The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Is It Me?

Sometimes I wonder... Things don't always work out so well and I suspect the essential element is myself. More often than not, I am the main focus of whatever goes wrong.

It's not that I am a screw-up, though I am that from time to time, but that I am involved in some way. Since I have many insecurities, this leads me to focus on my own involvement. Which, of course, just reinforces the afore-mentioned insecurities.

I was not always this way. At one time I thought my greatest shortcoming was in not following through. I tended not to complete things I started. I would get bored... or lazy (it's hard to tell those apart)... and just quit; leaving whatever project I was undertaking to sit until I might get back to it. But that isn't what is happening lately. Lately, things just seem to go awry. Back on the 20th, for example, I missed the correct exit as I was taking a friend to the airport. I didn't exactly miss it, I thought it was the wrong one and I was in error. This meant about a 10 mile circuitous route to get back on track. And then, after leaving him off, I missed my turnoff to get back on the tollway (which leads to the freeway), sending me wandering along some surface streets in what turned out to be a fruitless search for a way back on track. Since I was the driver, I must take the blame.

I find that I am easily rattled now and cannot shake myself out of it as easily as I once did and that bothers me. I cannot seem to settle myself down as I once did. I used to just order myself to calm down, often by merely taking a few deep breaths and then letting them out slowly. That relaxed me and calmed me and let me re-focus. It doesn't seem to work anymore... which adds to my stress and just makes things worse.

I am open to suggestions on how to relax and keep my head when all about me are losing theirs, so to speak.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Out Of Town Blues

I'm not out of town, I just have the blues because someone else is. A friend went to Chicago last week and he is the guy who runs our golf group on Wednesdays (and, to a great extent, on Fridays... which is supposed to be run by Pete). I not only gave him a ride to the airport (and will be picking him up on Tuesday), I volunteered to cover for him this past Wednesday (and help on Friday while Pete ran it... It is, officially, Pete's group on Friday). He accepted because, I think, no one else volunteered to fill in.

It was a disaster, of course, even though Joe (that's the friend) had computerized the system. I wasn't familiar enough with the system to do as good a job as I wished. I did the best I could but managed to cheat myself out of a second place award ($5) and never did get an accurate (or any) score for one player. Still, as I was leaving, I was told, "You did a good job. There's no way I want to do it!" by one of the regular players.

I know I need to get a correct score for the player I missed (and compensate him, if necessary) and emailed Joe that sentiment. Even though Joe strongly suggested I not do that, I probably will anyway. Otherwise, it will bother me for some time. That's the kind of schlub I am, I suppose.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas

I Tried to embed a jigsaw puzzle but it didn't work out so, click on words "jigsaw puzzle" and go to the site.
Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

We're Fragile, Aren't We?

My sister-in-law had to go to the hospital last week. It wasn't supposed to be serious, just installing a stent in her femoral artery. There was some blockage which led to a lot of pain and poor diagnoses on the part of her doctors. When they took her in for the surgery, the doctor realized the blockage was severe and extensive so he decided that he needed to do a bypass.

This meant a longer stay in the hospital and higher costs. And it also means she will need to undergo some period of rehab. Her insurance really isn't adequate for the job and has a big deductible. Had this happened next year, her insurance would have covered much more but life is full of unexpected problems...

Anyway, between that and my having to fill in for the guy who runs our golf group, I am running around like that proverbial headless chicken.

Monday, December 22, 2014

As Ye Sow...

It looks like those "leaders" calling for, or just condoning (touting "Freedom of Speech" and all), the killing of police officers got their wish the other day. Of course, they will all deny that was their intent and are now calling for non-violence and even respect for the police but it's a bit too little and too late now, isn't it?

I am not one who is overly symapathetic about officers killed in the line of duty (I think a policeman's life is no more important than the average citizen's) but these two officers were executed, not given the slightest chance to defend themselves, and that angers me.

The shooter, we are told, cited the killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York by the police as why he decided to kill some cops. Michael Brown, apparently, brought it on himself but there is much sympathy for Garner... he was, after all, only selling "Loosies" (single cigarettes).. I blame the state of New York and the city of New York for his death. Not because they support the police but because they taxed cigarettes so much a black market was created for those "Loosies." And they passed laws about who could sell cigarettes. Garner was just taking advantage of the market that the authorities created.

I don't smoke, I stopped that some 44 years ago but having been a smoker I understand the addiction. Apparently, neither the state of New York nor the city of New York have a clue.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Let's Start With Cuba

There are too many outrages to talk about so let's just take a couple to discuss...

First is the normalization of relations with Cuba. This is something that would have been political suicide to support only a few years ago. I would have supported dropping the embargo in 1963 but, once it had been in place for 5 years, there was no reason to lift it, I think. And that is probably the thinking of most Cubans today though there are still many who support it as a kind of punishment for the Castro regime. Castro used the embargo as an excuse for the nation's poverty when it was really the fault of Cuba's own government.

One side effect of the embargo was to create a powerful sugar industry in the U.S., much of it in Florida and which helped Florida economically. It also helped Lousiana and Hawaii, both of whom had sugar plantations.

The idea behind embargoes, like boycotts, is to hurt a nation's economy and foster resentment of their governments by their people. I do not think them effective because they are easily painted as attacks by outside meddlers... which is exactly what the Castros did with ours. At this point, lifting the embargo will only help Raul Castro maintain his regime and ease the burden on Venezuela (who was helping support Cuba) as oil prices' downward tumble were hurting that economy.

The embargo, at this point, was no longer effective... if it ever was.

The other main outrage has to do with rioting, protests over grand jury decisons, and freedom of speech for license plates in Texas. The protests in Ferguson quickly turned into riots and looting. I do not understand the looting; it only helps make a bad situation worse. It hurts the local economy of the area that was already poor. It has happened numerous times in numerous cities over the years. And it causes even more oppression rather than less. Maybe that is its real purpose: to increase the very conditions being protested in the hopes that it will lead to an uprising. This has happened many times in the past, even our own revolution was a result of protests that created more repression by the Crown in response.

Finally, the kerfuffle in Texas over what can or cannot be on a vanity license plate is silly. I think Texas has every right to restrict what can be on such license plates. After all, there is no right to have an automobile, just as there is no right to have a driver's license.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A Different Perspective

Last Wednesday, I posted a piece about an encounter I had with the Long Beach police. Today, I want to relate two encounters with the Long Beach police that were a bit different. I didn't have the encounters, I just witnessed them.

The first was just outside a restaurant in Long beach. I had been sitting in a booth with my then girlfriend who worked on the "Pike" in downtown Long Beach. There were four of us in the booth, just drinking coffee and chatting, when a couple of cops came in and walked up to a booth with a couple of guys in it. They asked one of them to come outside and talk with them. He did. As they approached the police car, they turned and seemed to confront the man they had invited to come outside. As I watched, they had the guy face the rear door of the car and "assume the position." After he leaned toward the car, placed his hands on the roof, and spread his feet apart they began asking him questions. I couldn't hear clearly through the restaurant window but they did not seem to be friendly questions. At one point, the guy turned his head toward the cops and one of them turned it back forcefully and pushed it into the window of the car. He did this hard enough that I saw a smear of blood appear on the window and heard the guy cry out. After that, they let him go and drove off. He came back in and sat in the booth he had left and blotted his face with a napkin. I learned a little later that he had recently been paroled after a burlary stint.

The second encounter involved a young man his roommates had asked us to check on. I was on Shore Patrol at the time, partnered with a guy who introduced himself as "Pineapple" (a beefy Hawaiian whose real name I don't recall). He was a good guy to have as a partner, tough and loyal. The guy that the roommates (a guy and his girlfriend) told us about was supposedly a deserter from the Army. We found him in a greasy spoon a few blocks away, went in, and sat down across from him at a table. Pineapple asked him for some ID and about his status. He said he was visiting the US on a visa from Germany and produced a German ID (driver's license, I think). We chatted for a little while (Pineapple did, I stayed silent). His story sounded fishy to me. And to Pineapple. But we had no real power to do anything so we asked him politely to come with us to the SP station so we could sort things out. To my surprise, he agreed.

