The Will of the One

Sometimes I have a hard time writing a blog, even when I know that it’s important to write. Today is one such day.

Our first president, George Washington declined to be monarch. Instead, when the revolutionary war was over, he did not merely resign. Instead, he rode to Congress and returned the actual letter of his commissioning.

“Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”

King George III of Great Britain could not believe that anyone would so easily give up so much power so easily. When told by the American artist Benjamin West that Washington was going to resign, King George III of England said “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

This country once had great men. Now, not so much. That is why this blog is so difficult.

First, the old saying is true—a house divided against itself cannot stand. America has had differences of opinions in the past, but nowhere near the intensity and longevity of hatred that we’ve been seeing for the last few years. In my youth, if I had acted the way many of our senior elected officials act, I would have been punished—not sent to the time out chair. In fact, after the punishment, I would not have been interested in sitting anywhere. We are already divided and tearing through the final threads.

Many of our so-called leaders would gladly see the country torn apart and are willing to help in its destruction. Donald trump is quoted today as saying that the nation will only last three more years. I hope to God he’s wrong, but I’m not optimistic.

We live in a constitutional democratic republic. Unfortunately, those we elect see themselves not as the nation’s stewards but the nations gods. A democratic republic is meant to represent the will of the people, not the will of a person, yet it seems that is what it has become. One person—Mitch McConnell—was able to stonewall Merick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for the better part of a year.

Trump named three Justices—the one held up by McConnell during Obama’s presidency, one during Trump’s presidency, and Amy Coney Barret, whose nomination McConnell rushed through the Congress TWO WEEKS before the 2020 presidential election. With such unethical and immoral tactics, it’s very difficult to see the Supreme Court as anything other than a group of political hacks, no matter what Associate Justice Barret says.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley is planning on halting any nominees to the Defense Department or the Department of State. Why does one person—ONE PERSON—and a nobody at that, have so much power?

When did our government change from the will of the people or the consent of the governed to what it has become?

After today’s blog it may be a while before I blog again.

Go, Pareto, Go!

Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) is credited with saying “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Someone else (we don’t know who) said, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

However, sometimes statistics and figures are useful.

Wilfried Pareto came up with the 80/20 rule which is not so much a rule as an observation, but it’s very handy. For example, you can get 80 percent of the work done with 20 percent effort. To accomplish the other 20 percent of the work, it will take 80 percent effort.

Think of painting the rooms inside of your house as 80 percent and not too difficult (20 percent effort). As you’re cleaning up afterward, your spouse decides that you also need to paint the ceilings, trim, doors, and inside the closets. That’s going to require 4 times as much effort as painting the walls.

The most practical restating of the Pareto Rule is that the enemy of good is better.

Another area in which the Pareto rule works is spam—in fact I believe it proves the rule. Eighty percent of my emails are spam. Before the improvement to the telephone system, 80 percent of my phone calls were spam. Thanks to the governments new “Shaken and Stirred” anti-spam law, today only 80 percent of my calls are spam.

When I go to the mailbox, 80 percent of my mail is junk mail—the very first form of spam (not counting SPAM® itself). Somewhat less than 20 percent is actual mail. I describe it that way because under the fine leadership of Postmaster General DeJoy, about half of the greeting cards that I send out, properly addressed with proper postage, reappear in my mailbox 30 to 60 days later.

THANKS AS ALWAYS TO WIKIPEDIA, WHICH IS WHERE I TURN WHEN I NEED MY MEMORY REFRESHED. PLEASE CHECK OUT THEIR SITE AND IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY, MAKE A DONATION, NO MATTER HOW SMALL. THANKS.

Patently Medicine

Ladies and Gentlemen!  May I have your attention, please. Please look right here at the back of the Medicine Wagon. May I introduce myself? I am Professor Randall, and I am here to show you some remarkable potions and elixirs to solve whatever problems you are facing.

I know what some of you are thinking! You’re thinking that my products are just like the vaccines that the government wants to give you for free. No, sirree—why would any government give anything away for free? You know they’re up to something! Don’t be fooled!

