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 30, 2010

Big Bro is at it again

US wants increased police access to email

The above links to a story that is worrisome to me. It was not so long ago that there was an uproar over the Bush administration seeking wiretaps on calls to known terrorists or people suspected of terrorist ties outside the country. Not inside the country but outside. Let me explain that a bit. It affected only calls made to points outside the country, not calls that stayed inside the country. These were not warrant-less. The warrants were obtained through the FISA court.

In the story I have linked to, it reveals that this administration seeks to have access to ALL emails and electronic communications without seeking a warrant at all. We would simply have to rely on the judgment of the FBI that these are important to national security.

My question is:

Where is the outrage?

Where is the ACLU? Where are the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the rest of the so-called "mainstream news media" complaining about this intrusion into citizen's privacy. I believe I can hear crickets chirping... But the Daily Kos is not happy (though it seems a bit muted compared to complaints about the previous administration).

This has come out of the Patriot Act. An extension of powers that the administration seeks from Congress. And it is more proof that Congress should be careful about what powers it grants to any administration. The next one might not be trustworthy. It might be more abusive in wielding the power Congress granted.

Let us hope that Congress wakes up and denies this. But I am not holding my breath.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Indoctrinatin' with the Oldies

Faye (Mistress of my domain, love of my life, She Who Must Be Obeyed) and I listen to The Oldies often. We can't seem to get into Hip Hop and Rap. Which is all to the good because the image of me wearing my pants halfway down my hips and Faye with a pierced tongue (among other things) and tats is not one that pleases me. Or would please anyone else. There comes a time in one's life when much of the flesh is best left unexposed.

There is a game we (ok, I) play while these songs are playing. I find hidden meanings, social programming, and worse in the lyrics. Take Two Lovers, for example, where a young woman extols the virtues of have a boyfriend with a split personality with one of those personalities basically an abuser. Or Make me your baby where the young woman is helpless and needs to be controlled by her intended boyfriend. How about Johnny get angry? In that one, the young woman wants her boyfriend to be jealous and act out so she flirts with other boys. It is no wonder people have relationship troubles.

Songs, even the new ones and the ones older than what we call the Oldies, are full of relationships that are bound for trouble. Women who want strong, powerful, controlling boyfriends. Men who want sweet, compliant, subservient women. Women willing to tolerate philanderers who don't love them (You don't have to say you love me Dusty Springfield; Sweet talkin' guy, Chiffons; Baby, it's you, the Shirelles). Men who would let a woman walk all over them (When a man loves a woman, Percy Sledge), stalkers (I can see for miles, the Who; Baby, I need your lovin', Johnny Rivers), and worse.

It seems like all the best songs, the ones which burrow into your brain and take over, are about dysfunctional relationships. The new stuff is worse, there is little or no respect given (especially for the woman). I think all of this is a form of subtle social programming.

Still, I listen and think back to my teenage years when I lived as if a song was my story. Teenage angst, I guess you call it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Plug it in!

Nissan announced the introduction of their electric vehicle. It's called the Leaf (derived, possibly, from Leading, Environmentally Friendly, Affordable, Family Car) which sounds environmentally friendly. Since it is all electric, it claims no exhaust emissions. On the other hand, what about the increased electric demand to charge it? Won't that create an increase in emissions from coal and oil fired power plants?

The Leaf claims a range of 100 miles on a full charge. That is adequate for a commuter car. There are no commercial charging stations yet. A full charge at home will take about 8 hours. You will have to have a charging "dock" installed at a cost of about $2200 with that cost offset by maybe a third by tax credits. The car itself will cost you a little over $32,780, I am sure that is for the basic model, any "frills" will jack that up. That price is supposed to be reduced by more tax credits of up to $7500.

The batteries will last about 5 to 10 years before they need to be replaced. I could find no estimate of what that will cost. Nissan has announced an 8 year warranty on the batteries.

Excited yet? Well, unless you live in certain states, you will have to wait. The rollout for Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, and Tennessee is supposed to take place in December, with others coming in by the end of Spring but still not all states.

When the charging stations finally get set up, you will be able to charge the vehicle's batteries to 80% capacity in about 30 minutes. Think about that... Any trip over 50 miles (round trip in excess of 100) will require at least one 30 minute stopover for re-charge.

Its primary competition will be the Chevrolet Volt. It costs about $8500 more, has a shorter electric only range (40 miles) but has a gas powered generator which will charge the batteries and increase the range by 300 more miles.

Personally, I don't think these are ready for prime time yet. I am looking for an under $20,000 all electric vehicle with a 50-100 mile range and includes the charging dock installation. And it needs a big enough trunk to hold my golf clubs.

The technology is not ready for me yet. And I still want to know what happens when people all over the country plug these in in the evening. More brownouts? And what happens to the old batteries? My bet is you won't be able to replace them yourself, there will be all kinds of rules involving the disposal of the worn out batteries, and the cost will be so high you will think seriously about buying a new car (think, "planned obsolescence"). And, of course, you will still need a conventional vehicle to take those family trips across country to reunions and family vacations.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


As an American, I am blessed with inventiveness. As everyone knows, everything worth being invented was inventd here in America. Yes, I know that some great inventions are claimed by other nations but, as a loyal American, I am dubious about such claims. Besides, America's inventiveness extends to finding such inventions and buying them up as quickly as possible so that we can lay claim to bringing them to market.

