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, September 29, 2014

The Button-Down Mind Of Douglas*

Button up your overcoat
When the wind is free
Take good care of yourself
You belong to me

Have you ever considered that phrase? Button up??? Who does that? I don't, I button down. It's an old habit. When I button a shirt or a windbreaker (a jacket... even though it sounds like it's a description of a rude person) or an overcoat.. something I've never owned, I start at one button down from the top and button down. But that doesn't trip off the tongue like "button up" does.

Other inane phrases come to mind. "Room and board", for example. Wiki explains it thus:

"Board" refers to the table on which food is served. Historically, "in a modest house, the table, or 'board', might have been provided with stools for guests but just the one chair with arms, which was reserved for the household's head. The original 'chairman of the board' was literally so seated on a chair while everyone else was on a stool..."

Perhaps it was also just a board, a plank, along which stools were placed. I can picture that... food placed, buffet-style, on this board that might rest upon wooden barrels. At least, that is what comes to mind when I hear or see that phrase.

We "turn a blind eye toward" whatever we do not want to see or know about.

"In one ear and out the other" is another commonly used phrase that defies reality.

Also, "get on a plane." I don't know about you but I like to get in a plane... it would be very cold and windy to be on it.

"A penny for your thoughts." That has become something of an insult. A penny is useless these days except when calculating sales tax... something that has led to a small basket or other container for pennies near a cash register because who carries pennies around these days?

*A reference to "The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart"

Friday, September 26, 2014


You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

I don't know who "Mister In-Between" might be but I have always loved accents. I think I mentioned this before... It may have something to do with my having lived in several different regions of the country and been exposed to a number of accents. It may have something to do with living in a tourist mecca (south Florida) and, thus, being exposed to a number of accents. It may have something to do with my stint in the Navy and its exposing me to a number of accents.

One of my favorite memories is of a Japanese bar girl singing "You Don't Have To Say You love Me" (a Dusty Springfield hit of the time) whose words were:

You don't have to say you love me
Just be close at hand
You don't have to stay forever
I will understand

But these words came out as

"You no haffu say you ruv me juss be crose a han

You no haffu stay f'evah I rill unnastan"

I fell in love with her and overlooked her ability to drink me under the table and her ability to cuss like a lifer bos'n mate. I mean, who wouldn't?

Then there was the first class petty officer bos'n's mate ("Boats" to one and all) who would tell us our duties for the day at "quarters" and have the second class petty officer bos'n's mate interpret. You see, Boats was from the Lousiana and spoke a language no one quite understood (except the 2nd class guy). It was that lingering French influence that tainted his speech.

Nothing quite says sweet and pliant like the nice southern (or should I say "Suthun"?) drawl of a young lady from the south. The English accent says "calm and reserved", German accents say "precise and careful", and Russian ones say "We will bury you!"

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wondering About Nations And Such

I tend to mind-wander when reading articles, or books, or just about anything more than half a page long. This was a bit troublesome when I was in school and most of my learning was done by osmosis, or you could say, "sleep-learning."

So, last week, as I read an article about the Scottish vote of independence, I began to muse. Articles that make me think actually make me day-dream. This particular day-dream involved the history of how countries formed.

No country popped up like a mushroom overnight. Each evolved over many years and all took their tolls in blood and treasure to come about. I think they are still evolving. At the core of every country is an ethnic group or tribe. As I was discussing American history vis-a-vis the so-called "Native-American" (they weren't actually native to this land but simply earlier immigrants). We treated them badly, horribly, and cleverly pitted them one against the other. This was not a new strategy but a time-honored and successful one that had always worked well in the past.

A city-state forms, generally ethnically "pure" and pushes outward, aggressively bringing more land and people under its control. Eventually, if they were successful, building an empire made up of many ethnic groups and vast expanses of land. The Roman model is the classic one.

But all the empires follow a similar model. What always bothered me was revolutions in feudal times. The rebels always fought for "freedom" and that bugged me. I eventually came up with a rationalism: "relative freedom" or, if you will, the freedom to rally around a despot of the group's choosing. Because, in times past, all countries (and empires) were ruled by despots. Today they tend to be elected ones... but still...

Have we really advanced much in the last 3000 years?


Monday, September 22, 2014


We forget, I think, of the impact of policies. I should say that politicians forget that... or, sometimes (most times), do not consider the Unintended Consequences of the laws they pass. I am writing today about the impact on my life resulting from the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka "Obamacare."

It took some time but it finally trickled down to me. I recently learned that I must use what is being called a "private insurance exchange" to purchase my supplemental Medicare insurance. As you may know, Medicare covers some of the medical costs one can incur. But doctor visits and presciption medicine is not covered. We must purchase some kind of supplemental coverage to handle these.

