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Posts Tagged ‘Miscellaneous’

If you can convince the lowest white man that he is better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you are picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll even empty his pockets for you.

Lyndon Johnson

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The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame.

Oscar Wilde

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Capitalism does not permit an even flow of economic resources. With this system, a small privileged few are rich beyond conscience, and almost all others are doomed to be poor at some level. That’s the way the system works. And since we know that the system will not change the rules, we are going to have to change the system.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Extraterrestrial societies could be far more advanced than we are, perhaps by billions of years… and they may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.

Stephen Hawking

Johnson

Hawking

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Friends, I am a skeptical guy and proud of it. It pays to be skeptical.

I also have a healthy BS detector. BS detection is an essential ability.

Together, my skepticism and BS detector help me avoid being relieved of money by those looking to profit at my expense, whether illegally or by selling me something I don’t need.

The key in this respect is simple: just remember that no business or institution will offer a product or service unless they will derive an acceptable profit from the transaction. Period.

My mortgage company, for example, constantly reminds me that refinancing my mortgage, or taking out a second mortgage, will solve all my problems and improve my life immeasurably. It will be quick and easy. Give us a call.

Translation: borrow more money from us so we can collect more interest.

Another example is a relatively new entry in the insurance business: car repair insurance, aka mechanical breakdown insurance. It applies to repairs that are not accident-related and thus are not covered by your regular auto insurance. You’re probably familiar with ads for CarShield and others.

The fact is, most people never use the coverage — which is quite limited, not to mention saddled with deductibles. Ergo, repair insurance is a guaranteed money-maker for the providers.

And finally, my favorite: a truly artful scam, Medicare Part C.

Medicare Parts A and B provide basic, legitimate coverage from Uncle Sam. Part C consists of “Medicare Advantage” plans from private insurance companies. The idea was invented back in the 1990s by the Republicans under the second George Bush as a way for private industry to get on the Medicare bandwagon and make money.

In coverage as well as cost, Part C plans vary with the provider. The complexity is intentional. It creates a smokescreen that makes the cost and coverage unclear. Clarity does not serve the interests of the insurance provider.

Think about the barrage of advertising and mass mailings unleashed each year during the Part C enrollment period. The insurance industry would never, ever work so feverishly to sell Part C unless it yielded significant profits.

In reality, very few individuals benefit from buying Part C coverage. Experts say it may — may — benefit people who struggle to pay for real Medicare coverage under Parts A and B. Beyond that, Part C is a cash cow for the insurance companies.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

My advice: remember the key to skepticism and BS detection: no individual or entity will offer a product or service unless they will derive an acceptable profit from the transaction.

Period.

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More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● The Toyota Corporation was founded in 1937 by Japanese inventor Sakichi Toyoda to manufacture automatic looms to weave cloth.

● The smallest bones in the human body are the malleus, incus, and stapes bones located in the middle ear. They carry external sounds to your brain.

● The people of Turkey drink the most tea annually, consuming about seven pounds of tea leaves per person. Ireland is in second place with about five pounds per person.

● A cria (Spanish for baby) is a young llama, alpaca, vicuña, or guanaco, all of which are Latin American relatives of the camel. Llamas and alpacas are domesticated, whereas vicuñas and guanacos are wild, but are protected as endangered species.

● Wayne Allwine, a sound effects specialist for Disney Studios, was the voice of Mickey Mouse for 32 years — from 1977 until his death in 2009. In 1991, he married co-worker Russi Taylor, the voice of Minnie Mouse.

● Sweden has not been involved in a war since 1814.

● English is the native language of 350 million people. English is the second language of two billion people.

● The first know automobile accident occurred in 1891 in Ohio City, Ohio, when John William Lambert lost control of his vehicle and hit a hitching post. Lambert was driving a Lambert, a gasoline-powered, three-wheeled vehicle of his own design. He went on to hold over 600 automotive patents, but the Lambert brand couldn’t keep up with Ford et al and fizzled.

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The Questions…

1. What is the world’s largest known living organism?

2. What online service has the most users?

3. The term living room surfaced in the late 1800s. What were living rooms called before then?

4. When sea otters sleep, how do they keep from drifting away from each other?

5. Fireflies (Lampyridae), known for emitting light through the chemical process of bioluminescence, are classified as what type of insect?

