Wednesday, September 30, 2009


According to anthropologists, blonde women first appeared during the last Ice Age, about 11,000 years ago. Prior to that, people on Earth generally had dark hair and dark eyes, but a genetic mutation took place when humans began migrating to northern latitudes, along with an insufficient food supply, creating fair-haired women.

Blonde hair, as well as red hair, is found in certain people (and other mammals) characterized by high levels of a pale pigment called phaeomelanin and lower levels of a dark pigment called eumelanin.

These days, various hues of blondness are present in approximately two percent of the world's population.

Most blondes come from Europe. In Western Europe, blondes tend to be golden in color. In Eastern Europe, they're mostly ash blondes. The highest proportion of blondes is found in the Eastern Baltic region.

Recently, the BBC reported that German scientists had concluded "the natural distribution of fair hair would cease within the span of 200 years due to the lack of recessive genes." Apparently, there are a low number of people carrying recessive genes, especially in nations of mixed heritage. The dominant genes (dark hair, dark eyes) overwhelm the recessive genes.

One anthropologist predicted the last blondes would come from Finland.

My natural inclination would be to do some blonde jokes here, such as:

Q) How do blonde brain cells die?
A) Alone.

Q) Why did the blonde stare at the frozen juice can?
A) Because it said 'concentrate'.

Q) How do you keep a blonde busy?
A) Write 'Please turn over' on both sides of a piece of paper.

Q) Why do blondes put their hair in ponytails?
A) To cover the valve stem.

Q) How do you make a blonde laugh on Friday?
A) Tell her a joke on Tuesday.

But I realized it would be offensive to blondes so I decided not to include any blonde jokes.

Of course, not all blondes are dumb. My ex-wife was a natural blonde. She had worked at Rockwell and Lockheed as a systems analyst, and at IBM as a systems engineer. You don't get technical positions in the aerospace industry unless you're fairly intelligent or very good at interviewing for jobs.

She was three-quarters Norwegian which would account for her blonde hair, and one-quarter dingbat which would account for her erratic behavior, particularly during high tides and full moons.

Her main preoccupation, besides spending more money than we were taking in, was making plans. As a planner, she was prolific and flawless. Unfortunately, most of these plans never came to fruition because she was always too busy working on the next set of goals to ever follow through on them.

Our marriage was a lot like a joy ride on the Titanic. It was fun while it lasted, but when we finally hit the inevitable iceberg all we could do was jump into separate life rafts and drift in opposite directions. While I would be busy rowing toward the nearest shore in my raft, she would probably be sitting in the front seat of another raft making plans for a landing celebration while watching others doing all the rowing.

Life goes on.

But I still love women, regardless of hair color. I just don't care for those inflicted with dingbat blood.

Quote for the Day – “Wal-Mart… do they like make walls there?” Paris Hilton

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where blondes prefer gentlemen. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Friday, September 25, 2009

Psychology, Alchemy and Carl Jung

Carl Jung (1875-1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist, the founder of analytical psychology known as Jungian psychology.

As a theoretical psychologist and practicing clinician, he explored the psyche through an examination of dreams, mythology, religion and art. He also spent much of his life delving into alchemy, astrology and Eastern philosophy. Some of his notable achievements include the concept of psychological archetypes, synchronicity and the collective unconscious.

Jung emphasized the importance of harmony and balance. The process of “individuation” was the central concept of analytical psychology. For a person to become whole, it requires a psychological process of integrating the conscious with the unconscious while still maintaining conscious independence.

In 1906, Jung published STUDIES IN WORD ASSOCIATION and sent a copy of the book to Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. Thus, began a close relationship between these two giants of psychology.

In 1912, Jung published THE PSYCHOLOGY OF THE UNCONSCIOUS which resulted in a feud between Freud and Jung, breaking up their close relationship. Apparently, each was incapable of admitting that he could possibly be wrong.

In 1916, Jung wrote VII SERMONES AD MORTUOS, which basically means “The Seven Sermons to the Dead written by Basilides in Alexandria” – transcribed by Carl Gustav Jung.

Fasten your seatbelts.

In 1916, Jung had been contacted by a “highly cultivated elderly Indian” who had been a commentator on the Vedas (early Hindu sacred writings) and had died centuries ago. He would become one of Jung’s spirit guides (gurus). Rather than assume he had gone insane, Jung believed he had crossed into the same realm as the ancient priests and others who had experienced the divine.