Until I reached the vaunted age of 65, my health insurance coverage was provided through my employer. Even after I retired, they provided the coverage. Each year I would be given a few weeks to determine which insurance I wanted from a list the company provided. I would be required to pay some monthly amount to supplement what the company paid. Some years, there were only a few choices; other years, quite a few. And the amount I would pay would vary. After I retired and reached that magic age of Medicare eligibility, I had no choice whatsoever. The year I became eligible, I was automatically covered under the existing coverage company. And the following year, I had only one choice. I learned, however, that I could have purchased any Medicare supplemental insurance.

This has changed. I am now being forced to use this private exchange. I cannot, under penalty of losing Faye's coverage (she's not yet Medicare eligible), go outside the system.

Last year I paid, above and beyond my part B deduction from my SS, $50 per month for my supplemental coverage. The company reimburses me about 90-95% (I am not quite sure how much) of my part B costs. Next year, my cost per month looks to be about $65.

All because of a law that I did not want, desired by a president I did not vote for, and passed by a Senate who did not read it before it passed and did not consider amendments offered by the minority party.

Thanks, folks!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Emails, We Get Emails...

I received an email the other day. Lovely thing, really. Here, let me offer the body of it:

My name is Danielle, I found your post titled "Time for an Oil Change", and I really enjoyed your writing style - you conveyed the message perfectly.

The reason I am getting in touch is I am working for a client, Sierra Financial (their link)we feel that the information is a great fit with what we do.

We were wondering if you would be interested in linking to our website from inside this post? We know the request is a little unusual, but it would help us reach customers interested in this article, which suits us perfectly.

We're happy to pay you for your efforts in inserting the link - let us know a fair price!

Hear from you soon,
Danielle McAnn

Who could possibly turn that earnest plea down? Me, it turns out. I failed to see the connection a financial facilitator might have with a blog post on getting an oil change for a car. That's who she works for... a financial group in Australia.

They even offered to pay me to put a link in that particular post. Now why would anyone pay for a link in a 6 year old post? Makes me wonder about their business acumen. 

This is wasted space. For some reason I cannot clean it out from the bottom of my posts.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014


I love coffee, I love tea
I love the java jive and it loves me
Coffee and tea and the java and me
A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup!

As a former sailor, I learned to truly love coffee, black and strong. Before I enlisted, I drank it blond and sweet... that would be cream and two sugars, please. I bring this up because of Pearl posting a piece on coffee made by her friend Maryna. It was called "Seet. I Make You Coffee." and it struck a chord for me, as many of her posts do (a great talent, that Pearl).


I was reminded of how coffee affected my life. The waitress at the Mr. Donut on 19th Avenue and 163rd street who chewed coffee beans, the first time I had Cuban Coffee, how I changed from the "blond and sweet" to the "black and bitter" style.

I have always loved the smell of coffee. In my house, as a child, it was always instant coffee. The first time I recall tasting it, however, was at the golf course in Bethpage, NY. That set the "blond and sweet" type for me. I was maybe seven years old. It would be 13 more years before I switched to "black and bitter."

Let's go back to that Cuban Coffee... I had a friend in junior high named Ernesto. He and his family got out of Cuba before Castro took over. They had been coming up for years for Ernesto to attend school in America. Once Castro took over, they realized their life in Cuba was over. Ernie introduced me to Cuban Coffee when I was in high school. Cuban Coffee is served demitasse, in very small cups, and is about half cream and sugar. It is, as I recall it, pretty much the strongest coffee I have ever tasted. You needed the cream and sugar! The waitress at that Mr. Donut was Cuban and was used to the strongest coffee imaginable. She was not a pretty woman and, I suspect, did not have the freshest breath. And she made the coffee there quite strong on her shift. But I still loaded it up with cream and sugar.

It was in the Navy, that I switched from "blond and sweet" to "black and bitter." You see, the first thing you run out of at sea is fresh milk. There is no cream. Well, maybe in in the officer's mess (the wardroom) but not for the enlisted men. After being at sea, the fresh milk was replaced by powdered milk. And I hated that... probably from the days my mother gave us Starlac. Coffee, for a sailor, is mandatory. At sea, we stood at least three watches a day. Four hours long, they started at midnight, four AM, 8 AM, Noon, four PM, and eight PM. We stood 3 a day except when we were on "port and starboard" watches in a combat zone. At those times, we stood six hour watches and got very little sleep.

Without coffee, we were zombies. With coffee, we were somehat alert. For 3 and a half years, I went nowhere without a cup seemingly grafted to my hand. It did not matter how rough the seas, I could keep coffee from spilling out of that cup.

After my discharge, I had a cheap tin coffee pot (maybe it was aluminum) in which I would brew the strongest coffee I could stand. I never timed the brew, I could tell by the smell when it was ready.

