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The Questions…

1. What is globophobia?

2. What is the difference between a meteor, a meteoroid, and a meteorite?

3. How many time zones does the world have?

4. What is the world’s oldest rainforest?

5. What is the Neon Boneyard?

The Answers…

1. Fear of balloons.

2. A meteoroid is a chunk of material passing outside of Earth’s atmosphere. If it enters the atmosphere, it becomes a meteor. A piece that reaches Earth’s surface is a meteorite.

3. 24.

4. The Daintree Rainforest in northeastern Australia. It is an estimated 180 million years old, 10 million years older than the Amazon.

5. A museum in Las Vegas, the final resting place of retired neon signs from the city’s past, many of which are historically significant.

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Tune o’ the Day

You gotta love a song that includes the line, “There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.”

According to Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, he began writing this song several years earlier, when Syd Barrett was kicked out of the band for excessive drug use and mental issues. The tune finally appeared on the album “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

Waters said the famous opening line “The lunatic is on the grass” referred not to marijuana, but to ignoring signs that ask you to keep off the grass. Waters also observed that most of us are mentally unbalanced to some degree and could easily end up meeting on the “dark side of the moon.”

No wonder this tune is a favorite of psychologists and philosophers.

Bonus fact: the laughter sprinkled throughout the song came from Peter Watts, the band’s road manager, who died of a drug overdose in 1976. His daughter is actress Naomi Watts.

Brain Damage

By Pink Floyd, 1973
Written by Roger Waters

The lunatic is on the grass.
The lunatic is on the grass.
Remembering games and daisy chains and laughs.
Got to keep the loonies on the path.

The lunatic is in the hall.
The lunatics are in my hall.
The paper holds their folded faces to the floor,
And every day the paper boy brings more.

And if the dam breaks open many years too soon,
And if there is no room upon the hill,
And if your head explodes with dark forebodings, too,
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

The lunatic is in my head.
The lunatic is in my head.
You raise the blade. You make the change.
You re-arrange me ’til I’m sane.

You lock the door
And throw away the key.
There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.

And if the cloudbursts thunder in your ear,
You shout, and no one seems to hear.

And if the band you’re in starts playing different tunes,
I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.

https://rockysmith.files.wordpress.com/2021/08/brain-damage.mp3

Thoughts du Jour

Legacy

Savannah, Georgia, is a fairyland in the spring. The neighborhoods come alive with amazing flowering trees and shrubs — camellias, oleander, lantana, and most especially, azaleas. Countless azaleas in dozens of varieties and colors.

For nearly a century, the Smith family home was 201 Kinzie Avenue in Savannah’s Gordonston neighborhood. My dad and his siblings grew up there. My aunt lived there until she died a few years ago and the old place finally was sold.

When I think of that house, I think first of the beautiful, head-high azalea plants that encircle it. Those azaleas were so healthy and lush that every few years, they have to be pruned back to waist high.

But not until I was an adult did I learn their origin story. To the older generations, the details were well known and didn’t need repeating. When my aunt finally realized that we kids didn’t know the story, she explained.

My grandfather was a fairly well-known Savannah businessman, and when he died in the early 1950s, friends and neighbors remembered him by presenting potted azaleas to the Smith family. When planted, they completely encircled the house.

Within a few years, they had grown thick and massive, creating a multi-colored display each spring that was the envy of Gordonston.

The Smiths have moved on, but the old house is still ringed with those magnificent azaleas. A fitting legacy.

Guns and Religion

Back in 2008, then-Senator Barack Obama got in trouble for saying in a campaign speech that many white working-class Americans “cling to guns and religion” because they are bitter about the poor economy and the loss of jobs. He caught a lot of heat and eventually had to apologize, sort of, for the wording.

Actually, however, Obama was 100 percent correct, and he made an important point. Consider what he said in full:

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow, these communities are going to regenerate. And they have not.

So it’s not surprising, then, that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy to people who aren’t like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment, or anti-trade sentiment, as a way to explain their frustrations.


Obama blamed the situation, not the victims, but people are responsible for their own actions. Few among us are saints. People who are frightened and desperate will react badly and lash out. They can become petty and cruel and, of course, easily manipulated by people in the manipulation business.

Obama probably didn’t realize he was warning us of what was to come: the rise of Trump and the off-the-rails, nutjob Republicans of today.

