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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● When King James V of Scotland died in 1542, his daughter Mary Stuart became Queen of Scotland — at the age of six days old.

● Cheese is the world’s most commonly shoplifted food item.

● Every year, scientists discover about 18,000 new species of plants and animals, half of which are insects.

● In 1887, a partial skeleton of the three-horned dinosaur Triceratops was unearthed by geologist George L. Cannon near Denver. Dinosaurs being a bit of a new concept in those days, Cannon thought the bones were those of an especially large and unusual bison. Only after a third and more complete skeleton was found did Cannon see his mistake.

● The National Park System consists of 423 sites, 63 of which are full-blown National Parks.

Bonasa umbellus, the ruffed grouse, is a game bird native to Canada and the eastern US. Umbellus is Latin for umbrella or sunshade, referring to the bird’s showy neck plumage. Bonasa comes from the Latin words bonus (good)and assum (roasted).

● An ant can lift about 50 times its own weight.

● The word orangutan comes from the Malaysian words orang, meaning “person,” and hutan, meaning “forest.” It usually is translated as “man of the forest.”

Thoughts du Jour

Nope

Recently, just for something different, I bought a copy of Mother Earth News, a how-to magazine about sustainable farming, natural gardening, simple living, etc. Among the articles was a story by a woman who raises Guinea Hogs, a breed of small black pigs.

The author described the animals as intelligent, friendly, and gentle. She said one of her females, Louise, enjoys belly rubs, ear scratches, and going to the park on Saturday to listen to banjo music. Guinea Hogs are “full of personality,” she wrote. “They’re easy to love and easy to handle.”

She then added, “They also provide delicious pork and lard.”

People, I am as carnivorous as the next guy, but killing and eating animals that literally live as pets — that’s just wrong. Don’t lovingly raise animals you plan to murder and consume. Don’t name your pig Louise and take her to the park and then execute her for bacon. Jeez Louise.

The Miracle

In 1954, I was a 12-year-old 7th-grader living in Panama City, Florida. On one memorable spring Saturday, Mom and Dad took us kids to the Bay County Fair, which, incidentally, dates back to 1945 and still operates today.

In those days, children rarely were supervised. If you were old enough to take care of yourself, you were chased from the house and told to “go play” and stay out of trouble until suppertime. Thus, when we got to the fair, I was given a dollar and set loose to have fun, stay out of trouble, and return at a specified time.

Rides at the fair cost about 25 cents, drinks and snacks about 10 cents. I was delighted to have that dollar, but I knew it wouldn’t go far. I would need to spend it wisely.

Then, a miracle happened.

Something on the ground a few steps ahead caught my eye. I approached. To my utter astonishment, it was — gasp — a federal reserve note — the beautiful, unmistakable green of cash money. I picked it up, heart pounding.

Holy mother of God, it was a five-dollar bill!

Five dollars! I was rich! In my sheer ecstasy, I nearly fainted.

How I spent my riches at the fair that day, I don’t recall. But I spent every glorious penny of it.

For the record, I did not tell Mom and Dad about my good fortune. They would have made me save some of it or share it with my brothers.

As if.

Hoarding

We common folk justifiably get steamed at how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And usually, most of the ire is aimed at billionaires — Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates — because it gives you a face you despise and want to punch.

But there are institutional targets that deserve the vitriol even more. Take, for example, the obscenely wealthy churches of the world. Organized religion is, after all, simply a type of business enterprise — exempt from taxation, mind you — designed to make a profit.

The Mormon Church is worth a whopping $100 billion, which is amazing for its relatively small size. The Catholic Church no doubt has a net worth of many times that, but its wealth is off the scale to such a degree — vast gold deposits, extensive physical assets, webs of investments, priceless works of art — that the Holy See itself likely doesn’t know its own value.

Speaking of value, you may not be aware that the British royal family is worth $88 billion. And that the Kuwaiti royal family is worth $360 billion. And that the Saudi royal family is worth $1.4 trillion.

All that wealth, hoarded to no real purpose, when a small percentage of it would lift all eight billion souls on this planet out of poverty.

As if.

The Questions…

1. What animal has the largest eyeballs?

2. In the Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown’s father was never seen, but his occupation was mentioned. What was it?

3. Apple seeds contain trace amounts of what deadly poison?

4. How long does it take to hard-boil an egg?

5. What is Earth’s largest single structure made by living organisms?

The Answers…

1. The giant squid. Its eyeballs are about the size of your head.

2. Mr. Brown was a barber, as was the father of Peanuts creator Charles Schultz.

3. Cyanide. You would have to eat about 140 seeds to ingest a lethal dose.

4. Seven minutes.

5. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It is a system of reefs and islands made up of billions of living coral polyps growing atop the remains of deceased polyps. The Reef is a delicate ecosystem that supports a wide variety of marine life and, no surprise, is steadily succumbing to pollution.

