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Monday, November 11, 2019

I saw Albert Einstein's brain & other fascinations of the human body: Part 1

After 40 years of being kept in a cider box under a beer cooler, Einstein's brain finally saw the light of day.

Einstein, perhaps the most respected genius of our day and the developer of the Theory of Relativity (E +mc2), the world's most famous quotation upon which much of later discovery is based, died in 1955. His brain was removed--without the family's permission--and unbefittingly stored in that cider box under a beer cooler until the pathologist was allowed to keep it on the condition it be used for scientific research.

That most famous Nobel Prize winning brain then was then scientifically shared but is only on public view at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia and one other place in the world. I'm certain just looking at it made me smarter... but then wouldn't I be able to know how to write a square root sign on my computer. Brilliance I guess, is fickle.

The Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia is quite a fascinating place. Einstein's brain is just one of many medical oddities and artifacts on display. There is a six-foot long colon, filled with what you might expect, that came from a man who sadly, couldn't "go." You just don't see things like that every day.

Soap Lady
The "Soap Lady," exhumed in 1875, is there and she is... well, you'll just have to learn that for yourself.

Then you have a cast of conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker and their liver. Chang and Eng were born in Thailand in 1811 and they toured the United States as circus oddities until retirement. They married sisters and lived two lives sharing time and fathering 26 children between them, quite literally. They lived together and died together, as you might imagine. Today's technology may have easily separated them as their conjoinment at the abdomen is now deemed operable.

Abnormal human development
There is a lot more relating to medical discoveries and cures over the ages with a medical basis that advances through the years and shifting perceptions of abnormal human development.

The Mutter Museum will hold your attention for hours with medical exhibits, skeletons and displays that amaze and educate. It is a 'for real' display of the more scientific view of us.

And if you want to go further, you really should see one of the several body works exhibits that have toured the country over the last dozen or more years. Several of these former traveling exhibits now have home bases in the United States. Body Exhibition and Body Works are two examples showcasing actual bodies preserved in action through a 'plastination' process in whole and dissected ways. They are tastefully done, not gory or sensational, though require some judgement as to age of understanding and are interesting to see if that piques your interest or that of any would-be doctor or medical practitioner.

Einstein, not the bagel

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure of the former."

Preview of Coming Attractions: Next blog post I have a book bonanza of further intellectual and pleasurable reading that will carry your interests farther... books that are fun to read for sure.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Who owns this country anyway?

Slave shipping manifest--one of many

"In the 1700s, China was the largest economy in the world. However, it was overtaken in the 1800s,  first by England, then the United States."*

And the reason for our gain, say some economic historians, is that our slave-based economy rose on the backs of those black men, women and children brought here against their will. Their value contribution was more than all the railroads and factories in America at that time.

Of the 12 million slaves hijacked and shipped to America, 1.5 million died in route due to the harsh and often inhuman transit conditions and treatment. Once here, they were used to work on the tobacco and rice plantations as well as harvest cotton and other labor intensive needs. By 1750, almost 25 percent of the population in the colonies were slaves. They were bought, sold and traded as chattel (a personal possession, an item of property other that real estate).

"All men are created equal... " 
is part of The Declaration of Independence penned by Thomas Jefferson in 1776. It has been called "an immortal declaration" and "perhaps the greatest single phrase of the American Revolution period... with the greatest continuing importance." Ben Franklin.

While slavery is officially over, the Confederate flag and what it stands for still flies high is some places.

It is puzzling and problematic that some Americans seem to pick and choose which parts of the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States of American  and its amendments we choose to hold holy, as if adherence is optional to our personal agenda.

Yea! We're number 1... or are we?

Isn't it ironic that we stole our land from the American Indians, its rightful owners, then hijacked the slaves that boosted our economy to the top of the wold. We, the immigrants, did that, even though we did actually buy Manhattan for $24 worth of trinkets.

