

He seemed like a nice man, quiet and kept to himself mostly but he always waved or smiled when I would seem him in the yard. But so many bodies...

I was sent a link to the a clip of a caller into the Michael Savage radio show. Now, Savage is a rather radical person who has the capacity to offend just about anyone. There are no stations in this area which carry his show. Even when I lived in an area where his show was available, I rarely tuned it in on purpose. Mostly, it was because I was traveling and was seeking some diversion on the radio.

I do, however, listen to talk radio. I do it because it exposes me to various points of view. Both by the hosts and by the callers. Most talk shows are quite boring, actually. If they have guests, the guests are people you never heard of or they are hawking a book. Or both. Local talk shows are probably the worst of all. Still, there are interesting moments and that is why I listen.

But let's get back to Michael Savage. It isn't Savage that is of interest here, it is the caller. I think, if you plan to call into a talk show, you should actually have some facts down. That is, you should know what it is you are passionate about. After all, the host will do his (or her) level best to make you look as stupid as possible. In this case, Savage was given a gift of sorts. The woman who called in knew next to nothing about her own country and clearly had little understanding of human nature. Her first thought literally blew me away. As I listened (it was like watching a train wreck), she got even worse. If you play it, listen closely to what she says, try to get an understanding of her thought processes.

There was something she said, maybe about midway through the call, that I fixated on. And, that is why I am writing this piece today. She said that we had to limit people's salaries (I am sure she meant the heads of the Evil Corporations but she wasn't clear on that) because it was "greed" which caused our problems. A thought leaped into my brain, scrambled for a toe-hold in that vast wasteland, and has been bouncing about ever since. Isn't greed one of the reasons that people enter this country illegally?

Whether they are poor, unskilled, workers looking for those jobs we keep saying Americans won't take or drug runners or skilled workers looking to take those jobs Americans would take if they could find them, aren't they looking for more moeny than they could get in their own country? And isn't that the very definition of greed? Wanting more? Before you take me to task, I am generalizing. I am not saying that every single illegal alien is greedy. I am saying that greed isn't always about being rich.

The online dictionary definition is:

excessive or rapacious desire, esp. for wealth or possessions.

It seems to me that if you are willing to gamble your savings (and possibly the savings of several in your family) and your life (that is a risky trip, after all) for a chance to live outside the law so you could get more money and a better life for yourself and your loved ones that it could be called "excessive desire."

I could be wrong. But I would call thieves, gamblers, and people who work all the overtime they can get... greedy. And I would say anyone willing to pay some unknown person thousands of dollars to break the laws of two countries (they are also leaving their own countries illegally) without due regard to the risks to life and liberty to get more than they have may also be greedy.

They may also be desperate. Yet they somehow manage to get the $2000 or more it now costs for a "coyote" to shepherd them through the border.

Maybe I just have a warped perspective. Really, I have nothing against these people. I feel very sorry for them and the fact that their situations in their own countries are so terrible. I have been to Mexico and I have been to a few other countries and I have seen poverty that would sicken the average American. I do not know if I could survive in the conditions that millions are forced to endure elsewhere in the world.

But coming here, risking life and liberty and the hard (harder than you could imagine) earned savings of themselves and their families, just doesn't make sense to me.

When I was in the Navy, I had shipmates who came out of poverty. They came from slums, from ghettos, from barrios. The Navy didn't pay well but it gave them more than they had growing up. It showed them a life where you could work and earn and live better. Yet most of them returned to the places where they grew up right after they got out. I never understood that either.

I guess I will never figure out human nature.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yeah? Well, I think...

People who know me know I do not shy away from argument. I have strong opinions and I am willing to defend them. So I have been, over my 63 years, in a lot of arguments. Most of these have remained civil, a small portion have escalated to loud words and insults, a tiny portion have escalated to physicality. The vast majority could be better described as debates.

I have learned a lot from these arguments. I have strengthened some of my opinions and I have altered some. I don't think any argument has resulted in a complete change of my opinion. But some, no doubt, planted the seeds of change.

