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.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I am much funnier when I am drunk...

... I know this because I notice people laughing all around me when I am. And that is even before I appropriate a lampshade for my head.

My sister-in-law commented the other day that they "ought to just plug up that well in the Gulf." I tried to explain how deep it was under the water but she trumped it with "Well, don't they have any divers?"

A lot of people fault BP for this whole mess and think they are dragging their feet in cleaning it up. For the life of me I cannot see the profit in losing all that oil, destroying the company's reputation, having to lay out $20 billion over 4 years, and the destruction of the drilling rig (those aren't cheap either). I am sure they have insurance of some kind for the rig but, like my homeowner's insurance, I am also sure there's a fairly big deductible.

In addition to faulting BP itself, people are boycotting BP gasoline. This, of course, might hurt a worldwide corporation a bit but devastates the very small business owner who actually owns and operates most of the BP gas stations in the US.

We are going through confirmation hearings for another Supreme Court nominee. Elena Kagan turns out to be not nearly as liberal as she was made out to be. At least, in front of that committee. I have learned one thing. She doesn't pronounce the "g" for any word ending in "ing". Imagine that, a Dean of Law at Harvard and she cannot pronounce "judging", it comes out "judgin'." Downright folksy, don't ya think? I almost expect to hear a "y'all" thrown on the end now and then.

Ms Kagan is doing her best not to be controversial. All nominees do this. No one really believes what she is saying about her ideology (which she can't seem to define) or politics (about which she is vague beyond being a life-long Democrat) not "interferin' with her judgin'."

It's just a game we play. Like a small child reciting a poem or the pledge of allegiance for a bunch of adults. The child has an advantage, she doesn't understand the words, she's just reciting them from memory. And, unlike the committee, the adults are people she actually looks up to.

She'll sail through this nomination process, they say. Probably so. And we'll all wonder why she seems so different once she gains that life-long job.

It's all just an illusion, isn't it? Life, I mean.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Protesting for fun and profit

In case you haven't noticed (or have been locked in a closet somewhere), there were protests going on at the G8 and G20 meetings in Toronto, Canada. Every time they have these economic summits, wackos and anarchists from all over the world show up to protest. Which brings up several questions:

  • How do these people get the money to travel?

They certainly don't all arrive by bicycle so they must be traveling on planes, trains, and automobiles. That makes me wonder about their commitment to ecological issues.

  • What are they actually hoping to accomplish?

They haven't, so far as I can tell, impacted any decisions made by those holding the meetings. And this is after years and years of protests.

  • Isn't it really just an excuse to wreak a little havoc?

They seem quite organized. They attack mostly corporate stores and banks. Not that it matters, these places all have insurance which allows them to repair the damage at minimal cost. I always find it amusing that they attack Starbucks. Especially since I suspect many of these people organize online while sipping $9 lattes at their own local Starbucks.

When I was in the Navy, we happened to be in San Francisco for repairs while the protests over People's Park were going on in Berkeley near the university. We were warned not to visit the area. In fact, they ran us through some tear gas "training" the first day we were in port.

Tear gas training consists of bringing in 5 sailors into the back of a large van. In the van is a bucket of water and two instructors. You can tell who the instructors are because they have gas masks in their possession. They also have tear gas canisters. After a short lecture consisting of the words "we're going to show you what tear gas feels like", one of the instructors pulls a tab on a canister and drops it in the bucket of water.

The water prevents the canister from setting the van on fire because these tear gas canisters heat up quite a bit. The tear gas is bad enough without having to deal with a burning van.

Since the rest of us had no gas masks, we got to actually breathe the tear gas. It burns. It stings the eyes, the nose, and the throat. You feel like you are going to choke, you hack and cough which only makes things worse because these actions require you gasp for breath thereby sucking in more tear gas.

An instructor then makes you state your name and service number before you are allowed to exit the van. And you must wait until everyone does this because they apparently don't want any gas to escape when they open the back doors.

Unlike protesters, we did not have water-soaked rags to cover our faces. Nor, of course, did we have gas masks. I am sure I was not the only one tempted to jump an instructor and take his. But we were rendered pretty much helpless and incapable of aggressive action.

The actual purpose of this exercise was to discourage us from joining the protesters.

We immediately headed for Berkeley once we left the base. After all, I had a friend I wished to visit who lived right next to the contested park. Well, he wasn't exactly a friend. He was the friend of a friend and he sold marijuana and LSD. Out of his apartment. With the police presence and National Guard camped below his apartment building. I suspect he sold to a number of the Guard.

The point of the protests over the People's Park were legitimate. And in the end, they won. The school administration decided to build the additional student parking elsewhere. But while those protests went on, there were a number of really good parties at the frat houses. The protests were more theater than serious protest. Most of the protesters did not go to school at Berkeley. I am sure many of them didn't go to school anywhere. They were there for the "scene."

That, I think is the purpose of these G20 protests. Just a reason to show up, make noise, meet girls (or boys), and maybe get in a little looting. Maybe they were bored because there were no soccer riots at the World Cup.

And the administration thinks the Tea Party people are dangerous?