Do their free vaccines work? Who knows! Most people who get the government vaccine don’t get COVID so there’s no way to tell.

On the other hand, my friends, when you find yourself gasping for breath, you’ll be able to see our miracle elixirs at work. Traditionally, we’ve always advertised “One for a man—two for a horse,” but with COVID, we recommend that men get treated every bit as well as horses.

And don’t forget the side benefits of our products. You drink a bottle to cure COVID and I guarantee that you will deworm yourself at the same time.

And since I like you, I’m going to sell these, today only, for half the regular price. Just line up over here and have your cash or credit card ready.

Social Security

I read an article today projecting that Social Security will run out of money in only a few short years. Of course, I’ve been reading the same dire predictions since I was in grade school and after hearing the same scary story for 50 or 60 years, it begins to lose its dramatic impact.

What will we do? What will we do?

Maybe we could start by analyzing how Social Security works. Much of it is simple. Working people have money deducted from their paychecks while they’re earning a wage or a salary. Overall, Social Security tax is 12.4%. For those who work for a company, it is split so that the employee pays 6.2 percent and the employer pays 6.2 percent. This money goes into a fund to be used to pay retirees in the future.

Since Social Security tax is based on a percentage, people who earn more money pay more into the fund. Some, like doctors and plumbers make more money because of their education or skill set, so it’s in our national self-interest to encourage people to earn more. Public education, especially community and traditional colleges is one way to position workers to earn more.

Currently, there are a few bugs in the system. Minimum hourly wage today is $7.25 in most cases, so a minimum wage earner contributes $1,869.92 per year into the Social Security fund. In 1945, just after the Second World War, there were 41.9 workers paying into Social Security for every retiree receiving Social Security benefits. Today, it is less than 3 workers paying into Social Security for every retiree receiving benefits. Since there is no isolated, protected portion of the federal budget for social security, most of the cash has been replaced by IOUs from Congress. The system only works if there’s more money going into the fund than coming out of the fund.

A few years ago, one attempt to fix this a tiny bit was to raise the traditional retirement age from 65 to 67 in stages. It wasn’t nearly enough.

Since Social Security taxes are based on earnings, if the minimum hourly wage were raised to $10.00 per hour, each worker would contribute $2,579.20 per year, an increase of $709.28. There is a lot of opposition to raising the minimum wage for a variety of reasons of varying validity. However, as a follow on to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are rethinking their employment choices. When COVID removes 660,000 people through death and debilitates a significant number of others, the remaining workers have more options available to them. This has been true for thousands of years after every plague or pandemic.

If fewer people return to minimum wage jobs because there are fewer (living) people available, does this help Social Security? Obviously not.

What is needed is to draw additional people into the workforce, especially people who are willing to accept lower level jobs. The question is, how to find them. The most logical approach, of course, is to screen those who want to move into America or other developed countries, pick the best, let them in, put them to work, and if they earn it, make them citizens.

It may not be the preferred political plan, but unless someone comes up with a better way to pay more into Social Security than is paid out, it may require, at the least, serious consideration.

The COVID-19 Numbers

Some people have expressed their fears about the COVID-19 vaccine. Here are the most accurate numbers I can find. They are as of 23 August and I am using them to compare two binary issues – life or death. Life and death are mutually exclusive and universally exhaustive. Unlike Schrodinger’s cat, since the outcomes have already been observed, only one of the two choices can exist.

All numbers refer to the United States.

Number of people vaccinated for COVID-19:
Those receiving at least one dose – 204,435,968
Those receiving two doses – 173,520,211

Number of people who died after receiving the COVID-19 Vaccine – 6,968.

Number of people who have died from COVID-19 – 655,415.

“So you gotta ask yourself, Do I feel lucky? Well, do you?”

Dirty Harry role still haunts Eastwood at 87 | Seniors News

Get Real

The COVID vaccine works. Wearing a mask works. There are no computer chips being implanted.

