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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

More signs of the Apocalypse... ?

Tires! Do Not Shoot.


It is against F.B.I. policy to shoot a tire (or automobile) trying to stop anyone attempting to escape.

That said, it is perfectly legal to shoot the escapee if it might protect the public from being recklessly driven into.

In Maryland a few years back, this happened. In a recent review of the incident by the Bureau, the agents were jdeemed ustified in firing six bullets into a suspected drug dealer trying to evade capture, killing him. But they were NOT justified in putting two bullets into the car's tires.

Recap: Killing suspect, justified.  Shooting tire, not justified. Tires win!

Gorilla' My Dreams

When a 3-year-old boy fell into Cincinnati Zoo's gorilla enclosure, authorities had to shoot the magnificent 400-pound animal that grabbed the child. It was the only way to safely rescue the boy said all authorities who know, study and work with gorillas. The sad incident brought a firestorm of comment from everyone with an emotional but unknowledged opinion on how it should have been done to avoid killing the endangered beast.

But not everyone agreed the safety of the child was top priority. One person texted "NO. Attempt a tranquilizer. If it doesn't work (and the child is killed), it's a sad tragedy. Let the animal live."

So to re-recap the first two items: It's Gorillas and Tires 2, Humans 0

The Real Estate Market sucks for the rich!

The owner of a 13,000-square-foot home listed recently for $450 million has joined 27 other unsold properties listing for $100 million or more. So disturbingly, there's a glut in the 9-figure category home buyer's market. Knowing how difficult it is for some of us to find a buyer for homes in the $100 thousand -plus range, it sure makes one feel sad for those who can't unload their $100 million-plus bungalows.

The good news for average us is... it's a buyers' market!

Relaxation Hoodie!

Relaxation Hoodie
While we all can't afford a home in the $100 million-plus range, certainly we do have something in common with those who can. We all need to relax. So when this neat little relaxation hoodie hit the market, I thought everyone of us can afford this. It's only $330.

"What makes it so appealing," says the manufacturer, "is that it's not just your standard heaven-sent sweat shirt with a zipper; it's a hoodie designed to calm you down like a wearable tent. Named after Baker Miller pink--the classic, if somewhat debatable, psychological theory that painting prisons pink can calm down inmates--the hoodie zips all the way over your face to filter everything you see the tranquil color. Meanwhile, you stick your arms into two specially configured pockets that rest directly over the diaphragm, so you're naturally in tune with taking deeper, lower breaths."

And yes, it is a real product that you can buy today.  Julia Louis-Dreyfus says in Vanity Fair, "Putting on a pink straitjacket and zipping your entire head into a polypropylene bag has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety? I'm claustrophobic, so when I tried this--while driving--it was ineffective."

But of course, that's her... and she's not like us. We are connoisseurs.

Golf's Wonders!

Tiger Woods, the greatest golfer who ever pitched and putted, went 3 for 3 balls in the water on a short par 3 over a lake in an exhibition, then said to an anticipating crowd, "All right, that's good for me." OK, so maybe he had a bad back... but 104 yards with a pitching wedge, really! When we're used to seeing miracles from this man, it's a sign.

Even more amazing, Ernie Els, the former World No. 1 golfer, 6-putted from 2 feet for a 9 on the first hole at this year's Masters--the highest score ever in the 80-year-old tournament on that par 4 hole. Still, at 5-over after the first hole, he completed the next 35 holes at just 3-over par, still, sadly, missing the cut. 

Jefferson's Hair!

A lock--14 strands--of Thomas Jefferson's hair sold at an auction in Texas for $6,875 nearly 190 years after the former president died. I recently had to pay to have my hair cut, then swept and thrown away. Go figure.

It was Jefferson who wrote, "We hold these truths to be self evident: All men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

As the principal author of our Declaration of Independence and our third President, maybe his hair is worth something special... he was.

And maybe, if we pay more attention to those words 1.1 million have died for in our wars, we just might gain back some of what we seem to have lost over time.

The Chicago Cubs!

World Series winner, 1908
Last World Series winner, 1908--108 years ago. Last appearance in a World Series, 1945. It's time! The Cubbies now have the best record in baseball and are 7 games ahead of their closest competitor. Magic number is 94 for God's sake! And they are favored in Las Vegas.

