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Monday, November 30, 2009

End of the world?

It is in 2012, if the film of the same name is right. But then, when has Hollywood ever gotten anything right... except Princess Bride, of course. However, that is today's buzz... just as it was in 1998 with the movie Armageddon and from the book Death From the Skies... and don't forget Nostradamus and Y2K, etc.  Lots of this stuff.

Sooner or later, maybe somebody will get lucky... but then there won't be anyone around to gloat about it. What fun is that?

The odds are with us though, in an astronomical sense. Do you know that 20-40 tons of meteoric rock hit the earth every day? It is estimated (by Las Vegas?) that there is a 1 in 700,000 chance that one may eventually be big enough to kill everyone in a large city on a direct hit... and even more if the 350-yard-wide asteroid, Apophis, touches down in 2029. Other mortal dangers include a supernova explosion closer than 25 light-years to us (One light-year is 5.8 trillion miles, in case you are checking it out on Mapquest), or a gamma-ray bust by some distant collapsing solar system.

If I were a betting man however, I'd go for our own self-destruction in some crazy way... like if everyone in China jumps up and lands at the same millisecond, earth could be thrown out of orbit and there you have it.

In any case, I really do have other, more pressing concerns in my life... like what time is dinner and to remember not to jump up if I see someone else doing it.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Like word puzzles?

Neither do I... but this one is simple and it makes a point:

What English language word starts out masculine, then when you add a letter, it is feminine, then when you add another letter, it is masculine again, then when you add three more, it ends up feminine?

Good one, huh?

Well, the word is HE (masculine) R (feminine) O (masculine) INE (feminine)... HEROINE, get it?

CNN just revealed its Heros for 2009 (here).... 10 individuals nominated and voted on by viewers over the course of the year. It featured these top vote-getters in a recent television special. Watching was a richly rewarding experience... something that can't readily be said for many TV shows.

What set this show apart, however, is that these were people we could relate to... not movie stars or philanthropists, but people who have embraced a need or cause from a humanitarian perspective and did something about it. People like us... except they set themselves apart by their unselfish drive to help when and where help was needed. Here are CNN's top ten this year:

There was 20-year-old Jordan Thomas who lost both of his legs in a boating accident four years ago. When he observed many young people didn't have the help or means that he had, he clearly saw his cause. He created the Jordan Thomas Foundation which has raised more than $400,000 to date to provide prosthetics for children in need.This is now his life's mission.

Andrea Ivory, a breast cancer survivor, saw her passion in bringing early detection to the doorsteps of uninsured women. With mobile mammography vans, her group has provided more than 500 free screenings in Miami, Florida.

Doc Hendley was a bartender who discovered one day that there are billions of people of the world without access to clean water. Stunned by that revelation and through creative fundraising, his nonprofit Wine to Water has brought sustainable water systems to 25,000 people in five countries and says his work is just beginning.

Army veteran Roy Foster started Stand Down House to help veterans struggling with addiction and homelessness in Florida. Since 2000, his program has provided life-changing services to nearly 900 veterans.

Jorge Munoz is a school bus driver in Queens who couldn't help but notice the many in need on his route. He is helping hungry New Yorkers make it through tough times. Since 2004, he has handed out more than 70,000 meals...with dedicated help from family and friends and donations from wherever he can find them... from his mobile soup kitchen in Queens, seven nights a week, 365 days a year-- for free.

Efren PeƱaflorida gives Filipino youth an alternative to gang membership through education. His Dynamic Teen Company's 10,000 members have taught basic reading and writing to 1,500 kids living in the slums.

Brad Blauser is providing hope and mobility to disabled children and their families in Iraq. Since 2005, his Wheelchairs for Iraqi Kids program has distributed nearly 650 free pediatric wheelchairs to children in need.

Derrick Tabb started The Roots of Music to give young people an alternative to New Orleans' streets. His music education program provides free tutoring, instruments and music instruction to more than 100 students.

Budi Soehardi founded a children's home in one of the poorest areas of Indonesia. Today, Roslin Orphanage in West Timor provides food, shelter and education to more than 45 children. 

Zimbabwe native Betty Makoni founded the Girl Child Network to provide a haven for young victims of sexual abuse. The organization has rescued more than 35,000 girls since 2001.

