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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Some people have bedbugs. We have hummingbirds... and darned lucky at that!





Ever seen anything so fascinating as a hummingbird... or better yet, four hummingbirds?

They come to our feeder because we have a 4-hummingbird rating on Yelp, and they put on quite a show.

Our feeder (in red, their favorite color) has had the same bird returning now for the third year, and this time, with three others. We know it is a 'he' because of the ferocious manner in guarding his never-ending food, four parts water, one  part sugar. Only 'hes' do that unless there are more users than he can defend against. When others try to feed here, he attacks like the Red Baron in the Snoopy comic, and, say the birders, sometimes actually stabs with his pointed beak.

There are dozens of 'dog fights' at times... and they really do look like dog fights.

Hummingbirds flap their tiny wings up to 100 beats per second and can remain stationary in flight as well as fly backwards as they dive and dart at amazing speed. Yet, when they are feeding, their beating wings steady them over the flower or feeder while their beak remains rock-steady.

They are the only bird that cannot walk. The smallest of the species weighs less than a dime but our
birds weigh in at about a nickel. They come in a wide variety of colors and habits, each seemingly more beautiful than the other. And they are loners for the most part, forever active in their pursuit of food. Their energy level and rapid heartbeat uses calories so rapidly that in a day, they will digest their weight in nectar and sugar water if available. If not for feeders, flowers are the bigger source, mostly red flowers but all bright colors will work.

In their constant dashes around the feeder, they often encroach on our deck by a yard or two, even when we are present. And occasionally, they will stop mid-air at a distance of three feet  or so and give us a look. Yes, it takes a little getting used to. Their wings make a whirring sound though they do have a tiny voice that is occasionally heard if you have good ears. And they excrete in a 'not even noticeable' squirt that disappears in the air before it becomes problematic. With three dogs, that would be the straw that broke the camel's back. And where would we get those tiny sacks anyway?

Amazingly, these little things migrate when the weather turns cold. Ours, fly to southern Mexico at up to 500 miles non-stop at a time. They use the wind if they can and will even ride on the back of other migrating birds along the way. They most often migrate alone. Hummingbirds can, lab tests show, fly and feed into a 20 mph headwind, their tail feathers fanning and positioning with the wind to keep them in place while their rock-steady beak feeds.Their maximum speed is 30 mpg but they have been clocked at a speeding ticket 60 in a dive, so you can imagine how fast they can pursue.

They remember and often return to the same spot in the spring. They can live up to four years but two is seen as average because their lives are so arduous. When mating, the female typically lays two very tiny eggs that hatch a week apart, so she can supply enough food for both 'til the fledglings leave the small nest. And typically, the mother gets a free pass to any territorial father's realm.

Rufus the Hawk
Now contrast that with the world's largest bird, the royal albatross, with a wingspan greater than 11 feet.

Or the long extinct Pelagornis Sandersi, the original 'Big Bird,' with a 24-feet wingspan, bigger than some of today's small aircraft.

Or Rufus the Hawk who plays a crucial role at Wimbledon. It is Rufus's job to keep the pigeons away, lest something distracting plops on a player's forehead at mid-serve.

Isn't nature incredible?

Friday, July 12, 2019

Think your electric bill is high? This should make you feel better. (Some of this and a little of that.)




A Penn- 
sylvania woman got a $284- billion electric bill in the mail last January.
"We put up Christmas lights," she said, "and I wondered if  had put them up wrong." Well, I guess! But my-oh-my, what a show that must have been.

  • In Tennessee you CAN now legally carry guns into the state legislature... BUT, you CAN NOT carry home-made signs! Legislators explained, "Hand-carried signs and signs on hand-sticks represent a serious safety hazard." Don't they know "sticks don't kill people, people kill people." Gun rights trump (natural pun) free speech, I guess.
 
  • In 2013, following Barack Obama's second term victory, American gun companies produced almost 11 million firearms, 222 percent more than produced in the year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  The number of pointed sticks produced is not known.
  •  The universe is expanding at a rate of about 72 kilometers per second... faster than the speed of light. So, that's forever, right?

  • The first electronic calculator on sale in 1957 could add, subtract and multiply. It weighed 308 pounds and sold for $11,000 in today's equivalent. So the abacus wasn't that bad after all. It just didn't do billions and trillions well... but what was a billion or trillion in those days?
  • An estimated 50,000 limbs were amputated during the Civil War. Amputation was better than killer gangrene infections despite the fact that 'biting a bullet' was the closest thing to anesthesia and sterilization was not even known except by "kooks with a crazy idea."
  • An Illinois anti-gambling activist won $25,000 in a sweepstakes game. She quickly explained it was "God showing His grace on me" for her noble fight against gambling. Hmm, two-to-one God wins every time. 
  • Over the last 50 years our prison population has increased 500 percent. We now have 2.2 million behind bars. The United States represents 4.4 percent of the world's population but houses 22 percent of the world's prisoners. Yippee! We're NUMBER ONE! We must be doing something right... or wrong.
  • Our moon, being constantly bombarded by micrometeorites traveling at 33,000 miles per hour, is eroding at the alarming rate of 0.04 inches every million years. At this rate, we will have no songs like "Shine on Harvest Moon" or " By the Light of the Silvery Moon" or "Moon River" to sing to our sweethearts when we are a billion years old. Hope I don't live that long. 
  • A doctor walks into the examining room and puts his hand on the patients' shoulder. "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. You're dying and you don't have much time left." "Oh no!" replies the patient. "How long do I have to live?" "Ten," the doctor says. "Ten what? Days? Weeks? Months?" The doctor calmly replies, "Nine... "

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

$21 trillion! Can you imagine?


