Friday, December 30, 2016

Year-End Numbers to Ponder

These are vote totals in past presidential elections (slightly rounded).

Obama (2008)                      69,499,000
Obama (2012)                      65,916,000
Clinton (2016)                       65,845,000
Trump (2016)                       62,980,000
Bush (2004)                          62,041,000
Romney (2012)                     60,934,000
McCain (2008)                      59,948,000
Kerry (2004)                          59,028,000
Reagan (1984)                      54,455,000
Gore (2000)                           51,000,000
Bush (2000)                          50,456,000
Bush (1988)                          48,886,000
Clinton (1996)                      47,402,000
Nixon (1972)                         46,740,000
Clinton (1992)                      44,910,000
Reagan (1980)                      43,643,000

Now I'm a big number questioning guy, which means I don't trust numbers unless I can see them, know who offers them to me, and then inquire into the interpretation of numbers by nearly anyone and everyone. That being said, consider my thoughts on these numbers.

1. (2016) It is NOT true that if Hillary had gotten as many votes as Obama, she would have won. If all those votes were not in key states, she still loses. Then again, if her margin in California (2+ million) was redistributed to swing states, she would have won an electoral college landslide.
2. (2012) Obama got 3.5M less votes than he got in 2008. Same election, Romney got a million more than McCain received in 2008, but even with that 4.5 million vote swing, the end result was the same.
3. (1984) The voters really liked Reagan, look how far out of an orderly progression is his total that year. The same can be said of Nixon in 1972.
4. Voter totals go up year over year over year, with only minor exceptions. That math is based on birth rate versus death rate and has nothing to do with who is running for office or if the voters care, again with minor exceptions like 2008 & 1984.
5. As long as we have the electoral college; in any scenario with competitive race for the presidency, it will be more important where you get your votes, not how many you get.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Internet Factoid of the Year - 2016

In an article about the python invasion of the Florida Everglades, I found this factoid.

It seems that Guam was invaded by the Brown Tree Snake after the species was introduced by all of the naval cargo ships during World War II. The snakes nearly wiped out the native bird populations in the years that followed. 

But enterprising naturalists found a couple of ways to finally eliminate the snake threat and thereby create my nominee for Internet Factoid of the Year.

"During World War II, heavy ship traffic brought the non-native brown tree snake to the island. There had never been a snake species on that island before, and the local birds had no idea how to evade it. In the decades since, 12 native bird species have gone extinct.
“That really shows how we’ve underestimated these animals in the past,” Boback says. “It took literally 20 years for scientists to admit that the brown tree snake was established and was causing population declines of these birds.” 
Eventually, officials did figure out how to deal with the brown tree snake in Guam. They devised clever traps, baited with live mice, that the snakes could squirm into but couldn’t easily escape. More recently, people have injected dead mice with acetaminophen (Tylenol) — which is deadly to snakes — and fired the mice out of a helicopter into trees to bait and kill the snakes. Once an area is cleared of snakes, they can reintroduce bird species." (
My nominee for Internet Factoid of the Year: Tylenol laced dead mice fired into trees from helicopters.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday, December 09, 2016

Big Man Reprise

[This post originally appeared here in March of 2010.]

About five weeks (and six years) ago I wrote a post titled Big Week. With that post I used a photo of an art work titled Big Man.

I added the following credit to that post: Ron Mueck (Australian, b. 1958). Big Man, 2000. Mixed media, 80 x 47 1/2 x 80 1/2 in. (203.2 x 120.7 x 204.5 cm). Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

But that was clearly not enough. I get a lot of comments about the images I use on this blog but the Big Man generated a small but powerful wave of communication from many diverse places.

Yes, he does look like me or I like he, whichever. So here are more views of the Big Man, including a short video, if you are interested.

And yes, I did use that first picture, the face and hand only, as my look-alike on Facebook for several years.

This last one conveys the feeling I get sometimes when I go looking for companionship, partnership or perhaps love via an online dating service. I call it: Naked Scrutiny.

As of December 2016 that original post has been viewed over 6,000 times, the most eyeballs of any post I have made here in nearly 10 years.

