I am not a major eco-freak, or strong environmentalist but I do appreciate the efforts by those that are to clean up the planet a bit. I have always felt that our trash piles, our garbage dumps, would someday be a source of energy. In some places, and some ways, they already are providing energy. There are, for example, waste burning facilities which generate electricity. Not exactly as I envisioned but a pretty good idea. I pictured the dumps as sources of methane which would then be burnt to run turbines to generate electricity. Some, however, want to tackle both the problems of land usage and reduce the waste. So, here comes Akinori Ito, CEO of Blest Corporation in Japan.
The following is in Japanese but just turn down the sound and read the subtitles. Unless you are fluent in Japanese, of course.
At about 20 to 30 cents of electricity used to produce a liter of oil, I am not sure how efficient it is but perhaps that can be improved. I especially like his idea of a machine in every home except I have to wonder about where the homes would store the oil produced until they had enough to use. The practicality is slightly suspect to this skeptic's mind but I do see potential.
More information about the machine can be found here:
...And I find an article about the Universe's shape[Link]. That's not exactly true... I linked to it from a page about Dark Energy. As it happens, the most interesting places to go are often found tangentially.
The important thing is this: the universe is flat.
I can't begin to tell you how depressed that made me. I mean it destroyed my entire theory about the Big Bang being a small, but malicious, child of some uber-universe setting off a firecracker. On the other hand, the Dark Energy theory provides me another possibility. I prefer my Dark Matter Theory that says the Big Bang was really the Big Suck.
That theory can be analogized by picturing a frog in a Bell Jar and sucking all the air out. The frog does not actually explode, the air inside his body is sucked out at a very rapid rate. Or maybe the liquids in his body try to expand to fill the void, Either way, it's a bit messy.
Dark Energy repels. That would be unlike gravity which attracts. Except that opposites attract, do they not? Wouldn't matter therefore be attracted to Dark Matter? And, if all there was before the alleged Big Bang was Dark Matter then the attraction would have pulled matter from the universe's point of origin.
So maybe this universe is simply sucking all the matter out of another universe, Yeah, that sounds better than the child and his firecracker. Still, I have to figure out this "flat" thing. Why wouldn't the universe be more like a sphere?
Back in 2000, I was living in the land of the Hanging Chad. Even before the insanity that began to unfold on election day in that year, I could see chaos coming. Not clearly, of course, only oracles do that, it seems. But I had a sense of foreboding. It seemed to me that both sides were ratcheting up the rhetoric way beyond what I had seen in the past.
During the Clinton years, I had occasion to run into a foaming at the mouth, hard core, redneck anti-Clintonite. He had a propaganda tape about Clinton that made my jaw drop. I would have been just as rabid as he if I had believed even half of what was on that tape. Instead, I was puzzled why anyone would believe this stuff.
I listened to talk radio, both conservative and liberal. Both sides were being extreme, it seemed to me. They were treating the upcoming election as if it was a choice between the Messiah and the Anti-Christ. It was like we were preparing to elect a dictator for life. It was, in my mind, widespread insanity in the making.
And, I think, I was right. It did become widespread insanity. To this day, people feel that the election was stolen. If it was, it was done so cleverly that it has escaped detection for a decade. Not that I don't think elections can be stolen, they can. And have been. But national ones? I don't think so. There are way too many variables, too much complexity, too many places things can go wrong, for any scheme to succeed. It would have required too many people and all of these people would have had to keep their mouths shut for too many years.
Its like all conspiracy theories. It all comes down to a sort of faith. A belief that complex schemes of a grand scale can remain hidden for many, many years. I point to the Watergate scandal of the Nixon era. It wasn't even a year before it unraveled. Within 2 years, Nixon resigned in disgrace. He didn't have advance knowledge of the Watergate break-in, he just tried to cover up the links to the White House. That failed almost immediately. And at the highest levels. John Dean, in particular, exposed the cover up for what it was.
The problem with a conspiracy is exemplified by the old saying "Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead." The more players in a conspiracy, the less likely it will succeed and the less likely a successful one will not be exposed.
So, for all those that believe that WTC attacks had been committed with the knowledge of the government, or were committed by the government, or were made worse by the government, I think you're nuts. This would include my otherwise intelligent brother. Too many people would have to have been involved, too many people would have had to have no conscience and/or no propensity for greed, too many people would have had to be "eliminated" after the fact.
These things work in movie plots but they don't work in real life. Even in those movies, the scheme is exposed at some point. Conspiracy theories make for good entertainment, though, and we (the public) seem to eat them up... along with the popcorn.
Today is Black Friday. The start of the Christmas shopping season, the day when people become mindless shoppers frantically trying to get the best deal possible on anything. People stay up all night, they camp out in front of stores and malls waiting for the highly anticipated early opening. A friend of mine was shopping at 4 AM today.
I appreciate a bargain as much as anyone, believe me, but I won't get up in the wee hours of the morning to find it. Nothing is that important to me. The savings are not that important to me. Shopping is something I dislike fairly intensely. I won't go out of my way to do it. I don't clip coupons nor do I pore over the various ads sent as junk mail looking for things I want or might need. I don't run around using up $3 a gallon (almost) gas to save 50 cents on some item. It's just not that important to me.
Yes, I seem to be in the minority. I can live with that. I would rather have control over my time than travel with the thundering herd in search of that One Great Bargain. It may have something to do with my hard core procrastination, of course. Still, I feel better not being jostled by huge crowds all seeking to grab the last Tickle Me Elmo on the shelf for "half off" because I suspect there are cases of them back in the storeroom. And they will be trotted out just as soon as the store closes.
Why would I want what everyone else wants anyway? Why would I want my child growing up thinking he (or she) must have the latest fad toy or gizmo or he'll (or she'll) be a failure in the eyes of his (or her) friends?
