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, September 30, 2011

I have no idea where that went

Sometimes I make mistakes. I know, I know... it shocks me too. But I have to be honest here. Recently, I made a purchase; a new driver for my collection of golf clubs. I believe that is my 7th driver of the current crop (since 2001). It might be my 8th, not so sure.

I bought it because I have come to really love a 3 wood I picked up of the same brand and model a couple of months ago. I have come to realize that this was a poor reason to purchase a new club... especially one so important as a driver. For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about, a driver is supposed to be the primary choice for tee shots for anything other than a par 3 hole... for those of you who do know what I am talking about, it's the one you cuss at most.

Anyway, it is not performing to expectations. It has taken on the attribute of many of my other clubs.... sending the ball in directions unintended (and, often, not very far). This takes much of the joy out of The Game. If the club was a car, I would not trust it on the roadway. It is, much like the remote for my cable box. I aim it in the direction of my TV and the cable box-DVR thing, press a button, and one of them reacts but usually not the one I wanted.

This can be frustrating. And frustration leads to confusion and lack of confidence and that leads to bad scores.

So, the new driver is being set aside to gather dust with its brothers and sisters in the garage and the old driver is back in the bag... for now.

I am not happy about this.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Did you move that ball?

I tend to notice things; patterns mostly. Also anomalies. I know you folks do too. For instance, I play golf with a group of old codgers. And cheats. I use that last epithet in a fond way but it's true. There are rules to golf and these rules are self enforced. Which means it's pretty easy to cheat. Only the tour pros really avoid it. I think that's because the TV cameras are always on them and people at home have been known to call in about an infraction.

But here in Paradise, there are no TV cameras and very few people are watching. And we blatantly violate the cardinal rule of golf; play the ball as it lies. We allow ourselves to "roll the ball in the fairway." In other words, we allow our players to improve the lie of the ball. If it's sitting in an old divot, or there's a weedy patch that might interfere with the club face, we can roll the ball a little bit until it's clear of these things. That's how it started. Now, people "adjust" the lie until it is as near to perfect as possible as a matter of course. And that, of course, has led to something we call "fluff in the rough." The point of the rough is to penalize the player for not hitting the ball into the fairway. We have pretty much negated that penalty.

I can see that one day we may just tee the ball up regardless of where the ball is.

I try to refrain from these clear violations myself. I try to be an honest man but it is tempting. It clearly gives my opponents an unfair advantage.

It's a slippery slope, folks. Next thing you know we'll be cheating on our income taxes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Rows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way

But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I've looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all

Beautiful fluffy, wispy, puffs of dust and moisture floating across the blue sky. When you are above them, on a mountain or in a plane, they look like you could almost walk on them. Lying on the ground, you watch them float on by and see images in them; animals, castles, spires and more. When the sun rises over the Atlantic, they glow with a special kind of pinkish orange. When you watch the sun set in the Pacific, they turn a deep red.

I look at this planet in wonder sometimes. Some people think life is hard, that nature can be so cruel with floods and cold and storms and earthquakes and such, that you have to struggle to survive but it's really a very benign planet. It produces food, it's warmed by the sun, shaded by trees and those clouds, it offers shelter or the means by which to build it. I often wonder what it was like for primitive man. He was at the mercy of nature, it would seem. But nature wasn't all that unfriendly. He had plenty of food available; berries, seeds, nuts, small game and fish. But it was a hand to mouth existence, I am sure.

But looking up into the sky, the stars at night and the clouds during the day, he must have been filled with awe as he devised myths and legends to explain the beauty and terror that is nature.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Yes, dear...

Saturday afternoon, after getting beaten at golf by my so-called friends, I was sent on an errand. I didn't want to go. I wanted to stay home and veg out. I wanted to sit in a nice comfy recliner and watch bits of golf on TV while nodding in and out of consciousness. I do that most weekends. Not always golf, though, sometimes it's football or history programs or... well, whatever captivates me in the few moments between stuffing my face with snacks and the first nodding of my head.

Oh, wait... we are going to need a replacement for "boob tube", aren't we? TV's now are flat screen or projection; they no longer use a tube... "boob tube" no longer applies. Another idiom lost to technological advances. We'll need a new derogatory term for television sets.

Where was I? Oh yeah, I was sent on an errand.

You see, when we moved in here almost 6 years ago, we bought new furniture. New couch, new beds, new dressers, new computer desks, etc. But we kept a few things from the old house: a coffee table, two end tables, the dining room table, china cabinet, and an old 50" projection TV. It was too big for the small living room so it ended up in the master bedroom. Where it was also too big but could be placed. And there it sat, rarely used, for years... just minding its own business and being mostly ignored.

Faye, my interior decorator/accountant/wife/BMOC (Big Mama On Campus), decided it was time to make a change. So a plan was devised (by her, I had no input) wherein we would replace the big projection TV with a flat screen placed on some kind of TV stand. The plan was formulated about a year ago. We bought the TV stand last week. We do not move quickly here in Paradise... or anywhere else we have lived. And gave away the big TV to some nice folks.

Now it was time to find a replacement TV to go on the new stand. I had tried to order one online. Perhaps I should tell you about that experience but it deserves its very own posting. It's full of intrigue and misdirection. And failure. Which is why I was sent off to Wally World hunt down my prey. Yes modern man, no longer being the big hunter he once was, is now reduced to intrepid shopper of Big Ticket Items.

The reality is that I was sent forth to purchase the TV that Faye liked the last time we were in Wally World*. Which I did. And which fortunately fit in the back of my car.

Upon returning home unscathed and with new TV intact, I was tasked with moving the living room TV into the bedroom and setting up the new TV in the old TV's place in the living room. A game of musical TVs, so to speak. After that was done easily enough, all I had to do is sort out the cabling, set up the new TV ( and it now had to be connected to our wireless router), program the cable remote so we didn't have to juggle remotes (man stuff all), and only then was I permitted to nap.