The Squash Police

About a year ago, Jake and I were walking along a quiet side street near downtown Jefferson when the door of a real estate office opened, and a portly woman angrily confronted me.

“How about if I took my dogs to your house and let them pee in YOUR yard? Would you like that?” She turned and stormed back into her office.

I didn’t understand why walking a dog along a public street was so offensive or called for such histrionics, so I went into the office to inquire further.

She said her grandkids often visit the office, and they play in the yard, where Jake has been seen relieving himself.

No problem. I told her I would keep Jake away from her lawn in the future. Further, being a shrewd judge of character, I pegged her as a whiny jerk, always poised to perceive a slight.

One morning recently, Jake and I again passed the woman’s office. We were on the opposite side of the street, where someone is growing a small patch of yellow squash. As Jake snuffled around the undergrowth, a voice behind me said, “Does the dog like squash?” I turned to see the portly woman watching us from her front porch.

“The dog is walking in that man’s squash patch,” she said. “Does the dog want some squash?”

“Jake is walking near the squash patch, but not in it,” I said. “I’d say he’s about a yard away.”

I wanted to ask if she worked for the Squash Police, but I knew she has a beefy, sour-looking male co-worker, so I refrained.

Besides, I’m a nice guy. Not a whiny jerk, always poised to perceive a slight.

Quotes o’ the Day

All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.

Toni Morrison

———

To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.

Thomas Paine

———

Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.

William Shakespeare

———

I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.

Stephen Jay Gould

Morrison

Gould

Pix o’ the Day

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

This is the Life

Me and the Shorebirds

It is August 2002, a few minutes after sunrise. I am at the tidal pool at the mouth of St. Andrews Bay in Panama City Beach, Florida. No one is there except me and the shorebirds.

I am 50 yards from shore, chest deep in the water, on my tiptoes, approaching the jetties. In my left hand is an older Nikon DSLR that I told myself was expendable, but which I am terrified of dropping. The camera survived.

The water is impossibly clear, impossibly aquamarine. Ten feet in front of me, pelicans line up along the jetty rocks. I shoot photos by the dozens, and I think to myself, this is the life.

Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Olympus Mons, an extinct volcano on Mars, is 16 miles high, almost three times taller than Mt. Everest.

● In the 1970s, future pop star Madonna Ciccone dropped out of college and moved to New York City. She took a job at a Dunkin’ Donuts, but was fired on her first day for squirting jelly filling on a customer.

● April 12 is National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day.

● In 1850, a French violin maker invented the octobass, a stringed instrument designed to produce ultra-low sounds, including sounds that fall below the range of human hearing. The octobass has three strings and is some 12 feet tall. Today, the only octobass not in a museum is owned by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

● In 2013, Russia changed a long-standing law that classified all beverages with less than 10 percent alcohol by volume as soft drinks. The change thus classified beer as an alcoholic beverage in Russia for the first time.

● One teaspoon of healthy soil (e.g., soil enriched with compost) easily can contain six billion microorganisms, doing their thing to decompose organic matter and free up nutrients for reuse. To put six billion in perspective, the current human population of the planet is 7.9 billion.

● Your body contains about 1.3 gallons of blood. Blood cells make a full circuit of your vessels in about one minute.

● The screaming hairy armadillo, so named because it squeals like crazy when handled and is hairier than other armadillos, is native to central and southern South America. It is the smallest of the armadillos, adults being about a foot long. They live in underground burrows and eat plants, bugs, lizards, and an occasional mouse.

This Just In

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Biologists with the Fish and Wildlife service found a live baby turtle in the stomach of a 15-pound largemouth bass and extracted it unharmed. The turtle, not the bass.

The biologists were in the Everglades catching bass for research when they noticed that the stomach of one of the fish was moving. They carefully opened the fish and discovered the turtle. After determining that the turtle was uninjured, they released it into the water.

KHARTOUM, SUDAN — A Boeing 737 en route to Qatar was forced to return to Khartoum for an emergency landing after a stowaway cat appeared in the cockpit and could not be subdued.

The cat, believed to be a feral stray, emerged from hiding 30 minutes into the flight and caused a major uproar, including attacking the pilot. When crew members were unable to capture or corner the cat, the decision was made to turn back.

Officials said the aircraft had been cleaned the night before the flight. They assume the cat slipped inside and found a concealed space to sleep.

DOLGELLAU, WALES — In January, a border collie was sold at auction for $38,893, setting a new world record for the sale of a trained herding dog.