The Answers…

1. The largest known organism is a massive network of honey mushroom fungus (Armillaria ostoyae) that occupies about 3.4 square miles in eastern Oregon. It is thought to be 2,400 years old. Locals call it the “humongous fungus.”

2. Facebook, which has an astounding 2.9 billion users. That’s more than the populations of China (1.4 billion) and India (1.3 billion) combined.

3. Mostly, they were called parlors, from the French verb parler (to speak) because that’s where people sat and talked. In the 1500s and 1600s, they sometimes were called drawing roomsshort for withdrawing, in the sense of withdrawing there for privacy.

4. They hold hands.

5. Fireflies are a variety of soft-bodied beetle.

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Thoughts du Jour

Business As Usual

My county school board doesn’t have a very good record. Some years ago, it built new schools in East Jackson County, and — oops — West Jackson grew faster. Then the board built a new county high school for $69 million that — oops — required portable classrooms the day it opened.

The old county high school became the “college and career center.” I’m not sure a career center needs a campus the size of a shopping mall, plus multiple acres of abandoned football, baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, and practice facilities, but it has them anyway.

Then there’s another matter that smells to high heaven. The old high school was a handsome two-tone brick structure. Brick — the stuff that lasts forever and is wonderfully low-maintenance. This is the old high school:

But before the building opened last fall as the career center, the school board had the entire school — all of those attractive and perfectly serviceable brown bricks — painted. All gazillion of them. This is the career center today:

The old high school — excuse me, the career center — is big and sprawling. Painting it took the contractor all summer.

I would love to know which government official that painting contractor is related to.

Survivor

In Montana in June 1876, General George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry was steamrolled in the Battle of the Little Bighorn by warriors of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes. Five of the regiment’s 12 companies were wiped out. Custer and 273 soldiers died.

Two days after the battle, Comanche, the horse of a slain 7th Cavalry officer, was found in a ditch badly wounded. Comanche was hailed as the sole survivor of the battle, but probably wasn’t. Some 100 cavalry horses are thought to have survived and were claimed by the victors.

Comanche suffered seven bullet wounds, but recovered and became a hero to the 7th Cavalry. The unit commander declared that the horse would live out his life in comfort and “will not be ridden by any person whatsoever, under any circumstances, nor will he be put to any kind of work.”

Comanche lived an easy life at Fort Riley, Kansas, until his death in 1891. For some grotesque reason, his body was stuffed, and, also for some grotesque reason, it remains on display today at the University of Kansas Natural History Museum.

Viral Agent

I avoid zombie movies because the idea of zombies is so trite and silly. People get infected, spazz out, cause chaos, and maybe eat brains. Eventually, an antidote is discovered, or they all get killed, or whatever. So tiresome.

A key concept of most zombie stories is that the victims were exposed to some kind of awful new virus. And it made me wonder if maybe, just maybe, something similar might explain the behavior of today’s Republicans.

Imagine an insidious viral agent that infiltrates the brains of conservatives and causes them to ignore facts, deny science, embrace nutty conspiracy theories, hate black and brown people, admire Nazis, praise dictators, and always vote Republican, thus dooming us to an unending succession of wretched scumbags in public office.

The concept of a medical explanation for right-wing behavior makes sense, except for the part where normal people are immune to the virus. I’m still trying to puzzle that out.

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AUSTIN, TEXAS — A marble bust purchased at a Goodwill store for $35 turned out to be a 2,000-year-old Roman carving.

Antique dealer Laura Young purchased the bust and thought it might be a Victorian garden decoration. She kept it on display in her home while friends at a London auction house tried to trace it.

After several years of research, they identified the bust as depicting Nero Drusus Germanicus, a Roman soldier and politician. The bust had been on display in a German museum prior to World War II. They think a soldier brought it to the US after the war, either having stolen it or purchased it from a looter.

The bust currently is on display at the San Antonia Museum of Art and next year will be returned to Germany. “He needs to go home,” Young said. “he wasn’t supposed to be here.”

Young had a replica of the bust made on a 3D printer to keep for herself.

PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA — The official news outlet of North Korea claims that burritos and hamburgers were invented by Kim Jong-il, the father of current Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.