In my 20's, I often argued from the liberal side. In my 30's, I started shifting to the conservative. I have stayed mostly on that side but not always. I am an Individualist (but is is not that simple). So I form opinions on various things and sometimes find I am in conflict with myself. That leads to great consternation and unease.

You will note that I did not mention my ideological leanings prior to my 20's. That is because I really didn't have any. Or at least hadn't considered I had any. In my teens I probably had two or three, depending on what the girl I was dating thought about things. I still argued but it was usually about stupid things of little importance beyond the moment. And never with the girl I was dating. I was always in complete accord with her.

I don't argue as much now that I am in my 60's, if we do not count online, I am a much more mellow guy these days. Though I do offer my opinions, I rarely argue in favor of them. I just state them and refuse to engage in debate about them.

What I have found, over the years, that few people who argue have ever taken a formal debate class and many have not studied Logic. Most people violate certain rules of debate or employ tactics that are frowned upon. Strawmen, red herrings, etc. are tossed about with wild abandon. I found a page that lists fallacious arguments if you are interested at all. You might want to read through them. If you have engaged in debate on the internet (and who hasn't?), you will easily recognize those that have been used against you. If you are honest, you will also recognize how many you have used.

You are honest, aren't you?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

I Lied

I misstated something yesterday. I didn't mean to and it wasn't like claiming I served in Vietnam when I really spent my USMC Reserve time in Washington, DC. No, I did actually serve in Vietnam and it was in the US Navy. So, nothing misrepresented there.

It was the emergency room bill that was misstated. I said it was about $3200 and it wasn't. I am so ashamed. The actual total submitted to the insurance company was $2393.28. It came in the form of two bills; one from the hospital...


Total $974.00

And one from the contractor who supposedly runs the emergency room under contract by the hospital...

Pharmacy Services $22.73
Medical/Surgical Supplies $125.75
Radiology Services $618.20
Emergency Center $652.60
Total $1419.28

So, I wanted to be upfront about my error.

And we wonder about why insurance rates are so high.

Yet, oddly, the insurance companies don't seem to care much about these costs. After all, they had no problem that two pictures on the X-ray machine costs over $600. or that the emergency room itself billed for its existence while the doctor billed almost as much for his 5 minutes with me.

As I mentioned to the insurance company, I would be sure not to go to the emergency room for a mere broken bone in the future. I would just wait until the next day (or two if a Saturday) and call the orthopedic surgeon. After all, I have a softcast available and crutches. I can get a prescription from my doctor over the phone (he'll call it in) when his office is closed.

I wonder if the EMT service will send a bill?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Quiet Sunday Afternoon

It has dawned on me that I did properly relate to you the Emergency Room Epic of late March.

You see, once you break an important bone (and the kneecap is, I have learned, very important) you must go to the emergency room at the nearest hospital that your medical insurance will pay. You can go to any emergency room but if they are not on the In Network list, you will be amazed at how much medical care costs these days. You will be anyway but even more so in that case.

I am fortunate. My health insurance lists both of the hospitals in my little town so I actually had a choice. I had no idea which choice would be right in this particular situation. After all, all my other visits to emergency rooms were for cuts, lacerations, gunshots breathing difficulties, or other routine things. So I chose to be transported to the nearest one... which just happened to be less than a mile away.

It was the wrong one. Apparently, it was the emergency room du jour. They were overflowing with cases. Alzheimer's patients with weird symptoms of disorientation, children with vomiting issues, people needing bloodwork for no apparent reason, and many worried relatives.

So the EMT crew rolled me in to the main area, moved me gently to a hospital gurney (since I refused to get off and walk), and said something like "good luck!" and laughed.

Every so often, someone in a set of scrubs would ask me why I was there and I would tell them I was pretty sure I had broken my kneecap. They would make sympathetic sounds, ask me how I managed to do such a thing, and then wander off to chat up a co-worker and go on break.

And I waited... and waited. Eventually, I convinced the nurse who seemed to be overseeing the operation to arrange for an X-ray of my knee to confirm what I already knew. I admit I pressed for this because she kept reporting to what appeared to be doctors that I "was complaining of knee pain."

I wasn't complaining at all at that point. I was simply waiting for someone to get around to examining me and, just maybe, treating me. I figured if I already had an X-ray taken, it would move things along.