I have to admit it is amazing what technological advances are made in just a few years in the world of television. Just in time for old age to ruin my vision. I can see where napping in front of this new TV will be so much better.

*We have no nearby Target, Best Buy, or other large department/electronics store to compete with Wal Mart. The nearest of those being some 45 miles away. So, it's either take a chance online or go to Wal Mart.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I thought this was impossible?

Has another barrier been broken? Scientists at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) have claimed they have run experiments where "They had observed particles moving faster than the speed of light." [Link]

If this turns out to be true, physics has just been turned on its pointy little head. According to Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity, nothing can go faster than the speed of light. Yet, these folks seem to think that has happened in their experiments.

The experiments involved sending neutrinos from OPERA headquarters near Geneva, Switzerland, to a detector 450 miles away in Italy. The experiments must be repeated and other observers must duplicate the findings before this will be accepted.

The ramifications are astounding if the findings are upheld.

This will be interesting.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

On division and polemics

It is Saturday. Time for politics. I know... politics is boring, annoying, confusing, divisive, and ugly. Still, it's all around us and seeps into our lives at every turn. If you work (or want to but cannot find a job), if you are in school, if you are retired... politics affects your life. I know. Trust me.

Over the years, I have noticed that the presidential election cycle no longer begins in the last year of a president's term. It begins in the year he is elected. People start wondering who will be the opposition candidate in 4 years. Politicians start jockeying for position. The various political bigwigs in each party start defending, opposing, whining about, bragging about the performance of the current president.

All of that affects us, the rank and file of the electorate. And we are inundated by it if we watch the news. Especially if we watch the news on the 24 hour news channels. It is no wonder we run off to watch the mindless entertainment elsewhere. We don't want to watch the constant political bickering. Polls repeatedly show this. It is reflected in the low ratings of Congress. We really don't like them.

We, according to the polls, want something called "bi-partisanship" and cooperation. We want Congress and the president to get the "people's business" done.

I don't believe it. Oh, I am not saying the polls are wrong, I am saying they aren't asking the right questions or interpreting the results properly. When someone says "I want more cooperation in Congress", they really mean "I want the other party to do what my preferred party wants them to do." Admit it. If you are a Democrat, you want the Democratic proposals to go through smoothly and easily. If you are Republican, you want the Republican proposals to go through smoothly and easily.

Do you think the other party is evil and wants to destroy the country? Really? I don't think so. I think the people on both sides of the aisle are sincere and truly believe their policies are the right ones. There's a good chance neither of them is right and an equal chance that only one of them is.

The question, to me then, is which one is likely to do the least harm if wrong?

But that is just the way I look at it.

Divisiveness is not just caused simply by disagreement. It is something that is encouraged by those who wish to exploit it.

Read carefully between the lines.

Friday, September 23, 2011

And get hot dogs, tums, mouthwash, and pretzels

Since they have not yet decided to build that Sam's Club here in Paradise (the site has been cleared but nothing more done), I am forced to travel some distance to a town where there is one. I have a choice of several towns, all over 55 miles. The closest one (57.4 miles) takes as long to get to as the one I chose (at 70 miles). This is due to the number of traffic lights, speed limits, and so on. Both take about 1.5 hours. So I do not make this trip often. Any savings we might realize are lost in gas costs, of course. Still, it makes me feel good and the illusion of saving is strong.

It also takes up a goodly portion of my day. I figure 5 hours; 3 hours travel and two inside the store. Since I am retired, I haven't much to do on the days when I do not play golf and trips like these help waste a day.

The reason I choose the store I go to is the trip is usually uneventful (except for this one [Link]), the scenery is nice, and the roads are usually in good condition. This trip was uneventful and time passed easily as I listened to Van Morrison and then Jackson Browne on the stereo. A pleasant ride.

The highway is a two laner. That would one lane in each direction, in case you are wondering. Two lane highways can be dangerous. People need to pass to get around the slowpokes and that entails entering the oncoming lane. Speed control, timing, and a bit of nerve come into play. Remember the highway game "Chicken"? That is what passing on a two lane highway can be like.

I have had some close calls passing on such highways but not this time. As I said, this trip was pleasant and uneventful. And now we have enough paper towels, tuna fish, pretzels (these won't last but Sam's is the only place I can buy Utz pretzel rods around here), and sundry other items to last us a couple, maybe three, months.

And a new Blu-Ray player.

I hate shopping.... but I like these trips

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Howdy, Snowbirds!

In a few weeks, we will enter Fall here in Paradise. Fall officially starts on September 22, the day following the Fall Equinox. It's traditional. We won't get Fall weather until late October here and, even then, it won't have those crisp cool nights and mornings those further north of us will experience. We only get those during official Winter. Fall here is more like Summer up north. Summer here closely resembles some descriptions of Hades.

I happen to like warm weather... or I sure wouldn't live here. I do not like cold weather at all. The first year that a Snowbird (someone who spends Winters here and summers up north; a seasonal resident) spends here when he gives up returning north in the Summer is the toughest. But once through a Summer and a Winter, you get acclimated. More or less. You never really get used to the heat in Summer but you do adapt to it.

In reality, there are only two to three months a year here when the weather is excellent. During those periods, the nights dip down into the high 60's to low 70's and the days don't get above the low 80's. Yeah, I know that is summer in New England. But we are a long way from New England.

We mark the beginning of Winter when the first Snowbirds show up around the middle or end of October. We like the winter residents; they keep our businesses alive with the money they spend while here. All of our businesses rely on the seasonal residents to survive. Without them, they'd fold. I try to think of this when I fight the traffic or wait for a seat in a restaurant that a few short weeks before was begging me to visit.