Because we are inquisitive, we also improve existing inventions. Consider the washing machine. At one time, women (always women, I suspect, since men couldn't seem to care less about cleanliness) pounded clothes on rocks after wetting them in a stream or pond. This was bad as it damaged careless fingers and chipped nail polish. Eventually, someone figured out a washboard where you pushed them along the slats, and then hand-cranked machines with tubs of water. The first motorized ones use primitive (and often balky) gasoline engines. It was an American that first used an electric motor to do the hard work. And that led to the Spin Cycle. Before the spin cycle, clothes were squeezed through two rollers to wring the water out of the clothes. A dangerous practice for the clumsy who would get hands caught between the rollers. I am sure that small children would get caught up in the wringer if not closely supervised. Hence the phrase, "run through the wringer."

While we did not invent the gasoline engine nor the automobile, we did invent teh assembly line in order to make them cheaper and in such great quantities as to give birth to the [insert automobile name here] Sales Event in order to unload the excess. This, of course, led to the greatest American invention, Planned Obsolescence. This was accomplished by making parts that barely lasted through the warranty period and not much beyond. And also caused the invention of automobile fins which would vary by size, shape, and orientation each year. The purpose of these fins was never revealed outside the industry, buyers just assumed they made the car go fast or something.

All of this led to the emergence of a uniquely American creation, the mindless consumer. This creation allowed the growth of small businesses into the huge corporations of today. It is also one of our most important exports. The concept of mindless consumption has spread throughout the world creating prosperity for businesses everywhere and empty pockets and savings accounts for the rest of us.

People needed a way to pay for all this consumption. So the credit card was born. Before credit cards, most people just ran up tabs with various businesses. The oil companies and department stores realized a way to make it easier for consumers to buy things without actually having money in their pockets could be profitable in itself. Borrowing (if you will forgive the pun) from the concept of usury, they charged huge interest rates on any balance.

In 1946 (the very year I was born!), a Brooklyn banker invented the bank card. This was the first card that could be used at multiple stores. All bills went to the bank, which then "loaned" the money to the consumer by paying the stores. It wasn't until 1949 that one could pay for a meal with a credit card. Yes, that was the Diner's Club Card and it became widespread for use in travel and entertainment. It was probably the first card recognized by call girls but we won't go there.

It was 9 years after the introduction of the Diner's Club card that American Express introduced the first plastic credit card.

All of this led, eventually, to the Great Banking Crisis of 2010. Which may lead to our going back to washing clothes by pounding them on rocks in a stream.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Clouds and fresh washed linen

A blogger friend's recent post reminded me of one of the pleasures of my childhood. He is an excellent blogger with a large, well deserved, following. He mentioned Buddhist prayer flags waving in the wind. I was reminded of the sheets my mother would hang out to dry on our clothesline in the back yard in our little town in New York.

The sheets would billow like the sails on a boat, straining against the wooden clothespins, threatening to take off and fly across the yard. Behind the sheets, the sky seemed a brilliant blue, the wispy (and sometimes fuller) clouds drifting across high above on winds of their own. I would be mesmerized by the contrasts and motion. I would be at peace.

I could recapture that feeling at other times merely by lying on my back on the cool earth and stare up at the sky. The feeling of motion would be so strong I imagined I could feel the spinning of the planet. The smell of the earth, the grass, and the flowers would all blend to enhance my feeling of well being.

It is what I think of when someone says, "Take the time to smell the roses"... even though there was no scent of roses, just honeysuckles and other wildflowers that grew nearby.

We all need to do this from time to time. Even us retired geezers.

I especially need it lately because I have been watching too many political shows. You know, the round-table discussions, the debates between the various strategists and consultants of each party, the interviews of various political figures, all opining about the current political events.

A pox on all their houses. They have upset my psychological equilibrium. I need to lie upon the ground and smell the comforting scent of the flowers and trees and drying linen while I watch the clouds pass lazily overhead.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


This was written some time ago, in early 2008, and posted once before.

My mother is slipping away. She's 89 and she hasn't been herself for many years. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in her sixties and was put on a wonder drug, of sorts, called Aricept. It held the disease at bay to some extent for decades. Her short term memory went first, of course. But Mom, a clever woman, saw this as a benefit. Every day was a new world, a new life. She always had an optimist's view of life. Now I don't know what she sees or hears or knows. This disease took away the woman who raised me. After my father passed away, I took her into my home. We tried to care for as best we could but the time came when we could no longer see to her needs. She has been in the care of some nice people out at an assisted living facility for several years now.

I go to see her when I can... and when I think I can handle it. It's hard on me. I remember her as a vibrant, cheerful, witty woman who was always there when I needed her. She could always cheer me up when I was down or life seemed bleak. Now she can't. Now I have to do that on my own. And the worst is after I have been to visit her. I look for some sign of recognition in her eyes and never see it. I visit just before lunch because she seems the most animated at that time. I try to think of things she used to say to me to cheer me up and repeat them to her in the hopes they'll somehow break through that fog in her brain. She seems loved by the ladies who tend to her needs. they all speak of her with caring and joy. Some are as sad as I am to see her as she is now.

My mother had a way of getting a point across with humor. She would admonish me to be careful by warning me that "If you break your leg, don't come running to me." Or, "If you drown, I'll never speak to you again." As silly as these were, they stuck in my mind. Nothing seemed serious with her while you still knew how concerned she was. Her humor has failed her now. She doesn't smile much and, when she does, there's no way to know why.

It doesn't seem fair that this woman should finish out her life oblivious to most of the things around her. She read, she painted, she wrote stories, she even invented childrens' games. Oh, none were ever published or developed but that didn't matter. Her paintings were always flawed in some technical way; shadows fell the wrong way, perspective just a little off. They were nothing you'd expect to find in an art show but her family loved them. Her stories were simple and naive. Her games too easy. But you could see her slight off kilter view of the world in them.