Then many strange occurrences took place in Jung’s house, such as haunting aberrations, poltergeist moments, etc.

Jung finally shouted, “For God’s sake, what in the world is this?”

In unison, voices cried out, “We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not what we sought.”

Then over three straight evenings, while being in a state of “possession” performing automatic writing, Jung wrote VII SERMONES AD MORTUOS.

Basilides, a real person, was born in Syria and became a teacher in Alexandria in 133-155 AD. Jung had channeled and transcribed Basilides words. The finished work was more than an exercise in automatic writing – the contents have been described as a “core text in depth psychology.”

Within the text, Abraxas is the name used for the Supreme Being that created individuality and mental powers. Upon death, individual human beings maintain the fullness of their human individuality rather than being absorbed into the oneness.

From this experience, Jung formulated the concept of the collective unconscious. He stated, “The collective unconscious is common to all. It is the foundation of what the ancients called the sympathy of all things. It is through the medium of the collective unconscious that information about a particular time and place can be transferred to another individual mind.”

Jung later claimed to have many spirit guides, including Basilides, Philemon and Salome.

Gnosticism is the belief that spiritual knowledge comes from within. Gnosis is esoteric (restricted to a small group) knowledge of spiritual truth held by the ancient Gnostics to be essential to salvation. When Jung discovered the writings of the ancient Gnostics, he wrote, “I felt as if I had at last found a circle of friends who understood me.”

In 1926, Jung had a significant dream whereby he was in the 1600s engaged in the “Great Work” as an alchemist. He believed that alchemy was the connection between the modern world and the ancient world of the Gnostics.

Coincidentally, Albert Einstein read from ancient alchemy texts every night when he went to bed.

Jung considered alchemy to be the key to the transformation of the soul on its path toward perfection. His manuscript titled PSYCHOLOGY AND ALCHEMY was published in 1944.

He wrote that the cosmos contained a divine light, the essence of which was a trap, presided over by the Bringer of the Light, called Lucifer, a demiurge (a subordinate deity who is the creator of the material world).

The focus of the alchemist is the union of opposites. Rather than a battle between good and evil (dualism), Jung claimed there was no right or wrong, no order or chaos, no black or white – they are simply opposites that transform into grey, demanding of humanity to be transformed.

According to Jung’s Psychology of the Transference, the key to success in love and psychological growth is the ability to endure the tension of the opposites without abandoning the process. It’s the stress of the process that permits one to grow, to blossom, to mature, to become transformed.

Life is simple – Accept the challenges, embrace the suffering, don’t follow leaders, watch the parking meters.

Quote for the Day -- "Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you." Carl Jung

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and various spirit guides, including Pouteaux, Maitreya, Babala and Lone Wolf. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Born to be Evil

The function of wisdom is to discriminate between good and evil.

Recently, I acquired a computer virus that reduced my system into a useless pile of junk. After four days in the shop, I had to start all over once again, restoring what I could and reconstructing some of the things I lost.

It makes one wonder what sort of sadistic creep would do such a thing to a complete stranger.

Some people believe that the struggle between good and evil is nothing more than a struggle between knowledge and ignorance, and that good will always prevail because everyone is basically decent and all it takes to overcome the wickedness within them is to somehow educate them about the wrongness of their ways.

While we assume everyone has a conscience restraining them from evil, studies by Harvard psychologist Martha Stout, Ph.D., reveal that about four percent of the population has a sociopathic personality disorder.

In other words, one out of every 25 people is a psychopath – a person with no sense of concern for the well-being of others and no feelings of remorse, regardless of what sort of harmful or immoral action they undertake.

A psychopath is able to lie, steal, cheat and kill with no feelings of sorrow or regret. Sometimes their only motive is the thrill of inflicting pain. This gives the psychopath a competitive advantage over a normal person.

The high incidence of psychopath dysfunction has a profound disturbing effect on the rest of human society.

Violent psychopaths (batterers, animal abusers, child predators, rapists, murderers, serial killers, etc.) are easy to identify. Prisons are overpopulated with them. Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, the BTK Killer, the Green River Killer, the Boston Strangler, etc. were all serial killers who had no personal moral qualms about their actions.

However, there are also many psychopaths who are outwardly acceptable, intelligent and skillful at blending into ordinary society. These are the dangerous ones who are able to deceive and negatively influence others.

