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.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

I really should buy an economical car

I see gas prices are on the rise. This increase will last until sometime late tomorrow... after I fill my tank. No, I am not paranoid. It is just fact. I do not know how they know when I am approaching the point at which I must buy gas but they do.

On the way to the golf course yesterday morning, I noticed that the price had jumped overnight from $3.21 to $3.45 per gallon. We know that is not quite true, don't we? It's really $3.459, isn't it? That's what the hardly noticed "and 9/10" means. It's a bit like the ".99" after the "$19" on the price where the ad says "less than $20!"

The price of gas will drop in a few days... after I fill up... but not by much. Not as much as it has risen.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

It's time for controversy.

If you do not play, understand, or like, golf then you may as well skip this post.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I play golf. To be honest, I should say "play at golf." That is, I play golf in comparison to the pros as Little Leaguers play baseball in comparison to those in the National and American Major Leagues. What I do on the golf course only vaguely resembles what the worst player on the PGA Tour can do.

Half of all allotted strokes on any golf course consist of putts. This makes putting pretty much 50% of the game. A few years ago, a controversy began over something called "anchored putting"... wherein the golfer anchors the putter against some part of his body... either the belly (with the butt of the putter shaft braced against the stomach) or the chest (a much longer shaft with the upper hand braced against the chest area).

Only about 15% of pros use the anchor type putting style. I have no idea about the amateurs but I see maybe 1 out of 20 on the golf course on any given day.

Make no mistake, putting is incredibly difficult. To do well, it requires a sort of relaxed, yet intensive, concentration coupled with a multitude of unconscious and conscious calculations of force and terrain. The best putters are simply amazing and sink just about anything within five feet of the hole. The average golfer, by comparison, can miss two-footers easily. Faye claims she is so poor a putter that she once failed to sink a putt dragging the ball over the hole in miniature golf.

I am told I am a good putter by those I play golf with. Of course, we all lie to each other on about our skills. I know they are lying because I will 3 putt at least three holes out of any given 18. A 3 putt, in case you are unaware, is a guaranteed failure to make par on any hole... unless you can reach par 5's in two, which I cannot. A good putter, in my opinion, will not 3 putt more than one hole in any given 18.

But the USGA and the Royal & Ancient (the two governing bodies of the sport) have agreed to outlaw anchored putting. The following video attempts to explain why:

Something that happens to most, if not all, golfers is the deterioration of putting skills. The hands getting a little shakey is the most common. This leads to something called "the Yips" where the player's ball generally ends up quite a way past the hole but also leads to pulling putts to one side, short-putting, and loud cursing.

Putting is so important to golf that whole books have been dedicated to the art. And it is an art as well as a science.

I have no problem with the anchored putters because I believe the skill needed transcends the ability of technique and technology. I do not use an anchor putter because they always feel awkward in my hands and I am more comfortable (most of the time) with a standard putter.

I feel, as many golfers do, that there should be different rules for pros and amateurs. And I also feel the "powers that be" should not have outlawed the anchored putting style... even for the pros.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I am confused.  I have always been this way, I suppose. Born into the chaotic world of human beings, it's hard not to be. So much to learn: talking, sitting up, walking, running... all within a few short years. And then there was sharing and playing well with others (I still haven't got those right), swimming, various games (called "sports"), when to speak and when not to (another pair I still have trouble with), and so on.

I barely survived childhood and figuring out school when I enlisted in the Navy. Much more to learn and not a lot of time in which to do it. I had only 4 years (three years and 11 months, to be exact, in my case). I learned enough, I suppose, to get by and not get tossed into the brig. And they let me out early. By a whole month. It wasn't because they liked me, though, I am pretty sure of that.

And then life kicked back in. A marriage, a child, and so much more to learn while teaching those skills that child would need. Not sure I did such a good job but he has turned out okay.

And here I am at 66 and still confused. Time sure flies...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Thoughts on guilt and innocence

I was perusing the news on the web the other day and chanced upon a murder case detailed on "48 Hours". It was about the murder of a woman and her dog near San Antonio.

In 1994, I became a little obsessed with the O.J. Simpson case. I watched the trial, I taped it when I could not watch it live, I bought some of the books written about the case, and... in the end... I was stunned by the verdict.