As we were walking down the street toward the station, we ran across a Long Beach cop. He asked what was up and Pineapple told him the story... quietly. The cop offered his services and Pineapple said somthing like "He's all yours." The cop asked him a couple of questions I do not recall, they seemed innocuous. Then he asked for the guy's ID and, when he pulled out his wallet, the cop just grabbed it and started looking through it. He found a folded up letter which he read for a bit and then askede something like "How long have you been gone from your base?" The guy was flustered but admitted to being AWOL so we called for the wagon to pick him up. The Marine who worked with the Shore Patrol was not happy with our friend and gave him a lot of grief about bailing out on his unit.

The guy was polite and cooperative. Had he not been, we might not have suspected him of deserting.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Last week, I received an intriguing essay about stateless community. It's an interesting commentary... which I thought my readers might enjoy. I do not think a stateless society (one in which there is no government, if I understood it correctly) can work in the complex societies that have evolved... possibly because of the way they have evolved. The norm for governmental control, for the most part, was autocratic rule. That is, monarchies. Whether we called the ruller "king/queen", "tsar/tsarina", or "emporer/empress" is unimportant... we accepted and tolerated such rule, convinced that rule by the people (the "rabble", if you will) would result in chaos. The form is established early in our lives, we call it "family structure" and I believe it is natural to humans. I posted a comment there which reads:

Personally, I think the concept works well in small communities. In those communities, cooperation becomes essential to survival and prosperity. Self-rule is simple and easily mastered by all constituents (or those who have trouble doing so emigrate to an ordered society elsewhere). However, complex societies appear to need direction in the form of rules. I think we tried, under the Articles of Confederation, to follow the model of a stateless society and it failed. One of the major roadblocks is the desire of some to establish a hierarchy (usually one in which they occupy lofty positions). Bastiat's world was one in which the "norm" was rule by "divine right" and bloodline. Free-thinkers chasten under such states. Early democracies were possible in communities that were simple yet they still had limited freedom and non-universal participation, many still were ruled by those who had money and power; some easily embraced slavery as a part of these societies... suggesting that caste systems were encouraged. I think we are left to find a compromise between autocratic (the elite) and democratic (the members of the society) rule. I think there will always be a struggle between the elites (or those who believe themselves to be) and the rest of us. Like Gordon, I cannot lay out the problem (or possible solutions) in a single (or multiple) comment(s). I can only ask others to consider the possible unintended consequences. And, for that matter, consider the lessons of Ferguson, MO.

As you developed from infancy, the family was your window to society. There was a hierachy in which you played a small role without much impact. As you grew, you rebelled against this hierarchy (think teen years), I think, in order to prepare yourself to enter the greater society. But you have been indoctrinated from birth to accept hierarchial structure and would find anything different to be alien and, possibly, untenable. We search for structure in our lives (at least, I always did) and, so, often compromise our individual freedom for it.

The Founding Fathers tried to find a compromise between absolute democracy and autocratic rule. That this concept has been compromised and manipulated by those who would (and do) rule does not diminish the concept but shows that any system can be corrupted.

Friday, December 12, 2014

I Could Use a Little Global Warming

As I write this "WeatherBug" is reporting it is 46 degrees outside here in Paradise.

I came across a bit of wisdom yesterday... in the form of a column by John Stossel. He is one of the "deniers" of Climate Change. He makes a good case, though, and one which parallels my own (Which is: "Shouldn't we just try to adapt?") He offers that Global Warming (the old term for what is now called "Climate Change") is, on the whole, predominently beneficial. He cites a book by Alex Epstein, "The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels", which argues that we benefit from from this climate change; that it is not the disaster some claim.

I think there are flaws in his reasoning but I agree with him more than disagree. His primary argument seems to be based on the lower number of weather-related deaths:

In 2013, "Climate-related deaths were at a record low — in supposedly the worst climate in history — under 30,000," says Epstein. In 1931, bad weather killed 3 million people.

Sometimes we confuse correlation with causation. There are other factors which may be more important to those lower death rates. Consider the advances in techology which allow us to predict more accurately impending storms, for example, and improved building codes which make for better protection against severe weather. That being said, there are advantages to overall warming of the planet... such as enlarging arable land. We once built communities on the slopes of volcanoes because the land there was conducive to farming. We no longer think the benefits outweigh the risk. Our perspective has changed. But he is correct when he points out fossil fuels have helped us survive harsh winters.

Personally, I think we are wasting a lot of time and money trying to slow or "fix" climate change. I believe our efforts should be directed toward adapting to this change. One of the contradictions of those advocating climate change as disaster is that they usually also seem to hate the uber-rich, the "1%", yet one of the things they complain about is the rising seas. Who will be primarily affected by those rising seas? I don't know of a lot of poor people living along the coasts. And the rich can afford to move. They will adapt. Sure, low-lying areas will see some non-seasonal flooding with rising sea levels and some coastal cities will be impacted. But, on the whole, these will not impact the rest of us and it won't happen overnight. Port cities will change; new ones will replace old ones and commerce will continue. We are an adaptive species and we should not be afraid of change.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I Do Not Think

...sometimes. Well, all too often. And then I speak. Hard to do when one's foot is planted in one's mouth but I manage. And, all too often, when I write I also have a metaphorical foot in my metaphorical mouth.

But this is not about that, it's about an encounter with the police in a place called Long Beach in California shortly after I got out of the Navy. My motorcycle had blown a rod down near Newport beach not long before and I traded it in (after I got it repaired) for a Dodge van, circa 1965, from a dealership just across the road from where I had been working. It was a nice van but it had no radio and no heater.

The next evening, I had a visit from a friend and we went to visit some other friends who gave us wine and marijuana. Then we drove back to my place. Along the way, about a block from my place, we were pulled over by a pair of cops in a police car. Long Beach cops were not known for their courtesy at the time. The cop who came to my window seemed polite, though, as he suggested I get out of my van so he could show me why he pulled me over. It turned out that my license plate light was not working. I thanked him and told him I would get it fixed the next day but that I had just purchased the van and didn't know it was not working.

He had asked me for my license and the registration for the vehicle when he came up to my window and I had shown him my license and pointed to the right hand side of the windshield where the temporary registration had been taped. I guess he forgot that I had also told him at that time that I had just purchased the van (to explain why the registration was on the windshield) because he seemed inclined not to believe me.

As we stood at the rear of the van, he asked me when I had bought it and then asked me if I had been drinking.

I had a glass of wine at a friend's, I said.

Anything else? he asked

Not that I recall, said I.(or was dumb enough to admit)

The conversation went on for a bit and then he asked me what I had in my pockets. Thinking he was talking about my jacket pockets, I told him I had a pair of gloves. He asked me to hold my arms out to my side and then asked if he could check. I allowed that. He then asked where I lived and I reminded him that I had told him earlier that I lived on the next block. He checked my pockets and pulled my gloves from them. He then asked me what I had in the car. I told him there was nothing. He then asked what was in the glove compartment or under the seats. Again, I said "Nothing."

Apparently, he was unsatisfied with that answer because he asked it again and again in the next few minutes. I think he wanted me to invite him to search the van but I wasn't about to.

Meanwhile, his partner had induced my friend to get out of the van (which he did not need to do) and had also asked him for ID. Eventually, they let us go because our "stories" were the same and, after all, I did live just a block away (as my license said).