I just don't get it. Am I an Ebeneezer Scrooge at heart? Maybe. I am not a big fan of the consumerism of Christmas. I rather like the joy of seeing a child open presents but I remember the disappointment I felt as a child when the last present was unwrapped and I realized there were no more gifts. When all the gifts were unwrapped, when the neatly stacked boxes and packages under the tree have been turned into piles of torn wrapping paper and empty boxes, the best memories I have of Christmas begin. The hot cocoa, the paper wad fights between myself and my siblings, the trip to Grandma's house for the family get together. The rest is just "stuff."
Well, it's that time again. Today is the day we stuff all the food within sight and reach into our mouths while sitting around a table with people you avoid most of the year. It's a uniquely American tradition, they tell me, as they ignore all the harvest feasts that have existed as ritual in human civilization. I suppose I should be less cynical, shouldn't I?
When I was a wee child, we'd all pile into the family vehicle for the hour long ride to Grandma's house where I would see all the cousins and aunts and uncles that were in our extended family. Well, on one side of it, that is. My mother's side. That side of the family was very sociable, my father's side not so much.
We never went to the house of my father's parents for big family dinners or family holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas. And except for us, none of my father's family ever attended the gatherings of my mother's family. I never knew why as a child but, as a child, you mostly don't question, you just accept. I still don't know why it was this way but I can speculate.
My father's mother was not a pleasant woman. She was nice enough but she didn't seem the grandmotherly type, more the grouchy old woman type. And family gatherings always seemed to be about the matriarch, yes? My father didn't get along well with his siblings. When they got together, the tension was there and could be felt. There was no joviality in the air. It was more like fulfilling a requirement than a need, if you know what I mean. This filtered down to us kids and affected our relationships with our cousins on that side. One uncle, Robert, lived closer to our home than my mother's parents. Yet, I can only recall one visit to his house.
But at Grandma's (Mom's side) house, there was laughter and play and friendliness. I looked forward to every visit there. Food was plentiful, the atmosphere free of all tension, everyone had smiles on their faces, and conversations never led to arguments. It was like a scene you'd see on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. Norman Rockwell moments, the very image of American family life.
We'd sit around Grandpa's chair while he told tall tales the youngest would believe were true and he pulled quarters out of our ears which ended up in our pockets. The TV was never turned on but no one missed it. We had watched the Macy's annual parade (some of it anyway) before we left home. We'd play and get along quite well. I would even get along with my own siblings much better than I did at home. Or in the car on the way there or back home.
Today, Faye and Frannie are busy in the kitchen cooking the turkey and preparing the meal. There will be just us. And while we will stuff ourselves and enjoy our ourselves, it just won't have quite the same magic.
That book, Pillars of Earth, that I have been reading has opened my eyes about a number of things. I am assuming, of course, that my Follett has properly researched and documented certain things about life in 12th Century England. I could be wrong to take his depiction as realistic.
For instance, only prosperous people ate white bread. Most people ate what he refers to as "horse bread", a multi-grain bread made with whatever grains (wild and domesticated) available in a region. This is apparently true... see this link. This makes sense to me but ale and wine were consumed by all seemed odd. Breakfast might consist of horse bread and watered down ale. (Meat at any meal was apparently a treat, special but I suspect that eggs were plentiful enough) Or even strong ale. This is very similar to my own basic breakfast of wine (or beer) and leftover pizza.
The usual customs in which women held little power of their own prevailed, of course.
I found out what a "farthing" is. At the time of the story, farthings hadn't been minted yet. So one took a penny and cut it into 4ths. At least, according to Follett. A penny was silver. A Pound was a pound of pennies (about 240 pennies). And people might make 6 pennies a week if they did well. Farthings are no longer minted.
People made their own clothes, even made the wool sheared from their sheep into a cloth. The wealthy didn't, of course, they could pay others to do these things.
There was no central heat, the fireplace heated the house and was the stove. Floors were dirt or wood (in castles, of course, they were stone) and would be covered in straw. People brought their animals into the house, including horses and cows and sheep. Few people bathed more than once a month (and those usually only women of childbearing age), most might bathe once or twice a year. A lot like a biker gang.
Thatched roofs leaked, windows were not glass in most cases but may just be shuttered or, in some cases, a thin cloth might be used. Nails were made by hand, as was just about everything that wasn't found in nature.
And law? Whatever the rich guy who owned the land said it was. There might be laws but it sounded more a convention than actual statute. You could kill a man for stealing from you and, if it was clear that he was a thief, you would walk away. Unless he was of the wealthier classes. In which case, there was nothing you could do to protect what you owned.
What if civilization collapsed? What if all the factories went silent and the only source of energy available would be beasts of burden, flowing water (streams and rivers), and the wind to turn windmills? I wonder how many would survive the first year?
As happens to me from time to time, I was interrupted while reading one book to take up another. Often, the two books are along the same theme. One book will lead me to another in the same, or related, genre. But it is circumstances and the rules of our local library which actually dictate what the interrupter book will be.
We, in this house, are Jack Reacher fans. We are also cheap and do not often spend money on hard cover additions of anything. This means that if we are to read a new edition, it will be borrowed from somewhere. That somewhere is most likely to be the public library. New editions at our library are limited to 7 day loans with no extensions permitted. If one is reading a book and a desired new edition is borrowed from the library, the new edition takes precedence.
So, it has come to pass that I had to set aside my reading of "The Pillars of the Earth" by Ken Follett, even though I was closing in on the end, to pick up "Worth Dying For" by Lee Child. Child does not reach the stature of Follett but his Reacher series is the best of its genre (with the exception of the Mitch Rapp series by Vince Flynn) and the time restraints of the local library combined to force me to put aside the "Pillars".
I am pedantic. I have admitted this several times. It annoys even me. It sometimes interferes with my enjoyment of a book or movie or TV show, among other things. It even interferes with my ability to enjoy the exchanges between pundits on news shows. (Admit it, you enjoy watching those folks battling it out too) A flubbed fact, or improper word, or some incongruity burrows like a worm into my brain and I fixate, obsess, on it to distraction.