Political Ponerology, a term introduced by psychologist Andrew M Lobaczewski, Ph.D., is the science of the nature of evil for political purposes. This occurs when socially accepted psychopaths attain political leverage.

The only difference between an ordinary psychopath (a violent, impulsive bully with no conscience) and a socially accepted psychopath is social status, intellect, ambition and being in the right place at the right time.

Basically, successful (socially accepted) psychopathic individuals move into positions of power (in politics, business, military, etc.) and link up with others of similar ilk to form cohesive internal structures that have the ability to take over entire movements. They often rise to the top through cunning, deception and ruthlessness.

Psychopathic leaders spin their version of the truth (especially when they control the media) while distorting reality. Eager to please, people tend to be blindly loyal to their leaders and go along with the crowd. This leads to a "my country right or wrong" attitude where decent people perpetuate the evil of their psychopathic masters.

Hitler and the Nazis were a prime example of Political Ponerology. They introduced a scientific methodology (psychological propaganda) in Germany to rally the populace into a mass hypnotic frenzy of hate. France and England watched in horror as the Nazis marched across Europe -- hesitating too long, then making concessions with Germany. The subsequent agreements with Hitler (a psychopath) were worthless, costing millions of lives.

Stalin (a psychopath) killed millions, Saddam Hussein (a psychopath) killed hundreds of thousands, etc.

Clearly, negotiating with a psychopath legitimizes the psychopath and furthers his stronghold over his people.

Appeasement doesn't work on a person without a conscience. All the energy spent by naive peace protestors is for naught. You can love your enemy all you want but if your enemy is incapable of love he will destroy you.

An appeaser is one who feeds a wild beast hoping it will eat him last.

The world is a cruel, violent place. Studies have determined the origin of evil is genetic. A small percentage of people are born without a conscience (psychopathic) and have a predisposition to commit evil acts on others.

This notion is difficult to accept. Ordinary people prefer to believe everyone on this planet would act as they would act. But ordinary people must contend with pure evil somewhere on this planet every day. It won't go away.

Evil people dwell among us. They enjoy inflicting pain on the rest of the world and are incapable of change.

Some of them rise to the top and gain control. It's our duty to recognize them and deal with them properly.

Life is simple. You just need to think for yourself, be kind to others, bathe regularly and oppose evil.

Quote for the Day – “How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don’t think.” Adolph Hitler

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and bathes regularly. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Hence the Words

The 1500s were tough times. Many of the phrases created back then are still with us today.

Back then, most people got married in June, primarily because this coincided with their yearly bath which usually took place in May. The bouquet of flowers carried by the bride was used to hide body odor. The man of the house had the privilege of the first bath with nice, clean water. By the time the babies were given a bath, the water looked like a good place to hide.

Hence the saying – “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Houses had thatched roofs piled high with thick straw and no wood underneath. To stay warm, the pet dogs and cats slept in cubbyholes within the roof, which was close to the ground. When it rained, the animals would slip and fall off the roof.

Hence the phrase – “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

The wealthy had slate floors that became slippery when wet in the winter, so they spread thresh (grain stems after the seeds had been removed) on the floor to keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more thresh. When the thresh pile reached a certain size it would spill outside when the door was opened, at which point a piece of wood would be placed in the entryway.

Hence the word – “Threshold.”

Only the wealthy had something other than dirt floors.

Hence the expression – “Dirt poor.”

Cooking was done in a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they started a new fire and added things to the pot, mostly vegetables since meat was scarce. They ate the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and start over the next day. Sometimes, the stew had food in it for many days.

Hence the rhyme – “Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”

The most common of the scarce meats was pork. Obtaining pork made people feel special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their pork to show off. It was a sign of wealth and an indication of the worth of a man.

Hence the words – “Bringing home the bacon.”

They would cut off a bit of the hanging pork and share it with their visitors. Then they would all sit around, gnawing on the pork and making conversation.

Hence the expression – “Chewing the fat.”

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, while the rest of the family got the middle of the loaf. Guests and people of means received the top of the loaf.

Hence the term – “Upper crust.”

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. This combination would occasionally knock a drinker out for a couple of days. They would be laid out on a kitchen table to see if they would wake up.

Hence the custom of holding a – “Wake.”

When they ran short of places to bury people, they would dig up old coffins, take the bones to a house and reuse the grave. Upon reopening these coffins, they discovered that about one in 25 had scratch marks on the inside, indicating they had buried someone alive. Thereafter, they tied a string to the wrist of the deceased, lead it through the coffin, up through the ground and tied it to a bell attached to the grave marker. Someone would be required to sit up all night to listen for bells.

