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Saturday, July 22, 2017

A STICK-UP MAN'S CODE: Creeds, Mottoes, Slogans and Rules that have Shaped America

"Neither snow, nor rain, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from swift completion of their appointed rounds" 

Coffee shop buddy Ed (I miss him) loaned me Brian Burrell's book, Words We Live By--three different times--because he thought I'd enjoy it. He was right. It is filled declarations, creeds, mottoes, slogans, sayings, advice and rules--everything from the unofficial U.S. Post Office motto to... 

Looking down the barrel of a gun
A Stick-Up Man's Code: (from a list of personal rules that were found in his wallet when he was arrested):
  1. I will not kill anyone unless I have to.
  2. I will take cash and food stamps--no checks.
  3. I will rob only at night.
  4. I will not wear a mask.
  5. I will not rob mini-marts or 7-Eleven stores.
  6. If chased by cops on foot, I will get away. If chased by a vehicle I will not put the lives of innocent civilians on the line.
  7. I will only rob seven months of the year.
  8. I will enjoy robbing from the poor to give to the poor. 
Other words include our Declaration of Independence and the many official documents that shape our lives... the sublime and less so.

A sign in New York's Empire Diner says: "Be nice. Don't shout. Sit up straight. Don't play with your food. Have a nice day. Take care. Don't be a stranger. Murray, call your mother." 

There is a Declaration of Principles by the Pacific Ice Cream Manufacturers' Association, Robert's Rules of Order that governs democratic meetings, The Boy Scout's code, The Marquis of Queensberry rules for boxing, ("No hitting below the belt,") A Mid-Wife's Oath, Parkinson's Law, ("Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."), not to be confused with Parkinson's Law of Triviality, ("The time spent on any item of the agenda will be inverse to the sum of money involved."), Murphy's Laws, ("Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, No good deed goes unpunished, A short cut is the shortest distance between two points,") and so forth. Every organization has bylaws and rules that govern its purpose.

Benjamin Franklin's 13 Virtues is there as are Sir Walter Raleigh's Instructions to his Son. And Google says "Do no evil."

The book also includes our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, the Ten Commandments, AA's 12 steps, The Chicago Cubs team rules of 1913 (which make no mention of never winning the World Series for at least 104 years), Jack London's Code, The Official Creed of Elvis Presley Impersonators International (Yeah, really), The Hippocratic Oath and The Clown Code ("No more than 18 in a car at any time," No shoe size smaller than 34 EEEE, etc".) OK, so I fudged that last one... but clowns do have their rules.

Most of all though, it has The Golden Rule stated in many ways:

"I got a simple rule about everybody. If you don't treat me right, shame on you!" Louis Armstrong said that in the 1970s. 
In 325 B.C. Aristotle was asked how we ought to behave to our friends. "As we wish our friends to behave to us," he said.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," in one form or another, is found scripturally in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. It is a moral acknowledgement of how to lead a good life.

Socrates, Aristotle, Samuel Clarke, John Wise, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Sedgwick, Petr Aleksevich Kropotkin, Malcolm X, Alan Gewirth and Louis Armstrong, to name just a few, have stated in writings and speeches... in many, many languages... in many different words... from so many ages... their expression of The Golden Rule.

It is not to be misconstrued as "He who has the gold, rules," or, "I don't get mad, I get even." These are usually followed by a hollow laugh, as if to say, "Not really."

But, really!

We sometimes seem to live more by those 'anti-golden rules' than the real thing. We have had wars forever, you know. I guess I'm feeling especially moralistic today. As a society of humans, wouldn't you think we can be better than we are?

Yeah, really!

Monday, July 10, 2017

I have a friend who takes his own EKG... and showed the way to an out-of-the-box solution to our health care conundrum.

This is his actual EKG... he took it himself and sent it to his doctor.

He has atrial fibrillation (A-fib), an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating. A-fib is associated with an increased risk of heart failure and stroke. Fortunately, it can be monitored and managed.

His onsets are usually sporadic rather than constant, with some episodes lasting just minutes. But they can and have continued longer, occasionally triggering action.  Without an EKG at the time of an event, there will be no record to build a technical history. So the ability to record an event as it happens is an enormous benefit to good health. (Note: the doctor suggested this process viewing the readings as credible.)

Even if your doctor could record your EKG at the moment it is happening, that procedure would cost significantly for each event, without even considering your need for an appointment and waiting a schedule.