So it is with the Jack Reacher novels. the author is British by birth and it shows. He uses words and phrases an American would not. Imagine, if you will, floating down river on a raft. The sun is shining, the current light, you are enjoying the pace and admiring how the light plays through the foliage along the shore and creates jewel-like sparkles in the water. Your raft strikes a rock, the current increases, the water roils, and you no longer have a peaceful ride. That's what an inapt phrase or word is to me... a rock (or several) creating a dangerous and disjointed place I must concentrate on to navigate to peaceful waters again.
Then again, a Reacher book is well worth the risk of drowning. But so is Follett's "Pillars."
* no, not "rattled" but "raddled". But there is a relation.
Bad day at golf today. I hate when that happens. It just ruins the day. The guys I play golf with are great and when I play bad, I get grumpy and it makes things less fun for all. I have learned to keep it inside as much as possible but the frustration leaks out from time to time.
I finally got serious 5 holes before the end. Too late to do any real good.
I like to joke that it takes me 17 holes to warm up. Sometimes longer.
After golf, we head into the restaurant where we take turns waiting for someone else to buy the beer. Eventually, someone volunteers and the mood improves immeasurably. We then (those of us who successfully avoided buying the beer) order over priced sandwiches to eat with our mooched beer. During this time, we engage in the male version of gossip. To be honest, that form is indistinguishable from the female version except in the language used.
I ate a "mini-Cuban" sandwich. If you do not know what a Cuban sandwich is, or have never had one, you are missing out. Take a hoagie roll, slap on some ham, some sliced pork, pickles, mayo and mustard, put the whoile thing in a heat press and cook it.
The problem is that it was a "mini" version. That means it was small. Very small. Adequate to stave off my hunger but not to fill me up. I do not eat to stave off hunger. I eat to get that bloated feeling. If one does not overeat then what's the point?
So, now that I am home... I am looking for snacks.
Back in the days when I was young, foolish, and often inebriated, I attended a school in Chicago on a computerized telecom switching system. At the heart of this system was the central controller. Because the system had to be reliable, most everything had to be redundant. That is, the central controller was actually two controllers. Each controller capable of running things fine on its own but the other ran in step ready to take over in case of a failure.
One of the failures would be a mismatch of data. This mismatch would be reported, the suspect controller would drop out of service, diagnostics would be started, and the standby controller would take over.
A student asked a question of the instructor. A simple question...
If both controllers are the same and one reports a mismatch, how do we know which one is actually bad?
It stumped the instructor. He wasn't prepared for this question at all. To be honest, he wasn't prepared for most of the questions we asked. He just following the teaching plan and usually answered questions with "You'll learn about that in Columbus."
I am reminded of this incident on a regular basis. Especially during elections. But, of late, it seems that there is always an election campaign going on. People get elected to office and almost immediately begin campaigning for re-election. People who are voted out of office are seeking the next possible opportunity to get back in. We have reached a point where electioneering never ends.
Because we have two major parties that seem to alternate running things, I relate them to the central controllers. And the question the student asked in that class so many years ago reverberates through the echo chamber that is my mind... Which one is right? Which one is telling the truth?
Being cynical, I have come to the conclusion that both are often wrong. This also can be true of those controllers and I am sure that is one lesson I learned after that school. The difference between the situations is that the bad controller could eventually be identified and then repaired. We have less chance of that in politics.
Politicians, as anyone will tell you, lie. And are often corrupt. And, as we learn from Charlie Rangel's current situation, then judged by their peers in government. This would seem to me to be the equivalent of having criminals facing a jury of convicts... most of whom they have recently shared a cell with.
When the public (the ones that bother to vote, that is) mess up the system and vote in an amateur politician, all hell seems to break loose. But isn't that what was intended a couple hundred plus years ago? Everyday people would come to the seat of government, serve as best they can, and then return to their normal lives?
When did this change? Why did it change? And how can we fix it?
I think everyone needs a day off from time to time. We sometimes call in sick when we really aren't. We take a vacation day in the middle of the week just because. We stretch a weekend, or precede it, with a "personal" day of some kind.
Why do we do this? I haven't the foggiest idea. Did you really think I would know? Want to buy some waterfront property in the Everglades? Of course I have no idea why we do it. In the long term, that is. The short term reason is pretty obvious.
I don't wanna work!
And that's just how I feel today. Not that writing a blog is work. After all, I was brought up to see work as something you are paid to do. No one's paying me to blather on here. I make an ass of myself for nothing. I have always done so.
But today... Today I just do not feel like it. So I am calling in sick.
It's not the major problems in life which hurt us the most, it's the little things. Wars, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions... all of these things and more we tremble at and fear end up giving us hope and opportunity. We bury the dead, tend to the injured, and rebuild... often bigger and better and stronger. That movie cliche from Conan "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" comes to mind (though I have my own issues with that one). Think about it. Hurricane Katrina? End result is the city of New Orleans will be better protected against the next big hurricane to come its way. Earthquakes in California? Buildings, bridges, and other structures get studied as to why they fell or were severely damaged and rebuilt to withstand the next one (and there will always be a "next one"). Wars devastate, no doubt about it. Terrible destruction and loss of life, no question. But societies are restructured, huge advances in medicine are made, nations come together to find ways to forestall wars or make them less likely, and people rebuild a better (hopefully) world.
But what about the stubbed toe? The hangnail? The heartbreak of a busted romance? The flat tire on the lonely highway in the rainy night? The Charley horse (why is it called that?) at the wrong moment while making love? The gnat that flies into my ear as I stroke the crucial putt? The pimple on the end of your nose on prom night? How do these things make us stronger? They don't, do they? They just make us miserable.
And it is these things which lead to terrible things that affect us all later. You think I exaggerate a tad there? Perhaps. But some say that Hitler's art being ignored in Vienna led to his megalo-maniacal attempt to conquer the world. He became disillusioned with the way things were and set about re-making the world to his liking. Think about that the next time you smirk at a child's drawing.
For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
It is the little things which destroy us... little by little... day by day.
I was thinking about courtesy this morning. Well, I wasn't thinking about it, really, until I read Pearl's post about discourtesy on the skywalk and I was reminded of why I never liked any job where I had to interact with human beings.
