In order to ignore the brouhaha–or is it a kerfuffle–that dominates the news, I will focus my blogs on the curves that life throws at us normal people. Let’s start with parking.
When I started to drive, except for the shopping centers (now called strip malls–or that now outdated?) parking was on the street. In order to park, you had to parallel park. Parallel, as in parallel to the curb.
Parallel parking was part of the drivers license AND the part that everyone feared. It isn’t really all that hard, and on very rare occasions I still get to use my parallel parking skills.
However, things got more complicated. Besides parking spots near the door reserved for the handicapped (logical) and pregnant mothers (also quite logical), there are now reserved spots for customers who are there to pick up an order, employee of the year/month/week/day/hour, etc. In some cases, standard parking is in the next county.
I suspect, but can’t prove that the lines defining parking spots have been moved closer. In any case, many cars–especially SUVs and pickup trucks– occupy every last inch within the lines. This is fine, until you park next to one and try to open your door. I guess that’s why so many vehicles have sunroofs.
Then there’s the final straw–large vehicles with rearview mirrors that significantly extend from the truck body. On a rainy or snowy day, it is possible–although unlikely–to find a good parking spot. This does not necessarily mean that the walk to the door is short. Instead, it is often necessary to walk a circuitous path in order to find a space between cars with enough room to walk without the risk of decapitation by the interlocking mirrors.
Sometimes, in our effort to remain relevant, we change simple, explanatory terms to ones that are less so. For example, when people reach middle age and there are hormonal changes, we now call it menopause. First, it’s not a pause; when we pause, we usually start up again. Second, a lot more happens to the female body than the lack of menstruation.
In my parents’ day, they referred to it as “change of life,” which in my opinion is a much better description. Everything seems to change–muscle mass, skin tone, libido, moisture in the mucosa, hair color, energy level, hot flashes, etc., etc., etc.
Menopause sounds more clinical even though the name refers to only one symptom. In reality, pretty much everything is different.
Men may not have the same physiological catalyst or the hot flashes, but life changes for them as well–muscle mass, skin tone, libido, energy level, etc.
I think the old title worked better.
Courtesy, the Punchbowl.net
Like most others, as I get older, I regularly suffer from CRS*. I’m not yet to the point where I can hide my own Easter Eggs, but I do find that I’ll walk into a room and wonder, “Why did I come here?”
I’ve decided that instead of complaining, I’ll make a game of it. For example, when I open the refrigerator door with the intent of getting a particular item, often I forget. I scan the shelves, hoping to remind myself what it was that I wanted.
It’s kind of like playing the childhood game of “I Spy,” only I get to play both the person who is looking for the item and the one who selected it.
It’s actually not that much fun, but sometimes ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
This blog is written from the perspective of a Christian, with no intended slight to my friends and readers of other faiths.
It’s highly likely that Jesus was not born on December 25th. In fact, we have no evidence as to what His birthday might be. Early Christians were not historians and shared their thoughts to convey the theological message rather than to chronicle events as journalists. Many, if not most, early Christians expected Jesus to return during their lifetime, so they saw little reason to record an accurate history.
It’s only fair that we don’t know Jesus exact birthday. Those who came before His birth didn’t know when He would come, so it puts all of us in the same boat.
Did Christians co-opt a midwinter pagan festival? Probably. I think it was an early form of ecumenism. The word gospel means “Good News,” and shutting down peoples’ holidays would not be perceived as good news. Instead, additional content was added to the existing event.
So in that same spirit, enjoy a wonderful Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or any other holiday you can find between now and New Years.
Oh, and here’s another interesting fact about Christmas. Many people take offense at it being referred to as Xmas and see it as removing Christ from Christmas. Actually the X is not an X. It is the Greek letter chi, the first letter of the Greek word Christos–Christ.
Courtesy US Army
The human brain is a wonderful creation, able to provide understanding, to critically evaluate ideas in order to separate fact from fiction, and even convey emotions. It does, however, have its flaws.