Monday, June 28, 2010

What can I say?

Though I am certainly no wordsmith and I am not a qualified etymologist (I barely qualify as mono-lingual), I am fascinated by words and their usage. I have, in the past, been an excellent speller, an avid reader, and an appreciator of puns and clever witticisms (but I would not call myself an aficionado.

Alas, my spelling skills have withered and my vocabulary has shrunk. I suppose that is inevitable, the brain seems to have a finite capacity for knowledge. At least, in my case. It appears that my once very good memory has been misplaced somewhere. Still, I enjoy good wordplay and still look up the occasional word to find its origins.

I became interested in the origins of words soon after I began serious school (after kindergarten). Reading, as I have mentioned before, was important to me. I wanted to be able to read the "funny papers" and comic books without any help. I had teachers who helped immensely by telling me (and the other students who were awake) about words and their origins. Some of the explanations might well have been true.

Teachers told me that the word news could be broken down by North East West and South (actual etymology is unknown). And also that "history" came from "His story" (actually from the Greek word for "to inquire"). One teacher suggested we think of "woman" as "woe to man." Man came from the German"mannus" and woman came from a combination of "man" and "wyf" (as "wyfman") in Middle English. Wyf also became "wife." Or so the Web tells me...

I repeat here a joke that involves a play on words. To get the proper feel of the joke, imagine that I am telling it to you with in a totally deadpan manner (as it was told to me many years ago)...

A British gent was touring the former American colonies in the 1800's and, as he passed through Kansas, enjoyed the hospitality of a farmer and his family. The farmer explained about farming in the American frontier and the farmer's wife proudly showed off her vegetable garden which, she told him, provided all the vegetables for the family (I won't go into what the farmer's daughter taught him). The gent was quite impressed and, after a sumptuous dinner, asked his hostess what she did with the surplus from the garden for it surely produced much more than they needed.

"Oh," said the farmer's wife, "We preserve them in these canning jars so that we have vegetables throughout the winter. It's a process called 'canning', I am sure you've heard of it.
"We try to never let anything go to waste. We eat everything we can and what we can't, we can", she finished with a smile.

The gent was puzzled for a moment and then realized the clever play on words and laughed.

"Quite! Yes, jolly good!" he exclaimed.

After returning to England from his journey, he often told stories to interested parties about the things he learned and the people he met in America.

"Here's an amusing anecdote I picked up whilst visiting a lovely family in the hinterland," he said, and explained about the farmer and his family and about the bountiful garden. He spoke of all the wonderful vegetables she grew, more than they could eat after harvest.

"... and then she said 'what we can't eat, we preserve.'

Well, it sounded funny when I first heard it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Time is of the essence

If time were not a moving thing
and I could make it stay
This hour of love we share would
always be, there'd be no coming day
to shine a morning light to make us
realize our night is over.

The other night, Wednesday, I watched a show called "Through the Wormhole", hosted by Morgan Freeman, on the Science Channel. This is a fascinating series and this particular episode, called "Back to the Future", discussed the possibility of time travel.

Time travel has always been something I would love to do. At different times in my life, I wanted to travel forward or backward in time. Not so oddly, perhaps, the traveling forward was a dream in my childhood and the traveling back is something I muse about in my, uh, "senior years."

I think it is probably impossible to travel in time. Although I toy with the idea that should it be possible, it might be to another parallel universe rather than the one you started in. This resolves the paradox problems since you do not, and cannot, affect the future (or less recent past) of your own universe. If time travel is possible in that manner then there may have already been visitors from the future to our time (or past) and our universe.

It is something to think about, to muse over.

If I could travel back in time, I would choose a period that I am greatly interested in. It was a time of danger. I would like to experience the 30's and 40's.

Where would you go? Forward or backward? And how far?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Isn't Snickers a health food?

I was wandering about the web looking for ideas when I come across an article in WebMD about stem cell research resulting in improved vision. Seems that certain stem cells from the limbus region can be used to grow a cornea which can then be transplanted to the damaged eye. This is Good News for those who have suffered corneal damage.

On the sidebar, I notice a "slideshow" about Food Frauds so I check it out. I do not have a weight problem but I do have an interest in food. I am also routinely suspicious (AKA a cynic) so I always have doubts about the health benefits of various foods and drinks.

One of my pet theories is that diet sodas are, in reality, fattening. I base this on nothing scientific, of course, since doing that would take education, money, and expertise that I simply do not have. No, I form my theories out of nothing more than random observation, anecdotal evidence, and personal biases. Like most laymen do.

Seems like science is catching up to me about diet soda, however. Item #5 (of 23) reveals the following:

Sugar-free soda may not be an effective "diet" aid after all. Some early studies have linked diet soda to weight gain. Does it prompt the body to crave more food? Or do diet soda drinkers believe it's OK for them to get the large fries? It's still not clear.

Part of my theory says the body requires a certain amount of sugars and, when deprived, stores away what sugars it does get rather than simply use them. There is often that anecdotal evidence (and joke) where the customer at a fast food "restaurant" orders a jumbo double cheeseburger, large fries, an apple turnover, and a large diet soda. And then wonders why he (or she) weighs over 300 lbs and can't seem to lose weight.

