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.

Monday, March 31, 2014


As we age, our memory becomes spotty. Especially short-term, it seems. I often find myself wondering what I had just planned to do. The other day, for instance, I clicked open my browser and then drew a blank as to why. And it's odd that I can remember that feeling and no longer know what I was about to do... And yet it came to me what it was that I intended to do but now I have forgotten that.

This is why this particular Pickles comic strip seemed so poignant.

Back during my not-yet-retired years, I had a supervisor in his fifties who would invariably forget what he had left the room to do. This happened so often that we began to suspect his mind was being "wiped" by passing through the metal framed doorway.

Because my mother suffered from Alzheimer's, I fear it. This makes me worry every time something slips my mind. And so, I fall back on this:

If you forget where you put the keys to your car, that's no big deal. But if you forget you own a car, you are in big trouble.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Politics of The Week

I was perusing Google News the other day and saw this:

Internal investigation clears New Jersey governor in 'Bridgegate'
The Globe and Mail     - ‎43 minutes ago‎   
An investigation commissioned by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie cleared the potential Republican presidential contender on Thursday of wrongdoing in the “Bridgegate” scandal and blamed senior staffers for orchestrating the massive traffic jam.
Christie's lawyer: Governor not involved in plot Martins Ferry Times Leader
Featured: 6 Conclusions From the Chris Christie Bridgegate  ReportNational Journal
Highly Cited: Official Said He Told Christie of Lane Closings, Bridge Scandal Report Says New York Times
In Depth:Internal report clears Christie in GWB lane closures; blames two former appointees

Why do I bring this up? Because there are people who think there is no liberal bias in the media (and I include Google as a part of the media). Look at the headlines (boldface). These are all about the exact same report. It's all in the presentation. Way too many people only read the headlines so headlines are important. Even those who read the stories under the headlines can be influenced by the tone and slant of the headlines.

For one of the stories referenced when I first looked at Google News that day, the headline read:

Christie is innocent, says Christie-ordered internal review

This was from the MSNBC website (which clearly labels itself "progressive") and it made much of the fact that Governor Christie hired the investigators, referring to them repeatedly as "Christie-hired lawyers."

Personally, being a cynic, I would expect an investigation ordered by a governor would always exonerate a governor. Just as I would any president-ordered investigation into actions by administration officials would exonerate them and the president. What rational person would think such investigations would actually uncover wrongdoing and name the person who ordered the investigation as implicit in any way?

The NY Times made much of the fact that one of the people on the Port Authority board (who resigned under pressure) alleged that he told Governor Christie in September about the lane closing ("lane alignment" is what he referred to) at a 9/11 memorial event. He, the official, also claimed to have mentioned the September conversation in December to Christie's Press Secretary. These are allegations, not facts. The report, understandably, does not lend much credence to them.

But the important thing about the report is that it has been published and it is in the hands of the media.  Where is the report from the Justice Department's investigation into this matter?  And how long will we wait to see it? I say we will never see it if it also exonerates the governor. If we do see it, it will be buried under other captivating headlines and stories... it will be just a quick few seconds on the major network news shows and buried on page 6 of the Washington Post and NY Times.

One more thing: Harry Reid essentially said the other day that people are stupid when it comes to the internet...

Harry Reid: People Are Not Educated On How To Use The Internet

You will want to turn your volume up when viewing the above 1 minute clip. Harry Reid is a Democrat, the Majority Leader in the Senate. Do you think you are stupid? If so... Apparently, you should vote Democrat.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Cars And Such...

Yesterday, Faye and I succumbed to an auto advertisement that came by mail... "snail" mail, that is... from our local Toyota dealer (owned by the same guy who owns the local GM dealership, the local Kia dealership, and the local Ford dealership and a few others in other towns nearby and as far away as Tampa... the guy's a car mogul) to look at Camrys and Avalons and, it turns out, Highlanders.

I have to admit, I was impressed by the hybrids. Toyota, of course, is the leader in hybrids and have a lot of experience with them. I just wish they were cheaper. You pay at least a $5000 premium for the hybrids. And they are getting better, with longer (8 years/100,000 miles with Toyota) warranties on the hybrid drivetrain alone. What was especially surprising (though it shouldn't have been) was the peppiness pulling out from a stop light. This is due to the superior low end torque of electric motors.

The ride, however, wasn't all that good. Of course, I am comparing the ride of Faye's Buick to these cars and that isn't fair. When I pulled out onto the street to go to the car dealer in Faye's Lucerne, I realized how stiff and noisy my little Ford Focus is. I had forgotten about that. Instead, I remembered the floating sensation Buicks have and luxuriated in it. And it made me look forward to our annual trip to San Diego.

But the vehicle I liked best was the Highlander Hybrid SUV, I just didn't like the price. The Highlander (we only drove the conventionally powered model) rode well, the seats were soft enough (Faye's major requirement) and absorbed quite a bit of the bumps, making the ride only slightly worse than the Buick and much nicer than my Focus.

When did cars get so expensive? My old rule of thumb was a new car price was equal to 1/3rd of your annual income and houses were 3 times that annual income but that's true no more, eh?

Important note: This was not an endorsement of Toyota or any other automobile!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

People Come and People Go

We lose people, friends and enemies, throughout our lives. We pay little attention to the enemies that disappear from our lives except to appreciate they are gone but friends? Friends we miss. And we often wonder what happened to them, where they are, how they are doing. I know I do. Friends are important to us; we seek them, we treasure them, we desire them.