Then we fought one another in the American Civil War over slavery and other issues... and we killed 620,000 of us, an awful number. But in perspective, that number represents less than 20 percent of the slaves we stole.

Now I'm going to play a little trick by reminding you that Disney World's "It's a small world" has it right. Try not to hum that for the rest of your day, but truly believe the message: we are ALL in this together to win as one... or lose divided.

*Much of this information thanks to Slavery's Capitalism, by Sven Beckert and Seth Rockman and


Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Is someone with a No.2 pencil smile happier than someone with a No. 4 pencil smile. Most certainly yes... a No. 4 pencil is harder.

... And that's a fact! But both pencil smiles will help you "get it."

There is 'biting' scientific research that says if you are looking at *Gary Larson's The Far Side cartoons with a pencil between your teeth forcing a smile, you will naturally smile more at the same cartoon than the control group that doesn't have a pencil between their teeth. So. Yes, biting--as with a pencil between your teeth--WILL naturally compel you to really smile more naturally and enjoy what makes you smile better than those who smile randomly, so say the statistical nerds.

This scientific finding for many years has come under question lately when the results could not be duplicated, but even then, few have debunked the concept that a smile is still magic to a better, less hateful world.  And if it takes a pencil to make a smile, so be it.

But really, all of us know there are some in the world who do not smile, or joke or laugh often or never. That begs the question: How do they get by in today's world when even the ridiculous sometimes just has to be laughable. And follow-up question: How difficult is it to get along with them. (Listening Mr. President?)

*And now, the big reveal... and the reason I actually wrote this blog: Rumor has it, THE FAR SIDE cartoon by Gary Larson is coming back! There is none funnier.

After 20 years, The Far Side returns... we hope. Take that Rip Van Winkle

Side note: My California sister and I were driving through San Francisco's Golden Gate Park years ago and noticed a large number of cars in the de Young Museum parking lot. Curious on what was on display, we saw it was a showing of Gary Larson's The Far Side cartoons, so we stopped, of course. As we walked through the display of hundreds of his cartoons, we would hear a laughter from the other side of the room... then from behind us... then to our right and then to our left. In fact, the room was filled with continued laughter scattered here and there as a cartoon had struck a viewer funny. 

It was the most amazing thing of this scale that I had ever witnessed and a happy time was shared by all. Hundreds of laughs from the viewers filling the somber museum space with laughs and smiles from those listening as we laughed too, dozens of times. Yes, for those unfamiliar, The Far Side IS that funny. Google it now for a non-pencil smile... or put a pencil between your teeth and enjoy it even more. The the only question you might have is, "Are they laughing with you... or at you?"

Monday, September 9, 2019

The anguish of feeling your heart die a little: Magnificent Tess left us Thursday, 9/5/2019 at 13 years, 2 months.

Tess, our golden and Abby our yellow lab

Update: A worthy obituary

The Yin and Yang of Life and Love: The Anguish of feeling your heart die a little.

Sadly, Tess, our golden retriever left us Thursday 9/5/2019... 

... 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.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

So just how important are you?

John Wooden won 10 NCAA titles. But Al McGuire won one in a pink leisure suit. I'm calling it a tie.

This is a tale of two very important men in NCAA basketball history.

John Wooden
John Wooden was the legendary coach of basketball powerhouse UCLA which won 10 NCAA championships--including seven in a row--and had an 88-game win streak in his 12-year coaching career for the Bruins. His record over that stretch (1964-1975) was 291-10.

Al McGuire was the colorful coach of Marquette University for 13 years. His team won the NCAA championship in 1977, his last coaching year. He said of himself, "When I was losing, they called me nuts. When I was winning they called me eccentric."

When it comes to being important, John Wooden had the best take: "Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is who you really are, your reputation is merely what others think you are."

If you have no character in a vital role, your importance will be measured by the consequences of your actions. Your value judged by others would be, for better or worse, your true relative importance.