OK, two blog posts ago,  I promised to show how FREE MONEY could help us reduce our national debt--which now exceeds $21 TRILLION or $65,000 for every man, woman and child living in the United States. Sadly, true.

First, a basic question: How much is a trillion dollars? 
  • If you were given $1 a second, in just 32 years of seconds, you would be a billionaire. But it would take an additional 31,000 years of seconds to become a trillionaire!
  • If you stacked $1 bills, it would reach 60,000 miles into space.
  • It would take 44,000 18-wheel, 25-ton trucks to transport $1 trillion.
  • To cover our debt, 420 Bill Gates or 210 Jeff Bezos--before the divorce. (yep! There are people that rich.)
 So, as that number increases daily--with interest added--how are we ever going to get out of the hole? Well, we just have to start, and if we ever have enough years before the apocalypse, maybe we can make a dent.

And what better way than with free money? Two posts ago (scroll down or click here)  I showed you STEP ONE, how Dave (in the movie Dave) did it... cutting back on the many frivolous-sounding grants our government--some worthy, many not--makes to causes that often help them get re-elected. Money not spent counts double! That total in 2016  was 1/2 billion. (Don't laugh... it's a start.)

Now for the good stuff:

Step two: TSA reports that the pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters airline passengers forget to pick up from those big grey trays after going through airport check-ins, exceeded $1 million this past year. So $1 million for the next thousand years and we're talking real bucks.

Step three: A few entrepreneurs  have found $100 million in change in the wreckage of crushed cars we send to China as scrap. They buy the  ground up aluminum waste back from China, digs out the coins--many mangled and crushed-- and sell them back to our mint for their recycled value. The world number for lost change recycled is estimated to be as high as $50 billion!

Step four: Loose change in old sofa cushions and other places coins like to hide is estimated to be a number in the millions of dollars, not unbelievable when you figure that, as a nation of 350 million people, we have many millions of couches. What's your personal take?

Steps five through 12 you won't believe. but they are more real than the money saved in every "BIG PRESIDENT'S DAY (or week or month or any excuse for a sale) SALE... save hundreds of dollars." Perhaps theoretical but you get the idea. Just remember, many billionaires made their fortunes on theoretical ideas that worked.

Step five and beyond (thanks to Wall Street Journalist Joe Queenan who researched this in 2013): Harvard research estimated that sleep deprivation costs U.S businesses $63.2 billion a year (with no revenue to tax) in lost productivity.. WAKE UP WORKERS! We need the money

Step six: Cats cost us taxpayers $37.7 billion added in lost productivity due to work absences for owners to take their cats to the vets. And Dogs, perhaps double that.

Step seven thru 12 or 13 or more estimated by actual sources for some reason or another: Tweeting, $112 billion a year; transfurring vinyl LPs to MP3 format, $11.7 mil; Grumpy workers (Let a smile be your umbrella--NOT) $26.8 billion; time Americans spend listening to banjo music, $13.7 billion--not to mention piano, drums, sax, violas, harmonica,  etc; not carryng an umbrella, $35.6 million used as an excuse to not do this or that,;foolishly ingnoring maternal advice (mom told you so; $132.7 miliion annually, similarly not listening to dad, and we didn't even get to sneezing, itching, yawning, etc.

The list goes on and on, but hey, where is that American "Can Do" spirit that has always come through for us?

I actually feel better now knowing we can do--or not do in some cases--this. I just know Congress will lead the way.

God Bless America! REALLY, please!




Thursday, June 20, 2019

The earth is definitely round, it's my tire that's flat.



When's the last time you had a flat tire? (Flat on one side does't count.) It has been years and years... and it still isn't much fun. That's the bad news.

But life, as we move through,  gives glimpses of its riches that remind us of all the good that's out there. (Watching the news is not one of them.)

My tire gave little hint that it was about to happen, but a sharp object pierced its sole (as in shoe rubber, right?) and it gave up its spirit with a whoosh. I was on a narrow, heavily traveled two-lane blacktop with no shoulder so I had to drive about 100 yards to a safer spot. Tire didn't like that either.

I called AAA and was advised I'd be an hour or so for help to arrive--in 90 degree full sun--giving a real life sense of how hot a car can get in just minutes. After moving myself to a tree-shaded spot, six or seven cars stopped to ask if they could help me. Good Samaritans come in a mix of races, genders and ethnicities but come they did. Each got my sincere "Thanks but help is on the way."

About 30-minutes in and no AAA in sight. a baby-size fire truck pulled over and after the firefighter affirmed I had a spare, said, "Then let's get that sucker changed."

He called his buddies at the nearby station house and in minutes, there were two trucks and three good Samaritans with a professional-size jack and enthusiasm to match. I cancelled my AAA help call and in 15 minutes, with great conversation included, I was ready to roll.