Come on down!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I just saw a TV ad about integrity. Like a lot of ads, it uses children to get the point across and the ad itself was about children learning the concept. The ad asked "What is integrity?" and the children offer their understanding of it. Of course, they are pretty much right on the money... otherwise, the answers would have been left on the cutting room floor and the ad would have been re-shot with smarter kids.

But it got me thinking. What is integrity and do I have it? I have thought so for many years. I could have been wrong. And I was wrong. I was just fooling myself. I was honest but not all the time. I listened to the "angel on my shoulder" but not all the time. I was fair to others but not all the time. And, looking back, the "not all the time" might be better described as "not most of the time."

I had a good role model to follow: my father. But, like most kids in my era, it was more hip to rebel. And so I did. I sought out the wrong role models instead. Which meant I got into trouble a bit. Quite a bit. My cleverness (as I saw it) kept me from getting caught most of the time and maybe mitigated the situation when I did get caught.

I've come to believe that behavior is a matter of habit. That is, you can alter your behavior by habit creation. We know what the "right thing" to do is most of the time and doing it consciously often enough will eventually make it second nature.

Start small. Instead of getting angry at the slow driver in front of you, picture him as nervous or scared or worried about something in his life. Give him a little more room. Same with that person with 20 items in front of you in the "10 items or less" register lane. Maybe he's got to get home to take his wife to chemo treatments, maybe he's got a reason he thinks justifies breaking the rules this time. Hold the door open for the person behind you even if that means waiting a bit for him or her to get there. You'll develop a habit of courtesy and tolerance. And you'll be surprised at how quickly that happens. And how much better you feel overall.

Courtesy is not integrity, of course, and integrity takes a bit more to develop but it can start there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A flash, a rumble, and other things Mother throws at us

Pearl recently wrote a rather beautiful piece about the beginning of Autumn. And Braja did one about rain (or maybe shoes, not really sure) over at Lost and Found in India. Since I love to steal ideas (not having too many of my own fit for public display), I thought I might talk about the seasons and weather as we know them here in Paradise. You don't mind, do you? Good... I thought not.

I suppose I am a bit strange because I find weather fascinating. I have lived in almost deserts, in places with 4 distinct seasons, and traveled to (and through) all sorts of climates. Finding yourself needing a light jacket while on a tropical island (Oahu) in summertime can mystify as can wearing a heavy jacket to school and dragging in home in the afternoon while sweating profusely. Walking out from work to find your car encased in an inch thick layer of ice can be upsetting but not so bad as having to follow a snowplow through town in order to drive home. Rain so heavy that you are completely soaked (to your underwear... assuming you wear any) just taking ten steps to get to your car makes you wonder if you can actually drive through it. Storms that rage for 20 or more hours as you lie awake and wonder if the roof will hold might make you wonder why you chose to live there.

Weather, good and bad, is amazing. And it has entertained me, irritated me, helped and hindered me as I am sure it has done for you. We tolerate it, enjoy it, prepare for it, and are surprised by it.

My only interest in it when very young was curiosity and play. A nice sunny summer day meant I could go out and play in my bare feet. Snow in winter meant riding a sled down the street in front of my house or on the slope to the east of The Woods near my home. Rain meant staying in and watching the dreariness through my upstairs bedroom window. A child's view is all. One of my strongest early childhood memories is of looking out my window down the street in a snowstorm heavy enough to obscure the houses a half block away. Everything was off-white that day, dusk-like and gray. The clouds so thick and heavy they blocked most of the light and made early afternoon seem like dusk.

Thunderstorms filled me with awe and wonder then and still do today. As the storm moved in, the air seemed clean and fresh, the smell of the air changed (I suppose it had something to do with the ozone), and excitement grew in me. I would watch the lightning strike, the brilliant jagged bolt of light from cloud to ground (or tree or house) followed by the crack (or sometimes the slow building base rumble) of thunder that I often felt in the soles of my feet just before I realized I was hearing it. There was that time that a camp counselor almost bought it when a pine tree was struck very near to the tent I was in. Since then, the soles of my feet have been quite sensitive to lightning strikes nearby.

I became much more interested in the weather when I began surfing at age 18. Back then, weather maps in the paper were filled with information about isobars and cold and warm fronts as well as general wind direction and temperatures. Our local paper showed a weather map that covered the whole continental U.S. (and part of Canada). I learned to predict the weather fairly well. It was important to me in terms of what effect it might have on surf conditions. Surfing was just becoming popular in south Florida and there was no emphasis on surf conditions beyond small boat advisories and such. These were somewhat useful.

After joining the Navy and going out to sea, I learned the old adage/rhyme of "Red sky at night, sailors delight. Red sky at dawning, sailors take warning" wasn't accurate at all. I eventually decided that it probably applied more to the Atlantic (and in the vicinity of Europe and the British Isles, or maybe the Caribbean) than the vast Pacific Ocean. I would have loved to have been assigned to some meteorology rating than the one I was given (SONAR) but the Navy does as it pleases and I was just a tiny cog in a huge and complicated machine.

I also tracked tropical storms and hurricanes each year in my early teens but never tried to make predictions where they would strike land (if they did). I learned quickly how capricious they were. Back then there were no weather satellites and weather radar was in its infancy and quite limited. TV stations did not have it. Knowledge and tracking of these storms was crude, depending on reports from ships and planes at sea and then by investigation by Hurricane Hunter planes. These planes and crews flew into the storms and gathered all the information they could about them. Still do but they aren't needed as much. Satellites can show us the size of the storm and its eye and gather just as much info about wind speed and pressure. So many things influence the path of these large storms that we need computer programs to give us a fair idea about where they are headed. Still, it doesn't seem to me that we are much more accurate than we were back in the 50's.

Ok, that was just about weather with nothing much about seasons. Seems like that will have to wait for another day.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tied up in Iran

Watching the news, as I am wont to do way too much, something caught my eye. It was in a story about the two remaining hikers being held by Iran as "spies." It struck me, as I watched the file video accompanying the story, that Iran is pretty laid back.