Because I didn't get along with my siblings, I spent many of my years far from my parents. I rarely wrote or even called. It was never my way. I took after my father in that regard. In the last couple of decades, I tried to re-connect with my parents. I think I did re-establish some relationship to my father, just a little, in the few years before he passed away. My mother acted as if I was never far away. Now I don't know if she knows I exist, that she had a son, what her universe is like. I think that is what hurts the most... to not be a part of her life anymore.

Mom passed away on July 25th of 2008. Rest in peace, Mom, rest in peace. I miss you every day but you remain in my heart.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Random rants in living color

Things I do not watch on TV

Hockey games
Yacht races
Cooking shows
Reality shows
Network news (ABC, NBC, CBS)
My "local" news (broadcast out of Tampa... about 75 miles away as the crow flies)
Commercials (whenever possible... love that DVR!)

Things I do watch

Cop shows (not all, just the quirkier ones)
Science Fiction (almost anything in this genre)
Science fact
History stuff (especially WWII related but almost anything really)
Movies (often on TCM)

I wait for movies to hit HBO, Showtime, and Starz before I watch them. I stopped going to the movies a long time ago when it started to cost more for popcorn than for the ticket. The popcorn is tasty but not that tasty. I fear the theaters will go the way of the Drive-In soon. But not so much that I will start going again.

When I was young, back around the Stone Age, I was an usher for awhile. It was one of the two jobs I have been fired from. I was fired because I complained about one of the managers. He would stick around to open the curtains (theaters had curtains in front of the screens then) when the show started and then disappear. I suspect to the nearest tavern. He'd show up again just before the movie ended. In the meantime, it was me and the candy counter girl to take care of any problems or emergencies. For this, I was paid a whopping 85 cents an hour. I didn't mind being fired. I welcomed it. I became a handyman and made more money in two weeks than I had made in the 3 months I was an usher.

On the other hand, I got to see a lot of movies.

I had a point in mind when I started writing this but that was yesterday evening. I no longer know what it is. You'll have to figure it out on your own.

I am paying more attention to Tropical Storm Bonnie which is sliding past me to the south. And my new patio roof leaks.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Befuddled by reality

I am always interested in varying perspectives. That is, looking at things from different angles. What looks horrific from one perspective seems unimportant, maybe humorous, from another. Take cheesy horror movies. Most are actually funny, especially when you start looking closely at the special effects and makeup. I first became aware of this when I watched the movie Invaders From Mars. It's a classic, by the way, but I noticed the zipper in the back of the suits the Martian mutants (sort of mindless slaves) were wearing. It wasn't supposed to be a suit, it was supposed to be skin. The sense of realism fled and was replaced by the early onset of cynicism. I no longer saw movies as escapes into fantasy but as insults to intelligence. I was all of 7 years old. My childhood sense of wonder was stolen from me.

I suppose it was inevitable. My father was a cynic who enjoyed pointing out such things and I would have eventually succumbed to genetics or conditioning to become one myself. When your ability to believe in the magic fails, it becomes difficult to believe in anything.

I started taking a closer look at those sea battles in war movies (and old swashbucklers) and quickly realized these were small models floating in water. The "waves" weren't quite right, the flames were not right, the splashes from misses had water droplets the size of cars.

I also notice things in novels (like people expecting dial tone from cell phones) and TV shows (on Eureka last season, while a huge magnetic anomaly would have metal things flying about the room, the characters' cell phones would work). It bothers me. I would like to suspend disbelief but cannot.

Having an older brother meant the myths of childhood were denied me anyway. It was surprising that I even thought there might be some realism in the films of the 30's, 40's, and 50's. The 60's did not bring much improvement nor did the next several decades.

I did not just examine movies for flaws, I began to consider alternative views of just about everything. Especially relationships. That can cause huge problems. Because the odds are that the perspective you think may be the right one can be seen as insult. Or it can be correct but the other person(s) may not like it that you realized the truth. Dating becomes an exercise in duplicity and willful ignorance (which it often was anyway). Romance disappears. Or, at least, becomes difficult to accept.

Another thing that's affected is sales pitches. You would think that a healthy (or even an unhealthy) level of cynicism would be a good thing. But that's not quite so. You miss out on deals. For example, a Bernie Madoff offering seems like a bad thing. But not if you were an early investor who got out well before the scam was exposed. So a little cynicism can be either good or bad... depending on perspective.

The other great problem with a willingness to examine varying perspectives occurs during arguments. One would think it would be helpful, that it would reduce the number of arguments. Perhaps. But arguments rise out of emotion. And the willingness to view another perspective, objectivity, comes out of logic. So, the arguments can pop up rapidly while the objectivity lags behind. If one of the parties is highly emotional, there is little chance of a reasonable resolution. The objective party will almost always be the one to compromise. In fact, the objective one will be puzzled that his opponent is not also willing to view an opposing perspective.

Thus, my first marriage was doomed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Pondering a franchise

I have determined, after much musing and observation, that few people think like I do. Not about things, a fair number (though definitely not a majority) agree with my conclusions but not with how I come to those conclusions.

I like to think I am logical and rational. I also like to think I am right. But my logic is not disciplined, it is not the result of the formal study of logic. It is logic based on what "feels" right to me. While a lot of people also use that kind of logic, few are willing to go against the "feeling" when faced with contradicting facts.

A prime example is voting. A vote is a powerful thing, they tell us. Elections can be decided by a single vote, so they say. I say... sure, in theory. In reality, however, any election where a single vote makes the difference will be contested with all the power and lawyers the potentially losing candidate can muster with the money he raises from others. In fact, the margin can be much higher than one vote.

