Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman -- R.I.P.

Paul Newman was born on January 26, 1925, in a suburb of Cleveland.

On September 26, 2008, at age 83, he passed on to the Great Beyond.

His father was Jewish and ran a sporting goods store. His mother was a Slovakian Catholic who converted to Christian Science when Paul was five years old.

Newman made his acting debut at the age of seven, playing the court jester in a school production of Robin Hood. He briefly attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.

He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His plan to be accepted into pilot training failed when it was discovered he was color blond. After boot camp, he was trained as a gunner and radioman in torpedo bombers. In 1945, he served aboard the USS Bunker Hill during the battle for Okinawa.

After the war, he graduated from Kenyon College. Later, he studied acting at Yale University and under Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio in New York City.

Paul Newman was a brilliant actor. He made over 50 movies, starting in the 1950s, and was nominated for a best actor Academy Award 10 times, winning once and receiving two Oscars for lifetime achievement. He also received two Golden Globe Awards, an Emmy, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a Cannes Film Festival Award and many honorary awards.

On the silver screen, he was Hud, Cool Hand Luke, Harper, Hombre, The Hustler (Fast Eddie Felton) and Butch Cassidy. And he was magnificent every time.

Politically, Newman was very liberal. He supported Eugene McCarthy in the 1968 presidential election race, which landed him on Richard Nixon's infamous Enemy List.. But unlike other show biz liberals, he lived far from the glare of Hollywood, in Connecticut.

And unlike other show biz liberals, his philanthropy didn't include attacking successful people and corporations. Instead of trying to confiscate money from others, Newman founded a company called Newman's Own, in 1982, which carries a line of food products. The company policy is to donate all proceeds, after taxes, to various charities. To date, this effort has distributed in excess of $200 million to worthy causes, mostly toward children worldwide.

He not only talked the talk, but he walked the walk.

Newman was survived by his wife of 50 years, Joanne Woodward, five daughters, two grandsons and his older brother. His son, Scott, died in 1978 of a drug overdose.

Rest in Peace.

Quote for the Day – "A noble person lives by doing what needs to be done, not by thinking about doing or thinking about what to think when finished doing." Bret

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Three Grandfathers

Every now and then something happens in a person’s life that becomes a turning point.

When I was in the second grade, my family lived on the edge of a small town in Wisconsin. There was only one other kid my age in the area. His name was James and he was extremely intelligent, a true genius. His father was a surgeon and his mother was a southern aristocrat. They lived in a palace compared to my family’s digs.

I’d hang out with James on occasion, always at his house, even though I could sense his snooty parents considered me to be beneath their social status.

One day James and I were talking about our grandparents. His mother was also in the room. During the conversation I proudly mentioned that I had three grandfathers. James and his mother both broke out in laughter, obviously laughing at me. I was embarrassed and humiliated.

Later that evening, I had a talk with my mother about the incident whereupon I discovered the mathematics of breeding. Nevertheless, I still insisted that I had three grandfathers.

My father’s father had died long before I was born, when my father was in grade school. His mother remarried several years later to a fellow I came to know as Grampa Herman. My mother's father, Grampa Ben, died when I was 4 years old. I barely remembered him.

As far as I was concerned I had three grandfathers – two dead and one living.

In addition, Grampa Herman, a railroad engineer. was the most impressive human being I've ever known in this lifetime. He was strong and formidable and gentle and kind. He had been a boxing champion in the Army, fed squirrels by hand in his backyard, and built items in his workshop for those in need. Even though his blood didn't flow in my veins, he was my grandfather.

It may have been humorous to others that I thought I had three grandfathers, but I didn’t appreciate people laughing at me, pointing out my ignorance in such an insensitive fashion. I was staunchly determined not to allow such a thing to ever happen again, yet couldn’t quite figure out a way to prevent it. After all, I was only seven years old -- a young, dim bulb surrounded by large, bright people.

Perhaps I could just avoid these types of situations. But avoiding the human race would not be easy in a world of public schools and corporate workplaces. Clearly, I couldn’t hide forever.

Perhaps I could retaliate in some manner. However, I couldn’t retaliate verbally because these people were smarter than I was and would always top me. And some sort of physical retaliation was out of the question. It would be too childish, besides I had enough trouble coping with bullies without becoming one myself.

