Monthly Archives: September 2017

Too Close to Home

Familiarity doesn’t breed contempt, it just causes us to ignore things.

Google “tourist attractions” and the name of the place where you live.

Go ahead—I’ll wait.

There will be a variety of listings, with most claiming to be the “top ten” or such. Jot them down. Now go back and open the next list; you’ll find that while some attractions are repeated, there are also new ones. Add them to the list.

Now look at the list. Are some of the sites interesting? When you were younger, did you ever wish you could see any of them?

Now that they are nearby, have you ever actually gone to any of them?

See what I mean?

The Brain? Abby Normal

foot

Aaron Hernandez (the late football star) is in the news because he committed suicide while in prison after he was sentenced for murder. His dead body provided shocking information that medical science was not able to discern; his autopsy showed chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Now, let me get this straight—it’s the twenty-first century, and instead of having flying cars (dammit!) we are just beginning to realize that if you hit someone in the head, over and over, it affects them. It impairs their judgement, causes mood swings, and inappropriate behavior.

Well, we’d better stop that—unless getting hit in the head is part of a professional sport that generates millions of dollars in revenue.

Sounds curiously like the justification for the gladiators fighting to the death in the Roman Coliseum. That, of course, pleased the crowds, but was barbaric.

We’d never stoop so low today, but, if it has major network coverage, instant replays with everything coordinated to accommodate commercial breaks, and attractive cheerleaders, it’s okay. Hell, we’ll have a dedicated section of the newspaper every day!

Hmm.

Being surprised that repeated head trauma causes problems is kind of like the medical logic that “if you shove an ice-pick up somebody’s nose far enough so that it reaches the brain and you wiggle it back and forth, they act differently afterward.”

Is it just me, or are we missing the blazingly obvious?

Maybe I should just shut up and bang my head against the wall repeatedly, until it makes sense.

Autumnal Equinox

Throughout the year, the time allotted to daylight each day changes. Longer times of daylight coincide with summer, which is different north and south of the equator. Summer is when the earth’s tilt favors one hemisphere or another.

Near the poles, summer daylight gets so long that at its peak there is no night; the sun just makes a circle above the horizon. Of course, in winter, that means that there are l-o-n-g nights. Even here in North America, within the lower 48 states, the difference between sunrise in Maine and sunrise in Florida on any given day can be significant. Add the difference at dusk, and you find that sunny Florida gets a shorter amount of daylight than chilly Maine.

But there are two days a year, the vernal (spring) equinox and autumnal (fall) equinox during which the amount of daylight and dark are approximately equal—approximate because you have to allow for variations due to refraction, etc. It doesn’t happen on the same date each year; the autumnal equinox, for example occurs anywhere between 21 September and 24 September.

Incidentally equinox is constructed from the Latin words for equal and night. I have to wonder why they didn’t call it equal day. Perhaps day was time for work, but the parties and other fun happened at night.

Friday, 22 September, is the autumnal equinox, when light and dark are pretty much equal. Maybe we should take some inspiration and focus on where we could be pretty much equal. For example, spending the same amount of time listening and thinking about what was said to match thinking of what we’re going to say and talking. (Don’t forget to include the time to think).

If everyone did this, it could be a celestial event of astronomic proportions.

Mother Nature and the Odds

I live in an area that has experienced hurricanes, but not since 2011. Some around here now feel that we’re free of that threat. There might be some truth, at least for a while, given that current weather trends tend to have wind shear that trim the tops of hurricanes, weakening them, and there is a natural pattern that tends to push the storms back out into the Atlantic.

We’re good, right? After all, once a weather pattern occurs, it doesn’t change—does it?

Long ago, in statistics class I was taught an interesting fact. You flip an honest coin 100 times, and it comes up heads each time. What are the odds it will come up heads on the next flip?

Fifty-fifty.

We’ve blamed el Nino, la Nina, butterflies in Africa, etc. I don’t think we’ve quite figured anything out.

Going to Hell in a Handbasket

This expression has always puzzled me.

If one were headed to eternal damnation, why would the mode of transportation matter?

You’d expect people to sell their souls for a Lamborghini, at the very least.

 

Tempus Fugit

I saw a cartoon in which the grandmother is asked how old she feels. She responds, “I feel like I’m every age I’ve ever been.”

I understand.

I think I remember staying up until all hours, then going to school or work the next morning. I don’t/can’t/have no desire to do so today.

Instead, as Pink Floyd put it:

When I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire

Today, an evening after work, sitting with my wife in the evening, reading a good book, catching up on magazines like Smithsonian or Wired, or watching a movie is a delight.

As well it should.

It Will Never Happen to Me!

For some reason, there seems to be a human proclivity for believing this.

I smoke, but I will never suffer from lung cancer.

My spouse will never know.

Global climate change is a myth.

My cellphone will always work.

Now that I’ve made it, I’m going to move into a beautiful home on the beach.

So, why, today, are people stuck in a giant traffic jam, headed north on Interstate 95, incommunicado, and out of gas?