McGuire told this story: At a fund raising dinner after his team's NCAA victory, food was being served to the head table seating 10 dignitaries, including McGuire. As one of the servers was dispensing one pat of butter to each diner, he asked for two. The server told him one pat was what everyone would receive. He said to her, "Do you know who I am? I am the coach of the Marquette basketball team that just won the national championship." She responded, "Sir, do you know who I am? I am the person giving out the butter. One pat!"  Importance is not who you say you are but how you are judged by your actions.

Wooden with Walton
Wooden helped turn out some of the best basketball players in the history of the game. He coached Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Lew Alcinder), Bill Walton and Walt Hazzard to name just a few. And they were all important as part of a team. That was Wooden's forte... build the team. After one incredible season and Championship, player of the year Bill Walton returned for the next season sporting a beard he grew over the summer. Wooden's teams were under a 'no facial hair' edict but Walton felt this was his time. He asked the coach how he liked his beard. Wooten nonchalantly said, "It is a fine beard Bill. Couldn't have done better myself. We will miss you though." Next day Walton arrived clean shaven for practice.

"Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given, Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be Careful."  JW

"I think the teaching profession contributes more to the future of our society than any other single profession." JW

 To which Al McGuire, from a grittier background, added, "I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and then six months as a cab driver. Then they would really be educated.

So really, just how important are you... or better said, how important do you think you are? If you die tomorrow, are you so important than no one can take your place? In all of humankind, that hasn't happened once. Death has a way of leveling the real playing field.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Hey God, I've got a great idea for You.

Hey God, I've got a great idea for You.

Caveat: One of my beliefs in God is that He/She has a sense of humor... or at the least, a tolerance for all. Otherwise, why would God put all of us ridiculous people on earth to do all this stupid stuff and still have a good shot at Heaven.
If this isn't your belief, that's OK. It is the concept of fairness I'm talking about and this is just an easy way to look at what should happen in a hypothetically perfect way.

So here's where I come in with this great (in mere mortal-speak) idea. Follow me:

God says that getting to heaven, in its simplest terms, is not that hard:  

"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and with all thy mind," and "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

Arrgh! I knew there was a catch to it.

But with all the discord going on and so much hate in our 'one against another' contentiousness, we are rude, crude, disrespectful and uncivil as we tromp (?) all over each other. We tend to see others as less that us if they have different ideas and thoughts and/or are less respected if they are poor, ethnically and/or gender different, politically and/or socially other than us. And we are angry, often using what power we have to step on others. We often lack the most critical emotion in the world, empathy.

This love thy neighbor thing is out the window for the disrespectful.

So God, how about this:

Some religions-- Hinduism and Buddhism and others--have a concept that we are reincarnated... we come back in a different way than we are known on this earth. If Shirley MacLaine was once Cleopatra as she says, then who were you... and more frightening perhaps, who will you be next?

Other religions don't accept that  BUT... if God is almighty and can be anything and do anything then why not, unknowing to us of course, allow every person to return to earth or any other place God might/could put His/Her creations in a universe where they are the most opposite of themselves? Yep, like the best Seinfeld episode ever, Bizarro Universe.

  • Those who hate will become those who are hated.
  • Those who have prejudice become those who are the subject of those prejudices.
  • The white will become black or Hispanic or 'other', the mighty will become lowest, the rich who regard money as their god will be poor,  the subjectors will become the subjected, the dictators will be ruled as they so dictated and so forth.
  • The good, the humble and the kind and loving in mind and spirit will be rewarded, as they represent the sweet spot of God's people.

That way, everyone not in the "Golden Zone" will be the opposite of who they are now to experience fully the life they once subjected on others. You know who you are. Fair? Yes!

So what do you think God? Oh, you are already doing that? Wow! Great news. OK, I promise not to tell anyone. But between you and me Lord, it makes my heart and soul smile... if a heart and soul smile, of course.