Follow me through the box canyons and roaring rapids of the twisty badlands of my mind back into the distant past. I was 17, maybe 18, and I held the powerful position of usher at the local theater. "Usher", by the way, is probably derived from the word "husher" since that is one of the primary tasks of the job... but I digress.
I had been an usher for about 3 months when a special showing of Hamlet with Richard Burton hit the theater. You may remember Burton as the guy who wed Elizabeth Taylor... twice. And stole her from Eddie Fisher's arms after Taylor had taken Fisher from Debbie Reynolds. I am babbling, aren't I? It was a special event, two days and nights, three showings each day; matinee, evening, and night.
I had to do double duty, working both the door taking tickets and then acting as usher once all available seats had been sold and no one was in line to enter the lobby of the theater. Needless to say, the theater was full (aka "sold out") for each screening. Between showings, we herded the patrons to the rear of the lobby (convenient to the candy counter) behind those velvet ropes (aka "tapes") where they were to wait until the theater emptied.
Do you remember in school where everyone would line up and wait patiently until they were told they could enter the auditorium? Or the lunchroom? Or just about anyplace? Well, none of these patrons recalled it. What happened was this...
The show ended and the evening audience started out of the theater, exiting fairly orderly from the aisles into the lobby and then toward the exits.
When the doors of the theater opened, the crowd behind the "tapes" grew restive and then a couple of them unhooked and dropped the tapes. The rush was on. Though they had nowhere to go except into the exiting crowd, they surged forward with a strange feral look in their eyes. Two of us, the ushers, tried to grab the dropped ends of the tapes and stop the stampede. We risked life and limb, let me tell you, but we managed to stop the thundering herd intent on getting the best seats.
Oh, a number got through before we could regain control and that riled a few of the ones who didn't. I cannot repeat what we were called that day. I don't wish to think about it.
I was never happier than when that special showing had run its course and we went back to showing things like "Muscle Beach Party" and other classics.
I woke up to the sound of a waterfall. And Faye yelling for help. Maybe it was actually Faye that woke me and then I heard the waterfall. It had been cold the night before, very cold. Freezing, in fact. Temps in the low 20's. You scoff? You snicker at what I call "cold?" This wasn't some frozen tundra like Minnesota or winter wonderland like upstate New York. It was Florida.
Granted, it was more like southern Georgia... "it" being Jacksonville... And we get cold weather there but it rarely got quite that cold or lasted more than an hour or so when it did. This lasted a bit longer... several hours longer. There was also some snow. Yes, I said "snow." It wasn't the first time snow has fallen in Florida. Tallahassee has seen snow a number of times, if I recall correctly. It allegedly snowed as far south as Ft. Lauderdale back in 1977.
If we flash back some 23 months, we find Faye and Douglas living in Manassas, VA. when a snowstorm rocked the area and left some 18 inches of the stuff on the ground. I was informed that it was time to move. And the transfer requests went out. The maximum of 5, all to points much further south. The northernmost one was for Atlanta, the southernmost one was just inside the Dade County line, near the Dolphins stadium.
It took another year before I got one of those transfers and it was to Jacksonville, FL. A place I had only passed through a number of times and knew little about except it smelled bad due to the paper mills that fed its economy when I was was young. But it was warmer than Manassas and it turned out to be a nice place to live because most of the mills had shut down or found ways to control the stench.
It was a good move. Until the Christmas weekend of 1989. That was when the Blizzard hit. Now, it wasn't really a blizzard. Not by any rational standards. But it was a situation that the city of Jacksonville was totally unprepared for.
Jacksonville is a city that sits on a river, the St. Johns, and that means bridges to get in or out on the south and east. We lived in the southeast side, a place known as "Mandarin" locally. I had about a 20 mile drive to work. An easy commute, especially at 11:30 PM and 8:00 AM, most days. Weekends and holidays were even easier.
I had worked the 23rd of December on my night shift and was sleeping when the fountain erupted in the front yard. Faye heard something hitting the window in the computer room and noticed the roar of the water. Looking out the window, she saw the water spraying out from the broken valve for the sprinkler system. She woke me when she could not find the cut off valve by the water meter. The sun had finally warmed the pipes enough to melt the ice inside them which had cracked the valve. It took me some five minutes to find the cutoff and shut off the water. It did not affect the water for the house, the sprinkler system was on its own meter.
A fine start to the holiday weekend. I went back to sleep, rising at my usual 6 PM. I was due in that night again and the next. The man I was to relieve that night was going on vacation. I never made it. I called my boss that evening after learning that the city had shut down all bridges over the St. Johns due to ice. No one was coming into or going out of Jacksonville that night. There were no salt or sand trucks to make the bridges safe. There was no way for me to get into the office. The boss reached out to find a replacement who lived on the "right" side of the river. He ended up in a ditch after sliding off the icy road on his way in.
I drove in the next morning, carefully negotiating the ice covered roadways. And drove over the only bridge that was open. Someone had realized that all that was needed was a couple of dump trucks and some sand from the beach. I relieved A.B. and wished him well. It was only later, after a 90 minute drive home because of gridlock after Holiday Sunday services at the First Baptist Church downtown, that I learned that A.B. had slipped on the icy sidewalk and broken his arm.
Here's a YouTube video showing some of the Great Blizzard of `89... That is not me in the video.
As I look around me, I see a number of social indicators. What are social indicators, you ask? Nothing much, simply things I think tell me about others and how they view the world around them. Since I am master of a universe barely larger than this blog (and, even that is beyond my actual control), these social indicators are probably mere figments of my imagination. Still, I find them amusing.
The first indicator I noticed on my blog page was the patterns I find in the Feedjit gadget on the right. There, just out of the corner of your eye. I realize few people look at blogs as I do. I try to look at the overall picture and not just at what is written. I didn't used to. I used to just read the posts and judge the blog on those alone. But a blog is more than that, of course, it reflects the mental outlook of the blogger.
In any event, my mental outlook is often in turmoil. Therefore, so is my blog page. It jumps about. I like to see change. I also like to get an idea of the people who frequent this blog. I am usually disappointed in the number but heartened by the variety. People visit from all over the world, it seems.