I also learned a lot. About trials, lawyers, judges, the police... the whole justice system. I thought I knew something about lawyers. My mother was a legal secretary and, therefore, I grew up around them.  I also knew something about the police. I had had my run-ins with the police in my teens and had seen the inside of a police station on more than one or two occasions. I had numerous encounters with police outside those stations, most of which led to nothing. I had been falsely accused a couple of times and gotten away with crimes a couple of times. But you can always learn and you often find that your "knowledge" is not all that accurate.

Among the things I learned is that people might tell the truth but it may be the "truth" as they saw it. That neither side (prosecution nor defense) tells the whole story. And that juries are always manipulated.

My final take on the Simpson case? The police tried to frame a guilty man and it backfired on them.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Liberty, not the world, will end with a whimper

Last week I suggested you keep an eye on Democrats up for re-election and how they stand on gun control measures being considered by what we, sometimes laughingly, call "our government." The following comes from a New York Times article about how Democrat office holders are facing some backlash regarding gun control legislation.

As Congress considers what, if any, laws to change, Mr. Manchin has become a barometer among his colleagues, testing just how far they might be able to go without angering voters.

The article is more opinion than news... which is what "news" is all about these days; influencing people rather than informing them.

There is a quote featured in Thursday's summary of NY Times articles (which I get in an email each day):
“We give up our rights one piece at a time,” a banker named Charlie Houck told the senator.

I note that the author of the article made very sure we knew that Mr. Houck is a banker. Why is that relevant? Is Mr. Houck's opinion more or less important because of that fact? I would suggest that Mr. Houck wasn't attending that meeting as a banker but as a citizen of West Virginia, a constituent of Senator Manchin.

And Mr. Houck is absolutely right. That is exactly how rights are taken away. At first.

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."  A statement by one Wendell Phillips, abolitionist. He was right... about the price of liberty and about slavery. At the time, however, he was viewed as radical and dangerous. And not just by the slave states. Though we are not taught that in school, are we?  When I was in school, the distinct impression was that the non-slave states were united and their citizens spoke as one in opposition to slavery. As I grew older, I realized that this was completely untrue.

Our opinions are shaped by what we read and what we hear. Seemingly few of us arrive at independent conclusions. This is why I urge people to read opposing viewpoints and try to understand the reasoning behind them. It is much too easy to dismiss arguments out of ignorance of the opposing side, much too easy to support imposing the will of one side upon the other when all you hear or read is that which supports your own preconceptions.

The debate will continue on gun control and those in favor of increasing it will scratch their heads over why it failed because they do not understand, and simply dismiss, all the arguments against it.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bits of news and insanity

Perusing the news can be entertaining, informative, and a little frightening. For instance, I was referred to a story on CBS about giant squid. The headline created a slightly different image:

"Giant squid scientist talks deep ocean discovery"

Which had me wondering just how many scientists are giant squids? 

Then there was this about surveillance cameras...

Which led me to this:
The Philly Basement of Horrors

Weston used "cunning, trickery, force and coercion" to get mentally disabled people to designate her as their caretaker, allowing her to illegally collect about $212,000 in Social Security payments over 10 years

This woman (and perhaps her family) allegedly engaged in kidnapping and abuse to pick up some $20,000 a year. Really? They took the risk of possible life imprisonment for a measly $20k a year? 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Who is really responsible?

I see that Junior Seau's family is suing the NFL.  The claim is that his suicide was the result of brain trauma from the violent hits he took while playing football.

I understand the pain they are going through. I do not understand the lawsuit. Why not sue themselves? After all, they supported him in his career choice from the time he was a child. Why not sue his high school? Or USC (where he played college ball)? 

Why not sue his cultural community in San Diego?
From Wiki:

After graduating from high school, Seau attended the University of Southern California (USC). He had to sit out his freshman season because he got only a 690 on his college entrance exam, the SAT, 10 points short of USC's required minimum score for freshman eligibility.

Seau told Sports Illustrated: "I was labeled a dumb jock. I went from being a four-sport star to an ordinary student at USC. I found out who my true friends were. Nobody stuck up for me—not our relatives, best friends or neighbors. There's a lot of jealousy among Samoans, not wanting others to get ahead in life, and my parents got an earful at church: 'We told you he was never going to make it.'" This prompted him to apologize to his coaches, teachers, and principal at Oceanside High.

My own son wanted to play baseball as a child. He was not in a big hurry to sign up for the local junior baseball which was the Pony Leagues. He skipped Tee-Ball and his mother and I had to make sure he signed up for the Mustang league a year later. We did that because he complained repeatedly about missing out on Tee-Ball.

