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.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Don't think about it, just get mad

There's a lot of talk about oil industry profits of late. This, of course, happens every time the price of gas goes up rapidly. And, every time, I have images of angry citizens with torches and pitchforks marching toward the castle perched on the hill overlooking the town. Angry shouts, a mixture of fear and loathing, fill the air. The community leaders accuse each other of ignoring the realities of the monster in the castle. the mob doesn't care who's at fault, they demand the goodies from the castle and the death of the monster.

That's right, Big Oil is the monster. He's just fine to have around when he doesn't charge too much to fill the SUV, when he provides inexpensive gasoline. In fact, he's wonderful to have around. He's all cute talking cartoon cars and tigers in our tank (which always reminded me of Frosted Flakes). And then the price goes up. So far up that it costs more to fill up the 4x4 truck than what the owner nets in a week. Does he, that owner, rue the day he bought that truck? No. Does he start thinking maybe I should have bought that smaller, more fuel efficient, small one that would have done the job but wouldn't have impressed his pals at the job site? No. He blames the people who sell him the fuel.

And then the community leaders reveal just what large subsidies, hidden and overt, the monster gets.... carefully avoiding telling the angry citizenry just who gave the monster those subsidies in the first place. Instead, fingers are cleverly pointed at the political opposition along with mumbled rumors of corruption.

And what did those subsidies do? I mean, beside keeping the price of a gallon of gas down to half what most industrial nations pay. All that matters is that now, today, in this Great Recession which is over and from which we are making such progress toward whatever it is we are progressing toward we finally see the true evil nature of the monster we call Big Oil.

So we have the big Fight. One side shines the Light of Truth on the outrageous profits of the monster:

And the monster tries to explain his actions:

So, should we end the subsidies? Would we be better off if we had demanded no subsidies to Big Oil? Would there have ever been cheap gas if we never had those subsidies? No, the price of gas would have been just as volatile. as would the price of food, which depends on the price of gas and diesel to run the machinery which allows the farmer to produce a crop and raise the animals which end up on our plates at meal time. Well, those subsidies and the ones the farmers get from our government which also hold those prices down (and also up... but then we call them "price supports").

So maybe we should end all the subsidies to all the industries that get them. These are tough times and anyone making a profit is suspect. But what would ending subsidies do? Would gas get cheaper or more expensive? Would food prices drop or rise?

I think we are chasing after the wrong monster. I think, like that birth certificate, this is just a distraction.

Friday, April 29, 2011

I need some sleep

Well, we obviously made it home alive. Not an easy feat considering the number of clueless drivers on the road in these parts. And the rain... which came down pretty heavily for an hour or so of our ride through northern Florida. As I strained a bit to see through the rain and determine what other cars or trucks might be in front of us, I had visions of hydroplaning once again but it didn't happen. A good thing, I suspect.

Oddly, we saw no pile ups anywhere along the way home. None on the way out either. That's pretty good for a round trip of around 1300 miles. We usually see evidence of a nasty crash where injuries likely occurred. Not this time. Everyone on the roads I used were fine... at least during the time I was on them.

We made it home by 8:30 PM (EDT) after leaving at about 9:15 AM (CDT) for a total of 10 and half actual hours on the road. Not bad when you consider we stopped for a nice meal at a Texas Longhorn Steak house in Ocala. That ate up a good hour plus. Combine that with a couple of other stops that filled up close to an hour and we made excellent time. And isn't that the essence of every road trip? To make "good time?" I mean, it's all about getting from point A to point B is the shortest possible time, isn't it?

And last night, after losing out at the end of the first round in the Blackjack tournament at the Hard Rock, I managed to come out $105 ahead on a slot machine. Will wonders never cease? That meant that I actually brought more money back than I left with. Well, if you discount the incidentals (meals and snacks along the way), that is.

Yes, I think that it was a good trip. And today, this morning, I get my comeuppance, I am sure. Today I play some golf.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Home again, home again, jiggety-jig

Not quite sure what that title means... perhaps just a fragment of memory from my childhood. Could have been a bit of some nursery rhyme. In any event, that's what I am doing... going home. About 10 or so hours of road time.

A bit like going to the dentist. You know you have to but you don't have to look forward to it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hit, split, double down?

Sitting here in a room that is still too cold, even though I adjusted the thermostat, waiting for an idea to strike. Seems a waste of time. We moved from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino to the Isle Hotel and Casino yesterday. Faye got comped to 2 nights here. I was planning on playing golf today but... the course I wanted to play was booked up this morning and it's still awfully windy out so I probably won't play. No big deal but there is little to do if one doesn't gamble.

I used to gamble, years ago it seems, mostly Blackjack. But that become boring many years ago. You sit at a table with a dealer who is either indifferent or obviously faking interest. You start with a stack of chips which shrinks or expands but mostly shrinks as the cards fall in front of you. There may be others at the table with you, maybe you make a little small talk about where you live, or maybe you just concentrate on the cards. Concentrating on the cards does no good, they come out of the deck in whatever order they will. You have no control over them at all. Even the dealers have no real control over them... unless they are cheating. And they don't cheat, there's no percentage in it. First, it can get them fired. Second, the casino doesn't need them to cheat, the odds are always in favor of the house. Third, they get paid the same whether they win or lose.

Contrary to popular belief, the house doesn't gamble. It would be surprising if the house even considered taking a chance. They don't need to. Consider the Blackjack dealer. He or she has specific rules which control his or her play. Hit on 16 or below, stay on 17 or above. No splits, no double downs, no decisions to make. Your absolute best odds at a Blackjack table exist only when there is just you and the dealer and then only if you play using the same rules the house does. It's rare that you are alone at the table, though. Usually there are one or more additional players. These players will do things which help the house make money. They will hit when they shouldn't, not hit when they should, and change the order of the cards and the number of cards available to you just by being in the game.

You do not stand a chance.

The slot machines are even worse. They pay out here at 95%. That means they, over time (and no one seems to know what that time span is), pay out 95% of what the players put in. In other words, you are guaranteed to lose.

The worst part, to me, is that casinos are freezing. For some reason, the temperature in the casinos is around 68 or 70 degrees F. For me, that is uncomfortably cold. I feel like I am sitting in a refrigerator.

You would think that investing in casino stock would also be a sure thing, wouldn't you? Doesn't work that way for some reason. I suppose that the stock market operates on different rules. Not sure we stand a chance there either.