Friday, December 02, 2016

A Different Perspective

A month on from the election, we have all had time to ponder the results and what those numbers might mean going forward. I have not been reticent in expressing my views but not here . . . yet.

Today, however, in lieu of my thoughts, I am drawn to the perspective of someone close to me. In the days following the vote, streets in many cities were filled with protestors. One successful candidate could not resist the urge to twitter. He wrote:

"Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!" 

A month ago, I looked at those words and decided to pass, the time was not right for me to add vitriol to the stew of post-election angst. But my friend had another perspective which has stuck with me these many weeks. She observed the president-elect's tweet was unfortunate and:

 "The first of a thousand missed opportunities." 

The president-elect continues to demonstrate he is that guy, not interested in bringing the nation together, nor reaching out to others. How many missed opportunities will it take before the realization of what we have done really sinks in?

Friday, November 18, 2016

Brand Spanking New Day

Post-election, post-apocalypse limited edition dandelion patch offering from Bloom County Central.

artwork by the esteemed Berkeley Breathe.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Another First World Problem?

Amazon has created a new line of products called: the Amazon Dash Button. Well not exactly a product, more a meta-product, a product you use to order other products. The Buttons sell for $4.99, however, you receive a 100% credit for the entire purchase price the first time you use the button.

  • "Amazon Dash Button is a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite product with the press of a button. Each Dash Button is paired with a product of your choice, which is selected through the Amazon App on your Android or iOS smartphone during the set-up process."

Yes, I did wonder just how often one needs to order mass quantities of cat litter, bathroom tissue or Goldfish. Isn't this really what Costco is for?

How often does your family need to order a gross of pop-tarts?

And unless your fostering 101 Dalmatians, I mean they're not sending you a 12 oz box of Milk-Bones. But if you need 50 or 100 pounds of doggy treats, really, really fast; then you will surely need this next product.

Yes folks, a button that will automatically order you Poop-Bags. Did you know they have nine varieties? Wondering about what could possibly differentiate Poop-Bags? Well, there are earth-friendly varieties, some come with dispensers and leases with dispensers. But who can forget the Rainbow Dog Waste Pick-Up bags, I mean who doesn't want to be fashionable when bending over to scoop up . . . Anyway, you can get 900 bags for under $15, imagine ordering nine hundred doggy poop bags.

Unless they have super-fast delivery service, I don't think the Trojans are going to get there in time for you to safely finish what you started. Plan Ahead! and Wrap dat Wrascal.

Just how often does a family run low on Play-Doh? Oh wait, I see, you can order the 10-pak, 24-pak, 36-pak or the Fun Tub. Well that explains it. Why does Play-Doh always remind me of Solent Green?

Look, I like corporate giant Amazon, I really do, despite all the negatives of worker maltreatment and putting all those local bookstores out of business. I like their innovation, but really a new tech device to order --- well you name it they have nearly a hundred Dash Buttons already. They even have one to sell you SmartWater, which has just got to be an oxymoron, if you need a special button to order it.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Have a Very Scary Halloween

“Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen,
Voices whisper in the trees, Tonight is Halloween!”  

Dexter Kozen

Friday, October 21, 2016

Manichean Worldview

This is an encore post from 2010. It has always been one of my personal favorites and the time seems right to consider dualism again.

Manichean (man-i-KEE-uhn)
1. pertaining to a strongly dualistic worldview.
2. An adherent of the dualistic religious system of Manes, a combination of gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and various other elements, with a basic doctrine of a conflict between light and dark.

I am by nature opposed to dualism. I don't believe in light versus dark or good versus evil. Yet, many of the world's great religions are founded on such beliefs, not to mention many more secular philosophies, dozens of national constitutions and nearly all wars.

On one hand I believe any thoughtful person will concede that nearly nothing can be framed in a purely good versus evil dichotomy. Even in the darkest of evils and the brightest of perfections there are elements of the other. But more importantly the human minds that are observing these clashes of opposites almost never agree on which side is light or evil or dark or good. Grey is the color of the day, all day, every day, until the final day.

Standing on the far side of the battlefield we invariably find other humans who feel as strongly about their position in the light of good and truth and right as those on our side. Yes, yes I know you want to bring up Hitler and the Nazis right about now. I concede there are historical aberrations to contradict any position. However....