Quotes o’ the Day

It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.

Thomas Sowell

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To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.

Voltaire

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If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason and Dixon’s, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other.

Ulysses S. Grant

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Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.

Denis Diderot

Sowell

Diderot

Birds of a Feather

Spring is here, and, like the pine pollen, politics is in the air. Primary elections are approaching, and the candidates are going all out to inflame the voters.

Sometimes, I feel like I’m living in Nazi Germany. Most of the locals voted for Trump in 2016 and would again. They are lifelong, closed-minded conservatives, most of whom see outsiders, non-whites, and Democrats as menacing in a manner they can’t quite explain.

As you know, back in 2020, the Democrats won Georgia’s two US Senate seats, which stunned and enraged the MAGA crowd. Worse, a handful of GOP elected officials here, including the Governor and the Secretary of State, unexpectedly found the integrity to declare Biden the winner in Georgia.

To this day, cries of “RINOs!” ring out. The offending officeholders, now anathema to Trump and his minions, are being vigorously primaried.

In Georgia, Trump has endorsed candidates for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, and the one Senate seat on the ballot this year. Trump’s choices, I assure you, are deplorable.

One of them, hoping to challenge Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, is even mentally ill. Literally. Certifiably and admittedly.

Herschel Walker, the former football player, is a typical, fanatical, space-cadet Trump supporter. Walker claims — get this — that the January 6 insurrection in Washington was a false flag operation orchestrated by the Democrats.

More to the point, Walker has for years suffered from “multiple personality disorder.” The condition has a new name now, but the original is nicely descriptive. Walker wrote a book about his struggles with it.

Supposedly residing in his head are half a dozen personalities, ranging from benign to violent. Apparently, any of the personalities can emerge and recede unbidden. I assume he is being medicated to keep the various Herschels in check.

Some years ago, one of the more violent Herschels pointed a pistol at his wife’s head, threatened her with a knife, and held a straight razor to her throat. After she wisely divorced him, he threatened to kill her and her new boyfriend, whereupon a court banned him from owning guns.

There’s more. For years, Walker publicly claimed he was the valedictorian of his high school graduating class. His high school said they had no valedictorian during the years Walker attended.

He also claimed he graduated from the University of Georgia in the top one percent of his class; the University points out that Walker dropped out of UGA in his junior year to sign with the New Jersey Generals, never graduated, and had a B average while at UGA.

Walker later amended the story to say that, years later, he re-enrolled at UGA and then graduated in the top one percent of his class. The University says no, he never re-enrolled and never graduated.

So, this is the person today’s Republicans support for the US Senate — a lying, mentally ill conspiracy theorist.

Well, of course it is. Birds of a feather, right?

This Just In

PASADENA, CALIFORNIA — A 36-year-old woman wearing only a t-shirt was arrested for breaking into the home of an 80-year-old Pasadena man and attacking him with a coffee cup. Firefighters treated the man for cuts on his face and knuckles.

Police initially responded to a report of a partially-clad woman lying in the street. By the time officers arrived, the woman had run into the elderly man’s back yard. Hearing noises outside, the man opened the back door. The woman burst in, ran to a bathroom, and locked herself in.

Minutes later, she ran out of the bathroom and attacked the man with a coffee cup. He fought her off with his cane and forced her out of the house, where police arrested her.

The unidentified suspect was remanded to a detention facility in lieu of $30,000 bail. A court date is pending. Police gave no explanation for the women’s behavior.

DALTON, GEORGIA — A missing German Shepherd was found and reunited with its Chicago family after being lost in the North Georgia woods for over four months.

On October 30, the family was visiting Dalton when their dog Leo, age 10, slipped out of a motel room and vanished. The owners remained in Dalton for two weeks searching for Leo, but finally had to return to Chicago.

According to the Atlanta-based Lost Pet Recovery Team, Leo was spotted on a residential security camera in December and was seen again in early February in the same general area. Recovery Teams put out food and installed a series of trail cameras and traps.

In early March, a trap finally snared Leo, who was in good condition. Family members have since returned to Dalton and taken Leo home.

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND — An Irish pub in Nottingham has placed a photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the urinal in the men’s room and invited its customers to do the right thing.

Ged Dowling, owner of Raglan Road Irish Bar, said the action was a direct response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. “People come in just to use the toilet,” Dowling said.

Putin’s photo replaces one of Donald Trump, which had been in the urinal for several years.

Greatest Attraction

The science fiction short story below by Arnold Marmor, like another Marmor story I posted back in January, is more evidence he was a fan of black humor.