A North Korean newspaper said Jong-il came up with the idea of “wheat wraps” in 2011, shortly before his death from a heart attack. Some years before that, the newspaper said, Jong-il invented a type of hot sandwich, described as “double bread with meat,” that was the forerunner of the hamburger.

The newspaper described the “wheat wrap” burrito as sort of like a gyro with grated cabbage and carrots — more of a spring roll than a burrito.

Despite North Korea’s claims, the burrito probably originated with vaqueros in northern Mexico in the 1800s. Both Germany and the US say they invented the hamburger, also in the 1800s.

FYI, three generations of Kims have ruled North Korea since it was created after World War II. The first dictator was Kim Il-sung, who ran the country from 1945 until his death in 1994. His son Kim Jong-il took over, died in 2011, and was succeeded by the current wacko Kim Jong-un.

LUBBOCK, TEXAS — When told their luggage was overweight, a couple at Lubbock Airport opened the bag and found their pet chihuahua hiding in a cowboy boot.

The couple was boarding a Southwest flight to Las Vegas when a gate agent told them the bag was five pounds overweight. They had the option of paying a fee or transferring items to their carry-ons. To avoid the fee, they opened the suitcase and discovered their five-pound chihuahua Icky inside.

The gate agent offered to keep Icky until the couple returned from vacation, but they contacted a relative who rushed to the airport and took Icky where she was supposed to be, with the couple’s children and babysitter.

Five years ago, the couple found Icky on a remote Texas road, weak and malnourished. When they took her home, their children said the dog was dirty and “icky,” and the name stuck.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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The Questions…

1. What are the names of the three Rice Krispies elves?

2. What is the most valuable residence on earth?

3. Anne Frank and her family were in hiding from 1942 to 1944 in what city?

4. What is the strongest muscle in the human body?

5. What was the duration of the age of the dinosaurs, aka the Mesozoic Era, aka the Age of Reptiles?

The Answers…

1. Snap, Crackle, and Pop.

2. Buckingham Palace in London, which is worth about $5 billion. The palace has been the official royal residence since 1837, when Queen Victoria moved in.

3. Amsterdam.

4. The jaw muscle.

5. Between 150 and 200 million years. The earliest ancestors of humans appeared only six million years ago.

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BRINNON, WASHINGTON — A woman was rescued uninjured, but shaken, after she dropped her cell phone into a pit toilet and fell in headfirst while trying to retrieve it.

The 40-year-old woman was using a toilet in the Olympic National Forest when her phone fell into the underground tank. She removed the toilet seat and tried to reach the phone with a dog leash.

When that failed, she secured herself with the leash and reached into the pit, but slipped and fell in. She was unable to climb out and called 911. When firefighters arrived, they handed down blocks of wood for the woman to stand on, allowing the team to reach her and pull her to safety.

The rescuers hosed off the woman, gave her clean clothes, and told her to seek medical attention because of the exposure to human waste. However, they said she “only wanted to leave” and drove away to an unspecified destination in California.

CORNVILLE, ARIZONA — A javelina that hopped into a station wagon to get a bag of Cheetos became trapped inside, trashed the interior, and caused the vehicle to roll away out of control.

Yavapai County deputies said the vehicle’s hatchback had been left open, and the closing mechanism was triggered when the javelina jumped in. In a panic to get out, the animal ripped off door panels and part of the dashboard.

It also knocked the vehicle into neutral, allowing it to roll down a driveway and across the street.

The next morning, the vehicle owners discovered what had happened and called the sheriff’s office. A deputy opened the hatch, and the javelina ran into the undergrowth.

Javelinas, also called peccaries, are a species of wild pig native to Central and South America and the southwest US. The animals live in herds of six to eight. Adults can weigh up to 80 pounds.

ZABOW, POLAND — Volunteer firefighters in Zabow twice had to remove a raccoon that was taking a nap in a precarious position atop a streetlamp.

Crews responded after the animal was spotted asleep while clinging to a horizontal section of conduit high above the ground. The electricity was disconnected, and crew members used a lift to reach the raccoon.

The animal was released on the ground, but immediately climbed back to the top of the streetlamp.

The crew removed the raccoon a second time and released it in a remote wooded area.

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