An incident without much meaning, to be sure. But I wondered... what if I had been black? Or Mexican? Or what if I had been less than polite and cooperative? But I hadn't been any of those things and I had thought carefully before I spoke each time.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

How Much?

Yesterday I spoke of personal debt. To add to that, consider these:

  • More than 160 million Americans have credit cards.
  • The average credit card holder has at least three cards.
  • On average, each household with a credit card carries more than $15,000 in credit card debt.
  • Total U.S. consumer debt is at $11.4 trillion. That includes mortgages, auto loans, credit cards and student loans.

    We're, collectively, not as bad as our government... but aren't we the government? Take a look at this.

    Monday, December 8, 2014

    Big Bad Debt

    I want to talk about credit card debt. Why? Well, I recently received a "Preferred Invitation" from Discover. Having had a Discover card since 1999, it has become my preferred credit card. It is accepted just about everywhere (except many golf courses around here), their security team is pretty much "Johnny on the spot", and there's that 1% rebate.

    But the "Preferred Invitation" turned out to be a personal loan offer. I do not have a need for a personal loan. In the blurb, there was much talk about "paying off debt." That is something I do not have either but it got me to thinking... apparently, I am odd in that I have not racked up a lot of credit card debt. I never have. I had no credit card at all until around 1978 when it became difficult to rent a car without one. On a visit to my parent's house in 1978, I found I could not simply leave my return trip ticket as collateral and had to call my mother to use her credit card for security. Upon my return home, I took advantage of one of those American Express offers to apply for their card. Why Amex? Because, at the time, you were expected to pay the entire debt accrued for that month. This, I thought, would force me to be judicious in my use of the card and induce me to pay off any charges each month. And it did.

    But this "Special Invitation" got me to wondering about others who, like my mother and sister at one time, paid only a portion of the accrued amount... sometimes only the minimum required... each month. I had an advantage: I started out paying off credit card charges each month, establishing that habit early. Most of my fellow Americans, it seems, did not and this has led to a lot of personal debt for the average citizen. I see a number of ads for equity loans and refinancing of mortgages (and even these reverse mortgages) which talk about paying personal debt down as a reason for such things.

    Is there really a need for these loans? Do you find that you carry a balance on one or more credit cards? Have you considered paying them off but don't know how? I would call that a "debt cycle" and it is something my mother got into. She once told me she didn't worry about her balance because every time she apprached her credit limit, the credit card people raised it. I think she was being facetious because I took over my parents' finances around 1998 and never saw any balances that were too large to handle.

    I urge people to pay the credit card in full each month, even if that means tightening your belt for a few months or more. You will be happier in the long run. And, when you retire, you will be extremely happy you did.

    Friday, December 5, 2014

    Seems A Simple Solution

    But maybe it isn't. At first glance, body cameras for the police makes perfect sense... then you think a little more and begin to wonder if the idea could be flawed.

    I came across a headline about the White House backing up the idea with some $75 million to purchase these cameras for some 50,000 officers around the country. I did the math and came up with $1500 per unit. That's a bit expensive. Of course, they would have to withstand a physical beating so maybe that isn't all that bad a price... and then there's the overhead involved in the administrative costs of running the program.

    Before you start to think no one else is concerned about the idea, read this excerpt from the story:

    One major hitch is that cameras are only as honest as their wearers. "Body cameras are more appropriate expenditures than tanks and sniper rifles, but they will only be helpful if the police don’t turn them off, don’t delete their records, don’t play to the cameras or use them selectively," Neil M. Richards, privacy expert and law professor at Washington University in St. Louis told the school’s news website.

    And that is only one "major hitch." I see someone from the ACLU (already concerned about privacy issues) to focus on the possible 5th Amendment issue of self-incrimination. Would the police have to start issuing the Miranda rule to everyone they talk to?

    Update (12-6-14): It turns out that the $75 million only covers 50% of the cost of the body cameras... which means they are $3000 per unit.

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014


    I hear a lot of calls for it. But I wonder about it. What is justice? I think it is different things to different people but, in general, when someone is demanding "justice" they really mean they want revenge.

    Justice in the old west was often a lynching. A mob would form, the criminal grabbed, and then dragged off to the nearest tree to be placed on a horse (or the back of a bukboard) with a noose of some sort around his neck. In the end, the criminal was hanged by the neck and died. "Justice" was done. No trial, no appeals, no legal niceties, just swift and sure revenge. It wasn't pretty and is no longer the punishment of preference. We like trials and the judicial process and what once meant a death sentence (murder, rape, cattle rustling, and horse stealing) no longer ends in any kind of a death sentence.

    I hear about demands for justice in the case of Michael Brown and I wonder what those are really calls for. I understand the anguish over the death of an unarmed young man but I do not see what the demands really mean. I think they are the results of frustration because the police officer was not indicted by the grand jury in that case. But isn't that justice? Sometimes, killers go free. Sometimes, criminals do not suffer any punishment for their crimes. Sometimes, because of mistakes by the police or prosecutors, criminals go free.

    In the case in question, the police officer has resigned. His career was over anyway and it is unlikely he would be hired by any other police department anywhere in the country. His life has been destroyed. Isn't that justice? Yes, he's still alive and Michael Brown is dead but the cop cannot work in his chosen field and may have to move to another state and hope he fades into obscurity to ever get a job anywhere. In addition, his family will suffer and they were surely innocent.

    And, what if he had been indicted and then acquitted (as Trayvon Martin's killer was), would those calling for justice have given up and accepted that result? I suspect not.

    So what is justice anyway? What do you call justice? Justice may be privided but we might not recognize or accept it. Justice will never bring the dead person back to life and will not likely heal the scars the victim suffers and we may never understand it.

    Monday, December 1, 2014

    First, I Should Apologize

    I tend to go off a little quickly. A week ago, I went into a tirade about my favorite crossword puzzle app. That's what I wish to apologize for. Most, maybe all, of the things that vexed me about the radical update appear to have been corrected. And, like Steven mentioned, I shouldn't get upset about a free app. The developer responded promptly to the numerous complaints and fixed the problems he created in the update.

    I am becoming used to the new look. I found the option (buried pretty deep but there) to use the native keyboard but have begun to appreciate the app's keyboard... it is an improvement over the old one. And I found an option which assures I won't move to the next word after I enter an incorrect letter at the end of a word (or in the middle without noticing). I don't do that often but I have done it a few times and it irritates me. I hate making mistakes. I make them often enough but that doesn't mean I can tolerate them. It's the perfectionist in me.

    In any event, the app is working well and properly and it's still free. So, if you have an Android tablet (or phone) I recommend it.

    Friday, November 28, 2014

    So Many Channels And Nothing Worth Watching

    And that is what I face today. Not TV but life in this country. So many issues to think about but no way I can keep up. The strife in Ferguson that is spreading throughout the country, pushes for a raise in the minimum wage and calls for $15 per hour for fast food workers, the lack of belief that life will be better for our children and grandchildren than it was for us and so much more.

    What can I write about these topics that hasn't already been said by others... and more eloquently? I am a hack, I know that. I have so very little talent for writing that it amazes me that I have not thrown in the towel long ago. It also amazes me that some people actually read what I write. I have an urge to pity those who read my posts. And, yet, I am grateful when I find out that they have.

    i can only repeat the words my mother often said: "Life ain't fair! get over it!"

    Thursday, November 27, 2014

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    An alternate version... Read this
    Meanwhile, I will be stuffing my face... enjoying my dinner.

    Wednesday, November 26, 2014

    Of Course It Makes No Sense

    Ferguson, Missouri erupted (predictably) in violence after the grand jury decided not to indict, on any count, the police officer who shot and killed the unarmed teenager. The destruction was localized, it appears, to the area where Mr. Brown was killed but it was also devastating. Once again, the "protesters" wreaked havoc on businesses and cars. In other words, they took their anger and frustration out on innocent people in mostly their own neighborhood. And did a little "shopping."