I included bio information with the January story. Marmor was an interesting character.

———

Marty the Martian

By Arnold Marmor
Published in Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy, August 1954

It’s still very clear in my mind. The whole episode. The afternoon visit to Marsten’s office, the trip to Mars, and the journey back.

It was one of those warm summer afternoons. All one craved for was a patch of green grass to recline on and maybe a faint breeze to tingle one’s forehead. I was sure of the grass and hopeful for the breeze. But one of Marsten’s messengers popped up and the grass and the breeze would have to wait. After all, Marsten was my boss.

He had his office in the Empire State Building. Norbert Marsten was the owner of the Marsten Circus, the greatest, biggest, loudest circus in the world. And if you don’t believe it, ask Mr. Marsten.

“Sit down, Nick,” he invited, speaking from one corner of his mouth as the other corner was busy chewing a dollar cigar. Marsten was a small man with sleek black, hair. A small man with big ideas.

I sat down.

“Nick, you’re the best ‘bring ’em back alive’ man I’ve got. The best.”

This was very true. “You’ve got a job for me,” I said.

“That’s correct.”

“So why the buildup? Tell me what you want.”

“I want something that no other circus has.”

“You must be kidding. You have every known animal there is. Why, the bushmaster I brought you two months ago is the longest — “

“It isn’t exactly an animal I want.”

“Oh? You mean you want a performer? What the hell have I got to do — “

“What I want is out of this world.”

“A different kind of act? I still say — “

“I want a Martian.”

I was glad I didn’t have a mirror in front of my face. I could imagine how foolish I looked with my mouth hanging open.

“I even have a name picked out for him,” Marsten persisted. “Marty, the Martian. What do you think of that?”

I stood up slowly. “Let me know when you’ve recovered.”

Marsten came around the desk. “Sit down. Now listen to me. Did you ever hear of a man named Hendrick Ritter?”

“No.”

“The greatest scientist in the world. He’s been working for me for over a year. I hired him to do one particular job for me: to concoct a fuel that will get a space ship to Mars and back. Well, it’s done. Did you ever hear of a man named Sam Young?”

“Same answer as before.”

“He’s a designer for air ships. The best in the business. He’s finished a job for me. And, Nick, it’s already built. And I’ve got Joe Roane working for me.”

“I’ve heard of him,” I said.

“The greatest pilot in the world,” Marsten said.

“The greatest this, the greatest that. And for what? Why, the ship probably won’t get off the ground.”

Marsten chewed furiously on his cigar. “But what if it does get off the ground? What if it does get to Mars?”

“All right. So what? How do you know there’s life on Mars?”

“There is. I hired the greatest — “

“Oh, no,” I groaned. “I believe you, I believe you. So now we’re on Mars.”

“You capture a Martian and bring him back.”

“What if he doesn’t care to be captured?”

“What do I pay you for?”

I thought this out, then said, “To capture Martians.”

“Exactly.”

“You wouldn’t settle for a moon maiden, would you? I heard they’re cute. And sexy.”

“A Martian.” He was very adamant. “I’ll have the greatest attraction in the world. Nick, I’m the kind who gets what he wants. I’ve spent over three million dollars on this project and I’m ready to spend another three million. Just get me my Martian and you’ll be a rich man. You’ll be rich enough to quit working for me and to tell me to go to hell. You’d like that, wouldn’t you?”

“I’d like that very much.”

Two weeks later we went to Arizona. A week after that we took off. I didn’t really think we would. But we did.

Just me and Joe Roane. Two men in a space ship.

A huge metal tube hurtling through the longest and blackest of nights.

Joe Roane was a good-looking chap. Good-looking, young, and excited. He was the first to pilot a ship to Mars. He was looking ahead to the glory that awaited him.

We landed on Mars.

We put on helmets that Ritter and Young had made for us. We stepped down the metal ladder.

They were there, waiting for us.

I’d rather have faced a bushmaster or a rhino.

They stood on three legs. They had globe bellies, tiny heads, and no necks. They were of a color I had never seen before. They had two arms with two hands attached to each arm. I suppose they were hands. They were more like claws.

I stood frozen solid. Joe Roane screamed and turned to run back up the ladder. A beam flashed and Joe fell forward, silent and very dead.

After that it was all a blank.

When I came to I was strapped down by metal clasps on a long board made of some kind of marble. I was alone for some time.

I don’t remember how long it was before one of them appeared. He stood by my side, looking down at me. His eyes were purple. There were no whites. “You have come a long way,” he said.

“You — you speak English?”

“We used a 64-V machine on you. We learned your language, your thoughts, your name. We know about Norbert Marsten. A very enterprising man, it seems.”

