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Monday, October 27, 2014

What the heck is this?

Jake, age 10, and mystery thing

This is Jake. His mom took him to a rummage sale and he found this. Had no idea what it was.

Funny, isn't it... his world only goes back 10 years.

Jake knows Gmail but he wouldn't know typewriters.

He knows computer games. But he wouldn't know Pong, and if he did, he would think it was really stupid.

Jake knows YouTube. He wouldn't know VCR... and goes on and on.

My sister's 5-year-old neighbor was zealously helping weed her flower bed so she asked him if he would like to take a peanut butter and jelly break. Needing his mom's permission, my sis said he could use the phone in the garage to call her. After a few minutes, she checked in on him and he asked, "What's this?"

Our world moves on pretty fast. 

 Alvin Tolfer, in his 1970 book, Future Shock, believed the accelerated rate of technological and social change left people disconnected and suffering from "shattering stress and disorientation"—future shocked... maybe like the person who was present at the Wright brothers' first flight of 112-feet in 1903 and also at the 1969 blast-off of Apollo 11 toward our first moon landing.

To take it one step further, Voyager I, launched in 1977, is now in it's 37th year, traveling beyond our
solar system at 35,000 mph. It is 12 billion miles from earth and theoretically, will travel FOREVER!

Humankind has only been on earth for the final seconds of the 'Big Bang' time frame and in that short time, we have not only broached outer space but have developed skills to destroy mankind in the blink of an eye. How 'future shocked' is that?

Back to the Future has to be the first 'gee whiz' movie that had everyone scratching heads and saying, "Oh yeah, I get it."

Fact is, we DO have a working time machine existing today.... and it is not science fiction. I wrote about time and THE TIME MACHINE in this 2012 post. My, how time flies.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


There is this riddle:

A thermos bottle automatically keeps hot things hot. That very same thermos bottle keeps cold things cold... and it never makes a mistake.

The question is: How does it know?

 Life is filled with difficult riddles... so maybe this isn't one of them but hey, life gets tougher:

  • What asks but never answers?
  • What tastes better than it smells? 
  • A poor man is sitting in a pub. He sees that the man next to him is extremely rich.
 "I have an amazing talent," he tells the rich man.  "I know almost every song that has ever existed."

The rich man laughs.

"I am willing to bet you all the money you have in your wallet," says the poor man, "that I can sing a popular song that includes a lady's name of your choosing."

The rich man laughs again and bites, "OK, how about my daughter's name, Joanna Armstrong-Miller?"

The poor man goes home rich.

What song did he sing?

The answers: An owl, the tongue and Happy birthday.

One more riddle: How do you know if you are the rich person in the riddle or the poor person? Lot easier than you might think. Just take this little test.

WHAT YOU MUST KNOW TO SOLVE THIS RIDDLE: The wealthiest 1% of the people in America possess 40% of the nation's wealth. And, since 2009, that same top 1% received 95 % of the economic gains of the recovery. Fifty million of us (15 %) live below the poverty level according to Uncle Sam. And about 3.5 million of us experience homelessness in a given year. So today, If you add up all the money people have, the top half of us have 99 % of all the dollars, the bottom half, just 1%.

Now answer this question to solve the riddle: Do you personally know anyone in the bottom half?

If you answer "NO," then you are one of the "rich."

Just two more questions: How good do you feel about that? Can't we do more for those we don't know?

If all the poor were as sharp, and all the rich were as naive as those in the riddle, then I think things would naturally take care of themselves, but that's not life. WE... are life. Get it?

By the way, if you want to see an interesting new presentation by the United States Census Bureau
that shows how the U.S and World population grows, check this out.

Monday, October 20, 2014


 How rich? It has been said that Bill Gates is so rich that if he saw a $100 bill lying on the sidewalk, it would cost him more in the value of his time than to stop and pick it up. That rich.

 How rich? As rich as Scrooge McDuck, the world's richest avian, by far. The depth gauge of his gold coin cache is about 89 feet! That rich.

If I was this rich, I would follow Bill Gates' great example and try to make the world a better place. I would give money to fight diseases that defy solutions. I would give money to help education. I would give money to help the poor. I would try to do so many things that beg for the want of money. And I would feel good.