It doesn’t matter, it will never happen to me.

P.S. I prepare for things that just might happen. I also try to help my community prepare, although much falls on deaf ears. Too bad—most people are capable of grasping the concept—they have smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and fire insurance even though most of us know few (or none) who have lost a home in a fire. Hurricanes, floods, tornadoes—it will never happen to me.

I’m Feeling Lucky!

I’m waiting to get the recall work done on my Chevy Cruze—financed by the friendly people at Wells Fargo Bank. So, I’m going to drive it to the airport. I’ll charge my ticket on my Wells Fargo credit card (and I don’t even remember asking for one!). I’ll take United Airlines to beautiful, sunny Miami Beach, Florida.

I’ve been about hearing about some woman down who could knock your socks off—literally. Her name is Irma somebody.

Time to go!

I mean what could possibly go wrong?

From Whence Comes the Disaster?

So, with Hurricane Irma headed my way, I drove my Wells Fargo financed car to the airport, and with my Wells Fargo credit card, I bought a ticket on United Airlines.

Anyone want to guess where things went awry?

(Hint: My car was repossessed, my credit score demolished, I got dragged from the airplane, and never got to my destination. Those are only hints.)

Founding Fathers vs Today’s Leaders

In my many years, I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a congress.

John Adams

The Founding Fathers, for all their myriad imperfections, did manage to design a workable form of government. The operative word is “work.”

The Congress was tasked with making laws, the President with either signing or vetoing those laws—although the President’s veto could be overridden with a two-thirds majority of Congress—and the judiciary with interpreting how the laws should be applied.

Congress is made up of two houses; the House of Representatives, with 435 voting members elected for two years, who represent the states and 6 non-voting members, who represent the US territories. The House focuses on the latest legal or social fad.

Each state has two senators, who are elected for six-year terms and are expected to be more deliberative and sophisticated. However, the Senate has spawned members like Joe McCarthy, who are generally dangerous to the country.

Sometime in the last century, Congress decided that certain laws would be unpopular, meaning that a member might not get re-elected and have to get a real job, so many laws were made by virtue of the decisions of the Supreme Court. This gave the members of Congress more time to pontificate and profess their principles without actually doing anything, other than raising campaign funds and running for re-election. Since this gave them more time to talk, even (if you ever watch C-SPAN) if most of their colleagues were not in attendance, they were happy. They rarely had to do anything, except talk, talk, talk. Making sense was optional (and rare).

On those occasions that Congress did pass a law, the law was prepared by lobbyists and most members of Congress were ignorant of most of its content (except for pork barrel amendments inserted to get them re-elected).

Eventually, the President wanted to get in on the action and began to issue Executive Orders. Even though the Constitution stipulates that Congress has the power to declare war, it has not done so since 1941. The Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War—and the sequel to the Gulf War, and the War in Afghanistan were not wars but “police actions” initiated by various presidents. While it may have been war to those who fought, were wounded, or died, Congress maintained plausible deniability by not declaring them as actual wars.

Executive orders worked so well that presidents began issuing them for whatever issue caught their attention at the moment. Some were good, some were not. The problem with executive orders is that they can be issued by one president and cancelled by the next.

How do we fix it? All we have to do is follow the US Constitution. If you haven’t read it within the last year, please do. It has been amended 27 times to reflect changes in society and its needs. For a copy, go to https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CDOC-110hdoc50/pdf/CDOC-110hdoc50.pdf.

Labor Day

According to the US Department of Labor, Labor Day was first celebrated in New York City in 1882, although there is some disagreement as to whether the machinists’ union or the carpenters’ union can claim credit. It was a municipal holiday, and other cities were invited to follow suit. After 23 states recognized it in 1894, the US Congress passed legislation making it a national holiday.

As one trained in management, it was repeatedly pointed out to us in college that the real job of management is to remove the roadblocks that prevent workers from being productive. Except in very small businesses, managers and owners produce no products nor do they provide services to the customer. Everybody’s paycheck comes from the efforts of the workers.

In many ways, we seem to have forgotten that and tend to believe that the people in the big offices and the expensive suits are the producers. Meetings don’t generate revenue. PowerPoint slides, slickly bound and printed reports, consume a lot of resources, but belong solely to the Expense side of the ledger.

Even as automation takes over many jobs, reports are that the demand for workers is increasing. The workers may perform different functions, but they are still critical to the process, no matter how much the elites may wish to believe otherwise.

Today there are many industries that produce nothing. Instead they move money around, mix it up, and in so doing make a profit. Some of this “profit” is virtual—it exists on paper, but may never translate into cash. Other profits occur when money is moved from one owner to another; this is a transfer—profit means that there is more, not that we’ve moved it around.

We are becoming a banking and finance nation, which is one of the places where a nation moves when it ceases to be great. The great nations of only a few centuries ago—The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, France, Great Britain, etc. are only a shadow of their former selves.

So, to those of you who build, grow, design, or otherwise create, thank you. It’s your day—enjoy.