The CNN program showed video of the heros in action and defined their cause and path. It was remarkable to observe how many lives these people have touched and how their passion pushed them forward. And these 10 were only the best representation of the thousands of hero nominees CNN received.

The thing that struck me most though, was the acceptance speech of each of these 10 as they stepped up to receive their award and a $25,000 prize given by CNN. To an individual, they were modest, humble... and even shy. They were selfless and sharing, sincere in the needs of those helped, and incredibly heroic in ways we would all like to see ourselves. They didn't seek this attention nor did they relish in the spotlight of personal glory... that's not what it was about to them. 

They are, in the truest sense, heros... and perhaps our finest contemporary example of the golden rule. It is at times like this that man's humanity is felt at the highest level. They make us proud because they represent something special in us all.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hey, Mr. Big Shot...

I know, I know. The world just seems to revolve around us. Well, what's so special about that? Check out my blog post just below this one... If the World was a village of 100 people... and see how important you seem in the scheme of things on earth.

Then, check this out:



Antares is the 15th brightest star in our sky. It is more than 1000 light years away.                                  

This is a view of deep space... of countless entire galaxies billions of light years away.

This is a close-up of the darkest regions of the photo above, revealing more galaxys.

So, how big are you now, Mr. Big Shot? Perspective often serves a humbling purpose.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

If the world was a village of 100 people...

(Ed. Note: This has been around... but it deserves to be re-read)

If the world was a village of 100 people, then, maintaining the proportions of a the 6.8 billion people currently living on Earth, that village would consist of:

57 Asians
21 Europeans
14 Americans (North, Central and South)
8 Africans

There would be:

52 Women and 48 men
30 caucasians and 70 non-caucasians
30 Christians and 70 non-Christians
89 heterosexuals and 11 homosexuals

Six people would possess 59% of the wealth... and they would all come from the United States, a country with less than 4% of the total population:

80 would live in poverty
70 would be illiterate
50 would suffer from hunger and malnutrition
1 would own a computer
1 (only one) would have a university degree

Kinda puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What's in a name?

I was in a traffic line recently and notice the two cars in front of me... a Yapta and a Passat. Not being a car buff, I didn't realize that one was a Toyota and the other, a VW. Where do they get these names? Remember years ago, Chevy tried to market its Nova in South America and it did terrible? Then, someone let them in on a little secret. In Spanish, Nova means No-Go. In other countries, Mazda makes the Bongo, Toyota has a Deliboy and a Toyopet. Mitsubishi markets its Delica Space Gear, Daihatsu has the Naked and Volugrafo (Italian, of course) sells the dickins out of the Bimbo.

Sports nicknames can be fun... especially fantasy sports teams: Sons of Pitches, The Beer View Mirrors, Victorious Secret, French Toast Mafia and The Razzle Dazzlers of Fantazzmagazzles, to name a few.

High School team nicknames, designed to drive the opponents crazy with fear, include the Sidney Lanier Poets, the Conway Wampus Cats, the Dunn Earwigs, the Key West Conches, IVC's Grey Ghosts (ok, I've got to hand it to the Grey Ghosts. I'm scared already), The New Berlin Pretzels, the Hoopston Corn Jerkers (get your mind out of the gutter), the Cobden Apple Knockers and the Fisher Bunnies. (Note: If you are familiar with Monty Python and the Holy Grail... and who isn't, I'm sure you know what bunnies can do. Be very afraid.)

In the first year of the Peoria, Illinois pro hockey team, fans suggested the most fiersome nickname imaginable... the Peoria Prancers. Other teams drooled at the thought of that match-up. (ed. note: Nickname lasted one year.)

If you are cool, friends will call you The Brain, or Awsome McAwesome, Spanky, Pork Chop, Jelly Bean or Minty Cow Girl (not cool, however, if you are a guy). A high school friend once tagged me with Sparkle. I'm sure it was meant as a compliment, though.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

World Record and other stuff

World Record: Matthew Mitnitsky has done it! He vowed "to bring the meatball back to the East Coast," and he did! Now, when you walk into Nonni's Italian Eatery in Concord, NH and order spaghetti with meat ball, you'd better be specific. Which meat ball?