Hence the term – “Graveyard shift.”

If a bell rang in the graveyard, the doomed person could then be rescued from their coffin.

Hence the phrase – “Saved by the bell.”

Such a person would then have a second chance at life.

Hence the expression – “Dead ringer.”

Life has changed a bit in the last 500 years. For example, I bathe quarterly and rarely have a use for thresh.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

Quote for the Day – “Man does not live by words alone, despite the fact that he sometimes has to eat them.” Adlai Stevenson

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and the Ghost of Lamont Cranston. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Half Mile at Full Speed

When I was a junior in high school, back when dinosaurs were roaming the earth, I tried out for the track team. Obviously, it wasn’t to impress the babes. The only ones who attended track meets in those days were the participants, the coaches and stray dogs. I think it was just one of those things I did to prove something to myself.

Robbinsdale was the biggest high school in the state of Minnesota at the time. The tenth, eleventh and twelfth grades had well over 3,000 students, all confined to one huge building of organized discipline and teenage rebellion.

Being a top athlete was not an easy nut to crack with so many jocks under one roof. The anti-jocks didn’t make things any easier either. In fact, just surviving through a single day in the blackboard jungle of Robbinsdale High could be a challenge.

My intention was to find the best running event to suit my skills and give it the best shot I could. The shorter distances would be out of the question. There were lots of great sprinters on the team and I knew I couldn’t beat them no matter how hard I worked at it. The longer distances were also out of the question since I didn’t have the stamina for running a mile or more.

Thus, I decided on the 440-yard run -- once around the track, a quarter of a mile, at full speed. No big deal.

After a couple of weeks of hard work, the coaches held some competitions to find the best runners at each distance. The top five in each event would be allowed to represent the school in competition.

The 440 runners were broken into two groups. They ran the first heat with the returning lettermen in that event first.

I stood near the finish line, with the other group of 440 runners, waiting to run in the second heat.

Watching a senior named Dick Bassett heading toward the finish line was a real eye opener. He was an all-state wrestler and one of the leaders of the state champion football team, soon to become a starting linebacker at the University of Minnesota. As he came charging around the final turn at full throttle, he looked like a runaway train with thunder thighs seeking a brick wall to shatter.

One thing for certain, I couldn’t beat him, and he only came in third.

So I slithered over into the 880-yard runners group and tried to blend in. There were nine of us. I figured I might have to run a little farther, but only had to beat four of them to make the team.

The 880 trials followed the 440 guys. All nine of us ran together, twice around the track that afternoon.

I was running well, just trying to stay even in the main pack. But most of the others had an extra kick and began to pull away near the end of the final backstretch.

I came in seventh, beating the last two guys by a good margin. Although I didn’t do too well, I assumed I would improve over time as I continued to prepare myself for a longer race than I had originally intended to run.

A couple of weeks later, we had a “practice” with St. Louis Park, another high school in our conference. It was an unsanctioned event between the two schools and the coaches agreed to allow unlimited competitors.

Six St. Louis Park runners squared off against all nine Robbinsdale runners in the half-mile run. I was now in much better shape and had a good feel for the 880. Plus, I had a foolproof strategy.

The gun went off and I darted out in front. I was in the lead going into the first turn and that was exactly where I intended to stay. I ran at full speed, hoping to pull away but never quite could. Coming across the finish line at the head of the pack on the first pass, I could see the coach watching me. Unfortunately, we had to go around the track a second time.

Down the backstretch, I went into the zone. My legs were moving like two pistons and I couldn’t feel a thing except exhilaration for maintaining my position in front of the others, eagerly awaiting the adulation of victory.

Into the final turn, Brian Henry, our top 880 runner, and a guy from St. Louis Park passed me. Coming out of the final turn onto the home stretch, several more runners shot past me as my legs turned into Silly Putty and my lungs began screaming for me to shut off the engine and take up another more civilized sport.

I came in eighth out of fifteen, beating the same two Robbinsdale runners and five out of six of the St. Louis Park runners.

Afterward, Brian Henry thanked me for setting such a brisk pace and I went off to find another sport that suited my taste.

In the end, it was a wonderful learning experience. For example, I learned that if I need to go a half mile at full speed, I should probably use my car.