But why do they come? That is where the Feedjit gadget helps us. The single most popular blog piece seems to be "Shopping Trip" followed closely by the posts for May, 2009. Followed quickly by "Random Musings for May". Maybe it's the other way around... this isn't a scientific study and I don't have piles of data I sort through. I'd be too lazy to do so even if I had those piles.
Basically, I think people somehow find a link through Google that takes them to these places. That there are pretty ladies with tight, sexy, bodies involved implies that these visitors are mostly male. Males have a limited outlook on life... Sex, alcoholic beverages, and sports. Not necessarily in that order but close enough. That's pretty much it, don't you think? Works for me. Toss in motorcycles or fast cars for the slack times, I suppose. Everything else is secondary.
I sometimes wonder about politics and people. By "people", I mean the average voter. Even that is a misnomer, there are no average voters. Most of us vote for candidates for rather obscure and personal reasons. We like his/her looks, we agree with some/most of the things the candidate has been saying, he/she is supported by our political party or our union (or both), and maybe because we just don't like the opponent's political party, policy statements, looks, and/or we accept what is being said about him/her.
It seems to me that a significant number of voters make their decisions on who to vote for when they are in the voting booth. I, myself, have been guilty of that on occasion. That decision is usually (in my own opinion) not a good one. It is often based on emotional reaction to the perceptions I have about the candidates. Those perceptions might be entirely wrong.
We are often manipulated by political rhetoric and by the machinations of political campaigns. We do not get "pure" information about the candidates. Instead, each campaign does its best to feed the potential voters positive things about its candidate(s) and negative things about the other candidate(s).
How do we choose what is true and what is false?
I am thinking about this because there seems to be a kerfuffle brewing around Glenn Beck and George Soros. Beck has been drawing a picture of Soros as a meglo-maniacal "puppet master", manipulating the country and nudging it toward some progressive Utopian image he has conjured up which would undermine the One True Image that Beck has of America.
I am, of course, a person who believes very little to be what it appears. Good people aren't always good, bad people aren't always bad.
George Soros operates some organizations which fund, or perform, great acts of charity. His organizations also raise money by working the various markets, taking advantage of speculative trading and market trends and (some say) helping to create those trends through speculative trading of their own.
I am not sure what is true or false. I just ponder these things now. And a part of me worries.
Yesterday was Veteran's Day. It wasn't always. Once it was called Armistice Day. It was the day in 1918 when the hostilities of World War I ended. That was "The Great War" or "The War to End All Wars."
Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day) is on 11 November and commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany at Compiègne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o'clock in the morning—the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918. While this official date to mark the end of the war reflects the cease fire on the Western Front, hostilities continued in other regions, especially across the former Russian Empire and in parts of the old Ottoman Empire.
In reality, it was the cause of events that led to the Second World War. Some 20 million died in WWI.
After WWII, in 1954, it was renamed by Congress to Veteran's Day to honor all those who served in times of war. Now, it is used to honor all veterans.
I qualify as a veteran. A combat veteran, since I served in a combat zone during hostilities. In truth, my service was minor. I was never at great risk of life and limb. I don't need much honoring. I don't feel worthy of it. So many more did so much more and sacrificed so much more than I.
My view of Veteran's Day has much to do with how I learned of it as a child. At that time, it was mostly a holiday where the nation mourned those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Those who served their country and died in that service.
I am happy to see that we have come around again to honoring those who served. I hope you took a few moments yesterday to consider those who served, who fell in that service, and who stand ready to defend this nation.
Today is an important day also. It is a Sacred Day here because it is Faye's birthday. Which birthday, we are not permitted to reveal. Let's just say she is clearly of drinking age.
Today I did something I haven't done in 2 months. I went to the gym and exercised. For one month I was on a trip and didn't bother to exercise. I suppose I could have done some exercise at the workout facilities in the hotels we stayed at. But those rooms are designed for joggers, it seems. Treadmills and stationary bikes. No weights, nothing but cardiovascular equipment. Not my thing. Jogging down roads is boring enough but to run for 20 minutes and get nowhere at all? Beyond tedious.
After I got back, I fell victim to the flu. Some kind of flu that, as they all do, weakened me and settled in my lungs. For two weeks, I struggled with a cough and weakness. I still played golf but that isn't real exercise. Unless you count climbing in and out of a cart exercise.
I went today because I had been putting it off for a week. I felt well enough to do it but it had been so long that I just dreaded starting over. It's like work and vacations. When I worked I hated to take more than a week off. Each day over a week would make coming back to work harder; it would add two days to what I called "re-acclimation time", that time needed to re-establish your work routine. I dreaded that walk back into the gym, I was reluctant to even try to get back into my exercise routine.
The biggest problem in returning to an exercise regimen after a prolonged break is overdoing it. This leaves you with aching muscles and painful stiffness. And it is so easy to overdo. All you need to do is remember what you used to do and go do it.
But I am clever and know better. I did less reps and used lighter weights. I think I cut back enough but I won't know until tomorrow. That's when you find out. In the morning when you find you cannot get out of bed. When the back refuses to bend, when the knees wobble so badly that you just sit back down on the bed. When movement is so painful that your brain starts making excuses that you would have laughed out loud at any other time.
And I have to get up to play golf tomorrow morning. If I bail on that, you know I overdid it today.
Ever have one of those days? I seem to be having a lot of them. Things just don't seem right, life is just a tad askew. Most of my days are like that of late. It's nothing I can put my finger on and it isn't all bad but it's there. Just outside my line of sight, just over there in the fringe of what can be seen.
Out of sight, out of mind does not seem to apply. It's there and it causes me concern. It's like one of those premonitions that doesn't quite explain itself.
It's just a feeling, I suppose. But it's haunting.
I play golf. Three days a week. But lately my game is not quite what it should be. It's not terrible but it's not good either. I go to the course without that certain level of anticipation that I think I should have. I drive my car and I listen for funny noises, not quite hearing them, I seem to feel vibration in the steering wheel but then it is gone.