Our brains try to make order out of chaos, but in the process often make chaos into–well–other chaos. A few examples:
- People complain about how a lost item is always in the last place they look. Naturally this is true; when one finds what they were looking for, they stop looking.
- When an overwhelming tragedy occurs, we try to find a reason. If we cannot find one, we make one up. It makes no sense that President John F. Kennedy was killed by one wacko acting alone. There MUST be a better reason–a conspiracy that is being covered up. This is a more satisfying answer, even if not necessarily true.
- We prefer to hear people propose simple answers to every problem, even incredibly complex ones. If the solution begins with, “All you have to do is just . . . .” it must be a good solution.
I love history–but you probably knew that. History, at least as taught, is imperfect because of two reasons:
- History is written by the winners, and it some times takes a century or more mitigate such bias.
- Much of the blood, sweat, tears, excitement, and intrigue gets removed, leaving only names and dates. Boring!!!
So here are some historical “facts” that I found interesting. I call them “facts” because we believe them to be true, but frequently, as more research is done, we have to revise our understanding in light of additional evidence.
The “facts” I share are of no particular significance. I just find them interesting.
- Creases in pants were once considered the opposite of fashionable. The upper crust had clothes custom tailored while those of less wealth purchased “off-the-shelf,” pre-made clothing. The crease indicated that the garment had sat on a shelf for a long time.
- The term “an officer and a gentleman” refers to the fact that the elites were entitled to and enjoyed preferential treatment, including being assigned the senior positions on a ship. The “men,” on the other hand were commoners, often assigned to ships after being kidnapped. More than a few sailors started out at the pub enjoying free drinks but woke up, not only with a hangover, but also on board a ship at sea.
- There is a legend that when the Emperor Charlemagne died, he was interred in a tomb sitting on a throne wearing a crown, holding a scepter, with his hand on his sword. Grave robbers, intending to steal the valuables with which he was interred, entered the tomb. They claimed that the seated body of Charlemagne began to draw the sword from its sheath. They did not stick around to find out what happened next.
Posted in Arts, Culture, Education, History, People, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Wealthy
Tagged Charlemagne, gentleman, officer
I actually do try not to pick sides as the brouhaha in Washington, DC continues.
Remember that very old riddle?
Q: How can you tell when politicians are lying?
A: Their lips are moving.
I’m old enough to have watched (and, believe it or not, still remember) the Watergate hearings. That was when Earl Landgrebe (R, Indiana) said: “Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I’m going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot.”
Try to imagine the members of Congress as scientists debating a mathematical theorem.
“2 + 2 = 5, and don’t try to convince me otherwise!”
“No, it’s 6 and your mother wears combat boots!”*
Never mind, it takes more imagination than I can muster.
* Actually, not at all unusual these days–Ladies, thank you for your service.
Posted in Communications, Culture, Government, History, Humor, Leadership, Philosophy, Politics, Television
Tagged congress, House, Senate
With the new Star Wars coming out in about a week, there is a lot of excitement. While there has always been excitement before each new episode, The Rise of Skywalker is expected to answer a lot of questions about Rey, the nobody from nowhere who became the main protagonist (i.e., “hero” without any gender issues) of a beloved story.
We are drawn to stories in which a reluctant and unlikely hero takes on an impossible challenge–it must be hard-coded into our psyche. We see this fascination in both history and legend—David in the Bible, Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Ring, and most recently, Rey. Wired Magazine commented that Rey is not only a role model hero for young women, but inspires young men as well. That’s not really surprising, given her courage and commitment.
What is common among all these (and similar) tales is that they feature a person who commits to something that they view as important—more important than themselves. Maybe we all wish that we would find some cause so compelling that we would commit ourselves totally .
There are about 8 billion people on earth; nearly 200 sovereign states; millions of corporations, businesses, churches and other organizations. Do they present us with the real-life Reys? Not so much.
However, thank God, we have at least one.