    Ever been in a riot? It is what happens when civilized behavior gives way to emotion. Businesses take the brunt of the anger of the mob as it is used by the greedy to take things they want. In the end, all the citizens pay. But the law-abiding citizens were likely cowering in their homes, afraid to challenge the thugs who saw opportunity. Prior to the grand jury announcement, I saw pictures of people holding signs that read "BLACK LIVES MATTER." And I am sure they do. But rather than be outraged by the wanton killing of black men, women, and children by other black men and women they became outraged at the death of one man... a 6'5", 240 pound, teenager... simply because it was a white police officer who killed him. Forget all the other senseless deaths of black men, women, and children... they no longer matter. What matters is this one young man who apparently cared little about the owner of a small mart where he shoved and bullied the manager over a packet of cigars that he couldn't be bothered to pay for.

    And now black people all over the country will wonder why they get little respect. It wasn't the vast majority of African-Americans who rioted and looted and burned, it was a very small minority. But that won't matter, the racists (white, black, and brown) will feel justified in their irrational feelings and life will not improve nor will civilization change.

    Monday, November 24, 2014

    Why Do They Do This?

    I am a crossword buff. I used to play them on my desktop then I discovered The "Shortyz" app for my android tablet. 6-7 puzzles each day to solve. Wonderful! I was in crossword heaven. It was one of the first apps I downloaded. But no longer. The latest update has ruined it. It was once a black background grid with the clues also using a black background. It was just fine. That's gone, replaced by a garish white background. And the keyboad, which once resembled the native keyboard (white letters on gray "keys"), now is also using that garish white background with no keys, just letters.

    Still, I gave it a shot. Instead of giving you a green vertical bar on the right edge for each puzzle name when completed it (you would get a partial orange bar in the same place for an uncompleted one), it now puts a checkmarked circle on the left ... but only after you exit it completely and re-open the app. In other words, feedback is delayed. After completing six of the seven puzzles today (Monday, November 24), I started to work the final puzzle (a "New York Times Classic" from May 7th, 1998) when I ran into a glitch. As I was filling in a three letter word for zero (obviously, "NIL") where I already had the "IL", the app jumped me to a word I had already filled out correctly and placed the "N" in that word. And I found yet another glitch when I tried to fill in another word where it just jumped to an unrelated space and put the letter I was entering into that.

    To sum it up, the update BROKE the app. I cannot even complain to the author of the app because I "do not have permission to comment." The website is if you wish to know and it appears that a guy named "Robert Cooper" is the author.

    Do not download this app. Do not encourage the author to do anything to further ruin what was once a great app. Encourage him to FIX IT!

    A Few Thoughts On Religion

    There are a number of people (a quite large number, I'm sure) who think an atheist cannot have anything of value to say about religion, that atheists want to impede it or tear it down. And, in part, I would agree... mostly that atheists are perceived as the enemy of religion. Some of us who profess to be atheist are enemies of religion. I will try to explain why I do not consider them atheist but "anti-theist" and what that means.

    An anti-theist wants to undermine theism (religion), he is as intolerant as any member of IS but without (so far) the beheadings and murders. He finds offense in the mere mention of a god, such as "In God we trust" or "One nation, under God." He will bring suit after suit (or just support them) to remove mention of a deity from public view. He is often found ridiculing those who believe. He is not well-liked outside of his circle of like-minded friends and seemingly revels in that dislike.

    I do not understand the mindset of such a person. He is not only un-persuasive, he is counter-productive. He does not realize that he is not only acknowledging religious belief but empowering it. Think about the concept of reverse psychology. Telling people not to do something often has the opposite effect, making them want to do it. Telling your teen-aged daughter not to continue dating that hoodlum, for example, often just makes him more attractive to her.

    I have observed that people rarely choose a religion of their of their own free will but tend to follow the religion of their parents. That is quite understandable. You will be more comfortable with the familiar than the unfamiliar. It is the primary way religions grow in size. Oh, children often go through rebellious periods but not all and that daughter I mentioned will eventually dump the creep you don't like (often in favor of another creep you don't like) for one you do like or learn to like. Likewise, people who stray from their parents' religion usually return to it.

    I think of my sister when I consider such things as religious preference. She wanted to become Catholic but never mentioned this to me until she was on her fourth marriage (one might say, "a bit late"). To understand why, I need to explain about my father and mother. My mother was raised Catholic, her family was Catholic, and when she and my father wanted to marry she dragged him off to see the priest to get permission to marry in the Church. My father refused to convert and refused to promise to raise any children as Catholic. The priest told my mother not to marry him and threatened excommunication if she did. My mother married him anyway and walked away from the Catholic Church. We (my family) think of it as a beautiful love story and I think it was behind my sister's Catholic desire. I am also fairly sure that it had an influence on my becoming atheist.

    My mother adopted my father's Protestant faith and remained religious throughout her life. My father was somewhat religious but, being cynical, was opposed to organized religion. I never saw him go to church. I was, however, sent to Sunday School each week. When I "graduated" from that, I realized only my mother, sister, and brother attended church while my father remained at home and stopped attending myself. I think I only attended church once (the Sunday after "graduating" from Sunday School) but it is quite possible that's a false memory.

    What I learned over the years was to respect other's religions. The neighborhoods I grew up in were religiously quite diverse, consisting of Catholic, Protestant (Methodist for the most part), and Jewish families. I absorbed some knowledge of these religions from my friends. Later, I tried to learn about other religions on my own. Being "outside" of religion allowed me a more objective perspective on the subject, I believe, and a more tolerant attitude toward religious belief.

    Friday, November 21, 2014

    In The News

    There is a lot of things in the news, some of it scary, some not so scary. A shooting at Florida State University was reported... I found this in the report from USA Today:

    "There has been a shooting in the library. Stay where you are," and instructing people to call 911 if they have been shot.

    Apparently, college students do not know who to call when shot so they had to be "instructed" in case they were thinking of calling Domino's and ordering pizza. I am not hopeful about America's future.

    In other news, a New Jersey school district was being sued by some athiest parents over the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, saying it discriminated against atheist children. Never mind that the courts have ruled that students can opt to not recite the Pledge and also can simply not say the "under God" part. To its credit, the school district is asking the court for dismissal of the suit.

    Those who follow this blog know I am atheist but people like this offend me. What possible harm can this pledge do to an atheist child? The parents exhibit no principles because they are identified only as "John" and "Jane" "Doe" in the suit. There are likely millions of people in this country who believe that the parents are causing harm to their children by indoctrinating them to follow atheism. I am atheist and I think that. Let the kid(s) decide on their own whether they want to believe in a supreme being or not. I think anyone who demands their children follow the beliefs of the parent (a) have no conviction in their beliefs, (b) have no respect for their children, and (c) do not practice any kind of tolerance.

    I "came out" as atheist when I was 12 years old, though I had been thinking that way for a few years before that. I was in a 7th grade English class when the teacher began asking the students about religion (it turned out that he minored in theology while in college) and asking them to raise their hand as he rattled off various religions. He noticed that I did not raise my hand at all and asked me what I was and I told him I was atheist. He handled that knowledge well enough but, for the rest of the school year, challenged me on it and thought of me as a "communist" (yes, he actually said that). We had some interesting conversations which I enjoyed but I am not sure he did.

    The other thing that has been in the news is the reduction in the price of gasoline. Locally, the price has been around $2.85 for regular. I am happy to see this but I am not celebrating it. After all, it will not last and I still remember when it was well under $1.00. I realize that nothing stays cheap and that prices always rise but it is downright silly to think gas will remain relatively cheap. It's a bit like thanking a mugger for not beating you as hard as when he began.