But I mean, what would I do with my "left over" billions? Bill Gates has said he will leave his children no more than $10 million (OK, that would be pretty good for most of us) instead of leaving them the billions he could. He wants his kids to still have to work for a purpose instead of being given a silver spoon for life. And he will donate the rest of his fortune good works. Who could not admire him for setting such a great example.

So what would I buy... I don't know because I could buy anything. But I know what I WOULDN'T BUY...

I wouldn't buy this... an untitled work of art by Cy Twombly which is part of his "Blackboard Series" because, I suppose, everything looks like a blackboard with scribbling on it. Asking price is "at least $35 million" at auction. On the positive side, it is a delightfully big work. I could afford it of course, but I feel it wouldn't soothe my soul as say, a large chocolate sundae.

I also am pretty sure I wouldn't buy this really nice Moynat Train Bag. It comes with shoulder straps and is cute as the dickins... a steal at $12,930 (plus tax). It could be a great 'man purse' because it was created with Pharnell Williams, who I really like. But it's just not me.

Then there is this really nice Louis Vuitton limited edition punching bag. Now before I tell you the how much it costs, you should know it comes with boxing gloves, a monogrammed mat to stand on when you punch and a carrying case for workouts when on the road. The price is 'about' $175,000. Hmm, the 'about' suggests to me that there may be some haggling room. I haven't punched the bag in person, of course, but if it is as nice as it looks, I wouldn't be surprised to see it in every Gold's Gym in the country.

I know, picky, picky, picky... but if I could buy and sell Donald Trump, it wouldn't be all bad.

Speaking of filth rich or not, did you know that the wealthiest 1% of the people in the USA possess 40% of the nation's wealth... and seriously, bully for them old chap.

And, since 2009, according to the bean counters, 95 % of the economic gains went to that same top 1%.

That helps explain this: If you divide the United States by wealth, the top half represent 99 % of the dollars, the bottom half... you do the math. And that figure is down from 3 percent before our economic 'oopsie.' Actually, 50 million of us (15 %) live below the poverty level which is $23,550 according to Uncle Sam. About 3.5 million of us experience homelessness in a given year.

So, as an American, a firm believer in the Golden Rule and a person with a bothersome conscience, don't you think we should be able to do better than that?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

*What politician running for office said: "If the people of Providence could read, I'd never get elected." ?

Who doesn't love negative political ads? 

"Not us," says the U.S.A.

Almost three out of four (74%) of the political advertising running til Tuesday, November 4th are all about "the other guy."

So it comes down to this: More and more, we do not use our freedom to vote for who we want, we use our freedom to vote for who we don't want. And the loser... wins.

Sadly, slamming the other candidate works! I guess that's how cynically divided we have become. And that's how we vote. The approval (disapproval) ratings for the most 'do nothing' Congress in our history is in the low teens, the worse ever. We have become as finitely divided as night and day. We don't even know how to spell the word 'kompromize.' And "For the good of the people" has become "For the good of the party."

Seems from Day 1, a congressperson's first priority is to get re-elected. So much of "governing" is spent gathering talking points--at our expense--to use as clubs for the next round of election campaigning. Yes, sincere and zealous candidates exist but the bar has been set so low, it doesn't take much or many to create an ugly, angry, untrusting electorate.

So maybe we've got it right. What thinking person could believe what any politician says today? Strange though, we choose to believe them when they denigrate their opponent. Haven't we gotten that a little backward?

Pearls Before Swine cartoon by Steven Pastis

Most political ads seem to show the opponent looking as if he or she has just had a very bad day. It is often a slightly out of focus black and white photo of a mad or stupid face and bad hair... the worse, the better... with a salacious headline to grab attention.

Half truths and less are highlighted to create the maximum unbelievable worse thing ever, often followed by a delightfully charming photo and closing comment from the opposition who paid for the ad: "I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. Washington's full of big spenders. Let's make 'em squeal. I'm (insert name) and I approve this message." (That's a real quote.)

And of course, there are millions of outside dollars spent by out-of-state strangers and special interests who don't give a darn about you or your state. They are only in it because they have lots and lots of money and want more. They want the candidate that will be beholden to their wants. These outsiders are telling us who we should vote for! Why? Because it works for them too.

Doesn't all of this sound wrong?

The Jimmy Stewart movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, was released in 1939 and is still one people refer to as the way things should work. Truth is, that movie is very dark and only becomes remarkable in the last few minutes when (spoiler alert) one of the "bad" congressmen commits suicide in the cloak room. Yep, politics feel that 'out-of-sync' with every one of us waiting for the next 'got cha!' moment.