I envy those that have had life-long friends, just as I envy those who live all their lives in one town or city. I envy them because I have not experienced that. I have no roots (and friends are a part of roots), having moved often in my life. As a child, because where my parents went I had to go also. And, as an adult, I moved around because I wanted to. Clearly voluntary.

Along the way, I shed friends as well as enemies. I do not often miss the enemies, of course, but I dearly miss the friends. I did not mean to shed the friends, I just lost touch with them over time. They were all important to me but I lost touch nevertheless.

A few are friends I made while in the Navy, but more were not. Jay Brown was one, we were close throughout our 4 years there but we eventually lost touch after we got out.

A good friend I had as a child was Paul. I no longer recall his last name. We met because we both took up the saxophone at the same time and took lessons together at school. He was more willing to practice than I and I eventually dropped it. I never spoke to, or saw, him again after I moved to Florida in 1956.

And then there were the girlfriends:

Opal Petry, Sue Tourney, Carol, Candy Clark, Linda Karom (who eventually married Carter Cherry, a good friend I had in Orlando), Linda Lawrence, Beverly Cooper, Darlene Tillman, a few whose first names I do not even recall, Terry in Albuquerque, and several more. And a number I never dated but wanted to... I miss them all and wonder if they found happiness.

Don't we all miss old friends we no longer have contact with?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Religious Bigotry Is Ubiquitous, It Seems

And is not restricted to the religious. I realize that, often, religious people think their own religion (or particular sect) is the "right" one and that all others are "false." It is inherent to the teachings of some religions. Not all, some do practice tolerance. It often seems to me that it is a more benign bigotry than a true tolerance but at least they try to be willing to accept others having different beliefs than their own.

Because I live in a world where religious differences have fueled human conflict in small and large (actual wars) ways, and because I have a curious nature, I am drawn to religious conflict. I try to be a "casual observer" of such things and not intrude. In fact, it bothers me when someone denounces some religious beliefs without considering they might offend when they do. Such a situation was brought to my attention by this article:

Unwilling to Allow His Wife a Divorce, He Marries Another

The title is misleading, it is not about the groom (directly), it is about the former wife of the groom. If I may sum up the story in the article:

A woman who is part of an Orthodox Jewish sect married a man (presumably of the same sect but it is not clear in the article that he is) some years ago. At some point, they separated and eventually got a divorce in California. However, under Orthodox Jewish belief, the husband must also grant what is called a "get" to his wife in order for her religion to see her as now single... essentially, she is still married to him under her religious beliefs.

This is similar to some Christian beliefs. For example, the Catholic Church does not recognize civil divorces and considers the couple still married "in the eyes of God." My sister struggled with this when, after four failed marriages, she decided she wanted to convert to Catholicism. 

And Faye's and my marriage is not legitimate, according to some of my wife's family members, because I am still "married" to my first wife (they do not recognize, on religious grounds, civil divorces).

My own mother, who was raised Catholic, left her religion to marry my father (Protestant) when the Church refused to recognize their pending marriage and threatened to excommunicate her if she married him. As far as the priest was concerned, I suppose,  she lived in sin for 61 years.

Religion is interesting, don't you agree?

Anyway, to get back to the article, I found the comments by readers to be interesting (I often do... because I am interested in how others think) in that many almost demanded she renounce her (archaic, to them) beliefs and remarry at some point regardless of the teachings of her sect. This is the religious bigotry the title speaks of.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tech Support Insanity

If you recall, some days ago I mentioned I was having some problems with the outfit that sends me comic strips. It's a subscription service. One pays for it. Not a whole lot of money involved here, just 99 cents per month (paid as an annual fee) but the point is that a promise of service should be honored regardless of the cost of that service.

Here is what is happening:
I should get some 36 strips emailed to me each day. Well, if they all are updated by the creators, that is. If the strip is not updated and submitted to the service the day before publication then I would not get that strip in my email. Online, however, I am told which strips failed in this manner. Example: "Bewley was not updated this day.  View last strip" which includes a link to that strip which displays the last strip they have by the creator.

Sometime in the past several weeks, it came to my attention (quite by accident) that one particular strip sent in the email did not match what displayed online for that particular day. So I began an informal audit comparing the online display with what I received in the email. After a short period, wherein I noted several anomalies, I submitted a complaint. What I received in return did not please me.

I have worked as tech support both formerly and informally. Therefore, I have certain expectations of how it should be done. In my stints as tech support, I was expected/instructed to treat the customer with respect and assume a problem existed. I was expected/instructed to verify the problem, if possible, through investigation and then attempt to resolve it to the customer's satisfaction or explain why it could not be resolved.

We had some leeway in how, or whether, we provided updates on our progress. We would offer updates, more often than not, and provide them in a more or less timely manner. We would always acknowledge the complaint and inform the client/customer that we had received it...

What I received from this comic strip service, however, stunned me. I would get an email acknowledging the complaint (routine and automated) and assigning it a number followed by a support tech's short blurb  in another email. All fine and dandy. But then I would get an email (apparently automated) stating:

 "Your request (#some number) has been deemed solved.
To review, comment and reopen the request, follow the link below:
http://[site name].com/requests/some number"

I was later informed that these replies were sent to the client/customer when a tech responded to a client/customer in any way. That is, the problem was not solved (or, as I would say "resolved") but the client/customer  was told that anyway through automation.