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    Keystone Pipline

    I have what appears to be a simple question. Apparently, it isn't all that simple.The Democrats, who have been against the Keystone Pipeline, are now pushing for a vote on it. The Republicans are happy to accomodate them. The president is against it and is threatening to veto any legislation which would permit it.

    It all seems to revolve around Senator Mary Landrieu and her fight to retain her seat in the Senate. If she somehow wins re-election in the run-off, will she retain her support for the pipeline? Will the rest of the Democrats also retain their support for it?

    The politics are obvious. I think it is all for show. If the Democrats pass the legislation and the president vetoes it then will that help Landrieu in her re-election? She could say "Well, I tried" and that might be enough for Louisiana voters. It would not be enough for me but I wouldn't be inclined to vote for her anyway.

    I believe the pipeline would be good for the country. You may not believe that is so. I would be interested in your opinions.

    The Senate failed to pass the pipeline legislation. It garnered 59 votes and needed 60.

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    Not So Mundane Thoughts

    I wish I had some! Instead, my thoughts are run-of-the-mill (ever wonder about that phrase?), routine, and mostly boring. Yet I still conjure them up... or perhaps they conjure me up: "cogito ergo sum" ("I think therefore I am") said Rene Descartes... and then I lay them out here to bore anyone who happens to drop by.

    What brought this self examination on? I was perusing the cartoon strips I have collected and came across this:

    I often muse on how we came up with certain things. Calvin wonders how we decided to drink milk and I wonder about things like how did people all over the world come up with the bow and arrow. Foods are easy, we likely saw animals eating things and tried them. They were either tasty or filling and so we continued to eat them. I am sure that the more adventurous food tasters died in the process or just got sick and so we learned to avoid those foods. Look at little kids, toddlers... they'll put just about anything in their mouths... I suspect that is how we determined what foods we can eat. There's a verse in an old Crosby, Stills, and Nash song that goes:

    Say can I have some of your purple berries?
    [Crosby:] Yes, I've been eating them
    For six or seven weeks now haven't got sick once
    [Stills:] Probably keep us both alive.

    It goes back to the, I think, primary instinct we have: the survival instinct. It may be the only real instinct humans have. I was once taught that the difference between humans and animals is that humans do not rely on instinct to function, that we are taught what we need to know and the so-called lower animals are born with the knowledge they need. I believe we have learned that this is not true. Animal young learn skills, often through "play" and so do humans. Then I was taught that only humans fashioned tools... until we discovered that many other animals also do it.

    What that taught me is that humans fool themselves into thinking of themselves as unique creatures. Which just means we have huge egos and maybe that is what makes us different

    Saturday, November 15, 2014


    Now, finally, the truth is coming out and from one of the architects of the plan! I felt that the administration was lying from the beginning. How? Simple.... You cannot add millions of people to health insurance and see the cost of that insurance go down. How do I know that? I live in a state that has mandatory auto insurance. The companies claim (and claimed while lobbying for the mandate) that it would reduce the cost for the average driver. It didn't. Then they claimed that it slowed the rate of increase. Which is almost impossible to prove or disprove. More covered drivers means more claims and more claims mean higher premiums.

    With health insurance, more people covered means more people in doctors' offices, longer waits ensue. Add in things like mandatory coverage for pre-existing conditions and you force premiums up. Then there were the obvious lies:

    You can keep your doctor.

    You can keep your health insurance.

    Both of which were untrue but the lies weren't acknowledged until well after the law was passed. Now we are learning about Jonathon Gruber, an MIT economist who provided the numbers used by the CBO to evaluate the costs of the plan. Numbers that we now are learning were fudged (at best) or outright phony (at worst) and that Gruber is happy about the deception because you, the average voter, are stupid and would not have allowed your representatives in DC to pass it if you knew the truth. Because, as I said, he thinks you're too dumb to know what is best for you.

    So... you've been lied to and manipulated but it's all been for your own good... Don't you feel better now?

    Friday, November 14, 2014

    Lost And Found In Thought

    Once again I am faced with the empty page and an empty mind. Only the empty page is new, the mind is often empty. But I plod on anyway. I got my hair cut yesterday. And the barber went "Hmmm..." at the start. I asked why and he told me I had a thinning patch just past my left ear that was not mirrored on the right side.A "gift", I suppose, from Mom. My father, like his father before him, had no thinning at all. My mother, on the other hand, had wispy fine hair that eventually barely concealed her scalp. And that was the legacy handed down to me... along with low blood pressure and acrophobia. I am convinced now that there is a genetic component to acrophobia. We already are aware of the genetic component for baldness.

    I often wonder just how much is passed through genes and whether we can learn to overcome these things. B. F. Skinner was a pioneer in the field of behaviorism. Wiki says this about him:

    He was a firm believer of the idea that human free will was actually an illusion and any human action was the result of the consequences of that same action. If the consequences were bad, there was a high chance that the action would not be repeated; however if the consequences were good, the actions that led to it would be reinforced. He called this the principle of reinforcement.

    Obviously, I disagree with him... to a point. I think we are born with a genetic based "filter" which defines how we process the the data we receive from our senses. This is what defines how we view those consequences Skinner talked about. You see, I think "good" and "bad" results are subjective things.

    I inherited my father's physical features (darkish skin, brown eyes, Patrician nose) and his stubborness. With the latter, I tend to ignore the "bad" results if the goal of the behavior is deemed (by me, of course) to be "good."

    Skinner, I think, was close to obsessed with the "nature vs nurture" controversy. I go with "nature" as the ruling factor whereas Skinner seemed to believe that "nurture" was more important. It is difficult to prove which is the controlling factor because few people are unaffected by their upbringing, which is mostly familial. Studies of twins separated at birth is helpful but it's important to note that these are limited situations.

    I suspect we will not learn which is the dominant influence in my lifetime and maybe never. I agree with Skinner on one thing: free will doesn't really exist.

    Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    Thanks To Veterans

    Yesterday was Veterans Day, a day originally called Armistice Day to celebrate the end of the First World War. On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour, the fighting ended. Since the First World War was called "The War to End All Wars" that was thought to be the last large scale war. It wasn't, of course, because it is human nature to fight, to conquer, to dominate others. And so wars continued. A number of scholars believe WWI and WWII were the same waywith a 21 year cessation of fighting between them. I tend to agree with them because the seeds of the Second World War were planted during the First.

    I am a veteran of the "bad" war, the Vietnam War. I volunteered. Not because I wanted to fight, I had no desire to fight or to be in harm's way at all. But when I went in it was starting to ramp up. Technically speaking, I suppose it was not truly a war because it was undeclared. Still, close to 50,000 americans died in that war that wasn't and it lasted 10 years. Many more Vietnamese died, both soldiers and civilians, during that period than Americans. All, it turns out, for nothing.

    Wars spark big advances in medical treatment and in technology but they are still bad things and the price paid for these advancements is too steep. Some wars seem necessary, some do not. But we seem to have one for each generation.

    When you meet a vet, thank him or her for serving.

    Monday, November 10, 2014

    Darn Computer!

    In the next few weeks I was planning to announce that I had reached 10,000 successful Freecell games. But that won't be happening. Last Thursday, I had won 9916 games out of 9917. But then I tried it again, to add to that total and found that the game had changed, it had been reset somehow and that record was wiped out. I do not know how, I am very careful not to hit the "reset" button. Could it be that it just arbitrarily reset because I was within a certain number of that 10,000th game? Perhaps I am just being paranoid.

    I don't know. But I do know it is behaving weirdly now. It also reset my options to the default, the animation is slower, there were tips being displayed, and the sound had been turned back on. I am baffled!