AliveCor app
So my friend, and many like him, are turning to an app on their smartphones to do the job. Yes, believe it. This app (with interface) that took these reading cost $99 because a device interface that records the EKG input is necessary. The reading appears on your phone and may be emailed to your doctor in minutes. There are other apps available free that require no interface (your finger over the camera eye) but his app, AliveCor by Kardia, seemed the better choice. His device is mounted on the back of his  iPhone cover and is always with him. How convenient is that?

This blog however is NOT about my friend's A-fib resolve but what this growing technology allows for in other applications. It is seen by some as the 'out-of-the-box' solution to a better way of harnessing the octopus that is affordable health care for the masses. Best of all, it has a simple-to-understand logic which, in today's world of political victory at any cost, could be read as it's death knell.

Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, says in a WSJournal essay, "Our health-care system won't be fixed by insurance reform. To contain costs and improve results, we need to move aggressively to adopt the tools of information-age medicine." He calls that, "The Smart-Medicine Solution to the Health-Care Crisis."

"No matter how the debate in Washington plays out... we will still be stuck with astronomical and ever-rising health care costs." Projections by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that health spending in the U.S. will grow at a rate of 5.8% a year through 2025, far outpacing GDP growth.

"Our health care system is uniquely inefficient and wasteful," Topol says. "The more than $3 trillion that we spend each year yields relatively poor health outcomes, compared with other developed countries that spend far less."

While he acknowledges that containing costs and improving care is accepted and necessary, it is what we, the patients can now do to greatly help in both areas. "In my three decades as a doctor," Topol says, "I have never seen such an acceleration of new technology, both hardware and software, across every dimension of medical practice. The new tools are not just more powerful, precise and convenient, they are more economical, driven by the information revolution's ability to deliver." 

Now, heart and blood pressure readings can be credibly delivered regularly, if necessary, by the patient him/herself. "The Food and Drug Administration has already approved wearable sensors that can continuously monitor all vital signs: blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm, body temperature, breathing rate and oxygen concentration in the blood, for a fraction of the cost for a day in the hospital."

"We now have ultrasound probes that connect with a smartphone an provide exquisite resolution'" he says, "comparable to hospital lab machines. It is possible to examine any part of the body (except the brain) simply by connecting the probe to the base of a smartphone and putting a little gel on the probe's tip. When I first got a smartphone ultrasound probe last year, I did a head-to-toe 'medical selfie,' imaging everything from my sinuses  and thyroid to my heart, lungs, liver, gallbladder, aorta and left foot." 

And his reading showed a kidney abnormality, he was subsequently diagnosed with a kidney stone confirmed by a doctor's CT scan.

Conclusion: Imagine how this could work to reduce hospital stays and any subsequent hospital-driven complication that, statistically, happens 25% of the time. This ties into so many other areas to improve health care at what could amount to significant savings in time, efficiency, diagnosing insight and stress. A person's genome sequencing--identifying all three billion genes--can now be done for about $1,000 and leading to smart alerts and early monitoring.

Whoa! What have we got here... a technical breakthrough on a level of discovery of a cure for cancer or... who knows. 

If affordable health care is seen as a Rubik's Cube of variable options, then to take this path could well be the key to the puzzle that, before now, hasn't been in the picture. Are we on the cusp of another Wright brothers-like event?

Yes, it will be hell to go from here to there as technology evolves and this becomes the political football with lobbyists, the insurance and health industries, political detractors, patients themselves and at every turn, for every reason. But couldn't a President (whoever that is, now or soon) do a "Kennedy?"

On May 25, 1961, after the Russians had put the first man into space, leaving us greatly embarrassed and deeply concerned about being beaten into this future frontier, John F. Kennedy proclaimed to a special session of Congress and the American people, the goal of sending an American to the moon before the end of the decade.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo commander Neil Armstrong stepped off the Lunar Module's ladder onto the Moon's surface... a moment of great national pride.

If we can do that, couldn't we do this, to the great benefit of all Americans? Come on Donald, or whoever, say something.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

There it is! The International Space Station streaking across your sky, maybe right now.

If you haven't seen this marvel of the modern world streaking across your sky at nearly five-miles per minute, you must! In fact, you just might be able to see it tonight. 

It is a splendid, awe-inspiring sight looking at the International Space Station with American Astronauts Peggy Whitson, Jack Fisher and Russian Cosmonaut and mission commander Fyodor Nikolayevich Yurchilhin aboard.