We took him to practice, we made sure he was at games on time, we cheered him from the stands. He talked at one time of playing Peewee Football and we would have supported him if he had made the effort to sign up. He didn't. And I did not have to support that effort. And, secretly, I was glad. I was glad because I knew that football was a sport with a high risk for injuries.

Of course there are risks in any sport and the risks grow with the level of contact involved.

I understand the anger, the frustration, and the pain Seau's family is going through. But why is it the NFL's fault? The NFL has tried to minimize injury. Look at its history. At one time players wore leather helmets and just shoulder pads. Today, they are almost armored.

Maybe, instead of adding padding, they should have set size limits on players. As the personal protection was increased, players got bigger, stronger, faster. They had to have bigger, stronger, faster, players to overcome the protection. The game is about impact, about hitting the opponents harder and harder. It is a full contact sport and not only Seau but his family knew that from the first day he signed up to play.

I don't intend to sound heartless but I hope their lawsuit fails.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

And how does that make you feel?

 I suffer from excessive introspection. I blame my parents, of course, as anyone who has read Freud (or thinks he/she has) will, and should, do.

For most of my life, I have wondered why I do things. At first, I wondered why I did "wrong" things but that progressed to questioning my motives for doing just about anything. This can lead to total immobility in some... perhaps many... but has not, so far, prevented me from continuing to do "wrong" things or even "right" things. I still make a fool of myself at times and I still strive to improve. Unfortunately, I mostly am successful at making a fool of myself.

This tendency to engage in introspection triggered an interest in psychology and that led to an interest in why others do/did the things they do/did. In turn, this led to a curiosity about some historical figures and some historical periods.

Why only some? I have no idea... even after much soul-searching.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

To think it started with Pong

There are a couple of important digital events that had major effects on my life.

The first one, of course, was "pong", the video game that launched all video games. I didn't play it at video game arcades. I got the home version made by Magnavox not long after I bought my first house in 1975. I was never very good at it.

The second was my company (at the time, Pacific Telephone) deciding I was worthy of being trained to work on the first digital long distance switching system to be installed in California. That training was 19 or 20 weeks long and stretched over about 6 months. It took me to Baltimore, Columbus, Atlanta, Chicago, and back to Columbus. It gave me a 25 year journey and a job I came to love.

I learned about computers and fell in love with them. It wasn't an all encompassing love, it did not turn into an obsession. I loved my motorcycle more. But who wouldn't?

I bring this up because I read today that Atari filed for bankruptcy. It's actually a ploy to separate the U.S. branch from its French parent. It had been bought up by France's Infogrames Entertainment in 2000 after having been through a string of other owners. It seems that Nintendo and others had been winning the competition for the home and arcade market for some time.

It's sad, really, because I loved the Atari home unit I eventually bought in 1982. Atari was, to me, the epitome of home gaming entertainment.

Atari will not strike out on their own again exactly. They will look for other "sugar daddies" to provide funding, selling even their logo.

The end of an era, I suppose.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Honoring the Greatest Among Us

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In order to properly honor him, we do not make a holiday out of his birthday, we create a three day weekend. This is a relatively new tradition, one started by President Richard Nixon in 1971. Well, in reality, it was started by the Congress which passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act. Nixon merely supported it and signed it into law.

Nothing says "honor" like a 3 day weekend, eh?

Please... forgive my cynicism. I never realized our national heroes wanted us to celebrate their accomplishments by getting away for a long weekend.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The things I get from my friends

A friend of mine passed the following on to me. I don't know why.... Perhaps he thought I might appreciate it, perhaps he thought I might agree with it, perhaps he thought there was some wisdom in the words.
Why I Carry a Gun

My old grandpa said to me 'Son, there comes a time in every man's life when he stops bustin' knuckles and starts bustin' caps and usually it's when he becomes too old to take an ass whoopin.'

I don't carry a gun to kill people.
I carry a gun to keep from being killed.

I don't carry a gun to scare people.
I carry a gun because sometimes this world can be a scary place.

I don't carry a gun because I'm paranoid.
I carry a gun because there are real threats in the world.

I don't carry a gun because I'm evil.
I carry a gun because I have lived long enough to see the evil in the world.

I don't carry a gun because I hate the government.
I carry a gun because I understand the limitations of government.. 

I don't carry a gun because I'm angry.
I carry a gun so that I don't have to spend the rest of my life hating myself for failing to be prepared. 