    On the other hand, my tablet has the following record:

    Games won               13311 (99.81%)
    Games Lost                                  25
    Shortest Winning Time            01:30
    Longest Winning Time             89:52
    Fewest Winning Moves                 81
    Most Winning Moves                 1219
    Wins Without Undo                    7055
    High Score                               16585
    Current Winning Streak                 75
    Longest Winning Streak            2543

    As You might guess, I am quite proud of these stats. Why? I have no freaking idea! I obviously spend too much time with that tablet.

    Friday, November 7, 2014

    And Life Goes On...

    The elections of 2014 are over... the struggle for the next election cycle begins. There is a lot of mumbling about how small the turnout was. The turnout, according to Al Jazeera was 33.3%. We just don't get as excited about mid-term elections as we do about the presidential ones. It's understandable. We think they are less important so we don't make as much effort to get involved. Yet they really are just as important because we are electing those that make the laws we all have to live under. Presidents do not. Presidents propose policies and are supposed to execute those laws. I think we tend to look at presidents as we once looked at kings and queens. We shouldn't, that isn't how our system of government is designed. Incidentally, see this story... also in Al Jazzera. 

    For the next couple of weeks, we will be hearing from the pundits about what the election meant and what they didn't.

    But the best thing about the elections being over? The huge reduction in political ads! Until the next election looms, that is.

    Wednesday, November 5, 2014

    Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

    I wonder... the other day I watched a bit of "The O'Reilly Factor." A lot of people watch that show. Likewise, a lot of people refuse to watch that show. These are people with a particular political point of view that differs from the political point of view that is found on Fox News Channel. It doesn't make sense to me that people would flat out refuse to watch a channel that they disagree with on a political level. You see, I watch a lot of channels which have a slant which I disagree with. I think I am not alone in that.

    Anyway, I watched that O'Reilly show because it promised a segment called "Watters' World" where Watters interviews mostly young people about the elections on Tuesday. I like these segments because they reveal a lot about average people. Some might think Watters edits the clips to show people in a bad light. He swears he doesn't do that, though he acknowledges that he doesn't leave out the most outrageous comments. In general, the people he interviewed were ignorant of many things: who controlled the Senate, for example, and who was running for office.

    I can believe Watters doesn't do ideological editing because I have known many people in my life who paid no attention to politics, local or national. And studies show a large portion of the electorate are, well, ignorant. Yet who we elect matters a great deal, especially according to the political parties involved. But what else would you expect of them?

    What really bothers me is the lack of some basic knowledge about our system of government. How many senators in the Senate? Who is the vice-president of the United States? Who is the governor of your own state? I remember a "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver" (it's on HBO) where the host opined that people had no idea who their state representative was. I have to admit that I have no idea who mine is. I know who my Congressional Representative is (Tom Rooney-R) but my state rep? No clue. And Oliver talked about how many laws they passed (well, more likely voted on... not necessarily passed) in the last year in comparison to Congress. A total of some 24,000 bills were at least considered by state legislatures. Most of these impact your life in one way or another. His point? Why get all bent out of shape about the federal government when it's unlikely you know what is happening in your state capital? It's a good point.

    Still, it's upsetting to me that so few people seem to know the history of this country, how it is supposed to work, and don't seem to want to know. Scary... especially when they are urged (exhorted, really) to vote. Each party hopes their base will turn out and vote blindly for party. Yet, these would likely be votes of ignorance. We have poor turnouts at the polls, especially for mid-term elections (most presidential elections see no more than a 70% turnout, mid-terms are much lower). I would rather most people stay home if they don't really have a clue about what is going on politically but I also know that isn't going to happen.

    By now, the results are in for Tuesday's elections. I have no idea how they turned out because I am writing this on Monday. I can only hope good decisions were made... but I am not holding my breath.

    Monday, November 3, 2014

    Remembering The Past

    "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." [Jorge Santayana]

    An important saying, full of truth and heavy in meaning. Yet I wonder if we really understand it. It's easy to remember past events but there are lessons in those events that are more important than the events themselves. A part of that past is the events that led up to the period one is emphasizing. It's not enough to remember the Holocaust but all of the things which led to it happening. The first World War, the treaty of Versailles, the Great Depression, the rise of Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party, The Nuremberg Laws, and Kristallnacht. All of these played a part in creating the Holocaust; each one leading to the next and permitting the next.

    So, in my opinion, without World War I there would have been no devastated Germany and, without a Great Depression there would have been no need for a Hitler and his party. Without them, there might not have been a Holocaust. But without widespread and deeply rooted anti-Semitism there also might not have been a Holocaust either. The lessons of history are not easy to grasp, they are murky and complex and often misunderstood.

    Could such a thing happen again today or in the near future? I would say... perhaps... You see, antisemitism is still pretty rampant. Some might say it happened to Africans caught up in the slave trade of the 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Like the Jews, they were seen as subhuman and fit only for labor, like beasts of burden. Their holocaust went on for centuries while the Jewish Holocaust lasted a decade (but anti-Semitism has been around for 2000 years). It is the culture of treating our fellow humans as lesser creatures, as unimportant, or as scapegoats that is at the heart of such atrocities.

    On Friday, I talked about some biases I have. I described medical practitioners as "arrogant" and "smug" and "superior." I labeled them. I denigrated them. And, even though I believe what I wrote about them, I respect them. I understand that this makes me seem hypocritical. I am, in many ways, very hypocritical. I am human, after all, and humans are easily capable to believing in one thing while acting in a way that belies those beliefs. We have, as humans, the ability to hold two or more contradictory thoughts wand believe them all to be TRUTH.

    I have asked readers a number of times to examine their own biases, to accept and understand them, because I believe that is the only way we can control them. I also believe that our biases were (and, perhaps, remain) a part of the primary instinct we all share: the instinct of survival.

    And I also think we occasionally fail to remember enough of the past, the events that lead to the horrible events we do not want to repeat, and that is why we often repeat them.

    Friday, October 31, 2014

    Feather Ruffling

    I am posting this in full expectation of rubbing some people the wrong way. Just try to keep in mind that whatever I write is simply my opinion, nothing more. I have no power to force others to comply and I have little or no influence over those in power.

    Let me start with the Ebola quarantine controversy: I am in favor of it. I do not believe the arguments against it. Especially the one that says it would discourage those medical workers who would want to volunteer to go to the Ebola ravaged countries to help control and contain it and to treat the victims of it. Dedicated people will ignore such things for a chance to help.*  My experience with doctors and nurses is this: they are arrogant and smug (nurses being much less so, however, but not free of those attributes). I find them to feel, in general, that they are superior to the rest of us and possibly immune to the afflictions the rest of us suffer. The nurse (Kaci Hitchkox) who is at the center of a quarantine controversy has been ordered by the state of Maine to quarantine herself. This is a mandatory quarantine and she is complaining that her civil rights are being violated. I agree, at this point, that Ebola is difficult to contract but there is much that the general public does not know and has not been told about the disease. For instance, how quickly does the onset of symtpoms lead to the contagion stage? We have not been told. We now know the doctor in NYC wandered about the city; visiting, bowling, and dining in the 11 hours prior to turning himself in at the hospital where he was immediately put in an isolation tent and treated by medical personnel in total protective gear. Yes, we should revere those medical personnel willing to travel to Africa to work with the victims but that does not mean we should ignore the dangers they might be bringing back to the States. And I don't think those medical personnel should feel free to ignore safeguards meant to protect others.

    The other gripe I have is the over-emphasis on police who are slain in the line of duty. While I respect those who basically put themselves at risk to protect us from criminals, I do not think their lives are more important than others. There are many reasons why people become officers of the law. One of them is ego, another is the desire to face danger (we call the latter type "adrenaline junkies"). But are these people more important than those they protect? I don't think so.

    But what about you, what do you think?

    *There are many reasons for this, I call one of them the "altruism ego-boost."

    Wednesday, October 29, 2014

    Unstrange Bedfollows

     I have often said the following:

    You only hear what you want to hear, you only see what you want to see, and you only believe what you want to believe.