My take-away moment: Into each life a little rain will fall (right mom?) so don't forget to look for the rainbow... and all the good Samaritans out there.

If you are old enough, you remember the days when tires weren't as dependable and blow-outs or 'bubbles' were pretty common. I have changed dozens of tires... one impressing a college professor who asked "Can you REALLY change my tire?" to a hair raising, first car experience at 2 am under a "NO STOPPING FOR ANY REASON" sign on a narrow two-lane bridge with a grid floor, because I didn't have money for another ruined tire replacement. I was pretty fast then, hoping for no flashing red lights..

Monday, June 10, 2019

Can someone be bad and good at the same time? Dave can. He is the man with a plan to save the USA with just a few simple steps.,,, some of which you will find hard to believe.














Remember the 1993 movie Dave? We loved it (4 1/2 stars) because it made us feel good... and, come to think of it, when was the last time you felt good?

It featured actor Kevin Klein as both The Good President and The Bad President. Movie critic Roger Ebert says:

"Dave" takes that old plot about an ordinary person who is suddenly thrust into a position of power, and finds a fresh way to tell it. The movie's about a nice guy who runs an employment agency and is otherwise undistinguished, except that he happens to look exactly like the President of the United States. When the president wants to sneak away for a quickie with his mistress, he is recruited by the secret service to act as a stand-in. Then the president has a stroke and Dave is hired on a more or less permanent basis." 

The movie unfolds a lot like director Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life, with a number of twists and  turns that sends everyone viewing, home happy. I won't divulge much more because it you haven't seen Dave, you should, and if you have, then you must watch it again. (Amazon Prime Video.)

Now about saving the United States:

One of the key scenes shows Dave, acting as the President, saving funding for a child daycare center so needed and desired by the the real President's wife (Sigourney Weaver), who doesn't yet know Dave isn't her real husband. All this with the bad guy in the back ground, powerless to stop him.Yes, it sounds confusing, but trust me, the movie  is worth it.

And while finding the critical funding for the important stuff--as acting President Dave does with a flair--is small potatoes to help reduce our $21 trillion and growing national debt,  it is step one.

Cutting federal waste, duplication and weird or unnecessary spending of grants--in excess of $1/2 billion of our hard earned tax dollars dollars in 2016 alone--is just one of the many ways we can gain without spending a dollar. (Says Congress, "What fat?")
  
Actually, anyone who has bought a house or a car or financed anything big knows, spending an extra hundred or thousand dollars at that time comes easy in comparison to the big number... but it sure adds up in what we have to repay with interest added. Right now, each American is on the hook for $65,000 of our $21 TRILLION national debt.!

Really!

Not counting schools or roads or municipal governments or prisons, or life's necessities, we also paid for *these real grants:
  • Sex education for prostitutes (The California Prostitutes Education Project. About $1.5 mil lion) 
  • Designing condoms (For Massachusetts, $200,000 to address a "lack of adequate lubrication.")
  • Video games for Your Future Self (In Virginia, $650,000 to "make the future feel close" for young people.)
  • Pedestrian Training in China (In Alabama, $187,750 to develop a virtual reality platform to teach Chinese children how to cross the street.) 
  • Galactic animated cartoons ($2.5 million Alabama grant to produce a "Space Raiders" children's video game where characters embark on galactic adventures.)
  • Zombies computer game ($658,000 Massachusetts grant where children create their own blue creatures.
  • Hobo Day($12,000 for South Dakota residents to dress up like 'hobos' and parade through the streets.)
Oh, there are more, but you get the picture.

So thanks Dave for showing the way. But as I promised, there are more-- I said MORE--paths to free money. Next blog takes you on an unbelievable fantasy of free money... with a touch of reality.

*Caveat: Not to say every grant is unworthy, but many are quite suspect and  help  local congresspersons get re-elected. Should we all pay for special interests that may be a whole continent away from where we live,  or is it, 'You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours?


Friday, May 24, 2019

Cartooonist Rube Goldberg simplified one of life's absolute truths showing what our world is really like... but did we pay any attention? NOOOO!


Rube Goldberg, born July 4. 1883, was a Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist in the golden age of newspaper cartoons. He was best known for his "Rube Goldberg Machines" like the one below, and at the peak of his career, he was the highest paid of his day. He was smart and capable in other areas but his cartoon depictions showing how to accomplish simple things in a most complex way had his readers paying close attention, as will you as you follow his directions below:

Professor Butts and the Self-Operating Napkin (1931). Soup spoon (A) is raised to mouth, pulling string (B) and thereby jerking ladle (C), which throws cracker (D) past tucan (E). Tukan jumps after cracker and perch (F) tilts, upsetting seeds (G) into pail (H). Extra weight in pail pulls cord (I), which opens and ignites lighter (J), setting off skyrocket (K) which causes sickle (L) to cut string (M), allowing pendulum with attached napkin to swing bank and forth, thereby wiping chin.

Today's world of problem-solving is not much different from Goldberg's time, or for that matter, time from the beginning of time. After Adam and Eve ate the fruit that upset the apple cart, seems we have been destined to do things the hard way.

After The Garden of Eden, humankind has followed that mode. The saying "Keep it simple, stupid" didn't 'come out of left field.' So it is understandable that today's problems are nuanced to be more complex to resolve. Over time, we have complex conundrums that seem unravelable.