I also believe we fight genetics and upbringing more than food choices. Maybe the food choices have a bit to do with upbringing but habits can be altered. Genetics, not yet.

I also learned a little about milk:

Whole Milk (3.25%) = 150 cal., 8g fat, 5g sat. fat
Reduced-fat (2%) = 130 cal., 5g fat, 3g sat. fat
Skim (nonfat) = 80 cal., 0g fat, 0g sat. fat

I have never liked milk. I don't know why. The only time I drank it on a regular basis was while I was in Boot Camp. And that was because the alternative was what we called "bug juice" (this was a generic Kool-Aid which tasted terrible... hence the name) or coffee (which didn't seem to refresh me on a hot day). The rest of the time in the Navy, while on board a ship, I avoided milk because it was only fresh while in port; two days out to sea and the fresh milk ran out and was replaced by "bug juice" and powdered milk. I drank mostly coffee... ok, I drank it almost constantly.

The list also included Turkey Hot Dogs (which truly conjures up a strange image). I have never thought of hot dogs as nutritious, not even the Kosher all beef ones (which I love). My parents served us those hot dogs which were made from the mostly unidentifiable leftovers of various and sundry animals slaughtered haphazardly plus the usual rodent droppings. These are tasty but nobody I ever knew considered they might have some nutritional value.

I drink a lot of green tea, both iced and hot, mostly the lemon-honey-ginseng variety. At restaurants, I order unsweetened iced tea. Say, how do you "un-sweeten" something??? Shouldn't it be "non-sweetened" iced tea? Or "plain"? But I digress... I do not drink tea because it is healthy, I drink it because I like it.

I also found an interesting page on WebMD which is called a "BMI Plus calculator". It turns out I am healthy....

I have a BMI of 23.3 and a "Body Shape (Waist To Height Ratio)" of .45

It's not the result of rigorous exercise and healthy diet, it is likely only genetics at work.

Eat your hearts out!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Out of the ashes...

In the hour of my greatest need, at a time when I was at my most vulnerable, my HP laptop (AKA "Stepchild") failed me. About 3 days after the Great Kneecap Incident, as I sat with my laptop on my... uh... lap, it simply shut down. Not a spontaneous reboot. A complete power down. In disbelief, I tried to start it back up again. In vain, of course. I tried it without its battery installed (it will run this way, normally) but to no avail.

As I am efficient and persistent, I set it aside for 2 months. Finally, I decided it was time to replace the (now) Evil Stepchild with a new laptop. And as the Pharaoh said...

"So let it be written. So let it be done."

And it was. I examined laptops online and in Office Depot. Also at Sam's Club. Most good deals were on HP units. Having lost all love for HP products, I went with a Toshiba Satellite purchased at Office Depot. It has a larger HD than the old one (320 Gig), but an equivalent processor and the same memory (3 Gig) and runs Windows 7 Home Premium.

Pros - good price ($100 cheaper than the starting price of an I-Pad), large HD, same capability that the old HP (spit) had, 2 lbs lighter.
Cons - Can't increase shared memory for video, no number keypad.

There's another con... Toshiba apparently thinks you (or I) appreciate pop up reminders that they have an online backup service available and about registration issues and about various other things. I will be contacting Toshiba support to find out how to disable all that. I don't need reminders for these things.

Now, Toshiba is not alone in this, I am sure. I also get regular pop-ups by AVG (by Grisoft) to upgrade to their "Professional" security suite. I like AVG... but I use only the Free version. Not because I think they don't deserve to be paid for their hard work in creating and developing their anti-virus software but because I just don't need more than the Free version provides.

I try to keep my systems running as simply as possible. This means minimal add-ons, the least intrusive software packages I can find, and no frills. I am retired (aka "cheap" and "miserly") and on a fixed income (I don't know why it's called "fixed" when I am always broke) so I try to be as frugal as possible. I have learned over the years that simplicity also means smooth operation.

Set up was simple and trouble free. The only snag was when the machine went looking for updates to the software and found 42 updates (glitching on #11 but recovering easily enough). I removed all the adware and come-ons, as I always do, and install just what I want.

My favorites:

AVG Free
Open Office

And easily imported my email contacts and accounts.

Now I will need to find a way to get the non-integrated stuff off the HD of the broken HP laptop. I am playing with the idea of buying a replacement motherboard for the broken HP laptop, getting it working again, cleaning it up and removing all private information and selling it. If that proves to be not cost effective, I suppose I can cannibalize it for for memory and parts.

I have this love/hate relationship with computers.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Something to nibble on...

I am reading a book called Hominids. It's full of interesting premises... and what I think is wishful thinking. There are at least two main premises: that there are parallel universes and that on at least one other of these, Neanderthals became the dominant "intelligent" species. There are a few other premises in the book (actually, in the trilogy) that annoy me but I won't go into them here. Maybe another time.

I like the parallel universes premise. Always have. If I was to rant on about it, I would try to develop an hypothesis that we intersect with these parallel universes constantly. Decisions made weave us in and out of other universes almost constantly. Most people, I think, think of these parallel universes as fully separate things that have no bearing on each other.