Does anyone really believe that a computer chip can be implanted via 23 gauge needle? THAT would be at least as difficult as getting a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The chips they use for pets are about the size of a grain of rice, require a huge needle, more of a trochar, actually, and cannot be read remotely. Veterinarians place the receiver in contact with the skin immediately above the chip, which is why there are standard locations (usually between the shoulder blades) for chip placement.

These things are facts, but for some reason, people are compelled to not only deny these facts but convince others.

Sir Isaac Newton taught that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Before COVID vaccines were available, insurance companies frequently forgave co-pays and deductibles. Then the vaccines arrived and were administered for free.

The equal and opposite reaction? Some hospitals (if they can even find room for a COVID patient) will fully charge if that person was medically eligible but chose not to take the vaccine. Even if you are only responsible for co-pays and/or deductibles, the cost will be crippling to many.

Yes, it’s your choice whether or not to wear a mask, and yes it’s your choice whether or not to get vaccinated. However, if your choice leads to significant medical expenses, you get the bill.

Incidentally, dying does not necessarily release you from the financial responsibility.

Scary Headline

This morning in the Virginian-Pilot the headline on the top of the right column read “President: Bigger threats than Taliban“. It sat in the back of my mind, stirring around for a while, then slapped me to get my attention.

What is the primary purpose of the United States Department of Defense?

It is to protect the United States and its people.

Before the Second World War, the United States was more or less isolationist. World War I and the concurrent Spanish Influenza had taken a significant toll, followed by the Great Depression. We no longer wanted to be involved in Europe’s problems. We had the pleasure of being isolationist because we felt isolated by an ocean to the east and an ocean to the west. After the First World War, we were digging our way out of the Depression and just wanted to be left alone.

December 7, 1941 changed that. By 1945, we had become a world superpower and ignoring international conflicts was no longer an option.

We haven’t been involved in a declared war since, although our “police actions”, “peacekeeping operations”, etc. have resulted in our military fighting and dying in such places as Korea, Vietnam, Belarus, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan (among others).

The US Military has spent 20 years in Southwest Asia fighting a counterinsurgency war–this after spending much of the 1960s and 1970s fighting a similar war in Southeast Asia.

Future wars will be totally different from what we have experienced or expect. Whether the next war takes place next year or in the next century, it will be unlike anything we’ve imagined.

In the future, soldiers primary specialty may be dealing with cyber attacks to protect our electric grid or water supply rather than being a rifleman. Given the cyberattacks we’ve already encountered, it’s likely. When Jesus said that the meek shall inherit the earth, maybe He was hinting that it will be the geeks who save it.

As sad as I am about the outcome in Afghanistan, the Afghans are not our first priority. Our first priority is to defend our homeland and our people. We need our troops to be trained, equipped, and positioned to do so.

Parenting and International Relations

I’m a parent. All of my children are adults.

Some people say that everything they needed to know, they learned in kindergarten. Not so much for me – I guess I’m a slow learner.

With my kids, I was involved in their schooling, their sports, their music, and their–well, whatever–for many years. When they moved away for the first, second or whatever time, I thought my responsibilities were over. And they truly were, whether I admitted it or not.

However, we parents still worry about our kids as they head off to college, rent their first apartment, get their first utility bills, enlist in the military, get married, change jobs and…and…and. In spite of an overwhelming desire to scream, “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA AS TO WHAT YOU’RE DOING?” we keep our comments to ourselves, but wait silently for them to ask for our advice (which they rightly expect to ignore, just as we did with our parents).

Generation after generation, against all odds, tends to turn out pretty-not-too-bad. There are some examples of incredible success, some examples of abject (even criminal) failure, and a whole lot of people who turn out as well as you and me. (Or should that be ‘you and I’? Never mind.)

When my children left, I had an overwhelming desire to figure out a way unscrew the top of my skull and pour my hard earned experience into their heads. I couldn’t. Even worse, they were all the better for it because they had to decide what was important to them. They had to grow into the adult they were meant to be, not who I thought they should be.