As fairly evolved sentient beings we are or should be capable of using our ability to perceive subtle nuances to inform our worldview. We should be able to discount the jingoistic speeches of political leaders and make measured judgments about our side (light) and the other side (dark), because there are equally intelligent, evolved individuals on the other side who would reverse those dark & light flags.

Part of the problem is one position cannot grow to be better, more light or inherently correct unless the opposing philosophy becomes more dark, more evil and inherently wrong. Such dramatic opposition leads to conflict, battle and war. Where does it all end? I would suggest the more productive question is to ask: Where did it all begin?

Conflict usually begins when there exists one or more dualistic views. If you strongly believe your position to be right, then others must be wrong. Wrong equals opposition to your position, which is by self-definition -- right. I encourage examining where your beliefs are dualistic or oppositional to another and then perhaps -- listening to the other. Start small. Begin with a minor disagreement. Leave terrorism, abortion and whaling for later.

Ever wonder why the dominate color of this blog is grey.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Today's Numbers Revised

Stats as of 10:00 AM EDT or roughly midday worldwide.

 7,457,225,765 Current World Population  
    112,692,552 Births this year    
          168,774 Births today

47,192,694 Deaths this year     
       70,768 Deaths today

65,500,282 Net population growth this year
       98,354 Net population growth today

98,236,763,533 Emails sent today (half day)
        1,972,457 Blog posts written today
 2,119,928,993 Google searches so far today

169,981,107 Energy used today (MWh), of which:
137,839,640 - from non-renewable sources (MWh)
32,352,232 - from renewable sources (MWh)

for more minute-to-second stats

Friday, October 07, 2016

Vaccines - Did You Know?

Ever looked closely at an issue even though you were absolutely sure of your position? 

As a practice, I do this a couple of times a year, despite having to look at some fairly bizarre, conspiracy websites. My most recent exploration was into the vaccination controversy. Having no children, nor grandchildren, I do not have a close personal stake in the argument. But I would tend to go with the science. However, my last investigation was into GMO crops and I found the science wanting on that topic. So . . .

Just a couple of troubling facts. The Center for Disease Control recommends 25 vaccinations for infants between birth and eighteen months of age. Some of these are multiple cocktails (measles, mumps, rubella), so the even the number 25 is misleading.

My immediate question was: Do we have good clinical evidence of what interactions these chemicals may have inside of tiny little bodies. The answer I was able to locate after much searching was -- No!

There isn't sufficient data because so many of the vaccinations have been added in the past few years and the "patients" are still children.

Should I mention the schedule from 18 months to 18 years includes another 13 additional vaccinations plus an annual flu shot. Another 30 doses of widely divergent cocktails.

And as most adults know, our physicians push influenza, pertussis, shingles and a few other vaccinations at us because we are over 50 or 60 years of age.

Now, I am not an anti-vaxxer, by any stretch, but I am concerned that science is racing ahead of good clinical data. Ever wondered why you see so many attorney ads on television for dangerous/lethal reactions to drugs already approved by the FDA as safe and effective?

Just food for thought. Constructive debate only takes place in a free and open environment.


Math Follow-Up: There are some questions about how to total up the vaccinations. Should it be the number of pokes a child receives or perhaps how many diseases are being vaccinated for. Some shots are multiple cocktails. Or perhaps how many individual vaccination components are injected. Here are the numbers as I have discerned them.

Number of times a needle is stuck into a child's body (0-18 months): 25
Number of different cocktail combinations dispensed: 11
Number of diseases being vaccinated against: 42

Friday, September 30, 2016

More Thoughts on Writing

The difference between the right word and almost the right word is the difference between lightning and lightning bug.  - Mark Twain

I have been reading the draft of a friend's novel. I find it most interesting that his writing issues are so very different than mine. He struggles to find a voice his audience will hear or maybe it's a voice that will adhere. I, on the other hand, know my audience and write directly to them.

He sometimes overthinks his prose and uses the BIG word when the little one works better. Which is not to say I am an advocate of the Keep It Simple theory of writing. No, I'm a big word guy myself but there are times when it feels like showing off, which can really annoy the reader.