I, on the other hand, think we exist in all universes simultaneously.

Just some food for thought.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I am bored to tears

What a boring world. Nothing exciting going on at all, it seems. Oh, there's that van der Sloot guy confessing to murder and then claiming he was tricked by police and [get this] ... lied to which led to his confessing. Claims he didn't even read what he was signing. His mother claims he suffers from mental illness. Ya think? Most serial killers do.

The oil spew is still, well, spewing. Tar balls and globs of oil are starting to show up on Forida's panhandle beaches. Funny thing is, back in the mid-50's, we always came across tar at the beach. Maybe it was leftovers from all the shipping that was sunk in the Atlantic during WW II. And gas, which had been cheap, is now climbing back up. I am surprised it took this long.

Meanwhile, our president makes sure his family goes to California for a beach vacation. And he hasn't missed his weekly golf game. He apparently has delegated that boot on the neck thing. Which didn't interfere with BP's CEO from attending a yacht race. I figure if Obama can delegate the boot effort then Tony Hayward can delegate the clean-up efforts. Maybe they both ought to go play golf. I don't know about you but I have never seen a CEO actually do anything productive. CEO's delegate, that 's it.

Speaking of golf, that was probably the most bizarre final day of a US Open I have ever seen. I won't go into it but the guy leading by 3 going into the last day didn't just melt down, he dissolved into a small puddle.

On the world financial front, the Chinese are saying they are going to allow the yuan to fluctuate in value. Must be nice to be able to set the value of your currency. Most of the world's nations allow the market to determine the value of theirs. Not the Chinese, though, until now... or at least Real Soon Now. Euro markets are "up" on that news. Or so they claim. I cannot figure out how they know what sends markets up or down a percentage point or two. Hasn't helped my investments. No surprise there.

Toy Story 3 is the big news in entertainment. Remember when cartoons were the filler between a double feature? Remember double features? Most of you probably don't remember drive-in theaters. sigh

Speaking of cartoons. It seems the cartoon characters are now being blamed for our children's bad eating habits. I suppose that's ok. They used to blame them for violence by children and just plain orneriness or sass. Not to mention meanness and teasing over speech defects. But they also turned Orlando into a major metropolitan city from a hayseed backwater concerned with dairy, cattle, and citrus.

Meanwhile, the city of Flagstaff, AZ, is being threatened by a forest fire.

But, other than those things, nothing much happening.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The forecast is Hot with a chance of blistering

An announcement came on the radio yesterday warning us about a heat wave and advising listeners on how to avoid problems from it. Imagine! A heat wave in Florida in June! How unusual.

OK, not all that unusual. Pretty much expected... every year...

The advice was also pretty much what is expected, too.

Stay indoors and out of the heat (presumes air conditioning is available in your home)

If you must go out, then:
Wear a hat with a broad brim.
Use sunscreen on exposed skin areas.
Limit your time outdoors.
Drink plenty of liquids. Does beer count? I suppose you could do this at home also.

Do we really have to be told this?

I moved to south Florida when I was 9 years old. We arrived in the Spring of 1956. I survived the next 10 years without any air conditioning in the houses we lived in. Or in the schools I went to. In fact, I disliked air conditioning. I would go into a store and feel chilly. Same in restaurants and movie theaters. I preferred the heat. Or thought I did. It's all a matter of perspective.

I don't recall sweating all that much and I wore long sleeved shirts most of my teen years (skinny kid with skinny arms... gotta hide `em). I also don't remember drinking a lot of liquids (beer doesn't count because I was underage and so it was done only at parties). In fact, the heat never seemed to bother me all that much and I spent a great deal of my summers outdoors. Of course, it was mostly after dark and into the wee hours. From my mid-teens on, I generally slept most of the days away during summer.

But now that I have lived 30 or so years longer than I had expected to, I have come to dislike the heat. And have grown quite fond of air conditioning. Of course, I keep it set at a comfortable 79F (26C). Anytime the temperature drops below 78, I feel a chill.

Yet, I still go out to play golf even during these heat waves.

I bring a quart of Gatorade and some water, all chilled and kept in an insulated carry-bag. I refill the water. Repeatedly. I sweat. Constantly. I seek shade whenever possible. And, after the round is over, I suck up a fair quantity of beer while sitting in the very air conditioned club house.

But summer is just starting (it's not even official yet) and it'll be about 3 1/2 months before there's even a chance of cooling.

I need the antithesis of a Hot Tub...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Things You Get These Days

I received an email yesterday that invited me to participate in a book review blog. The idea is to post a short review of books I have read so that others might decide if they would like to read them. Or maybe just compare my review with their own opinions.

The blog's owner put potential contributors through a rigorous screening process which consisted, as far as I can tell, of filtering Blogger profiles for "like to read." That certainly describes me. Well, mostly. I like to read myself to sleep. It is preferable to watching TV until I fall asleep only because I haven't figured out a way to have the TV shut off soon after I fall asleep.