I know this, I live in Florida and resided in Chad Central in 2000. What I learned from that debacle was that elections are decided by idiots for the most part. Idiots who vote according to last minute whims, idiots who cannot read and/or follow simple instructions, people who cannot match a name on the left with a small corresponding circle on the right, and felons and dead people.

I am sure that many Minnesotans might agree with me after their last senatorial election. Probably just as many might disagree.

"Look! I found these absentee ballots in the trunk of my car! And isn't it interesting that they all voted for that Stuart Smalley guy?"

"What do you mean that's not his name? Oh... it's Al Franken... I'll be right back with these ballots."

On the other hand, putting a comedian in office is pretty much what we do every election, isn't it?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Monopolistic Gerbils

I have made a few observations in my life. All of which are wise and deep. The latest came to me just a few minutes ago. My laptop computer is dumber than my desktop computer. This observation was made after careful study and hours of research. I didn't realize it was study and research, I thought I was just playing Monopoly. But, since I have made a profound observation, it must not have been play but careful study and research.

You see, I can win at Monopoly almost every time when I play it on my laptop. I lose more often than I win when I play it on my desktop. Yet, it is the same game from the same CD. Therefore, the CPU (the "brain", if you will) of my desktop computer must be smarter than the one in my laptop.

When I play Monopoly on the desktop (cleverly called "Desktop" in the LAN... but I digress), I often find myself frustrated, angry and ready to punch the screen. Instead, I simply quit the game without saving it. This avoids the embarrassment and humiliation of being beaten by a mere machine. I do not like embarrassment and humiliation. I got my fill of that in junior high.

What I have learned is that the computer generated players on the laptop are extremely stupid. I first noticed that they would make trades between themselves that were non-logical. Initially, I thought that meant the "players" were engaging in collusion since the computer obviously would not care which of those players won as long as I didn't. But a few simple trades of my own revealed the truth:

The computer generated players are blithering idiots.

I know, hard to believe. We tend to view our computers as devices secretly operated by ingenious, but tiny, gerbils who operate the wheels which, in turn, make the DVD unit spin the disks and spin the hard disks. Well, I am here to dissuade you from further belief in that particular myth. I suspect it is possible that I just have stupid gerbils in my laptop but the lack of gerbil droppings near any of my computers strongly implies that the Great Gerbil Theory is untrue.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Changing One's Perspective

I have a confession to make. I have been watching Glenn Beck's show on Fox News. It's not that I want to see a grown man cry, I truly don't. I tend to turn away when he starts to tear up. But something he said planted itself in my mind. He said something to the effect of:

You don't have to believe me, you shouldn't, but you should check out what I say and show you. Because if I am right, and I hope I am not, even one fourth of the time, we're in trouble.

So I did. Checked him out, looked up the names he used, researched them, checked on incidents he reported, and so on. I decided he didn't need to be right 25% of the time, just 10% and we'd be in trouble. Big trouble. And it's awful easy to be right 10% of the time.

He does something that I find refreshing in commentary. He plays clips of people saying things. He then comments on that, putting a bit of his own spin on it. I tend to tune out the commentary. But I don't tune out the clip.

You have to be a little careful when listening to ideologues. Video clips and quotes will likely be presented only in the context the ideologue thinks is important. Lead ups and full context will be left out of the presentation. It's important to remember this when reading or viewing anything in media today. This includes network news, periodicals like Time and Newsweek, and everything on blogs.

It wasn't always this way. We used to believe the network news, those periodicals I mentioned, and the various newspapers told us the whole story. We used to believe there was something called "objective reporting." I may have become too cynical but I no longer believe any entity is free of bias.

The journalist who says he (or she) can set aside their personal political feelings when developing a story is lying to both you and, possibly, to himself. One's personal ideology permeates everything. It affects how you approach a story. It affects what you choose to emphasize, what you see as important, and how you treat the people within the story.

If you watch only Glenn Beck, or Keith Olbermann, or Wolf Blitzer, or Anderson Cooper, or Chris Matthews, or Bill O'Reilly, you will get only what they think the story means. If you read only the NY Times, or Newsweek, or the LA Times, or the Washington Post, you will get only what they think is important.

Read Media Matters for America but double-check their "stories" for context, for clarity, for bias. Read the Huffington Post but doublecheck their facts. Watch Foxnews but also CNN and NBC, ABC, and CBS. Compare takes on events, compare what gets reported and where in a newscast. Compare the presentations.

Everyone is lying to you and few of them know it.

If you aren't depressed enough now, go read the following...

25,000 new asteroids found by NASA's sky mapping

Friday, July 16, 2010

I'd rather be napping

I was thinking I could tell a few jokes today but I can't think of any. Then I thought I would write something insightful and witty about the current politics and/or economy but I realized I had no insights and had only half-witty things to say about those.

That left me with clever observations about everyday life for a 60-something. Except I am not so clever in my observations and everyday life in my town is nothing like it is elsewhere. I live in a town where people have, more often than not, moved to after retiring. It is, therefore, a town full of old people. And while that may lead to funny stories about people getting lost in the Wal-Mart parking lot or in the supermarket, the humor wears off when you realize that may be your own future.

You ask yourself different questions at different times of your life:

1. What do I want to be when I grow up?

2. Am I achieving my goals?

3. Where did I leave my teeth?

I am approaching that last phase. I am hoping that I have 20+ years left to me and when I start thinking I do, it scares me. How am I going to keep myself amused that long?

I have learned something of late... I am becoming less infatuated with summer. When I was under 18, I looked forward to summer. No school, more freedom, warm weather. After 18, school was gone and jobs didn't let out for summer. So no extra freedom. That just left warm weather. Which was enough for awhile. Living in Florida, however, summer means sweltering heat that drains all your strength. So the warmer weather lost its allure.

