Peak Season

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For those of us who live on the East or Gulf Coasts, we’re now headed into peak hurricane season. Although hurricane season begins in June, we frequently see the worst storms–and the ones that make landfall–between now and the end of November.

It’s kind of like Christmas shopping–the stores have the Christmas products on the shelf in October, but it’s the last few weeks when the shoppers go into a frenzy.

So, I’ve checked the generator, put the six-month old gas from the storage cans into the car and replaced it with fresh (and added the fuel stabilizer). I’ve checked the backup chargers for the cell phones, and of course the ham radio gear.

Now all I have to do is wait.

The last big storm we had was Hurricane Irene in 2011. We’ve had some damaging, but not disastrous weather since, so I’ve been waiting since 2011.

If you’re wondering, I much prefer waiting to dealing with a storm. Wish me a happy and successful 2018 wait, with no serious storms.

 

MOM

Today is my mother’s birthday. If she were still here, she’d be 91 (as would my dad, whose birthday is earlier in the year). They were a matched set who belonged together. Mom died first, after a fall, and Dad grieved until he joined her. Now that they’re back together, all is right in their world.

If your parents are still alive, cherish every day you have with them, even if–especially if–they don’t measure up to your expectations. As we get older, and gain a modicum of wisdom, we begin to understand and accept people for who they are, not who we think they should be.

Happy birthday, Mom.

Professionally Broken

Broken-Ham-Radio

A friend of mine once sent a radio transceiver (transmitter and receiver) to a reputable company for repair. When he was told it was finished, he picked it up and was very pleased at how well it worked.

A couple of days later, the reputable company called him and told him that they had given him a radio of the same brand and model as his, but the one they gave him belonged to another customer. Would he please return it and pick up his own, which was now repaired.

He brought back the radio, and they showed him his (now repaired) radio–exactly the same brand and model. However, the price they wanted to charge him for repairing his radio was outrageously high.

He told them that: a) the price was ridiculous, and b) he had done them a favor by returning the radio that had been given to him. After all, he was under no obligation to return it, and it was identical to the one he had brought in.

Their response? “Tough.”

He asked what they were going to do. They informed him that if he didn’t want to pay for the repair, they would have the technician return it to its previous condition. He was incredulous and asked, “So after the cost of repairing it, you’re willing to pay again to have my radio professionally broken.”

“Yep.”

Needless to say, that company is now out of business.

However, that was years ago. Today, as near as I can tell, high-tech equipment is pre-broken at the factory. The symptoms won’t show up immediately, but definitely will be fully developed just after the warranty and/or extended protection plan expires.

I call it frustrating. Manufacturers call it progress.

Good, Better, Worst

1957_Ford_Thunderbird_white

I spent a good portion of the weekend trying to work with several computer programs that defied both logic and me. There’s a reason for that.

When I was young, automobile companies would design and produce a very popular model, such as the Ford Thunderbird. It started out as a two seater sports car, similar to European sportsters. The hardtop version, in the earlier years, had two small round windows that had no other purpose than to look cool.

Every year, they “improved” it by making it larger, adding rear seats, and making it generally uncool. This practice has been continually refined since then so that good products are improved until they fail. It’s the product equipment of The Peter Principle–the cream rises until it sours.

One explanation is that the enemy of good is better. Actually the Perotto Principle applies; it takes 20 percent of the resources to achieve 80 percent results. It then takes 80 percent of the resources to achieve the final 20 percent.

Such was the case with these programs. The original versions did a few things very well. The current, new and improved versions do many things, but only those who wrote the computer code understand how to make them work.

There’s nothing wrong with “good enough.” If it gets the job done, that’s all that is required; it doesn’t need chrome fender dents and a two-way sneeze-through wind guard.*

 

*Ralph Spoilsport Motors–Firesign Theatr

Scandal!

zebra

Although we’re jaded by laundered money, gangland murders, fake news, and politicians, some things just go beyond the pale. A zoo in Cairo is suspected of painting a mule and passing it off as a zebra. What the . .  .?

Where is PETA when you need them?

It was only a matter of time.

I knew that body painting people wasn’t as innocent as we were supposed to believe. The “skinny jeans” that were painted on never fooled anyone–the number of nearby males copiously drooling immediately gave it away.

jeans

Artificial zebras–what’s next? Adding artificial necks to mules and passing them off as giraffes? Stapling horns on horses to sell as unicorns? A Monty Python world in which dead parrots are nailed to the perch in their cage to pass them off as Norwegian Blues? (Although Norwegian Blues do have lovely plumage.)