Still, here I sit. Until tomorrow morning when we take the long drive home.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I'll take that bet

Still out of town on our trip. Currently, I am firmly esconced in a pleasant room at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino here in lovely Biloxi which, contrary to the news reports, neither blew/washed away with Katrina nor got covered in goopy old oil when the BP platform exploded.

Gambling bores me. I only go on these trips because Faye isn't bored by gambling and someone has to be around to drag her away from these slot machines. I don't really do that. Drag her away, that is. I just encourage her to take a break from time to time.

I don't understand the fascination. A slot machine, to me, is not even remotely entertaining. Most no longer have the two things that we think of when we think of slot machines: a handle to pull and the clinking of coins as they tumble into the tray when you win something. Some of the older machines made quite a racket when you won even a small amount. Bells would ring, maybe a siren would go off, coins would clang in the metal tray, lights might flash... a real event. Now there are no coins. You insert paper currency or a ticket encoded with a record of your credit. That ticket came from one of those slot machines. Now that I think about it, these machines are also missing that thing which gave them their name: a slot. That's where you used to put a quarter, or a nickel, or dime, or half dollar, or a silver dollar (something that isn't all silver anymore either). You insert the bill or ticket into a currency/ticket reader. It scans the bill or ticket, determines its value, and sets your credit on the machine. When you are done, you press the "cash out" button and a ticket spits out of another opening. A few machines in Vegas used to make a lot of noise when you cashed out, machine generated noise that sounded like lots of coins falling into the tray, but not here in Biloxi. No pretense here, it's all business... and it's completely boring.

I seem to be in the minority with this boredom. There are a lot of people sitting in front of these machines and there are a lot of machines.

I must be the one out of step.

Monday, April 25, 2011

And so the journey begins...


We are, as they say, "on the road" today. Somewhere between where we started and where we're going. And where are we going, you ask? Well, beyond the philosophical destination of final enlightenment at the end of life's journey, we are headed for the nearest Holy Site of the Sacred Slot Machine. That would be Biloxi, MS, my friends. You are my friends, are you not? If not, we are still on our way there.

Since this is not a long journey (having opted to skip the ride out to Las Vegas and San Diego this go- around), we can travel light. Just carry enough clothes and essentials for 5 or 6 days... and my golf clubs. We are also traveling relatively cheap since our stay in Biloxi is "comped", a night at the Hard Rock and two at the Isle. I like free. Free is good.

The trip to Biloxi is not yet finished. We (by "we" I mean "Faye") decided to leave late in the morning on Sunday, stop somewhere around Marianna, FL (a town known to me by the youthful offenders facility called the "Sheriff's Boys Ranch"), and then leisurely roll into Biloxi sometime Monday morning or early afternoon.

On the way to Marianna, we had the usual traffic denizens: the "bitter clingers", the "impatient tailgaters", the "meandering phone talkers", and the "oblivions." We survived them, however, and arrived in time to locate a Mexican restaurant of fair quality and enjoy an evening meal.

Fighting the spotty internet service at the Country Inn & Suites here in beautiful almost downtown Marianna is something else again. The staff is, of course, clueless but I notified them of the problem and they claim to be busy making it much worse.

I noticed something today... my two previous posts show the same posting date. But they were posted thusly: one on Friday morning and one on Saturday morning. A puzzlement...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

It must be true, I got an email about it

I get a lot of my news from the internet. Ok, most of my news. Mostly from Google News. I read a little of this, a little of that. It takes me to the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the NY Times, L.A. Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and so many more. A lot comes through AP and Reuters. A lot. I also wander off to a few of the less well known news sites if I see a headline that piques my interest.

For balance, I watch a little Fox News...

The facts are the same regardless of the source of the news. The difference is one of perspective and emphasis. And the spin. I used to watch CNN back when it was the only game in town for cable network news. I long ago stopped watching CBS, ABC, NBC news on a regular basis. There was very little depth due to time constraints. The cable news networks can devote more time to a story, give you more background. But they still lack quite a bit of detail.

What I have noticed over the last few years is the partisanship surrounding all of them. Many times, news articles from are the best source but are treated with something like disdain and disbelief. I don't understand that. Facts are facts. If you cannot separate the spin from the facts, you're in trouble. There is nowhere you can go to get unadulterated news. If you think there is no spin, no editorial perspective, in the news stories, you are somewhat deluded.

I can understand people not liking the commentary shows on Fox News. Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck certainly present stories with a definite personal perspective and if you disagree with that perspective, you will be foaming at the mouth during these shows. But these are not news shows. They are there to provide commentary and that commentary is solidly infused with their ideological perspective. They use the news. And you, the viewer, should be able to see through that perspective. Just as you should be able to see through the perspectives of Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, and (formerly) Keith Olbermann. Even the Daily Show. They are selling us their point of view... or trying to.

Are we stupid? Can we not figure out what are facts and what is spin? And, if we can, are we unique? Are there so very few of us that can think for ourselves? When I run across people who hate Fox News so much that if it's mentioned in any way as a source, the person citing them, and his argument, is considered to be without any credibility at all.

This, my friends, is extremely dangerous. When we start dismissing verifiable facts because we are opposed to the prevailing ideology that we associate with the source, we are in deep trouble.

I suppose there is a danger of absorbing an ideological perspective from over exposure to one side. But isn't that true regardless of the ideological perspective? And if you dismiss one side out of hand and refuse to listen to them, aren't you engaging in a bit of voluntary brainwashing? Only hearing/seeing what is said by one side and what it says about the other side's position?

One of the things that seems to be true is that you and I know what's real and what is spin. It's those "others" that can be sucked in and misled so easily by the ideologues who run [insert news show or news channel here]. This is a constant...

"I am smart and aware, I am not fooled. It's the masses who can be manipulated that I worry about."

I know people are gullible. Most of them. Maybe all of us about one thing or another. I can't do much about that.

I get emails almost everyday from friends revealing something or telling a heartwarming story or providing advice about health or exposing some secret that "they" have kept from you. Most of it is just internet myth. I know most of it is because I check out whatever was said whenever my "spidey sense" warns me. Which is often.

I used to think, back when it was fashionable not to trust anyone over thirty (and when I was younger than thirty), that only my close friends and I were smart enough to not be fooled. And there were times I wasn't sure of my closest friends. Now I am older... much older... and I no longer care how smart or stupid strangers are. And I know some of my closest friends are borderline blithering idiots about some things. I don't care about that either.

We are all gullible enough to believe what we are inclined toward believing. I put it this way:

We all see what we want to see.
We all hear what we want to hear.
We all believe what we want to believe.