It wasn’t long before I chose pocket billiards as my new sport. One could compete indoors, year-round, with a minimal of stress on your leg muscles or lungs. It’s a sport for refined people with large egos who like to wager on their skills.

In fact, I took it so seriously that I was the University of Minnesota billiard champion at age 19 and the Third U.S. Army pocket billiard champion in each of my two years in the service. It also supplemented my income to help get me through college. When I actually had to start working for a living, I gave it all up.

Shooting pool is a great way to spend your youth. It keeps you off the streets and you get to hang out with lots of slippery, devious characters where you learn the real meaning of life rather quickly.

Quote for the Day – “When I played pool, I was like a good psychiatrist. I cured ‘em of all their daydreams and delusions.” Rudolph Wanderone (a.k.a. Minnesota Fats)

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and more than 880 yards from the nearest neighbor. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

A Slip of the Tongue

I’m writing this piece on 09/09/09. In many parts of the world, this is a very lucky number. In my world, consciousness is that annoying time between naps.

In two days, it will be September 11 – the anniversary of the Twin Towers tragedy in 2001.

On December 24, 2004, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was in Iraq giving the troops a pep talk when he went into a diatribe about what the world would be like if the USA hadn't invaded Iraq. The speech was carried live on CNN. I was watching it while eating breakfast.

Rumsfeld recounted the series of tragedies caused by the terrorists on 9/11 of 2001 – four airplanes hijacked by terrorists, the attack on the Twin Towers in New York, the attack on the Pentagon, and so forth. In his remarks, he included a phrase about the tragedy of the airliner (Flight 93) which included these exact words about how sad it was that we had "shot down the plane over Pennsylvania."

That’s correct – the Secretary of Defense had informed the world that Flight 93 had been shot down over Pennsylvania. I nearly fell out of my chair, but was too busy jotting down the exact quote. It had been portrayed on the mainstream news that the passengers stormed the cockpit of Flight 93 causing it to crash.

The following day, a Pentagon spokesman held a press briefing to explain that the Secretary of Defense must have had a slip of the tongue during the speech.

So I did a bit of research.

From newspaper archives following the 9/11 incidents, multiple sources quoted several residents in and around the crash site near Shanksville, Pa., claiming to have seen a second plane – an unmarked military style jet.

Susan McElwain, 51, lives two miles from the crash site. She witnessed a plane overhead. "It came right over me. It was traveling real fast and low, but barely made a sound, then it disappeared behind some trees. A few seconds later I heard this explosion and saw this fireball rise up over the trees. The plane I saw was heading right to the point where Flight 93 crashed." She described the plane as a white (with no markings) military jet with two rear engines and two upright fins at the side.

Lee Purbaugh, 32, was working on a ridge a half mile away, the only person who saw Flight 93 as it came down. He too spotted a second jet. "It was white and circled the area twice, then flew off."

Tom Spinelli, 28, was working at a marina a mile and a half away. He also saw a white plane. "It was flying around like it was looking for something. I saw it before and after the crash."

Three days after the crash, the local newspaper (Bergen County Record) reported that five witnesses had seen a second plane. Dennis Decker and Rick Cheney, at work when they heard an explosion, ran outside and spotted a "mid-sized white jet, with engines mounted near the tail, flying low. It made a circle then headed out."

Government officials have continually insisted there was never any pursuit of Flight 93.

Earlier that morning on Sept. 11, 2001, two commercial airliners had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City.

At 9:24 AM EST, NORAD received notice that American Airlines Flight 77 had been hijacked and was now heading toward Washington DC.

At 9:30 AM, two F-16s were airborne from Hampton, Va., with orders to head for Washington, DC.

At 9:37 AM, American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon.

At 9:28 AM, the FAA learned that Flight 93 had been hijacked near Cleveland.

At 9:35 AM, Flight 93 began making a turn toward the south. At the same time, three F-16s were scrambled with orders to "protect the White House at all cost."

By 9:39 AM, Flight 93 had completed a wide turn and was now aimed at Washington DC.

At 10:03 AM, according to cockpit recordings, several passengers had managed to force their way into the cockpit in an attempt to take back control of Flight 93.

At 10:06 AM, Flight 93 "crashed" in Pennsylvania.

Debris from the wreckage was found scattered over an 8-mile area, including a 1000-pound section of an engine fan found more than a mile from the so-called crash site. This is consistent with an external explosion that separated a half ton section of one of the engines and tore open a portion of the passenger cabin and cargo hold.