Next we’ll be making people believe that dinosaurs can be retrieved from their DNA. And as long as we’re doing dinosaurs, why not clone Fred and Wilma Flintstone?

It’s a sad state of affairs.

PLEASE! If you are thinking of buying a zebra, run it through the local car wash several times, just to be sure. The mule (or zebra, if it is authentic) won’t like it, but you must protect your investments. Otherwise Caveat Emptor!

You’ve been warned!

I’m No Angel

With apologies to Gregg Allman . . . .

At work–or even worse, at home–I sometimes get so wrapped up in my own ideas that I never give a thought as to whether or not I’m even close to correct. Fortunately, from time to time, I remind myself that when I shave in the morning, if I need to turn the lights on, that means there is no glowing halo to illuminate the room–therefore I’m still an imperfect human being.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

As humans, we have free will, make choices, and while some might be great, others are flat-out mistakes. That goes along with free will. We try and succeed and pat ourselves on the back. We try and fail and blame it on someone else, the conditions, the weather, or whatever.

But then we quietly admit to ourselves that it really wasn’t anything except a well-meant decision that didn’t work out. It might have been the right decision one minute before or two minutes after; it might never have been the right one, but it was not the best choice for that time and place.

We don’t have the answers in this world–hell, we’re lucky to figure out a few reasonable questions. But that’s okay; that’s our lot in life–to face challenges and respond in the best way we can.

And, when we succeed, it’s glorious.

Interesting Facts

I try to stay out of politics for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that I have a hiatal hernia and gaastro-esophogeal reflux disease. However, from time to time, I come across facts that are just too interesting to keep to myself.

However, beware, for as John Adams said:

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.*

Anne Frank

—–Every western nation seems to be wrestling with the issue of immigration these days. Interestingly, there was a recent discovery by the Anne Frank House and the Holocaust Memorial Museum that Anne Frank’s father had applied–twice–for permission to move his family to the United States, but was turned down due to  “American bureaucracy, war, and time.” ** As everybody is probably aware, Anne Frank spent much of the war hiding in a secret room in the attic, was eventually found, arrested, sent to a Nazi concentration camp, and died only a few weeks before the British Army liberated the camp.

911

—–NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is an organization formed among western nations in 1949 for their mutual protection. Article 5 of the NATO treaty that essentially says that an attack on one member nation would be viewed as an attack on all the NATO members.  Interestingly, Article 5 has only been invoked once, with the other NATO nations coming to the aid of the United States after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.***

 

* Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_adams_134175

** https://www.click2houston.com/news/national/anne-franks-family-tried-in-vain-to-flee-to-the-us

*** https://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/13/us/after-attacks-alliance-for-first-time-nato-invokes-joint-defense-pact-with-us.html

 

Waiting for Something Good

bad dog

I haven’t been blogging much lately, because everything in the news, on the internet, etc., is portrayed as bad–some/much of it for cause. It makes me feel like I’ve been whapped with a rolled up newspaper and sent to my bed (subtle hint above).

I looked under my bed for a book and found several bad news stories crawling around–if there had been dust bunnies, they would have been able to hide–but unfortunately for them, there was no cover. They were out in the open. One news story involved a celebrity who is a celebrity because she is a celebrity (or is it the other way around?). I bravely grabbed that story (kicking and screaming), held it an an armslength, bypassed the trash cans, and tossed it into the creek into which the stormwater drains. That was a mistake.

I didn’t think that one small story would have an environmental impact; I heard the splash, but it was followed by a dozen paparazzi, several cable news “reporters,” and at least 200 sycophants. The surface of the creek looked like the oil slick from a supertanker leak.

Sorry about that. It was unintentional.

So, if I don’t comment on everything in the news, please don’t think I’m ignoring it. I’m probably, well, feeling like I’ve been whapped by a rolled up newspaper.

 

The Whatth of July

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The Declaration of Independence was adopted on 2 July 1776, which is why John Adams expected the celebrations to take place each year on the second.  Unfortunately, the Founding Fathers were politicians, so the wording wasn’t finalized until the fourth of July. (If it had been the founding mothers, they would probably have been more practical, organized, and less egotistical. I’m sure the Declaration would have been completed much earlier.)

Not everyone who signed the Declaration did so on the fourth of July.  There’s no complete record as exactly who signed when. It’s probably safe to say that John Adams, Ben Franklin, John Hancock, and Thomas Jefferson all signed on that day (Hancock signed first and large–so King George could read it without his glasses).

The last signer was probably Matthew Thornton from New Hampshire, who wasn’t elected and seated in the Continental Congress until November; he asked for and received the privilege of adding his signature at that time, and signed on November 4, 1776.