Posted in Business, Celebrity, Communications, Culture, Future, Government, History, Leadership, Media, People, Philosophy, Politics, Religion
Tagged Greta, Thunberg, time
Parades are fun.
There are parades for many reasons–patriotic, historical, or, just for the hell of it. In New Orleans, if there is nothing special about a particular day, that alone is a reason for a parade, party, and—well, you know.
Cheyenne, Wyoming has four parades during the week of “Frontier Days”. The parade route zig zags through its downtown. With horse-drawn wagons, horse drawn floats, and horses with riders, the zigs and zags are on purpose; when a horse gets spooked, it tends to run in the direction it’s facing without turning. The zigs and zags are to provide a place for horses to go without anyone getting in the way and being hurt.
Christmas, of course, is a great time for parades. Every city, town, and village seems to have its own take how parades should be conducted. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Santa’s sleigh was drawn by eight giant (not tiny) crawfish–not crayfish, not crawdads, but crawfish (and them’s good eatin’).
Where I live now, the Christmas parade is an event, and the tradition is for people to stake out their preferred locations. To most people, this means showing up early and grabbing your spot. Here, however, people set up their chairs (often complete with stuffed teddy bears)—not on the day before the parade. Some claim their spots a week before the parade. The hard core stake their claim two weeks before the parade, complete with bent coat hangers to anchor the chairs and zip ties to keep the stuffed toys in place.
The best part is that everyone loves it. No one takes offense.
It’s kind of magic.
I like that.
Generally, I try to blog about things that are interesting and–as far as I can tell–either based on facts OR obviously fictitious for entertainment value. This does not mean that I attempt to remain ignorant about other issues such as race, sex, politics, etc. I just try to keep my nonfactual opinions on such issues to myself.
I read a great deal, although less than I would like due to time constraints. I enjoy some science fiction, which is really philosophy with space ships and aliens. I enjoy biographies of important historical people because it gives me hope when I see that great men and women were imperfect yet achieved great things.*
I read a lot of technical material because no one rises in righteous indignation to protest Ohms law. Electricity performs in a given way—change one of the variables and the result changes predictably. I like facts. Opinions and commentary, spin and gas-lighting are not facts, no matter how many times they are repeated.
Recently, I read a post by Erik Lind on Quora.com that posited, “The Internet is like life support for propaganda. . . ”
It made me think.
*Stan Lee used this model in 1962 when he wrote the story of nerdy, neurotic, unpopular Peter Parker being transformed into Spiderman. Peter’s first use of his new power was to attempt to make money, which inadvertently resulted in the death of his Uncle Ben.
Posted in Blog, Communications, Culture, Future, Government, History, Media, People, Philosophy, Politics, Writing
Tagged Commentary, Fact, internet, Opinion, Propaganda
Thanksgiving is 0ver–the table has been cleared and the dishes washed. Everyone is complaining (bragging?) about being sleepy. I’m willing to back my words up with action and actually doze off. (Oh the extent that we’ll reach to prove our points).
Holidays make me reminisce about how things were done in my youth. The food hasn’t changed much and we are still using my grandmothers trivets. They have been broken, carefully repaired, and kept in circulation.
The biggest changes? In my youth there were three networks and at least two of them were showing football on Thanksgiving. Everyone tended to watch the same game and critique it among themselves.
Today, there are a gazillion channels (give or take), but as soon as one person leaves the table, everybody else immediately grab their smartphones. There is no need to discuss what they are watching because everyone is probably watching something different.
Houses have certainly changed. My parents’ and grandparents’ homes still had a flip up metal door that connected the outside to a room in the basement that had a built-in ramp. That room,was called the coal room and the ramp, a coal chute. Our furnace had been designed as a coal fired furnace but had been converted to natural gas, so we never had the coal truck back up to the house and dump a load of coal down the coal chute.