Sigh... it's a long season and Cub fans (me) have been here before... but hey, once more before the apocalypse... please.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh my...

Click here for a delightful 34 seconds
Have I got a blog post for you today! Not only lions and tigers but elephants and giraffes and monkeys and wildebeests and zebras and ostriches, oh my.

It all started when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus rightfully decided to retire their elephants for good. Elephants in the circus had served, to the delight of big-top patrons everywhere, for more than 100 years. We all said goodbye to Mable, April, Asia, Luna and Tonka on Sunday, May 1st. They we welcomed with a full banquet at Ringling's 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida where they will live.

Also able to retire--at last--were 33 lions rescued from Colombia and Peru circuses that were airlifted to their new South Africa home. Bred in captivity, many of the lions were mistreated and mutilated by breaking their teeth and removing their claws. Because they cannot hunt, their Eden will be the Emoya Big Cat Sanctuary where they will have large African expanses to enjoy at long last.

And as if to prove our love of these creatures is no fluke, The movie remake of Jungle Book is one of this year's biggest hits. We are true believers. We LOVE pets, to the tune of 150 million dogs and cats--about one for every two of us. And about 80 % of us refer to ourselves and mom and dad when talking to them. Only parrots answer back and they think it is ridiculous... but what do parrots know?

Nothing of our love of these animals, however, was a greater thrill than being able to travel to Africa and experience them in their own environment. Going to Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia three times only makes you want for more.

Another 'average' elephant encounter

Yes, we saw elephants almost everywhere and so close that it was sometimes frightening. At one point, our open vehicle was stuck in a rut and before help arrived, a pack of 20 or more elephants surrounded us while walking by, wondering what to make of the whole thing. I was less than 10 feet from a big bull at eye level... and as he flapped his ears while staring at me, I was as dead-still and non-staring as I could be.

Then there were lions, perhaps the most majestic of all. With our guide and in open vehicles, you can get so very close to animals who would attack if you were outside the vehicle. The animals though accept the vehicle as just part of the territory and pay little attention.

And yes, it can get a little scary. We sat for 30 minutes once as we watched two close lions in their mating ritual.  The male walked casually withing a few feet of our vehicle at one point... and you know that in a second, a lion could have you for a snack if desired. The guides who do not carry guns--are natives that have been thoroughly trained for the job, and they do know their stuff. They have to.

Like ostriches? I do. There were plenty of them.


And Cheetahs! We saw this mother teaching her two youngsters how to stalk and how to hunt. They were eyeing a zebra when they were spooked and ran before the attack.

And monkeys, lots of monkeys. No, we didn't doctor this photo. That's what he looked like.

Zebras too... the prey. We saw one with a bloodied shank. Obviously, our guide told us, he escaped last night... and tonight he will be taken.
We wondered why the animal was not killed to avoid that terrifying fate. The guide said they do nothing to alter the nature of the battle for survival.

Wildebeest are also a delicacy for the predators.

 And the African sunsets... they were always magnificent!

Yep, we took all the pictures... and there's more, of course, which I will share later. Hopefully, this will do for now.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What happens when you have a party and no one comes?

No one lives here

Ask China.

China has more than 600 'ghost cities' like this one. And more are under construction.

It's all part of China's Urbanization Movement which requires local communities to build or loose tax dollars. End purpose is to have a place for the enormous numbers of people living outside population centers to become citified. And amazingly, by comparing numbers, that would be enough space for every American family--all 350 million of us.

Now as you might guess, it is not a simple as all that, but China doesn't seem overly concerned.

Or here
 Fact: China does have 1.3 billion people and uses lots and lots of     cement. Another new (and unneeded, say many) cement plant producing 7,200 tons of the stuff a day has just opened in YuQuan, Yes, this is part of the plan... to construct 10 new massive population centers for the future.

Now about the cement: Since 2012, China cement production has grown 3000%. That is more cement than the United States has
Or here
produced since 1900.

In 2014 China produced enough cement to make 330 billion cubic feet of concrete. That's enough to cover the entire island of Manhattan in 520 feet of concrete... about half-way up the Empire State Building.

Or here
FYI: Concrete (like sidewalks and drive ways) is made by mixing cement, water and sand or gravel. I always get cement and concrete mixed up.