So, two things:

  1. The Declaration of Independence set us on the path of the most improbable and radical experiment in civilization. The hereditary monarchy thing failed, as did leadership by military conquest. Our experiment is still running with its ups and downs, and will take forever to perfect. However, as Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
  2. We should never be surprised if politicians do not deliver in a timely manner.

Given the importance of the event, maybe it would be better to celebrate Independence Month!

 

 

 

Show Me the Data!

Too many decisions are made with questionable–or worse, self-serving–data. Even worse, they are made for us rather than by us.

In Washington, DC there is a five cent charge for each plastic bag you use at the store. I, like almost everyone else, am tired of seeing those bags stuck in trees, fences, etc. My family recycles about 95 percent of the plastic bags we receive, including the ones in which the newspaper is delivered. The other five percent are repurposed as litter bags, to wrap shoes before they go into the luggage, and for many years, to separate one string of Christmas lights from the others when the season was done.

The idea, I guess, is to use reusable bags, which require energy and raw materials (look–there goes the carbon dioxide into the atmosphere) and reusable bags have microbes delivered  by the fresh fruit and vegetables. The microbes that remain in the bag have nothing better to do that to wait for the next shopping trip. Drop in an orange or two, a banana, and some grapes and the microbes are off on a reproductive orgy.

So, the answer, apparently, is to wash the reusable bags, but water is also a precious commodity in short supply. Is washing reusable grocery bags more ecologically sound than single-use bags that can be recycled?

I’ve yet to see definitive data on any of this to guide me in my decision. However, I do believe that there is a segment of the population who will discard the plastic bag, along with the various wrappers, skins, or bones of the initial contents inappropriately (i.e. on the ground somewhere outside the store).

They say you can’t legislate morality. Likewise you can’t make stupidity or callousness punishable acts. The people who care, will continue to care. The people who don’t, won’t.

In the meantime, can someone show me the data thata will tell me the magic combination for carrying groceries home?

A Diversion

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As much as I like to write, I like to read even more.

Years ago, for Christmas, I had surprised my wife with an iPad–even though my son told me it was a waste, because she’d never use it. In actuality, she is rarely without it.

For Fathers’ Day, my wife surprised me with an iPad, and–except for at work–I, too,  can rarely be found without mine. So, where does that lead me? Why, things to see and read, of course.

Sometimes, I’m drawn to  a book, perhaps through its adaptation as a television series. For example, I happened to stumble across the series The Magicians on Netflix (although I understand it started on the ScyFy Network). I found it intriguing, albeit a bit hard to keep the characters sorted out. I watched all the episodes that Netflix had, which was apparently two of four planned seasons, and enjoyed them, but figured that there was more, and potentially better available.

It’s a writers’ bias thing.

In any case, I downloaded the three Lev Grossman Magicians books (one at a time, of course) and have read two and a half of the three over the last two weeks.

So what’s my point?

The images that appear in my mind when I read a story are–at the very least, so much more personal–and possibly so much more real than what any screenwriter, director, or actor could produce, no matter how talented thay are. Imagnation is so much better than reality.

Nevertheless, I appreciate and enjoy both the books and the videos. Thank you authors, screenwriters, actors, movie and television crews for such wonderful diversions.

Ummmmmmm?

I haven’t been writing much lately because it’s hard to find an interesting topic that won’t piss off someone, somewhere.

Politics? Absolutely not!

International relations? Nope!

Helping the poor? Puhleeze!

Religion? God, no!

And so on and so forth, etc., etc., etc.*

In the musical album Thick as a Brick by Jethro Tull, one of the first lines is “I can make you feel, but I can’t make you think.”

I endeavor to make people think, not to cause eruptions of angst, fear, repulsion, or whatever. Emotions are a beautiful thing and when I write stories, I count on connecting with people’s emotions. However, this blog is to elicit thought.

Why do I differentiate?

When I’m angry, concerned, anxious, stressed, or, whatever, I do not think clearly. When I can at least control those emotions, I can think clearly. I do not wish to disrupt others’ ability to think.

 

*Ben Franklin and John Adams in 1776

Good Idea Faeries

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Some of the most dangerous statements begin with the words, “All you have to do is . . . .”

This is the mark of a Good Idea Faerie. Their approach has a number of advantages:

  1. I get the responsibility off my shoulders and onto yours (sometimes referred to as “the monkey on your back,” or more crudely, “flipping a booger onto someone else.” If you’re disgusted–good.
  2. If you do it, I can take credit for it being my idea.
  3. If it doesn’t get done, I can say that I told you, but you wouldn’t listen.
  4. If it gets done, but fails, again I can say that I told you, but you wouldn’t listen.