    On occasion, that gets reinforced by studies. I recently read of one which supports this, though it was more concerned with the conflict than the amity. The division we see more than the cohesiveness we want to feel. Two sides of the same coin, if you ask me.

    It is the nature of humans to want to reduce strife in their personal lives. Stress is difficult to live with and studies show that also. The study shows:

    Research shows: More and more residential neighborhoods are politically homogenous.

    It appears we use political strife as a factor in choosing where we live. Like schools of brightly colored fish, we swim in the same political direction in many ways. But how do we do this? Create like-minded neighborhoods, that is. I think in much the same way we create racially homogenous ones. We do not simply fall in love with a house, we apparently seek out neighborhoods where we expect to live comfortably and peaceably with our neighbors. We do this in a number of ways: we seek the advice (or just heed it) when we begin to think about moving. We consider the demographics of potential neighborhoods and one of the factors seems to be a political like-mindedness.

    It's human nature to want to fit in. In spite of all the stories we heard as children that tried to teach us to accept our uniqueness and our rebellious teenage years where we dressed and behaved like our peers while professing our individualism, we really want to just "get along."

    Don't you agree?


    Monday, October 27, 2014

    Things Look Pretty Bleak

     It's hard to be optimistic these days... brazen killings in several places, rampages in schools, and Ebola.

    Canada suffered a "lone wolf" terror attack at their Parliament. It appeared to be a kind of "blitz" attack where the attacker gives no warning, just explodes on the scene. He was likely looking to make a big splash with targets highly unlikely to be able to fight back or give him much trouble. I think he didn't didn't expect the reaction by the Sergeant-at-arms. A similar event then happened in New York City when a wacko (also described as a "recently converted Muslim") attacked some cops with an ax. The attacker died after being shot by other police on the scene. Not religion related, two cops were killed in California by a (we've learned) man who had been deported twice.. Also not religion related was the shooting at a Seattle area high school. That one seems almost normal in that the shooter was distraught over losing his girlfriend to a rival who happened to be his cousin. Definitely a violent few days.

    Then we have the doctor who returned from west Africa after working with Ebola patients who came down with the disease a week or so after his return and during his voluntary quarentine. A quarentine that wasn't real because, from what I gathered, he engaged in pretty much what I would call a normal routine: visit friends, dine out, wander around the city. A number of things are apparent from this last incident: he ignored his potential for contamination (though he must have known about his colleague contracting this disease), pretty much ignored his quarentine, and endangered his friends and financee along with numerous unaware citizens. Kudos to those who took this seriously enough to impose mandatory quarentine for anyone returning from west Africa... though I think it only applies to those who worked with Ebola patients there.

    In a story about the first medical worker to be affected by the mandatory quarentine, we find this:

    In the very early stages of Ebola, patients may still test negative because the virus has not yet reached detectable levels in the blood. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it may take up to three days after the onset of symptoms for the virus to reach detectable levels in some patients, prompting repeat testing in some cases.

    This nurse is upset by the mandatory quarentine and feels she was/is being "treated as a criminal."

    Ms. Hickox, 33, was placed in quarantine under a new policy announced on Friday by the governors of New York and New Jersey. All people entering the United States through Newark Liberty and Kennedy Airports will now be quarantined for 21 days if they had direct contact with Ebola patients in Guinea, Liberia or Sierra Leone, even if they show no symptoms of infection. [from a NY Times story]

    Any thoughts on how she would have abided by a voluntary one?

    Meanwhile, we still have ISIL/ISIS causing trouble in Iraq and Syria and a mid-term election to deal with.

    Saturday, October 25, 2014

    Big Decisions

    On November 4th many of us will go to the polls and vote in the general election. There will be many choices to make and most of them will be critical to the future. Will we vote in the best interests of the country? Or will we vote for what is in our own perceived best interests?

    We have the opportunty to change the make-up of the Senate. Whether we will or not remains to be seen. We have been inundated with political advertising, most of it lies, and that will continue right up through election day. Why did I say most of that advertising will be lies? Because that is what politicians do. They lie about their records, they lie about their opponents' records, and they lie about what they intend to do once in ((or back in) office. And, yes, you could say "they all do it." So, how are we to make decisions in the voting booth? Who can we trust? I have no idea and I am not about to tell you how to vote or who to vote for. Please do not just vote along party lines if you do not want a single party system of government. If you like the direction this country is going then vote accordingly. Likewise, if you do not like the direction this country is taking, vote Republican. I think we need a Republican Congress with a Democratic president and vice versa.

    I can tell you that I will be voting today. I do this because I failed to vote in the primary here back in March. There was an accident on the only road that goes by my polling

    I accept that this was my own fault. I usually take advantage of early voting but failed to at the time. This time, I will not take that chance.

    I went to Google maps to find out exactly how to get to our new early voting location. It used to be at the County building downtown but no more. It still wasn't clear so I clicked on Directions. And found that Google has really made a mess of what was once an excellent map system. It sent me all over the place and I cannot just copy the directions as I used to do and print them out. Incredibly stupid on their part.So I turned to Mapquest and got something
     not great but more useful. I had a good idea how to get there before and this route is simpler and more rational.

    Friday, October 24, 2014

    More On Humanity

    The title is a pun, a play on words, but it has a lot to do with how I view the world. We aren't very bright... collectively, that is. A few of us are brilliant and we depend on these people to move civilization forward and to lead us.

    I got to thinking about this after writing "I Sometimes Think About Important Stuff" because, well, it could be considered both important and stuff. I wanted to expand a bit about the word I possibly coined, "homocentricity", and what I mean by it. It is placing humans at the center of existence, the top of the evolutionary scale, and at one time the center of the universe. Yes, we once thought the earth was the center of the solar system and, since we knew pretty much nothing about galaxies or the universe, the center of the universe. After all, God made this world for mankind, did he not?

    Well, we know now that we are but a tiny speck of rock and dirt and water in the humongous thing we call the universe. In fact, we have learned we are a tiny speck in our galaxy. We have yet to learn if we are unique in either our galaxy or in the universe. But we want to, don't we?

    Not everyone believes that our planet is unimportant. Some of us seem to believe that the planet is a mere 6000 years old and the bible's story of its beginning is absolute and true. All that stuff about it being 5 billion years old and once populated by dinosaurs is scientific trickery or error. There is even a private museum in San Diego dedicated to that "young Earth" concept. I don't give much credence to that young Earth belief but a goodly number do. I don't wish to ridicule those who believe such. I don't wish to ridicule anyone really but sometimes I do so inadvertently.

    I think that our religious heritage is behind that homocentricity I mentioned. That makes it hard to shake. I think science went along with it... adopted it, you might say... because of pressure from the religious hierarchy that wielded great power for most of civilization's existence. You want to avoid shouts of heresy? You want to avoid torture and forceful re-education? Incorporate the idea that we are unique and superior into science.

    When I was a young child being taught/programmed to be a good and useful citizen, a teacher once talked about the dinosaurs and why they went extinct... At the time, the working theory was that the planet's climate had changed (an Ice Age) and the dinosaurs couldn't adapt. That theory has changed to the "a large meteor did it" theory. But I went looking into the age of the dinosaur and learned that it lasted millions of years before they went extinct. Humans, by contrast, had only been around several hundred thousand years according to the understanding at the time. I decided that the teacher was full of hooey and, extrapolating, I figured all teachers were not really experts on anything except possibly the subject they were teaching. Thereby setting me on a pattern of assuming authority was usually wong or misinformed. This did nothing for me in terms of scholastic achievement and possibly hurt my chances for greatness.

    Wednesday, October 22, 2014

    What Is Time?