Call them my immutable truths. Remembering them keeps me from being suckered by scams and politicians.

Next, and last, item... It has just come to light that Apple's iPhone and iPad are storing data on where you go using the embedded GPS. I am not paranoid but I really don't like this very much. I am safe because I have neither of these gadgets and what gadgets I do have do not include GPS except for my Nuvi (which better have that!). I question why that data needs to be kept by these devices. marketing data for Apple, perhaps? Marketing data that can be sold to other marketeers without your consent or knowledge, perhaps?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Is this the number I dialed?

There are times when I strongly believe that no one listens to me. I'm used to it. It seems to be related to my invisibility in restaurants (and, occasionally, my car becomes enshrouded in this invisibility). It's annoying.

For instance, yesterday after golf, we were sitting around talking about nothing much. You know, the idle chatter of men who are intent on drinking too much beer after spending a few hours in the midday sun wasting a lot of effort in propelling a small ball into a small hole. One of our number purchased one of those Magic Jack things. He's happy. He pays almost nothing per month. But the service is, shall we say, spotty? And the conversations sound something like this:

Joe: I ... a new ... iver ...eally feel ... ood.

Me: You bought a new driver?

Joe: Yeah .. at's ... ut I sa...

But that's not the only problem. You cannot simply dial the number they gave him. No, you have to dial "1 {area code} {phone number}" even though the area code is the same. I have to do the same when I call Lakeland which is about 50 or so miles away. I can call his number from my cell phone without using the "1". My cell phone number is the one I got many years ago when I was living in West Palm Beach. Any number I dial must be ten digits, must include the area code, but I never have to dial a "1", regardless. If I am in West Palm Beach, I can drop the area code but I am never there anymore.

Someone at the table said he couldn't call Joe's number at all, that he gets some kind of announcement. So, after 5 minutes of polling everyone at the table, we found that 3 people could not call Joe's number at all on their cell phones and one claimed he also could not call the number from his landline. 6 others (including me) said the landline required both the "1" and the area code (even though it is the same as ours) in order to get through. And one claimed he had to dial a "1" with his cell phone when calling anyone outside our area code but did not need the area code for numbers inside it.

This was all very clear to me. The person last mentioned in the previous paragraph was sitting to my immediate right (let's call him "Bob" since that's his name).

Bob insisted that he must use that "1". I said he shouldn't have to. I repeated what I had said earlier; 10 digits only, no "1" needed. Ever. He asked who my carrier is. I replied "AT&T". He said something to someone else, repeating his need for the "1" then turned back to me and said "you must have someone other than 'AT&T'".

Meanwhile, one of the three who could not reach Joe's number dialed it on his cell phone using the speakerphone option so we all could hear. The announcement stated that the number dialed was determined to be a local number so the area code was not needed. So Bob says, "prefix it with a '1'." That, of course, got the same announcement. Dialing without the area code (and without the "1") resulted in a "We cannot complete your call as dialed" announcement. It was then determined that his carrier was Verizon.

We then found out that the other two who couldn't call the number were also using Verizon's network.

Being a phone guy, I realized that the problem they were having was caused by the way Verizon was translating and routing the number. Verizon could fix it if they were told about it. I told them this.

Bob (remember that he was seated just to my right) then insisted that all these three had to do was add a "1" and everything would be fine. I repeated that I did not need to and dialed the number just fine to show this. Bob again insisted I must not be using AT&T.

At that point, I just shut up and dropped out of the discussion.

Sometimes there is just no point.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Didja ever...

Try to just dash out to bring the trash can to the street, thinking no one will see, wearing raggedy shorts, hair unkempt because you just woke up... and find the street full of neighbors when you got to the curb?

Pull into the parking lot (or get off the bus downtown) and realize you left [your wallet|purse|"must be on the boss's desk at 9AM" report|ID Badge] on the kitchen table?

Realize about midway through the morning at work that your fly was open or your skirt was not zipped up?

Call your current spouse by your ex-spouse's name?

Go through that yellow light as it changes to red and then notice the police car in the next lane?

If it all happens on the same day, it must be a Monday.

I am sooooo glad I am retired.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Bless us every one

I was engaged in a discussion on another blog with a man who professes, as I do, to be atheist. We differed on our outlook on the need and purpose of religion. I have been officially atheist since I was 13. That year, I "came out" in an English class in response to a question from the teacher. My friends already knew this about me but I had not announced it before.

Seems this person, the one I was in a discussion with, was quite hostile toward religion. He sees religious leaders, of all sects and types, as purveyors of lies and worse. He sees religion as a source of evil with little, if any, redemptive value. We went off on a tangent about religion because the original discussion was not about the value of religion, just about an act of blasphemy a member of one religion as seen by the members of another.

In the course of the discussion, I offered he might have a prejudice regarding religions. And that's when we went off on our tangent.

I offered, at one point, that religion was the source of moral values and rules of civil conduct. That religion had a hand in creating civilization. That it was basically a force for good and that much of the evils attributed to it had much more to do with the distortion by man for the purpose of gaining or expanding personal power. Needless to say, he disagreed.

My hypothesis is that religion was the first form of government. It set rules of behavior so that people could form communities. But it learned that it had only a tenuous ability to enforce those rules. It needed physical power. Especially against those who sought control over the tribes. It eventually learned that cooperation would work. By bestowing the blessings of the gods on the strongest of those seeking power, it created an alliance that has lasted to the present day.

Priests ordained kings throughout history. They preside over coronations. They lend legitimacy to the political structure. The political and religious factions shared power.

Have we moved beyond this? Not yet. Will we? I suspect not.

I do not resent or dislike religion. I have no problem with it. I have never been angry about it or resentful toward it. I see no point in that. On the other hand, I have never been threatened directly by a member of any religion. At least, not in a physical sense, just the usual threats to my immortal soul.

Booster seats and time travel

I woke up this morning, groggy and stiff... like I usually do..., stumbled out to the living room with a stop off to tap the coffee maker button and turned on the TV. Since Faye is sleeping, I do a little two step procedure with the TV. Instead of turning on the TV using the DVR remote, I grab the TV's own remote and turn it on. I then turn down the sound, way down, and then turn the set off again. I can then use the DVR remote without worrying about the sound blasting through the house and waking the bear lovely Faye.

I suppose I don't need to turn on the TV but I do it anyway. I don't need to get my news from the TV, I get most of that through the internet. I don't have any favorite programs at this time in the morning. It's just force of habit and an unwillingness to put up with the silence.