I was wrong.

There was no official radiologist to interpret the X-ray. Not that it needed much in the way of interpretation, the kneecap was clearly in two pieces. And still I waited. I sent Faye home before she fainted from hunger and before the rain (did I mention it was raining?) got worse. And waited some more.

After 3 and half hours, a doctor came to me and asked what my trouble was. I explained about the kneecap. I explained about the X-ray. He told me they would fit me with a soft-cast and send me home, that I should see an orthopedic surgeon as soon as possible, and give me a prescription for painkillers. He also ordered someone to give me a painkiller (I said it was unnecessary) so that the fitting of the soft-cast would go smoothly.

So, an orderly brought a painkiller and a glass of water. Soon after, a young woman came by and got my insurance info and promised to process it so I can leave. I called Faye and asked her to come back and pick me up. 15 minutes later, two males (I have no idea if they were nurses or merely aides) brought the soft-cast and placed it on my leg. They also handed me a pair of crutches and made sure I knew how to use them.

The young woman returned and escorted me to the door where Faye would pick me up. I was not wheeled out, I hobbled behind her on my new crutches. Faye showed up and I worked my way onto the back seat of her car. And we went home.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the bills from the emergency room visit. Yes, plural. It seems that the hospital does not run the emergency room but contracts it out. The total of the two bills was about $3200. I am responsible for about 10% of that.

That painkiller? $22.73

And, no, I really didn't need it.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Matters of Life and Death

"My relationship with death remains the same - I'm strongly against it." [Woody Allen]

I must agree with Mr. Allen on that.

Life and death is no laughing matter, some say. But we do laugh about them both. One easily, the other perhaps a tad nervously. But which one at which time?

The dying man
A priest was preparing a man for his long journey into the night.
Whispering firmly, the priest said, "Denounce the devil! Let him know how little you think of his evil."
The dying man said nothing.
The priest repeated his order. Still the dying man said nothing.
The priest asked, "Why do you refuse to denounce the devil and his evil?"
The dying man said, "Until I know where I'm heading, I don't think I ought to aggravate anybody."

I have had a couple of close calls with death. Near misses, you might say. These have left me wondering about parallel universes. What if, I muse, that close call was just an intersection with a parallel universe? And then I think that it is of no importance if true since I cannot do anything about it, I am stuck in this one.

Don't worry, if you haven't had any close calls... you will. We all do eventually. And, just as eventually (maybe more so), the call won't be close. At some point in one's life, you begin to realize that it is inescapable. At that point, you begin to develop a philosophy about it.

My father lived most of his life with the assumption that he would die in his middle 60's. After all, his father had, his grandfather had, and his great grandfather had. It turned out you cannot depend on your ancestors... he was 84 when he passed away.

Personally, I think Allen really hasn't taken it seriously. If you ask me, he is trying to whistle past the graveyard.

You might want to read more here about getting older and about death from Woody Allen. He is perhaps wiser than he thinks.

It's certain that I don't know any more than he does. Probably a lot less.

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose,
Nothing don't mean nothing honey if it ain't free

[Me and Bobby Magee]

I like freedom. And it seems to be the main subject of conversation these days. In my arguments discussions with my brother, in the news and commentary shows, in the protests in California, Arizona, and elsewhere. Even overseas in places like Thailand. There was some concern about it not long ago in Myanmar but we don't hear much from there of late. It's still ongoing but the news media seems somewhat bored with that now. I digress again.

Much of the talk about freedom lately is centered freedom of movement. The right to not be bothered by someone stopping you and asking for identification, proof you belong here. There seems to be a lot of people outraged over the idea that the police could demand identification just because of what you look like. They call it "racial profiling" and denounce any law which would appear to permit it or even hint at it.

I was raised in the 50's and 60's. Things were a little different then. In those years, the police were not restricted from stopping anyone at any time for no apparent reason other than a hunch and asking for identification and an explanation of why you were where you were.

When I was in my teens, this happened fairly frequently. I would be walking down the street with a few friends, or alone, and a cop would pull up and ask for ID and query me about where I was going and where I was coming from. I would get pulled over while driving and have my car searched and any passengers would be questioned along with me.