Only my living room TV has timer on it. The bedroom is an old one which has no timer. Even if it did have a timer, how am I supposed to know just how long I will stay awake? My personal nod-off formula is TTS = TTA - 30 minutes where TTS is "Time Till Sleep" amd TTA is "Time Till Alarm." The odds of my nodding off anytime greater than 30 minutes before my alarm goes off are astronomical. So I rarely set the alarm. Since Faye wakes up early most mornings, I simply depend upon her to wake me gently with slamming of doors or banging cups about. Which also does not work well.

It's a good thing I am retired.

Michael has, possibly because he lacks good sense or sufficient friends, passed on an award to me.

It looks like this:

He is either overly generous, misguided, or rarely reads this blog. I suspect a combination of the three.

Here's the rules....

The Rules:

  • Thank who awarded it to you.
  • Sum up your blogging philosophy, motivation, and experience using five words.
  • Pass it on to ten other blogs which you feel have real substance.

I would like to thank Michael, really, but it seems more like an assignment than an award. And a difficult one at that. Still, here's my official Thank You, Michael. Summing up my blogging philosophy, motivation, and experience in 5 words seems difficult, if not impossible. But let me try:

Out of my freaking league.

I cleaned it up for you.

Now comes the truly difficult part... selecting 10 bloggers who deserve an award coupled with a difficult task.

I give up. Picking 10 seems like too much work. Not that I can't think of 10 with substance but all blogs have some substance. They are the products of our squirming and feeble brains (at least in my case). I am always running into interesting blogs that reveal great insight and deep thoughts. I then wander off and look for the silly ones. I really don't want to tax my brain. It's already overtaxed and underpaid.

Well, that and I don't want people to think I am fawning over them. Even if I do. I'll tell you what... you pass the award
, minus the requirements attached to it, on to each blog you think is worthy. The bloggers will appreciate it more because it will come from you, the readers.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Don't put those words in my mouth

I didn't post earlier this morning because I had to drive to Bradenton, a city just north of Sarasota on Florida's west coast. You know, the coast that will be a future target of that massive oil spill. Which brings me to my purpose today...

Phrases that do not make sense or improperly describe something.

It is not a "massive oil spill." I am not exactly sure what it should be called, maybe "massive oil leak" (some do call it this). Or maybe "massive oil spew." Or just "The Big Gusher." It's basically an underwater gusher, something which was fairly common when drilling for oil on land.

What triggered my concern for proper phrasing was a song that was playing while I was driving. It's an old Andy Williams song "Can't get used to losing you" and the line that got to me was "called up a girl I used to know" and I couldn't enjoy the rest of the song.

Look, you either know someone or you don't. Even the use of the word "used" started to bother me. The right word is "once" but even that doesn't properly express the idea. Presumably, he called a girl he once dated. He still knows her. Or maybe the "know" was in the biblical sense. In which case, both "used" and the phrase actually works.

I first realized words don't always work together like we think they do when George Carlin brought it to my attention that we want to get in a plane, not on it. I was young, it impressed me.

So, now, I wonder about the word "used" when it is used to express the concept of acclimation to a situation. I can't get used to it. See what I mean? No wonder people have trouble learning the English language. Especially as spoken in the US. The coupling of some words don't make a lot of sense.

Of course, I also struggle with some Spanish. Consider the simple interrogatory, "Como esta usted?" (sorry, can't do the inverted question mark thingie) The question means "How are you?" Let's break it down....

"Como" means "as" or "like" or "by way of"
"esta" means "this"
"usted" means "you"

So the phrase directly translates to "By way of this you" or "As this you" or "Like this you."

A co-worker (who later became an annoying and petty supervisor) once offered this mangled Spanish pun:

"Como esta frijole?" for "How you bean?"

No Spanish speaking person I knew ever got the joke.

It's a wonder any of us can speak and actually communicate a concise thought.

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'll Buy That

I have a new aggravation game to play. Actually, it isn't new. It's been around since 1934. Well, maybe. Parker Brothers bought the rights to it from a guy named Charles Darrow, an out of work heater salesman in Philadelphia who came up with the original idea and even published a version of his own. He got the idea from some neighbor kids who were playing something similar on a homemade game board. Parker Brothers, therefore, always credited him with inventing the game. Others are not so generous. Parker Brothers officially published their version in 1935.

But that's all trivia in the wastebasket as someone might say (if that someone was a little off kilter). I came across the game as part of a suite of 4 games that included Risk, Scrabble, and an updated version of Monopoly as well as the classic version. I play the classic version. Because I don't see why I need an updated version. The classic version is the one I played as a kid. I also play Scrabble and have toyed with Risk a few times. But, of late, I have been playing Monopoly.

Faye knows I have been playing it because she investigated the loud muttering that accompanies any computer game I play. And She snickers with each mutter. Like that should matter. After all, She plays games where you have to feed fish or find hidden objects (cleverly disguised, one assumes) or link jewels together so they disappear. No, I don't understand it either.

For the life of me, I do not know why She doesn't understand my game playing. She spends hours upon hours sitting at her computer, playing those (to me) simple minded games, breaking only to go out on the porch to sit, smoke, and read. And She has the gall to snicker at my muttering?