When I performed tech support, I always gave the client/customer my name (first name only) for further contact purposes. Not so with this version of tech support. The form and content of these particular and erroneous automated responses could (and, in my case, did) confuse the client/customer about the status of his/her complaint.

Fittingly, perhaps, one of the strips (the one that has not matched the online strip) is called "What The Duck." And there was also this:

Monday, March 24, 2014

Unnecessary Changes

They've fixed something else that wasn't broken! This time it's Disqus. It was fine, it did exactly what it was touted to do. So, did they rest on their laurels and continue to succeed? Of course not! That would be silly. They got busy and changed it. It is now unrecognizable, difficult to deal with, and terrible. Congratulations! You have taken a good product and turned it into trash.

I once used Disqus as this blog's commenting system. It had a few problems that some of my readers did not like; chief among them was having to register with Disqus to create an avatar. Others had other problems.  I lost a few readers (maybe a few commenters), I suspect due to these minor (in my opinion) problems and, therefore, changed back to Blogger's system. However, using Disqus now as a comment system would essentially destroy this blog so that will never happen.

I am coming to the conclusion that people do not want change. I think that is because change is all too often for the worse.

I recently wrote that I was considering changes to this blog. I officially cancel that consideration. There will be no noticeable changes made

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Do You Think Before You Vote?

It's a serious question, that title. It's going to be very important this year and one I want you readers to think about. Too often, I think, we vote robotically. That is, we lean so strongly toward one party or another that we do not examine the candidates in any meaningful way.

I think we want to but have been conditioned to react emotionally when it comes to politics. Maybe not conditioned, maybe we have always done this. I think back to the days of monarchies and royal families and so on. Did we examine closely those we followed as leaders? Or did we basically engage in popularity contests? We liked one family better than we liked another. And did we, at the time, think about what was best for our country (or region) or did we consider more superficial things... like looks or tradition to be important?

I ask because voting, while apparently not all that popular in this country, is important. A friend once urged me to vote for Obama rather than waste my vote on Romney. After all, he told me, why vote for someone who is likely to lose? Go with the winner.

That offended me. Not because he thought my choice was bad but because he thought a a vote for someone, even if he loses, was a waste. I was reminded of an exchange I had with a liberal-minded gentleman some years ago. We were talking about soldiers "dying in vain" and I stated that I thought "no soldier who dies in defense of his nation dies in vain." Of course, he brought up soldiers of Nazi Germany in WWII. I re-affirmed my belief and said "even them." That sounds silly, doesn't it?  After all, they lost that battle to protect Germany from the Allies. But, ask yourself, would Germany be the nation it is today if they had fought and won? They had to lose in order for Germany to get rid of Hitler and, eventually, become the nation it is today. Same with Japan. Sometimes, losing is better than winning. And, if the eventual result is a better nation, then did the soldiers really die in vain?

A vote is an opinion. To vote robotically is to not have an opinion but to defer it to another... to a party. If that party is one you agree with 100% then fine, go ahead and cast that ballot. But, if you do not agree with the party 100%, how will they know it if you vote in "lockstep" with the party's wishes?  You know the answer to that rhetorical question.

An added thought:

I am curious... what is your idea of a perfect society? Is it one that requires participation? Or is it one that leaves you alone to do as you please, short of breaking laws?

Or, put another way: Do you believe all things are legal until a law is written prohibiting them? Or do you believe that all things are illegal until the government says they aren't?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Marriage: A Tradition, An Institution, Needed?

You can relax, this is the end of the series
So, who did "invent" marriage? We have no idea, it seems to pre-date written history. We know, however, that it is mentioned in Hammurabi's Code and even before that (by some three hundred years at least) here in something called the "Code of Ur-Nammu". Suffice it to say that it's been around for a very long time. But how did it start? And, more importantly, I think... why did it come about?

Desmond Morris, in his book "The Naked Ape" talks of something called "pair bonding", a term that began in the 1940's psychological papers. It seems to be a natural habit of many animal species. Some pair bonds are short term and some are long term. Humans idealize the long term bonding... "Till death do us part." But I suspect we "invented" divorce soon after we came up with marriage.

I think it was women who came up with the concept of marriage. I think that because they have a greater stake in the idea of long term relationships. Young human males do not seek long term relationships... they have no need for them until they are old and feeble.

I am not mocking marriage. After all, I have been married twice (first in 1970 and second in 1986... four years after the formal ending of the first one) and marriage is good for me. It has induced a need for stability (financial and otherwise) in me that I have come to respect, even like.

But I still think it was a woman's concept to begin with. A good one because it helped stabilize the primitive societies which then grew into human civilization. It formalized relationships. It provided generational linkages. It provided a status for those within its framework. It also created conflict (which is part of why those law codes were developed... though not, of course, the only reason) as it smoothed over other conflicts.

In the beginning, I suspect, the strongest male in a clan would simply take those females he desired and dump them as he desired. This is fairly common in the rest of the animals (common, not absolute). This, of course, put females at great disadvantage. What to do about that? Marriage deals with it neatly.

I also believe that marriage is a religious construct. That is, when humans first formed into groups (clans, tribes, and eventually villages), religion was the first "government." It made the rules for primitive societies. I believe it "blessed" human pairings and gave them a status within the group. And a permanence.