“What are you going to do with me?”

“We haven’t decided yet. So you were going to take one of us back with you for Marsten’s circus. To exhibit one of us to your stupid race. My followers wanted to kill you when this information was learned. But I believe I have a better idea.”

He went away. I yelled for him to come back. I yelled till my throat was dry. Eventually he did come back. He came back with Joe Roane and… myself.

“I want you to meet Klar and Grat,” he said. “They have taken over your bodies; you will take theirs—and return to Marsten. We have a transformer machine to accomplish this. Only we never had an opportunity to use it until you were so gracious as to visit us.” He spoke on, telling me of his idea. I shuddered and wished for death. I begged him to kill me.

Then a contraption was fitted over me and it hummed and I passed out. I remember the trip back to earth.

I’m no longer Nick Faber. I’m Marty the Martian. What a cute title Marsten had hung on me. I’ve got a nice home and I get plenty to eat. Only my home is a cage and it’s made of glass. People come from all over the world just to see me. And Marsten has been to see me every day. He chews on his big cigar and there’s a smile on his face a yard wide.

I’ve tried to talk to my keepers but all I can manage is some crazy kind of gibberish. I also see Klar and Grat. But they’re only there when Marsten is around. They’re keeping very close to him.

My being transformed into a Martian was just part of it. Klar and Grat were going to carry out the rest of it.

On one dark night, and very soon, Klar, Grat, and Marsten were going to disappear.

Maybe I was the greatest attraction on earth. But Norbert Marsten was going to be the greatest attraction on Mars.

Corruption

Corruption in government — all forms of government at every level — is inevitable. The reason: human nature.

Consider how the world’s major political/economic systems function, in theory.

Communism

Under the doctrine of communism, private ownership is forbidden. Rich big shots do not run things, and the concept of “I’m for me first” is off the table.

Instead, the economy is owned jointly by the people. Government is tasked with overseeing the distribution of resources and making sure everyone is treated fairly and equally.

There is a fatal flaw, however, in that last part about the role of government. No government ever, anywhere, has managed to handle the oversight as intended. For that reason, communism simply never works except in theory.

Nothing says it can’t work. Nothing says government officials can’t do the job. In truth, plenty of people — in all kinds of economic systems — want to do the right thing. But they cannot succeed because too many of their fellow officials use their positions for personal gain or other nefarious reasons. Inevitably, corruption wins.

Socialism

The doctrine of socialism is a sort of communism lite. It is a less fire-breathing, more civilized approach to achieving economic and social equality. Some variations of socialism even tolerate a smidgen of capitalism.

When Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto in 1848, they described communism as a working-class movement designed to dismantle the power structure. As for socialism, Engels dismissed it completely.

He called socialism a middle-class movement touted by “social quacks who, by all manner of tinkering, professed to redress, without any danger to capital and profit, all sorts of social grievances.” Socialists just weren’t bloodthirsty enough for Engels.

Capitalism

Capitalism is equally flawed, and maybe more susceptible to corruption than other political-economic systems. Under American capitalism, the ruling elite have become obscenely rich, and the non-rich fight over the scraps.

Today in the United States, virtually every level of government, local, state, and national, is owned by special interests. Most people who run for public office know perfectly well how the system works, and they intend to use it for personal or political advantage.

Even good people with good intentions know the system is rotten. Maybe they should be admired for their tenacity, but they can’t win. In time, the American form of capitalism will implode and be replaced by… something nasty and authoritarian, most likely.

Every form of governance since the Stone Age, I suspect, eventually succumbed to corruption and was replaced by whatever evolved next.

The Rise of Autocracy

On paper, five nations formally are communist-controlled: China, Cuba, North Korea, Laos, and Vietnam. Russia is by no means a communist country. It’s an ordinary dictatorship that created a toothless, phony opposition and thereby claims to be democratic.

In the six countries aforementioned, de facto dictatorships arose because of the totalitarian power of the governments. All six have flipped from the left wing to the right and are, in fact, more fascistic than communistic.

Which helps explain why conservatives in the US, who for decades have bellowed about the evils of communism, have decided that Putin is a savvy, admirable guy.

You’ve probably heard them say, Well, if Putin wants Ukraine, why should we care? After all, Ukraine was part of Russia once.

It’s true that both countries once were part of the USSR, but things change. Empires rise and fall, and actually, Ukraine was here first. It emerged in the Middle Ages, and at one time, all of Russia was part of it.

But, facts and conservatives, like oil and water, do not mix readily.

Nothing is a bigger turn-on to the average Republican than an autocrat flexing his muscles, The soul of every right-winger craves a dominating father figure.

A corrupt one will do.

Pix o’ the Day

More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.