Question: How does an airplane that crashes into the ground spread debris over an 8-mile area?

Answer: Duh.

A picture can often be worth a thousand words.

So can a slip of the tongue.

The official government explanation for the series of events of 9/11 simply don’t pass the smell test.

There is considerable evidence that the Twin Towers came down in a controlled manner (multiple controlled explosions eye-witnessed by several policemen and others, forensic evidence of explosive demolition materials in all 3 buildings destroyed, etc.). There are many unanswered questions concerning the Pentagon strike (size of the impact area, lack of visual or photographed evidence of an airplane of that size, etc.) There were sizeable financial speculative transactions immediately before 9/11 whereby it appeared that certain wealthy individuals had foreknowledge of the 9/11 events and made incredible financial gains due to the incidents.

The aftermath of 9/11 was a blessing to many. The global elitists who yearn for a one-world government had another plausible reason for a New World Order – one global rule, one police force, one financial system, etc. The federal government gained more power and control by suppressing individual rights in the name of national security. The military-industrial complex had another excuse to continue weapon proliferation and profiting from warfare. International bankers who profit from collapsing financial systems have another problem to resolve which will enrich them once again. And so on. One man’s tragedy is another man’s prosperity.

Was the madness of 9/11 really the result of 19 crazed dudes with box-cutters or was there a bigger picture?

So many questions, not enough answers.

Quote for the Day – “Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing.” George Orwell

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where every answer leads to multiple questions. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Monday, September 7, 2009

Leap Seconds

Time is what prevents everything from happening at once.

Since a year is actually 365.24219 days long, a day is added to the end of February, every fours years (except for years which are both divisible by 100 and not divisible by 400) ) to keep the calendar year in synchronization with the four seasons. When a day is added, that year is referred to as a leap year.

In mankind's quest for order in the universe, we also have leap seconds to keep clocks in synchronization with the rotating actions of the Earth.

In a perfect world, it would take exactly 24 hours for the Earth to rotate completely on its axis. However we no longer live in a perfect world, and probably never did. It seems that the moon's gravity has been slowing down the Earth's rotation these days. Naturally, this causes major concern for those with nothing better to do with their lives than seek perfection in universal timekeeping.

To solve this dilemma, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service, a group of global timekeeping regulators, adds an extra second to all clocks on the planet in order to keep them in sync. This event takes place every few years, on New Year's Eve or the last day of June. The last such occurrence was in 1998.

However, no good deed goes unpunished. On January 1, 1996, the addition of a leap second caused computers at Associated Press Radio to start broadcasting the wrong tape. The Russian global positioning system broke down for 20 hours when attempting to add a leap second and a leap-second bug resulted in GPS receivers from Motorola Inc. displaying the time as half past 62 o'clock to customers. Plus there is a safety risk that the failure by programmers to add a leap second might shut down air traffic control systems.

Because of numerous problems whenever a leap second is added, Dennis D. McCarthy, Navy's "Director of Time," drafted a leap-second proposal on behalf of the U. S. Government to eliminate leap seconds. Ending leap seconds would in effect cause the sun to rise later and set later by a factor of a few seconds each decade. This proposal was presented secretly to the International Telecommunications Union of the United Nations in 2004.

When word began to leak out about the proposal, it caused an uproar among astronomers. Daniel Gambis, the Earth Rotation Service's leap-second chief at the Paris Observatory, called it an "intrusion into scientific dialog" and another American power play. Ninety percent of his colleagues surveyed agreed.

The problem is that modern telescopes use the exact time and the Earth's position for aiming purposes when directing the system to point to a specific star. Astronomers argue that removing the link between time and the sun would require making changes to their telescopes at a cost between $10,000 and $500,000 per facility.

From 1884 to 1961, the world set its official clocks to Greenwich Mean Time which is based on the actual rise and set of the stars as seen from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, just outside London. In 1961, the world changed to the current Coordinated Universal Time tied to extremely precise atomic clocks and began to add leap seconds to keep the official time within one second to Greenwich Mean Time. But the U. S. proposal of eliminating leap seconds would cause the world's official time to slowly drift away from Greenwich Mean Time.

Abolishing leap seconds is vigorously opposed by the British. Some British politicians fear it will further exacerbate the general anti-Europe feeling that has been festering since the advent of the European Union.