We are fascinated watching dominos fall but the least little flaw dramatically changes the end result. So In reflection, I'm thinking life is one big Rube Goldberg Machine built to a complexity that the strength of the chain is only as strong as its weakest link .

Yep. That sounds like us. We focus on the result instead of the cause and disagree on every step of the complex process. 

Rube Goldberg was so good at touching our mentality that we made a postage stamp honoring him. And  there is probably a postage stamp waiting for the person who shows us a way out of this mess.
Side note: A few years back, my Seattle daughter and I saw a Rube Goldberg exhibit of many of his "complex machines "in that city's Museum of Pop Culture. Rube Goldberg was a fascinating individual 







Saturday, May 18, 2019

THE YIN AND YANG OF LIFE AND LOVE: The anguish of feeling your heart die a little

Tess, our golden and Abby our yellow lab



Tess, our golden retriever and Abby, our yellow Lab, photographed in 2013 to represent the *Yin and Yang of life, are now in their 13th year. Sadly, neither is expected to make it much farther.

This is a tribute of their enormous contribution to my wife Kathy and I and to the greater world where they made their mark outside of home. We love them with all our hearts and the sad truth that owners mostly outlive their beloved pets is upon us once again.

Abby has been with us since right after birth, truly the cutest and best of the litter. We fell in love with Tess the moment we saw her in a shelter when she was just a year old.

Both are therapy dogs, recently retired because the spirit is willing but the bodies became weak. Both served years as HOPE: Animal Assistance Crisis Response dogs whose job it was to bring comfort to those in need at national and local disasters of every type.

They/we have been to the Washington D.C. Naval Yard for three days after the mass shooting in 2013 where 12 working there were killed, offering comfort and calm to all who were deeply affected.

They/we have been active participants for five years at Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a program offering help, hope and healing to all those grieving a loved one lost serving in America's Armed Forces. Each year for three days abutting  Memorial Day, TAPS would gather 1500-plus survivors--family members and children--in Arlington, Virginia just a mile from Arlington National Cemetery where many of their loved ones lie, offering programs to assist in every facet of recovery assistance and need.

Our dogs and Kathy have been active in hospital and hospice care with weekly visits going back 10 years. The response to this comfort is overwhelmingly unbelievable in many cases.

Kathy has made up a beautiful song that stops Tess in her tracks every time. Tess stops, sits and looks back as Kathy softly sings:

Oh the places we've been to, the things we've done,
I couldn't have done without you.
The people we've met and the smiles we''ve made
I couldn't have done without you.

You've opened your soul, given your heart
To everyone we meet
You let me see, through your sweet eyes,
Everyone is the same.

The places we've been to, the things we've done
I coudn't have done without you.

Bum Bum
 Badum Bum.


And of course, there are more of these stories untold. But most of all, they have been our pets, giving and receiving love as only a pet owner could know.

So life is hard now. Tess has cancer and ecoli. Abby is blind and is on seizure medicine. And both have had orthopaedic surgeries for hips and knees (thank God for Pet Insurance) and arthritis.  But, Abby and Tess still remain at a level of love and togetherness that says, "Not just yet."

It is/will be one of the hardest of times for any pet owner and, once again, it will be our time. So we relish in our lives together, their love and the memories while we still have that heart-to-heart connection that we know is fleeting.  A good pet owner never lets beloved pets suffer and we will not. But at this moment, we are mutually and affectionately one.

Lily, our  LabraDane
We do have a junior member therapy dog taking over those hospital and hospice duties. Lily is another adoptee, now about six we think. She is a LabraDane, a mix between a Labrador retriever and great Dane as you may notice. She is the big little sister who will sorely miss her adoptive sisters, but she, and we, will carry on.



*This is the original Yin/Yang post from 2013 and it gives the full meaning of this ancient Taoist symbol.


Monday, May 13, 2019

WOMEN ARE NOT EQUAL TO MEN... They are superior and I have proof!

*If you know who this is, raise your hand..





As the argument goes, they can birth babies. But that is just the beginning. We were created as equal... one could not sustain life without the other. But, societally, we don't live like that. All life-long, women have had to 'dance backward" in more ways than one.

Every woman in every society--except where Wonder Woman comes from--has had to fight this uphill battle to be seen (by men) as mans equal in intelligence and reasoning with the natural benefit of a complimentary perspective that completes the picture of everything real. And wow, do we need that.

Women are history's classic underdogs, and as sports, politics and things that are "99 percent certain" have shown time and again, NEVER UNDERESTIMATE AN UNDERDOG.

*Oh, the photo is of Geraldyn Cobb who recently died at 88, our first female astronaut in space... except for the fact that she was a woman denied passage through that glass ceiling of the time, despite after having all the credentials and testing in the top 2 percent of all who applied for the role. It was astronaut and senator John Glenn who 'shot her down' in congress in 1962:

"The men go off and fight the wars and fly the airplanes and come back and help design and build and test them... " he testified in the hearing that denied Cobb her place in space, "The fact that women are not in this field is a fact of our social order."

You presumably didn't know any better at the time, John, but you should have... as should we all. It was 21 years later when Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. Cobb's 2005 book, 'Right Stuff, Wrong Sex'" told about the dozen other highly qualified women pilots who passed the tests but were also barred from space at the time.

