Thursday, January 31, 2013

Blog Update

[Warning: This is another self indulgent post about me, my writing angst and this here blog.]

Regular readers know I have been struggling with blogging for the last several months. I had nearly decided it was time to lay it all to rest after seven years. Next month, short as it is, will be my big push to finish the novel - working title: She Loathes Me Not.

I told this to a writer friend and a faithful blog reader (I read his as well). "Wait," he said "have you emptied those image folders of yours?" No I haven't but I've done a couple of months of those recently and it seems like just a lifeline to say I haven't really given up the blog. While we were talking I had opened my 'images' file on my desktop.

"What's that one?" he asked pointing to a file labeled "Strange Words." 

"Just some quotes and signs I've found on the web over the years."

"So give us a month of those."

Therefore kind readers, I will make some personal decision about my blog come March but for next month, February - my favorite month by the way, I offer you Strange Words in twenty-eight little posts.

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Political Experiment

I have a friend who is a Republican. By that I mean he believes Obama is a socialist. He doesn't think taxes should be raised on the wealthy. Social Security and Medicaid need to be cut, Defense should not. Most other social welfare programs must be eliminated. That kind of Republican.

We were discussing an issue the other day when I said: "If your facts were right I would agree with you but those aren't facts you are spouting, what they are is propaganda."

Now mind you what comes next is his idea. "Why don't we each find an article with some actual facts, then the other guy will read the facts and we will discuss them."

I agree immediately. He added one more caveat - the article had to be short because he knew otherwise I would bring in 'some long research paper from a college professor.'

Now dear reader you may chose to read the one-page online article I submitted here. Or if you fear clicking on a link because of your internet phobia or worry that you will be thrown into a severe depression by my 'facts.' Here is a small taste of those 'facts.'

The combined net worth of the world's 250 richest individuals is more than the total annual living expenses of almost half the world - three billion people.

My one-page submission covers income, debt, wealth, health care and justice. I brought a  hardcopy to our lunch the other day. My friend carefully read it and even made one a couple of margin notes. I gave him plenty of time before I asked: 

"So what do you think of my facts?"

He said: "None of these numbers justifies gun control or killing unborn children in Planned Parenthood clinics."

I really had no idea he was that type of republican.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Morning Glory

I'm going to get up early the next two mornings as the full moon will be setting over Marin less than an hour before sunrise. The actual moment of the full moon happens here around 8 PM Saturday evening, so luna will be plump both mornings. Now if the overcast will hold off, if not then moonset may be into the high marine layer an hour or so earlier.

For readers around the world, the information on the descendent moon in your neighborhood:

The full moon calendar 2013

The next full moon will be:
Sunday * 27th January 2013 * 05:38:24 am
Central European Time (CET)

In other time zones:
WELLINGTON = Sunday * 27th Jan 2013 * 05:38:24 pm (NZDT)
SYDNEY = Sunday * 27th January 2013 * 03:38:24 pm (AEDT)
TOKYO = Sunday * 27th January 2013 * 01:38:24 pm (JST)
BEIJING = Sunday * 27th January 2013 * 12:38:24 pm (CST)
DELHI = Sunday * 27th January 2013 * 10:08:24 am (IST)
MOSCOW = Sunday * 27th January 2013 * 08:38:24 am (MSK)
RIYADH = Sunday * 27th January 2013 * 07:38:24 am (AST)
BERLIN = Sunday * 27th January 2013 * 05:38:24 am (CET)
LONDON = Sunday * 27th January 2013 * 04:38:24 am (GMT)
RIO = Sunday * 27th January 2013 * 02:38:24 am (BRST)
NEW YORK = Saturday * 26th Jan 2013 * 11:38:24 pm (EST)
MEXICO CITY = Saturday * 26th Jan 2013 * 10:38:24 pm (CST)
LOS ANGELES = Saturday * 26th Jan 2013 * 08:38:24 pm (PST)
HONOLULU = Saturday * 26th Jan 2013 * 06:38:24 pm (HAST)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

They should have said . . .