I don't carry a gun because I want to shoot someone.
I carry a gun because I want to die at a ripe old age in my bed, and not on a sidewalk somewhere tomorrow afternoon.

I don't carry a gun to make me feel like a man.
I carry a gun because men know how to take care of themselves and the ones they love.

I don't carry a gun because I feel inadequate.
I carry a gun because unarmed and facing three armed thugs, I am inadequate. 

I don't carry a gun because I love it.
I carry a gun because I love life and the people who make it meaningful to me.

Police protection is an oxymoron.

Free citizens must protect themselves.

Police do not protect you from crime, they usually just investigate the crime after it happens and then call someone in to clean up the mess. 

Personally, I carry a gun because I'm too young to die and too old to take an ass whoopin'....

Author unknown (but obviously brilliant)

I would like those of you who are interested in this sort of thing to watch carefully over the next few weeks and months as Democrats who are up for re-election back away from the enhancement of gun laws. Some will say it is due to pressure from the NRA, some will question their allegiance to the party, I say it will be because they are fearful of their constituents... which is as it should be.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Another bit of musing

Just a short one today. Call me lazy...

On the way back from Biloxi, as we traveled down I-75, we played a game I call "catch-up, fall back, catch-up" with a tanker truck. The tanker carried milk. You've seen these trucks, I am sure. Nice shiney stainless steel (I think) tanks on a lot of wheels hauled by the usual diesel tractors. Just bringing milk to children of all ages in the advancement of cholesterol levels throughout America. Relax... I jest about the cholesterol conspiracy.

And the thought came to me, waking me up from that nap I take when traffic is relatively light: "Is this how milk is homogenized?"

Think about it...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Puzzling Thoughts

I like puzzles. I assume it's genetic but I can't be sure. My father was obsessive about crossword puzzles in the last couple of years of his life. Perhaps longer. There were always crossword puzzle books around the house, even when I was fairly young. I thought it was my mother because I rarely noticed my father looking at them. He may have, though, when I was not around and I was not around a lot after I hit my teens.

I did not try to solve many puzzles when young. Wasn't interested. Well, not in crossword or jigsaw puzzles. Life was enough of a puzzle to me. And figuring out ways of doing what I wanted without getting caught... something I thought would be a good skill to hone at the time. I figured out ways to steal cars, to break into places, to stay out all night, to avoid the police, to trick the police into thinking me innocent... these skills were useful to me from time to time.

I like to think I was a natural problem solver. Just my ego talking, I suppose. But that curiosity has served me well since I left the Navy. Up until retirement, that is. Now, I am back to solving that grand puzzle: life itself.

And, of course, the daily crossword and jigsaw puzzles I seem addicted to.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ignoring my Better Judgement

I am the argumentative sort. Opinionated and arrogant, I seek out opposing viewpoints and challenge them. This takes me to some places I might not otherwise visit.  One of these is the New Yorker magazine online.

I made a mistake. I should not have created an account there so I could comment. Why? because of the law of unintended consequences, of course. I thought that the New Yorker would be a rational site, one that does not exploit its readers' data. I was woefully wrong, of course.

A couple of days after establishing my account, I began receiving spam using the email address I gave them in registering my New Yorker account. And, since then, I receive at least one piece of spam a day to that email address.

I use that email account at few, very few, places on the web. Any of them could have sold this info to the various spammers out there, I am sure. Yet, not one piece of spam showed up for that account in the 18 months I have had it and began using it... until a few days after signing up with the New Yorker in mid-November of 2012 .  My math skills, though not what they were before the advent of pocket calculators
,  are still good enough to add 2 and 2 and get the correct sum.

It is interesting to note that I use the very same email address at what I assume is a sister publication... the New York Times... and have done so for most of that 18 months I have had the email account.

The damage, of course, is already done. Cancelling the New Yorker account will have no effect on the spam.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Zoom Zoom

We have returned from our little jaunt to Biloxi. Unscathed, I might add. Much to my surprise, I must admit. Traffic wasn't heavy on the way out but it was a little wacky and, in some places, a little heavy on the way back. I don't like heavy traffic. I like it much better when there are relatively few cars on the road with me. That was once the norm for lengthy trips, mind you. In my youth, you only saw a lot of traffic if you passed through a city. And, back then, you could avoid cities of any size by choosing rural highways.