However, the most Thanksgivingy thing were the stoves. Almost everybody had updated their kitchens, which invariably included a new stove. The old stove was moved to the basement and connected to the gas line. For big family get togethers, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas, both stoves were in full operation. Items that took longer, such as the turkey were cooked down in the basement oven while the foods that needed more frequent attention were cooked upstairs.
Things change, though. We had ham instead of turkey (by majority vote) and we used the kitchen stove to cook everything, because we don’t have a backup stove in the basement. This shortfall was caused, at least in part, by the fact that our house does not have a basement.
Wild animals are majestic. They are beautiful.
I lived in Wyoming, and I admit, the antelope were awesome—until you saw them up close. Like humans, they were—to say the least—imperfect. Their fur tended to hang in clumps and they smelled, well, nasty. There was a golf course at F. E. Warren Air Force Base and the antelope enjoyed standing in the middle of the course because: a) they knew they could not be molested, and; b) they loved to show humans who was in charge.
Okay, let’s make it more inclusive. Seagulls look almost like something a poet would have described at a distance. Have you seen them up close? They are sea-going pigeons. Attractive? Not so much.
Then, there are the magnificent, imperious Canadian Geese
Or, as I often refer to them, rats with feathers.
Although they are picturesque, they leave a trail of green fecal matter anywhere within 2 ¾ miles of their presence. They attack anyone who comes near them, block traffic while the flock slowly strolls across a street. With the global warming that supposedly isn’t happening, they no longer migrate as far as they once did. In some cases, such as here in Virginia, they’ve become a year-round fixture.
I recently saw a vehicle that belonged to a “Canadian Goose management company.” A quick search on the internet brought up quite a few companies that advertise that they will remove the geese from parks, parking lots, private property, etc.
It’s about time.
Next, we need protection from those incorrigible chipmunks!
I recently spent some time in our nation’s capital. I hate the traffic, so I usually rely on the Metro, taxis, or Uber. This time I decided to walk to various places and take in the sights and think of weird things:
Washington, DC tries to discourage driving, so many people use scooters, bicycles, and skateboards to get around. Naturally, there are also joggers. However, in the residential areas there are a lot of brick sidewalks, which tend to be uneven. Was this by accident, a cruel joke, or a business move by orthopedic surgeons?
Television coverage of the district includes lots of people yelling and screaming at one another. However, when walking, people rarely greet anyone they don’t know. On the other hand, when driving, they LOVE using their car horns. I guess it reminds them of yelling and screaming.
There are quaint row houses, with many of them being quite old. We stayed in one (AirBnB) during a family trip, and they are quite nice albeit expensive. It was amazing how many were being gutted and the whole interior rebuilt–not just remodeled. I guess if you can afford to buy one, you can afford to hollow out the inside and completely rebuild
As nice as those homes are, I noticed that many have bars on the doors and windows. The bars could be for security, or maybe the bars are to help the politicians who live in them feel right at home
Once upon a time, the Internet was lauded as a forum for intelligent discussion, but like most things, it soon became primarily focused on enriching a few people. I have nothing against commerce, but it seems that many websites will stoop at nothing to get you to click on one of their links. To whit:
The Fed dropped mortgage rates? No. They adjust the prime rate, which may affect mortgage rates. but they don’t directly control mortgage rates.
Let’s stop in mid -sentence to see if viewers will click. After all, Trump and the Washington Post are usually totally simpatic0.
It seems that there’s shock and surprise about where every movie / television / music performer lives–or that they don’t look like they did 30 years ago. Oh, and what’s Lawyers Blvd got to do with Meg Ryan?
Do you think that maybe, possibly there might have been just a tiny bit of Photoshopping involved? Not much, just a smidge?
Then there’s this poor girl. When I travel, I see her being arrested in every city I visit. She must be innocent, or they wouldn’t let her out to be arrested again and again.
So much for intelligent exchange of ideas.
Veterans Day (no apostrophe) honors all those who served in the US Military, past and present.
Sometimes people–including some in uniform–make a differentiation between active duty military and reserve members. I am of two minds on this. First, most of the military officers I served with in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait were reserve or national guard. It wasn’t until we began sending individual augmentees that the active duty numbers swelled.