Perhaps rolling with the punches was the answer. But that seemed like a sort of surrender, a form of acceptance and suffering. I would be right back to square one.

Then came the turning point.

I began to wonder why I was so angry in the first place. Obviously, these people meant no harm; they were merely the products of their surroundings. Their insensitivity was a reflection on them, not on me. I wasn’t the jerk, they were. I suspected I had indulged in anger to mask my own insecurities about myself. After all, being a second grader in an imperfect world was no easy task.

Allowing myself to become angry simply because I was embarrassed made no sense. The key was not to be embarrassed in the first place. And in order to do so meant acknowledging that I was a worthy person regardless of what others thought of me. Just because these people felt they were superior to me didn’t necessarily mean they were.

In fact, in an odd way, their air of superiority made them inferior. Only those who had doubts about their own worth would behave in such a disgusting manner, propping themselves up by putting others down.

Thus, the solution became crystal clear. I would no longer allow the actions of others to affect me, thereby controlling me. I would simply observe without becoming emotional and spend the rest of my life rising above the pettiness of the masses.

With that, I was now ready to move on to higher planes of existence, like third grade.

Grandpa Herman passed on to the Great Beyond when I was 15 years old. His memory is always with me as I try to go through life in a strong, formidable, gentle, kind manner.

James went on to get advanced engineering degrees from M.I.T. and also became a world-class ski-jumper. These days, he lectures at Harvard and invents medical equipment, occasionally traveling to Paris where he demonstrates his inventions in fluent French.

And I went on to become a hermit in the hills of Arkansas, where I feed the squirrels, watch sunsets and occasionally share my thoughts with the rest of the world.

Finding contentment in life is not about yearning to be superior to others, it's about not allowing others to make you feel inferior.

Quote for the Day – "You've got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was." Irish folklore

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Collective Consciousness

In 1902, Dr. R. M. Burke wrote a book entitled COSMIC CONSCIOUSNESS. According to Dr. Burke, human evolutionary development consists of three forms of consciousness.

1) Simple Consciousness – instinct

2) Self Consciousness – a self-awareness that an individual is a distinct entity

3) Cosmic Consciousness – a clear conception of the meaning of the universe

Cosmic consciousness, the apex of human evolution, is an absolute certainty that the cosmos is in fact a living presence. It’s a complete comprehension of “the whole” with an accompanying sense of immortality.

Carl Jung, the renowned Swiss psychiatrist, coined the term “Collective Unconscious” -- in essence the same ethereal object as Cosmic Consciousness, except most people are unaware of its existence. He believed the Collective Unconscious to be part of the evolutionary process and shared by all people, but not all people are able to tap into it.

Jung called it the foundational structure of the personality on which the ego is built.

A project was initiated in 1998 at Princeton University in an attempt to prove the existence of what they called a Global Consciousness, another term for Cosmic Consciousness. The Global Consciousness Project (GCP) is an international effort set up to explore whether interconnected consciousness could be scientifically validated through objective measurement.

Research in this field started 40 years ago when a number of laboratory experiments demonstrated that human consciousness actually interacts with random event generators (REGs), causing them to produce non-random patterns.

In other words, thoughts were found to have the capacity to become actions that altered events.

Since electrical impulses transmitted between brain cells reflect patterns of activity that in turn generate consciousness, it then became a theoretical possibility that the same phenomena would be true for a global collective consciousness of the entire planet. Therefore, if individuals could create deviations from expected chance results simply through the thought process perhaps it could also be true on a global basis.

Dr. Roger Nelson, Director of Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research, a leading parapsychology institute, examined what happened to a REG when several people focused on a single event.

The results were impressive. Plus, the effects were clearly noticeable regardless of the generator’s location.

There are now 75 networked computers in over 50 countries worldwide feeding a probabilistically random series of digits to a host computer. The system searches for periods when the random number series become slightly non-random.

Major world events seem to trigger non-randomness in widely isolated global locations. For example, the 9/11 tragedy produced a massive spike of non-randomness in the entire system.

The implications are astonishing.

Each person is an individual entity with a distinct consciousness. But the combined consciousness of all of humanity also appears to be an individual entity.

All is one.