No, not about social issues. And not about lost hikers. It still seems awfully uptight about way too much. But about men's clothing? Have you noticed? The men never seem to be wearing ties. Not even at important functions... like legal hearings. Shirts unbuttoned at the neck while wearing suits appears to be the norm.

Sure, they want women wrapped from head to toe in public and they have people going around admonishing women over the use of make-up but the men don't need to wear ties. I wonder if this applies to "black tie" dinners and, if it does, what they call them?

Meanwhile, back to the two hikers... they may be released (by the time you read this, they may already be free and on their way home) if they can post a "bail" of a half million or so each. Everyone knows they would jump bail immediately so it really isn't bail. It's a "bribe us, we'll let them go" situation. And, apparently, Iran sells out cheap. They were given 8 year sentences but once the last judge (who may be holding out for a larger piece of the bribe) signs off, they can go free... after payment, of course.

One wonders why they were held longer than the young woman who was with them. One wonders what they were supposed to be spying on in the border region between Turkey and Iran, an area that is a bit like rural, mountainous, Utah only less populated. Now that I think about it, why were these people hiking in that region anyway?

Don't get me wrong, I don't think they were spies. That idea is pretty laughable. Maybe I haven't been adventurous enough but I would never think about hiking in a region that is close to a hostile country and is a hundred miles from absolute nowhere.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Machine talk

I would talk about politics today (this being Saturday and all) but it's not much fun. And maybe a bit boring. So I won't.

A couple of days ago a friend called me because he had a computer problem. It's to be expected, these things happen. In this case, it was a real problem and one which I could not resolve over the phone. He had a dialog box pop up on bootup that said something about a missing .DLL file. Specifically, STString.DLL which turned out to be moderately important but not critical. As far as I have been able to figure out, it only impeded some backup system of Dell's.

This is unimportant except to point out that my friends tend to contact me about their computer problems. That is strange in a way because I am only moderately knowledgeable about computers. I have put a few together from parts and I have done some (very) minor programming. I have a basic understanding of their operation. I credit/blame AT&T for this. They got me interested in them and gave me some training on them. Not on microcomputers (what are now called PCs and Macs) but on some specialized mainframe types. The size may be different and the purpose specialized but the basic architecture is very similar. And I fell in love with the beasts.

Still, I am more knowledgeable than most of the people I know and I know when to be cautious. Which is all you really need to know. That and to pay attention to changes. Do that and you won't have any real problems. At least, none that could be prevented. You cannot predict a hard disk crash nor prevent it, all you can do is prepare for it by regular backups. And if you aren't using some kind of backup system, you are walking through a minefield... blindfolded. Trust me. I have gone through a hard disk crash without a backup. Very expensive when you need that data.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Post-trip doldrums, I suppose

I have nothing for today. The reality is that I have nothing because I failed to think about it all day yesterday. Instead, I just took care of some things I needed to do (no longer able to procrastinate) and ignored my blog duties. Thus, nothing.

So I am taking a second day off this week. I will try to get back on track later today. After golf... assuming I do not have a bad day on the course after which I will simply withdraw from all human contact.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I need a cuppa

On days like this, I drag myself out of bed... unwillingly, mind you... and try to get my brain kick-started. I rouse the computer from its electrical deprivation and wait, somewhat patiently, for it to get its 0's and 1's in some kind of order. In the meanwhile, multi-tasking (in my own way), I stumble off to the kitchen for some coffee. I need to get my organic computer roused and alert and coffee helps.

We form that habit early on in life, don't we? Coffee, that is, to start our day. A mild stimulant, caffeine, helps wipe the cobwebs from our brains that form during our "down" period. My first cup of coffee was when I was about 8 years old. Lots of cream and sugar, as I recall. Not at home but at, of all places, a golf course. Bethpage golf course, to be exact. A place I used to, as a child, wander about from time to time.

I drank coffee very sparingly until my mid-teens and always with cream and sugar; enough cream to make it "blonde" and two sugars. It was the Navy which changed that. Coffee, in the Navy, is made in large urns like they used to use in diners. You know, with a spigot and a glass tube in the front so you could tell how much coffee was left. I am not sure how much coffee they held, maybe 5 gallons, perhaps more. And there was always coffee available. I know, I spent a couple of moth long assignments as a "mess cook" and that was one of the first things you learned how to do... make Navy coffee.

So there was always plenty of coffee available. What wasn't so available was cream. Instead, you used milk. And that was often unavailable. The milk lasted about 5 days at sea, at most, before you ran out. Often a day or two less. Sometimes, they'd put out powdered milk which the diehards could use but it wasn't often, as I recall. And you develop a dependence on coffee in the Navy. An attachment. At the right index finger, usually. It seemed I (and many others) always had a coffee cup in my hand. And there was always coffee in that cup. A cup that was rarely, if ever, actually washed; just rinsed between cups from time to time. Usually if it had been sitting unused for a few hours. Often, that rinse was just some hot coffee swirled around a bit and then dumped in the water fountain drain.

After being at sea for more than a few days, the milk would run out. I needed coffee so I learned to drink it with just sugar. Then there would be times when the sugar jar was empty. Lots of times. And so I drank it "black and bitter" at those times. It wasn't long before I didn't bother checking for milk or sugar; it was simpler and more efficient to just fill the cup with black, unsweetened, coffee.

I learned a lot of about my eating habits in the Navy. I realized I was no longer the picky eater I was as a child. No more separating the food (peas to one side, potatos to another, meat by itself... none touching the other) and I pretty much ate whatever was available. Except liver. I never learned to tolerate liver.