In my world it would have gone this way.

Paul: "If I were President I would have fired you."

[Clinton laughs]

Paul: "Did I say something funny Secretary Clinton?"

Clinton: "Several things actually."

Paul: "Would you care to share them with the committee?"

Clinton: "Well first the idea that you would offer me a job is fairly amusing. Second, that I would ever agree to work for you is equally funny. But the most hilarious idea of all is you as President."

If only Washington speech writers had a sense of irony.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Tunnel or Tracks?

A disused railway track in Kleven, Ukraine. 
Known locally as the Tunnel of Love.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Evening Show

All this week a slice of the moon has been setting bright orange over the Marin Headlands. Each evening the crescent grows larger while it sets later each night and further to the North.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Technological Tsunami

Some things really are out of our control. It really shouldn't be difficult to accept that nostrum - we can't hold back a hurricane, sharks will continue to nip at random surfers and people will still plant lawns instead of gardens. But sometimes things happen we can control but the universe presents them in such a way that we fold to the inevitable march of progress.

Here is my story.

I am neither a Luddite nor am I opposed to technological progress. I do however choose to not participate in each and every 'new' tech innovation. I judge such advances based on a simply credo - does it help me in any substantive manner. I don't adopt based on availability, I am a function over form guy.

In that late 90s I resisted the absolute imperative of the cell phone. Eventually I got a standard 'call only' model. My second phone had text capability because phones simply did not come without it and I found some circumstances did arise where texting was useful even advantageous. But I was a limited user, I always bought the cheapest plan with the fewest minutes and piled up hundreds of carryover minutes.

Recently I found it necessary to change my cell phone carrier, I specifically needed a mobile Wi-Fi unit that would work in a remote northern California area and Verizon seemed to be the only reliable service in the vicinity. I went to the local Verizon store to obtain my new mobile unit and asked: "Is there a better deal if I also switch my cell phone service?" The answer of course was Yes! So the paperwork began then came the selection of the new phone (and the point of today's story).

I had been warned by a friend but needed to verify for myself the truth of my next techno leap into the future.  So to the helpful young man I said: "I only use my phone for calls and perhaps half a dozen text messages a month. How much is your bottom of the line phone unit?"

"Seventy-nine dollars," he replied.

We were standing directly in front of a wall full of iPhone 5's, a huge display with lights and lasers, bell and whistles, circles and arrows with a paragraph on the back . . . but I had to ask because M had warned me of what came next.

"I see the iPhone 5 is under $200 but I hear you have a deal on the iPhone 4."

"Yes sir we do, they're free."

There was a long silent pause as I was inexorably drawn into the next ring of technological hades. I could pay $79 for a basic phone or they would give me a smart phone for free. Apps would be preloaded. GPSesses would follow me throughout the land. Whole Foods could text message me when ripe guavas were delivered. I could review data plans more complicated than Medicare supplement policies.

So it came to pass on a crisp Tuesday in December, yet another resistance to the rise of the machines fell by the wayside and I recalled the infamous epigram of all pushers down through the ages - 'the first one is always free.'

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Of Interest

"The entire internet is stored and delivered using 540 billion trillion electrons. Which all together weigh around 50 grams. Or about the weight of one strawberry."

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Aftermath of Acceptable Lies

"The expectation is that any statement made either by a politician or by a media outlet is a false ideological distortion. As a result, no one blames politicians for making false statements or statements that obviously contradict that politician’s beliefs." 

The holidays have helped to diminished the bile soaked end of the presidential campaign, although the false specter of the 'fiscal cliff' did much to keep the distress alive. The essence of political life in the U.S. these days is simple - Politicians Lie! As the old adage goes: If their lips are moving, you know they're lying.

I don't mean this to be a joke or a tongue in cheek superficial comment on American politics. This is actually the state of governance in this country today. If they are talking to a camera, they are lying. Call it spin or perspective but the words are meant to cover up the facts which no one in Washington seems to bother with these days.