Another major difference we have is that my friend writes the story as it pours out of him. He doesn't know where it's going. I have dabbled with this ultra free form adventure writing but find I am more comfortable knowing the end of the story before I begin. 

Did you know J.K. Rowling wrote the final scene of the seventh and last Harry Potter book before she wrote word one of book one?

As I write this, a little voice reminded me that the end of my novel (Grey Angel) did not have a satisfactory resolution until I was a third of the way into it. So maybe my friend and I are not all that different after all.

Oh, and my apologies to regular readers. I know you have become accustomed to one post a week on Friday, but I just couldn't help myself last Monday. Sometimes you just have to say it outloud.

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Personal Reaction to The Debate

I promised a few weeks back to not write about American politics again until after the November election. To be clear, this is not a post about any of the candidates. This is my personal experience of tonight's debate. First, I should say that I got up and left the television room at 9:42 PM EDT. I literally could take no more.

This realization came to me when I noticed I had not looked at the screen for over ten minutes. Just the voices of the candidates was an assault on my person. My psyche just was unable to continue with the sheer vanity and mendacity of the works being spew at us all. I could not longer face them or let them face me.

Assault is the only word I can find that fits my feelings. That a great or formerly great or going to be great again country finds itself glued to all forms of media to listen to those two shining examples of our best and brightest is sickening, depressing, bordering on existentially unforgivable.

I can vaguely hear the sounds of the debate from the other end of the house. Never thought I would be thankful for an ear infection. I'm not going back to hear another word, my soul won't take the abuse.

I'm going to do now, what my great friend Gary would recommended, I'm going to watch reruns of The Andy Griffith Show and try to figure out what Aunt Bea would do in this deplorable situation.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Playing the Cards You're Dealt

"We play the cards we're dealt."

"Just play the cards you're dealt."

"You can only play the cards you're dealt."

Interesting, yes I get the intent of the aphorism. No, not a metaphor, a simile or an analogy. Can you tell I've been immersed in editing the last few weeks?

Anyway, the meaning is simple. We get certain plusses and minuses in life and we make the best or the worst of them. Usually somewhere in between for most of us. But that's not how card games work. 

A single hand is not a lifetime, it's a moment, an opportunity, a chance. You play or not. Folding your hand is always an option. It isn't like life, you don't commit everything to a single deal of the cards, unless you choose to. 

In any card room or casino, these words are always spoken: 

"There's another hand just around the corner, 
you don't have to play this one."

That feels more like real life to me. We are presented with circumstances, sometimes of our own making, other times not. Free Will intervenes and allows us to play or pass. Yes, I know sometimes you feel like your choices are limited or non-existent, but so many of those situations are of our own making.

Most of the time, as adults, we have options. In this First World society, we have gobs and gobs of options. Sure, some things are fixed, even immutable but others not so much. Take your health for example. Can't change your DNA or not eat all those years of burgers and ice cream. But you can intervene now.

You may be holding a poor five card hand but the rules of this game allows you to discard and draw new cards. Your choice, play the hand you're dealt or step up and change the content of your hand and perhaps your life.

Voldemort Death Card image first found on Deviant Art

Friday, September 16, 2016

It's Just Wrong

I've let this simmer for over two months now. I tried to let it go, I really did.

Back in July, The Secret Life of Pets was released. There was a two week blitz of commercials prior to the release date, gotta hype up those Ritalin kids. You might have missed this animated blockbuster. I mean the story was compelling.

Max is a spoiled terrier who enjoys a comfortable life in a New York building until his owner adopts Duke, a giant and unruly canine. During their walk outside, they encounter a group of serious alley cats and wind up in a truck that's bound for the pound. Luckily, a rebellious rabbit named Snowball swoops in to save the doggy duo from its captors. In exchange, Snowball demands that Max and Duke join his gang of abandoned pets on a mission against the human who've done them wrong.

I have nothing against "G" and "PG" movies, they have a viable audience, which I do not associate with ever. But to each munchkin, their parents, grandparents and guardians; I hope the experience was epic.