 This is how they see us. 

                                                        This is how we see them.
The International Space Station (ISS) is the most complex international scientific and engineering project in history and the largest structure humans have ever put into space. This high-flying satellite is a laboratory for new technologies and an observation platform for astronomical, environmental and geological research. As a permanently occupied outpost in outer space, it serves as a stepping-stone for further space exploration. 
You know we plan to go to Mars in the 2020s and the list of those desiring to be on that first 9-month flight is in the thousands, all with the knowledge that they will not come back, living the rest of their lives on the Red Planet. That's exploring for you.
The initial ISS module was put into space in November, 1998 and received its first crew in November, 2000. It has been built on and continually occupied by various multi-nation crews. Current plans call for its use through 2020 and no doubt, beyond.
The space station flies at an average altitude of 248 miles above Earth. It circles the globe every 90 minutes at a speed of about 17,500 mph, 15 revolutions a day. In one day, it travels about the distance it would take to go from Earth to the moon and back. The space station can rival the brilliant planet Venus in brightness and appears as a bright moving light across the night sky. It can be seen from Earth without the use of a telescope by you when know when and where to look, which I will show you in a few paragraphs.
Five different space agencies representing 15 countries built the $100-billion International Space Station and continue to operate it today.
A full size duplicate of the module core and cockpit can be seen in Seattle's Museum of Flight and it is definitely worth the trip. Oh, an you can see a retired SST and many other fascinating aircraft and lore. Definitely worth the trip if you love this stuff... and even if you don't.
Wanna' know where and how to see the ISS (International Space Station) over your skies? Get the app ISS Spotter available free at ITunes and wherever free apps are given away. (I know, redundant, but cute.) 

The opening page of this app looks like this and it is a live show of the current ISS path around the globe and where it is at that precise moment. You can expand the page to see the whole earth and where it was the last two orbits. And you will be able to see how fast that bugger moves. It's an eye-opener itself.

 Then you go to page 2 and it lists the exact times and locations over where you are... and it is precise to the second. If you track it, you will see that just minutes before where you are, it is someplace over the Pacific, some impossible distance away. Amazing, really. It lists morning and evening viewing times over a number of days it is visible to you. And there are quite a few to choose from, you'd be surprised
So enjoy the amazing and the pioneers that took us there. 

FYI: I was at Kitty Hawk just a few months ago. The Wright brothers took the first ever flight in 1903--a mere 852 feet in 59 seconds, but a beginning.. It took us just a few generations to put a man on the moon in 1969. Maybe just another 60 years and we will put people on Mars. Where then? Now if we could just figure out how we can live on earth, THAT will be some accomplishment.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Those born very rich--and sometimes those who have found wealth later in life-- have a problem. CAN YOU GUESS WHAT IT IS?

Most of the very rich have a prob- lem... and as you can imagine, it's not money, though they always seem to need more.  Acknowledged, money cannot buy health, happiness or true friends but we pretty much know that.

A very real problem for many, especially those born with a silver spoon in their mouths, is that no matter how they may try, they cannot understand how the less fortunate of us feel, think or manage in our shared world. And worse than that, a great many don't care, presuming wealth equals all knowledge.

In my career as a magazine publisher, I worked for three extremely wealthy people... two born into money and one who earned his way rich.

My first, born that way, was gregarious and generous to a point, highly principled and kind-hearted in his way. He never knew a want or had a need. So his acts of kindness often presumed he knew much more about people than he did, so he was often clumsy and misunderstood. But if he perceived you were on his wrong side, he would fire or sue liberally. He was an insecure man of action.

The second earned his way with the role model of a parent in the publishing business. He was a wonderful man to work for, totally open with no hidden agenda, fair and understanding in good news or bad, helpful toward a mutual successful relationship and he cared for people.

The third was a corporate nightmare. His bottom line was sacred, no mater the cost, and growth was mandated or heads would--and did--roll, often despite good news... but not quite good enough. It was of no concern to him to order valuable, dedicated people fired to make the bottom line look better or to help prop up another lagging venture.

My publishing entity became a small part of a much larger corporation and we would have a quarterly meeting in the New York headquarters where we were to be present two days in advance of our meeting to "practice" what to say and how to say it for "the big man." We had slides to address every possible question "he" might ask--dozens and dozens of slides--to be certain we were fully prepared.