That was, of course, before the Interstate system was up and running.  You can still choose those rural highways but you had best be very good at reading and interpreting maps. And you'd best not be in any kind of hurry. You will run into traffic, you will be hit with lower speed limits, and you will have to deal with a lot of traffic lights. Even if the interstate highway goes way out of the way, it is likely to get you there faster than the rural highways.

There is a story I heard many times while I was in the Navy and living much of the time in Long Beach, California; The Pasadena Freeway was designed to handle 50,000 cars an hour. When it was finished and opened to the public, the traffic rate was 150,000 per hour at "rush hour."

The California freeways were where I began observing the various odd driving habits. It was where I first noticed "clustering", "clingers", and "zoomers." I have mentioned the first two before but the term "zoomers" may be new to you. Zoomers are people who flit about the lanes of the freeways moving from cluster to cluster and wending their way through the cluster in order to zoom up to the next one. They are, to be sure, speeders. But aren't we all now? I drive 4-5 miles per hour above the posted speed limit. And, in general, this what I call the "effective speed limit." I find that, even though I am passed often, I can maintain this speed in between clusters and never fall back into one or run into the next one very often.

This makes me quite aware of the zoomers. After all, they are the ones in a big hurry to get to the next cluster and must pass me to get there. I catch up to the next cluster somewhat later than the zoomer does. It is while I wend my way through the cluster that must be very wary of the zoomer. He (or she, they are of both genders but mostly male) is the driver who grabs that vacant space to your right or left that you wanted to use to pass the slowpoke (one who drives the speed limit or lower) just as you throw on your clicker. He is likely to be going much faster than you and is, therefore, quite dangerous.

It's a scary world out there.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Bang Bang

Happiness is a warm gun
( bang bang shoot shoot )
Happiness is a warm gun, yes it is
(bang bang shoot shoot)

The big issue of the moment is gun control. We've been through this many times in my lifetime. The issue jumps to the forefront after each major incident in which guns are used.  Changes are made to laws, some permanent, some temporary. None of which seem to prevent the next tragedy. For instance, there was a ban on  "assault weapons" as well as high capacity magazines when the two wacky students committed their own particular atrocity.  They used the following weapons:

Intratec TEC-DC9
Hi-Point 995 Carbine
Savage 67H pump-action shotgun
Stevens 311D double barreled sawed-off shotgun
99 explosives
4 knives

I think none of these was obtained legally. Many existing laws were broken during the period in which Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris collected their weapons.

The lesson that should have been learned was that laws do not prevent such tragedies. They cannot.  Criminals do not obey laws... that's one of the reasons why they are called criminals.

There are over 270 million guns (per the website, an international gun policy group) owned by civilians in the U.S., presumably legally. It is a rare criminal who buys a gun legally. Most often, he purchases an illegally obtained gun from someone not licensed to sell it and who does not conduct even a cursory background check.

Only law-abiding people purchase their guns from licensed dealers and only law-abiding people go through background checks.

We lack a lot of facts that we need in order to have a reasonable discussion of the problem and we aren't going to get those facts from either the pro-gun or anti-gun crowd.

In my not so humble opinion, only confiscating all civilian owned guns will have a long term affect on gun crimes. And I do not believe such a thing would be tolerated in this country. First, it would require the repeal of the Second Amendment. Second, it would require the cooperation of all current gun owners. It would have little effect in the short term because the criminals would not obey any confiscation law. It might result in an increase in gun crime as criminals take advantage of an unarmed society. It might induce some law-abiding citizens to become criminals also in order to keep their weapons. In the long term, however, it would eventually remove all existing guns from society. A situation which would likely lead to a black market in guns and the illegal importation of them. In the end, there would still be guns in the hands of those we intended to disarm.

And then there's the issue of do we continue to arm the police or do we disarm the beat cop?

I suspect that this almost frenzied effort to control guns will fail.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The election is over.... next!

I want you to be politically aware this year. What?", you say, "The presidential campaign is over... I can forget about politics now and go back to worrying about how my team is doing in the playoffs. Leave me alone!"

Yes, ordinarily, I would. But politics has changed in the last 12 years or so. For one thing, it seems the campaigns never end. The media hounds all want to know who will be running for president in 2016. And the major political parties are gearing up to go after whoever they might be. At one time, you didn't have to think about politics much except the last year of a president's term. Unless you are a political pundit or operative, that is.