Complaints about this treatment would not help. Complaining to the cop at the time would only increase his suspicion and cause you to be detained even longer. Complaints to your parents would result in their questioning your behavior at the time.

"Just why were you there?"
"What were you doing that made the police want to stop you?"

You soon learned to not complain to anyone but your friends. But you really didn't even do that. Mostly you laughed about it. You figured out how to make any stop as short as possible. You learned to look innocent. You took it in stride.

It was just the way it was.

In late 1965, I found it could be even worse. I enlisted in the US Navy. Now not only could the police detain me but so could any officer or NCO (on base) or Shore Patrol personnel (off base). And they seemed to need even less reason. I needed to carry not only ID but some things called a "Liberty Card" or "Leave Papers" or "Orders" to be produced upon demand.

I still thought I was free. That I was living in a free country.

I look at the crowds in the protests these days and I realize most of them were not even born when I went through all that. Most of them had no idea what it was like. They would be outraged. Except they wouldn't. Because it wasn't all that outrageous then. You see, unless we were actually up to something, it was a minor annoyance that you put up with for the greater good. Because we didn't see the police as "the Gestapo." We knew there were no concentration camps. We knew we would be on our way soon enough.

And when we weren't all that innocent? We learned to avoid the police as much as possible.

While in the Navy, I traveled to a few countries. Some of them were a bit more restrictive than others. We were reminded to act as "guests", to behave as if we had entered someone's home. Most of us followed that advice.

I guess what I am trying to say is that freedom is a relative thing. It's a state of mind. There are always restrictions within a society. It is the nature of society. It is how society remains peaceful and cooperative. And safe.

I am not saying it is right or wrong. I am saying that, of all the places I have visited... of all the countries I have been in, this one's pretty good in terms of freedom. Liberty expands here. When a law is unjust, or unconstitutional , it eventually gets overturned or rescinded.

In 30 years or so, you may find yourself wondering what the fuss was all about.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I am confused (yet again)

Yes, I am confused, and it concerns the size and age of the Universe. Maybe it's because I am a simple man with little understanding. Or maybe the math really doesn't add up.

  • A light year is the distance that light travels in one year.
  • Theoretically, nothing can travel faster than light.
  • The Universe is approximately 13.75 Billion years old.
  • The Universe is approximately 156 Billion light years in size.

Excuse me for being ignorant and stupid but how can matter have traveled more than ten times farther than the age of the Universe would suggest it could?

Correction: The radius (distance from the center to the edge) of the Universe is 76.5 Billion light years (or thereabouts). Still... that's 5.564 times the size it should be.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

You have the Right to remain stupid...

The title of this piece comes from a sort of litany a friend used to recite whenever he witnessed something, well, stupid.

You have the right to remain stupid.
Should you choose to exercise that right, I have the right to laugh at you at every opportunity.

It comes from a famous ruling by the US Supreme Court commonly referred to as the Miranda Rule.

Are you aware of the Miranda Rule? Of course you are... if you have lived in the US for any period of time and are an aficionado of "cop shows".

A brief history:

In 1966, in Miranda v. Arizona, the US Supreme court ruled that the police must inform a person of his Constitutional right to remain silent in order to use any information provided by that person against him in court. Basically, the court assumed a person being questioned by the police is ignorant of his right against self-incrimination and to an attorney under the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution and then conferred upon the police, the duty to inform said person of that right before any interrogation.

Seems only fair, doesn't it?

It resulted in a shorthand reference of "Miranda Rights" and the Miranda Warning.

You have the right to remain silent.
You have the right to an attorney before any questioning begins.
That anything you say could be used against you in a court of law.

Later, it included explaining that you could get a court appointed attorney.

Is it still necessary? Since the late 60's, every TV police show and movie has featured this warning. Most of us can recite the warning (at least in part) now. Well, certainly those of us who watch the aforementioned cop shows and movies can do so.

I ask about this because it is in the news again. It seems there is some question about who should be warned about their Miranda Rights and when. Especially in cases involving terrorism.