And then there's the headaches. The pain is there but not severe, not locatable, not in any specific area. Aspirin helps but not entirely. So they remain... just below the threshold of intolerance.
I guess the best description would be a cloudy day with scattered sunshine. The sunshine really doesn't stay long enough to take away that overcast feeling.
Now the time has come (Time) There are things to realize (Time) Time has come today (Time) Time has come today (Time)
I recently read an article about time in the Huffington Post. Now, I don't agree with much of what is written in the Huffington Post but this article was interesting. It was interesting because time is interesting.
For instance, does time pass? Or do we move through time? What is time? We can measure it but is it real? It is certainly a component of the dimension in which we live. I consider us to be in a four dimensional universe: length, width, depth, time (or, in shorthand, "time (1) and space (3)"). I could be wrong, I am not a physicist. I have never even played one on TV or anywhere else.
There is a question one asks of a stoned person. If one is not too stoned oneself. It's a simple question, see if you can answer it...
Where is the person when he jumps off the ledge?
If you answer "on the ledge", it is wrong. That is before he jumped. If you answer, in the air, it is wrong. That is after he jumped. You see, at the instant that he jumps, he does not exist in time as we know it.
An ancient Greek, Zeno, talked about an arrow in flight.
The arrow paradox “ If everything when it occupies an equal space is at rest, and if that which is in locomotion is always occupying such a space at any moment, the flying arrow is therefore motionless.” —Aristotle, Physics VI:9, 239b5
In the arrow paradox (also known as the fletcher's paradox), Zeno states that for motion to occur, an object must change the position which it occupies. He gives an example of an arrow in flight. He states that in any one instant of time, for the arrow to be moving it must either move to where it is, or it must move to where it is not. However, it cannot move to where it is not, because this is a single instant, and it cannot move to where it is because it is already there. In other words, in any instant of time there is no motion occurring, because an instant is a snapshot. Therefore, if it cannot move in a single instant it cannot move in any instant, making any motion impossible.
(Yes, it seems to me it should be called "Aristotle's Arrow Paradox", too)
That aforementioned Huffington Post article explains it this way:
Because an object can't occupy two places simultaneously, he contended that an arrow is only at one place during any given instant of its flight. To be in one place, however, is to be at rest. The arrow must therefore be at rest at every instant of its flight. Thus, motion is impossible.
In many ways, this reminds me of the myth1 of the bumblebee's flight. According to the myth, the bumblebee is incapable of flight. This does not bother the bumblebee, who knows nothing of the physics of flight, nor does the arrow paradox save the life of a person or animal struck by the arrow which cannot have flown.
We still have no idea just what time is, do we? We can measure it, expect it, hate it, love it, but we don't know what it is. Time isn't even a constant. Time slows as you approach the speed of light. Except that is a paradox of its own, I think. If a second stretches (time slowing) then wouldn't the "speed of light" change as you approach it?
This stuff gives me headaches and I eventually stop musing on it... In time.
I was 16 when I bought my first car. Of course, it wasn't in my name. I was too young for that. I bought it from my soon-to-be brother-in-law of the moment. Let's call him #4, which was his position in the list. About midway into it, though we did not know that then. That list is another story for another time. This one is about a car. Not the Studebaker that I bought then but the third car I purchased in my life.
It was a 1961 MG Magnette. This was not the sexy sports car, it was the little sedan.
The one in the upper left. A nice shiny black with a red leather interior. with walnut burl trim. A 4 Speed gearbox with a nice, tight, pattern that whined as you went through the gears.
The price was only $600. A sum I did not have but which the car dealer and HFC (Household Finance Corporation) were willing to lend me at a 6% rate (which turned out to be more like a 36% annual rate) because I was employed. I was, after all, in the Navy and they knew they could make me pay.
And I did. Pay, that is. All of it. Just a few short months before I sold the car to a shipmate.
The car was an engineering wonder. And I did wonder. It had a little idiosyncrasy. The starter motor would not turn at times. This was not a major problem. All one had to do was leave the car in neutral, set the hand brake, get out and open the hood ("bonnet" is the proper word). Then reach in, turn the shaft on the starter motor a little bit, maybe a quarter turn, and then press the button on the starter solenoid. Simple. The car would then start easily. An alternative method was available if the car was parked on a hill. Just let it roll down the hill, turn on the key, and pop the clutch.
It had one other endearing trait. There were times you could have the lights on or the engine running but not both at the same time. That one did not have a simple work around.
There came a time when my ship was spending a bit of time, about 60 days, in San Diego. However, being stationed in Long Beach (about 100 miles north), I had found a girlfriend in that area. Having a car made commuting on weekends simpler. Simpler than taking a bus, that is. And cheaper, too, when a shipmate who needed a ride back to Long Beach chipped in for gas.
And so it came to be that Tom and I were headed back to San Diego one Sunday evening along I-5 as it began to grow dark. I pulled the light switch on, the headlights came on, and the engine shut off.
I was in a quandary. I could have lights and be stuck on the side of the road or I could travel but have no lights. I rightly suspected that the California Highway Patrol would frown on my driving without lights. I also rightly expected that my ship would frown on our showing up a couple of hours late in the morning if we sat it out. Fortunately, I was near an access ramp. Leading to Huntington Beach Blvd, as I recall. Unfortunately, there was a cement median between us and the ramp. I drove over it, without the lights, and headed down the ramp. It was also the On ramp, not the Off, so I would be facing any oncoming traffic with my lights off... in the dark... in a black car.
As luck would have it, no one came our way. We made it off the ramp, onto the roadway and up the half block or so to a gas station. In those days, gas stations were usually service stations. There would be tools, a flashlight, maybe a mechanic. Two out of three turned out to be true. No mechanic. I knew a few things about cars. After all, my first car needed constant maintenance and I had no money to pay anyone else to do it.
I located the regulator box, a set of relays that controlled the electrical system. I found the wires loose, barely connected, going into it. Borrowing a screwdriver and a pair of pliers from the gas jockey attendant, I tightened everything up. Crossing my fingers, I started the car and pulled on the light switch. The engine stayed running and the lights came on.