Why are we primarily monogamous? It makes it easier to establish paternity; which is important to both sexes.

There is much more I could add but this is already too wordy and I am sure you are bored with my take on such things. I am sure you have your own ideas about these things I have been droning on about the past week.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

More On Gender Roles

There are some (ok... "many") who believe gender roles are artificial, that they are "assigned" by society. That is, that society dictates (through many methods) what constitutes the "correct" behavior for any given gender. But what if its the other way around?

What if gender roles evolved from the reality of life?

Consider... Why are men considered to be the "protectors" of others, especially of the weaker members of society? Because they were, I believe. They were, on average, stronger than other members of primitive clans. Women and children and the aged could not effectively defend themselves against the dangers of around them. Someone had to. That fell to the strong among them.  Women could be stronger than some men but not all men. And women are unreliable as protectors because they are targets of aggression and get pregnant (which makes them even weaker against aggressors) at any time (not simply during a "mating season").

Why do I say they are "targets of aggression?" Having the ability to produce children, they have a value to the group. That this ability has the side effect of providing pleasure enhances their value. Groups raided other groups to capture what? Strong men? No, women who could then produce children for the group which took them. A group of people is no different than an individual; it wants to survive, it wants to grow in some way, it wants to have more than it has.  The simplest knowledge is that there is strength in numbers. The more people in your group, the less likely you will be attacked and the more likely you will be successful in your hunts (more hunters mean more game). It takes strength to hunt as well as skill and cleverness... especially at a time of primitive weapons. Women, being weaker (on average) and less reliable over time, sought to be valuable for more than child production. They needed to have value to the group and, so, they developed skills which would be valuable to the group. Meat brought back to the group by the hunters needed preparation and supplementation so they developed skills involving skinning and (eventually) cooking as well as gathering plants, nuts, fruits, and other foodstuffs which could be added to the diet of the group. Gender roles developed out of necessity and general ability.

At some point (early in human development), the process which produced pregnancy became apparent and the reality of child-bearing created a need for nurturing. A child abandoned dies. Too many children abandoned ensures the group shrinks, becomes weaker, and the group fails to survive. Women produced children and seemed to establish a bond with them. This makes them the natural (look at any animal) ones to protect them. Once it was realized what caused pregnancy, a hierarchy developed. Men wanted pleasure and the group wanted to increase its strength. Two ways this could be accomplished: through raids on weaker groups to increase the number of child producers (hence women become "targets") or through growth within. To ensure growth from within, the child producers need to be protected... against theft by other tribes and against harm from predatory animals.

As groups grow, these roles become more and more specialized. As groups grow, structure becomes more defined in order to maintain efficiency. Efficiency means survival. Survival is paramount to any living organism and a group is just a larger, more complex (seemingly) organism. Clans become tribes, tribes become societies, societies become cities, and then nations, and still they wish to grow, to expand because that means more strength and more strength means improved chance of survival.

But who created marriage? And Why?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Not Saying Anyone is Wrong But...

I have questions which, perhaps, someone out there with education and knowledge can help me with.

One question has to do with the size and age of the universe. And it is simple, I think, though the answer might not be. 

Let me preface the question with some background information: Light travels at a speed of 186,282 miles per second (per Einstein and testing). Using that, one can determine distance from a light source. I accept this as True. Using that, one presumes the age of the universe can also be calculated and they claim it to be close to 14 Billion years old.

My question is: how big is the universe and how do we know that this is correct?

If it is ~14 billion light years to the point of origin (let's call this the Big Bang point) then it should be approximately 28 Billion light years from end to end (simple math... Radius * 2 = Diameter). But that is theoretical, isn't it... the distance across? And how are we measuring it? Is it the distance from Earth to the Point of Origin as radius and, if so, then that would presume that our planet is at the edge of the universe. Obviously, that can't be so. Or, at least, not logically. We exist in the Milky Way galaxy, on one of its "arms" and in a "sea" of other galaxies. We have designations for most of these and I have seen maps of the Milky Way galaxy showing (approximately, I am sure) the solar system's location in it. But, thinking logically (or at least trying to), I do not know where that is in the universe. How far is our galaxy from the outer edge of the universe? Do we even know? I would suspect that we can see light that originates in that direction and, presumably knowing the speed at which that point is moving away from us, we can determine the farthest perceptible objects in that direction from us. However, what if the edge of the universe is too far away for us to perceive the light from its outermost object?

No one seems to answer that question, no one seems to think it's important.

No one but me, apparently. 

Tomorrow: Back to gender musings.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

They Are Still Different

And, I suspect will remain so until the human race no longer exists... and then the "lower animals" (who do not contemplate any of this silliness) will continue on their gender-oriented way. As will insects... who will likely be the last creatures to exist on this planet.

I want to expand on what I wrote earlier. My mother had three children, I am the youngest. I had a brother and a sister, the latter now deceased. My mother described it this way: "I had three mistakes in my perfectly planned family." One might think that a cruel thing to say to an impressionable child, such as I was (and remain), but I thought it funny and still do.

My mother was a strong but flighty woman who raised us mostly as afterthoughts. My father, a distant and quiet man, seemed not to take a great deal of interest in us. My brother was my main tormentor throughout my childhood; a bully who seemingly existed just to make me miserable. It's one thing to face a bully at school on a regular basis, I think, and quite another to live in the same house with one.