Here is my issue. One of the aforementioned commercials was of "Max" strutting his stuff to the Rolling Stones song: Sympathy for the Devil.

Where do I begin.

The Stones??? They really needed more royalties???

The Devil??? This is a animated film aimed at children???

Is nothing sacred? Is nothing holy?

Think I'm kidding, read the lyrics.

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long years
Stole many a man's soul and faith

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the Blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
Ah, what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made

I shouted out,
"Who killed the Kennedys?"
When after all
It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah, get down, baby

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, oh yeah
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, um yeah

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name, um yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, um mean it, get down

Woo, who
Oh yeah, get on down
Oh yeah
Oh yeah!

Tell me baby, what's my name
Tell me honey, can ya guess my name
Tell me baby, what's my name
I tell you one time, you're to blame

Friday, September 09, 2016

Some Thoughts on Writing

The dubious privilege of a freelance writer is he's given the freedom to starve anywhere.  
- S. J. Perleman

I've be laboring on my most recent book for a solid three months now. I can see the light at the end of the editing tunnel and think this one will make it to the agent this fall. In addition to the book, I keep this blog alive, though on a now greatly reduced weekly basis and I write for a couple of websites that actually send me money for my words.

I like the mix of genres I have arranged for myself to ruminate and speculate on. Something about jumping between worlds, fictional and semi-real. It is my hope, plan, promise to return later this fall to my novel, which cries out for completion. Soon, my lovely Grey Angel, soon.

Friday, September 02, 2016


I stumbled upon a caricature the other day which got me thinking about well, caricatures. A few minutes of surfing the net got me these representations. Enjoy, there's nothing more to this than just some images that caught my eye.

- don't blame me for the gender imbalance, female caricatures are either cute, cartoonish or wildly sexist.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Where Are We Now - Ann Arbor

My undomiciled wanderings have taken me to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Home to the University of Michigan and just a stones throw from where I grew up. I expect to be hanging around this part of the Midwest until the snow flies.

Old friends and fall colors. Some nostalgia plus more new memories.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Traveling With Meteors to Minnesota

"This year, instead of seeing about 80 Perseids per hour, 

the rate could top 150 and even approach 200 meteors per hour," 
NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke.

Last Friday we went out into the local park and watched the sky streaked with Perseids. During the week as I traveled to Shakopee, Minnesota I saw more meteors nearly ever night. Even had one motel room with a near perfect view to the NorthEast.

Now I am in Minnesota for a short stopover (and a little poker) before I finish my wander to my fall destination in Michigan.

Friday, August 12, 2016


See I promised, no more politics. So let's get to something imminently more important -- Chocolate for Breakfast. A long-term study out of Syracuse University has shown that the consumption of chocolate is actually good for you.

"Habitual chocolate intake was related to cognitive performance, measured with an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests. More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on these tests." 

The article goes on to point out that a high calorie breakfast can help you to lose weight. In fact, breakfast with dessert is even recommended. In a hurry in the morning? Skip breakfast but eat dessert.

The Catch-22 of this great morning news is that when the cocoa craving hits late at night, we really ought to be munching on a carrot or a yummy stalk of celery.

"Please don't throw me in the briar patch chocolate vat."

Friday, August 05, 2016

A 90 Day Decision

I have come to realize that my quadrennial rant on the U.S. presidential election has been heard before in 2012, 2010 & 2008. I also realized many of my liberal friends will never forgive me this time around. Trump is not McCain or Bush or Romney or even Nixon.

So . . .  I herefore swear to not publish another blog on the election, nor shall I speak words aloud that put forward my now 48 year old position that the only way to change this decrepit system is to stop voting for either of the two major political parties.

Oh wait, I just said it. Well, no more. Not a single political word for the next three months. And, yes my friends, I will not be voting for Hillary and no that does not mean I am voting for Trump. Get a clue, this is not an either/or world we inhabit.

Also I will be disdaining all network or cable news.  I will miss the 'Donald quote of the day' but I'll get over it. For me, I am off to the dandelion patch with my buddy Opus. You guys hang in there and cling to the tattered hope that Hillary isn't who she has always been.