This collective consciousness has been tapped into many times. A mother in Boston senses her son in Phoenix has had an accident that later turns out to be true. A man knows his old Army buddy is about to call him just before the phone rings. A little girl finds her lost purse where a dead grandparent told her it would be. A boy has an urgent feeling about going to a function where he meets his future wife. It happens all the time.

If there truly is such a thing as a collective consciousness, we as a human species are all interconnected in a metaphysical or even spiritual sense. Our individual thoughts affect the collective subconscious of all of mankind.

Thoughts become deeds.

If the human race ever evolves beyond its present state of greed and transgression, our collective consciousness will become a collective benevolence and mankind will flourish.

Until then, the collective consciousness will remain a collective headache.


Quote for the Day -- "The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances – if there is any reaction, both are transformed." Carl Jung

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Pedantic Condescending Hermshot

In the late 1970s, I was a fool. I married the wrong woman and worked hard to get ahead.

In the early 1980s, I regained my sanity. I divorced my charming wife and escaped the rat race.

I owned a house, with a pool, before the marriage. After the divorce, my ex-wife owned a house and I had peace of mind.

I spent the next couple of decades trying to get my life together once again. This included spending seven years bumming around the Arizona desert prospecting for gold, nine months back in L.A. doing computer contracts, a couple of years in the Arkansas hills writing four novels, doing rural field work for a data collection company in Chicago for a year, 10 months in Memphis doing a Y2K computer contract, working on the 2000 U.S. Census, six years teaching college computer courses and seven years writing a newspaper column.

Several years ago, I finally made it. I once again owned my own home, paid cash, on 8 acres, with no neighbors, in the Ozark Mountains of northern Arkansas, where life is peaceful and time stands still.

So after I settled in, I sat on my back deck, watching the squirrels frolicking, beaming with pride that I had finally accomplished my goal of being free. But I soon realized I had spent so much time and energy trying to reach this point that there was still something missing in my life.

Not long thereafter, I started an on-line e-mail correspondence with a woman from my distant past that I had once admired. We were in the same class in high school back in Minnesota but had never met. She had contacted me after a mutual high school friend sent her one of my newspaper columns.

We were cruising along just fine, getting to know each other, phone conversations, exchanging photos.

Then it happened.

I mentioned in one of the e-mails that I had been busy that afternoon creating a syllabus for a new class I would be teaching during spring semester at Ozarka College. I even included a list of many of the categories that made up the syllabus. I presumed it would be of mild interest to her.

The following day, I received a rather abrupt, terse message in return whereby she made it clear she was well aware of the function of a syllabus, then referred to me as a “pedantic condescending hermshot.”

I didn’t know if that was good or bad but the entire note, what little there was of it, had a clear tone of anger to it.

Being a fairly normal male humanoid trapped on a planet half populated by humanoids of the female persuasion, many of whom tend to be slightly ditsy on occasion for no particular reason, my first reaction had to do with the possibility of a chemical imbalance and/or hormonal disturbance.

Next, I checked the original e-mail message I had sent her, but remained baffled. It seemed harmless to me.

I looked up the word “pedantic” in the dictionary. It means “too narrowly concerned with scholarly matters” or being overly scholastic. Since I didn’t know what the word meant in the first place, it was obvious proof that I wasn’t pedantic after all.

I also looked up the word “hermshot” but couldn’t find it.

So I wrote an e-mail back, explaining that my vocabulary didn’t include the word “pedantic” thereby eliminating it as a proper adjective to use when describing me. I also stated that I couldn’t find the word “hermshot” in my dictionary and would kindly like an explanation of the entire phrase.

The next day, I received an e-mail, much more relaxed in tone, explaining that she had been angry at the entire male species the day she wrote the original message and that her cat often prances across her keyboard when she’s typing. She went on to explain that she meant to call me a “pedantic condescending hotshot” but the cat must have messed up the last word in the phrase, hence the word “hermshot.”

What a relief. Here I was all in a dither over being called a pedantic condescending hermshot when there was such a reasonably logical explanation.

It all made perfect sense. I was being punished for being a member of the male species and a cat had written part of the note. It was all so obvious I was almost embarrassed I didn’t figure it out in the first place.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized she was really paying me a compliment.

Pedantic means scholarly, condescending implies a position of superiority and a hotshot is someone who is talented. She was basically telling me that I was a learned superior talent.

But rather than convey her true feelings, she snarled at me in a pedantic and condescending manner.