But it was part of what made me who I am today; a mishmash of anxieties, conflicts, and insecurities. If I was rich, I could make a psychiatrist very wealthy. But probably wouldn't since I am too cynical to think such a professional could help me.

A question I have pondered for many years, beginning in my teens, is how I fit into the world. This question is one pondered by the great philosophers of history. I believe it is pondered by all great thinkers (thereby inflating my own ego) and not just those deemed philosophers.

Let me briefly explain my thinking on culture and gender:

Sometime, back in the days when humans were little more than foraging animals, we discovered that women got pregnant and had small (tiny, initially) humans. It amazes me that we put together enough facts to determine that a few moments of physical pleasure led to this phenomena but, apparently, we did.

Another thing humans observed was that they are made up of two different forms (genders); something that seemed essentially universal among all the animals around them. And, that these animals had different functions/behaviors that were inherent to their genders. To some extent, humans followed the same patterns but they also differed in some ways... as all other animals did. Lionesses, for example, were hunters, not scavengers or gatherers. In humans, the female was a gatherer (more in line with scavenging) and the male was the primary hunter. in tigers, there appears to be a more egalitarian approach but there are still behavioral differences that persist along gender lines. It is only natural that humans would establish gender roles.

These gender roles influenced the evolution of human civilization.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Vive la Différence

Another blogger (a very good one) brought something to my attention and so I stole the idea to create this particular rant.

It started with this:
The Way We Talk About Gender Can Make a Big Difference

I thought this kind of thinking had been quashed when studies found that male and female brains are actually "wired" differently. Obviously, I was mistaken. Some people, however learned, refuse to accept any possibility that they can be wrong in how they think about culture. I recall an old Time magazine article that brought out similar points about inherent gender differences back when American society was trying to create a genderless culture. Do you remember those days? As we began to integrate, gender-wise, fire departments, police departments, and the military?

The evidence suggests there are reasons why society developed gender stereotypes... these stereotypes aid in developing societies by a subtle kind of cultural assignment.

Recently, Sheryl Sandberg (she's the new CEO of Facebook) has launched a campaign which seems to be fizzling. At least, it should be fizzling. She wanted to "ban the word 'bossy'." It seems she thinks that word, used almost exclusively on girls with take charge attitudes (think "Lucy Van Pelt" of Peanuts) hampers girls on their way to adulthood, destroys their self-esteem, and impedes their ability to become leaders.

I think she's not only wrong, she's dangerously wrong. I believe that society adapted to the general behavior of males and females, not created them.

Two things reinforce this:

1. Sheryl Sandberg proved, by her own story, that being called "bossy" as a child just made her more determined to succeed... and drove her to success.

2. Men and women's brains are 'wired differently'

This is not to say that women should not head up corporations or that all women are inferior to all men. And it's not to say that stereotypes are always correct. It's just to say that people who want the world to denounce what made them what they are are quite conflicted, as I see it. I could go on (and will... in other posts) about how I view society and culture in terms of race, gender, and so on but I am trying to keep this short.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Could It Be a Super Villain's Work?

If you are unaware of the loss of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 (flight 370) that was last heard from about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur on a flight to Beijing, China then you must not have turned on a TV or listened to a radio news show for the last week. The transponder stopped pinging and the mystery began. Nothing but mixed signals and unconfirmed reports since. The Malaysian military claimed it picked it up on radar and tracked it. Yet, this was not confirmed by the Malaysian government.

The US is helping in the search and now we have reports that the engines on the plane have their own transponders which attempts to link up with a satellite if the engines are running. Allegedly, these signals went on for some 4-5 hours. Which means the plane was not down at sea, as was originally suspected.

Speculation abounds... Now the story involves the possibility that the plane was the victim of piracy, that it was taken and flown to some unknown location for some unknown purpose.

This reeks of the plots of numerous Hollywood movies. All it lacks is some meglomaniac with virtually unlimited funds with a secret army. Perhaps SMERSH is behind this and Putin is giggling maniacally in some dacha outside Moscow as he moves flags and toy soldiers around a huge map laid out on the floor.

Or maybe it's the Koch brothers and some evil scheme to take over the world.

I doubt any of that, it's the stuff of movies and spy novels by Ian Fleming. But I learned something... the Chinese have at least 9 satellites that can be used for surveillance. I learned that because it was reported that they sent 9 satellites to search for that missing airliner. You don't think they'd send all of their satellites, do you?

Meanwhile, the Russians have the Crimea in their hands, are threatening the rest of Ukraine and Putin seem bent on re-establishing the old Soviet Union and there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it beyond sanctions, the CIA is spying on the Senate (or has been) which now makes the Democrats angry though they couldn't be bothered by the NSA intercepting emails and phone call data, what happened in Benghazi on September 11th, 2012, the IRS targeting conservative groups, or the fiasco that was called "Fast and Furious."

It's a strange world in which we now live.

Friday, March 14, 2014

There'll Be Some Changes Made...

For there's a change in the weather
There's a change in the sea
So from now on there'll be a change in me
My walk will be diff'rent my talk and my name
Nothin' about me is goin' to be the same,
I'm goin' to change my way of livin' if that ain't enough,
Then I'll change the way that I strut my stuff,
'cause nobody wants you when you're old and gray
There'll be some change made.