Somewhere along the way, someone figured out the best time to destroy your rivals and weaken their chances against you is years before the election. So the rumors will start about any and all potential presidential candidates this year. So, pay attention to what the political parties are saying and you will be better prepared for the mid-term elections and the next presidential election. Not to mention the other issues that seem to pop up in the off years. Gun control, tax policies, privacy issues... a lot of legislation is decided on in non-election years, politicians play that stuff down and provide pat, well vetted, answers in the months just before an election.

I could be wrong but I don't think so.
Besides, my team didn't get into the playoffs and why should I be among the few to be miserable? We crave company.


Friday, January 11, 2013

I hope that mirror didn't break

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!

[old Scottish prayer]

The supernatural. A thing apart from the real world. Do you believe in it? Ghosts and goblins, luck (or the lack of), vampires, zombies, Voodoo... all that stuff and more. I like to read books that deal with it and watch movies that include it but I don't believe in it at all.

Two things brought this to mind. I am reading a Dean Koontz book and a black cat crossed my path on the way back to the hotel from a trip to Wal-Mart. I always take a trip to Wal-Mart while in Biloxi. I always leave something behind on these trips. This time it was my electric razor... and a couple of other things I can live without. I could live without my electric razor, too, I suppose, but why should I? I'd eventually have to shave (trim, really) anyway so picking up a safety razor makes some sense. Besides, I have nothing better to do while in Biloxi. I don't gamble for the most part and the weather this week is not suitable for playing golf; blustery and chilly (for me).

Anyway, that Dean Koontz book (like all of his work) involves the supernatural and that got me to thinking about the subject. I think I am skeptical of these things because I was never given a chance to believe in it. My father made it clear that there was no such thing and having an older brother and sister kept me from believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and other more pleasant supernatural creatures.

The scariest thing in the dark for me is banging my shin against a coffee table.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

There Must Be Better Things to be Doing

Faye and I are on the road once again. To Biloxi... as usual. Faye likes to gamble and I like to remind myself that I do not. I also like to confirm to myself that there are people driving cars that simply shouldn't be.

Have you noticed that some big rig truckers like to try to pass another big rig on the upslope of a hill? What are these people thinking? Nothing like zipping along at 75 (in a 70 zone.... shhhh!) and finding yourself blocked by a pair of semis doing 55 and straining to get up what laughingly passes for a hill here in Florida. A rolling blockade, I call it. I also call it (and the driver of the semi trying to pass) a few other things which I will not repeat here.

Ah well...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Can I have one, huh? Can I?

Lenovo unveils touch-screen table

I want one. It doesn't matter that I have no place to put it or that I might have to build a coffee table style frame to place it in, I want one. It doesn't matter that it won't do anything my current desktop and laptop can do, I want one.

Does that make me a bad person? Or maybe a robotic consumer?

I don't care... I want one.

Monday, January 7, 2013

All the news that does not seem to fit

As readers might know, or have guessed, I spend some time each day perusing the news as supplied mostly by Google. We know that Google is, legally speaking, "without sin" in deciding what it presents as the result of searches and its news displays are nothing more than searches, are they not?

Today's (Sunday) perusal turned up the usual... a translucent white "flower" on Mars, confusing headlines about the unemployment rate, a supposed attempt to sell or lease launch facilities "owned" by NASA, something about feathered dinosaurs' mating habits, and the mating (and other alleged) habits of some celebrities in the U.S.  And other pointless trivia...

And people wonder why I am such a cynic...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Shadenfreude and Taxation

The Republicans caved. And agreed to "tax the rich." Do you feel better now? Are you better off? Are any of us better off? I'll answer for you: Maybe, no, and no. I said "maybe" because some people do feel better when someone else's ox is gored. Not that this tax increase is going to hurt the wealthy in any perceptible way.

It's an odd concept, this "tax the rich" idea. Think about it...

The rich are vilified because they allegedly got their wealth by taking from the rest of us. So what happens when we tax them at higher rates? Where do you suppose they will get the extra money to pay those taxes? The rational among you will instantly realize they will get it from the rest of us, the 98% whose income taxes will not go up under this deal.

Certainly my income taxes will not increase. My rate stays the same for both my earned income and my unearned (dividends) income. I no longer pay Social Security and Medicare taxes so the increase as a result of the lapse of the "Payroll Tax Holiday" doesn't affect me at all. No, just the working poor and other low income earners will see an increase there.

