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, April 30, 2014

Bum Trip

Let me point out that I was opposed to this trip, though I am sure I did not tell Faye that. I am not that stupid.

Once again, I became ill in San Diego. That is, and I checked, I have gotten ill at that point each year since 2012. I have no known allergies, I lived in San Diego from 1971 to 1986 and have visited from time to time without incident (omitting the last three years). But it is too much of a coincidence to just ignore. A mystery to contemplate...

And then we returned. We left a day early since I felt very miserable and there was a storm that was about to hit. In hindsight, we (I, actually) should have toughed it out. It could have improved the trip. We were doing fine, expecting to get a place to stay on the far side of Tucson, perhaps in Benson. But 5 or 6 miles east of Lordsburg, we came to a halt in a double line of cars and trucks  in the windy (very windy) desert. Limited visibility, they said, Perhaps there was also an accident but that was never confirmed. After about a half hour sitting out there (I shut the engine off rather than waste gas), they turned us around from the next exit. Back to Lordsburg where we stayed at a Best Western and dined at a place called Kranberry's Family Restaurant. I won't praise it nor criticize it; I ate only a BLT... it's hard to make one extremely good or extremely bad. Besides, I was a captive of circumstance and that circumstance might have tainted any review.

From there, the journey went downhill. Traffic, trapped in an over-priced, ratty, motel in Odessa, TX for a night (and no internet), more traffic, bad drivers, driving into sunrise, total exhaustion, more bad drivers, but no ratty motel; a very comfy room with a good but slow (not unexpected) internet connection. And a good night's sleep.

You would think my mood would have improved after a good night's sleep. You'd be wrong. I awoke still cranky, surly, depressed. I blame genetics. But I should have gotten control over this facet of my personality by my age. In any event, the drivers around me didn't improve my mood but exacerbated the misery I already felt. It was going to be a long slog, 7 hours, mostly on Louisiana's terrible roads but fate tossed in a traffic jam soon after getting on I-10 from I-49 (which had its own set of issues, mostly my fault). This had us idle for ten minutes and then fighting traffic merges and confusion for another 20 left my mind twisted and drained... like a dishrag.

Two nights in Biloxi, followed by the final leg and we'll stick the proverbial fork in this turkey.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Little Different For A Saturday

Biden predicted that Obama would be "tested" by events in his first year (or maybe his first 6 months) in office. Apparently, Joe was a little off (that's a surprise) on the timeframe.

I looked at the news on Thursday and saw more than a few things:

That rancher Bundy in Nevada says he's no racist after suggesting blacks might have been better off under slavery. No racist I ever met thought he was one. But the issue he's fighting has little to nothing to do with his personal bigotry. It has to do with the federal government and its control of natural resources. And how it enforces that control. Maybe they should, maybe they shouldn't. We should all contemplate it and we should be careful not to get side-tracked by red herrings.

In the Ukraine problem, it seems Russia has blamed us (the US) for the unrest. Maybe they're right. After all, we took the position that taking over a large portion of Ukraine (the Crimea region) and threatening the rest was a "bad thing."

In the Sudan, we see the developing civil war igniting, complete with massacres, and the UN pretty pretty much useless.

The FDA is working on regulating E-cigs (battery powered nicotine delivery systems). That's probably a good thing but maybe they should follow state and local policies and not try to be the Big Dog.

Finally, there was something about the tsetse fly... which kills thousands of people and millions of cattle (and, I assume, other animals) every year. Much of this has been due to the banning of DDT way back when. We banned it due to Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" and much of the movement that sprung up behind it.  Another case of unexpected consequences.

A lot of tests, a lot.

Sometimes we move too fast, sometimes we move too slow.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

As Soon As I Turn My Back...

I Just realized how much of a vacation I have been on.  I have paid almost no attention to the news since we left home. I decided, today, to peruse it and see what is happening. And what do I find? Ignoring Joe Biden heading for Ukraine (does anyone really care what Biden does? Outside his immediate family, that is), I come across a story about some teen stowing away on a flight from San Jose to Hawaii

And surviving!

He managed, they say, to survive the lack of oxygen  at 38,000 feet and temperatures of 80 below zero (Fahrenheit, one assumes). He was unconscious much of the time, which authorities said was helpful to his survival, in the 5 hour and 15 minute flight. The story also said that out of 95 similar stowaway attempts, 75% resulted in death. Which is odd... since that comes out to 71.25. Who was that 3/4ths of a person? Maybe the writer of the story just rounded off... But I digress.

Teens (especially the males) are not noted for their rationality. One wonders how so many of us survive those years?

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Political Maneuvering

Looks like the Pipeline approval has been put off, once again. This time, it won't get an OK or a turndown until after the mid-term election is over. Never mind that the recovery that isn't one would get a huge boost, it isn't something Obama's base wants. And, therefore, it is unlikely to ever happen... much less that it would happen before the mid-terms.