Afghanistan is in a similar situation. I’m not claiming that Afghanistan is America’s child, but we have invested in them and the hope for their future. I’m sure Great Britain felt the same about America in the 1770’s, but we ignored them and found our own way (with occasional successes). We did not wish to be a Britain, even with all it had to offer.We wanted to be us.

I don’t know what the future holds for the Afghans, but I sincerely hope they find their way to who they wish to be.

Afghan Heartbreak

Yes, it breaks my heart to see what is happening in Afghanistan, but we all need to remember certain facts.

The initial reason for going into Afghanistan was to disrupt Al Qaeda training camps after 9/11. We knew bin Laden was in Afghanistan and he was training fighters.

Initially there were special forces, followed by ISAF–the International Security Assistance Force, led by NATO. Incidentally, The only time Article 5 of the NATO charter requiring mutual assistance for a NATO member under attack has been invoked was when the US was attacked on September 11, 2001. That’s why NATO was involved.

About 2003, we began sending various training teams to Afghanistan. US Military Embedded Training Teams to teach the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police how to be militarily effective. Provincial Reconstruction Teams to teach civilian governments their responsibilities to their citizens. The teams of US military were shoulder to shoulder with the Afghans, whether at a forward operating base, or working to rebuild (or more commonly, build) infrastructure.

After 20 years, the Afghans have been trained. They have appropriate weapons and equipment, which they have been taught how to use. They had fought alongside ISAF members. They have everything they need to take care of themselves. Afghanistan is a sovereign nation as they frequently reminded us.

But, when the Taliban attacked, the Afghan military deserted their posts, reportedly without a fight. Their President, Ashraf Ghani, quickly scooted out of the country. His message to his countrymen was the equivalent of, “Sucks to be you.” It was the Afghan government and the Afghan military’s job to protect their people. We did their job for them for 20 years. As sad as the outcome is, how long were we supposed to take care of them? 30 years? 40 years? Forever?

In the meantime, the “Real Congress Members of Washington, DC” are in front of the cameras, raising their voices in righteous indignation. This includes the 84 senators (out of 100) who NEVER served in the military and the 356 representatives (out of 430) who NEVER served.

That also breaks my heart.

Thanks for a Different Kind of Crazy

A cyclist rides past a stensil of a gull about to swoop down onto a carton of chips, the subject of a graffiti artwork bearing the hallmarks of street artist Banksy on a wall in Lowestoft on the East Coast of England on August 8, 2021.

The whole world is nuts. It has always been crazy, but the current generation has put a fine point on insanity. People who once would have been restrained in a straitjacket and carted off to a “special” hospital are instead in Congress–either elected or breaking down the doors in order to find the gift shop. Incidentally, some of those who were elected to Congress are not nearly as well behaved as the insurrectionists. The only gift shop they can find is the one in the cloakrooms where they meet lobbyists.

Amid all this destructive craziness, there is another type of craziness that is calming and soothing. The perpetrator, alas, is not American–at least as far as we know. Like the mysterious characters like the Shadow or the Phantom of years ago, he/she/they lurk in the shadows. Like Mandrake the Magician they create diversions and when no one is looking, then sneak in and do their worst. I call it their worst, because, it is so far out of sync with most people.

But it is a wonderful worst. I’m speaking, of course, of Banksy, who is currently on a self-proclaimed spraycation. subjecting people to artistic commentary. Many people enjoy it. Others do not possess the mental capacity to understand it on any level.

THAT is art.

Even Banksy Is Working From Home & Now His Bathroom Is ...

Afghanistan

Afghanistan-the land in which Doctor Watson served and was wounded by a Jezail bullet- efore he met and was befriended by Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories were written in the late 19th century. Various retellings are placed in the early 21st century without creating any literate anomalies.

Trying to understand Afghanistan is a complicated issue. I will share my perspective, but I will try to be as brief as possible. However, being brief means bypassing a lot of facts. We’re at the point that America has invested more than enough to allow the Afghans to manage their own affairs, but that is not yet happening.