Soon after the TV is on, I see a public service ad for children's booster seats full of Disney references. The ad tells us that children should use booster seats until they reach a height of 4'9". When I was in high school in Orlando... this would be pre-Disney Orlando when it was a small rural city where 4H and the FFA were big social clubs... I knew several 16 year old girls who were shorter than that. We rarely used seat belts then, much less booster seats, so it wouldn't have affected them. But I still have to wonder about that height limit. Some of these girls had cars. Would they have needed a booster seat behind the steering wheel? Maybe those wooden blocks that were sometimes attached to a small child's bike glued to the car's gas and brake pedals?

Orlando wasn't a magical town back then (1963), it was a hick town. Full of dirt roads, some brick streets, and lots of farms. Dairy and citrus groves, mainly. Aside from something called "teen night clubs", there was little for teens to do back then. I was an outsider, having moved from the Miami area just after school started that year. Teenage girls were my main focus in life at that age so I noticed that very few were much over 5'. This made me seem tall in comparison at 5'10". And, being that "outsider" from the exotic Miami area, I had no problem being accepted.

In truth, I loved and hated Orlando.

Still, whenever I see that public service ad for booster seats, I am transported back to those days in that town. I miss them... as I do my teenage years.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Asleep at the screen

Sleeping is an art form. To me, at least. I can function well enough on just four hours but only if it's once in awhile. When I was younger (much younger), I could get by with just 4 hours every night. Now, maybe one or two nights a week won't kill me. When I was in my teens, I either slept a lot or very, very little. Some nights, not at all. But I am older now and sleep is sometimes the highlight of my day.

Why do I bring this up? Are you joking? We are reading and hearing about air traffic controllers (ATCs) sleeping on the job in various places around the country. All of a sudden, sleep is an important subject. But I noticed some reports not so long ago (a few weeks at most) about how much sleep people need.

No one seems to know what the human body needs. Most who pay attention to the studies, or study the subject, realize we are all different but we fall into groups. Some need more, some need less, than the "recommended" eight hours.

When I slept more than 8 hours, I was sluggish for a longer period after getting up. I have more energy, I am more alert, quicker when I get 6 hours of sleep. That's been a constant for as long as I can remember. I guess I fall into this category:

Eight Is Too Much For 'Short Sleepers'

While in the Navy, I learned to function with very little sleep but also to sleep whenever an opportunity arose. I could sleep on a steel deck with a life jacket as a pillow. Five or ten minutes would refresh me. While on "gunline" in the Tonkin Gulf, we operated on "port and starboard" watch schedules. That meant six hour watches with six hour breaks between. During the break time, we ate, cleaned up our quarters, did some light work, socialized, and slept. Generally, you got three to five hours sleep a day. We performed equipment maintenance and routines during our watches. After 6 days of this, you would head off for a re-supply (mostly taking on ammunition and fuel but some food stores) but you'd stay on the "port and starboard" for the two days that often took. By the time you got off the gunline, you really needed a good stretch of sleep.

After I got out and went to work for the phone company, I pretty quickly got into shift work. At Southern Bell, we bid shifts every three months. Having no seniority, I got bumped onto the Night shift (midnight to 8 AM) pretty quickly. I spent most of that year on Nights, maybe 7 months. Over my 34 years with the Bell System, I was probably on Nights for 20 of them. I liked it.

I was angry, at first, about the ATCs being caught sleeping. Then I learned they generally had shift changes twice a week. Two days on Day shift, two days on Evening shift, and one day on Night shift. This mean "turn-arounds" where you go off duty, try to get some food and rest in and then come back to a different shift. I suspect the schedule works like this two Evening shifts (2 PM to 10 PM), two Day shifts (6 AM to 2 PM), followed by one Night shift (10 PM to 6 AM). Or it may be two weeks of each followed by one week on the Night shift. Changing shifts often is disruptive to your sleep cycles and you end up feeling exhausted all the time. Not a good thing for an air traffic controller.

I read some magazine article back in the 70's about shift work and how it is much better to stay on a shift for a few months than to change even weekly. It also recommended staying in a sleep pattern regardless of whether you are working or not. For example, even though I had most weekends off, it would have been healthier and safer for me to sleep days and be awake nights even on my days off. In a perfect world, yes, but that kept you out of synch with the real world.

So, don't be too hard on those ATCs. Be hard on the FAA for not enforcing sensible shift changes.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Tighten our belts or lose our pants?

Yesterday, the House passed a blueprint for a budget plan by Paul Ryan (R, Wis.). Trying to find out just what is in that plan so we can know who is demagoguing more seems impossible. The media, which I depend on to tell me, as part of the general public, what the details are, seems to be more interested in reporting on the emotions involved. The political emotions, that is. It's all about personalities and political party/election strategies.

We are over $14 Trillion in debt, folks! We are facing a $1.7 Trillion deficit for the next fiscal year. This is like a family spending a third more than the wage earners in it bring in. Could your family survive doing such a thing? I couldn't. The idea alone frightens me.

In a 12 month period in the early 70's, my little family overspent my income (I was the the only wage earner) by about 20%. The extra money came from my in-laws to keep us going. Unemployment in my area was running around 10%, I was under-employed, as they say, working as a janitor and then as a "jack of all trades" for a small firm which made and installed window "treatments." I was waiting for an opening with Pacific Telephone. We had cut back on expenses as much as humanly possible. We lived as cheaply as we could. We had no choice but to borrow from her family to get by.

It was the most demeaning time of my life. If we did not have her parents to depend on, we'd have had to go on welfare. Those were dark days for me.

The opportunity at Pacific Telephone came through, though, and we got out of debt and on our own in a matter of a few months. Within 3 years, we were able to purchase a house and start building up savings.

America has been borrowing not to survive a downturn but to expand even in the Good Times. More services, more programs, more "goodies" for politicians to tout at election time. All paid for with money we didn't have. And the debt built up until now we have that Giant Elephant in the room that we are forced to consider.

We have to cut back on spending. We have to tighten America's "belt" and regain control of our spending. But like a family that refuses to give up the dance lessons for the kids, the new clothes, the regular restaurant visits, the trips to Disney World just because Dad got a cut in pay, we squabble over how to do it.

The argument is coming to a head. The argument has been going on in America since the founding of the country: What is government's role in society? Because that is at the core of this debt crisis.