I would look forward to winter if that didn't mean a doubling of the area's population. The weather is better, cooler and drier. But the restaurants are full and the roads crowded with people, driving slow, trying to remember where stores or restaurants are.

I suppose I am in a melancholy mood today. This is the third time I have tried to write something for today, all have turned out the same... morose.

At least I still know where my teeth are.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Sure Happy It's Thursday

Yo! Jour!

Yesterday was golf. I stank but managed to get by with an 86. Today was exercise and that always stinks. Well, it makes me stink.... just a little bit because I don't spend a lot of time exercising. The main reason I am going to the 'Y' is to strengthen my left leg. I find that hard to do since I cannot even straighten it out in a sitting position without a lot of pain. I'll keep trying.

The British Open started today. It's actually called just "The Open"... a bit arrogant on the part of the Brits, I'd say, but they were the first and they lay claim to inventing the game. Except they didn't. It was the Scots who who invented it. I think they also co-invented whiskey with the Irish. The Irish would have invented golf but they were too busy drinking the whiskey they invented and making up tall tales about leprechauns and the like.

I understand I am permitted to make jokes about the Irish because I am a descendent of the Emerald Isle. My grandfather went through Ellis Island in 1915. He was born in Belfast before the Irish Revolution split the island into an independent Irish Free State and Northern Ireland, which remained with the British. I understand we remained loyalists... because we were a bunch of Protestants, I suppose. If we hadn't, the family might have migrated south into the Irish Free State, my grandfather might never have emigrated, wouldn't have met my grandmother, and I might not have been born. And this blog would not exist.

It's weird how things turn out sometimes.

But The Open is getting full coverage on TV. This means I will get a lot of couch time the next few days. I can live with that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I think I learned something today

As I was slogging around the golf course today, a thought came to me. A sudden realization. An epiphany of sorts.

I am not getting younger.

No, I'm serious. I am moving, perceptively, toward old age. Some of you whippersnappers (I can use that word now, I am old enough) may scoff at this thinking that you aren't getting older, that we only age if we allow it to happen. Let me tell you... you are in for a rude awakening.

After the golf round was over and we were sitting around a table in the clubhouse trying to recover from the heat and exhaustion by swilling copious amounts of beer, I began to realize the conversation (punctuated by multiple incidences of "eh?" and "huh?") was about those of us who were not there due to minor injuries. Well, what would have been minor injuries when we were in our twenties or thirties. What once caused us a few days, a few weeks at the most, of discomfort now disables us for months on end. And what resulted in a bruise in our twenties now results in broken bones.

This is not what I expected. I expected to be as healthy and as hale as I was when I was thirty. And I am. In my mind. In my aging, memory lapsing, mind.

Well, I refuse to cooperate. As of today, I refuse to get any older.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Journaling... or Diaryah attack.

Dear DiaryJournal,

First, There isn't going to be any "Dear Diary" openers. Real Men don't keep diaries, just maybe journals. That may be a difference without a distinction but it makes my macho ego feel all warm and fuzzy. I think I will also drop the "Dear". In the future, I will just use "Yo! Jour!" And "Jour" is pronounced "Juhr" so don't think I am trying to speak French.

I figure keeping a diary journal will help me order my thoughts and maintain a record of things that happen to me. Then, when I am famous, it will be easier to write my memoirs. I am not sure if real men write memoirs but I'll take the chance. After all, I probably won't get famous anyway and will never have to write them.

I suppose I should jot down the things I did today. I awoke at 6:30 in the morning, as I usually do. If I didn't, I would likely pee the bed. I mean, I have no other real reason for getting out of bed at that hour on a non-golf day. And today was a non-golf day. Instead, I had to go to the YMCA to exercise (not my idea, it is Faye's... more later) and then take Faye's car in for an oil change.

The exercise thing is not something I really wanted to do. Faye thought we should start exercising. She felt it would be good for me, to help me recover from the Great Kneecap Incident (GKI). I have to admit she is right. Keeping the sofa from floating away is not exactly a muscle building activity. It has been awhile since I have been in one of these exercise rooms. They have all sorts of new machines to work on different parts of your body. I could spend hours watching someone else demonstrate them.

I am trying to work up a regular routine. So far, I haven't done much for my left thigh. You see, the left thigh muscles atrophied shortly after the GKI. I didn't realize how shortly until I started to walk a couple of days after the operation. The operation just wired the kneecap back together and left it where it belonged. I guess. Later, the good doctor explained that the leg muscles will atrophy to basically the consistency of room temperature Jell-o in about 3 days. But it will take months to restore their original strength. Just doesn't seem fair.

So, I do one set of leg exercises followed by stomach crunches, back extension for lower back, and a couple of machines that work my shoulders in different directions.

I don't have to worry about over doing it because Faye can only take about 15 minutes of exercise before she's ready to call it a day.

So, after leaving for the workout at 7:30 AM (after two cups of coffee for me and at least three for Faye), exercising almost long enough to notice it, and getting back home, I had just enough time to shower and dress before taking Faye's car to the service department.

Now, Faye's car is a Buick (just as mine is) but I took her car to the local Ford dealer because he advertises a $15 oil change. Even a Ford mechanic ought to be able to change the oil in a Buick without destroying the engine. Or forgetting to put the crankcase plug back in. One hopes anyway. I don't know why this Ford dealer does this. He is cheaper than the Buick dealer. And there is just one guy who owns all the dealerships in this city. Seriously. Talk about a lack of competition. There's a rival Chevrolet dealer up in Avon Park (10 miles away) but that's it for about 40 miles in any direction. There's a Chrysler dealer too but who buys Chryslers anymore? So it doesn't really count as competition.