The media plays a role in spreading the divisiveness faster and more effectively and spectacularly than at any other time in our history--ratings, you know. Social media outlets give everyone an instant voice without need of fact or proof. We are gullible suckers happy to create sides that divide. Then we elect a President--any President--and tear him/her apart as best we can rather than uniting in even the smallest way to form One nation, under God... Beats me why anyone would even want the job. But thank goodness, some good people still do.

Whether we love or hate the Prez,... (you win some, you lose some) he/she is our leader for four years and deserves more respect than we give. It's the toughest job in the world. We will never all agree on anything but to want him/her to fail so we can say "I told you so!" is to say "Watch me shoot myself in the foot."

*Oh, the quote in the headline came from a Buddy Cianci story in the New York Times. He is the felonious former two-decade mayor of Providence who is again running for Mayor. Cianci, 74, is quite a colorful figure who moved rivers, took bribes, built a mall, was once accused of raping a woman at gun point, championed a popular festival that brought the city ongoing pride, assaulted a guy and tried to jab a lit cigaret in his eye, raised the city's self-esteem and spent five yeas in prison for running City Hall as a criminal enterprise. The sentencing judge called him Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, to which Buddy retorted, "He didn't give me two (expletive) paychecks."

When a restaurant owner ran afoul of Buddy and threatened to make an issue of a perceived unfairness, His Honor warned him, "You don't want to get into a pissing match with me, because you're a cup of water, and I'm Niagara Falls."

Know what? In his seventh run for mayor of Providence, RI, many think he will be elected once again. It's a miracle!

Well here's the bottom line: If we vote based on the ads we see and nothing more, then we get what we deserve. It's the ANGER and HATE that seem to be the constant, and that just kills us. We are always mad... always. And that's how we vote.

God bless the U.S.A. because we sure aren't doing our part.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Who would you root for: Cheerleaders A or Cheerleaders B?

You know in your red-blooded American heart, you love the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Made in America and all that stuff, right? And who doesn't love their football team... except for everybody who doesn't wear a 10-gallon hat and cowboy boots and has a heart big as the dang whole state of everlovin' Texas? So make your choice, but remember,  if you choose wrong, you may wind up rooting for the Bears... or worse, the Cubs.

Cheerleaders A?

Or Cheerleaders B?

Are you kidding me... technology has spoken and the only obvious choice is... Cheerleaders B, the made in Japan darlings that balance and move in sync on gyro-centric balls as they wave plastic pompons. They form circles and squares and giant hearts as they dance to Japan-pop music. (All true.) Makes you want to say "GO PATRIOTS!" or something.

And they are good, though short. The tallest "girl" is only 14 inches tall... as is the shortest. Their hair is specially coiffed of sponge-like material in the latest fashion and most important, as in the Miss America Pageant, they have back-ups in the wings just in case one stumbles and fractures a ball, or something.

Is this the end for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders? Loose heart NOT, America... I have the perfect plan to save this American chauvinist tradition. There is a football league that has gone cheerleader-less since its inception in 1947 that would pay many hundreds of Monopoly dollars for a squad of beauties to turn their hearts.

The Vibration Football League of America (VFL) all-stars have played a heartless game for almost 70 years where the only sound in the stadium is the constant whirring of the field as the players jockey for a score. These guys are so good they don't even use playbooks.

For half-time entertainment (which TV viewers can't see anyway because of the demand for advertising dollars) the bicycle-riding robots, Murata and his lovely robot-unicyclist friend Murata Girl (also true) will perform at every game.

PS: The rumor is out, Amazon founder and chief, Jeff Bezos, who recently purchased the Washington Post newspaper, is considering buying the Washington Redskins, changing the team nickname to the Pollywogs (pending approval by the Friends of Amphibians Assn.) and  using not only robot cheerleaders and half-time entertainment but all robot coaches. There will be no silly "hiding-your-mouth-with-a-program" on his team because robots don't move their lips. Aside: there are already great robot ventriloquists in disguise "killing" in Las Vegas. Score one already.

Why not robot players you may ask... because even robots know it is not a good idea to get hit in the head as a game. They may be robots but they have techno-brains and techno-common sense.