Monthly Archives: October 2015

THE Interview

Today, an interview with a man who needs no introduction. Good evening sir.

Good evening. It’s a pleasure to be here.

The world today is chaotic, yet in other ways, not so much. It was not that long ago—less than a century—when a number of nations were either at war or threatening war.

It has calmed down a bit, but one never knows when some radical leader will appear, appeal to those who have nothing to lose, and create all kinds of mayhem.

As the leader of the world’s only superpower, you have, in many ways, a responsibility to keep some semblance of order in the world.

That’s much easier to say from the chair you’re sitting in than from my chair. It’s a lot of responsibility to commit our blood and treasure to some fracas in a far-off land. Maintaining a military that can accomplish that is expensive and complex. When we station troops in some trouble spot, we still have to keep them supplied with everything from food to weapons. That supply train itself is expensive. People forget that our troops are stationed around the world—Europe, Asia, Africa.

Not to mention the fact that your primary duty is keeping the people back home happy.

The economy is always a major issue with the citizens. Everyone wants protection, good roads, and plenty of fresh water, but no one likes paying for those services through their taxes.

And then there’s politics—a truly demanding and dangerous game.

Dealing with politicians is different than dealing with any other group—they’re all trying to hang onto their power, and line their purse. I swear, there are senators that would stab me in the back, if given half a chance.

Well, let’s hope that they never get such a chance. I know your time is precious and your schedule full, but I do wish to thank you for taking time today.

The pleasure is mine.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s have a round of applause for the most powerful man in the world—Julius Caesar.

Selfies

I confess, I don’t understand selfies. What’s the thrill about sending pictures of yourself to everyone you know? It’s tied for last place with pictures of the meal one is going to eat.

I hate having my picture taken, as I’m content to be on my side of my face and have no desire to contemplate the side most people view. I tolerate several minutes during the time I shave, but with the shaving cream and contorting my face and stretching my neck while shaving I do not see much resemble that others believe I look like. Pre-coffee vision also helps.

In my teen years and well into my twenties, I pursued photography so that I’d be on the other side of the camera. The added advantage was that not only was I not asked to be part of the wedding party—saving the expense of renting a tux, etc., but I made a few bucks even on the heavily discounted wedding albums I did for friends.

My kids are the same way. The only way they’ll tolerate having their picture taken is if the only other option is cleaning their bedrooms and bathrooms (which is too bad, because they look better than I ever did—or will). My son chastises me for even taking pictures.

So selfies? I polled the family, and this was the best offer I got.

SONY DSC

SONY DSC

Priorities

My priorities never seem to be in the order I wish they were. I’m dying to get in some guitar and drum time, and after readjusting my ham radio station, I want to get on the air.

Unfortunately, we had a bit of a plumbing disaster, with the need to cut a hole in the wall. Naturally, the hole needed to be cut right next to my radio gear. I need to finish patching the hole—which is progressing nicely, thank you—which creates large amounts of dust. I have a number of painting tarps, but I don’t want that much weight on my gear, so I need to get a couple of cheap plastic ones. Once the hole is patched, sanded, primed, and painted, then I can……….put all of the shelves back and all of the office supplies, etc. back on the shelves. After dusting, vacuuming, and replacing all of the air purifier filters in the room (theoretically to keep regular and kitty litter dust under control), then I just may have time to play.

If I’m not too tired, maybe something inspired by one of my favorite groups (with apologies to the Beatles).

“I’m Fixing a Hole”

I’m fixing a hole where the plumbing was broke, Which keeps my hands from playing, My guitar.

I’m priming the crack that is now plastered up, Which keeps my hands from playing, My guitar.

Oh, it really doesn’t matter if I prime it right, Or if I paint it right, No one will know.

A great big shelf will hide it all,None of this work will show at all. No one will know.

I could continue, but I’ll spare you the insult.

When Did I Catch Up with the Future?

As a kid, the ice cream guy and the paperboy both had these mechanical devices on their belts to dispense coins for making change. Busses had the same device, but it was mounted near the box into which you put your fare. You dropped your money in, it sat on a little shelf, and if correct, the bus driver would press a lever to drop the coins into the hermetically sealed, iron-sheathed, impenetrable lock box. It must have been so, because nobody robbed bus drivers.

These people also “counted back” your change. No computer told them how much change was due. If the cost of an item was $1.73 and you handed them a five dollar bill, merchants of all types would do the following:

Put two pennies in your hand and say, “That’s $1.75,” then add a quarter. “Two dollars, followed by three more bills (or maybe silver dollars), “and that’s five. Thank you.”

I got used to handing my credit card to the cashier so they could imprint it on the proper form (don’t forget to get the carbons to prevent identity theft!). Then I was required to swipe the card myself through a reader; today, with microchips, you plug your credit card in.

My point?

As an old guy, signing the little LCD pad was always a challenge. Today, however, I noticed that I was able to sign as legibly on the electronic pad as I can with pen and paper.

Ouch.

Soccer Explained (More or Less)

SONY DSC

The State of Soccer

It was a soccer tournament weekend, and I either learned, or figured out some things about soccer.

First, there should be no surprise as to the charges of corruption aimed at the FIFA—the International Federation of Association Football (French: Fédération Internationale de Football Associatione).

Soccer is the most capricious and arbitrary sport known to man.

The laws of the game, like federal, state, and local laws are poorly understood, which leaves room for officials at the game to interpret them any way they please. There is no requirement to be consistent, so the rules can be applied differently on different occasions, for different teams, or because the referee just felt like it. Even at the professional level, there is no review of the instant replay, because between 97.5 percent and 99 percent of all soccer calls are wrong. This means that it would be physically impossible to ever complete even a single game—it would be call, review, change, call, review, change.