Those were the high points of my day. Tomorrow is a golf day. That means I will swelter all morning while I frustratingly chase a little white ball around a big field. Then I will come home, play on the computer for awhile and then fall asleep in front of the TV.

Life is good.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Random Thoughts for July

Some people have washboard abs. Mine are better described as "washtub." (Faye says "basketball")

In addition, my "gunboats" look like canoes.

I would like someone to explain something.... anything.

I have learned what science has done to explain the the initial expansion of the Universe causing matter to move faster than light. They created something called "Planck time" and ignored the speed limit. After all, Einstein didn't yet exist so the Universe didn't know it had to obey that speed limit.

Life on earth may seem confused, capricious, troublesome, and inexplicable but it is the only life we know. If/when we find life elsewhere, it is likely to be even more inexplicable. I just hope they aren't really into anal probing.

The more documentaries I watch, the more skeptical I become about their validity. Documentaries have become more opinion than educational.

When I was 30, I thought that should be the start of "middle age" with 35 to 40 being the end. Now that I am 64, I am thinking that 60 might have been a better choice.

Careful observation has revealed to me that any traffic light's odds of turning red as I approach is directly proportional to my need to be somewhere on time. Maybe that should be "inversely proportional"... I always get those confused.

I think NASA's priorities should not ever include diplomacy and the self-esteem of any peoples. Self esteem is the responsibility of those people, not someone else.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Raindrops fallin' on my head

Simple projects never turn out to be simple.

I have a screen porch in the back of my house. It's where I keep my potted Key Lime tree and other small plants. It's also where Faye and Francis sit and smoke so the house doesn't get that "smokers live here" smell. (Not my idea, Faye's, though I heartily support it.)

The screened part is an extension of an alcove-like area between the bedroom on the north and the bedroom on the south. When we planned the house, we had wanted a curved screen area for the "roof" of that section. Instead, we ended up with a flat screened roof. I was not happy. If it was to be flat, it might as well be opaque, a solid roof. I soon learned that it should have been a solid roof.

I should have known better. I have lived in Florida for a lot of my life. We get rain. Lots of rain. Rain is not stopped by screen. Rain comes right through. And, when the gutter between the eave of the house and the start of the screen gets clogged up with pine needles (we have, in addition to rain, more pine trees than weeds in Florida), you get a waterfall effect. I have found that there is very little drainage on that porch. Which means, every time it rains, we get a little pond. When it rains really hard (which it also does a lot in Florida) we get a big pond.

So, we decided to call for someone to put a roof, a real roof, on the screened area of the porch. If not for the Great Kneecap Incident, I would have eventually put some kind of cover on that section. It would have been cheap and it would have been noisy when it rained but it would have been functional... and cheap. When you contract with someone to do it for you, it costs a lot more. It is not cheap. But it is allegedly better.

I expected to pay almost a third less than I am paying. I don't know why I expected that, it has never happened before, but I did. I wanted to pay that much less but I only get one vote and Faye gets two. On the other hand, the gutter will no longer be between the eave of the house and the screened area. It will be on the eave of the screened area where I can more easily clean out the pine needles and other debris gutters collect along with the runoff from the roof of one's house. And there will be no more large ponds on my back porch. Small ones, perhaps, because it is still screened and there is nothing to stop the rain from blowing in. But not large ones. Not ones where I spend time vainly squeegeeing the water off the tiles and out the back door. A bit like bailing out the Titanic.

Or paying down the national debt.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

This is gonna hurt

After the Great Kneecap Incident, and a suitable recovery period, I went through a 6 week period of rehab. Rehab consisted of a light leg exercise (what's called "leg curls") and a combination sound and electrical stimulation. Toward the end of that rehab period, I had begun playing golf again.

Now that I am back to playing 3 times a week, I find I still need some additional exercise that will build up the thigh muscle on the injured (left) leg. As the doctor explained, it takes around 3 days for the muscles in our legs to atrophy from lack of use. It takes many weeks to get it back to "normal" strength. I have a long way to go.

Faye decided that we should join the local YMCA so that we can get regular exercise and that it would be good for us. So she signed us up. Today was my first day.

I like it. I always enjoy the first few days of exercise. Even the stiffness and soreness. I know better than do too much on the first few visits. It's easy to do that, you know. We don't realize just how out of shape we are until the day after we first start an exercise regimen. It is the soreness, and the weakness that accompanies it, that reminds us. And encourages us to go back to our sedentary lifestyle.

It reminds me of the first day back at school after summer vacation and that first day of Phys. Ed. I also remember the second day back and the inability to control the sore and aching muscles that the seemingly endless exercises Coach had put us through had created. Coach's answer to that soreness (as with all things, it seemed) was more exercise.

I am essentially lazy and will tire of getting out and to the Y at least 3 days a week. I know this about myself. It is my nature and I do not begrudge it. Still, I am getting older and light exercise is good for me. So I will try to create a habit of going three days a week. I will also try to not talk myself out of maintaining that habit.

I am clever and convincing so I must be on my guard against myself at all times. I am my own "snake in the garden", always tempting myself down the wrong path. This is why I am not filthy rich and powerful. I cannot blame The Man for keeping me down. I could, it would be easier on myself if I did. But it would be false.

Still, right now I am basking in the warmth of soon to be sore muscles. Muscles that I was no longer sure I had. All is right with the world. Tomorrow? Well, maybe not so right.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Born under a bad sign...

Born under a bad sign.
I've been down since I began to crawl.
If it wasn't for bad luck,
I wouldn't have no luck at all.

[lyrics by Booker T. Jones and William Bell]

Actually, I think the sign said Maternity Ward but I'm not sure.