I served in Southwest Asia. I had troops in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, and Kuwait, and tried to make sure that I spent time with as many of my people as possible wherever they were stationed. I got to see Afghanistan, up close and personal. For the record, the Afghans I met were warm, friendly, and gracious. They were wonderful hosts, sharing many things with us—as an affecianado, I proclaim their bread as the finest in the world.

In attempting to let the Afghans govern themselves there are complicating issues:

  1. Afghanistan is not a country in the same way that we define a country. Individuals identify with their families, with the extended family being part of a tribe. Tribes often live in proximity, such as in a single village. What happens in their village is important; what happens in Kabul or Kandahar, etc. is not. Therefore, there is not a national identity as we understand it.
  2. As with many others in that part of the world, they are Muslims, but with somewhat of a different style. They’re use of Inshallah—“If God Wills It”—is a bit different. If someone has a winter coat and it’s spring, he may trade the coat for something else. He does not think of needing it next winter. If he needs a coat next winter, Inshallah—God will provide.
  3. When renting an apartment, applying for a license or an account, or whatever, paying the agent to expedite the process is not viewed as a bribe; instead, it is viewed in the same way Americans view tips. Before you feel too smug, much of the rest of the civilized world views the American practice of tipping as, well, bribery.
  4. When American Special Forces first arrived in Afghanistan, they used the local militias as allies against the Taliban. These militias were organized, they were well armed, and they were effective. Eventually, Hamad Karzai created a coalition to enable him to form a government and be appointed (not elected) president. He recruited the most powerful men, who just happened to be the warlords who headed the various militias. As a result of the coalition, many warlords became provincial governors, cabinet ministers, and other powerful officials.

After I retired and hung up my uniform, I worked as an analyst for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. While there, we conducted a study on corruption in Afghanistan. If you want to read some fascinating issues, check out https://www.sigar.mil. SIGAR is the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

America provided money and materials without monitoring what it was used for. Much of it was not used as intended. Today, Swiss banks are holding much more wealth than they did before America tried to rebuild Afghanistan.

To keep this short, I skipped over so much. Joint Forces Quarterly published an article that we wrote about some of the Afghanistan issues. It can be accessed at https://ndupress.ndu.edu/JFQ/Joint-Force-Quarterly-75/Article/577577/dealing-with-corruption-hard-lessons-learned-in-afghanistan/

Those who do not study the past are doomed to repeat it. In any case, I wish the Afghan people well and ask God to generously bless them.

Thoughts About Blessings

I was reminded of an old joke the other day. You’ve probably heard it, but bear with me—there is a point.

A hurricane hit Louisiana and a man crawled up onto his roof as the floodwaters rose. A neighbor came by in his boat filled with other neighbors.

“Boudreaux!” he called, “There’s room in here for one more! I can even bring the boat in close enough so you can just step off the roof, into the boat without getting wet!”

“Thanks, but I have faith that God will provide!” The neighbor, not wanting to offend either Boudreaux or God waved, “As you wish. Hope to see you soon!” opened up the throttle a bit and sailed away.

About an hour later, another boat operated by the volunteer “Cajun Navy” came alongside the house.

“C’mon down!” one of them called, “We have more bad weather headed this way. You need to leave, now!”

“Thanks, but I’m good,” Boudreaux replied. “God will provide what I need!” The boat turned, and with a wave its pilot headed north to look for others who needed help.

A couple of hours later, a National Guard helicopter hovered over him and lowered a harness to haul him up. Boudreaux waved them off. Even though they couldn’t hear him over the roar of the helicopter, once again Boudreaux proclaimed his faith.

The weather got worse. The water crested over the top of the roof, which didn’t matter because Boudreaux had already been blown off the roof into the raging waters and he drowned. He approached the pearly gates of Heaven with a dour look on his face.

“I was sure that you would rescue me!” he said to God.