Should terror suspects be given Miranda Warnings?
If so, in what circumstances? Only if arrested within the legal boundaries of the United States? Or during any questioning by an agent of the United States regardless of location? And what bearing should the citizenship status of the detainee have on the matter?

I have mixed feelings about this (as I do on so many things, it seems). I think people should not be denied basic rights regardless of citizenship or the crime of which they are accused. On the other hand, I think the warning is overdone. I was, as many of you know, a member of of the US military at one time. While I was being molded into the type of automaton the military wants (and needs), my rights under the Geneva Convention were drilled into me. I am sure, if I was captured by whatever enemy with whom we were engaged, I would not be informed about those rights by said enemy. Why, then, should I expect the police to inform me of my rights under the Constitution? It seems to me that I, as a citizen, should already be well aware of those rights. That my education should have covered all that.

Therefore, I think the only time these rights need to be emphasized by the authorities is when handling a non-citizen. Because I also think that anytime you are arrested by United States authorities within the legal boundaries of the United States you are protected by the Constitution.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Puttin' out fires...

I sometimes wonder, and have for many decades, why anyone wants to be the leader of a country. And to be the leader of the United States, arguably the most important and powerful country on the planet.

I was perusing the news and caught, on a sidebar, a blip about President Obama putting "security higher on [his] agenda." Higher than what? Isn't that the first and foremost duty of a nation's leader? Nothing else matters if that is weak or non-existent. Well, it would seem to me that it is. the truly interesting thing was that blip had a headline:

"Bomb attempt puts security on Obama agenda"

Which begs the question... did the writer think it wasn't anywhere on his agenda before this?

The blip was next to a story about how the stock markets are fragmented and how this increases the chances of events like the late afternoon "meltdown" on the NYSE Thursday. Even though I took a fair sized "hit" that afternoon (I got most of it back on Friday), I am not quite ready to see a single global stock market.

But I digress...

My main thought is about why someone would want to be at the center of the chaos that is our world. Think about it. The last few presidents seem to have been bouncing from one "main priority" to another. And each jump is linked to some event like the car bomb attempt in Times Square. Or a hit on the economy. Or an oil spill. Or a law passed in Arizona. Crisis after crisis. Top priority takes precedence over the last top priority.

It's no wonder presidents' hair turns gray so quickly. Or maybe they just stop dying it once they get into office.

The last thing I ever wanted to be was president. And you all should be thankful for that.

Friday, May 7, 2010

A (half) day on the links

This past Wednesday, I took a chance and hit some golf balls at the range. I learned that (a) I could hit them and (b) that it wasn't just my leg muscles that had weakened since the Great Kneecap Incident. I was surprised that I did as well as I did though it was not great ball striking.

This encouraged me. So much so that I decided I would attempt a round of golf today. I was not overly optimistic, I figured my short term goal would be to make it through 9 holes, or halfway around, and decide what next from there.

And that is what I did. For the most part, I exceeded my expectations as far as quality of play. But I may have been too optimistic about my ability to hobble about. I was in too much pain to do more than 9 holes. So, discretion being the better part of valor, I opted to head home when we made the turn.

Still, it was good to get out on a golf course again. Of all the things this injury has interfered with, I miss golf the most. Those of you who do not play will not understand that but those of you who do... well, you get it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

If there is anything I can do?

For as far back as I can remember, I have been eager to please. That is, I have been willing to do things for people, anyone, even if the person is someone I do not like or get along with. I suspect I learned (or inherited, depending on your opinion of nature vs nurture) this trait from my mother. She would help anyone who asked, regardless of how she felt about them personally.

I can't explain it except that I feel good when I do a favor for someone. It does not matter whether I get so much as a "thank you" for it, it just gives me a feeling of pleasure that I cannot explain beyond using that word. And, conversely, if I have to refuse to help or do a favor, I feel guilty about it. Maybe it has something to do with endorphins.

That is how I broke my kneecap. Doing a favor. And I am now committed to going to that friend's house again tomorrow to finish up (I hope) what I was doing the Day of the Great Fall.

I guarantee I will be giving that ottoman a wide berth, though.