It was many years later that I learned about caffeine addiction. I had been on the midnight to 8 AM shift for several years when I began to realize that the massive headaches I got on Saturday mornings were due to the lack of java. So I cut back to two cups (granted those cups are 12 ouncers) a day. The headaches on my days off disappeared and, surprisingly, I found I was still reasonably alert.

But I still love the smell of coffee brewing.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Some Thoughts On Life Elsewhere

I am not thinking of moving from Paradise (which is what I call my little haven, Sebring). I am musing about life elsewhere in the universe.

The arguments for extra-terrestrial life are reasonable:

1. It's a big universe. In fact, it's a huge galaxy in which Earth exists. It is unreasonable to assume that the only planet in either which could support life would be ours. Ergo, life is possible elsewhere.

2. The closer we examine our own planet the more we realize that life can handle harsh conditions. Therefore, life is tenacious and not limited to what science might consider benign environments.

Using these arguments, it's hard to definitively state that only Earth has evolved life forms. On the other hand...

The main argument about extra-terrestrial life has to do with the intelligent nature of such life, not merely its existence. In fact, I do not harbor the illusion that life exists only on this single planet in a vast and unfathomable ocean of possible solar systems and planets. What I might argue is that advanced intelligent life is only remotely possible.

When reading science fiction that deals, or describes, such intelligent life it tends to evoke images of complex and far advanced civilizations. One such book which I like is called "The Mote In God's Eye" in which first contact with an alien species is described. If you have not read this book, I strongly recommend it.

My main argument against extra-terrestrial life visiting our planet is simple:

Why would any intelligent and advanced civilization spend treasure and blood to travel many (perhaps hundreds or more) light years just to abduct a few humans with histories of mental illness and carve up a few livestock? Wouldn't they use probes, as we do, to first check a planet for life and test the environment? Why assume that these civilizations would evolve so differently than we have as to pretty much do things even more irrationally than our own?

Just musing here...

Friday, September 12, 2014

I Just Don't Get It

I watch the news, I read the news, and I am mystified. When I was a young lad but old enough to think that girls weren't "icky" (come to think of it, I never thought that), I wondered why girls seemed to like guys who treated them badly. I saw that a lot of the time. It wasn't an illusion. When I mistreated a girl in any way (and I never physically abused them), I would find myself without a girlfriend. Yet other guys (a few, not most, I admit) could treat them like dirt and they came back for more. It made no sense to me.

This is why the Ray Rice thing makes no sense to me. Yet, it does... because I have seen it happen many times. And she married the guy! After he knocked her out in that elevator. Granted, I have learned that she spit in his face just before he smacked her and that can cause someone to snap and just react violently. But that really isn't an excuse to knock her unconscious. Relationship dynamics are a mystery to me and a lot of others.

Of course, I grew up in a household where the only strife was between my siblings (mostly between me and my brother). My parents did not fight, did not argue in any way. If there were disagreements, I certainly never saw them. So I was totally unprepared for disagreements in my first marriage. And there were many. The first couple of years were quite turbulent. Eventually, I developed a strategy of passive-aggressiveness. An argument would start, heat up quickly and I would just say, "You're right" and then continue to do whatever it was that ticked her off. I merely used that "You're right" as an excuse not to continue bickering.

Toward the end, I just stopped caring what her reaction might be. I wanted a new (shall we say "expensive"?) camera, I just went out and bought one. When she would demand to know why I didn't talk it over with her first, I just said, "I already knew you wouldn't approve." I began to do as I pleased, regardless of what she would say. To be honest, I really did not care anymore.

I won't go into the reasons we eventually split up but it had little to do with my behavior at the end. I had decided that I could not keep the marriage together by myself and quit trying.

I still do not understand women... But, then, who does?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

1768 Posts And I'm Getting Bored

I have been running this blog since October of 2008. That's a long time for me. I ran an Electronic Bulletin Board board for about the same length of time but it is longer than the time I've spent in some of the places I've lived. Boredom has set in. I am becoming indifferent to this blog. It's inevitable, I suppose. We tire of things, don't we? And, being lazy, I tend to tire easily... especially if there is effort involved.

What to do... what to do... Maybe just limit the number of posts to 3 or 4 a week. They are getting more infrequent anyway and if I limit them then I can say "It's policy."

I am not as clever as some other bloggers and that bothers me. There's a story one of my fellow golfers tells that reminds us that "we aren't that good." It's the story of a pro golfer who gets angry about missing a putt and his father says "I don't know why you get so mad... you're not that good."

I get angry sometimes when playing golf because I muff a shot in some way. And I get angry when a post doesn't read as well as I thought it should. But, in reality, I am not that good.

So, in the future, I think it will be Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for this blog.


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Who's In Charge?

Lately, the president of the U.S. has been talking about ISIS/ISIL, the radical Islamist army that is wreaking havoc and murdering people in Iraq... and, it seems, in Syria.