I realized sometime in my 30's that I had a caffeine addiction. It's a socially approved addiction so it is unimportant. I learned about it when I would wake up on Saturday mornings and develop a massive headache quickly that wouldn't abate until I finally got a couple of cups of java in me. That was often sometime later than 10 AM and those headaches were brutal. It took me some time to get the correlation between the (lack of) coffee and the headaches but it eventually was clear to me.

I did cut back on my coffee intake, down to twor three cups a day but I have never broken my coffee habit entirely and I never reverted to using cream and sugar.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Comin' home

Here in Biloxi, there are many things to do. Most every one of them costs money... lying on the beach doesn't but the resultant skin cancer does. So, instead of lying on the beach, people tend to gamble. Not the locals so much, I suspect, but the visitors. The locals can't afford to. That's not exactly true, many of them do gamble whether they can actually afford to or not... at least until they lose everything and end up hitchhiking out of town with all of their belongings in a sack.

It's gorgeous here. I must admit that. The Gulf of Mexico always reminded me of a large salt water lake. No waves without a storm, just little ripples running up agains the stark white sand. The vastness of the Gulf gets to me.

A casino makes a great place for observing people and the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino has some of the most observable. Mostly middle-aged or older couples come here to relive their youth (or the youth they would have had if they had had any sense of adventure at the time), You can spot them easily enough; designer jeans made of stretchable denim, sensible shoes, semi-natural hair color. The young people dress weirdly these days. I don't get it. Forget the baggy pants worn so half their underwear shows (the guys) because that doesn't happen as much here. It's the young women that throw me. I spotted one young "lady" wearing skin tight jeans and a t-shirt, sporting a few tattoos and short obviously over-dyed black hair. Actually, I spotted more than one. What is that look? Cheap street walker? Is that chic now?

The women seem to be the most intense steady gamblers, the men move about more. Women sit at one slot machine and play until they lose enough or someone comes to get them. The men move about much more and tend to play at the tables with dealers, not the machines. Except for the fat ones... I suppose they don't want to climb onto those high chairs at the blackjack tables or move around much. Women, if they play table games, lean toward roulette. Men lean toward cards.

The house, of course, comes out ahead... day in, day out. Unlike the vast majority of players.

In Vegas and Reno, food is relatively cheap and abundant. In Biloxi, it's a second source of major income. It's not cheap and it's not all that great. The buffets are ok, price-wise, and the gumbo is just fine, regardless. If you don't mind driving, there are plenty of less expensive places to eat away from whatever hotel you are staying at. Probably with better food.

Speaking of buffets... that's where all the obese people eat. I am serious. I don't know how buffets survive financially. They are filled with obese people carrying two plates at a time, each plate dangerously overloaded. I can handle one meal per trip at these buffets. If I go a second time, I am very careful not to eat very much... Besides, the first time causes me to stretch my waistline to its limit and I never bring "fat" pants on vacation.

I don't gamble much. Frankly, as I have written before, it bores me. I enjoyed gambling much more when I was in my early teens and we played poker with our Christmas money. Instead, I play golf or sit in the room watching TV or playing computer games on my laptop. I am easily amused, I suppose.

Tomorrow (when this is posted), we'll be headed home. We'll be driving straight through, no overnight stays. There's not much point to stopping for the night, a leisurely 8 hour drive gets us within 3 hours of home... may as well continue so we can sleep in our own bed.

Now, that's something to look forward to.

Monday, September 12, 2011 look for America

Let us be lovers we'll marry our fortunes together"
"I've got some real estate here in my bag"
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner pies
And we walked off to look for America

I have lived in a number of places: Farmingdale (NY), North Miami Beach (FL), Orlando (FL), Long Beach (Ca), San Diego (Ca), Manassas (Va), Jacksonville (FL), West Palm Beach (FL), and now Sebring (FL). I have made the observation that people in each of these places (and the many more that I have just visited for a fair amount of time) think they represent the country. That is, many (if not most) in each of these places think they are America.

In a sense, of course, they are. But not entirely, they are simply a part of the mosaic that is the USA. But they think that everyone in every other place in the country thinks and believes as they do; or at least the majority of those people agree with them.

T'ain't so. But you knew that, didn't you?

We are a diverse lot; conservative, liberal, all shades between the two, rural-minded, city-folk, work-aholics, lazy people, entrepreneurs, laborers, rich, poor, and on some sliding scale in between.

But we tend to cluster; herd-minded, we find ourselves associating with the like-minded. This makes it easier to believe you are in the majority. After all, everyone around you seems to feel the same way as you, don't they?

Don't you wonder who these people are who voted for [insert disliked politician's name here] since you don't know anyone who did? It's because you have greatly limited your social circle. Oh, sure, if you are conservative, you have a liberal friend or two. And if you are liberal then you have a conservative friend. It's because we enjoy the company of like-minded people. Nothing wrong with that, who wants to argue or walk on eggshells all the time?

But it also means you have narrowed your world a bit and, in doing that, narrowed your America. It becomes easier to view this country as "them and us."

My friends are mostly conservative. It's to be expected; a small town, rural and southern, will attract and welcome that ideology. But they are working class types and many are fiercely pro-union and often vote Democratic. It's an interesting dichotomy to observe. They probably were Reagan Democrats. Some of it depends on where they retired, where they lived most of their lives.

What I really enjoy is the way each of them assumes they know what the America people want and need. I even agree with some points of most of them.

When I was a young lad living in North Miami Beach (a place that was not on the beach and was really northwest of Miami Beach), I watched it change from a tourist area to a large, sprawling metropolitan region. Dade County is now Miami-Dade County. There are still a batch of small towns and cities in that area but they are pretty much swallowed up into greater Miami. One of the changes that happened early on was the New York-ization of the area. As more and more New Yorkers moved into the area, the accent changed from southern cracker to a kind of mishmash of Bronx and Brooklyn-ese. I also saw high rise condo complexes sprout up like mushrooms all over the area. Followed by huge shopping malls. They left New York and the metropolitan crowdedness and then wanted it all around them again.