Sure you probably earnestly believe that 'your guy' lied less than 'their guy' but he didn't. You just like your guy's lies more than the lies the other side told. And here is the crux of the problem, you have bought into the culture of deceit and mendacity. The fact that you are okay with your guy lying less is a huge ethical leap and you, the voter, took that fatal step.
Think about it a moment. Picture yourself in front of a television and either Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner steps to the microphone. Pick the one you like the least or hate the most. If you don't change the channel and actually listen to what they have to say, don't you already have the mindset that they are going to falsify and twist the facts to fit their narrative which you already know is a distortion of reality. You expect them to lie!

Now I know it's easy to dismiss this behavior with the overarching belief that politics is politics and that's not what really happens in government. That sound bites are only for the tv camera and the real work of our representative government takes place away from the lights and microphones. Really? Have you been paying attention? 

These politicians actually believe their lies, they form ideological cliques around those lies and they are making decisions about Social Security, Health Care, Human Rights and War. Our troops are fighting and dying based on decisions made by this people who care not that their job is to distort and lie. These are people we entrust with making life and death decisions.

The subtle message is that it's all our fault for buying into this, which supports my argument for third parties and gives rise to movements like Occupy. But all of these attempts to "fix" the broken system fly in the face of the simpler, obvious solution - Don't Lie! and don't elect those who do, even when they tell lies you like.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Friday, January 04, 2013

My First Elder Hurdle

I have just experienced my initial indoctrination into what for lack of a better term we shall call "the next stage of life" or "senior citizenry" or "old age." In this instance the topic was Medicare. Now a large number of my friends are of age commensurate status and since I was a youngster in college many of them have already passed through this stage of informational overload. I refer, of course, to figuring out which combination of Medicare programs to queue up for as I approached three score and five.

I have just read "Medicare & You: the Official U.S. Government Medicare Handbook." One thing and I mean only one thing is clear at this point, you must live six and a half decades under the bureaucratic system of governance here in the U.S. to be able to fully digest the utter nonsense that is the Medicare program.

Mind you I am not relying solely on this 140+ page government issued pamphlet, no you see for the past three months I have been receiving promotional material from at least eleven different insurance programs that supplement, extend, expand and compliment the "Original Medicare" program or what in the parlance of obscurity are known as "Medicare Advantage Plans."

Fortunately there is one outstanding program available to nearly everyone but it comes with a secret handshake, a decoder ring and 128-character decryption algorithm. But I possess super-insider information which I can share with you this one and only one time. Please do not ask me repeat this anytime in the future for fear of this getting out and ruining the Medicare program for others.

Here it is.

To effectively use the Medicare program, you must remain healthy.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Six Years of Blogging

A great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices. -- William James

Six years ago today I posted my very first thoughts here on this little grey blog. I was in Australia at the time covering a poker tournament. Poker and my related travels dominated this blog for the first two years. Since '09 I have moved on to other thoughts close to my heart and my medulla oblongata. Along the way I have seen some of my other favorite bloggers go silent. And while I am not going to follow them down that path quite yet, there will be some slowing of the pace here. The last two years I have produced over 240 posts annually. Sure there was been a lot of imagery over words in 2012 but this year I am making a resolution to limit myself to two posts a week.

I plan to ponder the duckling a bit longer before pontificating on its future. Yes I will fail at this self-imposed limitation but I shall weekly renew my intention to blog less and write more. The current novel creeps ever closer to completion.

The end of presidential politics will help my resolve, I will soon blog about my evolving view on that subject, I hope this emerging psycho-biological perspective will motivate me to stray less into the political realms.

By goal this year is less than 125 posts, which I know is more than two a week but substantially under the five a week I knocked out last year. Hopefully the lower production will lead to a distillation of content and more thoughtful  and thought-provoking posts.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

In The Beginning . . .

Today marks the artificial beginning of the actual cosmic phenomenon we call a 'year' - the time it takes our planet to orbit once around the sun. The Gregorian calendar we use today was created in 1582 because the church didn't like easter moving around so much. For no logical reason the year begins today rather than a dozen days ago on the winter solstice.