Keystone XL Pipeline Review Postponed

Does anyone really believe this administration anymore? My bet is that the hardcore base likes them but no longer adores them. They've even ticked off their base. My worry was that we'd see a repeat of the Carter administration only much worse. The domestic economic policy has been pretty much lassez faire (if you will pardon my French) and seems designed to wait out the business community. Eventually the economy will recover on its own. It has to.  Otherwise, too many businesses would simply fail. Not that this would likely bother the current administration. They'd wring their hands... very gently... and blame it all on Big Corporation. Or the Banks, or the Wealthy 1%, or the Republicans. Or all of the above.

But waiting in the wings is a nasty round of inflation and that is going to hurt a lot of people.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Wanna Go Home!

It doesn't take long to figure out why Americans think of vacations in two week chunks. After two weeks, you miss your own bed, your house, your refrigerator, your TV even.

Mostly, I miss my recliner.  I was sitting in the hotel room the other night and kept reaching for the little handle that reclines it... there wasn't one but that didn't stop me for reaching for it... several times. But that isn't all. I miss the friendly and familiar comfort of home.

You know what I mean, don't you? That familiarity, that knowing where everything is feeling?

There were periods in my life where I didn't miss these things; times I lived out of a suitcase... times where practically everything I owned fit in a 3 foot by 3 foot by 14 inch deep "locker" or could be stuffed into a seabag. In a way, I miss those days. But then "home" was a ship and I was either on it or had to be back on it by midnight or 7 AM.

Now I own a home and miss it when I'm away for more than a week.

Life is change, I guess. But not too much change.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Where Do We Live?

 I was curious... Where do, by latitude, most people live? It appears that most people on the planet live in the northern hemisphere. I would expect that. But, according to anthropologists, we originated in Africa. East Africa. In an area around what is now Kenya. This would be in the northern hemisphere but it implies that the most prolific humans migrated north rather than south, but maybe not. Perhaps there was/is something about the northern hemisphere that increases birthrates. And/or was more conducive to long life.

I turned to the internet looking for maps of population and early human migration according to latitude. I couldn't find anything comprehensible... to me, that is.

It seems to me that humans seek out temperate zones. But these zones have some severe weather extremes (cold to warm) which are not as apparent in the sub-tropical zones... where many of the most ancient cultures originated.

The question is why?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Life, As We Know It, Goes On

We arrived in Las Vegas (without incident) and got checked in to the NYNY Hotel/Casino just in time for me to see the last hole played at this year's Masters Tournament. I missed the other 17 played by the leaders, who started the day tied. In simple terms, I missed whatever drama might have played out on the final day.

Instead, I spent that time wending my way along the highways of Arizona. Am I bitter? Possibly. On the other hand, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Bubba Watson would win. I felt so anyway. I would have liked to see Jordan Spieth win the vaunted Green Jacket (which, to me, just looks tacky) but it wasn't to be. Instead, Bubba took a three shot lead to the 18th tee... assured of victory.

Now, Faye wants to go to dinner... somewhere. Possibly a little Mexican restaurant we have visited every time we come here.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Small Victories of No Import

Kathleen Sebelius has resigned. Not when the ACA ("Obamacare") website debacle happened but six months later. Lois Lerner will be charged with contempt of Congress, also a bit late. Let's say that the House votes to charge her with contempt, what then? Why, it will be turned over to the Justice Department to follow up.

What should have happened is that the House appointed a Special Prosecutor way back when and had him or her run the investigation. But I suspect the House wanted the glory for themselves and so they shot themselves in their collective foot. The administration has played the "witch hunt" card successfully in the past months and few care anymore about the IRS targeting conservative groups for special consideration of their 501c status... back in 2011 and 2012... to make sure they could not interfere with Obama's re-election. He probably would have been re-elected anyway but you never know... these groups might have revved up the Republican base enough to change the outcome.

But that's politics.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

This Will Be Short

I have two questions, they came to me as I was zipping along I-20 in Texas...

1. Who buys a Lincoln pickup truck?

2. Who buys a Cadillac pickup truck?

I suspect the answer to each question would be the same.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

There Are Reasons... Really

I should explain why there was no post on Monday. I blame Faye. I should blame myself, though. After all, I set up her access to online slot machines. But, in my defense, I was only following orders. When Faye desires something, I try to fulfill that desire. She owns two cast iron skillets.

The trip on Sunday was pretty much routine. Annoying drivers clustering and also some riding in my blind spot for miles is just the usual. Many of them (but, unfortunately, not all of them) were out-of-staters on their way back to the recently thawed out northern climes. I expected it. That didn't make it any easier to tolerate, of course. I seethed throughout the trip. I just won't gripe about it here.