Geraldyn Cobb began flying at age 12  in her father's Waco aircraft and had logged more than 7000 hours as a pilot when she was asked to take a space stress test to qualify as an astronaut. Denied of her chance she went on to a flight career that earned her a Nobel Peace Prize for her distinguished role in the air... an award not shared by any American astronaut.

Her award was for her work flying humanitarian missions in the Amazon jungle flying alone across the Andes Mountains in her Aero Commander, delivering medicine, food and clothing to indigenous tribes and others in need. She was honored by the governments of Ecuador, Brazil, Columbia and Peru. She is, as you may guess, one of those drservedly in the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

She flew the world for a number of war years delivering B-17 bombers and the like wherever they were needed, despite being turned down by airlines who would not hire women as pilots at that time.

She also holds world flying records for speed, altitude and distance, but never made it to space. A few years back she was the subject of an off Broadway play, "They Promised Her the Moon."

There are a multitude of women of historical importance and more in big and little roles---that have shown what women can accomplish, despite "having to dance backwards." Geraldyn Cobb is just one of that immortal female crowd of "can do."

Her unfulfilled love of being a space pioneer never dulled her spirit for the adventure of it, and alone, in the Amazon on July 20, 1969, she danced on the wings of her plane in her moonlight celebration of "man"s" (another bias historically used incorrectly, intended to refer to all humanity says an etymologist--look it up--for the Oxford English Dictionary) first landing on the moon.

Women ARE superior to men because all of their lives, they have had to fight just to be seen for who they are... equal, no less, maybe more. And capable in ways yet to be seen.

"Gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance." Kofi Annan




Saturday, May 4, 2019

North Carolinians brag they have the best barbeque in the land. THEY DON'T!


While it is true that NC barbecue is good--and I know because I live there--I personally know where the barbecue king lives... and it ain't North Carolina.

Pork Shoulder and Brisket
The King of Barbecue lives in--you'll never guess it--SEATTLE.

And why should that be such a surprise? Seattle has so many great things going for it, logic almost dictates the world's greatest barbecue has to be made there.

After 12+ hours, Almost ready
Pulled pork done best ever
Seattle is: (take deep breath here) America's most educated city with more than half of its 675,000 residents holding college degrees, its Columbia City zip code residents speak 59 different languages making it the most diverse in the nation, residents commute by bus (an incredible much used network of routes), bike--every bus has a bike rack on its front bumper, 24 hour ferry service, walking, running, Ubering, etc, recycles everything recyclable by garbage pick-ups twice a week at your curb and fines for those who don't recycle, has an architects dream main library with 26 branches catering to 80 percent of the residents who hold active library cards and can deliver books ordered by
computer and every other method to the closest pick-up locker or facility, has less rain, more mist it seems, than Chicago, Miami and three other cities, its average temperature, year-round is from the low 40s to the high 70s, is so green with foliage and rich with city-wide sculptures and art...

... And it is the home of the King of Barbecue! (Thank you Terry for the best in taste ever: pulled pork in bite-size chunks, brisket that has no equal, beans cooked with the drippings plus an infusion of the pulled pork, personally made white and red sauces--as if they were needed--and fresh Hawaiian roles. I suffered the cures of great food... getting full before it was all eaten.

Couldn't have been better.




Tuesday, April 16, 2019

"HEY EINSTEIN! yeah, you." We are all Einsteins in our own mind.


Comedian Emo Philips joked, "I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this" 

Though told to get a laugh, the joke is on us. IT IS AN ABSOLUTE FACT! Humans have five organs that are essential for survival: brain, heart, kidneys, liver and lungs. But it is the brain that sends signals through the nervous system and secretes hormones to the others. Your brain makes you tick.

And you are the brain's boss.

We humans start using our brain at some point in the womb and continue to learn and grow every living second after that until death or some catastrophic event or affliction. You simply never stop learning by intent, common sense or just living and experiencing. LEARNING  NEVER STOPS.

And what we have learned is quite remarkable. It is brilliance, it is remembering, it is observant, it is nuanced, it is world-shattering, it is noble, it is silly. fun. critical and mundane at the same time... and it is all of our world. For a rare few, it is eidetic (or photographic) with an ability to view memories like photographs, pages or numbers or times experienced in the past in great detail. Notables said to have such skills include Charles Darwin, Nikola Tesla, Teddy Roosevelt, former basketball player Jerry Lucas, Mr. T (yes, him) and actress Marilu Henner. 

While the brain has amazing powers of significance in our lives, it also captures whimsy with stuff that makes trivia champions too--and everything in between..