(extra points for recognizing the song and, no, I won't be changing my name or the name of the blog)

I am contemplating some changes around here. After all, I have been posting since October 7, 2008. And I am getting bored. Oh, I've made a few cosmetic changes over the years and altered the daily posting a wee bit but, overall, the blog has retained its charming, yet tedious, boring make-up. I suspect that is my doing.... since I am the same boring, yet tedious, moron I have always been.

What the changes will be and how they are done, I have yet to determine.

Speaking of morons, I have been having some difficulty with the folks who send me the daily comic strips. Some are missing and some are out of sequence. I reported it. But they checked online (their website) and found no problem. The only way they could have seen no problem is looking online as me (which they did). Of course, that's the standard by which I realized that the emailed strips did not match the ones shown online. And that is what I reported.

I also found that I had several logins and various associated passwords for the site. I am a little afraid to ask them to delete any for fear of losing them all.

I expect this will continue for some time.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Invalid Listings And The Pointless Battle

When I first moved here, I got a phone number from Embarq, which is now owned by Century Telephone. I got the number because the last 4 digits were the month and day of Faye's birthday. Unfortunately, it turned out that the number had once belonged to a business, an automobile junkyard, called Maxon Wholesale Auto Parts. Now, having once worked for Ma Bell, I knew that there were regulations concerning minimum time limits for when a phone number could be re-assigned. I also thought a business number could not be re-assigned to a non-business line. Apparently, I was wrong about that or Embarq simply ignored such regulations.

In any event, soon after my line went live, I began getting calls for that business. Some of the callers thought I was trying to avoid something, accusing me of all sorts of things. Some were just average folks trying to find a part for an older car. Most claimed they either got the number from a local phone book (which would have been impossible unless the phone book was over a year old) or from an online listing or from a CD with "verified" active businesses. At some point, I started getting belligerent with callers who would not accept it when I told them that Maxon Wholesale Auto Parts was no longer in business and had been out of business for quite some time. Why be polite to someone who insisted on  speaking to "Clyde" (Clyde Maxon was the owner) like they talked to him all the time. I would ask, sometimes, when they last spoke to him and they would immediately become evasive.

I argued with people about where they got the listings, very few would acknowledge they bought a CD with business listings and the ones who did refused to tell me who they bought it from. I fought with TV stations who ran web sites that included business listing for the area, I even fought with AT&T to get the listing off and they have done so... but only after I subtly threatened legal action.

Eventually, the calls stopped because I changed phone numbers when I switched to Vonage for my land line phone service.

But I am a curious person and just recently Googled Maxon Wholesale Auto Parts just to see what I would get... I got tons of hits and they all had the address and phone number of the past. Since Maxon Wholesale Auto Parts  went out of business sometime in 2005, it seems rather odd that these people have not yet caught on.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

No Surprise

Is anyone seriously thinking, at this point, that life only exists on Earth?

Yet, I came across this yesterday. It seemed like this was being touted as "big news" when I have been thinking it's a foregone conclusion. Granted, Mars may be devoid of life today but that is no reason to believe it has always been barren of life.

It brought to mind a song by Creedence Clearwater:

Oh, it came out of the sky, landed just a little south of Moline.
Jody fell out of his tractor, couldn't believe what he seen.
Laid on the ground and shook, fearin' for his life.
Then he ran all the way to town screamin' "it came out of the sky."

But let me go back to the wider view, the one that encompasses the galaxy in which we live and, perhaps, the entire universe. The Milky Way Galaxy contains 100-400 billion stars. How many of these have planets orbiting them is unknown. And how many of them are stars which, assuming planets do orbit them, are capable of creating a "Goldilocks zone", providing an environment where life might get a successful toehold.

But I don't think, except through the sheer magnitude of possibility created by statistics, that intelligent (as we might define it) life exists elsewhere. We are pretty ego-centric here on Earth, we think we are the epitome of evolution. If I may digress...

On Monday night, on Bones, Dr. Jack Hodgins is enamored of Lamprey Eels and especially because they have not evolved for the past 360(?) million years. He seemed surprised by this and I thought that odd for a scientist. Why should they evolve beyond a point where success of the species is assured? Perhaps they evolved to a point where they have almost perfectly adapted to their environment. No need to change further.

Man does but man has no particular environment, he lives anywhere he can and expands his boundaries constantly.  In my thinking, man is both a part of nature and apart from it.

But let's get back to extra-terrestrial life... We may find something akin to intelligent (as we define it) life elsewhere in the galaxy. The sooner, the better, I believe. But I doubt it will happen in my lifetime. Which is too bad. Because I am beginning to doubt intelligent life exists on this planet.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pet Peeves

I have no idea why irritations are called "pet peeves." I think of pets and I think... warm, cuddly, friendly, happy. I think of peeves and none of those emotions come to mind. Is it like "jumbo shrimp?"

And, yet, I have some. One of them is so annoying that it crowds everything else from my mind. First, let me first tell you of the motto we should all live by: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" I would insert "don't even try to" somewhere in there. But it seems that the software industry ignores this on a regular basis. For instance, have you ever used Google Maps? Like it? Too bad... they are changing it. And they are proud of this change, apparently... even though a couple of features do not work in the "Lite" version which appears to be the only version currently available.

Fortunately, there's a way to go back to the Classic (yeah, they really are calling it that... did they forget the "New Coke" fiasco?) version and, so, I did return. Faye hated the new version so much she almost locked herself into Maps Galaxy.