Acting like I knew it all along, I gave the attendant a buck in thanks, gathered up Tom, and headed back onto the freeway.
Politics is a strange business. We vote for people we know are lying. And then we're offended that they did. Lie, that is. We think all politicians are crooks but we re-elect them anyway. Many of us, perhaps most, vote blindly. That is, we vote for the incumbent because we recognize the name. Which is surprising since so many of us seem unable to identify our own representative or senator. Admit it, you have no idea who your state representative is. A good many of you have no idea who represents you in the House of Representatives.
Some late show hosts make fun of this, doing "man on the street" interviews. Even legitimate reporters do this. The other day, I saw a clip of an interview in California where the reporter was interviewing a young woman about her choice for governor. It was bad enough that she had no idea what her choice stood for or promised to do once in office but then she was asked if she intended to vote...
"No, I can't... I'm only 18."
The reporter seemed embarrassed and admonished her to vote when she turned 21.
Neither seemed to know that 18-year-olds have been eligible to vote since 1971.
Perhaps worse was that the host of the news show offering the clip felt he had to explain that. And so did I.
I really don't mind if someone chooses not to vote. After all, I did not vote in the 1968 election even though I was eligible to do so. The choices were between Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon. To me, that was pretty much no choice at all. And since I was in the Navy and far away from my home state, I had no real idea of local issues and candidates. My vote would have been, at best, uninformed. I think it was right for me not to vote in that election.
So, in a way, I hold no animosity toward those who are blissfully unaware of the issues and candidates and then stay away from the polls. I worry more about those who do not know anything about the issues or candidates but who vote anyway. These are the people who, more often than not, vote straight party tickets and take a guess at the various ballot issues. The uninformed voter.
These are the people who have rigid views of the political parties. They are likely Democrat or Republican because their parents were, or because their friends are. They vote like their neighbors do.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 65% of Likely U.S. Voters say if they had the option next week, they would vote to get rid of the entire Congress and start all over again. Only 20% would opt to keep the entire Congress instead. Fifteen percent (15%) aren’t sure.
A sensation of floating, helpless, the world spinning around me. A second or two, maybe three, of abject fear. Certainly, a few seconds of the knowledge that I had no control over my fate.
Ever had a premonition? A sense that something good or bad, usually the latter, was going to happen? I have these fairly often. And, yes, most of the time they never come true. And so I just ignore them. As I am sure most of you do. It's the rational thing, after all.
I left the house yesterday morning for a run to Sam's Club. We do not have one in Sebring, so I must travel either to Lakeland or to Bradenton. Bradenton is actually a few miles farther away but it takes less time to get there so it is my usual destination. It's almost a straight shot, only a few lights, most of them in, or near, Bradenton. A pleasant ride through farm and ranch land along a couple of two lane state highways. Traffic is always light to almost non-existent, the trip uneventful.
And it was. On the way out.
I had had one of those premonitions, so easily dismissed, because traveling on a two lane highway is seemingly more dangerous than a jaunt along a freeway. There is no median, no concrete barriers between you an any oncoming traffic. To pass a slower moving vehicle, you have to venture out only when any oncoming vehicle is far enough away to pose no real threat. I am adept at this, having grown up driving on two lane highways.
After spending too much money, I left the store to find it raining. Grumbling, I braved the rain to load up the car and headed back to Sebring. The rain persisted for 30 miles. Still, I moved along ok. Traveling at the speed limit of 60 MPH without a problem, finding even less traffic than the trip out.
And then it happened. I was hydroplaning and didn't know it. I saw a puddle ahead and moved to avoid catching it with my left wheels. It was like floating, I crossed the line into the oncoming lane and I suppose my wheels caught some dry pavement and I found myself coming back into my own lane but at a bad angle. I know enough to turn the wheel in the direction of a skid and did so. It didn't matter, the tires had no traction, not the back, not the front. I may as well have been on a frozen lake. The scenery spun by. I was sliding sideways now, the car perpendicular to the highway. A moment of panic hit me. I expected the left side tires to find dry enough pavement to grab and flip the car. But they didn't. Instead, the rear of the car continued to slew around until I was now facing the direction I was coming from and still moving seemingly as fast as I had been before this nightmare began. I slid off the road onto the shoulder, still hurtling backwards. I watched the fence of someone's ranch speeding past on my left. I was slowing but it didn't feel that way. I had no idea what was behind me.
I used the wheel to steer as if it was a rudder but I suspect I was fooling myself. I had no real control, my fate was completely out of my hands. The back of the car suddenly raised and the car bumped up onto the cemented section of a driveway and came to a stop. There I sat, across someone's driveway, in a state of semi-shock. The car's engine had shut off. The radio was still playing. I was surprisingly calm; thinking... I am stuck out here, great!
I re-started the engine, not expecting it to work but it did. I left it in Park and got out to inspect the damage. I found none. No scratches, no dents, tires still holding air, the engine sounded fine. Getting back in, I pulled the car into the driveway to find a place to turn around. And then pulled back out onto the highway.
No cars passed, in either direction, while I had sat there. There had been no cars visible anywhere near when the slide had started. No one else had been in danger.
Everything seemed fine, like it had never happened. I was hyper-sensitive to the handling but it seemed ok. Everything went well for 5 miles and then the tire sensor light came on. I was now 25 miles from anything remotely resembling a town. I continued on. And on. Handling didn't get worse for some time. I was within 6 miles when the pull to the left became noticeable. But I had no place to pull over. No safe place to change a tire. So I continued on.
After what seemed like forever, I came to the town of Zolpho Springs. I pulled into a BP station and near the air and vacuum machine. Getting out, I found the left front tire was completely flat. It must have been that way for close to a mile. I was surprised that it hadn't tore itself apart.
I have one of those little donut tire spares. I got it and the jack out of the trunk, jacked up the car and proceeded to change out the flat. As luck would have it, the spare was flat (who checks these things?). I got some quarters from the station so I could pump it up, hoping that it would hold air. I noticed the right front was also very low but not flat. Great! I thought. I am going to have to call for a tow if this one is no good either.