Then, on the big day at one winter meeting, there were two dozen of us in a giant conference room at 8:30  for a 9 am meeting. It was soon 9:45 and "he" was not there. At 10 minutes after 10, "he" ceremoniously burst into the room in a cashmere top coat, hat and scarf, greeting everyone as he pulled off his outerwear handing it to an aide one step behind. He joyfully said, "Good morning everyone. It was such a beautiful morning that I just had to walk through Central Park today." No "Sorry I'm late," or anything of the sort. After he was attended to with "A latte, just the way you like it... and a sweet roll with butter and your favorite marmalade," he nodded and we began.

Yep. Most of those I'm referring to lack Empathy: The ability to understand and share the feeling of another. 
Empathy is a moral virtue that enriches any and every relationship. I am not referring to decision-making itself but an understanding of the gains and losses of all involved and respect and thought for another perspective, even though it may not be yours.

The Golden Rule has been stated in many different ways over time, but has become a horrible aberration when cited, "He who has the gold, rules."

In sports, winning and losing is part of a game. In life, winners and losers are often determined by "he who has the gold" without much consideration for the consequences. It is often referred to as winning.

Politics has become so ruthless and contentious. Each side must win without regard of the consequences. It seems winning is the most important element of every action. Politics has become a wicked game of our lives where winning is more important than any consequence that may be swept aside by a myopic determination.

And yeah, I'm referring of the rush to kill The Affordable Care Act with anything that can pass, effects be damned. (Author's note: I am strongly for any and every improvement our legislators can make that truly benefits us all. But lacking that, to dispatch one for another just because, is disastrous to millions with no political clout by legislators who don't seem to have the empathy to care.)

I end with three quotes:

Empathy is the most mysterious transaction that the human soul can have, and it is accessible to all of us, but we have to give ourselves the opportunity to identify, to plunge ourselves into a story where we see the world from the bottom up or through another's eyes or heart. Sue Monk Kidd 

... that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. Abraham Lincoln (the conclusion of the Gettysburg Address)

My whole life is about winning I don't lose often. I almost never lose.  Donald Trump

Thursday, June 22, 2017

BOOTS ON THE HIGHWAY: The end of a three-decade odyseey of the mind

About 30 years ago, my wife and I decided we wanted as much good health as we could control so we enrolled in a local fitness club vowing to stick it out forever... or at least a month. That's how it--this journey to alter the future--began.

So why all the boots, you might ask. (Oh, you haven't seen all of them yet.) Well, here's how that came about.

We knew that the only part of our busy day we could control was the early morning. Once our work day began, so did the excuses. We began going to "the club" at 6 am three-days a week. It was winter and it was HELL!

But we did it, starting with a 10-lap walk around an indoor track. Every lap took us past the opening to the early morning high-velocity aerobics class. We'd shake our heads and wonder how crazy you'd have to be to do that three times a week as we worked up a sweat to finish our mile.

But after a few weeks of boring walking, we thought we'd try the class, from the back row, to see if we could stay up. But to our surprise, the group... maybe 20 or so... welcomed us as if more of a crowd would make hell seem easier. To our surprise, it did.

Now here comes the boot part: Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 5:45 am, my wife and I. still in a sleep-deprived state, would drag ourselves into separate cars (since we had different work destinations) and try to believe this is what we should do as we drove to "the club." 

For one two-week stretch, we would separately pass a lost boot laying near one of our intersections. It was still there, weeks past when it should have been, littering the street corner where we turned.

"Did you see the boot? It's still there."

"I know! Somebody must be walking around with one cold foot in all this snow."

Then, one early cold morning, my wife noticed, "The boot is gone! I almost miss it."

Secret: I preceded her that morning and grabbed the boot. Then that night, without her noticing, I put in on the hood of her car.

The next morning we laughed and tossed the boot near the garbage can til next pick-up day. But fate intervened and that day she saw another lost or discarded boot on the road she traveled. Of course, she stopped and grabbed it for my car hood next day. "Isn't that odd? Two boots in two days. Bet that means good luck."

A few days later I found number three and we immediately bought a lottery ticket. Then, we couldn't believe our luck when we just missed the grand prize by only five numbers. "Imagine, if the 6 would have been a 3 and the 4 was 7 and the 2 was one place to the left instead of the 8, we would be millionaires!"

We just couldn't throw those good-luck omens away... and so it began.