And what was accomplished by this deal? Based on what we know, we will still have $1 Trillion deficits for the next 3 years (maybe longer) and the $62 Billion estimated annual increase in revenue from the increase in tax rates for the top 2% won't make much of a dent in those deficits or pay anything toward the 16 and a half Trillion dollar national debt.

You've been bamboozled, folks. It's the old magician's slight of hand as practiced by politicians once again. And the excessive spending will continue in D.C. unabated.

Friday, January 4, 2013

If You Can't Bring the Astronaut to the Asteroid, Bring the Asteroid to the Astronaut

I wandered through the news yesterday and came across this headline:

 NASA Wants to Give our Moon a Moon

The reason given is... interesting... to say the least. There were plans to send astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid but this is being mulled over as an alternative. After all, those asteroids are pretty small and awfully far away and having one nearby would certainly make it easier.

I was mostly fascinated by a couple of the comments:

Americans are so duplicitous...What they mean is (a)We want an Asteroid so we can smack it into countries, (b) we want an asteroid because we are moving the White House off World in keeping with our plan to be the first emperor of Earth, or (c) because no one can stop us...Mwhahahaha!  


"Well, the Obama administration has said it wants to send astronauts to a near-Earth asteroid."

Does he know something that we don't? Are we in real trouble and we need to study the pattern of asteroids so we can "catch" a bigger one when needed? Or, does the US just have a couple of billions of dollars to blow on some rocks?

This article is also interesting...

Young stars and Planets Grow Up Together 

Maybe more so...

But something bothers me... "
  "Astronomers using ALMA have been observing the formation of a young star and its planets around 450 million light years away."
Young? It's at least 450 Million years old. Well, I guess that is "young" relative to our own system.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Huh? What'd You Say?

A friend of mine had an acquaintance from Switzerland who once apologized for her poor English, saying she had studied for only 4 years. He replied that her English was fine, better than his, and he had studied it all his life.

I have had a number of friends and acquaintances over the years who were bi-lingual. Mexican, Japanese, Chinese, Cuban, Filipino... born in their native countries and then finding themselves here in the U.S. I am always impressed with a person's ability to speak more than one language even if poorly. I have tried to learn German and Spanish but have failed miserably in my attempts. I can say "hello" and "good-bye" and "thank you" and "please" in a few languages and maybe count a little bit but that's pretty much the limit for me. I am not conversant in anything other than American English and this saddens me sometimes.

One of the things these friends and acquaintances have all remarked on is the difficulty of English. They all felt it was difficult to learn. Based on my experiences with foreign languages, I always felt I understood or at least commiserated with them.

English is actually a wonderful language, elegant and versatile. But, yes, it can be confusing.

People often say "The [insert language here] have a word for it..." and then provide the word. Shadenfreude is one such word... It is the enjoyment of someone else's misery or problems. Or "pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others."

This is one of the joys of English. If we do not have a word for something and someone else does, we just take theirs and incorporate it.

English is, in a sense, a "mongrel" language. A mixture of Latin, French, Germanic, and much more, though it has roots of its own.  This makes it, to me, extremely versatile and adaptable.

There was a movement, not so long ago, to create a International Language; Esperanto. It didn't really catch on. And I understand why, I think. We all think our native language is best, perhaps superior to all others. What we do not realize is that we began learning it shortly after birth and it took us many years to become even semi-proficient in it.

Think about the last conversation you had with a 5 year old. You really had to work at it to understand what the child was saying and he or she had an equally difficult time. Not to worry, in a few short years that 5 year old will be a teenager and you won't understand anything he or she says.

Language is culture, it is said, and I believe that. I just wish I could be multi-cultural.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Sesame Street and the Downfall of Civilization

It's clear to me that various periodicals (that would be newspapers and magazines) are in a bit of a financial problem. They no longer have the respect or amiration of the public they once enjoyed. We can blame the internet easily enough. Perhaps too easily. On the other hand, we can blame the public's developing a massive case of Attention Deficit Disorder. I blame Sesame Street.

Why blame just one TV show? It's easy. Millions of children's brains were sacrificed to the One-Eyed God of the modern home: The TV set. And Sesame Street was the ritual of rituals. Or maybe we could call it the Mother Of All Rituals. Children were willfully plopped in front of the TV to be entertained by muppets and fascinated by quickly changing images and catchy tunes about letters and numbers. Whereas my generation's parents feared the TV, we did not. We welcomed the advent of cheap (mostly free... until cable and satellite came along) in home entertainment.