I don't want 3D graphics, I don't want anything special. I just want to see places I am going to visit, get directions from time to time, and see how long it might take me to get someplace (and hint: I do not need to have the airfare or flight time shown... ever... maps and routes are for land travel). Anything beyond that is a waste of programming time and effort. And will make me start searching for a replacement site.

An important pet peeve involves my choice of TV shows to follow... I am losing another one... "Almost Human"... which has poor ratings in the 18-49 demographic and probably won't be picked up for another season. This is really a minor peeve, not a major one. I understand, can even accept, that my taste in entertainment may not be shared by the majority. After all, my favorite movies of all time were made before 1955. With one exception... Videodrome.

A major peeve would be cell phones in restaurants, or on golf courses, or in a driver's hand (even if it is in hands free mode). I pull over to chat but I feel (even see) the tunnel-vision a phone conversation creates. But a phone ringing in a restaurant and then the owner picking it up and talking? That's just plain rude!

Changing to Daylight Savings Time is also peeve-able. Now I have to figure out how to change the clock in my car... it's embedded in the display. My bad, I shouldn't complain about that one... I only have a few clocks to reset in the house... and the one in the car.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Sometimes, Things Just Jump Out at You

And won't leave your brain... This is one such story:

A Suspect With an Incriminating Tattoo Saves Face

It's a simple story, really. Police have a relatively minor crime to solve and they follow standard procedure. They get a description of the perpetrator from the victim and try to match that with known criminals. One of the things the police always ask is "Did the perpetrator have any distinguishing marks?"

In this case, the victim told them that he did... a tattoo of a lightning bolt on his face. Well, this eventually led them to a suspect (one Dylan Vok) who was identified by the victim of a robbery in a photo "line-up":

"so the authorities pulled Mr. Vok’s police photo, as well as ones of several other white men without tattoos, and they used Photoshop to paste Mr. Vok’s tattoo on all of their faces. They showed the array of photos to the victim, who picked Mr. Vok."

This is pretty standard procedure. The problem is, it turns out, that Mr. Vok was nowhere near the scene of the crime on Staten Island at the time the crime was committed. He was in Detroit. And, it turns out, Mr. Vok could prove that through records of his use of a food-stamp card.

Yes, Mr. Vok was being assisted in his daily life by the government. And this saved him a lot of trouble. In a sense, Mr. Vok's story  is uplifting...

"Mr. Vok found his way to Detroit as it was crumbling toward bankruptcy [in 2011, months before the robbery], and said he managed to buy a house for less than $2,000 at an auction. He found work gardening and, later, exploring new technologies in self-sustaining agriculture and permaculture."

I won't ask how Mr. Vok, obviously destitute, decided to head for Detroit, find and buy a $2000 house. It is just fortunate he did. Because it saved him from going to prison.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

This is from 2009

I wonder if any of them have seen this video.

And I am forced to wonder how people decide their votes...


Lois Lerner pleads the fifth again, doesn't testify on IRS targeting

" Lerner once again asserted her Fifth Amendment right not to testify, as she did last May when she was first called to testify. Before she first spoke at the hearing Wednesday, Issa warned that his committee would consider whether to hold her in contempt if she declined to testify."

Now, Ms Lerner has every right to plead the Fifth when called before a House Committee. And we, the average citizens of this country have every right to read whatever we wish into her refusal to testify. A court and a jury must not make any inference from that refusal but we are not a formal court and neither is Congress.

We are the Court of Public Opinion and, as such, we can form our opinions as we see fit.

Now, the media would like us to concentrate on the treatment of Representative Elijah Cummings (D- Md) who sought to disrupt proceedings and make an opening statement  after having declined to do so at the outset of the hearing.

Do not be fooled, do not be distracted...

Unless, of course, you believe an administration can, and should, intimidate its political enemies during a campaign (and beyond) by using the power of the IRS.

Lois Lerner refused to testify (again).
Lois Lerner refused to testify (again).
Lois Lerner refused to testify (again).

Friday, March 7, 2014

Who Are You To Judge?

I ran into this question many times over my life. So have you, I am sure.  It was a very popular question in the late 60's and its purpose seemed to be to shut down any argument. As I recall, it was used often and effectively. But the premise is flawed.

We humans make lots of judgments. We are taught to by our parents, by our teachers, by the policemen who were seemingly everywhere in my youth. We were to judge our own behavior, our motives, our thoughts about just about everything. It is the basic ingredient in what we call a conscience. Steal or not steal? Lie or not lie? Cheat on your girlfriend or boyfriend or be true? Live up to a promise or not? We always judge ourselves.

And, yet, we were also taught to "judge not, lest ye be judged."  A silliness (in my opinion) that is an important tenet of Christian religion. Because, after all is said and done, its adherents believe they will be judged. And isn't that the point?

After some contemplation, I came to understand that it meant one should not judge others. But that went against the lessons of my youth, too.  We were judged by the quality of our friends, the kids we hung around with. In my case... in my teens... they were hoodlums and troublemakers. And, so, I was deemed a trouble-making little hoodlum too. And then there was my brother; two years older than me, he preceded me through school, poisoning the teachers', the principal's, and the dean's view of me. The first time I ended up in the dean's office in junior high, he asked me if I was going to be as much trouble for him as my brother had been. There was, in his tone, the resigned belief that I would be.