She may have been snarling on the surface, but subconsciously she was subtly implying that she admired my scholarly talents and distinct superiority.

As soon as I figured out the dynamics of her subconscious thought process, it became apparent how deeply she felt about me. A pedantic condescending hermshot indeed. It’s not every day I receive such lavish praise. She’s clearly attracted to me but unable to express it properly, probably in fear of rejection.

Then again, perhaps an angry snarl is just an angry snarl.

So today I sit on my back deck, a pedantic condescending hermshot, waiting patiently for my soul mate to show up and put me out of my misery.

If I had any brains, I'd be content watching the squirrels frolic.

Quote of the Day – "Big city women, they sure to make me tired.... They got a handful of gimme and a mouth full of much obliged." Old Blues Song

Saturday, September 13, 2008

World War III

In the 1964 cold-war movie classic DR. STRANGELOVE, General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) was a bit paranoid about the fluoridation of drinking water.

“I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion, and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids,” he declared, after ordering a squadron of B-52s on a surprise nuclear strike of the Soviet Union, triggering World War III.

In January of 1995, World War III broke out – almost.

The country of Norway was planning to launch a communications satellite. Since the path of the rocket would violate Russian air space, the Norwegian authorities notified the Russian authorities of their intentions and obtained permission for the launch.

Unfortunately, the Russian authorities neglected to notify the Russian military.

When Russian radar technicians noticed an unidentified flying object, which looked exactly like an incoming Trident missile that had been launched from a US submarine off the coast of Norway, they got a bit excited.

Russia went into a full alert -- arming nuclear missiles, opening silo doors and started a ten-minute countdown.

Boris Yeltsin, the erratic leader of Russia, known for his fondness of vodka and propensity for dubious behavior, was handed the nuclear briefcase. He was apparently sober enough to unlock the container and enter launch codes.

All systems were go as the countdown continued.

With approximately two minutes to go, some enterprising Russian military officer made a couple of phone calls and figured out what was going on. World War III was shut back down, for the time being anyway.

It was an amazing moment in the history of the world, yet didn’t get much press coverage at the time. Apparently, there were more interesting current events to be reported that day, such as the latest peccadilloes of our own erratic leader, William Jefferson Clinton, known for his fondness of anything wearing a skirt and his propensity for dubious behavior.

As incredible as it seems in hindsight, the survival of the planet Earth was in the hands of Boris Yeltsin and Bill Clinton.

Somehow, I would’ve been more comfortable if the Three Stooges were also involved. There’s nothing like a swat over the top of your head with a frying pan to bring a moment of enlightenment to chaos.

At the time, Russia had about 5,000 inter-continental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads and the United States had somewhere around 7,000 of them. This is not a situation meant to help us sleep well at night.

MAD is an acronym for Mutually Assured Destruction. This basically means that if Russia chooses to blow us back to the Stone Age, all they have to do is push a button. As we watch the incoming weapons of mass destruction heading our way, we will push our button and blow them back to the Stone Age in return.

MAD is the strategy cooked up by our respective governments to prevent war between us. The geniuses who came up with this brilliant scheme should be locked in a padded cell in the basement of the Mayo Clinic until their brains can be examined, removed, fumigated and replaced with Intel chips.

We live in a dangerous world these days. Russia appears to be as belligerent as ever and continues to bully its neighbors.

Many of those in other corners of the world who view our country as evil wouldn’t hesitate to take their own lives, as well as the lives of millions of innocent people, in their zeal to destroy us. If they could find a way to trigger MAD, they would surely do so.

Plus, additional countries will eventually have nuclear capabilities. To have a Mutually Assured Destruction posture with certain radical countries would deem the launching of nuclear weapons an inevitability.

As long as we seem to be trapped into spending zillions of dollars on a military budget, perhaps we should put some of it toward a strategy of destroying incoming missiles rather than simply aiming thousands of missiles at others.

Blowing the other guy to smithereens doesn’t do much good if the other guy gets off the first shot and there is no defense against it.

Of course, the ultimate solution is to have Peace on Earth, goodwill toward others and live happily ever after. But somehow that doesn't seem too likely in the near future as long as people kill others in the name of religion and there's a profit to be made by manufacturing the tools of war.