Vice Admiral John Cotton asked if the reserve members who were killed were any less dead than active members. Obviously not.
The other view does have some merit, but not in the way that you might expect. Back in the 1980’s, so the story goes, the status of reservists rose with the Royal Australian Navy. Like most members of the Commonwealth, their Navy uniform has a curl above the stripes indicating an officer’s rank. For years, reserve officers in the Royal Australian Navy had an “R” inside the curl, but when it was proposed that the uniform should be the same for active and reserve. Naturally, there was a lot of discussion.
When asked if the R should be removed for reservists, one reserve officer answered that the R should be retained. This met with approval by the active duty officers, until the officer continued.
“I certainly don’t want people thinking that this is the only way I can earn a living.”
Posted in Communications, Culture, Education, Government, History, Holidays, Humor, Leadership, Military, People, Philosophy, Politics
Tagged Australia, Naval Officer
If the Back to School Season starts in June, Halloween Season in August, and Christmas concurrent with Labor Day it only makes sense that election season would begin earlier as well. Politics is confusing—it’s difficult to truly understand the issues and vote accordingly. You need to know about a variety of issues and have at least a nodding familiarity with the constitution.
I looked around to see if there is a more efficient approach to politics, and believe it or not, I found it!
The trick is to limit your political preferences to no more than three issues; ideally you choose only a single issue. At election time you vote for the candidates that share your view on your topic.
Some people choose issues like guns, abortion, or immigration. It doesn’t matter if you’re pro or con, if a candidate aligns with your view, put an X in the box or pull the appropriate lever. It doesn’t matter if the candidate is Genghis Khan, Adolph Hitler, or Mother Theresa, just so long as they agree with your pet issue.
My pet issue? Pickles. I’d tell you my views on pickles, but I think the internet already knows too much about me.
Posted in Communications, Culture, Future, Government, Humor, Media, People, Philosophy, Politics, Television
Tagged election, political ad, vote
It was totally predictable–marketing people freely disclosed their intentions decades ago. Nevertheless, it’s discouraging. It hearkens too much to Love, Actually when the word Christmas is squeezed into the classic rock song “Love Is All Around Me.”
What? You ask.
The use of rock and roll songs from baby boomers’ younger days to sell all manner of pharmaceuticals, now that we’re older. Songs by Blondie, The Doors, Steppenwolf, and the Who augment the television advertisements that bombard us.
Hey, didn’t the Who sing “I hope I die before I get old”?
If I were writing drug ads, they’d sound something like this:
Abeforth cures recalcitrant plebny!
[Speed up tape to three times normal speed] Side effects may include the sudden loss of a limb, blindness, an unnatural attraction of lightning bolts, or immediate death with no prior symptoms. If you experience any of these side effects, stop taking Abeforth and call your undertaker immediately.
Don’t take Abeforth if you are allergic to Abeforth, have had more than five organ transplants. Don’t take Abeforth if you are taking Primordeum, Pleisthene dioxide, Triglyceride phosphate, Gadolineum Sulfide, or if you can pronounce any of these drug names.
Ask your doctor if Abeforth is right for you.
It’s that time again—the airwaves are cluttered with negative political ads. I parodied these a few years ago by claiming that George Washington should not be elected President because:
- He wasn’t born a United States citizen (because there was no United States when he was born).
- He had served—as an officer, no less—in a British military unit (during the French and Indian War).
- He owned slaves.
- He distilled whiskey (corn could rot in the silos, while whiskey didn’t spoil).
- He named his home—Mount Vernon—after British Admiral Edward Vernon.
All true, but today, someone would spin them to discourage people from voting for Washington. With negative political ads facts are inconsequential—it’s the spin that counts.
Why do politicians rely so much on negative ads? Negative ads work.
If we think about it, negative ads reflect poorly on politicians.
But what does the success of negative ads say about us?