“I sent two boats and a helicopter,” God replied. “What more did you expect?”

God does much of his work through other people. Moses was about 85 years old with a speech impediment, happily herding goats when God sent him to stand up to the Pharaoh, the most powerful leader in Africa and Asia, and lead the Jews out of Egypt. God showed the way, but Moses did the actual leading.

When the multitudes following Jesus were hungry, Jesus asked the disciples to find what food was available. After He blessed the loaves and fishes, it was the disciples who distributed food among the followers. The crowd was probably more impressed with those distributing the food than Jesus’ blessing it.

St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians pointed out that different people have different gifts, but those gifts are to benefit others. Some speak in tongues while others can interpret such speech. Some drive boats or fly helicopters to evacuate people in need. Some study diseases to try to figure out how to fight them. Others treat people with diseases or instruct them in ways to avoid or minimize the effects of disease.

I’ve challenged myself, and with your permission, I’d like to challenge you. In today’s crazy world, what is your gift? Are you using it to help others?

People of Faith

Sometimes it is quite surprising as to what you can learn from people of faith. You’ll usually learn something, but not always what you expect.

On the news this morning, a commentator related his encounter with two families. He asked the first family why they did not wear masks.

“Our faith will protect us,” was their reply.

He then asked another family why they DID wear masks.

“Our faith teaches us to not hurt others.”

Business 2021

Although I have two degrees in business and 40 plus years of experience, there are many, many things that businesses do that befuddle me. Whole industries make massive mistakes that eventually prove fatal. Other companies then make the exact same mistakes. It seems that no one ever learns. I realize things are different with yet another wave of COVID-19 deaths, but not all of this can be chalked up to the pandemic.

I recently read an interesting article, “Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don’t Blame Cars.)” that provides a prime example. I suggest that you read the article if you’re a student of business–not just those of you who are studying business in an academic setting, but anyone who engages in business. My synopsis does not do it justice, but, hopefully will pique your curiosity.

America once had an efficient and effective mass transit system, which both enabled and limited geographic dispersion. After the Second World War, inspired by the German Autobahn, the federal government funded the interstate highway system. At the time, it was perceived and justified as a defense measure to move troops from one place to another quickly. In addition, stretches of the highways were constructed in a straight line without obstructions so they could be used as air strips if military air bases were destroyed.

In the meantime, mass transit systems did not receive such generous funding. Even though the train and trolley car companies were well entrenched, they did not, as opposed to could not, successfully compete. Their response was abysmal. Essentially like wagon trains in the Old West, they pulled the streetcars into a circle and hunkered down.

Instead of improving service to be more competitive, they hunkered down and cut expenses. Then they cut expenses more.

There is an old saying in business. “If you let marketing run the company, you’ll go into bankruptcy, reorganize, and come out as a profitable enterprise. If you let accounting run the company, the company will stay in the black until the very last stick of furniture is auctioned off and the doors locked.”

What if the industry had improved service to make mass transit more appealing? In an ideal world, would you rather fight rush hour traffic, or would you prefer to sit in a comfortable train car? Unfortunately, in those cities that do have a more-or-less successful mass transit system, the comfort is still lacking. Instead, mass transit rush hour means being packed like sardines so that your nose is in another rider’s armpit (or vice versa). They could have done better and done so in more markets. They still can.

Today, we’re seeing the same thing in other industries. Newspapers are cutting expenses (staff) and printing papers that rely on news services rather than reporters. Those few dogged souls who still subscribe get to read the same stories they read online yesterday. Today you need a magnifying glass to read the funnies–soon you’ll need a scanning electron microscope. The only reasonable amount of space is for obituaries (which are paid for by the bereaved).

Then there are retailers, who have pretty much handed everything over to Amazon and slunk away with their tails between their legs. Actually, they might be in a better position than they think. I’ve heard many people complain about Amazon, how Jeff Bezos treats Amazon employees, and some very cutting comments about greed.