War is the byproduct of human fear and greed. There are those who yearn to fight and those who yearn to profit from conflict. And those who yearn for Peace on Earth are caught in the crossfire.

On the positive side, World Wars will probably end at III.


Quote for the Day – "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." Albert Einstein

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Need for Lawyers

The following true story won first place in a recent Criminal Lawyers Award Contest.

A Charlotte, NC, lawyer purchased a box of very expensive cigars, then insured them against fire among other things. Within a month having smoked his entire stockpile of these great cigars and without yet having made even his first premium payment on the policy, the lawyer filed a claim against the insurance company.

The lawyer claimed the cigars were lost “in a series of small fires.” The insurance company refused to pay, citing the obvious, but the lawyer sued and won. The judge agreed with the insurance company that the claim was frivolous. Nevertheless, the judge stated that the lawyer held a policy from the company in which it warranted that the cigars were insurable and also guaranteed it would insure them against fire, without defining what is considered to be unacceptable fire, and was therefore obligated to pay the claim.

Rather than endure a costly appeal process, the insurance company paid the lawyer $15,000 for his loss.

After the lawyer cashed the check, the insurance company had him arrested on 24 counts of arson. With his own insurance claim and testimony from the previous case used against him, the lawyer was convicted of intentionally burning his insured property and was sentenced to 24 months in jail and a $24,000 fine.

While the above story has a happy ending, sanity doesn’t always exist in legal matters, as exemplified by the following actual court cases.

On June 25, 2002, a woman was awarded $14.1 million by a NY state court after she was hit be a subway train. When it was later learned the woman had been attempting to commit suicide by lying on the tracks when the train hit her, the award was reduced 30 percent, to $9.9 million, because of her “comparative negligence.”

In 1998, Terrence Dickson of Bristol, PA, was in the process of burglarizing a house when he trapped himself in the garage which had a malfunctioning door opener and he was unable to re-enter the house because the door locked behind him. He spent eight days in the garage, surviving on a bag of dry dog food and a case of Pepsi. Dickson sued the homeowner’s insurance company, claiming undue mental anguish. The jury agreed and awarded him $500,000. Perhaps he should have sued his parents for mental incapacity as well.

In June 1998, a similar solid citizen, 19-year-old Carl Truman of Los Angeles was awarded $74,000 plus medical expenses when his neighbor ran over his hand with a Honda Accord. Truman was too busy stealing the hubcaps at the time to notice that someone was at the wheel.

In 2000, Amber Carson of Lancaster, PA, sued a restaurant because she slipped on a wet spot and injured herself. Even though the wet spot was created when she threw her drink at her boyfriend, 30 seconds earlier, the restaurant was ordered to pay $113,500 in damages.

Kara Walton of Claymont, DE, tried to sneak through a bathroom window at a nightclub to avoid paying a three dollar cover charge, fell to the floor and knocked out her two front teeth. She sued the nightclub and was awarded $12,000 plus dental expenses.

In January 2000, Kathleen Robertson of Austin, TX, sued a furniture store after breaking her ankle tripping over her own son who was running amuck inside the store. She was awarded $780,000.

In November 2000, Merv Grazinski of Oklahoma City purchase a brand new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On his first trip, Mr. Grazinski merged onto the freeway, set the cruise control to 70 mph and left the driver seat to go into the back and make himself a cup of coffee. Not too surprisingly to most people with an IQ above that of a turnip, the motor home crashed and overturned. Mr. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not indicating in the handbook that he could not actually do this. He was awarded $1,750,000 plus a brand new Winnebago.

Being sane in an insane world can often be a tedious task. But I keep trying.


Quote for the Day – "If it weren't for lawyers, we wouldn't need lawyers." Bret

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Republic Lost

By definition, a republic is a union of independent entities, usually associated with common business and financial interests, favoring a restricted government role in economic life.

After winning independence from the British in 1776, the founding fathers became engaged in a debate as to exactly what form of government the new country should take.

Thomas Jefferson and his followers wanted government to be the “guardian of fair play,” as arbiter of disputes, whereas Alexander Hamilton and his followers wanted government to directly dictate and control the process.

Those who wanted little or no government, approximately one-third of the population at the time, were shut out of the process because they wanted nothing to do with it in the first place. Obviously, those who don’t want to be governed by others generally don’t become involved in organizing such a system.