You got our back... and of course, everything else. It's nice being in touch God. Thanks.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Who will you vote for in 2020? There are, in fact, about 740 individuals and animals who have legally announced their candidacy for the most important job in the world.

So who to vote for... Sexy Vegan (real legally changed name) for President or another that sounds equally qualified?

But how would you know him? Easy: He announced his candidacy on the Dr. Phil show moon-walking across the stage in a Speedo, just seconds before being escorted off by security.

And, another big recognition plus: he has Sexy Vegan tattooed on his forehead.

True. All true.

That's him in the center. And he seems to be in good company.

In the United States, every naturally born American citizen, age 35 or older, living here for 14 or more years, can run for President. And as history has shown, anyone (more or less) can win.

Legal name, guess who?
If Sexy Vegan isn't your man, you might like Dan Behrman who says "Taxation is Theft" and will, upon becoming President, legalize pineapple pizza.

Maybe you like Pamela Rocker who's transgender platform, "One Human Race," has merit... PLUS everyone gets a free car.

The website Ballotpedia lists 272 Democratic candidates, 113 Republican candidates, 34 Libertarian candidates and 14 Green candidates plus lots of Independents as you would expect. Sure, the ones who we see crowding the debate stage in this and the last election are the ones who put their money where their mouths are, but there are lots of better and worse surprises in the field with ideas to please almost any voter, if just given the chance.

Feel sorry for candidate Billy Ruben who's handicap is that if you google his name, what you get is "orange to yellow bile pigment."

Seymour the Cat and Seven the Dog might run into age problems unless they are allowed to count each year x 7 ... oh, and the Supreme Court interprets in their favor. But hey, we could, or have already proven historically, anyone might be better. Personally, I like Seven over Seymour... you know how cats are. Sorry for that prejudicial statement, unfair to every cat in American. That (really) is against my principals. Just claw my eyes out.

I can see the problem. Is there a debate stage large enough to hold all the candidates? An informed voter is a good voter as we all know because we have social media.

So here is my proposal: With over 700 largely unknown candidates, we allow each 1 minute of free television time--about 13 or 14 hours-plus, not counting commercials--like a Presidential telethon, and require each to do one magic trick (so we will easily remember our favorite and can say "That's my man/woman/cat/dog because he/she/it came when called, sat on cue and shook hands," or whatever... but one magic trick for sure.

Of course, those 20 or 30 top candidates that we already  know will get tons of airtime because they have history. We have already heard their magic statements as to what they promise to do, and their love/hate ads will fill our television screens from now til November, 2020.

I'm certain this will work. Take THAT Russia!

Caveat: There are, I would believe, serious, level-headed candidates in the bunch who feel the call more or less, but maybe not every one. 

*Thank you Robert Granader, founder and CEO of for his opinion post in The New York Times a few  months back. He was my inspiration.

Friday, July 26, 2019

So Starbucks will stop selling newspapers. What's a newspaper?

You won't be able to buy The New York Times, Wall Street Journal or any local newspaper at Starbucks come September because Starbucks is going out of the newspaper business.

Isn't everybody?

"Is Starbucks still selling coffee?" Well, yes, but...

"Phew! Then that's fine by me."

Oh, I get it. You're  under 50 (or 40 or 30) and don't care. You never did. And while that sounds snotty, it isn't meant to be. That's just the fact. That's called progress. Everything evolves from start to never ending. We will not be driving our own cars by May 12, 2057 according to my inside information.

Og in his office
Little known fact about newspapers: While most think newspapers began with moveable type and then Benjamin Franklin, it was actually Og, in CMMMII BC who published The Daily Stone with this crazy headline: "Wheel To Replace Dragging by MMMD BC," and he was right on. Newspaper journalism has always been of the highest standard.   

 I really do get it, but with some sadness. Nobody (well maybe a few) reads newspapers anymore, preferring to get their news, entertainment and everything else in the world on a 2"x 4" screen. It's cleaner, faster and with them all the time. But, it is not as complete, not easily clip-able and doesn't give a complete or full story unless you keep clicking. Most significant, you never know what you don't know and have learned to not care much about that.