What’s next? We’ve already got teleworking, online pharmacies and virtual doctors’ appointments, church services and dating apps. Soon it will be possible for people to spend their entire lives without face-to-face encounters with others. The first time they’ll leave home is when the undertaker picks up their body for disposal.

More’s the pity.

The Wisdom of Rainn Wilson

A ton of acting roles from Dwight Schrute on The Office to Lahnk on Galaxy Quest as well as an inspirational philosopher.

Forsooth:

RainnWilson
The metamorphosis of Jesus Christ from a humble servant of the abject poor to a symbol that stands for gun rights, prosperity theology, anti- science, limited government (that neglects the destitute) and fierce nationalism is truly the strangest transformation in human history.

Of course there’s always the chance that Jesus didn’t change–We did.

If so, we may have a lot of explaining to do.

Korean Priorities

South Korea: We'll Kill Kim Jong Un If We Have to

It’s very difficult to find anything in the news that is either uplifting or just plain fun. After much searching, I finally found something worth sharing.

The Wall Street Journal reports that North Korea is willing to reopen negotiations under certain conditions. It’s important to emphasize this is North Korea, which refers to itself as “Korea” as opposed to South Korea, which refers to itself as “The Republic of Samsung.”

What does North Korea want? While they have an autocratic government, they are often pragmatic. They want sanctions relaxed.

Their main priorities are changes to allow them to import fuel, fine suits, and premium liquor.

As you may have seen, Kim Jung Un, the North Korean leader has recently lost a lot of weight, raising questions as to the state of his health. Some are concerned that this is evidence that he has some underlying health crisis. I believe that he may not have serious health problems.

Kim Jung Un may, in fact, have adopted a more healthy lifestyle with a better diet and regular workouts in his private gym. This is how he lost the weight.

Now that he’s buff (relatively speaking), he wants to get some spiffy new suits that don’t look like oversized bags. He then plans to fuel up the limo, cruise Pyongyang, pick up chicks, and ply them with (premium) liquor.

New Post

It’s been a very, very, very long week. Many crazy things have happened.

However, among all the craziness, there are things that are wonderful. Many don’t reach the headlines, but this one did.

Thank you and God bless everyone who helped.

https://www.cnn.com/2021/07/30/app-news-section/videos-of-the-week-mobile-july-30/index.html

Viral Blog

Viruses are strange, which is what makes them so dangerous.

First, experts describe them as “organisms at the edge of life” because they share some characteristics with living organisms, but lack others. They do not reproduce on their own. Simplistically, they invade a living cell and force the cell to produce hundreds or thousands of copies of the virus based on the virus’s RNA or DNA.

And they mutate.

One way to think about mutation is to compare it to copying a photograph. The first copy may look reasonably good, although when you place the original and the copy you may notice some differences. If you make a copy of the copy and then repeat, each generation looks less like the original. A similar thing occurs with viruses. That’s why each year the pharmaceutical companies need to prepare a different vaccine in preparation for the flu season. Much of the time, their projections are accurate, but some times the influenza strain that predominates is totally different from what they expected.

Another bad thing about viruses is that the treatment options are limited. Some medical professionals say that if they treat the patient, the patient will be better in a week. If they don’t, the patient will be better in seven days. There is an element of truth to that.

The COVID-19 virus has mutated into a more virulent form. People who have been vaccinated may carry the virus, usually with mild or no symptoms. Although they may not feel sick, they not only carry the virus, but also shed it, potentially infecting those who have not been vaccinated. This includes children too young for the vaccine and those who are immunocompromised, such as those who have received an organ transplant, those who have an autoimmune disease, and those who are undergoing radiation or chemotherapy. This is why masks are once again recommended, even for those who have been vaccinated.

Masks would not be necessary if the virus hadn’t mutated.

The COVID-19 virus, like all viruses, cannot reproduce itself. In most cases it needs an unvaccinated host and useS the hosts cells to reproduce. As long as there are a sufficient number of unvaccinated people it will continue to replicate and, inevitably mutate. We currently know of two mutations, identified as delta and lambda.