Thus, the Republic of the United States of America came into existence in 1776 in the form of a set of individual democratic states, independent of each other, with a central body to deal primarily with internal disputes, international relations and a common defense.

In 1860, Presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln proposed an expansion of the role of the federal government, which included a national bank, protective tariffs and mercantilism (an economic system of strict government control of the national economy). Ironically, mercantilism was the very system of abuses the founding fathers revolted against.

Even though Southerners had only half the population as the North, they had been paying 87% of all federal taxes collected, mostly in import duties of foreign manufactured goods. The centerpiece of Lincoln’s Republican Party platform was a high protective tariff that would have raised existing import duties by 250 percent.

The South was willing to secede from the Union rather than succumb to the tyranny of the national government.

In his first inaugural address, President Lincoln stated, “I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held in service [slaves]. I have no objection to this amendment being made express and irrevocable.”

This proposed amendment would have legalized slavery in the southern states forever. Lincoln supported it as an offering to the South not to follow through with their plans to secede from the Union.

On March 11, 1861, delegates in Montgomery, Alabama, adopted a new Confederate Constitution affirming that the states were “sovereign and independent” as envisioned by the founding fathers.

This set in motion events that erupted into the American Civil War.

Lincoln ordered federal troops to arrest anyone critical of the war and to shut down newspapers editorializing against it.

Lincoln's subsequent emancipation of the slaves was primarily a strategic maneuver to weaken the Southern economy (by reducing blacks from the southern labor force) and strengthen the Northern Army (by adding black soldiers).

In the end, states rights died at Appomattox. Our Republic of independent states became a national, centralized government. And the federal government has been expanding its power and control ever since.

Prior to the Civil War, people used the phrase “The United States of America are …”

After the Civil War, the phrase changed to “The United States of America is …”

Whether or not we would have been better off remaining a Republic of independent states rather than creating a strong centralized federal government is subject to debate.

Big government tends to become a self-protective, ever-expanding organism that feeds relentlessly off its subjects, demanding obedience, impeding progress, granting special favors and curtailing individual freedom.

Ultimately, a government big enough to give you all you want will cost you all you have.

But not to worry, we've borrowed against the future to cover our unrestrained spending addiction, creating a $9 trillion national debt that will be passed on to the next generation.

Ironically, our government-controlled public school system has children pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands. Instead of indoctrinating our children into being good little robotic patriots, perhaps we should be teaching them that we are no longer a Republic.

And perhaps we should be advising our children that each of them is already approximately $40,000 in debt and they haven't even started working yet to pay it off.

Quote for the Day – "If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there'd be a shortage of sand." Milton Friedman

Sunday, September 7, 2008

State Mottos

Every state in America has a state motto. They tend to be inspirational catchwords, brief yet powerful, no doubt meant to inspire the populace to greatness. They are heavy on truth, justice and the American way – much like Superman without the blue tights, red cape and the need to masquerade as a mild-mannered reporter.

The most famous state motto is New Hampshire – “Live free or die.” It leaves little doubt where the citizens of the Granite State stand on various issues. Being an outsider in New Hampshire is a lot like being naked in a herd of buffalo -- no matter how much hair you have on your back, you’ll never blend in.

The smallest state in the Union, Rhode Island, has the shortest motto – “Hope."

Massachusetts, the state with the most letters in its name, has the longest motto – “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”

Some of the redneck states in the South tend to be high on machismo. Alabama – “We dare defend our rights.” Mississippi – “By valor and arms.” They're still upset by the Civil War way down wonder in the land of cotton, where old times there are not forgotten.

Other southern states are more reflective, such as Georgia – “Wisdom, justice and moderation.” I know a couple of guys from Georgia and the word moderation is not in their vocabulary. Live hard, drive fast and die young is more their style.

The state motto of Arkansas is “The people rule.” This seems like a reasonable proposition. If we must be ruled, people would be my first choice as opposed to non-people. I’m not quite sure what the alternatives would be. Perhaps raccoons or possums. Armadillos would also be a possibility but they tend to be illiterate.

Missouri has the only other state motto that contains the word people – “The welfare of the people shall be the supreme law.” Obviously, raccoons or possums could rule Missouri as long as the welfare of people came first.

At least one state hasn’t caught up with political correctness yet. Maryland – “Manly deeds womanly words.” Either there are no women in Maryland or they’re a bit more docile than most of the women I know.