The more I practice, the luckier I get.
[ A quote by either Arnold Palmer or Gary Player. No one knows, it seems, which of them said it first.]

Luck is a strange and unpredictable phenomena, which may explain why we often refer to it as "Lady Luck." When we say someone is lucky, we mean he has good luck more often than bad. But luck is both good and bad. I, for instance, have a bit more bad luck than good. This is because what some might see as good luck on my part is the result of skill, effort, and talent. I also tend to exaggerate.

On the golf course, I often say I would rather have luck (meaning the good kind) than skill. This is because skill takes practice and practice is work. I'm retired, I have given up work for a life of leisure. I don't cheat at golf either. You see, in order to get away with cheating, you have to be good at it. In order to be good at cheating, you have to practice. And as I said, I am not in favor of work.

Actually, I have had a lot of good luck all my life. I survived Whooping Cough when I was less than 3 months old. I survived my treatment by my older siblings. I survived falling out of trees, bicycle accidents, car accidents, motorcycle accidents, the Navy, and even my first wife. I managed to happen upon a good job with Ma Bell that gave me a decent living and good benefits which led to my current comfortable retirement.

I even consider the Great Kneecap Incident to be a bit lucky. I could have cracked my skull instead quite easily. Or I could have done greater damage to my knee than just busting my kneecap in half.

On the other hand, I have had some bad luck along the way but none of it has led to permanent damage or scarring. None of it has seriously impacted my life. I suppose you could chalk up a failed first marriage to bad luck but it is better described as a poor choice brought on by lust. It's not bad luck when you choose to do something when all sorts of signs indicate it is not the path to take. It's just stupidity.

Bad luck is when you make what would otherwise be a good choice and something bad happens. Like seeking shelter from a thunderstorm in an old barn and having it collapse on you. You did the right thing, it just turned out bad. Good luck is the inverse; you did the wrong thing and it turned out good.

So maybe I have had good luck because I have done a lot of wrong things in my past and I have had a good life.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night...

First, let me moan about how I can't do anything lately. This blasted knee is still stiff, weak, and has just enough pain to prevent me from getting many chores done. I own a home. Rather, I should say I am enslaved by a house. Houses require upkeep, they require odd jobs and regular maintenance. And, unless you have lots of spare money, the tasks fall to the owners. I can afford to get many things done by others but, for reasons I do not understand, there are no reliable handymen operating in this area.

You call them, they promise to show up and then don't. When they do, they check out the job and then promise to return... and then don't. Assuming they eventually do show up before you give up on whatever project it was or do it yourself, they want more than you imagined possible.

I suspect the reason is that there are so many elderly living in this area. While that makes for a quiet town with a low cost of living, it also makes it a bonanza for anyone handy with a few tools.

Meanwhile, I have a waterfall onto my back porch because I cannot get up a ladder to clean out the gutter.

Ok, end of rant. Now, onto a book review...

I am currently reading the first novel in Dean Koontz' Frankenstein series. It turns out this is going to be two trilogies. Prodigal Son is the first of the initial three. And I'm hooked.

Koontz brings the Frankenstein story into modern times. Both his monster/creation and he somehow survive over two hundred years and end up in New Orleans. Victor establishes himself as "Victor Helios", a wealthy philanthropist, and his monster arrives some years later after learning that Victor still lives.

Toss in a serial killer or two, a female detective with "issues", and a plot involving the New Race that Victor is building and you are not going to be sleeping much for all the reading you'll do.

If you aren't familiar with Koontz' work, you are depriving yourself. Whether you like horror-thrillers or not, you should like Koontz. He is not only masterful at setting a horror scene and building the tension needed for a thriller, he also infuses a goodly amount of humor into his stories. You not only get fleshed out characters, you also become attached to them. You get involved in their lives. When the book is done, you are left wanting more.

I moved from Stephen King to Koontz some years ago. King seems to take much more time building his stories than Koontz. I really got hooked on him once I read Odd Thomas. After that, I started reading more and more of his work. I can't get enough. There are so many that I have not read, I may not have enough time left in my life.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Have we met before?

I was single twice. Before my first marriage and before my second. Marriage is not the natural state of man, you know. When single, we view it as an end of life sort of thing. A bit like indentured servants probably felt. Since I have been married twice, I know better. It's cheaper (and easier) to buy your way out of indentured servitude.

During those times when I was single, I would go out to parties and bars seeking to meet women. For companionship. I mean you can stand being by yourself for only so long. Especially me, I am not great company. The problem was that I was not a party animal or into the "bar scene." Nor was I especially outgoing and sociable. I enjoyed my solitude most of the time. I was, as my mother affectionately called me, a Loner.

So my sojourns to meet women and find romance didn't usually work out well.

Perhaps it was my approach...

"Hi! Nice outfit... it would look really good lying on my bedroom floor."

"I'm lost... would you take me home with you?"

"Do you believe in love at first sight? Or must I show you my bank balance?"

"I like to go to bed early... care to join me?"

"Are you as desperate as I am?

These "pick up" lines seem to indicate that I was not exactly a successful lecher. Probably all for the best. I seemed to attract "clingers" when I picked up women. One date and they'd be planning our wedding. Nothing makes a single guy nervous as a woman planning their future together while he is still trying to remember her name. When I was young and single, I wasn't looking to be old and married. In fact, any woman who wanted me that bad wasn't someone I trusted to have good judgment.

I have called women who gave me their phone numbers at bars and parties. You'd be amazed at how many women write their numbers down wrong or apparently think that Dial-A-Prayer is some kind of answering service. This might explain why I hear so many women say that men don't call. We do, we just don't get an answer.