In the early 60's the influx of Cuban emigres fleeing Castro's "socialist paradise" changed the complexion quite a bit. Instead of a southern or New York accent, the prevailing tongue sounded Hispanic. A lot of resistance to that change, let me tell you. I wished there had been as much against the onslaught of Northerners. Which is ironic since that was where I came from. But I had adopted and adapted and I had lived in a small town, far from the Big City. I don't think most do that when they move, they miss what they left.

We should change the places we go to... just by the fact that we're there. But that change should be subtle, not overwhelming. Miami became Little Havana, more of a Latin American city than a North American one. We've always had such things. People want to live where they neighbors speak and think like they do themselves. So we have had Italian sections, Irish sections, Greek enclaves,China towns, Mexican barrios, and so on.

The result is that we don't really assimilate when we do that. We retain our cultures and keep ourselves separate. Should we? Should we not try to melt into the larger picture?

Can we?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A day upon which to reflect

You may think ill of George W. Bush. You may think he "lied and people died". You may think he caused the fiscal problems that we are going through today. To do that, you would have to place much more power into the hands of a president than actually exists. There are a number of things I wish Bush had not done, there are also many things I wish he had done.

But I do not subscribe to the belief that he knew about the coming attack or did anything less (or more) than any other man might have done in the years following 9-11-2001. My brother does. He is a "9-11 Truther", he believes that it was an "inside job." He actually believes that a president would be part of a plan to murder thousands (potentially tens of thousands) in order to enhance his political power or to create an excuse to invade Iraq.

While there have been men in the world who would do such a thing (and, indeed, have done: Hitler, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, Stalin, and a few others), it is something I could not comprehend in anyone who could ascend to the leadership of the most important nation on the planet.

But believe what you will. Just remember millions idolized (and many still do) the men I mentioned parenthetically as they climbed the ladder to power. Not because those men were humble and self-effacing but because they were forceful and were seen to have answers to a nation's troubles. Say what you will about Bush, he was never seen that way.

Read the entire article [here]

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Change starts with us

There are things that baffle me. Especially when it comes to politics. We allegedly vote in our own best interests first and then in our perception of what is in the best interests of the country. Oh, there are those that say that should be reversed; country first and then our self interests. But either way would work for me.

Yet that isn't what happens, is it? What happens is we vote for party first and then because of name recognition. Not all of us, of course, you and I don't do that, do we? We carefully examine all the issues, thoroughly research the candidates stands on said issues, and then carefully and methodically fill out the ballot, taking our time and double checking we voted as we wanted before leaving the booth and depositing the ballot in the box or tapping the confirm vote on the display. Not for us the slap it in and dash home method.

Sure we do.

I do take a little time to re-read my ballot after filling it in, it doesn't take all that long, but I do find myself voting along party lines. Usually because I am unsure of the candidate's stand or because I don't like any of the candidates' stands on the important (to me) issues. I mean, what's the point of registration with a party if you don't support it in those instances?

I know I should be more active politically and dig deeper before elections. I do try. And I am up on state and national issues. It's the local candidates that I am not up on. And I should be. they are the ones who will impact me the most. They are the ones who control the local taxes, spend that money, and help or hurt the town I have come to love.

I am going to get more involved, learn about the office holders, dig into local issues and try to attend county commission and city council meetings. And try not to fall asleep during them.

Because all politics really is local.

Friday, September 9, 2011


I would say "TGIF!" but I am retired and Fridays don't mean much to me anymore. Not that they ever did. Most of my working life, I have had jobs which required me to work on Saturdays (and Sundays) at times. As a paperboy, I had to be there every day, 7 days a week. Then later, as an usher, weekends were when I was needed. Same for my bellboy job and my busboy job.

Obviously, the Navy didn't much care about weekends either. Especially at sea. The military job is really 24/7/365. When I hired on at the phone company, I found myself working at least 1 weekend out of 4 and during some periods, 1 out of 2.

But now I am retired. I am finally doing what I was born to do: nothing. Some might say the only thing I do well.

And what am I doing on this fine Friday? Why, driving to Biloxi, of course. As I explained yesterday, Faye and I are on our way to Biloxi; she, to do some gambling and me to... well, try not to get between her a slot machine. It's just not safe.

The reason we are still on the road is because Faye decided we shouldn't have to get up too early and drive till we're exhausted (for some reason, she gets really exhausted just riding in the car while I drive) so we should take two days to get there.

I must admit, taking our time has its advantages. I do arrive less tuckered out and less tense. Not that it matters all that much. I won't play golf until Saturday morning and I won't do much gambling (if any) before going to sleep tonight.

But, when you get right down to it (and I am sure husbands everywhere will agree), it is best to keep the wife happy and let her call the shots.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Another trip...

As you read this, I am on my way to Biloxi, MS... again. This trip, like all the others to that city, is all about Faye. To be more precise, it's about Faye's gambling urges. She's not a gambling addict, she maintains control and keeps to her limit, but she does like to gamble. As I have said before, gambling bores me. But Faye doesn't so I indulge her in these things. I don't even like to gamble on golf though that puts me in a distinct minority among my golfing crowd.

I will take advantage of this trip to play a little golf. After all, I only get to play 4 days a week at home. I will try to play a couple of times over our 4 day weekend and try a course I have not yet played.

The weather looks to be good, Tropical Storm Lee has moved on, Hurricane Katia isn't threatening the U.S. anymore and the next one is weeks away. I might even rent a a Hobie Cat and do a little sailing if the rates aren't outrageous. I am a little apprehensive about that as I might get hooked on them again and plot to buy one for use on any of the many lakes in my little area of Paradise.