And what, you ask, do I mutter about (never mind just what it is I mutter)? The computer cheats. When I mention this, in a muttery way, Faye looks over at me and says "Well, duh!" And I thought I was cynical. Look, I expect computers to be honest and have some integrity. Especially my computers. I treat them decently, make no outrageous demands upon them, and see to it that they get the updates they need. Am I asking too much to have them treat me with a little respect?

Apparently, they were programmed by cats.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A dangerous mind

My mom used to reprimand me with a simple question:

"If you're so smart, why ain't you rich?"

She knew better than to use "ain't", it was her way of getting me to remember what she said.

Of course, I often pointed out that I was only 10, or 12, or 13, or 15 and to give me time. Well, time has come and gone and I am still not rich so maybe I am not so smart.

I still like to believe that I am a smart man. Now, to some of you (mostly female, I suspect) that may sound like an oxymoron. It's not. Anyone can be intelligent, not everyone can be smart. To be smart, one must have intelligence, knowledge, and common sense and be able to use them together. I feel I have a little of each. Not a lot, mind you, just enough to be dangerous.

Here are some of my dangerous thoughts:

Any socio-political system which requires cooperation at the point of a gun is not a good one.

Human beings seek safety and complain about restriction. We trade liberty for security all the time. But we don't like it.

Life should be hard. At least hard enough to keep one distracted from petty complaints.

As bad as a ruler is, the people will defend him from an outside enemy.

Life is full of choices. You may not like them but you either choose or someone else will choose for you.

Never close yourself off from an opposing point of view, it will reveal the weaknesses in your own.

Assume the driver of the car in front of you will do something stupid.

Courtesy should be a habit rather than a duty.

Your worst days become some of your best in memory.

What doesn't kill you is more likely to leave you weakened than stronger. At least physically.

I am naturally suspicious of a rich person who will spend a fair portion of his/her millions to get a temporary job that pays less than $200,000 per year.

I don't regret the roads I have taken but I wonder about the ones I did not.

I am sure I could think of some more... given enough time.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Talkin' bout my generation

Should This Be The Last Generation?

"Have you ever thought about whether to have a child? If so, what factors entered into your decision? Was it whether having children would be good for you, your partner and others close to the possible child, such as children you may already have, or perhaps your parents? For most people contemplating reproduction, those are the dominant questions. Some may also think about the desirability of adding to the strain that the nearly seven billion people already here are putting on our planet’s environment. But very few ask whether coming into existence is a good thing for the child itself. Most of those who consider that question probably do so because they have some reason to fear that the child’s life would be especially difficult — for example, if they have a family history of a devastating illness, physical or mental, that cannot yet be detected prenatally."

The above is a preface for an opinion piece on eliminating human life on Earth. Not by war or plague or catastrophe but by attrition. Simply stop reproducing and, eventually, there will be no human life.

The author goes on to argue his case by pointing out how we (in developed countries, one assumes) make similar decisions regarding individual children. If genetic or prenatal testing shows the child would be born with some horrible condition that would doom him/her eventually and cause great suffering until then, we generally choose to not have the child, to spare it suffering.

He then takes an interesting turn...

"All this suggests that we think it is wrong to bring into the world a child whose prospects for a happy, healthy life are poor, but we don’t usually think the fact that a child is likely to have a happy, healthy life is a reason for bringing the child into existence."

He goes on to present his case that continued reproduction of the species (meaning "us") may be harmful to the planet and to future generations. This has been the argument of those who believe in population control; those who worry about over-population (Google"Paul Ehrlich", for example). And it isn't a bad one... on a philosophical basis. Eventually, population growth will outstrip resources and we will go through an extended period of suffering until some balance is achieved (if it can be achieved).

The author of the article is an Australian philosopher named Peter Singer. You should read about him. He is a professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. Quite a controversial fellow, I'd say.

"We Have Met The Enemy and He Is Us" [Pogo]

I mentioned something like this a few months ago in "I Just Love The Internet", but I did not go into it at the time. I also provided this link:

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

I welcome your thoughts...

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Grab a picket sign, comrade

China is undergoing a rapid social change. The proof of this is in this story:

Honda Plants in China on Strike

Of course, it won't mean anything significant until there are strikes at China's own plants. So far, it seems the strikes have been at Japanese and Taiwanese owned plants.

Welcome to modern capitalism, my Chinese friends, with all its benefits and pitfalls.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What's (not) on TV today?

It's strange how dependent we get on things. We don't even realize it until something stops working. This morning, before I left to get a haircut, Frannie (my resident sister-in-law) mentions that her TV wouldn't come on. What she meant was the Direct TV DVR box wouldn't come on. She "fixed" it by turning off the surge suppressor power strip the box is plugged into, waiting a few minutes, and then switching that back on. She was quite proud of herself... until she found out she couldn't change channels or access the guide or do anything, really.