I am happily married now so all of this is in my distant past. Thankfully. Otherwise, I would just be a lonely old man.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Birthday USA!

I usually do not write anything for Sundays but this Sunday is a special day. On the 4th of July, I think about the beginning of my United States of America. I wonder about the level of oppression that drove our forefathers to revolt against the rule of England. In history books and lectures, it never seemed all that oppressive to me. Sure, at some level it was. But most of the colonists lived outside the cities and should have had little contact with British authority. So, as I see it, the American Revolution stated in the cities and revolved around British intrusion into free trade.

Yet it spread far and wide. It did not happen overnight, of course, the fire of revolution smoldered for decades before erupting. But erupt it did. And though some may disagree, it turned out to be a good thing for the world. The concept of self rule did not originate in what became the USA but it grew here like it never had in the past anywhere else. And it was a true effort to make the citizens the source of political power. Yes, there was slavery and the First Americans were not viewed as part of the nation, and in most new states women were denied the right to vote.

All of that changed, we evolved as a society and a culture. Like all evolution, it took time and was painful. A civil war was needed to bring about an end to slavery. We spread west and, yes, pushed the First Americans into smaller and smaller territory. We took land by force, bought some from other countries and forced at least one to sell at gunpoint. And eventually spanned from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

But there are few nations in the world who do not have pasts of conquest and expansion. I think we tend to forget that. We grow up here being taught about a land of individual freedom and justice for all and find it isn't quite that. Not yet. We are still evolving, still growing, still trying to attain the goals set forth in the Declaration of Independence.

And we've backslid. A lot. We've failed to deliver on the promises made. But we haven't stopped trying. We haven't failed yet.

Friday, July 2, 2010


I used to make jokes about the silliness of certain things. One of the jokes involved a movement to create Braille windshields so that the blind could drive. In fact, the idea came to mind while negotiating traffic on a southern California freeway. I thought it had already been invented.

But now... the "joke" may be moving toward reality.

Could a blind person drive a car?

From the linked article...

Some people thought I was crazy and they thought, ‘Why do you want us to raise money for something that can’t be done?‘ Others thought it was a great idea,“ Maurer said. “Some people were incredulous. Others thought the idea was incredible.

It doesn't involve Braille windshields. That was a bit far-fetched. What it involves is laser sensors and special gloves that will vibrate to tell the driver when and where to turn. It will also use compressed air out of a small device with tiny holes which will create a "map" for the driver.

"Advocates for the blind say it will take time before society accepts the potential of blind drivers and that the safety of the technology will need to be proven through years of testing."

I tend to agree. I can see this technology being used to provide more mobility for the sight-impaired. I am not so sure I want to share the road with them, though.

I have one question... will they also get Braille phones so they can text while heading for the next bar to have a few more drinks?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It must be Thursday...

When I am not playing golf (ok, playing "at golf") or sitting here at my computer getting frustrated by how the Monopoly game cheats, whipping Freecell, and solving online jigsaw and crossword puzzles, I wonder about things...

We call this "musing". At least, I call it musing. Other people have described it as "going off on weird tangents" or, at times, "babbling." They may be right though I think I have to be drunk to babble properly.

I muse about the histrionics of Senators and Representatives over the extension of unemployment benefits. Total number of unemployed is 15 million (May figure). The extension would affect 1.3 million. Don't get me wrong, the money would undoubtedly be helpful and appreciated by those 1.3 million. It probably wouldn't save them from foreclosure but it might stall it off or at least pay the rent. Unemployment benefits are not great. They are usually a bit less than half what you made before becoming unemployed. I don't begrudge anyone who gets them.

I am sympathetic but I don't see how helping 1.3 million get by for another 2 years would have helped overall. And I don't like the politics. One side wants the money to come from the TARP funds, the other refuses. You can count me in as one who favors using the, so far unspent, TARP funds to pay for this. And for job training and assistance for the other 13.7 million. Why can't bailout money go to them?

I'm not holding my breath. Politics does not make much sense.

Even cookies in space seem complicated because government is involved. Ever hear of Canasnaks (original name was "CANookie")? These are "bite-sized"..."cream-filled sandwich cookies" made with oatmeal made for astronauts to take into space. Why Canasnaks? Because they are Canadian. Canadian made with Canadian ingredients and even a Maple Leaf logo design on them.

Cost? Upwards of $415,000. There are, apparently, stringent requirements by NASA on foodstuffs for astronauts. There was a special oven needed to bake them and the maple leaf's red color had to be done by hand. They did produce a number of these cookies in packs of 5 each.

There was some consideration given to making them available to the public commercially but that never panned out. Few companies were interested.

So the cookie crumbled.

The new iPhone 4 is out and there's a lawsuit planned against Apple over it. Something about how the new antenna scheme discriminates against lefties. Holding the phone in a normal way with the left hand covers up part of the antenna. It would affect me since I always use my left ear, thereby holding a phone with my left hand, so any iPhone 4 I used would also likely drop calls.

My cellphone is a Gophone. It didn't start out that way but I found I only used about 20 minutes a month so it was cheaper to convert to that status. After 34 years with the phone company, I basically avoid spending more than a few minutes on one.

The cost of electronic books is coming down. The cheapest seems to be a $149 model from Barnes and Noble. Still too expensive for me. Under $100 and I will take a serious look at them. You really have to entice me away from real books made of paper.

The oil gushing into the Gulf is such a huge crisis that the Jones Act (which would allow non-US owned ships to be used) isn't being waived and a ship that promises to skim off over 500,000 barrels of oil a day is awaiting both decent weather (blame TS Alex for that) and government approval. No word on when the latter might happen but the weather should be cooperating in a couple more days.

I have already mused too long. It has begun to look like babbling.