When evening came and we settled into a motel room (where I try not to think about what we've learned on the various cop shows) and set up the laptop, Faye grabbed control and never gave it up.

It's a bit like the "the dog ate my homework" excuse... Except it wasn't homework and Faye is not a dog (definitely not).

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Time For Another Conspiracy Theory

Yes, even though I usually trash conspiracy theories, I have developed one for that missing airliner. Let's forget that we got a real wake-up call to rouse us out of our complacency about how easily we can track planes. Let's forget that if we had upgraded our systems to not be able to have the transponders shut down;or installed a separate system to generate GPS locations and transmit them through satellite. I am sure it's more easily said than done but I suspect someone out there is working out the conflicts and determining the risk factor as I write.

OK, here's the plot:

The pilot (and, perhaps, the co-pilot) are compromised by some terror group and given a mission to steal an airliner; take it to Perth, Australia and slam it into a building. It's not really plausible because fanatics willing to go on suicide missions exhibit a lot of symptoms ahead of the mission start. But let's say it happened. Perhaps the passengers rebelled and forced a crash at sea.

Alternative theory:

The plan to hijack the plane and land it in some unknown country went off as planned. After watching the wall-to-wall coverage on TV, took the "black boxes", flew them down into the Indian Ocean and dropped them. And these guys are sitting around laughing at the news reports.

Don't knock them, they are more plausible than alien abduction or black holes.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

It's About Time I Said This...

By now, anyone reading this blog knows a tiny bit about my political beliefs. I say "a tiny bit" because we often think we know such things about people when we really do not. Instead, we insert our emotions into our perception of others and usually distort their beliefs to fit our perceptions. Who knows? We might be right in our assessment but it's equally true that we might be wrong.

One of the problems, of course, is that we are often wrong about our own political beliefs. Sounds hard to do, right? But it's true. Let me give you an example.

My brother was, for many years, more bigoted than I could believe. I do not think he has changed and, in fact, he hasn't. What he has done is hide his bigotry by aligning with those who vocally denounce such feelings. He still hates, or makes fun of, anyone who is not white, not straight, is handicapped, or is "different" in any way from him. The only thing he has done is "join the chorus." That is, he registers as, and usually votes, Democrat. It does not change who he is, it just gives him a "lamb suit" to wear.

He even acknowledges his old feelings without remorse of any kind. For instance, he voted for Obama while telling me he neither trusted, nor liked, black people (he did not use that phrase but a pejorative one) and, in fact, didn't even like Obama for that reason.

Throughout my life I have known people like my brother; worked along side of them in every job I ever had, met them in social contexts, dated a few, even married one once. Some were ashamed, in a way, of their personal prejudices, some felt justified in them but most hid them when they thought it necessary to do so.

Most people these days think conservatives want to undo civil rights, to oppress blacks, women, and minorities. I don't think any of it is true. I think conservatives want to restore something called personal responsibility and something called self reliance in this country.

When I was in my 20's, in the Navy, and in southern California, I began to dig into politics, to think about it. Most of my friends were liberal and a few were quite radical about it. The culture around me encouraged liberalism. But what I noticed was that most of these people were concerned about the government intruding in their lives. They wanted equal treatment for minorities and women. but they also wanted more freedom to do as they pleased without Big Brother looming over them. That's pretty alluring to a young man like I was at the time. Especially since I was in the military (which is like living alongside Big Brother). It sounded good, it sounded right. But that's not what it became. Government became more intrusive as the liberals began to take charge and we became less free to do as we pleased. In other words, liberalism brought more of what I thought liberals opposed.

This has always confused me... Ronald Reagan once said "I didn't leave the Democratic Party. The party left me"... I like to think I have remained the liberal I was in my twenties by being conservative. That is, I still believe in the freedom of the individual. And not the omnipotence of government.

I may be more libertarian than I thought.

Friday, April 4, 2014


"Yes," says the Love of my Life, She Who Must Be Obeyed, Faye. "It is that time again." Each year, during the best month of the year here in Paradise (when the Snowbirds leave and the weather is near perfect), Faye and I travel to  San Diego by way of Biloxi, Prescott Valley (Arizona), and Las Vegas. Faye says we must go and, so, we go.

The trips are not all that bad. I still like to drive for hours at a time and I like the everchanging scenery. I am not all that fond of staying at hotels but that's just because most of the stays are for one night (except Biloxi and Vegas) and it's trudge in with a bag or two and trudge out again in the morning. We have worked out a system, however... we pack one small suitcase with the overnight needs (underwear, toothpaste, razor, and other toiletries) and put a few things on hangers for those "one night stands." Not a lot to trudge with. Oh, Faye reminded me that there is one bag with my tablet and laptop which I never seem to complain about lugging...