It's really amazing what you see on the side of the road if you're paying attention, and we always were. It was a game and when we scored, we always we always knew it meant something because we pretended it did. 

"Oops, guess this means we have to go to Paparazzi's tonight."
"That's for your birthday."
"This means we'll sell the car today."
"I see a trip in our future."

And the more serious: 

"It's a prayer for Aunt Nancy to get better."
"For the new grandchild to be healthy."
"That Jim will get that job."

It was always something... and as the the boots started piling up, we got inventive as to how they should be displayed. We even took them with us when we moved. And yes, we were the talk of the neighborhood--'those crazy people' I think they said.

Our kids and friends added to our cache with an occasional find. We have boots from many states and several foreign countries. Furthest came back in luggage from Italy. It meant we would eat great pasta for the rest of our lives!

At last count, our garage looked like this:

So when we repainted, all 126 boots (yep, really)  had to come down. The total could have been much larger but some boots on the highway were just not safely retrieved. And believe me, it hurt to have to pass up a great boot. However, we did have a few daring trophies. One was in a busy tunnel on I-5 in Seattle... it was a firefighter's boot--a real treasure--that my daughter and I scouted first then grabbed at 3 am with virtually no traffic to worry about. She drove and I grabbed... took about 5 seconds. See if you can find it in the photo at the top of the post.

Sadly, it was time to take them all down. Most had  deteriorated so it wasn't emotionally difficult to do, then take to the dump for a proper burial among the trash. The fun memories however, and the spirit of the chase will always be savored. Doesn't mean we won't still pick up a stray for old time's sake, but since we didn't win the lottery, I blame the bad boots... oh, and the fact that we never did actually buy a ticket. So it's our fault after all.

Goodbye boots. I guess I'll just keep on driving and watching for the ones that got away.

Ed Note: We were regular participants in hat high energy exercise class for almost 20 years... a class that had only four instructors in all that time and was filled with very sweaty--and warm, dear friends who knew each other by first name and any number of personal tales we shared. We attended weddings and a few funerals of those early morning maniacs--many of which we wouldn't recognize on the street with their clothes on--and shared joys and sorrow. It was one of the fullest, longest relationships that had the benefit of better health. We blame every one of them for those boots and great memories. (Special hellos to Del R. and Jim T.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Red Velvet Rope of life

I was 16 pages deep with more to go in my Google search for red velvet ropes. Most were listings to purchase or rent red velvet ropes for crowd control but a number of sites were for red velvet clubs... you know, the exclusive ones not meant for regular people. Red velvet ropes are mostly used to keep the riff-raff out and let the elite pass through.

WW with her invisible plane

But even if there are no red velvet ropes beyond nightclubs or the Oscars and the like, they exist metaphorically in almost every phase of our lives, invisible like Wonder Woman's plane (see invisible plane, left) or her lasso, but they are there.

My thought was triggered by Nelson Schwartz who has a book soon to debut on who and how we separate the elite of the world from us less special other folks. Our every day lives are filled with red velvet ropes of one kind or another. Most are so prevalent that we just accept them as a normal part of not being either elite or rich.

The medical field has many red velvet ropes. These on the inside do not sit in emergency rooms or doctors' offices til 3:30 waiting for their 2 pm appointment. Often, their doctors are on call and come to them.  Those inside the rope deliver their babies in $6,000/day hospital suites attended by cream of the crop medical care, often referred as high-end boutique health services. We sometimes deliver in the back seat of a cab. Their broken bones are not diagnosed in emergency rooms and set by the surgeon with an opening in her schedule. Treatment options? Not hardly.

In our justice system, most pretrial detainees remain in jail waiting trial because they can't afford bail at arraignment, and many must use overwhelmed court appointed council. Not surprisingly, this often means disproportionately delivered justice... something on the order of the Golden State Warriors playing a high school basketball team. It also leads sadly to the innocent being convicted for crimes they never committed. And those on the other side of the rope, being acquitted for crimes they did commit. Hey, it happens.

Who stands in long lines for rides at Disney World or doesn't swim with dolphins at Sea World? Who has little hope snagging a pair of tickets to Hamilton when it's the talk of the town? Care to jump airport lines? Too bad. Go to college at today's prices? The odds are not great for many on the wrong side of the red velvet rope.

Life's like that though and many of us are so used to our status that we accept the rope as a way of life. But to those who can't afford the opportunity, it's another way entirely.