By then, I was well on my way to the barbershop so I had no idea anything was wrong. Until I got home. And then I was told about that. And, of course, that it was affecting the living room unit and the master bedroom unit. Of course, I had already started fixing myself a hot dog sandwich (two hot dogs, sliced down the middle, cheese, mustard, toasted whole wheat bread.... mmmmm, mmmm... but I digress) and so calling Direct TV would have to wait. When I did, I learned that it was impossible to get through to them. The lines were overloaded.

So I went online where I learned nothing about the problem. By now, however, I had deduced that sometime overnight Direct TV had downloaded new software into all the DVR boxes linked to their service and had fouled them all up. Why else would three un-linked to each other DVR boxes in my house act the same way? This was confirmed by the fact that you could not access any sort of support assistance online either.

Isn't modern technology wonderful?

Well, I guess I will finish that book I've been reading and get one or two more from the library.

Monday, June 7, 2010


I could have done better, I suppose. One can always do better. But golf is a cruel game. It teases you and entices you. You hit just one good shot in 18 holes and that will be the shot that you remember; the one that brings you back again.

Of course, today, I didn't even get that one. I was just a teeny bit off my game. Which is a mile, or several, off the pros' games. I don't fool myself into thinking I can hit a ball the way a pro can, or putt as well, or anything near the level a pro plays at. I am a duffer. I tend to hack at the ball.

For the vast majority of us, there are phrases like "worm burner" or "banana ball" or "duck hook" that more aptly describe the kind of shots we make. We gently stroke a putt 10 feet past the hole or 10 feet short. We take two, sometimes three, shots to get out of a sand trap. Our approach shots usually come up too short, or to the right, or the left, or well over the green.

I am, oddly, better than average. My handicap hovers around 14 now. Even with the slowly (oh. so. slowly.) healing knee. The average handicap is 15.2 and the average score for all golfers (including those who do not keep an official handicap) is 100. I do better, my average score is about 84. Yes, I stink. Even on my good days, I stink.

So why do I do it? Because golf is like that pretty girl in high school who smiled at you in class and then repeatedly turned you down for dates. Mastering the game is simply unattainable. For everyone. Even the pros blow shots. But there are enough shots made, enough putts sunk, to draw back even the most cynical of us. And if no shots are made that at least looked perfect, if no long putts fall? Then there's the "almosts."

And so I go back. In 90 degree heat at 8:30 on a summer morning. In 45 degree cold in the winter. When it's windy, when it's muggy, when rain threatens.

Because I am nuts.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Ho Hum...

It's a Friday. A day which no longer has that magical connotation for me. I am, of course, retired. The only thing Friday means now is what TV show, or shows, I might watch tonight. It's just another day in my life.

In a way, I miss that old feeling. Friday was something to look forward to, to anticipate, and to celebrate once it's arrived. I celebrated often when I was young, often and hard. Now, I don't do much celebrating at all. Can't handle the hangovers anymore.

A friend was to have shoulder surgery today but it got scrubbed. I hobble around due to one knee not being ready for prime time yet. All my friends seem to have aches and pains and various maladies.

And you were thinking retirement age is something to look forward to.

I have become such a cynic that I no longer look forward to waking up in the morning. Which might explain the depressing dreams I have been having lately. I won't bore you with them. I don't want to relive them anyway.

In the interests of creating some interest in my dull life, I picked up a copy of Flash Forward by Robert J. Sawyer. This is the novel upon which the TV show "Flashforward" was based. Loosely based. Very loosely based. There is a flash forward but it is some 20 years ahead, not one year. So far (several chapters in), the story seems to be centered around the CERN complex on the Swiss-French border. And also about the scientists.

The book is good, I recommend it. It's light reading, like most science fiction, but interesting enough to hold your attention.

All of the above was the result of my wanting to simply announce I didn't feel like writing in my blog today. Not interested. I've got the blahs... And I am just tired.

Time for a nap.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Apparently the ump was watching a different game

Baseball was once America's favorite sport. America was "baseball, apple pie, and Mom." And I think the order was correct. It's since fallen back a bit in public appeal. I like baseball. Couldn't play it worth a darn when I was a kid but that doesn't matter. I didn't really fall in love with it until my son took an interest. When he entered into the Pony League system (the Little League wasn't as readily available) at age 8, he was awkward, uncoordinated. Face it, he was a clumsy kid.

Baseball didn't change that, he remained clumsy. What it did was teach him how to compensate for that clumsiness. He became a utility infielder... and a pitcher... and got good at it. And I became interested in baseball. My love of baseball has waned over the years, I rarely watch a game on TV now. I no longer have a favorite team. I couldn't tell you who's leading what division. Mostly, I no longer care.

Still, when I read the following article, I was intrigued.

Think of it, you are pitching the game of your life, it's the top of the ninth with two outs and just one batter stands in the way of a perfect game. Twenty-six batters have come up and twenty-six went down. You throw the pitch, the batter hits a bouncer between first and second, the first baseman fields it, tossing it back to you as you cover first and you and the ball beat the batter to the base and the first base umpire calls... "Safe!"

That's baseball. It is heartbreak and joy. Game fall on both bad and good calls. But everyone seems to agree (including the
ump) that this one was The Bad Call.