We will be staying in Vegas for 4 nights: two at NYNY and two at Sam's Town. The latter is something new, we have not stayed there before but we like the casino and Willie and Jose's Mexican Restaurant. From there, it's about a 6 or 7 hour trip to San Diego where we will stay for about a week at my brother-in-law's (Faye's brother) house.

While there, I will get in a couple of rounds of golf, maybe three if I can get away with it. We will also take my brother-in-law and his wife out to dinner at a nice restaurant (of which San Diego boasts many) at least once, maybe twice, and just take it easy while having Mexican food five or six times during the stay (usually for lunch).

And then it's time to head back home. A week or so of travel depending on how long a stay in Biloxi on the way back... probably two nights there followed by a 10 hour drive home.

This is a "retiree vacation."


Thursday, April 3, 2014


As I was running about on Sunday, hunting for glue to repair my cheapo golf shoes (I have a spare pair to use in the meantime) on which the soles are separating, I began to muse about woman. Not women, woman... the word and what it means.

Being male, I have often heard the word "man" used in various ways: man up, be a man, and so on... but what about "woman?" You never hear "Be a woman!" or "woman up!" Growing up male I have often wondered what "being a man" means. It means different things depending on context, like many things I ponder, but what does "being a woman" mean? Do young girls know? Do women know?

I have thought, since my teens, that women improve with age; that women are somehow better than girls. Somewhere close to thirty, female humans blossom into their utmost form. As I passed thirty myself, I began to think that forty was the optimal age for women. And later it became 50-ish, maybe even 60. Perhaps women don't so much improve with age but that I broaden my horizons as I age.

To get back to golf shoes... Why do they fall apart so easily? They shouldn't, they aren't worn much, a few hours a couple of days (three, in my case) a week. Yet, they do not last. They invariably suffer separation of the sole (no, not soul, that's another issue altogether). You would think they'd last a lot longer than they do. Maybe I'll go back to wearing cross-trainers for golf.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Is Hydrogen the Way to Go?

I am interested in new ways to fuel cars and trucks and buses. I am interested because I was raised in a nation that believes in personal transportation. So I am often captivated by articles which tout the next big breakthrough in energy sources, including new ones... maybe especially new ones...

A power station in each home?

The story is about using the hydrogen derived through a kind of photosynthesis using an artificial leaf.  And the idea is to not fear hydrogen, to view it as very safe, even though we were once taught that it is very volatile. And we have that Hindenburg exploding back in 1937. Anyone who ever attended a Led Zeppelin concert watched that burn repeatedly in the background while the band played. We've seen that newsreel countless times.

The inventor of this artificial leaf says our fears are groundless, that hydrogen is not all that dangerous. And, in fact, claims the following about the Hindenburg disaster:

Hindenburg? That wasn’t the gas burning, Mr. Nocera said, plunging into this notorious dispute: “All the hydrogen was gone immediately. What you were watching was the shellac on the Hindenburg burn.”

Only the link provided with that quote doesn't support that contention. In fact, it disproves it:

"Their calculations indicate that, if fueled by the paint alone, the airship would have taken roughly 40 hours to burn completely, rather than the 34 seconds it took for it to be consumed. In the lab, they burned replica pieces of the Hindenburg‘s outer covering, which confirmed their theoretical calculations—and indicated that the paint alone could not have fueled the fire."

So what are we to believe? The scientists who say it's safe or the scientists who say it isn't? And that, my friends, is our predicament as consumers. After all, we are the ones who will ultimately choose the future path of personal transportation.

A number of years ago, Honda built a few prototypes of a hydrogen powered car, called an FCX Clarity, I believe. It found some volunteers willing to pay a rather high lease rate to test these cars for them. Each car was rumored to cost between $120,000 and $140,000 to produce... Of course, if they entered general production, that cost would fall rapidly but it still would be expensive.

When I was being impressed by the hybrid vehicles by Toyota last week, I was negatively impressed by the cost of them... to me, as a consumer. The one I test drove was over $40,000. I am not a rich man, I do not look at cars over $30,000 in any meaningful way. I have friends who do, however, and I would like to be able to afford one at some point in time.  But you cannot recoup the difference in cost between a conventional car and a hybrid in a few short (and, therefore, reasonable) years. You'd have to keep the car ten years or more. Maybe less, as gas prices continue to rise. But, if you mostly drive in the city, 10 years to break even would be about right. By "break even" I mean break even on the cost difference between conventional and hybrid models. I generally change cars after 5 years, myself...

I am not rich, as I pointed out, so these calculations are important to me. Still, I think hybrids are the reasonable future and the hydrogen fuel cell? Not Ready For Prime Time Just Yet.