So brain, show me fun and amazing stuff you have learned--or will learn now just by reading this below: 
  • Of the United States, Hawaii is the furthest south. But Alaska is furthest north, west and east (as its archipelago stretches across the 180th degree of longitude marking ultimate east.)
  • Tokyo is the most populous city in the world with more that 38,000,000 residents.
  • There is a 30-watt light bulb that has been burning continuously since 1901 in a firehouse in Livermore, California. It has been dubbed "The Centennial Light, Its illumination today is about 3-watts, but it stii burns!
  • Cleopatra, born in 69 BC, lived closer in time to the iPhone than the Pyramids of Egypt.
  • Some turtles can breath through their anus, so if you see a struggling turtle in need of artificial respiration, you are on your own.
  • The entire surface of former planet Pluto would fit easily into the area of Russia. And not only that, since its discovery in 1930, it has yet to circle the sun in its wide rotation.
  • After English, German is the most widely spoken language in North Dakota.
  •  The order of the alphabet is totally arbitrary... but I bet they got today's idea from that sABC song.
  • The name of all the continents start and end with the same letter.
  • A camel's tongue is long enough to clean its own ears.
  • The most common name in the world is Muhammad. The second most common is Lee. Yet there has never been a Muhammad Lee or Lee Muhammad.
  • Each King in a deck of playing cards represents a historical King: spades/King David, clubs/Alexander the Great, hearts/Charlemagne, diamonds/Julius Caesar
  • It often does little good to 'block' robo-calls numbers as the callers' algorithms simply change their last four digits to avoid being blocked.
  • Honey is the only food that never spoils. Honey found in the pyramids that were built 2600 years ago is still edible. 
But perhaps the most important thing to know about the brain that is in your head is that it has an infinite capacity to LEARN and GROW. So don't limit yourself to a blind alley when the world your brain can see is comparatively as vast as our universe and is open for business 24/7.

DO YA' HEAR ME BRAIN?

Monday, April 1, 2019

Ode to a Stick Shift (with a very special treat at the end: "BEEP, BEEP... the Little Nash Rambler" by the Playmates, which explaines it all.)

Fanciest stick shift I'll ever see

When I was just 16 and not very good at this thing called "DRIVING," I did something so stupidly remarkable that if truth were told (and it wasn't because I lied) it might make the Rules of the Road record books. 

'4 on the floor.'
Many of us learned to drive a 'stick shift' because that's all there were at that time. All those cars had one extra pedal, the clutch,  and a button on the floor to 'high beam' or 'dim' our headlights..The emergency brake was your special friend because it helped 'hold' the can on a hill lest you roll backwards before the forward gear engaged. 

Drivers had to use two hands and two feet in a syncopated rhythm to mesh the gears. Sure it was a lot busier with a manual transmission... and a lot more fun. You were actually driving instead of just steering. More sophisticated manual manual transmission cars are still sold but fewer each year and some auto companies no longer offer them. You felt more control of your car... because you were.  And if you did it wrong and found yourself stuck in an intersection or at a red light that just turned green, other cars would honk (politely, of course) and holler "Get the *&%$ out of the way, you jerk. Learn to drive, why dontcha!"

Now for my Rules of the Road record: Picture me, just a few days past my 16th birthday with my driver's license newly in my pocket and all the confidence that I WAS the best driver in the world. But some things they just don't teach in Driver's Ed., like how to navigate the notoriously steep Western Street hill with a stoplight at the top.The trick was to wait at he bottom until the light turned green... then GUN IT and pray to NEVER get stuck atop Western Street. MOST knew what I had yet to learn.

So when I got stopped by a cement truck that failed to make the light, I knew I was in trouble. I was stuck, with that monster truck just in front of me and another car close on my tail, all of us stopped on WESTERN HILL waiting for the light to change. I thought fast as I felt sweat rolling down my neck.

I knew that as soon as that light turned green, the monster truck in front would roll back just a few inches as the professional  driver would do the clutch/brake thing smoothly and he would move slowly forward. I just knew that I had to execute perfectly or kill the engine... or worse, roll into the car behind me. 

I determined (wrongly) that my car should be in second gear since that was more powerful.  So I put my stick shift into second gear, or so I thought. But since second was just across the gear shift from reverse, which I unknowingly found. 
than first, 

The light changed and I just gunned the heck out of it... and I did it perfectly--except that since my car was in reverse, I sped down the hill at record pace, solidly hitting the car behind me with as much force as my anxious foot would allow. 

Now let me just say that no one was more surprised than me... although I think the person in the car I slammed into might also have raised an eyebrow or two. It was as awful as it was loud and for a moment, time stood still. It felt like this to me.. but thankfully, it was not.

This wasn't my accident but it sure seemed like it to me at the time

Making certain the lady in the car I had hit wasn't dead--and thankfully, she wasn't even hurt--I heard the siren and knew my time had come.  In a  falsetto voice, I said "Hi officer.. " giving a modest Stan Laurel wave.

He asked in a decidedly not falsetto voice, "What in God's name happened here?"

I have often been told that I don't know what I am going to say until I hear it said from my mouth, This was one of those times. 

"Officer Sir, there was a huge cement truck in front of me and when the light changed, it started to roll backward, toward my car. I really felt that to save myself, I had to back down the hill as fast as I could."

"You certainly did a good job of that" he told me. The blessing, of course, was that no one was hurt and to my great surprise, the officer said, "Well that's one for the record books (see, I told you) "It happens kid. and that's why you get the ticket." The lady in the car behind... the one I hit, gave me a hug and said "Cars can be fixed."

That's it. No ambulance, no handcuffs, kind people. And the cop had a good one to tell the guys at the station. The lady, God bless her, worried more about me than her car. Even my dad and mom understood... sort of. I had to pay the ticket and was cautioned to learn from the experience. I did.