The reason most never read newspapers today is because they don't want to. And besides, you can't talk or text or take pictures with your newspaper.

Supply and demand automatically determine what works and what doesn't. And newspapers don't. So Boo Hoo. We evolve or die. That goes for everything.

If you care for further great newspaper insight, check these links out... or don't. I'm getting in my stick-shift car now and driving myself around to look for the closest phone booth so I can call the library to ask the librarian to look up something for me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Louie Armstrong touched us in many ways but none better than with this reminder

Went to a Memorial Service for a wonder -ful lady recently. It was sad but special in other ways as we remembered all the riches she had shared. This was a good one for a lady beloved for her lifelong caring of people and the world around her.

She was a talented artist with a sense of humor who was cherished by her husband of many years and all who were lucky to know her.

Her favorite word was 'Wonderful!" She used it often because she felt it strongly. And this song, sung beautifully at her memorial, served to remind us that we so often miss the forest because the trees get in the way. Are we cock-eyed or is our world?

The beauty of life and love and nature and blessings abounding is often muddied by so few that we tend to forget what it's all about.

It's a Wonderful World
I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you
I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world
Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world
 Written by George Weiss and Robert Thiele

 Here it is, sung by Louie Armstrong.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Ever had a float? What's a float? It's... well, a float!

Had my first float on my last trip to Seattle. 

What's a float, you may ask. I couldn't have told you before now, but wow!, floating therapy is a great experience in sensual deprivation, uniquely yours for an introductory $37 price tag, Don't be surprised if you fall in love with the most quiet and calming sensation you will ever experience.

A little more information: My Seattle daughter had two tickets for one-hour sessions at Lifefloat, Seattle's premier float spa, offering a world class sensory deprivation experience in private expansive pools as the photo shows. So we did that... and it was wonderful. What it does for mind, body and spirit can only be felt by experience but the sensation and well-feeling is 'a keeper.'

Why is it called a float? Well, because you do. You can't help it. The freshly drawn water for every
To your health!
client is blended with Epsom Salts to the point of making you buoyant in about a foot of water. You  can't sink, even if you tried. Yes, it is weird... in a strange and satisfying way. You are offered something for a head rest if you choose so you don't consciously have to worry about water in your face or up your nose, and earplugs if you don't want water in your ears. And that's it. Some floaters, I was told, even fall asleep during the experience.  I could have.

At Lifefloat, you arrive 15-minutes before your session and are shown to your private, lockable, neatly tiled and immaculately clean room, one of a number of rooms off a larger hall, and told everything you need to know.  Your room has your own shower, toilet and dressing/undressing area plus an 8x6' float pool as the photo shows. Best advise for first timers is to learn to relax... and trust the experience. That may take a few minutes but it does work.

Many float sans clothes but that's up to you. Since the water is at body temperature, some say it is akin to being in the womb again... and would you have clothes on in your mom's womb? Nah!

You take a quick pre-soak shower before entering your pool where you will control your lights, or no lights, and sound--soft music, background sound or no sound at all--as you begin your 60 minute session. I floated with soft music in total darkness for a while, then turned off the music. There is no clock or timer but when your time is up, the lights will gently come on.

After, you shower again and dress. There is a lounge area for tea and soft music if you choose to help you transition to the world again.

Seattle has a modest number of these float companies, some not as nicely done as this one but with the same float experience. All have fresh water, recycled and filtered 4 times, shower soap, hair dryer, etc. for each client. Other cities have similar venues, in some places as part of a larger spa. Lifefloat even has pool access for those with mobility and/or special needs.

Float therapy has been around since the 1950s and touted for its benefits in such diverse magazines as Vogue and Forbes. It has a considerable reputation as mindfulness has grown as a great adjunct to a more peaceful inner-self. It's worth a try if you are intrigued.

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.!


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 

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