To add a leap second or not to add a leap second, that is the question -- whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of astronomers and the Brits, or to take arms against a sea of troubles caused by unforeseen glitches.

If this is a major quandary in your life, perhaps you should switch to decaf.

In a world of madness and chaos, a few seconds here and there hardly matters to most of us. Personally, I hope they add an hour or two to every day – I can use the extra sleep.

If time flies when you’re having fun, it hits full throttle when you don’t have enough of it. Time is the Great Teacher that kills all its students, to be reborn yet again and again.

Time is infinity -- a figure eight. At its center is the Point of Eternal Return.

Quote for the Day – “Supposedly time heals all wounds, but you actually have to heal them yourself.” Bret

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and where time is always now. His blogs appear on several websites, including

Friday, September 4, 2009

Salt of the Earth

Sodium chloride (NaCl) is a crystalline compound called salt. According to a publication called THE SODIUM COUNTER, the average American's salt intake is 2 to 3 teaspoons per day. This provides 4,000 to 6,000 milligrams of sodium a day. The Food and Drug Administration recommends a maximum daily quantity of 2,400 milligrams.

Sodium helps pass fluids between cells, while potassium exists mainly on the inside of the cells. These two minerals, crucial for maintaining health in every cell in the body, must be in balance to absorb nutrients and eliminate waste within cell membranes. A deficiency or excess of either mineral compromises the health of cells.

Along with potassium, sodium is required for the proper functioning of our nerves and contraction of our muscles (including the heart). Sodium is also necessary for the production of hydrochloric acid, a digestive enzyme for digesting protein, and to maintain fluid balance, electrolyte balance and pH (acid/alkaline) balance.

Excessive salt consumption has been associated with high blood pressure, calcium deficiency, osteoporosis, fluid retention, weight gain, stomach ulcers, stomach cancer and strokes. Too little salt can cause spasms and poor heart rhythms (increasing the risk of a heart attack). As with many things in life, a proper balance is the key.

Ann Louise Gittleman, N.D., M.S., author of a book titled GET THE SALT OUT, believes we consume too much sodium. In addition, the highly refined nature of table salt is a major problem. During the refining of table salt, natural sea salt or rock salt, more than 60 trace minerals are stripped and essential macro-nutrients are lost.

She writes, "Commercial refined salt is not only stripped of all its minerals, besides sodium and chloride, but is also heated at such high temperatures that the chemical structure changes. In addition, it is chemically cleaned and bleached and treated with anti-caking agents that prevent salt from mixing with water in the salt container."

When combined with water in the human body, instead of dissolving, these anti-caking agents build up in the body and leave deposits in organs and tissue, causing severe health problems.

The most common anti-caking agents used in the mass production of salt are aluminum-oxide silicates. Aluminum is a toxic metal that has recently been implicated in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

To make matters worse, the aluminum used in salt production leaves a bitter taste, so manufacturers usually add dextrose (a form of sugar) to hide the taste of aluminum. So you're not only getting salt that won't dissolve in your system, but you're also getting "refined" sugar which is an added health risk for many people.

Salt is routinely added to most processed food, from snack foods to canned goods to soda pop to bread. According to Gittleman, "It's even hidden in cereals like cornflakes and desserts like instant chocolate pudding."

If salt intake is a concern, you need to become a label reader when purchasing food products in the grocery store. Although sodium requirements vary among individuals, Gittleman recommends making foods with 140 milligrams or less of sodium as staples and adding extra salt at the table if needed.

When I lived in Arizona (1987-1992), I discovered a product in a local health food store called RealSalt, a pollutant-free salt (non-coloring, non-additive, non-bleached, non-kiln-dried) with a full complement of trace minerals, extracted from an ancient seabed in Utah. I've been using it ever since.

RealSalt can be purchased via

Another problem is the practice of softening water. The American Heart Association warns that salt-softened water can cause elevated sodium levels, not only from drinking it, but also from showering or bathing in it because sodium is very efficiently absorbed through the skin.

A healthy body is a balanced body. But the proper intake of minerals for one individual may not be the proper intake for someone else. Figuring out the proper balance for oneself is worth the effort.

Life is an endless exercise of trial and error, involving everyday choices.

Choose wisely and don't give up.

Quote for the Day – “Trust no one unless you have eaten much salt with him.” Cicero

Bret Burquest is an award-winning columnist and author of four novels. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a dog named Buddy Lee and the Ghost of Herman Melville. His blogs appear on several websites, including