Now you ask, how could I ever be so naive as to think second gear was 'the power gear?' Well, if you've read this far, then you get the treat of watching and listening to a real top 20 classic of the time, "BEEP BEEP. The Little Nash Rambler" by The Playmates, And be sure to catch the last line... my stupid excuse. 

Moral of the story: Never go up Western Street Hill unless you are prepared for the consequences.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Are you old enough to watch the evening news?

David Muir on ABC

Now THAT, my friends, is a trick question.

First off, every newscast starts with "BREAKING NEWS" and we older like that. (Hint number 1) We want to know what is happening now so we can be up to date. Will the future never happen if we don't worry about it? Sadly, so much of BREAKING NEWS recently is about the really bad weather that has earned its prominence. 


Most of us older people are already obsessed about the weather, good, bad or foggy. (Hint number 2) When we were young, apparently there was no weather... or at least, not 24/7 as it is today.

Rising or dropping gas prices across the nation (Hint number 3) is also fodder a little later in the broadcast and outrage comes quick to those who will drive 30 miles to save 5 cents a gallon. But fear not, there is enough outrage in the news to give every watcher a target or two.

The reason all of this is true is because old people care on a global/universe scale. Thus we are self-selecting. That's why we see all those icky ads at dinner time... because we are the best market for those advertisers and they aim right between the eyes and into the caring brain of the "the older." ... of which I am one, or better said... of which I am one.

So the evening news has most of the elements for 'older' interests... immediacy, core issues, pet interests, bile baiters, etc. Now it is safe for me to be judgmental because I have come clean...but maybe not Charmin clean, heaven forbid...  and old people can't read that small type anyhow so they don't know I am making fun of us.  So just think of me as 28 years-old (wink-wink ok?) as I continue on my rampage of, as you will see, advertising to the older generation... or, as we say in the business, demographics

We are 'self-selecting' by our interests and certain advertisers want us... need us!

They mostly target the less-desired demographic with products/things that would interest someone skewing "oldish." (Actually a smart strategy, and the reason Nike or Speedo don't.)

So we get:

  • Charmin toilet tissue (my favorite) because I do desire "a better clean." "A Charmin clean... Now that feels good," "Whether I sit or squat."
  • Depends, "for a better fit," of course.
  • Ducolax, "Dependable relief" asking if I am "Constipated?" or "Stuck?"
  • Cologuard, where I can "send poop through the mail."
  • Linzess, because "not everyone poops."
  • Bath Fitters, because "a walk-in shower is safer for the less agile than a bathtub."
  • Hearing Aids, because "Eh?"
  • And many of the medicines with strange, made-up trade names and a list of possible side effects from upset stomach to death, but all helpful or vital when needed... like now for some who watch.
If you watch the evening news, you are quite probably interested in these products. Actually, it does work as advertisers spend big money to reach their best audience of users or potential users. Facebook also chases the gold by recognizing who wants what and instantly flooding those 'feeds' with like product. That's no accident.

So, news watchers, the message is clear... if you want to be seen as demographically younger, and who doesn't, watch Saturday Night Live, now in it's 44th year. You'll see none of the above advertisers but you must use discretion lest you be tempted to go for a racy Speedo or new pair of very expensive Nikes ("Just Do It!"),  As a bonus though, with SNL you will get a slice of America as it is currently seen through younger comedic eyes, some funny stuff and some that will make you cringe. But hey, that's what time-shifting is all about. Record the stuff you want to watch later and fast forward with gusto until it feels just right. And, as a bonus, you can still get to bed before 10 pm and no one will know how old you are, you sly fox.

Older is a joy if blessed with the important stuff (not money, but if so burdened, try your best to live with it.) but you know what I mean. We are as old as we see from our eyes but sometimes, if we are seen as older by others, it  is a drag. Be free as life allows... watch SNL if only in disgust, but enjoy a semi-forbidden laugh (with absolutely no disclaimers) at ourselves once in a while... and maybe, worry less about what you can't control. Did you just say "NOPE!"


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Is the media , "The enemy of the people?” as the President says over and over...and is believed, perhaps by as many as 1 of 3 Americans today.

National Enquirer




Well, I guess you could truthfully say, "Yes and No." But then comes the tough part: Where, and from whom, do you get "the real news?"

"Fake news! Fake news! Fake news," he says, and there is always some of that.

Take the National Enquirer, for example. It's been around since 1926 and has always sold well when displayed at grocery and other check-out lines, purchased on impulse because of its  often outrageous' grabber headlines.'

Weekly World News
Click on the National Enquirer link under its photo and you will see a large number of their covers showing what I mean. (FYI; David Pecker, who has been in the news lately, is the Chairman and CEO of American Media which publishes the National Enquirer...

... and also, one of my all-time favorite fun titles, "The Weekly World News: the world's only reliable news", which is no longer in print... but there was nothing like it, for sure! Check the link for a fun time.

The Onion
Then there is The Onion, a satirical newspaper founded in Madison, Wisconsin in 1988 which built his reputation for humor by its handling of real and fake stories, always with an amusing or amazingly unbelievable  twist. You can see more of their covers by clicking on the Onion link below the picture... and PS: This story, Sexiest Man, was believed as true "over there" and gathered a lot of steam.