Currently, there is a lot of heat being generated in various states, including my own, about cuts in budgets. Public employees are being "asked" to pay more (or even something) into their retirement plans and they are howling in response. Programs which aid the poor and handicapped are being "asked" to take cuts in their budgets and they are howling.

I understand. I went through it on a personal level. But my question is simple:

Would you rather continue spending until it all dries up and you no longer have a pension or you are given no money at all for your program's budget or struggle through on less for a few years?

Because, folks, that is the real choice now.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Running out of time

Does anybody really know what time it is
Does anybody really care
If so I can't imagine why
We've all got time enough to cry

[Chicago "Does Anybody Know What Time It Is?"]

I am sitting here in front of the TV in the living room (where I spend way too much time) with my laptop on my lap, wondering if I have an idea for the next blog post when I spot an ad on the back of a Golf Digest magazine. It is for a lower forearm timepiece (aka "wristwatch"). A beautiful hunk of metal, electronics, and precision. For an unspecified, but probably exorbitant, price.

Do you wear a wristwatch? I don't. I never did for more than a few days and that was many, many years ago. There are a number of reasons why I never got in the habit. I just never really had the need for one. There are clocks everywhere; on walls, in my car, on cell phones, and on other people's wrists. Why should I also wear one?

The purpose of having a wristwatch is, I presume, so you can avoid being too late (and maybe too early) for appointments. But I have never had a problem making appointments on time. I just plan for them.

When I was young, wristwatches (as well as most clocks, some of those were electric) had to be wound. A few were "self-winding" which just meant that your arm movements caused tiny weights to move and thereby "wind" the watch or, more accurately, kept it wound. Battery powered watches and clocks came later. As a child, I definitely did not need a watch or even a clock. Shouts from my mother or father woke me up in the morning, told me when it was time to head for school, and when to come in for dinner or lunch. Bells in school told me when to be in class. The parents also made sure I got to doctor and dentist appointments on time.

When I enlisted, I found I had no need for watches or personal clocks. They woke me up (reveille), told me when to eat (mess call) and told me when to go to bed (taps). And, aboard ship, the ship's bell was rung each half hour with a set pattern repeated each four hours.

1 bell - 30 minutes after the hour
2 bells - first hour
3 bells - 30 minutes past first hour

and so on until you reached 8 bells which signified the end of the 4 hour cycle. If you had no idea if it was morning or afternoon, you might be confused. That was never a problem. In addition, there were clocks everywhere. I liked those clocks. Kept accurate by the quartermaster division, all were 24 hour as opposed to 12. I liked that form. It makes more sense to me than AM and PM.

I did use alarm clocks from the time I was about 12 and the responsibility for getting my butt out of bed in the morning was finally thrust on me. And I used them even in the Navy when I lived off base/ship. I hated them. Still do. They were electric because I still could not trust myself to wind them on a regular basis. I kept them on the dresser across the room from my bed so I had to get up to turn off the alarm. I have become disciplined enough now to trust myself to keep the alarm clock within arm's reach. Most of the time. My alarm clocks are not battery powered but do have battery backup.

I have a wall clock in the living room and both the kitchen stove and the microwave have clocks built in. The latter two annoy me when there's a power hit because neither has a battery back up. The wall clock is battery powered.

Twice a year, all clocks annoy me. Going to Daylight Savings Time and going back to Standard Time. At least the ones in the cars are easy to set forward and back. And the computers do it automatically.

But I am not ruled by clocks and that is part of why I never got in the habit of wearing a wristwatch. When I wore one, I felt under its control. A slave to time, if you will.

Bonds: the count is 3 and 1, will he walk?

Barry Bonds was convicted of obstruction of justice but the jury deadlocked on the other three counts involving perjury before a grand jury. This seems strange to me since the other charges cover, in my view, the method of obstruction... the actual lying. So, if the jury wasn't convinced he actually lied to the grand jury, how could he have obstructed justice?

Here are the three charges on which the jury deadlocked and, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, how they voted...

"That Bonds lied by denying that his trainer, Greg Anderson, or anyone other than a doctor had ever injected him with drugs - the vote was 11-1 to convict, jurors said.

But on the charges that were the core of the case - Bonds' denials of having knowingly taken steroids or human-growth hormone - jurors said majorities favored acquittal: 9-3 for the first charge, 8-4 for the second.

So, I am a little confused about how the jury came to the one guilty verdict. It seems to me that you would have to be convinced he lied before you could be convinced he obstructed justice. But I did not sit on the jury. I did not hear the case, I did not see the witnesses, I do not have all the evidence before me. And I am not going to purchase the trial transcripts to find out.

The jurors said they didn't trust one of the key witnesses, a former mistress of Bonds named Kimberly Bell. But the other key witness was Bonds' sister and former personal shopper and here is where things went against him.

"It was a different story with prosecution witness Kathy Hoskins, Steve Hoskins' sister and Bonds' former personal shopper, who said she saw Bonds getting an injection from Anderson. That was the basis of the false-statement charge that produced the 11-1 deadlock, and jurors said the testimony also led to the conviction for obstruction of justice." (Steve Hoskins was the trainer)

Read more

So, yeah, you would tend to believe a sister testifying against her brother. Just as my mother would believe my siblings when they tattled on me. No brothers or sisters ever would lie about a sibling, would they? Or wouldn't they?

I would think the key to the case is whether he denied getting any injections from the trainer and knew what those injections contained. If he told the GJ he got injections but thought they were legal substances, such as pain-killers or cortisone then he did not knowingly take the banned steroids.

It all falls under intent and awareness, I suppose. And that is hard to prove. The thing is, I don't much care about this. I agree that steroids are bad, that they should be banned from sports, and that those who take them, knowingly or unknowingly, should have accomplishments be kept out of the record books (which would definitely hurt their chances of getting into the various Halls of Fame). But I also think this is "bread and circuses" to keep the masses occupied.

We are so easily distracted.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

E-Folklore and the E-cynic

There are a couple of things that have become a constant in my internet life. One is the email form of "chain letters", the other is Snopes. They belong together, don't they? One begot the other, I think.

Like anyone who has at least one friend... and it is rumored that I have a couple of those... with access to the internet I get "chain email" (or maybe it's "e-chain mail"). These are the equivalent of those rumors we learned to pass in school. Only they've developed into something much more than who was seen steaming up the windows of a car in the parking lot before school started. Much more.

We get recipes, tips and hints, and internet-lore. Just today, I received an email from an old friend touting a "Proposed 28th Amendment" to the U.S. Constitution. A couple of weeks ago, I received a tip on how to treat burns with flour. This is where Snopes comes in. It saves from even trying to cram one more factoid into my overloaded brain. I cannot take too many more factoids before my brain does a complete meltdown and its containment building collapses in a stinking heap. So I turn to Snopes to verify.