Funny thing is, some of the privileged confess they actually experience a tinge of guilt when they glance across the red velvet rope.  There is nothing wrong about earning honest money. It's just that so many are critically behind those opportunity lines for any number of reasons. It might even be a matter of life or death for them.

Oh, there are exceptions of course. Remember the crucifixion scene in Monty Python's classic film, The Life of Brian? Those poorly born actually had the option to choose which side of the red velvet rope for them: "Crucifixion or freedom?" But given the choice, they messed it up. See what I mean?

 So a big thank you to the Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and all those with a philanthropic mentality who try to help those in great need. But the need overwhelms us all.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Here's a Golden Oldie from 2011, Remember tthat year? Neither do I. Briliant new post almost ready.


Other people's stuff, more or less.

Every day I try to say unique things... likeUnique New York, three times real fast... or the world's hardest tongue-twister, The sixth sheik's sheep is sick. 

Or, I had a wooden whistle and it wouldn't whistle, then I got a steel whistle and it still wouldn't whistle. So I got a tin whistle... and now I 'tin' whistle...   but enough of me.

I just read a little of Mardy Grothe's new book,  Neverisms: A Quotation Lover's Guide to Things You Should Never Do. It makes so much common sense:
  • Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche.
  • Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.
  • Never make a speech at a country dance or a football game.
  • Never eat Chinese food in Oklahoma.
  • Never get caught in bed with a live man or a dead woman.
  • Never change diapers in mid-stream.
  • Never lose sight of the fact that old age needs so little but needs that little so much.
  • Never eat at a place called "Mom's."
  • Never give your girl and your dog the same kind of jewelry.
See? And you probably have your own. Let me know and I'll add to the list.

Then there are "Ruminations" by Aaron Karo that ring true. He says:
  • They want me to mail in my 'scrap gold. Scrap gold? Yeah, I keep it out in the garage next to the barrel of worn out diamonds.
  • I still don't understand why people have different opinions than me.
  • How did no one else have the same shoe size as Cinderella? Was she some kind of freak?
  • Why don't they just bottle tears and sell them as make-up remover?
  • All of those extreme couponers across America need to get together and propose a budget plan to the president.
  • One poor movie decision and now Netflix thinks I'm an 80-year-old woman
  • I hate it when people I hate like things that I like.

Other important things to know:
  • The incredibly beautiful 'Toilet Seat Hat' worn by Princess Beatrice, (Fergie's daughter--no, not the singer) at the royal wedding six weeks ago was sold at auction for  about $100,000 US dollars (I couldn't find the British 'pound' sign on my computer) to some lucky person. Don't worry... the money will go to charity... to help them buy toilet seats for that proverbial pot, if they have one. Now, who would pay a hundred grand, let alone be able to afford it?
  • Maybe one of these guys... The world's four richest men, Carlos Slim (a Mexican magnate), Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Mukesh Ambani (India's richest) control more wealth than the world's 57 poorest countries. Take that, third world.
  • Malawi (in Southeast Africa) is considering a law against breaking wind in public. That could lead to a lot of finger pointing.
  • One out of three people under the age of 40 in the USA has at least one tattoo except in the NBA where the percentage has to be in the high 90s, which might skew the numbers. Now multiple ear-piercings are OK, but some go even further and opt for elf ears... where the tops of their ears are cut then sewn back together in a pointed shape. Neat, Tinker Bell.
  • Almost half of the adults left in Detroit are functionally illiterate, says a recent study. Gohw Tygers!
  • There are now 7 billion of us on earth... soon to grow to 10 billion by 2020... and perhaps 15.8 billion by 2100... and we'll still have room left over in Wyoming.
  • Talk about high paid athletes, Gaius Appuleius Diocles, called the "champion of all charioteers" in 146 a.d., retired at 42 with 36 million sesterces in earnings... about $15 billion in today's world, not counting Nike endorsements.  
True story: When a British schoolboy was unable to remove a vase that was stuck on his head (don't ask me how or why), his mom took him to the hospital on a city bus for a medically approved removal. Apparently, hospitals have better hammers. In an attempt to make the boy look more normal to the other passengers, she placed a school cap on top of the vase... but, according to reports, refrained from drawing a smiley face... because it might look 'too fakey.' (OK... I made the 'face' part up.)
 True fact: The average cost to treat a bullet wound: $17,000. Life is so unfair... where would a phesant get $17,000?

True statement: Good night.