Theoretically, soccer games are played for a set period of time. Adults play for two 45 minute halves, with younger players having shorter time periods. However, at tournaments, to keep things on schedule, the halves are shortened, usually to 30 minutes. There are no timeouts; if a player is injured, referees can add time at the end, if they feel like it—or not.

This particular tournament had 30 minute halves for the first game. The second game had a 35 minute first half, and a 38 ½ minute second half. I’m not sure if this is related to Einstein’s theory (Five minutes with a pretty girl passes faster than five minutes sitting on a hot stove) or because the referees had cheap watches. In any case, the flow of time was fluid throughout the entire event.

Finally, when the home team was playing, the visitors were awarded copious penalties, including five yellow cards and two red cards. The home team was not so harshly judged.

So there you have it:

  • Rules no one thoroughly understands
  • No oversight for those enforcing the rules
  • An enthusiasm for randomness
  • A casual relationship with time
  • A new meaning for the term “Home Field Advantage”

Now you know why it’s the world’s most popular sport.

Aging Together

I’m not as young as I used to be, and neither is my house. Houses age faster than people years, but not quite like dog years, so my 20 year old house is like a 60-ish year old person.

A few years ago it required a roof transplant, followed by (not one, but two) HVAC—heating, ventilation and air conditioning units. I think that when they went from being furnaces and air conditioners to HVAC they got to raise the price.

Last weekend a storage shelf gave up the ghost, just as I was standing in the line of fire; I spent the rest of the weekend, bruises and all, building a shelving system you could use to hold the piano.

My confidence was building—I remembered how I used to be able to fix things. Then I disassembled an iPad, replaced the broken screen—and the batteries, as long as I was in there. When reassembled, it worked. My confidence took a great leap.

Now, normally I am not burdened with an overly strong ego, which is probably good and keeps me out of trouble. However, after two successes in a row . . . . Well, when the shower started leaking,I felt I was up to the challenge.

I Googled and YouTubed and decided that I could handle this, even though plumbing has always been my nemesis. I bought the correct parts, and even drove 20 additional miles to get a particular lubricant that was supposed to make disassembly of the shower control easy. Within 15 minutes of arriving home, proper tools, parts and lubricants at hand, the faucet assembly snapped off at the wrong end.

This was now a job for not just a plumber, but a plumbing contractor. Fortunately we found one who showed up within the hour. Everything is back to normal.

In hindsight, it makes sense. If my heart and circulatory plumbing were messed up, I’d want the right specialist, and not some amateur to operate on me.

I guess my house felt the same way.

Metamorphosis

Monarch Butterfly Cocoon, courtesy Wikipedia: User: Umbris

Monarch Butterfly Cocoon, courtesy Wikipedia: User: Umbris

It’s hard not to be fascinated by insects. I will stop to look at a walking leaf or a praying mantis; butterflies always catch my attention, as do dragon flies. Perhaps the most fascinating insects are those that pupate and undergo metamorphosis. Imagine one day being a caterpillar, spinning a cocoon, taking a long nap and then emerging as a butterfly.

I recently realized that humans have a similar process. Babies are born, demand attention, like to be held, make noise and break things. They grow, start school, but the parents’ role stays pretty much the same.

Then, one day, that cute little kid becomes a teenager.

It’s unfair to expect teenagers to spin a cocoon, since they can’t even pick up their socks, but they are able to compensate. Teenagers’ cocoon is their bedroom into which they sequester themselves for several years. It’s not quite as constant as insect larvae; you can spot teenagers—or at least the backs of teenagers—as they root around in the refrigerator or the pantry. Occasionally you’ll see the front of a teenager, immediately behind the outstretched hand with the palm up.

I’ve examined cocoons, but really don’t know what it’s like in one, but I imagine it gets progressively less sanitary over time, just like teenagers’ rooms. The biggest difference is that teenagers’ cocoons have televisions, smartphones, computers or video games. However, the long sequestration is similar among the various species.

There is another similarity. Someday I know that my teenagers will emerge from their cocoons more resplendent than even the most beautiful butterfly. Then, like the butterfly, they’ll stretch their wings and fly away.

You’re Wrong!

The_Thinker,_Rodin

In our politically correct world, we may have lost our intellectual way. Sometimes it is perfectly appropriate and necessary to point out what’s wrong.

  1. Having a healthcare background, I tend to look for a solution based on a diagnosis, which in turn is based on symptoms. If a patient won’t discuss the symptoms, it is easy to assume that everything is just fine. On the other hand, the symptoms, when correlated with other observations can lead to an appropriate conclusion; the patient complaining of a headache may be suffering from a brain tumor—unless an examination of the patient discloses a three inch nail protruding from his skull. However, the presence of the nail does not make a brain tumor impossible.
  2. A careful analysis of any problem requires the inclusion of potential errors and oversights. A devil’s advocate is a useful technique in fact finding. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the devil’s advocate is “a person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments.” In hindsight, the questions about the rubber seals on the solid state boosters attached to the shuttle Challenger were not given sufficient consideration in the decision to launch. Far too often, we wish away certain problems or issues, with disastrous results.
  3. Often, particularly in politics, data is intentionally skewed and intended to result in an emotional response rather than an intellectual one. For example, a negative ad by a political action committee may claim that, “Candidate Bob Smith says he believes in the sanctity of life, but it is a well-known fact that he has eaten dead babies.” This statement is true, in a manner of speaking, since just this morning Smith’s breakfast included scrambled eggs.

A conclusion is best based on facts—”pesky things” according to John Adams. It’s important to include all available and relevant facts–the good, the bad and the ugly in the equation before attempting to determine the answer.