The flour burn treatment is flat out false. It might even be dangerous since there are much better treatments and the email cautions against the best one recommended by the medical community in favor of this method. When I was a child, the conventional wisdom of moms (and they were the seat of authority on such things when I was a youngster) said to throw a layer of Crisco or butter on a burn. Because of that folklore, learned at the hem of my mother's dress, I had visions of burn victims in hospitals covered in lard. Add the flour and what do you have? Human filled pastry is what.

Anyway, Snopes shot that flour thing down and also that 28th Amendment rumor.

The internet giveth and the internet taketh away.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

An argument against compromise

Today is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of what we call the Civil War. It really isn't, I don't think, but we have a tendency to set some specific date as a reference point for history.

Why do I say the Civil War didn't start on April 12th, 1861 when Fort Sumter was fired upon by rebel forces? Because it began, in my view, on September 13, 1788 when the U.S. Constitution was deemed ratified. I say that because the Constitution laid the foundation for the eventuality, the inevitability, of the Civil War. But we tend to think in terms of specific dates and events to mark the beginning of such things. I tend to think of when such events become (became?) inevitable.

In the case of the Civil War, the Constitution did not resolve the issues of slavery and sovereignty of the individual states and so we were set on a path to violent confrontation over these two issues. In reading about the Constitutional Convention of 1787, it became clear to me that it was the second instance of "kicking the can down the road" for both of these issues. Why did they put off the issues? In order to reach an agreement. They deliberately postponed resolution of these two key issues in order to prevent a civil war at the outset, the beginning, of our republic.

Over the years between 1788 and 1861, there were a number of compromises which further stalled off the coming civil war. The first one came just two years after ratification, in 1790. Followed by The Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the second Missouri Compromise in 1850.

There were many instances of violent confrontation over at least one of the issues, slavery, between 1790 and 1861. They were just not officially sanctioned by any state.

The other thing which comes to mind is the question of why we celebrate the beginning of open and formal hostilities. But that is way too dark and deep and complex to even think about.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A bit of wishful thinking on my part

You know how things look really bad and then they just turn around? When the debts are piling up, the wife is nagging more and finding more fault than even your mother-in-law, your kids come home with piercings in parts you assume only their doctors might see, and even the dog growls when you walk in the door? And then your boss gives you a promotion and a raise, your mother-in-law takes your side, your son gets a full scholarship to MIT, your daughter announces her engagement to a member of the Warren Buffett family, and the dog keels over and dies.

Yeah, doesn't happen to me either.

But if it only would. I am sitting here in Paradise on a pleasant Sunday afternoon watching the Masters golf championship play out. Tiger Woods (the guy who was on top of the world and then his car hit a tree and a dozen women fell out) is coming back from 7 shots off the lead to tie it up. That's the kind of day I would like to have. Just once in my life.

I would like to wake up one Sunday morning to find Faye lying on the floor after having fainted when she learned we won the Powerball Lottery all by ourselves.

You see, it's not likely I could go back in time and age to my youth and, knowing what I now know, make much better choices and follow a path that led to financial independence and luxury. Or maybe a path which led to renown for my great accomplishments and public service.

Right. Like you don't have these kinds of daydreams.


Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Beast that is government

Last night I went to bed with thoughts of government being also put to bed. That is, thinking there would be a government shutdown. One side crying about how such a thing would put widows and orphans in the street, murder old people, and expand the ranks of the poor a thousand-fold. The other side crying that none of that is true and the country can no longer afford to provide the poor with filet mignon and truffles.

Somewhere, in between those two positions, is the truth. How you view the two positions (and the current fiscal situation) depends heavily on your political ideology and the amount of fervor with which you hold that ideology.

As I pumped $3.69 per gallon gas (cheapest I could find in my area) into my 5 year old car, I pondered what a government shutdown might mean to me, how it might affect my daily life. I don't make enough money anymore for taxes to impact me severely. I am on Social Security now but any delays in that will not impact me beyond mere inconvenience (because I do not live from SS check to SS check). I will be going on Medicare soon but not for months and things should be worked out by then. I am not planning a visit a national park or museum anytime soon. And so on. The fear mongering from one side, therefore, is not very effective. And it sounds like the old "Chicken Little" syndrome.

On the other side, I thought about those folks who are very dependent on the government functioning. A friend of mine back in Palm Beach County pretty much subsisted on his Social Security income. he had once been an almost wealthy man. He had owned some small apartment complexes, had a small construction firm, traveled far and wide on vacations, lived well, and easily put his son through college. But his wife came down with a brain cancer and all of their savings, and more, went for her care, vainly trying to keep her alive and rid her of the cancer. He was left broke and depressed. His son and he were estranged over his daughter-in-law's dislike for her mother-in-law. If he was alive today, a government shutdown might have been hard on him. Mostly because his pride would have prevented him from turning to his son for help.

On the outside, I am all calloused and hard. On the inside, I am mush. Like most of us, I try not to think of those struggling to get by. Not because I am indifferent to their plight but because I cannot do much to help them. I am not in a position of power, I have no political influence to speak of, and I am therefore limited.

Over the years, my life has been one of change. After leaving home as a teenager I had, at times, been poor and in need of help from family largess. From there I advanced to a position where I could help other family members. I see that journey as fairly typical. My charitable nature is tempered by a cynicism that is both inherent and learned. I knew a number of people in the 60's and early 70's that milked the system. They took advantage of it even as they decried it. I also knew sincere and honest people who believed in helping others and sacrificed to do so but these were a much smaller number.

As a student of history, I knew I lived in an America that was so much better off than even my parents' day that it sometimes amazed them. I knew that our poor were middle class by the standards of most of the world. I had traveled to poor countries, I had met people who lived day to day on what they could scrape from trash bins and lived in slapped together shacks. I was, and remain, grateful that I was born in this country.

I do not want it brought down. We cannot feed the world. We cannot be the world's police and we shouldn't want to be. The police are usually hated and feared once a crisis is past. And vilified for not preventing what they cannot prevent.

So do I think a government shutdown would have been bad, a horror, a misery we could not comprehend? No. It would have been an inconvenience. No one would have died because of it. And it might have given us a wake up call. We could use one. We teeter on the edge of chaos, of fiscal collapse, after all.