The UN has condemned them and accused them of war crimes. I would say they do not care. They use videos of the brutal beheadings of journalists as "recruitment" tools. They have (and this is, to me, insane) a lot of European and Americans in this army of cutthroats. There is little we can actually do about them; we can bomb them, kill them using drones, support materially the forces willing to fight them but we will not wipe them out... no matter how much we might want to. They threaten to come to the U.S. and Europe and attack us.

The president talks about them like they can be "managed" and he talks about building coalitions in Europe and among the Arab nations. He seems to think this is the way to go. I think that is not what people anywhere in the world want to hear. They want to hear that the U.S. will not tolerate the existence of this army; that it will bring the force of the American might to bear on them and do its level best to irradicate them. You will note that I already said we cannot actually do that. And I stand by that. However, that does not mean we should not try, that we should not confront them. We must. It is incredibly stupid not to.

Work on those coalitions, build (or try to) those alliances that we know will be needed, but talk tough and pretend we are not the "paper tiger" we have become over the years. A leader's job is not to wilt under the lack of support by the people but to build that support, to be a leader.

Sadly, we do not have one today. We have a president who is unwilling to actually confront Putin over his land grabs in the Ukraine, who waffles about supporting those willing to fight ISIS/ISIL, who doesn't think our border to the south is all that important, who is seemingly willing to let Iran build nuclear weapons, and who seems more concerned about his golf game than the country he is sworn to protect.

Maybe someone should tell him that playing golf will probably not be permitted under their banner.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere...

"... nor any drop to drink." [from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge]

The poem's stanza is this:
Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

This came to mind as I read a piece about free markets, water, and government's affect on the economy from the Mises Daily. The piece opens with these words:  

"Scarcity is an important aspect of our lives as it affects us everyday, although many people may overlook it when they generally enjoy high standards of living."


Water is a subject which I, like most living things, see as important to me. I have often wondered why, for example, when they were designing and building the interstate highway system why they didn't consider adding an aquaduct system alongside it. This was, of course, an afterthought and one others have since rued the lack of. You see, nature doesn't do a very good job of water distribution. There is an abundance (actually, a glut) of water in some places and a paucity in others. An aquaduct system would have been quite useful in mitigating the vagaries inherent in Nature. The system could be used to move water from very wet places to the very dry. But we had no visionaries back then who could foresee the need for such a thing.

It's a pity. Thoughout human history we have been at the mercy of the whims of Nature. It's not like there weren't floods and droughts throughout our history... some of them we have even named... yet we had no one, apparently, who considered the the possibility of a need for a nationwide, interstate, aquaduct system. I find that odd because I began to contemplate such a thing in my teens... as I first learned of the interstate highway system. We do it on a local basis (and in some areas even on a multi-state basis): we build canals to move water where we want it (mostly for farm use) and we build reservoirs to hold it in storage for those times when drought threatens but look ahead? Plan for future water needs?

I could be wrong... perhaps someone did contemplate such a system but couldn't convince the "bean counters" of the time to allocate the money for it.

Truly a pity.

If the spacing in this post seems odd to you... rest assured that it looked odd to me also but I could find no way to fix it. I am still having problems with browsers and Blogger.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Phone Annoyances

Much has changed in the time I have been on this planet. Life is somewhat easier and somewhat harder. When I was a child, we had one phone, wired directly into the wall. Extensions were expensive, you paid for the installation, and a fee for monthly service. That's all changed now. Phones travel with us, cellphones, that is. We now pay large amounts of money for the convenience and scratchy, poor, service we once complained about. And we have become rude as a result of those cellphones. We must answer them, regardless of where we are or who we are with. At one time, we answered the phone because we had no idea who it was and it could be important. Now, it seems, we answer because we can. We know who is calling, thanks to Caller ID, but we still feel the need to answer. We could be in a restaurant, having a pleasant meal, when a call comes in. And, instead of being considerate of anyone at all (either other diners or those at our own table), we answer that phone.

Which brings me to my complaint... which has nothing to do with cellphones, but with my home phone... I have received some phone calls from what appears to be a robo-caller system. The call comes in, I answer, and it is "dead air." Dialing back the number just gets you sent to the caller's voice mail which (in this case) is full so you cannot leave a message telling them not to call your number. It belongs to a Bojangles restaurant in Bradenton, FL. I have never been there and do not know how they got my number but you can be sure I will never visit one in the future. I have found their website and written a comment complaining about the calls. I have lodged a complaint with the Do Not Call registry and will follow up with a complaint to the Florida Public Service Commission on Tuesday.

Telemarketers are fools, in my opinion, and those that hire such firms or engage in the practice are even more foolish.

9-4: Update: The number does not belong to the Bojangles chain (I am informed) but to someone else. I have a name and I have an address in Bradenton, Florida. I have no other number to reach this person so I would have to travel there (some 55-60 miles from here).