Some people point out that there was confusing guidance in the past, decreasing their confidence in current medical advice. When COVID-19 first appeared, it was often referred to as a novel disease, meaning there was little or nothing known about it because it was new. This meant that scientists were forced to try something and see if it worked. If it didn’t work, try something else. Science is a process, not a collection of facts.

Among the ways that viruses can be spread are by droplets or aerosols from a cough, sneeze, or even just talking. Prior to COVID-19, it was widely believed that anything larger than 5 microns could not be spread by aerosol, only droplets. Droplets have a limited range of about six feet, after which they drop and settle on surfaces. Given that the coronavirus is larger than 5 microns, the advice was to maintain the six-foot social distance, clean surfaces, and wash hands frequently. This was a reasonable approach until it was proven that the 5-micron rule was invalid, after which the use of masks was seen as the best protection.

So today, the advice is to get the vaccine to protect yourself and to deny the virus a breeding ground. Wearing a mask provides you with another level of protection and helps protect those around you.

It’s confusing, but as we got more data, it altered our response. It’s inevitable that we will collect even more data, which may alter our response once again. Following the advice is far, far better than experiencing COVID. Trust me on this.

Wannabe Famous??

After paying careful attention to the media, I believe I have finally cracked the code. I have read hundreds of articles in various “news” sources. Here are my conclusions:

  1. The easiest way, of course, is to be born to famous parents. If possible, to famous parents who had famous parents. Children of the famous attract paparazzi and sycophants before they switch from breast milk to creamed peas.
  2. Having rich parents always helps, even if they’re not famous per se. It takes a bit more work, but it is possible. Paris Hilton now says that her earlier activities were all an act and, with all the money she has, that tells you something.
  3. Lacking the foresight for picking proper ancestors, becoming famous will take more work, but is still quite possible. The best plan is to do something incredibly stupid. Contrary to what you may have heard, it does NOT have to be criminal, although criminal acts do tend to garner headlines. If it bleeds, it leads.
  4. Creating and promoting fake remedies is as old as America itself. The 21st century Medicine Shows do not have the entertainment value of Dr. Brouhaha’s Hell Oil Tonic sold from a horse drawn wagon, but don’t despair. Look at the following that hydroxychloroquine and injectable bleach managed in only a few short weeks.
  5. Lavish use of Facebook and Twitter will help you build credibility. Have several accounts with which to quote or forward your own ideas so it looks like you have a following.
  6. And, finally–run for Congress.

Pluralses

Common octopus on seabed
By albert kok – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2795257

Others, such as Alan Sherman, who was was parodying songs while Weird Al Yankovich was just beginning accordion lessons have contemplated the mysteries of pluralizing words. I generally accept the weirdness of English in general without too much difficulties, but there are some idiosyncracies that must be challenged.

I’ve resigned myself to the pluralization of fish. If it’s all one species, the plural is fish. If there are more than one species, it’s fishes. So, if you had 1,000 salmon, you have 1,000 fish. If you have 999 salmon, but one tuna, then you have fishes. You’d think that there would be some defined tipping point. In either case, the average fisherman would focus on the one-thousand first fish that got away. It put all the others to shame.

I’ve always been fascinated by the octopus and even had one as a pet for a while. We got along fine, so while I had him, I never brought up the following, lest it embarrass or offend him.

Octopus is a Latin word derived from a Greek word, but a Latin word, nevertheless. I am an alumnus of several universities (much to their embarrassment). When I am with old classmates, we are alumni, the plural of alumnus. My wife, on the other hand, is an alumna for which the plural is alumnae unless there are males in attendance, in which case together they are alumni. (Chauvinistic Romans!)

So, alumnus, alumni. Octopus, octopuses. Why not octopi?

All of this creates a significant dilemna. Did the Beatles song refer to a single Octopoda, as in “An Octopus’s Garden” or several who were sharing a garden, as in “An Octopuses’ Garden”?

Ringo, feel free to reply and resolve this issue.