If America falls, or withdraws from the world stage, some other country would take its place. Think of who that might be.

Friday, April 8, 2011

An angel on my shoulder, a demon in my brain

My mind is often like a maze of twisty little passages, all alike, with no light at the end of any tunnels. My thoughts simply meander about, bumping into walls and tripping over barriers. There are no signs, no yellow, blue, green, or red tape on the floor showing the way. There is no floor, in fact, just a thick mist which swirls about the ankles. There may be a ceiling but it is obscured by a strange fog.

And I am often lost there. Like now. I wander through my mind each day, looking for some theme, some idea, some glimmer of a thought that can be turned into a post that might entertain, educate, or amuse you readers. I often fail. Not because I cannot find a thought (though that does happen) but because my writing talents are not all that strong. I started the blog with the idea that it might help me improve what meager writing skills I have.

Over the last two and a half years I have had some ups and downs, met some nice people, read some great blogs, and even received some compliments. I am not good at handling those. Trust and self image issues, clearly. We all have our demons, those are mine. Our demons would be more tolerable if they didn't impact our relationships, wouldn't they?

Something I have learned over the years is that these demons have a lot to do with how we interact with others. You have some bad experiences in your youth and they color all the relationships from then on. If only the good experiences had the same effect. It seems the good experiences' impacts are fleeting. At least they have been in my case.

I like to think of the good and bad experiences as "angels" and "demons." The demons have always been more powerful of the two. In that internal struggle, the angels are always the underdog. In my case, for much of my life, the angels lost the struggles.

This metaphor, angels and demons, is found throughout literature and human history. The struggle within man is endemic to the species, I think.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What's broken now?

The most aggravating and petty things in my life seem to revolve around mechanical devices. For instance I have a stubborn sliding glass door which leads out to my back porch. In case you do not have one of these or do not understand how sliding glass doors work, I will elaborate...

When we first moved into our newly built house here in Paradise, the sliding glass door slid smoothly with only light pressure. Like most folks, though there are two doors involved in these ingress/egress devices, we only used one of them to go in and out. About 3 or 4 months ago, it became obvious there was a problem with that door. It became difficult to slide open or shut. Not wanting to go through the hassle and expense of replacing the door, I looked into what might be going wrong and what could be done about it.

A sliding glass door has a roller assembly, usually at the bottom. Some have two, mine has only one. This assembly is often cheaply made somewhere in China by some poor soul being paid a the equivalent of a $1 a day. They are bound to break down eventually. They are, therefore, replaceable. Using Google, I located not only detailed instructions but also a two-part video: Part 1 and Part 2 . I found these weeks ago. Maybe months. I still have not fixed the stupid thing and Faye has begun using the previously ignored door to go in or out. Therefore, it is still on my "To Do" list. Just below "Win the lottery... any lottery."

But that is not the point of today's post. No, today's post concerns a car. A not so old (2008) Buick. Faye's Buick. A fine car. Still having hints of that "new car" smell. But things break, especially mechanical things. I drove her car to pick up "dinner" at Cap'n D's and realized that the left rear door lock knob did not drop down as it was supposed to when I put the car in gear. "How odd," I thought, "I wonder if it is locking?" It wasn't. But I could push it down manually and that would lock it. When put the car in Park, the knob went up and the door unlocked. It is a petty annoyance. You become so used to the convenience of auto-locking doors that something like this bothers you, though, so I made an appointment at the local dealership to get it repaired.

That is where I am headed this morning.

Damned mechanical devices!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

And you think you have troubles...

You know I am stretching a bit when I have to write about possible nuclear explosions on Mars and women turning to stone. But that's what I have today.

Nuclear explosion may have destroyed life on Mars

What more needs to be said? Were those old sci-fi novels right and is this a lesson for Earth? Of course not. In this instance, the hypothesis is that there may have been a "naturally occurring" nuclear explosion on Mars about 180 million years ago which turned the planet into the barren wasteland it appears to be. The real revelation is that a similar explosion may have happened on Earth some time ago... about 2 Billion years in the past. Which prompts worry-warts like myself to ask "Could it happen again?" to which my fatalist side rebuts with "How would you stop it?"

But I should not worry.... in a link off the above story, I found this:

Natural fission reactors cannot form today because there is insufficient 235U in natural U. There are also several other important factors which must be satisfied before natural fission reactions will commence.

I am not so worried about such a thing anyway. I worry about things which would make life miserable more than I do about things which would wipe out all life.

Speaking of life and its oddities and things that can make it miserable... There's a woman turning to stone in England. In this story... Marry me before I turn to stone ...we learn about a disease that sounds like the result of looking at Medusa. It's a bit heart breaking but also a one of those "Awww... how sweet" stories.

I think the human spirit and optimism are two of the most incredible things about people.

Monday, April 4, 2011

On unrelated notes

I am not sure how these two subjects are related... if they are related at all, but they are what I have bouncing around in that mostly empty void between my ears today.

As those who follow my blog at all know, my mother suffered from Alzheimer's. She didn't really suffer much that I could see. She more or less enjoyed the ride, or seemed to. Like most times in her life when faced with adversity, she chose to laugh and make jokes about it. She told me it was like having a bright new world to explore every day ... and sometimes every hour. She only scared me one time and that was when she looked at me quizzically one day and asked "Which one are you?" Then she giggled. It was many years after that when she withdrew from the world, it seemed, and entered a place I could not. I watched, helpless, as she stopped being able to carry on a conversation over time. As she became more and more child-like. Less ambulatory. More indifferent to her surroundings.

I was fortunate, in a way, Mom was not ever combative, or irrational, or argumentative. She never wandered off. She never complained. She seemed at ease with what was happening, as if it was almost welcome. Even so, taking care of a grown woman who is almost as helpless as an infant is a struggle.

The other day, someone emailed me with a request to post something about Alzheimer's. She had a website where people can go for information, for links to assistance, to learn what little we know about this disease. The site is: and I urge you to visit it. I am not sure it will be an epidemic. I am hoping it won't. Each time I forget why I walked into a room or my mind goes blank as I open an editor to start a blog post or I find it impossible to remember the name of someone, I worry. But then I recall a "test"...

if you forget where you put the car keys, that's not Alzheimer's.
If you forget where you parked your car in that big parking lot, that's not Alzheimer's.
But if you forget you own a car then it's time to seek some help.