So, maybe they should expand instant replay to all calls instead of just home run calls.

Or maybe not. I think back to all the bad calls that cost and gave games to the teams my son played on and I wonder. Isn't that part of the game? The lesson my son (and I) learned was that you may do everything right and someone else might turn it into failure. Life hands out unfairness liberally and you must learn to shrug it off and keep going.

So I am not so sure we want to sanitize it, make it mistake proof. Besides, it would take all the fun out of booing the umpire. And it would no longer be the game my son played.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The perfect investment... can't lose.

After golf today, I had to visit a financial planner. Not because I won a lot of money, it's just that Faye and I had an appointment with him. The thing is, one should get acquainted with a financial planner when they are in their early 30's. Then they should learn about what financial planning really is. And only after that should they start making some financial plans.

You see, it's a bit late to think about your old age when you are entering it. But most of us put it off until we look in the mirror and see one of our parents staring back at us. In my case, it was my father, and he/I was frowning. Oh, I put some money away in a long term savings plan my company had available which later was turned into a 401K. But not very much. I didn't take it seriously until I was in my mid-50's. Fortunately, Faye did take it seriously and pushed me to increase my "contribution" while I was in my 40's. Smartest move I ever made was to marry that woman...

So, in any event, we are now looking at ways to protect what we've saved and grow it a little bit, if possible.

It's a bit like walking blindfolded through a minefield. I don't understand these things and the companies don't make it any easier on you. Have you ever actually read a prospectus? I've tried. I end up skimming the document looking for pitfalls. Sometimes I am successful and sometimes I am not.

The financial planner can help explain these to you. But only to his (or her) advantage. We are really at the mercy of people whose only purpose in life seems to be to divest you of every dime you ever put away. Well, I suppose that is how they make a living... sucking the lifeblood out of senior citizens. And it's an honest living, I am sure.

But now that I am home and able to do a little online research, I am not so sure that this financial planner is one whom I wish to trust with my savings. I am not sure I even trust me...

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sticks and Stones may break... bones but [words] will never hurt me.

When I was in my late teens, the Berkeley Free Speech Movement was a big deal. So was Martin Luther King. The folks at Berkeley wanted the freedom to shout obscenities. Martin Luther King wanted the freedom to speak the truth, to address wrongs.

I was wandering about some time ago and came across this review.

What distinguishes Emmanuel Faye’s “Heidegger: The Introduction of Nazism Into Philosophy,” which was published to loud controversy in France in 2005, is that it takes these critiques of Heidegger to their logical extreme. Most readers would agree that Heidegger was a Nazi, and that this matters to his philosophy; it has remained for Faye to argue that Heidegger was a Nazi philosopher, which is to say that he was no philosopher at all, and that his books are positively dangerous to read. In fact, he comes very close, on the book’s last page, to saying that Heidegger’s collected works should be banned from libraries: “They are . . . as destructive and dangerous to current thought as the Nazi movement was to the physical existence of the exterminated peoples. . . . Hitlerism and Nazism will continue to germinate through Heidegger’s writings at the risk of spawning new attempts at the complete destruction of thought and the extermination of humankind.”

Are anyone's words too dangerous to read (or hear)?

I don't think so.

We run into problems when we are running public libraries and, especially, school libraries. How do we select books for these institutions with limited (and public) resources? Cost, of cost, should be important. But caution must be taken that ideology does not become the main criteria. At least for public libraries.

But what about school libraries? Who decides what books are appropriate for children and teenagers?

"[If a book were] very innocent, and one which might be confided to the reason of any man; not likely to be much read if let alone, but if persecuted, it will be generally read. Every man in the United States will think it a duty to buy a copy, in vindication of his right to buy and to read what he pleases." --Thomas Jefferson to N. G. Dufief, 1814.

And so, as teens in my day, we all read Peyton Place.

But no one controls what goes over the airwaves to a great degree. Well, the FCC has some say but it is limited to complaints of inappropriate language. Content is not controlled.

There are some who would like to limit that speech, some who would like to see certain talk show hosts be taken off the air. I am not one of them. To me, the First Amendment isn't about being allowed to use profanity in public or dancing nude in the public square. It is about political speech, first and foremost. If you do not like what someone is saying; don't listen. I would, however, encourage others to listen. At least for awhile.

While words matter and who says them can matter. We should all evaluate the meanings for ourselves. We should listen to the side that makes us the most angry. And try to understand why it does. We should examine the arguments against our own positions in an honest fashion. This will either strengthen what you believe or show you the errors of your own argument.

Thomas Jefferson was of mixed sentiment when considering teh virtues and drawbacks of a free press (imagine how he might feel about Talk Radio!).

"Our newspapers, for the most part, present only the caricatures of disaffected minds. Indeed, the abuses of the freedom of the press here have been carried to a length never before known or borne by any civilized nation." --Thomas Jefferson to M. Pictet, 1803.

And, yet, a year later...

"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

The internet allows us to sample all manner of opinion. It is up to each of us to decide what is right and what is wrong. We may, as Jefferson did, find ourselves of two minds on the subjects at hand.