The dog was a one-year-old named Kim who, according to her trainer, has the skills of a three-year-old. Kim was purchased by a farmer in Staffordshire.

The previous record was $26,088, set last October with the sale of Henna, another female border collie from Wales.

Kim’s trainer said, “She was doing everything. She worked cattle and sheep, and she was ready for any trials or farm work for anybody.”

A Nefarious Practice

This post is about the nefarious practice of gerrymandering, a form of underhanded nastiness that politicians — mostly, but not exclusively, conservative politicians — have elevated to an art form.

Because I live in the Deep South, which is dominated by diehard “Christian conservatives,” I am saddled with a congressman who, by rational standards, is a deplorable jerk and a genuine threat to democracy.

More about the deplorable jerk directly, but first, as you undoubtedly know, gerrymandering is the manipulation of electoral boundaries to favor one’s political party. The process is dirty, cynical and quite effective.

Gerrymandering is named for Gov. Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts, who in 1812 created a voting district that benefited his party, the Democratic-Republicans, and was mocked for resembling a salamander.


1812 Boston Globe editorial cartoon satirizing Gov. Gerry’s carefully created voting district.

Today, gerrymandering is so common across the country that it’s almost the norm. I am most familiar with what the GOP has done to the congressional districts of Georgia, so I’ll begin there.

Georgia’s cities are Democratic strongholds, so the Republicans have sabotaged them via strategic gerrymandering. Consider this map of Georgia’s congressional districts.

Atlanta, Athens, Augusta, Savannah, and Columbus once stood as their own congressional districts, but were combined with enough surrounding rural counties to overcome the Democrats’ advantage.

Atlanta was broken into half a dozen different districts. Athens was sliced down the middle, the two halves being absorbed into, and neutered by, the sea of GOP voters in congressional districts 9 and 10.

The fate of Athens is especially galling because the city was, and still is, a liberal bastion. It was not only subjugated by the GOP, but is now represented by two especially wild-eyed and extremist nutjob Republicans.

One of them is my deplorable jerk of a congressman, the district 9 representative, Andrew Clyde.

This is the same Andrew Clyde who famously described the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 as a “normal tourist visit.”

This is the same Andrew Clyde who was photographed in obvious panic as Trump’s white supremacist goons tried to break into the House chamber while chanting “Hang Mike Pence.”

Clyde is (sigh) the owner of the Clyde Armory, a giant Athens gun store. He got into politics because, well, the opportunity presented itself.

He is a typical bellicose right-winger who toes the party line and has no need to give the issues any thought. He is a textbook example of a conservative whose brain rarely functions at a higher level than reptilian mode.

In March 2020, before Clyde was elected to Congress, the accelerating spread of COVID prompted Athens-Clarke County to issue an emergency order requiring non-essential businesses, including the Clyde Armory, to close temporarily.

Clyde went insane. He flooded the media with hysterical rants, and he sued Athens-Clarke County, claiming the ordinance was unconstitutional and would injure his business irreparably. As if anything known to man could hurt the bottom line of a gun store.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, and he warned Clyde and his lawyers not to come back to court unless they could demonstrate a better understanding of the issues and the law.

Clyde was elected to Congress handily and took office in January 2021. He won because he is a hidebound conservative and a gun nut, traits that resonate with the local rednecks.

It is ironically fitting, then, that the GOP representative from district 10, Jody Hice, is a long-time “Christian right” preacher and a right-wing radio talk show host.

Hice quit preaching when he ran for Congress, but he still hosts a daily radio program for Let Freedom Ring Ministries, Inc. That worthy organization is “dedicated to keeping America’s Judeo-Christian heritage and values in the mainstream.”

I’m not sure why they included “Judeo” in the motto. “White” would have been more descriptive.

Not long ago, Hice introduced a bill that would allow members of Congress to carry firearms, which probably earned him a donation from the Clyde Armory.

Hice, incidentally, won’t be in Congress much longer. He is running to replace Republican Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia Secretary of State who refused to overturn the 2020 election results. As you recall, Georgia not only went for Biden, but also elected two Democratic senators.

Raffensperger, of course, is now persona non grata with the GOP and probably will lose in the primaries. Hice may well get the job, and will be in charge of Georgia’s electoral system, unless the Democrats can pull off another miracle.

These are scary times for democracy, people.

Two noxious byproducts of gerrymandering: Andrew Clyde and Jody Hice.