Good Idea Faeries never lose.

There’s only one way to handle them. Respond with, “That’s a great idea!” as you take a notebook or smartphone out of your pocket and ask, “How long will it take you to do that? I’ve made a note of it for my calendar and will check with you periodically to see how you’re progressing. This will be great, and I can’t think of anyone better to make it happen. Thank you so much.” Look at your note, “How about I check back with you on [fill in the date].

At the first available opportunity, announce loudly to the rest of the group, “Hey, everybody! Let’s have a round of applause for [Insert Good Idea Faerie’s name here] who is going to [fill in their idea] and has committed to having it done by [insert date here].”

A word to the wise–don’t let them interrupt you while you’re doing this. If they try to, feign deafness, and just keep on talking.

Twenty-First Century Bare Knuckle Fighting

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The big thing today is bare-knuckle boxing–a throwback to the days when women were expected to stay home, and prohibited from voting; when horse manure in the street was normal and every house smelled like stale cigars, and brass spittoons (or tin cans for the less affluent) were standard furnishing.*

As a philosopher-at-large, I should claim that this was fully expected, but unfortunately, I was blinded by my faith in the human species. Sorry about that.

Honest disclosure–I never thought two people trying to beat each other up was entertainment. I was never a fan of schoolyard bullies, bar fights, gang fights, or boxing. I never watched professional wrestling–even though we all know it is choreographed ballet for muscle-bound males.

In any case, at a time in which everyone over the age of three has their own smartphone; when cars drive themselves with the same skill as humans (“Lookout, we’re gonna crash and die!”); we have suddenly become fascinated with 19th century sports.

Don’t get me wrong, The 19th century gave us many things, including, including some of the best paintings, sculpture, and literature. Fisticuffs, on the other hand, is not on my list of positive accomplishments.

However, we seem to have an overdeveloped fascination with beating one another senseless.

How weird is that?

* I remember the tin can behind the couch at my grandparents’ house—–yuck—–never mind.

An Appeal for Donations

 

Photo of a Collection Plate

CNN reports, “Jesse Duplantis, leader of Jesse Duplantis Ministries and the owner of three other private jets, is asking his followers to chip in so his ministry can purchase a brand new Dassault Falcon 7X, which runs about $54 million.”

I thought that televangelists were on the television, which would seem to mean that their physical location was immaterial, so long as a television studio was available. I believe that, in a pinch, this would include the camera and microphone built into most computers.

But then what do I know?

As the only world’s only Philosopher-without-Portfolio–to the best of my knowledge–I believe I am just as entitled to a personal aircraft as anyone else. However, my needs are far less prestigious. I’d be more than happy with a used Cessna 182, which is available for less than $500,000.

I expect everybody to give this their best effort.

However, if that proves to be too difficult for you, a boat–say a 30 foot cabin cruiser, might be more achievable. Again, used is fine. I can engage in philosophical thoughts in a used airplane or on a used boat without any difficulty.

There is one problem.

Jesse said that God wants him to have the new jet.

I asked God if He wanted me to have people collect money to provide me with a plane or a boat. He didn’t exactly say, “Yes,” but He apparently enjoyed a good laugh.

Memorial Holyday

Memorial-Day

The word holiday was once just a different spelling for holyday, but has come to mean something quite different to many people. That’s unfortunate, because we tend to remember the specific meaning of our holydays; we do not confuse Passover with Christmas or Eid al Fitr. On the other hand, we do confuse holidays.

In the United States of America, today is Memorial Day. I observe Memorial Day, but do not celebrate it, since it is dedicated to those who gave their lives in the defense of our country. Veterans Day, on the other hand, recognizes all who served or are serving in the military.

It is an ancient custom to honor the dead by placing flowers on their grave. After the American Civil War, this practice became an annual ritual and was originally known as Decoration Day. There are a number of people and organizations who have been credited with initiating it from both the Union and Confederacy.

To me, Memorial Day, is when I remember when I was deployed and we lost someone. The theater–which was also used as a chapel–would have the inverted rifle, helmet, boots, and dog tags representing the lost warrior, and too many times it was not just one. The building was packed by men and women in camouflage uniforms; under the seats, the pre-staged boxes of tissue were intermingled with rifles. Friends paid tribute, and no one was too proud to cry.

Military rituals are often misunderstood, but the link provides a good explanation. One misunderstanding is that at a military funeral, the honor guard fires a 21-gun salute. Actually, they fire three volleys, a 21-gun salute is reserved for heads of state.