My parents, like millions of others back in the 50's worried that too much TV would rot our little brains and turn us into mindless robotic consumers. They were right but it has taken a couple of generations to happen.

Sesame Street allowed it to happen; encouraged it, facilitated it.  If you are as old as I am, you remember the "Flash Cards" your teachers used to run through the "multiplication tables" and spelling lessons. They were the New Thing of education in the 50's. Rapid, repetitious, and fairly simple, they captured the children's attention and imparted knowledge by rote. Sesame Street expanded on the concept. Beyond the simple math and language, Sesame Street added socialization in the form of tunes and bright colors and short, easily grasped, stories of Bert and Ernie, Oscar, and Big Bird. And our children, of course, ate it up.

In past generations, parents told fairy tales and explained the morals of the stories to their progeny. Bowdlerized versions of the Brother Grimm's tales, thanks mostly to Walt Disney, had become the method by which many children were socialized. These were replaced by 30 minute TV shows in which the morals were blatantly obvious. And as black and white as the monochromatic screens of the period.

But the old social values were deemed unworthy in the 60's and the stories changed to reflect the new morality. The simplistic moral lessons were replaced with more nuanced ones. Ones that reflected a more complex view of society.... until the nuanced ones were accepted and then they, too, became simplified so as to be more easily grasped by young minds.

There was no mass conspiracy involved in this. People's minds changed over time. You might say that society evolved to embrace the changes.

Other children's shows also changed but they adopted Sesame Street's methods (which, in turn, seemed to mimic the commercials that so many in society found entertaining) which were successful in imparting information in short periods of time by using rapidly changing colors and sounds.  Sesame Street was the pioneer in this, I think.

And, in the end, it appears my parents' fears were well placed. Morality and Truth are now encapsulated in the 140 character limit of Twitter. And our grandchildren now have the attention span of kittens.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Ponderment

Pondering has kept me from attaining that exalted status I so richly deserve but refused to work toward.

Among the many things I ponder a number involve physics. Of course, I have no real knowledge of physics just my own muddled and confused assumptions about it. Still, my lack of actual knowledge and training in any discipline has never kept me from pondering and forming opinions. Nor has the laughter I often hear when relating those opinions ever impeded my willingness to offer them.

My most recent pondering was the result of watching a CSPAN presentation (a BOOKTV episode, I believe) with a man named Howard Bloom... who wrote a book called The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates.

I didn't like the guy's presentation very much, he read from a sheaf of (presumably) typed papers and looked and sounded like a child excitedly reading his story to his classmates. Yet, I continued watching. Possibly because the title of the book piqued my interest and possibly because he seemed so earnest while also appearing condescending. I will grant he was trying to explain things in simple terms to people who, like me, know next to nothing about physics sitting in front of our TV's. His immediate audience was likely more knowledgeable and possibly bored by his simplistic approach and manner.

My pondering had little to do with his explanation of something called "recruitment strategy", which seemed to be an important part (perhaps the foundation) of his thesis. Instead, my pondering was about something I have wondered about since I first learned about atoms and molecules. 

We all learned that atoms are what molecules are formed of and that molecules are what everything is made of. That is, molecules are collections of atoms and that almost everything we sense is made up of molecules. Water, for instance, is a collection of molecules. We can see it and touch it... it's real. But it is a bunch of atoms bound together in molecules (H2O) which, themselves, are bound together in sufficient numbers that we humans can perceive.

I first pondered about atoms and molecules when I was very young. I do not recall when I was first exposed to atoms and molecules but I am sure I could not have been more than 9, I think. Atoms, I learned, were in constant motion... as were its parts. At that time, we (the general public) didn't know about anything smaller than electrons, protons, and neutrons. An atom was described as something I equated to a solar system; with the nucleus representing a sun and the electrons representing planets in orbit around it. A simplistic description, I am sure, but one a child could easily grasp.

It made me wonder, however, why I could not feel that motion when we touched an object. Solid things feel, well... solid. Yet, there is space between the atoms in a molecule as well as space within an atom. And all of them were in motion all of the time which means that space is relatively large.

Perhaps it (everything) is all illusion. That, truly, perception is reality. And if we alter perception, we alter reality. Maybe, if one can perceive the loose attraction of atoms and molecules sufficiently, one could move through "solid" objects as easily as we do through water. And that our perception keeps us from slipping through the molecules beneath our feet and down into the core of the earth.