The following has nothing to do with Alzheimer's. I just found it interesting. The results of the survey are misleading to me. There isn't enough detail or "wiggle room" to allow for the wide variety of responses to the question of legalization of marijuana. It is just one question in a list of them concerning increasing revenue for governments. I remember talk of legalization back in the 70's. I thought then that the major impact would be an increase in the cost of pot. Like alcohol and cigarettes, it would be heavily taxed and those taxes would double or triple the price. And that was back when an ounce would cost you $10. I understand that now it is more than 10 times that for even the "cheap" (and weak) stuff.

Taxing marijuana is the most popular of several specialty taxes Rasmussen Reports has asked about recently. Forty-two percent (42%) of Americans say the federal government should legalize and tax marijuana to help solve the country’s fiscal problems, although 45% disagree.

The libertarian in me says it should be legal. But that is still a small, rather nervous, voice.

National Survey of 1,000 Adults
Conducted March 27-28, 2011

By Rasmussen Reports

1* The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has just released a report saying that taxing people based on how many miles they drive is a good way to raise funds for highway maintenance. Do you favor or oppose a mileage tax?

2* Americans pay a federal tax of 18.4 cents on each gallon of gas to help fund transportation projects. Should the government raise the gas tax to help meet new transportation needs?

3* Do you favor or oppose so-called “sin taxes” on sodas and junk food?

4* Do you favor or oppose the federal government taxing goods and services on the Internet?

5* To help solve America’s fiscal problems, should the country legalize and tax marijuana?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

It's about much more than a book

There are many things going on in the world; amazing things, dangerous things, senseless things. Where once our worlds were small and everything was right around us, our community has grown so we can see and hear things that happen on the other side of the planet. When we were children, our world was first our parents, the house we were brought home to, the family that surrounded us and protected us. We learned many things inside that home. We learned how to get along with the others who lived there. We learned something we call "give and take", we learned to share our toys, we learned that others could be mean and that they could be kind.

When it came time to venture out of that house and we learned about neighbors and boundaries, our world expanded. We learned to be polite so as not to offend someone. But we also learned that being polite did not always prevent that. We learned that not everyone would be our friend. We learned that, sometimes, no matter what we did, some people would not be our friend but would rather be our enemy. We learned there were people who would take advantage of our desire to be friends.

The world got bigger and more complex.

At a time when we are worried about bullies in school causing kids to feel so tormented that only suicide seemed the way out, we are being told we must tolerate the bullies of the world. We are told we must walk softly and eschew the "big stick" so as not to rouse the bullies' anger.

When I was growing up, venturing out into the world, the biggest bully was called the Soviet Union. And this bully was clever. And strong. And we had to be careful not to offend him. So we sort of stood up to him but not so much that he might throw a punch at us. We let that bully intimidate others. Just so we didn't have to get into a fight with him.

And whenever our leader, our protector, tried to stand up to that bully, many of us became more afraid of our protector, our leader, than the bully.

That's still going on today. Even though that bully of my youth turned out to be not that tough. Even though that bully was shown to be what he was and his world came apart. And that happened because we finally stood up to him. Finally refused to ignore his nature. You see, that bully was replaced by another one. And we are making the same mistakes we made with the earlier bully.

A little known preacher near Gainesville, FL, announces he will burn copies of the Holy Book of a large rival religion. Members of that religion protest against this affront. Some of these protests are peaceful. Some of them are rife with threats. And some are violent and people die. Many people counsel this preacher to not burn those books. They say it will only anger the bully; that it will create violence in reaction; that just announcing it has made the world a more dangerous place. And the preacher acquiesces. He calls it off.

But sometime later, when many (most) have forgotten about that preacher, he pops up again and this time burns that book. Just one copy. A symbolic gesture of condemnation of a religion he sees as instigating fear, violence, and anger in the world. And the bully reacts predictably. He reacts just as he did when other acts which offended him occurred. He protests, loudly, and then violently. He lashes out. He encourages his followers, his associates, to lash out violently. People die. People who do not even know the preacher in that small Florida town. People who do not even come from the same country that small town is in. People who were just easy to access.

The bully responds by intimidating those around him. Just as bullies have always done when they feel their control, their power, is threatened. Bullies gain strength by not being confronted. They grow stronger. They become harder to keep in check. And they must be confronted, they must be kept in check. Throughout history, that lesson has been repeated again and again.

And we always seem to learn it (again) when it is almost too late.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Nurturing nature or vice versa

Since learning the stork story was just a fairy tale I have thought about it this way:

You are born with a genetic predisposition to react in certain ways to stimuli. There are common reactions (something well do) and individual reactions (things we do differently than most others). Let me give you a non-organic example.

You build a frame. Across the frame you stretch a piece of material. Nice and taut. Depending upon the properties of the material, objects thrown at a specific speed or force against it will bounce a certain distance. Different materials have different resiliences. Or "bounce factors." Some materials will absorb more of the force than others. If the tautness is uniform, it is all dependent upon the material's "nature."

In a more complex way, that is how I view human beings. Your genetic makeup dictates how you will react to various external stimuli. This, I think, is our "foundation" for personality. I like to use my own family for examples...

All three of my parents' offspring take after my father in appearance. Lean (mostly), tall(ish), narrow face. But my sister and brother took after my mother in terms of certain behaviors. Dreamers, mostly. Not extremely responsible. Outgoing. Gregarious. On the other hand, I am anchored solidly to the ground. I had dreams but I also relied on reality to win out. I am a cynic, a skeptic, and a bit of an absolutist. I am not as quiet and withdrawn as my father but close.

We were all raised the same... to be honest, pretty much left to grow up on our own. Same house, same family, same towns. Yet I turned out quite different from my siblings.

Another way I like to look at nurture vs nature is that our genetic makeup is the filter through which we view and interpret our environment.

Now, the author of the article gets into how the environment can possibly overwhelm the gene effect. The only flaw I see in that reasoning (and the studies that support it) is that the parents are influential in more than genetic ways. They are part of the environment. If a parent is genetically predisposed to be defeatist and that trait is passed on to the child then the parent will, through behavior, reinforce that trait. Conversely, if the trait is not passed on, but the optimistic trait of the other parent dominates then the reinforcement may be ignored or weakened. This is assuming that the parents do not share a trait of defeatism. Which is not likely since, in spite of the old "opposites attract" belief, people tend to bond with like-minded people.

The problem with looking at genetics as a foundation is that we cannot do a study where all the variables are controlled when it comes to human beings. First, we really don't know what all the variables are, either genetically or environmentally. Second, our societies would not likely tolerate such experiments in a term long enough to determine constants.

So the argument will, I think, always be there.