Now THAT'S fake news. There is a lot of fake news on all platforms of social media, because,what is seen on the internet is ALWAYS TRUE, right? Problem is, it's hard to tell sometimes what is fake and what is real. And because it is repeated thousands of times does not make anything fake, real Really!

Now we have the more conventional news media... newspapers (what's left of them), television and radio. Sadly, newspapers, the best source of in-depth news and coverage, is fading fast, a victim of its time in the same market with social media, where most of the young and younger get their news, if any at all. Who has time to read something as antiquated and clumsy as a "newspaper.?" Advertisers who provide most of the newspaper revenue, have left that media for greater reach of their base on line. Sad for good reporting, but true. That time has mostly passed, never to return to former glory.

Do, however, make a distinction based on where you get your news. For the most accepted traditional newspaper (print)  and TV news media, there is a culture of reporting news as news. And yes, in the editorial pages and slant, there is often a viewpoint... but it is not covert and largely governed by its competition to make news fact based.

So what is true and what is fake? If social media is your bible, hope you get it right instead of just because you agree with it. In the newspaper business, truth happens much, much more than on line where everyone has and expresses opinion, often based on an oxymoron: "alternate facts," such as giant shrimp, deafening silence, clearly confused, amazingly awful, alone together, definite maybe, etc. There are never alternate facts, just fact facts, not always available when expressing an on line opinion.

FYI : One in five newspapers published 10 years ago is gone. There are 50,000 less news reporters to fact-fill those fewer pages of often reduced frequency newspapers. Real news does suffer but it can never, ever die... or so will we.




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

What makes you ethnically you? As a proud Italian--and after a few paragraphs of lecturing--i'll show you something fun that is ethnically us.








Sadly, ethnicity too often leads to stereotyping which can tend to divide us, but that is looking at it through the wrong end of the telescope.  We do have ethnic differences which, thank God, is to our great advantage. We would be hard pressed to live in a world where we all saw everything through the same eyes. We all bring different skills and traits to the table... yeah, sort of like a fancy smorgasbord,

Saw this inscribed on a coffee cup once:
Heaven is where the cooks are French, the police are British, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and everything is organized by the Swiss.

Hell is where the cooks are British, the police are German, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and everything is organized by the Italians.


Culture and genetics give us our traits.  Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, We all have something to share but not necessarily the same something. We do, however, make a beautiful picture when put together. We couldn't be "us: if we didn't have "them." We certainly wouldn't be the country we are today.

If you are not Native American who always lived here or African American brought here as a slave, you are of immigrant heritage seeking a new life, a new freedom or escaping some horrible circumstance. Almost all of of us have immigrant beginnings. And just look at the incredible nation we made.
 
Disclaimer: The rest of this post originally ran July 31, 2015 but i thought it was worth a rerun because it is an entertaining way to make a stereotypical point.

Micelangelo's  David
What do DaVinci and his Mona Lisa, Michelangelo and his magnificent sculpture David, Galileo and his startling astronomical findings, Marco Polo and his discovery of spaghetti and I, producer of this fine blog have in common? 

No, not that.

Our names all end in a vowel... which means (probably) we're ITALIAN. Mama Mia!

So do all Italian names end in a vowel? No, just most.


DaVinci's Mona Lisa
For me, all of my grandparents were Italian immigrants that came here through Ellis Island in the early 1900s and made new lives for themselves. My parents were the first American born generation.

I grew up next to my grandparents and enjoyed my cultural blessings--a little wine at the table, fabulous food, getting away with cussing in Italian but claiming to never understand what I was saying, great work ethic, overwhelming gusto for life and more--but never learned Italian because they forced their children to "speeka English."

Marco Polo's spaghetti
I really never wondered why most Italian names end in a vowel. I thought Italian was like 'pig Latin' where every word ended in "A." Imagine my surprise then when I read the credits of this fabulous video, "1,000 people playing the Foo Fighters in Unison."

As I read through the 1200 or so names of players, singers, producers, camera people, gofers and the like at the end of this very professional video, I saw that all but a handful of them ended in a vowel. That's Italy for you.

About that video, first, it is really impressive and fun to watch, even more-so if you like the music. If you are not a Foo Fighters fan, watch anyhow because it is worth it, but when bored, advance to the credits for the most astounding Italian ethnic proof you need.

An Italian, Fabio Zaffagnini (see, vowel at the end) is a huge Foo Fighters fan who had the crazy idea to get the group to perform in Romangna Italy. He called his project 'Rockin' 1000.'
It took him a year to plan and gather 1000 musicians and singers together to play one of their songs, 'Learn to fly" simultaneously. And he did it masterfully! Musicians came at their own expense from all over the globe to be a part of this project. See for yourself.
Did it work? Well, there are two Italy concerts on the schedule for Foo Fighters this November so it was twice as good as hoped. Ah, the power of music.
Other famous vowel-ending Italians: Gina Lollobrigida, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mussolini (oh, scratch-a that-a one), Marconi,  Povorati... the list-a goes-a on-a and-a on-a. Also note many famous Italians are known by just one name. Many famous Italians are named Pope-a. 
As Shakespeare said: What's in a name? That which we call a Rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. So now you know why so many Italian women are called Rosa. See how it works?