Except for Memorial Day.

On Memorial Day, those who, as Abraham Lincoln said, “gave the last full measure,” are accorded the same honor as a head of state. On Memorial Day, the fallen are recognized with a 21-gun salute.

From Rocks to Fails

In the absence of honest journalism, the media (plural for medium, as “in the middle” such having a C average in school) have resorted to various gimmicks to attract readers–especially if someone is paying for clicks on the web page. Among the traditional gimicks is the unfinished headline, where they try to make it look like they ran out of space:

Political analysts caught by surprise when president signs bill making 

Then there’s the shock/tease headline:

If you thought this starlet was cute in the 1960’s, you’ll be shocked at how she look today!

Gradually we ended up on the rocks:

Fifty year old movie star rocks bikini!

Of course, ending up on the rocks, is another term for failure, so now the media is into fails:

Biggest fails at the gala awards program!

Actually, they might do better if they just made up words:

You’ll absolutely snarzl when you see this!

Us vs. Me

 

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“Wait, I need to take a selfie!”

Far too many events today are due to decisions by people who think only of themselves.

This is unnatural.

The hermit, alone in his cave, has always been an idiosyncratic caricature. The word hermit is derived from the word for desert or desert dweller. Deserts are not particularly attractive to people who depend on hunting and gathering. Deserts are more successful as after the invention of are air-conditioned houses and refrigerated food trucks. (Casinos, although optional, seem inevitable.)

Humans from earliest times sought out one another.  Our ancestors, the Homo erectus, (stop thinking dirty thoughts–it refers to having the ability to stand upright) or Homo sapiens neanderthalensis  tended to keep their families together, eventually becoming tribes. Some believe that the reason that there are no identifiable descendants of the Neanderthals is because the two groups combined and interbred, ultimately resulting in us, Homo sapiens.

We belong together, but sometimes are reluctant to admit it. As such, in order to survive and prosper, we must look at things in terms of the common good. Life is not a zero-sum game (if I win, you lose). It is a life-or-death struggle in which WE win or lose.

I could wax poetic for another 300 pages, which I might enjoy, but WE, as a totality, would not, so I’ll stop.

* Links courtesy of Wikipedia. If you use Wikipedia, then use PayPal to send them a few bucks–better yet, a few bucks a month.

Magic with Numbers!

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Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawkins were rank amateurs because they were handicapped by their pathetic math skills.

The real math pros are accountants.

As the old joke goes:
A businessman needed to hire someone who knew math. For the interview, he had written on a white board “2 + 2 =.” The mathemetician wrote “4,” as did the physicist. When an acountant arrived, he looked at the whiteboard, locked the door, checked to make sure the window was locked, and pulled the curtains. He leaned close to the businessman and whispered,
“What do you want it to be?”

Creative accounting requires more mental gymnastics than figuring out how the universe began or will end. Here’s a great example:

Forestt Gump, the movie, cost $55 million dollars to produce. It earned nearly $680 BILLION, but according to the accountants, it lost money. Some of the contributors (like author Winston Groom) had agreed to a percentage of the net profits. However, since it never made a dime, their share was zero.

Let’s review the math:

$679,850,637,000
–        $55,000,000
             ZERO*
* After depreciation, marketing, amortization, title, and dealer preparation charges–and other “Generally Accepted Accounting Principles”.

I didn’t include taxes, because if it “lost money,” I’m not sure whether or not they had to pay any.

Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, eat your hearts out!

 

 

My How Things Change

The United States Constitution is a marvelous document–a framework for what was a radically new form of government in 1787–but a living document that has changed with the times.

TheNationalArchivesholdstheUnitedStatesConstitutionOriginalDocument

And the times have so changed.

Legend has it that, during the war, a British military commander sent a note addressed to ‘Mr. George Washington.’ General Washington accepted the note and placed it in his pocket saying that he was aquainted with Mr. Washington, who was a planter in Virginia, and he would deliver the note after the war. The next day, a similar–and possibly identical note–was sent, addressed to ‘General George Washington.’

After the war, General Washington appeared before the Continental Congress to return his commission to them. He had done his duty, and no longer needed or wanted the rank of general and handed the paperwork that had made him a general back.

Initially, there was a populist movement to make Washington king. He would have no part of that. There is a place in the Capitol Building that was intended to be his crypt, but he had left clear instructions that precluded his internment there.

Often, he closed his correspondence with “Your obdt (obedient) servant, George Washington.”

Regardless of your political views, it is reassuring that our nation is not based on birthright, caste, or class, but on a set of ideals laid out in the Constitution. It is a set of ideas that bonds Americans together.