The most confusing state motto is Connecticut – “He who transplanted still sustains.” In Latin, it reads, “Qui transtulit sustinet.” Even though I know nothing about Latin, except that Latin America is somewhere south of Texas, it somehow makes more sense than the English version.

I’ve asked several reasonably intelligent people to explain this motto but all I get is a look of bewilderment and a request to go away. Then again, I often get that sort of reaction whenever I mingle with real people.

To the good citizens of Connecticut, here are some suggestions on a new state motto.

1) Sustains still transplanted who he
2) Live free or move to New Hampshire
3) Non-people cannot rule
4) The gateway to Rhode Island
5) So close to New York, you can smell it
6) No loitering
7) Size isn’t everything

Someone in Connecticut once proclaimed, “He who transplanted still sustains.” Apparently, the people of Connecticut understood the deeper meaning, that he who has not transplanted no longer sustains, and adopted it as their state motto.

I live where the people rule. The raccoons and possums find it all very amusing.

Quote for the Day – "So this is how the world works, all energy flows according to the whims of the great magnet.” Hunter S. Thompson

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Vice President Follies

Joe Biden and Sarah Palin were recently anointed as Vice President Elects of their respective political parties and the next possible leader of the free world, by Barack Obama and John McCain respectively.

It's amazing how the USA can spend countless months and zillions of dollars electing two main candidates to be our next President, then each of two candidates gets to choose their successor on their own. It doesn't exactly seem very democratic.

Dan Quayle was Vice President of the United States under the original George Bush, in 1988-1992.

During that period, I lived in the desert a few miles outside of Wickenburg, Arizona, which was basically a fork in the road, about 50 miles northwest of Phoenix, with one stoplight to control traffic coming up from Phoenix and splitting off to California or Las Vegas.

Wickenburg was also the unofficial headquarters of the Quayle family, originally from Indiana. Dan Quayle’s father owned a luxury home on the private golf course. His older brother owned and edited the local newspaper, The Wickenburg Sun, and his younger brother lived somewhere in the outlying hills trying to become a writer.

As Vice President, Dan Quayle and his family would often visit Wickenburg. Their arrival was always apparent because the secret service would actually shut off the electricity in the entire community thereby disabling the only stoplight in town in order to allow the Vice President and his caravan to whisk through the intersection with ease. This was most irritating to many of the locals, especially the ones using computers that would crash when the electricity suddenly went off without warning.

Dan Quayle loved to relax from his chores as Vice President and shoot a couple of rounds of golf. He was a good golfer but as a public figure his blunders were legendary.

He once visited a grade school during a spelling bee. On camera, he confronted a small boy who had correctly spelled the word “potato,” insisting the lad put an “e” on the end of the word.

When discussing the departure of a member of Bush's cabinet, Quayle remarked, "This isn't a man who is leaving with his head between his legs."

As a defender of family values, he lavished the Ozzie Osborne family, a bunch of crazed wombats, with praise as a role model family, proving that he’s either a comic genius or a blithering idiot.

The following dozen statements were also made by Dan Quayle during his Vice Presidency.

1) “It isn’t pollution that is hurting the environment, it’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it.”

2) “It is wonderful to be here in the great state of Chicago.”

3) “Illegitimacy is something we should talk about in terms of not having it.”

4) “We have a firm commitment to NATO. We are a part of NATO. We have a firm commitment to Europe. We are a part of Europe.”

5) “If we don’t succeed, we run the risk of failure.”

6) “I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix.”

7) “If you give a person a fish, they’ll fish for a day. But if you train a person to fish, they’ll fish for a lifetime.”

8) “We are not ready for an unforeseen event that may or may not occur.”

9) "Most women do not want to be liberated from their essential natures as women."

10) "I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have was that I didn't study Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people."

11) “What a waste to lose one’s mind. Or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.”

12) ”It’s time for the human race to enter the solar system.”

Dan Quayle was next in line to assume the position of President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the most powerful nation on Earth. It’s always comforting to know our country is in such competent hands.

George Bush, Sr. and Dan Quayle were defeated for reelection in 1992.

Go figure.

Perhaps when the human race enters the solar system we will have the sort of leadership we deserve. Then again, perhaps we always get what we deserve.