Speaking of getting re-hooked... Capt. Billy (one of my golf buddies) bought a new motorcycle and I got a look at it the other day; a 2002 Harley Ultra Classic. And I had to sit on it and then he had to punch the starter which, of course, resulted in that wonderful rumble of a powerful engine. All of which took me back to my biker days and made me mentally salivate for my own bike. All of which triggered plans to buy the lot behind my house so I could put up a garage to house a bike I have not yet bought.

...And take that ride across country I have always dreamed of doing on it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Flicking about

As I was perusing the channels the other day in a vain hope for some entertaining or educational substance, I came across a movie I hadn't seen for some years. (This is what I am reduced to... watching movies I have seen several times in the past.)

The movie was "The Appaloosa" [Link] starring Marlon Brando, John Savage, and Annjanette Comer. I am not a fan of Marlon Brando, preferring any number of other lead actors over him. I never went to movies because he was in them nor do I make sure I watch them on the various movie channels. He never struck me as that great an actor. However, he did have the leads in two westerns which I rate very high on my Favorite Westerns list (we all have those, don't we?). "The Appaloosa" is one and the other is "One Eyed Jacks" [Link]. Both use the familiar themes of revenge and retribution. And both do justice to them... no pun intended.

We all have favorite movies and favorite actors. I lean toward character actors more than stars. This may reflect on my self esteem since I value the sidekicks, the villains, and the minor players much more than the Big Names. But I have always been this way. Oh, I still liked Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, and the like but I can't think of any modern super stars that drew me to the cinema. Redford, Clooney, Hoffman (though I did like him in "Straight Time"), Pitt, et al, don't entice me to spend the outrageous amount of money it costs to go to a movie these days.

Or maybe it's the movies themselves. They seem to have little substance, pushing special effects, car (and other things) chases, and blowing up just about everything instead of good dialogue and strong plots. And now, of course, a big push of 3D.

Speaking of 3D, I have seen it all before. I don't see where it adds to any movie. Most of the time it's about seeing knives, arrows, spears, and all sorts of objects come right at your face. Just a gimmick that adds nothing to the story. And, often, distracts. Even though the technology today is much better than it was in the 50's and 60's, when it was tried before), the end result is the same.... I don't want to pay for it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Melancholy maunderings... perhaps

When I started this blog, I had no idea what I was doing. Now, some almost 3 years later, that has not changed. Within a few months, I will close in on 1000 posts. I believe some of them have actually been read. I have revealed things about myself that my mother never knew (though I am sure she suspected). I tried not to commit libel. But, looking back, I find there has been much melancholy to my posting. Though there is much I laugh about in my past, most of it is viewed by me in a wistful manner. Do I rue the things I have done in the past? Possibly.

I should talk about Darlene. I met her through another girl whom I met through a woman my brother knew.

My brother had been roaming about while I had been going through boot camp and some schools in the Navy. After I got stationed on the Brinkley Bass and had returned from my first WesPac cruise, I got in touch with a woman he knew
(whose name escapes me) who lived in the San Pedro area. She introduced me to Disneyland and to Elsie. Yes, Elsie. An unusual name and an unusual girl. Too young, though; only 16. But quite beautiful. This was not all that unusual in California, especially in and around Los Angeles.

We dated a couple of times but didn't hit it off well enough. I was a little apprehensive around her, she was (as they say) "jailbait" for a 20 year old. Instead, she introduced me to Darlene who lived across the street from her. Darlene was not as pretty and not all that unusual. Which made her stand out. But she was "legal" and that certainly helped me relax.

A mousey blonde (almost brown) who stood 5'1" and weighed maybe 98 lbs, she was not impressive. But she was smart and good and kind. She had passion, too. About life, about love, about music.

She was attending a community college when we met and eventually went on to Cal-Poly in San Luis Obispo. And, I hope, a happy and fruitful life.

I did my best to corrupt her, morally and otherwise, because that is what I was at that time in my life. She did her best to resist but probably didn't stand a chance. I don't think I had a lasting effect, though.

She was originally from Minnesota (not sure exactly where) and, I learned later, adopted. This had shaped her life, as I am sure it would have done to me.

We liked the same music, though she leaned more heavily on the light ballads of Simon and Garfunkel and Chad and Jeremy, while I leaned toward the Rolling Stones, Leonard Cohen, and Country Joe McDonald. And the Doors. The darker side of music in those days.

If I could sum up the relationship, it would be this song:

Simon and Garfunkel - The Dangling Conversation

It seemed an appropriate vision of our future.

I treated her badly. And I tried not to lead her on but it was almost impossible not to. I would say she led herself on. Her mother once told me she thought Darlene was in love. She didn't say with whom but it was pretty obvious.

We saw each other for about a year and a half. We shared dreams and passions, we groped and stumbled through the emotional entanglements of youthful relationships. I broke her heart one time too many one late afternoon in Long Beach when she showed up at my apartment after I had taken some LSD and was drinking
(Ouzo... good stuff) with my roommate in preparation for a Led Zeppelin concert that evening and I never saw her again.

I suppose there is always someone in everyone's life that we wonder about, a past love we lose track of but always wonder about.

Darlene is mine.

I hope you look back on our time, Darlene, and think of me kindly. Or at least not so badly as I do.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The sound of music (minus the Trapp family)

Among my occasional obsessions is music... specifically, music from my younger, more avant-garde days. While I was in the Navy, and for a short period after it, I went to a lot of rock concerts. Usually stoned out of my mind. While at these concerts I would sometimes hear bands that I had never heard of before and be enthralled by their musical ability and innovation. I would then look for any albums they might have out when perusing the music section of my local "head shop", purchasing them whenever I found a familiar name.

Later, at my apartment, I would play the album and say to myself "What the heck was I thinking????" because it would be more noise than music. Not always, mind you, some of these obscure bands were pretty good but often enough to leave me with a bunch of albums of failed musicians. Many of which I still have... gathering dust in another room.