Mitnitsky's giant meatball weighed in at 222.5 lbs, blasting the old record of 202 lbs to pasta-fasulli heaven. I guess the logical question would be, "Do I get bread sticks with that?"

Nice going Matthew! I guess we showed those Mexicans (who held the world record just five months ago) and Jimmy Kimmel (who beat the Mexicans last month) a thing or two. One of these days, maybe we will have AN ITALIAN breaking the meatball record, as it should be. You don't see an O'Leary holding the record for world's biggest taco, do you... or Mama Mia holding the sauerkraut title?

Other Stuff: If you are not familiar with the Bulwer-Lytton contest (run by the English Dept. of San Jose State University), you should be ashamed of yourself. Annually, the contest seeks to find the worst opening line of a novel, were one to be written with this line. Among the recent submissions:

  • "As a scientist, Throckmorton knew that if he were ever to break wind in the echo chamber, he would never hear the end of it."
  • "Andre, a simple peasant, had only one thing on his mind as he crept along the East wall: 'Andre creep... Andre creep... Andre creep.' "
  • "The sun oozed over the horizon, shoved aside darkness, crept along the greensward, and, with sickly fingers, pushed through the castle window, revealing the pillaged princess, hand at throat, crown asunder, gasping in frenzied horror at the sated, sodden amphibian lying beside her, disbelieving the magnitude of the frog's deception, screaming madly, 'You lied!' "
And finally: How many science fiction writers does it take to change a light bulb? Two, but it's actually the same person doing it. He went back in time and met himself in the doorway and then the first one sat on the other one's shoulders so that they were able to reach it. Then a major time paradox occurred and the entire room, light bulb, changer and all, was blown out of existence. They co-existed in a parallel universe, though.

How many mystery writers does it take to screw in a light bulb? Two. One to screw it almost all the way in, and the other to give it a surprising twist at the end.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recognize what they are talking about?

"I got a simple rule about everybody. If you don't treat me right, shame on you!" Louis Armstrong said that in the 1970s.

How about this one? "The question was once put to him, how we ought to behave to our friends, and the answer he gave was, 'As we wish our friends to behave to us.'" That was Aristotle, sometime around 325 B.C.

My friend, Ed, loaned me his book, The Words We Live By: The creeds, mottoes and pledges that have shaped America, by Brian Burwell. I found it so fascinating that I blogged about it here before. Just recently, I saw two guys so angry at one another over something very petty that they almost got into a fist fight. Then I saw another sickening magazine cover blurb about Jon and Kate, etc., etc. Hmm! I thought maybe we all need a reminder.

The quotes above are expressions of "The Golden Rule," more familiarly stated as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The Golden Rule, in one form or another, is found in scriptural writings in Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. It is moral acknowledgement of how to lead a good life.

Socrates, Aristotle, Samuel Clarke, John Wise, Immanuel Kant, Thomas Paine, Henry David Thoreau, Henry Sidgwick, Petr Alekseevich Kropotkin, Malcom 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 prevalently acknowledged throughout all history as the way to live among one another.

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?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Sometimes, it's hard to believe what you read...

One of my favorite magazines, The Week, is published 50 times a year. It was originally founded in the U.K which may explain a really interesting coverage of a broad range of our weekly happenings... often including odd and... er, 'different' tidbits. For example:

"A Florida man has failed to win compensation for a 'defective' pair of underwear. Albert Freed, 62, claims that over a two-week vacation in Hawaii, the fly flap of his briefs rubbed his genitals like 'sandpaper belts.' Asked by a judge why he didn't notice sooner, the 285-pound Freed said he cannot see his own genitals, and he didn't ask his wife to look because it might 'ruin her vacation.'

See what I mean?

That same issue also noted a pretty difficult golf course in Australia. The PGA holds most of its tournaments on courses that measure over 7,000 yards long. This course, a par 71, plays 850 miles long (yep!). And as you may have guessed, it is not designed for walking. Some holes are 50 miles apart as the course broadly navigates the desolate Australian Outback. It usually takes three to four days to complete a round. And, I might guess, the 19th hole would add another 50-60 miles.

"Honey, I'm going golfing with the guys. Be back about Thursday."