Quote for the Day – "The only difference between a pitbull and a hockey mom is lipstick." Sarah Palin

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Surrounded by a Sea of Danger

The geographic North Pole is the northern point on the earth’s axis around which the earth spins. It’s located at 90 degrees north latitude. If you were standing on it, every direction on earth would be due south. You would also be freezing your tutu and on the lookout for polar bears that haven’t eaten lately.

The magnetic North Pole is the spot on earth where compasses point. Presently, it’s located in the Arctic Ocean, nearly a thousand miles south of the geographic North Pole, just southwest of Canada’s Ellef Ringnes Island.

The town of Resolute Bay, population 200, one of Canada’s most northerly settlements, is only a short plane ride away. Their motto is “Resolute is not the end of the world, but you can see it from here.”

Unlike the geographic North Pole, the earth’s magnetic pole is constantly on the move, caused by the movement of molten iron deep within the earth.

The precise location of the magnetic North Pole was first determined in 1831, hundreds of miles from its present location. Since then it has been resurveyed about once every decade and has historically been moving north-northwest at more than 10 miles per year. According to the latest satellite surveys, it also has a daily elliptical movement of approximately 50 miles from its average point.

Since 1950, the magnetic North Pole’s migrating speed has increased some 400 percent, covering closer to 50 miles every year, requiring the Hydrographic Office of the US Navy to update its maps every five years.

Not only is the magnetic North Pole wandering across the top of the planet, but the two poles have changed polarity many times throughout the eons. The North Pole becomes the South Pole and visa versa – positive becomes negative as negative becomes positive.

This can be verified because iron oxide in volcanic lava or igneous rocks is nonmagnetic when liquefied by extreme heat. Upon cooling, they obtain a magnetic orientation matching the Earth’s polarity at that given time.

Based on core samples from the Earth’s surface, as well as submarine mountain ranges, there have been numerous pole reversals, the last one occurring approximately 12,400 years ago. Evidently, our planet goes through a magnetic pole reversal on a regular basis.

Subterranean currents of molten lava create the magnetic poles. Changes in the flow lead to pole reversals.

Gauthier Hulot of the Globe Institute of Paris recently discovered that molten iron off the tip of Africa is now moving in a direction that is gradually weakening the dominant magnetic field, possibly leading to a global pole reversal.

Exactly what happens during a reversal isn’t clear.

A pole shift 12,400 years ago would possibly explain such events as the Biblical flood, the disappearance of the “mythical” continent of Atlantis, and such unexplainable phenomena as marine fossils found atop the Himalayan Mountains and evidence of tropical plant life discovered beneath the ice in Antarctica. In all likelihood, something dramatic happened in an instant global catastrophe rather than gradually over time.

In addition, the Earth’s crust is made up of gigantic tectonic plates. They rest on a liquid surface and are prone to movement, causing stress that generates volcanoes and earthquakes. A sudden, global slippage of the Earth’s crust is also a possibility.

Albert Einstein once wrote, “In a polar region there is a continual deposition of ice, which is not symmetrically distributed about the pole. The Earth’s rotation acts on these deposited masses [of ice], and produces centrifugal momentum that is transmitted to the rigid crust of the earth. The constantly increasing centrifugal momentum produced in this way will, when it has reached a certain point, produce a movement of the Earth’s crust over the rest of the Earth’s body, and this will displace the polar regions toward the equator.”

Earth is a very precarious place. The magnetic poles are prone to reversals in polarity and its surface crust can potentially slip in position. To mankind this rare occurrence would be a disaster of Biblical proportions. But to the planet itself, it’s just another bump in the road.

All in all, it makes things like politics and war seem trivial.

As a human being, I am merely a small glob of organic matter on a large spinning orb, hurtling through a vast void, destination unknown. Yet I reside at the center of the universe, basking in the spirit of my human essence, awed by the glory of my destiny unfolding before me.

I am an island named Bret, surrounded by a sea of danger, comfortable in the knowledge that we reap what we sow.

Quote for the Day – "The universe that we inhabit and our shared perception of it are the results of a common karma. Likewise, the places that we will experience in future rebirths will be the outcome of the karma that we share with the other beings living there. The actions of each of us, human or nonhuman, have contributed to the world in which we live. We all have a common responsibility for our world and are connected with everything in it." The 14th Dalai Lama