Recently, Faye (love of my life) has been scouring the internet for music to replace her old collection. She was heavily into Soul and R&B back in the day and had an extensive vinyl collection. Most of which ended up scratched and damaged from being played at parties where too many drunken hands were involved in choosing and playing the dance music. Of course, she mentioned what she was doing and it reminded me that I was going to digitize my album collection. Being a procrastinator I have successfully put that off for about 5 years now. Not a record but close, there are things that I have put off for decades

Rather than figure out how to get this turntable to work with Windows 7 (rather than Win98 which I had when I bought it) without having to install iTunes on my computer, I decided that I might be able to grab enough of the old songs to forestall ever attempting to rip (a technical term meaning "copy to computer from a CD or other source") that music from vinyl.

And, so, for the past few days (between golf games) I have been glued to my computer roaming the internet for various musicians and groups from mostly the 60's.

It's just another addiction. Each time I find an old group or song, it brings to mind other groups and other songs and then I have to (yes, "have to") find them and get copies. My collection of music now fleshes out to 15 Gig plus and is still growing. It ranges from the 1920's to current and from novelty music to Swing to Golden Oldies to Blues to Psychedelic Rock to Heavy Metal to classical (love that Bach) to country to jazz and some which seem to have no category.

There is no end to this madness.

Devo; (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

Saturday, September 3, 2011

An unimportant conflict

So, Mr. Obama has rescheduled his very important speech on jobs that he announced was to be on Wednesday, September 7th. That announcement caused a bit of a kerfluffle because it would be on the same night as the Republican debate. An obvious political conflict. Not just for those who are political junkies (that 10% of the population) but for NBC which was to air the Republican debate. Speaker of the House John Boehner objected, as did a few others, and the White House announced that it is moving the president's speech to Thursday, the 8th.

A smart move. But one wonders. Was this all contrived? Was the announcement made without checking what else is scheduled for that evening? Could the White House be that uninterested that they weren't aware of the debate being scheduled for that night?It would boggle the mind if they weren't aware of it. Of course they knew it, the initial scheduling was intentional.

Normally, an informal request by the White House is made of the Senate and the House (meaning Reid and Boehner) for a joint session, it is accepted, and then the announcement is made. That obviously did not happen. And that would be on purpose.

There have been numerous commentaries about this with Democrats minimizing the conflict and the Republicans maximizing it. Where you stand (politically) greatly influences your level of interest and concern.

What I saw was presidential arrogance. Then I started to consider the strategy involved. Politicians are people and, therefore, do stupid things occasionally. That's why they hire consultants to run campaigns, speechwriters, and lawyers. It would be hard for me to imagine that no one on the president's staff, no trusted adviser, brought up the conflict with the date. If I was president (and pray I never am), I would fire all of them for missing that... and then berate myself for overlooking it.

I think the plan was to make the announcement, have some Republicans (preferably the candidates for the Republican nomination) complain bitterly and make stupid comments, and then "graciously" re-schedule in a couple of days, seemingly befuddled over the whole thing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It never changes

The target is 487 yards away but you stand there,
contemplating, worrying, thinking.

The mind focuses, the heart settles, the muscles fall into that space between taut and loose.

The first step; thinking smooth, smooth, smooth and graceful.

Contact is made and the ball flies true.

A sigh of relief and then the tenseness of anticipation returns for the next shot. It's the long layup. No hook, no slice, please be straight. And it is. And, now, just 110 to the hole, the end is in sight.

The negative thoughts creep throughout your brain, dripping poison, spreading the fog of fear in the deepest recesses of your mind.

You focus until there is only the ball, the white orb, driving all else from your mind. Pushing away all the things that can go horribly wrong. You lift the club, drawing it back, back, back... coiling, trying to tighten the body but stay relaxed, it's all a contradiction. You pause just a bit longer at the apex before the release, before the arms, hands, and club come swiftly down where all things meet at the little white ball there on the ground.

And then it's away, you have no more control over anything and you stand there waiting, trying to will the ball to go where you intended.

It flies and you see it going toward the flag. Your heart starts to beat faster, your thoughts race... will it reach? Will it stay on that wondrous, perfect, line?

And then it hits the turf of the green... a bounce, another bounce, still straight and true... it rolls toward the pin... and then past it and on and on until it rolls off the back and up the small mound, into the heavy rough.

Every time, no matter what.

It is the grand mystery of the 18th green.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hats and sweat. Hey! It's August

I don't have anything today. Nothing is bothering me (very much anyway), nothing interesting has happened to me of late, and I haven't paid much attention to the world around me in the past several days.

It's the "Dog Days" of summer, those overly hot and humid (sweaty) days in August that just drain one's soul, that are to blame. The "Dog Days" are especially bad down here in Paradise because the humidity, which is high most of the year, reaches saturation point about this time. I do not wear hats much (in spite of my "thumbnail" photo over there to your right) except when doing yard work (a rare event these days) or playing golf (a not rare event at all). The hats I wear playing golf and yard work get soaking wet where they touch the head or hair.

That is how I learned just how much salt is shed through perspiration. Whatever color the hat is, there is a sweat stain and in the sweat stain is a white, almost powdery, substance; salt. I tried putting a strip of cloth in the inside hatband to sop it up but that didn't work. After awhile of worrying about it, I just gave up. I mean, who cares really? I am not dressing to impress on a golf course and certainly not in my own yard, so what does it matter that my hat is stained and has blotches of white?

The hats are cheap, since I am, and unimportant. I have only one special hat and I never wear it. I don't like hats much but you need something to keep the sun off your ears and face so I wear what are called "bucket hats" when I am going to be outdoors in the sun for any period of time. I didn't do that when I was young. Never wore a hat growing up. Didn't wear sunglasses much, either.

Must be age.

Oh, wait... I do have something... How would you like to take a quiz? It's about things in the news and politics.

[Click here]