I was judged in boot camp by the morons the company commander put in charge. I was judged by anyone and everyone. I have been judged by the girls I dated, by their parents, by bosses and potential bosses. I have become used to being judged.

In fact, isn't the title question a judgment itself?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A '10'? Really?

I am a male. This means that I am clueless. And stupid (or is that stoopid?). I might even be made of "slugs and snails and puppy-dogs' tails" if I believed that old nursery rhyme. Just ask any woman I have dated and no longer do. I was even called a "creep" once by a woman I ran into at a bar after not calling her for weeks after a date with her. I must admit she had me pegged pretty well when she "suggested" I had gone out with her because of the enormity of her chest. To be fair, we didn't leave her apartment that night so did I "go out" with her?

We males have standards too. They were sort of explained by the movie "10" with Bo Derek and some guy whose name now eludes me.... short guy, played a drunk rich guy once. The title of that movie implied a scale upon which men rate women. I will admit that, yes, we do that. In fact, one night in a bar called "Monk's" in Chicago back in 1977, a friend and I even made signs with numbers on them to rate the young women who walked by on the way to the restrooms. It did not make us popular for some reason. Go figure...

But, yes, we males rate women according to that scale. And we did it based on the superficial attribute of physical beauty. Virtually all movie actresses (with a few obvious exceptions) are Tens, for instance. But few women outside of the movies and advertisements rate that high.

I once dated a young woman who came close. I was obviously out of my league. You may have noticed that the only time a woman on the high end of that scale (8-10) is seen with average looking guy is in the movies or on TV. I suspect that women do not really follow that old saying about beauty being only skin deep. Or maybe like that adage that is as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor one, women are pragmatic.

I need to amend the first sentence of that last paragraph; I dated two young women who ranked close to Ten. The first (just prior to my enlisting in the Navy) broke my heart and the second failed to become a steady date but introduced me to one who did (who was maybe a 5 or 6).

The scale is very subjective and involves many personal likes and dislikes. It is also subject to the amount of alcohol one consumes. I went home with a Ten and woke up with a Three a few times while I was in the Navy. Ann-Margaret became Totie Fields in the cold light of morning. The hangovers just made it worse.

My ex-wife was an Eight, definitely, but she still ended up as my ex.

Faye? Well, Faye was a Seven, maybe an Eight, when we first met. But time marches on and her physical attributes are not what they once were. Still, I think of her as a Ten now.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

How's Your Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure runs in my family... but only on my father's side. It was the cause of the deaths of the males in their mid-sixties. My grandfather, his father, his father's father and so on all died around age 65. My father firmly believed he would succumb to this "curse" also. He didn't, his doctor found the spiking blood pressure in his fifties (it was fine before that) and treated it and he lived to be 84.

My father was a teetotaler... only drank a cocktail on two occasions a year: New Year's Eve and my parents' wedding anniversary. So I don't think this article applies to him. I no longer drink alcohol so it means little to me but my friends imbibe, some heavily. I know I did not flush when drinking so maybe he didn't either.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Celebrities and Awe

I am just a wee bit curious... have you ever met a celebrity? Were you in awe of the ones you met? Why?

I had a lot of trouble with my immediate supervisors when I worked because I was never impressed by the VIPs that came through the office. One day, while I was working at a surveillance center in northern Virginia, we got a visit from two regional vice presidents. One of them reminded me of a used car salesman... he was on the hustle the whole time he was there (he became CEO of Qwest and then ended up in prison, I think), the other was quieter and more interested in what we did at that office. He asked me what background would be optimal for people staffing the center. I told him 5-10 years in a functioning  long distance switch office. He was not happy with that answer. I found out why a few weeks later when they brought in some techs who had formerly been PBX installers who had been through an eight day class on the primary switching system we used.

A few weeks later, Robert Allen (the CEO of AT&T at the time) "dropped by" for an unannounced visit. People all around me panicked and ran around cleaning up the area. I was puzzled.  This would happen in just about every office when a VIP was supposed to drop in. I opposed it. I figured they ought to see the actual conditions in which we worked.

I have never been impressed by celebrity. Admirals, Captains, and Generals never impressed me when I was in the Navy, either. Don't get me wrong, I treated them all with the respect due their rank but worry what they thought of me? Never. A boss, a CEO, is just another employee. An admiral is just another officer, another sailor, possibly one who couldn't fill in for the lowliest seaman in an emergency.

On the other hand, I have never met a movie star or other celebrity. I wonder how I would handle a meeting with the President?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Bits And Pieces and Trivia

We are a strange lot here but this is new to the county in which I live. I love it here but I am beginning to wonder about the crime rate. The newest incident just staggered me. It turns out that horse hair is actually valuable.

And now for something completely different (and the beginning of a monthly report): the most popular posts of the last month (as of 3-1-2014)...

1. The System - 74 hits
2. The Idiocy That is Facebook - 67 hits (this post was actually beaten out by "Post Popularity", the forerunner of this Post Report by 2 hits)   
3. At Sea With The Navy - 61 hits
4. Breakthrough! - 58 hits
5. Just How Much is a Smidgen Anyway? - 57 hits

Saturday, March 1, 2014


Hagel announces a trimming of US military forces.
Russia invades Ukraine. We are in no position to do anything, not even to bluff.

Nothing more needs to be said... or written.

I am proud to say I did not vote for this president.

It's too bad many of you cannot say the same.