Because nothing ever goes right, as I filled the spare, the rain began. I got soaked and eventually had to retreat to shelter. While I waited for the rain to ease up, I called Faye to let her know I would be late getting back and that I had a flat. I pumped up the right front tire once the rain eased. It seemed to hold but I wouldn't know until I was back on the road.
My luck held and I traveled at a safe speed of 49 MPH the rest of the way home. Today, I replaced all four tires. Had I done that a few weeks ago, I might not have hydroplaned, I might not have slid though that ditch on the shoulder, I might have a few less gray hairs today.
I was perusing my favorite comics website, looking for an update to the comic strip above, when I came across this:
... and it reminded me of jobs I have had. All of them. Humor always has a bit of truth underlying it, doesn't it? Jobs do exactly what Francis (that's the young man applying for the job) fears. They crush the child in us and mold us into something we don't want to be. Over the years, like wind and rain eroding a mountain, we change into responsible and dependable adults. Not all of us, of course, some people never grow up. And some manage to keep the child inside alive.
But most of us abandon that child.
I made it to retirement and can now unleash my inner child again. Except I am too old to remember how to be young.
When I was younger, I drove small cars (when I wasn't riding motorcycles)... an MG Magnette, a Chevy Vega, a Honda Civic, a Datsun pickup, A Mitsubishi Mirage, a Ford Ranger. I liked the agility, the economy, and they were all I could afford. That last was probably the main reason. But I liked the fuel economy and I didn't mind the harsher ride or the tight quarters. I was a bit, ahem, smaller then so their tight quarters were not all that tight. I was younger so the lack of padding and the small bucket seats didn't bother me.
But few years ago, I decided I wanted a bit more comfort. I turned toward bigger cars, nicer cars, more comfortable cars. I wanted air conditioning, I wanted a nice sound system, I really wanted softer seats and a gentler ride.
Slowly, over time, I moved up in comfort. Now I can't seem to move back. I live in a small city where nothing is more than 15 or 20 minutes away. I could use better in town mileage. My Lucerne only gets 14 MPG in town. Granted, I only have to fill up once a month so the pain is fleeting. Still, I think of the 24 MPG I used to get with my Civic way back when. I find myself looking at Mini Coopers or the Yaris or other dinky little cars which might be fun to drive and would certainly get good gas mileage.
And then I get back in my Lucerne and feel the leather seats, notice the quiet interior which shuts off the noise of the outside world, and realize the fact that I started the car from across the parking lot and the AC was already cooling it off inside. I don't have to turn on the lights at night or the windshield wipers when it rains. They just go on.
My problem? I cannot keep my mouth shut. I recall going to a comedy club in San Diego where a comic expressed the same thought. It went something like this....
Being a comedian can be hazardous. Like when I was in court for my divorce and we were going through the settlement, things seemed to be going well for me. The judge asked "Are there any children from this marriage?
And I piped up with "Judge, you gotta have sex to have kids!"
The rest of that evening was lost on me, possibly due to the number of drinks I downed but I think the concept took over my brain. I can't control it. My brain, that is. Or my mouth, it seems. I had, and still do, say stupid and embarrassing things at the most inappropriate times. I have always been this way. I don't do it in writing so much because I can do something you cannot do verbally... make it disappear, like it never happened.
I have tried to prevent it at times, a sort of pre-editing. My first wife, after we had split up but were not yet divorced (a prolonged period of frustration and acrimony), came home from a shopping expedition to find me chatting with her new roommate. She had undergone a make-over. Before I go further, you have to understand how I feel about make-up. I don't like it. I don't like the smell of it because of a traumatic incident in my childhood, I don't like the look of it when it is heavy though I appreciate it when it is subtle.
My wife looked like her make-up had been applied with a trowel. Seriously, it was so thick, it looked like a mask. It would have been fine in bright, glaring light but in the subdued shadows of the living room it was horrible. To me.
She asked me what I thought. I tried not to answer. I suggested she didn't want my opinion. I reminded her of my aversion to make-up. She insisted she wanted my "honest opinion."
I said, "You look like a clown."
She dashed, crying, from the room. I discreetly left the house.
I have since learned to bite my tongue but I still slip now and then. Don't we all?
One of the rewards of a long car trip is the time to muse. Especially as you travel through the deserts and wasteland that make up the Great Southwest of the United States. You can go for hours at a time on "autopilot" freeing your mind to travel where it will.
And my mind loves to travel. It usually starts out imagining what it would be like to be a lone figure on a horse wending his way westward. Living on whatever game was to be had, sleeping on hard ground with only a blanket or two for comfort, at the mercy of the elements. You make a fire by whatever means you have at hand; the matches you had either depleted or made useless by the rainstorms you've encountered. Your only companion is your horse. That horse is not only your transportation, it's your link to survival. After a few days, you begin to smell alike. So alike, you no longer notice.
I imagine all this while riding in air-conditioned comfort at speeds no horse could reach, on roads smooth and safe. No working your way up and down hills and gullies, no walking for miles to give the horse a rest. I sip from a plastic bottle kept cold in an insulated bag while my alter-ego searches for a watering hole full of muddy, maybe unsafe, water.
A motorcyclist or two ride by in the other direction and my mind jumps ahead to 1969 when I contemplated riding back to Florida from Los Angeles on my BSA. I fantasize about the adventures I might have had, the people I might have met, the jobs along the way I might have taken to pay for gas and the occasional lodging. A part of me regrets not doing it. Who would I be today if I had taken that road then?
Would I have ended up at the phone company? Would I have married and had a bunch of kids? Would I have gone to college and become a lawyer (an old dream)?
I put off that trip back then because I couldn't make the decision to go. I was adrift. I had just spent 4 years going where someone else, some unknown and unseen person, ordered my ship to go. I wasn't used to making such decisions. And maybe I just was afraid to commit to something, to anything. I was comfortable, I was getting by, my life was "on hold."
We make these little choices in our lives and we profit, or lose, by them for the rest of our lives. Some of us wonder "what if..."