    If time were not a moving thing
    And I could make it stay
    This hour of love we share would always be

    There'd be no coming day
    To shine a morning light
    To make us realize our night is over

    ["It's Over" - Jimmie Rogers]

    If I could save time in a bottle
    The first thing that I'd like to do
    Is to save every day till eternity passes away
    Just to spend them with you

    ["Time In A Bottle" - Jim Croce]

    Time, to me, is a river down which we all float. Caught in the current, we are at the mercy of that river. I was young when I first began to think about time, about the age I first was told about our world (reality) being a three dimensional one. I decided, just about that time, that it wasn't, that it was a four dimensional one and time was that fourth dimension. Think about it: we have height, width, and depth but nothing exists unless it exists for some amount of time. That time might only be a nano-second (or even less) but time must pass for we mere humans to perceive it.

    We don't think much about it, though. Collectively, that is. I am sure physicists and many others do but not so much the average person. We are aware of time, of course, especially when we seem to be running out of it. When we are running late, for example, or as we grow old. And, occasionally, we contemplate the vagaries of time. You get into a traffic accident. If you had arrived at that point on the road, a few seconds later or a few seconds earlier, you might have not been involved except as a witness. A couple of miles an hour slower or faster might have saved you a lot of grief, or just spending a little less (or more) time getting into your car. Stretch those seconds into minutes and who knows?

    A fatalist might think it wouldn't matter, that circumstances would wait for your arrival or happen earlier depending on when you arrived at the scene. But I am no fatalist. I do not think our lives are predestined, I think we have some control (call it "free will" if you like) over what happens to us but we cannot predict the future so we may as will not have that control.

    I wonder, how many of you have contemplated that paradox of time travel: If you traveled back in time, say 100 years, and killed your grandfather before your father was born... would you cease to exist immediately? If so, then you could not have traveled back in time and killed your grandfather and, therefore, you would not exist. It came to me when I first heard that one that it would be silly to even contemplate killing one's grandfather at all. Maybe by accident but certainly not with intent. But any change you made in the past would eventually alter the future in some way. The further back in time, the greater the impact on the future.

    Monday, October 20, 2014

    Situational Awareness

     I was driving home from running a few errands and observing the driving habits of a few people as I did so. I'm nosy, ok? It occurred to me that much of the driving experience has been taken away by gadgets and automation.

    When I was younger and had received my first traffic citation (for running a stop sign... which I did not do), I ended up in something called Traffic School. I was told by the instructor (a Sheriff's Deputy) that the two worst inventions for cars were AC and the radio. The AC meant you could leave the windows closed (thereby cutting off outside noise) and the radio masked any noise that might have leaked in. I wonder what he would have thought of the gadgets available for modern cars?

    As young drivers, my peers and I hated automatic transmissions; called `em "slushboxes" and worse. I thought they took much of the "feel" out of driving a car. Now, of course, I love the darn things... you get lazy in your later years.

    But look at the array of options available these days, lane warnings, proximity alerts, and rear-view cameras. And, of course, we are moving toward driverless vehicles: just put in your destination and sit back. As I watched people pay no attention to the vehicles behind (and, sometimes, alongside) them, I wondered if the new gadgets would make things even worse. Perhaps not, perhaps they are needed because it is clear that drivers are not attentive.

    Saturday, October 18, 2014

    Government Sucks... Obviously

    A Saturday Special

    I was reading this last Thursday morning and a thought came to mind. Some morning thoughts don't last or make much sense even at the time but this one seemed to. One of the things Stossel wrote was:

    The Constitution's limits on government power helped create the most free and prosperous country on earth.

    I must take issue with that. It could have helped but I think we could (probably would) have turned out just as powerful and prosperous if we had become a dictatorship. I know, not orthodoxy. But what's the point of having a brain if one cannot think "outside the box", as they say? In the past few millennia there have been many great and prosperous countries. Greece, Egypt, Persia, Rome, Russia (under the tsars), France, England, India, and many more. None of them were as as free but they still managed to become great and prosperous nations that built huge empires.

    One thing that I think is important to remember as citizens is that government always tries to assume more power and that, I think, is what Stossel is really complaining about in this piece. That we have relatively greater freedom than most countries today, or pretty much any in the past, is not truly relevant to attaining greatness or prosperity. We were not all that powerful and prosperous until late in our history. We were pretty much ignored by the rest of the world. Understandably so, I think. We had to go through a period of expansion and consolidation of our own before we could expand beyond our own borders.

    The issue I think is important today is: How much of our individual freedom are we willing to cede in order to remain great and, possibly, prosperous?

    Friday, October 17, 2014

    I Sometimes Think About Important Stuff

    ... in addition to the silliness that crops up in my brain. You might recall that I once described humans as parasites. Well, I haven't changed my mind about that. I did, however, run into this which doesn't confirm (or deny) my premise but which concentrates on our collective, let's call it, homocentricity. By that, I mean we place ourselves at the top of the evolutionary scale.

    The author makes a compelling, and quite obvious, argument that the only reason to place us at the top is because we made the ladder in the first place. That is, we humans are the only ones who seemingly know or care about evolution. I called the author "Captain Obvious" for positing that. He is right that each species (extant or extinct) is pretty much unique in its approach to life and that this should tell us we are not unique among all fauna. We just think we are and we teach that to our children so that they, too, will believe it.

    But what about my positing that we are simply another parasitical species? I think we are. And I also think we aren't anymore intentional in doing harm to our host than any other parasites. Yet, we do cause harm. One of the harms we have done is cause the extinction of a number of species. Nature has us beat on that, however, having wiped out huge numbers of species in various ways, sometimes relatively quickly and sometimes over huge spans of time. But never mercifully. In fact, humans might be the only species to actually care about the extinction of any animals.

    Of course, that might just be because we seem to be the only animals to have a capacity to care about anything. Other animals might care about something beyond personal survival but how would we know?

    Wednesday, October 15, 2014

    Just Some Thoughts

    Let me start off by reminding you that I consider myself atheist. Many of you already know this about me. Many in my family (related by marriage or blood) do not know this about me. But let me straighten something out about my "brand" of atheism. I am not offended by religion and I do not fear it. I sometimes fear the intolerance of the religious fanatics... like the ISIS/ISIL wackos. I suspect that they and I would not get along well. I do not want "in God We Trust" taken off our currency nor do I have a problem with the Pledge of Allegiance (even though I learned it before the words "under God" were inserted into it). Well, other than having children mindlessly recite it, that is. Study that pledge, read the words, understand the promise inherent in it. It is an oath of fealty to a piece of cloth and the nation which it represents. It is, to me, indoctrination. Understand that I now, and have since I enlisted in the Navy in 1965, believe in that oath with all my heart. I also consider myself a conservative though I have, of late, wondered if libertarianism isn't more my style.

    I have a few friends who are self-professed liberals. I find them to be, in many instances, hypocrites. They complain about African-Americans, about Jews, about Mexicans (and other Hispanics), and do not hesitate to use derogatory terms and the associated stereotypes. I have known many liberals who behaved in the same manner when I was young and thought liberal thoughts while living in California. I dismissed the non-orthodoxy for many years until I felt I couldn't any longer. My first wife began calling me conservative and meant it as an insult. She was also one of those hypocrite-liberals, having used a number of stereotypes over the years we were married so I pretty much ignored it. I had learned, some time before, that insults only hurt if you let them.

    There are many things I do not understand. On the other hand, I also think I am pretty smart. This is not contradictory. I think it is pretty normal, in fact.

    One more thing: It seems like nude photos of celebrities have been hacked and these photos are being posted on public websites. The celebrities are understandably upset. However, who posted such photos in the first place? Who took them or had them taken? I won't go into the contradiction involved in flaunting one's beauty for profit and then being upset over having it revealed...

    So now you know more about me than perhaps you once knew. At least I hope so.